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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Eleven camels of our combined caravans had disappeared


The

want of expansion of the men's chests was a striking feature of masculine anatomy at Naiband, and, in fact, the profile silhouette of members of the Naiband strong sex was not unlike that of a phonograph trumpet resting on the ground, for they wore trousers of enormous size, divided skirts of the largest pattern, pure and simple, and little jackets over them with broad sleeves and buttoned over on the right shoulder. It seemed almost that the further we got into the desert the larger the trousers of the men in the oases. Some of the men had several yards of material draped round their legs, in Hindoo fashion, instead of trousers.

The colours of their clothes were white and dark blue, while their headgear consisted of a double skull cap, a thin, coloured one underneath and a light brown, thick felt one over it. The men were either barefooted or wore sandals.

Things went fairly well while we remained talking in the village, but in the meantime the entire population had turned out, and for some reason of their own again became rather boisterous. Having seen all there was to be seen I made my way down to camp as slowly as possible, followed by a howling mob. The moment one had one's back turned stones flew in abundance. The camel man and I went down the steep incline, and when we reached the last houses of the village a great number of people were congregated on the roofs, who gesticulated frantically and yelled

something or other at me as I passed. One or two of them had long matchlocks. We had gone but a few yards when a shot was fired at us, and a minute or so later another, but no damage was inflicted.

We went on with assumed calm and stopped, apparently to look at the scenery all round, but really to watch what the howling mob behind were doing, and eventually, when we reached the foot of the mountain and were out in the open instead of among rocks, the mob, taken by panic, bolted, and we saw them scrambling with great speed up the rocky path to the village like so many rabbits.

CHAPTER IX

Misfortunes--Suffocating heat--An expected attack--Electricity--Strayed camels--A barber and his ways--A track to Meshed--Pilgrim husband and wife across the desert--Another long march--A salt stream--Brackish well.

Many misfortunes befel us at this place. We had made our camp in the oasis of palm trees at the foot of the mountain, and as the camels were much worn out we were unable to proceed on our journey the same evening. The heat during the night under the palm trees was quite suffocating, and I had to remove my bedding into the open where one could breathe a little better.

The camel men feared that during the night we might be attacked by the villagers and we made ready for any emergency, but nobody came.

There was so much electricity in the air that it gave quite an unpleasant feeling, and had a curious effect upon one's skin. The cats on coming in contact with the woollen blankets discharged sparks all over, and sparks also snapped from one's fingers on touching anything that was a good conductor of electricity.

A wild animal came into our camp during the night and carried away some newly-purchased hens. We had been told that there were many wolves and foxes in the neighbourhood.

In the morning we were confronted with what seemed a disaster. Eleven camels of our combined caravans had disappeared. Had they been stolen or had they run away? The camel men were in tears, and, instead of going to look for them, sat on the loads sobbing bitterly and wiping the tears from their eyes with the skirts of their long coats. A ray of hope arose when we discovered their tracks. They had made for some hot water springs, some miles to the east, and judging from their footprints were evidently travelling at a great pace. Two men on other camels were despatched after them, and we had to resign ourselves to a delay of another day.


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