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“There's no such thing as cholera,” says my companion, with the air of a philosopher who has just attained the solution of a great natural problem ; “if such a thing had existed, we should both have died of it long ago. Cholera is a myth ;* and the good people in England ought to be grateful to me for the discovery."
In fact, all recent travellers in Central Asia bear testimony to the wonderful healthiness of the climate, and the great amount of fruit which can be consumed with impunity. Many of the poorer natives live entirely on fruit and wheaten cakes; but the diseases prevalent among them arise, not from this cause, but from their own filthy habits, and the extreme dampness of their clay houses during the wet season.
* The Samarcandians will hardly endorse this theory after the terrific epidemic of 1872, which almost depopulated the city.
THE GRAVE OF TIMOUR.
“Now, Mr Ker, here's a day's sight-seeing for you at last,” says Lieutenant M— , entering the room where myself and my comrade are at our usual occupation of overeating ourselves with grapes and watermelon ; “and if you have no objection, we'll begin with the grave of Timour.”
“What? is Timour down here, then ?” ask I; “the last time I heard of him, he was up at Otritah, on the road from the Syr-Daria to the Chinese frontier. Perhaps that may have been the tomb he had when he was a boy, like the skull of Oliver Cromwell."
"Well, he was there, but he's been transplanted, like Napoleon and one or two other great men. After all, where would you have him buried but in his own capital, the Holy Place of Central Asia ?”
“The 'Earthly Paradise,' where grapes are a farthing per pound, and you can't throw out your arm without hitting a camel or a pilgrim. Well, I shall be glad to see him, for he was always a hero of mine, though I suspect we have no one else to thank for the present prostration of Central Asia. So, if you're ready, let us And away we go accordingly—the Lieutenant in all the glory of his silver buttons and spotless white uniform—my comrade, like a true John Bull, in black coat and well-starched collar—and I in my best suit (i.e., that which still shows some symptoms of holding together, and the colour of which may yet be guessed by looking closely under the buttons). Our vehicle is a nondescript affair, consisting entirely of one long narrow seat, astride of which, we look not unlike the crew of Ulysses spitted by Polyphemus. So far, however, as being seen by the passers-by goes, we might be anything we please. Our career from first to last is one unending sandstorm; for in these parts the dust—bad enough upon the Lower Syr-Daria—is absolutely portentous. Even in the shallowest part, no foot-passenger can hope to ford a street without getting over the ankles, while any attempt at driving or riding instantly produces a simoom which might have scared Mungo Park himself. Under such circumstances, our conversation naturally consists for the most part of coughs, grunts, sneezes, and stifled execrations in English or Russ—the latter being retorted with interest by the luckless foot-passengers whom we blind and smother at every step as we roll along..
And yet, if one could but see it, few panoramas are better worth looking at. Above us, blotting the bright morning sky like a thunder-cloud, looms the huge grey wall of the ancient citadel, still scarred by the breaches which, in 1868, were the scene of a defence as heroic as that of Thermopylæ.* Below, the whole street is like a
* It is now about to be reduced to one-half its present size, in order to render it more easily defensible.