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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Although I have visited opium dens


There

is some cultivation of wheat and cotton in the immediate neighbourhood, and of fruit, which is quite excellent. The water is not very plentiful, as can be seen by the hundreds of borings for water and disused _kanats_ to the north of the city, where most fields are to be found, while the majority of fruit gardens and trees are to the east.

Here, as everywhere else in Persia, a great portion of the town is uninhabited and in ruins, and to the south-west, outside the inhabited part, can be seen an interesting ruined quadrangular castle with a double wall and moat with an outer watch tower besides the corner turrets. Inside this castle was formerly a village. Another smaller fort, also in ruins, is situated to the S.S.W.

There are a great many palm trees within the place, and they produce good dates. The climate is most unhealthy, fever of the desert being rampant. Great use is made of opium, which is smoked to excess by the natives and has very disastrous effects in such an unhealthy climate. Personally, I have ever believed, and believe still, that opium used in moderation has no worse effects upon the light-headed human beings who choose to make themselves slaves to it than whisky or tobacco, but under these particular circumstances and in this particular climate it had undoubtedly most evil effects in just the same way that whisky, which is certainly the best drink for damp Scotland, is most injurious to those

who make use of it in similar doses in India.

Although I have visited opium dens, merely for the purpose of observing, in almost every Asiatic country where opium smoking is practised, I have never seen cases quite so depressing as here. A great proportion of the population suffered from fever, to allay the sufferings of which opium was used.

There was, of course, the usual contingent of sick people visiting my camp to obtain medicine for their various troubles--one fever-stricken man, with cadaverous face and skeleton-like limbs, collapsing altogether when reaching me and remaining senseless for a considerable time. As I never carry medicine of any kind in my travels I was unable to satisfy them, but I gave them some little present each, which did them just as much good.

Beggars, too, visited the camp in appalling numbers, and their ways were quite interesting; but none was so ingenious as that of an old woman, who waited till there was a goodish crowd of visitors in my camp, and then rushed at me and made a violent scene, saying that I must pay her 50 tomans--about L10.

"But I have never seen you before! What have you done to earn such a sum?"

"Oh, Sahib, you have ruined me!" and she yelled as only an angry old woman can! She plumped herself on my best carpet and proceeded to explain. She said that she had buried the above stated sum in solid silver within a pile of straw, which she had sold the day before to a man to feed his camels upon. She was therefore--according to a reasoning of her own, since I had not yet arrived here the day before, nor could she identify the man with any of my party--certain that my camels had devoured the sum, and I, therefore, must pay the sum back! She was, nevertheless, sure that I was not to blame in the matter, and was willing to waive the claim on the immediate payment of two shais--about a half-penny!

Although it is well to be as kind as one can to the natives, it is never right to allow them to go unpunished for playing tricks. Of all the people--and they were many--who applied for charity that day, she was the only one who received nothing. This punishment, I was glad to see, was approved of by the many natives who had collected round.


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