CHAPTER XX. TABREEZ TO TEHERAN.
The villages east of Sultaneah are observed to be, almost without exception, surrounded by a high mud wall, a characteristic giving them the appearance of fortifications rather than mere agricultural villages; the original object of this was, doubtless, to secure themselves against surprises from wandering tribes; and as the Persians seldom think of changing anything, the custom is still maintained. Bushes are now occasionally observed near the roadside, from every twig of which a strip of rag is fluttering in the breeze; it is an ancient custom still kept up among the Persian peasantry when approaching any place they regard with reverence, as the ruined mosque and imperial palace at Sultaneah, to tear a strip of rag from their clothing and fasten it to some roadside bush; this is supposed to bring them good luck in their undertakings, and the bushes are literally covered with the variegated offerings of the superstitious ryots; where no bushes are handy, heaps of small stones are indicative of the same belief; every time he approaches the well-known heap, the peasant picks up a pebble, and adds it to the pile. Owing to a late start and a prevailing head-wind, but forty-six miles are covered to-day, when about sundown I seek the accommodation of the chapar-khana, at Heeya; but, providing the road continues good, I promise myself to polish off the sixty miles between here and Kasveen, to-morrow. The chaparkhana sleeping apartments at Heeya contain whitewashed walls and reed matting, and presents an appearance of neatness and cleanliness altogether foreign to these institutions previously patronized; here, also, first occurs the innovation from "Hamsherri" to "Sahib," when addressing me in a respectful manner; it will be Sahib, from this point clear to, through and beyond India; my various titles through the different countries thus far traversed have been; Monsieur, Herr, Effendi, Hamsherri, and now Sahib; one naturally wonders what new surprises are in store ahead. A bountiful supper of scrambled eggs (toke-mi-morgue) is obtained here, and the customary shake-down on the floor. After getting rid of the crowd I seek my rude couch, and am soon in the land of unconsciousness; an hour afterward I am awakened by the busy hum of conversation; and, behold, in the dim light of a primitive lamp, I become conscious of several pairs of eyes immediately above me, peering with scrutinizing inquisitiveness into my face; others are examining the bicycle standing against the wall at my head. Rising up, I find the chapar-lchana crowded with caravan teamsters, who, going past with a large camel caravan from the Caspian seaport of Eesht, have heard of the bicycle, and come flocking to my room; I can hear the unmelodious clanging of the big sheet-iron bells as their long string of camels file slowly past the building.