The lower part of the Sind Valley is in nowise interesting; the way was both tedious and hot, and we rejoiced greatly when, having crossed the Sind River, we found a lovely spring and halted for tiffin. After an hour's rest we followed the main road a little farther, and then, passing the mouth of the Chittagul Nullah, turned up the Wangat Valley. The scenery became finer, and the last hour's march along a steep mountain-side, with the Wangat River far below on our right, was a great improvement on what we had left behind us.
The little village of Wangat, perched upon a steep spur above the river, was woefully deficient of anything like a good camping-ground. We finally selected a small bare rice patch, which, though extremely "knubbly," had the merits of being almost level, moderately remote from the village and its smells, and quite close to a perfect spring.
Yesterday we achieved a really early start, leaving Wangat at 4.15, the path being weirdly illuminated by extempore torches made of pine-wood which the shikari had prepared. A moderately level march of some three miles brought us to the ruined temples of Vernag and the beginning of our work, for here the path, turning sharply to the left, led us inexorably up the almost precipitous face of the mountain by means of short zigzags.
It was a stiff pull. The sun was now peering triumphantly over the hills on the far side of the valley, and the path was (an extraordinary thing in Kashmir) excessively dusty. Up and on we panted, Jane partly supported by having the bight of the shikari's puggaree round her waist while he towed her by the ends.
There was no relaxation of the steep gradient, no water, and no shade, and the height to be surmounted was 4000 feet.
If the longest lane has a turning, so the highest hill has a top, and we came at last to the blissful point where the path deigned to assume an approach to the horizontal, and led us to the most delightful spring in Kashmir! The water, ice-cold and clear, gushes out of a crevice in the rock, and with the joy of wandering Israelites we threw ourselves on the ground, basked in the glorious mountain air, and shouted for the tiffin basket.
Only the faithful "Yellow Bag" was forthcoming, the tiffin coolie being still "hull down," and from its varied contents we extracted the only edibles, apricots and rock cakes.
Never have we enjoyed any meal more than that somewhat light breakfast, washed down by water which was a pure joy to drink.
Alas! There were but two rock cakes apiece! Another half-hour's clamber, along a pretty rough track, brought us to a point whence we looked down a long green slope to our destination, Tronkol—a few Gujar huts, indistinct amidst a clump of very ancient birch-trees, standing out as a sort of oasis among the bare and boulder-strewn slopes.
The view was superb. To the right, the mountain-side fell steeply to where, in the depths of the Wangat Nullah, a tiny white thread marked the river foaming 4000 feet below, and beyond rose a jagged range of spires and pinnacles, snow lying white at the bases of the dark precipices. "These are the savage wilds" which bar the route from the Wangat into Tilail and the Upper Sind.
Over Tronkol, bare uplands, rising wave above wave, shut out the view of Gangabal and the track over into the Erin Nullah and down to Bandipur.
On our left towered the bastions of Haramok, his snow-crowned head rising grimly into the clear blue sky.
We pitched our camp at Tronkol about two o'clock, on a green level some little way beyond the Gujar huts, and just above a stream which picked its riotous way along a bed of enormous boulders, sheltered to a certain extent by a fringe of hoary birches.
We had never beheld such great birches as these, many of them, alas! mere skeletons of former grandeur, whose whitening limbs speak eloquently of a hundred years of ceaseless struggle with storm and tempest.
I saw no young ones springing up to replace these dying warriors. The Gujars and their buffaloes probably prevent any youthful green thing from growing. It seems a pity.
Towards evening we observed baggage ponies approaching, and at the sight we felt aggrieved; for, in our colossal selfishness, we fancied that Tronkol was ours, and ours alone. A small tent was pitched, and presently to our surly eyes appeared a lonely lady, who proceeded solemnly to play Patience in front of it while her dinner was being got ready.
A visit of ceremony, and an invitation to share our "irishystoo" and camp-fire, brought Mrs. Locock across, and we made the acquaintance of a lady well known for her prowess as a shikari throughout Kashmir—
"There hunted 'she' the walrus, the narwal, and the seal. Ah! 'twas a noble game, And, like the lightning's flame; Flew our harpoons of steel"
I cannot resist the quotation, but I do not really think Mrs. Locock hunts walruses in Kashmir, and I know she doesn't use a harpoon. No matter, she proved a cheery and delightful companion, and we entirely forgave her for coming to Tronkol and poaching on our preserves.
We were extremely amused at the surprise she expressed at Jane's feat in climbing from Wangat. Evidently Jane's reputation is not that of a bullock-workman in Srinagar!
This morning we all three went to see Lake Gangabal. An easy path leads over some three or four miles of rolling down to our destination, which is one of a whole chain of lakes—or rather tarns—which lie under the northern slopes of Haramok.
We came first upon a small piece of water, lying blue and still in the morning sun, and from which a noisy stream poured forth its glacier water. This we had a good deal of trouble in crossing, the ladies being borne on the broad backs of coolies, in attitudes more quaint than graceful. A second and deeper stream being safely forded, we climbed a low ridge to find Gangabad stretched before us—a smooth plane of turquoise blue and pale icy green, beneath the dark ramparts of Haramok, whose "eagle-baffling" crags and glittering glaciers rose six thousand sheer feet above. In the foreground the earth, still brown, and only just released from its long winter covering of snow, bore masses of small golden ranunculus and rose-hued primulas.
An extraordinary sense of silence and solitude filled one—no birds or beasts were visible, and only the tinkle of tiny rills running down to the lake, and the distant clamour of the infant river, broke, or rather accentuated, the loneliness of the scene.
We had brought breakfast with us, and after eating it we made haste to recross the two rivers, because, troublesome as they were to ford in the morning, they would certainly grow worse with every hour of ice-melting sunshine.
Once more on the camp side, however, we strolled along in leisurely mood, staying to lunch on top of the ridge overlooking Tronkol. I left the ladies then to find their leisurely way back among the flowery hollows, and made for a peak overlooking the head of the Chittagul Nullah. A sharp climb up broken rocks and over snow slopes brought me to the top, a point some 13,500 feet above the sea. In front of me Haramok, seamed with snow-filled gullies, still towered far above; immediately below, the saddle—brown, bare earth, snow-streaked—divided the Chittagul Nullah from Tronkol. Far away down the valley the Sind River gleamed like a silver thread in the afternoon light, and beyond, the Wular lay a pale haze in the distance.
To the northward rose the fantastic range of peaks that overhang the Wangat gorge, and almost below my feet, at a depth of some 1500 feet, lay a sombre lakelet, steely dark and still, in the shadow of the ridge upon which I sat.
The sun was going down fast into a fleecy bed of clouds, amid which I knew that Nanga Parbat lay swathed from sight. To see that mountain monarch had been the chief object of my climb, so, recognising that the sight of him was a hope deferred, I made haste to scramble down to the tarn below, stopping here and there to fill my pith hat with wild rhubarb, and to pick or admire the new and always fascinating wild flowers as I passed. Large-flowered, white anemones; tiny gentian, with vivid small blue blossoms; loose-flowered, purple primulas, and many strange and novel blossoms starred the grassy patches, or filled the rocky crevices with abundant beauty.
By the lake side the moisture-loving, rose-coloured primula reappeared in masses, and as I followed down its outgoing stream towards the camp, I waded through a tangle of columbine, white and blue; a great purple salvia, arnica, and a profusion of varied flowers in rampant bloom.
Saturday, July 8.—An early start homewards yesterday, in the cold dawn, rewarded us by the sight of the first beams of the rising sun lighting up the threefold head of Haramok with an unspeakable glory, as we crossed the open boulder-strewn uplands, before descending into the nullah, which lay below us still wrapped in a mysterious purple haze. The downward zigzags, with their uncompromising steepness, proved almost as tiring as the ascent had been, and we were more than ready for breakfast by the time we reached the ruined temples of Vernag.
These temples, built probably about the beginning of the eighth century, are, like all the others which I have seen in Kashmir, small, and somewhat uninteresting, except to the archaeologist. They consist, invariably, of a "cella" containing the object of veneration, the lingam, surmounted by a high-pitched conical stone roof. In structure they show apparently signs of Greek influence in the doorways, and the triangular pediments above them. Phallic worship would seem to have been always confined to these temples, with ophiolatry—the nagas or water-snake deities being accommodated in sacred tanks, in the midst of which the early Kashmir temples were usually placed.
Any one who wishes to study the temple architecture of Kashmir cannot do better than read Fergusson's Indian Architecture, wherein he will find all the information he wants.
To the ordinary "man in the street" the ancient buildings of Kashmir do not appeal, either by their aesthetic value or by the dignity of size. Martand, the greatest, and probably the finest, both in point of grandeur and of situation, I regret to say, I did not see; but the temples at Bhanyar, Pandrettan, and Wangat resemble one another closely in design and general insignificance. The position of the Wangat ruins, embosomed in the wild tangle
"Of a steep wilderness, whose airy sides With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild, Access denied; and overhead up grew Insuperable height of loftiest shade, Cedar, and pine, and fir,"
and seated at the base of a solemn circle of mountains, gives the group of tottering shrines a picturesqueness and importance which I cannot concede that they would otherwise have had.
I do not remember ever to have seen it noted that all buildings which are impressive by the mere majesty of size are to be found in plains and not in mountainous countries. This is probably due to two causes. The one being the denser population of the fat plains, whereby a greater concourse of builders and of worshippers would be sustained, and the other being the—probably unconscious—instinct which debarred the architect from attempting to vie with nature in the mountains and impel him to work out his most majestic designs amid wide and level horizons.
The fact remains, whatever may be the cause, that architecture has never been advanced much beyond the mere domestic in very mountainous regions, with the exception of the mediaeval strongholds, which formed the nucleus of every town or village, where a point d'appui was required against invasion, for the protection of the community.
Breakfast, followed by a prowl among the ruins and a short space for sketching, gave the sun time to pour his beams with quite unpleasant insistence into the confined fold in the hills, where we began to gasp until the ladies mounted their ponies, and we took our way down the valley, crossing the river below Wangat, and keeping along the left bank to Vernaboug, where we camped, the only incident of any importance being the sad loss of Jane's field-glasses, which, carried by her syce in a boot-bag, were dropped in a stream by that idiot while crossing, he having lost his footing in a pool, and, clutching wildly at the pony's reins, let go the precious binoculars.
This morning we were up betimes, Mrs. Locock having ordained a bear "honk"! This was, to me, a new departure in shikar, and truly it was amusing to see the shikari, bursting with importance, mustering the forty half-naked coolies whom he had collected to beat. A couple of men with tom-toms slung round their necks completed the party, which marched in straggling procession out of the village at dawn.
A mile of easy walking brought us to the rough jungly cliffs, seamed with transverse nullahs, narrow and steep, which bordered the river. Here we were placed in passes, with great caution and mystery, by the shikari and his chief-of-the-staff—the "oldest inhabitant" of Vernaboug; and here we sat in the morning stillness until a distant clamour and the faint beating of tom-toms afar off made us sit up more warily, and watch eagerly for the expected bear.
The yells increase, and the tom-toms, vigorously banged, seem calculated to fuss any self-respecting bear into fits. We watch a narrow space between two bushes some dozen yards away, and see that the Mannlicher across our knees and the smooth-bore, ball loaded in the right and chokeless barrel, lie handy for instant use.
Hidden in the dense jungle, some hundred yards below, sits Mrs. Locock on the matted top of a hazel, while Jane, chittering with suppressed excitement, crouches a few paces behind me.
The beaters approach, and pandemonium reigns. A few scared birds dart past, but no bear comes; and when the first brown body shows among the brushwood we shout to stop the uproar, and all move on to another beat.
Four "honks" produced nothing, so far as I was concerned; but a bear—according to her shikari—passed close by Mrs. Locock, so thickly screened by jungle that she couldn't see it. This may be so, but Kashmir shikaris have remarkably vivid imaginations.
After a delightful morning to all parties concerned—for we were much amused, the coolies were adequately paid, and the bear wasn't worried—we returned to breakfast, and then marched fifteen hot miles into Gunderbal, where we found the Smithsons, with whom we dined. They have been in Gurais and the Tilail district ever since they left Srinagar on the 24th April, and have had an adventurous and difficult time, with plenty of snow and torrents and avalanches, but somewhat poor sport.
This is not according to one's preconceived ideas of shikar in Kashmir, as they went into a nullah which no sahib had penetrated for five years; they had the best shikari in Kashmir (he said it, and he ought to know); they worked very hard, and their bag consisted of one or two moderate ibex and a red bear.
Tuesday, July 11.—On Sunday morning the combined fleet sailed for Palhallan. The Smithsons had a "matted dounga," and she "walked away" from our heavier ark down the winding Sind at a great pace. We reached Shadipur at 11 A.M., but the Smithsons had "gone before," so, crossing the Jhelum, we made after them in hot pursuit, and reached them and Palhallan at sunset.
A narrow canal, bordered by low swampy marshland, allowed us to get within a mile of the village and tie up among the shallows, whereupon the mosquitoes gathered from far and near, and fell upon us.
The final packing, effected amid a hungry crowd of little piping fiends, was a veritable nightmare, and yesterday morning we rescued our mangled remains from the enemy, and, having paid off our boats, hurriedly clambered on to the ponies which had come—late, as usual—from Palhallan to convey what was left by the mosquitoes to Gulmarg.
The unfortunate Jane—always a popular person—is especially so with insects; and if there is a flea or a mosquito anywhere within range it immediately rushes to her.
She paid dearly for her fatal gift of attractiveness at Palhallan—her eyes, usually so keen, being what is vulgarly termed "bunged up," and every vulnerable spot in like piteous plight!
We quitted Palhallan as the Lot family quitted Sodom and Gomorrah, but with no lingering tendency to look backward; we cast our eyes unto the hills, and kicked the best pace we could out of our "tattoos," halting for breakfast soon after crossing the hot, white road which runs from Baramula to Srinagar.
As we left the steamy valley and wound up a rapidly ascending path among the lower fringes and outliers of the forest our spirits rose, and by the time we had clambered up the last stiff pull and emerged from the darkly-wooded track into the little clearing, where perches the village of Babamarishi, we were positively cheerful.
Once more the air was fresh and buoyant, the spring water was cool and "delicate to drink," and from our tents we could look out over the valley lying dim in a yellow heat-haze far below.
Babamarishi is a picturesquely-grouped collection of the usual rickety-looking wooden huts, no dirtier, but perhaps noisier than usual, owing to the presence of a very holy ziarat much frequented by loudly conversational devotees. We spent the crisp, warm afternoon peacefully stretched on the sloping sward in front of our tents, and making the acquaintance of the only good thing that came out of Palhallan—a charming quartette of young geese which Sabz Ali had bought and brought.
These delightful birds evinced the most perfect friendliness and confidence in us, and we became greatly attached to them. They and the fowls seemed excellent travellers, and after a long day's march would come up smiling, like the jackdaw of Rheims, "not a penny the worse."
This morning we had but a short and easy march from Babamarishi to Gulmarg, along a good road, through a fine forest of silver fir.
Somehow one's preconceived ideas of a place are almost always quite wrong, and so Gulmarg seemed quite different from what I had expected. It seemed all twisted the wrong way, and was really quite unlike the place which my imagination had evolved.
Turning through a narrow gap, we found ourselves facing a wide, green, undulating valley completely surrounded by dense fir forest. Beyond, to the left, rose the sloping bulk of Apharwat, one of the range of the Pir Panjal; while to the right low, wooded hillocks bounded the valley and fell, on their outward flanks, to the Kashmir plain.
Immediately in front of us a small village or bazaar swarmed with native life, and sloped down to a stream which wound through the hollows.
All round the edge of the forest a continuous ring of wooden huts and white tents showed that the "sahib" on holiday intent had marked Gulmarg for his own.
As we rode through the bazaar the view expanded. Apharwat showed all his somewhat disappointing face; his upper slopes, streaked with dirty snow, looked remarkably dingy when contrasted with the dazzling white clouds which went sailing past his uninteresting summit. The absence of all variety in form or light and shade, and the dull lines of his foreshortened front, made it hard to realise that he stood some five thousand feet above us.
Near the centre of the marg, on a small hill, was a large wooden building surrounded by many satellite huts and tents: this we rightly guessed to be Nedou's Hotel. Below, on a spur, was the little church, and to the right, in the hollow, the club-house faced the level polo-ground.
A winding stream, which we subsequently found to be perfectly ubiquitous, and an insatiable devourer of errant golf-balls, ran deviously through the valley, which seemed to be rather over a mile long, and almost equally wide.
The Smithsons rode away vaguely in search of a camping-ground; while we, having found out where our hut was, turned back and climbed a knoll behind the bazaar, and found ourselves in front of our future home, a very plain and roughly-built rectangular wooden hut, containing a small square room opening upon a verandah, and having a bedroom and bathroom on each side.
Such was our palace, and we were well satisfied with it.
The cook-house and servants' quarters were in a hut close by, and I could summon my retainers or chide them for undue chatter from my bedroom window—a serviceable short cut for the dinner, too, in wet and stormy weather!
Life at Gulmarg is extremely apt to degenerate into the "trivial round" of the golf links varied by polo, or polo varied by golf, with occasional gymkhanas and picnics. There are, doubtless, many delightful excursions to be made, but upon the whole it seems difficult to break far beyond the "Circular Road," a fairly level and well-kept bridle-path, which for eight beautiful miles winds through the pine forest, giving marvellous glimpses of snowy peaks and sunlit valleys.
The "Circular Road" is always fine, whether seen after rain, when, far below in the Ferozepore Nullah, the
"Swimming vapour slopes athwart the glen, Puts forth an arm, and creeps from pine to pine,"
or when in the evening sunlight the whole broad Valley of Kashmir lies glowing at our feet, ringed afar by the ethereal mountains whose pale snows stand faint in the golden light, until beneath the yellowing sky the clouds turn rosy, and from their midst Haramok and Kolahoi raise their proud heads towards the earliest star.
The expedition to the top of Apharwat is, in my opinion, hardly worth making, but then I was not very lucky in the weather. Major Cardew, R.F.A., and I arranged to do the climb together, and duly started one excessively damp and foggy morning towards the middle of July.
Taking our ponies, we scrambled up a rough path through the forest to Killanmarg, a boulder-strewn slope, some half a mile wide, which lies between the upper edge of the forest and the final slopes of the mountain.
Sending our ponies home, we set about the ascent of the 3500 feet that remained between us and our goal. The whole hillside was a perfect wild garden. Columbines, potentillas—yellow, bronze, and crimson—primulas, anemones, gentian, arnica, and quantities of unknown blossoms gave us ample excuse for lingering panting in the rarefied air, as we struggled through brushwood first, and then over loose rocks and finally slopes of shelving snow, before we found ourselves on the crest of the mountain, shivering slightly in the raw, foggy air.
Our view was narrowed down to the bleak slopes of rock and snow that immediately surrounded us, for our hope that we should get above the cloud belt was not fulfilled, and beyond a dismal tarn, lying just below us, in whose black waters forlorn little bergs of rotten snow floated, and a very much circumscribed view of dull tops swathed in flying mist, we saw nothing.
Had the sky been clear, I am told that the view would have been magnificent, but I should think probably no better than that from Killanmarg, as it is a mistake to suppose that a high, or at least too high, elevation "lends enchantment." As a rule the view is finer when seen half-way up a lofty mountain than that obtained from the summit.
We did not stay long upon the top of Apharwat discussing the best point of view, because Cardew sagaciously remarked that if it grew much thicker he wouldn't be answerable for finding the way down, and as I have a holy horror of rambling about strange (and possibly precipitous) mountains in a fog, we set about retracing our own footsteps in the snow until we regained the ridge we had come up by.
A remarkably wet couple we were when we presented ourselves at our respective front doors, just in time for a "rub down" before lunch!
The golf at Gulmarg is very good, the 18-hole course being exceedingly sporting, and tricky enough to defeat the very elect. Jane and I had conveyed our clubs out to Kashmir, knowing that they were likely to prove useful. I had also taken the precaution to pack up a box or two of balls, but I found my labour all in vain, as "Haskells" and "Kemshall-Arlingtons" were supplied by the club at precisely the same price as in England—viz., 1 r. 8 an., or two shillings.
New clubs are also cheap and in plenty, but repairs to old favourites are not always satisfactory. My pet driver, having been damaged, was very evilly treated by the native craftsman, who bound up its wounds with large screws!
The mountains of Kashmir have been a constant joy to us. Varying with every change of light and shade, custom cannot stale their infinite variety; but as yet I had not seen the great monarch of Chilas, Nanga Parbat.
In July and early August he is rarely visible from Gulmarg, owing to the haziness of the atmosphere. One clear morning, however, towards the end of July, after a night of rain and storm, I was strolling along the Circular Road when, lo! far away in the north-west, soaring ethereal above the blue ranges that overlook Gurais, above the cloud-banks floating beyond their summits, the great mountain, unapproachable in his glory, stood revealed.
The early morning sun struck full on his untrodden snows, making it hard to realise that eighty-five miles of air separated me from that clear-cut peak. Soon, very soon, a light cloud clung to his eastern face, and within ten minutes the whole vision had faded into an up-piled tower of seething clouds.
Later in the season, as the air grew clearer, Jane and I made almost daily pilgrimages to the point, only a few minutes' walk from our hut, whence, framed by a foreground of columnar pines, Nanga Parbat could generally be seen for a time in the morning.
Tuesday, August 1.—Society in Gulmarg is particularly cheery, as indeed might be expected where two or three hundred English men and women are gathered together to amuse themselves and lay in a fresh store of health and energy before returning to the routine of duty in the plains.
There have been many picnics lately, the little glades or margs, which are frequent in the forest slopes, being ideal places of rendezvous for merrymakers on horse or foot. Picnics of all sorts and sizes, from the little impromptu gatherings of half-a-dozen congenial young souls (always an even number, please), who ride off into the romantic shades to nibble biscuits and make tea, to the dainty repasts provided by a hospitable lady, whose official hut overlooks the Ferozepore Nullah, and who, in turn, overlooks her cook, to the great gratification of her guests.
How small a thing will upset the best-laid plans of hospitality! It is said that a most carefully planned picnic, where all the little tables, set for two, were discreetly screened apart among the bushes, was entirely ruined by a piratical damsel undertaking a cutting-out expedition for the capture of the hostess' best young man.
Our evenings are by no means dull. On many a starlit night has Jane mounted the noble steed which, through the kindness of the Resident, we have hired from the "State," and ridden across the marg attended by her slaves (her husband and the ancient shikari, to wit), to dine and play bridge in some hospitable hut, or dance or see theatricals at Nedou's Hotel.
Last week we tore ourselves away from our daily golf, and joined the Smithsons in a futile expedition to the foot of the Ferozepore Nullah for bear. Three days we spent in vain endeavour to find "baloo," and on the fourth we wended our toilsome way up the hill again to Gulmarg.
Monday, August 27.—There are drawbacks as well as advantages in being perched, as it were, just above the bazaar. Its proximity enables our good Sabz Ali to sally forth each morning and secure the earliest consignment of "butter and eggs and a pound of cheese," which has come up from Srinagar, and select the best of the fruit and vegetables. It affords also an interesting promenade for the geese, who solemnly march down the main street daily for recreation and such stray articles of food as may be found in the heterogeneous rubbish-heaps.
It possesses, however, a superabundance of pi-dogs, who gather together on the slope in front of our hut in the watches of the night, and serenade us to a maddening extent.
The natives, too, have a sinful habit of chattering and shouting at an hour when all well-conducted persons should be steeped in their beauty sleep.
A few nights ago this culminated in what Keats would have called a "purple riot." The sweeper and his friends were holding a meeting for the purpose of conversation and the consumption of apple brandy.
Having fruitlessly sent the shikari to try and stop the insufferable noise, I was fain to sally forth myself to investigate matters.
Then to a happy and light-hearted party seated chattering round a blazing fire there came suddenly the unwelcome apparition of an exceedingly irate sahib, in evening dress and pumps, brandishing a khudstick.
A wild scurry, in which the bonfire was scattered, a few remarks in forcible English, a whack which just missed the hindmost reveller, and the place became a deserted village.
Next morning Sabz Ali came to me in a towering rage to report that the sweeper—that unclean outcast—had dared to say most opprobrious things to him, being inspired thereto by the devil and apple brandy. Nothing less than the immediate execution of the culprit by hanging, drawing, and quartering would satisfy the outraged feelings of our henchman.
I promised a yet severer punishment. I said I would "cut" the wretched minion's pay that month to the amount of a rupee. Vengeance was satisfied, and the victim reduced to tears.
It is good to hear Jane—who for many years has been accustomed to having her own way in all household matters—ordering breakfast.
"Well, Sabz Ali—what shall we have for breakfast to-morrow?"
"Jessa mem-sahib arder!"—with a friendly grin.
"Then I shall have kidneys."'
"No kidney, mem-sahib! Kidney plenty money—two annas six pice ek. Oh, plenty dear!"
"I'm tired of eggs. Is there any cold chicken you could grill?"
"Chota murghi one egg lay, mem-sahib, anda poach. Sahib, chicken grill laike!"
"Oh, all right! But I thought of a mutton-chop for the major sahib."
"Muttony stup" (mutton's tough). "Sahib no laike!"
"Very well, that will do—a poached egg for me and grilled chicken for the sahib."
"No, mem-sahib—no 'nuf. Sahib plenty 'ungry—chicken grill, peechy ramble-tamble egg!"
"Have it your own way. I daresay the major sahib would like scrambled eggs, and we'll have coffee—not tea."
"No, mem-sahib. No coffee—coffee finish!"
"Send the shikari down to the bazaar, then, for a tin of coffee from Nusserwanjee."
"Shikari saaf kuro lakri ke major sahib" (cleaning the golf-clubs). "Tea breakfast, coffee kal" (to-morrow).
And, utterly routed on every point, Jane gives in gracefully, and makes an excellent breakfast as prearranged by Sabz Ali!
The news is spread that there will be an exhibition of pictures held in Srinagar in September. Every second person is a—more or less—heaven-born artist out here, so there promises to be no lack of exhibits. I dreamed a dream last night, and in my dream I was walking along the bund and came upon an elderly gentleman laying Naples yellow on a canvas with a trowel. The river was smooth and golden, and reflected the sensuous golden tones of the sky. Trees arose from golden puddles, half screening a ziarat which, upon the glowing canvas, appeared remarkably like a village church. "How beautiful!" I cried, "how gloriously oleographic!" and the painter, removing a brush from his mouth, smiled, well pleased, and said, "I am a Leader among Victorian artists and the public adores me!" and I left him vigorously painting pot-boilers. Then in a damp dell among the willows of the Dal I found a foreigner in spectacles, and the light upon his pictures was the light that never was on sea or land; but through a silvery mist the willows showed ghostly grey, and a shadowy group of classic nymphs were ringed in the dance, and I cried "O Corot! lend me your spectacles. I fain, like you, would see crude nature dimmed to a silvery perpetual twilight." And Corot replied: "Mon ami moi je ne vois jamais le soleil, je me plonge toujours, dans les ombres bleuatres et les rayons pales de l'aube."
Then upward I fared till, treading the clear heights, I found one frantically painting the peaks and pinnacles of the mountains in weird stipples of alternate red and blue.
"Great heavens!" I exclaimed, "what disordered manner is this!"
The artist glanced swiftly at me, and said disdainfully: "I am a modern of the moderns, and if you cannot see that mountains are like that, it is your fault—not mine. Go back, you stand too close."
And as I went back I looked over my shoulder, and, truly, the flaring rose-colour had blended amicably with the blue, and I admitted that perhaps Segantini was not so mad as he looked.
A little lower down a stout Scotchman painted a flowery valley. The flowers were many and bright, but not so garish as they appeared to him, and I hinted as much; but he scorned my criticism.
"Mon," he shouted, "I painted the Three Graces, an' they made me an Academeesian. I painted a flowery glen in the Tyrol (dearie me, but thae flowers cost me a fortune in blue paint), and it was coft for the Chantry Bequest, and hoo daur you talk to me?"
Then I departed hurriedly and came upon four men, two of them with long beards, and all with unkempt hair, laboriously depicting a blue pine, needle by needle, and every one in its proper place. I asked them if theirs was not a very troublesome way of painting.
They looked at one another with earnest blue eyes, and remarked that here was evidently a Philistine who knew not Cimabue and cared not a jot for Giotto; and the first said: "Sir, methinks he who would climb the golden stairs should do so step by step;" and the second said, sadly: "We are but scapegoats, truly, being cast forth by the vindictive Victorians of our day."
The third murmured in somewhat broken English.
"Victoria Victrix, Beata Beatrix,"
whereby I recognised him to be a poet, if not a painter.
But the fourth—an energetic-looking man with a somewhat arrogant manner—said briskly: "Perchance the ass is right; these pine needles are becoming monotonous, and I have seventeen million four hundred and sixty-two thousand five hundred and eleven more to do. Beshrew me if I do not take to pot-boiling!"
Down by the water-side a lady sat, sketching in water-colours for dear life; around her lay a litter of half-finished works, scattered like autumn leaves in Vallombrosa. I approached her, quite friendly, and offered to gather them up for her—at least some of them, saying soothingly, for I saw she was in a temper—
"Dear, dear, Clara, why, what is the matter?"
"I am painting the Venice of the East," she cried petulantly, "but for the life of me I can't see a campanile, and how can I possibly paint a picture without a campanile?"
I understood that, of course, she couldn't, so I stole away softly on tip-toe, leaving her turning doungas into gondolas for all she was worth.
A dark, dapper man, with an alert air and an eyeglass, sat near the seventh bridge, writing. Beside him stood an easel and other painting-gear. I asked him what he was doing, and he answered, with a fine smile, "I am gently making enemies;" so, to turn the subject, I picked up a large canvas, smeared over with invisible grey, like the broadside of a modern battleship, and sprinkled here and there with pale yellow blobs.
"What have we here, James?" I inquired cheerfully, and he, staying his claw-like hand in mid-air, made reply—
"A chromatic in tones of sad colour, with golden accidentals—Kashmir night-lights."
"Ah! quite so," I exclaimed; "but have I got it right side up?"
He looked at it doubtfully for a moment, then, pointing to a remarkable butterfly (Vanessa Sifflerius) depicted in the corner, cried: "It's all right; you'll never make a mistake if you keep this insect in the right bottom corner. It is put there on purpose."
Lastly, on an eminence I saw a man like an eagle, sitting facing full the sun, and upon his glowing canvas was portrayed the heavens above and the earth beneath and the waters under the earth, and behind him sat one who patted him upon the back, and looked at intervals over his shoulder at the glorious work, and then wrote in a book a eulogy thereof; and I, too, came and looked over the painter's shoulder, and I muttered, with Oliver Wendell Holmes,
"The foreground golden dirt, The sunshine painted with a squirt."
Then the man who patted the painter on the back turned upon me aggressively, and said: "This is the only painter who ever was, or will be, and if you don't agree with me you are a fool." The painter, smiling a sly Monna-Lisan smile of triumph, remarked: "Right you are, John. I rather think this will knock that rascal Claude," and I laughed so that I awoke; but the memory of the dream remained with me, and it seemed to me that, perhaps, we poor amateurs might not be any better able to compass aught but caricatures of this marvellous scenery than the ghostly limners of my dream!
The hut just above ours was tenanted by a party of three young Lancers on leave from Rawal Pindi, a gramophone, and a few dogs.
One of the soldiers was laid up with a bad ankle, and it soon became a daily custom for Jane or me to play a game of chess or piquet with the invalid.
Later on, when leave had expired for the hale, when the dogs had departed, and the voice of the gramophone was no more heard in the land, we came to see a great deal of the wounded warrior, and finally arranged to personally conduct him off the premises, and return him, in time for medical survey, to Rawal Pindi.
Many years ago I read a delightful poem called The Paradise of Birds—I believe it was by Mortimer Collins, but I am not sure. Now the Poet (who, together with Windbag, sailed to this very paradise of birds) deemed that this happy asylum of the feathered fowls was somewhere at the back of the North Pole. He cannot have known of Kashmir, or he would assuredly have sent the persecuted birds thither, and placed the "Roc's Egg" as janitor, somewhere by the portals of the Jhelum Valley. Kashmir is truly and indeed the paradise of birds, for there no man molests them, and no schoolboy collects eggs, and the result is a fascinating fearlessness, the result of perpetual peace and plenty.
I regret exceedingly that my ornithological knowledge is extremely limited. I could find no books to help me, and, as I did not care to kill any birds merely to enable me to identify their species, my notes were merely "popular" and not "scientific."
Shall I confess that I began an erudite work on the birds of Kashmir, but got no further than the Hoopoe? It began as follows:—
Early history of.—Tereus, King of Thrace, annoyed his wife Procne so much by the very marked attention which he paid to her sister Philomela, that she lost her temper so far as to chop up her son Itylus, and present him to his papa in the form of a ragout.
This, naturally, disgusted Tereus very much, and he "fell upon" the ladies with a sword, but, just as he was about to stab them to the heart, he was changed into a Hoopoe, Philomela into a nightingale, Procne into a swallow, while Itylus became a pheasant.
"Vertitur in volucrem, cui stant in vertice cristae Prominet immodicum pro longa cuspide rostrum; Nomen epops volucri."
OVID, Metam. lib. vi.
His crest and patent of nobility.—Once upon a time, King Solomon, while making a royal progress, was much, incommoded by the powerful rays of the sun, and as he had ascendency over the birds, and knew their language, he called upon the vultures to come and fly betwixt the sun and his nobility, but the vultures refused. Then the kindly Hoopoes assembled, and flew in close mass above his head, thus forming a shade under which he proceeded on his journey in ease and comfort.
At sundown the monarch sent for the King of the Hoopoes, and desired him to name a reward for the service which he and his followers had rendered.
Then the King of the Hoopoes answered that nothing could be more glorious than the golden crown of King Solomon; and so Solomon decreed that the Hoopoes should thenceforward wear golden crowns as a mark of his favour. But alas! when men found the Hoopoes all adorned with golden crowns, they pursued and slew them in great multitudes for greed of the precious metal, until the King of the Hoopoes, in heavy sorrow, hied hastily to King Solomon, and begged that the gift of the golden crowns might be rescinded, ere every Hoopoe was slain.
Then Solomon, seeing the misery they had brought upon themselves by their presumption, transformed their crowns of gold to crowns of feathers, which no man coveted (for the Eastern ladies didn't wear hats), and the Hoopoes wear them to this day as a mark of royal favour, but all the feathers fell off the necks of the disobliging vultures.
His amazing talent.—In those dark ages ... the Hoopoe was considered as prodigiously skilful in defeating the machinations of witches, wizards, and hobgoblins. The female, in consequence of this art, could preserve her offspring from these dreaded injuries.
She knew all the plants which defeat fascinations, those which give sight to the blind; and, more wondrous still, those which open gates or doors, locked, bolted, or barred.
Aelian relates that a man having three times successively closed the nest of a Hoopoe, and having remarked the herb with which the bird, as often, opened it, applied the same herb, and with the same success, to charm the locks off the strongest coffer.—Naturalists' Magazine (about 1805).
His personal appearance.—The beak is bent, convex and sub-compressed, and in some degree obtuse; the tongue is obtuse, triangular and very short, and the feet are ambulatory. As this bird has a great abundance of feathers, it appears considerably thicker than it is. It is, in fact, about the size of a mistletoe thrush, but looks, while in its feathers, to be as large as a common pigeon.—Naturalists' Magazine.
I had got no further in my magnum opus, when I unfortunately showed my notes to Colonel—well, I will not mention his name, but he is the greatest authority on the birds and beasts of Kashmir. He besought me to spare him, pathetically remarking that I should cut the ground from under his feet, and take the bread out of his mouth, and the wind out of his sails, if I went any further with my monograph on the Hoopoe. He saw at a glance that I was conversant with authorities whom he had never consulted, and possessed a knowledge of my subject to which he could hardly aspire, so I gracefully agreed to leave the field to him, and relinquished my magnum opus in its very inception.
One of the chiefest charms of Kashmir, and one which is apt to be overlooked, is the entirely unspoilt freshness of its scenery. No locust horde of personally-conducted "trippers" pollutes its ways and byways, nor has the khansamah of the dak bungalow as yet felt constrained to add sauerkraut and German sausage to his bill of fare—for which Allah be praised!
The world is growing very small, and the globe-trotter rushes round it in eighty days. The trail of the cheap excursionist is all over Europe, from the North Cape to Tarifa, from the highest Alpine summit (which he attains in comfort by a funicular railway) to the deepest mines of Cornwall. Egypt has become his footstool, and the shores of the Mediterranean his wash-pot. Niagara is mapped and labelled for his benefit, and the Yosemite is his happy hunting-ground. He "does" the West Indies in "sixty days for sixty pounds," and he is now arranging a special cheap excursion from the Cape to Cairo. "But," it may be remarked, "what were Jane and I but globe-trotters'? and am I not trying to sing the praises of Kashmir with the avowed object of inducing people to go out and see it for themselves?"
By all manner of means let us travel. Far be it from me to wish folks to stay dully at home, while the wonders and beauties of the wide world lie open for the admiration and education of its inhabitants.
But there are globe-trotters and globe-trotters. My objection is only to those—alas! too numerous—vagrants who cannot go abroad without casting shame on the country which bred them; whose vulgarity causes offence in church and picture-gallery; who cannot see a monument or a statue without desiring to chip off a fragment, or at least scrawl their insignificant names upon it.
From these, and such as these, Kashmir is as yet free; but some day, I suppose, it will be "opened up," when the railway, which is already contemplated, is in going order between Pindi and Srinagar, and cheap excursion tickets are issued from Berlin and Birmingham.
Here is a specimen page of the Guide Book (bound in red) for 19—(?):
"Ascend Apharwat by the funicular railway. The neat little station, with its red corrugated-iron roof, makes a picturesque spot of colour near the Dobie's Ghat. Fares, 4 an. 6 pi., all the way."
"A local guide should on no account be omitted (several are always to be found near the station leaning on their khudsticks, and discussing controversial theology in the sweet low tones so noticeable in the Kashmiri). See that he be provided with a horn, to the hooting of which the Echo Lake will be found responsive."
"From the balcony of the * Hotel Baloo an unrivalled view of Nanga Parbat should be obtained. Glasses can be procured from the anna-in-the-slot machines which are dotted about."
"This veritable king of the Himal—" (here follows a pageful of regulation guide-book gush).
"Good sport is to be obtained from the obliging and enterprising manager of the hotel, Herr Baer. A few rupees will purchase the privilege of shooting at that monarch of the mountains, the markhor. Start not, fair tourist, for no danger lurks in the sport. No icy precipices need be scaled, no giddy gulfs explored, and the only danger which menaces the bold hunter in the mimic stalk, is that which menaces his shins in the broken soda-water bottles and sharp-edged sardine tins with which the summit of Apharwat is strewn."
"As a matter of fact, the consumption of mutton is considerable in the Hotel Baloo in the tourist season, and the worthy Baer conceived the brilliant and financially sound scheme of attaching some old ibex and markhor horns (bought cheap when the old library at Srinagar was swept away in the last flood) to his live stock, and turning his decorated flock loose on the mountain's brow, where the sportsman saves him the trouble of slaughter while enjoying all the excitement and none of the difficulty of a veritable stalk."
"Another brilliant invention of the good Baer is his 'sunset spectacles.' These are made with the glasses in two halves—the upper part orange and the lower one purple. These are simply invaluable to those who have only a brief half-hour in which to 'do' Apharwat before darting down to catch the 3.15 express for Leh (via the newly opened Zoji La tunnel), since for the modest sum of 8 a. a superb sunset can be enjoyed at any time of the day."
"Should, however, the leisured globe-trotter have unlimited time at his disposal, he would do well to lunch at the Hotel Baloo, in order to taste the celebrated Kashmir sauerkraut (made of wild rhubarb) and Gujar pie (composed of the most tempting tit-bits of the water buffalo), before returning to the 'Savoy' at Srinagar by the turbine tram from Tangmarg, or by the pneumatic launch which leaves Palhallan Pier every ten minutes, weather permitting."
"Should the tourist be a naturalist he can hardly fail to observe, and be interested in, the mosquitoes of this charming and picturesque locality. He will note that they rival the song-thrush in magnitude and the Bengal tiger in ferocity. A coating of tar laid with a trowel over the exposed parts of the body will be found the best protection, especially as the new Armour Company's patent hermetically sealed bear-proof visor will be found too hot for comfort in summer."
"The environs of Srinagar are charming. Notice the picturesque 'furnished apartments' for paying guests all along the water-side, and the mixed bathing establishments, crowded daily by the Smart Set, whose jewelled pyjamas flash in rivalry of the heliographic oil-tins which deck the neighbouring temples."
"By a visit to the Museum, and an inspection by eye and nose of the quaint specimens of antique clothing exhibited there, the intelligent and imaginative traveller may conjure up a mental picture of the unpolished appearance of the old-time Mangi and his lady before he adopted the tall hat and frock coat of civilisation, or she had discovered the 'swanbill'!"
 It is by Courthope, not Collins.
 See Appendix II.
Tuesday, September 12.—A second edition of the Noachian deluge is upon us! It began to rain on Saturday, at the close of a hot and stuffy week, and, having succeeded in thoroughly soaking the unfortunate ladies who were engaged in a golf competition that day, it proceeded to rain abundantly all through Sunday and Monday.
The outlook from our hut is dispiriting; through a thick grey veil of vapour the gleam of water shines over the swamp that was the polo-ground. The little muddy stream in which so many erring golf-balls lie low is up and out for a ramble over its banks. The lower golf-greens resemble paddy-fields, and round the marg the spires of dull grey pines stand dripping in a steadfast shower-bath.
Sometimes the heavy cloud folds everything in its leaden wing, blotting out even the streaming village at our feet, and reducing our view to the immediate slope below us where the wilted ragwort and rank weeds bend before the tiny torrents which trickle everywhere. Then comes a break, falsely suggestive of an improvement, and lo! soaring above the cloudy boil, the lofty shoulders of Apharwat sheeted in new-fallen snow!
After the somewhat oppressive heat of last week, the sudden raw cold strikes home, and Jane and I take a great interest in the fire, the "Old Snake" is an accomplished fire-master, and it is pleasant to watch him squatting like an ungainly frog in front of the hearth, and sagaciously feeding the flame with damp and spitting logs.
It is amazing what lavish expenditure of fuel one will indulge in when it costs nothing a ton!
We are just beginning to find out the exact spots where chairs may be planted so as to avoid the searching draughts which go far to make our happy home like a very airy sort of bird-cage.
Well! we might have been worrying through all this in a sodden tent, where even a boarded floor would barely have kept out rheumatism, and where one would have been liable to alarms and excursions at all sorts of untoward times when drains wanted deepening and guys slackening. The mere thought of such things sent us into a truly thankful state of mind, and we discussed from our cosy chairs the probable condition of the party from the Residency which set forth, full of high hope, on Saturday morning to attack the markhor of Poonch.
Here it has rained with vehemence ever since they left; up in the high ground it has doubtless snowed; and although they were well armed with cards and whisky, yet it would appear but a poor business to play bridge all day in a snow-bound tent on the top of the Pir Panjal! Nothing short of a hundred aces every few minutes could make the game worth the candle!
This spell of bad weather has greatly interfered with the movements of a large number of the folks who were to leave Gulmarg early this week. Many got away betimes on Saturday, and a few faced the elements on Sunday, and a painful experience they must have had.
We had intended to leave next Thursday, and had ordered boats to meet us at Parana Chauni, but the road will be so bad that I wired this morning to put off our transport till further orders.
The end of the season at Gulmarg sees the bazaar stock at low water. Eggs, fowls, cherry brandy, and spirits of wine are "off," also butter, but the latter scarcity does not affect us, as we make our own in a pickle jar. The bazaar butter became very bad, probably because the large numbers of visitors to Gulmarg caused an additional supply to be got from uncleanly Gujars, so we, by the kindness of the Assistant Resident, had a special cow detailed to supply us daily with milk at our own door.
That cow was very friendly; I first made its acquaintance one forenoon. While I was sitting below the verandah sketching, with a dozen lovely peaches spread by me on the hoards to obtain their final touch of perfection in the sun before lunch, the cow strolled up. I was much interested in the sketch, and believed that the cow was too; but when I looked up at last, expecting to see its eye fixed upon the work in silent approbation,
"The 'cow' was still there, but the 'peaches' were gone."
In the afternoon the weather showed signs of a desire to amend its ways. The clouds broke here and there, and, though it still rained heavily, it became apparent that the clerk of the weather had done his worst, and the supply of rain was running short. Clad in aquascutic garments, and surmounted by an ungainly two-rupee bazaar umbrella (my dapper British one having been annexed by a covetous Mangi)—
"Ombrifuge, Lord love you, case o' rain, I flopped forth 'sbuddikins on my own ten toes."
The whole slope in front of the hut was a trickle of water, threading the dying stalks of dock and ragwort, and hurrying down to add its dirty pittance to the small yellow torrent rushing along the greasy strip of clay that in happier days was the path.
The whole marg was become lake or stream—lake over the polo-ground and half the golf-links—fed by the weeping slopes on every side, whence innumerable rills rioted over the grass, emulating in ferocity and haste, if not in size, the tawny torrents which drained the sides of Apharwat.
The road from the bazaar to the club was all but impassable, but as it had still a few inches of freeboard, I followed it to the foot of the church slope, and, skirting the hill, inspected the desolation which had been wrought at the Kotal hole, where the stream had torn through its banks and wrecked the green.
During a visit of condolence to Mrs. Smithson, whose unfortunate husband is pursuing markhor in Poonch, the sky cleared—a splendid effort in the way of a "clearing shower" being followed by a decided break-up of the pall of wet cloud in which we have been too long immersed. Not without a severe struggle did Jupiter Pluvius consent to turn off the tap, but at length the sun broke through the hanging clouds and sent their sodden grey fragments swirling up the Ferozepore Nullah to break in foamy wreaths round the ragged cliffs of Kulan.
Finding the road across to the post-office altogether under water for some distance—a lake extending from the twelfth hole for nearly a quarter of a mile to the main road—I wandered back towards the higher ground, joining a waterproof figure, a member of the Green Committee, who was sadly regarding the water-logged links with the disconsolate air of the raven let loose from the ark! We agreed that this was a remarkably good opportunity for observing the drainage system, and taking notes for future guidance, and in company we went over as much of the links as possible, finishing below the second hole, where the cross stream which comes down from the higher ground had torn away the bridge and cut off the huts beyond from civilisation.
The homeward stroll at sunset was perfectly beautiful, and showed Gulmarg in an absolutely new guise. The lower part of the marg, being all lake, reflected the lustrous golden sky and rich dark pine-woods in a faithful mirror. Flying fragments of cloud, fleeces of gold and crimson, clung to the mountain-sides or sailed above the forests, while beyond Apharwat, coldly clad in a pure white mantle of snow, new fallen, rose silhouetted against the darkening sky.
Saturday, September 16.—After the Deluge came the Exodus, everybody trying to leave Gulmarg at once. We had always intended to go down to Srinagar about the 15th, but, finding that the Residency party meant to move on that day, we arranged to migrate a day earlier in order to avoid the pony and coolie famine which a Residential progress entails on the ordinary traveller.
On Wednesday afternoon the ten ponies, carefully ordered a week before from the outlying villages, were congregated on the weedy slope which falls away from our verandah, picking up a scanty sustenance from decaying ragwort and such like.
Secure in the possession of the necessary transport, Jane and I strolled forth for a last look at Nanga Parbat, should he haply deign to be on view. He did not deign, however, preferring to remain, like Achilles, when bereft of Briseis, sulking in his cloudy tent. So we consoled ourselves with an exceedingly fine view of the snow-crowned heights at the head of the Ferozepore Nullah. Upon returning to our beloved log cabin we were met by Sabz Ali—almost speechless with wrath—who broke to us the distressing news that six of our ten weight-carriers had departed from the compound. The entire staff, with the exception of our factotum, were away in pursuit, and there was nothing for it but to possess our souls in what patience we might until they returned.
As we had arranged for a four o'clock start next morning, it was most disconcerting to have all our transport desert so late in the evening. An urgent note to the Assistant Resident, and some pressure on the Tehsildhar, produced promise of assistance.
Early on Thursday morning came an indignant chit from an irate General, complaining that my servants were trying to seize his ponies, for which he had paid an advance of two rupees, and would I be good enough to investigate the affair. Here was the murder out. His chuprassie had obviously bribed my pony wallahs, and a letter, stating my case pretty clearly, produced the ponies and an apology.
This delay kept us till after midday, when, stowing our invalid snugly in a dandy, we left Gulmarg and began the descent to Srinagar. I remained behind to see the hut clear and make a sketch, and then hurried down the direct path, which drops some 2000 feet to Tangmarg. Here I found Jane and the invalid comfortably disposed in a landau, but the baggage spread about anywhere, and the usual clamour of coolies uprising in the heated and dust-laden air.
No ekka—the one which had been ordered with the landau having apparently got another job and departed. Presently a stray ekka, drawn by a sorely weary-looking mule, appeared on the scene, and we seized upon it instantly, loaded it up with most of the baggage, and despatched coolies with the rest.
After the storm came a holy calm, and we settled down to a light but welcome lunch before starting down the long slope into the valley.
We had heard most disquieting tales of floods; the water had burst the bund at Srinagar, and there was said to be ten feet over the polo-ground. The occupants of Nedou's Hotel were going in and out by boat, and Srinagar itself was said to be quite cut off from all access by road.
The Residency party have countermanded their intended move to-morrow.
At the post-office I was told that only a small part of the mail had been brought into Srinagar, the road being "bund" between Baramula and that place, while an unusual number of landslips and bridges have come down in the Jhelum Valley.
Nevertheless, we had made a push to get on; things in Kashmir are often less gloomy than their reports would make one believe, and so we bowled quite cheerfully down the road from Tangmarg, basking in the hot and sunny air, which seemed to us really delicious after the raw cheerlessness of the last few days at Gulmarg.
From Tangmarg to the dak bungalow at Margam, a steady descent is maintained by an excellent road over the sloping Karewa, for about ten miles, of which we had just about travelled half when a series of yells from the syce behind, a wild swerve, and a heavy plump brought us up just on the edge of the steep and rocky bank, which fell sharply from the roadside.
Alas! the axle of the off hind wheel had snapped, and the wheel itself was hopelessly lying in the thick white dust, and our landau looked like an ancient three-decker in a squall.
The horses being unharnessed, we sent the drivers with one of them forward to look for help, and Hesketh and Jane proceeded to make tea while I sat by the roadside and sketched.
Presently an empty dandy came "dribbling by" on its return journey to Gulmarg, and it was immediately impressed for the benefit of the lame. Hardly had we packed him in, when a wandering tonga hove in sight, and, being promptly requisitioned, we rattled off the five miles which lay between us and Margam in no time.
Here we found a large party assembled in the little rest-house. Colonel and Mrs. Maxwell (who had kindly sent us back the tonga on hearing of the breakdown); Mr. and Mrs. Allen Baines, whose dandy had been the means of bringing Hesketh along; and Sadleir-Jackson, and Edwards of the 9th Lancers.
The bungalow was full, but I found out that one room was appropriated by a coming event, who had cast his shadow before him in the guise of a bearer. This being contrary to the etiquette as observed in dak bungalows, I gently but firmly cleared out the neatly arranged toilet things and ready-made bed; while Hesketh was taken over, somewhat shattered by his tedious though exciting day, by his fellow Lancers.
The resources of the little place were severely strained; dinner was a scanty meal, and soda-water gave out almost immediately: nevertheless, a cheroot and a rubber of bridge sent us contented to bed.
Yesterday (Friday) the question of how to proceed arose. The road was reported to be impassable after about five miles, the remaining ten being under water.
We set out after breakfast, Jane perched on a pony which Sabz Ali had raised or stolen, Hesketh in the dandy, and I on foot. After a warm five miles' march we came upon signs of a block. Vehicles of many and strange sorts were drawn up in the shade of a chenar, under whose wide branches the Baines family was faring sumptuously on biscuits and brandy and water.
Horses, goats, and cattle strayed around, and a chattering mob of natives, busily engaged, as usual, in doing nothing, completed the picture.
Hesketh was reduced to despair; after two months in bed, this could not but be a trying journey under the most favourable circumstances, and the prospect as held out by his pessimistic bearer was pretty gloomy—no boats available, and no signs of our doungas.
I pushed on to the break in search of my shikari, whom I had sent on by pony early in the morning, and soon found that estimable person, who is not really the blithering idiot he looks!
In the first place, he had appropriated the only two shikaras he could find, and our baggage was already being stowed in them; secondly, he had discovered both Juma and Ismala, our Mangis, who reported the doungas moored below Parana Chaum, about four miles away over the flooded fields.
This was good news, and we ate a cheerful lunch under a tree densely populated by jackdaws.
The Maxwells got away somehow in search of their house-boat, which was supposed to have left Baramula some days ago. They started cheerfully, but vaguely, down the Spill Canal, and we trust they found their ark somewhere!
Promising to send back a boat for the Baines, we paid and dismissed coolies and ponies, and paddled away over the flood water. The country was simply a vast lake, the main road merely marked by a dense row of poplars. Trees rose promiscuously out of the calm and sunlit water, wisps of maize and wreckage clinging to their lower boughs. Presently the road showed in patches, a broad waterfall breaking it every here and there as the imprisoned waters from above sought the slightly lower channel of the Jhelum.
We passed a party of natives bivouacking near the roof and upper storey of their wooden hut, which, floating from above, was held up by the Baramula road. Sounding now and then with our khudsticks, we found no bottom over the submerged rice crops, though we could see plainly the laden ears waving dismally down below. This is nothing less than a great calamity for the owners, as the rice was just ready for gathering.
Towards dusk we arrived at our ships, calmly lying moored to poplar trees by the roadside, and right gladly did we clamber on board, for our invalid was pretty well fagged out.
This morning we cast loose from our poplars, and brought the fleet up to within half a mile of the seventh bridge, or, rather, of the spot where the seventh bridge used to be, for all but a fragment has been washed away! The strong current prevented us from getting any higher up the river in our doungas. Jane and I, however, were anxious to see what appearance Srinagar presented, so we manned the shikara with five able-bodied paddlers and pushed our way upwards. Turning into a side canal we passed a demolished bridge, and tried to force our way up a small but swift stream.
Failing to make anything of it, we landed and had the boat carried over into a wider channel. Three times we were obliged to get out and leave our stalwart crew to force the boat on somehow, and they did it well—hauling, paddling, and shouting invocations to various saints, particularly the one whose name sounds like "jam paws!"
The water had already fallen some four or five feet, but there was plenty left. A great break in the bund between Nusserwanjee's shop and the Punjab Bank allowed us to paddle into the flooded European quarter, past the telegraph office, standing knee-deep in muddy water, up over the main road to Nedou's Hotel, where boats lay moored outside the dining-room windows, then across the lagoon, lightly rippled by a tiny breeze, beneath which lay the polo-ground, to the Residency, where we landed to inspect damages.
The water had been all over the lower storey, but a muddy deposit on the wooden floor, and a brown slimy high-water mark on the door jambs, alone remained to show what had happened. The piano had been hoisted upon a table, carpets and curtains bundled upstairs, and everything, apparently, saved. The poor garden, with its slime-daubed shrubs, broken palings and torn creepers, trailing wisps of draggled foliage in the oozy brown pools, was a sad and pitiful sight, especially when mentally contrasted with the glowing glory of asters and zinneas which it should have been.
The flood has been nearly as bad as the great one of 1903. Fortunately the Spill Canal, cut above Srinagar to carry off the flood water, took off some of the pressure; the bund, also, is three feet higher than it was then, but it gave way in two places—one somewhere near the top, and the other just below the Bank, letting in the river to a depth of ten feet over the low-lying quarter. The stream is now falling fast, and, after doing a little shopping and visiting the post-office, which is temporarily established on the bund in the midst of an amazing litter of desks, boxes, and queer pigeon-holes admirably adapted to lose letters by the score, we spun swiftly down the rushing stream to tea and our cosy dounga.
Monday, September 18.—It was impossible to get our boats up the river yesterday, so I spent the day sketching amidst the most picturesque, but horribly smelly, part of the town; much quinine in the evening seemed desirable as a counterblast to possible malaria.
The sunsets lately have been really magnificent; the poplars and chenars, darkly olive, reflected in the flooded fields against a red gold sky, in the foreground the black silhouettes of the armada.
The days are almost too hot, but the nights are cool and delicious, and the mosquitoes are only noticeable for a brief period of sinful activity about sundown, after which the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.
At half-past ten this morning we set sail; that is to say, we hired nine extra coolies and a second shikara to tow, and advanced on Srinagar. Hesketh's boat, being the lighter, kept well ahead (here let me note that "bow" in that boat is quite the prettiest girl we have seen in Kashmir, and the minx knows it!), but we had good men, and worked along slowly and steadily up the main river, the side canals being all choked by broken bridges and such like. We crept past the Amira Kadal, or first bridge, about two o'clock, and tied up for lunch, revelling in the most perfect pears, peaches, and walnuts. As a rule the Kashmir fruit is disappointing; abundant and cheap certainly, but not by any means of first-rate quality.
Strawberries, cherries, apricots, melons, and grapes might all be far better if properly cultivated, and scientifically improved from European stock.
The pears alone defy criticism, and the apples, I am told, are excellent also.
Vegetables are in great plenty, but, like the fruit, would be much improved by good cultivation.
Wednesday, September 25.—The abomination of desolation wrought by the flood is borne in upon one more and more as an inspection of the town reveals the damage done more fully—the houses standing empty, their lower storeys dank and slimy, the ruined gardens, and muddy, slippery roads. The wrecked garden of the Punjab Bank is one of the saddest sights, and must be a painful spectacle to Mr. Harrison, whose joy it was to spend time and money on importing exotic and improving indigenous plants.
One cannot help reflecting how desperately depressed Noah, and the probably more impressionable Mrs. Noah, must have been when, discarding their aquascutums for the first time, they sallied forth, a primeval party, to observe the emerging country.
Mrs. Noah, tucking up the curious straight garment that is a memory of our childhood, went ahead with feminine curiosity; Noah, bare-legged, slithering along in the rear and beseeching the ladies to note the slipperiness of the alluvial deposit, and for goodness' sake not to make a glissade down the side of Ararat.
I feel confident they must have taken great precautions, for Sabz Ali slipped up on the shelving bank of the Jhelum, and, had he not caught the gunwale of our dounga in his descent, would most certainly have had to swim for his life—which I doubt if he can do!
Now, Shem and Co. were as valuable to Noah as Sabz Ali is to us, and I should not be surprised if he made them travel on all-fours in the risky places. Fathers were very dictatorial in those days, and there was nobody about to make them consider their dignity.
One can imagine the scene. Ararat, a muddy pyramid dotted here and there with olive trees—curious, by the way, to find olives so high!—in the receding waters the vagrant raven cheerfully picking out the eye of a defunct pterodactyl. The heavy clouds rolling off the sodden world—they must have indeed been heavy clouds, nimbus of the first water—as they had raised the world's water-level 250 feet per day during "the flood" ... surely a record output!
The primeval family party, sadly poking about along the expanding margin of the world, noting how Abel Brown's tall chimney was beginning to show, and how Cain Jones' wigwam was clean gone. Mrs. Shem said she knew it would, the mortar work had been so terribly scamped.
And Naboth Robinson's vineyard—well, it was in a pretty mess, to be sure, and serve him right, for Mrs. Noah had frequently offered him two of her (second) best milch mammoths for it; yet he had held on to his nasty sour grapes, like the mean old curmudgeon that he was.
And now Hammy must set to work and tidy it up; and oh! what lots of nice manure was floating about, all for nothing the cartload ... And so the primeval family felt better, and went back to the ark to tea, feeling almost cheerful, but rather lonesome.
Fortunately this great flood did little injury to life or limb. A certain amount of destruction of crops and other property was inevitable, but on the whole the loss was not so great as was at one time feared, and much was saved that at first seemed irreparable.
A well-known lady artist came near to giving the note of tragedy to the British community, and losing the number of her mess (to use a nautical, and therefore appropriate expression) by reason of a big willow tree, beneath whose shady boughs she had moored her floating studio. This hapless tree, having all its sustenance swept from beneath by the greedy water, came down with a crash in the night upon the confiding house-boat, and all but swamped it.
The cook-boat, occupied as usual by a pair of prolific Mangis and their large small family, was saved by the proverbial "acid drop"—the children crawling out somehow or anyhow from among the branches of the fallen tree.
The fair artist, having with shrieks invoked the aid of a neighbour, he promptly descended from his roof or other temporary camp, and helped her with basins and chatties to bale out the half-swamped boat. The lady is now safely moored to the mudbank on the other side of the river where willow trees do not grow.
The whole bund is in a very unsafe state: it was raised three feet after the last flood, but its width was not increased correspondingly. Now that the water has fallen, great fissures and subsidences have appeared, and in many places large portions of the bank have fallen away, carrying big trees with them.
 Our pet name for Shikari Mark II., who reigns in the stead of Ahmed Bot, sacked for expensive inefficiency.
Wednesday, September 27.—We left Srinagar yesterday, very sorry indeed to part from the many good friends we have made and left there. Truly Kashmir is a hospitable country, and we have met with more kind friendliness in the last six months than we could have believed possible, coming as we did, strangers and pilgrims into a strange land. Our consolation is that every one comes "Home" sooner or later, so that we can look forward to meeting most of our friends again ere very long, and recalling with them memories of this happy summer with those who have done so much to make it so.
Farewell, Srinagar! Your foulness and inward evilness were lost in the background behind your picturesque and tumble-down houses as we floated for the last time down Jhelum's olive waters, where the sharp-nosed boats lay moored along the margin or, poled by their sturdy Mangis and guided by the chappars of their wives and daughters, shot athwart the eddying flood, breaking the long reflections of the storeyed banks.
Past the Palace of the Maharajah, its fantastic mixture of ancient fairness and modern ugliness blending into a homogeneous beauty as distance lent it enchantment.
Past the temples, their tin-coated roofs refulgent in the brilliant sunlight; under the queer wooden bridges, their solid stone piers parting the suave flow of water into noisy swirl and gurgle.
Past the familiar groups of grave, white-robed men solemnly washing themselves, then scooping up and drinking the noisome fluid; past their ladies squatting like frogs by the river-side, washing away at clothes which never seem a whit the cleanlier for all their talk and trouble.
Past the children and fowls, and cows and crows, all hob-nobbing together as usual.
Past all these sights—so strange to us at first and now so strangely familiar—we floated, till the broken remnant of the seventh bridge lay behind us, and the lofty poplars that hem in the Baramula road stood stark and solemn in their endless perspective.
Here a jangling note, out of tune and harsh, was struck by the dobie, with whom we had a grave difference of opinion regarding the washing.
That gentleman having "lost by neglect" certain articles of my kit—to wit sundry shirts and other garments—and having rendered others completely hors de combat by reason of his sinful method of washing, I decided to "cut" three rupees off his remuneration.
This decision seemed to have taken from him all that life held of worth, and he implored me to spare his wife, children, and home, all of whom would be broken up and ruined if I were cruel enough, to enforce my awful threat. Seeing that I was obdurate, being well backed by the infuriated Jane, whose underwear showed far more lace and open work than nature intended, the wretched dobie melted into loud and tearful lamentation, and perched himself howling in the prow. This soon became so boresome that I deported him to Hesketh's boat, where he underwent another defeat at the hands of that irate Lancer, whose shirts and temper had suffered together; finally the woeful washerman, still howling lugubriously, was landed on the river bank, and we saw and heard him no more!
Down the gentle river we swiftly glided all day, while the Takht and Hari Parbat grew smaller and bluer, and Srinagar lay below them invisible in its swathing greenery.
Reaching Sumbal at sunset, we turned to the left down a narrow canal, and soon the Wular lay—a sheet of molten gold—upon our right; and by the time we had moored alongside a low strip of reedy bank, the glorious rosy lights had faded from the snows of the Pir Panjal, and their royal purple and gold had turned to soft ebony against the primrose of the sky.
A few hungry mosquitoes worried us somewhat before sunset, promising worse to follow; but the sharp little breeze that came flickering over the Wular after dark seemed to upset their plans, and send them shivering and hungry to shelter among the reeds and rushes.
This morning we crossed the Wular, starting as the first pale dawn showed over the eastern hills.
Before the sun rose over Apharwat, his shafts struck the higher snows and turned them rosy; while the lower slopes, their distant pines suffused with strong purple, stood reflected in the placid mirror of the lake.
"Full many a glorious morning have I seen Flatter the mountain tops with sovran eye,"
but seldom a more lovely one than this—our last on the Wular Lake.
The active figures of the propellent Mangis, and the quiet ones of their ladies at the helm, completed a picture to be recalled with a sigh when we are parted by thousands of miles from this entrancing valley.
Sopor we had understood to be but an uninteresting place, but we were, perhaps, inclined to regard things Kashmirian through somewhat rosy spectacles. Anyhow, we rather liked Sopor. Mooring close alongside a remarkably picturesque building standing in the midst of a smooth green lawn, which was once, I believe, a dak bungalow, we halted to make arrangements for the hire of coolies and ponies to take us inland, and I went off to the post-office for letters and to make inquiries as to the probable depth of water in the river Pohru.
Our skipper, Juma, affirmed that there was no water to speak of; but Juma probably—nay, certainly—prefers the otium of a sojourn at Sopor to the toil of punting up the Pohru.
The postmaster declared that there was lots of water, but qualified his optimism by saying that it was falling fast. So we arranged for our land transport of ponies for ourselves, and a dandy for Hesketh, to meet us one march up the river at Nopura, while we ourselves set forward in our boats to Dubgam, three or four miles down the Jhelum, where the Pohru joins it. At the entrance are large stores of timber, principally deodar, which is floated down from the Lolab, stored at Dubgam, and sent thence down country and otherwhere for sale. The great boom across the river to catch the floating logs had been carried away in the flood, and merely showed a few melancholy and ineffectual spikes of wood sticking up above the now calm and sluggish river.
We towed up easily enough, through a quiet and peaceful country, which only became gorgeous under the alchemy of sunset, reaching Nopura in good time to tie up before dinner.
Friday, September 29.—On Thursday morning we started, as usual, at dawn, and proceeded to pole and haul our way up the devious channel of the Pohru. Some four or five miles we accomplished successfully, although there were ominous signs of a gradual lack of water, until we came upon a hopeless shallow, where the river, instead of concentrating its energies on one deep and narrow channel, had run to waste over a wide bed, where the wrinkling wavelets showed the golden brown of the gravel just below the surface. Our big dounga stuck hard and fast at once, and Captain Jurna promptly gave up all hope of getting farther. He was, in fact, greatly gratified to find his prophesies come true, and an insufferable air of "I told you so" overspread his face as he wagged his head with mock sorrow, and gently poked the bottom with his pole to show how firmly fixed we were.
Having an invalid with us, however, it was important to gain every easy mile we could, and it was not until all the fleet in turn had attempted to cross the shallow, and failed, that we made up our minds to take to our land transport. It was uncommonly hot in the full glare of the sun as Hesketh in his dandy, Jane on her "tattoo," and I on foot set forward for the forest house at Harwan, which lay some five miles away across the fields, where the rice is now being busily cut.
At the foot of a very brown and parched-looking hill stood the little wooden hut, facing the valley of the Pohru and the Kaj-nag range. Hot and thirsty, we blessed the good Mr. Blunt, the kindly forest officer, who had so courteously given us permission to use the forest huts of the Lolab and the Machipura. Our blessings of Blunt turned swiftly to curses directed towards the chowkidar, who was not to be seen, and who had left the hut firmly fastened from within. An attempt to force the door brought upon us the resentment of a highly irritable swarm of big red wasps, who plainly regarded us as objectionable intruders; and Jane was really getting quite cross (she says—she always does—that it was I who lost my temper)—before the bold sweeper, prying round the back premises, found an unbarred window, and the joy bells rang once more.
The Colonel turned up from the Malingam direction, and pitched his tent in the rest-house compound; and, as the afternoon grew cooler, he and I sallied forth to select a few chikor for the pot.
The chikor is extremely like the ordinary European redleg or Barbary partridge, not only in colouring, but in habit, loving the same dry, scrub-covered country, and preferring, like him, to run rather than fly when pursued. The chikor, however, is certainly far superior in the capacity of what fowl fanciers call "a table bird," being, in fact, truly excellent eating.
He is not an altogether easy bird to shoot, owing to his annoying predilection for the steepest and rockiest hillsides, and those most densely clothed in spiny jungle, wherein lurking, he chooses the inopportune moment when the sportsman is hopelessly entangled, like Isaac's ram, to rise chuckling and flee away to another hiding-place.
Without dogs, he would be often extremely hard to find; but unluckily for himself, being a true Kashmiri bird, he cannot help making a noise, and thereby betraying his presence. His corpse, when dead, is hard to find in the jungle, and a runner is, of course, hopeless without canine help. It is well, therefore, to kill him as dead as possible, and to that end I used No. 4 shot, with, I think, a certain advantage over Walter, who shot with No. 6, and who, in consequence, lost several birds.
The friendliness and sociability of the beasts and birds of Kashmir has been a great joy to us. The thing can be overdone, though, and both the wasps and the rats of Harwan were inclined to overstep the bounds of decorum.
The latter were obviously overjoyed to see visitors, and visions of unlimited plunder from our festive board would, of course, put them somewhat above themselves. Still, they should have refrained from rioting so openly around our beds as soon as the lights were out, and Jane was naturally indignant when a large one ran over her feet!
On Friday morning we left Harwan, pretty early, as usual, for it is still somewhat too warm to travel comfortably in the middle of the day. The Colonel (always an early bird) got away first, followed by our invalid in his dandy, while Jane and I remained to hunt the loiterers out of camp. A glorious morning, and the cheering knowledge that breakfast was in front of us, sent us merrily along for a mile or two, until branching paths led us to inquire of an intelligent Kashmiri, who appeared to be busily engaged in reaping rice with a penknife, as to the road taken by our precursors, especially the tiffin coolie!