BY HARRY DE WINDT, F.R.G.S.,
AUTHOR OF "FROM PEKIN TO CALAIS BY LAND," ETC.
AUDLEY LOVELL, ESQUIRE,
I. TIFLIS - BAKU
II. THE CASPIAN - ASTARA - RESHT
III. RESHT - PATCHINAR
IV. PATCHINAR - TEHERAN
VI. TEHERAN - ISPAHAN
VII. ISPAHAN - SHIRAZ
VIII. SHIRAZ - BUSHIRE
IX. BALUCHISTAN - BEILA
X. BALUCHISTAN - GWARJAK
XI. KELAT - QUETTA - BOMBAY
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
* * * * *
IN THE DESERT SUNRISE
A DIRTY NIGHT IN THE CASPIAN
ASTARA, RUSSO-PERSIAN FRONTIER
CROSSING THE KHARZAN
POST-HOUSE AT KUSHKU BAIRA
A CORPSE CARAVAN
A DAY IN THE SNOW
A FAMILY PARTY
THE CARAVANSERAI, MEYUN KOTAL
OUR CAMP AT OUTHAL
A "ZIGRI" AT GWARJAK
NOMAD BALUCH TENT
PALACE OF H.H. THE KHAN KELAT
THE KHAN OF KELAT
A RIDE TO INDIA.
TIFLIS - BAKU.
A spacious apartment, its polished _parquet_ strewn with white
bearskins and the thickest and softest of Persian rugs; its panelled
walls hung with Oriental tapestries, costly daggers, pistols, and
shields of barbaric, but beautiful, workmanship, glistening with gold
and silver. Every detail of the room denotes the artistic taste of the
owner. Inlaid tables and Japanese cabinets are littered with priceless
porcelain and _cloisonne_, old silver, and diamond-set miniatures; the
low divans are heaped with cushions of deep-tinted satin and gold;
heavy violet plush curtains drape the windows; while huge palms,
hothouse plants, and bunches of sweet-smelling Russian violets occupy
every available nook and corner. The pinewood fire flashes fitfully
on a masterpiece of Vereschagin's, which stands on an easel by the
hearth, and the massive gold "ikon," [A] encrusted with diamonds and
precious stones, in the corner. A large oil painting of his Majesty
the Czar of Russia hangs over the marble chimneypiece.
It is growing dark. Already a wintry wilderness of garden without,
upon which snow and sleet are pitilessly beating, is barely
discernible. By the window looms, through the dusk, the shadowy shape
of an enormous stuffed tiger, crouched as if about to spring upon a
spare white-haired man in neat dark green uniform, who, seated at a
writing-table covered with papers and official documents, has just
settled himself more comfortably in a roomy armchair. With a pleasant
smile, and a long pull at a freshly lit "papirosh," he gives vent to
his feelings with the remark that heads this chapter.
There is silence for a while, unbroken save by the crackle of blazing
logs and occasional rattle of driving sleet against the window-panes.
It is the 5th of January (O.S.). I am at Tiflis, in the palace of
Prince Dondoukoff Korsakoff, Governor of the Caucasus, and at the
present moment in that august personage's presence.
"Ceci non!" repeats the prince a second time, in answer to my request;
adding impatiently, "They should know better in London than to send
you to me. The War Minister in St. Petersburg alone has power to grant
foreigners permission to visit Central Asia. You must apply to him,
but let me first warn you that it is a long business. No" - after a
pause - "no; were I in your place I would go to Persia. It is a country
replete with interest."
I know, from bitter experience of Russian officials, that further
parley is useless. Making my bow with as good a grace as possible
under the circumstances, I take leave of the governor and am escorted
by an aide-de-camp, resplendent in white and gold, through innumerable
vestibules, and down the great marble staircase, to where my sleigh
awaits me in the cutting north-easter and whirling snow. Gliding
swiftly homewards along the now brilliantly lit boulevards, I realize
for the first time that mine has been but a wild-goose chase after
all; that, if India is to be reached by land, it is not _via_ Merv and
Cabul, but by way of Persia and Baluchistan.
The original scheme was a bold one, and I derive some consolation in
the thought that the journey would most probably have ended in defeat.
This was the idea. From Tiflis to Baku, and across the Caspian to
Ouzoun Ada, the western terminus of the Trans-Caspian Railway. Thence
by rail to Merv and Bokhara, and from the latter city direct to India,
_via_ Balkh and Cabul, Afghanistan. A more interesting journey can
scarcely be conceived, but Fate and the Russian Government decreed
that it was not to be. Not only was I forbidden to use the railway,
but (notwithstanding the highest recommendation from the Russian
Ambassador in London) even to set foot in Trans-Caspia.
The old adage, "delay is dangerous," is never so true as when applied
to travel. The evening of my interview with the governor, I had
resolved, ere retiring to rest, to make for India _via_ Teheran.
My route beyond that city was, perforce, left to chance, and the
information I hoped to gain in the Shah's capital.
Tiflis, capital of the Caucasus, is about midway between the Black
and Caspian seas, and lies in a valley between two ranges of low but
precipitous hills. The river Kur, a narrow but swift and picturesque
stream spanned by three bridges, bisects the city, which is divided in
three parts: the Russian town, European colony, and Asiatic quarter.
The population of over a hundred thousand is indeed a mixed one.
Although Georgians form its bulk, Persia contributes nearly a quarter,
the rest being composed of Russians, Germans, French, Armenians,
Greeks, Tartars, Circassians, Jews, Turks, and Heaven knows what
Tiflis is a city of contrasts. The principal boulevard, with its
handsome stone buildings and shops, tramways, gay cafes, and electric
light, would compare favourably with the Nevski Prospect in St.
Petersburg, or almost any first-class European thoroughfare; and yet,
almost within a stone's throw, is the Asiatic quarter, where the
traveller is apparently as far removed from Western civilization as in
the most remote part of Persia or Turkestan.