In my pocket is a general letter from the Governor-General of Khorassan to subordinate officials of the province, ordering them to render me any assistance I may require, and another from a prominent person in Meshed to his friend Heshmet-i-Molk, the Ameer of Kain and Governor of Seistan, a powerful and influential chief, with his seat of government at Beerjand.
The Beerjand trail branches off from the Teheran and Meshed road about a farsakh east of Shahriffabad; for this distance I shall be retraversing the road by which I came, and shall be confronted at every turn of my wheel by reminiscences of dried fish, a Mazanderau dervish, and an angular steed.
"The receipt!" he shouts, "the receipt! Allah preserve us! the receipt; Hesh met-i-Molk." The worthy khan is afflicted with a keen consciousness of coming punishment awaiting him at Beerjand, should I happen to come to grief while under his protection, and he, no doubt, suffers an agony of apprehension during the fifteen minutes I am battling with the rapid current of the Harood.
This deep-laid scheme is for the khan to pretend that he is sending the mirza and the mudbake back to Beerjand from this point, and for these two hopeful accomplices to present themselves before me as about ready to depart, and so demand backsheesh.
The yowl of a Beerjand cat is several degrees more soul-harrowing than anything inflicted by midnight prowlers upon the Occidental world, and I learn afterward that they not infrequently keep it up in the daytime.
The broad, sandy bed of a stream contains a sluggishly-flowing reminder of past spring freshets; but the quickening presence of a stream of water seems thrown away on Beerjand, except as furnishing a place for closely-veiled females to come and wash clothes, and for the daily wading and disporting of amphibious youngsters.
In any other city a part of its mission would be the nurturing of vegetation. The Ameer, Heshmet-i-Molk, I quickly learn, is living at his summer-garden at Ali-abad, four farsakhs to the east. Curious to see something of a place so much out of the world, and so little known as Beerjand, I determine upon spending the evening and night here, and continuing on to Ali-abad next morning.
The region between Beerjand and the Harood is on my map a dismal-looking, blankety-blank stretch of country, marked with the ominous title "Dasht-i" which, being interpreted into English, means Desert of Despair.
Some of these good people are wearing turbans the size of a bandbox; others wear enormous sheep-skin busbies. A number of tall, angular figures stemming the turbid stream in the elegant costumes of our first parents, but wearing Khorassani busbies or Beerjand turbans, makes a bizarre and striking picture.
My much-needed slumbers at my new quarters are rudely disturbed as a son of Erin might, perhaps, declare under similar circumstances before they are commenced, by the fearful yowling of Beerjand cats.