Journeys
in
Persia and Kurdistan

Including a summer in the upper Karun region and a visit to the Nestorian Rayahs


Isabella Bird

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Preface

Letter i Basrah, Asiatic Turkey, Jan. 1, 1890 .

Letter i ( continued ) Baghdad, Jan. 5 .

Letter ii Baghdad, Jan. 9 .

Letter iii Yakobiyeh, Asiatic Turkey, Jan. 11 .

Letter iii ( continued )

Letter iv Saripul-i-zohab, Jan. 21 .

Letter v Kirmanshah, Jan. 31 .

Letter vi Kirmanshah, Feb. 2 .

Letter vii Kûm, Feb. 21 .

Letter viii Caravanserai of Aliabad, Feb. 23 .

Notes on Tihran

Letter ix British Legation, Tihran, March 18 .

Letter x Kûm, March 23 .

Letter xi Kashan, March 26 .

Letter xi ( continued )

Letter xii Julfa, April 17 .

Letter xiii Julfa, April 29 .

Letter xiv Julfa, April 30 .

Notes on the “Bakhtiari Country” or Luri-Buzurg

Letter xiv Kahva Rukh, Chahar Mahals, May 4.

Letter xv Ardal, May 14 .

Letter xvi Ali-kuh, June 12 .

Letter xvii Camp Gal-i-gav, Kuh-i-rang, July 2 .

Letter xviii Camp Gokun, July 6 .

Letter xviii ( continued ) 57 Camp Kala Kuh, July 16 .

Letter xix Camp Shuturun, July 25 .

Letter xx Lake Irene, July 27 .

Letter xxi Burujird, Aug. 16 .

Letter xxii Hamadan, Aug. 28 .

Letter xxiii Hamadan, Sept. 12 .

Letter xxiv Hamadan, Sept. 14 .

Letter xxv Gaukhaud, Sept. 18 .

Letter xxv ( continued )

Letter xxvi Turkman, Oct. 6 .

Notes on Protestant Missions in Urmi

Letter xxvii

Farewell Impressions of Persia

Letter xxviii Kochanes, Oct. 23 .

Letter xxix Kochanes, Oct. 27 .

Letter xxix ( continued )

Letter xxx Kotranis, Kurdistan, Oct. 28 .

Letter xxxi Van, Armenia, Nov. 4 .

Letter xxxii Bitlis, Nov. 10 .

Letter xxxiii Pikhruz, Nov. 14 .

Letter xxxiv Erzerum, Dec. 1 .

Letter xxxv Trebizond, Dec. 13, 1890 .

Appendix A

Appendix B Itineraries with Approximate Distances

Glossary

Index

List of Illustrations

[view slideshow ]

  1. Mrs. Bishop (Isabella L. Bird).
  2. A Gopher.
  3. A Turkish Frontier Fort.
  4. Lodgings for Travellers.
  5. Persian Bread-making.
  6. The Shrine of Fatima.
  7. A Dervish.
  8. Castle of Ardal.
  9. Imam Kuli Khan.
  10. The Karun at Dupulan.
  11. Ali Jan.
  12. Armenian Women of Libasgun.
  13. Wall and Gate of Libasgun.
  14. A Perso-bakhtiari Cradle.
  15. A Dastgird Tent.
  16. Church of Mar Shalita, Kochanes.
  17. Stone Lion and Guide.
  18. Karun at Pul-i-ali-kuh.
  19. Killa Bazuft.
  20. Fording the Karun.
  21. Sar-i-chesmeh-i-kurang
  22. Zard Kuh Range.
  23. Aziz Khan.
  24. Yahya Khan.
  25. A Twig Bridge.
  26. Tomb of Esther and Mordecai.
  27. Kurd of SujbulāK.
  28. Hesso Khan.
  29. A Syrian Family.
  30. Designs on Tombs at Kochanes.
  31. Syrian Cross.
  32. Syrian Priest and Wife.
  33. A Syrian Girl.
  34. Rock and Citadel of Van.
  35. Kurds of Van.
  36. A Hakkiari Kurd.


Mrs. Bishop (Isabella L. Bird).

TO
The Untravelled Many,
THESE VOLUMES
ARE CORDIALLY DEDICATED

Preface

The letters of which these volumes are composed embrace the second half of journeys in the East extending over a period of two years.1 They attempt to be a faithful record of facts and impressions, but were necessarily written in haste at the conclusion of fatiguing marches, and often in circumstances of great discomfort and difficulty, and I relied for their correction in the event of publication on notes made with much care. Unfortunately I was robbed of nearly the whole of these, partly on my last journey in Persia and partly on the Turkish frontier — a serious loss, which must be my apology to the reader for errors which, without this misfortune, would not have occurred.

The bibliography of Persia is a very extensive one, and it may well be that I have little that is new to communicate, except on a part of Luristan previously untraversed by Europeans; but each traveller receives a different impression from those made upon his predecessors, and I hope that my book may be accepted as an honest attempt to make a popular contribution to the sum of knowledge of a country and people with which we are likely to be brought into closer relations.

As these volumes are simply travels in Persia and Eastern Asia Minor, and are not a book on either country, the references to such subjects as were not within the sphere of my observation are brief and incidental. The administration of government, the religious and legal systems, the tenure of land, and the mode of taxation are dismissed in a few lines, and social customs are only described when I came in contact with them. The Ilyats, or nomadic tribes, form a very remarkable element of the population of Persia, but I have only noticed two of their divisions — the Bakhtiari and Feili Lurs. The antiquities of Persia are also passed over with hardly a remark, as well as many other subjects, which have been “threshed out” by previous writers with more or less of accuracy.

I make these omissions with all the more satisfaction, because most that is “knowable” concerning Persia will be accessible on the publication of a work now in the Press, Persia and the Persian Question, by the Hon. George N. Curzon, M.P., who has not only travelled extensively in the country, but has bestowed such enormous labour and research upon it, and has had such exceptional opportunities of acquiring the latest and best official information, that his volumes may fairly be described as “exhaustive.”

It is always a pleasant duty to acknowledge kindness, and I am deeply grateful to several friends for the help which they have given me in many ways, and for the trouble which some of them have taken to recover facts which were lost with my notes, as well as for the careful revision of a portion of my letters in MS. I am indebted to the Indian authorities for the materials for a sketch map, for photographs from which many of the illustrations are taken, and for the use of a valuable geographical report, and to Mr. Thistleton Dyer, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, for the identification of a few of my botanical specimens.

In justice to the many kind friends who received me into their homes, I am anxious to disclaim having either echoed or divulged their views on Persian or Turkish subjects, and to claim and accept the fullest responsibility for the opinions expressed in these pages, which, whether right or wrong, are wholly my own. It is from those who know Persia and Kurdistan the best that I am sure of receiving the most kindly allowance wherever, in spite of an honest desire to be accurate, I have fallen into mistakes.

The retention, not only of the form, but of the reality of diary letters, is not altogether satisfactory either to author or reader, for the author sacrifices the literary and artistic arrangement of his materials, and however ruthlessly omissions are made, the reader is apt to find himself involved in a multiplicity of minor details, treated in a fashion which he is inclined to term “slipshod,” and to resent the egotism which persistently clings to familiar correspondence. Still, even with all the disadvantages of this form of narrative, I think that letters are the best mode of placing the reader in the position of the traveller, and of enabling him to share, not only first impressions in their original vividness, and the interests and enjoyments of travelling, but the hardships, difficulties, and tedium which are their frequent accompaniments!

For the lack of vivacity which, to my thinking, pervades the following letters, I ask the reader’s indulgence. They were originally written, and have since been edited, under the heavy and abiding shadow, not only of the loss of the beloved and only sister who was the inspiration of my former books of travel, and to whose completely sympathetic interest they owed whatever of brightness they possessed, but of my beloved husband, whose able and careful revision accompanied my last volume through the Press.

Believing that these letters faithfully reflect what I saw of the regions of which they treat, I venture to ask for them the same kindly and lenient criticism with which my travels in the Far East and elsewhere were received in bygone years, and to express the hope that they may help to lead towards that goal to which all increase of knowledge of races and beliefs tends — a truer and kindlier recognition of the brotherhood of man, as seen in the light of the Fatherhood of God.

ISABELLA L. BISHOP.

November 12, 1891.

1 I left England with a definite object in view, to which others were subservient, but it is not necessary to obtrude it on the reader.

Letter i

A shamal or N.W. wind following on the sirocco which had accompanied us up “the Gulf” was lashing the shallow waters of the roadstead into reddish yeast as we let go the anchor opposite the sea front of Bushire, the most important seaport in Persia. The Persian man-of-war Persepolis, officered by Germans, H.M. ship Sphinx, two big steamers owned in London, a British-built three-masted clipper, owned and navigated by Arabs, and a few Arab native vessels tugged at their anchors between two and three miles from the shore. Native buggalows clustered and bumped round the trading vessels, hanging on with difficulty, or thumped and smashed through the short waves, close on the wind, easily handled and sailing magnificently, while the Residency steam-launch, puffing and toiling, was scarcely holding her own against a heavy head sea.

Bushire, though it has a number of two-storied houses and a population of 15,000, has a most insignificant appearance, and lies so low that from the Assyria’s deck it gave the impression of being below the sea-level. The shamal was raising a sand storm in the desert beyond; the sand was drifting over it in yellow clouds, the mountains which at a greater or less distance give a wild sublimity to the eastern shores of the Gulf were blotted out, and a blurred and windy shore harmonised with a blurred and windy sea.

The steam-launch, which after several baffled attempts succeeded in reaching the steamer’s side, brought letters of welcome from Colonel Ross, who for eighteen years has filled the office of British Resident in the Persian Gulf with so much ability, judgment, and tact as to have earned the respect and cordial esteem of Persians, Arabs, the mixed races, and Europeans alike. Of his kindness and hospitality there is no occasion to write, for every stranger who visits the Gulf has large experience of both.

The little launch, though going shorewards with the wind, was tossed about like a cork, shipping deluges of spray, and it was so cold and generally tumultuous, that it was a relief to exchange the shallow, wind-lashed waters of the roadstead for the shelter of a projecting sea-wall below the governor’s house. A curricle, with two fiery little Arab horses, took us over the low windy stretch of road which lies behind Bushire, through a part of the town and round again to the sea-shore, on which long yellow surges were breaking thunderously in drifts of creamy foam. The Residency, a large Persian house, with that sort of semi-fortified look which the larger Eastern houses are apt to have, is built round courtyards, and has a fine entrance, which was lined with well-set-up men of a Bombay marine battalion. As is usual in Persia and Turkey, the reception rooms, living rooms, and guest rooms are upstairs, opening on balconies, the lower part being occupied by the servants and as domestic offices. Good fires were a welcome adjunct to the genial hospitality of Colonel Ross and his family, for the mercury, which for the previous week had ranged from 84° to 93°, since the sunrise of that day had dropped to 45°, and the cold, damp wind suggested an English February. Even the Residency, thick as its walls are, was invaded by sea sand, and penetrated by the howlings and shriekings of the shamal and the low hiss at intervals of wind-blown spray.

This miserable roadstead does a large trade,2 though every bale and chest destined for the cities of the interior must be packed on mules’ backs for carriage over the horrible and perilous kotals or rock ladders of the intervening mountain ranges. The chief caravan route in Persia starts from Bushire viâ Shiraz, Isfahan, Kashan, and Kûm, to Tihran. A loaded mule takes from thirty to thirty-five days to Isfahan, and from Isfahan to Tihran from twelve to sixteen days, according to the state of the roads.

Bushire does not differ in appearance from an ordinary eastern town. Irregular and uncleanly alleys, dead mud walls, with here and there a low doorway, bazars in which the requirements of caravans are largely considered, and in which most of the manufactured goods are English, a great variety in male attire, some small mosques, a marked predominance of the Arab physiognomy and costume, and ceaseless strings of asses bringing skins of water from wells a mile from the town, are my impressions of the first Persian city that I have ever seen. The Persian element, however, except in officialism and the style of building, is not strong, the population being chiefly composed of “Gulf Arabs.” There are nearly fifty European residents, including the telegraph staff and the representatives of firms doing a very large business with England, the Persian Gulf Trading Company, Messrs. Hotz and Company, Messrs. Gray, Paul, and Company, and the British India Steam Navigation Company, which has enormously developed the trade of the Gulf.

Bushire is the great starting-point of travellers from India who desire “to go home through Persia” by Shiraz and Persepolis. Charvadars (muleteers) and the necessary outfit are obtainable, but even the kindness of the Resident fails to overcome the standing difficulty of obtaining a Persian servant who is both capable and trustworthy. Having been forewarned by him not to trust to Bushire for this indispensable article, I had brought from India a Persian of good antecedents and character, who, desiring to return to his own country, was willing to act as my interpreter, courier, and sole attendant. Grave doubts of his ability to act in the two latter capacities occurred to me before I left Karachi, grew graver on the voyage, and were quite confirmed as we tossed about in the Residency launch, where the “young Persian gentleman,” as he styled himself, sat bolt upright with a despairing countenance, dressed in a tall hat, a beautifully made European suit, faultless tan boots, and snowy collar and cuffs, a man of truly refined feeling and manners, but hopelessly out of place. I pictured him helpless among the déshabillé and roughnesses of a camp, and anticipated my insurmountable reluctance to ask of him menial service, and was glad to find that the same doubts had occurred to himself.

I lost no time in interviewing Hadji — a Gulf Arab, who has served various travellers, has been ten times to Mecca, went to Windsor with the horses presented to the Queen by the Sultan of Muscat, speaks more or less of six languages, knows English fairly, has some recommendations, and professes that he is “up to” all the requirements of camp life. The next morning I engaged him as “man of all work,” and though a big, wild-looking Arab in a rough abba and a big turban, with a long knife and a revolver in his girdle, scarcely looks like a lady’s servant, I hope he may suit me, though with these antecedents he is more likely to be a scamp than a treasure.

The continuance of the shamal prevented the steamer from unloading in the exposed roadstead, and knocked the launch about as we rejoined her. We called at the telegraph station at Fao, and brought off Dr. Bruce, the head of the Church Missionary Society’s Mission at Julfa, whose long and intimate acquaintance with the country and people will make him a great acquisition on the Tigris.

“About sixty miles above the bar outside the Shat-el-Arab” (the united Tigris and Euphrates), “forty miles above the entrance to that estuary at Fao, and twenty miles below the Turkish port of Basrah, the present main exit of the Karun river flows into the Shat-el-Arab from the north-east by an artificial channel, whose etymology testifies to its origin, the Haffar” (dug-out) “canal. When this canal was cut, no one knows. . . . Where it flows into the Shat-el-Arab it is about a quarter of a mile in width, with a depth of from twenty to thirty feet.

“The town of Mohammerah is situated a little more than a mile up the canal on its right bank, and is a filthy place, with about 2000 inhabitants, and consists mainly of mud huts and hovels, backed by a superb fringe of date palms.”3 In the rose flush of a winter morning we steamed slowly past this diplomatically famous confluence of the Haffar and Shat-el-Arab, at the angle of which the Persians have lately built a quay, a governor’s house, and a large warehouse, in expectation of a trade which shows few signs of development.

A winter morning it was indeed, splendid and invigorating after the ferocious heat of the Gulf. To-day there has been frost!

The Shat-el-Arab is a noble river or estuary. From both its Persian and Turkish shores, however, mountains have disappeared, and dark forests of date palms intersected by canals fringe its margin heavily, and extend to some distance inland. The tide is strong, and such native boats as belems, buggalows, and dug-outs, loaded with natives and goods, add a cheerful element of busy life.

We anchored near Basrah, below the foreign settlement, and had the ignominy of being placed for twenty-four hours in quarantine, flying the degrading yellow flag. Basrah has just been grievously ravaged by the cholera, which has not only carried off three hundred of the native population daily for some time, but the British Vice–Consul and his children. Cholera still exists in Turkey while it is extinct in Bombay, and the imposition of quarantine on a ship with a “clean bill of health” seems devised for no other purpose than to extract fees, to annoy, and to produce a harassing impression of Turkish officialism.

After this detention we steamed up to the anchorage, which is in front of a few large bungalows which lie between the belt of palms and the river, and form the European settlement of Margil. A fever-haunted swamp, with no outlet but the river; canals exposing at low water deep, impassable, and malodorous slime separating the bungalows; a climate which is damp, hot, malarious, and prostrating except for a few weeks in winter, and a total absence of all the resources and amenities of civilisation, make Basrah one of the least desirable places to which Europeans are exiled by the exigencies of commerce. It is scarcely necessary to say that the few residents exercise unbounded hospitality, which is the most grateful memory which the stranger retains of the brief halt by the “River of Arabia.”

This is the dead season in the “city of dates.” An unused river steamer, a large English trader, two Turkish ships-of-war painted white, the Mejidieh, one of two English-owned steamers which are allowed to ply on the Tigris, and the Assyria of the B.I.S.N. Co., constitute the fleet at anchor. As at Bushire, all cargo must be loaded and unloaded by boats, and crowds of native craft hanging on to the trading vessels give a little but not much vivacity.

October, after the ingathering of the date harvest, is the busiest month here. The magnitude of the date industry may be gathered from the fact that in 1890, 60,000 tons of dates were exported from Basrah, 20,000 in boxes, and the remainder in palm-leaf mats, one vessel taking 1800 tons. The quantity of wood imported for the boxes was 7000 tons in cut lengths, with iron hooping, nails, and oiled paper for inside wrapping, brought chiefly from England.

A hundred trees can be grown on an acre of ground. The mature tree gives a profit of 4s., making the profit on an acre £20 annually. The Governor of Mohammerah has lately planted 30,000 trees, and date palms to the number of 60,000 have been recently planted on Persian soil.

It is said that there are 160 varieties of dates, but only a few are known to commerce. These great sombre date forests or “date gardens,” which no sunshine can enliven, are of course artificial, and depend upon irrigation. The palms are propagated by means of suckers taken from the female date. The young trees begin to bear when they are about five years old, reach maturity at nine, and may be prolific for two centuries. Mohammed said wisely, “Honour the palm, it is your paternal aunt.” One soon learns here that it not only provides the people with nutritious food, but with building materials, as well as with fuel, carpets, ropes, and mats. But it is the least beautiful of the palms, and the dark monotonous masses along the river contrast with my memories of the graceful coco palm fringing the coral islands of the Pacific.

I left the Assyria with regret. The captain and officers had done all that intelligence and kindness could do to make the voyage an agreeable one, and were altogether successful. On shore a hospitable reception, a good fire, and New Year’s Day come together appropriately. The sky is clear and cloudless, and the air keen. The bungalows belonging to the European firms are dwelling-houses above and offices below, and are surrounded by packing-yards and sheds for goods. In line with them are the Consulates.

The ancient commercial glories of Basrah are too well known to need recapitulation. Circumstances are doing much to give it something of renewed importance. The modern Basrah, a town which has risen from a state of decay till it has an estimated population of 25,000, is on the right bank of the river, at some distance up a picturesque palm-fringed canal. Founded by Omar soon after the death of Mohammed, and tossed like a shuttlecock between Turk and Persian, it is now definitely Turkish, and the great southern outlet of Chaldæa and Mesopotamia, as well as the port at which the goods passing to and from Baghdad “break bulk.” A population more thoroughly polyglot could scarcely be found, Turks, Arabs, Sabeans, Syrians, Greeks, Hindus, Armenians, Frenchmen, Wahabees, Britons, Jews, Persians, Italians, and Africans, and there are even more creeds than races.

S.S. Mejidieh, River Tigris, Jan. 4.— Leaving Basrah at 4 P.M. on Tuesday we have been stemming the strong flood of the Tigris for three bright winter days, in which to sit by a red-hot stove and sleep under a pile of blankets have been real luxuries after the torrid heat of the “Gulf.” The party on board consists of Dr. Bruce, Mr. Hammond, who has been for some months pushing British trade at Shuster, the Assistant Quartermaster–General for India, a French-speaking Jewish merchant, the Hon. G. Curzon, M.P., and Mr. Swabadi, a Hungarian gentleman in the employment of the Tigris and Euphrates Steam Navigation Company, a very scholarly man, who in the course of a long residence in Southern Turkey has acquainted himself intimately with the country and its peoples, and is ever ready to place his own stores of information at our disposal. Mr. Curzon has been “prospecting” the Karun river, and came on board from the Shushan, a small stern-wheel steamer with a carrying capacity of 30 tons, a draught when empty of 18 inches, and when laden of from 24 to 36. She belongs to the Messrs. Lynch Brothers, of the Tigris and Euphrates S.N. Co. They run her once a fortnight at a considerable loss between Mohammerah and Ahwaz. Her isolated position and diminutive size are a curious commentary on the flourish of trumpets and blether of exultation with which the English newspapers announced the very poor concession of leave to run steamers on the Karun between the Shat-el-Arab and Ahwaz.

[Since this letter was written, things have taken rather a singular turn, and the development of trade on the Karun has partly fallen into the hands of a trading corporation of Persians, the Nasiri Company. By them, and under their representative partner, Haja Mahomad, a man of great energy, the formidable rapids at Ahwaz are being circumvented by the construction of a tramway 2400 yards long, which is proceeding steadily. A merchants’ caravanserai has already been built on the river bank at the lower landing-place and commencement of the tramway, and a bakery, butchery, and carpentry, along with a café and a grocery and general goods stores, have already been opened by men brought to Ahwaz by H. Mahomad.

A river face wall, where native craft are to lie, is being constructed of hewn stone blocks and sections of circular pillars, remains of the ancient city.

The Nasiri Company has a small steamer, the Nasiri, plying on the lower Karun, chiefly as a tug, taking up two Arab boats of twenty-seven tons each, lashed alongside of her. On her transference at the spring floods of this year to the river above Ahwaz, the Karun, a steam launch of about sixty tons, belonging to the Governor of Mohammerah, takes her place below, and a second steamer belonging to the same company is now running on the lower stream. Poles from Zanzibar have been distributed for a telegraph line from Mohammerah to Ahwaz. The Messrs. Lynch have placed a fine river steamer of 300 tons on the route; but this enterprising firm, and English capitalists generally, are being partially “cut out” by the singular “go” of this Persian company, which not only appears to have strong support from Government quarters, but has gained the cooperation of the well-known and wealthy Sheikh Mizal, whose personal influence in Arabistan is very great, and who has hitherto been an obstacle to the opening of trade on the Karun.

A great change for the better has taken place in the circumstances of the population, and villages, attracted by trade, are springing up, which the Nasiri Company is doing its best to encourage. The land-tax is very light, and the cultivators are receiving every encouragement. Much wheat was exported last year, and there is a brisk demand for river lands on leases of sixty years for the cultivation of cotton, cereals, sugar-cane, and date palms.

Persian soldiers all have their donkeys, and at Ahwaz a brisk and amusing competition is going on between the soldiers of a fine regiment stationed there and the Arabs for the transport of goods past the rapids, and for the conveyance of tramway and building materials. This competition is enabling goods to pass the rapids cheaply and expeditiously.

One interesting feature connected with these works is the rapidly increased well-being of the Arabs. In less than a year labour at 1 kran (8d.) a day has put quite a number of them in possession of a pair of donkeys and a plough, and seed-corn wherewith to cultivate Government lands on their own account, besides leaving a small balance in hand on which to live without having to borrow on the coming crop at frightfully usurious rates.

Until now the sheikhs have been able to command labour for little more than the poorest food; and now many of the very poor who depended on them have started as small farmers, and things are rapidly changing.

The careful observer, from whose report on Persia to the Foreign Office, No. 207, I have transferred the foregoing facts, wrote in January 1891: “It was a sight to see the whole Arab population on the river banks hard at work taking advantage of the copious rain which had just fallen; every available animal fit for draught was yoked to the plough — horses, mules, bullocks, and donkeys, and even mares, with their foals following them up the furrows.”

This, which is practically a Persian opening of the trade of the Karun, is not what was expected, however much it was to be desired. After a journey of nine months through Persia, I am strongly of opinion that if the Empire is to have a solid and permanent resurrection, it must be through the enterprise of Persians, aided it may be by foreign skill and capital, though the less of the latter that is employed the more hopefully I should regard the Persian future. The Nasiri Company and the Messrs. Lynch may possibly unite, and the New Road Company may join with them in making a regular transport service by river and road to Tihran, by which England may pour her manufactured goods even into Northern Persia, as this route would compete successfully both with the Baghdad and Trebizond routes.

Already, owing to the improved circumstances of the people, the import of English and Indian cotton goods and of sugar has increased; the latter, which is French, from its low price, only 2½d. a pound in the Gulf, pushing its way as far north as Sultanabad. Unfortunately the shadow of Russia hangs over the future of Persia.]

At present two English and four Turkish boats run on the Tigris. They are necessarily of light draught, as the river is shallow at certain seasons and is full of shifting sand-banks. The Mejidieh is a comfortable boat, with a superabundance of excellent food. Her saloon, state-rooms, and engines are on the main deck, which is open fore and aft, and has above it a fine hurricane deck, on the fore part of which the deck passengers, a motley crowd, encamp. She is fully loaded with British goods.

The first object of passing interest was Kornah, reputed among the Arabs to be the site of the Garden of Eden, a tongue of land at the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates. The “Garden of Eden” contains a village, and bright fires burned in front of the mat-and-mud houses. Women in red and white, and turbaned men in brown, flitted across the firelight; there was a mass of vegetation, chiefly palms with a number of native vessels moored to their stems, and a leaning minaret. A frosty moonlight glorified the broad, turbid waters, Kornah and the Euphrates were left in shadow, and we turned up the glittering waterway of the Tigris. The night was too keenly frosty for any dreams of Paradise, even in this classic Chaldæa, and under a sky blazing down to the level horizon with the countless stars which were not to outnumber the children of “Faithful Abraham.”

Four hours after leaving Kornah we passed the reputed tomb of Ezra the prophet. At a distance and in the moonlight it looked handsome. There is a buttressed river wall, and above it some long flat-roofed buildings, the centre one surmounted by a tiled dome. The Tigris is so fierce and rapid, and swallows its alluvial banks so greedily, that it is probable that some of the buildings described by the Hebrew traveller Benjamin of Tudela as existing in the twelfth century were long since carried away. The tomb is held in great veneration not only by Jews and Moslems but also by Oriental Christians. It is a great place of Jewish pilgrimage, and is so venerated by the Arabs that it needs no guard.4

Hadji brought my breakfast, or as he called it, “the grub,” the next morning, and I contemplated the Son of Abraham with some astonishment. He had discarded his turban and abba, and looked a regular uncivilised desert Ishmaelite, with knives and rosaries in his belt, and his head muffled in a kiffiyeh, a yellow silk shawl striped with red, with one point and tassels half a yard long hanging down his back, and fastened round his head by three coils of camel’s-hair rope. A loose coat with a gay girdle, “breeks” of some kind, loose boots turned up at the toes and reaching to the knees, and a striped under-garment showing here and there, completed his costume.

The view from the hurricane deck, though there are no striking varieties, is too novel to be monotonous. The level plains of Chaldæa, only a few feet higher than the Tigris, stretch away to the distant horizon, unbroken until today, when low hills, white with the first snows of winter, are softly painted on a pure blue sky, very far away. The plains are buff and brown, with an occasional splash, near villages as buff and brown as the soil out of which they rise, of the dark-green of date gardens, or the vivid green of winter wheat. With the exception of these gardens, which are rarely seen, the vast expanse is unbroken by a tree. A few miserable shrubs there are, the mimosa agrestis or St. John’s bread, and a scrubby tamarisk, while liquorice, wormwood, capers, and some alkaline plants which camels love, are recognisable even in their withered condition.

There are a few villages of low mud hovels enclosed by square mud walls, and hamlets of mat huts, the mats being made of woven sedges and flags, strengthened by palm fronds, but oftener by the tall, tough stems of growing reeds bent into arches, and woven together by the long leaves of aquatic plants, chiefly rushes. The hovels, so ingeniously constructed, are shared indiscriminately by the Arabs and their animals, and crowds of women and children emerged from them as we passed. Each village has its arrangement for raising water from the river.

Boats under sail, usually a fleet at a time, hurry downstream, owing more to the strong current than to the breeze, or are hauled up laboriously against both by their Arab crews.

The more distant plain is sparsely sprinkled with clusters of brown tents, long and low, and is dotted over with flocks of large brown sheep, shepherded by Arabs in kiffiyehs, each shepherd armed with a long gun slung over his shoulder. Herds of cattle and strings of camels move slowly over the brown plain, and companies of men on horseback, with long guns and lances, gallop up to the river bank, throw their fiery horses on their haunches, and after a moment of gratified curiosity wheel round and gallop back to the desert from which they came. Occasionally a stretch of arable land is being ploughed up by small buffaloes with most primitive ploughs, but the plains are pastoral chiefly, tents and flocks are their chief features — features which have changed little since the great Sheikh Abraham, whose descendants now people them, left his “kindred” in the not distant Ur of the Chaldees, and started on the long march to Canaan.

Reedy marshes, alive with water-fowl, arable lands, bare buff plains, brown tents, brown flocks, mat huts, mud and brick villages, groups of women and children, flights of armed horsemen, alternate rapidly — the unchanging features are the posts and wires of the telegraph.

The Tigris in parts is wonderfully tortuous, and at one great bend, “The Devil’s Elbow,” a man on foot can walk the distance in less than an hour which takes the steamer four hours to accomplish. The current is very strong, and the slow progress is rendered slower at this season of low water by the frequent occurrence of sand-banks, of which one is usually made aware by a jolt, a grinding sound, a cessation of motion, some turns astern, and then full speed ahead, which often overcomes the obstacle. Some hours’ delay and the floats of one paddle-wheel injured were the most serious disasters brought about; and in spite of the shallows at this season, the Tigris is a noble river, and the voyage is truly fascinating. Not that there are many remarkable objects, but the desert atmosphere and the desert freedom are in themselves delightful, the dust and débris are the dust and débris of mighty empires, and there are countless associations with the earliest past of which we have any records.

Aimarah, a rising Turkish town of about 7000 people, built at a point where the river turns at a sharp angle to the left, is interesting as showing what commerce can create even here, in less than twenty years. A caravan route into Persia was opened and Aimarah does a somewhat busy trade. Flat-faced brick buildings, with projecting lattice windows, run a good way along the left bank of the river, which is so steep and irregular that the crowd which thronged it when the steamer made fast was shown to great advantage — Osmanlis, Greeks, Persians, Sabeans, Jews of great height and superb physique, known by much-tasselled turbans, and a predominating Arab element.

We walked down the long, broad, covered bazar, with a broken water channel in the middle, where there were crowds, solely of men, meat, game, bread, fruit, grain, lentils, horse-shoes, pack saddles, Manchester cottons, money-changers, silversmiths, and scribes, and heard the roar of business, and the thin shouts of boys unaccustomed to the sight of European women. The crowds pressed and followed, picking at my clothes, and singing snatches of songs which were not complimentary. It had not occurred to me that I was violating rigid custom in appearing in a hat and gauze veil rather than in a chadar and face cloth, but the mistake was made unpleasantly apparent. In Moslem towns women go about in companies and never walk with men.

We visited an enclosed square, where there are barracks for zaptiehs (gendarmes), the Kadi’s court, and the prison, which consists of an open grating like that of a menagerie, a covered space behind, and dark cells or dens opening upon it, all better than the hovels of the peasantry. There were a number of prisoners well clothed, and apparently well fed, to whom we were an obvious diversion, but the guards gesticulated, shouted, and brandished their side-arms, making us at last understand that our presence in front of the grating was forbidden. After seeing a large barrack yard, and walking, still pursued by a crowd, round the forlorn outskirts of Aimarah, which include a Sabean village, we visited the gold and silversmiths’ shops where the Sabeans were working at their craft, of which in this region they have nearly a monopoly, not only settling temporarily in the towns, but visiting the Arab encampments on the plains, where they are always welcome as the makers and repairers of the ornaments with which the women are loaded. These craftsmen and others of the race whom I have seen differ greatly from the Arabs in appearance, being white rather than brown, very white, i.e. very pale, with jet-black hair; large, gentle, intelligent eyes; small, straight noses, and small, well-formed mouths. The handsome faces of these “Christians of St. John” are very pleasing in their expression, and there was a dainty cleanliness about their persons and white clothing significant of those frequent ablutions of both which are so remarkable a part of their religion. The children at Aimarah, and generally in the riparian villages, wear very handsome chased, convex silver links, each as large as the top of a breakfast cup, to fasten their girdles.

The reedy marshes, the haunts of pelicans and pigs, are left behind at Aimarah, and tamarisk scrub and liquorice appear on the banks. At Kut-alAimarah, a small military post and an Arab town of sun-dried bricks on the verge of a high bank above the Tigris, we landed again, and ragamuffin boys pressed very much upon us, and ragamuffin zaptiehs,5 grotesquely dressed in clothes of different European nationalities, pelted them with stones. To take up stones and throw them at unwelcome visitors is a frequent way of getting rid of them in the less civilised parts of the East.

A zaptieh station, barracks, with a large and badly-kept parade ground, a covered bazar well supplied, houses with blank walls, large cafés with broad matted benches, asafoetida, crowds of men of superb physique, picturesque Arabs on high-bred horses, and a total invisibility of women, were the salient features of Kut-alAimarah. Big-masted, high-stemmed boats, the broad, turbid Tigris with a great expanse of yellowish sand on its farther shore, reeds “shaken with the wind,” and a windy sky, heavily overcast, made up the view from the bank. There were seen for the first time by the new-comers the most venerable boats in the world, for they were old even when Herodotus mentions them —kufas or gophers, very deep round baskets covered with bitumen, with incurved tops, and worked by one man with a paddle. These remarkable tubs are used for the conveyance of passengers, goods, and even animals.


A Gopher.

Before leaving we visited the Arab Khan or Sheikh in his house. He received us in an upper room of difficult access, carpeted with very handsome rugs, and with a divan similarly covered, but the walls of brown mud were not even plastered. His manner was dignified and courteous, and his expression remarkably shrewd. A number of men sitting on the floor represented by their haughty aspect and magnificent physique the royalty of the Ishmaelite descent from Abraham. This Khan said that his tribe could put 3000 fighting men into the field, but it was obvious that its independence is broken, and that these tribal warriors are reckoned as Osmanli irregulars or Bashi Bazouks. The Khan remarked that “the English do not make good friends, for,” he added, “they back out when difficulties arise.”

On board the steamer the condition of the Arabs is much discussed, and the old residents describe it as steadily growing worse under the oppression and corruption of the Osmanli officials, who appear to be doing their best to efface these fine riparian tribes by merciless exactions coming upon the top of taxation so heavy as to render agriculture unprofitable, the impositions actually driving thousands of them to seek a living in the cities and to the Persian shores of the Gulf, where they exchange a life of hereditary freedom for a precarious and often scanty subsistence among unpropitious surroundings. Still, the Arab of the desert is not conquered by the Turks.

2 According to the returns for 1889, the British tonnage entering the Bushire roadstead was 111,745 out of 118,570 tons, and the imports from British territory amounted to a value of £744,018 out of £790,832. The exports from Bushire in the same year amounted to £535,076, that of opium being largely on the increase. Among other things exported are pistachio nuts, gum, almonds, madder, wool, and cotton. Regarding gum, the wars in the Soudan have affected the supply of it, and Persia is reaping the benefit, large quantities now being collected from certain shrubs, especially from the wild almond, which abounds at high altitudes. The drawback is that firewood and charcoal are becoming consequently dearer and scarcer. The gum exported in 1889 was 7472 cwts., as against 14,918 in 1888, but the value was more than the same.

The imports into Bushire, as comparing 1889 with 1888, have increased by £244,186, and the exports by £147,862. The value of the export of opium, chiefly to China, was £231,521, as against £148,523 in 1888.

3 “The Karun River,” Hon. G. Curzon, M.P., Proceedings of R.G.S., September 1890.

4 Sir A. H. Layard describes the interior of the domed building as consisting of two chambers, the outer one empty, and the inner one containing the Prophet’s tomb, built of bricks covered with white stucco, and enclosed in a wooden case or ark, over which is thrown a large blue cloth, fringed with yellow tassels, the name of the donor being inscribed in Hebrew characters upon it. — Layard’s Early Adventures, vol. i. p. 214.

5 A year later in Kurdistan, the zaptiehs, all time-expired soldiers and well set up soldierly men, wore neat, serviceable, dark blue braided uniforms, and high riding-boots.

Letter i (continued)

The last day on the Tigris passed as pleasantly as its predecessors. There was rain in the early morning, then frost which froze the rain on deck, and at 7 A.M. the mercury in my cabin stood at 28°.

In the afternoon the country became more populous, that is, there were kraals of mat huts at frequent intervals, and groups of tents to which an external wall of mats gave a certain aspect of permanence. Increased cultivation accompanied the increased population. In some places the ground was being scratched with a primitive plough of unshod wood, or a branch of a tree slightly trimmed, leaving a scar about two inches deep. These scars, which pass for furrows, are about ten inches apart, and camel thorn, tamarisk, and other shrubs inimical to crops stand between them. The seed is now being sown. After it comes up it grows apace, and in spite of shallow scratches, camel thorn, and tamarisk the tilth is so luxuriant that the husbandmen actually turn cattle and sheep into it for two or three weeks, and then leave it to throw up the ear! They say that there are from eighteen to thirty-five stalks from each seed in consequence of this process! The harvest is reaped in April, after which water covers the land.

Another style of cultivation is adopted for land, of which we saw a good deal, very low lying, and annually overflowed, usually surrounding a nucleus of permanent marsh. This land, after the water dries up, is destitute of vegetation, and presents a smooth, moist surface full of cracks, which scales off later. No scratching is needed for this soil. The seed is sown broadcast over it, and such of it as is not devoured by birds falls into the cracks, and produces an abundant crop. All this rich alluvial soil is stoneless, but is strewn from Seleucia to Babylon with fragments of glass, bricks, and pottery. Artificial mounds also abound, and remains of canals, all denoting that these fertile plains in ancient days supported a large stationary population. Of all that once was, this swirling river alone remains, singing in every eddy and ripple —

“For men may come and men may go,

But I go on for ever.”

As we were writing in the evening we were nearly thrown off our chairs by running aground with a thump, which injured one paddle wheel and obliged us to lie up part of the night for repairs near the ruins of the ancient palace of Ctesiphon. Seleucia, on the right bank of the river, is little more now than a historic name, but the palace of Tak-i-Kasr, with its superb archway 100 feet in height, has been even in recent times magnificent enough in its ruin to recall the glories of the Parthian kings, and the days when, according to Gibbon, “Khosroes Nushirwan gave audience to the ambassadors of the world” within its stately walls. Its gaunt and shattered remains have even still a mournful grandeur about them, but they have suffered so severely from the barbarous removal of the stones and the fall of much of the front as to be altogether disappointing.

Soon after leaving Ctesiphon there is increased cultivation, and within a few miles of Baghdad the banks of the river, which is its great high road, become populous. “Palatial residences,” in which the women’s apartments are indicated by the blankness of their walls, are mixed up with mud hovels and goat’s-hair tents; there are large farmhouses with enclosures for cattle and horses; date gardens and orange groves fringe the stream, and arrangements for drawing water are let into its banks at frequent intervals. Strings of asses laden with country produce, companies of horsemen and innumerable foot passengers, all moved citywards.

The frosty sun rose out of an orange sky as a disc of blood and flame, but the morning became misty and overcast, so that the City of the Arabian Nights did not burst upon the view in any halo of splendour. A few tiled minarets, the blue domes of certain mosques, handsome houses — some of them European Consulates, half hidden by orange groves laden with their golden fruitage — a picturesque bridge of boats, a dense growth of palms on the right bank, beyond which gleam the golden domes of Kazimain and the top of Zobeide’s tomb, the superannuated British gun-boat Comet, two steamers, a crowd of native craft, including kufas or gophers, a prominent Custom-house, and decayed alleys opening on the water, make up the Baghdad of the present as seen from the Mejidieh’s deck.

As soon as we anchored swarms of kufas clustered round us, and swarms of officials and hamals (porters) invaded the deck. Some of the passengers had landed two hours before, others had proceeded to their destinations at once, and as my friends had not come off I was alone for some time in the middle of a tremendous Babel, in which every man shouted at the top of his voice and all together, Hadji assuming a deportment of childish helplessness. Certain officials under cover of bribes lavished on my behalf by a man who spoke English professed to let my baggage pass unopened, then a higher official with a sword knocked Hadji down, then a man said that everything would be all right if I would bestow another gold lira, about £1, on the officers, and I was truly glad when kind Captain Dougherty with Dr. Sutton came alongside in the Comet’s boat, and brought me ashore. The baggage was put into another of her boats, but as soon as we were out of sight it was removed, and was taken to the Custom-house, where they insisted that some small tent poles in a cover were guns, and smashed a box of dates in the idea that it was tobacco!

The Church Mission House, in which I am receiving hospitality, is a “native” house, though built and decorated by Persians, as also are several of the Consulates. It is in a narrow roadway with blank walls, a part of the European quarter; a door of much strength admits into a small courtyard, round which are some of the servants’ quarters and reception rooms for Moslem visitors, and within this again is a spacious and handsome courtyard, round which are kitchens, domestic offices, and the serdabs, which play an important part in Eastern life.

These serdabs are semi-subterranean rooms, usually with arched fronts, filled in above-ground with latticework. They are lofty, and their vaulted roofs are supported in rich men’s houses on pillars. The well of the household is often found within. The general effect of this one is that of a crypt, and it was most appropriate for the Divine Service in English which greeted my arrival. The cold of it was, however, frightful. It was only when the Holy Communion was over that I found that I was wearing Hadji’s revolver and cartridge belt under my cloak, which he had begged me to put on to save them from confiscation! In these vaulted chambers both Europeans and natives spend the hot season, sleeping at night on the roofs.

Above this lower floor are the winter apartments, which open upon a fine stone balcony running round three sides of the court. On the river side of the house there is an orange garden, which just now might be the garden of the Hesperides, and a terrace, below which is the noble, swirling Tigris, and beyond, a dark belt of palms. These rooms on the river front have large projecting windows, six in a row, with screens which slide up and down, and those which look to the courtyard are secluded by very beautiful fretwork. The drawing-room, used as a dormitory, is a superb room, in which exquisitely beautiful ceiling and wall decorations in shades of fawn enriched with gold, and fretwork windows, suggest Oriental feeling at every turn. The plaster-work of this room is said to be distinctively Persian and is very charming. The house, though large, is inconveniently crowded, with the medical and clerical mission families, two lady missionaries, and two guests. Each apartment has two rows of vaulted recesses in its walls, and very fine cornices above. It is impossible to warm the rooms, but the winter is very short and brilliant, and after ulsters, greatcoats, and fur cloaks have been worn for breakfast, the sun mitigates the temperature.

I. L. B.

Letter ii

Baghdad is too well known from the careful descriptions given of it by Eastern travellers to justify me in lingering upon it in detail, and I will only record a few impressions, which are decidedly couleur de rose, for the weather is splendid, making locomotion a pleasure, and the rough, irregular roadways which at other seasons are deep in foul and choking dust, or in mud and pestilential slime, are now firm and not remarkably dirty.

A little earlier than this the richer inhabitants, who have warstled through the summer in their dim and latticed serdabs, emerge and pitch their tents in the plains of Ctesiphon, where the men find a stimulating amusement in hunting the boar, but it is now the “season” in the city, the liveliest and busiest time of the year. The cholera, which is believed to have claimed 6000 victims, has departed, and the wailing of the women, which scarcely ceased day or night for a month, is silent. The Jewish troubles, which apparently rose out of the indignation of the Moslems at the burial within the gates, contrary to a strict edict on the subject, of a Rabbi who died of cholera, have subsided, and the motley populations and their yet more motley creeds are for the time at peace.

In the daytime there is a roar or hum of business, mingled with braying of asses, squeals of belligerent horses, yells of camel-drivers and muleteers, beating of drums, shouts of beggars, hoarse-toned ejaculations of fakirs, ear-splitting snatches of discordant music, and in short a chorus of sounds unfamiliar to Western ears, but the nights are so still that the swirl of the Tigris as it hurries past is distinctly heard. Only the long melancholy call to prayer, or the wail of women over the dead, or the barking of dogs, breaks the silence which at sunset falls as a pall over Baghdad.

Under the blue sunny sky the river view is very fine. The river itself is imposing from its breadth and volume, and in the gorgeous sunsets, with a sky of crimson flame, and the fronds of the dark date palms mirrored in its reddened waters, it looks really beautiful. The city is stately enough as far as the general coup-d’oeil of the river front goes, and its river façade agreeably surprises me. The Tigris, besides being what may be called the main street, divides Baghdad into two unequal parts, and though the city on the left bank has almost a monopoly of picturesque and somewhat stately irregularity in the houses of fair height, whose lattices and oriel windows overhang the stream from an environment of orange gardens, the dark date groves dignify the meaner buildings of the right bank. The rush of a great river is in itself attractive, and from the roof of this house the view is fascinating, with the ceaseless movements of hundreds of boats and kufas, the constant traffic of men, horses, asses, and caravans across the great bridge of boats, and the long lines of buildings which with more or less picturesqueness line the great waterway.

Without the wearisomeness of sight-seeing there is much to be seen in Baghdad, and though much that would be novel to a new-comer from the West is familiar to me after two years of Eastern travel, there is a great deal that is really interesting. The kufas accumulating at their landing, freighted with the products of the Upper Tigris, the transpontine city, in which country produce takes the foremost place; the tramway to Kazimain constructed during the brief valiship of Midhat Pasha, on which the last journey of the day is always performed at a gallop, coûte que coûte; the caravans of asses, each one with a huge fish, the “Fish of Tobias,” hanging across its back; the strings of the same humble animal, carrying skins of water from the river throughout the city; the tombs, the mosques, the churches, the great caravans of mules and camels, almost monopolising the narrow roadways, Arabs and Osmanlis on showy horses, Persians, Turks, Arabs, Jews, Armenians, Chaldæans, in all the variety of their picturesque national costumes, to which the niggardly clothing of a chance European acts as an ungraceful foil; Persian dead, usually swaddled, making their last journey on mule or horseback to the holy ground at Kerbela, and the occasional march of horse or foot through the thronged bazars, are among the hourly sights of a city on which European influence is scarcely if at all perceptible.

Turkish statistics must be received with caution, and the population of Baghdad may not reach 120,000 souls, but it has obviously recovered wonderfully from the effects of war, plague, inundation, and famine, and looks busy and fairly prosperous, so much so indeed that the account given of its misery and decay in Mr. Baillie Fraser’s charming Travels in Kurdistan reads like a story of the last century. If nothing remains of the glories of the city of the Caliphs, it is certainly for Turkey a busy, growing, and passably wealthy nineteenth-century capital. It is said to have a hundred mosques, twenty-six minarets, and fifteen domes, but I have not counted them!

Its bazars, which many people regard as the finest in the East outside of Stamboul, are of enormous extent and very great variety. Many are of brick, with well-built domed roofs, and sides arcaded both above and below, and are wide and airy. Some are of wood, all are covered, and admit light scantily, only from the roof. Those which supply the poorer classes are apt to be ruinous and squalid —“ramshackle,” to say the truth, with an air of decay about them, and their roofs are merely rough timber, roughly thatched with reeds or date tree fronds. Of splendour there is none anywhere, and of cleanliness there are few traces. The old, narrow, and filthy bazars in which the gold and silversmiths ply their trade are of all the most interesting. The trades have their separate localities, and the buyer who is in search of cotton goods, silk stuffs, carpets, cotton yarn, gold and silver thread, ready-made clothing, weapons, saddlery, rope, fruit, meat, grain, fish, jewellery, muslins, copper pots, etc., has a whole alley of contiguous shops devoted to the sale of the same article to choose from.

At any hour of daylight at this season progress through the bazars is slow. They are crowded, and almost entirely with men. It is only the poorer women who market for themselves, and in twos and threes, at certain hours of the day. In a whole afternoon, among thousands of men, I saw only five women, tall, shapeless, badly-made-up bundles, carried mysteriously along, rather by high, loose, canary-yellow leather boots than by feet. The face is covered with a thick black gauze mask, or cloth, and the head and remainder of the form with a dark blue or black sheet, which is clutched by the hand below the nose. The walk is one of tottering decrepitude. All the business transacted in the bazars is a matter of bargaining, and as Arabs shout at the top of their voices, and buyers and sellers are equally keen, the roar is tremendous.

Great cafés, as in Cairo, occur frequently. In the larger ones from a hundred to two hundred men are seen lounging at one time on the broad matted seats, shouting, chaffering, drinking coffee or sharbat and smoking chibouks or kalians. Negro attendants supply their wants. These cafés are the clubs of Baghdad. Whatever of public opinion exists in a country where the recognised use of words is to “conceal thought,” is formed in them. They are centres of business likewise, and much of the noise is due to bargaining, and they are also manufactories of rumours, scandals, and fanaticism. The great caravanserais, such as the magnificent Khan Othman, are also resorts of merchants for the display and sale of their goods.

Europeans never make purchases in the bazars. They either have the goods from which they wish to make a choice brought to their houses, or their servants bargain for them, getting a commission both from buyer and seller.

The splendour of the East, if it exists at all, is not to be seen in the bazars. The jewelled daggers, the cloth of silver and gold, the diaphanous silk tissues, the brocaded silks, the rich embroideries, the damascened sword blades, the finer carpets, the inlaid armour, the cunning work in brass and inlaid bronze, and all the articles of vertu and bric-à-brac of real or spurious value, are carefully concealed by their owners, and are carried for display, with much secrecy and mystery, to the houses of their ordinary customers, and to such European strangers as are reported to be willing to be victimised.

Trade in Baghdad is regarded by Europeans and large capitalists as growing annually more depressed and unsatisfactory, but this is not the view of the small traders, chiefly Jews and Christians, who start with a capital of £5 or upwards, and by buying some cheap lot in Bombay — gay handkerchiefs, perfumery, shoes, socks, buttons, tin boxes with mirror lids, scissors, pocket-knives, toys, and the like — bid fair to make small fortunes. The amount of perfumery and rubbish piled in these ramshackle shops is wonderful. The trader who picks up a desert Arab for a customer and sells him a knife, or a mirror box, or a packet of candles is likely to attract to himself a large trade, for when once the unmastered pastoral hordes of Al Jazīra, Trak, and Stramīya see such objects, the desire of possession is aroused, and the refuse of Manchester and Birmingham will find its way into every tent in the desert.

The best bazars are the least crowded, though once in them it is difficult to move, and the strings of asses laden with skins of water are a great nuisance. The foot-passenger is also liable at any moment to be ridden down by horsemen, or squeezed into a jelly by the passage of caravans.

It is in the meat, vegetable, cotton, oil, grain, fruit, and fish bazars that the throngs are busiest and noisiest, and though cucumbers, the great joy of the Turkish palate, are over, vegetables “of sorts” are abundant, and the slant, broken sunbeams fall on pyramids of fruit, and glorify the warm colouring of melons, apples, and pomegranates.

A melon of 10 lbs. weight can be got for a penny, a sheep for five or six shillings, and fish for something like a farthing per pound, that is the “Fish of Tobias,” the monster of the Tigris waters, which is largely eaten by the poor. Poultry and game are also very cheap, and the absolute necessaries of life, such as broken wheat for porridge, oil, flour, and cheese, cost little.

Cook-shops abound, but their viands are not tempting, and the bazars are pervaded by a pungent odour of hot sesamum oil and rancid fat, frying being a usual mode of cooking in these restaurants. An impassive Turk, silently smoking, sits cross-legged on a platform at each Turkish shop door. He shows his goods as if he had no interest in them, and whether he sells or not seems a matter of indifference, so that he can return to his pipe. It is not to him that the overpowering din is owing, but to the agitated eagerness of the other nationalities.

The charm of the bazars lies in the variety of race and costume and in the splendid physique of the greater number of the men. The European looks “nowhere.” The natural look of a Moslem is one of hauteur, but no words can describe the scorn and lofty Pharisaism which sit on the faces of the Seyyids, the descendants of Mohammed, whose hands and even garments are kissed reverently as they pass through the crowd; or the wrathful melancholy mixed with pride which gives a fierceness to the dignified bearing of the magnificent beings who glide through the streets, their white turbans or shawl head-gear, their gracefully flowing robes, their richly embroidered under-vests, their Kashmir girdles, their inlaid pistols, their silver-hilted dirks, and the predominance of red throughout their clothing aiding the general effect. Yet most of these grand creatures, with their lofty looks and regal stride, would be accessible to a bribe, and would not despise even a perquisite. These are the mollahs, the scribes, the traders, and the merchants of the city.

The Bedouin and the city Arabs dress differently, and are among the marked features of the streets. The under-dress is a very coarse shirt of unbleached homespun cotton, rarely clean, over which the Sheikhs and richer men wear a robe of striped silk or cotton with a Kashmir girdle of a shawl pattern in red on a white ground. The poor wear shirts of coarse hair or cotton, without a robe. The invariable feature of Arab dress is the abba— a long cloak, sleeveless, but with holes through which to pass the arms, and capable of many adaptations. It conceals all superabundance and deficiency of attire, and while it has the dignity of the toga by day it has the utility of a blanket by night. The better-class abba is very hard, being made of closely-woven worsted, in broad brown and white or black and white perpendicular stripes. The poorest abba is of coarse brown worsted, and even of goat’s-hair. I saw many men who were destitute of any clothing but tattered abbas tied round their waists by frayed hair ropes. The abba is the distinctive national costume of the Arabs. The head-gear is not the turban but a shawl of very thick silk woven in irregular stripes of yellow and red, with long cords and tassels depending, made of the twisted woof. This handsome square is doubled triangularly, the double end hangs down the back, and the others over the shoulders. A loosely-twisted rope of camel’s-hair is wound several times round the crown of the head. When the weather is cold, being like all Orientals very sensitive in their heads, they bring one side of the shawl over the whole of the face but the eyes, and tuck it in, in great cold only exposing one eye, and in great heat also. Most Moslems shave the head, but the Arabs let their hair grow very long, and wear it in a number of long plaits, and these elf-locks mixed up with the long coloured tassels of the kiffiyeh, and the dark glittering eyes looking out from under the yellow silk, give them an appearance of extreme wildness, aided by the long guns which they carry and their long desert stride.

The Arab moves as if he were the ruler of the country, though the grip of the Osmanli may be closing on him. His eyes are deeply set under shaggy eyebrows, his nose is high and sharp, he is long and thin, his profile suggests a bird of prey, and his demeanour a fierce independence.

The Arab women go about the streets unveiled, and with the abba covering their very poor clothing, but it is not clutched closely enough to conceal the extraordinary tattooing which the Bedouin women everywhere regard as ornamental. There are artists in Baghdad who make their living by this mode of decorating the person, and vie with each other in the elaboration of their patterns. I saw several women tattooed with two wreaths of blue flowers on their bosoms linked by a blue chain, palm fronds on the throat, stars on the brow and chin, and bands round the wrists and ankles. These disfigurements, and large gold or silver filigree buttons placed outside one nostril by means of a wire passed through it, worn by married women, are much admired. When these women sell country produce in the markets, they cover their heads with the ordinary chadar.

The streets are narrow, and the walls, which are built of fire-burned bricks, are high. Windows to the streets are common, and the oriel windows, with their warm brown lattices projecting over the roadways at irregular heights, are strikingly picturesque. Not less so are latticework galleries, which are often thrown across the street to connect the two houses of wealthy residents, and the sitting-rooms with oriel windows, which likewise bridge the roadways. Solid doorways with iron-clasped and iron-studded doors give an impression of security, and suggest comfort and to some extent home life, and sprays of orange trees, hanging over walls, and fronds of date palms give an aspect of pleasantness to the courtyards.

The best parts of the city, where the great bazars, large dwelling-houses, and most of the mosques are, is surrounded by a labyrinth of alleys, fringing off into streets growing meaner till they cease altogether among open spaces, given up to holes, heaps, rubbish, the slaughter of animals, and in some favoured spots to the production of vegetables. Then come the walls, which are of kiln-burned bricks, and have towers intended for guns at intervals. The wastes within the walls have every element of decay and meanness, the wastes without, where the desert sands sweep up to the very foot of the fortifications, have many elements of grandeur.

Baghdad is altogether built of chrome-yellow kiln-dried bricks. There are about twenty-five kilns, chiefly in the hands of Jews and Christians in the wastes outside the city, but the demand exceeds the supply, not for building only, but for the perpetual patchings which houses, paths, and walls are always requiring, owing to the absorption of moisture in the winter.

Bricks at the kilns sell for 36s. per thousand twelve inches square, and 18s. per thousand seven inches square. They are carried from the kilns on donkeys, small beasts, each taking ten large or twenty-five small bricks.

Unskilled labour is abundant. Men can be engaged at 9d. a day, and boys for 5d.

This afternoon, in the glory of a sunset which reddened the yellow waste up to the distant horizon, a caravan of mules, mostly in single file, approached the city. Each carried two or four white bales slung on his sides, or two or more long boxes, consisting of planks roped rather than nailed together. This is the fashion in which thousands of Persian Moslems (Shiahs or “Sectaries”) have been conveyed for ages for final burial at Kerbela, the holiest place of the Shiahs, an easy journey from Baghdad, where rest the ashes of Ali, regarded as scarcely second to Mohammed, and of Houssein and Hassan his sons, whose “martyrdom” is annually commemorated by a Passion Play which is acted in every town and village in Persia. To make a pilgrimage to Kerbela, or to rest finally in its holy dust, or both, constitutes the ambition of every Shiah. The Sunnis, or “Orthodox,” who hate the Shiahs, are so far kept in check that these doleful caravans are not exposed to any worse molestation than the shouts and ridicule of street Arabs.

The mode of carrying the dead is not reverent. The katirgis, who contract for the removal, hurry the bodies along as goods, and pile them in the yards of the caravanserais at night, and the mournful journey is performed, oftener than not, without the presence of relations, each body being ticketed with the name once borne by its owner. Some have been exhumed and are merely skeletons, others are in various stages of decomposition, and some are of the newly dead.6

Outside the walls predatory Arabs render the roads unsafe for solitary travellers, and at times for feeble caravans; but things in this respect are better than they were.

Visits to the Armenian and Chaldæan Churches, to the Mosque of Abdel Kader, with its courts thronged by Afghan pilgrims, and to the Jewish quarter, have been very interesting. There are said to be 30,000 Jews here, and while a large proportion of them are in poverty, on the whole they are an influential nationality, and some of them are very rich.

Through the liberality of Sir Albert Sassoon a Jewish High School has been opened, where an admirable education is given. I was extremely pleased with it, and with the director, who speaks French fluently, and with the proficiency in French of the elder students. He describes their earnestness and energetic application as being most remarkable.

The French Carmelite monks have a large, solid “Mission Church” or Cathedral with a fine peal of bells, and a very prosperous school attached, in which are boys belonging to all the many creeds professed in Baghdad. The sisters of St. Joseph have a school for girls, which Turkish children are not slow to avail themselves of. The sisters find a remarkable unhandiness among the women. Few, if any, among them have any idea of cutting out or repairing, and rich and poor are equally incapable of employing their fingers usefully.

The people here are so used to the sight of Europeans that it is quite easy for foreign ladies to walk in this quarter only attended by a servant, and I have accompanied Mrs. Sutton on visits to several Armenian houses. The Armenians are in many cases wealthy, as their admirably-designed and well-built houses testify. The Christian population is estimated at 5000, and its wealth and energy give it greater importance than its numbers warrant. One of the houses which we visited was truly beautiful and in very good taste, the solidity of the stone and brickwork, the finish of the wood, and the beauty of the designs and their execution in hammered iron being quite remarkable. The lofty roofs and cornices are elaborately worked in plaster, and this is completely concealed by hundreds or thousands of mirrors set so as to resemble facets, so that roof and cornices flash like diamonds. This is a Persian style of decoration, and is extremely effective in large handsome rooms. Superb carpets and divans and tea tables inlaid with mother-of-pearl furnish the reception and smoking rooms, and the bedrooms and nurseries over which we were taken were simply arranged with French bedsteads and curtains of Nottingham mosquito net. As in other Eastern houses, there were no traces of occupation, no morning room or den sacred to litter; neither was there anything to look at — the opposite extreme from our overloaded drawing-rooms — or any library. Cigarettes and black coffee in minute porcelain cups, in gold filigree receptacles, were presented on each occasion, and the kind and courteous intention was very pleasing.

The visits which I paid with Dr. Sutton were very different. He has worked as a medical missionary here for some years, and his unaffected benevolence and quiet attention to all suffering persons, without distinction of race or creed, and his recent extraordinary labours by night and day among the cholera-smitten people, have won for him general esteem and confidence, and he is even allowed to enter Moslem houses and prescribe for the women in some cases.

The dispensary, in which there is not half enough accommodation, is very largely attended by people of all creeds, and even Moslem women, though exclusively of the poorer classes, avail themselves of it. Yesterday, when I was there, the comfortable seats of the cheerful matted waiting-room were all occupied by Armenian and Chaldæan women, unveiled and speaking quite freely to Dr. Sutton; while a few Moslem women, masked rather than veiled, and enveloped in black sheets, cowered on the floor and scarcely let their voices be heard even in a tremulous whisper.

I am always sorry to see any encroachment made by Christian teachers on national customs where they are not contrary to morality, and willingly leave to Eastern women the pardah and the veil, but still there is a wholesomeness about the unveiled, rosy, comely, frank faces of these Christian women. But — and it is a decided but — though the women were comely, and though some of the Armenian girls are beautiful, every one has one or more flattish depressions on her face — scars in fact — the size of a large date stone. Nearly the whole population is thus disfigured. So universal is it among the fair-skinned Armenian girls, that so far from being regarded as a blemish, it is viewed as a token of good health, and it is said that a young man would hesitate to ask for the hand of a girl in marriage if she had not a “date mark” on her face.

These “date boils,” or “Baghdad boils,” as they are sometimes called, are not slow in attacking European strangers, and few, if any, escape during their residence here. As no cause can reasonably be assigned for them, so no cure has been found. Various remedies, including cauterisation, have been tried, but without success, and it is now thought wisest to do nothing more than keep them dry and clean, and let them run their natural course, which lasts about a year. Happily they are not so painful as ordinary boils. The malady appears at first as a white point, not larger than a pin’s head, and remains thus for about three months. Then the flesh swells, becomes red and hard and suppurates, and underneath a rough crust which is formed is corroded and eaten away as by vitriol. On some strangers the fatal point appears within a few days of their arrival.

In two years in the East I have not seen any European welcomed so cordially as Dr. Sutton into Moslem homes. The Hakīm, exhibiting in “quiet continuance in well-doing” the legible and easily-recognised higher fruits of Christianity, while refraining from harsh and irreverent onslaughts on the creeds of those whose sufferings he mitigates, is everywhere blessed.7

To my thinking, no one follows in the Master’s footprints so closely as the medical missionary, and on no agency for alleviating human suffering can one look with more unqualified satisfaction. The medical mission is the outcome of the living teachings of our faith. I have now visited such missions in many parts of the world, and never saw one which was not healing, helping, blessing; softening prejudice, diminishing suffering, making an end of many of the cruelties which proceed from ignorance, restoring sight to the blind, limbs to the crippled, health to the sick, telling, in every work of love and of consecrated skill, of the infinite compassion of Him who came “not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

In one house Dr. Sutton was welcome because he had saved a woman’s life, in another because a blind youth had received his sight, and so on. Among our visits was one to a poor Moslem family in a very poor quarter. No matter how poor the people are, their rooms stand back from the street, and open on yards more or less mean. It is a misnomer to call this dwelling a house, or to write that it opens, for it is merely an arched recess which can never be shut!

In a hole in the middle of an uneven earthen floor there was a fire of tamarisk root and animal fuel, giving off a stinging smoke. On this the broken wheat porridge for supper was being cooked in a copper pot, supported on three rusty cannon-balls. An earthenware basin, a wooden spoon, a long knife, a goat-skin of water, a mallet, a long hen-coop, which had served as the bed for the wife when she was ill, some ugly hens, a clay jar full of grain, two heaps of brick rubbish, and some wadded quilts, which had taken on the prevailing gray-brown colour, were the plenishings of the arch.

Poverty brings one blessing in Turkey — the poor man is of necessity a monogamist. Wretched though the place was, it had the air of home, and the smoky hole in the floor was a fireside. The wife was unveiled and joined in the conversation, the husband was helping her to cook the supper, and the children were sitting round or scrambling over their parents’ knees. All looked as happy as people in their class anywhere. It is good to have ocular demonstration that such homes exist in Turkey. God be thanked for them! The man, a fine frank-looking Turk, welcomed Dr. Sutton jovially. He had saved the wife’s life and was received as their best friend. Who indeed but the medical missionary would care for such as them and give them of his skill “without money and without price”? The hearty laugh of this Turk was good to hear, his wife smiled cordially, and the boys laughed like their father. The eldest, a nice, bright fellow of nine, taught in the mosque school, was proud to show how well he could read Arabic, and read part of a chapter from St. John’s Gospel, his parents looking on with wonder and admiration.

Among the Christian families we called on were those of the dispenser and catechist — people with very small salaries but comfortable homes. These families were living in a house furnished like those of the rich Armenians, but on a very simple scale, the floor and daïs covered with Persian carpets, the divan with Turkish woollen stuff, and there were in addition a chair or two, and silk cushions on the floor. In one room there were an intelligent elderly woman, a beautiful girl of seventeen, married a few days ago, and wearing her bridal ornaments, with her husband; another man and his wife, and two bright, ruddy-cheeked boys who spoke six languages. All had “date marks” on their faces. After a year among Moslems and Hindus, it was startling to find men and women sitting together, the women unveiled, and taking their share in the conversation merrily and happily. Even the young bride took the initiative in talking to Dr. Sutton.

Of course the Christian women cover their faces in the streets, but the covering is of different material and arrangement, and is really magnificent, being of very rich, stiff, corded silk-self-coloured usually — black, heliotrope, or dark blue, with a contrasting colour woven in deep vandykes upon a white ground as a border. The silk is superb, really capable of standing on end with richness. Such a sheet costs about £5. The ambition of every woman is to possess one, and to gratify it she even denies herself in the necessaries of life.

The upper classes of both Moslem and Christian women are rarely seen on foot in the streets except on certain days, as when they visit the churches and the mosques and burial-grounds. Nevertheless they go about a great deal to visit each other, riding on white asses, which are also used by mollahs and rich elderly merchants. All asses have their nostrils slit to improve their wind. A good white ass of long pedigree, over thirteen hands high, costs as much as £50. As they are groomed till they look as white as snow, and are caparisoned with red leather trappings embroidered with gold thread and silks, and as a rider on a white ass is usually preceded by runners who shout and brandish sticks to clear the way, this animal always suggests position, or at least wealth.

Women of the upper classes mounted on these asses usually go to pay afternoon visits in companies, with mounted eunuchs and attendants, and men to clear the way. They ride astride with short stirrups, but the rider is represented only by a shapeless blue bundle, out of which protrude two yellow boots. Blacks of the purest negro type frequently attend on women, and indeed consequence is shown by the possession of a number of them.

Of the Georgian and Circassian belles of the harams, a single lustrous eye with its brilliancy enhanced by the use of kohl is all that one sees. At the bottom of the scale are the Arab women and the unsecluded women of the lower orders generally, who are of necessity drudges, and are old hags before they are twenty, except in the few cases in which they do not become mothers, when the good looks which many of them possess in extreme youth last a little longer. If one’s memories of Baghdad women were only of those to be seen in the streets, they would be of leathery, wrinkled faces, prematurely old, figures which have lost all shape, and henna-stained hands crinkled and deformed by toil.

Baghdad is busy and noisy with traffic. Great quantities of British goods pass through it to Persia, avoiding by doing so the horrible rock ladders between Bushire and Isfahan. The water transit from England and India, only involving the inconvenience of transhipment at Basrah, makes Baghdad practically into a seaport, with something of the bustle and vivacity of a seaport, and caravans numbering from 20,000 to 26,000 laden mules are employed in the carriage of goods to and from the Persian cities. A duty of one per cent is levied on goods in transit to Persia.8

The trade of Baghdad is not to be despised. The principal articles which were imported from Europe amounted in 1889 to a value of £621,140, and from India to £239,940, while the exports from Baghdad to Europe and America were valued in the same year at £469,200, and to India by British India Company steamers only at £35,150. In looking through the Consular list of exports, it is interesting to notice that 13,400 cwts. of gum of the value of £70,000 were exported in 1889. Neither the Indian postage stamps nor ours should suffer from the partial failure of the Soudan supply.

Liquorice roots to the value of £7800 were exported in 1888, almost solely to America, to be used in the preparation of quid tobacco and “fancy drinks”!

The gall nuts which grow in profusion on the dwarf oaks which cover many hillsides, were exported last year to the value of £35,000, to be used chiefly in the production of ink, so closely is commerce binding countries one to the other.

Two English firms have concessions for pressing wool and making it into bales suitable for shipment. There are five principal English firms here, three French, and six Turkish, not including the small fry. There are five foreign Consulates.

The carriage of goods is one of the most important of Persian and Turkish industries, and the breeding of mules and the manufacture of caravan equipments give extensive employment; but one shudders to think of the amount of suffering involved in sore backs and wounds, and of exhausted and over-weighted animals lying down forlornly to die, having their eyes picked out before death.

The mercury was at 37° at breakfast-time this morning. Fuel is scarce and dear, some of the rooms are without fireplaces, and these good people study, write, and work cheerfully in this temperature in open rooms, untouched by the early sun.

The preparations for tomorrow’s journey are nearly complete. Three mules have been engaged for the baggage — one for Hadji, and a saddle mule for myself; stores, a revolver, and a mangel or brazier have been bought; a permit to travel has been obtained, and my hosts, with the most thoughtful kindness, have facilitated all the arrangements. I have bought two mule yekdans, which are tall, narrow leather trunks on strong iron frames, with stout straps to buckle over the top of the pack saddle. On the whole I find that it is best to adopt as far as possible the travelling equipments of the country in which one travels. The muleteers and servants understand them better, and if any thing goes wrong, or wears out, it can be repaired or replaced. I have given away en route nearly all the things I brought from England, and have reduced my camp furniture to a folding bed and a chair. I shall start with three novelties — a fellow-traveller,9 a saddle mule, and an untried saddle.

It is expected that the journey will be a very severe one, owing to the exceptionally heavy snowfall reported from the Zagros mountains and the Persian plateau. The Persian post has arrived several days late. I. L. B.

6 I heard that the Shah had prohibited this “Dead March” to Kerbela, on account of the many risks to the public health involved in it, but nearly a year later, in Persian Kurdistan, I met, besides thousands of living pilgrims, a large caravan of the dead.

7 Six months later a Bakhtiari chief, a bigoted Moslem, said to me at the conclusion of an earnest plea for European medical advice, “Yes, Jesus was a great prophet; send us a Hakīm in His likeness,” and doubtless the nearer that likeness is the greater is the success.

8 The entire trade of Baghdad is estimated at about £2,500,000, of which the Persian transit trade is nearly a quarter. The Persian imports and exports through Baghdad are classified thus: Manufactured goods, including Manchester piece goods, and continental woollens and cottons, 7000 to 8000 loads. Indian manufactures, 1000 loads. Loaf sugar, chiefly from Marseilles, 6000 loads. Drugs, pepper, coffee, tea, other sugars, indigo, cochineal, copper, and spelter, 7000 loads. The Persian exports for despatch by sea include wool, opium, cotton, carpets, gum, and dried fruits, and for local consumption, among others, tobacco, roghan (clarified butter), and dried and fresh fruits, with a probable bulk of from 12,000 to 15,000 loads.

9 I had given up the idea of travelling in Persia, and was preparing to leave India for England, when an officer, with whom I was then unacquainted, and who was about to proceed to Tihran on business, kindly offered me his escort. The journey turned out one of extreme hardship and difficulty, and had it not been for his kindness and efficient help I do not think that I should have accomplished it.

Letter iii10

Whether for “well or ill” the journey to Tihran is begun. I am ashamed to say that I had grown so nervous about its untried elements, and about the possibilities of the next two months, that a very small thing would have made me give it up at the last moment; but now that I am fairly embarked upon it in splendid weather, the spirit of travel has returned.

Much remained for the last morning — debts to be paid in complicated money, for Indian, Turkish, and Persian coins are all current here; English circular notes to be turned into difficult coin, and the usual “row” with the muleteers to be endured. This disagreeable farce attends nearly all departures in the East, and I never feel the comfortable assurance that it means nothing.

The men weighed my baggage, which was considerably under weight, the day before, but yesterday three or four of them came into the courtyard, shouting in Arabic at the top of their loud harsh voices that they would not carry the loads. Hadji roared at them, loading his revolver all the time, calling them “sons of burnt fathers,” and other choice names. Dr. Bruce and Dr. Sutton reasoned with them from the balcony, when, in the very height of the row, they suddenly shouldered the loads and went off with them.

Two hours later the delightful hospitalities of Dr. and Mrs. Sutton were left behind, and the farewell to the group in the courtyard of the mission house is a long farewell to civilisation. Rumours of difficulties have been rife, and among the various dismal prophecies the one oftenest repeated is that we shall be entangled in the snows of the Zagros mountains; but the journey began propitiously among oranges and palms, bright sunshine and warm good wishes. My mule turns out a fine, spirited, fast-walking animal, and the untried saddle suits me. My marching equipment consists of two large holsters, with a revolver and tea-making apparatus in one, and a bottle of milk, and dates in the other. An Afghan sheepskin coat is strapped to the front of the saddle, and a blanket and stout mackintosh behind. I wear a cork sun-helmet, a gray mask instead of a veil, an American mountain dress with a warm jacket over it, and tan boots, scarcely the worse for a year of Himalayan travel. Hadji is dressed like a wild Ishmaelite.

Captain Dougherty of H.M.S. Comet and his chief engineer piloted us through the narrow alleys and thronged bazars — a zaptieh, or gendarme, with a rifle across his saddle-bow, and a sheathed sabre in his hand, shouting at the donkey boys, and clearing the crowd to right and left. Through the twilight of the bazars, where chance rays of sunshine fell on warm colouring, gay merchandise, and picturesque crowds; along narrow alleys, overhung by brown lattice windows; out under the glorious blue of heaven among ruins and graves, through the northern gateway, and then there was an abrupt exchange of the roar and limitations of the City of the Caliphs for the silence of the desert and the brown sweep of a limitless horizon. A walled Eastern city has no suburbs. It is a literal step from a crowded town to absolute solitude. The contrast is specially emphasised at Baghdad, where the transition is made from a great commercial city with a crowded waterway, to an uninhabited plain in the nudity of mid-winter.

A last look at gleaming domes, coloured minarets, and massive mausoleums, rising out of an environment of palms and orange groves, at the brick walls and towers of the city, at the great gate to which lines of caravans were converging from every quarter, a farewell to the kindly pilots, and the journey began in earnest.

The “Desert” sweeps up to the walls of Baghdad, but it is a misnomer to call the vast level of rich, stoneless, alluvial soil a desert. It is a dead flat of uninhabited earth; orange colocynth balls, a little wormwood, and some alkaline plants which camels eat, being its chief products. After the inundations reedy grass grows in the hollows. It is a waste rather than a desert, and was once a populous plain, and the rich soil only needs irrigation to make it “blossom as the rose.” Traces of the splendid irrigation system under which it was once a garden abound along the route.

The mid-day and afternoon were as glorious as an unclouded sky, a warm sun, and a fresh, keen air could make them. The desert freedom was all around, and the nameless charm of a nomadic life. The naked plain, which stretched to the horizon, was broken only by the brown tents of Arabs, mixed up with brown patches of migrating flocks, strings of brown camels, straggling caravans, and companies of Arab horsemen heavily armed. An expanse of dried mud, the mirage continually seen, a cloudless sky, and a brilliant sun — this was all. I felt better at once in the pure, exhilarating desert air, and nervousness about the journey was left behind. I even indulged in a gallop, and except for her impetuosity, which carried me into the middle of a caravan, and turning round a few times, the mule behaved so irreproachably that I forgot the potential possibilities of evil. Still, I do not think that there can ever be that perfect correspondence of will between a mule and his rider that there is between a horse and his rider.

The mirage was almost continual and grossly deceptive. Fair blue lakes appeared with palms and towers mirrored on their glassy surfaces, giving place to snowy ranges with bright waters at their feet, fringed by tall trees, changing into stately processions, all so absolutely real that the real often seemed the delusion. These deceptions, continued for several hours, were humiliating and exasperating.

Towards evening the shams disappeared, the waste purpled as the sun sank, and after riding fifteen miles we halted near the mud village of Orta Khan, a place with brackish water and no supplies but a little brackish sheep’s milk. The caravanserai was abominable, and we rode on to a fine gravelly camping-ground, but the headman and some of the villagers came out, and would not hear of our pitching the tents where we should be the prey of predatory hordes, strong enough, they said, to overpower an officer, two zaptiehs, and three orderlies! Being unwilling to get them into trouble, we accepted a horrible camping-ground, a mud-walled “garden,” trenched for dates, and lately irrigated, as damp and clayey as it could be. My dhurrie will not be dry again this winter. The mules could not get in, the baggage was unloaded at some distance, and was all mixed up, and Hadji showed himself incapable; my tent fell twice, remained precarious, and the kanats were never pegged down at all.

The dhurrie was trampled into the mud by clayey feet. Baggage had to be disentangled and unpacked after dark, and the confusion apt to prevail on the first night of a march was something terrible. It opened my eyes to the thorough inefficiency of Hadji, who was so dazed with opium this morning that he stood about in a dream, ejaculating “Ya Allah!” when it was suggested that he should bestir himself, leaving me to do all the packing, groaning as he took up the tent pegs, and putting on the mule’s bridle with the bit hanging under her chin!

The night was very damp, not quite frosty, and in the dim morning the tent and its contents were wet. Tea at seven, with Baghdad rusks, with a distinctly “native taste,” two hours spent in standing about on the damp, clayey ground till my feet were numb, while the men, most of whom were complaining of rheumatism, stumbled through their new work; and then five hours of wastes, enlivened by caravans of camels, mules, horses, or asses, and sometimes of all mixed, with their wild, armed drivers. The leader of each caravan carries a cylinder-shaped bell under his throat, suspended from a red leather band stitched with cowries, another at his chest, and very large ones, often twenty-four inches long by ten in diameter, hanging from each pack. Every other animal of the caravan has smaller bells, and the tones, which are often most musical, reach from the deep note of a church bell up to the frivolous jingle of sleigh bells; jingle often becomes jangle when several caravans are together. The katirgis (muleteers) spend large sums on the bells and other decorations. Among the loads we met or overtook were paraffin, oranges, pomegranates, carpets, cotton goods, melons, grain, and chopped straw. The waste is covered with tracks, and a guide is absolutely necessary.

The day has been still and very gloomy, with flakes of snow falling at times. The passing over rich soil, once cultivated and populous, now abandoned to the antelope and partridge, is most melancholy. The remains of canals and water-courses, which in former days brought the waters of the Tigris and the Diyalah into the fields of the great grain-growing population of these vast levels of Chaldæa and Mesopotamia, are everywhere, and at times create difficulties on the road. By road is simply meant a track of greater or less width, trodden on the soil by the passage of caravans for ages. On these two marches not a stone has been seen which could strike a ploughshare.

Great ancient canals, with their banks in ruins and their deep beds choked up and useless, have been a mournful feature of rather a dismal day’s journey. We crossed the bed of the once magnificent Nahrwan canal, the finest of the ancient irrigation works to the east of the Tigris, still in many places from twenty-five to forty feet deep and from 150 to 200 feet in breadth.

For many miles the only permanent village is a collection of miserable mud hovels round a forlorn caravanserai, in which travellers may find a wretched refuge from the vicissitudes of weather. There is a remarkable lack of shelter and provender, considering that this is not only one of the busiest of caravan routes, but is enormously frequented by Shiah pilgrims on their way from Persia to the shrines of Kerbela.

After crossing the Nahrwan canal the road keeps near the right bank of the Diyalah, a fine stream, which for a considerable distance runs parallel with the Tigris at a distance of from ten to thirty miles from it, and falls into it below Baghdad; and imamzadas and villages with groves of palms break the line of the horizon, while on the left bank for fully two miles are contiguous groves of dates and pomegranates. These groves are walled, and among them this semi-decayed and ruinous town is situated, miserably shrunk from its former proportions. We entered Yakobiyeh after crossing the Diyalah by a pontoon bridge of twelve boats, and found one good house with projecting lattice windows, and a large entrance over which the head and ears of a hare were nailed; narrow, filthy lanes, a covered bazar, very dark and ruinous, but fairly well supplied, an archway, and within it this caravanserai in which the baggage must be waited for for two hours.

This first experience of a Turkish inn is striking. There is a large square yard, heaped with dirt and rubbish, round which are stables and some dark, ruinous rooms. A broken stair leads to a flat mud roof, on which are some narrow “stalls,”—rooms they cannot be called — with rude doors fastening only from the outside, for windows small round holes mostly stuffed with straw near the roof, for floors sodden earth, for fireplaces holes in the same, the walls slimy and unplastered, the corners full of ages of dusty cobwebs, both the walls and the rafters of the roof black with ages of smoke, and beetles and other abominations hurry into crannies, when the doors are opened, to emerge as soon as they are shut. A small hole in the wall outside each stall serves for cooking. The habits of the people are repulsive, foul odours are only hybernating, and so, mercifully, are the vermin.

While waiting for the “furniture” which is to make my “unfurnished apartment” habitable, I write sitting on my camp stool with its back against the wall, wrapped up in a horse-blanket, a heap of saddles, swords, holsters, and gear keeping the wind from my feet. The Afghan orderly smokes at the top of the stair. Plumes of palms and faintly-seen ridges of snowy hills appear over the battlements of the roof. A snow wind blows keenly. My fingers are nearly numb, and I am generally stiff and aching, but so much better that discomforts are only an amusement. Snow is said to be impending. I have lunched frugally on sheep’s milk and dates, and feel everything but my present surroundings to be very far off, and as if I had lived the desert life, and had heard the chimes of the great caravans, and had seen the wild desert riders, and the sun sinking below the level line of the desert horizon, for two months instead of two days.

Yakobiyeh is said to have 800 houses. It has some small mosques and several caravanserais, of which this is the best! It was once a flourishing place, but repeated ravages of the plague and chronic official extortions have reduced it to decay. Nevertheless, it grows grain enough for its own needs on poorly irrigated soil, and in its immense gardens apples, pears, apricots, walnuts, and mulberries flourish alongside of the orange and palm.

Kizil Robat, Jan. 14.— It was not very cold at Yakobiyeh. At home few people would be able to sit in a fireless den, with the door open, on a January night, but fireless though it was, my slender camp equipage gave it a look of comfort, and though rats or mice ate a bag of rusks during the night, and ran over my bed, there were no other annoyances. Hadji grows more dazed and possibly more unwilling every day, as he sees his vista of perquisites growing more limited, and to get off, even at nine, I have to do the heavy as well as the light packing myself.

There was a great “row,” arising out of an alleged delinquency of the katirgis concerning payment, when we left Yakobiyeh the following morning. The owners of the caravanserai wanted to detain us, and the archway was so packed with a shouting, gesticulating, scowling, and not kindly crowd, mostly armed, that it was not easy for me to mount. The hire of mules always includes their fodder and the keep of the men, but in the first day or two the latter usually attempt to break their bargain, and compel their employer to provide for them. So long as Arabic is spoken Hadji acts as sole interpreter, and though soldiers and zaptiehs were left with him he was scared at being left behind with the baggage. The people stormed and threatened at the top of their voices, but doubtless it was not so bad as it sounded, for we got through the bazars without molestation, and then into a perplexing system of ancient water-courses whose high broken banks and deep waterless beds intersect each other and the road. In contrast to this magnificent irrigation system there are modern water-channels about a foot wide, taken from the river Diyalah, which, small as they are, turn the rich deep soil into a “fruitful field.”

After these glimpses of a prosperity which once was and might be again (for these vast alluvial plains, which extend from the Zagros mountains to the Euphrates and up to the Syrian desert, are capable with irrigation and cultivation of becoming the granary of Western Asia), the road emerges on a level and somewhat gravelly waste, on which after a long ride we were overtaken by a zaptieh sent by the Persian agent in Yakobiyeh, to say that the baggage and servants were being forcibly detained, but shortly afterwards with a good glass the caravan was seen emerging from the town.

The country was nearly as featureless as on the preceding day, and on the whole quite barren; among the few caravans on the road there were two of immense value, the loads being the best description of Persian carpets. There were a few families on asses, migrating with all their possessions, and a few parties of Arab horsemen picturesquely and very fully armed, but no dwellings, till in the bright afternoon sunshine, on the dreariest stretch of an apparently verdureless waste, we came on the caravanserai of Wiyjahea, a gateway with a room above it, a square court with high walls and arched recesses all round for goods and travellers, and large stables. A row of reed huts, another of Arab tents, and a hovel opposite the gateway, where a man with two guns within reach sells food, tobacco, and hair ropes, make up this place of horror. For, indeed, the only water is a brackish reedy pool, with its slime well stirred by the feet of animals, and every man’s hand is against his brother.

We proposed to pitch my tent in a ruined enclosure, but the headman was unwilling, and when it was suggested that it should be placed between the shop and the caravanserai, he said that before sunset all the predatory Arabs for ten miles round would hear that “rich foreigners were travelling,” and would fall upon and plunder us, so we must pitch, if at all, in the filthy and crowded court of the caravanserai. The balakhana, or upper room, was too insecure for me, and had no privacy, as the fodder was kept in it, and there was no method of closing the doors, which let in the bitterly cold wind.

We arrived at 3 P.M., and long before sunset a number of caravans came in, and the courtyard was full of horses, mules, and asses. When they halted the loads were taken off and stacked in the arched recesses; next, the great padded pack-saddles, which cover nearly the whole back, were removed, revealing in most cases deep sores and ulcers. Then the animals were groomed with box curry-combs, with “clatters” like the noise of a bird-scarer inside them. Fifty curry-combs going at once is like the din of the cicada. Then the beasts were driven in batches to the reedy pool, and came flying back helter-skelter through the archway, some fighting, others playing, many rolling. One of them nearly pulled my tent over by rolling among the tent ropes. It had been pitched on damp and filthy ground in a corner of the yard, among mules, horses, asses, dogs, and the roughest of rough men, but even there the damp inside looked like home.

After this brief hilarity, the pack-saddles, which serve as blankets, were put on, the camels were made to lie down in rows, most of the mules and horses were tethered in the great stable, where they neighed, stamped, and jangled their bells all night, and others were picketed in the yard among the goats and donkeys and the big dogs, which wandered about yelping. Later, the small remaining space was filled up with sheep. It was just possible to move, but no more, and sheep and goats were even packed under the flys of my tent. The muleteers and travellers spread their bedding in the recesses, lighted their fires of animal fuel, and cooked their food.

At sunset the view from the roof was almost beautiful. Far away, in all directions, stretched the level desert purpling in the purple light. Very faintly, on the far horizon to the north-east, mountain ranges were painted in amethyst on an orange sky. Horsemen in companies galloped to tents which were not in sight, strings of camels cast their long shadows on the purple sand, and flocks of big brown sheep, led by armed shepherds, converged on the reedy pool in long brown lines. The evening air was keen, nearly frosty.

The prospects for the night were not encouraging, and on descending the filthy stair on which goats had taken up their quarters, I found the malodorous, crowded courtyard so blocked, that shepherds, with much pushing, shouting, and barking of big dogs, with difficulty made a way for me to pass through the packed mass of sheep and goats into the cold, damp tent, which was pitched on damp manure, two or three feet deep, into which heavy feet had trampled the carpet. The uproar of katirgis and travellers went on for another two hours, and was exchanged later for sounds of jangling bells, yelping and quarrelling dogs, braying asses, bleating sheep, and coarsely-snoring men.

At 9 P.M. the heavy gates, clamped with iron, were closed and barred, and some belated travellers, eager to get in from the perils of the outside, thundered at them long and persistently, but “the door was shut,” and they encountered a hoarse refusal. The seraidar said that 400 horses and mules, besides camels and asses, 2000 sheep, and over 70 men were lodged in the caravanserai that night.

The servants were in a recess near, and Hadji professed that he watched all night, and said that he fired at a man who tried to rob my tent after the light went out, but I slept too soundly to be disturbed, till the caravans and flocks left at daybreak, after a preliminary uproar of two hours. It was bitterly cold, and my tent and its contents were soaked with the heavy dew, nearly doubling their weight.

I started at 9 A.M., before the hoar-frost had melted, and rode with the zaptieh over flat, stoneless, alluvial soil, with some irrigation and the remains of some fine canals. There are villages to be seen in the distance, but though the soil is rich enough to support a very large population, there are no habitations near the road except a few temporary reed huts, beside two large caravanserais. There was little of an interesting kind except the perpetual contrast between things as they are and things as they were and might be. Some large graveyards, with brick graves, a crumbling imamzada, a pointed arch of brick over the Nahrud canal, a few ass caravans, with a live fowl tied by one leg on the back of each ass, and struggling painfully to keep its uneasy seat, some cultivation and much waste, and then we reached the walled village of Sheraban, once a town, but now only possessing 300 houses.

Passing as usual among ruinous dwellings and between black walls with doors here and there, by alleys foul with heaps of refuse, and dangerous from slimy pitfalls, in the very foulest part we turned into the caravanserai, its great courtyard reeking with filth and puddles, among which are the contaminated wells from which we are supposed to drink. The experience of the night before was not repeated. There were fairly good rooms, mine looking into a palm garden, through a wooden grating, cold truly, but pleasant. I fear we may never have such “luxury” again. I remarked to my fellow-traveller that our early arrival had fortunately given us the “choice of rooms,” and he replied, “choice of pig-styes — choice of dens!” but my experience at Wiyjahea has deprived me of the last remnants of fastidiousness!

I walked through the ruinous, wretched town, and its poor bazar, where the very fine physique of the men was in marked contrast with their wretched surroundings, and gives one the impression that under honest officials they might be a fine people. They are not genial to strangers, however. There was some bad language used in the bazar, and on the roads they pass one in silence at the best, so unlike the Tibetans with their friendly Tzu. At Sheraban one of the muleteers forced his way into my room, and roughly turned over my saddle and baggage, accusing me of having taken his blanket! Hadji is useless under such circumstances. He blusters and fingers his revolver, but carries no weight. Indeed his defects are more apparent every day. I often have to speak to him two or three times before I can rouse him from his opium dream, and there is a growing inclination to shirk his very light work when he can shift it upon somebody else. I hope that he is well-meaning, as that would cover a multitude of faults, but he is very rough and ignorant, and is either unable or unwilling to learn anything, even how to put up my trestle bed!

Open rooms have sundry disadvantages. In the night a cat fell from the roof upon my bed, and was soon joined by more, and they knocked over the lamp and milk bottle, and in the darkness had a noisy quarrel over the milk.

The march of eighteen miles here was made in six hours, at a good caravan pace. The baggage animals were sent off in advance, and the zaptieh led a mule loaded with chairs, blankets, and occupations. I ride with the zaptieh in front of me till I get near the halting-place, when M—— and his orderly overtake me, as it might be disagreeable for a European woman to enter a town alone.

The route lies over treeless levels of the same brown alluvial soil, till it is lifted on a gentle gravelly slope to a series of low crumbling mounds of red and gray sandstone, mixed up with soft conglomerate rocks of jasper and porphyry pebbles. These ranges of mounds, known as the Hamrin Hills, run parallel to the great Kurdistan ranges, from a point considerably below Baghdad, nearly to Mosul and the river Zab. They mark the termination in this direction of the vast alluvial plains of the Tigris and Euphrates, and are the first step to the uplifted Iranian plateau.

Arid and intricate ravines, dignified by the name of passes, furrow these hills, and bear an evil reputation, as Arab robbers lie in wait, “making it very unsafe for small caravans.” A wild, desolate, ill-omened-looking region it is. When we were fairly within the pass, the zaptieh stopped, and with much gesticulation and many repetitions of the word effendi, made me understand that it was unsafe to proceed without a larger party. We were unmolested, but it is a discredit to the administration of the province that an organised system of pillage should be allowed to exist year after year on one of the most frequented caravan routes in Turkey. There were several companies of armed horsemen among the ranges, and some camels browsing, but we met no caravans.

From the top of the descent there was a striking view over a great brown alluvial plain, watered by the Beladruz and the Diyalah, with serrated hills of no great height, but snow-covered; on its east side a silent, strange, weird view, without interest or beauty as seen under a sullen sky. There are no villages on this march, but ancient canals run in all directions, and fragments of buildings, as well as of brick and pottery, scattered over the unploughed surface, are supposed by many to mark the situation of Dastagird, the residence of Khosroe Parviz in the seventh century. I have no books of reference with me, and can seldom write except of such things as I see and hear.

Farther on a multitude of irrigation ditches have turned a plain of dry friable soil into a plain of mud, through which it was difficult to struggle. Then came a grove of palms, and then the town or village of Kizil Robat (Red Shrine), with its imamzada, whose reputation for sanctity is indicated by the immense number of graves which surround it. The walls of this decayed and wretched town are of thick layers of hardened but now crumbling earth, and on the east side there is an old gateway of burned brick. There are said to be 400 houses, which at the lowest computation would mean a population of 2000, but inhabited houses and ruins are so jumbled up together that one cannot form any estimate.

So woe-begone and miserable a place I never saw, and the dirt is appalling even in this dry weather. In spring the alleys of the town are impassable, and people whose business calls them out cross from roof to roof on boards. Pools of filthy water, loathsome ditches with broad margins of trodden slime full of abominations, ruins of houses, yards foul with refuse, half-clothed and wholly unwashed children, men of low aspect standing in melancholy groups, a well-built brick bazar, in which Manchester cottons are prominent, more mud and dirt, some ruinous caravanserais, and near the extremity of the town or village is the horrible one in which I now am, said to be the best, with a yard a foot deep in manure and slush, in the midst of which is the well, and around which are stables and recesses for travellers.

At first it seemed likely that I should fall so low as to occupy one of these, but careful investigation revealed a ruinous stair leading to the roof, up which were two rooms, or shall I say three? — an arched recess such as coals are kept in, a small room within it, and a low wood hole. The open arch, with a mangel or iron pan of charcoal, serves as the “parlour” this January night, M—— occupies the wood hole, and I the one room, into which Hadji, with many groans and ejaculations of “Ya Allah!” has brought up the essential parts of my baggage. The evening is gray and threatening, and low, snow-covered hills look grimly over the bare brown plain which lies outside this mournful place.

Khannikin, Jan. 15.— This has been a hard, rough march, but there will be many worse ahead. Rain fell heavily all night, converting the yard into a lake of trampled mud, and seemed so likely to continue that it was difficult to decide whether to march or halt. Miserable it was to see mules standing to be loaded, up to their knees in mud, bales of tents and bedding lying in the quagmire, and the shivering Indian servants up to their knees in the swamp. In rain steadily falling the twelve animals were loaded, and after the usual scrimmage at starting, in which the bakhsheesh is often thrown back at us, we rode out into a sea of deep mud, through which the mules, struggling and floundering, got on about a mile an hour.

After a time we came to gravel, then relapsed into deep alluvial soil, which now means deep mire, then a low range of gravelly hills on which a few sheep and camels were browsing on artemisia and other aromatic herbs gave a temporary respite, then again we floundered through miles of mud, succeeded by miles of gravel and stones. The rain fell in torrents, and there was a cold strong wind to fight against. There was that amount of general unpropitiousness which is highly stimulating and inspiriting.

When noon came, there was not a rock or bush for shelter, and turning our backs to the storm we ate our lunch in our saddles. There was nothing to look at but brown gravel, or brown mud, brooded over by a gray mist. So we tramped on, hour after hour, in single file, the zaptieh leading, everything but his gun muffled in his brown abba, splashing through mud and water, the water pouring from my hat and cloak, the six woollen thicknesses of my mask dripping, seeing neither villages nor caravans, for caravans of goods do not travel in such rain as this. Then over a slope we went down into a lake of mud, where the aide-decamp of the Governor of Khannikin, in a fez and military frock-coat and trousers, with a number of Bashi Bazouks or irregulars, met M—— with courtesies and an invitation.

From the top of the next slope there was a view of Khannikin, a considerable-looking town among groves of palms and other trees. Then came a worse sea of mud, and a rudely cobbled causeway, so horrible that it diverted us back into the mud, which was so bottomless that it drove us back to the causeway, and the causeway back to the mud, the rain all the time coming down in sheets. This causeway, without improvement, is carried through Khannikin, a town with narrow blind alleys, upon which foul courtyards open, often so foul as to render the recent ravages of cholera (if science speaks truly) a matter of necessity. The mud and water in these alleys was up to the knees of the mules. Not a creature was in the streets. No amount of curiosity, even regarding the rare sight of a Frank woman, could make people face the storm in flimsy cotton clothes.

Where the road turns to the bridge a line of irregular infantry was drawn up, poorly dressed, soaked creatures, standing in chilly mud up to their ankles, in soaked boots reaching to their knees. These joined and headed the cavalcade, and I fell humbly in the rear. Poor fellows! To keep step was impossible when it was hard work to drag their feet out of the mire, and they carried their rifles anyhow. It was a grotesque procession. A trim officer, forlorn infantry, wild-looking Bashi Bazouks, Europeans in stout mackintoshes splashed with mud from head to foot, mules rolling under their bespattered loads, and a posse of servants and orderlies crouching on the top of baggage, muffled up to the eyes, the asses which carry the katirgis and their equipments far behind, staggering and nearly done up, for the march of seventeen miles had taken eight and a half hours.

An abrupt turn in the causeway leads to the Holwan, a tributary of the Diyalah, a broad, rapid stream, over which the enterprise of a Persian has thrown a really fine brick bridge of thirteen heavily-buttressed arches, which connects the two parts of the town and gives some dignity and picturesqueness to what would otherwise be mean. On the left bank of the Holwan are the barracks, the governor’s house, some large caravanserais, the Custom-house, and a quarantine station, quarantine having just been imposed on all arrivals from Persia, giving travel and commerce a decided check.

After half a mile of slush on the river bank we entered by a handsome gateway a nearly flooded courtyard, and the Governor’s house hospitably engorged the whole party.

The fully-laden mules stuck in the mud a few miles off, and did not come in for two hours, and in spite of covers everything not done up in waterproof was very wet. The servants looked most miserable, and complained of chills and rheumatism, and one of the orderlies is really ill. We cannot move till the storm is over.

The rain falls heavily still, the river is rising, the alleys are two feet deep in slush, travel is absolutely suspended, and it is not possible without necessity to go out. It was well indeed that we decided to leave the shelterless shelter of Kizil Robat. Nothing can exceed the wretchedness of Khannikin or any Turkish town in such rain as this. Would that one could think that it would be washed, but as there are no channels to carry off the water it simply lodges and stagnates in every depression, and all the accumulations of summer refuse slide into these abominable pools, and the foul dust, a foot deep, becomes mud far deeper; buried things are half uncovered; torrents, not to be avoided, pour from every roof, the courtyards are knee-deep in mud, the cows stand disconsolately in mud; not a woman is to be seen, the few men driven forth by the merciless exigences of business show nothing but one eye, and with “loins girded” and big staffs move wearily, stumbling and plunging in the mire.

After some hours the flat mud roofs begin to leak, water finds out every weak place in the walls, the bazars, only half open for a short time in the day, are deserted by buyers, and the patient sellers crouch over mangels, muffled up in sheepskins, the caravanserais are crammed and quarrelsome; the price of fodder and fuel rises, and every one is drowned in rain and wretchedness. Even here, owing to the scarcity of fuel, nothing can be dried; the servants in their damp clothes come in steaming; Hadji in his misshapen “jack-boots,” which he asserts he cannot take off, spreads fresh mud over the carpets whenever he enters; I shift from place to place to avoid the drip from the roof — and still the rain comes down with unabated vigour!

10 I present my diary letters much as they were written, believing that the details of travel, however wearisome to the experienced traveller, will be interesting to the “Untravelled Many,” to whom these volumes are dedicated.

Letter iii (continued)

The house consists of two courtyards, with buildings round them. The larger and handsomer is the haram or women’s house, which is strictly enclosed, has no exterior windows, and its one door into the men’s house is guarded by a very ancient eunuch. The courtyard of this house is surrounded partly by arched serdabs, with green lattice fronts, and partly by a kitchen, bakery, wood-house, hammam or hot bath, and the servants’ quarters. The haram has a similar arrangement on the lower floor. A broad balcony, reached by a steep and narrow stair, runs round three sides of the upper part of this house. There are very few rooms, and some of them are used for storing fruit. The wet baggage is mostly up here, and under the deep roof the servants and orderlies camp, looking miserable. The haram has a balcony all round it, on which a number of reception and living rooms open, and though not grand or elaborately decorated, is convenient and comfortable.

The Turkish host evidently did not know what to do with such an embarrassing guest as a European woman, and solved the difficulty by giving me the guest-chamber in the men’s house, a most fortunate decision, as I have had quiet and privacy for three days. Besides, this room has a projecting window, with panes of glass held in by nails, and there is not only a view of the alley with its slush, but into the house of some poor folk, and over that to the Holwan, sometimes in spate, sometimes falling, and through all the hours of daylight frequented by grooms for the purpose of washing their horses. Some shingle banks, now overflowed, sustain a few scraggy willows, and on the farther side is some low-lying land. There may be much besides, but the heavy rain-clouds blot out all else.

My room is whitewashed, and is furnished with Persian rugs, Austrian bent-wood chairs, and a divan in the window, on which I sleep. Lamps, samovars, and glasses are kept in recesses, and a black slave is often in and out for them. Otherwise no one enters but Hadji. I get my food somewhat precariously. It is carved and sent from table at the beginning of meals, chiefly pillau, curry, kabobs, and roast chicken, but apparently it is not etiquette for me to get it till after the men have dined, and it is none the better for being cold.

The male part of the household consists of the Governor and his brother-in-law, a Moslem judge, and the quarantine doctor, a Cretan, takes his meals in the house. The Governor and doctor speak French. My fellow-traveller lives with them.

The night we arrived, the Governor in some agitation asked me to go and see his wife, who is very ill. The cholera has only just disappeared, and the lady had had a baby, which died of it in three days, and “being a boy her heart was broken,” and “something had come under her arm.” So I went with him into the haram, which seemed crowded with women of various races and colours, peeping from behind curtains and through chinks of doors, tittering and whispering. The wife’s room is richly carpeted and thoroughly comfortable, with a huge charcoal brazier in the centre, and cushions all over the floor, except at one end, where there is a raised alcove with a bed in it.

On this the lady sat — a rather handsome Kurdish woman, about thirty-five, dressed in a silk quilted jacket, and with a black gauze handkerchief round her head, and a wadded quilt over her crossed legs. She was supported by a pile of pillows. Since then I have been sent for to see her several times every day, and found her always in the same position. There is surely something weird about it. She says she sits there all night, and has not lain down for two months. A black slave was fanning her, and two women, shrouded in veils of tinselled gauze, sat on the bed combing her luxuriant hair. She is not really beautiful at all, but her husband assures me constantly that she is “une femme savante.” She has property and the consideration which attaches to it. She was burning with fever and very weak.

I had scarcely returned to my room when my host sent again, begging that I would go back and see the doctor. I found that it was expected that I should persuade the lady to consent to have the abscess, or whatever it is, reopened. The room was full of women and eunuchs, and the chief eunuch, an elderly Arab, sat on the bed and supported her while the doctor dressed the wound, and even helped him with it. Her screams were fearful, and five people held her with difficulty. Her husband left the room, unable to bear her cries.

Quite late I was sent for again, and that time by the lady, to know if I thought she would die. It appears that her brother, the judge, remains here to see that she is not the victim of foul play, but I don’t like to ask to whom the suspicion points, or whether our host, although the civil governor, keeps him here that he may not be suspected in case his rich wife dies.

Except for the repeated summonses to the sick-room, a walk on the slime of the roof when the rain ceases for a time, and on the balcony of the haram when it does not, and a study of the habits of my neighbours over the way, it is very dull. I have patched and mended everything that gave any excuse for either operation, have written letters which it is not safe to post, and have studied my one book on Persia till I know it throughout, and still the rain falls nearly without cessation and the quagmires outside deepen.

So bad is it that, dearly as Orientals love bazars and hammams, Hadji refuses leave to go to either. I remarked to him that he must be glad of such a rest, and he replied in his usual sententious fashion: “They who have to work must work. God knows all.” I fear he is very lazy, and he has no idea of making one comfortable or of keeping anything clean. He stamps the mud of the courtyard into the carpets, and wipes my plates without washing them, with his shirt. He considers that our host has attained the height of human felicity. “What is there left to wish for?” he says. “He has numbers of slaves, and he’s always buying more, and he’s got numbers of women and eunuchs, and everything, and when he wants money he just sends round the villages. God is great! Ya Allah!

Khannikin, being the nearest town to the Persian frontier, should be a place of some importance. It is well situated at an altitude of 1700 feet among groves of palms, on both banks of the Holwan, and having plenty of water, the rich alluvium between it and Yakobiyeh is able to support its own population, though it has to import for caravans. Most of the Persian trade with Baghdad and thousands of Shiah pilgrims annually pass through it. It is a customs station, and has a regiment of soldiers. Nevertheless, it is very ruinous, and its population has diminished of late years from 5000 to about 1800 (exclusive of the troops), and of this number a fifth have been carried off by cholera within the last few weeks. It has no schools, and no special industries. The stamp of decay rests upon it. Exactions, crushing hope out of the people, the general insecurity of property, and the misrule which has blighted these fine Asiatic provinces everywhere, sufficiently explain its decadence.

The imposition of quarantine on arrivals from Persia has all but stopped the supply of charcoal, and knowing the scarcity in the house, I am going without a fire, as most of the inhabitants are doing. A large caravanserai outside the walls is used as a quarantine station, and three others are taken as lazarettos. Out of these arrangements the officials make a great deal of money in fees, but anything more horrible than the sanitary state of these places cannot be conceived. The water appears to be the essence of typhoid fever and cholera, and the unfortunate détenus are crowded into holes unfit for beasts, breathing pestiferous exhalations, and surrounded by such ancient and modern accumulations of horrors that typhus fever, cholera, and even the plague might well be expected to break out.

Yesterday, for a brief interval, hills covered with snow appeared through rolling black clouds, and a change seemed probable, but rain fell in torrents all night; there is a spate in the river, and though we were ready to start at eight this morning, the katirgis declined to move, saying that the road could not be travelled because of the depth of the fords and the mud.

The roof, though a good one, is now so leaky that I am obliged to sleep under my waterproof cloak, and the unputtied window-frames let in the rain. Early this morning a gale from the south-west came on, and the howling and roaring have been frightful, the rain falling in sheets most of the time. Sensations are not wanting. One of the orderlies is seriously ill, and has to be left behind under medical care till he can be sent to India — the second man who has broken down. A runner came in with the news that all caravans are stopped in the Zagros mountains by snow, which has been falling for five days, and that the road is not expected to be open for a fortnight. Later, the Persian agent called to say that on the next march the road, which is carried on a precipice above the river, has slid down bodily, and that there are fifteen feet of water where there should be only two. Of course this prolonged storm is “exceptional.” The temperature is falling, and it is so cold without a fire that though my bed is only a blanket-covered dais of brick and lime, dripped upon continually, in a window with forty draughts, I am glad to muffle myself up in its blankets and write among wraps.

The Governor, recognising the craze of Europeans for exercise, sent word that M—— might walk in the balcony of the haram if I went to chaperon him, and this great concession was gladly accepted, for it was the only possible way of getting warm. The apparition of a strange man, and a European, within the precincts of the haram was a great event, and every window, curtain, and doorway was taken advantage of by bright dark eyes sparkling among folds of cotton and gauze. The enjoyment was surreptitious, but possibly all the more keen, and sounds of whispering and giggling surged out of every crevice. There are over thirty women, some of them negresses. Some are Kurds and very handsome, but the faces of the two handsomest, though quite young, have something fiendish in their expression. I have seldom seen a haram without its tragedies of jealousy and hate, and every fresh experience makes me believe that the system is as humiliating to men as it is to women.

The haram reception-rooms here are large and bright, with roofs and cornices worked daintily in very white plaster, and there are superb carpets on the floors, and divans covered with Damascus embroidery in gold silk on cream muslin.

Each day the demands for my presence in the sick-room are more frequent, and though I say that I can scarcely aspire to be a nurse, they persist in thinking that I am a Hakiīm, and possibly a useful spy on the doctor. I have become aware that unscrupulous jealousy of the principal wife exists, and, as is usual in the East, everybody distrusts everybody else, and prefers to trust strangers. The husband frequently asks me to remove what seems a cancerous tumour, and the doctor says that an operation is necessary to save the lady’s life, but when I urge him to perform it, and offer a nurse’s help, he replies that if she were to die he would be at once accused of murder, and would run a serious risk.

The Governor today was so anxious that I should persuade the lady to undergo an operation that he even brought Hadji into the room to interpret what I said in Arabic. His ceaseless question is, “Will she die?” and she asks me the same many times every day. She insists that I shall be present each day when the wound is dressed, and give help, lest the doctor without her leave should plunge a knife into the swelling. These are most distressing occasions, for an hour of struggle and suffering usually ends in delirium.

This afternoon, however, she was much freer from pain, and sent for me to amuse her. She wore some fine jewels, and some folds of tinselled gauze round her head, and looked really handsome and intelligent. Her husband wished that we could converse without his imperfect interpreting, and repeated many times, “She is a learned woman, and can write and read several languages.” The room was as usual full of women, who had removed their veils at their lord’s command. I showed the lady some Tibetan sketches, but when I came to one of a man the women replaced their veils!

When I showed some embroidery, the Governor said he had heard that the Queen of England employed herself with her needle in leisure hours, but that it is not comme il faut here for ladies to work. It seems that the making of sweetmeats is the only occupation which can be pursued without loss of dignity. Is it wonderful that intolerable ennui should be productive of the miserable jealousies, rivalries, intrigues, and hatreds which accompany the system of polygamy?

The host, although civil governor of a large district, also suffers from ennui. The necessary official duties are very light, and the accounts and reports are prepared by others. If money is wanted he makes “an exaction” on a village, and subordinates screw it out of the people. Justice, or the marketable commodity which passes for such, is administered by a kadi. He clatters about the balconies with slippered feet, is domestic, that is, he spends most of the day in the haram, smokes, eats two meals of six or seven courses each, and towards evening takes a good deal of wine, according to a habit which is becoming increasingly common among the higher classes of Moslems. He is hospitable, and is certainly anything but tyrannical in his household.

The customs and ways of the first Turkish house I have visited in would be as interesting to you as they were to myself, but it would be a poor return for hospitality to dwell upon anything, unless, like the difficulties regarding the illness of the principal wife, it were a matter of common notoriety.

It is a punishable act in Persia, and possibly here also, to look into a neighbour’s house, but I cannot help it unless I were to avoid the window altogether. Wealth and poverty are within a few feet of each other, and as Moslems are charitable to a degree and in a manner which puts us to shame, the juxtaposition is advantageous.

My neighbour’s premises consist of a very small and mean yard, now a foot deep in black mire, a cow-shed, and a room without door or windows, with a black uneven floor, and black slimy rafters — neither worse nor better than many hovels in the Western Isles of Scotland. A man in middle life, a woman of dubious age, two girls from eight to ten years old, and a boy a little older are the occupants. The furniture consists of some wadded quilts, a copper pot, an iron girdle, a clay ewer or two, a long knife, a wooden spoon, a clay receptacle for grain, two or three earthenware basins, glazed green, and a wicker tray. The cow-shed contains — besides the cow, which is fed on dried thistles — a spade, an open basket, and a baggage pad. A few fowls live in the house, and are disconcerted to find that they cannot get out of it without swimming.

The weather is cold and raw, fuel is enormously dear, work is at a standstill, and cold and ennui keep my neighbours in bed till the day is well advanced. “Bed” consists of a wadded quilt laid on the floor, with another for a covering. The man and boy sleep at one end of the room, the woman and girls at the other, with covered heads. None make any change in their dress at night, except that the man takes off the pagri of his turban, retaining only a skull cap.

The woman gets up first, lights a fire of tamarisk twigs and thistles in a hole in the middle of the floor, makes porridge of some coarse brownish flour and water, and sets it on to warm — to boil it, with the means at her disposal, is impossible. She wades across the yard, gives the cow a bunch of thistles, milks it into a basin, adds a little leaven to the milk, which she shakes in a goat skin till it is thick, carries the skin and basket to the house, feeds the fowls from the basket, and then rouses her lord. He rises, stretches himself, yawns, and places himself cross-legged by the fire, after putting on his pagri. The room is dense with pungent wood smoke, which escapes through the doorway, and only a few embers remain. The wife hands him an earthen bowl, pours some porridge into it, adds some “thick milk” from the goat skin, and stands before him with her arms crossed while he eats, then receives the bowl from his hands and kisses it, as is usual with the slaves in a household.

Then she lights his pipe, and while he enjoys it she serves her boy with breakfast in the same fashion, omitting the concluding ceremony, after which she and the girls retire to a respectful distance with the big pot, and finish its contents simultaneously. The pipe over, she pours water on her lord’s hands, letting it run on the already damp floor, and wipes them with her chadar. No other ablution is customary in the house.

Poor as this man is, he is a Hadji, and having brought from Mecca a “prayer stone,” with the Prophet’s hand upon it, he takes it from his girdle, puts it on the floor, bows his forehead on it, turning Mecca-ward, and says his prayers, repeating his devotions towards evening. The first day or two he went out, but the roads now being almost impassable, he confines himself to the repairing of a small dyke, which keeps the water from running into the room, which is lower than the yard, and performs its duty very imperfectly, the soak from the yard and the drip from the roof increasing the sliminess hourly. These repairs, an occasional pipe, and much sleep are the record of this man’s day till an hour before sunset, when the meal of the morning is repeated with the addition of some cheese.

The children keep chiefly in bed. Meanwhile the woman, the busy bee of the family, contrives to patter about nearly all day in wet clothing, carrying out rubbish in single handfuls, breaking twigs, cleaning the pot, and feeding the cow. The roof, which in fine weather is the scene of most domestic occupations, is reached by a steep ladder, and she climbs this seven times in succession, each time carrying up a fowl, to pick for imaginary worms in the slimy mud. Dyed yarn is also carried up to steep in the rain, and in an interval of dryness some wool was taken up and carded. An hour before sunset she lights the fire, puts on the porridge, and again performs seven journeys with seven fowls, feeds them in the house, attends respectfully to her lord, feeds her family, including the cow, paddles through mire to draw water from the river, and unrolls and spreads the wadded quilts. By the time it is dark they are once more in bed, where I trust this harmless, industrious woman enjoys a well-earned sleep.

The clouds are breaking, and in spite of adverse rumours it is decided coûte que coûte to start tomorrow. For my own part I prefer the freedom even with the “swinishness” of a caravanserai to receiving hospitality for which no fitting return can be made.

I. L. B.

Letter iv

The rain at last ceased, and after the katirgis had squabbled for an hour over the baggage, we got off at ten, two days ago, very grateful for shelter and hospitality under such untoward circumstances. Six Bashi Bazouks and two zaptiehs on foot in ragged and incongruous uniforms escorted us to the Turkish frontier.

The streets were in a terrible condition, and horse and footmen, after an attempt to march in pairs, fell perforce into a floundering and disorderly single file, the footmen occasionally pulling themselves out of mud holes by the tails of the horses. Outside the town there was an expanse of mud and flooded water-channels which broke up the last attempt at a procession, and led to a general sauve qui peut. The mire was tenacious and up to the horses’ knees, half the mules were down with their loads, Hadji rolled into the mud, my capable animal snorted and struggled, some went on banks and some took to streams, the asses had to be relieved of their loads, and the air was full of shouts and objurgations, till after much delay the forlorn rabble all struggled to the terra firma of a gravelly slope, splashed from head to foot.

The road crosses low, rolling, gravelly hills, with an occasional outcrop of red sandstone, and ascends on the whole. The sun was bright, but the wind was strong and very cold. The Bashi Bazouk escort was altogether harum-scarum and inconsequent, careering in circles, and firing at birds (which they never hit) from the saddle, and when we reached some low hills bearing a bad reputation, the officer, in order to represent danger and his vigilant care, threw them out in all directions scouting for robbers, till we came to a steepish hill crowned by a round tower with a mushroom top, a few ruinous mud buildings, and a tattered tent. Here the escort formed into one line, and the ragged garrison into another, with an officer facing them, and were photographed as they shivered in the biting wind. This tower is a Turkish frontier fort.

Soon afterwards the Persian frontier is crossed, the hills increase considerably in size, and mud was exchanged for firm, rough gravel. A feature of the otherwise featureless landscape is the frequent occurrence of towers like martello towers, on hill-tops, placed there for the shelter of the guards who formerly kept a look-out for robbers. In the uninteresting gravel lie pebbles of jasper and agate, emerald green, red, yellow, and purple. The first object of the slightest interest in this new country was a village of Ilyats, built of reed screens, with roofs of goat’s-hair cloth, and with small yards with reed walls in front. The women, who wore full trousers and short jackets, were tall, somewhat striking-looking, and unveiled. Their hair hung down in long plaits, and they wore red handkerchiefs knotted at the back of the head.

There an escort of four Persian sowars joined us. The type of face was that with which we are familiar on Sasanian coins and sculptured stones, the brow and chin receding considerably, and the nose thin and projecting, the profile suggesting a beak rather than a human face, and the skin having the appearance of being drawn so tightly over the bones as to force the eyes into singular prominence.


A Turkish Frontier Fort.

A six hours’ march ended at the wildly-situated village of Kasr-i-Shirin, high on the right bank of the Holwan, with a plantation of dates on the left bank and considerable cultivation in the valley. It has only eighty houses of the most wretched construction, rivalled in height and size by middens, the drainage of which wastes itself on the wretched roadway. A caravanserai of the most miserable description, a square fort with a small garrison, and some large graveyards with domed tombs and curious obelisks, are the salient features of this village. Its wretched aspect is accounted for by its insecurity. It has been destroyed by robber tribes as often as there was anything worth destroying, and it has been so tossed to and fro between Turkey and Persia as not to have any of the special characteristics of either empire.

We stopped short of the village, at a great pile of building on a height, in massiveness and irregularity resembling a German medieval castle, in which a letter had secured accommodation. It has been unoccupied since its owner, Jan Mir, a sheikh of a robber tribe, and the terror of the surrounding neighbourhood, was made away with by the Persian Government.

The accommodation consisted of great, dark, arched, vaulted rooms, with stone-flagged floors, noble in size, but needing fifty candles and huge log fires to light up and warm their dark recesses, and gruesome and damp with one candle and a crackle of twigs. They were clean, however, and their massive walls kept out the cold. The village is at an elevation of 2300 feet, and the temperature has greatly changed.

The interest of Kasr-i-Shirin is that it lies among masses of ancient rubble, and that the slopes which surround it are completely covered with hewn and unhewn stones of all sizes, the relics of a great city, at the western extremity of which the present wretched hamlet stands.11 The walls, which are easily traced, enclose an irregular square, the shortest front of which is said to be three miles long. They are built of roughly-hewn blocks of gray and red sandstone, and very hard mortar or concrete. The blocks are so huge in many places as to deserve the often misused epithet Cyclopean.

Within this enclosure are remains of houses built of water-worn round stones, which lie in monstrous heaps, and of a large fort on an eminence. In another direction are the ruins of an immense palace of quadrangular form, with only one entrance, and large underground rooms now nearly choked up. There are remains of what must have been very fine archways, but as the outer coating of hewn stone and all the decorations have fallen off, leaving only the inner case of rough rubble and concrete, the architectural forms are very badly defined, and the aspect of what must once have been magnificent is now forbidding and desolate. The remains of an aqueduct cut in the rock, and of troughs and stone pipes by which water was brought into the palace and city, from a distance of fifteen miles, are still traceable among the desolations, but of the beautiful gardens which they watered, and with which Khosroe surrounded the beautiful Shirin, not a trace remains. There was a pale sunset, flushing with pale pink distant leagues of sodden snow, and right across a lurid opening in a heavy mass of black clouds the great ruined pile of the palace of Khosroe the Magnificent stood out, a dismal commentary on splendour and fame.

The promise of the evening was fulfilled the next day in windy rain, which began gently, but afterwards fell in persistent torrents, varied by pungent swirls of sleet and snow. Leaving the gash through cliffs with curious stratification in white and red, formed by the Holwan, the day was spent in skirting or crossing low hills. The mud was very deep and tenacious, and the rate of progress barely two miles an hour. There were no caravans, travellers, or population, and no birds or beasts. The rain clouds hung low and heavy, mists boiled up from among the folds of the hills, the temperature fell perceptibly. It was really inspiriting for people protected by good mackintoshes.

After riding for six hours the rain changed into sleet and wet snow, blotting out the hills and creating an unnatural twilight, in which we floundered in mud up to the mules’ knees into the filthiest village I have ever seen, a compound of foul, green ditches, piles of dissolving manure, mud hovels looking as if they were dissolving too, reed huts, and an Ilyat village, grouped round the vilest of caravanserais, the entrance to which was knee-deep in mire. To lodge in it was voted impossible, and the escort led us in the darkening mist and pelting sleet to an adjacent mud hamlet as hopeless-looking on the other side of the bridge, where, standing up to the knees of the mules in liquid manure, we sought but vainly for shelter, forded the Holwan, and returned to the caravanserai through almost impassable slush.

It was simply loathsome, with its stench, its foulness, and its mire, and was already crowded and noisy with men and beasts. There was a great courtyard with arched recesses all round, too abominable to be occupied, too exposed and ruinous, even had they been cleaned, to give shelter from the driving sleet. The last resource was to pass through an archway into the great, lofty mule stable, on both sides of which are similar recesses or mangers, about ten feet by seven and about eight feet high. The stable was of great size and height with a domed roof. Probably it runs half-way round the quadrangle at the back of the uninhabitable recesses. There were at least four hundred mules in this place, jangling their great bells, and crowds of katirgis, travellers, and zaptiehs, all wet and splashed over their heads with mud, some unloading, others making fires and feeding their mules, all shouting when they had anything to say, the Babel aggravated by the clatter of the rattles of a hundred curry-combs and the squeals of fighting horses.


Lodgings for Travellers.

The floor was deep with the manure of ages and piled with bales and boxes. In the side recesses, which are about the height of a mule’s back, the muleteers camped with their fires and their goods, and laid the provender for their beasts in the front. These places are the mangers of the eastern caravanserai, or khan, or inn. Such must have been the inn at Bethlehem, and surely the first step to the humiliation of “the death of the cross” must have been the birth in the manger, amidst the crowd and horrors of such a stable.

The odour was overpowering and the noise stunning, and when our wet, mud-covered baggage animals came in, adding to the din, there was hardly room to move, far less for the roll in which all mules indulge when the loads are taken off; and the crush resulted in a fight, and one mule got his fore-feet upon my “manger,” and threatened to share it with me. It was an awful place to come to after a six hours’ march in rain and snow, but I slid off my mule into the recess, had it carpeted, put down my chair, hung a blanket up in front, and prepared to brave it, when the inhabitants of this room, the one place which has any pretensions to being a room in the village, were bribed by an offer of six krans (about four shillings) to vacate it for me. Its “pretensions” consist in being over a gateway, and in having a door, and a square hole looking on the street; a crumbling stair slippery with mud leads up to it. The roof leaks in every direction, and the slimy floor is full of pools, but it is luxury after the caravanserai stable, and with one waterproof sheet over my bed and another over myself I have fared well, though the door cannot be shut, and the rest of the party are in the stable at an impassable distance.

Our language happily has no words in which the state of this village can be described. In front of this room is a broken ditch full of slimy greenish water, which Hadji took for my tea! There has been a slight snowfall during the night, and snow is impending. We have now reached a considerable altitude, and may expect anything. Hadji has just climbed the stair with groans of “Ya Allah,” and has almost wailed out, “Colonel says we go — God help us.”

Kirrind, Jan. 23.— From Saripul-i-Zohab we are taking the most southerly of the three routes to Kirmanshah traversed by Sir H. Rawlinson in 1836.12 A sea of mud varied by patches of sodden snow, walls of rock with narrow passes, great snow-covered mountains, seen spectrally for a minute at a time through swirling snow-clouds, black tents of nomads, half-drowned villages, and a long, cold, steep ascent, among scrub oaks and dwarf ash, to snow which was not melting, and the hospitalities of a Kurdish village, comprise the interests of the march from Saripul to Myan Tak, so far as they lie on the surface, but in various ways this part of Kurdistan has many interests, not to be absolutely ignored even in a familiar letter.

Here the Ilyats, who are supposed to constitute a fifth of the rural population of Persia, are met with in large numbers, and their brown flocks and herds are still picking up a scanty subsistence. The great chief of this, the Gurān tribe, holds the region on an annual payment to the Persian Government, gives grain to his tribesmen, and receives from them, of corn one-half, and of rice two-thirds of the crop. These people sow their grain in early spring, and then move up with their flocks to the mountain pastures, leaving behind only a few men to harvest the crops. They use no manure, this being required for fuel, and in the case of rice they allow a fallow of at least seven years. There are very few cultivators resident upon these lands, but Ilyat camps occur frequently.

The region is steeped in history. The wretched village of Saripul is the Calah of Asshur and the Halah of the Israelitish captivity,13 and gave to the surrounding country the name of Chalonitis, which we have on our old maps. A metropolitan See in the fifth century A.D., soon after the institution of the Nestorian hierarchy, it was called Calah, Halah, and Holwan. If the Diyalah be the ancient Gyndes, noteworthy for the singular delay of Cyrus on his march to Babylon, and Saripul the ancient Holwan, and if in addition to the numerous Chaldæan and Sasanian remains there are relics of Semiramis and of the fire-temples of the Magi, the crowd of historic associations is almost too much for one day, and I will return to the insignificant details of the journey.

We left at nine, crossed the Holwan by a four-arched brick bridge, and in falling snow and deep mud rode over fairly level ground till we came to an abrupt range of limestone rock, with a natural rift, across which the foundations of a wall still remain. The clouds were rolling low, and the snow was driving wildly, so as to make it impossible to see the sculptured tablet described by Rawlinson and Layard, on which a high-priest of the Magi is represented, with one hand raised in benediction, and the other grasping a scroll, the dress being the pontifical robe worn by the Zoroastrian priests, with a square cap, pointed in front, and lappets covering the mouth. Above this is a tomb with an ornamented entrance.

We were now among a very strange and mysterious people, of whose ancestry and actual beliefs very little is known. They are Ali–Ilahis, but Europeans often speak of them as “Davidites,” from their special veneration for King David. This tomb in the rift is called Dukkani–Daoud, or David’s shop, and the people believe that he still dwells there, and come on pilgrimages and to offer animals in sacrifice from all parts of Kurdistan. He is believed to work as a smith, and the katirgis say that he makes suits of fine armour. A part of the tomb which is divided from the rest by a low partition is believed to be a reservoir containing the water which he uses to temper his metal. A great mound with some building in the centre, on the right of the road near this gorge, though properly it bears another name, is called by the people “David’s Fort.” Jewish traditions abound, specially concerning David, who is regarded by the tribes as their great tutelar prophet.

The Gurāns and Kalhurs, who are the nomadic inhabitants of this district, are of a very marked type of physiognomy, so Israelitish indeed that, taken along with certain traditions of their origin, their Jewish names, and their veneration for David, they have been put forward as claimants to the dignity of being the “lost tribes.” The great Hebrew traveller of the twelfth century, to whom I have referred before, believed that the whole of the Ali–Ilahis were Jews, and writes of 100 synagogues in the Zagros mountains, and of 50,000 Jewish families in the neighbourhood.

As we shall be for some days among these people, I will abbreviate Sir H. Rawlinson’s sketch of their tenets. He considers that Ali–Ilahism bears evident marks of Judaism, mixed up with Moslem, Christian, and Sabæan legends. The Ali–Ilahis believe in 1001 incarnations of the Godhead in a series; among them Benjamin, Moses, Elias, David, Jesus Christ, Ali and Salman his tutor, the Imam Houssein and the Haftān (or seven bodies), the chief spiritual guides in the early ages of Islam, “and each, worshipped as a Deity, is an object of adoration in some locality of Kurdistan.” The tomb of one of these, Bābā Yadgār, is their holy place, and this was regarded as the dwelling of Elijah at the time when the Arabs invaded Persia. All these incarnations are regarded as of one and the same person. All that changes is the bodily form of the Divine manifestation. There are degrees in the perfection of the development, and the most perfect forms are Benjamin, David, and Ali.

Practically, however, the metaphysical speculations involved in this creed of successive incarnations are unknown, and the Imam Ali, the cousin of Mohammed, is the great object of worship. Though professing Mohammedanism the Ali–Ilahis are held in great horror by “believers,” and those of this region lie under the stigma of practising unholy rites as a part of their religion, and have received the name of “Chiragh Sonderan,” the putters-out of lights.14 This accusation, Sir A. H. Layard observes, may be only a calumny invented, like many another, to justify persecution.

Passing through the rift in the Dukkani–Daoud range which has led to this digression, we entered an ascending valley between the range through which we had passed and some wild mountains covered with snow, which were then actively engaged in brewing a storm. Farther on there was irrigation and cultivation, and then the wretched village of Pai Tak, and the ruins of a bridge. There, the people told us, we must halt, as the caravanserai at the next place was already full, and we plunged about in the snow and mud looking for a hovel in which to take shelter, but decided to risk going on, and shortly began the ascent of the remarkable pass known as “The Gates of Zagros,” on the ancient highway between Babylonia and Media, by which, in a few hours, the mountain barrier of Zagros is crossed, and the plain of Kirrind, a part of the great Iranian plateau, is reached.

This great road, which zigzags steeply up the pass, is partly composed of smoothed boulders and partly of natural rock, somewhat dressed, and much worn by the continual passage of shod animals. It is said to be much like a torrent bed, but the snow was lying heavily upon it, filling up its inequalities. Dwarf oaks, hawthorn, ash, and other scrub find root-hold in every crevice. All that may be ugly was draped in pure white, and looking back from the surrounding glitter, the view of low ranges lying in indigo gloom was very striking. On the ascent there is a remarkable arch of great blocks of white marble, with a vaulted recess, called the “Tak-i-Girreh,” “the arch holding the road,” which gives the popular name of Gardan-i-Tak-i-Girreh (the pass of Tak-i-Girreh) to the ascent, though the geographers call it Akabah-i-Holwan (the defile of Holwan).

After the deep mud of the earlier part of the march it was a pleasure to ride through pure, deep, powdery snow, and to find the dirt of the village of Myan Tak, a Kurdish hamlet situated on a mountain torrent among steep hills and small trees, covered with this radiant mantle. The elevation of the pass is 4630 feet, but Myan Tak is at a lower altitude an hour farther on.

The small and ruinous caravanserai was really full of caravans detained by the snowstorm, and we lodged in a Kurdish house, typical of the style of architecture common among the settled tribes. Within a wide doorway without a door, high enough for a loaded mule to enter, is a very large room, with a low, flat mud roof, supported on three rows of misshapen trunks of trees, with their branches cut off about a foot from the stem, all black and shiny with smoke. Mud and rubble platforms, two feet high, run along one side and one end, and on the end one there is a clay, beehive-shaped fireplace, but no chimney. Under this platform the many fowls are shut in at night by a stone at the hole by which they enter. Within this room is a perfectly dark stable of great size. Certainly forty mules, besides asses and oxen, were lodged in it, and the overflow shared the living-room with a number of Kurds, katirgis, servants, dogs, soldiers, and Europeans. The furniture consisted of guns and swords hanging on the walls.

The owner is an old Kurd with some handsome sons with ruddy complexions and auburn hair. The big house is the patriarchal roof, where the patriarch, his sons, their wives and children, and their animals, dwell together. The women, however, had all been got rid of somehow. The old Kurd made a great fire on the dais, wood being plentiful, and crouched over it. My bed was pitched near it, and enclosed by some reed screens. With chairs and a table, with routes, maps, writing materials, and a good lantern upon it, an excellent dinner of soup and a leg of mutton, cooked at a bonfire in the middle of the floor, and the sight of all the servants and katirgis lying round it, warm and comfortable, and the knowledge that we were above the mud, the clouds of blinding smoke which were the only drawback scarcely affected the cheerfulness and comfort of the blazing, unstinted fire. The doorway gave not only ample ventilation but a brilliant view of snow, and of myriads of frosty stars.

It was infinitely picturesque, with the fitful firelight falling on the uncouth avenues of blackened tree-stumps, on big dogs, on mild-eyed ox faces and long ass ears, on turbaned Indian heads, and on a confused crowd of Turks, Kurds, and Persians, some cooking, some sleeping, some smoking, while from the black depth beyond a startling bray of an ass or the abortive shriek of a mule occasionally proceeded, or a stray mule created a commotion by rushing in from the snow outside.

I slept comfortably, till I was awakened early by various country sounds — the braying of an ass into my ear (for I was within a few inches of the stable), the crowing of cocks, and some hens picking up crumbs upon my bed. The mules were loaded in the living-room. The mercury was only 26° at 9 A.M., and under cloudless sunshine the powdery snow glittered and crackled. There were difficulties ahead, we heard. The road heavily blocked with snow was only just open, and the Persian post, which should have passed forty-eight hours before, had not been heard of, showing that the snow is very deep farther on.

It was beautiful, that uplifted, silent world of snow and mountains, on whose skirts for some miles grew small apple and pear trees, oak, ash, and hawthorn, each twig a coral spray. In the deepest depression, among great rocks, now masses of snow, tumbles a now partially arrested stream, gleaming with icicles, one of the head-waters of the Holwan. After getting through this picturesque forest of scrub, the road emerges on the plateau of the Kirrind valley, the greatest altitude of which is about 5800 feet. It is said to be irrigated and fertile. It is now, as I describe it, a wide valley, without a tree or bush, a rolling plain of snow from two to three feet deep, marked only by lines made by birds’ feet and the beating of the tips of birds’ wings, the track across it a corrugated trench, wide enough for one mule, the sun brilliant, the sky blue, the surface of the snow flashing light from millions of crystals with a glitter not to be borne, all dazzling, “glistering,” silent — a white world and a blue heaven, with a sun “shining in his strength,”— light without heat.

It has been a tremendous day’s march, only fourteen miles in seven and a half hours of severe toil! The katirgis asked us to keep together in case of difficulties with caravans. Difficulties indeed! A mild term! I was nearly smashed. I little knew what meeting a caravan in these circumstances meant till we met the first sixty animals, each laden with two heavy packing-cases. The question arises who is to give way, and who is to drive his heavily-laden beasts off the track, to struggle, flounder, and fall in three feet of snow, not to get up again without being unloaded, and even then with difficulty.

The rub came on a bank near a stream where there was a deep drift. I decided to give way, but nothing would induce my mule to face the snow. An orderly was in front and Hadji behind. Down the track came sixty animals, loaded with their great packing-cases. They could not and would not give way, and the two caravans came into collision. There were mules struggling and falling, loads overturned, muleteers yelling and roaring, Hadji groaning “God help us!” my mule, a new one, a big strong animal, unused to a bit, plunging and kicking, in the middle of a “free fight.” I was struck hard on my ankle by a packing-case and nearly knocked off. Still, down they came, in apparently endless hordes; my mule plunged her bridle off, and kicked most violently; there were yells all round. My snow spectacles were knocked off and lost, then came another smash, in which I thought a bone was broken. Fearing that I should be laid up with a broken limb for weeks in some horrible caravanserai, and really desperate with the danger and confusion, I called over and over again to Hadji to get off and pull my mule into the snow or I should be killed! He did not stir, but sat dazed on his pack moaning “God help us!” till he, the mule, and the load were rolled over in the drift. The orderly contrived to get the bridle on my mule, and to back his own in front of me, and as each irrepressible animal rolled down the bank he gave its load a push, which, nicely balanced as these loads are, made it swerve, and saved me from further damage. Hadji had rolled off four times previously, and the last I saw of him at that time and of the caravan was a man, five mules, and their loads buried in the snow. The personal results to me of what is euphemistically called a “difficulty,” are my blue glasses gone, a number of bruises, a badly-torn riding-skirt, and a bad cut, which bled profusely, and then the blood froze.

A number of caravans snowed up for several days were en route, and there were many similar encounters, and donkeys and mules falling with their loads and rolling into the deep snow, and katirgis coming to blows over the right-of-way. If a donkey is forced off the track it goes down at once. I unfortunately caught my foot in the pack of one and rolled it over, and as it disappeared in the snow its pack and saddle fell over its head and displayed the naked vertebræ of its poor back.

This Kirrind valley must be fully twenty miles long by from two to five broad, but there was only one village inhabited and two in ruins. As we floundered along in the snow with our jaded animals, two well-armed men on fine horses met and joined us, sent by the Agha Abdul Rahim, son of the British agent at Kirmanshah, whose guests we are to be. Following them was a taktrawan or litter for me, a wooden box with two side doors, four feet high, six feet long, and three feet wide. At each end are long shafts, and between each pair of shafts a superb mule, and each mule has a man to lead him. I could never use such a thing except in case of a broken limb, but I am very grateful to Abdul Rahim for sending it fifty-six miles.

The temperature fell with the sun; the snowy hills took on every shade of rose and pink, and in a universal blush of tender colouring we reached Kirrind. All of a sudden the colour died out, the rose-flushed sky changed to blue-gray, and pallid wastes of unbroken snow stretching into the gray distance made a glorious winter landscape. We are now fairly in for the rigours of a Persian winter.

Kirrind, the capital of the Kirrind Kurds, is either grotesquely or picturesquely situated in and around a narrow gap in a range of lofty hills, through which the Ab-i-Kirrind rushes, after rising in a spring immediately behind. The gap suggests the word jaws, and in these open jaws rise one above another flat-roofed houses straggling down upon the plain among vineyards, poplars, willows, fruit-trees, and immense walnuts and gardens. There are said to be 900 houses, but many of them are ruinous. The stream which bursts from the hills is divided into innumerable streamlets, which must clothe these gardens with beauty.

A farāsh riding on ahead had engaged a house, so we avoided the horrors of the immense caravanserai, crammed to-night with storm-bound caravans. The house is rough, but has three adjoining rooms, and the servants are comfortable. A fire, with its usual accompaniment of stinging smoke, fails to raise the temperature of my room to the freezing-point, yet it is quite possible to be comfortable and employ oneself.

Mahidasht, Jan. 24.— My room at Kirrind was very cold. The ink froze. The mercury fell to 2° below zero in it, and outside in the sun was only 14° at 8.30. There was a great Babel at starting. Some men had sold four chickens for the high price of 2s. each, the current price being 6d., and had robbed the servants of two, and they took one of the mules, which was sent after us by an official. Slipping, floundering, and falling in the deep snow, and getting entangled among caravans, we rode all day over rolling levels. The distance seemed interminable over the glittering plains, and the pain and stiffness produced by the intense cold were hard to bear, and it was not possible to change the cramped position by walking. The mercury fell to 4°, as with tired animals we toiled up the slope on which Harunabad stands.

A very large caravanserai and a village of sixty houses occupy the site of a town built by Harun-alRaschid on the upper waters of the Kerkhah. It has the reputation of being one of the coldest places in Persia, so cold that its Ilyat inhabitants desert it in winter, leaving two or three men who make a business of supplying caravans. Usually people come out of the villages in numbers as we arrive, but we passed group after group of ruinous hovels without seeing a creature. We obtained awfully cold rooms at a great height above a bazar, now deserted. I write “awfully” advisedly, for the mercury in them at sunset was 2° below zero, the floors were plaster, slippery with frozen moisture, the walls were partly wood, with great apertures between the planks; where they were mud the blistered plaster was fringed with icicles. Later the mercury sank to 12°, and before morning to 16° below zero, and the hot water froze in my basin before I could use it!

We were to have started at eight, as there was no possible way of dividing the nine hours’ march, but when the time came the katirgis said it was too cold to rope the loads, a little later that we could only get half-way, and later that there was no accommodation for mules half-way and that we must go the whole way! At nine the mercury was at 4° below zero, and the slipperiness was fearful. The poor animals could scarcely keep on their feet. We have crossed two high passes, Nal Shikan (the Horse–Shoe breaking pass) and the Charzabar Pass, in tremendous snow, riding nine hours, only dismounting to walk down one hill. At the half-way hamlet I decided to go on, having still a lingering prejudice against sharing a den with a quantity of human beings, mules, asses, poultry, and dogs.

On one long ascent we encountered a “blizzard,” when the mercury was only 3° above zero. It was awful. The men covered their heads with their abbas and turned their backs to the wind. I got my heavy mackintosh over everything, but in taking off three pairs of gloves for one minute to button it the pain of my hand was literally excruciating. At the summit the snow was four feet deep, and a number of mules were down, but after getting over the crest of the Nal Shikan Pass and into the Zobeideh valley it became better. But after every descent there was another ascent to face till we reached the pass above the Cheshmeh-i-Charzabar torrent, in a picturesque glen, with a village and some primitive flour mills.

Below this height lies the vast and fertile plain of Mahidasht, one expanse of snow, broken by mud villages looking like brown islands, and the truncated cone of Goree, a seat of the ancient fire-worship. In the centre of the plain is an immense caravanserai with some houses about it. When this came into sight it was only five miles off, but we were nearly three hours in reaching it! The view was wonderful. Every speck on the vast plain was seen distinctly; then came a heavy snow blink, above which hovered ghosts of snow mountains rising into a pale green sky, a dead and lonely wilderness, looking as if all things which lived and moved had long ago vanished from it. Those hours after first sighting the village were very severe. It seemed to grow no nearer. I was half-dead with the journey of twenty-two miles at a slow foot’s pace, and was aching and cramped from the intense cold, for as twilight fell the mercury sank to 3° below zero. The Indian servants, I believe, suffered more than I did, and some of the katirgis even more than they.

At last by a pointed brick bridge we crossed the little river of Mahidasht, and rode into the house of the headman, who is a sort of steward of Abdul Rahim, our future host, the owner of many villages on this plain. The house is of the better class of Kurdish houses, with a broad passage, and a room on each side, at the end a great, low, dark room, half living-room, half stable, which accommodates to-night some of the mules, the muleteers, the servants, and the men of the family. Beyond this again is a large stable, and below-ground, reached by a sloping tunnel, is the sheep-fold. One room has neither door nor window, mine has an outer and inner door, and a fire of live embers in a hole in the floor.

The family in vacating the room have left their goods behind — two plank beds at one end heaped with carpets and felts, a sacking cradle hanging from the roof, two clay jars five feet high for storing grain, and in the takchahs, or recesses of the walls, samovars or tea-urns, pots, metal vases, cartridge belts, and odds and ends. Two old guns, an old sword, and a coarse coloured print of the Russian Imperial family are on the wall.

I was lifted from the mule to my bed, covered with all available wraps, a pot of hot embers put by the bed, my hands and feet rubbed, hot syrup coloured with tea produced in Russian glasses, and in two hours I was able to move. The caravan, which we thought could not get through the snow, came in three hours later, men and mules thoroughly knocked up, and not till nine could we get a scanty dinner. It has been a hard day all round. The farāshes in the kitchen are cursing the English sahibs, who will travel in the winter, wishing our fathers may be burned, etc., two of the muleteers have been howling with pain for the last two hours, and I went into the kitchen to see the poor fellows.

In a corner of the big room, among the rough trunks of trees which support the sooty roof, the muleteers were lying in a heap in their big-sleeved felt coats round a big fire, about another the servants were cooking their food, the farāshes were lying round another, and some of the house people about a fourth, and through smoke and flame a background of mules and wolf-like dogs was dimly seen, a gleam now and then falling into the dark stable beyond, where the jaded baggage animals were lying in heaps.

Mahidasht is said to be one of the finest and most fertile plains in Persia, seventy-two miles long by fifteen broad, and is irrigated throughout by a small stream swarming with turtles. Its population, scattered over it in small villages, is estimated — over-estimated probably — at 4000. At a height of 5050 feet the winters are severe. The snow is nearly three feet deep already, and more is impending.

The mercury in my room fell to 5° below zero before midnight, but rose for a gray cloudy day. The men and animals were so done up that we could not start till nearly eleven. The march, though not more than sixteen miles, was severe, owing to the deep snow and cold wind. Five miles over the snowy billows of the Mahidasht plain, a long ascent, on which the strong north wind was scarcely bearable, a succession of steep and tiresome ridges, many “difficulties” in passing caravans, and then a gradual descent down a long wide valley, opened upon the high plateau, on which Kirmanshah, one of the most important cities in Persia, is situated.

Trees, bare and gaunt, chiefly poplars, rising out of unsullied snow, for two hours before we reached it, denoted the whereabouts of the city, which after many disappointments bursts upon one suddenly. The view from the hill above the town was the most glorious snow view I ever saw. All around, rolled to a great height, smooth as the icing of a cake, hills, billowy like the swell of the Pacific after a storm — an ocean of snow; below them a plateau equally unsullied, on the east side of which rises the magnificently precipitous Besitun range, sublime in its wintry grandeur, while on the distant side of the plateau pink peaks raised by an atmospheric illusion to a colossal height hovered above the snow blink, and walled in the picture. Snow was in the air, snow clouds were darkening over the Besitun range; except for those pink peaks there were no atmospheric effects; the white was very pallid, and the gray was very black; no illusions were possible, the aspect was grim, desolate, and ominous, and even before we reached the foot of the descent the huge peaks and rock masses of Besitun were blotted out by swirls of snow.

Kirmanshah, approached from the south-west, added no elements of picturesqueness to the effect. A ruinous wall much too large for the shrunken city it encloses, parts of it lying in the moat, some ruinous loopholed towers, lines of small domes denoting bazars below, a few good-looking houses rising above the insignificant mass, gardens, orchards, vineyards, and poplars stretching up the southerly hollow behind, and gardens, now under frozen water, to the north, made up a not very interesting contrast with the magnificence of nature.

We circled much of the ruinous wall on thin ice, turned in between high walls and up an alley cumbered with snow, dismounted at a low door, were received by a number of servants, and were conducted through a frozen courtyard into a handsomely-carpeted room with divans beside a blazing fire, a table in the centre covered with apples, oranges, and sweetmeats, and the large Jubilee photograph of Queen Victoria hanging over the fireplace.

I. L. B.

11 Another interest, however, is its connection with many of the romantic legends still told of Khosroe Parviz and his beautiful queen, complicated with love stories concerning the sculptor Farhad, to whom the Persians attribute some of their most famous rock sculptures. One of the most romantic of these legends is that Farhad loved Shirin, and that Khosroe was aware of it, and promised to give her to him if he could execute the impossible task of bringing to the city the abundant waters of the mountains. Farhad set himself to the Herculean labour, and to the horror of the king nearly accomplished it, when Khosroe, dreading the advancing necessity of losing Shirin or being dishonoured, sent to inform him of her death. Being at the time on the top of a precipice, urging on the work of the aqueduct, the news filled him with such ungovernable despair that he threw himself down and was killed.

12 The Pashalik of Zohab, now Persian territory, is fully described by Major Rawlinson in a most interesting paper in The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. ix. part 1, p. 26.

13 Gen. x. 11; 2 Kings xviii. 11; 1 Chron. v. 26.

14 See Sir A. H. Layard’s Early Adventures, vol. i. p. 217.

Letter v

This hospitable house is the residence of the British Agent or Vakil for Kirmanshah, in whose absence at Tihran, his son, Abdul Rahim, performs the duties of hospitality in a most charming manner, as if though a very busy man he had nothing else to do but carry out the wishes of his guests. His hospitality is most unobtrusive also, and considerate. If such a wish is expressed as to visit the sculptures of the Takt-i-Bostan, or anything else, everything is quietly and beautifully arranged; a landau-and-four with outriders, superb led saddle-horses, and arrangements for coffee are ready outside the walls, with the host as cicerone, ready to drive or ride at the pleasure of his guests. The rooms in which he receives Europeans are on the opposite side of the courtyard from the house, and have been arranged according to European ideas.

The family history, as usually told, is an interesting one. They are Arabs, and the grandfather of our host, Hadji Khalil, was a trusted katirgi in the employment of Sir Henry Rawlinson, and saved his life when he fell from a scaffolding while copying the Besitun inscriptions. His good qualities, and an honesty of character and purpose rare among Orientals, eventually placed him in the important position of British Vakil here, and he became a British subject, and was succeeded in his position by his son, Agha Hassan, who is now by virtue of singular business capacities the wealthiest man in this province and possibly in Persia, and bears the very highest character for trustworthiness and honour.15

Abdul Rahim is a very fine-looking man, with noticeable eyes, very large and prominent. He has a strong sense of humour, which flits over his face in an amused smile. He and his father are very large landowners, and are always adding land to land, and are now the owners of the magnificent sculptures and pleasure-grounds of the Takt-i-Bostan. They are bankers likewise, and money-lenders, merchants on a large scale, and have built a very fine caravanserai, with great brick warehouses for the use of traders. Agha Hassan travels en prince, driving to Tihran and back in an English landau with four horses and a number of outriders and attendants, and his son entertains visitors in the same way, mounting even the outriders and pipe-bearers on well-bred Arabs. When he walks in the city it is like a royal progress. Everybody bows low, nearly to the ground, and his purse-bearer follows, distributing alms among the poor.

I mention all this because it is a marvel in Persia, where a reputation for wealth is the last thing a rich man desires. To elevate a gateway or to give any external sign of affluence is to make himself a mark for the official rapacity which spares none. The policy is to let a man grow quietly rich, to “let the sheep’s wool grow,” but as soon as he shows any enjoyment of wealth to deprive him of his gains, according to a common Persian expression, “He is ripe, he must be squeezed.” The Vakil and his son are the only men here who are not afraid to show their wealth, and for the simple reason that it cannot be touched, because they are British subjects. They can neither be robbed, squeezed, nor mulcted beyond the legitimate taxation by Persian officials, and are able to protect the property of others when it is entrusted to their keeping. British protection has been in fact the making of these men.

The ménage is simple. The dining-room is across the frozen courtyard. The meals are served in European fashion, the major-domo being an ancient man, “born in the house,” who occasionally inserts a remark into the conversation or helps his master’s memory. The interpreter sits on the floor during meals. I breakfast in my room, but lunch and dine with our host, who spends the evening in the salon; sherbet is provided instead of wine. Abdul Rahim places me at the head of the table, and I am served first! The interpreting is from Persian into Hindustani, and vice versâ. Our host expresses almost daily regret that he cannot talk with me on politics!

Kirmanshah, which is said to be a favourable specimen of a Persian town, is absolutely hideous and uninteresting. It is really half in ruins. It has suffered terribly from “plague, pestilence, and famine,” and from the awful rapacity of governors. It once had 12,000 houses, but the highest estimate of its present population is 25,000. So severely have the town and province been oppressed that some years ago three-quarters of the inhabitants migrated, the peasants into Turkey, and the townspeople into the northern province of Azerbijan. If a governor pays 30,000 tumans (£10,000) to the Shah for an appointment, of which he may be deprived any day, it can scarcely be expected of Oriental, or indeed of any human nature, that he will not make a good thing of it while he has it, and squeeze all he can out of the people.

The streets are very narrow, and look narrower just now, because the snow is heaped almost to the top of the mud walls, which are not broken up as in Turkish towns by projecting lattice windows, but are absolutely blank, with the exception of low-arched entrances to the courtyards within, closed by heavy, unpainted wooden doors, studded with wooden nails. The causeways, on which, but for the heaps of slippery snow two men might walk abreast, have a ditch two or three feet wide between them, which is the roadway for animals. There are some open spaces, abounding in ruinous heaps, others where goods are unloaded, surrounded with warehouses, immense brick bazars with domed roofs, a citadel or ark, where the Governor lives, a large parade ground and barracks for 2000 men, mosques of no pretensions, public baths, caravanserais, brick warehouses behind the bazars, public gardens, with fountains and avenues of poplars, a prison, and some good houses like this one, hidden behind high mud walls. Although the snow kindly veils a good deal of deformity, the city impresses one as ruinous and decayed; yet it has a large trade, and is regarded as one of the most prosperous places in the Empire.16

The bazars are spacious and well stocked with European goods, especially with Manchester cottons of colours and patterns suited to Oriental taste, which loves carnation red. There are many Jews, otherwise the people are Shiah Moslems, with an increasing admixture of the secret sect of the Bābis. In some respects the Shiahs are more fanatical than the Sunnis, as, for instance, it is quite possible to visit a mosque in Turkey, but here a Christian is not allowed to cross the threshold of the outer gate. Certain customs are also more rigidly observed. A Persian woman would be in danger of death from the mob if she appeared unveiled in the streets. When I walked through the town, though attended by a number of men, the major-domo begged me to exchange my gauze veil for a mask, and even when I showed this deference to custom the passing through the bazars was very unpleasant, the men being decidedly rude, and inclined to hoot and use bad language. Even the touch of a Christian is regarded as polluting, and I nearly got into trouble by handling a “flap-jack,” mistaking it for a piece of felt. The bazars are not magnificent. No rich carpets or other goods are exposed to view for fear of exactions. A buyer wanting such things must send word privately, and have them brought to his house.

Justice seems to be here, much as in Turkey, a marketable commodity, which the working classes are too poor to buy. A man may be kept in prison because he is too poor to get out, but justice is usually summary, and men are not imprisoned for long terms. If prisoners have friends, the friends feed them, if not they depend on charity, and charity is a Moslem virtue. There is no prison here for women. They are punished by having their heads shaved, and by being taken through the town on asses. Various forms of torture are practised, such as burning with hot irons, the bastinado, and squeezing the fingers in a vice. The bastinado is also most extensively used as a punishment.

Yesterday by appointment we were received by the Governor of the Province. Riding through the slippery snow-heaped alleys is not what Europeans would think of, and our host with his usual courtesy humoured the caprice by walking with us himself, preceded by six farāshes (lit. carpet-spreaders) and followed by his purse-bearer casting money to the poor, and a train of servants. The Citadel, or Governor’s residence, like all else, is forlorn, dirty, and ruinous in its approaches, which are long vaulted corridors capable of much adornment. Crowds of soldiers, mollahs, dervishes, and others were there to see the visit, which was one of ceremony. The Palace and Government offices are many-windowed, well-built brick-and-tile buildings, arranged round a large place with trees and fountains.

Two little fellows in scarlet uniform were at the entrance, and the lobby upstairs was crowded with Persian and Negro servants, all in high, black lambskin caps, tight black trousers, and tight coats with full skirts. The Governor received us in a very large, lofty, vacant-looking room, and shook hands. I never saw a human being more nearly like an ape in appearance, and a loud giggle added to the resemblance. This giggle and a fatuous manner are possibly assumed, for he has the widespread reputation of being a very able man, shrewd in business and officially rapacious, as was his father before him. The grotesque figure, not more than five feet high, was dressed in a black Astrakan cap, a coat of fine buff Russian kerseymere with full skirts, and tight trousers of the same, and an under-coat of rich, Kerman silk brocade, edged with costly fur. He made a few curt remarks to his foreign guests, and then turned to Abdul Rahim, and discussed local affairs for the remainder of a very long visit.

A table covered with exquisite-looking sweetmeats was produced, and we were regaled with tea à la Russe in Russian glasses, ice-cream, and gaz. Then young, diminutive, raw-looking soldiers in scarlet coats and scarlet trousers with blue stripes marched into the courtyard, and stood disconsolately in the snow, and two bands brayed and shrieked for an hour. Then kalians were smoked, and coffee was handed round, the cups being in gold filigree holders incrusted with turquoises. This was the welcome signal for the termination of a very tedious visit. The reception-room is a dismal combination of Persian and European taste, invariably a failure. The carpets are magnificent, but the curtains are common serge bordered with white cotton lace, and the tea-table with its costly equipments was covered with a tawdry cretonne cover, edged with some inferior black cotton lace. The lofty walls of plain plaster of Paris have their simplicity destroyed by some French girandoles with wax grapes hanging from them.

The Governor returned the visit today, arriving on horseback with fully forty mounted attendants, and was received in a glass room on the roof, furnished with divans, tables covered with beautiful confectionery, and tea and coffee equipages. The conversation was as local as yesterday, in spite of our host’s courteous efforts to include the strangers in it. The Governor asked if I were going to Tihran to be Hakīm to the Shah’s haram, which our host says is the rumour in Kirmanshah! During such visits there are crowds of attendants in the room all the time pouring out tea, filling kalians, and washing cups on the floor, and as any guest may be a spy and an enemy, the conversation is restricted to exaggerated compliments and superficial remarks.

Everything is regulated by an elaborate code of etiquette, even the compliments are meted out by rule, and to give a man more than he is entitled to is understood to be intended as sarcasm. The number of bows made by the entertainer, the distance he advances to meet his guest, and the position in which he seats him are matters of careful calculation, and the slightest mistake in any particular is liable to be greatly resented by a superior.

The Persian is a most ceremonious being. Like the Japanese he is trained from infancy to the etiquette of his class, and besides the etiquette of class there is here the etiquette of religion, which is far more strict than in Turkey, and yields only when there is daily contact, as in the capital, between Moslems and Christians. Thus, a Moslem will not accept refreshments from a Christian, and he will not smoke a pipe after a Christian even if he is his guest, and of equal or higher rank.

The custom is for a visitor, as in the case of the Governor, to announce his visit previously, and he and his train are met, when he is the superior, by a mounted servant of the recipient of the honour, who precedes him to the door, where the servants are arranged according to their rank, and the host waits to take his hand and lead him to a seat. On entering the room a well-bred Persian knows at once what place he ought to take, and it is rare for such a fiasco as that referred to in Luke xiv. 9 to occur. Refreshments and pipes are served at regulated intervals, and the introduction of a third cup of tea or coffee and a third kalian is the signal for the guest to retire. But it is necessary to ask and receive permission to do so, and elaborate forms of speech regulated by the rank of the visitor are used on the occasion. If he is of equal or superior rank, the host, bowing profoundly, replies that he can have no other wish than that of his guest, that the house has been purified by his presence, that the announcement of the visit brought good luck to the house, that his headache or toothache has been cured by his arrival, and these flowery compliments escort the ordinary guest to the door, but if he be of superior rank the host walks in advance to the foot of the stairs, and repeats the compliments there.

The etiquette concerning pipes is most elaborate.17 Kalians are invariably used among the rich. The great man brings his own, and his own pipe-bearer. The kalian is a water pipe, and whatever its form the principle is the same, the smoke being conducted to the bottom of a liberal supply of water, to be sucked up in bubbles through it with a gurgling noise, as in the Indian “hubble-bubble.” This water-holder is decanter-shaped, of plain or cut glass, with a wide mouth; the fire-holder, as in the case of the Governor’s pipe, is often a work of high art, in thin gold, chased, engraved, decorated with repoussé work, or incrusted with turquoises, or ornamented with rich enamel, very costly, £40 or even £50 being paid by rich men for the decoration of a single pipe-head. Between this and the water-holder is a wooden tube about fourteen inches long, from one end of which an inner tube passes to the bottom of the water. A hole in the side of the tube admits the flexible smoking tube, more used in Turkey than in Persia, or the wooden stem, about eighteen inches long. The fire-holder is lined with clay and plaster of Paris. Besides these there is the wind-guard, to prevent the fire from falling or becoming too hot, usually of silver, with dependent silver chains, and four or six silver or gold chains terminating in flat balls hang from the fire-holder.

The kalian is one of the greatest institutions of Persia. No man stirs without it, and as its decoration gives an idea of a man’s social position, immense sums are lavished upon it, and the pipe-bearer is a most important person. The lighting is troublesome, and after all there seems “much ado about nothing,” for a few whiffs exhaust its capacities.

The tobacco, called tumbaku, which is smoked in kalians is exceptionally poisonous. It cannot be used the first year, and improves with age, being preserved in bags sewn up in raw hide. Unless it is moistened it produces alarming vertigo. When the kalian is required, about three-quarters of an ounce is moistened, squeezed like a sponge, and packed in the fire-holder, and morsels of live charcoal, if possible made from the root of the vine, are laid upon it and blown into a strong flame. The pipe-bearer takes two or three draws, and with an obeisance hands it with much solemnity to his master. Abdul Rahim smokes three or four pipes every evening, and coffee served with the last is the signal for his departure.

A guest, if he does not bring his own pipe and pipe-bearer has a kalian offered to him, but if the host be of higher rank any one but an ignoramus refuses it till he has smoked first. If under such circumstances a guest incautiously accepts it, he is invariably mortified by seeing it sent into the ante-room to be cleaned and refilled before his superior will smoke. If it be proper for him to take it, he offers it in order of rank to all present, but takes good care that none accept it till he has enjoyed it, after which the attendant passes it round according to rank. In cases of only one kalian and several guests, they smoke in order of position, but each one must pay the compliment of suggesting that some one else should smoke before himself. The etiquette of smoking is most rigid. I heard of a case here in which a mollah, who objected to smoke after a European, offered it to one after he had smoked it himself — so gross a piece of impertinence that the other called the pipe-bearer, saying, “You can break that pipe to pieces, and burn the stick, I do not care to smoke it,” upon which the mollah, knowing that his violation of etiquette merited this sharp rebuke, turned pale and replied, “You say truly, I have eaten dirt.”

The lower classes smoke a coarse Turkish tobacco, or a Persian mild sort looking like whitish sawdust, which is merely the pounded leaf, stalk, and stem. The pipe they use and carry in their girdles has a small iron, brass, or clay head, and a straight cherry-wood stick, with a very wide bore and no mouthpiece, and it is not placed in the teeth but is merely held between the lips. Smoking seems a necessity rather than a luxury in Persia, and is one of the great features of social life.

Kirmanshah is famous for its “rugs,” as carpets are called in this country. There are from twenty-five to thirty kinds with their specific names. Aniline dyes have gone far to ruin this manufacture, but their import is now prohibited. A Persian would not look at the carpets loosely woven and with long pile, which are made for the European market, and are bought just now from the weavers at 13s. the square yard. A carpet, according to Persian notions, must be of fast colours, fine pile, scarcely longer than Utrecht velvet, and ready to last at least a century. A rug can scarcely be said to have reached its prime or artistic mellowness of tint till it has been “down” for ten years. The permanence of the dyes is tested by rubbing the rug with a wet cloth, when the worthless colours at once come off.

Among the real, good old Persian carpets there are very few patterns, though colouring and borders vary considerably. A good carpet, if new, is always stiff; the ends when doubled should meet evenly. There must be no creases, or any signs on the wrong side of darning or “fine-drawing” having been resorted to for taking out creases, and there must be no blue in the white cotton finish at the ends. Carpets with much white are prized, as the white becomes primrose, a colour which wears well. Our host has given me a rug of the oldest Persian pattern, on a white ground, very thin and fine. Large patterns and thick wool are comparatively cheap. It is nearly impossible to say what carpets sell at, for if one has been made by a family and poverty presses, it may be sold much under value, or if it is a good one and they can hold on they may force a carpet fancier to give a very high price. From what Abdul Rahim says, the price varies from 13s. to 50s. a square yard, the larger carpets, about fourteen feet by eight feet, selling for £40.18

Abdul Rahim took me to see carpet-weaving, a process carried on in houses, hovels, and tents by women and children. The “machinery” is portable and marvellously simple, merely two upright beams fixed in the floor, with a cross-beam near the top and bottom, round which the stout cotton or woollen threads which are the basis of the carpet are stretched. The wools are cut in short lengths and are knotted round two threads, according to the pattern, which, however elaborate, the weaver usually carries in her head. After a few inches have been woven in this simple way the right side is combed and the superfluous length cut off with rough scissors. Nothing can be more simple than the process or more beautiful than the result. The vegetable dyes used are soft and artistic, specially a madder red and the various shades of indigo. A soft turquoise blue is much used, and an “olive green,” supposed to be saffron and indigo. The dull, rich tints, even when new, are quite beautiful. The women pursue this work chiefly in odds and ends of time, and in some cases make it much of a pastime. Men being present they were very closely veiled, and found great difficulty in holding on the chadars and knotting the wool at the same time.

After taking tea in the pleasant upper room of the carpet-weaver’s house, we visited the large barracks and parade ground. The appearance of the soldiers could not possibly impress a stranger favourably. They looked nothing better than “dirty, slouching ragamuffins,” slipshod, in tattered and cast-off clothes of all sorts, on the verge of actual mendicancy, bits of rusty uniform appearing here and there amongst their cotton rags. The quarters are not bad. The rank and file get one and a half pounds of bread daily and five rupees a month nominally, but their pay is in arrears, and they eke it out by working at different trades. These men had not been drilled for two months, and were slovenly and unsoldierly to a degree, as men must be who have no proper pay, rations, instruction, clothing, or equipments.

The courtesy of the host leaves nothing unthought of. In returning from a long stroll round the city a wet place had to be crossed, and when we reached it there were saddle-horses ready. On arriving at dusk in the bazar several servants met us with lanterns. The lantern is an important matter, as its size is supposed to indicate the position of the wearer. The Persian lantern has a tin or iron top and bottom, between which is a collapsible wired cylinder of waxed muslin. The light from the candle burning inside is diffused and soft. Three feet long and two feet wide is not an uncommon size. They are carried close to the ground, illustrating “Thy Word is a lamp unto my path,” and none but the poor stir out after dark without a lantern-bearer in front. Our lanterns, as befits the Vakil’s position, are very large.

There is something Biblical in the progress of Abdul Rahim through the streets, always reminding me of “greetings in the market-place,” and “doing alms to be seen of men,”— not that I think our kind host sins in either direction. “Peace be with you,” say the people, bending low. “To you be peace,” replies the Agha.

A wish having been expressed to visit the rock-sculptures of the Takt-i-Bostan, a winter picnic was quietly arranged for the purpose. There was a great snowstorm on the night we arrived, succeeded by intense frost and clear blue skies — glorious Canadian winter weather. Outside the wall an English landau, brought in pieces from Baghdad, awaited us, with four Arab horses, two of them ridden. There were eleven outriders and some led horses, and a Turki pipe-bearer rode alongside the carriage with two cylinders of leather containing kalians in place of holsters, on one side, behind a leather water-bottle, and on the other a brazier of lighted charcoal hanging by chains much below the horse’s body. Another pipe-bearer lighted the kalian at intervals and handed it into the carriage to his master. Some of the horsemen carried rifles and wore cartridge-belts.

Reaching the Karasu river we got out into deep mud, were ferried over in a muddy box hauling on a rope, and drove to the Takt-i-Bostan, where several tanks of clear water, a house built into the rock, a number of Kurds on fine horses, the arched recesses in the rock which contain the sculptures, and the magnificent range of the Jabali–Besitun formed a very striking scene.

Sir H. Rawlinson considers these sculptures the finest in Persia, and regards them as the work of Greek artists. The lower of the two bas-reliefs at the back of the main recess is a colossal figure of a king on horseback, “the staff of whose spear is as a weaver’s beam.” On the sides of the recess, and, like the equestrian figure, in very high relief and very much undercut, are scenes from the chase of a most spirited description, representing a king and court mounted on elephants, horses, and camels, hunting boars, stags, and other animals, their enthusiasm in the pursuit being successfully conveyed by the art of the sculptor. In the spandrels of the archway of the main recess are carved, winged female figures. In the smaller arch, also containing a bas-relief, is a Pehlevi inscription.19

There is a broad stone platform in front of the arch, below which flows direct from the mountain a great volume of water, which replenishes the tanks. The house, which also contains a tank fed by the same living water, the mountain and its treasures, the tanks, and some miles of avenues of willows, have been bought by the Vakil, and his son laughingly says that he hopes to live to see a time when Cook will give “tourist excursion tickets” by rail to the Takt-i-Bostan!

Coffee and kalians were served to the Kurds in the arch, and mounting the horses we rode to a country house belonging to our host in the midst of large rose gardens, and with a wonderful view of the magnificent Besitun range, of the rolling snowy hills on which Kirmanshah and its plantations lay like a black splotch, and of this noble plain, six miles long from north to south, and thirty from east to west, its absolutely unbroken snow gleaming like satin, and shadows lying upon it in pure blue. Many servants and a large fire awaited us in that pleasant bungalow, as well as coffee and sweetmeats, and we stayed there till the sinking sun flushed all the surrounding hills with pink, and the gray twilight came on.

I rode a splendid Arab, with a neck “clothed with thunder,” a horse to make one feel young again, with his elastic stride and pride of bearing, but indeed I “snatched a fearful joy,” for the snow was extremely slippery, and thirteen Arab horses in high condition restrained to a foot’s pace had belligerent views of their own, tending to disconcert an unwary rider. We crossed the Karasu by a deep and devious ford up to the girths, and had an exhilarating six miles’ ride by moonlight in keen frost, the powdery snow crackling under the horses’ feet. It was too slippery to enter the town on horseback, but servants with lanterns awaited us at the gates and roaring fires and dinner were ready here, after a delightful expedition.

I dined alone with our host, Hadji, who understands and speaks English fairly well, acting as interpreter. Abdul Rahim at once plunged into politics, and asked very many intelligent questions about English politics and parties, the condition and housing of our working classes, and then about my own family and occupations. He is a zealous Moslem, and the pious phrases which sit so oddly on Hadji come very naturally from his lips. In reply to a sketch of character which I gave him he said: “What God does is good. He knows, we submit. He of whom you speak laid up great treasure for another life. Whoso loves and befriends the poor is acceptable to God. One day we shall know all. God is good.” He said he had been too busy to learn English, but that he understands a great deal, and added, with a roguish gleam lighting up his whole face, and a very funny laugh, “And I hear what M—— says.” He has seen but very few English ladies, and it shows great quickness of apprehension that he should never fail in the respectfulness and quiet courteous attentions which would be shown to a lady by an English host.

Even after India, the quantity of servants employed in such a household as this is very impressive. Besides a number who are with the Vakil in Tihran, there are the nazr or steward, who under the master is supreme, cooks and their assistants, table servants, farāshes, who are sweepers and message-runners, in any number, pipe-bearers, coffee and ice-makers, plate-cleaners, washermen, lamp-cleaners, who are also lantern-bearers, a head groom, with a groom for each horse under him, and a number more, over forty in all, receiving, if paid at the usual rate of wages in Kirmanshah, which is a cheap place, from sixty krans a month down to twenty, the kran being now about 8d. These wages do not represent the actual gains of a servant, for he is entitled to perquisites, which are chiefly in the form of commissions on things bought and sold by his master, and which are regarded as legitimate if they do not exceed 10 per cent. It is of no use to fight again this “modakel,” or to vex one’s soul in any way about it. Persians have to submit to it as well as Europeans. Hadji has endeavoured to extract from 50 to 80 per cent on purchases made by him for me, but this is thought an outrage.

This modakel applies to all bargains. If a charvadar (no longer a katirgi) is hired, he has to pay one’s servant 10 per cent on the contract price. If I sell a horse, my servant holds out for a good price, and takes his 10 per cent, and the same thing applies to a pair of shoes, or a pound of tea, or a chicken, or a bottle of milk. The system comes down from the highest quarters. The price paid by the governor of a province to the Shah is but the Shah’s modakel, and when a governor farms the taxes for 60,000 tumans and sells them for 80,000, the difference is his modakel, and so it goes on through all official transactions and appointments, and is a fruitful source of grinding oppression, and of inefficiency in the army and other departments. The servant, poor fellow, may stop at 10 per cent, but the Shah’s servant may think himself generous if he hesitates at 50 per cent. I have heard it said that when the late Shah was dying he said to the present sovereign: “If you would sit long upon the throne, see that there is only one spoon among ten men,” and that the system represented by this speech is faithfully carried out.

I. L. B.

15 I had the pleasure of seeing Agha Hassan at the British Legation at Tihran. He is charming, both in appearance and manner, a specimen of the highest type of Arab good breeding, with a courteous kindliness and grace of manner, and is said to have made a very favourable impression when he went to England lately to be made a C.M.G. Both father and son wear the Arab dress, in plain colours but rich materials, with very large white turbans of Damascus embroidery in gold silk, and speak only Arabic and Persian.

16 A journey of nine months in Persia, chiefly in the west and north-west, convinced me that this aspect of ruin and decay is universal.

17 The reader curious as to this and other customs of modern Persia should read Dr. Wills’s book, The Land of the Lion and the Sun.

18 A rug only eight feet by five feet was given me by a Persian in Tihran, which was valued for duty at Erzerum at £3 the square yard, with the option of selling it to the Custom-house at that price, which implies that its value is from 70s. to 80s. per yard. It has a very close pile, nearly as short and fine as velvet.

19 For the Sasanian inscriptions, vide Early Sasanian Inscriptions, by E. Thomas. The great work published by the French Government, Voyage en Perse, Paris, 1851, by Messieurs Flandin et Coste, contains elaborate and finely-executed representations of these rock sculptures, which are mostly of the time of the later Sasanian monarchs.

Letter vi

On January 28 there was a tremendous snowfall, and even before that the road to Hamadan, which was our possible route, had been blocked for some days. The temperature has now risen to 31°, with a bitter wind, and much snow in the sky. The journey does not promise well. Two of the servants have been ill. I am not at all well, and the reports of the difficulties farther on are rather serious. These things are certain — that the marches are very long, and without any possibility of resting en route owing to mud or snow, and that the food and accommodation will be horrible.

Hadji is turning out very badly. He has fever now, poor fellow, and is even more useless than usual. Abdul Rahim does not like him to interpret, and calls him “the savage.” He does no work, and is both dirty and dishonest. The constant use of pious phrases is not a good sign either of Moslem or Christian. I told him this morning that I could not eat from so dirty a plate. “God is great,” he quietly answered. He broke my trestle bed by not attending to directions, and when I pointed out what he had done, he answered, “God knows all, God ordains all things.” It is really exasperating.

It is necessary to procure an additional outfit for the journey — a slow process — masks lined with flannel, sheepskin bags for the feet, the thick felt coats of the country for all the servants, additional blankets, kajawehs for me, and saddle-horses. The marches will frequently be from twenty to thirty miles in length, and the fatigue of riding them at a foot’s pace when one cannot exchange riding for walking will be so great that I have had a pair of kajawehs made in which to travel when I am tired of the mule. These panniers are oblong wooden boxes, eighteen inches high, with hoops over them for curtains. One hangs on each side of the mule on a level with his back, and they are mounted, i.e. they are scrambled into from the front by a ladder, which is carried between them. Most women and some men travel in them. They are filled up with quilts and cushions. The mule which is to carry them is a big and powerful animal, and double price is charged for him.

Horses are very good and cheap here. A pure Arab can be bought for £14, and a cross between an Arab and a Kurdish horse — a breed noted for endurance — for even less. But to our thinking they are small, never exceeding fifteen hands. The horses of the Kirmanshah province are esteemed everywhere, and there is a steady drain upon them for the Indian market. The stud of three horses requires a groom, and Abdul Rahim is sending a sowar, who looks a character, to attend us to Tihran. A muleteer, remarkable in appearance and beauty, and twelve fine mules have been engaged. The sowar and several other men have applied to me for medicine, having fearful coughs, etc., but I have not been fortunate enough to cure them, as their maladies chiefly require good feeding, warm bedding, and poultices, which are unattainable. It is pitiable to see the poor shivering in their thin cotton clothes in such weather. The men make shift with the seamless felt coats — more cloaks than coats, with long bag-like sleeves tapering to the size of a glove but with a slit midway, through which the hands can be protruded when need arises. The women have no outer garment but the thin cotton chadar.

I have tried to get a bed made, but there is no wood strong enough for the purpose, and the bazars cannot produce any canvas.

Sannah, Feb. 5.— Yesterday we were to have started at nine, but the usual quarrelling about loads detained us till 10.30, so that it was nearly dark when we reached the end of the first stage of a three weeks’ journey. From the house roof the prospect was most dismal. It was partly thawing, and through the whiteness of the plain ran a brown trail with sodden edges, indicating mud. The great mass of the Jabali–Besitun, or Behistun, or Behishtan, though on the other side of the plain, seemed actually impending over the city, with its great black rock masses, too steep to hold the snow, and the Besitun mountain itself, said to be twenty-four miles away, looming darkly through gray snow clouds, looked hardly ten. Our host had sent men on to see if the landau could take me part of the way at least; but their verdict was that the road was impassable.

After much noise the caravan got under way, but it was soon evident that the fine mules we had engaged had been changed for a poor, sore-backed set, and that the fine saddle-mule I was to have had was metamorphosed into a poor weak creature, which began to drop his leg from the shoulder almost as soon as we were outside the walls, and on a steep bridge came down on his nose with a violent fall, giving me a sharp strain, and fell several times afterwards; indeed, the poor animal could scarcely keep on his legs during the eight hours’ march.

Hadji rode in a kajaweh, balanced by some luggage, and was to keep close to me, but when I wanted to change my broken-down beast for a pannier he was not to be seen, then or afterwards, and came in late. The big mule had fallen, he was bruised, the kajawehs were smashed to pieces, and were broken up for firewood, and I am now without any means of getting any rest from riding! “It’s the pace that kills.” In snow and mud gallops are impossible, and three miles an hour is good going.

An hour from Kirmanshah the road crosses the Karasu by a good brick bridge, and proceeds over the plain for many miles, keeping the Besitun range about two miles on the left, and then passes over undulating ground to the Besitun village. Two or three large villages occur at a distance from the road, now shut in, and about eight miles from Besitun there are marble columns lying on the ground among some remains of marble walls, now only hummocks in the snow.

The road was churned into deep mud by the passage of animals, and the snow was too deep to ride in. My mule lost no opportunity of tumbling down, and I felt myself a barbarian for urging him on. Hills and mountains glistened in all directions. The only exception to the general whiteness was Piru, the great rock mass of Besitun, which ever loomed blackly overhead through clouds and darkness, and never seemed any nearer. It was very solitary. I met only a caravan of carpets, and a few men struggling along with laden asses.

It was the most artistic day of the whole journey, much cloud flying about, mountains in indigo gloom, or in gray, with storm clouds round their heads, or pure white, with shadows touched in with cobalt, while peaks and ridges, sun-kissed, gleamed here and there above indigo and gray. Not a tree or even bush, on them or on the plain, broke the monotony after a summer palace of the Shah, surrounded by poplars, was passed. There is plenty of water everywhere.

As the sun was stormily tinging with pink the rolling snow-clouds here and there, I halted on the brow of a slope under the imposing rock front of Besitun to wait for orders. It was wildly magnificent: the huge precipice of Piru, rising 1700 feet from the level, the mountains on both sides of the valley approaching each other, and behind Piru a craggy ravine, glorified here and there by touches of amber and pink upon the clouds which boiled furiously out of its depths. In the foreground were a huge caravanserai with a noble portal, a solitary thing upon the snow, not a dwelling, but offering its frigid hospitality to all comers; a river with many windings, and the ruinous hovels of Besitun huddled in the mud behind. An appalling view in the wild twilight of a winter evening; and as the pink died out, a desolate ghastliness fell upon it. As I waited, all but worn out by the long march, the tumbling mule, and the icy wind, I thought I should like never to hear the deep chimes of a Persian caravan, or see the huge portal of a Persian caravanserai any more. These are cowardly emotions which are dispelled by warmth and food, but at that moment there was not much prospect of either.

Through seas of mud and by mounds of filth we entered Besitun, a most wretched village of eighteen hovels, chiefly ruinous, where we dismounted in the mixed snow and mud of a yard at a hovel of three rooms vacated by a family. It was a better shelter than could have been hoped for, though after a fire was made, which filled the room with smoke, I had to move from place to place to avoid the drip from the roof.

Hadji said he was ill of fever, and seemed like an idiot; but the orderly said that the illness was shammed and the stupidity assumed in order not to work. I told him to put the mattress on the bed; “Pour water on the mattress,” he replied. I repeated, “Put — the — mattress — on — the — bed,” to which he replied, “Put the mattress into water!” I said if he felt too ill for his work he might go to bed. “God knows,” he answered. “Yes, knows that you are a lazy, good-for-nothing, humbugging brute”— a well-timed objurgation from M— — which elicited a prolonged “Ya Allah!” but produced no effect, as the tea and chapatties were not relatively but absolutely cold the next morning.

The next day dawned miserably, and the daylight when it came was only a few removes from darkness, yet it was enough to bring out the horrors of that wretched place, and the dirt and poverty of the people, who were a prey to skin diseases. Many readers will remember that Sir H. Rawlinson considers that there are good geographical and etymological reasons for identifying Besitun with the Baghistan, or Place of Gardens of the Greeks, and with the famous pleasure-grounds which tradition ascribes to Semiramis. But of these gardens not a trace remains. A precipitous rock, smoothed at its lower part, a vigorous spring gushing out at the foot of the precipice, two tablets, one of which, at a height of over 300 feet, visible from the road but inaccessible, is an Achæmenian sculpture portraying the majesty of Darius, with about a thousand lines of cuneiform writing, are all that survive of the ancient splendours of Besitun, with the exception of some buttresses opposite the rock, belonging to a vanished Sasanian bridge over the Gamasiab, and some fragments of other buildings of the Sasanian epoch. These deeply interesting antiquities have been described and illustrated by Sir H. Rawlinson, Flandin and Coste, and others.

It has been a severe day. It was so unpromising that a start was only decided on after many pros and cons. Through dark air small flakes of snow fell sparsely at intervals from a sky from which all light had died out. Gusts of icy wind swept down every gorge. Huge ragged masses of cloud drifted wildly round the frowning mass of Piru. Now and then the gusts ceased, and there was an inauspicious calm.

I rode a big mule not used to the bit, very troublesome and mulish at first, but broken in an hour. A clear blink revealed the tablets, but from their great altitude the tallest of the figures only looked two feet high. There is little to see on this march even under favourable circumstances. A few villages, the ruined fort of Hassan Khan, now used as a caravanserai, on a height, the windings of the Gamasiab, and a few canals crossed by brick bridges, represent its chief features. Impressions of a country received in a storm are likely to be incorrect, but they were pleasurable. Everything seemed on a grand scale: here desolate plateaus pure white, there high mountains and tremendous gorges, from which white mists were boiling up — everything was shrouded in mystery — plain prose ceased to be for some hours.

The others had to make several halts, so I left the “light division” and rode on alone. It became dark and wild, and presently the surface of the snow began to move and to drift furiously for about a foot above the ground. The wind rose to a gale. I held my hat on with one half-frozen hand. My mackintosh cape blew inside out, and struck me such a heavy blow on the eyes that for some time I could not see and had to trust to the mule. The wind rose higher; it was furious, and the drift, not only from the valley but from the mountain sides, was higher than my head, stinging and hissing as it raced by. It was a “blizzard,” a brutal snow-laden north-easter, carrying fine, sharp, hard-frozen snow crystals, which beat on my eyes and blinded them.

After a short experience of it my mule “turned tail” and needed spurring to make him face it. I fought on for an hour, crossed what appeared to be a bridge, where there were a few mud hovels, and pressed on down a narrower valley. The blizzard became frightful; from every ravine gusts of storm came down, sweeping the powdery snow from the hillsides into the valley; the mountains were blotted out, the depression in the snow which erewhile had marked the path was gone, I could not even see the mule’s neck, and he was floundering in deep snow up to the girths; the hiss of the drift had increased to a roar, the violence of the storm produced breathlessness and the intense cold numbness. It was dangerous for a solitary traveller, and thinking that M—— would be bothered by missing one of the party under such circumstances, I turned and waited under the lee of a ruinous mud hovel for a long, long time till the others came up — two of the men having been unhorsed in a drift.

In those hovels there were neither accommodation nor supplies, and we decided to push on. It was never so bad again. The wind moderated, wet snow fell heavily, but cleared off, and there was a brilliant blue heaven with heavy sunlit cloud-wreaths, among which colossal mountain forms displayed themselves, two peaks in glorious sunlight, high, high above a whirling snow-cloud, which was itself far above a great mountain range below. There were rifts, valleys, gorges, naked, nearly perpendicular rocks, the faces of mountains, half of which had fallen down in the opposite direction, a snow-filled valley, a winding river with brief blue stretches, a ruined fort on an eminence, a sharp turn, a sudden twilight, and then another blizzard far colder than the last, raging down a lateral ravine, up which, even through the blinding drift, were to be seen, to all seeming higher than mountains of this earth, the twin peaks of Shamran lighted by the sun. I faced the blizzard for some time, and then knowing that Hadji and the cook, who were behind me, would turn off to a distant village, all trace of a track having disappeared, I rode fully a mile back and waited half an hour for them. They were half-frozen, and had hardly been able to urge their mules, which were lightly laden, through the snow, and Hadji was groaning “Ya Allah!

The blizzard was over and the sky almost cloudless, but the mercury had fallen to 18°, and a keen wind was still blowing the powdery snow to the height of a foot. I sent the two men on in front, and by dint of calling to them constantly, kept them from getting into drifts of unknown depth. We rode up a rising plateau for two hours — a plateau of deep, glittering, blinding, trackless snow, giving back the sunshine in millions of diamond flashings. Through all this region thistles grow to a height of four feet, and the only way of finding the track was to look out for a space on which no withered thistle-blooms appeared above the snow.

This village of Sannah lies at an altitude of about 5500 feet, among poplar plantations and beautiful gardens, in which fine walnut trees are conspicuous. Though partly ruinous it is a flourishing little place, its lands being abundantly watered by streams which run into the Gamasiab. It is buried now in snow, and the only mode of reaching it is up the bed of a broad sparkling stream among the gardens. The sowar met us here, the navigation being difficult, and the “light division” having come up, we were taken to the best house in the village, where the family have vacated two rooms, below the level of a yard full of snow. The plateau and its adjacent mountains were flushed with rose as we entered Sannah, and as soon as the change to the pallor of death came on the mercury raced down to zero outside, and it is only 6° in the room in which I am writing.

There is a large caravanserai at the entrance to Sannah, and I suspect that the sowar in choosing private quarters bullies the ketchuda (headman) and throws the village into confusion, turning the women and children out of the rooms, the owners, though they get a handsome sum for the accommodation, having to give him an equally handsome modakel.

After nearly nine hours of a crawling pace and exposure to violent weather, I suffered from intense pain in my joints, and was dragged and lifted in and put into a chair. I write “put,” for I was nearly helpless, and had to take a teaspoonful of whisky in warm milk. While the fire was being made two women, with a gentle kindliness which won my heart, chafed my trembling, nearly frozen hands with their own, with kindly, womanly looks, which supplied the place of speech.

I lay down under a heap of good blankets, sorry to see them in thin cotton clothes, and when I was less frozen observed my room and its grotesquely miserable aspect, “the Savage” never taking any trouble to arrange it. There are no windows, and the divided door does not shut by three inches. A low hole leads into the granary, which is also the fowl-house, but the fowls have no idea of keeping to their own apartment. Two sheep with injured legs lie in a corner with some fodder beside them. A heap of faggots, the bed placed diagonally to avoid the firehole in the floor, a splashed tarpaulin on which Hadji threw down the saddle and bridle plastered with mud, and all my travelling gear, a puddle of frozen water, a plough, and some ox yokes, an occasional gust of ashes covering everything, and clouds of smoke from wood which refuses to do anything but smoke, are the luxuries of the halt. The house is full of people, and the women come in and out without scruple, and I am really glad to see them, though it is difficult to rouse Hadji from his opium pipe and coffee, and his comfortable lounge by a good fire, to interpret for them.

The day’s experiences remind me of the lines —

“Bare all he could endure,

And bare not always well.”

But tired and benumbed as I am I much prefer a march with excitements and difficulties to the monotony of splashing through mud in warm rain.

Hamilabad, Feb. 7.— The next morning opened cloudless, with the mercury at 18°, which was hardly an excuse for tea and chapatties being quite cold. I was ready much too early, and the servants having given out that I am a Hakīm, my room was crowded with women and children, all suffering from eye diseases and scrofula, five women not nearly in middle life with cataract advanced in both eyes, and many with incurved eyelids, the result of wood smoke. It was most painful to see their disappointment when I told them that it would need time to cure some of them, and that for others I could do nothing. Could I not stay? they pleaded. I could have that room and milk and eggs — the best they had. “And they lifted up their voices and wept.” I felt like a brute for leaving them. The people there showed much interest in our movements, crowding on the roofs to see our gear, and the start.

The order of march now is — light division, three mules with an orderly, Hadji, and the cook upon them, the two last carrying what is absolutely necessary for the night in case the heavy division cannot get on. M—— and an orderly, the sowar, Abbas Khan, another who is changed daily, the light division and I, sometimes start together; but as the others are detained by work on the road, I usually ride on ahead with the two servants.

To write that we all survived the march of that day is strange, when the same pitiless blast or “demon wind,” blowing from “the roof of the world”— the Pamir desert, made corpses of five men who started with a caravan ahead of us that morning. We had to climb a long ascending plateau for 1500 feet, to surmount a pass. The snow was at times three feet deep, and the tracks even of a heavy caravan which crossed before us were effaced by the drift in a few minutes.

A sun without heat glared and scintillated like an electric light, white and unsympathetic, out of a pitiless sky without a cloud. As soon as we emerged from Sannah the “demon wind” seized on us — a steady, blighting, searching, merciless blast, no rise or fall, no lull, no hope. Steadily and strongly it swept, at a temperature of 9°, across the glittering ascent — swept mountain-sides bare; enveloped us at times in glittering swirls of powdery snow, which after biting and stinging careered over the slopes in twisted columns; screeched down gorges and whistled like the demon it was, as it drifted the light frozen snow in layers, in ripples, in waves, a cruel, benumbing, blinding, withering invisibility!

The six woollen layers of my mask, my three pairs of gloves, my sheepskin coat, fur cloak, and mackintosh piled on over a swaddling mass of woollen clothing, were as nothing before that awful blast. It was not a question of comfort or discomfort, or of suffering more or less severe, but of life or death, as the corpses a few miles ahead of us show. I am certain that if it had lasted another half-hour I too should have perished. The torture of my limbs down to my feet, of my temples and cheekbones, the anguish and uselessness of my hands, from which the reins had dropped, were of small consequence compared with a chill which crept round my heart, threatening a cessation of work.

There were groans behind me; the cook and Hadji had rolled off into the snow, where Hadji was calling on Him “who is not far from every one of us.” M—— was on foot. His mask was frozen hard. He was using a scientific instrument, and told his orderly, an Afghan, a smart little “duffadar” of a crack Indian corps, to fasten a strap. The man replied sadly, “I can’t, Sahib.” His arms and hands were useless. My mask was frozen to my lips. The tears extorted from my eyes were frozen. I was so helpless, and in such torture, that I would gladly have lain down to die in the snow. The mercury fell to 4°.

After fighting the elements for three hours and a half, we crossed the crest of the pass at an altitude of 7000 feet, to look down upon a snow world stretched out everywhere, pure, glistering, awful; mountains rolling in snowy ranges, valleys without a trace of man, a world of horror, glittering under a mocking sun.

Hadji, with many pious ejaculations, gasped out that he was dying (in fact, for some time all speech had been reduced to a gasp); but when we got over the crest there was no more wind, and all the benumbed limbs resumed sensation, through an experience of anguish.

The road to Kangawar lies through a broad valley, which has many streams. Among the mountains which encompass it are the Kuh-i-Hassan, Boka, the Kuh-i-Paran, and the Kuh-i-Bozah. I rode on with the two servants, indulging in no higher thoughts than of the comfort I should have in lying down, when just in front of me Hadji turned a somersault, my alpenstock flying in one direction and the medicine chest in another, while he lay motionless, flat on his back with all his limbs stretched out, just as soldiers who have been shot lie in pictures. In getting to him my mule went down in a snow-drift, out of which I extricated him with difficulty. I induced Hadji, who said his back was broken, and was groaning and calling on Allah, to get up, and went on to secure his mule, which had the great pack-saddle under its body, and was kicking with all its might at my bed and “hold-all,” which were between its hind legs, and succeeded in catching and holding it till Hadji came up. I told him to unfasten the surcingle, for the animal was wild with the things among its legs, and he wrung his hands and beat his breast, exclaiming, “God is great! God knows I shall never see Bushire again!” and was quite helpless. Seeing a caravan of asses approaching, I rode on as fast as I could to the well-situated little town of Kangawar, expecting him to follow shortly. At present the entrance into Kangawar is up the bed of a stream.

We had been promised good accommodation there, and the town could evidently afford it, but Abbas Khan had chosen something very wretched, though it was upstairs, and had an extensive snow view. Crumbling, difficult stairs at each end of a crumbling mud house led to rooms which barely afforded a shelter, with a ruinous barn between, where the servants, regardless of consequences, kept up a bonfire. A man shovelled most of the snow out of my room, and tried to make a fire but failed, as neither he nor I could stand the smoke produced by the attempt. This imperfect shelter had a window-frame, with three out of its four wooden panes gone, and a cracked door, which could only ensure partial privacy by being laid against the posts from the outer landing, which was a flat roof. The wall was full of cracks big enough for a finger, through which the night wind rioted in a temperature 5° below zero.

There was nothing to sit upon, and I walked up and down for two hours, half-frozen, watching the straggling line of the caravan as it crawled along the valley, till the sunset flush changed into the chill blue-gray of twilight. Hadji arrived with it, having broken his girth after I left him. There was not much comfort after the severe march, owing to the draughts and the smoke, but one is always hungry and sleepy, and the hybernation of the insects makes up for any minor discomforts. It was so cold that some water in a cup froze before I could drink it, and the blanket over my face was hard frozen.

Kangawar was full of mourning. The bodies of two men and a boy, who had perished on the plain while we were struggling up the pass, had been brought in. This boy of twelve was “the only son of his mother and she was a widow.” He had started from Kangawar in the morning with five asses laden with chopped straw to sell for her, and had miserably perished. The two men were married, and had left families.

Kangawar is a town of a thousand people built below a high hill, on some natural and artificial mounds. Some traditions regarding Semiramis are localised there, and it is supposed to be on the site of Pancobar, where she erected a temple to Anaitis or Artemis. Ruins of a fortress, now snow-buried, occupy the crest of a hill above the town, and there are other ruins, regarded by antiquaries as Grecian, representing a temple or palace, “a vast building constructed of enormous blocks of dressed stone.” Of these remains I saw nothing but some columns and a pilaster, which are built into the miserable mud walls of a house near the bazar.

At night the muleteers were beseeching on their knees. They said that they could not go on, that the caravan which had attempted to leave Kangawar in the morning had put back with three corpses, and that they and their mules would perish. In the morning it was for some time doubtful whether they could be induced or bribed to proceed. The day was fine and still, but they said that the snow was not broken. At last they agreed to start if we would promise to return at the first breath of wind!

Every resource against cold was brought out and put on. One eye was all that was visible of the servants’ faces. The charvadars relied on their felt coats and raw sheepskins, with the fur inside, roped round their legs. There is danger of frost-bite even with all precautions. In addition to double woollen underclothing I put on a pair of thick Chitral socks over two pairs of woollen stockings, and over these a pair of long, loose Afghan boots, made of sheepskin with the fur inside. Over my riding dress, which is of flannel lined with heavy homespun, I had a long homespun jacket, an Afghan sheepskin coat, a heavy fur cloak over my knees, and a stout “regulation” waterproof to keep out the wind. Add to this a cork helmet, a fisherman’s hood, a “six-ply” mask, two pairs of woollen gloves with mittens and double gauntlets, and the difficulty of mounting and dismounting for a person thus swaddled may be imagined! The Persians are all in cotton clothes.

However, though they have no “firesides,” and no cheerful crackle and blaze of wood, they have an arrangement by which they can keep themselves warm for hours by the expenditure of a few handfuls of animal fuel. The fire hole or tāndūr in the middle of the floor is an institution. It is circular, narrows somewhat at the top and bottom, has a flue leading to the bottom from the outside, and is about three feet deep and two in diameter. It is smoothly lined with clay inside.

Over this is the karsi or platform, a skeleton wooden frame like an inverted table, from two to five feet square, covered with blankets or a thickly-wadded cotton quilt, which extends four or five feet beyond it. Cushions are placed under this, and the women huddle under it all day, and the whole family at night, and in this weather all day — the firepot in the hole giving them comfortable warmth both for sleeping and waking. They very rarely wash, and the karsi is so favourable for the development of vermin that I always hurry it out of the room when I enter. So excellent and economical is the contrivance, that a tāndūr in which the fire has not been replenished for eighteen hours has still a genial heat.

It was a serious start, so terribly slippery in the heaped-up alleys and uncovered bazars of Kangawar that several of the mules and men fell. Outside the town was a level expanse of deep, wrinkled, drifted, wavy, scintillating snow, unbroken except for a rut about a foot wide, a deep long “mule ladder,” produced by heavily-laden mules and asses each stepping in its predecessor’s footsteps, forming short, deep corrugations, in which it is painful and tedious for horses or lightly-laden animals to walk. For nine hours we marched through this corrugated rut.

Leaving on the left the summer route to Tihran viâ Hamadan, which is said to have been blocked for twenty days, we embarked upon a glittering plain covered with pure snow, varying in depth from two feet on the level to ten and fifteen in the drifts, crossed by a narrow and only slightly beaten track.

Ere long we came on solemn traces of the struggle and defeat of the day before: every now and then a load of chopped straw thrown away, then the deep snow much trampled, then the snow dug away and piled round a small space, in which the charvadars had tried to shelter themselves from the wind as the shadows of death fell, then more straw, and a grave under a high mound of snow; farther on some men busy burying one of the bodies. The air was still, and the sun shone as it had shone the day before on baffled struggles, exhaustion, and death. The trampling of the snow near the track marked the place where the caravan had turned, taking three out of the five bodies back to Kangawar. The fury with which the wind had swept over the plain was shown by the absolute level to which it had reduced the snow, the deep watercourses being filled up with the drifts.

After crossing a brick bridge, and passing the nearly buried village of Husseinabad, we rode hour after hour along a rolling track among featureless hills, till in the last twilight we reached the village of Pharipah, a low-lying place (“low-lying” must never be understood to mean anything lower than 5000 feet) among some frozen irrigated lands and watered gardens. I arrived nearly dead from cold, fatigue, and the severe pains in the joints which are produced by riding nine hours at a foot’s pace in a temperature of 20°. My mule could only be urged on by spurring, and all the men and animals were in a state of great fatigue. My room was very cold, as much of one side was open to the air, and a fire was an impossibility.

Except for the crossing of a pass with an altitude of 7500 feet, the next day’s route was monotonous, across plains, among mountains, all pure white, the only incidents being that my chair was broken by the fall of a mule, and that my mule and I went over our heads in a snow-drift. The track was very little broken, and I was four hours in doing ten miles.

Hamilabad is a village of about sixty mud hovels, and in common with all these mountain hamlets has sloping covered ways leading to pens under the house, where cattle, sheep, and goats spend much of the winter in darkness and warmth.

I have a house, i.e. a mud room, to myself. These two days I have had rather a severe chill, after getting in, including a shivering lasting about two hours, perhaps owing to the severe fatigue; and I was lying down with the blankets over my face and was just getting warm when I heard much buzzing about me, and looking up saw the room thronged with men, women, and children, just such a crowd as constantly besieged our blessed Lord when the toilsome day full of “the contradiction of sinners against Himself” was done, most of them ill of “divers diseases and torments,” smallpox, rheumatism, ulcers on the cornea, abortive and shortened limbs, decay of the bones of the nose, palate, and cheek, tumours, cancers, skin maladies, ophthalmia, opaque films over the eyes, wounds, and many ailments too obscure for my elementary knowledge. Nothing is more painful than to be obliged to say that one cannot do anything for them.

I had to get up, and for nearly two hours was hearing their tales of suffering, interpreted by Hadji with brutal frankness; and they crowded my room again this morning. All I could do was to make various ointments, taking tallow as the basis, drop lotion into some eyes, give a few simple medicines, and send the majority sadly away. The sowar, Abbas Khan, is responsible for spreading my fame as a Hakīm. He is being cured of a severe cough, and comes to my room for medicine (in which I have no faith) every evening, a lean man with a lean face, lighted with a rapacious astuteness, with a kaftan streaming from his brow, except where it is roped round his shaven skull, a zouave jacket, a skirt something like a kilt, but which stands out like a ballet dancer’s dress, all sorts of wrappings round his legs, a coarse striped red shirt, a double cartridge-belt, and a perfect armoury in his girdle of pistols and knives. He is a wit and a rogue. Dogs, deprived of their usual shelter, shook my loose door at intervals all night. This morning is gray, and looks like change.

Nanej, Feb. 9.— It was thawing, and the march here was very soft and splashy. The people are barbarous in their looks, speech, manners, and ways of living, and have a total disregard of cleanliness of person, clothing, and dwellings. Whether they are actually too poor to have anything warmer than cotton clothing, or whether they have buried hoards I do not know; but even in this severe weather the women of this region have nothing on their feet, and their short blue cotton trousers, short, loose, open jackets, short open chemises, and the thin blue sheet or chadar over their heads, are a mere apology for clothing.

The journey yesterday was through rolling hills, enclosing level plains much cultivated, with villages upon them mostly at a considerable distance from the road. I passed through two, one larger and less decayed than usual, but fearfully filthy, and bisected by a foul stream, from which people were drinking and drawing water. Near this is a lofty mound, a truncated cone, with some “Cyclopean” masonry on its summit, the relics of a fire temple of the Magi. Another poorer and yet filthier village was passed through, where a man was being buried; and as I left Hamilabad in the morning, a long procession was escorting a corpse to its icy grave, laid on its bedding on a bier, both these deaths being from smallpox, which, though very prevalent, is not usually fatal, and seldom attacks adults. Indeed, it is regarded as a childish malady, and is cured by a diet of melons and by profuse perspirations.

A higher temperature had turned the path to slush, and made the crossing of the last plain very tedious. This is an abominable village, and the thaw is revealing a state of matters which the snow would have concealed; but it has been a severe week’s journey, and I am glad of Sunday’s rest even here. It is a disheartening place. I dismounted in one yard, in slush up to my knees, and from this splashed into another, round which are stables, cowsheds, and rooms which were vacated by the ketchuda and his family, but only partially, as the women not only left all their “things” in my room, but had a godown or storehouse through it, to which they resorted continually. I felt ill yesterday, and put on a blister, which rendered complete rest desirable; but it is not to be got. The room filled with women as soon as I settled myself in it.

They told me at once that I could not have a fire unless I had it under the karsi, that the smoke would be unbearable. When I asked them to leave me to rest, they said, “There’s no shame in having women in the house.” M—— came an hour later and cleared the room, but as soon as he went away it filled again, and with men as well as women, and others unscrupulously tore out the paper panes from the windows. This afternoon I stayed in bed feeling rather ill, and about three o’clock a number of women in blue sheets, with a very definite leader, came in, arranged the karsi, filling the room with smoke, as a preliminary, gathered themselves under the quilt, and sat there talking loudly to each other. I felt myself the object of a focused stare, and covered my head with a blanket in despair. Then more women came in with tea-trays, and they all took tea and sat for another hour or two talking and tittering, Hadji assuring me that they were doing it out of kindness, because I was not well, and they thought it dull for me alone! The room was again cleared, and I got up at dark, and hearing a great deal of whispering and giggling, saw that they had opened the door windows, and that a crowd was outside. When I woke this morning a man was examining my clothes, which were hanging up. They feel and pull my hair, finger all my things, and have broken all the fine teeth out of my comb. They have the curiosity without the gracefulness of the Japanese.

This is a house of the better sort, though the walls are not plastered. A carpet loom is fixed into the floor with a half-woven carpet upon it. Some handsome rugs are laid down. There are two much-decorated marriage chests, some guns and swords, a quantity of glass teacups and ornaments in the recesses, and coloured woodcuts of the Russian Imperial family, here, as in almost every house, are on the walls.

There is great rejoicing to-night “for joy that a man is born into the world,” the first-born of the ketchuda’s eldest son. In their extreme felicity they took me to see the mother and babe. The room was very hot, and crowded with relations and friends. The young mother was sitting up on her bed on the floor and the infant lay beside her dressed in swaddling clothes. She looked very happy and the young father very proud. I added a small offering to the many which were brought in for luck, and it was not rejected.

A sword was brought from my room, and with it the mamaché traced a line upon the four walls, repeating a formula which I understood to be, “I am making this tower for Miriam and her child.”20 I was warned by Hadji not to look on the child or to admire him without saying “Mashallah,” lest I should bring on him the woe of the evil eye. So greatly is it feared, that precautions are invariably taken against it from the hour of birth, by bestowing amulets and charms upon the child. A paragraph of the Koran, placed in a silk bag, had already been tied round the infant’s neck. Later, he will wear another bag round his arm, and turquoise or blue beads will be sewn upon his cap.

If a visitor admires a child without uttering the word Mashallah, and the child afterwards falls sick, the visitor at once is regarded as answerable for the calamity, and the relations take a shred of his garment, and burn it in a brazier with cress seed, walking round and round the child as it burns.

Persian mothers are regarded as convalescent on the third day, when they go to the hammam to perform the ceremonies required by Moslem law. A boy is weaned at the end of twenty-six months and a girl at the end of twenty-four. If possible, on the weaning day the child is carried to the mosque, and certain devotions are performed. The weaning feast is an important function, and the relations and friends assemble, bringing presents, and the child in spite of his reluctance is forced to partake of the food.

At the earliest possible period the mamaché pronounces in the infant’s ear the Shiah profession of faith: “God is God, there is but one God, and Mohammed is the Prophet of God, and Ali is the Lieutenant of God.” A child becomes a Moslem as soon as this Kelemah Islam has been spoken into his ear; but a ceremony attends the bestowal of his name, which resembles that in use among the Buddhists of Tibet on similar occasions.

Unless the father be very poor indeed, he makes a feast for his friends on an auspicious day, and invites the village mollahs. Sweetmeats are solemnly eaten after the guests have assembled. Then the infant, stiffened and mummied in its swaddling clothes, is brought in, and is laid on the floor by one of the mollahs. Five names are written on five slips of paper, which are placed between the leaves of the Koran, or under the edge of the carpet. The first chapter of the Koran is then read. One of the slips is then drawn at random, and a mollah takes up the child, and pronounces in its ear the name found upon it, after which he places the paper on its clothes.

The relations and friends give it presents according to their means, answering to our christening gifts, and thereafter it is called by the name it has received. Among men’s names there is a preponderance of those taken from the Old Testament, among which Ibrahim, Ismail, Suleiman, Yusuf, and Moussa are prominent. Abdullah, Mahmoud, Hassan, Raouf, Baba Houssein, Imam are also common, and many names have the suffix of Ali among the Shiahs. Fatmeh is a woman’s name, but girl-children usually receive the name of some flower or bird, or fascinating quality of disposition or person.

The journey is beginning to tell on men and animals. One of the Arab horses has had a violent attack of pain from the cold, and several of the men are ailing and depressed.

Dizabad, Feb. 11.— Nanej is the last village laid down on any map on the route we are taking for over a hundred miles, i.e. until we reach Kûm, though it is a caravan route, and it does not appear that any Europeans have published any account of it. Just now it is a buried country, for the snow is lying from one to four feet deep. It is not even possible to pronounce any verdict on the roads, for they are simply deep ruts in the snow, with “mule ladders.” The people say that the plains are irrigated and productive, and that the hills pasture their sheep and cattle; and they all complain of the exactions of local officials. There is no variety in costume, and very little in dwellings, except as to size, for they are all built of mud or sun-dried bricks, within cattle yards, and have subterranean pens for cattle and goats. The people abound in diseases, specially of the eyes and bones.

The salient features of the hills, if they have any, are rounded off by snow, and though many of them rise to a great height, none are really impressive but Mount Elwand, close to Hamadan. The route is altogether hilly, but the track pursues valleys and low passes as much as possible, and is never really steep.

Yesterday we marched twenty-four miles in eight hours without any incident, and the “heavy division” took thirteen hours, and did not come in till ten at night! There are round hills, agglomerated into ranges, with easy passes, the highest 7026 feet in altitude, higher summits here and there in view, the hills encircling level plains, sprinkled sparsely with villages at a distance from the road, denoted by scrubby poplars and willows; sometimes there is a kanaat or underground irrigation channel with a line of pits or shafts, but whatever there was, or was not, it was always lonely, grim, and desolate. The strong winds have blown some of the hillsides bare, and they appear in all their deformity of shapeless mounds of black gravel, or black mud, with relics of last year’s thistles and euphorbias upon them. So great is the destitution of fuel that even now people are out cutting the stalks of thistles which appear above the snow.

As the hours went by, I did rather wish for the smashed kajawehs, especially when we met the ladies of a governor’s haram, to the number of thirty, reclining snugly in pairs, among blankets and cushions, in panniers with tilts, and curtains of a thick material, dyed Turkey red. The cold became very severe towards evening.

The geographical interest of the day was that we crossed the watershed of the region, and have left behind the streams which eventually reach the sea, all future rivers, however great their volume, or impetuous their flow, disappearing at last in what the Americans call “sinks,” but which are known in Persia as kavirs, usually salt swamps. Near sunset we crossed a bridge of seven pointed arches with abutments against a rapid stream, and passing a great gaunt caravanserai on an eminence, and a valley to the east of the bridge with a few villages giving an impression of fertility, hemmed in by some shapely mountains, we embarked on a level plain, bounded on all sides by hills so snowy that not a brown patch or outbreak of rock spotted their whiteness, and with villages and caravanserais scattered thinly over it. On the left, there are the extensive ruins of old Dizabad, and a great tract of forlorn graves clustering round a crumbling imamzada.

As the sun sank the distant hills became rose-flushed, and then one by one the flush died off into the paleness of death, and in the gathering blue-grayness, in desolation without sublimity, in ghastliness, impressive but only by force of ghastliness, and in benumbing cold, we rode into this village, and into a yard encumbered with mighty piles of snow, on one side of which I have a wretched room, though the best, with two doors, which do not shut, but when they are closed make it quite dark — a deep, damp, cobwebby, dusty, musty lair like a miserable eastern cowshed.

I was really half-frozen and quite benumbed, and though I had plenty of blankets and furs, had a long and severe chill, and another today. M—— also has had bad chills, and the Afghan orderly is ill, and moaning with pain in the next room. Hadji has fallen into a state of chronic invalidism, and is shaking with chills, his teeth chattering, and he is calling on Allah whenever I am within hearing.

The chilly dampness and the rise in temperature again may have something to do with the ailments, but I think that we Europeans are suffering from the want of nourishing food. Meat has not been attainable for some days, the fowls are dry and skinny, and milk is very scarce and poor. I cannot eat the sour wafers which pass for bread, and as Hadji cannot boil rice or make flour porridge, I often start in the morning having only had a cup of tea. I lunch in the saddle on dates, the milk in the holsters having been frozen lately; then is the time for finding the value of a double peppermint lozenge!

Snow fell heavily last night, and as the track has not been broken, and the charvadars dared not face it, we are detained in this miserable place, four other caravans sharing our fate. The pros and cons about starting were many, and Abbas Khan was sent on horseback to reconnoitre, but he came back like Noah’s dove, reporting that it was a trackless waste of snow outside. It is a day of rest, but as the door has to be open on the snow to let in light, my hands are benumbed with the damp cold. Still, a bowl of Edwards’ desiccated soup — the best of all travelling soups — has been very reviving, and though I have had a severe chill again, I do not mean to succumb. I do not dwell on the hardships, but they are awful. The soldiers and servants all have bad coughs, and dwindle daily. The little orderly is so ill today that we could not have gone on even had the track been broken.

Saruk, Feb. 12.— Unladen asses, followed by unladen mules, were driven along to break the track this morning, and as two caravans started before us, it was tolerable, though very deep. The solitude and desolation were awful. At first the snow was somewhat thawed, but soon it became immensely deep, and we had to plunge through hollows from which the beasts extricated themselves with great difficulty and occasionally had to be unloaded and reloaded.

As I mentioned in writing of an earlier march, it is difficult and even dangerous to pass caravans when the only road is a deep rut a foot wide, and we had most tedious experience of it today, when some of our men, weakened by illness, were not so patient as usual. Abbas Khan and the orderly could hardly sit on their horses, and Hadji rolled off his mule at intervals. As the charvadars who give way have their beasts floundering in the deep snow and losing their loads, both attempt to keep the road, the result of which is a violent collision. The two animals which “collide” usually go down, and some of the others come on the top of them, and today at one time there were eight, struggling heels uppermost in the deep snow, all to be reloaded.

This led to a serious mêlée. The rival charvadar, aggravated by Hadji, struck him on the head, and down he went into the snow, with his mule apparently on the top of him, and his load at some distance. The same charvadar seized the halters of several of our mules, and drove them into the snow, where they all came to grief. Our charvadar, whose blue eyes, auburn hair and beard, and exceeding beauty, always bring to mind a sacred picture, became furious at this, and there was a fierce fight among the men (M—— being ahead) and much bad language, such epithets as “son of a dog” and “sons of burnt fathers” being freely bandied about. The fray at last died out, leaving as its result only the loss of an hour, some broken surcingles, and some bleeding faces. Even Hadji rose from his “gory bed” not much worse, though he had been hit hard.

There was no more quarrelling though we passed several caravans, but even when the men were reasonable and good nature prevailed some of the mules on both sides fell in the snow and had to be reloaded. When the matter is not settled as this was by violence, a good deal of shouting and roaring culminates in an understanding that one caravan shall draw off into a place where the snow is shallowest, and stand still till the other has gone past; but today scarcely a shallow place could be found. I always give place to asses, rather to avoid a painful spectacle than from humanity. One step off the track and down they go, and they never get up without being unloaded.

When we left Dizabad the mist was thick, and as it cleared it froze in crystallised buttons, which covered the surface of the snow, but lifting only partially it revealed snowy summits, sun-lit above heavy white clouds; then when we reached a broad plateau, the highest plain of the journey, 7800 feet in altitude, gray mists drifted very near us, and opening in rifts divulged blackness, darkness, and tempest, and ragged peaks exposed to the fury of a snowstorm. Snow fell in showers on the plain, and it was an anxious time, for had the storm which seemed impending burst on that wild, awful, shelterless expanse, with tired animals, and every landmark obliterated, some of us must have perished. I have done a great deal of snow travelling, and know how soon every trace of even the widest and deepest path is effaced by drift, much more the narrow rut by which we were crossing this most exposed plateau. There was not a village in sight the whole march, no birds, no animals. There was not a sound but the venomous hiss of snow-laden squalls. It was “the dead of winter.”

My admirable mule was ill of cold from having my small saddle on him instead of his great stuffed pack-saddle, the charvadar said, and he gave me instead a horse that I could not ride. Such a gait I never felt; less than half a mile was unbearable. I felt as if my eyes would be shaken out of their sockets! The bit was changed, but in vain. I was obliged to get off, and M—— kindly put my saddle on a powerful Kirmanshah Arab. I soon found that my intense fatigue on this journey had been caused by riding mules, which have no elasticity of movement. I rode twenty miles today with ease, and could have ridden twenty more, and had several canters on the few places where the snow was well trodden.

I was off the track trying to get past a caravan and overtake the others, when down came the horse and I in a drift fully ten feet deep. Somehow I was not quite detached from the saddle, and in the scrimmage got into it again, and a few desperate plunges brought us out, with the horse’s breastplate broken.

When we reached the great plateau above this village, a great blank sheet of snow, surrounded by mountains, now buried in white mists, now revealed, with snow flurries drifting wildly round their ghastly heads, I found that the Arab, the same horse which was so ill at Nanej, was “dead beat,” and as it only looked a mile to the village I got off, and walked in the deep snow along the rungs of the “mule ladders,” which are so fatiguing for horses. But the distance was fully three miles, with a stream to wade through, half a mile of deep wet soil to plunge through, and the thawed mud of a large village to splash through; and as I dared not mount again for fear of catching cold, I trailed forlornly into Saruk, following the men who were riding.

Can it be said that they rode? They sat feebly on animals, swaddled in felts and furs, the pagri concealing each face with the exception of one eye in a blue goggle; rolling from side to side, clutching at ropes and halters, moaning “Ya Allah!”— a deplorable cavalcade.

Saruk has some poplars, and is surrounded by a ruinous mud wall. It is a village of 150 houses, and is famous for very fine velvety carpets, of small patterns, in vivid vegetable dyes. At an altitude of 7500 feet, it has a severe climate, and only grows wheat and barley, sown in April and reaped in September. All this mountainous region that we are toiling through is blank on the maps, and may be a dead level so far as anything there is represented, though even its passes are in several cases over 7000 feet high.

Saruk, Feb. 13.— The circumstances generally are unfavourable, and we are again detained. The Afghan orderly, who is also interpreter, is very ill, and though he is very plucky it is impossible for him to move; the cook seems “all to pieces,” and is overcome by cough and lassitude; Abbas Khan is ill, and his face has lost its comicality; and in the same room Hadji lies, groaning and moaning that he will not live through the night. Even M——‘s herculean strength is not what it was. I have chills, but in spite of them and the fatigue am really much better than when I left Baghdad, so that though I exercise the privilege of grumbling at the hardships, I ought not to complain of them, though they are enough to break down the strongest men. I really like the journey, except when I am completely knocked up, or the smoke is exceptionally blinding.

The snow in this yard is lying in masses twelve feet high, rising out of slush I do not know how many feet deep. It looks as if we had seen the last of the winter. The mercury is at 32° now. It is very damp and cold sitting in a room with one side open to the snow, and the mud floor all slush from the drip from the roof. The fuel is wet, and though a man has attempted four times to light a fire, he has only succeeded in making an overpowering smoke, which prefers hanging heavily over the floor and me to making its exit through the hole in the roof provided for it. The door must be kept open to let in light, and it also lets in fowls and many cats. My dhurrie has been trampled into the slush, and a deadly cold strikes up through it. Last night a man (for Hadji was hors de combat) brought in some live embers, and heaped some gum tragacanth thorns and animal fuel upon them; there was no chimney, and the hole in the roof was stopped by a clod. The result was unbearable. I covered my head with blankets, but it was still blinding and stifling, and I had to extinguish the fire with water and bear the cold, which then was about 20°. Later, there was a tempest of snow and rain, with a sudden thaw, and water dripped with an irksome sound on my well-protected bed, no light would burn, and I had the mortification of knowing that the same drip was spoiling writing paper and stores which had been left open to dry! But a traveller rarely lies awake, and today by keeping my feet on a box, and living in a mackintosh, I am out of both drip and mud. Such a room as I am now in is the ordinary room of a Persian homestead. It is a cell of mud, not brick, either sun or kiln dried. Its sides are cracked and let in air. Its roof is mud, under which is some brushwood lying over the rafters. It has no light holes, but as the door has shrunk considerably from the door posts, it is not absolutely dark. It may be about twelve feet square. Every part of it is blackened by years of smoke. The best of it is that it is raised two feet from the ground to admit of a fowl-house below, and opens on a rough platform which runs in front of all the dwelling-rooms. With the misfitting door and cracked sides it is much like a sieve.

I have waited to describe a Persian peasant’s house till I had seen more of them. The yard is an almost unvarying feature, whether a small enclosure with a low wall and a gateway closed at night by a screen of reeds, or a great farmyard like this, with an arched entrance and dwelling-rooms for two or three generations along one or more of the sides.

The house walls are built of mud, not sun-dried brick, and are only one story high. The soil near villages is mostly mud, and by leading water to a given spot, a pit of mortar for building material is at once made. This being dug up, and worked to a proper consistency by the feet of men, is then made into a wall, piece after piece being laid on by hand, till it reaches a height of four feet and a thickness of three — the imperative tradition of the Persian builder. This is allowed a few days for hardening, when another layer of similar height but somewhat narrower is laid upon it, takchahs or recesses a foot deep or more being worked into the thickness of the wall, and the process is repeated till the desired height is attained. When the wall is thoroughly dry it is plastered inside and outside with a mixture of mud and chopped straw, and if this plastering is repeated at intervals, the style of construction is very durable.

The oven or tāndūr is placed in the floor of one room, at least, and answers for cooking and heating. A peasant’s house has no windows, and the roof does not project beyond the wall.

All roofs are flat. Rude rafters of poplar are laid across the walls about two feet apart. In a ketchuda’s or a wealthier peasant’s house, above these are laid in rows peeled poplar rods, two inches apart, then a rush mat, and then the resinous thorns of the tragacanth bush, which are not liable to decay; but in the poorer houses the owner contents himself with a coarse reed mat or a layer of brushwood above the rafters. On this is spread a well-trodden-down layer of mud, then eight or ten inches of dry earth, and the whole is thickly plastered with mixed straw and mud. A slight slope at the back with a long wooden spout carries off the water. Such a roof is impervious to rain except in very severe storms if kept in order, that is, if it be plastered once a year, and well rolled after rain. Few people are so poor as not to have a neatly-made stone roller on their roofs. If this is lacking, the roof must be well tramped after rain by bare feet, and in all cases the snow must be shovelled off.

These roofs, among the peasantry, have no parapets. They are the paradise of dogs, and in hot weather the people take up their beds and sleep there, partly for coolness and partly because the night breeze gives freedom from mosquitos. In simple country life, though the premises of the peasants for the sake of security are contiguous, there are seldom even balustrades to the roofs, though in summer most domestic operations are carried on there. Fifty years ago Persian law sanctioned the stoning without trial or mercy of any one caught in the act of gazing into the premises of another, unless the gazer were the king.

Upon the courtyard stables, barns, and store-rooms open, but so far I notice that the granary is in the house, and that the six-feet-high clay receptacles for grain are in the living-room.

Looking from above upon a plain, the poplars which surround villages where there is a sufficiency of water attract the eye. At this season they are nothing but a brown patch on the snow. The villages themselves are of light brown mud, and are surrounded usually by square walls with towers at the corners, and all have a great gate. Within the houses or hovels the families are huddled irregularly, with all their appurtenances, and in winter the flocks and herds are in subterranean pens beneath. In summer the animals go forth at sunrise and return at sunset. The walls, which give most of the villages a fortified aspect, used to afford the villagers a degree of protection against the predatory Turkomans, and now give security to the flocks against Lur and other robbers.

Every village has its ketchuda or headman, who is answerable for the taxes, the safety of travellers, and other matters.

Siashan, Feb. 16.— The men being a little better, we left Saruk at nine on the 14th, I on a bright little Baghdadi horse, in such good case that he frequently threw up his heels in happy playfulness. The temperature had fallen considerably, there had been a fresh snowfall, and the day was very bright. The Arab horses are suffering badly in their eyes from the glare of the snow.

If I had not had such a lively little horse I should have found the march a tedious one, for we were six hours in doing eleven and a half miles on a level! The head charvadar had gone on early to make some arrangements, and the others loaded the animals so badly that Hadji and the cook rolled off their mules into the deep semi-frozen slush from the packs turning just outside the gates. We had three mules with us with worn-out tackle, and the loads rolled over many times, the riders, who were too weak to help themselves, getting bad falls. As each load, owing to the broken tackle, took fifteen minutes to put on again, and the men could do little, a great deal of hard, exasperating work fell on M——. After one bad fall in a snowdrift myself, I rode on alone with one mule with a valuable burden. This, turning for the fourth time, was soon under his body, and he began to kick violently, quite dismaying me by the bang of his hoofs against cases containing scientific instruments. It was a droll comedy in the snow. I wanted to get hold of his halter, but every time I went near him he whisked round and flung up his heels, till I managed to cut the ragged surcingle and set him free, when I caught him in deep snow, in which my horse was very unwilling to risk himself.

Soon after leaving Saruk, which, as I mentioned before, is famous for very fine carpets, we descended gently upon the great plain of Feraghan, perhaps the largest carpet-producing district of Persia. These carpets are very fine and their patterns are unique, bringing a very high price. This plain has an altitude of about 7000 feet, is 45 miles in length by from 8 to 15 in breadth, is officially stated to have 650 villages upon it, all agricultural and carpet producing, and is considerably irrigated by streams, which eventually lose themselves in a salt lake at its eastern extremity. It is surrounded by hills, with mountain ranges behind them, and must be, both as to productiveness and population, one of the most flourishing districts in Persia.

We were to have marched to Kashgird, but on reaching the hamlet of Ahang Garang I found that Abbas Khan had taken quarters there, saying that Kashgird was in ruins.

Hadji, who had allowed himself to roll off several times, was moaning and weeping on the floor of my room, groaning out, with many cries of Ya Allah, “Let me stay here till I’m better; I don’t want any wages; I shall be killed, oh, killed! Oh, my family! I shall never see Bushire any more!” Though there was much reason to think he was shamming, I did the little that he calls his “work,” and left him to smoke his opium pipe and sleep by the fire in peace.

I was threatened with snow-blindness in one eye; in fact I saw nothing with it, and had to keep it covered up. One of the charvadars lay moaning outside my room, poor fellow, taking chlorodyne every half-hour, and another had got a bad foot from frost-bite. They have been terribly exposed, and the soft snow at a higher temperature has been worse for them than the dry powdery snow at a low temperature, as it soaks their socks, shoes, and leggings, and then freezes. Making Liebig’s beef tea warms one, and they like it even from a Christian hand. The Afghan orderly bore up bravely, but was very weak. Indeed the prospect of getting these men to Tihran is darkening daily.

My room, though open to the snow at one end, was comfortable. The oven had been lighted twelve hours before, and it was delightful to hang one’s feet into the warm hole. There were holes for light in the roof, and cold though it was, so long as daylight lasted these were never free from veiled faces looking down.

In order to become thoroughly warm it was necessary to walk long and briskly on the roof, and this brought all the villagers below it to stare the stare of vacuity rather than of curiosity. A snow scene is always beautiful at sunset, and this was exceptionally so, as the long indigo shadows on the plain threw into greater definiteness the gleaming, glittering hills, at one time dazzling in the sunshine, at another flushed in the sunset. The plain of Feraghan as seen from the roof was one smooth expanse of pure deep snow, broken only by brown splashes, where mud villages were emphasised by brown poplars, the unbroken, unsullied snow, two feet deep on the level and any number in the drifts, looking like a picture of the Arctic Ocean, magnificent in its solitude, one difficult track, a foot wide, the solitary link with the larger world which then seemed so very far away.

Things went better yesterday on the whole, though the mercury fell to zero in the night, and I was awakened several times by the cold of my open room, and when a number of people came at daylight for medicines my fingers were so benumbed that I could scarcely measure them. What a splendid field for a medical missionary loving his profession this plain with its 650 villages would be, where there are curable diseases by the hundred! Many of the suffering people have told me that they would give lodging and the best of their food to any English doctor who would travel among them.

The loads were well balanced yesterday, and Hadji only pulled his over once and only rolled off once, when Abbas Khan exclaimed, “He’s not a man; why did Allah make such a creature?” We got off at nine, the roofs being crowded to see us start. Fuel is very scarce at Ahang Garang. For the cooking and “parlour” fire, the charge was forty-five krans, or about twenty-eight shillings! Probably this included a large modakel. For a room from two to four krans is expected.

Through M——‘s kindness I now have a good horse to ride, and the difference in fatigue is incredible. We embarked again on the vast plain of snow. It was a grim day, and most ghastly and desolate this end of the plain looked, where the waters having done their fertilising work are lost in a salt lake, the absolutely white hills round the plain being emphasised by the blue neutral tint of the sky. For the first ten miles there was little more than a breeze, for the last ten a pitiless, ruthless, riotous north-easterly gale, blowing up the snow in hissing drifts, as it swept across the plain with a desolate screech.

The coverings with which we were swaddled were soon penetrated. The cold seemed to enter the bones, and to strike the head and face like a red-hot hammer, stunning as it struck, the tears wrung from the eyes were frozen, at times even the eyelids were frozen together. The frozen snow hit one hard. Hands and feet were by turns benumbed and in anguish, terrific blasts loaded with hard lumps of snow came down from the hills, snow was drifting from all the white ranges above us; on the more exposed part of the track the gusts burst with such violence as to force some of the mules off it to flounder in the deep snow; my Arab was struck so mercilessly on his sore swollen eyes that at times I could scarcely, with my own useless hands, induce him to face the swirls of frozen snow. Swifter and more resistless were the ice-laden squalls, more and more obliterated became the track, till after a fight of over three hours, and the ceaseless crossing of rolling hills and deep hollows, we reached the top of a wind-bared slope 7700 feet in altitude and saw this village, looking from that distance quite imposing, on a hill on the other side of a stream crossed by a brick bridge, with a ruined fort on a height above it. It promised shelter — that was all. Below the village there was an expanse of snow, sloping up to pure white hills outlined against an indigo depth of ominous-looking clouds.

While M—— went up a hill for some scientific work, I followed the orderly, who could scarcely sit on his horse from pain and weakness, into the most wretchedly ruinous, deserted-looking village I have yet seen, epitomising the disenchantment which a near view of an Eastern city brings, and up a steep alley to a ruinous yard heaped with snow-covered ruins, on one side of which were some ruinous rooms, their backs opening on a precipice above the river, and on the north-east wind. I tumbled off my horse, Abbas Khan, the least sick of the men, with benumbed hands breaking my fall. The severe cold had stiffened all my joints. We could scarcely speak; the bones of my face were in intense pain, and I felt as if the cold were congealing my heart.

With Abbas Khan’s help I chose the rooms, the worst we have ever had. The one I took for myself has an open-work door facing the wind, and it is impossible to have a fire, for the draught blows sticks, ashes, and embers over the room. The others are worse. It is an awful night, blowing and snowing; all the men but two are hors de combat. The poor orderly, using an Afghan phrase, said, “The wind has played the demon with me.” He has a fearful cough, and hæmorrhage from the lungs or throat. The cook is threatened with pleurisy. It may truly be called “Hospital Sunday.” The day has been chiefly spent in making mustard poultices, which M—— is constantly crossing the yard in three feet of snow to put on, and protectors for the chests and backs, preparing beef tea, making up medicines, etc.

Surely things must have reached their worst. Out of seven men only one servant, and he an Indian lad with a fearful squint and eyes so badly inflamed that he can hardly see where he puts things down, is able to do anything. Two of the charvadars are lying ill in the stable. Mustard plasters, Dover’s powders, salicylate of soda, emetics, poultices, clinical thermometers, chlorodyne, and beef tea have been in requisition all day. The cook, the Afghan orderly, and Hadji seem really ill. At eight this morning groans at my door took me out, and one of the muleteers was lying there in severe pain, with the hard fine snow beating on him. Later I heard fresh moaning on my threshold, and found Hadji fallen there with my breakfast. I got him in and he fell again, upsetting the tea, and while I attended to him the big dogs ate up the chapatties! He had a good deal of fever, and severe rheumatism, and on looking at his eyes I saw that he was nearly blind. He lost his blue glasses some days ago. I sent him to bed in the “kitchen” for the whole day, where he lay groaning in comfort by the fire with his opium pipe and his tea. He thinks he will not survive the night, and has just given me his dying directions!

Afterwards M—— came for the thermometer and chlorodyne, and remarked that my room was “unfit for a beast.” The truth is I share it with several very big dogs. It did look grotesquely miserable last night — black, fireless, wet, dirty, with all my things lying on the dirty floor, having been tumbled about by these dogs in their search for my last box of Brand’s meat lozenges, which they got out of a strong, tightly-tied-up bag, which they tore into strips. On going for my fur cloak today, these three dogs, who, I believe, would take on civilisation more quickly than their masters, were all found rolled up under it, and lying on my bed.

The mercury in the “parlour” with a large fire cannot be raised above 36°. In my room to-night the wet floor is frozen hard and the mercury is 20°. This is nothing after 12° and 16° below zero, but the furious east wind and a singular dampness in the air make it very severe. Yesterday, before the sky clouded over, there was a most remarkable ring or halo of prismatic colours round the sun, ominous of the storm which has followed.

This place standing high without shelter is fearfully exposed; there is no milk and no comfort of any kind for the sick men. We have decided to wrap them up and move them to Kûm, where there is a Persian doctor with a European education; but it is a great risk, though the lesser of two. I have just finished four protectors for the back and chest, three-quarters of a yard long by sixteen inches wide, buttoning on the shoulders, of a very soft felt namad nearly half an inch thick — a precaution much to be commended.

I think that Hadji, though in great pain, poor fellow, is partly shamming. He professed this evening to have violent fever, and the thermometer shows that he has none. Even the few things which I thought he had done for me, such as making chapatties, I find have been done by others. It is a pity for himself as well as for me that he should be so incorrigibly lazy.

Taj Khatan, Feb. 18.— Yesterday we had a severe march, and owing first to the depth of the snow, and then to the depth of the mud, we were seven hours in doing twenty-one miles. The wind was still intensely cold — bitter indeed. There are few remarks to be made about a country buried in snow. The early miles were across the fag end of the dazzling plain of Feraghan, which instead of being covered with villages is an uninhabited desert with a salt lake. Then the road winds among mountains of an altitude of 8000 and 9000 feet and more, its highest point being 8350 feet, where we began a descent which will land us at Tihran at a level under 4000 feet. Snowy mountains and snowy plains were behind — bare brown earth was to come all too soon.

Winding wearily round low hills, meeting caravans of camels to which we had to give way, and of asses floundering in the snow, we came in the evening to a broad slope with villages, poplars, walnuts, and irrigated lands, then to the large and picturesquely situated village of Givr on a steep bank above a rapid stream, and just at dusk to the important village of Jairud, also on high ground above the same river, and surrounded by gardens and an extraordinary number of fruit trees. The altitude is 6900 feet.21 I had a balakhana, very cold, and was fairly benumbed for some time after the long cold march.

A great many people applied for medicine, and some of the maladies, specially when they affect children, make one sick at heart. Hadji is affecting to be stone deaf, so he no longer interprets for sick people, which creates an additional difficulty. We left this morning at ten, descended 2000 feet, and suddenly left the snow behind. Vast, gray, and grim the snow-covered mountains looked as they receded into indigo gloom, with snow clouds drifting round their ghastly heads and across the dazzling snow plains in which we had been floundering for thirty days. It is strange to see mother earth once more — rocky, or rather stony hills, mud hills, mud plains, mud slopes, a brown world, with a snow world above. Two pink hills rise above the brown plain, and some toothed peaks, but the rest of the view is simply hills and slopes of mud and gravel, bearing thorns, and the relics of last year’s thistles and wormwood. The atmospheric colouring is, however, very fine.


Persian Bread-making.

This is a large village with beehive roofs in, and of, mud. A quagmire surrounds it and is in the centre of it, and the crumbling houses are thrown promiscuously down upon it. It is nearly the roughest place I have seen, and the worst accommodation, though Abbas Khan says it is the best house in the village. My room has an oven in the floor, neatly lined with clay, and as I write the women are making bread by a very simple process. The oven is well heated by the live embers of animal fuel. They work the flour and water dough, to which a piece of leaven from the last baking has been added, into a flat round cake, about eighteen inches in diameter and half an inch thick, place it quickly on a very dirty cushion, and clap it against the concave interior of the oven, withdrawing the cushion. In one minute it is baked and removed.

A sloping hole in the floor leads to the fowl-house. The skin of a newly-killed sheep hangs up. A pack saddle and gear take up one corner, my bed another, and the owner’s miscellaneous property fills up the rest of the blackened, cracked mud hovel, thick with the sooty cobwebs and dust of generations. The door, which can only be shut by means of a wooden bolt outside, is six inches from the ground, so that fowls and cats run in and out with impunity. Behind my bed there is a doorless entrance to a dark den, full of goat’s hair, bones, and other stores. In front there is a round hole for letting in light, which I persistently fill up with a blanket which is as persistently withdrawn. There is no privacy, for though the people are glad to let their rooms, they only partially vacate them, and are in and out all the time. Outside there is mud a foot deep, then a steep slope, and a disgusting green pool, and the drinking water is nauseous and brackish. The village people here and everywhere seem of a very harmless sort.

Kûm, Ash Wednesday, 1890.— It was really very difficult to get away from Taj Khatan. The charvadar came on here, leaving only two men to load twelve mules. M—— practically had to load them himself, and to reload them when the tackle broke and the loads turned. Hadji and the cook were quite incapable, the Afghan orderly, who seemed like a dying man, was left behind; in fact there were no servants and no interpreters, and the groom was so ill he could hardly sit on a horse.

The march of twenty-five miles took fully eight hours, but on the Arab horse, and with an occasional gallop, I got through quite comfortably, and have nothing to complain of. The road lies through a country of mud hills, brown usually, drab sometimes, streaked with deep madder red, and occasionally pale green clay — stones, thistles, and thorns their only crop. [I passed over much of this country in the spring, and though there were a few flowers, chiefly bulbs, and the thorns were clothed with a scanty leafage, and the thistles and artemisia were green-gray instead of buff, the general aspect of the region was the same.] There was not a village on the route, only two or three heaps of deserted ruins and two or three ruinous mud imamzadas, no cultivation, streams, or springs, the scanty pools brackish, here and there the glittering whiteness of saline efflorescence, not a tree or even bush, nothing living except a few goats, picking up, who knows how, a scanty living — a blighted, blasted region, a land without a raison d’être.

Then came low mud ranges, somewhat glorified by atmosphere, higher hills on the left, ghastly with snow which was even then falling, glimpses far away to the northward of snowy mountains among heavy masses of sunlit clouds, an ascent, a gap in the mud hills, some low peaks of white, green, and red clay, a great plain partly green with springing wheat, and in the centre, in the glow of sunset, the golden dome and graceful minarets of the shrine of Fatima, the sister of Reza, groups of trees, and the mud houses, mud walls, and many domes and minarets of the sacred city of Kûm.

Descending, we trotted for some miles through irrigated wheat, passed a walled garden or two, rode along the bank of the Abi Khonsar or Abi Kûm, which we had followed down from Givr, admired the gleaming domes and tiled minarets of the religious buildings on its bank, and the nine-arched brick bridge which spans it, and reached a sort of hotel outside the gates, a superior caravanserai with good, though terribly draughty guest-rooms upstairs, furnished with beds, chairs, and tables, suited for the upper class of pilgrims who resort to this famous shrine.

To have arrived here in good health, and well able for the remaining journey of nearly a hundred miles, is nothing else than a triumph of race, of good feeding through successive generations, of fog-born physique, nurtured on damp east winds!

There is an air of civilisation about this place. The rooms have windows with glass panes and doors which shut, a fountain in front, beyond that a garden, and then the river, and the golden shrine of Fatima and its exquisite minarets. My door opens on a stone-flagged roof with a fine view of the city and hills — an excellent place for taking exercise. So strong is Mohammedan fanaticism here that much as I should like to see the city, it would be a very great risk to walk through it except in disguise.

M—— borrowed a taktrawan from the telegraph clerk and sent it back with two horses to Taj Khatan for the orderly, who was left there very ill yesterday morning, under Abbas Khan’s charge, the Khan feeling so ill that he lay down inside it instead of riding. Hadji gave up work altogether, so I unpacked and pitched my bed, glad to be warmed by exercise. Near 8 P.M. Abbas Khan burst into the “parlour” saying that the taktrawan horses were stuck in the mud. He evidently desired to avoid the march back, but two mules have been sent to replace the horses, and two more are to go tomorrow. The orderly was so ill that I expect his corpse rather than himself.

This morning Hadji, looking fearful, told me that he should die today, and he and the cook are now in bed in opposite corners of a room below, with a good fire, feverish and moaning. It is really a singular disaster, and shows what the severity of the journey has been. The Persian doctor, with a European medical education, on whom our hopes were built, when asked to come and see these poor men, readily promised to do so; but the Princess, the Shah’s daughter, whose physician he is, absolutely refuses permission, on the ground that we have come through a region in which there is supposed to be cholera!

I. L. B.

20 This custom, supposed to be an allusion to our Lord and His mother, is described by Morier in his Second Journey in Persia.

21 Jairud exports fruit to Kûm and even to Tihran, and in the autumn I was interested to find that the best pears and peaches in the Hamadan market came from its luxuriant orchards.

Letter vii

Kûm, Feb. 21.

At five yesterday afternoon Abbas Khan rode in saying that the taktrawan, with the orderly much better, was only three miles off. This was good news; a mattress was put down for him next the fire and all preparations for his comfort were made. Snow showers had been falling much of the day, there was a pitiless east wind, and as darkness came on snow fell persistently. Two hours passed, but no taktrawan arrived. At 7.30 Abbas Khan was ordered to go in search of it with a good lantern; 8, 9, 10 o’clock came without any news. At 10.30, the man whose corpse I had feared to see came in much exhausted, having crawled for two miles through the mire and snow. The sowar, who pretended to start with the lantern, never went farther than the coffee-room at the gate, where he had spent an unconscientious but cheery evening!

In the pitch darkness the taktrawan and mules had fallen off the road into a gap, the taktrawan was smashed, and a good white mule, one of the “light division,” was killed, her back being broken. This was not the only disaster. Hadji had lain down on the borrowed mattress and it had taken fire from the live ashes of his pipe and was burned, and he was a little scorched.

The telegraphist was to have started for Isfahan the next morning with his wife and child in the litter, in order to vacate the house for the new official and his family, and their baggage had actually started, but now they are detained till this taktrawan can be repaired. In the meantime another official has arrived with his goods and a large family, a most uncomfortable situation for both parties, but they bear it with the utmost cheerfulness and good nature.

Last night I made Hadji drink a mug of hot milk with two tablespoonfuls of brandy in it, and it worked wonders. This morning, instead of a nearly blind man groping his way about with difficulty, I beheld a man with nothing the matter but a small speck on one eye. It must have been snow-blindness. He looks quite “spry.” It is not only the alcohol which has cured him, but that we are parting by mutual consent; and feeling sorry for the man, I have given him more than his wages, and his full demand for his journey back to Bushire, with additional warm clothing. M—— has also given him a handsome present.

I fear he has deceived me, and that the stone deafness, feebleness, idiocy, and the shaking, palsied gait of a man of ninety — all but the snow-blindness — have been assumed in order to get his return journey paid, when he found that the opportunities for making money were not what he expected. It is better to be deceived twenty times than to be hard on these poor fellows once, but he has been exasperating, and I feel somewhat aggrieved at having worked so hard to help a man who was “malingering.” The last seen of him was an active, erect man walking at a good pace by the side of his mule, at least forty years thrown off. [He did not then leave Kûm, but being seized with pleurisy was treated with great kindness by Mr. Lyne the electrician, and afterwards by the Amin-es-Sultan (the Prime Minister), who was visiting Kûm, and who, thinking to oblige me, brought him up to Tihran in his train!] Those who had known him for years gave a very bad account of him, but said that if he liked he could be a good servant. It is the first time that I have been unfortunate in my travelling servant.

The English telegraph line, and a post-office, open once a week, are the tokens of civilisation in Kûm. A telegraphic invitation from the British Minister in Tihran, congratulatory telegrams on our safety from Tihran, Bushire, and India, and an opportunity for posting letters, make one feel once more in the world. The weather is grim, bitterly cold, with a strong north-east wind, raw and damp, but while snow is whitening the hills only rain and sleet fall here. The sun has not shone since we came, but the strong cold air is invigorating like our own climate.

Taking advantage of it being Friday, the Mohammedan day of rest, when most of the shops are closed and the bazars are deserted, we rode through a portion of them preceded by the wild figure of Abbas Khan, and took tea at the telegraph office, where they were most kind and pleasant regarding the accident which had put them to so much inconvenience.

Kûm is on the beaten track, and has a made road to Tihran. Almost every book of travels in Persia has something to say upon it, but except that it is the second city in Persia in point of sanctity, and that it thrives as much by the bodies of the dead which are brought in thousands for burial as by the tens of thousands of pilgrims who annually visit the shrine of Fatima, and that it is renowned for fanaticism, there is not much to say about it.

Situated in a great plain, the gleam of its golden dome and its slender minarets is seen from afar, and the deep green of its orchards, and the bright green of the irrigated and cultivated lands which surround it, are a splash of welcome fertility on the great brown waste. Singular toothy peaks of striated marl of brilliant colouring — red, blue, green, orange, and salt peaks very white — give a curious brilliancy to its environment, but this salt, which might be a source of wealth to the city, is not worked, only an ass-load or two at a time being brought in to supply the necessities of the market.


The Shrine of Fatima.

The shrine of Fatima, the sister of Reza the eighth Imam, who sleeps at Meshed, is better to Kûm than salt mines or aught else. Moslems, though they regard women with unspeakable contempt, agree to reverence Fatima as a very holy and almost worshipful person, and her dust renders Kûm a holy place, attracting tens of thousands of pilgrims every year, although, unlike pilgrimages to Meshed and Kerbela, Kûm confers no lifelong designation on those by whom it exists. Its estimated population is 10,000 souls, and at times this number is nearly doubled. Pilgrimage consists in a visit to the tomb of Fatima, paying a fee, and in some cases adding a votive offering. Vows of abstinence from some special sin are frequently made at the shrine and are carefully registered.

The dead, however, who are annually brought in thousands to be buried in the sacred soil which surrounds the shrine, are the great source of the wealth of Kûm. These corpses travel, as to Kerbela, on mules, four being lashed on one animal occasionally, some fresh, some decomposing, others only bags of exhumed bones. The graves occupy an enormous area, of which the shrine is the centre. The kings of the Kajar dynasty, members of royal families, and 450 saints are actually buried within the precincts of the shrine. The price of interments varies with the proximity to the dust of Fatima from six krans to one hundred tumans. The population may be said to be a population of undertakers. Death meets one everywhere. The Ab-i-Khonsar, which supplies the drinking water, percolates through “dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Vestments for the dead are found in the bazars. Biers full and empty traverse the streets in numbers. Stone-cutting for gravestones is a most lucrative business. The charvadars of Kûm prosper on caravans of the dead. There is a legion of gravediggers. Kûm is a gruesome city, a vast charnel-house, yet its golden dome and minarets brighten the place of death.

The dome of Fatima is covered with sheets of copper plated with gold an eighth of an inch in thickness, and the ornament at the top of the dome, which is of pure gold, is said to weigh 140 lbs. The slender minarets which front this imamzada are covered with a mosaic of highly-glazed tiles of exquisite tints, in which an azure blue, a canary yellow, and an iridescent green predominate, and over all there is a sheen of a golden hue. The shrine is inaccessible to Christians. I asked a Persian doctor if I might look in for one moment at the threshold of the outer court, and he replied in French, “Are you then weary of life?”22

My Indian servant, an educated man on whose faithful though meagre descriptions I can rely, visited the shrine and describes the dome as enriched with arabesques in mosaic and as hung with ex votos, consisting chiefly of strips of silk and cotton. The tomb itself, he says, is covered with a wooden ark, with certain sacred sentences cut upon it, and this is covered by a large brown shawl. Round this ark, which is under the dome, Kerman, Kashmir, and Indian shawls are laid down as carpets. This open space is surrounded with steel railings inlaid with gold after the fashion of the niello work of Japan, and the whole is enclosed with a solid silver fence, the rails of which are “as thick as two thumbs, and as high as a tall man’s head.” This imamzada itself is regarded as of great antiquity.

Two Persian kings, who reigned in the latter part of the seventeenth century, are buried near the beautiful minarets, which are supposed to be of the same date. There are many mosques and minarets in Kûm, besides a quantity of conical imamzadas, the cones of which have formerly been covered with glazed blue tiles of a turquoise tint, some of which still remain. It was taken by the Afghans in 1772, and though partially rebuilt is very ruinous. It has a mud wall, disintegrating from neglect, surrounded occasionally by a ditch, and at other times by foul and stagnant ponds. The ruinousness of Kûm can scarcely be exaggerated.

The bazars are large and very busy, and are considerably more picturesque than those of Kirmanshah. The town lives by pilgrims and corpses, and the wares displayed to attract the former are more attractive than usual. There are nearly 450 shops, of which forty-three sell Manchester goods almost exclusively. Coarse china, and pottery often of graceful shapes with a sky-blue glaze, and water-coolers are among the industries of this city, which also makes shoes, and tans leather with pomegranate bark.

The Ab-i-Khonsar is now full and rapid, but is a mere thread in summer. The nine-arched bridge, with its infamously paved roadway eighteen feet wide, is an interesting object from all points of view, for while its central arch has a span of forty-five feet, the others have only spans of twenty. The gateway beyond the bridge is tawdrily ornamented with blue and green glazed tiles. After seeing several of the cities of Persia, I am quite inclined to give Kûm the palm for interest and beauty of aspect, when seen from any distant point of view.

That it is a “holy” city, and that a pilgrimage to its shrine is supposed to atone for sin, are its great interests. Its population is composed in large proportion of mollahs and Seyyids, or descendants of Mohammed, and as a whole is devoted to the reigning Shiah creed. It has a theological college of much repute, established by Fath’ Ali Shah, which now has 100 students. The women are said to be very devout, and crowd the mosques on Friday evenings, when their devotions are led by an imam. The men are fanatically religious, though the fanaticism is somewhat modified. No wine may be sold in Kûm, and no Jew or Armenian is allowed to keep a shop.

Kûm, being a trading city, manufactures a certain amount of public opinion in its business circles, which differs not very considerably from that which prevails at Kirmanshah. The traders accept it as a foregone conclusion that Russia will occupy Persia as far as Isfahan on the death of the present Shah, and regard such a destiny as “fate.” If only their religion is not interfered with, it matters little, they say, whether they pay their taxes to the Shah or the Czar. To judge from their speech, Islam is everything to them, and their country very little, and the strong bond of the faith which rules life and thought from the Pillars of Hercules to the Chinese frontier far outweighs the paltry considerations of patriotism. But my impression is that all Orientals prefer the tyrannies and exactions, and the swiftness of injustice or justice of men of their own creed and race to good government on the part of unintelligible aliens, and that though Persians seem pretty comfortable in the prospect of a double occupation of Persia, its actual accomplishment might strike out a flash of patriotism.

Probably this ruinous, thinly-peopled country, with little water and less fuel, and only two roads which deserve the name, has possibilities of resurrection under greatly changed circumstances. Of the two occupations which are regarded as certain, I think that most men, at least in Central and Southern Persia, would prefer an English occupation, but every one says, “England talks and does not act,” and that “Russia will pour 100,000 troops into Persia while England is talking in London.”

I. L. B.

22 I spent two days at Kûm five weeks later, and saw the whole of it in disguise, and in order to attain some continuity of description I put my two letters together.

Letter viii

Twelve hours and a half of hard riding have brought us here in two days. No doctor could be obtained in Kûm, and it was necessary to bring the sick men on as quickly as possible for medical treatment. It was bitterly cold on the last day, though the altitude is only 3400 feet, and it was a tiresome day, for I had not only to look over and repack, but to clean the cooking utensils and other things, which had not been touched apparently since we left Baghdad!

This is a tedious part of the journey, a “beaten track” with few features of interest, the great highway from Isfahan to Tihran, a road of dreary width; where it is a made road running usually perfectly straight, with a bank and a ditch on each side. The thaw is now complete, and travelling consists of an attempt to get on by the road till it becomes an abyss which threatens to prove bottomless, then there is a plunge and a struggle to the top of the bank, or over the bank to the trodden waste, but any move can be only temporary, the all-powerful mire regulates the march. The snow is nothing to the mud. Frequently carcasses of camels, mules, and asses, which have lain down to die under their loads, were passed, then caravans with most of the beasts entangled in the miry clay, unable to rise till they were unloaded by men up to their knees in the quagmire, and, worst of all, mules loaded with the dead, so loosely tied up in planks that in some cases when the mule flounders and falls, the miserable relics of humanity tumble out upon the swamp; and these scenes of falling, struggling, and even perishing animals are repeated continually along the level parts of this scarcely passable highroad.

Our loads, owing to bad tackle, were always coming off, the groom’s mule fell badly, the packs came off another, and half an hour was spent in catching the animal, then I was thrown from my horse into soft mud.

Cultivation ceases a short distance from Kûm, giving place to a brown waste, with patches of saline efflorescence upon it, on which high hills covered partially with snow send down low spurs of brown mud. The water nearly everywhere is brackish, and only just drinkable. After crossing a rapid muddy river, nearly dry in summer, by a much decayed bridge of seven or eight low arches, we reached terra firma, and a long gradual ascent and a series of gallops brought us to the large caravanserai of Shashgird, an immense place with imposing pretensions which are fully realised within. In the outer court camels were lying in rows. A fine tiled archway leads to an immense quadrangle, with a fine stone abambar or covered receptacle for water in the middle. All round the quadrangle are arched recesses or mangers, each with a room at the back, to the number of eighty. At two of the corners there are enclosed courtyards with fountains, several superior rooms with beds (much to be avoided), chairs, mirrors, and tables fairly clean — somewhat dreary luxury, but fortunately at this season free from vermin. That caravanserai can accommodate 1000 men in rooms, and 1500 mules.

To-day’s long march, which, however, has had more road suitable for galloping, has been over wild, weird, desolate, God-forsaken country, interesting from its desolation and its great wastes, forming part of the Kavir or Great Salt Desert of Persia, absolutely solitary, with scarcely a hamlet — miles of the great highway of Persia without a living creature, no house, no bush, nothing. Later, there were some vultures feasting on a dead camel, and a mule-load of two bodies down in the mud.

Some miles from Shashgird, far from the road, there is a large salt lake over which some stationary mists were brooding. Beyond this an ascent among snow clouds along some trenched land where a few vines and saplings have been planted leads to a caravanserai built for the accommodation of state officials on their journeys, where in falling snow we vindicated our origin in the triumphant West by taking lunch on a windy verandah outside rather than in the forlorn dampness of the inside, and brought a look of surprise even over the impassive face of the seraidar.

When we left the snow was falling in large wet flakes, and the snow clouds were drifting wildly among the peaks of a range which we skirted for a few miles and then crossed at a considerable height among wonderful volcanic formations, mounds of scoriæ, and outcrops of volcanic rock, hills of all shapes fantastically tumbled about, chiefly black, looking as if their fires had only just died out, streaked and splotched with brilliant ash — orange, carmine, and green — a remarkable volcanic scene, backed by higher hills looking ghastly in the snow.

After passing over an absolutely solitary region of camel-brown plains and slopes at a gallop, M——a little in front always, and Abbas Khan, the wildest figure imaginable, always half a length behind, the thud of the thundering hoofs mingling with the screech of the cutting north wind which, coming over the snowy Elburz range, benumbed every joint, on the slope of a black volcanic hill we came upon the lofty towers and gaudy tiled front of this great caravanserai, imposing at a distance in the solitude and snow clouds, but shabby on a nearer view, and tending to disintegrate from the presence of saltpetre in the bricks and mortar.

There are successions of terraces and tanks of water with ducks and geese upon them, and buildings round the topmost terrace intended to be imposing. The seraidar is expecting the Amin-es-Sultan (the Prime Minister) and his train, who will occupy rather a fine though tawdry “suite of apartments”; but though they were at our service, I prefer the comparative cosiness of a small, dark, damp room, though with a very smoky chimney, as I find to my cost.

British Legation, Tihran, Feb. 26.— The night was very cold, and the reveille specially unwelcome in the morning. The people were more than usually vague about the length of the march, some giving the distance at twenty-five miles, and others making it as high as thirty-eight. As we did a good deal of galloping and yet took more than seven hours, I suppose it may be about twenty-eight. Fortunately we could desert the caravan, as the caravanserais are furnished and supply tea and bread. The baggage mules took ten hours for the march.

The day was dry and sunny, and the scenery, if such a tract of hideousness can be called scenery, was at its best. Its one charm lies in the solitude and freedom of a vast unpeopled waste.

The “made road” degenerates for the most part into a track “made” truly, but rather by the passage of thousands of animals during a long course of ages than by men’s hands. This track winds among low ranges of sand and mud hills, through the “Pass of the Angel of Death,” crosses salt and muddy streams, gravelly stretches, and quagmires of mud and tenacious clay, passing through a country on the whole inconceivably hideous, unfinished, frothy, and saturated with salt — the great brown desert which extends from Tihran to Quetta in Beloochistan, a distance of 2000 miles.

On a sunny slope we met the Prime Minister with a considerable train of horsemen. He stopped and spoke with extreme courtesy, through an interpreter, for, unlike most Persians of the higher class, he does not speak French. He said we had been for some time expected at Tihran, and that great fears were entertained for our safety, which we had heard at Kûm. He is a pleasant-looking man with a rather European expression, not more than thirty-two or thirty-three, and in spite of intrigues and detractors has managed to keep his hazardous position for some years. His mother was lately buried at Kûm, and he was going thither on pilgrimage. After the usual compliments he bowed his farewells, and the gay procession with its brilliant trappings and prancing horses flashed by. The social standing of a Persian is evidenced by the size of his retinue, and the first of the Shah’s subjects must have been attended by fully forty well-mounted men, besides a number of servants who were riding with his baggage animals.

Shortly after passing him a turn among the hills brought the revelation through snow clouds of the magnificent snow-covered chain of the Elburz mountains, with the huge cone of Demavend, their monarch, 18,600 feet23 in height, towering high above them, gleaming sunlit above the lower cloud-masses. Swampy water-courses, a fordable river crossed by a broad bridge of five arches, more low hills, more rolling desert, then a plain of mud irrigated for cultivation, difficult ground for the horses, the ruins of a deserted village important enough to have possessed two imamzadas, and then we reached the Husseinabad, which has very good guest-rooms, with mirrors on the walls.

This caravanserai is only one march from Tihran, and it seemed as if all difficulties were over. Abbas Khan and the sick orderly were sent on early, with a baggage mule loaded with evening dress and other necessities of civilisation; the caravan was to follow at leisure, and M—— and I started at ten, without attendants, expecting to reach Tihran early in the afternoon.

It is six days since that terrible ride of ten hours and a half, and my bones ache as I recall it. I never wish to mount a horse again. It had been a very cold night, and for some time after we started it was doubtful whether snow or rain would gain the day, but after an hour of wet snow it decided on rain, and there was a steady downpour all day. The Elburz range, which the day before had looked so magnificent when fifty miles off, was blotted out. This was a great disappointment.

An ascent of low, blackish volcanic hills is made by a broad road of gray gravel, which a torrent has at some time frequented. Thorns and thistles grow there, and skeletons of animals abound. Everything is grim and gray. From these hills we descended into the Kavir, a rolling expanse of friable soil, stoneless, strongly impregnated with salt, but only needing sufficient water to wash the salt out of it and to irrigate it to become as prolific as it is now barren.

It is now a sea of mud crossed by a broad road indicated by dykes, that never-to-beforgotten mud growing deeper as the day wore on. Hour after hour we plunged through it, sometimes trying the road, and on finding it impassable scrambling through the ditches and over the dykes to the plain, which after offering firmer foothold for a time became such a “slough of despond” that we had to scramble back to the road, and so on, hour after hour, meeting nothing but one ghastly caravan of corpses, and wretched asses falling in the mud.

At mid-day, scrambling up a gravel hill with a little wormwood upon it, and turning my back to the heavy rain, I ate a lunch of dates and ginger, insufficient sustenance for such fatigue. On again! — the rain pouring, the mud deepening, my spine in severe pain. We turned off to a caravanserai, mostly a heap of ruins, the roofs having given way under the weight of the snow, and there I sought some relief from pain by lying down for the short thirty minutes which could be spared in the seraidar’s damp room. It was then growing late in the afternoon, all landmarks had disappeared in a brooding mist, there were no habitations, and no human beings of whom to ask the way.

The pain returned severely as soon as I mounted, and increased till it became hardly bearable. Ceaseless mud, ceaseless heavy rain, a plain of mud, no refuge from mud and water, attempts to gallop were made with the risk of the horses falling into holes and even kanaats. M—— rode in front. Not a word was spoken. A gleaming dome, with minarets and wood, appeared below the Shimran hills. Unluckily, where two roads met one looked impassable and we took the other, which, though it eventually took us to Tihran, was a détour of some miles.

In the evening, when I was hoping that Tihran was at hand, we reached the town of Shah Abdul Azim, built among the ruins of an ancient city, either Rhages or Rhei. The gilded dome is the shrine of Abdul Azim, and is a great place of pilgrimage of the picnic order from Tihran. The one railroad of Persia runs from the capital to this town. As we floundered in darkness along wide roads planted with trees, there was the incongruity of a railway whistle, and with deep breathing and much glare an engine with some carriages passed near the road, taking away with its harsh Western noises that glorious freedom of the desert which outweighs all the hardship even of a winter journey.

It was several miles from thence to the gate of Tihran. It was nearly pitch dark when we got out of Abdul Azim and the rain still fell heavily. In that thick rainy darkness no houses were visible, even if they exist, there were no passengers on foot or on horseback, it was a “darkness which might be felt.”

There was a causeway which gave foothold below the mud, but it was full of holes and broken culverts, deep in slime, and seemed to have water on each side not particular in keeping within bounds. It was necessary to get on, lest the city gates should be shut, and by lifting and spurring the jaded horses they were induced to trot and canter along that road of pitfalls. I have had many a severe ride in travelling, but never anything equal to that last two hours. The severe pain and want of food made me so faint that I was obliged to hold on to the saddle. I kept my tired horse up, but each flounder I thought would be his last. There was no guidance but an occasional flash from the hoofs of the horse in front, and the word “spur” ringing through the darkness.

After an hour of riding in this desperate fashion we got into water, and among such dangerous holes that from that point we were obliged to walk our horses, who though they were half dead still feebly responded to bit and spur. We reached the dimly-lighted city gate just as half of it was shut, and found Abbas Khan waiting there. The caravan with the other sick men never reached Tihran till late the next morning.

At the gate we learned that it was two miles farther to the British Legation, and that there was no way for me to get there but on horseback. One lives through a good deal, but I all but succumbed to the pain and faintness. Inside the gate there was an open sea of liquid mud, across which, for a time, certain lights shed their broken reflections. There was a railway shriek, and then the appearance of a station with shunting operations vaguely seen in a vague glare.

Then a tramway track buried under several inches of slush came down a slope, and crowded tramway cars with great single lamps came down the narrow road on horses too tired to be frightened, and almost too tired to get out of the way. Then came a street of mean houses and meaner shops lighted with kerosene lamps, a region like the slums of a new American city, with cafés and saloons, barbers’ shops, and European enormities such as gazogenes and effervescing waters in several windows. Later, there were frequent foot passengers preceded by servants carrying huge waxed cambric lanterns of a Chinese shape, then a square with barracks and artillery, a causewayed road dimly lit, then darkness and heavier rain and worse mud, through which the strange spectacle of a carriage and pair incongruously flashed.

By that time even the courage and stamina of an Arab horse could hardly keep mine on his legs, and with a swimming head and dazed brain I could hardly guide him, as I had done from the gate chiefly by the wan gleam of Abbas Khan’s pale horse; and expecting to fall off every minute, I responded more and more feebly and dubiously to the question frequently repeated out of the darkness, “Are you surviving?”

Just as endurance was on the point of giving way, we turned from the road through a large gateway into the extensive grounds which surround the British Legation, a large building forming three sides of a quadrangle, with a fine stone staircase leading up to the central door. Every window was lighted, light streamed from the open door, splashed carriages were dashing up and setting down people in evening dress, there were crowds of servants about, and it flashed on my dazed senses that it must be after eight, and that there was a dinner party!

Arriving from the mud of the Kavir and the slush of the streets, after riding ten hours in ceaseless rain on a worn-out horse; caked with mud from head to foot, dripping, exhausted, nearly blind from fatigue, fresh from mud hovels and the congenial barbarism of the desert, and with the rags and travel-stains of a winter journey of forty-six days upon me, light and festivity were overwhelming.

Alighting at a side door, scarcely able to stand, I sat down in a long corridor, and heard from an English steward that “dinner is waiting.” His voice sounded very far off, and the once familiar announcement came like a memory out of the remote past. Presently a gentleman appeared in evening dress, wearing a star, which conveyed to my fast-failing senses that it was Sir H. Drummond Wolff. It was true that there was a large dinner party, and among the guests the Minister with thoughtful kindness had invited all to whom I had letters of introduction. But it was no longer possible to make any effort, and I was taken up to a room in which the comforts of English civilisation at first made no impression upon me, and removing only the mackintosh cloak, weighted with mud, which had served me so well, I lay down on the hearthrug before a great coal fire till four o’clock the next morning. And “so the tale ended,” and the winter journey with its tremendous hardships and unbounded mercies was safely accomplished.24

I. L. B.

23 The altitude of Demavend is variously stated.

24 I remained for three weeks as Sir H. Drummond Wolff’s guest at the British Legation, receiving from him that courtesy and considerate kindness which all who have been under his roof delight to recall. I saw much of what is worth seeing in Tihran, including the Shah and several of the Persian statesmen, and left the Legation with every help that could be given for a long and difficult journey into the mountains of Luristan.

Notes on Tihran25

It is a matter of individual taste, but few cities in the East interest me in which national characteristics in architecture, costume, customs, and ways generally are either being obliterated or are undergoing a partial remodelling on Western lines. An Eastern city pure and simple, such as Canton, Niigata, or Baghdad, even with certain drawbacks, forms a harmonious whole gratifying to the eye and to a certain sense of fitness; while Cairo, Tokio, Lahore, and I will now add Tihran, produce the effect of a series of concussions.

Tihran — set down on a plain, a scorched desert, the sublimity of which is interfered with by kanaats or underground watercourses with their gravel mounds and ruinous shafts — has few elements of beauty or grandeur in its situation, even though “the triumphant barbarism of the desert” sweeps up to its gates, and the scored and channelled Shimran range, backed by the magnificent peak, or rather cone, of Demavend, runs to the north-east of the city within only ten miles of its walls.

The winter with its snow and slush disappeared abruptly two days after I reached Tihran, and as abruptly came the spring — a too transient enjoyment — and in a few days to brownness and barrenness succeeded a tender mist of green over the trees in the watered gardens, rapidly thickening into dark leafage in which the bulbul sang, and nature helped by art spread a carpet of violets and irises over the brown earth. But all of verdure and greenery that there is lies within the city walls. Outside is the unconquerable desert, rolling in endless shades of buff and brown up to the Elburz range, and elsewhere to the far horizon.

Situated in the most depressed part of an uninteresting waste in Lat. 35° 40´ N. and Long. 51° 25´ E., and at an altitude of 3800 feet, the climate is one of extremes, the summer extreme being the most severe. For some weeks the heat is nearly insupportable, and the Legations, and all of the four hundred Europeans who are not bound to the city by a fate which they execrate, betake themselves to “yailaks,” or summer quarters on the slopes of the adjacent mountains.

Entering Tihran in the darkness, it was not till I saw it coming back from Gulahek, the “yailak” of the British Legation, when the mud was drying up and the willows were in their first young green, that I formed any definite idea of its aspect, which is undeniably mean, and presents no evidences of antiquity; indeed, it has no right to present any, for as a capital it only came into existence a century ago, with the first king of the present Kajar dynasty. The walls are said to be eleven miles in circuit, and give the impression of being much too large, so many are the vacant spaces within them. They consist chiefly of a broad ditch, and a high sloping rampart without guns. Twelve well-built domed gateways give access to the city. These are decorated with glazed tiles of bright colours and somewhat gaudy patterns and designs, representing genii, lions, and combats of mythical heroes.

Above the wall are seen tree-tops, some tile-covered minarets, the domes of two mosques, and the iron ribs of a roofless theatre in the Shah’s garden, in which under a temporary awning the Tazieh or Passion Play (elsewhere referred to) is acted once a year in presence of the Shah and several thousand spectators.

Entering by a gateway over which is depicted a scene in the life of Rustem, the Achilles of Persia, or by the Sheikh Abdul Azim gate, where the custom-house is established and through which all caravans of goods must reach Tihran, the magnitude of the untidy vacant spaces, and the shabby mud hovels which fringe them, create an unfavourable impression. Then there are the inevitable ruinousness, the alleys with broken gutters in the centre, the pools of slime or the heaps of dust according to the weather, and the general shabbiness of blank walls of sun-dried bricks which give one the impression, I believe an unjust one, of decay and retrogression. I never went through those mean outskirts of Tihran which are within the city walls without being reminded of a man in shabby clothes preposterously too big for him.

The population is variously estimated at from 60,000 to 160,000 souls. It varies considerably with the presence or absence of the Court. The streets and bazars are usually well filled with people, and I did not see many beggars or evidences of extreme poverty, even in the Jewish quarter. On the whole it impressed me as a bustling place, but the bustle is not picturesque. It is framed in mean surroundings, and there is little variety in costume, and much sober if not sad colouring.

In “old” Tihran the alleys are crooked, dirty, and narrow, and the bazars chiefly frequented by the poor are very mean and untidy; but the better bazars, whether built as some are, round small domed open spaces, or in alleys roofed with low brick domes, are decidedly handsome, and are light, wide, clean, and in every way adapted for the purposes of buying and selling. European women, even though unattended, can walk through them quite freely without being mobbed or stared at.

The best bazars are piled with foreign merchandise, to the apparent exclusion of native goods, which, if they are of the better quality, must be searched for in out-of-the-way corners. Indeed, if people want fine carpets, curios, rich embroideries, inlaid arms, and Kerman stuffs, they must resort to the itinerant dealers, who gauge the tastes and purchasing powers of every European resident and visitor, and who may be seen at all hours gliding in a sort of surreptitious fashion round the Legation compounds, conveying their beautiful temptations on donkeys’ backs.

It is chiefly in the fine lofty saddlery bazar and some small bazars that native manufactures are en évidence. All travelling is on horseback, and the Persian, though sober in the colours of his costly clothing, loves crimson and gold in leather and cloth, embroidered housings and headstalls, and gorgeous saddle-covers for his horse. The usual saddle is of plain wood, very high before and behind, and without stuffing. A thick soft namad or piece of felt covers the horse’s back, and over this are placed two or more saddle-cloths covered with a very showy and often highly ornamental cover, with tasselled ends, embroidered in gold and silks and occasionally with real gems. The saddle itself is smoothly covered with a soft ornamental cover made to fit it, and the crupper, breastplate, and headstall are frequently of crimson leather embroidered in gold, or stitched ingeniously with turquoise beads.

The mule, whether the pacing saddle-mule worth from £60 to £80, much affected by rich Persians in Tihran, or the humbler beast of burden, is not forgotten by the traders in the great saddlery bazar. Rich charvadars take great pride in the “outfit” of their mules, and do not grudge twenty tumans upon it. Hence are to be seen elaborate headstalls, breastplates, and straps for bells, of showy embroidery, and leather stitched completely over with turquoise beads and cowries — the latter a favourite adornment — while cowried headstalls are also ornamented with rows of woollen tassels dyed with beautiful vegetable dyes. In this bazar too are found khurjins— the great leather or carpet saddle-bags without which it is inconvenient to travel — small leather portmanteaus for strapping behind the saddles of those who travel chapar, i.e. post — cylindrical cases over two feet long which are attached in front of the saddle — decorated holsters, the multifarious gear required for the travelling pipe-bearers, the deep leather belts which are worn by chapar riders, the leathern water-bottles which are slung on the saddles, the courier bags, and a number of other articles of necessity or luxury which are regarded as essential by the Persian traveller.

In most of the bazars the shops are packed to the ceiling with foreign goods. It looks as if there were cottons and woollen cloth for the clothing of all Persia. I saw scarcely any rough woollen goods or shoddy. The Persian wears superfine, smooth, costly cloth, chiefly black and fawn, stiff in texture, and with a dull shine upon it. The best comes exclusively from Austria, a slightly inferior quality from Germany, and such cloth fabrics as are worn by Europeans from England and Russia.

The European cottons, which are slowly but surely displacing the heavy durable native goods, either undyed, or dyed at Isfahan with madder, saffron, and indigo, are of colours and patterns suited to native taste, white and canary yellow designs on a red ground predominating, and are both of Russian and English make, and the rivalry which extends from the Indian frontier, through Central Asia, is at fever-heat in the cotton bazars of Tihran. It does not appear that at present either side can claim the advantage.

In a search for writing paper, thread, tapes, and what are known as “small wares,” I never saw anything that was not Russian. The cheap things, such as oil lamps, samovars, coarse coloured prints of the Russian Imperial family in tawdry frames, lacquered tin boxes, fitted work-boxes, glass teacups, china tea-pots, tawdry lacquered trays, glass brooches, bead necklaces, looking-glasses, and a number of other things which are coming into use at least in the south-west and the western portions of the Empire, are almost exclusively Russian, as is natural, for the low price at which they are sold would leave no margin of profit on such imports from a more distant country.

A stroll through the Tihran bazars shows the observer something of the extent and rapidity with which Europe is ruining the artistic taste of Asia. Masses of rubbish, atrocious in colouring and hideous in form, the principle of shoddy carried into all articles along with the quintessence of vulgarity which is pretence, goods of nominal utility which will not stand a week’s wear, the refuse of European markets — in art Philistinism, in most else “Brummagem,” without a quality of beauty or solidity to recommend them — are training the tastes and changing the habits of the people.

One squarish bazar, much resorted to for glass and hardware and what the Americans call “assorted notions,” is crammed with Austrian glass, kerosene lamps of all sizes in hundreds, chandeliers, etc. The amount of glass exhibited there for sale is extraordinary, and not less remarkable is the glut of cheap hardware and worthless bijouterie. It is the Lowther Arcade put down in Tihran.

Kerosene and candles may be called a Russian monopoly, and Russia has completely driven French sugar from the markets. In the foreign town, as it may be called, there are two or three French shops, an American shop for “notions,” and a German chemist.

The European quarter is in the northern part of Tihran, and is close to vacant and airy spaces. There are the Turkish Embassy, and the Legations of England, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Belgium, Austria, and America, and a Dutch Consulate–General, each with its Persian gholams who perform escort duty. Their large and shady compounds, brightened by their national flags, and the stir and circumstance which surround them, are among the features of the city. The finest of all the Legation enclosures is that of England, which is beautifully wooded and watered. The reception-rooms and hall of the Minister’s residence are very handsome, and a Byzantine clock tower gives the building a striking air of distinction. The grounds contain several detached houses, occupied by the secretaries and others.

A very distinct part of the foreign quarter is that occupied by the large and handsome buildings of the American Presbyterian Mission, which consist of a church occupied at stated hours by a congregation of the Reformed Armenian Church, and in which in the afternoons of Sundays Dr. Potter, the senior missionary, reads the English Liturgy and preaches an English sermon for the benefit of the English-speaking residents, very fine boarding-schools for Armenian girls and boys, and the houses of the missionaries — three clerical, one medical, and several ladies, one of whom is an M.D.

Outside this fine enclosure is a Medical Missionary Dispensary, and last year, in a good situation at a considerable distance, a very fine medical missionary hospital was completed. The boys’ and girls’ schools are of a very high class. To my thinking the pupils are too much Europeanised in dress and habits; but I understand that this is at the desire of the Armenian parents. The missionaries are not allowed to receive Moslem pupils; but besides Armenians they educate Jewish youths, some of whom have become Christians, and a few Guebres or Zoroastrians.

I do not think that the capital is a hopeful place for missionary work. The presence of Europeans of various creeds and nationalities complicates matters, and the fine, perhaps too fine, mission buildings in proximity to the houses of wealthy foreigners are at so great a distance from the Moslem and Jewish quarters, that persons who might desire to make inquiries concerning the Christian faith must be deterred both by the space to be traversed and the conspicuousness of visiting a mission compound in such a position. The members of the mission church last year were altogether Armenians. The education and training given in the schools are admirable.

Indications of the changes which we consider improvements abound in Tihran. There are many roads accessible to wheeled vehicles. There are hackney carriages. A tramway carrying thousands of passengers weekly has been laid down from the Maidan or central square to one of the southern gates. There are real streets paved with cobble stones, and bordered with definite sidewalks, young trees, and shops. There is a railroad about four miles long, from the city to the village of Sheikh Abdul Azim. There are lamp-posts and fittings, though the light is somewhat of a failure. There is an organised city police, in smart black uniforms with violet facings, under the command of Count Monteforte, an Italian. Soldiers in Europeanised uniforms abound, some of them, the “Persian Cossacks,” in full Russian uniforms; and military bands instructed by a French bandmaster play European airs, not always easily recognisable, for the pleasure of the polyglot public.

All ordinary business can be transacted at the Imperial Bank, which, having acquired the branches and business of the New Oriental Bank, bids fair to reign supreme in the commercial world of Persia, the Shah, who has hitherto kept his hoards under his own eye, having set an example of confidence by becoming a depositor.

European tailors, dressmakers, and milliners render a resort to Europe unnecessary. There are at least two hotels where a European may exist. About five hundred European carriages, many of them Russian, with showy Russian horses harnessed à la Russe, dash about the streets with little regard to pedestrians, though an accident, if a European were the offender, might lead to a riot. The carriages of the many Legations are recognisable by their outriders, handsomely-dressed gholams.

But even the European quarter and its newish road, on which are many of the Legations, some of the foreign shops, and the fine compound and handsome buildings of the Imperial Bank, has a Persian admixture. Some of the stately houses of official and rich Persians are there, easily recognisable by their low closed gateways and general air of seclusion. Many of these possess exquisite gardens, with fountains and tanks, and all the arrangements for the out-of-doors life which Persians love. In the early spring afternoons the great sight of the road outside the British Legation is the crowd of equestrians, or rather of the horses they ride. However much the style of street, furniture, tastes, art, and costume have been influenced by Europe, fortunately for picturesque effect the Persian, even in the capital, retains the Persian saddle and equipments.

From later observation I am inclined to think very highly of the hardiness and stamina of the Persian horse, though at the time of my visit to Tihran I doubted both. Such showy, magnificent-looking animals, broken to a carriage which shows them to the best advantage, fine-legged, though not at the expense of strength, small-eared, small-mouthed, with flowing wavy manes, “necks clothed with thunder,” dilated nostrils showing the carmine interior, and a look of scorn and high breeding, I never saw elsewhere. The tail, which in obedience to fashion we mutilate and abridge, is allowed in Persia its full development, and except in the case of the Shah’s white horses, when it is dyed magenta, is perfectly beautiful, held far from the body like a flag. The arched neck, haughty bearing, and easy handling which Easterns love are given by very sharp bits; and a crowd of these beautiful animals pawing the ground, prancing, caracoling, walking with a gait as though the earth were too vulgar for their touch, or flashing past at a gallop, all groomed to perfection and superbly caparisoned, ridden by men who know how to ride, and who are in sympathy with their animals, is one of the fascinations of Tihran.

Creeping along by the side-walk is often seen a handsome pacing saddle-mule, or large white ass, nearly always led, carrying a Persian lady attended by servants — a shapeless black bundle, with what one supposes to be the outline of a hand clutching the enshrouding black silk sheet tightly over her latticed white mask: so completely enveloped that only a yellow shoe without a heel, and a glimpse of a violet trouser can be seen above the short stirrups.

Another piece of Orientalism unaffected by Western influence is the music performed daily at sunset in the upper stories of some of the highly-decorated tiled gateways which lead into and out of the principal squares. This is evoked from drums, fifes, cymbals, and huge horns, and as the latter overpower all the former, the effect is much like that of the braying of the colossal silver horns from the roofs of the Tibetan lamaserais. Many people suppose that this daily homage to the setting sun is a relic of the ancient fire or sun worship.

Two great squares, one of them with a tank in the middle with a big gun at each corner, artillery barracks on three sides, and a number of smooth-bore twenty-four-pounder guns on the fourth, are among the features of Tihran. In this great Maidan there are always soldiers in multifarious uniforms lounging, people waiting for the tram-cars, and Royal footmen, whose grotesque costumes border on the ridiculous. They are indeed a fitting accompaniment to the Royal horses with their magenta tails and spots, for they wear red coats with ballet-dancer skirts and green facings, green knee-breeches, white stockings, and tall stiff erections resembling a fool’s cap on the head, topped by crests suggestive of nothing but a cock’s comb.

A gateway much ornamented leads from the artillery square, or Maidan Topkhaneh, by a short road shaded with trees to the Citadel or Ark, which is an immense enclosure, rather mangy and unprepossessing in its exterior, which contains the palace of the Shah, the arsenal, certain public offices, the royal colleges, etc. Over the gateway floats rather grandly the Royal standard, bearing the Lion and the Sun in yellow on a green ground.

The Shah’s palace is very magnificent, and the shady gardens, beautifully kept, with their fountains and tanks of pale blue tiles, through which clear water constantly moves, are worthy of a Royal residence. From the outside above the high wall the chief feature is a very lofty pavilion, brilliantly and elaborately painted, with walls inclining inwards, and culminating in two high towers. This striking structure contains the andarun or haram of the sovereign and his private apartments.

This hasty sketch exhausts those features of Tihran which naturally arrest the stranger’s attention. There is no splendour about it externally, but there is splendour within it, and possibly few European residences can exceed in taste and magnificence the palaces of the Minister of Justice (the Muschir-u-Dowleh), the Naib-es-Sultan, the Zil-es-Sultan, and a few others, though I regret that much of the furniture has been imported from Europe, as it vexes the eye more or less with its incongruity of form and colouring. The current of European influence, which is affecting externals in Tihran, is not likely now to be stemmed. Eastern civilisation is doomed, and the transition period is not beautiful, whatever the outcome may be.

So much for what is within the walls. That which is outside deserves a passing notice as the environment of the capital. The sole grandeur of the situation lies in the near neighbourhood of the Shimran mountains — a huge wall, white or brown according to the season, with some irrigated planting near its base, which is spotted with villages and the yailaks not only of the numerous Legations but of rich Europeans and Persians. Otherwise the tameless barbarism of a desert, which man has slashed, tunnelled, delved, and heaped, lies outside the city walls, deformed by the long lines of kanaats— some choked, others still serviceable — by which the city is supplied with water from the mountains, their shafts illustrating the Scriptural expression “ruinous heaps.” In the glare of the summer sun, with the mercury ranging from 95° to 110° in the shade, and with the heated atmosphere quivering over the burning earth, these wastes are abandoned to carcasses and the vultures which fatten on them, and travelling is done at night, when a breeze from the Shimran range sends the thermometer down from 10° to 15°.

Curving to the south-west of Tihran, the mountains end in a bare ridge, around the base of which, according to many archæologists, lie vestiges of the ancient city of Rhages, known in later days as Rhei. A tomb of brick with angular surfaces, sacred to the memory of an ancient and romantic attachment, remains of fortifications, and the Parsee cemetery on a ledge overlooking these remains, break the monotony of the waste in that direction.

This cemetery, or “Tower of Silence,” a white splash on the brown hillside, is visible from afar. The truncated cones which in many places mark seats of the ancient Zoroastrian worship have been mentioned here and there, but it is only in Tihran and Yezd that the descendants of the ancient fire-worshippers are found in such numbers as to be able to give prominence to their ancient rites of sepulture. Probably throughout Persia their number does not exceed 8000. Their head resides in Tihran. They bear a good character for uprightness, and except in Yezd, where they weave rich stuffs, they are chiefly agriculturists. They worship firelight and the sun on the principles symbolised by both, they never use tobacco, and it is impolite to smoke in their presence because of the sacredness of fire.

Their belief has been, and is, that to bury the dead in the earth is to pollute it; and one among the reasons of the persecution of the early Christians by the Zoroastrians was their abhorrence of the desecration of the ground produced by the modes of Christian burial.

This “Tower of Silence” near Tihran is a large round edifice of whitewashed mud and stone. On the top of it, a few feet below the circular parapet, the dead are laid to be devoured by birds and consumed by exposure to the elements. The destiny of the spirit is supposed to be indicated by the eye which is first devoured by the fowls of the air, the right eye signifying bliss.

In a northern direction, to which the eye always turns to be refreshed by the purity of the icy cone of Demavend, or to watch the rosy light deepening into purple on the heights of Shimran, are palaces and country seats in numbers, with a mass of irrigated plantations extending for twenty miles, from Vanēk on the east to Kamaraniēh on the west. These are reached by passing through the Shimran gate, the most beautiful of the outer gates, tiled all over with yellow, black, blue, and green tiles in conventional designs, and with an immense coloured mosaic over the gateway representing Rustēm, Persia’s great mythical hero, conquering some of his enemies.

On the slopes of the hills are palaces and hunting seats of the Shah, beginning with the imposing mass of the Kasr-i-Kajār, on a low height, surrounded by majestic groves, in which are enormous tanks. Palaces and hunting seats of ministers and wealthy men succeed each other rapidly, a perfect seclusion having been obtained for each by the rapid growth of poplars and planes, each dwelling carrying out in its very marked individuality a deference to Persian custom, and each if possible using running water as a means of decoration. Many of these palaces are princely, and realise some of the descriptions in the Arabian Nights, with the beauty of their decorated architecture, the deep shade of their large demesnes, the cool plash of falling water, the songs of nightingales, and the scent of roses — sensuous Paradises in which the Persian finds the summer all too short.

Beyond this enchanting region, and much higher up on the mountain slopes, are the hunting grounds of the Shah and his sons, well stocked with game and rigidly preserved; for the Shah is a keen sportsman, and is said to prefer a free life under canvas and the pleasures of the chase to the splendid conventionalities of the Court of Tihran.

The two roads and the many tracks which centre in the capital after scoring the desert for many miles around it, are a feature of the landscape not to be overlooked, the Meshed, Resht, Bushire, and Tabriz roads being the most important, except the route from Baghdad by Kirmanshah and Hamadan, which in summer can be travelled by caravans in twenty-eight days, and by which many bulky articles of value, such as pianos, carriages, and valuable furniture, find their way to Tihran.26

These are some of the features of the environments of Tihran. A traveller writing ten years hence may probably have to tell that the city has extended to its walls, that Western influence is nearly dominant in externals, and possibly that the concessionaires who for years have been hanging about the Palace in alternations of hope and despondency have made something of their concessions, and that goods reach the capital in another way than on the backs of animals.

25 A volume of travels in Persia would scarcely be complete without some slight notice of the northern capital; but for detailed modern accounts of it the reader should consult various other books, especially Dr. Wills’ and Mr. Benjamin’s, if he has not already done so.

26 There are only two roads, properly so called, in Persia, though in the summer wheeled carriages with some assistance can get from place to place over several of the tracks. These two are the road from Kûm to the capital, formerly described, and one from Kasvin to the capital, both under 100 miles in length. Goods are everywhere carried on the backs of animals.

The distance between Bushire and Tihran is 698 miles.

The summer freight per ton is £14 1 8
The winter do. 20 2 0

The distance between Tihran and Resht on the Caspian is 211 miles.

The summer freight per ton is £4 0 5-4/5
The winter do. 8 0 11-3/5

From the Caspian to the Persian Gulf

The summer freight per ton is £18 2 3
The winter do. 28 3 4

inclusive of some insignificant charges.

The time taken for the transit of goods between Bushire and Tihran is forty-two days, and between Resht and Tihran twelve days.

The cost per ton by rail, if taken at Indian rates, between the Gulf and the Caspian, would be £3:11:10.

On these figures the promoters of railway enterprise in Persia build their hopes.

Letter ix

Three weeks have passed quickly by since that terrible ride from Husseinabad. The snow is vanishing from the Shimran hills, the spring has come, and I am about to leave the unbounded kindness and hospitality of this house on a long and difficult journey. It is very pleasant to go away carrying no memories but those of kindness, received not only from Europeans and Americans, but from Persians, including the Amin-es-Sultan and the Muschir-u-Dowleh.

It is impossible to bear away other than pleasant impressions of Tihran society. Kindness received personally always sways one’s impressions of the people among whom one is thrown, and even if I had any unfavourable criticisms to make I should not make them.

Society, or rather I should say the European population, is divided into classes and knots. There are the eleven American missionaries, whose duties and interests lie apart from those of the rest of the community, the diplomatic body, which has a monopoly of political interests, the large staff of the Indo–European telegraph, married and single, with Colonel Wells at its head, and the mercantile class, in which the manager and employés of the Imperial Bank may be included. Outside of these recognised classes there is a shifting body of passing travellers, civil and military, and would-be concessionaires and adventurers, besides a few Europeans in Persian employment.

From four to five hundred Europeans is a large foreign settlement, and it is a motley one, very various in its elements, “and in their idiosyncrasies, combinations, rivalries, and projects is to be found an inexhaustible fund of local gossip,” writes Mr. Curzon in one of his recent brilliant letters to the Times, “as well as almost the sole source of non-political interest.”

Outside of the diplomatic circle the relations of England and Russia with each other and with the Shah afford a topic of ceaseless interest. England is just now considered to be in the ascendant, so far as her diplomacy is concerned, but few people doubt that Russian policy will eventually triumph, and that North Persia at least will be “absorbed.”

One or two specially pleasant things I must mention. Sir H. Drummond Wolff kindly wrote asking permission from the Shah for me to see his Museum, i.e. his treasure-house, and we, that is the Minister, the whole party from the Legation, and Dr. Odling of the telegraph staff and Mrs. Odling, went there yesterday. There was a great crowd outside the Palace gates, where we were received by many men in scarlet. The private gardens are immense, and beautifully laid out, in a more formal style than I have hitherto seen, with straight, hard gravel walks, and straight avenues of trees. The effect of the clear running water in the immense tanks lined with blue tiles is most agreeable and cool. Continuous rows of orange trees in tubs, and beds of narcissus, irises, and tulips, with a wealth of trellised roses just coming into leaf, are full of the promise of beauty. These great pleasure gardens are admirably kept, I doubt whether a fallen leaf would not be discovered and removed in five minutes.

The great irregular mass of the Palace buildings on the garden front is very fine, the mangy and forlorn aspect being confined to the side seen by the public. The walls are much decorated, chiefly with glazed and coloured tiles geometrically arranged, and the general effect is striking.

The “Museum,” properly the audience chamber, and certainly one among the finest halls in the world, is approached by a broad staircase of cream-coloured alabaster. We were received by the Grand Vizier’s two brothers, and were afterwards joined by himself and another high official.

The decorations of this magnificent hall are in blue and white stucco of the hard fine kind, hardly distinguishable from marble, known as gatch, and much glass is introduced in the ceiling. The proportions of the room are perfect. The floor is of fine tiles of exquisite colouring arranged as mosaic. A table is overlaid with beaten gold, and chairs in rows are treated in the same fashion. Glass cases round the room and on costly tables contain the fabulous treasures of the Shah and many of the Crown jewels. Possibly the accumulated splendours of pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, basins and vessels of solid gold, ancient armour flashing with precious stones, shields studded with diamonds and rubies, scabbards and sword hilts incrusted with costly gems, helmets red with rubies, golden trays and vessels thick with diamonds, crowns of jewels, chains, ornaments (masculine solely) of every description, jewelled coats of mail dating back to the reign of Shah Ismaël, exquisite enamels of great antiquity, all in a profusion not to be described, have no counterpart on earth. They are a dream of splendour not to be forgotten.

One large case contains the different orders bestowed on the Shah, all blazing with diamonds, a splendid display, owing to the European cutting of the stones, which brings out their full beauty. There are many glass cases from two to three feet high and twelve inches or more broad, nearly full of pearls, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, flashing forth their many-coloured light — treasures not arranged, but piled like tea or rice. Among the extraordinarily lavish uses of gold and gems is a golden globe twenty inches in diameter, turning on a frame of solid gold. The stand and meridian are of solid gold set with rubies. The equator and elliptic are of large diamonds. The countries are chiefly outlined in rubies, but Persia is in diamonds. The ocean is represented by emeralds. As if all this were not enough, huge gold coins, each worth thirty-three sovereigns, are heaped round its base.

At the upper end of the hall is the Persian throne. Many pages would be needed for a mere catalogue of some of the innumerable treasures which give gorgeousness to this hall. Here indeed is “Oriental splendour,” but only a part of the possessions of the Shah; for many gems, including the Dar-i-nur or Sea of Light, the second most famous diamond in the world, are kept elsewhere in double-locked iron chests, and hoards of bullion saved from the revenues are locked up in vaults below the Palace.

If such a blaze of splendour exists in this shrunken, shrivelled, “depopulated” empire, what must have been the magnificence of the courts of Darius and Xerxes, into which were brought the treasures of almost “all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them”? Since seeing this treasure-house I think that many of the early descriptions of wealth, which I have regarded as Oriental hyperbole, were literal, and that there was a time in Persia, as in Judea, when “silver was not accounted of.” And to come down from the far off-glories of Darius, Xerxes, and Khosroe and the Parthian kings, there have been within almost modern times Persian sovereigns celebrated among other things for their successful “looting” of foreign kingdoms — Shah Abbas the great, and Nadir Shah, who scarcely two hundred years ago returned from the sack of Delhi with gems valued at twenty millions of our money.

After we had seen most of what was to be seen the Vizier left us, and we went to the room in which stands the celebrated Peacock Throne, brought by Nadir Shah from Delhi, and which has been valued at £2,500,000. This throne is a large stage, with parapets and a high fan back, and is reached by several steps. It is entirely of gold enamel, and the back is incrusted with rubies and diamonds. Its priceless carpet has a broad border, the white arabesque pattern of which is formed of pearls closely stitched. You will think that I am lapsing into Oriental exaggeration!

While we were admiring the beautiful view of the gardens from the windows of this room, Hassan Ali Khan, better known as “the Nawab,” suggested that we should retire, as the Shah is in the habit of visiting and enjoying his treasures at a later hour. However, at the foot of the stairs on the threshold of the vestibule stood the Shah, the “King of Kings,” the “Asylum of the Universe,” and that his presence there was not an accident was shown by the fact that the Grand Vizier was with him.

Sir Henry advanced, attended by “the Nawab,” and presented me, lifting his hat to the king, who neither then nor when he left us made the slightest inclination of his head. Hassan Ali Khan, in answer to a question, mentioned some of my travels, and said that with His Majesty’s permission I wished to visit the Bakhtiari country.27 The king pushed up his big horn spectacles and focused his eyes, about which there is something very peculiar, upon me, with a stare which would have been disconcerting to a younger person, asked if I were going to travel alone in his dominions, and if fitting arrangements had been made; if I had been in Pekin, and had visited Borneo and the Celebes; said a few other things, and then without a bow turned round abruptly and walked down the garden with the Amin-es-Sultan.

This accidental and informal presentation was a very pleasant incident. The Shah is not what I expected from his various portraits. His manner (though he was said to be very affable on this occasion) has neither Eastern nor Western polish. He is a somewhat rough-looking man, well on in middle life, rather dark in complexion, and wearing a thick dark moustache, probably dyed, as is the custom. The long twisted moustache conceals the expression of his mouth, and the spectacles with thick horn rims that of his eyes. He was very simply dressed. The diamond aigrette and sword with jewelled hilt with which pictures and descriptions have familiarised us were absent, and this splendid monarch, the heir of splendour, and the possessor of fabulous treasures, wore the ordinary Persian high cap of Astrakan lambskin without any ornament, close-fitting dark trousers with a line of gold braid, a full-skirted coat of dull-coloured Kerman silk brocade, loose and open, under which were huddled one or more coats. A watch-chain composed of large diamonds completed his costume. He did not wear gloves, and I noticed that his hands, though carefully attended to, were those of a man used to muscular exercise, strong and wiry.

As the sovereign and his prime minister walked away, it was impossible not to speculate upon coming events: what will happen, for instance, when Nasred–Din, possibly the ablest man in the country which he rules, and probably the best and most patriotic ruler among Oriental despots, goes “the way of all the earth”? and again, whether Ali Askar Khan, who has held his post for five years, and who at thirty-two is the foremost man in Persia after the king, will weather the storm of intrigue which rages round his head, and resist the undermining influence of Russia?

I have had two interesting conversations with him, and he was good enough to propose success to my journey at a dinner at the Legation; and though, as he does not speak French, the services of an interpreter were necessary, he impressed me very favourably as a man of thought, intelligence, and patriotism.

He made one remark which had a certain degree of pathos in it. After speaking of the severe strictures and harsh criticisms of certain recent writers, which he said were very painful to Persians, he added, “I hope if you write you will write kindly, and not crush the aspirations of my struggling country as some have done.”

This Amin-es-Sultan, the faithful or trusted one of the sovereign, the Grand Vizier or Prime Minister, the second person in the empire, who unites in his person at this time the ministries of the Treasury, the Interior, the Court, and Customs, is of humble antecedents, being the son of a man who was originally an inferior attendant on the Shah in his hunting expeditions, and is the grandson of an Armenian captive. Certain persons of importance are bent upon his overthrow, and it can only be by the continued favour and confidence of the Shah that he can sustain himself against their intrigues, combined with those of Russia.

My visit to the Palace terminated with the sight of another throne-room opening upon the garden in which a few days hence, with surroundings of great magnificence, the Shah will receive the congratulations of the diplomatic corps, and afterwards give a general audience to the people.

This is an annual ceremony at the festival of No Ruz when the Persian New Year begins, at the time of the spring solstice, and is probably a relic of the Zoroastrian worship, though the modern Persians, as Mohammedans, allege that it is observed to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet’s mother.28

Some hours after the close of a splendid ceremony in the audience chamber, chiefly religious, at which the Shah burns incense on a small brazier, he descends to the garden, and walking alone along an avenue of Royal Guards, with the crown of the Kajārs, blazing with jewels, carried in front of him, he seats himself on an alabaster throne, the foreign ministers having been received previously. This throne is a large platform, with a very high back and parapets of bold stone fretwork, supported on marble lions and other figures, and is ascended by three or four steps.

The populace, which to the number of many thousands are admitted into the garden, see him seated on his throne, their absolute master, the lord of life and death. A voice asks if they are content, and they say they are. A hymn of congratulation is sung, a chief of the Kajār tribe offers the congratulations of the people of Persia, the Hakim of the people hands the king a jewelled kalian, which he smokes, and showers of gold fall among the populace.

The British Minister is understood to be at this time the most powerful foreigner in Persia; and as we drove through the crowd which had assembled at the Palace gates, he was received with all Oriental marks of respect.

All my intercourse with Persians here has been pleasant, and if I mention one person particularly, it is owing to a certain interest which attaches to himself and his possible future, and because some hours spent at his splendid palace were among the pleasantest of the many pleasant and interesting ones which I shall hereafter recall.

Yahia Khan, Minister of Justice and Commerce, whose official title is Muschir-u-Dowleh, was formerly Minister of Foreign Affairs, but forfeited the confidence of the British Government in supposed connection with the escape of Ayoub Khan, and being suspected of Russian proclivities, which he denies, lost his position. He speaks French perfectly, is credited with very great abilities, and not only has courteous and charming manners, but thoroughly understands the customs of Europe.

As the possessor of one of the most magnificent palaces in Persia, married to the Shah’s sister, his son, a youth of eighteen, married to a daughter of the Vali-‘ahd, the heir-apparent, and as the brother of Mirza Hussein Khan — for long Grand Vizier and Sipah Salar, or Commander-inChief, whose gorgeous mosque, scarcely finished, the finest mosque built in late years by any but a royal personage, adjoins his house, Yahia Khan is in every way an important personage.

He is the fourth husband of the Shah’s sister, who has had a tragic life and is a very accomplished woman. Her first husband, Mirza Taghi, when Prime Minister, attempted reforms which would have tended to diminish the hideous corruption which is the bane of Persian officialism, and consequently made many enemies, who induced the Shah, then a young man, to depose him. Worse than deposition was apprehended, and as it was not etiquette to murder a husband of a royal princess in her presence, his wife, who loved him, watched him night and day with ceaseless vigilance for some weeks. But the fatal day at last came, and a good and powerful man, whose loss is said to have been an irreparable one to Persia, was strangled by the Shah’s messengers, it is said, in the bath.

Her son, who has married the Shah’s grand-daughter, is courteous like his father, but is apparently without his force.

The Muschir-u-Dowleh invited me to breakfast, along with General Gordon and Hassan Ali Khan. The dejeûner was altogether in European style, except that in the centre of the table, among lilies and irises, a concealed fountain sent up jets of rose-water spray. Sèvres and Dresden porcelain, the finest damask, and antique and exquisitely beautiful silver adorned the table. The cooking was French. The wines and liqueurs, an innovation on Moslem tables now common, but of recent date, were both French and Persian. The service was perfection. The host conversed both thoughtfully and agreeably, and expressed himself remarkably well in French.

Afterwards we were invited to go over the palace and its grounds, which are remarkably beautiful, and then over the magnificent mosque. Shiah mosques are absolutely tabooed to Christians; but as this has not yet been used for worship, our entrance was not supposed to desecrate it. When quite finished it will be one of the most magnificent buildings dedicated to religious use in the world, and its four tile-covered minarets, its vast dome, and arches and façades in tiled arabesques and conventional patterns and exquisite colouring, show that the Persian artist when adequately encouraged has not lost his old feeling for beauty.

Besides the mosque there is a fine building, the low roof of which is supported by innumerable columns, all of plain brick, resembling a crypt, which will be used for winter worship. In addition, a lavish endowment has provided on the grounds a theological college and a hospital, with most, if not all, of the funds needed for their maintenance; and on every part of the vast pile of buildings the architect has lavished all the resources of his art.

No houses are to my thinking more beautiful and appropriate to the climate and mode of living than those of the upper classes of Persians, and the same suitability and good taste run down through the trading classes till one reaches the mud hovel, coarse and unideal, of the workman and peasant.

My memory does not serve me for the details of the Muschir-u-Dowleh’s palace, which, though some of the rooms are furnished with European lounges, tables, and chairs in marqueterie and brocade, is throughout distinctively Persian; but the impression produced by the general coup d’oeil, and by the size, height, and perfect proportion of the rooms, galleries, staircases, and halls, is quite vivid. The rooms have dados of primrose-coloured Yezd alabaster in slabs four feet high by three broad, clouded and veined most delicately by nature. The banqueting hall is of immense size, and the floor is covered with a dark fawn namad three-quarters of an inch thick, made, I understood, in one piece eighty feet long by fifty broad. The carpets are the most beautiful which can be turned out by Persian looms, and that is saying a great deal.

The roofs, friezes, and even the walls of this house, like those of others of its class, have a peculiarity of beauty essentially Persian. This is the form of gatch or fine stucco-work known as ainah karee. I saw it first at Baghdad, and now at Tihran wonder that such beautiful and costly decoration does not commend itself to some of our millionaires. Arches filled with honeycomb decoration, either pure white or tastefully coloured and gilded, are among the architectural adornments which the Alhambra borrowed from Persia. My impression is that this exquisite design was taken from snow on the hillsides, which is often fashioned by a strong wind into the honeycomb pattern.

But the glory of this form of decoration reaches its height when, after the gatch ceiling and cornice or deep frieze have been daringly moulded by the workman into distinct surfaces or facets, he lays on mirrors while the plaster is yet soft, which adhere, and even at their edges have scarcely the semblance of a joining. Sometimes, as in the new summer palace of the Shah’s third son, the Naib-es-Sultaneh, the whole wall is decorated in this way; but I prefer the reception-rooms of Yahia Khan, in which it is only brought down a few feet. Immense skill and labour are required in this process of adornment, but it yields in splendour to none, flashing in bewildering light, and realising the fabled glories of the palaces of the Arabian Nights. One of the salons, about sixty feet by fifty, treated in this way is about the most beautiful room I ever saw.

The Persian architect also shows great art in his windows. He masses them together, and by this means gives something of grandeur even to an insignificant room. The beauty of the designs, whether in fretwork of wood or stone, is remarkable, and the effect is enhanced by the filling in of the interstices with coloured glass, usually amber and pale blue. So far as I have seen, the Persian house is never over-decorated, and however gorgeous the mirror-work, or involved the arrangement of arches, or daring the dreams in gatch ceilings and pillars, the fancy of the designer is always so far under control as to give the eye periods of rest.

Under the palace of the Muschir-u-Dowleh, as under many others, is a sort of glorified serdab, used in hot weather, partly under ground, open at each end, and finished throughout with marble, the roof being supported on a cluster of slender pillars with capitals picked out in gold, and the air being cooled by a fountain in a large marble basin. But this serdab is far eclipsed by a summer hall in the palace of the Shah’s third son, which, as to walls and ceiling, is entirely composed of mirror-work, the floor of marble being arranged with marble settees round fountains whose cool plash even now is delicious. The large pleasure gardens which surround rich men’s houses in the city are laid out somewhat in the old French style of formality, and are tended with scrupulous care.

I did not see the andarun of this or any house here, owing to the difficulty about an interpreter, but it is not likely that the ladies are less magnificently lodged than their lords. The andarun has its own court, no one is allowed to open a window looking upon it, it is as secluded as a convent. No man but the master of the house may enter, and when he retires thither no man may disturb him. To all inquirers it is a sufficient answer to say that he is in the andarun. To the Shah, however, belongs the privilege of looking upon the unveiled face of every woman in Persia. The domestic life of a Moslem is always shrouded in mystery, and even in the case of the Shah “the fierce light that beats upon a throne” fails to reveal to the outer world the number of wives and women in his andarun, which is variously stated at from sixty to one hundred and ninety.

It is not easy in any Eastern city to get exactly what one wants for a journey, especially as a European cannot buy in the bazars; and the servant difficulty has been a great hindrance, particularly as I have a strong objection to the regular interpreter-servant who has been accustomed to travel with Europeans.

I have now got a Persian cook with sleepy eyes, a portion of a nose, and a grotesquely “hang-dog” look. For an interpreter and personal attendant I have an educated young Brahmin, for some years in British post-office service in the Gulf, and lately a teacher in the American school here. He speaks educated English, and is said to speak good Persian. He has never done any “menial” work, but is willing to do anything in order to get to England. He has a frank, independent manner and “no nonsense about him.” Taking him is an experiment.29

I. L. B.

27 Some of the Bakhtiari khans or princes, with their families, are kept by the Shah as hostages in and round Tihran for the loyalty of their tribes, the conquest of these powerful nomads not being so complete as it might and possibly will be.

28 On the eve of the day, the last of a festival of ten days, the common people kindle rows of bonfires and leap over them; and, though not on the same day, but on the night of the 25th of February, sacred in the Armenian Church as the day of the presentation of our Lord in the temple, large bonfires are lighted on the mud roofs of the Armenians of the Persian and Turkish cities, and the younger members of the households dance and sing and leap through the flames. Meanwhile the Moslems close their windows, so that the sins which the Christians are supposed to be burning may not enter. Whether these “Beltane fires” are a relic of the ancient fire worship or of still older rites may be a question. Among the Christians the custom is showing signs of passing away.

29 An experiment I never regretted. Mirza Yusuf was with me for nine months, and I found him faithful, truthful, and trustworthy, very hard-working, minimising hardships and difficulties, always cheerful, and with an unruffled temper, his failings being those of a desk-bred man transplanted into a life of rough out-doorishness.

Letter x

Kûm, March 23.

This so far is a delightful journey. All the circumstances are favourable. A friend who was sending his servants, horses, and baggage to Isfahan has lent me a thoroughbred, and with a trustworthy young soldier as my escort I do not trouble myself about the caravan at all, and get over much of the ground at a gallop. The roads have nearly dried up, the country looks cheerful, travellers are numerous, living and dead, the sun is bright but the air is cool and bracing, and the insects are still hybernating, Mirza Yusuf is getting into my “ways,” and is very pleasant. I did not think that I could have liked Persian travelling so well. A good horse and a good pace make an immense difference. It is not the custom for European ladies to travel unattended by European gentlemen in Persia, but no objection to my doing so was made in the highest quarters, either English or Persian, and so far there have been no difficulties or annoyances.

I left the British Legation at noon four days ago. The handsome Arab, with a sheepskin coat rolled on the front of the saddle, holsters, and Persian housings, looked like a life-guardsman’s horse. I nearly came to grief as soon as I got out of the Legation gate; for he would not stand my English snaffle, and reared and threw himself about, and my spur touching him as he did so made him quite wild, and I endured much apprehension all through Tihran, expecting to find myself on the rough pavement; but I took off the offending spur, and rode him on the sharp bit he is used to, and when we were outside the gate he quietened down, and I had a long gallop.

How different it all looks! No more floundering through mud! The trees of Abdul Azim are green. Caravans are moving fast and cheerily. Even the dead on their last journey look almost cheerful under the sunny skies. We did not reach Husseinabad till long after dark. It was so unspeakably dark that my horse and I fell off the road into deep water, and we passed the caravanserai without knowing that we were near it.

The usual disorder of a first night was somewhat worse than usual. The loads were mixed up, and the servants and charvadars were quarrelling, and I did not get my dinner till ten; but things are all right now, and have been since the following morning, when I assumed the reins of government and saw the mules loaded myself, an efficient interpreter making my necessary self-assertion intelligible.

Though the spring has set in, most of the country between this and Tihran looks a complete desert. In February it was a muddy waste — it is now a dusty waste, on which sheep, goats, and camels pick up a gray herbage, which without search is not obvious to the human eye, and consists mostly of wormwood and other bitter and aromatic plants. Off the road a few tulips and dwarf irises coming up out of the dry ground show the change of season.

I came for some distance on one day by a road which caravans avoid because of robbers. It crosses a reddish desert with a few salt streams and much saline efflorescence, a blasted region without a dwelling or patch of cultivation. Yet a four-mile gallop across one part of it was most inspiriting. As the two Arabs, excited by the pace, covering great spaces of ground with each powerful stride, dashed over the level gravel I thought, “They’ll have fleet steeds that follow”; but no steed or rider or bird or beast was visible through all that hungry land. We passed also close to a salt lake on the Kavir, seen in the distance on the former journey, near which are now pitched a quantity of Ilyat tents, all black. The wealth of these nomads is in camels, sheep, and goats. Though the camps, five in number, were small, they had over 200 camels among them.

Where four weeks ago there was deep mud there is now the glittering semblance of unsullied snow, and the likeness of frost crystals fills the holes. Miles of camels loaded with cotton march with stately stride in single file, the noble mountain camel, with heavy black fur on neck, shoulder, fore-arm, and haunch, and kindly gentle eyes, looking, as he is, the king of baggage animals, not degraded by servitude, though he may carry 800 lbs.

Some of the sights of the road were painful. For instance, just as I passed a caravan of the dead bound for Kûm a mule collided with another and fell, and the loosely-put-together boxes on its back gave way and corpses fell out in an advanced stage of decomposition. A camel just dead lay in a gully. On a ledge of rock above it seven gorged vultures (not the bald-headed) sat in a row. They had already feasted on him to repletion. I passed several dead camels, and one with a pleading pathetic face giving up the ghost on the road.

Yesterday I rode in here from the magnificent caravanserai of Shashgird, sixteen miles in three hours before lunch, and straight through the crowded bazars to the telegraph office unmolested, an Afghan camel-driver’s coat, with the wool outside, having proved so good a disguise that the gholam who was sent to meet me returned to his master saying that he had not seen a lady, but that a foreign soldier and sahib had come into Kûm.

When my visit was over and I had received from Mr. Lyne the route to Isfahan, and such full information about rooms, water, and supplies as will enable me to give my own orders, and escape from the tyranny of the charvadars, having sent the horses to the caravanserai I disguised myself as a Persian woman of the middle class in the dress which Mrs. Lyne wears in the city, a thick white crêpe veil with open stitch in front of the eyes, a black sheet covering me from head to foot, the ends hanging from the neck by long loops, and held with the left hand just below the eyes, and so, though I failed to imitate the totter and shuffle of a Persian lady’s walk, I passed unnoticed through the long and crowded streets of this fanatical city, attended only by a gholam, and at the door of my own room was prevented from entering by the servants till my voice revealed my identity.

Twice today I have passed safely through the city in the same disguise, and have even lingered in front of shops without being detected. Mr. and Mrs. Lyne have made the two days here very pleasant, by introducing me to Persians in whose houses I have seen various phases of Persian life. On reaching one house, where Mrs. Lyne arrived an hour later, I was a little surprised to be received by the host in uniform, speaking excellent French, but without a lady with him.

He had been very kind to Hadji, who, he says, is rich and has three wives. The poor fellow’s lungs have been affected for two years, and the affection was for the time aggravated by the terrible journey. He talked a good deal about Persian social customs, especially polygamy.

He explained that he has only one wife, but that this is because he has been fortunate. He said that he regards polygamy as the most fruitful source of domestic unhappiness, but that so long as marriages are made for men by their mothers and sisters, a large sum being paid to the bride’s father, a marriage is really buying “a pig in a poke,” and constantly when the bride comes home she is ugly or bad-tempered or unpleasing and cannot manage the house. “This,” he said, “makes men polygamists who would not otherwise be so.

“Then a man takes another wife, and perhaps this is repeated, and then he tries again, and so on, and the house becomes full of turmoil. There are always quarrels in a polygamous household,” he said, “and the children dispute about the property after the father’s death.” Had he not been fortunate, and had not his wife been capable of managing the house, he said that he must have taken another wife, “for,” he added, “no man can bear a badly-managed house.”

I thought of the number of men in England who have to bear it without the Moslem resource.

A lady of “position” must never go out except on Fridays to the mosque, or with her husband’s permission and scrupulously veiled and guarded, to visit her female friends. Girl-children begin to wear the chadar between two and three years old, and are as secluded as their mothers, nor must any man but father or brother see their faces. Some marry at twelve years old.

“La vie des femmes dans la Perse est très triste,” he said. The absence of anything like education for girls, except in Tihran, and the want of any reading-book but the Koran for boys and girls, he regards as a calamity. He may be a pessimist by nature: he certainly has no hope for the future of Persia, and contemplates a Russian occupation as a certainty in the next twenty years.

After a long conversation I asked for the pleasure, not of seeing his wife, but the “mother of his children,” and was rewarded by the sight of a gentle and lovely woman of twenty-one or twenty-two, graceful in every movement but her walk, exquisitely refined-looking, with a most becoming timidity of expression, mingled with gentle courtesy to a stranger. She was followed by three very pretty little girls. The husband and wife are of very good family, and the lady has an unmistakably well-bred look.

Though I knew what to expect in the costume of a woman of the upper classes, I was astonished, and should have been scandalised even had women only been present. The costume of ladies has undergone a great change in the last ninety years, and the extreme of the fashion is as lacking in delicacy as it is in comfort. However, much travelling compels one to realise that the modesty of the women of one country must not be judged of by the rules of another, and a lady costumed as I shall attempt to describe would avert her eyes in horror by no means feigned from an English lady in a Court or evening-dress of today.

The under garment, very much en évidence, is a short chemise of tinselled silk gauze, or gold-embroidered muslin so transparent as to leave nothing to the imagination. This lady wore a skirt of flowered silver brocade, enormously full, ten or twelve yards wide, made to stand nearly straight out by some frills or skirts of very stiffly starched cotton underneath, the whole, not even on a waistband round the waist, but drawn by strings, and suspended over the hips, the skirts coming down to within a few inches of the knee, leaving the white rounded limbs uncovered. The effect of this exaggerated bouffante skirt is most singular. White socks are worn. Over the transparent pirahān, or chemise, she wore a short velvet jacket beautifully embroidered in gold, with its fronts about ten inches apart, so as to show the flowered chemise. Her eyebrows were artificially curved and lengthened till they appeared to meet above her nose, her eyelashes were marked round with kohl, and a band of blue-black paint curving downwards above the nose crossed her forehead, but was all but concealed by a small white square of silk crêpe, on the head and brow and fastened under the chin by a brooch.

Had she been in another house she would have worn a large square of gold-embroidered silk, with the points in front and behind, and fastened under the chin. Under the crêpe square there was a small skull-cap of gold-embroidered velvet, matching her little zouave jacket, with an aigrette of gems at the side. Her arms were covered with bracelets, and a number of valuable necklaces set off the beauty of her dazzlingly white neck.

Persian ladies paint, or rather smear, but her young pure complexion needed no such aids. Her front hair, cut to the level of her mouth, hung down rather straight, and the remainder, which was long, was plaited into many small glossy plaits. Contrary to custom, it was undyed, and retained its jet-black colour. Most Persian ladies turn it blue-black with indigo, or auburn with henna, and with the latter the finger-nails and palms of the hands are always stained.

Her jewellery was all of solid gold; hollow gold and silver ornaments being only worn by the poor. She wore a chain with four scent caskets attached to it exhaling attar of roses and other choice perfumes.

She was a graceful and attractive creature in spite of her costume. She waited on her husband and on me, that is, she poured out the tea and moved about the room for hot water and bonbons with the feeble, tottering gait of a woman quite unaccustomed to exercise, and to whom the windy wastes outside the city walls and a breezy gallop are quite unknown. The little girls were dressed in the style of adults, and wore tinselled gauze chadārs or chargats.

After seeing a good deal of home life during some months in Persia, I have come to the conclusion that there is no child life. Swaddled till they can walk, and then dressed as little men and women, with the adult tyrannies of etiquette binding upon them, and in the case of girls condemned from infancy to the seclusion of the andarun, there is not a trace of the spontaneity and nonsense which we reckon as among the joys of childhood, or of such a complete and beautiful child life as children enjoy in Japan. There does not appear to be any child talk. The Persian child from infancy is altogether interested in the topics of adults; and as the conversation of both sexes is said by those who know them best to be without reticence or modesty, the purity which is one of the greatest charms of childhood is absolutely unknown. Parental love is very strong in Persia, and in later days the devotion of the mother to the boy is amply returned by the grown-up son, who regards her comfort as his charge, and her wishes as law, even into old age.

When tea was over the host retired with the remark that the ladies would prefer to amuse themselves alone, and then a Princess and another lady arrived attended by several servants. This Princess came in the black silk sheet with a suggestion of gold about its border which is the street disguise of women of the richer classes, and she wore huge bag-like violet trousers, into which her voluminous skirts were tucked.

She emerged from these wrappings a “harmony” in rose colour — a comely but over-painted young woman in rose and silver brocade skirts, a rose velvet jacket embroidered in silver, a transparent white muslin pirahān with silver stars upon it, and a chargat of white muslin embroidered in rose silk.

She and the hostess sat on a rug in front of a fire, and servants now and then handed them kalians. The three little girls and the guest’s little girl were in the background. The doors were then fastened and a number of servants came in and entertained their mistresses. Two sang and accompanied themselves on a sort of tambourine. Tea was handed round at intervals. There was dancing, and finally two or three women acted some little scenes from a popular Persian play. By these amusements, I am told, the women of the upper classes get rid of time when they visit each other; and they spend much of their lives in afternoon visiting, taking care to be back before sunset. After a long time the gentle hostess, reading in my face that I was not enjoying the performances, on which indeed unaccustomed English eyes could not look, brought them to a close, and showed me some of her beautiful dresses and embroidered fabrics.

Putting on my disguise and attended by a servant I walked a third time unrecognised and unmolested through the crowded bazars, through the gate and across the bridge, when a boy looked quite into my shroud, which I was not perhaps clutching so tightly as in the crowd, and exclaiming several times Kafir, ran back into the city. I did not run, but got back to the “hotel” as fast as possible.

It is very noisy, and my room being on the ground floor, and having three doors, there is little peace either by day or night. Thirteen days from the No Ruz or New Year, which was March 21, are kept as a feast before the severe fast of the Ramazan, and this city of pilgrims is crowded, and all people put on new clothes, the boys being chiefly dressed in green.

To-morrow I begin my journey over new ground.

I. L. B.

Letter xi

I have seen the last of Kûm and hotels and made roads for many months. So much the better! I had to ride the whole length of the bazars and the city, a mile and a half, but the camel-driver’s coat served again as a disguise, and I heard no remarks except from two boys. Indeed I am delighted to find that the “foreign soldier” who rides in front of me attracts so much curiosity that I pass in his wake unnoticed.

The ruinous condition of Kûm is fearful. Once outside the houses and bazars which surround the shrine of Fatima, the town is mostly rubbish and litter, with forlorn, miserable houses created out of the rubbish, grouped near festering pools; broken causeways infamously paved, full of holes, heaps of potsherds, bones obtruding themselves, nothing to please and everything to disgust the eye and sadden the spirit, religious intolerance, a diminished population, and desolation.

The pottery bazar, abounding in blue glazed ware of graceful shapes, and a number of shrines of saints, are the only objects of interest. The domes of the latter were once covered with blue tiles, but these have nearly all peeled off, leaving the universal mud — a mud so self-asserting everywhere that Persia may be called the “Great Mud Land.” The cherry and apricot trees are in full bloom, but as yet there is little greenery round Kûm, and the area of cultivation is very limited.

I am now on the road which, with the exception of that from Tihran to Resht, is best known to travellers,30 but I cannot help sketching it briefly, though the interests are few considering the distance travelled, 280 miles from Tihran to Isfahan. I now see Persia for the first time; for traversing a country buried in snow is not seeing it. It would be premature to express the opinion that the less one sees of it the more one is likely to admire it.

I have been en route for a week under the best possible circumstances — the nights always cool, the days never too warm, the accommodation tolerable, the caravan in excellent working order, no annoyances, and no grievances. The soldier who attends me arranges everything for my comfort, and is always bright and kind. I have no ambition to “beat the record,” but long gallops on a fine Arab horse turn marches of from twenty-two to thirty miles into delightful morning rides of from three and a half to four and a half hours, with long pleasant afternoons following them, and sound sleep at night. These are my halcyon days of Persian travelling; and yet I cannot write that Persia is beautiful.

It is early spring, and tulips and irises rise not out of a carpet of green but, to use the descriptive phrase of Isaiah, “as a root out of a dry ground,” the wormwood is dressed in its gray-green, the buds of the wild dwarf-almond show their tender pink, the starry blossom of the narcissus gleams in moist places, the sky is exquisitely blue, and shining cloud-masses fleck the brown hillsides with violet shadows. Where there is irrigation carpets of young wheat cover the ground; but these, like the villages, occur only at long intervals, for the road passes mainly through a country destitute of water, or rather of arrangements for storing it.

As to natural trees there are none, and even the bushes are few and unlovely, chiefly camel thorn and a rigid and thorny tamarisk. Beyond Kûm there is no made road. A track worn by the caravans of ages exists — sometimes parallel ruts for a width of half a mile, sometimes not two yards wide, and now and then lapsing into illegibility. There are large and small caravanserais of an inferior class along the route, and chapar khanas at intervals. Water is often bad and sometimes brackish. It is usually supplied from small brick abambars, or covered reservoirs. Milk is hard to obtain, often impossible; at some places fowls can be bought for eightpence each, and “flap jacks” everywhere.

Except the snowy cone of Demavend, with purple ranges curtaining his feet, no special object of admiration exists; the plains are reddish, yellowish, barren, gravelly, or splotched with salt; the ranges of hills, which are never far off (for Persia is a land of mountains), are either shapeless and gravelly, or rocky, rugged, and splintered, their hue reddish and purplish, their sides scored by the spring rush of wasted torrents, their aspect one of complete desolation, yet not without a certain beauty at this season — rose-flushed in the early morning, passing through shades of cobalt and indigo through the day, and dying away at sunset in translucent amethyst against a sky of ruddy gold.

But, take away the atmospheric colouring — which the advancing heat will abolish — and the plain English of the route is this, that in every direction, far as the eye can reach, the country is a salt waste or a gravelly waste, with a few limited oases of cultivation on the plains and in the folds of the hills, always treeless, except round a few of the villages, where there are small groves of poplars and willows. The villages are clusters of mud hovels, scarcely distinguishable from the wastes, and many of them are ruined and deserted, oppressive exactions or a failure of water being common reasons for a migration. These dismal ruins are shapeless heaps of mud, the square towers of the square walls alone retaining any semblance of form.

Long lines of choked kanaats, denoted by their crumbling shafts, attest the industrious irrigation of a former day. Tracks wind wearily among shrunken villages, or cross ridges of mud or gravel to take their unlovely way over arid stony plains. Unwatered tracts of land, once cultivated, as the kanaats show, but now deserts of sand and stones, send up gyrating clouds of gritty dust.

Such is Persia between its two capitals; and yet I repeat that in cool weather, and on a good horse, the journey is a very pleasant one. Most European men ride chapar, that is, post; but from what I see of the chapar horses, I would not do it for the sake of doubling the distance travelled in the day, and therefore cannot describe either its pleasures or tortures from experience.

On certain roads, as from Tihran to Shiraz, there are post stations (chapar khana) with horses and men at distances of from twenty to twenty-five miles, with a charge of one kran (eightpence) per farsakh (four miles) for each horse engaged, an order having been previously obtained from a government official. Besides your own horse you have to take one for the shasgird chapar, or post-boy, who has to take the horses back, and one for the servant. The two latter carry the very limited kit, which includes a long cotton bag, which, being filled with chopped straw at night, forms the traveller’s bed. The custom is to ride through all the hours of daylight whenever horses are to be got, doing from sixty to ninety miles a day, always inspired by the hope of “cutting the record,” even by half an hour, and winning undying fame.

The horses, which are kept going at a canter so long as they can be thrashed into one, are small and active, and do wonders; but from the strain put upon them, bad feeding, sore backs, and general dilapidation and exhaustion, are constantly tumbling down. Several times I have seen wretched animals brought into the yards, apparently “dead beat,” and after getting some chopped straw and a little barley thrashed into a canter again for twenty-five miles more, because the traveller could not get a remount. They often fall down dead under their riders, urged by the heavy chapar whip to the last.

Riding chapar, journeying in a taktrawan or litter, or in a kajaweh, or riding caravan pace, by which only about thirty miles a day can be covered, are the only modes of travelling in Persia, though I think that with capable assistance a carriage might make the journey from Tihran as far as Kashan.

I lodge in the chapar khanas whenever I can. They consist of mud walls fourteen feet high, enclosing yards deep in manure, with stabling for the chapar horses on two sides, and recesses in their inner walls for mangers. The entrance is an arched gateway. There are usually two dark rooms at the sides, which the servants occupy and cook in, and over the gateway is the balakhana, an abortive tower, attained by a steep and crumbling stair, in which I encamp. The one room has usually two doors, half-fitting and non-shutting, and perhaps a window space or two, and the ashes of the last traveller’s fire.

Such a breezy rest just suits me, and when my camp furniture has been arranged and I am enjoying my “afternoon tea,” I feel “monarch of all I survey,” even of the boundless desert, over which the cloud shadows chase each other till it purples in the light of the sinking sun. If there is the desert desolation there is also the desert freedom.

The first halt was delicious after the crowds and fanaticism of Kûm. A broad plain with irrigated patches and a ruinous village was passed; then came the desert, an expanse of camel-brown gravel thickly strewn with stones, with a range of low serrated brown hills, with curious stratification, on the east. A few caravans of camels, and the haram of the Governor of Yezd in closely-covered kajawehs, alone broke the monotony. Before I thought we were half-way we reached the abambars, the small brown caravanserai, and the chapar khana of Passanghām, having ridden in three hours a distance on which I have often expended eight.

Cool and breezy it was in my room, and cooler and breezier on the flat mud roof; and the lifting of some clouds in the far distance to the north, beyond the great sweep of the brown desert, revealed the mighty Elburz range, white with new-fallen snow. At Sinsin the next evening it was gloriously cold. There had been another heavy snowfall, and in the evening the Elburz range, over a hundred miles away, rose in unsullied whiteness like a glittering wall, and above it the colossal cone of Demavend, rose-flushed.

The routine of the day is simple and easy. I get the caravan off at eight, lie on the floor for an hour, gallop and walk for about half the march, rest for an hour in some place, where Mahboud, the soldier, always contrives to bring me a glass of tea, and then gallop and walk to the halting-place, where I rest for another hour till the caravan comes in. I now know exactly what to pay, and by giving small presents get on very easily.

There were many uncomfortable prophecies about the annoyances and rudenesses which a lady travelling alone would meet with, but so far not one has been fulfilled. How completely under such circumstances one has to trust one’s fellow-creatures! There are no fastenings on the doors of these breezy rooms, and last night there was only the longitudinal half of a door, but I fell asleep, fearing nothing worse than a predatory cat.

The last two days’ marches have been chiefly over stony wastes, or among low hills of red earth, gray gravel, and brown mud, with low serrated ranges beyond, and farther yet high hills covered with snow, after which the road leaves the hills and descends upon a pink plain, much of the centre of which is snow-white from saline efflorescence. The villages Kasseinabad, Nasrabad, and Aliabad are passed on the plain, with small fruit trees and barley surrounding them, and great mud caravanserais at intervals, only remarkable for the number of camels lying outside of them in rows facing each other. In the fresh keen air of evening the cone of Demavend was painted in white on the faint blue sky, reddening into beauty as the purple-madder shadows deepened over the yellow desert.

Tea made with saltish water, and salt sheep’s milk, have been the only drawbacks of the six days’ march.

Not far from Kashan we entered on a great alluvial plain formed of fine brown earth without a single stone — a prolific soil if it had water, as the fruit trees and abundant crops of young wheat round the villages show. So level, and on the whole so smooth, is this plain that it possesses the prodigy of a public conveyance, an omnibus with four horses abreast, which makes its laborious way with the aid of several attendants, who lift the wheels out of holes, prevent it from capsizing, and temporarily fill up the small irrigation ditches which it has to cross. Its progress is less “by leaps and bounds” than by jolts and rolls, and as my Arab horse bounded past I wondered that six men could be found to exchange the freedom of the saddle for such a jerky, stuffy box.

Five hundred yards from the gate of Kashan there is a telegraph station of the Indo–European line, where M. du Vignau and his wife expected me, and have received me with great kindness and hospitality. The electricians at these stations are allowed to receive guests in what is known as the “Inspectors’ Room,” and they exercise this liberty most kindly and generously. Many a weary traveller looks back upon the “Inspectors’ Room” as upon an oasis in the desert of dirt; and though I cannot class myself just now with “weary travellers,” I cordially appreciate the kindness which makes one “at home,” and the opportunity of exchanging civilised ideas for a few hours.

I must not go beyond Kashan without giving a few words to the Persian section of the Indo–European telegraph line, one of the greatest marvels of telegraph construction, considering the nature of the country which the line traverses. Tihran is the centre of telegraphic control, and the residence of Colonel Wells, R.E., the Director, with a staff of twenty telegraphists, who work in relays day and night, and a Medical Officer. Julfa is another place of importance on the line, and at Shiraz there is another Medical Officer.

The prompt repair of the wires in cases of interruption is carefully arranged for. At suitable places, such as Kûm, Soh, Kashan, and other towns or villages from fifty to eighty miles apart, there are control or testing stations, each being in charge of a European telegraphist, who has under him two Persian horsemen, who have been well trained as linesmen. At stated hours the clerks place their instruments in circuit, and ascertain if all is right.

If this testing reveals any fault, it can be localised at once, and horsemen are despatched from the control stations on either side of it, with orders to ride rapidly along the line until they meet at the fault and repair it. As the telegraph crosses passes such as Kuhrūd, at an altitude of over 8000 feet, the duties of both inspectors and linesmen are most severe, full not only of hardship but of danger in terrible winter storms and great depths of snow, yet on their ceaseless watchfulness and fidelity the safety of our Indian Empire may some day depend.

The skill brought to bear upon the manipulation of this Government line from the Gulf, and throughout the whole system of which it is a part, is wonderful. Messages from any part of the United Kingdom now reach any part of India in less than an hour and a half, and in only about one word in two hundred does even the most trifling mistake occur in transmission, a result all the more surprising when it is remembered that the telegrams are almost entirely either in code or cypher, and that over 1000 are transmitted in the course of a day.

Among these are the long despatches continually passing between the Viceroy of India and the India Office on vitally important subjects, and press telegrams of every noteworthy event. The “exhaustive summary” of Indian news which appears weekly in the Times, accompanied by a commentary on events, is an altogether unpadded telegram, and is transmitted with punctuation complete, and even with inverted commas for quotations.31

The English staff, numbering from fifty to sixty men, is scattered along a line of 1900 miles. Some of them are married, and most occupy isolated positions, so far as other Europeans are concerned. It is the universal testimony of Englishmen and Persians that the relations between them have been for many years of the most friendly character, full of good-will and mutual friendly offices, and that the continual contact brought about by the nature of the duties of the electricians has been productive not of aversion and distrust, but of cordial appreciation on both sides.

I. L. B.

30 It is new to me, however, and may be new to a large proportion of the “untravelled many” for whom I write.

31 Major–General Sir R. Murdoch Smith, K.C.M.G., late Director of the Persian section of the Indo–European telegraph, read a very interesting paper upon it before the Royal Scottish Geographical Society on December 13, 1888 — a Sketch of the History of Telegraphic Communication between the United Kingdom and India.

Letter xi (continued)

Kashan is one of the hottest places on the great Persian plateau, but has the rare luxury of a good water supply brought from a reservoir some distance off in the Kuhrūd mountains. It has a much-diminished population, said now to number 30,000 souls. Much of it is in ruins, and much more is ruinous. It has a thriving colony of Jews. It is noted for its silks and velvets; but the modern productions are regarded by judges as degenerate. It is still famous for its work in copper and for its great copper bazar.

Silk produced at Resht is brought here to be spun and dyed. Then it is sent to Sultanabad to be woven into carpets, and is brought back again to have the pile cut by the sharp instruments used for cutting velvet pile, and the finished carpets are sent to Tihran for sale. They are only made in small sizes, and are more suitable for portières than for laying on the floor. The colouring is exquisite, and the metallic sheen and lustre are unique. Silk carpets are costly luxuries. The price of even a fairly good one of very small size is £50, the silk alone costing £20.

Kashan is a great place for curio buyers, who enlist the Jews in their service. There are some valuable antiques in this house — embroideries, carpet squares in silk, glass whose greenish colour and grace of form remind me of Venetian glass, enamels on porcelain, tiles, metal inlaying and damascening, pierced brasswork, and many other articles of vertu, the art of making which is either lost or has greatly degenerated.

It is unaccountable, but it is certain that the secret of producing the higher types of beauty in various arts, especially the Keramic, died out more than one hundred and fifty years ago, and that there are no circumstances of that date to account for its decease, except that it is recorded that when the Afghan conqueror Mahmoud destroyed Isfahan he massacred the designers of reflêt tiles and other Keramic beauties, because they had created works which gave great umbrage to the Sunni sect to which he belonged.

These reflêts, for which collectors give fabulous sums, are intrinsically beautiful, both in the elegant conceptions of their designs and the fantastic richness of their colouring. There are designs in shades of brown on a lapis-lazuli ground, or in blue and green on a purple or umber ground, some of them star-shaped, with a pure white border composing the rest of the square, on which are inscribed phrases from the Koran. Looked at from above or frontwise, one exclaims, “What a beautiful tile!” but it is on turning it to the light that one’s stereotyped phrases of admiration are exchanged for silence in presence of a singular iridescence which transfigures the tile, making it seem to gleam from within with golden purples and rosy gold.

The mosaic tiles are also beautiful, especially where the mosaic is on a lapis-lazuli or canary-yellow ground, neither of them reproducible at this day; and this also refers to other shades of blue, and to various reds and browns of exceeding richness, the art of making which has been lost for a century. But enough of art!

Possibly there may be a resurrection for Persian art; but in the meantime aniline dyes, tawdry European importations, and Western models without either grace or originality are doing their best to deprave it here, as elsewhere.

Roads from Tihran, Gulpaigan, Yezd, and Isfahan meet here, and it is something of what the Americans call “a distributing point,” but it is a most uninviting place, in situation and general aspect, and its unsightly mud ruins, as in other Persian cities, are eloquent of nothing but paralysis and retrogression.

Murcheh Khurt, Palm Sunday, March 30.— Three very pleasant marches, equal to seventy-six miles, have brought me here, and now Isfahan is only two days off, and it will end my palmy days of Persian travelling.

The first day’s march from Kashan was only seven farsakhs (the parasang of Xenophon), twenty-eight miles, but it is equivalent to thirty-five, owing to the roughness of the road and the long ascent. There was scarcely any ground for galloping, the way was lost once, and the march took over eight hours.

The track, for only in places did it attain to the dignity of a bridle-road, lay for hours over a stony desert, and then entered the mountains, where I halted for an hour at the once magnificent caravanserai of Gaberabad, in a romantic situation, but falling fast into ruins, and deserted for no reason, so far as I could make out, but that people used to be robbed and have their throats cut there.

Beyond it the scenery became very wild, and the rocks and mountains highly coloured and snow-patched, and after ascending along the side of a stream and up a causewayed sort of stair past the reservoir which supplies Kashan with water, we entered the rising valley of Kuhrūd, where the snow came nearly down to the road, and every slope was terraced and every level cultivated, and young wheat was springing and fruit orchards flourished, with green sward under the branches, and great poplars in picturesque groups towered above the lower woods.

We lost the way in the snow, and then took to the pebbly river as the safest track, and had an hour of fumbling in water and snow under apple and pear trees for the halting-place. The twilight of a frosty evening was coming on when we reached the village of Kuhrūd — 500 houses in terraces on a mountain side, and clustering round a fort on a projecting spur.

It is surrounded and interpenetrated by groves of walnut, apricot, cherry, peach, plum, apple, pear, poplar, and vine, with roses climbing over everything and planted in rows like vines, and through it passes a fair, bright stream of living water, a stream “whose waters fail not,” turning the mountain valley into an oasis. But at that altitude of something like 7000 feet, the buds are only just swelling, and the crimson catkins of the hazels were the only reminder of spring. It is the one place that I should care to revisit.

The snow was piled in great heaps in the village and against the wall of the very wretched, ruinous chapar khana in which I sought rest and shelter. Mahboud went up to the loft over the gateway, and came down looking dejected, mustering English enough to say, “No, no, mem Sahib!” I actually had to occupy one of the two gateway rooms, an inferior stable, without the smallest window hole, and no door except two unconnected boards with which one could cover a part of the doorway. Even when these were not put up a candle was necessary. It was freezing hard, but one could not have a fire because there was no smoke-hole. The walls were slimily and inkily black from the smoke of the fires of people who were less particular than I am. The dust and rubbish of the floor were swept into one corner. If one wanted a place to store boxes in, and looked into that room, one would exclaim dubiously, “Well, it might do for glass and china!”

Mahboud put a rug on the floor and brought a bowl of delicious milk, and with an inverted saddle for a pillow I rested quite comfortably, being too tired to be impatient, till Mirza Yusuf arrived with my luxuries, and the news that the caravan could not get in for another hour, for that several of the mules had fallen and the loads were slipping round constantly. Indeed it was ten before I had dinner. It is very fortunate to have an attendant always cheerful, never fussy, caring nothing for personal comfort, and always ready to interpret.

The ketchuda called with the usual proffer of service, “I am your sacrifice,” etc., and induced me to buy some of the specialties of Kuhrūd, rose-water in bottles without corks, and a paste made of rose-water, pounded walnuts, and sugar. The rose-water is not very clear, but it has much of the overpowering, lingering odour of attar of roses.

Kuhrūd seems prosperous. Besides exporting large quantities of rose-water and walnut paste formed into blocks and done up in white skins, it sends wheat and fruit in abundance to Kashan.

Freedom, good sleep, and satisfactory travelling make up for all annoyances but vermin, and these are still hybernating. In that precarious privacy I slept soundly, and got the caravan off at eight the next morning — a glorious winter morning, the icy roads and the snow-covered valley glittering with frost crystals. We lost the way again among the pretty orchards, then got into a valley between high mud mountains, whose shapelessness is now judiciously concealed by snow from one to three feet deep, through which a track has been broken a foot wide. It is six miles from Kuhrūd to the summit of the Kuhrūd Pass, which is over 8000 feet, and it grew very cold and gray, and ragged masses of cloud swept angrily round the mountain-tops.

On the steepest part of the ascent it was extremely slippery, and the horses not being roughed slipped badly, and I was just fearing an accident to my borrowed horse and planning some method of dismounting when down he came on his nose and then on the side of his head, and fell several times again in his struggles to get up, his feet slipping from under him. When he did succeed in getting on his legs I was convinced that he had cut his knees, and slipped off him somehow to examine them; but my fears were groundless, and I had great difficulty in getting out of the drift into which I had descended, which was nearly up to my shoulders. His nose was bleeding a little, but that was all.

There was no way of remounting on a path a foot wide between walls of snow, and besides I was afraid of another accident, so I slipped the snaffle rein over his head and led him. It was horribly slippery, and having nails in my boots I fell several times just under his feet, but the sweet creature always stopped when I fell.

From the top there was a truly fearful view of “blackness, darkness, and tempest,” inky mists, white mountain-tops showing momentarily through them to be lost again, and great sheets of very deep snow. Soon the gathering storm burst, a “blizzard” in which the snow was quite blinding, snow drifting and hissing as it went by, the wind tempestuous, mountains, valleys, path obliterated, even the soldier in front of me constantly lost to sight. An hour of this and I could walk no more, and somehow scrambled into the saddle.

At the foot of the descent the sky cleared, the sun shone, and we picked up the caravan, which had had rather a hard time. The succeeding route was through an absolutely uninhabited and uninhabitable country, clay and mud hills, purple, red, gray, pink, brown, an utter desolation, till we came in sight of the good-sized and at a distance imposing-looking village of Soh in a keen wind with frequent snow showers. Soh is a telegraph testing station.

The electrician was absent, but had kindly left directions that I was to be received, and I found a most comfortable guest-room quite ready. A little later an Englishman riding chapar to Isfahan threw a packet of English letters in at my door — a delightful surprise, which made havoc of the rest of the evening.

The desolation of this part of the route may be judged of from the fact that except the village of Kuhrūd there is not an inhabited house for forty-six miles. The country traversed reminds me much of the least interesting part of the route from Lesser Tibet into Kulu.

Yesterday morning there was ice, and the roads were very slippery on the gradual descent from the plain which opens out after passing Bideshk, the chapar station, an hour from Soh. The twenty-four miles’ ride over this gravelly waste, quite uninhabited, was very pleasant, as it was possible to gallop much of the way, and besides the beauty of the atmospheric colouring the mirage occurring in most remarkable forms rendered monotony impossible.

There were no caravans on the road, but I met several dervishes, and there is one here to whom I have given what he demanded — a night’s lodging. He carries a large carved almsholder; and the panther skin on his shoulders, the knotted club, and his lean, hungry, fanatical face give him a dangerous look. All I have seen on this march have worn long matted bushy hair, often covering their shoulders, an axe in the girdle, and peculiar turbans decorated with phrases from the Koran. They are the “mendicant friars” of Persia, and are under vows of poverty. Some are said to be learned; but they object to discussing religious matters with infidels, and almost nothing is known as to their beliefs. They hold universally the sanctity of idleness, and the duty of being supported by the community. The lower classes hold them in reverence, and the upper, though they are apt to loathe them, treat them with great respect, for fear of laying themselves open to the charge of laxity in religious matters.


A Dervish.

Many of them deal in charms, and are consulted as astrologers. Some are professed tellers of stories, to which I am told no European could degrade himself by listening, but which are most palatable to a village audience; and at this moment this unwelcome guest of mine has a crowd listening to a narrative partly told and partly acted.

They are credited with many vices, among the least of which are hazy ideas as to mine and thine, opium and bhang smoking to excess, and drunkenness.

They have recognised heads or chiefs, to whom they show great deference. One of their vows is that of obedience; and besides paying to the chief a part of the alms they receive, he gives them orders as to the houses they are to infest, and though the nuisance is not so common as formerly, a dervish at the door is still a sign of being great or rich, or both. Their cries, and their rude blasts on the buffalo horn, which is a usual part of their equipment, are most obnoxious. In the larger towns, such as Kûm and Kirmanshah, there are shops for the sale of their outfit — the tiger and panther skins, the axes, the knotted clubs, the almsbowls, etc.

Some are respectable, and enjoy much consideration, and I hope that many even of those whom a careful writer has called “disgusting vagabonds” are not humbugs; but the presumption is so much the other way that I am always glad when the ground admits of galloping past them, otherwise the dervish comes forward, with his knotted club much en évidence, with many compliments and good wishes, or else silently extends his almsholder, ejaculating Huk (“my right”). I usually have the means of appeasing, if not of satisfying him, but on the rare occasions when I have had no money the yells and maledictions have been awful.

The light and profane use of the Divine name is universal. The dervishes curse, but every one uses the name Allah wherever they can bring it in. The Ya Allah, as an expression of fatigue, or discontent, or interest, or nothing, is heard all day, and the boy who drives a cow, or a team, or a mule in a caravan, cries Ya Allah incessantly as an equivalent of “go along,” and the gardener pushing his spade into the ground, the chopper with every blow of the axe, the labourer throwing up bricks, ejaculates the same. Mashallah, Inshallah, interlard all conversation. When men are building, the perpetual sing-song of phrases such as these is heard, “Brother, in God’s name toss me a brick,” the other replying, “Brother, in God’s name here is a brick.”

The vocabulary of abuse is also very large, and often involves serious reflections on the female relatives of the person abused. I hear such harmless phrases as “son of a burnt father,” “son of a dog,” “offspring of a pig,” etc., on all occasions.

Murcheh Khurt is a large village with a good deal of cultivation about it, a mosque or more, a hammam, a chapar khana, and a caravanserai. Here again I found that the smart foreign soldier attracted all the notice, and that before the people ceased to wonder at him I had passed them. The chapar khana was full of men, so I have had to sink to the level of a recessed den with a manger in front in a ruinous caravanserai crowded with Persian travellers, muleteers, mules, horses, and asses, and the courtyard half-choked with ruins. I had not seen the inside of one of these dens before. Travellers have exhausted the vocabulary of abuse upon them; possibly they deserve it in the “vermin season”; but there is nothing worse than a square and perfectly dark room, with unplastered walls blackened by the smoke and cobwebs of ages, and a door which will not fasten.

The air is cool and the sky blue, and sitting at the open door is very pleasant. Mahboud and two of the servants caught cold at Kuhrūd and are ill, and my Arab has a chill too. He is a very stupid horse. His gentle eyes never change their expression, and his small ears rarely move. He has little sense or affection, but when he is patted his proud neck takes on a loftier arch. Gentle as he is to people he is a brute to other horses. He would like to fight every one of them, to stand on his hind-legs and grapple them round the shoulders with his fore-feet and bite their necks, roaring and squealing all the time. He and Mahboud’s horse are inveterate enemies, and one of the few difficulties of the journey is the keeping them from a regular stand-up fight.

This village is an oasis in the desert. I have been through its gates, barely wide enough to admit an ass loaded with brushwood, with the seraidar and Mirza, walked through its narrow alleys, and inadvertently stumbled into a mosque where a great crowd of women were listening to a story of one of the twelve Imams told by a mollah, looked down upon it and over the adjacent country from a house roof, visited several houses, in which some of the inmates were ill and desired “Feringhi medicine,” had a long conversation with the ketchuda, who came to see me to ask for eye lotion, and with the seraidar, and altogether have had quite a pleasant day.

Chapar Khana, Gez.— I am sitting in one of the three doorless doorways of my loft, grieving that the journey is just over, and that this is the last night of the exhilarating freedom of the desert. I rode twenty-four miles before one o’clock today, over a level uncultivated plain, bordered as usual by ranges of mountains. In fact, while I write of levels and plains it must be understood that Persia is chiefly a land of hills rising from a table-land from 3400 feet to 6000 feet in altitude, and that the traveller is rarely, if ever, more than fourteen or fifteen miles from mountains from 2000 to 6000 feet above the plain from which they rise, crowned by Demavend, whose imposing summit is 18,600 feet above the sea. The hills beyond Isfahan have assumed lofty proportions, and some of the snowy mountains of Luristan are to be seen in the far distance.

It is nearly an unmitigated waste between Murcheh Khurt and Gez, destitute even of tufts of wormwood; but the latter part of the march is through a stoneless alluvial desert of dry friable soil, soft springy galloping ground which water would turn into a paradise of fertility; and water there has once been, for not far from the road are the remains of some kanaats.

The questions naturally arise in a traveller’s mind, first, what becomes of the enormous amount of snow which falls on the mountains; and next, how in a country so arid as the plateaus of Central Asia water for irrigation, and for the basins and fountains which abound in rich men’s houses, is obtained.

Wells, unless the artesian borings shortly to be begun in the Tihran desert should be successful, are all but unknown, except for supplying drinking water, and there are scarcely any reservoirs, but ingenuity has devised a plan of subterranean water-channels, which besides their other advantages prevent loss by evaporation. Tihran has thirty-five of them, and the water which they distribute is naturally expensive, as the cost of making them is great.

It is on the slope of a hill that the spring is found which is the original source of supply; this is tapped at some depth, and its waters are led along a tunnel about four feet high by two feet wide lined with baked pottery where the ground is soft, and having a slight fall to the next spring or well, which may be from twenty-five to even sixty yards off.

As the labourers dig they draw up the earth and arrange it in a circle round the shaft, and as they come to water they draw up the mud and pour it on the top of the earth, where it dries and hardens, and below, the water is conducted as a running underground stream across great plains, its progress marked by mounds which have been compared to ant-hills and craters, but to my thinking are more like the shafts of disused mines.

Hundreds of these kanaats are seen, ruined and dry, and are the resort of porcupines and jackals. To construct a kanaat may call a village or series of villages into being. The letting it fall to ruin is one cause of deserted villages. Those which are not lined require annual repairs, which are now going on, but frequently the complete fall of the roof destroys the fall of the water, and the tunnel becomes irreparable.

The peasants are obliged to buy the water, for they cannot steal it, and the making of a kanaat is often a lucrative speculation. Pigeons live in them, and many of them are full of fish, which foreigners amuse themselves by poisoning by throwing a mixture of cocculus indicus with dough down the wells, when the poisoned but wholesome fish rise to the surface. They usually recover when they are left in the water. Dr. Wills describes them as having a muddy taste. The kanaats are a feature of Persia.

Ever since leaving Kûm all the dry and hard parts of the road have been covered with the industrious “road beetle,” which works, like the ant, in concert, and carries on its activities at all seasons, removing from the road to its nest all the excreta of animals, except in regions where even animal fuel is so exceptionally scarce that boys with asses and ponies follow caravans for the same purpose. These beetles hover over the road on the wing, and on alighting proceed to roll the ball towards the nest, four or five of them standing on their hind-legs and working it forwards, or else rolling it with their heads close to the ground. Their instinct is wonderful, and they attract the attention of all travellers. They are about the size of a small walnut. Otherwise there is little of animated life to be seen on this route.

No day has had fewer noticeable objects. Two or three abambars, several caravanserais in absolute ruins, and a magnificent one in partial ruins are its record.

Gez consists of this post-house and a decaying caravanserai. From the roof as I write I watch the grooming of a whole row of chapar horses. As each pad is removed there is a horrid revelation of wounds, deep ulcers, sores often a foot long, and in some cases the white vertebræ of the spine are exposed. These are the wretched animals which often carry men from fourteen to seventeen stone who ride fifty miles in a day. It is hard enough even with extreme carefulness to keep the back of a horse all right on a continuous journey, but I never before saw animals ridden in such a state. They wince pitifully when their pads are put on again.

The desert is all around, purpling in the sunset, sweeping up to low broken ridges, and to some higher hills in the north-west covered with new-fallen snow. That the waste only requires water to make it prolific is apparent, for below these walls wheat is growing luxuriantly in some deep pits, irrigated from a dirty ditch out of which the drinking water comes. Nothing can be got, except by sending to a village a mile away.

Four of the men are ill, one with inflammation of the eyes, another with an abscess, and a third, a very strong man, with something like bilious fever, and a charvadar with malarial fever. The strong man’s moans often become howls. He insists that he shall die to-night. These two afternoons have been much taken up with making poultices and medicines, and I shall be glad for the poor fellows to reach Isfahan and the care of a competent doctor.

Julfa, April 2.— I daresay this journey seems longer to you than it did to me. It was very pleasant, and its goal is pleasant, and a most kind welcome and the refinement of cultured English people go far to compensate for the loss of the desert freedom and the easy stride of the Arab horse.

I started the caravan at nine yesterday, with two men with bandaged eyes, and other two hardly able to sit on their mules; Mahboud, who is really more seriously ill than any of them, keeping up his pluck and capableness to the last. The man who threatened to die at Gez was very much better the next morning.

Soon after leaving Gez the country changes its aspect, the road becomes very bad, and passes through nine miles of rich cultivation — wheat, barley, opium, and vegetables growing abundantly; orchards are numerous, villages with trees and gardens succeed each other rapidly, water abounds, and before the gate of Isfahan is reached, domes and minarets rising among cypresses, planes, and poplars indicate the remains of the former capital of Persia.

Inside the shabby gateway the road to Julfa lies among rows of mean mud houses, heaps of ruins, and shabby provision bazars; and that mile or more of Isfahan was the one disagreeable part of the journey.

It was about the last day of the holidays, and the bazars, alleys, and open spaces were full of men in gay attire, and companies of shrouded women were moving along the quieter roads. It was too warm for the sheepskin coat which had served me so well at Kûm, and I had dressed with some regard to European sensibilities. The boys began to shout “A Feringhi woman! a Nazarene woman!” and then to call bad names; then men began to make up fiendish laughs,32 and the howls and outcries gathered strength as I went on at the inevitable foot’s pace, spitting being quite common, poor Mahboud constantly turning to me a perturbed wretched face, full of annoyance at the insults of his coreligionists, which it would have been dangerous to resent. It was a bad half-hour.

Before passing the residence of the Amir-i-Panj (the commander of 5000) near the Julfa gate the uproar died away, and once through the gate and in the Chahar Bagh (four gardens) there was peace. A bad road of cobble stones, with a double avenue of once magnificent planes, some once ornamental tanks, very high walls, pierced by storied gates, ornamented with wild designs on plaster in flaring colours, above which a blue dome is a conspicuous object, leads to a handsome bridge of thirty-three arches, with a broad level roadway, and corridors for foot passengers on either side, over the Zainderud, then came fields with springing wheat, a few houses, a narrow alley, and two or three miles from Isfahan the gate of its Armenian suburb, Julfa.

At once on crossing the bridge there was a change. Ruddy, cheery-looking unveiled women in red gowns, and pure white chadars completely enveloping their persons, moved freely about, and the men wore neither the becoming turban nor the ominous scowl of Islam. In the quaint narrow streets were churches with open vestibules, through which pictures of the thorn-crowned Christ and of sweet-faced Madonnas were visible; priests in black robes and women in white glided along the narrow roads. There was the fresher, purer air of Christianity, however debased and corrupted. In the low-browed churches divine honours are paid to a crowned and risen Christ, and the white-robed women have been baptized into His name. Never again will the Julfa alleys be so peaceful and lovable as yesterday, when they offered a haven from the howling bigots of Isfahan.

Dr. Bruce has not returned from Baghdad, but Mrs. and Miss Bruce welcomed me very kindly, and I am already forgetting my unpleasant reception. I. L. B.

32 I can imagine now what a hellish laugh that was with which “they laughed Him to scorn.”

I was a month in Julfa, but never saw anything more of Isfahan, which is such a fanatical city that I believe even so lately as last year none of the ladies of the European community had visited it, except one or two disguised as Persian women.

Letter xii

Mr. George Curzon wrote of Julfa: “The younger Julfa is a place wholly destitute of superficial attractions, consisting as it does of a labyrinth of narrow alleys closed by doors and plentifully perforated with open sewers. Life there is ‘cabined, cribbed, confined’ to an intolerable degree, and it is a relief to escape from its squalid precincts.”

I dare not write thus if I would! It is now the early spring. The “sewers” are clear rapid streams, margined by grass and dandelions, and shaded by ash trees and pollard willows in their first flush of green. The “narrow alleys” are scrupulously clean, and there is neither mud nor dust. If I go up on the roof I see a cultivated oasis, gardens prolonged indefinitely concealing the desert which lies between them and the bold mountain ranges which surround this lofty and breezy plain. Every breeze is laden with the delicious odour of the bean blossom. A rapid river spanned by noble bridges hurries through the oasis it has helped to create, and on its other side the domes and minarets of Isfahan rise out of masses of fine trees, and bridges and mosques, minarets and mountains, are all seen through a most exquisite pink mist, for hundreds of standard peach trees are in full bloom, and look where one may everything is couleur de rose.

I quite admit that Julfa consists of a “labyrinth of alleys.” I can never find my way about it. One alley with its shady central stream (or “sewer”), its roughly paved paths on either side, its mud walls pierced by low doors, is very much like another, and however lucky one may be in “happening on” the right road, it is always a weary time before one escapes from between mud walls into the gardens and wheatfields, to the blossoming beans, and the exquisite wild-flowers among the wheat.

As to the “cabined, cribbed, confined” life, I can give no testimony from personal knowledge. All life in European settlements in the East appears to me “cabined, cribbed, confined,” and greatly devoid of external interests. Perhaps Julfa is deficient in the latter in an eminent degree, and in a very small foreign community people are interested chiefly in each other’s affairs, sayings, and doings. Lawn tennis, picnics, and dinner parties are prevalent, the ordinary etiquette of European society prevails, and in all cases of need the residents are kind to each other both in life and death.

The European society is divided into three circles — the missionaries, the mercantile community, and the telegraph staff. The British agent, Mr. Aganoor, is an Armenian.33 No Christians, Armenian or European, live in Isfahan, and it is practically défendu to European women. This transpontine restriction undoubtedly narrows the life and interests of Julfa. It is aggravating and tantalising to be for ever looking at a city of 60,000 or 70,000 people, the fallen capital of the Sufari dynasty, and never be able to enter it.

This Christian town of Julfa has a certain accessible historic interest. Shah Abbas, justly surnamed the Great, conceived the sagacious project of introducing among his Persian subjects at Isfahan — then, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, a magnificent capital — the Christian habits of trading, sagacity, and thrift, for then as now the Armenians had commercial dealings with China, India, and Europe, and had imported several arts into Persia.

This project he carried out in truly despotic fashion by moving almost the whole population of Julfa on the Araxes, on the modern Russo–Persian frontier, to the banks of the Zainderud, making over to it the best lands in the neighbourhood of Isfahan. Many years later the new Julfa was a place with twenty-four churches, great prosperity, and an estimated population of 40,000. Its agriculturists were prosperous market-gardeners for the huge city of Isfahan, and it had likewise a great trading community, and was renowned for the making of jewellery and watches.

It has now a dwindling population of about 3000, chiefly elderly men, women, and girls, the young men, after receiving a good education in the Church Mission and other schools, flying from its stagnation to India, Java, and even Europe. The twenty-four churches are reduced to twelve, and these with the vast cemetery in the desert at the base of Kuh Sufi are its chief objects of interest, apart from those which are human and living.

April 22.— The peach blossoms have long since fallen, but perhaps I still see Julfa couleur de rose, even after three weeks, so very great is the kindness under this roof, and so fully is my time occupied with various interests, and the preparations for a difficult journey.

This, as you know, is the Church Mission House. Dr. Bruce has been here for twenty years, and until lately, when the Archbishop of Canterbury’s mission to the Assyrian Christians began its work at Urmi, near the Turkish frontier in the north-west, this was the only English mission in the Empire. It was contemplated as a mission to the Mohammedans, but in this respect has been an apparent failure. It is true that much prejudice has been disarmed, and, as I have heard from some leading Mohammedans, Dr. Bruce’s zeal and good works have won their respect. A large part of the Bible has been translated into Persian and very widely circulated through the adjacent country by means of colporteurs of the British and Foreign Bible Society. His preaching of Christianity is listened to respectfully, and even with interest, wherever he itinerates, and Moslems daily call on him, and show much friendliness, but the results, as results are usually estimated, are nil— that is, no Mohammedans openly profess Christianity.

There is actual though not legal toleration, but Moslem children may not attend a mission school, and a Moslem who becomes a Christian loses his means of living, and probably his life is sacrificed to fanaticism.

In consequence of these difficulties, and certain encouragements in another direction, the ostensible work of the mission is among Armenians. Dr. Bruce has not been afraid of incurring the stigma of being a proselytiser, and has a large congregation of Armenians worshipping after the English form, ninety-four being communicants of the Church of England. On Easter Eve there was an evening Communion, and the great row of women kneeling at the rail in the pure white robes which cover them from head to foot, and then moving back to their places in the dim light, was very picturesque and beautiful.

Good works have been added one after another, till the mission is now a very large establishment. The C.M.S. has been liberal to this, its only Persian agency, and Dr. Bruce, having private means, has generously expended them largely on missionary work in Julfa.

The chief features of the compounds are the church, which is both simple and ecclesiastical in its exterior and interior, and the library adjoining it, where Dr. Bruce works at the translation of the Old Testament into Persian and the revision of the New, aided by a munshi, and where through much of the day he is receiving Moslems, some of whom come to inquire into Christianity, others for religious disputations, and a third and numerous class out of mere friendliness. The latter are generally invited into the Mission House, and are regaled with coffee and kalians, in orthodox Persian fashion. Among the latter visitors has been the Amir-i-Panj, who came to ask me to call on his wife, accompanied by a general of cavalry, whose name I cannot spell, and who speaks French remarkably well.

Among the other buildings are those of the Medical Mission, which include a roomy courtyard, where the animals which carry the patients are tethered, rooms for the doctor, a well-arranged dispensary and consulting-room, with waiting-rooms for both sexes, and rooms above in which serious surgical cases are received for treatment, and where at present there are eleven patients, although just now there is no European doctor, and they are being treated by the native assistants, most kindly helped by Dr. Scully of the telegraph staff. This hospital and dispensary are largely taken advantage of by Moslems, who highly appreciate this form of Christian benevolence.

The boys’ school, with 205 pupils, has been a great benefit to Julfa. The head-master, Mr. Johannes, was educated in England and was formerly a master of the Nassik School in India. This school provides the education of one of our best middle-class schools, and the teaching is thorough. Smattering would be infinitely despised by teachers and pupils. In this thorough fashion Latin, French, the first four books of Euclid, and algebra are taught to the young men of the upper form. The boys have a large playground, with a great tank for bathing, and some of the equipments of a gymnasium, a vaulting pole, parallel bars, etc.

The girls’ schools, containing 100 girls, have their own courtyard, and they need enlarging, though the process has been more than once repeated. Mrs. Aidin, an English teacher, is at their head, and exercises that strong influence which love and firmness give. The girls are a mass of red, a cool red, without yellow, and when they disperse they enliven the Julfa alleys with their carnation dresses and pure white chadars. The education is solid and suitable, and special attention is given to needlework.

Besides these there is an orphanage, begun for the benefit of those whose parents died in the famine, in which are twenty boys. Outside are many other works, a Bible House, from which colporteurs at intervals proceed on journeys, a Young Men’s Christian Association, or something like it, etc. etc.

Now as to the Mission House itself, which has to accommodate Dr., Mrs., and Miss Bruce, Mr. Carless, a clerical missionary, and two English lady missionaries. So much has been written lately about the “style of living” of missionaries, their large houses, and somewhat unnecessary comfort in general, that I am everywhere specially interested in investigating the subject, having formed no definite opinion on the question whether living as natives or living as Europeans is the more likely mode of producing a salutary impression.

The Mission House here is a native building, its walls and ceilings simply decorated with pale brown arabesques on a white ground. There are a bedroom and parlour, with an ante-room between giving access to both from the courtyard, a storeroom, and a kitchen. Across the court are servants’ quarters and a guest-room for natives. Above these, reached by an outside stair, are a good room, occupied by Mr. Carless as study and bedroom, and one small guest-room. Another stair leads to two rooms above some of the girls’ school premises, having enclosed alcoves used as sleeping and dressing rooms. These are occupied by two ladies. One room serves as eating-room for the whole mission party, at present six in number, and as drawing-room and workroom. Books, a harmonium, Persian rugs on the floor, and just enough furniture for use constitute its “luxury.”

There are two servants, both of course men, and all the ladies do some housework. At present the only horse is the dispensary horse, a beast of such rough and uneven paces that it is a penance to ride him. The food is abundant, well cooked, and very simple.

The life, all round, is a very busy one. Visitors are never refused at any hour. The long flat mud roofs from which one can see the gardens and the hills are used for exercise, otherwise some of the party would never have anything better than mud walls for their horizon, and life in courtyards is rather depressing for Europeans. I have told facts, and make no comments, and it must be remembered that both Dr. Bruce and Miss V— — a lady of rare devotion who has lately arrived,34 are to a certain extent “honorary” missionaries, and have the means, if they had the desire, of surrounding themselves with comforts.

This is about the twenty-third mission circle with which I have become acquainted during the last eight months, and I see in nearly all the same difficulties, many of them of a nature which we can hardly realise at home.

Women coming to the East as missionaries are by far the greatest sufferers, especially if they are young, for Eastern custom, which in their position cannot be defied with advantage, limits free action and abridges all the comforts of independence. Thus a woman cannot take a walk or a ride or go to a house without a trusty man-servant in attendance on her, and this is often inconvenient, so she does not go out at all, contenting herself with a walk on the roof or in the courtyard.

The wave of enthusiasm on which a lady leaves her own country soon spends its force. The interest which has centred round her for weeks or even months is left behind. The enthusiastic addresses and farewell meetings, the journey “up the country” with its excitement and novelties, and the cordial welcome from the mission circle to which she is introduced, soon become things of the past. The circle, however kind, has its own interests and work, and having provided her with a munshi, necessarily goes on its own way more or less, and she is left to face the fearful difficulties of languages with which ours has no affinity, in a loneliness which is all the more severely felt because she is usually, for a time at least, one nominally of a family circle.

Unless she is a doctor or nurse she can do nothing till she has learned the language, and the difficulty of learning is increased by the loss of the flexible mind and retentive memory which are the heritage of extreme youth. The temptation is to “go at it” violently. Then come the aching head, the loss of sleep, the general lassitude and nervousness, and the self-questionings as to whether she was right in leaving her fruitful work in England.

Then, instead of realising the truth of the phrases used at home —“multitudes flocking as the doves to their windows”—“fields white unto the harvest,” etc. — she finds that the work instead of seeking her has to be made by her most laboriously, and oftentimes the glowing hope of telling of the Redeemer’s love and death to throngs of eager and receptive listeners is fulfilled in the drudgery of teaching sewing and the rudiments of English during the first year.

It is just this first year under which many women succumb. Then how many of the failings and weaknesses of the larger world must be epitomised in a mission group exposed, as Mr. Heyde of Kyelang feelingly said, “to the lowering influence of daily contact with a courteous and non-repulsive Heathenism and Mohammedanism”! Missionaries are not likely to possess, as they certainly are the last to claim, superior sanctity, and the new-comer, dreaming of a circle in all respects consecrated, finds herself among frictions, strong differences as to methods of working, not always gently expressed, and possible jealousies and criticisms, and an exaggeration of the importance of trifles, natural where large events are rare. A venerable American missionary in Turkey said, “Believe me, the greatest trial of missionaries is missionaries.”

The small group is frequently destitute of social resources outside itself, it is cut off from friendly visits, services, lectures, music, new books, news, and the many recreative influences which all men regard as innocent. The life-work seems at times thrown away, the heat, the flies, and the mosquitos are depressing and exhausting, and in the case of young women, especially till they can use the language colloquially, there is little if any outside movement. Is it wonderful that supposed slights, tiffs, criticisms which would be utterly brushed away if a good walk in the open or a good gallop were possible, should be brooded over till they attain a magnitude which embitters and depresses life?

A man constantly finds the first year or two very trying till he has his tools — the language — at command, and even men at times rub each other the wrong way, but a man can take a good walk or a solitary gallop, or better still, a week of itinerating among the villages. People speak of the dangers and privations of missionary life. I think that these are singularly over-estimated. But the trials which I have alluded to, and which, with the hot climates and insufficient exercise, undermine the health of very many female missionaries, cannot be exaggerated, and demand our deep sympathy.

I do not think that the ordinary pious woman, the successful and patient worker in district visiting, Bible classes, mothers’ meetings, etc., is necessarily suited to be a foreign missionary, but that a heart which is a well-spring of human love, and a natural “enthusiasm of humanity” are required, as well as love to the Master, the last permeating and sanctifying the others, and giving them a perennial freshness. Fancy G. G—— grumbling and discontented and magnifying unpropitious trifles, when her heart goes out to every Chinawoman she sees in a perfect passion of love!35

With the medical missionary, whether man or woman, the case is different. The work seeks the worker even before he is ready for it, claims him, pursues him, absorbs him, and he is powerful to heal even where he is impotent to convert.

I have been to the hospital to see a woman from the Kuhrūd mountains, who was brought here to undergo an operation. She had spent all her living on native physicians without result, and her husband has actually sold his house to get money to give his wife a last chance of recovery. Fifteen years ago this man nearly took Dr. Bruce’s life. Now, he says, “The fruits of Christianity are good.”

Daily the “labyrinth of alleys” becomes denser with leafage, and the sun is hot enough to make the shade very pleasant, while occasional showers keep the greenery fresh. Indeed it is warm enough in my room to make the cool draught from the bādgīr very pleasant. These wind-towers are a feature of all Persian cities, breaking the monotony of the flat roofs.

Letters can be sent once a week from Isfahan, and there is another opportunity very safe and much taken advantage of, the “Telegraph chapar,” a British official messenger, who rides up and down between Bushire and Tihran at stated intervals. The Persian post is a wretched institution, partaking of the general corruption of Persian officialism, and nowhere, unless registered, are letters less safe than in Tihran.36 I shall send this, scrappy as it is, as I may not be here for another week’s mail.

I. L. B.

33 Since my visit Mr. Preece, then, and for many previous years, the superintending electrician of this section of the Indo–European telegraph, has been appointed Consul, the increasing dimensions of English interests and the increasing number of resident British subjects rendering the creation of a Consulate at Isfahan a very desirable step.

34 A few weeks later she died, her life sacrificed, I think, to over-study of a difficult language, and the neglect of fresh air and exercise.

35 These sentences were written nearly a year ago, but many subsequent visits to missions have only confirmed my strong view of the very trying nature of at least the early period of a lady missionary’s life in the East, and of the constant failure of health which it produces; of the great necessity there is for mission boards to lay down some general rules of hygiene, which shall include the duty of riding on horseback, for more rigorous requirements of vigorous physique in those sent out, and above all, that the natural characteristics of those who are chosen to be “epistles of Christ” in the East shall be such as will not only naturally and specially commend the Gospel, but will stand the wear and strain of difficult circumstances.

36 Nearly all my non-registered letters to England failed to reach their destination.

Letter xiii

Each day has been completely filled up since I wrote, and this is probably the last here. My dear old Cabul tent, a shuldari, also Indian, and a servants’ tent made here on a plan of my own, are pitched in one of the compounds to exercise the servants in the art, and it really looks like going after many delays.

A few festivities have broken the pleasant monotony of life in this kindly and hospitable house — dinner parties, European and Armenian; a picnic on the Kuh Sufi, from which there is a very fine panoramic view of the vast plain and its surrounding mountains, and of the immense ruins of Isfahan and Julfa, with the shrunken remains of both; and a “church picnic.”

From Kuh Sufi is seen how completely, and with a sharp line of definition, the arid desert bounds the green oasis of cultivated and irrigated gardens which surround the city, and which are famous for the size and lusciousness of their fruit. From a confusion of ruinous or ragged walls of mud, of ruined and modern houses standing complacently among heaps of rubbish, and from amidst a greenery which redeems the scene, the blue tiled dome of the Masjid-i-Shah, a few minarets, and the great dome of the Medresseh, denuded of half its tiles, rise conspicuously. Long lines of mud streets and caravanserais, gaunt in their ruin, stretch into the desert, and the city once boasting of 650,000 inhabitants and a splendid court survives with a population of less than 80,000 at the highest estimate.

The “church picnic” was held in a scene of decay, but 260 people, with all the women but three in red, enlivened it. It was in the grounds of the old palace of Haft Dast, in which Fatteh Ali Shah died, close to one of the three remarkable bridges of Isfahan, the Pul-i-Kajū. These bridges are magnificent. Their construction is most peculiar, and their roadways being flat they are almost unique in Persia.

The Pul-i-Kajū, though of brick, has stone piers of immense size, which are arched over so as to form a level causeway. On this massive structure the upper bridge is built, comprising a double series of rooms at each pier with doorways overlooking the river, and there are staircases and rooms also in the upper piers.

The Chahar Bagh bridge is also quaint and magnificent, with its thirty-three arches, some of them very large, its corridors for foot passengers, and chambers above each pier, each chamber having three openings to the river. These bridges have a many-storied look, from their innumerable windows at irregular altitudes, and form a grand approach to the city.

As at first, so now at last the most impressive thing to me about the Zainderud next to its bridges is the extent to which rinsing, one of the processes of dyeing, is carried on upon its shingle flats. Isfahan dyed fabrics are famous and beautiful, heavy cottons of village make and unbleached cottons of Manchester make being brought here to be dyed and printed.

There is quite a population of dyers, and now that the river is fairly low, many of them have camped for the season in little shelters of brushwood erected on the gravel banks. For fully half-a-mile these banks are covered with the rinsers of dyed and printed calicoes, and with mighty heaps of their cottons. Hundreds of pieces after the rinsing are laid closely together to dry, indigo and turquoise blue, brown and purple madder, Turkey red and saffron predominating, a vile aniline colour showing itself here and there. Some of the smaller dyers have their colour vats by the river, but most of the cotton is brought from Isfahan, ready dyed, on donkeys’ backs, with the rinsers in attendance.

Along the channels among the shingle banks are rows of old millstones, and during much of the day a rinser stands in front of each up to his knees in water. His methods are rough, and the cotton must be good which stands his treatment. Taking in his hands a piece of soaked half-wrung cotton, from fifteen to twenty yards long, he folds it into five feet and bangs it on the millstone with all his might, roaring a tuneless song all the time, till he fails from fatigue. The noise is tremendous, and there will be more yet, for the river is not nearly at its lowest point. When the piece has had the water beaten out of it a boy spreads it out on the gravel, and keeps it wet by dashing water over it, and then the process of beating is repeated. The coloured spray rising from each millstone in the bright sunshine is very pretty. Each rinser has his watchdog to guard the cottons on the bank, and between the banging, splashing, and singing, the barking of the dogs and the shouts of the boys, it is a noisy and cheery scene.

I have heard that certain unscrupulous English makers were in the habit of sending “loaded” cottons here, but that the calico printers have been a match for them, for the calico printer weighs his cloth before he buys it, washes and dries it, and then weighs it again. A man must “get up very early” if he means to cheat a Persian.

The patterns and colours are beautiful. Quilts, “table-cloths” (for use on the floor), and chadars are often things of exquisite beauty. Indeed I have yielded to temptation, and to gratify my own tastes have bought some beautiful “table-cloths” for Bakhtiari women, printed chiefly in indigo and brown madder on a white ground.

The temptations are great. I really need many things both for my own outfit and for presents to the Bakhtiaris, and pedlars come every day and unpack their tempting bundles in the small verandah. No Europeans and no women of the upper classes can enjoy the delights of shopping in Persia, consequently the pedlar is a necessary institution.

Here they are of the humbler sort. They have learned that it is useless to display rich Turkestan and Feraghan carpets, gold and silver jewellery, inlaid arms, stuffs worked with gold thread, or any of the things which tempt the travelling Feringhi, so they bring all sorts of common fabrics, printed cambrics, worthless woollen stuffs, and the stout piece cottons and exquisitely-printed cotton squares of Isfahan.

At almost any hour of the day a salaaming creature squatting at the door is seen, caressing a big bundle, which on seeing you he pats in a deprecating manner, looks up appealingly, declares that he is your “sacrifice,” and that with great trouble and loss he has got just the thing the khanum wants. If you hesitate for one moment the bundle is opened, and on his first visit he invariably shows flaring Manchester cottons first; but if you look and profess disgust, he produces cottons printed here, strokes them lovingly, and asks double their value for them. You offer something about half. He recedes and you advance till a compromise is arrived at representing the fair price.

But occasionally, as about a table-cloth, if they see that you admire it very much but will not give the price asked, they swear by Allah that they will not abate a fraction, pack up their bundle, and move off in well-simulated indignation, probably to return the next day to offer the article on your own terms. Mrs. Bruce has done the bargaining, and I have been only an amused looker-on. I should prefer doing without things to the worry and tedium of the process of buying them.

The higher class of pedlars, such as those who visit the andaruns of the rich, go in couples, with a donkey or servant to carry their bundles.

I mentioned that the Amir-i-Panj had called and had asked me to visit his wife. I sent a message to say that my entrance into Isfahan had been so disagreeable that I should be afraid to pass through its gates again, to which he replied that he would take care that I met with no incivility. So an afternoon visit was arranged, and he sent a splendid charger for me, one of the finest horses I have seen in Persia, a horse for Mirza Yusuf, and an escort of six cavalry soldiers, which was increased to twelve at the city gate. The horse I rode answered the description —“a neck clothed with thunder,”— he was perfectly gentle, but his gait was that of a creature too proud to touch the earth. It was exhilarating to be upon such an animal.

The cavalry men rode dashing animals, and wore white Astrakan high caps, and the cortège quite filled up the narrow alley where it waited, and as it passed through the Chahar Bagh and the city gate, with much prancing and clatter, no “tongue wagged” either of dervish or urchin.

At the entrance to the Amir’s house I was received by an aide-decamp and a number of soldier-servants, and was “conducted” into a long room opening by many windows upon a beautiful garden full of peach blossom, violets, and irises; the table was covered with very pretty confectionery, including piles of gaz, a favourite sweetmeat, made of manna which is chiefly collected within eighty miles of Isfahan. Coffee was served in little cups in filigree gold receptacles, and then the Amir-i-Panj appeared in a white uniform, with a white lambskin cap, and asked “permission to have the honour of accompanying me to the andarun.”

Persian politeness is great, and the Amir, though I think he is a Turk and not a Persian, is not deficient in it. Such phrases as “My house is purified by your presence, I live a thousand years in this visit,” etc., were freely used.

This man, who receives from all a very high character, and whom Moslems speak of as a “saint,” is the most interesting Moslem I have met. In one sense a thoroughly religious man, he practises all the virtues which he knows, almsgiving to the extent of self-denial, without distinction of creed, charity in word and deed, truth, purity, and justice.

I had been much prepossessed in his favour not only from Dr. Bruce’s high opinion of him but by the unbounded love and reverence which my interpreter has for him. Mirza Yusuf marched on foot from Bushire to Isfahan, without credentials, an alien, and penniless, and this good man hearing of him took him into his house, and treated him as a welcome guest till a friend of his, a Moslem, a general in the Persian army, also good and generous, took him to Tihran, where he remained as his guest for some months, and was introduced into the best Persian society. From him I learned how beautiful and pure a life may be even in a corrupt nation. When he bowed to kiss the Amir’s hand, with grateful affection in his face, his “benefactor,” as he always calls him, turned to me and said, “He is to me as a dear son, God will be with him.”

The garden is well laid out, and will soon be full of flowers. The Amir seemed to love them passionately. He said that they gave rest and joy, and are “the fringes of the garment of God.” He could not cut them, he said, “Their beauty is in their completeness from root to petals, and cutting destroys it.”

A curtained doorway in the high garden wall, where the curtains were held aside by servants, leads into the court of the andarun, where flowers again were in the ascendant, and vines concealed the walls. The son, a small boy, met us and kissed my hand. Mirza had told me that he had never passed through this wall, and had never seen the ladies, but when I proposed to leave him outside, the Amir said he would be welcome, that he wished for much conversation, and for his wife to hear about the position and education of women in England.

The beautiful reception-room looked something like home. The pure white walls and honeycombed ceiling are touched and decorated with a pale shade of blue, and the ground of the patterns of the rich carpets on the floor is in the same delicate colour, which is repeated in the brocaded stuffs with which the divans are covered. A half-length portrait of the Amir in a sky-blue uniform, with his breast covered with orders, harmonises with the general “scheme” of colour. The takchahs in the walls are utilised for vases and other objects in alabaster, jade, and bronze. A tea-table covered with sweetmeats, a tea equipage on the floor, and some chairs completed the furnishing.

The Amir stood till his wife came in, and then asked permission to sit down, placing Mirza, who discreetly lowered his eyes when the lady entered, and never raised them again, on the floor.

She is young, tall, and somewhat stout. She was much rouged, and her eyes, to which the arts of the toilet could add no additional beauty, were treated with kohl, and the eyebrows artificially extended. She wore fine gray socks, white skin-fitting tights, a black satin skirt, or rather flounce, embroidered in gold, so bouffante with flounces of starched crinoline under it that when she sat down it stood out straight, not even touching the chair. A chemise of spangled gauze, and a pale blue gold-embroidered zouave jacket completed a costume which is dress, not clothing. The somewhat startling effect was toned down by a beautiful Constantinople silk gauze veil, sprigged in pale pink and gold, absolutely transparent, which draped her from head to foot.

I did not get away in less than two hours. The Amir and Mirza, used to each other’s modes of expression, found no difficulties, and Mirza being a man of education as well as intelligence, thought was conveyed as easily as fact. The lady kept her fine eyes lowered except when her husband spoke to her.

The chief topics were the education and position of women in England, religion, politics, and the future of Persia, and on all the Amir expressed himself with a breadth and boldness which were astonishing. How far the Amir has gone in the knowledge of the Christian faith I cannot say, nor do I feel at liberty to repeat his most interesting thoughts. A Sunni, a liberal, desiring complete religious liberty, absolutely tolerant to the Bābis, grateful for the kindness shown to some of them by the British Legation, and for the protection still given to them at the C.M.S. house, admiring Dr. Bruce’s persevering work, and above all the Medical Mission, which he regards as “the crown of beneficence” and “the true imitation of the life of the Great Prophet, Jesus,” all he said showed a strongly religious nature, and a philosophical mind much given to religious thought. “All true religions aim at one thing,” he said, “to make the heart and life pure.”

He asked a good deal about my travels, and special objects of interest in travelling, and was surprised when I told him that I nearly always travel alone; but after a moment’s pause he said, “I do not understand that you were for a moment alone, for you had everywhere the love, companionship, and protection of God.”

He regards as the needs of Persia education, religious liberty (the law which punishes a Moslem with death for embracing Christianity is still on the statute-book), roads, and railroads, and asked me if I had formed any opinion on the subject. I said that it appeared to me that security for the earnings of labour, and equal laws for rich and poor, administered by incorruptible judges, should accompany education. I much fear that he thinks incorruptible judges a vision of a dim future!

The subject of the position of women in England and the height to which female education is now carried interested him extremely. He wished his wife to understand everything I told him. The success of women in examinations in art, literature, music, and other things, and the political wisdom and absolutely constitutional rule of Queen Victoria, all interested him greatly. He asked if the women who took these positions were equally good as wives and mothers? I could only refer again to Queen Victoria. An Oriental cannot understand the position of unmarried women with us, or dissociate it from religious vows, and the Amir heard with surprise that a very large part of the philanthropic work which is done in England is done by women who either from accident or design have neither the happiness nor the duties of married life. He hopes to see women in Persia educated and emancipated from the trammels of certain customs, “but,” he added, “all reform in this direction must come slowly, and grow naturally out of a wider education, if it is to be good and not hurtful.”

He asked me what I should like to see in Isfahan, but when I mentioned the prison he said he should be ashamed to show it, and that except for political offences imprisonment is not much resorted to, that Persian justice is swift and severe — the bastinado, etc., not incarceration.

Afterwards I paid a similar visit to the house of Mirza Yusuf’s other “benefactor,” also a good and charitable man, who, as he speaks French well, acted as interpreter in the andarun.

A few days later the Amir-i-Panj, accompanied by General Faisarallah Khan, called on Dr. Bruce and on me, and showed how very agreeable a morning visit might be made, and the following day the Amir sent the same charger and escort for me, and meeting him and Dr. Bruce in the Chahar Bagh, we visited the Medresseh, a combined mosque and college, and the armoury, where we were joined by two generals and were afterwards entertained at tea in the Standard Room, while a military band played outside. The Amir had ordered some artificers skilled in the brass-work for which Isfahan is famous to exhibit their wares in one of the rooms at the armoury, and in every way tried to make the visit more agreeable than an inspection of the jail! He advises me not to wear a veil in the Bakhtiari country, and to be “as European as possible.”

The armoury, of which he has had the organising, does not fall within my province. There are many large rooms with all the appliances of war in apparently perfect order for the equipment of 5000 men.

With equal brevity I pass over the Medresseh, whose silver gates and exquisite tiles have been constantly described. Decay will leave little of this beautiful building in a few years. The tiles of the dome, which can be seen for miles, are falling off, and even in the halls of instruction and in the grand mosque under the dome, which are completely lined and roofed by tiles, the making of some of which is a lost art, one may augur the approach of ruin from the loss or breakage here and there. In the rooms or cells occupied by the students, who study either theology or law, there are some very fine windows executed in the beautiful tracery common to Persia and Kashmir, but the effect of beauty passing into preventible decay is very mournful.

Isfahan too I barely notice, for the best of all reasons, that I have not seen it! Though a fourth part of it is in ruins, and its population is not an eighth of what it was in the days of Shah Abbas, it is a fairly thriving commercial emporium with an increasing British trade. Indeed here Russian commercial influence may be said to cease, and that of England to become paramount. It is the paradise of Manchester and Glasgow cottons: woollen goods come from Austria and Germany, glass from Austria, crockery from England, candles and kerosene represent Russia. Our commercial supremacy in Isfahan cannot be disputed. I am almost tired of hearing of it. Opium, tobacco, carpets from the different provinces, and cotton and rice for native consumption, are the chief exports. Opium is increasingly grown round the city, and up the course of the Zainderud. Of the 4500 cases exported, worth £90 a case, three-fourths go to China. Its cultivation is so profitable and has increased so rapidly to the neglect of food crops that the Prince Governor has issued an order that one part of cereals shall be sown for every four of the opium poppy.

The cotton in the bazars, through which one can walk under cover for between two and three miles, is of the best quality, owing to the successful measures taken by the calico printers to defeat the roguery of the cheating manufacturers. All the European necessaries and many of the luxuries of life are obtainable, and the Isfahan bazars are the busiest in Persia except those of Tabriz.

It is only fair to this southern capital to say that if one can walk over two miles under the roofs of its fine bazars, one can ride for many miles among its ruins, which have desolation without stateliness, and are chiefly known for the production of the excellent wild asparagus which is used lavishly on European tables at this season.

The “Persian Versailles,” the Palace of Forty Pillars, each pillar formed of shafts enriched with colour and intricate work, and resting on a marble lion, the shaking Minarets, the Masjid-i-Shah with its fine dome of peacock-blue tiles, all falling into premature decay, remain to attest its former greatness; the other noble palaces, mosques, caravanserais, and Medressehs are ruinous, the superb pleasure gardens are overgrown with weeds or are used for vetches and barley, the tanks are foul or filled up, the splendid plane trees have been cut down for fuel, or are dragging out a hollow existence — every one, as elsewhere in Persia, destroys, no one restores. The armoury is the one exception to the general law of decay.

Yet Isfahan covered an area of twenty-four miles in circumference, and with its population of 650,000 souls was until the seventeenth century one of the most magnificent cities of the East. Its destruction last century by an Afghan conqueror, who perpetrated a fifteen days’ massacre, and the removal of the court to Tihran, have reduced it to a mere commercial centre, a “distributing point,” and as such, its remains may take a new lease of life. It has a newspaper called the Farhang, which prints little bits of news, chiefly personal. Its editor moves on European lines so far as to have “interviewed” me!

There are manufactures in Isfahan other than the successful printing and dyeing of cottons; viz., earthenware, china, brass-work, velvet, satin, tents, coarse cottons, glass, swords, guns, pistols, jewellery, writing paper and envelopes, silk brocades, satins, gunpowder, bookbinding, gold thread, etc.

The plateau on which Isfahan stands, about seventy miles from east to west and twenty from north to south, and enclosed by high mountains with a striking outline, lies 5400 feet above the sea. The city has a most salubrious climate, and is free from great extremes both of heat and cold. The Zainderud, on whose left bank it is situated, endows much of the plain with fertility on its way to its undeserved doom in a partially-explored swamp.

This Christian town, called a suburb, though it is really two and a half miles from Isfahan, is a well-built and well-peopled nucleus. It is not mixed up with ruins as Isfahan is. They have a region to themselves chiefly in the direction of the Kuh Sufi. My impression of it after a month is that it is clean and comfortable-looking, Mr. Curzon’s is that it is “squalid.” I prefer mine!

It is a “city of waters.” Streams taken from a higher level of the Zainderud glide down nearly all its lanes, shaded by pollard mulberries, ash, elm, and the “sparrow-tongue” willow, which makes the best firewood, and being “planted by the rivers of water,” grows so fast that it bears lopping annually, and besides affording fuel supplies the twigs which are used for roofing such rooms as are not arched.

The houses, some of which are more than three centuries old, are built of mud bricks, the roofs are usually arched, and the walls are from three to five feet thick. All possess planted courtyards and vineyards, and gardens into which channels are led from the streams in the streets. These streams serve other purposes: continually a group of Armenian women may be seen washing their clothes in them, while others are drinking or drawing water just below. The lanes are about twenty feet wide and have narrow rough causeways on both sides of the water-channel. It is difficult on horseback to pass a foot passenger without touching him in some of them.

Great picturesqueness is given to these leafy lanes by the companies of Armenian women in bright red dresses and pure white robes, slowly walking through them at all hours of daylight, visions of bright eyes and rosy cheeks. I have never yet seen a soiled white robe! Long blank mud walls, low gateways, an occasional row of mean shops, open porches of churches, dim and cool, and an occasional European on foot or horseback, and groups of male Armenians, whose dress so closely approaches the European as to be without interest, and black-robed priests gliding to the churches are all that is usually to be seen. It sounds dull, perhaps.

Many of the houses of the rich Armenians, some of which are now let to Europeans, are extremely beautiful inside, and even those occupied by the poorer classes, in which a single lofty room can be rented for twopence a week, are very pretty and appropriate. But no evidence of wealth is permitted to be seen from the outside. It is only a few years since the Armenians were subject to many disabilities, and they have even now need to walk warily lest they give offence. As, for instance, an Armenian was compelled to ride an ass instead of a horse, and when that restriction was relaxed, he had to show his inferiority by dismounting from his horse before entering the gates of Isfahan.

They were not allowed to have bells on their churches, (at Easter I wished they had none still), but now the Egglesiah Wang (the great church) has a fine campanile over 100 feet high in its inner court. The ancient mode of announcing the hours of worship is still affectionately adhered to, however. It consists of drumming with a mallet on a board hanging from two posts, and successfully breaks the sleep of the neighbourhood for the daily service which begins before daylight.

The Armenians, like the rich Persians, prudently keep to the low gateways, which, with the absence of windows and all exterior ornament, give the lanes so mean an aspect, and tend to make one regard the beauty and even magnificence within with considerable surprise.

In England a rich man, partly for his own delectation, and partly, if he be “the architect of his own fortune,” to impose his position ocularly on his poorer neighbours, displays his wealth in all ways and on most occasions. In Persia his chief pleasure must be to hoard it and contemplate it, for any unusual display of it in equipages or furnishings is certain to bring down upon him a “squeeze,” at Tihran in the shape of a visit from the Shah with its inevitable consequences, and in the Provinces in that of a requisition from the governor.

For a man to “enlarge his gates” is to court destruction. Poor men have low gates, which involve stooping, to prevent rich men’s servants from entering their houses on horseback on disagreeable errands. Christian churches have remarkably low doors elsewhere than in Julfa, to prevent the Moslems from stabling their cattle in them. Rich men affect mean entrances in order not to excite the rapacity of officialism, according to the ancient proverb, “He that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction” (Proverbs xvii. 19). Only Royal gates and the gates of officials who represent Royalty are high.

The Armenian merchants have, like the Europeans, their offices in Isfahan. The rest of the people get their living by the making and selling of wine, keeping small shops, making watches and jewellery, carpentering, in which they are very skilful, and market-gardening; they are thrifty and industrious, and there is very little real poverty.

The selling of wine does not conduce to the peace of Julfa. A mixture of sour wine and arak, a coarse spirit, is very intoxicating, and Persians, when they do drink, drink till they are drunk, and the abominable concealed traffic in liquor with the Moslems of the town is apt to produce disgraceful brawls.

Wine can be bought for fourpence a quart, but the upper classes make their own, and it costs less than this. Wines are both red and white, and one red wine is said to be like good Chianti. The Armenians tipple and also get drunk, priests included. It is said that some of the jars used in fermenting are between 200 and 300 years old.

The excellent education given in the C.M.S. schools has had the effect of stimulating the Armenian schools, and of producing among the young men a large emigration to India, Batavia, Constantinople, and even England. Only the dullards as a rule remain in Julfa. Some rise high in Persian and even in Turkish employment.

The Armenian women are capital housewives and very industrious. In these warm evenings the poorer women sit outside their houses in groups knitting. The knitting of socks is a great industry, and a woman can earn 4s. a month by it, which is enough to live upon.

In Julfa, and it may be partly owing to the presence of a European community, the Christians have nothing to complain of, and, so far as I can see, they are on terms of equality with the Persians.

However, Isfahan is full of religious intolerance which can easily be excited to frenzy, and the arrogance of the mollahs has increased since the fall from almost regal state of the Zil-i-Sultan, the Shah’s eldest son, into the position of a provincial governor, for he curbed them somewhat, and now the restraint is removed. However, it is against the Jews and the Bābis, rather than the Christians, that their hostility is directed.

A few weeks ago some Bābis were peaceably returning to a neighbouring village, when they were attacked, and seven of their number were massacred under atrocious circumstances, the remainder taking refuge for a time in the British Telegraph office. Several of both sexes who escaped are in concealment here in a room in the Hospital compound, one of them with a broken jaw.

The hiding of these Bābis has given great umbrage to the bigots of Isfahan, though the Amir-i-Panj justified it on all grounds, and about the time I arrived it was said that a thousand city fanatics purposed to attack the mission premises. But at one of the mosques there is a mollah, who with Gamaliel-like wisdom urged upon them “that if 300 Moslems were killed nothing would happen, but if a single European were killed, what then?”37

I cannot close this letter without a few words on the Armenian churches, some of which I visited with Mr. and Dr. Aganoor, and others with Dr. Bruce. The ceremony representing the washing of the disciples’ feet on the Armenian Holy Thursday was a most magnificent one as regards the antique splendour and extreme beauty of the vestments and jewels of the officiating bishop, but the feet, which are washed in rose-water and anointed, are not, as in Rome, those of beggars, but of neophytes costumed in pure white. Incense, embroideries, crowds of white-robed women, and other accessories made the function an imposing one.

The Cathedral, a part of the Monastery, has a narrow winding approach and a thick door, for ecclesiastics were not always as safe as they are now. In the outer court is the campanile before mentioned. The floor is paved with monumental slabs, and among the graves are those of several Europeans. Piles of logs look as if the Julfa carpenters seasoned their wood in this court!

The church is divided by a rail into two compartments. The dome is rich with beaten gold, and the dado is of very fine tiles, which produce a striking effect. The embroideries and the carpets, some of which are worth fabulous sums, are between two and three centuries old. The vestments and ornaments of the priests are very fine, and suggest the attire of the Aaronic priesthood.

It is a striking building, and the amount of gold and colour, toned into a certain harmony by time, produces a gorgeous effect. The outer compartment has a singular interest, for 230 years ago its walls were decorated with religious paintings, on a large scale, of events in Bible history, from the creation downwards. Some are copies, others original, and they are attributed to Italian artists. They are well worth careful study as representing the conceptions which found favour among the Armenian Christians of that day. They are terribly realistic, but are certainly instructive, especially the illustrations of the miracles and parables.

In one of the latter a man with a huge beam sticking out of one eye is represented as looking superciliously with the other at a man with an insignificant spike projecting. The death of Dives is a horrible representation. His soul, in the likeness of a very small nude figure, is represented as escaping from the top of his head, and is being escorted to the entrance of the lower regions by a flight of small black devils. The idea of the soul emerging from the top of the head is evidently borrowed from the Moslems.

Our Lord is, I think, everywhere depicted as short, dark, and dark-haired, with eyebrows much curved, and a very long upper lip, without beauty or dignity, an ordinary Oriental workman.

The picture of the Cathedral is an enormous canvas, representing the day when “before Him shall be gathered all nations.” The three persons of the Trinity are there, and saints and angels are portrayed as worshipping, or as enjoying somewhat earthly but perfectly innocent delights.

In this the conception is analogous to those celebrated circular pictures in which the Buddhistic future is unrolled, and which I last saw in the monasteries of Lesser Tibet. The upper or heavenly part is insignificant and very small, while the torments of the lost in the lower part are on a very large scale, and both the devils and the nude human sufferers in every phase of anguish have the appearance of life size. The ingenuity of torment, however, is not nearly so great, nor are the scenes so revolting as those which Oriental imagination has depicted in the Buddhist hells. A huge mythical monster represents the mouth of hell, and into his flaming and smoking jaws the impenitent are falling. Does any modern Armenian believe that any of those whose bones lie under the huge blocks of stone in the cemetery in the red desert at the foot of Kuh Sufi have passed into “this place of torment”?

The other church which claims one’s interest, though not used for worship, is that of St. George, the hero of the fraudulent contract in bacon, as well as of the dragon fight, to whom the Armenians as well as ourselves render singular honour.

This church is a great place for “miracles” of healing, and cells for the sick who come from a distance are freely provided. In a covered court are some large stones in a group, one of them evidently the capital of a column. Two of them have cavities at the top, and the sick kneel before them, and as the voluble women who were there told us, “they first pray to God and then to the stones,” and finally pour water into these cavities and drink it. The cure is either instantaneous or occurs at any time within fifteen days, and in every case the patient hears the voice of St. George telling him to go home when it is complete.

These stones, according to the legend told by the women and popularly believed by the uneducated, took it into their heads to come from Etchmiadzin in Armenia, the residence of the Catholicos, in one night, and deposited themselves where the church now stands. Seven times they were taken into Faraidan, eighty miles from Julfa, and as often returned, and their manifest predilection was at last rewarded by a rest of centuries. There were a number of sick people waiting for healing, for which of course fees are bestowed.

The Armenians, especially the women, pay great attention to the externals of their religion. Some of its claims are very severe, such as the daily service before daylight, winter and summer, and the long fasts, which they keep with surprising loyalty, i.e. among the poor in towns and in the villages. For at least one-sixth of the year they are debarred from the use of meat or even eggs, and are permitted only vegetable oils, fruits, vegetables, and grain. Spirits and wine, however, are not prohibited.

I really believe that their passionate attachment to their venerable church, the oldest of all national churches, is fostered by those among them who have ceased to believe its doctrines, as a necessity of national existence. I doubt very much whether the “Reformed” congregations, which have been gathered out here and elsewhere, would survive the withdrawal of foreign aid. Rather, I think, they would revert to the original type.

Superstitions without number are mixed up with their beliefs, and are countenanced by the priests. The meron or holy oil used in baptism and for other purposes has the stamp of charlatanism upon it. It is made in Etchmiadzin.

Rose leaves are collected in an immense vat, which is filled with water, and at a set time the monks and nuns form a circle round it, and repeat prayers till “fermentation” begins. They claim that the so-called fermentation is a miracle due to the prayers offered. Oil, probably attar of roses, rises to the surface, and this precious meron is sent to the Armenian churches throughout the world about once in four or five years. In Persia those who bear it are received with an istikbal or procession of welcome.

It is used not only in baptism and other rites but at the annual ceremony of washing the Cross at Christmas, when some of it is poured into the water and is drunk by the worshippers. In the villages they make a paste by mixing this water and oil with earth, which is made into balls and kept in the houses for “luck.” If a dog licks a bowl or other vessel, and thus renders it unclean, rubbing it round with one of these balls restores it to purity.

At a village in Faraidan there is an ancient New Testament, reputed to be of the sixth century. To this MS. people come on pilgrimage from all quarters, even from Fars, Tihran, and Armenia, to be healed of their diseases, and they make offerings to it, and practically render it worship.

To go and pray on a newly-made grave is a remedy for childlessness much resorted to by childless wives. When two boys fight, and one of them is hurt, or when any one is injured by a dog or by a tree falling, they wash the damaged person in water, and then throw the water over the boy, dog, or tree which has been the cause of the injury, believing that in this way the mischief is transferred.

When any one is ill of fright and the cause is not known, the nuns come to the house, and pour wax into a basin of boiling water, noting the form it takes, such as a snake, a dog, or a frog. In a case lately they went out and killed a snake, for the thing whose form the wax takes ought to be killed; but as this might often be difficult or unsuitable, they compromise the matter by throwing the water (not boiling, I hope) over the nearest dog or toad, or anything else which is supposed to be the culprit.

On the first Monday in Lent the women wash their knitting needles for luck in a stream which runs through Julfa. The children educated in the Mission schools laugh at these and many other superstitions.

The dress of the Armenian women is very showy, but too much of a huddle. Red is the dominant colour, a carnation red with white patterns sprawling over it, They wear coloured trousers concealed by a long skirt. The visible under-garment is a long, “shaped” dress of Turkey red. Over this is worn a somewhat scanty gown of red and white cotton, open in front, and very short-waisted, and over this a plain red pelisse or outer garment, often quilted, open in front, gashed up the sides, and falling below the knees. Of course this costume is liable to many modifications in the way of material, and embroidered jackets, heavily trimmed with jewellery and the like. As fashion is unchanging the acquisition and hoarding of garments are carried to a great extent.

There are two marked features of Armenian dress, one, the massive silver girdle made of heavy chased-silver links four inches long by two deep, often antique and always of antique design, which falls much below the waist in front, and is used to confine the ends of the white sheet which envelops an Armenian woman out of doors, so that it may hang evenly all round. The other is a skull-cap of embroidered silk or cloth, placed well back on the head above the many hanging plaits in which the hair is worn, with a black velvet coronet in front, from which among the richer women rows of coins depend. This, which is very becoming to the brilliant complexion and comely face below it, is in its turn covered by a half handkerchief, and over this is gracefully worn, when not gracelessly clutched, a chadar or drapery of printed cambric or muslin. A white band bound across the chin up to the lips suggests a broken jaw, and the tout ensemble of the various wrappings of the head a perennial toothache.

I. L. B.

37 I have written nothing about this fast-increasing sect of the Bābis, partly because being a secret sect, I doubt whether the doctrines which are suffered to leak out form really any part of its esoteric teaching, and partly because those Europeans who have studied the Bābis most candidly are diametrically opposed in their views of their tenets and practice, some holding that their aspirations are after a purer life, while others, and I think a majority, believe that their teachings are subversive of morality and of the purity of domestic life.

Letter xiv

You will be tired of Julfa though I am not. I fully expected to have left it a fortnight ago, but unavoidable delays have occurred. My caravan and servants started this morning, and I leave myself in a few hours.

Upon my horse I have bestowed the suggestive name of Screw. He is fairly well-bred, big-headed, big-eared, small-bodied, bright bay, fine-coated, slightly flat-footed, and with his fore hoofs split in several places from the coronet nearly to the shoe. He is an undoubted yabu, and has carried loads for many a day. He has a long stride, shies badly, walks very fast, canters easily, and at present shows no tendency to tumble down.38

I have had pleasant rides alone, crossing the definite dividing line between the desert and the oasis of cultivation and irrigation, watching the daily development of the various crops and the brief life of the wild flowers, creeping through the green fields on the narrow margins of irrigating ditches, down to the Pul-i-Kajū, and returning to the green lanes of Julfa by the bright waters of the Zainderud crimsoning in the setting sun.

For in the late cool and breezy weather, not altogether free from clouds and showers, there have been some gorgeous sunsets, and magnificent colouring of the depth and richness which people call tropical, has blazed extravagantly; and from the violet desert to the indigo storm-clouds on the still snow-patched Kuhrūd mountains, from the vivid green of the oasis to the purple crags in dark relief against a sky of flame, all things have been new.

Two Sundays witnessed two incidents, one the baptism of a young Moslem in a semi-private fashion, who shortly afterwards renounced Christianity, and the other that of a respectable Mohammedan merchant in Isfahan, who has long pleaded for baptism, presenting himself at the altar rails at the Holy Communion, resolved that if he were not permitted to confess Christ as Divine in one way he would in another. He was passed over, to my great regret, if he be sincere, but I suppose the Rubric leaves no choice.39

I have written little about my prospective journey because there has been a prolonged uncertainty about it, and even now I cannot give any definite account of the project, except that the route lies through an altogether mountainous region, in that part of the province of Luristan known in Persia colloquially as the “Bakhtiari country,” from being inhabited by the Bakhtiari Lurs, chiefly nomads. The pros and cons as to my going have been innumerable, and the two people in Persia who know the earlier part of the route say that the character of the people makes it impossible for a lady to travel among them. On the other hand, I have the consent and help of the highest authorities, Persian and English, and shall not go too far, but shall return to Isfahan in case things should turn out as is feared. The exploration of a previously unexplored region will be in itself interesting, but whether there will be sufficient of the human interests, which I chiefly care for, I doubt; in that case the journey will be dull.

At all events I shall probably have to return here in two months,40 but such a journey for myself and two servants in such a region requires extensive preparations, and I have brought all my own travelling “dodges” into requisition, with a selection of those of other people.

It is considered desirable to carry stores from Isfahan for forty days, except flour and rice, which can be obtained a week’s march from here. At the British Legation I was kindly supplied with many tins of preserved meat, and milk, and jam, and besides these I am only taking a quantity of Edwards’ Desiccated Soup, portable and excellent, twelve pounds of tea, and ten pounds of candles. The great thing in planning is to think of what one can do without. Two small bottles of saccharin supply the place of forty pounds of sugar.

Two yekdans contain my stores, cooking and table utensils and personal luggage, a waterproof bag my bedding, and a divided packing-case, now empty, goes for the flour and rice. Everything in the yekdans is put up in bags made of the coarse cotton of the country. The tents and tent-poles, which have been socketed for easier transport on crooked mountain paths, and a camp-bed made from a Kashmiri pattern in Tihran, are all packed in covers made from the gunny bags in which sugar is imported, and so are double sets of large and small iron tent-pegs.

Presents for the “savages” are also essential, and I have succeeded in getting 100 thimbles, many gross of small china buttons which, it is said, they like to sew on children’s caps, 1000 needles, a quantity of Russian thread, a number of boxes with mirror tops, two dozen double-bladed knives, and the same number of strong scissors, Kashmir kamarbands, gay handkerchiefs for women’s heads, Isfahan printed “table-cloths,” dozens of bead bracelets and necklaces, leather purses and tobacco pouches, and many other things.

I take three tents, including a shuldari, five feet square, and only weighing ten pounds. My kit is reduced to very simple elements, a kettle, two copper pots which fit into each other, a frying pan, cooking knife and spoon, a tray instead of a table, a chair, two plates, a teacup and saucer, a soup plate, mug, and teapot, all of course in enamelled iron, a knife, fork, and two spoons. This is ample for one person for any length of time in camp.

For this amount of baggage and for the sacks of flour and rice, weighing 160 lbs., which will hereafter be carried, I have four mules, none heavily laden, and two with such light loads that they can be ridden by my servants. These mules, two charvadars, and a horse are engaged for the journey at two krans (16d.) a day each, the owner stipulating for a bakhsheesh of fifty krans, if at the end I am satisfied. This sum is to cover food and all risks.

The animals are hired from a well-known charvadar, who has made a large fortune and is regarded as very trustworthy; Dr. Bruce calls him the “prince of charvadars.” He and his son are going on the “trip.” He has a quiet, superior manner, and when he came to judge of the weight of my loads, he said they were “very good — very right,” a more agreeable verdict than muleteers are wont to pass upon baggage.41

The making of the contract with Hadji involved two important processes, the writing of it by a scribe and the sealing of it. The scribe is one of the most important persons in Persia. Every great man has one or more, and every little man has occasion for a scribe’s services in the course of a year. He is the trusted depositary of an infinity of secrets. He moves with dignity and deliberation, his “writer’s inkhorn” pendent from his girdle, and his physiognomy has been trained to that reticent, semi-mysterious expression common to successful solicitors in England.

Writing is a fine art in Persia. The characters are in themselves graceful, and lend themselves readily to decoration. The old illuminated MSS. are things of beauty; even my contract is ornamental. The scribe holds the paper in his left hand, and uses a reed pen with the nib cut obliquely, writing from right to left. The ink is thick, and is carried with the pens in a papier-maché inkhorn.

Hadji tells me with much pride that his son, Abbas Ali, can write “and will be very useful.”

Sealing is instead of signing. As in Japan, every adult male has his seal, of agate or cornelian among the rich, and of brass or silver among the poor. The name is carefully engraved on the seal at a cost of from a half-penny to 18s. a letter. Tihran is celebrated for its seal-cutters. No document is authentic without a seal as its signature.

Hadji took the contract and applied it to his forehead in token of respect, touched the paper with his tongue to make it moist and receptive, waved it in the air to rid it of superfluous moisture, wetted his fingers on a spongy ball of silk full of Indian ink in the scribe’s inkstand, rubbed the ink on the seal, breathed on it, and pressed it firmly down on the paper, which he held over the forefinger of his left hand. The smallest acts in Persia are regulated by rigid custom.

The remaining portion of my outfit, but not the least important, consists of a beautiful medicine chest of the most compact and portable make, most kindly given to me by Messrs. Burroughes and Wellcome, containing fifty small bottles of their invaluable “tabloids,” a hypodermic syringe, and surgical instruments for simple cases. To these I have added a quantity of quinine, and Dr. Odling at Tihran gave me some valuable remedies. A quantity of bandages, lint, absorbent cotton, etc., completes this essential equipment. Among the many uncertainties of the future this appears certain, that the Bakhtiaris will be clamorous for European medicine.

I have written of my servants. Mirza Yusuf pleases me very much, Hassan the cook seems quiet, but not active, and I picture to myself the confusion of to-night in camp, with two men who know nothing about camp life and its makeshifts!

Whatever the summer brings, this is probably my last letter written from under a roof till next winter. I am sorry to leave Julfa and these kind friends, but the prospect of the unknown has its charms.

I. L. B.

38 Screw never became a friend or companion, scarcely a comrade, but showed plenty of pluck and endurance, climbed and descended horrible rock ladders over which a horse with a rider had never passed before, was steady in fords, and at the end of three and a half months of severe travelling and occasional scarcity of food was in better condition than when he left Julfa.

39 He has since been baptized, but for safety had to relinquish his business and go to India, where he is supporting himself, and his conduct is satisfactory.

40 I never returned, and only at the end of three and a half months emerged from the “Bakhtiari country” at Burujird after a journey of 700 miles.

41 Hadji Hussein deserves a passing recommendation. I fear that he is still increasing his fortune and has not retired. The journey was a very severe one, full of peril to his mules from robbers and dangerous roads, and not without risk to himself. With the exception of a few Orientalisms, which are hardly worth recalling, he was faithful and upright, made no attempt to overreach, kept to his bargain, was punctual and careful, and at Burujird we parted good friends. He was always most respectful to me, and I owe him gratitude for many kindnesses which increased my comfort. It is right to acknowledge that a part of the success of the journey was owing to the efficiency of the transport.

Notes on the “Bakhtiari Country” or Luri-Buzurg

In introducing the following journal of a summer spent in Luri–Buzurg or Greater Luristan by a few explanatory notes, I desire to acknowledge the labours of those travellers who have preceded me over some of the earlier portions of the route, and my obligations to those careful explorers of half a century ago, who turned the light of modern research upon the antiquities of Lower Elam and the condition of its modern inhabitants, and whose earnestness and accuracy the traveller in Upper Elam and the Bakhtiari country may well desire to emulate.42

For the correction of those portions of my letters which attempt to describe a part of mountainous Luristan previously unexplored, I am deeply indebted to a recent unpublished Geographical Report, to which any geographical interest which they may possess is altogether due. For the customs and beliefs of the Bakhtiaris I have had to depend entirely on my own investigations, made through an intelligent and faithful interpreter, whose desire for accuracy was scarcely exceeded by my own.

The accompanying sketch map represents an area of 15,000 square miles, lying, roughly speaking, between Lat. 31° and 34° N., and between Long. 48° and 51° E., and covering a distance of 300 miles from the Khana Mirza to Khuramabad.

The itinerary covers a distance of about 700 miles, a journey of three and a half months, chiefly in the region of the Upper Karun and its affluents, among which must be included the head-waters of the Ab-i-Diz.

During this time the Karun was traced, wherever the nature of its bed admitted of it, from the gorge of Dupulan, below which several travellers have investigated and reported its extraordinary windings, up to the Sar–Cheshmeh-i-Kurang, its reputed source, a vigorous fountain spring with an altitude of 8000 feet in the steep limestone face of the north-eastern side of the Zard Kuh range, and upwards to its real source in the Kuh-i-Rang or “variegated mountain.”

The Ab-i-Diz was found to carry off the water of a larger area than had been supposed; the north-west branches, the Ab-i-Burujird and the Kamandab, which drain the well-watered plain of Silakhor, almost yielding in importance to the Guwa and Gokun, which, uniting to form what, for convenience’ sake, was termed the Ab-i-Basnoi, receive the drainage of the upper part of Faraidan, an important district of Persia proper.

A lake of marvellously coloured water, two and a half miles long by one mile wide, very deep, and with a persistent level, was found to occupy a hollow at the inner foot of the grand mountain Shuturun, and this, having no native name, was marked on the map as Lake Irene.

The Bakhtiari mountains are chains of precipitous parallel ranges, generally running north-west and south-east, the valleys which divide them and carry off their waters taking the same directions as far as the Kuh-i-Rang, where a remarkable change takes place, noticed in Letter XVII. This great mountain region, lying between the lofty plateau of Central Persia and the plains of Khuzistan, has continuous ranges of singular steepness, but rarely broken up into prominent peaks, the Kuh-i-Rang, the Kuh-i-Shahan, the Shuturun Kuh, and Dalonak being detached mountains.

The great ranges of the Kuh-i-Sukhta, the Kuh-i-Gerra, the Sabz Kuh, the Kala Kuh, and the Zard Kuh were crossed and recrossed by passes from 8000 to 11,000 feet in altitude; many of the summits were ascended, and the deep valleys between them, with their full-watered, peacock-green streams, were followed up wherever it was possible to do so. The magnificent mountain Kuh-i-Rang was ascertained to be not only a notable water-parting, but to indicate in a very marked manner two distinct mountain systems with remarkable peculiarities of drainage, as well as to form a colossal barrier between two regions which, for the sake of intelligible description, were called “Upper Elam” and the “Bakhtiari country.”

The same authority, for the same purpose, designated the two main and highest chains of mountains by the terms “Outer” and “Inner” ranges, the former being the one nearest the great Persian plateau, the latter the chain nearest to the Khuzistan plains. The conjectural altitudes of the peaks in this hitherto unexplored region have been brought down by some thousands of feet, and the “eternal snow” with which rumour had crested them has turned out a myth, the altitude of the highest summit being estimated at only a trifle over 13,000 feet.

The nearly continuous ranges south-east of the Kuh-i-Rang are pierced for the passage of water by a few remarkable rifts or tangs— the Outer range by the Tang-i-Ghezi, the outlet of the Zainderud towards Isfahan, and the Tang-i-Darkash Warkash, by which the drainage of the important districts of the Chahar Mahals passes to the Karun, the Inner range being pierced at the Tang-i-Dupulan by the Karun itself. North-west of the Kuh-i-Rang the rivers which carry the drainage of certain districts of south-west Persia to the sea pierce the main mountain ranges at right angles, passing through magnificent gorges and chasms from 3000 to 5000 feet in depth.

Among the mountains, but especially in the formation south-east of the Kuh-i-Rang, there are many alpine valleys at altitudes of from 7000 to 8500 feet, rich summer pastures, such as Gurab, Chigakhor, Shorab, and Cheshmeh Zarin.

Some of the valleys are of considerable width, many only afford room for narrow tracks above the streams by which they are usually watered, while others are mere rifts for torrents and are inaccessible. Among the limestone ranges fountain springs are of frequent occurrence, gushing out of the mountain sides with great volume and impetuosity — the perennial sources of perennial streams.

Much of the country is absolutely without wood, producing nothing fit even for fuel but the Astragalus verus and the Astragalus tragacantha. This is especially the case on the outer slopes of the Outer range, which are formed of rocky ribs with a covering of gravel, and are “barren, treeless, waterless, and grassless.” From the same crest to the outer slopes of the Inner range, which descend on Khuzistan, there are splendid pasturage, abundant water, and extensive forests in the deep valleys and on the hill slopes.43

The trees, however, can rarely be defined as “forest trees.” They are small in girth and are usually stunted and wizened in aspect, as if the conditions of their existence were not kindly.

Flowers are innumerable in the months of May and June, beginning with the tulip, the iris, the narcissus, and a small purple gladiolus, and a little later many of the hillsides above an altitude of 7000 feet are aflame with a crimson and terra-cotta Fritillaria imperialis, and a carnation-red anemone, while the margins of the snow-fields are gay with pink patches of an exquisite alpine primula. Chicory, the dark blue centaurea, a large orange and yellow snapdragon, and the scarlet poppy attend upon grain crops there as elsewhere, and the slopes above the upper Karun are brilliant with pink, mauve, and white hollyhocks. But it must be admitted that the chief interest of many of the flowers is botanical only. They are leathery, woolly, thorny, and sticky, adapted rather for arid circumstances than to rejoice the eye.

Among the economic plants observed were the Centaurea alata, which grows in singular abundance at a height of from 5500 to 7000 feet, and is cut and stacked for fodder; a species of celery of very strong flavour, which is an important article of food for man and beast, and the flower-stalks of which, six feet high, are woven into booths by some of the tribes; the blue linum, red madder, the Eryngium cæruleum, which is cut and stacked for fodder; a purple garlic, the bulbs of which are eaten; liquorice, and the Ferula asafetida in small quantities.

It is a surprise to the traveller to find that a large area is under cultivation, and that the crops of wheat and barley are clean, and up to the Persian average, and that the removal of stones and a laborious irrigation system are the work of nomads who only occupy their yailaks for five months of the year. It may be said that nearly every valley and hill-slope where water is procurable is turned to account for grain crops.

No part of the world in this latitude is fuller of streams and torrents, but three only attain to any geographical dignity — the Zainderud, or river of Isfahan, which after a course full of promise loses itself ignominiously in a partially-explored swamp; the Karun, with its Bakhtiari tributaries of the Ab-i-Bazuft, the Darkash Warkash, the Ab-i-Sabzu, and the Dinarud; and the Ab-i-Diz, which has an important course of its own before its junction with the Karun at Bandakir. None of these rivers are navigable during their course through the Bakhtiari mountains. They are occasionally spanned by bridges of stone or wickerwork, or of yet simpler construction.

With the exception of the small area of the Outer range, which contains the head-waters of the Zainderud, the Bakhtiari country proper consists of the valleys of the upper Karun and its tributaries.

The tracks naturally follow the valleys, and are fairly easy in their gradients to the south-east of the Kuh-i-Rang. To the north-west, however, being compelled to cross rivers which pierce the ranges at right angles to their directions, ascents and descents of several thousand feet are involved at short intervals, formed of rock ladders, which may be regarded as “impassable for laden animals.”

The so-called roads are nothing better than tracks worn in the course of centuries by the annual passage of the nomads and their flocks to and from their summer pastures. In addition to the tracks which follow the lie of the valleys, footpaths cross the main ranges where foothold can be obtained.

There are but two bridle tracks which deserve mention as being possible for caravan traffic between Isfahan and Shuster, one crossing the God-i-Murda at a height of 7050 feet and the Karun at Dupulan, the other, which considerably diminishes the distance between the two commercial points, crossing the Zard Kuh by the Cherri Pass at an altitude of 9550 feet and dropping down a steep descent of over 4000 feet to the Bazuft river. These, the Gurab, and the Gil-i-Shah, and Pambakal Passes, which cross the Zard Kuh range at elevations of over 11,000 feet, are reported as closed by snow for several months in winter. In view of the cart-road from Ahwaz to Tihran, which will pass through the gap of Khuramabad, the possible importance of any one of these routes fades completely away.

The climate, though one of extremes, is healthy. Maladies of locality are unknown, the water is usually pure, and malarious swamps do not exist. Salt springs produce a sufficiency of salt for wholesome use, and medicinal plants abound. The heat begins in early June and is steady till the end of August, the mercury rising to 102° in the shade at altitudes of 7000 feet, but it is rarely oppressive; the nights are cool, and greenery and abounding waters are a delightful contrast to the arid hills and burning plains of Persia. The rainfall is scarcely measurable, the snowfall is reported as heavy, and the winter temperatures are presumably low.

There are few traces of a past history, and the legends connected with the few are too hazy to be of any value, but there are remains of bridges of dressed stone, and of at least one ancient road, which must have been trodden by the soldiers of Alexander the Great and Valerian, and it is not impossible that the rude forts here and there which the tribesmen attribute to mythical heroes of their own race may have been built to guard Greek or Roman communications.

The geology, entomology, and zoology of the Bakhtiari country have yet to be investigated. In a journey of three months and a half the only animals seen were a bear and cubs, a boar, some small ibex, a blue hare, and some jackals. Francolin are common, and storks were seen, but scarcely any other birds, and bees and butterflies are rare. It is the noxious forms of animated life which are abundant. There are snakes, some of them venomous, a venomous spider, and a stinging beetle, and legions of black flies, mosquitos, and sand-flies infest many localities.

This area of lofty ranges, valleys, gorges, and alpine pasturages is inhabited by the Bakhtiari Lurs, classed with the savage or semi-savage races, who, though they descend to the warmer plains in the winter, invariably speak of these mountains as “their country.” On this journey nearly all the tribes were visited in their own encampments, and their arrangements, modes of living, customs, and beliefs were subjects of daily investigation, the results of which are given in the letters which follow.

Their own very hazy traditions, which are swift to lose themselves in the fabulous, represent that they came from Syria, under one chief, and took possession of the country which they now inhabit. A later tradition states that a descendant of this chief had two wives equally beloved, one of whom had four sons, and the other seven; and that after their father’s death the young men quarrelled, separated, and bequeathed their quarrel to posterity, the seven brothers forming the Haft Lang division of the Bakhtiaris, and the four the Chahar Lang.44

The Haft Lang, though originally far superior in numbers, weakened their power by their unending internal conflicts, and in 1840, when Sir A. H. Layard visited a part of Luristan not embraced in this route, and sojourned at Kala-i-Tul, the power and headship of Mehemet Taki Khan, the great chief of their rivals the Chahar Lang, were recognised throughout the region.

The misfortunes which came upon him overthrew the supremacy of his clan, and now (as for some years past) the Haft Lang supply the ruling dynasty, the Chahar Lang being, however, still strong enough to decide any battles for the chieftainship which may be fought among their rivals. Time, and a stronger assertion of the sovereignty of Persia, have toned the feud down into a general enmity and aversion, but the tribes of the two septs rarely intermarry, and seldom encamp near each other without bloodshed.

The great divisions of the Bakhtiaris, the Haft Lang, the Chahar Lang, and the Dinarunis, with the dependencies of the Janiki Garmsir, the Janiki Sardsir, and the Afshar tribe of Gunduzlu, remain as they were half a century ago, when they were the subject of careful investigation by Sir A. H. Layard and Sir H. Rawlinson.

The tribes (as enumerated by several of the Khans without any divergence in their statements) number 29,100 families, an increase in the last half-century. Taking eight to a household, which I believe to be a fair estimate, a population of 232,800 would be the result.45

A few small villages of mud hovels at low altitudes are tenanted by a part of their inhabitants throughout the winter, the other part migrating with the bulk of the flocks; and 3000 families of the two great Janiki divisions are deh-nishins or “dwellers in cities,” i.e. they do not migrate at all; but the rest are nomads, that is, they have winter camping-grounds in the warm plains of Khuzistan and elsewhere, and summer pastures in the region of the Upper Karun and its affluents, making two annual migrations between their garmsirs and sardsirs (hot and cold quarters).

Though a pastoral people, they have (as has been referred to previously) of late years irrigated, stoned, and cultivated a number of their valleys, sowing in the early autumn, leaving the crops for the winter and early spring, and on their return weeding them very carefully till harvest-time in July.

They live on the produce of their flocks and herds, on leavened cakes made of wheat and barley flour, and on a paste made of acorn flour.

In religion they are fanatical Moslems of the Shiah sect, but combine relics of nature worship with the tenets of Islam.

The tribes, which were to a great extent united under the judicious and ambitious policy of Mehemet Taki Khan and Hussein Kuli Khan, nominally acknowledge one feudal head, the Ilkhani, who is associated in power with another chief called the Ilbegi. The Ilkhani, who is appointed by the Shah for a given period, capable of indefinite extension, is responsible for the tribute, which amounts to about two tumans a household, and for the good order of Luri–Buzurg.

The Bakhtiaris are good horsemen and marksmen. Possibly in inter-tribal war from 10,000 to 12,000 men might take the field, but it is doubtful whether more than from 6000 to 8000 could be relied on in an external quarrel.

The Khan of each tribe is practically its despotic ruler, and every tribesman is bound to hold himself at his disposal.

As concerns tribute, they are under the government of Isfahan, with the exception of three tribes and a half, which are under the government of Burujird.

They are a warlike people, and though more peaceable than formerly, they cherish blood-feuds and are always fighting among themselves. Their habits are predatory by inclination and tradition, but they have certain notions of honour and of regard to pledges when voluntarily given.46

They deny Persian origin, but speak a dialect of Persian. Conquered by Nadir Shah, who took many of them into his service, they became independent after his death, until the reign of Mohammed Shah. Though tributary, they still possess a sort of quasi independence, though Persia of late years has tightened her grip upon them, and the Shah keeps many of their influential families in Tihran and its neighbourhood as hostages for the good behaviour of their clans.

Of the Feili Lurs, the nomads of Luri–Kushak or the Lesser Luristan, the region lying between the Ab-i-Diz and the Assyrian plains, with the province of Kirmanshah to the north and Susiana to the south, little was seen. These tribes are numerically superior to the Bakhtiaris. Fifty years ago, according to Sir H. Rawlinson, they numbered 56,000 families.

They have no single feudal chieftain like their neighbours, nor are their subdivisions ruled, as among them, by powerful Khans. They are governed by Tushmals (lit. “master of a house”) and four or five of these are associated in the rule of every tribal subdivision. On such occasions as involve tribal well-being or the reverse, these Tushmals consult as equals.

Sir H. Rawlinson considered that the Feili Lur form of government is very rare among the clan nations of Asia, and that it approaches tolerably near to the spirit of a confederated republic. Their language, according to the same authority, differs little from that of the Kurds of Kirmanshah.

Unlike the Bakhtiaris, they neglect agriculture, but they breed and export mules, and trade in carpets, charcoal, horse-furniture, and sheep.

In faith they are Ali Ilahis, but are grossly ignorant and religiously indifferent; they show scarcely any respect to Mohammed and the Koran, and combine a number of ancient superstitions and curious sacrificial rites with a deep reverence for Sultan Ibrahim, who under the name of Bābā Buzurg (the great father) is worshipped throughout Luri–Kushak.

For the tribute payable to Persia no single individual is responsible. The sum to be levied is distributed among the tribes by a general council, after which each subdivision apportions the amount to be paid by the different camps, and the Rish–Sefid (lit. gray-beard) or head of each encampment collects from the different families according to their means.

The task of the Persian tax-collector is a difficult one, for the tribes are in a state of chronic turbulence, and fail even in obedience to their own general council, and the collection frequently ends in an incursion of Persian soldiers and a Government raid on the flocks and herds. Many of these people are miserably poor, and they are annually growing poorer under Persian maladministration.

The Feili Lurs are important to England commercially, because the cart-road from Ahwaz to Tihran, to be completed within two years, passes partly through their country,47 and its success as the future trade route from the Gulf depends upon their good-will, or rather upon their successful coercion by the Persian Government.

42 The writers who have dealt with some of the earlier portions of my route are as follows: Henry Blosse Lynch, Esq., Across Luristan to Ispahan — Proceedings of the R.G.S., September 1890. Colonel M. S. Bell, V.C., A Visit to the Karun River and Kûm — Blackwood’s Magazine, April 1889. Colonel J. A. Bateman Champain, R.E., On the Various Means of Communication between Central Persia and the Sea — Proceedings of the R.G.S., March 1883. Colonel H. L. Wells, R.E., Surveying Tours in South–Western Persia — Proceedings of R.G.S., March 1883. Mr. Stack, Six Months in Persia, London, 1884. Mr. Mackenzie, Speech — Proceedings of R.G.S., March 1883. The following among other writers have dealt with the condition of the Bakhtiari and Feili Lurs, and with the geography of the region to the west and south-west of the continuation of the great Zagros chain, termed in these notes the “Outer” and “Inner” ranges of the Bakhtiari mountains, their routes touching those of the present writer at Khuramabad: Sir H. Rawlinson, Notes of a March from Zohab to Khuzistan in 1836 — Journal of the R.G.S., vol. ix., 1839. Sir A. H. Layard, Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana, and Babylonia, including a residence among the Bakhtiari and other wild tribes, 2 vols., London, 1887. Baron C. A. de Bode, Travels in Luristan and Arabistan, 2 vols., London, 1845. W. F. Ainsworth (Surgeon and Geologist to the Euphrates Expedition), The River Karun, London, 1890. General Schindler travelled over and described the Isfahan and Shuster route, and published a map of the country in 1884.

43 Among the trees and shrubs to be met with are an oak (Quercus ballota), which supplies the people with acorn flour, the Platanus and Tamariscus orientalis, the jujube tree, two species of elm, a dwarf tamarisk, poplar, four species of willow, the apple, pear, cherry, plum, walnut, gooseberry, almond, dogwood, hawthorn, ash, lilac, alder, Paliurus aculeatus, rose, bramble, honeysuckle, hop vine, grape vine, Clematis orientalis, Juniperus excelsa, and hornbeam.

44 In Persian haft is seven, and chakar four.

45 This computation is subject to correction. Various considerations dispose the Ilkhani and the other Khans to minimise or magnify the population. It has been stated at from 107,000 to 275,000 souls, and by a “high authority” to different persons as 107,000 and 211,000 souls!

46 Sir. H. Rawlinson sums up Bakhtiari character in these very severe words: “I believe them to be individually brave, but of a cruel and savage character; they pursue their blood-feuds with the most inveterate and exterminating spirit, and they consider no oath or obligation in any way binding when it interferes with their thirst for revenge; indeed, the dreadful stories of domestic tragedy that are related, in which whole families have fallen by each other’s hands (a son, for instance, having slain his father to obtain the chiefship — another brother having avenged the murder, and so on, till only one individual was left), are enough to freeze the blood with horror.

“It is proverbial in Persia that the Bakhtiaris have been obliged to forego altogether the reading of the Fāhtihah or prayer for the dead, for otherwise they would have no other occupation. They are also most dexterous and notorious thieves. Altogether they may be considered the most wild and barbarous of all the inhabitants of Persia.”—“Notes on a March from Zohab to Khuzistan,” Journal of the R.G.S., vol. ix. Probably there is an improvement since this verdict was pronounced. At all events I am inclined to take a much more favourable view of the Bakhtiaris than has been given in the very interesting paper from which this quotation is made.

47 A report to the Foreign Office (No. 207) made by an officer who travelled from Khuramabad to Dizful in December 1890, contains the following remarks on this route.

“As to the danger to caravans in passing through these hills, I am inclined to believe that the Lurs are now content to abandon robbery with violence in favour of payments and contributions from timid traders and travellers. They hang upon the rear of a caravan; an accident, a fallen or strayed pack animal, or stragglers in difficulty bring them to the spot, and, on the pretence of assistance given, a demand is made for money, in lieu of which, on fear or hesitation being shown, they obtain such articles as they take a fancy to.

“The tribes through whose limits the road runs have annual allowances for protecting it, but it is a question whether these are regularly paid. It can hardly be expected that the same system of deferred and reduced payments, which unfortunately prevails in the Persian public service, should be accepted patiently by a starving people, who have long been given to predatory habits, and this may account for occasional disturbance. They probably find it difficult to understand why payment of taxes should be mercilessly exacted upon them, while their allowances remain unpaid. It is generally believed that they would take readily to work if fairly treated and honestly paid, and I was told that for the construction of the proposed cart-road there would be no difficulty in getting labourers from the neighbouring Lur tribes.”

Letter xiv

I left Julfa on the afternoon of April 30, with Miss Bruce as my guest and Mr. Douglas as our escort for the first three or four days. The caravan was sent forward early, that my inexperienced servants might have time to pitch the tents before our arrival.

Green and pleasant looked the narrow streets and walled gardens of Julfa under a blue sky, on which black clouds were heavily massed here and there; but greenery was soon exchanged for long lines of mud ruins, and the great gravelly slopes in which the mountains descend upon the vast expanse of plain which surrounds Isfahan, on which the villages of low mud houses are marked by dark belts of poplars, willows, fruit-trees, and great patches of irrigated and cultivated land, shortly to take on the yellow hue of the surrounding waste, but now beautifully green.

Passing through Pul-i-Wargun, a large and much wooded village on the Zainderud, there a very powerful stream, affording abundant water power, scarcely used, we crossed a bridge 450 feet long by twelve feet broad, of eighteen brick arches resting on stone piers, and found the camps pitched on some ploughed land by a stream, and afternoon tea ready for the friends who had come to give us what Persians call “a throw on the road.” I examined my equipments, found that nothing essential was lacking, initiated my servants into their evening duties, especially that of tightening tent ropes and driving tent pegs well in, and enjoyed a social evening in the adjacent camp.

The next day’s journey, made under an unclouded sky, was mainly along the Zainderud, from which all the channels and rills which nourish the vegetation far and near are taken. A fine, strong, full river it is there and at Isfahan in spring, so prolific in good works that one regrets that it should be lost sixty miles east of Isfahan in the Gas–Khana, an unwholesome marsh, the whole of its waters disappearing in the Kavir. Many large villages with imposing pigeon-towers lie along this part of its course, surrounded with apricot and walnut orchards, wheat and poppy fields, every village an oasis, and every oasis a paradise, as seen in the first flush of spring. On a slope of gravel is the Bagh-i-Washi, with the remains of an immense enclosure, where the renowned Shah Abbas is said to have had a menagerie. Were it not for the beautiful fringe of fertility on both margins of the Zainderud the country would be a complete waste. The opium poppy is in bloom now. The use of opium in Persia and its exportation are always increasing, and as it is a very profitable crop, both to the cultivators and to the Government, it is to some extent superseding wheat.

Leaving the greenery we turned into a desert of gravel, crossed some low hills, and in the late afternoon came down upon the irrigated lands which surround the large and prosperous village of Riz, the handsome and lofty pigeon-towers of which give it quite a fine appearance from a distance.

These pigeon-towers are numerous, both near Isfahan and in the villages along the Zainderud, and are everywhere far more imposing than the houses of the people. Since the great famine, which made a complete end of pigeon-keeping for the time, the industry has never assumed its former proportions, and near Julfa many of the towers are falling into ruin.

The Riz towers, however, are in good repair. They are all built in the same way, varying only in size and height, from twenty to fifty feet in diameter, and from twenty-five to eighty feet from base to summit. They are “round towers,” narrowing towards the top. They are built of sun-dried bricks of local origin, costing about two krans or 16d. a thousand, and are decorated with rings of yellowish plaster, with coarse arabesques in red ochre upon them. For a door there is an opening half-way up, plastered over like the rest of the wall.

Two walls, cutting each other across at right angles, divide the interior. I am describing from a ruined tower which was easy of ingress. The sides of these walls, and the whole of the inner surface of the tower, are occupied by pigeon cells, the open ends of which are about twelve inches square. According to its size a pigeon-tower may contain from 2000 to 7000, or even 8000, pairs of pigeons. These birds are gray-blue in colour.

A pigeon-tower is a nuisance to the neighbourhood, for its occupants, being totally unprovided for by their proprietor, live upon their neighbours’ fields. In former days it must have been a grand sight when they returned to their tower after the day’s depredations. “Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?” probably referred to a similar arrangement in Palestine.

The object of the towers is the preservation and collection of “pigeon guano,” which is highly prized for the raising of early melons. The door is opened once a year for the collection of this valuable manure. A large pigeon-tower used to bring its owner from £60 to £75 per annum, but a cessation of the great demand for early melons in the neighbourhood of Isfahan has prevented the restocking of the towers since the famine.

Our experiences of Riz were not pleasant. One of the party during a short absence from his tent was robbed of a very valuable scientific instrument. After that there was the shuffling sound of a multitude outside the tent in which Miss Bruce and I were resting, and women concealed from head to foot in blue and white checked sheets, revealing but one eye, kept lifting the tent curtain, and when that was laced, applying the one eye to the spaces between the lace-holes, whispering and tittering all the time. Hot though it was, their persevering curiosity prevented any ventilation, and the steady gaze of single eyes here, there, and everywhere was most exasperating. It was impossible to use the dressing tent, for crowds of boys assembled, and rows of open mouths and staring eyes appeared between the fly and the ground. Vainly Miss Bruce, who speaks Persian well and courteously, told the women that this intrusion on our privacy when we were very tired was both rude and unkind. “We’re only women,” they said, “we shouldn’t mind it, we’ve never seen so many Europeans before.” Sunset ended the nuisance, for then the whole crowd, having fasted since sunrise, hurried home for food.

The great fast of the month of Ramazan began before we left Julfa. Moslems are not at their best while it lasts. They are apt to be crabbed and irritable; and everything that can be postponed is put off “till after Ramazan.”

Much ostentation comes out in the keeping of it; very pious people begin to fast before the month sets in. A really ascetic Moslem does not even swallow his saliva during the fast, and none but very old or sick people, children, and travellers, are exempt from the obligation to taste neither food nor water, and not even to smoke during daylight, for a whole month. The penance is a fearful one, and as the night is the only time for feasting, the Persians get through as much of the day as possible in sleep.

Welcome indeed is the sunset. With joy men fill their pipes and drink tea as a prelude to the meal eaten an hour afterwards. Hateful is the dawn and the cry an hour before it, “Water! oh, water and opium!”— the warning to the faithful to drink largely and swallow an opium pill before sunrise. The thirst even in weather like this, and the abstention from smoking, are severer trials than the fasting from food. The Persian either lives to smoke, or smokes to live.

Although travellers are nominally exempt from the fast from water at least, pious Moslems do not avail themselves of the liberty. Hadji Hussein, for instance, is keeping it as rigidly as any one, and, like some others, marches with the end of his pagri tucked over his mouth and nose, a religious affectation, supposed to prevent the breaking of the fast by swallowing the animalculæ which are believed to infest the air!

Beyond Riz, everywhere there are arid yellow mountains and yellow gravelly plains, except along the Zainderud, where fruit-trees, wheat, and the opium poppy relieve the eyes from the glare. We took leave of the Zainderud at Pul-i-Kala, where it is crossed by a dilapidated but passable and very picturesque stone bridge of eight arches, and the view from the high right bank of wood, bridge, and the vigorous green river is very pretty.

Little enough of trees or greenery have we seen since. This country, like much of the great Iranian plateau, consists of high mountains with broad valleys or large or small plateaux between them, absolutely treeless, and even now nearly verdureless, with scattered oases wherever a possibility of procuring water by means of laboriously-constructed irrigation canals renders cultivation possible.

Water is scarce and precious; its value may be gathered from the allusions made by the Persian poets to fountains, cascades, shady pools, running streams, and bubbling springs. Such expressions as those in Scripture, “rivers of waters,” “a spring of water whose waters fail not,” convey a fulness of meaning to Persian ears of which we are quite ignorant. The first inquiry of a Persian about any part of his own country is, “Is there water?” the second, “Is the water good?” and if he wishes to extol any particular region he says “the water is abundant all the year, and is sweet, there is no such water anywhere.”

The position of a village is always determined by the water supply, for the people have not only to think of water for domestic purposes, but for irrigating their crops, and this accounts for the packing of hamlets on steep mountain sides where land for cultivation can only be obtained by laborious terracing, but where some perennial stream can be relied on for filling the small canals. The fight for water is one of the hardest necessities of the Persian peasant. A water famine of greater or less degree is a constant peril.

Land in Persia is of three grades, the wholly irrigated, the partially irrigated, and the “rain-lands,” usually uplands, chiefly suited for pasturage. The wholly irrigated land is the most productive. The assessments for taxes appear to leave altogether out of account the relative fertility of the land, and to be calculated solely on the supply of water. A winter like the last, of heavy snow, means a plenteous harvest, i.e. “twelve or fourteen grains for one,” as the peasants put it; a scanty snowfall means famine, for the little rain which falls is practically of scarcely any use.

The plan for the distribution of water seems to be far less provocative of quarrels than that of some other regions dependent on irrigation, such as Ladak and Nubra. Where it is at all abundant, as it is in this Zainderud valley, it is only in the great heats of summer that it is necessary to apportion it with any rigidity. It is then placed in the hands of a mirab or water officer, who allows it to each village in turn for so many days, during which time the villages above get none, or the ketchudas manage it among themselves without the aid of a mirab, for the sad truth, which is applicable to all Persian officialism, applies in the mirab’s case, that if a village be rich enough to bribe him it can get water out of its turn.

The blessedness of the Zainderud valley is exceptional, and the general rule in the majority of districts is that the water must be carefully divided and be measured by “tashts,” each tasht being equivalent to the use of the water supply for eleven minutes.

“This space of time is estimated in a very ancient fashion by floating a copper bowl with a needle hole in the bottom in a large vessel of water. The tasht comes to an end as the bowl sinks. The distribution is regulated by the number of tashts that each man has a right to. If he has a right to twenty he will receive water for three and three-quarter hours of the day or night every tenth day.” Land without water in Persia is about as valuable as the “south lands” were which were given to Caleb’s daughter.

So far as I can learn, the Persian peasant enjoys a tolerable security of tenure so long as he pays his rent. A common rate of rent is two-thirds of the produce, but on lands where the snow lies for many months, even when they are “wet lands,” it is only one-third; but this system is subject to many modifications specially arising out of the finding or non-finding of the seed by the owner, and there is no uniformity in the manner of holding land or in assessing the taxes or in anything else, though the system established 1400 years ago is still the basis of the whole.48

The line between the oasis and the desert is always strongly marked and definite. There is no shading away between the deep green of the growing wheat and the yellow or red gravel beyond. The general impression is one of complete nakedness. The flowers which in this month bloom on the slopes are mostly stiff, leathery, and thorny. The mountains themselves viewed from below are without any indication of green. The usual colouring is grayish-yellow or a feeble red, intensifying at sunset, but rarely glorified owing to the absence of “atmosphere.”

It is a very solitary route from Pul-i-Kala, without villages, and we met neither caravans nor foot passengers. The others rode on, and I followed with two of the Bakhtiari escort, who with Rustem Khan, a minor chief, had accompanied us from Julfa. These men were most inconsequent in their proceedings, wheeling round me at a gallop, singing, or rather howling, firing their long guns, throwing themselves into one stirrup and nearly off their horses, and one who rides without a bridle came up behind me with his horse bolting and nearly knocked me out of the saddle with the long barrel of his gun. When the village of Charmi came in sight I signed to them to go on, and we all rode at a gallop, the horsemen uttering wild cries and going through the pantomime of firing over the left shoulders and right flanks of their horses.

The camps were pitched on what might be called the village green. Charmi, like many Persian villages, is walled, the wall, which is much jagged by rain and frost, having round towers at intervals, and a large gateway. Such walls are no real protection, but serve to keep the flocks and herds from nocturnal depredators. Within the gate is a house called the Fort, with a very fine room fully thirty feet long by fifteen high, decorated with a mingled splendour and simplicity surprising in a rural district. The wall next the courtyard is entirely of very beautiful fretwork, filled in with amber and pale blue glass. The six doors are the same, and the walls and the elaborate roof and cornices are pure white, the projections being “picked out” in a pale shade of brown, hardly darker than amber.

The following morning Miss Bruce left on her return home, and Mr. Douglas and I rode fourteen miles to the large village of Kahva Rukh, where we parted company. It is an uninteresting march over formless gravelly hills and small plains thinly grassed, until the Gardan-i-Rukh, one of the high passes on the Isfahan and Shuster route, is reached, with its extensive view of brown mountains and yellow wastes. This pass, 7960 feet in altitude, crossing the unshapely Kuh-i-Rukh, is the watershed of the country, all the streams on its southern side falling into the Karun. It is also the entrance to the Chahar Mahals or four districts, Lar, Khya, Mizak, and Gandaman, which consist chiefly of great plains surrounded by mountains, and somewhat broken up by their gravelly spurs.

Beyond, and usually in sight, is the snow-slashed Kuh-i-Sukhta range, which runs south-east, and throws out a spur to Chigakhor, the summer resort of the Bakhtiari chiefs. The Chahar Mahals, for Persia, are populous, and in some parts large villages, many of which are Armenian and Georgian, occur at frequent intervals, most of them treeless, but all surrounded by cultivated lands. The Armenian villages possess so-called relics and ancient copies of the Gospels, which are credited with the power of working miracles.49

The Chahar Mahals have been farmed to the Ilkhani of the Bakhtiaris for about 20,000 tumans (£6000) a year, and his brother, Reza Kuli Khan, has been appointed their governor. Thus on crossing the Kahva Rukh pass we entered upon the sway of the feudal head of the great Bakhtiari tribes.

We camped outside the village, my tents being pitched in a ruinous enclosure. The servants are in the habit of calling me the Hakīm, and the report of a Frank Hakīm having arrived soon brought a crowd of sick people, who were introduced and their ailments described by a blue horseman, one of the escort.

His own child was so dangerously ill of pneumonia that I went with him to his house, put on a mustard poultice, and administered some Dover’s powder. The house was crammed and the little suffering creature had hardly air to breathe. The courtyard was also crowded, so that one could scarcely move, all the people being quite pleasant and friendly. I saw several sick people, and was surprised to find the village houses so roomy and comfortable, and so full of “plenishings.” It was in vain that I explained to them that I am not a doctor, scarcely even a nurse. The fame of Burroughes and Wellcome’s medicine chest has spread far and wide, and they think its possessor must be a Hakīm. The horseman said that medicine out of that chest would certainly cure his child.50 I was unable to go back to the tea which had been prepared in the horseman’s house, on which he expressed great dismay, and said I must be “enraged with him.”

Persians always use round numbers, and the ketchuda says that the village has 300 Persian houses, and 100 more, inhabited during the winter by Ilyats. It has mud walls with towers at intervals, two mosques, a clear stream of water in the principal street, some very good houses with balakhanas, and narrow alleys between high mud walls, in which are entrances into courtyards occupied by animals, and surrounded by living-rooms. The only trees are a few spindly willows, but wheat comes up to the walls, and at sunset great herds of cattle and myriads of brown sheep converge to what seems quite a prosperous village.

May 5.— Yesterday, Sunday, was intended to be a day of rest, but turned out very far from it. After the last relay of “patients” left on Saturday evening, and the last medicines had been “dispensed,” my tent was neatly arranged with one yekdan for a table, and the other for a washstand and medicine stand. The latter trunk contained some English gold in a case along with some valuable letters, and some bags, in which were 1000 krans, for four months’ travelling. This yekdan was padlocked. It was a full moon, the other camps were quite near, all looked very safe, and I slept until awakened by the sharpness of the morning air.

Then I saw but one yekdan where there had been two! Opening the tent curtain I found my washing apparatus and medicine bottles neatly arranged on the ground outside, and the trunk without its padlock among some ruins a short distance off. The money bags were all gone, leaving me literally penniless. Most of my store of tea was taken, but nothing else. Two men must have entered my tent and have carried the trunk out. Of what use are any precautions when one sleeps so disgracefully soundly? When the robbery was made known horsemen were sent off to the Ilkhani, whose guest I have been since I entered his territory, and at night a Khan arrived with a message that “the money would be repaid, and that the village would be levelled with the ground!” Kahva Rukh will, I hope, stand for many years to come, but the stolen sum will be levied upon it, according to custom.

The people are extremely vexed at this occurrence, and I would rather have lost half the sum than that it should have happened to a guest. In addition to an escort of a Khan and four men, the Ilkhani has given orders that we are not to be allowed to pay for anything while in the country. This order, after several battles, I successfully disobey. This morning, before any steps were taken to find the thief, and after all the loads were ready, officials came to the camps, and, by our wish, every man’s baggage was unrolled and searched. Our servants and charvadars are all Moslems, and each of them took an oath on the Koran, administered by a mollah, that he was innocent of the theft.

Ardal, May 9.— I left rather late, and with the blue horseman, to whom suspicion generally pointed, rode to Shamsabad, partly over gravelly wastes, passing two mixed Moslem and Armenian villages on a plain, on which ninety ploughs were at work on a stiff whitish soil.

Shamsabad is a most wretched mud village without supplies, standing bare on a gravelly slope, above a clear quiet stream, an affluent of the Karun. This country has not reached that stage of civilisation in which a river bears the same name from mouth to source, and as these streams usually take as many names as there are villages on their course, I do not burden my memory with them. There is a charming camping-ground of level velvety green sward on the right bank of the river, with the towering mass of Jehanbin (sight of the world), 12,000 feet high, not far off. This lawn is 6735 feet above the sea, and the air keen and pleasant. The near mountain views are grand, and that evening the rare glory of a fine sunset lingered till it was merged in the beauty of a perfect moonlight.

After leaving Shamsabad the road passes through a rather fine defile, crosses the Shamsabad stream by a ten-arched bridge between the Kuh-i-Zangun and the Kuh-i-Jehanbin, and proceeds down a narrow valley now full of wild flowers and young wheat to Khariji, a village of fifty houses, famous for the excellent quality of its opium. From Khariji we proceeded through low grassy hills, much like the South Downs, and over the low but very rough Pasbandi Pass into an irrigated valley in which is the village of Shalamzar. I rode through it alone quite unmolested, but two days later the Sahib, passing through it with his servants, was insulted and pelted, and the people said, “Here’s another of the dog party.” These villagers are afflicted with “divers diseases and torments,” and the crowd round my tent was unusually large and importunate. In this village of less than fifty houses nearly all the people had one or both eyes more or less affected, and fourteen had only one eye.

Between Shalamzar and Ardal lies the lofty Gardan-i-Zirreh, by which the Kuh-i-Sukhta is crossed at a height of 8300 feet. The ascent begins soon after leaving the village, and is long and steep — a nasty climb. The upper part at this date is encumbered with snow, below which primulas are blooming in great profusion, and lower down leathery flowers devoid of beauty cover without adorning the hillside. Two peasants went up with me, and from time to time kindly handed me clusters of small raisins taken from the breasts of dirty felt clothing. On reaching the snow I found Rustem Khan’s horse half-buried in a drift, so I made the rest of the ascent on foot. The snow was three feet deep, but for the most part presented no difficulties, even to the baggage animals.

At the summit there were no green things except some plants of artemisia, not even a blade of grass, but among the crevices appeared small fragile snow-white tulips with yellow centres, mixed with scarlet and mauve blossoms of a more vigorous make. At that great height the air was keen and bracing, and to eyes for months accustomed to regions buried in dazzling snow and to glaring gravelly wastes, there was something perfectly entrancing about the view on the Bakhtiari side. Though treeless, it looked like Paradise. Lying at the foot of the pass is the deep valley of Seligun, 8000 feet high, with the range of the Kuh-i-Nassar to the south, and of the Kuh–Shah-Purnar to the north — green, full of springs and streams, with two lakes bringing down the blue of heaven to earth, with slopes aflame with the crimson and terra-cotta Fritillaria imperialis, and levels one golden glory with a yellow ranunculus. Rich and dark was the green of the grass, tall and deep on the plain, but when creeping up the ravines to meet the snows, short green sward enamelled with tulips. Great masses of naked rock, snow-slashed, and ranges of snow-topped masses behind and above, walled in that picture of cool serenity, its loneliness only broken by three black tents of Ilyats far away. So I saw Seligun, but those who see it a month hence will find only a brown and dusty plain!

The range we crossed divides the Chahar Mahals from the true Bakhtiari country, a land of mountains which rumour crests with eternal snow, of unexplored valleys and streams, of feudal chiefs, of blood feuds, and of nomad tribes moving with vast flocks and herds.

Mehemet Ali, a new and undesirable acquisition, was loaded with my shuldari, and we clambered down the hillside, leading our horses amidst tamarisk scrub and a glory of tulips, till we reached the level, when a gallop brought us to the camps, pitched near a vigorous spring in the green flower-enamelled grass.

That halt was luxury for man and beast. Later the air was cool and moist. The sun-lit white fleeces which had been rolling among the higher hills darkened and thickened into rain-clouds, drifting stormily, and only revealing here and there through their rifts glimpses of blue. A few flocks of sheep on the mountains, and the mules and horses revelling knee-deep in the juicy grass, were the sole representatives of animated life. It was a real refreshment to be away from the dust of mud villages, and to escape from the pressure of noisy and curious crowds, and the sight of sore eyes.

Towards evening, a gallop on the Arabs with the Bakhtiari escort took us to the camp of the lately-arrived Ilyats. Orientals spend much of their time in the quiet contemplation of cooking pots, and these nomads were not an exception, for they were all sitting round a brushwood fire, on which the evening meal of meat broth with herbs was being prepared. The women were unveiled. Both men and women are of quite a different type from the Persians. They are completely clothed and in appearance are certainly only semi-savages. These tents consisted of stones rudely laid to a height of two feet at the back, over which there is a canopy with an open front and sides, of woven goat’s-hair supported on poles. Such tents are barely a shelter from wind and rain, but in them generations of Ilyats are born and die, despising those of their race who settle in villages.

There were great neutral-tint masses of rolling clouds, great banks of glistering white clouds, a cold roystering wind, a lurid glow, and then a cloudy twilight. Hakīm threw up his heels and galloped over the moist grass, the Bakhtiaris, two on one horse, laughed and yelled — there was the desert freedom without the desert. It was the most inspiriting evening I have spent in Persia. Truth compels me to add that there were legions of black flies.

In the early morning, after riding round the south-east end of the valley, we passed by the lake Seligun or Albolaki, banked up by a revetment of rude masonry. The wind was strong, and drove the foam-flecked water in a long line of foam on the shore. Red-legged storks were standing in a row fishing. Cool scuds of rain made the morning homelike. Then there was a hill ascent, from which the view of snowy mountains, gashed by deep ravines and backed by neutral-tint clouds, was magnificent, and then a steep and rocky defile, which involved walking, its sides gaudy with the Fritillaria imperialis, which here attains a size and a depth of colouring of which we have no conception.

In this pass we met a large number of Ilyat families going up to their summer quarters, with their brown flocks of sheep and their black flocks of goats. Their tents with all their other goods were packed in convenient parcels on small cows, and the women with babies and big wooden cradles were on asses. The women without babies, the elder children, and the men walked.

Whatever beauty these women possessed was in the Meg Merrilees style, with a certain weirdness about it. They had large, dark, long eyes, with well-marked eyebrows, artificially prolonged, straight prominent noses, wide mouths with thin lips, long straight chins, and masses of black hair falling on each side of the face. Their dress consisted of enormously full dark blue cotton trousers, drawn in at the ankles, and suspended over the hips, not from the waist (the invariable custom in Persia), and loose sleeved vests, open in front. The adult women all wear a piece of cotton pinned on the head, and falling over the back and shoulders. The men had their hair in many long plaits, hanging from under felt skull-caps, and wore wide blue cotton trousers, white or printed cotton shirts over these, and girdles in which they carried knives, pipes, and other indispensables. All wore shoes or sandals of some kind. These men were very swarthy, but the younger women had rich brunette complexions, and were unveiled.

Some bad horse-fights worried the remainder of the march, which included the ascent of an anemone-covered hill, 7700 feet high, from which we got the first view of the Ardal valley, much cultivated, till it narrows and is lost among mountains, now partly covered with snow. In the centre is a large building with a tower, the spring residence of the Ilkhani, whose goodwill it is necessary to secure. Through a magnificent gorge in the mountains passes the now famous Karun. A clatter of rain and a strong wind greeted our entrance into the valley, where we were met by some horsemen from the Ilkhani.

The great Ardal plateau is itself treeless, though the lower spurs of the Kuh-i-Sabz on the south side are well wooded with the belut, a species of oak. There is much cultivation, and at this season the uncultivated ground is covered with the great green leaves of a fodder plant, the Centaurea alata, which a little later are cut, dried, and stacked. The rivers of the plateau are the Karun and Sabzu on the south side, and the river of Shamsabad, which brings to the Karun the drainage of the Chahar Mahals, and enters the valley through a magnificent tang or chasm on its north side, called Darkash Warkash. The village of Ardal is eighty-five miles from Isfahan, on the Shuster caravan route, and is about 200 from Shuster. Its altitude is 5970 feet, its Long. 50° 50´ E. and its Lat. 32° N.

On arriving here the grandeur of the Ilkhani’s house faded away. Except for the fortified tower it looks like a second-rate caravanserai. The village, such as there is of it, is crowded on a steep slope outside the “Palace.” It is a miserable hamlet of low windowless mud hovels, with uneven mud floors, one or two feet lower than the ground outside, built in yards with ruinous walls, and full of heaps and holes. It is an olla podrida of dark, poor, smoky mud huts; narrow dirt-heaped alleys, with bones and offal lying about; gaunt yelping dogs; bottle-green slimy pools, and ruins. The people are as dirty as the houses, but they are fine in physique and face, as if only the fittest survive. There is an imamzada, much visited on Fridays, on an adjacent slope. The snow lies here five feet deep in winter, it is said.

When we arrived the roofs and balconies of the Ilkhani’s house were crowded with people looking out for us. The Agha called at once, and I sent my letter of introduction from the Amin-es-Sultan. Presents arrived, formal visits were paid, the Ilkhani’s principal wife appointed an hour at which to receive me, and a number of dismounted horsemen came and escorted me to the palace. The chief feature of the house is a large audience-chamber over the entrance, in which the chief holds a daily durbar, the deep balcony outside being usually thronged by crowds of tribesmen, all having free access to him. The coming and going are incessant.


Castle of Ardal.

The palace or castle is like a two-storied caravanserai, enclosing a large untidy courtyard, round which are stables and cow-houses, and dens for soldiers and servants. In the outer front of the building are deep recessed arches, with rooms opening upon them, in which the Isfahan traders, who come here for a month, expose their wares. Passing under the Ilkhani’s audience-chamber by a broad arched passage with deep recesses on both sides, and through the forlorn uneven courtyard, a long, dark arched passage leads into a second courtyard, where there is an attempt at ornament by means of tanks and willows. Round this are a number of living-rooms for the Ilkhani’s sons and their families, and here is the andarun, or house of the women. On the far side is the Fort, a tall square tower with loopholes and embrasures.

A Cerberus guards the entrance to the andarun, but he allowed Mirza to accompany me. A few steps lead up from the courtyard into a lofty oblong room, with a deep cushioned recess containing a fireplace. The roof rests on wooden pillars. The front of the room facing the courtyard is entirely of fretwork filled in with pale blue and amber glass. The recess and part of the floor were covered with very beautiful blue and white grounded carpets, made by the women. The principal wife, a comely wide-mouthed woman of forty, advanced to meet me, kissed my hand, raised it to her brow, and sat down on a large carpet squab, while the other wives led me into the recess, and seated me on a pile of cushions, taking their places in a row on the floor opposite, but scarcely raising their eyes, and never speaking one word. The rest of the room was full of women and children standing, and many more blocked up the doorways, all crowding forward in spite of objurgations and smart slaps frequently administered by the principal wife.

The three young wives are Bakhtiaris, and their style of beauty is novel to me — straight noses, wide mouths, thin lips, and long chins. Each has three stars tattooed on her chin, one in the centre of the forehead, and several on the back of the hands. The eyebrows are not only elongated with indigo, but are made to meet across the nose. The finger-nails, and inside of the hands, are stained with henna. The hair hangs round their wild, handsome faces, down to their collar-bones, in loose, heavy, but not uncleanly masses.

Among the “well-to-do” Bakhtiari women, as among the Persians, the hair receives very great attention, although it is seldom exhibited. It is naturally jet black, and very abundant. It is washed at least once a week with a thin paste of a yellowish clay found among the Zard–Kuh mountains, which has a very cleansing effect.

But the women are not content with their hair as it is, and alter its tinge by elaborate arts. They make a thick paste of henna, leave it on for two hours, and then wash it off. The result is a rich auburn tint. A similar paste, made of powdered indigo leaves, is then plastered over the hair for two hours. On its removal the locks are dark green, but in twenty-four hours more they become a rich blue-black. The process needs repeating about every twenty days, but it helps to fill up the infinite leisure of life. It is performed by the bath attendants.

In justice to my sex I must add that the men dye their hair to an equal extent with the women, from the shining blue-black of the Shah’s moustache to the brilliant orange of the beard of Hadji Hussein, by which he forfeits, though not in Persian estimation, the respect due to age.

Some of the Ilkhani’s children and grand-children have the hair dyed with henna alone to a rich auburn tint, which is very becoming to the auburn eyes and delicate paleness of some of them.

The wives wore enormously full black silk trousers, drawn tight at the ankles, with an interregnum between them and short black vests, loose and open in front; and black silk sheets attached to a band fixed on the head enveloped their persons. They have, as is usual among these people, small and beautiful hands, with taper fingers and nails carefully kept. The chief wife, who rules the others, rumour says, was also dressed in black. She has a certain degree of comely dignity about her, and having seen something of the outer world in a pilgrimage to Mecca viâ Baghdad, returning by Egypt and Persia, and having also lived in Tihran, her intelligence has been somewhat awakened. The Bakhtiari women generally are neither veiled nor secluded, but the higher chiefs who have been at the capital think it chic to adopt the Persian customs regarding women, and the inferior chiefs, when they have houses, follow their example.

My conversation with the “queen” consisted chiefly of question and answer, varied by an occasional divergence on her part into an animated talk with Mirza Yusuf. Among the many questions asked were these: at what age our women marry? how many wives the Agha has? how long our women are allowed to keep their boys with them? why I do not dye my hair? if I know of anything to take away wrinkles? to whiten teeth? etc., if our men divorce their wives when they are forty? why Mr. —— had refused a Bakhtiari wife? if I am travelling to collect herbs? if I am looking for the plant which if found would turn the base metals into gold? etc.

She said they had very dull lives, and knew nothing of any customs but their own; that they would like to see the Agha, who, they heard, was a head taller than their tallest men; that they hoped I should be at Chigakhor when they were there, as it would be less dull, and she apologised for not offering tea or sweetmeats, as it is the fast of the Ramazan, which they observe very strictly. I told them that the Agha wished to take their photographs, and the Hadji Ilkhani along with them. They were quite delighted, but it occurred to them that they must first get the Ilkhani’s consent. This was refused, and one of his sons, whose wife is very handsome, said, “We cannot allow pictures to be made of our women. It is not our custom. We cannot allow pictures of our women to be in strange hands. No good women have their pictures taken. Among the tribes you may find women base enough to be photographed.” The chief wife offered to make me a present of her grandson, to whom I am giving a tonic, if I can make him strong and cure his deafness. He is a pale precocious child of ten, with hazel eyes and hair made artificially auburn.

When the remarkably frivolous conversation flagged, they brought children afflicted with such maladies as ophthalmia, scabies, and sore eyes to be cured, but rejected my dictum that a copious use of soap and water must precede all remedies. Among the adults headaches, loss of appetite, and dyspepsia seem the prevailing ailments. Love potions were asked for, and charms to bring back lost love, with special earnestness, and the woful looks assumed when I told the applicants that I could do nothing for them were sadly suggestive. There could not have been fewer than sixty women and children in the room, many, indeed most of them, fearfully dirty in dress and person. Among them were several negro and mulatto slaves. When I came away the balconies and arches of the Ilkhani’s house were full of men, anxious to have a good view of the Feringhi woman, but there was no rudeness there, or in the village, which I walked through afterwards with a courtesy escort of several dismounted horsemen.

After this the Ilkhani asked me to go to see a man who is very ill, and sent two of his retainers with me. It must be understood that Mirza Yusuf goes with me everywhere as attendant and interpreter. The house was a dark room, with a shed outside, in a filthy yard, in which children, goats, and dogs were rolling over each other in a foot of powdered mud. Crowds of men were standing in and about the shed. I made my way through them, moving them to right and left with my hands, with the recognised supremacy of a Hakīm! There were some wadded quilts on the ground, and another covered a form of which nothing was visible but two feet, deadly cold. The only account that the bystanders could give of the illness was, that four days ago the man fainted, and that since he had not been able to eat, speak, or move. The face was covered with several folds of a very dirty chadar. On removing it I was startled by seeing, not a sick man, but the open mouth, gasping respiration, and glassy eyes of a dying man. His nostrils had been stuffed with moist mud and a chopped aromatic herb. The feet were uncovered, and the limbs were quite cold. There was no cruelty in this. The men about him were most kind, but absolutely ignorant.

I told them that he could hardly survive the night, and that all I could do was to help him to die comfortably. They said with one clamorous voice that they would do whatever I told them, and in the remaining hours they kept their word. I bade them cleanse the mud from his nostrils, wrap the feet and legs in warm cloths, give him air, and not crowd round him. Under less solemn circumstances I should have been amused with the absolute docility with which these big savage-looking men obeyed me. I cut up a blanket, and when they had heated some water in their poor fashion, showed them how to prepare fomentations, put on the first myself, and bathed his face and hands.

He was clothed in rags of felt and cotton, evidently never changed since the day they were put on, though he was what they call “rich,”— a great owner of mares, flocks, and herds — and the skin was scaly with decades of dirt. I ventured to pour a little sal-volatile and water down his throat, and the glassy eyeballs moved a little. I asked the bystanders if, as Moslems, they would object to his taking some spirits medicinally? They were willing, but said there was no arak in the Bakhtiari country, a happy exemption! The Agha’s kindness supplied some whisky, of which from that time the dying man took a teaspoonful, much diluted, every two hours, tossed down his throat with a spoon, Allah being always invoked. There was no woman’s gentleness to soothe his last hours. A wife in the dark den inside was weaving, and once came out and looked carelessly at him, but men did for him all that he required with a tenderness and kindness which were very pleasing. Before I left they asked for directions over again, and one of the Ilkhani’s retainers wrote them down.

At night the Ilkhani sent to say that the man was much better and he hoped I would go and see him. The scene was yet more weird than in the daytime. A crowd of men were sitting and standing round a fire outside the shed, and four were watching the dying man. The whisky had revived him, his pulse was better, the fomentation had relieved the pain, and when it was reapplied he had uttered the word “good.” I tried to make them understand it was only a last flicker of life, but they thought he would recover, and the Ilkhani sent to know what food he should have.

At dawn “death music,” wild and sweet, rang out on the still air; he died painlessly at midnight, and was carried to the grave twelve hours later.

When people are very ill their friends give them food and medicine (if a Hakīm be attainable), till, in their judgment, the case is hopeless. Then they send for a mollah; who reads the Koran in a very loud sing-song tone till death ensues, the last thirst being alleviated meantime by sharbat dropped into the mouth. Camphor and other sweet spices are burned at the grave. If they burn well and all is pure afterwards, they say that the deceased person has gone to heaven; if they burn feebly and smokily, and there is any unpleasantness from the grave, they say that the spirit is in perdition. A Bakhtiari grave is a very shallow trench.

The watchers were kind, and carried out my directions faithfully. I give these minute details to show how much even simple nursing can do to mitigate suffering among a people so extremely ignorant as the Bakhtiaris are not only of the way to tend the sick, but of the virtues of the medicinal plants which grow in abundance around them. A medical man itinerating among their camps with a light hospital tent and some simple instruments and medicines could do a great deal of healing, and much also to break down the strong prejudice which exists against Christianity. Here, as elsewhere, the Hakīm is respected. Going in that capacity I found the people docile, respectful, and even grateful. Had I gone among them in any other, a Christian Feringhi woman would certainly have encountered rudeness and worse.

The Ilkhani, who has not been in a hurry to call, made a formal visit today with his brother, Reza Kuli Khan, his eldest son Lutf, another son, Ghulam, with bad eyes, and a crowd of retainers. The Hadji Ilkhani — Imam Kuli Khan, the great feudal chief of the Bakhtiari tribes, is a quiet-looking middle-aged man with a short black beard, a parchment-coloured complexion, and a face somewhat lined, with a slightly sinister expression at times. He wore a white felt cap, a blue full-skirted coat lined with green, another of fine buff kerseymere under it, with a girdle, and very wide black silk trousers.

He is a man of some dignity of deportment, and his usual expression is somewhat kindly and courteous. He is a devout Moslem, and has a finely-illuminated copy of the Koran, which he spends much time in reading. He is not generally regarded as a very capable or powerful man, and is at variance with the Ilbegi, who, though nominally second chief, practically shares his power. In fact, at this time serious intrigues are going on, and some say that the adherents of the two chiefs would not be unwilling to come to open war.


Imam Kuli Khan.

The greatest men who in this century have filled the office of Ilkhani both perished miserably. The fate of Sir H. Layard’s friend, Mehemet Taki Khan, is well known to all readers of the Early Recollections, but it was possibly less unexpected than that of Hussein Kuli Khan, brother of the present Ilkhani, and father of the Ilbegi Isfandyar Khan. This man was evidently an enlightened and able ruler; he suppressed brigandage with a firm hand, and desired to see the Mohammerah–Shuster-Isfahan route fairly opened to trade. He went so far as to promise Mr. Mackenzie, of one of the leading Persian Gulf firms, in writing, that he would hold himself personally responsible for the safety of caravans in their passage through his territory, and would repay any losses by robbery. He agreed to take a third share of the cost of the necessary steamers on the Karun, and to furnish 100 mules for land transport between Shuster and Isfahan.51

It appears that Persian jealousy was excited by his enterprising spirit; he fell under the displeasure of the Zil-es-Sultan, and in 1882 was put to death by poison while on his annual visit of homage. The present Ilkhani, who succeeded him, warned possibly by his brother’s fate, is said to show little, if any, interest in commercial enterprise, and to have made the somewhat shrewd remark that the English “under the dress of the merchant often conceal the uniform of the soldier.”

In 1888 the Shah relented towards Hussein Kuli Khan’s sons, the eldest of whom, Isfandyar Khan, had been in prison for seven years, and they with their uncle, Reza Kuli Khan, descended with their followers and a small Persian army upon the plain of Chigakhor, where they surprised and defeated the Hadji Ilkhani. His brother, Reza, was thereupon recognised by the Shah as Ilkhani, and Isfandyar as Ilbegi, with the substance of power. Another turn of the wheel of fortune, and the brothers became respectively Ilkhani and Governor of the Chahar Mahals, and their nephew is reinstated as Ilbegi.52

The Ilkhani’s word is law, within broad limits, among the numerous tribes of Bakhtiari Lurs who have consented to recognise him as their feudal head, and it has been estimated that in a popular quarrel he could bring from 8000 to 10,000 armed horsemen into the field. He is judge as well as ruler, but in certain cases there is a possible appeal to Tihran from his decisions. He is appointed by the Shah, with a salary of 1000 tumans a year, but a strong man in his position could be practically independent.

It can scarcely be supposed that the present Ilkhani will long retain his uneasy seat against the intrigues at the Persian court, and with a powerful and popular rival close at hand. It is manifestly the interest of the Shah’s government to weaken the tribal power, and extinguish the authority and independence of the principal chiefs, and the Oriental method of attaining this end is by plots and intrigues at the capital, by creating and fomenting local quarrels, and by oppressive taxation. It is not wonderful, therefore, that many of the principal Khans, whose immemorial freedom has been encroached upon in many recent years by the Tihran Government, should look forward to a day when one of the Western powers will occupy south-west Persia, and give them security.

The Hadji Ilkhani, for the people always prefix the religious title, discussed the proposed journey, promised me an escort of a horseman and a tufangchi, or foot-soldier, begged us to consider ourselves here and everywhere as his guests, and to ask for all we want, here and elsewhere. His brother, Reza Kuli Khan, who has played an important part in tribal affairs, resembles him, but the sinister look is more persistent on his face. He was much depressed by the fear that he was going blind, but on trying my glasses he found he could see. The surprise of the old-sighted people when they find that spectacles renew their youth is most interesting.

Another visitor has been the Ilbegi, Isfandyar Khan. Though not tall, he is very good-looking, and has beautiful hands and feet. He is able, powerful, and ambitious, inspires his adherents with great personal devotion, and is regarded by many as the “coming man.” He was in Tihran when I was in Julfa, and hearing from one of the Ministers that I was about to visit the Bakhtiari country, he wrote to a general of cavalry in Isfahan, asking him to provide me with an escort if I needed it. I was glad to thank him for his courtesy in this matter, and for more substantial help. Before his visit, his retainer, Mansur, brought me the money of which I had been robbed in Kahva Rukh! This man absolutely refused a present, saying that his liege lord would nearly kill him if he took one. Isfandyar Khan welcomed me kindly, regretting much that my first night under Bakhtiari rule should have been marked by a robbery. He said that before his day the tribesmen not only robbed, but killed, and that he had reduced them to such order that he was surprised as well as shocked at this occurrence. I replied that it occurred in a Persian village, and that in many countries one might be robbed, but in none that I knew of would such quick restitution be made.

In cases of robbery, the Ilkhani sends round to the ketchudas or headmen of the camps or villages of the offending district, to replace the money, as in my case, or the value of the thing taken, after which the thief must be caught if possible. When caught, the headmen consult as to his punishment, which may be the cutting off of a hand or nose, or to be severely branded. In any case he must be for the future a marked man. I gather that the most severe penalties are rarely inflicted. I hope the fine of 800 krans levied on Kahva Rukh may stimulate the people to surrender the thief. I agreed to forego 200 krans, as Isfandyar Khan says that his men raised all they could, and the remaining sum would have to be paid by himself.

After a good deal of earnest conversation he became frivolous! He asked the Agha his age, and guessed it at thirty-five. On being enlightened he asked if he dyed his hair, and if his teeth were his own. Then he said that he dyed his own hair, and wore artificial teeth. He also asked my age. He and Lutf and Ghulam, the Ilkhani’s sons, who accompanied him, possess superb watches, with two dials, and an arrangement for showing the phases of the moon.

Having accepted an invitation from the Ilbegi to visit him at Naghun, a village ten miles from Ardal, accompanied by Lutf and Ghulam, we were ready at seven, the hour appointed, as the day promised to be very hot. Eight o’clock came, nine o’clock, half-past nine, and on sending to see if the young Khans were coming, the servants replied that they had “no orders to wake them.” So we Europeans broiled three hours in the sun at the pleasure of “barbarians”!

During the Ramazan these people revel from sunset to sunrise, with feasting, music, singing, and merriment, and then they lie in bed till noon or later, to abridge the long hours of the fast. “Is it such a fast that I have chosen?” may well be asked.

The noise during the night in the Ilkhani’s palace is tremendous. The festivities begin soon after sunset and go on till an hour before dawn. Odours agreeable to Bakhtiari noses are wafted down to my tent, but I do not find them appetising. An eatable called zalabi is in great request during the Ramazan. It is made by mixing sugar and starch with oil of sesamum, and is poured on ready heated copper trays, and frizzled into fritters. Masses of eggs mixed with rice, clarified butter, and jams, concealing balls of highly-spiced mincemeat, kabobs, and mutton stewed with preserved lemon juice and onions are favourite dishes at the Ilkhani’s.

Besides the music and singing, the “Court” entertains itself nightly with performing monkeys and dancing men, besides story-tellers, and reciters of the poetry of Hafiz. It is satisfactory to know that the uproarious merriment which drifts down to my tent along with odours of perpetual frying, owes none of its inspiration to alcohol, coffee and sharbat being the drinks consumed.

We rode without a guide down the Ardal valley, took the worst road through some deep and blazing gulches, found the sun fierce, and the treelessness irksome, saw much ploughing, made a long ascent, and stopped short of the village of Naghun at a large walled garden on the arid hillside, which irrigation has turned into a shady paradise of pear, apricot, and walnut trees, with a luxurious undergrowth of roses and pomegranates. The young Khans galloped up just as we did, laughing heartily at having slept so late. All the village men were gathered to see the Feringhis, and the Ilbegi and his brothers received us at the garden gate, all shaking hands. Certainly this Khan has much power in his face, and his dignified and easy manner is that of a leader of men. His dress was becoming, a handsome dark blue cloak lined with scarlet, and with a deep fur collar, over his ordinary costume.

So much has been said and written about the Bakhtiaris being “savages” or “semi-savages,” that the entertainment which followed was quite a surprise to me. Two fine canopy tents were pitched in the shade, and handsome carpets were laid in them, and under a spreading walnut tree a karsi, or fire cover, covered with a rug, served as a table, and cigarettes, a bowl of ice, a glass jug of sharbat, and some tumblers were neatly arranged upon it. Iron chairs were provided for the European guests, and the Ilbegi, his brothers, the Ilkhani’s sons, and others sat round the border of the carpet on which they were placed. There were fully fifty attendants. Into the midst of this masculine crowd, a male nurse brought the Ilbegi’s youngest child, a dark, quiet, pale, wistful little girl of four years old, a daintily-dressed little creature, with a crimson velvet cap, and a green and crimson velvet frock. She was gentle and confiding, and liked to remain with me.

After a long conversation on subjects more or less worth speaking upon, our hosts retired, to sleep under the trees, leaving us to eat, and a number of servants brought in a large karsi covered with food. Several yards of blanket bread, or “flapjacks,” served as a table-cloth, and another for the dish-cover of a huge pillau in the centre. Cruets, plates, knives and forks, iced water, Russian lemonade, and tumblers were all provided. The dinner consisted of pillau, lamb cutlets, a curried fowl, celery with sour sauce, clotted cream, and sour milk. The food was well cooked and clean, and the servants, rough as they looked, were dexterous and attentive.

After dinner, by the Ilbegi’s wish, I paid a visit to the ladies of his haram. Naghun rivals the other villages of the tribes in containing the meanest and worst permanent habitations I have ever seen. Isfandyar Khan’s house is a mud building surrounding a courtyard, through which the visitor passes into another, round which are the women’s apartments. Both yards were forlorn, uneven, and malodorous, from the heaps of offal and rubbish lying under the hot sun. I was received by fifteen ladies in a pleasant, clean, whitewashed apartment, with bright rugs and silk-covered pillows on the floor, and glass bottles and other ornaments in the takchahs.

At the top of the room I was welcomed, not by the principal wife, but by a portly middle-aged woman, the Khan’s sister, and evidently the duenna of the haram, as not one of the other women ventured to speak, or to offer any courtesies. A chair was provided for me with a karsi in front of it, covered with trays of gaz and other sweetmeats. Mirza and a male attendant stood in the doorway, and outside shoals of women and children on tip-toe were struggling for a glance into the room. Several slaves were present, coal-black, woolly-headed, huge-mouthed negresses. The fifteen ladies held their gay chadars to their faces so as to show only one eye, so I sent Mirza behind a curtain and asked for the pleasure of seeing their faces, when they all unveiled with shrieks of laughter.

The result was disappointing. The women were all young, or youngish, but only one was really handsome. The wives are brunettes with long chins. They wore gay chadars of muslin, short gold-embroidered jackets, gauze chemises, and bright-coloured balloon trousers. Three of the others wore black satin balloon trousers, black silk jackets, yellow gauze vests, and black chadars spotted with white. These three were literally moon-faced, like the representations of the moon on old clocks, a type I have not yet seen. All wear the hair brought to the front, where it hangs in wavy masses on each side of the face. They wore black silk gold-embroidered skull-caps, set back on their heads, and long chains of gold coins from the back to the ear, with two, three, or four long necklaces of the same in which the coins were very large and handsome. One wife, a young creature, was poorly dressed, very dejected-looking, and destitute of ornaments. Her mother has since pleaded for something “to bring back her husband’s love.” The eyebrows were painted with indigo and were made to meet in a point on the bridge of the nose. Each had one stained or tattooed star on her forehead, three on her chin, and a galaxy on the back of each hand.

Before Mirza reappeared they huddled themselves up in their chadars and sat motionless against the wall as before. After tea I had quite a lively conversation with the Khan’s sister, who has been to Basrah, Baghdad, and Mecca.

Besides the usual questions as to my age, dyeing my hair, painting my face, etc., with suggestions on the improvement which their methods would make on my eyes and eyebrows, she asked a little about my journeys, about the marriage customs of England, about divorce, the position of women with us, their freedom, horsemanship, and amusements. She said, “We don’t ride, we sit on horses.” Dancing for amusement she could not understand. “Our servants dance for us,” she said. The dancing of men and women together, and the evening dress of Englishwomen, she thought contrary to the elementary principles of morality. I wanted them to have their photographs taken, but they said, “It is not the custom of our country; no good women have their pictures taken, we should have many things said against us if we were made into pictures.”

They wanted to give me presents, but I made my usual excuse, that I have made a rule not to receive presents in travelling; then they said that they would go and see me in my tent at Chigakhor, their summer quarters, and that I could not refuse what they took in their own hands. They greatly desired to see the Agha, of whose imposing physique they had heard, but they said that the Khan would not like them to go to the garden, and that their wish must remain ungratified. “We lead such dull lives,” the Khan’s sister exclaimed; “we never see any one or go anywhere.” It seems that the slightest development of intellect awakens them to the consciousness of this deplorable dulness, of which, fortunately, the unawakened intelligence is unaware. As a fact, two of the ladies have not been out of the Ardal valley, and are looking forward to the migration to the Chigakhor valley as to a great gaiety.

They asked me if I could read, and if I made carpets? They invariably ask if I have a husband and children, and when I tell them that I am a widow and childless, they simulate weeping for one or two minutes, a hypocrisy which, though it proceeds from a kindly feeling, has a very painful effect. Their occupation in the winter is a little carpet-weaving, which takes the place of our “fancy-work.” They also make a species of nougat, from the manna found on the oaks on some of their mountains, mixed with chopped almonds and rose-water. When I concluded my visit they sent a servant with me with a tray of this and other sweetmeats of their own making.

The party in the garden was a very merry one. The Bakhtiaris love fun, and shrieked with laughter at many things. This jollity, however, did not exclude topics of interesting talk. During this time Karun, a handsome chestnut Arab, and my horse Screw had a fierce fight, and Karim, a Beloochi, in separating them had his arm severely crunched and torn, the large muscles being exposed and lacerated. He was brought in faint and bleeding and in great pain, and will not be of any use for some time. The Agha asked the Ilbegi for two lads to go with him to help his servants. The answer was, “We are a wandering people, Bakhtiaris cannot be servants, but some of our young men will go with you,”— and three brothers joined us there, absolute savages in their ways. A cow was offered for the march, and on the Agha jocularly saying that he should have all the milk, the Ilbegi said that I should have one to myself, and sent two. He complained that I did not ask for anything, and said that I was their guest so long as I was in their country, and must treat them as brothers and ask for all I need. “Don’t feel as if you were in a foreign land” he said; “we love the English.”

I. L. B.

48 The readers interested in such matters will find much carefully-acquired information on water distribution, assessments, and tenure of land in the second volume of the late Mr. Stack’s Six Months in Persia.

49 Some of the legends connected with these objects are grossly superstitious. At Shurishghan there is a “Holy Testament,” regarding which the story runs that it was once stolen by the Lurs, who buried it under a tree by the bank of a stream. Long afterwards a man began to cut down the tree, but when the axe was laid to its root blood gushed forth. On searching for the cause of this miracle the Gospels were found uninjured beneath. It is believed that if any one were to take the Testament away it would return of its own accord. It has the reputation of working miracles of healing, and many resort to it either for themselves or for their sick friends, from Northern Persia and even from Shiraz, as well as from the vicinity, and vows are made before it. The gifts presented to it become the property of its owners.

50 And so it did, though it was then so ill that it seemed unlikely that it would live through the night, and I told them so before I gave the medicine, lest they should think that I had killed it.

51 Proceedings of R.G.S., vol. v. No. 3, New Series.

52 I am indebted for the information given above to a valuable paper by Mr. H. Blosse Lynch, given in the Proceedings of the R.G.S. for September 1890.

Letter xv

The week spent here has passed rapidly. There is much coming and going. My camp is by the side of a frequented pathway, close to a delicious spring, much resorted to by Ilyat women, who draw water in mussocks and copper pots, and gossip there. The Ilyats are on the march to their summer quarters, and the steady tramp of their flocks and herds and the bleating of their sheep is heard at intervals throughout the nights. Sometimes one of their horses or cows stumbles over the tent ropes and nearly brings the tent down. Servants of the Ilkhani with messages and presents of curds, celery pickled in sour cream, and apricots, go to and fro. Sick people come at intervals all day long, and the medicine chest is in hourly requisition.

The sick are not always satisfied with occasional visits to the Hakīm’s tent: a man, who has a little daughter ill of jaundice, after coming twice for medicine, has brought a tent, and has established himself in it with his child close to me, and a woman with bad eyes has also pitched a tent near mine; at present thirteen people come twice daily to have zinc lotion dropped into their eyes. The fame of the “tabloids” has been widely spread, and if I take common powders out of papers, or liquids out of bottles, the people shake their heads and say they do not want those, but “the fine medicines out of the leather box.” To such an extent is this preference carried that they reject decoctions of a species of artemisia, a powerful tonic, unless I put tabloids of permanganate of potash (Condy’s fluid) into the bottle before their eyes.

They have no idea of the difference between curable and incurable maladies. Many people, stone blind, have come long distances for eye-lotion, and to-night a man nearly blind came in, leading a man totally blind for eight years, asking me to restore his sight. The blind had led the blind from a camp twenty-four miles off! Octogenarians believe that I can give them back their hearing, and men with crippled or paralysed limbs think that if I would give them some “Feringhi ointment,” of which they have heard, they would be restored. Some come to stare at a Feringhi lady, others to see my tent, which they occasionally say is “fit for Allah,” and the general result is that I have very little time to myself.

The Ardal plateau is really pretty at this season, and I have had many pleasant evening gallops over soft green grass and soft red earth. The view from the tent is pleasant: on the one side the green slopes which fall down to the precipices which overhang the Karun, with the snowy mountains, deeply cleft, of the region which is still a geographical mystery beyond them; on the other, mountains of naked rock with grass running up into their ravines, and between them and me billows of grass and wild flowers. A barley slope comes down to my tent. The stalks are only six inches long, and the ears, though ripe, contain almost nothing. Every evening a servant of the Ilkhani brings three little wild boars to feed on the grain. Farther down the path are the servants’ and muleteers’ camps, surrounded by packing-cases, yekdans, mule-bags, nose-bags, gear of all kinds, and the usual litter of an encampment.

The men, whether Indian, Persian, Beloochi, or Bakhtiari, are all quiet and well-behaved. The motto of the camps is “Silence is golden.” Hadji Hussein is quiet in manner and speech, and though he has seven muleteers, yells and shouts are unknown.

There is something exciting in the prospect of travelling through a region much of which is unknown and unmapped, and overlooked hitherto by both geographical and commercial enterprise; and in the prospective good fortune of learning the manners and customs of tribes untouched by European influence, and about whose reception of a Feringhi woman doleful prophecies have been made.

Tur, May 18.— The last day at Ardal was a busy one. Several of the Khans called to take leave. I made a farewell visit to the Ilkhani’s haram; people came for medicines at intervals from 5 A.M. till 9 P.M.; numberless eye-lotions had to be prepared; stores, straps, ropes, and equipments had to be looked to; presents to be given to the Ilkhani’s servants; native shoes, with webbing tops and rag soles, to be hunted for to replace boots which could not be mended, and it was late before the preparations were completed. During the night some of my tent ropes were snapped by a stampede of mules, and a heavy thunderstorm coming on with wind and rain, the tent flapped about my ears till dawn.

It was very hot when we left the next morning. The promised escort was not forthcoming. The details of each day’s march have been much alike. I start early, taking Mirza with me with the shuldari, halt usually half-way, and have a frugal lunch of milk and biscuits, read till the caravan has passed, rest in my tent for an hour, and ride on till I reach the spot chosen for the camp. Occasionally on arriving it is found that the place selected on local evidence is unsuitable, or the water is scanty or bad, and we march farther. The greatest luxury is to find the tent pitched, the camp bed put up, and the kettle boiling for afternoon tea. I rest, write, and work till near sunset, when I dine on mutton and rice, and go to bed soon after dark, as I breakfast at four. An hour or two is taken up daily with giving medicines to sick people.

There are no villages, but camps occur frequently. The three young savages brought from Naghun are very amusing from the savage freedom of their ways, but they exasperate the servants by quizzing and mimicking them. The cows are useless. Between them they give at most a teacupful of milk, and generally none. Either the calves or the boys take it, or the marches are too much for them. In the Ilyat camps there is plenty, but as it is customary to mix the milk of sheep, goats, and cows, and to milk the animals with dirty hands into dirty copper pots, and almost at once to turn the milk into a sour mass, like whipped cream in appearance, by shaking it with some “leaven” in a dirty goat-skin, a European cannot always drink it. Indeed, it goes through every variety of bad taste.

The camps halt on Sundays, and the men highly appreciate the rest. They sleep, smoke, wash and mend their clothes, and are in good humour and excellent trim on Monday morning, and the mules show their unconscious appreciation of a holiday by coming into camp kicking and frolicking.

The baggage animals are fine, powerful mules and horses, with not a sore back among them. The pack saddles and tackle are all in good order. The caravan is led by a horse caparisoned with many bells and tassels, a splendid little gray fellow, full of pluck and fire, called Cock o’ the Walk. He comes in at the end of a long march, arching his neck, shaking his magnificent mane, and occasionally kicking off his load. Sometimes he knocks down two or three men, dashes off with his load at a gallop, and even when hobbled manages to hop up to the two Arabs and challenge them to a fight. These handsome horses have some of the qualities for which their breed is famous, and are as surefooted as goats, but they are very noisy, and they hate each other and disturb the peace of the camp by their constant attempts to fight. My horse, Screw, can go wherever a mule can find foothold. He is ugly, morose, a great fighter, and most uninteresting. The donkeys and a fat retriever are destitute of “salient points.”

Hadji Hussein, the charvadar, has elevated his profession into an art. On reaching camp, after unloading, each muleteer takes away the five animals for which he is responsible, and liberates them, with the saddles on, to graze. After a time they drive them into camp, remove the saddles, and groom them thoroughly, while the saddler goes over the equipments, and does any repairs that are needed. After the grooming each muleteer, having examined the feet of his animals, reports upon them, and Hadji replaces all lost shoes and nails. The saddles and the juls or blankets are then put on, the mules are watered in batches of five, and are turned loose for the night to feed, with two muleteers to watch them by turns. Hadji, whose soft voice and courteous manners make all dealings with him agreeable, receives his orders for the morrow, and he with his young son, Abbas Ali, and the rest of the muleteers, camp near my tent, cook their supper of blanket bread with mast or curds, roll their heads and persons in blankets, put their feet to the fire, and are soon asleep, but Hadji gets up two or three times in the night to look after his valuable property.

At 4 A.M. or earlier, the mules are driven into camp, and are made fast to ropes, which are arranged the previous night by pegging them down in an oblong forty feet by twenty. Nose-bags with grain are put on; and as the loads are got ready the mules are loaded, with Hadji’s help and supervision. No noise is allowed during this operation.

After an hour or more the caravan moves, led by Cock o’ the Walk, usually with two men at his head to moderate his impetuosity for a time, with a guide; and Hadji on his fine-looking saddle mule looks after the safety of everything. He is punctual, drives fast and steadily, and always reaches the camping-ground in good time. When he gets near it he dismounts, and putting on the air of “your most obedient servant,” leads in Cock o’ the Walk. He is really a very gentlemanly man for his position, but is unfortunately avaricious, and though he has amassed what is, for Persia, a very large fortune, he wears very poor clothes, and eats sparingly of the poorest food. He is a big man of fifty, wears blue cotton clothing and a red turban, is very florid, and having a white or very gray beard, has dyed it an orange red with henna.

My servants have fallen fairly well into their work, but are frightfully slow. All pitch the tents, and Hassan cooks, washes, packs the cooking and table equipments, and saddles my horse. Mirza Yusuf interprets, waits on me, packs the tent furnishings, rides with me, and is always within hearing of my whistle. He is good, truthful, and intelligent, sketches with some talent, is always cheerful, never grumbles, is quite indifferent to personal comfort, gets on well with the people, is obliging to every one, is always ready to interpret, and though well educated has the good sense not to regard any work as “menial.” Mehemet Ali, the “superfluity,” is a scamp, and, I fear, dishonest. The servants feed themselves on a kran (8d.) a day, allowed as “road money.” Sheep are driven with us, and are turned into mutton as required. Really, they follow us, attaching themselves to the gray horses, and feeding almost among their feet. My food consists of roast mutton, rice, chapatties, tea, and milk, without luxuries or variety. Life is very simple and very free from purposeless bothers. The days are becoming very hot, but the nights are cool. The black flies and the sand-flies are the chief tormentors.

On leaving Ardal we passed very shortly into a region little traversed by Europeans, embracing remarkable gorges and singularly abrupt turns in ravines, through which the Karun, here a deep and powerful stream, finds its way. A deep descent over grassy hills to a rude village in a valley and a steep ascent took us to the four booths, which are the summer quarters of our former escort, Rustem Khan, who received us with courteous hospitality, and regaled us with fresh cow’s milk in a copper basin. He introduced me to twelve women and a number of children, nearly all with sore eyes. There is not a shadow of privacy in these tents, with open fronts and sides. The carpets, which are made by the women, serve as chairs, tables, and beds, and the low wall of roughly-heaped stones at the back for trunks and wardrobe, for on it they keep their “things” in immense saddle-bags made of handsome rugs. The visible furniture consists of a big copper bowl for food, a small one for milk, a huge copper pot for clarifying butter, and a goat-skin suspended from three poles, which is jerked by two women seated on the ground, and is used for churning butter and making curds.

A steep ascent gives a superb view of a confused sea of mountains, and of a precipitous and tremendous gorge, the Tang-i-Ardal, through which the Karun passes, making a singularly abrupt turn after leaving a narrow and apparently inaccessible cañon or rift on the south side of the Ardal valley. A steep zigzag descent of 600 feet in less than three-quarters of a mile brings the path down to the Karun, a deep bottle-green river, now swirling in drifts of foam, now resting momentarily in quiet depths, but always giving an impression of volume and power. Large and small land turtles abound in that fiercely hot gorge of from 1000 to 2000 feet deep. The narrow road crosses the river on a bridge of two arches, and proceeds for some distance at a considerable height on its right bank. There I saw natural wood for the first time since crossing the Zagros mountains in January, and though the oak, ash, and maple are poor and stunted, their slender shade was delicious. Roses, irises, St. John’s wort, and other flowers were abundant.

The path ascends past a clear spring, up steep zigzags to a graveyard in which are several stone lions, rudely carved, of natural size, facing Mecca-wards, with pistols, swords, and daggers carved in relief on their sides, marking the graves of fighting men. On this magnificent point above the Karun a few hovels, deserted in summer, surrounded by apricot trees form the village of Duashda Imams, which has a superb view of the extraordinary and sinuous chasm through which the Karun passes for many miles, thundering on its jagged and fretted course between gigantic and nearly perpendicular cliffs of limestone and conglomerate. Near this village the pistachio is abundant, and planes, willows, and a large-leaved clematis vary the foliage.

Leaving the river at this point, a somewhat illegible path leads through “park-like” scenery, fair slopes of grass and flowers sprinkled with oaks singly or in clumps, glades among trees in their first fresh green, and evermore as a background gray mountains slashed with snow.

In the midst of these pretty uplands is the Ilyat encampment of Martaza, with its black tents, donkeys, sheep, goats, and big fierce dogs, which vociferously rushed upon Downie, the retriever, and were themselves rushed upon and gripped by a number of women. The people, having been informed of our intended arrival by Reza Kuli Khan, had arranged a large tent with carpets and cushions, but we pitched the camps eventually on an oak-covered slope, out of the way of the noise, curiosity, and evil odours of Martaza. Water is very scarce there, three wells or pools, fouled by the feet of animals, being the only supply.

I rested on my dhurrie under an oak till the caravan came up. It was a sweet place, but was soon invaded, and for the rest of the day quiet and privacy were out of the question, for presently appeared a fine, florid, buxom dame, loud of speech, followed by a number of women and children, all as dirty as it is possible to be, and all crowded round me and sat down on my carpet. This Khanum Shirin is married to the chief or headman, but being an heiress she “bosses” the tribe. She brought up bolsters and quilts, and begged us to consider themselves, the whole region, and all they had as pishkash (a present from an inferior to a superior), but when she was asked if it included herself, she blushed and covered her face. After two hours of somewhat flagging conversation she led her train back again, but after my tent was pitched she reappeared with a much larger number of women, including two betrothed girls of sixteen and seventeen years old, who are really beautiful.

These maidens were dressed in clean cotton costumes, and white veils of figured silk gauze enveloped them from head to foot. They unveiled in my tent, and looked more like houris than any women I have seen in the East; and their beauty was enhanced by the sweetness and maidenly modesty of their expression. I wished them to be photographed, and they were quite willing, but when I took them outside some men joined the crowd and said it should not be, and that when their betrothed husbands came home they would tell them how bold and bad they had been, and would have them beaten. Although these beauties had been most modest and maidenly in their behaviour, they were sent back with blows, and were told not to come near us again. The Agha entertained the Khanum Shirin for a long time, and the conversation was very animated, but when he set a very fine musical box going for their amusement the lady and the rest of the crowd became quite listless and apathetic, and said they much preferred to talk. When their prolonged visit came to an end the Khanum led her train away, with a bow which really had something of graceful dignity in it.

The next morning her husband, the Mollah-i-Martaza, and his son, mounted on one horse, came with us as guides, and when we halted at their camp the Khanum took the whip out of my hand and whipped the women all round with it, except the offending beauties, who were not to be seen. The mollah is a grave, quiet, and most respectable-looking man, more like a thriving merchant than a nomad chief, though he does carry arms. He is a devout Moslem, and is learned, i.e. he can read the Koran.

In a short time the woodland beauty is exchanged for weedy hills and slopes strewn with boulders. Getting other guides at an Ilyat camp, we ascended Sanginak, a mountain 8200 feet high, from the top of which a good idea of the local topography is gained. The most striking features are the absence of definite peaks and the tremendous gorges and abrupt turns of the Karun, which swallows in its passage all minor streams. Precipitous ranges of great altitude hemmed in by ranges yet loftier, snow-covered or snow-patched, with deep valleys between them, well grassed and often well wooded, great clefts, through which at some seasons streams reach the Karun; mountain meadows spotted with the black tents of Ilyats, and deserted hovels far below, with patches of wheat and barley, make up the landscape.

These hills are covered with celery of immense size. The leaves are dried and stacked for fodder, and the underground stalks, which are very white, are a great article of food, both fresh and steeped for a length of time in sour milk. After resting in some Ilyat tents, where the people were friendly and dirty, we had a most tiresome march over treeless hills covered with herbs, and down a steep descent into the Gurab plain, on which a great wall of rocky mountains of definite and impressive shapes descends in broken spurs. My guide, who had never been certain about the way, led me wrong. No tents were visible, the nomads I met had seen neither tents nor caravan. Two hours went by in toiling round the bases of green hills, and then there was the joyful surprise of coming upon my tent pitched, the kettle boiling, the mules knee-deep in food, close by the Chesmeh-i-Gurab, a copious spring of good water, of which one could safely drink.

This Gurab plain, one of very many lying high up among these Luristan mountains, is green and pretty now — a sea of bulbs and grass, but is brown and dusty from early in June onwards. It is about four miles long by nine or ten broad, and is watered by a clear and wonderfully winding stream, which dwindles to a thread later on. The nomads are already coming up.

The rest was much broken by the critical state of Karim’s arm, which was swelled, throbbing, and inflamed all round the wound inflicted by Karun on May 13, and he had high fever. It was a helpless predicament, the symptoms were so like those of gangrene. I thought he would most likely die of the hot marches. It was a very anxious night, as all our methods of healing were exhausted, and the singular improvement which set in and has continued must have been the work of the Great Physician, to whom an appeal for help was earnestly made. The wound is daily syringed with Condy’s fluid, the only antiseptic available, and has a drainage tube. To-day I have begun to use eucalyptus oil, with which the man is delighted, possibly because he has heard that it is very expensive, and that I have hardly any left!

Yesterday I had the amusement of shifting the camps to another place, and Hadji was somewhat doubtful of my leadership. On arriving at the beautiful crystal spring which the guide had indicated as the halting-place for Sunday, I found that it issued from under a mound of grass-grown graves, was in the full sun blaze, and at the lowest part of the plain. The guide asserted that it was the only spring, but having seen a dark stain of vegetation high among the hills, I halted the caravan and rode off alone in search of the water I hoped it indicated, disregarding the suppressed but unmistakably sneering laughter of the guide and charvadars. In less than a mile I came upon the dry bed of a rivulet, a little higher up on a scanty, intermittent trickle, higher still on a gurgling streamlet fringed by masses of blue scilla, and still higher on a small circular spring of very cold water, with two flowery plateaux below it just large enough for the camps, in a green quiet corrie, with the mountains close behind. Hadji laughed, and the guide insisted that the spring was not always there. A delightful place it is in which to spend Sunday quietly, with its musical ripple of water, its sky-blue carpet of scilla, its beds of white and purple irises, its slopes ablaze with the Fritillaria imperialis, and its sweet, calm view of the green Gurab plain and the silver windings of the Dinarud.

Above the spring is the precipitous hill of Tur, with the remains of a rude fort on its shattered rocky summit. Two similar ruins are visible from Tur, one on a rocky ledge of an offshoot of the Kuh-i-Gerra, on the other side of the Dinarud valley, the other on the crest of a noble headland of the Sanganaki range, which is visible throughout the whole region. The local legend concerning them is that long before the days of the Parthian kings, and when bows and arrows were the only weapons known, iron being undiscovered, there was in the neighbourhood of Gurab a king called Faruk Padishah, who had three sons, Salmon, Tur, and Iraj. It does not appear to be usual among the Bakhtiaris for sons to “get on” together after their father’s death, and the three youths quarrelled and built these three impregnable forts — Killa Tur, the one I examined, Killa Iraj, and Killa Salmon.

The beautiful valley was evidently too narrow for their ambition, and leaving their uncomfortable fastnesses they went northwards, and founded three empires, Salmon to the Golden Horn, where he founded Stamboul, Tur to Turkistan, and Iraj became the founder of the Iranian Empire.

Killa Tur is a stone building mostly below the surface of the hill-top, of rough hewn stone cemented with lime mortar of the hardness of concrete. The inner space of the fort is not more than eighty square yards. The walls are from three to six feet thick.

Chigakhor, May 31.— The last twelve days have been spent in marching through a country which has not been traversed by Europeans, only crossed along the main track. On leaving the pleasant camp of Tur we descended to the Gurab plain, purple in patches with a showy species of garlic, skirted the base of the Tur spur, and rode for some miles along the left bank of the Dinarud, which, after watering the plain of Gurab, sparkles and rushes down a grassy valley bright with roses and lilies, and well wooded with oak, elm, and hawthorn. This river, gaining continually in volume, makes a turbulent descent to the Karun a few miles from the point where we left it. This was the finest day’s march of the journey. The mountain forms were grander and more definite, the vegetation richer, the scenery more varied, and a kindlier atmosphere pervaded it. In the midst of a wood of fine walnut trees, ash, and hawthorn, laced together by the tendrils of vines, a copious stream tumbles over rocks fringed with maiden-hair, and sparkles through grass purple with orchises. This is the only time that I have seen the one or the other in Persia, and it was like an unexpected meeting with dear friends.

Crossing the Dinarud on a twig bridge, fording a turbulent affluent, which bursts full fledged from the mountain side, and ascending for some hours through grassy glades wooded with oak and elm, we camped for two days on the alpine meadow of Arjul, scantily watered but now very green. Oak woods come down upon it, the vines are magnificent, and there is some cultivation of wheat, which is sown by the nomads before their departure in the late autumn, and is reaped during their summer sojourn. There are no tents there at present, yet from camps near and far, on horseback and on foot, people came for eye-lotions, and remained at night to have them dropped into their eyes.

The next morning I was awakened at dawn by Mirza’s voice calling to me, “Madam, Hadji wants you to come down and sew up a mule that’s been gored by a wild boar.” Awfully gored it was. A piece of skin about ten inches square was hanging down between its forelegs, and a broad wound the depth of my hand and fully a foot long extended right into its chest, with a great piece taken out. I did what I could, but the animal had to be left behind to be cured by the Mollah-i-Martaza, who left us there. Another misfortune to Hadji was the loss of the fiery leader of the caravan, Cock o’ the Walk, but late at night he was brought into camp at Dupulan quite crestfallen, having gone back to the rich pastures which surround the Chesmeh-i-Gurab. The muleteer who went in search of him was attacked by some Lurs and stripped of his clothing, but on some men coming up who said his master was under the protection of the Ilkhani, his clothes and horse were returned to him.

The parallel ranges with deep valleys between them, which are such a feature of this country, are seen in perfection near Arjul. Some of the torrents of this mountain region are already dry, but their broad stony beds, full of monstrous boulders, arrest the fury with which at times they seek the Karun. One of these, the Imamzada, passes through the most precipitous and narrow gorge which it is possible to travel, even with unloaded mules. The narrow path is chiefly rude rock ladders, threading a gorge or chasm on a gigantic scale, with a compressed body of water thundering below, concealed mainly by gnarled and contorted trees, which find root-hold in every rift. Where the chasm widens for a space before narrowing to a throat we forded it, and through glades and wooded uplands reached Arjul, descending and crossing the torrent by the same ford on the march to Dupulan the next day.

Owing to the loss of two baggage animals and the necessary readjustment of the loads, I was late in starting from Arjul, and the heat as we descended to the lower levels was very great, the atmosphere being misty as well as sultry. Passing upwards, through glades wooded with oaks, the path emerges on high gravelly uplands above the tremendous gorge of the Karun, the manifold windings of which it follows at a great height. From the first sight of this river in the Ardal valley to its emergence at Dupulan, just below these heights, it has come down with abrupt elbow-like turns and singular sinuosities — a full, rapid, powerful glass-green volume of water, through a ravine or gorge or chasm from 1000 to 2000 feet in depth, now narrowing, now widening, but always the feature of the landscape. It would be natural to use the usual phrase, and write of the Karun having “carved” this passage for itself, but I am more and more convinced that this is not the case, but that its waters found their way into channels already riven by some of those mighty operations of nature which have made of this country a region of walls and clefts.


The Karun at Dupulan.

A long, very steep gravelly descent leads from these high lands down to the Karun, and to one of the routes — little used, however — from Isfahan to Shuster. It is reported as being closed by snow four months of the year. The scenery changed its aspect here, and for walls and parapets of splintered rock there are rounded gravelly hills and stretching uplands.

The three groups of most wretched mud hovels which form the village of Dupulan (“Two Bridge Place”) are on an eminence on the left bank of the Karun, which emerges from its long imprisonment in a gorge in the mountains by a narrow passage between two lofty walls of rock so smooth and regular in their slope and so perfect a gateway as to suggest art rather than nature. This river, the volume of which is rapidly augmenting on its downward course, is here compressed into a width of about twenty yards.

At this point a stone bridge, built by Hussein Kuli Khan, of one large pointed arch with a smaller one for the flood, and a rough roadway corresponding to the arch in the steepness of its pitch, spans the stream, which passes onwards gently and smoothly, its waters a deep cool green. Below Dupulan the Karun, which in that direction has been explored by several travellers, turns to the south-west, and after a considerable bend enters the levels above Shuster by a north-westerly course. Near the bridge the Karun is joined by the Sabzu, a very vigorous torrent from the Ardal plain, which is crossed by a twig bridge, safer than it looks.

The camps were pitched in apricot orchards in the Sabzu ravine, near some elægnus trees, which are now bearing their sweet gray and yellow blossoms, which will be succeeded by auburn tresses of a woolly but very pleasant fruit. Dupulan has an altitude of only 4950 feet, and in its course from the Kuh-i-Rang to this point the Karun has descended about 4000 feet. Though there was a breeze, and both ends of my tent and the kanats were open, the mercury was at 86° inside, and at 5 A.M. at 72° outside (on May 21). There were no supplies, and even milk was unattainable.

The road we followed ascends the Dupulan Pass, which it crosses at a height of 6380 feet. The path is very bad, hardly to be called a path. The valley which it ascends is packed with large and small boulders, with round water-worn stones among them, and such track as there is makes sharp zigzags over and among these rocks. Screw was very unwilling to face the difficulties, which took two hours to surmount. The ascent was hampered by coming upon a tribe of Ilyats on the move, who at times blocked up the pass with their innumerable sheep and goats and their herds of cattle. Once entangled in this migration, it was only possible to move on a few feet at a time. It straggled along for more than a mile — loaded cows and bullocks, innumerable sheep, goats, lambs, and kids; big dogs; asses loaded with black tents and short tent-poles on the loads; weakly sheep tied on donkeys’ backs, and weakly lambs carried in shepherds’ bosoms; handsome mares, each with her foal, running loose or ridden by women with babies seated on the tops of loaded saddle-bags made of gay rugs; tribesmen on foot with long guns slung behind their shoulders, and big two-edged knives in their girdles; sheep bleating, dogs barking, mares neighing, men shouting and occasionally firing off their guns, the whole ravine choked up with the ascending tribal movement.

Half-way up the ascent there is a most striking view of mountain ranges cleft by the great chasm of the Karun. The descent is into the eastern part of the Ardal valley, over arid treeless hillsides partially ploughed, to the village of Dehnau, not yet deserted for the summer. Fattiallah Khan expected us, and rooms were prepared for me in the women’s house, which I excused myself from occupying by saying that I cannot sleep under a roof. I managed also to escape partaking of a huge garlicky dinner which was being cooked for me.

The Khan’s house or fort, built like all else of mud, has a somewhat imposing gateway, over which are the men’s apartments. The roof is decorated with a number of ibex horns. Within is a rude courtyard with an uneven surface, on which servants and negro slaves were skinning sheep, winnowing wheat, clarifying butter, carding wool, cooking, and making cheese. The women’s apartments are round the courtyard, and include the usual feature of these houses, an atrium, or room without a front, and a darkish room within. The floor of the atrium was covered with brown felts, and there was a mattress for me to sit upon. The ruling spirit of the haram is the Khan’s mother, a comely matron of enormous size, who occasionally slapped her son’s four young and comely wives when they were too “forward.” She wore a short jacket, balloon-like trousers of violet silk, and a black coronet, to which was attached a black chadar which completely enveloped her.

The wives wore figured white chadars, print trousers, and strings of coins. Children much afflicted with cutaneous maladies crawled on the floor. Heaps of servants, negro slaves, old hags, and young girls crowded behind and around, all talking at once and at the top of their voices, and at the open front the village people constantly assembled, to be driven away at intervals by a man with a stick. A bowl of cow’s milk and some barley bread were given to me, and though a remarkably dirty negress kept the flies away by flapping the milk bowl with a dirty sleeve, I was very grateful for the meal, for I was really suffering from the heat and fatigue.

A visit to a haram is not productive of mutual elevation. The women seem exceedingly frivolous, and are almost exclusively interested in the adornment of their persons, the dress and ailments of their children, and in the frightful jealousies and intrigues inseparable from the system of polygamy, and which are fostered by the servants and discarded wives. The servile deference paid by the other women to the reigning favourite before her face, and the merciless persistency of the attempts made behind her back to oust her from her position, and the requests made on the one hand for charms or potions to win or bring back the love of a husband, and on the other for something which shall make the favourite hateful to him, are evidences of the misery of heart which underlies the outward frivolity.

The tone of Fattiallah Khan’s haram was not higher than usual. The ladies took off my hat, untwisted my hair, felt my hands, and shrieked when they found that my gloves came off; laughed immoderately at my Bakhtiari shoes, which, it seems, are only worn by men; put their rings on my fingers, put my hat on their own heads, asked if I could give them better hair dyes than their own, and cosmetics to make their skins fair; paid the usual compliments, told me to regard everything as pishkash, asked for medicines and charms, and regretted that I would not sleep in their house, because, as they said, they “never went anywhere or saw anything.”

They have no occupation, except occasionally a little embroidery. They amuse themselves, they said, by watching the servants at work, and by having girls to dance before them. They find the winter, though spent in a warm climate, very long and wearisome, and after dark employ female professional story-tellers to entertain them with love stories. At night the elder lady sent three times for a charm which should give her daughter the love of her husband. She is married to another Khan, and I recalled her as the forlorn-looking girl without any jewels who excited my sympathies in his house.

Marriages are early among these people. They are arranged by the parents of both bride and bridegroom. The betrothal feast is a great formality. The “settlements” having been made by the bridegroom’s father and mother, they distribute sweetmeats among the members of the bride’s family, and some respectable men who are present tie a handkerchief round the head of the bride, and kiss the hands of her parents as a sign of the betrothal. The engagement must be fulfilled by the bride’s parents under pain of severe penalties, from which the bridegroom’s parents are usually exempt. But, should he prove faithless, he is a marked man. It appears that “breach of promise of marriage” is very rare. The betrothal may take place at the tenderest age, but the marriage is usually delayed till the bride is twelve years old, or even older, and the bridegroom is from fifteen to eighteen.

The “settlements” made at the betrothal are paid at the time of marriage, and consist of a sum of money or cattle, mares, or sheep, according to the circumstances of the bridegroom’s parents. It is essential among all classes that a number of costumes be presented to the bride. After the marriage is over her parents bestow a suit of clothes on her husband, but these are usually of an inferior, or, as my interpreter calls them, of a “trivial” description.

A Bakhtiari marriage is a very noisy performance. For three days or more, in fact as long as the festivities can be afforded, the relations and friends of both parties are assembled at the tents of the bride’s parents, feasting and dancing (men and women on this occasion dancing together), performing feats of horsemanship, and shooting at a mark. The noise at this time is ceaseless. Drums, tom-toms, reeds, whistles, and a sort of bagpipe are all in requisition, and songs of love and war are chanted. At this time also is danced the national dance, the chapi, of which on no other occasion (except a burial) can a stranger procure a sight for love or money. It is said to resemble the arnaoutika of the modern Greeks; any number of men can join in it. The dancers form in a close row, holding each other by their kamarbands, and swinging along sidewise. They mark the time by alternately stamping the heel of the right and left foot. The dancers are led by a man who dances apart, waving a handkerchief rhythmically above his head, and either singing a war song or playing on a reed pipe. After the marriage feast the bride follows her husband to his father’s tent, where she becomes subject to her mother-in-law.

The messenger, after looking round to see that there were no bystanders, very mysteriously produced from his girdle a black, flattish oval stone of very close texture, weighing about a pound, almost polished by long handling. He told me that it was believed that this stone, if kept in one family for fifty years and steadily worn by father and son, would then not only turn to gold, but have the power of transmuting any metal laid beside it for five years, and he wanted to know what the wisdom of the Feringhis knew about it.

I went up to my camp above the village and tried to rest there, but the buzz of a crowd outside and the ceaseless lifting of curtains and kanats made this quite impossible. When I opened the tent I found the crowd seated in a semicircle five rows deep, waiting for medicines, chiefly eye-lotion, quinine, and cough mixtures. These daily assemblages of “patients” are most fatiguing. The satisfaction is that some “lame dogs” are “helped over stiles,” and that some prejudice against Christians is removed.

After this Fattiallah Khan, with a number of retainers, paid a formal visit to the Agha, who kindly sent for me, as I do not receive any but lady visitors in my tent. The Khan is a very good-looking and well-dressed man of twenty-eight, very amusing, and ready to be amused. He was very anxious to be doctored, but looked the opposite of a sick man. He and Isfandyar Khan were in arms against the Ilkhani two years ago, and a few men were shot. He looked as if he were very sorry not to have killed him.

The Bakhtiaris have an enormous conceit of themselves and their country. It comes out in all ways and on all occasions, and their war stories and songs abound in legends of singular prowess, one Bakhtiari killing twenty Persians, and the like. They represent the power of the Shah over them as merely nominal, a convenient fiction for the time being, although it is apparent that Persia, which for years has been aiming at the extinction of the authority of the principal chiefs, has had at least a partial success.

At such interviews a private conversation is impossible. The manners are those of a feudal régime. Heaps of retainers crowd round, and even join in the conversation. A servant brought the Khan a handsome kalian to smoke three times. He also took tea. A great quantity of opium for exportation is grown about Dehnau, and the Khan said that the cultivation of it is always increasing.

From Dehnau the path I took leads over gravelly treeless hills, through many treeless gulches, to the top of a great gorge, through which the Sabzu passes as an impetuous torrent. The descent to a very primitive bridge is long and difficult, a succession of rocky zigzags. Picturesqueness is not a usual attribute of mud villages, but the view from every point of Chiraz, the village on the lofty cliffs on the other side of the stream, is strikingly so. They are irregularly covered with houses, partly built on them and partly excavated out of them, and behind is a cool mass of greenery, apricot orchards, magnificent walnut and mulberry trees, great standard hawthorns loaded with masses of blossom, wheat coming into ear, and clumps and banks of canary-yellow roses measuring three inches across their petals. Groups of women, in whose attire Turkey red predominated, were on the house roofs. Wild flowers abounded, and the sides of the craggy path by which I descended were crowded with leguminous and umbelliferous plants, with the white and pink dianthus, and with the thorny tussocks of the gum tragacanth, largely used for kindling, now in full bloom.

As I dragged my unwilling horse down the steep descent, his bridle was taken out of my hands, and I was welcomed by the brother of Fattiallah Khan, who, with a number of village men escorted me over the twig bridge, and up to an exquisite halting-place under a large mulberry tree, where the next two hours were spent in receiving visitors. It is evident that these fine orchards must have been the pleasure-ground of some powerful ruler, and the immense yellow roses are such as grow in one or two places in Kashmir, where they are attributed to Jehangir.

The track from Chiraz for many miles follows up the right bank of the Sabzu at a great height, descends occasionally into deep gulches, crosses the spurs of mountains whose rifts give root-hold to contorted “pencil cedars,” and winds among small ash trees and hawthorns, or among rich grass and young wheat, which is grown to a considerable extent on the irrigated slopes above the river. It is a great surprise to find so much land under cultivation, and so much labour spent on irrigation channels. Some of these canals are several miles in length, and the water always runs in them swiftly, and the right way, although the “savages” who make them have no levels or any tools but spades.

Mountains, much scored and cañoned by streams, very grand in form, and with much snow still upon them, rise to a great height above the ranges which form the Sabzu valley. From Chaharta, an uninteresting camping-ground by the river, I proceeded by an elevated and rather illegible track in a easterly direction to the meeting of two streams, forded the Sabzu, and camped for two days on the green slope of Sabz Kuh, at a height of 8100 feet, close to a vigorous spring whose waters form many streamlets, fringed by an abundance of pink primulas, purple and white orchises, white tulips, and small fragrant blue irises.

Lahdaraz is in the very heart of mountain ranges, and as the Ilyats have not yet come up so high, there were no crowds round my tent for medicine, but one sick woman was carried thither eleven miles on the back of her husband, who seemed tenderly solicitous about her.

On Monday I spent most of the day 1000 feet higher, in most magnificent scenery on an imposing scale of grandeur. The guide took us from the camp through herbage, snow, and alpine flowers, up a valley with fine mountains on either side, terminating on the brink of a gigantic precipice, a cloven ledge between the Kuh-i-Kaller and a stupendous cliff or headland, Sultan Ibrahim, over 12,000 feet, which descends in shelving masses to an abyss of tremendous depth, where water thunders in a narrow rift. The Sabz Kuh, or “green mountain” range, famous for the pasturage of its higher slopes, terminates in Sultan Ibrahim, and unites at its eastern end with the Kuh-i-Kaller, a range somewhat higher. On the east side of this huge chasm rises another range of peaks, with green shelves, dark rifts, and red precipices, behind which rise another, and yet another, whose blue, snow-patched summits blended with the pure cool blue of the sky. In the far distance, in a blue veil, lies the green-tinted plain of Khana Mirza, set as an emerald in this savage scenery, with two ranges beyond, and above them the great mountain mass of the Riji, whose snowy peaks were painted faintly on a faint blue heaven.

That misty valley, irrigated and cultivated, with 100 villages of the Janiki tribe upon it, is the only fair spot in the savage landscape. Elsewhere only a few wild flowers and a gnarled juniper here and there relieve the fierce, blazing verdurelessness of these stupendous precipices. Never, not even among the Himalayas, have I seen anything so superlatively grand, though I have always imagined that such scenes must exist somewhere on the earth. A pair of wild sheep on a ledge, a serpent or two, and an eagle soaring sunwards represented animate nature, otherwise the tremendous heights above, the awful depths below, the snowy mountains, and the valley with its smile, were given over to solitude and silence, except for the dull roar of the torrent hurrying down to vivify the Khana Mirza plain.

After leaving Lahdaraz the path followed the course of the Sabzu through grass and barley for a few miles. Then there is an abrupt and disagreeable change to yellow mud slopes and high mud mountains deeply fissured, the scanty herbage already eaten down by Ilyat flocks — a desolate land, without springs, streams, or even Ilyat tents. Then comes a precipice at an altitude of 7500 feet, through a cleft in which, the Tang-i-Wastagun, the road passes, and descends to the plain of Gandaman as something little better than a sheep track on a steep hillside above a stream. The heat was fierce. A pair of stout gardening gloves does not preserve the hands from blistering. Spectacles with wire gauze sides have to be abandoned as they threaten to roast the eyes. In this latitude, 32°, the heat of the sun at noon is tremendous. At the precipice top I crept into a hole at the base of a rock, for “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,” till the caravan staggered up. It was difficult to brave the sun’s direct rays. He looked like a ball of magnesium light, white and scintillating, in the unclouded sky.

On crossing the Tang-i-Wastagun we left behind the Bakhtiari country proper for a time, and reentered the Chahar Mahals, with their mixed village population of Persians and Armenians. The descent from the Tang-i-Wastagun is upon a ruined Armenian village with a large graveyard. The tombstones are of great size, ten feet long by three feet broad and three feet high, sarcophagus-shaped, and on each stone are an Armenian epitaph and a finely-engraved cross. The plain of Gandaman or Wastagun is a very large one, over 7000 feet in altitude, and is surrounded mainly by high mountains still snow-patched, but to the north by low rocky hills. Much of it is irrigated and under cultivation, and grows heavy crops of wheat and barley. The pasturage is fine and abundant, and the people breed cattle and horses. The uncultivated slopes are now covered with red tulips and a purple allium, and even the dry gravel added largely to the daily increasing botanical collection.


Ali Jan.

The camps were pitched on green turf near three springs, a quiet place, but there was little rest. We were hardly settled before there was a severe fight among the horses, my sour-tempered Screw being the aggressor. This was hardly quieted when there was a sharp “scrimmage” between the charvadars and the Agha’s three young savages, in which one of them, Ali Jan, was badly beaten, and came to me to have a bleeding face and head dressed. After that the people began to come in from the villages for eye-washes and medicines. They have no bottles, nor have I, and the better-off bring great copper jugs and basins for an ounce or two of lotion! A very poor old woman much afflicted with ophthalmia said she had three sisters all blind, that she had nothing for lotion, nothing in the world but a copper cooking pot, and she cried piteously. I had nothing to give her, and eventually she returned with an egg-shell, with the top neatly chipped off. It is the custom to raise the hands to heaven and invoke blessings on the Hakīm’s head, but I never received so many as from this poor creature.

The ride to the village of Gandaman, where we halted for two days, was an agreeable one. After being shut up among mountains and precipices, space and level ground to gallop over are an agreeable change, and in the early morning the heat was not excessive. The great plain was a truly pastoral scene. Wild-looking shepherds with long guns led great brown flocks to the hills; innumerable yokes of black oxen, ploughing with the usual iron-shod, pointed wooden share, turned over the rich black soil, making straight furrows, and crossing them diagonally; mares in herds fed with their foals; and shepherds busily separated the sheep from the goats.

Close to the filthy walled Armenian village of Kunak there is a conical hill with a large fort, in ruinous condition, upon it, and not far off are the remains of an Armenian village, enclosed by a square wall with a round tower at each corner. This must have been until recently a place of some local importance, as it is approached by a paved causeway, and had an aqueduct, now ruinous, carried over the river on three arches. Not only the plain but the hill-slopes up to a great height are cultivated, and though the latter have the precariousness of rain-lands, the crops already in ear promise well.

Crossing a spur which descends upon the north side of the plain, we reached Gandaman, a good-looking walled Moslem village of 196 houses, much planted, chiefly with willows, and rejoicing in eight springs, close together, the overflow of which makes quite a piece of water. It has an imamzada on an eminence and is fairly prosperous, for besides pastoral wealth it weaves and exports carpets, and dyes cotton and woollen yarn with madder and other vegetable dyes. The mountain view to the south-west is very fine.

I was in my tent early, but there was little rest, for crowds of people with bad eyes and woful maladies besieged it until the evening. At noon a gay procession crossed the green camping-ground, four mares caparisoned in red trappings, each carrying two women in bright dresses, but shrouded in pure white sheets bound round their heads with silver chains. The ketchuda of the Armenian village of Libasgun, two miles off, accompanied them, and said that they came to invite me to their village, for they are Christians. Then they all made the sign of the Cross, which is welcome in this land as a bond of brotherhood.

Cleanly, comely, large-eyed, bright-cheeked, and wholesome they looked, in their pure white chadars, gay red dresses, and embroidered under-vests. They had massive silver girdles, weighing several pounds, worn there only by married women, red coronets, heavy tiaras of silver, huge necklaces of coins, and large filigree silver drops attached down the edges of their too open vests. Their heavy hair was plaited, but not fastened up. Each wore a stiff diamond-shaped piece of white cotton over her mouth and the tip of her nose. They said it was their custom to wear it, and they would not remove it even to eat English biscuits! They managed to drink tea by veiling their faces with their chadars and passing the cup underneath, but they turned their faces quite away as they did it. They had come for the day, and had brought large hanks of wool to wind, but the headman had the tact to take them away after arranging for me to return the visit in the evening.

He seemed an intelligent man. Libasgun, with its 120 houses, is, according to his account, a prosperous village, paying its tax of 300 tumans (£100) a year to the Amin-ud-Daulat, and making a present only to the Ilkhani. It has 2000 sheep and goats, besides mares and cattle. It has an oil mill, and exports oil to Isfahan. The women weave carpets, and embroider beautifully on coarse cotton woven by themselves, and dyed indigo blue and madder red by their Gandaman neighbours. This man is proud of being a Christian. Among the Armenians Christianity is as much a national characteristic as pride of race and strict monogamy. He remarked that there are no sore eyes in Libasgun, and attributed it to the greater cleanliness of the people and to the cross signed in holy oil upon their brows in baptism!

I rode to this village in the late afternoon, and was received with much distinction in the balakhana of the ketchuda’s house, where I was handed to the seat of honour, a bolster at the head of the handsomely-carpeted room. It soon filled with buxom women in red, with jackets displaying their figures, or want of figures, down to their waists. From the red velvet coronets on their heads hung two graduated rows of silver coins, and their muslin chadars were attached to their hair with large silver pins and chains. Magnificent necklaces of gold coins were also worn.


Armenian Women of Libasgun.

Forty women sat on the floor in rows against the wall. Each had rosy cheeks, big black eyes, and a diamond-shaped white cloth over her mouth. The uniformity was shocking. They stared, not at me, but at nothing. They looked listless and soulless, only fit to be what they are — the servants of their husbands. When they had asked me my age, and why I do not dye my hair, the conversation flagged, for I could not get any information from them even on the simplest topics. Hotter and hotter grew the room, more stolid the vacancy of the eyes, more grotesque the rows of white diamonds over the mouths, when the happy thought occurred to me to ask to see the embroidered aprons, which every girl receives from her mother on her marriage. Two mountains of flesh obligingly rolled out of the room, and rolled in again bringing some beautiful specimens of needlework. This is really what is known as “Russian embroidery,” cross stitch in artistic colours on coarse red or blue cotton. The stomachers are most beautifully worked. The aprons cover the whole of the front and the sides of the dress. The mothers begin to embroider them when their daughters are ten. The diamond-shaped cloth is put on by girls at eight or nine. The women would not remove it for a moment even to oblige a guest. The perpetual wearing of it is one of their religious customs, only prevailing, however, in some localities. They say that when our Lord was born His mother in token of reverence took a cloth and covered her mouth, hence their habit.

When the ketchuda arrived he found the heat of the room unbearable and proposed an adjournment to the lower roof, which was speedily swept, watered, and carpeted.

An elaborate banquet had been prepared in the hope that the Agha would pay them a visit, and they were much mortified at his non-appearance. The great copper basins containing the food were heaped together in the middle of the carpets, and the guests, fifty in number, sat down, the men on one side, and the women on the other, the wives of the ketchuda and his brothers serving. There were several samovars with tea, but only three cups. A long bolster was the place of honour, and I occupied it alone till the village priests arrived — reverend men with long beards, high black head-dresses, and full black cassocks with flowing sleeves. All the guests rose, and remained standing till they had been ceremoniously conducted to seats. I found them very agreeable and cultured men, acquainted with the varying “streams of tendency” in the Church of England, and very anxious to claim our Church as a sister of their own. This banquet was rather a gay scene, and on a higher roof fully one hundred women and children dressed in bright red stood watching the proceedings below.

I proposed to see the church, and with the priests, most of the guests, and a considerable following of the onlookers, walked to it through filthy alleys. This ancient building, in a dirty and malodorous yard, differs externally from the mud houses which surround it only in having two bells on a beam. The interior consists of four domed vaults, and requires artificial light. A vault with a raised floor contains the altar and a badly-painted altar-piece representing the B. V.; a rail separates the men, who stand in front, from the women, who stand behind. A Liturgy and an illuminated medieval copy of the Gospels, of which they are very proud, are their only treasures. They have no needlework, and the altar cloth is only a piece of printed cotton. Nothing could well look poorer than this small, dark, vacant building, with a few tallow candles without candlesticks giving a smoky light.

They have two daily services lasting from one to two hours each, and Mass on Sunday is protracted to seven hours! The priests said that all the men, except two who watch the flocks, and nearly all the women are at both services on Sunday, and that many of the men and most of the women are at both daily services, one of which, as is usual, begins before daylight. There is no school. The fathers teach their boys to read and write, and the mothers instruct their girls in needlework.

After visits to the priests’ houses, a number of villagers on horseback escorted me back to Gandaman. The heat of those two days was very great for May, the mercury marking 83° in the shade at 10 A.M. One hundred and thirteen people came for medicines, and in their eagerness they swarmed round both ends of the tent, blocking out all air. The ailments were much more varied and serious than among the Bakhtiaris.


Wall and Gate of Libasgun.

The last march was a hot and tedious one of eighteen miles, along an uninteresting open valley, much ploughed, bounded by sloping herbage-covered hills, surmounted by parapets of perpendicular rock. After passing the large Moslem village of Baldiji, we reentered the Bakhtiari country, ascended to the Bakhtiari village of Dastgird, descended to the plain of Chigakhor, skirted its southern margin, and on its western side, on two spurs of the great Kuh-i-Kaller range, with a ravine between them, the camps were pitched. In two days most of the tents were blown down, and were moved into two ravines with a hill between them, on which the Sahib on his arrival pitched his camp.

My ravine has a spring, with exactly space for my tent beside it, and a platform higher up with just room enough for the servants. A strong stream, rudely brawling, issuing from the spring, disturbs sleep. There is no possibility of changing one’s position by even a six-feet stroll, so rough and steep is the ground. Mirza bringing my meals from the cooking tent has a stick to steady himself. At first there was nothing to see but scorched mountains opposite, and the green plain on which the ravine opens, but the Hakīm’s tent was soon discovered, and I have had 278 “patients”! Before I am up in the morning they are sitting in rows one behind another on the steep ground, their horses and asses grazing near them, and all day they come. One of the chiefs of the Janiki tribe came with several saddle and baggage horses and even a tent, to ask me to go with him to the great plain of Khana Mirza, three days’ march from here, to cure his wife’s eyes, and was grieved to the heart when I told him they were beyond my skill. He stayed while a great number of sick people got eye-lotions and medicines, and then asked me why I gave these medicines and took so much trouble. I replied that our Master and Lord not only commanded us to do good to all men as we have opportunity, but Himself healed the sick. “You call Him Master and Lord,” he said; “He was a great Prophet. Send a Hakīm to us in His likeness.

I have heard so much of Chigakhor that I am disappointed with the reality. There are no trees, most of the snow has melted, the mountains are not very bold in their features, the plain has a sort of lowland look about it, and though its altitude is 7500 feet, the days and even nights are very hot. The interest of it lies in it being the summer resort of the Ilkhani and Ilbegi, a fact which makes it the great centre of Bakhtiari life. As many as 400 tents are pitched here in the height of the season, and the coming and going of Khans and headmen with tribute and on other business is ceaseless.

The plain, which is about seven miles long by three broad, is quite level. Near the south-east end is a shallow reedy mere, fringed by a fertile swampiness, which produces extraordinary crops of grass far out into the middle of the level.

Near the same end is a rocky eminence or island, on which is the fortress castle of the Ilkhani. The “season” begins in early June, when the tribes come up from the warm pastures of Dizful and Shuster, to which they return with their pastoral wealth in the autumn, after which the plain is flooded and frozen for the winter. At the north end are the villages of Dastgird and Aurugun and a great deal of irrigated land producing wheat. Except at that end the plain is surrounded by mountains; on its southern side, where a part of the Sukhta range rises into the lofty peak of Challeh Kuh, with its snow-slashes and snow-fields, they attain an altitude of 12,000 or 13,000 feet.

It is not easy, perhaps not possible, to pass through the part of the Bakhtiari country for which we are bound, without some sort of assistance from its feudal lords, a responsible man, for instance, who can obtain supplies from the people. Therefore we have been detained here for many days waiting for the expected arrival of the Ilkhani. A few days ago a rumour arrived, since unhappily continued, that things were in confusion below, owing to the discovery of a plot on the part of the Ilkhani to murder the Ilbegi. Stories are current of the number of persons “put out of the way” before he attained his present rank for the second time, and it is not “Bakhtiari custom” to be over-scrupulous about human life. No doubt his nephew, the Ilbegi, is a very dangerous rival, and that his retainers are bent on seeing him in a yet higher position than he now occupies.

A truce has been patched up, however, and yesterday the Ilkhani and Isfandyar Khan arrived together, with their great trains of armed horsemen, their harams, their splendid studs, their crowds of unmounted retainers, their strings of baggage mules and asses laden with firewood, and all the “rag, tag, and bobtail” in attendance on Oriental rulers. Following them in endless nocturnal procession come up the tribes, and day breaks on an ever-increasing number of brown flocks and herds, of mares, asses, dogs, black tents, and household goods. When we arrived there were only three tents, now the green bases of the mountains and all the platforms and ravines where there are springs are spotted with them, in rows or semicircles, and at night the camp fires of the multitude look like the lights of a city. Each clan has a prescriptive right to its camping-ground and pasture (though both are a fruitful source of quarrels), and arrives with its ketchuda and complete social organisation, taking up its position like a division of an army.

When in the early morning or afternoon the tribe reaches the camping-ground, everything is done in the most orderly way. The infants are put into their cradles, the men clear the ground if necessary, drive the pegs and put up the poles, and if there be wood — of which there is not a stick here — they make a fence of loose branches to contain the camp, but the women do the really hard work. Their lords, easily satisfied with their modicum of labour, soon retire to enjoy their pipes and the endless gossip of Bakhtiari life.


A Perso-Bakhtiari Cradle.

After the ground has been arranged the tents occupy invariably the same relative position, whether the camp is in a row, a semicircle, a circle, or streets, so that the cattle and flocks may easily find their owners’ abodes without being driven. The tents, which are of black goats’ hair cloth, are laid out and beaten, and the women spread them over the poles and arrange the rest, after which the inside is brushed to remove the soot. In a good tent, reed screens are put up to divide the space into two or more portions, and some of the tribes fence round the whole camp with these screens, leaving one opening, and use the interior for a sheepfold. The small bushes are grubbed up for fuel. The women also draw the water, and the boys attend to the flocks. Many of the camps, however, have neither fences nor environing screens, and their inmates dwell without any attempt at privacy, and rely for the safety of their flocks on big and trustworthy dogs, of which every camp has a number.

When they move the bulk of the labour again falls on the women. They first make the baggage into neat small packages suited for the backs of oxen; then they take up the tent pegs, throw down the tents, and roll them up in the reed screens, all that the men undertake being to help in loading the oxen. It is only when a division halts for at least some days that this process is gone through. In fine weather, if a tribe is marching daily to its summer or winter camping-grounds, the families frequently sleep in the open.

The chief’s tent is always recognisable by its size, and is occasionally white. I have seen a tent of a wealthy Khan fully sixty feet long. A row of poles not more than ten feet high supported the roof, which was of brown haircloth, the widths united by a coarse open stitch. On the windward side the roof was pinned down nearly to the top of a loosely-laid wall of stones about three feet high. The leeward side was quite open, and the roof, which could be lowered if necessary, was elevated and extended by poles six feet high. If the tent was sixty feet long, it was made by this arrangement twenty feet broad. At the lower end was a great fire-hole in the earth, and the floor of the upper end was covered with rugs, quilts, and pillows, the household stuff being arranged chiefly on and against the rude stone wall.

The process of encamping for a camp of seventy tents takes about two hours, and many interruptions occur, especially the clamorous demands of unweaned infants of mature years. De-camping the same number of tents takes about an hour. A free, wild life these nomads lead, full of frays and plots, but probably happier than the average lot.

Below the castle is the great encampment of the chiefs, brown tents and white bell tents, among which the tall white pavilion of the Ilkhani towers conspicuously. The Ilkhani and Ilbegi called on me, and as they sat outside my tent it was odd to look back two years to the time when they were fighting each other, and barely two weeks to the discovery of the plot of the dark-browed Ilkhani to murder his nephew. The Ilkhani’s face had a very uncomfortable expression. Intrigues against him at Tihran and nearer home, the rumoured enmity of the Prime Minister, the turbulence of some of the tribes, the growing power of the adherents of Isfandyar Khan, and his own baffled plot to destroy him must make things unpleasant. Several of the small Khans who have been to see me expect fighting here before the end of the summer. The Ilkhani had previously availed himself of the resources of my medicine chest, and with so much benefit that I was obliged to grant a request which deprived me of a whole bottle of “tabloids.”

In the evening I visited the ladies who are in the castle leading the usual dull life of the haram, high above the bustle which centres round the Ilkhani’s pavilion, with its crowds of tribesmen, mares and foals feeding, tethered saddle horses neighing, cows being milked, horsemen galloping here and there, firing at a mark, asses bearing wood and flour from Ardal being unloaded — a bustle masculine solely.

Isfandyar Khan, with whose look of capacity I am more and more impressed, and Lutf received us and led us to the great pavilion, which is decorated very handsomely throughout with red and blue appliqué arabesques, and much resembles an Indian durbar tent. A brown felt carpet occupied the centre. The Ilkhani, who rose and shook hands, sat on one side and the Ilbegi on the other, and sons, Khans, and attendants to the number of 200, I daresay, stood around. We made some fine speeches, rendered finer, doubtless, by Mirza; repeated an offer to send a doctor to itinerate in the country for some months in 1891, took the inevitable tea, and while the escorts were being arranged for I went to the fort.

It is the fortress of the Haft Lang, one great division of the Bakhtiari Lurs, which supplies the ruling dynasty. The building is a parallelogram, flanked by four round towers, with large casemates and a keep on its southern side. It has two courtyards, surrounded by stables and barracks, but there is no water within the gates, and earthquakes and neglect have reduced much of it to a semi-ruinous condition. Over the gateway and along the front is a handsome suite of well-arranged balconied rooms, richly decorated in Persian style, the front and doors of the large reception-room being of fretwork filled in with amber and pale blue glass, and the roof and walls are covered with small mirrors set so as to resemble facets, with medallion pictures of beauties and of the chase let in at intervals. The effect of the mirrors is striking, and even beautiful. There were very handsome rugs on the floor, and divans covered with Kashan velvet; but rugs, divans, and squabs were heaped to the depth of some inches with rose petals which were being prepared for rose-water, and the principal wife rose out of a perfect bed of them.

These ladies have no conversation, and relapse into apathy after asking a few personal questions. Again they said they wished to see the Agha, of whose height and prowess many rumours had reached them, but when I suggested that they might see him from the roof or balcony they said they were afraid. Again they said they had such dull lives, and regretted my departure, as they thought they might come and see my tent. I felt sorry for them, sorrier than I can say, as I realised more fully the unspeakable degradation and dulness of their lives. A perfect rabble of dirty women and children filled the passages and staircase.

On one of my last evenings I rode, attended only by Mirza, to the village of Dastgird to see two women whose husband desired medicines for them. This village is piled upon the hillside at the north end of the valley and a traveller can be seen afar off. I had never visited any of the camps so slenderly escorted, and when I saw the roofs covered with men and numbers more running to the stream with long guns slung behind their backs and big knives in their girdles, I was much afraid that they might be rude in the absence of a European man, and that I should get into trouble. At the stream the ketchuda, whose wives were ill, and several of the principal inhabitants met me. They salaamed, touched their hearts and brows, two held my stirrups, others walked alongside, and an ever-increasing escort took me up the steep rude alley of the village to the low arch by which the headman’s courtyard — all rocks, holes, and heaps — is entered.

Dismounting was a difficulty. Several men got hold of Screw, one made a step of his back, another of his knee, one grasped my foot, two got hold of my arms, all shouting and disputing as to how to proceed, but somehow I was hauled off, and lifted by strong arms up into the atrium, the floor of which was covered with their woven rugs, across which they led me to an improvised place of honour, a karsi covered with a red blanket. A brass samovar was steaming hospitably on the floor, surrounded by tea-glasses, trays, and sugar. The chief paid me the usual Persian compliment, “Your presence purifies the house;” men crowded in, shrouded women peeped through doorways; they served me on bended knees with tea à la Russe, and though they shouted very loud, and often all together, they made me very cordially welcome. They send their flocks with some of their people to warmer regions for the winter, but the chief and many families remain, though the snow is from seven to nine feet deep, according to their marks on a post.

I rode to the camp where the wives were, with the Khan and a number of men on foot and on horseback, a messenger having been sent in advance. In the village the great sheep-dogs, as usual, showed extreme hostility, and one, madder than the rest, a powerful savage, attacked me, fixing his teeth in my stirrup guard, and hanging on. The Khan drew a revolver and shot him through the back, killing him at once, and threatened to beat the owner. Screw was quite undisturbed by the incident.

The power of the ketchuda or headman of a group of families is not absolute even in this small area. His duties are to arrange the annual migrations, punish small crimes summarily, to report larger crimes to the Khan, to collect the tribute, conjointly with the Khan, and to carry out his orders among the families of his group. Private oppression appears to be much practised among the ketchudas, and under the feeble rule of Imam Kuli Khan to be seldom exposed. The ketchuda’s office, originally elective, has a great tendency to become hereditary, but at any moment the Ilkhani may declare it elective in a special case.

Though the offices of Ilkhani and Ilbegi are held only annually at the pleasure of the Shah, and the ketchudas are properly elective, the office of Khan or chief is strictly hereditary, though it does not necessarily fall to the eldest son. This element of permanence gives the Khan almost supreme authority in his tribe, and when the Ilkhani is a weak man and a Khan is a strong one, he is practically independent, except in the matter of the tribute to the Shah.

It was in curbing the power of these Khans by steering a shrewd and even course among their feuds and conflicts, by justice and consideration in the collection of the revenues, and by rendering it a matter of self-interest for them to seek his protection and acknowledge his headship, that Sir A. H. Layard’s friend, Mohammed Taki Khan, succeeded in reducing these wild tribes to something like order, and Hussein Kuli Khan, “the last real ruler of the Bakhtiaris,” pursued the same methods with nearly equal success.

But things have changed, and a fresh era of broils and rivalries has set in, and in addition to tribal feuds and jealousies, the universally-erected line of partisanship between the adherents of the Ilkhani and Ilbegi produces anything but a pacific prospect. These broils, and the prospects of fighting, are the subjects discussed at my tent door in the evenings.


A Dastgird Tent.

The Dastgird encampment that evening was the romance of camp life. On the velvety green grass there were four high black canopies, open at the front and sides, looking across the green flowery plain, on which the Ilkhani’s castle stood out, a violet mass against the sunset gold, between the snow-streaked mountains. There were handsome carpets, mattresses, and bolsters; samovars steaming on big brass trays, an abundance of curds, milk, and whey, and at one end of the largest tent there were two very fine mares, untethered, with young foals, and children rolling about among their feet. I was placed, as usual, on a bolster, and the tent filled with people, all shouting, and clamouring together, bringing rheumatism (“wind in the bones”), sore eyes, headaches (“wind in the head”), and old age to be cured. The Khan’s wife, a handsome, pathetic-looking girl, had become an epileptic a fortnight ago. This malady is sadly common. Of the 278 people who have come for medicines here thirteen per cent have had epileptic fits. They call them “faintings,” and have no horror of them. Eye diseases, including such severe forms as cataract and glaucoma, rheumatism, headaches, and dyspepsia are their most severe ailments. No people have been seen with chest complaints, bone diseases, or cancer.

In the largest tent there was a young mother with an infant less than twenty-four hours old, and already its eyebrows, or at all events the place where eyebrows will be, were deeply stained and curved. At seven or eight years old girls are tattooed on hands, arms, neck, and chest, and the face is decorated with stars on the forehead and chin.

Though children of both sexes are dearly loved among these people, it is only at the birth of a son that there is anything like festivity, and most of the people are too poor to do more even then than distribute sweetmeats among their friends and relations. The “wealthier” families celebrate the birth of a firstborn son with music, feasting, and dancing.

At the age of five or six days the child is named, by whispering the Divine name in its ear, along with that chosen by the parents.

After a long visit the people all kissed my hand, raising it to their foreheads afterwards, and the Khan made a mounting block of his back, and rode with me to the main path. It was all savage, but the intention was throughout courteous, according to their notions. It became pitch dark, and I lost my way, and should have pulled Screw over a precipice but for his sagacious self-will. One of the finest sights I have seen was my own camp in a thunderstorm, with its white tents revealed by a flash of lightning, which lighted for a second the black darkness of the ravine.

The next morning the Khan of Dastgird’s servants brought fifteen bottles and pipkins for eye-lotions and medicines. In spite of the directions in Persian which Mirza put upon the bottles, I doubt not that some of the eye-lotions will be swallowed, and that some of the medicines will be put into the eyes!

June 8.— The last evening has come after a busy day. The difficulties in the way of getting ready for the start tomorrow have been great. The iron socket of my tent-pole broke, there was no smith in the valley, and when one arrived with the Ilkhani, the Ilkhani’s direct order had to be obtained before he would finish the work he had undertaken. I supplied the iron, but then there was no charcoal. I have been tentless for the whole day. Provisions for forty days have to be taken from Chigakhor, and two cwts. of rice and flour have been promised over and over again, but have only partially arrived to-night. Hassan has bought a horse and a cow, and they have both strayed, and he has gone in search of them, and Mirza in search of him, and both have been away for hours.

Of the escorts promised by the Ilkhani not one man has arrived, though it was considered that the letter to him given me by the Amin-es-Sultan would have obviated any difficulty on this score. An armed sentry was to have slept in front of my tent, and a tufangchi was to have been my constant attendant, and I have nobody. Of the escort promised to the Agha not one man has appeared. In this case we are left to do what General Schindler and others in Tihran and Isfahan declared to be impossible, viz. to get through the country without an escort and without the moral support of a retainer high in the Ilkhani’s service. Whether there have been crooked dealings; or whether the Ilkhani, in spite of his promises, regards the presence of travellers in his country with disfavour; or whether, apprehending a collision, both the Ilkhani and Ilbegi are unwilling to part with any of their horsemen, it is impossible to decide.

I. L. B.


Church of Mar Shalita, Kochanes.

Letter xvi

Two days before we left Chigakhor fierce heat set in, with a blue heat haze. Since then the mercury has reached 98° in the shade. The call to “Boot and Saddle” is at 3.45. Black flies, sand-flies, mosquitos, scorpions, and venomous spiders abound. There is no hope of change or clouds or showers until the autumn. Greenery is fast scorching up. “The heaven above is as brass, and the earth beneath is as iron.” The sky is a merciless steely blue. The earth radiates heat far on into the night. “Man goeth forth to his work,” not “till the evening,” but in the evening. The Ilyats, with their great brown flocks, march all night. The pools are dry, and the lesser streams have disappeared. The wheat on the rain-lands is scorched before the ears are full, and when the stalks are only six inches long. This is a normal Persian summer in Lat. 32° N. The only way of fighting this heat is never to yield to it, to plod on persistently, and never have an idle moment, but I do often long for an Edinburgh east wind, for drifting clouds and rain, and even for a chilly London fog! This same country is said to be buried under seven or eight feet of snow in winter.

On leaving Chigakhor we crossed a low hill into the Seligun valley, so fair and solitary a month ago, now brown and dusty, and swarming with Ilyats and their flocks, and Lake Albolaki has shrunk into something little better than a swamp. A path at a great elevation above a stream and a short rocky ascent brought us to the top of the pass above Naghun, a wall of rock, with an altitude of 7320 feet, and a very stiff zigzag descent upon Isfandyar Khan’s garden, where the heat made a long halt necessary. The view from the Naghun Pass of the great Ardal valley is a striking one, though not so striking as one would suppose from the altitude of the mountains, which, however, do not nearly reach the limit of perpetual snow, though the Kuh-i-Kaller, the Kuh-i-Sabz, the great mass of the Kuh-i-Gerra, the range of the Kuh-i-Dinar, and the Kuh-i-Zirreh are all from 11,000 to 13,000 feet in height. Even on the north side the range which we crossed by the Gardan-i-Zirreh exceeds 9000 feet. The Karun, especially where it escapes from the Ardal valley by the great Tang-i-Ardal, is a grand feature of the landscape from the Naghun Pass.

On leaving Naghun we were joined by Aziz Khan, a petty chief, a retainer of Isfandyar Khan, who has been deputed to attend on the Agha, and who may be useful in various ways.

Between Naghun and Ardal, in an elevated ravine, a species of aristolochia, which might well be mistaken for a pitcher-plant, was growing abundantly, and on the Ardal plain the “sweet sultan” and the Ferula glauca have taken the place of the Centaurea alata, which is all cut and stacked.

A hot and tedious march over the Ardal plateau, no longer green, and eaten up by the passage of Ilyat flocks, brought us to the village of Ardal, now deserted and melancholy, the great ibex horns which decorate the roof of the Ilkhani’s barrack giving it a spectral look in its loneliness. The night was hot, and the perpetual passing of Ilyats, with much braying and bleating, and a stampede of mules breaking my tent ropes, forbade sleep. It was hot when we started the next morning, still following up the Ardal valley and the Karun to Kaj, a village on bare hummocks of gravel alongside of the Karun, a most unpromising-looking place, but higher up in a lateral valley there was a spring and a walled orchard, full of luxuriant greenery, where we camped under difficulties, for the only entrance was by a little stream, leading to a low hole with a door of stone, such as the Afghans use for security, and through which the baggage could not be carried. The tents had to be thrown over the wall. There was little peace, for numbers of the Kaj men sat in rows steadily staring, and there were crowds of people for medicine, ushered in by the ketchuda.

Four miles above Ardal is a most picturesque scene, which, though I had ridden to it before, I appreciated far more on a second visit. This is the magnificent gorge of the Tang-i-Darkash Warkash, a gigantic gash or rift in the great range which bounds the Ardal and Kaj valleys on the north, and through which the river, on whose lawn-like margin the camps were pitched at Shamsabad, find its way to the Karun. A stone bridge of a single arch of wide span is thrown across the stream at its exit from the mountains. Above the bridge are great masses of naked rock, rising into tremendous precipices above the compressed water, with roses and vines hanging out of their clefts.

Below, the river suddenly expands, and there is a small village, now deserted, with orchards and wheatfields in the depression in which the Darkash Warkash finds its way across the Kaj valley, a region so sheltered from the fierce sweep of the east wind, and so desirable in other respects, that it bears the name of Bihishtabad, the Mansion of Heaven.

Geographically this tang has a great interest, for the water passing under the bridge is the united volume of the water system to which three out of the four districts known as the Chahar Mahals owe their fertility, and represents the drainage of 2500 square miles. It will be remembered that we entered the Chahar Mahals by the Kahva Rukh Pass, and crossed that portion of them lying between Kahva Rukh and the Zirreh Pass, which is politically, not geographically, a portion of the Bakhtiari country, and is partially Christian.

I started at five the next morning to follow the left bank of the Karun for nearly a whole march, sometimes riding close beside it among barley-fields, then rising to a considerable height above it. It is occasionally much compressed between walls of conglomerate, and boils along furiously, but even where it is stillest and broadest, it is always deep, full, and unfordable, bridged over, however, at a place where there are several mills. An ascent from it leads to the village of Rustam-i, where the people were very courteous and put me on the road to Ali-kuh, a village not far from the river, at the foot of a high range very much gashed by its affluents, one of which is very salt.

Ali-kuh is quite deserted, and every hovel door is open. There is nothing to tempt cupidity. The people, when they migrate to the high pastures, take all their goods with them. There was not a creature left behind who could tell me of a spring, and it was a tiresome search before I came, high upon the hillside, on a stream tumbling down under willows over red rock, in a maze of campanulas and roses. The first essential of a camping-ground is that there should be space to camp, and this is lacking; my servants sleep in the open, and my bed and chair are propped up by stones on the steep slope. Scorpions, “processional” caterpillars, earwigs, and flies abound. It is very pretty, but very uncomfortable. The stream is noisy, and a rude flour mill above has the power, which it has exercised, of turning it into another channel for irrigation purposes. There are some large Ilyat camps above, and from these and from Rustam-i the people have been crowding in.

The wild flowers about Ali-kuh are in great profusion just now, the most showy being hollyhocks — white, pink, and mauve, which affect the cultivated lands. Three parasitic plants are also abundant, one of them being the familiar dodder. Showy varieties of blue and white campanulas, a pink mallow, a large blue geranium, chicory, the blue cornflower, and the scarlet poppy all grow among the crops.

In the course of a day’s expedition to the summit of the Ali-kuh Pass large Ilyat camps abounded, and the men were engaged in stacking the leaves and the blossoming stalks of the wild celery for fodder later in the season. These flower-stalks attain a height of over six feet. These, and the dried leaves of the Centaurea alata, which are laid in heaps weighted down with stones, are relied upon by the nomads for the food of their flocks on the way down from the summer to the winter pastures, and much of their industry, such as it is, is spent in securing these “crops.”

This Ali-kuh Pass, 9500 feet in altitude, is on the most direct route from Isfahan to the Bazuft river, but is scarcely used except by the Ilyats. It is in fact horribly steep on the Ali-kuh side. The great Bakhtiari ranges on its south-west side, and a deep valley below, closed by the great mass of Amin-i-lewa, are a contrast to the utterly shadeless and mostly waterless regions of Persia proper which lie eastwards, blazing and glaring in the summer sunshine. There is a little snow and some ice, and the snow patches are bordered by a small rosy primula, delicate white tulips, and the violet penguicula so common on our moorlands. Mares with mule foals were grazing at a height of over 9000 feet.

The Khan of Rustam-i, married to a daughter of the Ilkhani, “called.” He is very intelligent, has some idea of conversation, and was very pleasant and communicative. He says the “Bakhtiaris love fighting, and if there’s a fight can’t help taking sides, and if they have not guns fight with stones,” and that “one Bakhtiari can beat ten Persians”! I asked him if he thought there would be fighting at Chigakhor, and he said it was very likely, and he and his retainers would take the Ilkani’s side. He showed me with great pleasure a bullet wound in his ankle, and another in his head, where a piece of the skull had been removed. He wishes that “the English” would send them a doctor. “We would gladly receive even a Kafir,” he said. Mirza politely translated this word Christian. He says they “suffer so much in dying from want of knowledge.” I explained to him the virtues of some of their own medicinal herbs, and he at once sent his servant to gather them, and having identified them he wrote down their uses and the modes of preparing them.

With the Khan was his prim little son, already, at ten years old, a bold rider and a good shot, the pale auburn-haired boy whom his grandmother, the Ilkhani’s principal wife, offered me as a present if I would cure him of deafness, debility, and want of appetite! I gave him a large bottle of a clandestinely-made decoction of a very bitter wormwood, into which I put with much ceremony, after the most approved fashion of a charlatan, some tabloids of nux vomica and of permanganate of potash. When I saw him at the fort of Chigakhor he was not any better, but since, probably from leading a healthier life than in Ardal, he has greatly improved, and being strong is far less deaf, and consequently the virtues of wormwood have forced themselves on the Khan’s attention.

The boy had suffered various things. He had been sewn up in raw sheepskins, his ears had been filled with fresh clotted blood, and he had been compelled to drink blood while warm, taken from behind the ear of a mare, and also water which had washed off a verse of the Koran from the inside of a bowl. It transpired that the Khan, who is a devout Moslem and a mollah, could not allow his son to take my medicine unless a piece of paper with a verse of the Koran upon it were soaked in the decoction.

I asked him why the Bakhtiaris like the English, and he replied, “Because they are brave and like fighting, and like going shooting on the hills with us, and don’t cover their faces.” He added after a pause, “and because they conquer all nations, and do them good after they have conquered them.” I asked how they did them good, and he said, “They give them one law for rich and poor, and they make just laws about land, and their governors take the taxes, and no more, and if a man gets money he can keep it. Ah,” he exclaimed earnestly, “why don’t the English come and take this country? If you don’t, Russia will, and we would rather have the English. We’re tired of our lives. There’s no rest or security.”

It may well be believed that there are no schools, though some deference is paid to a mollah, which among the Bahktiaris means only a man who can write, and who can read the Koran. These rare accomplishments are usually hereditary. The chiefs’ sons are taught to read and write by munshis. A few of the highest Khans send their sous to Tihran or Isfahan for education, or they attend school while their fathers are detained as hostages in the capital for the good behaviour of their clans. There they learn a few words of French and English, along with pure Persian and Arabic, and the few other branches of the education of a Persian noble. They are fine manly boys, and ride and shoot well from an early age. But the worst of them is that they never are “boys.” They are little men, with the stiffness and elaboration of manner which the more important Khans have copied from the Persians, and one can never fancy their abandoning themselves to “miscellaneous impulses.”


Stone Lion and Guide.

Killa Bazuft, Bazuft Valley, June 18.— A few days ago we left the last village of the region behind, to enter upon a country not laid down in any maps. It is a wild land of precipitous mountain ranges, rising into summits from 11,000 to 13,000 feet high, enclosing valleys and gorges or cañons of immense depth, some of them only a few feet wide, a goodly land in part, watered by springs and streams, and green with herbage and young wheat, and in part naked, glaring, and horrible. It is very solitary, although at times we come upon Bakhtiaris in camp, or moving with their flocks, much darker in complexion and more uncivilised in appearance than those of Ardal and its neighbourhood. From these camps Aziz Khan procures guides, milk, and bread. The heat increases daily, and the hour of getting up is now 2.45. There are many forlorn burial-grounds, and their uncouth stone lions, more or less rudely carved, are the only permanent inhabitants of the region. Wheat and barley grow in nearly all the valleys, and clothe the hill-slopes, but where are the sowers and the reapers, and where are the barns? Cultivation without visible cultivators is singularly weird.

Although the Bakhtiaris expend great labour on irrigation, their methods of cultivation are most simple. They plough with a small plough with the share slightly shod with iron; make long straight furrows, and then cross them diagonally. They do not manure the soil, but prevent exhaustion by long fallows. After they come up to the mountains they weed their crops carefully, and they look remarkably clean. In reaping they leave a stubble five or six inches long. There is a good deal of spade husbandry in places where they have no oxen, or where the arable patches are steep. The spades are much longer than ours, and the upper corners of the sides are turned over for three inches.

A spade is worked by two men, one using his hands and one foot, and the other a rope placed where the handle enters the iron, with which he gives the implement a sharp jerk towards him.

In the higher valleys they grow wheat and barley only, but in the lower rice, cotton, melons, and cucumbers are produced, and opium for exportation. They plough and sow in the autumn, and reap on their return to their “yailaks” the following summer. Their rude water mills, and the hand mills worked by women, grind the wheat into the coarse flour used by them.

It appears from the statements of the Mollah-i-Murtaza, Aziz Khan, an intelligent son of Chiragh Ali Khan, and others, that the tenure of arable lands is very simple and well understood. “From long ago” certain of such lands have been occupied by certain tribes, and have been divided among families. Some of the tribes possess documents, supposed to secure these rights, granted by Ali Mardan Khan, the Bakhtiari King of Persia, in the anarchical period which followed the death of Nadīr Shah. Those of them who are without documents possess the lands by right of use. Nearly all the tribes have individual rights of tillage, and have expended much labour on their lands in irrigation and removing stones. A fee for the use of these lands is paid to the Ilkhani every year in money or cattle.

For pasturage there is only the right of “use and wont,” and the grazing is free. For camping-grounds each tribe has its special “use and wont,” subject to change by the order of the Ilkhani, but it was out of quarrels concerning these and the pasture lands that many of the feuds at present existing arose.

We left Ali-kuh in a westerly direction, followed and crossed the Karun, left it at its junction with the Duab, ascended this short affluent to its source, crossed the Gardan-i-Cherri at an elevation of 9200 feet, and descended 4000 feet into the Bazuft or Rudbar valley, where the camps now are. The road after leaving Ali-kuh, where the slopes were covered with pink and white hollyhocks, keeps along a height above the Karun, and then descends abruptly into a chasm formed of shelves of conglomerate, on the lowest of which there is just room for a loaded mule between the cliffs and the water at the narrowest part. Shadowed by shelf upon shelf of rock, the river shoots through a narrow passage, as though impatient for its liberation from an unnatural restraint, and there is what I hesitate to call — a bridge. At all events there is a something by which men and beasts can cross the chasm — a rude narrow cradle of heavy branches, filled with stones, quite solid and safe, resting on projections of rock on either side. The Karun, where this Pul-i-Ali-kuh crosses it, is only nine feet six inches in width. I found the zigzag ascent on the right bank a very difficult one, and had sundry falls.


Karun at Pul-i-ali-kuh.

Two hours more brought us to the junction of the Karun and Duab (“two rivers”) above which the former is lost to view in a tremendous ravine, the latter coming down a green valley among high and mostly bare mountains, on a gravelly slope of one of which we camped, for the purpose of ascending a spur of a lofty mountain which overhangs the Karun. On such occasions I take my mule, Suleiman, the most surefooted of his surefooted race, who brings me down precipitous declivities which I could not look at on my own feet. After crossing the Duab, a green, rapid willow-fringed river, by a ford so deep as to be half-way up the bodies of the mules, and zigzagging up a steep mountain side to a ridge of a spur of Kaisruh, so narrow that a giant might sit astride upon it, a view opened of singular grandeur.

On the southern side of the ridge, between mountains of barren rock, snow-slashed, and cleft by tremendous rifts, lying in shadows of cool gray, the deep, bright, winding Duab flows down the green valley which it blesses, among stretches of wheat and mounds where only the forgotten dead have their habitation — a silver thread in the mellow light. On the northern side lies the huge Tang-i-Karun, formed by the magnificent mountain Kaisruh on its right bank, and on the left by mountains equally bold, huge rock-masses rising 3000 feet perpendicularly, and topped by battlements of terra-cotta rock, which took on vermilion colouring in the sunset glow. Through this mighty gorge the Karun finds its way, a green, rapid willow-fringed stream below the ridge, and visible higher up for miles here and there in bottle-green pools, everywhere making sharp turns in its stupendous bed, and disappearing from sight among huge piles of naked rock. Even on this splintered ridge, at a height of 8000 feet, there were tulips, celery in blossom, mullein, roses, legions of the Fritillaria imperialis, anemones, blue linum, and a wealth of alpine plants.

There also are found in abundance the great umbelliferous plants —Ferula glauca, Ferula candelabra, and the Ferula asafoetida. The latter I have never seen elsewhere, and was very much rejoiced to procure some of its “tears,” though the odour will cling to my gloves till they are worn out. Hadji had heard that it is found in one or two places in the Bakhtiari country, but up to this time I had searched for it in vain. There also for the first time I found the Astragalus verus, the gum tragacanth of commerce. The ordinary tragacanth bush, the “goat’s thorn,” the Astragalus tragacantha, which is found everywhere on the arid hillsides, produces a gummy juice but no true gum, and its chief value is for kindling fires.

Following up the Duab, through brush of tamarisk, Hippophae rhamnoides, and Indian myrtle, above the cultivated lands, and passing burial mounds with their rude stone lions with their sculptured sides, we camped in a valley at the foot of the Gardan-i-Cherri and Kuh-i-Milli, close to the powerful spring in the hillside which is the source of the stream, where there was abundant level ground for three camps. The next evening Karim, the man who so nearly lost his arm some time ago, was carried past my tent fainting, having been severely kicked in the chest by the same horse that lacerated his arm. “I am unlucky,” he murmured feebly, when he came to himself in severe pain.

I have crossed the Gardan-i-Cherri twice, and shall cross it a third time. It marks a great change in the scenery, and the first intimation of possible peril from the tribesmen. The ascent from the east, which is extremely rugged and steep, is one of 2000 feet in three and a half miles. Near the top were many Ilyats camping without their tents, a rough-looking set, with immense flocks, and on the summit the Agha, who was without his attendants, met some men who were threatening both in speech and gesture.

From the top there is a wonderful view into an unknown land. The ranges are heavily wooded, and much broken up into spurs and rounded peaks. Between the great range, crossed at a height of 9550 feet by the Cherri Pass, and a wall-like range of mighty mountains of white limestone with snow on them hardly whiter than themselves, lies the Bazuft valley, 4000 feet below, and down upon it come sharp forest-covered spurs, often connected by sharp ridges of forest-covered rocks cleft by dark forest-filled ravines, with glimpses now and then of a winding peacock-green river, flowing at times through green lawns and slopes of grain, at others disappearing into gigantic cañons — great forest-skirted and snow-slashed mountains apparently blocking up the valley at its higher end. At the first crossing all lay glorified in a golden veil, with indigo shadows in the rifts and white lights on the heights.

The first part of the descent is fearfully rough, a succession of ledges of broken rock encumbered here and there with recently dead horses or mules, and the whole downward course of 4000 feet is without a break, the climate getting hotter and hotter as one descends. At 8000 feet the oak forests begin. This oak bears acorns nearly three inches long, which are ground and made into bread. All other vegetation is dried and scorched, and the trees rise out of dust. In this forest we came upon a number of Ilyats, some of whom were lying under a tree, ill of fever, and Aziz Khan insisted that then and there I should give them quinine.

At the bottom of this unalleviated descent there is a shady torrent, working a rude flour mill; a good deal of wheat speckled with hollyhocks, white campanulas, and large snapdragons; some very old tufa cones, and below them level lawns, eaten bare, fringed with oaks, with dry wood for the breaking; and below again the translucent, rapid, peacock-green, beautiful Bazuft. But not even the sound of the rush of its cool waters could make one forget the overpowering heat, 100°, even in the shade of a spreading tree.

I know not which is the more trying, the ascent or the descent of the 4000 feet of ledges and zigzags on the southern face of the Gardan-i-Cherri. The road is completely encumbered with stones, and is being allowed to fall into total disrepair, although it is the shortest route between Isfahan and Shuster. Things are undoubtedly deteriorating. The present Ilkhani is evidently not the man to get and keep a grip on these turbulent tribesmen. I notice a gradual weakening of his authority as the distance from Ardal increases.

When Hussein Kuli Khan, the murdered father of Isfandyar Khan, was Ilkhani, he not only built substantial bridges such as those over the Karun in the Tang-i-Ardal and at Dupulan, but by severe measures compelled every tribe using this road in its spring and autumn migrations to clear off the stones and repair it. As it is, nearly all our animals lost one or more of their shoes on the descent. The ascent and descent took eight hours.

Some of the cliffs on the right bank of the Bazuft are of gypsiferous rock, topped with pure white gypsum, resting on high, steep elevations of red and fawn coloured earths, with outcrops of gravel conglomerate.

Yesterday was spent in a very severe expedition of twenty-four miles from Mowaz to the lofty plateau of Gorab, mostly through oak forest, crossing great cañons 800 feet deep and more, with almost precipitous sides, descending upon the awful gorge through which the Bazuft passes before it turns round the base of the Kuh-i-Gerra, the monarch of this mass of mountains. The ascents and descents were endless and severe as we crossed the mountain spurs. It was a simple scramble up and down rock ledges, among great boulders, or up or down smooth slippery surfaces. Even my trusty mule slipped and fell several times. Often the animals had to jump up or down ledges nearly as high as their chests, and through rifts so narrow as only just to admit the riders. In some places it was absolutely necessary to walk, and in attempting to get down one bad place on my own feet I fell and hurt my knee badly — a serious misfortune just at present.

After twelve miles of a toilsome march the guide led us up among the boulders of a deep ravine to the treeless plateau of Gorab, an altitude of 8000 feet, where the air was fresh and cool. The scenery is on a gigantic scale, and the highly picturesque Bazuft is seen passing through magnificent cañons of nearly perpendicular rock, and making sharp turns round the bases of lofty spurs, till after a course of singular beauty it joins the Karun at Shalil. It is glorious scenery, full of magnificence and mystery. This beautiful Ab-i-Bazuft, which for a long distance runs parallel with the Karun within fifteen or eighteen miles of it, is utterly unlike it, for the Karun is the most tortuous of streams and the Bazuft keeps a geographically straight course for a hundred miles. Springs bursting from the mountain sides keep it always full; it passes nearly ice-cold among lawns and woods, and its colour is everywhere a pure peacock-green of the most exquisite tint, contrasting with the deep blue-green of the Karun. Shuster is only seven marches off, and in the direction in which it lies scorched barren hills fill up the distance, sinking down upon yellow barren plains, softened by a yellow haze, in which the imagination sees those vast alluvial stretches which descend in an unbroken level to the Shat-el-Arab and the Persian Gulf. Many a lofty range is seen, but the eye can rest only on the huge Gerra mass, with the magnificent snowy peak of Dalonak towering above all, bathed in a heavenly blue.

The shelter-tent was pitched till the noonday heat moderated. Abbas Ali and Mehemet Ali were inside it, and I was reading Ben Hur aloud. Aziz Khan was lying half in and half out, with a quizzical look on his face, wondering at a woman knowing how to read. Not a creature had been seen, when as if by magic nine or ten Lurs appeared, established themselves just outside, and conversed with Aziz. I went on reading, and they went on talking, the talk growing disagreeably loud, and Aziz very much in earnest. Half an hour passed thus, the Agha, who understood their speech, apparently giving all his attention to Ben Hur.

I did not hear till the evening that the topic of the talk was our robbery, with possible murder, and that Aziz was spending all his energies on dissuading them, telling them that we are guests of the Ilkhani and under the protection of the Shah, and that they and their tribe would be destroyed if they carried out their intention. They discovered that his revolvers were not loaded — he had in fact forgotten his cartridges, and one said to the others, “Don’t give him time to load.”

While the tent was being packed, I sat on a stone watching the Lurs, dark, handsome savages, armed with loaded clubbed sticks, and the Agha was asking them about the country, when suddenly there was a mêlée, and the semblance of an attack on him with the clubs. He seemed to shake his assailants off, lounged towards his mule, took his revolver from the holster, fired it in the air, and with an unconcerned, smiling face, advanced towards the savages, and saying something like calling attention to the excellences of that sort of firearm, fired two bullets close over their heads. They dread our arms greatly, and fell back, and molested us no further. Till later I did not know that the whole thing was not a joke on both sides. Aziz says that if it had not been for the Agha’s coolness, all our lives would have been sacrificed.

In returning, the Agha, walking along a lower track than we were riding upon, met some Lurs, who, thinking that he was alone, began to be insolent, and he heard them say to each other, “Strip him, kill him,” when their intention was frustrated by our appearance just above. After crossing the Serba torrent with its delicious shade of fine plane trees, the heat of the atmosphere, with the radiation from rock and gravel, was overpowering. I found the mercury at 103° in my shady tent.

Aziz Khan now pays me a visit each evening, to give me such information as is attainable regarding the people and locality, and, though he despised me at first, after Moslem fashion, we are now very good friends. He is a brave man, and made no attempt to magnify the danger at Gorab, merely saying that he was devoutly thankful that we had escaped with our lives. He remonstrated with me for pitching my tent in such a lonely place, quite out of sight of the other camps, but it was then too dark to move it. He said that there was some risk, for the Lurs had declared they would “rob us yet,” but he should watch all night. I knew he would, for the sake of his Arab mare!

This morning, soon after leaving Mowaz, the Sahib’s guide galloped up, saying that his master had been robbed of “everything” the night before, and was without the means of boiling water. Orders were given for the camps to close up, for no servants to ride in advance of or behind the caravan, and that no Ilyats should hang about the tents.

Although the Bakhtiari Lurs are unified under one chief, who is responsible to the Shah for the security of the country, and though there has been a great improvement since Sir A. H. Layard’s time, the advance, I think, is chiefly external. The instincts and traditions of the tribes remain predatory. Possibly they may no longer attack large caravans, but undoubtedly they rob, when and where they can, and they have a horrid habit of stripping their victims, leaving them with but one under garment, if they do not kill them. They have a gesture, often used by Aziz Khan in his descriptions of raids, which means stripping a man to his shirt. The word used is skin, but they are not such savages as this implies. The gesture consists in putting a finger into the mouth, slowly withdrawing it, and holding it up with a look of infinite complacency. Aziz admits with some pride that with twenty men he fell upon a rich caravan near Shiraz, and robbed it of £600.


Killa Bazuft.

To-day’s march has been mainly through very attractive scenery. We crossed the Ab-i-Mowaz, proceeded over slopes covered with wheat and flowers, and along a rocky path overhanging the exquisitely tinted Bazuft, forded the Ab-i-Nozi, at a place abounding in tamarisks bearing delicate, feathery pink blossoms, and ascended to upland lawns of great beauty, on which the oaks come down both in clumps and singly, as if planted. The views from this natural park are glorious. Besides the great ranges with which I have become familiar, the Safid–Kuh, or “white mount,” on the right bank of the river, at present deserves its name, its snows descending nearly to the forests which clothe its lower heights. A deep chasm conceals the Tabarak stream up to the point of its foamy junction with the Bazuft, which emerges on the valley by an abrupt turn through a very fine cañon.

We crossed the pure green waters by a broad ford, and camped on the right bank on a gravel plateau above it, on which is Killa Bazuft, a large quadrangular stone fort with round towers at the corners, an arcaded front, a vaulted entrance, and rooms all round the quadrangle. It is now ruinous. Some irrigated land near it produces rice and mosquitos. The Sahib’s camp is pitched here. He has been badly robbed, both of clothing and cooking-pots, and was left without the means of cooking any food.

Dima, June 26.— We retraced our steps as far as the source of the Duab, crossed into the Shamisiri valley, and by a low pass into the Karun valley, forded the Karun by a strong deep ford, crossed a low range into the Zarin valley, where are some of the sources of the Zainderud, from thence marched to the Tang-i-Ghezi, through which the Zainderud, there a vigorous river, passes into the Chahar Mahals, went up the Kherson valley, crossed Gargunak, and by a very steep and rugged descent reached this camp, a place of springs, forming the upper waters of the Zainderud. These days have been severe, the heat great, and the incidents few.

The ascent of the Gardan-i-Cherri was difficult. The guide misled us, and took us through a narrow rift in the crest of a ridge on broken ledges of rock. We camped at a height of 9000 feet in the vicinity of snow. The new arrangement, which is necessary for safety, does not increase comfort, for the Arab horses, noisy, quarrelsome fellows, are in camp, and the mules shake their bells and sneeze and bray at intervals all night.

The descent of 2000 feet into the Shamisiri valley, over bare gravel chiefly, was a very hot one. It is a wide, open valley with stony hills of no great height enclosing it, with much green sward along the river banks, above which, running to a great height on the hillsides, are stretches of irrigated wheat. So far as I have yet seen, the wheat is all “bearded.” It is a most smiling valley; so cultivated, indeed, and so trim and free from weeds are the crops, that one naturally looks for neat farm-houses and barns. But one looks in vain, for except the ruins of some Armenian villages there are no traces of inhabitants, till night comes, when the glimmer of camp fires here and there high up on the hillsides shows the whereabouts of some migratory families.

I start so early as to get in to the camping-ground about nine now, and the caravan, two hours later, comes in with mules braying, bells ringing, horses squealing for a fight, servants shouting. Then the mules roll, the tent-pegs are hammered down, and in the blazing, furnace-like afternoons the men, who have been up since 2 A.M., take a prolonged siesta, and a solemn hush falls on the camp. After the Gorab affair I loaded my revolver, and now sleep with it under my pillow, carry it in my holster, and never have it out of my reach. I think I should only fire it in the air if I were attacked, but the fact of being known to be armed with such a weapon is more likely than anything else to prevent attack. No halt is now made on the march.

The sick people who appeared at Shamisiri, from no one knows where, were difficult and suspicious, and so they have been since. The dialect of Persian has somewhat changed, and Aziz Khan now interprets the strange accounts of maladies to Mirza, and he interprets to me. When they crowd almost into the tent, Aziz, when appealed to, pelts them with stones and beats them with a stick, and they take it very merrily. He thinks that I have appliances in the “leather box” for the cure of all ills, and when he brings blind people, and I say that I cannot do anything for them, he loses his temper. No matter where we camp, dark, handsome men spring up as if by magic, and hang about the fires for the rest of the day. From among these the guides are usually selected.

Numbers of “patients” appear everywhere, and the well assemble with the sick round my tent. At Berigun the people were very ignorant and obstinate. After spending a whole hour on two men, and making medicines up for them, they said they would have the “Feringhi’s ointment,” but “nothing that goes down the throat.” Another said (and he had several disciples) that he would not take the medicine “for fear it should make him a Christian.” One man, who has fever, took away four quinine powders yesterday for four days, and came back today deaf and giddy, saying that I have killed him. He had taken them all at once!

It is very pleasant to see how very fond the men are of their children, and how tender and loving they are to their little girls. The small children are almost always pretty, but by three years old the grace and innocence of childhood are completely lost, and as in Persia there are no child faces; indeed, the charm of childhood scarcely survives the weaning-day. If they are sick the fathers carry them for miles on their backs for medicine, and handle them very gently, and take infinite pains to understand about the medicine and diet. Even if both father and mother come with a child, the man always carries it, holds it, is the spokesman, and takes the directions. Several men have offered me mares and cows if I will cure their children. All the “patients” ask finally, “What must I eat, and not eat?”

The Bakhtiaris have often asked me whether it is unwholesome to live so much as they do on cheese and sour milk. They attribute much of their dyspepsia to their diet. They live principally on mast or curdled milk, buttermilk, cheese, roghan or clarified butter, nān, a thin leavened cake, made of wheat or acorn flour, bannocks of barley meal, celery pickled in sour milk, kabobs occasionally, and broth flavoured with celery stalks and garlic frequently. They never use fresh milk. They eat all fruits, whether wild or cultivated, while they are quite unripe. Almonds are eaten green.

They hunt the ibex and shoot the francolin and the bustard, and make soup of them. They are always on the hills after game, and spare nothing that they see. I have seen them several times firing at red-legged partridges sitting on their nests. They use eggs considerably, boiling them hard. Alcohol in any form is unknown among them, and few, except the Khans, have learned the delights of tea and coffee. Buttermilk, pure water, and sharbat, when they can get lime-juice, are their innocent beverages. The few who drink tea use it chiefly to colour and flavour syrup. They eat twice in the day. Though their out-of-doors life is healthy and their diet simple, they rarely attain old age. A man of sixty is accounted very old indeed. The men are certainly not polite to their wives, and if they get in their way or mine they kick them aside, just as rough men kick dogs.


Fording the Karun.

We have been marching through comparatively lowland scenery, like the Chahar Mahals, from which we are not far. At Shamisiri, except for the fine peak of Dilleh, there are no heights to arrest the eye. The hills on the north side are low, gravelly, and stony, with perpendicular outbreaks of rock near their summits. To the south they are of a different formation, with stratification much contorted. The next march was over low stony hills, with scanty herbage and much gum tragacanth, camel thorn, and the Prosopis stephaniana, down a steep descent into the Karun valley, where low green foot-hills, cultivated levels, and cultivation carried to a great altitude on the hillsides refresh the tired eyes. The Karun, liberated for a space from its imprisonment in the mountains, divides into several streams, each one a forcible river, winds sinuously among the grass, gleams like a mirror, and by its joyous, rapid career gives animation to what even without it would be at this season a very smiling landscape. Crossing the first ford in advance of the guide, we got into very deep water, and Screw was carried off his feet, but scrambled bravely to a shingle bank, where we waited for a native, who took us by long and devious courses to the left bank. The current is strong and deep, and the crossing of the caravan was a very pretty sight.

We halted for Sunday at Berigun, an eminence on which are a ruinous fort, a graveyard with several lions rampant, and a grove of very fine white poplars, one of them eighteen feet in circumference six feet from the ground. A sea of wheat in ear, the Karun in a deep channel in the green plateau, some herbage-covered foot-hills, and opposite, in the south-west, the great rocky, precipitous mass of the Zard Kuh range, with its wild crests and great snow-fields, made up a pleasant landscape. The heat at this altitude of 8280 feet, and in the shade, was not excessive.

The next day’s march was short and uninteresting, partly up the Karun valley, and partly over gravelly hills with very scanty herbage and no camps, from which we came down abruptly into the elevated plain of Cheshmeh Zarin (the Golden Fountain) at a height of 8500 feet, the plain being about five miles by two and a half. Receding hills with some herbage upon them border the plateau, and the Zard Kuh, though at some distance, apparently blocks up the western end. A powerful spring bursts from under a ridge of rock half-way down the plain, and becomes at once a clear gentle stream, fifty feet broad, which passes through the level green sward in a series of turns which are quite marvellous. Smooth sward, green barley, many yoke of big oxen ploughing up rich black soil, dark flocks of thousands of sheep and goats, asses, mares, mules, cows, all feeding, large villages of black tents, one of them surrounding the white pavilion of a Khan, saddle-horses tethered, flocks being led to and fro, others being watered, laden asses arriving and departing, butter being churned, and carpets being woven, form a scene of quiet but busy industry which makes one feel quite “in the world.” This stream is one of the chief sources of the Zainderud.

From this cheerful camping-ground we marched over low hills, forded the Zainderud several times, and came upon several Ilyat camps on low, rich pasture lands. These nomads had no tents, but dwelt in booths without fronts, the roofs and backs being made of the tough yellow flowering stalks of the celery. The path follows the left bank of the river, there a full, broad stream, flowing through the Tang-i-Ghezi, through rounded hills, and scenery much like that of the Cheviots. At the Tang-i-Ghezi we camped, and this morning crossed a low hill into a heavily-grassed valley watered by the Kherson, ascended a shoulder of Gargunak, and halted at Aziz Khan’s tents, where the women were very hospitable, bringing out cows’ milk, and allowing themselves to be photographed.

An unpleasant contretemps occurred to me while we were marching through some very lonely hills. If Mirza rides as he should, behind me, his mule always falls out of sight, and he is useless, so lately I have put him in front. To-day I dropped a glove, and after calling and whistling to him vainly, got off and picked it up, for I am reduced to one pair, but attempt after attempt to get on again failed, for each time, as I put my hand on the saddle, Screw nimbly ran backwards, and in spite of my bad knee I had to lead him for an hour before I was missed, running a great risk of being robbed by passing Lurs. When Mirza did come back he left his mule in a ravine, exposed to robbers, and Aziz Khan was so infuriated that he threatened to “cut his throat.” Aziz despises him as a “desk-bred” man for his want of “out-doorishness,” and mimics the dreamy, helpless fashion in which he sits on his mule, but Mirza can never be provoked into any display of temper or discourtesy.

From Aziz’s camp we had a very steep and rugged descent to this place, Cheshmeh Dima, where we have halted for two days. Three streams, the head-waters of the Zainderud, have their sources in this neighbourhood, and one of them, the Dima, rises as a powerful spring under a rock here, collects in a basin, and then flows away as a full-fledged river. The basin or pool has on one side a rocky hill, with the ruins of a fort upon it, and on the three others low stone walls of very rude construction. The Lurs, who soon came about us, say that the ruined fort was the pleasure palace of a great king who coined money here. The sides of the valley are dotted with camps. Opposite are the large camp and white tent of Chiragh Ali Khan, a chief who has the reputation of being specially friendly in his views of England.

The heat yesterday was overpowering, and the crowds of Bakhtiari visitors and of sick people could hardly be received with benevolent equanimity. This great heat at an altitude of 7600 feet is most disappointing. These head-waters of the Zainderud, rising in and beautifying the Zarin, Kharba, and Dima valleys, unite before reaching the Tang-i-Ghezi, from which they pass to Isfahan, and are, as has been stated before, eventually lost in a swamp. This is the most watery region I have seen in Persia. Besides the gushing, powerful springs which form vigorous streams at the moment of their exit from the mountain sides, there are many moist, spongy places in the three valleys, regularly boggy, giving out a pleasant squish under a horse’s tread, and abounding in plants associated in my ideas with Highland bogs, such as the Drosera rotundifolia, which seems to thrive on a small red fly unknown to me. These waters and swampy places occupy a small area, just within the Outer range, below the southern slopes of the Kuh-i-Rang.

From this place I made an expedition of thirty miles up a very fine valley, much of which is irrigated and cultivated, by an ascent of 2500 feet to the Gal-i-Bard-i-Jamal, a pass 10,500 feet in altitude, with a tremendous descent into an apparent abyss, from whose blue depths rise the imposing mass of the Kuh-i-Shahan, and among other heights Faidun, a striking peak of naked rock, superimposed on a rocky ridge. At this height the air was really cool, and it was an escape from the heat of Dima.

This region seems much disturbed. We heard of bloodshed two days ago, and today in the Kharba valley of fighting among the Kuh-i-Shahan mountains with the loss of twelve lives, and horsemen passed us armed with long guns and swords on their way to tribal war. I fear I shall have to return to Isfahan. Things are regarded as looking very precarious farther on, and every movement, retrograde or forward, is beset with difficulties.

I. L. B.

Letter xvii

From Dima we ascended to high tablelands, having the snowy Zard Kuh ever in sight, one nameless peak being at present pure white, and descended into and crossed the Shorab, a fertile valley, on one side of which is the famous cleft called Kar Kanun, an artificial gash across a spur of the Kuh-i-Rang of the same name. After winding among mountains we descended on the Karun, whose waters, clear, rapid, and peacock-green, fertilise a plain of fine flowery turf lying at the base of hills, with another branch of the Karun between them and the Zard Kuh.

It is a lovely plain, bright and smiling, contrasting with the savage magnificence of the Zard Kuh, which comes down upon it with its peaks, chasms, and precipices, and glittering fields of unbroken snow. It was given up to mares and foals, but green platforms high above, and little hollows in the foot-hills were spotted with Ilyat tents, and in the four days which we spent there the camps were never free from Ilyat visitors. The Sahib came in the first evening with one man badly hurt, and another apparently in the first stage of rheumatic fever. A small tent was rigged for this poor fellow, who was in intense pain and quite helpless, with a temperature of 104°, and every joint swollen. The usual remedies had no effect on him. I had had a present of a small quantity of salol, a newish drug, with directions for its use, and his master Hadji undertook to make him take it regularly, and hot tea when he fancied it, and at the end of twenty-two hours he was not only free from fever but from pain, and was able to mount a mule.53

There are two definite objects of interest close to the plain of Chaman Kushan, the reputed source of the Karun and the great artificial cleft of Kar Kanun. I visited the first on a misty day, which exaggerated the height of the mountains, and by filling their chasms with translucent blue atmosphere gave a rare loveliness to the whole, for it must be said that the beauties of Persian scenery are usually staring, hard, and unveiled. The fords of two or three rivers, including the Karun, some steep ascents and descents, a rough ride along a stony slope of the Zard Kuh, and the crossing of a very solid snow-bridge took us to the top of a cliff exactly opposite the powerful springs in which the Karun has its reputed origin.

Over this source towers the mighty range of the Zard Kuh — a colossal mountain barrier, a mass of yellow and gray limestone, with stupendous snow-filled chasms, huge precipices, and vast snow-fields, treeless and destitute of herbage except where the tulip-studded grass runs up to meet the moisture from the snow-fields. It is the birthplace of innumerable torrents, but one alone finds its way to the sea.

These springs are in a lateral slit in a lofty limestone precipice below a snow-field, at one end of which, as if from a shaft, the most powerful of them wells up, and uniting with the others in a sort of grotto of ferns and mosses pours over a ledge in a sheet of foam, a powerful waterfall, and slides away, a vigorous river of a wonderful blue-green colour, under a snow-bridge, starting full fledged on its course. The surroundings of this spring are wild and magnificent. A few Bakhtiaris crept across the lower part of the face of rock, and perched themselves above it. The roar of the water, now loud, now subdued, made wild music, and the snow-bridges added to the impressiveness of the scene.


Sar-i-chesmeh-i-kurang

Of course the geographical interest of this region is engrossing.54 This remarkable spring, called by the Bakhtiaris Sar-i-Cheshmeh-i-Kurang (“the head source of the Kurang”), and until this journey held to be the real source, is not, however, the actual birthplace of the Karun or Kurang, which was afterwards traced up to its headwaters in the magnificent Kuh-i-Rang.55

A few words on this, the one real river of which Persia can boast, and which seems destined to play an important part in her commercial future, will not be out of place. From its source it is a powerful and important stream, full, deep, and flowing with great velocity for much of its upper course between precipices varying in height from 1000 to 3000 feet. It is a perennial stream, fordable in very few places, and then only in its upper waters. Varying in width usually from fifty to a hundred yards, it is compressed at the Pul-i-Ali-kuh into a breadth of about nine feet.

The steepness and height of its banks make it in general useless for irrigation purposes, but some day it may be turned to account as a great “water power.” Its windings, dictated by the singular formation of the mountain ranges (for I reject the idea of it having “carved” its channel), are almost phenomenal. After flowing south-east for a hundred miles from its source, it makes an acute bend, flows for fifty miles to the south-west, and then making another fantastic turn it flows in an exactly opposite direction to that of its earlier course, proceeding north-west to Shuster for a hundred miles.

It is calculated that the distance from the Kuh-i-Rang to Shuster as the crow flies is seventy-five miles, but the distance travelled by the waters of the Karun is 250 miles, with an aggregate fall of 9000 feet.

Besides being fed on its journey through the Bakhtiari country by many mountain-side fountain springs of pure fresh water, as well as by salt streams and springs, it receives various tributaries, among the most important of which are the Ab-i-Bazuft and a stream which, though known locally under various names, may be called from the Chigakhor basin in which it rises the Ab-i-Chigakhor, which makes a course of ninety miles to get over a distance of twenty; the Darkash Warkash flowing in from the Chahar Mahals near Ardal, the Dinarud rising in the fair valley of Gorab, and the Ab-i-Cherri or Duab.

This mountain range, the Zard Kuh, in whose steep side at a height of over 8000 feet the Sar-i-Cheshmeh-i-Kurang wells up so grandly, is rather a series of rock summits and precipices than a range of mountains. In late June its naked shelves and battlements upbore great snow-fields, and its huge rifts or passes — the Gil-i-Shah, nearly 11,700 feet in altitude, and the Pambakal, 11,400 — were full of snow. But even in four days it melted rapidly, and probably by August little remains except a few patches, in the highest and most sunless of the rifts. It is only on the north side that the snow lasts even into July.


Zard Kuh Range.

The marked features of this range are its narrow wall-like character, its ruggedness on both sides, its absence of any peaks rising very remarkably above the ordinary jagged level of the barrier, its lack of prominent spurs, and its almost complete nakedness. It is grand, but only under rare atmospheric conditions can it be termed beautiful. Its length may be about thirty miles. It runs from north-west to south-east. Some of its highest summits attain an elevation of 13,000 feet. Its name is a corruption of Sard Kuh, “cold mountain.”

After fording various snow streams and taking a break-neck goat track, we reached the great snow pass of Gil-i-Shah, by which the Bakhtiaris come up from the Shuster plains on the firm snow in spring, returning when the snow is soft in autumn by a very difficult track on the rocky ledges above. In the mist it looked the most magnificent and stupendous pass I had ever seen, always excepting the entrance to the Lachalang Pass in Lesser Tibet, and an atmospheric illusion raised the mountains which guard it up to the blue sky. I much wished to reach the summit, but in a very narrow chasm was fairly baffled by a wide rift in a sort of elevated snow-bridge which the mule could not cross, and camped there for some hours; but even there nomads crowded round my tent with more audacity in their curiosity than they usually show, and Mirza heard two of them planning an ingenious robbery.

The heat was very great when I returned, 100° in the shade, but rest was impossible, for numbers of mares and horses were tethered near my tent, and their riders, men and women, to the number of forty, seized on me, clamouring for medicines and eye lotions. I often wonder at the quiet gravity of Mirza’s face as he interprets their grotesque accounts of their ailments. A son of Chiragh Ali Khan came to tell me that the “Feringhi ointment” had cured a beautiful young woman of his tribe of an “abscess in her nose”! An instance of real benefit hardly consoles for many failures, and any cure increases the exhausting number of “patients.” On one day on that plain there was no rest between eleven and five.

Small events occurred tending to show that the good order which the Ilkhani’s government secures is chiefly round the centre of rule. Stories of tribal disputes with violence, and of fights arising out of blood feuds came in daily, and recent sword cuts and bullet wounds were brought to the Hakīm. One day there was a disturbance in camp owing to a man attacking Hassan for preventing a woman from entering my tent in my absence. I learned very soon after coming into this country that the Bakhtiaris are dangerously sensitive about their women, although the latter are unveiled and have an amount of latitude unusual in the East. I have more than once cautioned my servants on this point, for any supposed insult to a female relative of a Bakhtiari would have by custom to be wiped out in blood. This extreme sensitiveness has its good side, for even in the midst of the tribal wars and broils which are constantly occurring female honour is always secure, and a woman can travel safely alone through the wildest regions; a woman betraying her husband would, however, almost certainly be put to death. One night the camps were threatened by robbers, upon whom Aziz Khan fired.

Solitary as is now the general aspect of the surrounding country, it must have been crowded with workmen and their food providers within the last two centuries, for in the beginning of the seventeenth century Shah Abbas the Great, the greatest and most patriotic of modern Persian kings, in his anxiety to deliver Isfahan once for all from the risk of famine, formed and partly executed the design of turning to account the difference in level (about 300 feet) between the Karun and Zainderud, and by cleaving an intervening mountain spur to let the waters of the one pass into the other. The work of cleaving was carried on by his successors, but either the workmen failed to get through the flint which underlies the free-stone, or the downfall of the Sufari dynasty made an end of it, and nothing remains of what should have been a famous engineering enterprise but a huge cleft with tool marks upon it in the crest of the hill, “in length 300 yards, in breadth fifteen, and fifty feet deep.”56 Above it are great heaps of quarried stones and the remains of houses, possibly of overseers, and below are the remnants of the dam which was to have diverted the Karun water into the cleft.

On a cool, beautiful evening I came down from this somewhat mournful height to a very striking scene, where the peacock-blue branch from the Sar-i-Cheshmeh unites with the peacock-green stream from Kuh-i-Rang, the dark, high sides of their channels shutting out the mountains. Both rivers rush tumultuously above their union, but afterwards glide downwards in a smooth, silent volume of most exquisite colour, so deep as to be unfordable, and fringed with green strips of grass and innumerable flowers. On emerging from the ravine the noble mass of the Zard Kuh was seen rose-coloured in the sunset, its crests and spires of snow cleaving the blue sky, and the bright waters and flower-starred grass of the plain gave a smiling welcome home.

The next march was a very beautiful one, most of the way over the spurs and deeply-cleft ravines of the grand Kuh-i-Rang by sheep and goat tracks, and no tracks at all, a lonely and magnificent ride, shut in among mountains of great height, their spurs green with tamarisk, salvias, and euphorbias, their ravines noisy with torrents, bright springs bursting from their sides with lawn-like grass below, and their slopes patched with acres of deep snow, on whose margin purple crocuses, yellow ranunculuses, and white tulips were springing. But the grand feature of the march is not the mighty Kuh-i-Rang on the right, but the magnificent Zard Kuh on the left, uplifting its snow-fields and snow-crests into the blue of heaven, on the other side of an ever-narrowing valley. At the pass of Gal-i-Gav, 11,150 (?) feet in altitude, where we have halted for two days, the Zard Kuh approaches the Kuh-i-Rang so closely as to leave only a very deeply cleft ravine between them. From this pass there is a very grand view, not only of these ranges, but of a tremendous depression into which the pass leads, beyond which is the fine definite mountain Kuh-i-Shahan. This pass is the watershed between the Karun and Ab-i-Diz, though, be it remembered, the latter eventually unites with the former at Band-i-Kir. All is treeless.

The Kuh-i-Rang is the only “real mountain” seen on the journey hitherto. It is unlike all others, not only in its huge bulk and gigantic and far-reaching spurs, but in being clothed. Its name means the “variegated mountain.” It has much Devonshire red about it, but clad as it is now with greenery, its soil and rock ribs cannot be investigated.

It is a mountain rich in waters, both streams and springs. It is physically and geographically a centre, a sort of knot nearly uniting what have been happily termed the “Outer” and “Inner” ranges of the Bakhtiari mountains, and it manifestly divides the country into two regions, which, for convenience’ sake, have been felicitously termed the Bakhtiari country and Upper Elam, the former lying to the south-east and the latter to the north-west of this most important group of peaks, only just under 13,000 feet, which passes under the general name Kuh-i-Rang.

A prominent geographical feature of this region is that from this point south-eastwards the valleys rim parallel with the great ranges, and are tolerably wide and level, carrying the drainage easily and smoothly, with plenty of room for the fairly easy tracks which usually run on both banks of the rivers.

The reader who has followed the geographical part of my narrative will, I hope, have perceived that the openings through the Outer and Inner ranges in the region previously traversed are few and remarkable, the Tang-i-Ghezi and the Tang-i-Darkash Warkash piercing the Outer, and the Tang-i-Dupulan the Inner range.

The Kuh-i-Rang is the definite water-parting and the originating cause of two drainage systems, and it may be seen from the map, as was beautifully obvious from the summit of one of the peaks over 11,000 feet in height, that it marks a singular change in the “lie of the land,” inasmuch as the main drainage no longer runs parallel to the main ranges, but cuts them across, breaking up Upper Elam into a wild and confused sea of mountains, riven and gashed, without any attempt at uniformity.

This cutting through the ranges at right angles by rivers which somehow must reach the sea, probably through channels formed by some tremendous operations of nature, presents serious obstacles to the traveller, and must effectually prevent commerce flowing in that direction. The aspect of Upper Elam as seen from the Kuh-i-Rang is of huge walls of naked rock, occasionally opening out so as to give space for such a noble mountain as the Kuh-i-Shahan, with tremendous gorges or cañons among them, with sheer precipices 4000 and 5000 feet high, below which blue-green torrents, crystalline in their purity, rage and boom, thundering on their way to join the Ab-i-Diz. The valleys are short, and elevated from 6000 to 7000 feet, and the tracks dignified by the name of roads pass along them and at great altitudes on the sides of the main ranges, but are compelled continually to make dips and ascents of many thousand feet to reach and emerge from the fords of the rivers which dash through the magnificent rifts and cañons.

To the south-east of the Kuh-i-Rang the formation is orderly and intelligible; to the north-west all is confusion and disorder, but a sublime confusion. Two great passes to the north and south of this magnificent mountain are the only ways of communication between the region of Upper Elam and the Bakhtiari country. The northern pass was ascended from Dima. The Kharba, one of the head-streams of the Zainderud, rises on it and fertilises a beautiful valley about fourteen miles in length. That pass, the Gal-i-Bard-i-Jamal (the pass of Jamal’s stone), the stone being a great detached rock near the summit, and the Gal-i-Gav (the Cattle Pass) on the southern side, are both over 10,000 feet in altitude. They are seldom traversed by the natives, and only in well-armed parties, as both are very dangerous.

The Kuh-i-Rang must now be regarded as the true birthplace of the Zainderud and the Karun, though their sources have hitherto been placed in the Zard Kuh. A tributary of the Ab-i-Diz, and locally considered as its head-water, rises also in the Kuh-i-Rang.


Aziz Khan.

Aziz Khan, who had gone to his tents, has returned with a very nice young servant and another mare, and with him noise and “go.” He has such a definite personality, and is so energetic in his movements, that the camps are dull without him. He is a fearful beggar. He asks me for something every day, and for things he can make no possible use of, simply out of acquisitiveness. He has got from me among many other things a new embroidered saddle-cloth, a double-bladed knife, an Indian kamarband, many yards of silk, a large pair of scissors, bracelets for his wife and daughter, and working materials, and now he has set his heart on a large combination knife, which is invaluable to me. “What use is that knife to a woman?” he asks daily. Now he says that I have given him many things but I have never given him money, and he must have a purse of money.

“Why can you do so much more than our women?” he often asks. His astonishment that I can read, and yet more that I can write, is most amusing. “Can many women in your country write?” he asked. “Can your Queen read and write? Can she embroider as you do?” At first he thought that I only pretended to write, but was convinced when I sent a letter to the Ilkhani.

He usually appears when a number of sick people come, interprets their dialect into good Persian for Mirza, and beats and pelts them with stones when they crowd too closely, but they do not care. Sometimes when I say that nothing that I have can do a sick person any good he begs “for my sake” that I will try, and when I still decline he goes away in a tantrum, cursing, and shaking his wide shulwars with an angry strut, but is soon back again with fresh demands.

He spreads his prayer-carpet and goes through his devotions thrice a day, but somehow “Aziz Khan praying” seems to suggest some ludicrous idea, even to his coreligionists. “Feringhis don’t fear God,” he said to me; “they never worship.” I told him he was wrong, that many are very devout. He said, “Does —— pray?” mentioning a European. I said “Most certainly,” and he walked away with the sneering laugh of a fiend. He is a complete child of nature. He says what he thinks, and acts chiefly as he pleases, but withal there is a gentlemanliness and a considerable dignity about him. I think that his ruling religion is loyalty to Isfandyar Khan, and consequent hatred of the Ilkhani and all his other enemies. Going through a pantomimic firing of an English rifle he said, “I hope I may shoot the Shah with this one day!” “For what reason?” I asked. “Because he murdered Isfandyar Khan’s father, and I hate him.” I asked him if he liked shooting, and he replied, “I like shooting men!”

He has done a good deal of fighting, and has been shot through the lung, arm, and leg, besides getting sword cuts, and he takes some pride in showing his wounds. I think he is faithful. Mirza says that he has smoothed many difficulties, and has put many crooked things straight, without taking any credit to himself. His most apparent faults are greed and a sort of selfish cunning.

There are many camps about the Gal-i-Gav, and crowds, needing very careful watching, are always about the tents, wanting to see Feringhi things, most of the people never having seen a Feringhi. It is a novel sight in the evenings when long lines of brown sheep in single file cross the snow-fields, following the shepherds into camp.

This Gal-i-Gav on the Kuh-i-Rang marks a new departure on the journey, as well as the establishment of certain geographical facts. It will be impossible for the future to place the source of the Karun in the Zard Kuh range, for we followed the stream up to the Kuh-i-Rang, or to indulge in the supposition that the mountains which lie to the north-west are “covered with eternal snow,” which in this latitude would imply heights from 17,000 to 20,000 feet.

It is indeed a disappointment that, look where one may over the great area filled up by huge rock barriers and vast mountains, from the softer ridges bounding the fiery Persian plains to the last hills in which the Inner range descends upon the great alluvial levels of Khuzistan, not a peak presents itself in the glittering snowy mantle which I have longed to see. Snow in forlorn patches or nearly hidden in sunless rifts, and the snow-fields of the Zard Kuh will remain for a time, but eternal snow is — nowhere, and it does not appear that the highest of the peaks much exceeds 13,000 feet, either in Upper Elam or the Bakhtiari country.

Great difficulties are ahead, not only from tracks which are said to be impassable for laden animals, but from the disturbed state of the country. From what I hear from Aziz Khan and from the guides who have come up here, I gather that the power of the Ilkhani, shaky enough even nearer Ardal, all but dwindles away here, and is limited to the collection of the tribute, the petty Khans fighting among themselves, and doing mainly what is right in their own eyes.

It is somewhat of a satisfaction to me that it is impossible now to go back, and that a region absolutely unexplored lies ahead, doubtless full, as the previously untraversed regions have been, of surprises and interests.

I. L. B.

53 For the benefit of other travellers I add that the dose of salol was ten grains every three hours. I found it equally efficacious afterwards in several cases of acute rheumatism with fever. I hope that the general reader will excuse the medical and surgical notes given in these letters. I am anxious to show the great desire for European medical aid, and the wide sphere that is open to a medical missionary, at least for physical healing.

54 A few geographical paragraphs which follow here and on p. 35 are later additions to the letter.

55 Although the correct name of this river is undoubtedly Kurang, I have throughout adopted the ordinary spelling Karun, under which it is commercially and politically known.

56 Six Months in Persia.— Stack.

Letter xviii

A descent of 5000 feet brought us into the grand and narrow gorge of the Sahid stream, with willow, walnut, oak, maple, pear, and crab along its banks, knotted together by sprays of pink roses, with oaks higher up, and above them again overhanging mountains of naked rock, scorched, and radiating heat.

Quite suddenly, after a steep ascent, there is a view of a steep slope below, where a lateral ravine comes down on the Sahid, green with crops of wheat and barley, poplars, willows, and a grove of fine walnuts, and more wonderful still, with an imamzada in good repair, and a village, also named Sahid, in which people live all the year. The glen is magnificent, and is the one spot that I have seen in Persia which suggests Switzerland.

It is a steep and difficult descent through a walnut grove to the village, and before I knew it I was on the roof of a house. The village is built in ten steps up the steep hillside, the posts which support one projecting roof resting on the back of the roof below.

The people were timid and suspicious, gave untrue replies to questions at first, said we were “doing talisman to take their country,” and consulted in Aziz’s and Mirza’s hearing how they might rob us. It was even difficult to get them to bring fodder for the horses. They were fanatical and called us Kafirs. Some of the women have never been out of their romantic mountain-walled hole, in which they are shut up by snow for four months every winter. Ten families live there, each one possessing a step. They said they owned sixty-five goats and sheep, five cows, and seven asses; that they sell their wheat, and salt from a salt spring at the back of the hill, and that their food is chiefly acorn flour made into bread, curds, and wild celery.

This bread is made from the fruit of the Quercus ballota, which is often nearly three inches long. The acorns are not gathered, but picked up when they fall. The women bruise them between stones to expel the bitter juices. They are afterwards reduced to flour, which is well washed to remove the remaining bitterness, and dried in the sun. It is either made into thin cakes and baked, or is mixed into a paste with buttermilk and water and eaten raw. The baked cakes are not very unpalatable, but the paste is nauseous. Acorn flour is never used from choice.

The grain is exchanged for blue cottons and tobacco. It is not possible to imagine a more isolated life. Tihran and Isfahan are names barely known to these people, and the Shah is little more to them than the Czar.

Near the imamzada of Sahid is a burial-ground, rendered holy by the dust of a pir or saint who lies there. It has many headstones, and one very large gray stone lion, on whose sides are rude carvings of a gun, a sword, a dagger, a powder-flask, and a spear. On a few low headstones a peculiar comb is carved, denoting that the grave is that of a woman.

To several stones long locks of hair are attached, some black and shining, others dead-looking and discoloured. It is customary for the Bakhtiari women to sacrifice their locks to the memory of their husbands and other near male relatives.

I think that they have a great deal of conjugal and family affection, though their ways are rough, and that they mourn for their dead for a considerable time. On one grave a young woman was rocking herself to and fro, wailing with a sound like the Highland coronach, but longer and more despairing. She was also beating her uncovered bosom rhythmically, and had cut her face till the blood came. So apparently absorbed was she in her grief that she took no notice of a Feringhi and an Indian. She had been bereaved of her husband for a year, his life having been sacrificed in a tribal fight.

The next two days were occupied in what might well be called “mountaineering” on goat tracks; skirting great mountain spurs on shelving paths not always wide enough for a horse’s two feet alongside of each other, with precipitous declivities of 1000 or 2000 feet; ascending on ledges of rock to over 9000 feet, then by frightful tracks descending 2000 or 3000 but to climb again; and at every descent always seeing in front dizzy zigzags surmounting the crest of some ragged ridge, only, as one knows, to descend again. Screw nearly fell over backwards with me once and again, and came down a smooth face of rock as mules sometimes come down a snow slide in Switzerland. I was told that I should “break my neck” many times, that no Bakhtiari had ever ridden over these tracks, or ever would, but my hurt knee left me no choice. These tracks are simply worn by the annual passage of the nomads and their flocks. They are frightful beyond all description. The worst paths in Ladak and Nubra are nothing to them.

Occasionally we traversed deep ravines with noisy torrents where the shade was dense, and willows, ash, walnut, cherry, elm, plum, and oak were crowded together, with the Juniperus excelsa in rifts above. With a moist climate it would be a glorious land, but even where the scenery is finest there is always something lacking. There is no atmosphere. All is sharp, colourless, naked. Even many of the flowers are queer, and some are positively ugly. Many have thorns, some are leather-like, others woolly, a few sticky. Inconspicuous flowers and large leathery leaves are very common. The seed-vessels of some are far prettier than the flowers, and brighter in colour. In several the calyx grows after the corolla has withered, and becomes bright pink or orange, like a very gay but only partially-opened blossom. Umbelliferæ predominate this month. Compositæ too are numerous. All, even bulbs, send down their roots very deep.

After leaving camp yesterday and crossing a high pass we descended into the earth’s interior, only to ascend a second pass by a steep zigzag. Suddenly a wall of rock appeared as if to bar progress, but on nearing it a narrow V-shaped slit was seen to afford a risky passage, offering no other foothold than smooth shelving rock on the inside for a number of yards, with a precipice above on the right and below on the left. Ledges of slippery rock led up to it, and Screw was jumping and scrambling up these when the guides howled to me to stop, and I was lifted off somehow. The white Arab was rolling and struggling in the V, Screw following lost his footing, and the two presented a confusion of hoofs and legs in the air and bodies struggling and rolling through the slit till they picked themselves up with cut legs. The guides tried vainly to find some way by which the caravans which followed much later might avoid this risk, and the Agha went down the pass which had been so laboriously ascended to give directions for its passage.

The charvadars on reaching the difficulty made attempts to turn it but failed; some loads were taken off and carried by men, and each mule struggled safely through with one man at his head, and one or two supporting him by his tail. The passage of the V took the caravan an hour, but meantime there was the enjoyment of the sight of a confused mass of mountains, whitish precipitous ranges, sun-lit, with tremendous ravines between them, lying in the cool blue shadows of early morning; mountains with long straight summits, mountains snow-covered and snow-slashed, great spires of naked rock, huge ranges buttressed by huge spurs herbage-covered, with outcrops of barren rock — a mighty, solitary, impressive scene, an uplifted wilderness without a camp.

The descent of 4000 feet from this summit consists of any number of zigzag tracks on the narrow top of the narrow ridge of one of the huge rocky buttresses of Gartak, both sides being precipitous. Even on the horse I was dizzy, and he went down most unwillingly, not taking any responsibility as to finding the safest way, and depending solely on my eye and hand. Mirza, being hampered with the care of his own mule, was useless, and otherwise I was alone. These thready zigzags ended on what appeared to be a precipice, from the foot of which human voices came up, shouting to me to dismount. I did so, and got down, hanging on to Screw’s bridle, and letting myself down over the ledges by my hands for another hour, having to be careful all the time to avoid being knocked down by his slips and jumps. I could hardly get him to face some of the smooth broken faces of rock. A slide of gravel, a snow-bridge, worn thin, over a torrent, and some slippery rock ledges to scramble over by its side led to a pathless ascent through grass and bushes. The guides and Aziz roared to me from a valley below, by which roars I found my way down a steep hillside to the Gokun, a mountain river of a unique and most beautiful blue-green colour, abounding in deep pools from which it emerges in billows of cool foam.

I forded it by a broad ford where crystal-green water glides calmly over brown and red pebbles, with a willow-shaded margin, and as I crossed a flock of long-bearded goats swam and jumped from rock to rock from the other side, the whole scene an artist’s dream. This valley has magnificent pasturage, hay not yet “sun cured,” long grass, and abundant clover and vetches brightened by a profuse growth of a small helianthus.

The march over the Gokun Pass and down to the Gokun river is the worst I ever made. Had the track been in Ladak or Lahoul it would have been marked on the Government maps “impassable for laden animals.” Yet Hadji’s splendid mules, held at times by both head and tail, accomplished it, and only minor disasters occurred. One mule had his head gashed, Mirza had a bad fall, and broke my milk bottle, Hassan, leading his own horse, fell twenty feet with the animal and cut his arm, the ridge pole of my tent was broken, and is with difficulty bandaged so as to hold, and some of the other baggage was damaged. Hadji grumbles politely, and says that “in all time loaded mules were never taken over such tracks,” and I believe him. Aziz says that I must be “tired of life,” or I should never ride over them, and certainly Screw carried me at the peril of his life and mine.

The camps are pitched for Sunday at an altitude of 8000 feet, high above the river — mine under the befriending shade of a colossal natural sphinx, so remarkable that two photographs and a sketch by Mirza were taken of it. It confronted us in a startling way, a grand man’s head with a flowing wig and a legal face, much resembling the photographs of Lord Chancellor Hatherley.

The mules have been poorly fed for the last few days, and it is pleasant to see them revelling in the abundant pasturage. After this tremendous nine hours’ march they came in quite cheerily, Cock o’ the Walk leading the caravan, with his fighting face on, shaking his grand mane, and stamping as if he had not walked a mile.

The Sunday has been a very quiet one, except for the fighting of the horses, which seem intent on murdering each other, the fussiness of Aziz about a cut which his mare got yesterday, and for which he expects my frequent attention, and the torment of the sand-flies, which revel in the heat which kills the mosquitos.

Kalahoma, July 11.— On Monday it was a pretty march from the shadow of the sphinx through a well-irrigated and cultivated valley with many camps, and by a high pass, to the neighbourhood of the Kuh-i-Shahan, on which I rested for some hours at a height of 12,010 feet, the actual summit being somewhat higher. On its north-east side the view was hideous, of scorched, rolling gravel hills and wide scorched valleys, with two winding streams, and some patches of wheat surrounding two scorched mud villages.

The descent to Camp Kamarun, a deep ravine with a rapid mountain stream, was blessed by a shower, which cooled the air, and resulted in the only grand, stormy, wild sunset that I have seen for months. This valley is blocked at the east end by Gargunaki, on the west by the Kala Kuh, and the rocky ranges of Faidun and the Kuh-i-Shahan close in its sides.

Long, long ago tradition says a certain great chief had eleven sons. They quarrelled and divided into hostile factions of four and seven, forming the still hostile groups of the Chahar Lang and the Haft Lang of today. For some time past the ruling dynasty has been of the Haft Lang division; Aziz also belongs to it, and we have been almost entirely among its tribes hitherto. This ancient feud, though modified in intensity, still exists. At this camp we were among tribes of the Chahar Lang, and there was reason to apprehend robbery and a night attack; so careful arrangements were made, and the men kept guard by turns.

The following day’s march, which was also pretty, included a long descent through a cultivated valley, with willows, plums, and walnuts growing along a stream, and a steep ascent and descent to the two villages of Masir on well-cultivated slopes, belonging to Taimur Khan, the chief of the powerful Magawe tribe, to whom the villagers pay what they call a moderate “rent” in sheep, goats, and grain. They are of the Chahar Lang, and deny that they are under the Ilkhani’s rule. They had a fight with a tribe of the Haft Lang ten days ago, killed twelve men, had seven killed and wounded, and took some guns and horses. These, however, they have restored at the command of the Ilkhani, which contradicts their assertion.

They have a burial-ground with several very white lions rampant upon it, of most noble aspect, boldly carved, and with the usual bas-reliefs on their sides.

The camps were on a gravelly slope with a yellow glare, and the mercury reached 105°. The presence of villages in this country always indicates a comparatively warm climate, in which people can live throughout the winter. The Scripture phrase, “maketh the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice,” has come to bear a clear and vivid meaning. In this country, in this fiery latitude, life is merely a struggle from the time the sun has been up for two hours until he sinks very low. “There is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” One watches with dismay his flaming disc wheel into the cloudless sky, to blaze and scintillate mercilessly there for many terrible hours, scorching, withering, destroying, “turning a fruitful land into a desert,” bringing eye diseases in his train. With sunset, but not much before, comes a respite, embittered by sand-flies, and life begins to be possible; then darkness comes with a stride and the day is done.

Among the many people who came to the Hakīm was a man who had received a severe sword cut in the recent fight. I disliked his expression, and remarked on it to Mirza. On the next day’s march, though there were twelve men with the caravan, this man seized and made off with the handsome chestnut horse Karun, which was being led. The horse had a sore back and soon kicked off his rider and was recovered. On the same march Mujid was attacked, and under the threat of being stripped was obliged to give up all the money he had on his person. On the same day some women clamorously demanded bracelets, and when I did not give them two took hold of my bridle and one of my foot, and were dragging me off, when on Mirza coming up they let me go.

Marching among lower hills and broader valleys, irrigated and cultivated, with much wood along the streams and scattered on the lower slopes, we passed the inhabited villages of Tarsa and Sah Kala, surrounded by patches of buckwheat, vetches, and melons, and with much provision of kiziks for fuel on their roofs, and camped by the richly-wooded river Guwa, in a grove of fine trees, crossing its vigorous torrent the next morning by a wicker bridge, the Pul-i-Guwa. A long ascent among oaks, where the views of mountains and ravines were grand, an upland meadow where I found a white bee orchis, and a steep ascent among stones, brought us to the top of a pass 9650 feet in altitude. On its south-west side there is a very striking view of gorges of immense depth and steepness, through which the Guwa finds its way. To the north-east the prospect is of a very feeble country, which we entered by a tiresome gravelly descent, very open, composed of low hills with outcrops of rock at their summits, irrigated rolling valleys and plains, with deep rifts indicative of streams, and some Magawe villages.

Our route lay across the most scorched and gravelly part of the upper slopes of a wide valley, scantily sprinkled with blue eryngiums and a woolly species of artemisia, a very repulsive region, where herds of camels, kept for breeding purposes, were grazing. On the other side of this valley a spur of the fine mountain Jalanda projects, and on it are the two villages and fort of Kalahoma, the residence of Taimur Khan.

We halted below the hill while a spring was being searched for, and I was sitting on horseback eating my lunch, a biscuit in one hand and a cup in the other. I have mentioned the savagery of the horses, and especially of Hakīm, who has become like a wild beast. He was standing fully four horse-lengths away from me, with his tail towards me, and the guide had let go his bridle, when there was a roar or squeal, and a momentary vision of glaring wild-beast eyes, streaming mane, and open mouth rushing down upon me and towering above Screw’s head, and the next thing I remember is finding myself on the ground with my foot in the stirrup and three men lifting me up.

I was a good deal shaken, and cut my arm badly, but mounted again, and though falling on my head has given me a sickish headache for two days, I have not absolutely required rest, and in camp there is no use in “making a fuss”— if indeed there ever is.

I shall not have pleasant memories of this camp. The tents were scarcely pitched before crowds assembled for medicine. I could get no rest, for if I shut the tent the heat was unbearable, and if I opened it there was the crowd, row behind row, the hindmost pushing the foremost in, so that it was 8 P.M. before I got any food. Yesterday morning at six I was awakened by people all round the tent, some shaking the curtains and calling “Hakīm! Hakīm!” and though I kept it shut till eleven, and raised the mercury to 115° by doing so, there was no rest.

From eleven o’clock till 9 P.M., except for one hour, when I was away at the Khan’s, I was “seeing patients,” wishing I were a real instead of a spurious Hakīm, for there was so much suffering, and some of it I knew not how to relieve. However, I was able (thanks to St. Mary’s Hospital, London) to open three whitlows and two abscesses, and it was delightful to see the immediate relief of the sufferers. “God is great,” they all exclaimed, and the bystanders echoed, “God is great.” I dressed five neglected bullet wounds, and sewed up a gash of doubtful origin, and with a little help from Mirza prepared eye-lotions and medicines for seventy-three people. I asked one badly-wounded man in what quarrel he had been shot, and he replied that he didn’t know, his Khan had told him to go and fight.

In the afternoon several very distressed people were brought from an Armenian village ten miles off, and were laid by those who brought them at the tent door. At five the crowd was very great and the hubbub inconceivable, and Mirza failed to keep order in the absence of Aziz Khan, who had gone on a pilgrimage to a neighbouring imamzada. The mercury had never fallen below 100°. I had been standing or kneeling for six hours, and had a racking headache, so I reluctantly shut up my medicine chest and went by invitation to call on the Khan’s wives, but the whole crowd surrounded and followed me, swelling as it moved along, a man with a mare with bad eyes, which had been brought ten miles for eye-lotion, increasing the clamour by his urgency. “Khanum! Khanum!” (lady) “Chashma!” (eyes) “Shikam!” (stomach) were shouted on all sides, with “Hakīm! Hakīm!” The people even clutched my clothing, and hands were raised to heaven to implore blessings on me if I would attend to them.

The whole village of Kalahoma was out, thronging, pressing, and almost suffocating me, and the Khan’s servants who came to meet me did not or could not disperse the people, though every man holds his life at the Khan’s disposal. These villages, which are surrounded by opium fields, are composed of the rudest of human habitations, built of rough stones, the walls being only five feet high. There is much subterranean room for cattle. The stacks of such winter fodder as celery and Centaurea alata, and those of kiziks for fuel, are larger than the dwellings. The latter are of conical form, and many of them are built on the house roofs.

Taimur Khan’s fort and serai are in the midst of all this, and are very poor and ruinous, but the walls are high, and they have a balakhana. As I approached the ladies came out to meet me, veiled in white cotton chadars. The principal wife took my hand and led me through a hole in the wall, not to be called a doorway, into a courtyard littered with offal and piled with stacked animal fuel, and up some high dilapidated steps, into a small dark room, outside of which are a very small “lobby” and a blackened ladder against the wall, leading to the roof, on which the ladies sleep in the hot weather. Some poor rugs covered the floor, and there were besides some poor cotton-covered bolsters. Everything, even the dress of the ladies, indicated poverty. The dark hot room was immediately packed with a crowd of women, children, and babies, all appallingly dirty. It was a relief when the Khan was announced in the distance, and they cleared out like frightened sheep, leaving only the four wives, who stood up at his approach, and remained standing till he was seated.

No “well-bred” Khan would pay me a visit in his andarun without sending first with his “homage” to know if I would receive him, nor did Taimur Khan violate this rule or the other of remaining standing until I asked him to be seated. He is a tall, very melancholy-looking man, with a Turkish cast of face, and is dressed in the usual Persian style. After a few ordinary commonplaces he talked politics and tribal affairs, apparently frankly, but who can say if truthfully? He knows that I have letters from the Prime Minister, and he hoped that I might do him some good at Tihran. As soon as important subjects superseded trifles, the wives relapsed into complete indifference, and stared into vacancy.

His tribe, the Magawe, is estimated at 500 families, and has been powerful. Taimur Khan is a staunch adherent of the Ilkhani, but at this point there is a change as to the tribute, half of which is paid to the Ilkhani and half to the Governor of Burujird. He has many grievances, and complains most bitterly that he and his tribe are being ground into poverty by exactions which, he asserts, have this year raised the tribute from 700 to 4000 tumans.

He asks me to do something to help him, adding that his house is in ruins, and that he is so oppressed that he cannot build a new one, or have any surroundings suitable to his rank. I said that I could only send his statements to the British “Vakil” in Tihran, and he at once asked how many horses he should present him with. I replied that the “Vakil” would not accept anything, and that he had lately declined a superb diamond setting in which the Shah desired to send him his picture. The Khan raised his hands, with the exclamation “God is great!”

Isfandyar Khan and Taimur Khan were at war some years ago, and fought from mountain to mountain, and Taimur Khan was eventually captured, taken to Burujird, and sent to Isfahan, where he was kept in irons for some years, the redoubtable Aziz Khan being one of his captors. This accounts for the disappearance of Aziz on “pilgrimage” to a neighbouring imamzada, and the consequent dulness of the camp.

Among a people at once simple and revengeful, it is not unlikely that such severities may bear their legitimate fruit if an occasion presents itself, such as the embroilment of Persia with any other power. Another Khan who was thrown into prison and irons by the Zil-es-Sultan expressed himself strongly on the subject. “Five years,” he said, holding out his muscular wrists, on which the marks of fetters are still visible, “I wore the chains. Can I forget?” The Bakhtiaris do not love the Persians, and are held, I think, by a brittle thread.

I have written of the extreme poverty of the surroundings of the Khaja Taimur or Taimur Khan. It is not a solitary instance. Throughout this journey I am painfully impressed with the poverty of the tribesmen. As compared with the wealth of those farther south when visited by Sir A. H. Layard and the Baron de Bode, their condition is one of destitution. The Ilkhani and Ilbegi have fine studs, but few of the Khans have any horses worth looking at, and for some time past none at all have been seen except a few belonging to the chiefs, and the men either walk or ride very small asses.

Their cattle are few and small and their flocks insignificant when compared with those of the Arab tribes west of the Tigris. Their tents and furnishings are likewise extremely poor, and they live poorly, many of them only able to procure acorn flour for bread, and this though they grow a great deal of grain, and every yard of land is cultivated if water is procurable.

The hospitality which those two travellers mention as a feature of the character of the more southerly Bakhtiaris does not exist among these people. They have, in fact, little to be hospitable with. They all speak of better days in the times of their fathers, when they had brood mares and horses to ride, much pastoral wealth and plenty of roghan, and when their women could wear jewels and strings of coins.

On this point I believe them, though there may possibly be exaggeration in Taimur Khan’s statements. Persia has undoubtedly tightened her grip upon them, and she is sucking their life-blood out of them. This becomes very evident now that we have reached a point where the government of Burujird comes in, with the infinite unrighteousness of Persian provincial governors. It is not the tribute fixed by the Amin-es-Sultan which these Khans complain of, but the rapacious exactions of the local governors.

There is a “blood feud” between Taimur Khan and Aslam Khan, the chief of the Zalaki tribe, on whose territory we shall enter today. A nephew of Taimur killed a relation of Aslam, and afterwards Taimur sheltered him from legitimate vengeance. Just now the feud is very active, and cattle-lifting and other reprisals are going on. “Blood feuds” are of three degrees, according to the nature of the offence. In the first a man of the one tribe can kill a man of the other wherever he finds him. In the second he harries his cattle and goods. In the third he simply “boycotts” him and refuses him a passage through his territory. The Bakhtiaris have often been called “bloodthirsty.” I doubt whether they are so, though life is of little account, and they are reckless about spilling blood.

They have a great deal of family devotion, which in lesser degree extends to the members of their tribe, and a Bakhtiari often spares the life of a man who has aggrieved him owing to his fear of creating a blood feud, which must be transmitted from father to son, and which must affect the whole tribe. As a deterrent from acts of violence it acts powerfully, and may account for the singular bloodlessness of some of the tribal fights. Few men, unless carried away by a whirlwind of fury, care to involve a tribe in the far-reaching consequences alluded to, and bad as the custom of blood feuds is, I think there can be no doubt that it acts as a curb upon the passions of these wild tribesmen. “There is blood between us and them,” is a phrase often heard.

Punishments are simple and deterrent, well suited to a simple people. When a homicide is captured he is handed over to the relatives of the slain man, who may kill him, banish him, fine him, or pardon him. In point of fact, “blood-money” is paid to the family of the deceased person, and to save his life from their vengeance a homicide frequently becomes a mendicant on the other side of the mountains till he can gain the required sum. Moslem charity responds freely to a claim for alms to wipe out a blood stain. The Ilkhani has a right to fine a homicide. “Blood for blood” is a maxim very early inculcated.

The present feud between the Magawe and the Zalaki tribes is of the first degree. It is undoubtedly a part of the truly Oriental policy of Persia to foment tribal quarrels, and keep them going, with the object of weakening the power of the clans, which, though less so than formerly, is a standing menace to the central government.

On reaching camp after this visit I found a greater crowd than ever, and as “divers of them came from far,” I tried to help them till nine o’clock, and as Aziz had returned the crowding was not so severe. He said, “You’re very tired, send these people away, you’ve done enough.” I answered that one had never done enough so long as one could do more, and he made a remark which led me to ask him if he thought a Kafir could reach Paradise? He answered “Oh no!” very hastily, but after a moment’s thought said, “I don’t know, God knows, He doesn’t think as we do, He may be more merciful than we think. If Kafirs fear God they may have some Paradise to themselves, we don’t know.”

I. L. B.

Letter xviii (continued)57

The call to “Boot and Saddle” was at three, and I was nearly too tired to pack in the sultry morning air. The heat is overpowering. Khaja Taimur no doubt had reasons for a difficulty in providing guides, which caused delay. The track lay through pretty country, with abounding herbage, to the village and imamzada of Makhedi. There the guide said he dared not go any farther for fear of being killed, and after some time another was procured. During this delay a crowd of handsome but hardship-aged women gathered round me, many of them touching the handkerchiefs on their heads and then tapping the palms of their hands, a significant sign, which throughout Persia, being interpreted, means, “Give me some money.”

The Agha is in the habit of gathering the little girls about him and giving them krans as from his own children, a most popular proceeding usually; but here the people were not friendly, and very suspicious. Even the men asked me clamorously, “Why does he give them money? It’s poisoned, it’s cursed, it’s to make them blind.” However, avarice prevailed over fear. The people rarely see money, and it is not used as a medium of exchange, but they value it highly for paying the tribute and as ornaments for the women. Barter is the custom, and with regard to “tradesmen,” whether in camps or villages, it is usual for each family to pay so much grain annually to the blacksmith, the carpenter, the shoemaker —i.e. the man who makes compressed rag or leather soles for ghevas and unites the cotton webbing (“upper”) to the sole — and the hammam keeper, in the rare cases where there is one. They were cutting wheat on July 12 there at an altitude of 7000 feet. Where there are only camps the oxen tread it out at once on the hard soil of the fields, but where there is a village the sheaves are brought in on donkeys’ backs to a house roof of sun-dried clay, and are there trodden out, the roofs being usually accessible from the slope above.

We descended to a deep ford, crossed the river Ab-i-Baznoi (locally known as Kakulistan, or “the curl,” from its singular windings), there about sixty feet wide, with clear rapid water of a sky-blue tint, very strong, and up to the guide’s waist, and entered a steep-sided stony valley, where the heat was simply sickening. There the second guide left us, saying he should be killed if he went any farther, but another was willing to succeed him. After a steep ascent we emerged on a broad rolling upland valley, deeply gashed by a stream, with the grand range of the Kala Kuh on the south side, and low bare hills on the north. It is now populous, the valley and hillsides are spotted with large camps, and the question at once arose, “Hostile or Friendly?”

I was riding as usual with Mirza behind me, when a man with a gun rushed frantically towards me from an adjacent camp, waving his gun and shouting, “Who are you? Why are you in our country? You’re friends of Khaja Taimur, you’ve given him presents, we’ll rob you”! With these and many similar words he pursued us, and men started up as by magic, with long guns, running alongside, the low spurs became covered with people in no time, and there was much signalling from hill to hill, “A-hoy-hoy-hoy-hoy,” and sending of messengers. Mirza pacified them by saying that we are friends of Isfandyar Khan, and that I have presents for Aslam Khan, their chief; but soon the shout of “Feringhis” was raised, and from group to group along the knolls swelled the cry of “Feringhis! Feringhis!” mixed with a few shouts of Kafir; but without actual molestation we reached a steep and uncomfortable camping-ground, Padshah-i-Zalaki, at an altitude of 7800 feet, with an extensive view of the broad green valley.

Before we halted Aslam Khan, a very fine-looking man, and others met us, and performed feats of horsemanship, wheeling their horses in small circles at a gallop, and firing pantomimically over their left shoulders and right flanks. The Sahib came in later, so that our party was a tolerably strong one.

The first thing the people did was to crowd into the shelter-tent and lie down, staring fixedly, a thing which never happened before, and groups steadily occupied the tops of the adjacent spurs. After my tent was pitched the people assembled round it in such numbers, ostensibly desiring medicine, that the Khan sent two tufangchis to keep order among them, and Karim, whose arm is now well, was added as a protection. The Agha ordered that the people should sit in rows at the sides and take their turn, one at a time, to come into the verandah, but no sooner were he and Aziz Khan out of sight than they began to crowd, to shout, and to become unmanageable, scuffling and pushing, the tufangchis pretending to beat them with the barrels of their guns, but really encouraging them, and at length going away, saying they could not manage them. Karim begged me to stop giving medicine, for he was overpowered, and if he opposed them any more there would be a fight. They had said that if he “spoke another word they would kill him.” They were perfectly good-humoured all the time, but acted like complete savages, getting under the flys, tugging at the tent ropes, and trying to pull my blankets off the bed, etc. At last the hindmost gave a sudden push, sending the foremost tumbling into the tent and over me, upsetting a large open packet of sulphate of zinc, just arrived from Julfa, which was on my lap.

I left the tent to avoid further mischief, but was nearly suffocated by their crowding and tugging my dress, shouting “Hakīm! Hakīm!” The Sahib, who came to the rescue, and urged them in Persian to depart, was quite powerless. In the midst of the confusion the Khan’s wives and daughter came to visit me, but I could only show them the crowd and walk, followed by it, in the opposite direction from the tent, till I met the Agha, whose presence restored order. That night nearly all Hadji’s juls or mule blankets and a donkey were stolen.

The Zalakis are a large and powerful tribe, predatory by habit and tradition. Aslam Khan himself directed certain thefts from which we suffered, and quoted a passage from the Koran not only to extenuate but to warrant depredations on the goods of “infidels.”

Sunday was spent in the hubbub of a crowd. I was suffering somewhat from a fall, and yet more from the fatigues of Kalahoma, and longed for rest, but the temperature of the tent when closed was 106°, and when open the people crowded at the entrance, ostensibly for medicine, but many from a pardonable and scarcely disguised curiosity to see the “Feringhi Hakīm,” and hear her speak.

In the afternoon, with Mirza and Karim as a guard, I went somewhat reluctantly to the Khan’s camp to return the abortive visit of the ladies. This camp consists of a number of black tents arranged in a circle, the Khan’s tents only distinguishable from the rest by their larger size. Mares, dogs, sheep, goats, and fireholes were in the centre, and some good-looking horses were tethered outside.

The Khan’s mother, a fine, buxom, but coarse-looking woman, met me, and took me to an open tent, fully forty feet long, the back of which was banked up by handsome saddle-bags. Bolsters and rugs were laid in the middle, on which the four legitimate wives and several inferior ones, with a quantity of babies and children crawling about them, were seated. Among them was a very handsome Jewish-looking girl of eighteen, the Khan’s daughter, pleasing in expression and graceful in manner. She is married to a son of Taimur Khan, but he does not care for her, and has practically discarded her, which adds insult to the “blood feud” previously existing.

After I entered the tent the whole camp population, male and female, crowded in, pressing upon us with clamour indescribable. The Khan’s mother slapped the wives if they attempted to speak and conducted herself like a ruling virago, occasionally shrieking at the crowd, while a tufangchi with a heavy stick belaboured all within his reach, and those not belaboured yelled with laughter.

The senior lady beckoned Mirza to lean towards her, and told him in a whisper that her handsome granddaughter is hated and despised by her husband, and has been sent back with a baby a year old, he having taken another wife, and that she wanted me to give her a “love philtre” that would answer the double purpose of giving her back his love and making her rival hateful in his eyes. During this whispered conference as many as could reach leant close to the speakers, like the “savages” that they are. I replied that I knew of no such philtres, that if the girl’s beauty and sweetness could not retain her husband’s love there was no remedy. She said she knew I had them, and that I kept them, as well as potions for making favourite wives ugly and odious to their husbands, in a leather box with a gold key! Then many headaches and sore eyes were brought, and a samovar and tea, and I distributed presents in a Babel in which anything but the most staccato style of conversation was impossible. When I left the crowd surged after me, and a sharp stone was thrown, which cut through my cloak.

Later, Aslam Khan, his brothers, and the usual train of retainers called. He is a very fine-looking man, six feet high, with a most sinister expression, and a look at times which inspired me with the deepest distrust of him. His robber tribe numbers 3500 souls, and he says that he can bring 540 armed horsemen into the field. He too asked for medicine for headache. Not only is there a blood feud between him and Khaja Taimur, but between him and Mirab Khan, through whose valley we must pass. In the evening the Khan’s mother returned with several women, bent on getting the “love philtre.” At night Hadji, who was watching, said that men were prowling round the tents at all hours, and a few things were taken.

On Monday morning early all was ready, for the three caravans from that day were to march together, and I was sitting on my horse talking with the Sahib, waiting for the Agha to return from the Khan’s camp, when he rushed down the slope exclaiming, “There’s mischief!” and I crossed the stream and watched it. About twenty men with loaded sticks had surrounded Mujid, and were beating him and finally got him down. I leapt back to my own camp, where Hassan and Karim were taking a parting smoke, and ordered them to the rescue. The soldier rushed into the mêlée, armed with only a cane, which was broken at once, and the Bakhtiaris got him by his thick hair, and all but forced him down; but he fought like a bulldog, and so did Hassan, who was unarmed and got two bad cuts. Dashed too into the fray Hadji Hussein, who fought like a bull, followed by his muleteers and by Abbas Ali, who, being early knocked down, hung on to a man’s arm with his teeth. The Sahib, who was endeavouring to make peace, was untouched, possibly because of his lineage and faith, and he yelled to Mirza (who in a fight is of no account) to run for the Agha, whose presence is worth fifty men.

Meanwhile a number of Zalakis, armed, two with guns and the rest with loaded sticks, crowded round me, using menacing gestures and calling me a Kafir, on which I took my revolver out of the holster, and very slowly examined the chambers, though I knew well that all were loaded. This had an excellent effect. They fell back, and were just dispersing when over the crest of the hill cantered Aziz Khan, followed by the Agha, who, galloping down the slope, fired a revolver twice over the head of a man who was running away, who, having stolen a sheep, and being caught in the act by Mujid, had begun the fray. Aslam Khan followed, and, the men say, gave the order to fire, but recalled it on finding that one of his tribesmen had been the aggressor. I thought he took the matter very coolly, and he almost immediately told Mirza to ask me for a penknife!

After this we started, the orders being for the caravans to keep well together, and if we were absolutely attacked to “fire.” After ascending a spur of the Kala Kuh we left the track for an Ilyat camp on a steep hill among oaks and pears, where I had promised to see a young creature very ill of fever.

Among the trees was a small booth of four poles, roofed with celery stalks, but without sides or ends, and in this, on a sheepskin, was a heap out of which protruded two white wasted arms. I uncovered the back of a head which turned slowly, and revealed, in a setting of masses of heavy shining hair, the white face of a young girl, with large brilliant eyes and very beautiful teeth. Her pulse was fluttering feebly, and I told the crowd that death was very near, for fear they should think I had poisoned her with the few drops of stimulant that she was able to swallow. Even here the death penalty sometimes follows the joy of maternity. She died in the evening, and now nothing remains of the camp but a heap of ashes, for these people always at once leave the camping-ground where a death has occurred.

Meanwhile the Agha was making friends with the people, and giving krans to the children, as is his habit. Scarcely had we left when he found that he had been robbed of a fine pair of binocular glasses, almost a necessity under the circumstances. English rifles, binoculars, and watches are all coveted by the Bakhtiaris. Aziz Khan became very grave, and full of dismal prophecies regarding the remainder of the journey.

After this divergence the scenery was magnificent. The Kala Kuh range is certainly finer than the Zard Kuh. It is more broken up into peaks of definite outline, and is more deeply cut by gorges, many of them the beds of torrents, densely wooded. In fact it is less of a range and more of a group. The route lay among huge steep mountains of naked rock, cut up by narrow, deep, and gigantic clefts, from whose depths rise spires of rock and stupendous, almost perpendicular cliffs. Green torrents flecked with foam boom through the shadows, or flash in the sunlight, margined wherever it is possible by walnuts, oaks, lilacs, roses, the Lastrea dilatata, and an entanglement of greenery revelling in spray.

A steep zigzag descent through oak and pear trees brought us to the vigorous torrent Ab-i-Sefid (white water), one of many of the same name, crossed by a natural bridge of shelving rock, slippery from much use. One of the Arabs so nearly fell on this that I dismounted, and just as I did so Abbas Ali’s mule fell on his side, and Screw following did the same, breaking several things in the holster.

After crossing a deep ravine Abbas Ali sprang back down the steep to it, and the Sahib, who was behind, also ran down with three men to what was evidently a disaster. Mirza’s mule had fallen over twenty feet, rolling over him three times with its load, hurting his knee badly. The Sahib said he never saw so narrow an escape from a broken neck. The loss of a bottle containing a quart of milk was the chief damage. A little farther up three men were tugging Hakīm up to the track by the tail. It was a very steep ascent by stony broken zigzags and ledges to the fairly level top of a spur of the Kala Kuh range, with a high battlemented hill behind, at the back of which dwell robber hordes, and many Seyyids, who pay no tribute, and are generally feared.

At this open, breezy height of 9200 feet the camps have been pitched for three days, and of the many camping-grounds which we have hitherto occupied I like it the best, so lofty is it, so lonely, so mysterious and unexplored. It has a glorious view of tremendous wooded ravines, down which green waters glide or tumble, of small lawn-like plateaux among woods, and of green peaks in the foreground, and on the other side of the narrow, sinuous valley, several thousand feet below, there is a confused mass of mountains, among which the snow-slashed southern faces of the peaks of the Zard Kuh and the grand bulk of a mountain of the Faidun range, are the most prominent.

Five thousand feet below, reached by a remarkable track, is Basnoi, a lonely depth, with successive terraces of figs, pomegranates, and walnuts, dense woods, and a luxuriant undergrowth of long grass and ferns. Among them are the remains of an ancient road of good width and construction, and of a very fine bridge of small blocks of carefully-dressed stone, with three arches, now ruined, with fine piers and stone abutments, the centre arch having a span of sixty feet. The roadway of the bridge is gone, and a crazy wicker framework is suspended in its place. The Bakhtiaris attribute these relics of an extinct civilisation to Shapur, one of the three kings of that name who reigned in the third and fourth centuries. All these green waters fall into the Ab-i-Diz.

Before sunset heads of men and barrels of guns were seen over the rocky cliff behind us. We had been warned against the outlaw tribes of that region, and had been told that they were preparing to rob the camp that night with thirty men, and had declared that if they failed they would dog us till they succeeded. This news was brought by Aslam Khan’s brother in the afternoon. I asked Aziz with how much I should reach Burujird, and he answered, “It’s well if you take your life there.”

This and a whole crop of other rumours, magnified as they passed from man to man, produced a novel excitement in the lonely camps. Hadji buried his money, of which he had a large sum, and lay down upon it. Rifles and revolvers were cleaned and loaded, swords and knives sharpened, voices were loud and ceaseless, and those who were slightly hurt in the morning’s fray recounted their adventures over and over again. All dispositions for safety were carefully made before night. Hassan, who has a horse, and large property in good clothes, wanted a revolver, but was wisely refused, on the ground that to arm undisciplined men indiscriminately would be to run a great risk of being ourselves shot in any confusion. There were then four men with rifles, five with revolvers, and Aslam Khan’s brother and two tufangchis with guns.

About eight the Bakhtiari signal-call was several times repeated, and I wondered if it were foe or friend, till Aziz’s answering signal rang out loud and clear, announcing that it was “friends of Isfandyar Khan.” Shortly I heard, “the plot thickens,” and the “friends” turned out to be another brother of Aslam Khan, with four tufangchis and a promise of eight more, who never arrived. According to these men reliable information had been received that Khaja Taimur, our friend of Kalahoma, was sending forty men to rob us on Aslam Khan’s territory in order to get him into trouble.

This arrival increased the excitement among the men, who piled tamarisk and the gum tragacanth bush on the fires most recklessly, the wild, hooded tufangchis and their long guns being picturesque in the firelight. I am all but positively sure that the rumour was invented by Aslam Khan, in order to show his vigilant care of guests, and secure from their gratitude the much-coveted possession of an English rifle. Hadji came to my tent, telling me “not to be the least afraid, for they would not harm a lady.” The Agha has a resource for every emergency, the Sahib is cool and brave, and besides that, I strongly suspected the whole thing to be a ruse of Aslam Khan, whom I distrust thoroughly. At all events I was asleep very early, and was only disturbed twice by Aziz calling to know if my servants were watching, and was only awakened at five by the Sahib and the Agha going past my tent, giving orders that any stranger approaching the camp was to be warned off, and was to be fired upon if he disregarded the warning.

A blissfully quiet day followed the excitement of the night before. The men slept after their long watch, and the fighting horses were at a distance. The Agha did not return, and for a day and night I was the only European in camp. Aziz Khan, with an English rifle, a hundred cartridges, and two revolvers in his belt, kept faithful watch, and to “make assurance doubly sure” I walked through the camp twice during the night to see that the men on guard were awake.

Before midnight there was a frightful “row” for two hours, which sounded as if fifty men were taking part in it. I have often wondered at the idiotic things that Hassan does, and at the hopelessly dazed way in which he sometimes stands. Now it has come out that he is smoking more and more opium, and has been supplying Karim with it.

Mujid, who was formerly the Agha’s cook, has been promoted to be major-domo, rules the caravan on the march, heads it on a fine horse, keeps accounts, and is generally “confidential.” Karim resents all this. He lately bought a horse because he could not bear to ride a baggage mule when the other man was well mounted, and being that night mad with opium, and being armed both with rifle and revolver, with which he threatened to kill Mujid, it was only by the united and long-continued efforts of all the men that bloodshed was prevented. The next day Hassan destroyed his opium pipe, and is trying to cure himself of the habit with the aid of morphia, but he complains of “agony in the waist,” which is just the fearful craving which the disuse of the drug causes.

The Agha encountered very predatory Lurs in the lower regions. A mule was stolen by two Lurs, then robbed from them by three, who in their turn were obliged to surrender it to some passing Ilyats, from whom he recovered it. While he was resting at night he was awakened by hearing some Lurs who had joined them discussing the practicability of robbing him, but when one told the others that he had found out that “the Feringhi has six shots,” they gave it up. At this camp we are only a few days’ march from classic ground, the ancient Elam with its capital of Susa, and the remains of so fine a bridge, with the unusual feature, still to be distinctly traced, of level approaches, the adjacent ruins, and the tradition of an old-world route, a broad road having followed the river-bed to the plains of Lower Elam, all point to an earlier and higher civilisation. Overlooking the bridge on the left bank of the Ab-i-Basnoi a large square enclosure, with large stone slabs inside, was found, which had probably been used for a cistern, and outside there were distinct traces of an aqueduct.

The “Sang Niwishta” (inscribed stone), which has been talked about for a hundred miles, and promised to be a great discovery, was investigated by a most laborious march, and turned out a great disappointment. It was to be hoped, indeed it might have been expected, that a journey through these, till now unexplored, regions would have resulted in the discovery of additional records of the past carved in stone, but such is not the case.

Still, it is something to have learned that even here there was once a higher civilisation, and that in its day there was great traffic along the Basnoi road, and that every route through this Upper Elam, whether from north, west, or east, from the Persian highlands to the plains of Arabistan, and the then populous banks of the Kerkhah, must have passed through the great gap below Pul-i-Kul.

The Gokun, Sahid, Guwa, and any number of other streams fall into this Ab-i-Basnoi, which is the channel for the drainage of far-off Faraidan, and after a full-watered course joins the Ab-i-Burujird, which drains the plain of Silakhor, the two forming the Ab-i-Diz, on which the now famous town of Dizful (lit. Pul-i-Diz or Bridge of Diz) is situated.

Gardan-i-Gunak, July 20.— On July 17 we retraced our steps to Padshah-i-Zalaki, and camped on a height above Aslam Khan’s tents on ground so steep that the tent floor had to be cut into steps with a spade. Aslam Khan and others came to meet us, again performing feats of horsemanship. No sooner were the tents pitched than the crowd assembled, and it was another noisy and fagging day. Among the things taken from my tent were an umbrella, knife, scissors, and most of my slender stock of underclothing. The scissors and cotton were taken by a young sister-in-law of the Khan, while I was attending to a terrible hurt outside. It turns out that Aslam Khan has got the Agha’s binocular, and that he told his men to acquire a small but very powerful telescope which he coveted. My milk bottle in a leather sling-case has a likeness to it, and this morning as I was giving a woman some eye-lotion her son withdrew this, almost under my eyes!

The Khan’s face is a most faithful reproduction of that of Judas in Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” He is so fine-looking that one is surprised that he should condescend to do small mean things. I sent him the knife he asked for, and soon he called and asked for a bigger one. He passed off his handsome daughter, the wife of Taimur Khan’s son, as his wife, in order to get, through her, a travelling-clock which he coveted.

They brought a woman to me who might have been produced from a London slum, ophthalmia in one eye, the other closed up and black, and behind it and through her nose a deep wound, gaping fully an inch, blood caked thick and black all over her face and matting her hair, her upper lip cut through, and two teeth knocked out — a regular hospital case. Her brother, they said, had quarrelled with her and had thrown stones at her only the day before, but they had already filled up the wounds with some horrible paste. I asked Sardah Khan why the Khan did not have the man thrashed for such a brutality, and he replied that no one would touch him, as he had killed three men last winter.

I spent two hours upon the poor creature, and the relief was so great that her gratitude was profuse, and the blessings invoked manifold. It was a great pleasure to me. But many things were taken out of the tent while I sat outside attending to her. The Khan’s brothers, tufangchis with their long guns, Seyyids with their green turbans and contemptuous scowl, women, and children were all pressing upon me, hindering and suffocating me in a temperature of nearly 100°. They seem to have no feeling for pain or shrinking from painful spectacles, and rather to enjoy the groans of the sufferer. Each time a piece of stone was taken out of the wounds they exclaimed “God is great!” Occasionally, when the crush interfered with what I was doing, a man beat them with his gun, or Aziz Khan threw stones at them, but it was useless.

The people tell our men that Kafirs have never before entered their valley, and that if we were not under the Shah’s protection they would take all that we have. I imagine that the difficulties are far greater than I know, for the Agha, who minimises all danger, remarked last night that this is a most anxious time, and that he should be most thankful to get every one out of the country, for it was impossible to say what a day might bring forth. All idea of my returning to Julfa is now abandoned. Bad as it is it is safer to go on.

As the welcome darkness fell the hillsides near and far blazed with fires, and Aslam Khan’s camp immediately below was a very picturesque sight, its thirty-one tents forming a circle, with the Khan’s two tents in the middle, each having a fire in front. Supper was prepared in large pots; the men ate first, then the women, children, and dogs. The noise suggested pandemonium. The sheep and goats bleated, the big dogs barked, the men and women shouted and shrieked all together, at the top of their voices, rude musical instruments brayed and clanged — it sounded diabolical. Doubtless the inroad of the Feringhis was the topic of talk. Savage life does not bear a near view. Its total lack of privacy, its rough brutality, its dirt, its undisguised greed, its unconcealed jealousies and hatreds, its falseness, its pure selfishness, and its treachery are all painful on a close inspection.

The following morning early we came up to the Gunak, the narrow top of a pass in the Kala Kuh range with an altitude of 10,200 feet, crossing on the way a steep and difficult snow-slide, and have halted here for two days. Marching with the caravan is a necessary precaution, but a most tedious and fatiguing arrangement. No more galloping, only a crawl at “caravan pace,” about two and a half miles an hour for five, six, or seven hours, and though one is up at 2.45 it is fully five before the mules are under way, and meantime one is the centre of that everlasting crowd which, on some pretext or other, asks for medicine. If no ailment can be produced at present, then the request is, “Give me something from the leather box, I’ve a cough in the winter,” or an uncovered copper bowl is brought, the contents of which would evaporate in a fortnight in this climate, with the plaint, “I’ve a brother,” or some other relative, “who has sore eyes in spring, please give me some eye-lotion.” Nothing is appreciated made from their own valuable medicinal herbs. “Feringhi medicine” is all they care for, and in their eyes every Feringhi is a Hakīm.

I have often wondered that the Moslem contempt for women does not prevent even the highest chiefs from seeking a woman’s medical help, but their own Hakīms, of whom there are a few, though I have never seen any, are mostly women, and the profession is hereditary. The men, they say, are too unsettled to be Hakīms. Some of these women are renowned for their skill as bullet extractors. If a father happens to have any medical knowledge he communicates it to his daughter rather than to his son. Aziz’s grandmother learned medicine from a native Indian doctor in Fars, and his mother had a repute as a bullet extractor. A woman extracted the three bullets by which he has been wounded. The “fees” are very high, but depend entirely on the cure. A poor man pays for the extraction of a bullet and the cure of the wound from fifteen to twenty tumans (from £5 to £6:10s.), a rich man from forty to sixty. In all cases they only give medicine so long as they think there is hope of recovery, and have no knowledge of any treatment which can alleviate the sufferings of the dying. When death seems inevitable they stuff the nose with a paste made of aromatic herbs.

They dress wounds with an astringent paste made from a very small gall-nut found on one species of oak. For dyspeptic pains and “bad blood” they eat bitumen. For snake-bite, which is common, they keep the bitten person moving about and apply the back part of live hens to the wound till the hens cease to be affected, or else the intestines of a goat newly killed. For rheumatism, headache, and debility they have no remedies, but for fever they use an infusion of willow bark, which is not efficacious. They have great faith in amulets and charms, and in chewing and swallowing verses of the Koran in case of illness. They are rigid “abstainers,” and arak is not to be procured in the Bakhtiari country. This partly accounts for the extreme and almost startling rapidity of the healing of surgical wounds.

Ophthalmia, glaucoma, bulging eyeballs, inflamed eyes and eyelids, eczema, rheumatism, dyspepsia, and coughs are the prevailing maladies, and among men, bad headaches, which they describe as periodical and incapacitating, are common. The skin maladies and some of the eye maladies come from dirt, and the parasites which are its offspring. Among the common people the clothes are only washed once a year, and then in cold water, with the root of a very sticky soap wort. They attribute all ailments but those of the skin and eyes to “wind.” Rheumatism doubtless comes from sleeping in cotton clothing, and little enough of it, on the damp ground.

There are no sages femmes. Every woman is supposed to be able to help her neighbour in her hour of need. Maternity is easy. The mother is often at work the day after the birth of her child, and in less than a week regains her usual strength.

Possession by bad spirits is believed in, and cowardice is attributed to possession. In the latter case medicine is not resorted to, but a mollah writes a text from the Koran and binds the paper on the coward’s arm. If this does not cure him he must visit a graveyard on the night of the full moon, and pass seven times under the body of one of the sculptured lions on the graves, repeating an Arabic prayer.

This pass gives a little rest. It is solitary, cold (the mercury 48° at 10 P.M.), and very windy. I appreciate the comparatively low temperature all the more because the scenery beyond the Zalaki valley, in which scorched valleys and reddish rocky ranges are repeated ad nauseam, lies under a blazing sun and in a hot dust haze like that of the Indian plains. The ridge is only just wide enough for the camps, and falls down in abrupt descents to the source of the Ab-i-Sefid. Tremendous precipices and the naked peaks of the Kala Kuh surround us, and to the east the Zard Kuh and the long straight-topped range of the Kuh-i-Gokun (or Kainu?), deeply cleft, to allow of the exit of the Ab-i-Gokun, wall in the magnificent prospect, woods and streams and blue and violet depths suggesting moisture and coolness. The ridge has a remarkably rich alpine flora.

Life is now only a “struggle for existence” on the lower altitudes, with their heat and hubbub; there is no comfort or pleasure in occupation under 9000 feet. Here there are only the sick people of the camps to attend to. The guides and guards all need eye-lotion, one bad wound needs dressing, and the Khan’s brother has had fever severely, which is cured, and he offers me as a present a boy of five years old. Aslam Khan’s face of Judas is not for nothing, but his brother is beautiful, and has the face of St. John. I. L. B.

57 From Kalahoma for the rest of the route the predatory character of the tribes, the growing weakness of the Ilkhani’s authority, the “blood feuds” and other inter-tribal quarrels, and the unsettled state of the Feili Lurs, produced a general insecurity and continual peril for travellers, which rendered constant vigilance and precautions necessary, as well as an alteration of arrangements.

Letter xix

After that uplifted halt, which refreshed the Europeans but did not suit the health of the attendants, we descended, crossed the Zalaki valley and a low ridge, with populous camps, into the valley of the Mauri Zarin, where the nomads were busy harvesting, forded the river, and proceeded up its left bank to a dusty level on which a deep ravine opens, apparently blocked up by a castellated and nearly inaccessible rock of great height. At this place, where the Badush joins the Mauri Zarin, we were obliged to camp close to some Ilyat tents, which involved crowds, many demands, much noise, and much vigilance.

We were then in the territory of Mirab Khan, the chief of the Isawand tribe, between whom and Aslam Khan there is a blood feud, with most deadly enmity. He sent word that he was not well, and asked the Agha to go to see him, which he did, telling him that the Hakīm would also visit him. Later, taking Mirza and two guides, I forded and followed up the Ab-i-Arjanak for two miles by a most remarkable cañon. The lower part of its sides is steep and rocky, though not too steep for the growth of tamarisk scrub and much herbage, but above are prodigious conglomerate cliffs, and below, the river, which narrows to a stream, is concealed by enormous masses of conglomerate rock. This cleft must be fully 800 feet below the heights which surround it. A ridge runs across it at Arjanak, and the river passes underground.

The village and “Diz”58 of Mirab Khan are reached by a frightfully steep ascent. Arjanak has been built for security on some narrow ledges below these colossal walls. It is a mere eyrie, a collection of rude stone hovels, one above the other, among which the Khan’s house is distinguishable only by its balakhana and larger size. The paths on the dusty hillside are so narrow and shelving that I needed a helping hand as well as a stick to enable me to reach a small, oblong, rug-covered platform under some willow trees, where Mirab Khan received me, with a very repulsive-looking Seyyid scribe seated by him in front of a samovar and tea equipage, from which he produced delicious tea, flavoured with lime-juice. The Khan was courteous, i.e. he rose, and did not sit down till I did.

He is a most deplorable-looking man, very tall and thin, with faded, lustreless gray eyes, hollow, sallow cheeks, and a very lank, ugly, straight-haired beard, light brown in the middle. He and Khaja Taimur look more like decayed merchants than chiefs of “tribes of armed horsemen.” I was very sorry for him, for he evidently suffers much, but then and afterwards he impressed me unfavourably, and I much doubt his good faith. He said he heard I should spend two or three days at Arjanak, and all he had was mine. He was not “like some people,” he said, “who professed great friendship for people and then forgot all about them. When I make a friendship,” he said, “it is for ever.” I asked him if his tribe was at peace. “Peace,” he replied sententiously, “is a word unknown to the Bakhtiaris.” In fact he has more than one blood feud on hand. He complained bitterly of the exactions of Persia, and added the conjecture, expressed by many others, that England would shortly occupy Luristan, and give them equity and security. Another Khan of some power said to me that if England were to occupy south-west Persia, he would help her with 400 horsemen, and added, “An English fleet at Basrah, with an English army on board, would be the best sight which Bakhtiari eyes could see.”59

I had to hear the long story of the Khan’s complicated maladies, to look at many bad eyes, and at the wounds of a poor fellow suffering from snake-bite, who was carried on another man’s back, and to promise to bring up my medicine chest the following day, the fame of the “leather box” having reached Arjanak.

On my way I had called at the haram, and the ladies accompanied me to the durbar, conduct which I think was not approved of, as they told me the next morning that they must not go there. After the Agha returned, the three wives and many other women clustered timidly round me. Two of them are very bright and pretty, and one, a Persian, very affectionate in her manner. She held my hand all the time. There was also a handsome daughter, with a baby, the discarded wife of a son of the next Khan. In winter, they said, they amuse themselves by singing, and playing with their children, and by making a few clothes, and the Persian embroiders boys’ caps.

Aziz Khan has been irrepressible lately. His Arab mare is his idol, not because she is a lovable animal and carries him well, but because she is valuable property. He fusses about her ceaselessly, and if he were allowed would arrange the marches and the camping-grounds with reference solely to her well-being. She is washed from her nose to the tip of her tail every evening, clothed, and kept by the camp-fire. She is a dainty, heartless, frivolous creature, very graceful and pretty, and in character much like a selfish, spoilt woman.

Unfortunately, in one of the many attempted fights among the horses, Screw kicked her on the chest and fore-leg a few days ago, which has made a quarrel between Hadji, Screw’s owner, and Aziz. Now Aziz is making me a slave to his animal. That night, after a tiring day, I was sleeping soundly when I was awakened by Aziz saying I must come to his mare or he would stay behind with her the next day. This is his daily threat. So I had to bring her inside my tent, and sleepily make a poultice and bandage the hurt. I have very little vaseline, and after putting it twice on the slight graze on her chest, which it cured, I said, when he asked for it a third time, that I must keep the rest for men. “Oh,” he said, “she’s of more value than ten men.” Lately he said, “I don’t like you at all, you give me many things, but you don’t give me money; and I don’t like the Agha, he doesn’t give me half enough. I’m going back tomorrow, and then you’ll be robbed of all your things, and you’ll wish you had given them to me.”

When I do anything, such as opening a whitlow, which he thinks clever, he exclaims, “May God forgive your sins!” This, and “May God forgive the sins of your father and mother!” are ejaculations of gratitude or surprise. One day when I had been attending to sick people for four hours, I asked him which was the more “meritorious” act, attending to the sick or going on pilgrimage? He replied, “For a Kafir no act is good,” but soon added, “Of a truth God doesn’t think as we do, I don’t know.”

Yesterday he came for plaster, and while I cut it he saw a padlock pincushion with a mirror front on my bed, and said, “You’ve given me nothing today, you must give me that because my mare kicked me.” But I like him. He is a brave fellow, and with a large amount of the mingled simplicity and cunning of a savage has a great deal of thought, information, and ability, and a talk with him is worth having.

Mirab Khan had promised that not only guides but his son would accompany the Agha, but when I arrived at his eyrie the next morning it was evident that something was wrong, for the Agha looked gloomy, and Mirab Khan uncomfortable, and as I was dressing the wound of the snake-bitten man, the former said, “So far as I can see, we are in a perfect hornets’ nest.” Neither son nor guides were forthcoming. It was necessary to use very decided language, after which the Khan professed that he had withheld them in order to compel us to be his guests, and eventually they were produced.

I called again on the ladies, who received me in a sort of open stable, horses on one side and women on the other, in a crowd and noise so overpowering that I was obliged to leave them, but not before I had been asked for needles, scissors, love philtres, etc. Polygamy, besides being an atrocious system, is very hard on a traveller’s resources. I had brought presents for four legitimate wives, but not for the crowd of women who asked for them. Each wife wanted to get her present unknown to the others. Later they returned my visit, and were most importunate in their requests.

When I went to say farewell to the Khan I found him on his knees, bowing his forehead to the earth upon a Mecca prayer-stone, and he concluded his prayers before he spoke — not like many of us, who would jump up ashamed and try to seem as if we never demeaned ourselves by an act of devotion. His village, Diz Arjanak, has a Diz, or stronghold, with a limited supply of water. It is the raison d’être of his residence there. This Diz consists of a few shelves or cavities, chiefly artificial, scooped out in the face of the perpendicular cliff above the village. They are only attainable by a very difficult climb, have no internal communication, and would not hold more than 150 people. In one cavity there is a small perennial spring. The largest recess is said to be twelve feet deep by about twenty long, and has a loop-holed breastwork across the entrance. In case of attack the Khan and the people provision this hiding-place, and retire to it, believing it impregnable.

Mirab Khan on this and a later occasion complained, and apparently with good reason, of grinding exactions on the part of Persia. The Isawands, like the Magawes and Zalakis, pay their tribute partly to Burujird and partly to the Ilkhani. The sum formerly fixed and paid was 150 tumans. It was raised to 300, which was paid for two years. Now, he says, this year’s demand (1890) is for 500.

We left Diz Arjanak rather late in the afternoon, ascended a valley which opens out beyond it, forded the green bright waters of the Mauri Zarin, and crossed beautiful open hillsides and elevated plateaux on its right bank till we lost it in a highly picturesque gorge. Some miles of very pleasant riding brought us to a rocky and dangerous path along the side of a precipice above the river Badush, so narrow as to involve the unloading of several mules, and a bad slip and narrow escape on the part of mine. The scenery is singularly wild and severe. Crossing the Badush, and ascending a narrow ravine through which it flows, we camped at its source at the junction of two wild gullies, where the Sahib, after sundry serious risks, had already arrived. We did not see a single camp after leaving Arjanak, and were quite unmolested during a halt of two nights; but it is an atmosphere of danger and possible treachery.

Camp Badush, at a height of 9100 feet, though shut in by high mountains, was cool — a barren, rocky, treeless spot. A great deal of bituminous shale was lying about, which burned in the camp-fires fairly well, but with a black heavy smoke and a strong smell.

The limestone fragments which lay about, on being split, emitted a powerful odour of bitumen. Farther up the gully there is a chalybeate spring, and the broken fragments of the adjacent rocks are much stained with iron. After a restful halt we retraced our route by a low path which avoided the difficult precipices above the Badush, forded it several times, crossed a low pass, descended to the valley of the Mauri Zarin, forded the river, and marched for some miles along its left bank, till the valley opened on great grassy slopes, the skirts of the rocky spurs which buttress the grand mountain Shuturun, the “Camel Mountain,” so called from its shape. It was a very uninteresting march, through formless gravelly hills, with their herbage all eaten down, nothing remaining but tamarisk scrub and a coarse yellow salvia. There were neither camps nor travellers; indeed, one need never look for camps where there is no herbage.

This is a charming camping-ground covered with fine turf, damp, I fear, and some of the men are “down” with fever and rheumatism. There is space to see who comes and who goes, and though the altitude is only 8400 feet, last night was quite cool. Ischaryar, Aziz Khan’s devoted young servant, the gentlest and kindest Bakhtiari I have seen, became quite ill of acute rheumatism with fever, and felt so very ill and weak that he thought he was going to die. I sent some medicine to him, but he would not take it, saying that his master had spoken unkindly to him, and he had no wish to live. However, this morbid frame of mind was overcome by firm dealing, and Aziz attended to him all night, and salol, etc., are curing him.

He is the one grateful creature that I have seen among these Orientals, and his gratitude is in return for a mere trifle. We were fording a stream one hot day, and seeing him scooping up water with difficulty in his hands, I took out my mug for him. Ever since he has done anything that he can for me. He brings tasteful little bouquets of flowers, gathers wild cherries, and shows the little courtesies which spring from a kindly nature. He said several times to Mirza, “It isn’t only that the Khanum gave me the cup, but she took trouble for me.” It may be imagined what a desert as to grateful and kindly feeling I am living in when this trifle appears like an oasis. Hard, cunning, unblushing greed is as painful a characteristic of the Bakhtiaris as it is of the Persians.

Hassan is now “down with fever” and the opium craving, and one of the charvadars with fever. The cold winds of Gunak were too much for them. All day shots have been heard among the near mountains. The Hajwands, a powerful tribe, and the Abdulwands are fighting about a recent cutting off of a cow’s tail, but the actual cause of the feud is deeper, and dates farther back. Aziz Khan wants us to return to Diz Arjanak, fearing that we may become implicated, and the Agha is calling him a coward, and telling him to ride back alone. Bang! Bang! The firing is now close and frequent, and the dropping shots are varied by straggling volleys. With the glasses I can see the tribesmen loading and firing on the crests of the near hills. A great number are engaged. One tribe has put up a stone breastwork at our end of the valley, but the enemy is attacking the other.

3 P.M. — An hour ago Mirab Khan arrived with a number of armed horse and footmen. Before he left he spent, I may say wasted, nearly an hour of my time again on his maladies, and again wrote down the directions for his medicines. Volleys fired very near startled him into departing, and he rode hastily back to Arjanak, fearing, as he said, an attack. Nominally, he armed the guides and the men he left behind, but one of the guns has neither caps nor powder, and another has only three caps. All the animals have been driven in.

4 P.M. — A man with grimy arms bare to the elbow has just run down to the Agha’s camp from the conflict. He says that his people, who are greatly inferior to the Hajwands in numbers, thought it was the camp of the Shah’s revenue collector, and sent him to ask him to mediate. The Agha expressed his willingness to become a mediator on certain conditions. There is much excitement in camp, all the men who are well crowding round this envoy, who is guilty of saying that fifty men are to attack our camps to-night.

7.30 P.M. — The Agha, with the Sahib and Aziz Khan, three brave men mounted and armed with rifles and revolvers, went to mediate. I went to a knoll in the valley with some of our men, above which on either side were hills occupied by the combatants, and a large number of tribesmen crowned the crest of a hill lying across the ravine higher up. The firing was frequent, but at long range, and I was near enough to see that only one man fell.

Our party rode on till they reached the top of a low ridge, where they dismounted, reconnoitred, and then passed out of sight, being fired on by both parties. The tribesmen kept on firing irregularly from the hill crests, occasionally running down the slopes, firing and running into cover. The Sahib’s tufangchi, who is of Cheragh Ali’s tribe, asked me, “Is this the way they fight in your country,” I asked him if he would not like to be fighting? and he replied, “Yes, if it were my quarrel.” The sun was very bright, the sky very blue, and the smoke very white as it drifted over the lonely ravine and burst in clouds from the hill-tops. I saw the combatants distinctly without a glass, and heard their wild war-shouts. What a matter for regret is this useless tribal fighting, with its dreary consequences of wailing women and fatherless children! “Why don’t the English come and take us? Why don’t the English come and give us peace?” are surely the utterances of a tired race.

After sunset the Agha returned, having so far succeeded in his mission that the headmen have promised to suspend hostilities for tomorrow, but still shots are fired now and then. I. L. B.

58 A “Diz” is a natural fort believed to be impregnable.

59 To English people the Bakhtiaris profess great friendliness for England, and the opinion has been expressed by some well-informed writers that, in the event of an English occupation of the country, their light horse, drilled by English officers, would prove valuable auxiliaries. I am inclined, however, to believe that if a collision were to occur in south-west Persia between two powers which shall be nameless, the Bakhtiari horsemen would be sold to the highest bidder.

Letter xx

Yesterday we marched through narrow defiles and along hillsides to this lake, without seeing a tent, a man, or even a sheep or goat, following a stream which bears several names and receives several torrents which burst, full grown, from powerful springs in the mountain sides — a frequent phenomenon in this country — from its source till its entrance into this lake. Its two sides differ remarkably. On the right bank rise the magnificent ranges which form Shuturun, broken up into precipices, deep ravines, and peaks, all rocky and shapely, and absolutely denuded of soil. The mountains on the left bank are great shapeless masses of bare gravel rising into the high but blunt summit of the Sefid Kuh, with only occasional outcrops of rock; here and there among the crevices of the rocky spurs of Shuturun the Juniperus excelsa plants itself; otherwise, on the sun-scorched gravel only low tamarisk bushes, yellow salvias, a few belated campanulas, and a very lovely blue Trichodesma mollis remain.

On reaching the top of a very long ascent there was a unique surprise, for below, walled in by precipitous mountain sides, lies a lake of wonderful beauty, owing to its indescribable colour. Wild, fierce, and rocky are the high mountains in which this gem is set, and now verdureless, except that in some places where their steep sides enter the water willows and hawthorns find scanty roothold. Where the river enters the lake there is a thicket of small willows, and where it leaves it its bright waters ripple through a wood of cherry, pear, plum, and hawthorn. A broad high bank of gravel lies across a part of its lower end, and all seemed so safe and solitary that I pitched my camp here for Sunday at an unusual distance from the other camps.

“Things are not what they seem.” Two armed Hajwands visited the camps, shots were heard at intervals this morning, and in the night some of the watch said they saw a number of men advancing towards us from under the bushes. I heard the sharp crack of our own rifles twice, and the Agha and Sahib calling on every one to be on the alert; the mules were driven in, and a great fire was made, but nothing came of it. To-night Mirab Khan’s guides, who have been with us for some days, have gone back, journeying at night and hiding in caves by day for fear of being attacked.

This lovely lake, having no native name, will be known henceforward geographically as Lake Irene. Its waters lie in depths of sapphire blue, with streaks and shallows of green, but what a green! Surely without a rival on earth! Were a pea transparent, vivid, full of points and flashes of interior light, that would be the nearest approach to the colour, which changes never, while through the blazing hours the blue of the great depths in the centre has altered from sapphire to turquoise, and from turquoise to lapis-lazuli, one end and one side being permanently bordered round the margin with liquid emerald. The mountains have changed from rose to blue, from blue to gray, from gray to yellow, and are now flushing into pink. It is a carnival of colour, before the dusty browns and dusty grays which are to come.

Camp Sarawand, July 29.— To-day’s march has been a change from the grand scenery of the Bakhtiari mountains to low passes and gravelly spurs, which sink down upon a plain. A blazing hillside; a mountain of gravel among others of similar ugliness, sprinkled with camel thorn and thistles; a steep and long descent to a stream; ripe wheat on some irrigated slopes; above these the hundred hovels of the village of Sarawand clinging one above another to the hillside, their white clay roofs intolerable in the fierce light; more scorched gravel hills breaking off abruptly, and then a blazing plain, in a mist of dust and heat, and low hills on the farther side seen through a brown haze, make up the view from my tent. The plain is Silakhor in Persia proper, and, nolens volens, that heat and dust must shortly be encountered in the hottest month of the year. Meanwhile the mercury is at 105° in the tent.

Outside is a noisy crowd of a mixed race, more Persian than Lur, row behind row. The ketchuda said if I would stand outside and show myself the people would be pacified, but the desired result was not attained, and the crushing and pushing were fearful — not that the people here or elsewhere are ever rude, it is simply that their curiosity is not restrained by those rules which govern ours. The Agha tried to create a diversion by putting a large musical box at a little distance, but they did not care for it. I attempted to give each woman a card of china buttons, which they like for sewing on the caps of their children, but the crush was so overpowering that I was obliged to leave it to Aziz. Then came the sick people with their many woes and wants, and though now at sunset they have all gone, Aziz comes in every few minutes with the laugh of a lost spirit, bringing a fresh copper bowl for eye lotion, quite pleased to think of my annoyance at being constantly dragged up from my writing.

Camp Parwez, July 31.— We left early in the morning, en route for the fort of Yahya Khan, the powerful chief of the Pulawand tribe, with a tall, well-dressed, and very respectable-looking man, Bagha Khan, one of his many fathers-in-law, the father of the present “reigning favourite,” as guide. It was a very pretty track, pursuing sheep-paths over steep spurs of Parwez, and along the narrow crests of ridges, always with fine views. On reaching an alpine valley, rich in flowers, we halted till the caravan approached, and then rode on, the “we” that day being the guide on foot, and the Agha, the Sahib, Aziz Khan, Mirza, and myself on horseback in single file. Three men looked over the crest of a ridge to the left and disappeared abruptly, and I remarked to Mirza that this was the most suspicious circumstance we had yet seen. There was one man on the hill to the right, with whom the guide exchanged some sentences in patois.

The valley opened out on the stony side of a hill, which had to be crossed. As we climbed it was crested with a number of men with long guns. Presently a number of shots were fired at us, and the reloading of the guns was distinctly seen. The order was given to “scatter” and proceed slowly. When the first shot was fired Bagha Khan, who must have been well known to all his tribesmen, dodged under a rock. Then came an irregular volley from a number of guns, and the whistle and thud of bullets over and among us showed that the tribesmen, whatever were their intentions, were in earnest. To this volley the Agha replied by a rifle shot which passed close over their heads, but again they reloaded rapidly. We halted, and Aziz Khan was sent up to parley with them. No one could doubt his courage after that solitary ascent in the very face of the guns.

Karim cantered up, anxious to fight, Mujid and Hassan, much excited, dashed up, and we rode on slowly, Hadji and his charvadars bringing up the caravan as steadily as if there were no danger ahead. Not a man showed the “white feather,” though most, like myself, were “under fire” for the first time. When we reached the crest of the pass such a wild lot crowded about us, their guns yet hot from firing upon us. Such queer arms they had — one gun with a flint lock a century old, with the “Tower mark” upon it, loaded sticks, and long knives. With much talking and excitement they accompanied us to this camping-ground.60

The men varied considerably in their stories. They were frightened, they said, and fired because they thought we were come to harm them. At first I was sorry for them, and regarded them as merely defending their “hearths and homes,” for in the alpine valley behind the hill are their black tents, their families, their flocks and herds — their world, in fact. But they told another story, and said they took us for a party of Hajwands. This was untenable, and the Agha told them that they knew that Hajwands do not ride on English saddles, and carry white umbrellas, and march with big caravans of mules. To me, when they desired my services, they said that had they known that one of the party was a Hakīm they never would have fired.

Later, from Hadji and others I have heard what I think may be the true version of the affair. They knew that the party was a small one — only three rifles; that on the fifteen baggage-animals there were things which they specially covet, the value of which rumour had doubtless magnified a hundredfold; and that we had no escort. Behind were a number of the Sarawand men, and the Pulawands purposed, if we turned back or showed the “white feather” in any way, to double us up between the two parties and rob the caravan at discretion. The Agha was obliged to speak very severely to them, telling them that firing on travellers is a grave offence, and deserves as such to be represented to the Governor of Burujird. I cannot acquit the demure-looking guide of complicity in this transaction.

At this height of 9400 feet there is a pleasant plain, on which our assailants are camped, and our camps are on platforms in a gully near the top of Parwez. It is all very destitute of springs or streams, and we have only snow-water, and that only during the hot hours of the day, for ourselves and the animals.

The tribes among which we are now are powerful and very predatory in their habits. Their loyalty to the Ilkhani is shadowy, and their allegiance to the Shah consists in the payment of tribute, which cannot in all cases be exacted. Indeed, I think that both in Tihran and Isfahan there is only imperfect information as to the attitude of the Bakhtiari Lurs. Their unification under the rule of the Ilkhani grows more and more incomplete as the distance from Isfahan increases, and these tribes, which are under the government of Burujird nominally, are practically not under the Ilkhani at all. Blood feuds, predatory raids, Khans at war with each other, tribal disputes and hostilities, are nearly universal. It is not for the interest of Persia to produce by her misrule and intrigues such a chronic state of insecurity as makes the tribes desire any foreign interference which will give them security and rest, and relieve them from the oppressive exactions of the Persian governors.

On a recent march I was riding alone in advance of the caravan when I met two men, one mounted, the other on foot. The pedestrian could not have been passed anywhere unnoticed. He looked like a Sicilian brigand, very handsome and well dressed, walked with a long elastic stride, and was armed with a double-barrelled gun and two revolvers. He looked hard at me, with a jolly but not unfriendly look, and then seeing the caravan, passed on. This was Jiji, a great robber Khan of the Hajwand tribe, whose name inspires much fear. Afterwards he met Aziz Khan, and sent this picturesque message: “Sorry to have missed you in my own country, as I should have liked to have left you standing in your skins.”

I went up the Kuh-i-Parwez with Bagha Khan, the guide of whom I have such grave suspicions, in the early morning, when the cool blue shadows were still lying in the ravines. Parwez, which on this side is an uninteresting mountain of herbage-covered gravelly slopes, falls down 4300 feet to the Holiwar valley on the other in a series of tremendous battlemented precipices of dark conglomerate rock.

The level summit of Parwez, though about 11,000 feet in altitude, is as uninteresting as the shapeless slopes by which we ascended it, but this dip on the southern side is wonderful, and is carried on to the gap of Bahrain, where it has a perpendicular scarp from its summit to the river of 5000 feet, and as it grandly terminates the Outer range, it looks like a glorious headland abutting on the Silakhor plain.

As a panoramic view it is the finest I have had from any mountain, taking in the great Shuturun range — the wide cultivated plain of Silakhor, with its many villages; the winding Ab-i-Diz, its yellow crops, hardly distinguishable from the yellow soil and hazy yellow hills whose many spurs descend upon the plain — all merged in a haze of dust and heat. The eye is not tempted to linger long upon that specimen of a Persian summer landscape, but turns with relief to the other side of the ridge, to a confused mass of mountains of great height, built up of precipices of solid rock, dark gray, weathered into black and denuded of soil, a mystery of chasms, rifts, and river-beds, sheltering and feeding predatory tribes, but unknown to the rest of the world.

The chaos of mountain summits, chasms, and precipices is very remarkable, merging into lower and less definite ranges, with alpine meadows at great heights, and ravines much wooded, where charcoal is burned and carried to Burujird and Hamadan. Among the salient points of this singular landscape are the mighty Shuturun range, the peak of Kuh-i-Kargun on the other side of the Silakhor plain, the river which comes down from Lake Irene, the Holiwar, with the fantastic range of the Kuh-i-Haft–Kuh (seven peaks) on its left bank, descending abruptly to the Ab-i-Zaz, beyond which again rises the equally precipitous range of the Kuh-i-Ruhbar. Near the Holiwar valley is a mountain formed by a singular arrangement of rocky buttresses, surmounted by a tooth-like rock, the Tuk-i-Karu, of which the guide told the legend that in “ancient times” a merchant did a large trade in a tent at the top of it, and before he died buried his treasure underneath it.

A very striking object from the top is the gorge or cañon, the Tang-i-Bahrain, by which the Ab-i-Burujird leaves the plain of Silakhor and enters upon its rough and fretted passage through ravines, for the most part inaccessible except to practised Ilyat mountaineers.

“Had I come up to dig for the hidden treasure of Tuk-i-Karu?” the guide asked. “Was I seeking gold? Or was I searching for medicine plants to sell in Feringhistan?”

The three days here have been rather lively. The information concerning routes has been singularly contradictory. There is a path which descends over 4000 feet to the Holiwar valley, through which, for certain reasons, it is desirable to pass. Some say it is absolutely impassable for laden mules, others that it can be traversed with precautions, others again that they would not take even their asses down; that there are shelving rocks, and that if a mule slipped it would go down to ——. Hadji with much force urges that we should descend to the plain, and go by a comparatively safe route to Khuramabad, leave the heavy baggage there, and get a strong escort of sowars from the Governor for the country of the Pulawands. There is much that is plausible in this plan, the Sahib approves of it, and the Agha, with whom the decision rests, has taken it into very careful consideration, but I am thoroughly averse to it, though I say nothing.

Hadji says he cannot risk his mules on the path down to the Holiwar valley. I could have filled pages with the difficulties which have been grappled with during the last few weeks of the journey as to guides, routes, perils, etc., two or three hours of every day being occupied in the attempt to elicit truth from men who, from either inherent vagueness and inaccuracy or from a deliberate intention to deceive, contradict both themselves and each other, but on this occasion the difficulties have been greater than ever; the order of march has been changed five times, and we have been obliged to remain here because the Agha has not considered that the information he has obtained has warranted him in coming to a decision.

Yesterday evening the balance of opinion was definitely against the Holiwar route, and Hadji was so vehemently against it that he shook a man who said it was passable. This morning the Sahib with a guide and Abbas Ali examined the road. The Sahib thought it was passable. Abbas Ali said that the mules would slip off the shelving rocks. All day long there have been Lur visitors, some saying one thing, and some another, but a dream last night reconciled Hadji to take the route, and the Agha after carefully weighing the risks all round has decided upon it.

All these pros and cons have been very interesting, and there have been various little incidents. I have had many visitors and “patients” from the neighbouring camp, and among them three of the men who fired upon us.

The trifle of greatest magnitude was the illness of Aziz’s mare, the result of a kick from Screw. She had an enormous swelling from knee to shoulder, could not sleep, and could hardly eat, and as she belongs partly to Isfandyar Khan, Aziz Khan has been distracted about her, and has distracted me by constant appeals to me to open what seemed an abscess. I had not the courage for this, but it was done, and the cut bled so profusely that a pad, a stone, and a bandage had to be applied. Unfortunately there was no relief from this venture, and Aziz “worrited” me out of my tent three times in the night to look at the creature. Besides that, he had about twenty ailing people outside the tent at 6 A.M., always sending to me to “come at once.”

He was told to wash the wound, but he would do nothing till I went out with my appliances, very grudgingly, I admit. The sweet animal was indeed suffering, and the swelling was much increased. A number of men were standing round her, and when I told Aziz to remove the clot from the wound, they insisted that she would bleed to death, and so the pros and cons went on till Aziz said, “The Khanum shall do it, these Feringhi Hakīms know everything.” To be regarded as a Hakīm on the slenderest possible foundation is distressing, but to be regarded as a “vet” without any foundation at all is far worse.

However, the clot was removed, and though the wound was three inches long there was still no relief, and Aziz said solemnly, “Now do what you think best.” Very gradual pressure at the back of the leg brought out a black solid mass weighing fully a pound. “God is great!” exclaimed the bystanders. “May God forgive your sins!” cried Aziz, and fell at my feet with a genuine impulse of gratitude. He insists that “a pound of flesh” came out of the swelling. The wound is now syringed every few hours, and Aziz is learning how to do this, and to dress it. The mare can both eat and sleep, and will soon be well.

This evening Aziz said that fifteen tumans would be the charge for curing his mare, and that, he says, is my present to him. He told me he wanted me to consider something very thoroughly, and not to answer hastily. He said, “We’re a poor people, we have no money, but we have plenty of food. We have women who take out bullets, but in all our nation there is no Hakīm who knows the wisdom of the Feringhis. Your medicines are good, and have healed many of our people, and though a Kafir we like you well and will do your bidding. The Agha speaks of sending a Hakīm among us next year, but you are here, and though you are old you can ride, and eat our food, and you love our people. You have your tent, Isfandyar Khan will give you a horse of pure pedigree, dwell among us till you are very old, and be our Hakīm, and teach us the wisdom of the Feringhis.” Then, as if a sudden thought had struck him, he added, “And you can cure mules and mares, and get much money, and when you go back to Feringhistan you’ll be very rich.”

In nearly every camp I have an evening “gossip” with the guides and others of the tribesmen, and, in the absence of news from the larger world, have become intensely interested in Bakhtiari life as it is pictured for me in their simple narratives of recent forays, of growing tribal feuds and their causes, of blood feuds, and of bloody fights, arising out of trivial disputes regarding camping-grounds, right of pasture, right to a wounded bird, and things more trivial still. They are savages at heart. They take a pride in bloodshed, though they say they are tired of it and would like to live at peace, and there would be more killing than there is were it not for the aversion which some of them feel to the creation of a blood feud. When they do fight, “the life of a man is as the life of a sheep,” as the Persian proverb runs. Mirza says that among themselves their talk is chiefly of guns and fighting. The affairs of the mountains are very interesting, and so is the keen antagonism between the adherents of the Ilkani and those of Isfandyar Khan.

Sometimes the conversation takes a religious turn. I think I wronged Aziz Khan in an earlier letter. He is in his way much more religious than I thought him. A day or two ago I was asking him his beliefs regarding a future state, which he explained at much length, and which involve progressive beatitudes of the spirit through a course of one hundred years. He laid down times and seasons very definitely, and was obviously in earnest, when two Magawe men who were standing by broke in indignantly, saying, “Aziz Khan, how dare you speak thus? These things belong to God, the Judge, He knows, we don’t — we see the spirit fly away to judgment and we know no more. God is great, He alone knows.”

Apparently they have no idea generally of a future except that the spirit goes either to heaven or hell, according to its works in the flesh. Some say that they are told that there is an intermediate place called Barjakh, known as the place of evil spirits, in which those who have died in sin undergo a probation with the possibility of beneficent results.

On asking what is meant by sin the replies all have the same tendency — cowardice, breaches of the seventh commandment (which, however, seem to be so rare as scarcely to be taken into account, possibly because of the death penalty attaching to them), disobedience to a chief when he calls on them to go to war, fraternising with Sunnis, who are “accursed,” betraying to an enemy a man of their own tribe, and compassing the death of another by poison or evil machinations.

On being asked what deeds are good, bravery is put first, readiness to take up a tribal quarrel, charity, i.e. kindness to the poor, undying hatred to the Caliph Omar, shown by ostracising the Sunnis, hatred of Kafirs, and pilgrimages, especially to Mecca.

Death in battle ensures an immediate entrance into heaven, and this is regarded as such a cause of rejoicing that not only is the chapi or national dance performed at a fighting man’s grave, but if his death at a distance has been lawful, i.e. if he has been killed in fighting, they put up a rude temporary cenotaph with his gun, cap, knife, pipe, and other things about it, and dance, sing, and rejoice.

Otherwise their burial rites are simple. The corpse is washed seven times in water, certain Arabic formulas for the repose of the soul are recited, and the body, clothed and wrapped in a winding-sheet, is carried by four men to the burying-place on a bier extemporised out of tent-poles, and is buried in a shallow grave. It is not customary now to rejoice at the graves of women or old men, unless the latter have been distinguished warriors.

So far as I can learn, even in the case of the deaths of fighting men, when the chapi is danced at the grave, the women keep up the ordinary ceremonial of mourning, which is very striking. They howl and wail, beating their breasts rhythmically, keeping time with their feet, tearing their hair and gashing their faces with sharp flints, cutting off also their long locks and trampling upon them with piteous cries. This last bitter token of mourning is confined to the deaths of a husband and a first-born son, and the locks so ruthlessly treated are afterwards attached to the tombstone.

Mourning for a husband, child, or parent lasts a year, and the anniversary of the death is kept with the same ceremonies which marked the beginning of the period of mourning. In the case of a great man who has died fighting, the women of his tribe wail and beat their breasts on this anniversary for many subsequent years.

Nothing is buried with the corpse, and nothing is placed on the grave, but it is the universal custom to put a stone at the head of the body, which is always buried facing Mecca-wards. To this position they attach great importance, and they covet my compass because it would enable them at any point to find the position of the Kiblah. A comb or distaff rudely carved on a woman’s headstone, and the implements of war or hunting on that of a man, are common, and few burial-places are without one or more of the uncouth stone lions to which frequent reference has been made.

The graveyards are very numerous, and are usually on small elevations by the roadside, so that passers-by, if they be Hadjis, may pray for the repose of the soul. It must be understood that prayer consists in the repetition of certain formulas in Arabic, which very few if any of these people understand.61

As to the great matter of their religion, on which I have taken infinite trouble to gain information, I can come to no satisfactory conclusion. I think that they have very little, and that what they have consists in a fusion of some of the tenets of Islam with a few relics of a nature worship, not less rude than that of the Ainos of Yezo and other aboriginal tribes.

They are Shiahs, that is, they hate the Sunnis, and though the belief in Persia that they compel any one entering their country to swear eternal hatred to Omar is not absolutely correct, this hate is an essential part of their religion. They hold the unity of God, and that Mohammed was His prophet; but practically, though they are not Ali Ilahis, they place Ali on as high a pedestal as Mohammed. They are utterly lax in observing the precepts of the Koran, even prayer at the canonical hours is very rarely practised, and then chiefly by Seyyids and Hadjis. It has been said that the women are devout, but I think that this is a mistake. Many of them have said to me, “Women have no religion, for women won’t live again.”

Those of the Khans who can read, and who have made pilgrimages to Mecca, such as the Hadji Ilkhani, Khaja Taimur, and Mirab Khan, observe the times of prayer and read the Koran, and when they are so engaged they allow of no interruption, but these are remarkable exceptions.

Pilgrimages and visits to imamzadas are lightly undertaken, either for the accumulation of merit, or to wash away the few misdeeds which they regard as sin, or in the hope of gaining an advantage over an enemy.

They regard certain stones, trees, hill-tops, and springs as “sacred,” but it is difficult to define the very vague ideas which they attach to them. I am inclined to think that they look on them as the abodes of genii, always malignant, and requiring to be propitiated. In passing such places they use a formula equivalent to “May God avert evil,” and it is common, as in Nubra and Ladak, to hang pieces of rag on such trees and stones as offerings to the genius loci.

They regard certain places as possibly haunted by spirits, always evil, and never those of the departed; but this can scarcely be termed a belief, as it is lightly held, and quite uninfluential, except in preventing them from passing such places alone in the darkness.

The opinions concerning God represent Him chiefly as a personification of a fate, to which they must bow, and as a Judge, to whom, in some mysterious way, they must account after death. Earthly justice appears to them as a commodity to be bought and sold, as among the Persians, or as it is among themselves, as severity solely, without a sentiment of mercy; and I have asked them often if they think that anything will be able to affect the judgment of the Judge of all, in case it should go against them. Usually they reply in the negative, but a few say that Ali, the Lieutenant of God, will ask for mercy for them, and that he will not be refused.

Of God as a moral being I think they have little conception, and less of the Creator as an object of love. Of holiness as an attribute of God they have no idea. Their ejaculation, “God is good,” has really no meaning. Charity, under the term “goodness,” they attribute to God. But they have no notion of moral requirements on the part of the Creator, or of sin as the breaking of any laws which He has laid down. They concern themselves about the requirements of religion in this life and about the future of the soul as little as is possible, and they narrow salvation within the limits of the Shiah sect.

After Mohammed and Ali they speak of Moses, Abraham, and Jesus as “Prophets,” but of Moses as a lawgiver, and of Jesus as aught else but a healer, they seem quite ignorant.

And so they pass away, generation after generation, ignorant of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, of the love to God and man which is alone the fulfilling of the law, and of the light which He, who is the resurrection and the life, has shed upon the destiny of the human spirit.

Generally I find them quite willing to talk on these subjects; but one man said contemptuously, “What has a Kafir to do with God?” The women know nothing, and, except among the sons of the leading Khans, there is no instruction in the Koran given to the children. If I have interpreted their views correctly they must be among the most ignorant of the races bound by the faith of Islam.

Khuramabad, August 6.— Leaving the camp on Parwez, and skirting the gravelly slopes on the north side of its ridge, a sudden dip over the crest took us among great cliffs of conglomerate, with steep gravelly slopes below, much covered with oaks growing out of scorched soil. Grooves, slides, broken ledges, and shelving faces of rock have to be descended. One part is awfully bad, and every available man and some passing Bakhtiaris (who wanted to be paid in advance for their services) went back to help the animals. The charvadars shouted and yelled, and the horses and some of the mules were taken by their heads and tails, but though nearly every man had a fall, horses, asses, mules, and a sheep which follows Hakīm got over that part safely. It was a fine sight, thirty animals coming down, what looked from below, a precipice, led by Hadji leading Cock o’ the Walk, shaking his tasselled head, and as full of pride and fire as usual, and the mules looking wisely, choosing their way, and leaping dexterously upon and among the rocks. It is not a route for laden animals, but personally, as I had two men to help me, I did not find it so risky or severe as the descent of the Gokun Pass.

Below these conglomerate precipices are steep and dangerous zigzags, which I was obliged to ride down, and there we were not so fortunate, for Hadji’s big saddle-mule slipped, and being unable to recover herself fell over the edge some hundred feet and was killed instantaneously.

The descent of the southern face of Parwez, abrupt and dangerous most of the way, is over 4300 feet. The track proceeds down the Holiwar valley, brightened by a river of clear green water, descending from Lake Irene. Having forded this, we camped on its left bank on a gravelly platform at the edge of the oak woods which clothe the lower spurs of the grand Kuh-i-Haft–Kuh, with a magnificent view of the gray battlemented precipices of Parwez. The valley is beautiful, and acres of withered flowers suggested what its brief spring loveliness must be, but its altitude is only 5150 feet, and the mercury in the shade was 104°, the radiation from the rock and gravel terrible, and the sand-flies made rest impossible. At midnight the mercury stood at 90°. There were no Bakhtiaris, but two or three patches of scorched-up wheat, not worth cutting, evidenced their occasional presence. Among these perished crops, revelling in blazing soil and air like the breath of a furnace, grew the blue centaurea and the scarlet poppy, the world-wide attendants upon grain; and where other things were burned, the familiar rose-coloured “sweet william,” a white-fringed dianthus, and a gigantic yellow mullein audaciously braved the heat.

No one slept that night because of the sand-flies and the need for keeping a vigilant watch. Indeed, the tents were packed shortly after sunset, and in a hot dawn we ascended to a considerable height above the valley, and then for many miles followed a stream in a wooded glen, where willows, planes, vines, rank grass, and a handsome yellow pea grew luxuriantly, looped together continually by the fragile Clematis orientalis. All that country would be pretty had it moisture and “atmosphere.” The hillsides are covered with oaks and the Paliurus aculeatus on their lower slopes, rising out of withered flowers. All else is uncut sun-cured hay, and its pale uniform buff colour is soft, and an improvement on the glare of bare gravel.

Delays, occasioned by the caravan being misled by the guide, took us into the heat of the day, and before the narrow valley opened out into the basin surrounded by wooded spurs of hills in which Khanabad stands, it was noon. Men and animals suffered from the heat and length of that march. In the middle of this basin there is a good deal of cultivation, and opium, wheat, cotton, melons, grapes, and cucumbers grow well. Rice has already succeeded wheat, and will be reaped in November. Kalla Khanabad, the fort dwelling of Yahya Khan, with terraces of poplars, mulberries, pomegranates, and apricots below it, makes a good centre of a rather pretty view. Leaving it on the right we turned up a narrow valley with a small stream and irrigation channels, and close to a spring and some magnificent plane trees camped for Sunday on a level piece of blazing ground where the mercury stood at 106° on both days. This spot was remarkable for some very fine eryngiums growing by the stream, with blossoms of a beautiful “French blue,” the size of a Seville orange.

The Khan’s son, a most unprepossessing young man, called on me, and I received him under the trees, a number of retainers armed with long guns standing round the edge of the carpet. He was well dressed, but a savage in speech and deportment. As to the dress of the Bakhtiaris, the ordinary tribesmen wear coarse cotton shirts fastening at the side, but generally unfastened, blue cotton trousers, each leg two yards wide, loose at the bottom and drawn on a string at the top, webbing shoes, worsted socks if any, woollen girdles with a Kashmir pattern, and huge loose brown felt coats or cloaks with long sleeves, costing from fifteen to twenty-five krans each, and wearing for three or four years. The Khans frequently have their shulwars of black silk, and wear the ordinary Persian full-skirted coat, usually black, but “for best” one of fine blue or fawn cloth. All wear brown or white felt skull-caps, and shave their heads for a width of five inches from the brow to the nape of the neck, leaving long side-locks. The girdle supplies the place of pockets, and in it are deposited knives, the pipe, the tobacco-pouch, the flint and steel, and various etceteras.

Every man carries a long smooth-bore gun slung from his left shoulder, or a stout shillelagh, or a stick split and loaded at one end (the split being secured with strong leather), or all these weapons of offence and defence at once.

These very wide shulwars, much like the “divided garment,” are not convenient in rough walking, and on the march a piece of the hem on the outer side is tucked into the girdle, producing at once the neat effect of knickerbockers.

The men are very well made. I have never seen deformity or lameness except from bullet wounds. They are not usually above the middle height, though that is exceeded by the men of the Zalaki tribe. They are darker than the Persians. As a general rule they have straight noses, with very fully expanded nostrils, good mouths, thin lips, straight or slightly curved eyebrows, dark gray or black eyes, hazel in a few instances, deeply set, and usually rather close together, well-developed foreheads, small ears, very small feet, and small hands with tapering fingers. The limbs below the knee are remarkably straight and well-developed, and the walk is always good.

It is not easy to say how the women are made, as their clothing gives no indications of form. They are long-limbed, and walk with a firm, even, elastic stride. They are frequently tall, and except when secluded are rarely stout. Their hands and feet are small. Their figures are spoilt (if they ever had any) by early maternity and hard work. At twenty a woman looks past forty. Many, perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say most, of them have narrowly escaped being handsome. Fine eyes, straight noses, and well-formed mouths with thin lips are the rule. The hair is always glossy and abundant, and the teeth of both sexes are white, regular, and healthy-looking, though toothache is a painfully common ailment.

The women’s dress in the “higher classes” is much like that worn by the ordinary Persian women, with the exception of what I have elsewhere called “balloon trousers,” but the hard-working tribesmen’s wives are clothed in loose blue cotton trousers drawn in at the ankles, short open chemises, and short open jackets. A black or coloured kerchief covers the head, the ends hanging down behind or in front. They wear loose woollen shoes with leather soles. The dress is not pretty or picturesque, and is apt to be dirty and ragged, but it suits their lives and their hard work.

Both sexes stain the finger-nails and the palms of the hands with henna, and all wear amulets or charms suspended round the neck, or bound on the upper part of the arm. These consist of passages from the Koran, which are written on parchment in very small characters, and are enclosed in cases of silver or leather.

At night they merely take off the outer garment where they have two. The scanty ablutions are very curious. Each family possesses a metal jug of rather graceful form, with a long spout curiously curved, and the mode of washing, which points to an accustomed scarcity of water, is to pour a little into the palm of the right hand, and bathe the face, arms, and hands with it, soap not being used. They conclude by rinsing the mouth and rubbing the teeth either with the forefinger or with the aromatic leaf of a small pink salvia.

I called by appointment on the Khan’s wives, sixteen in number. An ordinary tribesman marries as many wives as he can afford to house and keep. Poverty and monogamy are not allied here. Women do nearly all the work, large flocks create much female employment, and as it is “contrary to Bakhtiari custom” to employ female servants who are not wives, polygamy is very largely practised. On questioning the guides, who are usually very poor men, I find that they have two, three, and even four wives, the reverse of what is customary among the peasants of Turkey and Persia proper. The influence of a chief increases with the number of his wives, as it enlarges his own family connections, and those made by the marriages of his many sons and daughters. Large families are the rule. Six children is the average in a monogamous household, and the rate of infant mortality is very low.

The “fort” is really picturesque, though forlorn and dirty. It is built on the steep slope of a hill, and on one side is three stories in height. It has a long gallery in front, with fretwork above the posts which support the roof, round towers at two of the corners, and many irregular roofs, and steep zigzags cut in the rock lead up to it. The centre is a quadrangle. When I reached the gateway under the tower many women welcomed me, and led me down a darkish passage to the gallery aforesaid, which has a pretty view of low hills, with mulberries and pomegranates in the foreground. This gallery runs the whole length of the fort, and good rooms open upon it. It was furnished with rugs upon the floor, and two long wooden settees, covered with checked native blankets in squares of Indian yellow and madder red.

I had presents for the favourite wife, but as one man said this was the favourite, and another that, and the hungry eyes of sixteen women were fixed on the parcels, I took the safer course of presenting them to the Khan for the “ladies of the andarun.” Yahya Khan sent to know if it would be agreeable to me for him to make his salaam to me, a proposal which I gladly accepted as a relief from the curiosity and disagreeable familiarity of the women. There was a complete rabble of women in the gallery, with crawling children and screaming babies — a forlorn, disorderly household, in which the component parts made no secret of their hatred and jealousy of each other.

I pitied the Khan as he came in to this Babel of intriguing women and untutored children — of women without womanliness and children without innocence — the lord and master of the women, but not in any noble sense their husband, nor is the house, or any polygamous house, in any sense a home.

The wife who, I was afterwards told, is the “reigning favourite” sat on the same settee as her lord, and he ignored the whole of them. Her father, Bagha Khan, asked me to give into his care the present for her, lest it should make the other wives jealous.

Yahya Khan rules a large part of the Pulawand tribe, 1000 families, and aspires to the chieftainship of its subdivisions, among which are the Bosakis, Hajwands, Isawands, and Hebidis, numbering 2800 families.62


Yahya Khan.

He is a tall, big, middle-aged man with a very wide mouth, and a beard dyed auburn with henna — very intelligent, especially as regards his own interests, and very well off, having built his castle himself.

He asked me if I thought England would occupy south-west Persia in the present Shah’s lifetime? Which has the stronger army, England or Russia? Why England does not take Afghanistan? Did I think the Zil-es-Sultan had any chance of succeeding his father? but several times reverted to what seemed uppermost in his mind, the chances of a British occupation of Southern Persia, a subject on which I was unwilling to enter. He complained bitterly of Persian exactions, and said that the demand made on him this year is exactly double the sum fixed by the Amin-es-Sultan.

It is not easy to estimate the legitimate taxation. Probably it averages two tumans, or nearly fifteen shillings a family. The assessment of the tribes is fixed, but twenty, forty, and even sixty per cent extra is often taken from them by the authorities, who in their turn are squeezed at Tihran or Isfahan. Every cow, mule, ass, sheep, and goat is taxed. Horses pay nothing.

In order to get away from perilous topics, which had absolutely no interest for the women. I told him how interested I was in seeing all his people clothed in blue Manchester cottons, though England does not grow a tuft of cotton or a plant of indigo. I mentioned that the number of people dependent on the cotton industry in Britain equals the whole population of Persia, and this made such an impression on him that he asked me to repeat it three times. He described his tribe as prosperous, raising more wheat than it requires, and exporting 1000 tumans’ worth of carpets annually.

It is curious that nomadic semi-savages should not only sow and harvest crops, and make carpets of dyed wool, as well as goats-hair rugs and cloth, horse-furniture, khūrjins, and socks of intricate patterns, but that they should understand the advantages of trade, and export not only mules, colts, and sheep, but large quantities of charcoal, which is carried as far as Hamadan; as well as gaz, gall-nuts, tobacco, opium, rice, gum mastic, clarified butter, the skins of the fox and a kind of marten, and cherry sticks for pipes.

Certainly the women are very industrious, rising at daylight to churn, working all day, weaving in the intervals, and late at night boiling the butter in their big caldrons. They make their own clothes and those of their husbands and children, except the felt coats, sewing with needles like skewers and very coarse loosely-twisted cotton thread. They sew backwards, i.e. from left to right, and seem to use none but a running stitch. Everywhere they have been delighted with gifts of English needles and thread, steel thimbles, and scissors.

When it is remembered that, in addition to all the “household” avocations which I have enumerated, they pitch and strike tents, do much of the loading and unloading of the baggage, and attend faithfully to their own offspring and to that of their flocks and herds, it will be realised that the life of a Bakhtiari wife is sufficiently laborious.

We were to have left that burning valley at 11 P.M., and when I returned at dusk from the fort the tents were folded and the loads ready for a moonlight march, but Yahya Khan sent to say that for the ostensible reason of the path being greatly obstructed by trees we could not start till daylight! Later he came with a number of tribesmen and haggled noisily for two hours about the payment of an escort, and the sheep a day which it would require. It was not a comfortable night, for the sand-flies were legion, and we did not get off till 4.30, when we were joined by Yahya Khan and his son, who accompanied us to the Pul-i-Hawa.

The path from Kalla Khanabad runs at a considerable elevation on wooded hillsides and slopes of shelving rock, only descending to cross some curious ribs of conglomerate and the streams which flow into the Ab-i-Diz. There are frequent glimpses of the river, which has the exquisite green colour noticeable in nearly all the streams of this part of Luristan. At a distance of a few miles from Khanabad the valley, which has been pretty wide, and allows the river to expand into smooth green reaches, narrows suddenly, and the Ab-i-Diz, a full, strong stream, falls in a very fine waterfall over a natural dam or ledge of rock, which crosses it at its broadest part, and is then suddenly compressed into a narrow passage between cliffs and ledges of bituminous limestone, the lowest of which is a continuation of the path which descends upon it by some steep zigzags.

Below this gorge the river opens out into a smooth green stretch, where it reposes briefly before starting on a wild and fretted course through deep chasms among precipitous mountains, till it emerges on the plains above Dizful. These limestone cliffs exude much bitumen, and there is a so-called bituminous spring. Our men took the opportunity of collecting the bitumen and rolling it into balls for future use, as it is esteemed a good remedy for dyspepsia and “bad blood.”

At the narrowest part of its channel the river is crossed by a twig bridge wide enough for laden animals, supported on the left bank by some tree-stems kept steady by a mass of stones. In the middle it takes a steepish upward turn, and hangs on to the opposite cliff at a considerable elevation. The path up from it to the top of the cliff is very narrow, and zigzags by broken ledges between walls of rock. For loaded animals it is a very bad place, and the caravan took an hour and a half to cross, though only four mules were unloaded, the rest being helped across by men at their heads and tails. Several of them fell on the difficult climb from the bridge. It would be bad enough if the roadway of osiers were level, but it shelves slightly to the south. That gorge is a very interesting break in an uninteresting and monotonous region, and the broad fall above the bridge is not without elements of grandeur. The altitude of the river over which the Pul-i-Hawa hangs is only 3800 feet, the lowest attained on this journey.


A Twig Bridge.

The popular nomenclature is adopted here, but it would be more accurate to call this stream the Ab-i-Burujird, and to defer conferring the name of Ab-i-Diz upon it till the two great branches have united far below this point. These are the Ab-i-Burujird, rising to the west of Burujird, which with the tributaries which enter it before it reaches the Tang-i-Bahrain, drains the great plain of Silakhor, and the Ab-i-Basnoi, a part of which has been referred to under its local name of Kakulistan, or “the Curl,” which drains the upper part of the Persian district of Faraidan, and receives the important tributaries of the Guwa and the Gokun before its junction with the Ab-i-Burujird. A tributary rising in the Kuh-i-Rang has been locally considered the head-water of the Ab-i-Diz.

Leaving the Ab-i-Diz, the path pursues valleys with streams and dry torrent-beds, much wooded with oak and hawthorn, with hills above, buff with uncut sun-cured hay, magnificent pasturage, but scantily supplied with water.

The belut, or oak, grows abundantly in these valleys, and on it is chiefly collected the deposit called gaz, a sweetish glaze upon the leaf, which is not produced every year, and which is rather obscure in its origin. When boiled with the leaves it forms a shiny bottle-green mass, but when the water is drained from them and carefully skimmed, it cools into a very white paste which, when made up with rose-water and chopped almonds, is cut into blocks, and is esteemed everywhere. It is mentioned by Diodorus Siculus.63 The unwatered valleys are wooded with the Paliurus aculeata chiefly, and the jujube tree (Zizyphus vulgaris), which abounds among the Bakhtiari mountains.

The heat was frightful, and progress was very slow, owing to the low projecting branches of trees, which delayed the baggage and tore some of the tents. In places the path was farther obstructed by a species of liana known in New Zealand as “a lawyer,” with hooked thorns.

We passed by the steep ledgy village of Shahbadar, on the roofs of which I rode inadvertently, till the shouts of the people showed me my error, and encamped on the only available spot which could be found, a steep, bare prominence above a hollow, in which is a spring surrounded by some fine plane trees. The Shahbadar people live in their village for three winter months only, and were encamped above us, and there were two large camps below. Men from each of them warned us to beware of the others, for they were robbers, and there was a great deal of dexterous pilfering, which reduced my table equipments to a copper mug, one plate, and a knife and fork. My shuldari was torn to pieces, and pulled down over me, by a lively mule which cantered among the tent ropes.

The afternoon, with the mercury at 103°, was spent in entertaining successive crowds, not exactly rude, but full of untamed curiosity. I amused them to their complete satisfaction by letting them blow my whistle, fill my air-cushion, and put the whalebones into my collapsible basins. One of Milward’s self-threading needles, which had luckily been found in my carpet, surprised them beyond measure. Every man and woman insisted on threading it with the eyes shut, and the ketchuda of one camp offered to barter a sheep for it. They said that my shabby tent, with its few and shabby equipments, was “fit for God!”

The camps passed on that day were constructed of booths made of stems of trees with the bark on, the roofs being made of closely-woven branches with the leaves on. These booths are erected round a square with mat walls, and face outwards, a sort of privacy being obtained by backs of coarse reed mats four feet high, and mat divisions between the dwellings. The sheep, goats, and cattle are driven into the square at night through a narrow entrance walled with mats.

Since leaving the Karun very few horses have been seen, and the few have been of a very inferior class. Even Yahya Khan, who has the reputation of being rich, rode a horse not superior to a common pack animal. The people we have been among lately have no horses or mares, the men walk, and the loads are carried on cows and asses.

In the greater part of this country I have not seen a mule, with the exception of some mule foals on a high pass near Ali-kuh. The Bakhtiaris breed mules, however, and sell them in Isfahan in the spring, but rarely use them for burden. They breed horses in some places, exporting the colts and keeping the fillies. Their horses are small and not good-looking, but are wiry and enduring, and as surefooted as mules. In fact they will go anywhere. One check on the breeding of good horses is that, when a man has a good foal, he is often compelled to make a present of it to any superior who fancies it.

The horses are shod, as in Persia proper, with thin iron plates covering nearly the whole hoof, secured by six big-headed nails. Reared in camps and among children, they are perfectly gentle and scarcely require breaking. A good Bakhtiari horse can be bought for £6 or £8. A good mule is worth from £7 to £11. Asses are innumerable, and are used for transporting baggage, equally with oxen and small cows. A good donkey can be bought for 30s.

The goats are very big and long-haired. The sheep, which nearly always are like the goats brown or black, and very tall, are invariably of the breed with the great pendulous tails, which sometimes weigh nearly eight pounds. They give a great deal of milk, and it is on this, not on cows’ milk, that the people rely for the greater part of their food, their cheese, curds, mast, and roghan.

The goat-skins are invaluable to them. They use them for holding water and milk, and as churns for their butter. They make all their tents, their tent carpets, and their sacks for holding wool of goat’s-hair, woven on rude portable looms.

The female costume changed at Shahbadar. The women now wear loose garments like nightgowns, open to the waist, and reaching from the neck to the feet, and red trousers, tight below the knee, but rarely visible below the outer dress. Their notion of ornament consists in having a branch or frond tattooed up the throat.

These tribes breed cattle extensively. One camp possessed over 300 young beasts. The calves are nourished by their mothers up to two years old. They have a few white angora goats of great beauty, but the majority are black and are valued chiefly for their milk and for their long coarse hair.

A march through fierce heat at a low level brought us at noon to the village of Imamzada-i-Mamil. The road, after continuing along the same wooded valley, which in a happier climate would be called a glen, emerges on scenery truly “park-like,” softly-outlined hills covered with buff grass, and wooded on their gently-curved slopes with oak and hawthorn, fringing off into clumps and single trees. Smooth broad valleys, first of buff pasture, and then of golden wheat or green maize, lie among the hills. All is soft and lowland, and was bathed that day in a dreamy blue heat haze. Not a mountain rose above the gently-curved hills which were painted in soft blue on the sky of the distant horizon. The natural wood ceased. The surroundings underwent an abrupt change. Is it a change for the better, I wonder? Three months and a week have been spent in zigzagging among some of the loftiest mountains and deepest valleys of Persia, and they now lie behind, among the things that were. In fact, Khuramabad, from which I write, is not only out of the Bakhtiari country, but the Bakhtiari Lurs are left behind, and we are among the fierce and undisciplined tribes of the Feili Lurs.

The baggage animals were not dubious, as I am, as to the advantages of the change. When we reached the open, Cock o’ the Walk threw up his beautiful head, knocked down the man who led him, and with a joyous neigh set off at a canter, followed by all the mules and horses, some cantering, some trotting, regardless of their loads, and regardless of everything, proceeding irresponsibly, almost knocking one out of the saddle by striking one with the sharp edges of yekdans and tent poles, till they were headed off by mounted men, after which some of them rolled, loads and all, on the soft buff grass. This escapade shows what condition they are in after three months of hard mountain work.

Reaching the village at noon, we halted till moonrise at midnight on an eminence with some fine plane and walnut trees upon it above a stream which issues from below an imamzada on a height, and passes close to a graveyard. Possibly this contaminates the water, for there has been a great outbreak of diphtheria, which has been very fatal. It is quite a small village, but thirteen children suffering from the most malignant form of the malady, some of them really dying at the time, were brought to me during the afternoon, as well as some people ill of what appeared to be typhoid fever. One young creature, very ill, was carried three miles on her father’s back, though I had sent word that I would call and see her at night. She died a few hours later of the exhaustion brought on by the journey. The mercury that afternoon reached 103° in the shade.

Soon after midnight the mules were silently loaded, and we “stole silently away,” to ride through the territory of the powerful Sagwands, a robber tribe, and reached this place in eight hours, having done twenty-two and a half miles. It was a march full of risk, through valleys crowded with camps, and the guide who rode in front was very much frightened whenever the tremendous barking of the camp dogs threatened to bring robbers down on us in the uncertain light. The caravan was kept in steady order, and the rearguard was frequently hailed by the leader. Nothing happened, and when day broke we were in open russet country, among low, formless gravelly hills, with the striking range of rocky mountains which hems in Khuramabad in front, under a hazy sky.

Later, fording the Kashgan, I got upon the Burujird caravan road, along which are telegraph poles, and on which there was much caravan traffic. Recrossing the Kashgan, but this time by a good two-arched bridge of brick on stone piers, the Yafta Kuh came in sight, and Khuramabad with its green gardens, its walls of precipitous mountains, and its ruined fort on an isolated and most picturesque rock in the centre of the town — a very striking view.

Khuramabad, before the fourteenth century, was called Diz Siyah, or the black fort, and was the capital of the Atabegs, the powerful kings who reigned in Luri–Kushuk from A.D. 1155 to about A.D. 1600. Sir H. Rawlinson does not regard any of its remains as earlier than the eleventh or twelfth century.

The camps are outside the town, on a stretch of burning gravel, with some scorched pasture beyond it, on which are Ilyat camps, then there are divers ranges of blackish and reddish mountains, with pale splashes of scorched herbage when there is any at all. Behind my tent are a clump of willows, an irrigating stream, large gardens full of fruit trees and melons, and legions of mosquitos.

Circumstances have changed, and the surroundings now belong to the showy civilisation of Persia. As I was lying under the trees, quite “knocked up” by the long and fatiguing night march and the great heat, I heard fluent French being spoken with a good accent. The Hakīm of the Governor had called. Cavalcades of Persians on showy horses gaily caparisoned dashed past frequently. Ten infantrymen arrived as a guard and stacked their arms under the willows, and four obsequious servants brought me trays of fruit and sweetmeats put up in vine leaves from the Governor. Melons are a drug. The servants are amusing themselves in the bazars. It is a bewildering transition.

The altitude is only 4050 feet, and the heat is awful — the heat of the Indian plains without Indian appliances. When the men took up stones with which to hammer the tent pegs they dropped them “like hot potatoes.” The paraffin candles melt. Milk turns sour in one hour. Even night brings little coolness. It is only heat and darkness instead of heat and light.

I was too much exhausted by heat and fatigue to march last night, and rested today as far as was possible, merely going to pay my respects to the Governor of Luristan, the Nizam-ul-Khilwar, and the ladies of his haram. The characteristics of this official’s face are anxiety and unhappiness. There was the usual Persian etiquette — attendants in the rear, scribes and mollahs bowing and kneeling in front, and tea and cigarettes in the pretty garden of the palace, of which cypresses, pomegranates, and roses are the chief features. Mirza was not allowed to attend me in the andarun, but a munshi who spoke a little very bad French and understood less stood behind a curtain and attempted to interpret, but failed so signally that after one or two compliments I was obliged to leave, after ascertaining that a really beautiful girl of fourteen is the “reigning favourite.” The women’s rooms were pretty, and the women themselves were richly but elegantly dressed, and graceful in manner, though under difficulties. After a visit to the ruined fort, an interesting and picturesque piece of masonry, I rode unmolested through the town and bazars.

Khuramabad, the importance of which lies in its situation on what is regarded as the best commercial route from Shuster to Tihran, etc., is the capital of the Feili Lurs and the residence of the Governor of Luristan. Picturesque at a distance beyond any Persian town that I have seen, with its citadel rising in the midst of a precipitous pass, its houses grouped round the base, its fine bridge, its wooded gardens, its greenery, and the rich valley to the south of the gorge in which it stands, it successfully rivals any Persian town in its squalor, dirt, evil odours, and ruinous condition. Two-thirds of what was “the once famous capital of the Atabegs” are now “ruinous heaps.” The bazars are small, badly supplied, dark, and rude; and the roads are nothing but foul alleys, possibly once paved, but now full of ridges, holes, ruins, rubbish, lean and mangy dogs, beggarly-looking men, and broken channels of water, which, dribbling over the soil in the bazars and everywhere else in green and black slime, gives forth pestiferous odours in the hot sun.

The people slouch about slowly. They are evidently very poor, and the merchants have the melancholy apathetic look which tells that “trade is bad.” The Feili Lurs, who render the caravan route to Dizful incessantly insecure, paralyse the trade of what should and might be a prosperous “distributing point,” and the Persian Government, though it keeps a regiment of soldiers here, is unsuccessful in checking, far less in curing the chronic disorder which has produced a nearly complete stagnation in trade.

I am all the more disappointed with the wretched condition of Khuramabad because the decayed state of its walls is concealed by trees, and it is entered by a handsome bridge 18 feet wide and 900 long, with twenty-eight pointed arches of solid masonry, with a fine caravanserai with a tiled entrance on its left side. The Bala Hissar is a really striking object, its pile of ancient buildings crowning the steep mass of naked rock which rises out of the dark greenery and lofty poplars and cypresses of the irrigated gardens. This fort, which is in ruins, encloses within its double walls the Wali’s palace and other official buildings, and a fine reservoir, 178 feet by 118, fed by a vigorous spring. In the gardens by the river, north of the fort, are some remains of the walls and towers of the ancient Atabeg capital, and there are also ruins of an aqueduct and of an ancient bridge, of which ten arches are still standing. The most interesting relic, however, is a round tower sixty feet high in fairly good preservation, with a Kufic inscription round the top.

It is said that there are 1200 houses in Khuramabad, which would give it a population of over 7000. It has been visited by several Englishmen for purposes of trade or research, and it has doubtless made the same impression upon them all as it does upon me.

Burujird, August 9.— A night march of twenty-two miles through perilous country brought us in blazing heat to an encampment of Seyyids of the Bairanawand tribe, fine-looking men, showing in their haughty bearing their pride in their illustrious lineage, but not above depriving us during the night of many useful articles. Their camp had three streets of tents, in front of which oxen were treading out wheat all day long. These Seyyids have much wealth in mares and oxen. Again we started at moonrise for what was regarded as a dangerous march, a party of Sagwands having gone on ahead, with hostile intentions, it was said.

However, nothing happened, and nothing was heard except the shouts of our own charvadars and the pandemonium made by the simultaneous barking of huge dogs in the many camps we passed but could not see. We rode through cultivated valleys full of nomads, forded the placid Bawali, and at dawn were at the foot of the grand pass of Handawan, 7500 feet in altitude, which is ascended by steep zigzags over worn rock ledges, and the dry boulder-strewn bed of a torrent. A descent of 2000 feet and a long ride among large formless hills took us to a narrow gorge or chasm with a fine mountain torrent, and thence to the magnificent Tang-i-Buzful, from which we emerged with some suddenness on the slopes of the low foot-hills on the north side of the plain of Burujird or Silakhor.

This very rich plain, about thirty miles long by from six to eight broad, has been described as “waterlogged,” and the level of the water is only a foot below the surface. Certainly very numerous springs and streams rise along the hill slopes which we traversed and flow down into the plain, which is singularly flat, and most of it only relieved from complete monotony by the villages which, to the number of 180, are sprinkled over it, many of them raised on artificial mounds, at once to avoid the miasma from the rice-fields and as a protection from the Lurs. Above the south-eastern end rises the grand bulk of Shuturun Kuh, with a few snow-patches still lingering, and towards the other lies the town of Burujird, the neighbourhood of which for a few miles is well planted, but most of the plain is devoid of trees. It is watered by many streams, which flow into the Burujird river and the Kamand–Ab, which uniting, leave the plain by the magnificent Tang-i-Bahrain.

The first view, on emerging from the buff treeless mountains, was very attractive. The tall grass of the rich marshy pastures rippled in the breeze in wavelets of a steely sheen. Brown villages on mounds contrasted with the vivid green of the young rice. Towards Burujird, of which nothing but the gilding of a dome was visible, a mass of dark greenery refreshed the eyes. The charm of the whole was the contrast between the “dry and thirsty land where no water is” and abundant moisture, between the scanty and scorched herbage of the arid mountains and the “trees planted by the rivers of water,” but I confess that the length and overpowering fatigue of that thirty-three miles’ march, much of it in blazing heat, following on three nights without sleep, soon dulled my admiration of the plain. Hour after hour passed on its gravelly margin, then came melon beds, files of donkeys loaded with melons in nets, gardens of cucumbers and gourds, each with its “lodge,” irrigation channels, dykes, apricot and mulberry orchards, lanes bordered with the graceful elægnus, a large and busy village, where after a very uncertain progress we got a local guide, and then a low isolated hill, crowned by a dwelling arranged for security, and a liberally planted garden, a platform with terraced slopes and straight formal walks, a terrace with a fine view, and two tanks full of turtles (which abound in many places) under large willows, giving a pleasant shade. Between them I have pitched my tents, with the lines of an old hymn constantly occurring to me —

“Interval of grateful shade,

Welcome to my weary head.”

Burujird, one and a half mile off, and scarcely seen above the intervening woods, gives a suggestion of civilisation to the landscape. In the sunset, which is somewhat fiery, Shuturun and the precipices of the Tang-i-Bahrain are reddening.

The last three marches have been more severe than the whole travelling of the last three months. Happy thought, that no call to “boot and saddle” will break the stillness of tomorrow morning!

I. L. B.

60 This untoward affair ended well, but had there been bloodshed on either side, had any one of us been killed, which easily might have been, the world would never have believed but that some offence had been given, and that some high-handed action had been the cause of the attack. I am in a position to say, not only that no offence was given, but that here and everywhere the utmost care was taken not to violate Bakhtiari etiquette, or wound religious or national susceptibilities; all supplies were paid for above their value; the servants, always under our own eyes, were friendly but reserved; and in all dealings with the people kindness and justice were the rule. I make these remarks in the hope of modifying any harsh judgments which may be passed upon any travellers who have died unwitnessed deaths at the hands of natives. There are, as in our case, absolutely unprovoked attacks.

61 See Appendix A.

62 I am inclined to estimate the Bakhtiari population at a higher figure than some travellers have given. I took forty-three men at random from the poorest class and from various tribes, and got from them the number of their families, wives and children only being included, and the average was eight to a household.

63 Book xvii. c. viii.

Letter xxi

A week has glided away since I sent my last diary letter, with only two events of direct personal interest, one being that I have bought a young, powerful little Bakhtiari horse, which has been in camp since we left the Karun river, a dark bay, with black points, big feet, a big ugly head, and big flopping ears, but otherwise passably good-looking, an unsuspicious animal, brought up in tent life, with children rolling about among his feet, and as yet quite ignorant that man can be anything but his friend. I intend to look after his well-being, but not to make a pet of him.

The other event occurred on the morning after our arrival, and took the place of the “boot and saddle” call, for I was awakened very early by a hubbub round my tent, the interpretation of which was that a packing case in three compartments, containing my cooking utensils, remaining table equipments, and stores, had been carried off before daylight, deposited in an adjacent plantation, broken open, and emptied. Thus I was left with nothing, and have been unable to get anything in the bazars here except two cooking pots and a tin teapot of unique construction made to order. The few other things which I still regard as absolute necessaries, a cup, plate, knife, fork, and spoon, have been lent me by the Agha. All my tea is gone, the worst loss of all.

Later in the day Hassan came in a quiet rage, saying that he would leave for Isfahan at once, because Mirza had accused him of not keeping an efficient watch, and shortly afterwards Mahomet Ali and his handsome donkey actually did leave.64 Burujird bears a very bad reputation. Here, last year, a young English officer was robbed of his tents and horses, and everything but the clothes he wore.

The Governor, on hearing of the theft, said I should not have “camped in the wilderness,” the “wilderness” being a beautifully kept garden with a gardener (who was arrested) and a house. For the last week a guard of six soldiers has watched by day and night.

The news received from the Bakhtiari country is rather startling. Mirab Khan, who looked too ill and frail for active warfare, sent a messenger with a letter to Khaja Taimur, urging him to join him in an attack on Aslam Khan. The letter was intercepted by this “Judas,” and now the country from Kalahoma to Khanabad is in a flame. Serious troubles have broken out in this plain, all the Khans of the Sagwand tribe having united to rise against the payment of a tribute which they regard as heavy enough to “crush the life out of the people.” The Hākim has telegraphed for troops, and the governor of Luristan is said to be coming with 500 men.

A “tribute insurrection,” on a larger or smaller scale, is a common autumnal event. The Khans complain of being oppressed by “merciless exactions.” They say that the tribute fixed by the Shah is “not too much,” but that it is doubled and more by the rapacity of governors, and that the people are growing poorer every year. They complain that when they decline to pay more than the tribute fixed by the Amin-es-Sultan, soldiers are sent, who drive off their mares, herds of cattle, and flocks to the extent of three, four, and five times the sum demanded.

These few words contain the substance of statements almost universally made. There is probably another side, and they may be true in part only. The tribesmen of Silakhor state that they had protested and appealed in vain before they decided on resistance. Every Khan with whom I have conversed has besought me to lay his case before the “English Vakil” at Tihran.

This widely-diffused belief in England as the redresser of wrongs is very touching, and very palatable to one’s national pride. All these people have heard of the way in which the cultivators in India have been treated, of “land settlements” and English “settlement officers,” and they say, “England could make everything right for us.” So she could, “and she would”! As the governors pay large sums for offices from which they are removable at the Shah’s pleasure, and as the lower officials all pay more or less heavily for their positions, we may reasonably infer that all, from the highest to the lowest, put on the screw, and squeeze all they can out of the people, over and above the tribute fixed at Tihran. Near views of Oriental despotisms are as disenchanting as near views of “the noble savage,” for they contain within themselves the seeds of “all villainies,” which rarely, if ever, fail of fructification.

Mirza Karim Khan, the Governor of Burujird, called a few days ago, a young harassed-looking man, with very fine features, but a look of serious bad health. He complained so much that the Agha asked his attendant, a very juvenile Hakīm, speaking a little scarcely intelligible French, if he would object to the Governor taking something from the famous “leather box,” and the effect was so magical that the next day he looked a different man.

An arrangement was made for returning the visit, and he received us in a handsome tent in a garden, with the usual formalities, but only a scribe and the Hakīm were present. A sowar, sent from Burujird with a letter to the Sahib, was undoubtedly robbed of his horse, gun, and some of his clothing en route. Very quietly the Governor denied this, but as he did so I saw a wink pass between the scribe and Hakīm. It was a pitiable sight — a high official sitting there, with luxuries about him, in a city with its walls, embankments, and gates ruinous, the brickwork in the palace gardens lying in heaps, his province partially disturbed, the people rising against what, at the least, are oppressive exactions, raising an enormous tribute, from which there is no outlay on province or city, government for the good of the governed never entering into his (as rarely into any other Oriental) mind.

This evening he has made a farewell visit on the terrace, attended by the Hakīm. Aziz Khan stood on the edge of the carpet, and occasionally interjected a remark into the conversation. I have before said that he has a certain gentlemanliness and even dignity, and his manner was neither cringing nor familiar. The Hakīm, however, warned him not to speak in presence of the Governor, a restraint which, though very different from the free intercourse of retainers with their chiefs among the Bakhtiari, was in strict accordance with the proprieties of Persian etiquette. Aziz stalked away, shaking his wide shulwars, with an air of contempt. “This governor,” he afterwards said, “what is he? If it were Isfandyar Khan, and he were lying down, my head would be next to his, and twenty more men would be lying round him to guard his life with ours.”

It seems as if Burujird were destitute of cavalry, at least of men who can be spared, though it has been stated that a whole cavalry regiment is in garrison.65

The Governor promised three escorts; my modest request was for one sowar, and a very unmilitary-looking horseman has arrived for me, but now, within an hour of marching, the others are without even one!

Attended by the Hakīm and an escort, we rode yesterday through Burujird. To write that a third of it is in ruins is simply to write that it is a Persian town. It has crumbling mud walls, said to be five miles in circumference, five gates in bad repair, and a ditch, now partially cultivated.

It is situated in Lat. 33° 55’ N, and its Long. is 48° 55’ E. Its elevation is 4375 feet [Bell]. Its population is estimated at from 12,000 to 18,000, and includes a great many Seyyids and mollahs. It has a Persian Telegraph Office and Post Office, neither of them to be depended upon, six large and very many small mosques, a number of mosque schools, thirty-three public baths, and six caravanserais. It manufactures woollen goods, carpets, and the best arak to be found in Persia. It also produces dried fruits and treacle made from grapes.

The bazars are large, light, and well supplied with European goods, Russian and English cottons in enormous quantities, Austrian kerosene lamps of all descriptions and prices, Russian mirrors, framed coloured engravings of the Russian Imperial family, Russian samovars, tea-glasses and tea-trays, Russian sewing and machine cotton, American sewing machines, Russian woollen cloth, fine and heavy, Russian china, and Russian sugar-loaves, to the sale of which several shops are exclusively devoted.

Persian manufactures are chiefly represented by heavy cottons, dyed and stamped at Isfahan, carpets, saddles, horse and mule furniture, copper cooking utensils, shoes of all makes, pipes, kalians, rope, ornamented travelling trunks, galon, gimps, tassels of silk and wool, and “small wares” of all kinds, with rude pottery, oil jars, each big enough to contain a man, great water-jars, small clay bowls glazed roughly with a green glaze, guns, swords, pistols, long knives, and the tools used by the different trades.

Altogether the bazars look very thriving, and they were crowded with buyers. Possibly the people have rarely if ever seen a Feringhi woman, and they crowded very much upon me, and the escort drove them off in the usual fashion, with sticks and stones. Though much of Burujird lies in ruins it has a fair aspect of prosperity and some very good houses and new buildings. The roads are cobbled with great stones, and are certainly not worse than those of the older parts of Tihran. Water is abundant.

Nature evidently intends Burujird to be a prosperous city. The pasturage of the plain is magnificent, and the rich soil produces two crops a year. All cereals flourish. Wheat and barley ripen in July. Seven sorts of grapes grow, and ripen in August and September, and some of the clusters are finer than any of our hothouse produce. Water and musk melons, tobacco, maize, gourds and cucumbers, beans, the bringal or egg plant, peas, flax and other oil seeds, rice and cotton, apricots, walnuts, pomegranates, and peaches testify to the excellence of the soil and climate.

Not only is Burujird in the midst of an exceptionally fine agricultural district, but it is connected by caravan routes with the best agricultural and commercial regions of Persia to the north, east, and west by easy roads, never snow-blocked, or at least they never need be if there were traffic enough to keep them open. It is only 130 miles from rich Kirmanshah, 90 from the fertile district which surrounds Hamadan, 60 from Sultanabad, the most important carpet-producing region of Western Persia, and rich besides in grain and cotton, 140 from Kûm, on the main road from Isfahan to Tihran, something about 230 from Tihran, and only 310 from Ahwaz.

These routes are all easy, though, so far as I know them, very badly supplied with caravanserais, except on the main road between the two capitals. The southern road, leading through Khuramabad to Dizful and Shuster, has no great natural difficulties, though part of it lies through a mountainous region. Some blasting and much boulder-lifting would, according to Colonel Bell, remedy the evils of the fifty miles of it which he regards as bad. But, apart from this, the Shuster–Burujird route, the most natural route for north and south-western Persian commerce to take to and from the sea, is at present useless to trade from its insecurity, as the Feili Lurs, through whose territory it passes, own no authority, live by robbery when they have any one to rob, and are always fighting each other.

There are no regular charvadars in Burujird, and many and tedious have been the difficulties in the way of getting off. Up to last night I had no mules, and Hadji said mournfully, “When you learn what other charvadars are like, you’ll think of me.” I have taken leave of Aziz Khan with regret. He echoes the oft-repeated question, “Why does not England come and give us peace? In a few years we should all be rich, and not have to fight each other.” “Stay among us for some years,” he said, “and you will get very rich. What have you to go back to in Feringhistan?” He asked me for a purse, and to put some krans in it for his children, but not to give him any money. He said that when he asked for money and other things he was only in fun. I do not know whether to believe him.

Mirza and my caravan started this morning, and now, 4 P.M., I am leaving with the sowar, with the mercury at 90°, for the first march of a journey of 800 miles.

I. L. B.

64 I have since heard that this youth was an accomplice of a Burujird man in this theft, and of an Armenian in a robbery of money which occurred in Berigun.

65 Throughout the part of Persia in which I have travelled I have observed a most remarkable discrepancy between the numbers of soldiers said to garrison any given place, and the number which on further investigation turned out to be actually there. It is safe to deduct from fifty to ninety per cent from the number in the original statement!

Letter xxii

It was as I thought. The sowar sent with me was only a harmless peasant taken from the plough, mounted on his own horse, and provided with a Government gun. The poor fellow showed the “white feather” on the first march, and I was obliged to assert the “ascendency of race” and ride in front of him. The villagers at once set him down as an impostor, and refused him supplies, and as his horse could not keep up with mine, and the road presented no apparent perils, I dismissed him at the end of three days with a largesse which gladdened his heart. He did not know the way, and the afternoon I left Burujird he led me through ploughed fields and along roadless hillsides, till at the end of an hour I found myself close to the garden from which I started.

The early part of the first march is over great bare gravelly slopes without water. Then come irrigation and villages. The hills have been eaten nearly bare. Nothing remains but a yellow salvia and the beautiful Eryngium cæruleum. There, as in the Bakhtiari country, the people stack the Centaurea alata for winter fodder. The road is good, and except in two places a four-wheeled carriage could be driven over it at a trot.

The camping-ground was outside Deswali, an unwalled village of 106 houses, with extensive cultivated lands and a “well-to-do” aspect. The people raise cereals, melons, cucumbers, grapes, and cotton, but in bad seasons have to import wheat. There, as at every village since, the ketchuda has called upon me, and some of these men have been intelligent and communicative, and have shown such courtesies as have been in their power. It is an unusual, if not an unheard-of, thing for a European lady, even if she knows Persian, to travel through this country without a European escort; but there has been no rudeness or impertinent curiosity, no crowding even; the headmen all seemed anxious for my comfort, and supplies at reasonable rates have always been forthcoming.

The heat at Deswali was overpowering, the mercury in my tent standing for hours on 17th August at 120°, the temperature in the shade being 104°.

It is vain to form any resolution against making a pet of a horse. My new acquisition, “Boy,” insisted on being petted, and his winning and enticing ways are irresistible. He is always tethered in front of my tent with a rope so long as to give him a considerable amount of liberty, and he took advantage of this the very first day to come into the tent and make it very apparent that he wanted me to divide a melon with him. Grapes were his next penchant, then cucumber, bread, and biscuits. Then he actually drank milk out of a soup plate. He comes up to me and puts his head down to have his ears rubbed, and if I do not attend to him at once, or cease attending to him, he gives me a gentle but admonitory thump. I dine outside the tent, and he is tied to my chair, and waits with wonderful patience for the odds and ends, only occasionally rubbing his soft nose against my face to remind me that he is there. Up to this time a friendly snuffle is the only sound that he has made. He does not know how to fight, or that teeth and heels are of any other use than to eat and walk with. He is really the gentlest and most docile of his race. The point at which he “draws the line” is being led. He drags back, and a mulish look comes into his sweet eyes. But he follows like a dog, and as I walk as much as I can I always have him with me. He comes when I call him, stops when I stop, goes off the road with me when I go in search of flowers, and usually puts his head either on my shoulder or under my arm. To him I am an embodiment of melons, cucumbers, grapes, pears, peaches, biscuits, and sugar, with a good deal of petting and ear-rubbing thrown in. Every day he becomes more of a companion. He walks very fast, gallops easily, never stumbles, can go anywhere, is never tired, and is always hungry. I paid £4:15s. for him, but he was bought from the Bakhtiaris for £3:14s. as a four-year-old. He is “up to” sixteen stone, jumps very well, and is an excellent travelling horse.

Redundant forelocks and wavy manes, uncut tails carried in fiery fashion, small noses, quivering nostrils, small restless ears, and sweet intelligent eyes add wonderfully to the attractiveness of the various points of excellence which attract a horse-fancier in Persia. A Persian horse in good condition may be backed against any horse in the world for weight-carrying powers, endurance, steadiness, and surefootedness, is seldom unsound, and is to his rider a friend as well as a servant. Generally speaking, a horse can carry his rider wherever a mule can carry a load, and will do from thirty to forty miles a day for almost any length of time.

The clothing of horses is an important matter. Even in this hot weather they wear a good deal — first a parhan or shirt of fine wool crossed over the chest; next the jul, a similar garment, but in coarser wool; and at night over all this is put the namad, a piece of felt half an inch thick, so long that it wraps the animal from head to tail, and so deep as to cover his body down to his knees. A broad surcingle of woollen webbing keeps the whole in place.

The food does not vary. It consists of from seven to ten pounds of barley daily, in two feeds, and as much as a horse can eat of kah, which is straw broken in pieces about an inch and a half long. While travelling, barley and kah are mixed in the nose-bag. No hay is given, and there are no oats. It is customary among the rich to give their horses an exclusive diet of barley grass for one month in the spring, on which they grow very fat and useless. Old horses are fed on dough-balls made of barley-flour and water. A grape diet is also given in the grape-producing regions in the autumn instead of kah. Boy eats ten pounds of grapes as a mere dessert.

I admire and like the Persian horse. His beauty is a constant enjoyment, and, ferocious as he is to his fellows, he is gentle and docile to man. I cannot now recall having seen a vicious horse in seven months. On the whole they are very well cared for, and are kindly treated. The sore backs of baggage horses are almost inevitable, quite so, indeed, so long as the present form of pack-saddle stuffed with kah is used. Mares are not ridden in Persia proper.

The march from Deswali to Sahmine is a pretty one, at first over long buff rolling hills and through large elevated villages, then turning off from the Kirmanshah road and descending into a broad plain, the whole of which for several miles is occupied by the trees and gardens of the eminently prosperous village of Sahmine, whose 500 families, though they pay a tribute of 2400 tumans a year, have “nothing to complain of.”66

I was delighted with the oasis of Sahmine. It has abundant water for irrigation, which means abundant fertility. Its walnut trees are magnificent, and its gardens are filled with noble fruit trees. The wheat harvest was being brought in, and within the walls it was difficult to find a place to camp on, for all the open spaces were threshing-floors, piled with sheaves of wheat and mounds of kah, in the midst of which oxen in spans of two were threshing. That is, they drew machines like heavy wood sleds, with transverse revolving wooden rollers set with iron fans at different angles, which cut the straw to pieces. A great heap of unbound sheaves is in the centre, and from this men throw down the stalked ears till they come up to the bodies of the oxen, adding more as fast as the straw is trodden down. A boy sits on the car and keeps the animals going in a circle hour after hour with a rope and a stick. The foremost oxen are muzzled. The grain falls out during this process.

On a windy day the great heaps are tossed into the air on a fork, the straw is carried for a short distance, and the grain falling to the ground is removed and placed in great clay jars in the living-rooms of the houses. All the villages are now surrounded with mounds of kah which will be stored before snow comes. The dustiness of this winnowing process is indescribable. I was nearly smothered with it in Sahmine, and on windy days each village is enveloped in a yellow dust storm.

Sahmine, though it has many ruinous buildings, has much building going on. It has large houses with balakhanas, a Khan’s fort with many houses inside, a square with fine trees and a stream, and a place with a stream, where madder-red dyers were at work, and there are five small mosques and imamzadas. The gardens are quite beautiful, and it is indeed a very attractive village.

The people also were attractive and friendly. After the ketchuda’s official visit the Khan’s wives called, and pressed me very hospitably to leave my tent and live with them, and when I refused they sent me a dinner of Persian dishes with sweetmeats made by their own hands. The kabobs were quite appetising. They are a favourite Persian dish, made of pieces of seasoned meat roasted on skewers, and served very hot, between flaps of very hot bread. Each bit of meat is rubbed with an onion before being put on the skewer, and a thin slice of tail fat is put between every two pieces. The cooks show great art in the rapidity with which they rotate a skewer full of kabobs over a fierce charcoal fire.

In the evening, at the ketchuda’s request, I held a “reception” outside my tent, and it was a very pleasant, merry affair. Several of the people brought their children, and the little things behaved most graciously. It is very pleasant to see the devotion of the men to them. I told them that in England many of our people are so poor that instead of children being welcome they are regarded ruefully as additional “mouths to feed.” “Ah,” said the ketchuda, a handsome Seyyid, “your land is then indeed under the curse of God. We would like ten children at once, they are the joy of our lives.” Other men followed, expatiating on the delights of having children to pet and play with on their return from work.

Sahmine not only dyes and prints cottons, but it exports wheat, barley, opium, cotton, and fruit, and appears a more important and prosperous place than Daulatabad, the capital of the district.

The fine valley between Sahmine and Daulatabad is irrigated by a kanaat and canals, and is completely cultivated, bearing heavy crops of wheat, cotton, tobacco, opium, bringals, and castor oil. The wheat is now being carried to the villages on asses’ backs in great nets, lashed to six-foot poles placed in front and behind, each pole being kept steady by a man.

The heat on that march was severe. A heavy heat-haze hung over the distances, vegetation drooped, my mock sowar wrapped up his head in his abba, the horses looked limp, the harvesters slept under the trees, the buffaloes lay down in mud and water. Even the greenery of the extensive gardens in and around Daulatabad scarcely looked cool.

Daulatabad is a walled city of 4500 souls, has a fort, and is reputed to have a large garrison. The bazars, which contain 250 shops, are indifferent, and the five caravanserais wretched. It and its extensive gardens occupy the eastern extremity of a plain, and lie very near the steep rocky mountain Sard Kuh, through which, by the Tang-i-Asnab, the Tihran road passes. Another road over the shoulder of the mountain goes to Isfahan. The plain outside the walls has neither tree nor bush, and was only brought into cultivation two years ago. The harvest was carried, and as irrigation had been suspended for some weeks, there was nothing but a yellow expanse of short thin stubble and blazing gravel.

There was no space for camping in any available garden, and an hour was spent in finding a camping-ground with wholesome water on the burning plain before mentioned. I camped below a terraced and planted eminence, on which a building, half fort and half governor’s house, has so recently been erected that it has not had time to become ruinous. It is an imposing quadrangle with blank walls, towers with windows at the corners, and a very large balakhana over the entrance. A winding carriage-drive, well planted, leads up to it, and there is a circular band-stand with a concrete floor and a fountain. The most surprising object was a new pair-horse landau, standing under a tree. Barracks are being built just below the house.

While my tent was being pitched, the Governor’s aide-decamp, attended by a cavalry escort, called, and with much courtesy offered me the balakhana, arranged, he said, in European fashion. The Governor was absent, but this officer said that it would be his wish to offer me hospitality. As I felt quite unable to move he sent a skin of good water, some fruit, and a guard of four soldiers.

It was only 11 A.M. when the tents were pitched, and the long day which followed was barely endurable. The mercury reached 124° inside my tent. The servants lay in a dry ditch under a tree in the Governor’s garden. Boy several times came into the shade of my verandah. The black flies swarmed over everything, and at sunset covered the whole roof of the tent so thickly that no part of it could be seen. The sun, a white scintillating ball, blazed from a steely sky, over which no cloud ever passed. The heated atmosphere quivered over the burning earth. I was at last ill of fever, and my recipe for fighting the heat by ceaseless occupation failed. It was a miserable day, and at one time a scorching wind, which seemed hot enough to singe one’s hair, added to the discomfort. “As the hireling earnestly desireth the shadow,” so I longed for evening, but truly the hours of that day were “long drawn out.” The silence was singular. Even the buzzing of a blue-bottle fly would have been cheerful. The sun, reddening the atmosphere as he sank, disappeared in a fiery haze, and then the world of Daulatabad awoke. Parties of Persian gentlemen on fiery horses passed by, dervishes honoured me by asking alms, the Governor’s major-domo called to offer sundry kindnesses, and great flocks of sheep and goats, indicated by long lines of dust clouds, moved citywards from the hills. Sand-flies in legions now beset me, and the earth, which had been imbibing heat all day, radiated it far into the morning. I moved my bed outside the tent and gave orders for an early start, but the charvadar who was in the city over-slept himself, and it was eight the next day before I got away, taking Mirza with me.

The heat culminated on that day. Since then, having attained a higher altitude, it has diminished.67 The road to Jamilabad ascends pretty steadily through undulating country with small valleys among low hills, but with hardly any villages, owing to the paucity of water. The fever still continuing, I found it difficult to bear the movement of the horse, and dismounted two or three times and lay under an umbrella by the roadside. On one of these halts I heard Mirza’s voice saying in cheerful tones, “Madam, your horse is gone!” “Gone!” I exclaimed, “I told you always to hold or tether him.” “I trusted him,” he replied sententiously. “Never trust any one or any horse, and least of all yourself,” I replied unadvisedly. I sent him back with his horse to look for Boy, telling him when he saw him to dismount and go towards him with the nose-bag, and that though the horse would approach it and throw up his heels and trot away at first, he would eventually come near enough to be caught. After half an hour he came back without him. I asked him what he had done. He said he saw Boy, rode near him twice, did not dismount, held out to him not the nose-bag with barley but my “courier bag,” and that Boy cantered out of sight! For the moment I shared Aziz Khan’s contempt for the “desk-bred” man.

Mirza is so good that one cannot be angry with him, but it was very annoying to hear him preach about “fate” and “destiny” while he was allowing his horse to grind my one pair of smoked spectacles into bits under his hoofs. I only told him that it would be time to fall back on fate and destiny when, under any given circumstances, such as these, he had exhausted all the resources of forethought and intelligence. My plight was a sore one, for by that time I was really ill, and had lost, as well as my horse and saddle, my food, quinine, writing materials, and needle-work. I got on the top of the baggage and rode for five hours, twice falling off from exhaustion. The march instead of being thirteen miles turned out twenty-two, there was no water, poor Mirza was so “knocked up” that he stumbled blindly along, and it was just sunset when, after a series of gentle ascents, we reached the village of Jamilabad, prettily situated on the crest of a hill in a narrow valley above a small stream.

To acquaint the ketchuda with my misfortune, and get him to send a capable man in search of the horse, promising a large reward, and to despatch Hassan with a guide in another direction, were the first considerations, and so it fell out that it was 10 P.M. before I was at rest in my tent, where I was obliged to remain for some days, ill of fever. The next morning a gentle thump, a low snuffle, and a theft of some grapes by my bedside announced that Boy was found, and by the headman’s messenger, who said he met a Seyyid riding him to Hamadan. The saddle-cloth was missing, and all the things from the holsters, but after the emissary had been arrested for some crime the latter were found in his large pockets. Hassan returned late in the afternoon, having been surrounded by four sowars, who, under the threat of giving him a severe beating, deprived him of his watch.

When I was so far better as to be able to move, I went on to Mongawi, a large walled village at an elevation of 7100 feet, camped for two days on an adjacent slope, and from thence rode to Yalpand by a road on a height on the east side of a very wild valley on the west of which is Elwend, a noble mountain, for long an object of interest on the march from Kirmanshah to Tihran. A great number of the mountains of Persia are ridges or peaks of nearly naked rock, with precipices on which nothing can cling, and with bases small in proportion to their elevation. Others are “monstrous protuberances” of mud and gravel. Mount Elwend, however, has many of the characteristics of a mountain — a huge base broken up into glens and spurs, among which innumerable villages with their surroundings of woods and crops are scattered, with streams dashing through rifts and lingering among pasture lands, vine-clothed slopes below and tawny grain above, high summits, snow-slashed even now, clouds caught and falling in vivifying showers, indigo colouring in the shadows, and rocky heights for which purple-madder would be the fittest expression.

In one of the loveliest of the valleys on the skirts of Elwend lies the large walled village of Yalpand on a vigorous stream. For two miles before reaching it the rugged road passes through a glen which might be at home, a water-worn ledgy track, over-arched by trees, with steep small fields among them in the fresh green of grass springing up after the hay has been carried. Trees, ruddy with premature autumnal tints and festooned with roses and brambles, bend over the river, of which little is visible but here and there a flash of foam or a sea-green pool. The village, on a height above the stream, has banks of orchards below and miles of grain above, and vineyards, and material plenty of all sorts. It was revelling in the dust storm which winnowing produces, and the ketchuda suggested to me to camp at some distance beyond it, on a small triangular meadow below a large irrigation stream. Hardly were the tents pitched when, nearly without warning, Elwend blackened, clouds gathered round his crest and boiled up out of his corries, and for the first time since the middle of January there were six hours of heavy rain, with hail and thunder, and a fall of the mercury within one hour from 78° to 59°. The coolness was most delicious.

Hadji Hussein’s prophecy that after I left him I should “know what charvadars are” was not fulfilled on this journey. I had one young man with me who from having performed the pilgrimage to Kerbela bears the name of “Kerbelai” for the rest of his life. He owns the fine and frisky animals he drives, and goes along at a good pace, his long gun over his shoulder, singing as he goes. Blithe, active, jolly, obliging, honest, kind-hearted, he loads as fast as three ordinary men, and besides grooming and feeding his animals well, he “ran messages,” got the water and wood, and helped to pitch and strike the tents, and was as ready to halt as to march. Hassan and Mirza are most deliberate in their movements; nothing can hurry them, not even the risk of being flooded out of their tents; and when the storm came on Kerbelai snatched the spade from them and in no time trenched my tent and dug a channel to let the water out of the meadow.

The next day was cloudless, and the sky, instead of having a whitish or steely blue, had the deep pure tint so often seen on a June day in England. The heat returned, and it was a fatiguing and dusty march into Hamadan, still mainly on the skirts of Elwend, among villages surrounded by vineyards. After pursuing a by-road from Jamilabad I joined the main road, two miles from Hamadan, and the number of men on good horses, of foot passengers, and of asses laden with fruit and vegetables, indicated the approach to a capital as plainly as the wide road, trenched on both sides and planted with young willows.

The wall as is usual is of crumbling, rain-eaten, sun-dried bricks, and a very poor gateway admits the traveller into a network of narrow alleys, very ruinous, with infamous roadways, full of lumps, holes, slimy black channels, stout mangy dogs, some of them earless, tailless, and one-eyed, sleeping in heaps in the hot sun, the whole overwhelmingly malodorous.68

It was no easy matter to find the way to the American Mission House, even though the missionary Hakīm is well known and highly esteemed, and I rode through the filthy alleys of the city and its crowded bazars for more than an hour before I reached the Armenian quarter. The people were most polite. There was no shouting or crushing in the bazars, and in some cases men walked with me for some distance to show me the way, especially when I asked for the Khanum’s house. Indeed they all seemed anxious to assist a stranger. Many of the children salaamed, as I thought, but I have since heard that they are fond of using to a Christian a word which sounds just like salaam, but which instead of meaning Peace is equivalent to “May you be for ever accursed!”

On reaching the Mission House I found it shut and that the missionaries were in the country, and after sending word that I had arrived I spent some hours in an Armenian house, where the people showed extreme hospitality and kindness.

They put a soft quilt down on the soft rugs, which covered the floor of a pretty whitewashed room, with many ornaments, chiefly Russian, and, finding that I was ill, they repeatedly brought tea, milk, and fruit instead of the heavy dinner which was at once cooked. The sight of several comely women dressed in shades of red, with clean white chadars, going about household avocations, receiving visitors and gracefully exercising the rites of hospitality in a bright clean house festooned with vines, was very pleasant to a dweller in tents. It is not Armenian custom for a daughter-in-law to speak in the presence of her mother-in-law, or even to uncover her mouth, or for young women to speak in presence of their elders. A wife cannot even address her husband in the presence of his mother, except in a furtive whisper. Owing to the custom of covering the mouth, which shows no symptom of falling into disuse, I did not see the face of a girl matron who, judging from her eyes, nose, and complexion, was the comeliest in the room.

Towards evening, as I lay trying to sleep, I was delightfully startled by a cheery European voice, and a lady bent over me, whose face was sunshine, and the very tone of her voice a welcome. Goodness, purity, love, capacity to lead as well as help, true strength, and true womanliness met in the expression of her countenance. Her spotless cambric dress, her becoming hat with its soft white pagri, the harmonious simplicity of her costume, and her well-fitting gloves and shoes were a joy after the slovenliness, slipshodness, and generally tumbling-to-pieces look of Oriental women. The Faith Hubbard School, one of the good works of the American Presbyterian Mission, was close by, and in half an hour Miss —— made me feel “at home.” Blessed phrase!

I. L. B.

66 On this journey of 400 miles from Burujird to the Turkish frontier near Urmi, I never heard one complaint of the tribute which is paid to the Shah. All complaints, and they were many, were of the exactions and rapacity of the local governors.

67 North of Daulatabad, the route of last winter from Nanej to Kûm, the winter route from Kangawar to Tihran, was crossed. Although it is a “beaten track” for caravans, so far as I know the only information concerning it consists in two reports, not accessible to the public, in the possession of the Indian authorities.

68 Hamadan is the fourth city in the Empire in commercial importance. She has a Prince Governor, 450 villages in the district, raises revenue to the amount of 60,000 tumans, of which only 11,000 are paid into the Imperial Treasury, and, as the ancient Ecbatana, the capital of the Median kings, she has a splendid history, but the few lines in which I recorded my first impressions are not an exaggeration of the meanness and unsavouriness of her present externals.

Letter xxiii

I came for four days, and have been here nearly three weeks, which I would willingly prolong into as many months if the winter were not impending. Illness, the non-arrival of luggage containing winter clothing from Tihran, and the exceeding difficulty of finding a charvadar willing to go to Urmi by the route I wish to take, have all detained me. For some time I was unable to leave the house, and indeed have been out very little, and not outside the city at all.

I am disappointed both with Hamadan and its autumn climate. It stands at an elevation of 6156 feet [Schindler], and on the final slope of the Kuh-i-Hamadan, an offshoot of Mount Elwend, overlooking a plain about fifteen miles long by nine broad, populous and cultivated, bounded on the other side by low gravelly hills. At this altitude, and with autumn fairly begun, coolness might be expected, but the heat, which a fortnight ago seemed moderating, has returned in fury, with that peculiar faintness about it which only autumn gives. Mount Elwend attracts masses of clouds, and these tend to hang over the town and increase the stagnation of the air, about which there is a remarkable closeness, even in this high situation overlooking the plain. Intermittent fever and diphtheria are prevailing both in the city and the adjacent villages. Not only is the air close and still, but the sun is blazing hot, and the mercury only varies from 88° in the day to 84° at night. Brown dust-storms career wildly over the plain, or hang heavily over it in dust clouds, and the sand-flies are abundant and merciless. In the winter the cold is intense, and the roads are usually blocked with snow for several weeks.

Water is abundant, and is led through open channels in the streets. The plain too is well supplied, and the brown villages, which otherwise would be invisible on the brown plain, are denoted by dark green stains of willow, poplar, and fruit trees. The town itself has fine gardens, belonging to the upper classes, but these are only indicated by branches straying over the top of very high walls.

My first impressions have received abundant confirmation. Important as a commercial centre as Hamadan doubtless is, it is as ruinous, filthy, decayed, and unprosperous-looking a city as any I have seen in Persia. “Ruinous heaps,” jagged weather-worn walls, houses in ruins, or partly ruined and deserted, roofs broken through, domes from which the glazed tiles have dropped off, roadways not easy by daylight and dangerous at night, water-channels leaking into the roads and often black with slime, and an unusual number of very poor and badly-dressed people going about, are not evidences of the prosperity which, in spite of these untoward appearances, really exists.

The high weather-worn mud walls along the alleys have no windows, in order that the women may not see or be seen by men. A doorway with a mounting-block outside it, in “well-to-do” houses, admits into a vaulted recess, from which a passage, dimly lighted, conducts into the courtyard, round which the house is built, or into the house itself. These courtyards are planted with trees and flowers, marigolds and autumnal roses being now in the ascendant. Marble basins with fountains, and marble walks between the parterres, suggest coolness, and walnuts, apples, and apricots give shade. The men’s and women’s apartments are frequently on opposite sides of the quadrangles, and the latter usually open on atriums, floored with white marble and furnished with rugs and brocaded curtains. I have only seen the women’s apartments, and these in the houses of rich traders and high officials are as ornamental as the exteriors are repulsive and destitute of ornament. Gilding, arabesques in colour, fretwork doors and panelling, and ceilings and cornices composed of small mirrors arranged so as to represent facets, are all decorative in the extreme. These houses, with the deep shade of their courtyards, the cool plash of their fountains, and their spacious and exquisitely-decorated rooms, contrast everywhere with the low dark mud hovels, unplastered and windowless, in which the poor live, and which the women can only escape from by sitting in the heaped and filthy yards on which they open, and which the inhabitants share with their animals. The contrast between wealth and poverty is strongly emphasised in this, as in all Persian cities, but one must add that the gulf between rich and poor is bridged by constant benevolence on the part of the rich, profuse charity being practised as a work of merit by all good Moslems.

The bazars are shabby and partially ruinous, but very well supplied with native produce and manufactures, English cottons, Russian merchandise, and “knick-knacks” of various descriptions. The presence of foreigners in the town, although they import many things by way of Baghdad, has introduced foreign articles of utility into the bazars, which are not to be found everywhere, and which are commending themselves to the people, “Peek and Frean’s” biscuits among them. The display of fruit just now is very fine, especially of grapes and melons. The best peaches, which are large and of delicious flavour, as well as the best pears, come from the beautiful orchards of Jairud, not far from Kûm. The saddlery and caravan equipment bazars are singularly well supplied, as indeed they should be, for Hamadan is famous for leather, and caravans loaded with hides for its tanneries are met with on every road. The bark and leaves of the pomegranate are used for tanning. Besides highly ornamental leather for book-bindings and women’s shoes, the tanners prepare the strong skins which, after being dyed red, are used for saddles, coverings of trunks, and bindings for khūrjins.

Hamadan is also famous for namads or felts, which are used as carpets and horse-coverings, and as greatcoats by the peasants as well as by the Lurs. A good carpet felt of Hamadan manufacture is an inch thick, but some made at Yezd reach two inches. For rich men’s houses they are made to order to fit rooms, and valuable rugs are laid over them. The largest I have seen is in the palace of the Minister of Justice at Tihran, which must be fully a hundred and twenty feet by eighty feet, and formed fourteen mule-loads; but sixty by forty feet is not an uncommon size, and makes eight mule-loads. These carpet namads, the most delicious of floor-coverings, are usually a natural brown, with an outline design in coloured threads or in a paler shade of brown beaten into the fabric. Namads, owing to their bulk and weight, are never exported. The best, made at Hamadan, are about 20s. the square yard. Chairs spoil them, and as it is becoming fashionable among the rich men of the cities to wear tight trousers, which bring chairs in their train, the manufacture of these magnificent floor-coverings will probably die.

The felt coats, which protect equally from rain and cold, are dark brown and seamless, and cost from 10s. to 20s. They have sleeves closed at the end to form a glove, and with a slit below the elbow through which the hand can be protruded and used. These coats are cloak-like, the sleeve is as long as the coat, and they are often worn merely suspended from the neck.

Hamadan is also famous for copper-work, and makes and dyes cottons. The tanneries and the dye-works between them create a stench which is perceptible for miles. The neighbourhood produces much wine, white like hock, and red like claret, both being harsh and the first heady. The Armenians are the chief makers and sellers of wine. I wish I could add that they are the only people who get drunk, but this is not the case, for from the Prince Governor downwards, among the rich Moslems, intemperance has become common, and even many young men are “going to wreck with drink,” sacrificing the virtue to which Moslems have been able to point with pride as differentiating them from so-called Christians. I was unable to return the Prince Governor’s visit and courtesies in accordance with the etiquette for a European lady traveller, because of the helpless condition in which he and a party of convivial friends were found by the messenger sent by me to ask him to appoint an hour for my visit. Raisins, treacle, and arak are also manufactured. The rich prefer cognac to arak. It is spirit-drinking rather than wine-drinking which is sapping the life of the Moslems of Hamadan.

It is singular that in this Ecbatana, the capital of Greater Media, there should be so very few remains of an ancient greatness and splendour. Just outside the town a low eminence called Musala is pointed out as the site of the palace of the Median kings, but even this is doubtful. Coins of an ancient date are both dug up and fabricated by the Jews. Only two really interesting objects remain, and the antiquity of one of these is not universally accepted. The tomb of Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai is the great show-place of Hamadan, and is held in much veneration by the Jews of Turkey and Persia, who resort to it on pilgrimage. The Jews are its custodians.


Tomb of Esther and Mordecai.

This tomb consists of an outer and inner chamber, surmounted by a mean dome about fifty feet in height. The blue tiles with which it was covered have nearly all dropped off. The outer chamber, in which there are a few tombs of Jews who have been counted worthy of burial near the shrine, is entered by a very low door, and the shrine itself by one still lower, through which one is obliged to creep. The inner chamber is vaulted, and floored with blue tiles, and having been recently restored is in good order. Under the dome, which is lighted with the smoky clay lamps used by the very poor, are the two tombs, each covered with a carved wooden ark, much defaced and evidently of great antiquity. There is an entrance to the tombs below these arks, and each is lighted by an ever-burning lamp. There is nothing in the shrine but a Hebrew Old Testament and a quantity of pieces of paper inscribed with Hebrew characters, which are affixed by pilgrims to the woodwork. The tombs and the tradition concerning them are of such great antiquity that I gladly accept the verdict of those who assign them to the beautiful and patriotic Queen and her capable uncle.

On the dome is this inscription: “On Thursday the 15th of the month Adar in the year of the creation of the world 4474 the building of this temple over the tombs of Mordecai and Esther was finished by the hands of the two benevolent brothers Elias and Samuel, sons of Ismail Kachan.”

The other object of interest, which has been carefully described by Sir H. Rawlinson and Sir H. Layard, is specially remarkable as having afforded the key to the decipherment of the cuneiform character. It is in the mountains above Hamadan, and consists of two tablets six feet six inches by eight feet six inches (Layard) cut in a red granite cliff which closes the end of a corrie. There are other tablets near them, carefully prepared, but never used. The three inscriptions are in parallel columns in the three languages spoken in the once vast Persian Empire — Persian, Median, and Babylonian, and contain invocations to Ormuzd, and the high-sounding names and titles of Darius Hystaspes and his son Xerxes.

Amidst the meanness, not to say squalor, of modern Hamadan, no legerdemain of the imagination can recreate the once magnificent Ecbatana, said by the early Greek writers to have been scarcely inferior to Babylon in size and splendour, with walls covered with “plates of gold,” and fortifications of enormous strength; the capital of Arbaces after the fall of Nineveh, and the summer resort of the “Great King,” according to Xenophon.

The Jews are supposed to number from 1500 to 2000 souls, and are in the lowest state of degradation, morally and socially. That bad act of Sarah in casting out “the bondwoman and her son” is certainly avenged upon her descendants. They are daily kicked, beaten, and spat upon in the streets, and their children are pelted and beaten in going to and from the school which the Americans have established for them. Redress for any wrongs is inaccessible to them. They are regarded as inferior to dogs. So degraded are they that they have not even spirit to take advantage of the help which American influence would give them to get into a better position. The accursed vices of low greed and low cunning are fully developed in them. They get their living by usury, by the making and selling of wine and arak, by the sale of adulterated drugs, by peddling in the villages, and by doing generally the mean and dishonest work from which their oppressors shrink. Many of them have become Moslems, the law being that a convert to Islam can take away the whole property of his family. A larger number have, it is believed, joined the secret sect of the Bābis. I never heard such a sickening account of degradation as is given of the Hamadan Jews by those who know them best, and have worked the most earnestly for their welfare.

There are a number of Armenians in Hamadan, and several villages in the district are inhabited exclusively by them. There are also villages with a mixed Persian and Armenian population. They all speak Persian, and the men at least are scarcely to be distinguished from Persians by their dress. They are not in any way oppressed, and, except during occasional outbreaks of Moslem fanaticism, are on very good terms with their neighbours. They live in a separate quarter, and both Gregorians and Protestants exercise their religion without molestation. They excel in various trades, specially carpentering and working in metals. Their position in Hamadan is improving, and this may be attributed in part to the high-class education given in the American High School for boys, and to the residence among them of the American missionaries, who have come to be regarded as their natural protectors.

The population of Hamadan is “an unknown quantity.” It probably does not exceed 25,000, and has undoubtedly decreased. Seyyids and mollahs form a considerable proportion of it, and it is one of the strongholds of the Bābis. It is usually an orderly city, and European ladies wearing gauze veils and properly attended can pass through it both by day and night. Several parts of it are enclosed by gates, as at Canton, open only from sunrise to sunset, an arrangement which is supposed to be conducive to security.

I. L. B.

Letter xxiv

I am visiting the three lady teachers of the Faith Hubbard Boarding School for girls, and the visit is an oasis on my journey. It is a most cheerful house, a perfect hive of industry, each one being occupied with things which are worth doing. I cannot say how kind and how helpful they have all been to me, and with what regret I am leaving them.

The house is large, plain, airy, and thoroughly sanitary, very well situated, with an open view over the Hamadan plain. It is closely surrounded by the houses of the Armenian quarter, and all those domestic operations which are performed on the roofs in hot weather are easily studied, such as the drying of clothes and herbs, the cleaning of heads, the beating of children, the bringing out of beds at night, and the rolling them up in the morning, the “going to bed” of families much bundled up, the performance of the very limited ablutions which constitute the morning toilette, and the making and mending of clothes, the roof being for many months both living-room and bedroom.

At sunset, as in all Persian towns, a great hush falls on Hamadan. Only people who have business are seen in the streets, the bazars are closed, and from sunset to sunrise there would be complete silence were it not for the yelping and howling of the scavenger dogs and the long melancholy call to prayer from the minarets. If it is necessary to go out at night a person of either sex is preceded by a servant carrying a lantern near the ground. These lanterns have metal tops and bottoms, and waxed, wired muslin between, which is ingeniously arranged to fold up flat. They are usually three feet long, but may be of any diameter, and as your consideration is evidenced by the size of your lantern there is a tendency to carry about huge transparencies which undulate very agreeably in the darkness.

This is the Moharrem or month of mourning, for Hassan and Houssein, the slain sons of Ali, who are regarded by the Shiahs as the rightful successors of the Prophet and as the noblest martyrs in the Calendar. During this period the whole Persian community goes into deep mourning, and the streets and bazars are filled with black dresses only. In this month is acted throughout the Empire the Tazieh or Passion Play, which has for its climax the tragic deaths of these two men.69

I arrived in Hamadan on what should have been the first day of Moharrem, but there had been a difference of opinion among the mollahs as to the date, and it was postponed to the next day, for me a most fortunate circumstance, as no Christian ought to be seen in the streets at a time when they are filled with excited throngs frenzied by religious fanaticism. On the following day the quiet of the city was interrupted by singular cries, and by children’s voices, high pitched, singing a chant so strange and weird that one both longs and dreads to hear it repeated. The Christians kept within their houses. Business was suspended. Bands of boys carrying black flags perambulated the town, singing one of the chants of the Passion Play. As night came on it was possible to feel the throb of the excitement of the city, and till the small hours the march of frenzied processions was heard, and the loud smiting on human breasts and the clash of the chains with which the dervishes beat themselves, were intermingled with a united rhythmic cry of anguish —Ah Houssein! Wai Houssein! (O Houssein! Woe for Houssein!) Ya Houssein! Ya Hassan! and in the flickering light of the torches black flags were waving, and frenzied men were seen beating their bare breasts.

In some of the cities these processions are a sickening spectacle. Throngs move along the streets, escorting large troops of men either stripped to their waists or wearing only white shirts which expose the bosom. Beating their breasts with their right hands in concert till they make them raw, gashing themselves on their heads with daggers, streaming with blood, and maddened by religious frenzy, they pass from street to street, and the yell rises from all quarters, Ya Houssein! Wai Houssein! Occasionally men drop down dead from excitement, and others, falling from loss of blood, are carried away by their friends. It is at the end of the month of mourning that these processions, called testeh, increase so much in frenzy and fanaticism as to be dangerous to the good order of cities, clashing with each other, and sometimes cutting their way through each other with loss of life. To join in a testeh is to perform a “pious act,” and atones for sin committed and to be committed. The Tazieh or Passion Play itself, acted in splendour before the Shah, is repeated everywhere throughout Persia, lasting from ten to twelve days, the frenzy with which the different incidents are received culminating on the last day, when the slaughter of Houssein is represented. On the whole the Tazieh is among the most remarkable religious phenomena of our age.

Under the rule of the present Prince Governor complete religious toleration exists in Hamadan, and the missionaries have a fair field, though it must never be forgotten that a proselytising Christian, rendering honour to Christ as God, by his mere presence introduces a disturbing element into a Moslem population. In consequence of this tolerant official spirit there are a few Moslem girls among the sixty boarders here. In addition there are a large number of day pupils.

The girls live in native fashion, and wear native dresses of red cotton printed with white patterns, white chadars, and such ornaments as they possess. They sit on the floor at their meals, at each of which one of the ladies is present. They have excellent food, meat once a day in summer and twice in winter, bread, tea, soup, curds, cheese, melons, cucumbers, pickles, and gourds. The winter supplies are now being laid in, and caravans of asses are arriving daily with firewood, cheeses, and melons. The elder girls cook, and all the washing, making, and mending are done at home, each elder girl in addition having a small family of young ones under her care. The only servant is the bheestie or water-carrier. The dormitories, class-rooms, eating-room, and hammam are large and well ventilated, but very simple.

A plain but thorough education of the “National School” type is given, in combination with an industrial training, fitted for girls whose early destiny is wifehood and maternity. Some of the teachers are men, but the religious instruction, on which great stress is laid, is given by the ladies themselves, and is made singularly interesting and attractive. Music and singing are regarded as among the recreations. The discipline is perfect, and the dirtiest, roughest, lumpiest, and most refractory raw material is quickly transformed into cleanliness, brightness, and docility, partly by the tone of the school and the influence of the girls who have been trained in it, but chiefly by the influence of love.

The respect with which the office of a teacher is regarded in the East allows of much more apparent familiarity than would be possible with us. Out of school hours the ladies are accessible at all times even to the youngest children. Many a little childish trouble finds its way to their maternal sympathies, and they are just as ready to give advice about the colour and making of dolls’ clothes as about more important matters. The loving, cheerful atmosphere of an English home pervades the school. I write English rather than American because the ladies are Prince Edward Islanders and British subjects.

Some of the girls who have been trained here are well married and make good wives, and the school bids fair to be resorted to in the future by young men who desire companionship as well as domestic accomplishments in their wives. The ordinary uneducated Armenian woman is a very stupid lump, very inferior to the Persian woman. Of the effect of the simple, loving, practical, Christian training given, and enforced by the beauty of example it is easy to write, for not only some of the girls who have left the school, but many who are now in it show by the purity, gentleness, lovingness, and self-denial of their lives that they have learned to follow the Master, a lesson the wise teaching of which is, or should be, I think, the raison d’être of every mission school. Christianity thus translated into homely lives may come to be the disinfectant which will purify in time the deep corruption of Persian life.

The cost of this school under its capable and liberal management is surprising — only £3:15s. per head per annum! Its weak point (but at present it seems an inevitable blemish) is, that the board and education are gratuitous.

There is a High School for boys, largely attended, under the charge of Mr. Watson, the clerical missionary, with an Armenian Principal, Karapit, educated in the C.M.S. school in Julfa, a very able man, and he is assisted by several teachers. There is also a large school of Jewish girls, who are often maltreated on their way to and from it.

There are a flourishing medical mission and dispensary under Dr. Alexander’s charge, with a hospital nearly finished for the more serious cases. There is another dispensary at Sheverin, and both there and here the number of patients is large. A small charge is made for medicines. Mirza Sa’eed, a medical student of mature years and remarkable capacities, occasionally itinerates in the distant villages, and, being a learned scholar in the Koran, holds religious disputations after his medical work is done. He was a Moslem, and having embraced Christianity preaches its doctrines with much force and enthusiasm. He is popular in Hamadan, and much thought of by the Governor in spite of his “perversion.” He also gives addresses on Christianity to the patients who assemble at the dispensary. Any person is at liberty to withdraw during this religious service, but few avail themselves of the permission. Miss —— speaks on Christianity to the female patients at Sheverin, and befriends them in their own homes.

The day’s work here begins at six, and is not over till 9 P.M. An English class for young men is held early, after which people on business and visitors of all sorts and creeds are arriving and departing all day, and all are welcome. On one day I counted forty-three, and there were many more than these. The upper class of Persian women announce their visits beforehand, and usually arrive on horseback, with attendants to clear the way. No man-servant must enter the room with tea or anything else during their visits. The Armenian women call at all hours, and the Jewish women in large bands without previous announcement. Tea à la Russe is provided for all, and Ibrahim goes to the door and counts the shoes left outside in order to know how many to provide for. “Khanum,” he exclaimed one day after this inspection, “there are at least twenty of them!”

Some call out of politeness or real friendliness, others to see the tamasha (the sights of the house), many from the villages to talk about their children, and some of the Jewish women, who have become Bābis, ask to have the New Testament read to them in the hope of hearing something which they may use in the propagation of their new faith. A good many women have called on me out of politeness to my hostesses. Persian gentlemen invariably send the day before to know if a visit can be conveniently received, and on these occasions the ladies always secure the chaperonage of one of the men missionaries. The concierge has orders not to turn any one away, and it is a blessing when sunset comes and the stream of visitors ceases.

All meet with a genial reception, and the ladies usually succeed not only in lifting the conversation out of the customary frivolous grooves, but in awaking more or less interest in the religion which they are here to propagate. They are missionaries first and everything else afterwards, and Miss — — partly because of her goodness and benevolence to all, and partly because of an uncompromising honesty in her religious beliefs which the people thoroughly appreciate, has a remarkable influence in Hamadan, and is universally respected. Her jollity and sense of humour are a great help. She thoroughly enjoys making people laugh.

I have never been in any place in which the relations with Moslems have been so easy and friendly. The Sartip Reza Khan told me it would be a matter of regret to all except a few fanatics if the ladies were to leave the city. From the Prince Governor downwards courtesy and kindness are shown to them, and their philanthropic and educational work is approved in the highest quarters, though they never blink the fact that they are proselytisers.70

There is an Armenian Protestant congregation with a native pastor and a fine church, and nothing shows more plainly the toleration which prevails in Hamadan than the number of Moslems to be seen every Sunday at the morning service, which is in Persian. In this church total abstinence is a “term of communion,” and unfermented wine is used in the celebration of the Eucharist.

This wine is very delicious, and has the full flavour and aroma of the fresh grape even after being three years in bottle. It is not boiled, as much “unfermented wine” is here, but the grapes are put into a coarse bag, through which the juice drops without pressure. The gluten being retained by the bag, fermentation does not take place, and a bottle of the juice, even if left without a cork, retains its excellence till it dries up.

Hamadan, September 15.—“Revenons à nos moutons”— the moutons in this instance being my travelling arrangements. Three roads go to Urmi from Hamadan, one, the usual caravan route viâ Tabriz, the commercial capital of Persia, and round the north end of Lake Urmi, very long, but safe; another called the “Kurdistan route,” which no charvadar will take by reason of its danger; and a third by Sujbulāk, the capital of Persian Kurdistan, twenty marches, only five of which are reported as risky. I decided on the last, but it was only two days ago that I was able to get a charvadar willing to undertake the journey. “It is too late,” they say, “there are robbers on the road,” they “don’t know the way,” or “provender is dear,” or “snow will come on” before they can return. Kerbelai, the excellent fellow who brought my loads from Burujird, wished to go, and I engaged him gladly, but afterwards his father came and declared he could not let him go, for he did not know the way, and would be robbed. Another man was engaged, but never reappeared.

Soon after I came a tall, well-dressed rich Turk, the owner of sixty mules, applied for the engagement, and we think that by certain underhand proceedings, familiar to the Persian mind, he has driven off other competitors, and made himself my last resource. I engaged him on Saturday, and the mules and Mirza went off this morning. An agreement was drawn up in Persian and English placing five mules under my absolute control, to halt or march as I desire, at thirteen pence a day each so long as I want them, with two men, “handing over the mules and men” to me till I reach Urmi, which arrival is to suit my own convenience. This was read over twice, and the Turk sealed it in presence of four witnesses. All his other mules are going with loads to Urmi, and this accounts for his great desire to send the five with me. I have expressly stipulated that I am to have nothing to do with the big caravan, but am to take my own time. This Turk has good looks and plausible manners, and the animals have sound backs, but I distrust him.

The servant difficulty, which threatened to keep me here indefinitely, is also adjusted. Hassan left me when I arrived, being unwilling to go to the north of Persia so late, and he bought a new opium pipe, saying that he cannot bear the pain and craving of being without it. He was a fair travelling servant for a Persian, not unreasonably dishonest, and I am sorry to lose him. In the attempt to replace him a maze of lies, fraud, and underhand dealing has been passed through. I have at last engaged Johannes, a strong-looking young Armenian, speaking Turkish and Persian besides Armenian. He has never served Europeans, but has learned baking and the wine trade. He looks much of a cub. For appearance sake I have armed him with a long gun. He and Mirza are alike incompetent to make any travelling arrangements or overcome any difficulties, to discover where escorts are needed and where they may be dispensed with, or to meet any emergencies, and as Persian will be considerably replaced by Turki en route Mirza will be of less and less use as an interpreter. I cannot get any recent information about the route, and very little at all. I see endless difficulties ahead, and a prospect of illustrating in my own experience the dictum often dinned into my ears, that “No lady ought to travel alone in Persia.”

This will be my last opportunity of posting a letter for nearly a month. The Persian post is only exceeded in unreliability by the Persian telegraph. To register letters is the only way of securing their safe arrival, and it is necessary to send a trustworthy man to the Post Offices, who, after seeing the effacing stamp put upon the postage stamp, will further insist upon seeing the postmaster put the letters in the bag. In Tihran the Europeans make much use of the Legation bags, and the merchants prefer to trust their letters to private gholams rather than to the post, while at Isfahan people are often glad to send their letters by the monthly telegraph chapar rather than run a postal risk. However, a foreign letter, registered, is pretty safe. The telegraph is worse; you often have to bribe the telegraph clerk to send the message, and unless you see it sent it will probably be destroyed. Of five messages sent by me from Hamadan one was returned because the British agent in Isfahan was “not known” (!), two were slower than letters sent the same day, the fourth took a week, and of the fifth there is “no information.” Even in this important commercial city the Post Office is only open for a short time on two days in the week.

I. L. B.

69 For a detailed and most interesting account of these remarkable representations the reader is referred to Mr. Benjamin’s Persia and the Persians, chap. xiii.

70 Since I returned I have been asked more than once, “What are the results of missions in Hamadan?” Among those which appear on the surface are the spiritual enlightenment of a number of persons whose minds were blinded by the gross and childish superstitions and the inconceivable ignorance into which the ancient church of S. Gregory the Illuminator has fallen. The raising of a higher standard of morals among the Armenians, so that a decided stigma is coming to be attached to drunkenness and other vices. The bringing the whole of the rising generation of Armenians under influences which in all respects “make for righteousness.” The elevation of a large number of women into being the companions and helps rather than the drudges of men. The bestowing upon boys an education which fits them for any positions to which they may aspire in Persia and elsewhere, and creates a taste for intellectual pursuits. The introduction of European medicine and surgery, and the bringing them within the reach of the poorest of the people. The breaking down of some Moslem prejudices against Christians. The gradually ameliorating influence exercised by the exhibition of the religion of Jesus Christ in purity of life, in ceaseless benevolence, in truthfulness and loyalty to engagements, in kind and just dealing, in temperance and self-denial, and the many virtues which make up Christian discipleship, and the dissemination in the city and neighbourhood of a higher teaching on the duties of common life, illustrated by example, not in fits and starts, but through years of loving and patient labour.

Letter xxv

This is a difficult journey. The road is rarely traversed by Europeans, the marches are long, and I am really not well enough to travel at all, not having been able to shake off the fever. Cooler days and cold nights are, however, coming to the rescue.

My Hamadan friends gave me a badraghah (a parting escort)— Miss C. M— — Mr. Watson, Pastor Ovannes and his boy, all on horseback; Mrs. Watson and her baby on an ass; several servants on foot, and Miss M—— and Mrs. Alexander in a spidery American buggy with a pair of horses; Dr. Alexander, a man six feet two inches high and very thin, “riding postilion” on one of them to get the buggy over difficult places; Ibrahim, the ladies’ factotum, with a gun slung behind him, following on horseback. Two of the ladies and the native pastor stayed at night. It was not a pleasant return to camp life, for Johannes is quite ignorant of it, and everything was at sixes and sevens. Nor was the first morning pleasant, for the head charvadar, Sharban, came speaking loud with vehement gesticulation, saying that if I did not march with the big caravan and halt when it did, they would only give me one man, and added sundry other threats. Miss M—— scolded him, reminding them of their agreement, and Ibrahim told them that if they violated it in the way they threatened they would have to “eat more wood than they had ever eaten in their lives on going back to Hamadan.” (“Eating wood” is the phrase for being bastinadoed.) A squabble the first morning is a usual occurrence, and Miss M—— thought it would be all right, and advised me to go on to Kooltapa, the first stage put down by the charvadars.

Cultivation extends over the eight miles from Hamadan to Bahar. There are streams, and willows, and various hamlets with much wood, and Bahar is completely buried in orchards and poplars. It is a place of 1500 people, and has well-built houses, small mosques, and mollahs’ schools. It makes gelims (thin carpets), and grows besides wheat, barley, cotton, and oil seeds, an immense quantity of fruit, which has a ready market in the city.

Miss M—— and Pastor Ovannes escorted me for the first mile, and, meeting the caravan on their way back, gave Sharban a parting exhortation. As soon as they were out of sight he sent back one man, and, in spite of Mirza’s remonstrances, drove my yabus with the big caravan — a grievance to start with, as his baggage animals were so heavily loaded that they could not go even two miles an hour, and I have taken five, though I only need three, in order to get over the ground at three miles an hour. I am obliged to have Johannes with me, as comparatively little Persian is spoken by the common people along this road.

Beyond Bahar the road lies over elevated table-lands, destitute of springs and streams, and now scorched up. One or two small villages, lying off the track, and some ruinous towers on eminences, built for watching robbers, scarcely break the monotony of this twenty-four miles’ march.

At three, having ascended nearly 1000 feet, we reached the small and very poor walled village of Kooltapa, below which are some reservoirs, a series of pools connected by a stream, and the camping-ground, a fine piece of level sward, much of which was already occupied by two Turkish caravans, with 100 horses in each, and a man to every ten. The loads were all carefully stacked, covered with rugs, and watched by very large and fierce dogs.

I lay down in the shuldari, feeling really ill. Four o’clock, five o’clock, sunset came, but no caravan. Johannes was quite ill, but went to the village to hire a samovar, and to try to get tea and supplies. There was neither tea nor samovar, and no supplies but horse food and some coarse cheese and blanket bread, too sour and dirty to be eaten. Long after dark they brought a little milk. Boy was locked up in a house, and I rolled myself in his blanket and the few wraps I had with me, and, making the best of circumstances, tried to sleep; but it was too cold, and the position too perilous, and Johannes, who had loaded his gun with ball, overcome with fatigue, instead of watching was sound asleep. At eleven Mirza’s voice, though it said, “Madam, these charvadars won’t do for you, they are wicked men,” was very welcome. They had stopped half-way, and four of them, including Sharban’s father, had dragged him off his horse with some violence, and had unloaded it. He appealed to the village headman, who, after wrangling with them for some hours, persuaded them to let him have a mule, and come to Kooltapa with the servants’ tent, my bed, and other comforts, and sent two armed guides with him.

The larger tent was pitched and I went to bed, and not having the nettings which hang from the roof of my Cabul tent, and are a complete security against mere pilferers, I put all I could under the blankets and arranged the other things within reach of my hand in the middle of the tent. I also burned a light, having learned that Kooltapa is a dangerous place. At midnight the Turkish caravans started with noise inconceivable, yells of charvadars, shouts of village boys, squeals of horses, barking of big dogs, firing of guns, and jangling of 200 sets of bells, all sobering down into a grandly solemn sound as of many church steeples on the march.

I went out to see that all was right, found my servants sleeping heavily and had not the heart to awake them, found the mercury a degree below the freezing point, and lay down, covering my head with a blanket, for the shivering stage of fever had come on. The night was very still, and after some time I heard in the stillness the not uncommon noise of a dog (as I thought) fumbling outside my tent. I took no notice till he seemed getting in, when I jumped up with an adjuration, saw the floor vacant, and heard human feet running away. I ran out and fired blank cartridge several times in the direction of the footsteps, hoping that the flashes would reveal the miscreant, but his movements had been more agile than mine. Mirza ran into the village and informed the ketchuda, but he took it very quietly and said that the robbers were Turks, which was false. I offered a large reward, but it was useless.

When daylight came and I investigated my losses I found myself without any of the things which I have come to regard as indispensable. My cork helmet, boots, gloves, sun umbrella, stockings, scanty stock of underclothing, all my brushes, towels, soap, scissors, needles, thread, thimble, the strong combination knife which Aziz coveted and which was used three or four times every day, a large silk handkerchief a hundred years old which I wore as a protection from the sun, my mask, revolver case, keys, pencils, paint brushes, sketches, notes of journeys, and my one mug were all gone. If anything could be worse, my gold pen, with which I have written for the last eighteen years, had also disappeared. Furthermore, to relieve the tedium of the long wait during the pitching of my tent, and of the hour’s rest which I am obliged to take on my bed after getting in, I was “doing” a large piece of embroidery from an ancient Irish pattern, arabesques on dark, apricot-coloured coarse silk in low-toned greens, pinks, and blues, all outlined in gold. This work has been a real pleasure to me, and I relied on it for recreation for the rest of my journey. Gone too, with all the silks and gold for finishing it! Now I have nothing to do when the long marches are over, and as I can scarcely write with this pen and have also lost my drawing materials, a perspective of dulness opens out before me. If Sharban had not disobeyed orders and stayed behind with my tent all this would not have happened. I now realise what it is to be without what to a European are “the necessaries of life,” and I can scarcely replace any of them for three weeks.

The caravan came in at nine, and I soon got into my tent and spent much of the day in making a head-cover by rolling lint and wadding in handkerchiefs and sewing them up into a sort of turban with a leather-needle and packthread obtained from Mirza. I was able to get from a villager a second-hand pair of ghevas — most serviceable shoes, with “uppers” made of stout cotton webbing knitted here by the women and among the Bakhtiaris by the men, and with soles of rag sewn and pressed tightly together and tipped with horn. These and the “uppers” are connected with very stout leather brought to a point at the toe and heel. Ghevas are the most comfortable, and for dry weather and mountain-climbing the most indestructible of shoes. Thus provided I have to face the discomfort caused by the other losses as best I may. “It’s no use crying over spilt milk!”

The day before, when the charvadars pulled Mirza off his mule and he threatened them with the agreement, they replied that it was false that they had made any agreement except to take me to Urmi in twenty days, and that they were not afraid of the Prince Governor of Hamadan, “for he is always asleep, and the Feringhi is only a Khanum.” I sent to them that I wished to leave Kooltapa at noon. They replied that they were not going to move. I was in their power, for they had received advance pay for seven days, and I said no more about moving. However, at noon I sent Mirza to read the agreement to them, and Sharban and his father could not deny the authenticity of the seal, and a superior villager, who could read, testified that Mirza had read it correctly.

They then saw that they had put themselves into a “tight place,” and sent that they desired to humble themselves, saying, “your foot is on our eyes,” a phrase of humility. I took no notice of them all day, but at sunset sent for Sharban, and telling Mirza not to soften down my language, spoke to him in few words. “You have broken your agreement, and you will have to take the consequences. Your conduct is disgraceful and abominable, so cowardly that you don’t deserve to be called a man, it is only what one would expect from a pidar sag. Do you mean to keep your agreement or not?” He began to whine, and threw himself at my feet, but I reluctantly assumed a terrific voice, and saying “Khamosh! Bero!” (Be silent! Begone!), shut the tent.

Bijar, September 21.— No Persian ever believes your word, and these poor fellows did not believe that I had letters to the governors en route. They are now terribly frightened, and see that a Feringhi, even though “only a Khanum,” cannot be maltreated with impunity. When I arrived here, even before I sent my letter of introduction, the Governor sent a farash-bashi with compliments and offers of hospitality, and afterwards a strong guard. Then Sharban piteously entreated that I would not take him before the Governor, and would not make him “eat wood,” and his big caravan at last has chimed away on its northward journey to be seen no more. Thus, by acting a part absolutely hateful to me, the mutiny was quelled, and things are now going on all right, except that Sharban avails himself of small opportunities of being disobliging. I do sincerely detest the cowardliness of the Oriental nature, which is probably the result of ages of oppression by superiors.

It is so vexing that the policy of trust which has served me so well on all former journeys has to be abandoned, and that one of suspicion has to be substituted for it. I am told by all Europeans that from the Shah downwards no one trusts father, brother, wife, superior, or inferior. Every one walks warily and suspiciously through a maz