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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Although he had never been out of Persia


[Illustration:

The Eftetahie College, supported by Meftah-el-Mulk.]

Escorted by the messenger, I at once drove to Meftah's Palace, outwardly, like other palaces, of extremely modest appearance, and entered by a small doorway leading through very narrow passages. Led by my guide, we suddenly passed through a most quaint court, beautifully clean and with a pretty fountain in the centre,--but no time was given me to rest and admire. Again we entered another dark passage, this time to emerge into a most beautiful garden with rare plants and lovely flowers, with a huge tank, fountains playing and swans floating gracefully on the water. A most beautiful palace in European architecture of good taste faced the garden.

I was admitted into a spacious drawing-room, furnished in good European style, where Meftah-es-Sultaneh--a rotund and jovial gentleman--greeted me with effusion. Although he had never been out of Persia, he spoke French, with a most perfect accent, as fluently as a Frenchman.

What particularly struck me in him, and, later, in many other of the younger generation of the upper classes in Persia, was the happy mixture of the utmost charm of manner with a keen business head, delightful tact and no mean sense of humour. Meftah-es-Sultaneh, for instance, spoke most interestingly for over an hour, and I was agreeably surprised to find what an excellent foreign education students can receive

without leaving Persia. It is true that Meftah is an exceptionally clever man, who would make his mark anywhere; still it was nevertheless remarkable how well informed he was on matters not concerning his country.

He comes from a good stock. His father, Meftah-el-Mulk, was Minister member of the Council of State, a very wealthy man, who devoted much of his time and money to doing good to his country. Among the many praiseworthy institutions founded and entirely supported by him was the college for orphans, the Dabetsane Daneshe, and the Eftetahie School. The colleges occupy beautiful premises, and first-rate teachers are provided who instruct their pupils in sensible, useful matters. The boys are well fed and clothed and are made quite happy in every way.

Meftah told me that His Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs wished to see me, so it was arranged that I should drive to Tejerish the next morning to the Minister's country residence.

As early as five a.m. the following day I was digging in my trunks in search of my frock-coat, the only masculine attire in Persia that is considered decent, and without which no respectable man likes to be seen. Then for the tall hat; and with the temperature no less than 98 deg. in the shade I started in an open victoria to drive the nine miles or so to the appointment.

Not being a Persian myself, and not quite sharing the same ideas of propriety, I felt rather ridiculous in my get-up, driving across the sunny, dusty and barren country until we reached the hills. I had to keep my feet under the seat of the carriage, for when the sun's rays (thermometer above 125 deg.) struck my best patent-leather shoes, the heat was well-nigh intolerable.


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