Bidding farewell, then, to the land of the Crescent and the home of the unspeakable Osmanli, I wheel down a gentle slope into a mountain-environed area of cultivated fields, where Persian peasants are busy gathering their harvest. The strange apparition observed descending from the summit of the boundary attracts universal attention; I can hear them calling out to each other, and can see horsemen come wildly galloping from every direction. In a few minutes the road in my immediate vicinity is alive with twenty prancing steeds; some are bestrode by men who, from the superior quality of their clothes and the gaudy trappings of their horses, are evidently in good circumstances; others by wild-looking, barelegged bipeds, whose horses' trappings consist of nothing but a bridle. The transformation brought about by crossing the mountain ridge is novel and complete; the fez, so omnipresent throughout the Ottoman dominions, has disappeared, as if by magic; the better class Persians wear tall, brimless black hats of Astrakan lamb's wool; some of the peasantry wear an unlovely, close- fitting skullcap of thick gray felt, that looks wonderfully like a bowl clapped on top of their heads, others sport a huge woolly head-dress like the Roumanians; this latter imparts to them a fierce, war-like appearance, that the meek-eyed Persian ryot (tiller of the soil) is far from feeling. The national garment is a sort of frock-coat gathered at the waist, and with a skirt of ample fulness, reaching nearly to the knees; among the wealthier class the material of this garment is usually cloth of a solid, dark color, and among the ryots or peasantry, of calico or any cheap fabric they can obtain. Loose-fitting pantaloons of European pattern, and sometimes top-boots, with tops ridiculously ample in their looseness, characterize the nether garments of the better classes; the ryots go mostly bare-legged in summer, and wear loose, slipper-like foot- gear; the soles of both boots and shoes are frequently pointed, and made to turn up and inwards, after the fashion in England centuries ago.
Nightfall overtakes me as, after travelling several miles of variable road, I commence following a winding trail down into the valley of a tributary of the Arasces toward Ovahjik, where resides the Pasha Khan, to whom I have a letter; but the crescent-shaped moon sheds abroad a silvery glimmer that exerts a softening influence upon the mountains outlined against the ever-arching dome, from whence here and there a star begins to twinkle. It is one of those. beautiful, calm autumn evenings when all nature seems hushed in peaceful slumbers; when the stars seem to first peep cautiously from the impenetrable depths of their hiding-place, and then to commence blinking benignantly and approvingly upon the world; and when the moon looks almost as though fair Luna has been especially decorating herself to embellish a scene that without her lovely presence would be incomplete. Such is my first autumn evening beneath the cloudless skies of Persia.
Soon the village of Ovahjik is reached, and some peasants guide me to the residence of the Pasha Khan. The servant who presents my letter of introduction fills the untutored mind of his master with wonderment concerning what the peasants have told him about the bicycle. The Pasha Khan makes his appearance without having taken the trouble to open the envelope. He is a dull-faced, unintellectual-lookiug personage, and without any preliminary palaver he says: "Bin bacalem," in a dictatorial tone of voice. "Bacalem yole lazim, bacalem saba," I reply, for it is too dark to ride on unknown ground this evening. " Bin bacalem, " repeats the Pasha Khan, even more dictatorial than before, ordering a servant to bring a tallow candle, so that I can have no excuse. There appears to be such a total absence of all consideration for myself that I am not disposed to regard very favorably or patiently the obtrusive meddlesomeness of two younger men-whom I afterward discover to be sons of the Pasha Khan - who seem almost inclined to take the bicycle out of my charge altogether, in their excessive impatience and inordinate inquisitiveness to examine everything about it. One of them, thinking the cyclometer to be a watch, puts his ear down to see if he can hear it tick, and then persists in fingering it about, to the imminent danger of the tally-pin. After telling him several times not to meddle with it, and receiving overbearing gestures in reply, I deliberately throw him backward into an irrigating ditch. A gleam of intelligence overspreads the stolid countenance of the Pasha Khan at seeing his offspring floundering about on his back in the mud and water, and he gives utterance to a chuckle of delight. The discomfited young man betrays nothing of the spirit of resentment upon recovering himself from the ditch, and the other son involuntarily retreats as though afraid his turn was coming next.
The servant now arrives with the lighted candle, and the Pasha Kahn leads the way into his garden, where there is a wide brick-paved walk; the house occupies one side of the garden, the other three sides are inclosed by a high mud wall. After riding a few times along the brick-paved walk, and promising to do better in the morning. I naturally expect to be taken into the house, instead of which the Pasha Khan orders the people to show me the way to the caravanserai. Arriving at the caravanserai, and finding myself thus thrown unexpectedly upon my own resources, I inquire of some bystanders where I can obtain elcmek; some of them want to know how many liras I will give for ekmek. When it is reflected that a lira is nearly five dollars, one realizes from this something of the unconscionable possibilities of the Persian commercial mind.
While this question is being mooted, a figure appears in the doorway, toward which the people one and all respectfully salaam and give way. It is the great Pasha Khan; he has bethought himself to open my letter of introduction, and having perused it and discovered who it was from and all about me, he now comes and squats down in the most friendly manner by my side for a minute, as though to remove any unfavorable impressions his inhospitable action in sending me here might have made, and then bids me accompany him back to his residence. After permitting him to eat a sufficiency of humble pie in the shape of coaxing, to atone for his former incivility, I agree to his proposal and accompany him back. Tea is at once provided, the now very friendly Pasha Khan putting extra lumps of sugar into my glass with his own hands and stirring it up; bread and cheese comes in with the tea, and under the mistaken impression that this constitutes the Persian evening meal I eat sufficient to satisfy my hunger. While thus partaking freely of the bread and cheese, I do not fail to notice that the others partake very sparingly, and that they seem to be rather astonished because I am not following their example. Being chiefly interested in satisfying my appetite, however, their silent observations have no effect save to further mystify my understanding of the Persian character. The secret of all this soon reveals itself in the form of an ample repast of savory chicken pillau, brought in immediately afterward; and while the Pasha Khan and his two sons proceed to do full justice to this highly acceptable dish, I have to content myself with nibbling at a piece of chicken, and ruminating on the unhappy and ludicrous mistake of having satisfied my hunger with dry bread and cheese. Thus does one pay the penalty of being unacquainted with the domestic customs of a country when first entering upon its experiences.
There seems to be no material difference between the social position of the women here and in Turkey; they eat their meals by themselves, and occupy entirely separate apartments, which are unapproachable to members of the opposite sex save their husbands. The Pasha Khan of Ovahjik, however, seems to be a kind, indulgent husband and father, requesting me next morning to ride up and down the brick-paved walk for the benefit of his wives and daughters. In the seclusion of their own walled premises the Persian females are evidently not so particular about concealing their features, and I obtained a glimpse of some very pretty faces; oval faces with large dreamy black eyes, and a flush of warm sunset on brownish cheeks. The indoor costume of Persian women is but an inconsiderable improvement upon the costume of our ancestress in the garden of Eden, and over this they hastily don a flimsy shawl-like garment to come out and see me ride. They are always much less concerned about concealing their nether extremities than about their faces, and as they seem but little concerned about anything on this occasion save the bicycle, after riding for them I have to congratulate myself that, so far as sight-seeing is concerned, the ladies leave me rather under obligations than otherwise.
After supper the Pasha Khan's falconer brings in several fine falcons for my inspection, and in reply to questions concerning one with his eyelids tied up in what appears to be a cruel manner, I am told that this is the customary way of breaking the spirits of the young falcons and rendering them tractable and submissive the eyelids are pierced with a hole, a silk thread is then fastened to each eyelid and the ends tied together over the head, sufficiently tight to prevent them opening their eyes. Falconing is considered the chief out-door sport of the Persian nobility, but the average Persian is altogether too indolent for out-door sport, and the keeping of falcons is fashionable, because regarded as a sign of rank and nobility rather than for sport. In the morning the Pasha Khan is wonderfully agreeable, and appears anxious to atone as far as possible for the little incivility of yesterday evening, and to remove any unfavorable impressions I may perchance entertain of him on that account before I leave. His two sons and a couple of soldiers accompany me on horseback some distance up the valley. The valley is studded with villages, and at the second one we halt at the residence of a gentleman named Abbas Koola Khan, and partake of tea and light refreshments in his garden. Here I learn that the Pasha Khan has carried his good intentions to the extent of having made arrangements to provide me armed escort from point to point; how far ahead this well-meaning arrangement is to extend I am unable to understand; neither do I care to find out, being already pretty well convinced that the escort will prove an insufferable nuisance to be gotten rid of at the first favorable opportunity. Abbas Koola Khan now joins the company until we arrive at the summit of a knoll commanding an extensive view of my road ahead so they can stand and watch me when they all bid me farewell save the soldier who is to accompany me further on. As we shake hands, the young man whom I pushed into the irrigating ditch, points to a similar receptacle near by and shakes his head with amusing solemnity; whether this is expressive of his sorrow that I should have pushed him in, or that he should have annoyed me to the extent of having deserved it, I cannot say; probably the latter.
My escort, though a soldier, is dressed but little different from the better-class villagers; he is an almond-eyed individual, with more of the Tartar cast of countenance than the Persian. Besides the short Persian sword, he is armed with a Martini Henry rifle of the 1862 pattern; numbers of these rifles having found their way into the hands of Turks, Koords and Persians, since the RussoTurkish war. My predictions concerning his turning out an insupportable nuisance are not suffered to remain long unverified, for he appears to consider it his chief duty to gallop ahead and notify the villagers of my approach, and to work them up to the highest expectations concerning my marvellous appearance. The result of all this is a swelling of his own importance at having so wonderful a person under his protection, and my own transformation from an unostentatious traveller to something akin to a free circus for crowds of barelegged ryots. I soon discover that, with characteristic Persian truthfulness, he has likewise been spreading the interesting report that I am journeying in this extraordinary manner to carry a message from the "Ingilis Shah" to the "Shah in Shah of Iran " (the Persians know their own country as Iran) thereby increasing his own importance and the wonderment of the people concerning myself. The Persian villages, so far, are little different from the Turkish, but such valuable property as melon-gardens, vineyards, etc., instead of being presided over by a watchman, are usually surrounded by substantial mud walls ten or twelve feet high. The villagers themselves, being less improvident and altogether more thoughtful of number one than the Turks, are on the whole, a trifle less ragged; but that is saying very little indeed, and their condition is anything but enviable. During the summer they fare comparatively well, needing but little clothing, and they are happy and contented in the absence of actual suffering; they are perfectly satisfied with a diet of bread and fruit and cucumbers, rarely tasting meat of any kind. But fuel is as scarce as in Asia Minor, and like the Turks and Armenians, in winter they have resource to a peculiar and economical arrangement to keep themselves warm; placing a pan of burning tezek beneath a low table, the whole family huddle around it, covering the table and themselves -save of course their heads-up with quilts; facing each other in this ridiculous manner, they chat and while away the dreary days of winter.
At the third village after leaving the sons of the Pasha Khan, my Tartar- eyed escort, with much garrulous injunction to his successor, delivers me over to another soldier, himself returning back; this is my favorable opportunity, and soon after leaving the village I bid my valiant protector return. The man seems totally unable to comprehend why I should order him to leave me, and makes an elaborate display of his pantomimic abilities to impress upon me the information that the country ahead is full of very bad Koords, who will kill and rob me if I venture among them unprotected by a soldier. The expressive action of drawing the finger across the throat appears to be the favorite method of signifying personal danger among all these people; but I already understand that the Persians live in deadly fear of the nomad Koords. Consequently his warnings, although evidently sincere, fall on biased ears, and I peremptorily order him to depart. The Tabreez trail is now easily followed without a guide, and with a sense of perfect freedom and unrestraint, that is destroyed by having a horseman cantering alongside one, I push ahead, finding the roads variable, and passing through several villages during the day.
The chief concern of the ryots is to detain me until they can bring the resident Khan to see me ride, evidently from a servile desire to cater to his pleasure. They gather around me and prevent my departure until he arrives. An appeal to the revolver will invariably secure my release, but one naturally gets ashamed of threatening people's lives even under the exasperating circumstances of a forcible detention. Once to-day I managed to outwit them beautifully. Pretending acquiescence in their proposition of waiting till the arrival of their Khan, I propose mounting and riding a few yards for their own edification while waiting; in their eagerness to see they readily fall into the trap, and the next minute sees me flying down the road with a swarm of bare-legged ryots in full chase after me, yelling for me to stop. Fortunately, they have no horses handy, but some of these lanky fellows can run like deer almost, and nothing but an excellent piece of road enables me to outdistance my pursuers. Wily as the Persians are, compared to the Osmanlis, one could play this game on them quite frequently, owing to their eagerness to see the bicycle ridden; but it is seldom that the road is sufficiently smooth to justify the attempt. I was gratified to learn from the Persian consul at Erzeroum that my stock of Turkish would answer me as far as Teheran, the people west of the capital speaking a dialect known as Tabreez Turkish; still, I find quite a difference. Almost every Persian points to the bicycle and says: "Boo; ndmi ndder. " ("This; what is it?") and it is several days ere I have an opportunity of finding out exactly what they mean. They are also exceedingly prolific in using the endearing term of kardash when accosting me. The distance is now reckoned by farsakhs (roughly, four miles) instead of hours; but, although the farsakh is a more tangible and comprehensive measurement than the Turkish hour, in reality it is almost as unreliable to go by.
Towards evening I ascend into a more mountainous region, inhabited exclusively by nomad Koords; from points of vantage their tents are observable clustered here and there at the bases of the mountains. Descending into a grassy valley or depression, I find myself in close proximity to several different camps, and eagerly avail myself of the opportunity to pass a night among them. I am now in the heart of Northern Koordistan, which embraces both Persian and Turkish territory, and the occasion is most opportune for seeing something of these wild nomads in their own mountain pastures. The greensward is ridable, and I dismount before the Sheikh's tent in the presence of a highly interested and interesting audience. The half-wild dogs make themselves equally interesting in another and a less desirable sense as I approach, but the men pelt them with stones, and when I dismount they conduct me and the bicycle at once into the tent of their chieftain. The Sheikh's tent is capacious enough to shelter a regiment almost, and it is divided into compartments similar to a previous description; the Sheikh is a big, burly fellow, of about forty-five, wearing a turban the size of a half-bushel measure, and dressed pretty much like a well-to-do Turk; as a matter of fact, the Koords admire the Osmanlis and despise the Persians. The bicycle is reclined against a carpet partition, and after the customary interchange of questions, a splendid fellow, who must be six feet six inches tall, and broad-shouldered in proportion, squats himself cross-legged beside me, and proceeds to make himself agreeable, rolling me cigarettes, asking questions, and curiously investigating anything about me that strikes him as peculiar. I show them, among other things, a cabinet photograph of myself in all the glory of needle-pointed mustache and dress-parade apparel; after a critical examination and a brief conference among themselves they pronounce me an "English Pasha." I then hand the Sheikh a set of sketches, but they are not sufficiently civilized to appreciate the sketches; they hold them upside down and sidewise; and not being able to make anything out of them, the Sheikh holds them in his hand and looks quite embarrassed, like a person in possession of something he doesn't know what to do with.
Noticing that the women are regarding these proceedings with much interest from behind a low partition, and not having yet become reconciled to the Mohammedan idea of women being habitually ignored and overlooked, I venture upon taking the photograph to them; they seem much confused at finding themselves the object of direct attention, and they appear several degrees wilder than the men, so far as comprehending such a product of civilization as a photograph is an indication. It requires more material objects than sketches and photos to meet the appreciation of these semi- civilized children of the desert. They bring me their guns and spears to look at and pronounce upon, and then my stalwart entertainer grows inquisitive about my revolver. First extracting the cartridges to prevent accident, I hand it to him, and he takes it for the Sheikh's inspection. The Sheikh examines the handsome little Smith & Wesson long and wistfully, and then toys with it several minutes, apparently reluctant about having to return it; finally he asks me to give him a cartridge and let him go out and test its accuracy. I am getting a trifle uneasy at his evident covetousness of the revolver, and in this request I see my opportunity of giving him to understand that it would be a useless weapon for him to possess, by telling him I have but a few cartridges and that others are not procurable in Koordistan or neighboring countries. Recognizing immediately its uselessness to him under such circumstances, he then returns it without remark; whether he would have confiscated it without this timely explanation, it is difficult to say.
Shortly after the evening meal, an incident occurs which causes considerable amusement. Everything being unusually quiet, one sharp-eared youth happens to hear the obtrusive ticking of my Waterbury, and strikes a listening attitude, at which everybody else likewise begins listening; the tick, tick is plainly discernible to everybody in the compartment and they become highly interested and amused, and commence looking at me for an explanation. With a view to humoring the spirit of amusement thus awakened, I likewise smile, but affect ignorance and innocence concerning the origin of the mysterious ticking, and strike a listening attitude as well as the others. Presuming upon our interchange of familiarity, our six-foot-sixer then commences searching about my clothing for the watch, but being hidden away in a pantaloon fob, and minus a chain, it proves beyond his power of discovery. Nevertheless, by bending his head down and listening, he ascertains and announces it to be somewhere about my person; the Waterbury is then produced, and the loudness of its ticking awakes the wonder and admiration of the Koords, even to a greater extent than the Turks.
During the evening, the inevitable question of Euss, Osmanli, and English crops up, and I win unanimous murmurs of approval by laying my forefingers together and stating that the English and the Osmanlis are kardash. I show them my Turkish teskeri, upon which several of them bestow fervent kisses, and when, by means of placing several stones here and there I explained to them how in 1877, the hated Muscov occupied different Mussulman cities one after the other, and was prevented by the English from occupying their dearly beloved Stamboul itself, their admiration knows no bounds. Along the trail, not over a mile from camp, a large Persian caravan has been halting during the day; late in the evening loud shouting and firing of guns announces them as prepared to start on their night's journey. It is customary when going through this part of Koordistan for the caravan men to fire guns and make as much noise as possible, in order to impress the Koords with exaggerated ideas concerning their strength and number; everybody in the Sheikh's tent thoroughly understands the meaning of the noisy demonstration, and the men exchange significant smiles. The firing and the shouting produce a truly magical effect upon a blood-thirsty youngster of ten or twelve summers; he becomes wildly hilarious, gamboling about the tent, and rolling over and kicking up his heels. He then goes to the Sheikh, points to me, and draws his finger across his throat, intimating that he would like the privilege of cutting somebody's throat, and why not let him cut mine. The Sheikh and others laugh at this, but instead of chiding him for his tragical demonstration, they favor him with the same admiring glances that grown people bestow upon precocious youngsters the world over. Under these circumstances of abject fear on the one hand, and inbred propensity for violence and plunder on the other, it is really surprising to find the Koords in Persian territory behaving themselves as well as they do.
Quilts are provided for me, and I occupy this same compartment of the tent, in common with several of the younger men. In the morning, before departing, I am regaled with bread and rich, new cream, and when leaving the tent I pause a minute to watch the busy scene in the female department. Some are churning butter in sheep-skin churns which are suspended from poles and jerked back and forth; others are weaving carpets, preparing curds for cheese, baking bread, and otherwise industriously employed. I depart from the Koordish camp thoroughly satisfied with my experience of their hospitality, but the cerulean waist-scarf bestowed upon me by our Hungarian friend Igali, at Belgrade, no longer adds its embellishments to my personal adornments. Whenever a favorable opportunity presents, certain young men belonging to the noble army of hangers-on about the Sheikh's apartments invariably glide inside, and importune the guest from Frangistan for any article of his clothing that excites the admiration of their semi-civilized minds. This scarf, they were doubtless penetrating enough to observe, formed no necessary part of my wardrobe, and a dozen times in the evening, and again in the morning, I was worried to part with it, so I finally presented it to one of them. He hastily hid it away among his clothes and disappeared, as though fearful, either that the Sheikh might see it and make him return it, or that one of the chieftain's favorites might take a fancy to it and summarily appropriate it to his own use.
Not more than five miles eastward from the camp, while trundling over a stretch of stony ground, I am accosted by a couple of Koordiah shepherds; but as the country immediately around is wild and unfrequented, save by Koords, and knowing something of their little weaknesses toward travellers under tempting, one-sided conditions, I deem it advisable to pay as little heed to them as possible. Seeing that I have no intention of halting, they come running up, and undertake to forcibly detain me by seizing hold of the bicycle, at the same time making no pretence of concealing their eager curiosity concerning the probable contents of my luggage. Naturally disapproving of this arbitrary conduct, I push them roughly away. With a growl more like the voice of a wild animal than of human beings, one draws his sword and the other picks up a thick knobbed stick that he had dropped in order to the better pinch and sound my packages. Without giving them time to reveal whether they seriously intend attacking me, or only to try intimidation, I have them nicely covered with the Smith & Wesson. They seem to comprehend in a moment that I have them at a disadvantage, and they hurriedly retreat a short distance, executing a series of gyral antics, as though expecting me to fire at their legs.
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