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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

These brigand villagers were most interesting as a type


we entered the village by a narrow path, while men, women and children collected on the house-tops and in the doorways and gesticulated and spouted away as fine a collection of insults as one may expect to listen to in one's life. The Naiband people may certainly be congratulated on the possession of a most extensive and complete vocabulary of swear words.

Pretending unconcern, but keeping a watchful eye on what was taking place all round, I stopped here and there to examine the small water-skins hanging in couples or more outside each doorway, and halted in the small square of the village to admire the wretched buildings all round.

The lower portion of the houses was of mud, the upper of stone. Down the side of the main street gurgled the limpid little stream. Each house had a sort of walled recess outside the front door, reached by a step or two, where tilling tools rested against the wall, and where the women's spinning wheels were worked during the day. The wheels, however, were now idle, for the women had joined the men in the demonstration.

It was most evident that _ferenghis_ were not popular at Naiband, but, come what might, here I was, and here I would stay as long as it suited me. A stone flung with considerable force hit me in the knee--stones always have a way of striking you in the most sensitive spots--and it took me some minutes before I could recover from the

pain and move on; but I never let the natives suspect what agony I was enduring, or they would have done worse.

The slow march through the village up to the highest point was decidedly not pleasant, missiles flying pretty plentifully all round. Fortunately, no more hit me quite as badly again. The camel man had warned me that the population of Naiband was a mixture of robbers and cut-throats, and the facts fully proved his words, so I was rather glad that I had taken not only my rifle with me but a pocketful of cartridges as well.

Things were getting rather hot, and it was only when, having reached a high point of vantage, I stopped and, in full view of the crowd, inserted a five cartridge clip in the magazine of my Mannlicher, that most anxious inquiries were made from the camel man as to what I was about to do. The camel man, amid a sudden silence and eager attention, explained the terrific powers of a _ferenghi's_ rifle which, he said, never misses and ever kills, even ten miles off; and to add more humour to his words he explained that shots could be fired so quick that one had not time to count them.

At this point of the lecture I casually produced a handful of cartridges from my coat pocket, and having counted them aloud, proceeded to count the people, who watched, somewhat flabbergasted. The device answered perfectly. They dropped the stones which, during the short armistice, they had carefully nursed in their hands, and some thought they had better return to their homes, the bolder ones only remaining, who put a grin of friendship on their faces, and made signs that they would try to do no further harm.

Peace being proclaimed, and after making them pay their salaams, which seemed the most unusual thing they ever had to do in their lifetime, I spoke to them in a friendly way and patted them on the back. They were much impressed with the rifle and wanted me to let them see it in their own hands, which, of course, I did not do. They showed me some of their houses, which were very dirty--people, fowls, and in some cases a donkey or a goat, occupying the same room.

These brigand villagers were most interesting as a type. They were quite unlike the Persians of the West, and they certainly had nothing in common with the Afghan; nor did they resemble the people of the northern part of Persia. The Beluch type came nearer. It would be curious to trace exactly where they came from--although undoubtedly their features must have been greatly modified, even altogether altered, by the climatic conditions of the spot they live in.

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