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One of the most interesting notes in the Pictorial Bible is that upon the-khans or caravanserais of the East, in illustration of the circumstances connected with the Nativity of our Saviour, as recorded by St. Luke.
Our engraving represents the interior court of a caravanserai at Mayar, on the road from Ispahan to Shiraz, which may be regarded as the type of many others, and might almost be supposed to be the original of the following description.
"In the East there is not, and we have no information or probability that there ever were, such places of entertainment as we understand when we speak of inns. A person who comes to a town, where he has no friends to receive him into their houses, seeks accommodation at the caravanserai or khan, where he may stay as long as he pleases, generally without payment; but is only provided with lodging for himself and beast, if he have any, and with water from the premises. The room or cell which he obtains is perfectly bare. He may procure a mat, perhaps, but nothing more; and hence every one who travels, provided he has a beast, takes with him a rug, a piece of
carpet, or oven a mattress, (that is a thick quilt, padded with wool or cotton,) or something of the sort, to form his bed wherever he rests, whether in a town or country caravanserai.
"But one who travels on foot cannot thus encumber himself, and is content to make the cloak he had worn by day to serve for bed and bedding by night. It is the same with respect to food: he purchases what he needs at the town or village in or near which the khan may be situated; and if he require a cooked meal, he dresses it himself, for which purpose a traveller's baggage also contains one or more pots and dishes, with a vessel for water. A foot traveller dispenses with warm meals, unless he may sometimes be enabled to procure something ready dressed in the markets of the more considerable towns to which he comes. In those parts where towns are widely asunder, khans are more or less dispersed over the open country; and in these, or wherever they are not, the traveller lives upon the victuals which he has brought with him from the last inhabited town, in the knowledge that these remote khans offer nothing but shelter, and that no provisions can be obtained in their neighbourhood.
"A khan usually presents externally the appearance of a square, formed by strong and lofty walls, with a high and often handsome gateway, which offers an entrance to the interior. On passing through this the traveller finds himself in a large open quadrangle, surrounded on all sides by a number of distinct recesses, the back walls of which contain doors leading to the small cells or rooms which afford to travellers the accommodation they require. Every apartment is thus perfectly detached, consisting of the room and recess in front. In the latter the occupant usually sits till the day has declined, and there he often prefers to sleep at night.
"Besides these private apartments, there is usually in the centre of one or more of the sides of the quadrangle, a large and lofty hall, where the principal persons may meet for conversation or entertainment. The floors of these apartments, the recesses, the rooms, and halls, are raised two or three feet above the level of the court they surround, upon a platform or bank of earth faced with masonry. In the centre of the court is a well or cistern, offering to the traveller that most essential of conveniences in a warm climate—pure water.
"Many caravanserais are without stables; the cattle being accommodated in the open area. But the most complete establishments have very excellent stables, in covered avenues, which extend behind the ranges of apartments. and the entrance to it is by a covered passage at one of the corners of the quadrangle. The stable is on a level with the court, and consequently below the level of the buildings, by the height of the platform on which they stand. Nevertheless, this platform is allowed to project behind into the stable, so as to form a bench, to which the horses' heads are turned, and on which they can, if they like, rest the nose-bags of hair-cloth from which they eat. It often happens that not only this bench exists in the stable, but also recesses corresponding to those in front of the apartments, and formed by the side walls which divide the rooms, being allowed to project behind into the stable."
The word rendered " manger" in Luke ii. 7, is supposed by Mr. Kitto to refer to some such recess as those just described in the stables of an Eastern Khan; and this explanation, he says, "was strongly suggested to his mind while himself finding accommodation in one of these stables, when there was 'no room' for him in the proper lodging apartments of caravanserais."
It was "the quiet hour,"—that is, the time appointed for preparing lessons in a certain library. The fire blazed brightly, and the cheerful lamp shed a pleasant glow over a group of young people, who with books and maps, were busily engaged in studying their portions for recitation the next day. Miss H. sat at the head of the table, enforcing her precepts by her own good example of diligence, in collecting information upon the shells and plants which had been the subjects of mutual interest in their afternoon's ramble, and ready to direct their efforts in acquiring knowledge; for, "Head and you will know," was her general maxim. For Miss H. to enact the part of dictionary and gazeteer, was an exception to the rule.
The silence of the "quiet hour" was so profound, and the whole party so completely engrossed in their occupations, that a deep sigh from Henry made every one look up in amazement.
Henry and Charles attended an excellent tutor in the neighbourhood; but they so prized this pleasant season for preparation, that they obtained permission to bring their books and slates to their sisters' study—upon condition," remarked Miss H. playfully, "that you, as foreigners, yield the same obedience to the queen of the school room, as her rightful subjects,"—a condition which was rarely violated after Master Charles found himself and his affairs summarily ejected, for a daring exploit of fun, which, though perchance innocent in itself, was so ill-timed, that " the queen" felt herself compelled to decree and execute sentence of banishment.
But to return to our story. Henry's sigh fixed all eyes upon him, and his usually merry countenance wore so woeful an expression, that there was a general exclamation, "What can be the matter?"
"Oh this horrible spelling lesson!" said the boy, stretching himself, "I shall never be able to fix it in my memory: just look, Miss H. at these long words without the least connexion; some too that I never heard of before. It is almost as difficult as my Greek grammar,—' homogenous,' 'heterogeneous,' 'lugubrious,' 'metempsychosis,' 'psychological.'—a whole column of such outrageous terms."