Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/179

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152
PERSIA.

or blast at every pore. Hence, when the wind is at all brisk, it is difficult to find a sheltered nook in these chambers from the clouds of dust and gravel; but in serene weather, the traveller, stretched on carpets in one of these balconies, owing to the zephyrs around and to the heavens above glowing with stars, enjoys a truly luxurious repose.

As the caravanserais are open to travellers of every description, the shelter which they afford is frequently purchased at the expense of other comforts. Sir R. Porter relates, that at one of these places he Found a large body of pilgrims, many of whom were stripped to the skin to have free chase after the infinity of vermin which covered their squalid and unchanged garments: and as they never destroy what they discover, but throw them down, the floor of any place of their rest seldom fails swarming like the quarters of Egypt. Fleas too are met with in all the caravanserais skipping about in myriads;'and as whirlwinds are frequent at the close of the day, these creatures literally come in clouds, mingled with chaff and dust, and entering the open recesses fill every nook and dwelling-hole destined to shelter the passing guest.

The traveller just quoted also informs us, that the town of Mianna is infested with a plague, which it has been found impossible to eradicate, in the form of a small but poisonous bug. It breeds in myriads in all the old houses, and may be seen creeping over every part of their walls, of the size and shape of the European bug, only a little flatter, and of a bright red colour. Its bite is mortal, producing death at the expiration of eight or nine months. Strangers of every sort, not merely foreigners, but persons not usually inhabiting the town or its vicinity, are liable to be thus poisoned; while the people themselves and the adjacent peasantry are either never bitten, or if so the consequences are not more baneful to them than the sting of the least noxious insect. Sir Robert adds, that this is without doubt the same city which the often marvellous and sometimes veritable Maundeville mentions as "lying in the way from Thaurisso (Tabreez) towards the East, where no Christene man may 1onge dwelle, ne enduren with life in that cytee, but dyen within short time and no man knowethe the cause."

Kotzebue, whose description of this insect agrees pretty nearly with the above, distinctly asserts, however, that its bite proves mortal in twenty-four hours. He mentions two instances of its effects. He says, he was repeatedly told by the English at Tabreez, that they had lost a servant at Mianna, who had the misfortune to be bitten by one of these vermin: he complained immediately of parching heat over his whole body; shortly afterwards he became delirious, and expired in dreadful convulsions.