N.B. Another holiday was coming on, and he wanted to be at home. I actually used to like difficulties! 15 January. Started again for Erivan. All went well, and we had a lovely drive till about 6 p.m. The dusk was gathering and we were up in the hills, when "bang!" went something, and nothing on earth would make the car move.
Nicosia also spoke English, for she had explained to me that her mother, now dead, had been a Londoner. The Baron's business in Transcaucasia was, he told me vaguely, in connection with the survey of a new railway which the Russian Government was projecting eastward from Erivan.
Well, one of them sent me out to travel through the disturbed Kurdish districts. I had a tough time from the start. I was out with a Cossack party in Thai Aras valley, east of Erivan, for six months, and wrote lots of articles which created a good deal of sensation here in England. You may have seen them, but they were anonymous.
Then all the Ulemas stood up and, raising their hands, exclaimed: "Allah preserve thee from this evil thing!" Then they threw themselves down on their faces to pray, and when they had made an end of praying, they assembled in the kiosk of Erivan in the inner garden where the Grand Vizier already awaited them.
He was now making his way to Erivan, in Russia, on a sight-seeing tour from Trebizond. His companion was a Greek from Salonica, who had lived for several years in London, whence he had departed not many weeks before, for Teheran, Persia. These two travelers had met in Constantinople, and the young Greek, who could speak English, Greek, and Turkish, had been acting as interpreter for the artist.
Stevens promised to make use of all his power with the Russian consul, Mr. Anitschow, in my favour. I was indebted to this, together with my sex and age, for being made an exception. I received from the Russian consul not only the permission, but also several kind letters of introduction to people at Natschivan, Erivan, and Tiflis.
We visited the old Persian palace built on the river's cliff, and looked out over the gardens to the hills beyond, and saw the mosque, with its blue roof against the blue sky, and its wonderful covering of old tiles, which drop like leaves and are left to crumble. Tiflis. 24 January. I left Erivan on Sunday, January 23rd. It was cold and sharp, and the train was crowded.
The redoubtable Grand Vizier, Damad Ibrahim, had already wrested from them Tauris, Erivan, Kermandzasahan, and Hamadan, and the good folks of Stambul could talk of nothing else but these victories victories which they had extra good reason to remember, inasmuch as the Janissaries, at every fresh announcement of these triumphs, all the more vigorously exercised their martial prowess on the peaceful inhabitants they were supposed to protect, and not only upon them, but likewise upon the still more peaceful Sultan who, it must be admitted, troubled himself very little either about the Sunnites, or the victories of his Grand Vizier, being quite content with the contemplation of his perpetually blooming tulips and of the damsels of the Seraglio, who were even fairer to view than the tulips whose blooms they themselves far outshone.
Gordon said he would not take thirty square miles for a gift, and yet the Turks and Russians clung to it, bringing witnesses from among the tribes who would swear whatever they were paid for. The question at issue was where the old frontier between the Persian province of Erivan and the Pashalik of Baizeth was fixed.
We sat up till 6 a.m., when the train, two hours late, started for Erivan, where we arrived pretty well "cooked" at 11 p.m. Erivan. 20 January. Last night's experiences were certainly very "Russian." We had wired for rooms, but although the message had been received nothing was prepared. The miserable rooms were an inch thick in dust, there were no fires, and no sheets on the beds!