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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

And the proprietress tries hard to make people comfortable


There

are two hotels in Teheran and several European and Armenian restaurants. The English hotel is the best,--not a dream of cleanliness, nor luxury, nor boasting of a cuisine which would remain impressed upon one's mind, except for its elaborate monotony,--but quite a comfortable place by comparison with the other European hotels of Persia. The beds are clean, and the proprietress tries hard to make people comfortable.

More interesting than the hotel itself was the curious crowd of people whom one saw at the dinner-table. I remember sitting down one evening to dinner with nine other people, and we represented no less than ten different nationalities! The tower of Babel sank almost into insignificance compared with the variety of languages one heard spoken all round, and one's polyglot abilities were tested to no mean extent in trying to carry on a general conversation. One pleasant feature of these dinners was the amount of talent and good-humour that prevailed in the company, and the absolute lack of distinction of class or social position. Side by side one saw a distinguished diplomat conversing with the Shah's automobile driver, and a noteworthy English member of Parliament on friendly terms with an Irish gentleman of the Indo-European Telegraphs. A burly, jolly Dutchman stood drinks all round to members of the Russian and English Banks alike, and a French _sage-femme_ just arrived discussed her prospects with the hotel proprietress. The Shah's

A.D.C. and favourite music-composer and pianist came frequently to enliven the evenings with some really magnificent playing, and by way of diversion some wild Belgian employees of the derelict sugar-factory used almost nightly to cover with insults a notable "Chevalier d'industrie" whose thick skin was amazing.

Then one met Armenians--who one was told had come out of jail,--and curio-dealers, mine prospectors, and foreign Generals of the Persian army.

Occasionally there was extra excitement when an engagement or a wedding took place, when the parties usually adjourned to the hotel, and then there was unlimited consumption of beer, nominally (glycerine really, for, let me explain, beer does not stand a hot climate unless a large percentage of glycerine is added to it), and of highly-explosive champagne and French wines, Chateau this and Chateau that--of Caspian origin.

Being almost a teetotaller myself, this mixed crowd--but not the mixed drink--was interesting to study, and what particularly struck me was the _bonhomie_, the real good-heartedness, and manly but thoughtful, genial friendliness of men towards one another, irrespective of class, position or condition, except, of course, in the cases of people with whom it was not possible to associate. The hard, mean, almost brutal jealousy, spite, the petty rancour of the usual Anglo-Indian man, for instance, does not exist at all in Persia among foreigners or English people. On the contrary, it is impossible to find more hospitable, more gentlemanly, polite, open-minded folks than the Britishers one meets in Persia.

Of course, it must be remembered, the type of Britisher one finds in Persia is a specially talented, enterprising and well-to-do individual, whose ideas have been greatly broadened by the study of several foreign languages which, in many cases, have taken him on the Continent for several years in his youth. Furthermore, lacking entirely the ruling "look down upon the native" idea, so prevalent in India, he is thrown much in contact with the Persians, adopting from them the courteous manner and form of speech, which is certainly more pleasant than the absurd rudeness of the "keep-aloof" notion which generally makes us hated by most Orientals.


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