The Armenian Archbishop in Persia, who resides at Isfahan, is always a Russian subject from the monastery of Etchmiadzin, near Erivan, the seat of the Catholicus, the primate of the orthodox Armenian Church, and this doubtless has its effect in suggesting protection and security. France also for a longtime past has steadily asserted the right to protect the Catholic Armenian Church in Persia, and once a year the French Minister at Tehran, with the Legation secretaries, attends Divine service in the chapel there in full diplomatic dress and state, to show the fact and force of the support which the Church enjoys. France similarly takes Catholic institutions in Turkey under her protection, and appears to be generally the Catholic champion in the East.
The careful observer in Tehran cannot fail to be struck with the religious tolerance shown to non-Mohammedan Persian subjects in the 'shadow of the Shah.' Amongst these, other than Christians, may be mentioned the Guebres (Parsees) and the Jews. Persecuted in the provinces, they receive liberal treatment in Tehran, and it is to be hoped that the late Shah's gracious example will in time be followed by his Majesty's provincial governors.
The Babi sect of Mohammedans, regarded as seceders from Islam, but who assert their claim to be only the advocates for Mohammedan Church reform, are at last better understood and more leniently treated—certainly at Tehran. They have long been persecuted and punished in the cruellest fashion, even to torture and death, under the belief that they were a dangerous body which aimed at the subversion of the State as well as the Church. But better counsels now prevail, to show that the time has come to cease from persecuting these sectarians, who, at all events in the present day, show no hostility to the Government; and the Government has probably discovered the truth of the Babi saying, that one martyr makes many proselytes.
The Babis aim at attracting to their ranks the intelligent and the learned, in preference to the ignorant and unlearned; and it is believed that now sufficient education whereby to read and write is absolutely necessary for membership. They wish to convince by example, and not by force, and this accounts for the absence of active resistance to the persecutions from which they often suffer most grievously. They say that they desire to return to original Mohammedanism, as it first came from the Arabian desert, pure and simple, and free from the harsh intolerance and arrogance which killed the liberal spirit in which it was conceived. They deplore the evil passions and fierce animosities engendered by religious differences; they tolerate all creeds having a common end for good, and seek to soften the hearts of those who persecute them, by showing that they but wish for peace on earth and goodwill to all men. They have a widespread organization throughout Persia, and many learned Moullas and Syuds have secretly joined them. They have always been firm in their faith, even unto death, rejecting the offer of life in return for a declaration against the Bab, him whom they regard as the messenger of good tidings.
An acknowledged authority on the Bab, the founder of this creed, has written that he 'directed the thoughts and hopes of his disciples to this world, not to an unseen world.' From this it was inferred he did not believe in a future state, nor in anything beyond this life. Of course, among the followers of a new faith, liberal and broad in its views, continued fresh developments of belief must be expected; and with reference to the idea that the Babis think not of a hereafter, I was told that they believe in the re-incarnation of the soul, the good after death returning to life and happiness, the bad to unhappiness. A Babi, in speaking of individual pre-existence, said to me, 'You believe in a future state; why, then, should you not believe in a pre-existent state? Eternity is without beginning and without end,' This idea of re-incarnation, generally affecting all Babis, is, of course, an extension of the original belief regarding the re-incarnation of the Bab, and the eighteen disciple-prophets who compose the sacred college of the sect.
Some time ago signs began to appear of a general feeling that the persecution of the Babis must cease. Many in high places see this, and probably say it, and their sympathy becomes known. At one time a high Mohammedan Church dignitary speaks regarding tolerance and progress in a manner which seems to mean that he sees no great harm in the new sect. Then a soldier, high in power and trust, refers to the massacres of Babis in 1890 and 1891 as not only cruel acts, but as acts of insane folly, 'for,' he said, 'to kill a Babi is like cutting down a chenar-tree, from the root of which many stems spring up, and one becomes many.' Then a Moulla, speaking of the necessity of a more humane treatment of the Babis, and others of adverse creeds, says that he looks for the time when all conditions of men will be equally treated, and all creeds and classes be alike before the law. Omar Khayyam, the astronomer-poet of Persia, who wrote about eight hundred years ago, gave open expression to the same liberal-minded views, urging tolerance and freedom for all religious creeds and classes.
The last murderous mob attack led by Moullas against the Babis occurred at Yezd in April, 1891. It was probably an outcome of the Babi massacre which had taken place at Isfahan the previous year, and which, owing to the fiercely hostile attitude of the priests, was allowed to pass unnoticed by any strong public condemnation. On that occasion a party of the sect, pursued by an excited and blood-thirsty mob, claimed the 'sanctuary' of foreign protection in the office of the Indo-European Telegraph Company, and found asylum there. Negotiations were opened with the Governor of the town, who arranged for a safe conduct to their homes under military escort. Trusting to this, the refugees quitted the telegraph-office, but had not proceeded far before they were beset by a furious crowd, and as the escort offered no effectual resistance, the unfortunates were murdered in an atrociously cruel manner. The Shah's anger was great on hearing of this shameful treachery, but as the Governor pleaded powerlessness from want of troops, and helplessness before the fanaticism of the frenzied mob led by Moullas, the matter was allowed to drop.
Considering the great numbers of Babis all over Persia, and the ease with which membership can be proved, it strikes many observers as strange that murderous outbreaks against them are not more frequent. The explanation is that, besides the accepted Babis, there is a vast number of close sympathizers, between whom and the declared members of the sect there is but one step, and a continued strong persecution would drive them into the ranks of the oppressed. It might then be found that the majority was with the Babis, and this fear is a fact which, irrespective of other arguments, enables the influential and liberal-minded Moullas to control their headstrong and over-zealous brethren.
The isolated outbreaks that do occur are generally produced by personal animosity and greed of gain. Just as has been known in other countries where a proscribed religion was practised in secret, and protection against persecution and informers secured by means of money, so in many places the Babis have made friends in this manner out of enemies. Individuals sometimes are troubled by the needy and unscrupulous who affect an excess of religious zeal, but these desist on their terms being met. Occasionally in a settlement of bazaar trading-accounts, the debtor, who is a Mohammedan, being pressed by his creditor, whom he knows to be a Babi, threatens to denounce him publicly in order to avoid payment.
I witnessed an instance of 'sanctuary' asylum being claimed in the stable of one of the foreign legations at Tehran by a well-known Persian merchant, a Babi, who fled for his life before the bazaar ruffians to whom his debtor had denounced him, urging them to smite and slay the heretic. It was believed that the practice of black-mailing the Babis was such a well-known successful one at Yezd that some of the low Mohammedans of the town tried to share in the profits and were disappointed. This, it was said, led to the massacre which occurred there in April, 1891.
The Babis, notwithstanding divergence of opinion on many points, yet attend the mosques and the Moulla teachings, and comply with all the outward forms of religion, in order to avert the anger which continued absence from the congregation would draw upon them from hostile and bigoted neighbours. Two of them were suddenly taxed in the Musjid with holding heterodox opinions, and were then accused of being Babis. The discussion was carried outside and into the bazaar, the accusers loudly reviling and threatening them. They were poor, and were thus unable to find protectors at once. When being pressed hard by an excited mob which had collected on the scene, an over-zealous friend came to their aid, and said, 'Well, if they are Babis, what harm have they done to anyone?'
On this the tumult began, and the ferocity of the fanatical crowd rose to blood-heat. The sympathizer was seized, and as the gathering grew, the opportunity to gratify private animosity and satisfy opposing interests was taken advantage of, and three other Babis were added, making six in all who were dragged before the Governor to be condemned as members of an accursed sect. The Moullas urged them to save their lives by cursing the Bab, but they all refused. The wives and children of some of them were sent for so that their feelings might be worked upon to renounce their creed and live, but this had no effect in shaking their resolution. When told that death awaited them, they replied that they would soon live again. When argued with on this point of their belief, they merely said that they could not say how it was to be, but they knew it would be so. They were then given over to the cruel mob, and were hacked to death, firm in their faith to the last.
The temptation to make away with others in a similar manner produced two more victims during the night, but these the Governor tried to save by keeping them in custody. The brutal mob, however, howled for their blood, and made such an uproar that the weak Governor, a youth of eighteen, surrendered them to a cruel death, as he had done the others. These two, like their brethren, refused to curse the Bab and live.
The Moullas have ever been defeated in their efforts to produce recantation from a Babi, and it is this remarkable steadfastness in their faith which has carried conviction into the hearts of many that the sect is bound to triumph in the end. The thoughtful say admiringly of them, as the Romans said of the Christians, whom they in vain doomed to death under every form of terror, 'What manner of men are these, who face a dreadful death fearlessly to hold fast to their faith?' An instance is mentioned of a Babi who did recant in order to escape the martyr's death, but he afterwards returned to his faith, and suffered calmly the death he had feared before.
The Moullas who led the Yezd massacre desired to associate the whole town in the crime, and called for the illumination of the bazaars in token of public joy. The order for this was given, but the Governor was warned in time to issue a countermand. It was found by the state of public feeling, and told to those in authority, who were able to realize the danger, that, as one-half or more of the shopkeepers were Babis, they would not have illuminated, for to have done so would imply approval of the murders and denial of their faith. Their determination to refuse to join in the demonstration of joy would have roused further mob fury, and the whole body of Babis, impelled by the instinct of self-preservation, would have risen to defend themselves.
The late Shah was deeply troubled and pained on hearing of this cruel massacre, and removed the Governor, who was his own grandson (being the eldest son of his Royal Highness the Zil-es-Sultan), notwithstanding the excuses urged in his favour, that the priestly power which roused the mob was too strong for him to act and prevent the murders. It is probable that the Government is assured of the peaceful nature of the Babi movement as it now exists; and with the orders to put an end to persecution, supported in some degree by popular feeling, we may hope to hear no more of such crimes as were committed at Isfahan and Yezd in 1890 and 1891.
The Babi reform manifests an important advance upon all previous modern Oriental systems in its treatment of woman. Polygamy and concubinage are forbidden, the use of the veil is discouraged, and the equality of the sexes is so thoroughly recognised that one, at least, of the nineteen sovereign prophets must always be a female. This is a return to the position of woman in early Persia, of which Malcolm speaks when he says that Quintus Curtius told of Alexander not seating himself in the presence of Sisygambis till told to do so by that matron, because it was not the custom in Persia for sons to sit in presence of their mother. This anecdote is quoted to show the great respect in which the female sex were held in Persia at the time of Alexander's invasion, and which also was regarded as one of the principal causes of the progress the country had made in civilization. The Parsees to this day conduct themselves on somewhat similar lines, and though we have not the opportunities of judging of maternal respect which were allowed to the Greeks, yet the fact of the same custom being shown in a father's presence at the present time seems to point to the rule of good manners to mothers being yet observed. And we know, from what happened on the death of Mohamed Shah in 1848, that a capable woman is allowed by public opinion to exercise openly a powerful influence in affairs of State at a critical time when wise counsels are required. The Queen-mother at that time became the president of the State Council, and cleverly succeeded in conciliating adverse parties and strengthening the Government, till the position of the young Shah, the late Sovereign, was made secure.
For a long time Russia and England were regarded as the only great Powers really interested in the future of Persia; but within the last few years it has been observed that Turkey, in showing an intention to consolidate her power in the Baghdad and Erzeroum pashaliks, was likely to be in a position to renew old claims on the Persian border. France has also lately increased her interest in Persia, and Germany has now entered the field of enterprise there in the practical manner of improving the road from Khani Kin, on the Turkish frontier, to Tehran, connecting it with a road from Baghdad. It will probably be found that this road-scheme belongs to the company under German auspices who are now constructing a railway which is ultimately to connect Baghdad with the Bosphorus, and part of which is already working. The trunk-line passes by Angora, Kaisarieh, Diarbekr, Mardin, and Mosul; and a loop-line leaves it at Eski Shehr, which, going by Konia, Marasch, and Orfa, rejoins it at Diarbekr.
There was an idea that, as Konia is a most promising field for the production of exports, the Smyrna lines competed so eagerly for the concession to extend there that the Porte was enabled to make terms with the Anatolian Railway Company (to which I have alluded) for the extension to Baghdad, which strategically is of great importance. It was said that the strong competition placed the Government in the position of the man in the Eastern story who went to the bazaar to sell an old camel, and a young cat of rare beauty. The cat was shown off sitting on the camel, and was desired by many purchasers; but there was no bid for the camel. The competition for the cat ran high, and then the owner announced that the one could not be sold without the other, on which the camel was bought with the cat. But as a matter of fact there was no opening for competition for the Konia branch. The Anatolian Railway had preferential rights for what is called the southern or loop line, which I have mentioned as passing through Konia, and rejoining the main or northern line at Diarbekr. They also have preferential rights of extension to Baghdad, and they mean to carry the line there.
The Smyrna Aidin railway has lately had a considerable improvement in its traffic, from the barley of Asia Minor being in increased demand in addition to its wheat. This means that the material for the beer as well as the bread of the masses elsewhere is found to be abundant and cheap there, and the extension of railway communication in those regions will most probably increase the supply and demand. The same trade in barley has lately sprung up in Southern Persia and Turkish Arabia, and for some time past, while the low price of wheat discouraged the existing wheat trade there, it has been found profitable to export barley from the Gulf ports. Barley is the cheapest grain in Persia, where it is grown for home consumption only, being the universal food for horses. Owing to want of care with the seed, and the close vicinity of crops, the wheat was often so mixed with barley as to reduce the price considerably, and the question of mixture and reduction was always a very stormy one. When I was at Ahwaz, on the Karun, in 1890, I saw a machine at work separating the grains, and the Arab owners waiting to take away the unsaleable barley, the wheat being bought for export by a European firm there which owned the machine. The Arab sellers probably now move to the other side of the machine to carry away the unsaleable wheat, the barley being bought for export owing to the turn of trade.
The German group that has obtained the Persian road concession has also taken up the old project of an extension of the Tehran tramways to the villages on the slopes of the Shimran range, all within a distance of ten miles from the town. The Court, the city notables, and the foreign legations, with everyone who desires to be fashionable, and can afford the change, reside there during the warm months—June, July, August and September. The whole place may be described as the summer suburb of the capital, and there is great going to and fro.
I have already mentioned the Russian road now under construction from the Caspian Sea base to Kasvin, with the object of enabling Russian trade to command more thoroughly the Tehran market. The total distance from the coast to the capital is two hundred miles. There is an old-established caravan track over easy country, from Kasvin to Hamadan in the south—west, distant about one hundred and fifty miles. It has lately been announced that the Russian Road Company has obtained a concession to convert this track into a cart-road in continuation of that from Resht. It is seen that with improved communication Russian trade may be made to compete successfully at Hamadan, which is only about fifty miles further from the Caspian Sea base than Tehran, and there will also be the advantage of a return trade in cotton from Central Persia, as Armenian merchants now export it to Russia from as far South as Isfahan and Yezd. The German road from Baghdad to Tehran will be met at Hamadan.
Kermanshah and Hamadan, through which the German road will pass, are both busy centres of trade in districts rich in corn, wool, and wine. They are also meeting-points of the great and ever-flowing streams of pilgrims to Kerbela via Baghdad, said to number annually about one hundred thousand. This has been a popular pilgrim route, as well as trade route, for centuries, and with greater facilities on an improved road the traffic is certain to increase.
It is said that the alignment of the Russian road from Resht is to be made in view of a railway in the future. The same will probably be done in the Hamadan extension, and it is believed that the German road will be similarly planned. All this would mean that behind the concessions are further promises for the time when railway construction comes. Looking into the dim distance, the eye of faith and hope may see the fulfilment of railway communication from India to Europe by a connection between the Quetta or Indus Valley line and Kermanshah.
This brings us to the agreement of 1890 between Persia and Russia to shut out railways till the end of the century. This agreement, when made known, was regarded as proof of a somewhat barbarian policy on the part of Russia, unwilling or unable herself to assist in opening up Persia and improving the condition of the country. But there is some reason for the idea that the Shah himself was ready to meet the Russian request, so as to keep back the railway which he feared would soon connect his capital with the Caucasus. There was much railway talk in Persia in 1890, and Russia knew that it would take quite ten years to complete her railway system up to the Northern frontiers of Persia and Afghanistan. The railway now being made from Tiflis to Alexandropol and Kars will probably send out a line down the fertile valley of the Aras to Julfa, ready for extension across the Persian frontier to Tabriz, and a branch may be pushed forward from Doshakh, or Keribent, on the Trans-Caspian railway, to Sarakhs, where Russia, Persia, and Afghanistan meet, to facilitate trade with Herat as well as Meshed. In the meanwhile also the cart-roads, ready for railway purposes if wanted, from the Caspian Sea base to Kasvin, Tehran, and Hamadan, will be completed.
Russia insisted on regarding the opening of the Karun to the navigation of the world as a diplomatic victory for England, and a distinct concession to British commerce, which is predominant in the South. She therefore thought out well what to get from the Shah in return, to favour her commercial policy in the North, and the ten years' prohibition of railways was the result. Russia desires commercial predominance in Persia just as England does, and she will use all the influence which her dominating close neighbourhood gives to obtain the utmost favour and facilities for her trade.
While Russia and England were thus engaged in strong commercial rivalry, Germany unexpectedly made her appearance in the Western region of Central Persia, where their competition meets. Nor has Persia been idle in trading enterprise; her merchants are not only aiming at getting more exclusively into their own hands the interior commerce of the country, but they have established direct relations with firms in foreign countries, and now work in active competition with the European houses which in old days had almost all the export and import trade in their own hands. The introduction of the Imperial Bank of Persia has given an impetus to this new spirit of native enterprise by affording facilities which before were not available on the same favourable terms. The Nasiri Company, a mercantile corporation of Persians, was formed in 1889 to trade on the Karun, and it commenced operations with two small steamers. Later, a third steamer was added, and they are now negotiating for the purchase of a fourth. They have a horse tramway, about one and a half miles long, to facilitate the necessary transhipment of cargo between the upper and lower streams, where the Ahwaz Rapids break the river navigation. This trading corporation has strong support, and the Persian Government is earnest in giving it every assistance, so that it may develop into an effectual agency for the revival of the prosperity which made the Karun Valley in old times what the Nile Valley is now.
Messrs. Lynch Brothers also run a large steamer on the Lower Karun in connection with a 'stern-wheeler' (Nile boat pattern) on the upper stream, and between them and the Nasiri Company a regular and quick communication is maintained between Bombay and Shuster. One of the articles of import at the latter place is American kerosene-oil for lamp purposes, to take the place of the Shuster crude petroleum, said to have been used there for centuries. This petroleum contains an unusual amount of benzine, and being highly explosive in lamps, the Shuster people, who can afford to pay for the safer substance, have taken to American oil. The Shuster petroleum-springs belong to a family of Syuds in the town, and did not fall within the field of the Persian Mines Corporation. These oil-springs may yet become the object of practical operations should the Nasiri Company develop the resources of the Karun Valley.
Belgium has also taken an active interest in Persia lately, the tramway company, and the glass manufactory at Tehran, and the beet-sugar factory in the vicinity, having all been established with Belgian capital; and Holland, who is believed to be seeking an opening in Persia, may find her opportunity in the Karun Valley irrigation works. The creation of strong international interests in Persia should have the best effect in strengthening her national independence, developing her natural resources, and introducing good government. And the peaceful succession of the lawful heir to the throne should go far to carry the country forward in the path of progress and prosperity. It is evident that the strong sentiment attaching to the late Shah's long and peaceful reign, and the popular feeling of loyalty to him which influenced the people, has had the effect of enforcing the royal will in favour of the heir legitimately appointed by Nasr-ed-Din Shah.
The reigning family of Persia are the hereditary chiefs of the royal Kajar tribe, and still preserve the customs of that position. They have not changed the manly habits of a warlike race for the luxury and lethargy which sapped the energies and ruined the lives of so many monarchs of Persia. Up to the time of the present ruling dynasty the princes of the blood were immured in the harem, where their education was left to women and their attendants, and until the death of the King his destined successor was not known. At that period the son of the lowest slave in the harem was deemed equally eligible to succeed to the throne with the offspring of the proudest princess who boasted the honour of marriage with the Sovereign. And similarly as in the West, up to about four hundred years ago, the Crown was generally made secure by murder, every actual or possible rival for the throne being blinded or removed from the scene. This was the practice of the Soffivean dynasty, which preceded the Kajar. But with the change which then took place, this hideous practice disappeared, and usages more congenial to the feelings of the military tribes which support the throne were established. Under the late Shah the princes of the blood were employed in the chief governments of the country, and exercised all the powers and responsibilities of office.
Persia may be described as a theocratic democracy under an absolute monarchy. There is no hereditary rank but that of royal birth, and that of the chiefs of the military tribes, who may be regarded as a military aristocracy; but there is a system of life titles which secure to the holders certain privileges and immunities, and are much prized. The titles are nominally descriptive of some personal quality, talent, or trust, such as Councillor of the State, Confidant of the King, Trusted of the Sultan; they are also bestowed upon ladies in high position. The name of an animal is never introduced into the title; at least, I have only heard of one instance to the contrary in modern times. An individual of European parentage was recommended to the late Shah's notice and favour by his Persian patrons, and they mentioned his great wish to be honoured with a title. His Majesty, who had a keen sense of humour, observed the suggestive appearance of the candidate for honours, and said, 'Well, he is Hujabr-i-Mulk' (the Lion of the Country). The new noble was ready with his grateful thanks: 'Your sacred Majesty, may I be thy sacrifice;' but he added in a subdued tone, 'A lion requires at least a lamb a day.' The Shah laughed at the meaning speech, and said, 'Let him have it.' The granting of a title does not give any emolument unless specially directed. As a precedent for this title, the Shah may have had in his mind the story of Ali Kuli Khan, one of the favourites of Shah Suliman. During the reign of Shah Abbas this chief was generally in prison, except when his services were required against the enemies of his country. This had gained for him the name of the Lion of Persia, as men said that he was always chained except when wanted to fight.
The Shah can raise whomsoever he chooses from the lowest to the highest position or post, except in the most powerful of the nomad tribes, where the nomination to chieftainship is confined to the elders of the leading families, who generally represent two lines from one head, one being in the opposition when the other is in power. The chieftain of a clan considers himself superior in real rank to the most favoured Court title-holder, and the chiefs of the military tribes may be termed the hereditary nobility of Persia. The monarch may, by his influence or direct power, alter the succession, and place an uncle in the situation of a nephew, and sometimes a younger brother in the condition of an elder, but the leader of the tribe must be of the family of their chief. The younger sons and nephews are enrolled in the royal guard, and the Shah is thus enabled by judicious change and selection to keep his hold upon the tribe. Change of chiefs is not always effected peacefully. The wild tribesmen who, in feudal fashion, attach themselves as idle men-at-arms to a popular leader are sometimes disinclined to accept his fall from favour without an appeal to arms. But the royal authority prevails in the end, and the new chiefs rule begins, and lasts just so long as Fortune smiles and the Shah wills.
A marked instance of this was shown in July, 1892, when Jehan Shah Khan-Ilbegi was deprived of the chieftaincy of the Afshar section of the powerful Shahsevend tribe, who range from Ardebil to Tehran. The famous Nadir Shah was originally a simple trooper of this tribe, and belonged to the colony of it which was planted at Deregez on the Turkoman border. The ostensible cause of the chiefs removal from power was that with his own hands he had killed his wife, the sister of his cousin, Rahmat-ulla-Khan, who was known to be his rival in the tribe for place and power. Jehan Shah had unjustly accused her of being unfaithful to him, and going to her house, he called her out, and, notwithstanding her appearing with a copy of the Sacred Koran in her hand, shot her dead while in the act of swearing on the holy book that she was innocent of all guilt. Jehan Shah than went in search of the tribesman whom he suspected of being her paramour, and killed him also. The matter was reported to the Shah, then in camp in Irak, who ordered Jebam Shah to be deprived of the chieftainship, and Rahmat-ulla-Khan to be appointed Ilbegi in his place. It was further ordered that Jehan Shah should be arrested and sent as a prisoner to Tehran. The Ihtisham-e-Dowleh-Kajar, cousin of the late Shah and Governor of Khamseh, in which province Jehan Shah was then located with his clan, was directed to carry out the royal commands.
Much telegraphing had taken place on the subject, and as cipher was not used, Jehan Shah, by means of money and influence, was able to obtain the fullest information of all that passed, and as he was known to have a numerous personal following armed with Peabody-Martini rifles, the Governor was instructed to act with caution. He accordingly had recourse to stratagem, and gave out that the object of his journey to the tribal quarters was to coerce a section of the tribe which had been giving trouble. He therefore asked Jehan Shah to assist him, and this gave the chief a good excuse for assembling his men. The Prince Governor took with him one hundred cavalry and four hundred infantry, but no attention was paid to the ammunition, and they started without a proper supply.
Rahmat-ulla-Khan was fully aware of the Governor's real intentions, but the influence and power of the popular chief prevented any partisan gathering against him. He therefore could only depend upon the Persian troops to enforce the order of the Shah, and was unable to do more than prepare a reception tent and provide a luncheon for the Prince and his people, about eight miles in advance of their camp, at a place appointed for the meeting with himself and Jehan Shah. On approaching this place, these two, with the elders and the tribesmen, went forward for the customary ceremonial reception of the Governor. Jehan Shah dismounted and saluted with the utmost show of respect; but on reaching the tent which had been prepared for them by his rival, he declined to enter and partake of his hospitality, declaring that he preferred to pass on to his own tents, some distance off, his mounted following of fifteen hundred men accompanying him. The Governor knew that Jehan Shah had become dangerous from the devotion of his well-armed followers, and the readiness of the main body of the fierce fighting tribesmen to support him. He had evidently contemplated his arrest and seizure at the place of meeting, but the show of force and feeling in Jehan Shah's favour was too strong to admit of any such attempt. He therefore decided to declare openly the object of his coming, and after lunch he assembled the elders of the tribe, and summoned Jehan Shah to his presence, who, however, declined to obey. The Prince on this announced his deposition, and the appointment of Rahmat-ulla-Khan in his place, showing at the same time the Shah's written commands. He then appears to have indulged in some violent abuse of Jehan Shah, and again sent an order to secure his presence.
In the meanwhile, that chief had taken counsel with his tribal following, numbering about fifteen hundred, armed with breechloaders, and finding them entirely on his side, and determined to dispute the rule of his rival, he served out cartridges freely, and decided to discuss the matter with the Governor. He left most of his men at some distance, and presented himself attended by only a few. The Prince informed him of the Shah's orders, and after some contentious talk, he held out the royal firman for him or any of those with him to read. On one of the elders moving forward to take the paper, Jehan Shah suddenly motioned them all back with his hands, and the Prince, taking alarm at this appearance of a signal, called out to his guards to seize Jehan Shah. There was a shout and a rush, and some of Jehan Shah's men from behind fired over the heads of the soldiers, who, however, returned the fire point-blank, killing and wounding several of the Shahsevends. The tribesmen then opened fire in earnest, and the Prince with his troops promptly fled. All ran and rode for their lives, pursued by the furious enemy. Some of the servants kept with their master, and remounted him twice when the horses he rode were wounded and disabled. The tribesmen are said to have made him a special target, for he was most conspicuous in rich dress, and a third time he and his horse were rolled over together, he receiving two bullet-wounds. He was then seized, partially stripped, and treated with great indignity. The pursuit was kept up to his camp, which was captured and plundered; thirty-five of his men were killed, and fifty wounded. One of the Prince's officials, also wounded, was taken with him, and both were kept prisoners for three days.
In the meantime Jehan Shah, having recovered from his mad fury, trembled at the recollection of his crime, and dreading the vengeance which he saw was certain to follow, he packed up his valuables and fled with a few followers to the Caspian coast. He had the intention to escape by steamer to Baku, but failing in this, owing to all communication with Russian territory having been suspended during the outbreak of cholera then prevailing, he determined to make his way by land across the Northern frontier. Being closely pursued by a party of Persian cavalry, he abandoned all his baggage, and with great difficulty reached Tabriz, where he was constrained to take sanctuary in the house of the chief Moulla. He died there after enduring existence for about six months under circumstances and with surroundings which must have been supremely hateful to him. I was at Tabriz in the end of 1892, while he was there, and I was told by one who had seen him that he was a sad sight then, the hereditary head of the Afshar Shahsevends, a section of a royal tribe, herding in misery with a crowd of criminals seeking sanctuary in order to avoid the avenger of blood. On the first news of the occurrence the Shah ordered the immediate mobilization of the infantry regiments of Khamseh and Kasvin, and this had the effect of dispersing the tribe, facilitating the work of retribution, and establishing the power of the new chief. This incident had the best political result in aiding the Kajar policy of breaking up the ruling families and the cohesion of the dangerous tribes, and asserting fully the authority of the Tehran Central Government. Jehan Shah had gradually improved and strengthened his position by increasing the superior armament of his tribesmen (who were said to have three thousand breechloaders) and laying in a large supply of cartridges, so that, with his wealth, influence, and popularity, he must have been regarded as dangerously powerful. No doubt the conceited confidence thus produced led him to indulge in the ungovernable rage which wrecked his freedom and ended his life. The tribesmen said that the wife whom he killed was truly innocent; but being themselves men of wild ways and tempestuous temper, they thought he had been harshly judged, and they therefore stood by him to resist his seizure and deportation.
As in England four hundred years ago, every place of worship is a sacred refuge; and the dwelling-house of the Chief Priest gives similar protection. This right of sanctuary continues in force throughout Persia; but to benefit by it for any length of time, money is very necessary, for without such aid, or when the supplies fail, starvation steps in to drive the refugee out. While in sanctuary, compromise and arrangement may be effected, so that the fugitive may be allowed to go unmolested, the relatives paying, or becoming 'bail' for, the blood-money or compensation agreed upon. A fugitive from justice, oppression, or revenge often claims the privilege of sanctuary in the house or premises of a local dignitary of influence, whose house would not be unceremoniously entered by pursuers, and this affords time either to meet the demands or accusations made, or to escape to a safer place.
At Tehran there is a big gun, said to have been brought by Nadir Shah from Delhi, and known as the Pearl Cannon. It is said to be so called from having had a string of pearls hung on it near the muzzle when it was on show in Imperial Delhi. This was probably the case, for we know that heavy guns in India were regarded with a degree of respect and reverence almost approaching worship. The gunners of the Maharajah Runjeet Singh, the Lion of the Punjab, used to 'salaam' to their guns, and to hang garlands of the sweet-scented champak flower, which is used in temples and at festivals, round the muzzles. The Pearl Cannon occupies a prominent position close to the Shah's palace, and has always been recognised as possessing a semi-sacred character, and giving the right of sanctuary to those who touch it and remain by it.
I remember a regiment of infantry, represented by three hundred men who were 'off duty' and available for the demonstration, claiming the privilege of this great gun sanctuary after they had assailed the house of their Colonel in order to wreak their vengeance on him, as he was suspected of withholding their pay. The officer's servants were warned in time, and closed the courtyard door, so that the rioters were unable to enter; but they relieved their feelings by battering the door with stones and damaging the Colonel's carriage, which they found outside. Having thus created a great disturbance and excited considerable rumour, they proceeded to the Pearl Cannon, and gave vent to their grievances in loud cries, which reached the royal palace, on which the Shah, Nasr-ed-Din, was made acquainted with all the facts, and caused the soldiers' wrongs to be redressed. One of the charges against the Colonel was that he had managed, by lending money to the men, to gain possession of their village lands by unfair means—for he was a landlord in the same district, and desired to add to his holding. The corps was the Larajani territorial infantry battalion, and an English resident at Tehran, who caught the name as Larry-Johnny, said the whole incident was 'quite Irish, you know.'
—The military tribes and the royal guard —Men of the people as great monarchs —Persian sense of humour —Nightingales and poetry —Legendary origin of the royal emblem —Lion and Sun —Ancient Golden Eagle emblem —The Blacksmith's Apron the royal standard.
The warlike nomads form a most important part of the military strength of Persia, and it has always been the policy of the Sovereign to secure their personal attachment to him as the direct paramount chief of each martial clan. In pursuance of this policy, the royal guard, known as Gholam-i-Shah, or Slaves of the King, which protects and escorts the Shah in camp and quarters, is mainly composed of bodies of horse furnished from the best and most powerful of the military tribes. These come from all quarters of the empire, and are headed and officered by members of the most influential families, so that they may be regarded as hostages for the loyalty and fidelity of the chiefs. All are changed from time to time, and thus a system of short service prevails, to give as many as possible a term of duty with the royal guard.
The term gholam, or slave, has always been given as a title to the personal guards, and everyone who is admitted to the corps claims the envied distinction of Gholam-i-Shah. This guard has a very ancient origin, and service in it is highly prized as giving opportunities of attracting the attention and gaining the favour of the King. The great Sovereign Sabuktagin, who reigned in the tenth century, was said to have risen from the ranks of the royal guard. All the couriers of the foreign legations at Tehran are styled Gholam, and the title is accepted as an honourable one, meaning a mounted servant of courage and trust, who is ready to defend to the death all interests committed to his charge.
The total strength of 'the guard' is twelve hundred and fifty, of whom two hundred are the elite, called gholam peshkhidmet (personal attendants) and mostly belong to the Kajar, the Shah's own tribe, with which his Majesty always identified himself in the most public manner, and thus made every man proud of his clanship with the King. I here allude to the royal signature, 'Nasr-ed-Din, Shah, Kajar.' These superior guardsmen have all the rank of gentleman, and may be called the mounted 'gentlemen at arms' of the guard. They have the customary right of appointment to Court and palace posts, such as door-keeper, usher, messenger, etc. Their service is for life, and is hereditary, a son succeeding his father, and taking his place in the guard when promotion, age, illness, or death creates a vacancy. They have distinctive horse-trappings with silver neck-straps, breastplates, and headstalls, which pass from father to son, and have become highly prized heirlooms. The Shah was most partial to the representative tribesmen of his guard, and his happy characteristics as a King of nomadic taste and camp-like ways, in familiar acquaintance with all about him, were well shown at a military review which I witnessed at Tehran some years ago. The review was a special one, held in honour of the Swedish officers deputed by King Oscar II. of Norway and Sweden to convey the high order of the Seraphin to his Majesty the Shah, and as many troops as possible were called in from the surrounding districts to take part in it. The royal guard mustered strong, and when they marched past, the Shah stepped forward to the saluting line, so as to be closer to them, and called out to each troop, and named each commander in terms of praise and pleasure. This display of personal knowledge of the men, and acquaintance with their leaders, drew from them a perfect buzz of delight.
On this occasion the smart appearance of the Bakhtiari horse attracted particular attention. The Persian bystanders showed their pride in these popular mounted mountaineers by the admiring exclamation, 'Here come the Bakhtiaris!' They were very noticeable by their white felt, round, brimless hats, and the good line they preserved when passing. The Bakhtiaris (Lurs) are the most numerous and powerful of all the military tribes, and are noted for their superior martial qualities both as horse and foot. They are of the most ancient Persian descent, and have held the hills and valleys of Luristan from time immemorial; while all the other military tribes may be said to be of much later date, and of foreign origin—Arab, Syrian, Turk, and Tartar. Competent authorities, who have had full opportunity of judging, agree in saying that they are as good material for soldiers as can be found anywhere. I was greatly interested in hearing the Shah's Prime Minister speak in glowing terms of the gallantry of the Bakhtiari infantry at the capture of Kandahar under Nadir Shah, who, after subduing them in their own mountains, won them over to serve him loyally and well in his conquering campaigns against Afghanistan and India. The Grand Vizier mentioned the circumstance of the Bakhtiari contingent, after one of the many repulses met in the repeated attempts to carry Kandahar by storm, having in the evening, when all was quiet on both sides, assaulted without orders and captured a commanding, position in the defences, which they had failed to take during the day. The shouts of the victors roused the resting besiegers, and Nadir at once took advantage of the success to carry the citadel and gain possession of the town. As a closing remark concerning these nomad tribes, I may mention that they regard themselves as in every way superior to the settled inhabitants, and express this conceit in their saying, 'One man of the tents is equal to two of the town.'
I have mentioned the prerogative of the Shah to raise whomsoever he chooses from the lowest to the highest position, except under restrictions in the military tribes. This quite falls in with the democratic spirit which lies dormant among the people, ready to be displayed in willingness to accept a Sovereign of signal power who springs from the lower ranks of life. The social equality which Islam grants to all men was nothing new to Persia in forming ideas regarding a popular leader and elected King. The descent of such a man is deemed of little consequence in the minds of a people who look to personification of power as the right to rule. In fact, with them it is said that the fame of such a man is in proportion to the lowness of his origin. They know of notable instances of the nation being delivered from terrible tyranny and degrading foreign subjection, and being made gloriously great, by men of the people. They point to Kawah, the blacksmith, who headed a revolt against the monstrously cruel usurper King Zohak, using his apron as a banner, and finally overthrew and slew him, and placed Faridun, a Prince of the Peshdadian dynasty, on the throne which he might have occupied himself. This blacksmith's apron continued for ages to be the royal standard of Persia. In the ninth century, Yacub-bin-Leis, called the Pewterer, as he had worked when young at that (his father's) trade, made his way to the throne by sheer force of strong character and stout courage. He remained the people's hero to the last, was noted for his simple habits, for keeping with his name his trade appellation (Suffari, the Pewterer), and for never having been wantonly cruel or oppressive. In the tenth century, when the great Sabuktagin rose from soldier to Sovereign, we see the principle of selection in preference to hereditary succession practised and accepted by the nation. And the choice was justified by the glory he gave to the Persian arms in extending the empire to India, and in the further conquests of his soldier-son, Mahmud, who succeeded to his father's throne, and added still more to the greatness of the kingdom, till it reached from Baghdad to Kashgar, from Georgia to Bengal, from the Oxus to the Ganges.
When the country was groaning under the Afghan yoke, it was the daring spirit of one from the ranks of the people, Nadir Kuli (Shah), who conceived the overthrow of the oppressor and the recovery of Persian independence. Originally a simple trooper of the Afshar tribe, he advanced himself by valour, boldness, and enterprise, and crowned his successes by winning the admiration of the royal leaders and adherents, who on the death of the infant King, Abbas III., son of Shah Tamasp, elected him to be their King. As such he carried the war into the country of the evicted oppressors, and established the power of the empire from the Oxus to Delhi, whence he returned with the splendid spoil which yet enriches and adorns the Crown of Persia. It speaks much for Nadir Shah's strong character that, having gained such distinction, he did not allow flatterers to find amid the obscurity of his birth the lost traces of great ancestors. He never boasted a proud genealogy; on the contrary, he often spoke of his low birth, and we are told that even his flattering historian had to content himself with saying that the diamond has its value from its own lustre, and not from the rock in which it grows. A characteristic story of this remarkable man is that on demanding a daughter of his vanquished enemy, Mahmud Shah, the Emperor of Delhi, in marriage for his son, Nasr-ullah, he was met with the answer that for alliance with a Princess of the Imperial house of Timor a genealogy of seven generations was required. 'Tell him,' said Nadir, 'that Nasr-ullah is the son of Nadir Shah, the son of the sword, the grandson of the sword, and so on till they have a descent of seventy, instead of seven generations.' Nadir, the man of action and blood and iron, had the greatest contempt for the weak, dissolute Mahmud Shah, who, according to the native historian of the time, was 'never without a mistress in his arms and a glass in his hand,' a debauchee of the lowest type, as well as a mere puppet King. In the end the demon of suspicion poisoned the mind of Nadir to such an extent that he became madly murderous, and assassination ended his life. The Persians say that he began as a deliverer and ended as a destroyer.
As a people, the Persians are of a happy disposition and bright imagination, doubtless produced by the dry, clear air of their high tableland, which relieves from dullness and depression. They enjoy a joke and laugh heartily, and they are able to see that most things have their comic side. The late Shah was quick to show the merry look of appreciation when something amusing was said. At the Nauroz Court reception of the Corps Diplomatique all the Legations, headed by the Turkish Embassy, were ranged in a semicircle in front of the Shah, and after the congratulatory address was delivered by the Sultan's Ambassador, his Majesty advanced and walked round slowly, pausing to say a few words to each Minister. His face lit up with animation when he spoke to one whom he knew to be able to reply in the Persian tongue. On one occasion, after speaking with the Ottoman Ambassador, who is always a Persian linguist (Persian being an obligatory subject of qualification for the Tehran post), he passed on to a Minister who was a good Persian scholar. Further on he found an equally well—qualified colloquial proficient in another; and on finding himself before a well-known very clever diplomatist for whom he had a great personal liking, he smiled and said pleasantly, 'Have you learnt any Persian yet?' The Minister bowed, and, looking duly serious, said in Persian, 'I know something.' The Minister meant to say that he knew a little, but the word 'something,' as used, could be taken, as in English, to signify 'a thing or two.' Such a meaning from the diplomatist who spoke was quite appropriate, and the Shah laughed softly and looked much amused.
As another instance (but in this case of grim humour) of seeing the comic side, a Prince Governor of a province, sitting in judgment, ordered a merchant to pay a fine of fifty tomans, but, though well known to be rich, he protested his utter inability to pay, saying he had never seen such a sum of money, and begged for some other punishment which the Prince in his wisdom and mercy would command. His Highness then suggested a choice of eating fifty raw onions, or eating fifty sticks (the Oriental mode of expression when speaking of bastinado strokes), or paying the fifty tomans. Persians are fond of raw onions, those they eat being small, and the merchant enjoyed the prospect of thus saving his money. He thought that the punishment had been ordered in ignorance, so, concealing his feeling of happy surprise, and affecting fear, he elected for onions. He struggled hard with them, but could not swallow more than half the number. He was then asked to pay the fine, but he claimed his further choice of the fifty sticks. Triced up, he underwent the pain of twenty-five well laid on to the soles of his feet, and then called out that he would willingly pay the fifty tomans to have no more. On this he was cast loose, and the Prince said, 'You fool! you had a choice of one of three punishments, and you took all three.'
Persian servants regard their fixed pay as but a retaining fee, and look for their real wages in perquisites. They show considerable ingenuity and brightness of idea in reasons for purchasing this, that, and the other thing, not really required, but affording opportunities for 'pickings.' A new head-servant, on looking round his master's premises, and seeing no opening for a fresh purchase, at last cast his eye on the fowls, kept to secure a supply of fresh eggs, instead of the doubtful ones bought in the bazaar. He introduced stale eggs into the fowl-house, and on their condition being remarked at breakfast, he gravely explained that he had noticed the hens were old, and it sometimes happened that old hens laid stale eggs, whereas young hens always laid fresh eggs; so he suggested clearing out the fowl-house and restocking it with young poultry.
The leisure time the servants have is not always well spent, it is true, but they have ideas of imagination and sentiment, which in some degree is suggestive of refinement. I have seen this shown in their love of singing birds, and their dandy ways of dress; for some of them are very particular as to the cut of a coat and the fit of a hat. I have sometimes been interested in seeing them carefully tending their pet nightingales, cleaning the cages, and decking them out with bits of coloured cloth and any flowers in season. In November I saw quite a dozen cages thus brightened, each with its brisk-looking nightingale occupant, put out in the sunshine in the courtyard; and on asking about such a collection of cages, was told rather shyly, as if fearing a smile at their sentimental ways, that there was an afternoon tea that day in the neighbourhood, to which the nightingales and their owners were going. These singing-bird-parties are held in the underground rooms of houses, which are cool in summer and warm in winter, and I imagine the company and rivalry of a number of birds in the semi-darkness, with glimmering light from the 'kalian' pipes, and the bubbling of water in the pipe-bowls, and the boiling samovar tea-urns, all combine to cheat the birds pleasantly into believing that it is night-time in the spring song-season.
The Persian poets brought the nightingale much into their songs of praise of earthly joys. The bulbul, of which they wrote and sang, was the European nightingale, which visits Persia in spring to sing and love and nest. They pass as far South as Shiraz, where they meet the plump little Indian bulbul, which is often mistaken for the Shiraz poets' singing-bird. The word is applied to both species in India and Persia, but the birds are quite different in shape, plumage, and voice. They meet at Shiraz, a place which possesses a climate so temperate and equable as to bring together the birds and fruits of the East and West, North and South; for there I saw and heard the Indian bulbul and the hoopoe, the European nightingale, the cuckoo, and the magpie, and I know that the fruits range from apples to dates.
The nightingale is the favourite pet singing-bird of the Persians. I had good information regarding the manner of obtaining them for cage purposes from some small boys who were engaged picking roses in a rose-garden at Ujjatabod, near Yezd. There are two large rose-gardens in that oasis in the Yezd Desert, where the manufacture of rose-water and the attar essence is carried on. The gardens are appropriately favourite haunts of the nightingales on their return with the season of gladness from their winter resorts in the woods of the Caspian coast. The Persian poets tell of the passionate love of the nightingale for the scented rose, and in fanciful figure of speech make the full-blossomed flower complain of too much kissing from its bird-lover, so that its sweetness goes, and its beauty fades far too sadly soon. The boys told me of the number of family pairs, their nests and eggs, and said that they took the young male birds when fully fledged and about to leave the nest, and brought them up by hand at first, till able to feed themselves. There is a great demand in the towns for the young nightingales, which in Persia sing well in captivity, so rarely the case with the bird in Europe. The shopkeepers like to have their pet birds by them, and in the nesting season they may be heard all over the bazaars, singing sweetly and longingly for the partners they know of by instinct, but never meet.
There is much pleasing romance and sentiment in the popular idea regarding the origin of the national emblem, Sher o Khurshed (the Lion and the Sun). The following legend concerning it was told to me by the Malik-ut-Tujjar, or Master of the Merchants of Tehran, a gentleman well versed in Persian history, literature, and lore, and who spoke with all the enthusiasm of national pride. When the first monarchy of Ajam (Persia) was founded by Kai Uramas, some five thousand years ago, the sun was in the sign of Asad (Leo), the highest tower in the heavens, and the lion was therefore taken as the Persian emblem, and it so remained without the sun over it, as now shown, till about six hundred years ago. Ghazan Khan, who then reigned as King, was so attached to his wife, the Queen Khurshed (the Sun), that he desired to perpetuate her name by putting it on the coins he struck; but the Ulema objected to a woman's name on the King's coin, whereupon he decided to put her face on a rising sun above the national emblem of the lion, as now seen in the well-known royal arms of Persia. The story is that King Ghazan's affection for his Queen, Khurshed, was such that he styled her Sham'bu Ghazan (the Light of Ghazan).
This may have been the origin of the expression Khurshed Kullah, or Sun-crowned, which I have seen stated is a term that was used to denote the Sovereign of an empire, but from the fact of the features and style of dressing the hair shown in the sun-picture being those of a woman, I think the title may be regarded as applied only to queens. Catherine II. of Russia, from the magnificence of her Court, her beauty and ambition, and her fame in love and war, was known in Persia during her lifetime as Khurshed Kullah, and she is still designated by that title.
I would here mention another instance of a Mohammedan monarch desiring to publish to his people in the most sovereign manner his high regard for a wife by putting her name on the current coin. The reign of the Emperor Jehangir, son of Akbar the Great, the founder of the Moghul Empire in India and the builder of Agra, was chiefly remarkable for the influence exercised over him by his favourite wife, Nur Mahal, the Light of the Harem, immortalized by Moore in 'Lalla Rookh.' The currency was struck in her name, and we are also told that in her hands centred all the intrigues that make up the work of Oriental administration. She lies buried by the side of her husband at Lahore, the capital of the Punjab.
The subject of Ghazan Khan's succession to the throne of Persia is an unusually interesting one. He was a Moghul chief of the line of Chengiz Khan, and, holding Persia in tributary dependence for his sovereign master the Khakan, was at the head of one hundred thousand tried Tartar warriors. Persia was then Mohammedan, and the proposal was made to him to join the new faith, and become the King-elect of an independent Iran. He consulted his commanders, and then decided to enter Islam and become King. His apostasy was followed by the instant conversion of his hundred thousand men, who, with the true spirit of Tartar soldiers, followed their leader into the pale of Islam, and soon became the active supporters of the faith which they had so suddenly embraced. We can imagine the triumphant joy of the proselytizing priests as they passed down the crowded ranks of the time-hardened, weather-proof warrior sons of the bow and spear, who on June 17, 1265, paraded at Firozkoh, where the Tartar host was then encamped, to repeat the Mohammedan confession of faith. To them the learning of the Arabic words must have been the severest exercise they had ever been called upon to practise, and it is easy to think of the muttered swearing among the puzzled veterans that what was good enough for their leader was good enough for them, and that they were ready to do as he had done, without further talk or ceremony. Islam was then most actively aggressive, extending by the argument of smooth speech or sharp sword, as occasion demanded, and the Moullas must have regarded with enthusiastic pride the glorious reinforcement they had brought to its armies by the consecration of such a splendid warrior host to the service of their Church.
Ghazan Khan was the first of this race of kings from the line of Chengiz who threw off all allegiance to Tartary by directing that the name of the monarch of that empire should not in future be put on the Persian coins. On the coins which he struck, the Mohammedan creed, 'There is no God but God, and Mohammed is His Prophet,' was inscribed instead of the name and titles of the Khakan. He had not the courage of his heart's desire to strike his wife's name on the coins, as Jehangir did, but he was differently placed, in that, as a fresh convert and a new King by the favour of Islam, he felt himself unable to put aside the priests who had bribed him with a crown. Malcolm, in remarking on Ghazan Khan's accession to the throne of Persia, says that Henry IV. of France similarly changed his creed to secure the crown.
Ghazan Khan reigned about the middle of the thirteenth century, and was known in Europe for his supposed readiness to assist in re-establishing the Christians in the Holy Land. He was deemed a wise and just Prince, and it is believed that his policy led him to seek the aid of the States of Europe in order to improve the position and condition of himself and his kingdom. It is said that Pope Boniface VIII endeavoured by a display of his connection with Ghazan Khan to excite the Christian princes to another Crusade, and it was probably this connection with the head of the Christian Church which led to a general impression among Western writers that Ghazan Khan was not sincere in his conversion to Mohammedanism, and was at heart a Christian. There is reason to think that the secret spring of his action was to weaken the Egyptian Empire, which he regarded as hostile and dangerous to himself and Persia. It is not clear whether Ghazan Khan apostatized from the religion of his ancestors or that of the Christians, but he is believed to have been attached all his life to the latter faith, though he does not appear to have made a public declaration of his belief in its doctrines. He professed Mohammedanism in order to obtain the crown, but his life had been passed in friendship with Christians, and in wars with the followers of the faith he adopted.
Xenophon mentions that the royal emblem of Persia from early times was a golden eagle with outstretched wings, resting on a spearhead like the Roman eagle, but he makes no allusion to a standard. Persian historians tell of a famous standard carried from the mythical time of Zohak to that of the last of the Pehlevi kings. Their story is that Kawah, a blacksmith, raised a successful revolt against the implacably cruel King Zohak in the earliest time of Persian sovereignty, and relieved the country from his terrible tyranny by putting him to death. The victorious blacksmith then placed on the throne Faridun, a Prince of the Peshdadian dynasty, who adopted his apron, which had been the standard of revolt, as the royal banner of Persia. As such it was said to be richly ornamented with jewels, to which every king, from Faridun to the last of the Pehlevi monarchs, added. It was called the Durafsh-i-Kawah (the Standard of Kawah), and continued to be the royal standard of Persia till the Mohammedan conquest, when it was taken in battle by Saad-e-Wakass, and sent to the Khalif Omar. Malcolm said that the causes which led to the sign of Sol in Leo becoming the arms of Persia could not be distinctly traced, but thought there was reason to believe that the use of this symbol was not of very great antiquity. He said, with reference to it being upon the coins of one of the Seljukian dynasty of Iconium, that when this family was destroyed by Halaku, the grandson of Chengiz, it was far from improbable that that Prince or his successor adopted this emblematical representation as a trophy of his conquest, and that it has remained ever since among the most remarkable of the royal insignia of Persia. He also mentioned the opinion that this representation of Sol in Leo was first adopted by Ghiat-u-din-Kai-Khusru-bin-Kai-Kobad, 1236 A.D., and that the emblem is supposed to have reference either to his own horoscope or that of his Queen, who was a Princess of Georgia. This approaches the legend told by the Malik-ut-Tujjar of Tehran, for the face depicted on Sol is that of a woman.
[Transcriber's note 1: The original text has Durnfsh-i-Kawah. The original Farsi is Derafsh-i-Kaviani. The typesetter must have read an 'a' as an 'n'. Durnfsh is otherwise unpronounceable.]
—The Order of the Lion and the Sun —Rex and Dido —Dervishes —Endurance of Persian horses —The Shah's stables —The sanctuary of the stable —Long distance races —A country of horses —The gymkhana in Tehran —Olive industry near Resht —Return journey —Grosnoje oil-field —Russian railway travelling —Improved communication with Tehran.
The distinguished Persian Order of the Lion and the Sun was instituted by Fateh Ali Shah, in honour of Sir John Malcolm, on his second mission to the Court of Persia in 1810, in company with Pottinger, Christie, Macdonald-Kinneir, Monteith, and other British officers, who rendered excellent service to Persia in organizing a body of her troops. These officers were followed by others, who in 1834, under Sir Henry Lyndsay Bethune, led the troops they had trained against the Pretenders who, on the death of Fateh Ali Shah, opposed the succession of the Vali Ahd (heir-apparent), Mohamed Shah, father of the late Sovereign. The Pretenders were defeated by Sir Lyndsay Bethune, and thus England established the stability of the throne of the Kajars in the direct line, and carried out the will of the great Fateh Ali Shah, who had appointed his grandson to succeed him after the death of his son, Abbas Mirza. During all the changes since Mohamed Shah's accession, Persia has always had reason to regard England as a friendly neighbour who has no aggressive designs against her. This feeling must have become conviction on finding that the defeat she suffered in 1856 caused her no loss of territory in the South, and the Order of the Lion and the Sun continues to be a signal sign of strong friendship between the two nations.
There are two great St. Bernard dogs belonging to the British Minister at Tehran, which, by their leonine appearance and tawny red colour, massive forms and large limbs, have made a remarkable impression on the imaginative Persian mind. They are dogs of long pedigree, being son and daughter of two famous class champions. Never being tied up, but allowed full freedom, they are perfectly quiet and good-natured, though at first sight, to the nervous, they may look doubtful, if not dangerous. These powerful giant dogs accompany the Minister's wife in her walks, and seem to know that they are to guard and protect; showy, gay Rex precedes, with his head up and eyes all about, while Dido follows, with head down, lioness-like, watchful and suspicious. Painful experience has taught the street-scavenger curs, which dash savagely at strange dogs, to slink away at the sight of this pair of champions, and the passers-by, who, as Mohammedans, are merciless to dogs, treat them as quite different from the dog they despise, so that they walk along feared and respected by all, man and dog alike. A Persian gentleman, riding past with his mounted followers, drew up at the sight of these St. Bernards, and said, 'I would give the finest Kerman shawl, or the very best Persian horse, for a puppy dog of that breed.'
Some of the mendicant dervishes of Tehran are of wild look, with matted locks, and with howling voice go about demanding, not begging, alms. They regard a giver as under some obligation to them, for affording him the means of observance of a duty imposed by religion. These stalk along defiantly, carrying club or axe, and often present a disagreeable appearance. One of them came suddenly by a side-path behind the Minister's wife, and followed, yelling out his cry of 'Hakk, hakk!' It was almost dark, and he did not see the great dogs, which had gone ahead. His cry and continued close-following steps were disturbing, so I turned and asked him either to go on at once or keep farther back. He frowned at what no doubt he considered my bad taste in objecting to his pleasing and superior presence, and hastened his pace a little to pass, but stopped suddenly on seeing the 'lion-dogs' belonging to the Janab-i-Khanum-i-Sifarat (the Lady Excellency of the Legation), and asked to be allowed to follow us, saying he would be perfectly quiet. On reaching the Legation gate, and seeing his way clear, the dogs having entered, he left, saying gently, 'Goodnight; God be with you.'
Formerly a lady could hardly walk about without some little fear of look or laugh calculated to annoy. This is often the case in a Mohammedan country, the meaning being that the figure and face should be shrouded and veiled. But in presence of Rex and Dido there is no sign of the light look or laugh; on the contrary, there is rather the respectful gesture of, 'The road is free to thee.' The vivid imagination of the Persian pictures the group as personifying the Imperial arms, the Lady with the Royal guard, the Lion of Iran.
Before the warriors of the Mehdi made the term 'dervish' better known, it was commonly understood to signify a beggar. But though the derivation is 'before the door,' yet this does not mean begging from door to door. The dervish originally was a disciple who freed himself from all family ties, and set forth without purse or scrip to tell of a new faith among a friendly people, and to tarry here or there as a welcome guest. In due course he developed into a regular soldier of the Church, and as schisms arose and the fires of religious animosities were kindled, various orders of fighting fanatics, calling themselves dervishes, sprang into existence. Such were the Ismailis, first known as the Hassanis, in Persia, in the eleventh century, similar in character to the present dervishes of the Soudan. In the more favourable sense of the word, the true dervishes of to-day in Persia represent the spiritual and mystic side of Islam, and there are several orders of such, with members who belong to the highest and wealthiest ranks.
In the time of Fateh Ali Shah, the mendicant dervishes, who were then as numerous and profligate in Persia as vagrant monks used to be in Spain and Italy, became such a pest that one of the first acts of his successor, Mahomed Shah, was to direct that no beggars should be tolerated except the lame, the sick, and the blind, and that all able-bodied men appearing in dervish garb were to be seized for military service. The profession fell out of fashion then, and there are now comparatively few mendicant dervishes to be seen. Those that still wear the 'ragged robe' do not all appear to follow the rules of poverty, self-denial, abstinence, and celibacy. One there was, a negro from 'darkest Africa,' who attached himself as a charity-pensioner to the British Legation in Tehran, and was to be seen in all weathers, snow and sunshine, fantastically dressed, chattering and chuckling in real Sambo style. He knew that his religious cry of 'Ya Hoo' was characteristic of him, and he was always ready to shout it out to the 'Ingleez,' whose generosity he had reason to appreciate. He had a story of being a prince of fallen fortune, who was kidnapped in Central Africa, traded and bartered across Arabia, and abandoned in North Persia. He was known as the Black Prince. During the cholera epidemic of 1892, he took up his residence under some shady chenar-trees of great age, a recognised resting-place for dervishes, close to the summer-quarters of the English Legation at Gulhek, in the vicinity of Tehran. One day he sat outside the gate and poured forth a pitiable tale of the death of his wife from cholera during the night, and begged for money to pay for her burial. Having made his collection, he disappeared at nightfall, leaving his dead partner under the chenar-trees, and it was then discovered that he had possessed two wives, who called him agha, or master, and he had departed with the survivor, leaving the other to be buried by strangers. After that he was known as the Prince of Darkness.
The privileged beggars or mendicant dervishes of Tehran are not all of the stained, soiled, dust-and-ashes description; some are occasionally seen presenting a pleasing contrast in washed white garments, and of neat appearance. There was one such in Tehran, a well-known cheerful old man, who looked as if he could, in quiet company, tell entertaining stones, for recitation is adopted by some of these wandering dervishes as a pleasant means of livelihood, and many of them in the storytelling art show considerable talent, cultivated taste, and retentive memory. But, to be successful, they must be able to indulge in variations of their old stories by the introduction of new incidents which they have heard or invented. One who is known for good style is always welcomed at the many tea-shops and gardens in village and town.
In a most unlikely spot, on a long stretch of sand in the Yezd Desert, I met a well-dressed dervish in clean, cool white clothes, who stopped on perceiving that I was a 'Firanghi,' and, gently swaying his neat dervish-dole dish, said quietly, 'Charity; alms are as dew-drops from the heavens,' a most appropriate speech in the sandy waterless waste. Membership with the higher dervish orders appears to signify and convey something of the character of Freemasonry. I know of one highly-placed Persian gentleman who is a dervish, and also of a European gentleman of Oriental light and learning who has been admitted to the same order. A famous Prime Minister of Persia in past time, Haji Mirza Aghasi, was a well-known but rather eccentric dervish. My knowledge of this was the means, on one occasion, of averting a disagreeable display of violence by a gay sort of madcap, the relative of a post-house master, who had attached himself as groom to the stable establishment. My smart Armenian servant, who was equally good as groom or table attendant, had taken off his warm pea-jacket to help in bracing up the loads on my baggage post-horses, which were to be driven loose at a canter, the usual practice when riding post with extra baggage. A powerful, merry-talking groom, who came forward with the horses, picked up the jacket and put it on, saying that the morning was cold. And so it was, for the month was November. When all was ready for a start, my servant asked him for the jacket, but the laughing diwana, or eccentric fellow, said it was a gift to him, and refused to part with it. Warm words passed, and I intervened and told him to drop his dervish ways and give back the jacket. The diwana became excited, and shouted to all who were standing by that I had called him a dervish, and had hurt his feelings badly. I then told him he was hard to please, as surely a High Vazir was good enough to be compared with, for was it not true that the famous Haji Mirza Aghasi was of the noble order of dervishes. He took in slowly what I said, then smiled, and gave back the jacket with a good grace. The Persians have a proverb similar to our own regarding giving to beggars, 'Avval khesh, baad darvesh' (First our own, then the beggar. Charity begins at home).
The ordinary Persian horses are small, but very wiry and enduring. In harness they are also capable of very long journeys in light draught, as proved in the carriage service between Tehran and Kasvin. The distance is about ninety-seven miles, divided into six stages. On arriving at one of these, I found that all the posting horses had been taken by a Russian Mohammedan merchant who was travelling ahead of me in great style, with five carriages. I had two vehicles, one a carriage for myself, and the other a tarantass for my servant and luggage, each drawn by three horses. There was considerable traffic on the road then, and the horses had only a few hours in the stable between 'turns.' It was night when I arrived at the post-house, and though anxious to go on, I had no option but to remain there till the horses should come back from the next stage. On their return, after three hours' rest and a feed of barley, six took my carriage and waggon to the next post-house, sixteen miles, where again I found an empty stable, the horses which had gone with the party ahead of me not having come back. On inquiring judiciously from the post-house master if the horses which had brought me from the last stage were able to do another, I was told that with an hour's rest and an extra feed they would be ready to go on. And they travelled the second stage well, showing no signs of distress. These horses had done sixteen miles in draught, and sixteen miles in cantering back to their stable during the evening and night; then thirty-two miles in draught with me in the morning, and after a short rest were to return the same distance to their own stable, all in double-quick time.
I had the privilege of again seeing what I consider one of the most interesting sights in Persia, the stables of his Majesty the Shah. They contain the very best blood in Asia, and comprise the pick of the finest horses in Arabia, Persia, Kurdistan, Karadagh, Khorasan, and the Turkoman country, also the choicest home-breds from the horse-farms belonging to the late Shah and his sons, the present Shah and the Zil-es-Sultan, all of them great horse fanciers and breeders. The late Shah had three breeding establishments: one in the vicinity of Tehran, another near Hamadan, and the third at Maragha, in Azerbaijan, where the pasture is good. In each of these there are said to be about one thousand mares and foals. There is no part of the establishment of a monarch of Persia to which more attention is paid than his horses. They are always placed under the care of an officer of high rank, who is styled Mir Akhor.
The Mir Akhor (Master of the Horse), Mohamed Hussein Mirza, a Prince of royal blood, shows by his intimate knowledge of the history of each horse, and the good condition of all and everything under his care, that he loves his charge well. We were first shown the racing-stud, called mal-i-shart (race-horses), thirteen in number, all in hard condition (the Persian expression is, 'as hard as marble'), and showing good bone and much muscle. They were Arabs, but not all imported from Arabia, some being bred from pure stock in the late Shah's establishments. The royal races are held at Doshan Tepe, six miles from Tehran, where there is a soft sand-soil course, said to be a two-mile one, but the correct measurement is one and a half miles. The Persians breed and train for long-distance speed and endurance, and the races at Doshan Tepe are from three to nine miles. The Prince pointed out the last winner of the nine-mile race, saying that he ran it in twenty-five minutes. This horse was a well-shaped, warm gray Arab, with black points. He, with a darker gray and a chestnut, all Arabs of pure breed from Nejd, none of which it is said can be obtained except by free gift, or rare capture in war, took the eye most with their make and shape. All were ridden slowly round the yard by their 'feather-weight' jockey-boys, dressed in red racing-jackets and blue breeches, with long, soft leather boots, and coloured handkerchiefs bound tightly round their heads in place of caps. I think these shart horses in the royal stables, which are always kept in galloping-condition, are the outcome of the old days of flight or fight, when it was necessary to be always prepared for raid, attack, or treachery, and so often man's best friend in pressing need was his horse.
'A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!'
After the racing stud came the riding-horses, sixty-two in all: deer-like Arabs of the best desert blood of Nejd and Anizah, and others of a stouter build from the country of the Jaf Kurds; selected cross-breeds from Persian and Turkish Kurdistan, and bigger-boned animals from the Karadagh, the result of a strong strain of good Northern blood. There were some long, low, powerful Yamut and other breeds from the Turkoman country, and some good-looking active small horses from Khorasan. From the Kashkai breeding-grounds near Shiraz were shown some fine big horses of high quality, also neat, stout mixed breeds from the hills and plains of Luristan and Persian Arabistan; and Arabs of the best type, bred from 'blood stock' by the Shah's sons, also choice specimens from the royal home farms.
Three gray Arabs, favourites of the late Shah, were brought out, set off with gold collars, and their points were gone over to show how powerfully safe they were as riding-horses on the hillside and the plain. One of them was said to be getting too old for good work, but he was bursting so with flesh and spirits that he threw out before and let out behind in such vigorous wide-circling style as to scatter the crowd of spectators, gholams, guards, and grooms. The most powerful and best-shaped among the riding-horses, in my opinion, were a Jaf (Kurd) dappled gray, and two big gray Turkomans, the latter very deep in the girth, and distinguished by the long, fine neck so common to their class, and rather large but lean heads, showing blood and breeding. The Turkomans say that the superior size and strength of their horses over others are due to the rich grass of their pasturelands, I may conclude this short account of the royal stud by mentioning that, as Persia is essentially a country of horses and horsemen, every foreign Minister on first arrival and presentation to the Shah receives the gift of a horse from his Majesty's stables. All these horses had their tails plaited or tied up. The Persians never cut a horse's tail, but tie it up, which not only improves the animal's appearance, but prevents the tail trailing on the ground, or being whisked about when wet or dirty, to the annoyance of the rider. The tail is only knotted up when the horse is made ready for riding, otherwise it remains loose, to be used for flipping off flies.
The stable of the King is deemed one of the most sacred of sanctuaries, and this usage continues in force to the present time. The stables of the foreign Legations are also regarded, by reason of the Ilchi-Envoy representative sovereign character, as affording a similar asylum, and in 1890 I was witness to protection being thus claimed in the stable of the British Minister. The military tribes of Persia have always regarded this sanctuary of the stable with the most superstitious reverence. 'A horse,' they say, 'will never bear him to victory by whom it is violated.' In a Persian MS. referred to by Malcolm, all the misfortunes of Nadir Mirza, the grandson of Nadir Shah, are attributed to his having violated the honour of the stable by putting to death a person who had taken refuge there. The same writer says that the fleeing criminal finds a place of safety at the head of the horse even when tied up in the open air; the fugitive touches the headstall, and is safe so long as he remains there. Malcolm again tells us of what is still observed, that it is not unusual for those of the military tribes who desire to show their respect at the funerals of chiefs and soldiers of high reputation to send a horse without a rider, but with arms upon the saddle, to swell the train of the mourning cavalcade. The favourite charger of the departed warrior, carrying his arms and clothes, accompanies the procession; the sheepskin cap he wore is placed on the pommel of his saddle; his scarf sash, or kumarbund, is bound round the horse's neck, and his boots are laid across the saddle. In all this may be seen the origin of similar customs now followed by the most civilized nations, and of the regard in which the horse is held as 'the noble animal.'
The late Shah had not a single English or European riding-horse in his stables, nor are any such seen in the country except some from Russia—heavy, coarse animals, bred in the Don districts, and used for carriage purposes. The artillery with the Persian Cossack brigade at Tehran also have a few Russian horses. Nasr-ed-Din had such a high appreciation of Arab and Eastern horses, of which he was in a position to get the very best, that he found it difficult to understand what he considered the fancy prices paid in England for racing stock. The story is told that when he was shown Ormonde at Eaton Hall, in 1889, and was informed that L14,000 had been offered for him, he tapped the ground briskly with his cane, and said in a vivacious manner: 'What! L14,000 offered for him? Sell him, sell him now to-day. Why, he may be dead to-morrow.' He would have been astonished to hear that Ormonde afterwards changed owners at the advanced price of about L30,000.
In speaking to two friends, competent judges of such matters, about the breeding and training for long-distance races in Persia, and the time in which it was said the nine miles had been run, I found that, while one thought the time might be reasonably correct, the other was more than doubtful. I have since then seen in the Journal of the United Service Institution of India, 1886, a paper on 'Horse-breeding in Central Asia, translated from the Russian of Kostenko by W.E.G.,' in which the following details regarding the Kirghiz race-meetings and the pace and staying powers of their horses are given. M. Kostenko mentions that the details are taken from an article by M. Garder in the Voyenni Sbornik for 1875. He says that among the Inner Kirghiz Horde, races for prizes were instituted by the Minister of State Domains, beginning with the year 1851. On October 4 of the same year a circular course measuring four miles was made, and the horses ran five times round it. The winner did the 20 miles in 48 minutes and 45 seconds. Commencing with 1853, the races were run over a distance of 13-1/3 miles on a circular course, and of these races detailed information from 1869 was obtained.
The greatest speed was recorded on October 2, 1853, when the distance (13-1/3 miles) was done in 27 minutes and 30 seconds. The longest time, on the other hand, was 39 minutes 30 seconds.
The Chief Administration of the State Studs did not credit the information sent from the Horde, so that in 1856 there was sent to the sitting committee a second metre, for the speed to be followed on it, the circumference of the circle having been previously measured. The president of the committee repotted that the measurement of the course was correct, except that in every 4 versts (2-2/3 miles) it was out 17-1/2 feet. The deficiency was then made good. Accordingly, on October 2 a trial was held, at which the speed was checked with the aid of the second metre that had been forwarded, and several watches with seconds-hands. These showed the 13-1/3 miles run in 31 minutes. Of nineteen races run over this course, the average time was 33 minutes 40 seconds.
In 1861 a race was run over another circular course, measuring about 3-1/2 miles, five times round. The mare that won performed the distance—about 17 miles—in 48 minutes 45 seconds. In the Kalmak uluses (groups of nomad tents) of the Astrachan Government, races of 10 miles have been held. The greatest speed recorded was in 1864, viz., 23 minutes 56 seconds; the longest time was in the same year, viz., 27 minutes. The average time between 1862 and 1865, and 1867 and 1869, was 25 minutes 15 seconds.
The riders in these races are lads of not more than ten or twelve years of age. They are in no way specially trained, as from early age they are always riding, and grow up in good condition for hard exercise. Their weights range from four to six stone.
The Persians are a nation of horsemen still, and most of them can ride well. All the migratory tribes breed horses, and such is the habit of observation of horses in the country, that, as a rule, a man is known by his horse, just as in some parts of England a man is known by his dog. Owing to the notice thus taken of a man's horse, a party of nomad brigands who carried off all my baggage-train in 1890 were discovered and hunted down. There is a road guard service for all the King's highways in Persia, and an annual fixed sum is allowed for its maintenance. Officials with influence among the neighbouring nomads farm this service on the main roads, and entertain a certain number of 'black-mail' men for each stage from the various tribal sections to keep watch and ward. The official who farms the road guard service is held liable to pay compensation for losses by robbery, and this stimulates the energies of all to recover stolen property and to keep the highways safe and secure. Incidents of robbery occasionally happen, but, all things considered, the system may be said to work fairly well, as instanced in the recovery of my baggage.
I had taken a short-cut over the hills to avoid some miles of circuit by the highroad, and on the way I met the relieved Governor of Luristan returning to Tehran, with a long train of well-guarded laden mules. Some little distance behind them came three mounted nomads, armed with Martini-Henry rifles (the common arm now in Persia), and showing well-filled cartridge belts. They rode up to me and my party, consisting of a gholam courier and two servants, all mounted. One of the nomads, riding a chestnut mare, while examining me intently, dropped a short stick which he carried, alongside of me, and on dismounting to pick it up, his mare wheeled round towards me, and I saw that she had lost her right eye. We passed on, and shortly rejoined the highroad, and when close to the next halting stage, a post-boy, driving three loose post-horses before him, galloped up to say that he had seen my baggage mules driven off the highroad by five armed nomads. The road guards were called, and on hearing my description of the three men we had met, and that one of them was riding a one-eyed chestnut mare, they at once said, 'Kara Beg and his sons are in this,' and rode off to follow the trail. Almost all my luggage was recovered that night, and Kara Beg was hunted hard, and disappeared. He had been suspected of several robberies carefully carried out, so that detection was difficult; but in my case it appeared that he had hung on to the rear of the Luristan Governor's baggage without being able to steal anything, and when disappointment had made his men sore and reckless, they followed up my mules, which had no guard, and carried them off. The tribal road guards knew where to find him and his men, and soon had most of the plundered property back. The recovery was due to identification of his mare.
The English national love of sport has lately introduced into Tehran the popular gymkhana, an institution which hails from India, where it is English enterprise under an Indian name. The British Legation has started this amusement, and it seems to provide energy for many who had longed for some fresh outdoor exercise, but could not organize it. Now, when weather permits, there are weekly gatherings for variety races, tent-pegging, and paper-chases. A very amusing and effective novelty, which I saw there for the first time, was a donkey tug-of-war. This new 'gym' was imported by a sporting young diplomatic secretary, who had lately arrived from Cairo, where he had seen it in full exercise. Tehran has excellent riding-donkeys for hire, well turned out, and attended by the usual smart-tongued youth. Eight donkeys, four a side, heading outwards, all ridden by Europeans, mostly English, were engaged in this sport. Neither whip nor spur was allowed. The rope was passed along under the right arm, and held as each rider thought best. At the word 'Off!' heels were brought into fast play on the donkeys' ribs to make them move forward, and the scenes that followed were ludicrous and exciting. Riders were pulled off backward, and, still hanging on to the rope, they managed to remount and get again into the pulling line in time to drag off someone on the opposite side, who had lost his balance on the sudden 'go' forward from the lessened strain. This amusement was a highly popular one with the laughing spectators.