A Year Amongst the Persians: From Shiraz to Yezd


IT was, as I have said, in the best of spirits that I returned on the evening of this Friday, the 12th of April, to the house of my kind host the Nawwab. I was well pleased with my environment at Shiraz, and more especially with the progress which I had made in cultivating the acquaintance and winning the confidence of the Babis, from whom I had already obtained several precious manuscripts and much valuable information. On the morrow there was to be another picnic in the garden of Rashk-i-Bihisht ("the Envy of Paradise"), and on the following day I was to be allowed to visit the Bab's house. My mind was therefore filled with pleasant anticipations as I entered the Nawwab's house.

      "Sahib, you are late," exclaimed the servant who met me in the doorway; "where have you been? A telegram has come for you, and we would have sent it to you at once, but we knew not where you were."

      I rushed upstairs to my room and tore open the telegram. It was a very long one, and the substance of it was this: that a European lady, travelling northwards to Teheran with her


husband, had been taken ill at Dihbid, five stages from Shiraz; that her husband had been obliged to continue his journey; that she had been treated for some time by Dr S--- (then absent on a tour of inspection along the Bushire road), with whom communications had been maintained by means of the telegraph; that she was now much worse, being, indeed, in a very critical condition; and that Dr S---, unable to go to Dihbid himself, had suggested that I, having a medical qualification, might go instead of him. The symptoms of the patient were fully described, and I was asked, in case I could come, to bring with me certain drugs which were not contained in the medicine- chest at Dihbid. These, it was added, I could obtain from the acting head of the telegraph-office at Shiraz.

      I sat down with the telegram in my hand to consider what I ought to do. A few moments' reflection showed me that, however unwilling I might be to quit Shiraz, and however diffident I might be as to my fitness to deal with what I clearly perceived was a difficult and critical case, I could not with a clear conscience refuse to go. It was a sore disappointment to me to tear myself away from Shiraz, and to forgo the visit to the Bab's house, to which I had so eagerly looked forward; to ride post for nearly 120 miles to confront a medical crisis, such as my inexperience ill fitted me to cope with, and which, as I anticipated, was but too likely to terminate fatally even before my arrival, was, moreover, a prospect that daunted me not a little. My duty, however, was perfectly clear; and when I joined the Nawwab and Haji Da'i at supper, I told them that in all likelihood it was the last meal we should eat together for some time. As soon as it was over, I made the best of my way through the dark lanes leading to the Bagh-i-Sheykh, to consult with the acting head of the telegraph, and to obtain such medicines and instruments as I might require. The medical stores, which we ransacked, left very much to be desired, both as regards extent and quality, and it was with a miserably insufficient outfit that I returned


about 1 a.m. to my abode. Even then, tired though I was, it was some while ere my anxiety suffered me to sleep.

      Next day it seemed at first as though after all I might escape the dreaded ordeal; for in the morning a message came from Dihbid giving a somewhat more favourable account of the patient, and bidding me not to start till further notice. I therefore decided to accompany the Nawwab to the picnic at Rashk-i-Bihisht; but before doing so I made all my arrangements for quitting Shiraz. I had decided during the night that, should I be compelled to go to Dihbid, I would not return directly to Shiraz, but would proceed to Yezd (a city that I greatly desired to visit, both because of its remote situation and essentially Persian character, and because it is the chief stronghold of Zoroastrianism in Persia), and thence make my way perhaps to Kirman, and so back by Niriz and Darab. I therefore drew thirty tumans (nearly 10 pounds) in cash for my travelling expenses, and obtained a cheque on Ardashir Mihrban, the leading Zoroastrian merchant at Yezd, for the balance still remaining to my credit (147 1/2 tumans, or about 45 pounds). I also obtained a letter of introduction to this same Ardashir from one of the Zoroastrians at Shiraz, named Khusraw, and received from my kind friend Mirza 'Ali a promise of letters to certain highly-considered Seyyids of Yezd to whom he was related. Having furthermore purchased a pair of saddle-bags (khurjin) and sundry other necessaries for my journey, I had transacted all my business, and was able to follow the Nawwab to the garden of Rashk-i-Bihisht.

      I found there the same company as on the previous occasion, but, as the weather was fine, they were sitting out in the garden on a stone platform overshadowed by trees, instead of in the summer-house. The time passed pleasantly in the usual fashion; and as sunset approached, and still no summons came from the telegraph-office, I began to hope that my time at Shiraz was, after all, not destined to be cut short. As I was returning from a solitary ramble round the garden, however, I suddenly caught


sight of the farrash of the telegraph-office, and knew, before I had heard the message which he brought, that my hope was disappointed. Hastily bidding farewell to the Nawwab and his guests, I set off at once with the farrash to the Bagh-i-Sheykh.

      "Haste is of the devil, and tardiness from the All-Merciful," says a very Oriental proverb, and it is indeed an ill thing to be in a hurry in an Eastern land. It was well enough to have an order for three post-horses; but these, notwithstanding all my importunity, were not forthcoming till the following afternoon, and then, that no element of delay might be lacking, I discovered that my servant Haji Safar had gone off to the bazaars to buy a saddle. Even when we did ultimately start at about 3.15 p.m., I had to submit to several further delays for the purchase of sundry forgotten articles which were declared necessary; and it was already late in the afternoon when, from the summit of the Tang-i-Allah Akbar, I turned in my saddle to take what proved to be my last look at beautiful Shiraz. It was the very day, even the very time, when I was to have made my eagerly-desired visit to the Bab's house; and instead of this, here I was with my back to Shiraz, and the rain beating in my face, with a hundred miles and more to ride, to what I much feared would prove to be a death-bed. Remembering that life hung in the balance I urged on my horse, and presently found myself in the great plain of Marv-Dasht. Haji Safar and the shagird-chapar (post-boy) were far behind me, but, thinking that I remembered the way, I heeded this but little, and pushed on as fast as I could towards a group of poplar-trees beneath the eastern hills, which, as I thought, marked the position of Zargan. I was mistaken, however, for when I drew near them I found nothing but gardens; and it was in almost complete darkness and pouring rain that, drenched to the skin, and in the worst of tempers, I finally entered the narrow streets of Zargan, and alighted at the post-house, where (as it appeared impossible to proceed farther), I spent a miserable night, which wet clothes and prowling cats rendered almost sleepless.


      Next morning I was off before 7 a.m. My first stage was to Puze ("the Snout"), hard by Persepolis and Istakhr, of Achaemenian and Sasanian splendour. I had promised the shagird-chapar a present of two krans if he brought me there by 9.30, and our pace at first was consequently good. But when the little solitary post-house of Puze was already in sight, the miserable, jaded horse which I rode, after relapsing from a spasmodic and laboured trot into a walk of ever-increasing slowness, came to a dead stop, and I was forced to dismount and walk the last few hundred yards. Just before this took place, there met us three post-horses which a shagird-chapar was leading back from Puze to Zargan. I stopped him, and demanded whether I should hnd horses at Puze, as I wished to continue my journey without delay; intending, in case of need, to impress into my service the horses of which he had charge. He assured me that there were three fresh horses in the post-house, ready to start at once, and I left him, wondering whether he was speaking the truth. I wronged him by my suspicions; what he had told me was exactly and literally true, for, a few minutes later, these "three fresh horses, ready to start at once," issued from the post-house (now only a hundred yards distant) with another traveller, and set off northwards!

      On reaching the post-house I found, of course, that there were no horses to be had; and there was nothing for it but to sit on a carpet on the roof and try to dispel my annoyance with tea and tobacco. I found that the traveller who had taken off the horses, as it were under my very nose, was none other than the Bombay Parsee whom I had met at Shiraz, and who was so anxious to get back to a land of railroads and hotels. He was so disgusted with caravan-travelling, and especially with the extortions of the servant whom he had engaged at Bushire, that he had decided to continue his journey alone by the post, although he was a very indifferent rider, and had only accomplished two stages during the whole of the previous day.


It appeared that he had slept at Puze that night, and was loitering about, without much intention of starting, when he saw me approaching; whereupon he hastened to secure his horses and set off before I arrived to contest their possession.

      It was not till after mid-day that horses were forthcoming and I was able to proceed on my journey. At the very last moment, a woman brought her son to me, saying that she had heard I was a doctor, and begging me to examine an injury in his arm and prescribe for him. I was in no mood to tarry there any longer, and, telling her that if she had chosen to come to me any time during the last three hours I could have given her my undivided attention, but that now it was too late, I rode rapidly away. The shagird-chapar who accompanied us, stimulated by the promise of a present, exerted himself to accomplish his two parasangs an hour, and, by leaving the post-road and fording the river (which here runs to the west of it), effected so great a saving of distance that I caught up the Parsee just as he was leaving the post-house of Kiwam-abad. I was obliged, however, to wait there for an hour and a half before I could obtain horses to take me on to Murghab; though I was more than ever desirous of reaching Dihbid that night if possible, as I had met my friend Muhammad Hasan Khan Kashka'i on his way to Shiraz, and he had told me that my presence was urgently required there.

      The ride to Murghab was delightful, the horses being good and the night superb. I passed the Parsee hard by the Tomb of Cyrus, and traversed the ruins of that classic plain by the light of a crescent moon, which hung suspended like a silver lamp in the clear, dark-blue sky. Once some great beast--a hyaena, probably--slunk, silent and shadow-like, across the path and disappeared in the bushes. It was 10 p.m. when I reached the post-house of Murghab, where, much against my will, I was obliged to remain for the night. The Parsee arrived soon after me, and we established ourselves in the bala-khane or upper chamber. I could not help pitying him, for he was travelling


in a manner at once costly and uncomfortable; and while he had, as he informed me, paid the servant who accompanied him from Bushire to Shiraz the exorbitant sum of 8 1/2 tumans for eleven days' bad service, he became involved in a lengthy, violent, and unprofitable altercation with the boy who had brought him from Kiwam-abad about a trifling present of a kran. The consequence of this was that all the post-house people were against him, and my shagird-chapar, well pleased with his reward, assured me that I should have the best and the Parsee the worst of their horses on the morrow.

      Next morning, after a cold and uncomfortable night, I was off before 6 a.m., but, for all the fair words of the shagird-chapar, there fell to my lot the most miserable and ill-conditioned beast that ever it was my lot to bestride. So bad were all its paces, and so rough and steep the road, that it was past mid-day when I finally alighted at the telegraph-office of Dihbid. Needless to say how anxious I was to learn news of my patient, or with what heartfelt thankfulness I heard from Mr and Mrs Blake, who welcomed me at the door, that she had taken a turn for the better, and was now practically out of danger. When I had eaten and rested a while, I visited her, and found that it was even as they had said: the crisis was past, and all that was left for me to do was to watch over the period of convalescence, which, fortunately, was short. Day by day I had the satisfaction of seeing a marked improvement in her condition, and it was only as a matter of precaution, and at the request of my host and hostess, that I remained for twelve days at Dihbid, at the end of wnich time she was already able to walk out in the garden.

      Dihbid is one of the loneliest and bleakest spots that I saw in Persia. The village, so far as I recollect, consists of not more than fifteen or twenty hovels, a dilapidated caravansaray, the post-house, and the telegraph-office. This last is a spacious and comfortable dwelling, with a fair-sized garden attached to it; but its remote and solitary situation, and the severe cold of the winter


season, must render it a very undesirable station to inhabit for a period of any length. The time which I spent there, however, passed pleasantly enough, for my host and hostess were kindness itself, and the surrounding country, though desolate, was not altogether devoid of interest. The worst feature of the place, indeed, in my estimation, was the complete lack of educated Persian society, the villagers being, without exception, poor peasants and quite illiterate. Such as they were, however, I saw a good deal of them; for of course it very soon became known that I was a "hakim"; and not from the village of Dihbid only, but from the neighbouring hamlets of Kasr-i-Ya'kub, Kushk, and Khurrami, the lame, the halt, and the blind flocked to consult me. Indeed, though I had no wish to practise the healing art, I soon found myself in the position of "le medecin malgre lui," for it would have been cruel and churlish to refuse these poor folk such service as the paucity of drugs and appliances at my disposal, and my own lack of practical experience, permitted me to render them. So every day, after I had attended to my own special patient, and sat for some time conversing with her, playing with her pet mongoose (a charming little animal), and hearing how the Persian wise women who had been called in before my arrival had treated her with what one can only describe as "tincture of Al-coran" (made by writing a text from the sacred volume on the inside of a cup or saucer, and then dissolving it in water), I used to hold a sort of reception for my Persian clientele. The cases about which I was consulted were of the most miscellaneous character, varying in gravity from corneal opacities to cardiac disease, and from soft corns to epilepsy; but I do not propose to inflict on my readers any account of their symptoms, diagnosis, or treatment. Two of them, however, from a certain element of pathos which they seem to me to possess, are perhaps deserving of a brief mention.

      The first of them was a little boy, aged twelve, named Khan Mirza, who was suffering from paralysis and wasting of the arms


and legs. When I had completed my examination of him and heard the history of his sickness, I knew that I could do nothing for him, and, as gently as possible, told his father and mother, who had brought him to me, that I was powerless to help them, adding that I was doubtful whether the best physicians in Firangistan, with the best appliances at their disposal, could restore him to health.

      "Sahib," they wailed, "we know that you can cure him if you like. We are only poor peasants, and we cannot reward you as you have a right to expect, but tell us what sum of money will satisfy you, and if possible we will obtain it."

      I told them that to cure their child it was not money I wanted, but the power of working miracles.

      "Can you not believe me," I concluded, "when I tell you that I would rejoice to help you if I could, but that it is beyond my skill, and not mine only, but that of the greatest physicians of our country? I neither desire nor would consent to accept your money, but I have no right to deceive you with false hopes. Surely you must understand that there are diseases which no physician can heal, and that, for instance, when the ejel1 comes, Jalinus and Bukrat2 themselves have no resource but to cry, 'there is no strength and no power save in God the Supreme, tbe Mighty!'"3

      "You speak truly," answered the father; "but that only holds good of death."

      "How, then," said I, "does it come to pass that even amongst the rich there are blind and deaf and halt and dumb persons, who would give any price to be restored to health if they could find one to cure them, but who go down to their graves unhealed?"


      "It is because they cannot get hold of a physician like you,"1 replied the man. In the face of such faith what could one do but make up a prescription which, if it were not likely to do much good, could at least do no harm?

      The other case to which I have alluded was a poor old man, called Mashhadi Khuda-Rahm, who lived at some distance from Dihbid. The first time he came was late one afternoon, when I had seen all my other patients, and was resting after my labours. My servant (whether out of consideration for me, or to emphasise his own importance) refused to let him see me or to inform me of his arrival. The poor old man thought that he had been turned away because he had not brought a present, and when he returned and was finally admitted to me, he had in his hands a couple of fowls as a propitiatory offering. These he begged me to accept, promising that in the morning he would bring me a lamb; and it was with great difliculty that I succeeded in making him understand that I had no wish to deprive him of any portion of his scanty possessions. I found that his son had gone down to the turbulent and lawless town of Abarkuh some two months previously, and had there been stabbed in a quarrel about a girl to whom he was attached. Since then the old father's eyesight had been gradually failing "through much weeping," as he said; and it was for this that he had sought me. I did the best I could for him (which, I fear, was not much), and he went on his way and was no more seen by me.

      Of the country round about Dihbid I need say but little. Hard by the village stands a ruined tower, with enormously thick walls built of dried clay, which the country-folk believe to have been one of the seven hunting-palaces of Bahram Gur. I was


informed by one of the inhabitants that coins and ornaments had been dug up in its vicinity. Round about the tower are some curious rocks, looking like dried masses of mud. Many of these are hollowed out into caves, in which the wandering tribesmen take up their abode in summer. The stream which flows past Dihbid, crossing the main road a few yards south of the telegraph-office, runs in a south-westerly direction to Kasr-i-Ya'kub ("Jacob's Castle"), where, as I was told, it forms a lake, in which are fish of considerable size. Some distance to the east of the stream, and about two and a half or three miles south-west of Dihbid, stands a solitary withered tree hard by a ruined and deserted village and graveyard known as Mazra'i-Sabz. This tree, as I was informed by Mr Blake, is said to be haunted by a white- robed woman. I could learn no particulars about the legend connected with this ghost, and only mention it because it is the sole instance of this type of apparition which came to my knowledge in Persia. To the north and north-west of Dihbid lie the hamlets of Kushk, Huseyn-abad, and Khurrami, which I did not visit, and which are, I believe, places of but little importance. The whole plateau is, as I have said, of considerable elevation, and owing, I suppose, to the rarefaction of the air, one is liable when walking, to experience a certain curious and unpleasant shortness of breath.

      It was 29th April when, my patient being convalescent and able to take the air in the garden adjoining the telegraph-office, I finally quitted Dihbid and turned my face eastwards towards Yezd. After the somewhat monotonous though pleasant fortnight which I had spent at Dihbid, I looked forward eagerly to the excitement of a journey through country far wilder and less known than any which I had hitherto traversed. I had some


difficulty in obtaining animals for the march, but at length succeeded in hiring a mare for myself, and two donkeys for my servant and baggage, for which I was to pay the moderate sum of seven tumans (rather more than 2 pounds), it being understood that the journey to Yezd was to be accomplished in six or seven days. A fine handsome young man named Baba Khan was to act as guide, and to take charge of the animals. This arrangement, satisfactory enough to myself, was very distasteful to Haji Safar, who was greatly incensed at being expected to ride a donkey, and was only pacified-with some difficulty.

      We left Dihbid about 7.30 in the morning, as our intention was to push past the caves of Hanishk (where two or three musket-men are stationed as a guard, and where it is possible to halt for the night) and reach one of the flourishing villages which lie like islands of verdure in the sandy desert of Abarkuh. The Yezd road quits the main road from Shiraz to Isfahan close to the Dihbid caravansaray, and runs in a northeasterly direction towards the tail of the mountains above Hanishk. These we reached about 10.30 a.m., and then began the long descent towards the plain. The sides of the narrow ravines through which our path wound were abundantly decked with flowers, concerning which I questioned Baba Khan, who turned out to be a very intelligent and agreeable companion. There were tall, hyacinth-like spikes, with white blossoms and very thick succulent stems, called Kurroghlu; fine large mountain chrysanthemums, called Da'udi; abundance of wild rhubarb (Riwas); and a little ill-smelling plant with orange-brown flowers, named Mar-giyah (snake-grass). After passing a beautifully green grassy spot called Gushti, well watered by a stream which ran down the ravine, where some peasants were pasturing their cows and donkeys, we came, at 11.15 a.m., to a point where the valley opened out somewhat and allowed us to see for the first time the great sandy plain (kaffe) of Abarkuh spread out at our feet. This plain, which at its narrowest point (where we proposed to cross it) is about


fifteen parasangs (fifty-two miles) in width, runs, roughly speaking, from north-west to south-east, and is bounded on both sides by mountains, the highest of which, behind which lies Yezd, were streaked with snow. The plain itself is a dreary, sandy waste, encrusted here and there with patches of salt; yet notwithstanding this (or perhaps partly because of this), the villages which lie on its western border--Ismin-abad, Mihr-abad, Sharaz, and the larger town of Abarkuh--present a singularly fresh and verdant appearance. Near to the town of Abarkuh, and to the east of it, is a line of black jagged hills, rising abruptly from the plain, and crowned with ruins of some size, amongst which a dome called Gunbudh-i-'Ali is particularly conspicuous.

      At 11.30 we reached Hanishk, and halted for lunch. There are no buildings here, but only a few caves in the rock, which serve the tufankchis (musket-men) there stationed for a dwelling; a couple of fine mulberry-trees, under which we rested; a stream; and a spring of clear, cool water. Leaving Hanishk again at 12.45, we continued our descent, and finally, at about 2.15 p.m. emerged from the narrow jaws of the ravine into the plain, which from this point slopes but very slightly downwards towards Abarkuh. At 3.30 we passed a ruined cistern (ab-anbar) covered by a dome, and about 6.30, just as the sun was setting, reached the beautiful green oasis formed by the gardens of Mihr-abad, where we were to halt for the night. Round about these, enclosed within a high outer wall to keep off the drifting sand, lay fields of corn and of the white poppy (for opium is largely produced in all this district); and I was amazed to see what the skilful irrigation of the Persians could do for even so unpromising a soil. It is more irrigation, not railways and factories, that Persia needs to increase her prosperity; and were the means for this forthcoming, many a dreary desert might yet blossom with the rose and the poppy.

      There is, of course, no post-house at Mihr-abad, nor, so far As I know, a caravansaray; but I was far from regretting this, as


I obtained a much more delightful resting-place in a beautiful rose-garden near the gate of the village. I was, it is true, obliged to sleep in the open air; but, apart from the lack of privacy which it involved, this was a luxury rather than a hardship, the temperature in this low hill-girt plain being so much higher than at Dihbid that I seemed to have passed in one day from early spring to midsummer. In a sort of alcove in the high mud wall a carpet was spread for me, and here I esconced myself, Haji Safar taking up his position under the opposite wall. Tea was soon prepared, and while I was drinking it the gardener brought me two great handfuls of loose rose-leaves--a pretty custom, common in this more eastern part of Persia.

      Needless to say, visitors soon began to arrive; and, as none of them thought of moving till midnight, I had plenty of opportunity of observing their characteristics. In several ways they appeared to me to differ very widely from any type of Persian which I had hitherto seen, notably in this, that they manifested not the least curiosity about my business, nationality, or religion. Sullen, independent, quarrelsome, and totally devoid of that polished manner which characterises most of their countrymen, they talked for the most part with one another, and appeared to take little interest in anything except sport, horses, fire-arms, spirits, and opium. The only occasion on which Darab Khan, the son of a local magnate, addressed me with any appearance of interest was when he demanded whether I had with me any strong drink. I told him I had not. "You lie," replied he; "all Firangis drink." I then recollected that I had a little pocket-flask half- filled with whisky. "Well, I have this small quantity," I said, "in case of emergencies." "Let me see it," said he. I handed it to him, whereupon he unscrewed the top, sniffed at the whisky, and finally put the flask to his mouth, drained it at one gulp, and threw it back to me with a grimace. I asked him what he thought of it. "Poor stuff," he said--"no better than our 'arak, if as good. You are certain you have no more?"


I told him I had not another drop, and thereat he ceased to pay any further heed to me.

      Darab Khan had with him a very handsome page; another most savage-looking attendant named Huseyn, with enormously long drooping moustaches, which gave him somewhat the appearance of a Chinaman; one or two younger brothers; and several friends. They all sat together, servants and masters, without distinction of rank; they were nearly all armed to the teeth; and they nearly all smoked opium and drank as much spirits as they could get.

      As we had made a long stage on the first day, and as the heat was now considerable, Baba Khan decided to await the approach of evening before starting to cross the desert. In consequence of this I saw plenty of Darab Khan and his dissolute companions, who kept coming and going from 8 a.m. onwards. One, Ja'far Khan, also came to consult me with symptoms of indigestion and disordered liver. Having received a blue pill, he became communicative, and entertained me with a panegyric on a certain Mulla Ghulam Riza of Taft (near Yezd), who was highly reputed for his medical skill, and a dissertation on Persian pharmacology. Drugs, he explained, were primarily divisible into two classes: "hot" (used for combating "cold" diseases), amongst which the most efficacious were babune, afsantin-i-Rumi, and gul-i-gav-zaban; and "cold" (useful for the treatment of "hot" maladies), of which rishe-i-khatmi (hollyhock root), rishe-i- kasni, and rishe-i-kadu enjoyed the highest reputation. This interesting dissertation was unfortunately interrupted by the arrival of two or three of Darab Khan's younger brothers (so, at least, I judged them to be from their likeness to him), who forthwith began to pull about my effects and examine my clothes and bedding. One of them, seeing Haji Safar smoking a cigarette, plucked it out of his mouth and began to smoke it himself, whereupon he was, to my great delight, seized with so violent a fit of coughing that he had to retire. The relief afforded by his


absence was, however, of short duration, for he soon came back accompanied by a man who complained of that most usual of Persian ailments "pain in the loins" (dard-i-kamar). This latter I declined to treat, whereupon he said, "Since you will not give me any medicine, I will have a cigarette." I accordingly made him one, which he smoked rapidly, but without much apparent enjoyment, for he suddenly threw it away and departed hastily without a word. It was evident that cigarettes-were a novelty in the plain of Abarkuh.

      I was now left for a while in comparative peace; for my host, after amusing himself for a while by firing bullets with his long Shirazi gun at the birds on the garden wall, turned Darab Khan's troublesome young brothers out of the garden and shut the door. At 3.30 p.m. the animals were laden and ready to start. Haji Safar gave the owner of the garden five krans (about three-and- sixpence), with which he was evidently well satisfied, for he came and showed me the money, remarking, "This was not necessary, nor so much." He then gave me a large bunch of roses as I was about to mount, and walked beside me to the outskirts of the village, where he bade us farewell. As soon as he had gone, Haji Safar began to abuse the people of the village roundly for their churlishness, adding that one of the boys had stolen a pair of goloshes and other articles out of my baggage, but that he had recovered them. "I should like to have given him a good thrashing," he concluded, "but I thought you would not like it." Prudence, I imagine, had something to do with his self- restraint, for the Abarkuhis are not the kind of people one would care to anger.

      Our course at first lay nearly due north, towards the fantastic, jagged hills which rise abruptly from the sandy plain close by the city of Abarkuh. As we passed between two ridges of these, I could plainly see the mined domes, minarets, and walls which crown their summits. The largest dome stands at the northern end of the northern ridge, and is called Gunbudh-i-'Ali. I should


greatly have liked to explore these ruins, and to see something of the city of Abarkuh, which Ja'far Khan declared to be "the oldest city in Persia, except Salkh" (by which, I suppose, he meant Istakhr), and to be full of ancient monuments; but unfortunateiy this was impossible. Emerging from between these rocky ridges, we found ourselves once more in the open sandy plain, and could discern at a short distance several small villages. In a little while we passed one of them, called Sharaz, just beyond which the road bifurcated, the left-hand or more northerly branch (for we had now again turned nearly due east) leading to Shams-abad; the right or more southerly one to Hakim. We followed the latter, and reached Hakim about 6.45 p.m. as it was getting dusk. Here we found a small caravan of donkeys, laden with wheat for Yezd; and, learning that this was not to start till the moon rose, we halted in the plain for rest and refreshment.

      After supper I lay gazing at the starry sky till sleep overcame me. About midnight Haji Safar awoke me, and soon afterwards we started at a good pace (for these caravans of donkeys travel faster than ordinary caravans) on the long desert stage which was to bring us to Chah-Begi, the first habitable spot on the Yezd side of the desolate plain. Bare and hideous as this desert is by day, seen in the silver moonlight it had a strange weird beauty, which produced on me a deep impression. The salt-pools and salt-patches gleamed like snow on every side; the clear desert air was laden with a pungent briny smell like a sea-breeze; and over the sharply-defined hills of Yezd, towards which we were now directly advancing, hung the great silvery moon to the right, and the "Seven Brothers" (haft biradaran), or Great Bear, to the left. I kept in advance of the caravan, and watched with a keen pleasure the stars "beginning to faint on a bed of daffodil sky," till first the "caravan-killer" (karavan- or charvadar-kush) and then the morning star dissolved in the rosy flush which crept upwards from behind the eastern mountains, and suddenly, like a ball of fire, the sun leaped up over their serrated summits, scattering


the illusions of the night, and bringing into view chains and ridges of low hills which had hitherto seemed to form part of the main mass.

      As it grew light, a man carrying a large wallet over his shoulders, and walking rapidly, came up with me. I saluted him, and entered into conversation. He was, as I gathered, a kasid, or courier, with letters from Abade for Yezd. He told me that he had been a soldier in one of the Zillu's-Sultan's regiments till these were disbanded. He did not like a soidier's life, and had once deserted, walking from Isfahan to Abade (about 130 miles) in two days. He had also walked from Yezd to Mashhad by the desert road in twenty days, and from Teheran to Mashhad in the same time. He asked me many questions about England and its government, and complained bitterly of the heavy taxation to which the Persian peasantry were subjected. The tax on a donkey was, he said, two tumans (about 13s.) a year, and on a sheep three tumans (nearly 1 pound). He further informed me that bread was dear at Yezd, costing three panabats (one and a half krans, or about 11d.) the man; and that during the great famine about sixteen years earlier it had risen to sixteen krans (about 10s.) the man, and that the people were in some cases driven to eat human flesh to appease their hunger. As we approached Chah- Begi we passed numerous tamarisk-bushes (gaz), which, as my companion told me, had formerly been much more abundant, till they were cut down by order of the Government, because they afforded a harbour to highway robbers of the Bakhtiyari and other nomad tribes. He gave the people of Abarkuh a very bad character, declaring that fatal quarrels were of constant occurrence there.

      We reached Chah-Begi, a miserable walled village, containing a few sordid and quarrelsome inhabitants, a little before 7 a.m., and alighted at the dilapidated caravansaray, in front of which stood several sickly trees. I spent the whole day in the large, dusty, ruinous chamber allotted to me; sleeping, eating, washing


to the very limited extent permitted by the surroundings, and writing up my diary, being the only resources available for passing the long, hot day. A certain excitement, which can hardly be described as pleasurable, was produced from time to time by the appearance of sundry large and offensive insects; first a tarantula (roteyl, or khaye-gaz), which was killed on the wall where it sat by a kick from Baba Khan, who informed me in an encouraging manner that they had just killed another one outside, and that, as these were probably a pair, there was nothing to apprehend. I failed to see the conclusiveness of this reasoning, and (as I had left my bedstead at Shiraz, and was therefore obliged to spread my bedding on the floor) continued to keep a good look-out, for which I was presently rewarded by seeing a large black creature, shaped something like a gigantic woodlouse, emerge deliberately from a cranny in the wall. I threw half a brick at it, and it vanished with a horrid splash. After this I felt little inclination for sleep, but after supper fatigue overcame me and I fell into a deep slumber, from which I was aroused about an hour after midnight by Haji Safar.

      It was with sincere delight that I quitted this detestable spot about 1.30 a.m., and found myself once more on the road in the cool, clear moonlight. Having nothing else to do, I watched and timed the changes in the sky which heralded the dawn. At 3.30 a.m. the "False Dawn" (Subh-i-Kadhib) appeared, a little to the north of the point whence the sun subsequently arose. At 3.45 a rosy tinge was perceptible in the sky. At 4.0 the morning star began to shine over the hills. At 4.30 it was quite light, and at 4.55 the sun rose; but it was not till 6 a.m. that the day began to grow warm. An hour later we entered the village of Baghistan, where the road bifurcated. Taking the right-hand branch, we presently passed the castellated village of Irdun, situated on a small hill, and, at about 8 a.m., reached a beautiful village named God-i-Shirdan or Sharif-abad, which, with its shady lanes, rippling streams, and verdant trees, reminded me


more of my native land than anything I had seen for many a long day. Here we halted; and in one of the well-kept gardens which gave to the village so flourishing an appearance I spread my bed under a yellow rose-tree, and slept for a while till tea was ready. I then found that the little streamlet beside me had been diverted into another channel for the irrigation of another part of the garden, and, as it now threatened to inundate my resting-place, I was obliged to alter my position. Just as I had effected this, and was preparing to go to sleep again, a deputation of the principal inhabitants of the village and the neighbouring hamlet of Dih-i-Pa'in was announced. Of course they wanted medical advice; but, needless to say, they did not touch on the business which had brought them till they had exhausted all other topics of conversation. Amongst other things they informed me that two men had lately been put to death by the new Governor of Yezd for drinking wine. I expressed surprise, adding that if the Governor of Shiraz were to take it into his head to deal thus harshly with wine-drinkers, he would soon have no subjects left to govern. "Yes," replied my informant, "but, thank God, this is not Shiraz."

      Other persons gradually joined the group which had gathered round me, amongst these being a respectable-looking, though poorly-clad, man, who had joined our caravan at Hakim. Presently one of those present asked me if I knew Russian. "No," I said, "why should I? A great distance separates the English from the Russians." "One man only intervenes between them," remarked my fellow-traveller. I looked at him in wonder. "You are not a Russian," I exclaimed. "I am a Russian subject, at any rate," he replied,"though a Musulman; my native place is Erivan."

      At length my visitors began to approach the object which had brought them. "Was it true," they asked, "that I had some knowledge of medicine?" I answered in the affirmative. "Would I visit a woman in their village who was stricken with a grievous sickness?" they continued. I asked whether she could not come


and see me, but they told me that she was too ill, adding that their village was quite close at hand. It proved to be about two miles off, and on my arrival there the whole population (some twenty or thirty souls) turned out to stare at me, and followed me into the sick-room. The patient, a middle-aged woman, was lying on the floor in the middle of the room, and was evidently very ill; though, owing to the impossibility of making a careful examination, and the distracting effect of the eager crowd of onlookers, who kept up a continual buzz of conversation, I was unable to satisfy myself as to the nature of her complaint. When I had prescribed such medicines as appeared to me most likely to afford her some relief, I was called upon to examine several other sick persons, and it was only with much difficulty that I was able to get away. As I was leaving, one of the principal inhabitants of the village presented me, as a reward for my trouble, with a saddle-cover, which I bestowed on Baba Khan, who had come with me to carry my box of drugs and instruments. Haji Safar was greatly annoyed at what he called the meanness of the people, declaring that I might have gained a hundred tumans in fees since I left Dihbid but for my lamentable weakness in giving advice gratis.

      We left God-i-Shirdan about 4.30 next morning, it being then quite light; but though it was mid-day before we reached Sunij, our next halting-place, we did not suffer any inconvenience from the heat, as we were again ascending into a cool and mountainous region. The wheat-laden donkeys had started at an earlier hour, but the Erivani, whose acquaintance I had made on the previous day, had preferred to wait for us, and I had a good deal of conversation with him. I found him a pleasant and intelligent companion, for he had travelled widely, and spoke, besides his own Caucasian Turkish, Ottoman Turkish, Russian, Persian, and Arabic. He told me that it was now three years since he had left Erivan, whence he had journeyed to Tabriz, Teheran, Isfahan, Kirmanshah, Baghdad, Bushire, and Shiraz. He was now proceeding


to Yezd, having come with a caravan northward bound as far as Dihbid, where he had been detained for ten days ere he could find means of continuing his journey. He had heard at Dihbid that I was going to Yezd, but had hesitated to join me, not knowing what manner of man I might be. "Yesterday, however," he concluded, "I watched you with those people in the garden, and saw that you were not wanting in 'crop,'* for you never once showed any irritation at their absurd and impertinent questions, but continued to answer them with a smile and a jest." I asked him whither he was bound, and when he expected to return to his home. He replied that from Yezd he intended to go to Mashhad, and thence through Afghanistan to India; and that it would be two years at least ere he again reached Erivan. I asked him if he did not fear to trust himself amongst the treacherous and cruel Afghans, but he answered, "No, with patience and courage a man can go wheresoever he will on God's earth."

      The road which we traversed this day was singularly beautiful, and the country looked prosperous and well cared for. We passed two villages, however, one on the right and another on the left, named Haydar-abad and 'Abbas-abad respectively, which had been deserted owing to the failure of their water supply. The trees in their gardens were still for the most part green and luxuriant, but already the fragile mud walls were falling into ruin; and, meditating on this process of rapid decay, I ceased to wonder at the many Persian towns and villages mentioned by early geographers and historians of which no trace remains, and which it seems impossible to identify. At a considerable distance to


the right (north), on a low conical hill, the Castle of Bunaft, with the village of the same name below it, was clearly visible; and, farther east, the precipitous black crag called Kal'at-i-Zard ("the Yellow Castle"), which, as Baba Khan informed me, is only accessible by one path, and at the foot of which lies the village of Balkh-u-Guriz. Farther on we passed the village of Kattu (also on the right), by which runs the direct road from Yezd to Bawanat, and soon afterwards turned the northern end of the vast pile of cliffs which forms this western face of the Shir-Kuh, and, following a ravine to the left, down which rushed a clear, cool mountain stream, presently reached the beautiful Alpine village of Sunij, a mass of gardens and groves situated amidst the grandest rock-scenery. A more charming spot for a summer residence could hardly be conceived, and the people of Yezd are fortunate in being able to retreat so easily from their baking, sandy plains to this and other equally delightful highland resorts.

      I succeeded in obtaining a very comfortable lodging, past the door of which ran a stream of beautiful clear water. In the afternoon I was visited by a number of the inhabitants, who were of the true Yezdi type, fair-skinned and gray-eyed, with loosely- coiled bluish turbans, and the curious sing-song drawl which always characterises the speech of Yezd. This accent reminded me strongly of the south Northumbrian in English, the modulation of the voice in both cases being very similar; it is generally much laughed at in Persia, but to me it always seemed soothing, and at times rather pretty. My visitors, of course, were very inquisitive, and asked me more than the usual number of questions, chiefly about my religion and the business that had brought me into a region so seldom traversed by Europeans. "Was it true," they asked, "that Europeans accounted the flesh of the pig a lawful food?" "Had we fixed ablutions and prayers?" "How were marriages celebrated in Europe, and what were the regulations as to dowry?" Presently a comical-looking old man broke in, declaring that as for my business, he had no doubt that


I had come "to effect disruptions in Church and State" (rakhne dar din u mamlakat kardan), else how did I come to know the geography of the country, and to be so anxious for information as to the names of all the villages, mountain-peaks, and streams in the neighbourhood? Here the Erivani interposed, saying that all the Europeans, even the children, learned geography by means of maps such as I possessed. Thereupon my map was at once called for and exhibited to an admiring crowd, some of whom, however, expressed great disappointment that I had not also a microscope (khurde-bin), so that they might by its aid see what was going on in the streets of Yezd!

      Next day we were off about 5.30 a.m., many people assembling to witness our departure. Amongst these was the old man who had regarded me with such suspicion on the previous evening, but he seemed to have changed his opinion of me for the better, for, in bidding me farewell, he begged me, should I again pass that way, by no means to omit a visit to the ancient castle of Shawwaz, situated ten parasangs away, in the direction of 'Ali- abad. Our host accompanied us till we were clear of the village and on the road to Taft, his little son following us somewhat farther, plaintively calling out to Haji Safar in his childish Yezdi drawl, "Ye' ta macham na-kardi!" ("Thou hast not given me one kiss")--a remark to which Haji Safar only replied with an outburst of mirth and mimicry, which caused the boy to turn petulantly away.

The road which we followed was again singularly picturesque, for it led us almost immediately below the rugged and precipitous cliffs of the Shir-Kuh, rent and shattered on every ridge into fantastic towers and needles. We were now again descending towards the plain of Yezd, and in a valley to the left could discern amongst several others the village of 'Ali-abad, through which passes another road from Yezd to Abarkuh. The conversation of my Erivani friend did much to dispel the monotony inseparable from even the most picturesque march. Amongst other things,


he told me a rather clever variation of the well-known, though probably fictitious, anecdote concerning the interview between the poet Hafiz and Timur-i-lang, the Tartar conqueror, better known as Tamerlane, who, as the story runs, angrily demanded of Hafiz how he had dared, in one of his poems, to say that he would give Samarkand and Bukhara for the black mole on his beloved's cheek. According to the usual version of the tale, Hafiz replied, "Yes, sire, and it is by such acts of generosity that I have been reduced to the poverty in which you see me"; whereupon Timur laughed, and ordered a sum of money to be given him. According to my companion's account, however, the poet effected his deliverance by an ingenious emendation in the obnoxious line. "'Bakhsham Samarkand u Bukhara-ra!'" ('I would give Samarkand and Bukhara') he exclaimed; "those are not my words! What I wrote was, 'bakhsham si man kand u du khurma-ra' ('I would give three stone of sugar and a couple of dates'), and some ignorant scribe has altered it into this!"

      We reached the large and flourishing village of Taft about mid-day, two hours and a half after passing another prosperous and pretty village called Khurashe. Taft was looking its best on that fine May morning, the luxuriant green of its gardens being pleasantly varied by the bright red flowers of the pomegranates in which they abound. A wide, sandy river-bed, at this season devoid of water, divides it into two parts, whereof the northern is inhabited by the Zoroastrians and the southern by the Muhammadans. We followed this river-bed, which appeared to serve also as a road, for some distance, till we came to a point where the houses were more abundant and the gardens fewer. Here we halted, and began to look for a lodging, which I finally obtained in a sort of pavilion in the middle of a large square. Four rooms, raised somewhat above the level of the ground, opened out of the central hall of this pavilion, which was surrounded by a few trees, and appeared to offer desirable and comfortable quarters. Unfortunately, these rooms were


lighted by iron-barred windows opening on to the square, and I soon found myself an object of interest to a crowd of blue- turbaned, bearded men, and fair-faced, gray-eyed boys, who watched me using a knife and fork to eat my lunch with uncontrolled delight and amusement. They were perfectly well- behaved, and evidently had no desire to annoy me; but I never before realised what the lions in the Zoological Gardens have to put up with!

      Later in the afternoon I went for a short walk down the road- river with my Erivani friend, after extricating myself with some difficulty from a crowd of people with sore eyes and other ailments for which they desired treatment. In the course of our walk we were accosted, to my great delight, by two of the yellow- robed Zoroastrians, whom I now saw for the first time in the raiment which in Yezd and Kirman serves to distinguish them, even at a distance, from their Muhammadan fellow-citizens, but which in other parts of Persia they are permitted to lay aside. The Erivani asked them what was their religion, to which they proudly replied, "Zardusht, Kiyani" ("Zoroastrian, Achaemenian"), whereat he laughed not a little. On returning to my lodging, I found a handsome clever-looking man waiting to see me. From his talk I had little doubt that he was a Babi, for he enquired very minutely into the Christian belief as to the advent of the Messiah, adding, "Perhaps He has come, and you have not recognised Him," and presently, "Have you heard news of the Manifestation?" But when I asked him point-blank whether he was "of that sect" (az an ta'ifa), he only replied "Khuda dana" ("God knows"), and soon after left me.

      Next morning (Saturday, 5th May) we started about 5 a.m., so as to reach Yezd before the day grew hot. Our road sloped continuously, but gently, downwards towards the city, which was in view almost from the beginning of the march. As we were leaving Taft, a little boy came up and presented me with a rose, and farther on an old man who was working in a field near the


road offered me the like attention, neither of them expecting or receiving any reward for what, in these parts of Persia, which have not yet been spoiled by Europeans, is an act of pure kindliness and courtesy towards strangers. We passed successively the large and flourishing villages of Mubarake and Chamr on the right, and Zeyn-abad on the left, while on a low spur of the mountains to the south of the road the white dakhme or "tower of silence" of the Zoroastrians was plainly visible. Leaving these behind us, we presently entered the sandy plain wherein lies the ancient city of Yezd, towards which we wound our way through gardens and cornfields. As we approached it, I was much puzzled as to the nature and function of numerous tall chimney-like structures, the like of which I had not hitherto seen. Knowing that Yezd gloried in the title "Daru'l-'Ibadat" ("the Abode of Devotion"), I was for a moment disposed to regard them as a new variety of minaret; but I soon learned that they were really bad-girs or wind-chimneys, designed to collect and convey into the interiors of the better class of houses such breaths of fresh breeze as might be stirring in the upper regions of the air which lay so hot and heavy over that sun-parched plain. It was still comparatively early in the day when we passed through the city gates, and, after some enquiry, alighted at the caravansaray of Haji Kambar, where we secured two rooms, or rather cells, at a little distance from one another. My first business was to despatch my letters of introduction to the Seyyids and to Ardashir Mihraban the Zoroastrian, requesting them to appoint a time at which I might call and see them; having done which, I occupied the interval which must elapse before the return of my messenger in making such toilette as the circumstances admitted of.

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