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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

British Minister in Teheran His talent


There

was nearly a serious riot about this in Teheran city; the trains continued to run with the undamaged engines, but no one would travel by them. Result? "La Compagnie des Chemins de Fer et des Tramways de Perse" went bankrupt. The whole concern was eventually bought up cheap by a Russian Company, and is now working again, as far as regards the railway, in a more or less spasmodic manner.

The tramway service connects the three principal gates of the outer wall of Teheran with the centre of the city "the Place des Canons" (Meidan-Top-Khaned).

Although there are a great many mosques in Teheran city there is not one of great importance or beauty. The Mesjid-i-shah, or the Shah's Mosque, is the most noteworthy, and has a very decorative glazed tiled facade. Then next in beauty is probably the mosque of the Shah's mother, but neither is in any way uncommon for size, or wealth, architectural lines, or sacredness. Several mosques have colleges attached to them, as is the usual custom in Persia. Access to the interior of the mosques is not permitted to Europeans unless they have embraced the Mahommedan religion.

Outwardly, there are few native houses in Teheran that impress one with any remarkable features of wealth or beauty; in fact, they are nearly all wretchedly miserable,--a plastered mud or brick wall with a modest little doorway being all one sees from the street of the dwellings

of even the richest and noblest of Persians. Inside matters are different. Frequently a miserable little tumbling-down gate gives access, after going through similarly miserable, narrow, low passages, to magnificent palaces and astoundingly beautiful and luxurious courts and gardens. I asked what was the reason of the poor outward appearance of these otherwise luxurious dwellings. Was it modesty,--was it to deceive envious eyes?

There are few countries where blackmail and extortion are carried on on a more extensive and successful scale than in Persia; all classes and conditions of people are exposed to the danger, and it is only by an assumed air of poverty that a certain amount of security is obtained. A miserable-looking house, it was explained by a Persian, does not attract the covetous eye of the passer-by; an unusually beautiful one does. "It is a fatal mistake," he added, "to let anybody's eye rest on one's possessions, whether he be the Shah, a minister, or a beggar. He will want to rest his hands upon them next, and then everything is gone. Besides," he said, "it is the inside of a house that gives pleasure and comfort to the occupier and his friends. One does not build a house to give pleasure and comfort to the people in the street. That is only vainglory of persons who wish to make their neighbours jealous by outward show. They usually have to repent it sooner or later."

There was more philosophy than European minds may conceive in the Persian's words--at least, for Persian householders.

CHAPTER X

Legations--Germany a stumbling-block to Russia's and England's supremacy--Sir Arthur Hardinge, British Minister in Teheran--His talent, tact, and popularity--The British Legation--Summer quarters--Legation guards--Removal of furniture.


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