"The gardens of pleasure where reddens the rose, 
  And the scent of the cedar is faint on the air." 

Shiraz stands in a plain twenty-five miles long by twelve broad, surrounded by steep and bare limestone mountains. The latter alone recall the desert waste beyond; for the Plain of Shiraz is fertile, well cultivated, and dotted over with prosperous-looking villages and gardens. Scarcely a foot of ground is wasted by the industrious inhabitants of this happy valley, save round the shores of the Denia-el-Memek, a huge salt lake some miles distant, where the sun-baked, briny soil renders cultivation of any kind impossible.

Were it not for its surroundings - the green and smiling plains of wheat, barley, and Indian corn; the clusters of pretty sunlit villages; the long cypress-avenues; and last, but not least, the quiet shady gardens, with rose and jasmine bowers, and marble fountains which have been famous from time immemorial - Shiraz would not be what it now is, the most picturesque city in Persia.

Although over four miles in circumference, the city itself has a squalid, shabby appearance, not improved by the dilapidated ramparts of dried mud which surround it. Founded A.D. 695, Shiraz reached its zenith under Kerim Khan in the middle of the eighteenth century, since when it has slowly but steadily declined to its present condition. The buildings themselves are evidence of the apathy reigning among the Shirazis. Incessant earthquakes destroy whole streets of houses, but no one takes the trouble to rebuild them, and the population was once nearly double what it now is - 40,000.

There are six gates, five of which are gradually crumbling away. The sixth, or Ispahan Gate, is the only one with any attempt at architecture, and is crenellated and ornamented with blue and yellow tile-work. A mean, poor-looking bazaar, narrow tortuous streets, knee-deep in dust or mud, as the case may be, and squalid, filthy houses, form a striking contrast to the broad, well-kept avenues, gilded domes, and beautiful gardens which encircle the city. Shiraz has fifteen large mosques and several smaller ones, but the people are as fanatical as those of Teheran are the reverse. Gerome, who had a singular capacity for getting into mischief, entered one of these places of worship, and was caught red-handed by an old moullah in charge. Half the little Russian's life having been spent among Mohammedans, he quickly recited a few verses of the Koran in perfect Arabic, which apparently satisfied the priest, for he let him depart with his blessing. Had the trick been discovered, he would undoubtedly have been roughly treated, if not killed, for the Shirazis have an unmitigated contempt for Europeans. There are few places, too, in Asia where Jews are more persecuted than in Shiraz, although they have their own quarter, in the lowest, most poverty-stricken part of the town, and other privileges are granted them by the Government. Shortly before my visit, a whole family was tortured and put to death by a mob of infuriated Mohammedans. The latter accused them of stealing young Moslem children, and sacrificing them at their secret ceremonies. [A] Guilty or innocent of the charge, the assassins were left unpunished.

The climate of Shiraz is delicious, but dangerous. Though to a new-comer the air feels dry, pure, and exhilarating, the city is a hot-bed of disease, and has been christened the "Fever Box." Small-pox, typhus, and typhoid are never absent, and every two or three years an epidemic of cholera breaks out and carries off a fearful percentage of the inhabitants. In spring-time, during heavy rains, the plains are frequently inundated to a depth of two or three feet, and the water, stagnating and rotting under a blazing sun, produces towards nightfall a thick white mist, pregnant with miasma and the dreaded Shiraz fever which has proved fatal to so many Europeans, to say nothing of natives. Medical science is at a very low ebb in Persia; purging and bleeding are the two remedies most resorted to by the native hakim. If these fail, a dervish is called in, and writes out charms, or forms of prayer, on bits of paper, which are rolled up and swallowed like pills. Inoculation is performed by placing the patient in the same bed as another suffering from virulent small-pox. Under these circumstances, it is scarcely to be wondered at that the Shirazis die like sheep during an epidemic, and indeed at all times. Persian surgery is not much better. In cases of amputation the limb is hacked off by repeated blows of a heavy chopper. In the case of fingers or toes a razor is used, the wound being dipped into boiling oil or pitch immediately after the operation.

The office of the Indo-European Telegraph is in Shiraz, but the private dwellings of the staff are some distance outside the city. A high wall surrounds the grounds in which the latter are situated - half a dozen comfortable brick buildings, bungalow style, each with its fruit and flower garden. Looking out of my bedroom window the morning following my arrival, on the shrubberies, well-kept lawns, bright flower-beds, and lawn-tennis nets, I could scarcely realize that this was Persia; that I was not at home again, in some secluded part of the country in far-away England. Long residence in the East had evidently not changed my host Mr. F - - 's ideas as to the necessity for European comforts. The cheerful, sunlit, chintz-covered bedroom, with its white furniture, blue-and-white wall-paper, and lattice windows almost hidden by rose and jasmine bushes, was a pleasant coup d'oeil after the grimy, bug-infested post-houses; and the luxuries of a good night's rest and subsequent shave, cold tub, and clean linen were that morning appreciated as they only can be by one who has spent many weary days in the saddle, uncombed, unshaven, and unwashed.

There is no regular post-road between Shiraz and Bushire, or rather Sheif, the landing-place, eight miles from the latter city. The journey is performed by mule-caravan, resting by night at the caravanserais. Under the guidance of Mr. F - - , I therefore set about procuring animals and "chalvadars," or muleteers. The task was not an easy one; for Captain T - - of the Indian Army was then in Shiraz, buying on behalf of the Government; and everything in the shape of a mule that could stand was first brought for his inspection. By good luck, however, I managed to get together half a dozen sorry-looking beasts; but they suited the purpose well enough. The price of these animals varies very much in Persia. They can be bought for as little as L4, while the best fetch as much as L60 to L80.

Those were pleasant days at Shiraz. One never tired of wandering about the outskirts of the city and through the quiet, shady gardens and "cities of the silent," as the Persians call their cemeteries; for, when the solemn stillness of the latter threatened to become depressing, there was always the green plain, alive from morning till night with movement and colour, to go back to. Early one morning, awoke by the sound of a cracked trumpet and drums, I braved the dust, and followed a Persian regiment of the line to its drill-ground. The Persian army numbers, on a peace footing, about 35,000 men, the reserve bringing it up to perhaps twice that number.

Experienced military men have said that material for the smartest soldiery in the world is to be found in Persia. If so, it would surely be the work of years to bring the untrained rabble that at present exists under discipline or order of any kind. The regiment whose evolutions or antics I witnessed at Shiraz was not in the dress of the Russian cossack or German uhlan, as at Teheran, but in the simple uniform of the Persian line - dark-blue tunic, with red piping; loose red-striped breeches of the same colour, stuffed into ragged leather gaiters; and bonnets of black sheepskin or brown felt (according to the taste of the wearer), with the brass badge of the lion and sun. All were armed with rusty flint-locks.

As regards smartness, the officers were not much better than the men, who did not appear to take the slightest notice of the words of command, but straggled about as they pleased, like a flock of sheep. Some peasants beside me were looking on. "Sons of dogs!" said one; "they are good for nothing but drunkenness and frightening women and children." There is no love lost between the army and the people in Persia - none of the enthusiasm of other countries when a regiment passes by; and no wonder. The pay of a Persian soldier is, at most, L3 a year, and he may think himself lucky if he gets a quarter of that sum.En revanche, the men systematically plunder and rob the wretched inhabitants of every village passed through on the march. The passage of troops is sometimes so dreaded that commanders of regiments are bribed with heavy sums by the villagers to encamp outside their walls. Troops are not the only source of anxiety to the poor fellaheen. Princes and Government officials also travel with an enormous following, mainly composed of hangers-on and riff-raff, who plunder and devastate as ruthlessly as a band of Kurd or Turkoman robbers. They are even worse than the soldiery, for the latter usually leave the women alone. Occasionally a whole village migrates to the mountains on the approach of the unwelcome guests, leaving houses and fields at their mercy.

There is probably no peasantry in the world so ground down and oppressed as the Persian. The agricultural labourer never tries to ameliorate his condition, or save up money for his old age, for the simple reason that, on becoming known to the rulers of the land, it is at once taken away from him. Though poor, however (so far as cash and valuables are concerned), the general condition of the labouring classes is not so bad as might be supposed. In a country so vast (550,000 square miles) and so thinly populated (5,000,000 in all), a small and sufficient supply of food is easily raised, especially with such prolific soil at the command of the poorest. At Shiraz, for instance, there are two harvests in the year. The seifi, sown in summer and reaped in autumn, consists of rice, cotton, Indian corn, and garden produce; the tchatvi, sown in October and November, and reaped from May till July, is exclusively wheat and barley. A quantity of fruit is also grown - grapes, oranges, and pomegranates. Shiraz is famed for the latter. The heat and dust, to say nothing of smells, prevented me from often entering the city; but I walked through the bazaar once or twice, and succeeded in purchasing some old tapestries and a prayer-carpet. The merchants here are not so reserved and secretive as those of Teheran and other cities, and are, moreover, civil enough to produce coffee and a kalyan at the conclusion of a bargain, as at Stamboul. The best tobacco for kalyan-smoking is grown round Shiraz. Some, the coarser kind, from Kazeroon and Zulfaicar, is exported to Turkey and Egypt, but the most delicate Shiraz never leaves the country. The pipe is on the same principle as the narghileh, the smoke being drawn through a vessel of water. The tube, a wooden stalk about two feet long, is changed when it becomes tainted with use; for the people of the East (unlike some in the West) like their tobacco clean.

Manufactories are trifling in comparison with what they were in former days. Where, a century since, there stood five hundred factories owned by weavers, there are now only ten, for the supply of a coarse white cotton material called "kerbas," and carpets of a cheap and common kind. Earthenware and glass is also made in small quantities, the latter only for wine-bottles and kalyan water-bowls. All the best glass is imported from Russia. A kind of mosaic work called "khatemi," much used in ornamenting boxes and pen-and-ink cases, is turned out in large quantities at Shiraz. It is pretty and effective, though some of the illustrations on the backs of mirrors, etc., are hardly fit for a drawing-room table. Caligraphy, or the art of writing, is also carried by the Shirazis to the highest degree of perfection, and they are said to be the best penmen in the East. To write really well is considered as great an accomplishment in Persia as to be a successful musician, painter, or sculptor in Europe; and a famous writer of the last century, living in Shiraz, was paid as much as five tomans for every line transcribed.

My favourite walk, after the heat of the day, was to the little cemetery where Hafiz, the Persian poet, lies at rest - a quiet, secluded spot, on the side of a hill, in a clump of dark cypress trees a gap cut through which shows the drab-coloured city, with its white minarets and gilt domes shining in the sun half a mile away. The tomb, a huge block of solid marble, brought across the desert from Yezd, is covered with inscriptions - the titles of the poet's most celebrated works. Near it is a brick building containing chambers, where bodies are put for a year or so previous to final interment at Kermanshah or Koom. Each corpse was in a separate room - a plain whitewashed compartment, with a square brick edifice in the centre containing the body. Some of the catafalques were spread with white table-cloths, flowers, candles, fruit, and biscuits, which the friends and relations (mostly women and children) of the defunct were discussing in anything but a mournful manner. A visit to a departed one's grave is generally an excuse for a picnic in Persia.

Hard by the tomb of Hafiz is a garden, one of many of the kind around Shiraz. It is called "The Garden of the Seven Sleepers," and is much frequented in summer by Shirazis of both sexes. A small open kiosk, in shape something like a theatre proscenium, stands in the centre, its outside walls completely hidden by rose and jasmine bushes. Inside all is gold moulding, light blue, green, and vermilion. A dome of looking-glass reflects the tesselated floor. Strangely enough, this garish mixture of colour does not offend the eye, toned down as it is by the everlasting twilight shed over the mimic palace and garden by overhanging branches of cypress and yew. An expanse of smooth-shaven lawn, white beds of lily and narcissus, marble tanks bubbling over with clear, cold water, and gravelled paths winding in and out of the trees to where, a hundred yards or so distant, a sunk fence divides the garden from a piece of ground two or three acres in extent, - a perfect jungle of trees, shrubs, and flowers.

Here, from about 4 p.m. till long after sunset, you may see the Shirazi taking his rest, undisturbed save for the ripple of running water, the sighing of the breeze through the branches, and croon of the pigeons overhead. Now and again the tinkle of caravan-bells breaks in upon his meditations, or the click-click of the attendant's sandals as he crosses the tiled floor with sherbet, coffee, or kalyan; but the interruption is brief. A few moments, and silence again reigns supreme - the perfection of rest, the acme of Dolce far niente. From here my way usually lay homewards, through the dusky twilight, past the city gates and along the now deserted plain. A limestone hill to the south of Shiraz bears an extraordinary resemblance to the head of a man in profile. Towards sunset the likeness was startling, and the nose, chin, and mouth as delicately formed as if chiselled by the tools of a sculptor. On fine, still evenings, parties of people would sometimes sit out on the plain till long after dark, conversing, eating sweetmeats, and tea-drinking, till the stars appeared, and the white fever mist, gathering round the ramparts, hid the city from view. Shiraz has been called the "Paris of Persia," from the cheerful, sociable character of its people as compared with other Persian cities; also, perhaps, partly from the beauty and coquetry (to use no other term) of its women.

I was enabled, thanks to my host, to glean some interesting facts concerning the latter, many European ladies having, from time to time, resided in Shiraz, and, obtaining access to the "anderoon," had afterwards given Mr. F - - the benefit of their observations.

Persian women are unquestionably allowed more freedom and liberty than those of other Oriental countries. It is extremely rare, in the bazaars of Stamboul or Cairo, to see a lady of the harem unattended, but the sight is common enough in Shiraz and Ispahan. Infidelity in Persia is therefore more common in proportion to the licence allowed; though, when discovered, it is severely punished, in some cases by death. Though a few are highly educated, the majority of Persian women are ignorant, indolent, and sensual. Mariages de convenance are as common as in France, and have a good deal to do with the immorality and intrigue that go on in the larger cities.

An eye-witness thus describes an "anderoon," or harem, of a prince in Ispahan: "A large courtyard some thirty yards by ten in extent. All down the centre is the 'hauz,' or tank - a raised piece of ornamental water, the surface of which is about two feet above the ground. The edges are formed of huge blocks of well-wrought stone, so accurately levelled that the 'hauz' overflows all round its brink, making a pleasant sound of running water. Goldfish of large size flash in shoals in the clear tank. On either side of it are long rectangular flower-beds, sunk six inches below the surface of the court. This pavement, which consists of what we should call pantiles, is clean and perfect, and freshly sprinkled; and the sprinkling and consequent evaporation make a grateful coolness. In the flower-beds are irregular clumps of marvel of Peru, some three feet high, of varied coloured blossom, coming up irregularly in wild luxuriance. The moss-rose, too, is conspicuous, with its heavy odour; while the edging, a foot wide, is formed by thousands of bulbs of the Narcissus poeticus, massed together like packed figs; these, too, give out a pleasant perfume. But what strikes one most is the air of perfect repair and cleanliness of everything. No grimy walls, no soiled curtains, here; all is clean as a new pin, all is spick and span. The courtyard is shaded by orange trees covered with bloom, and the heavy odour of neroli pervades the place. Many of the last year's fruit have been left upon the trees for ornament, and hang in bright yellow clusters out of reach. A couple of widgeon sport upon the tank. All round the courtyard are rooms, the doors and windows of which are jealously closed, but as we pass we hear whispered conversations behind them, and titters of suppressed merriment."

"The interior resembles the halls of the Alhambra. A priceless carpet, surrounded by felt edgings, two inches thick and a yard wide, appears like a lovely but subdued picture artfully set in a sombre frame. In the recesses of the walls are many bouquets in vases. The one great window - a miracle of intricate carpentry, some twenty feet by twenty - blazes with a geometrical pattern of tiny pieces of glass, forming one gorgeous mosaic. Three of the sashes of this window are thrown up to admit air; the coloured glass of the top and four remaining sashes effectually shuts out excess of light."

Such is the coup d'oeil on entering an anderoon. With such surroundings, one would expect to find refined, if not beautiful women; but, though the latter are rare enough, the former are even rarer in Persia. The Persian woman is a grown-up child, and a very vicious one to boot. Her daily life, indeed, is not calculated to improve the health of either mind or body. Most of the time is spent in dressing and undressing, trying on clothes, painting her face, sucking sweetmeats, and smoking cigarettes till her complexion is as yellow as a guinea. Intellectual occupation or amusement of any kind is unknown in the anderoon, and the obscene conversation and habits of its inmates worse even than those of the harems of Constantinople and Cairo, which, according to all accounts, is saying a good deal. A love of cruelty, too, is shown in the Persian woman; when an execution or brutal spectacle of any kind takes place, one-third at least of the spectators is sure to consist of women. But this is, perhaps, not peculiar to Persia; witness a recent criminal trial at the Old Bailey.

It will thus be seen that sensuality is the prevalent vice of the female sex in Persia. An English-speaking Persian at Bushire told me that, with the exception of the women of the wandering Eeliaut tribes, there were few chaste wives in Persia. Although the nominal punishment for adultery is death, the law, as it stands at present, is little else than a dead letter, and, as in some more civilized countries, husbands who are fond of intrigue, do not scruple to allow their wives a similar liberty. Not half an hour's walk from the Tomb of Hafiz, at the summit of the mountain, is a deep well, so deep that no one has ever yet succeeded in sounding it. The origin of the chasm is unknown; some say it is an extinct volcano. But the smallest child in Shiraz knows the use to which it has been put from time immemorial. It is the grave of adulterous women - the Well of Death.

An execution took place about fifteen years ago, but there have been none since. Proved guilty of infidelity, the wretched woman, dressed in a long white gown, was placed on a donkey, her face to the tail, with shaven head and bared face. In front of the cortege marched the executioner, musicians, dancers, and abandoned women of the town. Arrived at the summit of the mountain, the victim, half dead with fright, was lifted off and carried to the edge of the yawning abyss which had entombed so many faithless wives before her. "There is but one God, and Mohammed is His Prophet," cried a moullah, while the red-robed executioner, with one spurn of his foot, sent the unconscious wretch toppling over the brink, the awe-stricken crowd peering over, watching the white wisp disappear into eternity. Although the last execution is still fresh in the minds of many, the Well has no terrors for the gay, intrigue-loving ladies of Shiraz. They make a jest of it, and their husbands jokingly threaten them with it. Times are changed indeed in Persia!

I left Shiraz with sincere regret. Apart from the interest attached to the place, I have never received a kinder or more hospitable welcome than from the little band of Englishmen who watch over the safety, and work the wires, of the Indo-European telegraph. They are under a dozen in number. With cheap horseflesh, capital shooting, the latest books and papers from India, a good billiard-room and lawn-tennis ground, time never hangs very heavily. Living is absurdly cheap. A bachelor can do well on L6 a month, including servants. He has, of course, no house-rent to pay.

A number of square stone towers about thirty feet high, loopholed and crenelated, are visible from the caravan-track between Shiraz and Khaneh Zinian, where we rested the first night. The towers are apparently of great antiquity, and must formerly have served for purposes of defence. We lunched at the foot of one on a breezy upland, with pink and white heather growing freely around, and a brawling, tumbling mountain stream at our feet. It was like a bit of Scotland or North Wales. The tower was in a state of decay and roofless, but a wandering tribe of ragged Eeliauts had taken up their quarters inside, and watched us suspiciously through the grey smoke of a damp, spluttering peat fire. They are a queer race, these Eeliauts, [B] and have little or nothing in common with the other natives. The sight of a well-filled lunch-basket and flasks of wine (which our kind hosts had insisted on our taking) would have brought ordinary gipsies out like flies round a honey-pot, if recollections of Epsom or Henley go for anything. Not so the Eeliauts, who, stranger still, never even begged for a sheis - a self-control I rewarded by presenting the chief, a swarthy handsome fellow, in picturesque rags of bright colour, with a couple of kerans. But he never even thanked me!

It seemed, next morning, as if we had jumped, in a night, from early spring into midsummer. Although at daybreak the ice was thick on a pool outside the caravanserai, the sun by midday was so strong, and the heat so excessive, that we could scarcely get the mules along. The road lies through splendid scenery. Passing Dashti Arjin, or "The Plain of Wild Almonds," a kind of plateau to which the ascent is steep and difficult, one might have been in Switzerland or the Tyrol. Undulating, densely wooded hills, with a background of steep limestone cliffs, their sharp peaks, just tipped with snow, standing out crisp and clear against the cloudless sky, formed a fitting frame to the lovely picture before us; the pretty village, trees blossoming on all sides, fresh green pastures overgrown in places by masses of fern and wild flowers, and the white foaming waterfall dashing down the side of the mountain, to lose itself in the blue waters of a huge lake just visible in the plains below. The neighbourhood of the latter teems with game of all kinds - leopard, gazelle, and wild boar, partridge, duck, snipe, and quail, the latter in thousands.

A stiff climb of four hours over the Kotal Perizun brought us to the caravanserai of Meyun Kotal. Over this pass, ten miles in length, there is no path; one must find one's way as best one can through the huge rocks and boulders. Some of the latter were two to three feet in height. How the mules managed will ever be a mystery to me. We dismounted, leaving, by the chalvadar's request, our animals to look after themselves. The summit of the mountain is under two thousand feet. We reached it at four o'clock, and saw, to our relief, our resting-place for the night only three or four hundred feet below us. But it took nearly an hour to do even this short distance. The passage of the Kotal Perizun with a large caravan must be terrible work.

The caravanserai was crowded. Two large caravans had arrived that morning, and a third was hourly expected from Bushire. There was barely standing-room in the courtyard, which was crowded with wild-looking men, armed to the teeth, gaily caparisoned mules, and bales of merchandise.

The caravanserai at Meyun Kotal is one of the finest in Persia. It was built by Shah Abbas, and is entirely of stone and marble. Surrounded by walls of enormous thickness, the building is in the shape of a square. Around the latter are seventy or eighty deep arches for the use of travellers. At the back of each is a little doorway, about three feet by three, leading into a dark, windowless stone chamber, unfurnished, smoke-blackened, and dirty, but dry and weather-proof. Any one may occupy these. Should the beggar arrive first, the prince is left out in the cold, and vice versa. Everybody, however, is satisfied as a rule, for there is nearly as much accommodation for guests as in a large London or Paris hotel. Behind the sleeping-rooms is stabling for five or six hundred horses, and, in the centre of the courtyard, a huge marble tank of pure running water for drinking and washing purposes. This, and fodder for the horses, is all that there was to be got in the way of refreshment. But Gerome, with considerable forethought, had purchased bread, a fowl, and some eggs on the road, and, our room swept out and candles lit, we were soon sitting down to a comfortable meal, with a hissing samovar, the property of the caravanserai-keeper, between us.

One need sleep soundly to sleep well in a caravanserai. At sunset the mules, with loud clashing of bells, are driven into the yard from pasture, and tethered till one or two in the morning, when a start is made, and sleep is out of the question. In the interim, singing, talking, story-telling, occasionally quarrelling and fighting, go on all round the yard till nearly midnight. Tired out with the stiff climb, I fell into a delicious slumber, notwithstanding the noise, about nine o'clock, to be awakened shortly after by a soft, cold substance falling heavily, with a splash, upon my face. Striking a match, I discovered a large bat which the smoke from our fire (there was no chimney) had evidently detached from the rafters.

I purchased, the next morning before starting, a Persian dagger belonging to one of the caravan-men. He was one of the Bakhtiari, a wild and lawless tribe inhabiting a tract of country (as yet unexplored by Europeans) on the borders of Persia and Asia Minor. The blade of the dagger is purest Damascene work, the handle of fossilized ivory. On the back of the blade is engraved, in letters of inlaid gold, in Arabic characters -

  "There is one God! He is Eternal!" 
  "Victory is nigh, O true believer!"

Connoisseurs say that the dagger is over a hundred years old. After quite an hour's haggling (during which our departure was delayed, much to Gerome's disgust), I managed to secure it for L9 English money, although the Bakhtiari assured me that he had already sworn "by his two wives" never to part with it. I have since been offered four times the amount by a good judge of Eastern weapons.

A second pass, the Kotal Doktar, lay between us and Bushire. Though steep and slippery in places, the path is well protected, and there are no boulders to bar the way. On leaving the caravanserai, we paused to examine the second longest telegraph wire (without support) in the world. It is laid from summit to summit of two hills, and spans a valley over a mile in width. [C]

The country round Meyun Kotal is well cultivated, and we passed not only men, but women, ploughing with the odd-shaped primitive wooden ploughs peculiar to these parts. Near the foot of the pass some children were gathering and collecting acorns, which are here eaten in the form of a kind of bread by the peasantry. Seldom has Nature seemed more beautiful than on that bright cloudless morning, as we rode through sweet-scented uplands of beans and clover, meadows of deep rich grass. By the track bloomed wild flowers, violets and narcissus, shedding their fresh delicate perfume. The song of birds and hum of insects filled the air, bright butterflies flashed across our path, while the soft distant notes of a cuckoo recalled shady country lanes and the sunlit hay-fields of an English summer. It was like coming from the grave, after the sterile deserts and bleak desolate plains of Northern Persia.

There is a small square building at the northern end of the Kotal Doktar, a mud hut, in which are stationed a guard of soldiers to be of assistance in the event of robbery of caravans or travellers. Such cases are not infrequent. Upon our approach, three men armed with flint-locks and long iron pikes accosted us. "We are the escort," said one, apparently the leader, from the bar of rusty gold braid on his sleeve. "You cannot go on alone. It is not safe." We then learnt that a large lion had infested the caravan-track over the pass for some days, and had but yesterday attacked the mail and carried off one of the mules, the native in charge only just escaping by climbing a tree.

Persian travel is full of these little surprises or rather items of news; for one must be of a very ingenuous disposition to be surprised at anything after a journey of any length in that country. If the man had said that an ichthyosaurus or dodo barred the way, I should have believed him just as much. Gerome sharing my opinion that the report was got up for the sake of extorting a few kerans, we soon sent our informants about their business, and calmly proceeded on our journey. Nevertheless, the Kotal Doktar would not be a pleasant place to encounter the "king of beasts," I thought. The pass consists simply of a narrow pathway four feet wide, on the one side a perpendicular wall of rock, on the other an equally sheer precipice.

"Did you come across the lion?" was Mr. J - - 's first question, as we dismounted at the gate of his telegraph-station at Kazeroon. "I suppose not," he added, seeing the surprise with which I greeted his remark. "We have had three parties out from here this week, but with no luck. I just managed to get a sight of him, and that's all. He is a splendid beast."

Ignorance had indeed been bliss in our case, and I felt some compunction when I remembered how disdainfully we had treated the ragged sergeant and his men. They would have been of no use, except in the way of stop-gaps, like the babies, in cheap prints, that the Russian traveller in the sleigh throws to the wolves to occupy their attention while he urges on his mad career, a pistol in each hand and the reins in his mouth. Still, even for this purpose, they might have been useful, and were certainly worth a few kerans. I was glad not to learn the truth till we reached Kazeroon. The enjoyment of the meal of which we partook at the summit of the pass would have been somewhat damped by the feeling that at any moment a loud roar, bursting out of the silent fastnesses of the Kotal Doktar, might announce the approach of its grim tenant.

There was, after all, nothing very remarkable about the occurrence, for the southern parts of Persia are infested with wild animals of many kinds. Of this I was already aware, but not that lions were among the number.

Kazeroon is, next to Shiraz, the most important place in the province of Fars, and has a population of about 6000. Surrounded by fields of tobacco and maize, it is neatly laid out, and presents a cheerful appearance, the buildings being of white stone, instead of the everlasting baked mud and clay. Many of the courtyards were surrounded by date palms, and the people seemed more civilized and prosperous-looking than those in the villages north of Shiraz.

"So you refused the escort over the Kotal?" said J - that evening, as we sat over our coffee and cigars in his little stone courtyard, white and cool in the moonlight, adding, with a laugh, "Well, I don't blame you. A good story was told me the other day in Shiraz apropos of escorts. It happened not long ago to an Englishman who was going to Bagdad from Kermanshah through a nasty bit of country. A good many robberies with violence had occurred, and the Governor of Kermanshah insisted on providing him with an escort, at the same time arranging for a Turkish escort to meet him on the frontier and take him on to Bagdad."

"You have seen the ordinary cavalry soldier of this country. There were twelve of them and a sergeant. V - - was the only European. All went well till they reached a small hamlet near Zarna, about twenty miles from the Turkish border. It was midday. V - - was quietly breakfasting in his tent, the horses picketed, the men smoking or asleep. Suddenly the sound of firing was heard about a mile off, not sharp and loud, but slow and desultory, like the pop, pop, pop of a rifle or revolver. V - - was not in the least alarmed, but, the firing continuing for some time, he thought well at last to inquire into the matter. What was his surprise, on emerging from his tent, to find himself alone, not a trace of his companions to be seen. There were the picket-ropes, a smouldering fire, a kalyan, and the remains of a pilaff on the ground, but no men. The firing had done it. One and all had turned tail and fled. The position was not pleasant, for V - - was naturally absolutely ignorant of the road. 'They will come back,' he thought, and patiently waited. But sunset came, then night, then the stars, and still V - - was alone, utterly helpless and unable to move backwards or forwards. At sunrise a head was shoved into his tent. But it had a red fez on, not an astrakhan bonnet. It was one of the Bagdad escort. The Turks laughed heartily when they heard the story. 'It must have been us,' they said; 'we had nothing to do, and were practising with our revolvers.' In the mean time the Persians returned post haste to Kermanshah, and evinced great surprise that V - - was not with them."

"'He was the first to fly,' said the sergeant. 'I am afraid he must have lost his way, and fallen into the hands of the robbers. If so, God help him. There were more than fifty of them.'"

"J - - 's anecdote was followed by many others, coffee was succeeded by cognac and seltzer, Gerome gave us some startling Central Asian experiences, and we talked over men and things Persian far into the night, or rather morning, for it was nearly 2 a.m. when I retired to rest."

"I hope you'll sleep well," said J - - , as he led the way to a comfortable bedroom looking out on to the needle-like peaks of the Kotal Doktar, gleaming white in the moonlight. "By the way, I forgot to tell you we usually have an earthquake about sunrise, but don't let it disturb you. The shocks have been very slight lately, and it's sure not to last long," added my host, as he calmly closed the door, and left me to my slumbers.

I am not particularly nervous, but to be suddenly aroused from sleep by a loud crash, as if the house were falling about one's ears; to see, in the grey dawn, brick walls bending to and fro like reeds, floors heaving like the deck of a ship, windows rattling, doors banging, with an accompaniment of women and children screaming as if the end of the world had arrived, is calculated to give the boldest man a little anxiety. I must at any rate own to feeling a good deal when, about 6 a.m. the following morning, the above phenomena took place. As prophesied, "it" did not last long - eight or ten seconds at most, which seemed to me an hour. Not the least unpleasant sensation was a low, rumbling noise, like distant thunder, that accompanied the shock. It seemed to come from the very bowels of the earth.

"We have them every day," said J - - at breakfast, placidly, "but one soon gets used to them." My host was obliged to acknowledge reluctantly that this morning's shock was "a little sharper than usual"! It was sharp enough, Gerome afterwards told me, to send all the people of Kazeroon running out of their houses into the street. Common as the "Zil-Zillah" [D] is in these parts, the natives are terrified whenever a shock occurs. The great Shiraz earthquake some years ago, when over a thousand lost their lives, is still fresh in their minds.

 An easy ride, through a pretty and fertile country, brought us to the telegraph-station of Konar Takta, where Mr. E - - , the clerk in charge, had prepared a sumptuous breakfast. But we were not destined to enjoy it. They had, said Mr. E - - , experienced no less than nine severe shocks of earthquake the night before, one of which had rent the wall of his house from top to bottom. His wife and children were living in a tent in the garden, and most of the inhabitants of the village had deserted their mud huts, and rigged up temporary shanties of palm leaves in the road. "We will have breakfast, anyhow," continued our host. "You must be hungry" - leading the way into the dining-room, where a long, deep crack in the whitewashed wall showed traces of last night's disaster.

The latter had, apparently, considerably upset my host, who, throughout the meal, kept continually rising and walking to the open window and back again, in an evidently uneasy state of mind; so much so that I was about to propose an adjournment to the garden, when a diversion was created by the entrance of a servant with a dish of "Sklitch," which he had no sooner placed on the table, than he rapidly withdrew. Sklitch is peculiar to this part of Persia. It is made of a kind of moss gathered on the mountains, mixed with cream and dates, and, iced, is delicious. But scarcely had I raised the first mouthful to my lips when my host leapt out of his seat. "There it is again," he cried. "Run!" and with a bound disappeared through the window. Before I could reach it the floor was rocking so that I could scarcely keep my feet, and I was scarcely prepared for the drop of nine feet that landed me on to the flower-beds. The shock lasted quite ten seconds. Every moment I expected to see the house fall bodily over. I left poor E - - busily engaged in removing his instruments into the garden. "Another night like the last would turn my hair grey," he said, as we bade him good-bye. Truly the lot of a Persian telegraph official is not always a bed of roses.

A gradual descent of over two thousand feet leads from Konar Takta to the village of Dalaki, which is situated on a vast plain, partly cultivated, the southern extremity of which is washed by the waters of the Persian Gulf. There is a comfortable rest-house at this village, the population of which is noted as being the most fierce and lawless in Southern Persia. Rest, though undisturbed by earthquakes, was, however, almost out of the question, on account of a most abominable stench of drainage, which came on at sunset and lasted throughout the night. So overpowering was it that towards 3 a.m. both Gerome and myself were attacked by severe vomiting, and recurrence was had to the medicine-chest and large doses of brandy. One might have been sleeping over an open drain. It was not till next day that I discovered the cause - rotten naphtha, which springs in large quantities from the ground all round the village. Curiously enough, the smell is not observable in the daytime.

"We have done with the snow now, monsieur," said Gerome, as we rode next morning through a land of green barley and cotton plains, date palms, and mimosa. On the other hand, we had come in for other annoyances, in the shape of heat, dust, and swarms of flies and mosquitoes. Nearing the sea, vegetation entirely ceases. Nothing is visible around but hard calcined plain, brown and level, lost on the horizon seaward in a series of mirages, ending northward in a chain of rocky, precipitous mountains. The bright, clear atmosphere was remarkable; objects thirty or forty miles off looking but a mile or so away. About midday an unusual sight appeared on the horizon - two Europeans, a lady and gentleman, mounted on donkeys, and attended by a chalvadar on a third, who apparently carried all the baggage of the party. Halting for a few moments, and waiving introduction, we exchanged a few words. Mr. and Mrs. D - - were on their way to Teheran, with the object of making scientific researches at Persepolis and other parts of Persia. I could not help admiring the courage of the lady, though regretting, at the same time, the task she had set herself. To inquiries of "How is the road?" I replied, "Very good," May the lie be forgiven me! It was told for a humane purpose.

Save a large herd of gazelle on the far horizon, nothing occurred to break the monotony of the journey through deep heavy sand till about 4 p.m., when a thin thread of dark blue, cutting the yellow desert and lighter sky-line, appeared before us. It was the Persian Gulf. An hour later, and Sheif, the landing-place for Bushire, was reached.

A trim steam-launch, with Union Jack floating over her stern, awaited us. She was sent by Colonel Ross, British Resident at Bushire, who kindly invited me to the Residence during my stay in the Persian port. I was not sorry, after the hot, dusty ride, to throw myself at length on the soft, luxurious cushion, and, after an excellent luncheon, to peruse the latest English papers. Skimming swiftly through the bright blue waters, we neared the white city, not sorry to have successfully accomplished the voyage so far, yet aware that the hardest part of the journey to India was yet to come.

At a distance, and seen from the harbour, Bushire is not unlike Cadiz. Its Moorish buildings, the whiteness of its houses and blueness of the sea, give it, on a fine day, a picturesque and taking appearance, speedily dissipated, how ever, on closer acquaintance; for Bushire is indescribably filthy. The streets are mere alleys seven or eight feet broad, knee-deep in dust or mud, and as irregular and puzzling to a stranger as the maze at Hampton Court.

The Persian port is cool and pleasant enough in winter-time, but in summer the stench from open drains and cesspools becomes unbearable, and Europeans (of whom there are thirty or forty) remove en masse to Sabsabad, a country place eight or ten miles off. The natives, in the mean time, live as best they can, and epidemics of cholera and diphtheria are of yearly occurrence. The water of Bushire producing guinea-worms (an animal that, unless rolled out of the skin with great care, breaks, rots, and forms a festering sore), supplies of it are brought in barrels from Bussorah or Mahommerah; but this is not within reach of the poorer class. Nearly every third person met in the street suffers from ophthalmia in some shape or other - the effect of the dust and glare, for there is no shade in or about the city.

The latter is built at the end of a peninsula ten miles in length and three in breadth, the portion furthest away from the town being swampy and overflowed by the sea. Most of the houses are of soft crumbling stone full of shells; some, of brick and plastered mud; but all are whitewashed, which gives the place the spurious look of cleanliness to which I have referred. The inhabitants of this "whited sepulchre" number from 25,000 to 30,000. There is a considerable trade in tobacco, attar of roses, shawls, cotton wool, etc.; but vessels drawing over ten feet cannot approach the town nearer than a distance of three miles - a great drawback in rough or squally weather.

Were it five thousand miles away, Bushire could scarcely be less like Persia than it is. It has but one characteristic in common with other cities - its ruins. Although of no antiquity, Bushire is rich in these. With this exception, it much more resembles a Moorish or Turkish city. The native population, largely mixed with Arabs, carries out the illusion, and bright-coloured garments, white "bournouses," and green turbans throng the streets, in striking contrast to the sombre, rook-like garments affected by the natives of Iran. A stranger, too, is struck by the difference in the mode of life adopted by Europeans as compared with those inhabiting other parts of the Shah's dominions. The semi-French style of Teheran and Shiraz is here superseded by the Anglo-Indian. Dejeuner a la fourchette, vin ordinaire, and cigarettes are unknown in this land of tiffins, pegs, and cheroots.

My recollections of Bushire are pleasant ones. The Residency is a large, rambling building, all verandahs, passages, and courtyards, faces the sea on three sides, and catches the slightest breath of air that may be stirring in hot weather. Two or three lawn-tennis courts, and a broad stone walk almost overhanging the waves, form a favourite rendezvous for Europeans in the cool of the evening. From here may be seen the Persian Navy at anchor, represented by one small gunboat, the Persepolis. This toy of the Shah's was built by a German firm in 1885, and cost the Government over L30,000 sterling.

She has never moved since her arrival. Her bottom is now covered with coral and shells, her screw stuck hard and fast, while the four steel Krupp guns which she mounts are rusty and useless.

My preparations for Baluchistan were soon completed. The escort furnished me by the Indian Government had been awaiting me for some days at Sonmiani, our starting-point on the coast. A telegram from Karachi, saying that men, camels, tents, and stores were ready, was the signal for our departure, and on March 7 I took leave of my host to embark on the British India Company's steamer Purulia, for Baluchistan. With genuine regret did I leave my pleasant quarters at the Residency. Enjoyable as my visit was, it had not come upon me quite as a surprise, for the hospitality of Colonel Ross, Resident of Bushire, is well known to travellers in Persia.

[Footnote A: A similar case happened not long ago in Southern Russia.]

[Footnote B: The Eeliauts are said to be of Arab and Kurd descent.]

[Footnote C: The longest is in Cochin China, across the river Meikong, the distance from post to post being 2560 feet.]

[Footnote D: Earthquake.]