CHAPTER XIII. BEY BAZAAR, ANGORA, AND EASTWARD.
A Trundle of half an hour up the steep slopes leading out of another of those narrow valleys in which all these towns are situated, and then comes a gentle declivity extending with but little interruption for several miles, winding in and out among the inequalities of an elevated table-land. The mountain-breezes blow cool and exhilarating, and just before descending into the little Charkhan Valley I pass some interesting cliffs of castellated rocks, the sight of which immediately wafts my memory back across the thousands of miles of land and water to what they are almost a counterpart of the famous castellated rocks of Green River, Wyo. Ter. Another scary youth takes to his heels as I descend into the valley and halt at the village of Charkhan, a mere shapeless cluster of mud-hovels. Before one of these a ragged agriculturist solemnly presides over a small heap of what I unfortunately mistake at the time for pumpkins. I say "unfortunately," because after-knowledge makes it highly probable that they were the celebrated Charhkan musk-melons, famous far and wide for their exquisite flavor; the variety can be grown elsewhere, but, strange to say, the peculiar, delicate flavor which makes them so celebrated is absent when they vegetate anywhere outside this particular locality. It is supposed to be owing to some peculiar mineral properties of the soil. The Charkhan Valley is a wild, weird-looking region, looking as if it were habitually subjected to destructive downpourings of rain, that have washed the grand old mountains out of all resemblance to neighboring ranges round about. They are of a soft, shaly composition, and are worn by the elements into all manner of queer, fantastic shapes; this, together with the same variegated colors observed yesterday afternoon, gives them a distinctive appearance not easily forgotten. They are " grand, gloomy, and peculiar; " especially are they peculiar. The soil of the valley itself seems to be drift-mud from the surrounding hills; a stream furnishes water sufficient to irrigate a number of rice- fields, whose brilliant emerald hue loses none of its brightness from being surrounded by a framework of barren hills.
Ascending from this interesting locality my road now traverses a dreary, monotonous district of whitish, sun-blistered hills, water-less and verdureless for fourteen miles. The cool, refreshing breezes of early morning have been dissipated by the growing heat of the sun; the road continues fairly good, and while riding I am unconscious of oppressive heat; but the fierce rays of the sun blisters my neck and the backs of my hands, turning them red and causing the skin to peel off a few days afterward, besides ruining a section of my gossamer coat exposed on top of the Lamson carrier. The air is dry and thirst-creating, there is considerable hill-climbing to be done, and long ere the fourteen miles are covered I become sufficiently warm and thirsty to have little thought of anything else but reaching the means of quenching thirst. Away off in the distance ahead is observed a dark object, whose character is indistinct through the shimmering radiation from the heated hills, but which, upon a nearer approach, proves to be a jujube-tree, a welcome sentinel in those arid regions, beckoning the thirsty traveller to a never-failing supply of water. At the jujube-tree I find a most magnificent fountain, pouring forth at least twenty gallons of delicious cold water to the minute. The spring has been walled up and a marble spout inserted, which gushes forth a round, crystal column, as though endeavoring to compensate for the prevailing aridness and to apologize to the thirsty wayfarer for the inhospitableness of its surroundings. Miles away to the northward, perched high up among the ravines of a sun-baked mountain-spur, one can see a circumscribed area of luxuriant foliage. This conspicuous oasis in the desert marks the source of the beautiful road-side fountain, which traverses a natural subterranean passage-way between these two distant points. These little isolated clumps of waving trees, rearing their green heads conspicuously above the surrounding barrenness, are an unerring indication of both water and human habitations. Often one sees them suddenly when least expected, nestling in a little depression high up some mountain-slope far away, the little dark-green area looking almost black in contrast with the whitish color of the hills. These are literally "oases in the desert," on a small scale, and although from a distance no sign of human habitations appeal, since they are but mud- hovels corresponding in color to the hills themselves, a closer examination invariably reveals well-worn donkey-trails leading from different directions to the spot, and perchance a white-turbaned donkey-rider slowly wending his way along a trail.