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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The Shah was standing almost in the centre of the room


Fireworks were let off till a late hour of the night from various parts of the town, and bands and strolling musicians played in the squares, in the bazaar, and everywhere.

The following morning the Shah came in his automobile to town from his country residence, driven, as usual, by a Frenchman. The Persian and foreign Ministers were to be received in audience early in the morning, and I was to be presented after by Sir Arthur Hardinge, our Minister at the Shah's Court.

The strict etiquette of any Court--whether European or Eastern--does remind one very forcibly of the comic opera, only it is occasionally funnier.

[Illustration: Ruku Sultaneh, Brother of the present Shah.]

As early as 9 a.m. we left the Legation in a procession--all on horseback--the officials in their diplomatic uniforms, with plenty of gold braiding, and cocked hats; I in my own frock-coat and somebody else's tall hat, for mine had unluckily come to grief. We rode along the very dusty streets and arrived at the Palace, where we got off our horses. We entered the large court of the Alabaster Throne. There were a great many dismounted cavalry soldiers, and we were then led into a small ante-room on the first floor where all the foreign representatives of other nations in Teheran were waiting, received by a Persian high official.

We were detained here for a considerable time, and then marched through the garden to another building. By the number of pairs of shoes lining both sides of the staircase in quadruple rows, it was evident that his Majesty had many visitors. We were ushered into the Jewelled Globe Room adjoining the Shah's small reception room.

After some adjustment of clothes and collars in their correct positions, and of swords and belts, the door opened and the Ministers were let in to the Shah's presence. One peculiarity of the Shah's court is that it is etiquette to appear before the sovereign with one's hat on, and making a military salute. In former days carpet slippers were provided for the Ministers to put on over the shoes, but the custom has of late been abandoned, as it looked too ludicrous, even for a court, to see the ministers, secretaries, and attaches in their grand uniforms dragging their feet along for fear of losing a _pantoufle_ on the way.

There was the usual speech of greeting and congratulation on the part of the _doyen_ Minister, and presently the crowd of foreign representatives returned to the ante-room in the most approved style, walking backwards and stooping low.

My turn came next. As we entered, the Shah was standing almost in the centre of the room, with the familiar aigrette in his _kolah_ (black headgear) and his chest a blaze of diamonds. He rested his right hand on a handsome jewelled sword. He looked pale and somewhat worn, but his features were decidedly handsome, without being powerful. One could plainly see depicted on his face an expression of extreme good-nature--almost too soft and thoughtful a face for a sovereign of an Eastern country. His thick underlip added a certain amount of obstinate strength to his features, which was counter-balanced by the dreamy, far-away look of his eyes heavily shadowed by prominent lids. His thick black eyebrows and huge moustache were in great contrast to the Shah's pallid face. His Majesty appeared bored, and was busy masticating a walnut when we entered, the shell of which lay in _debris_ by the side of two additional entire walnuts and a nut-cracker on a small jewelled side-table.


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