218 JOTJBNEYS IN PERSIA LETTER xxvi
But beautiful Urmi, far as the eye can reach, is one
oasis. From Turkman onwards the plain becomes more
and more attractive, the wood-embosomed villages closer
together, the variety of trees greater. Irrigation canals
shaded by fruit trees, and irrigation ditches bordered by
reeds, carry water in abundance all through the plain.
Swampy streams abound. Fair stretches of smooth green
sward rejoice the eye. Big buffaloes draw heavy carts
laden with the teeming produce of the black, slimy,
bountiful soil from the fields into the villages. Wheat,
maize, beans, melons, gourds, potatoes, carrots, turnips,
beets, capsicum, chilis, Iringals, lady's fingers, castor-oil
(for burning), cotton, madder, salsify, scorzonera, celery,
oil-seeds of various sorts, opium, and tobacco all flourish.
The orchards are full of trees which almost merit the
epithet noble. Noble indeed are the walnuts, and
beautiful are the pomegranates, the apricots, the apples,
the peach and plum trees, and glorious are the vineyards
with their foliage, which, like that of the cherry and pear,'
is passing away in scarlet and gold. Nature has perfected
her work and rests. It is autumn in its glories, but
without its gloom.
Men, women, and children are all busy. Here the
wine-press is at work, there girls are laying clusters of
grapes on terraces prepared for the purpose, to dry for
raisins; women1 are gathering cotton and castor-oil seeds,
little boys are taking buffaloes to bathe, men are driv-
ing and loading buffalo-carts, herding mares, ploughing
and trenching, and in the innumerable villages the store-
houses are being filled; the herbs and chilis are hanging
from the roofs to dry, the women are making large cakes
of animal fuel (of which they have sufficient for export),
and are building it into great conical stacks, the crones
are spinning in the sun, and the swaddled infants bound
1 Christian women and girls share the work of the fields with the men.