CHAPTER XVIII. MOUNT ARARAT AND KOORDISTAN.
After supper the Pasha Khan's falconer brings in several fine falcons for my inspection, and in reply to questions concerning one with his eyelids tied up in what appears to be a cruel manner, I am told that this is the customary way of breaking the spirits of the young falcons and rendering them tractable and submissive the eyelids are pierced with a hole, a silk thread is then fastened to each eyelid and the ends tied together over the head, sufficiently tight to prevent them opening their eyes. Falconing is considered the chief out-door sport of the Persian nobility, but the average Persian is altogether too indolent for out-door sport, and the keeping of falcons is fashionable, because regarded as a sign of rank and nobility rather than for sport. In the morning the Pasha Khan is wonderfully agreeable, and appears anxious to atone as far as possible for the little incivility of yesterday evening, and to remove any unfavorable impressions I may perchance entertain of him on that account before I leave. His two sons and a couple of soldiers accompany me on horseback some distance up the valley. The valley is studded with villages, and at the second one we halt at the residence of a gentleman named Abbas Koola Khan, and partake of tea and light refreshments in his garden. Here I learn that the Pasha Khan has carried his good intentions to the extent of having made arrangements to provide me armed escort from point to point; how far ahead this well-meaning arrangement is to extend I am unable to understand; neither do I care to find out, being already pretty well convinced that the escort will prove an insufferable nuisance to be gotten rid of at the first favorable opportunity. Abbas Koola Khan now joins the company until we arrive at the summit of a knoll commanding an extensive view of my road ahead so they can stand and watch me when they all bid me farewell save the soldier who is to accompany me further on. As we shake hands, the young man whom I pushed into the irrigating ditch, points to a similar receptacle near by and shakes his head with amusing solemnity; whether this is expressive of his sorrow that I should have pushed him in, or that he should have annoyed me to the extent of having deserved it, I cannot say; probably the latter. My escort, though a soldier, is dressed but little different from the better-class villagers; he is an almond-eyed individual, with more of the Tartar cast of countenance than the Persian. Besides the short Persian sword, he is armed with a Martini Henry rifle of the 1862 pattern; numbers of these rifles having found their way into the hands of Turks, Koords and Persians, since the RussoTurkish war. My predictions concerning his turning out an insupportable nuisance are not suffered to remain long unverified, for he appears to consider it his chief duty to gallop ahead and notify the villagers of my approach, and to work them up to the highest expectations concerning my marvellous appearance. The result of all this is a swelling of his own importance at having so wonderful a person under his protection, and my own transformation from an unostentatious traveller to something akin to a free circus for crowds of barelegged ryots. I soon discover that, with characteristic Persian truthfulness, he has likewise been spreading the interesting report that I am journeying in this extraordinary manner to carry a message from the "Ingilis Shah " to the "Shah in Shah of Iran " (the Persians know their own country as Iran) thereby increasing his own importance and the wonderment of the people concerning myself. The Persian villages, so far, are little different from the Turkish, but such valuable property as melon-gardens, vineyards, etc., instead of being presided over by a watchman, are usually surrounded by substantial mud walls ten or twelve feet high. The villagers themselves, being less improvident and altogether more thoughtful of number one than the Turks, are on the whole, a trifle less ragged; but that is saying very little indeed, and their condition is anything but enviable. During the summer they fare comparatively well, needing but little clothing, and they are happy and contented in the absence of actual suffering; they are perfectly satisfied with a diet of bread and fruit and cucumbers, rarely tasting meat of any kind. But fuel is as scarce as in Asia Minor, and like the Turks and Armenians, in winter they have resource to a peculiar and economical arrangement to keep themselves warm; placing a pan of burning tezek beneath a low table, the whole family huddle around it, covering the table and themselves -save of course their heads-up with quilts; facing each other in this ridiculous manner, they chat and while away the dreary days of winter.