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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

With the black frock coat white with dust


At

last, after going slowly up-hill through winding lanes enclosed in mud walls, and along dry ditches with desiccated trees on either side, we arrived at the _Campagne de Tejerish_, and pulled up in front of a big gate, at the residence of the Minister.

The trials of the long drive had been great. With the black frock-coat white with dust, my feet absolutely broiled in the patent shoes, and the perspiration streaming down my forehead and cheeks, I really could not help laughing at the absurdity of civilised, or semi-civilised fashions, and at the purposeless suffering inflicted by them.

There were a number of soldiers at the gate with clothes undone--they were practical people--and rusty muskets resting idle on a rack.

"Is Meftah-es-Sultaneh here?" I inquired.

"Yes, he is waiting for you," answered a soldier as he sprang to his feet. He hurriedly buttoned up his coat and hitched his belt, and, seizing a rifle, made a military salute in the most approved style.

An attendant led me along a well-shaded avenue to the house, and here I was ushered into a room where, round tables covered with green cloth, sat a great many officials. All these men wore pleated frock-coats of all tints and gradations of the colours of the rainbow. One and all rose and politely saluted me before I sat down.

justify;">Through the passage one could see another room in which a number of other officials, similarly clad and with black astrakan caps, were opening and sorting out correspondence.

Suddenly there was a hurried exit of all present--very much like a stampede. Up the avenue a stately, tall figure, garbed in a whitish frock-coat over which a long loose brown coat was donned, walked slowly and ponderously with a crowd of underlings flitting around--like mosquitoes round a brilliant light. It was Mushir-ed-Doulet, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He turned round, now to one, then to another official, smiling occasionally and bowing gracefully, then glancing fiercely at another and sternly answering a third.

[Illustration: H. E. Mushir-ed-Doulet, Minister of Foreign Affairs.]

I was rather impressed by the remarkable facility with which he could switch on extreme courteousness and severity, kindliness and contempt. His face was at no time, mind you, subjected to very marked exaggerated changes or grimaces, such as those by which we generally expect emotions to show themselves among ourselves, but the changes in his expression, though slight, were quite distinct and so expressive that there was no mistake as to their meaning. A soft look of compassion; a hard glance of offended dignity; the veiled eyes deeply absorbed in reflection; the sudden sparkle in them at news of success, were plainly visible on his features, as a clerk approached him bringing correspondence, or asking his opinion, or reporting on one matter or another.


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