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manent Turkish authority, under whose protection we feel
To return to our journey. The second day's ride was over a succession of mountain spurs which crossed our path; as soon as we reached the summit of one, we saw another rising before, with yet another and another lifting its head above its fellow's, until the last blue sky-line was lost in the distant horizon. The principal range of the Taurus to the north of us appeared like a wall of adamant, confining us to the southern portion of the country, with no perceptible path to escape through in the direction we so earnestly desired. The valleys between the ridges were narrow and very fertile, each having a fine stream of water bordered with splendid flowers.
We saw but very few inhabitants, and those occupying miserable huts. There was but little cultivation, and that of the most primitive character. Across the valleys there were no distinct traces of road or path; but over the mountains we found the remains of what once had been a very superior paved road, though not a carriage-way.
It would, perhaps, have been much less dangerous for us had there been no traces left of this ruinous road; for then we should have depended entirely on the sagacity of our animals to select the most convenient course. It appears, from inscriptions on marble tablets inserted in the walls which support the road, that these great "internal improvements" were made by one of the califs of Bagdad a thousand years ago. From their present dilapidated appearance, and from the well-known "let alone" system of the barbarian conquerors from Turkestan, it is fair to presume that no repairs have been made for several centuries to these roads, so essential to intercommunication between the various provinces.
In many places the pavement, where it skirted the side of a ravine, was entirely washed away, and deep gulleys were
formed, over which we were obliged to leap our horses, oftentimes at the imminent risk of breaking our necks. The loaded horses would sometimes go down headlong, while at other times they were enabled to reach the opposite side of the gap with their fore feet, but, before they could gather their hind legs under them, they would lose their balance and make a summerset backward, falling on our devoted canteen boxes and dashing them to pieces, making sad inroads on our stock of wines; tea, coffee, rice, and other dry stores could be recovered, but the liquids were irreclaimably lost. We would at times dismount at very alarming places, and make our way over them as best we could on foot; but this we found even more dangerous than leaping them on horseback.
At night we encamped in the midst of one of the most beautiful places I ever beheld. After we had retired to rest we were awakened by the roaring of a violent gust of wind and the shaking of our frail tenement, which threatened to come down upon our heads. We roused all our followers, and directed them to "lengthen our cords and strengthen our stakes," by which precaution we were enabled to bid defiance to the element for the remainder of the night.
My thoughts now returned to our little vessel, and the recollection of the gale we had experienced while on board of her quite reconciled me to our present situation, where we had but one element to contend with at a time.
The next morning a most glorious scene presented itself to us, which we had not observed in the dusk of the evening before. We were in the midst of a paradise of flowers, of such magnificent appearance, unusual size, and profusion of quantity, that, were I to relate to you a tithe of what I saw of these splendid productions of nature, you might think I was drawing largely upon my imagination, or appropriating some of the scenes described in the Arabian Nights. Were I to tell you that I have seen oleander-trees twenty-five feet
in height, you might accuse me of "drawing a bow" of equal dimensions; nevertheless, such is the fact; for, not willing to trust to our senses, nor having the means of making a trigonometrical measurement of their elevation while standing, we caused one to be cut down, and found it to be of the height before stated, and the body of it six inches in diame ter; about ten feet of the latter we have brought away, with the intention of taking it home with us. This was only one of many, many thousands which we could see at one glance.
Very few stood singly, but, as far as the eye could reach, we could see them bordering each side of a stream of water, as in Palestine, only of far greater dimensions and in greater numbers.
In the latter country we only saw them near streams of water, but here we find them also in the midst of the plains. But the most extraordinary and almost incredible thing for you to realize from my description is this:
Here was a plain fifteen miles in circumference, which seemed more like a land of enchantment than like anything that one can realize from the limited observations one is in the habit of making in countries where Flora is less prodigal of her favours. It seemed to me as if I was in a land where giants had been amusing themselves in arranging and cultivating parterres by the square mile, instead of by the square foot, as we do.
Distributed over this plain in all directions were groves of oleanders, from ten to one thousand feet in diameter. At the outer extremes of these circles and ovals the trees were not more than one foot in height, and in the centre they were of the loftiest dimensions.
The smaller plots resembled beautiful cones, while the larger ones appeared like mounds of roses, so entirely were they covered with flowers. The leaves of the larger trees measured fourteen inches in length by two and a half in diameter.
So delighted were we with this grand floral display, that we coursed our horses round and round them in ecstasies, plucking handfuls of flowers, and strewing them on the verdant carpet beneath our feet.
The day began to waste away, and we had not yet made a mile of progress on our road; and our guide informed us that we should find subjects enough of this nature to engage our attention on every side of us during the whole day, if we proceeded onward. We then took up our line of march, and other scenes of a far more pleasing and not less extraordinary nature presented themselves to our astonished gaze during the remainder of our day's journey.
We rode through forests of flowering trees in full blossom, of such rare beauty and splendid intermixture of species and colours, and of such overpowering fragrance, that we really supposed ourselves in the midst of
"The gardens of Gul in her bloom."
Here were the pomegranate, with its incipient blossom, its full-expanded, bright scarlet flower and beautiful fruit; the myrtle in full bloom, limes and orange trees in blossom and in fruit, with many others.
What with us are but mere shrubs, cultivated with the greatest care, and demanding constant attention, are here literally standing trees of large dimensions; around the bodies of these are seen a great variety of flowering creepers, honeysuckles, jessamines, &c., &c., which, reaching to the topmost branches, hang in festoons from tree to tree, so thickly that sometimes it was with much difficulty we could make our way through them.
Our attention was attracted to another singular appearance in the vegetable kingdom; we rode to it, and found it to be a vast field of heath and broom plants, of so great a size that we could not at first believe our eyes, and that what we beheld was really the Scotch heather fifteen feet in height,
A GLIMPSE OF FAIRY LAND.
with bodies measuring six and nine inches in circumference of solid wood. But upon close examination we found that we were not in error.
The whole field, which was of great extent, was covered with blossoms. We saw many other fields of the same kind
There was too much enchantment about all this scene for us to hasten from it, so we encamped early in the day in order quietly to luxuriate on the beauties of this Eden.
We chose a spot by the side of a beautiful lake, and caused all our followers to take up a position at some distance from us, where we could neither see them, nor experience any interruption from their noise or anything else appertaining to the vulgar business of life. Under the shade of one of the most beautiful of the trees I have described, we spread our carpets, and as a delightful breeze from the lake was agitating the branches, we were constantly fanned by festoons of odoriferous flowers. With a glass of cool sherbet in one hand and Lalla Rookh in the other, it was not diffi cult to imagine myself in the vale of Cachemere.
After dinner we took a stroll along the margin of the lake, and when the shades of evening began to close around us, I expected certainly to hear
"The voice of the nightingale which never is mute,"
but I was disappointed. Indeed, we have observed neither bird nor animal since we landed in Asia Minor, except the migrating herons.
During the last two days we crossed several streams, one of which was a river of considerable magnitude; and, from the appearance of the valley, which on each side of the river was covered with the debris of the mountains from which it flows, it must be full a mile in width in the rainy season. The stream was still broad and deep, and we were a long time in finding a safe place at which to ford it. I never