The Road to Oxiana

The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron

Book: The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robert Byron
triplicate. Meanwhile, the owner of the car had left Teheran, confiding his power of attorney to a very old lawyer in a pink tweed frock-coat. A bargain was struck; signatures were officially witnessed; but the police refused to register the transaction because, although the lawyer’s power of attorney extended to all his employer’s worldly goods, a Morris car was not mentioned in the list of those goods. This decision was reversed, on appeal to a higher police official, whotelephoned the fact to his subordinate. But when we returned to the other department, 300 yards away, they knew nothing of it. Neighbouring departments were asked if they had had the message. At last someone remembered that the person who must have answered the telephone had gone out. Heaven favoured us; we met him in the street, and followed him to his desk. This annoyed him. He would do nothing, he said, without a copy of the power of attorney. Till it was ready, perhaps we would be good enough to leave him in peace. The lawyer hobbled off to buy a clean sheet of paper. We, the owner’s son, the garage proprietor and myself, sought asylum on the pavement of the main square, squatting round the crabbed old scribe while his spectacles fell off his nose, and his pen harpooned the paper till it looked like a stencil. A sentence was not finished before the police moved us on; another scarcely begun, before they did so again. Like a colony of disturbed toads, we scuttled round and round the square, jabbing down a word here and there, while dusk deepened into night. When the copy was presented, it had again to be copied, in the office. The square had been better than this; for the office electricity had failed, and matches had to be struck in such quantities that our fingers were burned to the quick. I laughed; the others laughed; the police laughed like madmen; but suddenly becoming serious, said the certificate of ownership could not after all be ready for three days. An hour’s argument evoked a promise of next morning. Next morning I went in search of it; again they said three days. But now, being alone, I had the advantage, speaking enough Persian to say what I wanted, but not enough to understand a refusal. Once more we trooped off to the officer across the street. Men rushed from room to room. The telephone spluttered. The document was born. And all this, let me add, was only a tithe, a mere sample, of my fate during these last four days.
    The date of the car is 1926, and its engine has needed some attention. After testing it yesterday, I proposed to start at six this morning. But by the end of the test, the battery had failed. I shall leave at midday and hope to make Amiriya tonight, where the worst of the passes but one will be over.
    The Noel party arrived last night in two Rolls-Royces. They threw the charcoal apparatus away at Dover. The original Charcoal-Burners, they say, spent five nights in the desert between Damascus and Baghdad, and broke two big-ends, which are now being repaired. I still have no certainty of their advent here. It is impossible to wait on chance. The passes may be blocked any day after the fifteenth.
    Ayn Varzan
(c. 5000
later 7.30 p.m
.—The back axle has broken, sixty miles from Teheran.
    â€œTo Khorasan! To Khorasan!” shouted the policeman at the city gate. I felt a wonderful exhilaration as we chugged through the Elburz defiles. Up or down, the engine was always in bottom gear; only this could save us from being precipitated, backwards or forwards as the case might be, over the last or next hairpin bend.
    Seven chanting peasants pushed the car uphill to a shed in this village. It is a total loss. But I won’t go back to Teheran.
November 13th
.—A bus arrived next morning at Ayn Varzan, full of lady pilgrims on their way to Meshed. Their chatter in the yard below woke me up. Five minutes later I was beside the driver, and my luggage underneath the

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