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A Ride to India across Persia and Baluchistan by Harry De Windt

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and scrub, stretching away to where, on the far horizon, some low
hills cut the brazen sky-line. On the beach the so-called town of
Sonmiani--a collection of dilapidated mud huts, over which two or
three tattered red and yellow banners flutter in the breeze, and
beneath which a small and shallow harbour emits a powerful odour of
mud, sewage, and rotten fish. Every hut is surmounted by a "badgir,"
or wind-catcher--a queer-looking contrivance, in shape exactly like a
prompter's box, used in the summer heats to cool the interior of the
dark, stifling huts. A mob of ragged, wild-looking Baluchis, with
long, matted locks and gaudy rags, completes this dreary picture.

Shouts of "Kamoo!" from the crowd brought a tall, good-looking native,
clad in white, out of an adjacent hut, who, I was relieved to find,
was the interpreter destined to accompany us to Kelat. The camels and
escort were, he said, ready for a start on the morrow, if necessary.
In the mean time there was a bare but clean Government bungalow at our
disposal, and in this we were soon settled. But notwithstanding the
comparative comfort of our quarters compared with the filthy native
houses around, I determined to get away as soon as possible. The
mosquitoes were bad enough, but the flies were far worse. Ceiling,
walls, and floor were black with them. One not only ate them with
one's food, but they inflicted a nasty, poisonous bite. As for the
smells, they were beyond description; but the fact that a dead camel
was slowly decomposing in the immediate vicinity of our dwelling may
have had something to do with this.

With all these drawbacks, I was glad to find the population, although
dirty, decidedly friendly--rather too much so, indeed; for the little
whitewashed room was crowded to overflowing the greater part of the
day with relays of visitors, who apparently looked upon us as a kind
of show got up for their entertainment. Towards sunset a tall, swarthy
fellow, about fifty years old, with sharp, restless eyes and a huge
hook nose, made his appearance at the doorway; and this was the signal
for a general stampede, for my visitor was no other than the head-man
of Sonmiani--Chengiz Khan.

Chengiz was attired in a very dirty white garment, loose and flowing
to the heels, and a pair of gold-embroidered slippers. A small conical
cap of green silk was perched rakishly on the top of his head, from
which fell, below the shoulders, a tumbled mass of thick, coarse,
black hair. The head-man was unarmed, but his followers, five in
number, fairly bristled with daggers and pistols. Like all natives,
Chengiz was at first shy and reserved. It was only when I had
prevailed upon him to take a cigar that my visitor became more at his
ease. Having lit his cheroot, he took a long pull and passed it on to
one of his followers, who repeated the performance. When it had gone
the round twice it was thrown away; and Chengiz, turning to Kamoo,
gravely asked if I wished for anything before he retired for the
night.

"You should reach Kelat in twenty-five days," was the answer to my
question, "provided the camels keep well and you have no difficulty
with the people at Gwarjak; they are not used to Europeans, and may
give you some trouble."

One of the men here whispered to his chief.

"Malak is the name of the head-man at Gwarjak," went on Chengiz--"a
treacherous, dangerous fellow. Do not have much to do with Malak; he
detests Europeans."

Malak was, judging from my experiences that night, not the only
Baluchi possessed of this failing. Chengiz having left, I retired to
rest, to be suddenly aroused at midnight by a piercing yell, and to
find a tall, half-naked fellow, with wild eyes and a face plastered
with yellow mud, standing over me, brandishing a heavy club. Though a
revolver was at hand, it was useless; for I saw at a glance that I had
to deal with a madman. After a severe tussle, Gerome and I managed to
throw out the unwelcome visitor and bar the door, though we saw him
for an hour or more prowling backwards and forwards in the moonlight
in front of the bungalow, muttering to himself, waving his arms about,
and breaking every now and then into peals of loud laughter. The
incident now seems trifling enough, though it left a powerful
impression upon my mind that night, on the eve of setting out through
an unknown country, where the life of a European more or less is of
little moment to the wild tribes of the interior. The madman was a
dervish, the head-man said, and perfectly harmless as a rule, but
liable to fits of rage at sight of a European and unbeliever. I was,
therefore, not sorry to hear next morning that this ardent follower
of the Prophet had been securely locked up, and would not be released
till the morrow, when we were well on the road to Beila.

There are, I imagine, few countries practically so little known to
Europeans as the one we were about to traverse. I had, up to the time
of my visit, often wondered that, with India so near, Baluchistan
should have been so long allowed to remain the _terra incognita_
it is. My surprise ceased on arrival at Kelat. It is impossible
to conceive a more monotonous or uninteresting journey, from a
traveller's point of view, than that from the sea to Quetta--a
distance (by my route) of nearly five hundred miles, during which
I passed (with the exception of Kelat and Beila) but half a dozen
villages worthy of the name, and met, outside the villages in
question, a dozen human beings at the most. This is, perhaps, scarcely
to be wondered at. The entire population of the country does not
exceed 450,000, while its area is estimated at something like 140,000
square miles, of which 60,000 are under Persian rule, and the
remaining 80,000 (nominally) under the suzerainty of the Khan of
Kelat.

The inhabitants of Baluchistan may be roughly divided into two
classes: the Brahuis [A] in the north, and the Baluchis in the south.
The former ascribe their origin to the earliest Mohammedan invaders of
Persia, and boast of their Arab descent; the latter are supposed by
some to have been originally a nation of Tartar mountaineers who
settled at a very early period in the southern parts of Asia, where
they led a nomad existence for many centuries, governed by their own
chiefs and laws, till at length they became incorporated and attained
their present footing at Kelat and throughout Northern Baluchistan.
Both races differ essentially in language and customs, and are
subdivided into an infinitesimal number of smaller tribes under the
command or rule of petty chiefs or khans. Although somewhat similar in
appearance, the Brahuis are said to be morally and physically superior
to their southern neighbours. The Baluch, as I shall now call each, is
not a prepossessing type of humanity on first acquaintance, with his
swarthy sullen features, dark piercing eyes, and long matted locks.
Most I met in the interior looked, a little distance off, like
perambulating masses of dirty rags; but all, even the filthiest and
most ragged, carried a bright, sharp tulwar. Though rough and uncouth,
however, I found the natives, as a rule, hospitable and kindly. It was
only in the far interior that any unpleasantness was experienced. This
was, perhaps, only natural, seeing that seventy miles of the journey
lay through a region as yet unexplored by Europeans, the inhabitants
of which were naturally resentful of what they imagined to be
intrusion and interference.

Owing to the nomadic nature of the Baluchis, the barrenness of
their country, and consequent absence of manufactures and commerce,
permanent settlements are very rare.

[Illustration: SONMIANI]

With the exception of Quetta, Kelat, Beila, and Kej, there are no
towns in Baluchistan worthy of the name. Even those I have mentioned
are, with the exception of Quetta (now a British settlement),
mere collections of tumble-down mud huts, invariably guarded by a
ramshackle fort and wall of the same material. The dwellings of the
nomads consist of a number of long slender poles bent and inverted
towards each other, over which are stretched slips of coarse fabrics
of camel's hair. It was only in the immediate neighbourhood of Gwarjak
that the native huts were constructed of dried palm-leaves, the
fertile soil of that district rendering this feasible.

Attended by Chengiz Khan in a gorgeous costume of blue and yellow
silk, and followed by a rabble of two or three hundred men and boys, I
visited the bazaar next morning. Chengiz had preceded his visit with
the present of a fine goat, and evidently meant to be friendly,
informing me, before we had gone many yards, that the Queen of England
had just invested the Djam of Beila (a neighbouring chief) with the
Star of India, and did I think that that honour was very likely to
accrue to him?

The trade of Sonmiani is, as may be imagined, insignificant. Most of
the low dark stalls were kept for the sale of grain, rice, salt, and
tobacco, by Hindus; but I was told that a brisk trade is done in fish
and sharks' fins; and dried fruits, madder, and saffron, sent down
from the northern districts, are exported in small quantities to
India and Persia. In the vicinity are some ancient pearl-fisheries of
considerable value, which were once worked with great profit. These
have been allowed to lie for many years undisturbed, owing to lack of
vigour and enterprise on the part of those in power in the state. Here
is a chance for European speculators.

By a well in the centre of the village stood some young girls and
children. The former were decidedly good looking, and one, but for the
hideous gold nose-ring, [B] would have been almost beautiful. Here, as
elsewhere in Baluchistan, the women present much more the Egyptian
type of face than the Indian--light bronze complexions, straight
regular features, and large, dark, expressive eyes. None of these made
the slightest attempt at concealment. As we passed, one of them
even nodded and smiled at Chengiz, making good use of her eyes, and
disclosing a row of small, pearly teeth. Their dress, a loose divided
skirt of thin red stuff, and short jacket, with tight-fitting sleeves,
open at the breast, showed off their slight graceful figures and
small, well-shaped hands and feet to perfection. Chengiz, pointing to
the group, smiled and addressed me in a facetious tone. "He wants to
know if you think them pretty," said my interpreter; but I thought it
best to maintain a dignified silence. The chief of Sonmiani was, for a
Mohammedan, singularly lax.

A kind of rough pottery is made at Sonmiani, and this is the only
industry. Some of the water-jars were neatly and gracefully fashioned,
of a delicate grey-green colour; others red, with rude yellow devices
painted on them. The clay is porous, and keeps the water deliciously
cool.

By four o'clock next morning all was ready for a start. The caravan
consisted of eighteen camels, four Baluchis, Kamoo, and Gerome,
with an escort of ten soldiers of the Djam of Beila, smart-looking,
well-built fellows in red tunics, white baggy trousers, and dark-blue
turbans. Each man, armed with a Snider rifle and twenty rounds of
ammunition, was mounted on a rough, wiry-looking pony. As we were
starting, Chengiz Khan rode up on a splendid camel, and announced his
intention of accompanying us the first stage, one of eighteen miles,
to Shekh-Raj.

Here the honest fellow bade us good-bye. "The sahib will not forget me
when he gets to India," he said, on leaving, thereby implying that he
wished to be well reported to the Indian Government. "But take care of
Malak; he is a bad man--a very bad man."

A rough and tedious journey of two days over deep sandy desert,
varied by an occasional salt marsh, brought us to Beila, the seat of
government of the Djam, or chief of the province of Las Beila, eighty
miles due north of Sonmiani. With a feeling of relief I sighted the
dirty, dilapidated city, with its mud huts and tawdry pink and green
banners surmounting the palace and fort. The Baluch camel is not the
easiest animal in existence, and I had, for the first few hours of the
march, experienced all the miseries of _mal de mer_ brought on by a
blazing sun and the rolling, unsteady gait of my ship of the desert.
Though awkward in his paces, the Baluch camel is swift. They are small
and better looking than most; nor do their coats present so much the
appearance of a "doormat with the mange," as those of the animals of
other countries. We had as yet passed but two villages--three or four
low shapeless huts, almost hidden in rock and scrub by the side of
the caravan-track, which, as far as Beila, is pretty clearly defined.
There had been nothing else to break the dull, dead monotony of sand
and swamp, not a sign of human life, and but one well (at Outhal) of
rather brackish water.

On the second day one of the escort had pointed out a dry rocky bed
as the river Purali, which is one of the largest in Baluchistan, but,
like all the others, quite dry the greater portion of the year. There
are no permanent rivers in this country. To this fact is perhaps due
the slight knowledge obtained up to the present time of the interior,
where arid sandy deserts, dangerous alike to native or European
travellers, are the rule, and cover those large open spaces marked
upon maps as "unexplored." Notwithstanding the great width of the bed
of the Purali river in many places, it has no regular outlet into the
sea. Its waters, when in flood from rainfall, lose themselves in
the level plains in a chain of lagoons or swamps. Some of these are
several miles in length, but decrease considerably in the dry season,
when the water becomes salt. The Habb river, which divides Las from
the British province of Sind, is another case in point. It possesses
permanent banks, is fed from the Pabb chain of mountains, and after
heavy rains in these hills a large body of water is formed, which
rushes down to the sea with great force and velocity. But at other
times water is only to be found in a few small pools in its rocky bed.
It is, in short, a mountain torrent on a large scale. So also with the
greater number of streams in the western districts, though a few of
these have more the semblance of rivers than can be found elsewhere in
Baluchistan. Of lakes there are none throughout the entire area of the
country.

At Outhal we were met by one Hussein Khan, a wild-looking fellow
mounted on a good-looking chestnut horse, its saddle and headstalls
ornamented with bright-coloured leathers and gold and silver
ornaments. Hussein was from Beila, with a message from the Djam to say
that I was welcome in his dominions. Tents were then pitched, and
I invited Hussein to partake of refreshment, which was refused. He
accepted a cigarette, however, but seemed undecided whether to smoke
or eat it, till presented with a light. Having asked if I would like
to be saluted with guns on arrival, an offer I politely declined, my
visitor then left to prepare for our reception on the morrow.

[Illustration: OUR CAMP AT OUTHAL]

Daybreak saw us well _en route_ and by 10 a.m. we were in sight of
Beila. About a mile or so out of the city, a mounted sowar in scarlet
and gold uniform, and armed with two huge horse-pistols and a long
cavalry sabre, galloped up to the caravan. "It is a messenger from
the palace," said Kamoo, "to say that his Highness the Djam has been
suddenly called away to Kej, [C] but that his son, Prince Kumal Khan,
is riding out in state to meet the sahib, and conduct him to his
father's city."

The prince shortly afterwards appeared, mounted on a huge camel,
the tail and hind quarters of which were ornamented with intricate
patterns stamped on the hide by some peculiar process. A guard of
honour of thirty soldiers accompanied, while a rabble of two or three
hundred foot people surrounded the party, for the sight of a white
face is rare in Beila. It was a strange scene: the picturesque city,
brilliant barbaric costume of the young chief and his followers, and
crowd of wild, half-naked Baluchis were fitly set off by surroundings
of desert landscape and dazzling sunshine. A Gerome or Vereschagin
would have revelled in the sight.

Shaking hands with Kumal (no easy matter on camels), he placed me on
his right hand, and, heading the procession, we rode into Beila, where
a large tent had been erected for my accommodation. Having placed a
guard at my disposal, the prince then left, announcing his intention
of receiving me in state that afternoon at the palace.

Beila, which is protected by a fort and high mud wall, is situated on
the right bank of the river Purali, which, at the time of my visit,
was no more than a dry rocky bed. The town contains about 4000
inhabitants, and, from a distance, presents a curious appearance,
each house being fitted, as at Sonmiani, with a large "badgir," or
wind-catcher. Like most Eastern cities, Beila does not improve on
closer acquaintance. The people are dirty and indolent. There is
little or no trade, and the dark, narrow streets, ankle-deep in mud
and filth, are crowded with beggars and pariah dogs, while the dull
drab colour of the mud houses is depressing in the extreme. The fort
and palace alone are built of brick, and, being whitewashed, relieve
to a certain extent the melancholy aspect of the place. I was escorted
to the latter the afternoon of my arrival by a guard of honour,
preceded by the Djam's band--half a dozen cracked English cavalry
trumpets!

Djam Ali Khan, the present ruler of the state of Las Beila, is about
fifty years of age, and is a firm ally of England. The Djam is a
vassal of the Khan of Kelat, but, like most independent Baluch chiefs,
only nominally so. So far as I could glean, the court of Kelat has no
influence whatsoever beyond a radius of twenty miles or so from that
city. The provinces of Sarawan, Jhalawan, Kach-Gandava, Mekran, [D] and
Las Beila, which constitute the vast tract of country known as Kalati
Baluchistan, are all governed by independent chiefs, nominally
viceroys of the Khan of Kelat. Practically, however, the latter
has little or no supremacy over them, nor indeed over any part of
Baluchistan, Kelat and its suburbs excepted.

Prince Kumal Khan received me in his father's durbar-chamber, a
cheerless, whitewashed apartment, bare of furniture save for a
somewhat rickety "throne" of painted wood, and a huge white linen
punkah, overlooking a dreary landscape of barren desert and mud roofs.
The prince, a tall, slim young man, about twenty-five years of
age, has weak but not unpleasing features. He was dressed in a
close-fitting tunic of dark-blue cloth, heavily trimmed with gold
braid, baggy white linen trousers, and a pair of European side-spring
boots, very dirty and down at heel. A light-blue turban completed his
attire.

The interview was not interesting. Notwithstanding all my efforts and
the services of the interpreter, Kumal was evidently shy and ill at
ease, and resolutely refused to enter into conversation. One thing,
however, roused him. Hearing that I was accompanied by a Russian,
Kumal eagerly demanded that he should be sent for. Gerome presently
made his appearance, and was stared at, much to his discomfiture and
annoyance, as if he had been a wild beast. A pair of white-linen
drawers, no socks, carpet slippers, and a thin jersey, were my
faithful follower's idea of a costume suitable to the Indian
climate--surmounted by the somewhat inappropriate head-dress of a
huge astrakhan cap, which for no earthly consideration could he be
persuaded to exchange for a turban. "So that is a Russian!" said the
prince, curiously surveying him from head to foot. "I thought they
were all big men!" But patience has limits, and, with a muttered
"Dourak," [E] poor Gerome turned and left the princely presence in
anything but a respectful manner.

Coffee and nargileh discussed, my host moved an adjournment to the
roof of the palace, where, he said, I should obtain a better view of
his father's city. This ceremony concluded, the trumpets sounded, a
gentle hint that the audience was at an end, and I took leave, and
returned to camp outside the walls of the town.

The Wazir, or Prime Minister, of the Djam paid me a visit in the
evening _sans ceremonie_--a jolly-looking, fresh-complexioned old
fellow, dressed in a suit of karki, cut European fashion, and with
nothing Oriental about him save a huge white linen turban. The Wazir
spoke English fairly well, and, waxing confidential over a cigar and
whisky-and-water (like my Sonmiani friend, the Wazir was no strict
Mussulman), entertained me with an account of the doings of the
Court in Beila and the _aventures galantes_ of Kumal, who, from all
accounts, was a veritable Don Juan. "Will the Russians ever take
India?" asked the old fellow of Gerome, as he left the tent. "You can
tell them they shall never get it so long as _we_ can prevent them;"
but the next moment the poor Wazir, to Gerome's delight, had measured
his length on the ground. Either the night was very dark, or the
whisky very strong; a tent-rope had avenged the taunt levelled at my
companion's countrymen.

Early next morning came a message from Prince Kumal, inviting me
to visit the caves of Shahr-Rogan, an excavated village of great
antiquity, about ten miles from Beila. I gladly accepted. The camels
were tired; the men of the caravan unwilling to proceed for another
day, and time hung heavily on one's hands, with nothing to vary the
monotony but an occasional shot at a wood-pigeon (which swarm about
Beila), or a game of _ecarte_ (for nuts) with Gerome.

The caves were well worth a visit. I could gain no information at
Beila, Quetta, or even Karachi, as to the origin of this curious
cave-city, though there can be no doubt that it is of great antiquity.
Carless the traveller's account is perhaps the most authentic.

"About nine miles to the northward of Beila a range of low hills
sweeps in a semicircle from one side of the valley to the other, and
forms its head. The Purali river issues from a deep ravine on the
western side, and rushes down (in the wet season) about two hundred
yards broad. It is bounded on one side by steep cliffs, forty or
fifty feet high, on the summit of which is an ancient burial-ground.
Following the stream, we gained the narrow ravine through which
it flows, and, turning into one of the lateral branches, entered
Shahr-Rogan."

Here, on the day in question, Prince Kumal called a halt. A couple
of small tents were pitched, and a meal, consisting of an excellent
curry, stewed pigeons, beer, and claret, served. Leaving the Prince
to amuse himself and delight his followers with his skill in
rifle-shooting at a mark chalked out on the rocks, I continued my
explorations. The result is, perhaps, better explained to the reader
in the words of an older and more experienced observer. Carless
says--"The scene was singular. On either side of a wild broken ravine
the rocks rise perpendicularly to the height of four or five hundred
feet, and are excavated, as far as there is footing to ascend, up to
the summit. The excavations are most numerous along the lower part
of the hills, and form distinct houses, most of which are uninjured
by-time. They consist, in general, of a room fifteen feet square,
forming a kind of open verandah, with an interior chamber of the same
dimensions, to which admittance is gained by a narrow doorway. There
are niches for lamps in many, and a place built up and covered in,
apparently to hold grain. Most of the houses or caves at the summits
of the cliffs are now inaccessible, from the narrow precipitous
paths by which they were approached having worn away. The cliffs are
excavated on both sides of the valley for a distance little short of
a mile. There cannot be less than fifteen hundred of these strange
habitations."

The caves of Shahr-Rogan are not the only sights of interest near
Beila. Time, unfortunately, would not admit of my visiting the
mud-volcanoes of Las, situated near the Harra Mountains, about sixty
miles from Shahr-Rogan. The hills upon which these are found are
from three to four hundred feet high, and are conical in form, with
flattened and discoloured tops and precipitous sides. At their bases
are numerous fissures and cavities reaching far into their interior.
Captain Hart, who visited these geysers some years ago, describes
them as basins of liquid mud, about a hundred paces in diameter, in a
continual state of eruption. These geysers, or "chandra-kupr," as they
are called by the Baluchis, are also found on parts of the Mekran
coast. Colonel Ross, H.M.'s Resident at Bushire, is of opinion that
these coast craters have communication with the sea, as the state of
the tides has considerable influence on the movements of the mud. This
theory is, perhaps, strengthened by the fact that by the coast natives
the volcanoes are called "Darya-Chan," or "Eyes of the Sea."

On the way back from Shahr-Rogan to Beila a herd of antelope was
seen. I may here mention that, with one exception, this was the only
occasion upon which I came across big game of any kind throughout the
journey, although, from all accounts, there is no lack of wild animals
in Baluchistan. Bear and hyena are found in the southern districts,
and the leopard, wolf, ibex, and tiger-cat exist in other parts of
the country. The wild dog is also found in the northern and more
mountainous regions. The latter hunt in packs of twenty and thirty,
and will seize a bullock and kill him in a few minutes. On the other
hand, vermin and venomous animals are not so common as in India.
Dangerous snakes are rare, though we were much annoyed by scorpions
and centipedes in the villages of the north, and a loathsome bug, the
"mangar," which infests the houses of Kelat.

Riding homewards, we stopped about a mile out of Beila to inspect the
Djam's garden, a large rambling piece of ground about fifty acres in
extent, enclosed by high walls of solid masonry. Never was I more
surprised than upon entering the lofty iron gates guarded by a sowar
in neat white uniform. It seemed incredible that such fertility and
abundance could exist in this dry, arid land. The cool fragrant
gardens, with their shady grass walks, forest trees, and palms,
springing up, as it were, out of the scorched, stony desert, reminded
one of a bunch of sweet-smelling flowers in a fever ward, and the
scent of rose, jasmine, and narcissus was apparent quite half a mile
away. In the centre of the garden is a tamarind tree of enormous
girth. It takes twelve men with joined hands to surround it. Half an
hour was spent in this pleasant oasis, which was constructed by the
late Djam, after infinite trouble and expense, by means of irrigation
from the Purali river. There are also two deep wells of clear water in
the grounds, which are never quite dry even in the hottest seasons.

Proceeding homewards, we had scarcely reached camp when a terrific
thunderstorm burst over our heads. The thunderclaps were in some
instances nearly a minute in duration, and the lightning unpleasantly
close and vivid.

The weather clearing, I visited the bazaar in the evening, under
the guidance of my old friend, the Wazir. Trade is, as I have said,
practically _nil_ in Beila, and the manufactures, which are trifling,
are confined to oil, cotton, a rough kind of cloth, and coarse
carpets; indeed, throughout the country, commerce is almost at a
standstill.

This is scarcely surprising when the semi-savage state of the people,
and consequent risks to life and property, are taken into account. The
export trade of the interior is, though trifling at present, capable,
under firm and wise rule, of great improvement. Madder, almonds, and
dried fruit from Kelat and Mastung, seed and grain from Khozdar, small
quantities of assa-foetida from Nushki, and sulphur from Kach-Gandava,
comprise all the exports. From Mekran and Las Beila are exported
"rogan," or clarified butter used for cooking purposes, hides, tobacco
(of a very coarse kind), salt fish, oil-seeds, and dates. The imports
chiefly consist of rice, pepper, sugar, spices, indigo, wood, and
piece goods, chiefly landed at the ports of Gwadar or Sonmiani. But
little is as yet known of the mineral products of this district. Iron
ore is said to exist in the mountains north of Beila, while to the
south copper is reported as being found in large quantities; but
nothing has as yet been done to open up the mineral resources of the
district. Although silver and even gold have been found in small
quantities, and other minerals are known to exist, the only mines at
present in Baluchistan are those near Khozdar, in the province of
Jhalawan, where lead and antimony are worked, but in a very primitive
manner.

Notwithstanding the trade stagnation, there seems to be a good deal of
cultivation in and around Beila. Water is obtained from deep wells;
and vegetables, rice, and tobacco are largely grown. Most of the
stalls in the bazaar were devoted to the sale of rice, wheat, and
tobacco, cheap cutlery, and Manchester goods; and I noticed, with some
surprise, cheap photographs of Mrs. Langtry, Ellen Terry, Miss Nelly
Farren, Sylvia Grey, and other leading lights of society and art,
spread out for sale among the many-bladed knives, nickel forks and
spoons, and German timepieces. Although the narrow alleys reeked with
poisonous smells and filth and abomination of all kinds, Beila is not
unhealthy--so at least the Wazir informed me. I doubted the truth of
this assertion, however, for the features of every second person I met
were scarred more or less with small-pox.

My caravan, on leaving Beila, was considerably increased. It now
consisted of twenty-two camels (six of which were laden with water),
five Baluchis, my original escort, and six of the Djam's cavalry. I
could well have dispensed with the latter, but the kindly little Wazir
would not hear of my going without them. An addition also to our party
was a queer creature, half Portuguese, half Malay, picked up by Gerome
in the Beila bazaar, and destined to fulfil the duties of cook. How he
had drifted to Beila I never ascertained, and thought it prudent not
to inquire too much into his antecedents. No one knew anything about
him, and as he talked a language peculiar to himself, no one was ever
likely to; but he was an undeniably good _chef_, and that was the
chief consideration. Gaetan, this strange being informed us, was his
name--speedily transformed by Gerome into the more euphonious and
romantic name of Gaetano!

I took leave of the Prince and my old friend the Wazir with some
misgivings, for the new camel-drivers were Beila men, and frankly
owned that their knowledge of the country lying between Gwarjak and
Noundra (where we were to leave the caravan-track) was derived chiefly
from hearsay.

There are two caravan-roads through Beila. One, formerly much used, is
that over which we had travelled from the coast, and which, on leaving
Beila, leads due north to Quetta _via_ Wadd and Sohrab. An ordinary
caravan by this route occupies at least forty days in transit.
Traffic is now, therefore, usually carried on by means of the safer
trade-routes through British Sindh, whereby the saving of time is
considerable, and chances of robbery much lessened. The second road
(which has branches leading to the coast towns of Gwadar, Pasui, and
Ormara) proceeds due west to Kej, capital of the Mekran province,
near the Persian border. The latter track we were to follow as far as
Noundra, ninety miles distant. I should add that the so-called roads
of Baluchistan are nothing more than narrow, beaten paths, as often as
not entirely obliterated by swamp or brushwood. Beyond Noundra, where
we left the main track to strike northwards for Gwarjak, there was
absolutely nothing to guide us but occasional landmarks by day and the
stars at night.

Barring the intense monotony, the journey was not altogether
unenjoyable. To reach Noundra it took us five days. This may appear
slow work, but quicker progress is next to impossible in a country
where, even on the regular caravan-road, the guides are constantly
losing the track, and two or three hours are often wasted in regaining
it. The first two or three days of the journey lay through swampy
ground, through which the camels made their way with difficulty, for a
cat on the ice in walnut-shells is less awkward than a camel in mud.
Broad deep swamps alternating with tracts of sandy desert, with
nothing to relieve the monotonous landscape but occasional clumps of
"feesh," a stunted palm about three feet in height, and rough cairns
of rock erected by travellers to mark the pathway where it had become
obliterated, sufficiently describes the scenery passed through for the
first three days after leaving Beila. Large stones accurately laid out
in circles of eighteen or twenty feet in diameter were also met with
at intervals of every two miles or so by the side of the track, and
this very often in districts where nothing was visible but a boundless
waste of loose, drifting sand. Our Baluchis could not or would not
explain the _raison d'etre_ of them, though the stones must, in many
instances, have been brought great distances and for a definite
purpose. I could not, however, get any explanation regarding them at
either Kelat or Quetta.

With the exception of the Lakh Pass leading over a chain of hills
about eighteen miles due west of Beila, the road to Noundra was as
flat as a billiard-table. The crossing of the Lakh, however, was not
accomplished without much difficulty and some danger; for the narrow
pathway, leading over rocky, almost perpendicular, cliffs, three to
four hundred feet high, had, in places, almost entirely crumbled away.
The summits of these cliffs present a curious appearance--fifty to
sixty needle-like spires, hardly a couple of feet thick at the top,
which look as if the hand of man and not of nature had placed them in
the symmetrical order in which they stand, white and clear-cut against
the deep-blue sky, slender and fragile as sugar ornaments, and looking
as though a puff of wind would send them toppling over. The ascent
was terribly hard work for the camels, and, as the track is totally
unprotected by guard-rail of any kind, anything but comfortable for
their riders. Towards the summit we met a couple of these beasts laden
with tobacco from Kej, in charge of a wild-looking fellow in rags,
as black as a coal, who eyed us suspiciously, and answered in sulky
monosyllables when asked where he hailed from. His merchandise,
consisting of four small bags, seemed hardly worth the carrying, but
Kej tobacco fetches high prices in Beila. At this point the pathway
had latterly been widened by order of the Djam. Formerly, if two
camels travelling in opposite directions met, their respective owners
drew lots. The animal belonging to the loser was then sacrificed and
pushed over the precipice to clear the way for the other.

In the wet season a foaming torrent dashes through the Valley of Lakh,
but this was, at the time of my visit, a dry bed of rock and shingle.
Indeed, although we were fairly fortunate as regard wells, and I was
never compelled to put the caravan on short allowance, I did not
pass a single stream of running water the whole way from Sonmiani to
Dhaira, twenty miles south of Gwarjak, though we must in that distance
have crossed at least fifteen dry river-beds, varying from twenty to
eighty yards in width.

Travelling in the daytime soon became impossible, on account of the
heat, as we proceeded further inland. A start was therefore generally
made before it was light, and by 11 a.m. the day's work was over,
tents pitched, camels turned loose, and a halt made till three or four
the next morning. Though the sun at midday was, with the total absence
of shade, dangerously powerful, and converted the interior of our
canvas tents into the semblance of an oven, there was little to
complain of as regards weather. The nights were deliciously cool, and
the pleasantest part of, the twenty-four hours was perhaps that from
8 till 10 a.m., when, dinner over and camp-fires lit, the Baluchis
enlivened the caravan with song and dance. Baluch music is, though
wild and mournful, pleasing. Some of the escort had fine voices,
and sang to the accompaniment of a low, soft pipe, their favourite
instrument. Gerome was in great request on these occasions, and,
under the influence of some fiery raki, of which he seemed to have an
unlimited stock, would have trolled out "Matoushka Volga" and weird
Cossack ditties till the stars were paling, if not suppressed. As
it was, one got little enough rest, what with the heat and flies at
midday, and, at the halt about 8 a.m., the shouting, hammering of
tent-pegs, and braying of camels that went on till the sun was high in
the heavens.

There is a so-called town or village, Jhow (situated about twenty
miles east of Noundra), in a sparsely cultivated plain of the same
name. Barley and wheat are grown by means of irrigation from the Jhow
river, which in the wet season is of considerable size. I had expected
to find, at Jhow, some semblance of a town or village, as the Wazir
of Beila had told me that the place contained a population of four or
five hundred, and it is plainly marked on all Government maps. But I
had yet to learn that a Baluch "town," or even village, of forty or
fifty inhabitants often extends over a tract of country many miles
in extent. The "town" of Jhow, for instance, is spread over a plain
thirty-five miles long by fourteen broad, in little clusters of from
two to six houses. A few tiny patches of green peeping out of the
yellow sand and brushwood, a wreath of grey smoke rising lazily here
and there at long intervals over the plain, a few camels and goats
browsing in the dry, withered herbage by the caravan-track, showed
that there were inhabitants; but we saw no dwellings, and only one
native, a woman, who, at sight of Gerome, who gallantly rode forward
to address her, turned and fled as if she had seen the evil one.
Noundra, which was reached on the 30th of March, was a mere repetition
of Jhow. Neither houses nor natives were visible, though we passed
occasional patches of cultivated ground. About five miles west of this
we left the beaten track and struck out due north for Gwarjak, which,
according to my calculation, lay about seventy miles distant.

[Footnote A: The traveller Masson says that the word _Brahui_ is a
corruption of _Ba-roh-i_, meaning literally, "of the waste."]

[Footnote B: These rings are sometimes so heavy that they are attached
to a band at the top of the head to lessen the weight on the nostril.]

[Footnote C: A town in Western Baluchistan.]

[Footnote D: The word "Mekran" is said to be derived from
"Mahi-Kharan," or "Fish-eaters," which food the inhabitants of this
maritime province subsisted on in Alexander's time, and do still.]

[Footnote E: Russian, "Fool."]

CHAPTER X.

BALUCHISTAN--GWARJAK.

Most European travellers through this desolate land have testified to
the fact that the most commendable trait in the Baluch is his practice
of hospitality, or "zang," as it is called. As among the Arabs, a
guest is held sacred, save by some of the wilder tribes on the Afghan
frontier, who, though they respect a stranger actually under their
roof, will rob and murder him without scruple as soon as he has
departed. The natives of Kanero and Dhaira (the two villages lying
between Noundra and Gwarjak) were, though civil, evidently not best
pleased at our appearance, but the sight of a well-armed escort
prevented any open demonstration of ill feeling.

The first day's work after Noundra was rough, so much so that the
camels could scarcely struggle through the deep sand, or surmount the
steep, pathless ridges of slippery rock that barred our progress every
two or three miles. Though the greater part of the journey lay through
deep, drifting sand, the soil in places was hard and stony, and here
the babul tree and feesh palm grew freely, also a pretty star-shaped
yellow flower, called by Baluchis the "jour." This plant is poisonous
to camels, but, strangely enough, harmless to sheep, goats, and other
animals.

For a desert-journey, we had little to complain of as regards actual
discomfort. There were no mosquitoes or sandflies, and the heat,
though severe, was never excessive save for a couple of hours or so at
midday, when enforced imprisonment in a thin canvas tent became rather
trying. There was absolutely no shade--not a tree of any kind visible
from the day we left Beila till our arrival at Dhaira about midday on
the 31st of March. Scarcity of water was our greatest difficulty. At
Noundra it had been salt and brackish; at Kanero we searched in vain
for a well. Had we known that a couple of days' march distant lay a
land "with milk and honey blest," this would have inconvenienced us
but little. The fact, however, that only three barrels of the precious
liquid remained caused me some anxiety, especially as the first well
upon which we could rely was at Gwarjak, nearly sixty miles distant.

The sight of Dhaira, on the morning of the 31st, relieved us of all
further anxiety. This fertile plain, about fifteen miles long by ten
broad, is bounded on the north-west by a chain of limestone mountains,
the name of which I was unable to ascertain. Here for the second time
since Beila we found a village and traces of inhabitants, the former
encircled for a considerable distance by fields of maize and barley,
enclosed by neat banks and hedges--a grateful contrast to the desolate
waste behind us. It was the most perfect oasis imaginable. Shady
forest trees and shrubs surrounded us on every side, a clear stream of
running water fringed with ferns and wild flowers rippled through our
camp, while the poor half-starved horses of the escort revelled in the
long, rich grass. Hard by a cluster of three or four leaf huts, half
hidden in a grove of date palms, lay (part of) the little village
of Dhaira, deserted at this busy hour of the day save by women and
children. The latter fled upon our arrival, and did not reappear until
the evening, when the return of the men reassured them sufficiently to
approach our tents and look upon the strange and unwelcome features of
the Farangi without fear.

From here, by advice of the Wazir of Beila, a messenger was despatched
to Malak, at Gwarjak, twenty miles distant, requesting permission to
travel through his dominions. I resolved to proceed no further without
the chief's sanction, or to afford him in any way an excuse for making
himself unpleasant. In the mean time, arms and accoutrements were
looked to, and the escort cleaned and smartened up as well as
circumstances would permit. The natives overcame their shyness next
morning, and brought us goat's milk and "rogan," or clarified butter.
The Baluchis seldom eat meat, their food principally consisting of
cakes or bread made of grain, with buttermilk and rice. A favourite
preparation known as "shalansh," and called "krout" by the Afghans, is
made by boiling buttermilk till the original quantity is reduced by
half. The remainder is then strained through a thick felt bag, in the
sun. When the draining ceases, the mass in the bag is formed into
small lumps dried hard by the sun's rays. When required for use these
lumps are pounded and placed in warm water, where they are worked by
the hands until dissolved. The thickened fluid is then boiled with
rogan and eaten with bread.

Assafoetida, indigenous to the country, is largely used among all
classes for flavouring dishes. So much is this noxious plant liked
by Baluchis, that it goes by the name of "khush-khorak," or pleasant
food. At Kelat, in the palace of the Khan, I was offered it pickled,
but it is usually eaten stewed in butter.

About midday, to my great surprise, Malak made his appearance in
person, mounted on a good-looking chestnut stallion, its bridle
and saddle adorned with gold and silver trappings. Four attendants
followed on sorry-looking steeds. The chief, a tall, well-built
fellow, about thirty years of age, with a sulky, sinister cast of
countenance, was clad in a bright green satin jacket, white and gold
turban, loose dark-blue trousers, and embroidered slippers. The loss
of one eye gave him a still more unpleasant expression, a lock
of coarse black hair being dragged over the face to conceal the
disfigurement. The whole party were armed to the teeth, and carried
guns, shields, and revolvers.

Our interview did not commence propitiously. Swinging himself off his
horse, Malak returned my salutation with a sulky nod, and swaggered
into the tent, signing to his suite to follow his example. Curtly
refusing my offer of refreshment, he called for his pipe-bearer, and,
lighting a kalyan, commenced puffing vigorously at some abominably
smelling tobacco, which soon rendered the interior of the tent
unbearable. It is, unfortunately, Baluch etiquette to allow a guest
to open the conversation. Malak, well aware of this, maintained
a stolid silence, and appeared hugely to enjoy the annoyance and
impatience I tried in vain to conceal. It was not till nearly an hour
had elapsed that this amiable visitor at last inquired, in a rude,
surly tone, what I wanted. My interpreter's services were then called
in, but it was not without demur and a long consultation with his
suite that Malak consented to accompany me to Gwarjak on the morrow.
Matters were finally arranged, on the understanding that I did not
remain more than one day at Gwarjak, but proceeded to Kelat without
delay.

I strolled out with a gun in the evening, and managed to bag a
brace of partridges, which swarmed in the maize and barley fields.
Overcoming the fears of the women, I was permitted to approach and
inspect, though not enter, one of their dwellings. The latter,
constructed of dried palm leaves, were about fifteen feet long by
eight feet broad, and were entirely devoid of rugs, carpets, or
furniture of any kind, and indescribably filthy. The men, though shy
and suspicious, would have been friendly, had it not been for Malak,
who followed me like a shadow; but nothing would induce the women and
children to approach either Gerome or myself. "What is this?" said one
old fellow to Malak, stroking my face with his horny, grimy palm. "I
never saw anything like it before." Most of the men were clothed in
dirty, discoloured rags. The women wore simply a cloth tied loosely
over the loins, while male and female children fourteen or fifteen
years old ran about stark naked.

A curious flower, the "kosisant," grows luxuriantly about here. It is
in shape something like a huge asparagus, and about two feet high,
being covered from top to bottom with tiny white-and-yellow blossoms,
with a sweet but sickly perfume. It consists but of one shoot or
stalk, and bursts through the ground apparently with great force,
displacing the soil for several inches.

We left for Gwarjak at 5.30 the following morning. Etiquette compelled
Malak to offer me his horse, while he mounted my camel--an operation
effected with very bad grace by my host. The Baluch saddle consists
simply of two sharp pieces of wood bound together by leathern thongs,
and the exchange was by no means a welcome one so far as I was
concerned. Had it cut me in two, however, I would have borne it, if
only to punish this boorish ruffian for his insolence of yesterday.
Malak's chief failing was evidently vanity, and he was very reluctant,
even for an hour, to cede the place of honour to a European.

The road for the first ten miles or so lay along the dry bed of
a river, which, I ascertained with difficulty from my one-eyed
companion, is named the Mashki. Large holes, from eight to ten feet
deep, had been dug for some distance by the Dhaira natives, forming
natural cisterns or tanks. These were, even now, after a long spell of
dry weather, more than half full, and the water, with which we filled
barrels and flasks, clear, cold, and delicious.

The Shirengaz Pass, which crosses a chain of hills about five hundred
feet high, separates the Dhaira Valley from the equally fertile
district of Gwarjak. The ascent and descent are gradual and easy, and
by ten o'clock we were in sight of Gwarjak, before midday had encamped
within half a mile of the town, if a collection of straggling
tumble-down huts can so be called. The news of our arrival had preceded
us, and before tents were pitched the population had turned out _en
masse_, and a mob of quite two hundred men, women, and children were
squatted around our camp, watching, at a respectful distance, the
proceedings of my men with considerable interest. Malak had meanwhile
disappeared, ostensibly to warn the Wazir of our arrival.

Gwarjak is situated on the left bank of the Mashki river, and consists
of some thirty huts, shapeless and dilapidated, built of dried palm
leaves. About two hundred yards north of the village rises a steep
almost perpendicular rock about a hundred feet high, on the summit of
which is perched a small mud fort. The latter is crenelated, loopholed
for musketry, and mounts six cannon of a very primitive kind. It was
at once apparent that we were anything but welcome. The very sight of
my armed escort seemed to annoy and exasperate the male population,
while the women and children gathered together some distance off,
flying in a body whenever one of our party approached them. I looked
forward, with some impatience, to Malak's return, for Kamoo's request
for the loan of a knife from one of the bystanders was met with
an indignant refusal, accompanied by murmuring and unmistakable
expressions of hostility. We were well armed certainly, but were only
ten men against over a hundred.

Our camping-place was wild and picturesque, and, had it not been for
the uncomfortable sensation of not quite knowing what would happen
next, our stay at Gwarjak would have been pleasant enough. Even Gerome
was depressed and anxious, and the Beila men and escort ill at ease. I
was sorely tempted more than once to accede to Kamoo's request, strike
tents and move on to Gajjar, the next village, but was restrained by
the thought that such a proceeding would not only be undignified, but
a source of satisfaction to my _bete noire_, Malak.

[Illustration: MALAK]

After a prolonged absence of four or five hours, the latter returned,
together with his Wazir and about a dozen followers. A more cut-throat
looking set of ruffians I have seldom seen. All wore long black-cloth
robes trimmed with scarlet, and white turbans, and carried a Snider
rifle and belt stuffed with cartridges slung over the left shoulder. I
now noticed with some anxiety that Malak's quiet and undemonstrative
manner had completely altered to one of swaggering insolence and
bravado. "The chief wishes you to know he has twenty more like this,"
said Kamoo, pointing to Malak's villainous-looking suite. "Tell him
I am very glad to hear it," was my reply, politely meant, but which
seemed to unduly exasperate the King of Gwarjak. Brushing past me, he
burst into the tent, followed by his men, and seated himself on my
only camp-stool. Then, producing a large American revolver, he cocked
it with a loud click, placed it on the ground beside him, and called
for his kalyan.

Patience has limits. With the reflection that few white men would have
put up with the insults I had; that "Tommy Atkins" was, after all,
only three hundred miles away; and that, in the event of my death,
Malak would probably be shot, if not blown from a gun,--I ordered him
(through the trembling Kamoo) to instantly leave the tent with all his
followers. The fire-eating chieftain was (unlike most Baluchis) a poor
creature, for to my intense relief he slunk out at once, with his
tail between his legs. Having then re-appropriated the camp-stool,
I ordered in the escort, fixed bayonets, loaded _my_ revolver with
ostentation, and commanded my friend to re-enter alone, which he did,
and, as Americans say, "quickly."

Then ensued an uncomfortable silence, interrupted by the arrival of
one of my men to say that the villagers had refused to sell provisions
of any kind, although eggs, milk, and rice were to be had in plenty.
"I am not the king of these people," said Malak, passionately, on
being remonstrated with. "Every man here is free to do as he pleases
with his own." As our stores were now running uncomfortably short,
this "Boycotting" system was anything but pleasant. "Will _you_ sell
us some eggs and milk?" I asked, as my unwilling guest rose to go. It
was eating humble-pie with a vengeance, but hunger, like many other
things, has no laws. "I am not a stall-keeper," was the answer. A
request to be permitted to ascend the hill and visit the fort was met
by an emphatic refusal. I then, as a last resource, inquired, through
Kamoo, if my hospitable host had any objection to my walking through
the village. "If you like," was the reply; "but I will not be
responsible for your safety. This is not Kelat. The English are not
our masters. We care nothing for them."

Notwithstanding these mysterious warnings, however, I visited the
village towards sunset, alone with Gerome, fearing lest the sight of
my escort should arouse the ire and suspicions of the natives. There
was little to see and nothing to interest. Gwarjak is built without
any attempt at order or symmetry. Many of the houses had toppled over
till their roofs touched the ground, and the whole place presented an
appearance of poverty and decay strangely at variance with the smiling
plains of grain, rice, and tobacco around it. Not a human being was
visible, for our appearance was the signal for a general stampede
indoors, but the dirty, narrow streets swarmed with huge, fierce dogs,
who would have attacked us but for the heavy "nagaikas" [A] with which
we were armed. We were evidently cordially hated by both men and
beasts! On return to camp I gave orders for a start at four the next
morning. There was no object to be gained by remaining, and the
natives would have been only too glad of an excuse for open attack.

The remains of an ancient city, covering a very large area, are said
to exist near Gwarjak, about a mile due south of it. I could, however,
discover no trace of them, although we came from that direction, and
must have traversed the supposed site.

After the fatigue and anxiety of the day, I was enjoying a cigar in
the bright moonlight, when a messenger from the village arrived in
camp. He had a narrow escape. Not answering the challenge of the
sentry for the second time, the latter was about to fire, when I ran
forward and threw up his rifle, which discharged in the air. A second
later, and the man would have been shot, in which case I do not
suppose we should ever have seen Quetta. The message was from Malak,
inviting me to a "Zigri," a kind of religious dance, taking place just
outside the village. After some reflection, I decided to go. It might,
of course, mean treachery, but the probability was that the chief,
afraid of being reported to the Indian Government for his insolence
and insubordination, wished to atone for his conduct before I left.

Under the messenger's guidance, and attended by Gerome and a guard of
five men with loaded rifles, I set out. Both the Russian and myself
carried and prominently displayed a brace of revolvers. A walk of ten
minutes brought us to a cleared space by the river. In the centre
blazed a huge bonfire, round which, in a semicircle, were squatted
some two or three hundred natives, watching the twistings and
contortions of half a dozen grotesque creatures with painted faces,
and long, streaming hair, who, as they turned slowly round and round,
varied the performance with leaps and bounds, alternately groaning,
wailing, and screaming at the top of their voices.

[Illustration: A "ZIGRI" IN GWARJAK]

A horn, a lute, and half a dozen tom-toms accompanied the dance. Some
distance away, and surrounded by his grim-looking guard, sat Malak,
who, though he did not rise to receive me, beckoned me to his side
with more politeness than usual. It was a weird, strange sight. The
repulsive, half-naked figures leaping round the fire, the silent,
awestruck crowd of Baluchis, the wild barbaric music, and pillar of
flame flashing on the dark, sullen face of Malak and his followers,
was not a little impressive, especially as I was in a state of
pleasing uncertainty as to the object of my host's sudden change of
manner, and whether this might not be a little dramatic introduction
to an attack upon our party. This was, however, evidently not my sulky
friend's intention, for, as I rose to go, he actually stood up and
took my hand. "At Gajjar," he said, "you will be able to get all you
want, but take my advice, and get away from here early to-morrow
morning. They do not like you."

Four hours after we were _en route_. The Zigri was still going on
as we rode out of the village. Malak and his guard still sat
motionless, the weird dancers and crowd of onlookers were still
there, the huge bonfire blazing as brightly as ever, though the
Eastern sky was lightening. As we passed within a hundred yards, I
waved my hand, but the compliment was not returned. Some of the crowd
looked up at the caravan; all must have seen it, but averted their
faces till we had passed. I was not, on the whole, sorry to leave
Gwarjak.

But one European, Colonel M---- of the Indian service, had visited
Gwarjak for fifteen years prior to my visit. My road thither from
Noundra has never been traversed save by natives, and it was,
perhaps, more by good luck than good management that we came through
successfully. The inhabitants of Gwarjak are a tribe known as the
Nushirvanis, who claim to be of Persian descent. It was only at
Quetta that I learnt that my friend Malak was only Viceroy of this
inhospitable district. The head-quarters and residence of the Chief,
one Nimrood Khan, is at Kharan (a hundred and fifty miles north-west of
Gwarjak). Nimrood, who was fortunately absent, detests Europeans, and
would probably have made matters even worse for us. Intermixed freely
with the wild and lawless tribes of the Baluch-Afghan frontier (from
which Kharan is but a few miles distant), it is scarcely to be
wondered at that the Nushirvanis are inimical to Europeans, whom they
are taught by their chiefs and Afghan neighbours to look upon as
natural enemies.

Although we had not as yet formed a very favourable idea of Baluch
hospitality, our reception at every village from here to the capital
amply atoned for the rough and uncivil behaviour of the wild
Nushirvanis. We were now once more on the beaten track, for though the
country south of Gwarjak was, previous to our crossing it, unexplored,
the journey from Kelat to Gajjar has frequently been made by Europeans
during the past few years. Our reception by the natives of Gajjar
(only twenty miles from Gwarjak) was a pleasant contrast to that given
us at the latter place. Camp was no sooner pitched than presents of
eggs, milk, rice, and tobacco were brought in, and I was cordially
welcomed by the chief of the village.

Gajjar is a ramshackle, tumble-down place of about three hundred
inhabitants. On a small hillock to the right of the village stands
the fort, a square building of solid masonry, which, however, is now
roofless, and has only three walls standing. The garrison (of six men)
were lodged in a flimsy tent pitched in the centre of the ruins.
Half the houses were constructed of dried mud; the remainder, as at
Gwarjak, of palm leaves. The village stands in a grove of date palms,
and the swarms of flies were consequently almost unendurable. We
encamped close to the village well, to which, during the afternoon,
many of the female population came to draw water. Two of them, bright,
pleasant-featured girls of eighteen or twenty, were the best-looking
specimens of the Baluch woman that I met with throughout the journey.

Towards sunset the corpse of a young man was borne past my tent
and interred in a little cemetery hard by. The burial rites of the
Baluchis are very similar to those of Persia. When a death occurs,
mourners are sent for, and food is prepared at the deceased's house
for such friends as desire to be present at the reading of prayers for
the dead, while "kairats," or charitable distributions of food, are
made for the benefit of the soul of the deceased. A wife, on the
decease of her husband, neglects washing, and is supposed to sit
lamenting by herself for not less than fifteen days. Long before this,
however, her female friends come to her house and beg her to
desist from weeping, bringing with them the powder of a plant
called "larra." With this the widow washes her head, and then
resumes her former life and occupations. If, however, by
thoughtlessness or malice, her friends defer their visit, she must
mourn for a much longer period alone. A curious Baluch custom is that
of digging a grave much deeper for a woman than a man. They argue that
woman is by nature so restless she would not remain quiet, even in
death, without a larger proportion of earth over her.

[Illustration: NOMAD BALUCH TENT]

In the matter of births and marriages the Baluchis, being of the
Mohammedan religion, regulate their ceremonies mainly according to the
Koran. Marriage is attended with great festivities. The first step
is the "zang," or betrothal, which is regarded as of a very sacred
nature, the final rite being known as "nikkar." On the wedding-day
the bridegroom, gorgeously arrayed, and mounted on his best horse or
camel, proceeds with his friends to a "ziarat," or shrine, there to
implore a blessing, after which the "winnis," or marriage, is gone
through by a moullah. On the birth of a child there is also much
feasting. The fourth day after birth a name is given to the infant,
and on the sixth an entertainment to friends. The following day the
rite of circumcision ("kattam") is performed, though not always, this
being sometimes postponed for a year or more. On this occasion (as at
a death) large distributions of food are made to the poor.

The country between Gajjar and Jebri, which was reached next day, is
bare and sterile, notwithstanding that, at the latter place, water is
seldom scarce, even in the dryest seasons. The plain, which consists
of loose, drifting sand, with intervals of hard, stony ground, is
called Kandari. The cold here in the months of January and February
is intense. We passed some curious cave-dwellings in the side of the
caravan-track, in which the natives take refuge from the icy blasts
that sweep across here in winter. They are formed by digging holes
eight to ten feet deep. These are rudely thatched over with palm
leaves, bits of stick, and plaited straw, thus forming a warm and
comfortable shelter.

The Chief of Jebri, one Chabas Khan, rode out to meet me, clad in
a long gown of golden thread, which, flashing in the sun, was
discernible a couple of miles off. Jebri contains about four hundred
inhabitants, and is a neatly built village, protected by a large mud
fort, and a garrison of twenty Baluchis armed with Snider rifles.
Chabas, who was very proud of his village, informed me that his
rule extended over a considerable extent of country, containing a
population of over 20,000. Many of his subjects were natives of
Seistan, Kharan, and Shotrawak, all Afghan border districts, and gave
him at times no little trouble. The Jebri fort had been attacked only
a year previous to my visit, but Chabas (who I afterwards heard at
Kelat is a renowned fire-eater) gave the rebels such a warm reception
that there has been no outbreak since. My genial old host had himself
given a good deal of trouble to the Kelat Government in his younger
days, and told me with evident pride that he had led many a chupao in
the good old days. The savage and predatory character of the Baluchi
was formerly well exemplified in these lawless incursions, when large
tracts of country were pillaged and devastated and the most unheard-of
cruelties practised. Chupaos are now a thing of the past. Pottinger,
who traversed this country in the last century, and had more than one
unpleasant _rencontre_ with these armed bands, thus describes one of
these plundering expeditions--

"The depredators are usually mounted on camels, and furnished,
according to the distance they have to go, with food, consisting of
dates, goat's milk, and cheese. They also carry water in a small
skin-bag, if requisite, which is often the case if the expedition
is prolonged. When all is prepared the band sets off and marches
incessantly till within a few miles of where the chupao is to
commence, and then halts in some unfrequented spot to rest their
camels. On the approach of night they mount again, and, as soon as the
inhabitants of a village have retired to rest, begin their attack by
burning, destroying, and carrying off whatever comes in their way.
They never think of resting for one moment during the chupao, but ride
on over the territory on which it is made at the rate of eighty or
ninety miles a day, until they have loaded their camels with as much
pillage as they can possibly remove; and as they are very expert in
the management of their animals, each man on an average will have
charge of ten or twelve. If practicable, they make a circuit which
enables them to return by a different route. This affords a double
prospect of plunder and also misleads those who pursue the robbers--a
step generally taken, though with little effect, when a sufficient
body of men can be collected for that purpose."

"In these desperate undertakings the predatory robbers are not always
successful, and when any of them chance to fall into the hands of
exasperated villagers, they are mutilated and put mercilessly
to death. The fact," concludes Pottinger, "of these plundering
expeditions being an institution in Baluchistan must serve to show how
slight is the power wielded by the paramount rulers, and what risks to
the safety of both person and property must be run by those engaged in
the business of trade in such a country."

Chabas visited me towards evening, accompanied by his son, a
clever-looking, bright-eyed lad about fifteen years old. Noticing that
he wore a belt and buckle of the 66th Regiment, I inquired where
he had procured it, and was told that it had been purchased from a
Gwarjak man, who brought it down from Kharan shortly after the fatal
disaster to the regiment at Maiwand. The kindly old chief now pressed
my acceptance of a fine fat goat--a very acceptable gift, considering
the impoverished condition of the camp larder. We then visited the
fort and village, under his guidance.

Jebri and its neighbourhood are well cultivated. The system of
agriculture practised in this part of Baluchistan is simple, but
effective, the fields being divided off by ridges of earth and raised
embankments to an accurate level. They are then further subdivided
longitudinally by ridges thrown up about seven or eight paces apart.
This is done for purposes of irrigation. The soil is then ploughed and
manured, the former operation being generally carried on by means
of bullocks. Tracts of land not irrigated by streams, but which are
dependent on rain and the rivulets which come down from the hillsides
after it, are called "kash-kawa," and are found scattered about the
valleys here and there near the tent-encampments of the nomad tribes,
who plough a piece of land, sow it, and return to gather in the crop
when it is matured. The implements of husbandry in general use are
a light wooden plough of primitive construction, consisting of a
vertical piece bent forward at the bottom and tipped with an iron
point, and a long horizontal beam, which passes forward between the
pair of bullocks that draw it, and is fastened to the yoke. A harrow,
consisting of a wooden board about six feet long by two wide, is also
used, being dragged over the ploughed land attached to the yoke by
iron chains. If found not sufficiently heavy, the driver stands upon
it. A spade or shovel, exactly like its English counterpart, and a
reaping-hook, or sickle, having its cutting edge furnished with minute
teeth, complete the list of a Baluchi's agricultural tools.

Jebri Fort stands on a steep hillock about fifty feet in height.
From here a good view was obtainable of the surrounding country.
Immediately below were pretty gardens or enclosed spaces, sown in the
centre with maize, wheat, and tobacco, and surrounded by plum and
pomegranate trees and date palms. There is a considerable trade in the
latter between here and Beila, which perhaps accounted for the myriads
of flies which here, as at Gajjar, proved a source of great annoyance.
In Chabas's garden were roses and other flowers, some remarkably fine
vines, and a number of mulberry trees. The grounds were well and
neatly laid out with paths, grass plots, and artificial streams, upon
which I complimented the old man; but he would talk of nothing but his
fort, which was, indeed, the only structure worthy of the name met
with between Quetta and the sea. In the evening his son brought
me a delicious dish of preserved apricots and cream, for which
I presented him with three rupees, one of which he instantly
returned. It is considered, by Baluchis, extremely unlucky to give
or accept an odd number of coins.

[Illustration: JEBRI]

At Jebri, for the first time, we suffered severely from cold at night,
the thermometer dropping to 42 deg. Fahr. just before sunrise. The climate
of Baluchistan presents extraordinary varieties, and is extremely
trying to Europeans. Although at Kelat the natives suffer considerably
more from cold in winter than summer heats, the hot season in the
low-lying valleys and on the coast, which lasts from April till
October, may be almost said to be the most severe in the world. At
Kej, in Mekram, the thermometer sometimes registers 125 deg. Fahr. in the
shade as early as April, while the heat in the same district during
the "Khurma-Paz," or "Date-ripening," is so intense that the natives
themselves dare not venture abroad in the daytime.

Notwithstanding this, even the south of Baluchistan has its cold
season. Near Beila, in the month of January, the temperature
frequently falls as low as 35 deg. Fahr. in the mornings, rising no higher
than 65 deg. at any portion of the day. At Kelat, on the other hand, which
stands 6800 feet above sea-level, the extreme maximum heat as yet
recorded during the months of July and August is only 103 deg. Fahr.,
while the extreme minimum during the same months is as low as 48 deg.
Fahr. In winter the cold is intense. Pottinger, the traveller, relates
that on the 7th of February, 1810, when at Baghivana, five marches
from Kelat, his water-skins were frozen into masses of ice, and seven
days afterwards, at Kelat, he found the frost so intense that water
froze instantly when thrown upon the ground. Bellew, a more recent
traveller, in the month of January found the temperature even lower,
as when at Rodinjo, thirteen miles south of Kelat, the thermometer at
7 a.m. stood at 14 deg. Fahr., while the next night, at Kelat, it fell
to 8 deg. Fahr. The weather was at the time clear, sharp, and cold, the
ground frozen hard all day, while snow-wreaths lay in the shelter of
the walls. A detailed account of the eight days' journey from Gajjar
to Kelat would weary the reader. A description of one village will
suffice for all, while the country between these two places is nothing
but bare, stony desert, varied by occasional ranges of low rocky
hills, and considerable tracts of cultivated land surrounding the
villages of Gidar, Sohrab, and Rodingo, at each of which we were well
received by the natives. With the exception of a strike among our
camel-drivers, which fortunately lasted only a few hours, and a
dust-storm encountered a few miles from Sohrab, nothing worthy of
mention occurred to break the monotony of the voyage till, on the
morning of the _9th of_ April, we sighted the flat-roofed houses, mud
ramparts, and towering citadel of the capital of Baluchistan.

[Footnote A: Cossack whips.]

CHAPTER XI.

KELAT--QUETTA--BOMBAY.

We encamped in the suburbs of the city, about a couple of miles from
the northern or Mastung Gate, and near the telegraph office, a small
brick bungalow in charge of an English-speaking native. There is a
single wire laid to Quetta, a distance, roughly speaking, of ninety
miles. A terrific hurricane, accompanied by thunder, vivid lightning,
and dense clouds of black dust, sprang up about sunset the day of our
arrival. Both tents were instantly blown down, and in a few moments
reduced to shapeless rags of torn canvas. So great was the force of
the wind that it snapped the tent-poles short off, and, tearing them
from the ropes, sent the tents flying over the plain as if they had
been shreds of tissue paper. We managed, however, to find quarters in
the telegraph office, and remained there till our departure, two days
later, for Quetta. During the storm the thermometer sank to 50 deg. Fahr.,
although a few moments before it had marked 78 deg..

Kelat contains--with its suburbs, which are of considerable
extent--about 15,000 inhabitants, and is picturesquely situated on the
edge of a fertile plain thickly cultivated with wheat, barley, and
tobacco. The city is built in terraces, on the sides and summit of a
limestone cliff, about a hundred and fifty feet high. This is called
the "Shah Mirdan," and is surrounded at the base of the hill by high
mud ramparts, with bastions at intervals, loopholed for musketry.
The "Mir," [A] or palace of the Khan, overhangs the town, and is made
up of a confused mass of buildings, which, though imposing at a
distance, I found on closer inspection to consist chiefly of mud, which
in many places had crumbled away, leaving great gaping holes in the
walls. The Mir mounts a few primitive, muzzle-loading cannon, and the
citadel is garrisoned by a thousand men, chiefly Afghans, deserters from
Cabul, Kandahar, and other parts of the Ameer's dominions. They are a
ragged, undisciplined lot. The Khan himself has a wholesome dread of
his soldiery, who break out at times, and commit great depredations
among the villages surrounding the capital, robbing and murdering the
peasants with impunity, for few dare resist them. The remainder of the
troops, three thousand in number, are quartered in barracks, or rather
mud hovels, at some distance from the palace. Each man is supposed to
receive three rupees a month and a lump sum of forty-eight rupees at
the end of each year, but pay is uncertain and mutiny frequent. When
not engaged on military duties the Khan's Baluch soldiers are put to
agricultural work on his estates, while the Afghans pass their time
in pillaging and plundering their neighbours. As we entered Kelat we
passed a regiment at drill on a sandy plain outside the walls. With
the exception of a conical fur cap, there is no attempt at uniform.
The men, fine strapping fellows, are armed with rusty flint-locks.
Though there appeared to be no officers, European or otherwise, I
was rather surprised to hear the word of command given in
English, and to see this band of ragamuffins march off parade to
the strains of "Home, sweet Home," played by a very fair fife-and-drum
band.

The morning following my arrival, I was startled by the apparition at
my bedside of a swarthy, wild-looking Afghan sowar--a messenger
from the Wazir, to say that his Highness the Khan wished to make my
acquaintance, and would receive me, if convenient, at three o'clock
that afternoon. It had not been my intention to solicit an interview,
for, from all accounts, the Khan is anything but friendly towards
Europeans, Englishmen in particular. To refuse, however, was out of
the question. The morning was therefore devoted to cleaning up, and
getting out a decent suit of wearing-apparel; while my Beila escort,
who evidently had uncomfortable forebodings as to the appearance
of the Beila uniform in the streets of Kelat, polished up arms and
accoutrements till they shone like silver, and paid, I noticed,
particular attention to the loading of their rifles and revolvers.

About midday the Wazir made his appearance to conduct me to the
palace. He was a fat, paunchy old man, with beady black eyes and a
shy, shifty expression, very unlike my cheery little friend at Beila.
After the usual preliminary questions as to who I was, my age,
business, etc., he anxiously inquired after the health of Mr.
Gladstone, and somewhat astonished me by asking whether I was a
Liberal or Conservative. "You have some Beila men with you, I see,"
said the Khan's adviser, who spoke English perfectly. "Don't let
his Highness see them." I could not, after such a speech, allow my
faithful escort to enter the city without warning. But it had little
effect. "Let the dogs do what they like," was the reply. "We shall not
let the sahib go alone."

Tea and cigarettes discussed, a start was made for the palace. The
Wazir, on a wiry, good looking bay horse, and attended by half a dozen
mounted Afghans, led the way, and I followed on a pony borrowed of
the telegraph clerk. My costume was, if not becoming, at any rate
original: high boots, flannel trousers, and shirt, an evening
dress-coat, and astrakhan cap. Gerome's wardrobe being even less
presentable, I deemed it prudent to leave him behind. The Beila men
brought up the rear of the procession some distance from the Afghans,
who, to my anxiety, never ceased scoffing and jeering at them the
whole way. Every moment I expected to hear the crack of a pistol-shot,
followed by a general _melee_. Arrived at the Mastung Gate, we
dismounted, and, leaving our horses in charge of the guard, slowly
proceeded up the steep narrow streets to the citadel.

The entrance to Kelat is not imposing. There had been a good deal
of rain, and the streets of the lower part of the town were perfect
quagmires of mud nearly knee-deep. It was more like crawling into
a dark passage than entering a city. Many of the thoroughfares are
entirely covered over with wooden beams plastered with mud, which
entirely exclude light, and give them more the appearance of
subterranean passages than streets. The upper part of the town is the
cleanest, for the simple reason that all filth and sewage runs down
open gutters cut in the centre of the steep alleys, until it reaches
the level of the plain. There is no provision made for its escape.
It is allowed to collect in great pools, which in long-continued wet
weather often flood the houses and drive their wretched inhabitants
into the open, to live as best they may, further up the hill.

Kelat is, for this reason only, very unhealthy. Small-pox, typhoid, and
typhus are never absent, though, curiously enough, cholera visitations
are rare. The filthy habits of the inhabitants have, apparently, a
good deal to do with the high death rate. I saw, while walking up
the hill, a native fill a cup from an open drain and drink it off,
although the smell was unbearable, the liquid of a dark-brown colour.
A very common and--in the absence of medical treatment--fatal disease
among the inhabitants of the suburbs (chiefly Afghans) is stone in
the bladder, the water here, though pure and clear in the suburbs,
containing a large quantity of lime.

The bazaar, through which we passed on our way to the Mir, does not
seem a very busy one. Although not a public or religious holiday,
many of the stalls were closed. Kelat was once the great channel for
merchandise from Kandahar and Cabul to India, but the caravan trade is
now insignificant. There is in the season a considerable traffic in
dates, but that is all, for the roads to Persia and Afghanistan are
very unsafe. Only a few weeks previous to my visit, a Kelat merchant,
proceeding with a large caravan to Kerman, in Persia, was robbed and
murdered in the frontier district west of Kharan. Few now attempt the
journey, most of the goods being sent to Quetta, and thence by rail to
various parts of India, by sea to Persia.

Art and industry are, as well as trade, practically at a standstill in
the Khan's city, though a handsome embroidery, peculiar to Kelat, is
made by the women, and fetches high prices in India, while some of the
natives are clever at brass work and ironmongery. Noticing a Russian
samovar in one of the shops, I entered and inquired of the owner
(through the Wazir) how it had reached Kelat. "From Russia," was
the reply, "_via_ Meshed, Herat, and Kandahar. There is a good
caravan-road the whole way," added the Baluchi, taking down a small
brass shield from a peg in the wall. "This came from Bokhara, _via_
Cabul, only ten days, ago; but trade is not what it was." "Would there
be any difficulty in making that journey?" I asked. "For you--an
Englishman--yes," said the man, with a queer smile, and was
continuing, when "The Khan will be growing impatient," broke in the
Wazir, taking my hand and leading me hurriedly into the street.

An Afghan guard of honour was drawn up at the entrance of the palace,
wearing the nearest approach to a uniform I had yet seen--dark-green
tunics, light-blue trousers, and white turbans, clean, well fitting,
and evidently kept for state occasions. Each man carried a Berdan
rifle and cavalry sabre. It struck me as a curious coincidence that
the former rifle is in general use throughout the Russian army.
Leaving my escort with strict injunctions to keep their tempers, and
under no circumstances to allow themselves to be drawn into a quarrel,
I followed the Wazir and his attendants into the Mir. The entrance is
through an underground passage about forty yards long by seven wide,
ill-smelling and in total darkness. Arrived at the end, we again
emerged into daylight, and, ascending a flight of rickety wooden
steps, found ourselves in the durbar-room--a spacious apartment, its
walls decorated with green, gold, and crimson panels, alternating with
large looking-glasses. Costly rugs and carpets from Persia and Bokhara
strewed the grimy floor of the chamber, which is about sixty feet
long, and commands a splendid view of the city and fertile plains
beyond. Awaiting me upon the balcony was the Khan, surrounded by
his suite and another guard of Afghans. A couple of dilapidated
cane-bottomed chairs were then brought and set one on each side of the
crimson velvet divan occupied by his Highness. Having made my bow,
which was acknowledged by a curt nod, I was conducted to the seat on
the right hand of the Khan by Azim Khan, his son, who seated himself
upon his father's left hand The Wazir, suite, soldiers, and attendants
then squatted round us in a semicircle, and the interview commenced.

A long silence followed, broken only by the whish of the fly-brush
as a white-clad Baluchi whisked it lazily to and fro over the Khan's
head. The balcony on which we were received is poised at a dizzy
height over the beehive-looking dwellings and narrow, tortuous streets
of the brown city, which to-day were bathed in sunshine. The Khan's
residence is well chosen. The pestilent stenches of his capital cannot
ascend to this height, only the sweet scent of hay and clover-fields,
and the distant murmur of a large population, while a glorious
panorama of emerald-green plain stretches away to a rocky, picturesque
range of hills on the horizon.

His Highness Mir Khudadad, Khan of Kelat, is about sixty years old. He
would be tall were it not for a decided stoop, which, together with a
toothless lower jaw, gives him the appearance of being considerably
more than his age. His complexion is very dark, even for a Baluch, and
he wears a rusty black beard and moustaches, presumably dyed, from
the streaks of red and white that run through them, and long, coarse
pepper-and-salt locks streaming far below his shoulders. His personal
appearance gave me anything but a favourable impression. The Khan has
a scowling expression, keen, piercing black eyes, and a sharp hooked
nose that reminded one forcibly of Cruikshank's picture of Fagin the
Jew in "Oliver Twist."

The Khan was dressed in a long, loose, white garment, with red silk
embroidery of beautiful workmanship. A thin white Cashmere shawl was
thrown carelessly over his shoulders, and he wore a conical violet
silk cap, trimmed with gold lace, and a pair of pointed green morocco
slippers, turned up at the toes, and ornamented with the same
material. A massive gold necklace, or collar, thickly studded with
diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, hung round his neck. The stones, some
of them of great size, were set indiscriminately without any regard
to pattern or design. Mir Khudadad wore no other jewels, with the
exception of three small torquoise rings, all worn on the little
finger of the left hand. He carried no arms, but held in his right
hand a large and very dirty pocket-handkerchief of a bright yellow
hue with large red spots, which somewhat detracted from his regal
appearance. The Khan is a great snuff-taker, and during the audience
continually refreshed himself from the contents of a small gold box
carried by his son. Prince Azim, who was dressed in a green silk
jacket and loose magenta-coloured trousers, is a pleasant-mannered lad
of about twenty. He is of much lighter complexion than his father and
has a strong Jewish cast of feature. A huge cabochon emerald of great
value, suspended from the neck, was Azim's sole ornament.

[Illustration: PALACE OF THE KHAN. KELAT.]

A conversation now commenced, carried on through the medium
of the Wazir and my interpreter. The Khan has a fidgety, uneasy
manner that must be intensely exasperating to his court. More
than once during the audience, having asked a question with
much apparent earnestness, he would suddenly break in, in the
middle of a reply, and hum a tune, or start off on a totally different
subject from the one under discussion. At other times he would repeat
a question twice or thrice, and, his eyes fixed on vacancy, utterly
ignore the answers of the Wazir, who evidently stood in great awe of
his eccentric sovereign. Though the following colloquy may appear
brief to the reader, it took nearly an hour to get through.

"Where do you come from, and what are you?" was the Khan's first
question.

"From Russia, your Highness."

"From Russia!" returned the Khan, quickly. "But you are English, are
you not?"

"Certainly I am."

"How strong is Russia's army?" continued the Khan, after an
application to the gold snuff box, and a trumpet-blast on the yellow
bandanna.

"Nominally about three millions."

"And England?"

"About two hundred thousand, not counting the reserves."

"Humph!" grunted the Khan. "Tell me, do the English imagine that Abdur
Raman [B] is their friend?"

"I believe so."

"Then tell them from me," cried the Khan, excitedly, half rising from
his seat, "tell Queen Victoria from me that it is not so. Tell her to
beware of Abdur Raman. He is her enemy."

"Is England afraid of Russia?" continued the Khan after a long pause.

"No; the English fear no one."

"Will England reach Kandahar before Russia takes Herat?"

"I really cannot say," was my answer to this somewhat puzzling
question.

Mir Khudadad then turned away to converse with the Wazir in a low
tone. About ten minutes elapsed, during which a long confabulation
was held, in which many of the suite, including the Afghan soldiers,
joined. Prince Azim meanwhile invited me to inspect his sword and
pistols. The former, a splendid Damascus blade, and hilt encrusted
with jewels, I especially admired. Had I known the use to which it
had been put that morning, I should not, perhaps, have been so
enthusiastic.

Again the Khan addressed me.

"Do you know Russia well?"

"Pretty well."

"Is it true that the Russians do not allow Mohammedans to worship in
Central Asia?"

"I believe that is untrue."

"It is a lie?"

"Most certainly it is."

"Your own countrymen told me so." At this there was a roar of
laughter, in which the Khan joined.

The durbar-room of Kelat reminded me of an English court of justice.
When the Khan laughed his courtiers did, and _vice versa_. After an
interval of more snuff-taking and whispering, the Khan drew forth and
examined my watch. Taking this for a polite hint that the interview
had lasted long enough, I rose to go, but was at once thrust back into
my chair by Azim. "You are not to go," said the Wazir. "The Khan is
much interested by you."

"Dhuleep Singh is in Russia, is he not?" then asked the Khan.

"Yes."

"What does Russia pay him a year?"

"I do not know."

"More than England did?"

"I do not know."

"You English never do know anything," muttered the Khan, impatiently;
adding, "Do you know the Czar of Russia?"

"I have seen him."

"Is he a good man?"

"I believe him to be so."

"Then why do his people try to kill him?"

"Some of them are Socialists."

"Socialists!" repeated the Khan, slowly. "What is that?"

I then explained with some difficulty the meaning of the word.

"Humph!" was the rejoinder. Then, with a whisk of the yellow bandanna:
"I am glad I have none in Kelat!"

A mark of great favour was then shown me, the Khan presenting me with
his photograph, with the request that I would show it to "Parliament"
when I got home. I think he was under the impression that the latter
is a human being. An incident that occurred but two years since is
typical of the intelligence of the ruler of Kelat and his court. It
was at Quetta, on the occasion of the presentation of Mir Khudadad
to the Viceroy of India. Previous to a grand _dejeuner_ given in his
honour, the Khan and his suite were shown into a dressing-room for the
purpose of washing their hands. On entering to announce that luncheon
was ready, the aide-de-camp found that the distinguished guests had
already commenced operations, and were greedily devouring the cakes
of Pears' soap that had been placed there for a somewhat different
purpose. That none of the party felt any after ill effects speaks well
for the purity of the wares of the mammoth advertiser--or the Baluch
digestion!

The Khan shook my hand cordially at parting, and again begged me not
to forget his warnings anent the Ameer of Afghanistan, with whom he is
apparently not on the best of terms. I found, with some relief, that
my Beila men had made friends with the Afghans, and, surrounded by an
admiring crowd, were hobnobbing over a hissing samovar. One of the
Afghans handed me a glass of tea, which, not to offend him, I drank
and found delicious. It had come from China _via_ Siberia, Samarcand,
and Cabul. "Russki!" said the man with a grin, as I handed back the
cup.

The Khan of Kelat very rarely leaves his palace, and is seldom seen
abroad in the streets of Kelat except on Fridays, when he goes to the
mosque on foot, attended by an escort armed to the teeth. He is said
to live in constant dread of assassination, for his cruel, rapacious
character has made him universally detested in and around the capital.
His one thought in life is money and the increase of his income,
which, with the yearly sum allowed him by the British Government, may
be put down at considerably over L30,000 per annum. A thorough miser,
the Khan does not, like most Eastern potentates, pass the hours of
night surrounded by the beauties of the harem, but securely locked in
with his money-bags in a small, comfortless room on the roof of his
palace.

[Illustration: THE KHAN OF KELAT]

There is not the smallest doubt in my mind that Russian influence
is, indirectly, being brought to bear on the Court of Kelat. But Mir
Khudadad may be said to have no policy. As the French say, "Il change
sa nationalite comme je change de chemise," and is to be bought by the
highest bidder.

Although the Khan's subjects are heavily taxed, there is no protection
whatsoever of life or property in or around Kelat. Theft is, according
to the penal code, punished by fine and imprisonment, murder and
adultery by death; but the law is subject to great modifications. In a
word, the Khan is the law, and so long as a man can afford to pay or
bribe him handsomely, he may commit the most heinous offences with
impunity.

Two instances of the way in which justice is carried out happened just
before I arrived at Kelat. In the one, a young Baluch woman was found
by her husband, a soldier, under circumstances which admitted no doubt
of her infidelity. Upon discovery, which took place at night, the
infuriated husband rushed off to the guard-house for his weapon.
During his absence the woman urged her lover, who was well armed, to
meet and slay him in the darkness. Under pretence of so doing the gay
Lothario left his paramour, but, fearful of consequences, made off to
Quetta.

On his return home the husband used no violence, simply handing his
wife over to the guard to be dealt with according to law. Brought
before the Khan the next day, she was lucky enough to find that
monarch in a good temper. Her beauty probably obtained the free pardon
accorded her, and an order that her husband was also to condone her
offence. The latter said not a word, took her quietly home in the
evening, and cut her throat from ear to ear. The Khan, on hearing
of the murder next day, made no remonstrance, nor was the offender
punished. He was an Afghan.

The second case is even more disgraceful. One of the Khan's own suite,
a well-known libertine and drunkard, contracted an alliance with
a young girl of eighteen. He had endeavoured in vain to marry her
younger sister, almost a child, and so beautiful that she was known
for many miles round the city as the "Pearl of Kelat."

Six weeks after marriage this ruffian, in a fit of drunken frenzy
caused by jealousy, almost decapitated his wife with a tulwar, and
afterwards mutilated her body past recognition. The shrieks of the
poor woman having summoned the neighbours, he was seized, bound, and
led before the Khan, who at once sentenced him to death. The execution
was fixed for sunrise the following day. At midnight, however,
a messenger appeared at the gates of the Mir with a canvas bag
containing two thousand rupees. "Tell him he is free," said the ruler
of Kelat. "And if he sends in another thousand, I will _order_ the
younger sister to marry him." The money was paid, and the poor child
handed over to the tender mercies of the human devil who had so
ruthlessly butchered her sister.

I have mentioned that Azim Khan showed me a sword of beautiful
workmanship. It had, the very morning of my visit to the palace, cut
down and hacked to pieces a waiting-maid, not sixteen years old, in
the Khan's harem. I myself saw the corpse of the poor girl the same
evening, as it was being carried outside the walls for interment. [C]

This, then, is the state of things existing at Kelat, not a hundred
miles from the British outposts; this the enlightened sovereign who
has been made "Companion of the Star of India," an order which, among
his own people, he affects to look upon with the greatest contempt.

The few women I saw at Kelat were distinctly good looking, far more so
than those further south. Most of them have an Italian type of face,
olive complexion, and large dark eyes, with sweeping lashes. But very
few wore the hideous nose-rings so common at Beila and Sonmiani.
Morality is at a discount in the capital, and prostitution common.

The Wazir sent me a bag of dates the morning of my departure, with
a short note, written in English, begging that I would send him in
return the best gold watch and rifle "that could be bought for gold"
in London. The note ended jocosely, "Exchange is no robbery!" The old
man seemed well _au fait_ with Central Asian affairs. On my mentioning
the day before that I had intended entering India _via_ Cabul, he at
once said, "Ah! I supposed Alikhanoff stopped you. He is very shy of
strangers."

We left Kelat at 6 a.m. on the 12th of April. The camels and heavy
baggage had been sent on four or five hours previously to Mangachar,
the first station. Our caravan now consisted of only eight camels,
which we found reduced to seven on arrival. Just before daylight a
couple of panthers had appeared close to the caravan and caused a
regular stampede, the beasts flying right and left. On order being
restored, two were found to be missing, one laden with the only small
remaining tent and some native luggage, the other with a couple of
cases of whisky (nearly empty) and my camp-stool. The former was
traced and brought in after a search of over two hours, but the latter
is still, for aught I know, careering over the boundless desert, an
unconscious advertiser of "Jameson and Co." I afterwards heard that
this plain is noted for panther and wolf, also an animal called the
"peshkori," somewhat larger than a cat, with a reddish-coloured hide.
It moves about the country in packs, carrying off deer and sheep. Its
method of descending precipices and steep hillsides is curious, each
animal fixing its teeth in the tail of another, thus forming a kind of
chain.

The plain of Mangachar is situated nearly 6000 feet above sea-level,
and is well cultivated with wheat, lucerne, and tobacco. The
village itself is neatly laid out, and contains about three hundred
inhabitants. The different aspects of the country north and south of
Kelat are striking. We had now done with deserts for good, for at
night lights were seen twinkling all over the plain, while in the
daytime large tracts of well-cultivated land continually met the eye.

Between Mangachar and Mastung a hot wind arose, which made the eyes
smart, and dried up the skin like a blast from a furnace. One's hair
felt as it does in the hottest room of a Turkish bath, with the
unpleasant addition of being filled with fine gritty sand. "I hope
this may not end in a juloh," said Kamoo, anxiously. This, my
interpreter proceeded to explain, is a hot poisonous wind peculiar to
these districts, and perhaps the greatest danger run by travellers in
Baluchistan. The warm breeze, as Kamoo called it, that we experienced
was, though almost unbearable, not dangerous, while the dreaded juloh
has slain its hundreds of victims. Cook, the traveller, who has given
this subject much attention, has come to the conclusion that it is
caused by the generation in the atmosphere of a highly concentrated
form of ozone, by some intensely marked electrical condition. As
evidence of its effect in destroying every green thing on its course,
and in being frequently fatal to human life, he cites the following
well-authenticated cases, which, not having encountered the
death-dealing blast myself, I place before the reader:--

(1) In the year 1851, during one of the hot months, certain officers
of the Sind Horse were sleeping at night on the roof of General
Jacob's house at Jacobabad. They were awakened by a sensation of
suffocation and an exceedingly hot and oppressive feeling in the air,
while at the same time a very powerful smell of sulphur was noticed.
On the following morning a number of trees in the garden were found to
be withered in a very remarkable manner. It looked as if a current of
fire, about two yards in breadth, had passed through the garden in a
perfectly straight line, singeing and destroying every green thing in
its course. Entering on one side, and passing out at the other, its
tract was as clearly defined as the course of a river.

(2) At the close of 1856 a party of five men were crossing the desert
of Shikarpur, being on their way from Kandahar to that city, when
the blast crossed their path, killing three of them instantly and
seriously disabling the other two.

(3) A "moonshi" with two companions was travelling about seven miles
south-east of Bagh, in Kachi (not far distant from Mangachar). About
two o'clock the blast struck them. They were sensible of a scorching
sensation in the air, accompanied by a peculiar sulphurous smell, but
remembered nothing further, as all three were immediately struck to
the ground. They were afterwards found and carried to Bagh, where,
every attention being afforded them, they ultimately, after many days
of sickness, recovered.

As regards the strength of the juloh, Pottinger writes that, so
searching is its nature, it has been known to kill camels and other
hardy animals, and its effects on the human frame are said by
eye-witnesses to be the most agonizing and repulsive imaginable.
Shortly after contact with the wind the muscles of the sufferer become
rigid and contracted, the skin shrivels, a terrible sensation as if
the skin were on fire pervades the whole frame, while, in the last
stage, the skin cracks into deep gashes, producing haemorrhage,
quickly followed by death. It is curious to note that the juloh is
peculiar to the northern districts of Sarawan and Kach-Gandava,
and does not exist in the southern provinces of Baluchistan.

The road from Mangachar to Mastung is good, though slightly
undulating, and intersected by deep "nullahs." The estimated area of
the Mastung district is two hundred and eighty miles. It is aptly
named "The Garden of Baluchistan," for considerably more than
two-thirds of its area are under cultivation. Water at Mastung is
never-failing, and the pretty town, nestling in a valley of vineyards
and fruit-gardens, fig and olive trees, reminded one more of some
secluded town in the Pyrenees or south of France than a Baluch
settlement. The soil hereabouts is light and sandy and particularly
favourable to the cultivation of grapes, of which there are no less
than five kinds. Apricots, peaches, plums, and pomegranates are also
grown, and supply the markets of Quetta and Kelat. Madder and tobacco
are also exported in large quantities from Mastung, which possesses a
neatly built and busy bazaar.

The plain of Dasht-bi-Dowlat, or "The Unpropitious Plain," lies
between Mastung and Quetta. The name, however, only applies after the
harvest has been gathered, for next to Mastung this is one of the most
fertile spots in Baluchistan. Dasht-bi-Dowlat is mainly cultivated
by wandering tribes. The inhabitants of Mastung were enthusiastic in
their description of the plain in summer. Then, they told us, the
surface is covered with verdure and flowers of all kinds, especially
the "lala," or tulip, which they averred cover it for miles with a
carpet of crimson and gold, and load the air with sweet intoxicating
perfume. The cultivation of this plain is mostly dependent on rain and
heavy dews.

To the west of Dasht-bi-Dowlat is Chehel-Tan, a steep, rocky mountain,
13,000 feet high, in the ravines and valleys of which snow still lay
deeply. Only two Europeans, Masson the traveller, and Sir Henry Green,
have ever succeeded in reaching the summit, on which is a "Zariat," or
shrine. The ascent is difficult and dangerous, as, the mountain
being said to be haunted, no native guides are procurable. The word
"Chehel-Tan" signifies in Baluch "Forty Bodies," and is derived from
the following legend.

A frugal pair, many years married, were unblest with offspring. They
therefore sought the advice of a holy man, who rebuked the wife,
saying that he had not the power to grant her what Heaven had denied.
The priest's son, however (also a moullah), felt convinced he could
satisfy her wishes, and cast forty pebbles into her lap, at the same
time praying that she might bear children. In process of time she was
delivered of forty babes--rather more than she wished or knew how
to provide for. The poor husband, at his wits' end, ascended to the
summit of Chehel-Tan with thirty-nine, and left them there, trusting
to the mercy of the Deity to provide for them, while the fortieth babe
was brought up under the paternal roof.

One day, however, touched by remorse, the wife, unknown to her
husband, explored the mountain with the object of collecting the bones
of her children and burying them. To her surprise, they were all
living and gambolling among the trees and rocks. Wild with joy, she
ran back to her dwelling, brought out the fortieth babe, and, placing
it on the summit of the mountain, left it there for a night to allure
back its brothers, but, on returning in the morning, she found that
the latter had carried it off, and it was never seen again. It is
by the spirits of these forty babes that Chehel-Tan is said to be
haunted.

At 8 a.m. on the 14th of April we sighted, afar off, an oasis on
the dead green plain, of long barrack-like buildings, garden-girt
bungalows, and white tents. We had reached our journey's end. The
church-bells were ringing as I rode into Quetta, for it was Sunday,
and, unfortunately, a bright, fine morning. Had it been otherwise,
I might have been spared the ordeal of riding, on a very dirty and
attenuated camel, past a crowd of well-dressed women and frock-coated
men on their way to church. As we passed a neat victoria, glistening
with varnish, and drawn by a pair of good-looking, high-stepping
ponies, containing a general in full uniform and a pretty, smartly
dressed lady, I cast a glance behind me. Gerome, who brought up the
rear of the caravan, had (for coolness) divested himself of boots and
socks, and, sublimely unconscious, was refreshing himself from the
contents of a large wicker flask. One cannot, unfortunately, urge on
a camel or quicken his pace at these awkward moments, and I passed
a very uncomfortable quarter of an hour before reaching the Dak
bungalow. But a glance at a looking-glass reassured me. No one would
ever have taken the brick-coloured, ragged-looking ruffians we had
become for Europeans.

I accepted a kind and courteous invitation from Mr. L----, of the
Indo-European Telegraph, with pleasure, for the Dak bungalow was dirty
and comfortless. Although my host and charming hostess would have made
any place agreeable, Quetta is, from everything but a strategical
point of view, dull and uninteresting. It is an English garrison town,
and all is said. The usual nucleus of scandal, surrounded by dances,
theatricals, polo, flirtation, drink, and--divorce. Are they not all
alike from Gibraltar to Hong Kong?

Under the guidance of my host, however, a pleasant trip was made to
the Khojak tunnel. When one considers the comparatively short time
it has been in hand, it is almost incredible that, with so many
difficulties (water, hard rock, etc.), this work should have
progressed as it has. The tunnel, which runs due east and west, is,
or will be, two miles and a half in length and three hundred and
sixty-five feet in depth at the deepest part from the earth's surface.
From the eastern end only sixty-five miles over a firm and level plain
separates it from Kandahar. Even when I was there, [D] a light line
could have been laid to that city in six weeks without difficulty. The
plant, rails, and sleepers were on the spot, having been carried over
the hill, and a railway-carriage could then run from Calcutta to the
eastern extremity of the tunnel without break of gauge. The tunnel,
when completed, will be thirty-four feet broad, and twenty-five feet
in height.

A curious incident happened at one of the railway-stations between
Quetta and Karachi. At the buffet of the one in question, I found
Gerome conversing volubly in Russian with a total stranger, a native.
On inquiry I found he was a very old friend, a Russian subject and
native of Samarcand. "He has just come through from Cabul," said my
companion. "He often does this journey"--ostensibly for purposes of
trade.

The 20th of April saw us in Bombay. An Italian steamer, the _Venezia_,
was leaving for the Black Sea direct, and in her I secured a passage
for Gerome, who was not impressed with our Eastern possessions. The
crowd of curious natives who persistently followed him everywhere
may have had something to do with it, for a fur-clad Esquimaux
in Piccadilly would not have created a greater sensation than my
companion in high boots, black velvet breeches, and red caftan in
the busy streets of the great Indian city. Only a Russian could have
existed in that blazing sun with no other protection to the head than
the astrachan bonnet, which he obstinately refused to discard. I saw
him safely on board, and something very like a tear came into my
trusty little friend's eyes, as we shook hands and parted, to meet,
perhaps, never again. For a better companion no man could wish.
Plucky, honest as the day, and tender-hearted as a woman was Gerome
Realini; and it was with a feeling of loneliness and sincere regret
that I watched the grey smoke of the _Venezia_ sink below the blue
waters, which were soon to bear me, also, back to England and European
civilization.

Has the journey been worth it? Has the result repaid one for the cold,
dirt, and privation of Persia, the torrid heat and long desert marches
through Baluchistan? Perhaps not. There are some pleasant hours,
however, to look back upon. Kashan, a vision of golden domes and dim,
picturesque caravanserais; Ispahan, with its stately Madrassa and blue
Zandarood, winding lazily through miles on miles of white and scarlet
poppyland; Shiraz, a dream of fair women, poetry, and roses, in its
setting of emerald plain, sweet-scented gardens, and cypress trees.
These, at any rate, are bright oases in that somewhat dreary ride from
Teheran to the sea. And then--nearing India--the quiet midday siesta
after the hot dusty march; the _al fresco_ repast by the light of a
glorious sunset, and the welcome rest and fragrant pipe in the cool
night air of the silent, starlit desert.

[Footnote A: Parts of this palace are of great antiquity, as it
owes its foundation to the Hindu kings who preceded the Mohammedan
dynasty.]

[Footnote B: The Ameer of Afghanistan.]

[Footnote C: I am not at liberty to give the name of my authority for
these facts. The reader may rely on their authenticity.]

[Footnote D: April, 1889. The boring of the tunnel is now
accomplished.]

APPENDIX A.

LIST OF STATIONS AND DISTANCES FROM RESHT TO
BUSHIRE, PERSIA.

English
Miles.

Resht ---
Koudoum----------- 20
Rustemabad------- 20
Menjil--------------- 12
Patchinar----------- 8
Kharzan------------- 16
Kazvin--------------- 24
Kavarek------------- 16
Kishlak------------- 16
Yengi-Imam------- 16
Hessarek---------- 16
Shahabad---------- 16
_Teheran_---------- 16
Rabat Kerim------- 28
Pitche----------- 24
Kushku Baira------ 16
Mahometabad------ 28
_Koom_--------------- 16
Pasingan------------- 16
Sin-sin--------------- 28
_Kashan_------------ 24
Khurood------------ 28
Bideshk-------------- 24
Murchakhar-------- 24
_Gez_----------------- 24
_Ispahan_------------ 12
Djulfa----------------- 3

Carried forward------------------ 491
Brought forward----------------- 491

Marg------------------ 12
Mayar----------------- 24
Koomishah---------- 20
Magsogh-Beg------- 16
Yezdi-Ghazt--------- 24
Shoulgistan--------- 24
Abadeh--------------- 20
Sourmah------------- 16
Khina-Khoreh------ 28
Deybid--------------- 20
Mourghab------------ 28
Kawamabad---------- 24
Sivand-------------- 8
Poozeh-------------- 16
Zergoon------------ 20
Shiraz-------------- 20
Chinar-Rada----- 8
Khaneh Zinian--- 24
Dashti Arjin------- 12
Meyun Kotal------ 12
Kazeroon---------- 20
Kamarij------------ 24
Konar Takta------ 12
Dalaki-------------- 12
Borazjun------- 16
Sheif-------------- 28
-----------
979

From Sheif to Bushire by sea 7

Total English miles 986

APPENDIX B.

ROUTE--SONMIANI TO QUETTA.

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