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Across Coveted Lands (Illustrated)

Across Coveted Lands (Illustrated)

by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

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Difficulties of crossing the Great Salt Desert—The trials of arranging a caravan—The ways of camel-men—A quaint man of the Desert—A legal agreement—Preparations for the departure—"Kerman" and "Zeris," my two Persian kittens and travelling companions—Persian cats—The start—The charms of camel riding—Marching among mountains.

My intention was to cross the Salt Desert in an almost easterly direction by the route from Khabis to Neh, which seemed the most direct route from Kerman to the Afghan frontier, but on mentioning my project to the Consul and his Persian assistant, Nasr-el Khan, they dissuaded me from attempting it, declaring it impossible to get across in the autumn. Why it was impossible I could not quite ascertain, each man from whom I inquired giving a different reason, but the fact remained that it was impossible. The Governor of Kerman, all the highest officials in the town, told me that it could not be done till three or four months later, when the Afghan[2] camels would come over, laden with butter, by that route. Even faithful Sadek, whom I had despatched to the bazaar to get camels at all costs, returned with a long face after a whole day's absence, and for the first time since he was in my employ had to change his invariable answer of "Sahib, have got," to a bitterly disappointing "Sahib, no can get."

A delay was predicted on all hands of at least a month or two in Kerman before I could possibly obtain camels to cross the desert in any direction towards the east. The tantalising trials of arranging a caravan were not small.

I offered to purchase camels, but no camel driver could be induced to accompany me. Offers of treble pay and bakshish had no effect, and I found myself in a serious dilemma when a camel man appeared on the scene. His high terms were then and there accepted, everything that he asked for was conceded, when suddenly, probably believing that all this was too good to come true, he backed out of the bargain and positively refused to go. Had I chosen to go by the southern route, skirting the desert via Bam, the difficulty would not have been so great, but that route is very easy, and had been followed by several Europeans at different times, and I declined to go that way.

I was beginning to despair when Sadek, who had spent another day hunting in the various caravanserais, entered my room, and with a broad grin on his generally stolid countenance, proclaimed that he had found some good camels.[3] To corroborate his words a clumsy and heavy-footed camel man, with a face which by association had become like that of the beasts he led, was shoved forward into the room.

He was a striking figure, with an ugly but singularly honest countenance, his eyes staring and abnormally opened, almost strained—the eyes of a man who evidently lived during the night and slept during the day. His mouth stretched, with no exaggeration, from ear to ear, and displayed a double row of powerful white teeth. What was lacking in quantity of nose was made up by a superabundance of malformed, shapeless ears, which projected at the sides of his head like two wings. When his legs were closed—pour façon de parler—they were still some six inches apart, and a similar space was noticeable between each of his arms and his body. Unmistakably this fellow was the very picture of clumsiness.

He seemed so much distracted by the various articles of furniture in the Consul's room that one could get no coherent answer from him, and his apprehension gave way to positive terror when he was addressed in flowing language by the various high officials who were then calling on the Consul. Their ways of persuasion by threats and promises alarmed the camel man to such an extent that his eyes roamed about all over the place, palpably to find a way to effect an escape. He was, however, so clumsy at it, that the consul's servants and soldiers checked him in time, and Sadek broke in with one of[4] his usual flows of words at the top of his voice, which, however, could hardly be heard amid the vigorous eloquence of the Persians present, who all spoke at the same time, and at an equally high pitch.

With a sinking heart I closely watched the camel man, in whom rested my faint and last hope of crossing the Salt Desert. He looked so bewildered—and no wonder—almost terror-stricken, that when he was asked about his camels, the desert, the amount of pay required, he sulkily mumbled that he had no camels, knew nothing whatever about the desert, and did not wish to receive any pay.

"Why, then, did you come here?"

"I did not come here!"

"But you are here."

"I want to go away."

"Yes, sahib," cried the chorus of Persians, "he has the camels, he knows the desert; only he is frightened,

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Product Details

BN ID: 2940148287438
Publisher: Lost Leaf Publications
Publication date: 02/11/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 5 MB

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