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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

We have in Birjand an Indian doctor


Shortly

after this, in their gaudy uniforms and with a guard of soldiers, the officers came to call upon me at the caravanserai.

"Have you heard the guns being fired?" was their first anxious question. Indeed I had. It appears that to make sure that I should hear them a double charge of powder was placed in the first gun. When it was let off in the very small court of the citadel the concussion had most disastrous effects upon the mud walls all round, as well as upon some of the spectators who were close at hand and who were nearly stunned by the fearful report.

The officers were extremely civil, intelligent and full of humour. Intense astonishment and interest was shown in my repeating rifles. They had never set their eyes upon, nor ever heard that there was such a thing as, a repeating rifle! I was, nevertheless, much struck by their quickness compared with that of the average European, in grasping the mechanism and the way to use the weapons.

They seemed fully to realize that it would be of little practical use to defend Birjand city in case of an attack, because it could be commanded from several excellent positions close at hand to the north-east, north and north-west. Furthermore, the water supply could easily be cut off. They told me, if I remember right, that it was the intention of the Persian Government to strengthen this place and that some more pieces of artillery were

expected.

We have in Birjand an Indian doctor, by name Abbas Ali Khan, who acts as British Agent. He is a young fellow of uncommon ability and education, a capital doctor, and a most gentlemanly man, who has had great experience of the world, having travelled with several political missions in various parts of Asia, including the Pekin Syndicate Survey expedition under command of J. W. Purvis, Captain R. E., where not only did he look after the medical necessities of a large party of Europeans, Indians and Chinese, but helped to manage a large transport of mule carts. Captain Purvis testifies to Abbas Ali having performed his professional duties with zeal, and extraneous duties cheerfully, during a journey of some 2,000 miles through China.

It was in April, 1897, that Abbas Ali Khan, at twenty-four hours' notice, accompanied Major Brazier Creagh's Mission to Sistan, when British influence in that part of Persia was non-existent. The Mission returned to India in October of the same year, but Abbas Ali was sent on a second journey to Sistan in charge of a small party from December, 1897, to July, 1898, when he was entrusted with political business which required great discretion and tact.

It is greatly to his credit that he managed--in spite of many difficulties and obstacles--to win the confidence and friendship of officials of a district where all British subjects were regarded with undisguised suspicion and distrust. No better proof of this could be furnished than by reproducing here a literal translation of a quaint document, dated May, 1898, given him, unsolicited, by Mir Masum Sar-tip, Deputy Governor of Sistan, whose official seal it bears:--


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