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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Major Benn having put up a serviceable kiln for the purpose


The Sistan Consulate on Christmas Day, 1901.]

Being a Mussulman country, things were at first very uncomfortable for Mrs. Benn until the natives got accustomed to the sight of an English lady, she being the first they had ever seen, or who had ever travelled so far.

The temporary mud-rooms were gradually furnished and decorated with so much taste that they became simply charming, but a new Consulate is now being built, which, by comparison in size and style, seems quite palatial. It is being constructed of real baked bricks, Major Benn having put up a serviceable kiln for the purpose, and the handsome structure is so sensibly built after a design by the versatile Consul, that when finished it will fully combine English comfort with the exigencies of the climate, the incessant northerly winds of the summer months--from June to the end of August--rendering life unbearable unless suitable arrangements to mitigate their effects are provided.

Into the northern wall _ka khanas_ or "camel thorn compartments" are being built some four feet deep, filled with camel thorn. To make them effective two coolies are employed all day long to swish buckets of water on to them. The wind forcing its way through causes rapid evaporation and consequent cooling of the air in the rooms. When the wind stops the heat is, however, unbearable. The rooms are also provided with _badjirs_, or wind-catchers,

on the domed roof, but these can only be used before the heat becomes too great.

An attempt had been made to start a garden, both for vegetables and flowers, but the hot winds burnt up everything. Only four cabbages out of hundreds that were planted had survived, and these were carefully nursed by Mrs. Benn for our Christmas dinner. Unluckily, on Christmas Eve a cow entered the enclosure and made a meal of the lot!

Another garden is being started, but great difficulty is experienced in making anything grow owing to the quantity of salt in the ground and the terrific winds. Poplars have come up fairly well under shelter of a wall, but no tree can hope to stand upright when it attains a height where the wind can reach it. In fact, what few trees one sees about near Sher-i-Nasrya are stooping southward in a pitiful manner.

The Consul's horses and those of the escort are kept out in the open. They are tethered and left well wrapped up, wearing nearly double the amount of covering to protect them from the heat during the hot summer months that they do in winter, on the principle explained in previous chapters. It is not possible to keep them in stables, owing to the terrible white fly, which has a poisonous sting. When out in the open the flies and mosquitoes are blown away by the wind.

It was satisfactory to find that, although the Government did not see its way to furnish the Consulate with a wall for the protection of the Consul and his wife, whose personal property was constantly being stolen, an allowance was at once granted with instructions to build at once a high wall all round the Consulate when one of the Government horses was stolen!

This wall, a wonderful bit of work, was put up in a fortnight, while I was in bed with fever, and on my getting up from bed I had the surprise of finding the Consulate, which, when I had arrived, stood--a few lonely buildings--in the middle of a sandy plain, now surrounded by a handsome mud wall with a most elaborate castellated, fortress-like gate of Major Benn's own design. The wall encloses a good many acres of land; it would be rash to say how many! This has given rise among the natives to the report that a new city is rising near Sher-i-Nasrya, called Trenchabad, or Trench's city.

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