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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Illustration Kerman and Zeris


He

was chased by the soldiers, and after some time was dragged back.

"Why did you run away?" he was asked.

"Sahib," he replied, almost crying, "I am only a man of the desert; my only friends are my camels; please have pity on me!"

"Then you have camels, and you do know the desert; you have said so in your own words."

The camel man had to agree, and on being assured that he would be very well paid and treated, and have a new pair of shoes given him, and as much tea brewed for him on the road, with as much sugar in it as his capacity would endure, he at last said he would come. The Hindoo, with great cunning, at once seized the hand of the camel man in his own and made him swear that death should descend upon himself, his camels and his family if he should break his word, or give me any trouble. The camel man swore. An agreement was hastily drawn up before he had time to change his mind, and a handsome advance in solid silver was pressed into his hands to make the agreement good and to allay his feelings. When requested to sign the document the camel man, who had sounded each coin on the doorstep, and to his evident surprise found them all good, gaily dipped his thumb into the inkstand and affixed his natural mark, a fine smudge, upon the valuable paper, and licked up the surplus ink with his tongue. The man undertook to provide the necessary camels

and saddles, and to take me across the Salt Desert in a north-easterly direction, the only way by which, he said, it was possible to cross the _Lut_, the year having been rainless, and nearly all the wells being dry. It would take from twenty-two to twenty-six days to get across, and most of the journey would be waterless or with brackish water. Skins had to be provided to carry our own supply of water.

A whole day was spent in preparing for the journey, and when November 4th came, shortly before midnight my provisions were packed upon my camels, with an extra load of fowls and one of fruit, while on the hump of the last camel of my caravan were perched, in a wooden box made comfortable with straw and cotton-wool, two pretty Persian kittens, aged respectively three weeks and four weeks, which I had purchased in Kerman, and which, as we shall see, lived through a great many adventures and sufferings, and actually reached London safe and sound, proving themselves to be the most wonderful and agreeable little travelling companions imaginable. One was christened "Kerman," the other "Zeris."

[Illustration: Kerman and Zeris, the two Kittens who accompanied Author on his wanderings.]

The Persian cat, as everybody knows, possesses a long, soft, silky coat, with a beautiful tail and ruff, similar to the cats known in Europe as Angora, which possess probably longer hair on the body. The Persian cats, too, have a longer pencil of hair on the ears than domestic cats, and have somewhat the appearance and the motions of wild cats, but if properly treated are gentleness itself, and possess the most marvellous intelligence. Unlike cats of most other nationalities, they seem to enjoy moving from place to place, and adapt themselves to fresh localities with the greatest ease. If fed entirely on plenty of raw meat and water they are extremely gentle and affectionate and never wish to leave you; the reason that many Persian cats--who still possess some of the qualities of wild animals--grow savage and leave their homes, being principally because of the lack of raw meat which causes them to go ahunting to procure it for themselves. The cat, it should be remembered, is a carnivorous animal, and is not particularly happy when fed on a vegetable diet, no more than we beef-eating people are when invited to a vegetarian dinner.


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