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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

And probably the richest man in the province of Kerman


The

descent presented more difficulty than the ascent, and one's shoes had to be removed to effect it in more safety. Eventually we reached the bottom again where, in a gully is a small ruined temple and a mud hut or two.

A great many women, who from this point had been watching us come down along the face of the cliff, stampeded away, giggling, at our approach, and on my asking why so many representatives of the fair sex were to be found here--there were lots more dotting the landscape below in their white or black chudders, all converging towards this point--it was explained that, a few yards off, was a rock possessing marvellous properties. The rock in question forms part of the mountain-side, and in its natural formation coarsely suggests, much magnified, the effigy of a component of feminine anatomy. At the foot of it there was an inscription and certain offerings, while above it, in a recess, a large wax candle was burning. Near this stone a stunted tree was to be seen, laden with bits of red and white rags and various kinds of hair--a most unedifying sight.

This is a well-known pilgrimage for sterile women, who, after certain exorcisms in front of and on the divine stone, and a night or two spent in the neighbouring ruins, are said infallibly to become prolific. The neighbouring ruins, it should be added, are the favourite night resort of the Kerman young men in search of romantic adventure, and a most convenient

rendezvous for flirtations; but whether the extraordinary qualities of prolificness are really due to the occult power of the magic stone or to the less mystic charms of nights spent away from home, the reader is no doubt better able to discriminate than I. Judging by the long strings of ladies of all ages to be seen going on the pilgrimage, one would almost come to the conclusion that half the women of Kerman are in a bad plight, or else that the other half only is a good lot!

Much unsuspected amusement was provided to the natives by a Russian political agent who had visited Kerman a few weeks before I did, with the intention--it was stated--of starting a Consulate there and a caravanserai to further Russian trade. Previous to his departure, attracted merely by the lovely view from the pilgrimage stone, and absolutely unaware of what misconstruction might be placed on his hospitality, the Russian gave a picnic at this spot to the tiny European community of Kerman. Needless to say, the evil-minded Persians of course put a wrong construction upon the whole thing, and a good deal of merriment was caused among the natives--who may lack many other qualities, but not wit--by the sahibs going _en masse_ to the pilgrimage.

The Russian picnic was the talk of the bazaar when I was there, and will probably remain so for some little time.

We will now leave ruins and puzzling pilgrimages alone, and will accept an invitation to a substantial Persian dinner with Hussein-Ali-Khan, known by the title of Nusrat-al-Mamalik, and probably the richest man in the province of Kerman. At great expense and trouble, this man bought an English carriage, for the pleasure of driving in which he actually made a road several miles long. He kindly sent the carriage for the Consul and me to drive to his place, and had relays of horses half-way on the road so that we could gallop the whole way. He has planted trees all along the new road, and brought water down from the hills by a canal along the roadside in order to provide sufficient moisture to make them grow.


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