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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Silk is even to day one of the chief industries of Ghilan


One's

heart gets lighter when we emerge into the more sparsely inhabited districts where fields and heavy vegetation line the road, now very wide and more or less straight. Here the speed is greatly increased, the coachman making ample use of a long stock whip. In Persia one always travels full gallop.

After not very long we pull up to disburse the road toll at a wayside collecting house. There are a great many caravans waiting, camels, mules, donkeys, horsemen, _fourgons_, whose owners are busy counting hard silver krans in little piles of 10 krans each--a _toman_, equivalent to a dollar,--without which payment they cannot proceed. Post carriages have precedence over everybody, and we are served at once. A receipt is duly given for the money paid, and we are off again. The coachman is the cause of a good deal of anxiety, for on the chance of a handsome backshish he has indulged in copious advance libations of rum or votka, or both, the vapours of which are blown by the wind into my face each time that he turns round and breathes or speaks. That this was a case of the horses leading the coachman and not of a man driving the horses, I have personally not the shade of a doubt, for the wretch, instead of minding his horses, hung backwards, the whole way, from the high box, yelling, I do not know what, at the top of his voice, and making significant gestures that he was still thirsty. Coachmen of all countries invariably are.

We

ran full speed into caravans of donkeys, scattering them all over the place; we caused flocks of frightened sheep to stampede in all directions, and only strings of imperturbable camels succeeded in arresting our reckless flight, for they simply would not move out of the way. Every now and then I snatched a furtive glance at the scenery.

The moisture of the climate is so great and the heat so intense, that the vegetation of the whole of Ghilan province is luxuriant,--but not picturesque, mind you. There is such a superabundance of vegetation, the plants so crammed together, one on the top of the other, as it were, all untidy, fat with moisture, and of such deep, coarse, blackish-green tones that they give the scenery a heavy leaden appearance instead of the charming beauty of more delicate tints of less tropical vegetation.

We go through Deschambe Bazaar, a place noted for its fairs.

Here you have high hedges of reeds and hopelessly entangled shrubs; there your eyes are rested on big stretches of agriculture,--Indian corn, endless paddy fields of rice and cotton, long rows of mulberry trees to feed silkworms upon their leaves. Silk is even to-day one of the chief industries of Ghilan. Its excellent quality was at one time the pride of the province. The export trade of dried cocoons has been particularly flourishing of late, and although prices and the exchanges have fluctuated, the average price obtained for them in Resht when fresh was from 201/2 krans to 221/2 krans (the kran being equivalent to about fivepence).


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