BY THE EASTERN MARCHES OF KHORASAN
SECTION I.—FROM ASKHABAD TO MESHED
Start from ON October 29th the railway brought me to Askhâbâd, the head-quarters station of the Trans-
Askhabad• caspian Province. Regard for Russian frontier regulations, rendered more than usually stringent by the war, obliged me to start from Askhâbâd for the long journey to Sistân, instead of making for Meshed, its first stage, by the shorter and more interesting route from Dûshak past Kalât-iNâdiri. A friendly recommendation from the Consulate at Bokhâra enabled me to secure, on the day following my arrival, the requisite permits for crossing the frontier. On the morning of October 31st I was able to leave Askhâbâd, where crowds of peasant families evacuated from Poland had seemed to bring the Eastern war zone in Europe strangely near. Otherwise the impressions produced by this important cantonment were curiously like those which one might have derived from a military station on the Indian N.W. frontier, if it had been transplanted to some modest oasis below the barren gravel glacis of the K`un-lun or Tien-shan.
Journey to While the baggage in charge of Afraz-gul was left to follow by easier stages, I managed in
Meshed. a light Russian carriage to cross the range which forms the frontier and to reach the Persian border
station of B âjgiran by the same evening. There the attention of the I lkhâni chief of the Kurds settled in the Kûchân district had provided a very friendly reception as well as a mounted escort. Next day a drive of close on 5o miles carried me through picturesque valleys and over the Alamanlik pass to the town of Kûchân. Two more days' driving over dusty roads took me through the wide open valleys that descend on either side of the almost imperceptible watershed at the head of the drainage of the Atrak river, and brought me on November 3rd to Meshed.
Stay at There at the famous old capital of Khorasan I received the kindest welcome from Colonel
Meshed. (now Sir) Wolseley Haig, H.B.M.'s Consul-General. The necessity of awaiting the arrival of my
baggage as well as preparations for the onward journey imposed a week's halt, and this was made most restful and pleasant by the hospitable reception which that distinguished scholar-diplomatist and Lady Haig were pleased to extend to me in their home. Besides being able to avail myself of clerical assistance from the Consulate Office in dealing with heavy arrears of work on official accounts, I also greatly benefited by Sir Wolseley's shrewd and most competent advice as regards the safeguards to be taken on my farther journey.
The war conditions prevailing along the western frontier of Persia and the activities of German military missions endeavouring to push into Afghanistan from Kirmân were exercising a very disturbing effect upon the outlying tracts of Khorasan within the Perso-Afghan border. The thin cordon formed along this border by widely scattered detachments of Russian troops in the north, and of British Indian troops in the south, was unable to prevent extensive raids by large bands of robbers from the Afghan side upon the main lines of communication leading from Meshed towards Birjand and Sistan. Their operations were necessarily much facilitated by the desert character of most of the ground on either side of the border line. The expert advice I had received at Kashgar from Sir Percy Sykes had induced me to plan my journey from Meshed to Sistân along a route