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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

For the way justice is administered in Sistan


"The

remains of this city," he said, "are still to be seen, and if you do not believe my words you can go and see for yourself. In fact," added the Amir, "you should not leave Sistan without going to inspect the ruins. The city had flat roofs in a continuous line, the houses being built on both sides of a main road. A goat or a sheep could practically have gone along the whole length of the city," went on the Amir, to enforce proof of the continuity of buildings of Zaidan. "But the city had no great breadth. It was long and narrow, the dwellings being along the course of an arm of the Halmund river, which in those days, before its course was shifted by moving sands, flowed there. The ruined city lies partly in Afghan, partly in Sistan territory. In many parts it is covered altogether by sand, but, by digging, houses, and in them jewellery and implements, are to be found all along."

I promised the Amir that I would go and visit Zaidan city the very next day.

When we had once begun talking, the Amir spoke most interestingly, and I was glad to obtain from him very valuable and instructive information. One hears accounts in some quarters of the Persian officials being absolutely pro-Russian and showing incivility to British subjects, but on the contrary the Amir positively went out of his way to show extreme civility. He repeatedly inquired after my health and expressed his fervent wishes that fever should no more attack

me.

"What do you think of my beloved city, Sher-i-Nasrya?" he exclaimed. I prudently answered that in my travels all over the world I had never seen a city like it, which was quite true.

"But you look very young to have travelled so much?" queried the Amir.

"It is merely the great pleasure of coming to pay your Excellency a visit that makes me look young!" I replied with my very best, temporarily adopted, Persian manner, at which the Amir made a deep bow and placed his hand upon his heart to show the full appreciation of the compliment.

He, too, like all Persian officials, displayed the keenest interest in the Chinese war of 1900 and the eventual end of China. He spoke bitterly of the recluse Buddhists of Tibet, and I fully endorsed his views. Then again, he told me more of historical interest about his province, and of the medical qualities of the Halmund water--which cures all evils. More elaborate compliments flowed on all sides, and numberless cups of steaming tea were gradually sipped.

Then we took our leave. As a most unusual courtesy, the Consul told me, and one meant as a great honour, the Amir came to escort us and bid us good-bye right up to the door,--the usual custom being that he rises, but does not go beyond the table at which he sits.

Out we went again through the same narrow passages, stooping so as not to knock our heads against the low door-way, and came to our horses. The soldier on guard fired another salute with his gun, and Ghul-Khan, who happened to be near at the time, nearly had his eye put out by it.

As we rode through the gate a number of prisoners--seven or eight--laden with chains round the neck and wrists and all bound together, were being led in. They salaamed us and implored for our protection, but we could do nothing. I could not help feeling very sorry for the poor devils, for the way justice is administered in Sistan, as in most parts of Persia, is not particularly attractive. The tendons of the hands or feet are cut even for small offences, hot irons are thrust into the criminal's limbs, and other such trifling punishments are inflicted if sufficient money is not forthcoming from the accused or their relations to buy them out.


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