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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

And Major Benn stopped his horse


A large road was made not long ago round three sides of the city by Colonel Trench, then our Consul there, so that the Amir could drive to his garden, a quarter of a mile outside the north city gate, the residence of the Amir's son, the Sar-tip. On the west side of Sher-i-Nasrya there is merely a sheep track.

[Illustration: The Main Street, Sher-i-Nasrya. (Showing centre of City.)]

In the north-west corner of the city is a higher wall enclosing a large space and forming the citadel and Anderun, in which the Amir and part of his family reside. There are three large towers to each side of the quadrangle, the centre tower to the south being of much larger proportions than the others. A lower outer wall surrounds the higher one, and in the large tower is the entrance gate to the Governor's citadel.

The inside of the city of Sher-i-Nasrya is neither beautiful nor interesting from a pictorial point of view. There is a main street with some mud buildings standing up, others tumbled down. The full-page illustration shows the most attractive and interesting point of the city, the centre of the quadrangle where the two streets, one from south to north, the other from east to west, intersect at right angles. A dome of mud bricks has been erected over the street, and under its shade a number of the Amir's soldiers were generally to be seen with their rifles resting idle against the wall.

The type of Sistan residence can be seen in the two hovels to the right of the observer in this photograph. The two hoods on the highest point of the dome are two typical ventilators. To the left the large doorways are mere shops, with a kind of narrow verandah on which the purchasers squat when buying goods. The main street is very narrow and has a small platform almost all along its sides, on which the natives sit smoking their kalians or conversing.

I was really very much impressed, each time that I visited the city in the Consul's company, by the intense respect shown by these people to our representative. There was not a single man who did not rise and salaam when we rode through the bazaar, while many also came forward to seize the Consul's hand and pay him the customary compliments. Major Benn modestly put down this civility of the natives to the popularity of his predecessor, Major Trench, and the good manners which he had taught these men; but Major Benn himself, with his most affable manner, his unsophisticated ways, absolutely devoid of nonsensical red-tape or false pride, is to my mind also to be held responsible for the reverence which he inspires among the masses.

To me personally, I must confess, it was a very great pleasure indeed to see an English gentleman held in such respect, and that solely on account of his tact and _savoir faire_. It is not a common sight.

Of course, a certain amount of show has also to be made to impress the natives, but "show" alone, as some believe, will be of little good unless there is something more attractive behind it. Major Benn seemed to be everybody's welcomed friend; everybody, whether rich or poor, whether in smart clothes or rags, gleamed with delight as they saw him come; and Major Benn stopped his horse, now to say a kind word to a merchant, then to shake hands with a native friend, further on to talk to a little child who had run to the door of his parents' mud hut to say "salameleko" to the Consul.

It is men with sound common sense, civil manners, and human sympathy, of Benn's type, that we want to represent England everywhere, and these men, as I have ever maintained, can do Great Britain more good in foreign countries in a day than all the official red-tape in a year. It is a mistake to believe that Persians or other Asiatics are only impressed by gold braiding and by a large retinue of servants. The natives have a wonderful intuitive way of correctly gauging people, as we civilised folk do not seem able to do, and it is the man himself, and his doings, that they judge and criticise, and not so much the amount of gold braiding on a man's coat or trousers, or the cut of a resplendent uniform.


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