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dull, roughly-cut turquoise in heavy settings of silver, boxes of dark wood inlaid with ivory, mother-of-pearl and silver filagree; laces and gaudy silks; shawls of softest Cashmere; hand-wrought daggers with jewel-encrusted sheaths and hilts; slender bottles of attar of roses; sandalwood and spices; red leather boots with pointed, upturned toes and tinselled dainty slippers; objects from far Afghanistan, from Turkestan, from Siberia and the distant Himalayas. The broad-faced, shavenheaded camel driver sits perched precariously upon the whole. Suddenly from the mass of riven rocks to the right, a spurt of flame stabs the purple shadows and the cañon roars with the echo of a gunshot. Wild yells, shouts, oaths, savage cries fill the pass with an uproar, and the sharp reports of rifles, the roar of pistols, the screams of wounded horses, the hoarse bellows of stricken camels transform the.defile to a pandemonium. Savage-faced, wild-eyed robbers spring from behind boulders and rocks. Swords flash, men battle; arms fall clattering from lifeless hands. Acrid smoke drifts slowly up the cañon; horses and mules rear and plunge, and confusion reigns. Upon his load a camel driver sinks back, his hands convulsively clutching, bloody froth bubbling from between contorted lips. From the bosom of his shirt-like garment a dark red blotch oozes and spreads and drops upon the Persian rug on which the dying
man has sunk. Then the terrified beast jerks forward, the body slides to the rocky path with a sodden thud, and slipping on the rocks, bellowing with terror, tossing like a ship in a heavy sea, the camel, spurning the fallen bodies of the Arabs, races down the defile away from the scene of carnage. Before him a horseman bars his way; a hand clutches his dragging halter, and trembling, the beast comes to a halt.
Again the scene shifts. Under a velvet sky stretches a vast sea of undulating sand. Like gaunt sentinels date palms are silhouetted against the myriad brilliant stars. Under them are the shapes of kneeling, tethered camels reflectively chewing their cuds with eyes half closed. Cleanlimbed, long-tailed horses munch their fodder beside peaked, conical black tents. Upon the ground are piled bundles and pack-saddles, and squatted about, walking here and there, talking, gesticulating, are many men. Some are clad in flowing robes and burnouse, others in goatskin garments with tight fitting sheep-skin caps, and all outlined in the ruddy glow of a fire of camel dung whose pungent smoke rises in a sinuous column above the little oasis. Before the largest of the tents, are spread rugs and carpets, among them one with the dark stain of a murdered camel driver upon one corner, and seated upon them are cowering fair skinned women and girls, their dark eyes wide with
Courtesy Asia Magazine
SMUGGLING IN ASIA The caravans of camels are divided into groups, each led by one driver
fear, their henna-stained fingers shaking, their filmy clothing in disarray, their gold embroidered finery bedraggled and torn. Like so many bundles of merchandise, so many sheep, goats or horses, they are being bartered. Captured by the brigands in the Georgian mountains, they have been brought to this meeting place in the desert along with the loot of the Persian caravan, and presently, have been sold, together with the rugs and silks, to the nomad traders.
Roughly her purchaser grasps the arm of one unfortunate woman and jerks her to her feet. With a sharp cry she stumbles, her embroidered scarf tangles in the rug's fringe, and a tiny shred of its gold thread tears free.
Then a long journey over sun-scorched sands to a caravansary in a huge, evil-smelling city of filthy narrow streets, of mud-walled, flat-roofed houses, of veiled women and turbaned men, of delicate minarets and vast, domed mosques. The women have long since gone their ways to harems, and the traders have separated, seeking markets for their remaining wares. To an oily, pock-marked Armenian the hawk-faced owner of the rugs disposes of the last of his goods, the bundle containing the one with the stain in its corner, the bit of tinsel entangled in its fringe, and reeking of the combined odors of the smoke from camel-dung fires, myrrh and spices, attar of roses and sandal wood, un