Four Reasons Why Robert Byron’s “Road to Oxiana” is The Ultimate Traveler’s Companion (2)

There are two kinds of police: the Nasmiya, which controls the towns; and the Amniya, which controls the roads and such of the hinterland as admits the law. On the advice of the chief of the Nasmiya, I called on the Chief of the Amniya, since his men must be responsible for my journey to Firuzabad. He was a fat, jocular fellow, and was anxious to help me.

The Governor had already telephoned to him, explaining my purpose and identity. His first act, therefore, was to telephone to the Governor enquiring my purpose and identity. Havibg received a satisfactory answer, he bethought himself, and the Governor concurred, that the matter would be simplified if the Governor were to set forth my purpose and identity in a letter.

Before going to fetch the letter, I asked him if I ought to have an escort, since there were rumours of thieves on the road. Quite unnecessary, he replied, quite unnecessary. Hurrying in a cab to the Ark, I rattled off the polite formulas, complimented the Governor on his orange trees, and asked if the letter was ready.

“Dont you think”, he said pensively, “that you ought to have an escort for the journey?”

“Really, Your Excellency must advise me on that point. The Reis-i-Amniya says it is unnecessary.”

“I will telephone to him. …”

“Certainly,” answered the Reis-i-Amniya over the wire, “certainly he must have an escort. He cant possibly go without.” But there was a difficulty. The local Finance Minister had just started on a tour of land assessment (to include, among others, the property of the Kavam-al-Mulk) and had taken 100 mounted huards with him; thus there were no horses left, and any escort with me would have to go on foot.

“In that case,” I said, “let me hire horses for them.”

The Governor and the Reis-i-Amniya thought this an excellent solution.

Meanwhile, the secretary in the next room was writing the Governors letter to the Reis-i-Amniya. When the Governor had approved it, a fair copy was made. This he signed and sealed and handed to me. I jumped into the cab, and was back at the Amniya within two hours of leaving it.

“Do you think, perhaps,” asked the Reis-i-Amniya blandly, “that you ought to have an escort to take you to Firuzabad?”

“Really, Your Eminence must advise me on that point.”

“In my opinion, you ought. Will one man be enough?”

“Certainly. I am not a millionaire to hire horses for a troop.”

“Of course not; who is? Five men will be enough, I imagine. Naturally, they will all be mounted on Government horses; we have plenty to spare. And it may facilitate the matters if you take an officer with you in the car as far as Kavar. He will arrange your own horses there. I will tell him to call on you at the hotel at five oclock, to arrange things.”

“Your Eminence is too kind. Could he come at eight instead of five, as I am going out to tea?”

“Just as you wish. I will tell him to come at seven.”

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