CHAPTER XX. TABREEZ TO TEHERAN.
In the morning I discover that my mussulman hat-band has mysteriously disappeared, and when preparing to depart, a miscellaneous collection of females gather about me, seize the bicycle, and with much boisterous hilarity refuse to let me depart until I have given each one of them some money; their behavior is on the whole so outrageous, that I appeal to my patient of yesterday evening, in whose bosom I fancy I may perchance have kindled a spark of gratitude; but the old reprobate no longer has the stomach-ache, and he regards my unavailing efforts to break away from my hoi-denish tormentors with supreme indifference, as though there were nothing extraordinary in their conduct. The demeanor of these wild- eyed Koordish females on this occasion fully convinces me that the stories concerning their barbarous conduct toward travellers captured on the road is not an exaggeration, for while preventing my departure they seem to take a rude, boisterous delight in worrying me on all sides, like a gang of puppies barking and harassing anything they fancy powerless to do them harm. After I have finally bribed my freedom from the women, the men seize me and attempt to further detain me until they can send for their Sheikh to come from another camp miles away, to see me ride. After waiting a reasonable time, out of respect for their having accommodated me with quarters for the night, and no signs of the Sheikh appearing, I determine to submit to their impudence no longer; they gather around me as before, but presenting my revolver and assuming an angry expression, I threaten instant destruction to the next one laying hands on either myself or the bicycle; they then give way with lowering brows and sullen growls of displeasure. My rough treatment on this occasion compared with my former visit to a Koordish camp, proves that there is as much difference between the several tribes of nomad Koords, as between their sedentary relatives of Dele Baba and Malosman respectively; for their general reputation, it were better that I had spent the night in Sercham. A few miles from the camp, I am overtaken by four horsemen followed by several dogs and a pig; it proves to be the tardy Sheikh and his retainers, who have galloped several miles to catch me up; the Sheikh is a pleasant, intelligent fellow of thirty or thereabouts, and astonishes me by addressing me as "Monsieur;" they canter alongside for a mile or so, highly delighted, when the Sheikh cheerily sings out "Adieu, monsieur!" and they wheel about and return; had their Sheikh been in the camp I stayed at, my treatment would undoubtedly have been different. I am at the time rather puzzled to account for so strange a sight as a pig galloping briskly behind the horses, taking no notice of the dogs which continually gambol about him; but I afterward discover that a pet pig, trained to follow horses, is not an unusual thing among the Persians and Persian Koords; they are thin, wiry animals of a sandy color, and quite capable of following a horse for hours; they live in the stable with their equine companions, finding congenial occupation in rooting around for stray grains of barley; the horses and pig are said to become very much attached to each other; when on the road the pig is wont to signify its disapproval of a too rapid pace, by appealing squeaks and grunts, whereupon the horse responsively slacks its speed to a more accommodating speed for its porcine companion. The road now winds tortuously along the base of some low gravel hills, and the wheeling perceptibly improves; beyond Nikbey it strikes across the hilly country, and more trundling becomes necessary. At Nikbey I manage to leave the inhabitants in a profound puzzle by replying that I am not a Ferenghi, but an Englishman; this seems to mystify them not a little, and they commence inquiring among themselves for an explanation of the difference; they are probably inquiring yet. Fifty-eight miles are covered from the Koordish camp, and at three o'clock the blue-tiled domes of the Zendjan mosques appear in sight; these blue-tiled domes are more characteristic of Persian mosques, which are usually built of bricks, and have no lofty tapering minarets as in Turkey; the summons to prayers are called from the top of a wall or roof. When approaching the city gate, a half-crazy man becomes wildly excited at the spectacle of a man on a wheel, and, rushing up, seizes hold of the handle; as I spring from the saddle he rapidly takes to his heels; finding that I am not pursuing him, he plucks up courage, and timidly approaching, begs me to let him see me ride again. Zendjan is celebrated for the manufacture of copper vessels, and the rat-a-tat-tat of the workmen beating them out in the coppersmiths' quarters is heard fully a mile outside the gate; the hammering is sometimes deafening while trundling through these quarters, and my progress through it is indicated by what might perhaps be termed a sympathetic wave of silence following me along, the din ceasing at my approach and commencing again with renewed vigor after I have passed.