Another tale from Januarius MacGahan's Campaigning on the Oxus, and the Fall of Khiva.
One day I mounted my horse and rode to Hazar-Asp, where I was hospitably
entertained by Colonel Ivanoff. While taking dinner with the Colonel, an
orderly came in, and informed him that a woman was waiting outside,
asking permission to lay a complaint before him
The Colonel turned to me and said, “come along now, and you will see something curious.”
the regular course of justice had been interrupted by the flight of the
Governor, the people of Hazar-Asp, it seemed, came to Colonel Ivanoff,
who was then the supreme power, to have their wrongs redressed and their
quarrels settled. So we now went out into the great porch, which I have
spoken of as the Hall of State, or audience chamber. Here we sat down
on a piece of carpet, and the Colonel put on a grave face, as befitted a
magistrate in the administration of justice. The woman was now led into
the court which was some three or four feet lower than the floor of the
porch on which we were seated, she came in leading a lubberly-looking
young man of about fourteen, and bowing almost to the earth at every
step, and addressed the Colonel, whom she took for General Kauffmann, as
the “Yarim-Padshah,” or ‘half-emperor’, which title the Colonel
accepted with grave composure.
She was an old woman, clad in the long dirty looking tunic of the
Khivans. The only article of dress that distinguished her from a man was
the tall white turban worn by all the Khivan women. She brought in a
little present of bread and apricots, which she handed to the bemused
Colonel with many profound bows, and then proceeded to state her case.
“My son,” she said, pointing to the gawky boy who accompanied her, “had been robbed of his affianced wife.”
“By whom?” asks the Colonel.
a vile theiving dog of a Persian slave. My own slave, too; he stole my
donkey, and carried the girl off on it; may the curse of the prophet
“So then he is three times a thief. He stole the donkey, the girl, and
himself,” said the Colonel, summing up the matter in a judicial way.
“But how did he steal the girl? Did he take her by force?”
course; was she not my son's wife? How could a girl run away from her
affianced husband with a dog of an infidel slave, except by force?”
“Who is she? How did she become affianced to your son?”
“She is a
Persian girl. I bought her from a Turcoman who had just brought her from
Astrabad, and I paid fifty tillahs for her. The dog of a slave must
have bewitched her, because as soon as she saw him she flew into his
arms, weeping and crying, and said, ‘he was her old playmate’. That was
nonsense, and I beat her for it soundly. The marriage was to be
celebrated in a few days; but as soon as the Russians came, the vile
hussy persuaded the slave to run away with her, and I believe they are
as good as married”
“Well, what do you want me to do about it?”
“I want you to give back my son's wife, and my donkey, and my slave.”
Colonel told her, with a smile, that he would see about it, and
motioned her to retire from his presence. She withdrew, walking
backwards, and bowing to the ground at every step, in the most approved
and courtier-like manner. Evidently it was not the first time she had
pleaded her own case.
But her son never got back his wife, nor she her slave or donkey.