CHAPTER XVIII. MOUNT ARARAT AND KOORDISTAN.
Not more than five miles eastward from the camp, while trundling over a stretch of stony ground, I am accosted by a couple of Koordiah shepherds; but as the country immediately around is wild and unfrequented, save by Koords, and knowing something of their little weaknesses toward travellers under tempting, one-sided conditions, I deem it advisable to pay as little heed to them as possible. Seeing that I have no intention of halting, they come running up, and undertake to forcibly detain me by seizing hold of the bicycle, at the same time making no pretence of concealing their eager curiosity concerning the probable contents of my luggage. Naturally disapproving of this arbitrary conduct, I push them roughly away. With a growl more like the voice of a wild animal than of human beings, one draws his sword and the other picks up a thick knobbed stick that he had dropped in order to the better pinch and sound my packages. Without giving them time to reveal whether they seriously intend attacking me, or only to try intimidation, I have them nicely covered with the Smith Wesson. They seem to comprehend in a moment that I have them at a disadvantage, and they hurriedly retreat a short distance, executing a series of gyral antics, as though expecting me to fire at their legs. They are accompanied by two dogs, tawny-coated monsters, larger than the largest mastiffs, who now proceed to make things lively and interesting around myself and the bicycle. Keeping the revolver in my hand, and threatening to shoot their dogs if they don't call them away, I continue my progress toward where the stony ground terminates in favor of smooth camel-paths, about' a hundred yards farther on. At this juncture I notice several other "gentle shepherds " coming racing down from the adjacent knolls; but whether to assist their comrades in catching and robbing me, or to prevent a conflict between us, will always remain an uncertainty. I am afraid, however, that with the advantage on their side, the Koordish herdsmen rarely trouble themselves about any such uncongenial task as peace-making. Reaching the smooth ground before any of the new-comers overtake me, I mount and speed away, followed by wild yells from a dozen Koordish throats, and chased by a dozen of their dogs. Upon sober second thought, when well away from the vicinity, I conclude this to have been a rather ticklish incident; had they attacked me in the absence of anything else to defend myself with, I should have been compelled to shoot them; the nearest Persian village is about ten miles distant; the absence of anything like continuously ridable road would have made it impossible to out-distance their horsemen, and a Persian village would have afforded small security against a party of enraged Koords, after all. The first village I arrive at to-day, I again attempt the "skedaddling" dodge on them that proved so successful on one occasion yesterday; but I am foiled by a rocky "jump-off" in the road to-day. The road is not so favorable for spurting as yesterday, and the racing ryots grab me amid much boisterous merriment ere * I overcome the obstruction; they take particular care not to give me another chance until the arrival of the Khan. The country hereabouts consists of gravelly, undulating plateaus between the mountains, and well-worn camel-paths afford some excellent wheeling. Near mid-day, while laboriously ascending a long but not altogether unridable ascent, I meet a couple of mounted soldiers; they obstruct my road, and proceed to deliver themselves of voluble Tabreez Turkish, by which I understand that they are the advance guard of a party in which there is a Ferenghi (the Persian term for an Occidental). While talking with them I am somewhat taken by surprise at seeing a lady on horseback and two children in a kajaveh (mule panier) appear over the slope, accompanied by about a dozen Persians.