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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The next holiest man to the head priest of Sher i Nasrya


Strangling

and decapitation are still in use, and I am told--but cannot guarantee its accuracy--that blowing criminals from guns is rarely practised now, although at one time this was a favourite Persian way of disposing of violent criminals.

A Persian official was telling me that, since these terrible punishments have been to a great extent abolished, crimes are more frequent in Persia than they were before. The same man--a very enlightened person, who had travelled in Europe--also remarked to me that had we to-day similar punishments in Europe instead of keeping criminals on the fat of the land--(I am only repeating his words)--we should not have so much crime in the country. "Your laws," he added, "protect criminals; our ways deter men and women from crime. To prevent crime, no matter in how cruel a way it is done, is surely less cruel than to show leniency and kindness to the persons who do commit crimes!"

That was one way of looking at it. Taking things all round, if blood feuds and cases of personal revenge are excepted, there is certainly less crime in Persia than in many European countries.

CHAPTER XXI

The London of the East--A city eighty-six miles long--The village of Bunjar--An ancient tower--Iskil--The _Kalantar_ of Sistan--Collection of ancient jewellery from the buried city--Interesting

objects--A romantic life and tragic death--A treacherous Afghan--Strained relations between the Sistan and Afghan Governors--Sand-barchans--Flat roofs and gable roofs--The pillar of Mil-i-Zaidan--A conical ice-house--The imposing fort of Zaidan--A neighbouring modern village.

The Consul, Mrs. Benn and I, started off early one morning on horseback to inspect the ruins of the ancient London of the East, the great city of Zaidan, which in the days of its glory measured no less than eighty-six miles--from Lash Yuwain on the north to Kala-i-Fath on the South--ruins of the city being traceable the whole distance to this day, except in the portion which has been covered by the waters of the Hamun Halmund.

On the way there was little to be seen for the first four miles until we reached the village of Bunjar, the biggest trading village in Sistan and the residence of the Iman Jumeh, the next holiest man to the head priest of Sher-i-Nasrya. This village and neighbourhood supply Sher-i-Nasrya entirely with wood and very largely with food. There are many stunted trees about, all curved southwards by the wind, and much cultivated land, the ground being intersected by numerous natural and artificial water channels.

A very curious ancient tower, split in two, and the portion of another very much corroded at its base, and looking like a big mushroom, are to be seen on the south near this village. We cut across, almost due east, to Iskil, wading through several canals and channels into which our horses dived up to their saddles.

On approaching Iskil from the west one was impressed by the unusual height of some of its buildings, most of which were two-storied and had domed roofs, the domes being of much larger proportions than usual. A quadrangular tower of considerable loftiness stood prominent above the height of all the other buildings. For a Persian village Iskil had quite a clean, fresh appearance, even from a short distance. On getting near we entered the main road--one might more accurately call it a canal--walled in on both sides and filled with water some eight or ten inches deep. Our horses waded through, and having rounded another large pond of dirty green water--such as is always found in the more prosperous villages of Persia--we came to a high wall enclosing a garden and an Andarun near the residence of the Kalantar of Sistan (Kalantar means the "bigger one"), the title taken by the head of the tribe who in by-gone days were the masters of the whole of Sistan.


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