How can Missionaries be sent to such a country!
* * * * *
Bokhara is the only large town in the kingdom.
The sea of Aral lies to the north of the kingdom: it is an immense lake, but not nearly so large as the Caspian Sea.
The river Oxus flows into the Caspian. It is famous for its golden sands.
The great trade of Bokhara is in black woolly lamb-skins, to make caps for the Persians: the younger the lamb the more delicate the wool. Thus many a pretty lambkin dies to adorn a Persian noble.
The best raisins in the world come from Bokhara.
You have heard a great deal of the Tartars, and you have been told that they are a quiet and peaceable nation. But not all; there is a tribe of Tartars called the Toorkmans, of a very different character. They wander about in the country between Bokhara and Persia, and their chief employment is to steal men from Persia, and to sell them in Bokhara as slaves. A whole troop, mounted on horses, rush sword in hand upon a Persian city, and return to the camp with hundreds of beasts and human creatures as their captives.
Some English travellers once met five men chained together, walking with sad steps in the deep sands of the desert. They were Persians just caught by the Toorkmans, and on their way to Bokhara. When the Englishmen saw these poor captives, they uttered a sorrowful cry, and the Persians began to weep. One of the travellers stopped his camel to listen to their sad tale; and he heard that a few weeks before, while working in the fields, they had been seized and carried off. They were hungry and thirsty; for the Toorkmans cruelly starve their slaves, in order that they may be too weak to run away. The traveller gave them all he had, which was a melon, to quench their thirst.
But the worst part of the Toorkmans’ conduct remains yet to be told. When they have taken many captives, they usually kill the old people, because they would not get much money for them in Bokhara; and they choose one of their captives to offer up as a thank-offering to their god!! Who is their god? The god of Mahomed. But though they are Mahomedans, they have no mosques, and are too ignorant to be able to read the Koran.
Robbery is their whole business. For this purpose they learn to ride and to fight. They understand well how to manage a horse, so as to make him strong and swift. They do not let him eat when he pleases, but they give him three meals a day of hay and barley, and then rein him up that he may not nibble the grass, and grow fat; and sometimes they give him no food at all, and yet make him gallop many miles. By this management the horses are very thin, but very strong, and able to bear their masters eighty miles in a day when required; and they are so swift that they can outrun their pursuers.