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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The imprisoned gases of the soda


case which had been lying on

the seat of the carriage. At my previous halt, having neglected this precaution, my camera had been tampered with by the natives, the lenses had been removed, and the eighteen plates most of them already with pictures on them--that were inside, exposed to the light and thrown about, with their slides, in the sand. So to avoid a repetition of the occurrence, and to prevent a probable accident, I brought all into the khafe-khana room and deposited the lot on the raised mud portion along the wall, seating myself next to my property. I ordered tea, and the attendant, with many salaams, explained that his fire had gone out, but that if I would wait a few minutes he would make me some fresh _chah_. I consented. He inquired whether the revolver was loaded, and I said it was. He proceeded to the further end of the room, where, turning his back to me, he began to blow upon the fire, and I, being very thirsty, sent another man to my fourgon to bring me a bottle of soda-water. The imprisoned gases of the soda, which had been lying for the whole day in the hot sun, had so expanded that when I removed the wire the cork went off with a loud report and unfortunately hit the man in the shoulder blade. By association of ideas he made so certain in his mind that it was the revolver that had gone off that he absolutely collapsed in a semi-faint, under the belief that he had been badly shot. He moaned and groaned, trying to reach with his hand what he thought was the wounded spot, and called for
his son as he felt he was about to die. We supported him, and gave him some water and reassured him, but he had turned as pale as death.

"What have I done to you that you kill me?" he moaned pitifully.

"But, good man, you have no blood flowing,--look!"

A languid, hopeless glance at the ground, where he had fallen and sure enough, he could find no blood. He tried to see the wound, but his head could not revolve to a sufficiently wide arc of a circle to see his shoulder-blade, so in due haste we removed his coat and waistcoat and shirt, and after slow, but careful, keen examination, he discovered that not only there were no marks of flowing blood, but no trace whatever of a bullet hole in any of his garments. Even then he was not certain, and two small mirrors were sent for, which, by the aid of a sympathising friend, he got at proper angles minutely to survey his whole back.

He eventually recovered, and was able to proceed with the brewing of tea, which he served with terribly trembling hand on the rattling saucer under the tiny little glass.

"It was a very narrow escape from death, sahib," he said in a wavering voice--"for it might have been the revolver."

There is nothing like backshish in Persia to heal all wounds, whether real or otherwise, and he duly received an extra handsome one.

In Persia the traveller is particularly struck by the number of Princes one encounters on the road. This is to a certain extent to be accounted for by the fact that the word _khan_ which follows a great many Persian names has been translated, mainly by flattering French authors, into the majestic but incorrect word "Prince." In many cases the suffix of _khan_ is an equivalent of Lord, but in most cases it is no more than our nominal "Esquire."


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