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216                     JOURNEYS IN PERSIA          LETTER xxvi

mountains, which recede considerably, and descend upon
it in low rounded buff slopes or downs, over which the
track, keeping near the water, lies. There was not a
green thing, not a bush, or house, or flock of sheep, or
horseman, or foot passenger along the miles of road
which were visible from that point. The water lay in
the mocking beauty of its brilliant colouring, a sea with-
out a shore, without a boat, without a ripple or flash of
foam, lifeless utterly, dead from all time past to all time
to come. Dead, too, it is on closer acquaintance, and its
odour, which can be discerned three miles off, is that
odour of corruption known to science as sulphuretted
hydrogen. Now and then there is a shore, a shallow
bay or inlet, in which the lake, driven by the east wind,
evaporates, leaving behind it a glaring crust of salt,
beyond which a thick, bubbly, blackish-green scum lies on
the blue water. In such places only the expressive old-
fashioned word stench can describe the odour, which was
strong enough nearly to knock over the servants and
charvadars. No description can give an idea of the
effluvium which is met with here and there beside this
great salt lake, which has a length of eighty miles and
an average breadth of twenty-four.

A few miles from Dissa the lake-water is brought into
tanks and evaporated, and many donkeys were being loaded
with the product, which, like all salt which is sold in
Persia, is impure, and for European use always requires
a domestic and tedious process of purification.

After a solitude of several miles villages appear, lying
off the road in folds of the hills, which gradually recede
so far as to leave a plain some miles broad and very
fertile. At the end of an eleven hours' march we reached
the important village of Dissa, with large houses and
orchards, abundant water, a detachment of soldiers as a
garrison, a resident proprietor's house, to which in his