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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Would easily beat Russian sugar


Perhaps the country itself, or rather the people, with their vainglory and empty pomp, are particularly adapted to be victimised by impostors and are easy preys to them. Some of the tricks that have been played upon them do not lack humour. Take, for instance, the pretty farce of the _Compagnie generale pour l'eclairage et le chauffage en Perse_, which undertook to light the city of Teheran with no less than one thousand gas lights. Machinery was really imported at great expense from Europe for the manufacture of the gas--many of the heavier pieces of machinery are still lying on the roadside between Resht and Teheran--extensive premises were built in Teheran itself, and an elaborate doorway with a suitable inscription on it, is still to be seen; but the most important part of all--the getting of the coal from which the gas was to be extracted--had not been considered. The Lalun coal mines, which offered a gleam of hope to the shareholders, were exploited and found practically useless. The Company and Government came to loggerheads, each accusing the other of false dealing, and the result was that the Persians insisted on the Company lighting up Teheran with the agreed 1,000 lights. If gas could not be manufactured, oil lights would do. There was the signed agreement and the Company must stick to it.

The Company willingly agreed, but as the document did not specify the site where each lamp-post should be situate nearly all were erected, at a distance of only a few feet from one another--a regular forest of them--in the two main streets of the European settlement.

One single man is employed after dark to set the lamps alight, and when he has got to the end of the two streets he proceeds on his return journey to blow them all out again. By ten o'clock everything is in perfect darkness.

The Company now claim that they have fulfilled their agreement!

The Belgian Company for the manufacture of Beetroot Sugar was another example of how speculations sometimes go wrong, and no wonder. In theory the venture seemed quite sound, for the consumption of sugar in Persia is large, and if it had been possible to produce cheap sugar in the country instead of importing it from Russia, France and India, huge profits would have been probable; but here again the same mistake was made as by the gas company. The obtaining of the raw material was neglected.

The sugar refinery was built at great cost in this case, too, machinery was imported to manufacture the three qualities of sugar most favoured by the Persians--loaf sugar, crystallised sugar, and sugar-candy,--but all this was done before ascertaining whether it was possible to grow the right quality of beetroot in sufficient quantities to make the concern pay. Theoretically it was proved that it would be possible to produce local sugar at a price which, while leaving the Company a huge profit, would easily beat Russian sugar, by which French and Indian sugar have now been almost altogether supplanted.


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