WITH THE HEIRS OF ASSUR-BANI-PAL
ALEPPO, however, was worth the wait. It was once the great trade centre of the Orient, the point where all the caravans of the four winds met, the loading depot for all countries as far as Turkestan. The discovery of the Cape sea route to India ruined it.
The French are seeking to restore its prestige and, even with the few years at their disposal, they have already succeeded in giving it something of the air of their North African colonies. The place looks busy and prosperous as it sits on the flat desert edge with its immensely strong citadel towering over it. It has no very old buildings, for the real East--nothing older than, say, Westminster Abbey, but it has other compensating sights and it is doubtful whether the world, in which colour is dying, can show a city of more variegated hues.
One, naturally, upon coming into Syria looks for some survival of the Assyrians. For a wonder, in this age of changes, you ﬁnd something that looks like them.
I sought, in Aleppo, for some descendant of Assur-bani-pal, a nice-minded Assyrian King who died in 669 B.C. after a useful life spent in whacking the Elamites and the Egyptians and spoiling Babylonia. I have always loved Assur-bani-pal for his thoroughness. One never found former enemy subjects cluttering up any of his hotels eight years after the war and monopolizing the head waiter, as you do in London and even Paris, for
the simple reason-that when he had ﬁnished with them, none of them had any use for a head waiter. Those he did not ﬂay alive to amuse himself on Saturday afternoon (there were no races or electric hares in those days and a man must have diversion) he piled in heaps and burnt or lined up and charged with sword wheeled chariots or did various other things, which the Asiatics say are still in fashion in Siberian Russia.
Sure enough, Assur-bani-pal's descendant was there, sitting on the footpath in the Doghru Yol, with his beard and his conical hat and a garment that might have been cut by Nebuchadnezar's tailor, and sandals upon every dirty feet. He was so real that I almost expected to see him rise up, take a six-foot bow from behind him, protrude his aldermanic region after the fetching manner of Assyrian bas-reliefs of 2,500 years ago and send an arrow winging after those impertinent sightseers, ourselves.
Actually, the ancient Assyrian cap and shirt are still clothing current in Aleppo. Nobody seems to know whether they have persisted through the ages or been recently reintroduced to stimulate the national pride which is really unstimulatable for the simple reason that is doesn't exist.
Those prosperous years before the Cape route to India was discovered, when Aleppo was the clearing house of all the East, dowered the city with so mixed a population that if, even 2000 years ago, there was any really pure Assyrian blood in it, there is none now, and the Syrian himself is an effete half-breed who mitigates his chief occupation of sitting in the shade, with regular daily devotion to that splendid deepbreathing exercise known as snoring. I am afraid if a King arose in Carchemish or Antioch or Nineveh to-day and was ordered by the Lord Baal to smite the Elamites, he would let the job out on contract to the Armenians who are the be-all and the end-all of most Aleppan native
industry, and turn over on his face to continue his dreaming.
It is hot in Aleppo with the heat of North-Western Queensland. The sun blazes down at noon, baking the roofs and throwing shadows the colour of Stephens' ink. If you are near the edge of the town, you may watch the antics of heat haze on the ﬂat country towards the Euphrates or the mirage playing at its old game of inundating the landscape with a tantalizing sea of water which is not there.
At midday, only the great cafés, full of fez and hubble-bubble and the scent of Turkish cigarette, are alive, together with the Arab soukhs where, under the arches of acre upon acre of cool, stone-roofed passages, the traders live and bargain as they have done since the Arab world began. Here is the Thousand and One Nights tradition in excelsis and when you observe it you know that the colour of the old romance was no myth, but a living thing.
In that cool place of dank alleys redolent of spice and leather, where all the goods of three continents are displayed in little stalls, in these same soukhs gorgeous Armenian, red-fezzed Turk (who here can wear his national headgear with impunity), conical-capped Syrian, smiling Bagdadi, long-robed Arab with silver-hilted dagger, little old English lady tremulous and determined behind a meaty Egyptian guide breathing extortion, jostle each other and give a wide berth to the French oﬁicers who mingle with them.
You can buy anything in the soukhs.
You may go to the street of the cooks and have kebab on laurel leaves, and pilau, or to the grocers and have raisins from Smyrna; or bargain for an inﬁnite variety of brass and copper pots in the metal-workers' bay, or for sheep-skin coats in the long, evil-smelling lane
where you glimpse, through the curtain behind the emporiums, half-naked tanners ﬂaying wet hides. You may clothe yourself in multicoloured silks from head to foot after a few minutes' noisy chattering. You may go in at one end of the bazaar in a sac suit and come out the other a perfect Sheik or Persian Mirza or Bactrian trader or Port Said Egyptian or old-fashioned Turkish Pasha. You are not limited in your choice of costume, and their bazaar system has the advantage that if you don't like one establishment, its competitor
is next door with a greasy proprietor already ﬁxing you with his eye and preparing to go one better than the trader you have left.
This publicity undoubtedly has its advantages. When a hundred stores lie before the customer and each knows what the next is doing, the spirit of emulation makes for real competition.
So, whether you, buy a camel, as you can on the out-skirts, or instruments pertaining to the art of murder such as a seven-inch dagger, or ﬁve grammes of diamond dust, or a pound of Hang Me tea or the "Adventures of Deadwood Dick" in the True Blue series, which is also available, bargaining is the order of the day.
Outer Aleppo, dominated by its strong and ancientcitadel, wakes only late in the afternoon. Then the Kurd policemen, with their barber's pole batons and black Astrakhan fezzes set off with gorgeous bandings, have a busy time. Aleppo has more motor-cars to the square inch than half the other towns in the East put together, which is due to the excellence of the roads. It also destroys more. Wherefore, it, too, holds the record in motor repair shops. The Sheik of the desert drives with a dashing, mediaeval style. Crown wheels and pinions are nothing to him; front axles are bagatelles.
Ergo, whole streets specialize in radiator repair and nothing else, and there are, on a rough calculation, 167,484. motor drivers and mechanics out of a population of about 200,000. At least, that is what you feel if you traverse the streets at the proper hour. If you choose another proper hour, you make the same estimates regarding barbers, money-changers, butchers and French soldiery.
These latter, of course, are a ﬁerce and brilliant lot and, as a European, one is proud that they manage to outvie the Orient in their splendour. In India when you meet soldiers in these hard times in the middle of summer you will ﬁnd the officers garbed in ﬁfteen shilling topees and thirty shillings' worth of khaki shirt and shorts. To these they will add golf stockings, brown shoes and, if they are feeling exalted about themselves, a riding crop or cane. In the bands of their topees,if they are Welsh enough, the leek; if Scotch enough, the hackle; otherwise a regimental badge. The rank and ﬁle are dressed in the same fashion, except that their outﬁts are cheaper.
But the Frenchman has other ideas. From the highest to the lowest, his starving country sends him forth to conquer, the Eastern world in a state of splendour which makes an prosaic Anglo-Saxon blink. It is not so very long ago that a noted British war correspondent made the welkin of London ring with his denunciation of the extravagant magniﬁcence of the British Commissioner's "Palace" at Bagdad. When I went to call on the British Commissioner there I found his palace a poor thing after the pomp of the Commissary's office in the vilayet of Haleb. Mind you, Haleb is not the capital of French Syria either. Oriental carpets and rugs in rich profusion, sentries with ﬁxed bayonets, saluting myrmidons, endless corridors, burnished arms lavishly displayed and generally a regal atmosphere in which you feel that you are about to be greeted by King Solomon
and that the Queen of Sheba is just round the corner, are the features of the French Assistant-Governor's menage.
As for the military, whose name is more than legion, their glory is as that of the sunset in the desert.
Their uniforms are sky blue orkhaki with red facings. No man is an ofﬁcer unless he has the strength to carry ﬁve pounds of gold braid in a temperature of 112°, and he is no gentleman unless he is shod in boots eighteen inches high and polished like glass.
All day, the French Army passes in a blaze of bright colours, bearded spahi drinking absinthe on the boulevarde; camel corps in khaki with ]oseph's coat, turban and trousers so voluminous and pendulous at the knee that they make an American professional golfer's plus fours appear insipid. This attractive uniform is bound at the waistline with a tremendous crimson scarf.
To sit in an open air café and toy with your ice while they go by is a delight to the eye, and if you need subject matter for speculation while you dine at the fashionable Hotel Baron, you may decide whether the Republic. invests every officer who goes to Syria with a hundredweight of medals or whether it will not send a man there unless he has already acquired a hundredweight. Most of them have so many that they wear one set at breakfast,
another at dejeuner and a third at dinner.
Afterwards, when they go to a café to sip a liqueur and listen to the band or join in the dance (they are so much more modern than Stamboul that "Valencia" replaces "Susie" here) they take them all off, for you never know What may happen in an Aleppan café. Those places, full from 9 a.m. onwards, are a weird mixture of fezzes nodding over hookahs, frock-coats, jibbahs, little boys selling cigarettes and carrying trays of lighted charcoal
to re-light your pipe, dispensers of rugs, changers of money, touts, tawdry lady musicians who ogle you in the hope that you will buy them a drink, camelteers,
newsboys, and bargaining merchants, full Colonels and even fuller privates who sometimes get put out with a loud crash.
Also, at the right hour there are the sheep, brought in from their ante-prandial parade.
When the stout French major sighs over his drink at the cool hour of ﬁve and says: "Ah well, I think I must take my little mutton for a walk," he is not joking. The sheep is the fashionable pet of all strata of society in Aleppo. In the tiers of ﬂats around the streets overlooking the muddy Kuweik River every householder owns a sheep, which he keeps tethered on his small veranda.
A sheep is, ordinarily, a drab sort of animal if you allow him to be, but the Aleppan has a way with him of investing everything about him with a meed of his own glory. Ergo, he takes his pet lamb and dyes its fat tail magenta and its ears green or paints a crimson band round its heart or gives it an orange muzzle after which it is deemed ﬁt to mingle (on the end of a lead) with the gay human medley in the streets. Every afternoon you may see ﬁfty inhabitants strolling with their muttons. The baser sort take a deep interest in vegetable sellers open stalls and stand gazing at boxes of beans for minutes together, keeping as much as possible between their busy live stock and the stallmen whom they divert with the latest gossip, while their ovine companions divert themselves with stalks.
In the atmosphere, it is no wonder that the French rulers are not averse to imitating the purple methods of old Empires. While one may pretend to laugh a little at them, they are right. Their display is purposeful and the Oriental understands it.
Their oﬁicers are the ﬁnest and hardest products of the Colonial service for all their peacock hues. There
are not many lounge lizards among them, and go as early as you care to the salle a manger of your hotel and you will ﬁnd half a dozen of them hastily gobbling the roll and coffee which every Frenchman believes to be an amply suffficient petit dejeuner on which to do a hard morning's desert ride. I I
Actually, there is not a sane-headed British ofﬁcial in the East who would not if he could imitate the French policy of aloof and gilded superiority which makes the rulers of Syria a class of potentates apart from the people they rule. If India could revert to gold and scarlet of which stuffy-minded and muddle-headed Glasgow pedagogues and agitating and impractical Bengalis have robbed it in these past few years, it would be a great step toward guaranteeing the continuity of white civilization and would undoubtedly be more in keeping with the temperament and inclinations of the Indian people than the presen tone of singing low and handing the country over to the tender mercies of babus, whose chief qualiﬁcation often is that they have learnt to gabble Macaulay.
Everywhere we met the French in Syria, they were efficient. There was little red tape about them. Their attitude to the British was in strong contrast to that of the bourgeoise and peasantry of Northern France. They were whole-heartedly friendly ,to the British people and at least tolerant of British Oriental policy. Also, they were inordinately kind and helpful and overpoweringly hospitable.
Before we left Aleppo we had a parting. After deep thought I decided that, from here, one member of the party must go to England and carry a full report upon the behaviour of the car. Knowles was the most suitable man for this work. He was himself in the .motor business in England. He had had experience of the
type of foreign car with which England was hoping to compete before he came with us. I was able to assure him that many of the roads in Australia were on all fours with the roads which we had just traversed in Turkey. He was therefore impartially armed to discuss our mechanical diﬂiculties and show how they could be got over. Furthermore, Birtles and I had travelled so far previously together in Australia that we made the best dual combination of the party, if one man was to leave us.
It was a hard thing to ask Knowles to go even for so necessary a service; but, when I did it, he acquiesced at once like the good soldier he was and I saw him off on the Beirut train next morning, a plain khaki ﬁgure among twenty compartments full of homing French gold lace.
We achieved a railway station record by being the only two parting friends there, black, brown or white, who did not kiss each other loudly on both cheeks, and it was very lonely for a little while, with his musical cheeriness gone.
He carried out his mission and retired to his home in Yorkshire; so if, any day, you happen to be in the Bradford Club and a rather short, aquiline, pleasant-faced man with a close-clipped moustache and a slight limp from chilblained heels remarks to you testily from a chair: "I say, old man, when is this confounded Government going to do something about income tax?" don't mutter "Poky, stay-at-home Englishman" to yourself, for it will be probably Captain Billy Knowles, easing himself of the sense of injustice which he feels because he is not getting enough wars for his money.
Within the next hour we were on the Euphrates, and the temperature had changed from that of Western Queensland to something like that of Central Australia when it is really showing what it can do. Towns were few and far apart in this region. When they did appear, they reminded one of the bones of a man left long in the desert at the mercy of the jackals; only a few stringy and dirty pieces of the ﬂesh of old-time greatness that vulture armies had been unable to pick, adhered to their homes. Beside these huddled villages, with names of ancient splendour overlaid by three or four intermediate
names, there were khans for the Fording Arabs who came over the peculiarly steep and deceptive little hills with a shout and a shriek of horn and reappeared several miles on, with all the passengers jostling each other for a share of some limited shade; while their harassed mechanic, grimed and sad looking, removed his back axle or took a couple of tyres off. Out of seven Fords which passed us early in the morning, we saw no less than ﬁve under repair later in the day on a road which was not really bad. But, if they will load 2 1/2 tons on poor Lizzie, what can they expect?
As for the Euphrates it is strange the romance that hangs about that great river. I have noticed since I returned to real civilization that you can talk about the Danube and people are mildly interested ; you can describe, the Indus, which is really the father among Asiatic rivers, and they yawn. But mention the Euphrates and everybody is enthralled. The Euphrates is not romantic to look at even when you see it in a temperature of 112° with a heat, haze hanging over it and a black wall of dust and thunder gathering in the east.
It is one of the most leisurely streams in the world. It is broad; all the way, it is broad. It is yellow, with
THE LAND OF SHEIK AND LOCUST
ALEPPO is the place where the East begins, the Suez of South Asiatic land travel, and if anybody were to ask me what the real mark of the transition is I should plump for the sign of the shirt. Where you see men wearing the tails of their shirts inside their belts, that is the West. When those tails come outside and ﬂap in the wind, that the East. The fez isn't a sign; you can see it in restaurants off Piccadilly. Arab robes mean nothing. They may signify that you are in the Orient or merely, when you see them gravely pacing along Rotten Row, that King Feisul is at the Hyde Park Hotel.
But no gentleman would walk down Rotten Row orPiccadilly in his shirt-tails. Ergo, when you see a gentleman doing it--beware. This is the city of guile. Therefore, leaving it is, not a mere act of departure, but a game calling for a display of deep cunning and much watchfulness.
The particular form of guile which is popular in Syria is connected with the coinage. Ringing the changes, as practised in the best British criminal circles, is merely the elementary commercial method of Aleppo.
To begin with, there are about 132,216 kinds of money current. There are, for instance, the notes of the Banque de Syrie. There are Syrian silver medjidiehs and piastres. Then there are Turkish gold pounds and Turkish silver medjidiehs and piastres. Finally, there is French money
and Egyptian pounds and piastres, and Turkish paper money of the modern regime; apart from the currency of the many-landed caravans.
Very well, you come to settle accounts. Your petrol supplier or your grocer begins operations by ﬁnding out -and it is quite easy in the Orient where everything is known-what sort of money you have. Then he renders his account in some other currency. For instance, if you have Turkish money, he will present your bill in Syrian francs, so that you have to reduce the francs to Syrian piastres and the piastres to Turkish gold piastres
and the Turkish gold piastres to paper Turkish pounds which are about one-ninth of the gold -some process like that.
He will then give you your change in mixed Egyptian 'mejids, Syrian and Egyptian and Turkish piastres all of which have a different valuation. He allows you to sink well into the morass of calculation through which you will need to wade to make sure that you are not being cheated before he suddenly shouts in an excited voice:
"No, no, effendim" (Turkish is still popular as a language). -"No, no, effendim! I have given you wrong. Exchange altered yesterday!"
"Yavash! Yavash!" (Slowly!) you say. "Twenty-seven piastres Egyptian. Now, what the devil is 27 piastres Egyptian in Turk paper piastres?" The claws of your adversary close on the sorted heaps.
"I have done the gentleman an injustice. This is right."
He produces an entirely different combination and the only way to deal with him is to insist that he pays you in your own tender, which he will do, after resistance, with a fresh show of injury.
I had my last chance, to practise the Turkish language in Aleppo and the occasion of it was memorable. Our hotel was the best staffed hotel in the world. Imean
that it had the largest staff for a hotel of its calibre that I had ever seen. It took ﬁve people, male and female, to collect one's laundry. It needed three people to wait on one at table. No less than two were ever able to come to tell you that the Post Ofﬁce was unable to read your handwriting and would you therefore re-write your telegram and give the bearer some more baksheesh for his double journey to Telegraph Bureau?
When we went away, they were naturally sorry and the whole staff was there to watch us go. Seven hairy people came to offer to help with our packing. Five helped me to make a ﬁnal search of the room in order to be sure that none of the seven had slipped trifles which they fancied under the mattress for future collection. Three more joined us on the stairs, because it was a slack hour of the day when there was nothing else to do. Our
numbers were again increased by three outside the office. I went into the writing-room and they followed me in joyously. Some of them gently dusted specks off the furniture. Some of them were perfectly honest. They stood and stared expectantly. I selected. two likely-looking delegates and gave them my tips.
Then I started to go, feeling that I had been both rational and just. A hand plucked at my sleeve. "Monsieur, I washed your clothes." "Monsieur, I showed you where the garden was." "Monsieur, have you forgotten me?" "Just a triﬂe, Monsieur, I am the page. I hung up your hat for you.'
It was a very hot day. I had been liberal in my largesse. I was beginning. to get annoyed-distinctly annoyed. By the time I had reached the vestibule, I felt clearly that I had a grievance. A fat fellow, whose daily labour on our behalf consisted in standing beside our table at dejeuner and looking as if he had espied a cockroach in one of our plates and was waiting eagerly for the delectable moment when we should discover it in our mouths, also had a grievance. He voiced it in
Turkish, because the would not have expected me to understand. Everybody grinned.
What he said was the kind of thing that no gentleman calls another. It reﬂected on my ancestry to the time of Adam.
Ordinarily I should have smiled to myself, or chaffed him, but there was a French officer in the vestibule and he seemed to enjoy it. Nobody likes being made a fool of, especially on a hot day, with a bakers' dozen of whining loafers plucking at one's arm.
I wheeled round suddenly on the crowd in an involuntary blaze of wrath.
In my worst Turkish I told them what I thought of them. I said all the things that the station-master had said to his cat when it stole the morning goat's milk at Airange. I expressed the views of a beggar in Adana on the police. I repeated the salient parts of a conversation which I had heard between a small boy at Uru Kushla and a donkey. To say that the crowd shrank back is to put it mildly.
The French officer wearing seven docorations and spurs, who was leaning negligently over the balcony rail, burst into a loud guffaw.
"What the devil are you laughing at, sir?" I demanded, thoroughly incensed at his impertinence.
"Ah, Monsieur, but your accent! It is the accent of the peasant and you do not look like the peasant."
"And, Monsieur, your language!" said the voice of a French girl, whom I had met before and who had arrived on the battleﬁeld unnoticed. "Your language! Oh, la-la! Yai Yai !" She rolled her eyes to heaven in mock horror.
We broke a bottle of wine over it. I had often wondered why people while understanding had smiled when I essayed to speak Turkish. Like most novices I had begun to pride myself on my progress. It now appeared that acquiring the tongue in Anatolia was like going
to a village in Zummersett or Inverness to learn English. I had the accent and vocabulary of an old yokel. And nobody had been kind enough to tell me.
"Besides," said the fair French maiden whose English was about on a par with my Turkish, "the language with theis 'otel boy, 'ee is no good. You give 'eem the keeck, keeck - the keeck in 'ees neck, then 'ee onderstan."
There were quite a number of sheiks in their cars abroad as we went out on the metalled, military road which goes a few miles on the way to Dair el zor, but they all seemed to be going the wrong way. Each one of them waved to us frantically and shouted in Arabic, as if they wished us to turn round and go back.
"Perhaps the brigands are ahead," Francis would say hopefully. He had been thinking of brigands for a long time. He was deeply disappointed that we had not met any and inclined to feel that I had committed an express breach of warranty in not providing them. Brigands mean paragraphs in the paper and more ready sale for your photographs.
I personally did not want to meet any brigands. Neither did I desire the experience which was shortly coming to us. One minute we were bowling along a magniﬁcent highway which looked as if it were bound for the world's end. The next we could smell rain. The next we were at the end of the metal in the middle of a sea, the after effects of a waterspout. As far as the eye could reach there was water. A hundred yards away, road-workers were up to their knees in it, rescuing their wretched belongings from their tents. A village of conical huts, built exactly the shape of the Assyrian
national hat, presumably to throw off the rain quickly in just such emergencies as this, sat in the middle of an ocean to our left.
It was hopeless to try and move, so we camped for the night on the blue metal. Towards dusk more sheiks began to arrive--from the wetter end of the world. You heard them miles away labouring in low gear, and usually, after a tremendous amount of laughable skidding and splashing, they became bogged or else, throwing great spouts of water in the air, doused their distributors. Francis spent the rest of the available daylight helping
the Arabians revivify their ignitions. He took keen delight in this pastime. A sheik driver does not suffer gladly in the circumstances. First of all, he tucks all his many clothes and has ten minutes' cranking. Afterwards, he swears long and loud, calling upon his Prophet to aid him. All the other eleven sheiks who are in the poor, rattling Lizzies sit still and give him good advice; or ask him testily, if they are old, how he is going to get them to dry land in time to kneel down and say their prayers at sundown; or simply take out the remains of their lunches and some arak and proceed to
enjoy life, until the Lord shall decide to help them out of the mess.
Francis reported that in many cases their cars were so dirty that it was diﬂicult to ﬁnd their distributors, much less to dry them. And, all night, the plain twas lighted by the glare of bogged headlamps and by the giant locust buzz of low gears.
Up betimes, I walked four miles through the mud to make sure that it was safe for us to risk a journey throughit, and found at the end of that distance the rainfall cut off along a ruled line. There was a stunted tamarisk bush by the side of the road. One side, its shade fell over sodden bog; the other over parched desert, on which the sun had already begun to beat with a ﬁerce heat.
Thus it happened that, after slipping and sliding amid the hurtling lumps of mud which came aboard, we sat under that very tree half an hour later and had a second breakfast before cleaning the car.
lavishly mortared. It would have dwarfed the Tower of London or any castle that I know in England. It would have made the walls of York or even Byzantium look easy to a siege force. Yet inside, it was a shell, empty except for one solitary old traveller who preferred the stinking heat of the enclosure to the desert. From its topmost point, in what might have been the main thoroughfare and was still the main road, you saw across the long shadows of evening the river, wide and silver at your feet. It was a haunt of the lion and the lizard, without a doubt. You do not understand the words of Omar till you have stood in a place like this.
We came to Abu Kemal in the moonlight and camped beyond.
A guide took us over the border of Iraq and left us, telling us that we would come to water in a quarter of an hour. We did nothing of the kind, but camped under compulsion, having exhausted even our eight-gallon reserve in getting through to the lively border station and, in the morning, were compelled to drive for a quarter of an hour, with a virtually empty radiator, to reach the Euphrates.
Overnight we had arrived in the heart of Bedouin Land. Everywhere from now onwards were the long black tents of the tribes and their endless camels. Though the local urban Mesopotamian has taken to the Ford, the tribes still follow the old fashion, and the caravan of yore has not altogether died, though the petrol vehicles are pushing their way even beyond the shores of the Caspian.
While we were searching for water, that ﬁrst morning in Iraq, I visited a ménage which was resting on the hillside. Its centre was a long black marquee looking in
a tint of grey in it which seems to speak of turbulence higher up. The water which you see in the morning looks as if it has passed a riotous night before it reached you. It is shallow in most places, wherefore it carries none of the traffic which you might expect on the bosom of waters conceived on so noble a scale. Furthermore, it is not one of those streams with which you can be familiar lying full length and drinking from it.
To lie on the bank of the Euphrates and drink from it, you would in most places need to be twenty-nine feet long and have toes with hooks on the end of them; for it has built up banks, just so deep, of soft silt, which it unceasingly undermines and takes back into itself a few tons at a time, with a dull "womp" that sounds like noon-tide blasting several miles away.
We ran beside Old Father Euphrates for nearly ﬁve hundred miles and except that the ﬂats lower down, after he had made easting from Abu Kemal to Ana and turned the corner to the south again, became wider and the smear of green along his banks in places more marked, his attendant scenery marched with him in unchanging reliability.
You climbed over little, stony hills in the blaze of the morning and there was the river winding in graceful bends across a broad plain, walled in with cliffs which were the ancient banks of the stream, and carpeted with nubbly salt bush and tamarisk, just touched with green near the river side.
Through a pass in the cliff you would negotiate more little hills, a broad wadi, a rocky, barren, treeless burnt-out gully with no life in it but a furtive snake or an angry jackal or an old gentleman on a donkey, most strangely leading twenty camels on a string held in his left hand
and too occupied with the perturbation of his mount and team to express his indignation. Another flat, with a few graves on it, marking the site of a ﬁght between French military police and brigands or the limit of endurance
of the members of the great Armenian exodus which a few years ago the Turks sent tramping down towards Babylon. Also, more smellful, open pits full of millions of dead locusts.
To your left again the river, sweeping in its endless curves. You lunch on its banks under the shadow of a khan wall. Hot! It is good training for the next world. A native with the face of a Christ out of one of the old Italian masters and with a round Bagdad sore on the chest of a beautifully proportioned body bare to the waist, slinks up and sits on his haunches at a respectful distance. As you cast away the tins which contain your meal, he retrieves them with the silly pounce of a pi dog after a thrown scrap and sits fondling them, a beautiful, vacant-faced human, who says nothing and wakes some queer twist in you that imbues you with a half-savage desire to throw a stone at him. For his own sake you take your eyes off him
and study the scenery through half-closed lids.
The water in, the river keeps exactly the same pace. No traffic sits upon it except a lonely Bobus, one of those round boats which are peculiar to the rivers of the Middle-East, exactly the shape of the old British coracle but more substantial, one would say. A cluster of palms grows on the other side and near it is a water-wheel hung with tins which pick up the water and pour it in dribs and drabs into a high stone aqueduct which disappears into a shimmering desert. To the right of the palms is a burnt-out rocky hill and a crumbling villa which, like the coral islands of the Paciﬁc, appears to
be sitting on a band of blue sky, thanks to the habit of the mirage; a playful illusion without which these regions
would be dread indeed.
Wop! Wop! Wop! go the locusts against the khan wall.
"Come on, Frank! Time to move!"
On again. It is my turn to sleep. The hills ﬂy the yellow ﬁre-ﬂags of the heat haze. The sparse but interminable salt bush wilts. The locusts now come hurtling into the car, forcing you to wear your triplex goggles. Where they strike your face they bruise, for they are coming head on. Over the hill, across the Wadi, is another hill, and over the other hill is-the river. And at the river you get down, tie all your tropes together and treading very tenderly on the unsafe bank, lower a bucket ﬁve fathoms and ﬁll your radiator which leaks itself empty every half an hour. Up a pass and across
another Wadi and over the Wadi and another hill-it goes on hour after hour. There it is for the fortieth time--the Euphrates with its reliable sweep of dull yellow and its old date palms and its khan and its graveyard and its water-wheels, all over again.
On the second day of this there were mitigations. Dairel zor, the French midway post from which a ﬁne earth road, kilometre posted, runs all the way to the border at Abu Kemal. It is a hot town in which the white-garbed. soldiers swelter in their uniforms and yearn for the good old days of a year or two ago when fewer of the really ill-intentioned Bedouins were underground.
Over most of the ﬂats below the town the natural track is smooth, ﬂat silt on which almost any speed would be possible with a racing -car and near sundown there is, beyond the post of Saliyeh, a ruin which in majesty excelled anything we saw on the whole of our travels. I think it was old Saliyeh, but it adds to the ghostliness of my memory of it that nobody seemed to know anything about it and one afterwards had the feeling that it might have been part of a dream. It stood on an eminence. From without, it showed the approaching traveller beetling walls, four square, built of huge stones
Once there, a large Persian mud house faced on to a yard. On the other side, its windows opened straight above the river which runs through the heart of Khanikin, from the gently sloping sandy banks, of which little boys, stark naked, popped in and out of the waters which came down with a rush between the interstices of a graceful Arab stone bridge set against a lovely background of unbelievably green palms and smoky grey hills. It was an interesting view and the bridge had its romance. According to superstition, a certain young lady of Khanikin told an ardent lover that if he built a bridge across the stream she would marry him. Manlike he built it; womanlike, she jilted him. But, as with all good romances, there was something wrong with the authenticity of the tale.
In the ﬁrst place, stone-cold history allows the bridge only a modern origin. In the second place, Khanikin even yet lives in an age where Father is the dispenser of daughters (for the usual consideration). We debated this matter rather lazily and cynically during the afternoon with a political officer and another visitor who accounted for the flow of strange but essentially useful oaths with which he seeded his conversation, by the fact that he had a brother connected in some way with the Australian Commonwealth Parliament House staff.
On adjourning to the roof, which, like that of all the houses hereabouts, was ﬂat, and having met the household storks, I passed a resolution all by myself that, facts notwithstanding, the romance must be true. It should have been even if it were not. Viewed with Father and Mother Stork placidly standing each on one leg over their nests on the unprotected corner of the roof, the landscape was more than ever entrancing. On the other roofs nearby, other storks were regarding the scenery with a stolid but serene solemnity. The natives, hereabouts, name them Hajji Lak Lak - Hajji being a very holy man who has become important through
the distance as if a circus tent, dipped in rusty ink, had been erected without its sides. Part of the marquee had been divided into rooms with thick rugs.
In the centre of the open part, a round depression had been cut in which there was an 'immense charcoal ﬁre on which sat many cooking pots. All around on rich carpets, their bright saddle-rugs beside them, were the travellersr. Their richly tooled and studded saddles and bridles lay carelessly thrown about. Their dagger-hilts were jewelled; their bits sometimes silver; the barrels of their long jezails were chased and the stocks inlaid with labour that must have cost months of time. They had their two hundred camels picketed and beyond their lines and those of their many wiry arab horses, the tents of their servants, black negro and moonfaced Tartar, were set up.
Out on their hill-side their ﬂocks grazed. .
The men of the marquee looked at me hawk-eyed and stern. A good place to be murdered on a dark night, I thought uneasily.
"Well, young feller me lad, and what can we do for you?" said the sternest and youngest of the black beards, a man about forty-ﬁve years old. "What can we do for you, eh?"
"I thought that would fetch you. I've just. been betting old Achmed here that you were British. I knew it the moment I spotted you coming up the hill. You're worth a new pony to me--if the old blighter pays up."
"You've been in England, I see?" ,
"I have. Balliol. Inner Temple. How's the old Regent Palace? Squattez-vous and tell me all about it and have a wee drappie."
"Too early for me."
"Too early? Sun's always over the yardarm here! lt's a rotten climate. I'd sooner spend Christmas in
Wigan, any day. You haven't got a fag concealed in your bags, have you?"
Over arak, he told me all about himself. His father was a sheik. He had fought with the Hedjaz troops.
He was trading with this caravan to Turkestan and they were two years out and resting their animals. He had been three years at the University and he would like to see Piccadilly again. He went "home" (i.e. to London) every few years. What was the name of the waitress in the saloon bar of the Old Punch Tavern in Fleet Street, these days, and had I ever had a sole there? Was it Julie? Well; if it was, I was to give her his love when I got back.
An ancient and lordly person in ﬂowing Arab robes interrupted us at this juncture to present me with a bucketful of curdled camel's milk.
"You'll have to take the damn stuff," said my friend. "But it isn't exactly 'mild and bitter,' and I'd advise you to heave it into the Euphrates when you get round the corner or you'll have tummy-ache to-morrow."
"I thought it made you live to be a hundred?"
"It doesn't. You take my word for it, it is responsible for more infant mortality than all the whisky in the world. It's a foul liquid. Cheerio, old thing.
Don't forget about Julie! Give my love to the boys in Bagdad."
I left him sitting among his grave, silent companions, looking so sheik-like that I wondered whether I had been dreaming. I noticed, as I went, that he had a hubble-bubble beside him, but he seemed to be enjoying my cigarette with all the gusto of an Indian major who has achieved the right Port.
We were most, of that day at El Khaim, the ﬁrst Irakian post---naturally mending our radiator. We did it thoroughly this time. We took the whole contraption off and mounted it on the side members with brackets set on valve springs, and I spent several hours with a
soldering iron patching the bottom with brass coffee mill and whatever other suitable metal I could rape from our equipment. From then onwards our radiator trouble was only intermittent. The worst of it was over.
THE CITY OF HAROUN AL-RASCHID
THERE are lots of people in Bagdad and out of Bagdad who will tell you that the days of Haroun al-Raschid are gone ;that the only monument to them is the tomb of the Lady Zobeide who might have saved herself quite a lot of trouble by dying earlier.
"How," they will ask you, "can the customs of Mohammed survive when the local Arab gentleman has taken to wearing a forage cap and calling himself 'effendi'; when he takes his whisky like a man at hotels called the Maude and the Waverley; when the Anglo-Persian Oil Company has one of its headquarters in the heart of his lair; when the successor of the Caliphs, King Feisul, serves lemonade to diplomats at banquets?"
They say the whole town is dotted with British soldiers, air force lorries, sporting dogs, Fords, bars for non-commissioned officers, soda fountains and news-paper shops where the "Times" and "Boxing" rub shoulders. Where are your Barmecides?
When we had sizzled through Ana (on the banks of the Euphrates), which claims to be the longest village in the world; when we had watched hundreds of frantic Mesopotamians ﬂapping their washtowels (and failing the possession of those useful cloths, their shirts) in a frantic attempt to scare away the locust cloud from their grain ﬁelds; when we had passed unnumbered water-wheels and taken dozens of salutes from the trim red
and khaki garbed native police patrolling smartly with their riﬂes; seen Hit and Ramadi and slept a night in a graveyard sadly disturbing the jackals, we viewed Bagdad for ourselves.
The ﬁrst impression I formed was that the clubmen were right. The names of British generals were everywhere; attached to hotels and garages and streets. British ﬂowers blew in gardens under waving green palm trees. The main thoroughfares were wide. And staring us in the face at every corner was the contents bill of a London Sunday newspaper, which bore in large, black capital letters the anguished words:
"CONDEMNED MAN'S WAIL FROM CELL."
Who would expect to ﬁnd Abou Hassan the wag in such company? Yet when we were established in the cool Persian House of Mr. Rice, the Manager of Anglo-Persian Company, and had bathed, and breakfasted on English food, and been generally pampered and overwhelmed with hospitality, the very ﬁrst person I noticed was Abou Hassan himself waggishly strolling down the middle of the footpath to the supreme inconvenience of everybody, with a kadi beside him and seven donkeys, with embroidered saddle-bags that might well have been magic ones, for a background. It is true that he had modernized himself to, a certain extent. Though he wore a yellow robe, he was wheeling a handcart which had Dunlop aeroplane wheels that undoubtedly came from Birmingham, and a pair of military boots, which he certainly had not adopted for comfort, decorated his feet.
While I was staring at him, Khalifa the ﬁsherman went by, nets and all-smoking a woodbine with great gusto. Then Sinbad the porter came along.
All through Asia the porter is an established institu-
tion. No perfect gentleman ever carries anything in the East. If you buy two tins of benzine in a jostling bazaar, a porter will be at your elbow to throw them over his peculiar saddle and bear them a mile or two for a few piastres or annas or whatever the smallest denomination of the local coinage happens to be. No load ever daunts him. He is bred to be a beast of burden, and a beast of burden he is.
Wherever you go beyond Suez, the road is full of porters - spindly, shank-and-bone little men who look as if they would be incapable of carrying a grasshopper which had eaten much grass, yet cheerfully bowing their shoulders under loads one glance at which would send the whole of the Australian Wharf-lumpers' Union off into a long stop-work meeting. You can hear him crack as he raises it from the ground in his own inimitable
way. You look back at intervals with cold fear in your heart that you will see a large bale resting on the ground with the mingled pulp and blood leaking slowly from under it, but those palpitating legs are still ambling forward at a pace almost equal to your own.
In the East usually, the big man does not labour. Almost invariably from time immemorial he has made his living either by looking magniﬁcent as a profession, that is by lying under a tree and making his wife keep him, or, if his opportunities are more expansive, by going into politics or embracing some other occupation in which he can force the other man to work. Ergo, the rickshaw man and the porter and the labourer (who is all too often
of the feminine gender) is small and skinny and wistful.
Only Sinbad the porter of Bagdad is an exception to this rule. He is a Kurd, usually about six feet ﬁve high, and he sports a huge moustache in the middle of a forbidding countenance.
He has been a feature of Bagdad as long as the black-bearded, shaven-headed old fellows who frequent the street of the silversmiths and the crowd upon crowd of
merchants who line the footpaths cross-legged on cane sofas and lounges, smoking their hookahs, sitting "in receipt of custom." He scorns small loads---those he leaves to the little, yellow, basket-carrying coolie boys.
No ladies' shopping parcels for Sinbad the Kurd. Give him the six-cylinder Fiat motor engine which I saw him carrying or six tins of benzine lashed on a board and he frisks around like a young lamb in spring, bumping into everybody, discommoding the donkey teams in the narrow alleys and knocking corners alike, off the streets and the obstructing population.
If, however, you would see him at his best, you must not become angry or grow inclined to physical argument with him. If you attempt this latter he will drop his bundle with a loud howl of fear and anguish and become a miserable, shrinking whining wretch like any other poor devil of a beast of burden. Allah, when he gave the Kurd porters so much muscle, had no room left to ﬁt in the courage.
Yes, all the heirs of the "Arabian Nights" characters still ﬂourish in Bagdad. Some of them have disguised themselves in the semi-military dress of the new generation of effendis. A good many have degenerated as you will become apprised if you read the newspaper reports of "rousing speech by the Sheik ul Hubble Bubble" in the new Iraq Parliament. A few have ruined their complexions and their reputations with courses of Paris and champagne, and quite a number, under the guidance and direction of Sergeant Whatsisname, who is a power in the land, have grown into very eﬂicient policemen.
Behind, all their masquerading, however, you recognize them just the same.
The most proliﬁc of them are the sons of Abou Mohammed the Lazy, who, on the basis of the soundest sort of evidence, one's own eyes, married many wives of assorted
colours and has produced a variegated ﬂock which, to the last man, is astonishingly competent at sleeping under a palm tree. When there is no palm tree (though they seem to prefer one), anywhere else will do. They can sleep almost equally as well on the steps of the gorgeous mosque with its blue and green variegated dome, the most beautiful thing in Mesopotamia; or on one of the two boat bridges across the Tigris ; or in a gharri or a
barber's shop or a bank; or under the lee of a mud wall or on top of it; even on a camel the true Bagdadi can and does relapse into a gentle slumber. And, as you soon discover when you come to deal with the Government offices, he has learnt the art of working with his whole consciousness wrapped away from the realities of life in the fluffy cotton wool of a daydream.
The King and his sheiks believe that they are the Government of Iraq. Some of the very young British officials who have only been out three months believe that England controls the situation, but actually the ruling class is an aristocracy of caste made up exclusively of the offspring of Abou Mohammed. Their inﬂuence, of course, is purely negative. Rest, as it is understood by Europeans, would be regarded by them as hard work. It is they who have made the new Civil Service an inert, listless, whispering thing wherever there is not a British goad urging it to effort. It is they who are responsible for the continued barrenness and wastage of the amazingly fertile silt lands along the two great Mesopotamian rivers, which once produced so prodigally as to support Babylon and Nineveh, perhaps the only two cities which ancient history ever knew comparable in size to the great capitals of modernity.
Of course, most modernists and reformers desire that all Arabs, Asiatics and Paciﬁc natives who are given to lying on their backs and making a day's work out of watching the birds, or sitting on a donkey, watching a blowﬂy playing round its ears, or lounging on a coral
reef doing nothing whatever, should have thorough elementary educations so that they will disown Abou Mohammed and burn to emulate Henry Ford. But, as one looks at them, one is prone to wonder whether they are not the wiser. At any rate, when they are not sleeping they are mostly singing like children in sheer enjoyment of their own sloth. I know about a thousand captains of industry who have four meals per diem more than my friends of the Garden of Eden, each meal being about a week's rations for a Bagdadi of the baser sort, as well as houses, motor-cars, votes, factories,
wireless sets, wives - official and unofficial - and always a bottle in the cupboard to celebrate occasions. I have never heard one of them carolling in a main street at ﬁve in the afternoon. On the other hand your allegedly poor, down-trodden Qriental peasant will sing at any old hour in public places if the ﬁt takes him, with the voice of one who has not a responsibility in the world. Anyway, the climate of most of Southern Asia is enough to make anybody lazy.
In Bagdad its effects are such that in summer all business begins at 6 a.m. in European houses, and, with a break for breakfast at about nine, continues till 1.30p.m., when it ﬁnishes for the day.
Iraq is not the only territory that has learnt this wrinkle and some of our Paciﬁc possessions might well copy it with good results--the New Guinea Mandated Territory, for instance. It Would give the white population more time for poker, which now has to be crowded into the hours of darkness.
In the afternoon, most Europeans with sound sense take off their shoes and join the Abou Mohammeds with such enthusiasm and regularity that I felt as if I were performing an act of cruelty when I announced that I proposed leaving the city of the Barmecides at 3 p.m. one afternoon.
Garage men had to be routed from their sleep and,
as we passed through the lanes, numerous somnolent people under the shelter of mud walls rose hesitatingly as if they were saying to themselves:
"Now, is it worth while getting up or shall I let myself be run over? Oh, well, I suppose these confounded new Indianized police would arrest the poor fellows if they killed me, so here goes !" Whereupon, they would pull their legs into safety with protest written all over their countenances.
I had hoped to make Khanikin that night out from the capital, but I had reckoned without my brigands. In every country from Hungary onwards, I had been told about the brigands of the next land ahead, but experience proved that the only States in South-Western Asia which treat their brigands seriously are Iraq and India. Jugo-Slavia accuses Bulgaria of having a ﬁne crop, but Bulgaria has never heard of them. It has heard, though, of the Turkish ones who appear to have all joined the Civil Service or gone into the benzine trade. The Turks themselves have fearsome tales about Syria, and the Syrians, while admitting that there are plenty of places where one may be shot up, declare that their villains are Turkish educated. Bagdad, however, apparently has good reason to regard its highwaymen with respect.
The local officials have not been immune. There had been one case a few weeks before we arrived in which a man had been taken out of his motor-car and carefully tied up while the gang held an earnest debate as to whether it would be better to cut his throat or let him go. In the end, they let him go. Another lot, operating on our road to the Persian border, also allowed the local doctor to go home--in pink--and it was said that he was very much annoyed about it.
One of the results of all this was that when we arrived at Shararabad, which possessed a walled police fort, the
native police officer turned sickly grey at the thought of our proceeding at night, and intimated that if we left so much as our noses sticking outside the high pisé wall of his fort, the ill-disposed persons who inhabited the village nearby would probably steal the skin off the end of them. As the car could not be got inside, he put an armed guard on it, and so little trust did he have in his neighbours that he made a hullabaloo when I strolled a hundred yards away from shelter to get a better view of the sunset. I fancy from later information the police grossly exaggerated the danger.
In the morning I was awakened by a loud bang a few yards from my bed and looked round to see the whole of the smart lot of tall fellows who formed the garrison with smoking riﬂes. Francis, who had got up a little earlier and was outside attending to the car, came in so hurriedly that I
imagined he thought they had shot me. I, for the moment, in my half-dazed state, rose with a ﬂying leap under the impression that the brigands had arrived, but it was only a cobra hunt, which gave us a few exciting moments in an otherwise lazy, restful day, most of which we spent at Khanikin as guests of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
An Anglo-Persian Oil Company bungalow in these regions is like the old-fashioned Australian station. It is Liberty Hall with a vengeance. It is always full of wayfarers who have announced themselves by telegram and casuals on the way "home" to leave who haven't, and there are inevitably a few agents and oil diviners and political officers hovering round who "drop in," and after the free and easy manner of the Anglo-Persian exile,
casually order breakfast or whatever meal is just ﬁnished.
This particular bungalow lay at the end of a street which was wide enough for one vehicle and behaved, during its progress to its destination, like a hastily levanting snake which has parts of himself round several different corners at once.
with a surf on Saturdays and sometimes he thought of going back home. But how, he demanded, was a man to pickup, in Sydney, the ﬁfteen to twenty quid a week that he was earning on the Persian border in the interests of the oil industry and the great Mohammedan religion? Would we tell him that?
"Go into politics," I suggested.
"Urr-h," grunted Mr. Ryan. "Well, now everything is jake with the menagerie. I suppose I must be getting."
His engine roared casually on three cylinders. His unwieldy vehicle gave a heave. Such of his devout and patient cargo as had room to bend threatened to break in halves with the impact of his ﬁrst plunge towards Mecca;
"So long, digger! Have one for me at the Barley-mow!"
The other drivers told us he was a good sort.
"Of course," they said, "he hasn't learnt the language like the rest of us and he only has a second-class driver's licence because you can't get a ﬁrst-class unless you've been through a Persian motoring school. But he gets there all right, and drive, Lord! How he can drive !"
Stowing about twelve pounds weight of enormous silver tomans and enough notes to paper the county of Cumberland into my breeches, what time Francis looked on gleefully at my struggles, we went to the inner Persian barrier where already a number of Kermanshah-bound Fords were lined up. In a few minutes we were racing them towards the heart of the ancient and romantic land Iran.
having been to Mecca and thus acquired a right to dye his beard red with henna,'lak lak' because that is a slang term for a long, serious, cadaverous person. They were very fascinating birds and I had often before spent half an hour spellbound and wondering how anything of ﬂesh and blood, especially when it is able to catch and gobble with such rapacity, can maintain their hour-long marble immobility, when they are guarding eggs.
Before we left the next morning, I climbed again to say good-bye to this couple. They were in exactly the same state of rigor as the previous evening and all their nesting companions on the other roofs were equally immobile and unconcerned, despite the fact that most of Khanikin, which sleeps on the top of its houses for coolness, was folding up its beds and scolding its children and putting on its shirt in preparation for another luxuri-
ous day of sloth.
From Khanikin you see the Persian hills. They are unimposing and bare. The more distant ones might match with some of the lower Australian mountains or some of the English greater ones, but there is nothing to tell you that within a couple of hundred miles you will have left the smiting furnace-heat of the plains and be watching a teamster eating snow on the top of the Azdabad Pass. While you are speculating as to where the snow passes may lie, you come to the border, Iraq Post and Persian Post separated by a few businesslike foothills which used to be considered convenient by the brigands as a rabbit warren to escape into after they had raped a caravan .
The Iraq Post was busy, but its charge d'affaires, a large and jovial Civil Servant, one Mirza Ali, was not too occupied to ask us to add to his museum of photographs of travellers across the border which almost completely covered his walls.
The Persian border official was busy in another way. His ménage was one of the most discouraging looking outﬁts man could conceive. The building in which he was housed was low and ﬂat outside, while in the heat before it stood restless packteams of mules and ponies all jumbled up with Fords and motor-lorries and camels jostling each other, what time their drivers cursed the fair land of Persia and each other and the rather disreputable Persian customs officials. Black fez and dusty white turban quarrelled merrily and inside, everybody seemed to be in complete disorder until one's eye sorted the situation out, when it proved that they were all getting through their work with expedition. We ourselves certainly had nothing to complain of.
The French-speakingl offcial in charge said: "Customs? Oh, yes, I have heard of you from the Tehran authorities."
He handed a blank sheet of paper across the table to me.
"Please write me your personal guarantee that if your car is burnt you will pay the Persian Customs 600 krans."
"That won't be much use to you if I get killed."
"All I need, sir," said the customs official, "is your word as an Englishman. If you die your relatives will undoubtedly pay."
"Well, you had better read it over and see that it is satisfactory."
"I am sorry; unfortunately I do not read English well. I must take your word for what you have written."
Evidently, even though England was forced to drive the Germans out of Persia by invasion with the ,Dunsterville force, her prestige is high in that queer country whose official language is French, though its own language is itself the French of the East and the official tongue of many Indian native States.
As we crossed the border, we learnt the reason for the heavy traffic which appeared to be banked up on either side of it like ﬂood waters along a levee.
The pilgrims were on the move for Mecca. From all parts of the East, not to say of the world, they were travelling in the blazing spring heat by land and sea, as their need drove them. Kasr-i-shirin, the border town, was full of them---rather entertainingly full, since at this point the two great sects of the Mohammedanism and some lesser ones appeared to have met territorially.
The quarrel between the Sunnite and Shiite sects is not a new one. It began about twelve hundred years ago over the right of Mohammed's relatives to divine succession in the Caliphate (the Caliphs, of course, being the heirs of the Prophet to the headship of the religion which he founded).
The Sunnites denied it and the Shiites supported it. For a Sunnite to voice his views in some parts of Asia was, until quite recently, about as safe as for a Cork Irishman to walk the streets of Derry shouting "Up with the Pope," and trailing his coattails in the dust. Therefore, Sunnite and Shiite do not greet each other with even outward cordiality, if they are true to their sects.
Their diﬁerence was most fortunate for England during the war, because the German propagandists, agents of "Hajji Wilhelm" of Berlin, who otherwise might have done harm of immense extent, were saddled with the inconvenient necessity of being Sunnites in some places and Shiites in others; which was horribly awkward for some of them when they were found out.
However, here were all the Shiites (and a few Sunnites) with their household belongings being packed for transport in motor-lorries. Some of these vehicles were also carrying large loads of benzine; some were long buses with a double row of seats with strong wire netting instead of walls, to prevent the mess of pilgrims. inside from bursting into the open air and falling upon the road. Why the seats were there none could say, because there was no room to sit on them.
Mr. Ryan, a reddish man about thirty, was ushering
his passengers to their places, or, to,use his more apt expression, "packing" them. It was evident that Mr. Ryan did not speak any Persian, and none of either the Sunnites or the Shiites had any English, which seemed to be a splendid arrangement for everybody, since nobody could effectually argue. While I was lazily amusing myself as we waited for some Persian money, turning over in my own mind whether Mr. Ryan himself was a
Shiite or a Suninvite - i.e. whetherhe adhered to Rome or was of the Methodist branch of the Ryans---an inward debate which followed logically on an effort to distinguish between the Mohammedans, I heard him say in his quiet voice:
"Now, move up, will you? Now go on, do you think you've bought the whole bus? Go on, squeeze up!"
He pushed violently upon the struggling mass which was trying to arrange itself and its sleeping rugs, bags, pots, pans, umbrellas and other paraphernalia.
"Squeeze or I'll knock you! Dinkum, I will."
Immediately the 'memory of a strange rumour which I had heard in Khanikin came back to me.
"Hullo, Aussie. Where did you hail from?"
"Born in Redfern, lived in Coogee," said Mr. Ryan laconically, still moulding his passengers. "Now, I'm telling you! You stay where I've put you or I'll knock you! Too right, I will."
The bearded old fellow whom he was kneading into position "stayed put." He looked as if he thought it safer, whereupon our fellow-countryman had time for conversation. He was not excited at seeing us--perhaps he had seen too much in his short life to be excited about anything. Possibly, too, we were not exciting. We, however, were excited at seeing him, especially Francis, who had long ago come to the conclusion that the Austra-
lians are the only white men on earth. Mr. Ryan had come out here to the war and had remained here. It was a good enough pozzie he said, though he could do
ACROSS THE LUT
NEAR Kirman begins the Lut, which is interesting to an Australian because it is real and acknowledged desert, one of the largest and most feared by
travellers in the world.
Most of the tract through which we had passed until we left Yezd was reminiscent of the lands about Oodnadatta, in Australia, except that the high altitude gave it a clearer air, more like that of our McDonnell Ranges. Now it changed. It acquired more of the most deceptive features of every almost rainless country, which means that it looked as if it had been devastated only yesterday by torrential downpours, the reason being, of course, that where there is no grass to hold the land together, the earth is torn away by every shower no matter how small, and even the most moderate thunderstorm, especially if it be accompanied by wind, plays havoc with the ground.
The ground, in its turn, having been furrowed into narrow water channels a foot wide, six inches to a foot deep and steep-sided, played havoc with the car and our comfort. Speed was impossible. The strain on our carefully guarded crown wheel was exacting, so that we felt it incumbent to roll over every gully and crevice with clutch out. The villages provided a diversity of interest and of bumps, since they continued to be well bunkered with water channels.
IN THE LAND OF OMAR
IT is singular how much difference a mere national line drawn across a map may make to the character of the country.
On one side of the Persian border the country-side is distinctly Mesopotamian. The costume is, in main essentials, Arabian among the old
fashioned, and post-war Irakian among the new. The landscape has the features which have distinguished it since the days of Nitocris.
Through the barrier everything changes. Types which you have hitherto seen only as odd travellers, in black Astrakhan headgear or in real Persian costume, potter about in rich profusion. There is not the brilliant show of colour in Persia that there is in Aleppo or Bagdad. The Persian believes in more sombre hues. He wears on top, usually, unless he is a Kurd-or an old fashioned Parsi or one of the turbaned tribes, a round black or earth-coloured fez which is the shape of a witches' cauldron without the rim at the neck. Below this, he has bobbed hair and a confusion of garments,
according to the coldness of the region he is in, the whole basis of which, in any case, is a blue dungaree tunic and a pair of Oxford bags made the wrong way upwards of the same material. Anchored at the ankles, in the interests of decency and warmth, they have a loose, ﬂowing eﬂect above and below them are turned-up shoes.
The Persian shoe is a wonder in itself. Its upper part is made of a tough, twilled white clothe and it has a thick, blue-green sole. At ﬁrst glance you would imagine that this is of mineralized leather, but on closer acquaintance it turns out to be constructed of innumerable strips of treated cloth, so packed together that the surface looks like a solid piece of smooth material. The heel and toe are protected with horn guards, and I can testify from experience that even the cheaper sort are as substantial and wear just as well as an ordinary leather boot and that, wearing them, one is a good deal more comfortable and sure-footed.
The Persian is a queer fellow. He is dirtier than the Turk. Even the better-class Persian believes that to have more than one shave a week is luxury. His clothes among the lower classes are shabbier, but as the Turk has been Europeanized a year ago and compelled to acquire new costumes and the Persian has, no doubt, had his wardrobe for a good many years, it is possibly unfair to judge between them. He looks as if he had dressed to make himself humorous with his unshaven face or stubby, often red beard with the grey or black edges forming a halo between his skin and the dye. He
wears a perpetual smile. He lies about less in the shade than the Bagdadi, and you are apt to say when you see him, whether as a Mede along the Alvand Range or an old-fashioned Iranian further east, that he is an easygoing fellow as loose in his habits as in his language, which, colloquially, has less grammar than any other tongue in the world except Chinese, and is as simple to learn in its elementary form as Esperanto--in some ways far simpler to the Oriental. You see the Mede to best advantage in Hamadan, which is one of the oldest living cities in the world, a capital to which Semiramis gave a water supply and in which Darius and Xerxes ﬂourished; in which Alexander the Great held many a debauch; from the walls of whose temple of Ena,
Antiochus the Great retrieved the last gold bricks and silver tiles.
You might expect to ﬁnd the Persian there a proud fellow bolstered with much tradition and many precedents of conduct. However, you ask him in vain, it is said, for any legends of the ancient greatness when Medea was the centre of the force which overthrew Babylon and laid the shadow of its dominion over all the lands from the, Aegean to the Afghan border of to-day. The few stories that have survived locally are of Alexander the Great, whom they call Iskander and of his frequent and glorious sprees. The Persian never forgets a spree. Otherwise, so far from remembering
the great things of old time, the citizen, of to-day cannot even read any one of the references to Ecbatana written in B.C., many of which, descriptive of the lie of the land, might have been indited yesterday.
There is one written 2000 years ago telling of the posture of a great fallen lion which lies beside the Isphahan road and it is accurate to-day; but the local inhabitants credit that lion with being a mere youngster set up in the Middle Ages by Tamerlane when he conquered the place.
Then there is the even more painful case of the Ganj Namah inscriptions, cut deep into the rock in a sort of natural temple in the Alvand Ranges by Darius and his son Xerxes, 2500 years ago.
"A great God is Aurangazda who created this Earth, who created Heaven above, who made man, who gave peace unto him, who made Darius King, the one great King among many, the only great ruler among many. I am Darius, the Great King, King of Kings, King of the lands which have many peoples, King of the whole earth even to its borders, the Son of Hytaspes the Achaemenian."
The people of Persia, the folk classes, seem to have forgotten Darius and his tradition. They think this
inscription, refers to some hidden treasure as the name they give it testiﬁes.
They have forgotten, also, in Hamadan, that ﬁne, fertile-brained fellow citizen of the old school, Astyages. Anyone who knows his Herodotus must have been fascinated with the forthright methods of Asytages, grandfather of Cyrus, who, having ordered his courtier, Harpagus, to murder the future conqueror of a good deal of the world while still an infant in arms, found out thirteen years afterwards that the order had. not been
Naturally he was angry at such a show of merciful laxity on the part of his minion and had him brought before him. Naturally, also, Harpagus being a perfect gentleman, apologized for his disobedience. No doubt, too, his personal knowledge of Astyages' technique in such oases was a distinct incentive to meekness, and he was pleased to ﬁnd his master in a lenient mood;
"Oh, that's all alright, Harp," said Astyages when he had heard Harpagus's regrets. "Now I've got him I'll keep him. Let bygones be bygones! Send your son along to have a game with the lad this afternoon and drop in yourself to dinner. Don't worry to dress; only the family present."
"Nice bit of lamb you've got," said Harpagus a few hours, later, not merino, surely? Some of those new Armenian crossbreds, I presume?"
"No, local bred. Have some more! How's your glass, old man?"
"Pretty right, thanks. My word, this meat is prime."
"Had enough? Sure? Well, would you like to take a bit home to the wife?"
"That's awfully good of you, Your Majesty. Certain you can spare it?"
"Oh, quite, quite! Hey, Cambyses, bring in the rest of that lamb that Mr. Harpagus has been enjoying!'
And, the butler returning, Astyages presented his
guest with the head and feet of the son whom the latter had sent to play with young Cyrus that afternoon.
"Very tender, wasn't he?" said the King, to the naturally aggrieved father suavely. "Glad you liked him enough to have a second helping. Perhaps it'll teach you that when I ask you to strangle an infant you've got to do it. However, no bad feeling! Always glad to see you on Saturday night, but you'll have to excuse me now. I have to see about the ﬂaying of a few captives."
Looking at the modern Persian with his smiling face you would say at ﬁrst glance that the grand old spirit
which was the mainspring of romantic tales like these is quite dead. But recent history and your own ears in time contradict your ﬁrst impression.
Within the past ten years Persia was burying brigands alive with only their heads exposed or taking them to the, market place and there, with hooks in their nostrils to draw back their heads, cutting their throats in the face of the crowd. A man who travelled Persia ﬁfteen years ago told me that at one place he encountered brigands nicely cemented up in pillars of gypsum and left in the sun to die; and an unfortunate criminal who had been immured feet ﬁrst in mortar and others who had merely been hamstrung and had their hands lopped off under the First Offenders' Act. .
Tentatively, at any rate, the British inﬂuence succeeded in doing during the war what Russian inﬂuence had failed to do before it, and checked this sort of horror. Now Reza Shah has set the seal on reform and established something like official responsibility. Under the old regime, it was only the brigand and the thief who were punished. Now, the stand of the Government is: If there are brigands, there is provincial incompetence. And if there is incompetence, it must be
strangled. And, as you can't strangle incompetence in the abstract, the best way is to strangle the policemen who harbour it, a policy which is Solomon-like in its wisdom. No Governor minds having brigands about if he is going to be commended for catching them, but when he is likely to be throttled after every robbery which occurs on the roads, it is a great spur to his zeal.
So much so, it is said, that when an adventurous traveller passed through to India a year or two ago, determined to have brigands in his forthcoming book, he had to hire people to ﬁre riﬂes over his entourage. The practising brigands are as dead as Caesar, and there are armed police posts every few miles whose inmates go pale with fear when you suggest that you intend to camp on the open plain. They beg you, for their sakes, not to do it, lest some wandering thief might be tempted. A few years ago they would not have minded.
Despite these changes of habits, however, the Persian proverb "Iran hamin ast" (Persia is always the same) is probably true underneath. You see some of the grit which made the Persian a conqueror in old times in the tenacity with which the small boys insist on riding on motor-car steps to the peril of their lives; in the determined way the peasants farm in places where no European could raise so much as a leek from the soil. Even though the water has to be tracked yard by yard and carefully directed for endless miles; though every woman in the community must go and ﬁght for camel dung on the roads; though fertile soil must be built a foot high on the hard and stony ﬂoor of a desert, the Persian will raise his forty bushels to the acre. Also, if you run down his son in a motor-car, which is easy, since driving in the more remote Persian towns is very much like what it would have been in the horse-ridden and road-senseless streets of London or Sydney in 1890, all the relatives of the deceased will declare a blood feud
against you. And the only recipe for safety when you become qualiﬁed as their victim is to ﬁx your eye on the nearest point of the Persian border and to get there before your pursuers.
'If you kill any Persians or are caught photographing their womenfolk," said our kind adviser in Bagdad, "don't wait to report to the police. Get into top gear and keep going until your petrol" -Bagdad is where "Benzine" becomes "Petrol" again---"until your petrol runs out."
"Then ﬁll up with petrol again and don't stop for anything less than a loaded ﬁeld gun until you are well into Baluchistan."
Several times I thought we should need the advice.
The ﬁrst thing one notices on leaving the plains for Upper Persia is the transport development which is going on.
The politics of the country are still a little mixed, but, inspired by the example of the great military highway which the British built from the Tigris to Tehran and then on to Meshed during the war, Reza Shah has begun to open up the country with good roads. He is also framing a railway policy, incontinently dismisses officers who march out of step on parade and has shown a fairly ﬁrm attitude towards the Bolsheviks whose shadow hangs over his country all the time. He was marching not undisciplined troops towards the northern border while we were there what time he debated with
the Soviet over Persia's trading privileges.
He is able to give the Germans ﬂying passenger rights to Berlin via Moscow and maintain some semblance of impartiality between the conﬂict of interests represented by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company which has made Persia rich and controls the greater half of the country's exports and his American, advisers who, with
Standard Oil. and California at the back of their minds, no doubt, would like nothing better for a birthday present than the news that England had lost her oil concession.
Altogether, Persia is progressing, but at every step you see evidence that a few years ago it was in the Middle Ages. Thus, as soon as you have climbed the Azdabad Pass and made the high, hot-cold, rare-aired plateau which has even a more deleterious effect upon the constitution and the temper than the sweltering plains of Babylon, every town from the outside looks neat because it is surrounded by a high, forbidding wall, even though
inside it may be a labyrinth and an abomination.
Most of the country-side to Kirman across the route from Hamadan which we took after we had climbed the mountains with their tortuous sweeps of good road and their fearsome precipices and their hairpin corners blocked usually on the nether side with wide waggons and bucking mules and bullocks, is easily described.
It is not unlike the higher parts of Asia Minor, only that its bones have been picked cleaner. The earth, is mostly peppered with small stones or hidden in places with henna plants or salt-bush. Shepherds feed their sparse sheep on the hill-sides. The yellow grey, inward sloping square walls of towns and hamlets rise every few miles with, now and then, the dome of a mosque or square, tall, bare wind towers projecting above them. The inevitable poplar is to be found beside the streams. There is tamarisk on the desert edges.
Across the plain or the valley the mirage lies like a sea, steel blue water in which camel train and donkey pack and the mules which form grizzly funeral caravans (in which the coffined dead of lonely villages travel to holy places) achieve an appearance of sailing motion.
Out of the sea rise little mounds which are the well heads of the kanats, the shafts reaching down to the underground channels in which the Persians, throughout their barren country, guide limpid, subartesian streams to their towns.
You pass from hill to hill in a blazing, shimmering heat by high-walled khans full of dozing camels and tale-telling camelteers; you whirl through villages while the police, dressed in blue uniforms and shakos reminiscent of Napoleon's Old Guard, chase you, pleading for a ride. Outside, the water channels slow your pace, for they are banked high every few hundred yards across the road, which is an earth track conventionalized by
caravans and marked with the spoor of rare Fords. The wind blows in your face and there is suddenly a scent of wet places, of crop and of ﬂowers.
From where you swelter over bully beef and milkless tea at midday, a sort of mist sits on the land against the mountains. Nearer, along a sweep of road, it grows into a line of green. Fields open up. Where there has been only salt-bush and mirage, the earth is carpeted with closely packed wheat and barley, as green as Ireland.
Each ﬁeld has been raised above the level of the road with accretions of fertilizer and rich soil, and a stream of limpid irrigation water runs along the border. Poplars and birches wave; next to the wheat is a meadow of ﬂowering poppies; more wheat; great round pigeon towers full of blue-grey ﬂuttering birds; acre upon acre of scents that seem more pungent after your days in the deserts. Then, dilapidated walls behind, you are in a narrow street, teeming with bazaars and excited policemen while the crowd tries its medley of languages
on the dog---yourself.
A guide comes on board and you go to the British Consulate. You know what it is like because all British houses in Persia are the same. High walls, gardens
and pools of clear water, waving trees and running streams; the odour of the rose and the poppy and the iris blossoming and a very ordinary-looking young or old or middle-aged Englishman living in an immense, cool, white house, with all the appanages of civilization around him, and a decanter of whisky on the sideboard.
Enough servants to satisfy King Solomon stand about in long back coats and witches' cauldron fezzes, the black of which is relieved by the silver semblance of the British Royal coat of arms.
Hurrah! This is Royal Isphahan, home of romance and polo, which they are spoiling fast with traffic policemen and Ford motor-buses and with the cutting of a wide main road which is being pushed out to Yezd, so that it will presently connect Central Persia with the Indian railhead. It has ceased to be remote. No longer do they pelt you here with dead cats and ﬁlth as they might have done a few years ago. Their mirzas are anxious for British motor-car agencies. They talk of progress and irrigation, and the splendour of the days when the Shah's brother sat here as a sort of King--
"the shadow of the Shah" he was called---and the city was a maze of holy places splashed with the blood, is gone for ever. "
Through a welter of narrow streets, all pedestrians and corners round which the astonished donkey trains have to turn and ﬂee from you, over canal bridges where a swerve of six inches means death, through rumbling soukhs and passages, and you are out once more on a parched, water-channelled plain, with the stony, salt-bush-nubbled country-side and its hummocky irrigation kanats around you; with the same old donkeys buried
under their enormous loads of henna; veiled, black-robed women padding in their rear pushing them along at a heavy pace. The mirage is back in its place; so are the distant, high-walled villages, that look so secure and the poplars and the old palm and the heat. In a
cloud of dust, you pass a little band with a turbaned leader, a compact ménage riding close together, armed men on horses very martial, women on donkeys whose bridles are embossed with silver and hung with gaudy tassels to keep the ﬂies out of their eyes. The green ﬂag of the Mecca pilgrims ﬂies over this patriarchal progress; and, a mile on, you meet, in a pass, another man, blind, on foot, accompanied by a blue dungareed hajji with the dyed red beard of distinction. . They, too, are waving an immense green ﬂag.
"There is no God but God and Mohamet is his prophet," they shout as you come abreast. Hand goes to forehead as your krans ring in the dust and you look back to see them scrambling in the pulver for the spoils while the banner of the Prophet lies neglected where it has fallen across a thorn bush.
At nightfall comes Yezd. This is on the edge of the desert with la vengeance.
Yezd is the outback of Moslem Persia. It has less poplars and more winding, more narrow streets around its central square than Isphahan. Its every thoroughfare appears to have been built with a view to providing the robbers with dark corners. Everything in it is enclosed and shut away from the heat and the local burglar with high, smooth walls; and the bazaars, like those of Isphahan and almost every other town since Adana, are sheltered in the Arab manner with an arched roof above which lets in the light. To the poor European heathen it is a strange sight to see camels and donkeys being driven and ridden about under roofs in these places and it gives one a feeling of indecorousness to have to drive a car through them. It is almost as if you had invaded a private house, more especially as all the merchants pull in their legs and everybody drags out a few rugs and puts them down for you to run over.
At ﬁrst I was greatly disturbed by this practice, and several times stopped the car, thinking it was the Persian's diabolic method of hindering us. But argument only produced a polite signal to proceed. Then I dismissed the custom as a mark of honour by the poor, simple Iranian, doing homage to his high-born visitor. I reﬂected that it was a typically Oriental proceeding and felt rather inﬂated every time we encountered it until a friendly Mirza explained it to me.
"No," said he, "it is not for you but for the Americans. The carpet trade is almost dead now. Nobody buys carpets but the Americans. And what they pay for best is the antiques. The real antiques, of course, have nearly all gone years upon years ago. If there are any, they are worth their weight in gold a hundred times over. But these Americans-they are never satisﬁed. So our villagers put their carpets in the road for you and the camels to trample and hang them out in the sun and leave them for dew to bleach and we give the Americans the antiques they want. Nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand of them don't know the difference.
"I think. there are only ﬁve experts in the world who could be safely trusted to determine what is a genuine antique and what is not--one is in Tehran and one is in Kirman and one is in Constantinople; one is in Berlin and - Ziegler Brothers - who by the way are Manchester and English of the English-have another, and there is one man at South Kensington Museum. What does it matter? Doesn't it make. the Americans happy to own antiques? Well, why then shouldn't we make antiques for them?" '
I do not, of course, vouch for the Mirza's catalogue of experts, as I have no desire to be murdered by the hundreds of others who claim competence.
But to return to Yezd. There you may see Parsis
in their small, tight, round turbans, possibly more numerously than anywhere else except in Bombay. There, every house of the better class overcomes the heat engendered by the stiﬂing congestion, by erecting a tall graceful bad gir, or wind-tower, a sort of chimney with slats upon its sides
to catch the breezes; there you may behold ﬁfty old men sitting round the sides of a square pool such as the Persian loves to build in his maidans dabbling their ﬁngers and toes, comm populo; or, wandering into some tiny courtyard, where the light is dim with grey-green powder you may watch the holy camel grinding henna with a green stone mill. Round and round and round and round he goes, anchored to the creaking beam above him, blindfold so that he will not become giddy, his lower lip hanging down, his stride exact, his travesty of a tail standing straight up in the air with three solemn hairs on the end of it and green dust covering him and everything about him in a mildew-coloured layer. Hours afterward you may return and see him still going, and you wonder if he ever sees the sun--whether, indeed, he has ever enjoyed the open air since that father and prince of explorers, Messer Marco Polo startled him with his ﬁrst sight of a modern European face somewhere early in the thirteenth century.
"It looks rather cruel to us," you say to your Mohammedan guide who has taken you through a back way to see the factory.
"Without the camel no hajji would be able to dye his beard when he comes back from Mecca, so that his virtue and accomplishment would remain unwritten. Neither would ﬁnger-nails be dyed as is prescribed. Allah will reward him," he says, grinning. "Besides, where would our women be? Henna is not only a dye. It makes the hair to grow long and thick as Allah wills. You do not grow bald nor does your beard become thin if you use henna."
bends and blinding heat. The telegraph station made up for it.
Our comrade had a warm welcome. They had regarded him as either in Bam or dead. Such is Oriental indifference that it did not seem to matter very much to them which fate had befallen him, and therefore they sent out no search party. Now he was here, however, they were glad to see him.
ON THE EDGE OF AN EMPIRE
ON a very hot day in the month of May, the Presence was sitting in a large chair in the Chagai Political Officer's bungalow at Nushki, reading an American novel. He had arrived the day before--he and Mr. Francis Birtles, A.D.C.
They had been strongly advised in Bagdad not to try to motor through Baluchistan at that time of the year (i.e. in May) and they had repudiated the advice with scorn. Their view of the lovely scenery of Baluchistan had been their reward.
There is a lot of scenery in Baluchistan.
There are 2,000,000 straight-sided gutters scored across the road, which, like that in the Lut, is marked by small piles of stones, with the difference that here the stones are occasionally covered by sand drifts. There are also several mountains, grey or smoky blue or frowning black, worn out, treeless, wolf-ridden, tribe-cursed, crumbling chains of crags. Add to these some salt bush so dry that, when you put a match to it, it ﬂares like benzine and disappears in the breeze as a wraith of ash; a salt desert; a long ribbon of railway line going to Duzdab where His Excellency had taken his clearances from the country of the Black Fez; a number of uninviting, not to say aggressive, blockhouses inside which the railway oﬁicials live; many camels; Dalbandin, a township fullof Indians; a sprinkling of water tanks and seven
Mainly, however, the scenery was burnt-out hills and rows of kanats quivering in the heat. Then, to tempt us--we had a broken frame member mended with two rather doubtful clamps, by this time--Providence sent us the largest claypan we had either of us ever seen. Claypans are common in desert or semi-desert country. Central Australia has them in dozens, set between shifting sandhills. But this one was the father of all claypans. For mile upon mile it lay before us, ﬂoored like a tennis court only with a ﬁner pulver, level as far as the eye could see, the sort of place the overlanding motorist dreams about and rarely ﬁnds.
Eighty miles an hour would have been a thoroughly safe speed on that piece of plain, but alas! we had to be content to cross it gingerly--whereafter every mile became more bumpy, hotter, more uncomfortable and temper-trying.
Came Kirman, the city of shawl and carpet, where we sent the sound of our progress through the roofed bazaars roaring across the rabbit-warren city, until it beat against the brown hills behind. Kirman is as high above sea level as the top of Australia's highest mountain and as hot as the shores of Lake Eyre. .
But, in the midst of the heat, was a travelled Persian Mirza, in a large two-story house full of salons hung with glorious hued rugs and with a veranda that looked out on a garden full of poplars, through which the inevitable clear. stream ran between straight-cut banks.
He regaled us with sweet cakes and tea till we were almost ill with his kindly hospitality while we discussed his travels. He had been to Paris and he had been to Singapore. He had been to the Hamburg Zoo to see a lion. He deeply regretted that he had never seen a giraffe.
"The giraffe," he said, "has a long neck. I should like to have seen one, so that I might theorize on the reason for its extension."
"Long stretching of it, I suppose; generations of necks pulled-out to their longest endeavouring to reach the topmost leaf."
"That seems likely," said the Mirza, as if a great weight had fallen from his mind. "Well, well, we Persians should be a nation of giraffes. Somebody has been stretching our necks ever since there was a world."
Kirman, around us, was quite foreign to this ordered garden and Persian poplars standing tall and straight like a platoon at attention. A hot haze of dust rose above the ﬂat roofs of the town and hung round its wind towers and mosque domes.
Several poets, English, French, and German, have written verses about old Karmania which sits stewing and smelling, under the burnt-out mountains and the frowning, mediaeval forts. But then, there seems nothing which respectable poets will not write about, and one has to reﬂect often on such a journey as ours on the wisdom of the good Lord who imbues most of them with a desire to lie in bed late and drink large quantities of beer and devote themselves to lobster and other people's wives and die young, before they have time to see the world.
If Keats had sweltered in Darien, or Coleridge had gone to Xanadu to serve his apprenticeship, or Clinton Scollard had had ﬁrst-hand knowledge of Hamadan, or Tom Moore had spent a fortnight in Kirman, the world would have lost some ﬁne and often-quoted lines.
However, having left Kirman, we plunged just a shade more into the desert. Twenty miles out we camped on a claypan, in sight of the neat blue-domed village of Mahun. Then, on through more country, criss-crossed with water channels and tiny irrigation canals, till the city of Bam suddenly came out of a mirage and sat at our feet, a walled place huddled close together
against groves of waving date-palms in a wide oasis behind, and a high castle frowning down on it from a crag. Bam, as you see it ﬁrst, gives one an impression that it is shrinking from the desert as close as it can get to the oasis where there is clean, limpid water. The poplars had gone now. We were back in the palm lands.
Outside the walls to the east there is little or nothing but sand, sand, sand into which the telegraph line plunges hurriedly as if it desired to get its passage through the heat over as quickly as possible. The road has ceased to be. But lest the odd motor vehicles which cross the 270 miles, which lies between Bam and the Duzdab railhead, should need it, some Samaritan has marked the safest way with small cairns of stones every few yards. You have hundreds of miles of cairns of stones between here and Quetta, and it is as well for the stranger that they are there.
Out into the sand, you go with the telegraph line. The terrain becomes a series of sweeping ridges, round, after the fashion of the contour of the earth if it were reduced to a scale of one in four thousand. The surface is brown stones and a crust, which, if you make the wrong speed or turn too sharply, lets you down with a sibilant crunch into ﬁne pulver below. The hills stand smoky and burnt out in the distance. Now a slimy river with a little water in it too salt to drink straggles by. Now an empty creek set with thorn bushes, the sort of place one would regard as the haunt of the lion, lies, an ugly grey streak, across the ironstone brown of landscape.
The land is still high and the air rare and the general conditions of the right kind to put a raw edge on one's temper and bring out latent fever. We camp, and the ground burns, at sunset, through our feet-soles. I light a ﬁre and make a pretence at cooking a meal, and a big, yellow moon comes up and stares at us. The heat of the earth roasts through our valises, and Francis
begins a long homily on desert, and pictures the time when the direst part of Central Australia will be edged with towns like Kirman and Bam. He draws entrancing pictures of those happy cities to come, and plans to construct a series of newspaper articles for the Australian press showing just what Persia has done in the way of settlement of the desert. He and I, for the moment, hate each other with the concentrated loathing which only two men who have spent three months in a motor-car together can feel. He founds, in what seems to my tired mind a purposely irritating monotone, several
ﬂourishing Australian colonies in the Great Victoria Desert, establishes the carpet industry and performs various other colonizing feats. In ordinary circumstances I would smile and go to sleep. To-night it seems to me monstrous that Francis should be permitted to go on like this, so I crush him with the remark that ﬁrstly Bam and Kirman could not exist in Central Australia in the areas which he has chosen, because no Australians would consent to live on the smell of an oil-rag under the Persian conditions which have made those cities barely possible. Secondly, he has picked on areas which have no shallow subartesian water, which Persian has in abundance. I taunt him gently that he has placed himself on the same level with Mr. Stefansson,
an authority on the Arctic regions Whom he dislikes.
The Australian Government not long ago sent Mr. Stefansson on a fortnight's exploration journey to report on the potentialities of Central Australia, and he very wisely remarked, in his thesis, that some of the region was like the country between the Mississippi and the Missouri, which has been brought to fertility. The only thing he omitted to say was that Centralia has neither the Mississippi nor the Missouri, which would be the deciding factors, if it were to be developed like the American country.
Francis becomes most indignant at this. He gets out
of his blankets and, drawing coyly apart a few yards, talks to the moon. He says pungent words about the colossal impertinence of upstarts who criticize the great and experienced and outlines a scheme whereby he will bring water from New Guinea in pipes and make the centre of Australia blossom like the rose. He is perfectly in earnest, and the impression that he leaves is that he intends to do it so soon as he arrives home (with the
help of three evening papers) just to spite me. Fortunately, this so amuses me that my temperature sinks considerably.
Also fortunately, Francis, whose mind runs to violence when he has fever, suddenly remembers all the things that he did to a buffalo hunter who insulted him in Arnheim Land and all the things he is going to do to a Northern Territory policeman when he meets him.
He plans the future discomﬁture of the poor constable nearly all night.
I drowse, turning over restlessly to dodge the moon. Francis eventually sinks into a coma broken by mouth-ﬁlling curses. A train of jackals squeals and shrieks somewhere in the shadow of a crumbling hill not far away.
Half a dozen times we rise and drink the water which has gone warm and oily in our cans. A grey-looking twilight, splashed with angry crimson, pales the westing moon out of existence. The ground is still uncomfortably hot. A furious sun rises as if it had just been released from a spring and ﬁnds us moodily and unsociably eating tinned fruit embalmed in sickly sweet and tepid juice.
That was how we began our second day in the Lut, and it was worse than the ﬁrst. The solid crust of the surface gave way to sand hills and one sand river, the Shirgaz, which, despite warnings that had begun as far
back as Bagdad, we sailed through in second gear. Big Dunlop tyres have killed all the terrors of sand and much of the worry of rough roads for the motorist with a little, knowledge. We have seen in Australia that while, up to 1924, it was a feat to cross Central Australia in the sand regions with a motor-car, now the veriest amateur in motoring can achieve the passage of the Finke and the Hugh by reason of the broader shoeing of cars.
Nothing has, however, been invented to conquer the sun. The heat pulsed in swords of yellow, sometimes turning into ﬂame in the air, defeating even the water mirage which ceased to lie across the land in a sea as it did further back. It was replaced by an illusion of quite another kind. The. mountains, which the map showed to be sixty miles off, came up, writhing in long waves, to look at us and then went away. A team of camels, upside-down, transparent, celestial shadows, ﬂopped in the upper air and faded out into a sudden steadiness of heaven. The universe ceased to grimace.
Uprising features round us appeared momentarily clear and sharp, but very far away, emphasizing the immensity of space. The light impishly destroyed all perspective. This had a most singular effect on the vision, so that appearances seemed to depend largely on the elevation of the object looked at. A cairn of rocks marking the road a mile away on a slight rise appeared to be ten times the size of an exactly similar pile only a few yards ahead. Then the landscape would become almost normal.
With a quiver, this strange atmospheric play would begin over again.
The all-absorbing facts, however, were not these curiosities of sight so much as the, red-hot hammer of the heat beating in one's blood, pulsing on the car bonnet so that drops of oil on it sizzled in small blisters. Life seemed to have been wiped off the face of the Lut. There were no more mud telegraph huts crammed full of uniforms; no more scattered Arab-descended popula-
tions, relics of that Hejira which followed the murder of Hussein; no more wells of water. The only live thing we saw in three hours was William the hornet who arrived out of the blue and treated us to an extended entertainment.
William popped in on us in quite a friendly way, a great, golden red fellow with shining wings. In the most sociable fashion, he settled on the bonnet of the car, but no sooner had that portion on which a hornet sits down touched the metal, than he rose with the insect equivalent to a loud shriek of pain and anger. Then, he ﬂew round in an anguished circle for several seconds.
He looked thoroughly annoyed. He swooped down on the bonnet.
"I'll teach you to bite me," he shouted in a loud buzz of hornet language to the bonnet which was at a red heat. He charged it again and again. He became fairly mad with rage, turning somersaults in the air in his perturbation. Every time he bit the bonnet, the bonnet bit him and eventually he became tired out and rolled over on his back on the broad surface of his adversary, where he remained until I mercifully brushed
The hills came nearer and the heat more trying. Water began to worry us. I had, I thought, overloaded ourselves with water before we left Bam, but I soon found that we had underestimated our consumption. The radiator boiled hour in and hour out and needed replenishing every half-hour. Then we came to a well which should have been full of water and found it full of sand.
"My word," I remarked, "I shouldn't like to be out in this on foot."
And at that moment, I noticed a crow, ﬂying low.
This was mystery. You may see an insect in a waterless desert because he may have sat on your coat collar all the way into it, but usually where you see a bird there is water.
Then, again, where there is water in the desert it is not usually a single bird that you see. Generally, there are myriads of them.
Nevertheless, a mile away or ﬁve miles away--the mirage did not allow of any accurate judgment of distance--was a single hovering crow very intent on something.
A moment later, an object moved on the ground. At least I thought it moved, but again you cannot be sure when you are gazing through an agued sun mist. However, I altered our course to make certain.
Sometimes the dark object on the ground looked like a stone. Sometimes it seemed like a beast. Sometimes it might have been another crow-it was very far away. Amazingly, it became both imminent and human. Right in the middle of a patch of red sand stood a Persian, his black fez upon his head, his scraggy bobbed hair, his unshaven face, his blue dungaree ballet dancer's skirt and curious trousers all the more incongruous in that wild spot. He had a pack upon his back and a pint water, bottle in his hand. His lips were swollen unbelievably and the end of a dry, blue tongue protruded between them. His eyes were staring, bloodshot and mad. His face was covered with a plaster of sand and four days' stubble.
He held out his hands imploringly to us, croaking, "Ab! Ab!" (Water! water!) in the voice of a frog, and when we stopped, he collapsed on the ground and raising his hands towards Heaven cried thickly in the pious Arab formula which all Muslim peoples seem to know:
"Bismil!ahi er-Rahmani er-Rahim !" (In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful.) Then he fainted.
It was no easy matter dealing with such a situation in such a place. We dragged our involuntary guest aboard and every few minutes gave him a spoonful of
warm coffee from a thermos ﬂask, forcing it between his lips. I was afraid to give him water, so bad was his state, but he continually raved for it.
At last I felt that I could safely give him a little, administering it a few drops at a time. But he only raved the more, and it was not until I ﬁlled his silly
water bottle that he fell back with a sigh and went into a sound sleep, clasping it ﬁercely with both hands.
The day wore on and we ourselves began soon to feel that before long we might be in the same plight as our guest. Our main hope lay in ﬁnding a soak which we knew was somewhere near the entrance to the Afghan Pass which we expected to cross when we left the sand desert. I did not feel very hopeful about this, because I was certain that most of the information at our disposal would not have been collated in the heart of summer.
Probably, therefore, any water of which we had reports would be dried up and our nearest supply would be a telegraph station about thirty miles from the beginning of the pass.
In the long ravine, approaching the mountain crossing, we used the last of our water except two gallons, which I held back and divided into four parts for safety against punctured tins, ﬁlling two of our thermos ﬂasks and stowing them away under my own seat as a very last resource. Then we went on slowly between the burnt-out rock walls which reﬂected a terriﬁc heat upon us. I looked at our thermometer on the dash-board and it
showed 129°. The radiator boiled as if it had a ﬁre under it, and we had to stop every few hundred yards in as much shadow as we could ﬁnd, to try to cool it, drawing off some of the contents into a bucket and, after a pause, replacing this with cool water from our tins.
Our guest lay on the load under the red-hot hood and
muttered deliriously, every little while breaking into choking screams and holding out his hands to us crying for a drink; then hugging his full bottle, which I would not let him drink. The crow followed us silently, keeping not too far away.
At last we came to a fork in the ravine with high rock towering on either side of us and three she-oak trees along the bank.
"Sure to be water here," said Francis.
"Sure!" said I, rather uncertainly.
We began to hunt for it. It looked as if at some time there had been a soak at the foot of the trees, but now there were only three dusty holes scooped out to the depth of an arm's length and stone dry at the bottom. I put a stick down into them an inch further and came to what seemed solid rock, and while I worked upon them, the passenger nuzzled against me, still a bit delirious, trying to put his hand into the holes and keeping up a perpetual cry.
Francis went up the right-hand fork of the gorge, a heat-struck ﬁgure, with haze climbing laughably up and down him when he was a hundred yards away. I got our shovel out and, carefully seeking the course of the tree roots, made another search. The roots seemed to go straight down among the rocks. After three attempts I sat down and began to watch for insects. The crow, across the way, also sat down in the broiling sun and
he too, waved like Francis, who was now coming incorporeally back. There were no insects, but our passenger had suddenly got it into his head that I was going to leave him and he was on his knees in front of me. At intervals the silly fellow would take his fez off and I had to put it back for him. Furthermore, he would not stay in the shade.
Just as I had made up my mind that the best thing we could do was to camp till near nightfall, though I knew
the pass to be unnegotiable in the dark, it occurred to
me to try a divining rod made from a fork of the she-oak. This was a forlorn hope, as I did not expect such a timber to be much good.
To my surprise it worked as if there were a ton weight tied to the end of it. It worked over the dry holes which we had already investigated and nowhere else. I took the shovel and probed round their sides, and found that the bottom of each, in which ﬂat stones lay, had at one time been hollowed out into a chamber and ﬁlled with sand. Our guest did the rest for me. He moved one of the stones which I had thought to be part of the
living rock and immediately water began to trickle into the hollow. A stranger, not knowing, would never have guessed at the spring under the stone and our only trouble now was that Omar (which was our Persian's name, comically enough) was so lavish with our ﬁnd that every time a cupful trickled into the well he would dip his small canister into it and sprinkle the contents over the parched landscape, with a loud chuckle.
It was not until he had had a solid meal that he became anywhere normal and then his plight was explained. He was a telegraph worker, and he had set out from the linesmen's hut across the pass to walk eighty miles to Bam. He had tried to conquer the Lut with no better precautions than the carrying of a pint of water and the nailing of a piece of Dunlop tyre to each boot sole.
He had left at four o'clock in the afternoon two days before, hoping to take advantage of the moon, marching through the night to make the next linesman's post at the Gurg before the heat of the next day had grown intolerable. His luck, however, had been out from the very beginning. The moon had proved of little use to him in the deep recesses of the pass and his progress had been slow, more especially as the heat had been
intense. Also, he was haunted by some animal which
seemed to be stalking him. I gathered that induced him to keep as close to the telegraph poles as possible, so that he could shin up one if he met with it or were attacked.
To make matters worse, he had only his single water bottle full of water, having taken a good drink before he started. He knew of the well of which we had been told on the Bam side of the pass and, as we had done, had found that the water in it had been replaced by sand.
At last, it was nine o'clock in the morning and the full force of the heat was beating down on him, so since the walking was more level towards Bam he did not turn back but staggered on, praying to his God and hoping to meet somebody. Then he ceased to be a man and the Lut turned him into a black, unthinking dot.
At some unearthly hour which he did not remember, he drank the last of his water, and when he had been sixty-ﬁve hours in the desert from the time of leaving the telegraph station, we found him. If he had kept on walking straight ahead he could probably have reached the end of his ﬁrst stage; but when we discovered him, his tracks showed that he (and the crow) had been going round and round like a horse in a mill. Curiously enough, he did not resent the crow. That wicked bird, he said, was a messenger sent by Allah to guide him to us and safety. It had stood on the sand in front of him and lured him to follow it. Actually, the evil thing was waiting for him to tumble down and die. Possibly, it was even tempting him to run forward and exhaust himself chasing it. You never know how deep the cunning of a crow may be.
Past the gorge, we dropped our passenger at the telegraph station whence he had come, after we had ﬁlled up with water from the linesmen's abundant wells. The pass had been far from hospitable with its winding shelves of slippery rock and sharp hairpin
and a very white turban. He gazed at my hand long and earnestly:
"You have a wife and a ginger kid, which is very lucky," he said, "and you are most lazy gentleman," (I was, of course in bed); "yes, and in two year you will get three thousand pound on which you pay me commission. Presently, you see your own country and now you give me ﬁve rupee and one reference, Sahib, by your favour."
"I'll give you eight annas."
"Very good, Sahib. As your honour says, that is really excellent, but you will pay me commission on three thousand quid, twelve per cent, thank you very much."
Then he turned his attention to Francis and invested him with a long black past and a short black future full of crime and sorrow. Francis, I may mention, had expressed his opinion that an eight-anna fee would be extravagance. I presume his fortunes suffered accordingly.
she-oak trees all with Baluchis under them, and you have described the whole of the country from Duzdab on the Persian border to Nushki.
Oh, and I forgot the sun.
By the Khan of Khalat, it is something like a sun. It arrives with a hop, step and a jump without any heralding, seizes the poor traveller by the back of the neck and hammers him all day with a heat club until he surrenders. Whether this sun makes a mirage or not I cannot say, because I wasn't interested. The only thing one is interested in in Baluchistan in summer is getting somewhere out of the heat, which combines all the different kinds of warmth known to man from New Guinea to London (which, at 95°, can be most unpleasant), from Charlotte Waters, to the Red Sea, and ties them
to a wind full of ﬁne sand and a glare which makes movement without coloured glasses almost impossible.
Nothing stirs in the daytime. The camels stand round the water tanks at the sidings. Except near sundown, the lank, untidy railway employees mostly lie in the shadow of their walls. The mountain sheep jostle each other for shade. And the famed Baluchi raider, the nasty fellow whose doings provide Tudor homes for lady novelists, seems to take his hawk eye and his long riﬂe and his three-foot Afghan knife incontinently to his tower rather than face Old Sol.
As travelling at night was impossible with our many mechanical troubles and experimental breakages, we were compelled to face him. It was a case of rush for two hours; stop at a linesman's shelter; get down; vomit; pile saltbush together and set it ﬂaring with a roaring wind behind it against your kettle; gulp down boiling tea mixed with whisky and make another dash.
It was while this was going on that I suddenly became the Presence. All through Turkey and Syria and Persia
the native shows very little respect to you. In British India, at least along the border, you ﬁnd yourself exalted.
You leave Persia from a township of ﬂat mud buildings with camels loaded down with petrol from the Anglo-Persian wells, ﬁlling Indian trains with their cargo. The natives stand about and make lewd Persian remarks to you which they think you will not understand, and when you speak to them they grin.
The Consul wishes you good-bye. The White-clad Sikh merchants with their little swords hung round their necks and their slippers and their long black beards stand at their doors, and all their clerks, like something out of an Oriental dream, cease for a few minutes from their lovely Nagari penmanship and bow gravely to you. The dogs bark. The dust rises. The small boys, since it is the cool of the afternoon and not more than 103° in the shade, run after you. The camels grunt and swing their petrol cases about most inconsiderately to the Anglo-Persian Company. You ask the beggar the way, making a Mohammedan sign at him, and he answers you straight between the eyes.
You cross the border. You drink limejuice and tea with the Assistant British Political Officer, go out into the ragged tangle of gullies and Wadis and tumbled stone and sand which forms the western approach to the Indian Empire. Presently you see a block house. Seventeen stout fellows in dirty robes and turbans are sitting outside picking their teeth in the interests of the British Raj. You approach them. At once, they rise bolt upright as one man. .
They stand for a second quivering with respect. Then they roll themselves up slowly like caterpillars which have been touched with a stick and neatly and unanimously lay their foreheads on the dust until Your Honour has deigned to pass them. You have become a Sahib. At ﬁrst it seems rather more humiliating to you than to the man who pays you his duty for some inexplicable
reason, but you soon come to understand that the ryot and the coolie love to salaam before you. They have been doing it for thousands of years, and they like a Lord even more than the average Labour member.
Not only do those who are adjacent to you genuﬂect, but time and again in the country bordering the North-West Provinces I have seen a ploughman 200 yards away look up at the roar of the motor-car and hurry to the roadside so as to be waiting for your approach in a trance of veneration. .
Well, to get back to the beginning of this chapter, we were in Nushki and housed in the Political Officer's bungalow thanks to Major Betham, of the Chagai Political Corps. Nushki is an entirely native military town of mud huts and barracks and neat Baluchi levies, and we had arrived there the evening before, spent to the last ounce of our strength. We were dirty and dishevelled and unshaven.
Francis straightway went to sleep in the car, which refused to climb the steep winding hill to the bungalow. I should have liked to do the same; but as we were the only White men in the place, it seemed wiser to grow as. like a Sahib as possible. So to bath and shave and order food through the chowkidar and receive the tahsildar and the commander of the troops.
Then, under a rising moon, I had time to observe our position.
Nushki lay in a valley, 100 miles south of Kandhahar as the crow ﬂies. Over it towered high walls of mountain, and nearer, shadowing it, two small hills like the Maedchenbrueste of Maron in the Bismarck Islands, peaks ﬂattened artiﬁcially on top with a road running between them.
On the summit of one sat our bungalow shut away from the world on every side by steep slopes which only needed a footstep to make them slide plainward in little avalanches of crumbling shale and fast-running earth.
The road wandered up to us by as tortuous and exposed a route as the mind of military man could devise, every yard of it coverable by machine-gun ﬁre. On one side, through a tracery of barbed wire, lay the native town and the barracks, noisy with native jollity. On the other, a long, level plain reaching past the Afghan border eleven miles away, stabbed with watchﬁres. I looked to the right, there was barbed wire. To the left, there was
barbed wire. Then I noticed that the ﬂat roofs of the empty servants' quarters, like that of the bungalow, had been turned into sandbagged rifle and machine-gun posts with the usual defensive fringe. On the Afghan side, the barbed wire ran all the way down the slope. There was not an approach that was not covered, not a water score on the hill-side that was not enﬁladed.
A shadow and a glint--bayonet over shoulder, manly ﬁgure erect, one of our half-dozen guards went by with crisp, well-drilled infantry step.
They take no chances on the border. It is some time since the raiders have come down here. But especially since I919, when England fought a quiet war against the Afghans and the border tribes along a 2000 mile front and said little about it, there has been no knowing.
"It is quite cool here, sir," said a level voice behind me, and behold here was Serjan Singh, the local commander in chief of the Baluchi levies. All of a man was Serjan Singh, and a proud man too. Except for his turban and his ﬂowing black beard never touched by a razor and his wide, bright black eyes and neat little hands, you might have taken him for a British subaltern. His manners were independent and easy. He had been in London and. seen the Emperor. He had fought in France and Mesopotamia. Behind the marvellous polish of his exterior, in which everything was precise
and well ordered, you saw a hint of ﬁne blood and a ﬁner temper. Serjan Singh, yarning in the moonlight, was a very gentle fellow. Behind his gentleness, you
felt, lay hidden the power of the leopard's spring. You thought that you would much prefer to be chatting with him there and chaffing his faithful dog, Prince, a noble hound which seemed to consist of several tousled coils of hair wrapped round two red eyes and a loud, gruff, friendly bark, than doing mortal combat with him. He talked, simply but with the dignity of one who at normal times was the British Empire in this out-of-the-way place--about his ruffians of Baluchi levy police of whom he was very proud and the glory of the British Raj which he adored and the changing of the Guard at
Buckingham Palace which appealed to his Oriental eye as one of the ﬁt splendours of British greatness. Then:
"I think, Sahib, you would not be wise to walk about too much here. There are fever and snakes. Besides," he looked to the ﬁres on the border--"it is better inside."
His hand went to the salute and he strode away, the son of a ﬁerce, loyal race which won its spurs when it stood to England in the Great Mutiny, a very happy warrior, keeping the marches mainly on a diet of water and vegetables. The Sikh is a much-honoured man in India.
He disappeared silently into the shadows. I heard Prince give tongue, chasing the inevitable goat down the village street.
Bed---inside mosquito curtains-throbbing, aching, sweating bed with crumbs all over it; Francis muttering with fever next door and, hovering in the murk of the room, an evil dream all about Afghans with three-foot knives.
In the morning I rose betimes and proceeded to have breakfast. Francis said he would not have breakfast. He lay ragged, collarless, exhausted, without shoes, which he had removed to cool his heat-aching feet on a
settee in the corner of the sitting-room. He said I was mad to dress for a few savages who were to call on me. The proper dress in which to receive them was a shirt and knobkerry. This did not deter me from either dressing or eating. I began with some country curry which seemed to consist of all the chicken bones in Baluchistan, mixed with cayenne pepper in the proportion. of one to three. Then I had some rice. The fame of Indian cooked rice reaches even to the North and South Poles, but as Nushki is on the wild outskirts of the Empire, it has a special dispensation, apparently, to adopt its own method of preparation, which seems to consist of putting a very large quantity of the useful cereal in a pan over a very hot ﬁre and then going off for a long walk. When the ﬂare of the burning dish lights the skyline, you return and remove it. When I had enjoyed about three
spoonfuls of the product of this process, I decided to have a drink.
"Now for some good old limejuice," I said. "Have some, Frank?" Frank said he would; my oath, he would, as limejuice and whisky were.the only civilized articles of diet in that benighted region. I opened the bottle which I had had brought from the bazaar and served two drinks, well diluted. It was a good thing that they were. I am not sure to this day whether the bazaar had given us spirits of salts or sulphuric acid by mistake. Anyway, the skin came off my mouth in one sheet and the air rang with the views of Francis, who had not got quite so good a mouthful of it.
While I sat listening in admiration to this oration, a deferential cough penetrated to us from the main doorway of the bungalow, and it suddenly dawned on me that the vestibule was occupied by several people. It also dawned on Francis, who was at the moment walking round in circles in the sitting-room in his two-garment costume, his motor grime and his stockinged feet. He promptly effaced himself by diving into the
large settee which stood with its back to the centre of the room.
The chowkidar came in. Various officials, he said or rather implied, speaking with much respect for them and more towards myself, were waiting to have the honour of presenting their felicitations on our safe arrival and good health. Then he kissed the ground before me (he was a very nice chowkidar) and retired backwards.
The delegation entered. There were four of them-- schoolmaster, chemist and others. They were asked to sit. They sat in a row, a thin, sallow man with melting eyes and a green-grey Hindu cap; a large jovial fellow all teeth and beard, with a red fez on top; a khaki turban above a fat countenance and a black, untended moustache, and another turban of pale lavender wound with amazing art. Bolt upright, they sat looking comically like four small boys who have been asked to take tea with their housemaster, which is the standard attitude of the lowly placed Indian official towards his white
The Labour member who rants about the stern cruelty of British tyranny over the poor Indian is all wrong. The atmosphere of the remoter Indian Civil Service is that of the "Fifth Form at St. Dominics." The British are the school masters; the lesser Indians are the usual gang of mischievous, dishonest, prank-playing little boys, always ready to, ﬁguratively get out of bounds and sneak to the tart shop at night and indulge in shovepenny and
some magniﬁed Indian version of smoking behind the haystack, and occasionally put birdlime in the master's chair in the form of a healthy little massacre or venture in religious politics. (The-Rajputs and the Sikhs are cats of another colour.)
We looked at each other. Said the Red Fez:
"We have come to bid you great welcome, Sahib."
I said I was delighted to see them and they all bobbed over my hand. Then they proceeded to say nothing.
I opined that Nushki was a neat and well-kept station; that the population was delightful and the weather salubrious, and they all bobbed. I tried the military situation and the delights of peace and they bobbed again.
Finally, the Red Fez decided to be brightly conversational :
"You-have--been--Australia, Sahib?" -
"Yes. That is my home."
"Very-nice--country, Your Honour?"
"Very nice, indeed."
Every one meditated on this for some time, while I wondered what the etiquette of these situations was.
Red Fez spoke again:
"No, I believe Kashmir is a very lovely country."
"Very beautiful, Sahib. Very nice country."
A loud choking sound from the pale lavender Turban suggested that he had swallowed the piece of chewing gum which every small boy carries in his cheek when he can. When my eye fell on him, he suppressed his throat trouble, which was merely due to his joy at the mention of the capital of Kashmir, with a guilty look.
We had been in turn to Zanzibar, Malta, London, Buenos Aires, Simla, and Sarawak according to formula, when I noticed all eyes straying in the direction of the couch on which Francis was supposed to be hiding himself from the public view. The eyes seemed fairly to bulge with excitement at what they saw.
Turning my head discreetly, I beheld a foot, elevated above the end of the settee. The foot was partially covered in a sock. It was, in fact, a regular bush bachelor's sock with ordinary human toe protruding. But it was a most expressive toe.
It was behaving purely as a reﬂex to the emotions of its owner, who, I had no doubt, was deeply involved in
one of his most beloved adventure stories. "Die then, villain," hissed Red Gum Rufe, the Hero, "and as his seven shots hit the welkin unanimously, his vile foe bit the dust." Francis' toe said it as well as any print. The expression of the onlookers became that of the form which is most enjoyably watching some inky person riding for a bad fall. "Now," their faces said, "some one will catch it in the neck in a minute! What a blooming lark!" Francis, having killed his enemy, realized that he was supposed to be invisible and withdrew his foot so hastily that I was compelled to laugh;
whereafter everything went swimmingly. The Red Fez even gave me a free lesson in Urdu, which is one of the most miserable languages in the world.
It is, of course, a sort of Indian Esperanto, ﬁfty per cent of the words of which are Persian and the others from goodness knows where. The character of its colloquial grammar is thoroughly in keeping with that of the peasant and with the oppression of centuries of Moguls. It is passive and intransitive throughout, and its method of expression makes it clear that the speaker is entirely the plaything of Providence and of the next Sahib above him. Still, as spoken for ordinary domestic uses, it is very easy to acquire, more especially as the lordly Sahib deigns to speak it generally with an Oxford accent and an English intonation. Soon he will not need to speak it, because India is taking to English like a duck to water; so that where, until quite recently, one or two native languages were essential to the British resident, most of the younger generation do not trouble to speak more than a couple of dozen words of the common Indian tongue. Only west of Delhi does the local language begin to be essential.
However, nobody is likely to regret the common variety of Hindustani. It has none of the merits of Turkish, for instance, which from its exactitude, regularity and perfect stock of inﬂections might have been
composed by one of the more precise equity Counsel with the aid of some such literateur as Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.
I was on such good terms with our visitors, who dropped in in twos and threes all the forenoon, that when we left and they gathered at the street corners to do us honour, we had a most good-humoured levee. I shook hands till I felt like the Prince of Wales after a reception. Then the whole city left its work in the roads and the bazaars and decorously creased itself in the middle while we went by and out into the mountains on the last hundred miles of our run to Quetta.
Had they cared to follow us a few miles, they would have seen old Scrap Iron, who had determined at any cost to prevent us from reaching Indian civilization, sheer three differential bolts on a dangerous hairpin bend.
They would have seen His Excellency leap on to a very sore foot on which an abscess had developed a day or two before and which he was afraid to lance, and with loud curses chock the car in time to prevent disaster over a twenty-foot cliff.
They would have seen Mr. Francis Birtles, no longer A.D.C., a wriggling ﬁve feet ten of profanity, putting new bolts in, what time he lay in the dust. They would have beheld the Presence trying to make tea with a spirit stove which had gone wrong, and they would have observed the stove go ﬂying through the air into the gulch below. They would have noticed Scrap Iron being jacked round the hairpin bend-the ﬁrst time she had known that ignominious treatment--and rewarding her helpers by falling with all her weight off the jack, hitting Francis on the knee-cap with her bumper.
After which they might have followed us through a land which was surely the dump of Creation where the Lord stowed away all the hills He did not need for the
ordinary purposes of Genesis, seen a big end bearing go, observed us, through the long, dreary Lak Pass at Sheik Wasil anchored on the top of a water dyke with our frame so twisted that nothing could be done with us until thirty stout fellows, headed by the station-master, had towed us off. Finally, we spent a hot night full of wind and dust, and while Francis slept like a log, I, holding my throbbing heel, watched an angry and thwarted
cobra dealing with our sealed water tin which refused to give him a drink.
Several times I felt tempted to rise and murder him, but I had no desire either to put my foot to the ground before morning or to be held guilty by Mrs. Cobra of the death of her lord and master.
However, I lay awake till dawn, and Quetta with its long cantonments and shady streets and cool drinks and bagpipe-led Ghurkas rose on the horizon. We were fourteen days in Quetta. My foot rapidly went from bad to worse, and I was compelled to lie up entirely in the delightful dak bungalow which is the cheapest hotel in the world, taking its cuisine and accommodation into account.
Even in bed there was plenty of amusement. Stephen John, the Goa man who was my attendant and temporary bearer, helped my Hindustani along at a great rate. Baluchi musicians played outside my window. Friends came in to visit, and there was a continual traffic of uniforms and motor-cars along the piece of almost English road that ran in front of the wide compounds. Quetta has ceased to be the place to which the infamous Mrs. Barrett sent her spouse to die in Kipling's day. It is a picked station which officials vie with each other to reach. In these days, if there are any Mrs. Barretts, they try to get their Jacks sent to Jacobabad and themselves remain at the outpost-if they are allowed.
The day before we left, Francis came into my sick-room with a fortune-teller, who had the look of the lily
THE LONG, LONG INDIAN DAY
THE Indian day is long and grey and hot. It is greyer than the summer day of even dull-vegetationed Centralia. The sand curtain hangs, a high and
ghostly wall, before its horizon. Its hills, dust-covered with a million winds, burnt bare with a million suns, stand and pant, and the hot loo, which lives somewhere in the Lut, when it is at home, comes howling along full of grit and burning the back of men's necks.
On the plains, no man works in the Indian summer; but by Quetta, where it is supposed to be cool, the work of the year goes on under the shadow of Zargun. The band plays in the broad compound of the club of an afternoon. The Ghurka bagpipes squeal down the main street between the houses which are ranged in deep compounds, each with the label and designation of its owner displayed on the gatepost.
Beyond, on the road to Loralai, you may see, in the morning, a great aeroplane sailing beyond the town.
"Womp!" the earth ﬂies up round a heap of white stone; the aeroplane wheels gracefully and goes back on its tracks.
"Womp!" it goes on day after day outside Quetta, this grisly bomb practice against the hour when the tribes or some one beyond them may come down. Further on, Ghurkas come out of their little forts and stare at you with only half interest and then, beetling hill-top
and hairpin bend, deep ravine and trickling stream crossing, stony nullah and sudden range, the road creeps and crawls and sneaks by the best defended, most winding way that the mind of military man can devise through wooded hills, to Ziarat and to Loralai.
You wonder what it is all about when you ﬁrst encounter this highway doing experiments with the geometry of the circle and the ellipse. Why did they not take it down such a ravine or straight over such and such a saddle-back? Presently the answer becomes plain. The British Royal Engineer is an artist at depriving the dropper of stones and the precipice sniper, the ambush expert and the rush-at dawn raider of his chances. He is an adept at; giving his road cover, and the bullet,singing down the pass when he has left his mark on the landscape has to be quick in its mission to be effective;
otherwise, its prey is round the corner and turning himself from the stalked into a stalker, before it can do any damage.
There are many miles like this from Quetta before the border country settles into a straight well-watered valley, full of trees and guarded on either sides by some of the sheerest cliffs that nature could conceive. Then, more trees and more climbing and another long vale full of dust storm, in which our car decided to hold us up with a big end bearing knocking dangerously. Covering her round with a tarpaulin, we took her sump off in the
afternoon, Francis muttering that he knew something of this sort would happen so soon as we reached a good road.
]ust as we had everything mended, a military car swept past on the wrong side of us, lifted our curtains with the rush of its going and ﬁlled our crank-case with ﬁne sand which jambed the pistons and gave us another hour of washing our cylinders with kerosene and performing
other feats of cleanliness before we could go on, through a hilly, treacherous-looking tract.
Still, there were no bad roads now. We had done with bad roads. We bowled along at a great pace--almost twenty miles an hour and knocking on not more than two cylinders--to Loralai in the moonlight, despite the warnings which we had had not to be out after dark.
We made camp in the dak bungalow with a rough dak bungalow meal; but with no sleep to follow for me, for my poisoned foot pulsed like a steam-hammer, sending shoots of pain up my spine and kept me effectually from resting. I heard the jackals go down the middle of the main street, a squealing train of ghosts. I heard a leopard cough and every dog for miles, wake in half-frightened barking. The black of the Indian night changed to a light, hot grey. Followed the "Ghusl taiyar hai" (bath is ready) of the bhisti, pouring water in the next room and bobbing his respectful form in the
Loralai--hot, pale, mist-hung, bare-cragged-woke lazily to another Sunday, with the officers of Skinner's Horse trying to pretend that they were in England and rising early for their rides, and all the lazy Indians basking on their beds out of doors, and three Pathan prisoners and a man with a big stick going out to make roads.
I went to see the Political Officer and he assured me that we might go on. At eleven we went, after doctoring the two musical bearings. I had no fancy for break-downs on the next hundred mile stretch, for along that, an earth track, with rains impending, the inhabitants were so inhospitable to strangers that the British Raj turned out its patrols to see that we were not slaughtered. Not that anyone has been slaughtered there for a long
time, but, as I have said in effect somewhere before, the Empire has learnt that it must have a long memory on the border. It has to have, because the Pathan does not
change. You stop. him shooting up tourists for six or seven years. You make up your mind that he has become converted from his evil ways. He watches your guards go off down the road, sighs with satisfaction and taking his old Martini to his favourite perch with a chuckle, he shoots the nearest inﬁdel under cover of your dust cloud. Of course, the British never used to worry very much about his operations, because he was not
accustomed, through lack of opportunity, to destroy anything except a few subalterns, who are three a penny in Great Britain, and odd policemen and natives who are both improved by being shot over a little. But in his last effort, hereabouts, the undiscriminating hillman bagged some quite inoffensive Americans-goodness knows how they got there-and authority felt that it was Time to Take a Stand. Wherefore it enlisted every robber it could ﬁnd in the levies; and when anyone passes from the highlands to the plains, these villainous looking gentry come out armed to the teeth and keep a zone, the width of two rifle-shots, clear on either side of the way.
It is not a nice place to be shot in. In appearance, it is ﬁrst cousin to the worst of Western Baluchistan, with knobs and kopjes of rock lavishly distributed over it, and more than its meed of sullen ranges, burning valleys and curious claypans and mountain streams. Its vegetation seems to be largely saltbush, diversiﬁed with thorn and zamia and a queer sort of mountain palm.
Towards the end of the day in this, my throbbing foot had swollen till even a slipper would not remain on it. Of course, nearly all the work fell on the devoted shoulders of Francis, and we were just congratulating ourselves that Ruchkni and its rest house was not very far away when "plump!" down came the rain.
It fell just like that, as I have seen a man being hanged, drop through a scaffold. One moment it was a black and whirling cloud. The next it was a sheet of silver
on a clay plain-ahead, and several nullahs and creeks which had had dry beds were yellow and raging torrents.
We were on the banks of one of these ﬁve minutes after the fall began and, seeing the creek rapidly rising, decided to rush it. We did and our reward was a.sump full of water. We sat derelict in the stream and waited for the ﬂood to abate. After a time we both got out, feeling that it was still rising rather than falling, and made the bank to debate the advisability of pulling our outﬁt backwards to comparatively dry land with a Spanish
Immediately the water went down as if some giant had drunk it. I stayed on shore nursing my troubles, while Francis fed a little oil into Scrap Iron. Half-way through this proceeding, I heard a roar of water. I yelled to him, and without waiting for me, he started the engine and rushed to the other side.
Then the new spate of water arrived and I had to wait before I risked a passage through it.
We pushed on. It rained again, and when we came to Ruchkni at dusk we could have successfully entered for a dejected-looking men's competition anywhere on earth. Having no side-curtains or mud-guards we were covered in wet mire. Our bonnet looked like a newly ploughed
ﬁeld. We were both wet through and I was seeing purple spots from pain.
When the chowkidar had opened the rest house for us, I went inside and sat at the table. Francis went out with the chowkidar to bring in our sleeping valises and stores.
It suddenly occurred to me (quite unjustiﬁably) that Francis might not be able to make himself understood and l rose to go to him. There is a blank after that. My next memory is of being--I will not say standing, because I do not know--at the back door of the rest-house bedroom. Everything was perfectly clear and normal. Francis and the chowkidar were laying a long,
lank, unshaven person, whose face seemed to be set in rigor mortis, on the bed. I cannot say whether I recognized this familiar ﬁgure. But I distinctly heard Francis say: "The poor beggar's gone all right." He then used some language which completely authenticated his reality. After which I woke up on the bed. The long, lank person was myself. It was a strange crystal-clear experience. I have since regretted that while I was at thedoor did not feel my shoulder-blades. It would be nice to know that in those few seconds of incorporeality I had grown wings. There is nothing like having one's future fully assured. However, we are all apt to lose our best chances of acquiring knowledge.
The outstanding feature of the adventure was, to my mind, afterwards, the complete lack of interest in or sympathy for the poor corpse on the bed which my other self in the doorway felt.
In the morning Francis wanted to say where we were, but night had changed my leg into a pillar of purple streaks and I had lumps under knees and arms and a blinding, subconscious pain which seemed to make it advisable to get to a doctor as quickly as possible.
Poor Francis, therefore, had the full brunt of that morning's work. He it was who got us safely across the Ruckhni River and the mire on the other side, while I sat in the car occasionally saying some sultry words to the helpers who were supposed to be removing us from bogs.
We came to the foothills with the bulk of the Suleiman Range above us. And as we climbed the well-graded road, we saw a signpost which told us we were in the Punjab.
Then Fort Munro, on the summit, lonely and dreary, commanding the road and a sudden and amazing change of scene.
After you leave the Fort you drop to the plains 6,300 feet in seventeen miles, and then all India lies so level
before you that you could almost play billiards on any part of it for the next thousand miles. India is, indeed, a country of large helpings--a thousand miles of crags and thorn and tamarisk and sand; the long Indus and Jumna Plains 5 huge teeming cities, large lonely spaces ; ﬂat, ﬂat Punjab and, thirty miles away, the heaving thrust of the Himalaya.
Once, in this spot, the way was even quicker to the plains than it is now. Half a dozen straight leaps of eight hundred feet each would have seen one most of the way to the bottom. But the British were ever ,a gradual people. By dint of blasting a path along the faces of thousand feet precipices on which one feels like a ﬂy; of sneaking a macadamized highway precariously round spurs, the surfaces of which Nature had left in a most
impermanent state; of building seventeen miles of road with ﬁfty-three hairpin bends in it, they have achieved a means of passage from above to below or from below to above which has not, one would guess, a grade of more than one in ﬁfteen. Most of the way, indeed, appears to be level, but at any stage in the progress there is no point at which, by means of a skittish side-step, man could not turn himself into mince.
Always there is a rocky crag below which looks like a milestone and resolves itself into a sizeable hill after more careful inspection of its perspectives. Always there are miles of visible rippling, twining, ﬂuid-looking, macadamized road directly under one's feet except at two or three choice vantage-points where you look straight off an overhanging cliff into empty air bottomed by chlorine-hued or aquamarine water so clear that the boulders which it covers are revealed as a rude mosaic of many-coloured pebbles.
At the bottom of it all is Mother India-I mean regularly administered India--and all its wonders. The
ﬁrst of them was at Dera Ghazi Khan. We arrived there at midday and went to the dak bungalow. Feeling badly in need of a surgeon, I asked the Khansamah where the Civil Headquarters were. Down the main and dusty street full of camel and donkey, squatting Hindu, white-clad Baluchi, ﬁerce Pathan and into a mud-walled compound just like any other barrack enclosure; to a veranda with a sepoy on the steps and a vulture on the roof-tree, and there was the ruler of Dera Ghazi Khan which lies almost on the banks of the Indus River; the only white man in a teeming, naughty world,
surrounded by servitors so hushed with his greatness that it took me half an hour to persuade them to wake him.
When he woke, he proved to be a tousled, pleasant-faced product of what he called ruefully, but with affection, a "dirty little town called Stourbridge." He might have been twenty-six; he was, for the moment, without shoes as he lay on his stretcher; but despite border thieves and babus and the heat and the ﬂies and the cholera and fever he said he would be happy to stay where he was for the rest of his life.
On hearing that we knew Stourbridge, he was com- pletely "at our service". He sent for the Public Works Director, who, I suspect, was his ofﬁcial senior, and said a few well-chosen words which had that gentleman and his lilac turban and neat European costume patiently holding up the cross-Indus steamer for us next morning with the air of Charon ready to ferry Anchises.
Then he came to the dak bungalow, and in a few more terse but entirely courteous words reduced the Khansamah to a state of dusty reverence coupled with a zeal, which as from magic saddle-bags, produced whisky, better bedsteads, a bhisti, a temporary bearer, a punkah and a punkah wallah.
He had, also, by this time so interested me in the doings of his station that by dint of continuing to hold a
match between -my teeth, I was able to do without a surgeon (which was as well) and to make a resolution to "hang on till Delhi." I dislike surgeons qua surgeons. Old Mother Nature and a bread poultice for me, where possible.
He led out his platoon of native police (who were only in the third form and not in the ﬁfth like the higher grade officials we had met at Nushki) and delivered a lecture on our car and ourselves. They stood easily about and asked him questions, their eyes friendly towards him, and at intervals he was compelled to remark:
"Now the blighter's talking Baluchi and that's too deep for me. I've passed in it, but I can't follow 'em." Whereafter he would drag an excited interpreter back into the shallower waters of Hindustani.
Of course we had to dine and talk about Stourbridge, and afterwards we sat in the compound and the garrison gave us a performance. There was a sepoy who nonchalantly picked his bed up in his teeth and did a whirling dervish dance with it. There were two large Pathans who spoke at least two words of English, which were "Quick March," which they used as a prelude to the most stirring Scottish airs, played upon their bagpipes. It was strange in the hot, pallid moonlight to hear the skirl of the pipes, manipulated by two savages in turbans with a Scottish sadness or ﬁerceness. We had "Flowers of the Forest" and the "Cock of the North" and "Bonnie Dundee" and "The Forty-Second," till if you had shut your eyes you might well have expected to open them on kilts swinging along Princes Street on their way to Holyrood to meet the King. There was no trouble about encores with these musicians, either. They were so keen upon their work that they had to be hunted off to bed like small boys, to prevent them interfering with the rest of the programme. Their place was taken by weird Baluchi dancers and weirder musicians.
These later were the direct heirs of the troubadours.
They operated in pairs, the one with a kind of lute, the other a gentleman who, after clearing his throat and ﬁlling his lungs with a comical sort of chest cough, began to sing the accompaniment of the strings. Very fast, and using only one register and about three notes in the scale, he sang the news of the day for the beneﬁt of his fellows--what murders had been committed; where it had rained and had not; the state of the barley crop, and who had stolen somebody else's wife. A few hundred years ago wanderers were doing the same sort of thing all through Europe. One has only to travel in this world to encounter the Dark Ages. We were always meeting them.
When, we went to bed at twelve o'clock, I wondered why I felt inclined to faint. I suddenly remembered that I had a poisoned foot, of which I had known only subconsciously during the evening's concert. Hale, our host, was undoubtedly a splendid physician.
Next day we crossed the Indus, approaching it by a long, flat road ﬂoored with reeds and edged with swampy villages full of wallowing buffaloes and mud huts among dark, smoky jungle. The Charon of the Public Works Department was waiting for us with his ferry, which was a large steamer on to which the car had to be driven from the bank.
The Indus is a wonderful stream. In all its length of 2000 miles it is nowhere less than 500 feet wide; here it was nine miles across.
At this stage in its progress, it has the sated look of an old traveller to whom neither earth nor death are over-important. The land along its banks is light, grey-green; the clouds above it are similar to those which one sees hedging the horizon above a tropic ocean on a calm day. A slight steam rises from its slow, ﬁat expanse of waters, which stretch so far that the more distant
bank begins to sink over the horizon as your eye reaches it. In it lie long sand bars, each with its vultures waiting for a slow-passing corpse, or natives, leisuring with their nets, or patient and statuesque in their quest for a crocodile.
The Equatorial sea and the Indus are the only places in the world, perhaps, which give you a sense of proper unreality, as if they did not belong to the earth. Here, even the steamer might well have been of another universe. It was of a kind that has mostly died years ago. And, after the duller hues of the mountains, the costumes of its crowded inhabitants seemed bright beyond human possibility. Women in saffron robes with gold ear and nose rings nursed babies in scarlet. Pink turban and orange turban bobbed together. Donkeys with blue beads jostled a vast old gentleman in a white toga, and a dromedary in bells became tangled with a passenger in a grey Hindu cap and a pink robe and slippers, who carried a white and green umbrella and, immediately on coming aboard, bought his dinner of rice done up in leaves from the restaurateur who sat squat on the deck. He proceeded, having dealt with the camel, to suck his purchase into his interior in loud gulps while the boat ﬁlled.
A reverend person in scarlet arrived carrying his bed (they nearly all have their beds), and driving his family and a yellow cow, with a wreath of stephanotis round its neck and a verse from the Koran painted on its ribs, before him. The whole ship rocked as he entered, and though it seemed full before, he managed to so disarrange the tinkling camel and the donkeys as to ﬁnd room for his ménagé. Whereupon, every one cursed him to his
Entered Methusaleh, Omar Khayyam, Abraham, Joseph, Ahasuerus, and Laban, Uz and Buz and Benaiah ben Jahoiadah, accompanied by Potiphar's wife.
When they had arranged themselves in some sort of
disorder, the whistle blew and we started, a proceeding which did not in the least destroy the atmosphere of unreality. The sandbars, as we moved, developed a curious appearance of speed, against the current. The sheer alluvial bank fell away with a deep-throated "plomp" under the knife-edge of our slow wash.
The Indus Went on to the ocean, swallowing alike the earth and our ripples and the dead bullock from Attock which drifted slowly past. Old Father Indus has seen too much when he has reached here to be disturbed by a steamer or a corpse. He has been to Tibet and roared in ravines among the foothills of the Himalayas. He has carved out, in the last million years or so, some of the grandest mountain scenes in the world. Kashmir he knows. The lower Punjab is so far from his source that it seems one of his afterthoughts in travel to those who know him higher up. Nevertheless, if you want to see inevitability translated into water, to see a river thoroughly beyond control and omnipotent so far as humanity goes, view the Indus at Dera Ghazi old Khan.
There men cannot control him with dykes because he is beyond control. They cannot bridge him because he is too wide, and moves a few million tons of foundation about for a week-end of exercise. The very steamer can cross only when he wills.
The fertility of the land is his concern, and every day he takes tons of earth back to himself as a feudal fee for what he does for agriculture.
We came to an island which had previously looked to be steaming up stream against the current with no eﬁcect. Two country boats waited for us there. One was full of passengers going back over our course. The other was for us. The country boat seems to be the only vessel which can live amicably with the Indus, and like everything else here it is ancient. It has a high poop and a lantern bow, and naked galley slaves, choco-
late and shining with water, bring it to the steamer's side. A bit of the Greek galley crossed with the trireme; a touch of the Phoenician ship; a hint of ajunk, with all modern shipping improvements up to about the thirteenth Century of Europe, complete its features. This
one was barely wide enough to take the motor-car safely lashed to a ﬂoat. The motor-launch which pulled us (and it) to our landing was barely strong enough to tow it four miles to the further bank, while all the natives toiling along the sides of the river, towing other country boats, and their buffaloes, stopped in their toil to watch us.
Now we were in India proper. Nothing before us for ﬁfteen hundred miles but the Grand Trunk Road and historic cities which in the winter are full of tourists. This being summer, they were not full of tourists. Natives teemed. The moonlit roads at night were noisy with the tock, tock of bullock waggons passing. The dust rose in clouds under the loo. The towns were almost empty of whites, and before every office door was a shield, of sac against which native servitors dashed buckets of water.
Under every mango tree lay its proprietor or lessee on his bed, waiting for the fruit to fall. Soldiers were in barracks; lemonade sellers doing a roaring trade.
And replacing the tourists in Lahore and Mooltan, were the mourners, for the prophet Hussein, celebrating Moharrum with such religious fervour that it sometimes needed machine-guns and tanks to suppress them.
All India, indeed, appeared to be suffering from heat temper and fever and cholera, with a little plague for variety. Only the queer grey and black squirrels with their deceptive cobra marking, who really own the Indian roads, and the monkeys, to whom even churches are not sacrosanct, and the lordly peacocks, seemed unaffected. Even we, taking our daily dose of whitemetal from the
crank-case, till we were running on the phosphor-bronze of our bearings and trying every little while to crank an engine which was both massive and out of line, began to suffer. Francis, for instance, took the starting handle and battered in our radiator, and I began to wonder whether dynamite or Samsonite would be the better for a really efficient explosive job.
We struggled on, carrying my gradually mending but still thoroughly offensive foot down the Grand Trunk Road between the guards of prickly pear with which India ingeniously keeps the cattle off its shade trees. Never once was the temperature less than 108° at noon. Never once did the heat seem to ease. We drank gallons of limejuice. We were the guests of limp, hospitable Scotch regiments in shorts. (If you need to suicide
through kindness apply to the Black Watch.)
Then one day we paddled through the Chandni Chowk at Delhi and out to the new town which has been built on the site of old wars through the still shell-marked Kashmir Gate.
A curious stillness had set its ﬁngers on everything. The sky seemed to be gradually sinking on us like a roof of lead. Before the Temple of Hanuman, the monkey god, near the river, half a dozen children lay huddled together. Every railway viaduct had its crowd edging in for shade. Only the ]umna was full of life - of happy buffaloes in mud to their necks and of singing dhobis, each holding a shirt by the cuff and lustily banging it upon a rock after the lavish manner of Indian washermen generally. Not an leaf moved. You felt as if you were being slowly absorbed into a giant, steaming
lemon squeezer which would presently crush the life out of you.
The night came down with muttering thunder. A gusty wind blew along the verandas. And, immediately afterwards, We heard the plop-and-patter drumming of the rain barrage in the compound.
pulled down all over the place since I left and replaced, as by magic, with twelve-story ones.
In one of these innovations I found the Engineer, with whom this tale started.
So much of the world had run under my bridge since I saw him a year before that I expected him to have grown a white beard. But he was still as I left him when he ﬂew away from me to Paris on his way to Australia, after the night of our plannings in Park Lane when this journey was arranged.
He was busy at the moment inventing an electric hare which greyhounds could not catch and which would not goon strike. And at that pleasant and proﬁtable game I left him, to take up again the white man's burden and the daily grind for bread.
I turned uneasily in sleep, no more. At the time I was so tired that I could not realize what this meant to us, but on the next morning I knew our doom was sealed.
The monsoon had broken, rivers; were running bank high. The sky was weeping vigorously all the way down to Singapore and our Odyssey was ﬁnished-so much ﬁnished that I got to Bombay by train less than three weeks later by the skin of my teeth, before the railway lines were washed away and the North-West isolated by the ﬂoods.
A TRAVELLER COMES HOME
ON August 6th, 1927, R.M.S. "Moldavia, " a large P&O liner with a new funnel, lay in the harbour of Colombo when a young man, limping and rather pale, came on board with seven Cingalese bearers and two pieces of luggage. He wore a topi from Delhi, khaki shorts which had been made at Lahore, a shirt that came from Constantinople, a pair of Hungarian stockings and a tie which he had bought in London from an obsequious Regent Street ﬁrm.
His luggage consisted of a small green roll of canvas with grease-spots all over it, and a suitcase with only one catch and a battered exterior which proved - ﬁrstly, that even in these days a self-respecting portmanteau can travel 100,000 miles without accumulating a single hotel label; secondly, that there is still a deal of dirt left in the world.
The Traveller, having reached the top of the gangway and discreetly shielded a passing lady from ,the sight of his patches, asked the way to the second-class companion. One cannot travel ﬁrst class when one has for outﬁt only two blankets (one chewed by a jackal), two pairs of shorts, a uniform with various tears and holes in it and a Persian lamb coat weighing twelve pounds and smelling like a tallow foundry. The P. & O, Company is rather particular about such matters as dressing for dinner, and this passenger felt that it was not worth while acquiring the garb of Solomon
for an eight or nine days' voyage to the Australian coast.
Having found his cabin, he came on deck. Lovely Ceylon, the brightest and most prosperous gem in the British Empire, lay on the horizon. A coolie, very Tamil of aspect and dirty of feet, sat in the bottom of a boat below the rail and monotonously begged passengers to "please throw one bob for diving." A most exciting person to a tourist, but the traveller regarded him with a lack-lustre eye.
The passengers came back from Kandy full of the wonders of the Orient and of Colombo and Cinnamon Gardens and Lavinia Point and the Galle Face and the Temple of the Tooth, which in essence are Oriental only as the machinery of tourist commerce. Several of them told the Traveller all about it over the dinner table and he merely grunted at them before he limped up to the boat deck and sat, back against stanchion, luxuriously
watching the cool stars, and the Chatham Street light disappearing over the horizon.
At breakfast somebody told him about the marvels of Australia House and the London theatres and he was unmoved, and when they put him on to the sports committee (under protest) he seemed to imagine that his share of the work was lying in a deck chair. One of his fellow-members gently remonstrated with him about this.
"Everything seems to be dead on this ship," said the Fellow Member. "We're all pretty stale. What we need is a little excitement--just to stir us all up a bit. Now if we could get the deck quoits properly going it would make things hum. Don't you agree?"
"I do," said the Traveller fervently. And forthwith he sank back and continued the particular form of occupation in which he was engaged, which was the re-reading of the "Forsyte Saga."
Nor did he cease from this thrilling labour (even the
sighting of ﬂying ﬁsh did not move him) till the clean boronia scents of' Perth wafted out past Rothnest and the thought of the Swan, seen through golden wattle in King's Park, tempted him ashore in his own Australia.
If you had asked him-that is, me--what he appreciated most during the next fortnight, you would have been told in succession the Outer Harbour at Adelaide; the waving of friends on Princes Pier; St. Kilda Road on a spring morning; the sunlit coast of the N.S.W. Riviera (it is very like the original from the sea); the frowning cliff of the North Head of Port ]ackson with birds and the sun over it and the brief ﬁrst glimpse of a dark patch
of lawn above Balmoral, which, seen beyond a rolling Manly ferry boat, a few minutes before Sydney's thrill of skyline heaves into sight, was my old home before I went away.
"I see you are lame," said the ﬁrst casual acquaintance I met in Macquarie Street. "Been ill? I haven't seen you for some time."
So do your friends miss you after two years of wandering.
"No; been away."
"Indeed, a month off is good for all of us sometimes. Not that it suits me. I save up my leave and go home to England. That's what some of you young fellows ought to think of doing."
"You bet it is. You see Colombo and Port Said and all those out-of-the-way places and Westminster Abbey and the Tower. And Paris"---he winked--"stirs you all up and makes you realize how really far we are from things out here. There's nothing like travel to take the insular conceit out of you."
"There isn't," I said, as I dodged a motor-car.
I walked through the streets marvelling at the whiteness of the population and its lack of rags and the extraordinary manner in which six-story buildings had been