« FöregåendeFortsätt »
nowhere more remarkably than in the places of which I have told you.
I now only recollect one more natural curiosity of which to tell you. I remember several occasions, while travelling in Persia, on which, being exceedingly thirsty and seeing a river glittering in the sunshine at a distance before me, I have hastened on to obtain a draught. But when one of the men has handed me up a cup of water, which I have carried eagerly to my mouth, I have been obliged to spurt it out again with great disgust, it was so perfectly salt.
H., F., and J. Salt! a salt river!
U. O. Yes. It proceeds, I suppose, from the saltness of the ground through which the river has passed in some part of its course. I have told you that there is plenty of salt ground in Persia.
I have only now to tell you how the Persians obtain their supplies of water for the purposes of agriculture and for domestic use. The subject is curious; for I believe there is no people whose method is like theirs. The climate of Persia is so dry, and the rivers are so few, that the natives are obliged to take a great deal of pains in order to obtain water. They search anxiously for springs, and then they often undertake vast labour in bringing the water safely to the surface of the earth at the place where they want to make it useful. So when a spring has been discovered, they dig a round pit or well of three or four feet in diameter, until they meet with the water. If they then think that the water is enough to reward them for the labour they are willing to take, they dig a great number of such pits, twenty or thirty yards asunder, in the direction they wish the stream to take, and of different depths, according to the height of the ground above the level of the water. When a new pit is made, they cut an arched passage between it and the last, and through this the water comes.
H. But, Sir, if the ground is soft and sandy, will it not crumble down and choke up the water ?
U. O. In that case, and also when the earth is salt, they conduct the water through short earthen tubes joined together by a cement. They go on in this manner until the water is brought above ground; and it is then conducted in banked-up channels into the fields and other places where it is wanted.
Mr. Dillon. How many of such wells are there to a stream, Sir ?
U. O. It is impossible to say, Mr. Dillon, since it entirely depends upon the distance between the spring and the place where its waters are to be conveyed. This distance is sometimes very great, and the mouths of the wells are frequently met with in lonely valleys, and may be traced in their various windings to the plain by means of the circular embankments, or else heaps of earth and rubbish which surround them. In ancient times, great privileges were conferred on a person who brought water in this manner to a place where there was none before, which shows that these aqueducts were then held in the same degree of consequence as at the present time. The day on which the water is brought to the place where it is wanted is a day of rejoicing among the peasants. The astrologers are required to name a fortunate hour for the appearance of the stream, and when it comes forth, it is received by songs and music, and with shouts of gladness, and exclamations of mobarek bashed, “ prosperity attend it !" In making these wells the people, after having dug the pit so far down that the man in it can no longer lift up the earth and rubbish he has dug, place over the pit a wooden trundle, from which they hang the bucket, which is then filled by the man below and wound up by another above.
This mode of conducting the water preserves it clear, cool, and undiminished. If it were carried along near the surface, a great part of it would be lost by absorption into the dry, hot ground, and by evaporation. When these kanauts are situated near the high road, they are often a joyful sight to travellers, who can get up some water by means of a line and bucket, which are purposely carried among the baggage on a journey.
F. Do not people often fall into the wells, which seem not to have any wall or railing ?
U. O. Sometimes, but not often; for although the people travel much by night, they seldom go a road with which they are not perfectly acquainted, unless in company with persons who know the road well. In fact, they seldom travel when they can help it, except in considerable numbers. Besides, the Persian cattle are very prudent and careful, and will avoid all common dangers they can, when not violently urged onward.
F. But, after all, would it not be better if they put a railing of iron or wood around the wells ? U.O. Undoubtedly, my dear Frank; but they have no iron or wood to spare; and in that country they do not much care whether a traveller breaks his neck or not. They would say, in this case, it is their business to get water, but it is the traveller's business to take care of his own neck. There is one very remarkable fact connected with these kanauts for which I am not able to account. This is that many of them abound in fish, although no fish, that I could learn, are ever put into them, and although the natural streams are without fish. When you recollect that these kanauts are artificial streams, flowing under ground, and soon spent when they reach the open air, you will perceive what a strange thing this is.
F. Are they little fishes, like minnows?
U.O. Some of them are of course very small; but many are of considerable size. They are eaten: and though they certainly do not form a great delicacy, they are a sweet and wholesome food. If you happen to learn anything which you think may account for this fact, pray let me know; and if anything comes to my knowledge on the subject, I shall be sure to inform you.