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the ancient city-wall, sentinelling a dark cleft through the depths of which a foaming torrent, undried by the summer heat, rushes roaring to join one of the countless rivers that intersect the oasis. Shady alleys debouch upon dusty, sun-scorched plains ; spacious boulevards, leading apparently to the centre of the town, suddenly land you outside of it altogether; thick bosquets of wooding tempt you with a promise of seclusion, 'and then leave you in the middle of a dirty bazaar crowded with bawling costermongers. In fact, the whole scene is an exact realisation of Hood's country churchyard, which was “crowded with young men striving to be alone."
“This is all very well, you know,” says my companion on the third night of our researches, as we sit over our water-melon upon the moonlit mound, with the shadowy trees whispering below. “This is all very well in its way ; but it strikes me we've had just about enough of it. C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre. I don't call this 'seeing Tashkent,' you know. I came here to see Central Asia, not Europe in Asiatic binding."
"Asia in Russia-leather binding you mean," answer I. “However, you're quite right; there's far too much of the “say you've been there' about our present style. I once went up Mont Blanc with a fellow who fell asleep from sheer exhaustion at the foot of the last arête, and was dragged up and down again like an ox to the slaughter. When he got back to England, he at once delivered a lecture upon the ascent and the view
from the top; and when I ventured to remonstrate, answered coolly, “You see, I just asked my guide what I would have seen if I hadn't fallen asleep, and wrote it down from his dictation !'”
“Well, I'll tell you what we'll do; we'll just order a cab to-morrow morning, and lose ourselves for a whole day in the native town,' till we've seen all we want. What do you say?"
The motion is carried nem. con.; and, directly after breakfast on the following morning, we start on our voyage of discovery, with my ever-useful Mourad as interpreter-our knowledge of the local tongues being as yet only rudimentary. For me, at least, this sudden return to barbarism is appropriate enough. My comrade still preserves some appearance of civilisation; but I, in my dusty puggree and tattered white tunic, red goatskin trousers, and long Bashkir boots of soft skin, embroidered along the edges-look like nothing but an Eastern version of Robinson Crusoe, with Mourad for my Man Friday.
With a tolerably fresh horse and a Cossack driver, even an Asiatic street may be traversed pretty rapidly; and we are not long in reaching the bridge, which (like another Al Sirat) divides the old world from the new. Once across it, we are in an utterly new region. No more wide squares and leafy boulevards, no more wellappointed shops and smart public buildings. At the very first stride, we plunge into a deep, narrow, sandy ditch, on either side of which great masses of baked mud, which we dimly perceive to be meant for houses,
tower up as if to crush us in their fall. We look around in righteous indignation, and are just beginning to fulfil zealously the first duty of every true Englishman—that of pouring contempt upon everything foreign
—when a blast of thick dingy smoke and stifling heat effectually changes the current of our ideas.
“A fire, by Jove !” shouts my companion, with unfeigned rejoicing. “We're in luck-here's a sample of native industry at the very outset. Let's go and have a look at it!”
We jump off the drosky, and are instantly swallowed by the wave of turbaned nastiness which is surging towards a little mud-hovel about fifty yards ahead of us, the flat roof of which is all one red, roaring blaze. By the time we reach it (our drosky following) "the fun,” as my friend humanely remarks, “is in full swing." The dried grass piled upon the roof is faring like a volcano, despite the perfect stillness of the air. Water has already been brought up, and the buckets are skipping from hand to hand with very un-Asiatic alertness; while three or four gaunt, brown, half-naked scarecrows, who have clambered upon the roof, are dimly seen through the whirling smoke, tearing down the still unburned grass, or kicking great heaps of red ashes down into the street, regardless of the throng which fills it.
One of these bouquets lights full upon the nose of a passing camel, which lashes out furiously on every side; and now things go on in the style of the old nursery rhyme. The camel upsets a horse, the horse spills a cart, the cart bumps against our drosky, our drosky squashes half a dozen people—and in an instant there is a grand compound “block” all across the road, while fresh showers of hot ashes, varied at intervals by a misdirected bucket of dirty water, come down upon us like a new eruption of Vesuvius. However, the pace' is too severe to last. The roof is speedily cleared of everything combustible ;; the flames are beaten down by a constant deluge of water; the wedged mass of men and animals blocking the street slowly melts away; and my companion, with the look of a man unjustly baulked of his lawful enjoyment, mutters that " the heathens can't even burn a house properly," and tells the driver to go on.
And on we go accordingly, through dust, and heat, and dogs, and offal, and all the loathsome minutiæ of a genuine Eastern town. Every now and then, in the interminable cobweb of grey mud, we chance upon the many-coloured roof, and frescoed walls, and massive architecture of a mosque, into which we penetrate notwithstanding the scowls and muttered curses of the unsociable Believers who haunt the entrance. Deeper and deeper plunges our adventurous pilot into the unknown region; and the streets grow darker, and narrower, and dirtier, and noisier, and more and more crowded ; till at last, turning a sharp corner, we are whirled at once into the Maelstrom of the Great Bazaar,
And here, at last, we begin to believe in the population of Tashkent. Hitherto, except in the markets. we have never seen anything worth calling a crowd ;
and during the day, at least, the desolation of the public places is such as amply to warrant my comrade's travesty of the official census into “a town empty of eighty thousand inhabitants.” But in this great artery of local traffic, there is no want of circulation. Men, boys, and even women-camels, horses, asses, carts, litters— are all mingled in one roaring swarm; while ever and anon an enormous waggon, with wheels seven feet in diameter, comes ploughing through the throng, like the car of Juggernaut, bearing down all before it.
Quitting our drosky (which can make no headway at all in such a whirlpool of conflicting currents) we plunge into the welter of strange figures-gaunt dervishes, with the brand of the desert still upon them; veiled women, imprisoned in close-fitting umbrella-cases of blue cotton ; greasy pastry-cooks, over whom the Aies swarm with a comfortable assurance of congenial pasture ; shaggy porters waddling under huge baskets; brown paunchy children, in the minimum of clothing, and the maximum of dirt; and bare-limbed water-carriers, poising their bulging skins on their brawny shoulders, like caricatures of Atlas.
Even on foot, however, it is no easy matter to thread such a chaos. More than once we escape the rush of charging wheels only by leaping bodily into one of the little booths around us, without in the least discomposing the stolid occupants, who sit as placidly as if being crushed into paste by a lurching cart, or trampled upon by an intrusive Feringhee, were all in the day's work.—“Kismet—and who can avert