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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

These camel men were the first Beluch I had come across


On

his arrival in Birjand he acted as Agent for the British Government, and was for ten months in charge of the Consular postal arrangements from Sistan to Meshed, while advising the Government on the best ways of promoting trade in those regions, a work which he did mostly for love and out of loyalty.

He has experimented a great deal, and his experience is that indigo is the article which commands the greatest sale at present, then plain white and indigo dyed cottons of two qualities, a superior kind with shiny surface for the better classes, and one rather inferior with no gloss for the lower people. Fancy articles find no sale.

One of the greatest difficulties that a trader has to contend with is the impossibility of selling anything for ready money, and thus making small but quick profits. Credit has to be given generally for one year, eighteen months, and even as long as two years. Even in the few cases where credit has been allowed for one or two months the greatest difficulty is experienced in obtaining payment for the goods supplied, threats and applications to the Amir being often necessary. Delays are constant, although the money is always paid in the end.

This necessitates keeping the prices very high to compensate for the loss, but by careful handling good profits can be made, if sufficient capital is at hand to keep the concern going.

The

caravanserai in which Umar-al-din had hired several rooms which he had turned into a shop was now known by the name of the English Caravanserai, and nearly all the caravans with Indian and Afghan goods halted there. When I went to visit the place there were a number of Afghan soldiers who had conveyed some prisoners, who had escaped into Afghan territory, back from Herat to Birjand. Their rifles, with bayonets fixed, were stacked on the platform outside, and they loitered about, no two soldiers dressed alike. Some had old English military uniforms which they wore over their ample white or blue cotton trousers. These fellows looked very fierce and treacherous, with cruel mouths and unsteady eyes. They wore pointed embroidered peaks inside their turbans, and curly hair flowed upon their shoulders. At a distance they were most picturesque but extremely dirty.

A number of Beluch _mari_, or running camels, were being fed with huge balls of paste which were stuffed down their mouths by their owners. These camel men were the first Beluch I had come across, and although they wore huge white flowing robes, long hair, and pointed turbans not unlike the Afghans, the difference in the features and expression of the faces was quite marked. One could see that they were fighting people, but they had nice, honest faces; they looked straight in one's eyes, and had not the sneakish countenance of their northern neighbours.

CHAPTER XII

A loud explosion--Persian military officers--Dr. Abbas Ali Khan, British Agent in Birjand--His excellent work--Gratefulness of the natives--A quaint letter--The Russian Agent--A Russian temporary score--More British Consulates needed--Visits returned--Altitude and temperature of Birjand--Cossacks and their houses--A bright scene in a graveyard--Departure of Indian pilgrims for Meshed--British Consular postal service--Russian post--Making up a second caravan.

Early in the morning of the 26th I was awakened by a fearful explosion that shook the caravanserai and made everything in the room rattle. A few minutes later there was a second report and then a third and fourth, twelve altogether, but these fortunately not quite so loud. Evidently my military friends of the previous day were firing off their artillery.


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