Around the World on a Bicycle V1
Thomas Stevens

Part 9 out of 9

approach of bedtime. My room is actually found to contain a towel and
an old tooth-brush; the towel has evidently not been laundried for some
time and a public toothbrush is hardly a joy-inspiring object to
contemplate; nevertheless they are evidences that the proprietor of the
caravanserai is possessed of vague, shadowy ideas of a Ferenghi's
requirements. After a person has dried his face with the slanting sunbeams
of early morning, or with his pocket-handkerchief for weeks, the bare
possibility of soap, towels, etc., awakens agreeable reflections of
coming comforts. At seven o'clock on the following morning I pull out
toward Teheran, now but six chopar-stations distant. Running parallel
with the road is the Elburz range of mountains, a lofty chain, separating
the elevated plateau of Central Persia from the moist and wooded slopes
of the Caspian Sea; south of this great dividing ridge the country is
an arid and barren waste, a desert, in fact, save where irrigation redeems
here and there a circumscribed area, and the mountain slopes are gray
and rocky. Crossing over to the northern side of the divide, one immediately
finds himself in a moist climate, and a country green almost as the
British Isles, with dense boxwood forests covering the slopes of the
mountains and hiding the foot-hills beneath an impenetrable mantle of
green. The Elburz Mountains are a portion of the great water-shed of
Central Asia, extending from the Himalayas up through Afghanistan and
Persia into the Caucasus, and they perform very much the same office for
the Caspian slope of Persia, as the Sierra Nevadas do for the Pacific
slope of California, inasmuch as they cause the moisture-laden clouds
rolling in from the sea to empty their burthens on the seaward, slopes
instead of penetrating farther into the interior.

The road continues fair wheeling, but nothing compared with the road
between Zendjan and Kasveen; it is more of an artificial highway; the
Persian government has been tinkering with it, improving it considerably
in some respects, but leaving it somewhat lumpy and unfinished generally,
and in places it is unridable from sand and loose material on the surface;
it has the appreciable merit of levelness, however, and, for Persia, is
a very creditable highway indeed. At four farsakhs from Kasveen I reach
the chapar-khana of Cawanda, where a breakfast is obtained of eggs and
tea; these two things are among the most readily obtained refreshments
in Persia. The country this morning is monotonous and uninteresting,
being for the most part a stony, level plain, sparsely covered with gray
camel-thorn shrubs. Occasionally one sees in the distance a camp of
Eliauts, one of the wandering tribes of Persia; their tents are smaller
and of an entirely different shape from the Koordish tents, partaking
more of the nature of square-built movable huts than tents; these camps
are too far off my road to justify paying them a visit, especially as I
shall probably have abundant opportunities before leaving the Shah's
dominions; but I intercept a straggling party of them crossing the road.
They have a more docile look about them than the Koords, have more the
general appearance of gypsies, and they dress but little different from
the ryots of surrounding villages.

At Kishlock, where I obtain a dinner of bread and grapes, I find the
cyclometre has registered a gain of thirty-two miles from Kasveen; it
has scarcely been an easy thirty-two miles, for I am again confronted
by a discouraging head breeze. Keaching the Shah Abbas caravanserai of
Yeng-Imam (all first-class caravanserais are called Shah Abbas caravanserais,
in deference to so many having been built throughout Persia by that
monarch) about five o'clock, I conclude to remain here over night, having
wheeled fifty-three miles. Yeng-Imam is a splendid large brick serai,
the finest I have yet seen in Persia; many travellers are putting up
here, and the place presents quite a lively appearance. In the centre
of the court-yard is a large covered spring; around this is a garden of
rose-bushes, pomegranate trees, and flowers; surrounding the garden is
a brick walk, and forming yet a larger square is the caravanserai building
itself, consisting of a one-storied brick edifice, partitioned off into
small rooms. The building is only one room deep, and each room opens
upon a sort of covered porch containing a fireplace where a fire can be
made and provisions cooked. Attached to the caravanserai, usually beneath
the massive and roomy arched gateway, is a tchai-khan and a small store
where bread, eggs, butter, fruit, charcoal, etc., are to be obtained.
The traveller hires a room which is destitute of all furniture; provides
his own bedding and cooking utensils, purchases provisions and a sufficiency
of charcoal, and proceeds to make himself comfortable. On a pinch one
can usually borrow a frying-pan or kettle of some kind, and in such
first-class caravanserais as YengImam there is sometimes one furnished
room, carpeted and provided with bedding", reserved for the accommodation
of travellers of importance.

After the customary programme of riding to allay the curiosity and
excitement of the people, I obtain bread, fruit, eggs, butter to cook
them in, and charcoal for a fire, the elements of a very good supper for
a hungry traveller. Borrowing a handleless frying-pan, I am setting about
preparing my own supper, when a respectable-looking Persian steps out
from the crowd of curious on-lookers and voluntarily takes this rather
onerous duty out of my hands. Readily obtaining my consent, he quickly
kindles a fire, and scrambles and fries the eggs. While my volunteer
cook is thus busily engaged, a company of distinguished travellers passing
along the road halt at the tchai-khan to smoke a kalian and drink tea.
The caravanserai proprietor approaches me, and winking mysteriously,
intimates that by going outside and riding for the edification of the
new arrivals I will be pretty certain to get a present of a keran (about
twenty cents). As he appears anxious to have me accommodate them, I
accordingly go out and favor them with a few turns on a level piece of
ground outside. After they have departed the proprietor covertly offers
me a half-keran piece in a manner so that everybody can observe him
attempting to give me something without seeing the amount. The wily
Persian had doubtless solicited a present from the travellers for me,
obtained, perhaps, a couple of kerans, and watching a favorable opportunity,
offers me the half-keran piece; the wily ways of these people are several
degrees more ingenious even than the dark ways and vain tricks of Bret
Harte's "Heathen Chinee." Occupying one of the rooms are two young
noblemen travelling with their mother to visit the Governor of Zendjan;
after I have eaten my supper, they invite me to their apartments for the
evening; their mother has a samovar under full headway, and a number of
hard boiled eggs. Her two hopeful sons are engaged in a drinking bout
of arrack; they are already wildly hilarious and indulging in brotherly
embraces and doubtful love-songs. Their fond mother regards them with
approving smiles as they swallow glass after glass of the raw fiery
spirit, and become gradually more intoxicated and hilarious. Instead of
checking their tippling, as a fond and prudent Ferenghi mother would
have done, this indulgent parent encourages them rather than otherwise,
and the more deeply intoxicated and hilariously happy the sons become,
the happier seems the mother. About nine o'clock they fall to weeping
tears of affection for each other and for myself, and degenerate into
such maudlin sentimentality generally, that I naturally become disgusted,
accept a parting glass of tea, and bid them good-evening.

The caravanserai-Jee assigns me the furnished chamber above referred to;
the room is found to be well carpeted, contains a mattress and an abundance
of flaming red quilts, and on a small table reposes a well-thumbed copy
of the Koran with gilt lettering and illumined pages; for these really
comfortable quarters I am charged the trifling sum of one keran.

I am now within fifty miles of Teheran, my destination until spring-time
comes around again and enables me to continue on eastward toward the
Pacific; the wheeling continues fair, and in the cool of early morning
good headway is made for several miles; as the sun peeps over the summit
of a mountain spur jutting southward
a short distance from the main Elburz Range, a wall of air comes rushing
from the east as though the sun were making strenuous exertions to usher
in the commencement of another day with a triumphant toot. Multitudes
of donkeys are encountered on the road, the omnipresent carriers of the
Persian peasantry, taking produce to the Teheran market; the only wheeled
vehicle encountered between Kasveen and Teheran is a heavy-wheeled,
cumbersome mail wagon, rattling briskly along behind four galloping
horses driven abreast, and a newly imported carriage for some notable
of the capital being dragged by hand, a distance of two hundred miles
from Resht, by a company of soldiers. Pedalling laboriously against a
stiff breeze I round the jutting mountain spur about eleven o'clock, and
the conical snow-crowned peak of Mount Demavend looms up like a beacon-light
from among the lesser heights of the Elburz Range about seventy-five
miles ahead. De-niavend is a perfect cone, some twenty thousand feet in
height, and is reputed to be the highest point of land north of the
Himalayas. From the projecting mountain spur the road makes a bee-line
across the intervening plain to the capital; a large willow-fringed
irrigating ditch now traverses the stony plain for some distance parallel
with the road, supplying the caravanserai of Shahabad and several adjacent
villages with water. Teheran itself, being situated on the level plain,
and without the tall minarets that render Turkish cities conspicuous
from a distance, leaves one undecided as to its precise location until
within a few miles of the gate; it occupies a position a dozen or more
miles south of the base of the Elburz Mountains, and is flanked on the
east by another jutting spur; to the southward is an extensive plain
sparsely dotted with villages, and the walled gardens of the wealthier

At one o'clock on the afternoon of September 30th, the sentinels at the
Kasveen gate of the Shah's capital gaze with unutterable astonishment
at the strange spectacle of a lone Ferenghi riding toward them astride
an airy wheel that glints and glitters in the bright Persian sunbeams.
They look still more wonder-stricken, and half-inclined to think me some
supernatural being, as, without dismounting, I ride beneath the gaudily
colored archway and down the suburban streets. A ride of a mile between
dead mud walls and along an open business street, and I find myself
surrounded by wondering soldiers and citizens in the great central top-
maidan, or artillery square, and shortly afterward am endeavoring to
eradicate some of the dust and soil of travel, in a room of a wretched
apology for an hotel, kept by a Frenchman, formerly a pastry-cook to the
Shah. My cyclometre has registered one thousand five hundred and seventy-six
miles from Ismidt; from Liverpool to Constantinople, where I had no
cyclometre, may be roughly estimated at two thousand five hundred, making
a total from Liverpool to Teheran of four thousand and seventy-six miles.
In the evening several young Englishmen belonging to the staff of the
Indo-European Telegraph Company came round, and re-echoing my own above-
mentioned sentiments concerning the hotel, generously invite mo to become
a member of their comfortable bachelor establishment during my stay in
Teheran. "How far do you reckon it from London to Teheran by your
telegraph line." I inquire of them during our after-supper conversation.
"Somewhere in the neighborhood of four thousand miles," is the reply.
"What does your cyclometre say?"



There is sufficient similarity between the bazaar, the mosques, the
residences, the suburban gardens, etc., of one Persian city, and the
same features of another, to justify the assertion that the description
of one is a description of them all. But the presence of the Shah and
his court; the pomp and circumstance of Eastern royalty; the foreign
ambassadors; the military; the improvements introduced from Europe; the
royal palaces of the present sovereign; the palaces and reminiscences
of former kings - all these things combine to effectually elevate Teheran
above the somewhat dreary sameness of provincial cities. A person in the
habit of taking daily strolls here and there about the city will scarcely
fail of obtaining a glimpse of the Shah, incidentally, every few days.
In this respect there is little comparison to be made between him and
the Sultan of Turkey, who never emerges from the seclusion of the palace,
except to visit the mosque, or on extraordinary occasions; he is then
driven through streets between compact lines of soldiers, so that a
glimpse of his imperial person is only to be obtained by taking considerable
trouble. Since the Shah's narrow escape from assassination at the hands
of the Baabi conspirators in 1867, he has exercised more caution than
formerly about his personal safety. Previous to that affair, it was
customary for him to ride on horseback well in advance of his body-guard;
but nowadays, he never rides in advance any farther than etiquette
requires him to, which is about the length of his horse's neck. When his
frequent outings take him beyond the city fortifications, he is generally
provided with, both saddle-horse and carriage, thus enabling him to
change from one to the other at will. The Shah is evidently not indifferent
to the fulsome flattery of the courtiers and sycophants about him, nor
insensible of the pomp and vanity of his position; nevertheless he is
not without a fair share of common-sense. Perhaps the worst that can be
said of him is, that he seems content to prostitute his own more enlightened
and progressive views to the prejudices of a bigoted and fanatical
priesthood. He seems to have a generous desire to see the country opened
up to the civilizing improvements of the West, and to give the people
an opportunity of emancipating themselves from their present deplorable
condition; but the mollahs set their faces firmly against all reform,
and the Shah evidently lacks the strength of will to override their
opposition. It was owing to this criminal weakness on his part that Baron
Eeuter's scheme of railways and commercial regeneration for the country
proved a failure. Persia is undoubtedly the worst priest-ridden country
in the world; the mollaha influence everything and everybody, from the
monarch downward, to such an extent that no progress is possible. Barring
outside interference, Persia will remain in its present wretched condition
until the advent of a monarch with sufficient force of character to
deliver the ipeople from the incubus of their present power and influence:
nothing short of a general massacre, however, will be likely to
accomplish complete deliverance. Without compromising his dignity as
"Shah-iri-shah," "The Asylum of the Universe," etc., when dealing with
his own subjects, Nasr-e-deen Shall has profited by the experiences of
his European tour to the extent of recognizing, with becoming toleration,
the democratic independence of Ferenghis, whose deportment betrays the
fact that they are not dazed by the contemplation of his greatness. The
other evening myself and a friend encountered the Shah and his crowd of
attendants on one of the streets leading to the winter palace; he was
returning to the palace in state after a visit of ceremony to some
dignitary. First came a squad of foot-runners in quaint scarlet coats,
knee-breeches, white stockings, and low shoes, and with a most fantastic
head-dress, not unlike a peacock's tail on dress-parade; each runner
carried a silver staff; they, were clearing the street and shouting their
warning for everybody to hide their faces. Behind them came a portion
of the Shah's Khajar bodyguard, well mounted, and dressed in a gray
uniform, braided with black: each of these also carries a silver staff,
and besides sword and dagger, has a gun slung at his back in a red 'baize
case. Next came the royal carriage, containing the Shah: the carriage
is somewhat like a sheriffs coach of "ye olden tyme," and is drawn by
six superb grays; mounted on the off horses are three postilions in
gorgeous scarlet liveries. Immediately behind the Shah's carriage, came
the higher dignitaries on horseback, and lastly a confused crowd of three
or four hundred horsemen. As the royal procession approached, the Persians-
one and all-either hid themselves, or backed themselves up against the
wall, and remained with heads bowed half-way to the ground until it
passed. Seeing that we had no intention of striking this very submissive
and servile attitude, first the scarlet foot-runners, and then the advance
of the Khajar guard, addressed themselves to us personally, shouting
appealingly as though very anxious about it: "Sahib. Sahib!" and motioned
for us to do as the natives were doing. These valiant guardians of the
Shah's barbaric gloriousness cling tenaciously to the belief that it is
the duty of everybody, whether Ferenghi or native, to prostrate themselves
in this manner before him, although the monarch himself has long ceased
to expect it, and is very well satisfied if the Ferenghi respectfully
doffs his hat as he goes past. Much of the nonsensical glamour and
superstitious awe that formerly surrounded the person of Oriental
potentates has been dissipated of late years by the moral influence of
European residents and travellers. But a few years ago, it was certain
death for any luckless native who failed to immediately scuttle off
somewhere out of sight, or to turn his face to the wall, whenever the
carriages of the royal ladies passed by; and Europeans generally turned
down a side street to avoid trouble when they heard the attending eunuchs
shouting "gitchin, gitchin!" (begone, begone!) down the street. But
things may be done with impunity now. that before the Shah's eye-opening
visit to Frangistan would have been punished with instant death; and
although the eunuchs shout "gitchin, gitchin!" as lustily as ever,
they are now content if people will only avert their faces respectfully
as the carriages drive past.

An eccentric Austrian gentleman once saw fit to imitate the natives in
turning their faces to the wall, and improved upon the time-honored
custom to the extent of making salaams from the back of his head. This
singular performance pleased the ladies immensely, and they reported it
to the Shah. Sending for the Austrian, the Shah made him repeat the
performance in his presence, and was so highly amused that he dismissed
him with a handsome present.

Prominent among the improvements that have been introduced in Teheran
of late, may be mentioned gas and the electric light. "Were one to make
this statement and enter into no further explanations, the impression
created would doubtless be illusive; for although the fact remains that
these things are in existence here, they could be more appropriately
placed under the heading of toys for the gratification of the Shah's
desire to gather about him some of the novel and interesting things he
had seen in Europe, than improvements made with any idea of benefiting
the condition of the city as a whole. Indeed, one might say without
exaggeration, that nothing new or beneficial is ever introduced into
Persia, except for the personal gratification or glorification of the
Shah; hence it is, that, while a few European improvements are to be
seen in Teheran, they are found nowhere else in Persia. Coal of an
inferior quality is obtained in the Elburz Mountains, near Kasveen, and
brought on the backs of camels to Teheran; and enough gas is manufactured
to supply two rows of lamps leading from the lop-maidan to the palace
front, two rows on the east side of the palace, and a dozen more in the itself. The gas is of the poorest quality, and the lamps
glimmer faintly through the gloom of a moonless evening until half-past
nine, giving about as much light, or rather making darkness about as
visible as would the same number of tallow candles; at this hour they
are extinguished, and any Persian found outside of his own house later
than this, is liable to be arrested and fined.

The electric light improvements consist of four lights, on ordinary
gas-lamp posts, in the top-maidan, and a more ornamental and pretentious
affair, immediately in front of the palace; these are only used on special
occasions. The electric lights are a never-failing source of wonder and
mystification to the common people of the city and the peasants coming
in from the country. A stroll into the maidan any evening when the four
electric lights are making the gas-lamps glimmer feebler than ever,
reveals a small crowd of natives assembled about each post, gazing
wonderingiy up at the globe, endeavoring to penetrate the secret of its
brightness, and commenting freely among themselves in this wise:
"Mashallah. Abdullah," says one, " here does all the light come from.
They put no candles in, no naphtha, no anything; where does it come from?"

"Mashallah!" replies Abdullah, "I don't know; it lights up 'biff!'
all of a sudden, without anybody putting matches to it, or going anywhere
near it; nobody knows how it comes about except Sheitan (Satan) and
Sheitan's children, the Ferenghis."

"Al-lah! it is wonderful." echoes another, "and our Shah is a wonderful
being to give us such things to look at - Allah be praised!"

All these strange innovations and incomprehensible things produce a deep
impression on the unenlightened minds of the common Persians, and helps
to deify the Shah in their imagination; for although they know these
things come from Frangistan, it seems natural for them to sing the praises
of the Shah in connection with them. They think these five electric
lights in Teheran among the wonders of the world; the glimmering gas-lamps
and the electric lights help to rivet their belief that their capital
is the most wonderful city in the world, and their Shah the greatest
monarch extant. These extreme ideas are, of course, considerably improved
upon when we leave the ranks of illiteracy; but the Persians capable of
forming anything like an intelligent comparison between themselves and
a European nation, are confined to the Shah himself, the corps diplomatique,
and a few prominent personages who have been abroad. Always on the lookout
for something to please the Shah, the news of my arrival in Teheran on
the bicycle no sooner reaches the ear of the court officials than the
monarch hears of it himself. On the seventh day after my arrival an
officer of the palace calls on behalf of the Shah, and requests that I
favor them all, by following the soldiers who will be sent to-morrow
morning, at eight o'clock, Ferenghi time, to conduct me to the palace,
where it is appointed that I am to meet the "Shah-in-shah and King of
kings," and ride with him, on the bicycle, to his summer palace at
Doshan Tepe.

"Yes, I shall, of course, be most happy to accommodate; and to be the
means of introducing to the notice of His Majesty, the wonderful iron
horse, the latest wonder from Frangistan," I reply; and the officer,
after salaaming with more than French politeness, takes his departure.
Promptly at the hour appointed the soldiers present themselves; and after
waiting a few minutes for the horses of two young Englishmen who desire
to accompany us part way, I mount the ever-ready bicycle, and together
we follow my escort along several fairly ridable streets to the office
of the foreign minister. The soldiers clear the way of pedestrians,
donkeys, camels, and horses, driving them unceremoniously to the right,
to the left, into the ditch - anywhere out of my road; for am I not for
the time being under the Shah's special protection. I am as much the
Shah's toy and plaything of the moment, as an electric light, a stop-watch,
or as the big Krupp gun, the concussion of which nearly scared the
soldiers out of their wits, by shaking down the little minars of one
of the city gates, close to which they had unwittingly discharged it on
first trial. The foreign office, like every building of pretension,
whether public or private, in the land of the Lion and the Sun, is a
substantial edifice of mud and brick, inclosing a square court-yard or
garden, in which splashing fountains play amid a wealth of vegetation
that springs, as if by waft of magician's wand, from the sandy soil of
Persia wherever water is abundantly supplied. Tall, slender poplars are
nodding in the morning breeze, the less lofty almond and pomegranate,
sheltered from the breezes by the surrounding building, rustle never a
leaf, but seem to be offering Pomona's choice products of nuts and rosy
pomegranates, with modest mien and silence; whilst beds of rare exotics,
peculiar to this sunny clime, imparts to the atmosphere of the cool
shaded garden, a pleasing sense of being perfumed. Here, by means of the
Shah's interpreter, I am introduced to Nasr-i-Mulk, the Persian foreign
minister, a kindly-faced yet business-looking old gentleman, at whose
request I mount and ride with some difficulty around the confined and
quite unsuitable foot-walks of the garden; a crowd of officials and
farrashes look on in unconcealed wonder and delight. True to their Persian
characteristic of inquisitiveness, Nasr-i-Mulk and the officers catechise
me unmercifully for some time concerning the mechanism and capabilities
of the bicycle, and about the past and future of the journey around the
world. In company with the interpreter, I now ride out to the Doshan
Tepe gate, where we are to await the arrival of the Shah. From the Doshan
Tepe gate is some four English miles of fairly good artificial road,
leading to one of the royal summer palaces and gardens. His Majesty goes
this morning to the mountains beyond Doshan Tepe on a shooting excursion,
and wishes me to ride out with his party a few miles, thus giving him a
good opportunity of seeing something of what bicycle travelling is like.
The tardy monarch keeps myself and a large crowd of attendants waiting
a full hour at the gate, ere he puts in an appearance. Among the crowd
is the Shah's chief shikaree (hunter), a grizzled old veteran, beneath
whose rifle many a forest prowler of the Caspian slope of Mazanderau has
been laid low. The shikaree, upon seeing me ride, and not being able to
comprehend how one can possibly maintain the equilibrium, exclaims:
"Oh, ayab Ingilis." (Oh, the wonderful English!) Everybody's face is
wreathed in smiles at the old shikaree's exclamation of wonderment, and
when I jokingly advise him that he ought to do his hunting for the future
on a bicycle, and again mount and ride with hands off handles to demonstrate
the possibility of shooting from the saddle, the delighted crowd of
horsemen burst out in hearty laughter, many of them exclaiming, "Bravo!
bravo!" At length the word goes round that the Shah is coming. Everybody
dismounts, and as the royal carriage drives up, every Persian bows his
head nearly to the ground, remaining in that highly submissive attitude
until the carriage halts and the Shah summons myself and the interpreter
to his side. I am the only Ferenghi in the party, my two English companions
having returned to the city, intending to rejoin me when I separate from
the Shah.

The Shah impresses one as being more intelligent than the average Persian
of the higher class; and although they are, as a nation, inordinately
inquisitive, no Persian has taken a more lively interest in the bicycle
than His Majesty seems to take, as, through his interpreter, he plys me
with all manner of questions. Among other questions he asks if the Koords
didn't molest me when coming through Koordistan without an escort; and
upon hearing the story of my adventure with the Koordish shepherds between
Ovahjik and Khoi, he seems greatly amused. Another large party of horsemen
arrived with the Shah, swelling the company to perhaps two hundred
attendants. Pedaling alongside the carriage, in the best position for
the Shah to see, we proceed toward Doshan Tepe, the crowd of horsemen
following, some behind and others careering over the stony plain through
which the Doshan Tepe highway leads. After covering about half a mile,
the Shah leaves the carriage and mounts a saddle-horse, in order to the
better "put me through some exercises." First he requests me to give
him an exhibition of speed; then I have to ride a short distance over
the rough stone-strewn plain, to demonstrate the possibility of traversing
a rough country, after which he desires to see me ride at the slowest
pace possible. All this evidently interests him not a little, and he
seems even more amused than interested, laughing quite heartily several
times as he rides alongside the bicycle. After awhile he again exchanges
for the carriage, and at four miles from the city gate we arrive at the
palace garden. Through this garden is a long, smooth walk, and here the
Shah again requests an exhibition of my speeding abilities. The garden
is traversed with a network of irrigating ditches; but I am assured there
is nothing of the kind across the pathway along which he wishes me to
ride as fast as possible. Two hundred yards from the spot where this
solemn assurance is given, it is only by a lightning-like dismount that
I avoid running into the very thing that I was assured did not exist-it
was the narrowest possible escape from what might have proved a serious

Riding back toward the advancing party, I point out my good fortune in
escaping the tumble. The Shah asks if people ever hurt themselves by
falling off bicycles; and the answer that a fall such as I would have
experienced by running full speed into the irrigating ditch, might
possibly result in broken bones, appeared to strike him as extremely
humorous; from the way he laughed I fancy the sending me flying toward
the irrigating ditch was one of the practical jokes that he is sometimes
not above indulging in. After mounting and forcing my way for a few yards
through deep, loose gravel, to satisfy his curiosity as to what could
be done in loose ground, I trundle along with him to a small menagerie
he keeps at this place. On the way he inquires about the number of
wheelmen there are in England and America; whether I am English or
American; why they don't use iron tires on bicycles instead of rubber,
and many other questions, proving the great interest aroused in him by
the advent of the first bicycle to appear in his Capital. The menagerie
consists of one cage of monkeys, about a dozen lions, and two or three
tigers and leopards. We pass along from cage to cage, and as the keeper
coaxes the animals to the bars, the Shah amuses himself by poking them
with an umbrella. It was arranged in the original programme that I should
accompany them up into their rendezvous in the foot-hills, about a mile
beyond the palace, to take breakfast with the party; but seeing the
difficulty of getting up there with the bicycle, and not caring to spoil
the favorable impression already made, by having to trundle up, I ask
permission to take my leave at this point, The request is granted, and
the interpreter returns with me to the city - thus ends my memorable
bicycle ride with the Shah of Persia.

Soon after my ride with the Shah, the Naib-i-Sultan, the Governor of
Teheran and commander-in-chief of the army, asked me to bring the bicycle
down to the military maidan, and ride for the edification of himself and
officers. Being busy at something or other when the invitation was
received, I excused myself and requested that he make another appointment.
I am in the habit of taking a constitutional spin every morning; by means
of which I have figured as an object of interest, and have been stared
at in blank amazement by full half the wonder-stricken population of the
city. The fame of my journey, the knowledge of my appearance before the
Shah, and my frequent appearance upon the streets, has had the effect
of making me one of the most conspicuous characters in the Persian
Capital; and the people have bestowed upon me the expressive and
distinguishing title of "the aspi Sahib" (horse-of-iron Sahib).

A few mornings after receiving the Naib-i-Sultan's invitation, I happened
to be wheeling past the military maidan, and attracted by the sound of
martial music inside, determined to wheel in and investigate. Perhaps
in all the world there is no finer military parade ground than in Teheran;
it consists of something over one hundred acres of perfectly level ground,
forming a square that is walled completely in by alcoved walls and
barracks, with gaily painted bala-kkanas over the gates. The delighted
guards at the gate make way and present arms, as they see me approaching;
wheeling inside, I am somewhat taken aback at finding a general review
of the whole Teheran garrison in progress; about ten thousand men are
manoeuvring in squads, companies, and regiments over the ground.

Having, from previous experience on smaller occasions, discovered that
my appearance on the incomprehensible "asp-i-awhan" would be pretty
certain to temporarily demoralize the troops and create general disorder
and inattention, I am for a moment undetermined about whether to advance
or retreat. The acclamations of delight and approval from the nearest
troopers at seeing me enter the gate, however, determines me to advance;
and I start off at a rattling pace around the square, and then take a
zig-zag course through the manoeuvring bodies of men.

The sharp-shooters lying prostrate in the dust, mechanically rise up to
gaze; forgetting their discipline, squares of soldiers change into
confused companies of inattentive men; simultaneous confusion takes place
in straight lines of marching troops, and the music of the bands degenerates
into inharmonious toots and discordant squeaks, from the inattention of
the musicians. All along the line the signal runs - not "every Persian
is expected to do his duty," but "the asp-i-awhan Sahib! the asp-i-awhan
Sahib!" the whole army is in direful commotion. In the midst of the
general confusion, up dashes an orderly, who requests that I accompany
him to the presence of the Commander-in-Chief and staff; which, of course,
I readily do, though not without certain misgivings as to my probable
reception under the circumstances. There is no occasion for misgivings,
however; the Naib-i-Sultan, instead of being displeased at the interruption
to the review, is as delighted at the appearance of "the asp-i-anhan,
as is Abdul, the drummer-boy, and he has sent for me to obtain a closer
acquaintance. After riding for their edification, and answering their
multifarious questions, I suggest to the Commander-in-Chief that he ought
to mount the Shah's favorite regiment of Cossacks on bicycles. The
suggestion causes a general laugh among the company, and he replies:
"Yes, asp-i-awhan Cossacks would look very splendid on our dress parade
here in the maidan; but for scouting over our rough Persian mountains"
- and the Naib-i-Sultan finished the sentence with a laugh and a negative
shrug of his shoulders. Two mornings after this I take a spin out on the
Doshan Tepe road, and, upon wheeling through the city gate, I find myself
in the immediate presence of another grand review, again under the
personal inspection of the Naibi-Sultan. Disturbing two grand reviews
within "two days is, of course, more than I bargained for, and I would
gladly have retreated through the gate; but coming full upon them
unexpectedly, I find it impossible to prevent the inevitable result. The
troops are drawn up in line about fifty yards from the road, and are for
the moment standing at ease, awaiting the arrival of the Shah, while the
Commander-in-chief and his staff are indulging in soothing whiffs at the
seductive kalian. The cry of "asp-i-awhan Sahib!" breaks out all along
the line, and scores of soldiers break ranks, and come running helter-skelter
toward the road, regardless of the line-officers, who frantically endeavor
to wave them back. Dashing ahead, I am soon beyond the lines, congratulating
myself that the effects of my disturbing presence is quickly over; but
ere long, I discover that there is no other ridable road back, and am
consequently compelled to pass before them again on returning. Accordingly,
I hasten to return, before the arrival of the Shah. Seeing me returning,
the Naib-i-Sultan and his staff advance to the road, with kalians in
hand, their oval faces wreathed in smiles of approbation; they extend
cordial salutations as I wheel past. The Persians seem to do little more
than play at soldiering; perhaps in no other army in the world could a
lone cycler demoralize a general review twice within two days, and then
be greeted with approving smiles and cordial salutations by the commander
and his entire staff. Through November and the early part of December,
the weather in Teheran continues, on the whole, quite agreeable, and
suitable for short-distance wheeling; but mindful of the long distance
yet before me, and the uncertainty of touching at any point where supplies
could be forwarded, I deem it advisable to take my exercise afoot, and
save my rubber tires for the more serious work of the journey to the
Pacific. There are no green lanes down which to stroll, nor emerald meads
through which to wander about the Persian capital, though what green
things there are, retain much of their greenness until the early winter
months. The fact of the existence of any green thing whatever - and even
to a greater extent, its survival through the scorching summer months -
depending almost wholly on irrigation, enables vegetation to retain its
pristine freshness almost until suddenly pounced upon and surprised by
the frost. There is no springy turf, no velvety greensward in the land
of the Lion and the Sun. No sooner does one get beyond the vegetation,
called into existence by the moisture of an irrigating ditch or a stream,
than the bare, gray surface of the desert crunches beneath one's tread.
There is an avenue leading part way from the city to the summer residence
of the English Minister at Gulaek, that conjures up memories of an English
lane; but the double row of chenars, poplars, and jujubes are kept alive
by irrigation, and all outside is verdureless desert.

Things are valued everywhere for their scarcity, and a patch of greensward
large enough to recline on, a shady tree or shrub, and a rippling rivulet
are appreciated in Persia at their proper value- appreciated more than
broad, green pastures and waving groves of shade-trees in moister climes.
Moreover, there is a peculiar charm in these bright emerald gems, set
in sombre gray, be they never so small and insignificant in themselves,
that is not to be experienced where the contrast is less marked. Scattered
here and there about the stony plain between Teheran and the Elburz foot-
hills, are many beautiful gardens-beautiful for Persia-where a pleasant
hour can be spent wandering beneath the shady avenues and among the
fountains. These gardens are simply patches redeemed from the desert
plain, supplied with irrigating water, and surrounded with a high mud
wall; leading through the garden are gravelled walks, shaded by rows of
graceful chenars. The gardens are planted with fig, pomegranate, almond
or apricot trees, grape-vines, melons, etc.; they are the property of
wealthy Teheranis who derive an income from the sale of the fruit in the
Teheran market. The ample space within the city ramparts includes a
number of these delightful retreats, some of them presenting the additional
charm of historic interest, from having been the property and, peradventure,
the favorite summer residence of a former king. Such a one is an extensive
garden in the northeast quarter of the city, in which was situated one
of the favorite summer palaces of Fatteh-ali Shah, grandfather of Nasree.

It was chiefly to satisfy my curiosity as to the truth of the current
stories regarding that merry monarch, and his. exceedingly novel methods
of entertaining himself, that I accepted the invitation of a friend to
visit this garden one afternoon. My friend is the owner of a pair of
white bull-dogs, who accompany us into the garden. After strolling about
a little, we are shown into the summer palace; into the audience room,
where we are astonished at the beautiful coloring and marvellously life-
like representations in the old Persian frescoing on the walls and
ceiling. Depicted in life-size are Fatteh-ali Shah and his courtiers,
together with the European ambassadors, painted in the days when the
Persian court was a scene of dazzling splendor. The monarch is portrayed
as an exceedingly handsome man with a full, black beard, and is covered
with a blaze of jewels that are so faithfully pictured as to appear
almost like real gems on the walls. It seems strange - almost startling -
to come in from contemplating the bare, unlovely mud walls of the city, and
find one's self amid the life-like scenes of Fatteh-ali Shah's court;
and, amid the scenes to find here and there an English face, an English
figure, dressed in the triangular cockade, the long Hessian pigtail, the
scarlet coat with fold-back tails, the knee-breeches, the yellow stockings,
the low shoes, and the long, slender rapier of a George III. courtier.
>From here we visit other rooms, glittering rooms, all mirror-work and
white stucco. Into rooms we go whose walls consist of myriads of tiny
squares of rich stained glass, worked into intricate patterns and
geometrical designs, but which are now rapidly falling into decay; and
then we go to see the most novel feature of the garden-Fatteh-ali Shah's
marble slide, or shute. Passing along a sloping, arched vault beneath a
roof of massive marble, we find ourselves in a small, subterranean court,
through which a stream of pure spring water is flowing along a white
marble channel, and where the atmosphere must be refreshingly cool even
in the middle of summer. In the centre of the little court is a round
tank about four feet deep, also of white marble, which can be filled at
pleasure with water, clear as crystal, from the running stream. Leading
from an upper chamber, and overlapping the tank, is a smooth-worn marble
slide or shute, about twenty feet long and four broad, which is pitched
at an angle that makes it imperative upon any one trusting themselves
to attempt the descent, to slide helplessly into the tank. Here, on
summer afternoons, with the chastened daylight peeping through a stained-
glass window in the roof, and carpeting the white marble floor with
rainbow hues, with the only entrance to the cool and massive marble
court, guarded by armed retainers, who while guarding it were conscious
of guarding their own precious lives, Fattehali Shah was wont to beguile
the hours away by making merry with the bewitching nymphs of his anderoon,
transforming them for the nonce into naiads.

There are no nymphs nor naiads here now, nothing but the smoothly-worn
marble shute to tell the tale of the merry past; but we obtain a realistic
idea of their sportive games by taking the bulldogs to the upper chamber,
and giving them a start down the slide. As they clutch and claw, and
look scared, and appeal mutely for assistance, only to slide gradually
down, down, down, and fall with a splash into the tank at last, we have
only to imagine the bull-dogs transformed into Fatteh-ali Shah's naiads,
to learn something of the truth of current stories. After we have slid
the dogs down a few times, and they begin to realize that they are not
sliding hopelessly down to destruction, they enjoy the sport as much as
we, or as much as the naiads perhaps did a hundred years ago. That portion
of the Teheran bazaar immediately behind the Shah's winter palace, is
visited almost daily by Europeans, and their presence excites little
comment or attention from the natives; but I had frequently heard the
remark that a Ferenghi couldn't walk through the southern, or more
exclusive native quarters, without being insulted. Determined to
investigate, I sallied forth one afternoon alone, entering the bazaar
on the east side of the palace wall, where I had entered it a dozen times

The streets outside are sloppy with melting snow, and the roofed passages
of the bazaar, being dry underfoot, are crowded with people to an unusual
extent; albeit they are pretty well crowded at any time. Most of the
dervishes in the city have been driven, by the inclemency of the weather,
to seek shelter in the bazaar; these, added to the no small number who
make the place their regular foraging ground, render them a greater
nuisance than ever. They are encountered in such numbers, that no matter
which way I turn, I am confronted by a rag-bedecked mendicant, with a
wild, haggard countenance and grotesque costume, thrusting out his gourd
alms-receiver, and muttering "huk yah huk!" each in his own peculiar
way. The mollahs, with their flowing robes, and huge white turbans,
likewise form no inconsiderable proportion of the moving throng; they
are almost without exception scrupulously neat and clean in appearance,
and their priestly costume and Pharisaical deportment gives them a certain
air of stateliness. They wear the placid expression of men so utterly
puffed up with the notion of their own sanctity, that their self-consciousness
verily scorns to shine through their skins, and to impart to them a
sleek, oily appearance. One finds himself involuntarily speculating on
how they all manage to make a living; the mollah "toils not, neither
does he spin," and almost every other person one meets is a mollah.

The bazaar is a common thoroughfare for anything and everything that can
make its way through. Donkey-riders, horsemen, and long strings of camels
and pack-mules add their disturbing influence to the general confusion;
and although hundreds of stalls are heaped up with every merchantable
thing in the city, scores of donkeys laden with similar products are
meandering about among the crowd, the venders shouting their wares with
lusty lungs. In many places the din is quite deafening, and the odors
anything but agreeable to European nostrils; but the natives are not
over fastidious. The steam issuing from the cook-shops, from coppers of
soup, pillau and sheeps'-trotters, and the less objectionable odors from
places where busy men are roasting bazaar-kabobs for hungry customers
all day long, mingle with the aromatic contributions from the spice and
tobacco shops wedged in between them.

The sleek-looking spice merchant, squatting contentedly beside a pan of
glowing embers, smoking kalian after kalian in dreamy contemplation of
his assistant waiting on customers, and also occasionally waiting on him
to the extent of replenishing the fire on the kalian, is undoubtedly the
happiest of mortals. With a kabob-shop on one hand, a sheeps'-trotter-shop
on the other, and a bakery and a fruit-stand opposite, he indulges in
tid-bits from either when he is hungry. With nothing to do but smoke
kalians amid the fragrant aroma of his own spices, and keep a dreamy eye
on what passes on around him, his Persian notions of a desirable life
cause him to regard himself as blest beyond comparison with those whose
avocations necessitate physical exertion. All the shops are open front
places, like small fruit and cigar stands in an American city, the goods
being arranged on boards or shelving, sloping down to the front, or
otherwise exposed to the best advantage, according to the nature of the
wares; the shops have no windows, but are protected at night by wooden
shutters. The piping notes of the flute, or the sing-song voice of the
troubadour or story-teller is heard behind the screened entrance of the
tchai-khans, and now and then one happens across groups of angry men
quarrelling violently over some trifling difference in a bargain; noise
and confusion everywhere reign supreme. Here the road is blocked up by
a crowd of idlers watching a trio of lutis, or buffoons, jerking a
careless and indifferent-looking baboon about with a chain to make him
dance; and a little farther along is another crowd surveying some more
lutis with a small brown bear. Both the baboon and the bear look better
fed than their owners, the contributions of the onlookers consisting
chiefly of eatables, bestowed upon the animals for the purpose of seeing
them feed. Half a mile, or thereabouts, from the entrance, an inferior
quarter of the bazaar is reached; the crowds are less dense, the noise
is not near so deafening, and the character of the shops undergoes a
change for the worse. A good many of the shops are untenanted, and a
good many others are occupied by artisans manufacturing the ruder articles
of commerce, such as horseshoes, pack-saddles, and the trappings of
camels. Such articles as kalians, che-bouks and other pipes, geivehs,
slippers and leather shoes, hats, jewelry, etc., are generally manufactured
on the premises in the better portions of the bazaar, where they are
sold. Perched in among the rude cells of industry are cook-shops and
tea-drinking establishments of an inferior grade; and the occupants of
these places eye me curiously, and call one another's attention to the
unusual circumstance of a Ferenghi passing through their quarter. After
half a mile of this, my progress is abruptly terminated by a high mud
wall, with a narrow passage leading to the right. I am now at the southern
extremity of the bazaar, and turn to retrace my footsteps. So far I have
encountered no particular disposition to insult anybody; only a little
additional rudeness and simple inquisitive-ness, such as might very
naturally have been expected. But ere I have retraced my way three hundred
yards, I meet a couple of rowdyish young men of the charuadar class; no
sooner have I passed them than one of them wantonly delivers himself of
the promised insult - a peculiar noise with the mouth; they both start off
at a run as though expecting to be pursued and punished. As I turn
partially round to look, an old pomegranate vender stops his donkey, and
with a broad grin of amusement motions me to give chase. When nearing
the more respectable quarter again, I stroll up one of the numerous
ramifications leading toward what looks, like a particularly rough and
dingy quarter. Before going many steps I am halted by a friendly-faced
sugar merchant, with "Sahib," and sundry significant shakes of the head,
signifying, if he were me, he wouldn't go up there. And thus it is in
the Teheran bazaar; where a Ferenghi will get insulted once, he will
find a dozen ready to interpose with friendly officiousness between him
and anything likely to lead to unpleasant consequences. On the whole, a
European fares better than a Persian in his national costume would in
an Occidental city, in spite of the difference between our excellent
police regulations and next to no regulations at all; he fares better
than a Chinaman does in New York. The Teheran bazaar, though nothing to
compare to the world-famous bazaar at Stamboul, is wonderfully extensive.
I was under the impression that I had been pretty much all through it
at different times; but a few days after my visit to the "slummy "
quarters, I follow a party of corpse-bearers down a passage-way hitherto
unexplored, to try and be present at a Persian funeral, and they led the
way past at least a mile of shops I had never yet seen. I followed the
corpse-bearers through the dark passages and narrow alley-ways of the
poorer native quarter, and in spite of the lowering brows of the followers,
penetrated even into the house where they washed the corpses before
burial; but here the officiating mollahs scowled with such unmistakable
displeasure, and refused to proceed in my presence, so that I am forced
to beat a retreat. The poorer native quarter of Teheran is a shapeless
jumble of mud dwellings, and ruins of the same; the streets are narrow
passages describing all manner of crooks and angles in and out among
them. As I emerge from the vaulted bazaar the sun is almost setting, and
the musicians in the bala-khanas of the palace gates are ushering in the
close of another day with discordant blasts from ancient Persian trumpets,
and belaboring hemispherical kettle- drums. These musicians are dressed
in fantastic scarlet uniforms, not unlike the costume of a fifteen century
jester, and every evening at sundown they repair to these balakhanas,
and for the space of an hour dispense the most unearthly music imaginable.
tubes of brass about five feet long, which respond to the efforts of a
strong-winded person, with a diabolical basso-profundo shriek that puts a
Newfoundland fog-horn entirely in the shade. When a dozen of these
instruments are in full blast, without any attempt at harmony, it seems to
shed a depressing shadow of barbarism over the whole city. This sunset
music is, I think, a relic of very old times, and it jars on the nerves
like the despairing howl of ancient Persia, protesting against the
innovation from the pomp and din and glamour of her old pagan glories,
to the present miserable era of mollah rule and feeble dependence for
national existence on the forbearance or jealousy of other nations.
Beneath the musicians' gate, and I emerge into a small square which is half
taken up by a square tank of water; near the tank is a large bronze cannon.
It is a huge, unwieldy piece, and a muzzle-loader, utterly useless to such
a people as the Persians, except for ornament, or perhaps to help impress
the masses with an idea of the Shah's unapproachable greatness.

It is the special hour of prayer, and in every direction may be observed
men, halting in whatever they may be doing, and kneeling down on some
outer garment taken off for the purpose, repeatedly touch their foreheads
to the ground, bending in the direction of Mecca. Passing beneath the
second musicians' gate, I reach the artillery square just in time to see
a company of army buglers formed in line at one end, and a company of
musketeers at the other. As these more modern trumpeters proceed to toot,
the company of musketeers opposite present arms, and then the music of
the new buglers, and the hoarse, fog-horn-like blasts of the fantastic
tooters on the bala-khanas dies away together in a concerted effort that
would do credit to a troop of wild elephants.

When the noisy trumpeting ceases, the ordinary noises round about seem
like solemn silence in comparison, and above this comparative silence
can be heard the voices of men here and there over the city, calling out
"Al-lah-il-All-ah; Ali Ak-bar." (God is greatest; there is no god but
one God! etc.) with stentorian voices. The men are perched on the roofs
of the mosques, and on noblemen's walls and houses; the Shah has a strong-
voiced muezzin that can be heard above all the others. The sun has just
set; I can see the snowy cone of Mount Demavend, peeping apparently over
the high barrack walls; it has just taken on a distinctive roseate tint,
as it oftentimes does at sunset; the reason whereof becomes at once
apparent upon turning toward the west, for the whole western sky is aglow
with a gorgeous sunset-a sunset that paints the horizon a blood red, and
spreads a warm, rich glow over half the heavens.

The moon will be full to-night, and a far lovelier picture even than the
glorious sunset and the rose-tinted mountain, awaits anyone curious
enough to come out-doors and look. The Persian moonlight seems capable
of surrounding the most commonplace objects with a halo of beauty, and
of blending things that are nothing in themselves, into scenes of such
transcendental loveliness that the mere casual contemplation of them
sends a thrill of pleasure coursing through the system. There is no city
of the same size (180,000) in England or America, but can boast of
buildings infinitely superior to anything in Teheran; what trees there
are in and about the city are nothing compared to what we are used to
having about us; and although the gates with their short minars and their
gaudy facings are certainly unique, they suffer greatly from a close
investigation. Nevertheless, persons happening for the first time in the
vicinity of one of these gates on a calm moonlight night, and perchance
descrying "fair Luna "through one of the arches or between the minars,
will most likely find themselves transfixed with astonishment at the
marvellous beauty of the scene presented. By repairing to the artillery
square, or to the short street between the square and the palace front,
on a moonlight night, one can experience a new sense of nature's loveliness;
the soft, chastening light of the Persian moon converts the gaudy gates,
the dead mud-walls, the spraggling trees, and the background of snowy
mountains nine miles away, into a picture that will photograph itself
on one's memory forever. On the way home I meet one of the lady missionaries -
which reminds me that I ought to mention something about the peculiar
position of a Ferenghi lady in these Mohammedan countries, where it is
considered highly improper for a woman to expose her face in public. The
Persian lady on the streets is enveloped in a shroud-like garment that
transforms her into a shapeless and ungraceful-looking bundle of dark-blue
cotton stuff. This garment covers head and everything except the face;
over the face is worn a white veil of ordinary sheeting, and opposite
the eyes is inserted an oblong peep-hole of open needle-work, resembling
a piece of perforated card-board. Not even a glimpse of the eye is
visible, unless the lady happens to be handsome and coquettishly inclined;
she will then manage to grant you a momentary peep at her face; but a
wise and discreet Persian lady wouldn't let you see her face on the
street - no, not for worlds and worlds!

The European lady with her uncovered face is a conundrum and an object
of intense curiosity, even in Teheran at the present day; and in provincial
cities, the wife of the lone consul or telegraph employee finds it highly
convenient to adopt the native costume, face-covering included, when
venturing abroad. Here, in the capital, the wives and daughters of foreign
ministers, European officers and telegraphists, have made uncovered
female faces tolerably familiar to the natives; but they cannot quite
understand but that there is something highly indecorous about it, and
the more unenlightened Persians doubtless regard them as quite bold and
forward creatures. Armenian women conceal their faces almost as completely
as do the Persian, when they walk abroad; by so doing they avoid unpleasant
criticism, and the rude, inquisitive gaze of the Persian men. Although
the Persian readily recognizes the fact that a Sahib's wife or sister
must be a superior person to an Armenian female, she is as much an object
of interest to him when she appears with her face uncovered on the street,
as his own wives in their highly sensational in-door costumes would be
to some of us. In order to establish herself in the estimation of the
average Persian, as all that a woman ought to be, the European lady would
have to conceal her face and cover her shapely, tight-fitting dress with
an inelegant, loose mantle, whenever she ventured outside her own doors.
With something of a penchant for undertaking things never before
accomplished, I proposed one morning to take a walk around the ramparts
that encompass the Persian capital. The question arose as to the distance.
Ali Akbar, the head fan-ash, said it was six farsakhs (about twenty-four
miles); Meshedi Ab-dul said it was more. From the well-known Persian
characteristic of exaggerating things, we concluded from this that perhaps
it might be fifteen miles; and on this basis Mr. Meyrick, of the Indo-
European Telegraph staff, agreed to bear me company. The ramparts consist
of the earth excavated from a ditch some forty feet wide by twenty deep,
banked up on the inner side of the ditch; and on top of this bank it is
our purpose to encompass the city.

Eight o'clock on the appointed morning finds us on the ramparts at the
Gulaek Gate, on the north side of the city. A cold breeze is blowing off
the snowy mountains to the northeast, and we decide to commence our novel
walk toward the west. Following the zigzag configuration of the ramparts,
we find it at first somewhat rough and stony to the feet; on our right
we look down into the broad ditch, and beyond, over the sloping plain,
our eyes follow the long, even rows of kanaat mounds stretching away to
the rolling foothills; towering skyward in the background, but eight
miles away, are the snowy masses of the Elburz Range. Forty miles away,
at our back, the conical peak of Demavend peeps, white, spectral, and
cold, above a bank of snow-clouds that are piled motionless against its
giant sides, as though walling it completely off from the lower world.
On our left lies the city, a curious conglomeration of dead mud-walls,
flat-roofed houses, and poplar-peopled gardens. A thin haze of smoke
hovers immediately above the streets, through which are visible the
minarets and domes of the mosques, the square, illumined towers of the
Shah's anderoon, the monster skeleton dome of the canvas theatre, beneath
which the Shah gives once a year the royal tazzia (representation of the
tragedy of "Hussein and Hassan"), and the tall chimney of the arsenal,
from which a column of black smoke is issuing. Away in the distance, far
beyond the confines of the city, to the southward, glittering like a
mirror in the morning sun, is seen the dome of the great mosque at
Shahabdullahzeen, said to be roofed with plates of pure gold. As we pass
by we can see inside the walls of the English Legation grounds; a
magnificent garden of shady avenues, asphalt walks, and dark-green banks
of English ivy that trail over the ground and climb half-way up the
trunks of the trees. A square-turreted clock-tower and a building that
resembles some old ancestral manor, imparts to "the finest piece of
property in Teheran" a home-like appearance; the representative of Her
Majesty's Government, separated from the outer world by a twenty-four-foot
brick wall, might well imagine himself within an hour's ride of London.

Beyond the third gate, the character of the soil changes from the stone-
strewn gravel of the northern side, to red stoneless earth, and both
inside and outside the ramparts fields of winter wheat and hardy vegetables
form a refreshing relief from the barren character of the surface
generally. The Ispahan gate, on the southern side, appears the busiest
and most important entrance to the city; by this gate enter the caravans
from Bushire, bringing English goods, from Bagdad, Ispahan, Tezd, and
all the cities of the southern provinces. Numbers of caravans are camped
in the vicinity of the gate, completing their arrangements for entering
the city or departing for some distant commercial centre; many of the
waiting camels arc kneeling beneath their heavy loads and quietly feeding.
They are kneeling in small, compact circles, a dozen camels in a circle
with their heads facing inward. In the centre is placed a pile of chopped
straw; as each camel ducks his head and takes a mouthful, and then
elevates his head again while munching it with great gusto, wearing
meanwhile an expression of intense satisfaction mingled with timidity,
as though he thinks the enjoyment too good to last long, they look as
cosey and fussy as a gathering of Puritanical grand-dames drinking tea
and gossiping over the latest news. Within a mile of the Ispahan gate
are two other gates, and between them is an area devoted entirely to the
brick-making industry. Here among the clay-pits and abandoned kilns we
obtain a momentary glimpse of a jackal, drinking from a ditch. He slinks
off out of sight among the caves and ruins, as though conscious of acting
an ungenerous part in seeking his living in a city already full of gaunt,
half-starved pariahs, who pass their lives in wandering listlessly and
hungrily about for stray morsels of offal. Several of these pariahs have
been so unfortunate as to get down into the rampart ditch; we can see
the places where they have repeatedly made frantic rushes for liberty
up the almost perpendicular escarp, only to fall helplessly back to the
bottom of their roofless dungeon, where they will gradually starve to
death. The natives down in this part of the city greet us with curious
looks; they are wondering at the sight of two Ferenghis promenading the
ramparts, far away from the European quarter; we can hear them making
remarks to that effect, and calling one another's attention. The sun
gets warm, although it is January, as we pass the Doshan Tepe and the
Meshed gates, remarking as we go past that the Shah's summer palace on
the hill to the east compares favorably in whiteness with the snow on
the neighboring mountains. As we again reach the Gulaek gate and descend
from the ramparts at the place we started, the clock in the English
Legation tower strikes twelve.

"How many miles do you call it." asks my companion. "Just about twelve
miles," I reply; "what do you make it?" "That's about it," he agrees;
"twelve miles round, and eleven gates. We have walked or climbed over
the archway of eight of the gates; and at the other three we had to climb
off the ramparts and on again." As far as can be learned, this is the
first time any Ferenghi has walked clear around the ramparts of Teheran.
It is nothing worth boasting about; only a little tramp of a dozen miles,
and there is little of anything new to be seen. All around the outside
is the level plain, verdureless, except an occasional cultivated field,
and the orchards of the tributary villages scattered here and there. In
certain quarters of Teheran one happens across a few remaining families
of guebres, or fire-worshippers; remnant representatives of the ancient
Parsee religion, whose devotees bestowed their strange devotional offerings
upon the fires whose devouring flames they constantly fed, and never
allowed to be extinguished. These people are interesting as having kept
their heads above the overwhelming flood of Mohammedanism that swept
over their country, and clung to their ancient belief through thick and
thin - or, at all events, to have steadfastly refused to embrace any other.
Little evidence of their religion remains in Persia at the present day,
except their "towers of silence" and the ruins of their old fire-temples.
These latter were built chiefly of soft adobe bricks, and after the lapse
of centuries, are nothing more than shapeless reminders of the past. A
few miles southeast of Teheran, in a desolate, unfrequented spot, is the
guebre "tower of silence," where they dispose of their dead. On top of
the tower is a kind of balcony with an open grated floor; on this the
naked corpses are placed until the carrion crows and the vultures pick
the skeleton perfectly clean; the dry bones are then cast into a common
receptacle in the tower. The guebre communities of Persia are too
impecunious or too indifferent to keep up the ever-burning-fires nowadays;
the fires of Zoroaster, which in olden and more prosperous times were
fed with fuel night and day, are now extinguished forever, and the
scattering survivors of this ancient form of worship form a unique item
in the sum total of the population of Persia.

The head-quarters - if they can be said to have any head-quarters - of the
Persian guebres are at Yezd, a city that is but little known to Europeans,
and which is all but isolated from the remainder of the country by the
great central desert. One great result of this geographical isolation
is to be observed to-day, in the fact that the guebres of Yezd held their
own against the unsparing sword of Islam better than they did in more
accessible quarters; consequently they are found in greater numbers there
now than in other Persian cities. Curiously enough, the chief occupation -
one might say the sole occupation - of the guebres throughout Persia, is
taking care of the suburban gardens and premises of wealthy people. For
this purpose I am told guebre families are in such demand, that if they were
sufficiently numerous to go around, there would be scarcely a piece of
valuable garden property in all Persia without a family of guebres in
charge of it. They are said to be far more honest and trustworthy than
the Persians, who, as Shiite Mohammedans, consider themselves the holiest
people on earth; or the Armenians, who hug the flattering unction of
being Christians and not Mohammedans to their souls, and expect all
Christendom to regard them benignly on that account. It is doubtless
owing to this invaluable trait of their character, that the guebres have
naturally drifted to their level of guardians over the private property
of their wealthy neighbors.

The costume of the guebre female consists of Turkish trousers with very
loose, baggy legs, the material of which is usually calico print, and a
mantle of similar material is wrapped about the head and body. Unlike
her Mohammedan neighbor, she 'makes no pretence of concealing her features;
her face is usually a picture of pleasantness and good-nature rather
than strikingly handsome or passively beautiful, as is the face of the
Persian or Armenian belle. The costume of the men differs but little
from the ordinary costume of the lower-class Persians. Like all the
people in these Mohammedan countries, who realize the weakness of their
position as a small body among a fanatical population, the Teheran guebres
have long been accustomed to consider themselves as under the protecting
shadow of the English Legation; whenever they meet a "Sahib" on the
street, they seem to expect a nod of recognition.

Among the people who awaken special interest in Europeans here, may be
mentioned Ayoob Khan, and his little retinue of attendants, who may be
seen on the streets almost any day. Ayoob Khan is in exile here at Teheran
in accordance with some mutual arrangement between the English and Persian
governments. On almost any afternoon, about four o'clock, he may be met
with riding a fine, large chestnut stallion, accompanied by another
Afghan on an iron gray. I have never seen them riding faster than a walk,
and they are almost always accompanied by four foot-runners, also Afghans,
two of whom walk behind their chieftain and two before. These runners
carry stout staves with which to warn off mendicants, and with a view
to making it uncomfortable for any irrepressible Persian rowdy who should
offer any insults. Both Ayoob Khan and his attendants retain their
national costume, the main distinguishing features being a huge turban
with about two feet of the broad band left dangling down behind; besides
this, they wear white cotton pantalettes even in mid-winter. They wear
European shoes and overcoats, as though they had profited by their
intercourse with Anglo-Indians to the extent of at least shoes and coat.
The foot-runners have their legs below the knee bound tightly with strips
of dark felt. Judging from outward appearances, Ayoob Khan wears his
exile lightly, for his rotund countenance looks pleasant always, and I
have never yet met him when he was not chatting gayly with his companion.
Of the interesting scenes and characters to be seen every day on the
streets of Teheran, their name is legion. The peregrinating tchai-venders,
who, with their little cabinet of tea and sugar in one hand, and samovar
with live charcoals in the other, wander about the city picking up stray
customers, for whom they are prepared to make a glass of hot tea at one
minute's notice; the scores of weird-looking mendicants and dervishes
with their highly fantastic costumes, assailing you with " huk, yah huk,"
the barbers shaving the heads of their customers on the public streets -
shaving their pates clean, save little tufts to enable Mohammed to pull
them up to Paradise; and many others the description and enumeration of
which would, of themselves, fill a good-sized volume.


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