LETTER xxvin STERN KEALITIES 267
to load, and the Kurdish ketcliuda, with his horsemen,
declined to start till an hour after sunrise, because he
could not earlier "tell friends from foes." The ground
was covered with hoar-frost, and the feathery foliage of
the tamarisk was like the finest white coral.
Turning into the mountains, we spent nine hours
in a grand defile, much wooded, where a difficult
path is shut in with the Marbishu torrent. The Kurds
left us at Bani, when two fine fellows became our pro-
tectors as far as a small stream, crossing which we
entered Turkey. At a Kurdish semi-subterranean village,
over which one might ride without knowing it, a splen-
didly-dressed young Khan emerged from one of the
burrows, and said he would give us guards, but they
would not go farther than a certain village, where two
of his men had been killed three days before. " There
is blood between us and them," he said. After that, for
five hours up to Marbishu, the scenery is glorious. The
valley narrows into a picturesque gorge between precipi-
tous mountains, from 2000 to 4000 feet above the river,
on the sides of which a narrow and occasionally scaffolded
path is carried, not always passable for laden mules.
Many grand ravines came down upon this gorge, their
dwarf trees, orange, tawny, and canary-yellow, mingled
with rose-red leafage. The rose bushes are covered with
masses of large carnation-red hips, the bramble trailers
are crimson and gold, the tamarisk is lemon - yellow.
Nature, like the dolphin, is most beautiful in dying.
The depths were filled with a blue gloom, the needle-
like peaks which tower above glittered with new-fallen
snow, the air was fresh and intoxicating—it was the
romance of travel. But it soon became apparent that
we were among stern and even perilous realities. A
notorious robber chief was disposed to bar our passage.
His men had just robbed a party of travellers, and were