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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

I was sorry to leave Sistan too


FOOTNOTES:

style="text-align: justify;">[6] I think this must be a mistake; it should be to the north.--A.H.S.L.

CHAPTER XXIV

Departure from Sistan--Dadi--Not one's idea of a pasture--The Kuh-i-Kwajah--Its altitude--The "City of roars of laughter"--Interesting ascent to the summit--A water reservoir--Family graves--Dead-houses--A grave with thirty-eight compartments--The Gandun Piran Ziarat--Scrolls and inscriptions--Priest's house--Modern graves--Skulls and their characteristics--A smaller Ziarat--The Kuk fort--A bird's-eye view of Kala-i-Kakaha city--Strange legends about the city--Why Kala-i-Kakaha is famous.

Owing to the tender care of Major and Mrs. Benn I was, at the beginning of 1902, in a fair condition of strength to undertake the journey of 600 miles on camels across Northern Beluchistan to Quetta. With the help of Major Benn I made up a fresh caravan entirely of running camels, and expected therefore to be able to travel very fast. The camels selected were excellent, and the two Beluch drivers who came with me most faithful, considerate and excellent servants. Sadek also accompanied me.

Everything was made ready to start by January 2nd, but some hitch or other occurred daily, and it was not till January 10th that I was able to take my departure--sorry indeed

to say good-bye to my new good friends, Major and Mrs. Benn, to whose charmingly thoughtful care I altogether owed it that I was now able to proceed in good health.

The hour of our departure was fixed for 5 o'clock a.m., but my three cats, suspecting that we were going to move from our comfortable quarters, disappeared during the night, and some hours were wasted by Sadek and all the servants of the Consulate in trying to find them again. I was determined not to start without them. Sadek was furious, the camel men impatient, the guard of Lancers sent by the Consul to accompany me for some distance had been ready on their horses for a long time, and everybody at hand was calling out "Puss, puss, puss!" in the most endearing tones of voice, and searching every possible nook.

After four hours of expressive language in Persian, Hindustani, Beluchi and English, at nine o'clock the cats were eventually discovered. One had hidden under a huge pile of wood, all of which we had to remove to get him out; the second had found a most comfortable sanctum in Mrs. Benn's room, and the third, having ascertained that his companions had been discovered, walked out unconcerned and entered the travelling box of his own accord.

I was sorry to leave Sistan too, with its ancient ruins, its peculiar inhabitants, a mixture of all kinds, its quaint city, so strikingly picturesque especially at sunset, when, owing to the moisture in the air, beautiful warm colours appeared in the sky, and the thousands of camels, and sheep, moving like so many phantoms in clouds of dust, returned to their homes. The sad dingling of their bells sounded musical enough in the distance, and one saw horsemen dashing full gallop towards the city before the gates were closed, every man carrying a gun. Far to the west in the background stood the Kuh-i-Kwajah mountain, so famous in the history of Sistan. All this after the dreary, long Salt Desert journey had seemed heavenly to me, and I was more than sorry to leave the place.

Had I been a Russian instead of an Englishman I would not have continued my journey on the morning of my departure, for on coming out of the Consulate gate the first thing I saw was a dead body being washed and prepared for interment by relatives in the dead-house adjoining the Consulate wall. The Russians believe the sight of a dead body an ill-omen at the beginning of a journey.


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