Prince Yuri Lubovedsky

‘Although this was said in jest, it was clear to me that the Khan desired to prevent the inevitable denunciation of the Russians. There was at that time a widespread hatred there of the Russians and the English.

‘Then the general conversation died down, and we began talking among ourselves in separate groups. I talked with the old man, to whom I felt more and more drawn. He spoke with me in the local language, asked where I came from and how long I had been in Kabul. Suddenly he started to speak Russian, very correctly, though with a pronounced accent, explaining that he had been in Russia, even in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and had also lived a long time in Bukhara, where he had met many Russians and had thus learned to speak Russian. He added that he was very glad of an opportunity to speak this language again, as for lack of practice he had already begun to forget it.

‘A little later he said, among other things, that if it were agreeable to me and if I wished to speak in my native language and honour an old man, we could leave together and go to a chaikhana to sit for a while and talk. He explained that sitting in cafés and chaikhanas had been a weakness and habit of his from his youth, and that now, whenever he came to the city, he could not deny himself the pleasure of spending his free time that way, because, in spite of the noise and bustle, nowhere else could he think so well, and he added, “Doubtless that very noise and bustle is just the reason why one can think so well there.”

‘I consented to go with him, with the greatest pleasure, not of course in order to speak Russian, but for some reason I myself could not explain. Though already old myself, I was beginning to feel towards this old man as a grandson feels towards his beloved grandfather.

‘Soon all the guests began to leave. The old man and I left together, talking on the way of one thing and another. When we reached the chaikhana we sat down on the open terrace where we were served green Bukharian tea. From the attention and deference paid to the old man it was evident that he was known and respected there.