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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

On arriving at Girdi altitude 2


[Illustration: View of Sher-i-Rustam from Rustam's House. (South-east section of City.)]

We had a glorious sunset on that evening, not unlike an aurora borealis, in brilliant rays of light radiating from a central point. The sun had already disappeared behind the blue mountain chain, and each bright vermilion ray had like a fish bone or like a peacock's feather, myriads of cross off-shoots in the shape of lighter sprays of light. There was a brilliant yellow glow which tinted the blue sky and made it appear of various gradations, from bright yellow at the lower portion to various delicate shades of green in the centre, blending again into a pure deep cobalt blue high up in the sky, and on this glorious background the feathery vermilion sprays shot up to half way across the celestial vault. Other smaller sprays of vivid yellow light flared up in a crescent nearer the mountain edge.

It was quite a glorious sight, unimpeded by the grand spread of sand in the foreground and a patch or two of humble tamarisks.

The rapidity with which night descends upon the desert, is, as we noticed several times, quite amazing. There was hardly any twilight at all. In a few seconds this beautiful spectacle vanished as by enchantment, and was converted into a most mournful sight. The vermilion feathery sprays, now deprived of the sun's light upon them, were converted into so many gigantic black feathers--of rather funereal appearance--and the emerald green sky became of a dead leaden white. The deep blue, fringed with red and yellow, of the radiant mountains had now turned into a sombre, blackish-grey.

About four miles before reaching Girdi a track branches off, which avoids that place altogether, and rejoins the track again one mile south of Girdi, thus saving a considerable detour.

Our march that day had been from Warmal to Mahommed Raza-Chah (altitude 2,100 feet), eight miles, and from that place to Girdi-chah, twenty-eight miles. The track between the two latter stations was perfectly level, and on _jumbaz_ camels going at a good pace the journey had occupied eight hours and a half.

On arriving at Girdi (altitude 2,200 feet), the Beluch _sawar_ whom I had taken as guide from Mahommed Raza Chah, and my Beluch driver had a most touching scene on meeting some Beluch of a caravan travelling in the opposite direction to mine and camping at Girdi for the night.

The men hastily dismounted from their camels, put their heads together and pressed each the other's right hand, holding it on the heart.

"It is my brother!" cried my camel man, and then followed another outburst of effusion on the brother's part, who seized my hand in both his and shook it heartily for a considerable time. The others followed suit.

There is nothing that an Afghan or a Beluch likes better than a good hearty hand-shake.

CHAPTER XXVII

Girdi-chah, a desolate spot--Its renowned water--Post-houses and Persian Customs soldiers--Nawar-chah and its well--The salt river Shela--Its course--Beautiful colours in salt crystals--Tamarisks--The Kuh-i-Malek-Siah--The loftiest mountain--Afghans--Hormak, a picturesquely situated post station--A natural pyramid of rock--Natural fortresses--The Malek-Siah Ziarat--Where three coveted countries meet--The hermit--The evolution of a sand hill--Parallel sand dunes--In Beluchistan--Robat, the most north-easterly British post.


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