Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/155

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128
PERSIA.

bled some words, breathed upon it, and then required that we should eat it, in full belief that neither serpent nor scorpion could ever more harm us. He then piled some snakes out of a bag, which some of us, whose confidence was strong, ventured to handle and flourish in the air.

Mr. Scott Waring relates the following fact, which fell under his own observation:—I had a servant called Ali Beg, who posessed this gift of the dum, and the stories they told me of him I invariably treated with the greatest ridicule. Mr. Bruce told me that he saw him catch two snakes, one of which bit him violently as to leave two of his teeth in the wound. This was easily reconciled; the snake was not poisonous. Some time after I was at Shiraz, a very large scorpion was found under my bed. Ali Beg was called, and he certainly took up the scorpion without the least hesitation. I saw the animal strike his sting repeatedly into the man's flesh, and he persisted that he felt no pain. I asked the other servants to do the same, but they refused: and the next morning, when I examined the man's hand, there was not the smallest sign of its having been stung. How he escaped feeling any inconvenience, it is impossible for me to guess, as I am confident he had not time to make any preparation, nor did he use any antidote against the effects of the sting: at the same time, it would be truly ridiculous to assign the same cause for this escape as is most conscientiously believed by the Persians.

Mr. Morier mentions, that in travelling over the desert between Koom and Teheran, the Persians in the suite of the ambassador expressed considerable apprehensions of the goule, an imaginary species of land mermaid, which they affirm entices the traveller by its cries and then tears him in pieces with its claws. They say that the goule possesses the faculty of changing itself into different shapes and colours, that it sometimes comes in the form of a camel, at others as a cow or a horse; and when on a sudden, continues the writer just quoted, we had discovered something on the horizon of the desert which we could not define, all the Persians at once exclaimed that it was a goule. Our spying-glasses, however, proved it to be the stump of a high reed, which some of the Persians still thought might be an artifice of the dreaded animal. With the gravest faces they assured our countrymen, that many had seen goules in crossing this desert, and acquainted us with the spells by which they had kept them at a distance, the most efficacious of which they said was loosening the string of their shalwars, or riding-trowsers.