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DURING THE YEARS 1879-80-81 






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VOL. I. 


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These pages contain a simple record of my wander- 
ings around and beyond the Caspian, including a five 
months' residence at Merv, during the three years 
1879-1881. I had at first purposed confining my 
narrative to Merv itself and its immediate surround- 
ings ; but my friends suggested that it would in such 
case be too circumscribed in scope, and not fully ap- 
preciable by those who had not previously paid con- 
siderable attention to Central Asian matters. Accord- 
ingly, I have related my experiences of the Eussian 
settlements on the Eastern Caspian littoral, and 
touched very slightly upon the military operations 
directed against the Akhal TekfoS tribes and their 
stronghold at Geok Tep& I have also entered into 
the border relations existing between Eussians, Tur- 
comans, and Persians, in order that the subsequent 
description of the attitude of the Merv Turcomans 
might be the better understood. The main interest 
of the book, however, centres in that portion of it 
which relates to Merv itself ; and in narrating what I 

viii PREFACE. 

have to say about that place and its people, I have, 
as far as possible, sought to confine myself to what I 
actually saw and heard among them. All information 
contained in these volumes relative to the oasis and its 
population is derived directly from the fountain-head ; 
and I have carefully abstained from quoting the recol- 
lections and opinions of other writers. Apart from 
pure narrative, the reader will occasionally meet with 
some expressions of opinion as to future political pos- 
sibilities, and an appreciation of the present and 
coming military situation. 

The Oriental documents added in the Appendix 
will serve as examples of the caligraphy and epi- 
stolary style of the country, and will at the same 
time show the nature of the aspirations and ideas of 
the chiefs, as well as the estimation in which I was 
myself held when I quitted their territory. The 
general map is based upon that published, in con- 
nection with ihe report of his travels in North- 
Eastern Khorassan, by lieutenant-Colonel C. E. 
Stewart. On this I have grafted my own correc- 
tions, and ray surveys of the territory lying eastward 
of the point at which his travels in the Attok 
ceased, viz. near Abiverd. The plan of the Merv 
oasis and its water system is purely original, and, as 
far as I am aware, the first ever based on an actual 
survey. Of the plan showing the old cities and their 
relative positions the same is to be said. 


I have on every possible occasion introduced 
illustrative anecdote and personal adventure, not 
only to lighten the general narrative, but also as the 
best possible method of conveying to my readers 
the nature of the surroundings amidst which I was 
placed, and the character of the people with whom 
I had to deal ; but the space allotted to me for the 
description of three years' experiences scarcely 
allows me the latitude I could have desired in this 
regard. Still, as a record of the almost unique 
circumstances in which I was placed, I trust that 
the following pages will meet with the indulgence, 
if not with the approval, of the reading public. 

E. 0'D. 







Trebisond to Batonm — Poti — Delays in landing — Eion river — Turcoman 
pilgrims — Railroad — Tiflis — Life in Tiflis — Travelling by troika — De- 
scription of vehicle — Easterly plains — Camel trains — Wild pigeons — 
Post-houses — Samovar and tea-drinking — 'Across country' — Troglo- 
dytic dwellings — Wild cats and boars — Fevers — Tartar thieves- 
Tartar ladies — Old Persian fortifications — Elizabethpol — Hotel there 
— Limited accommodation — TaUe-£KbU — Caviare— Prince Chavcha- 
yasa — News of Trans-Caspian Expedition — General Lazareff— His 
history — Armenian villages — Salt incrustations — Automatic raft over 
Kur — Abandoned Camels — Tartar funeral — Tartar tombstones — Cir- 
cassian horse-trappings — Waggons from Baku — Crossing the moun- 
tains— Bed-legged partridges — Field mice and ferrets — Shumakha — 
Xorezsafen — Obstinate driver — First sight of Baku and the Caspian — 
Tartar carts — Burden-bearing bullocks — Petroleum well-houses of 
Balahane and Sulahane— Tying up troika bells 



Baku — Apscheron promontory — Country round Baku — Armenian emi- 
grants from Turkish territory — Russian town — Old Baku — Anas** 
Tartar town — Old fortifications — Citadel — Bazaars — Mosques- 
Palace of Tartar Khans — Caspian steamers — Municipal garden — 
Mixed population — Bazaar held in aid of victims of Orenburg fire — 

xii contents of the first volume. 


National costumes and types — Nature of population — Banished 
Christian sects — Malakani and Scopts — Mercurius Company — Rus- 
sian girls' dress — Origin of name of Baku — Bituminous dust — Laying 
it with astatki — Boring for petroleum — Distilling and purifying — 
Utilization of refuse for steamers — Probable adaptation to railroads 
— Island of Tcheliken — Fire temple— Guebre fire-worship . .26 



Interview with Lazareff— Voyage to Tchikislar — Reception by Turco- 
mans — Their Costume and Dwellings — Fort of Tchikislar — Presents 
to Yamud chiefs — Akhal Tekke prisoners — Journey to Chatte — 
Russian discipline — Rain pools and mirage — Wild asses and ante- 
lopes — Fort of Chatte — Atterek and Sumbar rivers — Banks of the 
Atterek — Diary of Journey — Bouyun Bache — Delilli — Bait Hadji — 
Yaghli Olum — Tekindji — Review of LazarefiTs regiment — Flies at 
Chatte — Tile pavements — Remnants of old civilization . .40 



Lazareff's opinion about Tchikislar — Difficulties of traversing desert — 
Chasing wild asses and antelopes — 'Drumhead' dinner — A Ehivan 
dandy — Desert not a sandy one — On board 'Nasr Eddin Shah* 
corvette — En route for Erasnavodsk — Gastronomic halt — Zakouska — 
Russian meal — Arrival at Erasnavodsk — Description of place — Dis- 
tillation of sea-water — Club— Caspian flotilla — Lieutenant Sideroff — 
An ex-pirate — Trans-Caspian cable — Avowed object of Akhal Tekke 
expedition — Colonel Malama's explanation — A Trans-Caspian ball — 
Ehirgese chiefs — Caucasian horsemen — Military sports — Lesghian 
dancing 60 



Gypsum rocks — OS jar — Natural paraffin — Post of Ghoui-Bournak — 
Camelthorn and chiratan — Large lizards — Ghoui-Sulmen — Nummu- 
litic limestone — Salty water — Method of drawing it up — Effect of 
washing — Turcoman smoking — Waiting for dawn — Shores of Eara- 
Boghaz— Searching for sulphur — Black and red lava — Eukurt-Daghi 
— Ghoui-Eabyl — Argillaceous sand — Turcoman and Ehirgese horses 
— An alarm and retreat — Back to Bournak 76 





Turcomans in view — Preparing to attack — In a predicament — Retiring 
on Krasnavodsk — General panic — Lomakin'g advance — Result of 
skirmish — Russian military funeral— *A trip to Tchikislar — Island 
of Tcheliken — Demavend — Ak-Batlaouk volcano — Difficulty of land- 
ing — Description of camp— Flies — Turcoman prisoner — Release of 
captive Persian women — Water snakes — Stormy voyage to Baku — 
Conversation -with Lazareff— Russian recruits — Prince Wittgenstein — 
Cossack lieutenant's story — Off to Tchikislar 87 



Khirgese and Turcomans at Tchikislar — Cossack and Caucasian horse- 
men — Peculiar customs with regard to dress — Samad Agha — The 
Shah's cousin — Hussein Bey and Kars — Nefess Merquem — Turco- 
mans in Russian service — Camp police — Tailless camels — The knout 
— Baghdad muleteers — Decorating soldiers — Camp customs — Soldiers' 
games — Races — Tchikislar bazaar — Night alarm — The pig and the 
pipe — Military ideas about Asterabad — Turcoman graves — Bouyun 
Bache — Foul water — Smoking out the flies — Horse flies — Sefld 
Mahee— Abundance of fish — Running down partridges — Waterfowl 
and eels — Wild boar hunting — Atterek delta — Giurgen — Ak-Kala — 
A Turcoman and his captive wife — LazarefFs decision • . .103 



Hassan-Kouli lagoon — Incursions of sea-water — Old piratical station — 
Buried melons — Turcoman cemetery — Subsidence of graves — Ioyun- 
vuskha — Courtesy of the desert — Turcoman character — Battle tombs 
— Turco-Celtic derivations — Open-air mosques — An ex-corsair — Bad 
treatment of an envoy — A Turcoman interior — A native dinner — 
Polite attentions — Armenian fishing-station — Deserted Camel — 
Thirsty sheep— Khirgese and Turcomans — Dysentery at Tchikislar — 
LazarefTs illness and death — A burial at sea — A stormy voyage- 
General Tergukasoff— Back to Tchikislar and Chatte — Rainpools in 
the desert— Failing camels — Commissariat errors — Water-pits . . 128 




Banished from Tchikislar — Colonel Shelkovnikoff— Starting for the 
Atterek — A night at Hassan- Konli — Turcoman lady — Her costume — 
Primitive flour-mills — Ovens — Sulphide of iron small-shot — Sea-birds 
— Grossing the Atterek mouth — Sleighing en a mud bank — Across 
country — Nomad shepherds — Goklan Tepessi — A dervish moullah — 
An usta-adam — Bird's-eye view of delta — Burnt reed-fields — Tame and 
wild ducks— The Kisil-Alan — Pin-tailed grouse — Ak-Kala — Altoun- 
tokmok — An adventure with village dogs — Crossing the Giurgen — 
Ata-bai — Village of NergistepA — Pomegranate jungle— Kara-Su — 
Arrival at Asterahad — Shah Abass* causeway — Mr. Churchill . 143 



Seat of the Ka^jars of Persia— Old ramparts — Shah Abass' causeway — 
Wild boars, jackals, &c., in town — Atmospheric indices — Anecdote 
of Nadir Shah — Streets — Bazaar — Grocers, dyers, gunsmiths, &c. — 
Percussion gunlocks — Felt manufacture — Sun screens — Public story- 
teller — Turcomans and rice-dealers — Scarcity of grain in Mazanderan 
and Ghilan — Turcomans and Arabs in bazaar — Returned pilgrims — 
Persian mourning — Old Kadjar palace — Enamelled tiles — Rustam 
and the Div Sefld — Russian telegraphists and spoliation — ' Blue china 
maniacs ' — Reflet tnitalUqus — Theory and examples — Wild boars and 
Persian servants — Anti-Koranic cookery at British Consulate — Re- 
sults — Persian domestics — Nadir Shah and his descendants — Pensions 
and employment — Title of Mirza — Intoxicating bread and enchanted 
trees — Outskirts of Asterabad — Outlying fort— View from its summit 165 



Persians and Turcomans — Mutual opinion — Persian fortified village 
Jungle — Depredations of wild boars — Former cultivation — Possibili- 
ties of irrigation — Turbi, or saint's tomb — Persian entrenched camp 
of Ak Imam — The Kara-Su — Ancient bridge — Inferior Persian arma- 
ment and uniforms — Conversation of Mustapha Khan about Tekkes 
Description of former — Veli Khan and his Mirza — Camp music and 
muezzim* — Persian physician — Mediaeval ideas — Absurd conversa- 
tions — Position of Australia — Afghan troopers — II Geldi Khan — 
Dangers in jungle — Tea, water-pipes, and chess — Interfluvial zone — 
General insecurity — Turcomans' opinion about Geok Tepe — Giurgen 
river — Arrival at Gumush Tep4 188 





Maritime Turcomans — Luggers — Dug-out canoes — Permanent Turcoman 
settlements — Gumush Tepe mound — Old town of Khorsib— Kizil 
Alan — Old earth mounds — Alexander's wall — Former palm groves — 
Geldi Khan — Turcoman interior — Female costume — Children's 
silver-mounted caps — Turcoman toilet — Occupations and dietary of 
Turcomans — Tea drinking — Economy of sugar — Absence of animal 
food — Fuel — Astatki lamps — Tcheliken salt — Yaghourt — Visit to 
Tchildslar — Salt plains — A rebuff— Every-day life at Gumush Tope* 
— Makeshifts against rain — The tenkis — Precautions against storm— 
A rush for water 202 



garage dogs — Vambery's house — Turcoman want of ideas about time— 
Smoke — Sore eyes — Conversation — Patients — Visiting formalities — 
Turcoman hospitality — Karakchi thieves — Physical types of Yamuds 
— A Turcoman belle — Nursing children — Tekke bugbears — Plurality 
of wives — A domestic quarrel and its consequences .... 221 



College at Gumush Tepe — Professor of theology — Late school hours — 
Sunni and Shiia — Specimen of sectarian hatred — The white fowl 
mystery — Fever — Hurried burials — Mourning rites — [Returning 
hadjis — Distinctive marks — Trade and commerce — Tanning sheep- 
skins — Pomegranate bark — Kusgun and yapundja — Erans and 
tomans — Disputes about money — Turcoman measures — Recreations 
—The Turcomans and * Punch '— Agha Jik's ideas— After nightfall . 287 



General Mouravieff— Night scene on the Giurgen — Embarking for Tchi- 

kislar — Wild Fowl — Fishing stations — At sea — Wading ashore 

Moullah Dourdi — The Grand Hotel — Colonel MhUf w^ — Discussion 
about the frontier — Timour Beg— Banished again — Back to Gumush 



Tepe— Smoking apparatus — Beep drinking and casuistry — An un- 
necessary call — A storm sky — The snow tenkis — Effects at Kenar Gas 
— The plains under snow — On the road to Asterabad — Cattle storm 
shelters — Dying sheep— Testing for blood — Turcomans camping — An 
improvised vehicle — A difficult ford — A camel in a difficulty — Swollen 
streams — Large mushrooms — Tortoises — Luxuriant grass growth — 
Suspected Turcomans — Muddy jungle — "Wild boars .... 254 



A troublesome servant — Mehemedabad — Gamp at Nergis Tep6 — Afghan 
escort — Cattle scenting blood — Porcupines — Offending a moullah — 
Bridge over Kara-Su — Old town of Giurgen — Modern fort — Seat of 
Kadjar family — Persian artillerymen and sharpshooters — Ak-Kala 
bridge — Turcoman medresseea — View from the ramparts — Firing at a 
Turcoman — Persian military prestige— A humorous moullah — Verses 
on a mantelpiece— Paring an epistle — Banks of the Giurgen — Camels 
shedding winter coats — Triple chain of mounds — Oum Shali — Phea- 
sants and partridges — A hungry wolf — Lost in the reed brakes — 
Stranded fish — Overflow of Giurgen — Curing fish — Wood turners — A 
Kurd gallant — Matron's indignation — Plans for the future — Russian 
threats — Saddling for Asterabad — Dangers of the road — Goklan * no 
tax ' movement — Putrescent fish — A mutual misunderstanding — Wild 
boars and jackals — Passage of swollen Giurgen by cattle — Lunch with 
the nomads — Victims of the tenkis — Arrival at Asterabad — News of 
Skobeleff— Mr. Zinovieff— Journey to Teheran decided on . . .271 



Environs of Asterabad — Green corn fodder — Pruning corn crops — Earth- 
quake shock — Plan of journey — My travelling companions — Jungle 
road — Dengolan — Sleeping sheds — Forest growth — Wild animals — 
Karaoul Hanes — A lonely grave — Ges — Stuck in a quagmire — Kenar 
Gez — Mercurius and Carcass Company — Landing accommodation — 
Ashurade — Russian and Persian policy — Absurd building restrictions 
— M. Yussuf— White truffles — Cotton — Loup* and box-wood — On 
board the ' Cesarewitch ' — Fog off Tchikislar — Commissariat swindling 
— Meshed-i-Ser — Cavalry at Sea — Shah's summer palace at Enzeli — 
Persian launches — Mr. Churchill's departure — The * Cesarewitch ' mail 
steamer — Astatki ship furnace ?94 





Lauding at Eneeli — The Shah's yacht — A naval salute — Persian flag on 
the Caspian — Armenian traders — Articles of export — Dried fish — 
Shah's lodge — Across the Moradab — A tattered sail — Piri-Bazaar 
river — Fishing weir — Road to Resht — Former dread of Russians — 
TiUmbara — Pebrine and flacherio diseases — Tobacco versus silk — Resht 
— Novel mode of torture — Retribution 310 



Posting in Persia — Sefid-Rood — Mountain roads — Ruetamabad — Olive 
groves — Rood Bar — Mengil — Travelling in the dark — Stormy glen — 
Marc Antony and the snakes — Shah Rood — Corpse caravan— Starved 
post-horses — Pood Chenar — A deserted post-house— Kurd encampment 
— Pass of Kharzon — Kurds on the march — Funeral rites — Imam Zade 
— Masrah — The gcurrib-geM — Miana — A Persian remedy — An appeal to 
the Shah — Fortified villages — Kanots — Kasvin — Persian tombstones — 
Hotel — Enamelled tiles — A good postmaster — A contrast — A break- 
down—Good ponies — Mounds and villages — Count de Monteforte — 
Approaching Teheran — Gates and fortifications 319 



Defences of Teheran — General aspect of town — Groves and gardens — 
British Legation — Boulevards — Gas lamps — Electric light — Cannon 
square — Gun from Delhi — Shah's palace — Newly organised regiments 
— Uniform — Arms — Austrian officers — Captain Standeisky — Gymnas- 
tics — Care of arms — Captain Wagner and the artillery — Persian 
Cossacks — Colonel Demontovitch — Visit to cavalry barracks — Old 
soldiers v. new — Baron Renter's contract — Shah's red umbrella — Royal 
cavalcade — Shah's carriage— Ladies of the Harem — 'Be blind, be 
blind!' — Novel military salute — Departure of Austrian officers — 
Rumoured advent of Russian organisers 338 


teheban {continued). 

The bazaar — Persian yashmak — Constantinople police edict — The town as 
it/is — The Shah visiting his First Minister — A long wait — Police — 
The cortege — Shah's running footmen — Apes and baboons— Scattering 

vol. i. a 



flowers — Hopes for the future— A Persian saying — Conceited Persian 
officer — An explanation — A visit to the Russian Minister — SkobelefTs 
telegram — ' Au revoir a Merv ' — Internet? with the Sipah Salar Aazam 
— A diplomatic conversation — Busso-Persian frontier — Why I changed 
sides — Dr. Tholozan — The military situation — An unpleasant pro- 
spect 860 



Preparing for a journey — Mr. Arnold's servant — Posting in Persia — 
' Towers cf Silence '—Evan Keif— Old police-stations— Kishlak— Mud 
architecture — Skab-gez — A tough fowl — Gratuities — Outlying tele- 
graph station — Deep-cut stream beds — Irrigation — Fortified mounds — 
An old palace— Persian graves — Gathering the harvest — A useful 
custom — Benevolent lying — Deh Memek — Towers of refuge— Terrace 
irrigation — Castled mound of Lasgird — Lugubrious quarters — Pursued 
by the mail — An adventure with Afghans — A precipitate flight — Sem- 
nan — Extensive cemeteries — A quick ride to Aghivan . 866 



Caravanserais — Villages and their fortifications — Kanots and tanks — 
Absence of palm, orange, and olive trees — Minars — Deh Mullah- 
Crossed by the post — Persian postmaster — A storm on the plain — 
Shahrood — Derivation of name — Armenian traders — Bitten by the 
garrib-gez — Various cures — Disputes about sluices — Monthly pilgrim 
caravans — Dervishes — Military escort — Bokharan pilgrims — Change 
of plans 382 



Leaving Shahrood— Beset by mendicants — 'Where is the /&>£?'— Star- 
light march — Novel mode of sleeping — Warlike appearance of caravan 
— Maiamid — Itinerant butchers — Beligious drama — Persian dervishes 
— Waiting for the escort — An Eastern row — Besieged in a chappar 
harU — « By your beard, Emir ' — A present from the Governor — Beligious 
buffoonery — Moullahs and dervishes — A weird procession — Mule bells 
— Our piece of artillery — A dangerous pass — A panic — Returning 
pilgrims — A halt 400 




Caravanserai scenes — Travellers' lodgings — Persian architecture— The 
midday siesta — Departure of a caravan — The road to Sabsavar — 
Strategical positions — Abasahad — Persian coinage — Sadrabad — A 
ruined country — Abandoned irrigation works — The Kal Mora river — 
An ancient bridge — Masinan — Miliars and Mosques — A decayed town 
— Sabeavar — Commercial relations with France — Ice manufacture — 
Travellers' annoyances — Flies and scorpions — Parting from the pil- 
grims — Begging on the road — Persians and Turcomans — An official 
reception in Persia — Oriental diplomacy — News and newspapers — The 
wardens of the Turcoman border — Timorous guides — A travelled 
Persian's impressions of London — Patd as a cancan dancer — Start for 
Kuchan 4L9 



Exhausted lands — Grapes and wine— Aliak — Reformed thieves — Writing 
under difficulties — Sultanabad — Antiquated farm implements — Saman 
fodder — Water-melons — Mineral resources — Karagul — Sympathy with 
Russia — Persian highwaymen — Abdullah Gau — Kuchan — The Upper 
Atterek — Weighing the chances — Russians and Turcomans — Anxieties 
— Railroad — Earthquakes — Dinner with a Persian Emir — A frontier 
court — Dinner-table on the frontier — Social fencing — Persian zakouska 
— Family etiquette — A renegade — Western luxuries — A Kurdish orgie 
— A young captive — Eastern immorality — Going home — Bitten by the 
tkab-ge* — Fever and delirium — A friend in need — A desperate remedy 
— Opium dreams — Recovery — Kuchan medical astrologers • . 437 



How news travels in the East — The Russian advance — The defence of Geok 
Tope — Night in a Persian caravanserai — Persian singing — Persian 
servants — Scenes on the Upper Atterek — A house-top promenade — 
Interview with a Turcoman envoy — The Turcoman version of the course 
of hostilities — Bussian tactics — A Turcoman poet — Modern weapons 
among the Nomads — Mussulman troops in the Bussian service — The 
Daghestan cavalry — Vambery on Bussian intrigues — Shiites and Sun- 
nites — Peculiar mercy to co-religionists — The telegraphic service — 
Iron posts versus wooden poles — Turcoman auxiliaries to Russia — The 
effect of the Afghan war on Central Asia — Turcoman hopes of British 


aid — Russian designs on India — The feeling of the Russian army — 
Letter to Makdum Kuli Khan — Persia and Russia — Benevolent neu- 
trality of the Shah's Government — Russian courtesies to Persian 
officials — Understanding between - Persia and Russia — Start for 
Meshed 4*6 



rhe Meshed road — Kurdish customs — A thievish chief — Rapacious officials 
— Persian building — Fruits — Pitfalls in the roads — Meshed — A mag- 
nificent prospect — The Grand Boulevard of Meshed — Lack of public 
spirit — Russian commerce — Strange nationalities — Persian attendants 
— Antique coins — A Persian bouse — Fountains and water supply — 
Brinks of the country — Population of Meshed — Turcoman horses . 479 



A Persian Mecca — Jealousy of Christian visitors — Interments in the sacred 
ground — Tombstone makers — A Persian lathe — The great mosque — 
Characteristic architecture — Colour in architecture — The tomb of 
Haroun-al-Raschisl — Renegade Christians — Light and Shade effects — 
Wealth of a Mahomedan sanctuary — Rights of pilgrims — Mosques in 
decay — Miliars and Irish round towers — An ancient rite — Saluting the 
sunset — Barbaric music — Relics of Zoroastrism — Sunnites and Shiites 
— The twelve holy Imams — Wine-drinking among Persians — National 
traditions and religion — The Mahomedan conqueror of Persia . 488 



Portrait of thb Author Frontitpieoe 

Facsimile of Russian Passport — Tiflis to Baku • . to foot page 7 
Ground Plans of Gukush Tepb and Part of Kizil Alan - 906 

ME E V. 



Trebizond to Batoum — Poti— Delays in landing — Rion river — Turcoman 
pilgrims -Railroad — Tiflia — Life in Tiflis — Travelling by troika — De- 
scription of vehicle — Easterly plains— Camel trains — Wild pigeons — 
Post-houses — Samovar and tea-drinking — ' Across country ' — Troglodytic 
dwellings — Wild cats and boars — Fevers — Tartar thieves — Tartar ladies — 
Old Persian fortifications — Elizabethpol — Hotel th?re — Limited accommo- 
dation — Table cCh6U — Caviare— Prince Chavcharaza — News of Trans- 
Caspian Expedition — General Lazareff— His history — Armenian villages — 
Salt incrustations — Automatic raft over Kur — Abandoned camels — Tartar 
funeral— Tartar tombstones — Circassian horse-trappings — Waggons from 
Baku— Crossing the mountains —Red-legged partridges — Field mice and 
ferrets — Shumakha — Xorezsafen — Obstinate driver — First sight of Baku 
and the Caspian — Tartar carts — Burden-bearing bullocks — Petroleum 
well-houses of Balahane and Sulahane— Tying up troika bells. 

I left Trebizond at sunset on Wednesday, February 5, 
1879, en route for Central Asia. It was my intention to 
travel to Central Thibet, but subsequent circumstances 
obliged me to alter my resolution, and directed my steps 
to a locality perhaps not less interesting. I started by 
the English steamer ' Principe di Carignano/ reaching 
Batoum early on the morning of the 6th. I found that 
place wonderfully increased in size, even during the short 
time which had elapsed since the Russian occupation. 
The number of houses had almost trebled, and, after the 

VOL. I. B 


fashion of Russia generally, the majority of these consisted 
of rum and vodka l shops. At least one barrel-organ was 
to be heard grinding in the streets, and, for the first time 
in the history of the town, public vehicles — the Russian 
phaeton, or gig — plied for hire. The same afternoon, the 
1 Principe di Carignano ' continued her voyage, arriving at 
the mouth of the Rion river in two and a half hours. 
Here one became fully impressed with the necessity felt 
by Russia for a better naval station than Poti on the 
Southern Black Sea littoral. The extreme shallowness of 
the water obliged us to anchor at least a mile and a half 
from the low pebbly beach, and, owing to the violent off- 
shore wind which prevailed, which would neither allow us to 
send boats ashore, nor the usual tug steamer, employed for dis- 
embarking passengers, to come off, two days and a half 
elapsed before the slightest chance of landing occurred. Such 
delays, I was told, were of common occurrence. At length 
some of the fishing luggers ventured to put out from the 
river's mouth, and brought us and our baggage ashore. 

Arrived within the mouth of the river, we were taken 
in tow by a small steamer, which tugged us a distance 
of two miles, finally landing us at the town of Poti 
itself. The river banks on either side presented a dismal 
aspect, such as one notices along the minor tributaries 
of the Mississippi. Everything seemed but lately to have 
been inundated. Rotting ' snags ' stuck from the slimy 
surface of the semi-stagnant water; the lower portion 
of those trees which stood along the margin looked 
black and rotting, and a general odour of decomposing 
vegetable matter permeated the air. , Poti is notorious 
for its unhealthy, feverish climate, and, considering its 
immediate surroundings, I am not surprised at this. As 
A naval station there can be no comparison between it 

1 A fiery, white spirituous liquor, largely consumed in Russia. 


and Batoum. The latter possesses a deep and well- 
sheltered, though small harbour, where the largest vessels 
can anchor within a few fathoms of the beach, and 
where they are perfectly sheltered from winds, whether 
off or on shore. It is true that under Turkish rule, owing 
to the blocking of the mouths of several minor mountain 
streams, swamps had formed in the neighbourhood of the 
town, which rendered it to a certain extent a feverish 
locality. Still, the smallest engineering effort would serve 
to remove this drawback, and I believe that at this mo- 
ment such effort is being made. Among my fellow- 
travellers who crowded the luggers were Trans-Caspian 
Turcomans, on whom I now laid my eyes for the first 
time. They were pilgrims returning from Mecca; for, 
notwithstanding the never-ceasing hostility between the 
nomads and the Bussians, the former invariably adopt the 
route by Baku, Tiflis, Poti, and Constantinople, when 
going to the Sacred City, instead of the land route by 
Persia and Baghdad. Before we were permitted to leave the 
precincts of the landing station, the usual tedious examina- 
tion of baggage, and then of passports, had to be under- 
gone, and fully four hours elapsed after our landing before 
we were allowed to enter the town About Poti itself 
there is little to say. It is a rambling kind of place, 
largely composed of wooden shanties, and, but for its 
phattons, low-crowned-hatted coachmen, and its unmis- 
takeable gendarmes, might pass for a town of almost any 
nationality. From Poti there is a railroad to Tiflis, the 
journey to the latter place occupying about twelve hours 
by ordinary train. During the first two hours, the country 
one traverses is indescribfbly dreary, rotting forest &oZ 
and stagnant overflows of the river being its main charac- 
teristics. Then a steep gradient is arrived at, by which 
the train mounts to the crest of an outlying spur of the 



Caucasus, whence a commanding view is obtained oyer 
the vast expanse of country lying in the direction of 
Tiflis. Leaving Poti late in the afternoon, one arrives at 
the capital of the Trans-Caucasus early on the following 
morning. The first thing that strikes the eye is the 
semi-Asiatic, semi-European aspect of the place — the old 
town, with its narrow streets, its old-fashioned booths, 
and artisans plying their trades in full view of the 
public, together with Tartar head-dresses and fur-lined 
coats, contrasting violently with the palatial houses, wide 
prospects, and great open gardens, thronged with persons of 
both sexes, wearing the ne plus ultra of Western European 
fashionable attire. I was unfortunate enough to miss 
seeing Prince Mirski, the governor of the town, he being 
absent in the interior ; so, after a couple of days' delay at 
the Hotel Cavcass, I prepared for my journey across the 
steppes which separated me from the Western Caspian 
border. During the two nights which I remained in Tiflis, 
I had ample opportunity of witnessing the remarkably 
' fast ' rate of living which usually obtains in better-class 
Russian society. Everything seemed at fever-heat. 
Theatres, music-halls, and circuses wore nightly thronged, 
and petits soupers and select dinner parties seemed the 
order of the day. As for myself, the thing I least liked 
about Tiflis was the very excessive charge made at the 
hotel, and I was glad when the morning for my departure 

We are told that up to the end of the seventeenth 
century in Prance, a traveller setting out from Lyons for 
Paris, in view of the state of the road, considered it his 
duty to draw up his last will and testament. If the roads in 
France at that date bore any resemblance to those I have 
traversed on my way from Tiflis across the Trans-Cau- 
casian plain, I must say the travellers were perfectly 


justified in their precautions. I had heard and read a 
good deal about travel in this part of the world, but my 
wildest anticipations fell very far short of the sad reality. 

When one has to do with officials in Russia, especially 
those of a subordinate class, he is certain to be worried 
almost out of his existence by needless and seemingly 
endless delays before the simplest matter of business can 
be effected, or the inevitable official documents procured* 
After a good deal of trouble I succeeded in securing the all- 
important padarosjna (this is the nearest approach I can 
make to the name in our alphabet), which entitles the 
holder to carriages and post-horses. It is a large 
sheet of paper bearing the Russian double-headed eagle, 
with paraphernalia, in the water-mark, and having several 
double-headed eagles and ornamental panels all over it. 
It bears many numbers of registration, and a still greater 
amount of signatures and counter-signatures, and is not 
unlike a magnified reproduction of some of the earlier 
American paper dollars. On the strength of this docu- 
ment, the people of the Hotel Cavcasb undertook to find 
me an orthodox postal vehicle, with the due number of 
horses and the official conductor. The vehicle in which 
one ordinarily travels by post in this part of the world 
is termed a troika. There is a more luxurious kind 
of conveyance — which, to tell the truth, is not saying much 
for it — named a tarentasse ; but though one may pay the 
increased rate demanded for such a carriage, he is not 
always sure of finding others at the changing-places on 
the route, should, as is generally the case, his own 
come to grief. The experienced traveller generally 
chooses the troika, for at each station at least half a 
dozen are always in readiness to supply the almost inevi- 
table break-downs which occur from post-house to post- 
house. At the moment of which I speak I had never seaa 

6 TROlkA. 

either tarenUuse or troika. I had a kind of preconceived 
idea about four fiery steeds and a fur-lined carriage, in 
which the traveller is whirled in luxury to his destination. 
Judge of my surprise when, on a raw winter's morning, just 
as the grey dawn was stealing over the turrets of the old 
Persian fortress, I saw a nameless kind of thing drawn up 
before the door of the hotel. Though I had just been sum- 
moned from bed to take my place, I had not the slightest 
suspicion that the four-wheeled horror before me was even 
intended for my luggage, so I waited patiently for the 
arrival of my ideal conveyance. The hall porter and some 
chilly-looking waiters were standing around, impatiently 
awaiting a 'gratification/ and evidently believing that I 
was all the time buried in deep political or scientific 
thought. I was beginning to get stiff with cold, and at 
length I asked, * Where is this coach ? ' ' Your Excellence/ 
said the porter, ' it is there before you.' When I shall 
have described a troika, no one will wonder at the exclama- 
tion of amazement and terror which burst from my lips 
at the bare idea that I had to travel four hundred miles in 
such a thing. Imagine a pig-trough of the roughest pos- 
sible construction, four feet and a half long, two and a 
half wide at the top, and one at the bottom, filled with 
coarse hay, more than half thistles, and set upon four 
poles, which in turn rest upon the axles of two pairs of 
wheels. Besides these poles, springs, even of the most 
rudimentary kind, there are none. Seen from the outside, 
the troika has the appearance of a. primitive lake-habita- 
tion canoe, just drawn out of a mud bank; anything in 
the shape of washing, either for vehicles or drivers, being 
considered in this part of the world entirely a work of 

The driver, clad in a rough sheep-skin tunic, fitting 
closely at the waist, the woolly side turned inwards, and 


_is to Baku 








, aa yKaMHuexnpoeoHU, 6es* 


iojrhos aa 



« JT 






wearing a prodigious conical cap of the same material, 
sits upon the forward edge of the vehicle. With a com- 
bination of patched leather straps and knotted ropes by 
way of reins, he conducts the three horses. The centre 
animal is between the two shafts, which are joined by a 
high wooden arch of a parabolic form. From the summit 
of this arch a leather strap, passing under the animal's 
chin, keeps his head high, while two pretty large bells, 
hung just where he ought to keep his ears, force him to 
carry the latter in a painfully constrained position, while 
during the whole of the stage he must be almost deafened 
by the clang. The horses on either side are very loosely 
harnessed ; so much so, that while the central one is, with 
the vehicle, running along a deep narrow cutting, the 
flankers are on the top of high banks on either side, or 
vice versd. Once for all, I give a description of a troika 
as the species of carriage in which I made my journey to 
the Caspian. As the stations at which relays are usually 
found are but twenty-seven or twenty-eight miles apart, 
they are gone over, almost the whole time, at full gallop. 
In such guise, mingled with heterogeneous portions of 
luggage, and wallowing in thorny hay, I was whirled out of 
Tiflis, across a long wooden bridge over the Eur, and then 
up a long, zig-zag, dusty, stony road, leading to the 
plateau east of the town. Arrived on the plateau, a sud- 
den undulation of the road shuts out the last glimpse of 
the city. Henceforth, for many a weary league, all is 
bleak. There are sandy rolling expanses where the 
glaring gravelly surface is varied only by scant olive-green 
patches and clouds of dun-red dust. On the right are a 
couple of sad-looking turbes, or Mahometan tombs — dreary 
square structures of earth-coloured, unbaked brick, sur- 
mounted by broken cupolas, amidst whose crumbling 
walls nomadic goat-herds cower around a scanty fire. A 


compound flock of small, active sheep, mingled with wiry, 
long-haired goats, with an occasional diminutive donkey, 
the whole conducted by a scriptural-looking person with 
primitive shepherd's crook, crosses the way. Then comes 
a string of shaggy, supercilious-aired camels, each bearing 
a couple of slimy casks of petroleum from Baku, every 
member of the string growling and groaning in true 
camel fashion. Now and then a blue cloud starts up 
from the gravelly track. It is composed of wild pigeons. 
What they can possibly find to attract them to that dusty 
gully it is not easy to understand. Yet they look plump 
and strong, notwithstanding the apparent unproductive- 
ness of the surroundings. Meanwhile the driver, with 
many an Asiatic whoop and shout, plies his long whip, 
and we tear along, one side of the troika occasionally a 
couple of feet higher than the other, scaring dozens of 
white-backed scald-crows from something they, like the 
pigeons, find in the dust. • They fly on, a hundred yards, 
and then, with a curious obstinacy, settle again and again 
before us, to be driven on again. Away to the left the 
giant range of the Caucasus trembles in ghastly whiteness 
athwart the cloudless sky, and at its base stretches widely 
a blue mirage that mocks the Kur, alongside of which we 
go. To the right, farther off still, fainter and more 
visionary than the Caucasus, are the Persian mountains. 
Between, a vast dun expanse, fifty or sixty miles across, 
the horizon ahead, clear and uninterrupted as that of mid- 
ocean. It is not surprising that Eastern imagination has 
conjured up so many Gins and Ghouls to haunt its day- 
dreams. Out on these plains one feels more lonely and 
abandoned at mid-day, than in the grizzliest, most un- 
canny churchyard at home at the witching hour of night. 
It was with a real sense of relief that I at length perceived, 
slightly on my side of the horizon, a cloud of smoke. My 


conductor informed me that in a couple of hours after 
reaching this smoke we should arrive at the first station. 

A station on this route is not like a railway station. 
The latter exists because of certain pre-existent surround- 
ings; in the former case the surroundings exist because 
of the station. In other words, out on these steppe-like 
expanses, certain stages are measured off along a given 
line, and the people employed there have created what 
there is of cultivation, and attracted the small population 
which clusters round the post-house, which, except in the 
ease of villages few and far between, consists simply of 
rude farm buildings. The station, which I found behind 
the horizon, comprised three small buildings of a single 
story, some barns, and a few enclosures for fowl and 
cattle. The station-master, with his military uniform and 
flat regulation cap, was the only sign of officialism about 
the place. As a rule, I found these station-masters ex* 
ceedingly obliging, and ready to afford the traveller every 
assistance. At, each station-house is a ' guest-chamber/ 
as the Mohammedans style the apartment in their houses 
which is appropriated to the reception of strangers. It is 
generally a small room containing two wooden camp-beds, 
a table, a fire-place, and sometimes a couple of chairs. 
No bedding is provided, the traveller being supposed to 
bring this with him, as well as his food, tea, sugar, &c. 
A petroleum lamp burns all night within the chamber, 
and another is attached to the blue and white striped 
post at the door, which indicates the station, with its 
distance from the last centre of Government, in versts. 
Usually it is difficult to procure food, unless some of the 
women of the establishment can supply a few eggs and 
some sheets of the peculiar leathery bread, rivalling in 
size and consistency a cobbler's apron, which seems to 
pervade the entire East. The only thing the traveller can 


be certain of finding is the redoubtable samovar. This 
instrument is to be found in the humblest Tartar hovel, 
for tea— morning, noon, and night — seems an absolutely 
indispensable necessity of Russian populations. This 
samovar is a large cylindrical brass urn, mounted on a 
short column and broad pedestal, having a movable cover, 
from the centre of which projects a vertical chimney, six 
inches high. This chimney connects with a central 
tubular furnace, which is filled with lighted charcoal. The 
water occupies the annular space outside, and is drawn 
off by means of a stopcock. The chimney is bell-mouthed, 
and supports a small metal or porcelain tea-pot, which 
contains what we should consider pretty strong tea, kept 
at almost boiling-point by the heat of the chimney. It is 
an almost universal custom here to drink tea in glass 
tumblers. Each glass is filled one-third, or in some cases 
one-half, with the liquid contained in the small tea-pot, 
and the remainder with boiling water from the samovar. 
Some persons dissolve their sugar in the tea, but many 
prefer to hold it between their lips and suck the tea 
through it. Milk or cream as an adjunct is a thing un- 
heard of, though sometimes rum or cognac is added. On 
the arrival of a troika with travellers, the samovar is im- 
mediately brought into the guest-room, and tea is prepared 
while the horses are being changed. This description 
will answer for the vast majority of postal stations on the 
Caspian route. Weak tea swallowed, the traveller again 
mounts his chariot, which at once dashes away in the 
most reckless fashion, utterly regardless of the nature or 
state of the road. Over bad portions the jolting of the 
springless vehicle is terrific, especially as, after the first 
ten minutes, one finds his way through the hay to the 
boards beneath. During the first hours of the journey 
from Tiflis, one forgets the physical inconveniences of the 


system of travelling, wrapt in admiration of the wonderful 
mountain and plain scenes ; but the eternal sameness at 
length, notwithstanding its magnificence, palls upon the 
eye ; and the traveller falls into a dreamy state, which is 
broken only by some marvellous jump of the troika over 
an irrigation trench three feet deep, drawn across the 
road. The postal conveyances do not always follow the 
great high road. The drivers make all kinds of short 
cuts, choosing their way very much as a rider after the 
hounds would. 1 After the first two stations from Tifiis, I 
can only compare our mode of progress to a headlong 
steeplechase over a violently accidented ploughed field, 
with continually occurring mad dashes across steep-sided 
torrent beds filled with large boulders — the banks on 
either side having a slope of thirty or forty degrees, some- 
times more. The great high road is, as a rule, very good 
except in low-lying parts, where it is apt to be inundated 
at times. But the drivers of the post troikas laugh con- 
ventionalities to scorn, and would not go a quarter of a 
mile out of their way to follow the best road on earth ; 
and their pace over hill and dale is the same as on the 
highway. Under ordinary circumstances the jolting is 
bad enough, but 'across country* must be left to the 
imagination. I remember once going into action seated 
on the tumbril of a field-gun, galloping over a rough, 
stony plain. It was luxurious ease compared to the sensa- 
tions experienced in a troika when the driver takes it into 
his head to make a short cut. 

At the third station from Tifiis the traveller may be 
said to bid farewell for the time being to civilisation. It 
is a kind of village on the right bank of the Eur. The 

1 Since these lines were written, the Trans-Gaucasus railroad has been com- 
menced and nearly completed ; so that the experiences related above are, for 
tho traveller to Baku, things of the past 


portal station and the houses of three or four well-to-do 
Tartar families were the only buildings, strictly speaking, 
above the surface of the ground. The other dozen or so 
of habitations are even more troglodytic than those of 
Central Armenia. In the latter place there is, at least, 
something like a slightly raised tumulus to suggest to the 
experienced eye that a dwelling exists, or did so formerly. 
Here advantage is taken of some scarped bank, into which 
a broad deep trench is cut. This is covered over with 
hurdles and branches, and the earth which covers all is 
scarcely, if at all, above the level of the surrounding sur- 
face. Here and there a wooden cask-like construction 
acts as chimney ; but in most instances this last is simply 
a hole in the ground, with stone coping, and a small 
wooden fence erected round it to prevent human beings 
or cattle from falling through. Buffaloes and goats 
wander at will over these singular house-tops. A stranger 
is often startled, while strolling over what he considers 
solid ground, to come upon an oblong opening, through 
which he can hear human voices. This is one of the venti- 
lation holes which abound; and I wonder that they are 
not a more frequent source of accident than they seem to 
be. Huge wolf-like dogs prowl about, causing the stranger 
to pass them by a kind of sidelong, edging movement, by 
way of precaution. Here and there are large rectangular 
enclosures seventy or eighty feet square, girt by walls of 
stout hurdle, within which are the form sheds and habita- 
tions of the better class of the population. The hurdle 
wall is meant as a protection to the flocks at night, against 
the depredations of wolves and wild cats. These latter 
are really formidable creatures — little less in size than a 
leopard, of a lion-tawny coloured stiff fur, with flat heads 
and noses, half-way between those of an otter and a bull- 
dog. One had just been shot by a peasant close to the 


station. It was one of the ugliest-looking beasts I had ever 
seen. For twenty miles round, the country is infested by 
all manner of wild animals. The village or station is 
situated on a sloping bank, one side of which descends 
vertically to the Kur, often going sheer down two hundred 
feet to the water's edge. The river, spread out into a 
network of channels and swamps, studded with marshy 
islands overgrown with brushwood and lesser forest trees, 
is nearly a mile wide. Close by are patches of primaeval 
forest, the haunts of wild boars, lynxes, and all the other 
savage animals of the locality. Wild boars' flesh is the 
only meat one can reckon on, but that, with occasional 
wild ducks and partridges, is in abundance. 

Owing to the marshy ground, the neighbourhood is 
very unhealthy, ague largely prevailing. I myself suf- 
fered from the renewal in the locality of on old complaint. 
Hot and cold sweats, trembling, and violent accesses of 
vomiting are the symptoms. At one time I feared that 
I had caught the much-dreaded Astrakan plague, but I 
recovered after a couple of days and a good deal of quinine. 
A still worse mishap, however, occurred at this station. 
I had a small leather writing-case, closed by a lock, and 
containing all my maps, notes, and writing material. 
There are always prowling round a large station a number 
of thievish Tartars, and while seeing to the transfer of. 
my baggage to the place where I was to pass the night, 
one of these itinerant gentlemen, evidently mistaking the 
article for a money-box, made off with it. On missing it 
I at once called on the officer of the station to despatch 
men to pursue the thief. Everything possible was done, 
but in vain, and in the interim my sword-belt disappeared. 
The station officers had warned me against these gentry, 
but I could not imagine that they would carry on their 
depredations at the very door of the post-house. 


It would be tedious to recapitulate the scenes of each 
day's journey ; one day was like another, save that at each 
mile the road grew worse. At last it seemed to have 
totally disappeared. We promenaded at will over long 
brown expanses, and over water-worn torrent-beds, the 
driver seeming always to have the most implicit faith in 
the impossibility of upsetting his vehicle. Sometimes 
long trains of camels glided by us in spectral fashion, the 
huge loads of lengthy osiers with which some of them were 
laden, the branches trailing behind on the ground, giving 
them the air of gigantic long-legged porcupines. Then 
we would meet a Tartar cavalcade, with indigenous ladies 
on horseback, clothed as usual in staring red garments, 
and much more effectually veiled than the Turkish ladies 
generally are. From time to time trains of twenty or 
thirty huge waggons, each drawn by four or five horses 
all abreast, came by from Persia. The trade from the 
latter country on this side is evidently far greater than that 
by the Bayazid and Erzeroum routes. 

On, on, across burnt-up, grey-looking expanses, the 
Caucasus and Persian mountains always looming right 
and left, amid the glare of an Eastern day. Elizabethpol, 
the next station, is a kind of half-way house between the 
last traces of Europe and the Caspian shores. It is 
approached by a steep road descending towards the 
western bank of the Kur. You cross a water-worn, 
boulder-strewn channel, descending at an angle of 45°. 
You are dragged through the water before you have time 
to appreciate the fact that your feet are flooded in the 
vehicle, and up an equally abrupt slope along the border 
of ancient fortifications taken by Shah Abass from the 
Turks 250 years ago; and then, plunging among the 
brick-fields and ruined mud-walls, all white in the glaring 
sun, you suddenly make your appearance in the modern 


town of Elizabethpol. On the right are gardens, with 
stately trees, centennial elms, and chenars ; there are 
never-ending suburbs, as there usually are to Oriental 
towns, as nobody seems to wish to occupy a site on which a 
predecessor has lived. 

Half a verst is got over, and we are in the midst of 
the town of Elizabethpol. Like Tiflis, it is half Asiatic, half 
European. There are Tartar shops in the bazaar, there are 
Tartar minarets on the mosques, there are kalpaked Tartars 
in the streets ; the latter contrasting with the patrols of 
from thirty to forty soldiers, with long grey coats and fixed 
bayonets, marching slowly along the public ways. There 
are Turkish cafes - holes in the wall, as we should pro- 
bably call them — mere niches, within which the pro- 
prietor crouches, nursing his charcoal fire wherewith to 
light water-pipes for his customers. Those who speak of 
' more than Eastern splendour ' should go to Elizabethpol 
to have their ideas corrected. I do not know how it is 
that the East is always connected with splendour in 
European minds, but I venture to think that in the mind 
of anyone who has practically visited the East the idea 
will be reversed, and, even in traversing the Trans-Caucasus, 
the ground over which one goes will show even a more 
violent contrast between Eastern and Western civilisation 
than can be noticed in crossing the Bosphorus itself. 

My battered conveyance drew up at the door of what 
I should be tempted to call a caravanserai, but which, in 
view of the fact of its being in Russia, I suppose I must 
style an hotel. Mud-spattered and weary, I descended 
from my nest of straw in the troika which had carried me 
so far, and, limping under a horse-shoe archway, found 
myself in a spacious courtyard, surrounded by two tiers of 
galleries. I was in the Grand Hotel of Elizabethpol. It 
was some time before I could attract the attention of any 


of the employes, but after a while I was shown into what 
they were pleased to call my bedroom. Its furniture con- 
sisted of a bedstead, guiltless of mattress or anything else 
which we are accustomed to associate with the name of 
bed. I was wearied to death, and could scarcely summon 
energy to cry aloud for the attendants, for bell there was 
not. After some parley I understood that it was the 
custom for travellers in these parts to bring beds with 
them, and that hotel-keepers were not expected to pander 
to the luxury of ordinary people like myself. However, 
by dint of bribery, I secured a kind of feather-bed, and 
prepared to make up by a night's sound repose for the 
fatigues endured since leaving Tiflis. I thought that a wash 
would be the best preliminary to this ; but no such thing as 
a basin-stand seemed to exist. I summoned the attendant, 
and learned that the basin was still in use. From this I 
gathered that in the Grand Hotel of Elizabethpol only one 
basin was allowed for the service of the guests. A very 
solid-looking individual finally made his appearance with 
a basin full of water which had already been used, the con- 
tents of which he flung over the balcony into the centre of 
the yard. In this yard was already a stagnant pool, which 
stank horribly ; and I may add, en parentliese, that more 
than wash-basins were emptied into it over the balcony. 

There was an attempt at a table-d'hdte, and a very poor 
one it was. The bill of fare was apparently drawn up 
rather for the amusement of the guests than with the 
view of pointing out to them in what guise they should 
satisfy their appetites. After having enumerated in vain 
several articles the names of which were written very 
plainly upon the carte, I was forced at length to say, 
* What have you got ? ' Then I discovered that there 
were ham and caviare, the two never-failing articles of 
diet to be met with in the most out-of-the-way Bussian 


town. Perhaps most of my readers are unacquainted 
with this Kussian luxury — I mean caviare. It is the roe 
of the sturgeon. When the fish is freshly caught, and 
its roe (caviare) consumed, I am told that it is a delicacy 
such as the world elsewhere cannot produce. The black, 
salted specimens which reach Europe are, it is said, 
nothing in comparison with the caviare as Bussians eat it 
at home. For my part, if the caviare as Bussians eat it 
have any resemblance whatever to the black salted 
caviare familiar to us, TU none of it.' I once, by 
accident, tasted it at Constantinople, and it seemed to me 
that, inadvertently, a spoonful of cod-liver oil had been 
administered to me. It would be tedious to enumerate 
the disadvantages of hotels under such circumstances. 
They can be better imagined than described. 

According to Bussian courtesy, when a traveller of 
any distinction passes through a district, he is supposed 
to call upon and pay his respects to the local governor. 
Accordingly, I donned the best suit which the slender 
wardrobe carried in my saddle-bags afforded me, and pre- 
sented myself at the palace of the Government, where 
Prince Chavchavaza resided. I was graciously received, 
but the Prince, a Georgian of the old school, unfortunately 
did not understand French. The secretary, more than 
polite, as secretaries usually are in Bussia, interpreted 
our discourse. I was received in a chamber hung with 
ancient tapestry, the walls of which were garnished with 
arms of different periods, captured during the protracted 
struggle in which Schamyl led the Caucasians. Our con- 
versation at first took a general turn, and after a while 
we began to speak of the future of the Bussian Empire 
over these vast plains. I observed that nothing but 
means of communication and transport were wanting to 
make Bussia the Borne of to-day. He bowed his head in 

vol. 1. 


assent, and gave me many examples, which space does 
not allow me to recapitulate here, especially as the present 
is only a chapter introductory to my adventures beyond 
the Caspian. And then, suddenly turning to me, he fixed 
his dark eyes upon my face with a piercing glance, and 
said, ' Do you know that we expect an army corps shortly, 
bound for the shores of the Caspian?' 'My prince,' I 
replied, 'I was unaware of the fact. Where are they 
going to?' ' There is an expedition against the Turco- 
mans,' he said, ' commanded by General Lazareff.' This 
was news for me, and I resolved, instead of proceeding 
on my original mission, to follow the operations of the 
Russian columns. Having thus determined, nothing was 
left but to await the arrival of the Commander-in-Chief, 
General Lazareff, and to ask his permission to accompany 
his expedition. I waited several days, amid the usual 
spendthrift extravagance of Bussian border towns, and at 
length the colossal old general made his appearance. 
General Lazareff was no ordinary man. In stature he 
was over six feet* high, and broadly made in proportion. 
A mass of jaw was surmounted by a more than Csesarian 
nose, and the large grey feye, half hidden by the heavy 
eyelid, denoted the amount of observation which as a 
specialty belongs to his race, the Armenian. Up to the 
age of twenty years he worked as a journeyman tailor in 
the town of Baku, upon the Caspian edge. Later on, he 
was a sergeant in the twenty-first regiment of the line ; 
and when years had gone by, it was Lazareff who captured 
Schamyl in his stronghold amid the Caucasus. Belegated 
to obscurity by political intrigues, he remained, living upon 
bis modest allowance, until the outbreak of the Busso- 
Turkish war called him again into action. He sent for- 
ward a petition to the Emperor, asking to be employed in 
the humblest capacity, and was immediately sent to the 


front before Ears in the capacity of Lieutenant-General. He 
took an active part in the siege of that place, and it was 
owing to his exertions, to his intrigues, and to his intrepidity, 
that Ears became a Bussian citadel instead of a Turkish one. 
Two days elapsed before I was able to leave Eliza- 
bethpol. At half-past six in the morning I started in the 
postal troika. To describe the scenes and incidents along 
the route would be but to repeat what I have already 
written, for each section of the road is, physically, pre- 
cisely like the other, so is each post-house, so are the 
officials, and the occurrences of each day and hour. There 
are the same undulating plains, with the Eur on the 
right, and Persian mountains to the left ; the same clouds 
of blue pigeons and crows, the same dust, the same 
groaning camels. As the road descends towards the Kur, 
trees begin to appear, and there are occasional large 
expanses of jungle, which, to judge from the frequent 
appearance of animals of all descriptions, must be a happy 
hunting-ground for those who are addicted to field sports. 
Occasionally, too, one meets with a lonely farmhouse, or 
two or three buildings grouped together. These are for 
the most part inhabited by German colonists, and partially 
also by Fins. Around these dwellings are large vineyards. 
Wine is usually to be had in abundance, but it is of poor 
quality ; nor do I ever recollect discovering w situ any of 
the wine which, under the name of kakatinski, is pur- 
chasable at all the hotels throughout the Trans-Caucasus. 
From time to tinie, also, one meets with the semi-subter- 
ranean Armenian villages to which I have already alluded. 
On the whole, the population is exceedingly sparse, and, 
considering the excellence of the soil, and the abundance 
of water, the country may be said to be almost unin- 
habited. There are great tracts of giant bulrushes and 
rotting jungle through which the driver continues his 



way with the same mad pace as ever, making rushes at 
all the dangerous points, such as bridges more or less at 
right angles to the road, and innocent of such a thing as 
a parapet. Sometimes, to avoid the deep sloughs along 
the regular postal track, the troika is driven along the 
side of a hill so steeply sloping as to induce strong fears 
of a momentary upsetting. Over and over again I pre- 
ferred to dismount from my rough chariot and pick my 
way through the miry loam sooner than run the risk of 
broken bones at this, the commencement of my journey. 
Soon the banks of the Eur are reached — a deep, broad 
river, hemmed in on either side by domelike masses of 
brown magnesian limestone, running into each other. In 
many places the soil is covered with a white saline in- 
crustation, in appearance exactly resembling a new snow 
fall. From hence to the Caspian shores and beyond them 
the earth is impregnated with this saline matter, which, 
mingling with the water of the streams and wells, renders 
it all but undrinkable. At the crossing point is the 
straggling village of Mingatsur. No such thing as a 
bridge exists, and the stream is far too deep, even when 
the water is scantiest during the dry season, to allow of 
an attempt to ford. It is here some hundred yards wide, 
and is traversed by means of a raft propelled backwards 
and forwards by the force of the current itself. A very 
thick cable, supported on either bank by a tall, stout 
framework, is drawn as tautly as possible across the 
stream. This passes between two rollers on board the 
raft, which, accordingly as the traject is to be made in 
one direction or the other, is set with its side obliquely 
to the current, which thus drives it along the rope to 
the opposite side. This raft is capable of transporting a 
couple of large waggons and a half dozen camels simul- 
taneously. Along the river marge, owing to frequent 


inundation, the ground is rich in the extreme, on 
account of alluvial deposits ; but as, going eastward, we 
leave the river behind us, bleakness again comes on, and 
these same eternal expanses of plain, covered with short, 
burnt-up herbage, reach away right and left to the Cau- 
casus and the Persian frontier. Here and there is to be 
seen a solitary camel, abandoned by some passing caravan, 
his depleted hump hanging over like an empty sack, and 
indicating an entire state of exhaustion. 

Towards sunset, as we drew near the fourth station 
from Elizabethpol, and about 79| versts from that town, 
I had an opportunity of witnessing a Tartar funeral pro- 
cession. First came a body of horsemen, armed to the 
teeth, and some twenty or thirty in number. Then a 
single horseman, bearing in front of him, across his saddle 
bow, the body, sewn up in a litter of Persian carpet, 
similar to that used in removing the wounded from 
the field of battle. The side poles had been brought 
together above the body, and fastened with rope. Then 
followed a long cavalcade composed of the friends of the 
deceased, moving at a very stately and funereal pace. 
There is a peculiarity in Tartar tombstones which now 
first came under my notice. They are quite unlike the 
turban stone of the Osmanli Turks, or the flat-lying slabs 
one sees among the Shiia Persians in the great burying- 
grounds in and around the sacred city of Meshed. The 
Tartar headstones are about eighteen inches high, and 
represent lance-heads sculptured in stone, or I might 
more aptly compare them to gigantic decanter stoppers. 
After this station the mud was so deep, and our progress 
so slow — the wheels sinking frequently axle deep into the 
stiff brown mud — that I took horse and rode some twenty 
versts. As none but Circassian horse-trappings were 
available, the stirrup leather being little over eighteen 


inches long, I suffered frightfully from the cramped 
position which I was obliged to adopt. At this point the 
plain is traversed by an elevated mountain chain, along 
whose sides the road proceeded in the most tiresome zig- 
zag manner, to enable the huge waggons plying between 
Baku and Tiflis, with their four or six horses abreast, to 
traverse the steep incline. My conductor would not follow 
this road, but went boldly up the side, from angle to 
angle, of the zigzag thoroughfare. Soon we got into the 
region of clouds, where all around us was a rolling waste 
of mist. Here and there, when wind gusts broke the wall 
of vapour, we caught below us occasional glimpses of the 
vast plain traversed by the Eur and its numerous tribu- 
taries. In ordinary weather, when the roads are in a 
tolerably good condition, by travelling hard one is sup- 
posed to arrive at Baku in twenty-four hours from the 
westward foot of this mountain ; but the weather was so 
severe, the snow lay so deep, and the roads were in such 
exquisitely bad condition that we were unable to cover 
more than a third of the way within that time. There 
was a lonely station where the postmaster understood 
nothing but Persian. It was exceedingly cold, and I 
passed a wretched night sleeping upon one of the bare 
wooden camp beds with which the guest-rooms of the 
post-houses are supplied. I bought some red-legged 
partridges for a penny each, but found them so tough 
that I was glad to abandon them to a hungry-looking cat 
who glanced at me from the corner. Next morning I 
started on horseback for the town of Shumakha. We 
were five hours in traversing the most dreadful mountain 
tracks, often along the top of some great landslip which 
the torrent at its base had sapped from the mountain 
side. The country seemed alive with field mice, rats, and 
ferrets. Never do I recollect seeing so many of these 


animate together. Great flocks of wild geese marched 
waddlingly on either side, and scarcely took the trouble to 
make way before our horses. Falcons and kites* too, were 
to be seen in incredible numbers, doubtless owing to the 
abundance of provision which they found at hand. 
Leaving the mountain, with its snow and fog, behind us, 
it was an inexpressible relief to issue upon the dry, warm 
plain stretching eastward to Shumakha. This place has 
the appearance of having been once a flourishing town, 
but owing to a violent earthquake which took place here 
some years back there is scarcely an edifice which is not 
in a ruinous condition. There are two large-sized 
mosques, one belonging to the Shiia Mussulmans, the 
other to the Sunnites of the town, for the population of 
Shumakha is almost exclusively Mussulman. The few 
Christians that there are, live in a quarter by themselves. 
The church 4ower, crowned with its green kiosk, rises in 
strong contrast with the crimson dome and minarets im- 
mediately in front. Considerable as the town is, at the 
postal station neither horses nor troikas were to be found 
for the moment, and I was obliged to spend another night 
upon the rude benches of the guest-chamber, starting 
again early on the morning of Wednesday, the 27th, and 
passing another exceedingly disagreeable ?n& difficult series 
of mountains deeply covered with snow. 

Passing through Maraza, the station of Xorezsafen, 
thirty-one versts from Baku, is reached. Here the postal 
station consists of an antique castellated structure, in the 
old Moorish style, coeval with the days of Tartar inde- 
pendence, and known as Sheik Abass' house. At the next 
station, some sixteen versts farther on, my patience was 
sorely tried. The station itself consisted of a series of 
extensive farm-buildings, and there seemed no lack of 
troikas and horses standing about in the muddy places 


which represented stable-yards. A wedding was in pro- 
gress, and the driver whose turn it was to conduct the 
vehicles could on no condition be induced to turn his back 
to the good cheer and vodka of the festivities. After a 
prolonged and wearisome debate among the company it 
was finally agreed to send a driver, but I had .scarcely 
made two or three versts across a most disagreeably rocky 
ground when I perceived that my conductor had not the 
slightest intention of pushing on to Baku, and was trying 
every possible ruse in order to make out that it was im- 
possible to reach my destination that evening. It was far 
better, he said, to turn back and partake of the good 
things which were being distributed at the marriage 
feast, and to pass the night in comfort, instead of pushing 
across the uncomfortable ground which lay between us 
and Baku. There were, he said, deep rivers to be crossed, 
and brigands were notoriously numerous along their 
banks. Finding me inexorable, he first upset one of the 
horses, and then managed to smash his harness. After a 
long halt in the cold, and bitterly cold it was, a com- 
bination of knotty straps and rotten ropes was rigged up, 
and we went forward, at as slow a pace as it was possible 
for a troika to move at without standing still altogether. 
The horses had, apparently, as great an objection to go 
forward as the driver, and wandered incontinently all 
over the ground in any direction but that required of 
them. At length the fellow declared that with these 
horses it was impossible to go on, and I was obliged to 
sit waiting for two hours while he returned to the last 
station for others. It was seven o'clock in the morning 
when, after a weary night drive, we came in sight of 
Baku, lying some ten versts off; the Caspian, glittering 
beyond, being seen at intervals between the low hills that 
flanked its border. The country at this point is inex- 


pressibly dreary and volcanic-looking; the salt incrusta- 
tions which I have already mentioned are thicker and 
more extensive than ever. Here and there were straggling 
Tartar villages, with their flat houses and preposterously 
large conical chimneys, looking like gigantic mushrooms. 
From time to time we passed along the road the peculiar- 
looking carts characteristic of the country. The wheels 
were not less than eight feet in diameter, and very close 
to each other, the body of the cart being but two feet 
wide, a structure like a pulpit rising in front, gaudily 
painted, and probably intended for the use of the con- 
ductor. The centre of gravity of the vehicle was pitched 
so high, the wheels were so tall, and by their proximity 
afforded such a slender base, that it was a matter of 
wonder that at each jolt over the stony ground the entire 
contrivance did not turn over. It bore no bad resem- 
blance to a great grass-spider with his long legs. Small 
cows, too, were to be met, with burdens strapped upon 
their backs, as one sees them among the nomad Kurds 
of Persia ; and at length, driving at breakneck pace down 
the steeply-winding road, the troika jostling and reeling 
over the rocky surface streaked with the wheel-marks of 
ages, we dashed into the outskirts of Baku. Away on 
the left, crowning the heights, and scattered in apparently 
unlimited numbers over the country northwards, were to 
be seen strange-looking constructions resembling enormous 
sentry-boxes, and some twenty-five feet in height. These 
were erected over the petroleum wells of Balahan6 and 
Sulahand. Entering Baku itself, the driver descended for a 
moment from his seat to tie up the bells hanging from the 
wooden arch above the central horse, the municipal regula- 
tions forbidding the entry of postal vehicles accompanied 
by their usual jangling uproar, lest the horses of the town 
phaetons should take fright. Baku merits a chapter of its own. 




Baku— Apecheron promontory — Country round Baku — Armenian emigrant* 
from Turkish territory — Russian town — Old Baku— Ancient Tartar town 
— Old fortifications — Citadel —Bazaars — Mosques — Palace of Tartar Khans 
— Caspian steamers — Municipal garden — Mixed population —Bazaar held 
in aid of victims of Orenburg fire — National costumes and types — Nature of 
population — Banished Christian sects — Malakani and Scopts — Mercurius 
Company — Russian girls' dress — Origin of name of Baku — Bituminous 
dust — Laying it with astatki — Boring for petroleum — Distilling and 
purifying — Utilization of refuse for steamers — Probable adaptation to 
railroads — Island of Tcheliken — Fire temple— Guebre fire-worship. 

Baku, a few years back little if at all known to Europeans, 
is a place full of interest, and one destined to play an 
important part in the future of the Caspian regions. It 
is situated on the western shores of the Caspian Sea, on 
the promontory of Apscheron, which juts out eastward, 
and is the point nearest to Krasnavodsk, on the opposite 
littoral. The surroundings are of the same bleak and 
desert kind which characterises almost the entire circuit of 
the sea. In fact, the Steppes commence far west of the 
latter. For leagues around not a blade of grass is to be 
seen, and not even a shrub breaks the arid expanse of 
broken strata and scorched marl. Here and there, at long 
intervals, is a Tartar village, or the crumbling remains of 
some ancient Persian town. At midday not a living thing 
is visible, and the white glare of an Eastern sun reveals 
with painful distinctness every detail of the ghastly desola- 
tion. The houses are all of one story, flat-roofed, and built 

BAKU. 27 

of great slabs of kneaded clay dried in the sun. Were it 
not for the huge conical chimneys, which rise like watch- 
towers from the flat roofs, at a distance it would be impos- 
sible to distinguish these clay-coloured dwellings from the 
surrounding soil. Occasionally one sees a semi-subterranean 
Armenian village inhabited by emigrants from Turkish 
territory. These people adhere to their old system of con- 
struction, living in burrows covered over by low mounds of 
earth, and entered by a descending staircase. It is quite 
possible for a stranger, unaccustomed to these dwellings, to 
ride or walk across an entire village without being aware of 
its existence. 

A semi-circle of rugged scorched hills of grey sand- 
stone, highest towards the south, and dying away north- 
ward into the plain, encloses Baku on the land side. The 
northern portion of the town is altogether European in 
appearance, with yellow stone-fronted houses precisely 
similar to those of a Western Bussian town. There is a 
large square, round which are planted a few stunted 
bushes and acacias. The orthodox Bussian Church, of 
severely simple architecture, occupies the south-western 
side, just within the old fortifications; while on the 
northern side is an equally stern-looking Gregorian 
Armenian place of worship. Close by this square is the 
ancient Tartar town, the old fortifications still quite 
perfect, save where a couple of bastion towers show the 
yawning breaches effected by the Bussian artillery some 
fifty years ago. The walls are lofty, solidly constructed, 
and flanked by numerous circular towers. A fauste-braye, 
or lower exterior rampart, adds to the strength of the place. 
The northern gateway is covered by a heavy stone ravelin, 
evidently of much later construction than the town walls. In 
the midst of the sea-front of the town, its eastern side, rises 
an immense circular tower, with massive outlying flank of 


oblong plan, over one hundred and fifty feet high, and which 
at present serves as a lighthouse. Around its base are 
the ruins of the old bazaar, part of which is now converted 
into a school for children, and close by is the modern 
thoroughly Oriental bazaar, where, in a series of vaulted 
passages, opening in the roof, Armenian and Persian mer- 
chants sit cross-legged in the midst of an infinity of articles 
of almost every conceivable kind — bowls of spice, packages 
of starch and candles, rolls of calico, boxes of tea, cases of 
scissors, combs, brushes, ammunition, pipes, tobacco ; in 
fact, it would be hard to think of a merchandise which these 
dealers do not each and all offer to the public. This tower 
is of considerable age, and was built during the reigns of 
the old Tartar Khans of Baku. Not far from it are some 
very old and solidly built mosques of bluish-grey stone, 
profusely ornamented with Gufic inscriptions, and bearing 
palpable marks of the Bussian artillery fire. The streets 
are narrow, and the houses of the genuine ogive-windowed, 
fiat-roofed Persian type. The old Tartar town, that lying 
within the ramparts, slopes up the hill on whose eastern 
side it is built, and at the top rises the palace of the former 
Tartar Khans, still in a state of excellent preservation, and 
now made use of as a Bussian artillery depot. For a mile 
along the water's edge are numerous piers, alongside of 
which steamers of a thousand tons can lie to discharge 
their cargoes. There are usually eight or ten merchant 
steamers in port, besides a couple of steam corvettes 
belonging to the Caspian flotilla. At the southern 
extremity of the town, immediately outside the old 
walls, a garden has been planted, which, owing to the 
entire absence of water and the bituminous nature of 
the soil, requires the most assiduous care to keep it in 
existence. The environs of Baku itself being entirely 
destitute of trees and flowers those of the public garden 


had to be brought from Persia at a great expense. There 
are the yellow flowering broom (Planta genista), which 
in this climate attains the dimensions of an ordinary 
apple tree ; large rose trees, and twenty others for which 
I know no name. Every Sunday and Thursday a military 
band plays from sunset until ten o'clock in the evening. 

In the most cosmopolitan town in Europe it would be 
hard to match the mixed population that throng these 
gardens. Shortly after my arrival, a kind of bazaar was 
held in aid of the victims of the fire at Orenburg ; and, 
perhaps, in prospectu for the victims of the coming cam- 
paign. The Bed Gross Society presided. There were few 
nations in Europe unrepresented. All the more strange 
that few even know of this town of Baku — separated but 
by the Caspian's breadth from the borders of the vast 
desert reaching far away to the limits of Cathay and the 
regions from which Marco Polo brought back his tale 
of wonders. The expedition which was to penetrate into 
hitherto unknown regions away across the Steppes was 
represented at the gathering. Long white-robed Cos- 
sacks and blue- vested dragoons thronged the green alleys 
with training sabres, and mingled with an Eastern popula- 
tion. The eye is attracted by a reverend form reclining 
on a bench, under the shadow of the clustering trees. 
His long blue robe, coal-black plaited hair, and white 
turban bespeak him a priest. But he is one of a sect 
long passed away. He is the last priest of Zoroaster's 
creed that lingers yet in a region once all its own. He 
sits gazing dreamily at the shifting throng before him, 
thinking, perhaps, of the past glories of Iran, * quenched 
with the flame in Mithra's caves/ Close by is a group of 
young men whose blue, green, or brown robes, and spot- 
less white turbans, show them to be Sottas, theological 
students, priestly aspirants of the Shiia Mussulman sect. 


Their faces are handsome and well cut, bat bear the 
unmistakable stamp of dissipation. In the throng which 
saunters along the leafy alleys under the twinkling lamps 
suspended from the trees are to be seen the costumes, all 
of them strongly contrasting, of Germans, Swedes, Geor- 
gians, Jews, Persians, Armenians, Poles, Russians, and 
Tartars, not to speak of those of the different religious 
sects which obtain in Baku. There is the Jew with 
his black cloth cap, sombre robe, and long staff; the 
Armenian, with sleek black silk tunic, flat-peaked cap 
of the same colour, and belt of massive pieces of carved 
enamelled silver ; the Georgian, vested almost like the 
Circassian, with silver mounted cartridge tubes in horizon- 
tal rows on either breast, and guardless Caucasian sabre, 
the richly-mounted hilt entering with the blade up to 
the pommel in the leather sheath. The Bussian peasant 
at all seasons wears the usual long sheep-skin tunic, the 
wool within, the amber yellow-tanned skin outwards, long 
leather boots, and a far hat. The Tartar has his great 
woolly hat, like that of the Grenadier Guards, and a 
curious nondescript flowing robe of various colours. The 
Persian has one invariable, distinctive mark : his tall hat 
of black Astrakan wool, oval in section, the top often 
modified at the taste of the owner to a more or less mitred 
shape. The Swedes, Germans, Russians, and others of a 
superior class, all wear a strictly European costume. The 
couple of American engineers present wore a strictly 
Yankee garb. Among all the frequenters of the garden 
promenade, by far the most curious were those belonging 
to different Christian sects. From what I have learned 
from different sources it seems there was a moment when 
the efforts directed towards national unity of creed per- 
mitted of no departure from the strictly orthodox faith. 
Poles and Russians who held fantastic Nonconformist 


ideas were relegated to the borders of the Caspian. In 
the case of the Poles there was probably also a certain 
mixture of political ideas. Among these religions sects, 
after the fire-worshipping priest, I shall mention but two— 
the Malakani and the Scopts. The first differ bui little 
from the orthodox creed, save that they insist upon making 
use of milk and butter during the Lenten period. I was 
unable to distinguish any difference in dress between the 
male members of this congregation and the same sex of 
similar nationality. The ladies wear old-fashioned gowns 
with wide skirts of the brightest possible colours, emerald 
green and scarlet, lilac or blue. On the head is a hand- 
kerchief of variegated hues, knotted under the chin in 
Scandinavian fashion, the point falling between the 
shoulders. This sect is sub-divided into two sections. 
One considers it lawful to sing during Divine service, the 
other confines itself to slow dancing to the accompaniment 
of a monotonous drumming executed by some members 
of the congregation. I believe that in other respects both 
sub-divisions accept the usual dogmas. Of the Scopts, 
owing to their very peculiar ideas, I must say but little. 
They have curious notions about the possibilities of exces- 
sive population before the arrival of the Day of Judgment. 
They devote themselves to the production of capital and 
the limitation of offspring. One child is allowed to each 
married couple. Both sexes then undergo a peculiar and 
barbarous mutilation. This sect lies under the special 
ban of Russian law. It is a curious fact that all its com- 
ponent members inhabiting Baku, the only place in which 
I ever had an opportunity of seeing or inquiring about 
them, live in the same street, and are mostly bakers. 
The men are easily recognised in the streets by their 
melancholy, downcast air, and pale, shrivelled faces, as 
well as by their semi- Judaic garb. The German inhabitants 


are few in number, either belonging to large commercial 
houses, or to the extensive petroleum works near Baku, 
about which I shall have something to say later on. 
The Swedes are mostly employed in connection with a 
steamship company founded by their countrymen, and 
which rivals the Mercurius, the Bussian shipowners' 
company on the Caspian waters. Among the brightest 
and most graceful costumes in these garden promenades 
was that of some young Bussian girls of the higher classes, 
who on gala occasions don the typical dress of the 
peasantry. This consists of a black or red skirt, with 
broad blue, red, and white parallel lines around the lower 
edge, turning sharply square at the corners like those 
patterns one sees in old Pompeian frescoes. A small black 
apron with the same border is added. A white muslin 
handkerchief crossed on the breast, knotted and pendant 
behind, and a wide-leafed straw hat with pendant edges, 
complete the costume. 

The name of Baku means 'a place beaten by the 
winds,' Never did any locality better merit the appella- 
tion. Even in these hot summer months, when at times 
we lie gasping for a breath of air, sudden storms arise, 
sometimes from the seaward, sometimes from off the land. 
These storms raise clouds of dun-yellow dust, whirling in 
columns like the sand before the simoom. This dust has 
a particularly disagreeable nature, all its own. All around 
Baku the ground is sodden with natural issues of naphtha. 
In some places the earth is converted into a natural asphalte, 
hard during cold weather, but into which the foot sinks a 
couple of inches at midday in summer. Add to this that, 
owing to the scarcity of water, the streets are moistened 
with coarse black residual naphtha, a treacly fluid which 
remains after the distillation of the raw petroleum, 
and termed astaiki in Bussia. It effectually lays 


the dust during fifteen days. After this period a thick 
brown dust lies four or five inches deep in the roadway, 
over which the numerous phaetons, or street carriages, 
glide so softly and noiselessly that the foot passenger is 
frequently in danger of being run over. When a north 
or west wind arises, the air is thick with impalpable marly 
earth, combined with bitumen. The least glow of sun- 
shine fixes this indelibly in one's clothes. No amount of 
brushing or washing can remove it. Perhaps I cannot 
here do better than enter on a short description of the 
sources of mineral oil lying around Baku, which well 
merits the title of the ' Oil City ' of the East. 

The shores of Baku bay north of the town trend 
towards the east, and some five or six miles distant are 
the petroleum, or, as they are termed, the naphtha springs 
of Balahane and Sulahan6, the former fifteen, the latter 
eighteen verBts from the town. The surrounding district 
is almost entirely destitute of vegetation ; and in its midst 
are some black-looking brick buildings, interspersed with 
those curious wooden structures, which I have mentioned 
in describing the approaches to Baku, twenty feet high, 
and resembling Continental windmills or gigantic sentry 
boxes. These latter are the pump or well houses covering 
the borings for oil, and in which the crude liquid is brought 
to the surface. The odour of petroleum pervades the 
entire locality, and the ground is black with waste liquid 
and natural infiltrations. Boring for naphtha is conducted 
much in the same manner as that for coal. An iron bit, 
gouge-shaped, is fitted to a boring bar eight or ten feet 
in length, which is successively fitted to other lengths as 
the depth of the piercing increases. This depth varies 
from fifty to one hundred and fifty yards, this difference 
existing even at very short horizontal distances, some- 
tunes of not over forty yards. Layers of sand and rock 

VOL. I. D 


have to be pierced. It is in the sand that often the greatest 
difficulties are to be met with. A loose boulder will meet 
the boring tool, and, displacing itself, leave the passage 
free. But when the rods are withdrawn to allow the 
introduction of the tubes which form the lining of the 
well, the boulder falls back to its place, and baffles all 
attempts to continue the orifice. This boulder difficulty 
is the great terror of those commencing to bore. Some- 
times, after a lengthened discharge of light carburetted 
hydrogen, the naphtha rises to the surface, and even flows 
over abundantly, occasionally springing fountain-like into 
the air to a height of eight or ten feet for hours at a 
time, as in the case of the artesian well. In such cases 
the ground around the boring is often flooded to a depth 
of six inches with the mineral oil, which, to avoid the 
danger of a conflagration, has to be let off by channels 
constructed so as to lead out to seaward. Under ordinary 
circumstances, it has to be drawn up from a considerable 
depth. The boring is generally ten, or at most eighteen, 
inches in diameter. A long bucket, or rather a tube 
stopped at the bottom and fifteen feet in length, is lowered 
into the well, and drawn up fall of crude petroleum — 
fifty gallons at a time. This, which is a blue-pink trans- 
parent liquid, is poured into a rudely constructed, plank- 
lined trough at the door of the well house, whence it flows 
by an equally rude channel to the distillery. The distilla- 
tion is conducted at a temperature commencing with 140 
degrees — much lower, I am told, than the first boiling 
point for that from Pennsylvania. When no more oil 
comes over at this heat, the result is withdrawn and the 
temperature increased by ten degrees. This second result 
is also laid aside, and, the heat being again increased, a 
third distillation is carried on until no farther easily 
evaporated liquid remains. This last is the best quality 


of petroleum for lamps. That which preceded it is the 
second quality ; and the first, or highly volatile liquid, is 
either thrown away or mixed with the best and second 
best as an adulteration. The thick dark brown treacly 
fluid remaining after distillation is termed astatki, and is 
that used for the irrigation of the streets. The distilled 
petroleum, if used in lamps, would quickly clog the wick 
with a carbonaceous deposit. With a view to obviating 
this, previous to being offered for sale it is placed in a 
reservoir, within which revolves a large paddle-wheel. 
Sulphuric acid is first added, and, after being allowed to 
settle, the clear top liquor is drawn off, and similarly 
treated with caustic potash. Affer this it is ready for 
sale. Up to the present, the residues, after the acid and 
potash treatments, have not been utilised. I have no 
doubt that valuable products will ultimately be derived 
from them. With the astatki, or remnant after the first 
distillation, the case is different. For years past this 
has been the only fuel used on board the war ships and 
mercantile steamers of the Caspian. At Baku its price is 
only nominal, vast quantities being poured into the sea 
for lack of stowing space or demand. It is used in cook- 
ing apparatus, and for the production of gas for light- 
ing purposes. In the latter case it is allowed to trickle 
slowly into retorts raised to a dull red heat, pure gas with 
little graphite being the result. Weight for weight, this 
waste product gives four times as great a volume of gas 
as ordinary coal. By distillation at a high temperature 
and treatment with an alkaline substance, a product is 
obtained which is used as a substitute for oil in greasing 

Apart from the local use of petroleum for lighting 
purposes, and its exportation for a similar use, is its appli- 
cation to steam navigation. With the old-fashioned 



boilers in use, which have a central opening running longi- 
tudinally, no modification is necessary for the application 
of the new fuel. A reservoir, containing some hundred 
pounds' weight of the refuse (astatki), is furnished with a 
small tube, bearing another at its extremity, a few inches 
long, and at right angles with the conduit. From this 
latter it trickles slowly. Close by is the mouth of another 
tube, connected with the boiler. A pan containing tow or 
wood saturated with astatki is first introduced to heat the 
water, and, once the slightest steam pressure is produced, 
a jet of vapour is thrown upon the dropping bituminous 
fluid, which is thus converted into spray.. A light is 
applied, and then a roaring deluge of fire inundates the 
central opening of the boiler. It is a kind of self-acting 
blow-pipe. This volume of fire can be controlled by one 
qtan, by means of the two stop-cocks, as easily as the 
flame in an ordinary gas jet. This I have repeatedly 
witnessed on board the Caspian steamers. As regards the 
expense, I give the following data on the authority of a 
merchant captain who has used naphtha fuel for years. 
His steamer is of four hundred and fifty tons, and of one 
hundred and twenty horse-power. He burns thirty pood 
per hour of astatki to obtain a speed of thirteen nautical 
miles in the same time. One pood is about thirty-three 
English pounds (16 kilogrammes), and costs on an aver- 
age from five to six pence. Thus a twenty hours' voyage 
at full speed for such a vessel costs about twelve pounds 
sterling. The fuel is as safe as and occupies much less 
space than the amount of coal necessary to produce a 
similar effect, not to speak of the enormous difference in 
price and the saving of manual labour. Two engineers 
and two stokers suffice for a steamer of a thousand tons 
burden. In view of the immense supply of natural petro- 
leum, as yet only very slightly developed, and its application 


to the already guaranteed railway from Tiflis to Baku, ahd 
to the inevitable future ones beyond the Caspian over the 
plains of the far East connecting with that already con- 
structed from Erasnavodsk to the new Russian possessions 
of the AkhaJ Tekkfi, I think this subject is worthy of every 
attention. Yet there are proprietors of large tracts of 
petroleum-bearing ground whose capital rests unproductive 
because of a want of demand. The island of Tcheliken, not 
far from Erasnavodsk, teems with the precious liquid. 
The seaward cliffs are black with its streams flowing idly 
into the sea ; and a natural paraffin, or ' mineral wax,' is 
found abundantly in the island and in the low hills a 
hundred versts west of Erasnavodsk. All round Baku the 
ground is full of naphtha. In hundreds of places it exhales 
from the ground and burns freely when a light is applied. 
Only a couple of months before my visit its volatile pro- 
ducts produced a remarkable effect a few miles south of 
Baku. A large earth cliff fronting the sea was tumbled 
'over as by an earthquake shock, and, as I saw myself, huge 
boulders and weighty ships' boilers were thrown a hundred 
yards. In some places I have seen fifty or sixty furnaces 
for burning lime, the flame used being solely that of the 
carburetted hydrogen issuing naturally from fissures in the 
earth. This brings me to one of the most curious features 
of Baku and its environs. It Was one of the last strong- 
holds of the ' Fire- worshippers,' and I am sure that had 
Thomas Moore ever travelled so far eastward he would have 
made 'Hafid' figure rather on the top of the gigantife 
double citadel-tower (150 feet high) than on the peak of ah 
imaginary mountain overhanging the waters of the Sea bf 

In the midst of the busy petroleum Works of Sulahan6 
and Balahane, where the chimneys of the distilling wof kfe 
no doubt far surpass in height the fire towers of old, id a 


real specimen of the religious architecture and practices 
of ante-Mussulman days. After stumbling through the 
black naphtha mud, and over uneven foundations, a hole 
roughly broken in a modern wall gives entry to a small 
chamber, twenty feet by fifteen, adjoining which is a 
smaller one to the right. In the opposite wall and to the 
left is another low door opening on a semi-circular yard, 
fifteen feet wide at its greater diameter. It is the re- 
maining half of a once celebrated fire temple, or rather of 
the small monastery connected with it. The exterior 
wall, eleven or twelve feet high, on which is a parapeted 
walk, is composed of rough stone. From the courtyard 
one can enter thirty-five roomy cells, accessible by as many 
doors. These were the cells of the former devotees of fire, 
or perhaps the accommodation for the pilgrims who came 
to visit the shrine, such as we see at celebrated religious 
tombs in Persia to-day. These cells formerly enclosed a 
circular space, one-half of which has been demolished or has 
fallen to ruin, and a modern wall through which one enters 
is the diameter of the circle. Looking northward, and sup 
ported by three double sets of pillars, is the ancient chief 
entrance, above which the parapet walk is continued. This 
entrance has been long walled up, and the only access is given 
by the hole broken in the modern wall behind. The cells 
formerly occupied by the monks or pilgrims are now rented 
at a moderate price to some of the workmen who belong to 
the factories immediately surrounding, by the priest, the 
last of his race, who still lingers beside his unfrequented 
altars. Near the western wall of the semi-circular enclosure 
is the real fire shrine. It is a square platform, ascended 
by three steps, of a little over one foot each in height. 
The upper portion of the platform is about sixteen feet 
square, and at each angle rises a monolith column of grey 
stone, some sixteen feet high and seven feet broad at the 


base, supporting a gently sloping stone roof. In the centre 
of the platform is a small iron tube, where the sacred fire 
once burned. North, south, and east of this shed-like 
temple are three wells with slightly raised borders, the 
contents of which could at a previous period be lighted at 
will. Now, owing to the drain on the subterranean gases, 
this is no longer possible. In ihe chamber which we 

• enter through the rough hole in the modern wall we find 
the only remnants of the old worship. The priest is called 
for. He is the same we have seen lounging meditatively 
in the gardens of Baku. He dons a long white robe, taken 
from a rude cupboard in the white-washed wall, and, 
drawing near a kind of wide altar tomb at the south- 
western corner of the chamber, railed off from the outer 
portion of the apartment by a low wooden balustrade, 
applies a lighted match, which he has previously sought for 
in a most prosaic manner in his breeches pocket, to a small 
iron tube. A jet of pale blue lambent flame is produced, 
rising to the height of eight inches or a foot. Seizing the 
rope of a bell hung over his head, he rings half a dozen 
strokes upon it, then takes in his hand a small bell, and, 
ringing it continually, proceeds to bow and genuflect before 
the altar, ' muttering o'er his mystic spells/ The lights 
wane gradually, and go out. And then, advancing towards 
the curious spectator, the priest proffers on a small brass 
dish a few grains of barley or rice, or, as I once saw, three 
or four pieces of candied sugar, which the envelope indicated 
had been manufactured in Paris ! A person in the East 

. always gives a present with the view of receiving at least 
fifty times its value in return ; so we present the last of his 
race with a couple of roubles, and retire. 




Interview with Lasareff— Voyage to Tchikislar — Reception by Turcomans- — 
Their Costume and Dwellings— Fort of Tchikislar — Presents to Yamad 
chiefs — Akhal Tekke prisoners — Journey to Chatte — Russian discipline— 
Rain pools and mirage — Wild asses and antelopes — Fort of Chatte— 
Atterek and Sumbar rivers — Banks of the Atterek— Diary of Journey — 
Bouynn Bache— DeliUi -Bait Hadji— Yaghli Olnm— Tekindji— Review 
of LazarefTs regiment — Flies at Chatte — Tile pavements — Remnant! of 
old civilisation. 

I called upon General Lazareff at Baku, when I learned 
that he was about to start for the Eastern Caspian shore 
and the camp of Tchikislar, the immediate base of opera- 
tions of the expeditionary columns destined for service 
against the Akhal Tekke Turcomans. On my asking 
permission to go With him, he very kindly said he would 
be glad of my company, but that the formality, at least, 
of requesting the consent of H.I.H. the Grand Duke 
commanding at Tiflis, must be gone through. In two 
days the requisite permission arrived, and I was directed 
to hand my papers to Colonel Malama, the chief of staff 
of the expeditionary forces. On the afternoon of Tuesday, 
April 2, 1879, with the General-in-Chief and his staff I 
went on board the Russian war steamer ' Nasr Eddin 
Shah/ bound for the camp on the south-eastern shore of 
the Caspian. Nothing could exceed the old General's 
kindness to me. I was his guest on board, and he took 
every opportunity of distinguishing me. On the following 
Friday, April 5, we anchored in front of the long, low- 
lying sandy shore off Tchikislar, but, owing to the extreme 


shallowness of the water, we were obliged, at a distance 
of two and a half miles from it, to land in men-of-war's 
boats at the extremity of a rude pier, at that time reaching 
but some hundred and fifty yards out into the shallows. 
It was originally a kind of sand-spit, used by the Turcomans 
when discharging the cargoes of their lodkas. The 
General was received by some score of Yamud elderB, who, 
drawn up at the extremity of the pier, offered him, as he 
landed, a cake of bread, a plate of salt, and a large fish 
newly caught; meantime, the guns in the small redoubt 
adjoining the camp thundered out their salute. The 
Turcomans of the entire surrounding neighbourhood had 
assembled to do honour to the General, and were drawn 
up on either side of the pier along which he passed to the 
shore. At its landward extremity, a number of Turcomans 
held prostrate on the ground half a dozen black-haired 
sheep, and, as he passed, a knife was drawn across the 
throat of each animal, the blood streaming, hot and 
smoking, across his path, and flooding the ground to Buch 
an extent that our shoes were all ensanguined as we 
walked in procession across it. It was the first time I had 
had a good opportunity of seeing genuine Turcomans. Each 
wore the enormous sheepskin shako affected by the in- 
habitants of Central Asia, and a long tunic of some bright 
colour, tightly girt at the waist by a broad white sash, 
knotted in front, a long dirk thrust through it. Over this 
was an exterior garment of some sopibre tint, with long 
sleeves, which the wearers were continually pulling back- 
wards in order to leave their hands free. Each, together 
with his poniard, wore a curved, leather-sheathed sabre, with 
cross guard. One might have imagined them a battalion 
of the Foot Guards, robed for the nonce in dressing 
gowns. Some, also, wore the enormous pelisse of 
sheepskin so common among the dwellers in Central 


Asia, and which, doubtless, has been worn in those far-off 
lands from time immemorial. A person of an imaginative 
turn of mind might see in these primitively-clad Turco- 
mans so many resurrected bodies of Cyrus's or Zenghis 
Khan's camp followers or soldiers. The camp was partly 
composed of regular Russian military tents, and partly of 
the circular, bee-hive-shaped Turcoman dwellings known 
as aladjaka, kibitkas, or era. These are some fifteen feet 
in diameter, and twelve feet high to the centre of the 
dome-like roof, covered with felt an inch in thickness, the 
vertical portion of the walls being further bound round with 
a kind of reed matting. As I shall afterwards have occa- 
sion, in describing my visit to Merv, to speak of these 
circular dwellings more in detail, I shall now confine myself 
to a brief allusion to them. 

The fortifications of Tchikislar were, in themselves, but 
very trifling. A low parapet of sand and a shallow beach 
surrounded a quadrangular space about two hundred yards 
square. In its centre was the kibitka of the Commandant ; 
and not far from this latter was a tall signal station, 
composed of a platform elevated on a Very tapering 
pyramid of poles to a height of sixty or seventy feet. This 
served the double purpose of a light-house at night and a 
look-out station during the day. 

Immediately on his arrival, General Lazareff gave an 
audience to a number of chiefs of the Yamud Turcomans, 
and delivered to them a short and characteristic speech.. 


He said that he had come among them as a friend, that he 
hoped they would offer no opposition to his march through 
their territory, and hinted, more or less vaguely, that the 
true objective point of the expedition lay far beyond their 
bounds. Among his audience were fifteen or sixteen Akhal 
Tekk6 prisoners captured during some recent skirmish in 
the direction of the entrenched camp of Chatte. The 


majority of them were keen, intelligent-looking men, but 
among them were some faces of as ruffianly a cast as it has 
ever been my lot to see. With a view of propitiating their 
companions of the distant oasis, the General ordered the 
immediate release of these prisoners, and sent them away 
to their homes, giving to each some trifling present in 
money or articles of European manufacture. To them, as 
well as to the Yamud chiefs and elders, he gave silver 
watches, silver-mounted handjars, pieces of bright-coloured 
cloth, and such like articles, as he thought might be pleas- 
ing to them. On the following morning, April 6, a little 
before daybreak, we started for the advanced post of Chatte, 
at the junction of the Atterek and Sumbar rivers. The 
General led the way in a carriage drawn by four horses, his 
chief of staff following in another ; then came half a dozen 
troikas, exactly similar to those which I have described 
in relating my journey from Tiflis to Baku, carrying various 
members of his household, as well as the personal baggage. 
We were escorted by some two hundred Cossacks. Half a 
sotnia (fifty) rode a hundred yards in advance of the 
General's carriage, bearing the great black and white 
standard of their regiment ; while the remainder, at a dis- 
tance of two or three hundred yards on either flank of the 
cortege, rode in single file. Other detachments of horse 
had been sent forward to scour the plain, and to see 
that the road was clear, as well as to put the detachments 
of infantry, posted at various intermediate points along the 
road, on the alert. For upwards of four miles the road was 
an excessively disagreeable one, for the waters of the Caspian, 
under the pressure of a wind from the west, are often 
forced over the plain to the distance of more than a league. 
All over the first section of the road were deep accumu- 
lations of sand, into which the wheels of the vehicles sank 
deeply, and all the force of traction of the horses was 


required in order to drag them slowly along. Two miles 
inland I saw the bleaching skin of the Caspian carp ; and 
multitudes of sea anemones lay around. Far inland, too, 
we met with Turcoman taimuls, or dug-out canoes, lying 
about over the plains in the placed where they had been 
left stranded by the retiring waters. Beyond this sandy 
zone the road became better and better with every mile of 
our advance, and ultimately we were careering along at the 
rate of ten miles an hour over a hard, white marly plain, ad 
level as the best kept high road in the United Kingdom. 
As the day grew on, the heat became intense, and there 
continually stretched before us, to the eastward, one mag- 
nificent mirage, which made us imagine that we were but 
crossing some isthmus between one sea and another. Un- 
dulations and irregularities of ground showed in the midst 
of the silvery expanse like so many headlands and islands, 
and the atmospheric effects magnified the most trifling 
objects at a distance to extraordinary dimensions, a tama- 
risk bush or clump of camel thorn not more than eighteen 
inches high often assuming to our eyes the proportions of a 
crouching camel. Nothing could well be more picturesque 
than our long procession of carriages and troikas, flanked 
by galloping Cossacks in their wild, semi-Eastern garb, ad 
we dashed along over the burning plain towards the appa* 
rently unreachable water expanse stretching away eastward* 
The plain was, for the most part, dotted with scrubby, 
thick-leaved plants, belonging to the order of Cra*Bulace<&, 
or Chiratan, as the Turcomans call it, mingled With 
the ever present camel thorn {yandak), and a kind of 
lichen-like vegetable growth. Now and then we passed 
wide areas of ground entirely destitute of the smallest trace 
of vegetation of any kind. These were sometimes two or 
three miles in extent, and marked the Spots where the winter 
rain-falls had lodged in immense sheets of water until oveiS 


powered by the great mid-day heats of the spring and early 
summer. At other periods of the year I have seen these 
great shallow lakes undried by the sun ; but so used had I 
become to the mirage that, when first I espied the glitter- 
ing of the sea afar off, I could scarce bring myself to believe 
that it was not the oft-repeated atmospheric delusion which 
had so frequently beguiled me into a bootless ride of many 
a league in search of the wished-for water. On this present 
occasion, the spaces of ground upon which the water had 
lain during the period at which vegetation usually spriogp. 
up with the little vigour it ever possesses in these dusty 
plains, presented a glaring white surface, as if the marl had 
been calcined in some mighty furnace, the water having, in 
fact, as effectually prevented germination as the fiercest, 
spn-rays could have done. At two o'clock in the afternoon, 
we reached the first station, Karaja-Batur, about thirty 
milesdistant from Tchikislar. Here we found two companies 
of soldiers entrenched within a small rectangular redoubt, 
and a water party busy in excavating wells for the future 
use of the expeditionary force. Close by us was an old 
sepulchral tumulus, indicating the spot where a celebrated 
Turcoman leader, killed in some forgotten combat, was 
buried. Within the redoubt were a few aladjaks for the 
use of the soldiers, ordinary regulation tents being almost 
entirely useless as a protection against the sun. After an 
hour or two's rest we again set forward, the apparently 
interminable plain always presenting the same characteristic 
features. Camel and mule bones, bleaching in the sun, 
strewed every foot of the way — ghastly evidences of the 
dangers awaiting the traveller across these silent tracts. 
Save ourselves, not a living being of any description was in 
sight. Not even a prowling Turcoman was to be seen. In 
some places, where the great rain-pools were not yet quite 
dried up, the muddy soil bore the foot-prints of immense 


numbers of antelopes and wild asses, the only creatures, 
excepting tortoises, lizards, and tarantulas, seeming capable 
of existence in this horrid desert. During all our journey 
we had not once caught sight of the river Atterek, for we 
were moving in a direct line along the cord of the circular 
sweep described by the river, which, besides, has excavated 
its bed to such a depth below the surface that it is entirely 
invisible until you arrive upon its very edge. Evening had 
long closed in, and we still continued our headlong course, 
some of the vehicles going astray in the darkness, and having 
to be sought for by Cossack pickets lest they should by 
chance fall across parties of Turcomans in the dark. 

It must have been two hours after sunset as we reached 
Tekindji, the last station before Chatte. Here, again, were 
a small redoubt, and some kibitkas, on the floors of which 
we were glad to sleep until morning. Sunrise again saw 
us on our way, and we halted but once in a shallow ravine, 
for breakfast. This ravine, apparently the bed of some 
considerable stream which once swelled the volume of the 
Atterek, is now destitute of a single drop of water. Here 
we were met by some Cossacks, sent forward from Chatte, 
who were supplemented by some three hundred auxiliary 
Yamud cavalry. By mid-day we were in sight of Chatte 
itself, with its signal and look-out station, precisely similar 
to that at Tchikislar, and surmounted by the Bussian flag, 
towering above the whity wilderness around. Beyond 
Chatte, and across the plain to the southward, we could 
see ranges of low, rocky hills— spurs thrown off by the 
Persian mountains. The name Chatte, which signifies in 
Turkish a fork, implies that it is situated at the junction 
of the river Atterek with its tributary the Sumbar, which 
has its rise in the Akhal Tekk6 mountains. Chatte is one 
of the dreariest places imaginable. It is a moderately-sized 
entrenched camp, occupying a kind t>f peninsula, bounded 


on two of its sides by the steep earth cliffs forming the 
sides of the Sumbar and Atterek respectively, and on the 
third, or western side, by a number of ravines and spaces 
of earth, honeycombed by running streams, which effectually 
protect it in that direction. In fact, it can only be entered 
by making a long detour to the northward, and then to the 
south, so as to avoid the many pitfalls around, and gain 
the narrow causeway which leads to its only available 
entrance. At the time of my visit the garrison consisted 
of two battalions. The heat was intense ; and the ceme- 
tery, not far off, and ominously large for so small a 
garrison, spoke in eloquent terms of the unhealthy nature 
of the locality. Fully eighty feet below, in the midst of 
their tremendous ravines, ran the canal-like streams of the 
Atterek and Sumbar, at this time shrunk to comparative 
threads of water, all white with suspended marl, and almost 
undrinkable from the quantity of saline matter held in 
solution. This salty water, as well as the entire absence 
of vegetable food, seems to explain in a sufficiently satis- 
factory manner the disastrous prevalence of scorbutic 
affections among the troops and garrison at Ghatte. 
Myriads of flies rendered life unbearable by day, as did 
gnats and mosquitoes by night ; and the intense heat, 
aggravated by the simoom-like winds sweeping across the 
burning plain, made Chatte anything but a desirable 
abiding-place. 'I would ten times rather be sent to 
Siberia than left here any longer,' I once heard an officer 
of infantry exclaim to one of his newly-arrived comrades. 
Indeed, were not some other goal in view, it would be hard 
to imagine why life and gold were squandered in securing 
the possession of such a hideous wilderness. 

As I have stated, during our two days' journey from 
Tchikislar we had not an opportunity of seeing the Atterek 
until the moment of our arrival at Ghatte; but as on 


another occasion I followed its banks from near the point 
where it forms its delta up to its union with the Sumbar, 
and as I do not intend again to recur in detail to this par- 
ticular portion of the Trans-Caspian plains, I cannot do 
better than here subjoin the diary which I kept on the 
occasion alluded to, and which will give an accurate idea of 
the course and nature of this stream, about which so much 
has of late been said and written in connection with the 
Russian advance in Central Asia and the question of the 
Russo-Persian frontier. I was accompanying a battalion 
of troops, escorting a large train of provision and ammuni- 
tion waggons, which was proceeding to Chatte, and which, 
occupying seven days in transitu, were compelled, in order 
to secure a constant water supply for the horses, to follow 
the very edge of the river. 

* September 80, 1879. - I reached the station of Bouyun 
Bache this evening, after thirteen hours' march across a 
singularly barren expanse of desert. The battalion es- 
corted a convoy of some hundred waggons laden with 
stores for the army, and was obliged to adapt its rate 
of marching to that of the heavy-laden, badly-horsed 
arabas. The soil of the desert ceases to be sandy ten 
miles from the Caspian shore. It is a heavy white loam 
resembling pipeclay, and, owing to the recent heavy rains, 
the wheels of the vehicles sank deeply, an occasional wag- 
gon sometimes sticking fast for twenty minutes before it 
could be disengaged. The horses' hoofs were laden with 
great masses of adhesive mud, which in no slight way im- 
peded the march. I myself dismounted for a time, but 
was shortly obliged to give up walking, the mud masses 
attached to my boots making me feel like a convict with 
cannon-shot chained to my heels. Slowly as my horse 
plodded his way through the sticky mire, he made rapid 
progress in comparison to the main body, and at length I 


pushed forward alone for our halting-place. In half-an- 
hour I was far out of sight of the column. Around, the miry 
waste was studded with hunches of wild sage, and a kind 
of plant of the botanical order crassidacea (in Turcoman 
chiratan), which even my Turcoman horse refused to crop. 
My sole companion was an Armenian servant; but he 
having, when leaving Tchikislar, indulged in too much 
vodka with his compatriots, took fright at the sight of half- 
a-dozen tall bushes which he supposed to be so many fierce 
Tekke horsemen, and I found myself alone in the desert. 
My only guide was the telegraph line to Asterabad, but 
there was a certain point at which I should diverge to the 
left. This point I could not distinguish, and so naturally I 
went astray. Night falls rapidly in the desert, and it was 
with no pleasant feelings that I vainly stretched my glance 
through the gathering gloom for some glimpse of a camp 
fire to indicate the station of Bouyun Bache. At night, 
especially when it is a starless one, to hesitate for a 
moment, to let your path deviate but a degree from the 
true course, is to lose the road hopelessly. Such was my 
case, and, recognising the situation, I made up my mind to 
wait for dawn where I was. I dismounted and lay down in 
the damp loam, trying to compose myself to sleep. An 
hour passed, and a faint bugle note came across the night 
air. I rose immediately and followed the sound. Then I 
heard voices singing, and so I stumbled into Bouyun 
Bache. The column had not arrived, and no one knew 
when it was likely to do so. It ultimately arrived towards 

' The station of Bouyun Bache is situated on a gentle 
slope beside a marshy lake, surrounded by tall cane 
brakes, the haunt of wild fowl and wild boars. The lake 
may possibly be the summer remnant of the Atterek 
winter inundations, and never thoroughly dries up, for I 

vol. i. s 


have seen fish and small turtles hooked by the soldiers on 
its banks. During the summer heats the district is ex- 
tremely feverish. A company of infantry is permanently 
camped here ; no cavalry save the daily Cossack patrols. 
The principal use of the post seems to be the holding in 
check of the Persian Turcomans at present occupying the 
winter pastures of the Atterek delta, and who have of late 
engaged in hostile descents on small Bussian convoys going 
to Ghatte. 

'October 1.— We left Bouyun Bache an hour before 
daybreak this morning, en route for our next halting- 
place at Delilli. I had spent but a wretched night, trying 
to shelter from the heavy rain under a waggon. Hot as the 
days still are, the nights are wretched, and one welcomes 
the scalding hot weak tea which is invariably forthcoming 
at every halt if there be any possibility of lighting a fire. 
At the moment of starting I witnessed an example of the 
rather rude system of discipline occasionally enforced in the 
Bussian service. The advanced guard, consisting of two 
companies, had fallen in, and were about to be sent off in 
advance of the first detachment of waggons. The major 
commanding the battalion noticed some awkwardness and 
confusion as the men took their places, and by way of see- 
ing who was in fault, immediately ordered them to go 
through their facings. An unfortunate sergeant appeared 
not to be well up in his business, and bungled at every step, 
going exactly where he ought not to go at a given moment. 
I saw wrath gathering in the major's eye, and in another 
instant he dismounted from his horse, took off his overcoat 
with the greatest deliberation, handed it to his orderly, and 
then, providing himself with an exceedingly heavy horse- 
whip, beckoned to the unlucky sergeant to come towards 
him. The man, like his comrades, was, notwithstanding 
the rawness of the early dawn, dressed only in a light linen 


tonic. When he stood to attention before the major, the 
latter proceeded to belabour him with all his might ; and so 
rigid is the discipline of the Bussian army, that the man 
dared not even ran away or attempt to defend himself from 
the tremendous plaited leather thongs that went twisting 
around his all but naked shoulders. The beating, which ( 
lasted half a minute, terminated, the major restored the 
whip to its owner, put on his overcoat, and again mounted 
his horse, not a single remark having passed the lips of 

* The sergeant took his place again in the ranks as if 
nothing had happened. Our march to-day has been a 
slow, dragging one. As usual after the first couple of hours' 
inarch, lingering along with the heavy-laden waggons, we 
were obliged to halt during half-an-hour to let the horses 
rest a little. At mid-day we had another halt, this time of 
over two hours, to cook dinner. It was close on sunset ere 
we reached Delilli, our halting-place for the night. There 
is no dwellipg-place or camp of any kind. A wide marsh, 
partly covered with immense reed growths, reaches away to 
the Atterek, part of whose flooded delta it constitutes — like 
our last evening's halting-place, very unhealthy, the air 
reeking with the smell of decaying organic matter. Bent, 
the point at which the Turcomans dammed up the river to 
turn it further south, is some versts further on. 

* October 2. — A little after leaving our last station 
we commenced crossing an undulating country seamed with 
immense rugged gashes, torn in the earth by winter rains. 
Four Turcoman guides rode some hundreds of yards ahead, 
carefully picking out practicable ground for the immense 
waggon train, which, when possible, advanced in three 
columns, and so avoided straggling, but sometimes was 
obliged to pass certain spots in single file. In this latter 
case the rearguard remained till all had passed, lest a 

■ 2 

59 GUDRI. 

sadden swoop of the enemy might be made. I remarked 
great numbers of sepulchral tumuli scattered over the plain, 
some very large, other smaller ones grouped in their 
vicinity ; some evidently very ancient, others marking the 
resting-places of Russian and Turcoman soldiers dead only 
a few months or even days before. About the middle of 
our day's march we began to remark palpable signs of the 
presence of the Atterek itself, streaks of verdure and un- 
usually tall bushes making their appearance far off on the 
righthand side. About four in the afternoon, turning by a 
sweeping path to the right, we arrived on the banks of the 
river. We camped in a wide level piece of ground, which 
gave evidence of being, under favourable circumstances, 
more or less of a pasturage. It was now, however, cropped 
quite bare by the great trains of cattle and horses which 
were continually passing. Above us, on two gently swelling 
hills, in an angle of the river, were camped two squadrons 
of Cossacks ; for this point, at which the convoys pass, is quite 
close to the winter pasturages of the Turcomans on the 
Persian bank. It is at this station, named Gudri, that the 
banks of the Atterek suddenly assume that precipitous 
canon-like form which they preserve up to and beyond 
Chatte. Immediately below Gudri they vary in height 
from three to seven feet; above it they suddenly rise to 
fifty or seventy feet. At the lower level, and on the south- 
ern bank, the ground partly enclosed by the numerous and 
very tortuous sinuosities of the river is densely overgrown 
with brushwood and tamarisk, the latter sometimes attain- 
ing the height of eight or ten feet. The antelope, wild boar, 
and colon, or wild ass, frequent the locality in great 
numbers. I saw some scores of large black hawks wheeling 
high in air. I believe they subsist on the mice which 
abound, and on stranded fish. The most objectionable 
frequenters of the place are scorpions and enormous 


tarantula spiders. The latter, known here as the falang, or 
perhaps phalange, is as large as an ordinary mouse, of a 
chocolate coltfur, marked with black stripes and patches. 
One is obliged to look carefully into one's coat sleeves, boots, 
&c., before dressing, lest some of these ugly and really 
dangerous creatures have found lodging there. They fre- 
quent the tents and kibitkas, where the flies gather largely, 
and seem to be most active at night, especially when a camp 
fire or candle has been lit. 

* October 8. — Beached Bait Hadji at sunset, after a 
fatiguing but very instructive march, during which the 
desert presented a completely new appearance, and indicated 
the vast difficulties of transport in autumn and winter, as 
well as in summer. We got into movement at about half- 
past four o'clock, the morning being very dark. The 
ground, too, was in many places so heavy that considerable 
deviations from the usual track had to be made. At first the 
desert presented the usual appearance — a white earth ex- 
panse dotted with bunches of scrub. Not a single blade of 
grass of any kind. Towards seven in the morning there 
were a couple of light showers ; and the soldiers, who wore 
their white linen blouses and blue calico summer marching 
trousers, were obliged to run hastily to the waggons for 
their grey greatcoats. At length rain set in steadily, and 
it was with difficulty the troops could drag their mire-laden 
feet along. In expectation of hot dry weather they had 
doffed their heavy long boots, and wore instead linen rags 
tied round the foot and leg in the Italian peasant fashion, 
a leather sole or tight shoe being added. In fine weather 
this system is well adapted to marching. Now, however, 
the rags became saturated with muddy water, and from 
the enormous quantity of adhesive earth sticking to hifi 
feet each soldier had the air of a North American Indian 
wearing snow-shoes. They laid their saturated greatcoats 


aside, preferring walking mid the downpour in their light 
linen blouses to carrying unnecessary and useless weight. 
The arabas and great four-wheeled fourgons, some drawn 
by four horses all abreast, were usually one-third the wheel's 
diameter buried in the soil through which they slowly crept, 
usually halting every ten minutes. The rain kept on 
steadily, and by ten o'clock in the forenoon, far as the eye 
could reach, was an expanse of water, broken here and 
there by slightly raised undulations of ground and tufts of 
brush. I had gone over this ground in the early summer, 
and, crossing the then scorched and burning waste, could 
never have imagined such a spectacle as the desert under 
water. Close as we were to the river, there seemed to be 
absolutely no surface drainage, the water lying motionless 
around. By mid-day the soldiers were mid-leg deep in 
water ; and the waggons, often down to the axle, had to 
be forcibly spoked forward by the men. The camels 
alone seemed to get on at nearly their usual pace, though 
they splashed and slid about a great deal with their great 
splay feet, and groaned and grumbled even more than 

' When the time for the two hours' halt arrived it was 
impossible to make soup or tea, for the usual fuel — the 
generally scorched-up sage brush — was saturated with 
water, and no dry spot could be found for a fire even if fuel 
were forthcoming. To start again seemed impossible ; but, 
as a night's halt in such a place was out of the question, 
and would hardly better matters in the morning, we 
again set out, the front and rear guard men picking 
their way across the slime like so many flies over a treacly 
surface, and the waggons, urged slowly forward by the 
combined efforts of men and horses, resembling a fleet 
of barges crossing a marshy lake. During all this misery 
the troops were most cheerful, singing and laughing as they 


waded along or spoked the waggons through the mud. I 
know it is a generally received opinion at home and else- 
where that Bussian soldiers are kept up to their work by 
the distribution of unlimited rations of vodka. On the 
occasion to which I allude they certainly had no stimulants 
given them, nor have I ever witnessed the distribution of 
any to the soldiers. Yet, neither during that day's wet 
march, nor afterwards, was there a single case of illness 
arising from those twelve hours' continuous hardships. 
Towards sunset we neared the flank of a long escar-like 
sand ridge, where some drainage existed, and the ground, 
though cut up by deep channels, was still, on the whole, 
much firmer. Our night's camping-ground, Bait Hadji, is 
on the slope of a high earth-swell overhanging the Atterek 
bed. The place was entirely without garrison, and we 
found there only some two dozen waggons halted during 
the return journey to Tchikislar. On the top of the earth 
slope is an ancient twrbe, or saint's tomb, partly earth and 
partly stone, where the individual from whom the name of 
the locality is taken is interred. Around are many large 
tumuli. The river bed, or rather the immense ravine 
through the midst of which the deep, narrow, canal-like 
water channel winds, is here nearly half a mile wide and 
seventy to ninety feet deep, the vertical flanks being torn 
into a thousand rugged and fanciful pinnacles. 

1 October 4. — Taghli Olum, the fifth station from Tchi- 
kislar, is directly on the river's edge. It was formerly 
occupied by two companies of infantry — now it is deserted, 
an old redoubt alone marking the camp. To-day, unlike 
the preceding one, was extremely hot and dry, and the 
greater portion of the journey was on dry firm ground. 
Great quantities of bones and offal of all kinds lay about, 
on which over one hundred vultures and other large birds 
were preying. The river scenery here is imposing, but 


the water is exceedingly bad, quite as white as milk with 
suspended marl. In fact, one would think that the tea or 
coffee made with it were mixed with milk. At this season, 
too, the water is more strongly impregnated with saline 
matter than earlier in the season, and is very unwhole- 
some. The desert on both sides of the river is bare and 
arid, without a shred of vegetation. The first Persian hills 
lie southward, about six or seven miles off. Up to their 
slopes everything is utterly barren. 

' October 5. — Another very hot day's march without 
incident to Tekindji, the last station before Ghatte. The 
river banks steeper than ever. Wild pigeons in abun- 
dance. At night troops of jackals come shrieking into the 
very midst of our camp. In view of the absence of troops 
along the line, and of the bulk of the army beyond Chatte, 
a sudden attack by cavalry from the northward being 
possible, great military precautions were taken, a com- 
pany of skirmishers moving far out to observe the 

* October 6. — Being within twenty versts of Chatte I 
rode on quickly before the convoy, and arrived at my desti- 
nation at about eleven o'clock. Between Tekindji and 
Chatte is a large deep ravine, crossing the road at right 
angles, and which must be very difficult of passage in wet 
weather. Close to Chatte I met troops of hundreds of 
camels, led by Tamud Turcomans, slowly making their 
way to Tchikislar, for provisions and general stores.' 

Such are the notes I jotted down along the way just as 
I wrote them. It will be seen that at times the desert 
becomes impassable at certain places, for other reasons 
than want of water. The route which I have described, 
and which during the dry season is the only one practi 
cable between Tchikislar and Chatte for wheeled vehicles, 
horses, and troops, becomes entirely closed during three 


or four months of the year, (November, December, Janu- 
ary, and February), owing to the flooding and softening of 
the ground. 

What I have seen of the Atterek at different seasons 
leads me to believe that even as far as Chatte it is entirely 
useless as a means of water transit. In autumn it is 
shrunk to a miserable, muddy ditch, at some places not over 
eight feet wide, and almost everywhere fordable to horses. 
That it occasionally assumes more respectable dimensions 
is evident from the various water-level marks on its banks. 
It must sometimes have a depth of over twenty feet, and 
an average width of thirty, without overflowing its regular 
channel, which is cut as even as that of any canal, winding 
in the centre of a vast ravine, with vertical sides. At 
places this ravine has a breadth of three quarters of a 

On neither the north nor south shores is the Atterek 
available for irrigation purposes, the great depth to 
which it has cut its bed precluding such a possibility. 
Hence the entire barrenness of the desert on either side, 
reaching from the commencement of its delta to over a 
hundred miles above Chatte. The extreme percentage of 
sediment makes its water unfit for human consumption 
without filtering or deposition; and for the supply of 
camels and horses it has to be fetched with great labour by 
zigzag steep paths cut in the huge earth cliffs of the ravine 
from the centre channel to the plain above. As a frontier 
line the Atterek has the advantage of being, except at its 
delta, exceedingly well defined and unmistakable. Were 
its depth at all seasons so great as to render it unfordable, 
that, taken in connection with the depth and steepness of 
its ravine, would render it as well a formidable barrier to 
the incursions of hostile nomads. As it is, its use from a 
military point of view, and that of its confluent the Sum* 


bar, is amply that of a water supply of the main line of 
communication between Tchikialar and Chatte. 

On the evening of the day of our arrival at Chatte, the 
irrepressible old General, notwithstanding the fatigues of 
the journey, was on his legs again, reviewing the old regi- 
ment to which he had formerly belonged, and in which he 
had once served in the capacity of sergeant — the Shir- 
vanskL When the requisite manoeuvres had been gone 
through, he called forward the 10th Company, that in 
which he had once served in a humbler grade of military 
life* He recalled to them the glorious feats performed by 
the regiment in the Caucasus during the old Circassian 
war, reminded them of his having been a non-commissioned 
officer in their ranks, pointed to the crosses upon his breast, 
and told the soldiers that by gallantly doing their duty 
each one might aspire to the position which he himself had 
gained. Tremendous' cheers followed this harangue, and, 
as an inevitable result, the contents of a cask of vodka 
were distributed to the men, in which to drink to the health 
of the Commander-in-Chief. 

After two days' experience at Chatte, I felt quite of the 
same mind as the officer who had said that he would rather 
be sent to Siberia than remain there any longer, for be- 
tween heat and flies by day, and mosquitoes by night, I 
never passed such a miserable time in all my existence. 
There was a curious feature about the officers' aladjaks at 
Chatte. They were paved with large square tiles, a foot 
broad, which had been brought some thirty miles, from a 
place called Dusolum, situated higher up the Sumbar river, 
the site of a former town, but now desolate and bare as 
any spot which I have described. In view of the domed 
edifices and extensive foundations, spreading far and wide, 
there can be no doubt that a populous community once 
flourished there. Now, owing to the fact that the river 


has cut its bed low down in the marly soil, and that irri- 
gation is impossible, civilisation has perished from the 
spot* Very possibly, too, Zenghis Khan and his hordes 
had something to do with laying waste what are now 
trackless solitudes. 




Lasareff*s opinion about Tchikislar — Difficulties of traversing desert — Chasing 
wild asses and antelopes — ' Drumhead ' dinner — A Khivan dandy — Desert 
not a sandy one — On board ' Nasr Eddin Shah ' corvette — En route for 
Erasnavodsk — Gastronomic halt — Zakouska— Russian meal — Arrival at 
Erasnavodsk — Description of place — Distillation of sea-water — Club — 
Caspian flotilla — Lieutenant Sideroff— An ex-pirate — Trans-Caspian cable 
— Avowed object of Akhai Tekke expedition — Colonel Malama's explana- 
tion — A Trans-Caspian ball — Khirgese chiefs — Caucasian horsemen- - 
Military sports — Lesghian dancing. 

I will not trouble my readers with the details of the return 
journey from Chatte to Tchikislar, which was almost 
precisely similar to the first journey. General Lazareff 
had satisfied himself as to the state of his advanced posts, 
and had made a reconnaissance as to the nature of the 
ground. This done, he resolved to return to the western 
Caspian shore, and, provided with the information which 
he had gathered, take the necessary steps to meet all 
exigencies before finally committing himself to a forward 
movement into the heart of the enemy's territory. We 
stayed but a few hours in the camp at Tchikislar, during 
which time I had much conversation with the old general. 
We spoke at length about the eastern Caspian sea-ports, 
and canvassed the relative importance of Tchikislar and 
Erasnavodsk ; the latter being the earliest Russian settle- 
ment on that side of the sea. He seemed altogether in 
favour of Tchikislar, notwithstanding its execrable 
anchorage. In his view the banks of the Atterek afforded 


the only available route to Southern Central Asia. * Tchi- 
kislar,' he said to me, ' will one day play a great part in 
the destinies of Central Asia.' At this period, the cable 
from Baku to Erasnavodskhad already been contracted for, 
but there was a question as to whether it should not be 
lengthened, and one station be at Tchikislar. From the 
moment that the * Nasr Eddin Shah ' anchored three miles 
off the coast; and I became aware of the nature of the 
anchorage, I had made up my mind that Tchikislar never 
could be an emporium between the Trans-Caspian and the 
opposite shore. I hinted at this to the General, but he 
smiled and nodded his head as if to imply that he entirely 
understood the situation, and I conceived that engineering 
works of great magnitude would probably be undertaken to 
render the place available for serious embarkation and dis- 
embarkation. It would have needed much to do this, and 
time has shown that my appreciations of the moment were 
correct. Tchikislar has been abandoned for Krasnavodsk, 
the military Bussian settlement near which the Trans- 
Caspian railroad has its western terminal. 

I was not sorry to find myself at the sea-shore again, 
for the backward journey had, if possible, been more dis- 
agreeable than the forward one. In the middle of one of 
the stages, the horses of the General's carriage, broken 
down by the rapid pace at which we were proceeding, had 
foundered, and we had to leave them behind us, gasping on 
the dusty plain. To replace them, Cossacks of the escort 
were ordered up. Each horseman, taking one of the ropes 
which served as traces, placed it under his left thigh, held 
the extremity in his hand, and then galloped forward with 
the surviving horses of the team. Even though the men 
were frequently relieved, we got on but slowly, and our 
journey back had been far more tedious than the one to the 
front. Utterly tired out with sitting in a troika, I ex- 


changed places with a Cossack, who, doubtless, was glad 
to get into the vehicle, and who, with his officer's permission, 
gave me his horse. The advanced guard, now that all 
danger was over for the moment, amused themselves with 
chasing the wild adses and antelopes which constantly came 
in sight as we topped some undulation of the ground, the 
horses seeming to enter into the sport quite as thoroughly 
as their riders, though we never had a chance of coming 
within shot. One of my last reminiscences of this journey 
was having supper with General Lazareff and his second in 
command, General Lomakin. We sat upon the edges of 
three drums, and bayonets stuck point downwards in the 
ground served us as candlesticks. In our company was the 
Caravan Bashi, a Ehivan, whose dress merits description. 
He wore a silk tunic, of the brightest possible emerald green, 
with lavish gold embroidery; sky-blue trousers, of semi- 
European make; a purple mantle profusely laced; and, 
contrary to all Mussulman precedent, his fingers were 
covered with massive rings of gold. A gold-embroidered 
skull-cap was stuck upon the back of his head, and, perched 
forward, the brim almost upon the bridge of his nose, was 
a cylindrical cap of black Astrakan, which allowed almost 
the whole of the elaborately decorated skull-cap to be seen 

As I have mentioned, the plain, or rather flat valley of 
the Atterek, is exceedingly dreary and desolate, but it must 
not be understood as being in any sense of the word a 
desert, as we speak of the sand-strewn wastes of Arabia 
Petrea. The ground is excellent, and, if it be to-day in 
the condition I have depicted, it is only because water is 
not available. I have no doubt that if some enterprising 
engineer, under happier auspices than those existing at the 
time I visited the ground, were to construct dams upon the 
Atterek and Sumbar rivers higher up, near their sources, 


bo as to bring the waters once more back to the Trans- 
Caspian steppes, we might again see the fertility and 
prosperity amidst which were reared the walls and domes 
which now stand ghastlily amid the waste. 

We arrived in Tchikislar about six o'clock in the 
evening, and I hoped to obtain a good night's rest, so far 
as such was consistent with the presence of great red-bodied, 
long-legged mosquitoes, but to my dismay an aide-de-camp 
announced to me that I must be ready to go on board the 
1 Nasr Eddin Shah/ the steamer which brought us over, at 
nine o'clock the same evening. We were to proceed, he 
told me, to Krasnavodsk. Far out to sea the yards of 
the ships were gleaming with lamps, for the naval officers 
had got up an illumination in honour of the commander-in- 
chief. The man-o'-war's boats took us half a mile out 
from shore, where we were met by a small tender, a kind 
of tug-boat, which conveyed us on board the war steamer. 
At ten in the evening, when Lazareff and Lomakin, with 
their respective staffs, had come on board, we got under 
weigh. At half-past eleven we came to a sudden halt, for 
which I was at a loss to account, as we were going steadily. 
I soon discovered that we had run in as close to land as was 
prudent, and let go the anchor in order that Lazareff and 
his staff might take supper undisturbed by the qualms of 
sea sickness. We mustered pretty strongly at table. The 
General, who was especially sensitive to this plague of 
landsmen, was too sick to take his place with us. 

There is one peculiarity about a Kussian meal of which 
I may speak here. Immediately before seating themselves 
the guests proceed in groups to a sideboard, where what is 
called a zakouska is laid out. Caviare, cheese, pickles, 
butter, and a multitude of things the names of which I 
do not know, are placed around in saucers. In their midst 
stand two bottles, one of vodka, another of balsam. Vodka 




is a kind of rude whisky, colourless as water. Balsam is an 

alcoholic solution of various aromatic herbs, and of intensely 

fiery quality. Each person fills out for himself a glass of 

vodka, flavours it with a few drops of balsam, and, having 

swallowed the mixture, proceeds to help himself to the 

various viands around, to such an extent that one would 

think an after meal entirely superfluous. Then one sits 

down to a more than solid meal. There is sturgeon soup, 

thickened with borje, a mixture which can best be described 

by stating that it is like stiff porridge made from blackish 

brown oatmeal ; a spoonful of it is mixed up with one's soup. 

Then there are cutlets, which, at least on board a Caspian 

steamer, mean minced meat, massed round a bone, and 

made to do duty for mutton chops. A Eussian dinner is a 

long affair, so that I will not enter into further gastronomic 

details. Kakatinski wine flows freely, and everyone is 

generally in good humour before he retires to rest. It was 

eight in the morning when, after having rounded the island 

of Tcheliken, we cast anchor in the bay of Krasnavodsk, 

than which no better could be found in the world. It is 

sheltered on all sides by rising ground, and has a depth of 

water which allows heavily laden ships of deep draught to 

anchor close in shore. It affords every protection against 

the treacherous westerly winds which so often sweep across 

the Caspian. Nearly the whole of the Caspian flotilla waa 

at anchor, every ship gaily dressed with flags. The shore 

batteries fired a salute, and all the naval commanders, en 

grande tenue, came on board to pay their respects to the 

general. Among them was a Captain Schultz, who spoke 

English with that marvellous correctness of grammar and 

accent to be found, apart from the inhabitants of these 

islands, among Eussians alone. 

Krasnavodsk is literally a town ' made to order.' Every- 
thing is in the exact place that it should be in, from the 


long rows of colonnaded villa-like residences on the margin 
of the bay, to the Governor's palatial mansion, symme- 
trical rows of barracks, and the orthodox Eussian church in 
the middle of the great square. Erasnavodsk means, in 
Eussian, 'red water.' In Tartar its name is Eizil Su. 
The Turcomans, for one reason or another, call it Shah 
Eaddam, 'the footmark of the King.' It is purely and 
simply a military colony. Three battalions occupied the 
place when I visited it. It is surrounded by an embattled 
wall, the ramparts mounting half-a-dozen field guns. A 
semicircle of scorched-looking hills forms a curve to the 
northward, each extremity of the arc resting upon the sea- 
shore. It would be impossible to conceive anything more 
bleak or desolate-looking than the scarped, scraggy cliffs of 
rose-coloured alabaster which face the town. Did it lie in 
the bottom of a volcano crater, the barrenness and dryness 
could not be greater. The natural water of the place, very 
limited in quantity, is absolutely unfit for human use. The 
position of the town had been fixed upon for strategic 
reasons, and as drinkable water was a necessity it has been 
supplied by artificial means. On the sea-shore, close to 
the extremity of one of the two piers, is an establishment 
for the distillation of sea- water. The wood fuel is brought, 
at an enormous cost, from Lenkoran, on the opposite Cas- 
pian shore. The distilled water is supplied regularly to 
the troops, and the few civilians within the place can obtain 
it at a trifling cost. Later on I dare say that engineers, by 
digging wells to an extreme depth, may possibly procure 
water fit for human consumption. In this regard as well 
as in all others connected with the sustaining of human 
life, Erasnavodsk is an entirely artificial place, and I must 
only suppose that in maintailg a military ^lony there 
the Eussian Government attaches much importance to this 
particular position. 

vol. 1. F 


As I have already stated, the surroundings of the place 
are desolation itself. There are no resources whatever 
within hundreds of miles. Flour and other necessaries 
come from Baku, and wine, beer, and spirits are sold at a 
preposterous price. As is usual in even the tiniest and 
newest Russian military settlement, an extensive club- 
house is conspicuous at the upper end of the town. Here 
is a bar, looked after by a canteen sergeant, and a ball- 
room floored with wood mosaic, which in dimensions and 
style would not yield to many an older and more westerly 
town. Here, once or twice a week, is a gathering of the 
officers of the garrison and their wives and families. A 
military band plays in front of the terrace, and the even- 
ing is passed in the midst of gaiety and amusement that 
we should little expect to find in a desolate, rock-bound 
spot on the north-eastern Caspian shore. There has been 
an attempt at creating a public garden ; but, owing to the 
nature of the soil and to the natural water, nothing save a 
few scrubby-looking tamarisk-bushes have been able to 
hold their own in the midst of the sandy soil and the 
scorching sun-glare. The greatest care is necessary in 
order to foster even these few bushes, which wpuld look 
faded and miserable beside the most withered furze-bush 
that ever graced a highland mountain-top. Beyond the 
hills which guard the town stretches the boundless, weary 
desert, death and desolation written upon its scorched 

There is as yet no town clock, but a soldier of the 
guard on duty beside the wooden church in the centre of 
the great square, each hour pulls at the bell-rope the neces- 
sary number of times. Apart from this, the bells have but 
little rest. The Russians are notoriously fond of bell- 
ringing, and as the Muscovite Easter happened to occur 
during my stay, I found that during that period scarcely 


ten minutes elapsed between the different soundings. In 
the well-sheltered bay, and close in shore, were half-a- 
dozen Bussian war-ships, which, as I have already men- 
tioned, were decked out with flags in honour of the 
General's visit. These vessels are of about the dimensions 
of middle-sized Channel service steamers, and are armed 
with four to six twelve-pounder guns each. They were 
originally set afloat to check the piratism of the Turcoman 
maritime populations, for up to ten years ago the inhabi- 
tants of the eastern Caspian littoral acknowledged no 
central sway whatever. Now that all this is at an end, 
and the sea is practically a Bussian lake, the war-vessels 
serve only to represent Bussia, to convey troops and mili- 
tary stores, and to aid in keeping up postal communica- 
tions. In the early days of Bussian naval enterprise in 
these waters, there were many exciting scenes in connec- 
tion with the chasing of the Turcoman luggers which were 
in ih. W.1 ^0/TP^^e.lL *e «„«,«„ 
Caspian coast. I once crossed the Caspian on board the 
Ural war-steamer, commanded by Colonel of Marine 
Sideroff, who, at the time of the occurrence which I am 
about to relate, was a lieutenant commanding a small 
corvette. Not far off the mouth of the Atterek he sighted 
two lodkax containing a number of Persian captives in 
transitu for the slave markets of Khiva and Bokhara. 
Lieutenant Sideroff fired a shotted gun athwart their bows, 
and made them bring to. He transferred to his ship ten 
captive Persians. The luggers were manned by seventeen 
Turcomans. Then the lieutenant withdrew a little, and, 
putting his vessel at full speed, ran down both the slave 
ships. Seventeen pirates perished. After this example 
piracy entirely ceased, and the addition of new war-ships 
to the Caspian flotilla rendered its revival impossible. For 
this prompt, and, as it proved, salutary act, the Shah of 



Persia conferred on M. Sideroff the decoration of the ' Lion 
and the Son/ of the second class. M. Sideroff is now an 
old man, and the anecdote I relate I heard from his own 
lips, as he sat at the head of the table on board the 
Ural war-steamer, which he commanded. The same even- 
ing he told me anecdotes about a certain old Moullah 
Dourdi, a renowned pirate of the Caspian littoral. He 
was a famous corsair, and his name carried terror with it. 
I had previously made the acquaintance of this gentleman 
at Tchikislar and elsewhere, and on those occasions had 
not the least notion of what he had been. At the time of 
which I now speak he was one of the principal commis- 
sariat contractors for the Bussian camp ; and to see him 
now, with his long robe of blue broadcloth; his coffee- 
coloured trousers of European cut ; his European shoes 
showing immaculately white stockings ; his black for shako, 
a trifle less gigantic than those of his compatriots ; and 
his well-cut face of grave though kindly expression, few 
would dream of what his antecedents had been. 

Though the fortifications of the town are in themselves 
but trifling, against a Turcoman attack they might be ac- 
counted impregnable. A loopholed wall of brick, flanked 
by square towers armed with field guns, surrounds the 
settlement. At the date of its foundation a number of 
German colonists were introduced here, and one is occa- 
sionally somewhat startled at hearing the Teutonic language 
flowing glibly from the tongue of an individual brown as an 
Arab, and wearing the genuine Turcoman or Ehirgese dress. 

I have entered so far into details about Krasnavodsk 
partly because it is comparatively unknown, and yet des- 
tined to play an important part in the future history of 
Central Asia ; and partly because I wish to have done with 
the place and enter into other matters more nearly con- 
nected with the title of this book. There is a postal 


steamer once a week to Baku, and despatches can occasion- 
ally be sent by a war-ship starting on Government business. 
Two years ago the laying of the cable from Baku to Rrasna- 
vodsk was successfully accomplished, so that every day, for 
intelligence from Europe, the people of the settlement are 
no worse off than any other denizens of the Bussian 

At this point in my narrative I cannot do better than 
give the substance of a conversation which, on the occasion 
of a ball given by General Lomakin, the then Governor of 
the Trans-Caspian district, I had with Colonel Malama, the 
chief of Lazareffs staff, and with several of the superior 
officers They were explaining to me the motives of the 
expedition against the Akhal Tekk6 Turcomans, and the 
ends which it was desired to secure. 

* Rrasnavodsk, having no raison d'etre of its own, was 
founded specially as a maritime emporium of trade with 
Khiva, and Central Asia generally, in connection with the 
proposed railway from Baku to Tiflis, and that already exist- 
ing from the latter town to Poti, whence Persian and other 
merchandise is conveyed by steamer to Odessa and other 
Black Sea ports. Ehivan and other merchants have already 
crossed the Kara Room (Black Desert) with their caravans, 
to Rrasnavodsk ; but so often have they fallen a prey to 
forays of the independent Turcoman hordes of the interme- 
diate districts that commerce by this route has long since 
entirely ceased, and goods coming to Bussia from Rhokand, 
Tashkent, and districts bordering on China, are sent by the 
longer but more secure route of Fort Alexandrow and 
the Sea of Aral. The Turcomans who interrupt trade and 
carry on a systematic brigandage on every side, seizing in- 
differently Bussian and Persian subjects, as well as their 
neighbours to the eastward, and retaining them as slaves, 
or holding them till ransomed, inhabit the district known as 


the Tekke country. Its western boundary is close to the 
eastern Caspian shore, its eastern frontier is ill defined, and 
it stretches from the Persian frontier as far north as Khiva. 
These Tekke Turcomans are a most untameable, predatory 
race, and have existed from time immemorial in the same 
state of independence and aggressiveness. Their country 
is a savage wilderness, in which they shift to and fro accord- 
ing as the pasturage, such as it is, fails, or the wells become 
dried up. The object of the expedition was to break up the 
power of these hordes, establish military posts along the 
line of communication between Khiva and the Caspian, and 
otherwise guarantee the security of transit in the interior. 
The readiest means of effecting this would be an expedition 
direct from Krasnavodsk across the Kara Koom to Khiva, 
leaving entrenched camps at intervals. To make head 
against the Turcomans, however, a very large force was 
necessary, and the direct transit across the " Black Desert " 
for such a force is out of the question. The few wells 
which exist, situated at intervals of from ten to twenty 
hours' march one from the other, are entirely inadequate to 
supply water for any body of troops over a thousand in 
number, and the water is moreover of such a character as 
to be undrinkable by any one save Turcomans habituated 
to it from childhood. I have often heard of the " brackish 
water of the desert/' but I had no idea it was so bad as it 
really is. It is strongly impregnated with common salt, 
sulphate of soda, and different other matters. On the 
stranger it has a strongly purgative effect, producing spasms 
of the stomach and intestines, and when it has become 
warm in the casks carried by the camels it is an emetic as 
well. Diarrhoea, always a serious evil in campaigning 
armies, becomes here of terrific prevalence. Apart from 
this lack of water there is no vegetation sufficient for 
cavalry horses, though camels seem to thrive tolerably well ; 


and, besides, a direct march to Khiva from this would leave 
untouched the main strength of the Tekkes, whence a con- 
tinued' war would be waged against the necessarily small 
military stations, and raids organised against the caravans 
and convoys passing over the long intervals between them. 
The first move, then, must be a purely aggressive one, and 
aimed against the hostile centres of power : the next, the 
establishment of posts along the route. It was at first 
intended that the expedition of twenty thousand men of all 
arms starting from Tchikislar, a little north of Asterabad, 
and situated on the Persian frontier, should, for the sake of 
water, follow the course of the Atterek river to Ghatte, and 
thence continue along its banks as far as possible towards 
Merv, then turning northward and attacking the centre of 
the Tekke district. With a view to this, negotiations were 
opened with the Persian Government, for, by the treaty 
signed ten years ago between Persia and Russia, though 
the Atterek was agreed upon as the mutual boundary, it 
was only as far as Ghatte; the Russian boundary then 
following the Sumbar river in a north-easterly direction. 
The negotiations having failed, it had been decided that the 
expeditionary force should, on arriving at Ghatte, make its 
way along the Sumbar to the Akhal Tekk6. The route is a 
difficult one ; the river water is scanty, and charged with 
marly clay ; but in any case the supply is better and surer 
than if the salt wells of the desert were depended on. Besides 
opening up a commercial route to Khiva and other Central 
Asian provinces, the expedition had another important 
object, that of enforcing the acceptance of Russian paper 
money as an intermedium of exchange. The Turcomans 
have little or no coinage of their own, their currency con- 
sisting of a heterogeneous mixture of Persian, Afghan, and 
other money, the value of which is but ill defined, and so 
fluctuating as to render large commercial transactions all 


but impossible. It was proposed, after the happy result of 
the expedition, to force the acceptance of the Russian paper 
rouble; and, by way of beginning, large contracts were 
entered into with leading Turcoman chiefs for the meat 
supply of the army, to be paid for with paper money/ 

Such was the explanation of the objects of the expedition 
and its intended route, as given to me by the chief of staff 
and other military authorities. 

During Laaareffs brief stay at Rrasnavodsk, the festive 
gatherings of the officers of the garrison, especially at 
General Lomakin's residence, were unintermitting. Dinner 
succeeded dinner, and ball succeeded ball. Within this 
period occurred the twenty-fifth anniversary of General 
Lomakin's marriage, which he celebrated, as is usual on 
such occasions, by a ball to the officers of the garrison, and 
the visitors staying in the town. To this were invited 
several Turcoman and Khirgese chiefs, who happened to 
be in the place contracting with the Russian commanders 
for camels. Never before had they been eye-witnesses of a 
European ball, and it was most amusing to see the expres- 
sion of unconcealed wonderment depicted upon their faces, 
as they viewed the ladies in ball costume whirling round, in 
waltz and polka, with the military officers with clanking 
spurs and sabres. A Turcoman presents a sufficiently droll 
appearaijce to the eyes of a European, when seen for the 
first time, but a Khirgese is a still more extraordinary 
spectacle. Apart from his fur-trimmed robes, which are 
not unlike those of an alderman, his general appearance is 
Chinese. His hat resembles a stunted extinguisher of 
brown leather, round which is a bordering of lamb's wool or 
sable. This is the hat of a magnate. The ordinary 
Khirgese hat is a very remarkable head-dress indeed. It 
is like the other, save that at the back and sides it is pro- 
longed into a kind of cape, a fur border following its edges. 


As a rule the Ehirgese are the reverse of handsome, and 
one of the nation wearing his usual head-gear would irre- 
sistibly remind a stranger of a baboon who had donned a 
fur night-cap. 

Towards the end of the evening, or rather morning, 
supper was enlivened by a very characteristic incident. 
General Lazareff had proposed the health of his colleague's 
bride, and General Lomakin was returning thanks, when 
from the assembled company burst forth a demand that the 
old warrior should testify his affection for his partner by 
embracing her at the head of the table. In the midst of all 
this merriment the poor old General little foresaw the cata- 
strophe which was so shortly to overtake him far away under 
the walls of Yengi Sheher, in the Akhal Tekk6 oasis. Some- 
times we had reviews of the garrison, or of the irregular 
horse passing through Krasnavodsk on their way to 
Tchikislar, for it was by this route that the entire cavalry 
arrived at the latter camp. As I have already stated, the 
water for three miles off the coast is so shallow as to pre- 
vent a troop-ship from coining within that distance of the 
landing pier; consequently horses coming direct to the 
camp had to be transferred to Turcoman fishing-boats from 
the transport-ship, then conveyed to within half a mile of 
the shore, when it was necessary to hoist them over the side, 
and make them go ashore through the shallow water. At 
Krasnavodsk, on the contrary, the troop-ship can lie along- 
side the pier, and the greatest facilities are afforded for the 
debarkation of cavalry and artillery, which then proceed 
over land along the coast by Michaelovo to Tchikislar. 

One evening, as we were lounging on the terrace outside 
the club doors, General Lomakin afforded us an opportunity 
of witnessing the peculiar method of fighting of the Cau- 
casian and Daghestani horsemen who happened to be in 
Krasnavodsk for the moment. They are natives of the 


north-eastern portion of the Caucasus, and are esteemed 
among the best cavalry in the Bussian service. Their uni- 
form is almost precisely similar to that of the Circassians, 
save that the Daghestani have their long tight- waisted tunics 
of white flannel instead of the usual sober colours affected 
by the Circassian horsemen. Hanging between the shoulders, 
and knotted around the neck, is the bashlik, or hood, worn 
during bad weather, and which is of a crimson colour. On 
either side of the breast are one or more rows of metal cart- 
ridge tubes, now worn simply for ornament, for I need 
scarcely say that these horsemen are armed with modern 
breech-loading carbines, and carry their cartridges in the 
orthodox regulation pouches, instead of after the fashion of 
their forefathers. Their sabres are of the usual guardless 
Circassian pattern, almost the entire hilt entering into the 
scabbard. Hanging from the front of the waist-belt is a 
handjar, or broad-bladed, leaf-shaped sword, very similar to 
the ancient Spanish weapon adopted by the Boman 
soldiery, or resembling perhaps still more those bronze 
weapons found upon the old battle-fields of Greece and 
within early Celtic barrows. These weapons they are 
accustomed to use as projectiles, much as the North American 
Indians use their long-bladed knives. On the evening in 
question, a squadron of these Daghestani horsemen were 
paraded, in order that we might witness their skill in throw- 
ing the handjars. A large wooden target was erected, in 
front of which was suspended an ordinary black bottle- 
Then, one by one, the horsemen dashed up at full speed, 
hurling their handjcurs, as they did so, at the mark. It was 
intended to plant the point of the knife in the target, bo close 
to the bottle that the flat of the blade should almost touch it. 
One after another the knives of the whole squadron were 
thrown, until they stuck like a sheaf of arrows round the 
mark, and so good was the aim that in no one case would 


there have been the slightest possibility of missing so large 
a mark as a man's body. 

After this exhibition of skill, the Lesghi, as the Daghe- 
stani are occasionally called, performed some of their 
national dances, to the music of the pipe and tabor. Two 
dancers at a time stepped into the circle formed around 
them by their comrades. Each placed the back of his right 
hand across his month, holding the elbow eleyated in the 
air; the left arm was held at its fullest extent, sloping 
slightly downwards, the palm turned to the rear. In this 
somewhat singular attitude they commenced sliding round the 
ring with a peculiar waltzing step ; then, suddenly confront- 
ing each other, they broke into a furious jig, going foster 
and faster as the music increased in pace, and when, all 
breathless, they retired into the ranks, their places were 
immediately taken by another pair. Occasionally one of 
the more skilful would arm himself with two handjars, and, 
placing the points on either side of his neck, go through the 
most violent calisthenic movements, with the' view of 
showing the perfect control he had over his muscles. 




Gypsum rocks— <X(;«^-Natural paraffin— Post of Ghoui-Bournak— Gamel- 
thorn and ckiraUm— Large lizards — Ghoui-Sulmen — Nummulitic lime- 
stone—Salty water— Method of drawing it np— Effect of washing— 
Turcoman smoking— Waiting for dawn— Shores of Kara-Boghas— Search- 
ing for sulphur— Black and red lava— Kukurt-Daghi— Ghoni-Kabyl— 
Argillaceous sand — Turcoman and Khirgese horses — An alarm and 
retreat — Back to Bournak. 

Dubing my stay at Krasnavodsk, I made the acquaintance 
of an Armenian gentleman who had come there with the 
intention of scientifically exploring the neighbourhood, and 
discovering what its mineral resources might be. He was 
especially in search of certain sulphur mines reported to 
exist upon the shores of the Kara Boghaz, the great expanse 
of shallow water lying to the north of Krasnavodsk. He 
had succeeded in obtaining from General Lomakin a guard 
of fifteen Yamud Turcomans, acting as Bussian auxiliary 
irregular horse, and, gathering from some conversation 
with- me that I was interested in geological researches, 
asked me to accompany him on his expedition. We started 
early in the morning, and, mounted upon hardy little 
Khirgese ponies, climbed the horrid-looking, burnt-up 
ravines that lead through the amphitheatre of hills which 
guard Krasnavodsk, to the plain beyond. These rocks, as 
I have said, are of rose-coloured gypsum, though sometimes 
a blue and yellow variety is to be met with. Once outside 
the rocky, girding scarp, the Turcoman sahra, here afford- 


ing an unusually luxuriant supply of coarse bent-grass, 
reaches away in one unbroken tract to the banks of the Sea 
of Aral. Here and there it is farrowed by great shallow 
ravines, their sides overgrown with tamarisk— odjcvr, as 
the Turcomans call it; and from the manner in which 
they run into each other I have little or no doubt that they 
formed some of the channels by which the Oxus traversed 
its delta when it flowed into the Caspian Sea. Even still 
some slight traces of moisture linger about their bottoms, 
sufficient to produce pasturage for the sheep, goats, and 
camels daily conducted thither from the town. The 
Yamud shepherds, perched upon every slight elevation 
around, kept watch and ward lest a party of Tekke Turco- 
mans should sweep down upon them and bear both them- 
selves and their charges into captivity. At the time of 
which I am writing some four or five thousand camels, 
destined for the transport service of the Akhal Tekk6 
expedition, were concentrated in the neighbourhood of 
Krasnavodsk, the greater portion of them having been most 
unwisely sent to pasture at a distance of some twenty miles 
from the garrison. 

Though it was early in the year, the heat of the sun 
was overwhelming ; and as in the midst of our wild-looking 
escort we rode across these naked, burned-up plains, I' 
could well appreciate how welcome was the * shadow of a 
great rock in a weary land.' Far, far off, on either hand, 
loomed, faintly violet, some minor hills, which, my com- 
panion assured me, were replete with mineral treasures, 
especially with a very pure kind of natural paraffin, or 
mineral wax (psocheryte), as it is commonly called. Apart 
from the stray camels and flocks, the only living things to 
be seen were huge spotted lizards, who stared eagerly at us 
as we went by, and tortoises, crawling about over the marly 
surface, nibbling away the stunted chiratcm around them. 


It was two o'clock in the afternoon as we reached the 
Russian military post of Ghoui-Bournak, some sixteen 
miles distant from Krasnavodsk, and situated in the midst 
of a desolate plain. It consisted of a small rectangular 
redoubt, garrisoned by two companies of infantry and 
about twenty-five Turcoman horse. It was a frightfully 
desolate spot. There was absolutely nothing in the 
scenery on which the eye could repose itself after gazing 
over the illimitable wastes. Still, the garrison and their 
commander looked healthy and happy enough, owing, 
doubtless, to the cheerful insouciance and light-heartedneas 
which characterise the ordinary Russian, and which serve 
him so well in a soldier's career. The captain shared with 
us his not very luxurious meal of dried Caspian carp and 
almost equally dry sausage, washed down by the never- 
failing glass of vodka, and then we again started on our 
forward journey. It was about five o'clock in the afternoon 
as, utterly overcome by the heat, we drew bridle for a short 
repose. There was abundance of scraggy, scorched-up 
vegetation around, in the shape of camelthorn and ckiratan, 
but not a drop of water was to be had save what we brought 
with us in our leather sacks. Our halt was but a short 
one, for it was impossible to sleep, or even to rest, in the 
scorching heat of the sun, though none of those pests of 
the east, flies, were present — the spot was too inhospitable 
even for them. Though the country was for the most part 
bare and desolate, it was strangely accidented by shallow 
ravines, which were, indubitably, old watercourses, along 
whose bottoms and Bides bushes of various kinds grew 
thickly. We varied the monotony of the journey by racing, 
and dangerous work it was, for the ground was everywhere 
burrowed into by great chameleon-like lizards — sometimes 
two feet long — and every now and then a horseman came to 
grief, owing to his steed involuntarily thrusting a leg into 


one of these pitfalls. At ten o'clock in the evening we 
reached a kind of basin, situated in the midst of low hills, 
if I may call elevations of fifty feet or so by that name. 
This basin might have been a mile and a half across. Near 
its centre were half-a-dozen wells, which gave the place the 
name of Ghoui-Sulmen. Each well was surrounded by a 
low parapet of yellowish-grey nummulitic limestone, and 
close by the mouth stood a couple of rude troughs of the 
same material. The workmanship of these was of the 
rudest description, and I have no doubt, from the present 
condition of affairs on these plains, and the utter absence 
of public enterprise, that these traces of man's handiwork 
must be of great antiquity. The water lay at least forty 
feet below the level of the well-mouth, and could only be 
procured by being fished up in the nose-bags of our horses, 
let down by the united tethering-ropes of several of the 
party. This water was execrable in the extreme. I under- 
stand that it contains a large percentage of sulphate of 
soda and common salt ; but whatever be the matter which 
gives it its peculiar taste and flavour, it is very nauseous, 
especially when it has become heated from being carried in 
the leather bags in which water is stored during long 
journeys in these parts of the world. It then becomes 
emetic, as well as strongly purgative. Coming from the 
great depths at which it lies beneath the soil, it is icy-cold 
when brought to the surface, but even then it is intolerable 
to any one who has been accustomed to different water 
elsewhere. Not being able to drink, I tried to assuage my 
thirst by bathing my face and hands, but I soon discovered 
what a mistake I had made, for when the moisture had 
evaporated I found the surface of my skin covered with an 
extremely irritant saline matter, the eyes and nose especially 
suffering. The Turcomans prepared their tea with this 
water, and seemed to enjoy it, though after the first mouth- 


fed I was obliged to cease drinking. The horses were 
watered by the contents of the nose-bags being poured 
into their troughs, but, as at least one-half of the water 
escaped through the porous sack while it was being hauled 
to the surface, the supplying of twenty horses with sufficient 
to satisfy their thirst, after our long and trying march, 
was slow work. We collected enough withered scrubby 
plants and roots to keep up half-a-dozen camp fires, around 
which our escort gathered, their horses being tethered close 
to them. I tried to put up my tente d'dbri, but found that 
the pickets would not hold in the loose marly soil, so with 
my friend the geologist I was compelled to encamp & la 
belle etoile, like our neighbours the Turcomans. I tried in 
vain to sleep, for the irritating saline matter which my 
attempt at % washing had lodged in my eyes, nose, and ears, 
rendered any effort in that direction quite unavailing ; so I 
lay awake during our halt, gazing out into the solemn 
starlit silence of the desert, where not even a movement 
like that of the horizon-girded waters or the murmur of a 
ripple broke the unearthly stillness. Glimmering camp- 
fires shed fitful gleams upon the swarthy features and 
strange tuft-like hats of the Turcoman escort, bringing out 
all kinds of Rembrandt-like effects as they sat conversing 
around for notwithstanding our fatiguing ride they did 
not seem in the least inclined to take any rest — or indulged 
in smoking after the curious fashion which they adopt on 
such expeditions as the one which is now being described. 
The Turcomans rarely smoke anything but a water-pipe, or 
kalioun, as they call it, but as this is too cumbrous an 
article to be carried about on horseback, a simpler expedient 
is resorted to. An oblong steep-sided hole is dug in the 
ground, some five inches wide, and a foot deep. Some 
red-hot charcoal is taken from the camp-fire, and placed in 
the bottom of the cavity. A handful of tumbaki, a coarse 


kind of tobacco used in these regions, is thrown in, and the 
smoker, kneeling beside the hole, places his expanded palms 
on either side of his mouth, stoops over the orifice, and 
inhales the fames of the tobacco, mingled with air. Three 
or four whiffs from this singular smoking apparatus seem 
quite sufficient for the most determined smoker among 
them, and I am not surprised at it. I nearly choked 
myself with the first when I tried it. When I first 
witnessed this method of smoking I was some distance off, 
and as the tobacco smoke was too faint to be noticed, I was 
under the impression that the Turcomans had somehow or 
other discovered water, and were engaged in drinking. 

We broke camp about half-past one, and continued our 
journey towards the shores of the Kara-Boghaz (Black 
Gulf), on the borders of which lay the sulphur mines which 
it was the mission of my friend to explore. The stars gave 
but feeble light, and as the edges of projecting strata now 
began to make their appearance the road became so dan- 
gerous that after two miles we were obliged to halt again 
and wait for dawn. As the sun was rising we found our- 
selves on the margin of a vast creek reaching inland from 
the Kara-Boghaz. The waters lay still and death-like, and 
the entire surroundings were more lifeless and ghastly than 
any I had hitherto witnessed. Not even a bird of any de- 
scription was to be seen, far or near. To reach the level 
yellow shore at the water marge it was necessary that we 
should scramble down the almost vertical face of the cliff, 
some sixty or seventy feet in height. It was composed of 
terraced layers of whitish-yellow stone, similar to that 
which I have described as being found at the well-mouths ; 
in some places tossed and tumbled in the wildest possible 
confusion. Dismounting from our horses, and leading 
them by the bridles, we proceeded to scramble, as best we 
could, down the cliff, being often obliged to hold on by the 

vol. i. a 


tamarisk bushes, and at last reached the shell-strewn beach 


below. Following the strand in a north-easterly direction, 
we reached a ravine which pierces the cliffs in an easterly 
one. This was the spot of which we were in search. 
It is called by the Turcomans the Kukurt-Daghi, or Sulphur 
Mountain. My friend commenced his search immediately, 
for there was not a moment to be lost. We were on very 
dangerous ground, and where the unfriendly nomads were 
frequently to be • found encamped preparatory to one of 
their forays in the neighbourhood of Krasnavodsk. Strewn 
around were fragments of black and red lava, and the en- 
tire place bore unmistakeable signs of a more or less recent 
volcanic disturbance. Lumps of sulphur were to be found 
in every direction, and here and there were nodules, em- 
bedded between the stone layers, and in the indurated beds 
of detritus. Though we found tolerably large 'pockets/ 
however, nowhere could we discover any real vein. There 
was no considerable deposit of the substance — at least, 
such was the opinion of my friend, the geologist. After an 
hour and a half s search, we mounted for the return jour- 
ney, and I was not sorry to leave the spot. The following 
brief extract from my note-book, written at the time, will 
express what I thought of the place : — ' Kukurt-Daghi. An 
hour after sunrise. A cursed-looking place. Hideous de- 
solation. Not a drop of drinkable water anywhere.' The 
waters of this Kara-Boghaz, which is an immense expanse 
almost entirely shut out from the Caspian, with which it is 
connected only by an exceedingly narrow strait, are an 
almost saturated solution of various sea-salts, mingled with 
an excess of sulphate of soda. No fish of any kind can 
live in them, and, as I have said, not even a solitary crow 
could be seen along its horribly desolate shores. It would 
be no inapt subject for the study of an artist engaged upon 
some landscape which was in itself meant to convey an 


titter abnegation of life. After an hour and a halfs 
examination of the sulphur deposits we rode back without 
further rest to the Sulmen wells, partook of some dry 
bread and salty tea for breakfast, and were able to sleep a 
little before the fierce midday sun put an end to our rest. 
We took a new route on our return journey, and, riding 
across a country exactly similar to that of which I have 
spoken, two hours before sunset we got into a sandy, undu- 
lating area. The tamarisk bushes grew high and close, 
and were even mixed with a peculiar kind of osier. This 
infallibly denoted the presence of water. We were, in fact, 
at the Ghoui-Kabyl, or sweet-water wells, the only place in 
the whole district where such a thing as really drinkable 
water is to be obtained. Here, again, the wells were so 
very deep that the nose-bags and tethering ropes had again 
to be put into requisition. The sweet water was welcome 
indeed. To me it seemed nectar after the burning thirst 
of so many hours. No one who has not been similarly 
placed can fully appreciate the force of the poet's words, 
* The first sparkle of the desert spring.' One thinks him- 
Belf passing through another phase of existence when he 
actually feels the cold water trickling down his parched 
throat. Our evening meal was as scanty as before. We 
had bread and water, but considering that the latter was 
fresh, the meal was a welcome one. We washed the salt 
from our hands and faces, and then, finding it utterly im- 
possible, for the same reason as at the last halting-place, to 
put up our tent, lay down to rest upon the soft, yielding 
sand. This is the only place where anything like 6and has 
come under my notice in these deserts. It is argillaceous, 
not silicious, and, unlike the latter, when moistened turns 
into mud. So fine is it, that when grasped in the hand it 
escapes between the fingers, notwithstanding every effort to 
retain it. Streaks and patches of it are to be found in all 



directions, and I apprehend that they represent the beds of 
ancient watercourses. A bank of this yielding substance 
afforded as comfortable a couch as the softest feather bed, 
for it adapted itself perfectly to the form of the sleeper, 
and was entirely free from saline particles. I am unable 
to understand the phenomenon of these three or four sweet- 
water wells existing in the midst of the desert, where all 
the other water to be found is of the nature of that which 
I have described as obtaining at Ghoui-Sulmen. 

As usual, several camp fires were lighted, for the pre- 
paration of the inevitable tea, without which no true 
Central Asian or Russian can get through a day's journey. 
The fires smouldered dimly around us, for the Yamuds 
were too cautious to allow a blaze to be seen in such a 
place. Ab before, they did not go to sleep, but sat crouch- 
ingly around the fires, chatting to each other. The horses, 
each tethered by one fetlock at the full extent of its tethering- 
rope, ran round in circles, screaming at and trying to kick 
each other. I have remarked this peculiarity about Turco- 
man horses, that while towards human beings they are the 
gentlest and most tractable of creatures, among themselves 
they are the most quarrelsome that it is possible to imagine. 
There is a second peculiarity which I may as well mention 
here. On these steppes two principal varieties of horses 
are found— one the long-legged Turcoman, the other the 
stout Ehirgese, which latter closely resembles an overgrown 
and extra-shaggy Shetland pony. Turcoman and Ehirgese 
horses invariably fraternise, and live together on the kind- 
liest terms, and I do not recollect ever having found an 
exception to this rule. 

Notwithstanding the noise which the horses were mak- 
ing — and it was very aggravating, when after the fatigues 
of the past two days we were trying to snatch an hour's 
repose - I was sinking gradually into slumber. A calm 


seemed to come over the bivouac, and everything appeared 
tranquil. I turned over on the sand to make myself com- 
fortable, when I became aware that an unusual agitation 
prevailed among the ordinarily calm and taciturn Turco- 
mans. They were whispering eagerly together. I raised 
myself upon my elbow, and looked round. Some were 
hastily saddling their horses, and before I had time to de- 
mand the reason of this proceeding, several of -them came 
hurriedly up to where myself and my friend lay. There 
was something wrong, they said. The horses were sniffing 
the wind, with necks outstretched towards the east. 
Either strangers were approaching, or there was some 
other encampment near, and if this latter were the case, 
the encampment could only be a Tekke one. We held a 
council of war, and decided that the most advisable course 
to adopt was to move on immediately. Sand was heaped 
upon the camp fires, horses were rapidly saddled and 
packed, and, like a party of spectres, we stole silently 
away. Several Turcomans, with the apparently innate 
perception of locality, even in the dark, which is acquired 
by the habits of life of their race, led the way. For myself 
I had not the faintest notion towards what point of the 
compass we were directing our steps. During half-an-hour 
we forced our path among the bushes, and gained open 
ground. Four Turcomans were thrown out to reconnoitre 
in the supposed dangerous direction, and, anxious though I 
felt over the situation, I could not help wondering how 
they would ever find their way back to the main party, 
in view of the intense darkness, for a mist had veiled the 
thin lustre of the stars which had hitherto lighted us on. 
We rode as fast as the nature of the ground, with its lizard- 
burrows and old watercourses, would permit, and it was 
not easy to grope our way across all these obstacles. In 
an hour we were joined by the reconnoitring party. They 


reported a large camp to the eastward. They estimated 
the number of its occupants at some hundreds, and be- 
lieved they could be no other than Tekkfe, inasmuch as no 
friendly force could possibly be in that direction at that 
particular hour. It was curious to note how these Tamud 
Turcomans feared their congeners the Tekkta. Only a few 
years previously both were banded together in common hosti- 
lity to the invading Muscovite. A few years of Bussian 
domination on the East Caspian littoral had transformed 
the former not only into friends, but into allies, and thrown 
them into the balance as a make- weight against their wilder 
Eastern brethren. 

The sun was well above the horizon as we sighted 
several hundreds of camels browsing, on a rising ground, 
on the scanty herbage, and tended by some scores of Khir- 
gese nomads. We hastily communicated to them the 
news of the proximity of the Tekkfa, and rode forward, as 
swiftly as might be, after our protracted journey, towards 
the Bournak post, which we reached about two hours after 
sunrise. We reported our intelligence to the Commandant, 
Captain Ter-Eazaroff, who took the necessary precautions 
for the safety of his redoubt by placing men at the parapets, 
for he had not the slightest idea of what was coming, or 
that the Tekke horsemen would dare to execute the coup 
which they were preparing. He then proceeded to entertain 
us most hospitably, for it appeared that during our absence 
a provision convoy had arrived. He gave us wine, vodka, 
and ham, refreshment which we much appreciated after the 
starvation and fatigue of the preceding forty-eight hours. 





Turcomans in view — Preparing to attack — In a predicament — Retiring on 
Krasnavodsk— General panic — Lomakin's advance — Result of skirmish — 
Russian military funeral — A trip to Tchikislar — Island of Tcheliken — 
Demavend~-Ak-Batlaouk volcano — Difficult/ of landing — Description of 
camp— Flies — Turcoman prisoner — Release of captive Persian women — 
Water snakes — Stormy voyage to Baku — Conversation with Lazareff — 
Russian recruits— Prince Wittgenstein — Cossack lieutenant's story — Off 
to Tchikislar. 

I had slept a couple of hours at the shady side of the 
Captain's tent, and was in the act of making some notes of 
the day's adventures, when scouts came galloping up in a 
headlong fashion with the news that the Tekk6s were ad- 
vancing in force, and that not a moment was to be lost if 
the camels were to be saved. Notwithstanding that a 
border post like that of Bournak is constantly on the alert, 
the rapidity with which the men were got under arms was 
surprising. The captain rushed from his tent, the bugle 
sounded, and in less than two minutes after the alarm the 
first company was moving to the front at the double. As 
the day was exceedingly hot, the men marched in their 
shirt sleeves— at least I suppose it was on account of the 
heat ; in all probability an order to that effect had been 
issued, as everyone in the company was without his coat. 
The irregular Yamud cavalry, some fifteen in number, 
together with the Ehirgese shepherds, were driving in the 


camels, which could not, however, be got to accelerate their 
usual slow and dignified pace. Owing to this fact, many 
of the Khirgese were cut down by the foremost Tekk6 
horsemen. I believe that in all there were about four 
thousand camels. So rapid was the preparation that the 
captain had not even time to load his revolver, and I 
lent him mine for the occasion. The promptitude with 
which he marched to the relief of the camel drivers was 
beyond all praise. Within ten minutes after the departure 
of the first company, the second, in reserve, marched with 
the camels carrying the spare ammunition, leaving only 
half-a-dozen men to garrison the redoubt. The first com- 
pany was scarcely five hundred yards distant from the 
parapets when the leading Tekkes appeared in sight, gallop- 
ing along the summit of the long undulation of the plain, 
and in a few minutes many hundreds of them were in view. 
Some affrighted Khirgese drivers who came in said that the 
greater number of their companions had been killed, a 
large proportion of the camels taken, and at least two 
thousand sheep swept away. They reported that the 
Tekkes were at least two thousand strong, and that a 
large number of them were horsemen, the remainder being 
infantry mounted upon camels and asses. Firing had 
already commenced, and myself and my friend were sorely 
puzzled as to what course we should pursue. The position, 
for us, was an exceedingly difficult one. I much desired 
to go forward and witness the skirmish, but the condition 
of our horses, after two days' hard riding, with little or no 
food save the few handfuls of corn which we had in our 
saddle-bags, rendered it excessively dangerous for us to 
proceed into the press of combat, especially as it waa as 
likely as not that the slender Russian infantry force would 
be compelled to retreat, even if it were not annihilated. 
In the latter case, and with our jaded horses, we were 


certain to be captured, and mutilation, if not death, would 
have been our portion. To await the result of the fight in 
the redoubt, with its few defenders, was equally precarious, 
for in the event of the Tekkes being victorious they would 
have little difficulty in overwhelming the few men who 
remained behind. To retreat was fraught with danger 
also, for as the Tekkes were in great force a party had 
probably been detailed to cut off communication with 
Erasnavodsk. Further, as they seemed for the moment 
to be retiring before the two companies of infantry, we 
thought it best to make good our retreat, while there 
was yet an opportunity, as fast as our fatigued horses could 
carry us. Our baggage was rapidly packed, and we retired 
as swiftly as we could. Half a mile to the south of the 
post of Bournak is another reach of ground commanding an 
extensive view over the plain, and from this, though at a 
pretty long distance, I could, with the aid of my field glass, 
follow the movements of the Tekkes. It was not easy, 
however, to make out which way the combat was going, 
for the entire plain was covered with groups of horsemen, 
and it was impossible to detect to which side they belonged. 
Once outside of the protecting parapets of the redoubt, our 
most prudent course was to make the best of our way to 

Our worn-out horses took at least three hours to 
cover the eighteen miles which intervened between us 
and that town. I had serious reason to believe that a 
turning movement would be attempted, this being a 
favourite Turcoman tactic ; and we were more than once 
scared by the appearance of groups of horsemen, driving 
camels and sheep befo *e them, and spreading all over the 
plain between us and Erasnavodsk. If they were enemies 
it was useless to attempt to escape, so we pushed on, and 
found that we had been alarmed by the shepherd popula- 


tions, who were hastily retiring on the town with all their 
flocks and herds. The panic was universal, for the news 
had spread that the Tekkta were in very great force indeed. 
The heat was terrific, our horses were rapidly failing us, 
and I was in a general state of weariness. We entered 
the rocky circle of hills which shuts off Erasnavodsk and 
its immediate surroundings from the plains, and as we 
debouched from one horrid gorge, with its gaunt cliffs of 
burnt red rock, we met General Lomakin, the commander 
of the town, advancing with all his available forces. He 
had a battalion of infantry, several squadrons of Ehirgese 
lancers and Cossacks, and one field gun. He could not, in 
the whole, have had less than twelve hundred men. I very 
much wished to turn back and accompany the advancing 
forces, but the condition of my horse rendered such a 
proceeding entirely out of the question. I had a short 
conversation with the General, explained to him all I 
knew about the situation, and once more pushed on to 
Exasnavodsk. I found the garrison under arms upon the 
ramparts, and the artillerymen standing by their guns. 
The naval officers on shore had been hurriedly summoned 
on board their respective war-ships, and everything showed 
that a serious attack was deemed possible. As I entered 
the town the people crowded round me, anxiously question- 
ing me as to what was the matter, and where the General 
and his troops were going. A little later I met one of the 
Yamud horsemen who had formed part of the escort of 
myself and my Armenian friend. He gave it as hia 
decided opinion that we must have been under the direct 
protection of Allah as we got off from the Ghoui-Kabyl that 
morning. Had we remained an hour longer on the spot, 
he said, we should certainly have been captured by the 
Tekk6s. I was really very much knocked up by the ex- 
pedition. The heat, want of sufficient food, salty water, 


and, above all, the absence of sleep, had quite prostrated 
me, and I find in my note-book the following entry, which 
is very descriptive of the situation : — ' I am very ill, and 
my back is nearly broken. My nose is almost burned off, 
and my breeches are torn from hard riding. I must go to 

My readers may be curious to know what the upshot of 
the whole affair was. I give a brief account, as taken from 
the lips of various persons who were present at the engage* 
ment. The TekkSs gave . battle twenty-five versts beyond 
Bournak, losing fifteen men killed. The Russians lost 
four irregular horsemen. The Tekk6s captured some 
hundreds of camels, but could only carry off about two 
hundred of the swiftest. They were also forced to leave 
the captured sheep behind them. The captain of the 
Bournak post did not venture with his slender force to 
pursue the enemy further. General Lomakin, on his 
arrival at Bournak, halted for the night, and on the next 
day re-commenced the pursuit. The enemy retreated before 
him, occasionally halting within a circle of captured camels, 
which they made to kneel down, using them as a rampart, 
and firing over their backs. Occasionally the range was only 
fifty yards. They fired, from their smooth-bore muskets, 
spherical leaden bullets, split in four pieces, and wrapped in 
paper. These missiles are admirably adapted for use on 
horseback, and inflict very uncomfortable wounds indeed. 
In the end they withdrew so far into the desert that the 
General thought well not to follow them any farther. The 
Russian loss on this occasion was four men killed and 
twelve wounded. One dead soldier was discovered with six 
sabre gashes on his head, his nose had been cut from his 
face, and he had undergone other mutilations. A woman 
who had been captured by the marauders, but who slipped 
through their hands, said that they sacked several aouUt 


(villages), carrying off women and children and murdering 
the men. 

Thus ended the first of the series of combats with the 
independent Turcomans which culminated in the capture of 
their strongholds at Geok Tep6 and the conquest of the 
Akhal Tekk6 tribes. These same tribes, who fought so 
fiercely against the Bussians but three years ago, have 
now, to all appearance, become as much their obedient 
servants as the Yamuds of the Caspian littoral, who but 
seven years previously were themselves among the fore- 
most opposers of Muscovite aggression. Few governments 
like that of Bussia would know how to conciliate these 
newly conquered Asiatic peoples ; as an example of this I 
may mention that there are many Turcomans who are 
already decorated with the cross of St. George. This cross, 
which is of silver, and in form not unlike the Victoria 
Cross, ordinarily bears on a central medallion a ' George 
and the Dragon.' The Turcomans objected to receive a 
decoration bearing a strictly Christian emblem, and accord- 
ingly a number of crosses were manufactured especially for 
them, bearing a double-headed eagle instead of a ' George/ 
The Turcomans are under the impression that this strange- 
looking fowl is a cock, as they themselves often told me. 
This cross, charged with a 'cock'— as well as neck medals 
hung by variously coloured silk ribbons— has been largely 
distributed among the reconciled nomads. 

Two days after my arrival at Krasnavodsk, I witnessed 
there the obsequies of three of the four regular troops killed 
in the skirmish beyond Boumak. The fourth, being a 
Mussulman, did not share in these ceremonies. They took 
place within the wooden church standing in the centre of 
the square. Like most Bussian church-singing, the chant- 
ing on this occasion was exceedingly sweet, and the rites 
were of the most impressive character. All the officers 


and most of the soldiers of the garrison were present, each 
one holding a slender lighted taper in his hand. When 
the coffins were about to be closed, each of the comrades of 
the deceased came forward to kiss the foreheads of the 
corpses, at the same time dropping a few grains of rice into 
the folds of the shroud. A sergeant then approached, and 
placed across the brow of each a slip of gilt paper, on 
which was written some inscription which I could not 
decipher. The coffins were then closed, and carried outside 
the church. A procession, headed by military music, was 
formed, and marched to a distance of about two miles 
outside the town, and around a rocky promontory to the 
cemetery. The 'pope' of the garrison, with long dark 
robes, violet velvet ' toque/ and silver-tipped staff, walked 
beside the coffins. The interment concluded, the three 
customary salvoes were fired by a squad of the battalion to 
which the deceased had belonged. The dead Mussulman 
soldier was buried far apart, on the bleak hill-side. As we 
turned again for Erasnavodsk, I noticed, at intervals, many 
an old earthwork and trench, with an occasional soldier's 
grave, surmounted by its lonely wooden cross, marking the 
gradual progress of the Russian arms from the first settle- 
ment within the Erasnavodsk hills to the present outlying 
stations. Immediately outside the walls was quite a colony 
of soldiers' wives and children, and camp followers of 
one kind or other. They were not allowed to occupy 
ground within the place itself, for in Erasnavodsk the 
dwellings are either barracks or the quarters of officers and 
their families. It is only in the bazaar, as one of the great 
squares is named, that any civilians are to be found, and 
these are traders from Baku. The people who live outside 
the walls inhabit semi-subterranean houses like those of 
the Armenians to which I have previously alluded. 

I remained at Erasnavodsk up to the first of May, 


awaiting a definite move on the part of the expeditionary 
forces. In the interim I made a trip to Tchikislar on 
board the ' Ural ' war-steamer. During this excursion I had 
a good opportunity of examining the island of Tcheliken, 
with its steep seaward marl cliffs, stained by the black 
flow of naphtha which has gone on for ages pouring its 
riches into the unprofitable bosom of the Caspian. On one 
of its highest portions is one of the tall, sentry-box looking 
objects which stand over the petroleum wells worked by 
Mr. Nobel, the enterprising capitalist of Baku. Not far 
from it is the twrbe, or monumental tomb of a celebrated 
Turcoman saint, which attracts many pilgrims from the 
mainland, and serves as a landmark for shipping a long 
way out to sea. Nearing Tchikislar, one catches sight of 
the huge cone of Demavend, the mountain which overhangs 
Teheran, hovering like a gigantic white triangular cloud 
above the southern horizon. Some versts north of the 
camp, and four inland, is the mud volcano known to the 
Turcomans by the name of Ak-Batlaouk. This is in a 
state of constant activity. It presents the general appear- , 
ance of an oblong mass rising abruptly from the plain to a 
height of some hundreds of feet, and made up of a series of 
truncated cones of whitish-yellow colour. The craters on 
its summit emit sulphurous vapours, and occasionally over- 
flow with boiling mud. It is generally in a condition of 
extra activity immediately before the occurrence of one of 
those numerous earthquake shocks which are experienced 
all along the eastern and southern Caspian shores. It is 
doubtless an evidence of the widespread volcanic action 
which within a recent period, geologically speaking, has 
raised the Turcoman plain beyond the reach of the waters, 
and which is doubtless still in progress. Though tradition 
speaks of the bed of the Oxus having been shifted from the 
Caspian to the Sea of Aral by human agency, I am very 


much inclined to think that the gradual elevation of the 
Caspian littoral had more to do with the change. 

On May 3 we cast anchor off Tchikislar, and, on account 
of the extreme shallowness of the water, had the usual 
difficulty in getting ashore. The steam-launch took us 
within fifteen hundred yards of the extremity of the 
impromptu pier. When we could go no further in this we 
hailed one of the numerous Turcoman luggers (lodkas), 
which, crowded with the former occupants of the steam- 
launch, had scarcely made fifty yards when her keel began 
to scrape against the bottom. She took us within three 
hundred yards of the pier, and within about eight hundred 
of the shore. Then a kind of raft was brought out, the 
soldiers, a little over their knees in the water, pushing it. 
This also got aground, and we were obliged to change into 
a number of small canoes, dug from single tree trunks, and 
termed taimuls, in which we managed to get so near land as 
to be obliged only to splash on foot through fifty yards of 
surf and wet sand. This will give some idea of the diffi- 
culty of landing horses, cannon, or any heavy material. 
On this occasion the extra shallowness was due to the winds 
being partly off shore, and forcing the water westward in 
the same manner that it is forced inland eastward when 
the wind prevails in an opposite direction. One could 
scarcely believe how very gradual is the deepening of the 
water, and the long distance out at which a person may 
wade. I have seen bathers up to their arm-pits, apparently 
not very far from the horizon. 

Tchikislar, which I understand is now almost deserted, 
was, at the time of which I speak, in all its glory. Several 
thousands of men were under canvas, the cavalry to the 
north, the infantry to the south of the original sand redoubt 
and signal station. Between them, and southward of the 
fort, were a couple of streets of hastily-constructed wooden 


houses, erected by the Armenian and Russian sutlers and 
general dealers, who invariably accompany the march of 
any considerable force. These dealers were doing a brisk 
business, charging enormous prices for every article which 
they sold. Without a single exception, each one of these 
establishments, if not primarily intended as a drinking shop, 
supplemented its other business, whatever that might be, 
by the sale of vodka and other spirituous liquors. Further 
southward, along the shore, were the commissariat and 
slaughter houses; and not far off, somewhat inland, 
immense piles of grain sacks and mountains of hay began 
to rise — the commencement of the accumulation of stores 
for the supply of the troops about to march to the interior. 
The immediate environs of the camp were in a disgracefully 
filthy condition, Russian commanders seeming, in this 
regard, singularly careless, and neglecting the most ordi- 
nary sanitary precautions. As a consequence, much sick- 
ness prevailed, and the hospitals were full. Attracted by 
the filth and fostered by the intense heat, myriads of flies 
clouded the air on every side. In the little wooden ' shanty ' 
where I found a lodging, each movement conjured up a 
perfect storm of flies, and at night the air was thick with 
red mosquitoes, which, however, fortunately did not sting 
very severely, or else existence would have been impossible. 
At no hour of the day or night were these winged pests 
absent. There seemed to be relays of different species of 
them for each section of the twenty-four hours, which 
regularly relieved each other. I have often had my notes 
rendered almost unintelligible half an hour after they were 
written, owing to the dense covering of fly-blows upon the 

A mile to the south of the main encampment, and close 
to the water's edge, was what remained of the once popu- 
lous Yamud aoutt of Tchikislar, which at the time I speak of 


contained little more than a hundred kibitkas, inhabited 
mostly by families attached in one way or another to the 
3ervice of the camp. They fetched wood in their lodkas 
from Lenkoran, on the opposite side of the Caspian, or 
from the mouth of the Kara-Su, near Ashurade. I remained 
only two days at Tchikislar, for besides the landing of corn 
and forage nothing was being done there. On the evening 
of the 5th I again went on board the ' Ural/ in order to 
return to Krasnavodsk. We had on board a Turcoman 
prisoner, who was in custody for having offered armed 
resistance to the giving up of a Persian woman who had 
been carried off from the South Caspian shore. In many 
of the ooulls, even in the immediate vicinity of the Eussian 
camp, and along the Atterek and Giurgen rivers, large 
numbers of captured Persian women are still to be found. 
Many of them, having married among the Turcomans and 
had families, are completely reconciled to their position, but 
there are others who retain the desire to visit their homes 
again. The circumstances in connection with which my 
fellow-passenger was a prisoner were as follows. At the 
mouth of the Atterek river is the large village of Hassan 
Kouli. Detained there as a captive was a Persian lady of 
good family, who had been spMted away from her home 
during a Turcoman marauding expedition. After two 
years, her relations discovered her whereabouts, and made 
application to the Russian authorities at Teheran, begging 
them to restore her to her family. She being detained on 
what was claimed to be Russian territory, an order was 
issued to the officer commanding the naval station at 
Ashurade, not far off the mouth of the Giurgen, direct- 
ing him to see that the fair prisoner was at once set at 
liberty. A Turcoman was immediately despatched to visit 
her captor, and it was decided by the elders of the village 
that she be given up in accordance with the demand. Her 
vol. 1. H 


former proprietor was furious, and bitterly upbraided his 
compatriot the messenger for having undertaken such a 
mission. ' Don't you know,' said he, * that we Turcomans 
never give up our prisoners ? ' This was literally the case, 
for it had always been a rule among the Turcomans, and is 
so still at Merv, that in default of ransom or exchange the 
prisoner is never to be surrendered — he or she is massacred 
on the spot in preference. As the messenger was leading 
away the liberated captive from the door, her former owner, 
stepping back into the kibitka, seized his gun, and levelling 
it at the envoy, fired. It was charged with split bullets, 
and the pieces lodged in the man's arm. The aggressor 
was the prisoner whom we had on board. The relatives of 
the wounded man declared that if the culprit paid the 
necessary blood money — eric, as our Celtic forefathers would 
have styled it — he would be forgiven ; otherwise they would 
call for justice against him. The Russian officers on board 
told me that he would probably be sent to some town in the 
central portion of European Russia, there to reside for three 
or four years. After having become duly impregnated with 
Western ideas, and having observed some evidence of the 
might of Western civilisation, he would be sent back to his 
home. It is in this fashion that Russia has been able to 
transfer to far-off regions the influence of her power and 
resources, which, going before her standards, has often 
served to open up an easier road to her battalions than they 
might otherwise have met with. 

I remained only ten days longer at Erasnavodsk, leading 
the accustomed life— *otree* at the club, dinners at the 
governor's, and driving about the neighbourhood. During 
one of the last excursions I made along the rocky shores of the 
bay, I was struck by the immense numbers of water snakes 
which, leaving the sea, had gone long distances inland. I 
have met snakes of between five and six feet in length, of 


a yellow colour mottled with brown, by threes and fours at 
a time, crossing the scorched gypsum rocks at least half a 
mile from the shore, and making their way to the water, 
into which they plunged and swam out to sea. From on 
board ship I have seen them in the waters of Krasnavodsk 
Bay — five or six knotted together — floating upon the water 
in the sun. 

On May 15 I was sent for by General Lomakin, who 
informed me that General Lazareff desired to see me im- 
mediately, and accordingly, on the following day, at one 
o'clock, I started for Baku, where the Commander-in-Chief 
was temporarily staying. I took my passage on board a 
large transport steamer, whose engines were unfortunately 
not of very great power, so that when we cleared the point 
of land which guards the harbour against tempestuous 
winds, and met with a perfect hurricane outside, the most 
we could do for a long time was to hold our own. We were 
forced to run under shelter of the Island of Tcheliken, and 
wait until the winds had moderated. It was only on 
May 18, at two o'clock a.m., that we cast anchor under the 
lee of a small island five hours' steaming from Baku. The 
ordinary passage from Krasnavodsk to Baku occupies about 
thirty hours. Again and again we tried to enter the har- 
bour, but as often were driven back and obliged to reanchor. 
It was four o'clock on the morning of Monday when we 
came alongside the pier. Baku certainly deserves the title 
given to it by the old Tartars, ' a place beaten by the winds.' 

On the following day I had an interview with General 
Lazareff, who wished to obtain some unbiassed evidence 
about the affair at Bournak, in view of the complaints 
which had reached him from different quarters relative to 
the want of promptitude of General Lomakin in hurrying 
to the assistance of the two companies defending the 
camels. He asked me whether I believed it was not pos- 



aible for Lomakin to have pushed on the same evening and 
followed op the enemy. I have already stated that as I 
rode in towards Erasnavodsk I met the General in question 
hurrying forward. I had no other answer to give than 
that I believed he had acted with the greatest possible 
promptitude, but that as I was not on the ground on the 
second day it was impossible for me to say what his con- 
duct on that occasion might have been. General Lazareff 
then asked me if I thought that in the coming expedition 
the Turcomans would offer battle in any considerable 
numbers. If they did bo, he said, it would shorten the 
campaign, as it would at once enable him to strike a de- 
cisive blow ; but he feared it would be otherwise, and that 
they would adopt a Parthian style of fighting. He had 
sent them a letter stating that they should either immediately 
express their willingness to become Russian subjects, or 
else prepare to fight well. They had returned no answer 
save the raid on Bournak, which he considered as throwing 
down the gauntlet, and as evidence of the adoption of an 
irreconcileable policy. It was quite possible that we should 
have to winter in the Akhal Tekk6, and he declared his in- 
tention not to return until he had accomplished his mis- 
sion — the 'pacification/ as he was pleased to term it, of 
the district. Further operations depended upon eventuali- 
ties. Should the Merv Turcomans take part with their 
brethren of the Akhal Tekke, he would be obliged to move 
against Merv, but at present he had no definite instructions 
in the matter. He concluded by Baying, 'We must do 
nothing in a hurry ; we have plenty of time before us ' 

Baku was fast filling with the expeditionary troops, and 
in the streets I saw almost every variety of uniform be- 
longing to the Russian service. Baw levies of the Trans- 
Caucasian regiments were being diligently drilled in the 
great squares, and on the esplanade beside the old walls. 


and though these white-coated soldiers were, as far as arms 
and accoutrements could make them, members of a Euro- 
pean force, their physiognomies distinctly stamped them 
with an Asiatic type. There were Armenians, Georgians, 
and Circassians united in the same company, and occasion- 
ally, but only very occasionally, a Mussulman Tartar. 
Their divisional banners were certainly of a very Asiatic 
type. One day I was watching a detachment of newly 
uniformed recruits, who were at drill in the open space 
opposite the Governor's palace. "When they broke up they 
separated into various groups, and marched away in irre- 
gular order, singing to the beating of large drums. With 
some of the larger groups were square red banners, sur- 
mounted by an inverted brass dish set round with small 
jangling bells, and which was bobbed up and down to the 
time of the singers' voices. It exactly resembled the 
apparatus which is borne at the head of a Turkish band in 
Constantinople, and from the top of which formerly floated 
the horse-tails which denoted the Pasha's rank. 

During my very brief stay in Baku on this occasion, I 
had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Ferdinand 
Prince Wittgenstein, Commander of the cavalry of the 
expeditionary force, and of General Count Borch, the chief 
of the infantry. The former told me that he commanded 
a division of cavalry at the great battle of the Aladja 
Bagh, at which Mukhtar Pasha and the Turkish army were 
overthrown, and that he had had a very narrow escape of 
being shot by the Turkish Circassians, having ventured 
exceedingly close to them, mistaking them for his own men, 
their uniforms being almost precisely similar to some of 
those who were serving under his command. 

One of Prince Wittgenstein's officers, a lieutenant of 
Kouban Cossacks, told me an amusing story about the 
manner in which he had arrived at Baku. Being greatly 


pressed for time, and fearful lest the General might depart 
without him, he was continually hurrying the driver of the 
troika which brought him from Tiflie, and when within one 
stage of Baku insisted upon his putting on extra speed, 
adding threats of the direst kind in the event of non- 
compliance. The Tartar driver was so terrified by the 
language used towards him that, leaping from his seat, he 
rushed nimbly across the country, leaving the gallant 
officer to conduct the three-horsed vehicle as best he could. 
This he was compelled to do, and he appeared at Baku, 
much to the amusement of his comrades, seated upon the 
foremost edge of his rude chariot, endeavouring to guide the 
by no means manageable horses. 

Baku is not at all an agreeable place to stay in, and I 
was not sorry to receive a notification from the Chief of 
Staff to go on board the ' Constantine ' mail steamer, to 
accompany General Lazareff across the Caspian to Tchi- 
kislar. It was towards evening that, having made my pre- 
parations, and packed together the stores requisite for a 
prolonged journey into the interior, I took my seat in a 
remarkably Parisian-looking fiacre or phaeton, as the Rus- 
sians style that species of vehicle, driven by a big-hatted 
Oriental, and proceeded to the pier. General Lazareff, 
Prince Wittgenstein, General Borch, and Colonel Prince 
Dolgorouki — the latter attached to the army in some capa- 
city which we could never understand — came on board. 
And so I once more turned my back upon the town of 
Baku, not now for the first time in Russian hands, for it 
was captured by Ivan the Terrible, the celebrated Czar of 
Cossack race, in the year 1450. As its crenelated walls 
faded from view, I could not help thinking of the former 
phases of the Eastern Question which were associated with 
those sun-tinted towers and bastions, and how closely they 
were connected with the latest one. 




Khirgese and Turcomans at Tchikislar— Cossack and Caucasian horsemen — 
Peculiar customs with regard to dress — Samad Agha — The Shah's cousin — 
Hussein Bey and Kars — Nefess Merqnem — Turcomans in Russian service- 
Camp police — Tailless camels — The knout — Baghdad muleteers —Decorat- 
ing soldiers— Camp customs — Soldiers' games —Races — Tchikislar bazaar — 
Night alarm — The pig and the pipe — Military ideas about Asterabad — 
Turcoman graves — Bouyun Bache — Foul water — Smoking out the flies — 
Horse flies — Sefid Mahee — Abundance of fish — Running down partridges — 
Waterfowl and eels — Wild boar hunting — Atterek delta — Giurgen — Ak- 
Kala — A Turcoman and his captive wife — LazarefTs decision. 

The ' Constantino ' anchored off Tchikislar on the afternoon 
of Monday, June 3, as usual nearly three miles off shore, 
and we had the accustomed difficulty in landing. The 
arrival of the Commander-in-Chief with his staff, and the 
presence of some additional battalions which had preceded 
us, greatly added to the liveliness of the camp ; but with 
this exception things went on as usual, and I do not purpose 
repeating what I have already said about the place. 

One of the most peculiar characteristics of Tchikislar 
was the presence of very large numbers of Khirgese and 
Turcoman camel drivers, and of muleteers from Baghdad, 
who, under promise of high pay, had been induced to 
abandon their ordinary track between the latter city and 
Meshed, and to come to the Bussian camp for the transport 
service. There is a very wide difference between the 
appearance of the Khirgese and that of the- Turcomans. 
The latter are of a more or less slim and wiry figure, with 


approximately European features. They wear the huge 
sheepskin hat, and make a very fair attempt at a regular 
system of clothing. The Khirgese is as quaint-looking, 
awkwardly-dressed a figure as one could find upon a 
Chinese porcelain dish — the same impossible eyes, long, 
narrow, and dragged upwards at the outer corners, genuine 
Cathay hat, and occasionally an umbrella, which would 
not be out of place in a procession of stage mandarins ; a 
shuffling, slovenly, heavy gait, much more ungraceful than 
the walk of a ploughman. His ordinary garment is a kind of 
dirty cotton sheet, twisted anyhow about him, or at most a 
very draggled and tattered linen tunic. In a burning sun 
he wears as much furry clothing as an Esquimaux. On his 
head is a movable conical tent of felt, which falls to the 
middle of his back, and which towards midday he supple- 
ments by another, and perhaps a couple of horse-cloths 
besides. Seated on the scorching sand, with his stolid 
mien, peeping eyes, and strange head-dress, his general 
appearance is that of one of those squatting Indian deities 
of a pagoda, clothed in rags and skins. He is much more 
solidly built than the Turcoman, and, with the exception of 
the eyes, bears a close resemblance to the Oozbegs of 

There were large numbers of Caucasian and Cossack 
horsemen, all in picturesque attire, and looking quite unlike 
anything we are accustomed to associate with the uniform 
of a regular regiment. Both Cossack and Caucasian wore 
tunic-like garments, fitting tightly at the waist, the skirt 
falling almost to the heels, and made of white, brown, 
grey, or black cloth. The breast was covered with one or 
two horizontal rows of silver or brass cartridge cases, 
according to the rank of the wearer. They all bore the 
guardless Circassian sabre, the whole of the hilt of which, 
save the top, enters into the scabbard. The Russian 


officers serving in Asia for the most port affect this style of 
weapon instead of the regulation sword, carrying it by a belt 
slung across the shoulder, instead of girt around the waist. 
There is a trait of character noticeable among the officers 
of Caucasian cavalry regiments, among the Kabardian 
officers especially, which is worthy of notice. Each one 
feels bound to have both arms and belt mounted as mas- 
sively as possible with enamelled silver; cartridge-boxes, 
tinder-boxes, poniards, and other accoutrements being 
decorated with equal richness. Many, however, regard a 
new coat, or one that shows no sign of wear, as entirely 
inadmissible and unmanly, and altogether in mauvais go&t. 
When the dilapidation of a garment compels the wearer 
to order a new one, he straightway deliberately tears it in 
several places, and with his knife frays the edges of the 
sleeve, in order to give it the appearance of having seen 
service ; and so well is this peculiar taste recognised, that 
the tailor has been known to send home a new habiliment 
with the requisite amount of tatters, and with the lower 
part of the cuff artificially frayed. We had in the camp a 
band of irregular cavalry, formerly professional robbers and 
marauders from the neighbourhood of Alexandropol, who 
were told off for the special duty of harrying the enemy's 
flocks and herds. They were under the command of a 
well-known brigand chief named Saxnad Agha, a Karapa- 
pak. These also affected the same style of dress and arms 
as the Caucasians. 

Among those attached to LazarefFs staff was a dragoon 
officer who was a cousin of the Shah of Persia. His 
brother is attached to the Cossacks of the Imperial Guard. 
Their father, the Shah's uncle, has been exiled by his 
nephew, the reigning sovereign, either through some whim, 
or on account of the fears with which that monarch 
is troubled anent his own particular dynasty. A short 


time after oar arrival there came to the camp, with offers 
of military service, a certain Hussein Bey, a Turk whose 
mother has long been known in Europe as an authoress, 
and whose book upon life in the harem created a sensation 
some years ago. Hussein Bey himself is the author of 
several books, among them being one which I saw at 
Constantinople some time ago, 'Les Imams et les Der- 
vishes ; ' and shortly after his visit to Tchikislar he published 
a very interesting letter in the Temps of Paris, extending 
over three or four columns, entitled ' Comment nous avons 
prifl Ears.' In this he disclosed the fact that secret 
correspondence had been going on between his namesake, 
Hussein Bey, colonel of artillery within the place, and the 
Bussian camp outside, and that communications were kept 
up in which he took a leading part. Why the services of 
this gentleman were refused I do not know, but almost 
immediately afterwards he left the camp, having, I under- 
stand, for one reason or another, received a large gratuity 
from General Lazareff. Another remarkable person who 
figured in the camp was a certain Nefess Merquem, a 
Turcoman chief, and former khan of a large aouU near 
Erasnavodsk, which had been totally destroyed by a Tekk6 
raid, himself and his son only escaping from the universal 
carnage. This Yamud elder was charged with the or- 
ganising and command of five sotnias (five hundred men) 
of Yamud Turcoman cavalry, to serve against the Akhal 
Tekk6s in the ensuing campaign. This will give some idea 
of the manner in which the Bussians utilise these tribes 
against each other, and in which they will probably employ 
their newly-won subjects of Yengi Sheher and Askabad. 

The police of the camp were under the direction of a 
Mussulman Armenian from Erivan, whose name I do not 
recollect. He discharged his functions with great effective- 
ness. The police administration of a Bussian camp is 


prompt and severe, and conclusive evidence is by no means 
always requisite in order that stringent measures may be 
put in force against a supposed delinquent. On one occasion 
a servant of mine embezzled a richly enamelled silver belt 
which I had bought as a souvenir of Armenia, and refused 
to restore it. I reported the matter to the chief of police, 
and the defaulting servant was invited to return the article. 
He denied all knowledge of it, and was ordered to quit the 
camp within twenty-four hours, and not to return without 
permission. A propos of police administration, I saw at 
Tchikislar an example of what I had been led to believe 
was abolished in Russian rule — punishment by the knout. 
Large numbers of Ehirgese and Turcomans had been hired, 
together with their camels, to serve in the baggage train of 
the expedition. They received a fixed sum per diem for 
the services of themselves and their animals, and in case 
of any camels succumbing to the fatigues of the road, or 
being captured or disabled by the enemy, the owner was 
compensated to the extent of one hundred roubles in paper 
for each camel — a sum then equal to about ten English 
pounds. Many of these people brought with them only 
the very weakliest of the camels in their possession, know- 
ing that they would not be able to dispose of them at so 
good a price elsewhere, and took the first opportunity, when 
on a long journey, to abandon them in the desert. In 
cases of this kind they were required, in proof of their 
assertions, to bring in the tails of the camels which were 
supposed to have died. A party of Ehirgese and Turcomans 
were despatched with material from Erasnavodsk, and 
directed to follow the shore to the camp at Tchikislar. 
They abandoned their camels on the way, having first cut 
off their tails, which they duly brought into camp. 
Lazareff s suspicions were aroused, and he ordered a party 
of cavalry to proceed along the track by which the camels 


had passed, and to scour the country in search of their 
bodies. The horsemen came upon the camels, which were 
calmly grazing over the plain, in as good condition as ever 
they were but for the absence of. their tails. The evidence 
against the culprits was overwhelming, and in order to 
make an example, and prevent the repetition of this fraud, 
each was sentenced to receive, upon the bare back, a 
hundred blows of a Cossack whip. This instrument in no 
way answers to our idea of a whip. It is more like a flail. 
The handle is of whalebone or cane, with flat leather thongs 
plaited round it. The thong of an ordinary whip is re- 
placed by a similar combination, and united with the handle 
by means of a stout leather hinge. The delinquents were 
bound, stretched upon their faces, a Cossack sitting on the 
head of each, and another on his feet. Their backs were 
then laid bare, and the hundred blows were inflicted. They 
wore severely cut up, but notwithstanding the suffering 
undergone, not a single cry or groan escaped their lips. Each 
seized with his teeth some morsel of his clothing, to pre- 
vent his exclaiming, and doggedly underwent the punish- 
ment. Among these people it is considered very disgraceful 
to allow any amount of pain to wring from one of them 
any groan or exclamation, and I have been told that the 
man who exhibits such sign of weakness will not after- 
wards be able to find a woman to marry him. When 1 
happened to observe to a superior officer that I had believed 
the punishment of the knout abolished in Russia, he frankly 
replied that it was, but that the General took upon himself 
to administer this summary chastisement, inasmuch as the 
men themselves would infinitely prefer it to being sent to 
prison in Baku, or perhaps to Siberia ; and he was probably 

The Arab muleteers from Baghdad stayed but a very 
short time in the camp. They were so frightened by the 


tales they had heard of the sufferings in the Turcoman 
desert, and so imbued with fear of the wild Tekke horse- 
men, that they forfeited the wages paid to them in advance, 
and retired again to Persia. I understand that many 
hundreds of Arabs were on the way to Tchikislar, but 
that they were stopped at Asterabad owing to the repre- 
sentations made by the British Consul to the Persian local 

Some days after his arrival, General Lazareff decorated 
with the Gross of St. George two soldiers who had distin- 
guished themselves in the skirmish against the Tekk6s at 
Bournak. The battalion to which they belonged, and 
another, paraded for the occasion, and the General con- 
ferred the decorations with his own hand, at the same time 
presenting each with a money gratification, whether from 
his own pocket or otherwise I am unable to say. Immedi- 
ately afterwards I witnessed a singular custom, which 
appears to be put in force on such occasions. When 
the ceremony had terminated, the men broke ranks, and 
the newly decorated soldiers were felicitated by their com- 
panions, who straightway seized upon them, and placing 
each one in a tent sheet held by eight stout men, tossed 
them into the air, repeating this operation with most 
troublesome rapidity. This was a kind of roughly good- 
humoured way, in accordance with consecrated usage, of 
extracting from them a promise to treat their companions 
to vodka on the strength of the gratuity which they had 
received. All through the proceedings the greatest good 
temper prevailed, both among the tossers and the tossed. 
On the same evening, on paying a visit to a major of Cos- 
sacks, with whom I was' acquainted, I saw an example of 
the manner in which Bussian soldiers occasionally amuse 
themselves when in these remote places. A stake was 
firmly planted in the ground, and two ropes, each some 


twenty ieet long, were attached to it, tbe extremity of each 
being held by a blindfolded soldier, who carried in his 
right hand a stout piece of rope about three feet long. 
Holding the ropes extended to their foil length, they were 
placed at opposite sides of the circle which they would be 
obliged to follow, and the signal was given. Each listened 
intently, to try if he could discover the approach of his 
adversary. In case he did so, he fled before him, naturally 
moving in a circle. If one could steal a march upon the 
other, he belaboured him with his rope's end, a dozen 
blows, I believe, being the maximum number permitted at 
a time. The performance seemed to delight both the 
major and the remainder of the spectators. I have re- 
marked on all such occasions the unfailing good temper 
with which the severe knocks, often amounting to downright 
ill-treatment, are received by these soldiers at each other's 
hands. In fact, I do not remember having on any other 
occasion met with an exhibition of so much good nature, 
under such trying circumstances, as life in the camp of 
Tchikislar brought under my observation. We had races, 
too, as well to break the monotony of existence as to test 
the quality and powers of the officers' horses, for only 
officers' horses were permitted to join in this sport. I have 
seen Colonel Prince Galitzin and other officers of rank 
ride their own horses on these occasions, the prize for the 
winner, given by General Lazareff, being a somewhat curi- 
ous one — a pound of ice, made by his own refrigerator, for 
I need hardly say that natural ice was not to be had within 
any ' measurable distance ' of the camp. 

Since my previous visit to Tchikislar, a large number of 
Tartars, Armenians, Persians, and other Orientals had 
established, in the civilian portion of the camp, that in 
which was the street of wooden shanties, a regular bazaar, 
got up very much in the fashion of those of their countries. 


Large quantities of fruit and vegetables, brought from 
Lenkoran, or the mouth of the Giurgen, were exposed 
for sale, and there were many rude booths for the sale of 
cups of tea, for coffee is a beverage altogether unknown 
among the general mass of the people in this part of the 
world. Here is a man entrenched behind several barrels 
of apples from Lenkoran; there is another whose entire 
stock-in-trade is a small mountain of pomegranates. This 
individual, with shaven head and flowing Oriental garments, 
shrieking in apparent agony, calls attention to his melons, 
and this other, mourning over the monumental samovar, re- 
sembling a brass funereal urn, indicates that tea is ready on 
his scanty premises. A Bussian tailor from Baku has set up 
his establishment in front, and a vendor of earthen teapots 
from Petrovsk has flooded the ground around him with 
some hundreds of the articles which he recommends. I 
call this the bazaar in contradistinction to the main street, 
or 'Prospect,' as it was already dubbed by the soldiers, 
where the more imposing wooden edifices of the Armenian 
spirit and grocery sellers were established. A photographer, 
too, had been added to the commercial ranks, and no less 
than two watchmakers had opened their booths. It was a 
most incongruous mixture of Eastern and Western physio- 
gnomies, dresses, and commodities ; and as an incarnation 
of the whole I once noticed a Turcoman, in genuine nomad 
attire, his enormous sheep-skin hat overshadowing the 
remainder of his person, sabre at side and poniard in 
sheath, promenading the ' Prospect ' with a Parisian-made 
silk umbrella under his arm. From the manner in which 
he carried his new acquisition, he evidently felt that it 
added no inconsiderable weight to whatever dignity he 
might have previously laid claim. 

Among the incidents which varied the general monotony 
of our lives at Tchikislar were occasional alarms which 


occurred by reason of small bodies of Tekk6 horsemen 
venturing into close proximity with the camp. One even- 
ing, about ten o'clock, as I, sat writing in my kibitka, I 
noticed an unusual stir in the neighbourhood of the cavalry 
quarters. There was a din of arms and * mounting in hot 
haste.' Hurrying to head-quarters, I was told that scouts 
had arrived, announcing the presence of a considerable 
body of the enemy not far from us. A regiment of Kabar- 
dian horse was ordered out to reconnoitre. General Prince 
Wittgenstein took command of the reconnaissance. I got 
my horse saddled as quickly as might be, and overtook the 
party a short distance from the camp. The night was very 
dark, but as the sandy expanse which reaches inland for 
some miles from the edge of the Caspian was perfectly level, 
the darkness was of no great consequence, so far as riding 
was concerned. We rode five or six miles, sending out 
scouts in every direction, but no trace of the enemy could be 
perceived. The entire night was occupied in this fashion, and 
dawn was just breaking as, sitting upon our bourkas, or hairy 
mantles, we partook of an impromptu breakfast which the 
general had had the foresight to bring with him. Whether 
this was a real alarm, or only one of those manoeuvres 
often practised in order to keep the troops continually on 
the alert, and accustom them to unforeseen contingencies, 
I cannot say, but they occurred with sufficient frequency. 

I cannot better conclude the chapter of accidents at 
Tchikislar than by mentioning an odd incident which 
befell me there. Among the many singular inhabitants of 
the place were two who merit special notice. These were a 
moderate-sized, ordinary looking pig, and a very common 
looking white dog, with a suspicion of the cur about him. 
The two were intimate friends, and early each morning set 
out together to scour the camp in company, calling in turn, 
in the most intelligent manner, at each tent door, the pig 




granting, the dog barking, to call the attention of the 
inmates to their presence. In this way they systematically 
made the round of the camp, the dog evidently considering 
himself as having charge of his stouter comrade, and seem- 
ing to direct the movements of the party ; and when even- 
ing approached it was evidently he who induced the pig to 
return to his home. The latter frequently objected to this, 
and manifested a desire to prolong his strolls into the 
darker hours, but his companion, taking him by the ears 
with his teeth, conducted him, notwithstanding his remon- 
stances, in the direction of his residence. One very sultry 
day, I was lying upon my carpet on the shady side of my 
kibitka, trying to write, and smoking a briar-root pipe of 
somewhat large proportions. With the view of completing a 
sentence, I took the pipe from my mouth, and laid it upon 
the sand just outside the edge of my carpet, to avoid the 
risk of burning the latter. For a few minutes I was entirely 
absorbed in my writing, but I was roused by a crunching 
sound beside me, and, turning hastily, perceived my 
acquaintance the pig, with my briar-root pipe in his mouth 
— not in the act of smoking, but of eating it. He had 
already eaten the greater portion of the head, tobacco 
included, and when I attempted to recover my outraged 
property he made away across the camp, and it was with 
the greatest difficulty that I succeeded in recovering its 
shattered remains. I keep them still, as a souvenir of the 
peculiarities of Eastern Caspian pigs. 

During the three long months that I remained in 
Tchikislar, waiting in vain in the hope that a move in some 
direction would be made, I had many interesting conversa- 
tions with Bussian officers on the aspirations of Russia in 
that part of the world, and, to do them justice, I must say 
that those aspirations were expressed in the frankest and 
most undisguised manner. To doubt for a moment that 
vol. 1. 1 


the Atterek, along its entire length from its mouth to its 
source, was the recognised boundary between Persia and 
EuBflia, was to proclaim an open heresy ; and I heard one 
general officer express his regret that Asterabad had ever 
been given back to Persia. He was drawing a vivid picture 
of the difference between the situation were we camped 
for the moment among the shady woods beyond the 
Giurgen, and our then position upon these bleak and deso- 
late sands. I believe that the general feeling in the Bussian 
armies which perambulate this portion of the Empire is that 
Russia was too generous by half in restoring that precious 
slice of territory which includes Besht and the old capital of 
the Kadjars, and which they held a little over a century ago, 
and that they may consider themselves extremely moderate 
in confining themselves to everything that lies north of the 
great mountain range reaching away towards Meshed. 

Though I had seen the Atterek along its length from 
Bouyun Bache to Chatte, I had not yet had an opportunity 
of visiting its delta, of which I had heard a great deal, and 
I took advantage of the departure of a hunting party pro- 
ceeding in that direction — organised by Prince Wittgenstein, 
a gentleman to whom I am indebted for a hundred kindnesses 
— to explore the swamps bordering on the Caspian. We 
started at three o'clock in the afternoon, when the intense 
heat had somewhat diminished, and took our way along the 
shore for a couple of miles, then turning inland in a south- 
easterly direction. For three hours our path lay across the 
sandy waste, here and there being half-dried rainpools ; for, 
strange to say, we had had two or three very heavy showers, 
a most unusual thing at the time of year. The plain is 
but a few inches above the sea level, and at a distance of 
three miles inland we had sometimes to wade half a mile 
across great shallow expanses of sea-water carried forward 
by a slight gale. The water at its greatest depth did not 


reach mid-leg on our horses, and was alive with vast 
quantities of a large white carp, known by the Persian 
name of Sefid Mahee, or white fish. The water was evapo- 
rating, rapidly leaving the sand at its borders thickly 
incrusted with salt, and strewn with thousands of stranded 
fish. Even still further inland we saw these fish putrefying 
on the sand. After four hours' ride we came upon the first 
traces of the Atterek. Thick bent-grass grew in abundance 
in and beside wide shallow channels, at the time entirely 
dry. Occasionally we had to force our way through dense 
brakes of bamboo-like reed, nine or ten feet high. Farther 
on was a large sand ridge, one side apparently scarped by 
human labour, and crowned by a Turcoman burying- 
ground. Our destination that evening was an advanced 
Russian camp, one of the connecting links between 
Tchikislar and the open of the Atterek delta. We had 
evidently missed our way, so throwing out a party of 
Cossacks to reconnoitre the ground, we halted in the 
cemetery, which commanded an extensive view over the 
plain. Night was rapidly falling, and as we had little hope 
of recovering the lost track before morning, we preferred to 
pass the night where we were. In the midst of the little 
plateau crowning the eminence on which we stood were two 
tarbesy tombs of local saints. They were simply circular 
roofless structures of unbaked brick, some twenty feet in 
diameter and twelve in height. In the inner surface of the 
wall were half a dozen rude niches, meant to contain votive 
offerings. In the centre of each structure was a kind of 
altar-tomb, about three feet in height by eight in length. 
On this was placed the skull of the wild desert sheep, with 
its enormous circularly curled horns. The fckull of this 
animal is a usual sepulchral ornament among the Turco- 
mans. The ordinary tombs of the cemetery were such as I 
shall have occasion to describe in recounting my experiences 


at the village of Hassan Kouli — wooden poles, old boxes, 
and articles of household use. Here and there a scraggy 
bush growing beside a grave was covered with fragments of 
rag attached to its branches, pieces of broken porcelain and 
earthenware being scattered round its base. To enable our 
scouts to find their way back to us we lighted a large fire of 
old boxes and poles, which were lying about on the highest 
part of the plateau. No sooner did the light appear than 
we were assailed by myriads of gigantic mosquitoes, 
attracted by the blaze. They were the worst of their kind 
I had ever met with. We were stung even through the 
linen tunics and trousers we wore, and in five minutes our 
hands and faces were masses of tumefied bites. My left 
eye was completely closed. The horses, too, suffered terribly, 
one of mine becoming altogether disabled for several days 
afterwards. We had to retire a long way from the fire 
before any peace could be obtained. I believe that a serious 
attack of these insects would prove fatal to any ordinary 

It was past eleven at night before the shrill, far-reaching 
cries uttered by the Cossack escort met with any response. 
Then away across the plain came similar sounds in reply, 
and soon afterwards we saw a star-like signal light, far, far 
away. An hour's ride brought us to it. It was a large 
lantern borne on the top of a pole by a mounted man, and 
was visible for miles away above the undulations of the 
plain. We had reached our halting-place for the night 
— Bouyun Bache— a scattered camp of two hundred men 
on the borders of a lake-like expanse of water. This latter, 
I was told, was a rainpool, but its great sise and depth, 
together with the fact of its being bordered by dense 
growths of cane and bush, induced me to believe it per- 
manent. All around are channels, some natural, others 
probably irrigation canals, and the lake is probably only 


for the moiSent insulated, being, as I believe, part of the 
irregular system of watercourses by which the Atterek 
reaches the sea across its wide flat delta in the rainy season. 
Next day we retraced our steps towards the cemetery, and 
after a couple of hours' journey, always in a south-easterly 
direction, arrived at the aouU, or village, of Gouili, con- 
sisting of over four hundred kibitka*, concentrated in two 
distinct groups. Here for the first time I saw a channel 
containing water proceeding from the Atterek, and actually 
attaining the sea near the southern borders of the Hassan 
Eouli lagoon. It was impossible to say whether it was 
natural or artificial, probably it was the latter, for in 
seasons of great drought a stream of water is turned and 
returned, divided and subdivided, for irrigation purposes, 
or to supply cattle. The small populations of adjacent 
villages often quarrel and fight about the right to turn a 
stream. With the exception of the shallow expanse of 
water just mentioned, this channel supplying the village 
of Gouili was, at that season, the most northerly vestige of 
the Atterek close to the coast. The Turcomans state that 
during the winter the other dry beds crossed by us on our 
way from Tchikislar were plentifully supplied with water. 
The supply at the village was scant and bad* The stream, 
if I may so designate such a meandering line of foul water, 
with no apparent current, had an average width of from 
twelve to fifteen feet, and was nowhere over knee deep. Its 
bed was slimy and noisome; for under the first shallow 
layer of marl was a bed of blue-black sandy earth, which, 
owing to the frequent wading of camels, horses, and other 
animals, had been stirred up and mingled with the water. 
This latter was also impregnated with decaying animal and 
vegetable products proceeding from the marshes higher up, 
and smelt strongly of sulphuretted hydrogen. Besides, the 
domestic animals of the village, goats, sheep, cows, and 



dogs, stood or wallowed in the water all day long; and 
with a strange disregard for hygienic principles, the wash- 
ing of the community was carried on in it above the village. 
Close to the edge of the channel, deep narrow pits were 
excavated in the black ooze, into which filtered the water 
for human consumption. Only the upper portions of the 
liquid in these receptacles is drinkable, that lower down 
being black as ink. It seems odd that under these circum- 
stances, and in view of the vast marshes around, fever 
should not be prevalent. On the contrary, the population 
of both sexes, and of all ages, looked healthy and well 
developed. Enormous mosquitoes abounded in immense 
quantities. After a night spent in a tent pitched on the 
border of the stream, both my eyes were almost completely 
closed, and my face was quite unrecognisable. The natives 
protect themselves against these insects by keeping a wood 
fire continually smouldering in the centre of the kibitka. 
The air is thus filled with acrid wood smoke, which expels 
the enemy. I have tried this remedy, but found it as bad 
as the evil it was meant to counteract. It was a question 
of choosing between having one's face and hands stung all 
over by the insects, and being semi-asphyxiated and having 
one's eyes inflamed by the smoke. Large horse-flies, too, 
abound, which inflict cruel torture on the larger quadrupeds. 
I had one of my horses completely disabled by the multi- 
tude of inflamed pustules resulting from the stings of the 
flies. After a miserable night at the village of Gouili, our 
whole party rode out into the vast marshes in which at 
this season the Atterek loses itself, only such tiny stream- 
lets as I have described finding their way to the lagoon. 
For a couple of miles we followed the winding course of the 
stream, which in some places was deep and narrow, so 
narrow that sometimes it was quite hidden from view by 
the tftm*rialr bushes growing on either bank. The thick, 


muddy waters were alive with fish, so crowded as to be 
incapable of moving save by floundering and jumping over 
one another. They were chiefly, as is always the case in 
these waters, the sefid mahee, or large white carp. As we 
occasionally crossed the stream, our horses trod them to 
death by scores. In less crowded nooks huge pike were to 
be seen lurking under the bushes, but so stupefied by the 
foul water that the Cossacks took them in numbers by 
striking them with the point of the sabre, or simply whisk- 
ing them out of the water by the tail. Owing to the con- 
dition of the fish, however, it was deemed inadvisable to 
use them as food. A coarse sedge-like grass grew luxu- 
riantly everywhere, and here and there were small cleared 
spaces on which wretchedly thin oats and barley, or some 
other such cereal, was cultivated. There were extensive 
tracts of cucumbei and water melon (karpus). Indeed, this 
latter crop is the only one worthy of mention, for the corn 
and maize were very limited indeed. Here and there were 
raised platforms, where men kept continual watch over the 
fields and herds ; for the Tekke and Goklan marauders 
very frequently swept away the cattle and burned the corn 
of their more peaceable Yamud brethren, the banks of the : 
Atterek constituting a direct and well-watered route to the : 
coast villages. Everywhere among the straggling fields ; 
were to be seen the tombs of the warriors who had fallen i 
from time to time in such raids. A few partridges and 
quails occasionally sprang up from among the corn patches. 
These our Turcoman guides ran down on horseback, the 
birds generally flying but fifty yards, and then taking to 
the stubble and bushes. Throughout the entire day's 
exploration we did not meet with a single genuine branch 
of the Atterek, the few trenches of liquid mud we crossed 
being irrigation channels draining the neighbouring 


On the following day we poshed our investigation* 
several miles farther to the east, towards the head of the 
swampy delta. We crossed hundreds of acres of marshy 
ground, covered with bulrushes which overtopped a horse- 
man's head, the horses sinking fetlock deep in the mixture 
of mud and tangled grass beneath our feet. Here and 
there broad belts of bamboo-like cane, growing from fifteen 
to eighteen feet high, and entirely impassable, forced us to 
torn aside. In the midst of these cane brakes were shallow 
pools crammed with fish, more than one-half of which were 
dead and putrescent. The air reeked with the effluvia of 
decomposing animal and vegetable matter. Vast flocks of 
water-fowl rose screaming from these pools as we ap- 
proached. There were blue herons, swans, cormorants, 
flamingoes, frigate-birds, and even eagles and hawks 
together. Occasionally, too, a sudden plunge and crashing 
amid the cane announced the presence of a wild boar, and 
the animal would break out into the open and dash across 
the swamp. Sometimes a pair, accompanied by four or 
five half-grown young, would make their appearance. It 
was difficult work galloping after them over the marshy 
ground, where our horses often sank knee deep in miry 
spots ; but we generally brought them to bay after a run of 
a mile or so, usually in some water pool thickly fringed 
with bushes. Here they were literally riddled by the 
carbine bullets of the Cossacks and Turcomans. We suc- 
ceeded in capturing alive two young boars. They were well 
grown, and their olive, dun-coloured bodies striped longi- 
tudinally with black. This striping disappears as the 
ft.ninrtfl.1a grow older. Very large numbers of these boars 
are annually destroyed by the Turcomans, to prevent their 
ravaging the rice, corn, and melon plantations. They are 
never chased for food, the inhabitants being all Sunnite 


After having thoroughly explored the swampy delta of 
the Atterek, and compared my own observations with those 
of others, I am convinced that during three-quarters of the 
year nothing worthy the name of a river comes within ten 
miles of the coast, the water being entirely absorbed by 
irrigation trenches or by the great spongy surface of the 
marsh. This latter, to judge from its condition during the 
hottest months of the year, must in winter and spring be 
inundated and entirely impassable. Nothing in the shape 
of a large principal channel through the delta exists, and 
very considerable engineering works would be necessary to 
render possible the passage of the smallest launch from the 
sea. The existence of this swamp, thirty miles long and 
twenty in breadth, gives rise to a good deal of uncertainty 
about the exact position of the frontier. Though the 
Atterek was at the time the real Busso-Persian frontier, 
diplomatically at least, the river Giurgen, further south, 
seemed to be the practical boundary, and has been men- 
tioned by some authors as the frontier. The Bussian 
authorities, however, state that they have no claim what- 
ever on the Giurgen. The Persian military station nearest 
the line of demarcation is the Fort of Ak-Kala, situated on 
the Giurgen Biver. 

For some reason or other, the question of slavery among 
the Turcomans, which had from time immemorial remained 
untouched, was attracting considerable attention. The 
new Persian Governor of Asterabad had issued the strictest 
orders that the Turcoman tribes acknowledging the 
authority of the Shah, whether on Persian soil or residing 
for the moment on Bussian territory, were instantly to give 
up all captives held by them as slaves. A short time before, 
in the village of Tchikislar, a curious case occurred. A 
Persian woman, of good family, had been carried off from 
her home during a predatory Turcoman expedition, and 


was retained as a slave. Her parents, learning where she 
was, came to Tchikislar with a view of ransoming her ; but 
her owner refused to part with her at any price, stating 
that she was now his wife. The case was referred to 
General Lazareff, who decided that, were the woman 
simply retained as a slave, she should be at once given up 
without ransom ; but should it be proved that she were 
married to the Turcoman, she should remain with her 
husband. The lady herself intimated her desire to return 
to Persia ; but, as her husband was able to prove the mar- 
riage, she was obliged to stay at Tchikislar. Upon this 
decision she became very violent, and physical force had to 
be appealed to to get her out of the General's tent and to 
her husband's kibkka. 




Bassan-Konli lagoon — Incursions of sea-irate]? — Old piratical station — Buried 
melons — Turcoman cemetery — Subsidence of graves — Ioyunvuskha — 
Courtesy of the desert — Turcoman character — Battle tombs — Turco-Celtic 
derivations — Open-air mosques — An ex-corsair — Bad treatment of an 
envoy — A Turcoman interior — A native dinner — Polite attentions — 
Armenian fishing-station— Deserted camel — Thirsty sheep — Khirgese and 
Turcomans — Dysentery at Tchikislar — LazarefiTs illness and death— A 
burial at sea — A stormy voyage — General Tergukasoff— Back to Tchikislar 
and Chatte — BainpooLs in the desert — Failing camels — Commissariat 
errors — Water-pits. 

Hassan-Eouu is a genuine Yamud Turcoman village stand- 
ing upon a sand-spit bounding the north of the lagoon of 
the same name — the lagoon into which the river Atterek 
falls. It is situated about fifteen versts from the camp of 
Tchikislar, and is at present the point where the new 
Busso-Persian frontier commences. 

The road to Hassan-Eouli (or rather Hassan-Ghouli) 
lies along the flat sandy beach stretching south from 
Tchikislar, and is fringed on the land side by low sand 
hills, slightly sprinkled with parched shrubs and sedge-like 
grass. So level is the beach, and so gradual the slope of 
the sea bottom, that the least gale of wind from the west is 
sufficient to drive the water five hundred yards inland, and 
I have known the westerly storm known as the tenkis to 
force the water as much as three miles over the plains. A 
short time previous to my leaving the camp at Tchikislar we 
«rere completely inundated by one of these invasions of 


sea-water, and the cavalry camp was forced back several 
hundred yards. Southward of the Russian camp is a 
straggling collection of kibitkas, or circular Turcoman huts, 
the remnants of what was once a great piratical station, and 
which served as an emporium for the reception of Persians 
captured on the southern Caspian coast previously to their 
being transmitted to Khiva and Bokhara. A few years 
ago it was bombarded by the Russian war steamers; 
since when the place has become one of little importance — 
a mere fishing village— and just now the main occupation 
of the inhabitants is that of catering for the Russian camp. 
A few hundred yards beyond its limits, the eye is struck by 
a series of black objects sticking up from the ground and 
crowning the sand hills. On approaching what at a dis- 
tance might easily pass for men mounting guard, one finds 
a number of sticks, or leg bones of camels planted upright 
in the sand, and swathed in pieces of the rude brown felt 
ufied for the roofing of kibitkas. The Turcomans explained 
to me, in their peculiar Yamud idiom, that something was 
buried under these effigies, and as at the time I could only 
understand one out of every three words they uttered, I at 
first came to the conclusion that they were sepulchral 
monuments, and that the tract covered by them was a 
cemetery. Later on I discovered that the buried objects 
were melons and cucumbers, which are placed in covered 
trenches, not only to preserve them from the crows, but 
also to prevent the sun from acting upon them. In a 
Turcoman house there is little room but for the members 
of the family and their immediate household necessaries. 
Such a thing as a storehouse is unknown. Hence this 
melon cemetery. 

The entire road, if road I can call the track along the 
beach, is desolate in the extreme. During the whole tra- 
ject I met with no living things save an enormous black 


eagle, preying on the fish stranded by the gale, and a few 
shrill- voiced seamews. Within four miles of the village I 
came upon the cemetery, which serves alike for Hassan- 
Eouli and Tchikislar. It is situated among some sand 
hills rather higher than those around. On approaching, 
one is struck by the appearance of a vast number of poles, 
precisely similar to telegraph supports. These are the 
ordinary sepulchral monuments, stone being entirely un- 
known in the district. At the moment of burial a couple 
of linen bands or a few morsels of cloth are attached to 
the pole, and at the time of my visit many such were 
fluttering in the wind. From the frequent occurrence of 
fixed pulleyB in the tops of these poles I presume they are 
the masts of the fishing smacks of those buried, for the 
entire population of the Caspian borders is a fishing one. 
There are exceptions to these pole tombs. In some cases 
one sees a free-stone slab rudely sculptured into a resem- 
blance of a Turcoman hat, and bearing a brief inscription 
in Turkish character. Instead of the verse from the Koran 1 
seen on Turkish and Persian tombs, there is simply the 
name of the deceased and the year in which he died. In 
some instances the names of the ancestors for three or four 
generations are written. I recollect one. 'Ali, son of 
Hassan, and grandson of Hussein, died 1272 ' (Hegira). 
These stone tombs are brought from Persia. 

After the poles, articles of household use are the most 
frequent memorials. Earthen tea-pots and large water 
pitchers frequently stand at the head of the grave, and in 
many cases the money or clothes box of the defunct serves 
as his monument in death. These boxes are of the size of 
an ordinary travelling portmanteau, covered with thin brass 
sheetings, and strongly bound with iron. In the case of 
children, women, or very poor persons, the sole memento 
is usually a small circle of stones, or rather fragments of a 


friable conglomerate of minute sea shells. At the southern 
extremity of the burying-ground stands a small wooden 
house with pointed, sloping roof, surrounded by a shallow 
trench. Close by are two poles, one very high, the other 
less tall, and bearing on its summit a vane or weathercock. 
It is singular that even here a cock should be associated 
with this contrivance, for on the top of the pole bearing the 
weather-vane is a rude representation of the bird. The 
small wooden house, evidently constructed with the plank- 
ing of old fishing boats, is a kind of funeral chapel, where 
the moullah recites some verses of the Koran on the occa- 
sion of each interment. Sometimes, too, a rich and 
charitably disposed inhabitant of the district presents a 
sheep or goat to be cut up and distributed to the poor at 
this spot. The dead must be buried in very large coffins, 
the sand over many of the graves having fallen in to a 
depth of three or four feet. My attention was forcibly 
called to this by one incident. An officer of dragoons who 
accompanied me was engaged in sketching some tombs. 
He was on horseback. All at once I noticed his horse's 
hind legs gradually sinking in the sand, and presently the 
fore-feet also — and then, suddenly, before the rider had 
time to dismount, there was a crash, and horse and 
man were half hidden in a cloud of sand and dust. 
The horse had been standing on a grave. A somewhat 
similar accident happened to myself once in Armenia, 
when, unconsciously riding over one of the semi-subterra- 
nean dwellings of the inhabitants, my horse's legs went 
through the roof. There seems little or nothing about 
these tombs in common with those of the kindred Tartar 
races dwelling west of the Caspian. Between Baku and 
Shumakha the Mussulman inhabitants invariably place at 
the head of the grave a representation of a lance-head 
sculptured in stone, about eighteen inches high. Half-way 


between the cemetery and Hassan-Kouli is a singular struc- 
ture, devoted to an equally singular usage. It is a small, 
flat-topped mound, twelve or fifteen feet high, surmounted 
by a pole. When a man dies in battle he is interred, if 
possible, on the spot where he falls, and in his clothes. If 
he die of old age or sickness he is carried to the cemetery, 
and his clothes are hung on the pole surmounting the 
mound just mentioned. Several times during the year 
his friends or relations come to brush and clean the gar- 
ments, and sometimes bring presents of new ones. This 
institution is named Ioyunvuskha. 

Between the cemetery and the village or town of Hassan- 
Kouli extends one vast desert plain of sand and salt. 
Columns of sand borne by whirlwinds dance to and fro, 
and a kind of sand fog fills the air, making objects in- 
visible beyond four hundred yards. This sand and salt 
dust, filling the eyes, is excessively disagreeable. Arrived 
in the midst of this plain our guide, a Tamud Turcoman 
in the Russian service, found an object on which to exercise 
the courtesy of the desert. It was an ass of moderate 
dimensions, who evidently, from his pack-saddle and trail- 
ing rope, had broken loose. The Turcoman went in pur- 
suit, and the runaway fully justified his character as ' a 
strong wild ass of the desert,' for it was a quarter of an 
hour before the long-legged horse could turn him. For 
over three miles the Turcoman perseveringly drove the 
beast before him, ultimately to the owner, to whom he 
handed him. When asked whether the latter had given 
him anything for his trouble, he answered, ' He said thank 
you, that was enough ; another time, perhaps, he would do 
as much for me.' And yet this Turcoman, with his grena- 
dier guard's hat, curved scimitar, and slung rifle, was a 
nerson I shim/tt. ceruuniy eye mnauiob **.d I meet him in 
another part of the world in a lonesome locality. These 


Turcomans have a strangely mixed character. I believe 
their natural tendencies to be very good, and their mental 
capacity of no mean order. Under a fixed and firm rule, I 
believe they would develop into excellent citizens and in- 
valuable soldiers. As it is, they show a remarkable capa- 
city for self-government, and obey their elected village 
chiefs as regularly as French or English constituencies 
concur in the decisions of their Mayors. Their predatory 
and lawless manners towards neighbouring peoples are the 
result of unhappy circumstances, like those which created 
similar manners and customs in the days of our feudal 
ancestors. I speak now of the Tamud Turcomans, and not 
of their neighbours the Tekk6. 

Drawing near the village, we passed a number of battle- 
tombs, melancholy records of the sad state of affairs exist- 
ing between the different branches of a common race. The 
Tekk6 Turcomans, who, according to all accounts, were a set 
of irreclaimable scamps, passed their leisure time in making 
raids on their neighbours. When victorious, they killed the 
entire male adult population, and carried off the women and 
children as slaves. The attacked village naturally did its 
best to repel the invaders, every able-bodied man turning 
out at once in defence of life and home. A curious dis- 
tinction in the system of sepulture of those killed in battle 
and those dying in their beds existed. As I have already 
stated, the individual dying a natural death was carried to 
the cemetery, and his clothes were hung up on the Ioywn- 
vuskha. But the man who fell in battle was buried in his 
clothes, when possible on the very spot where he fell. The 
outskirts of the village of Hassan-Eouli are full of the 
sepulchral indications of violent death. The soldier's tomb 
consists of a pole of some twenty feet in length, planted 
vertically in the sand, its base surrounded by a circle of 
small stones, within which are accumulated a selection of 


water jars and earthen tea-pots, tributes to the memory of 
the departed. Sometimes a morsel of linen, or a piece of 
rudely-embroidered felt, hangs standardwise from the pole. 
The entire sand plain in front of the village was studded 
with these battle records, some dating only a few months 
back. There were no outskirts to the village. The Tekk6 
people were too frequent visitors to allow of the luxury of 
suburban. residences. There is nothing known to Western 
Europeans to which I could compare a Turcoman village, 
save, perhaps, those collections of beehives one sees along 
the Spanish shore of the Bidassoa. X kibitka is exactly 
like an enormous beehive, and one is exactly like another. 
They are in reed and felt what the ' beehive houses ' in 
stone are in the remnants of ancient Celtic architecture. 
A propos of Turcomans and Celts, there seems a curious re- 
semblance between the name of the individual from which 
that of the village is taken, and a similar patronymic at 
home. Hassan-Eouli (Ghouli) means ' the servant of 
Hassan,' just as Easterns style themselves 'servant of 
God,' 'of Mohammed,' or 'of Ali,' that is, according to 
some authorities. Some say the ' Ghouli ' means ' a lake. 
In Scotland we have the word gillie — a servant; and in 
Ireland the name ' Giola Patrick/ i.e., ' the servant of St. 
Patrick.' I do not know what philologists will say to this. 
My attention was drawn to it by the wonderful resemblance 
of the inhabitants to those of the west of Ireland. The 
physiognomy is the same, and the military attitude and 
humoristic tendencies of both races are strikingly similar. 
The independent clan organisation and the elective system 
of choosing the chief form other points of resemblance, and 
the nomadic shepherd life is similar to that of the early 
inhabitants of the Celtic districts of the British Isles. 

Hassan-Eouli, which consists of eight or nine hundred 
kibitkas, termed aladjaks by the nomads of the more easterly 

vol. 1. k 


plains, is almost exclusively a fishing station inhabited by 
Turcomans of the Jaffar Bay (or Bey) tribe. It is estab- 
lished along the sand, raised but a few inches above the 
water level. The slightest breeze in a certain direction is 
sufficient to impel the shallow waters of the lagoon into the 
very midst of the village. The kibitkas are consequently 
established on slightly raised platforms of beaten earth, to 
prevent their floors being inundated, and a few wooden 
structures, among them that of the chief, are built on 
stout wooden piles three or four feet high. In front of 
each dwelling is a raised platform eight or ten feet above 
the ground, sometimes covered by a thatch awning. These 
platforms are used for drying fish and the skins of sea- 
birds, which are largely exported to Persia. The djami, or 
mosque, is of the most simple and primitive kind. It is an 
oblong platform of beaten earth twenty-five feet by twelve, 
encompassed by a shallow trench, and elevated some fifteen 
inches above the surrounding surface. On each side a 
broad plank, thrown across the ditch, gives access to the 
platform. The muezzim takes his stand in some open space 
close by, and putting his hands to each side of his mouth 
utters the long-drawn call to prayer at the appointed 
hours. I noticed several similar praying stations in dif- 
ferent parts of the village, one being evidently quite inade- 
quate to accommodate all the inhabitants. . In no Turcoman 
village did I observe any covered structure devoted to reli- 
gious worship. The nomad habits of the people entirely 
preclude the possibility of making use of the domed and 
minareted structures of more sedentary Mussulmans. 
Apart from the catching and drying of sefid mahee, or the 
white fish, the place has no industry save the manufacture 
of kibitkas. This latter seems to flourish ; but whether its 
products are confined to renewing the local residences or 
whether they are manufactured for neighbouring commu- 


nities I was unable to ascertain. Previous to the year 
1859, Hassan-Kouli was a centre of piratism. Moullah 
Dourdi, the now respectable old gentleman and ex-corsair, 
who, while I was at Tchikislar, was one of the principal 
local commissariat contractors, hails from this place. Still 
there are remnants of the old habit to which the Hassan- 
Eoulians cling lovingly ; and along the wild unorganised 
Persian frontier the subjects of His Majesty Nasr Eddin 
Shah have yet cause to fear the nomads of the borders. 
Even after the suppression of open piracy on the high seas, 
raids on Persian coast villages and the retention of the 
principal inhabitants for ransom continued; and unre- 
deemed Persian captives of the female sex are still to be 
found at Hassan-Kouli, though no longer, it is true, as 
mere captives ; they have become the wives of Turcomans, 
and Persian blood is frequently seen indicated by the dark 
eyes, high arched brows, and feminine features of the 
younger inhabitants. 

I have already alluded to the case of the Persian lady, 
held captive at Hassan Kouli, whose place of seclusion was 
discovered, and who was reclaimed by her relations, armed 
violence being the result when the Russian emissary was 
sent to recover her. Gases like this are extremely rare, for 
the female Persian captives have become quite naturalized 
among the Turcomans, and, for the most part do not wish 
to leave their children and newly adopted homes. It is 
much to be wondered at that, during the long years 
previous to the occupation of Ashurad6 Bay by the 
Russian flotilla, the Persian government took no measures 
to suppress the man-stealing traffic of the Tamuds. A very 
insignificant naval force indeed, on the part of Russia, has 
been found quite adequate to the task. Two or three of the 
tiniest steam gun-boats launched from Enzeli by the Shah, 
coupled with the smallest organisation of police along the 



South Caspian littoral, would have effectually put an end to 
the traffic. Nasr Eddin Shah, however he may fret about 
the gradual advance of Russia along both eastern and 
southern coasts, must feel under obligations to her for the 
prompt manner in which his subjects have been freed from 
the ravages of the Turcoman pirates. How far this action 
on the part of Russia has been completely disinterested it 
is hard to say ; but it would be most ungracious to take it 
for granted that humanitarian motives were absent, and 
that she sought only a plausible excuse for converting the 
Caspian into what it now is, a Muscovite lake. Since the 
action of Lieutenant Sideroff in running down the pirate 
luggers, and for which he was decorated by the Shah, things 
have changed immensely for the better all round the coast. 
Turcoman hostility on the Persian sea-board may be said 

have totally ceased, and, as a consequence, maritime 
activity hap greatly increased in the small villages which 
were previously nothing but the fortalices of a few fisher- 
men. Even the most active among the Turcoman slave 
dealers themselves, like Moullah Dourdi, have become 
converted into commissariat agents and general merchants. 

The chief of Hassan-Kouli was absent— in fact he had 
passed us on the road from Tchikislar ; but in our capacity 
of distinguished foreigners we were conducted to his house. 
It was not a kibitka, but a square edifice, constructed of the 
planks of used-up fishing boats, oblong in form, with high 
and pitched pointed roof, and set upon piles. A flight of 
half-a-dozen wooden steps led to the door. The main 
chamber might be about twenty feet by twelve, and was 
lighted on two sides by windows actually containing glass. A 
homespun carpet of sober but harmoniously blended colours 
covered the floor, and here and there were felt mats. On 
some lateral shelves were piles of beds and cushions, and 
in the windows a couple of ordinary paraffin lamps. Tea 


was served, and then the kcdioun, a rudimentary nargeelah, 
or hubble-bubble pipe in wood, was brought in, and passed 
round. A running, desultory conversation was started, all 
matters connected with immediate local politics being 
studiously avoided.. Our acting host was a stout, middle- 
aged man, with beautifully white teeth, and an excessively 
humorous twinkle in his clear grey eyes. He wore loose, 
wide trousers of white calico, and a shirt of the same 
material, which hung open on his chest. From his general 
physiognomy he might have passed for a stout Flemish 
burgher, rather than a citizen of Hassan-Kouli, and doubt- 
less an ex-pirate. My companion was a Russian. That 
nationality he perfectly understood. My country, he had 
heard of; but he wanted to know where it was situated. 
He was, or appeared to be, perfectly satisfied by the expla- 
nation that it was very far off; and then he suddenly asked 
whether the Russo-Turkish war were yet over. I am very 
much afraid that this child-like bonhomie had but little to do 
with the real character of the man, and was put on especially 
for our benefit. Hypocrisy is the pride of a true Oriental. 
A dinner of boiled mutton and pilaff (boiled rice) mixed 
up in a single mess, was served in a large deep dish of 
tinned copper, laid on the floor. The entire company sat 
round, and fished out each a handful. Contrary to ordinary 
Mussulman habits there was no preparatory washing of 
hands, and, especially in the case of our acting host, ' the 
hand that mingled in the meal ' might have been more 
scrupulously clean. Each person boldly grasped a handful 
of rice, squeezed it into a ball in the palm of his hand, and 
then clapped it into his mouth by a movement similar to 
that of a conjuror swallowing a table knife. Our host, who 
seemed to have taken an especial liking to me, frdm time 
to time scraped pieces of mutton off the bones with his 
dirty thumb-nail, and threw them into my part of the 


dish, expressing his wonder at my small appetite for animal 
food. After dinner there was no more washing than before 
it. The guests stuck their fingers one after the other into 
their mouths, thus removing the excess of rice and grease 
adhering to them. The meal concluded, tea was served 
again; that all-pervading institution, the samovar, being 
again brought in. As is usual all over this part of the 
East, the tea was served in porcelain bowls or glass tumblers. 
It is drunk in prodigious quantities, very weak, over- 
sweetened, and without milk or cream. In fact, this latter 
is entirely unknown as an adjunct in all true tea-drinking 
countries. My attentive host, noticing that half-a-dozen 
flies were swimming in my tea, immediately plunged two 
of his great unwashed fingers up to the knuckles into my 
glass to fish out the intruders, and on each similar and oft- 
repeated bath on the part of the insects it was only my 
own prompt action that prevented a repetition of the atten- 
tion. On his part it was meant in the kindliest possible 
spirit, and the act was one of genuine politeness. He 
would have seen all the flies under the dominion of their 
ruler Beelzebub in his compatriots' glass before he would 
have taken the same trouble. Here the invariable sequel to 
a meal is a sleep. Large, soft cushions were brought, and, 
lying on the carpet, we were soon buried in slumber, over- 
come by the intense heat. It was three in the afternoon 
when we took leave of our acting host and turned our 
horses ' heads towards Tchikislar. Far out in the shallow 
lagoon, a couple of miles from land, we noticed wooden 
houses— fishing stations, the property, if I do not mistake, 
of a rich Armenian merchant, who also possessed a vast 
establishment of a similar kind in the inland waters of the 
Moredab at Enzeli on Persian territory, and for which he 
paid an annual fee of 40,000Z. to the Shah. 

Our way back lay through the cemetery and sand hills 


again. A convoy of camels, returning from Chatte, had 
passed since the morning, and, as usual, in their track 
was a disabled camel, crouched kneelingly on the frirning 
sand. He was munching wearily some withered shrubs, 
and from time to time swung his great, long, gaunt neck 
around, to chase the myriad flies that settled on the large bare 
sore on his side. Only the stump of his tail remained. The 
rest had, according to the custom of the Khirgese drivers, 
been cut off as evidence that he had been abandoned in the 
desert. The poor beast was lying close by a well, whose 
mouth was protected from the drifting sands by a bottom- 
less tub, and he gazed wistfully at the water beyond his 
reach. Bound the well were some cracked earthen bowls, 
beside which a few diminutive brown, horned sheep were 
waiting the chance of a passing traveller who, when water- 
ing his horse, might afford them the opportunity of drink- 
ing. They crowded imploringly around us, standing on 
their hind legs, and endeavouring to reach at the cracked 
earthen vessels from which we were drinking, and into 
which we had poured the contents of the nosebags of water 
fished up by our linked horse tethers. It was pitiable to 
see the number of these disabled camels that one was 
accustomed to meet in a day's ride. A Khirgese would 
archly explain the matter by saying that these abandoned 
camels ' belonged to his Imperial Majesty ' — that is, had 
been hired for the Government service, and become dis- 
abled, thus entitling the proprietors to a compensation of 
one hundred roubles for each. The said proprietors pre- 
ferred maltreating a weak animal and then abandoning him, 
the money they received more than recompensing them for 
the loss. I have already mentioned that condign punish- 
ment was meted out to half-a-dozen of these blackguards for 
having thus cut off the tails of sixty camels which they 
abandoned on the road from Erasnavodsk to Tchikislar. 


These Khirgese seem to me a race far inferior, morally and 
physically, to their more southerly brethren of the steppes, 
the Turcomans. It is a curious fact, too, that there exists 
a wide difference in the horses of these nomad races. 
Those of the Khirgese are short-legged, shaggy, and fat ; 
those of the Turcomans tall, gaunt, and wiry. 

When the charm of novelty wore off, time hung heavily 
on our hands in the camp at Tchikislar. Notwithstanding 
all precautions, I fell a victim to the prevailing malady, 
which was carrying off soldiers by the score. I allude to 
that curse of ill-regulated camps, dysentery. It is a disease 
which prostrates one almost immediately. Simultaneously 
the Commander-in-Chief had a virulent attack of carbuncles, 
between his shoulders and on his breast and stomach. 
Only a short time previously the plague had been raging 
at Astrakan, and there were those who said that the General 
had incautiously purchased a rug which was tainted with 
the infection. Be this as it may, he was obliged to keep 
his bed, just as the critical moment had arrived — the 
moment for the advance into the Akhal Tekke country. 
Prince Dolgorouki, commanding the advance guard, had al- 
ready been for some time to the front. Prince Wittgenstein 
marched with his cavalry, and had invited me to accompany 
him, but as I tried to drag myself from my bed to dress I 
fell prostrate on the floor through sheer weakness. Anyone 
who has suffered from the same malady will readily re- 
cognise the situation. General Lazareff sent an aide-de- 
camp daily to enquire after me, and I returned the courtesy 
by despatching my servant to ask how the Commander-in- 
Chief progressed. Some of the people in the camp said it 
was a race between us as to which should die first. The 
supreme moment having come, the General was lifted from 
his bed into a four-horse vehicle, which was intended to 
carry him to the front. He reached Chatte, at the junc- 


tion of the Atterek and Sumbar rivers, where the carbuncles 
were operated upon by the chief surgeon of the army. The 
General insisted upon pushing forward at four in the 
morning, but before he reached the next station he was 

The doctors had told me that to remain at Tchikislar 
was to incur a more than serious risk of death, and from 
what I knew of military operations I was aware that before 
definite hostilities commenced I should have time to recruit 
my strength in a healthier atmosphere, and amid happier 
surroundings. On August 22 I staggered from my bed, 
and was supported to the pier, where a man-of-war's boat 
was waiting to take me on board the * Ural ' war steamer. 
I went as the guest of Lieutenant Ungern- Sternberg, the 
second in command on board, to whose unremitting kind- 
ness I am glad to have an opportunity of now bearing 
witness. He died shortly afterwards. The storms so 
prevalent on the Caspian at that time of the year doubled 
the ordinary period of transit to Baku, and we were almost 
overtaken by the ' Tamar,' screw steamer, conveying the 
remains of my poor old friend, General Lazareff. 

During my voyage from Tchikislar to Baku on board 
the ' Ural,' which was crowded with barely convalescent 
patients from the camp, most of them, if not all, suffering 
from dysentery, I had an opportunity of witnessing a burial 
at sea. An infirmary sergeant, ill with the prevailing 
disease, had postponed his departure to the last moment, 
and died after the first twenty-four hours at sea, probably 
in consequence of the exhaustion incident to sea-sickness 
acting upon an utterly debilitated frame. His body, sewn 
in a hammock, lay beside the gunwale, partly covered by 
the Bed Gross Geneva flag. Close by the head of the 
corpse was a lectern, on which lay a Bussian missal. One 
by one the comrades of the deceased approached the lectern, 


and read over in silence some passages or prayers devoted 
to the memory of the dead. Lieutenant Woltchakoff, an 
officer of the war steamer, was among those who read 
longest and most earnestly to -the memory of his departed 
comrade-in-arms. In the afternoon all the officers of the 
ship appeared in fall uniform. The great bulk of the 
invalids, soldiers from the interior of Bussia, many of whom 
had seldom seen any expanse of water larger than a river 
or a lake; were horrified when they understood that their 
dead companion was about to be committed to the waves. 
They grumbled, and said it was scarcely worth their while 
to run so many risks and suffer such great privations, to 
be treated in such a fashion when they died. As the final 
hour approached, the small sacred picture which garnishes 
the cabin of every Bussian vessel was brought on deck. 
The body was elevated on the shoulders of four seamen, 
and a procession, with lighted candles, was formed, the 
boatswain, bearing the holy picture, leading. The entire 
circuit of the deck was made. The corpse was then de- 
posited alongside the opening of the bulwarks, some iron 
weights were attached to the feet, the Geneva flag was run 
up to the peak, and a twelve-pounder gun, ready charged, 
was run out close by. The whole ship's company uncovered. 
The body was slipped along a plank, and as it sank beneath 
the waters the gun boomed out a farewell to one of the 
many victims of the Akhal Tekke expedition. The grum- 
blers at once took heart. Those who had felt so irritated 
at the prospect of being thrown overboard like dead dogs 
when they died, now thought how fine a thing it was for 
officers in full dress to stand by bareheaded while a cannon 
was discharged in honour of their deceased companion — a 
greater honour than any of them could hope for in life. 
Immediately after the interment a violent storm arose, the 
engines, working full speed, barely enabling the ' Ural ' to 


hold her own against the furious winds from the west. 
We were kept two days thus stationary, and were then 
obliged to run towards Krasnavodsk and anchor under 
shelter of the island of Ogurchen until the storm abated. 
Then, haying run short of astatki fuel, we were obliged to 
go to Krasnavodsk to take some in. Thence we went 
straight across to Baku, which we made at 7.30 on the 
morning of August 29. Two days afterwards the body of - 
Lazareff arrived on board the ' Tamar,' enclosed in a rough 
coffin of blackened deal. A day was occupied in the em- 
balming, and it was then carried in procession to the 
Gregorian Church in the great square, borne on the 
shoulders of the deceased veteran's compatriots. His 
decorations, each one borne upon a cushion by an officer, 
were carried in front. There was no military music, but 
priests and acolytes chanted. From the chapel the body 
was conveyed direct to Tiflis, where it was interred with 
military honours. 

On September 17, General Tergukasoff, the new 
Commander-in-Chief of the expedition, together with 
General Gourchine, arrived at Baku ; and on the 20th I 
accompanied them to Tchikislar. Almost immediately on 
landing the Generals repaired to Chatte, and thence to the 
extreme advance at Bendessen, among the Kopet-Dagh 
mountains, in order to ascertain how matters stood after 
the repulse of the troops from before Tengi Sheher. Tergu- 
kasoff would not afford me any facilities for accompanying 
him, and as, without relays of horses, I could not pretend to 
keep up with his party, I was obliged to go towards the 
front with a battalion which was escorting some baggage 
waggons to Chatte. The march occupied seven days, and 
as I have already given the diary, describing the bed of the 
Atterek, which I kept on the occasion, I need not now 
recur to it. I was not allowed to proceed any further than 


Chatte, and, after a stay of three days there, it was inti- 
mated to me by the Chief of Staff, on the part of General 
Tergukasoff, who had just arrived from Dusolum, that I was 
desired to return to Tchikislar, in company with two 
battalions which were about to retire upon the same place. 
Operations were at an end for the winter, and nothing of 
any interest would transpire for some months. I therefore 
packed up, and started on my return journey. The two 
battalions, unencumbered by waggons, took the direct road 
by Karaja-Batur, where water-pits had been constructed for 
the accommodation of the troops. We arrived in Tchikislar 
after a march of four days and a half. Bain had been fall- 
ing plentifully, and great pools of water were met with from 
time to time, along the borders and over the surfaces of 
which immense numbers of waterfowl were to be seen. In 
some of the more accidented ground, a tender young grass 
imparted an emerald tint to the spot, though it was of such 
a very slight and sparse nature indeed as to be practically 
useless for grazing purposes. Still, it shows what the so- 
called desert could become under happier circumstances, 
and with a constant water supply. 

The entire route from Chatte to Tchikislar was strewn 
with camel and mule bones, and I several times witnessed 
the exhausted condition of the camels who had come from the 
front. Scarcely a day's march was ever got through with- 
out half a dozen falling from weakness, and being obliged 
to be abandoned. The camel will continue to stalk along 
under his burden in the string to which he belongs, showing 
no apparent signs of exhaustion, and will suddenly fall as if 
shot through the head. In the greater number of cases in 
which a camel thus falls, he dies in a few hours, on the 
same spot ; in some instances, however, he recovers slowly, 
regains his legs, and is able to graze. Such a camel, how- 
ever, is altogether useless afterwards, and abandoned camels 


are constantly to be met with, straying at will over the 

I found that many battalions had been sent back from 
Tchikislar to Baku and Petrovsk, and that it was intended 
that a limited number should remain in the camp. General 
Tergukasoff had evidently made up his mind to avoid the 
very serious error committed by his predecessor. Lazareff 
had brought his entire force to Tchikislar, and had then 
endeavoured to accumulate the reserve of provisions which 
was indispensable before commencing active operations. It 
was much more expensive east of the Caspian to feed the 
soldiers than if they had remained on its western shore. 
The place was much more unhealthy, and the amount daily 
consumed by the troops left but a small margin to spare of 
the provisions which were constantly being disembarked at 
the camp. Some sanitary measures were also adopted by 
the new generalissimo, great attention being paid to the 
construction of new water-pits. These were some eight to 
ten feet in depth, and the same in width at top. After a 
few hours some bucketsful of water collected in the bottoms, 
but it was at best of a brackish kind, and in a day or so 
became quite undrinkable owing to the concentration of 
saline matter due to evaporation by the sun's heat. Insect 
deposits and vegetable growths also helped to render the 
water unfit for consumption, so that it was necessary to be 
continually constructing new water-pits. The entire neigh- 
bourhood of the camp, far and near, was honeycombed with 
these holes. General Lazareff had entertained an idea of 
digging a small canal from the Atterekto the camp, and, bad 
though the water of that river is, such a supply would have 
been an inestimable boon. 

The time was fast approaching when I should once more 
turn my back on Tchikislar. Time passed drearily enough ; 
for when once the denizens of the camp had settled down to 


the routine of every-day work, and we had organised our 
separate m&nages, there was a sad lack of excitement and 
novelty. All day long an ant-like procession of soldiers 
streamed from the pier to the depots, each man bearing on 
his back sacks of corn which the Turcoman launches had 
landed from the transport ships. It was but a short time 
before my departure that the tramway along the recon- 
structed pier, and reaching to the back of the camp, was in 
working order. As the sun went down the wailing chant of 
the evening prayer, accompanied by bugles and drums, broke 
the general stillness that accompanied the parade. When 
darkness settled over the camp, ombres chinoises flitted on 
the canvas walls of the lighted tents ; and from far and 
near came the confused beating of drums and clashing of 
cymbals, keeping time to the melancholy dirge of the 
soldiers' choruses, for all their songs seem essentially sad. 
Then, as midnight drew near, nought was heard save the low 
surging and fretting of the Caspian surf, and the shriek of 
the owl and the night-hawk in answer to the plaintive cry 
of the prowling jackals. 




Banished from Tchikislar— Colonel Shelkovnikoff— Starting for the Atterek— 
A night at Hassan-Kouli — Turcoman lady — Her costume— Primitive 
flour-mills — Ovens — Sulphide of iron small-shot — Sea-birds — Crossing the 
Atterek mouth — Sleighing on a mud bank — Across country — Nomad 
shepherds — Goklan Tepessi — A dervish moullah — An ttsfa-adam — Bird's- 
eye view of delta— Burnt reed-fields —Tame and wild ducks— The Kizil- 
Alan — Pin-tailed grouse — Ak-Kala — Altoun-tokmok — An adventure 
with village dogs — Crossing the Giurgen — Ata-bai— Village of Kergis- 
tepe — Pomegranate jungle — Kara-Su —Arrival at Asterabad — Shah Abass' 
causeway — Mr. Churchill. 

A fortnight after my arrival from Chatte, Colonel Malama, 
the Chief of Staff, intimated to me that all operations for the 
winter were at an end, and that I would feel myself much 
more comfortable at Baku during the dreary Caspian winter 
than amidst the camp, which he told me would be semi- 
deserted during that season. At the moment I had not 
quite made up my mind as to what course I should adopt, 
so I simply bowed in reply. ' When will you go ? ' said 
the Chief of Staff. ' Well, Colonel/ I replied, ' you know 
I have horses which I must dispose of; they axe scarcely 
worth carrying across the Caspian ; I don't want them at 
Baku, and I should like time to dispose of them/ With 
this diplomatic answer our interview terminated. Though I 
had not decided as to what I should do, my predominant 
idea was that I should remain upon the ground until the 
reopening of the campaign in the spring, as I should then 
be better acquainted with the preliminary operations ; and 


besides, I was not in love with the wild, dissipated life 
which an unoccupied person is almost forced, despite him- 
self, to lead in the ' OD City of the East.' I hoped that when 
the staff had left the camp at Tchikislar, if, indeed, such 
were their intention, I should be overlooked and allowed 
to remain behind. During a week I led an exceedingly 
dreary existence in my tent of more than circumscribed 
dimensions, trying to sleep when unoccupied with my notes 
and journal trying to sleep, I say, because whether by 
night or by day it was not easy to find* a moment's repose. 
At night, red mosquitoes filled the tent, and during the day, 
especially the mid-day, the ordinary black fly rendered sleep 
impossible. Whether in winter or in summer, these pests 
of this region never left the vicinity of a camp whose ill- 
ordered hygienic arrangements too plentifully supplied them 
and their offspring with the means of existence. At the 
end of the. week, as one day towards two o'clock in the 
afternoon I lay upon the carpet which separated me from 
the moist sand, trying to forget the restless hours of the 
night, a Cossack entered my tent, and, shaking me by the 
shoulder, told me that Colonel Shelkovnikoff, an officer of 
Armenian extraction, then occupying the post of com- 
mandant of the camp, desired to speak with me immediately. 
I rose to receive the Colonel, who said, rather abruptly, ' I 
think Colonel Malama intimated to you that it would be 
better did you pass the winter at Baku, on the other side 
of the Caspian.' ' It is true,' I replied, ' but I have not 
yet been able to dispose of my horses.' • Well,' rejoined 
he, ' horses disposed of or not, the orders of the Com- 
mander-in-Chief are that you quit the camp for Baku by 
the steamer which leaves at seven o'clock this evening.' At 
this I grew indignant. ' Colonel,' said I, ' I admit that the 
Commander-in-Chief (General Tergukasoff, also an Arme- 
nian, and since deceased) ' has a perfect right to order me 


to quit his camp, or even Russian territory, but I deny his 
right to dictate to me the route which I shall take in so 
doing. I will proceed at once to the frontier, and thence 
to Asterabad, the nearest point at which a British Consu- 
late is to be found.' With this we parted. I waited uutil 
the hour fixed for my departure was approaching, and then 
ordered my tent to be struck and my horses saddled. A 
heavy downpour of rain was falling, and stormy gusts were 
sweeping from the landward. I sent my horses outside the 
camp, and followed them, lest notice should be taken of 
me, as would probably have been the case had I left 
mounted, and with baggage in marching order. Outside 
the guarded limits, I and my servant rode swiftly away in 
the direction of the Atterek Biver, the line beyond which 
Bussia claimed no jurisdiction. I directed my steps to- 
wards Hassan-Eouli, the Turcoman village which I have 
already described. Towards six o'clock in the evening, on 
November 10, 1879, after wading across many a rain-filled 
channel and muddy expanse, I reached Hassan-Eouli. In 
this place the chief was a certain Moullah Nourri. I asked 
my way to his kitritka, and was hospitably received, especially 
as I was believed to be a person who was well able and 
willing to make an adequate ' present ' when leaving. Up 
to this moment it had not been decided whether this Turco- 
man village was or was not within Bussian jurisdiction, 
inasmuch as a branch of the river Atterek flowing across 
its delta once ran between it and the camp at Tchikislar. 
In the hurry of my departure I had forgotten to ask Colonel 
Malama for a passport declaring who I was and recom- 
mending me to the Persian authorities. However, halting 
for the night at the village, I gave instructions to my 
servant to ride off early in the morning to the Bussian 
camp, and ask for the necessary document. Meantime, I 
had my first opportunity of seeing domestic Turcoman life. 

VOL. I. L 


In these regions the entire family, male and female, dwell 
tinder the one roof, which covers but a single circular apart- 
ment, not more than fifteen feet in diameter. As I entered, 
they told me that I was khosh geldi (welcome), and I took 
my seat on a carpet beside the fire burning in the centre of 
the habitation. It was mainly composed of fragments and 
spars of fishing boats, and the smoke found exit by the 
customary circular opening in the roof, some six feet in dia- 
meter, and barred by radial spokes like those of a cart-wheel 
A stately, rather solid-looking matron of some forty years, 
entirely unveiled, sat beside the fire. Near her was a 
colossal samovar, or tea-urn — a Russian institution which 
seems to have penetrated to the uttermost depths of Central 
Asia. Some young girls, her daughters, seated on either 
side, were busy grinding flour in a primitive horizontal 
hand-mill, kneading dough for the evening bread, or carding 
wool for the manufacture of carpets and the rude water- 
proof mantles worn by the Turcomans. The elder lady was 
clad in a shirt of coarse silk, of a dark purple colour, striped 
with black, and falling nearly to the ankles. This, except- 
ing the close-fitting trousers of a darker tint, and drawn 
tightly round the ankles, was the only garment worn by 
her. Around her head was twisted a handkerchief of bright 
crimson silk, turban-wise, one extremity falling upon the 
left shoulder. On her neck was a massive silver ornament, 
resembling more the collar of a Newfoundland dog than 
any other object to which I can compare it, being at least 
an inch and a half in depth, and a third of an inch in 
thickness. At intervals round it were set flat oval cornelians, 
alternating with lozenge-shaped panels of embossed gold. 
From its front hung at least twenty silver chains, falling 
over the breast, and broken half-way down by lozenge- 
shaped pieces of silver, also embossed with gold, and sup- 
porting a cylinder of silver hanging below the level of the 


waist, and containing talismanic writings, to preserve her 
from the Gins and other evil spirits which are supposed to 
haunt these Central Asian wildernesses. On either breast 
hung medal-wise a quantity of pieces of silver money, Bue- 
sian five-rouble and Persian five-kran coins, so numerous 
that they presented the appearance of a cuirasse of silver. 
On either shoulder was a flat cylindrical silver box, about 
four inches in diameter, in the centre of each of which 
was also set a flat cornelian. Her long, coarse hair, 
plaited into two tails, which reached below the small of 
her back, was also profusely decorated with silver coins, 
growing larger towards the extremity of the plaited hair 
tail. On her wrists were massive silver bracelets — so 
massive, and apparently so heavy, that one could not but 
imagine that they must seriously interfere with the move- 
ments of her arms. They, too, bore the usual lozenge- 
shaped gold panels and flat cornelians. Turcoman women 
seem always to be in full dress, and I have rarely seen 
them, even when employed in laborious occupations, with- 
out it. A ponderous paraphernalia is a concomitant of 
respectability, as it is understood in these parts. The 
younger females were similarly, but less profusely and 
massively decorated. In fact, as I afterwards learned, 
nearly the entire capital of a Turcoman family is thus 
invested in family ornaments —a custom the adoption of 
which the ladies at home would probably hail with a great 
deal of pleasure. Still, for all their finery, there are no 
more hard-working members of society than the wives and 
daughters of the Khan's subjects. They perform with 
their own hands every detail of domestic labour ; and the 
lady of the house herself not only superintends, but exe- 
cutes the making of the pilaff which constitutes the chief 
meal of the day. The sun had set some time when a large 
wooden dish of barley and rice, mixed with the broken-up 

L 2 


carcases of half a dozen wild ducks, and with some raisins 
and dried plums, was brought in. This might be styled 
the piece de resistance of a Turcoman gentleman's family, 
were there aught else to supplement it. As it is, it forms 
the alpha and the omega of the meal — entremets and sweet 
dishes being combined in one grand whole. The family and 
guests sit cross-legged on the carpet, round the great 
wooden dish, and with fingers and thumbs supply them- 
selves with what portions of the mess come handy. The 
meal ended, large bolsters are produced ; each one cleans 
his fingers from the adhering grease by thrusting them sepa- 
rately and repeatedly into his mouth, and then, spreading 
his great sheep-skin overcoat above him, sinks to sleep just 
where he has eaten. In the morning, fully an hour before 
the faintest tinge of dawn is seen upon the horizon, one is 
roused by the low rumbling of the hand-mills as the ladies 
of the community grind the flour for the morning bread. 
This is baked in cylindrical open-topped ovens, situated 
some yards from the entrance to the house. The hand- 
mills are in all respects precisely similar to those which we 
find in museums as having been used in the households of 
the early Celts and Saxons of these isles — commonly 
known as querns. There is a horizontal nether millstone, 
about two feet in diameter, having a pivot hole in its centre. 
It is some four inches in thickness, and slightly convex. 
Upon it rests the upper stone, of equal dimensions, furnished 
with one opening near the axis, through which to introduce 
the corn to be ground, a kind of primitive * hopper/ and near 
the circumference with another, in which a rude handle is 
inserted. This apparatus is laid upon a coarse cotton cloth, 
and along red-shirted young lady squatted at its side takes 
from the wooden dish close to her handfuls of corn, which 
she pours little by little into the ' hopper/ all the time, with 
her right hand, causing the upper stone to revolve. The 


coarsely ground flour falls out, at the junction of the stones, 
upon the cloth beneath. The cereal most in use is arpa, or 
a dark-coloured species of barley, and the resulting flour is 
anything but white. The ovens, which, as I have said, are 
situated outside the houses, at a few yards* distance from 
the door, are short truncated cones of loam, hollow in the 
interior ; they are filled with rude brambles and morsels of 
decayed fishing boats, and the whole is set on fire. In 
anything like a considerable village, long before the first 
blush of dawn is seen, the sky is red with the reflection of 
a hundred blazing ovens. When the entire ignited mass 
has settled down to a cinder, the oven is ready for use. 
With a rude broom of tamarisk branches the cinders are 
swept to one side, and the cake of dough, an inch in thick- 
ness, is placed upon the scorching hearth. The red cinders 
are then swept over it, and in this primitive manner the 
bread is baked. This work, as well as every other household 
duty, is exclusively performed by females. 

The morning meal, which takes place usually before the 
sun has shone out above the horizon, consists of bread, so 
fresh from the oven that it burns the tongue on being put 
into the mouth. It is washed down by weak green tea, 
usually sugarless. This decoction, made in a strange 
mediaeval looking copper tankard, tastes at first precisely 
like Epsom salts. 

Pending the arrival of my servant from the camp at 
Tchikislar with my Russian passport, gun in hand I 
strolled along the beach of the Hassan-Kouli lagoon, on 
this side half slob, half tide-pool. Ducks in hundreds 
swam in groups on every side, and allowed the shooter to 
get within close range of them. They do not seem at all 
afraid of the approach of human beings, unless one comes 
very close indeed. The Turcomans rarely give themselves 
the trouble to go shooting, and when they do so their 


ammunition is little adapted to killing at long range. 
Though the Turcomans of the Caspian border and in the 
vicinity of Tchikislar are able to procure powder of 
European make, and though the old 1853 pattern muskets 
with which they are chiefly armed make capital ducking 
guns, lead shot is entirely beyond their reach, owing to the 
excessive prices charged for it at Asterabad, the nearest 
accessible market at which it can be procured without 
crossing the Caspian. In its place, grains of sulphide of 
iron are used. A bar of iron is heated to whiteness, and 
brought in contact with a lump of crude sulphur. The 
iron appears to melt, and, dropping from a height into a 
bowl of water, supplies a quantity of lava-like nodules of 
various dimensions, always of a more or less flattened form* 
These nodules are used 'as a substitute for leaden small 
shot. Beyond ten or twelve yards' range it is quite in- 
efficacious against the stoutly feathered sea-birds, and again 
and again the Turcomans expressed their amazement at the 
distance at which, with superior projectiles, I was able to 
bring down duck. The birds seem perfectly aware of the 
range of the Turcoman guns, and do not disturb themselves 
until the hunter approaches very closely indeed to them. 

It was a couple of hours after sunrise before my servant 
returned from Tchikislar, bringing with him the document 
kindly furnished by Colonel Malama, the Chief of Staff, 
which stated that I had been attached to the Russian 
columns, and recommended me to the Persian authorities 
at Asterabad. I immediately ordered my horses to be 
saddled, and my scanty baggage put in marching order. 
Though the Chief of Staff had been good enough to furnith 
me with the passport to which I have alluded, I did not 
feel quite sure that, Pharaoh-like, he might not afterwards 
repent of his decision, and send a squadron of Cossacks 
after me to fetch me back to the camp, and force me to 


proceed to Baku, which Colonel Shelkovnikoff had intimated 
to me was the desire of the Russian authorities. Our way 
lay in a south-easterly direction, across a slimy waste of 
mud, in which our horses' feet sank fetlock-deep, and across 
which our progress was slow and disagreeable in the 
extreme. A couple of miles off to the left were some rudely 
constructed fishing sheds, with highly-pitched sloping roofs, 
elevated on stout piles in the midst of the shallow water. 
They belonged to an Armenian merchant, who had a very 
extensive establishment of the same description in the 
mouth of the Peri Bazaar river near Enzeli, and for which 
I had been told he paid the Shah no less a license tax than 
40,0002. a year. Still further eastward are seen the low, 
sedgy banks of the river proper, before it merges in the 
lagoon, and, further off, vast forests of giant reeds, amidst 
which nestle countless myriads of sea-birds ; ducks, cranes, 
flamingoes, and many other waterfowl of whose names I 
am ignorant crowd these marshy solitudes or wheel 
shrieking above the waters in such incredible numbers as 
to seem at a distance like an angry storm-cloud surging 
before a whirlwind. Whole battalions of waders fringed 
the muddy shores, and the all but stagnant waters of the 
lagoon were white with acres of gulls. Pushing on farther 
still in a south-easterly direction, we crossed some disagree- 
ably deep tidal guts, where the water reached to our horses' 
girths, and made us very cautious in our advance. Then a 
sand-spit was reached, and, at its extremity, a canoe, 
hollowed from a single tree-trunk, styled here a taimvl, and 
conducted by an elderly Turcoman and his son, a boy of 
some twelve years, awaited us. We were close to the real 
channel of the Atterek, which here has excavated for itself 
a wide and tolerably deep bed. A few years ago the 
stream fell into the northern portion of the lagoon, but 
owing to quarrels among the Yamud Turcomans themselves 



a dam was erected some miles inland which turned its 
course, and it now flows almost across the centre of the 
back-water. Even when the water is at its lowest, this 
channel is altogether unfordable ; hence the necessity for 
the tdimvl when crossing to the southern bank. The 
saddles and other effects were placed within the canoe, in 
which I and my servant also embarked. For a hundred 
yards our progress was more like skating over a muddy 
surface than floating upon water, but gradually, very 
gradually indeed, the depth increased ; our horses, whose 
bridles were held in our hands, stepped cautiously behind 
our frail bark, slipping and floundering as they picked their 
way over the muddy bottom. Gradually the water crept 
higher and higher along their limbs, until at length the 
animals were afloat. Horses in this part of the world take 
things like this coolly enough, and without the least hesita- 
tion they struck out, swimming close to our stern. Towards 
the middle of the channel the current is pretty rapid, and 
our flat-bottomed canoe heeled over in an alarming manner 
as it was paddled swiftly across the stream. A distance of 
fully half a mile had to be traversed before the horses lost 
their feet, and a third of a mile was swum across before they 
again touched bottom. Another half mile of paddling 
brought us again into excessively shallow water, where our 
old Turcoman and his son, stepping on to the mud, in 
which they sank nearly knee deep at every step, proceeded 
to drag us in the canoe to what they called the opposite 
shore. Shore, strictly speaking, there was none ; the point 
at which we landed, if I may be permitted to use the term, 
in this case being one in which we sank mid-leg deep. 
It was absolutely necessary to leave the canoe, so tha L :t 
might be dragged still further across the horrid mud-waste. 
I do not recollect that such a hideous wilderness of slime 
and desolation ever met my eyes, and, as we painfully 


waded along, pulling our tdimvl behind us, we bore no 
distant resemblance to reptiles crawling over the surface 
of some Palaeozoic morass. 

Long and painful as was our progress southward, we 
could not soon succeed in reaching ground sufficiently solid 
to enable us to disembark our saddles and baggage, which 
were placed upon our horses direct from the canoe itself, as 
they stood alongside of it. It took a good half hour's 
diligent scraping to remove the blue-black shiny mud from 
our boots sufficiently to allow our feet to enter the stirrups, 
as we mounted from the back of our old boatman. Far 
and near stretched the desert solitude of marly mud, strewn 
with algee and fish-skeletons. Then followed a long, 
dreary wading march, for the space of at least two hours. 
Nothing more desolate than these slimy wastes can well 
be imagined. It was a place where an ichthyosaurus might 
momentarily be expected to show himself, or some broad, 
dragon-winged pterodactyl come beating the wind heavily 
above one's head. Then the ground became firmer, and 
sparse tamarisk bushes and mossy streaks topped the 
scarped banks, while great heavy-winged vultures crouched 
lazily, gorged with their banquet of decaying fish. As the 
ground assumed a solider consistence, long coarse sedge 
began to appear, and great numbers of water trenches 
furrowed the ground. Whether these were irrigation 
canals, or merely accidental off-shoots of the scattered 
branches of the Atterek, crossing its delta, I am unable to 
say. They were most puzzling to the traveller, for in 
some cases so deep was the mud at their bottoms that it 
was really dangerous to attempt crossing, and when follow- 
ing their banks in search of a more practicable fording- 
point one completely lost his way, there being no prominent 
landmarks by which he could guide himself. Patches of 
a thin, hungry kind of oats began to show, indicating our 


near approach to human dwellings, and after another 
hour's floundering among partially inundated marshy sedge- 
fields, we saw the beehive-looking aladjaks of the village of 
Atterek itself, situated near the centre of the delta. The 
people of this village enjoy an unenviable reputation as 
thieves and marauders, and even among the neighbouring 
Turcomans, themselves not over-scrupulous in their con- 
duct, they are known as the Karakchi, or robber Turcomans 
par excellence. Worn out with hunger, I stopped to make 
some coffee. Though I wished to have as little as possible 
to do with the inhabitants, in order to procure fuel I was * 
obliged to enter into conversation with some hang-dog 
looking shepherds who were tending a flock of scraggy 
goats and sheep. As I sat watching the fire they gathered 
round me curiously, evidently surprised to see two strangers 
venturing thus hardily among them. ( Were we not afraid 
to come there alone ? * they asked. • No/ I replied, ' what 
should I have to fear ? ' At this they smiled. Doubtless 
the sight of my revolving carbine and pistol rendered them 
much more honest and hospitable than they would other- 
wise have been. As I was quite unacquainted with the 
district, and as there is no trace of a road, I resolved to 
push forward, still in a south-easterly direction, until I 
struck upon the telegraph line extending from Tchikislar 
to Asterabad. By following this I should take the most 
direct line to the latter town. Before I had gone many 
hundred yards I struck upon the main southern branch of 
the Atterek, which winds in the most confusing manner. 
It was in vain I tried, at twenty different points, to ford 
it, and only after a couple of hours' wandering did I 
perceive, far away to the left, the telegraph poles, towards 
which I directed myself. I was fortunately able, by follow- 
ing the track of some camels, which I noticed in the mud, 
to discover the regular ford. Beyond the river branch, 


and still to the left, rose a high earth cliff, where the stream 
had eaten away the side of a large escar-like hill. This is 
known as Goklan-Tepessi, the hill of the Goklans. On its 
southern slope was another village of Karakehi Turcomans, 
situated within twelve hours' march of Asterabad. As 
night was already falling, no choice was left me but to risk 
taking up my quarters for the night in this thieves' strong- 
hold. Huge savage dogs rushed out to assail us as we drew 
near the aladjaks, and we were obliged to draw our sabres 
to keep them at respectful distance. The inhabitants were 
assembled for evening prayers, in the very peculiar kind 
of mosque used by the Turcomans, and which I have 
already had occasion to describe when writing of the village 
of Hassan-Kouli. The oddest thing about these praying 
enclosures is that no particular sanctity appears to attach 
to them as there does to the roofed structures of the more 
sedentary Mussulman. In fact I have occasionally seen 
them used for purposes the reverse of sacred, and which 
certainly, in the eyes of any Mussulman, would be sufficient 
to desecrate the most thrice-blessed spot of ground. Of 
course, after being thus defiled they are not used again for 
purposes of prayer, but a new enclosure is prepared. Thus 
we find in the neighbourhood of any considerable village 
some scores of impromptu djamis, or open-air mosques, 
which have been abandoned. The sun had already set, 
and the sea-fog which hung along this low-lying coast 
produced a gloom unusual in the twilight of these Eastern 
climes. I stood beside my horses at a little distance until 
the evening orisons were completed, and then, drawing near 
a group of elders, requested hospitality for the night. They 
were evidently as much surprised to see me, accompanied by 
but one servant, venturing into their midst, as were their 
brethren of the village of Atterek, and for some time an omi- 
nous silence reigned among them. They were clearly trying 


to make up their minds whether they would accord me the 
sought-for hospitality, or proceed to confiscate my horses 
and other property, and it was with no small misgiving 
that I awaited the result of the conference. Presently, 
however, their better natures seemed to prevail, and an old, 
long-haired moullah motioned to me to follow him. The 
moullah, or priest, in Mahometan countries invariably has 
his head shorn as bare as his lay brethren, but should he 
belong to an order of dervishes he wears locks flowing upon 
his shoulders, and, with his egg-shell-shaped tiara, looks 
very like a * pope,' as the Bussian priest is termed. 

Under circumstances such as these which I am de- 
scribing, the chief, or at least one of the more important 
men of the community, usually takes charge of the stranger. 
In the present instance, however, I was conducted to the 
kibitka of the village smith. The furniture of the hut was 
miserable in the extreme, and denoted wretched poverty. 
Indeed, throughout the entire village the same was a salient 
feature. This is quite uncommon among the ordinary 
nomads, who as a rule are pretty well off— as well-being 
goes in these parts of the world — that is to say, they are 
well clothed, seldom, in their villages at least, lack adequate 
food, and the earthen floor of the aladjak is generally well 
furnished with carpets of no ordinary quality. After a 
while it struck me that the chief had relegated me to the 
smith's aladjak to conceal his own incapacity for entertain- 
ing me in a proper fashion. It was with difficulty that a 
kind of tattered quilt could be produced, on which I was 
invited to be seated. At one side were a diminutive 
anvil, a couple of hammers, and two or three flat bars 
of iron, probably purchased at Tchikislar. A heap of char- 
coal, and a rude bellows composed of a sheepskin, lying 
beside the fire, completed the entire stock-in-trade of 
this desert artisan. He was termed the usta-adam, the 


nearest comprehensive rendering of ^hich in English 
would be handy-man, or Jack-of-all-trades ; for here there 
is no division into guilds, and one usta-adam acts in many 
capacities for the immediate population. He will make 
silver rings for the women, shoe horses, repair gun-locks, 
and even bleed a plethoric individual. In most Turcoman 
houses (especially in the neighbourhood of any Russian 
settlement) is to be found the samovar, or tea-urn. Here, 
in the entire village, there was not one. Neither was there 
tea, or sugar, or meat, or pilaff of any kind. A rude hand- 
mill was set in requisition, some coarse brown corn was 
ground, and a cake of bread was there and then got ready. 
This, with some rather salty water, was the only cheer 
which it was in the power of the smith to afford me. 
There was not even a kalioun, or water-pipe, amongst his 
household goods. One was borrowed from the moullah, 
but no tobacco was forthcoming, and it was with eager de- 
light that my host witnessed the production by my servant 
of a bag of the coarse, shell-like tumbaki used by smokers 
in these regions. Ere long, visitors began to arrive — l^ss 
to interview the stranger and learn his object in coming 
among them than to enjoy the unaccustomed luxury of a 
smoke from the water-pipe. These Turcomans, I was told, 
belonged to the Ata-bai tribe, but they seemed a very dis- 
tinct sub-division of it, for they were Ishmaelites even 
among Ishmaelites. Their brethren of the same clan 
seemed to have fallen foul of them, and one of my visitors 
informed me that, a couple of evenings previously, their 
neighbours, the Ak Ata-bais, had surreptitiously carried off 
the greater portion of the horses which they possessed. It 
was with some uneasiness that I lay down to sleep, as I 
was in some apprehension that the people of the village 
might compensate themselves for the loss of their cattle by 
annexing mine before morning; and more than once in 


the course of the night I rose and went to the door to 
see if they were still tethered where I had placed them. 
My host, to do him justice, seemed equally on the alert, 
and doubtless he had good reasons for being so. Each 
time that a horse neighed, or we heard a trampling of 
hoofs, as he rose to shake himself, we started to our feet, 
and, seizing our arms, rushed to the doorway. When 
morning came, however, matters turned out to be all right, 
and giving my entertainer the sum of five francs for the 
night's accommodation — a sum which he doubtless, poor man, 
seldom looked upon — I mounted, and taking leave of the 
chief, rode away along the crest of the Goklan-Tepessi hill 
to have a look at the surrounding country. The long, 
burnt-looking yellow sedgy grass grew plentifully around. 
I have often since, at all seasons of the year, seen this 
same kind of grass growing over different portions of the 
Turcoman plain, but never have I seen it of a green colour. 
Looking to the north and west from the hill-top, one had a 
capital view of the dismal expanse of the Atterek delta, its 
watercourses mapped out distinctly amid the reed and 
sedge-covered waste. Here and there were great pools of 
stagnant water, literally covered with aquatic birds, among 
which, in apparent good-fellowship, were to be seen fish- 
hawks, vultures, eagles, and carrion crows, forgetting their 
mutually combative tendencies in view of the bountiful 
supply of food which the half-stifled fish, wallowing one 
upon the other in the shallow water, afforded them. Here 
and there were patches of dense black, often half-a-mile in 
length, where the giant reeds of last year's growth had 
been burned down by the Turcomans to prevent wild boars 
and jackals harbouring within them, for the former animals 
play sad havoc with the little cultivation which the 
Turcomans practise, and the jackals are always at hand, 
looking out for the domestic fowls which are occasionally to 


be found in the aoutts. A propos of domestic fowls, and 
especially in the villages bordering upon the sea coast and 
Atterek delta, great flocks of duck are reared by the inhabi- 
tants, but so nomadic are the habits of these birds, and so 
strong are they upon the wing, that it is all but impossible 
to distinguish them from their wilder brethren that people 
these solitudes in such vast numbers. I have frequently 
been astonished at seeing what I took to be a crowd of fifty 
or sixty mallards come flying into the midst of the village, 
and, forming in some open space, proceed to march in 
serried files into the aladjdk devoted to them, and I have 
called down the wrath of the inhabitants upon my head by 
discharging my gun at them. They fly away for miles 
along the coast, keeping themselves carefully separated from 
the wilder sea-birds, and invariably return to their domicile 
at a certain hour in the evening. 

Away to the south stretched the immense interfiuvial 
plain, separating the Giurgen and Atterek rivers, the scarce 
perceptible water-shed separating the respective valleys 
crowned by the long line of tepes, or earth mounds, which 
mark the line of ancient fortifications known to the Tur- 
comans as Alexander's Wall, or, as it is more usually styled, 
the Kizil-alan, or ' red road.' Further away still, beyond 
the faintly seen forest growths across the Kara Su, loomed 
the snow-streaked ridges of the Demavend range of moun- 
tains, and to the right, along the Giurgen, the long line of 
ruined ramparts and towers marking the site of the now 
deserted town of Ak-Eala, once a principal seat of the 
Eadjar family — a member of which sits upon the throne of 
Persia to-day — and a powerful rival of Asterabad itself. It 
is now only a small mud fort, occupying the north-eastern 
corner of the old town, and garrisoned by a battalion of 
Persian infantry, which guards the bridge across the 
Giurgen, and at this point is all that remains of life in this 


once populous locality. Two hours after sunset I started 
due southward, following the line of telegraph which 
leads direct to Asterabad. At every two or three hundred 
yards we disturbed immense flocks of pin-tailed grouse — 
goolgairooky as it is termed. In some of these flocks there 
cannot have been less than half a million birds. As 
they rose from the ground the surging of their wings 
sounded like distant thunder, causing our horses to start 
and rear with terror. The number of these birds that we 
met with on the plain passes all belief, and to me it seems 
marvellous that more use is not made of their flesh as an 
article of food, for when roasted they are excellent. Two 
hours' ride brought us to one of the principal mounds of 
the Kizil-alan. It is called the Altoun-tokmok. This 
word, in Turcoman dialect, signifies ' gold-receiver.' The 
name has been given to it owing to the frequency with 
which pieces of gold money have been found amidst the 
old parapet walls and towers of brick which still remain at 
intervals along its crest, just as the neighbouring mound of 
Gumush Tep6 has been so called from the discovery of the large 
number of Alexandrian silver coins by some Turcomans when 
excavating a grave upon its summit. For many a weary 
mile the plain is absolutely unbroken, save where here and 
there some muddy irrigation stream, through being choked, 
has expanded into a treacherous mud-hole which incon- 
veniently blocks the way. Around these water patches 
have sprung up hundreds of acres of the enormous reeds 
which characterise the Atterek district, and which harbour 
every species of wild animal. While endeavouring to wade 
across one of these disagreeable obstacles we met with some 
dozens of Arab muleteers from Baghdad, going with their 
gaily-caparisoned animals to the Bussian camp at Tchikis- 
lar. These men ordinarily ply as carriers between their 
native city and Meshed, via Ispahan and Teheran. I 


afterwards learned that these muleteers remained but a 
short time in the Russian service, so great was the terror 
inspired by the Akhal Tekke horsemen. 

After eight hours' march, the ordinarily stunted and 
withered grass of the plains began to assume a more ver- 
dant appearance, and vast herds of sheep, goats, and cows 
were to be met with, attended by wild-looking men and 
boys, all of them wearing the preposterous black sheep- 
skin hat of the country, and each armed with musket and 
sabre. Another hour's ride brought us to the village of 
Giurgen, close to the river bank. Here, as is usual when 
approaching a Turcoman village, we were furiously as- 
sailed by scores of gigantic wolf-like dogs, whose invariable 
custom it is to surround the stranger, who, if on foot, is 
often in serious peril. Biding into the centre of the 
village, I invited the Turcomans, who stood at the doors 
of their kibitkas, highly amused by the predicament in 
which I was placed, to call off their dogs, who were leap- 
ing savagely at my boots and my horse's nose, causing 
the poor beast to rear and kick furiously. One had 
seized by his teeth the extremity of the rather extensive 
tail of my charger, and, managing to keep out of range 
of his heels, held on like grim death. I drew my re- 
volver and exhibited it to the Turcomans, assuring them 
that if they did not immediately call off their dogs I would 
make use of the weapon. To this threat they paid no 
attention, and I was obliged to turn in my saddle and fire 
fully into my assailant's mouth. As he rolled over on the 
sward, his companions, with the most admirable prompti- 
tude, withdrew to a safe distance ; and the Turcomans, 
rushing out with sticks in their hands, proceeded to beat 
them still further off, though at first I supposed that the 
sticks were intended for my own person. But a few yards 
away lay the deep, canon-like bed of the Giurgen itself, 

VOL. I. M 



fifty yards in breadth at its surface. The stream had cat 
its way in the stiff, marly earth to a depth of fully forty 
feet, and the earth cliffs went sheer down almost vertically. 
A little to the eastward of the village was an exceedingly 
steep ramp, leading to the water's edge, by which camels 
and horses had access to the ford. Unless accompanied 
by a guide it is often very dangerous for a stranger to 
attempt a crossing of this kind, for rarely, if ever, does the 
fordable path cross directly to the opposite bank. In the 
present instance a kind of earth ridge, whether natural or 
artificial I am unable to say, led obliquely up the river and 
allowed the horseman to pass, his horse just barely avoid- 
ing swimming when the water was low. The opposite bank 
of the river was so steep that we were obliged to dismount, 
and, scrambling on hands and knees up the brush-grown 
slope, with many a stumble, we dragged our horses after us. 
Immediately southward of the river, the welcome sight of 
green grassy surfaces and trees greeted our eyes. Bight 
in front of us, at the edge of a dense forest, lay a village 
of the Ata-bai division of the Yamuds, called, after an 
ancient earth-mound close by, Nergis-tepe (Narcissus 
mound). The tomb of some modern Turcoman saint stood 
upon its top, and round its base was a line of breastwork, 
probably constructed by the hostile factions of the Kadjars 
during their struggles for supremacy in the early part of 
the century. The village itself was also strongly entrenched, 
as the Goklan and Tekke nomads made frequent incursions 
upon these Ata-bai Turcomans, who live, at least nominally, 
under Persian jurisdiction. 

The Khan, a man of unusually large stature, and dark, 
sullen countenance, received me most ungraciously ; but as 
he could not be sure as to who I was, or as to the nature 
of ray mission, he was perforce induced to offer me hos- 
pitality in his kibitka for the night. Early next morning 


our way lay through cultivated fields, principally of rice, 
occurring at intervals in the midst of elm forests, chenar 
(plane-tree) groves, and brakes of giant reed, twelve to 
eighteen feet in height, and inhabited, I was told, by 
leopards and boars. After a mile or so the cultivated fields 
disappeared, and we were forced to follow wild-boar tracks, 
through a dense jungle of pomegranate and thorn-bush, 
twined with creepers, to the swampy edge of the Eara-Su. 
Without following these tracks it would be utterly impos- 
sible to make one's way, unless by proceeding axe in hand 
as in the primaeval forest. The ground was swampy, owing 
to the infiltration of the waters of the Eara-Su, and every 
kind of vegetation grew in luxuriance around us. Some 
cane and reed brakes had been burned down, and the 
sprittging shoots presented a deliciously green and tender 
appearance. After many months' sojourn amid the desolate 
surroundings of the Russian camp at Tchikislar, and on 
the plains reaching away to the eastward, it is impossible 
to describe how delightful all this wild luxuriance of vege- 
table growth was to our eyes. We had done with the inter- 
minable sand-wastes, and the pitiless sun-glow from the 
surface of the scorched desert. The horses, accustomed to 
munch the stunted bitter shrubs of the plains, resembling 
rather diminutive heath brooms that had seen much service 
than aught else I could call to mind, seemed beside them- 
selves with delight, and could scarcely decide on which 
hand to choose a mouthful of succulent herbage, so great 
was the embarras de riehesses around them. Ripe pome- 
granates dangled above our heads, and fell at our feet, as 
we forced our way along. After about an hour's ride 
through this belt of jungle, rice-fields once more appeared, 
and the road then lay through a fortified Persian village, a 
kind of suburb of the town of Asterabad. Then, through 
the more open glades, glimpses were caught of the pictu- 

M 2 


resque towers and ramparts of the town itself, gleaming 
yellowly in the noon-day sun. Seen from a distance, one 
might fancy himself enacting the part of the Kalendar in 
the ' Arabian Nights/ and, after a weary wandering amidst 
trackless deserts, coming suddenly upon the enchanted 

Situated on the slopes of the Demavend Mountains, at 
all seasons of the year Asterabad is plentifully supplied with 
water, and as we neared the northern gate we crossed 
stream after stream, clear as crystal, flowing over their 
pebbly beds, and issuing by low archways under the town 
walls. In the shadow of the gate-arch sat the watchmen, 
smoking kaUouns of portentous dimensions, and keeping 
careful vigil lest any contraband merchandise should be 
introduced into the border city from the neighbouring 
Russian frontier. Then we threaded our way through the 
silent, ill-payed streets, where are the remains of Shah 
Abass the Great's once famous causeway. The huge paving 
stones, tossed and tumbled in the wildest confusion owing 
to the traffic and neglect of centuries, offer a serious 
obstacle, even to the most, sure-footed mule. Between 
high, ruinous mud walls ; then across an outlying street 
of the bazaar, with its rude sun-shade of leaves and 
branches stretching from housetop to housetop across the 
way ; and up to the British Consulate, where I was most 
kindly received by Mr. and Mrs. Churchill. 




Seat of the Kadjars of Persia — Old ramparts — Shah Abass' causeway — "Wild 
boars, jackals, &c., in town — Atmospheric indices — Anecdote of Nadir 
Shah — Streets — Bazaar — Grocers, dyers, gunsmiths, &c — Percussion gun- 
locks — Felt manufacture — Sun screens — Public story-teller — Turcomans 
and rice-dealers — Scarcity of grain in Mazanderan and Ghilan — Turcomans 
and Arabs in bazaar — Returned pilgrims — Persian mourning — Old Kac(jar 
palace — Enamelled tiles — Rustam and the Div Sefld — Russian telegraphists 
and spoliation — 'Blue china maniacs' — Reflet mMallique — Theory and 
examples— Wild boars and Persian servants — Anti-Koranic cookery at 
British Consulate — Results— Persian domestics — Nadir Shah and his 
descendants — Pensions and employment — Title of Mirza — Intoxicating 
bread and enchanted trees — Outskirts of Asterabad — Outlying fort — 
View from its summit. 

A description of any North Persian town of considerable 
dimensions would fit Asterabad exactly, as far as physical 
features are concerned, but its position on the extreme 
frontier and its antecedents endow it with noteworthy charac- 
teristics. Up to the time at which the present royal family 
of Persia ascended the throne, Asterabad was the principal 
seat of the Persian monarchs. Another branch of the 
Kadjars had formerly occupied the town situated on the 
banks of the Giurgen, on the site of which now stands the 
Persian border fort of Ak-Kala, guarding the bridge of the 
same name. In this latter place and at Asterabad the 
rival branches of the Eadjar family had their respective 
head-quarters, and it was only after a protracted struggle 
that Asterabad took the foremost position, and that Ak- 
Kala was dismantled, and its inhabitants compelled to add 


their numbers to the population of Asterabad. There are 
two derivations of the present name, according to one of 
which the Persian word astra (a star) would be a com- 
ponent. The name is also derived from aster (a mule), and 
would in this case imply that some former monarch of Persia 
had there established great mule stables. The town itself, 
as far as I could judge, is about three miles in circumfer- 
ence, and is surrounded by ramparts and towers of 
unbaked brick, averaging thirty feet in height from the 
general level of the ground outside. They are at present 
in a very dilapidated condition, though there is still a 
pretence made of mounting regular guard upon them. The 
towers, where not entirely fallen into ruin, have a flat 
conical roof of red tiles, and the top of the parapet wall is 
thatched with a covering of reeds, to prevent the occasional 
heavy rains from washing away the substance of the un- 
baked bricks of which it is composed. Only the base of the 
towers and walls is of baked brick, each brick being about 
a foot square and two and a half inches in thickness. 
Ruinous as is the condition of these walls, they are quite 
sufficient for the protection of the inhabitants against any 
coup de main which might be attempted by the Turcomans 
of the plains northward. Against an attack by a more 
formidable enemy its fortifications would be entirely useless, 
nor do I believe that the vainest Persian within its walls 
. pretends otherwise. The enceinte of the ramparts is of an 
irregular quadrilateral form. There are three gates ; one 
opening on the plains to the northward towards Tchikislar, 
another looking southward, and the third being in the 
western ramparts. The old paved causeway constructed 
by the orders of Shah Abass the Great issues by this latter 
gate, and leads towards what is called the port of Asterabad, 
at Kenar-Gez. To judge by the portions of this causeway 
Which remain intact, it would seem to have been of solid, 


workmanlike construction ; the materials used were blocks 
of stone about a foot long by nine inches wide, roughly 
hewn, and forming a roadway some fifteen feet in width 
where it leaves the city gate, but narrowing to eight feet at 
the distance of a mile from the walls. The stone blocks, 
once evenly joined together, which form its surface, are 
now tossed about in wild confusion, and protruding from 
the bottoms of water-pools and mud-sloughs, constituting 
so many obstacles in the path of the traveller. Apparently 
since the day of the construction of this roadway, no 
attempt has ever been made to maintain it in a practicable 
condition. From the northern gateway another section of 
this causeway leads across the plains in the direction of 
Shahrood. Within an arched guardway at each gate the 
semblance of a military guard is kept up, though nothing 
like a regular sentry is to be seen. The traveller, on . 
arriving, perceives a pair of superannuated muskets lean- 
ing against the walls; and some loose- vested Persians, 
squatting on a raised platform of brick, and smoking 
the inevitable kaUoun, represent the custom-house officers. 
They keep a sharp eye upon the laden camels and mules 
entering the town, to see that rateable merchandise is not 
clandestinely introduced from the Bussian frontier. The 
greater portion of the space within the walls is taken up, 
partly with gardens and bare open areas, and partly, 
especially at the corners of the town, with a wild growth of 
jungle and briars. Here, at all hours of the day, and 
particularly towards sunset, wild boars and their broods, 
jackals, foxes, woodcocks, and snipes are to be found. 
During my stay in the place I repeatedly visited these 
intra-mural hunting grounds in search of them. Along 
the ramparts are rain gullies and fallen portions of the 
parapet, which form gaps through which the wild boars 
enter and make their exit at will. I have seen as many as 


eight or nine of the latter, old and young, burst away from 
the briar thickets as I approached, and have watched them 
careering across the rice and maize fields outside, until 
they found shelter in the dense forest growth along the 
water-courses south of the town. As regards jackals, the 
numbers in which they assemble at nightfall, both outside 
and within the ramparts, are incredible. They are 
attracted by the dead bodies of horses, asses, and dogs, 
which are left lying in the more remote thoroughfares, and, 
passing at night by one of these carcases, one is pretty 
sure to see three or four jackals start away from their 
uncanny feast. The old ditches of the town are entirely 
choked up with briars and bushes, the haunt of every wild 
animal indigenous to the district, including the lynx and 
the leopard, but the latter rarely ventures within the 
ramparts. During the night the yelping wail of the jackal 
scarce ceases for a moment, and even under the very 
windows of the houses within the town itself, these impudent 
intruders are to be heard uttering their singular cry, in 
which they are generally joined by the numerous dogs of 
the town. The inhabitants say that when the dogs answer 
the cry of the jackals, it is a sure forerunner of fine weather, 
but that if the dogs remain silent rain or storm is certain 
to follow. I believe this to be tolerably correct, for I have 
on more than one occasion observed the accuracy of the 
prediction. In the north-eastern angle of the town is a 
quadrangular enclosure surrounded by parapets of very 
considerable relief, the town walls forming two sides of the 
space. This is the old citadel, and it is curious that in all 
North Persian fortified towns, both ruined and otherwise, 
which I have had opportunities of examining, the citadel 
invariably occupies this position in the north-eastern angle. 
This citadel is said to have been constructed by a governor 
of the town during the reign of the celebrated Nadir Shah, 


who flourished about a hundred and fifty years ago, with 
the view of affording himself a safe asylum against his 
numerous enemies both within the town and in the sur- 
rounding territory. Nadir Shah, a soldier of fortune him- 
self, heard of these new fortifications, and, with a jealousy 
characteristic of him, sent to the governor to ask the 
meaning of his military preparations, deeming, perhaps, 
that the defences were constructed with a view of serving 
as a point d'appui to one of those local rebellions which 
seem to have been the order of the day in Persia at that 
period. The governor excused himself by stating that his 
defensive works were meant only for his own personal 
protection. Nadir Shah replied, 'While I am living to 
protect you, you need not trouble yourself about your 
enemies, and when I am dead, it will be time for you to die 
also.' I cannot vouch for the historical accuracy of this 
story. ' I give the tale as told to me ' by the denizens of 

As in most Eastern towns, all the animation of the place 
is concentrated in the bazaar ; the rest is buried in hopeless 
dulness and dreariness. There are long, narrow, ill-paved 
streets, at best but a series of mud-holes, hemmed in by 
tall mud-walls, the houses, which occur at intervals, having 
their sides next the street, being entirely windowless, and 
presenting a blank expanse of plastered loam. Rubbish 
heaps are seen here and there, for the offal and off-scour- 
ings of each establishment are deposited in front of the 
little sally-port door, right in the middle of the street, and 
left to be trodden down to a level with the remainder of the 
roadway. There is no public functionary whose business it 
is to look after the rubbish ; hence the state of the streets 
may be better imagined than described. The only redeem- 
ing point in the midst of all this desolate loneliness and filth 
is that the tall mud walls are invariably topped by cluster- 


ing vine-tendrils, the dense foliage of the chenar, or the 
white blossoms of the almond and plum trees growing 
within. The appearance of the exterior of his house is a 
matter of secondary importance to an Oriental ; it is within 
doors that he concentrates all that he can afford of luxury 
or elegance, and this, in the majority of cases, is not much. 
In these silent thoroughfares one meets but few persons ; 
most of the inhabitants are either at the bazaar or within 
their houses. The streets of an Eastern town offer but 
few attractions to an habitue of it. This oval blue bundle, 
set on end, which comes gliding silently towards us, is a 
Persian lady, wrapped in the all-enveloping mantle of calico 
which shrouds her from head to heel, and is here styled 
the feridgi. From the summit of her forehead hangs 
a white linen veil, forming a point upon the centre of her 
breast, and concealing the face much more effectually than 
the modern yashmak of the Osmanli Turks, as worn by the 
fashionable ladies of Constantinople. The copious trousers 
are gathered in at the ankle in numerous elongated plaits, 
and terminate in the stocking, which is continuous with the 
trousers. These grooved, inverted cones of cloth, seen 
below the edge of the feridgi, give the wearer the appearance 
of having substituted two old-fashioned family umbrellas 
for her legs. The high-heeled slippers have just barely 
enough of upper to enable their owner to bear them upon the 
points of her toes. The heel, which is placed nearly under 
the centre of the foot, slaps up and down at each step. At 
Asterabad, as elsewhere in Persia, it is only the better class 
of Persian ladies who veil themselves. The females of the 
peasant and 'working classes make no attempt to conceal 
their features, but, should a man happen to be in conver- 
sation with one of them, he invariably, as a matter of 
etiquette, keeps his face half averted, and his eyes fixed upon 
the ground. 

BAZAAR. 171 

The bazaar consists of a labyrinth of narrow streets, 
lined on each side with the booths of the traders and 
artizans. These booths, or shops, as I suppose some of 
them must be called, are merely square recesses, eight or 
ten feet wide, and as many deep, only separated from the 
street by a kind of step-like platform of wood or stone, on 
which the dealer arranges the commodities he has for sale, 
and behind which he sits, cross-legged, as a rule smoking 
the scarcely ever unlighted kalioun. All those of one 
business or trade have a separate street or quarter to them* 
selves. The more numerous are the grocers, or general 
dealers, whose booths seem to be furnished with every 
imaginable article of which the inhabitants stand in need. 
In addition to the orthodox tea, coffee, sugar, rice, and 
spices, they also sell ink, paper, percussion caps, bullets, 
iron small-shot, gunpowder, brass drinking cups, salt, 
knives, sulphate of iron, pomegranate rind, alum for dyeing 
purposes, and an infinite variety of other articles. Turning 
a corner, we come into an alley where ropes suspended from 
housetop to housetop support numberless curtains of deep 
blue and olive green calico. This is the quarter of the 
dyers, who seem to be, in point of number, the strongest 
after the bakhals, or grocers. They are to be seen working 
at their great indigo troughs, clad only in a dark-tinted 
waistband and skull-cap, their arms, up to the elbows, 
being of as dark a blue as the calico which hangs outside. 
A little further on, towards the outskirts of the bazaar, are 
the vendors of fruit and vegetables, whose leeks and lettuces, 
spread in front of their booths, are a constant temptation to 
the passing camels and horses. More than once I have had 
to pay for the escapades of my horse in snatching up a 
bunch of spring onions and incontinently devouring it under 
the nose of the merchant. There were great basketsful of 
pomegranates and oranges, for Asterabad and its neighbour- 


hood are famous for both these fruits, especially for the 
mandarin orange. Our ordinary orange is known as the 
Portugal, while the naranj is quite as sour as any lemon, 
and takes the place of that fruit in cookery or with tea. 
Near the centre of the bazaar is a long street devoted to the 
coppersmiths, who manufacture tea-pots, saucepans, and 
cauldrons, for almost every cooking utensil used in this part 
of Persia is of copper, tinned inside, the facility of working 
copper more than compensating for the extra price of the 
material ; moreover, the old vessels, when worn out, can be 
sold for a price very nearly equal to their cost when new. 
Now and then are to be seen cast-iron pots of Russian 
manufacture, but these are much more in use among the 
Turcomans of the Atterek than in Persian households. 
These copper utensils are wrought by hand, and the din of 
hammering which salutes the ear as one enters the parti- 
cular quarter of the smiths is perfectly deafening. By sheer 
force of hammering upon peculiar knob-like anvils, the 
bottomed cylinder of copper, three quarters of an inch in 
thickness, is made to expand to the most formidable dimen- 
sions. When finished, it is placed upon the fire, heated to 
dull redness, and a lump of tin is rubbed round its inside. 
In this street there is one particular spot which is set apart 
for those whose special occupation it is to cover the insides 
of pots and pans with tin. Then there are the gunsmiths 
and sword makers, who live in separate, though adjacent 
quarters. Here one may see every stage of the manufacture 
of a musket or rifle, from the forging of the barrel to the 
rude process for grooving it, and the fashioning of lock, 
stock, &c, all by the same workman. Asterabad enjoys a 
certain renown in Persia for the manufacture of gun-locks, 
and I have heard of a detachment of the nondescript soldiers 
who constitute the bulk of the Persian army being sent to 
this town, with their gun-locks out of order, so that they 


might be repaired. It is a singular fact that, neither in 
Persia nor among the Turcomans, even in the most remote 
districts, does one ever see a flint lock. They are invariably 
percussion. The locks are evidently exactly copied from 
a European model, even as regards the very carving and 
ornamentation; they have nothing whatever Oriental in 
their appearance. The operations of the dealers in swords 
are generally confined to the manufacture of new scabbards, 
and the rehabilitation of old blades, for there seems to be a 
glut of the latter, which has doubtless existed from time im- 
memorial in Persia, so that the manufacture of new blades is 
seldom entered upon. There are half a dozen booths in 
which the jewellers and gold and silver smiths ply their 
trades. They are strictly operatives, and do not keep any 
stock on hand. If you wish for some article in silver or 
gold, such as a buckle, button, or sword-mounting, you 
must, when giving the order, supply the artist with gold or 
silver coin, as the case may be. He melts this down, and 
manufactures it into the desired object. 

The most important, and, indeed, almost the only exten- 
sive manufacture carried on at Asterabad, is that of felt 
carpets and mats, and the quarter occupied by the makers of 
these articles is one of the largest in the bazaar. I had 
noticed the excellence of the felt in use among the Turcomans 
of Erasnavodsk and Tchikislar, and had purchased several 
carpets of that material for use in my own kibitka. Until 
I came to Asterabad I was sorely puzzled as to the process 
by which this material was manufactured, but there I had 
ample means of informing myself upon the subject. Instead 
of being mere rectangular spaces, opening off the thorough- 
fare, each felt maker's quarters consisted of a room twenty 
to thirty feet in length by about fifteen in breadth, with 
either a boarded floor or one of perfectly level beaten 
earth or cement. The raw material — a mixture of camel 


and goat hair and sheep's wool well beaten up together, and 
varying in proportions accordingly as the felt was intended 
to be dark brown or white — was laid in a loose layer about 
four inches in thickness upon a closely woven mat of fine 
reeds, somewhat larger than the piece of felt was intended 
to be. This was then beaten down with heavy, flat pieces 
of wood, until it was reduced to half its original thickness, 
and had assumed a compact texture. The ornamentation, 
generally consisting of arabesques and rude flowers of 
different brilliant colours, was put on by loosely spun 
worsted thread, which was laid by the hand in the required 
form. A strong, warm mixture of size and water was then 
copiously sprinkled over the whole, and the layer of felt 
material, together with the reed mat, rolled concentrically 
into a cylindrical form. In such guise the matting inter- 
vened between the layers of felt. The whole was then 
bound tightly with cords, and three or four men, placing 
their right feet naked upon it, all pressing simultaneously, 
rolled it slowly and by jerks from one end of the apartment 
to the other. As the felt grew thinner and denser, the com- 
bination was rolled more and more tightly, being undone 
from time to time to allow of a fresh saturation with size. 
When the felt had assumed the proper . dimensions, and 
was considered to be sufficiently kneaded together, it was 
spread out in the sun to dry, the coloured pattern being 
thoroughly incorporated with the substance of the newly- 
formed carpet. The solidity and durability of this felt is 
wonderful, as I have been able to judge from having used a 
square of it as a saddle cloth for over twelve months without 
its in any way showing a breakage, or, even when exposed to 
heavy rain, becoming undone or at all loosened in the 

The main central streets of the bazaar are roofed over 
with brick groining, which has holes in the side of each 


cupola to admit light, but the majority of them are simply 
covered with a sun-screen composed of rude poles reaching 
from the top of one shop to that of another across the way, 
and loosely thatched with reeds and small tree branches. In 
some cases gourds and grape vines twine among the rough 
rafters, the fruit hanging pendulously above the heads of the 
passers-by, and adding a redeeming feature of elegance to 
the general surrounding uncouthness. At street crossings, 
and through gaps where this roofing has fallen away, the 
blinding sunlight pours, throwing the adjacent portions of 
the bazaar into comparative obscurity by its contrast, and 
causing its inhabitants, half seen athwart the torrent of rays, 
to look like so many ghostly occupants of a haunted cavern. 
At the central point of the bazaar, whence branch off the 
main thoroughfares, is almost always to be found the 
Eastern story-teller — generally a wandering dervish. I 
recollect seeing such a public novelist at this point, seated 
upon a door-step, and holding a numerous audience 
entranced by the narrative which he was relating. He was 
a young man, of a rather distinguished type of feature, and 
long, glossy, raven hair flowed upon his shoulders. He 
wore a large Tartar hat of black sheepskin, carried a stout 
staff of about five feet in length, and had his calabash 
basket, for the reception of contributions, laid beside him. 
The exigencies of the story seemed to require that he should 
have some tangible object to address. He accordingly placed 
his great sheepskin tiara in the centre of the roadway, and 
apostrophised it with the most ludicrous earnestness, at the 
same time mimicking the replies which he was supposed to 
receive. It was evidently a humorous story, for the group 
of idlers and small boys standing round, and the merchants 
leaning over their wares, occasionally burst into loud and 
prolonged shouts of laughter. These dervishes have a never- 
failing method of extracting money from their listeners. 


Were the story to be completed without interruption, the 
receipts would probably be very small indeed, for in this 
regard a Persian is utterly unconscientious. If he can get 
anything for nothing he will not allow any feelings of 
generosity to step in. The dervish, well knowing this, con- 
tinued his narration until he reached the culminating point 
of interest, and had wound up the feelings of the audience 
to the highest pitch. Then, taking up his calabash, he 
went the round of the crowd, saying that he required some 
encouragement to enable him to proceed with the wonderful 
sequel of his tale. His demand satisfied, the story was 
proceeded with. He shook his stick at the being that was 
embodied in his head-dress, raved at it, implored it, and 
ended by weeping over it. The acting was of no mean order, 
and a story-teller who possesses histrionic powers to any 
creditable extent is always sure of a crowd of eager listeners, 
no matter how old or how well-known the story which he 
recounts may be, just as we go to the theatre to hear a 
drama with which we are well acquainted interpreted by 
some celebrated actor.. 

In the streets of the bazaar are generally congregated a 
dozen Turcomans from the outlying villages along the 
Giurgen, endeavouring to exchange sheepskins against the 
various commodities which the Persians offer for sale, or 
trying underhand to procure gunpowder and percussion 
caps, for the sale of these articles to the nomads is strictly 
forbidden by the central government. At the time of which 
I write, too, in Ghilan and Mazanderan, the dearth of 
cereals, owing to a succession of droughts, was so great as 
almost to amount to a famine. Owing to this fact, horses 
were being sold at almost nominal prices, their owners 
finding it impossible to maintain them, in consequence of 
the ruinous price of corn. The Turcomans also suffered 
by reason of this dearth in Persia, for as a rule they 


cultivate but little themselves, or at least did up to that 
time. They derived nearly the whole of their supply of 
rice from the North Persian provinces. Owing to the 
existing state of affairs, the Persian Government had issued 
a strict order forbidding the exportation of rice or corn of 
any kind, having an eye, no doubt, to the very large 
demands made by the Russian Commissariat at Tchikislar, 
which if complied with would create a severe artificial 
famine in those districts where there was already danger of . / 
a natural one. Though the Turcomans south of the ) 
Giurgen river acknowledge the government of the Shah, 
and pay an annual tax of one toman — equivalent to about 
ten francs — on each house, these wild subjects of Persia 
were included among those to whom corn was forbidden to 
be supplied. I have seen a Turcoman from the plains, who 
came to buy rice for the support of his family, and who had 
been refused by the merchant, standing in the middle of 
the street, calling down all kinds of curses on the rice- 
dealer's head, and consigning him, his predecessors, and 
his posterity, to Gehennum. It seemed hard that this 
Turcoman should be obliged to return to his family unable 
to procure for them the food necessary for their daily sub- 
sistence, but he and his fellows who were then refused were 
to a great extent to blame for the predicament in which 
they found themselves. Most of these partially-settled 
Turcomans who dwell along the Atterek and Giurgen rivers 
usually lay in at harvest time, when prices are lowest, a 
stock of rice and other grain sufficient to last them during 
the ensuing twelve months. Tempted by the high prices 
given in th6 Russian camp, large numbers had disposed of 
their stock, thinking that they could replace it in the 
Persian markets. Indeed, for a length of time many 
Turcomans thus carried on an extensive trade, acting as 
middlemen between the Persians and the Russians. It was 
vol. 1. n 



probably with a thorough knowledge of these circumstances 
that the Kargusar, or agent of the Minister for Foreign 
Affairs at Asterabad, had issued the stringent orders the 
effects of which I had seen in the bazaar. 

The Turcomans frequenting Asterabad generally come 
to the town fully armed — sabre at side, poniard in belt, and 
double-barrelled gun at back, permission being accorded to 
/" them to enter the town thus equipped probably in recogni- 
tion of the fact that they are subjects of the Shah. In 
other border Persian towns further to the east, and fre- 
quented on market days by the Tekk6s, the latter were 
obliged to leave their swords and guns with the guard at 
the gate of the town, retaining only the poniard, or more 
strictly speaking the knife, which the Turcoman rarely parts 
with. The throng was occasionally varied by the grave, 
•stately form of a Baghdad muleteer, with his diadem-like 
bead-dress of twisted camel-hair over the sombre-tinted 
mantle which protects his head from the sun and weather 
and envelopes his whole person. These Arabs do not 
generally come so far northward, but on this occasion were 
probably on their way to the Russian camp. 

Whenever a pilgrim returns from one of the holy 
places — from Mecca, Kerbela, Meshed, or Kufa, he takes 
care to make the world aware of his newly-acquired sanctity. 
He rides through the bazaar and other public places, a crier 
preceding him and announcing the fact that a pilgrim has 
returned to his native city. Even women, unaccompanied, 
though closely veiled, thus proceed in triumph through the 
public places, and though the sight is one of pretty frequent 
occurrence, it seems always to attract a crowd of lookers-on. 

Among other curious Persian customs is the mode of 
expressing grief for the death of a friend or relative. 
Theoretically, the grieving one should tear hiB clothes, and 
bare and throw dust upon his head in true Oriental fashion ; 


but as most Persians are not in a position to treat their 
garments in this manner, or, if in such a position, are by no 
means disposed to do so, they confine themselves to a very 
limited and representative kind of rending. A seam at the 
shoulder is carefully ripped open to the extent of an inch, 
or an inch and a half, and perhaps the end of the collar of 
the shirt is slightly undone, so that a small tongue of lineL 
may protrude in front, and thus convey to the beholder that, 
although the tearing is little more than metaphorical, still 
custom has been complied with, to however slight an extent. 
Near the centre of Asterabad stands the old Eadjar 
Palace, where the Turkish family of that name once held 
their Court. At the time of my visit it was mainly occupied 
by the Persian Governor of the town, by various Govern- 
ment officers, and by the Persian and Russian telegraphic 
bureaux— the latter in direct communication with the camp 
at Tchikislar. Since then, however, the Russian rights in 
the telegraph line, with all its material and apparatus, have 
been handed over to the Persian Government. 1 According 
to an agreement drawn up between the two Governments, 
the Persian messages were all despatched between sunrise 
and sunset, the Russians having the exclusive use of the 
wire to Teheran and Tabriz during the night. For a place 
like Asterabad this old palace is one of considerable 
pretensions. It is built of large flat baked brick, of a 
reddish-brown colour, itt* porticos being supported with 
carved and painted oak pillars. The walls of the main 
building and those of the inner courtyard are covered with 
finely-enamelled tiles, a foot square, ornamented with 
arabesques, inscriptions, and pictorial illustrations of that 
never-failing theme of Persian art, the adventures of 
Rustam, and his final combat with and conquest of the Div 

1 This was on account of the laying of the Baku-KrasnaYodsk cable, 
gave Russia independent trans-Caspian communications of her own. 

x 3 


Sefid, a theme drawn from Persian mythology, and which 
seems as a rule to be the sole subject which can inspire a 
Persian pencil. Persians certainly have not that abhor- 
rence of representations of living creatures which seems so 
universal among the Sunnites, for not only at the Kadjar 
Palace of Asterabad, but on the panels and over the door 
of every cafe and bath, as well as on the lintels of the very 
mosques, are to be seen depicted in gaudy colours, if -not 
this same story of Bustam and the Div Sefid, other human 
figures, both male and female, the wine-cup being no in- 
frequent addition to the picture. There are great water 
tanks, fifty or sixty yards in length, girt with stone para- 
pets, Lnd with what were once TounSns in their Jidst ; 
and enclosed within the walls of the establishment are large 
spaces, once, I understand, superb gardens, and ' still where 
many a garden flower grows wild.' With the exception, 
however, of a few neglected rose-bushes and some orange 
trees, there is little to be seen within these walls save 
weedy growths and tangled sedge struggling amid the dense 
brambles. I regret to say that the desire for encaustic 
tiles, and the ' blue china ' mania in general, have wrought 
sad havoc with the decoration of this historic edifice. Here 
and there the walls had been stripped of their ornamental 
coverings, and the white plaster in which they were em- 
bedded stared in an unsightly manner beside half the head 
of Bustam and the tail of the Div Sefid. On inquiry I was 
informed, I do not know with what truth, that this spolia- 
tion was the work of the Russian telegraph employes, who 
had forwarded the tiles for sale in Bussia ; but I have no 
doubt that the Persians themselves, hearing that such 
things were eagerly sought for in Teheran and Europe, and 
fetched handsome prices, had done their share of the de- 
struction. When I first saw the old palace, only a few of 
the tiles had been removed. Six months later, when I 


again visited it, the enamelled panels were hopelessly dis- 
figured and broken up. Should the devastation have gone 
on at the same rate ever since, but little can remain of this 
ancient example of early Persian art. A propos of this, the 
blue china and Eeramic craze had taken fast root in 
Asterabad among its European inhabitants, and what I 
was informed were priceless specimens of early Persian 
pottery were unearthed by the enthusiasts from the for- 
gotten closets and dusty shelves of inhabitants in the 
possession of whose families they had remained for many 

The peculiarity of this Persian pottery is that, while 
it has all the external appearance of the finest porcelain, it 
is really composed of delicate brown earthenware, somewhat 
resembling hardened Soman cement, and covered upon the 
outside with a thick creamy glaze. Some of the plates and 
dishes of large size present, on a white ground, patterns in 
that beautiful blue tint so much admired by the ' maniacs ' 
at home, but the tinting is by no means confined to this 
colour. There is a peculiar kind of bottle, closely resem- 
bling in form those Indian water-bottles of porous clay, but 
of slenderer neck and far more graceful form, the body often 
presenting a series of lobe-like divisions similar to those of 
a peeled orange. These generally have that golden, purple, 
or amber gleam, with prismatic colours when seen obliquely, 
which is known to the initiated as reflet metallique. The 
colours seen when the surface is viewed by reflected light 
are exactly similar to those observed on the surface of still 
water over which is spread a slight film of tar. Some of 
these bottles are reputed to be of great age, dating back, it 
is averred, over eight hundred years. This conclusion is 
arrived at from the position and nature of the sites from 
amidst which they were dug up. The art of producing 
this delicate Eeramic ware is now entirely lost in Persia, 


the native pottery of to-day being of the rudest and coarsest 
description. The plates and dishes in use among the better 
class of Persians are either of silver, tinned copper, or 
porcelain imported direct from Russia or China. Some 
two or three centuries ago an effort was made to revive the 
art of manufacturing earthenware similar to the ancient 
specimens, and artists, invited from China, established 
themselves at Cashan. At their manufactory were pro- 
duced the later specimens of finer Persian earthenware, 
particularly the large dishes with the deep blue pattern 
which I have mentioned above, and which are known to 
the inhabitants by the name of Cashi*. These artists, not 
receiving due encouragement, returned to China, taking 
with them the secret of the glaze with which they concealed 
the roughness of the material forming the basis of the 
articles which they produced. There is some difference of 
opinion as to the nature of this reflet metattique, so much 
admired by collectors. Some will have it that the peculiar 
prismatic effect and golden tints were intentional, and 
knowingly produced by the artist, while on the other hand 
there are those who maintain that it is the result of de- 
composition of the silicates contained in the glaze, just as 
we see prismatic colours produced upon old lachrymatories 
and other ancient vessels taken from Roman and Etruscan 
tombs. I have seen an example of Cashis which seemed 
to support this latter theory. It was in the possession of 
Mr. Churchill, the then British Consul at Asterabad, who 
had purchased it in the place itself. It was a large flat 
dish, nearly two feet in diameter, and of a brownish amber 
tint. Some irregular dashes of deep grass-green colour 
served as ornamentation, and on viewing its surface 
obliquely I could distinctly perceive that where the brown 
and green colours touched, there were irregular streaks of 
reflet mitallique, so distributed that it was quite impossible 


they should have been intended as part of the general 
decorative effect. I give this example for what it is worth, 
as I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters. 

I have already alluded to the wild boars which penetrate 
within the walls of the town. They occur in extraordinary 
numbers in the surrounding country, and, looking from the 
ramparts over the adjoining fields of springing rice and 
corn, one sees them dotted at intervals of eight or ten feet 
with the large black heaps where the boars have been at 
work, rooting up the soil. One might imagine that a 
detachment of sappers had been engaged in throwing up a 
series of rifle pits, or that the ground had been subjected 
to a heavy plunging fire of shells. Such is the devastation 
produced by the wild boars and their broods that it is 
found worth while to maintain a body of professional 
hunters, whose sole occupation is to destroy these animals. 
Enormous quantities are killed annually, but their numbers 
do not appear to be perceptibly lessened. The inhabitants 
never on any account make use of the flesh of the boar as 
food, being in this respect unlike the Sunnite Turcomans, 
who will sometimes eat boar's flesh, though they do not 
like to do so openly on all occasions. While at Asterabad 
I observed an amusing instance of the aversion with which 
the flesh of the boar is regarded by the Shiia Persians. 
Mr. Churchill, whose kind hospitality I was at the time 
enjoying, was exceedingly desirous of obtaining some wild 
boar's flesh, but though he made repeated attempts to 
induce the hunters to bring him a quarter of one of the 
animals which they were killing every day, he could not 
succeed. At length, however, a hunter specially retained 
by himself to furnish him with game of different kinds 
agreed that as soon as he had shot a boar within a reason- 
able distance of the town he would give notice to that effect 
immediately, so that a portion of it might be secured before 


the jackals discovered and devoured the carcass. By these 
means a head, a couple of hams, and other portions of the 
animal were procured, and were conveyed with the greatest 
secresy to the Consulate. The cook, by dint of lavish 
bribery, had been persuaded to prepare some of the flesh, 
but he only undertook to do so on condition of the affair 
being kept a profound secret between himself and the 
Consul. However, his fellow-servants by some means 
discovered that wild boar was being cooked in the house, 
and at once entered a protest, and one day the whole of 
them, including the cook, appeared in a body before Mr. 
Churchill, and respectfully begged to state that they could 
no longer remain in the house. The cook said that as he 
passed through the bazaars he was scornfully pointed out 
and jeered at by the merchants and passers-by as a cooker 
of boar's flesh, that his life was miserable, that even his own 
family avoided him, and that he could not endure such 
suffering. A compromise was arrived at, and the cook and 
other servants agreed to remain on condition that the 
object of their abhorrence, the remaining boar's flesh, be 
immediately thrown out, which was accordingly done. 
This will give some idea of the intense religious prejudices 
of these people. Yet these very servants, who are so 
scrupulous in the matter of adhering to Koranic diet, are 
in other matters, such as cheating their employers in the 
most egregious and bare-faced manner, influenced by no 
scruple whatsoever. Neither are they virtuous in the 
matter of intoxicating drinks, for a Persian, of this or any 
other class, will drink himself into a state of blind inebria- 
tion on every possible occasion, although the consumption 
of these liquors is quite as much at variance with the 
teaching of Mahomet as the eating of the flesh of 
' unclean ' animals. A Persian servant does not as a rule 
ask high wages, forty francs per month being considered 


fair average pay ; but he counts upon at least doubling this 
sum by illicit gains and fraudulent transactions in the 
market. It is vain to imagine that such robbery can be 
avoided* In Persia it is entirely infra dig. for a European 
of any standing to make his own purchases at a bazaar, 
and even if he did so he would infallibly be cheated by the 
merchant, as he cannot possibly be aware of the fluctuations 
in the prices of the articles which he requires. The servant 
and the shopkeeper conspire to make an overcharge, the 
extra profit thus obtained being divided between them. 
The latter individual dares not refuse this arrangement, as 
in such a case the servant would carry his custom else- 
where. The same system is adopted in the purchase of 
oats and fodder for horses, and in every other imaginable 
matter in which the Persian servant has the handling of 
the smallest amount of money. Apart from their thievish- 
ness, Persian servants are, as a rule, exceedingly insolent, 
unless they be kept within proper bounds with a strong 
hand. The use of the stick as a punishment for dishonesty 
and disobedience is a matter of every-day necessity 
throughout Persia, and the castigation is technically known 
among the culprits as ' eating the sticks.' 

While staying at Asterabad, I met with an interesting 
personage — the great-grandson of the celebrated Nadir 
Shah, the last monarch who ruled over old Persia in its 
entirety, from Candahar to Tiflis, and from the Persian 
Gulf to' the Oxus. The Shah Zade, or prince, as this 
gentleman was entitled, was between sixty and seventy 
years of age, and of a remarkably truculent expression of 
countenance. His vast forehead, widening towards the top, 
and receding markedly, his pointed hooked nose, arched 
near the brow, and his small, cruel grey eyes, gave him, 
I was told, a very strong resemblance to his renowned 
ancestor. Like all the other Shah Zades in Persia, and 


their name is legion, whose descent from a former sovereign 
is well authenticated and indubitable, Zenghis Mirza was 
in receipt of a pension from the Shah amounting to the 
munificent sum of sixty tomans, or 242. sterling, per annum. 
This was given in recognition of his real descent. The 
amount does not strike a European as being large, but a 
native Persian in a provincial town can subsist comfortably 
upon it. Besides this allowance to the Shah Zades, care is 
taken to provide them with Government employment of 
one kind or another, generally as chiefs of telegraphic 
bureaux. When I was at Asterabad, the chief of the 
telegraph station there was another Shah Zad6, a grand- 
son, if I do not mistake, of Feth Ali Shah. I afterwards 
met with another descendant of Nadir Shah, a Shah Zade 
named Daoud Mirza, who was one of the principal officials 
in the Meshed telegraph office. This title of Mirza, when 
used as a suffix, means * prince,' but when placed before 
the name simply signifies a secretary, or scribe. The 
derivation of the name, as I am informed, is Emir Zade, 
or ' son of prince/ Why it should be applied as a prefix 
to the name of a secretary it is difficult to say ; perhaps it 
is because in the days when the title originated only such 
regal persons were supposed to possess the accomplishments 
of reading and writing. This, however, is only a hypothesis 
of my own. 

The inhabitants of Asterabad hold the peculiar belief 
that the bread made in the town exercises an intoxicating 
influence upon strangers; and there are trees standing 
beside one of the numerous streams which traverse the 
town — centennial chenars (lime trees), with great branch- 
ing roots arching the channel, which are supposed to 
bewitch the individual who stands under their spreading 
boughs after the sun has set. Half-witted people are 
pointed out among the population, and the Asterabadi will 


tell yon, with a grave shake of the head, that ' that is what 
comes of standing under such-and-such a tree after night- 

The outskirts of Asterabad are eminently fertile, and 
highly cultivated, especially to the south and west. The 
water-supply is copious, for perennial streams flow from the 
huge mass of the Elburz mountains, which, rearing their 
terraces height over height deep into the blue sky of Persia, 
and clothed high up their slopes with a dense forest growth, 
form a picturesque background. These woods, which 
even in the plain leading to the base of the mountains, 
mingle largely with the cultivated ground, abound with 
every kind of game, pheasants especially ; and the ahou, or 
mountain antelope, often strays from his craggy abode, par- 
ticularly during the winter, when snow covers the herbage. 
To the west of the town, and connected with it by long lines 
of ramparts enclosing a triangular space three quarters of 
a mile in length, is a steep, artificially terraced hill — some 
work of fortification reared in past ages to dominate and 
protect the large watercourse which, flowing from the hills, 
joins the Eara-Su. It is ordinarily the camping place lor 
the Persian troops when, as is usually the case, a consider- 
able force garrisons Asterabad. From the summit of this 
mound a magnificent view of the plains ^stretching north 
and east is obtained — a vast, violet-grey sea of dreamland, 
with mingled zones of ethereal orange and azure, its 
horizon mounting to meet the vaguely tinted sky that 
hangs over it; the home of mystery, replete with the 
memory of colossal events in the history of the human race ; 
across which have swept the hordes of Zengfais and of 
Timour, and doubtless many another army, in the dim old 
prehistoric days. Even as I gazed, an army was marching 
serosa these expanses towards the east — the reflux of the 
tide of nations that had so long set westward. 





Persians and Turcomans — Mutual opinion — Persian fortified villages — Jungle- 
Depredations of wild boars— Former cultivation — Possibilities of irrigation 
— Turbi, or saint's tomb — Persian entrenched camp of Ah Imam — The 
Kara-Su — Ancient bridge — Inferior Persian armament and uniforms — 
Conversation of Mustapha Khan about Tekkes — Description of former — 
Veli Khan and his Mirza — Camp music and muezzim* — Persian physician 
— Mediaeval ideas— Absurd conversations — Position of Australia — Afghan 
troopers — II Geldi Khan — Dangers in jungle — Tea, water-pipes, and chess 
— Interfluvial cone — General insecurity — Turcomans' opinion about Geok 
Tepe — Giurgen river — Arrival at Gumush Tepe. 

Banished from the camp at Tchikislar, I had come to 
Asterabad in order to be within reach of the Kussian columns, 
and to have it in my power to know what was happening 
from time to time at the former place. Various rumours 
of unusual activity on the part of the Tekke Turcomans 
reached me, pud though, owing to the hospitality of Mr. 
Churchill, I was, exceedingly comfortable at Asterabad, I 
resolved to move out into the plain between the Atterek and 
Sumbar rivers as far as Gumush Tep6, a point which 
would afford me many facilities for ascertaining what was 
occurring within the Kussian lines. Travelling over the 
intermediate country was rather a ticklish undertaking, in 
consequence of the near proximity of Tekke raiders, who 
pushed boldly forward towards the sea-board, and of the 
never over-scrupulous parties of Turcomans of various 
tribes, camped and wandering, between the Atterek and the 


It was an hour after sunrise as I rode through the 
bazaar on my way to the northern town gate. Early as 
was the hour, every one was astir and about his daily 
business, for the Persians are not morning sleepers, though 
they make up for their rising betimes by abandoning work 
at two or three in the afternoon, after which hour the 
bazaar is deserted and silent. Outside the gate, watering 
their horses at the stream which flows out of the town by a 
subterranean issue under the wall, were some dozens of 
Persians and Turcomans, all armed to the teeth, and 
evidently not over-confident in each other. At a distance 
of a mile out in the plain they would be far from associating 
so closely. Even the Persian soldiers have an exceeding 
dread of the denizens of the kibitkas along the Giurgen. A 
Persian officer, who was evidently above the ordinary pre- 
judices of his class, once said to me that with equal forces r 
the Turcomans were always perfectly certain of victory when 
fighting with the soldiers of the Shah. The Turcomans 
are far from having so mean an opinion of themselves as J 
this officer entertained of his comrades-in-arms. I once 
heard a Tamud Turcoman aver, in the most serious and 
evidently sincere tone, that any one of his race was a match 
in battle for nine Persians, a statement which, in view of 
some astonishing facts which have come under my notice, 
did not seem so exceedingly incredible ; though I was forced 
to doubt one of the portions of his argument — viz. that one 
Turcoman could be counted upon as equal to three Russians, 
while one of the latter would be sure to come off victorious 
in an encounter with three Persians. 

The old earth-brick wall and crumbling towers were 
picturesque and mellow-tinted in the early sun rays, and the 
jungles of stunted oak, pomegranate, and reed were bright 
with late autumnal colours ; for around Asterabad, winter, 
properly speaking, had not then set in. Half a mile from 



the town the irregular causeway merged into a foot-path 
twelve inches wide, formed by the passage of men, horses, 
and camels through the bamboo-like reeds which, with their 
plumy tufts, rose to a height of fifteen feet on either side. 
At intervals, through occasional openings in the jungle, 
glimpses were caught of far distant stretches of the vast 
Steppe, deep azure, with golden morning streakings ; and 
here and there a slender, sombre line of trees marked the 
course of the Giurgen and its tributaries. Scattered amid 
the dense growth of briar and reed, and five or six hundred 
yards apart, were numerous Persian villages of from twenty 
to thirty houses each. The character of these villages is 
entirely different from that of the Turcoman aoulls or ova* 
to be met with five or six miles further on in the open, and 
which, with rare exceptions, have no kind of defence around 
the groups of circular felt huts, or aladjaks, the inhabitants 
trusting entirely, in case of an attack, to their personal 
prowess on horseback. The Persian villages, on the 
contrary, are surrounded by loop-holed walls of mud, from 
twelve to fifteen feet high, strengthened with rude flanking 
I towers and a fosse. The houses are oblong structures of 
mud, the high sloping roofs of reed-thatch being supported 
upon a tangled maze of branches, and projecting into wide 
rough eaves. The edifice bears considerable resemblance to 
a dilapidated crow's nest. Close beside each dwelling, 
within a rough courtyard, were a couple of sleeping stages, 
each consisting of a platform raised on four poles to a height 
of ten or twelve feet from the ground, and having a sloping 
roof of reed. Here the inhabitants, during the sultry 
summer months, take their nightly sleep. The entire 
aspect of these villages, with their primitive fortifications 
and guarded gateway, spoke eloquently of the general in- 
security pervading the district, and of the justly founded 
fears of the population. Notwithstanding all the efforts of 


the Russian and Persian Governments, persons of both 
sexes are occasionally carried into captivity by the 
neighbouring nomads, and murderous affrays between 
Persians and Turcomans are of everyday occurrence in the 
immediate vicinity of Asterabad. Deep, miry irrigation 
canals are met with at every hundred paces, crossed by rude, 
ricketty constructions of wood and earth, inconvenient at 
all times, and dangerous to the belated traveller overtaken 
by evening in these swampy jungles, removed but one step 
from their primaeval state. The little cultivation that 
exists in this direction is mainly of rice and a species of 
oats. The fields are enclosed by earth banks and briar 
hedges, intended to prevent the depredations of the wild 
boars, which swarm in the neighbourhood. Hundreds of 
these animals are annually killed by the peasantry. Their 
flesh iB left a prey to jackals and lynxes, who make short 
work of each carcass. The heads and skins are suspended 
from the branches of trees, with the idea that they will 
intimidate the surviving animals. On many trees I have 
seen from ten to twelve thus suspended, and in one instance 

Following the road in a north-westerly direction for 
three or four miles, the jungle and reeds began to give place 
to wide tracts of open country, covered with luxuriant grass. 
To the left towered the huge ridges of theElburz mountains, 
now all capped with snow, their slopes and the plain 
bordering their bases densely covered with forest growth. 
To the right stretched the boundless expanse of the great 
.rait steppes, growing drearier and more desolate with every 
pace to the northward. Nothing could be more striking 
than the sudden transition from the redundantly luxuriant 
vegetation around Asterabad and along the hill slopes to the 
horrid barrenness of plain across which lies the road to 
Tchikislar. The source of this unmitigated desolation 


seems to me to be the almost absolute levelness of the plain. 
At least it gives no path for streams of ordinary dimensions. 
On the melting of the Elburz snows great torrents tear 
their way across it, reaching the Giurgen. A portion of 
the water stagnates in great marshes, which dry up on the 
commencement of the natural heats ; but regular natural 
irrigation there is none, and a naturally fertile territory is 
thus blighted beside a plentiful water supply. Wherever 
artificial irrigation has been brought to bear, the desert 
springs into life ; and to judge from the traces of large 
channels which I repeatedly crossed, this border district 
must have been once in a high state of cultivation. Many 
systems have been proposed to facilitate irrigation — among 
the rest to build vast dams across the mouths of some of the 
great Elburz gorges opening to the northward. The water 
of the melting snows would thus be retained, forming great 
supplies which could at need be led away across the plain, 
instead of tearing a destructive path for themselves in the 
early summer days. However, it is idle to speak of such 
enterprises when many others, infinitely more easy to 
accomplish, remain unthought of and unattempted in this 
home of neglect. 

Apart from the great three-terraced sepulchral mounds 
which dot the plain, the only prominent object is a large 
domed turbe 9 or tomb, of some local saint, believed by the 
inhabitants to be that of a nephew of Hussein, one of the 
heroes of the Persian religious plays. As far as the eye can 
reach, Turcoman villages of forty or fifty huts each are 
scattered over the plain, and numerous herds of cattle tended 
by nomads, armed and on horseback, are continually met with. 
A four hours' ride from Asterabad brought me to a Persian 
entrenched camp of about fifteen hundred men, consisting 
of two infantry regiments and one of cavalry, who accom- 
panied the Governor of Asterabad, Mustapha Khan, in his 


tour for collecting the annual tribute from the Turcomans. 
At this season the latter migrate into Persian territory to 
obtain winter forage for their flocks. In the present 
instance, the threatened hostility of the Tekkes against all 
those tribes which had in any way aided the Russian 
advance along the Atterek had greatly increased the usual 
migration. The Persian camp of Ak-Imam was situated in 
the midst of a plain, here and there dotted with patches of 
forest growth, offshoots of the great woods. Along the hills 
close by runs a sluggish stream, the Kara-Su, one of the 
southern tributaries of the Giurgen. All around are 
marshes of a most unhealthy character, filling the air with 
pestilent malaria. A massive red-brick bridge of three 
arches, half concealed in the great cane-brakes, spans the 
muddy stream. It is now entirely unused. Not a trace of a 
road exists at either extremity, both of which debouch upon 
jungle and marsh. It was evidently one of those bridges 
over which passed the great causeway of Shah Abass, leading 
to Gez and the South Caspian coast. 

The Persian camp consisted partly of tents, some square, 
some bell-shaped ; and of shelter huts constructed of sheaves 
of reeds ingeniously put together. It was surrounded by a 
rampart mounting two field batteries, the greater number 
of the pieces being old smooth-bore bronze guns. There 
were three or four bronze rifled twelve-pounders. The 
troops were armed with a long smooth-bore musket, bearing 
date from the ' Fabrique Boyale de Saint Etienne, 1816/ 
not long previously converted from flint-lock to percussion. 
The physique of the men seemed fairly good, although, 
probably owing to the malaria of the marshes, they did not 
appear to be in good condition. During the cold December 
nights, also, their uniforms were miserably deficient, com- 
posed as they were of blue calico tunics and trousers, the 
former faced with red; a sheepskin shako, and canvas 

vol. 1. o 


sandals of no particular pattern. They have, as a rule, no 
overcoats, a poor kind of blanket being the only extra 
clothing — if I can give it that name. I had an interview 
with Mustapha Khan, the commander of the camp and 
Governor of Asterabad. We had some conversation about 
the Tekkes. He had, he told me, been engaged in many 
combats with these latter, and found them to be remarkably 
good soldiers — that is, as cavalry. Their infantry, he said, 
he had had but little to do with. They only fought when 
their homes were attacked, as was the case at Geok Tep6 
(Yengi Sheher) when Lomakin attacked them. Tekkes, 
unless well mounted, never ventured any distance from home. 
This implied that the speaker had never got close to the 
Tekke centres. For the reason he gave, he didn't believe 
that Noor Berdi Khan, the then commander at Geok Tepe, 
had so many infantry with him at Bendessen as was 
currently reported. He even doubted if he had any. The 
fifteen thousand cavalry and eighteen guns he could under- 
stand. The guns could only be regarded as position guns, 
intended altogether for defensive action. They would never 
be trusted within reach of the Cossacks. The cavalry would 
be, no doubt, very efficient in cutting off convoys. This 
was their forte. He believed the Bussians would have hard 
work even to reach Merv, without speaking of establishing 
themselves there, which was nigh impossible until the Caspian 
settlements were much better organised, and railway and 
other communications from the West established. The 
General's ideas coincided very much with those I had pre- 
viously heard expressed by Bussian officers of superior grade. 
After the usual Persian glass of very strong black tea, I took 
leave of the Commander-in-Chief, and went to present a 
letter of introduction to Veli Khan, commanding the in- 
fantry. The Commander-in-Chief was an old-fashioned 
Persian, who wore the usual semi-bedgown sort of costume, 

VEL1 KHAN, 195 

and stained his beard and finger-nails red with henna. The 
brigade commander, on the contrary, was semi-European 
in his garb, and, to my intense delight, spoke a little 
French. His secretary, Mirza Abdurrahim, spoke the 
language with fair fluency. It was close on sunset when 
I reached Veli Khan's tent, consisting of two pavilions 
separated by a space enclosed at each side by a canvas 
wall. The band was performing on some kind of clarionet- 
like pipes, and what seemed to me muffled drums. The 
smothered kind of music produced seemed as if issuing 
from under a feather-bed. Then the evening gun thundered 
out ; and a wild flourish of trumpets was executed, after 
which, the chaunt of various muezzims rose on the evening 
air. The chief of them appeared to be of advanced age, 
as well as I could judge from his quavering notes. They 
reminded me irresistibly of the efforts of a belated 
Bacchanalian endeavouring to reproduce some very senti- 
mental ditty in an exquisitely pathetic fashion — and com- 
pletely failing. I presented my letter of introduction, and 
give the following as a specimen of an interview with a 
Persian dignitary. After some conversation on general 
topics, the Khan told me that he had badly sprained his 
ankle some time before, and asked me if I could prescribe 
for him. In the East all Europeans are supposed to be 
deeply versed in the healing art. I recommended a band- 
age moistened with cold water and vinegar, and cold water 
poured from a height on the ailing joint every morning. 
'We have an excellent surgeon attached to the brigade,' 
said the General, when I had done speaking. ' Then,' 
said I to myself, ' why do you consult me ? ' ' He is coming 
directly,' said the General ; ' he will be glad to see you.' 
Shortly after, a tall, handsome, intellectual-looking man, 
with coal-black beard and piercing eyes, made his appear- 
ance. He was the surgeon. A conversation about Euro- 

o 2 


pean politics followed. After a pause, the Bubject of 
the sprained ankle again came up. I repeated my prescrip- 
tion. 'On what scientific grounds do you base your 
remedy?' said the doctor. I explained. 'What would 
you say to a dozen leeches ? ' asked the hakim. Glad to 
get out of the subject, I said that the remedy was excellent. 
Not at all. No chance of getting off so easily. ' I presume 
you are an astronomer ? ' went on my interlocutor. ' Well/ 
I said, not exactly understanding the sudden transition 
from sprained ankles and leeches to the stars, ( I know 
something about the science.' ' I presume you can foretell 
a favourable conjunction for the application of the leeches, 
and drawing the blood of his Excellency ? ' My gravity 
was put to a severe test ; but taking a long pull at a water 
pipe, or kalioun, which having gone the round of the 
company was in turn handed to me, I uttered the usual pro- 
longed sigh after such an indulgence, and gasped out between 
suppressed laughing and half-suffocation that I regretted 
my science was not of so profound a nature. Upon this 
the hakim, casting a triumphant glance around, sank back 
upon his heels and fingered his chaplet of amber beads. 
He felt that he had completely floored me, and need not 
say more in order to show up my utter ignorance of medical 
science. I, for one, blessed the stars that had rescued 
me from the chirurgico-astronomical discussion. The 
hospitality I met with was without bounds ; so great and 
so minute in its details as to be embarrassing, but inter- 
spersed by singular questions which made me doubt my 
own sanity or that of my questioners. One gentleman 
wished to know what was the thickness and height of the 
walls of the Palace of Crystal which he had been told 
existed in London. Another desired to be informed whether 
all Franks wore long boots like mine, and whether I took 
them off when I went to bed. When just on the point of 


going to sleep on my bamboo couch, a young officer begged 
for some instruction in the French language ; and subse- 
quently growing enthusiastic on the subject, asked me to 
dictate to him a love-letter to his sweetheart in that lan- 
guage. I explained that I was not sufficiently acquainted 
with Eastern phraseology to take the initiative, and asked 
for a specimen, so that I might gauge the nature of the 
desired epistle. Hereupon my companion favoured me 
with some sentences, so replete with buhUmls, roses, gazelles, 
and other agreeable animals and plants, that a Franco- 
Persian lexicon of natural history would have been abso- 
lutely requisite in order that I might do justice to his 

Another example of the oddity of Persian ideas. I 
happened, in the course of conversation, to mention 
Australia. The General turned to his secretary, and asked 
where that country was. The secretary hesitated for a 
moment, but immediately said that he was not sure 
whether it was in the Sea of Marmora or that of Azoff, but 
that he knew it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 

At daybreak next morning I was summoned to the tent 
of the Commander-in-Chief, who told me that in case I 
thought of starting that day for Gumush Tep6 I could take 
advantage of the departure of a Turcoman Khan who was 
going in that direction. Some Afghan troopers would also 
accompany me. I have already alluded to these Afghans 
— all of them Sunnite Mahometans, who constitute the main 
strength of the Persian cavalry in the northern provinces. 
They are the descendants of the colony planted along the 
border by Nadir Shah after his return from his expedition 
to Afghanistan. The Turcoman chief, by name II Geldi 
Khan, a sly-looking man of some thirty-five years of age, 
agreed that I should accompany him. He could not for 


the life of him make out what I wanted prowling about in 
the desert. He had a vague idea that I might belong to 
some order of dervishes in my own country ; but the notion 
which found most favour with him was that I had been 
sent by the Padishah to take stock of his villages and 
camels with a view to taxing them later on. This latter 
idea had its origin in the widely-spread rumour prevailing 
here, about the proxiijaate occupation of Herat by English 
troops, and their possible march in this direction. At one 
of the Khan's villages, about two hours' ride from the 
camp, we dismissed the Afghan escort, my conductor offer- 
ing to supply another of his own clansmen, for though both 
the Persians and the Turcomans are nominally living under 
the jurisdiction of the same sovereign, they take every 
opportunity of harming each other. No single Turcoman 
will venture into the pomegranate jungles, amid which are 
situated the fortified Persian villages which constitute the 
suburbs of Asterabad. To do so would be to incur almost 
certain death, for these outlying Persians invariably go 
about armed and in groups, and never lose an opportunity 
of ' potting ' a nomad, and vice versd. Such events are of 
almost daily occurrence in the neighbourhood to which I 
allude. While waiting the preparation of some pilaff, I had 
an opportunity of witnessing some of the Turcoman indoor 
amusements indulged in during the long winter period of in- 
action following the gathering of the harvest. They spend 
much of their time drinking scalding hot water, faintly 
flavoured with tea ; but when they cannot possibly swallow 
any more, and have passed the water-pipe round sufficiently 
often, they engage in a kind of game of odd and even, played 
with the knuckle-bones of a sheep's foot, some of the pieces 
being stained red. The elders occasionally play chess, usually 
on a cotton handkerchief divided into squares by lines of 
black stitching. The squares are all of the same colour. The 


chessmen are of the most primitive pattern. The top of a 
cow's horn does duty as king ; a similar article of smaller 
size as vizir, or queen. The knights are represented by 
upright pieces of bone, each having two notches. The 
bishop, or, as the Turcomans term it, JU, or elephant, is a 
piece of something in any shape ; while the castles, or 
rokhs, have the form of mushrooms. The game is the same 
as in Europe, with some difference in the method of 
castling, and division of the first two-square moves of each 
pawn into two, two pawns being simultaneously moved 
forward one square each. They play very fairly, and even 
in the midst of the game make the moves with the most 
amazing rapidity. The spectators enter into the spirit of 
the game with the greatest enthusiasm, chattering and 
squabbling over the relative merits of the different moves. 

This inter-fluvial zone was debatable ground, over 
which one could not move with any guarantee of security. 
The Yamud Turcomans were on the qui vive about the 
Tekkes, who had cut the telegraph line between Tchikislar 
and Asterabad, and strangers were on their guard against 
Turcomans of every description. As a rule I found the 
present generation of Yamuds an honest, hospitable people, 
ready to do a great deal, even for a Kaffir and Ferenghi 
like myself. The older members, who had been in- 
fluential slave-merchants, and whose worldly wealth had 
been drawn mainly from traffic in Persian captives, were 
content to fall in with the new state of affairs, and allow a 
stranger to pass freely. Still, even these latter, reformed 
though they were, warned me against certain groups of 
their own nationality inhabiting the vicinity of Asterabad. 
I was counselled never to show that I had any sum of money 
about me, and, when saluted on the road by the usual 
4 Where are you going ? ' to give a reply calculated to mis- 
lead my questioners if I wished to sleep securely that even- 



ing. This feeling of insecurity was everywhere pre- 
eminent. A dish ol pilaff 9 as in this instance, is laid among 
the folded legs of the community. The host, before touch- 
ing the food, exclaims Selam aleik, ' Peace be with you/ and 
until the same salutation is returned, hands are not dipped 
in the dish. In the case to which I now refer, it was not a 
religious or habitual practice only, but, as it were, the 
challenge and reply of the sentry and patrol. Nine 
splendidly mounted horsemen, each armed with sabre 
and musket, accompanied me on my way to the coast. 
They were friends upon whom I could rely, for we had 
eaten together, the challenge of Selam aleik being somewhat 
similar to the American one at an hotel bar, ' Will you 
drink or fight ? ' 

Owing to one of my horses having become sore-backed, 
I had to pay six francs for an extra one for baggage ; for 
here, however willingly a feed of rice may be given you 
gratis, corn, hay, and horses have to be most religiously 
paid for. As we rode over the plains covered with short, 
withered grass, I talked with my host about the battle of 
Geok Tep6 — the green hill or fort - where the Russians met 
with their serious check. He insisted that the Russian loss 
was tremendous, and that two guns had been taken. He 
seemed to think that the Russians had been disposed of for 
at least five years to come, and that their ultimate 
success was impossible so far as Merv was concerned. Of 
course his notions about the Russian losses in the battle 
were formed on an Eastern scale of exaggeration. He 
could scarcely understand my reasoning when I told him 
that when only two thousand troops were engaged, the 
losses could not be what he estimated them. From his con- 
versation I learned that the Turcomans, too, considered the 
Russian advance in the direction of Merv as finished for 
the next four or five years I could not agree with him in 


that ; but I felt tolerably sure that the Russians would next 
time appear in much more formidable numbers than on the 
past occasion. During the expedition against the Tekk6, 
as during the campaign in Armenia, the Russians sadly 
underrated the power of their adversaries. In each case a 
tremendous check was the result — in Armenia at Zevin, in 
Turkestan at Geok Tepe. In Armenia the Russian laurels 
were retrieved at the Aladja Dagh and Ears ; in Turkestan 
it was at Tengi Sheher and Askabad. 

It is impossible to be aware of the presence of the 
Giurgen River till one is within fifty yards of the bank, so 
flat is the plain, and so clear cut the deep river bed. For 
a quarter of an hour we searched for a passage, and at 
length forded the river, our horses almost swimming — that 
is to say, swimming were it not for the weight of their 
riders. Another two hours' ride through swamp and 
prairie brought us to Gumush Tep6. 




Maritime Turcomans — Loggers — Dug-out canoes — Permanent Turcoman set- 
tlements — Gumush Tep£ mound — Old town of Khorsib — Eizil Alan — Old 
earth mounds — Alexander's wall — Former palm groves — Geldi Khan — 
Turcoman interior — Female costume — Children's silver-mounted caps — 
Turcoman toilet — Occupations and dietary of Turcomans — Tea drinking 
— Economy of sugar — Absence of animal food — Fuel — Astatki lamps — 
Tcheliken salt — Yaghourt — Visit to Tchikislar — Salt plains — A rebuff 
— Every-day life at Gumush Tope — Makeshifts against rain — The tcnkia — 
Precautions against storm — A rush for water. 

The village, or aatdl, of Gumush Tep6 is one of the very 
few permanent Turcoman settlements which exist along the 
Eastern Caspian shore. It is situated within about two 
miles and a half of the mouth of the Giurgen river, and 
consists in ordinary times of six hundred to eight hundred 
kibitkas. The resident population occupy themselves almost 
entirely in fishing, though no inconsiderable portion of their 
animal food is supplied by the vast flocks of sea-birds which 
are to be found in their immediate vicinity, at the capture 
and killing of which they are very expert. Owing to 
Gumush Tepe being within easy reach of the forests border- 
ing upon Eenar Gez, ' the port of Asterabad,' as it is styled, 
though it is nigh thirty miles distant from that city, and of 
the other wooded tracts immediately south of the same 
place, it is one of the principal points from which the 
wooden frames of the Turcoman houses of the interior are 
supplied. At the village itself, and from a point three 
miles above it, the river Giurgen is at all seasons unfold- 



able. On the left bank of the river, and at its mouth, are 
some very considerable Armenian fishing stations, where 
the sefid mahee, or large Caspian carp, are caught in 
enormous numbers, dried, and sent off to different parts 
of Russia. Caviare, also, forms a considerable portion of , 
the products of these establishments. At Gumush Tepe 
the river is about eighty yards wide, the Turcomans in- 
habiting both banks, but principally the northern one. 
The fishing-boats of the population number from seventy 
to a hundred, and lie at anchor at the rude landing stages 
of rough piles and reed fascines which enable them to dis- 
charge their cargoes. These craft, now exclusively em- 
ployed for fishing purposes, and, when I saw them, for the 
transport of wood, fuel, and forage to the Russian camp at 
Tchikislar, were formerly largely devoted to piracy, and to 
Turcoman descents upon the Persian coast. They are of 
two kinds. The keseboy is a lugger of some forty feet in 
length, is decked fore and aft, and has two masts, carrying 
large lateen sails. The kayuk, or lodka, as the Russians call 
it, is a craft somewhat smaller in dimensions, decked only at 
the forecastle, and having usually but one mast, though in 
some cases it possesses a very small second one at the 
stern. There is also the tdimid, which is simply a dug-out 
canoe, formed of a single tree-trunk, flat bottomed, not 
more than two feet wide, and vertical sided. These latter, 
however, are scarcely ever used except for the service of 
the larger boats, or for expeditions up and down the river, 
or ferrying purposes. 

Besides Gumush Tepe there are at present but three 
permanent Turcoman stations on the East Caspian coast* 
These are Hassan Kouli, the aaull close to the camp at 
Tchikislar, which I have already described in some detail, and 
another in the vicinity of Erasnavodsk, or Shah Quaddam 
(the footprint of the king), as it was called before the 


descent of the Bussians. The houses composing Gumuqh 
Tep6 have no pretension to arrangement in streets ; they 
are scattered indiscriminately over the area occupied by the 
village, and are, with few exceptions, the regular dome- 
shaped, felt-covered residences which are to be met with all 
over Central Asia. A few wooden houses raised upon poles, 
copied from the Armenian fishing-sheds, were also to be 
found, and half-a-dozen rude buildings of brick, the materials 
for which had been taken from the ancient remains lying 
about two miles to the northward. The aoutt itself is called 
after these latter, which form to-day only a long earthen 
mound from twenty to thirty feet in height and about one 
hundred yards in length, the surface and base being strewn 
with large flat bricks some fourteen inches long by twelve 
in depth and four in thickness, of a brownish yellow colour, 
and as hard as iron. The name Gumush Tep6, by which this 
hill is known, is derived from the fact that considerable quan- 
tities of silver money have been discovered there from time 
to time, and that such coins are still found there after heavy 
rainfalls, or when graves are dug for the dead of the 
neighbouring village. I am credibly informed by both 
Turcomans and Bussians that large numbers of these 
pieces bear the impress of the head of Alexander the Great — 
* the Iskander Zulkarnein,' or two-horned Alexander — the 
name by which the great Macedonian is known amongst 
all Eastern peoples. This mound has been used for ages 
by the nomads as a burying-place, as for this purpose they 
select the highest point of ground within any available 
distance of them; and the excavations made in digging 
graves have done much to destroy its ancient contour, and 
to obliterate any intelligible remnants of the structures 
which indubitably existed upon its summit. Turcoman 
tradition speaks of an ancient brick-built town which 
formerly occupied this mound and its environs, and which 


is said to have borne the name of Khorsib. Along the 
ridge of the hill of Gumush Tep6, the plan of which is 
that of a quarter of a circle, run the foundations of a brick 
wall, nearly three feet in thickness, and continued from its 
western end. These foundations follow the level ground, 
and disappear under the surface of the Caspian, the waters 
of which, at ordinary times, are distant some two hundred 
yards from the extremity of the hill. I say sometimes, for 
when a wind from the west prevails the m water advances at 
least half this distance inland. From the eastern encj. of the 
hill the foundations stretch in a straight line to the south- 
east for at least a hundred yards, when they again turn, in 
a more or less north-easterly direction, for a distance of 
two hundred yards, then changing abruptly to the north-west 
for more than three hundred yards, and again in a due 
easterly direction, reaching far away into the plain, where 
they join the Kara Suli Tepe, an enormous mound, also 
covered with scattered baked brick, and presenting ample 
evidence of having once been strongly revetted and otherwise 
fortified. About fifty yards from where this wall leaves the 
eastern extremity of the hill branches out in a south-westerly 
direction another line of foundations, which also runs to 
the water's edge. This latter, as well as that from the 
western extremity of Gumush Tepe, seems to have constituted 
some kind of landing pier, which enabled craft to discharge 
their cargoes despite what must at all times have been a 
very limited depth of water. The bricks scattered far and 
wide around the hill and along the walls are in many in- 
stances water- worn and rounded, and are mixed with large 
quantities of broken pottery, sometimes roughly enamelled 
blue, and fragments of glass, the surface of which presents 
the prismatic colouring of weather-worn silicates. These 
foundations are named by the Turcomans the Kizil Alan, 
or red road, as they maintain that they do not represent a 


wall, but simply a narrow causeway, by which the swampy 
grounds, formerly lying to the east of the mound, were 
traversed. In fact, old men told me that less than half a 
century ago the mound of Gumush Tep6 was entirely sur- 
rounded by water, and my host at the aoutt at the mouth 
of the Giurgen informed me that thirty years previously 
the Bite of the village was submerged. That was consider- 
ably within his own memory, as he was between sixty and 
seventy years of age. This Kizil Alan can be traced in an 
easterly direction, running along, in a zigzag fashion, the 
slightly raised and almost imperceptible water-shed which 
separates the Giurgen and Atterek rivers, and connects the 
numerous earth-mounds or tepes which, occurring at in- 
tervals of from one to two miles, dot the interfluvial plain 
and reach away to the town of Budjnoord, not far from 
Euchan. These mounds, with the connecting wall-founda- 
tions, or whatever they are, are known to the Persians and 
Turcomans by the name of Alexander's Wall, and form a 
triple line of entrenchments, the mounds of one line alter- 
nating with those before and behind, and intervening 
between the wooded mountain slopes of the North 
Persian territory, and the vast plain reaching away to 
Khiva. One can place but little reliance upon these tradi- 
tions, for the Easterns of these regions almost invariably 
attribute to Alexander any works of considerable magnitude 
whose origin is lost in the night of time. They just as 
probably belong to periods of various dynasties of early 
Persian monarchs, and the mounds themselves may very 
likely have been the sites of villages in the times when these 
plains were inhabited and cultivated ; for exactly similar 
ones are to be seen to-day along the north of Persia, 
covered with inhabited houses, and their brows surrounded 
by entrenchments. A propos of the ancient cultivation of 
this plain, it seems to be clearly indicated by the traces of 


old irrigation trenches of considerable dimensions. The 
people of Asterabad say that two centuries ago the 
ground between the mountains and the Giurgen was one 
vast grove of palm trees. Of course I give all these tradi- 
tions for what they are worth, and just as I heard them 
from the inhabitants. The names of the principal mounds, 
as we proceed from Gumush Tep6 along the Giurgen in the 
direction of Asterabad, are the two Kara Suli Tepes, greater 
and lesser, Carga Tep6 to the right, Sigur Tep6 to the left, 
the Altoun-tokmok, lying a long way due east, the Aser 
Shyia far off to the south-east, and the Giurgen Tep6 south 
of the usual ford across the river. There are scores of 
other tepis within view of any one of them, but I do not 
consider their names of any philological or historical im- 
portance, as they are comparatively modern ones, applied 
to them by the Turcomans, and merely explanatory of 
some peculiarity in form, or having reference to their 
relations to certain water-courses. In view of the large 
amount of brick scattered around Gumush Tep6 itself, 
along the course of the Kizil Alan, and on the flanks of 
the different tepes, one is led to the irresistible conclusion 
that considerable buildings formerly existed in this locality, 
and that these buildings have been destroyed, partly by 
domestic influences, partly during the marches of Eastern 
conquerors of old, and doubtless to a very large extent to 
supply building materials for neighbouring Persian tovms. 

Immediately on arriving at the village of Gumush Tep6 
the chief who escorted me brought me to the house of his 
father, Geldi Khan, who seemed to be patriarch of the 
entire district. He was over sixty years of age, with refined 
aquiline features, cold grey eye, a long white moustache 
and chin tuft, there being no sign of beard upon the upper 
portion of his jaws. Seated around him, in different parts 
of the cdadjak, were the female members of his family, all 


occupied in domestic work, such as spinning, weaving, and 
cooking. The Khan told me that he had been three months 
in Teheran as the guest of the Shah, with whom, he said, 
he was on very good terms. He had three sons, the eldest 
of whom, II Geldi, had escorted me across from the Persian 
camp ; the second was known by the name of Moullah 
Killidge. This latter was a student of theology, and by 
courtesy had the title of Moullah conceded to him ; in fact, 
the same dignity is accorded to anyone in these parts who 
is able to read and write. In other Turkish countries he 
would be simply styled Ehodjah. The third son, a youth 
of fourteen or fifteen, superintended the grazing of his 
father's flocks and herds. An old Turcoman named Dourdi 
was told off to provide me with lodgings in his kibitka. He 
was ihe immediate henchman of the old Khan, from whom 
he rented his house. In villages like this the chief generally 
owns a large number of dwellings, which he lets for small 
annual rents to his followers. The kibitka which I was to 
share with Dourdi was but poorly furnished, even for a 
Turcoman hut. As usual, in the centre of the floor was the 
fire, the smoke from which escaped by the circular opening 
in the centre of the roof, or by the door, when owing to 
bad weather this central aperture was closed with its hood 
of felt. A small and battered brass samovar stood near the 
fire ; beyond it, on the side farthest from the doorway, the 
floor was carpeted with thick felt, upon which were laid, as 
seats for people of more than ordinary rank, smaller sheets 
of the same material, and of brighter colours. Around the 
room, to the height of four feet, were horizontally piled a 
large number of stout tree-branches, sawn into convenient 
lengths, and intended for the winter supply of fuel. This 
wood was kept within proper limits by vertical stakes, stuck 
into the ground outside the heap, the top of which was 
used as a kind of rude shelf or counter upon which bolsters, 


quilts, and other sleeping appurtenances, were piled, these 
being, indeed, with the exception of the carpets, large and 
small, and a rude horizontal stone corn-mill, the only 
articles of furniture which the house contained. An old 
Russian musket, bearing upon the lock-plate the date 1851, 
but having of late years evidently been supplied with a 
percussion lock, hung, together with a sabre and a large 
chaplet of brown stone beads, against the lattice- work of the 
habitation. This combination of musket, sword, and beads, 
seemed at the time to be no inapt embodiment of Turcoman 
ideas, or, for that matter, of Osmanli ones either. Beside 
the fire crouched an elderly crone, who, whatever she might 
have been in her youth, was now the very incarnation of 
female ugliness. She was engaged in preparing the evening 
meal, and seemed not in the least disturbed by my entry. 
I may here add that, with the exception of very recently 
married ladies, no Turcoman woman makes even a pretence 
of veiling her features. It is not usual, either, for a Turco- 
man to have more than one wife, the fact being that most 
Turcomans find it difficult to provide what they consider a 
sufficiency of food, and do not care to have any extra 
mouths in their aladjaks. The majority of the women at 
Gumush Tep6 wore the characteristic female attire of these 
countries — a pair of trousers fastening closely round the 
ankle ; over these a long shirt of some dark red or purple 
material, the breast of which, in many cases, was ornamented 
with coins and pieces of silver hung in horizontal rows. At 
Gumush Tep6 it was principally the young girls and newly- 
married women who affected much personal adornment, the 
near contact of the Jaffar Bai Turcomans of the place 
with the Russians at Tchikislar, and with the Persians at 
Asterabad, having made the elders of the community appre- 
ciate the value of silver and gold coins as a medium of 
exchange as too great for them to be allowed to lie idle for 
vol. 1. P 

tio DRESS. 

purposes of mere bodily ornamentation. The farther one 
advances to the eastward the less the value of money is 
understood, and the more plentifully do the ladies decorate 
themselves with it. On state occasions, however, the Yamud 
women wear ponderous collars of hammered silver, em- 
bellished with flat cornelians and lozenge-shaped panels of 
embossed gold, and on their heads a hideous-looking hat of 
the size and shape of an ordinary bandbox, the front of 
which is hung over with festoons of small coins. Hung over 
the back of this absurd head-dress, and reaching to the small 
of the back, is a long-sleeved coat of crimson, blue, or green, 
a smaller one, fitting closely to the waist, being worn over the 
red shirt. This is the gala costume of the ordinary classes. 
The wives of chiefs and of the richer villagers wear on all 
occasions the fall quantity of clothing and ornaments, with 
the exception of the hat. This is then replaced by a large 
red handkerchief, tied turban-wise around the head, one end 
falling along the back. I have already described the 
costume of the male Tamuds, when speaking of Tchikislar 
and Hassan Kouli. The children, even in the severest 
weather, are very scantily clothed indeed, their entire 
costume consisting of a short red shirt which scarcely 
reaches to the knees. The head is covered with a little 
skull-cap of the same colour, around which are generally 
hung five or six pieces of silver money, the top being sur- 
mounted by a small silver tube, rising from a hemispherical 
base. This appendage to the head-dress of children is 
common to both sexes up to a certain age, and seems to 
bear some resemblance in symbolism to the Boman bulla, 
just as donning the huge black sheepskin hat seems equi- 
valent to investment with the toga virilis. It is a remark- 
able fact that though Turcomans are notoriously given 
to thieving, these children's hats, each with its eight or ten 
shillings' worth of appended coins and ornaments, are 


hardly ever purloined, though the wearers fling them at 
each other in the most careless manner. I have seen half- 
a-dozen of them lying about without any owners being in 
sight. Sometimes, however, they go astray, and on sudh 
occasions the individual who volunteers to act as village 
crier walks among the kibitkas, proclaiming in a loud voice 
that the hat of So-and-so's child has been mislaid, and 
requesting the finder to bring it to a certain kibitka. I 
enquired of my host whether theft of this kind was usual, 
but he said that it was rare indeed that the missing article 
was not returned intact. 

The mode of life of the Turcomans along the Caspian is 
sufficiently active. Fully two hours before sunrise they 
were awake and about, and, by the light of the smoky astatki 
lamps, the women were to be seen grinding, by the rude 
hand-mill, the corn required for the morning's repast, 
while the men got ready their luggers and tdimtds to 
proceed on their day's fishing, to convey loads of hay and 
other commodities to the Russian camp, or to seek firewood 
or timber for building purposes at Eenar Gez. A Turco- 
man's toilet is simplicity itself. I give Dourdi's as an 
example. Having donned the kusgun which served him 
during the night as a coverlet, he swept the carpet on 
which he had been sleeping with his huge sheepskin hat, 
which he then proceeded to dust by banging it lustily with 
the heavy iron tongues. Then, taking a piece of fat from 
the pot upon the hearth, he greased his boots with it, finish- 
ing up by washing his hands, using as soap the wood ashes 
from the fire. At the time of which I speak, the middle of 
December 1879, the Turcomans of Gumush Tep6 supplied 
the Russian army at Tchikislar with a very large amount 
indeed of corn, rice, and fodder, and to a great extent 
facilitated the first stages of its march to Geok Tep6. 

The dietary of an ordinary Turcoman is by no means 

p 2 


luxurious. Before the sun rises he partakes of some hot 
half-baked griddled bread, which has an intensely clayey 
taste and odour. This is washed down by weak black tea, 
and he thinks himself fortunate if he can now and then 
procure a piece of sugar wherewith to sweeten this draught. 
When he happens to meet with such a luxury, he adopts, 
with a view to economy, the Russian peasant's method of 
sweetening his tea. A small lump of sugar is held be- 
tween the teeth, the tea being sucked through it. Several 
glasses are thus got through with an amount of sugar 
which would scarcely suffice for one glass taken by a 
Western European. While the Turcomans of the Caspian 
littoral and a hundred miles inland use only black tea, their 
more Eastern brethren constantly consume green. Should 
he be at home, his mid-day meal consists of pilaff, made of 
rice if he be in funds, or of brownish oatmeal if otherwise. 
The only usual accompaniment to this is a little grease or 
butter, boiled through the mass, or, as is more generally the 
case, some dried salt fish. Sometimes on fite days, dried 
plums and raisins are mixed with the pilaff. The evening 
meal, partaken of a little after sunset, is the best of the 
day, and for it is secured a small portion of mutton to 
accompany the pilaff, or a couple of wild ducks caught or 
shot by some male member of the family. While at Gumush 
Tep6 I existed almost exclusively upon wild fowl of one kind 
or another — pheasants, partridges, and pin-tailed grouse — 
several of which I got boiled at once, keeping a number 
over to be eaten cold. Some of the ducks and geese are 
really excellent, but others are so fishy and rank as to 
render entirely inedible half a dozen good ones boiled in the 
same pot. The pelican and solan goose are greatly admired 
as food by the Turcomans, though I could not appreciate 
them. There was one thing about Turkestan which I could 
never understand, viz. the absence of flesh diet to an extent 


that seemed unreasonable, considering the vast flocks and 
herds possessed by the inhabitants. I could readily under- 
stand their unwillingness to slaughter oxen or cows, as the 
former were employed in the tilling of their scanty fields, 
and from the latter were derived the milk, butter, and 
cheese, which they either consumed themselves, or sold to 
the neighbouring Persians. It is true that from the sheep 
they derive the material for some portion of their gar- 
ments, though most of their clothing is composed of cotton 
and camel-hair, but even so, the large flocks of sheep and 
goats which they possess would supply them more than 
twenty times over with abundance of textile fabrics. I 
know that during the progress of the Russians, sheep were 
largely bought up by the Commissariat of the expedition ; 
but I have been ki places where this was certainly not the 
case, inasmuch as the residents were hostile to the Muscovite 

The fuel used by these maritime Turcomans is generally 
wood brought from the neighbouring Persian coast, supple- 
mented to a great extent by the dried dung of camels and 
other animals. The kalioun, or water pipe, is almost always 
ignited by means of a dried ball of horse's dung as large 
as a small-sized apple. This is carefully prepared before- 
hand, from the fresh material, piled in heaps in the sun, 
outside the house, and brought in by a dozen at a time. 
These balls catch fire like so much tinder ; one is placed 
on the bowl containing the tobacco, and the smoking is 
commenced. The first pulls from the pipe, as can be 
easily imagined, possess a very peculiar flavour, owing to the 
mingled smoke of the fuel and the tumbaki. 

At night, the interiors of the kibitkas are lighted by 
means of rude earth lamps, very much resembling small 
tea-pots, with exceedingly long and wide spouts. A bundle 
of cotton rag is stuffed into the spout, and, reaching to its 


bottom, serves as a wick, the flame being fed by the black 
residual naphtha called by the Russians astatki. This, as 
I have already mentioned, is the residuum after distillation 
of the Baku petroleum. It produces a lurid red, smoky 
flame, five or six inches in height. 

The salt, of which the Turcomans make large use both 
in cookery and for curing fish, is brought from the island 
of Tcheliken, in large blocks of two feet in length and 
eight or ten inches in thickness, quarried by the Turco- 
mans of that island from the great striated layers which 
abound there. It exactly resembles, in colour and texture, 
the rock salt known in Europe. 

One rarely sees milk used in its crude state among the 
Turcomans, as they seem to deem it unhealthy when so 
consumed. It is first boiled, and, when lukewarm, fer- 
mented. The resulting product is, when fresh, slightly 
sour, and becomes exceedingly so after the lapse of twenty- 
four hours. This is known to the Yamuds by the name of 
yaghourt ; it is called by the Tekkes gatthuk, and by the 
Persians mast It enters largely into the dietary of all 
three, and in hot weather is exceedingly refreshing and 
wholesome. The panir, or cheese, is simply yaghourt from 
which the serum has been drawn off, and which is allowed 
to strain and become more or less solidified in small bags 
suspended from the roof, a little salt being added to pre- 
serve it. 

I had been but a few days at my new home when I 
learned that my friend II Geldi Khan, who had escorted me 
from Ak Imam, was about to proceed over land to Tchikis- 
lar, and I resolved to go with him. We were accompanied 
by a dozen horsemen of his tribe, for it was rumoured 
that Tekkes who had fled from Geok Tepe were roving 
over the plain. We found an immense number of kibitkas 
in groups of from fifteen to twenty, scattered over the 


plain some miles east of Gumush Tep6. They were those 
of Eastern Turcomans, who, terrified by the events occur- 
ring in the Akhal Tekk6, had decided to move well within 
Persian territory. Refugees were continually arriving, 
bringing with them great numbers of camels, and we 
saw a cavalcade of Turcoman women, dressed in bright 
scarlet robes, and riding in curtained horse-litters, making 
the best of their way westwards, in the midst of their tribes- 
men and friends. Within ten miles of the top of the 
Atterek delta, the point at which we were to pass, we came 
upon a vast salt expanse. It was as white and even as a 
new snowfall, and I could only with difficulty bring myself 
to believe that it was not covered with snow. Long black 
tracks, produced by the passage of camels and horses, 
stretched away in every direction. Not a blade of any kind 
of herbage varied the monotony of this ghastly waste. 
During my subsequent wanderings in the plain, I never met 
with anything so remarkable as this salt expanse, for the 
existence of which I can only account by supposing that the 
waters of the Hassan Eouli lagoon, pressed forward by 
winds from the west, sometimes overflow the ground, and 
that the shallow waters, rapidly evaporated by the great 
heat of the sun, leave this deposit behind them. We 
stopped for the night at the Turcoman village of Atterek, to 
which I have had occasion to refer in describing my journey 
from Tchikislar to Asterabad. We were very hospitably 
received, a sheep being killed for our entertainment ; and 
before daybreak next morning, after a breakfast of hot, 
greasy bread, and an immense quantity of sugarless tea, we 
pushed forward, reaching Tchikislar about eleven o'clock in 
the forenoon. My friend the Khan had formerly com- 
manded a troop of irregular cavalry in the Russian service, 
composed of his own countrymen, but in consequence of 
some backsliding on his part in the matter of pay given 


to him for distribution among his command, he had been 

banished, and forbidden to return. Hence he was rather 

chary about making his appearance among the Russian 

lines— a hesitation which was apparently very well justified, 

for we had no sooner entered the camp than the chief of 

police marched up to us, and told my companion that the 

sooner he departed from its limits the better it would be 

for him. I fared no better, being warned that my presence 

was not desired, and we were both given until the morrow 

to retrace our steps. Seeing that there was little or no stir 

in the place, and that all military movements were for the 

moment at an end, I again took my way back by the road I 

had come, in company with II Geldi and his following. We 

arrived at our starting-point without any new incident. 

Finding that there was a constant intercourse between 
Gumush Tepe and Tchikislar, owing to the continued pass- 
ing and repassing of luggers with hay and other supplies, 
and that Armenian dealers frequently passed through our 
village with a view of purchasing food at that place, to be 
sold by them at second hand to the encamped Russians, 
and that through their medium I might be constantly 
informed as to the movements of the troops, I resolved to 
make a lengthened stay with old Dourdi. Here, during a 
residence of some months, I had ample leisure for ob- 
serving the manners and customs of the Yamud Turco- 
mans, and as I shared the same one-chambered Jdbitka 
with my host, his wife, his niece, and a young child, and 
participated in their daily life, I had excellent opportunities 
for judging of Turcoman domestic life. There were certain 
inconveniences attendant upon this gregarious mode of 
existence, for the circular chamber was but fifteen feet in 
diameter, and some member of the family was always 
present. Consequently, when one wished to perform his 
ablutions, or to change his clothes, he was generally 


obliged to do so in the dark, or under coyer of his quilt, after 
the family had retired to rest. Our sole bed consisted of a 
thick felt carpet, spread upon the bare earth, our bolsters 
were of enormous dimensions, and our bed-covering was 
composed of a stuffed cotton quilt, and did not, I regret to say, 
bear the appearance of having often been washed. This, 
on very cold nights, I supplemented by my great sheepskin 
overcoat ; but as a fire generally smouldered on the hearth, 
towards which our feet were directed, we passed the nights 
snugly enough. Still, as I have said, two hours before 
sunrise all further sleep became impossible by reason of the 
grinding of corn, the flitting of wood with a hatchet, the 
various goings to and fro of the household, and the stream 
of visitors who were sure to arrive at that hour. 

These Turcoman cdadjaks are, ordinarily, perfectly 
weather-proof, and, on the whole, fairly comfortable to live 
in, but that of my host was a rather patched and mended 
affair, and the light of day could be seen through more than 
one hole in the felt covering the exterior of its domed roof. 
One night, as we lay asleep, a tremendous downpour of 
rain set in, and after the first half-hour the water dripped 
into the hissing fire, and pattered around us on the quilts. 
Dourdi was equal to the occasion. It was clearly not the 
first time he had been confronted with the situation. He 
rose quickly, took a long iron-shod pole, which I presumed 
to be some kind of a boat-hook, and fixed one end of it in the 
side of the aladjak some five feet from the ground. The 
other end was supported by a loop of camel-hair rope, 
which descended from the centre of the roof to within the 
same distance from the ground. Hastily unfolding a carpet 
of large dimensions, he placed • it over this horizontally 
rigged pole, the ends resting on the ground, and forming a 
kind of tent which contained all the sleepers. Often during 
my stay at Gumush Tep6, 1 have passed the night in this 


house within a house. The loop of camel-hair rope is 
ordinarily intended as a support to one end of a cane, 
basket-like hammock, the other end of which is hung to the 
opposite side of the wall, the hammock serving as a cradle 
for young children. 

The winter at Gumush Tep6 is generally mild enough, 
and even during the severest portions of the year — towards 
the end of February — the snow rarely lies upon the ground 
for any length of time, except when drifted into old irriga- 
tion trenches, or where sheltered from the sun. To make 
up for this, however, about twice a month we had sudden 
and violent storms from the westward, of the approach of 
which we had generally only a quarter of an hour's warning, 
and at night none at all. This sudden storm is called the 
tenkis. The first time I witnessed one I was excessively 
puzzled to understand the movements of the inhabitants 
immediately before the storm struck the village. It was 
about two o'clock in the afternoon ; the sun was shining 
brightly, and the sky was without a cloud. All at once I 
observed persons pointing hurriedly towards the distant 
Caspian horizon, where a thin, white, jagged line of flying 
mist was perceptible, which rose higher and higher at each 
moment, approaching us with rapid pace. In the village 
itself the wind was blowing from an opposite direction, and 
the mist clouds along the Elburz range were moving 
towards the west, while the advancing scud was still so very 
indistinct as to be unobservable by the unaccustomed eye. 
I saw men and women in frantic haste, flinging ropes over 
the tops of the kibitkas, and lashing the opposite extremities 
to stout wooden pegs firmly embedded in the ground close 
to the wall of the dwelling. In the meantime, within my 
residence, old Dourdi, muttering prayers in most anxious 
tones, was propping his boat-hook and several other poles of 
equal size against the spring of the dome, and planting the 


lower one firmly in the ground. I could make neither head 
nor tail of all these preparations, and was still more con- 
founded and amazed by seeing all the matrons and maidens 
of the community who were not engaged in securing the 
permanency of their habitations, rushing to the bank of the 
river, some carrying a pitcher in each hand, others with 
enormous single ones strapped upon their backs. These, 
with feverish haste, they filled with water, and, hurrying 
with them to their houses, again issued forth, with other 
vessels, for fresh supplies. My first idea was that these 
were defensive preparations against some expected raid on 
the part of the Tekkes ; that the poles planted against the 
walls within were to resist some battering operations of the 
assailants ; and that the water so eagerly sought for must 
be intended to extinguish a coming conflagration. Every 
one, however, was too busily engaged to give me any further 
answer to my demands as to what it all meant, than to 
exclaim, ' The tenkis ! the tenkis ! ' By this time the jagged 
white mist had risen high above the horizon, and was 
rapidly veiling the western sky. Flocks of sea-gulls and 
other aquatic birds flew inland, screaming and shrieking 
loudly. Ere long I saw that the clouds along the mountain 
ceased their westward movement, staggered, reeled, and 
ultimately partook of the movement of the advancing scud. 
Great sand-clouds came whirling towards us from the beach, 
and in another instant the storm burst upon us, accom- 
panied by a tremendous downpour of rain. The kibitka 
into which I rushed for shelter quivered and shook under 
its influence, and I thought that at each moment it would go 
over bodily. The westerly edge was lifted some inches from 
the ground with each fresh gust, and the eagerness with 
which ropes were hauled taut, and storm-props made fast by 
the inmates hanging with all their weight from their upper 
portions, reminded one of a scene on board a vessel at sea 


during a violent tempest. I was gazing through a crevice 
in the felt walls out over the plain in an eastward direction, 
where some camels, laden with grass and hay, were hurry- 
ing forward to gain shelter before being overtaken in the 
open. I could see their loads seized upon by the storm 
gusts, and in a moment torn from the backs of the animals, 
and sent whirling far and wide, and to a height of a hundred 
feet. The camels turned tail to the wind and crouched 
down, stretching their long necks upon the earth, so as to 
remove themselves as much as possible from the influence 
of the hurricane and whirlwind, their conductors imitating 
ihem. This storm continued for over an hour, during 
which time the luggers moored in the river were quite 
deserted by their crews, lest the craft might be torn from 
their anchorage and dashed against each other, as occasion- 
ally happens. Of course when the tempest came on I saw 
the object of all the lashing down and propping up of the 
kibitkas, but it was only when it had passed, and the 
inhabitants were at leisure to speak to me, that I could 
make out the meaning of the hurried rush to the river for 
water. It appears that when the tenkis blows strongly, 
the sea-water is forced up the channel of the Giurgen, 
sometimes to a distance of a mile above the village, the 
natural flow of the stream being so impeded that when it 
is tolerably full, and its current is rapid, it overflows its 
banks. This forcing back of the sea-water into the river's 
channel renders the water of the river unfit for human 
consumption, often for hours together, and it is with a view 
of securing a supply for household use that a rush is made 
to the banks as soon as the flying jagged mist appears upon 
the horizon. 

DOGS. mi 



Savage dogs — Vambery's house — Turcoman want of ideas about time — Smoke 
— Sore eyes — Conversation — Patients — Visiting formalities — Turcoman 
hospitality — Karakchi thieves — Physical types of Yamuds — A Turcoman 
belle — Nursing children— Tekke bugbears — Plurality of -wives — A domestic 
quarrel and its consequences. 

Life in a Turcoman village is but a dreary affair when the 
first impressions of novelty have worn off. As a rule, one 
does not, after having taken his first dozen strolls, care to 
walk about to be stared at by the inhabitants and harassed 
by the ferocious dogs, which rush in scores at a stranger 
clad in European attire. I know of nothing more annoying 
than these dogs. They are exceedingly useful as guardians 
of the place, for no one can come within a mile of them 
without his presence being made known by their noisy 
barking, and they are most efficient in preventing thieves 
from carrying off the horses, which are never under cover, 
but stand tethered by the fetlock close by their owners' 

I usually confined myself to my dwelling, making notes, 
or conversing with the too numerous visitors who invaded 
Dourdi's residence. This was the same in which Vamb6ry 
had lived, for, notwithstanding that he succeeded in passing 
through unrecognised as a European, the inhabitants 
afterwards learned his true character, doubtless from the 
Russians of the naval station at Ashurad6, close by. I 

222 vamb£ry*s host— smoke. 

heard of the famous Hungarian from a person named Kan 
Jan Kelt6, the son of Kotsak, his former host. He de- 
scribed the traveller as being like Timour Lenk, the great 
Central Asian conqueror, i.e., somewhat lame. Of course 
this knowledge of Vamb6ry was not arrived at until some 
time after his departure from among the Yamuds, as other- 
wise it might have fared badly with him, and he certainly 
would not at that time have been allowed to pass on. The 
most singular fact in connexion with this matter was that 
when I asked for the date of Vambery's arrival at Gumush 
Tep6 my informant could give me only a very vague reply. 
This is characteristic of the Turcomans. They seem to 
have no idea of time beyond a period of twelve months, and 
cannot tell whether an occurrence took place eight, ten, or 
twenty years ago, generally referring the questioner to 
some striking event, and explaining that the matter to 
which the query relates happened before or after it 

One of the most disagreeable features of a Turcoman 
hut is the ever-present smoke, which is produced by the com- 
bined combustion of greenwood, cuttings from fir planking, 
and camel's dung. The fire is scarcely ever allowed to go 
out, and the Turcomans will assure the guest, by way of 
reconciling him to the nuisance, that it is admirable as a 
means for keeping flies out of the kibitka. This is doubt- 
less true, but it appears to me that a very nice judgment 
would be required to discriminate as to the lesser of the 
two evils. In winter, especially, one becomes as black with 
soot in twenty-four hours as if he had Keen living in a 
chimney, and his only chance of avoiding suffocation is to 
lie down with his face as near to the ground as possible. 
To stand up would be to risk asphyxiation in the creosote- 
fraught atmosphere. The smoke occupies the upper two- 
thirds of the apartment, and condenses about the top of the 
domed roof, converting the long, pendent cobwebs into so 


many sooty stalactites, which, when they become too 
ponderous for their own suspending strength, descend 
silently into one's food, or settle in heavy black stripes 
across his face as he lies asleep. At the end of a few days 
one is as thoroughly smoke-dried as the most conscientious 
curer could desire his hams to be. The creosote resulting 
from the burning of the fresh pinewood produces inflamma- 
tion of the eyes, and, after some months' residence in 
these maritime kibitkas, one is not surprised that keratitis 
and bleared eyes should be so universally met with among 
the Turcomans. 

The utter absence of privacy was also a most aggravat- 
ing element of my sojourn in Gumush Tep6. Ordinarily, I 
shared my dwelling with Dourdi, his wife, child, niece, and 
a calf ; but in addition to these there was an intolerable 
continuation of levies to be held, at each of which at least 
fifteen or twenty visitors were present. It was impossible 
to do anything in the shape of taking notes, or, indeed, to 
write at all. It is the greatest mistake in the world to 
suppose that Orientals are taciturn — those, at least, who 
are to be met with in these regions. There was incessant 
babbling and chattering. The conversation was of a very 
limited kind, being mainly confined to geographical subjects, 
of which the talkers had but very crude notions. At first I 
used to try most conscientiously to explain the whereabouts 
of certain countries, but, finding my auditors altogether 
unable to comprehend the distances which I mentioned, I 
afterwards confined myself to indicating the points of the 
compass at which the various countries lay, dividing my 
measurements into 'very far,' and 'very far indeed,' 
with which explanations they were completely satisfied. 
I was constantly overwhelmed by the most ridiculous 
questions, such as, 'How much moajib (salary) did the 
Ingleez Padishah receive annually ? ' Being informed that 


the English Padishah was a lady, they could with difficulty 
be persuaded that I was not playing upon their credulity ; 
and the pointing out of England and Hindostan as lying at 
opposite points of the compass seemed to confirm them in 
this idea. As a rule, these people have not the slightest 
conception of the existence of Britain, Hindostan being 
supposed by them to be the real England. There was a 
general anxiety to know my age, whether I had a father or 
mother, how many brothers I had, and their respective 
ages. I was never asked if I had sisters, it being contrary 
to Eastern etiquette to speak of ladies, or even to ask if one 
is married. The information, after being given to those 
who sat nearest to me, was conveyed to the next tier of 
anxious listeners, who in turn communicated it to the outer 
circle. All this ground had to be gone over afresh for the 
benefit of each set of new comers, as if the subject had been 
of absorbing and general interest. The whole proceeding 
was not only exceedingly ludicrous, but worrying in the 
extreme. Some sat in solemn silence, their eyes fixed 
upon my face, but the majority were aggressively inquisitive, 
and I often found myself seriously calculating how long I 
was prepared to bear this sort of torture without becoming 
demented. After some weeks, however, I began to get 
case-hardened, and I resolved that I would go on with my 
writing, no matter what might be the nature of the sur- 
rounding circumstances. Accordingly, I used to sit down 
doggedly upon my carpet, paying no attention whatever to 
the batches of new comers, and as I sat, taciturnly writing 
by the smoky light of the astatlci lamp, the onlookers were 
filled with amazement at my obduracy and unwilling- 
ness to speak to them. ' Why,' said one of my visitors, one 
evening, when after half an hour's questioning he had only 
succeeded in extracting surly monosyllables from me, ' I 
never saw such a silent person as you are. If I had only 


travelled half the distance that you have I should never 
have done talking about my adventures/ This man's 
name was Agha Jik, a Goklan Turcoman, who had thought 
proper to change his tribe, owing to the want of security 
for life and property obtaining among his own clansmen. 
He was a very lively old fellow, and, considering the 
extreme pliability of his tongue, I have no doubt that he 
would have kept his word under the circumstances to which 
he alluded. 

Another kind of suffering which I had to endure was 
entailed by the continual examining into and prescribing 
for the various maladies which seemed to have alighted 
upon my interviewers expressly for my persecution. Fever, 
hepatic disease, sore eyes, and a hundred other complaints 
passed in review before me, for everyone coming from 
Frangistan is here supposed to be a physician. There was 
a constant drawing upon my small stock of medicines, and, 
when I declared that I had not a certain remedy, my 
patient would exclaim, in amazement, ( What ! you have 
been in Stamboul and Frangistan, and you have not any 
medicine ! ' 

According to ordinary Turcoman ceremonial, a visitor 
draws aside the carpet which hangs curtain-wise before the 
door, and utters the sacramental Selam aleik. He always 
knows by the tone of the reply whether it is convenient 
that he should enter or not, and if his salutation be not 
returned at all, he takes it for granted that there is a 
grievance against him. An instance of this occurred at 
the very kibitka in which I was staying. A Turcoman of 
very bad character and dissolute habits had been going 
round the village spreading rumours that my host was 
swindling and plundering me in the most reprehensible 
manner, and, this coming to old Dourdi's ears, the latter 
at once asked me whether I believed that such had been 

vol. 1. Q 


his treatment of me. I of course replied in the negative. 
Shortly afterwards, the propagator of the defamatory report, 
not dreaming that his lying statements had reached my 
host's ears, presented himself at the open door, and 
uttered the customary Selam aleik. Old Dourdi, who was 
looking with half-closed eyes in the direction of the entrance, 
steadily ignored the presence of the intruder, I myBelf 
following his example. As a consequence, after a few 
minutes' pause, the would-be visitor, probably guessing that 
his calumnies had been duly reported to the subject of 
them, walked sheepishly away, and never again troubled us 
by his presence. It is, above all, imperative upon the 
caller never to enter if he sees that the inmates are at 
meals ; for this would entail upon the people of the house 
the necessity of asking him to partake of their food, and 
every Turcoman knows that his countrymen are not always 
in a position to extend such hospitality. When the entree 
of the house is permitted, the visitor approaches with the 
utmost ceremony, and for fully three or four minutes there 
is a muttered exchange of formalities. * Amanme f ' says 
the superior, as the senior is always considered, except in 
the case of a chief. * Amanlugme? replies the other. 
1 Amansalugme, Kiffenkokme, 9 * Sorache, 9 * EVhamd-Ettilah, 9 
and many another ceremonious phrase, follow upon each 
other. Should as many as twenty persons be present 
when a visitor comes in, the ceremonial must be gone 
through separately with each, in the order of his rank or 
seniority. In this respect the Yamuds are precisely like 
the Osmanli Turks, the salaaming movement of the hand 
and valedictory phrases of the latter only being omitted. 
Among the Turcomans the matter winds up with the 
' Khoth Geldi 9 (You are welcome). Notwithstanding all 
this formality upon entering, there is none whatever when 
one of the company departs. He rises abruptly, and leaves 


the room as though something had been said which had 
direly offended him. No one else takes the slightest notice 
of his withdrawal, nor does he himself, even by a nod, 
salute the company. As in all Eastern society, it is of 
course necessary to remove one's slippers on entering, or 
at least when stepping upon the carpeted portion of the 
kibitka, and you must also remain covered, as a mark of 
respect. To uncover the head before a respectable Oriental 
gathering would be almost as inexcusable as to remove 
one's nether garments in a fashionable London saloon. I 
have often perspired under the heat of my sheepskin hat* 
and would have given half my worldly goods to be able to 
doff that article of clothing, but was compelled to bear 
with the inconvenience for fear of being regarded as a 
grossly discourteous person. Sometimes, if only yourself 
and your host be present, and he should feel very hot him- 
self, he may possibly extend his politeness so far as to say 
* You may take off your hat if you like ; ' but then it is 
always understood that you keep on the small skull-cap, 
which no true Oriental ever removes, whether by day or by 
night. Should a stranger arrive, there is a sudden donning of 
head-dresses, as if the new-comer were about to make some 
murderous attack upon the crania of the inmates, and they 
needed protection against his violence. 

The hospitality of the desert has been a good deal im- 
paired, in the case of the Yamuds along the Persian border, 
owing to their contact with their more than usually mer- 
cenary Persian neighbours, and with the ready-monied, 
well-paying Russian authorities. Still, the semblance of it 
exists. A Turcoman in whose house you have been staying 
for a few days will accept nothing for the board and lodging 
which he has supplied to you, though he will unhesitatingly 
take payment for the oats and fodder consumed by your 
horse. You may ask him, in the most explicit terms, how 



many chanaks of oats or barley have been supplied, and 
how many bundles of hay, and he will at once inform you. 
To inquire how much you owe him for the boiled fowls and 
pilaff vhich you have eaten, however, would be to seriously 
offend him. But when you are going away he expects a 
handsome peshkesh, and will think you a shabby individual 
indeed, if you have an air of being at all above the ordinary, 
if he does not in this guise receive from you two or three 
times the value of what you have been provided with. I 
must say, however, that in the case of their own country- 
men who are known not to be too well off, and especially 
in the case of wandering dervishes, their liberality is un- 
bounded, and they do not entertain the slightest expectation 
of remuneration, nor would they accept any. The dervish 
is supposed to be a man of God, though as a rule he is 
the reverse — at least the Persian one is ; and as regards 
the Turcoman who is on his travels, the host expects 
that, should it come to his turn to pay a visit to the guest 
who is at his house, he will meet with a like return of 
hospitality. I was very much struck by the resemblance 
between the manners and phrases of these people and those 
of the Spaniards. They will tell you that the house and 
all that it contains are yours ; and if you speak in terms of 
praise of any article belonging to your host, he feels bound 
to tell you that it is altogether at your disposal, and in 
several cases I have been forced to accept at the hands of 
chiefs that which I happened to commend. But, while 
treating you in this princely fashion — for a Turcoman 
considers that a man of rank must never withhold what 
his guest fancies — the donor will compensate himself for 
his own generosity by praising in return something which 
is in your own possession, and of course there is nothing 
for it but to present the gift with a good grace, no matter 
how much you may stand in need of the particular article. 

A THIEF. 229 

This rule does not apply to arms and horses, for a stranger 
on the plains cannot part with what are to him absolute 

The Yamuds, that is, those of any social standing, are 
very particular in guarding against the theft of anything 
belonging to a recipient of their hospitality, and are ready 
to resent any such outrage in the swiftest and severest 
manner. The following is an instance of this. The horses, 
as I have said, are tethered in the open air, close to the 
kibitkas of their owners. They are protected against the 
heat of the sun by day, and the severity of the cold at 
night, by being swathed in an enormous sheet of felt, nearly 
an inch thick, which covers them from ears to tail, and 
meets underneath the belly. This is tied round two or 
three times with a broad girth, and will enable the animal 
to withstand any kind of weather. The horses themselves 
prefer this mode of being kept warm, and I found it im- 
possible to induce my Turcoman steeds to enter a stable. 
They thus stood close to my residence, and my own personal 
charger was covered with a very expensive felt rug. Close 
to the Atterek Delta is a village inhabited by what are 
known to their more respectable brethren as a tribe of 
Earakchi. These are robbers par excellence. They are 
always mistrusted by the other Turcomans, whose own 
morality is not of too strict an order. One day a pair of 
these gentlemen honoured Gumush Tep6 with a visit. 
They did not leave until rather late in the evening, and on 
the following morning my horse-rug had disappeared. I 
complained to old Dourdi, who almost wept with indignation 
on hearing that his guest had thus been despoiled of his 
property, and immediately rushed to the house of the chief 
to inform him of this breach of decorum. Scarce five 
minutes had elapsed when the avengers were on foot ; at 
their head was Agha Jik, the sprightly old Goklan. No 


time was lost in any preliminary inquiry, for no such in- 
quiry was necessary. Two Earakchi Turcomans had been 
in our camp on the previous evening ; no one else could be 
guilty of such a violation of the laws of hospitality, and the 
conclusion was at once drawn that they must be the de- 
linquents ; and as one of them happened to bear a worse 
character than the other, he was the individual selected as 
the actual offender. The body of horsemen proceeded 
swiftly to the Earakchi village, and entered the house of 
the supposed thief. Placing their knives at his breast, 
they summarily demanded the restoration of the stolen 
property. When a Turcoman commits a theft, he feels 
bound, for some reason which it is difficult to understand, 
to die rather than give back what he has purloined, just as 
he will cut the throat of a captive rather than part with 
him without a ransom. The Earakchi protested, but the 
more he did so the fiercer and more imperative became 
the demand, and he at length replied that although he 
could not restore what he had not taken, he could supply 
a cloth of equal value. This logic seemed perfectly satis- 
factory to the others. A rug very nearly as good as that 
which had been abstracted was produced, and brought away 
in triumph. It was not quite so valuable as the one I had 
lost, but when asked by my redressors whether I felt satis- 
fied with it, I of course answered that I was, for I did not 
wish to give them unnecessary trouble, fearing that further 
prosecution of my claim might entail bloodshed. I knew 
that if I persisted, the least they would have felt bound to 
do would have been to collect the amount of the difference 
in value from among the villagers. I have had similar 
experiences with almost all the Turcomans with whom I 
have come in contact, however wild they were, and it is 
only of the children and lads that I have to complain, for 
these latter are frightful thieves and liars. These Earakchi 


Turcomans are held in universal detestation by the other 
tribes around them, and the wonder is that they have not 
been exterminated. My host told me that they creep into 
the villages at night, and, cutting through the exterior 
matting and felt of the kibitka walls with their long keen 
knives, introduce their arms and steal whatever they have 
previously noted while entering during the day. Hence 
he warned me not to hang my sword, revolver, or any other 
article of value, against the wall, but to place them beside 
me as I slept. The village dogs, great nuisances as they 
are, are well worth keeping, for the sake of protection 
against these audacious thieves. 

The usual Turcoman physical type, both male and 
female, is rough, rude, and vigorous, and quite in contrast 
with that of the frontier Persian, which is sleek, cat-like, 
feeble, and mean. The worst part of the Turcoman is his 
head, which is decidedly conical, the point being thrown 
somewhat to the rear. A phrenologist would say that firm- 
ness was very pronounced, conscientiousness wanting, and 
benevolence small. The features are not of that Tartar 
cast that one would be apt to suppose in denizens of East 
Caspian districts, and though here and there may be seen 
a suspicion of peeping eye, a tendency towards flattening 
of the point of the nose, and occasionally high cheek bones, 
on the whole the faces are more European than otherwise. 
In fact, I have seen some physiognomies at Gumush Tep6 
which, if accompanied by an orthodox European dress, 
would pass muster anywhere as belonging to natives of the 
West. It is among the women that the absence of Euro- 
pean features is most conspicuous. There are many of 
them who could fairly be reckoned pretty, though it is quite 
a different order of beauty from that to which we are accus- 
tomed. I recollect, during a solitary ride along the banks 
of the Giurgen river, coming upon a small ova, or collection 


of Turcoman huts. Being very tired, I dismounted at the 
door of one of them, and attaching my horse's bridle to 
the door-post, entered. The hut had but two occupants, 
one an elderly woman, the other a girl of apparently about 
eighteen years. The latter, as I afterwards learned, was 
the daughter of the local chief, and was on a visit. She 
was in full gala costume, and wore over her crimson silk 
shirt a coat of green cloth, fitting very closely at the waist, 
and falling half-way to the ankle, the skirt being cut into 
a series of plaitings like those of a Highland soldier's tunic. 
The sleeves fitted closely as far as the elbows, but below 
that point they were exceedingly large, and open behind. 
The edges of the opening, as well as the cuff, were 
ornamented by a double line of small spherical silver 
buttons, while the front of the coat, and also the breast of 
the shirt, were decorated with the usual rows of hanging 
silver coins. Around her neck was a large silver collar, 
set with cornelians and small gold panels, and supporting 
by a series of chains a long cylindrical case containing 
talismanic writings. The huge band-box head-dress, which 
she had laid aside, was of even more than the ordinary 
preposterous dimensions. Its front was hung over with 
festoons of small gold coins, interspersed with star-like 
silver ornaments, and, springing from the centre of the 
top, and falling backwards, was a green silk coat with 
sleeves, the seams doubled with crimson, and the entire 
back covered with stamped silver ornaments. This young 
lady, who, if she did not wear ' her heart upon her sleeve,' 
apparently bore her purse upon her head, was one of the 
prettiest of her race that I had yet seen. Her complexion 
was remarkably clear, and had in it more of colour than is 
generally to be met with in the sun-tanned physiognomies 
of her companions. Her dark eyebrows were arched ; her 
delicately formed nose was of slightly aquiline contour ; her 

WOMEN. 233 

eyes were large, dark, and intelligent ; her mouth as near per- 
fection as possible ; her chin small, and remarkably promi- 
nent. Long brown hair, in colour approaching to blackness, 
fell in two large plaited tresses between her shoulders, each 
tress bearing silver pieces extending over a space of at 
least two feet, the coins growing larger towards the bottom, 
where figured either Russian rouble pieces or Persian five- 
kran ones. Neither of the ladies was in the least abashed 
by my entry. The elder motioned me to a seat, and 
after the usual salutations we entered into conversation. 
The younger one showed especial curiosity as to who I was, 
and why I was roving about alone upon the plains. She 
asked me about the dress of ladies in my country ; then 
how I liked her costume, and next how I liked herself. 
It is not usual to meet with such an utter absence of em- 
barrassment or attempt at veiling, even among Turcoman 
women, so that when she conducted herself in this unre- 
strained manner before me, a stranger, I could only suppose 
that her demeanour in regard to those with whom she was 
better acquainted must have been exceedingly confiding and 
Bans gine. I am sorry to say that this young lady is a very 
uncommon example of the sex of her race. It is among 
the men that the handsome individuals must be sought for, 
especially when there has been an admixture of Persian 
blood. The scanty beard of the pure Turcoman is then 
replaced by one of much more luxurious proportions, and 
of a darker tint ; the nose assumes a more or less aquiline 
form, and the eye loses the cold grey expression so charac- 
teristic of the pure-blooded dweller on the Steppes. Whether 
or not it be owing to the peculiarity of the race* or to the 
laborious occupations to which they are subjected almost 
from infancy — grinding corn, carrying water, cooking, and 
in their leisure hours carpet making and spinning — at a 
comparatively early age they lose whatever comeliness they 

234 WOMEN. 

may have possessed, and on approaching anything like an 
advanced age degenerate into withered and witch-like 
beldames. The contrary is the case with the male sex, 
probably for contrary reasons, for a Turcoman of any 
pretensions whatever never occupies himself with menial 
labour, and, indeed, seldom exerts himself in any way, 
except in a foray against his neighbours' cattle, or in a 
hostile expedition into Persia. The woman, in the midst 
of her family circle, retains her place beside the fire, even 
though a number of strange men should enter ; but she is 
not supposed to go to another house where there is such 
an assembly of male persons, unless it be for the express 
purpose of talking to the mistress of that house, in which 
case she enters and retires entirely unnoticed by the people 
present, save by the person to whom she came to speak. 
Beside her own hearth, on the contrary, she is saluted, and 
returns the salute. When a Turcoman happens to possess 
more than one wife, the latest and favourite one is always 
the best dressed, and is exempted as much as possible from 
domestic labour, her predecessor or predecessors performing 
the necessary household duties. These latter, however, 
retain a certain seniority, and are treated with more respect 
by strangers. In fact, if a wife be very recently married, 
she is understood not to make herself too prominent in the 
kibitka in which she lives. 

Turcoman women are usually very industrious, never 
seeming tired of work. This is probably because labour is 
the only means at their disposal for breaking the monotony 
of their otherwise dull lives. I have seen a woman, when 
unable to sleep, rise at two o'clock in the morning, light 
the smoky astatki lamp, and proceed to beguile the weary 
hours by grinding corn in a heavy horizontal stone hand- 
mill, for the morning meal. It is quite the exception for a 
man to fetch water from the river. This is generally done 


by the younger female members of the family, the daughters, 
if there be any, and if not, by the younger wife or wives, 
who on such occasions generally carry with them the 
suckling children or those who cannot safely be left by 
themselves. These are borne astride upon one hip, the 
body of the mother being thrown over to the opposite side, 
one arm passing round the child's waist, while the other 
supports the heavy water pitcher, both sides being thus 
mutually balanced. 

As on board ship when space is scarce, the oblong cane 
basket which serves as a cradle for young children is 
supported at one end by the double camel-hair rope which 
descends from the centre of the dome, the other being 
attached to the top of the lattice work forming the inside of 
the wall. A sufficiently erudite collector of nursery rhymes 
would no doubt be highly delighted with some of the ditties 
crooned by Turcoman women as they swing their babies to 
and fro in this hammock-like machine. The utterances to 
which they give vent when persuading their young offspring 
to take food are very strange, and often, when lying flat 
upon my carpet, busily engaged in writing, I have lifted up 
my head in amazement in order to discover the object of the 
strange intonations which reached my ear. Once the mother 
was uttering hoarse, gurgling sounds, like those of an uneasy 
wild animal, all the while contorting her features into a 
variety of simian grimaces not unworthy of an hilarious 
baboon, and all simply with a view of inducing the child 
upon her lap to partake of some fried fish. It is no bad 
exemplification of the estimation in which the Tekke Turco- 
mans of the interior were held by these Yamuds, that 
mothers menaced unruly children with the threat that if they 
did not behave themselves the Tekk6s would be sent for 

As a rule, plurality of wives, when it occurs, does not 


seem to disturb the peace of a Turcoman home, even though 
the master of the aladjak does not often follow out the 
prescription of the Koran by providing a separate habita- 
tion for each of his spouses. Still, ' breezes will ruffle the 
flowers sometimes/ and I once had a notable proof of this. 
A little after sunset one evening, as I was sitting at the 
door of my kibitka, looking out across the waters of the 
Giurgen, I perceived a lurid blaze, which soon spread 
into a sheet of rolling fire reaching far away to the south 
and west. The suddenness of the conflagration startled me, 
and I thought it might be the result of one of those sudden 
incursions which might be expected at any moment in these 
regions. Boon, however, my old host made his appearance, 
stifling his laughter at something which he evidently con- 
sidered a very good joke. On asking him what all the fire 
was about, and at what he was so amused, he informed me 
that in the house of a friend of his, who had lately married 
his second wife, disputes had arisen between the partakers 
of his affections. From words they had come to blows, and 
at length the combatants, finding no better weapons near, 
seized lighted brands from the hearth, and pelted them 
recklessly at each other. The house contained a quantity 
of hemp and other inflammable material, and was quickly 
in a blaze. It stood close to the margin of a meadow, in 
which, owing to the abundance of water, the grass had 
grown to a great height. Having been allowed to stand 
uncut, it had been dried by the sun of the preceding 
autumn, and, the flames spreading to it, the conflagration 




College at Gumush Tope" — Professor of theology — Late school hours — Sunni 
and Shiia — Specimen of sectarian hatred — The white fowl mystery — Fever 
— Hurried burials — Mourning rites— Returning hadjis — Distinctive marks 
— Trade and commerce — Tanning sheepskins — Pomegranate bark — 
Kusgun and yapundja — Krans and tomans — Disputes about money — 
Turcoman measures — Recreations — The Turcomans and 'Punch' — Agha 
Jik's ideas — After nightfall. 

My kibitka was within thirty feet of the river's edge. In 
the intervening space, standing on a kind of earthern pier, 
and protected by boards against the action of the current, 
stood another kibitka, of unusually large dimensions. This 
was the mosque attended by the more select portion of 
the community, and it was the only instance I had seen of 
a covered building used for religious purposes by the Turco- 
mans. In the intervals between the hours of prayer this 
edifice was utilised as a medressi, or college, in which can- 
didates for the priesthood were instructed in reading, 
writing, and the precepts of the Koran, by an ahound, or 
professor, who passed as the possessor of great erudition. 
He was a square, solidly built man of about fifty years of 
age, with a suspiciously Tartar-looking nose, a slight chin 
tuft, and still slighter moustache. He habitually wore 
spectacles, which imparted to his countenance, for a resi- 
dent of Gumush Tepe, a wonderfully sagacious and learned 
look. He was an Oozbeg, from Bokhara, and had studied 
theology at the college of Samarcand. Besides his profes- 


sorial functions, be also exercised those of timber and 
general merchant to the community, for though he was a 
moullah, or priest, the injunctions of the Koran did not 
forbid his engaging in lay occupations. He was very 
active, and seemed to sleep but little. His class of some 
fifteen students, all young men of about seventeen or eighteen 
years of age, generally assembled about midnight, and from 
that time until three in the morning there wad an 
incessant babble of tongues within this Central Asian 
seminary. All the pupils were engaged simultaneously in 
reading from the Koran at the highest pitch of their voices, 
which were not very feeble ones. Turcomans, from living 
constantly in the open air, and conversing on horseback, 
have naturally vigorous voices, and habitually speak in 
very loud tones. Indeed, I have often seen two of them, 
seated at the same fire, within a house, adopt the same 
stentorian tone in conversation as if they were addressing 
each other from opposite sides of the river Giurgen. By 
this it may be imagined that the uproar within the medressi 
was no ordinary one, and that, being only a few feet 
removed from my dwelling-place, it was not easy to go to 
sleep under such circumstances. Towards three o'clock, by 
which time they seemed to become rather fatigued, the 
Professor took up the chorus, and commenced to expound 
the Koran in a pompous and pretentious tone, and daylight 
would be well advanced before he thought fit to desist. 
During the remainder of the day he attended to his secular 
affairs, or kept an eye upon his college, to see that no un- 
authorised intrusions took place within its holy precincts ; 
and I have more than once seen him, spectacles on nose 
and stick in hand, furiously chasing a multitude of hens 
and geese out of this Trans-Caspian temple of theology. 
Morning and evening the old gentleman who acted as 
mutzzim took his stand before the door, and his melancholy, 

1 1 




musical, long-drawn cry might be heard floating across the 
silent plain, calling the faithful to their devotions, a 
summons which, I regret to say, was seldom answered save 
by a dozen or fifteen of the older and more respectable 

These Turcomans are all rigid Sunnites, and cherish 
the due orthodox detestation of the cursed Shiia sect, of 
which their neighbours the Persians are members. They 
do not, in fact, regard the latter as Mussulmans at all, and 
have a much greater regard for the Jews and Christians. 
My old host Dourdi was a genuine specimen of the Sunnite. 
He said his prayers with the greatest regularity, always 
previously washing his face, hands, and feet, with rigid 
attention to the rites of his sect— if, indeed, he would not 
have considered it blasphemy to describe Sunnism as a sect 
— taking care that the water ran in a proper manner over 
the points of his elbows, and not after the damnable fashion 
of the Shiites. He once accompanied me on a shooting ex- 
pedition along the coast, as far as the old Qumush Tep6 
mound. After a while we seated ourselves upon its summit, 
and I produced a cold fowl, some bread, and a bottle of 
arrack, whereon to breakfast. The old man was nothing 
loth, and joined heartily in my repast, taking frequent pulls 
at the arrack bottle, notwithstanding the fact that this in- 
dulgence was in direct opposition to the tenets in regard to 
which he was in other respects so conscientious. All at 
once he ceased masticating — his mouth cram-full of fowl — 
as if some dire thought had struck him. ' Where,' said he, 
4 did you procure this?' I guessed at his meaning, and 
replied that he need have no fear on the score of the fowl, 
that it had been duly prepared by a Mussulman, and that I 
had bought them in the bazaar at Asterabad the day before. 
At this he began with fury to spit out every morsel that 
his mouth contained, uttering ejaculations of pious horror, 


and now and again applying his lips to the arrack bottle 
with a view of still further purifying himself. I demanded 
what he meant by treating food, prepared by a brother 
Mussulman, in that manner, and assured him that I had no 
hand in the preparation. ' Mussulman ! ' he exclaimed. 
' Do you call those cursed dogs of Asterabad, Mussulmans ? 
1 They are Kaffirs (unbelievers). May their fathers' graves 
' be eternally defiled ! Had it been yourself who had killed 
' and prepared this fowl, I would have no objection to it ; but 
1 unbelieving infidels of Shiites ! I would rather perish with 
' hunger than taste a morsel which one of them had 
' touched 1 ' It seemed odd enough to hear this old fellow 
talking thus savagely about his fellow Mussulmans, who 
differed from him very little but in name ; and all the 
while grasping by the neck the uncorked bottle of spirits, 
which his profound appreciation of the precepts of the 
Koran ought to have taught him to eschew. A propos of 
fowls, a strange idea had got abroad about this time, the 
origin of which I found it very difficult to trace. Its 
substance was that any one having live white-feathered 
fowls of any description in his possession after the first 
of the coming Bairam would infallibly lose his life — that 
a snake would issue from the throat of each, and inflict a 
fatal bite upon its owner. When or how this idea origi- 
nated I have over and over again tried to discover, but in 
vain ; so great, however, was the hold which it took upon 
the popular imagination, both in Asterabad and on the 
outlying plains, that long before the day named, white- 
feathered birds of every description had disappeared, and 
ducks, geese, and other poultry of the fatal plumage could at 
the time be purchased for the most trifling sums. I after- 
wards heard it uncharitably whispered at Teheran that the 
notion was set on foot by Armenian contractors, who were 
charged with the furnishing of a new regulation plume for 


certain troops in the Shah's sendee, and which it was 
necessary should be composed of white feathers, and that 
these gentlemen adopted this method of securing a plentiful 
and cheap supply. I will not, however, vouch for the 
truth of this explanation. 

Though my residence at Gumush Tepe was principally 
during the commencement oi the year, deaths by fever were 
painfully frequent, the low, swampy country being pregnant 
with ague. The unfortunate Turcomans took no remedial 
measures, quinine being unknown to them save by repute. 
They had heard of a wonderful medicine which could cure 
them, gina-gina, as they called it, and when it became 
known that I had this much-prized remedy in my posses- 
sion my kibitka was besieged night and day with applicants. 
This intermittent fever and ague, when neglected, reduces 
the sufferer to a miserable condition ; he becomes the 
colour of a corpse, incessant vomitings set in, and in two or 
three years he dies, a mere skeleton. Among Mahometans 
the breath has scarcely left the body before the remains are 
hurried to the grave. It was not unusual, in crossing the 
wide waste spaces around the aoutt, to meet a party of ten 
or twelve persons going at a run towards the old mound 
beside the sea-shore — the ordinary burying-place, six bear- 
ing upon their shoulders a corpse, wrapped in a sheet, the 
others relieving them in turn. According to their ideas, 
the soid is in suffering so long as the body remains over 
ground after death. No doubt this precept is inculcated by 
way of enforcing, in hot countries, the speedy burial of the 
deceased ; and each person who assists in thus carrying the 
dead body to its last resting-place is supposed to receive 
some special blessing or indulgence. One is frequently 
awakened in the night by a shrill burst of wailing from a 
neighbouring kibitka, the cries of the women intimating that 
a member of the family has died. This lasts for a few 

vol. x» B 


minutes, and then the tramp of the bearers is heard. The 
real funeral ceremonies commence subsequently, and are 
carried to an unreasonable length. The male relatives 
gather from far and near, and a large carpet is spread 
before the door for their accommodation, the women of the 
family remaining within the hut. As each party of new- 
comers arrives within fifty yards of the place, each places 
the wrist of his right arm across his eyes, and bursts into a 
series of the most hideous howls, supposed to be expressive 
of deep grief, though to me they would convey the impression 
of being produced by violent rage on the part of the utterer. 
Step by step the relatives draw near, howling all the time, 
and pausing at every three or four steps. Then they 
circle slowly round the dwelling, uttering more terrible 
cries than before. Having made the circuit of the house 
three times, they kneel upon the carpet, where the others 
are already seated, and, bowing their faces to the ground, 
and resting upon their arms, continue their demonstrations of 
sorrow, which gradually become less and less vehement until 
they cease entirely. Then comes a pause, after which each 
one sits up and enters into conversation with the company ; 
water-pipes are brought, and general topics are discussed. 
At the moment when the last party of men cease their 
uproar, the women inside the hut commence replying, 
giving vent to a kind of mournful jabbering accompanied by 
rhythmical clapping of the hands, and now and again 
breaking into a kind of recitative chant, probably laudatory 
of the merits of the deceased, though I was never able to 
understand the burden of the muffled notes which issued 
from behind the felt walls. This uncouth mourning 
continues during the first three or four days, and the family 
of the deceased, if rich enough, order a sheep to be killed 
for consumption by those who attend the obsequies, some of 
the richer relatives performing a like act of hospitality. 


Though the more immediate and formal rites terminate in 
a few days, three or four months elapse before the cere- 
monies are altogether concluded, for during this period all 
those friends from a distance who are unable to attend 
during the first days make their appearance from time to 
time, and the whole thing is repeated. Some months pre- 
viously to my arrival, a death had occurred in Dourdi's 
kibitka, and once, about midnight, when busily engaged in 
writing out my notes, I was terribly startled by a diabolical 
yelling within two feet of me, just outside the felt wall. 
I hastily awakened my host, and inquired the reason of the 
disturbance, when he informed me of the demise which had 
taken place. Though when the slightest strange noise 
occurs within the village during the night the dogs at once 
burst out into furious barking, so well is this death chant 
known to them, that they do not, on hearing it, make the 
usual demonstrations. On the contrary, I have known 
them join in the wail, in plaintive unison. When the chief 
of the household dies, a small mound of earth about two 
feet in height is erected close to the dwelling as a memorial 
of him, and the sites of former villages or encampments 
are often to be recognised by the ground being dotted 
with these mementoes. Of course, in the event of the 
demise of a chief the obsequies are on a larger scale, and 
proportionately lengthened, and the ' funeral baked meats ' 
are served out liberally to all comers — who, when viands 
are about, are, I need not say, pretty numerous. Over 
the grave itself is raised a mound of four or five feet in 
height. The greater the rank of the deceased, the larger is 
the mound. 

Every Turcoman who can possibly afford the expense of 
the journey makes a pilgrimage to Mecca. To avoid passing 
through the country of the hated Shiites, pilgrims prefer 
the route through Russian territory, and up to a short time 

B 2 


ago went by way of Gumush Tep6, Baku, Poti, and Con- 
stantinople. Now, since the opening of the railroad 
between Krasnavodsk and the Akhal Tekke, this route is 
preferred. I have been informed that during the next two 
years it will be open free of charge to these or any other 
Turcoman travellers. At least, so I was told at Baku. I 
saw some hadjis returning to Gumush Tep6. They were 
three in number, and had been announced some hours 
beforehand. Many persons went out on horseback to meet 
them, to be the first to receive their blessing in all its 
newness and freshness, and by contact with them to absorb 
a portion of the recently acquired holiness into their 
own persons. As they drew near the village, crowds of old 
and young flocked out to meet them, saluting them cordially 
in the Turcoman fashion. The newly-arrived pilgrims had 
large white turban cloths rolled round their black sheep- 
skin tiaras. Anyone who has made a pilgrimage to Mecca 
is entitled ever afterwards to wear a white turban, and enjoys 
considerable reputation for sanctity. As far as I could see, 
to a large extent he makes this latter redound not a little 
to his own personal and material comfort. Everyone is 
anxious to hear the story of the traveller's experiences in 
the foreign countries through which he has passed ; and the 
traveller in nowise loth to detail them again and again, to 
the accompaniment of unlimited pilaff, tea, and water- 

The commerce and manufactures of Gumush Tep6, as 
may readily be imagined, are neither extensive nor varied. 
In fact, up to the time of the arrival of the expeditionary 
troops at Tchikislar, the Turcomans had little notion of 
anything of the kind. After that event they were actively 
occupied in supplying the camp with firewood from the 
coast near Gez, with hay from their own plains and river 
banks, and with all the corn and rice which they could 


manage to extract from the Persians. Apart from this 
I do not know of any exports. The carpets which they 
make are retained for their own use; the slow rate at 
which they are produced, and the high price which would 
necessarily be asked for them, would effectually extinguish 
any attempt at commerce in such articles. The greater 
portion of their commerce is therefore in the shape of 
imports, for they consume large quantities of tea and sugar. 
These commodities do not come from Tckikislar and Baku, 
but direct from Asterabad. Even with the people of the 
latter city the transactions are on a limited scale, no con- 
fidence whatever existing between buyer and seller. All 
bargains are of a ready-money character, and ready money 
is very scarce among the Turcomans. Calicoes, both plain 
and printed, are also largely imported ; these are chiefly of 
Bussian manufacture, as would naturally be supposed, 
though French prints are occasionally to be seen upon the 
piles of merchandise within the kibitkas of the more exten- 
sively dealing merchants. These imported articles are sold 
in retail by those Turcomans who play the rdle of shop- 
keepers, at an enormous profit, fifty per cent, at least upon 
the retail price at Asterabad. It is highly amusing to 
watch the local merchant as he serves his customers with 
tea and sugar. The terazi, or scales, are of the rudest 
description, and consist of a bar of turned wood pierced in the 
middle by a hole, through which passes a thong, knotted at 
one end. The pans are composed of half-gourds, rudely 
supported by leather thongs. My host, who was himself a 
merchant in a small way, when selling two krans* worth 
(two francs) of sugar, was accustomed to place an iron boat- 
bolt, his dagger, and a small adze in one scale as the exact 
balance of the quantum which he proposed to give in ex- 
change for that sum of money. I have often managed to 
penetrate into a Turcoman house through having to make 


purchases of groceries and other commodities, and have 
remarked that whatever slight remnant of Eastern jealousy 
with regard to women might exist among .the other Turco- 
mans, these shopkeepers, owing to their continued and 
necessary contact with both sexes, have no trace of such 
feeling remaining. One day I went to a kibitka shop to buy 
some tea. Instead of a counter there was a long, broad 
board, slightly raised from the mat on which it was sup- 
ported, and covered with bowls and packages of tea, loaves 
of sugar, and rolls of tumbaki. Behind this board, extended 
at full length, her shoulders reclining upon a large crimson 
silk pillow, was the wife of the proprietor, who in his 
absence conducted the concern. She was dressed in the 
extreme of the Turcoman fashion. Her ornaments were 
more copious than usual, and she was, next to the young 
lady whom I have described as having met in the kibitka 
along the Giurgen, the finest Turcoman woman I have seen. 
She seemed rather relieved by the advent of some one to 
admire her costume, and herself too, I suppose, for she had 
apparently been wasting ' her sweetness on the desert air ' 
for a length of time. 

The supply of fish in the Caspian, and especially in the 
neighbourhoods of the estuaries of rivers, is enormous, and 
if the Turcomans had any sort of commercial spirit they 
might find ample occupation in catching and drying it, 
were it only for the supply of their brother Turcomans 
inhabiting the plain to the eastward. This Caspian fish, 
now that a railroad has penetrated to the interior of 
Central Asia, will probably be a notable article of commerce 
in the future. 

The manufactures of Gumush Tepe, after those of the 
wooden framework for kibitkas, and the building of fishing 
luggers and other craft, of which one is constructed now 
and then, include that of sheepskin overcoats (yapundjas 


or kusguns). The fresh skins are salted on the side opposite 
to the wool, and then packed together in bundles. When 
thoroughly dry they are scraped with a sharp morsel of 
wood, and afterwards with pumice-stone, until their inner 
surfaces are tolerably smooth. They are then thickly 
sprinkled with powdered alum, and a boiling decoction of 
pomegranate rind is poured over them. They are allowed 
to dry, and the operation is then repeated. The skin thus 
undergoes a kind of tanning, which gives it a bright 
amber tint, deepening in proportion to the number of 
operations to which it is subjected. It is, however, very 
rigid and hard, and requires to undergo a softening 
process before it can be sewn into garments. One extremity 
of the skin is attached to an iron loop situated at the top 
of the doorway. A small forked tree-branch, each limb of 
the fork a foot long, and having the inside of the angle 
carefully peeled and polished, is attached by one of its 
limbs to a stout cord, which in turn supports a kind of 
stirrup in which the foot is placed. The operator seizes 
the lower end of the suspended skin in his left hand, and, 
holding the whole of the skin in a more or less horizontal 


position, places the inside of the fork near its upper 
extremity. Then, leaning with his entire weight upon the 
stirrup, he drags the fork along the whole length cf the 
interior of the skin. This is repeated again and again, 
until the tanned hide loses its stiffness, and becomes as 
pliant as a piece of chamois leather. As many as four 
sheepskins will go to make up one of these Jcusguns, or over- 
coats, for they are of very large dimensions, and the sleeves 
project for a foot beyond the extremity of the hand, the 
extra length of sleeve being used as a glove in cold weather. 
A good coat of this description costs from fifteen to twenty 
shillings. When the hide is that of lambs, or the wool is 
of a finer quality, the price rises in proportion, especially 


when the front is stamped and embroidered, in which cases 
I have known five or eight pounds to be paid for a kusgun. 
The embossed and ornamented sheepskin coats are but 
little known among the Turcomans, being principally worn 
by the people of Derguez and by the Afghans. In dry 
weather these garments are worn with the tanned side turned 
outwards, the wool being next the body, but during rain or 
snow storms the wool is turned outwards for the purpose of 
shedding the water. The tanned side, if exposed to con- 
tinued wet, will, by reason of its imperfect preparation, 
become indurated, and be liable to get torn. Owing to the 
proximity of the pomegranate jungles of Asterabad, which 
supply the tanning materials in the shape of the rind of 
the fruit, and the nearness of Asterabad and Baku, from 
which alum can be obtained, Gumush Tepe enjoys a 
tolerably good trade in these tanned hides, many of which 
are disposed of to the Turcomans who live farther inland. 

Up to the arrival of the Bussians at Tchikislar, the only 
coins known at Gumush Tepe were the kran, equal in 
value to a franc, and the toman, or gold ten-franc piece. 
These comprised the whole of the money recognised by the 
Turcomans, and, in fact, do so to the present day, except 
on the Caspian littoral. In the vicinity of the latter, how- 
ever, not only silver roubles, but paper ones, are readily, 
and indeed eagerly received. It was a long time before the 
Turcomans could be got to understand the nature of paper 
money, but as they now see that in the Armenian ware- 
houses and shops at Tchikislar it will stand them in better 
stead than their own dumpy silver coins, they have fallen 
readily into its use. Within the last three or four years 
the coinage of the Persian mint has been remodelled, and 
krans stamped in a European style, flattened out to the size 
of a franc, are now issued, instead of the little, irregularly 
shaped, thick morsels of silver, broken at the edges. There 


are also two-Aran and ftve-kran pieces. These also are 
received by the Gumush Tep6 folk ; but there are places 
further up the country where the Turcomans will have 
nothing to do with them, and will accept only the old- 
fashioned kran and toman. Even the toman is not always 
willingly received, for as a rule the Turcomans have little or 
no gold, and do not understand it. Owing to their variety, 
and to the different dates at which they have been coined, 
these hrans are a constant source of dispute between buyer 
and seller, as any traveller in this part of the world will 
have had emphatically brought under his notice. There is 
one species of kran which to the ordinary observer is 
entirely indistinguishable from the others. This kran 
was struck at the town of Hamadan, in Persia, and no 
Persian or Turcoman will accept it unless a percent- 
age be deducted. I could never definitely understand 
the reason of this. Some said that the silver was impure ; 
others that the silver was pure, but that the coins were 
under the proper weight ; others, again, that it did not bear 
the proper stamp, and so on. Each person had his own 
particular objection, and the end of it all was that this kran 
was usually only received after an abatement of one-tenth 
of its nominal value. There is another kind of kran known 
as the Queen Mother, which, like the new one, bears the 
impress of a lion and sun, a crown, and a wreath of laurel 
leaves. This was the result of the first attempt to imitate 
European coinage. It is held in still lower estimation 
than the last-mentioned one, and there are sundry 
others which come into the same category. Then there 
are the false ones, and those of mixed metal; also those 
manufactured by the Turcomans themselves, out of suffi- 
ciently pure silver, but with the inscription in intaglio 
instead of relievo. The consequence of these differences, 
and of the nice distinctions made between them, is that 


if you have to pay away in kran$ a sum equal to five pounds 
sterling, the best part of a day is wasted in examining the 
coins one by one, and in hearing the arguments pro and 
con as to the relative merits of each. 

Another endless source of dispute among the Turco- 
mans is in regard to measure. When any material is sold 
by measure, calico for instance, the arshun, or gez, is 
employed. This measure is the distance between the tip of 
the nose and that of the fingers, the arm being outstretched. 
Of course its length is entirely dependent upon the dimen- 
sions of the arm of the measurer, and interminable are the 
controversies as to whether the calico shall be measured by 
the vendor or by the purchaser. Another kind of measur- 
ing is employed in the vending of corn — the chanak. This 
literally means f bowl,' but it has also come to signify the 
quantity of corn which, piled to the utmost, can be held in 
the two palms, when joined after the manner of a basin. 
The sizes of the hands of these Turcomans vary very much, 
and a great variety of disputes is the consequence. There 
is another peculiarity in connexion with selling by measure. 
When the orthodox chanak bowl, one of certain recognised 
dimensions, is used, the buyer is generally allowed to 
measure for himself. He takes his place by the heap of 
corn, and his open sack stands ready at his side. He fills 
the chanak with his hands, heaping the corn carefully on so 
that it may rise as high as possible in a conical shape, 
and while a single grain more can be got to remain on the 
pile, he will not relinquish his attempts to be the gainer, be 
it by never so little. All this time he keeps repeating ' one, 
one, one/ ' two, two, two,' alluding to the first or second 
chanak y as the case may be, which he is engaged in filling 
up. Immediately upon pouring the contents of the bowl 
into his sack, he begins to fill afresh, again incessantly 
repeating the number of the chanak. It is curious to mark 


the expressions upon the faces of merchant and buyer — the 
avarice upon the countenance of the one, and the anxiety 
on that of the other. From such exhibitions as these I 
have often turned away with disgust. 

It is not often that the Turcomans indulge in amuse- 
ments. Their indoor recreations appear to be confined to 
chess, and a game of odd and even, played with the red and 
white knuckle-bones of sheep, the red ones being tinted 
with cochineal. In the open air, on certain occasions, such 
as weddings, and during Bmram, they have races, and what 
the Arabs would call fantasia. This latter consists of a 
number of young men, mounted on swift horses, with drawn 
swords and loaded muskets, who ride wildly about, going 
through a mimic combat, and discharging their pieces right 
and left. Among the children I noticed the game of ' tip- 
cat,' and I have also seen genuine kite-flying. The paper 
kite is here termed thomase. Whether its use be indigenous 
to the country, or whether it has been imported, I cannot 
say, but the Turcomans told me that it was of great 
antiquity. I have seen the elder boys playing at ' hockey,' 
or ' hurling,' as it is called in Ireland, just in the same way 
that it is played at home. 

Of art, delineative or otherwise, the Turcoman has no 
notion whatever. I have shown the Gumush Tep6 people 
drawings from the ' Illustrated London News ' and ' Punch,' 
but the pictures failed to convey the slightest idea, unless, 
indeed, the spectator took up some absurd notion, utterly 
at variance with the object of the design. Still, they were 
never ceasing in their curiosity, and would gaze for hours 
and hours at a copy of ' Punch,' turned sideways or upside 
down — to them it was a matter of indifference which. I 
only remember one occasion upon which a Turcoman — old 
Agha Jik, who had obtained compensation from the thief 
who stole my horse-cloth — succeeded in discovering, in one 


of Mr. Bambourne's allegorical cartoons in ' Punch/ the 
head of Mr. Gladstone. The right honourable gentleman 
is represented as a hermit crab, leaving the shell which 
served him as a former residence, and changing to a larger 
one — another constituency. ' This, I can see, is a man's 
head,' said the Turcoman; 'but what is this?' pointing 
to the body of the hermit crab. ' That,' said I, ' is a kind 
of fish.' • Does it live in the water ? ' asked he. ' Yes/ I 
replied. * Then/ observed he, ' this must be a eu-adam ' 
(a marine man). ' Just so/ I said, utterly wearied by my 
endeavours to explain, and having but little hope of bring- 
ing home to the minds of my hearers the political significa- 
tion of the design. I afterwards heard Agha Jik explaining 
to his friends that, as I had been telling them that England 
was surrounded by water, doubtless when the population 
became very large some were obliged to live in the sea. 

In the midst of such incidents as these, and in observing 
the manners and customs of these semi-savage people, I 
contrived to get through the long weary days in this out- 
of-the-way place beyond the Caspian. It was impossible 
to do any literary work during the day, and when after the 
final meal the family lay down to rest, and the venomous 
yelp of the jackals, answered by the deep baying of the 
village dogs, announced that the time for repose for the 
Turcomans had come, I felt relieved, as I could then be 
alone, follow out my thoughts, and commit them to paper. 
Thus occupied, I have sat on my carpet, beside the smoky 
astatki lamp, far into the small hours, and have lain down 
just as old Dourdi's wife was rising to commence grinding 
flour for the morning meal in her horizontal quern. At first, 
the sensation of lying upon the floor of one of these kibitkas 
is a very curious one. One's ear, in contact with the ground, 
brings to him all manner of murmurs and sounds from 
around, and he can hear the various conversations going 

NIGHT. 253 

on in the neighbouring kibitkas, or the tramp of distant 
belated horsemen coming towards the village. Sometimes 
one wakes up suddenly, and by the dim, smouldering fire- 
light sees the centre and radiating ribs of the domed roof 
like some huge arachnoid polypus brooding above him, and 
stooping to grasp him in its outstretched tentacles. This 
was the form of nightmare which commonly oppressed mo 
in my scanty hours of sleep in the kibitka. 




General Mouravieff— Night scene on the Giurgen — Embarking for Tchifeialar- 
Wild fowl — Fishing stations — At sea — Wading ashore — Moullah Dourdi— 
The Grand Hotel — Colonel Malama — Discussion about the frontier — 
Timour Beg — Banished again — Back to Gumush Tope" — Smoking apparatus 
— Beer drinking and casuistry — An unnecessary call — A storm sky — The 
snow tenkia — Effects at Kenar Gez — The plains under snow— On the road 
to Asterabad — Cattle storm shelters — Dying sheep — Testing for blood — 
Turcomans camping — An improvised vehicle — A difficult ford — A camel 
in a difficulty — Swollen streams — Large mushrooms — Tortoises — Luxuriant 
grass growth — Suspected Turcomans — Muddy jungle — Wild boars. 

I had been residing continuously at Gumush Tep6 about 
three months, when some Turcomans who had returned 
with a lugger from Tchikislar brought me intelligence of 
the resignation of General Tergukasoff, and the appoint- 
ment ad interim , to the command of the expeditionary forces, 
of Major-General Mouravieff. This change in the direction 
of affairs gave me some hope that I might after all be per- 
mitted to follow the operations of the Russian columns, and 
I determined to try my fortunes once more at the camp. 
I had considerable difficulty in inducing any of the Turco- 
mans who ordinarily travelled to and fro between Gumush 
Tepe and Tchikislar with forage and wood supplies for the 
camp to allow me to accompany them, as they knew that 
since my last visit to the Russian lines I had underlain a 
ban, and that if I again essayed to return I should in all 
probability be summarily expelled. By dint of great per- 
suasion, however, and the use of a good deal of diplomacy. 


I succeeded in making them believe that it was necessary 
and permissible for me to have an interview with the new 
general, and, aided by the efforts of my host, I at length 
managed to discover the owner of a lodka who agreed to 
convey me along the coast to the Russian encampment. 

It was a pitch dark night on March 4, 1880, a little over 
a year since I had arrived at Baku. The stars looked large 
and glittering in the inky sky- a phenomenon which I 
have often remarked in certain states of the atmosphere 
beyond the Caspian — as I stepped from the door of my 
kibitka, accompanied by old Dourdi, to embark on board the 
craft which he had found for me. He had been at great 
pains to secure trustworthy persons to convey me to the 
camp, for he was fearful about committing me to the care 
of the first person who offered, lest he, knowing that I was 
not in favour at the Russian head-quarters, should play me 
some trick en voyage. He was also anxious that I should 
return safely, especially as I had promised to bring back a 
new teapot for his wife, a brass one if such a thing could be 
found. Taking a stick two feet in length, and about an inch 
in diameter, he wrapped it with rags to a distance of six inches 
from the point, and, dipping it in the jar of black residual 
naphtha, or astatki, when saturated he rolled it in the ashes 
of the wood fire, and lighted it at the lamp. It blazed up, 
giving a lurid flame of a foot high, and we stepped out into 
the obscurity. We threaded our way along the river's 
edge, where the reed bundles mingled with the earth, and, 
propped up on the side next the water by rude piles and 
planking, formed a kind of quay, the elastic surface of which 
yielded to the foot like an asphalte roadway during very 
hot weather. As we went along the dogs rushed at us in 
their usual ferocious manner, and stray villagers appeared 
constantly out of the gloom, gazing suspiciously at us as 
we passed. People who are out in these parts at this time 


of night are generally supposed to be on some errand which 
does not bode good to anyone. Then we reached a muddy 
creek, stretching a hundred yards from the river, in which 
were two or three luggers in course of construction, and 
which we crossed on planks laid over rough trestles such 
as are to be seen in dock excavation works. On the other 
6ide we found a dug-out canoe, into which we squeezed 
ourselves. Dourdi planted the flaming torch at one end of 
our fragile boat, and we shoved off into the dark river. It 
was a picturesque sight. The ripples, stirred by the prow, 
glittered in the yellow glare of the torch, which shot an 
uncertain, wavy light on the dusky outlines of the anchored 
lodkas, and on the black, alligator-like tdimuls like our own, 
that moved silently by, each propelled, as ours was, by a 
single shovel-shaped paddle. The tall, dark figures of the 
boatmen, standing erect, seemed so many spectral forms 
gliding along the sable surface. We crossed the river 
obliquely, going towards a solitary kibitka lying a hundred 
yards lower down on the opposite side, from the open door 
of which proceeded the faint gleam of a lamp. A large 
one-masted lugger lay over on one side on the shelving 
muddy bank. We disembarked and entered the house. It 
wan half full of hay and corn sacks awaiting transport to 
Tchikislar. A fire burned in the centre, and beside it, sur- 
rounded by nets and other fishing appurtenances, sat a 
woman, evidently of Persian race, with dark, strongly- 
marked, highly-arching eyebrows, large full eyes, and a 
general appearance which plainly denoted that she was no 
Turcoman. Seated in her lap was a child of some three 
or four years, clad in classically scanty raiment. As the 
flickering light fell upon her figure beside the dark shadows 
of the kibitka with Rembrandt-like effect, she would have 
made no bad model for a latter-day aquiline-featured 
Madonna. I sat for some time by the fire, ruminating over 


the possible results of my coming trip until two young men 
eame in. After some bargaining, it was agreed to accord 
me a passage to Tchikislar for the sum of five krans (four 
shillings), on condition that I supplied candles during the 
voyage. After a good deal of hauling and pushing, the 
lugger was set afloat, and I embarked. Besides myself 
there was a crew of three. It was about nine o'clock in the 
evening as, spreading our great lateen sail, we glided away 
down the long, winding, canal-like channel, here not more 
than forty paces wide, between low, swampy banks, over- 
grown with tamarisk bushes. As we left the glimmering 
lights of Gumush Tepe behind us, the clamour of wild 
fowl feeding in the marshes on either side reached our ears, 
and at intervals the noise of the frogs and toads sounded 
weirdly on the night. A mile down the river we came to 
a halt near an Armenian fishing station upon the left 
bank, to take in two passengers. Greatly to my surprise, 
I saw among those who came out of the kibitka, which 
served as a residence for the people employed at the fishing 
station, a Russian soldier in full uniform. Then we went 
on, as far as I could judge, for about a mile and a half, 
poling the lodka off the banks at the sharp turnings, then 
passing a wide estuary intersected with tree-grown islands, 
the commencement, probably, of a future delta ; for, unlike 
the Atterek, the Giurgen has one continuous and navigable 
channel to the open sea. Here, again, were extensive 
fishing stations, and lights gleamed along the shore in a 
southerly direction. I was told that an extensive fishing 
village existed there. I stowed myself away under the 
forecastle, wrapped in my sheepskin mantle, after partaking 
of some tea made on a fire kindled in a shallow iron pan 
laid on flat bricks. I slept soundly, and it must have been 
about six o'clock in the morning when, after something 
like nine hours' passage, we anchored off the level shore of 
vol. 1. s 



Tchikislar. My companions told me thai daring the night 
they had had a good deal of tacking, the wind having 
shifted, and that they had been obliged to keep well out to 
sea, as the wind was off shore, and the waters were forced 
backwards and considerably reduced in depth. The sailors 
had brought with them some wild duck, pheasants, and vege- 
tables, to be sold at the camp, where, they said, they were 
able to obtain for them a price at least four times as large 
as could be got in their own village. I was brought as 
near the shore as possible in a tdimul, but, small as was 
the draught of this dug-out canoe, I was obliged to wade 
at least fifty yards through the surf before I reached what 
might reasonably be called land. The camp was still 
buried in slumber ; probably if everyone had been about, as 
was the case later on, I should have been sent about my 
business immediately. None of the shops or booths were 
yet open, and I was forced for the moment to seek hospi- 
tality in the Hbitka of an old acquaintance, the ex-pirate, 
Moullah Dourdi, who, true to the habits of his race, was 
up and stirring betimes. He had the reputation of 
being very rich, that is for a Turcoman, and to judge from 
the appearance of his house, crammed to the roof inside 
with tea-chests, rolls of calico, and other commodities, he 
seemed to be doing a thriving business. Somewhat later 
the denizens of the camp began to make their appearance, 
and the principal house of entertainment, a great rambling 
boarded structure with high-pitched roof, kept by an Italian 
sutler and known as the Grand Hotel, was opened. It was 
the place where a number of the staff officers boarded, and 
I was recognised by more than one as soon as I made my 
appearance at the breakfast-table. As soon as I could 
obtain an audience, I presented myself before my old friend 
Colonel Malama, the chief of staff, who still occupied the 
position he had held under General Lazareff. He looked 


much aged and worn, short as was the time since I had 
last seen him, and I was not surprised at it, considering 
that he had been through the disastrous affair of the first 
attack on Geok Tep6, and had borne his fall share of the 
responsibilities which the precipitate retreat from before 
that stronghold entailed. I asked him to tell General 
Mouravieff that I had come to make application to be 
allowed to remain at Tchikislar, and to follow the operations 
of the column, and he promised to do as I desired as soon 
as the General was visible. I spent the day in roving 
about the camp, and could perceive but little alteration in 
its general appearance, save that there was much less 
animation than when I had last been there, owing to the 
withdrawal of a large portion of the forces to the western 
side of the Caspian, where they had taken up quarters for 
the winter. The evening was enlivened by a rather hot 
discussion between myself and some engineer officers on the 
question of the actual boundary between Persia and the 
Russian trans-Caspian territory, one of them stoutly main- 
taining that the Atterek to its sources was, and could not 
but be, the legitimate boundary, and that which was laid 
down in treaties. It was scarce day-break on the following 
morning when I was aroused by a loud knocking at the 
door of the little alcove in which I slept. The major of 
a battalion, with whom I had formerly been on very friendly 
terms, accompanied by the chief of the camp police, a 
certain Timour Beg, a Mussulman lieutenant of cavalry, 
made their appearance, bearing an order from General 
Mouravieff that I should immediately quit the camp and 
return to Gumush Tep6, or any other place to which I 
might choose to proceed, provided I left the limits of the 
Russian lines. I asked permission to remain until I had 
eaten my breakfast, and then, accompanied by the same 
officers, I departed for the shore, where a lodka, specially 

■ 2 


retained for my transport back to Gumush Tep6, was lying. 
The major was eager in his expressions of regret that I 
should be thus compelled to leave Tchikislar, and said how 
surprised he was to see me so treated, he haying known me 
to be on such exceedingly good terms with the late General 
Lazareff and Generals Borch and Wittgenstein. It was not 
General Mouravieff s fault, he said. He was aware that a 
telegram had arrived in the camp on the previous evening, 
whether from Tiflis or St. Petersburg he did not know, in 
reply to one despatched by the General in relation to my- 
self, and which contained a peremptory order to see that I 
left the place forthwith. A tdimuL brought me alongside of 
the lugger, and I found a sufficiently numerous body of 
passengers already aboard, some fifteen in all. We set sail 
about eight o'clock, and stowed ourselves away upon the 
rude ribs of the primitive craft, so as to be as much as 
possible out of the way of the bilge water that went uneasily 
to and fro. A smoking apparatus, in size and shape very 
like Highland bagpipes, was produced, and the general cir- 
culation of it from hand to hand commenced. We stood 
out for a couple of miles, until from our little craft we could 
only distinguish long streaks of low-lying coast, which, apart 
from occasional sand-hills, were only just enough to indicate 
land. Far away ahead the Persian mountains, like a blue 
dream, loomed to the southward. Our passage was favour- 
able enough until towards evening, when the wind died away 
almost entirely, and sweeps had to be got out, by the aid 
of which we crawled along slowly enough. A couple of 
hours before sunset the breeze again sprang up, and we 
scudded away briskly before it. The company were very 
cheerful ; most of them, apparently, to judge from their 
conversation, having been successful in their commercial 
transactions at the camp. Many of them indulged in such 
nn-Mussulman-like refreshment as bottled Kazan beer, pur- 


chased at the drink-shops of Tchikislar, doubtless not 
thinking themselves less obedient to the teachings of the 
Koran on that account. The more lax Mussulmans always 
excuse themselves for excessive indulgence in vodka, arrack, 
and brandy, on the plea that wine only is forbidden by 
Mahomet. We had a moullah on board, who was piously 
demonstrative, saying his prayers with the greatest persist- 
ence during the greater portion of the voyage; and though 
we were sitting crowded together in a narrow space, almost 
touching each other, he would insist upon putting his open 
hands behind his jaws as the muezzims do, and calling the 
faithful to prayer, as if all who had it in their power to 
respond had not been at his elbow. 

I did not like the appearance of the sky as we entered 
the mouth of the Giurgen. There were meteoric-looking 
clouds athwart the sun, and that angry glare over the 
waters which in this part of the world heralds a tempest. 
The wind again fell, and a dead calm ensued. The lugger 
had to be rowed and poled almost the entire distance 
between the mouth of the river and the village. A fieree 
yellow storm-light was on the lodka masts, and angry red 
streaks shone over the looming snow-clad Elburz. The 
leaden waters of the Giurgen slept * stilly black,' the sun 
went down, and the call of the muezzim, like that of some 
storm demon, arose upon the ominous silence pervading 
land and sky. I had not been more than a few minutes on 
shore when the scudding mist-drift made its appearance 
along the western horizon, and before long the tempest was 
upon us. It was fortunate for us that we got on shore so 
soon. The storm struck the village with greater force than I 
had yet seen. The cattle galloped wildly about, the camels 
straggling here and there with their awkward run, stiffly 
brandishing their tails. The evening sky forcibly reminded 
me of a tornado scene which I once witnessed in St. Louis, 


Missouri, and the roaring noise of the wind and rain that 
swept over the village brought the same storm still more 
vividly back to my memory. Ere long it was pitch dark, 
and general confusion reigned throughout Gumush Tep6. 
The naphtha torches flared in every direction. Ropes and 
poles were hurriedly brought into requisition, and the 
universal hubbub, mingled with the noise of the storm, gave 
the place the appearance of being the scene of some 
unearthly combat. These sudden storms from the sea are 
of such frequent occurrence that I wondered why perma- 
nent precautions were not taken against their ever-recur- 
ring violence. When I asked old Dourdi why he did not 
always keep his kibitka tied down with ropes, and plant 
poles to support the structure against the fury of the 
wind, instead of removing all the fastenings the moment 
the tempest had passed by, he frankly told me that if he 
were to leave his tackling for a single night outside, it would 
disappear before morning— a good and cogent reason for 
placing it in security within. This storm was one of the 
worst that had happened for some time, and I could not 
help congratulating myself and my fellow-passengers upon 
having got ashore before its fury burst upon us, for I am 
certain that if such had not been the case not one of us 
would have reached land. Borne miles to the south, at the 
station of Kenar Gez, the Persian custom-house— not, it is 
true, a very solid building — was unroofed and completely 
wrecked, and three men were drowned. The wooden pier 
was broken in two, and several small vessels were driven 
ashore. This storm, unhke the others which had occurred 
during my stay in these parts, was not of short duration. 
It continued with unceasing violence during the greater part 
of the night. Towards midnight it was accompanied by 
hail and a heavy snowfall. When I looked out in the morn- 
ing the sun was shining brightly over a vast gleaming 


• expanse of virgin snow. I had never before seen the plains 
thus covered. It is singular that, while during the months 
of January and February the weather had been compara- 
tively mild and warm, it should at this late period turn so 
bitterly cold, and that we should ba plunged, as it were, 
into the depth of winter. The snow-fall must have been 
excessively heavy, for it was fully six inches deep out in the 
open. It was drifted in great banks against every obstacle 
in the course of the wind, and piled high against the 
kibitkas. Everyone was at work sweeping the snow from 
the felt roofing, and clearing pathways from door to door. 
The dogs, for a wonder, were undemonstrative, and cowered 
in sheltered corners out of the reach of the cutting blast 
that whistled and moaned through the village. Never have 
I seen so sudden and striking a transformation, in so 
brief a period, over the whole face of the country. 

Finding that my last chance of again being allowed 
to take up my quarters in the Russian camp had departed, 
I decided to return to Asterabad, there to consult with my 
friend Mr. Churchill as to what course I ought to pursue, 
and I took advantage of the setting out for the same place 
of a Turcoman who had been acting as agent for the British 
Consul at that city, and who was going in with his usual 
fortnightly report of the movements of the Russians. For 
obvious reasons I refrain from giving the name of this 
courier. On the morning following the storm, accompanied 
by this man and my servant, I took the usual route 
towards Kara Suli Tepe, from which point the road turned 
in a south-easterly direction towards Oum Shali, one of the 
principal points at which Turcomans going and coming 
between Asterabad and Gumush Tepe cross the Giurgen 
river. Far away out on the plain, with not a bush a foot 
high to shelter us against the piercing wind, I could fully 
realise the value of a Turcoman sheepskin kusgun, and of 


the extra length of sleeve which I could snugly double 
oyer my hand. The cold was not so excessive that one need 
complain of it, but the keen wind, sweeping unimpeded over 
these vast solitudes, lent to it a bitterness which must be 
felt to be appreciated. The plain stretching between 
Oumush Tep6 and Kara Suli Tep6 is mainly uninhabited, 
being near enough to the village to allow of the camels and 
herds being sent to pasture early in the morning, and 
brought home at night, but beyond the latter place a scene 
truly characteristic of the Steppes came under my obser- 
vation. Here, at intervals of four or five miles, are small 
groups of Mbitkas, each group consisting of from ten to 
twenty dwellings, and placed with a view to the grazing 
of the numerous flocks and herds ordinarily scattered over 
the plain. The inhabitants of these huts were now to be 
met with in every direction, camped in small groups here 
and there, as far as the eye could reach. When the snow 
tenkis swept over them they had bethought themselves of 
their sheep and lambs, distributed for miles round under 
the guardianship of a few shepherds, and exposed to all the 
fury of the wintry blast. Knowing from experience the 
fatal results of these visitations, they had hurried out to 
parry, as best they might, the disastrous effects of the tenkis 
upon their flocks, and everywhere were to be seen shelters, 
rapidly constructed out of the first material that came to 
hand. In these outlying villages one sees, at all seasons 
of the year, a number of objects whose destination had 
more than once sorely puzzled me. These were fascines of 
giant reeds, twenty feet long, eighteen inches thick at one 
extremity, where the butts of the reeds were together, 
and half that thickness at the other end, where the plumy 
tops were bound together in a point. I now saw to what 
use they were put. The earth had been cut slopingly, 
deepening gradually from the surface to a depth of about 


three feet, and then abruptly scarped. The excavated earth 
was thrown up in the form of a parapet, and solidly beaten. 
This parapet was next the wind, the sloping ditch which 
led down to it being in the opposite direction, and the entire 
line at right angles to the direction of the storm. The reed 
fascines were laid sloping, at an angle of forty-five degrees, 
across the top of this parapet, their thick ends being buried 
in the earth, and firmly secured in position by stakes, so 
that the plumy extremities of the reeds were pointed in the 
direction towards which the wind blew. Under cover of the 
parapet and the sloping roof formed by the fascines the 
flocks crowded together, and were thus to a certain 
extent secured against the effects of the blast, and the more 
or less vertically falling snow and hail. A screen of this 
description afforded passable shelter from the extreme 
violence of the storm, sufficient for the stronger animals, 
such as camels, cows, and full-grown sheep, to a distance of 
thirty or forty feet from the parapet, while the young lambs 
and kids cowered close down in the cutting. In some 
instances there had not been time to erect these parapets, 
and the fascines were supported in the necessary position by 
horizontal poles, reaching from top to top of stout stakes 
driven vertically into the ground. Where these fascines 
were not prepared for use, the villagers had brought out their 
quilts and felt floor-cloths, which, attached to wooden bars 
such as I have described, and held in a vertical position 
by stakes driven through their lower edges, gave a 
limited shelter to the portion of the flocks least able to bear 
the inclemency of the weather. These precautions, how- 
ever, had apparently come too late, to a great extent, for 
on every side were strewn dead and dying lambs and sheep. 
Men with long knives were going from one prostrate 
animal to another, cutting their throats to see if blood would 
flow. In case it did, however slightly, the carcass was 


taken to the village to be consumed as food ; but, if no blood 
came, the flesh was abandoned to the village dogB, and to 
the wolves and jackals, who would invariably make their 
appearance as the sun sank below the horizon. The 
number of animals who perished in this snow tenkis, to 
judge from my observations of the limited space over which 
I rode, must have been enormous. 

As we moved further eastward, the snow diminished 
very perceptibly, and when we reached the usual fording- 
place on the Giurgen, at Oum Shali, it had almost entirely 
disappeared. Even at this early season of the year the 
mid-day hours were exceedingly warm. We tried in vain 
to find a fording-place at this point. The waters were 
beginning to rise, and it would have been very hazardous to 
risk the attempt. We accordingly pushed on five or six 
miles further to the east, until nearly abreast with the old 
Persian fortress of Mehemet Giurgen, on the southern bank 
of the river, where it makes a sudden bend to the south- 
ward. Here we found II Geldi Khan, the Turcoman chief 
of whom I have spoken as accompanying me overland to 
Tchikislar. He was engaged in shifting one of his villages 
to a more favourable pasture ground. A considerable 
portion of the kibitkas and household materials were on the 
ground, and the remainder were gradually arriving. In 
this part of the world there are no wheeled vehicles. The 
nearest approach to a vehicle of any kind which I saw was 
a cylindrical wicker basket like a gabion, about four feet in 
length and two and a half feet in diameter, open at each 
extremity. Through the centre of one of the sides had been 
thrust a lance, and a man, mounted upon a tall Turcoman 
horse, his wife seated behind him, held the other extremity 
of the weapon in his hand, thereby drawing the basket after 
him. In it were a quantity of hay, and some lesser house- 
hold goods and chattels. Baskets of the same kind were to 


be seen at intervale, placed upright upon one end. These 
were the field mangers for the horses, and they prevented 
the hay from being swept away by the wind, as would have 
been the case had it remained unprotected. The household 
effects were carried on the backs of camels, the men and 
women riding on horseback. All around stood the wooden 
skeletons of kibitkas, not yet covered with felt, and looking 
exactly like so many gigantic parrot cages. Women in 
their bright coloured garments were, as usual, hard at work 
erecting the dwellings ; the men sat idly about, smoking 
their water-pipes, and chatting, their rifles and muskets 
lying in symmetrical rows on the ground near them. Even 
at this point, which is considered the safest of all at which 
to cross the river, it was by no means an easy task to get 
to the opposite side. A guide, sent by D Geldi Khan, and 
mounted on a very tall camel, led the way, the animal pro- 
ceeding obliquely up the stream, feeling the bottom carefully 
with its great cushioned feet to make sure that he did not 
slide from the kind of ridge which at that point rendered 
the river fordable. It is very dangerous to attempt the 
ford without a guide ; and, even when the river is easily 
passable, the steep and slippery banks of yellow loam 
present a serious obstacle. I succeeded in getting over, my 
horse once completely losing his footing, and going quite 
under water, to the no small detriment of the contents of 
my saddle-bags. Arrived at the other side, he managed with 
great difficulty to struggle up the steep bank, but when near 
the top, which was about twenty-five feet above the surface 
of the river, he again lost his footing, and slid back into the 
stream. I had at length to dismount in water waist deep, 
and scramble up on all fours, plastering myself all over 
with sticky loam. The camel which carried the guide, 
thanks to its long legs, got well across the stream, but 
failed utterly to climb the bank. Several times, by creep* 


ing on its knees, it mounted ten or twelve feet, bat then, 
becoming tired, lay down with its neck stretched out like an 
enormous snail, and in this position glided backwards inch 
by inch into the water, where it stood uttering dissatisfied 
growls, such as can only proceed from the mouth of a camel. 
The guide was to have accompanied us in the direction of 
Asterabad, but in consequence of the sheer impossibility of 
getting his camel up the bank, we perforce moved on with- 
out his company. 

Though no snow was visible on the southern side of the 
river, a fact which was doubtless owing to its having dis- 
appeared before the rays of the hot afternoon sun, we con- 
stantly met with the dead bodies of sheep, lambs, and kids, 
many of them in a very mangled condition by reason of the 
ravages of the wolves, jackals, and dogs. Finding myself 
unable to reach Asterabad the same night, I stayed at a 
gathering of kibitkas situated about two hours' ride from the 
town, and at the northern edge of the jungle. There had 
been heavy rains during the preceding fortnight, and the 
rivers and streams everywhere were gradually beginning to 
fill. Even the Kara-Su, which is usually but a series of 
swamps united by insignificant rivulets, was now a very 
respectable river, and quite unfordable. At the village it 
was spanned by a very rickety extempore bridge of tree- 
trunks and branches. In the proximity of this stream, 
which falls into the sea at Eenar Gez, mushrooms covered 
the ground in every direction, some being as large as a 
dinner plate. At first I was very chary about making use 
of them, but, seeing the inhabitants eat them freely, I tried 
them also, and found them excellent. They are precisely 
the same in flavour as those eaten in England. I had often 
noticed immense quantities of them along the Giurgen, 
near Gumush Tepe, but, owing to their enormous size, had 
taken it for granted that they were inedible. For half a 


bran one can purchase a quantity which would fill up and 
pile an ordinary wash-hand basin. Large numbers of 
young tortoises crept about everywhere, and immense 
growths of dandelion flourished in the same locality. The 
grass and reed growth along this southerly portion of the 
plain, extending between the Giurgen and the Kara-Su, is 
exceedingly luxuriant, owing to the excellent water supply 
combined with the heat of the sun, and I am much surprised 
that the nomads do not frequent the district more than they 
do. Possibly they fear to be in too close proximity to the 
central administration at Asterabad, a position which would 
greatly facilitate the extracting from them of additional 
funds by the local authorities. I passed the night in a 
kibitka placed at the disposal of myself and my servant, as 
it seemed to be understood that we would not trust our- 
selves alone with any of the village people during the night. 
They belonged to the Ata-bai Turcomans, and were a 
peculiar subdivision of that tribe which bore a very bad 
character indeed. They were held responsible for certain 
Persians who had disappeared, shortly before our arrival, 
while endeavouring to cross this portion of the plain. 

Early in the morning I took my departure, riding by a 
narrow path through the pomegranate and thorn jungle. 
The snow, which had here lodged in great quantities, had 
melted, and the loamy mud was fully eighteen inches deep, 
rendering the path all but impassable. Weary hours of 
wading were spent in getting though this chaos. We 
passed several fortified Persian villages, situated within 
clearings, one of them occupying the summit of one of the 
ancient tepes, or hills. It probably presented an exact 
picture of what each of the other hills dotting the plain to the 
northward was when the district was inhabited. On every 
side were wild-boar tracks, and from time to time, as we 
sought to avoid the muddy ditch along which we were 



riding, by turning aside into the field, we saw parties of 
from five to six boars, with their broods, go crashing 
suddenly before us, away into the depths of the thickets. 
It was nearly two o'clock in the afternoon as, thoroughly 
tired out, I drew bridle at the gate of the British Consulate 
in Asterabad. 




A troublesome servant — Mehemedsbsd — Gamp at Nergis Tepe — Afghan 
escort — Cattle scenting blood — Porcupines — Offending a moullah — Bridge 
oyer Kara-Su — Old town of Giurgen — Modern fort — Seat of Kadjar 
family — Persian artillerymen and sharpshooters— Ak-Kala bridge — 
Turcoman medresUs — View from the ramparts — Firing at a Turcoman — 
Persian military prestige — A humorous moullah — Verses on a mantel- 
piece — Paring an epistle — Banks of the Giurgen — Camels shedding winter 
coats— Triple chain of mounds — Oum Shali — Pheasants and partridges — 
A hungry wolf — Lost in the reed brakes — Stranded fish — Overflow of 
Giurgen — Curing fish — Wood turners — A Kurd gallant — Matron's indig- 
nation — Plans for the future — Russian threats — Saddling for Asterabad — 
Dangers of the road — Goklan * no tax' movement — Putrescent fish — A 
mutual misunderstanding — Wild boars and jackals— Passage of swollen 
Giurgen by cattle — Lunch with the nomads — Victims of the Unkia — 
Arrival at Asterabad — News of Skobeleff — Mr. Zinovieff — Journey to 
Teheran decided on. 

I remained some days at Asterabad, enjoying the kind 
hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Churchill at the British Con- 
sulate, and endeavouring to recuperate my energies after 
the Turcoman regime to which I had so long been subjected 
at Gumush Tepe, and I then undertook an expedition to 
the Persian border fort of Ak-Kala, on the banks of the 
Giurgen. This is the only point at which the stream is 
spanned by a bridge, and where, consequently, it can be 
crossed at all seasons. As it is at all times hazardous for 
one or two persons to trust themselves out in these plains, 
and especially so at a time like that of which I am speak- 
ing, when all manner of miscreants were abroad, I decided 
to proceed first to the Persian camp of Nergis Tep6 and try 


to procure an escort. Accompanied by my servant, an 
Armenian from Erivan, who had come with me from 
Tchikislar after LazarefFs death, I rode northward towards 
the fortified village of Mehemedabad, situated some miles 
off, in the midst of the jungle. During this journey the 
misconduct of my servant greatly annoyed and incon- 
venienced me. He was exceedingly cowardly by nature, 
and, with the view of drowning his fears of the dangers 
which he anticipated meeting with in the jungle, had par- 
taken very freely of the deleterious spirit here called arrack, 
and during the ride he continued to help himself from the 
bottle to such an extent that he became quite drunk, or at 
least pretended to be so. He was cruelly maltreating the 
horse which he rode, beating him savagely between the ears 
with a heavy riding whip, all the time scarcely able to keep 
his saddle. I several times ordered him to desist, but he 
paid no attention to me, and finally became very insolent. 
He said he would go no further, and, turning his horse's 
head towards Asterabad, proceeded to ride away in that 
direction, carrying with him all my baggage. I shouted 
to him to come back, and, drawing my revolver, threatened 
to fire if he did not obey. He took no notice of my threat, 
and I was obliged to gallop after him. Seizing his horse's 
bridle, I commanded him to dismount. He tried to strike me 
with the butt of his whip, but I avoided the blow, and, imme- 
diately dismounting, seized him by the heel of one boot, and 
threw him from the saddle into the mud, where I left him 

Remounting, I took the second horse by the bridle, 
and rode on alone to Mehemedabad, which was close by. 
Some of the inhabitants, mounted upon the ramparts, had 
been witnesses of the scene, and were under the impression 
that I had killed my servant. However, even if I had done 
ao it would have created but little astonishment, such things 


being quite in the order of the day in this neighbourhood ; 
and as I entered the gateway of their fortalice they only 
crowded curiously about me, asking what the man had 
done. I told them that he was drunk and insolent, that 
he refused to accompany me, and that he tried to bolt back 
to Asterabad with my effects ; that I had thrown him from 
his horse ; and that they would doubtless find him asleep 
where I left him, in the middle of the muddy roadway. I 
then inquired if there were anyone present who would be 
good enough to guide me to the Persian camp at Nergis 
Tepe, promising to reward him handsomely. There seemed 
to be some hesitation at first, but at length one young 
fellow stepped forward and volunteered to go with me. I 
made bim mount the second horse, and we plunged into a 
labyrinth of mingled morass and jungle, leading up to 
the edge of the Eara-Su, which we forded with some diffi- 
culty, and a quarter of an hour's further ride brought us 
to the camp. Here I dismissed my guide, with a present 
of some pieces of money, and went at once to General 
Veli Khan, who was kind enough to place a tent at my 
service. I passed the day at the camp, sleeping there 
the same evening. Next morning, General Mustapha 
Khan, commanding the entire forces, and Governor of 
Asterabad, kindly furnished me with an escort of eight 
horsemen, who were to conduct me to Ak-Kala, about four 
hours' ride to the north-eastward. These horsemen were 
descendants of members of the Afghan colony founded 
around Asterabad by Nadir Shah on his return from the 
conquest of India. There are, I believe, six or seven hun- 
dred of them in all attached to the government of Astera- 
bad. They are for the most part Mahometans of the 
Sunnite sect. 

We struck out in an easterly direction, across a per- 
fectly level plain, covered with short crisp grass, similar to 

vol. 1. T 


that seen upon our downs, there being a sprinkling of 
tamarisk and camel-thorn here and there. Cattle in large 
numbers were browsing over the plain, and a singular in- 
stance of animal instinct came under my observation. One 
of our party had brought down a partridge which had 
risen just in front of him, and, the bird being considerably 
mangled, its blood fell upon the turf. One of the party 
at the same moment dismounted to arrange his saddle- 
girths, and during our halt a herd of small, dark- 
coloured cows were driven up by a shepherd. They were 
walking quietly, but when the foremost arrived at the spot 
where the blood of the partridge had been spilled, she 
sniffed its odour with dilated nostrils, lowing plaintively. 
Several others gathered round her, acting similarly, and 
then they all set off in a mad gallop, with outstretched and 
stiffened tails, circling round the spot. This manoeuvre 
they repeated several times, lowing as before when they 
smelt the blood. As we continued our way I noticed a 
great number of porcupine quills lying about, the quills of 
each animal being all on one spot, just where the body had 
decomposed. The Mussulmans consider this animal un- 
clean, and I recollect once giving great offence to a moullah 
by indicating a place upon a map with a porcupine quill. 

We recrossed the Kara-Su river on a tall bridge of 
several arches, over which the causeway of Shah Abass the 
Great passed. The bridge was a fairly substantial struc- 
ture, and at either extremity of it was a tall brick obelisk 
painted white, to guide approaching travellers, and to act 
as beacons in the midst of the dangerous morasses which 
flanked the river at this point. After this we turned 
directly to the northward, and soon came in view of Ak- 

Ak-KaJa is about thirty miles from the seashore, on the 
banks of the Giurgen, and about three hours' ride north of 


Asterabad. It is a Tersian military station on the real 
frontier — for the Giurgen is the practical limit of the king- 
dom on this side. The place is an interesting one from a 
historical point of view. It was formerly named Giurgen, 
and up to a century ago was a flourishing and populous 
town. It was the head-quarters of one of the two rival 
branches of the great Kadjar family to which the reigning 
dynasty belongs. The second branch had its centre at 
Asterabad. After a series of bloody struggles the Asterabad 
family succeeded in asserting its supremacy, and the de- 
struction of Giurgen followed. The ruins of the town 
consist of a crumbling wall of sun-baked brick, flanked by 
numerous towers, enclosing an oblong space five or six 
hundred yards in length by four hundred in breadth. 
Within are confused heaps of earth, tile, and rubbish, in- 
cheating the sites of the former dwellings. Vultures and 
buzzards sit all day long on these melancholy mounds ; and 
the snake and jackal shelter among the sparse brambles. 
Outside the walls are traces of vast encampments— probably 
those of besieging armies ; and the dry bed of an ancient 
canal, which brought water to the place from the Eara-Su, 
still remains. This means of supply had to be adopted, 
for though one end of the town touches the banks of the 
Giurgen river, the great depth to which the stream has 
excavated its bed, and the vertical nature of the sides, 
rendered it difficult and tedious to furnish a whole popula- 
tion by the process of hoisting water in buckets. The 
modern fort of Ak-Kala (the* White Fort) occupies the site 
of the ancient citadel in the north-eastern corner of the 
old town. It is about 150 yards square. At each corner 
is a brick bastion. The curtain walls are of unbaked 
brick, and in a very ruinous condition. In some places 
the footbank has crumbled away to such an extent that 
only a few inches in breadth remain, and making the 

T 2 



circuit of the enceinte is a perilous affair. In designing 
the loopholes great regard seems to have been had for the 
safety of the defenders, the openings being in size and shape 
what would be formed by thrusting an ordinary broomstick 
through a fresh mud wall. On each bastion is mounted an 
old-fashioned bronze 12-pounder, beside which stands a 
wild-looking artilleryman in a tattered blue calico tonic 
faced with red cotton braid, and wearing a huge shaggy 
hat of brown sheepskin like that of a Turcoman. A colonel 
commanded the post. He had under his orders five or six 
hundred nondescript soldiers, some of whom carried old 
smooth-bore muskets. A select company was armed with 
enormously long rifles of Persian manufacture, having 
attached a fork support as a rest, like the mediaeval arque- 
buses. The tall brick bridge spanning the river has four 
arches, and its northern end is protected by a ruined bar- 
bican. On the north side of the river are extensive remains 
of the old town, or rather its suburbs, all of unbaked brick. 
In their midst is a large modern brick house, built by a 
former governor of the fort. From the ramparts the eye 
ranges over an immense expanse of plain, unbroken save 
by an occasional group of Turcoman huts, and the colossal 
remains of the entrenchments along the so-called Alexan- 
der's wall, which here runs parallel to the Giurgen at a 
distance of from two to three miles to the north. Within 
sight are three medressts, or collegiate institutions, for the 
instruction of Turcoman students for the priesthood. 
These are some of the few permanent structures I have 
ever seen among the nomads. They are built of large flat 
heavy bricks taken from the Kizil Alan and its old forts. 
They are generally square buildings, forty feet on either side, 
two stories high, with a sloping broad-eaved roof of red tiles, 
the latter also derived from the ancient turns. All these 
different objects, by an optical illusion, seem of enormous 


size, and floating, cut off from earth in the trembling opal 

I am not aware whether up to the present any systema- 
tic excavations have been made in these old entrenchments 
and mounds ; but I think that such ought to well repay 
the trouble. Even the chance excavations made for the 
purposes of interment by the Turcomans, for they always 
choose elevated sites for such purposes, bring to light pieces 
of silver money and ancient pottery of the Alexandrian 
period. Forty or fifty miles to the southward rose, tier 
over tier, the huge ridges of the Elburz chain of mountains, 
then covered with snow almost to their base. Nestling at 
their foot, half hidden by the dense forest growth around, 
the towers of Asterabad were faintly visible ; and here and 
there gigantic columns of dense black smoke rose into the 
still air, until their heads appeared like clouds in the sun- 
light. These proceeded from the vast reed and cane brakes 
burned by the peasantry in order to dislodge the numerous 
wild boars who work such havoc in the rice-fields, both 
when the crop is springing and when it is at maturity. 
After sunset the gates of the fort are carefully barred, and, 
unless in considerable bodies, none of the garrison ever 
venture outside the walls. A kind of undeclared war is the 
normal state of things here between the Turcomans and 
Persians, deliberate assassinations, perpetrated by either 
party as it happens to be momentarily stronger, being of 
frequent occurrence. As an instance of the kind of feeling 
which exists, the following incident, which took place as I 
was on my way to Ak-Kala, will suffice. 

I was accompanied, as I have said, from the Persian camp 
on the Kara-Su by an escort of eight cavalry. When well 
out in the plain we saw approaching a Turcoman cavalier, 
coming along at the easy swinging gallop which the horses of 
this country will maintain for hours without fatigue. When 




the horseman was within a couple of hundred yards of us 
on our left, a young Persian who accompanied me drew his 
revolver, and, cursing the Turcoman as a Kaffir and a son 
of Shaitan, deliberately fired four shots at him. The 
Turcoman, apparently without heeding, kept on his way 
until, passing by our rear, he was about four hundred yards 
on our right, close to his village. He then unslung his 
long gun, and sent a bullet whistling and screeching in un- 
comfortable proximity to our heads. Whereupon some of 
the escort fired at him repeatedly, he returning the compli- 
ment three times, each time with bullets which came quite 
close to us. We and he being in motion, and the distance 
being so considerable, the danger of a bullet telling was of 
course very small, but the whole thing shows the spirit 
of the mutual relations between the two peoples. This 
same Persian who commenced the affair with his re- 
volver, would have been far from exhibiting such a trucu- 
lent spirit had he been alone or accompanied by only a 
couple of his countrymen. On one occasion I remarked to 
him that I thought it rather risky to have drawn off the 
entire army to such a distance from Asterabad, as a thou- 
sand or so of Turcomans might easily surprise and sack the 
town during the absence of its defenders. * A thousand ! ' 
f he exclaimed. ' A hundred would be sufficient to do that, 
and to put the whole Persian army to flight as well. The 
Turcomans never turn their backs ; we do.' What he said 
was not far from the truth, and it shows that Persian 
military prestige is not high, even among themselves. 

The ' sertib ' (lieutenant-colonel) Lutfveli Khan, com- 
manding the place, received myself and my young Persian 
companion very kindly, and conducted us over the fort. 
It was with great difficulty that we were able to pass some 
of the broken portions of the ramparts, worn down by 
rainfalls into precipitous gullies and inclined planes. The 


Colonel gravely informed us that His Majesty the Shah 
had given orders that these defects should be repaired, and 
that doubtless some of these days they would be. I was 
much amused by seeing this officer stalking gravely along, 
followed by two mysterious acolytes, one of whom concealed 
under his sizeable mantle a bottle of arrack, the other 
carrying a set of those hemispherical brass drinking-cups 
peculiar to Persia. Whenever we got into some convenient 
place of retirement, such as the interior of one of the flank- 
ing bastion towers, the bottle and cups were deftly produced, 
and the forbidden liquor circulated freely. The Colonel 
told me that he was weary of his lonesome post out here on 
the edge of the wilderness, and that he did not care how 
soon he was recalled. I asked him whether the Turcomans 
ever menaced him in his position, but he replied that the 
garrison were too much on their guard, and that, besides 
the fear the desert horsemen had of his pieces of artillery, 
they would gain but little even if they succeeded in captur- 
ing the place. 

The northern side of the old town of Giurgen, one angle 
of the site of which is occupied by the fort of Ak-Kala, 
rested directly upon the river itself the banks of which 
here go sheer down from the base of the walls. The 
ordinary level of the water cannot be less than thirty-five 
feet below the surface of the plain, and is entirely inacces- 
sible, except at certain points, where zigzag paths have 
been cut in order to enable cattle to descend. At the time 
of my visit the Giurgen was gradually rising, and the 
Colonel informed me that a few days previously two of his 
men were drowned while bathing a little above the bridge. 
At sundown he entertained us at dinner, and we had the 
company of a very amusing priest, who, after chanting the 
regulation call to prayers, in the cracked, quavering voice 
which for some reason, best known to themselves, the Shiite 


muezzinu adopt on these occasions, and which contrasts so 
unfavourably with the full, rich, and really melodious tones 
of the Turcoman crier, partook very liberally of arrack, and 
entertained the company with Persian comic songs. One 
of these, the gist of which I could not make out, seemed to 
the Colonel so exquisitely ludicrous, that he was compelled 
to lie back upon his carpet and grasp his stomach as he 
shook in every limb with convulsive laughter. The dinner 
over, and a few more brazen cups of arrack emptied, we 
retired, as is the custom in Persia, to our sleeping apart- 
ments. The Colonel occupied a large and spacious kibitka 
on a wide platform above one of the northern gates. My 
chamber was in a permanent brick edifice not far off. I 
remarked a curious verse of poetry which was inscribed 
upon the mantelpiece in this apartment. It was written 
in Persian, in a very neat hand, above the centre of the 
fireplace, and was to the following effect : — ' We are here 
gathered in company around the fire, like moths around a 
flame; the moths sometimes scorch themselves; this fire 
is the flame, we are the moths.' The writer did not state 
whether or not he had scorched himself on the occasion of 
his writing. 

While I was at Ak-Kala a large number of letters 
arrived for the Colonel, and I saw repeated a process which 
I had often before noticed at Asterabad — the curious way 
in which his mirza, or secretary, prepared each of them for 
perusal. He cut off the extra paper, and having trimmed 
the whole neatly round with a pair of scissors, handed them 
to the Colonel to read. This appears to be an indis- 
pensable preliminary ceremony to the reading of a letter by 
any person pretending to a certain dignity. 

On the following morning my young Persian acquaint 
ance and the escort returned to the Persian camp, while I, 
accompanied by a new servant whom I had hired there, 


crossed the bridge over the Giurgen, and, following the 
northern bank, directed my course towards Gumush Tepe. 
On all sides, and reaching away to the horizon, were large 
groups of kibitkas, the Turcomans taking advantage of the 
advent of the young spring grass to pasture their herds. I 
was not wholly free from apprehensions as, one by one, we 
passed these groups of nomads, and I cast many an 
anxious glance behind me as I left the precincts of each. 
I may here say that my object in returning to the aoull of 
Gumush Tepe by this particular route was to verify the 
statements that had been made to me about large numbers 
of camels being brought together in the inter-fluvial plain 
to be held in readiness for the service of the Russian expe- 
ditionary column. I wished, also, to examine the formation 
of the river bank between Ak-Kala and the sea, for pre- 
viously I had only seen that portion of it which lay between 
Nergis Tepe and the Caspian. As regards the river banks, 
I found that along the entire distance they were of the same 
steep nature, but gradually diminishing in height towarde 
the sea-coast ; that the water level was accessible only at 
certain points, and at these only with difficulty. That 
there was an unusual gathering of camels north of the 
Giurgen there was no difficulty in perceiving ; and, more- 
over, I could verify the statement made by the Ata-bai 
Turcomans, when refusing for the moment to supply camels 
for the Russian transport, that at this season their animals 
were not in a condition to work, and that any attempt to 
force them to do so would cause their death or disablement. 
In the early spring, out on these plains, the camel sheds its 
coat. Those which composed the herds which I met at short 
intervals were really most unsightly-looking objects. Their 
great ragged winter coats had partially fallen from their 
backs, or hung in tatters upon them, leaving the skin 
beneath bare, black, and sodden-looking. They looked, in 


fact, as if they had been half boiled. The entire plain was 
covered with clots of camel hair, which children with 
baskets were engaged in collecting, probably with the view 
of having it spun into threads for weaving purposes. 

Between Ak-Kala and the sea there is a very large 
number of ancient mounds, forming a complete triple chain ; 
and in many instances the great broad, shallow ditches 
which sometimes surround their bases were filled with 
water from the late rain and snow storm. I crossed the 
Tchikislar-Asterabad telegraph line opposite the Persian 
camp, lying south of the river at Nergis Tepe, traversed 
unmolested the large village where, on journeying the first 
time from Tchikislar to Asterabad, I had been obliged to 
have recourse to my revolver to drive off the savage dogs, 
and drew near the aoull of Oum Shali towards mid-day. 
The name of this place means, literally, the * corn road,' 
oum, in the Tartar language, signifying ' a road,' and shali 
a poor species of brownish corn used chiefly for feeding 
horses. A considerable extent of ground was under cultiva- 
tion, this fact being due, I believe, to the ready and profit- 
able market found for cereals in the neighbouring Russian 
camp. I have no doubt that, were ready transport avail- 
able, the whole of these vast plains would speedily be 
covered by the Turcomans with similar crops. Up to that 
time they had been in the habit of producing only as 
much grain as was absolutely necessary for themselves and 
their horses. Beyond Oum Shali are extensive fields of 
giant reeds, which are generally about fifteen feet high. 
Almost at every step pheasants (karagool), partridges 
(kaklik), and a singular silvery gray bird like a moorhen, 
called by the Turcomans birveltek, sprang up before us. 

Among these reed growths I had the first opportunity 
since my arrival in Persia of seeing a wolf. He was feeding 
upon the carcass of a sheep which had either been killed by 


the late storms or which he had himself carried off. His 
head was buried in its entrails, but, looking up as I 
approached, he eyed me savagely, his muzzle smeared 
with blood. I fired, and apparently touched him, for I 
could see the fur fly from his back, whereupon he charged 
me fiercely. My horse trembled with fright, rendering it 
very difficult to aim. On the second shot the enemy turned 
tail, and ran to a distance of about a hundred yards, where 
he seated himself, and, licking his bloody jaws, gazed at me 
as though he would say, * When you think fit to go, I will 
resume my meal.' 

Noticing that half a dozen pheasants which rose close to 
us had settled in the reeds some little distance to the right, we 
pushed our way towards them, finding the utmost difficulty 
in forcing a passage through the brake. The plumy sum- 
mits of these reeds far overtopped* our heads, even as we sat 
on horseback, and it was utterly impossible to do more than 
guess in what direction we were going. We could not dis- 
cover the pheasants, and, when we tried to return, found 
that we had lost our way. For fully half an hour we 
stumbled about, crashing and smashing among the reeds, 
and at last I began to think seriously of setting fire to them, 
as the only chance of getting out of the labyrinth in which 
we were involved. Fortunately, however, we struck upon 
a narrow boar path, following which we came to a large 
clearing, in the midst of which was a shallow pool, evidently 
a gathering place for the boars. From this point paths led 
in every direction, and, choosing one of them, in twenty 
minutes we emerged into a comparatively open space, 
though far from the road from which we had strayed. 

As I drew near Kara Suli Tepe, the last mound inter- 
vening. between me and Gumush Tep6, I noticed at least 
fifty or sixty vultures and eagles at a tremendous altitude, 
soaring and wheeling above a point close to the mound. A 


great number of sea-gulls were also flying to and fro. 
On approaching, the ground seemed covered, in places, 
with some white material, which at a distance resembled 
oyster-shells. Running close by Kara Suli Tepe, and 
emptying itself into the Giurgen, is a second Kara-Su — for 
the Turcomans seem to give this name to nearly every 
small stream. Its bed and the banks on either side were 
completely covered with fish of various kinds, some of them, 
still alive, floundering and splashing in the little water 
which lay in pools among the muddy banks. The greater 
portion, however, were dead, and putrefying in the sun. 
Within a hundred yards of the bed of the stream these fish 
were lying three and four deep. Their numbers must have 
been immense. It was the presence of this food that had 
attracted all the vultures, eagles, and aquatic birds. It 
appears that during my absence in Asterabad one of the 
usual spring overflows of the Giurgen had taken place. The 
waters had extended into the bed of the Kara-Su, flooding 
a considerable tract of country on either side, and subsiding 
as suddenly as they had risen. Hence the stranding of 
these vast quantities of fish. Several Turcomans, with 
camels and horses, were carrying away basketfuls of them. 
They are split open, slightly salted, and dried in the sun. 

Old Dourdi, as well as everyone else, was surprised to 
see me back again at Gumush Tep6 so soon. I noticed 
considerable uneasiness on the part of my old host, and was 
quite at a loss to account for it. Several times he seemed 
about to communicate something to me, but on each occasion 
he checked himself, so that I did not press him to tell me 
what was on his mind. My stay at Gumush Tep6 was not 
protracted — principally because everything seemed stagnant 
at Tchikislar for the time being, and also because I had no 
fresh observations to make in the village. I find in my 
note-book only a few jottings relating to this, my last visit 


to Gumush Tepe. One is to the effect that the wood-turners 
who caused the article in process of manufacture to revolve 
by drawing backwards and forwards a bow the loose string 
of which was passed once round a wooden cylinder on the 
axle, directed the chisel partly by grasping it with the great 
toes of both feet, and partly with the disengaged hand. 
Another note refers to the new servant whom I hired at the 
Persian camp. He was by birth a Kurd from Budjnoord, 
on the Atterek, and a Sunnite Mussulman. Contrary to 
Mahomedan usage, he wore all his hair, which curled 
upwards in a heavy roll all round from under the edges of 
his orthodox Persian hat of black Astrakan wool, and was 
accurately divided down the centre, for he affected the dress 
and style of a Teheran dandy. He was about twenty-four 
years of age, very good looking, and a devoted admirer of 
the fair sex. He was continually getting me into trouble, 
for, instead of looking after my horses, he was ever per- 
ambulating the village, and thrusting himself unbidden into 
the Turcoman houses wherever he saw a pretty maiden. 
Over and over again was he chased from the Mbitkas for 
misconducting himself; and once he rushed breathlessly 
into old Dourdi's dwelling pursued by an enraged elderly 
matron who brandished a lighted stick, which she had 
snatched from the fire for want of a better weapon, and who 
came to me to make dire complaints about the undue 
liberties he had been taking with her daughter, and that, 
too, in the face of everybody. I was advised to keep him 
at home, or that otherwise he would some fine day have a 
knife stuck into him. 

Despairing of obtaining permission to accompany the 
Russian columns, and tired of the inactive and unprofitable 
life that I was leading, I determined to stay no longer at 
Gumush Tepe, but to return to Asterabad, and thence try 
to make my way along the southern bank of the Giurgen 


through the Goklan country as far as the Kopet Dagh 
Mountains, and to cross them to the Akhal Tekke country. 
I knew that such a journey would be fraught with the 
extremest peril, but I was resolved to risk everything 
rather than continue to spend my time as I had been, 
during the preceding five months. I only waited until 
one of my horses, which had become slightly sore-backed, 
could get quite cured, before I put my intention into 
execution. On the evening previous to the day which I 
had fixed for my departure old Dourdi took me confiden- 
tially aside, and disburdened himself of the secret which 
had been weighing on his mind since my last arrival at the 
village. He said that the military authorities at Tchikislar 
had repeatedly made enquiries of Turcomans who had 
visited the camp as to whether I still remained at Gumush 
Tep6, and that that same evening a message had been 
brought to the effect that if I did not at once withdraw 
from the aoull Cossacks would be sent to bring me a prisoner 
to Tchikislar. Though this information was subsequently 
again conveyed to me from another and a very reliable 
source, I had difficulty in attaching any value to it. Gumush 
Tep6 will, doubtless, sooner or later pass once more into 
Russian hands, but it would have been a mere piece of 
foolish impertinence for the Tchikislar military authorities 
to have sent any message, such as that which I was told 
had been delivered, to the subject of another Power who was 
residing within the frontier of a third. The threat may 
have been employed with an idea of impressing the Turco- 
mans with a belief in the great power of Russia, even beyond 
her own borders ; but I am inclined to regard the whole 
thing as apocryphal, or at most as the outcome of idle 
vapouring on the part of some subordinate within the 
Muscovite camp. 

On the morning of April 20, 1880, at earliest dawn, I 


once more rode out into the plains that separated me from 
Asterabad. Forty miles are but little to those who have 
locomotives to carry them, but forty miles on a horse 
carrying at the same time all one's worldly goods, constitute 
a much more serious distance, especially when, owing to 
spring floods, a river of more than twenty feet in depth 
intervenes. Then there was another difficulty that people 
elsewhere would scarce think of. Owing to the frequent 
passage of Russian and Armenian agents over the plain in 
search of cattle and grain for the camp at Tchikislar, there 
were many young horsemen fromadjacent villages who thought 
it worth their while to ' take to the road,' instead of looking 
after their more legitimate business. Even under ordinary 
circumstances an inhabitant of these parts would as soon 
think of going two miles without his sabre and gun as a 
Londoner of leaving his house without an umbrella ; and 
then, not only would a man not start on a journey, however 
short, unarmed, but he would not go unaccompanied by at 
least a couple of others. 

It is odd enough that this terrorism is not wrought by 
Tekke or Goklan raiders, such as usually carry off the 
flocks and camels of the villagers, and sometimes themselves 
into the bargain, but by the inhabitants of the Atterek 
delta, who have earned for themselves a most unenviable 
reputation for thievery and brigandage. On the very day 
I left Gumush Tep6 an unfortunate Armenian trader was 
killed by these people. His body was recovered and brought 
into Tchikislar. The delta villages have been the head- 
quarters of the man-stealers, the dealers in kidnapped 
Persians, and though the presence of the Russian war 
steamers at Ashurade and on the Caspian generally has put 
a stop to their former business, the spirit of evil is still 
strongly rife among them. That their own countrymen, 
who themselves do not bear an immaculate character. 


should be afraid of them, speaks volumes. I shudder when 
I think how often I have gone alone among them, and 
attribute my safety to the unconscious audacity of the pro- 
ceeding. I had not quite made up my mind whether to 
proceed direct to Asterabad, or to push on for a couple of 
days in an easterly direction, to Hadjilar, the point to 
which the Persian camp had been moved for the purpose of 
collecting the annual tribute among the Goklan Turcomans 
of that district. Having some letters to post, and wishing 
to get them off as soon as possible, I decided on making for 
Asterabad as the first stage in my journey. It was fortunate 
I did so, for had I gone eastward I should either have 
been made a prisoner or killed. During the preceding 
four years the turbulent Goklan Turcomans had paid no 
taxes to the Persian Government, and, without being in a 
state of actual insurrection, simply declined to pay any. 
Mustapha Khan, the energetic Governor of Asterabad, re- 
solved that the money should be forthcoming — partly, I dare 
say, owing to the fact that, more Persico, a tolerably fair 
per-centage of it would remain in his own hands. He 
marched with his troops to the spot, and encamped. An 
interview with the principal Turcoman chiefs was eminently 
unsatisfactory. The Turcomans withdrew their flocks to a 
distance, and passed their nights in galloping round the 
entrenched camp discharging their long muskets at the 
defenders. In the course of one evening they managed to 
carry off five horses. Three messengers from Asterabad 
were intercepted and killed. A state of blockade existed, 
and only the lucky chance of my having letters to post saved 
me from the risky adventure of trying to cross the lines. A 
compromise was afterwards effected, and the active hostility 
of the nomads ceased for the moment. 

As I rode out of Gumush Tepe my way lay across a dead 
level plain, broken only by the long, flat mounds of the line 


of ancient entrenchments known as Alexander's Wall, and 
the occasional sail of a Turcoman lugger making its way 
slowly up the turbid, swollen stream of the Giurgen. 
The plain is so flat, and the river banks are so sharp-cut 
and nearly vertical, that as it winds through the Steppe the 
sails of the river boats seem rising from the Sahara itself. A 
hundred yards away the ground appears covered with a carpet 
of emerald green, but beneath one's horse's feet, except on 
very close inspection, nothing but bare, muddy soil is 
visible. There is, however, a tender springing grass like a 
green down, which in places is almost grown enough to allow 
of sheep nibbling at it. A little later in the year this 
nascent verdure is scorched to death by the fierce sun, 
which was already hotter than was at all agreeable. As 
we drew near the bed of the little river running by Kara 
Suli Tepe, where I had previously seen the immense shoals 
of stranded fish, a putrescent odour met my nostrils. The 
stench was overpowering, and reminded me of that of the 
bodies of decomposing camels, which I have seen sweltering 
in the summer sun. A few days after I had first seen them 
the fish had probably become so decomposed as to be con- 
sidered undesirable even by sea-gulls and vultures, and the 
bulk of them were still there, rotting in the mud, exhaling a 
pestilential miasma which it was marvellous did not create 
disease in its immediate neighbourhood. A little co-opera- 
tion and industry, on the part of the Turcomans dwelling 
within a reasonable distance of the spot, would have served 
to convert this now putrefying mass into a plentiful store of 
wholesome food. The excess not consumed by themselves 
could be profitably disposed of to the more inland Turco- 
mans and to the population of Asterabad and its vicinity. 

I have already described the road from Gumush Tep6 
to Asterabad, and have nothing new to say concerning it. 
I floundered through the slimy black mud of the stream 

vol. i. u 


which flows towards the mound of Kara Soli Tep6, and had 
an odd encounter on the opposite bank. Two Turcomans, 
one a moullah, or priest, and the other a fisherman, took 
me and my servant for robbers, and brought us to a halt 
with their levelled guns until we managed to explain who 
we were. I must frankly say that if I were taken for a 
robber, I took my adversary for the same ; and if he had 
the smallest idea of what a near escape he had of being 
shot by me, he would feel very thankful. The only new 
feature of the road was the passage of the river Giurgen, 
now very much flooded. Until at the very brink of the 
stream one has no notion of its presence ; and then a 
swollen angry tide of seething yellow waters comes suddenly 
into view, flowing between vertical banks of stiff brownish 
clay. It is not more than fifty yards wide, and its winding 
bed is as regular as that of a canal. For half a mile on 
either side, the rich loamy soil, covered by a sprinkling of 
bushes, was as thoroughly torn up by the snouts of wild 
boars as if a steam plough had been at work on it. The 
number of boars must be enormous. Where they conceal 
themselves in the daytime is to me a profound mystery, for 
Car and near there is not enough cover to conceal a rat. 
The same may be said of the jackals. One may traverse 
the plains for hours without seeing any covers within which 
these animals could hide themselves during the day ; yet 
no sooner has the gloaming arrived than they seem to 
spring up, as if by magic, from the ground ; and their 
yelping wails may be heard not fifty yards distant from a 
village within ten miles of which I am certain not one could 
have been seen an hour previously. 

I found half a dozen Turcomans, with a heterogeneous 
collection of sheep and cows, halted on the river brink, 
making preparations to cross. On the opposite side were 
the kibitkas of a village, the immediate surroundings of H 


Geldi Khan, the chief of the district, for be had again 
changed his position since I last saw it. The passage of 
the river was characteristic of nomad life. The stream was 
flowing rapidly— at the rate of six miles an hour, at least. 
Saddles and horsecloths were taken off, and the animal was 
conducted to the steep edge of the river, which flowed about 
eight feet below, and tumbled in. He turned a couple of 
times, breasting the current, and then in a very business- 
like manner struck out for the opposite shore. It was 
evident that all the animals were accustomed to this method 
of fording, for the cows and sheep exhibited not the least 
alarm on being brought to the river's edge. All went over 
in gallant style. The choice of the point for crossing 
showed an eminently practical spirit. It was selected 
where the river made an elbow towards us. As a con- 
sequence the shore on our side, owing to the current 
impinging against it, was vertical— sometimes almost over- 
hanging. This didn't matter, because the animals were 
thrown into the water. On the opposite shore, on account 
of the bend of the river, the ground shelved, and gave 
an easy access for landing. One of my horses, a large grey 
Caucasian animal, seemed to understand the whole pro- 
ceeding. He went into the river of his own accord, and 
swam across. The other, bred on the Ehirgese steppes, 
had probably never seen so much water before in his life ; 
and once in the current seemed sadly at a loss what to do. 
Half a dozen times he tried to clamber up the steep slope 
whence he had been thrown in, and finding this vain, went 
into the midst of the river. The current was so strong 
that I greatly feared he would be swept away ; but when he 
at last espied his comrade on the opposite bank, he went 
across — swimming as quickly as a man could walk. For 
the saddles, baggage, and men there was a small taxmul. 
It was only large enough to carry the boatman and another 



person. The craft was so frail, and rocked so to and fro 
in the current, that before embarking I took the precaution 
of doffing my long boots and sword-belt for fear of an 
accident in the middle of the passage. The horses and 
other animals seemed to take to the water with a certain 
amount of avidity, owing to this .being the season for 
shedding their coats — the advent of summer. My Khirgese 
horse, who usually looked more like a bear than any other 
animal I know of, had the general appearance of a mangy 
goat, for his hair was falling off in patches. 

I know nothing stranger than the profuse hospitality 
with which these Turcoman nomads will receive in their 
kibitka the traveller whom they would plunder with the 
greatest pleasure five hundred yards away. I had scarcely 
clambered up the steep bank when I was literally seized 
upon, brought to the Khan's house, and forced to swallow 
an amount of rice, boiled with olive oil from Khiva, which I 
believe remained in my stomach for forty-eight hours. 
When I succeeded in making these good people understand 
that after all one's stomach has limits, the enormous dish 
was taken away ; and in a few minutes it was announced 
that my escort was waiting. I found ten horsemen drawn 
up before the door. They looked, as far as the men, and 
especially their hats, were concerned, like so many of the 
Scots Greys ; only their horses were superior to those of that 
regiment. These men were supposed to see me safely to 
Asterabad. As a French writer says, ' It was an ingenious 
manner of avoiding meeting brigands on the road by taking 
them with you.' In fact, the only possible danger I could 
run in my twenty-five miles' ride to the town was the risk of 
meeting the good people who escorted me. Our way lay 
close to the ruins of Mehemet Giurgen Kala. Here and 
there amid the fresh green surface were dark patches where 
lay the bones of fifty or sixty sheep and lambs, the victims 


of the storms. The scene forcibly recalled to my mind 
battle-fields I had seen elsewhere in Asia, when jackal and 
wolf had done their work. Till I reached the banks of the 
Kara-Su river the bones formed one extensive memento mori 
over the plain. Remarking these serious effects of winter 
storms, it has more than once struck me that it is odd 
these Turcomans seem to learn but little from experience. 
Year after year, during succeeding ages, the snow-fraught 
tenkia sweeps over the Steppes, bringing death in its train. 
Where ancient earthworks exist they are taken advantage 
of as shelter ; but it never enters into the heads of the 
shepherds to construct anything similar. Their general 
action is quite in consonance with their wretched little 
conical heads, in which firmness and ferocity are the 
dominating organs. 

A ride entirely devoid of any incident of interest brought 
me to the northern gate of Asterabad. I had a long talk 
with Mr. Churchill about my proposed ride into the Akhal 
Tekke country ; I also learned that General Skobeleff was 
on his way, if he had not already arrived, to take command 
of the Trans-Caspian expedition. After mature deliberation 
I resolved to proceed to Teheran, and there solicit the 
friendly offices of Mr. Zinovieff, the Russian Minister at 
that capital, believing that he might be able to procure for 
me the permission to accompany the Russian columns which 
had been denied to my own direct application. I had met 
this gentleman at Krasnavodsk, at the house of General 
Lomakin, and from his great courtesy on that occasion I 
entertained hopes that he would interest himself in my be- 
half. Mr. Churchill was about to leave for Baku, en route 
for Palermo, to which Consulate he had just been appointed, 
and as he intended journeying vid Resht, through which 
town lay my easiest and most expeditious route to Teheran, 
I resolved to accompany him. 




Environs of Asterabad — Green corn fodder — Pruning corn crop* — Earthquake 
shock — Flan of journey — My travelling companion* — Jungle road — Den- 
golan — Sleeping sheds — Forest growth — Wild animals — Karaoul Hanes— 
A lonely grave— Gez — Stuck in a quagmire— Kenar Gez — Mercurius and 
Cavcass Company — Landing accommodation — Ashurade — Russian and 
Persian policy -Absurd building restrictions — M. Yussuf — White truffles 
— Cotton — Loups and box-wood — Gn board the ' Cesarewitcb * — Fog off 
Tchikislar — Commissariat swindling — Meshed-i-Ser — Cavalry at sea- 
Shah's summer palace at Enzeli — Persian launches — Mr. Churchill's 
departure — The ' Cesarewitch ' mail steamer — Astatki ship furnace. 

Abound Asterabad the country was deliriously green, and 
the woods were clothed in their vernal dress. I have 
seldom looked over a more beautiful and luxuriant prospect 
than that to be seen from the ramparts of the old Persian 
city at this season. At all times, indeed, the immediate 
environs of the town are very fertile and beautiful; the 
never-failing water supply and the generous heat of the 
climate would scarcely allow them to be otherwise. Still, 
with the exception of the woods, the surrounding verdure 
is, to a great extent at least, the result of human labour, the 
ground never appearing to produce grass unless it be 
regularly sown, as I discovered when I gave directions for 
my horses to be taken outside the walls of Asterabad in 
order that they might pick up whatever fresh spring grass 
they could find in the fosses of the ramparts and in shady 
jungle patches. My servant came back with the story 
that he had been all round the walls without being able to 


find any grass whatever. At this I became very vexed, 
thinking that he was telling falsehoods to avoid the trouble 
of watching the horses while they grazed, and I determined 
to test the truth of his statements with my own eyes. In 
the early spring, when the horses are changing their winter 
coats, fresh green fodder is absolutely necessary in order to 
keep them from getting out of condition. I not only went 
round the walls, but far and near on every side. The road- 
sides, banks, and hollows looked fresh and green enough, 
but it was with dandelion, crowsfoot, and a thousand other 
herbs — in fact, anything but grass, of which I could not 
discover a single blade anywhere except in the enclosed 
meadows. The green corn, extending in vast fields for 
miles round, was at least two feet high, and I was much 
surprised to see men busily engaged with sickles in cutting 
it down in this state, and conveying it on the backs of 
camels and horses to the town. I was informed that it 
was used as fodder for horses, in the same way as was the 
grass in other countries and climes. Some people at 
this season send their horses down to the plains beyond 
the Kara-Su, leaving them during the spring in the care of 
the Turcomans, to get fat upon the luxuriant grass of the 
inter-fluvial plain. This, however, is a risky proceeding, 
owing to the thievish and predatory habits of the tribes ; I, 
at least, should not care to entrust an animal of any value 
to them. As there are many such at Asterabad, the owners 
have recourse to green corn while still in the blade. I 
asked whether this premature cutting down of the stalk did 
not destroy its power of producing grain later, and learned 
that quite the contrary resulted, and that after this kind 
of pruning it grows up more vigorously. In this way the 
agriculturists manage to get considerable value out of their 
land. They have two crops of grain in the year, the fields 
also doing duty in the spring as luxuriant meadows. 


A propos of this reaping of corn-stalks before they come 
into ear, Mr. Churchill told me that when on a visit to a 
convent at Spalatro, on the Dalmatian coast, he was shown 
by one of the monks some corn-plants which he was in- 
formed had produced six thousand grains for each one sown. 
This was the result of an agricultural experiment. The 
corn was sown in October, and, when well above ground, was 
kept cut down until spring. It was then allowed to grow 
up, with the result which I have stated. Whether the 
grains produced in this manner were equal in size and 
quality to those which would have resulted had the plant 
been allowed to pursue its natural growth, I was not able 
to ascertain. 

Just before quitting Asterabad we had a slight earth- 
quake shock. Such occurrences are very common in these 
regions. I was standing in the court-yard of the consulate, 
talking with one of Mr. Churchill's sons. The courtyard 
was planted with orange trees, and had a large water-tank 
in its centre. The sun was shining hotly, and not a breath 
disturbed the air. The heat was rather oppressive. All 
at once was heard a sound as of the rushing of a mighty 
blast. The branches of the orange trees waved, and con- 
centric circles spread themselves over the surface of the 
water in the reservoir, indicating a vibration of the earth. 
At the same time we felt the ground creep, as it were, be- 
neath our feet. This was on April 24. Two months pre- 
viously, at Gumush Tep6, I had experienced a similar 
shock. I was sitting upon my carpet, within the kibitka ; 
a heavy murmuring sound, which I took to be an approach- 
ing tenkis, reached my ears, and at the same time I felt 
the earth below my carpet vibrate. Several articles in the 
kibitka fell to the ground, and old Dourdi's wife, who was 
standing at the entrance, saved herself from falling by 
grasping the door-post. The vibration was not strong 


enough to upset her, but she was greatly disconcerted 
by the phenomenon, of which the Turcomans . seemed to 
have a superstitious dread. When these shocks occur, the 
neighbouring mountain of Ak-Batlaouk, the mud volcano 
north of Tchikislar, usually exhibits signs of increased 

It was decided that we should leave Asterabad, en route 
for Gez, on the following day but one, and I made my final 
preparations for departure. My plans were to leave my 
horses and principal effects at Asterabad, in charge of my 
servant, and under the superintendence of Mr. Churchill's 
mirza— who, pending the arrival of the new consul, would 
remain at the Consulate and act ad interim as British 
agent — and then proceed to Teheran, there to try once 
more to obtain permission to accompany the Russian 
column. If this permission should be granted, my shortest 
way back to Tchikislar would be through Asterabad. 
Should I fail, my mind was made up, be the danger what 
it might, to penetrate to the Akhal Tekke country, or, 
should the Russians have arrived there before me, to Merv 
itself. In this event it was my intention to take post-horses 
to Shahrood, a town on the postal road to Meshed, and 
about two hundred and fifty miles distant from Teheran. 
There I should be joined by my horses and servant, and 
go on by whichever route circumstances should render most 

It was mid-day on April 26, 1880, as Mr. Churchill and 
family and myself, with our following, sallied from the 
western gate of Asterabad en route for Eenar Gez, the 
so-called port of Asterabad. Our cavalcade was a tolerably 
numerous one. There were Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, seated 
in kedjaves, or camel baskets, balanced on opposite sides of 
a stout mule, accompanied by the mirza and four servants 
of the household, two of whom carried the children seated 


before them on horseback. Then came several mules laden 
with baggage, and the procession was wound up by Mr. 
Harry Churchill, the consul's eldest son, myself, and my 
new Turkish servant Mehemet, for I had been obliged to 
dispense with the amorous Kurd, who was of no manner 
of service to me. In this guise we marched out of Astera- 
bad, and, following a tolerably perfect portion of Shah 
Abass' causeway, approached the border of the forest which 
stretched between us and the Caspian. 

Considering that Gez is the port of Asterabad, and one 
of the only three seaports possessed by Persia on the 
Caspian littoral, the state of the road leading to it from the 
latter town is surprisingly bad, even for this country. The 
first mile lay through a pomegranate jungle, and over 
broken, stony ground, gashed and torn by torrents. There 
is, strictly speaking, no road, and the traveller has the 
choice of a hundred footpaths, among which he is con- 
tinually losing his way. Now and then we followed the 
track of Shah Abass' causeway. This was once a much 
frequented highway, but for the last hundred years has 
been little used. It consisted of a roadway of about ten 
feet in width, paved with roughly hewn stones of from 
twelve to fifteen inches in diameter. These stones are now 
tossed about in the wildest confusion, and constitute most 
disagreeable obstacles in the paths of horses. At intervals 
the causeway disappears -in the midst of dense growths of 
brushwood and jungle, and the traveller is forced to make 
a detour by one of the by-paths, with its slimy yellow mud 
and disagreeable thorn bushes on either side, which tear 
his clothes to tatters. After some hours' weary creeping 
over this kind of ground, now and then coming to a full stop 
to hold a consultation as to the best way of crossing some 
deep, water-worn gully, with precipitous, boulder-strewn 
sides, and crossed by foot passengers by means of a shaky 


construction of narrow planks upon which we did not dare 
trust our horses, we arrived at the village of Dengolan. 
It is, as villages generally are in these parts, a collec- 
tion of a few dozens of houses of unbaked brick, and with 
high-pitched roofs with reed thatching, in connection with 
each of which is a platform, lifted on four poles to a height 
of twenty feet or thereabouts, and covered with a pointed 
thatch roof. On these raised stages the inhabitants sleep 
during the sultry weather. The entire village, inhabited 
solely by Persians, is surrounded by a high mud wall, 
flanked by towers as a defence against the forays of the 
neighbouring Turcomans. We were received by the head 
man of the village, who placed his own house at our dis- 
posal, and as Mr. Churchill's delicate state of health did 
not allow of his making long journeys, especially under 
circumstances involving such a scarcity of travelling con- 
veniences, we resolved to pass the night at Dengolan. At 
sunrise we were again in the saddle, as we wished to reach 
Gez in time for the mail steamer which it was expected 
would anchor there the same evening. 

Westward of Dengolan the road approaches the slopes 
of the Elburz mountains, and passes through a magnificent 
forest reaching to within a short distance of the Caspian 
shore. The road through this forest is considerably better 
than that across the stony jungle on the side nearest 
Asterabad, though there are occasional formidable ravines 
to be scrambled through, and deep rapid torrents to be 
passed on rickety bridges consisting of two or three trunks 
covered by planks, often in a very rotten condition. The 
forest is composed of sycamore, plantain, walnut, and box- 
wood trees, the three former often of gigantic proportions, 
so close together, and with interspaces so filled up with 
thorn bushes and creepers, as to render it impossible to 
penetrate even a few yards from the roadway. Leopards, 


wall, but simply a narrow causeway, by which the swampy 
grounds, formerly lying to the east of the mound, were 
traversed. In fact, old men told me that less than half a 
century ago the mound of Gumush Tep6 was entirely sur- 
rounded by water, and my host at the aoull at the mouth 
of the Giurgen informed me that thirty years previously 
the site of the village was submerged. That was consider- 
ably within his own memory, as he was between sixty and 
seventy years of age. This Kizil Alan can be traced in an 
easterly direction, running along, in a zigzag fashion, the 
slightly raised and almost imperceptible water-shed which 
separates the Giurgen and Atterek rivers, and connects the 
numerous earth-mounds or tepis which, occurring at in- 
tervals of from one to two miles, dot the interfluvial plain 
and reach away to the town of Budjnoord, not far from 
Euchan. These mounds, with the connecting wall-founda- 
tions, or whatever they are, are known to the Persians and 
Turcomans by the name of Alexander's Wall, and form a 
triple line of entrenchments, the mounds of one line alter- 
nating with those before and behind, and intervening 
between the wooded mountain elopes of the North 
Persian territory, and the vast plain reaching away to 
Khiva. One can place but little reliance upon these tradi- 
tions, for the Easterns of these regions almost invariably 
attribute to Alexander any works of considerable magnitude 
whose origin is lost in the night of time. They just as 
probably belong to periods of various dynasties of early 
Persian monarchs, and the mounds themselves may very 
likely have been the sites of villages in the times when these 
plains were inhabited and cultivated ; for exactly similar 
ones are to be seen to-day along the north of Persia, 
covered with inhabited houses, and their brows surrounded 
by entrenchments. A propos of the ancient cultivation of 
this plain, it seems to be clearly indicated by the traces of 


old irrigation trenches of considerable dimensions. The 
people of Asterabad say that two centuries ago the 
ground between the mountains and the Giurgen was one 
vast grove of palm trees. Of course I give all these tradi- 
tions for what they are worth, and just as I heard them 
from the inhabitants. The names of the principal mounds, 
as we proceed from Gumush Tep6 along the Giurgen in the 
direction of Asterabad, are the two Kara Suli Tep6s, greater 
and lesser, Carga Tep6 to the right, Sigur Tep6 to the left, 
the Altoun-tokmok, lying a long way due east, the Aser 
Shyia far off to the south-east, and the Giurgen Tep6 south 
of the usual ford across the river. There are scores of 
other tepes within view of any one of them, but I do not 
consider their names of any philological or historical im- 
portance, as they are comparatively modern ones, applied 
to them by the Turcomans, and merely explanatory of 
some peculiarity in form, or having reference to their 
relations to certain water-courses. In view of the large 
amount of brick scattered around Gumush Tep6 itself, 
along the course of the Eizil Alan, and on the flanks of 
the different tepes, one is led to the irresistible conclusion 
that considerable buildingB formerly existed in this locality, 
and that these buildings have been destroyed, partly by 
domestic influences, partly during the marches of Eastern 
conquerors of old, and doubtless to a very large extent to 
supply building materials for neighbouring Persian towns. 

Immediately on arriving at the village of Gumush Tep6 
the chief who escorted me brought me to the house of his 
father, Geldi Khan, who seemed to be patriarch of the 
entire district. He was over sixty years of age, with refined 
aquiline features, cold grey eye, a long white moustache 
and chin tuft, there being no sign of beard upon the upper 
portion of his jaws. Seated around him, in different parts 
of the aladjak, were the female members of his family, all 

ao3 GELD/ KHAN. 

occupied in domestic work, such as spinning, weaving, and 
cooking. The Khan told me that he had been three months 
in Teheran as the guest of the Shah, with whom, he said, 
he was on very good terms. He had three sons, the eldest 
of whom, II Geldi, had escorted me across from the Persian 
camp ; the second was known by the name of Moullah 
Eillidge. This latter was a student of theology, and by 
courtesy had the title of Moullah conceded to him ; in fact, 
the same dignity is accorded to anyone in these parts who 
is able to read and write. In other Turkish countries he 
would be simply styled Khodjah. The third son, a youth 
of fourteen or fifteen, superintended the grazing of his 
father's flocks and herds. An old Turcoman named Dourdi 
was told off to provide me with lodgings in his kttritka. He 
was ihe immediate henchman of the old Khan, from whom 
he rented his house. In villages like this the chief generally 
owns a large number of dwellings, which he lets for small 
annual rents to his followers. The kibitka which I was to 
share with Dourdi was but poorly furnished, even for a 
Turcoman hut. As usual, in the centre of the floor was the 
fire, the smoke from which escaped by the circular opening 
in the centre of the roof, or by the door, when owing to 
bad weather this central aperture was closed with its hood 
of felt. A small and battered brass samovar stood near the 
fire ; beyond it, on the side farthest from the doorway, the 
floor was carpeted with thick felt, upon which were laid, as 
seats for people of more than ordinary rank, smaller sheets 
of the same material, and of brighter colours. Around the 
room, to the height of four feet, were horizontally piled a 
large number of stout tree-branches, sawn into convenient 
lengths, and intended for the winter supply of fuel. This 
wood was kept within proper limits by vertical stakes, stuck 
into the ground outside the heap, the top of which was 
used as a kind of rude shelf or counter upon which bolsters, 


quilts, and other sleeping appurtenances, were piled, these 
being, indeed, with the exception of the carpets, large and 
small, and a rude horizontal stone corn-mill, the only 
articles of furniture which the house contained. An old 
Russian musket, bearing upon the lock-plate the date 1851, 
but having of late years evidently been supplied with a 
percussion lock, hung, together with a sabre and a large 
chaplet of brown stone beads, against the lattice-work of the 
habitation. This combination of musket, sword, and beads, 
seemed at the time to be no inapt embodiment of Turcoman 
ideas, or, for that matter, of Osmanli ones either. Beside 
the fire crouched an elderly crone, who, whatever she might 
have been in her youth, was now the very incarnation of 
female ugliness. She was engaged in preparing the evening 
meal, and seemed not in the least disturbed by my entry. 
I may here add that, with the exception of very recently 
married ladies, no Turcoman woman makes even a pretence 
of veiling her features. It is not usual, either, for a Turco- 
man to have more than one wife, the fact being that most 
Turcomans find it difficult to provide what they consider a 
sufficiency of food, and do not care to have any extra 
mouths in their aladjaks. The majority of the women at 
Gumush Tepe wore the characteristic female attire of these 
countries — a pair of trousers fastening closely round the 
ankle ; over these a long shirt of some dark red or purple 
material, the breast of which, in many cases, was ornamented 
with coins and pieces of silver hung in horizontal rows. At 
Gumush Tep6 it was principally the young girls and newly- 
married women who affected much personal adornment, the 
near contact of the Jaffar Bai Turcomans of the place 
with the Russians at Tchikislar, and with the Persians at 
Asterabad, having made the elders of the community appre- 
ciate the value of silver and gold coins as a medium of 
exchange as too great for them to be allowed to lie idle for 
vol. 1. P 


purposes of mere bodily ornamentation. The farther one 
advances to the eastward the less the value of money is 
understood, and the more plentifully do the ladies decorate 
themselves with it. On state occasions, however, the Yaxnud 
women wear ponderous collars of hammered silver, em- 
bellished with flat cornelians and lozenge-shaped panels of 
embossed gold, and on their heads a hideous-looking hat of 
the size and shape of an ordinary bandbox, the front of 
which is hung over with festoons of small coins. Hung over 
the back of this absurd head-dress, and reaching to the small 
of the back, is a long-sleeved coat of crimson, blue, or green, 
a smaller one, fitting closely to the waist, being worn over the 
red shirt. This is the gala costume of the ordinary classes. 
The wives of chiefs and of the richer villagers wear on all 
occasions the full quantity of clothing and ornaments, with 
the exception of the hat. This is then replaced by a large 
red handkerchief, tied turban- wise around the head, one end 
falling along the back. I have already described the 
costume of the male Yamuds, when speaking of Tchikislar 
and Hassan Eouli. The children, even in the severest 
weather, are very scantily clothed indeed, their entire 
costume consisting of a short red shirt which scarcely 
reaches to the knees. The head is covered with a little 
skull-cap of the same colour, around which are generally 
hung five or six pieces of silver money, the top being sur- 
mounted by a small silver tube, rising from a hemispherical 
base. This appendage to the head-dress of children is 
common to both sexes up to a certain age, and seems to 
bear some resemblance in symbolism to the Koman bulla, 
just as donning the huge black sheepskin hat seems equi- 
valent to investment with the toga virilis. It is a remark- 
able fact that though Turcomans are notoriously given 
to thieving, these children's hats, each with its eight or ten 
shillings' worth of appended coins and ornaments, are 


hardly ever purloined, though the wearers fling them at 
each other in the most careless manner. I have seen half- 
a-dozen of them lying about without any owners being in 
sight. Sometimes, however, they go astray, and on sudh 
occasions the individual who volunteers to act as village 
crier walks among the kibitkas, proclaiming in a loud voice 
that the hat of So-and-so's child has been mislaid, and 
requesting the finder to bring it to a certain kibitka. I 
enquired of my host whether theft of this kind was usual, 
but he said that it was rare indeed that the missing article 
was not returned intact. 

The mode of life of the Turcomans along the Caspian is 
sufficiently active. Fully two hours before sunrise they 
were awake and about, and, by the light of the smoky astatki 
lamps, the women were to be seen grinding, by the rude 
hand-mill, the corn required for the morning's repast, 
while the men got ready their luggers and taimuU to 
proceed on their day's fishing, to convey loads of hay and 
other commodities to the Russian camp, or to seek firewood 
or timber for building purposes at Eenar Gez. A Turco- 
man's toilet is simplicity itself. I give Dourdi's as an 
example. Having donned the kusgun which served him 
during the night as a coverlet, he swept the carpet on 
which he had been sleeping with his huge sheepskin hat, 
which he then proceeded to dust by banging it lustily with 
the heavy iron tongues. Then, taking a piece of fat from 
the pot upon the hearth, he greased his boots with it, finish- 
ing up by washing his hands, using as soap the wood ashes 
from the fire. At the time of which I speak, the middle of 
December 1879, the Turcomans of Gumush Tepe supplied 
the Russian army at Tchikislar with a very large amount 
indeed of corn, rice, and fodder, and to a great extent 
facilitated the first stages of its march to Geok Tep6. 

The dietary of an ordinary Turcoman is by no means 

p 2 


luxurious. Before the sun rises he partakes of some hot 
half-baked griddled bread, which has an intensely clayey 
taste and odour. This is washed down by weak black tea, 
and he thinks himself fortunate if he can now and then 
procure a piece of sugar wherewith to sweeten this draught. 
When he happens to meet with such a luxury, he adopts, 
with a view to economy, the Russian peasant's method of 
sweetening his tea. A small lump of sugar is held be- 
tween the teeth, the tea being sucked through it. Several 
glasses are thus got through with an amount of sugar 
which would scarcely suffice for one glass taken by a 
Western European. While the Turcomans of the Caspian 
littoral and a hundred miles inland use only black tea, their 
more Eastern brethren constantly consume green. Should 
he be at home, his mid-day meal consists of pilaff, made of 
rice if he be in funds, or of brownish oatmeal if otherwise. 
The only usual accompaniment to this is a little grease or 
butter, boiled through the mass, or, as is more generally the 
case, some dried salt fish. Sometimes on fete days, dried 
plums and raisins are mixed with the pilaff. The evening 
meal, partaken of a little after sunset, is the best of the 
day, and for it is secured a small portion of mutton to 
accompany the pHajf \ or a couple of wild ducks caught or 
shot by some male member of the family. While at Gumush 
Tep6 I existed almost exclusively upon wild fowl of one kind 
or another — pheasants, partridges, and pin-tailed grouse — 
several of which I got boiled at once, keeping a number 
over to be eaten cold. Some of the ducks and geese are 
really excellent, but others are so fishy and rank as to 
render entirely inedible half a dozen good ones boiled in the 
same pot. The pelican and solan goose are greatly admired 
as food by the Turcomans, though I could not appreciate 
them. There was one thing about Turkestan which I could 
never understand, viz. the absence of flesh diet to an extent 


that seemed unreasonable, considering the vast flocks and 
herds possessed by the inhabitants. I could readily under- 
stand their unwillingness to slaughter oxen or cows, as the 
former were employed in the tilling of their scanty fields, 
and from the latter were derived the milk, butter, and 
cheese, which they either consumed themselves, or sold to 
the neighbouring Persians. It is true that from the sheep 
they derive the material for some portion of their gar- 
ments, though most of their clothing is composed of cotton 
and camel-hair, but even so, the large flocks of sheep and 
goats which they possess would supply them more than 
twenty times over with abundance of textile fabrics. I 
know that during the progress of the Russians, sheep were 
largely bought up by the Commissariat of the expedition ; 
but I have been ki places where this was certainly not the 
case, inasmuch as the residents were hostile to the Muscovite 

The fuel used by these maritime Turcomans is generally 
wood brought from the neighbouring Persian coast, supple- 
mented to a great extent by the dried dung of camels and 
other animals. The kalioun, or water pipe, is almost always 
ignited by means of a dried ball of horse's dung as large 
as a small-sized apple. This is carefully prepared before- 
hand, from the fresh material, piled in heaps in the sun, 
outside the house, and brought in by a dozen at a time. 
These balls catch fire like so much tinder ; one is placed 
on the bowl containing the tobacco, and the smoking is 
commenced. The first pulls from the pipe, as can be 
easily imagined, possess a very peculiar flavour, owing to the 
mingled smoke of the fuel and the twmbaki. 

At night, the interiors of the kibitkas are lighted by 
means of rude earth lamps, very much resembling small 
tea-pots, with exceedingly long and wide spouts. A bundle 
of cotton rag is stuffed into the spout, and, reaching to its 


bottom, serves as 8 wick, the flame being fed by the black 
residual naphtha called by the Russians astatki. This, as 
I have already mentioned, is the residuum after distillation 
of the Baku petroleum. It produces a lurid red, smoky 
flame, five or six inches in height. 

The salt, of which the Turcomans make large use both 
in cookery and for curing fish, is brought from the island 
of Tcheliken, in large blocks of two feet in length and 
eight or ten inches in thickness, quarried by the Turco- 
mans of that island from the great striated layers which 
abound there. It exactly resembles, in colour and texture, 
the rock salt known in Europe. 

One rarely sees milk used in its crude state among the 
Turcomans, as they seem to deem it unhealthy when so 
consumed. It is first boiled, and, when lukewarm, fer- 
mented. The resulting product is, when fresh, slightly 
sour, and becomes exceedingly so after the lapse of twenty- 
four hours. This is known to the Yamuds by the name of 
yaghourt ; it is called by the Tekkes gatthuk, and by the 
Persians mast. It enters largely into the dietary of all 
three, and in hot weather is exceedingly refreshing and 
wholesome. The panir, or cheese, is simply yaghourt from 
which the serum has been drawn off, and which is allowed 
to strain and become more or less solidified in small bags 
suspended from the roof, a little salt being added to pre- 
serve it. 

I had been but a few days at my new home when I 
learned that my friend H Geldi Khan, who had escorted me 
from Ak Imam, was about to proceed over land to Tchikis- 
lar, and I resolved to go with him. We were accompanied 
by a dozen horsemen of his tribe, for it was rumoured 
that Tekkes who had fled from Geok Tepe were roving 
over the plain. We found an immense number of kibitkas 
in groups of from fifteen to twenty, scattered over the 


plain some miles east of Gumush Tep6. They were those 
of Eastern Turcomans, who, terrified by the events occur- 
ring in the Akhal Tekke, had decided to move well within 
Persian territory. Refugees were continually arriving, 
bringing with them great numbers of camels, and we 
saw a cavalcade of Turcoman women, dressed in bright 
scarlet robes, and riding in curtained horse-litters, making 
the best of their way westwards, in the midst of their tribes- 
men and friends. Within ten miles of the top of the 
Atterek delta, the point at which we were to pass, we came 
upon a vast salt expanse. It was as white and even as a 
new snowfall, and I could only with difficulty bring myself 
to believe that it was not covered with snow. Long black 
tracks, produced by the passage of camels and horses, 
stretched away in every direction. Not a blade of any kind 
of herbage varied the monotony of this ghastly waste. 
During my subsequent wanderings in the plain, I never met 
with anything so remarkable as this salt expanse, for the 
existence of which I can only account by supposing that the 
waters of the Hassan Eouli lagoon, pressed forward by 
winds from the west, sometimes overflow the ground, and 
that the shallow waters, rapidly evaporated by the great 
heat of the sun, leave this deposit behind them. We 
stopped for the night at the Turcoman village of Atterek, to 
which I have had occasion to refer in describing my journey 
from Tchikislar to Asterabad. We were very hospitably 
received, a sheep being killed for our entertainment ; and 
before daybreak next morning, after a breakfast of hot, 
greasy bread, and an immense quantity of sugarless tea, we 
pushed forward, reaching Tchikislar about eleven o'clock in 
the forenoon. My friend the Khan had formerly com- 
manded a troop of irregular cavalry in the Russian service, 
composed of his own countrymen, but in consequence of 
some backsliding on his part in the matter of pay given 


to him for distribution among his command, he had been 
banished, and forbidden to return. Hence he was rather 
chary about making his appearance among the Bussian 
lines — a hesitation which was apparently very well justified, 
for we had no sooner entered the camp than the chief of 
police marched up to us, and told my companion that the 
sooner he departed from its limits the better it would be 
for him. I fared no better, being warned that my presence 
was not desired, and we were both given until the morrow 
to retrace our steps. Seeing that there was little or no stir 
in the place, and that all military movements were for the 
moment at an end, I again took my way back by the road I 
had come, in company with II Geldi and his following. We 
arrived at our starting-point without any new incident. 

Finding that there was a constant intercourse between 
Gumush Tepe and Tchikislar, owing to the continued pass- 
ing and repassing of luggers with hay and other supplies, 
and that Armenian dealers frequently passed through our 
village with a view of purchasing food at that place, to be 
sold by them at second hand to the encamped Russians, 
and that through their medium I might be constantly 
informed as to the movements of the troops, I resolved to 
make a lengthened stay with old Dourdi. Here, during a 
residence of some months, I had ample leisure for ob- 
serving the manners and customs of the Yamud Turco- 
mans, and as I shared the same one-chambered kibitka 
with my host, his wife, his niece, and a young child, and 
participated in their daily life, I had excellent opportunities 
for judging of Turcoman domestic life. There were certain 
inconveniences attendant upon this gregarious mode of 
existence, for the circular chamber was but fifteen feet in 
diameter, and some member of the family was always 
present. Consequently, when one wished to perform his 
ablutions, or to change his clothes, he was generally 


obliged to do bo in the dark, or under cover of his quilt, after 
the family had retired to rest. Our sole bed consisted of a 
thick felt carpet, spread upon the bare earth, our bolsters 
were of enormous dimensions, and our bed-covering was 
composed of a stuffed cotton quilt, and did not, I regret to say, 
bear the appearance of having often been washed. This, 
on very cold nights, I supplemented by my great sheepskin 
overcoat ; but as a fire generally smouldered on the hearth, 
towards which our feet were directed, we passed the nights 
snugly enough. Still, as I have said, two hours before 
sunrise all further sleep became impossible by reason of the 
grinding of corn, the splitting of wood with a hatchet, the 
various goings to and fro of the household, and the stream 
of visitors who were sure to arrive at that hour. 

These Turcoman aladjaks are, ordinarily, perfectly 
weather-proof, and, on the whole, fairly comfortable to live 
in, but that of my host was a rather patched and mended 
affair, and the light of day could be seen through more than 
one hole in the felt covering the exterior of its domed roof. 
One night, as we lay asleep, a tremendous downpour of 
rain set in, and after the first half-hour the water dripped 
into the hissing fire, and pattered around us on the quilts. 
Dourdi was equal to the occasion. It was clearly not the 
first time he had been confronted with the situation. He 
rose quickly, took a long iron-shod pole, which I presumed 
to be some kind of a boat-hook, and fixed one end of it in the 
side of the cdadjak some five feet from the ground. The 
other end was supported by a loop of camel-hair rope, 
which descended from the centre of the roof to within the 
same distance from the ground. Hastily unfolding a carpet 
of large dimensions, he placed • it over this horizontally 
rigged pole, the ends resting on the ground, and forming a 
kind of tent which contained all the sleepers. Often during 
my stay at Gumush Tep6, 1 have passed the night in this 


mistaking the nature of the cannon shots after that. They 
were fired in warning ; and so, at the third and shotted 
discharge, the Persian flag was hurriedly lowered. This 
regulation, which forbids the hoisting of the ' Lion and Sun ' 
standard on the Caspian, is very humiliating to Persia, 
and unfair to the last degree, for she possesses three ports 
along its southern shores — Gez, Meshed-i-Ser, and Enzeli. 

Enzeli is but a very inconsiderable place, owing what- 
ever importance it possesses to being a station where the 
productions of Mazanderan are shipped for other Caspian 
ports. The traders are principally Armenians, who reside 
together in a large square termed the Irmeni Caravemerai. 
Here, at all hours of the day, hemp, silk, cotton, tobacco, 
and grebe skins are to be seen. The traffic in this latter 
article is very considerable, large quantities being exported 
annually to Europe for the manufacture of ladies' muffs, 
head-dresses, and other female attire. They are bought at 
Enzeli for a franc apiece, and bring, I am told, from three 
to four in the European markets. 

Not far from the mouth of the Moredab, on its eastern 
shore, is an extensive fishing establishment, the property of 
a rich Armenian merchant. Scores of fishing boats were 
at anchor discharging their cargoes of sefid mahee (the 
Caspian carp) at the landing-stage. Eleven hundred 
men were engaged in fishing, cleaning the fish, and 
opening, salting, and drying them. The products of this 
fishery are exported in immense quantities to Russia, and 
also despatched to the interior of Persia, where they form 
an important part of the dietary of the poorer classes. A 
little farther to the north of this fishing station is a dis- 
mantled battery, the guns which formerly armed it now 
lying on the ground a little way to the rear. 

The Shah's palace, situated on the western shore of the 
entrance to the Moredab, is a singular-looking edifice. It 


consists of an octagonal tower, apparently over sixty feet in 
height, about thirty in diameter, and crowned by a flattened 
conical roof of red tiles. Inclusive of the ground floor there 
are five stories, each surrounded by an exterior verandah- 
covered balcony. The upper story, which is the loftiest 
and most elaborately decorated of all, is that used by the 
Shah, and commands an extensive view over the neigh- 
bourhood. I am told that he considers this view equal, if 
not of superior beauty, to any which he has seen in Europe, 
notwithstanding the fact that it consists solely of an un- 
broken prospect of fen and marsh, and the uninteresting 
shore and leaden grey of the Caspian waters. The balcony 
and verandah of the royal chamber are decorated with 
white plaster pillars and arches, gaudily painted, and net 
with glittering surfaces of looking glass. The next story 
under it, intended for the accommodation of the Shah's 
immediate suite, is also gaudily decorated, but with less of 
the looking-glass, the use of this latter being apparently a 
royal prerogative. Each succeeding lower story is less and 
less brilliantly painted, the ground-floor being very shabby 
indeed. Its verandah has rude wooden pillars coarsely 
daubed with red paint, and the walls are painted with 
exceedingly primitive attempts at representing modern 
Persian soldiers. The palace stands in a garden of about an 
acre in extent. It is simply a grass-grown expanse planted 
with orange trees, and here and there a rose-bush running 
wild. To protect the decoration against the deleterious 
effects of the moist winds blowing over the Caspian, the 
building is almost entirely wrapped up in bass matting, 
portions of its southern side only being visible. A short 
way off are the remains of an extensive convent of dervishes, 
now in ruins. It is of red brick, and the massive tower 
which served as a minaret is now utilised as a lighthouse. 
It was three o'clock in the afternoon when, in company 


with two others, an English engineer and an Arm 60 ** 
the same profession, both proceeding to Teheran ^' 
Harry Churchill, the gholam, and myself, went on b * 1 
large launch which was to convey us across the Moredab, 
and up the Piri-Bazaar river. For some time we rowed 
between the extremities of wooded land spits jutting out 
into the channel leading to the open water. Then we 
rowed out into the wide expanse of the Moredab itself. 
The name signifies 4 dead water,' and a drearier expanse 
of slumbering surface it would be hard to meet with. Its 
shores are thickly grown with giant reeds which reach far 
out into the shallow waters. Islands, reed-grown too, are met 
with, the ground raised but a few inches above the surround- 
ing surface. It is only at this point and at a few places 
between it and Gez that Moore's epithet of ' the Caspian's 
reedy banks ' at all holds good ; for the northern, western, 
and eastern shores are remarkably bare. The Moredab at 
the point where we crossed it must be nigh twelve miles 
wide. Its length from east to west is considerably 
greater. It is very shallow, and, even at the deepest por- 
tions, it was possible to reach bottom with one of the queer 
long shovel-shaped oars with which our launch was pro- 
pelled. Some way out from shore a light breeze sprang 
up ; a mast was stepped, and a sail of surprisingly large 
proportions hoisted. It seemed, in view of its tattered con- 
dition, to have been through a severe naval engagement. 
There was scarce a square foot of it which was not perfor- 
ated with holes, some of them as large as if made by a 
twenty-four pounder shot. It seemed wonderful how it 
held together, much more how it stood the pressure of the 

Approaching the southern shores of the lagoon, the reed 
brakes became more extensive, and the reedy islands larger 
and more numerous, in fact, separated from each other 


only by narrow winding canals or breadths of half-inundated 
marshy ground forming the delta of the Piri-Bazaar river, 
which we were now entering. Far away to the westward, 
immense flocks of water-fowl covered the waters or hung 
above them, wheeling and shifting like a storm-driven cloud. 
Our boat glided on amid the reedy solitudes, where the silence 
was broken only by the plashing of the oars, the shrill cry 
of some startled sea bird, or the scream of the fish-hawk. 
Then we entered the narrow channel of the river, varying in 
breadth from fifteen to twenty paces, the banks thickly 
covered with jungle and forest growth. The surface of the 
water was thickly strewn with the inflated swimming bladders 
of fish, coming from the curing establishment higher up the 
river. Large numbers of water snakes, too, were to be 
seen gliding by our boat. Great black ' snaggs ' stuck out 
from the water like marine monsters watching for their 
prey, and water-logged tree trunks clung among the roots 
projecting into the sluggish stream. Once we were well 
within the regular river channel, the crew, with the excep- 
tion of one who remained to steer, got out on the right bank, 
where a narrow pathway ran close to the edge of the water, 
just inside the tall bushes fringing it. A towing rope was 
fastened to the top of the mast, and the boat was thus ' 
drawn along, the five men in Indian file proceeding at a 
run. The rope was made fast to the top of the mast, so as 
to carry it clear of the bushes. Occasionally we met other 
boats similarly dragged along and proceeding in an opposite 
direction to ours, the towers following the same path. The 
towing-rope of the boat next the bank was slackened, and 
that of the one passing outside was jerked over the top of 
the mast of the first with a movement like that of a child's 

It was six in the afternoon when we reached Piri-Bazaar 
(the old man's bazaar), the farthest point southward to which 


boats can go, as there is a fishing weir drawn across the 
stream at this point. Piri-Bazaar consists of a caravan- 
serai, a few dozen houses, and the fishing station. All 
goods in transitu from the Caspian to Teheran pass' through 
this place. The little animation it possesses is due to this 

If I can trust the accuracy of the information I received, 
the capture of fish at the weir is enormous, fifty thousand 
of one kind or another being the amount taken daily. The 
principal fish captured at the weir are the sefid mahee (carp) ; 
the 8oof f the somme (four feet long) ; the salmon and 
salmon trout, besides the sturgeon, are caught in the 
brackish water lower down. The flesh of the sturgeon is but 
little used save by the poorer classes — the sterlet, a smaller 
species, being the only kind usually served at table, and 
generally used only for making soup. The sturgeon taken 
here measures from seven to nine feet long, the isinglass 
and caviare being the only portions utilised. This caviare, so 
largely consumed in Bussia, is called by the Greeks argo- 
tarako, and by the Italians boutargne. 

At Piri-Bazaar there are always riding horses and carts 
for the conveyance of travellers and their luggage to Resht, 
which can be reached in an hour by trotting pretty briskly. 
The road, which is only of recent construction, is very fair 
for Persia. For a long time it had been forbidden to con- 
struct any, lest it might facilitate a Russian advance on the 
capital. During the last Russo-Persian war, a Russian 
expedition tried to penetrate from Enzeli to Resht, but 
owing to the impassable nature of the intervening forest, 
then traversed only by a narrow swampy track, after the 
most herculean efforts to cut its road through, and having 
been decimated by fever, it was obliged to retire. 

Clearings have been made in the woods, and a good 
deal of cultivation at present exists. At frequent intervals 


odd-looking structures with high-pitched roofs, the eaves pro* 
jecting and supported by wooden props, appear. The thatch- 
ing is of reeds and brambles of a brown colour, the whole 
resembling a very pointed haystack supported on low 
pillars. These were the tUimbars or sheds for rearing silk- 
worms. Silk has been for a long time one of the staple 
products of this province (Ghilan) ; but, unfortunately, the 
prevalence of the pebrine and flacheric diseases, which during 
the previous five or six years wrought sad havoc among the 
worms, reduced the production of silk to such a degree 
that the cultivators were ruined. In consequence of this 
blight, a memorial was forwarded to the Shah praying for 
a remission of taxes. This remission, I understand, was 
granted ; but the local authorities kept on the screw for 
their own private benefit. Since this decline in silk pro- 
duction many of the tilimbars have been idle ; tobacco seed 
from Samsoun on the southern Black Sea coast was sown, 
and the flourishing crops which resulted have done much 
to restore prosperity to the district. 

Besht itself is a scattered kind of place, largely composed 
of two-story houses built of unbaked brick, and roofed with 
red tile's. The minarets of the two mosques are of quite an 
unusual style. They are stout towers of red brick tapering 
slightly, and crowned with flattened cones of tiles, the 
cones projecting so much as to give the structure the 
appearance of an overgrown mushroom. 

The climate of Besht is exceedingly unwholesome in 
summer, owing to the low-lying nature of the surrounding 
ground and its swampy character. The neighbouring woods 
are full of game, especially pheasants and partridges, and 
wolves, jackals, lynxes, and hyaenas are to be found in the 
immediate vicinity. I have been informed that tigers of 
considerable size have from time to time been killed at no 
great distance from the town. Owing to the combined heat 


and moisture the vegetation around the place is redun- 
dant, flowers blooming all the year round. 

What little commercial activity there is at Besht is due 
to the business carried on by Armenian and Greek mer- 
chants, and the firm of Ziegler and Go. At one of the 
Armenian caravanserais I saw very large quantities of raw 
silk being put up in bales for exportation to Marseilles, over 
one hundred large bales at least. When, during the great 
depression in this particular trade, owing to the malady 
prevailing among the worms, the quantity thus sent off at 
one shipment by a single house was so very considerable, I 
could well imagine what the aggregate amount in favourable 
years must have been. 

During the three days I remained at Besht I heard sad 
tales of misgovernment and extortion on the part of the 
local authorities. There seemed to be no regular system 
of taxation, the governor paying a certain amount to the 
Shah annually, and having delegated to him apparently 
unlimited power to squeeze as much as possible from the 
native merchants and peasantry. I was informed on un- 
questionable authority that a very short time previous to my 
arrival a trader had been imprisoned and buried up to his 
neck in the floor of his dungeon. Ice was kept constantly 
applied to his head to torture him, with a view of forcing 
from him a large sum of money. He stood this cruel 
punishment so long without yielding, that the stock of ice 
in the town was quite expended, and the governor was forced 
to adopt a new system of torture through sheer incapacity 
to continue the old one. The evildoer himself was, however, 
not entirely exempt from the ills of life, for he had married 
a princess of the Shah's family, and whenever he displeased 
his spouse, the lady, by virtue of her royal descent, had 
him soundly bastinadoed by his own servants. 





Posting in Persia — Solid-Rood — Mountain roads— Rustamabad — Olive groves 
— Rood Bar — Mengil — Travelling in the dark — Stormy glen— Mare Antony 
and the snakes — Shah Rood — Corpse caravan— Starved post-horses — Pood 
Chenar — A deserted post-house — Kurd encampment — Pass of Kharzon — 
Kurds on the march — Funeral rites — Imam ZadA — Masrah — The garrib-gez 
— Miana — A Persian remedy — An appeal to the Shah — Fortified villages 
— Kanots — Kazvin — Persian tombstones — Hotel — Enamelled tiles — A 
good postmaster — A contrast — A breakdown — Good ponies — Mounds and 
villages— Count de Monteforte— Approaching Teheran— Gates and forti- 

As yet post-horses are the only means of rapid travelling 
in Persia. When a postal service of the kind is well con- 
ducted one can get along pretty well, but when, as in that 
country, the utmost mismanagement prevails, travelling 
post is the most exquisite torture it is possible to conceive. 
It was close on mid-day before I was able to get away from 
Besht, mounted on a very fair horse. I was accompanied 
by Mr. Harry Churchill, son of the Asterabad consul. We 
had with us a gholam, or courier, belonging to the British 
Legation at Teheran, and the usual postman to take back 
the horses. For the first ten miles the road was level and 
good, skirted on either side by wooded hills of inconsiderable 
elevation, separated from us by level tracts of well-cultivated 
ground and stretches of luxuriant woodland* Streams of 
water continually crossed the road, as the irrigation canals 
were led from one field to another. With such a constant 
water supply from the Elburz chain, and such unfailing 


sunshine, the province of Ghflan should be one of the 
richest in the world. For the first two hours one might 
imagine himself riding through some rural lane in Western 
Europe. Then the road began to ascend a somewhat 
steep hill, parts of which were rugged in the extreme, and 
we found ourselves proceeding along the brink of an awk- 
ward earth cliff overhanging the magnificent Sefid-Bood 

At this point the stream is nearly a mile wide — a vast 
expanse of surging yellow waters, broken by islets and sand 
banks, and bearing along tree trunks and accumulations of 
bushes torn from its banks. To the eastward, tall scarped 
mountains descend to the water's edge. As soon as the 
road begins to ascend it becomes simply execrable. Long 
stretches of pavement occur, which, owing to the springs 
which trickle across them, are reduced to accumulations 
of loose stones and deep muddy gashes, over which a horse 
can make his way but slowly. For twenty miles we were 
in constant fear that our horses would fall upon the step- 
like strata, which at some points resemble more a steep 
flight of stairs than what we are accustomed to consider a 
post road. It was well that our horses were pretty strong 
and well fed, or we should never have got over some of the 
very bad places. As it was, the animals were only able 
to make ten steps at a time, halting for half a minute be- 
fore they could climb as much more. More than once I 
dismounted and toiled up the ascent on foot, for it seemed 
little short of barbarity to ride a horse up such an incline. 
What the engineers of the road were thinking of when they 
planned it, I cannot imagine. It ascends and descends in 
the most capricious manner, when with less labour it might 
just as well have been constructed at a regular level along 
the hill slopes over which it has been cut — principally by 
blasting, as the drill holes in the rocks indicate. At one 


very difficult spot we passed three European carriages, each 
being dragged by a dozen men, and which, to judge by the 
rate of progress they were making, would probably take at 
least a month to get to Teheran. 

After a weary journey of twenty-four miles we reached 
the first station at a place called Koudoum, where we 
changed horses, receiving animals which looked just as 
tired and worn as those we had given up. With these we 
scrambled along for another twenty miles to Eustamabad, 
a dreary-looking mud caravanserai, the only habitation 
within sight for miles around. The mountains, which had 
hitherto been densely wooded and verdant, now became 
bare and arid, the bright red and orange tinting of the 
cliffs and slopes indicating the presence of iron. From 
Eustamabad the road was, if possible, worse and more 
precipitous than before ; and the rapid closing in of night 
did not tend to smooth our difficulties. It was pitch dark 
as we ascended and descended horrid inclines along the 
edge of yawning abysses, which, perhaps luckily, we could 
but indistinctly discern, and to which, from far below, came 
the dull plashing roar of the Sefid Eood. Then the road 
became a little more practicable, and we descended into a 
valley thickly overgrown with very large olive trees-in 
some places forming dense thickets. Here and there 
glimmering lights were visible, and we could just distinguish 
the outline of some low mud houses. We had arrived at 
the commencement of a long straggling village, Eood Bar 
by name, which stretches along the banks of the Sefid 
Eood river for a distance of at least three miles. It .was 
half-past nine at night before we reached the further end, 
where some dozen buildings, gathered into a kind of street, 
constituted the bazaar. Lights were still burning in a few 
of the houses, and we at length found lodgings in a small 
shop kept by an Armenian. The rough boarded floor was 

vol. x. Y 


our bed, our saddles were our pillows, our overcoats the 
only covering available ; but after sixty-four miles of hard 
riding one is easily contented with any place of rest. The 
regular postal station was two or three hours further on, 
but under the circumstances it was impossible to go any 
further that night. We started at three o'clock the following 
morning. The road was again very bad, especially that 
portion of it which we were obliged to traverse before the light 
of dawn appeared. No pains whatever seemed to have been 
taken to improve the rough track worn among broken, 
shelving strata by the camel and horse traffic of past ages. 
Travelling over such a road in the dark is most trying to 
the nerves. The horses, endeavouring to scramble up or 
down the steep ascents, many of them having an incline of 
forty-five degrees, slipped and stumbled at every step. The 
faintly-seen rocks seemed swimming around in the gloom. 
The horseman suddenly finds himself girth-deep in a torrent 
of whose existence he only becomes aware by the flash and 
roar of the waters. Huge spectral cliff-faces loomed in the 
faint dawn-light, and the white expanse of the surging river 
gleamed out, far down the precipice on the verge of which 
the road wound. No barrier of any kind existed to prevent 
man or beast from going over the edge. Someone has re- 
marked that the roads of a country are the truest indices 
of its civilisation. If this be true, Persia must be backward 

Just as the sun was rising we arrived at a long stone 
bridge spanning the Sefid Rood, and had an opportunity of 
witnessing a curious phenomenon peculiar to the place. 
At the moment the sun shows above the horizon a violent 
wind commences to blow, continuing without interruption 
till evening. This wind blows at all seasons, and is some- 
times so violent as to render crossing the bridge dangerous, 
especially for laden camels, the great surface exposed to 


the action of the wind sometimes causing the animals to 
be blown over the parapet into the torrent. This portion 
of the valley bears the name of Mengil, and is remarkable 
for the great number of venomous serpents by which it is 
infested. When the Eoman army, led by Marc Antony, 
camq here, the camp had to be moved from the valley on 
account of the great quantity of vipers. 1 I recollect an 
occurrence similar to this during the late campaign in 
Armenia, when a Bussian detachment, camped among the 
ruins of the ancient town of Ani, were obliged to strike 
their tents and move some distance off because of the large 
numbers of serpents. A short distance above the bridge of 
Mengil the Shah Rood falls into the Sefid Bood, which 
latter stream, above the point of junction, is called by 
a different name. A short distance outside the town, or 
rather village, of Mengil, I came up with a small caravan 
going in the direction of Teheran. For some time I had 
been noticing a most unpleasant odour, which I was at a 
loss to account for. So strong was it that I supposed that 
a number of camels or horses must be lying rotting in my 
vicinity ; and I urged my horse rapidly forward to get clear 
of the stench. However, the further I pushed on, the 
stronger became the smell, and I was quite at my wit's end 
to account for its persistency, when a glance at one of the 
caravan conductors gave me an inkling as to whence it 
proceeded. The man was trudging along behind a small 
grey ass. He looked deadly pale, and his mouth and the 
entire lower part of his face were wrapped in a large cloth. 
On the ass's back was an oblong white case, which I at once 
recognised as a coffin ; especially when, on nearing it, the 
stench became overpowering. It was a caravan carrying 
dead bodies to be interred at Kerbella in holy ground. The 

1 I give this on the authority of H.M. the Shah, who makes the statement 
in his published diary of a voyage to Europe. 

T 2 


driver of the ass had swathed his mouth and nose with 
cloths to avoid the pestilential effluvia emanating from the 
putrid corpse which his ass was carrying. He had heen 
several days on the march, and I am not surprised that he 
looked sick and pale, considering the atmosphere which he 
breathed. I understand that Government orders have 
been issued prohibiting this system of corpse caravans ; 
but though the traffic is much diminished, it still exists to 
a certain extent. I galloped briskly on to get out of the 
unwholesome neighbourhood, and soon reached the station 
of Mengil. Here a considerable delay occurred in procuring 
post horses, and, when they were forthcoming, they were 
of the most miserable description, apart from which they 
looked as if they had been starved for a week. 

Pushing forward as rapidly as possible, we followed the 
right bank of the Shah Rood, the road sometimes descend- 
ing into the swampy river marge. After seven hours' riding 
we reached the station of Pood Chenar (the foot of the 
plane-tree), where we saw a choice specimen of the manner 
in which things are managed on this postal line. Pood 
Chenar consists of two buildings, one a kind of caravanserai, 
built of mud and unbaked bricks ; the other, a posting 
station built in the same manner. The country across 
which we travelled was mountainous and barren. Bleak, 
bare rounded hills girded our path, all striped orange and 
green with metallic deposits. Not a human being was to 
be seen, and the two buildings, so far as their loneliness 
was concerned, might have been a pair of enchanted castles. 
We toiled up a steep ascent, and arrived before a high 
* arched doorway, the double doors of which lay wide open. 
No groom or ostler came to meet us. We called and 
shouted ; we entered, and searched every nook and cranny 
of the building. Neither horses nor men were to be found. 
Our horses, after seven hours' rapid ride over difficult 


ground, were falling with fatigue. We went up to the 
caravanserai, and there learned that the postal employes 
were * gone away/ and that there were no horses. Here 
was a predicament, inasmuch as I was in a desperate hurry, 
and had already lost much time. Nothing remained but 
to halt for a couple of hours to let our poor worn-out 
animals repose, and to give them some food, of which they 
were evidently much in need. We had to pay for this food, 
as there were no Government officials to be found. While 
waiting for our tired steeds to recover, we sat in the scanty 
shade of a thinly-leafed plane-tree, and had breakfast. 
Not far away was a Kurd encampment, which hitherto had 
not been visible, hidden, as it was, behind a hill shoulder. 
The Kurd tents were peculiar. I had previously seen them 
on the mountains between Ears and Erzeroum. The walls, 
about four and a half feet in height, are composed of reed 
mats ; the reeds are placed vertically, close together, and 
connected by four threads of camel hair, intertwined hori- 
zontally with the reeds at regular intervals. The roof 
consists of a single web of blackish brown camel-hair tissue, 
supported on internal poles some six feet high, the edges not 
meeting the vertical reed matting, but leaving a space of six 
inches in width intervening for light and air. The tents look 
exceedingly neat and comfortable, much more so than the 
heavier Turcoman kibitkas, among which I had been so 
long sojourning. The old Kurd elders came out of their 
Camp to see the Ferenghi, and were most kind in looking 
after some of our horses which had run away. Had the 
road in any way approximated to a level one I should not 
have been so much troubled, worn though the poor beasts 
were after their long and quick ride. But, unfortunately, 
we had to face the worst portion of the entire road, the 
tremendous pass of Eharzon, across the steepest part of 
the Elbruz mountains by which the transit is possible. 


There was no help for it, so we rode away towards the 
entrance. In the valley we had to ford a rather violent 
torrent, fortunately not deep, and we were rewarded for 
our pains by a curious sight— the moving of a Kurd en- 
campment. These nomads acknowledge but a very slight 
allegiance to the central Government, and pay still slighter 
taxes. The women seemed to do all the work. The men 
rode on tranquilly — that is to say, the men who had horses, 
for I noticed that horses were scarce among them. The 
beasts of burden were small black cows, upon whose backs 
were strapped all the paraphernalia of the camp. The reed 
tent-walls were rolled together with the black camel-hair 
roofs, and on these, packed on the cows' backs, was perched 
a miscellaneous collection of poultry, evidently well accus- 
tomed to such proceedings. An occasional cat was also to be 
seen, seated contentedly among the fowls. A few men rode 
to and fro, directing the cortege* They were, as a rule, of low 
stature, and far different in appearance from the wild 
horsemen whom I had left behind me on the Turcoman plains. 
Each step brought us nearer to the tremendous Eharzon 
pass. To describe its passage would be only to multiply 
tenfold what I have already written about break-neck roads 
and dangerous precipices. We passed many Ejird camps, 
and at one witnessed funeral rites exactly like those of the 
Turcomans. Towards the higher portions of the pass, 
which I believe are about twelve thousand feet above the 
sea, was an Imam Zade, or burial-place of a saint. Each 
person who passed felt bound to place one stone on another 
in token of reverence. The road was lined with pyramids 
of stone fragments contributed by the pious during past 
centuries. After having been forced to dismount a dozen 
times, sometimes beyond our knees in gravelly mud, we at 
length, after twelve hours' riding on the same poor horses, 
got to the village of Masrah, in the plain which reaches 


away by Kasvin to Teheran. This village is not without 
interest, though it is but a poor place — consisting of little 
more than fifty square-topped huts huddled within the 
limits of a mud loop-holed wall with flanking towers. The 
interest attaching to the village is altogether an entomological 
one. When starting from Besht I had received many 
warnings from experts to look out for an exceedingly venom- 
ous insect which infests this neighbourhood. Strange to 
say, this place alone of all the entire district is so infested. 
I enter into details on the subject, as it is one which cannot 
fail to interest naturalists. I had been warned, on the peril 
of my life, not to sleep at Masrah, because there was to be 
found the garrib-gez (literally, ' bite the stranger '). The 
effect of the bite was described to me as being on the whole 
much worse than that of the black scorpion. Our horses 
could carry us no further, and, nathless the dread which I 
had of these creatures, I was obliged to make a halt of half 
an hour at the station. 

One of the first questions which I asked of the stable 
attendants was whether they could show me a specimen of 
the ' bite the stranger.' After a few minutes' search, the 
man brought me out half-a-dozen in the palm of his hand. 
The largest was not over the third of an inch in length, and 
resembled in form what is vulgarly known in England as 
the ' sheep-tick.' It was of a silvery grey appearance, and 
had, as I carefully remarked, eight legs, four on each side. 
I should at once have set it down as one of the arachnoid or 
spider family were it not for the entire absence of the dual 
division of cephalothorax and abdomen which distinguishes 
that class. Notwithstanding this, it may, and probably 
does, belong to the family in question. Its sting is produc- 
tive of the worst results. A small red point like that pro- 
duced by the ordinary flea is at first seen. Then follows a 
large black spot, which subsequently suppurates, accom- 


parried by a high fever, identical, as far as external symp- 
toms go, with intermittent fever. In this it is like the bite 
of the tarantula or phalange of the Turcoman plains. The 
only difference is, that the fever produced by the sting of 
this insect, known scientifically as the arga Persica, and 
locally as the garrib-gez and Genne, if neglected for any 
length of time, is fatal. It is accompanied by lassitude, 
loss of appetite, and in some cases delirium. I have seen it 
mentioned in an old French book, which gives an account 
of the French Embassy to Teheran of 1806-7 ; but the 
writer had no personal experiences to relate. He called it 
the mouche de Miane. Miana is a village on the same 
stream as Masrah, and is well known as one of the habitats 
of this pestilential insect. It is styled by the inhabitants, as 
at the other places in which it obtains, the ' bite the stranger,' 
for the people of the locality never experience any inconve- 
nience from its sting. There is a general belief that, when 
once a person has been stung, the ' Persian bug * is harmless 
against the same individual, and this seems to be borne out 
by fact; for the people living in the village of Masrah 
laughed at my fears as I carefully perched myself on the 
top of a rock with a view of keeping out of the way of the 
local bugs while they held them with impunity within the 
palms of their hands. Some Austrian officers going to 
Teheran in 1879, happening to stay at this hamlet of 
Masrah, were stung by the garrib-gez. All of them fell ill, 
and one narrowly escaped with his life. Numerous cases of 
death can be cited as the result of the sting of the arga 
Persica. A Persian medical man informed me that it was 
the custom, when any important personage was travelling 
through a district infested by these insects, for his attend- 
ants to administer to him without his knowledge one of 
the ' bugs/ during the early morning, concealed in a piece 
of bread. The sting acts as a kind of inoculation, and 


the local physicians believe that the poison, taken 
through the stomach, is administered with equally good 
effect as if received directly into the circulation. A 
leading European member of Teheran society told me 
that he had simultaneously received seventy-three stings 
from these insects, the bites having been counted by 
his servants. The result was an extreme amount of fever, 
winding up with delirium on the fifth day. Violent emetics, 
followed by doses of quinine, were given without effect ; 
and it was only after taking large quantities of tannin, in 
the form of a decoction of the rind of the wild pomegranate, 
that the patient recovered. For a great part of my informa- 
tion on this subject I have to thank Mr. Sydney Churchill, 
of Teheran, a young and rising naturalist, who has devoted 
much of his time and talent to the entomology of Persia. I 
need scarcely say that, finding myself in contact with this 
abominable ' Persian bug,' I was in a feverish hurry to get 
out of its dominions ; and more than one severe objurgation 
rose to my lips before the half-hour's chase after several 
stag-like horses on the hill-slope was completed. 

I was contemplating in a melancholy mood the skeletons 
of seven horses lying close by, without doubt the victims of 
overwork and little food, when our new steeds were driven 
in from pasture on a bleak mountain side, to commence a 
run of twenty miles at post speed. I make express mention 
of this, in order that it may, if possible, reach the Shah's 
ears indirectly; and that, if he have not pity on the 
travellers who come to visit his capital from the Caspian, he 
will cherish some feeling for the poor half-starved brutes 
that are ridden over the hills of which he is sovereign. I 
write this advisedly, for I have reason to know that he is 
most anxious that the affairs of his -kingdom should be 
properly conducted ; but, unfortunately, he is dependent for 
information on those whose interest it is not to tell him the 


truth. I hope that, should these lines ever meet his eyes, he 
will give me credit for the intention with which they were 

Descending from the mountains, a vast plain opens out 
to the view. Sparsely-sprinkled gardens, with their tall 
poplars and densely-leaved chenars, tremble in the mirage 
like wooded islands in a tranquil sea. The proximity to 
the dangerous Turcoman frontier, notwithstanding the 
intervening range of the Elburz, across which I had just 
ridden, was marked by fortified villages and caravanserais. 
Each was a fortress in itself — a square of from a hundred 
to a hundred and fifty yards on each side, protected by high 
embattled walls of unbaked brick, with flanking towers 
fifteen feet high at intervals of forty yards. The gateway 
of each stronghold was a little fort in itself, and Biblical 
descriptions came forcibly to my mind as we saw the white- 
robed elders (smoking their water-pipes) seated on either 
side the entry with a more than patriarchal solemnity, the 
attendants in robes of Oriental brilliancy, raising their heads 
to stare at the unholy Giaours dashing by as quickly as 
their poor weary, sore-backed steeds would permit. In 
riding over this plain I discovered the solution of a problem 
which had often puzzled me. I had seen small earth 
mounds ranged in a symmetrical row reaching for miles and 
miles. I now discovered that they were composed of the 
earth thrown up from numerous shafts during the construc- 
tion of what are called kanots, or underground watercourses, 
leading from the mountains to the plain below. From the 
Elburz range to Teheran vegetable life is artificially sus- 
tained on the bleak internal Steppes by means of these 
subterranean watercourses. Putting our horses to a gallop, 
we were soon sweeping by the scanty vineyards that surround 
Kasvin, and the yellow, turreted walls of that town came 
into view. 

KASV1N. 33* 

Kasvin, the birthplace of the Sage Lockman, and for a brief 
space the capital of Persia, is a very considerable town, and 
destined, when the projected railroad from Besht to Teheran 
shall have been completed, to play an important rdle in the 
history of the country. ' Seen from the midst of the vineyards 
and pistache plantations which surround it, it presents an 
eminently picturesque appearance, with its brightly gleaming 
cupolas and towers glinting beyond the chenar groves which 
surround its walls. The gate by which I entered, pierced 
in its western fortifications, is guarded by the usual towers 
of unbaked brick, plastered over with yellowish brown 
clay. Just outside it, and reaching up to the edge of the 
now dry ditch, is an extensive cemetery, remarkable for 
its tombstones, which lie flat upon the graves, being in this 
totally unlike the standing ' turban stones ' of the Ottoman 
Turks. In the midst of each is inserted a piece of white 
alabaster, a couple of feet long, in the form of a heraldic 
shield, bearing a raised inscription and the representation 
of a long spouted jug like a coffee-pot and some cups and 
tumblers. This may have some connection with the custom 
of the Turcoman nomads of placing these articles on the 

The afternoon sun was intensely hot as I rode along 
between the blank staring mud walls which rose on either 
side of the street, almost deserted at that hour of the day. 
A few people- were lazily lounging in some barbers' shops, 
or stretched out at full length asleep upon the ground in the 
narrow shade of the houses. Several kanots traverse the town, 
and the vertical shafts constructed when excavating them 
lie most reprehensibly open in the midst of the thorough- 
fares. A horseman or pedestrian traversing the streets 
after dark would infallibly come to grief. Kasvin affords 
on every side evidences of its past greatness, and signs of 
growing importance mingle with the older traces of 


prosperity. Mosques and towers, their roofs covered with 
glazed blue tiles, rose on every side, and I much regretted 
not having sufficient time at my disposal to visit them. 
The postal establishment would do credit to a first- 
class European town. It includes a large hotel, with 
arched portico supported on massive pillars of whitewashed 
brick. The rooms are spacious and airy, and floored with 
large, square, glazed tiles. This hotel cannot fail to be a 
paying speculation when once the Resht-Teheran Railway 
line is established. The principal town gates, and those of 
some of the chief public buildings, are really very pretty. 
They are of the Eastern ogive form, ornamented with curious 
pinnacles, with bud-like extremities, forcibly reminding 
one of asparagus shoots. They are profusely ornamented with 
designs in enamelled brick and tiles of the brightest colours. 
The brick patterns are mostly black, blue, white, and 
orange, producing, in the blinding glare of an Eastern 
sun, an indescribably brilliant effect. In the spaces over 
the arches, and in the side panels, are large, fairly exe- 
cuted designs in enamelled tiles, representing the Lion and 
Sun, and various scenes from Persian mythology and 
history. These buildings, with their brilliant colouring, re- 
minded me forcibly of the drawings of the restored palaces 
of Nineveh. 

The road from Easvin to Teheran is a marvellous im- 
provement on that between the former town and Besht, which 
is so exceedingly bad as scarcely to merit the name of road. 
In fact, the natural surface of the country, left as it origi- 
nally stood, would be infinitely preferable to the present 
frightful track — half mud-hole, half quarry. The road 
leading southward from Easvin owes a good deal to its 
course lying over a level sandy plain; but its condition 
is remarkably good. It is at least forty feet wide, well 
drained, and kept in good order. The postmaster of Easvin 


is, as I was informed there, a Pole ; and the assistants and 
grooms are either Bussian or German. We were provided 
with capital horses, in first-rate condition, and the rapid 
pace at which we cleared the first stage of about twenty- four 
miles was luxurious compared to the tediously crawling and 
aggravating progress over the more northerly track. Owing 
to the good condition of the road between Easvin and 
Teheran, troikas have been supplied, and are available for 
travellers who do not like to proceed on horseback, while 
the entire road reflects the greatest credit on those to whose 


charge it is entrusted. I regret not to be able to say the same 
thing of the condition in which we found the post horses at 
many stations. The animals were excellent in their way ; 
but it was evident before one had made a quarter of a mile 
on their backs that they were either half-starved or overworked. 
The infrequency of travellers along this route, especially 
those travelling by post, renders it impossible that the 
animals could be overworked by legitimate traffic. I was 
informed on good authority that in some cases postmasters 
either use the horses, which they are supposed to hold in 
readiness for the public service, on their own farms, or else 
let them out to others for a similar purpose. So it happens 
that the traveller on arriving at the station finds the horses 
intended for his use, and for which he has paid at a high 
rate, so completely broken down by their day's labour as to 
be incapable of proceeding at anything like the required 
pace over the sixteen or twenty miles which separate the 
post-houses. For instance, the horses we obtained at 
Kishlak station, at which we arrived at nine o'clock on 
the evening of our departure from Easvin, and which we 
left at five o'clock on the following morning, were, though 
very fair animals, in such a wretchedly fatigued condition 
that we were obliged to dismount within two miles of the 
next station and send on a messenger to obtain help to get 


our saddles and baggage tip to the post-house. On 
another stage our postboy's horse broke down completely, 
and we had to wait three hours for him at Yengi Imam. 
The horses we obtained there were in the same deplorable 
condition ; and it was only on reaching Hissarek post-house 
that we were furnished with proper animals. At this last 
station we were supplied with spirited little grey ponies, who 
sometimes carried us a good deal quicker than we wished to 
go. The good condition of the horses at Hissarek, and the 
rapidity with which they carried us, showed what a well- 
disposed, honest postmaster could do. In fact, with the 
exception of the arrangements at Easvin and the horses 
supplied to us when leaving that town, as well as those from 
Hissarek to Teheran, there could not possibly be found a 
worse conducted posting system. In the horses we found 
poor overworked beasts ; in the men, people endowed with 
all the provoking slowness and insowciance of Spaniards, 
without a trace of the honesty and manliness which are the 
redeeming qualities of the latter. 

The country on either side the high road is well culti- 
vated, and numerous villages occur at short intervals. 
They are all, without exception, surrounded by tall, strong 
mud walls with circular flanking towers. It is curious to 
note that, almost invariably, in close proximity to these 
villages are large earthen mounds, somewhat similar to 
those one meets with on the Turcoman plains, but greatly 
inferior in dimensions. These mounds have traces of exten- 
sive earthworks about their bases, indicating that the sites of 
the modern villages are almost coincident with the ancient 
ones, dating back to almost prehistoric times, when these 
earth mounds supported the citadels which served as places 
of refuge to the inhabitants in time of invasion. To the left 
of the road the plain is dotted by the long lines of small 
earth mounds which denote the tracks of the kanots, and 


which are the only available means by which the arid plains 
are kept fruitful during the withering summer heats. 
Owing to the source of each being at the bottom of a very 
deep well at the foot, or low down on the slope, of some 
neighbouring hills, these streams are independent of the 
melting snows for their water supply ; and the fact of their 
channels lying deep beneath the surface of the earth pre- 
vents the great evaporation which would occur did they 
trickle along the surface, also keeping the water cool and 
in a drinkable condition. These streams issue to the 
surface at the level portions of the plain, where they serve 
alike for the irrigation of the fields and the water supply of 
the villages. 

Between Easvin and Teheran one comes upon traces of 
genuine European civilisation — due, if I be not mistaken, 
to the Count de Monteforte, the Police Minister of his 
Majesty the Shah. It is true that for many a long league 
the police stations, situated eight miles apart, were little 
more than half-completed buildings ; but as we got closer 
to the capital we came upon pleasant little lodges, in some 
cases ornamented with incipient creeping plants, and 
always with well-uniformed gendarmerie before the door. 
These little places, with their public functionaries, are 
agreeable interruptions of the uncivilised nakedness of the 
rest of the road. But Persia is only in her transition state 
as yet. The country round Teheran is by no means 
attractive. It looks sadly bare and sunburnt, relieved only 
by the strictly limited gardens, the result of laborious 
irrigation, which break the yellow-gray expanse of plain. 
Half the verdure one sees belongs to gardens attaching to 
the many residences possessed by the Shah in the neigh- 
bourhood of the town. The deep green foliage of the plane- 
trees (chenar) looked painfully prominent against the dreary 
background of ashy-yellow plain which sweeps away to the 


foot of the Elburz mountains, then deeply covered with 
enow. It is one of the most tantalising things possible to 
ride a last stage across the plain, where the air is thick 
with dun-brown dust, and to see the giant peaks towering, 
seemingly within hand's reach, all white with snowy cape 
— long silvery streaks coming down claw-like along their 
sides. It makes one feel doubly hot and thirsty. Even 
close to the city itself gardens and villages are enclosed by 
tall mud walls, with the inevitable flanking towers. The 
deplorable traditions of scarce a century ago still live in 
this system of gwm'-fortification. On approaching Teheran 
the town presents not the slightest striking feature. Were 
not one advised beforehand of his approach to the 
place, he would never guess that he was in the proximity 
of the capital of Persia. Some narrow yellow streaks 
indicate the presence of ramparts— a bad imitation of the 
ramparts of Paris. Not a single cupola or spire strikes the 
eye. The fact is, there are none at Teheran. The gate 
by which one enters is, like those of Easvin, neatly 
ornamented with enamelled bricks and tile pictures, a 
feature which predominates in Persian architecture. 
When even the site of Teheran shall be a puzzle to 
archaeologists, its painted tiles, with their quaint representa- 
tions of modern soldiery, and even of coaches, will be a 
solace to the antiquary — even more so than the sculptured 
walls of Nineveh — for the colours will remain. Of the 
fortifications I need say but little. They are apparently 
copied from the old ramparts of Paris, and strictly adhere 
to Vauban's system — in trace, at least. In profile they are 
subject to Persian modifications. The scarp, which, as my 
military readers will know, is the portion of the wall below 
the level of the plane of site, is of raw earth, left to stand 
or fall at a steep slope, as may best suit itself. The exterior 
slope of the parapet, that which would undergo the ordeal 


of battering during a regular siege, while being at the 
orthodox slope of forty five degrees, is plastered up with 
yellow mud for the sake of appearances. There is not a 
trace of an exterior fort to cover the approaches to the 
town, and the watercourses on which it so entirely depends. 
I wondered at this all the more that there were so many 
highly experienced European officers in the town engaged 
in organising the Persian military system. Of this I shall 
have more to say later on. For the moment I leave my 
readers as I gallop within the ramparts into a wide, barren, 
dusty space, where one sees little sign of a metropolis. 

vol. 1. a 




Defences of Teheran — General aspect of town — Groves and gardens — British 
Legation— Boulevards— Gas lamps — Electric light — Cannon square — Gun 
from Delhi — Shah's palace — Newly organized regiments — Uniform — Arms 
— Austrian officers — Captain Stand ei sky — Gymnastics — Care of arms — 
Captain Wagner and the artillery — Persian Cossacks— Colonel Demon- 
tovitch — Visit to cavalry barracks — Old soldiers v. new — Baron Renter's 
contract — Shah's red umbrella— Royal cavalcade — Shah's carriage — Indies 
of the harem — ' Be blind, be blind ! ' — Novel military salute — Departure of 
Austrian officers — Rumoured advent of Russian organisers. 

The fortifications of Teheran are, strictly speaking, on 
Vauban's system, that is to say, on the system of those of 
Paris — the enceinte up to the date of the Franco-German 
campaign. It seems to me strange that his Majesty the 
Shah, who goes to so much trouble and expense in employ- 
ing foreign officers to organise his army, should not have 
thought it worth his while to engage a few military engineers 
to supervise the modelling of the defensive works of his 
capital. For aught I know he may have secured some such 
assistance ; but perchance they are like those of whom 
Lord Byron tells us in ' Don Juan,' who were employed to 
construct the fortifications of Ismail, and who, as the Turks 
found to their cost, did more for the assailants than for 
the besieged. The defences of Teheran, as they at present 
stand, are much more harmful than otherwise. Under the 
hypothesis that the works are good for something, an 
assaulting army has the right to bombard an enclosed 
capital or other town. Even Paris, with its * scientific * 


enceinte and outlying forts, was far from adequate to repel 
the means of attack available to the Teuton beleaguerers. 
What, then, shall we say of the ill-constructed ramparts of 
Teheran, without a single outwork ? In one day the enemy 
would erect his bombarding batteries, and in another, 
Teheran would be in ashes, or surrendered. 

Very probably the existing works were constructed as a 
capable means of resisting a coup d'etat from without, for 
the present Eadjar dynasty has been too short a time on 
the throne to forget the events which placed it there. But 
to-day the rulers of Persia ought to remember that the 
danger is not of Turcomans or rival tribes, but that, though 
coming from farther off, it is not a whit less serious. 

Though the ramparts lack military strength, the artistic 
beauty of the gates of Teheran is undeniable. The traveller 
from colder and more practical climes, on coming in sight 
of the portals of the Persian capital, is at once carried back 
to the days when he re&d the ' Arabian Nights ' and gloated 
over the exploits of the Caliph Haroun Alraschid. It is 
really touching to find this sentiment of beauty lingering 
amidst the wreck of the once mighty power of Persia, and 
it would be but ill grace on the part of the passing stranger 
to withhold his appreciation of it. Coming in from the 
parched plains, where at long intervals only, and by dint of 
artificial irrigation, vegetation is to be met with, across the 
quivering mirage there rises an arched and pinnacled 
edifice, all aglow with tints borrowed from the setting * sun 
as it bids its adieu to the surrounding hills. One feels that 
though ' Iran's sun be set for ever/ politically at any rate, 
some traces of its old glory remain in the arches which give 
access to its present capital. The graceful outlines, the 
mingled colours glowing on brick and tile over the almost 
Alhambric arches, bring one back to his early dreams of 
the East, even though a sad experience has taught that 



beneath this gloss lies a misery almost as deep as that of 
the back slums of civilisation. 

The space enclosed by the walls is much greater than 
that occupied by the streets, squares, and buildings, very 
considerable distances intervening between the exterior 
houses and the fortifications. The general aspect of the 
town conveys to one's mind the idea of a strange mixture 
of mingled desolation and suddenly occurring, exuberant 
foliage. The zone immediately within the ramparts is 
mainly an expanse of arid yellow earth, broken by gravel- 
pits and fragments of mud walls. Here and there are 
portions of earthworks and batteries erected under the 
supervision of the European training officers during a 
course of military instruction. Between Teheran and the 
bases of the mountains the plain slopes upwards, and is 
copiously sprinkled with gardens and plantations, all of 
them supported by artificial irrigation. As I have already 
explained, this irrigation is not effected by natural surface 
streams, but by means of those curious underground water- 
courses termed kanots, which, commencing at the bottom 
of a deep boring close to the foot of the lower hills, are 
ultimately made to issue to the surface at lower levels, the 
greater portion of their course being protected from the 
sun's rays by the overlying earth. As far as one can judge, 
the soil round Teheran is most fertile, needing only an 
adequate water supply to be rendered wonderfully produc- 
tive. The artificial watercourses which exist appear to 
be mainly devoted to the support of groves of plane-trees 
(clienar), pomegranate, and poplar, destined as pleasure- 
gardens, and to the furnishing of the necessary drinking 
water to the city. Little seemed to have been done as re- 
gards the irrigation of corn-fields, though the ripening 
crops looked promising, and bade fair to more than counter- 
balance the effect of the drought of the preceding year. 


The grounds of the British Legation afford a good example 
of what skilled gardening can effect, even in such a broiling 
climate as that of Persia. They are situated apart from 
the inhabited portion of the city, but within the walls, and, 
I venture to say, are altogether unrivalled by any similar 
native attempts, though many very large gardens belonging 
both to the Shah and his nobles occur within the enceinte. 
Still, even with its water basins and running streams, 
and their shady alleys of chenars, weeping willows, and 
mulberry, the heat becomes so intense about the beginning 
of June that it is found necessary to remove the staff of 
the Legation to the midsummer residence at the foot of the 
Elburz, about two farsdkhs (eight miles) from Teheran, and, 
I believe, nearly a thousand feet above its level. Here, 
though at mid-day hours the temperature is far from 
agreeable, it is much more bearable than in the city below. 
Through the kindness of Mr. B. F. Thomson, the British 
Minister, whose guest I was for the moment, I was able to 
appreciate the difference between the two. 

The modern portions of Teheran display a strange 
mixture of eastern and western styles. Leading from the 
principal gate of the British Legation in the direction of 
the main entrance of the Shah's palace is a long boulevard, 
arranged as nearly as possible after the method of a 
Parisian one. It will be a very pretty avenue indeed when 
the well-watered trees have arrived at maturity. These 
trees, though but from seven to nine years old, have already 
assumed respectable dimensions. Mingled with them at 
intervals were strange objects for a Persian city— regular 
street gas lamps. Unfortunately, the French gentleman 
charged with the production of the necessary gas had not 
been able to carry out to its full extent the contract into 
which he had entered with the Government. This, I 
understood, was because the necessary funds were not 


forthcoming with the requisite rapidity. In one or two 
places the electric light had been established, but it was 
only in front of the main gate of the palace that the light 
was ever displayed, unless on exceptionally festive occasions. 
The lamp-posts were a standing source of wonder to the 
inhabitants, who could not well understand why they had 
been placed in situ without producing any of the wonderful 
effects which they had been led to believe they were capable 
of. When passing through Teheran on my way back to 
Europe, I found that an attempt had been made to inaugu- 
rate the undertaking. By the exercise of great energy 
about twenty gas jets had been placed round the cannon 
square. The Shah had been expected to be present, but 
was not. 1 In his absence the ceremonials were presided 
over by his two sons. After the lighting of these few lamps, 
things subsided into their old, non-progressive condition. 
I am afraid that, even with the best intentions on the part 
of the municipal authorities, the boulevard of Teheran will 
not present any attractive appearance, at least for a long 
time. Luxuriant foliage and street lamps may be present 
in abundance, but the shops will not be much improved by 
them. These shops line the thoroughfare like a series of 
railway arches. In the East a man stays in his shop until 
near sundown, and then retires to his dwelling, which is 
generally in a distant part of the town. The gas lamps 
could only help to disclose a series of ground-floor cells, 
barricaded with very indifferent-looking shutters. Follow- 
ing the main boulevard one arrives at a large, picturesque 
entrance, quite like the city gates, and as prettily decorated. 
Massive iron-barred portals, when necessary, close this 
opening. It gives access to a large, bare, paved square, 

1 I have been informed that his absence on this occasion was due to his 
dread of un explosion, which persons hostile to the undertaking had persuaded 
him was not only possible, but probable. 


one side of which shows a number of arched compartments, 
with glazed windows, within which are kept sundry seedy- 
looking bronze twelve-pounder smooth-bore guns. On the 
right-hand side are half a dozen huge brass guns, twenty- 
four and thirty-two pounders, on siege carriages. They 
are, as the dates show, from forty to sixty years old, and 
their scored and torn bores tell tales of many a bag of nails 
and many a dozen paving-stones discharged from them. 
They are probably displayed in their present position, 
guarded by a score of Oriental-looking artillerymen; with a 
view of conveying to the popular mind a hint of what the 
Government could do if truculently disposed. At the 
side opposite to that by which one enters is another pictu- 
resque gateway, just within which stands a very long and 
highly-decorated bronze gun — a sixty-four pounder, I should 
say, from its calibre. The popular idea in Teheran is that 
this is the largest gun in the world. It was brought from 
Delhi by Nadir Shah, after his capture of that city. 

Continuing our route, we pass along another street, not 
yet a boulevard, the same railway-arch-like shops pre- 
dominating. Then we are in front of the main palace gate- 
way. It is of enamelled brick, white stucco, and sea-green 
paint. Like the tower palace at Enzeli, fragments of look- 
ing-glass enter largely into the composition of the very 
peculiar composite pilasters of its upper stories. When the 
sun's rays fall obliquely, the effect of these numerous 
mirrors is very pretty ; otherwise the less said about it the 
better. It was in front of this palace gate that, for the first 
time, the uniform of the newly-organised Persian regiments 
came under my notice. It is very serviceable, and quite 
smart-looking. All the more so, to European eyes at least, 
that it differs from the horridly slovenly-looking fall-hipped 
tunic worn under the old regime, notably by the officers. 
It consists of a garment half tunic, half fatigue blouse, of 


coarse blue navy serge, very short in the skirt, and girt 
with a brown leather belt. The trousers are of the same 
material. The head-dress is a small shako of black curled 
lambs' wool, with a brass badge, carried in front, behind, 
or at the side, according to the taste of each soldier. It is 
a remarkable fact that while the majority of the troops at 
Teheran are armed with the Austrian Werndl breech- 
loader, a most serviceable weapon, the palace guard carry 
the old-fashion muzzle-loading rifle of the same nation. It 
is a deeply-grooved rifle, with bright barrel, and the peculiar 
kind of stock with cheek piece formerly carried by certain 
Austrian corps. The Shah thinks too well of his subjects in 
the capital to consider a practical guard necessary, and 
leaves the improved weapons in the hands of the soldiers 
who are learning to defend their country, ' if necessary, 
against England,' as a Persian officer one day told me very 
frankly. As I am on army subjects I may as well say a 
word about the foreign officers brought from Austria to 
organise the battalions of the Shah. During my stay at 
Teheran I paid an early visit to the barracks organised 
under the surveillance of Captain Standeisky, of the 
Austrian service. As a feature of European training — a 
very unusual one in an Eastern army — I noticed the great 
attention paid to gymnastics and preliminary drill. The 
recruiting system in Persia leaves much to be desired ; but 
nevertheless it brings to the ranks a very large majority of 
stalwart young men, in every way fitted to be soldiers. 
Like all peasants, they are more or less uncouth in their 
manners and bearing, and require a little preliminary 
schooling before they can be placed in the ranks musket in 
hand. The Austrian officers in charge knew, and none 
better than Captain Standeisky, that however good the 
absolutely fighting element may be, and however steadily 
the men may stand in actual combat, there is something else 


required in a soldier. He has a duty to perform anent the 
civilians at home, as well as in front of an enemy. It 
would never do to have a lumbering troop of fighting clod- 
hoppers marching down a thoroughfare in any street in a 
European capital, much less a Persian one. I have seen 
gymnastic exercises carried out in most European armies, 
and can say that in many of them the men would have no 
occasion to be ashamed of what I witnessed in one of the 
Teheran barrack squares. I saw the heavy-weight exercise, 
the trapeze, the bridge, the vaulting exercise, and many 
others, most creditably gone through ; and I saw the same 
men go through company and battalion drill with great 
accuracy. My visit was an impromptu one, so that no 
special preparations could have been made beforehand, even 
had such a thing been possible. As the companies marched 
into quarters I was invited to examine the riflesf The 
interiors of the barrels were bright as silver, the locks in 
perfect order, and there was not a soil except what was 
inevitable after an hour's exercise. As a last trial, I saw 
the performance of a company crossing a dead wall twenty- 
five feet in height, forming pyramid, twelve men as a base, 
the last carrying a rope over with him. It was most 
creditably done, the only drawback being the merriment of 
the men at being put through the extra exercise for the 
benefit of a stranger. Captain Wagner, of the Artillery, 
had brought his men as near perfection as possible ; and it 
is no small thing to be said in favour of these gentlemen 
that they have had to form their officers as well as their 

The cavalry comes under the control of a different 
nationality. In this particular the Bussians in Persia bear 
away the palm. Colonel Demontovitch, late of the army 
corps of General Tergukasoff at Bayazid during the Turco- 
Bussian campaign, was charged with the formation of some 


regiments of Cossacks on the Russian model. I hare to 
return him my best thanks for the pains which he took to 
show me all the smallest details of the corps entrusted to 
his charge. He told me that while the Austrian officers 
had to apply to the Persian Government for each sum 
required,* either for organisation or for the purpose of 
building quarters, he had carte blanche. I must say that 
no man ever turned his discretionary powers to greater 
advantage. I could judge of this, not from the appearance 
of his embryonic squadrons when they were paraded to 
meet the Shah, but from a visit to the quarters of his 
soldiers. It seems that the Shah, during his European 
tour, took a great fancy to the Cossack cavalry. He was not 
carried away by the outward show and glitter of more pre- 
tentious horsemen, such as we have at home, for instance ; 
he wished to have some regiments of the long-coated sober- 
looking cavalry he had seen in a neighbouring territory. I 
have seen the Cossacks in the field— in action in fact ; and 
I think it is not derogatory to them to say that Colonel 
Demontovich's men are but little behind them in general 
style. It is true that the favourable contrast which they 
make with the mass of the Persian troops is due to a certain 
extent to the kind of Draconic discipline to which they are 
subjected ; and which, after all, is just barely what is 
necessary to make latter-day Persians understand what real 
soldiering means. I saw them on one occasion when his 
Majesty the Shah was paying one of his annual visits to 
his Prime Minister. The newly Austrian-driUed infantry 
were standing at ease, but keeping their ranks; and in 
front of them I saw the traditional soldiers of Persia in 
their slovenly garments, their attitudes ' at ease ' more than 
any military code would have permitted. I saw the ' old 
fogey 1 officers sitting on their haunches smoking their 
water-pipes, and little troubling themselves whether it was 


the Shah or anybody else who was coming by. And a little 
higher up I saw Demontovitch's Cossacks, on foot, drawn 
up ' at ease/ more accurately aligned than ever the ' old 
fogies ' could have put themselves ' at attention/ I could 
perceive too that when his Majesty the Shah rode by, pre- 
ceded by his running footmen and surrounded by his great 
officers of State, his eyes turned lovingly to the long still 


ranks of the dismounted cavalry, their swords blazing in the 
noontide sun — just as they had been for five hours before. 
It was perhaps a little wanton exercise of despotic power to 
keep these poor willing men, needlessly incurring the risk 
of sunstroke, for so long ; but there they were, motionless 
all the same. I subsequently visited their quarters. We 
came suddenly on them. The men were in their white 
summer tunics, scrupulously clean. On the first notice of 
our approach they were at once drawn up in the stables. 
The horses were glossy with frequent combing ; the place 
was carefully swept up. I only make this statement in 
fairness to what I have seen of the work of European officers 
in Persia. But let me add another, made by an officer of 
long experience in that country. * You see what they are 
now ; when we are gone, in six months all will be the same 
as if we never had been here.' So much for European 
military training and its prospects in Persia. 

The Shah is no doubt influenced by the best of motives. 
He has visited Europe, and has probably gauged the ipeans 
by which Western men have become what they are. He 
does his best to follow in their track ; but he is impotent 
before the inertia of a nation. Everyone is familiar with 
the history of Baron Beuter's contract. Its fulfilment 
would have cost the Shah his throne. He dared not name 
as Grand Vizier the only man of intellect in his country 
whom he could trust, because of popular prejudice, Hussein 
Khan having been a strong supporter of the railway 


project. As I saw the monarch ride by under the shade 
of his red umbrella, which he carries as an emblem of 
sovereignty, I could not help thinking that he was, perhaps, 
the man most to be pitied in all Persia. Speaking of his 
riding past, I know that since the royal visit to Europe 
people are apt to figure to themselves the Shah of Persia as 
living amid a perpetual blaze of diamonds. The following 
was my experience of one of his progresses. Some 
mounted policemen (Austrian style) came galloping ahead. 
Then came some two hundred people, most of them with 
double-barrelled fowling-pieces slung at their backs. After 
these rode fifty men with silver maces, and then a very 
plainly clad group, in the midst of which was the Shah, 
not to be distinguished from the rest of the company, for, 
as the sun was not shining, he had furled his red umbrella. 
Behind the group immediately surrounding the Shah came 
his state coach, in pattern closely resembling that of the 
Lord Mayor of London, but looking very much the worse 
for wear, some of the battered corners being badly in need of 
repainting and gilding. Along the by-streets rolled some 
lumbering carriages, preceded by a dozen men bearing long 
willow wands. They were the keepers of the harem, and 
they shouted incessantly, ' Be blind, be blind ; turn your 
faces to the wall.' This was intended to prevent any of the 
crowd from being rash enough to catch a glimpse of the ladies 
of the harem who were being conveyed to await his Majesty's 
pleasure at his next halting-place. The European officers 
in the Shah's service were of course required to turn their 
backs when these ladies appeared, but they were also 
supposed to salute them in military fashion. The result of 
the combined movement was somewhat absurd, as the 
officer was obliged to carry his hand with outstretched 
fingers to the back of his head instead of to his brow. 
Nearly two years subsequently, the whole of the 


Austrian officers left Teheran, called home by their own 
sovereign. During my homeward voyage up the Caspian 
I was accompanied by three of them — Captain Standeisky, 
Baron Kreuse, and an elderly major who had acted as 
principal instructor at the military school of Teheran. 
Captain Wagner was detained until a few days later, owing 
to ill-health. At the .time of the withdrawal of these 
officers it was currently rumoured that their places would 
be filled by others like Colonel Demontovitch, lent to Persia 
for organising purposes by the Czar. 


tehbbak (continued). 

The bazaar — Persian yashmak — Constantinople police edict — The town as it 
is — The Shah visiting his First Minister — A long wait — Police — The 
oortige — Shah's running footmen — Apes and baboons — Scattering flowers 
— Hopes for the future — A Persian saying — Conceited Persian officer — An 
explanation — A visit to the Russian Minister — SkobelefFs telegram — ' An 
revoir a Merv ' — Interview with the Sipah Salar Aazam — A diplomatic 
conversation — Russo-Persian frontier — Why I changed sides — Dr. Tholosan 
— The military situation — An unpleasant prospect. 

One day I wended my way towards the bazaar, for through 
it lay my road to the older portions of the town, which 
I wished to compare with the more Europeanised boulevards 
described in the last chapter. I crossed a number of 
large squares, and traversed long, sunburnt streets flank- 
ing the tall Assyrian-looking walls of unbaked brick, orna- 
mented with blue, black, and yellow glazed bricks, which 
enclose the precincts of the palace. Some of the quarters 
had that disagreeable appearance which marks an English 
town in the course of erection or demolition. Every- 
thing was dry and dusty ; bricks, plaster, and earth heaps 
lay all around. At intervals one came across a stream, 
looking singularly out of place — an offshoot of one of the 
numerous kanots which supply the town with water. One 
plunges suddenly out of the scorching, glaring sunlight, 
beneath a coloured brick archway, where for a moment, 
after the withering blaze outside, the darkness of night seems 
to prevail. It is one of the entrances to the bazaar. The 

BAZAAR. 351 

sensation is delightfully fresh and cool after the suffocating 
temperature of the hot, dusty streets, inundated by the 
deluge of fiery light ; and the currents of air striking the 
face give the feeling of a plunge into a cold bath. Long 
ogive vaulted arcades, thirty feet in height, and lighted by 
circular openings in the roof at intervals of twenty feet, 
lead away in half a dozen different directions. On either 
side of these passages are tall alcoves, the shops of the 
merchants. They are simply vaulted openings, the floors 
of which are raised some three feet above the level of the 
roadway, the various articles of merchandise being exposed 
on small wooden steps, rising towards the interior, where 
sits the merchant. The arrangement is similar to that seen 
in most Eastern bazaars, from Stamboul to Hindostan. 
Each trade is carried on in its separate avenue, though in 
the main thoroughfares grocers, mercers, general mer- 
chants, and iced sherbet sellers congregate, together with 
an occasional kebabdji, or cook. The Armenian traders do 
not usually affect the bazaars. They either form caravan- 
serais apart, or have their shops— quite on the European 
model, with glazed windows, counters, and all the other 
accessories of modern civilisation— in the great open squares 
of which I have already spoken. 

On getting well into the main bazaar the salient feature 
of the place is the confused and overwhelming babel of 
sounds which strike the ear. In one avenue there arises 
the din of a hundred coppersmiths, sledging away at their 
anvils while manufacturing pots, kettles, and other uten- 
sils. In the next perhaps an equal number of persons are 
yelling out, extolling the excellence of their wares, or 
trying to converse with one another from their shops on 
opposite sides of the way, pitching their voices to the 
utmost to dominate the hubbub around and the din of 
the passers-by. We are generally supposed to believe that 


the Eastern is, par excellence, a silent, sedate kind of 
person. According to my experience he is the noisiest 
individual on the face of the earth. In the narrow way 
between the shops a motley multitude hurries by, each 
one jostling the other without the least regard for mutual 
convenience. Any one having a brass plate on his hat, or 
being in the slightest way connected with an official person- 
age, seems to believe it his privilege to run a-muck at fall 
speed, amidst all and singular the ordinary wayfarers. The 
only exception to this seemed to be the police, whom in all 
cases I found exceedingly civil and inoffensive, and affording 
a shining example in this respect to other Government 
employes, not only in Persia, but elsewhere. There are 
veiled women, and, unlike those in Constantinople, they are 
really veiled. In Stamboul the yashmak of the upper 
classes is used but to enhance natural attractions — an 
extra means in the hands of coquetry. In Persia the veil 
is a sober downright thing of its kind, worn in sober 
earnest, especially when husbands or acquaintances are by. 
The Stamboul yashmak consists of two pieces of the light- 
est possible gauze, one across the forehead, the other across 
the mouth and drooping below the chin. Here it is one 
piece of serious white linen bound around the top of the 
forehead, and falling to below the breast, tapering as it falls. 
In some cases there is a kind of knitted work in front of 
the eyes, enabling the wearer to see where she is going, but 
utterly impermeable to external eyes. Sometimes a lady 
will raise her substantial face-covering and throw it back 
over one shoulder, but at the most distant sight of the hos- 
tile sex the covering is replaced. It must be a perfect 
martyrdom to these poor ladies, in this atrociously hot 
weather, to have this jealous cloth hanging over nose and 
mouth. I know that of an evening, when I threw the 
lightest of muslin across my face to keep off the mosquitoes 


and sand-flies, in half a minute I began to feel symptoms 
of apoplexy; and, as a rule, I preferred the persecution 
of winged tormentors to existence, so far as sensation was 
concerned, in a perpetual hammam. 

I recollect a Minister of Police in Constantinople level- 
ling an edict against the bright-coloured mantles of the 
Stamboul ladies, and warning them, under pain of a heavy 
fine, to have their external shroud-like envelope of becom- 
ingly sober tints. In Teheran he would have had nothing 
but applause for the parallel garments of the Persian ladies. 
Without exception they are dark-leaden blue in colour. He 
would not have any reason to express disapprobation of 
chaussure a la Franqaise. He would find, in the Persian 
capital, the ugliest of Asiatic shoes. In the bazaar, so far as 
outer garments are concerned, a lady of quality is indistin- 
guishable from the humblest of the three or four hand- 
maidens who walk behind her. She is also frequently accom- 
panied by a couple of ugly-looking black or white men, whose 
general physiognomy bespeaks their qualifications. The 
women of the humbler classes are generally quite alone. 
Sometimes one meets a white ass as big as an ordinary 
horse, mounted by a man-servant having before him on the 
saddle some child of a person of position. The ass is 
caparisoned like a bull dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus, and 
everybody is expected to make way for him. All through 
the bazaar there is a general rush. Every person seems 
bent on getting to his destination in the shortest possible 
time. How unlike the stately long-robed Oriental of our 
early imaginings ! Sometimes a whole flight of diminutive 
grey asses comes charging through the narrow thorough- 
fares, laden with bricks and tiles scarcely cold, and rushing 
on as if the man who screams and yells incontinently 
behind them were Shaitan in person. Occasionally the 
foot passengers are obliged to take refuge within the pre- 

vol. 1. A A 


cincts of the lateral shops, as a mule or gigantic ass, 
laden on each side with enormous bundles of hay, comes 
trotting through, filling up the passage ; and sometimes a 
train of sardonically smiling camels stalk past, appropriat- 
ing all the road to themselves. 

Teheran, with its telegraphs and police, its M. Schindler 
and Count de Monteforte, is no longer the remote Eastern 
capital that Marco Polo might have hinted at, or some stray 
adventurous traveller have mentioned in his impression* de 
voyage. There may be holes two- feet square in the 
thoroughfares which flank the King's palace, and at the 
bottom of which, at unknown depths, run hidden water- 
courses ; there may be rumours afloat that the half-dozen 
thieves who stole the Shah's regalia from the old man who 
was conveying them to the jeweller are to be blown from 
the mouths of the guns in the main square (for which 
civilised form of punishment the King might claim a well- 
known precedent) ; but, practically speaking, Teheran, with 
its Italian police, its Austrian-trained soldiery, its Russian- 
taught Cossacks, its macadamised thoroughfares, its electric 
light, and its two cafes, has ceased to belong to the realms 
of romance. 

"While staying in the capital I had an opportunity of 
seeing the Shah proceed in state to visit his First Minister. 
This functionary combines in himself the offices of Minister 
for Foreign Affairs and for War ; but he is, in reality, Prime 
Minister. Formerly, indeed, he bore that designation. As 
he was, however, instrumental in causing Baron Reuter's 
contract with regard to the Persian railways and mines to 
be accepted, a powerful coalition of the Court party was 
formed against him, and the Shah was compelled to dismiss 
him from authority. Another Minister of the same mental 
calibre, and equally pleasing to the chief of the State, 
apparently could not be found, and Hussein Khan was 


accordingly placed in his old position, and made Premier 
in all but name, no one, even nominally, holding that title. 
Though daily in contact with his Minister, the Shah 
annually pays him three public visits, to do him honour, 
the entire royal household, as well as the Sovereign, being 
entertained at dinner. 

From the door of the house where the Shah was staying 
to the mansion of the Minister, a distance of over a mile, 
the thoroughfare was lined with troops. Though these 
soldiers had taken up their position at six in the morning, 
the Shah did not appear until nearly twelve o'clock. About 
half-past eleven, sundry old-fashioned carriages, drawn by 
a pair of horses each, and driven by nondescript-looking 
coachmen, who to all appearance might have been royal 
scullions in undisguised professional costume, were seen 
moving outside the ranks of the troops, in the direction of 
the Minister's residence. These vehicles contained some 
of the principal harem favourites, and were preceded by 
a crowd of men in ordinary Persian civilian costume, beat- 
ing the air and the ground with long ozier rods, and 
vociferating to the bystanders to ' be blind ' and to turn 
their faces to the wall, lest by any ill-luck they might catch 
sight of any of the ' lights of the harem.' The arrival of 
the monarch was heralded by a number of mounted police- 
men, who dashed along the ranks in an altogether unneces- 
sarily impetuous manner. These police, organised by the 
Count de Monteforte, an Italian officer, who had arrived at 
Teheran two years previously, and who, I understand, had 
formerly been chief of police in the service of the ex-King 
of Naples, are very creditably got up, and seem very efficient 
in maintaining order in the capital. They wear black 
tunics, with violet facings on collars and cuffs, and a stripe 
of the same colour down the dark trousers. A small black 
cylindrical shako and long boots complete the costume. 



The foot police carry short sabres made on a European 
model, those of the mounted men being longer. After the 
police came thirty horsemen bearing large silver maces ; 
and, behind these, about a hundred others armed with 
sabres and having double-barrelled fowling-pieces and old- 
fashioned Persian muskets slung at their backs. All these 
people were dressed very plainly in sombre-coloured civilian 
costumes. To these succeeded some fifty oddly-costumed 
persons, proceeding at a trot on either side of the way. 
They were the King's running footmen. When I first saw 
these royal acolytes, I took them to be street mountebanks. 
Half-a-dozen were sitting down on the kerbstone near the 
royal gate. Knowing that in the East such people always 
seek out Europeans as victims, I hastily went round a 
corner, lest one of them should stand on his head for my 
benefit. Each of them wore a rather long-skirted red 
tunic, ornamented with a few scraps of gold lace sewn 
horizontally on the breast ; a pair of dark knee-breeches, 
white cotton stockings, and shoes with buckles and rosettes. 
The oddest part of the costume was the hat. It was of 
black glazed leather, and something like a fireman's helmet 
developing into a lancer's casque, or the head-dress worn 
by the eccentric pencil-merchant in Paris some years ago, 
who drove about the streets in a carriage selling his wares. 
From the centre and forward and rear ends of the tall, 
straight crest, rise three bunches of red artificial flowers, 
made to resemble sweet-william blossoms. These are 
fixed on long stems, the centre one being the tallest, and 
all three nodding comically with every movement of the 
head of the wearer. When the Shah appears in public, he 
is invariably accompanied by these attendants, who run in 
front of, behind, and on either side of his horse or carriage. 
In the midst of them rode a group of forty or fifty of the 
highest dignitaries of the State, including the First Minister 


and the Commander-in-Chief of the army — the Hessem el 
Seltaneh, or ' Sword of the Kingdom.' All these function- 
aries were dressed very plainly. At their head rode the 
Shah himself, if possible more plainly attired than the other 
members of the group. Had it not been for the crimson 
umbrella which he carried open above his head, I should 
have been unable to distinguish him. As I saw him, he 
appeared a much younger and handsomer man than his 
photograph would lead one to believe. Perhaps this was 
the result of the glow cast by the red umbrella. Behind 
him came an immense concourse of horsemen, presumably 
belonging to the royal household, followed by the closed 
carriage which I have already described as resembling the 
Lord Mayor's coach, resplendent with plate-glass and 
battered gilding. Next came some led horses, splendidly 
caparisoned; and a body of police closed the procession, 
the oddest part of which consisted of the apes and baboons 
led along by their keepers, and intended to amuse the 
ladies of the harem. A new feature — new for Persia, that 
is — was introduced into the scene ; viz. the scattering of 
flowers along the roadway in front of the Shah. One would 
have expected that children, or at least some tolerably 
good-looking persons, would have performed this graceful 
act. Instead, there were two ugly old men, whose ordinary 
avocation was to throw water from the leather bags which 
they carried on their backs in order to allay the dust when 
the Shah passed, and who, having first performed the more 
useful portions of their duties, were now hurrying about 
with articles resembling wooden coal-scuttles under their 
arms, scattering in a very business-like and unpoetical 
manner what looked like the sweepings of a nursery garden. 
His Majesty certainly enjoyed whatever physical advantage 
might accrue from walking over vegetable matter. The alle- 
gorical element of the ceremony was decidedly in abeyance. 


I have only to add a few concluding remarks about 
Teheran. The attempt to engraft European modes and 
procedures in the heart of a thoroughly Asiatic people 
promises well. The Shah has certainly done his best in 
the face of the accumulated inertia of centuries, but even 
his nominally unlimited authority has occasionally to recoil 
before the prejudices of a people. Still, it is to be hoped 
that, surrounded as the nation is by nineteenth-century 
process, something will in the end be done. Every nation 
has its own self-conceit, and is apt to consider itself as at 
bottom the best. It is only an embodiment of the in- 
dividual. The Persian says: 'The Arabic is the best 
language ' (even though it was Omar who first introduced it 
at the point of the sword) ; ' it is a science to know the 
Turkish language ' (this is an indirect tribute to the 
prowess of the Turk in the past) ; ' the Persian tongue is 
like music ; all the rest are as the bray of an ass.' A 
young Persian officer, one of those modelled on the new 
Austrian system, and who spoke English and French very 
fairly, was complaining to me that the Shah had given 
orders relative to the summer encampment of the troops, 
in which each subaltern was limited to one servant. I 
ventured to remark that I had recently been in the Bussian 
camp at Tchikislar and along the line of the Atterek, and 
that each subaltern officer was quite content with one 
servant. ' Oh,' said he, ' that is a different matter ; we, 
the Persian officers, are gentlemen ! ' 

I have already explained how I was from time to time 
foiled in all my efforts to accompany the march of the 
Russian expeditionary force. When Tergukasoff, who 
succeeded to the command on the death of the brave old 
Lazareff, arrived, I was allowed to go to the front once more, 
but no further than Ghatte. There I met the retiring 
columns, and was invited to accompany them to Tchikislar. 


I need scarcely say that under the circumstances an ' invi- 
tation ' was little less than a command. I accepted it, and 
was on my arrival at the Caspian seaboard ' invited * to go 
further west. The circumstances of my refusal to proceed 
any further in the required direction, and of my journey 
across the Atterek delta to Asterabad, will be in the 
recollection of the reader. I knew that, sooner or later, an 
outward movement would be made by the Bussian troops ; 
and, while always cherishing the hope that I should be re- 
admitted to the camp, I thought well to take precautions, 
in order to be in a position to see the fighting from another 
side, if still refused by the Czar's generals. On arriving at 
Teheran I was courteously invited to stay at the British 
Legation. I ca'led upon Mr. Zinovieff, the Bussian 
Minister, whom I had met at Erasnavodsk, at a ball given 
by General Lomakin, then the governor of that garrison, 
and afterwards commander in the ill-starred combat of 
Geok Tepe. I told him that I had been obliged to quit 
Tchikislar, and that on two subsequent occasions, when I 
ventured to return, I had again been summarily compelled 
to leave. I enquired whether he could use any influence in 
favour of my being allowed to rejoin the camp. He replied 
that the matter remained in the hands of the new com- 
mander-in-chief, General Skobeleff, and advised me to apply 
to that officer. I immediately despatched the following 
telegram : ' Son Excellence le General Skobeleff, a Baku. 
— Voulez-vous me permettre accompagner Texp6dition de 
Tchikislar comme Correspondant du " Daily News " de 
Londres ? ' In two days I received a reply : * O'Donovan, 
Teheran. — Ayant les ordres lea plus positifs de ne pas 
permettre a aucun correspondant, ni Busse, ni etranger, 
d'accompagner F expedition, il m'est & mon grand regret im- 
possible d'obtemperer a votre demande. — Skobeleff/ This 
reply, dated from Erasnavodsk, was of course decisive, and 


led me to believe that the Kussian Minister was mistaken 
when he said that the matter rested entirely in the hands 
of the general commanding the expedition. I telegraphed 
to Skobeleff thanking him for the courteous promptitude of 
his answer, concluding my message with the words 'Au 
revoir a Merv,' as I was resolved, if possible, to be there 
before the Eussian troops could reach it. I then took 
measures to facilitate my journey to some point on the 
north-eastern frontier of Persia, from whence I could gain the 
Akhal Tekke region and Merv. I applied to his Highness 
Hussein Khan Sipah Salar Aazem, the acting Grand Vizier, 
for permission to go along the frontier, and if necessary to 
penetrate into the country of the Akhal Tekke Turcomans. 
I received a most courteous reply, to the effect that the 
minister was most willing to give me the necessary pass, 
but that he could not guarantee my personal safety outside 
the Persian dominions. As I had not asked him to do this 
latter, I thought that his courtesy savoured of superfluity. 
He wound up by saying, ' Although you have been for a 
long time in Persia, and several days at Teheran, I have not 
yet had the pleasure of receiving a visit from you.' I was 
satisfied to take the hint as an invitation to visit his High- 
ness, and went accordingly. 

After a lengthened progress over ill-set pavements, and 
between high scorching walls of unbaked brick (i.e. mud), 
I arrived at an enclosure, amid which, high-reared, stood 
an unshapely mass of buildings with high gables. Broad 
bands of blue enamelled tiles stretched across the front ; 
otherwise, and excepting the gates, it had no more pretence 
to architecture than any other building in Teheran. There 
were crowds of what we should term ' hangers-on ' within 
the yard, to which a broken-down arch gave admittance. 
They seemed annoyed by my arrival, and evidently thought 
me a needless addition to their number, until M. le Baron 


Norman, the most courteous and courtier-like of secretaries, 
coming to meet me, ushered me into a vast hall, spread 
with rich Persian carpets. It was divided into two parts by 
a couple of steps reaching along its whole breadth. In the 
lower half was a large tank of water some fifteen feet by 
twelve. In a few minutes I was seated at a small table vis- 
a-vis with the person whom ordinary rumour, native as 
well as European, indicated as the ablest man in Persia. 
Previously to his accession to his high dignity, he had 
been ambassador at Constantinople and other Courts, and 
had accompanied the Shah during his two visits to 
Europe. He received me most affably. He merely pointed 
out the great difficulties and dangers of such an emprise 
as I proposed to take upon myself. He said that the 
Turcomans of the Akhal Tekk6 and Merv were no better 
than they should be. I made allusion to the delegates from 
Merv still resident at Teheran — delegates who had come to 
ask the Shah to admit their compatriots as Persian subjects, 
so that they might thus have some appeal against Bussian 
invasion. He said there was but little hope of their prayer 
being heard. * The Akhal Tekke and Merv Turcomans have 
so often entered into arrangements with us, and have so often 
broken them, that we can place no reliance on what they 
say.' ' Then/ I remarked, ' I suppose the Tekk6s are 
abandoned to Russia, as far as Persia goes ? ' ' Not that 
exactly/ he said ; ' we shall of course always try to do some- 
thing.' He then spoke about my private affairs. He was 
willing to give mo the necessary safeguard up to the frontiers 
of Persia. Where these frontiers were he could not exactly 
define; and he referred me to the British Minister for 
details on the subject. This was rather comical, for Persia 
had always laid claim to Merv as one of its dependencies. 
There was no fixed frontier except the line of the Atterek, 
from its mouth up to Chatte, and for a short distance beyond 


that post along the Sumbar river. All the rest was matter 
for speculation. Now, of course, there is a definite frontier 
along the ridges of the Kopet Dagh, but even this merges 
into the customary vagueness at its eastern extremity. I 
had always been of opinion that the Atterek frontier required 
accurate definition, in order to avoid its being made a 
source of endless trouble. My general impression, when I 
left the presence of the Sipah Salar, apart from that result- 
ing from experience gained elsewhere, was that Persia was 
in mo wise jealous of Bussian intrusion into the southern 
independent Khanates, even if she were not quite favourable 
to such a movement. 

Being, then, on the point of undertaking what would 
seem to most people the very hare-brained mission of 
visiting the Tekkes chez eux, the perils attendant on which 
seemed altogether out of proportion to the avowed object, 
and as many, in spite of my assurance to the contrary, 
insisted on attributing to it a political significance, I was 
obliged, repeatedly, to explain at length the circumstances 
which had led up to my determination. Shortly after my 
interview with the Bussian Minister, a gentleman whom I had 
formerly known in connection with the Bussian expedition — 
a Montenegrin, who, according to all accounts, had conducted 
himself most bravely in the affair at Geok Tepe — called on 
me at the British Legation, and told me that the Bussian 
Minister had stated to him that my going among the Merv 
Turcomans as the correspondent of the ' Daily News ' was 
only a pretence, and that, in reality, I was an agent of the 
British Government, going to encourage the Turcomans, if 
not with actual assistance in the shape of funds, at least by 
my presence. Through the person who conveyed to me this 
intelligence, as well as through Colonel Demontovitch of 
the Persian Cossacks, I begged to assure the Bussian 
Minister that he was mistaken, and that my errand was 


purely and simply that which I had the honour to announce 
to him. Occasionally, when it is convenient to believe a 
certain thing, it is difficult to disabuse the minds of interested 
parties. Should these lines meet the eyes of any Bussian 
Government officials, they will understand that the reason I 
threw in my lot with the Turcomans was, that the Czar's 
generals had, so to speak, shut the door in my face, and that 
I proceeded to my new destination only as a newspaper corre- 
spondent, and as neither more nor less of a combatant than I 
was when I had the honour to be the recipient of Bussian 
hospitality. While regretting that I could not be present 
to witness the achievements of the Bussian soldiers during 
the then impending campaign, I consoled myself with the 
hope that I should witness fighting in Central Asia from an 
unaccustomed standpoint. I hoped that these explanations, 
which I gave at Teheran to all parties concerned, would 
secure me in the future from the inuendoes and hints to 
which my ear had for a considerable time been accustomed. 
I duly received from the Sipah Salar the written per- 
mission for which I had applied, and which purported to 
enable me to visit the extreme north-eastern limits of the 
Persian dominions. Dr. Tholozan, the Shah's physician, 
also gave me a letter of introduction to an influential border 


chieftain, the Emir Hussein Khan, governor of Kuchan, so 
that I was quite hopeful of successfully carrying out my 

At this time the military situation was as follows : — 
Since the then recent death of Noor Berdi Khan, the 
recognised chief of the Tekk6 Turcomans, no other leader 
of similar influence seemed to have come to the surface. 
One of his sons was reported to have assumed the leader- 
ship ; but we had yet to learn his capability for the difficult 
position the duties of which he had undertaken. Some 
there were who prophesied a general breaking-up of the 


entire Tekk6 coalition, and a speedy submission to Russian 
rule, now that the man who had been the life and soul of 
the movement was no more. This, however, was open to 
question. The Tekk6s had been from time immemorial 
governed by a medjlis, or council, of chiefs and elders ; never 
at any time by emirs or sovereigns, like those of Khiva, 
Bokhara, &c. The governing element, at the moment, it 
was only natural to believe, was quite as equal to its 
mission as formerly, and it was not at all impossible, or 
even unlikely, that circumstances would push to the front 
some one of the many competent leaders who of a necessity 
should exist in the ranks of such a universally warlike 
people. We had just heard that a general retrograde 
movement of the Turcomans in the north-western portion 
of the oasis had taken place ; those occupying Bami and 
Beurma, and other positions of the same kind, having re- 
treated further eastward. About the same date in the 
previous year a similar movement was made, which proved 
to be one of concentration on Geok Tepe, or Yengi Sheher, 
as it is more properly designated — a piece of strategy which 
ended in the signal defeat of the Russian attacking column. 
The movement which had just been made I judged to be in 
all likelihood of a similar nature; and I thought at the 
time that it might also have something to do with the 
rumoured advent of a Russian column from the direction of 

The heat was beginning to be intense, and, eager 
though I was to be present at the scene of conflict, I looked 
forward with but little pleasure to the long march which 
awaited me before I could reach the desired ground. 




Preparing for a journey — Mr. Arnold's servant — Posting in Persia — • Towers 
of Silence ' — Evan Keif — Old police-stations — Kishlak — Mud architecture 
— Shab-gez — A tough fowl — Gratuities — Outlying telegraph station — 
Deep-cut stream beds — Irrigation — Fortified mounds — An old palace — 
Persian graves — Gathering the harvest — A useful custom — Benevolent 
lying — Deh Memek — Towers of refuge — Terrace irrigation — Castled 
mound of Lasgird — Lugubrious quarters — Pursued by the mail — An 
adventure with Afghans — A precipitate flight — Semnan — Extensive 
cemeteries — A quick ride to Aghivan. 

Provided with the Sipah Salar Aazem's pass, and Dr. 
Tholozan's letter of introduction, I set about making my 
final preparations for journeying eastward towards the long 
looked-for goal. I was assured on every side that the 
Russians intended to move as early as possible, and it was 
more than once hinted that I should probably be too late 
upon the ground to witness the closing operations of the 
campaign. I was further informed that, in view of the death 
of Noor Berdi Khan, the Tekkes would not attempt to offer 
any resistance to the invading force, and that a visit to the 
scene of action would involve a certain amount of misspent 
energy and time. Had I been less resolved than I was 
upon penetrating into the Turcoman region, the discourage- 
ment I met with would have been more than sufficient to 
induce me to abandon the enterprise upon which I had set 
my mind. However, I said to myself, ' I will do my best, 
and, if I fail, so much the worse.' I telegraphed to my 
servant at Asterabad, instructing him to start immediately 


for Shahrood, and to meet me at that place with my horses 
and baggage, which I had left behind me on starting for 
Teheran. I next hired, at Teheran, a Persian servant, 
whose credentials included some strong recommendations 
from former English travellers, among them being one from 
Mr. Arnold, who has written a detailed account of his 
journey from Resht to the Persian Gulf. The sequel will 
show how very little he deserved the good character given 
to him. 

Having procured the necessary order for post-horses, in 
the afternoon of June 6, 1880, 1 rode out of Gulahec, the 
summer residence of the Persian Minister, and bent my 
course towards Teheran, some eight miles distant, and 
through which lay my road eastward. I was so much 
delayed in the bazaar making some purchases necessary for 
my journey that it was nearly sunrise on the following 
morning before I was able to start on my road to the borders 
of the Tekk6 country. There were regular relays of post- 
horses along the entire road as far as Meshed. The stations 
at which fresh horses are procurable are from six to eight 
farsakhs (twenty-four to thirty-two miles) apart, and the 
amount charged is one kran (franc) per farsakh for each 
horse. One is also obliged to pay at the same rate for the 
horse of the post courier who accompanies him. One is 
allowed to travel continuously ; day and" night if he be 
equal to it; and the ground could be got over rapidly 
enough were horses always forthcoming at the stations, and 
were they always in proper condition for the road. There 
are eleven stations between Teheran and Shahrood, the 
entire distance being seventy farsakhs, or two hundred and 
eighty-four miles. 

Leaving Teheran, the traveller rides in a south-easterly 
direction across an arid, stony plain, interspersed here and 
there with gardens and ruined mud buildings, and traversed 


by numerous tiny irrigation canals, offshoots of the various 
kanota or underground passages leading from the girding 
hills. Five or six miles from the town the road ascends 
gently, and passes through a bare, rocky gorge. To the 
right arfe the ' towers of silence '—the burying-places of the 
Guebres or Fire Worshippers, very many of whom are to 
be found at Teheran. All the gardeners employed in the 
gardens of the British Legation belong to this sect. The 
' towers of silence' consist of some low circular stone 
buildings, having at the top an iron grating. The dead 
bodies are laid on this grating, where they either decompose 
gradually or are devoured by birds . of prey, the bones 
ultimately dropping through the grating into a cavity within 
the tower. The road next enters a vast plain, studded at 
long intervals with small wooded gardens enclosed within 
tall mud walls flanked by circular towers. Within each of 
these series of walls are the few flat-topped mud houses which 
constitute a Persian village. Between these little blooming 
oases the ground is waste and barren, all the more re- 
pulsively so in contrast with such tantalising spots of 
verdure. With an adequate water supply vast districts, 
now hopelessly drear and desert, might be covered with 
wood and pasture. Some thirty miles from Teheran is a 
large caravanserai of brick and stone, near which are the 
extensive ruins of old buildings of unbaked brick. A pretty 
considerable stream crosses the plain, to lose itself, like 
similar watercourses here, in the burning waste of the vast 
salt desert beyond. Scattered along its banks were the 
black, low tents of a small encampment of nomads — 
probably Kurds. 

We changed horses at a place called Evan Keif, a 
miserable, burnt-up kind of village, like all places, great 
or small, along this route, which are composed of square- 
topped mud houses. A little farther on is a vast expanse 


of water- tossed boulders and rounded pebbles — across which 
the floods formed by the melting snows of the Elburz find 
their way to the salt desert. By various dams and embank- 
ments the water was divided into at least forty different 
channels, some filled by deep and rapid torrents by no 
means easy to cross. The postman pointed out a spot, 
near which we forded one of these streams, where some 
travellers had been swept away and drowned a short time 
previously. To this many-branched stream succeeds a 
high stony plateau seamed by the huge, deep beds of ancient 
streams, and then the road begins to mount the slopes of 
an outlying mountain spur. In the plain the heat was 
excessive, but here, on the rising ground, a rather cold wind 
blew, and soon we got into the midst of a very disagreeable 
fog, while smart light showers fell occasionally. Another 
hour's riding brought us to the entrance of a rocky gorge 
running between tall cliffs of gypsum and ferruginous rock. 
The entrance had formerly been guarded by a stone fort, a 
Karaaul hane, or police post, now completely in ruins, and 
further on were the remains of what must have been an 
important stronghold, evidently of very ancient date. In 
fact, from this point forward, at every two or three miles, 
we came upon the remains of posts formerly established to 
prevent the incursions of the Turcomans by this convenient 
mountain pass, which is about twelve miles in length, 
and traversed by a stream, whose waters are, how- 
ever, rather unpalatable, owing to the amount of decom- 
posed gypsum which they contain. The pass suddenly 
widens out at its eastern end, and debouches on a vast 
plain, the hills to the southward retiring so much as shortly 
to be only faintly visible on the horizon in that direction. 
The plain is very well watered, and the villages are numerous 
and large — all of them well defended by mud ramparts and 
towers. So numerous were the irrigation streams that 


they rendered travelling on horseback exceedingly disagree- 
able, especially as, the corn being then ripe, the water no 
longer required for the fields is turned at random into the 
plain, forming morasses and mud holes, which extend far 
and wide, and often render considerable detours necessary. 
It was just sunset as we galloped into Eishlak, our resting 
place for the night, having made exactly eighty miles since 
morning— not a bad journey considering the nature and 
condition of the road. 

Within the walls of this considerable village the eye is 
struck by the variety and fantastic style of the mud edifices. 
The villagers seemed to be of an architectural turn of mind, 
and, notwithstanding the unfavourable nature of the avail- 
able material, had taken a great deal of trouble in designing 
and executing the various cupola tombs, the arched door- 
ways of mosques, and the odd-looking covers which protected 
the numerous water cisterns from the sun's rays. These 
latter were pyramidal structures, twenty-five feet in height, 
and broken on the outside into steps, twenty inches wide 
and high, the apex surmounted by a not ungraceful four- 
pillared kiosk. In the rays of the setting sun, these 
structures of unbaked brick, plastered over with fine, 
whitish yellow loam, gave one the idea of buildings sculp- 
tured from single masses of amber-tinted marble. The 
chappar hani, or post-house, was a kind of citadel in itself; 
as were, indeed, most of the buildings. It was surrounded 
by a wall twenty feet high, the roofs of the stables within 
constituting the ramp of the loopholed parapet. At each 
corner was a projecting bartizan, by which the defenders 
would be enabled to flank the walls and fire at assailants 
close to its foot. Access was given to the place through 
an arched entrance, closed by stout doors five inches thick, 
and barred with iron. Above the arch was a square- topped 
room known as the bala hane, which served as quarters for 

VOL. I. B B 


the better class of travellers, as well as a kind of watch- 
tower and look-out station, to be used when the Turcomans 
were abroad. Here every man's house is his castle, if 
not in the metaphorical sense, at least thoroughly so in 
the physical sense, in times of danger. 

I have already mentioned the garrib-gez, or shab-gez, 
as it is indifferently called (arga Persiea), the insect which 
is a terror and often a real danger to strangers travelling 
in this part of Persia, and which is known as the ' stranger 
biter,' or ' night biter,' for it does not attack the inhabitants 
of the places infested by it, and only leaves its hiding-place 
after dark. I asked the postmaster whether any of these 
pests were to be found in his establishment, and was in- 
formed with cheerful alacrity that they abounded there. I 
was consequently obliged to take up my quarters on the 
flat roof of the bala hani, which during the day-time is too 
hot a spot for the ' stranger biters,' and at night too cold 
for their delicate constitutions. A horse-cloth spread on 
the roof for a bed, and a saddle for a pillow, was the only 
sleeping accommodation afforded. I had hoped to be able 
to write something before lying down to sleep, but the smart 
evening breeze precluded the possibility of keeping a candle 
lighted. Accordingly, having jotted down some very brief 
notes of my day's journey, I ate my supper of fowl and 
leathery bread, such as one finds throughout the East, and 
mast, or coagulated milk. This was the only food procur- 
able excepting boiled rice, of which I had devoured so much 
during the preceding twelve months as to be quite willing 
to dispense with it when any other edibles were available. 
The arga Persiea is, it seems, a parasite on all kinds of 
poultry in this neighbourhood, abounding wherever such 
are kept, and reducing them to a miserable state of leanness 
and toughness, as I discovered to my cost while endeavour- 
ing to sup off the cartilaginous hen supplied to me, and 


which had been hunted down and cooked on the spur of 
the moment. 

An hoar before sunrise next morning I was up and 
away, after having paid a rather considerable bill for the 
very slender accommodation and limited supper of the pre- 
ceding night. There were two krans for being allowed to 
sleep on the top of the house ; one-and-a-half for my steel- 
thewed rooster and bread ; and one kran as a gratification 
to the courier who accompanied me from Teheran ; in all 
three shillings and ninepence— a very considerable sum in 
such a country. I have remarked that out here people 
seem not to appreciate the value of money, probably because 
they see so little of it. They expect in the form of gratui- 
ties about six times as much as Europeans. A good deal 
of this is owing to the fact that inferior officials are but 
miserably paid, servants occasionally receiving only their 
food from their employers, and being supposed to indemnify 
themselves by extracting fees and gratuities on every pos- 
sible occasion. A local governor wishes to do you honour. 
He sends you a plate of fruit or sticky sweetmeats, value 
about sixpence. The servants — for, the greater the number 
who escort the 'present,' the greater the honour — must 
receive each his ' anam/ or present, in the shape of a 
couple of shillings or more, according to the rank of his 
master. The latter thus has the double advantage of con- 
ferring honour on the stranger, and at the same time having 
his servants paid. This kind of thing obtains from the 
highest to the lowest spheres, and is at the bottom of a 
great deal of the demoralisation of Persian society. 

The horses supplied to me at Kishlak were, for a wonder, 
strong, well-conditioned animals, and we got over a good 
deal of ground, notwithstanding the continual splashing 
through irrigation canals, and stumbling and floundering 
in miry holes. An hour's galloping brought us to Aradan, 

BB 2 


an extensive village, which seems to enjoy some special 
importance, as there is here a telegraph bureau, the first 
to be met with after leaving Teheran. The surrounding 
district is lavishly supplied with water, and the water-melon 
is largely cultivated. The ground was divided into patches 
of about six feet square, around each of which was an 
irrigation trench. The melons are first planted in a small 
earth-bank at the edge of this trench, the plants subse- 
quently spreading over the square, which can be inundated 
at will. The trenches have to be frequently cleared of the 
fine earth-deposit which speedily collects in them in con- 
sequence of the rapidity with which the mountain streams 
flow in their own channels, carrying with them an enormous 
amount of earth in suspension, which is deposited as soon 
as the velocity of the flow is lessened in the comparatively 
level trenches. So great is the force of the streams in 
these districts, and so soft and deep the loamy soil, that in 
some instances they have excavated their vertically-sided 
channels to a depth of from twenty to twenty-five feet, 
rendering them, when they are allowed to follow their own 
beds, quite unavailable for irrigation. To correct this, em- 
bankments are constructed higher up, in stony ground, 
where the stream has not cut into the soil, turning the 
water slightly, and allowing it to flow into previously pre- 
pared irrigation canals. The current, when not required in 
these canals, is allowed to follow its natural course. In the 
north of Persia, and notably on the plains north of the 
Elburz mountains, vast stretches of fertile ground are now 
barren deserts, the streams which should irrigate them 
naturally, such as the Atterek and Giurgen, having exca- 
vated their channels to too great a depth. It seemed to 
me that a little engineering skill would render it possible to 
turn these larger streams, like the smaller ones, at will, and 
to give back fertility to what is now a howling wilderness. 


In the midst of the village of Aradan stands an edifice 
which at once gives to the traveller the cue to the original 
use of the mounds which one sees all over this part of the 
country, and which at intervals occur in great numbers up to 
the banks of the Atterek. Out in these plains, where there 
are no natural elevations, it was found necessary for defen- 
sive purposes to erect earth-heaps, upon which to rear 
castles and citadels, especially in districts which, like these, 
were open to the sudden attacks of the nomads of the 
desert. The castle of Aradan was the . first of the kind 
which I had seen in a perfect condition and in actual use. 
The mound is about seventy yards in length by fifty in 
breadth. Its sides are very nearly vertical, and almost in 
line with the walls of the fortalice which crowns its summit. 
The height of the entire structure cannot be less than 
seventy or eighty feet. The revetment of the mound and 
the walls of the castle are of unbaked brick, plastered over 
with fine loam, almost as hard as Soman cement, and of a 
reddish ochreous hue. The whole thing is a composite 
structure of square and half-round towers clinging together, 
and having two irregular tiers of windows and loopholes, 
seemingly constructed at different dates, without regard to 
any definite plan or design, and closely resembling some 
of those mediaeval feudal strongholds one sees crowning 
rock summits in Western Europe. Battlements and barti- 
zans crowd the walls, and between them is caught a view 
of terraces, arched arcades, and stairs, heaped together in 
ihe most incongruous fashion ; the entire combination as 
romantically picturesque as it is possible to imagine. Ac- 
cess is given to the interior by steep stairs within the walls, 
the entrance being small, and well guarded by towers and 
outworks. In the base of the mound are cave-like openings, 
used as stables, and probably also as places of refuge for 
flocks during a hostile incursion. Within sight of Aradan 


are several similar structures scattered over the plain, some 
of them quite perfect ; others half ruined, but still in- 
habited ; and others, again, fallen into complete decay, a 
few crumbling walls only remaining to show that a fortifica- 
tion once crowned the Lund whose sides, formerly verti- 
cal, had assumed a slope of forty-five degrees, partly from 
atmospheric influences, and partly through the accumulation 
of the wall materials along their base. All of them, how- 
ever, stand in the midst of large and populous villages, and 
clearly indicate the nature of the grass-grown earth heaps 
that one constantly meets with, standing mournfully alone 
in the silent, uncultivated wastes, where not a vestige of 
wall or tower remains to tell either of fortalice or of village. 
Those mounds which remain along the Atterek and Giurgen 
were unquestionably erected with the same object as those 
which I have just described ; and their number and extent 
plainly indicate how populous the now vast, grim solitudes 
of the Turcoman deserts once were. That every vestige of 
village and fort should have disappeared proves that in 
remote times both were constructed of mud or unbaked 
brick, as in Persia to-day. It is only on those of very large 
size, and occurring in the irregular line which reaches from 
Gumush Tep6 to Budjnoord, that remnants of the ancient 
works known as * Alexander's Wall ' are to be found, in the 
shape of the large heavy burnt bricks which strew their 
bases or mark the track of the ancient ramparts. I stayed 
but a few minutes at Aradan to observe its castellated 
mound, and, regretting that time did not allow me to make 
any sketches, rode away on my eastward journey. 

Immediately outside the ramparts which enclose the 
village are a large number of cupola-covered cisterns and 
imam zades, or domed tombs, all of yellow earth, the tombs 
almost indistinguishable from the cisterns. Bound these 
monuments, which are the places of sepulture of very holy 


persons, are whole acres of graves of ordinary believers, 
interred in as close propinquity as possible to the hallowed 
precincts. These graves consist simply of a brick-lined 
cavity, measuring six feet by two, and some three feet deep, 
in which the body is laid, apparently without any coffin, 
the whole being covered over by a very slightly-arched 
covering of earth, in form and colour closely resembling 
pie crust. Within this closed cell the body moulders away. 
When rain and the feet of passers-by have worn these 
earth crusts thin, it is exceedingly dangerous to ride over 
one of the spaces set out with this kind of ghastly pastry. 
The horse continually breaks through, plunging his hoofs 
into the space below, to the imminent peril of his own legs 
and his rider's neck. During an hour's ride we passed 
close by no less than three castle-crowned mounds, and 
across numbers of irrigation trenches. The harvest was 
being gathered in ; and to judge from the large crowd of 
persons of both sexes, and of mules and asses collected in 
one or two fields at a time, I came to the conclusion that 
as each person's corn became fit for the sickle the entire 
population of the neighbourhood assembled to lend their aid 
in reaping it and carrying it home. 

Soon the nature of the ground changed, and we were 
tearing along over a most disagreeable track, sharp rock 
ledges projecting into the roadway, which was also thickly 
strewn with rounded stones varying in size between an egg 
and a man's head. Amidst this occurred miry holes and 
half-dry watercourses. I fancied that at eagh bound of 
my horse he and I must certainly come to grief, and I sat 
well thrown back in the saddle, prepared for the apparently 
inevitable catastrophe. We passed small groups of pilgrims, 
some mounted on donkeys, others toiling along on foot, 
returning from the shrine at Meshed ; and I discovered the 
solution of a matter which had often puzzled me. Along 


these routes one frequently sees large heaps of stones 
collected on either side of the way, there being no imam zade 
or other shrine in sight out of respect for which the stones 
might have been accumulated. I now found that when a 
troop of pilgrims, going to or returning from a shrine, came 
in sight of their halting-place for the night, each one was by 
custom obliged to pick up a stone or two, and add them to 
the heap nearest him. I do not know how this custom 
originated. If every pious usage of the kind were equally 
practical in its results, the more of them there existed the 
better. This to which I now allude has done much towards 
rendering the roads tolerably free from stones at the favoured 
places. For this reason it is to be regretted that pilgrimages 
are not more frequent along other routes in Persia which I 
could mention. Once off the abominably rocky, boulder- 
strewn stretch of ground, we got on fast enough. In a few 
minutes we were rushing past a couple of stone-built tower- 
flanked caravanserais, wrecked by the Turcomans years ago, 
and, true to Persian custom, never repaired since. A group 
of weary-looking old men, pilgrims from Meshed, were slaking 
their thirst at a ruined tank close by. With their long blue 
calico gowns, so long that they could scarce avoid treading 
on them as they walked, they had the appearance of people 
who would be a great deal the better for following scriptu- 
ral advice anent girding up loins for a journey. With 
faint voice one inquired how many farsakhs it was to the 
next menzil, and was informed with the best-intentioned 
mendacity in the world by our courier that it was but one 
farsakh off, though, having just come over the ground, I 
knew that it was at least four times that distance. In 
twenty minutes more we had reached the postal station of 
Deh Memek, having, without changing horses, done twenty- 
eight miles, over very bad ground, in a little less than three 
hours and a half. At this station we were informed that 


the poet from Teheran was due there that evening, and that 
we had better lose no time, as if overtaken, we should find 
continually ahead of us the fatigued horses of the couriers. 
There was another danger, too, that of being crossed by the 
up mail from Meshed, which would leave us in an equally 
awkward predicament, as the horses at each station are 
seldom more numerous than is absolutely necessary for the 
postal service. While waiting for the horses to be saddled, 
I jotted down my notes of the road. 

Scattered over the surrounding country were mud 
towers, ten to twelve feet high and seven or eight in 
diameter, loopholed, and having very small doorways. These 
towers were from one hundred to three hundred yards apart, 
and were intended as places of refuge for the people work- 
ing in the fields, in case of a sudden incursion of Turco- 
mans. Here, every one goes to work with musket at back ; 
and three or four men in one of these towers could easily 
hold out, even against a large force, until aid arrived from 
the neighbouring villages or karaovl hanes. The ground, slop- 
ing gently away from the distant hills, was broken into 
hundreds of terraces, their greatest length being parallel to 
the line of hills. By this arrangement a single stream was 
made to irrigate a great extent of ground, the water, after 
flowing over the upper terrace, descending to the next, and 
so on to the lowermost. Deh Memek itself is a wretched 
place, with colossal mud caravanserais all in a semi-ruinous 
condition. We were again fortunate as regards horses, the 
animals being quite fresh, having had an entire week's re- 
pose. This was lucky, for the next stage was eight farsakhs 
distant. The ground was much the same as before, save 
that, owing to the streams having cut their beds to an 
excessive depth, and to their canon-like channels being 
almost subterranean, the country was entirely barren. 
Four hours' quick riding brought us to a narrow valley in 


which flowed a pretty large stream. Traversing this, we 
crossed a chain of low, bare hills composed entirely of 
gypsum, and, passing through a narrow cleft which allowed 
but one horseman abreast, reached a large, circular, well- 
cultivated plain. In the midst of this stood the consider- 
able village of Lasgird. In its centre is a castled mound 
of large dimensions, such as I have already described, 
but the village itself is not fortified. On the western 
skirt of the place is an extensive cemetery, containing 
many large imam zades and lesser domed tombs. Passing 
by one of these, I was surprised to see lying around it a 
number of reposing camels, their burdens scattered about 
on the ground, and, within the tomb itself, in the vaulted 
chamber under the cupola, a couple of women, evidently of 
the better class, accompanied by three or four children. 
They had arranged their carpets and beds there, and were 
making themselves apparently as much at home in their 
somewhat lugubrious quarters as the most select party of 
ghouls or vampires could have done. I recollect once, in 
my youthful days, reading in the ' Arabian Nights ' of a 
traveller who, arriving late in the evening at some unknown 
town, and finding the gates closed, took up his quarters for 
the night in a tomb near the city gate. I wondered very 
much what kind of a tomb it could be within which he could 
find lodging, my experience of such monuments up to that 
time being confined to flat stone slabs or tall obelisks ; and, 
moreover, I felt surprised that the traveller did not feel any 
of the apprehension which I should then certainly have felt 
of uncanny nocturnal visitors. I have often remarked in the 
East, and notably in Persia, the total absence of dislike to 
the propinquity of a cemetery after dark which is so com- 
mon in Europe. I have frequently seen shepherds camp- 
ing at night with their flocks among tombs, and have some- 
times been almost startled into my early belief in bogies 


by seeing a tall cloaked figure rise suddenly among the 
graves, as some tired traveller put himself on the alert, lest 
I might be what he dreaded much more than any hobgoblin 
or div f viz. a prowling Turcoman. 

Having the fear of the pursuing postman before my 
eyes, I stayed but a few minutes at Lasgird, and then sped 
away once more, this time amid fields of ripe corn, where 
the harvestmen were busy. Half a dozen miles out, while 
riding along a narrow winding path between some sand- 
hills, I met with a somewhat startling adventure. Bound- 
ing the shoulder of a hill, I came suddenly face to face with 
a mounted Afghan trooper, in full uniform, and armed to 
the teeth. He wore a dark-coloured turban, one end of the 
cloth pulled up in front, so as to resemble a small cockade. 
His uniform was blue-black, and he wore long boots. A 
broad black leather cross-belt, with two very large brass 
buckles, crossed his breast. He had sabre, pistols, and 
carbine. He looked sharply at me as he passed, and 
immediately halted and entered into conversation with my 
servant, who rode behind. Next moment another horse- 
man appeared, also an Afghan, thoroughly armed, and 
whose dress indicated that he was of high rank. He, too, 
took a good look at me, and, like the trooper, stopped to 
talk with my servant. Twenty yards behind him rode four 
more troopers, each one leading a laden baggage horse. As 
I passed these I turned round, and saw the entire six halted 
together and looking after me. The postman was terribly 
alarmed. He took the new comers for Turcomans. My 
servant came up, and I learned from him that the Afghans 
had been enquiring who I was, and whither I was going. 
He had informed them of my nationality, and that I was 
bound for Meshed — for what purpose he could not say. 
My impression was that they, having learned what country- 
man I was, were deliberating about attacking me, and, 


being now hidden from their view, I put spurs to my horse 
and dashed away at a headlong pace over the plain in the 
direction of a village some miles off. I hoped there to be 
able to get some aid, or at least to be able to use my revol- 
ver with greater effect from under cover of the loopholed 
wall. The ground was undulating, so that I could not see 
whether or not I was pursued until I reached the village. 
Arrived there, I swept the plain with my field-glass, and, to 
my intense relief, found that my apprehensions had been 
groundless. My servant informed me that the chief was 
named Nadir Khan, and that one of the troopers told him 
they had come from some town, whose name he could not 
recollect, through Herat, and that they were now on their 
way to Teheran. I continued my way, heartily glad of 
having come safely out of what might have been a very ugly 

As one approaches the village, or rather town, of Sem- 
nan, the country is very fertile and cultivated, villages 
occurring all around at short intervals. The cupolas and 
towers of Semnan look remarkably beautiful, their bright 
yellow tints gleaming amid the verdant groves of pome- 
granate, willow, fig, and plane-tree. 'A wilderness of 
graves and tombs ' stretches around the city walls, and fills 
every available space within them. Each garden is a 
fortress in itself, the doors giving admission to it being 
barely two feet square, and closed by thick stone slabs 
turning on pivots. The house doors, too, were scarcely 
four feet high, very solid, and the locks invariably on the 
inside. There was no exterior keyhole ; but instead, close 
by the jamb and level with the lock, a hole six or eight 
inches in diameter was pierced in the earthen wall, which 
penetrated to half the thickness of the latter, then turning 
at right angles and opening in the midst of its edge. 
Through this the arm can be introduced and the key 


applied to the lock. This arrangement rendered the pick* 
ing of the lock impossible, or nearly so ; and besides, pre- 
vented its being removed or damaged as easily as if it were 
outside. This opening in the wall allows of a person within 
conversing with one outside, without being seen or fired at. 
This arrangement, which I have since frequently noticed in 
other parts of the East, would serve to explain the Scriptural 
quotation (Song of Sol. v. 4), 'My beloved put in his 
hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved 
for him.' The town walls are in some places beautifully 
decorated with blue and red tiles of the most brilliant 
hues. The mosque, with its tall, slender minaret, is the 
only building of burned brick in the place. There is a 
pretty large covered bazaar, and the remnant of a large 
and once beautiful palatial residence, built on the top of a 
huge artificial mound in the midst of the town. 

At Semnan I was informed that, unless I consented to 
go on at once, the horses would be retained for the expected 
courier ; so, tired as I was, I had to set off on another stage 
of twenty-four miles. I reached Aghivan, a solitary cara- 
vanserai in the midst of desolate mountains, just as the 
sun was setting, and iA a very brief space of time was sleep- 
ing soundly after my rapid journey of one hundred and 
eight miles since four o'clock that morning. Four stages — 
twenty-three farsakhs—h&d still to be traversed before I 
could gain Shahrood. 




Caravanserais — Villages and their fortifications — Kanots and tanks — Absence 
of palm, orange, and olive trees — Minars — Deh Mullah — Crossed by the 
post — Persian postmaster — A storm on the plain — Shahrood— Derivation 
of name — Armenian traders — Bitten by the garrib-gez — Various cures — 
Disputes about sluices — Monthly pilgrim caravans — Dervishes — Military 
escort — Bokharan pilgrims — Change of plans. 

Aghtvan is situated amongst stony hills, and wears a most 
dreary appearance. It is not a village, for the country 
around affords nothing that could support even the smallest 
hamlet, but merely consists of a caravanserai, imam zadi 9 
and a post-house. The caravanserai is of extremely ancient 
architecture and of great extent, with a sort of hospice 
for pilgrims attached. The post-house is a comparatively 
modern structure. These establishments have been erected 
along the Teheran-Meshed route at different times for the 
use of pilgrims and other travellers. Large caravans of 
the former pass the place monthly ; but, except at these 
periods, there is little or no sign of life around the desolate 
station. There is not a single private dwelling near it, 
and the place usually has an aspect of utter desolation. 
Gosbek, the next station, is similar in appearance to Aghivan, 
consisting like it only of a caravanserai and post-house, but 
it is situated on a plain. The distance between the two 
stations is about twenty-eight English miles. The first half 
of the way lies in the hills, and is intolerably rough, but the 
last fourteen miles are tolerably easy travelling. 


From Gosbek to Damkhan, a fertile and well-cultivated 
plain stretches some twenty-five miles. The whole face of 
the country is dotted in every direction with towers of 
refuge, like the peel towers that once existed so numerously 
in the counties on the Scottish border. The whole plain is 
filled with fortified villages, situated in general at little more 
than half a mile or so from one another. Each is sur- 
rounded by strong walls, in some places extremely well 
designed for purposes of resistance, and the low houses 
within are completely hidden from view by these fortifica- 
tions. In some cases the walls are triple, the outermost 
being moreover protected by a deep ditch or wet moat. All 
the walls are furnished with flanking towers, and, together 
with the central buildings and gateways, are elaborately 
ornamented with mouldings, made in the plastic clay of which 
the whole is built. In fact, the ornamentation is stamped 
on somewhat in the same way that a pastrycook manipulates 
pie-crust, and often reminds one of the latter in its appear- 

These earthworks, though strong enough against an 
enemy's attack, are from the nature of their materials of a 
very perishable description. Every year's rain does them 
serious damage, and entails the necessity of immediate 
repairs. If from any cause these are neglected, a few years 
suffice to level the entire work. The traveller sees on every 
hand shapeless earth mounds, which indicate the sites 
of villages that have once existed. From time immemorial 
such fortifications have been built here, and these mounds 
are the only marks left to tell of their former existence. 
Still, clay walls are quite sufficient protection against the 
Turcomans, who are the most dreaded enemies of their 
inhabitants. These marauders never attempt the siege of 
a fortified place. Their system is to raid on the inhabitants 
unexpectedly while they are at work in the fields, and to 


drive off the camels and flocks before their owners have 
time to secure them in their fortifications. 

Internally, the villages resemble thickets or orchards, so 
dense are the trees among which the houses are placed. 
The fig and pomegranate are the most common fruit-trees ; 
the willow and plane tree are also abundant. Water is 
everywhere in abundance. Subterranean canals, or kanoU, 
convey it to every village, and ridges of earth mark the 
course of these canals across the plain, like gigantic mole- 
tracks. Of course it would be easy for an enemy to cut 
these watercourses in case of a siege, and to guard against 
such an eventuality, numerous large tanks are provided in 
each village, and kept constantly filled from the kanots. 
Each hamlet has its local chief, who occupies one end ; his 
fortified dwelling usually taking up nearly a third of the 
space enclosed, and forming a perfect castle, such as they 
are in Persia. These villages in the plain of Damkhan 
are not built on artificial mounds as in other districts of 
Persia, but they are amply protected by the number and 
strength of their fortifications against any foray the Tur- 
comans can attempt. Indeed, were their defenders armed 
with modern rifles, and skilled in their use, they could offer 
a formidable opposition to a regular invading army. Their 
earthworks are quite strong enough to defy the common 
field artillery, and the villages stand so close together, 
and are so connected by the isolated refuge towers, that 
without regular siege guns an invader would find it hard 
work to force his way through them. 

The Turcoman forays to which I have alluded have 
grown much rarer than formerly since the advance of the 
Russians on the Atterek. Only further east, and in the 
vicinity of the Tekk6 headquarters, are raids now attempted, 
and those but rarely. To the Damkhan villagers, conse- 
quently, the advent of the Muscovites is by no means dis- 


tasteful. They are delighted to be freed from the incursions 
of their marauding neighbours, and, with Eastern fatalism, 
they never trouble themselves about ulterior dangers from 
the approach of the European forces. Accordingly they were 
eager to supply the Bussians with all the provisions they 
needed, the Shah's orders to the contrary notwithstanding. 
The high prices paid by the Bussian commissaries is an 
additional attraction to the needy villagers, and Bussian 
gold is an effective agent in reconciling them to the advance 
of the strangers. The Turcomans themselves are not 
insensible to the charms of foreign pay. The tribes of 
Jaffar Bai, and Ata Bai, of Hassan Kouli and the Giurgen, 
were among the most active partisans of the army on the 
Atterek, though they are akin to the Tekk6 themselves. 

A strange fact in connection with the botany of this 
portion of Persia is the absence of several almost typical 
Eastern trees. Though figs, pomegranates, and the mul- 
berry, both black and white, grow luxuriantly on all sides, 
the palm, olive, and orange, which one would expect to be 
equally common, are totally absent. The latter grows and 
ripens well in much more northern districts, and the olive 
certainly would be a most desirable addition to the agricul- 
tural resources of a people so fond of oily pilaffs as the 
Persians. The palm, too, would flourish here. In the 
gardens of a deserted palace on the shores of the Caspian 
there is a fine one growing, which the local traditions say 
has been there since the time of Shah Abase the Great. 
The -same tradition states that the whole country between 
Asterabad and the Atterek was once an unbroken forest 
of palm trees. Now, at least, none are to be seen, and 
their absence leaves a sense of void in an Oriental land- 
scape where camels and palms would seem to be naturally 

Few sights are more charming to the eye than the view 

vol. 1. 00 


of one of these fortified villages, with its walls topped by a 
crown of foliage, especially when the traveller approaches 
it after a long journey across the stony deserts. The 
hues which they put on in the evening sun are indescrib- 
ably gorgeous. The clay walls glisten like gold in the 
slanting rays, and the flowers among the leaves of the trees 
above glow with gem-like tints till each village rampart with 
its battlements and towers, and the patches of deep blue 
sky beyond and between, looks like a mural crown set 
with rubies and turquoises. The bright colours of the 
landscape, so different from the cold neutral tints of more 
northern climates, seem to have an effect on the native eye, 
and the Persians delight in bright colours as a means of 
ornament. Even such matter-of-fact buildings as towers 
and ramparts are often thus decorated. At Teheran and 
Semnan the towers and walls were adorned with bands of 
bright blue tiles, almost rivalling the depth of the sky tints 

About ten miles after leaving Damkhan the level of the 
plain was broken by two objects resembling spires in the 
far distance. I was almost wearied of guessing at what 
they might be before I approached near enough to make 
out their character. They proved to be two Jofty minar$ 9 or 
minarets, as they are more commonly styled in the West. 
One of them was close by my road, so that I had an oppor- 
tunity of examining it with a little attention as I passed. 
It was plain, and more than twice the height of the minar 
at Semnan, though the latter is much richer in design and 
more elaborately finished. At base its diameter was about 
sixteen feet, and it tapered gradually to the top, which was 
finished by a small projecting cornice. On this a wooden 
platform had been laid, from which the Imam could call 
the faithful to prayer ; but this was a good deal dilapidated 
when I saw it. A winding stair, lit by openings in the 


sides of the tower itself, gave access to the top. The 
material throughout, from foundations to top, was baked 
brick, and about midway up the height was a band inscribed 
with Kufic characters, moulded rudely in the bricks, and 
proving the Mahomedan character of the building. I 
mention this fact chiefly because my servant told me that 
in the more southerly provinces, as Tezd, there were exactly 
similar buildings of a date long antecedent to the rise of 
Mahomedanism. What truth may be in his statement I 
had no means of ascertaining, but the Damkhan minar 
is unquestionably Mahomfedan. During the archroological 
discussions on the Irish ' Bound Towers,' which excited 
such attention some forty years ago, much stress was laid 
on the reported existence of * fire towers ' in Persia similar 
to the Irish buildings. General Vallancey, in the last 
century, first called attention to the matter, and argued that 
the Irish towers were erected by sun worshippers with the 
same purpose as the Persian towers had been by the 
Guebres before the advent of Mahomed. The Persian 
tower which I saw was most certainly a Mahomedan minar, 
though the mosque attached, being built of sun-dried 
bricks, might easily be destroyed, and thus leave the tower 
standing alone, perhaps to puzzle future generations of 

Damkhan was the first town arrived at after leaving 
Semnan, and in fact these two were the only places approach- 
ing to the rank of towns along the line I had been follow- 
ing. Like the villages around it, it is girdled with earth walls 
and towers, within which huge fortified dwellings, often in 
ruins, and arched bazaars, were flanked by groves of pome- 
granate and mulberry. I remained there barely half an 
hour. Dreading that the postal authorities might interfere 
with my horses, I hurried out of the town, and pushed on 

at full speed for Deh Mullah, the last station between me 



and my destination for the time being, Shahrood. Deh 
Mullah is twenty-four miles from Damkhan across a dead 
level plain, dotted with the mounds I have already 
mentioned as marking the former sites of villages. The 
day was far advanced and the weather threatening, so I 
sped across the plain at a rate which made the peasants 
whom I passed eye me suspiciously. Along the road men 
were everywhere looking after the corn-fields with muskets in 
their hands ; but this combination of military and agricul- 
tural externals is too common here to attract the traveller's 
notice. Whatever they thought of my pace, they kept their 
suspicions to themselves, and I arrived in good time at Deh 
Mullah, but only to find all my hopes of further journey 
thence frustrated for the time. As I dashed up to the post- 
house which lies just outside the village gate, what was my 
disgust to see the gentlemen of the up post from Meshed 
already mounted on the very animals which 1 had fondly 
hoped would carry me straight to Shahrood. It was all to 
no purpose that I had outstripped the couriers behind me. 
I could not outrun those who had thus come down on my 
track from the opposite direction. There was no escape 
from fate. The post horses which had just made their six- 
teen miles from Meshed at full speed were in absolute need 
of a rest before they could start back with me, and my own, 
which had just come the twenty-four miles from Damkhan 
at a full gallop, were equally exhausted. I had to make the 
best of my case, and, while waiting three hours for my steeds, 
I strolled around the village of Deh Mullah. 

Whatever might be my eagerness to get on to my 
destination, it was evident that the town itself was little 
concerned about rapidity of progression. All was silent as 
the grave. The postmaster was seated on an earthen bank 
under the archway of his establishment, smoking peace- 
fully. He was an old man, tall in stature, and with an 


utterly woebegone expression on his face. His beard 
ought to have been white, but on some peculiar principle, 
only known to Persian esthetes, he had dyed it orange red. 
He was dressed in a loose flowing robe, wore a tall lambskin 
cap on his shaven head, and his feet were guiltless of 
stockings. The old gentleman with orange tawny beard 
seemed to be the only as well as the oldest inhabitant of 
Deh Mullah, as on looking through the gateway not a 
person was to be seen. Even bad company is here better 
than none, so I seated myself on a bank vis-a-vis with the 
melancholy smoker, and commenced to light a kalioun. 
The kalioun, or water-pipe, is in shape somewhat like a huge 
earthen ink jar, in the neck of which a wooden stem is stuck. 
The stem, which is turned and carved, is about two and a 
half feet high, surmounted by a brass cone of considerable 
size. This is filled partially by the tobacco known here as 
tumbaki, and on top of the tobacco pieces of lighted charcoal 
are placed. A hollow cane runs from the brass cone or 
grate to the bottom of the jar, and another is attached to 
its neck, through which the smoker inhales the washed 
smoke. I pulled away at this apparatus for a while in 
silence, and then strolled into the bazaar. Not a human 
being was to be seen anywhere, and the dull grey light 
made the place look like a city of the dead, such as are 
told of in Arabian fairy tales. I walked through several 
streets with the same experience, and finally, getting 
oppressed and half scared by the utter stillness, I returned 
hastily to the post-house beyond the gate, where at least the 
tawny-bearded smoker remained to enliven the scene. He 
was still smoking impassively, but he was the only living 
thing in sight, except the lizards that popped their heads up 
from their holes or scurried across the ground in fright at 
my tread. The mud fortifications and the flat-roofed houses 
beyond them were alike ' silent still and silent all.' Even 


the appearance of a cat or dog would have been welcome 
as a break to the dead silence, but none appeared. It was 
with a sense of deep relief that after three hours I saw the 
post horses at last appear, after their needed rest. I wasted 
no time in resuming my journey towards Shahrood, and 
left Deh Mullah to its death-like repose. 

My journey lay across a plain bounded on the left by 
gloomy mountains, but stretching away in other directions 
as limitless as an Illinois prairie. The mountains were 
overhung by ominous-looking dark clouds, through which 
an occasional rift let a gleam of shifting sunlight on particu- 
lar spots. When I had travelled a few miles the thunder 
began to roll, and, turning, I saw the storm taking definite 
shape on the mountains. In the vast expanse of the 
horizon, its extent, and I may even say its form, was visible 
at once, as it moved down in masses of dark cloud, like 
giant genii from the mountains, and took its course across 
the plain. Whirling columns of dust preceded the storm- 
clouds like the vanguard of an army on the march, and 
at intervals lightnings shot out from the sides of the 
dark mass like flashes of artillery. I was luckily out of its 
path, and only felt a few rain-drops, but never had I seen a 
storm in all its extent so fully before. By the time it had 
passed away, the walls and gates of Shahrood came in view. 
I had made the journey of two hundred and eighty-four 
miles from Teheran in two days and three quarters, includ- 
ing the quarter day I had lost in Deh Mullah. 

Shahrood is one of the prettiest places along the entire 
postal route. It is shut in from the north by a semicircle 
of low hills. To the south it is surrounded by luxuriant 
gardens — woods, I would say, were they not all the result 
of human labour and continued care. To the north-west 
tower the Elburz mountains, separating the town from 
Asterabad and the plains of the Eara-Su and Giurgen. 


North-west of the present town stands what is known as 
the Castle of Shahrood, and which, up to some forty or fifty 
years ago, constituted all that there was of tho place. It 
is simply an enclosure about two hundred and fifty yards 
square, with very tall walls of unbaked brick and numerous 
flanking towers, within which the houses are huddled for 
protection. Now, however, Shahrood has increased fifty- 
fold, owing to the great concourse of pilgrims who flock 
every month to the shrine of Imam Biza at Meshed, the 
high road to the latter town lying through it. 

There are several hundred gardens planted with apricot, 
fig, mulberry, and vine, the latter topping the earth walls, 
and hanging over them in graceful festoons. To keep them 
in this position one often sees the skull of a horse or camel 
tied to the branch, and depending on the outside of the 
wall. Water abounds at all times of the year, and the 
river from which the place takes its name, the Shah Bood, 
or Royal River, flowing down the middle of the principal 
thoroughfare, is, at the hottest part of the year, well filled. 
To my mind, however, it is scarce worthy of the sounding 
appellation given it, as it is but ten or twelve feet across, 
and hardly one foot in depth. A priest here told me that 
in his opinion the true name of the place was Sheher Rood ; 
that is, the town of the prophet. There is a very consider- 
able bazaar, which is, like all those to be met with in these 
countries, composed of narrow streets lined with the booths 
and stalls of the dealers and artisans ; and off which open 
large courtyards surrounded by brick buildings, where the 
principal merchants have their counting-houses. One of 
the best is known as the Armenian caravanserai, where 
half-a-dozen Armenians carry on an export trade in 
cotton and raw silk, also importing, chiefly from Russia, 
bar iron and steel, tea, sugar, &c. Owing to its vicinity to 
the Turcoman frontier, the bazaar is carefully closed a 


little after sunset, and should one happen to stay too long 
within its walls it is with no small difficulty that the 
dervazeh bashi can be got to undo the many fastenings of 
the massive door. 

In and about the town are many caravanserais erected 
for the accommodation of the Meshed pilgrims. A cara- 
vanserai is simply a large enclosed yard, always with flank 
towers and guarded gate, lined inside with arched recesses, 
the floors being raised three feet above the ground. These 
serve as accommodation for travellers. Behind each one 
is a small covered chamber for use during winter. There 
are large vaulted stables for horses and mules, the camels 
always herding in a compact body in the midst of the 
courtyard. Over the gate are half-a-dozen chambers for 
the better class of travellers. There are two kinds of 
caravanserais— those built by Government or by bequests 
of charitable individuals, and those erected by private 
persons who make a living by supplying forage, &c. In a 
public caravanserai everyone has free lodging for himself 
and stabling for his horses. His food and forage he of 
course purchases, and from the sale of these arise the only 
profits of the guardian of the establishment. It is very 
much the same way with the private establishments ; only 
that well-to-do people are expected to give a trifling sum 
per day for their rooms. These latter are small low square 
chambers with floors of beaten earth, a diminutive fireplace, 
and usually three unglazed windows, or rather doors, oppo- 
site the entry. There is not the smallest article of furni- 
ture of any kind. There are a number of square recesses 
which do duty for presses and shelves. The traveller is 
supposed to bring everything with him ; his carpet, which 
serves to sit on by day and as a bed by night ; his cooking 
apparatus, light, and food. Firewood he can purchase in 
the place ; and he or his servant does the cooking. Before 


occupying one of these chambers it is necessary to have it 
carefully swept out, as the last occupant has generally left 
behind a selection of animal life, acquaintance with which 
is by no means desirable. It is best not to have lights in 
the evening, for they attract a miscellaneous crowd of noxious 
creeping things — scorpions, centipedes, and Persian bugs. 

Since my arrival at this town I had been suffering from 
the effects of a bite of one of these last-mentioned pests, 
received somewhere on the road from Teheran, notwith- 
standing all the precautions which I took to avoid such a 
contingency. On the day on which I arrived at Shahrood, 
I felt a slight soreness on the inside of the calf of my leg, 
and on examining the place found a small purple patch, 
surrounded by a dun-coloured circle. This gradually swelled 
until a very painful tumour was formed. Simultaneously 
I was attacked by strong fever, accompanied by head- 
ache and severe sickness. As I had been previously 
recommended to do, in case I should be bitten, I took 
purgative medicine and quinine, and soon almost recovered, 
with the exception of feeling queer pains in the joints 
like those resulting from rheumatism. Some people of 
the town, hearing of my illness, called to see me, and I 
was overwhelmed with advice as to the best treatment for 
my malady. By one I was advised to eat some clay of the 
place. Another recommended making up a few of the 
insects themselves in bread and swallowing them ; and a 
third counselled standing on my head frequently and then 
rolling rapidly on the floor. But the oddest remedy of all 
was that proposed by a moullah, or priest, who also prac- 
tised the healing art. He brought with him a large net 
like a hammock, in which he proposed to envelop me. My 
head was to be allowed to protrude, and I was then to be 
hung up from tl^e branch of a tree in the garden. When 
I had swallowed" a large quantity of new milk I was to be 


turned round until the suspending cords were well twisted, 
and then, being let go, to be allowed to spin rapidly round. 
This operation was to be repeated indefinitely until sickness 
was produced, when other measures were to follow. I 
declined, however, to allow myself to be bagged in the 
proposed manner, especially as I had previously heard from 
my friend General Schindler, at Teheran, that he once saw 
this method of cure tried on an old woman, who, when 
taken down for supplementary treatment, was found to be 
dead. The bite of this villanous insect has often proved 

The necessaries of life here, though far from cheap, had 
become much diminished in price during the past few 
months, owing to the plentiful harvest which had been 
gathered in. Bread was little more than half the price it 
was at Teheran, and it had not been found necessary to 
make use of the somewhat violent, if effective, repressive 
measures adopted at the capital with regard to the bakers. 
There, for overcharging for bread, their noses were sum- 
marily cut off, or their ears nailed to their own shop doors. 
Several instances of this occurred during my stay there. 
At Shahrood, as may be imagined, life is not very gay at 
ordinary times. My only distractions were watching the 
mules and horses quarrelling in the yard of the caravanserai, 
and the inhabitants disputing about watercourses in the 
street. I have already mentioned that a small stream runs 
down the main thoroughfare. Just opposite my window a 
dam had been constructed, furnished with two rude sluices 
of turf and stones, from one or the other of which the water 
was made to flow into trenches leading to garden at 
different levels. There seemed to be no rule by which the 
supply in different directions was regulated ; the parties who 
made the greatest row generally succeeding in securing the 
largest amount. At all hours of the day violent disputes were 


in progress. A group of men would stand barefooted in the 
water, shouting at, dragging, and mauling each other, and 
making, if possible, more noise than the quarrelsome horses 
in the yard close by. They snatch off each other's hats 
and skull-caps, brandish primitive-looking spades in each 
other's faces, call upon Allah and the twelve holy Imams, 
and mutual massacre seems on the point of ensuing. Then 
one party goes away suddenly, as if convinced of the moral 
impossibility of the other daring to meddle with the sluices. 
Immediately on their departure the others set to work and 
arrange things to their own liking, going away in their 
turn. In two minutes the first set, finding their water 
supply diminishing, return furiously and demolish the work 
of their rivals. A repetition of this kind of thing seems to 
be the normal state of affairs with regard to this unfortunate 

Once a month Shahrood is enlivened by the arrival of 
a caravan of pilgrims from every part of Persia, on their 
way to the shrine of Imam Eiza at Meshed. During my 
stay great throngs of hadjis poured into the town, arriving 
by the Teheran road. Shahrood is, it seems, the rallying 
point of the various parties. Eastward of this they all keep 
together, moving under protection of a military force; 
for, after leaving Shahrood, raiding parties of Turcomans 
are to be met with. The new comers were some on foot, 
some on horseback, and a very large number, too, on asses. 
There were very many women, who, when not mounted on 
asses or mules, were carried in kedjavis, hamper-like litters, 
slung one on each side of a. camel or mule, and usually 
covered by a sunshade. Fully half the pilgrims — and I 
was informed that three thousand had arrived already — 
were Arabs from Baghdad, Basra, and other points in Turkish 
territory adjoining Persia. It is curious to see so many 
of a people like the Arabs, who, as a rule, are strictly 


Sunnite, like the Osmanli Turks, under whose dominion 
they live, joining in a pilgrimage with the Shiites to a com- 
mon shrine. These Arabs wore the national costume — a 
flowing garment reaching to the heels, and on the head a 
bright-coloured handkerchief, falling to the shoulders, and 
kept in place by a thick ring of twisted camel hair, placed 
over it like a diadem. The women wear very dark-coloured 
mantles, which envelop them from head to foot, but they 
do not carry the yashmak or veil like the Turks and Persians. 
People from almost every part of Persia and the trans- 
Caucasus were to be found mingled with these Arabs. They 
filled all the caravanserais, and crowded every nook where 
refuge could be obtained from the intensely hot sun. The 
Arabs mostly camped along the edge of the watercourse, 
under the shade of jujube and chenar trees; and those 
that had women and children with them erected rough 
screens by means of quilts and mantles supported on sticks. 
To swell the throng already in the town, the Governor of 
Meshed and the Hakim of Dawkban, with their retinues, 
had come in ; pavilion tents were planted in the streets, and 
hundreds of horses were tethered in every direction. Amidst 
all this moved a number of dervishes, those inseparable 
adjuncts of all gatherings of people in the East. Some were 
instructing groups of pilgrims in the formula to be repeated 
at the shrine of Meshed for the thorough accomplishment 
of the duties of a hadji ; others related wonderful tales to 
an eager gathering of listeners; and others, the more 
numerous, simply went about pestering everyone for alms. 
These dervishes all wear their hair flowing on their shoulders 
like Russian priests, and a curious dome-shaped tiara of 
coloured stuff. Each carries some kind of an offensive 
weapon — a hatchet, lance, iron-headed mace, or heavy 
knotted stick, as the case may be. As yet only three 
thousand pilgrims had arrived ; two thousand more were 


expected on the morrow or the day after. With such a 
monthly influx of pilgrims and their beasts of burden, 
often, I was informed, much more numerous, not to speak 
of the returning hadjis, it is not to be wondered that Shah- 
rood, where they generally stay for a couple of days, should 
thrive tolerably. 

Immediately after the last batches of the pilgrims came 
the military escort, the like of which it would be difficult to 
match elsewhere. First came a herd of nearly one hundred 
diminutive asses, bearing an equal number of nondescript- 
looking men, dressed in garments of various fashions and 
colours. Each carried an old-fashioned musket. This 
first detachment was one of mounted infantry. Next 
came a body of about one hundred and fifty persons on 
horseback, each carrying a very lengthy Persian-made 
rifle, having attached to it a wooden fork, the prongs 
tipped with iron. This fork is stuck in the ground when 
the soldier wishes to fire. These appendages fold upwards, 
the two points projecting ten inches beyond the muzzle of 
the gun, and giving it at a distance the appearance of a 
hayfork. Whether when in this position it is used in lieu of 
a bayonet or not, I was unable to ascertain. These cavaliers 
were, I suppose, dragoons of some kind, who dismount 
going into action, otherwise they could not make use of 
their forks. They were dressed with still less uniformity 
than their predecessors on the asses. In fact, in the entire 
cavalcade there was not even an attempt at uniform. 
Some wore long boots of brown leather, others had slippers 
turned up at the toes ; and a considerable number had no 
pantaloons worth mentioning. Close behind these latter 
horsemen came the great element of the cavalcade, the 
artillery, represented by one brass smooth-bore four-pounder 
on a field carriage, and drawn by six horses ; and at the 
immediate rear of this rode a man in a tattered blue and 


red calico tunic, blowing furiously on a battered bugle, 
painted red inside like a child's halfpenny trumpet. This 
four-pounder was evidently the piece de resistance, and as it 
passed the bystanders gazed on it with awe-struck imagina- 
tions. Behind the gun came a takderavan, or large wooden 
box with glazed windows borne on two horses, one before 
and one behind. Then came mules, each bearing two 
kedjaves covered with crimson cloth. These contained the 
more opulent of the pilgrims with their wives and families. 
About one hundred mounted men followed, a few of whom 
had, strange to say, Martini-Henry rifles slung at their 
backs, but to each of which the pair of prongs had been 
appended. Another hundred horsemen came dropping in 
at intervals, some escorting tents, others in charge of 
cooking utensils. This mingled and motley throng of 
hadjis, troops, camels, mules, asses, and dervishes went 
streaming by for hours, each section of the column so 
completely resembling another that one fancied they must, 
like a stage procession, be only ' making believe,' and that 
they were simply wheeling round the corner to return 

The town was as full as it could hold ; I could not 
imagine where the extra two thousand who would arrive on 
the morrow could be accommodated. There was not an inch 
of room to spare in any caravanserai, and the bakers were 
forced to work with a diligence which, as Persians, must 
have been very distasteful to them. By an odd coincidence 
this caravan of hadjis going to the shrine of Imam Eiza 
at Meshed, arrived almost simultaneously with a score or 
so of natives of Bokhara, on their way to the Prophet's 
tomb at Mecca. These latter stayed in the same caravan- 
serai with me. They came by way of BaJkh, Maimana, 
Herat, and Meshed, to avoid passing through the Tekke 
country. They informed me that considerable numbers 


of Tekk6s were taking refuge in Persia, to avoid the 
impending Russian attack. It will be an ill day for the 
people among whom these voluntary exiles take refuge, 
unless there be close by some military power capable of 
restraining their marauding tendencies. It has been 
found impossible to reduce to order such of their nation 
even as habitually live on Persian soil and acknowledge 
the Shah as their Sovereign. They are somewhat like 
the Circassians established on the shores of the Sea of 
Marmora and the Greek frontier, who seemed to believe 
that they had a prescriptive right to harry and rob the 
people of the neighbourhood which they honoured with their 
presence. In view of their doings from time immemorial, 
it is not to be wondered at that the Persians of this line of 
country looked forward with intense delight to the prospect 
of the Tekk6s receiving a condign punishment during the 
ensuing campaign in the Akhal Tekke country. 

For two days I tried in vain to find a man with an ass or 
a mule to carry my tent, and accompany me along the road 
to Budjnoord. Twice I had men engaged ; and twice the 
bargain was broken off, on the score that the road was too 
dangerous, and that Tekk6s were to be found along it. I 
consequently changed my plans, and determined to reach 
Budjnoord by a circuitous route, vid the town of Sabzavar 
on the Meshed road. From Sabzavar I could easily reach 
either Euchan or Budjnoord across the mountains. 
Following this route would also give me an opportunity of 
witnessing the march of a hadji caravan. We started at a 
little before sunset, that being the usual time for setting out 
on a journey in Persia, so as to avoid the extreme mid-day 




Leaving Shahrood — Beset by mendicants — ' Where is the tkob ? ' — Starlight 
march — Novel mode of sleeping — Warlike appearance of caravan — Maiamid 
— Itinerant butchers — Religions drama — Persian dervishes — Waiting for 
the escort — An Eastern row — Besieged in a ehappar hatU — ' By your beard, 
Emir' — A present from the governor — Religions buffoonery — Moullahs 
and dervishes — A weird procession — Mule bells — Our piece of artillery — 
A dangerous pass — A panic — Returning pilgrims — A halt. 

It was near six o'clock in the afternoon when I started from 
Shahrood by the Meshed road, on my way to the Akhal 
Tekk6 border. I had resolved to go as far as possible with 
the great monthly caravan of pilgrims, both because the 
road is better than the mountain one, and with a view of 
being able to describe a pilgrim-caravan on its way to one 
of the most celebrated shrines of the East — that of Imam 
Eiza. Another great advantage was that the post from 
Meshed passed regularly along this route every week, so 
that I was in direct communication with Teheran, and 
through that place with Europe. 

An hour before my departure, my quarters in the 
caravanserai were regularly besieged by dervishes of every 
description, not to mention beggars of the ordinary kind, 
and it was only by a liberal distribution of small copper 
coins called pools and shahis that I succeeded in buying 
myself off. For three or four miles eastward of Shahrood 
the plain is exceedingly well cultivated, as, indeed, it must 
need be, in order to support not only the indigenous popula- 


tion of the place, but also to supply food and forage for the 
enormous number of pilgrims, with their camels, horses, 
and asses, which pass annually through the place. To the 
left of the road, a mile away, are low hills, the watershed of 
the Giurgen, each available summit being crowned with a 
watch-tower, and in some cases by a good-sized fortalice. 
The military precautions deemed necessary to ensure the 
safe passage of the caravans speak eloquently of what must 
have been the state of things previously to the present com- 
paratively safe period. An endless succession of mud walls 
line the road eastward from Shahrood, and occasionally the 
way becomes practically the same as a watercourse. On 
leaving my caravanserai I thought I was rid of the mendicant 
and dervish nuisance, but I soon discovered my mistake. 
Taking short cuts across the fields, they had posted them- 
selves at different points of vantage along the narrow path, 
from which they not only recommenced their importunities, 
but almost made use of physical force to arrest my horse. 
There were dervishes with beards stained of a fiery-red 
colour, and wearing queer conical hats, who, if they did not 
regularly belong to the howling sect of Constantinople, most 
decidedly showed themselves qualified for admission to it by 
the fashion in which they yelled, screamed, and groaned, 
exhorting me in the name of the blessed Ali, and the Imams 
Hassan and Hussein, not forgetting Haziret Abass, and 
many other holy people, to give them charity. Then there 
were the old, the blind, and the lame — men, women, and 
children—hanging on to my stirrup and seizing my bridle. 
Some were horribly deformed, and it seemed marvellous 
that they should have undergone such apparently frightful 
disasters as were necessary to reduce them to their then 
present mutilated condition, and yet continue to exist. 
They seemed to consider that in my supposed quality of 
hadji on my way to Meshed I must be bursting with the 
vol. 1. dd 


desire to distribute all my worldly property to the first 
comers who might think fit to ask me for it. As I slowly 
forced my way through this very disagreeable throng, I 
could not help comparing myself to the youth depicted in 
allegorical frontispieces of books of high moral tone of the 
last century, and who is represented as endeavouring to 
make his way, book under arm, to the temple of fame, 
seen at a distance on the top of a hill, a collection of 
ill-looking distorted fiends on either side the road grinning 
and grabbing at him and otherwise trying to impede his 

As I cleared the walls and gardens the sun was setting, 
and, as is usual here, a violent wind from the north-east 
commenced blowing, driving the sand and small gravel in 
one's face in a very unpleasant manner. I overtook half-a- 
dozen persons on horseback, the great bulk of the first de- 
tachment of pilgrims having started about an hour before I 
set out. Later, I found them assembled amid the ruins of 
a village some ten miles further on. Here there was a stream 
of good water, and hadjis were watering their animals and 
making ready for a dreary tramp of thirty miles across an 
arid plain, where not a drop of water would be found. The 
party with which I came up consistechof about two thousand 
persons, partly on foot, and partly mounted on various 
animals. Many of the former were mere children, and 
carried great packs on their backs. The utmost confusion 
prevailed as the mass of camels and mules tried to get into 
motion. Most of them carried litters full of women and 
children, and every one seemed to have some companion or 
friend from whom he or she had become separated in the 
dark. Each individual in the crowd was calling out * Hadji ! ' 
or ' Meshedi !' as if he supposed his friend must recognise 
that he alone out of the couple of thousand present, all of 
whom were entitled to the name, was addressed. One Arab, 


in a state of great excitement, came np to me, and asked, 
' Hadji) can you tell me where the thob (cannon) is ? ' He 
seemed most anxious to be as near this, to his mind, omni- 
potent engine as possible. After a good deal of delay we 
got started, and from that point forward kept as much 
together as possible, for mutual protection ; the gun and 
military force having remained behind waiting for the three 
thousand pilgrims expected on the next day, and who were 
to join us at Maiamai, our first halting-place after Shahrood, 
and beyond which the serious danger from Turcomans and 
professional robbers is supposed to begin. It was a long, 
weary march across a dry, stony, trackless plain, the dim 
starlight only just enabling us to keep along the telegraph 
posts, our only guide. How strange seemed these vestiges 
of advanced civilisation in the midst of such surroundings ! 
I wonder how many of the motley throng that watched 
beneath those murmuring wires had even the faintest 
notion of the manner in which they worked. The condition 
of the line was such that it puzzled me to guess how 
messages could be transmitted along the wires. The insu- 
lators were dilapidated in a manner incomprehensible to 
me at first, but which was accounted for when I learned that 
they were regarded by the natives as excellent objects on 
which to test their skill as marksmen. A similar practice, 
I am told, once prevailed among the roughs of the western 
plains in the United States. The Shah's Government do 
their best to repress such amusements, and shortly before 
my arrival two natives had been sentenced to imprisonment 
for life for thus tampering with the mysterious modern 
improvements. The poles, too, are often half rotten, and 
in one place for a foil half mile the wire was supported 
on iron hooks absolutely without insulators. 

During our weary slow march of forty miles we had 
but one halt — that at the ruined village ; and the only thing 

D D 2 


in the shape of refreshment, if I can give it that name, 
partaken of by the hadjis was an occasional smoke of the 
water-pipe. L manner of lighting this pipe on horseback 
is curious, and I don't recollect ever having seen it described. 
Some pieces of charcoal are placed in a small wire basket 
as big as a hen's egg, and attached to the end of a string a 
yard long. Some tinder is lighted with a flint and steel, 
and placed among the charcoal. The basket is then whirled 
rapidly round by means of the string until the charcoal is 
thoroughly ignited, and the pipe is then kindled. On a 
very dark night, when the road is very bad, the horseman 
lights his way by placing tow or cotton in the little basket, 
which, when whirled, gives light enough to enable one to 
keep out of holes and ruts, or from falling over precipices. 
All night long, as we wound slowly across the desert, the 
kaliouns might be seen gleaming at intervals in the dark 
column, sending meteor-like trains of sparks behind it on 
every gust of the evening breeze. As the moon rose I was 
able to take a look at my companions. Very many, 
mounted on the most diminutive of asses, were fast asleep, 
their arms clasping the necks of the animals, and more 
than once we heard the ' thud ' of some somnolent rider 
falling to the ground. Some laid themselves like sacks 
across the asses' backs, and thus managed to sleep comfort- 
ably. The march was a tiresome one, even to one mounted 
on horseback, and I dismounted more than once to stretch 
my legs. I could not help envying the people who were 
snugly stowed away in their kedjaves, sleeping comfortably ; 
though of course the cramped position of the legs necessary 
in such a conveyance would be rather inconvenient for a 
European, especially if he were forced to adopt it for twelve 
hours at a time. The pilgrims on foot kept up bravely, 
and generally led the van, though each carried ail his 
travelling necessaries on his back. Just as the sun rose we 


came in sight of our menzil, or halting-place, the village or 
town of Maiamai. In its neighbourhood on all sides were 
fields of corn, and running water abounded. We passed 
some large camel trains laden with cotton, on their way to 
Shahrood and Asterabad. As we rode along in 'the pale 
morning light, each member of the caravan bristling with 
arms, we had much more the air of a hostile expedition 
marching against the village than a troop of pious hadjis 
on our way to a shrine. 

Maiamai, or Maiamid, is not quite so large as Shahrood, 
but is still a considerable place. It is strongly fortified 
after the fashion of the country, and contains a caravan- 
serai of baked brick, exceedingly well built, and quite a 
fortress in its way. It has embrasures for cannon, and the 
bricks around them are well dotted with Turcoman bullet- 
marks. Within it is the telegraph station. This cara- 
vanserai was speedily crowded to overflowing by the 
pilgrims, those who could not find accommodation there 
camping under the shade of a row of large chenar trees 
close by. I had the good fortune to secure the little room 
over the entrance-gate of the post-house. It was but ten 
feet square, and apart from the door were two windows of 
equal size, at opposite sides of the room, none of the three 
openings having any means of being closed. The Arab 
contingent of our party was camped close by. Owing to the 
great influx of pilgrims, food was very dear— that is, for 
the country — a very poor fowl costing over a shilling. 
Some butchers had found it worth their while to accom- 
pany the pilgrims for the sake of the amount of meat they 
could sell them ; and shortly after our arrival half-a-dozen 
sheep were ready skinned and cleaned. Without this supply 
fresh meat would be unattainable, as the inhabitants of the 
place scarcely ever eat flesh. When the party had reposed 
a little after the long night's march, and had eaten their 


morning meal, the rolling of a drum was heard under the 
chenar trees, and a crowd began to assemble. A scene in 
the religions drama founded on the massacre of the Imams 
Hassan and Hussein was about to be acted. This play, 
which seems to enter into the programme of all Persian 
religious festivities whatever, and which is an exact Mussul- 
man counterpart of the mediaeval mystery plays, is exceed- 
ingly long, the proper representation of the piece requiring 
a daily performance of a couple of hours for weeks at a 
time. As the pilgrims march they are treated to one act 
at each halting-place throughout the journey. At the third 
roll of the drum the actors make their appearance. First 
came a black-bearded fellow, dressed in the ancient Sara- 
cenic fashion in a coat of chain mail over a long green 
gown, long brown leather boots, and a spiked hemispherical 
helmet, round which was a crimson handkerchief, rolled 
turbanwise. He was armed with a formidable-looking 
curved scimitar, and was followed by a man who seemed 
to have picked up somewhere a British soldier's scarlet 
uniform with dark blue facings. There was a tall man who 
seemed to represent a king. Two boys were dressed as 
women, for their religion does not allow persons of the 
female sex to take part in such proceedings. Another man 
mounted on a white horse wore a huge blue turban, and 
held a child in his arms. There was a good deal of 
monotonous chanting and declamatory singing, coupled 
with a stage compact between the man in armour and the 
other in the red coat, a good deal of going to and fro of the 
white horse and its rider, and, after an hour or so, the 
acting wound up by a collection of money from the on- 
lookers. The singing was to my mind most monotonous 
and dirge-like, or else ridiculously pompous, and with a 
vast interlarding of ' Allah Mahomet ' in a disagreeable 
nasal tone. There was, however, a kind of sword song by 


the man in the helmet, which he accentuated by touching 
the blade of his sword with a roll of paper, and which in 
air resembled one of the old French romaunts de gestes. 
When the actors had departed, several dervishes divided 
the attention of the crowd. Some gave religious instruc- 
tions ; others narrated funny stories to any who would 
listen to and pay them ; others, again, played juggling 
tricks, and vended small articles, such as plated ear- 
rings, combs, and medical nostrums. The Persian 
dervish is a jack-of-all-trades. He acts as priest, mounte- 
bank at a fair, story-teller, pedlar, ox doctor, as occasion 
may require. At bottom he is generally a sharp fellow, 
living comfortably by his wits, despite the external squalor 
which some of the confraternity affect. 

Evening was now close at hand, and, it having been 
announced that we were to start at sunset, I had everything 
got ready. Then a council of the principal hadjis was held, 
and it was decided to wait for the remainder of the pilgrims, 
the cannon, and the troops, previous to venturing through 
a mountain pass about six miles further on, where caravans 
had been repeatedly assailed and plundered by Turcomans. 
Our escort was to arrive shortly, and to take post in the 
dangerous ravines. Then, when the moon had risen, the 
hadjis and the cannon were to come on. At midnight, just 
as I thought the starting time had certainly come, in 
marched the soldiers back from their strategic position. 
Some one had brought word that twenty-five mounted 
Turcomans had been seen hovering in the vicinity of the 
dangerous ground ! Though we were two thousand strong, 
and had a company of soldiers with us, it was resolved to 
wait for the cannon and the remainder of the pilgrims, 
which would swell our numbers to over five thousand. 
This incident will help to convey a notion of the intense 
dread of Turcomans with which Persians are inspired. We 


accordingly made up our minds to go to bed, and wait for 
the following evening, marching during the day seemingly 
being a thing not to be dreamed of for a moment. Besides, 
the second detachment of pilgrims would not arrive until 
daybreak, and would need a day's rest before proceeding 
any further. The next day passed very much like the pre- 
ceding one, save that the morning was enlivened by an 
incident which at one moment threatened to put an end to 
my further pilgrimage. About eight o'clock, as I was 
sitting cross-legged on my carpet, writing some notes, I 
heard a sudden and violent hubbub in the open space in 
front of my window, under the trees. The Arab contingent 
and a number of Persians were charging about, furiously 
belabouring each other with sticks. It appeared that some 
dispute had arisen between the Baghdad Arabs and the 
Teheran pilgrims, and that hot words had been spoken 
as to the relative merits of their respective countries. 
Each, in his quality of hadji, carried a staff five feet long 
and about two and a half inches thick at the stouter end, 
and the hadjis, having got excited, were banging each other 
with their pilgrims' staves. At first I thought it was some 
rude play, a kind of * baiting the bear,' such as I had seen 
practised among the Turcomans, and in which rather severe 
knocks are given and received with the utmost good humour. 
However, I soon discovered by the number of holy persons 
stretched on the ground that 'bateing' in a Hibernian 
sense was going on. Gradually the Arabs became very 
much excited, and behaved like mad people, jumping, 
dancing, and shouting the tecbir, or Arab war-cry. Matters 
were getting bad for the Teheranis, when the latter drew 
their swords and handjars. Notwithstanding this unfair 
advantage, however, they were scattered and beaten off the 
field, and forced to take refuge in every direction, some 
rushing into the chappar hane in which I was staying. 


The Arabs now assembled together, showing each other the 
stabs and cuts which they had received from the Persians ; 
and they seemed to come to the resolution to pay them 
back in their own coin. They rushed off in search of 
weapons, and speedily reassembled. At this juncture my 
servant unluckily happened to go out in search of corn for 
the horses. He wore at his belt a large broad-bladed 
handjar, upon spying which an Arab woman cried out that 
he was one of the people who had used deadly weapons, 
and immediately hurled a large paving-stone at him. Then 
the whole crowd set upon him. He retreated hurriedly to 
the chpppar hane, the doors of which were closed before the 
Arabs could get in. These latter then tried to smash in 
the door, shrieking out that they would massacre every one 
within the place. The Teheran pilgrims within now showed 
themselves on the ramparts, and commenced abusing the 
assailants in unmeasured terms. The Arabs thereupon 
renewed their efforts to break the door, and showered bricks 
and stones on the ramparts, and also into my room. In a 
twinkling the floor was covered with missiles, and mud fell 
in heaps with each concussion ; my servant rushed into the 
chamber, his face all bloody and disfigured from a blow of 
a great stone. I showed myself, thinking that my European 
costume would induce the Arabs to desist. I called on 
them to go away ; but all to no purpose. I was made the 
target for over a hundred stone-throwers. The attack 
redoubled, and the assailants showed signs of being about to 
attempt an escalade. I felt certain that if they got in we 
should be all lost, so I sprang for my revolver and sword, 
and, posting myself at a loophole of a flanking tower, pre- 
pared to fire at the first who attempted to climb. Meantime, 
I cried out to some neutral spectators to run and fetch the 
Governor, and to tell him that our lives were in danger. 
This functionary arrived in a few minutes, bringing with 


him a force of armed men, who put a stop to the attack. 
Then the Governor, together with the Arab chiefs and about 
twenty of their men, came up to my room. I produced my 
pass from the Minister of Foreign Affairs at Teheran and 
complained that I had been attacked in my room without 
provocation. The Arabs responded by exhibiting their 
wounds, and horrid gashes some of them were. Notwith- 
standing the thick rolls of camel-hair, handkerchiefs and 
skull-caps, some of the scalp wounds were very deep. One 
man's thumb was nearly severed from his hand. ' And/ 
said one of the chiefs, ' the cowards drew weapons on us, 
who had only sticks in our hands; pretty Mussulmans 
these ! ' The Arabs now formally apologised to me for 
having thrown stones at me, stating that they did not know 
I was a stranger, but at the same time charged my servant 
with being one of the persons who wounded them. They 
swore that they recognised him, and one went so far as to 
swear by my beard, which he laid hold of in an alarming 
manner. ' By your beard, Emir/ he said, * it is true.' How- 
ever, we settled the matter peacefully, the Arabs promising 
not to bear any spite against the Teheranis. So ended a 
matter which at one moment threatened to conclude dis- 
agreeably enough. The Governor, Mahomet Khan, a little 
old man, requested me to give him a paper bearing my seal, 
stating that he had promptly and effectually suppressed the 
riot. This I did with pleasure. Shortly after his with- 
drawal he sent me, in true Eastern fashion, a present of 
fruit and bread, on a large silver tray, covered over with an 
embroidered cloth, and escorted by three servants. 

Apart from this little episode, the day passed off as that 
preceding it. The second contingent of pilgrims had 
arrived, among them being many women, evidently of the 
better classes, to judge from the size and magnificence of 
their tents and the numbers of their attendants. The 


entire open space east of the town was converted into a 
camp — thousands of horses tethered everywhere. As usual 
at midday the drum rolled, the people collected, and again, 
under the shade of the great chenar trees, the wrongs of 
Ali and the woes of Hassan and Hussein were rehearsed. 
Again the dervishes* practised their different metiers ; and 
again, as the sun went down, came the muezzim's call, 
echoing, long-drawn, over the stilly plain. As darkness 
set in, lights twinkled everywhere, and camp fires blazed 
all over the bivouac. I marvel where the fuel came from, 
for here trees are too precious to be cut down for the pur- 
pose. Ten o'clock was the hour fixed for our departure. 
Meantime we amused ourselves as we best could. I was 
dreadfully annoyed by the vile religious buffoonery of a 
dervish under my window, who was narrating to a crowd 
of listeners some episode in the deaths of the two ever- 
lasting Imams one never hears the end of here— Hussein 
and Hassan. I could not see the fellow, but I guessed 
from his voice that he was a young man with long black 
hair, who during the day generally acted as story-teller 
and pedlar. He told his story, blubbering with simulated 
grief, his voice almost inarticulate with apparently hyste- 
rical sobs and groans. If I had not been too vexed I 
could have been amused at the lachrymose tone of inter- 
rupted voice, like that of a child who has been whipped, 
which he knew how to assume. As it was, I should have 
been tempted to throw something out of the window at him 
had I not been afraid of evoking a storm like that of the 
morning. The women present occasionally struck up a 
wail in chorus, clapping their hands in token of extreme 
grief and emotion. These dervishes are a set of thorough- 
going, shameless impostors. He who can groan and sob 
and blubber the most extravagantly is accounted the best 
and holiest. I am not surprised that the moullahs, or 


regular clergy, dislike intensely these itinerant religion- 

At ten o'clock we were all in motion, bat it was a good 
hour before we got clear of the camping ground. The 
artillery bugle sounded three times, to give us warning of 
the departure of the escort. Everyone wanted to be as 
near as possible to the cannon, so that nobody was willing 
to go forward or to hold back. As a result I found my- 
self and my horse standing in a stream of water, jammed 
in between kedjaves full of women, mule-litters, and camels. 
Close in front of me was a collection of coffins, containing 
putrefying human bodies, fastened across the backs of asses, 
and smelling horribly. They were the remains of people 
who had left money enough to secure their being interred 
close to the sacred precincts at Meshed, and were being 
brought from heaven knows what far-off corner of Persia. 
Slowly and with difficulty I forced my way through the 
throng; for the ground was very irregular, and, though 
torches, lanterns, and fires blazed on every side, the press 
was too close to let one catch a glimpse of them. Outside 
the radius of the firelight all was nearly pitch dark, for the 
moon had not yet risen, and the stars shed but a dim light 
in the flare of the fires. My horse had got out of the stream 
on to what seemed a narrow footpath. After a few minutes 
I felt myself getting strangely elevated above the people on 
each side of me. I halted until a light was brought, and 
then discovered that I was on the top of a mud wall four 
feet high. In a few minutes more I should have been 
twelve feet from the ground, on the top of a wall but two 
feet thick, a rather awkward place for an equestrian in the 
dark. I mention this by way of indicating how difficult, 
under the circumstances, the movement of five thousand 
men, women, and children, with their beasts of burden, must 
have been, especially when there was not a trace of a road, 


or any central directing command. One would have sup- 
posed that as Government went to the trouble of provid- 
ing a military escort, it would also have appointed some 
director or caravan bashi to marshal the proceedings. 
Notwithstanding the eager desire to be near the all-power- 
ful and all-protecting piece of artillery, the force of circum- 
stances at last compelled the seething mass of human beings 
and beasts to defile in the required direction. Close by on 
our right were the two main peaks of the Maiamai range of 
hills overhanging the town, and looming darkly against the 
star-sprinkled sky. The track we followed lay along their 
northern flank and rose gradually to the dreaded defile 
some ten miles away. The road was rough and disagree- 
able in the extreme. Long sharp ribs of rock running 
parallel to each other protruded like chisel edges. Boulders, 
holes, and trenches abounded. As the eye became accus- 
tomed to the dim starlight, one could make out, little by 
little, the details of the struggling, stumbling column. One 
was nigh suffocated by the dust thrown up by so many 
thousand trampling feet. The entire caravan could not 
have covered less than a couple of miles of road, and a 
strange sight it presented as I rode as quickly as possible 
along its flank, trying to reach the head, in order to be out 
of the way of the dust and the pestilential smell from the 
coffins, which, instead of being kept together and in the 
rear, were mixed up and down the column with the mules 
and camels, the dead in their coffins each moment jostling 
and elbowing the living in their litters and kedjaves. How 
those who were forced to jog along in company with these 
ghastly neighbours, and to bear the general din around 
them, stood the combined noise and smell, not to speak of 
the dust, I cannot conceive. The uproar was outrageous. 
Each mule, besides carrying a pair of litters, one contain- 
ing some stout old hadji, and the other his wife and a 


couple of children, was farther handicapped by an enor- 
mous pair of cylindrical bronze bells, hung from the 
bottoms of the litters ; many had half a dozen smaller ones 
each. At one time I got blocked among the Utters close 
in the rear of the gun, where the noise was simply hideous. 
The big bronze bells crashed and boomed ; the smaller ones 
' jangled, ever so many thousand all at once; the gun 
jolted noisily over the rough path ; hadjis shouted, asses 
brayed, and mules vocalised in their own particular fashion. 
It was like being shut up in the belfry of some cathedral 
in which the ringers are at work, in company with the 
concentrated noonday noises of the busiest street of the 
metropolis. Almost every mounted pilgrim was whirling 
the little fire-cup by which he ignited charcoal for his 
kalioun, this time not with a view of smoking, but of illu- 
minating the ground beneath his horse's feet, and so 
keeping out of the pitfalls which occurred at every step. 
The whole dark line resembled some gigantic train of 
waggons with blazing fiery wheels. The impalpable white 
dust boiled upwards in swaying columns like the steam of 
twenty locomotive engines. The hollow clang of the camel 
bells, and the fiendish tearing groans of the camels, as they 
stalked swingingly along, laden with tents, boxes, and Utters, 
joined in happy unison. Behind and in front of the gun, 
with its six horses, were two score of infantry, mounted on 
small asses. The men were rather big, and the asses the 
most diminutive that I ever saw. In the faint star- 
Ught their general effect was that of a number of four- 
legged men scrambling over the stones, and bearing long 
hayforks over their shoulders. A superstitious stranger 
coming suddenly upon this weird-looking procession, might 
easily take it, with its unearthly sounds, flaming circles, 
and foully smelling coffins, for some infernal troupe issuing 
from the bowels of the sable hill hard by, to indulge in 


a Satanic promenade during the witching hours of the 

As we drew near the dreaded ravines the greatest 
anxiety began to prevail ; and the caravan drew into still 
closer order. Those who at first pushed forward valiantly, 
now fell back upon the gun and its escort; the bugle 
sounded, and we came to a standstill. Just in front of us, 
at the entrance of the pass, was an old fort with tall curtain 
walls and crenelated towers. The half-waned moon was 
just rising beyond its crumbling battlements, shedding an 
uncertain light over the vast dim plain reaching away to 
the north. I could not help thinking of what would be the 
result if the merest handful of Turcoman horsemen swept 
down upon the straggling, unwieldy column. The gun, 
absolutely the most useless weapon among us, could do 
nothing, even if the gunners did not bolt at the first sight 
of the enemy. Besides, even with the steadiest artillery- 
men in the world, this gun, shut in by crowds of terrified, 
unreasoning pilgrims, would not be able to fire a single 
shot; and to fire with a small cannon in the dark at 
Turcoman cavalry whirling down in their usual loose order 
would be little short of absurd. It would be its first and 
last discharge. The few infantrymen, with their cumbrous 
old muzzle-loading rifles, which it would take five minutes 
to load, might also be set aside as practically useless, even 
if they had had bayonets, which, for some unaccountable 
reason, they had not. Anything like rallying the more 
bellicosely inclined of the pilgrims would, under the circum- 
stances, be out of the question. It would be a thorough 
sauve qui peut, and the best thing that could be done under 
the circumstances ; for to stay would be but to c6urt certain 
death or capture. Why the Turcomans should give them- 
selves the trouble to attack one of these hadji caravans 
passes my comprehension. It seems, however, that they 



have frequently waylaid them, and still do occasionally. 
This must be when they have got news that rich people 
are among the pilgrims who can afford to pay handsome 
ransoms, or who are sure to have valuable effects with 
them. As a rule, very little plunder indeed is to be ob- 
tained from the members of an ordinary caravan, such as 
ours was, and in which a large proportion of the pilgrims 
are little better than mendicants. After a short pause we 
screwed up our courage and entered the defile, each man 
shouting and yelling as if possessed, in order, as I under- 
stood, to terrify the robbers. If noise alone could do that, we 
had already been making quite enough to frighten the entire 
population of the Akhal Tekke. We went through the 
pass as quickly as the men on foot could possibly proceed. 
The confusion and din which prevailed during the hour 
which our passage of the ravine occupied cannot be easily 
imagined. I had seen the evacuation of Tolosa by the 
Liberal population during the Carlist investment ; I had 
been in the midst of the precipitate flight of the remnant 
of the Turkish army from the field of the Aladja Dagh to 
Kara, and in many other strange positions of the kind; 
but this rush of hadjis through the Maiamai pass bore away 
the palm for confusion and uproar. The entire cavalcade 
became nearly invisible in the dust-cloud raised by its rapid 
progress. At ten yards one couH barely distinguish the out- 
line of a camel, like that of some shadowy, mis-shapen 
phantom gliding along in the moonlight ; and one gasped 
for breath in the stifling atmosphere. The defile occasion- 
ally widened out, so as to allow easy passage for twenty 
abreast ; but there were places where one camel only could 
pass at a time between the steeply-scarped rocks on either 
side. It was just at these places that the hadjis made 
desperate rushes, each one trying to be the first through. 
The result, of course, was a block and a dead stand-still. 


Sometimes we heard loud cheering in front. This was 
when the leading files of the caravan met with a party of 
returning pilgrims. Usually the direst apprehension existed 
on both sides lest the new-comers should be robbers, and 
the cheering was the expression of mutual relief at discover- 
ing the fact that both parties were friends. The selam aleik 
salutation, which has passed into a mere polite formality in 
towns, becomes on occasions like this the challenge of the 
desert. ' Peace be with you/ is shouted from afar when 
strangers are discerned approaching. The answer, ' Ou el 
selam alikoum,' comes back as a welcome message of peace. 
But should the reply be not given, each one gets ready his 
weapons. I have met with robbers who refused to return 
the salutation, and who went sullenly by, hindered from 
attacking only by the strength of the party with whom I was. 
As we neared the eastern end of the Maiamai Pass we began 
to encounter long trains of camels from Meshed, laden with 
cotton. These trains were a welcome sight, for they showed 
us, as did the returning pilgrims, that the road was clear. 
The pass itself is a kind of long, winding gully, girt on 
either side by low, rounded hills, occasionally forming long 
parapet-like ridges oblique to the defile. No better place 
than this pass could possibly be devised for an ambuscade. 
Still, a single military or police post on a commanding 
point, and furnished with a solitary piece of artillery for 
signalling and offensive purposes, would effectually prevent 
the possibility of a caravan being waylaid here. Yet this 
is not established, and week after week an unfortunate gun 
is trailed along the entire route, and a handful of useless 
soldiers put to no end of trouble, and made to suffer useless 
fatigue in accompanying caravans which they are entirely 
impotent to protect. 

Dawn was fast brightening as we caught sight of the 
halting-place for the day. It was an extensive caravanserai, 

vol. 1. be 


the largest I had hitherto seen, and rose amid the solitude 
of the plain like some enchanted castle. It was named Mian- 
dasht, and was but twenty-eight miles from our last start- 
ing point, though on account of our numerous halts and the 
nature of the road we had been over eight hours in tra- 
versing it. The first rays of the rising sun were glinting 
on the cupola of the main building as our celebrated cannon 
rumbled into the great square, and we all commenced pre- 
paring our quarters for the day. The pilgrims on foot had 
kept up bravely. Indeed, they were among the first to 
arrive. Poor fellows, it was indeed a pilgrimage for them. 
I scarcely believed that in these latter degenerate days 
religious zeal could carry people so far. 




Caravanserai scenes — Travellers' lodgings— Persian architecture—The midday 
siesta — Departure of a caravan— The road to Sabzavar — Strategical po- 
sitions — Abaaabad — Persian coinage — Sadrabad — A rained country — 
Abandoned irrigation works — The Kal Mora river — An ancient bridge — 
Mftginan — Miliars and mosques — A decayed town — Sabzavar — Commercial 
relations with France — Ice manufacture — Travellers' annoyances — Flies 
and scorpions — Parting from the pilgrims — Begging on the road — Per- 
sians and Turcomans — An official reception in Persia — Oriental diplo- 
macy — News and newspapers — The wardens of the Turcoman border — 
Timorous guides — A travelled Persian's impressions of London — Patti as 
a cancan dancer — Start for Kuchan. , 

Miandasht is merely a station on the route like many of 
those already passed, and has no pretensions to rank even 
as a village. The caravanserai is of unusual size and 
solidity, but there is no other building in the place. 
Nothing can be more striking to a European's eye than 
one of these typically Eastern buildings, standing alone 
and desolate in the trackless and arid plain. The work of 
man is there, but of human life there is no sign. The 
soil, of yellow marl strewn thick with pebbles, is devoid of 
a blade of grass or other vegetation, and reflects the burn- 
ing rays of the sun like a brazen shield. From such a 
plain rises a huge embattled structure, like one of the 
great mediaeval castles of Europe in size, and somewhat 
in appearance. The circuit of the walls of this one is fully 
an English mile, and is broken by numerous projecting 
towers, and relieved by huge gate-ways, arched in the 



peculiar ogival forms of Persian and Saracenic architecture. 
The gates of massive oak are double, and thickly studded 
and barred with iron. The whole is built of an extremely 
hard burned yellow brick. The nucleus of this Miandasht 
structure was the caravanserai of Shah Abass the Great, 
whose name is duly recorded in the inscription over the 
great portal. Above the latter rises a large flat cupola of 
the Eastern type. Another and much larger building has 
since been added, but at what date I could not ascertain. 
Its first courtyard forms an immense square in front of 
the older caravanserai, and is divided from a second of 
similar dimensions by a row of buildings which joins the 
ramparts at both ends. The inner side of the rampart is 
lined with a row of vaulted rooms, each having a shallow 
arched vestibule in front. The latter, from the free circu- 
lation of air through it, and its consequent coolness, is the 
place preferred by summer travellers for lodgings. The 
row of central buildings has a second story, closely resem- 
bling the casemates in European fortresses, with long dim 
corridors ; and throughout, the walls, floors, and roof are 
of solid brickwork, impervious alike to rain and sun. 
Nothing can be more delightful on a sultry day than to 
pass from the burning heat and glare of the stony plain 
into the cave-like coolness and dim light of these long 
arcades and vaults. Indeed, the architect who designed 
this Miandasht caravanserai seems to have thoroughly 
grasped the requirements of his building, and to have 
admirably adapted it for the purposes of shelter against 
the burning heat. In winter, no doubt, such a dark abode 
must be chilling, but few travellers ever cross these plains 
in winter. The only fault I found with the builders was 
in the construction of their stairs, which it seems to be an 
object to make as nearly vertical as possible. The maximum 
of rise with the minimum of foot tread seems to be the 


aspiration of the Persian stair-builder, and even in the 
heights of his steps in the same flight he sees no need of 
uniformity. The first step in the stairs leading to the 
room, or end of the corridor which I occupied, was two 
and a half feet high, or about four times that of an ordinary 
European stair. The second was two feet in height, and 
the rest eighteen inches each, with a tread of not more than 
six inches wide. Climbing such an ascent is no easy task 
to a traveller whose legs are stiff with riding, and it is no 
wonder that the people of the country have a general dislike 
to going up-stairs. Indeed, in some of the earth-built 
caravanserais, where steps originally designed like those of 
Miandasht have fallen into dilapidation, one would almost 
need an alpenstock to ascend them. Accordingly, the bala 
hane over the gate is seldom occupied by the natives. 

Water is abundantly provided in this caravanserai. 
Within the courtyards, and also outside the walls, are some 
half-dozen large underground tanks, with brick domes built 
over them to prevent evaporation and keep the water fresh 
and cool. A flight of forty wide steps gives access to the 
cisterns, which are closely guarded by the care-takers of 
the establishment. It is true each traveller is allowed all 
he needs for his personal use, but the fluid cannot be 
wasted, nor is it allowed to be given to the animals. The 
latter are supplied with water of poorer quality from a 
tank some distance off, and a small sum is exacted for 
each animal. The drying up in summer of the under- 
ground canals which feed the tanks necessitates this 
economy. In winter the water flows in abundantly, but 
during the rest of the year it has to be stored for the use 
of the caravans. Thus, were it not for the tanks at 
Miandasht, it would be necessary to carry water in skins. 

The sun was just rising as we entered the station, and 
in a few minutes hundreds of fires were smoking as the 


pilgrims prepared their morning meal. Dealers in various 
articles of food, some of whom had accompanied the caravan 
for purposes of trade, displayed their wares, and advertised 
them with all their ingenuity. One man, seated in the 
archway of one of the lower vaults, drew attention to the 
sour curds which formed his stock-in-trade by uttering a 
sort of gurgling sound something like the hoarse gasps 
of a vulture. Another, whom I for some time thought was 
engaged in calling a drove of cows to their stable, proved 
to be a vendor of firewood. This fuel consists of the roots 
of a small scraggy thorn-bush that grows here and there 
throughout the desert, and which have to be torn up with 
enormous labour. In fact, nearly all the poorer members 
of the caravan had something to sell. Whenever we 
reached a patch of coarse grass some mendicant pilgrim 
would dismount from his little donkey, cut a load for the 
animal, and trudge on foot through the burning sands to 
the next station for the sake of the couple of pence to be 
realised from the sale of his fodder. Firewood such as I 
have described was provided in general in the same way, 
for the local resources of the caravanserais are entirely 
inadequate to meet the requirements of a large caravan. 
It is surprising on how little these people can live, even 
when undergoing the fatigues of travelling through the 
desert on foot. A piece of bread and a morsel of goat's 
cheese, with a handful of apricots, constitute their meal. 
The richer pilgrims only can indulge in the luxury 
of an occasional piece of chicken or spitted meat. All, 
however, drink tea, and everyone, no matter how poor, 
manages to prepare a little, which is usually drunk without 
sugar, the latter being a delicacy reserved for the rich only. 
When breakfast is over, and the horses, camels, and asses 
fed and watered, everyone retires to rest. During the 
burning hours of midday a stillness like that of death 


settles over the place. Throughout the East midday is 
essentially the hour of repose. In Persia a man would as 
soon think of leaving the house or travelling half a mile 
at that time as we would of selecting midnight during a 
downpour of rain for a promenade. In Spain, I believe, it 
is said that only dogs and Englishmen are abroad during 
the siesta hours. In Persia, even those exceptions need 
not be made. I felt too much worried by the night's 
journey to be able to sleep during the first part of the day, 
and I availed myself of the interval to proceed with my 
writing ; but about noon the hot wind made its influence 
felt so overpoweringly even in these cool vaults, that I 
fell asleep almost with the pen in my hand, and remained 
unconscious, with my head propped against the wall by 
way of pillow, until a general movement in the courts 
below and the tinkle of the camel bells awoke me as the 
hour of our departure approached. This travelling by 
night exclusively is a terrible hindrance to rapid progress. 
Moving over uneven ground in the dark is necessarily slow 
work. Though it would be impossible to travel on these 
plains in the full heat of the day, I must say I think our 
halts were unnecessarily prolonged. A rest from eight in 
the morning till five in the afternoon, with a stop of a 
couple of hours at midnight, would meet all the needs of 
the case, and allow a much faster rate of advance. But 
Orientals cannot appreciate a European's eagerness to 
get to his journey's end. 

The scene, as the caravan was making ready to start, 
was a most picturesque one. The sun was going down 
with almost noontide splendour behind the amethyst tinted 
hills that showed indistinctly on the western horizon — 

Not as in northern lands, obscurely bright, 
But one unclouded blaze of living light 

A few taper clouds like golden fishes poised motionless in the 


opal depths, alone broke the continuity of the vast silent 
arch above the desert. Around us, the boundless plain 
was one sheet of aerial purple. Far away to the south 
gleamed whitely the lonely tomb of some forgotten warrior 
or saint ; and, further still, a solitary well, with its single 
straggling chenar tree— emblems of life in the wilderness. 
A tall dust column was waltzing solemnly eastward in the 
rising evening breeze, now breaking into viewless sand 
mist, now reforming, bowing and caracolling like some 
sportive living creature, the very prototype of the gin of 
Eastern story, the enraged genius who came to slay the 
merchant that had thrown a date-stone into his son's eye. 
In the courtyard below the window of my lodging, people 
in every costume of the East were sitting or lying on the 
ground, under the horse-shoe arches of the arcades or on 
the terraced tank covers, smoking their water-pipes or 
drinking tea from their samovars, a Russian utensil now 
found everywhere in the East. Others were performing 
their evening ablutions, a companion or attendant pouring 
water from a metal jug over their hands. These ablutions 
are little more than a matter of form, especially before 
prayers. For the feet, a damp hand is passed lightly over 
the instep ; that is all. Other pilgrims were standing on 
their little carpets with their faces towards the keblah and 
their hands held before them like an open book, com- 
mencing their evening devotions. Some similarly engaged, 
rose and sank during their orisons like the piston-rod of a 
steam engine in slow motion as they prostrated themselves. 
From tower and terrace a dozen self-appointed muezzims 
chanted their prayer-call, which echoed mournfully along 
the neighbouring plain. Camels and mules laden for the 
road, with their bells tinkling at every motion, stood 
around everywhere. The cupola and turrets of Shah 
Abass's caravanserai stood out boldly against the evening 


sky, and below, in the middle of the square, our cannon 
was conspicuous. As the sun disappeared slowly behind 
the horizon, and dim twilight settled over * the level waste, 
the rounding gray ' across which our path lay, the artillery 
bugles gave the signal for departure, and I had to scramble 
down the steep caravanserai steps and once more start on 
my journey. 

Our road from Miandasht to Sabzavar lay across a 
stony plain, below the level of which it sometimes sank 
like a shallow railroad cutting, and at other times it was 
crossed by sharp rocky mounds, over which, in the dark, 
there was many a stumble and fall. A strong sultry wind 
blew from the east, as it usually does here just after sunset, 
and filled our mouths, eyes, and noses with clouds of sand 
and dust. At night, during the prevalence of this wind, 
my horse's coat became most remarkably electrical, streams 
of sparks flying from his neck and mane wherever the reins 
touched them. I could draw sparks from the animal's ears 
with my metal-ringed riding-whip. About two in the 
morning we entered a series of deep sandy ravines, domi- 
nated on all sides by steep craggy ridges. An adequate 
military force posted on these ridges would have complete 
control of the communications between Teheran and 
Meshed, and it would be almost impossible to dislodge it 
from the position. Emerging from these defiles we reached 
Abasabad, a wretched little place containing a couple of 
hundred houses and a ruined citadel. Some of the houses 
were enclosed by a dilapidated mud wall, but the most im- 
portant part of the town was the caravanserai, which was 
toomy, and solidly built of burned brick. Large as it was, 
it was overcrowded by the multitude of pilgrims, and I had 
to take refuge in the post-house outside, where, between 
the heat and the flies, I was unable either to sleep or to 
work, and passed a dismal day enough. The inhabitants 


are all agriculturists and silk manufacturers. When the 
bugles sounded the signal for departure I proceeded to 
settle my account ; but owing to the peculiar notions pre- 
valent respecting the coinage, it was a full quarter of an 
hour before I could find some silver money that would be 
accepted in payment. All the money I had was perfectly 
good in the capital and the surrounding districts, but for 
some not very easily understood reason, the people in this 
place objected to a very large proportion. The lengths 
to which people here will go for the sake of a few pence 
must be seen to be appreciated fully. They do not under- 
stand gold. On the other hand, a large sum in silver is a 
source of both anxiety and danger. Its bulk and weight 
make it conspicuous, and it must be carried on one's own 
horse, and never trusted beyond arm's length, night or day. 
Every eye is on it, and every brain plotting how to make 
away with it — in all likelihood your own servants most of 
all. A party of wild horsemen may happen to draw up at 
the hut where one is staying, and they immediately learn 
that a stranger is there who carries a large sum of money. 
From that moment, unless one keeps constantly on his 
guard, he is liable to be attacked from an ambuscade, or 
by open force. After all this, it is hard to find that the 
silver so jealously watched will not pay your way without 
endless disputes. The Government should call in its coin 
if light, or take measures to enforce its circulation. It is 
not impossible that the whole objection to the Hamadan 
coins is a mere popular whim based on idle rumours, 
perhaps set afloat by some crafty speculators, Jews or 
Armenians, who think thus to buy in the objectionable 
coins at a low rate. One can hardly credit how easily 
similar stories are set afloat in Persia. 

From Abasabad to Mazinan, the next station, the road 
crosses a dreary flat, entirely uncultivated, though plenti- 


folly supplied with water from the Kal Mura river, which 
has left marks of extensive inundations in numerous white 
deposits of salt. This plain would undoubtedly produce 
abundant crops of rice if properly cultivated. About ten 
miles from our starting place were several ponds, evidently 
supplied by springs, and surrounded by extensive reed- 
covered marshes. An old fort stands near the ponds, and 
some ten miles further is the large fortress of Sadrabad, 
about five hundred yards square, with high brick walls 
furnished with large semicircular bastions. Sadrabad was 
built by Shah Abass the Great, and was once very impor- 
tant. It is now comparatively neglected. Extensive re- 
servoirs and covered tanks in great numbers are close to 
the fortifications, and there is a well-built caravanserai on 
the opposite side of the road. A couple of miles eastward 
we crossed the Kal Mura, a river about forty yards wide 
here, and tolerably deep, though in the maps it is usually 
marked as dry in summer. It rises about thirty or forty 
miles to the north, among the hills, and flows about as far 
south, when it disappears in the salt desert. The country 
around was once extensively cultivated, as the traces of the 
irrigating ditches show — in all likelihood at the time when 
the conquest of Merv by Nadir Shah had put a stop to 
border feuds. Nowadays, cultivation is only attempted 
immediately around the towns, and even there, probably 
from lack of manuring, the crops are miserably poor, the 
soil being apparently exhausted, though naturally well 
adapted for grain growing. We crossed the Kal Mura on 
a high bridge of several arches, twenty-five feet above the 
water in the centre, and well built of brick. The ascent 
on each side has a gradient of at least twenty-five 
degrees, and, being paved with smooth pebbles, is by no 
means an easy climb for the mules. The height of the 
bridge indicates the passage of a large body of water in the 


winter, during which season the road mast be all but im- 

It was early dawn when we reached Mazinan, which is 
the collective name of a group of villages, each fortified 
separately and bearing a distinct name. The extent of the 
ruins around shows that it has once been a more important 
place, but now it contains altogether about eight hundred 
houses, and some four thousand inhabitants, spread over 
a space of about four miles long and three wide. There is 
a wretched little bazaar, where a few artisans eke out a 
living, but otherwise the community is entirely agricultural, 
raising corn and making silk. A night's travel from 
Mazinan, during which we passed a place called Sulkar, 
brought us to Mehr, a village with a very small caravan- 
serai, consisting solely of a few arched niches in a mud 
wall. From this place to Sabzavar is only twenty-eight 
miles, the road being level, and passing through the large 
village of Biwad between the two places. Around Sabza- 
var, the Green City, the plain is highly cultivated, and 
mulberry trees, the only ones to be found here, are abun- 
dant, whole acres being planted with them. Numerous 
villages and fortified residences are scattered over the 
plain, which appears from numerous evidences to have 
been formerly still more densely populated. A very re- 
markable minaret, the mosque to which it was once at- 
tached having completely disappeared, stands about two 
miles from the town. It is built of flat reddish-brown 
brick on a concrete foundation, not over eleven feet in 
diameter at the base, but it rises to the height of a hundred 
and twenty feet, being as slender in appearance as a factory 
chimney in Europe. The shaft has the entasis which the 
ancient Greeks deemed essential to the beauty of their 
columns, and is ornamented at intervals by bands of rose- 
pattern tiles, disposed among rows of obliquely set bricks* 


The style of decoration is peculiar to this tower, and there 
is an absence of the coloured enamels so common in Persian 
buildings, and an air of originality about the whole work, 
that stamp it as the production of no ordinary architect. 
Indeed, the minaret, at least as it occurs in Turkish 
architecture, is rarely met with in Persia. The muezzim 
calls the faithful to prayer in the latter country from the 
summit of a dome, or from a cage-like structure on some 
prominent part of the mosque — not from the gallery of a 
prayer tower. Only at Semnan, Damkhan, and Sabzavar, 
have I met with the true slender minaret, and all three 
were of very considerable antiquity. The foundations of 
this tower have been exposed by the removal of the earth 
from around them, and the steps inside have been almost 
all taken away, apparently for use elsewhere, only their 
spiral supports being left in place. I scrambled up the 
latter to the top with considerable trouble, and found the 
marks of a wooden platform, now gone. Around the town 
were numerous ruins of brick buildings, pointing to the 
former existence of a large town. Some of the older tombs 
were embellished with coloured bricks and tiles, and the 
dome of one was covered with copper. 

The present town of Sabzavar is rectangular, and about 
three quarters of a mile by half a mile in dimensions. It 
is enclosed by a wall and towers, the latter partly and the 
former wholly built of sun-dried bricks, or adobes, as they 
are styled in Spanish America. The bazaar consists of two 
streets, running parallel, and roofed with horizontal rafters 
laid across on the tops of the stalls, and covered with felt, 
matting, or in places with branches. There is also an 
Armenian commercial caravanserai, where some Russian 
Armenians from Tiflis and Erivan carry on a considerable 
trade in silk. Most of the articles offered for sale in the 
bazaars were either Russian or French. The loaves of 


sugar that I saw bore on the wrappers the name of a 
Marseilles firm, and, what was strange, a stamp or trade- 
mark with the arms of England. Apricots, plums, and 
grapes, with other varieties of fruit, were offered in large 
quantities, and, what could hardly be expected here, ice can 
be bought in any quantity at a very reasonable price. 
During the winter the cold is severe, and the inhabitants 
pour water, during the frosts, into large shallow tanks, 
afterwards rejnoving the ice and storing it in deep cellars 
for summer use. This display of foresight is entirely out 
of keeping with the usual character of the Persians, but the 
luxury of ice in such a climate can only be appreciated by 
one who has felt its excessive summer heat. From noon 
till four in the afternoon outdoor movement was quite im- 
possible, and, only for the furious west winds which set in 
at about the former hour, even life within doors would be 
hardly endurable. The swarms of flies add to the travel- 
ler's discomfort, and very large whitish green scorpions 
abound, stowing themselves in one's valise or in any gar- 
ment laid carelessly aside for a few hours. Fortunately, 
mosquitoes are absent, but the flies and scorpions are quite 
enough. Taking it altogether, Sabzavar offers few induce- 
ments for a prolonged residence. It is dusty and burnt up 
in appearance, looking very like an immense brickyard. 
The houses, with their flat cupolas, from the top of each of 
which the smoke issues through a round hole, resemble 
so many brick-kilns, and the few trees that peep above the 
garden walls only intensify the dried-up appearance of the 
whole place. The sun beats in summer on the roofs and 
exposed parts of the streets with terrific strength, and on 
one occasion when I incautiously rushed out in my bare 
feet on the pavement at midday to recover some papers 
which a sudden gust of wind had swept off, I thought 
literally that my soles would be burned before I could get 


back to shelter. The town has evidently suffered a good 
deal from recent wars. The eastern gate has been battered 
with artillery, and the massive oaken valves are literally 
riddled with cannon shot. Though the people said that 
this damage had been caused by the Turcomans, I do not 
believe it was, as the Tekk6 nomads in their forays could 
hardly drag twelve-pounder field guns with them, and least 
of all over such a range of hills as I since crossed. Most 
likely the town rebelled and was attacked by the Shah's 
troops, or some local chieftains may have been the as- 

At Sabzavar I parted company with the pilgrims, as the 
road which I had decided on taking to Euchan left the 
Meshed road there. I separated from the pilgrims without 
regret. The greater portion of them having started on 
their expedition without any funds, had to depend on 
begging for the means of living, and so persistently did they 
ply their trade as to be a perfect nuisance on the road. 
Everyone who seemed to possess anything was remorselessly 
dunned for alms. A favourite practice was to assail me for 
money to replace the road-tattered sandals, which footsore 
pilgrims offered for my inspection so frequently that at last 
I was compelled to explain to them that I had not got a 
contract to provide the caravan with shoe leather. 

It proved easier to separate from my travelling com- 
panions than to pursue my journey to Euchan. It was 
needful in the first place to call on the Governor, and discuss 
my projected journey, and the precautions necessary to make 
it safely. The people of this part of Persia are terribly in 
awe of their marauding neighbours, and a journey to a place 
bo near the Turcoman frontier as Euchan was looked upon 
as a most perilous if not wholly insane undertaking. Half 
a dozen Turcomans are enough to cause a panic in a 
Persian community, and a Turcoman venturing alone into 


a Persian town would be killed at once as remorselessly as 
a venomous snake. To make my call on the Governor 
with due formality, I sent a messenger to announce my 
intended visit — an indispensable ceremony here, when the 
person to be visited is of any considerable rank. This pre- 
liminary over, I proceeded to that dignitary's residence, 
which, though fortified with flanking towers and bastions, 
was only built of earth. The guards at the gate seemed 
utterly astonished at my appearance, and I heard them 
speculating on my nationality. One decided that I was 
either a Russian or a Frenchman. The latter nationality 
he spoke of by the word Franks, not Ferenghi, the common 
Oriental word for all Europeans except Russians, who go 
by the title of Uroos. I know not how the speaker got 
his knowledge of the French in particular, as Persians in 
general are not much acquainted with geography. Perhaps 
the trade of Marseilles with Sabzavar has familiarised the 
people of the latter place with the name at least of the 
Gallic nation. Passing the gateway and its guardians, I 
found myself in a bare courtyard with some dusty buildings 
on the far side. About a dozen persons belonging to the 
household were saying the evening prayer on a slightly 
raised platform in one corner. On the left was a one- 
story building with folding windows, paper instead of glass 
being inserted in the openings in the sash. In front was 
a large tank of water full of weeds. A small side door gave 
access to a large court, containing some trees of mulberry, 
jujube, and willow, and partially paved. A number of the 
hangers-on, who are always to be found around the dwelling 
of a Persian grandee, loitered about the gateway. Imme- 
diately on my entry a carpet was brought and spread 
beside the tank, and two arm-chairs were placed on it, in 
one of which I was invited to take a seat. 

The Governor, or Neyer el Dowlet, soon made his 


appearance. He was a handsome, sly-looking man of about 
forty, with large eyes, a slender aquiline nose, and a 
long drooping moustache of a heavy leaden black colour. 
His dress consisted of a long loose robe of lilac-coloured silk, 
and he wore the usual Kadjar hat of Astrakan. Like most 
Persians of the upper class, he was extremely courteous in 
his manners. I presented my letters irom his Highness 
the Sipah Salar Aazem, and from the Shah's physician, Dr. 
Tholozan. Our conversation at first turned on the Europeans 
who had been in those parts during recent times, and I 
quickly found that I was the first newspaper correspondent 
who had come to the country. The Governor could not 
comprehend my mission very clearly, and still less could he 
understand why I should wish to risk my life and liberty 
among the Turcomans. The letters I had shown evidently 
convinced him that I was not in the Government service, 
and he clearly set the whole undertaking down as a mere 
freak of Western eccentricity. He spoke of Colonel 
Valentine Baker and Captain Napier, but he had seen 
neither of them, as the former, when in Sabzavar, had not 
called on him, and the Governor himself was absent at the 
time of Captain Napier's visit. I then drew the conversa- 
tion to the Akhal Tekkes, and inquired what reception I was 
likely to meet among them. The Governor shook his head. 
The road across the mountains, he said, was pretty safe for 
armed persons travelling in company, as the governors 
along the Atterek kept strict watch against marauding 
parties from beyond the frontier and took heavy reprisals 
in case of damage to persons or property within the Persian 
territory, but the Tekkes were a bad lot. The Governor of 
Euchan and Yar Mehemet Khan of Budjnoord would be 
able to give me more accurate information about them than 
he could. This Tar Mehemet Khan has been quite a 
prominent personage since the commencement of the Bussian 
vol. 1. f » 


campaign on the Atterek, and occupies a position similar 
to that of one of the Lords Warden of the old Scottish 
marches in the days of the Tudors. It was while returning 
from a mission to him, with the object of obtaining 
supplies of forage to be delivered at Chatte and different 
points along the line of march, that General LazarefFs 
envoy, Zeinel Beg, and the Russian soldiers were waylaid 
and massacred by the Turcomans. There had always been 
marauders along the road to Euchan, the Governor told me, 
but at that time they were not very much to be feared. He 
offered me an escort, but as I knew that this involved a 
heavy payment to the guard, I politely declined to accept 
it, trusting rather to my own revolver and sword and to 
the formidable appearance of my servant, who was fully 
accoutred with sabre, handjar, and pistols. He next 
questioned me on the possibilities of a war between Bussia 
and China on the Euldja question, and was delighted when 
I gave him the contents of a leading article from a copy of 
the ' Pall Mall Budget,' which I had brought from Teheran. 
He was surprised to learn that the British were to evacuate 
Candahar and Afghanistan as soon as possible, neither 
could he clearly understand why the Persian expedition to 
Herat had been abandoned. He was a little disappointed 
that my news should be some months old, for the people 
in these out-of-the-way regions apparently think that a 
travelling European carries a portable telegraph in his 
portmanteau, and thus keeps himself fully acquainted with 
everything going on throughout the world. Some words 
which the Governor let drop during the conversation were 
suggestive of the Turcomans getting drawn into the war in 
Afghanistan, as Abdul Rahman Khan had a very large force 
of Tekke refugees with him. 

Two glasses of very strong tea, sweetened excessively, were 
brought in at the commencement of our conversation, and 


immediately afterwards two highly ornamented water-pipes, 
which we smoked in silence for a few minutes. Two more 
glasses of tea were subsequently brought. This tea and 
smoking interlude, apart from the question of hospitality, 
has an important role in serious conversations in Persia. 
The Orientals are born diplomatists, and the smoking of a 
pipe or sipping of a glass of tea is often employed to gain 
time for deliberation when questions of possible importance 
are unexpectedly started. Little things of this kind, like 
palace influence and harem intrigues, play a much more 
important part in the East than the less subtle minds of 
Europe can well imagine. I recollect once when calling on 
Ghazi Achmet Mukhtar Pasha, the well-known Turkish 
General of the Armenian campaigns, at Constantinople, 
after a few minutes' conversation he rose, and, pleading 
weakness of the eyes as an excuse, changed his seat so as to 
sit with his back to the light. This is a common manoeuvre 
to hide the expression of one's face, and at the same time 
have a clear view of the countenance of the other party to 
the conversation. After some time I took leave of the 
Governor, promising to call on him again before my 
departure. Our parting was marked with all due formality. 
We rose and bowed profoundly to each other, and I then 
retired backwards, keeping an eye on the tank, and at ten 
paces from the carpet I bowed again and departed. 

After my interview with the Governor, I intended start- 
ing as soon as possible for Euchan, but was delayed by the 
difficulty of finding a guide. The first whom I engaged in 
that capacity lost his courage when it came to the moment 
of setting out, and declined to go unless I would ask for an 
escort. It cost me a couple of days to find another guide, 
and thus my stay in Sabzavar was prolonged until 
July 18, eight days in all. On the evening before 
starting I paid my visit of adieu to the Governor, and before 



sunrise rode through the bazaar as the people were un- 
barring their booths, on my way to the gate of the town. 
The tenants of the booths gazed after me with an air of 
astonishment, and evidently looked on my project of pene- 
trating among the Tekk6 savages, which had got well 
published everywhere during my stay, as little less than 
lunacy. The last person to whom I spoke in Sabzavar, 
oddly enough, happened to be a man who had spent nine 
years in London as a servant of the Persian Envoy. His 
impressions, and the tastes he had acquired during his 
travels, were peculiar. He would like, he said, to return 
once more for the sake of eating corned beef and drinking 
bitter ale. He also had been highly pleased by the manner 
in which Madame Patti had danced the cancan at the 
Alhambra in Leicester Square ! 




Exhausted lands — Grapes and wine — Aliak — Beformed thieves — Writing 
under difficulties — Sultanabad — Antiquated farm implements — Saman 
fodder — Water-melons — Mineral resources — Karagul — Sympathy with 
Russia — Persian highwaymen — Abdullah Gau — Kuchan — The Upper At- 
terek — Weighing the chances — Russians and Turcomans — Anxieties — 
Railroad — Earthquakes — Dinner with a Persian Emir — A frontier court — 
Dinner-table on the frontier — Social fencing — Persian sakouska— Family 
etiquette— A renegade— Western luxuries — A Kurdish orgie — A young 
captive— Eastern immorality — Going home— Bitten by the thab-ges — 
Fever and delirium — A friend in need — A desperate remedy — Opium 
dreams — Recovery — Kuchan medical astrologers. 

The sun was rising as I rode out of Sabzavar, for, being 
now travelling independently, I was no longer under the 
necessity of spending the morning hours in the inaction to 
which they had been doomed during the time that I 
accompanied the pilgrims. The road to Kuchan runs in 
a north-easterly direction, winding in conformity with the 
outline of the neighbouring chain of hills, but level itself. 
The valley through which it runs is wide and extensively 
cultivated, but, owing to the defective system of agriculture 
employed, the crops were very poor, the corn stalks being 
hardly a foot high and the ears thin. Water is plentiful, 
both in running streams and artificial ponds, and the 
dried-up watercourses indicate that in winter there must 
be a still more abundant supply. A village, A liar, about 
seven miles from Sabzavar, is surrounded by mulberry 
plantations, which furnish food for the silkworms. Im- 


mediately beyond Aliar the road enters a district of dry 
and barren hills, principally formed of schistose and other 
metamorphic rocks, crossed occasionally by vast intrusive 
trap dykes which stand out from the slopes and summits 
black and glistening in the sun with an almost metallic 
lustre. In a few secluded gullies and nooks there are 
streaks and patches of verdure in the shape of tall rank 
grass, amid which apricot and mulberry trees with extra* 
ordinarily large leaves rise here and there. A half-wild 
vine, with dense clusters of very small grapes red in colour, 
grows among the rocks. The inhabitants make a very 
poor kind of wine, in colour somewhat like tea, and of 
a disagreeable burned flavour, from these grapes. They 
also make a liquor, which they call arrack, from the 
plums growing in the neighbourhood, and this they consume 
extensively, though they are very rigid Mahomedans — Shiites 
of course. 

The road wound in and out among the hills for about 
fifteen miles, after which the valleys began to open out into 
plains dotted with hills a few hundred feet high. The road 
was entirely deserted. I did not meet half a dozen persons 
during the whole ride from Aliar. Three of these were 
men driving asses laden with raw cotton, still uncleaned. 
Silk and cotton seem to be the chief products of the country. 
About eight miles further I came to Aliak, a little hamlet of 
thirty houses huddled together on a small hill in the very 
heart of the mountains. The people of this place had 
formerly the name of being great highway robbers, but 
when I passed they seemed peaceable enough, and received 
me very hospitably, evidently taking me for a Russian from 
the expeditionary force beyond the Atterek (Monah is the 
name it bears in this neighbourhood). About half the 
male population were sitting under a great plane-tree in 
the centre of the village. When I spoke of the Turcomans 


they cursed them heartily, and expressed the hope that 
they might be thoroughly dealt with this time. Fifteen 
miles beyond Aliak I reached my stopping-place for the 
night, Sultanabad — a small but strongly fortified village, 
the surrounding hills being also furnished with watch- 
towers, from which beacon fires could readily announce the 
approach of an enemy. There was a caravanserai, but 
entirely deserted, as the track is little travelled over. I 
established my quarters in a large dilapidated room on the 
ground-floor, and, having stuck my sword in the wall, and 
hung the linen Chinese lantern I carried with me to give 
light at night on the hilt, I spread a horsecloth on the floor, 
and, lying on my face thereon, proceeded to write my 
correspondence. Every now and then I had to cast a look 
around to guard against the advance of the various insect 
tribes — beetles, spiders, ants, and others — which came in 
columns towards my light, and constantly sought to climb 
on my carpet and investigate the contents of the ink- 

At daybreak I started from Sultanabad, and crossed a 
valley, some eight miles wide and sixteen long, where the 
inhabitants were busily engaged in reaping and gathering 
the grain from their corn-fields. The processes they used 
were decidedly Homeric. They often first cut off the ears 
and then reaped the straw with small, old-fashioned sickles, 
such as are represented on antique vases. The corn was 
chiefly barley, which in some places was being threshed out 
by the primitive process of treading with oxen. The straw 
is collected as carefully as the grain, as it forms the staple 
fodder of the country. The peasants spread it out on a 
beaten earthen floor, and a kind of car, resting on two trunks 
of trees, armed with projecting spikes of wood about three 
inches long, is dragged repeatedly over it by bullocks. The 
straw is thus chopped into short pieces a couple of inches 


long, in which state, under the name of saman, it is given 
to horses instead of hay. In the neighbourhood of 
Erzeroum a heavy plank, the under-side studded with 
sharp fragments of flint or obsidian, is used instead of the 
car with a similar result. Fifteen or twenty pounds of 
this saman is a day's ration for a horse. The animals seem 
to thrive on it, and will quit the freshest hay for a nose-bag 
of it. 

Water-melon patches occur frequently in this vicinity, 
being irrigated from the kanots or covered ditches brought 
a long distance from the hills. The melon attains great 1 

perfection here, and, indeed, with proper appliances for 
irrigation, the entire valley, though now for the greater part 
desert or merely dotted at best with clumps of rough grass or 
beds of wild thyme, would be capable of the highest cultiva- 
tion. 'The same may be said of the greatest part of 
Northern Persia, but the constant inroads of the Turco- 
mans have hitherto effectually prevented the development of 
the natural resources of the country. Near the eastern 
edge of the plain are the ruins of a considerable town, 
among the dismantled towers and houses of which a shepherd 
was leading his sheep to graze. The large village of 
Eheirabad stands about a mile further north, and there I 
had purposed halting for breakfast, but as the people could 
not furnish me with forage for my horses, I had to con* 
tinue my route fasting, and soon got among arid hills from 
which the glare of the sun was reflected oppressively. 
The rocks of which these hills are formed are chiefly lime- 
stone and gypsum mixed with rotten black shale in highly 
distorted beds. At a distance this shale closely resembles 
coal, and the shining greasy-looking grey stone which occurs 
in connection with it is so like the roofs and floors of the 
coal beds that it heightens the delusion. Though I was 
too tired and hungry to make more than a superficial 


examination, I saw enough during my three hours' ride 
through these hills to convince me that proper exploration 
would discover numerous mineral veins in this locality. I 
picked up several specimens of copper ore, haematite, and 
brown oxide of iron. Beyond the hills came a narrow 
winding valley, well watered and cultivated, where the 
inhabitants were busy getting in their harvest. The yield 
seemed to be very large in proportion to the population. 
A good deal of it, probably, would find its way across the 
Atterek to the Bussian army. There was abundant 
promise that a good crop of cereals would be forthcoming 
in this part of Persia. I passed numerous fortified villages 
perched on low hills flanking the valley ; but, the inhabit- 
ants being away in the fields, or under tents with their 
herds on the mountains, I could find no one to whom to 
address myself. At length, after a weary ride, I reached 
the village of Karagul, where I succeeded in unearthing 
three witch-like old women, who were down in a cellar, 
engaged in boiling something in a pot. They must have 
taken me for a Turcoman, for on my appearance "they fled 
away into inner recesses, from which they were only with 
difficulty induced to come forth. Through their agency some 
men were discovered, and I was able to get some breakfast 
— eggs, milk, and a fowl, as usual. I had had such a sur- 
feit of these articles during a long period, that for this 
reason alone I looked forward with pleasure to getting into 
other regions. As soon as my arrival was made known, 
the entire population of the district left their work, and 
flocked in to ' interview * me. They spoke a curious mixture 
of Persian and Turcoman, a jargon with which I was tole- 
rably well acquainted, in consequence of my sojourn on the 
frontier. They all took me to be a Bussian, owing to my 
wearing a white tunic and cap, and were loud in their ex- 
pressions of hope that ere long my friends would overcome 


the common adversary. I took particular care to register 
these expressions of opinion of the border inhabitants, as 
there would possibly be no other means by which their ideas 
could reach Europe. Up to that time, so far as I had been 
able to observe, they had looked upon the Russians as their 
friends, inasmuch as the latter had given them considerable 
respite from the persecution which, during centuries, they 
had suffered at the hands of the border raiders. Of course 
these frontier Persians are as a rule too ignorant to be able 
to judge of the future possibilities awaiting them, and their 
sources of information are also too limited to allow of 
their doing so. They know the Russians as folk who, 
whether intentionally or otherwise, have wrought them a 
great deal of good, and shielded them from evils which 
their own Government had shown itself impotent to pre- 
vent. A Russian army marching through these districts 
would be received with open arms, and, as the Russians 
generally pay well for what they get or take, would be wel- 
comed a second time. I have no hesitation in saying that, 
among the masses on the North Persian frontier, Russian 
influence is predominant. Perhaps I might add, deservedly 
so, as far as the people are concerned. With regard to the 
political aspect of the matter, so far as my observations 
have gone, the Persian Government is delighted to have 
some one to rid it of a very disagreeable neighbour, by 
whose interference its frontier populations are allowed to 
follow their avocations in peace, and who, sooner or later, 
may bring about a situation in which, during a dispute, a 
peaceable neighbour like Persia may receive a good portion 
of the fruits of a possible strife. Persia approximates 
singularly to Austria, not only in employing the officers of 
that Power to organise her army, but also in adopting the 
peculiar waiting policy bo characteristic of Vienna states- 
men. I am afraid that the only result of this doubtless long- 


sighted policy will be a further lease of beggarly independ- 
ence, based on the mutual disagreements of surrounding 
peoples too strong to be in accord. 

The valleys in the mountain chain through which I 
passed are inhabited by a race which until lately was little 
less given to marauding than the Tekk6s themselves, who 
habitually swept through the passes on their forays. The 
villagers regarded lonely parties of travellers or even an 
inadequately guarded caravan as natural prey. During the 
last few years, however, the wise and energetic measures of 
the Persian Minister Sipah Salar Aazem have secured life 
and property comparatively well within the frontiers. The 
head man of Karagul, a tall old man whose long beard was 
dyed with henna to the colour of a fox's back, became very 
friendly with me, after examining in succession my field 
glass, revolver, sketch-book, &c. He advised me not to go 
through the Abdulla Gau Pass, as all the people there were 
' shumsheer adamlar, 9 fond of the sword. He then pointed 
out a very high mountain, the top of which was shaped like 
a bishop's mitre, and recommended me to pass through the 
cleft between the twin peaks. , However, I had had enough 
of mountain climbing already, and so preferred to risk the 
dangers of the road as it lay before me. Still, I was so 
impressed by the warnings he gave me that I determined 
not to pass through the village of Abdulla Gau by night, 
and accordingly I and my servant and guide camped out 
on a steep rock near that place and kept watch by turns all 
night. In the morning we boldly entered the suspected 
village, and found the people a sober-looking lot enough. 
One of them offered me some fine turquoises, from the 
mines of that gem on the mountains of Madane, at a very 
low price. Though much tempted to buy, I feared the offer 
might be a ruse to find out how much money I had, and I 
declined traffic. Beyond Abdulla Gau the valley narrowed 


considerably, bat was highly cultivated throughout its whole 
extent. After a couple of miles this valley widened out into 
a plain, also well cultivated. The road then led over a 
steep and stony mountain, on the north-easterly side of 
which we descended into the wide tract where the Keshef 
Rood has its source. Villages were numerous, sometimes 
half a dozen being grouped together with only a couple of 
hundred yards between them. Before us, inclosed in far 
extending groves of chenar and mulberry, was Kuchan, and 
beyond rose the blue chain of the Akhal Tekk6 mountains, 
whither my course was directed. After seeing the Atterek 
at its mouth and following its course many a mile through 
the Steppes, I had now reached the proximity of its 
source. At first I thought Kuchan was a place of some 
size, from the extent of the gardens around it, but a near 
approach undeceived me. Except the bazaar and a ruined 
mosque, all the buildings and walls were of earth. As I 
rode through the former the tradesmen looked up from 
their work to stare at the unwonted sight of a European, 
and even the women forgot to draw their veils in their 
curiosity to see a Perenghi. There were many strangers 
in the place, and among them several from Gandahar and 
Cabul, including three chiefs, one of whom told me he had 
been present when the Residency was stormed. The 
caravanserai was about sixty yards square, the stables 
being on the ground-floor and the lodging for travellers 
above, with a balcony about ten feet above the soil to give 
access. I stowed myself and luggage in the den allotted 
to me, and attempted some writing, but was disturbed by 
a sudden invasion of winged cockroaches, evidently drawn 
by my candlelight. These intruders resemble the common 
'black clocks' of our coal-cellars at home, but fly quite 
actively. Small carnivorous beetles came in thousands 
during the night and effectually prevented sleep. During 


the day the beetles disappear, but only to be replaced by 
clouds of flies, scarcely less annoying in their way. 

Kuchan being an important point on the frontier, I had 
to spend some days there to prepare for the most perilous 
part of my journey, the expedition among the Turcomans. 
I wanted some information from the Governor, who rejoiced 
in the high-sounding title of the Shudja-ed-Dowlet Emir 
Hussein Khan, but that dignitary at the date of my arrival 
was absent on a pilgrimage to Meshed, though expected 
home at any hour. I utilised the delay to explore the sur- 
roundings of Kuchan. The Atterek river flows nearly a 
mile to the north of the town, and the slopes leading down 
to its banks are covered with vineyards, the grapes being 
extensively used for the production of wine and arrack. 
The river is here about twenty-five feet wide and only a 
few inches deep, with very gently sloping banks and an all 
but imperceptible current. The water has no trace of the 
saline matter which is found in the river lower down at 
Ghatte. A rude bridge of brick crosses it, the marks on 
the piers of which indicate a rise of three or four feet at 
least during the winter floods. Sitting on the ruined 
parapet of this bridge, I mused on the chances of my ever 
recrossing it, once I should make my final start for the 
Akhal Tekk6, and I remained so long absorbed in my 
thoughts that my servant at last touched my elbow, think- 
ing I was asleep, and reminded me of the approach of 

My purpose was to push on to Askabad in the heart of 
the Akhal Tekk6 country, and about eighty miles or more 
from Kuchan, beyond the mountain range which rose some 
nine or ten thousand feet straight before me. I was sub- 
sequently compelled by circumstances to change this plan, 
but at the time I am writing of I expected to find myself in 
a few days amongst the dreaded nomads. I hardly knew 


how I could keep up my communications with the civilised 
world across these savage mountains, as there seemed to be 
no intercourse at this place between the Persians and any 
tribe of Turcomans. I had not seen one of the colossal hats 
of the latter anywhere in the bazaar, though at Asterabad 
they could be reckoned by dozens. Besides, I was quite 
uncertain what reception I should meet among the Tekkta 
in their own country. Should I fall into the hands of any 
of the roving bands of marauders usually to be met with I 
was pretty sure to be carried off nolens volens either to 
Merv or somewhere else, and there kept until I could 
procure a respectable ransom. If, on the other hand, I 
should run across the advancing Russians, I was certain of 
being sent under escort to my old quarters at Tchikislar 
and thence shipped across the Caspian to Baku. Between 
the Turcoman Scylla and the Russian Gharybdis my 
course promised to be a difficult one, and I might well 
ponder its chances as I sat on the Euchan bridge wall. 

With better government and well-directed energy the 
country around Euchan might be made one of the richest 
parts of Persia. The roads to Meshed, Sabzavar, and the 
main road to Teheran could be made excellent ones at a 
trifling cost. There is also a pass near Abasabad by 
which a railroad could easily be built from Sabzavar to the 
capital, and the traffic would be large even from the outset if 
one may judge by the numerous camel trains and troops of 
horses and donkeys which are constantly passing backwards 
and forwards laden with silk, cotton, iron, and other goods. 
The very large number of pilgrims, too, would swell the 
traffic, and even tax to the utmost the carrying capacities of 
a Meshed-Teheran railroad. At present the means of 
communication with the outside world are wretched. The 
postal service does not extend north of the high road from 
Teheran to Meshed, and to send a letter or telegram 


from Kuchan one has to ride nearly a hundred miles over 
very unsafe roads or else send a special courier the same 
distance. Still, the investment of European capital in 
Persian railroads could not be recommended as long as the 
present state of insecurity continues along the frontier, 
however great the resources of the country. I met one 
European during my stay in Kuchan, He was a curious 
character, some twenty-five years of age, with blue eyes 
and long yellow hair. He spoke Russian and German, but 
no other European language, though he said he was half 
French and half German. He had recently embraced 
Mahomedanism, and moreover he told me he was a Nihilist, 
but he would not tell the motives which had brought him 
to Kuchan. The people there set him down as a lunatic, 
and I have little doubt that they included me in the same 
category. A sharp shock of earthquake occurred the 
evening after my arrival, and I learned that such are quite 
common and sometimes very violent. The town was 
completely ruined by one about twenty-five years ago. 

The Governor returned on the third day kfter my arrival. 
He despatched his chamberlain, an elderly and dignified 
personage, bearing a silver mace as the badge of his office, 
to notify me of the fact, and to invite me to dinner. 
Evening was falling as, accompanied by my two servants, I 
proceeded to the Emir's palace. The straggling booths of 
the bazaar were closed, and we stumbled through its narrow 
alleys in the dark as best we could, for the branch roofs 
overhead completely excluded even the twilight that 
remained in the sky. Dogs and huge rats scurried away 
at the sound of our approach, and more than once my 
guide had to lead me like a blind man through the labyrinth 
of holes and ditches of dirty water, a common feature of 
Eastern towns. The Emir's palace has a large open space 
in front. The main entrance was in the form of a horse- 


shoe arch built of red brick, while the walls around were 
only mud structures. Squatting on the ground around 
were nearly a hundred people, many of them Turcomans. 
They were persons who had requests to make of, or 
petitions to present to, the Governor of Kuchan. Within 
the groined arch inside the horseshoe gate was a guard 
of men-at-arms. As I stepped into the guard-room I was 
met by the chamberlain, who, dismissing the crowd of 
unfortunate applicants, immediately ushered me into a 
courtyard measuring some fifty feet square. Passing by 
a doorway at the further side, I entered a still larger court, 
paved with square tiles, in the midst of which stood a 
large rectangular reservoir of water, in the centre of which 
played a fountain. Arranged in the middle of the pave- 
ment were flower-beds, planted entirely with the ' marvel 
of Peru/ that sweet-scented flower which opens its blossom 
to the sunset, and fills the night air with its perfume. It 
is a favourite with the Persians, whose banquets always take 
place after sundown. The scene which met my eyes was 
extraordinary. Banged round the large courtyard were at 
least a hundred candles, burning in the peculiar candlesticks 
which Bussia has made familiar to this part of the fron- 
tier. The candle, buried in the body of the candlestick, 
was forced gradually upwards by a helical spring, as in 
ordinary carriage lamps, the flame being protected from 
the wind by a tulip-shaped bell-glass. Shaded candles of 
the same description were placed around the border of the 
tank, between which and the main entrance of the Emir's 
residence a long table, draped in white linen, was laid out 
h la Franca. On the table burned half a dozen candle- 

At some distance from and at right angles to the 
table was a long-backed wooden bench. Sitting upon this, 
and attired in sober broadcloth robes, reaching to their 


heels, were a dozen individuals — brothers and cousins of the 
Emir, Hussein Khan, and who had been invited to do 
honour to his guest. A silver-mounted water-pipe, the 
head set with turquoises and emeralds, was passed from 
hand to hand. I took my place, as invited, at the right 
hand of the Governor, and we entered into the usual 
pointless conversation so characteristic of Eastern inter- 
course. We spoke of anything and everything except 
that which was nearest to our hearts or had reference to 
the situation. It was a kind of social fencing, for the Emir 
was not at all sure that I was what I represented myself to 
be, only a traveller, trying to gather information about 
these far-off lands, and not an envoy who had been de- 
spatched to enquire deftly into the particular policy which 
he might have adopted in view of the then critical situation. 
A servant brought in a silver tray, upon which were large 
glasses of the abominable spirit called arrack, each of 
which was supposed to be emptied at a draught. This tray 
was handed round with a frequency which led me strongly 
to doubt the orthodoxy of my Kurd host. The whole pro- 
ceeding was consistent with what I had hitherto seen of 
before-dinner practices in the East. 

We were all slightly stimulated before a move was made 
towards the dinner table. When the Emir stood up, his 
kinsmen rose to their feet, and drew themselves up in line, 
each looking the very personification of humility — their 
feet close together, their toes turned in, each hand thrust 
up the opposite sleeve, and each head slightly reclining 
upon thg right shoulder. The Emir walked up and down 
the paved enclosure, talking rather wildly. He spoke of 
his friend Dr. Tholozan, the Shah's physician, who had 
kindly given me a letter of introduction to him. He stated 
that that gentleman had marvellously cured him of a 
malady of long standing, and went so far as to say that 

vol. i. a a 


even Persian medical men could not pretend to the amount 
of science which the Frankish doctor commanded. 

The Kurd governors of the frontier, military commandants 
of the colonies founded by Shah Abass the Great, and by 
his still greater successor the usurper Nadir Shah, have 
never been considered as thoroughly identified with the 
Persian kingdom. The manners and customs of these 
communities differ exceedingly from those of their more 
southern brethren, and on the whole, wild though they are 
in some respects, are in many ways immensely superior to 
those of the latter. Among the peculiarities borrowed from 
the Persians which I noted, was the intense reverence paid 
by the younger scions to the chief of the family, altogether 
apart from his political position. While the relatives 
Stood in a row, the Emir marched up to the table. Taking 
a handful of sweetmeats from a dish, he distributed them 
to his submissive-looking kinsfolk, each of whom held both 
hands extended at arms' length, and close together, as 
though he expected to receive a donation of small-shot or 
quicksilver, and bowed low in acknowledgment of the high 
compliment paid- to him. Then we made a move to the 
dinner table, which was spread in the middle of the court- 
yard. For a wonder, there were chairs and benches, with 
which the immediate relations of the Emir and myself were 
accommodated. The remainder of the party, some thirty 
in number, sat upon long wooden forms. The table, a long 
one, was draped in faultlessly white cloth. In its midst 
was a great silver centre-piece, loaded with roses, and 
flanked on either side by a complete set of ornaments, in- 
cluding vases of opaline glass, decorated on the outside with 
gilt and ruby beads. These were Russian presents. The 
Emir supposed that the vases were goblets, and more than 
once in the course of the dinner they were filled with wine 
on the occasion of the different toasts which were drunk. 


The ceremonies were marshalled by a person to whom I 
have already had occasion to allude. He was of mixed race ; 
his father being French, his mother German. From his 
earliest years he had lived in Russia, and his education, 
such as it was, he told me had been received at the Univer- 
sity of Moscow. According to his own statement, he had 
been banished from Baku, on the western shores of the 
Caspian Sea, for political reasons. He had thrown in his 
lot with the Mussulman populations of Central Asia, and had 
embraced Islam at the shrine of Imam Riza. He had been 
in dire want, and found the pilaff, which was distributed 
gratuitously at the tomb of the saint, acceptable. He 
subsequently became a tutor in the family of the Prince 
Governor of Meshed, and afterwards a kind of hanger-on at 
the court of the Emir of Euchan. His nominal position 
was that of a teacher of French ; his actual one I was not 
able to fathom at the moment, though it was sufficiently 
made known to me later on. He was called, in the French 
tongue, Charles Dufour; in the language of his newly- 
adopted country, Ali Islam. During the dinner he con- 
stantly went to and fro between the kitchen and the table, 
ordering up soups and dishes as occasion required. 

The table d'hote was an unusual one. The candles 
flared around the courtyard, their lights glancing in the 
great reservoir. The air was heavy with the scent of the 
flowers. Around us were the ruins of the old palace, 
destroyed by an earthquake twenty years previously. The 
Kurdish Governor sat at the head of the table. I 
sat opposite to him. On either side were the colossal 
forms, gleaming eyes, and sombre robes of his relations. 
Before we commenced to dine, arrack was again served 
round. After each glass one took from a dish a kind of 
acid paste, the Kurdish name for which I have forgotten, 
and then very fair Bordeaux wine was served. This I took 

o o 2 


to be an imitation of the Russian zakouska, which the 
frontier Kurds have probably borrowed from the soldiers of 
the expedition. Then there were roasted almonds and 
pistaches. While we were disposing of this pre-prandial 
repast, I remarked to the Emir that in Turkey we alwayB 
drank mastic on such occasions. ' I know it well/ ex- 
claimed he ; ' did you bring any with you ? ' And he 
leaned eagerly across the table. * I am sorry to say that I 
did not,' I replied ; ' but if your Excellency wishes I shall 
take the earliest opportunity of forwarding you some from 
Constantinople when I get back there/ We had soup, and 
dishes ab libitum ; and I could never have believed that the 
human frame was capable of absorbing such an amount of 
nutrition if I had not seen these Kurds eat. We were sup- 
plied with the excellent dry white wine of the country, and 
Chateau Margaux. The latter must have been brought at an 
enormous expense from Europe. It was probably a present 
from the expeditionary generals beyond the frontier. 

Towards the close of the banquet, my host and his 
guests became rather excited by the alcoholic beverages 
which they were consuming with a will. They talked at 
random, and spoke of their exploits in the field against 
the Tekk6 Turcomans. Later they fell to embracing each 
other in a more than brotherly fashion. I was sitting 
opposite the Emir's brother, and had got so far as making 
a pun, in the Kurdish language, about mushrooms, of 
which we were partaking at the moment, when the opposite 
form was suddenly upset, and Emir, chiefs, and generals 
rolled upon the pavement, locked in each others* embraces. 
They kissed each other with fervour, swore undying devotion, 
and seemed in no wise inclined to resume their positions at 
table. At this juncture a side door opened, and a boy of 
nine or ten years was brought in by some attendants. He 
was a Turcoman child, and had been captured six months 


previously during one of the razzias which were of every-day 
occurrence on this frontier. His long, light-brown hair 
hung upon his shoulders, and his light grey eye showed that 
he was not of Persian birth. The Emir, who by this time 
had picked himself up, explained to me that this was his 
favourite captive. He took him on his knee and kissed him, 
and he was then passed round to all of us. When he came 
to me he shrank away, muttering the word * Kaffir ! ' In 
the East two epithets are applied to non-Mussulmans, 
Kaffir and Giaour. * Giaour ' means simply a Christian, or, 
speaking generally, a non-Mussulman deist of some kind. 
* Kaffir ' is the more objectionable epithet, and signifies an 
unbeliever, or pagan. The poor little Turcoman child who 
shrank from me as * Kaffir ' was retained by the Emir for 
purposes which it would not beseem me to mention in 

Towards midnight wild confusion ensued. The greater 
number of the party were sprawling over the tiled courtyard, 
the cousins swearing eternal love and fidelity to each other, 
and indulging in unseemly embraces. The Emir himself 
pretended to have need of exercise, and was promenaded 
from one end of the space to the other, a servant holding 
him under each arm — his feet in front, his whole body 
making an angle of forty-five degrees with the horizon. 
Suddenly he recollected himself, and, sitting upon a chair, 
asked, solemnly, ' Has the Ingleez gone home yet ? ' He 
evidently believed that, before proceeding further with his 
orgies, objectionable witnesses should be got rid of. I took 
the hint, rose, and, exchanging salutes as well as I could 
with the prostrate company, made for the door. The mace- 
bearer marched before me, accompanied by four men 
bearing lanterns, such as can only be seen in this part of 
the world. They were nearly as large as the bass drum of 
a military band, and were made of waxed linen, closing up 


like a concertina when not in use. The bigger the lanterns, 
the greater is supposed to be the dignity of the individual 
whom they precede. 

We stumbled through the narrow, dark passages of the 
bazaar, and when I had thrown myself upon the leopard- 
skin stretched upon the floor of the caravanserai, I jotted 
down the notes from which I have written this description. 

An illness of three weeks' duration followed the Emir's 
banquet. After returning to my earth-walled chamber, 
and trying to sleep as best I could, for I was very tired, I 
took none of the usual precautions against the shab-gez. At 
four o'clock in the morning my arms and legs were covered 
with the tumid bodies of these pests. Two days later, 
virulent-looking pustules marked the bitten spots. I had 
felt inclined to doubt what had been told me in regard to 
the sting of these ferocious insects, but later experience 
proved how mistaken I had been. A high fever resulted. 
It had typhoid symptoms, all of which were aggravated by 
the foul air of the caravanserai, the bad food and water, 
and the anxiety of mind about my coming journey. For 
two days and nights I was delirious. In a lucid moment 
I discovered that I was suffering from one of the most 
dangerous complications of typhoid enteric disease. No one 
who has not been similarly circumstanced can imagine my 
critical position. Here I was, in a semi-barbarous town, 
with no one near who had the slightest idea of the nature 
of my malady, no medicine, no doctor. Had it not been 
for the intelligent devotion of a friend, a Tekk6 sheep- 
skin merchant, I do not believe that I should now be alive. 
He sat by me during my delirium, applied ice to my head, 
and was the only one who understood me when I asked for 
camphor, the sole available drug. There was a moment 
when the enteric irritation was so severe that I felt con- 
vinced my last hour had arrived. I made up my mind to try 


a desperate remedy, and sent for opium. I took what for 
me, who had never tasted the drug before, was an enormous 
dose— a piece as large as the first joint of one's little finger. 
The effect was magical so far as the pain was concerned, 
and I then lost consciousness for nearly forty-eight hours. 
For once I can write the ' Confessions of an Opium- 
eater/ and I must say that my experiences of the visions 
conjured up would scarcely tempt me into a De Quincey's 
career. First I became chairman of a Russian Nihilistic 
society ; then I was transformed into a black goat pursued 
by panthers on the mountains; then I was a raging 
torrent, dashing away to some terrible end ; and then I 
remember no more. I woke with an intense feeling of 
dread and horror, and half a day passed before I could 
recognise the faces around me. When my senses were a 
little collected, I asked for some arrack, the odious, poison- 
ous stuff to be had at Euchan ; but it was the only stimu- 
lant available. Diluting this with much water, I took it 
from time to time to combat the terrific opiatic reaction, 
and gradually I came back to my normal state. The pain 
was wonderfully relieved, but I was crushed and shattered 
like a broken bulrush. Then I gradually mended, little by 

These personal details may not be very interesting to 
general readers, but they may perchance be of practical use 
to some one who may hereafter be placed in like desperate 
straits. Several would-be physicians wanted badly to pre- 
scribe for me, but as I knew that every one of them carried 
an astrolabe in his pocket, which would have to be con- 
sulted before he looked at my tongue, and also, in all 
probability, a brass basin in which to roast the fiend who 
had possession of me, I declined their aid with thanks. 




How news travels in the East — The Russian advance — The defence of Geok 
Tepe — Night in a Persian caravanserai — Persian singing — Persian servants 
— Scenes on the Upper Atterek — A house-top promenade — Interview 
with a Turcoman envoy — The Turcoman version of the course of hos- 
tilities — Russian tactics — A Turcoman poet — Modern weapons among 
the Nomads — Mussulman troops in the Russian service — The Daghestan 
cavalry — Vambery on Russian intrigues — Shiites and Sunnites — Peculiar 
mercy to co-religionists — The telegraphic service — Iron posts versus 
wooden poles — Turcoman auxiliaries to Russia — The effect of the Afghan 
war on Central Asia — Turcoman hopes of British aid — Russian designs 
on India — The feeling of the Russian army — Lettor to Makdum Kuli Khan 
— Persia and Russia — Benevolent neutrality of the Shah's Government — 
Russian courtesies to Persian officials — Understanding between Persia and 
Russia — Start for Meshed. 

The inaccuracy and exaggeration to which news is subject 
in the East, even when travelling a short distance, are truly 
marvellous. The intelligence brought by a courier from 
Askabad, to the effect that the Russian troops had attacked 
Geok Tep6 in great force, and been repulsed with heavy 
loss, turned out to be based only upon a brisk skirmish be- 
tween a reconnoitring party of Kussian cavalry and a 
Turcoman patrol. In travelling about forty miles this 
intelligence had been magnified into the description of a 
general action. At the time, I felt a good deal surprised 
that the Russian expedition under the command of General 
Skobeleff should have undergone a reverse like that of the 
previous year, at the same spot, when the rashness of 
Lomakin hurled his utterly inadequate numbers against the 


Turcoman ramparts. Without being actually on the ground, 
and witnessing things for one's self, there was no chance 
of learning the absolute truth. I had hoped to be close to 
the Tekk6 stronghold before that time, and very probably 
should have been, had I not been prevented from setting 
out by the desertion of two servants whom I had hired to 
accompany me. They were afraid to trust themselves 
among the Turcomans, and for the same reason I found it 
very difficult to replace them. Even after a careful selec- 
tion of two new men, I was not by any means sure that 
they would not desert me at the last moment. I do not 
recollect ever having come in contact with one set of men 
so absolutely afraid of another as these border Persians are 
of the Turcomans. The warlike colony of Kurds planted 
along the Atterek from Budjnoord to Kelat-i-Nadri sup- 
plies the only borderers capable of holding their own against 
the Tekkes. 

As far as my information went, the Russians were as- 
sembling at the head of the Akhal Tekke district, at the point 
where the road from Ghatte debouches from the mountains 
near Bendessen. It was at the same place where the 
Bussian army concentrated a portion of its forces prepara- 
tory to the disastrous advance to Geok Tepe under General 
Lomakin after Lazareffs death. How the whole affair 
broke down from want of sufficient transportation, coupled 
with the over-confidence of victory, is now too well known 
to need repeating. Taught by the experience, the Russians 
were advancing with caution, and establishing provision 
depots and fortified posts sufficiently near to obviate the 
necessity of falling back on their base at the Caspian shore, 
even should failure again attend their efforts to capture the 
Tekke fortress. The Turcomans had swept the road clear 
of all supplies, and their tactics seemed to be to draw their 
enemies as far as possible from their bases at Tchikislar 


and Chatte, to devastate the country before them, and then 
fight when the invaders should be reduced in strength by 
sickness, casualties, and the necessary detachment of parties 
to keep open the communications. The Russians, on the 
other hand, tried to counteract these attacks by advancing 
slowly, and establishing fortified posts along their line of ad- 
vance of such strength, natural or artificial, as to require 
very small garrisons. In fact, after securing the line of 
communications by as few men as possible, so as to bring 
a large force to the front, the Russian object was to estab- 
lish a second base of operations as near the scene of action 
as practicable, which would render the advanced corps in- 
dependent, at least for a considerable time, of the more 
distant stations at Ghatte and Tchikislar. 

That all attempts at a compromise, if, indeed, any such 
had been made, had broken down, was evident from the 
attitude of the Turcomans. They abandoned the entire 
oasis up to Geok Tep6, and there concentrated the bulk of 
their fighting men. Reinforcements of Merv Turcomans 
came up at the same time. These Merv supports, how- 
ever, were by no means so numerous as was stated. The 
force at Geok Tep6 was estimated at about ten thousand 
men, the entire population being about forty thousand. In 
view, however, of the history of Russian aggression in 
Central Asia, and the ultimate victorious issues which in- 
variably crowned their arms, I, for one, never doubted that 
the Turcomans would ere long yield or come to terms. 

After some experience of Euchan, and especially of its 
caravanserai, I felt the strongest desire to get away from 
it. Of all the wretched localities of this wretched East, 
it is one of the worst I have been in. To people at a 
distance, the petty miseries one undergoes in such a place 
may seem more laughable than otherwise ; there they do 
not at all tend to excite hilarity in the sufferer. For four 


days and nights at a stretch I did not enjoy ten minutes' 
unbroken rest. All day long one's hands were in perpetual 
motion, trying to defend one's face and neck against the 
pertinacious attacks of filthy blue-bottles, or brushing 
ants, beetles, and various other insects off one's hands and 
paper. With all this extra movement, each word I wrote 
occupied me very nearly a minute. Dinner involved a 
perpetual battle with creeping things, and was a misery 
that seldom tempted one's appetite. As for the time spent 
on the top of the house, lying on a mat, and which it would 
be a mockery to call bed-time, it would be difficult to say 
whether it or the daylight hours were the more fraught 
with torment. Every ten minutes it was necessary to 
follow the example of the people lying around, and to rise 
and shake the mat furiously, in order to get rid for a brief 
space of the crowds of gigantic black fleas which I could 
hear dancing round, and still more distinctly feel. The 
impossibility of repose, and the continued irritation pro- 
duced by insects, brought on a kind of hectic fever which 
deprived me of all desire to eat. All night long three or 
four scores of donkeys brayed in chorus; vicious horses 
screamed and quarrelled, and hundreds of jackals and dogs 
rivalled each other in making night hideous. After sunset 
the human inhabitants of the caravanserai mounted to the 
roof, and sat there in scanty garments, smoking their 
hxliouns, and talking or singing until long after midnight. 
What Persian singing is — that, at any rate, of the class to 
which I allude, I will not attempt to describe. I will only 
say that it is not more conducive to sleep than are the 
bacchanalian shouts of a belated reveller in London, seek- 
ing his domicile. To these annoyances must be added the 
perpetual cheating, lying, and stealing of servants and at- 
tendants. In this respect one's own servants are the 
worst. They deem it a sacred duty to cheat their em- 


ployer, and would feel ashamed if, at the end of the day, 
they could not boast of the amount of which they had re- 
lieved him. As long as a certain degree of impunity attends 
their peculation they may be passably civil; but the 
moment they are checked their insolence is unbounded, 
and you will be treated like a dog unless you take the 
initiative in that respect. Unless one is perpetually on the 
qui vive he will be robbed of all his moveables ; his horses 
will be left uncleaned and will be defrauded of half their 
food, the servants and the fodder merchants being in accord 
to cheat, and divide the spoils between them. Such is the 
Persian domestic as I have known him — an exception 
having never come under my notice, and I have little doubt 
that the experience of most Europeans in this regard is the 
same. With the combination of annoyances which I have 
tried to describe, it need not be wondered at that I con- 
sidered Kuchan unpleasant. The only tolerable part of 
one's existence there is for a little before and a little after 
sunset. A cool breeze sets in, the pests of the day have 
drawn off, and the night relays are not yet to the fore. 
The day noises have died away, and the jackals and dogs 
have not commenced their mutual salutations or recrimina- 
tions. At that time it is delightful — doubly so from the 
contrast with the past sultry hours and the coming restless 
ones — to wander about the flat roofs that stretch around 
in acres, and gaze along the valley of the upper Atterek. 

All around, scattered among the houses, were clumps of 
mulberry and white poplar, the pollard willows, with their 
luxuriant heads, resembling palmettos. Dark groves 
reached away to the river, whose murmur was heard 
from afar off. We heard the trickle and gush of the waters 
around, and were content to forget that they flowed through 
slimy gutters, and that many a dead dog and cat barred 
their passage. Toned down by the kindly hand of evening, 


the mud houses lose their ugliness, and seem so many 
homes of quietness and peace, nestling in the midst of some 
vast garden. Like other Eastern towns, Kuchan, seen from 
without, is most deceptive, and at evening hours dons a 
disguise at sad variance with its repulsive interior. But 
the scenery of the valley, at this period of the day, is of 
surpassing beauty, and I have rarely beheld anything so 
lovely as the long ridges of the Akhal Tekke hills, succeed- 
ing each other in endless sequence, in varying tints of 
ashy grey, blue, and rose, till they die out in the golden 
haze where the sun has gone down. The rolling expanse 
of cornfield and pastujjb sleeps in tranquillity, and here and 
there the evening light glints on the waters of the Atterek, 
where the winding of that river brings it into view. Few 
could dream that so close by, across those fair-hued 
hills and waving cornfields, such dire carnage was prepar- 
ing. As one walks about these housetops, he is sur- 
prised by the occurrence of the narrow streets of the bazaar, 
running like dark gashes through the masses of houses. 
For the greater portion of their length they are covered 
over with branches laid upon slight poles, reaching across 
the street so as to exclude the sun's rays. The abstracted 
star-gazer risks the sudden interruption of his perambu- 
lations by being transferred to the paving-stones below. 
Gats prowl about the housetops in surprising numbers, and 
large dogs gaze wistfully down the square openings, which 
serve as chimneys, into the evening pilaff pots of the 
dwellers, or at the long sticks of gratefully-smelling kebab. 
As the light fades away, people are to be seen laying out 
their beds on the various terraces ; the gleams of the 
kalioum show like giant fireflies, and the tip-tap of the police 
tambourine is to be heard signalling the closing of the shops. 
The muezzim's call rises on the night air, generally imme- 
diately followed by the prolonged howling of a couple of 


dogs. This is the usual commencement of the nightly 
concert ; and then adieu to rest, except for those whom 
long custom has rendered impervious alike to the hubbub, 
and to the bites of fleas and shab-gez. 

While at Euchan I had a most interesting interview 
with a Tekk6 Turcoman who had come direct from Geok 
Tepe, and had taken part in the cavalry skirmish at that 
place. He brought letters from Makdum Euli Khan, the 
son of the late Noor Berdi Khan, who had succeeded to his 
father's position as recognised chief of the united Akhal 
Tekk6 tribes. It was quite an unusual thing to see a 
Turcoman of any description, much less a Tekk6, at 
Kuchan, the nomads being quite as much afraid to venture 
into Kurdistan as the Persians are to trust themselves 
within the limits of the Akhal Tekk6. This messenger was 
a fine specimen of his race. He was about twenty-five 
years of age, with piercing eye and well-cut aquiline nose, 
together with a mingled expression of resolution and mild- 
ness not every day to be found in the physiognomies of the 
Ishmaelites of this part of the world. He was but poorly 
dressed in coarse brown homespun wool, but his linen and 
white sheepskin cap were scrupulously clean. Immediately 
on arriving at Kuchan he had heard of the presence of an 
Englishman there, and had at once come to my caravan- 
serai. According to the rules in force with regard to 
Turcomans, he was obliged to leave his sword and gun out- 
side the town. A short ivory-handled knife, stuck in his 
white sash, was his only weapon. 

The engagement, he said, took place a few miles to the 
north-west of Geok Tep6, near Kiariz. The Russian force 
consisted of four thousand cavalry, with four light guns, 
and was said to be under the immediate command of 
Skobeleff. The Tekk6s, who were of equal strength, all 
cavalry, but without guns, were taken partly by surprise, 


but after a brisk fight succeeded in driving off their 
assailants, who, my informant averred, lost twenty men in 
killed and wounded. He spoke in so modest and unassum- 
ing a manner, that I was inclined to attach every faith to 
what he said. His friends, he said, lost but ten men. 
Whether the Bussian forces were a reconnoitring party, 
a foraging one, or both combined, he could not say. It 
was, probably, what in military parlance would be called 
a minor reconnaissance in force, made with a view of 
getting a close look at the enemy's works, and, if possible, 
of getting him to deploy all or the greater portion of his 
strength, by leading him to imagine that the attack was a 
real one. In operations like those of this Tekk6 campaign, 
a force of four thousand cavalry is quite enough to give 
reason to suppose that a large infantry detachment is 
behind it. Since the previous battle, nearly twelve months 
before, the entire district population, including women and 
children, had been incessantly engaged at the fortifications 
of Geok Tepe, completing and strengthening them. My 
informant said that the works were thoroughly finished, 
and that the Turcomans were sanguine of success in resist- 
ing the impending assault. The greater portion of the 
Bussian army had crossed over to the north-eastern slopes 
of the mountains, and was encamped in and about Bami 
and Beurma. At any moment after their commissariat 
and transport arrangements should have been completed, 
they could march direct upon Geok Tep6, six or seven 
days' journey. The reinforcements from Merv were but 
three thousand men, according to the account now re- 

By a curious coincidence the new chief of the Akhal 
Tekke bore the name of a celebrated Turcoman of the 
Goklan tribe, one of their very few recorded poets, who 
flourished in the middle of the eighteenth century. He 


devoted bis life and talents to the unification of his race, 
and died about 1771, in despair of being able to put an end 
to their internecine quarrels. My informant told me that 
there were at Geok Tep6 upwards of two thousand breech- 
loading rifles taken from the Russians on various occasions, 
and this bore out similar statements which had been made 
to me from other independent sources, and of the truth of 
which I subsequently had ocular demonstration. Dourdi 
Bey, the Tekke messenger, said his countrymen felt 
bitterly that the Daghestan and Circassian horsemen in the 
Russian service, all Sunnite Mussulmans like themselves, 
had fought so fiercely against them. Some time previously, 
a great authority on Central Asian matters had given it as 
his opinion that the Russians were trying to make use of 
Shiia dislike to the Sunnite sect by employing the troops 
of the Trans-Caucasian army corps in the Akhal Tekke 
expedition. This was a natural error, for the inhabitants 
of the territory referred to, owing to their having been up 
to a comparatively late period under Persian jurisdiction, 
were to a certain extent professors of the Shiia doctrines ; 
but th6 inhabitants of the Trans-Caucasus who compose 
the army corps of that region are, almost without exception, 
Armenian and Georgian Christians, with no small propor- 
tion of pure Russians from the southern European provinces. 
The Trans- Caucasian corps is by no means necessarily 
composed of natives of that district. The cavalry attached 
to the force which General Lazareff commanded, save one 
dragoon regiment and a detachment of Cossacks, was com- 
posed of Mussulman horsemen from the Caucasus, chiefly 
from Daghestan, which lies immediately behind and to the 
north-west of the Caspian port of Derbend. These horse- 
men were, without exception, Sunnites. They seemed, to a 
very large extent, to have forgotten pre-existent antipathies 
to the Giaours, and lived on terms of the greatest amity 


with their Christian fellow-soldiers. The truth is that the 
Mussulmans fighting under the Bussian flag care very little 
about Sunnism, Shiism, or any other 'ism.' Their atti- 
tude in regard to the Turcomans is very similar to that of 
the Mahomedan troops of British India brought face to face 
with their co-religionists of Afghanistan or elsewhere. 
Dourdi Bey said that the Tekkes had captured several 
Daghestan horsemen, whose lives were spared, and who 
were comparatively well treated. The captives, taking 
advantage of the laxity with which they were guarded, took 
the first opportunity to escape to their former ranks, to 
bear arms against their Sunnite brethren. ' Now,' Dourdi 
Bey said, 'the Tekk6s, while willing, if possible, to take 
their co-religionists alive, are strongly disinclined to be 
imposed upon. As a consequence, all Daghestan and Cir- 
cassian horsemen taken in the future will have one foot 
cut off, both as a precaution against their running away 
and as a security that, either on foot or on horseback, they 
will not again fight against their captors.' The Tekkes had 
another rule, of long standing — that any Bussian prisoners 
should immediately be put to the sword in case of an attack. 
It was an old habit, adapted to guarantee the secure pos- 
session of slaves— whether captured or purchased — in the 
case of the Tekkes, of course always the former. I own that 
the intelligence about the measures taken to prevent people 
from running away rendered me mightily uneasy. Cutting 
off one's foot, even with all the appliances of modern sur- 
gery, is at best but a disagreeable business. Having it 
hacked off with a Tekk6 sabre must be terrific. To stand 
it, a stronger constitution would be required even than to 
resist the assaults of the shab-gez. Some examples of this 
method of disabling captives, in danger of being retaken, 
came under my notice early in the preceding year, when I 
was at Krasnavodsk. The Tekkes had made a successful 

VOL. I. H H 

406 tekk£ barbarities.— telegraph posts. 

raid upon a large village, the inhabitants of which were 
under Russian protection. The place was sacked, and 
the people carried off. The marauders were closely pur- 
sued, and, finding themselves obliged to relinquish their 
prey, they mutilated all the prisoners whom they were 
forced to abandon. Their track was strewn with persons of 
both sexes, each with a hand or foot hacked off. I suppose 
it was the same feeling for co-religionists which prevented 
them from killing their victims outright, that was exercised 
towards the Russian Mussulman soldiers by the Tekkes. 

The town of Askabad, distant a long day's ride from 
Euchan, and the same from Geok Tep6, Dourdi Bey de- 
scribed as entirely deserted, the men having all gone to the 
scene of war, and the women and children to Merv. Corn 
and fodder generally were to be procured in abundance, no 
distress having apparently been caused by the Russian 
advance. A telegraph, which had been constructed no 
further than from Tchikislar to Chatte, had been repeatedly 
cut. As the posts were of iron, but little permanent damage 
had been done to the line. The substitution of iron for 
wooden supports showed wisdom on the part of the Russians. 
Had the latter been used they would have formed a wel- 
come supply of fuel to the Tekkes. It would have been diffi- 
cult to preserve them even from the neutral tribes, who, as 
a rule, are woefully in want of firewood out on the plains. 
As it was, the raiders could do but little more than pull 
down some hundreds of yards of wire, overturn a few posts, 
and demolish the insulators, even should this latter refine- 
ment occur to them. With the posts they could do nothing. 
One post was a load for a camel, the raiders were always 
on horseback, and possessed no tools for breaking them up. 
Even if firing were at hand, heat would do little to injure 
them. Still, the continued tearing down of considerable 
lengths of wire must have proved a great embarrassment. 


Dourdi Bey said that he had continually taken part in the 
different forays, which had ranged far out into the Krasna- 
vodsk plain. At the latter place there was, he told me, no 
base of supplies, and no overland communication with the 
Bussian head-quarters. The other Turcoman tribes of the 
lower Atterek retained their old attitude of partial neutrality. 
Only two thousand men in all had been induced to serve 
under the Bussian standard. * Who knows/ he said, ' but 
that we too may one day find ourselves in the same posi- 
tion ? We should not be the only Sunnite Mussulmans 
fighting under the Bussian flag.' These words were truly 

That only two thousand Turcoman cavalry should at 
that time be found in the Bussian service was rather sin- 
gular, considering the high pay offered and the intimate 
relations necessarily existing between the Bussians and the 
tribes camping between Ghatte and the Caspian shore. 
The Goklans had been at best neutral since the beginning 
of the operations, and often hostile ; but the Jaffar Bais 
nearer the coast had apparently so indentified themselves 
with the invaders, that, considering their, large numbers, 
it was surprising that a greater supply of recruits had not 
been forthcoming. Perhaps the reason was that the 
Bussians had no real need of their services, but took a 
limited number with them to show that the entire Turco- 
man population was not against them. 

Dourdi Bey stated that these Yamud horsemen were 
considerably more feared by his friends than were the 
Bussian cavalry. Doubtless, however, this was said more 
with a view of praising his own race than of indicating the 
true state of the case. Perhaps the most curious portion 
of the conversation was that touching the hopes and ex- 
pectations of his countrymen in regard to the impending 
struggle. In the preceding year, he said, their stand at 



Geok Tepe had been inspirited and sustained by the hope 
and belief that the English troops in Afghanistan would 
push on to Herat, and thence to the Turcoman country, 
there to join hands with the Tekkes against the common 
enemy. That hope had well nigh died out, though the 
little of it that remained helped powerfully to encourage the 
tribes in their resistance. One thing is, I believe, pretty 
certain. The Afghan war exerted an influence over this 
Central Asian expedition, the extent of which few Europeans 
can imagine. For my own part, I believe it to have been 
the direct cause of the entire undertaking on the one hand, 
and of the obstinate resistance on the other. Had the 
Tekk6 Turcomans found themselves absolutely isolated in 
their oasis, and had there been no hope, however vague, of 
assistance from outside, I believe they would have come to 
terms long before they did. The pacification of Afghani- 
stan, and the withdrawal of the British troops within their 
own limits, subsequently proved to be a death-blow to their 
hopes. This being the state of the case, it became rather 
awkward for me to present myself. I recollected that to- 
wards the close of the Busso-Turkish war, life among the 
Osmanlis was very disagreeable, owing to the universal cry 
that Turkey had been led into war, and abandoned by 
England at the last moment. Though the case of the 
Turcomans was not quite similar, I could not help thinking, 
and I had grounds for doing so, that they were allowed by 
the Government of Lord Beaconsfield to base their hopes 
of aid on something more substantial than their own illu- 
sions. Certainly while there still existed any possibility 
of coming in hostile contact with Bussia over the Cabul 
question, no better policy could have been adopted than 
that of allowing the Turcomans to hope that British soldiers 
might march from Herat to their assistance. And I feel 
i onvinced that they were not only allowed to believe it, but 


that it was directly told them. Finding themselves on 
the horns of a dilemma in which they must either fight 
alone or submit, they decided to try the former alternative, 
and then, if worsted, to turn round and join heartily with 
Russia in any movements she might subsequently make 

Dourdi Bey, the substance of whose conversation I am 
giving, stated that his countrymen might and would have 
been of vast assistance to England in keeping Russian 
troops at a distance from Herat and other important points 
to which their country is the key ; and that, in the hope 
that their services might be utilised, they repelled the 
brilliant offers made them by Russia. Among these, he 
said, was the proposition which even at the moment of his 
interview was still being held out, that the Tekk6s should 
join with Russia and the Afghans in making a descent 
upon India and expelling the English therefrom. I had 
previously heard vague rumours that Russian agents were 
engaged in propagating such ideas among the Turcomans, 
but until I saw Dourdi Bey I had no opportunity of hearing 
these rumours confirmed by one of the parties concerned. 
That the Tekkes, once thoroughly made to understand how 
completely isolated they would be in a conflict with Russia, 
would probably lose heart for further resistance, and be all 
the more open to the seductive offers and promises lavishly 
made, the present situation proves. Even at the time the 
more westerly Tekkes said, ' How can we hope to withstand 
the arms of the White Czar, when even the Sultan of Stam- 
boul himself was not able to do so ? ' To my own know- 
ledge, this idea was rapidly growing among the Turco- 
mans, and it was my opinion that unless pressed for 
time in presence of circumstances and projects which as 
yet belonged to the dominion of theory, Russia would be 
exceedingly unwise in precipitating matters. * Should she 


assail the Tekke stronghold now, the Turcomans will in- 
fallibly fight desperately; bat should Bhe give sufficient 
time, after occupying the borders of their territory, they 
will gradually awake to a sense of their true position and 
its hopelessness ; and the fiery spirit of resistance which 
now fills all hearts will gradually, but surely, die out. A 
temporising policy would certainly be the best and surest 
one for the Russian expeditionary forces, if only the con- 
quest of the Akhal Tekk6 were in view, but of course there 
may be other motives, of a farther-reaching ken, which im- 
peratively demand prompt and decisive action. The 
disastrous defeat of Lomakin last year, with its consequent 
loss of prestige, has, of course, to be avenged, and I should 
not be surprised even if overtures of peace, with offerB of 
submission on the part of the Turcomans, were rejected 
until a redeeming Russian victory be first achieved.' The 
preceding lines were written before the fall of Geok Tep6, 
and I believe that they then perfectly expressed the situa- 
tion. The withdrawal from Afghanistan changed the whole 
course of events. The feeling in the army was very strong 
indeed on the subject when I was last in the Russian camp ; 
and, in the then precarious state of the empire, military 
feelings and desires had to be carefully attended to. Did 
the Tekkes meditate a prolonged and indefinite resistance, 
it was hard to guess what they meant to do should their 
Gibraltar at Geok Tep6 be captured. They had not pre- 
pared any similar position in their rear ; and Merv was a 
long way off. I wrote to the Tekk6 chief asking his per- 
mission to come* to him, at the same time taking the 
precaution to assure him that I had nothing whatever to 
do with politics, and stating precisely the capacity in which 
I wished to visit Geok Tepe. I was very explicit on this 
point, as a misunderstanding might lead to very disagree- 
able results. The nature of a newspaper was probably not 


very distinctly understood by Makdum Kuli Khan and his 
followers ; and the feeling of disappointment arising from 
the non-receipt of expected assistance might, in the hour of 
defeat, take an ugly form for a special correspondent. 

Throughout all this affair Persia maintained, with re- 
gard to Bussia, what may be termed a benevolent neu- 
trality—a very benevolent one. Among the people and 
officials along the frontier the feeling was altogether a 
pro-Russian one, and they hailed with delight the pro- 
bability of having the Russians ere long as neighbours 
instead of their former troublesome ones. This was scarcely 
to be wondered at ; but I think that in the purely official 
classes the feeling in favour of Russia was not altogether 
to be traced to the pleasure of seeing them take the place 
of the Tekkes. The number of articles of Russian manu- 
facture in the hands of border chiefs- -articles of luxury of 
great value — showed that in frontier relations the Russians 
were not forgetful of those little social amenities, in the 
shape of presents, so conducive to a mutual good feeling. 
This is an invariable Russian custom under similar circum- 
stances ; and in this case seems to have attained its object. 
In fact, it appeared to me that the Russian officials charged 
with conducting frontier policy in that part of the world 
thoroughly understood their mission, and that in Central 
Asia the Russian Government had the game all in its own 
hands. So * benevolent ' was Persia's neutrality that, as 
far as she was concerned, Russia might do pretty much 
what she pleased along the frontier in dealing with the 
Tekkes, and still meet with every facility she might stand 
in need of in so doing. 

I have already mentioned an interview which I had 
with the virtual Prime Minister of Persia, the Sipah 
Salar Aazem, during which some remarks were made 
about the Russo-Tekk6 question. I asked his Highness 


whether it were intended altogether to abandon the Akhal 
Tekkes daring the impending struggle, in view of the fact 
that Persia still laid claim not only to their territory but to 
the Merv district. ' Not exactly/ he replied. * We shall of 
course always do what can be done in the matter. 9 That, 
however, seemed to be absolutely nothing. I was much 
inclined to believe what I had on more than one occasion 
heard hinted at, that in all this Akhal Tekke and Merv affair 
there was a secret understanding between the Bussian and 
Persian Governments ; and this understanding may possibly 
yet lead to more important results than the annihilation 
of a handful of border barbarians. 

The illness to which I have already alluded had not only 
detained me in Euchan, but had materially altered my 
plans. Before attempting the trip to Merv, I found it 
necessary to pay a visit to Meshed, hoping to find some 
needed medical assistance there, and accordingly, after a 
three weeks' sojourn in Euchan, I abandoned the idea of 
taking the road to Askabad, and on the morning of August 10 
I started for the sacred city of Persia. I was much pulled 
down by my fever, and as I buckled on my revolver-belt 
preparatory to starting, my Tekke friend, who had nursed 
me so well, smiled pityingly. He evidently thought I was 
in little trim for wielding arms of any sort, considering my 
worn frame and tottering gait. Still I managed to get on 
horseback, though I could only bear the slowest pace of 
the animal. The journey to Meshed, usually made by foot- 
passengers in two or two-and-a-half days, occupied me no 
less that seven. Even so I was glad to leave Euchan, with 
its horrid hovels and insect plagues, and to be on the road 
to more promising quarters. 




TheMeehed road — Kurdish customs — A thievish chief — Rapacious officials 
— Persian building — Fruits — Pitfalls in the roads — Meshed — A magni- 
ficent prospect — The Grand Boulevard of Meshed — Lack of public 
spirit — Russian commerce — Strange nationalities — Persian attendants — 
Antique coins — A Persian house — Fountains and water supply — Brinks of 
the country — Population of Meshed — Turcoman horses. 

Weak as I was, I endeavoured to keep a note of the road 
along which I was travelling, and which, though little 
known, is of the highest importance in relation to 
Bussian designs in Central Asia. The natural highway 
to Meshed from Euchan is excellently suited for the 
passage of an army; corn, wood, and water abound 
along its whole length. It would be the easiest matter for 
the Russians, now that they are masters of Geok Tep6, to 
cross the Akhal Tekke mountains, and advance, without 
resistance from the timid inhabitants, to Meshed, which 
has more than once already served as a base of operations 
against Herat. On the maps in my possession there is a 
strange confusion, intentionally or otherwise, of the names 
of places along this important road. At least the names 
given by the inhabitants are quite different from those 
printed on the maps. The first village after leaving Euchan, 
and about four farsakhs or fourteen miles distant, *o Jaffara- 
bad. Six farsakhs further on comes Seyidan, ana three 
and a half further Gunabad. Then comes Chenaram, and 
afterwards Easimabad, the only large place along the whole 


road, and situated close to the ruins of Toos, the former 
capital of Khorassan, now only a heap of earth mounds. 
The farsakh is the ancient parassang of classic writers, and 
is about three-and-a-half English miles. All the before- 
mentioned places are villages of the usual type. 

The road to Meshed is commonly said to be very 
dangerous ; the trouble, however, does not arise from 
marauders, but from the peasants along the road, who eke 
out their ordinary gains by turning an occasional hand to 
robbery. The people of the mountains are of Kurdish and 
Afghan descent. Their ancestors were planted here by 
Shah Abass and Nadir Shah as military colonists to keep 
guard against the Turcomans. They are a far braver and 
more manly race than the Persians, but on the score of * 
honesty can claim no superiority over the Tekkds them- 
selves. In fact, their plundering talents are developed in 
more numerous ways, for a Turcoman will only rob when 
in the saddle for a foray, while a Kurd is as ready to filch 
any article he can find lying unwatched as to rob on the 
high road. Of course they do not carry off captives like 
the nomads, but woe betide the unfortunate traders who 
venture among these mountains alone or in small bodies. 
They are nearly sure to be stripped or maltreated. Indeed, 
it is in this manner that the Kurdish villages usually procure 
their supplies of groceries and cloth. A dervish or a 
beggar will have his wants cheerfully supplied, and a 
penniless traveller will find the muleteers or others whom 
he may encounter both friendly and good-natured, but if 
he be suspected of having anything worth stealing he is 
regarded as fair game. This state of things is common in 
all the wilder portions of the East, from the shores of the 
Mediterranean to the banks of the Murgab. An anecdote will 
illustrate the ways of these Kurds. At my stopping-place 
for the night an old white-bearded chief whose rank entitled 


him to the privilege, came to call on me in my tent. I 
gravely motioned him to a place on the edge of my carpet ; 
he gave the salutation of peace, and joined both hands, the 
regular mode of expressing ' at your service.' His quick 
eye meantime made a rapid survey of my property. I 
took pains to show him the mechanism of my revolver, 
while my sword lay conspicuously on a leopard-skin that 
served me for a bed. Under the appearance of looking for 
something in my saddle bags I turned them inside out before 
him, displaying a large amount of papers, and a few shirts, 
but nothing that could excite Kurdish cupidity. Satisfied 
that there was little worth stealing he ultimately took his 

Harvesting was going on briskly on both sides of the 
road as I made my way slowly along. The grain is win- 
nowed by tossing it on broad shovels and letting the chaff 
blow away, and numbers of peasants were engaged in the 
process. The country is literally teeming with agricultural 
wealth. Corn seems going to waste for want of a market ; 
flocks and herds of hump-backed zebus cover the plain, and 
the long plantations of mulberry trees bespeak the extent 
to which silk cultivation is carried on. The regular taxation 
exacted by the Government is by no means heavy, yet the 
peasants live in abject poverty. A platter of rice pilaff, 
seasoned at times, in the richer houses, with a few boiled 
plums or a chicken boiled to rags, appears to be the highest 
luxury of these people's existence. At Jaffarabad the food to 
be had were only round cakes so stale as to be like 
stones, with ill-smelling goat's milk and worse cheese. I 
managed to get half a dozen eggs, which I swallowed raw, 
as the state of my stomach would not allow of my attempt- 
ing the other viands. The only explanation of the manner 
in which the surplus wealth of this district is absorbed lies 
in the existence of a crowd of greedy and useless officials, 


great and small, who live by extorting perquisites from the 
farmers. Prom the Governor of a province down to the 
lowest subaltern they are all alike, and gratuities are exacted 
in a thousand shapes, until the peasants are left bare of 
all but the merest necessaries. Persians who affect Euro- 
pean culture will tell you that after a study of the social 
system of Europe they feel convinced that it does not differ 
in this respect materially from their own, and that the 
only difference is in the form of collection of the imposts. 
One must pity the people whose enlightened classes can 
thus conveniently dispose of such a question. 

The last six days of my journey differed in no material 
point from the first. All the villages were similar collections 
of cubical mud houses, with flat domes for roofs, huddled 
together without any streets, like so many wasps' nests. 
The construction of these domes is worth mentioning. No 
scaffolding of any kind is used in their erection. The 
builder squats on the edge of the thick square walls when 
the latter have reached the required height and lays a circle 
of flat unburned brick on the top of the square, using 
semi-liquid clay as cement. The work is then carried 
up in courses of the same material, each course pro- 
jecting a little inwards until at the top, when the eye of 
the dome is closed by wedging in some slabs as a key. The 
outside is then smoothly plastered with loam. As the 
lower courses set rapidly, the builder can rest on them as 
he comes to the upper part of his work, and the roofs thus 
built are both strong and waterproof. This system of 
dome building is used for buildings of greater importance 
and more costly materials than peasants' houses. The roof 
of the Persian Cossack stables at Teheran is constructed in 
the same fashion. 

Within a day's journey of Meshed the cornfields began 
to be replaced by large melon and cucumber patches. In 


some places the tendrils of the plants are trained on slight 
trellis frames, so that their broad leaves form summer-houses 
to protect the watchmen of the gardens from the sun. 
Few prettier sights had met my eye than these fresh green 
bowers, with their broad yellow flowers, after the dusty and 
parched stubble fields through which I had been passing. 
Orchards, too, are found at intervals, from which the markets 
are abundantly supplied with grapes, peaches, apricots, and 
plums, all of delicious flavour. The dark purple plums are 
often as large as good-sized peaches. The ground is cut 
up with irrigating ditches in every direction, both open and 
covered with earth. The latter (kanots), when old, are a 
source of constant danger to travellers. In making them, 
shafts are sunk at intervals of from thirty to forty yards, like 
wells, and the sand and gravel from these pits is hauled to the 
surface in buckets and piled around the mouth of the pit 
in an annular heap. During the rains these heaps are 
gradually washed into the channels below and swept away 
by the current, so that nothing is left to protect or point 
out the openings of the shafts, which, moreover, are annually 
widened by the rains, until they are sometimes ten or even 
fifteen feet across, with yawning edges, and going down to 
a sheer depth of sixty or seventy feet. These pitfalls occur 
often in the most frequented tracks, where thousands of men 
and animals are continually passing, and that, too, frequently 
by night, according to the already described peculiarity of 
Persian travellers. To make the danger greater the 
mouths are often completely hidden by undergrowth and 
by the luxuriant masses of creeping berberis, which is 
common here. I have often seen skeletons of camels, with 
parts of the skin attached, wedged eight or ten feet down in 
these chasms, the animals having evidently fallen in and 
been left to perish there. On several occasions I should 
have met with a similar fate but for the instinct of my horse, 


whose look-out for such snares was often keener than his 
rider's. I have little doubt but hundreds of belated 
travellers must yearly find their graves in these horrible 
gulfs, which yawn in every direction and certainly do not 
add to the comfort or safety of travelling in Ehorassan. 

It was late on a sultry afternoon, the seventh day after 
my departure from Kuchan, that I came at last within sight 
of the Holy City of Shiia devotion. In front, was a dark 
wide grove of tall trees, behind which the ochre-tinted 
battlements and ramparts of the town peered, while high 
over all towered the gilt dome and minarets of the mosque 
of the great Imam Biza. I had long learned to look with 
distrust on the external appearance of Eastern towns, so 
little in accord with their interiors, but I could not help being 
struck with admiration as I caught my first glimpse of 
Meshed. Except Stamboul, as viewed from the Bosphorus, 
nothing I had seen in the East could compare with it in 
beauty, and I could well realise the effect it must produce 
on the imaginations of the pilgrims who had toiled across 
the long dusty roads for, it may be, months together, when 
the sacred city reveals its glories to their devout gaze. In 
the burning sun the golden dome seemed to cast out rays 
of dazzling light, and the roofs of the adjoining minars shone 
like brilliant beacons. Meshed is par excellence the Holy 
City of the Shiite Mahomedans, scarcely yielding in sup- 
posed sanctity to Mecca itself. Its position in the Shah's 
dominions tends to exalt its importance for Persians over 
Kerbella and Kufa, the two other great centres of Shiite 
Mahomedanism, and the resting-places respectively of 
Hussein and of All himself. The latter cities are in 
Turkish territory, and thqugh venerated by both sects of 
Mahomedans, yet national prejudices make the majority of 
Shiite pilgrims select Meshed as their favourite resort. 
Apart from its importance as a religious centre, Meshed 


is an important military post. Its proximity to the frontier 
and the roads which meet at it make it a strategical point 
deserving of high consideration from the Shah's Govern- 
ment. Accordingly, the fortifications, though only of earth, 
are kept in good repair, and when I visited it a force of 
about a thousand men was encamped outside its walls as a 
protection against the Turcomans. The ramparts are 
flanked with towers at intervals of every fifty yards, and an 
interior gallery is constructed in the thickness of the wall 
near the base, from which a second line of fire could be poured 
into an assailing force. A second and lower line of defence, 
a fau88e~braye in military terms, seems to have formerly 
existed beyond and around the present fortifications, but it 
is now completely ruined. The country around is wild and 
uncultivated, and offers little cover, and altogether the place 
is quite strong enough to resist any attack the nomads 
might make, though a regular European battering train 
could reduce it in a few hours. By some strange oversight 
on the part of the military engineers who constructed these 
fortifications, np provision has been made for enfilading the 
ditches, and thus an enemy who once effected a lodgment 
under the curtain wall would be perfectly safe from the fire 
of the garrison. 

Entering by the western gate I found myself in a broad 
thoroughfare, down the centre of which flowed a canal, with 
kerbing of brick flush with the roadway. The canal was 
eight or nine feet wide and about five deep, but had only a 
few inches of filthy water at the bottom. In fact, it serves 
as an open sewer to convey the refuse water from the 
various dyeing establishments along its banks, and at times 
is entirely dry, when the water is drawn off for irrigation 
outside. A noble row of old plane-trees with large mulberry 
trees intermixed runs along one bank, and in places spring 
from the bed itself, nearly choking up the channel. 


Occasionally the mulberries grow horizontally across the 
channel, forming natural bridges, and in other places 
planks and brick arches give passage from side to side. 
The street itself is about two hundred feet wide, lined on 
both sides with shops, those on the right of the stream 
being chiefly devoted to the sale of vegetables and fruit. 
Here were huge piles of cucumbers, water melons, vegetable 
marrows and potatoes, the last especially good. There 
was also a superabundance of peaches, plums, and grapes, 
the last, of the long muscatel variety, and excellent. 
With its magnificent trees and water supply, which 
could easily be kept unpolluted, it would not be difficult to 
convert this street into a boulevard of surpassing grandeur, 
with a picturesque gate-tower like those of Teheran at 
one end, and the splendid Mosque of Imam Biza at the 
other. Except this and a few other bazaar streets, the 
town is a mere accumulation of mud huts piled together 
in such disorder that a stranger wonders how many of 
the inhabitants can get into their abodes. These house- 
masses are traversed by narrow galleries covered with a rude 
thatch of reeds and earth clots, and often with no other light 
than that which enters at the ends. No doors nor windows 
open on these dismal alleys, which are cumbered with 
rubbish heaps and cut up with ruts in every direction, while 
litters of puppies lie around on all sides and are constantly 
getting under the feet of the wayfarer as he stumbles along' 
in the dim light. At times the rubbish heaps rise so high as 
to bring his head into sudden contact with the roof above, 
with the result of bringing down showers of clay and dust. 
One could almost touch both sides of some of these passage 
at the same time by extending his arms. From tb^ 
covered alleys one emerges into narrow open lanes runi& 
between blank walls relieved occasionally by a sm. 
wooden door, and sometimes opening into irregular spaa* 


of waste ground filled with heaps of debris and offal of all 
kinds. Though extremely particular about the interior of 
their houses, with their white walls, fountains, tanks, and 
carpets, the Persians are utterly indifferent to the con- 
dition of their streets, or to the vile smells occasioned by 
the wanton deposit of filth in them. They will leave their 
shoes or slippers at the house door, to avoid soiling the 
carpets, but they never dream of removing a dung-heap 
from before their very doors. The same spirit indeed 
pervades the whole national character. Private individual 
interests are closely attended to ; but whatever requires 
public combination for the common good is invariably left 
unattempted. The Persian is contented to wait for some 
energetic Shah or Vizier to arise, who may, like Abass the 
Great or Nadir, be of a constructive turn of mind, to erect 
his caravanserais, dig his canals, and build his roads. For 
the community or private individuals to attempt such works 
is a thing unheard of. 

The activity displayed in the streets of the bazaar is in 

striking contrast to the stillness which marks the other 

portions of the city. In those narrow lanes you seldom 

meet a living thing except dogs or cats, while the bazaar is 

thronged with a busy and motley throng. Bussia completely 

controls the trade in European goods, except perhaps in 

mgar, a little of which comes from Marseilles. Cloths, 

linen and cotton goods, porcelain, glass, trays, lamps, and 

other European manufactured articles are all Bussian. 

Tea comes from Astrakan to Teheran or Asterabad, and 

thence to Meshed. It is, however, in the people that 

'rong it that this bazaar of Meshed differs most from that 

the other Persian towns I have seen. Hadjis and 

.1 chants from all the neighbouring countries elbow the 

live Persians, and each nationality is easily distinguished. 

<ie Persian merchant is generally a clean well-dressed man 

vol. 1. 11 


with white silk turban, flowing robes, and long beard, unlike 
the officials, who generally affect European dress. This tall 
slight man, with delicately cat features, large dark eyes, 
and stately pace, is an Arab merchant from Baghdad. These 
two odd-looking little old men, with mouse-coloured faces, 
and red mark between the eyes, clad in dark monkish- 
looking gowns and sandals, are traders from Bombay, and, 
for the moment, the guests of Abass Khan, the native 
British agent here. They halt and salute me elaborately 
as I pass. Half a dozen Merv Turcomans, with calm, 
resolute air, and keeping well together, come next, with 
their usual sauntering step and upright carriage. They 
look as if they were taking stock of the goods displayed 
around them, and were meditating how best to effect a 
wholesale sweep of them. A little further on we meet some 
half-dozen jaunty-looking, handsome young men in dark 
tunics and sombre-tinted turbans, one end of the cloth 
stuck up cockade-wise in front, the other hanging upon 
the neck. One of them carries a small circular shield of 
iron, embossed, inlaid, engraved, and ornamented as the 
shield of Achilles. Held by the scabbard, and thrown 
carelessly over his shoulder, is an exceedingly curved Indian- 
looking sword, with wonderfully small, bulbous iron handle. 
He is an Afghan chief, accompanied by his friends. I am 
not acquainted with them, but they bow and smile pleasantly 
as they recognise my nationality. I remarked the same 
thing of all the Afghans here, and the town was full of 
them, both traders and refugees. They ail invariably 
smiled and saluted me. At Euchan it was the same thing. 
I have met many of them, from Cabul, Candahar, Jellalabad, 
and Herat. Some of them had taken an active part in 
the late war, but none seemed to bear the slightest ill-will 
towards Englishmen on that account. With me they were 
most friendly. Many, in view of the occupation of their 


native country, spoke of themselves as already British 

subjects. This surprised me all the more that it was so 
completely at variance with what I heard every day about 
Afghan fierceness of temper, and the wild love of indepen- 
dence which characterises them. 

The throng of passers-by give way to right and left, and 
a man appears, dressed in a garment half frock-coat, half- 
tunic, of light, snuff-coloured material. He wears black 
trousers of European cut, rather short, and shoes which 
allow of a view of his white stockings. On his head is the 
usual Persian black lambswool tiara. He keeps one hand 
upQn the other, in front of him, as if he were handcuffed, 
and during his very slow walk sways his shoulders to and 
fro. Immediately behind him ia a man bearing a large 
silver water-pipe ; around him is a small crowd of persons 
somewhat similarly attired, and walking as nearly as pos- 
sible like him. These are a Persian official and his atten- 
dants. He keeps his eyes on the ground, lifting them but 
occasionally, and affects an air of profound thought and 
pre-occupation, while probably he has not two ideas in his 
head. He is perhaps going to pay a visit to the Governor 
or some other high official. On such occasions the entire 
household turn out in their best array, and the silver water- 
pipe is as indispensable as the mace at a municipal state 
ceremony. In Persia, no one with any pretence to respec- 
tability would dream of stirring outside the door without at 
least four men walking behind him. My appearance with a 
solitary attendant— a factotum who looked after myself and 
my horses, and acted as cook into the bargain — created 
quite a scandal. The British agent was so terrified at the 
possible loss of national prestige that might accrue there- 
from that he actually forced on me one of the soldiers who 
mounted guard at his residence. At Teheran these absurd 
notions are beginning to die out, in consequence of the intro- 



duction of Western ideas. An ordinary individual "may, 
without loss of self-respect, walk unaccompanied down the 
principal streets. It is only on occasions of ceremony that a 
display of attendants is called for. The old-fashioned 
Persians, however, adhere still to their national customs, 
especially in the remote districts like Meshed. 

The variety of coins current in this place would delight 
the heart of a numismatist. Besides the concourse of 
pilgrims who bring specimens of every Asiatic mint with 
them, ' finds ' of old coins are frequently made in the ruins 
with which the whole country is filled, and contribute to the 
variety of the currency. Ancient Greek and Persian coins 
can be had here for little more than their bullion value, in 
abundance. I have little doubt but that rare and valuable 
coins might be found in the Meshed bazaar by a skilled numis- 
matist. A friend of mine long resident in Persia told me 
that a gold coin of the time of Alexander might be found 
here, for a specimen of which twelve hundred pounds has 
been paid in Europe. It is about the size of half a crown, 
but only an expert could venture to purchase a specimen, as 
it has been imitated closely by the Jewish dealers of 
Baghdad. The great advantage one would have in buying 
coins in such a place as Meshed is that there are no forgeries 
of rare pieces attempted there for want of a market, so one 
is pretty sure that an apparently old piece is really such. 
The natives care nothing for old coins, though they readily 
buy antique jewellery, and, in consequence, there is an 
immense quantity of spurious relics, in the shape of cameos 
and intaglios especially hawked about the bazaar, but coins 
are hardly saleable for more than their bullion value, and so 
are not imitated. I bought for two krans a Greek coin of 
the Bactrian kingdom, I think, as large as a shilling, with a 
well-executed head of Hermes on one side and a full-length 
figure of Hercules with his club, and a Greek inscription, on 


the obverse. Another curious thing I noticed here was the 
presence of fragments of stone cornices and other mouldings, 
evidently of Western workmanship. They are used in all 
kinds of ways ; as stepping-stones, for instance, or water 
troughs, but there is no mistaking their form. 

As I intended passing some time in Meshed, both for 
the sake of health and as affording me a point of vantage 
to obtain news from the Turcomans, I rented a house tem- 
porarily. It was a typical Persian abode. The entrance- 
door was set far back in a high mud wall, the recess having 
seats on each side, perhaps to let callers rest during the 
long interval between their knocks and the opening of the 
door. A long passage led from the door to a paved court- 
yard about forty feet square, planted with a few flowers 
and shrubs. The side opposite the entrance was occupied 
by the kitchen, and a large room adjoining, with five win- 
dows looking into the court. In this I took up my lodgings. 
It had, besides the windows on the court, doors on either 
side, communicating respectively with the kitchen, and 
with stairs on the other side. The room itself was 
about twenty feet wide and thirty in length, divided in the 
middle by two massive pillars, and the inner portion raised 
a few inches above the outer floor. There were deep 
recesses in the wall, serving as cupboards or closets. The 
whole interior was whitewashed. The outer part of the 
room between the pillars and the windows was nearly filled 
by a water tank with the kerb raised a few inches above 
the floor, and a stone pipe in the centre, from which a 
jet of water was occasionally played to cool the air. The 
tank was nearly five feet deep, and on several occasions I 
narrowly escaped an involuntary bath as I entered my 
room in moments of abstraction. The water supply of 
Meshed is very bad, and reeks with sulphuretted hydrogen, 
so that the presence of this tank in my bedroom was by 


no means an unmixed pleasure. Sometimes, indeed, when 
the water played at night from the jet and disturbed the 
lower depths of the pool, the stench was so unbearable 
that I used to have my bed carried out into the garden. 
Living fish were occasionally thrown in by the stream from 
the stone pipe, and they invariably died in a few hours, 
owing to the poisonous nature of the water. Besides 
the gases, which might readily be accounted for by the 
numerous cesspools through which the water supply passes 
in the town itself, the water seemed to be charged with 
mineral matters whose nature I could not determine. 
When I first arrived I wished to take a dose of Epsom salts, 
but on pouring the dose into half a tumbler of water it was 
almost instantly converted into a dirty white slag-mass like 
half-melted glass. The water had a thick and oily taste, 
and under ordinary circumstances would be quite undrink- 
able. This was all the more annoying, as hardly any other 
drink could be had in the place. The natives used at 
their meals a liquor called doug, coagulated milk diluted 
with water, but this, though agreeable enough, was too 
trying for an invalid's stomach. The wine was abominable, 
in spite of the excellent quality of the grapes. It tasted 
like stale beer mixed with spirits, and was of a dirty brown 
colour. The only other beverage was a syrup called sikan- 
jebin, made of sugar and vinegar boiled together, which 
was drunk mixed with water. 

Meshed is one of the chief cities of Persia. The circuit 
of its walls is about four miles, and the population, exclu- 
sive of pilgrims, is estimated at fifty thousand. There is 
a good deal of trade, but hardly so much as might be 
expected considering the stir in the streets. Coppersmiths 
abound in one quarter of the bazaar, and deafen the 
passengers with their hampers as they make their pots 
and kettles. There are several brick-yards outside the 


city, in which the flat bricks used for the better class of 
works are burned, dry brush and grass being used for fuel. 
These are the only available materials, wood being too 
valuable to be applied to such uses. The poorer classes use 
dried dung exclusively, for firing, and at the house where I 
stopped I remarked that the stable manure was carefully 
carried out every morning and spread on the roofs to dry in 
the sun. It was afterwards packed in bags and stored 
away for the winter. The horses are generally of the Persian 
breed, being a mixture of Arab and Turcoman blood, but 
thoroughbred Turcomans are also frequently exposed for 
sale. I saw two fine ones offered for sale in the bazaar 
on the day of my arrival. They were very richly capa- 
risoned. Besides embroidered saddle cloths and housings, 
they had heavy silver collars studded with turquoises and 
cornelians, and corresponding ornaments on every available 
part of the body. The value of the trappings must have 
equalled that of the steeds themselves. 




A Persian Mecca —Jealousy of Christian visitors — Interments in the sacred 
ground — Tombstone makers — A Persian lathe — The great mosque — Cha- 
racteristic architecture — Colour in architecture — The tomb of Haroun- 
al-Raschid — Renegade Christians — Light and shade effects — Wealth 
of a Mahomedan sanctuary — Rights of pilgrims— Mosques in decay — Minars 
and Irish round towers — An ancient rite — Saluting the sunset— Barbaric 
music — Relics of Zoroastrism — Sunnites and Shiitee — The twelve holy 
Imams — Wine drinking among Persians — National traditions and re- 
ligion — The Mahomedan conqueror of Persia. 

The only thing worth seeing at Meshed is the great mosque 
of Imam Biza ; and that, unfortunately, is the most diffi- 
cult thing to see, both on account of its position and the 
jealous care with which Shiia bigotry wards off the approach 
of the infidel to the sacred precincts. It is only from the 
eastern or western extremities of the great central avenue 
of the city that a glimpse can be caught of the golden 
dome and minars. On a nearer approach, the trees, 
houses, and massive gateways which give access to the 
great courtyard in which the building stands, completely 
shut out the view. As you approach along the avenue 
from either side, following the course of the central stream, 
you are suddenly stopped by a wall reaching across the 
entire street. It has two large gates and as many window- 
like apertures closed by stout wooden bars. It is about 
two hundred yards from the great gateway, and immediately 
within it and reaching up to the latter is a very animated 
portion of the bazaar, to which, however, access is forbidden 


to giaours. This outer gateway is a favourite place of 
resort for itinerant barbers, who are to be seen there by 
dozens, plying their razors on the crowns of their customers. 
Here, too, we find those dealers altogether peculiar to the 
East, who go about with a tray full of pipes before them, 
and who let you have a smoke from a chibouk or a kalioun, 
as you may fancy, for the sum of about half a farthing. 
The stream of people passing in and out of this interior 
bazaar, hadjis and merchants, is continuous; and in a 
moment the stranger is surrounded by a crowd gazing and 
staring as if his like had never before been seen. The 
entire structure is covered with enamelled tiles, blue and 
yellow arabesques on a white ground. At a distance the 
effect is very fine indeed. Above the arch of the western 
gate is a clock. I was very anxious to get a close look at 
the great mosque, and I was at my wit's ends how to do so, 
when a soldier, kindly lent me from his guard by the British 
agent, bethought himself of a doorway, not unpleasantly 
railed off like the two greater ones, and from which the 
desired sight might be obtained. Crossing a steep bridge 
over the muddy stream, which, by the way, flows right 
through the holy ground to afford the faithful an oppor- 
tunity of performing their ablutions, we plunged into a 
labyrinth of narrow streets to the left. We traversed a 
series of tunnels, such as I have already described, and 
emerged into a vast open space. This was the ' field of the 
dead,' the place where those whose bodies are brought from 
far for deposition near the shrine of Imam Biza are in- 
terred. It was of great extent, and literally paved with 
tombstones — horizontal flags, for the Persians, unlike the 
Turks, do not use vertical head-stones. I counted about a 
dozen vertical monuments. These probably marked the 
resting-places of Sunnites — for such, heretics as they are 
considered here, are not excluded from the holy precincts. 


It was literally ' a wilderness of graves and tombs.' For 
centuries the dead had been packed into this space, until 
you could not put your hand between the monumental flags, 
and yet, the cry is 'still they come/ There were asses 
standing by, waiting to have their ghastly loads unpacked — 
poor remnants of humanity whose former owners had given 
perhaps half the hard-earned gatherings of a life to buy 
rest nearer to the golden dome, sheltered from the iron 
hammers of Monkir and Nankir. It is no joke, on a hot 
autumn day, to run the gauntlet of a row of the remains of 
pious people who have been dead mayhap for the past three 
months. There was one row of coffins sweltering in the 
noontide blaze, whence an amber-coloured liquor was 
distilling through the felt wrapping and forming little pools 
in the dust, a row whence * rose the rich steams of sweet 
mortality.' I shot past with an irreverent haste which 
I am afraid scandalised the true believers. On dead walls 
not far off some traders in religion had fixed up large 
canvas paintings, fifteen feet square, representing various 
scenes in the massacre of Hassan and Hussein, and some 
combats of Bustam with the White Demon, that ever- 
lasting subject of Persian art. Whenever a crowd collected, 
and many of them were women, some of whom descended 
from their red horse litters, the two exhibitors commenced 
a kind of recitative chant, descriptive of the event repre- 
sented in their painting, occasionally bursting forth into 
song of a very monotonous character. Around, old moullahs 
were seated among the tombs, reading the Koran in a loud 
voice with a view of extracting charity from the hadjis ; 
and deformed beggars almost in a state of nudity whined 
and howled at the passers-by. How all these people man- 
aged to support the odour of the reeking corpses close by I 
cannot imagine. I was glad to get away from the spot, 
and followed my guide into a covered passage leading 


towards the great mosque. It was lined with booths of 
stone-cutters, who sold tombstones ; and vendors of those 
little cakes of clay stamped with Koranic inscriptions, 
which Persians place on the ground before them when 
praying, and touch with their foreheads when they pros- 
trate themselves. These clay cakes, which must be earth 
from some one of the holy places, such as Kufa, Kerbella, 
Meshed, &c, the Sunnite Mussulmans altogether dispense 
with. They are of a light chocolate colour, and vary in 
size and shape. Some are octagonal, and only an inch and 
a half in diameter. Others are as big as and the shape of a 
piece of Windsor soap. The tombstone merchants are hard 
at work chipping away at their rude slabs to supply the 
never-failing demand. Their booths are half full of chips 
and dust ; and they sit upon a pile of the same material, 
the skirts of which reach into the middle of the narrow 
passage. To judge from its dimensions it must have been 
accumulating since the days of their grandfathers; and 
the present workers are now being gradually raised towards 
the roofs of their stalls on the summits of these ever-growing 
heaps, which no one dreams of removing. Mingled with 
the sepulchral ornament makers are people who manufac- 
ture cooking pots from a hard light blue gritty limestone ; 
the most singular material perhaps from which a cooking 
pot was ever made. They are about ten inches wide at 
the mouth, and about thirteen at the bottom. The stone 
is first rudely shaped interiorly by scoring it from rim to 
bottom with chisels. While still solid the mass of stone is 
placed in a rude lathe. It is only an iron axle on which is 
a wooden bobbin. The string of a curved bow is passed 
a couple of times round this, and the worker, by drawing 
the bow backwards and forwards, causes the stone to 
rotate alternately in opposite directions. A curved steel 
instrument gradually smooths the outside of the stone and 


gives it a circular outline. It is afterwards laboriously 
hollowed out with hammer and chisel. The cost of such 
a pot is tenpence, though it occupied the artificer two 
days to make it. Passing by these stone-workers we arrive 
at a short passage forming an oblique angle with the last. 
Here there are merchants selling cloth and miscellaneous 
articles. At the end of the passage is a tall wide gateway, 
and then a full view of the front of the great mosque bursts 
upon the sight. I pressed close to the gates, despite the 
rude cries of booroo (get away) addressed to me on all sides 
as a giaour is seen approaching the sacred threshold, though 
the front of the mosque is nigh a hundred yards away. 
I verily believe that but for my military attendant I should 
have been bodily maltreated for my presumption in approach- 
ing, even at such a respectful distance, the holy of holies 
of Shiiadomr It was early in the forenoon, and the full 
blaze of the sun fell upon the great front, with its glittering 
blue and white surface and gilt minar and gateway. Just 
as there are certain seasons at which to visit different 
countries, if we would see their peculiarities and charac- 
teristics fully developed, so there are certain hours of the 
day, and certain degrees and directions of light, at which 
certain buildings look their best, and the idea of the archi- 
tect is brought saliently before the eye. The great front at 
which I gazed is simply a massive block of building rising 
high above the main body of the edifice behind like the 
front of a Gothic cathedral. It resembles the latter in 
nothing else, being entirely plain except for the great recessed 
portal which occupies a great part of its front. In fact it 
resembles the pylon of an Egyptian temple, but without the 
incline inwards characteristic of the latter. The effect, when 
seen from the front, is massive and imposing, but when 
viewed from either side it has a makeshift and patchwork 
air that takes greatly from the appearance of the whole. On 


the right of this fa?ade, and in a line with it, is a massive 
square tower rising slightly above the latter, and terminating 
in a cylindrical minaret, which projects like a bartizan 
beyond the wall of the tower. This minaret has on its 
summit a cage-like chamber for the muezzim, which is 
again surmounted by a tall pinnacle. The minaret, from 
the point where it springs from the tower, is covered with 
copper plates richly gilt. The entire tower and facade are 
covered with tiles a foot square, and so neatly joined that 
the surface seems one unbroken sheet of blue and white 
enamel slightly relieved with orange. The gateway is of 
the usual ogive form, and deeply recessed like that of a 
Gothic cathedral. The peculiar Persian ornamentation 
within the arch, and which seems copied from the inside 
of the rind of a pomegranate when the seeds are removed, 
or a broken section of a honeycomb, is richly gilt and 
coloured. Throughout Persia, both in ancient and modern 
buildings, this very peculiar style of arch ornamentation 
is to be found, replacing the continuous mouldings of Gothic 
architecture. It is as if a number of short hexagonal 
prisms had been pressed into soft plaster to half their 
depth, leaving a series of vertical three-sided cavities all 
connecting with each other, a slight stalactite-like appendage 
being added to th& bottom of each group of cavities. I 
have seen some fine specimens of this kind of stone work 
in the old palace and mosques at Baku, and in the ancient 
Persian buildings at Kaife and Erzeroum. Close to the 
main building, which is very plain, having nothing what- 
ever to recommend it from an architectural point of view, 
and supported on a cylindrical base some thirty feet high, is 
a hemispherical dome all ablaze with gilding. In the rear of 
the building is a second fa$ade and minaret, similar to the 
front. In the courtyard behind, is a fountain, not as in the 
sense generally understood, from which jets-d'eau are thrown 


into the air, bat a kiosk-like structure similar to those to 
be met with in Constantinople. In keeping with the 
mosque, it is entirely covered with enamelled tiles, and is 
exceedingly pretty both in colouring and outline. As I 
gazed at the glittering front before me, over a thousand 
pilgrims, all of whom had donned the white hadji turban, 
were prostrating themselves in the great courtyard before 
the entrance-gate, preparatory to entering the shrine itself. 
The most profound stillness reigned. Never have I seen 
so many persons assembled together with so little noise. 
In that vast crowd were mingled together Sunnite and 
Shiite, their religious differences merged for the moment 
before the shrine of Imam Biza. While each of these 
pilgrims was doubtless swelling with satisfaction and a 
consciousness of arduous duty performed, and half forgot 
his long and arduous toil along the dreary hills and plains 
that separated him from his home, I, too, felt that I had 
performed a pilgrimage, and that I was at least a literary 
hadji. Few, if any, of those hundreds who bowed before 
the golden portals recollected aught but the memory of the 
Imam whose tomb gives sanctity to the pile. As for 
me, I could gaze with scarce aught but interest upon a 
temple beneath whose golden cupola rests one the story 
of whose adventures and eccentricities has filled many a 
boyish hour with delight, the contemporary of Charlemagne, 
the great monarch of the East, the hero of the ' Arabian 
Nights,' the Caliph Haroun-alJtaschid. Yes, here he 
rests amid a crowd of forgotten sovereigns — himself for- 
gotten in the land he ruled over, remembered only by the 
passing Western stranger. I should have much wished to 
visit his tomb within the mosque ; but of that there 
was but little chance without a formal embracing of 
Islam. A propos of conversions to Islam, since my arrival 
in these parts two Europeans had been received into the 


bosom of Mahomedanism. One, a young man named 
Dnfour, I have referred to in my description of Euchan. 
The other quasi-convert called upon me at Meshed. He 
was a Russian, a native of Tiflis, who came to Meshed a month 
before as an itinerant jeweller with a hadji caravan. One 
night his Persian servant disappeared, taking with him his 
stock of jewels and all his clothes. Reduced to misery, he 
embraced Mahomedanism for the sake of the food dis- 
tributed in charity to true believers at the mosque. He 
saw me in the bazaar, and, thinking I was going to Teheran, 
came to beg me to take him with me. He vowed and 
swore he was no more of a Mussulman than I was, and 
that nothing but dire distress had induced him to go through 
the form of apostasy. In proof of this he crossed himself 
all over with astonishing rapidity in the Russian fashion, 
and went through a variety of genuflexions. He said he 
had wished to come to see me long before, but that his new 
co-religionists had kept dinning into his ears the penalties 
of falling away from his new faith, such as having his 
throat cut, or both his feet chopped off; and he was afraid 
his visit to me might be taken as a sign of coming apostasy. 
He was little more than twenty-two or three years of age. I 
comforted the fellow as well as I could, and promised to see 
what I could do with the Russian native agent there towards 
getting him sent on to Teheran. Here are cases for the 
Teheran missionaries to look after, instead of trying to 
convert Armenian Christians to their own particular 
doctrinal views. 

I stood gazing so long at the front of the great Mussul- 
man shrine, that the sunlight gradually faded away, leaving 
it and the gilt minars in cold shadow. The change was 
magical. It was as when the limelight dies away from the 
figures of some theatrical fairy scene. All in a moment is 
dull and commonplace. The glittering pile degenerated 


into a cold pagoda-like structure surmounted by a great 
brass tin can. Never was pantomime transformation 
scene more rapid in its changes than this from gem-like 
beauty to a chill, rigid crockery-ware appearance. The 
change is all the more striking that the building has no 
intrinsic beauty of outline of its own. When the glory of 
sunlight has faded off there remains a cold, rigid, angular 
mass, without a line or curve which could appeal to one's 
©sthetic feelings. Strip off the barbaric surface gloss and 
glitter, and there abides not a ghost of beauty to haunt 
the shapeless uncouth mass which remains. I have seen 
many ruins of what were more or less similar structures in 
their days of glory. There was not a line, not a grouping 
that would recommend itself to the eye of an artist. Even 
moonlight fails to lend to the shapeless masses the charm 
and indulgence which 'broken arch and ruined column' 
seem to claim as a right. Here, there is no ruined Parthe- 
non or temple of Jupiter to adorn the night. The surface 
colouring and glitter gone, a Persian ruin is a very ghoul of 
ugliness beside the graceful relics of other climes. Of 
course I am alluding entirely to Mahomedan architecture. 
Persepolis and similar ruins do not come within the scope 
of my observations. The mosque of Imam Biza, apart from 
its sanctity as a shrine, is a religious centre of no small 
importance, owing to its vast endowments, the gifts of many 
successive sovereigns. Almost the entire of this north- 
eastern corner of Persia belongs to it, and the revenue 
derived therefrom is enormous ; indeed it must necessarily 
be so to support the army of moullahs, ferashes, and other 
functionaries deemed requisite for the due honouring of the 
shrine. There are over five hundred moullahs or priests, 
among whom are several of very high class. The ferashes 
or servants and guardians are proportionately numerous ; 
and there is, besides, the usual crowd of hangers-on who 


subsist upon the revenues and whose position cannot well 
be defined. The entire number attached to the shrine is 
estimated at two thousand. At night, twenty moullahs, a 
like number of ferashes, and as many soldiers, keep watch 
and ward within the building, and look after the safety of 
the shrine, which is, I am informed, extremely rich, and 
adorned with a large amount of gold and precious stones. 
Apart from the expenses of the vast permanent staff of 
retainers, there are others which must be very considerable. 
All pilgrims to the shrine are entitled to receive pilaff twice 
a day during the seven days following their arrival. As the 
influx of pilgrims is continuous and enormous, the cost of 
feeding them must be no small item in the daily expenses. 
There are, besides, whole crowds of dervishes and faquirs 
or poor people who are permanently on the establishment ; so 
that considering everything — especially, too, the amount 
which, more Persico, inevitably finds its way into the pockets 
of everyone concerned in the adminst ration— the revenues 
of the mosque must equal those of a small kingdom. 

Besides the mosque of Imam Eiza there are several 
others, but notably two ancient ones. Both were once highly 
ornamented with enamelled tiles ; but they are now sadly 
neglected and falling to ruin. The dome of Gowher Shah's 
mosque has something of a bulbous shape, and is built of 
blue bricks beautifully glazed. Gaps have opened in its 
sides, and brambles grow in the crevices. There is one 
evidently very ancient mosque, whose name I have not been 
able to make out, which, as it stands, is a good specimen of 
Persian mismanagement and neglect. The front was once 
elaborately ornamented with coloured tiles, which either 
from earthquake shocks or the effect of the weather had in 
places fallen away, exposing the white plaster in which they 
had been imbedded, and giving the building a patched 
appearance. To replace the tiles would have been the 

VOL. I. K K 


easier and more expeditious course to pursue. Instead 
of this, the entire front of the building was plastered over 
with a fine coat of yellow mud, a narrow stripe only of tiles 
along the entablature being left uncovered. This coat of 
mud is now hanging in great sheets from the front of the 
mosque like paper on a damp wall, showing both tiles and 
plaster, and presenting a thoroughly ragged appearance. 
The fallen tiles, exquisitely enamelled, and over four 
hundred, perhaps six hundred, years old, lie rudely stacked 
around the yard of the mosque, or thrown loosely about. 
There are art treasures lying there which would make a 
collector of cashi run wild with delight. As I was standing 
near the gate admiring these fallen treasures, a number of 
sallow, long-haired dervishes with battle-axes and iron-bound 
clubs, and who seemed to constitute themselves a guard 
over the premises, approached me in a menacing fashion, 
and I withdrew hurriedly. Close alongside this mosque 
is a minar of very rich appearance, built entirely of 
enamelled bricks, some placed obliquely with the others so 
as to form ornamental designs. This tower is completely 
detached from the main building, is perfectly plain in out- 
line, and tapers slightly towards the summit. It is from 
seventy to eighty feet in height, and, in its form and isola- 
tion from the mosque itself, forcibly reminded me of the 
Irish round towers. In fact, take away the colour, it was 
similar to the old tower of Eildare. The difference between 
these Persian minars here, and the minarets one sees at 
Constantinople, is enormous. The Persian minar owes all 
to colour or gilding ; the Turkish minaret appeals to the 
eye by beauty of form alone. One is the mere painter's 
lay-figure on which to hang rich vestments ; the other is 
the pale Grecian statue in all its colourless beauty. The 
one can never cease to be beautiful even in decay; the 
other, with the least degeneration from its often tawdry 


splendour, becomes hideous. I stayed so long lingering in 
the neighbourhood of the different mosques, studying their 
lines and colours, that the sun was already sinking towards 
the horizon as I turned homewards. A horrid din filled 
the city. From the summit of the western gateway of 
the great mosque men were beating gongs and blowing long 
blasts on most untuneful instruments which sounded like 
huge cow-horns. The crash and din was not without a 
tinge of barbaric grandeur, mingled, I thought, with a wild 
sadness. From different parts of the town came equally 
savage harmonies, that sent the wild birds whirling and 
shrieking in troops above oui^heads. The bugling from the top 
of the gateway was characteristic of far-off Eastern climes, 
1 the mournful sound of the barbarous horn.' Amid all this 
crash and moaning the sun sank behind the horizon ; and, 
as I gazed, it seemed as if I were carried back to old 
Assyrian days and listened to the pomp and din of some 
long-robed procession hailing the departing luminary. 
Though the religion of Zoroaster be no more, I have 
no doubt that this fanfare saluting the setting sun is a 
custom come down from past ages ; one of those ceremonies 
which still cling lovingly to an ancient shrine, though the 
significance of the rite be forgotten, the altars cold, the 
creed scarce remembered in the land. 

A word or two on the religious differences between the 
Sunnites and Shiites may not be out of place here. As 
already stated, both sects worship together at the mosque of 
Imam Eiza as they do at Mecca, still the feeling between 
them is very bitter. For the Sunnites, the Sultan of Turkey 
is not only sovereign in his own dominions, but he is Com- 
mander of the Faithful in other lands in virtue of his 
succession to the Caliphate. The Shiites recognise no 
actual caliph or visible head of their religion. They hold 
that only Ali and his twelve successors were entitled to 

X K 2 


that rank, except the two immediate successors of Mahomed, 
and that all the rest have been only usurpers, like Omar. 
The Shah has no pretensions to spiritual authority as the 
Sultan has. Moreover, the Sunnite doctors recognise certain 
traditions of Islam as forming a part of the Mahomedan 
doctrine ; while the Shiites reject them, and maintain that 
the Koran alone is the rule of faith and religious practice. 
There are a couple of minor differences in the external form 
of prayer also. In the preliminary washing, the Shiite is 
careful to let the water run off the tips of his fingers and 
from his elbows, as well as from the point of his beard. 
The Sunnite washes himself jn any fashion, being only 
careful that the process is effective. Of the two, his is the 
more genuine washing, especially in the matter of the feet. 
When no water is to be had, as in the desert, the wor- 
shipper merely lays his palms flat on the earth or sand, 
and with the little which adheres goes through the form 
of washing, the Shiite carefully preserving his special form. 
During prayer, the Shiite when standing keeps his hands 
hanging at his sides, and when kneeling keeps them upon 
his knees. The Sunnite keeps them crossed before him, 
one upon the other. Then, again, the Shiite must have 
his cake of clay ; while the Sunnite does not necessarily 
require any such souvenir of the holy places. I have 
frequently seen the Osmanli Turks and the Turcomans place 
on the ground before them the beads they perpetually keep 
passing between their fingers. Such are the main differ- 
ences, doctrinal and otherwise, which separate the two 
great sects. Each has within itself its own minor differ- 
ences, which I am not sufficiently acquainted with to give 
an account of. The Sunnites have notably their Puritans- - 
the Wahabbees, a sect very numerous in central Arabia. 
They are, however, but a very strict sect of Sunnites. They 
consider the wearing of gold or silk on the person as unlaw- 


fal ; denounce smoking ; and some go so far even as to 
consider coffee as among tbe stimulants forbidden by the 
Prophet. It is curious enough that while the Persian 
Shiites pretend that their speciality is a rigid adherence to 
the actual doctrines of the Koran, they should in some 
respects violate them most flagrantly. In their mosaic and 
tile decorations they make free use of the human figure 
and that of various animals, even on their mosques. This 
I do not remember ever to have seen an example of among 
the Sunnites, who carefully, confine their architectural 
ornaments to arabesques or representations of flowers