Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

ing themselves there, to secure the trade with Persia, and especially for the sake of the pearls which are very abundant in the Gulf.

F. But how came they to lose the island at last?

U. O. The King of Persia, who did not like to see these proud strangers making themselves so strong on his shores, and the English, who hoped to gain what the Portuguese would lose, joined together and attacked them in Ormuz. They defended themselves for ten weeks with so much bravery, that at one time, as old writers tell us, their resistance “so cooled the Persian courage, that for five days they did nothing but ruminate upon the valour of their adversaries.” Numbers, however, guided by the skill of the English, prevailed ; and the Portuguese gave up the place, and were, at their own desire, conveyed to Muscat, from whence they could easily find a passage to India. Ormuz never recovered from this blow; nor did the English or any other nation ever establish a power in the Gulf at all comparable to that of the Portuguese. There are in the Gulf many other signs of the former power of this people, besides the ruins at Ormuz; but I shall pass them over, and only mention the living remains of a Danish settlement. Between Cape Sertes and Cape Bostan there is a town which was once in the possession of the Danes; and it is remarkable that the people who, according to Mr. Morier, say they are descended from the Danes, have still a very fair complexion, with light red hair, which we may consider to confirm their claim to Danish blood. The national names of the European settlers in the Gulf are now scarcely remembered.

H. I wish, sir, to know how the Portuguese could live in Ormuz when, as you told us just now, they had no fresh water?

U. O. I said they had no springs of fresh water: but during the season from November to February, the rain-water, which then falls abundantly, was collected in reservoirs and preserved for use. Two of the reservoirs still remain ; both are covered in, and the roof of one rests on two rows of thick pillars, and its diameter is about one hundred feet. I believe enough was thus obtained to serve all the year; but if at any time their supply ran short, it was possible for water to have been fetched from the opposite shore, though at a great expense.

You see that the largest island in the Gulf is Kishmis, being about sixty miles long and fifteen broad. It is barren and almost totally deserted; but there is a little herbage in the valleys which affords food to the antelopes and hares, which are almost the only occupants of the island. In this and some of the other islands of the Gulf, as well as in the surrounding continent, there is, I think, a good deal of land that might, with a little trouble, be made fruitful. But the Arabs, who are the chief inhabitants of the Gulf, do not exert themselves much to cultivate the soil; they are content with what can be obtained with little labour or difficulty, and while they can get a few dates they never complain of their fare. There is also another reason which accounts for the fact that a vast extent of good land lies uncultivated, not only in Persia but throughout Western Asia, that is, the comparatively small number of people; and, of course, when a country is very large and the people few, we cannot expect to find all of it cultivated that might be so. You keep in a very good condition the spots I have given you in the garden : but if I were to give you all the garden, it would soon get into a very bad state ; you could not cultivate it.

F. Oh, but we could get Thomas to help us.

U. O. Yes, you might; but you see that I am speaking as if there were no Thomas or any one else to help you—as if there were a want of hands, as in Persia. But let us go on to this little island called Kais or Kenn. I mention it only for the sake of telling a curious story, which you will find to be very much like a common tale in this country. This is the story :-About four hundred years ago there lived at the town of Shiraf, on the Gulf, an old woman and her three sons. These were bad young men: they consumed all the property of their mother, and then they left her and went to live at Kais. A short time after this, a merchant of Shiraf undertook a trading voyage to India. It was the custom in those days, when a man made a voyage to a distant land, for each of his friends to entrust him with some article of their property to dispose of to the best advantage for them; and on his return they received what it produced.

F. I think that is a very pretty custom, uncle.

U. O. So it seems, Frank, at first view. It is a custom that has prevailed in most countries, our own among them, and has not any great while been given up. But, if you think about it a little, you will see that it was not a good custom,

because it was likely to make men look for prosperity in uncertain chances, rather than in their own industry and good conduct. But to return to our story :

The old woman was acquainted with the merchant; but her condition was so destitute that she had nothing but a cat which she could spare, and this she desired the friendly merchant to take as her adventure. He did so. When he arrived in India, he waited upon the king of the country, who gave him permission to trade with his subjects, and also invited him to dinner. The merchant remarked with surprise that the beards of the king and his nobles were inclosed in a golden case, and that every man had a stick in his hand; but his surprise was greatly increased when, on the serving up of the dishes, he saw swarms of mice come out from the wall, and make such a bold attack upon the victuals, that the guests had enough to do to keep them off with their sticks. Then the merchant recollected the old woman's cat. The next time he went to dine with the king, he put the animal under his arm, and no sooner did the mice appear than he let her go, and the king and his courtiers witnessed with delight the ter

« FöregåendeFortsätt »