CHAPTER XX. PERSIA.
JOURNEY OF THE CARAVAN TO RAVANDUS - ARRIVAL AT AND STAY IN RAVANDUS - A KURDISH FAMILY - CONTINUATION OF THE JOURNEY - SAUH-BULAK - OROMIA - AMERICAN MISSIONARIES - KUTSCHIE - THREE GENEROUS ROBBERS - PERSIAN CHANS AND ENGLISH BUNGALOWS - ARRIVAL AT TEBRIS.
On the 8th of July the caravan guide called for me in the evening. His appearance was so unfavourable that I should scarcely have ventured to travel a mile with him had I not been assured that he was a man well known in the place. His dress consisted of rags and tatters, and his countenance resembled that of a robber. Ali, that was his name, told me that the travellers and goods had already gone on and were encamped in the chan near Nebbi-Yunus, where they were to pass the night. The journey was to be commenced before sunrise. I found three men and some pack-horses; the men (Kurds) were no better in appearance than Ali, so that I could not promise myself much gratification from their society. I took up my quarters for the night in the dirty court-yard of the chan, but was too much frightened to sleep well.
In the morning, to my astonishment, there were no indications of starting. I asked Ali what was the cause of this, and received as answer that the travellers were not all assembled yet, and that, as soon as they were, we should proceed immediately. In the expectation that this might soon happen, I dared not leave the miserable shelter to return to Mosul, from which we were only a mile distant. The whole day was spent in waiting; these people did not come until evening. There were five of them: one, who appeared to be a wealthy man, with his two servants, was returning from a pilgrimage. We started at last about 10 o'clock at night. After travelling for four hours we crossed several ranges of hills, which form the boundaries of Mesopotamia and Kurdistan. We passed several villages, and reached Secani on the morning of the 10th of July. Ali did not halt at the village which lies on the pretty river Kasir, but on the other side of the river near a couple of deserted, half-ruined huts. I hastened directly into one of the best to make sure of a good place, where the sun did not come through the sieve- like roof, which I fortunately found but the pilgrim, who hobbled in directly after me, was inclined to dispute its possession. I threw my mantle down, and seating myself upon it, did not move from the place, well knowing that a Mussulman never uses force towards a woman, not even towards a Christian one. And so it turned out; he left me in my place and went grumbling away. One of the pedlars behaved himself in a very different manner: when he saw that I had nothing for my meal but dry bread, while he had cucumbers and sweet melons, he gave me a cucumber and a melon, for which he would not take any money. The pilgrim also ate nothing else, although he had only to send one of his servants to the village to procure either fowls or eggs, etc. The frugality of these people is really astonishing.
About 6 in the evening we again proceeded on our journey, and for the first three hours went continually up-hill. The ground was waste and covered with boulders, which were full of shallow holes, and resembled old lava.
Towards 11 at night we entered an extensive and beautiful valley, upon which the moon threw a brilliant light. We purposed halting here, and not continuing our journey further during the night, as our caravan was small, and Kurdistan bears a very bad name. The road led over fields of stubble near to stacks of corn. Suddenly half a dozen powerful fellows sprung out from behind, armed with stout cudgels, and seizing our horses' reins, raised their sticks, and shouted at us terribly. I felt certain that we had fallen into the hands of a band of robbers, and was glad to think that I had left my treasures which I had collected at Babylon and Nineveh, together with my papers, at Mosul; my other effects might have been easily replaced. During the time this was passing in my mind, one of our party had sprung from his horse and seized one of the men by the breast, when he held a loaded pistol before his face and threatened to shoot him. This had an immediate effect; the waylayers relinquished their hold, and soon entered into a peaceful conversation with us; and at last, indeed, showed us a good place to encamp, for which, however, they requested a small bachshish, which was given to them by a general collection. From me, as belonging to the female sex, they required nothing. We passed the night here, though not without keeping guard.
11th July. About 4 o'clock we were again upon the road, and rode six hours, when we came to the village of Selik. We passed through several villages, which, however, had a very miserable appearance. The huts were built of reeds and straw; the slightest gust of wind would have been sufficient to have blown them over. The dress of the people approaches in character to the Oriental; all were very scantily, dirtily, and raggedly clothed.
Near Selik I was surprised by the sight of a fig-tree and another large tree. In this country trees are rare. The mountains surrounding us were naked and barren, and in the valleys there grew at most some wild artichokes or beautiful thistles and chrysanthemums.
The noble pilgrim took upon himself to point out my place under the large tree, where the whole party were encamped. I gave him no reply, and took possession of one of the fig-trees. Ali, who was far better than he looked, brought me a jug of buttermilk, and altogether today passed off tolerably pleasantly.