Part 3 out of 5
We have spent the last three weeks or so quietly in Srinagar, our boats
forming links in the long chain that, during the "season," extends for
miles along both banks of the river. A large contingent of amphibians
dwells in the canal leading to the Dal gates, and the Chenar Bagh, sacred
to the bachelor, shows not a spare inch along its shady length.
Not being either professional globe-trotters or Athenians, we have not
felt obliged to be perpetually in high-strung pursuit of some new thing;
and to the seeker after mild and modest enjoyment there is much to be said
in favour of a sojourn at Srinagar.
Polo, gymkhanas, lawn-tennis, picnics, and golf are everyday occurrences,
followed by a rendezvous at the club, where every one congregates for a
smoke and chat, until the sun goes down behind the poplars, and the swift
shikaras come darting over the stream like water-beetles to carry off the
sahibs to their boats, to dress, dine, and reassemble for "bridge," or
perhaps a dance at Nedou's Hotel, or at that most hospitable hub of
Srinagar, the Residency.
Polo is, naturally, practically restricted to the man who brings up his
ponies from the Punjab, but golf is for all, and the nine-hole course,
although flat, is not stale, and need not be unprofitable, unless you are
fallen upon--as I was--by two stalwart Sappers, sons of Canada and potent
wielders of the cleek, who gave me enough to do to keep my rupees in my
pocket and the honour of the mother country upheld!
On May 26th we took shikara and paddled across the Dal Lake to see
something of the Mohammedan festival, consisting in a pilgrimage to the
Mosque of Hasrat Bal, where a hair of the prophet's beard is the special
object of adoration.
As we neared the goal the plot thickened. Hundreds of boats--from enormous
doungas containing the noisy inhabitants of, I should suppose, a whole
village, down to the tiniest shikara, whose passenger was perched with
careful balance to retain a margin of safety to his two inches of
freeboard--converged upon the crowded bank, above which rose the mosque.
How can I best attempt to describe the din, the crush, the light, the
colour? Was it like Henley? Well, perhaps it might be considered as a mad,
fantastic Henley. Replace the fair ladies and the startling "blazers" with
veiled houris and their lords clad in all colours of the rainbow; for one
immortal "Squash" put hundreds of "squashes," all playing upon weird
instruments, or singing in "a singular minor key"; let the smell of
outlandish cookery be wafted to you from the "family" boats and from the
bivouacs on the shore; let a constant uproar fall upon your ears as when
the Hall defeats Third Trinity by half a length; and, finally, for the
flat banks of Father Thames and the trim lawns of Phyllis Court, you must
substitute the Nasim Bagh crowned with its huge chenars, and Mahadco
looking down upon you from his thirteen thousand feet of precipice and
Half-an-hour of this kaleidoscopic whirl of gaiety satisfied us. The sun,
in spite of an awning, was a little trying, so we sought the quiet and
shade of the Nasim Bagh for lunch and repose.
Returning towards Srinagar about sundown, we stopped to visit the ancient
Mosque of Hassanabad, which stands on a narrow inlet or creek of the Dal
Lake, shaded by chenars and willows in all their fresh spring green. A
little lawn of softest turf slopes up gently to the ruined mosque, of
which a portion of an apse and vaulted dome alone stand sentinel over its
fallen greatness. Around lie the tombs of princes, whose bones have
mouldered for eight hundred years under the irises, which wave their green
sabres crowned with royal purple in the whispering twilight.
Near by, the mud and timber walls of a ziarat stand, softly brown,
supporting a deeply overhanging, grass-grown roof, blazing with scarlet
tulips. Through its very centre, and as though supporting it, pierces the
gnarled trunk of a walnut tree, reminding one of Ygdrasil, the Upholder of
_May_ 27.--What an improvement it would be if a house-dounga could be
fitted with torpedo netting! Jane finds herself in the most embarrassing
situations, while dressing in the morning, from the unwelcome pertinacity
of the merchants who swarm up the river in the early hours from their
lairs, and lay themselves alongside the helpless house-boats.
By 10 A.M. we have to repel boarders in all directions. Mr. Sami Joo is
endeavouring to sell boots from the bow, while Guffar Ali is pressing
embroidery on our acceptance from the stern. Ali Jan is in a boat full of
carved-wood rubbish on the starboard side, while Samad Shah, Sabhana, and
half-a-dozen other robbers line the river bank opposite our port windows
and clamour for custom. A powerful garden-hose of considerable calibre
might be useful, but for the present I have given Sabz Ali orders to rig
out long poles, which will prevent the enemy from so easily getting to
_June_ 17.--It is quite curious that it should be so difficult to find
time to keep up this journal. Mark Twain, in that best of burlesques, _The
Innocents Abroad_ affirms, if I remember rightly, that you could not
condemn your worst enemy to greater suffering than to bind him down to
keep an accurate diary for a year.
It is the inexorable necessity for writing day by day one's impressions
that becomes so trying; and yet it must be done daily if it is to be done
at all, for the only virtue I can attain to in writing is truth; and
impressions from memory, like sketches from memory, are of no value from
the hand of any but a master.
The time set apart for diary-writing is the hour which properly intervenes
between chota hasri and the announcement of my bath; but, somehow, there
never seems to be very much time. Either the early tea is late or bath is
early, or a shikar expedition, with a grass slipper in pursuit of flies,
takes up the precious moments, and so the business of the day gets all
The fly question is becoming serious. Personally, I do not consider that
fleas, mosquitoes, or any other recognised insect pests (excepting,
perhaps, harvest bugs) are so utterly unendurable as the "little, busy,
thirsty fly." It seems odd, too, as he neither stings nor bites, that he
should be so objectionable; but his tickly method of walking over your
nose or down your neck, and the exasperating pertinacity with which he
refuses to take "no" for an answer when you flick him delicately with a
handkerchief, but "cuts" and comes again, maddens you until you rise,
bloody-minded in your wrath, and, seizing the nearest sledgehammer, fall
upon the brute as he sits twiddling his legs in a sunny patch on the table,
"Unwounded from the dreadful close "--
he frisks cheerfully away, leaving you to gather up cursefully the
fragments of the china bowl your wife bought yesterday in the bazaar!
How he manages to congregate in his legions in this ship is a mystery.
Every window is guarded by "meat safe" blinds of wire gauze; the doors are,
normally, kept shut; and yet, after one has swept round like an irate
whirlwind with a grass slipper, and slain or desperately wounded every
visible fly in the cabin, and at last sat down again to pant and paint,
hoping for surcease from annoyance, not five minutes pass before one, two,
nay, a round dozen of the miscreants are gaily licking the moisture off
the cobalt (may they die in agony!), or trying to swim across the glass of
water, or playing hop-scotch on the nape of my neck.
From what mysterious lair or hidden orifice they come I know not, but here
they are in profusion until another massacre of the innocents is decreed.
It is a sound thing to go round one's sleeping-cabin at night before
"turning in," and make a bag of all that can be found "dreaming the happy
hours away" on the bulkheads and ceiling. It sends us to bed in the
virtuous frame of mind of the Village Blacksmith--
"Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose"
There are other microbes besides flies in Kashmir which are
exasperating--coolies, for instance.
I had engaged men through Chattar Singh (the State Transport factotum at
Srinagar) to take us up the river, and decreed that we should start at
4 A.M. yesterday.
We had been to an _al fresco_ gathering at the Residency the night before,
and so were rather sleepy in the early morning, and I did not wake at four
o'clock. At six we had not got far on our way, and at ten we were but
level with Pandrettan, barely three miles from Srinagar as the crow (that
model of rectilinear volition) flies.
I was busy painting all the forenoon, and failed to note the sluggish
steps of our coolies, but in the afternoon it was borne in upon us that if
we wanted to reach Avantipura that night, as we had arranged, a little
acceleration was necessary.
Then the trouble began. The coolies were bone-lazy, the admiral and
first-lieutenant were sulky, and the weather was stuffy and threatened
thunder--the conditions were altogether detrimental to placidity of
By sunset we had the shikari, the kitchen-maid, and the sweeper on the
tow-rope, and even the great and good Sabz Ali was seen to bear a hand in
poling. Much recrimination now ensued between Sabz Ali and the Admiral,
and the whole crowd made the air resound with Kashmiri "language," every
one, apparently, abusing everybody else, and making very nasty remarks
about their lady ancestors.
At 10 P.M. I got four more coolies from a village, apparently chiefly
inhabited by dogs, who deeply resented our proximity, and at 2 o'clock
this morning we reached the haven where we would be--Avantipura.
This morning I discharged the Srinagar coolies and took a fresh lot, who
pull better and talk less.
How differently things may be put and yet the truth retained. Yesterday we
reclined at our ease in our cosy floating cottage, towed up the lovely
river by a picturesque crew of bronze Kashmiris, the swish of the passing
water only broken by their melodious voices. The brilliancy of the morning
gave way in the afternoon to a soft haze which fell over the snowy ranges,
mellowing their clear tones to a soft and pearly grey, while the
reflections of the big chenars which graced the river bank deepened us the
afternoon shadows lengthened and spread over the wide landscape. Towards
evening we strolled along the river bank plucking the ripe mulberries, and
idly watching the terns and kingfishers busily seeking their suppers over
the glassy water; and at night we sat on deck while the moon rose higher
in the quiet sky, and the dark river banks assumed a clearer ebony as she
rose above the lofty fringe of trees, until the towing-path lay a track of
pure silver reaching away to the dim belt of woodland which shrouded
That is a perfectly accurate description of the day, and so is this:--
It was very hot--and there is nothing hid from the heat of the sun on
board a wooden house-dounga. The flies, too, were unusually malevolent,
and I could scarcely paint, and my wife could hardly read by reason of
their unwelcome attentions.
The coolies were a poor lot and a slack, and as the day grew stuffier and
sultrier so did their efforts on the tow-path become "small by degrees and
That irrepressible bird--the old cock--refused to consider himself as
under arrest in his hen-coop, and insisted upon crowing about fifteen
times a minute with that fidgeting irregularity which seems peculiar to
certain unpleasant sounds, and which retains the ear fixed in nervous
tension for the next explosion of defiance or pride, or whatever evil
impulse it is which causes a cock to crow.
Driven overboard by the cock, and a feeling that exercise would be
beneficial, we landed in the afternoon, and plodded along the bank for
some miles. The innumerable mulberry trees are loaded with ripe fruit, the
ground below being literally black with fallen berries. We ate some, and
pronounced them to be but mawkish things.
After dinner we sat on deck, as the lamp smelt too strongly to let us
enjoy ourselves in the cabin, and the coolies on the bank and the people
in our boat and those in the cook-boat engaged in a triangular duel of
words, until the last few grains of my patience ran through the glass, and
I spake with _my_ tongue.
There is certainly some curious quality in the air of this country which
affects the nerves: maybe it is the elevation at which one lives--certain
it is that many people complain of unwonted irritability and
susceptibility to petty annoyances. And, while travelling in Kashmir is
easy and comfortable enough along beaten tracks, yet the petty worries
connected with all matters of transport and supply are incessant, and
become much more serious if one cannot speak or understand Hindustani.
It takes some little time for the Western mind to grasp the fact that the
Kashmiri cannot and must not be treated on the "man and brothel" principle.
He is by nature a slave, and his brain is in many respects the undeveloped
brain of a child; in certain ways, however, his outward childishness
conceals the subtlety of the Heathen Chinee.
He has in no degree come to comprehend the dignity of labour any more than
a Poplar pauper comprehends it, but fortunately his Guardians, while
granting certain advantages in his tenure of land and payment of rent,
have bound him, in return, to work for a fair payment, when required to do
so by his Government, as exercised by the local Tehsildhar.
The demand made upon a village for coolies is not, therefore, an arbitrary
and high-handed system of bullying, but simply a call upon the villages to
fulfil their obligation towards the State by doing a fair day's work for a
fair day's pay of from four to six annas.
I do not, of course, propose to entangle myself in the working of the Land
Settlement, which is most fully and admirably explained in Lawrence's
_Valley of Kashmir_.
The coolie, drawn from his native village reluctant, like a periwinkle
from its shell, is never a good starter, and when he finds himself at the
end of a tow-rope or bowed beneath half a hundredweight of the sahib's
trinkets, with a three-thousand-feet pass to attain in front of him, he is
extremely apt to burst into tears--idle tears--or be overcome by a fit of
that fell disease--"the lurgies." Lest my reader should not be acquainted
with this illness, at least under that name, here is the diagnosis of the
lurgies as given by a very ordinary seaman to the ship's doctor.
"Well, sir, I eats well, and I sleeps well; but when I've got a job of
work to do--Lor' bless you, sir! I breaks out all over of a tremble!"
THE LIDAR VALLEY
We were glad enough to leave Srinagar, as that place has been undoubtedly
trying lately, being extremely hot and relaxing. The river, which had been
up to the fourteen-foot level, as shown on the gate ports at the entrance
to the Sunt-i-kul Canal, had fallen to 9-1/2 feet, and the mud, exposed
both on its banks and in the fields and flats which had been flooded, must
have given out unwholesome exhalations, of which the riverine population,
the dwellers in house-boats and doungas, got the full benefit.
Jane has certainly been anything but well lately, and I confess to a
certain feeling best described as "slack and livery."
We had not intended to remain nearly so long in Srinagar, but the
continuity of the chain of entertainments proved too firm to break, and
dances and dinners, bridge and golf, kept us bound from day to day, until
the _fete_ at the Residency on the 15th practically brought the Srinagar
season to a close, and broke up the line of house-boats that had been
moored along both banks of the river.
We had arranged to start with a party of three other boats up the river,
visiting Atchibal with our friends, and then going up the Lidar Valley,
while they retraced their way to Srinagar.
The most popular bachelor in Kashmir was appointed commodore, and deputed
to set the pace and arrange rendezvous. He began by sending on his big
house-boat, dragged by many coolies, to Pampur, a distance of some ten
miles by water, and, following himself on horseback by road, instituted a
sort of "Devil take the hindmost" race, for which we were not prepared.
On reaching Pampur we heard that the "Baltic Fleet" had sailed for
Avantipura, so we followed on; but, alas! having made a forced march to
this latter place, we found that Rodjestvenski Phelps had again escaped us
and "gone before."
We consigned him and the elusive "chota resident," who was in command of
the rest of the party, to perdition, and decided to pursue the even tenor
of our way to the Lidar Valley.
The upper reaches of the Jhelum tire not wildly or excitingly lovely. The
narrowed waters, like sweet Thames, run softly between quiet British banks,
willow veiled. The wide level flats of the lower river give place to low
sloping hills or "karewas," which fall in terraced undulations from the
foothills of the higher ranges which close in the eastern extremity of the
It was well into the evening, and the sun had just set, throwing a
glorious rosy flush over the snows which surround the Lidar Valley, when
we came to the picturesque bridge which crosses the stream at Bejbehara.
The scene here was charming--a grand festa or religious tamasha being
toward; the whole river was swarming with boats--great doungas, with their
festive crews yelling a monotonous chant, paddled uproariously by. Light
shikaras darted in and out, making up for want of volume in their song by
the piercing shrillness of their utterances. The banks and bridge teemed
with swarming life, and all Kashmir seemed to have contributed its
noisiest members to the revel.
Beyond the bridge we could see through the gathering dusk many house-boats
of the sahibs clustering under a group of magnificent chenars, over whose
dark masses the moon was just rising, full orbed. The piers of the bridge
seemed to be set in foliage, large willows having grown up from their
bases, giving a most curious effect. We marked with some apprehension the
swiftness of the oily current which came swirling round the piers, and
soon we found ourselves stuck fast about half-way under the bridge,
apparently unable to force our boat another inch against the stream which
boiled past. An appalling uproar was caused by the coolies and the
unemployed upon the bridge, who all, as usual, gave unlimited advice to
every one else as to the proper management of affairs under the existing
circumstances, but did nothing whatever in support of their theories. The
situation was becoming quite interesting, and the "mem-sahib" and I,
sitting on the roof of our boat, were speculating as to what would happen
next when the Gordian knot was cut by the unexpected energy and courage of
the first-lieutenant, who boldly slapped an argumentative coolie in the
face, while the admiral dashed promiscuously into the shikara,
and--yelling "Hard-a-starboard!--Full speed ahead!--Sit on the
safety--valve!"--boldly shot into an overhanging mulberry tree, wherein
our tow-rope was much entangled. The rope was cleared, the crew poled
like fury, the coolies hauled for all they were worth, every one yelled
himself hoarse, and we forged ahead. We crashed under the mulberry tree,
which swept us from stem to stern, nearly carrying the hen-coop overboard;
while Jane and I lay flat under a perfect hail of squashy black fruit
which covered the upper deck.
We went on shore for a moonlight stroll after dinner. The place was like a
glorified English park; chenars of the first magnitude, taking the place
of oaks, rose from the short crisp turf, while a band of stately poplars
stood sentry on the river bank. Through blackest shadow and over patches
of moonlit sward we rambled till we came upon the ruins of a temple, of
which little was left but a crumbled heap of masonry in the middle of a
rectangular grassy hollow which had evidently been a tank, small detached
mounds, showing where the piers of a little bridge had stood, giving
access to the building from the bank. An avenue of chenars led straight to
the bridge, showing either the antiquity of the trees or the comparatively
modern date of the temple.
_June 19_.--Yesterday afternoon we left Bejbehara, and went on to Kanbal,
the port of Islamabad. A hot and sultry day, oppressive and enervating to
all but the flies, which were remarkably energetic and lively. The river
below Islamabad is quite narrow, and hemmed in between high mudbanks.
Here we found the "Baltic Fleet," but, knowing that our fugitive friends
must have already reached Atchibal, we held to our intention of going up
Having tied up to a remarkably smelly bank, which was just lofty enough to
screen our heated brows from any wandering breeze, we landed to explore. A
hot walk of a mile or so along a dusty, poplar-lined road brought us to
the town of Islamabad, which, however, concealed its beauties most
effectually in a mass of foliage. Although it ranks as the second town in
Kashmir, it can hardly be said to be more than a big village, even
allowing for its 9000 inhabitants, its picturesque springs, and its boast
of having been once upon a time the capital of the valley. The first
hundred yards of "city," consisting of a highly-seasoned bazaar paved with
the accumulated filth of ages, was enough to satisfy our thirst for
sight-seeing, and after a visit to the post-office we trudged back through
a most oppressive grey haze to the boat. Crowds of the _elite_ of the
neighbourhood were hastening into Islamabad, where the "tamasha," which we
came upon at Bejbehara, is to be continued to-morrow.
We had a good deal of difficulty in getting transport for our expedition,
as the Assistant Resident and his party had, apparently, cleared the place
of available ponies and coolies. An appeal to the Tehsildhar was no use,
as that dignitary had gone to Atchibal in the Court train. However, a
little pressure applied to Lassoo, the local livery stablekeeper, produced
eight baggage ponies and a good-looking cream-coloured steed, with man's
saddle, for my wife.
The syce, a jovial-looking little flat-faced fellow, was a native of
We made a fairly early start, getting off about six, and, having skirted
the town and passed the neat little Zenana Mission Hospital, we had a
pretty but uneventful march of some six miles to Bawan, where, under a big
chenar, we halted for the greater part of the day.
Here let me point out that life is but a series of neglected opportunities.
We were within a couple of miles of Martand, the principal temple in
Kashmir, and we did not go to see it! I blush as I write this, knowing
that hereafter no well-conducted globe-trotter will own to my acquaintance,
and, indeed, the case requires explanation. Well, then, it was excessively
hot; we were both in bad condition, and I had ten miles more to march, so
we decided to visit Martand on our way down the valley. Alas! we came this
way no more.
Little knowing how much we were missing, we sat contented in the shade
while the hot hours went by, merely strolling down to visit a sacred tank
full of cool green water and swarming with holy carp, which scrambled in a
solid mass for bits of the chupatty which Jane threw to them.
A clear stream gushed out of a bank overhung by a tangle of wild plants.
To the left was a weird figure of the presiding deity, painted red, and
We were truly sorry to feel obliged, at four o'clock, to leave Bawan with
its massy trees and abundance of clear running water, and step out into
the heat and glare of the afternoon.
I found it a trying march. The road led along a fairly good track among
rice-fields, whence the sloping sun glinted its maddening reflection, but
here and there clumps of walnuts--the fruit just at the pickling
stage--cast a broad cool shadow, in which one lingered to pant and mop a
heated brow e'er plunging out again into the grievous white sunlight.
The cavalcade was increased during the afternoon by the addition to our
numbers of a dog--a distinctly ugly, red-haired native sort of dog,
commonly called a pi-dog. He appeared, full of business--from nowhere in
particular--and his business appeared to be to go to Eshmakam with us.
As we neared that place the road began to rise through the loveliest
woodland scenery--white roses everywhere in great bushes of foamy white,
and in climbing wreaths that drooped from the higher trees, wild indigo in
purple patches reminding one not a little of heather. Above the still
unseen village a big ziarat or monastery shone yellow in the sinking
sunlight, and overhead rose a rugged grey wall of strangely pinnacled
crags, outliers of the Wardwan, showing dusky blue in the clear-cut
shadows, and rose grey where the low sun caught with dying glory the
projecting peaks and bastions.
In a sort of orchard of walnut trees, on short, clean, green grass, we
pitched our tents, and right glad was I to sit in a comfortable Roorkhee
chair and admire the preparations for dinner after a stiff day, albeit we
only "made good" some sixteen miles at most.
_June_ 20.--A brilliant morning saw us off for Pahlgam, along a road which
was simply a glorified garden. Roses white and roses pink in wild
profusion, jasmin both white and yellow, wild indigo, a tall and very
handsome spiraea, forget-me-not, a tiny sort of Michaelmas daisy, wild
strawberry, and honeysuckle, among many a (to me unknown) blossom, clothed
the hillside or drooped over the bank of the clear stream, by whose
flower-spangled margin lay our path, where, as in Milton's description of
"Each beauteous flower,
Iris all hues, roses, and jessamine
Reared high their flourished heads."
Soon the valley narrowed, and closer on our left roared the Lidar, foaming
over its boulders in wild haste to find peace and tranquil flow in the
broad bosom of Jhelum.
The road became somewhat hilly, and at one steep zigzag the nerves of Jane
failed her slightly and she dismounted, rightly judging that a false step
on the part of the cream-coloured courser would be followed by a hurried
descent into the Lidar. I explained to her that I would certainly do what
I could for her with a dredge in the Wular when I came down, but she
preferred, she said, not to put me to any inconvenience in the matter. We
were asked to subscribe, a few days later, at Pahlgam to provide the
postman with a new pony, his late lamented "Tattoo" having been startled
by a flash of lightning at that very spot, and having paid for the error
with his life.
A halt was called for lunch under a blue pine, where we quickly discovered
how paltry its shade is in comparison with the generous screen cast by a
chenar; scarcely has the heated traveller picked out a seemingly
umbrageous spot to recline upon when, lo! a flickering shaft of sunlight,
broken into an irritating dazzle by a quivering bunch of pine needles,
strikes him in the eye, and he sets to work to crawl vainly around in
search of a better screen.
Nothing approaches the great circle of solid coolness thrown by a big
chenar. The walnut does its best, and comes in a good second. Pines
(especially blue ones) are, as I remarked before, unsatisfactory.
But if the pine is not all that can be wished as a shade-producer, he is
in all his varieties a beautiful object to look upon. First, I think, in
point of magnificence towers the Himalayan spruce, rearing his gaunt shaft,
"Like the mast of some tall ammiral,"
from the shelving steeps that overhang the torrents, and piercing high
into the blue. In living majesty he shares the honours with the deodar,
but he is merely good to look upon; his timber is useless and in his decay
his fallen and lightning-blasted remains lie rotting on these wild hills,
while the precious trunks of the deodar and the excelsa are laboriously
collected, and floated and dragged to the lower valleys, producing much
good money to Sir Amar Singh and the best of building timber to the
The road towards Pahlgam is a charming woodland walk, where the wild
strawberries, still hardly out of flower, grow thick amidst a tangle of
chestnut, yew, wild cherry, and flowering shrubs. Overhead and to the
right the rocky steeps rise abruptly until they culminate in the crags of
Kohinar, and on the left the snow-fed Lidar roars "through the cloven
ravine in cataract after cataract."
About four miles from Pahlgam, on turning a corner of the gorge, a
splendid view bursts upon the wayfarer. The great twin brethren of Kolahoi
come suddenly into sight, where they stand blocking the head of the valley,
their double peaks shining with everlasting snow.
It needed all the beauty of the scene to make me forget that the thirteen
miles from Eshmakam were long and hot, and that I was woefully out of
condition, and we rejoiced to see the gleam of tents amid the pine-wood
which constitutes the camping-ground of Pahlgam.
We sat peacefully on the thyme and clover-covered maiden, amongst a herd
of happily browsing cattle, until our tents were up and the irritating but
needful bustle of arrival was over, and the tea-table spread.
Pahlgam stands some 2000 feet above Srinagar, and although it is not
supposed to be bracing, yet to us, jaded votaries of fashion in stuffy
Srinagar, the fresh, clear, pine-scented air was purely delightful, and a
couple of days saw us "like kidlings blythe and merry"--that is to say, as
much so as a couple of sedate middle-aged people could reasonably be
expected to appear. The camping-ground is in a wood of blue pines, which,
extending from the steeper uplands, covers much of the leveller valley,
and abuts with woody promontories on the flowery strath which borders the
river. Here some dozen or so of visitors had already selected little
clearings, and the flicker of white tents, the squealing of ponies, and
the jabber of native servants banished all ideas of loneliness.
About half a mile below the camping-ground is the bungalow of Colonel Ward,
clear of the wood and with Kolahoi just showing over the green shoulder
which hides him from Pahlgam. I was fortunate enough to find the Colonel
before he left for Datchgam to meet the Residency party, and to get,
through his kindness, certain information which I wanted about the birds
An enthusiast in natural history, Colonel Ward has given himself with
heart-whole devotion for many years to the study of the beasts and birds
of Kashmir, and he is practically the one and only authority on the
We were very anxious to cross the high pass above Lidarwat over into the
Sind Valley, having arranged to meet the Smithsons at Gangabal on their
way back from Tilail. Knowing that Colonel Ward would be posted as to the
state of the snow, I had written to him from Srinagar for information. His
reply, which I got at Islamabad, was not encouraging, nor was his opinion
altered now. The pass might be possible, but was certainly not advisable
for ladies at present.
_Friday, June 23_.--We were detained here at Pahlgam until about one
o'clock to-day, as Colonel Ward, as well as two minor potentates, had
marched yesterday, employing every available coolie. The fifteen whom I
required were sent back to me by the Colonel, and turned up about noon, so,
after lunch, we set forth.
Camels are usually unwilling starters. I knew one who never could be
induced to do his duty until a fire had been lit under him as a gentle
stimulant. He lived in Suakin, and existence was one long grievance to him,
but no other animal with which I am acquainted approaches a Pahlgam coolie
in _vis inertia_.
Whether a too copious lunch had rendered my men torpid, or whether the
attractions of their happy homes drew them, I know not, but after the
loads (and these not heavy) had been, after much wrangling, bound upon
their backs, and they had limped along for a few hundred yards or so, one
fell sick, or said he was sick, and, peacefully squatting on a convenient
stone, refused to budge.
We were still close to some of the scattered huts of Pahlgam, so an
authority, in the shape of a lumbadhar or chowkidar, or some such, came to
our help, and promptly collected for us an elderly gentleman who was
tending his flocks and herds in the vicinity. Doubtless it was provoking,
when he was looking forward to a comfortable afternoon tea in the bosom of
his family, after a hard day's work of doing nothing, to be called upon to
carry a nasty angular yakdan for seven miles along a distinctly uneven
road; but was he therefore justified in blubbering like a baby, and
behaving like an ape being led to execution?
The first half-mile was dreadful. At every couple of hundred yards the
coolies would sit down in a bunch, groaning and crying, and nothing less
than a push or a thump would induce them to move. We felt like
slave-drivers, and indeed Sabz Ali and the shikari behaved as such,
although their prods and objurgations were not so hurtful as they appeared,
being somewhat after the fashion of the tale told by an idiot,
"Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Presently we became so much irritated by the ceaseless row that we decided
to sit down and read and sketch by the roadside, in order to let the whole
mournful train pass out of sight and earshot.
Now, I wish to maintain in all seriousness that I am not a Legree, and
that, although I by no means hold the "man and brother" theory, yet I am
perfectly prepared to respect the _droits de l'homme_.
This may appear a statement inconsistent with my acknowledgment that I
permitted coolies to be beaten--the beating being no more than a
technical "assault," and never a "thrashing!"--but my contention is that
when you have to deal with people of so low an organisation that they can
only be reached by elementary arguments, they must be treated absolutely
as children, and judiciously whacked as such.
No Kashmiri without the impulsion of _force majeure_ would ever do any
work--no logical argument will enable him to see ultimate good in
It is very difficult for the Western mind to give the Kashmiri credit for
any virtues, his failings being so conspicuous and repellent; for not only
is he an outrageous coward, but he feels no shame in admitting his
cowardice. He is a most accomplished thief, and the truth is not in him.
He and his are much fouler than Neapolitan lazzaroni, and his morals--well,
let us give the Kashmiri his due, and turn to his virtues. He is, on the
whole, cheerful and lively, devoted to children, and kind to animals.
Here is a story which is fairly characteristic of the charming Kashmiri.
During the floods which nearly ruined Kashmir in 1901, a village near a
certain colonel's bungalow was in danger of losing all its crops and half
its houses, the neighbouring river being in spate. My friend, on going to
see if anything could be done, found the water rising, and the adult male
inhabitants of the village lying upon the ground, and beating their heads
and hands upon it in woebegone impotence.
He walked about upon their stomachs a little to invigorate them, and,
sending forthwith for a gang of coolies from an adjacent village which lay
a little higher, he set the whole crowd to work to divert part of the
stream by means of driftwood and damming, and was, in the end, able to
save the houses and a good part of the crops.
When the hired coolies came to be paid for their labour, the villagers
also put in a claim for wages, and were desperately vexed at my friend's
refusal to grant it, complaining bitterly of having had to work hard for
You will find a good description of the Kashmiri in _All's Well that Ends
_Parolles_. He will steal, sir, an egg out of a cloister.... He
professes not keeping of oaths, in breaking them, he is stronger
than Hercules. He will lie, sir, with such volubility, that you
would think truth were a fool: drunkenness is his best
virtue; ... he has everything that an honest man should not have;
what an honest man should have, he has nothing.
* * * * *
He excels his brother for a coward, yet his brother is reputed
one of the best that is: in a retreat he outruns any lackey;
marry, in coming on he has the cramp.
We had not long sat sketching and basking in the genial glow of a summer
afternoon among the mountains, when it began to be borne in upon us that
the weather was going to change, and that the usual thunderstorm was
meditating a descent upon us. Black clouds came boiling up over the
mountain peaks, and the too familiar grumble of distant thunder sent us
hurrying along the lovely ravine, through which the path leads to Aru.
Only a seven miles' journey, but ere we had gone half-way the storm broke,
and a thick veil of sweeping rain fell between us and the surrounding
Presently we found a serious solution of continuity in the track, which,
after leading us along a precarious ledge by the side of the river,
finished abruptly; sheared clean off by a recent landslip.
We were very wet, but the river looked wetter still, and it boiled round
the rocky point, where the road should have been but was not, in a
distinctly disagreeable manner.
However, Jane dismounting, I climbed upon the cream-coloured courser, and
proceeded to ford the gap. The water swirled well above the syce's knees,
but the noble steed picked his way with the greatest circumspection over
and among the submerged boulders, till, after splashing through some
hundred yards of water, he deposited me, not much wetter than before, on
the continuation of the high-road, whence I had the satisfaction of
watching Jane go through the same performance.
Hoping against hope that the coolies, by a little haste, might have got
the tents pitched before the storm came on, we plodded on, until, wet to
the very skin, we slopped into Aru, to behold a draggled party squatting
round a central floppy heap in a wet field, which, as we gazed, slowly
upreared itself into a drooping tent.
In dear old England this sort of experience would have spelt shocking
colds, and probably rheumatism for life, but here--well, we crawled into
our tent and found it, thanks to a couple of waterproof sheets spread on
the ground, surprisingly dry. A change of clothes, a good dinner, produced
under the most unfavourable circumstances from a wretched little
cooking-tent, and a fire burning goodness knows how, in the open, showed
the world to be quite a nice place after all.
After dinner a great camp-fire was lit in front of our tent, the rain
cleared off, and I sat smoking with much content, while all our soaking
garments were festooned on branches round the blaze, and Jane and I turned
them like roasting joints, at intervals, until the steam rose like incense
towards the stars.
The coolies, too, had quite got over their homesickness, and were
extraordinarily cheerful, their incessant jabber falling as a lullaby on
our ears as we dropped off to sleep.
_Saturday, June_ 24.--We got away in good time for our short eight-mile
march to Lidarwat. The coolies went off gaily--the day was warm and
brilliant, and the views down the valley towards Pahlgam superb.
We had camped on the low ground at Aru, just across the bridge, but about
half a mile on, and upon a grassy plateau there is an ideal camping-ground
facing down the Lidar Valley, towards the peaks which rise behind Pahlgam.
Want of water is the only drawback to this spot, but if mussiks are
carried, water can easily be brought from a small nullah towards Lidarwat.
Tearing ourselves away from this spot, and turning our backs upon one of
the most gorgeous views in Kashmir, we plunged into a beautiful wood.
Maidenhair and many another fern grew in masses among the great roots
which twined like snakes over the rocky slopes. Far below, with muffled
roar, the unseen river tore its downward way.
By-and-by, the path emerging from the wood shelved along a green hillside,
where bracken and golden spurge clothed the little hollows, while wild
wall-flower, Jacob's Ladder, and a large purple cranes-bill brightened the
slopes where happy cattle, but lately released from their winter's
imprisonment, were feeding greedily on the young green grass.
I fancy the cattle have a remarkably poor time here in winter. Hay is not
made, and very little winter forage seems to be collected. As the snows
fall lower on the hills, the flocks and herds are driven down to the low
ground, where they drag through the dark days as best they can, on
maize-stalks and such like.
I noticed early in May the water buffaloes just turned out to graze in the
Lolab, and more weakly, melancholy collections of skin--and--bone I have
Now, however, up high in every sunny grassy valley, the Gujars may be
found camping with their flocks--cattle, ponies, buffaloes, and goats,
working upwards hard on the track of the receding snow, where the primula
and the gentian star the spring turf.
A series of grassy uplands brought us close to Lidarwat, when a sharp
shower, arriving unexpectedly from nowhere in particular, sent us to eat
our lunch under the shelter of some fairly waterproof trees in the company
of a herd of water buffaloes of especially evil aspect.
One hoary brute in particular, with enormous horns and pale blue eyes,
made me think of the legend concerning the origin of the buffalo.
When the Almighty was hard at work creating the animals, the devil came
and looked on until he became filled with emulation, and begged the Deity
to let him try his hand at creation. So the Almighty agreed, asking him
what beast he would prefer to make, and he said, "A cow." So he went away
and created a water buffalo, which so disgusted the Creator that the devil
was not permitted to make any more experiments.
As soon as the rain held up and the thunder had rolled off up the valley,
we packed the tiffin basket, had one more drink from an icy spring, and
left the shelter of the friendly trees, followed by the glares of all the
buffaloes, who appear to have a decided antipathy to the "sahib logue."
We soon came to Lidarwat, passing several tents there, pitched by the edge
of a green lawn, and sheltered by a deep belt of trees. Crossing to the
right bank of the river by the usual rickety bridge, we continued our way,
as the farther up the glen we get to-night, the less shall we leave for
to-morrow, when we intend to visit the Kolahoi Glacier.
The cream-coloured courser nearly wrecked my Kashmir holiday at this point,
owing to the silly dislike of white folk which he possesses in common with
the buffaloes. As I was incautiously handing Jane her beloved parasol, he
whisked round and let out at me, and I was only saved from a nasty kick by
my closeness to the beast, whose hock made such an impression upon my
thigh as to cause me to go a bit short for a while.
We camped in rather a moist-looking place, where the wood begins to show
signs of finishing, and the slopes fall steep and bare to the river.
A rather rank and weedy undergrowth was not inviting, and was strongly
suggestive of dampness and rheumatism. It was fairly chilly, too, at night,
as our camp was some 11,000 feet above the sea, and the little breezes
that came sighing through the pines were straight from the snow.
_Sunday, June 25_.--A most glorious morning saw us start early for an
expedition to the Kolahoi Glacier. The sombre ravine in which we were
camped amid the pines lay still in a mysterious blue haze, but the sun had
already caught the snow-streaked mountain-tops to our left, and gilded
their rugged sides with a swiftly descending mantle of warmth and light.
A very fine waterfall came tumbling down a wooded chasm on our right, and
as fine waterfalls are scarce in Kashmir we stopped for some time to
admire it duly.
The track now led out into a wide and treeless valley, flanked by
snow-crowned mountains, and we pushed on merrily until we arrived at the
brink of a rascally torrent, which gave us some trouble to ford, being
both exceeding swift and fairly deep. Luckily, it was greedy, and, not
content with one channel, had spread itself out into four or five branches,
and thus so squandered itself that Jane on her pony and I on coolie-back
accomplished the passage without mishap. For some miles we held on along
an easy path which curved to the right along the right bank of the river,
which was spanned in many places by great snow bridges, often hundreds of
yards in width. We lunched sitting on the trunk of a dead birch which had
been carried by the snow down from its eyrie, and then left, a melancholy
skeleton, bleaching on the slowly melting avalanche. Some two miles
farther on we could see the end of the Kolahoi Glacier, its grey and
rock-strewn snout standing abrupt above the white slopes of snow.
Behind rose the fine peak of Harbagwan, in as yet undisputed splendour,
Kolahoi being still hidden behind the cliffs which towered on our right.
Distances seem short in this brilliant air, but we walked for a long while
over the short turf, flushing crimson with primulas and golden with small
buttercups, and then over snowy hillocks, before we reached the solid ice
of the great glacier.
It was so completely covered with fragments of grey rock that Jane could
hardly he persuaded that it really was an ice slope that we were
scrambling up with such difficulty, until a peep into a cold mysterious
cleft convinced her that she was really and truly standing upon 200 feet
of solid ice.
The sight that now burst upon us was one to be remembered. Kolahoi towered
ethereal--a sunlit wedge of sheer rock some six thousand feet above
us--into the crystal air. From his feet the white frozen billows of the
great glacier rolled, a glistering sea, to where we, atoms in the enormous
loneliness, stood breathless in admiration. Around the head of the wide
amphitheatre wherein we stood rose a circle of stately peaks, their bases
flanged with rocky buttresses, dark amid the long sweeps of radiant snow,
their shattered peaks reared high into the very heavens. A great silence
reigned. There was no wind with us, and yet, even as we watched, a white
cloud flitted past the virgin peak of Kolahoi--ghostly, intangible; and
immediately, even as vultures assemble suddenly, no one knows whence, so
did the clouds appear, surging over the gleaming shoulders of the mountain
ridges, and up and round the grim precipices. We turned and hurried down
the face of the glacier, and made for camp, as we knew from much
experience that a thunderstorm was inevitable.
Over the beds of dirty snow, down by the side of the new-born torrent,
which leaped full-grown to life from the womb of a green cavern below the
glacier; over patches of pulpy turf just freed from its wintry bondage,
and already carpeted with masses of rose-coloured primulas, we hastened,
keeping to the left bank of the stream, in order to avoid the torrent
which had so troubled us in the morning, which we knew would be deeper in
the afternoon owing to the melting of the snows in the sunshine.
We had got but a bare half of our journey done when the storm burst, and
in a very short time we were reduced to the recklessness which comes of
being as wet as you can possibly be.
"The thunder bellows far from snow to snow
(Home, Rose and Home, Provence and La Palie),
And loud and louder roars the flood below.
Heigho! But soon in shelter we shall be
(Home, Rose and Home, Provence and La Palie)."
Crossing the river on a big snow-bridge below the point where our old
enemy came thundering down the mountain-side, we tramped gaily through mud
and mire and over slippery rocks until we were gladdened by the sight of
our camp, dripping away peacefully in the midst of the weeping forest.
The rain, as usual, ceased in the evening. A great camp-fire was lit, and
the neighbouring buffaloes of Gujar-Kote having kindly supplied us with
milk, we dined wisely and well and dropped off to sleep, lulled by the
roaring of the Kolahoi River, which raced through the darkness close by.
_Tuesday, June 27_.--Being still hopeful of achieving the pass over into
the Sind, we struck camp early yesterday and marched down to Lidarwat,
only to find that the party which we knew had camped there with a view to
crossing, had given up the idea and retreated down the valley; so I sent a
swift messenger to countermand the three days' supply of "rassad" which I
had ordered from Pahlgam for my men, and we marched on to Aru. Upon the
spur which overlooks Aru we found Dr. Neve encamped, and proceeded to
discuss the possibility of crossing into the Sind Valley _via_ Sekwas,
Khem Sar, and Koolan. The Doctor, who is an enterprising mountaineer, was
himself about to cross, but he did not encourage Jane to go and do
likewise, as he said it would be very difficult owing to the late spring,
and would probably entail a good deal of work with ropes and ice-axes.
This absolutely decided us, our valour being greatly tempered by
discretion, and we camped quietly at Aru, and came on into Pahlgam this
forenoon. The river, for some reason best known to itself, was so low that
we got dry-shod past the corner which had worried us so much on the way up.
 This is incorrect, the European Residents having frequently attempted,
but hitherto vainly, to induce the native authorities to curb Kashmiri
Friday, _June_ 30.--The last few days have been somewhat uneventful. We
left Pahlgam at early dawn on Wednesday, just as the first lemon-coloured
light was spreading in the east over the pine-serrated heights above the
The rapids below Colonel Ward's bungalow, which had been fierce and
swollen as we passed them on our upward way, were now reduced to roaring
after the subdued fashion of the sucking dove; so we hardly paused to
contemplate either them or the big boulder, red-stained and holy, at
Ganesbal, but hastened on to the point where, just before turning a high
bluff which shuts him from sight for the last time, we got the view of
Kolahoi, with the newly-risen sun glowing on his upper slopes. An hour
flew by much too fast, and it was with great reluctance that we finally
turned our back on the finest part of the Lidar Valley, and sadly resumed
our march to Sellar, crossing the river and following a rather hot and
dull road. Sellar itself is not nearly as pretty as Eshmakam, and we grew
rather tired of it by evening, as we arrived soon after one o'clock, and
found little to do or see.
Yesterday we left Sellar and marched to Bejbehara, the hottest and dullest
march I know of in Kashmir. A shadeless road slopes gently down across the
plains to the river. All along this road we overtook parties of coolies
laden with creels of silk cocoons, whose destination is the big silk
factory at Srinagar, small clouds of hot red dust rising into the still
air, knocked up by the shuffling tread of their grass-shod feet.
In the fields, dry and burnt to our eyes after the green valleys, squatted
the reapers, snipping the sparse ears, apparently one by one, with sickles
like penknives. They seemed to get the work done somehow, as little sheafs
laid in rows bore witness; but the patience of Job must have been upon
The chenars of Bejbehara threw a most welcome shade from the noonday sun,
which was striking down with evil force as we panted across the steamy
rice-fields which surround them.
Hither we came at noon, only to find that our boats were not awaiting us
as we had directed. A messenger bearing bitter words was promptly
despatched to root the lazy scoundrels out from Islamabad, while Jane and
I camped out beneath a huge tree and lunched, worked, and sketched until
four o'clock, when the Admiral brought the fleet in and fondly deemed his
day's work done.
This was by no means our view of the case, and the usual trouble
began--"No coolies"--"Very late"--"Plenty tired," &c. &c.
Of course Satarah was defeated, and was soon to be seen sulkily poling
away in the stern-sheets, while his son-in-law still more sulkily paddled
in the bow.
We made about eight or ten miles, having a swift current under us, before
a strong squall came up the valley, making the old ark slue about
prodigiously, and inducing us to tie up for the night.
This morning we slipped down stream to Srinagar, only halting for a short
while to obtain some of the native bread for which Pampur is celebrated.
The river seemed exceedingly hot and stuffy after the lovely air which we
have been breathing lately, and we quite determined that the sooner we get
out of the valley the better for our pleasure, if not for our health.
We have been greatly exercised as to how best dispose of the time until
September, for, during the months of July and August, the heat in the
valley is very considerable, and every one seeks the higher summer
retreats. The Smithsons suggested an expedition to Leh, which would,
undoubtedly, have been a most interesting trip, but which would in no wise
have spared us in the matter of heat. Had we started about this time for
Leh we should have reached our destination towards the end of July, and
would therefore have found ourselves setting out again across an arid and
extremely hot country on the return journey somewhere about the middle of
The game did not seem to be worth the candle, and the Smithsons themselves
shied at the idea when it was borne in upon them that there would be
little or no shooting to be done _en route_.
The alternatives seemed to lie between Gulmarg, where most of the beauty
and fashion of Kashmir disports itself during the hot weather, Sonamarg,
Sonamarg, from description, seemed likely to be quiet, not to say dull, as
a residence for two months. One cannot live by scenery alone, and even the
loveliest may become _toujours pate de l'anguille._
Pahlgam suffered in our eyes from the same failing, and our thoughts
turned to Gulmarg. Here, however, a difficulty arose. It is a notoriously
wet place. We heard horrid tales of golf enthusiasts playing in waders,
and of revellers half drowned while returning from dinners in neighbouring
We thought of rooms in Nedou's Hotel, but our memories of this hostelry in
Srinagar were not altogether sweet, and we did not in the least hanker
after a second edition; moreover, every available room had been engaged
long ago, and it was extremely doubtful, to say the least of it, if the
good Mr. Nedou could do anything for us. The prospect of a two-month
sojourn in a wet tent wherein no fire could ever be lighted, and in which
Jane pictured her frocks and smart hats lying in their boxes all crumpled
and shorn of their dainty freshness, was far from enticing!
Tent existence, when one lives the simple life far from the madding crowd,
clad in puttoo and shooting-boots, or grass shoes, is delightful; but tent
life in the midst of a round of society functions--golf, polo, with their
attendant teas and dinners--was not to be thought of without grave
Sorely perplexed, and almost at our wits' end, the Gordian knot was cut by
our being offered a small hut which had been occupied by a clerk in the
State employ, now absent, and which the Resident most kindly placed at our
disposal for a merely nominal rent. Needless to say we gratefully accepted
the offer, in spite of the assurance that the hut was of very minute
_Sunday, July_ 2.--Yesterday we toiled hard in the heat to get everything
in train for a move to Gulmarg. Subhana, that excellent tailor and
embroiderer, arranged to have all our heavy luggage sent up to meet us on
the 10th, and from him, too, we arranged for the hire of such furniture as
we might require, for we knew that the hut was bare as the cupboard of
This morning we set off down the river to keep tryst with the Smithsons at
Gangabal, where we hope to meet them about the 5th on their way back from
Tilail. The usual struggle with the crew resulted, also as usual, in our
favour, and we got right through to Gunderbal at the mouth of the Sind
River, where we now lie amid a flotilla of boats whose occupiers have fled
away from the sultriness and smelliness of Srinagar in search of the cool
currents, both of air and water, which are popularly supposed to flow down
As Jane and I returned from a visit to the post-office along a sweltering
path among the rice-fields, from which warm waves of air rose steaming
into the sunset, we failed to observe the celebrated and superior coolness
_Thursday, July_ 6.--The lumbadhar of Gunderbal, in spite of his
magnificent name, is a rascal of the deepest dye. He put much water in our
milk, to the furious disgust of Sabz Ali, and he failed to provide the
coolies I had ordered; I therefore reported him to Chattar Singh, and sent
my messengers forth, like another Lars Porsena, to catch coolies.
This was early on Tuesday morning, and a sufficient number of ponies and
coolies having been got together by 5.30, we started.
I may here note that, owing to a confusion between _Gunderbal_ (the port,
so to speak, of the Sind Valley, and route to Leh and Thibet) and
_Gangabal_, a lake lying some 12,000 feet above the sea behind Haramok,
our arrangement to meet the Smithsons at Gangabal was altered by a letter
from them announcing their imminent arrival at Gunderbal! This was
perturbing, but as the mistake was not ours, we decided not to allow
ourselves to be baulked of a trip for which we had surrendered an
expedition to Shisha Nag, beyond Pahlgam.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
"I'm tired of eggs. Is there any cold chicken you
"Chota murghi one egg lay, mem-sahib, anda poach. Sahib, chicken grill
"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
"No, mem-sahib--no 'nuf. Sahib plenty 'ungry--chicken grill, peechy
"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
"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
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
The third murmured in somewhat broken English.
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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,
"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
"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