Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/52

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.



We have just seen what precautions are taken to ensure the fidelity of the women of the harem, and to prevent the access strangers. From these precautions, we may infer the strictness of those which are practised when they appear abroad.

When the king's women are about to remove from one place to another, public notice is given five or six hours beforehand of the road which they are to pursue. Wo then betide the unfortunate wretch who should happen to be found in that road, or in any place from which he could perceive the camels or horses which carry these ladies. The very inhabitants of the villages through which this road passes, must quit their habitations. When the hour for their departure is arrived, troops of horsemen ride forward at a great distance before the cavalcade, crying: Coorook! coorook! prohibition!—which is a notice for every one to retire. Between these horsemen and the females come eunuchs also on horseback, who with thick sticks belabour such as have not retired with sufficient despatch.

The ladies commonly travel on horseback, riding astride, after the fashion of the East, like men—"the most natural and safest seat for a lady," gravely observes a recent traveller. Some of them, the favourite, for example, are carried in a species of litter called by the Persians takhtirevan. It consists-of a cage of lattice-work covered with cloth, borne by two mules, the one before and the other behind, and conducted by two men, one of whom rides on a third mule in front, and the other generally walks by the side.

Mr. Morier gives an instance of the severity with which the mehmandar to the British embassy punished one of his servants, for persisting to approach too near the takhtirevan in which Lady Ouseley was carried. He immediately called the man before him, and struck him with his sword, and afterwards with his whip. He then ordered his attendants to attack him. They threw him on the ground, beat him with their fists, then with their sticks, then jumped on him and so mauled him that he could scarcely be lifted on his horse. This was done without a single question being put to the poor creature himself; it was done in the middle of the road, in the dark, and with an immense cavalcade passing by at the time.

The coorook would be a very serious inconvenience, if the king were frequently to take a fancy to make his women accompany him; for no weather, neither hail, rain, snow nor mud,