The coast-line of Baluchistan is six hundred miles long. On it there is one tree, a sickly, stunted-looking thing, near the telegraph station of Gwadar, which serves as a landmark to native craft and a standing joke to the English sailor. Planted some years since by a European, it has lived doggedly on, to the surprise of all, in this arid soil. The Tree of Baluchistan is as well known to the manner in the Persian Gulf as Regent Circus or the Marble Arch to the London cabman.

With this solitary exception, not a trace of vegetation exists along the sea-board from Persian to Indian frontier. Occasionally, at long intervals, a mud hut is seen, just showing that the country is inhabited, and that is all. The steep, rocky cliffs, with their sharp, spire-like summits rising almost perpendicularly out of the blue sea, are typical of the desert wastes inland.

"And this is the India they talk so much about!" says Gerome, contemptuously, as we watch the desolate shores from the deck of the steamer. I do not correct the little man's geography. It is too hot for argument, for the heat is stifling. There is not a breath of air stirring, not a ripple on the smooth oily sea, and the sides of the ship are cracking and blistering in the fierce, blinding sunshine. Under the awning the temperature is that of a furnace, and one almost regrets the cold and snow of three weeks ago, so perverse is human nature.

Mark Tapley himself would scarcely have taken a cheerful view of things on landing at Sonmiani. Imagine a howling wilderness of rock and scrub, stretching away to where, on the far horizon, some low hills cut the brazen sky-line. On the beach the so-called town of Sonmiani - a collection of dilapidated mud huts, over which two or three tattered red and yellow banners flutter in the breeze, and beneath which a small and shallow harbour emits a powerful odour of mud, sewage, and rotten fish. Every hut is surmounted by a "badgir," or wind-catcher - a queer-looking contrivance, in shape exactly like a prompter's box, used in the summer heats to cool the interior of the dark, stifling huts. A mob of ragged, wild-looking Baluchis, with long, matted locks and gaudy rags, completes this dreary picture.

Shouts of "Kamoo!" from the crowd brought a tall, good-looking native, clad in white, out of an adjacent hut, who, I was relieved to find, was the interpreter destined to accompany us to Kelat. The camels and escort were, he said, ready for a start on the morrow, if necessary. In the mean time there was a bare but clean Government bungalow at our disposal, and in this we were soon settled. But notwithstanding the comparative comfort of our quarters compared with the filthy native houses around, I determined to get away as soon as possible. The mosquitoes were bad enough, but the flies were far worse. Ceiling, walls, and floor were black with them. One not only ate them with one's food, but they inflicted a nasty, poisonous bite. As for the smells, they were beyond description; but the fact that a dead camel was slowly decomposing in the immediate vicinity of our dwelling may have had something to do with this.

With all these drawbacks, I was glad to find the population, although dirty, decidedly friendly - rather too much so, indeed; for the little whitewashed room was crowded to overflowing the greater part of the day with relays of visitors, who apparently looked upon us as a kind of show got up for their entertainment. Towards sunset a tall, swarthy fellow, about fifty years old, with sharp, restless eyes and a huge hook nose, made his appearance at the doorway; and this was the signal for a general stampede, for my visitor was no other than the head-man of Sonmiani - Chengiz Khan.

Chengiz was attired in a very dirty white garment, loose and flowing to the heels, and a pair of gold-embroidered slippers. A small conical cap of green silk was perched rakishly on the top of his head, from which fell, below the shoulders, a tumbled mass of thick, coarse, black hair. The head-man was unarmed, but his followers, five in number, fairly bristled with daggers and pistols. Like all natives, Chengiz was at first shy and reserved. It was only when I had prevailed upon him to take a cigar that my visitor became more at his ease. Having lit his cheroot, he took a long pull and passed it on to one of his followers, who repeated the performance. When it had gone the round twice it was thrown away; and Chengiz, turning to Kamoo, gravely asked if I wished for anything before he retired for the night.

"You should reach Kelat in twenty-five days," was the answer to my question, "provided the camels keep well and you have no difficulty with the people at Gwarjak; they are not used to Europeans, and may give you some trouble."

One of the men here whispered to his chief.

"Malak is the name of the head-man at Gwarjak," went on Chengiz - "a treacherous, dangerous fellow. Do not have much to do with Malak; he detests Europeans."

Malak was, judging from my experiences that night, not the only Baluchi possessed of this failing. Chengiz having left, I retired to rest, to be suddenly aroused at midnight by a piercing yell, and to find a tall, half-naked fellow, with wild eyes and a face plastered with yellow mud, standing over me, brandishing a heavy club. Though a revolver was at hand, it was useless; for I saw at a glance that I had to deal with a madman. After a severe tussle, Gerome and I managed to throw out the unwelcome visitor and bar the door, though we saw him for an hour or more prowling backwards and forwards in the moonlight in front of the bungalow, muttering to himself, waving his arms about, and breaking every now and then into peals of loud laughter. The incident now seems trifling enough, though it left a powerful impression upon my mind that night, on the eve of setting out through an unknown country, where the life of a European more or less is of little moment to the wild tribes of the interior. The madman was a dervish, the head-man said, and perfectly harmless as a rule, but liable to fits of rage at sight of a European and unbeliever. I was, therefore, not sorry to hear next morning that this ardent follower of the Prophet had been securely locked up, and would not be released till the morrow, when we were well on the road to Beila.

There are, I imagine, few countries practically so little known to Europeans as the one we were about to traverse. I had, up to the time of my visit, often wondered that, with India so near, Baluchistan should have been so long allowed to remain the terra incognita it is. My surprise ceased on arrival at Kelat. It is impossible to conceive a more monotonous or uninteresting journey, from a traveller's point of view, than that from the sea to Quetta - a distance (by my route) of nearly five hundred miles, during which I passed (with the exception of Kelat and Beila) but half a dozen villages worthy of the name, and met, outside the villages in question, a dozen human beings at the most. This is, perhaps, scarcely to be wondered at. The entire population of the country does not exceed 450,000, while its area is estimated at something like 140,000 square miles, of which 60,000 are under Persian rule, and the remaining 80,000 (nominally) under the suzerainty of the Khan of Kelat.

The inhabitants of Baluchistan may be roughly divided into two classes: the Brahuis [A] in the north, and the Baluchis in the south. The former ascribe their origin to the earliest Mohammedan invaders of Persia, and boast of their Arab descent; the latter are supposed by some to have been originally a nation of Tartar mountaineers who settled at a very early period in the southern parts of Asia, where they led a nomad existence for many centuries, governed by their own chiefs and laws, till at length they became incorporated and attained their present footing at Kelat and throughout Northern Baluchistan. Both races differ essentially in language and customs, and are subdivided into an infinitesimal number of smaller tribes under the command or rule of petty chiefs or khans. Although somewhat similar in appearance, the Brahuis are said to be morally and physically superior to their southern neighbours. The Baluch, as I shall now call each, is not a prepossessing type of humanity on first acquaintance, with his swarthy sullen features, dark piercing eyes, and long matted locks. Most I met in the interior looked, a little distance off, like perambulating masses of dirty rags; but all, even the filthiest and most ragged, carried a bright, sharp tulwar. Though rough and uncouth, however, I found the natives, as a rule, hospitable and kindly. It was only in the far interior that any unpleasantness was experienced. This was, perhaps, only natural, seeing that seventy miles of the journey lay through a region as yet unexplored by Europeans, the inhabitants of which were naturally resentful of what they imagined to be intrusion and interference.

Owing to the nomadic nature of the Baluchis, the barrenness of their country, and consequent absence of manufactures and commerce, permanent settlements are very rare.

With the exception of Quetta, Kelat, Beila, and Kej, there are no towns in Baluchistan worthy of the name. Even those I have mentioned are, with the exception of Quetta (now a British settlement), mere collections of tumble-down mud huts, invariably guarded by a ramshackle fort and wall of the same material. The dwellings of the nomads consist of a number of long slender poles bent and inverted towards each other, over which are stretched slips of coarse fabrics of camel's hair. It was only in the immediate neighbourhood of Gwarjak that the native huts were constructed of dried palm-leaves, the fertile soil of that district rendering this feasible.

Attended by Chengiz Khan in a gorgeous costume of blue and yellow silk, and followed by a rabble of two or three hundred men and boys, I visited the bazaar next morning. Chengiz had preceded his visit with the present of a fine goat, and evidently meant to be friendly, informing me, before we had gone many yards, that the Queen of England had just invested the Djam of Beila (a neighbouring chief) with the Star of India, and did I think that that honour was very likely to accrue to him?

The trade of Sonmiani is, as may be imagined, insignificant. Most of the low dark stalls were kept for the sale of grain, rice, salt, and tobacco, by Hindus; but I was told that a brisk trade is done in fish and sharks' fins; and dried fruits, madder, and saffron, sent down from the northern districts, are exported in small quantities to India and Persia. In the vicinity are some ancient pearl-fisheries of considerable value, which were once worked with great profit. These have been allowed to lie for many years undisturbed, owing to lack of vigour and enterprise on the part of those in power in the state. Here is a chance for European speculators.

By a well in the centre of the village stood some young girls and children. The former were decidedly good looking, and one, but for the hideous gold nose-ring, [B] would have been almost beautiful. Here, as elsewhere in Baluchistan, the women present much more the Egyptian type of face than the Indian - light bronze complexions, straight regular features, and large, dark, expressive eyes. None of these made the slightest attempt at concealment. As we passed, one of them even nodded and smiled at Chengiz, making good use of her eyes, and disclosing a row of small, pearly teeth. Their dress, a loose divided skirt of thin red stuff, and short jacket, with tight-fitting sleeves, open at the breast, showed off their slight graceful figures and small, well-shaped hands and feet to perfection. Chengiz, pointing to the group, smiled and addressed me in a facetious tone. "He wants to know if you think them pretty," said my interpreter; but I thought it best to maintain a dignified silence. The chief of Sonmiani was, for a Mohammedan, singularly lax.

A kind of rough pottery is made at Sonmiani, and this is the only industry. Some of the water-jars were neatly and gracefully fashioned, of a delicate grey-green colour; others red, with rude yellow devices painted on them. The clay is porous, and keeps the water deliciously cool.

By four o'clock next morning all was ready for a start. The caravan consisted of eighteen camels, four Baluchis, Kamoo, and Gerome, with an escort of ten soldiers of the Djam of Beila, smart-looking, well-built fellows in red tunics, white baggy trousers, and dark-blue turbans. Each man, armed with a Snider rifle and twenty rounds of ammunition, was mounted on a rough, wiry-looking pony. As we were starting, Chengiz Khan rode up on a splendid camel, and announced his intention of accompanying us the first stage, one of eighteen miles, to Shekh-Raj.

Here the honest fellow bade us good-bye. "The sahib will not forget me when he gets to India," he said, on leaving, thereby implying that he wished to be well reported to the Indian Government. "But take care of Malak; he is a bad man - a very bad man."

A rough and tedious journey of two days over deep sandy desert, varied by an occasional salt marsh, brought us to Beila, the seat of government of the Djam, or chief of the province of Las Beila, eighty miles due north of Sonmiani. With a feeling of relief I sighted the dirty, dilapidated city, with its mud huts and tawdry pink and green banners surmounting the palace and fort. The Baluch camel is not the easiest animal in existence, and I had, for the first few hours of the march, experienced all the miseries of mal de mer brought on by a blazing sun and the rolling, unsteady gait of my ship of the desert. Though awkward in his paces, the Baluch camel is swift. They are small and better looking than most; nor do their coats present so much the appearance of a "doormat with the mange," as those of the animals of other countries. We had as yet passed but two villages - three or four low shapeless huts, almost hidden in rock and scrub by the side of the caravan-track, which, as far as Beila, is pretty clearly defined. There had been nothing else to break the dull, dead monotony of sand and swamp, not a sign of human life, and but one well (at Outhal) of rather brackish water.

On the second day one of the escort had pointed out a dry rocky bed as the river Purali, which is one of the largest in Baluchistan, but, like all the others, quite dry the greater portion of the year. There are no permanent rivers in this country. To this fact is perhaps due the slight knowledge obtained up to the present time of the interior, where arid sandy deserts, dangerous alike to native or European travellers, are the rule, and cover those large open spaces marked upon maps as "unexplored." Notwithstanding the great width of the bed of the Purali river in many places, it has no regular outlet into the sea. Its waters, when in flood from rainfall, lose themselves in the level plains in a chain of lagoons or swamps. Some of these are several miles in length, but decrease considerably in the dry season, when the water becomes salt. The Habb river, which divides Las from the British province of Sind, is another case in point. It possesses permanent banks, is fed from the Pabb chain of mountains, and after heavy rains in these hills a large body of water is formed, which rushes down to the sea with great force and velocity. But at other times water is only to be found in a few small pools in its rocky bed. It is, in short, a mountain torrent on a large scale. So also with the greater number of streams in the western districts, though a few of these have more the semblance of rivers than can be found elsewhere in Baluchistan. Of lakes there are none throughout the entire area of the country.

At Outhal we were met by one Hussein Khan, a wild-looking fellow mounted on a good-looking chestnut horse, its saddle and headstalls ornamented with bright-coloured leathers and gold and silver ornaments. Hussein was from Beila, with a message from the Djam to say that I was welcome in his dominions. Tents were then pitched, and I invited Hussein to partake of refreshment, which was refused. He accepted a cigarette, however, but seemed undecided whether to smoke or eat it, till presented with a light. Having asked if I would like to be saluted with guns on arrival, an offer I politely declined, my visitor then left to prepare for our reception on the morrow.

Daybreak saw us well en route and by 10 a.m. we were in sight of Beila. About a mile or so out of the city, a mounted sowar in scarlet and gold uniform, and armed with two huge horse-pistols and a long cavalry sabre, galloped up to the caravan. "It is a messenger from the palace," said Kamoo, "to say that his Highness the Djam has been suddenly called away to Kej, [C] but that his son, Prince Kumal Khan, is riding out in state to meet the sahib, and conduct him to his father's city."

The prince shortly afterwards appeared, mounted on a huge camel, the tail and hind quarters of which were ornamented with intricate patterns stamped on the hide by some peculiar process. A guard of honour of thirty soldiers accompanied, while a rabble of two or three hundred foot people surrounded the party, for the sight of a white face is rare in Beila. It was a strange scene: the picturesque city, brilliant barbaric costume of the young chief and his followers, and crowd of wild, half-naked Baluchis were fitly set off by surroundings of desert landscape and dazzling sunshine. A Gerome or Vereschagin would have revelled in the sight.

Shaking hands with Kumal (no easy matter on camels), he placed me on his right hand, and, heading the procession, we rode into Beila, where a large tent had been erected for my accommodation. Having placed a guard at my disposal, the prince then left, announcing his intention of receiving me in state that afternoon at the palace.

Beila, which is protected by a fort and high mud wall, is situated on the right bank of the river Purali, which, at the time of my visit, was no more than a dry rocky bed. The town contains about 4000 inhabitants, and, from a distance, presents a curious appearance, each house being fitted, as at Sonmiani, with a large "badgir," or wind-catcher. Like most Eastern cities, Beila does not improve on closer acquaintance. The people are dirty and indolent. There is little or no trade, and the dark, narrow streets, ankle-deep in mud and filth, are crowded with beggars and pariah dogs, while the dull drab colour of the mud houses is depressing in the extreme. The fort and palace alone are built of brick, and, being whitewashed, relieve to a certain extent the melancholy aspect of the place. I was escorted to the latter the afternoon of my arrival by a guard of honour, preceded by the Djam's band - half a dozen cracked English cavalry trumpets!

Djam Ali Khan, the present ruler of the state of Las Beila, is about fifty years of age, and is a firm ally of England. The Djam is a vassal of the Khan of Kelat, but, like most independent Baluch chiefs, only nominally so. So far as I could glean, the court of Kelat has no influence whatsoever beyond a radius of twenty miles or so from that city. The provinces of Sarawan, Jhalawan, Kach-Gandava, Mekran, [D] and Las Beila, which constitute the vast tract of country known as Kalati Baluchistan, are all governed by independent chiefs, nominally viceroys of the Khan of Kelat. Practically, however, the latter has little or no supremacy over them, nor indeed over any part of Baluchistan, Kelat and its suburbs excepted.

Prince Kumal Khan received me in his father's durbar-chamber, a cheerless, whitewashed apartment, bare of furniture save for a somewhat rickety "throne" of painted wood, and a huge white linen punkah, overlooking a dreary landscape of barren desert and mud roofs. The prince, a tall, slim young man, about twenty-five years of age, has weak but not unpleasing features. He was dressed in a close-fitting tunic of dark-blue cloth, heavily trimmed with gold braid, baggy white linen trousers, and a pair of European side-spring boots, very dirty and down at heel. A light-blue turban completed his attire.

The interview was not interesting. Notwithstanding all my efforts and the services of the interpreter, Kumal was evidently shy and ill at ease, and resolutely refused to enter into conversation. One thing, however, roused him. Hearing that I was accompanied by a Russian, Kumal eagerly demanded that he should be sent for. Gerome presently made his appearance, and was stared at, much to his discomfiture and annoyance, as if he had been a wild beast. A pair of white-linen drawers, no socks, carpet slippers, and a thin jersey, were my faithful follower's idea of a costume suitable to the Indian climate - surmounted by the somewhat inappropriate head-dress of a huge astrakhan cap, which for no earthly consideration could he be persuaded to exchange for a turban. "So that is a Russian!" said the prince, curiously surveying him from head to foot. "I thought they were all big men!" But patience has limits, and, with a muttered "Dourak," [E] poor Gerome turned and left the princely presence in anything but a respectful manner.

Coffee and nargileh discussed, my host moved an adjournment to the roof of the palace, where, he said, I should obtain a better view of his father's city. This ceremony concluded, the trumpets sounded, a gentle hint that the audience was at an end, and I took leave, and returned to camp outside the walls of the town.

The Wazir, or Prime Minister, of the Djam paid me a visit in the evening sans ceremonie - a jolly-looking, fresh-complexioned old fellow, dressed in a suit of karki, cut European fashion, and with nothing Oriental about him save a huge white linen turban. The Wazir spoke English fairly well, and, waxing confidential over a cigar and whisky-and-water (like my Sonmiani friend, the Wazir was no strict Mussulman), entertained me with an account of the doings of the Court in Beila and the aventures galantes of Kumal, who, from all accounts, was a veritable Don Juan. "Will the Russians ever take India?" asked the old fellow of Gerome, as he left the tent. "You can tell them they shall never get it so long as we can prevent them;" but the next moment the poor Wazir, to Gerome's delight, had measured his length on the ground. Either the night was very dark, or the whisky very strong; a tent-rope had avenged the taunt levelled at my companion's countrymen.

Early next morning came a message from Prince Kumal, inviting me to visit the caves of Shahr-Rogan, an excavated village of great antiquity, about ten miles from Beila. I gladly accepted. The camels were tired; the men of the caravan unwilling to proceed for another day, and time hung heavily on one's hands, with nothing to vary the monotony but an occasional shot at a wood-pigeon (which swarm about Beila), or a game of ecarte (for nuts) with Gerome.

The caves were well worth a visit. I could gain no information at Beila, Quetta, or even Karachi, as to the origin of this curious cave-city, though there can be no doubt that it is of great antiquity. Carless the traveller's account is perhaps the most authentic.

"About nine miles to the northward of Beila a range of low hills sweeps in a semicircle from one side of the valley to the other, and forms its head. The Purali river issues from a deep ravine on the western side, and rushes down (in the wet season) about two hundred yards broad. It is bounded on one side by steep cliffs, forty or fifty feet high, on the summit of which is an ancient burial-ground. Following the stream, we gained the narrow ravine through which it flows, and, turning into one of the lateral branches, entered Shahr-Rogan."

Here, on the day in question, Prince Kumal called a halt. A couple of small tents were pitched, and a meal, consisting of an excellent curry, stewed pigeons, beer, and claret, served. Leaving the Prince to amuse himself and delight his followers with his skill in rifle-shooting at a mark chalked out on the rocks, I continued my explorations. The result is, perhaps, better explained to the reader in the words of an older and more experienced observer. Carless says - "The scene was singular. On either side of a wild broken ravine the rocks rise perpendicularly to the height of four or five hundred feet, and are excavated, as far as there is footing to ascend, up to the summit. The excavations are most numerous along the lower part of the hills, and form distinct houses, most of which are uninjured by-time. They consist, in general, of a room fifteen feet square, forming a kind of open verandah, with an interior chamber of the same dimensions, to which admittance is gained by a narrow doorway. There are niches for lamps in many, and a place built up and covered in, apparently to hold grain. Most of the houses or caves at the summits of the cliffs are now inaccessible, from the narrow precipitous paths by which they were approached having worn away. The cliffs are excavated on both sides of the valley for a distance little short of a mile. There cannot be less than fifteen hundred of these strange habitations."

The caves of Shahr-Rogan are not the only sights of interest near Beila. Time, unfortunately, would not admit of my visiting the mud-volcanoes of Las, situated near the Harra Mountains, about sixty miles from Shahr-Rogan. The hills upon which these are found are from three to four hundred feet high, and are conical in form, with flattened and discoloured tops and precipitous sides. At their bases are numerous fissures and cavities reaching far into their interior. Captain Hart, who visited these geysers some years ago, describes them as basins of liquid mud, about a hundred paces in diameter, in a continual state of eruption. These geysers, or "chandra-kupr," as they are called by the Baluchis, are also found on parts of the Mekran coast. Colonel Ross, H.M.'s Resident at Bushire, is of opinion that these coast craters have communication with the sea, as the state of the tides has considerable influence on the movements of the mud. This theory is, perhaps, strengthened by the fact that by the coast natives the volcanoes are called "Darya-Chan," or "Eyes of the Sea."

On the way back from Shahr-Rogan to Beila a herd of antelope was seen. I may here mention that, with one exception, this was the only occasion upon which I came across big game of any kind throughout the journey, although, from all accounts, there is no lack of wild animals in Baluchistan. Bear and hyena are found in the southern districts, and the leopard, wolf, ibex, and tiger-cat exist in other parts of the country. The wild dog is also found in the northern and more mountainous regions. The latter hunt in packs of twenty and thirty, and will seize a bullock and kill him in a few minutes. On the other hand, vermin and venomous animals are not so common as in India. Dangerous snakes are rare, though we were much annoyed by scorpions and centipedes in the villages of the north, and a loathsome bug, the "mangar," which infests the houses of Kelat.

Riding homewards, we stopped about a mile out of Beila to inspect the Djam's garden, a large rambling piece of ground about fifty acres in extent, enclosed by high walls of solid masonry. Never was I more surprised than upon entering the lofty iron gates guarded by a sowar in neat white uniform. It seemed incredible that such fertility and abundance could exist in this dry, arid land. The cool fragrant gardens, with their shady grass walks, forest trees, and palms, springing up, as it were, out of the scorched, stony desert, reminded one of a bunch of sweet-smelling flowers in a fever ward, and the scent of rose, jasmine, and narcissus was apparent quite half a mile away. In the centre of the garden is a tamarind tree of enormous girth. It takes twelve men with joined hands to surround it. Half an hour was spent in this pleasant oasis, which was constructed by the late Djam, after infinite trouble and expense, by means of irrigation from the Purali river. There are also two deep wells of clear water in the grounds, which are never quite dry even in the hottest seasons.

Proceeding homewards, we had scarcely reached camp when a terrific thunderstorm burst over our heads. The thunderclaps were in some instances nearly a minute in duration, and the lightning unpleasantly close and vivid.

The weather clearing, I visited the bazaar in the evening, under the guidance of my old friend, the Wazir. Trade is, as I have said, practically nil in Beila, and the manufactures, which are trifling, are confined to oil, cotton, a rough kind of cloth, and coarse carpets; indeed, throughout the country, commerce is almost at a standstill.

This is scarcely surprising when the semi-savage state of the people, and consequent risks to life and property, are taken into account. The export trade of the interior is, though trifling at present, capable, under firm and wise rule, of great improvement. Madder, almonds, and dried fruit from Kelat and Mastung, seed and grain from Khozdar, small quantities of assa-foetida from Nushki, and sulphur from Kach-Gandava, comprise all the exports. From Mekran and Las Beila are exported "rogan," or clarified butter used for cooking purposes, hides, tobacco (of a very coarse kind), salt fish, oil-seeds, and dates. The imports chiefly consist of rice, pepper, sugar, spices, indigo, wood, and piece goods, chiefly landed at the ports of Gwadar or Sonmiani. But little is as yet known of the mineral products of this district. Iron ore is said to exist in the mountains north of Beila, while to the south copper is reported as being found in large quantities; but nothing has as yet been done to open up the mineral resources of the district. Although silver and even gold have been found in small quantities, and other minerals are known to exist, the only mines at present in Baluchistan are those near Khozdar, in the province of Jhalawan, where lead and antimony are worked, but in a very primitive manner.

Notwithstanding the trade stagnation, there seems to be a good deal of cultivation in and around Beila. Water is obtained from deep wells; and vegetables, rice, and tobacco are largely grown. Most of the stalls in the bazaar were devoted to the sale of rice, wheat, and tobacco, cheap cutlery, and Manchester goods; and I noticed, with some surprise, cheap photographs of Mrs. Langtry, Ellen Terry, Miss Nelly Farren, Sylvia Grey, and other leading lights of society and art, spread out for sale among the many-bladed knives, nickel forks and spoons, and German timepieces. Although the narrow alleys reeked with poisonous smells and filth and abomination of all kinds, Beila is not unhealthy - so at least the Wazir informed me. I doubted the truth of this assertion, however, for the features of every second person I met were scarred more or less with small-pox.

My caravan, on leaving Beila, was considerably increased. It now consisted of twenty-two camels (six of which were laden with water), five Baluchis, my original escort, and six of the Djam's cavalry. I could well have dispensed with the latter, but the kindly little Wazir would not hear of my going without them. An addition also to our party was a queer creature, half Portuguese, half Malay, picked up by Gerome in the Beila bazaar, and destined to fulfil the duties of cook. How he had drifted to Beila I never ascertained, and thought it prudent not to inquire too much into his antecedents. No one knew anything about him, and as he talked a language peculiar to himself, no one was ever likely to; but he was an undeniably good chef, and that was the chief consideration. Gaetan, this strange being informed us, was his name - speedily transformed by Gerome into the more euphonious and romantic name of Gaetano!

I took leave of the Prince and my old friend the Wazir with some misgivings, for the new camel-drivers were Beila men, and frankly owned that their knowledge of the country lying between Gwarjak and Noundra (where we were to leave the caravan-track) was derived chiefly from hearsay.

There are two caravan-roads through Beila. One, formerly much used, is that over which we had travelled from the coast, and which, on leaving Beila, leads due north to Quetta via Wadd and Sohrab. An ordinary caravan by this route occupies at least forty days in transit. Traffic is now, therefore, usually carried on by means of the safer trade-routes through British Sindh, whereby the saving of time is considerable, and chances of robbery much lessened. The second road (which has branches leading to the coast towns of Gwadar, Pasui, and Ormara) proceeds due west to Kej, capital of the Mekran province, near the Persian border. The latter track we were to follow as far as Noundra, ninety miles distant. I should add that the so-called roads of Baluchistan are nothing more than narrow, beaten paths, as often as not entirely obliterated by swamp or brushwood. Beyond Noundra, where we left the main track to strike northwards for Gwarjak, there was absolutely nothing to guide us but occasional landmarks by day and the stars at night.

Barring the intense monotony, the journey was not altogether unenjoyable. To reach Noundra it took us five days. This may appear slow work, but quicker progress is next to impossible in a country where, even on the regular caravan-road, the guides are constantly losing the track, and two or three hours are often wasted in regaining it. The first two or three days of the journey lay through swampy ground, through which the camels made their way with difficulty, for a cat on the ice in walnut-shells is less awkward than a camel in mud. Broad deep swamps alternating with tracts of sandy desert, with nothing to relieve the monotonous landscape but occasional clumps of "feesh," a stunted palm about three feet in height, and rough cairns of rock erected by travellers to mark the pathway where it had become obliterated, sufficiently describes the scenery passed through for the first three days after leaving Beila. Large stones accurately laid out in circles of eighteen or twenty feet in diameter were also met with at intervals of every two miles or so by the side of the track, and this very often in districts where nothing was visible but a boundless waste of loose, drifting sand. Our Baluchis could not or would not explain theraison d'etre of them, though the stones must, in many instances, have been brought great distances and for a definite purpose. I could not, however, get any explanation regarding them at either Kelat or Quetta.

With the exception of the Lakh Pass leading over a chain of hills about eighteen miles due west of Beila, the road to Noundra was as flat as a billiard-table. The crossing of the Lakh, however, was not accomplished without much difficulty and some danger; for the narrow pathway, leading over rocky, almost perpendicular, cliffs, three to four hundred feet high, had, in places, almost entirely crumbled away. The summits of these cliffs present a curious appearance - fifty to sixty needle-like spires, hardly a couple of feet thick at the top, which look as if the hand of man and not of nature had placed them in the symmetrical order in which they stand, white and clear-cut against the deep-blue sky, slender and fragile as sugar ornaments, and looking as though a puff of wind would send them toppling over. The ascent was terribly hard work for the camels, and, as the track is totally unprotected by guard-rail of any kind, anything but comfortable for their riders. Towards the summit we met a couple of these beasts laden with tobacco from Kej, in charge of a wild-looking fellow in rags, as black as a coal, who eyed us suspiciously, and answered in sulky monosyllables when asked where he hailed from. His merchandise, consisting of four small bags, seemed hardly worth the carrying, but Kej tobacco fetches high prices in Beila. At this point the pathway had latterly been widened by order of the Djam. Formerly, if two camels travelling in opposite directions met, their respective owners drew lots. The animal belonging to the loser was then sacrificed and pushed over the precipice to clear the way for the other.

In the wet season a foaming torrent dashes through the Valley of Lakh, but this was, at the time of my visit, a dry bed of rock and shingle. Indeed, although we were fairly fortunate as regard wells, and I was never compelled to put the caravan on short allowance, I did not pass a single stream of running water the whole way from Sonmiani to Dhaira, twenty miles south of Gwarjak, though we must in that distance have crossed at least fifteen dry river-beds, varying from twenty to eighty yards in width.

Travelling in the daytime soon became impossible, on account of the heat, as we proceeded further inland. A start was therefore generally made before it was light, and by 11 a.m. the day's work was over, tents pitched, camels turned loose, and a halt made till three or four the next morning. Though the sun at midday was, with the total absence of shade, dangerously powerful, and converted the interior of our canvas tents into the semblance of an oven, there was little to complain of as regards weather. The nights were deliciously cool, and the pleasantest part of, the twenty-four hours was perhaps that from 8 till 10 a.m., when, dinner over and camp-fires lit, the Baluchis enlivened the caravan with song and dance. Baluch music is, though wild and mournful, pleasing. Some of the escort had fine voices, and sang to the accompaniment of a low, soft pipe, their favourite instrument. Gerome was in great request on these occasions, and, under the influence of some fiery raki, of which he seemed to have an unlimited stock, would have trolled out "Matoushka Volga" and weird Cossack ditties till the stars were paling, if not suppressed. As it was, one got little enough rest, what with the heat and flies at midday, and, at the halt about 8 a.m., the shouting, hammering of tent-pegs, and braying of camels that went on till the sun was high in the heavens.

There is a so-called town or village, Jhow (situated about twenty miles east of Noundra), in a sparsely cultivated plain of the same name. Barley and wheat are grown by means of irrigation from the Jhow river, which in the wet season is of considerable size. I had expected to find, at Jhow, some semblance of a town or village, as the Wazir of Beila had told me that the place contained a population of four or five hundred, and it is plainly marked on all Government maps. But I had yet to learn that a Baluch "town," or even village, of forty or fifty inhabitants often extends over a tract of country many miles in extent. The "town" of Jhow, for instance, is spread over a plain thirty-five miles long by fourteen broad, in little clusters of from two to six houses. A few tiny patches of green peeping out of the yellow sand and brushwood, a wreath of grey smoke rising lazily here and there at long intervals over the plain, a few camels and goats browsing in the dry, withered herbage by the caravan-track, showed that there were inhabitants; but we saw no dwellings, and only one native, a woman, who, at sight of Gerome, who gallantly rode forward to address her, turned and fled as if she had seen the evil one. Noundra, which was reached on the 30th of March, was a mere repetition of Jhow. Neither houses nor natives were visible, though we passed occasional patches of cultivated ground. About five miles west of this we left the beaten track and struck out due north for Gwarjak, which, according to my calculation, lay about seventy miles distant.

[Footnote A: The traveller Masson says that the word Brahui is a corruption of Ba-roh-i, meaning literally, "of the waste."]

[Footnote B: These rings are sometimes so heavy that they are attached to a band at the top of the head to lessen the weight on the nostril.]

[Footnote C: A town in Western Baluchistan.]

[Footnote D: The word "Mekran" is said to be derived from "Mahi-Kharan," or "Fish-eaters," which food the inhabitants of this maritime province subsisted on in Alexander's time, and do still.]

[Footnote E: Russian, "Fool."]