CHAPTER XVI. THROUGH THE SIVAS VILAYET INTO ARMENIA.
It is six hours distant from Yuzgat to the large village of Koelme, as distance is measured here, or about twenty-three English miles; but the road is mostly ridable, and I roll into the village in about three hours and a half. Just beyond Koehne, the roads fork, and the mudir kindly sends a mounted zaptieh to guide me aright, for fear I shouldn't quite understand by his pantomimic explanations. I understand well enough, though, and the road just here happening to be excellent wheeling, to the delight of the whole village, I spurt ahead, outdistancing the zaptieh's not over sprightly animal, and bowling briskly along the right road within their range of vision, for over a mile. Soon after leaving Koehne my attention is attracted by a small cluster of civilized-looking tents, pitched on the bank of a running stream near the road, and from whence issues the joyous sounds of mirth and music. The road continues ridable, and I am wheeling leisurely along, hesitating about whether to go and investigate or not, when a number of persons, in holiday attire, present themselves outside the tents, and by shouting and gesturing, invite me to pay them a visit. It turns out to be a reunion of the Yuzgat branch of the Pampasian-Pamparsan family - an Armenian name whose representatives in Armenia and Anatolia, it appears, correspond in comparative numerical importance to the great and illustrious family of Smiths in the United States. Following - or doubtless, more properly, setting - a worthy example, they likewise have their periodical reunions, where they eat, drink, spin yarns, sing, and twang the tuneful lyre in frolicsome consciousness of always having a howling majority over their less prolific neighbors.
Refreshments in abundance are tendered, and the usual pantomimic explanations exchanged between us; some of the men have been honoring the joyful occasion by a liberal patronage of the flowing bowl, and are already mildly hilarious; stringed instruments are twanged by the musical members of the great family, while several others, misinterpreting the inspiration of raki punch for terpsichorean talent are prancing wildly about the tent. Middle-aged matrons are here in plenty, housewifely persons, finding their chief enjoyment in catering to the gastronomic pleasures of the others; while a score or two of blooming maidens stand coyly aloof, watching the festive merry-makings of the men; their heads and necks are resplendent with bands and necklaces of gold coins, it still being a custom of the East to let the female members of a family wear the surplus wealth about them in the shape of gold ornaments and jewels, a custom resulting from the absence of safe investments and the unstability of national affairs. Yuzgat enjoys among neighboring cities a reputation for beautiful women, and this auspicious occasion gives me an excellent opportunity for drawing my own conclusions. It is not fair perhaps to pass judgment on Yuzgat's pretensions, by the damsels of one family connection, not even the great and numerous Pampasian-Pamparsan family, but still they ought to be at least a fair average. They have beautiful large black eyes, and usually a luxuriant head of hair; but their faces arc, on the whole, babyish and expressionless. The Yuzgat maiden of "sweet sixteen" is a coy, babyish creature, possessed of a certain doll-like prettiness, but at twenty-three is a rapidly fading flower, and at thirty is already beginning to get wrinkled and old. Happening to fall in with this festive gathering this morning is quite a gratifying and enlivening surprise; besides the music and dancing and a substantial breakfast of chicken, boiled mutton, and rice pillau, it gives me an opportunity of witnessing an Armenian family reunion under primitive conditions. Watching over this peaceful and gambolling flock of Armenian lambkins is a lone Circassian watchdog; he is of a stalwart, warlike appearance; and although wearing no arms - except a cavalry sword, a shorter broad-sword, a dragoon revolver, a two-foot horse-pistol, and a double-barrelled shot-gun slung at his back - the Armenians seem to feel perfectly safe under his protection. They probably don't require any such protection really; they are nevertheless wise in employing a Circassian to guard them, if for nothing else for the sake of freeing their own unwarlike minds of all disquieting apprehensions, and enjoying their family reunion in the calm atmosphere of perfect security; some lawless party passing along the road might peradventure drop in and abuse their hospitality, or partaking too freely of raki, make themselves obnoxious, were they unprotected; but with one Circassian patrolling the camp, they are doubly sure against anything of the kind.