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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

I was beginning to despair when Sadek


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delay was predicted on all hands of at least a month or two in Kerman before I could possibly obtain camels to cross the desert in any direction towards the east. The tantalising trials of arranging a caravan were not small.

I offered to purchase camels, but no camel driver could be induced to accompany me. Offers of treble pay and bakshish had no effect, and I found myself in a serious dilemma when a camel man appeared on the scene. His high terms were then and there accepted, everything that he asked for was conceded, when suddenly, probably believing that all this was too good to come true, he backed out of the bargain and positively refused to go. Had I chosen to go by the southern route, skirting the desert _via_ Bam, the difficulty would not have been so great, but that route is very easy, and had been followed by several Europeans at different times, and I declined to go that way.

I was beginning to despair when Sadek, who had spent another day hunting in the various caravanserais, entered my room, and with a broad grin on his generally stolid countenance, proclaimed that he had found some good camels. To corroborate his words a clumsy and heavy-footed camel man, with a face which by association had become like that of the beasts he led, was shoved forward into the room.

He was a striking figure, with an ugly but singularly honest countenance, his eyes staring and abnormally

opened, almost strained--the eyes of a man who evidently lived during the night and slept during the day. His mouth stretched, with no exaggeration, from ear to ear, and displayed a double row of powerful white teeth. What was lacking in quantity of nose was made up by a superabundance of malformed, shapeless ears, which projected at the sides of his head like two wings. When his legs were closed--_pour facon de parler_--they were still some six inches apart, and a similar space was noticeable between each of his arms and his body. Unmistakably this fellow was the very picture of clumsiness.

He seemed so much distracted by the various articles of furniture in the Consul's room that one could get no coherent answer from him, and his apprehension gave way to positive terror when he was addressed in flowing language by the various high officials who were then calling on the Consul. Their ways of persuasion by threats and promises alarmed the camel man to such an extent that his eyes roamed about all over the place, palpably to find a way to effect an escape. He was, however, so clumsy at it, that the consul's servants and soldiers checked him in time, and Sadek broke in with one of his usual flows of words at the top of his voice, which, however, could hardly be heard amid the vigorous eloquence of the Persians present, who all spoke at the same time, and at an equally high pitch.

With a sinking heart I closely watched the camel man, in whom rested my faint and last hope of crossing the Salt Desert. He looked so bewildered--and no wonder--almost terror-stricken, that when he was asked about his camels, the desert, the amount of pay required, he sulkily mumbled that he had no camels, knew nothing whatever about the desert, and did not wish to receive any pay.

"Why, then, did you come here?"

"I did not come here!"

"But you are here."

"I want to go away."

"Yes, sahib," cried the chorus of Persians, "he has the camels, he knows the desert; only he is frightened, as he has never spoken to a sahib before."

Here a young Hindoo merchant, Mul Chan Dilaram, entered the room, and with obsequious salaams to the company, assured me that he had brought this camel man to me, and that when he had got over his first fears I should find him an excellent man. While we were all listening to the Hindoo's assurances the camel man made a bolt for the door, and escaped as fast as he could lay his legs to the ground towards the city.


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