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  • 1907
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SRINAGAR AGAIN

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 snow.

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 the Universe.

_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 close quarters.

_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 behindhand.

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, then lo–

“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 temper.

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 Avantipura.

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 beautifully less.”

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!”

CHAPTER X

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 Kashmir Valley.

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 the Lidar.

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 Ladakh.

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 frankly hideous.

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 Eden,

“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 purchaser.

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 of Kashmir.

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 subject.

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 immediate irksomeness.

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.[1]

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 nothing!

You will find a good description of the Kashmiri in _All’s Well that Ends Well:_–

_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 mountains.

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 seldom seen.

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.

[1] This is incorrect, the European Residents having frequently attempted, but hitherto vainly, to induce the native authorities to curb Kashmiri cruelty.

CHAPTER XI

GANGABAL

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 camp.

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 them!

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 August.

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, and Pahlgam.

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 tents.

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 misgiving.

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 dimensions.

_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 nursery fame.

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 the Sind.

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 of Gunderbal’

_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 basket.

Only the faithful “Yellow Bag” was forthcoming, the tiffin coolie being still “hull down,” and from its varied contents we extracted the only edibles, apricots and rock cakes.

Never have we enjoyed any meal more than that somewhat light breakfast, washed down by water which was a pure joy to drink.

Alas! There were but two rock cakes apiece! Another half-hour’s clamber, along a pretty rough track, brought us to a point whence we looked down a long green slope to our destination, Tronkol–a few Gujar huts, indistinct amidst a clump of very ancient birch-trees, standing out as a sort of oasis among the bare and boulder-strewn slopes.

The view was superb. To the right, the mountain-side fell steeply to where, in the depths of the Wangat Nullah, a tiny white thread marked the river foaming 4000 feet below, and beyond rose a jagged range of spires and pinnacles, snow lying white at the bases of the dark precipices. “These are the savage wilds” which bar the route from the Wangat into Tilail and the Upper Sind.

Over Tronkol, bare uplands, rising wave above wave, shut out the view of Gangabal and the track over into the Erin Nullah and down to Bandipur.

On our left towered the bastions of Haramok, his snow-crowned head rising grimly into the clear blue sky.

We pitched our camp at Tronkol about two o’clock, on a green level some little way beyond the Gujar huts, and just above a stream which picked its riotous way along a bed of enormous boulders, sheltered to a certain extent by a fringe of hoary birches.

We had never beheld such great birches as these, many of them, alas! mere skeletons of former grandeur, whose whitening limbs speak eloquently of a hundred years of ceaseless struggle with storm and tempest.

I saw no young ones springing up to replace these dying warriors. The Gujars and their buffaloes probably prevent any youthful green thing from growing. It seems a pity.

Towards evening we observed baggage ponies approaching, and at the sight we felt aggrieved; for, in our colossal selfishness, we fancied that Tronkol was ours, and ours alone. A small tent was pitched, and presently to our surly eyes appeared a lonely lady, who proceeded solemnly to play Patience in front of it while her dinner was being got ready.

A visit of ceremony, and an invitation to share our “irishystoo” and camp-fire, brought Mrs. Locock across, and we made the acquaintance of a lady well known for her prowess as a shikari throughout Kashmir–

“There hunted ‘she’ the walrus, the narwal, and the seal. Ah! ’twas a noble game,
And, like the lightning’s flame;
Flew our harpoons of steel”

I cannot resist the quotation, but I do not really think Mrs. Locock hunts walruses in Kashmir, and I know she doesn’t use a harpoon. No matter, she proved a cheery and delightful companion, and we entirely forgave her for coming to Tronkol and poaching on our preserves.

We were extremely amused at the surprise she expressed at Jane’s feat in climbing from Wangat. Evidently Jane’s reputation is not that of a bullock-workman in Srinagar!

This morning we all three went to see Lake Gangabal. An easy path leads over some three or four miles of rolling down to our destination, which is one of a whole chain of lakes–or rather tarns–which lie under the northern slopes of Haramok.

We came first upon a small piece of water, lying blue and still in the morning sun, and from which a noisy stream poured forth its glacier water. This we had a good deal of trouble in crossing, the ladies being borne on the broad backs of coolies, in attitudes more quaint than graceful. A second and deeper stream being safely forded, we climbed a low ridge to find Gangabad stretched before us–a smooth plane of turquoise blue and pale icy green, beneath the dark ramparts of Haramok, whose “eagle-baffling” crags and glittering glaciers rose six thousand sheer feet above. In the foreground the earth, still brown, and only just released from its long winter covering of snow, bore masses of small golden ranunculus and rose-hued primulas.

An extraordinary sense of silence and solitude filled one–no birds or beasts were visible, and only the tinkle of tiny rills running down to the lake, and the distant clamour of the infant river, broke, or rather accentuated, the loneliness of the scene.

We had brought breakfast with us, and after eating it we made haste to recross the two rivers, because, troublesome as they were to ford in the morning, they would certainly grow worse with every hour of ice-melting sunshine.

Once more on the camp side, however, we strolled along in leisurely mood, staying to lunch on top of the ridge overlooking Tronkol. I left the ladies then to find their leisurely way back among the flowery hollows, and made for a peak overlooking the head of the Chittagul Nullah. A sharp climb up broken rocks and over snow slopes brought me to the top, a point some 13,500 feet above the sea. In front of me Haramok, seamed with snow-filled gullies, still towered far above; immediately below, the saddle–brown, bare earth, snow-streaked–divided the Chittagul Nullah from Tronkol. Far away down the valley the Sind River gleamed like a silver thread in the afternoon light, and beyond, the Wular lay a pale haze in the distance.

To the northward rose the fantastic range of peaks that overhang the Wangat gorge, and almost below my feet, at a depth of some 1500 feet, lay a sombre lakelet, steely dark and still, in the shadow of the ridge upon which I sat.

The sun was going down fast into a fleecy bed of clouds, amid which I knew that Nanga Parbat lay swathed from sight. To see that mountain monarch had been the chief object of my climb, so, recognising that the sight of him was a hope deferred, I made haste to scramble down to the tarn below, stopping here and there to fill my pith hat with wild rhubarb, and to pick or admire the new and always fascinating wild flowers as I passed. Large-flowered, white anemones; tiny gentian, with vivid small blue blossoms; loose-flowered, purple primulas, and many strange and novel blossoms starred the grassy patches, or filled the rocky crevices with abundant beauty.

By the lake side the moisture-loving, rose-coloured primula reappeared in masses, and as I followed down its outgoing stream towards the camp, I waded through a tangle of columbine, white and blue; a great purple salvia, arnica, and a profusion of varied flowers in rampant bloom.

_Saturday, July_ 8.–An early start homewards yesterday, in the cold dawn, rewarded us by the sight of the first beams of the rising sun lighting up the threefold head of Haramok with an unspeakable glory, as we crossed the open boulder-strewn uplands, before descending into the nullah, which lay below us still wrapped in a mysterious purple haze. The downward zigzags, with their uncompromising steepness, proved almost as tiring as the ascent had been, and we were more than ready for breakfast by the time we reached the ruined temples of Vernag.

These temples, built probably about the beginning of the eighth century, are, like all the others which I have seen in Kashmir, small, and somewhat uninteresting, except to the archaeologist. They consist, invariably, of a “cella” containing the object of veneration, the lingam, surmounted by a high-pitched conical stone roof. In structure they show apparently signs of Greek influence in the doorways, and the triangular pediments above them. Phallic worship would seem to have been always confined to these temples, with ophiolatry–the nagas or water-snake deities being accommodated in sacred tanks, in the midst of which the early Kashmir temples were usually placed.

Any one who wishes to study the temple architecture of Kashmir cannot do better than read Fergusson’s _Indian Architecture_, wherein he will find all the information he wants.

To the ordinary “man in the street” the ancient buildings of Kashmir do not appeal, either by their aesthetic value or by the dignity of size. Martand, the greatest, and probably the finest, both in point of grandeur and of situation, I regret to say, I did not see; but the temples at Bhanyar, Pandrettan, and Wangat resemble one another closely in design and general insignificance. The position of the Wangat ruins, embosomed in the wild tangle

“Of a steep wilderness, whose airy sides With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild, Access denied; and overhead up grew
Insuperable height of loftiest shade, Cedar, and pine, and fir,”

and seated at the base of a solemn circle of mountains, gives the group of tottering shrines a picturesqueness and importance which I cannot concede that they would otherwise have had.

I do not remember ever to have seen it noted that all buildings which are impressive by the mere majesty of size are to be found in plains and not in mountainous countries. This is probably due to two causes. The one being the denser population of the fat plains, whereby a greater concourse of builders and of worshippers would be sustained, and the other being the–probably unconscious–instinct which debarred the architect from attempting to vie with nature in the mountains and impel him to work out his most majestic designs amid wide and level horizons.

The fact remains, whatever may be the cause, that architecture has never been advanced much beyond the mere domestic in very mountainous regions, with the exception of the mediaeval strongholds, which formed the nucleus of every town or village, where a _point d’appui_ was required against invasion, for the protection of the community.

Breakfast, followed by a prowl among the ruins and a short space for sketching, gave the sun time to pour his beams with quite unpleasant insistence into the confined fold in the hills, where we began to gasp until the ladies mounted their ponies, and we took our way down the valley, crossing the river below Wangat, and keeping along the left bank to Vernaboug, where we camped, the only incident of any importance being the sad loss of Jane’s field-glasses, which, carried by her syce in a boot-bag, were dropped in a stream by that idiot while crossing, he having lost his footing in a pool, and, clutching wildly at the pony’s reins, let go the precious binoculars.

This morning we were up betimes, Mrs. Locock having ordained a bear “honk”! This was, to me, a new departure in shikar, and truly it was amusing to see the shikari, bursting with importance, mustering the forty half-naked coolies whom he had collected to beat. A couple of men with tom-toms slung round their necks completed the party, which marched in straggling procession out of the village at dawn.

A mile of easy walking brought us to the rough jungly cliffs, seamed with transverse nullahs, narrow and steep, which bordered the river. Here we were placed in passes, with great caution and mystery, by the shikari and his chief-of-the-staff–the “oldest inhabitant” of Vernaboug; and here we sat in the morning stillness until a distant clamour and the faint beating of tom-toms afar off made us sit up more warily, and watch eagerly for the expected bear.

The yells increase, and the tom-toms, vigorously banged, seem calculated to fuss any self-respecting bear into fits. We watch a narrow space between two bushes some dozen yards away, and see that the Mannlicher across our knees and the smooth-bore, ball loaded in the right and chokeless barrel, lie handy for instant use.

Hidden in the dense jungle, some hundred yards below, sits Mrs. Locock on the matted top of a hazel, while Jane, chittering with suppressed excitement, crouches a few paces behind me.

The beaters approach, and pandemonium reigns. A few scared birds dart past, but no bear comes; and when the first brown body shows among the brushwood we shout to stop the uproar, and all move on to another beat.

Four “honks” produced nothing, so far as I was concerned; but a bear–according to her shikari–passed close by Mrs. Locock, so thickly screened by jungle that she couldn’t see it. This may be so, but Kashmir shikaris have remarkably vivid imaginations.

After a delightful morning to all parties concerned–for we were much amused, the coolies were adequately paid, and the bear wasn’t worried–we returned to breakfast, and then marched fifteen hot miles into Gunderbal, where we found the Smithsons, with whom we dined. They have been in Gurais and the Tilail district ever since they left Srinagar on the 24th April, and have had an adventurous and difficult time, with plenty of snow and torrents and avalanches, but somewhat poor sport.

This is not according to one’s preconceived ideas of shikar in Kashmir, as they went into a nullah which no sahib had penetrated for five years; they had the best shikari in Kashmir (he said it, and he ought to know); they worked very hard, and their bag consisted of one or two moderate ibex and a red bear.

_Tuesday, July_ 11.–On Sunday morning the combined fleet sailed for Palhallan. The Smithsons had a “matted dounga,” and she “walked away” from our heavier ark down the winding Sind at a great pace. We reached Shadipur at 11 A.M., but the Smithsons had “gone before,” so, crossing the Jhelum, we made after them in hot pursuit, and reached them and Palhallan at sunset.

A narrow canal, bordered by low swampy marshland, allowed us to get within a mile of the village and tie up among the shallows, whereupon the mosquitoes gathered from far and near, and fell upon us.

The final packing, effected amid a hungry crowd of little piping fiends, was a veritable nightmare, and yesterday morning we rescued our mangled remains from the enemy, and, having paid off our boats, hurriedly clambered on to the ponies which had come–late, as usual–from Palhallan to convey what was left by the mosquitoes to Gulmarg.

The unfortunate Jane–always a popular person–is especially so with insects; and if there is a flea or a mosquito anywhere within range it immediately rushes to her.

She paid dearly for her fatal gift of attractiveness at Palhallan–her eyes, usually so keen, being what is vulgarly termed “bunged up,” and every vulnerable spot in like piteous plight!

We quitted Palhallan as the Lot family quitted Sodom and Gomorrah, but with no lingering tendency to look backward; we cast our eyes unto the hills, and kicked the best pace we could out of our “tattoos,” halting for breakfast soon after crossing the hot, white road which runs from Baramula to Srinagar.

As we left the steamy valley and wound up a rapidly ascending path among the lower fringes and outliers of the forest our spirits rose, and by the time we had clambered up the last stiff pull and emerged from the darkly-wooded track into the little clearing, where perches the village of Babamarishi, we were positively cheerful.

Once more the air was fresh and buoyant, the spring water was cool and “delicate to drink,” and from our tents we could look out over the valley lying dim in a yellow heat-haze far below.

Babamarishi is a picturesquely-grouped collection of the usual rickety-looking wooden huts, no dirtier, but perhaps noisier than usual, owing to the presence of a very holy ziarat much frequented by loudly conversational devotees. We spent the crisp, warm afternoon peacefully stretched on the sloping sward in front of our tents, and making the acquaintance of the only good thing that came out of Palhallan–a charming quartette of young geese which Sabz Ali had bought and brought.

These delightful birds evinced the most perfect friendliness and confidence in us, and we became greatly attached to them. They and the fowls seemed excellent travellers, and after a long day’s march would come up smiling, like the jackdaw of Rheims, “not a penny the worse.”

This morning we had but a short and easy march from Babamarishi to Gulmarg, along a good road, through a fine forest of silver fir.

CHAPTER XII

GULMARG

Somehow one’s preconceived ideas of a place are almost always quite wrong, and so Gulmarg seemed quite different from what I had expected. It seemed all twisted the wrong way, and was really quite unlike the place which my imagination had evolved.

Turning through a narrow gap, we found ourselves facing a wide, green, undulating valley completely surrounded by dense fir forest. Beyond, to the left, rose the sloping bulk of Apharwat, one of the range of the Pir Panjal; while to the right low, wooded hillocks bounded the valley and fell, on their outward flanks, to the Kashmir plain.

Immediately in front of us a small village or bazaar swarmed with native life, and sloped down to a stream which wound through the hollows.

All round the edge of the forest a continuous ring of wooden huts and white tents showed that the “sahib” on holiday intent had marked Gulmarg for his own.

As we rode through the bazaar the view expanded. Apharwat showed all his somewhat disappointing face; his upper slopes, streaked with dirty snow, looked remarkably dingy when contrasted with the dazzling white clouds which went sailing past his uninteresting summit. The absence of all variety in form or light and shade, and the dull lines of his foreshortened front, made it hard to realise that he stood some five thousand feet above us.

Near the centre of the marg, on a small hill, was a large wooden building surrounded by many satellite huts and tents: this we rightly guessed to be Nedou’s Hotel. Below, on a spur, was the little church, and to the right, in the hollow, the club-house faced the level polo-ground.

A winding stream, which we subsequently found to be perfectly ubiquitous, and an insatiable devourer of errant golf-balls, ran deviously through the valley, which seemed to be rather over a mile long, and almost equally wide.

The Smithsons rode away vaguely in search of a camping-ground; while we, having found out where our hut was, turned back and climbed a knoll behind the bazaar, and found ourselves in front of our future home, a very plain and roughly-built rectangular wooden hut, containing a small square room opening upon a verandah, and having a bedroom and bathroom on each side.

Such was our palace, and we were well satisfied with it.

The cook-house and servants’ quarters were in a hut close by, and I could summon my retainers or chide them for undue chatter from my bedroom window–a serviceable short cut for the dinner, too, in wet and stormy weather!

Life at Gulmarg is extremely apt to degenerate into the “trivial round” of the golf links varied by polo, or polo varied by golf, with occasional gymkhanas and picnics. There are, doubtless, many delightful excursions to be made, but upon the whole it seems difficult to break far beyond the “Circular Road,” a fairly level and well-kept bridle-path, which for eight beautiful miles winds through the pine forest, giving marvellous glimpses of snowy peaks and sunlit valleys.

The “Circular Road” is always fine, whether seen after rain, when, far below in the Ferozepore Nullah, the

“Swimming vapour slopes athwart the glen, Puts forth an arm, and creeps from pine to pine,”

or when in the evening sunlight the whole broad Valley of Kashmir lies glowing at our feet, ringed afar by the ethereal mountains whose pale snows stand faint in the golden light, until beneath the yellowing sky the clouds turn rosy, and from their midst Haramok and Kolahoi raise their proud heads towards the earliest star.

The expedition to the top of Apharwat is, in my opinion, hardly worth making, but then I was not very lucky in the weather. Major Cardew, R.F.A., and I arranged to do the climb together, and duly started one excessively damp and foggy morning towards the middle of July.

Taking our ponies, we scrambled up a rough path through the forest to Killanmarg, a boulder-strewn slope, some half a mile wide, which lies between the upper edge of the forest and the final slopes of the mountain.

Sending our ponies home, we set about the ascent of the 3500 feet that remained between us and our goal. The whole hillside was a perfect wild garden. Columbines, potentillas–yellow, bronze, and crimson–primulas, anemones, gentian, arnica, and quantities of unknown blossoms gave us ample excuse for lingering panting in the rarefied air, as we struggled through brushwood first, and then over loose rocks and finally slopes of shelving snow, before we found ourselves on the crest of the mountain, shivering slightly in the raw, foggy air.

Our view was narrowed down to the bleak slopes of rock and snow that immediately surrounded us, for our hope that we should get above the cloud belt was not fulfilled, and beyond a dismal tarn, lying just below us, in whose black waters forlorn little bergs of rotten snow floated, and a very much circumscribed view of dull tops swathed in flying mist, we saw nothing.

Had the sky been clear, I am told that the view would have been magnificent, but I should think probably no better than that from Killanmarg, as it is a mistake to suppose that a high, or at least too high, elevation “lends enchantment.” As a rule the view is finer when seen half-way up a lofty mountain than that obtained from the summit.

We did not stay long upon the top of Apharwat discussing the best point of view, because Cardew sagaciously remarked that if it grew much thicker he wouldn’t be answerable for finding the way down, and as I have a holy horror of rambling about strange (and possibly precipitous) mountains in a fog, we set about retracing our own footsteps in the snow until we regained the ridge we had come up by.

A remarkably wet couple we were when we presented ourselves at our respective front doors, just in time for a “rub down” before lunch!

The golf at Gulmarg is very good, the 18-hole course being exceedingly sporting, and tricky enough to defeat the very elect. Jane and I had conveyed our clubs out to Kashmir, knowing that they were likely to prove useful. I had also taken the precaution to pack up a box or two of balls, but I found my labour all in vain, as “Haskells” and “Kemshall-Arlingtons” were supplied by the club at precisely the same price as in England–viz., 1 r. 8 an., or two shillings.

New clubs are also cheap and in plenty, but repairs to old favourites are not always satisfactory. My pet driver, having been damaged, was very evilly treated by the native craftsman, who bound up its wounds with large screws!

The mountains of Kashmir have been a constant joy to us. Varying with every change of light and shade, custom cannot stale their infinite variety; but as yet I had not seen the great monarch of Chilas, Nanga Parbat.

In July and early August he is rarely visible from Gulmarg, owing to the haziness of the atmosphere. One clear morning, however, towards the end of July, after a night of rain and storm, I was strolling along the Circular Road when, lo! far away in the north-west, soaring ethereal above the blue ranges that overlook Gurais, above the cloud-banks floating beyond their summits, the great mountain, unapproachable in his glory, stood revealed.

The early morning sun struck full on his untrodden snows, making it hard to realise that eighty-five miles of air separated me from that clear-cut peak. Soon, very soon, a light cloud clung to his eastern face, and within ten minutes the whole vision had faded into an up-piled tower of seething clouds.

Later in the season, as the air grew clearer, Jane and I made almost daily pilgrimages to the point, only a few minutes’ walk from our hut, whence, framed by a foreground of columnar pines, Nanga Parbat could generally be seen for a time in the morning.

_Tuesday, August_ 1.–Society in Gulmarg is particularly cheery, as indeed might be expected where two or three hundred English men and women are gathered together to amuse themselves and lay in a fresh store of health and energy before returning to the routine of duty in the plains.

There have been many picnics lately, the little glades or margs, which are frequent in the forest slopes, being ideal places of rendezvous for merrymakers on horse or foot. Picnics of all sorts and sizes, from the little impromptu gatherings of half-a-dozen congenial young souls (always an even number, please), who ride off into the romantic shades to nibble biscuits and make tea, to the dainty repasts provided by a hospitable lady, whose official hut overlooks the Ferozepore Nullah, and who, in turn, overlooks her cook, to the great gratification of her guests.

How small a thing will upset the best-laid plans of hospitality! It is said that a most carefully planned picnic, where all the little tables, set for two, were discreetly screened apart among the bushes, was entirely ruined by a piratical damsel undertaking a cutting-out expedition for the capture of the hostess’ best young man.

Our evenings are by no means dull. On many a starlit night has Jane mounted the noble steed which, through the kindness of the Resident, we have hired from the “State,” and ridden across the marg attended by her slaves (her husband and the ancient shikari, to wit), to dine and play bridge in some hospitable hut, or dance or see theatricals at Nedou’s Hotel.

Last week we tore ourselves away from our daily golf, and joined the Smithsons in a futile expedition to the foot of the Ferozepore Nullah for bear. Three days we spent in vain endeavour to find “baloo,” and on the fourth we wended our toilsome way up the hill again to Gulmarg.

_Monday, August_ 27.–There are drawbacks as well as advantages in being perched, as it were, just above the bazaar. Its proximity enables our good Sabz Ali to sally forth each morning and secure the earliest consignment of “butter and eggs and a pound of cheese,” which has come up from Srinagar, and select the best of the fruit and vegetables. It affords also an interesting promenade for the geese, who solemnly march down the main street daily for recreation and such stray articles of food as may be found in the heterogeneous rubbish-heaps.

It possesses, however, a superabundance of pi-dogs, who gather together on the slope in front of our hut in the watches of the night, and serenade us to a maddening extent.

The natives, too, have a sinful habit of chattering and shouting at an hour when all well-conducted persons should be steeped in their beauty sleep.

A few nights ago this culminated in what Keats would have called a “purple riot.” The sweeper and his friends were holding a meeting for the purpose of conversation and the consumption of apple brandy.

Having fruitlessly sent the shikari to try and stop the insufferable noise, I was fain to sally forth myself to investigate matters.

Then to a happy and light-hearted party seated chattering round a blazing fire there came suddenly the unwelcome apparition of an exceedingly irate sahib, in evening dress and pumps, brandishing a khudstick.

A wild scurry, in which the bonfire was scattered, a few remarks in forcible English, a whack which just missed the hindmost reveller, and the place became a deserted village.

Next morning Sabz Ali came to me in a towering rage to report that the sweeper–that unclean outcast–had dared to say most opprobrious things to him, being inspired thereto by the devil and apple brandy. Nothing less than the immediate execution of the culprit by hanging, drawing, and quartering would satisfy the outraged feelings of our henchman.

I promised a yet severer punishment. I said I would “cut” the wretched minion’s pay that month to the amount of a rupee. Vengeance was satisfied, and the victim reduced to tears.

It is good to hear Jane–who for many years has been accustomed to having her own way in all household matters–ordering breakfast.

“Well, Sabz Ali–what shall we have for breakfast to-morrow?”

“Jessa mem-sahib arder!”–with a friendly grin.

“Then I shall have kidneys.”‘

“No kidney, mem-sahib! Kidney plenty money–two annas six pice ek. Oh, plenty dear!”

“I’m tired of eggs. Is there any cold chicken you could grill?”

“Chota murghi one egg lay, mem-sahib, anda poach. Sahib, chicken grill laike!”

“Oh, all right! But I thought of a mutton-chop for the major sahib.”

“Muttony stup” (mutton’s tough). “Sahib no laike!”

“Very well, that will do–a poached egg for me and grilled chicken for the sahib.”

“No, mem-sahib–no ‘nuf. Sahib plenty ‘ungry–chicken grill, peechy ramble-tamble egg!”

“Have it your own way. I daresay the major sahib _would_ like scrambled eggs, and we’ll have coffee–not tea.”

“No, mem-sahib. No coffee–coffee finish!”

“Send the shikari down to the bazaar, then, for a tin of coffee from Nusserwanjee.”

“Shikari saaf kuro lakri ke major sahib” (cleaning the golf-clubs). “Tea breakfast, coffee kal” (to-morrow).

And, utterly routed on every point, Jane gives in gracefully, and makes an excellent breakfast as prearranged by Sabz Ali!

The news is spread that there will be an exhibition of pictures held in Srinagar in September. Every second person is a–more or less–heaven-born artist out here, so there promises to be no lack of exhibits. I dreamed a dream last night, and in my dream I was walking along the bund and came upon an elderly gentleman laying Naples yellow on a canvas with a trowel. The river was smooth and golden, and reflected the sensuous golden tones of the sky. Trees arose from golden puddles, half screening a ziarat which, upon the glowing canvas, appeared remarkably like a village church. “How beautiful!” I cried, “how gloriously oleographic!” and the painter, removing a brush from his mouth, smiled, well pleased, and said, “I am a Leader among Victorian artists and the public adores me!” and I left him vigorously painting pot-boilers. Then in a damp dell among the willows of the Dal I found a foreigner in spectacles, and the light upon his pictures was the light that never was on sea or land; but through a silvery mist the willows showed ghostly grey, and a shadowy group of classic nymphs were ringed in the dance, and I cried “O Corot! lend me your spectacles. I fain, like you, would see crude nature dimmed to a silvery perpetual twilight.” And Corot replied: “Mon ami moi je ne vois jamais le soleil, je me plonge toujours, dans les ombres bleuatres et les rayons pales de l’aube.”

Then upward I fared till, treading the clear heights, I found one frantically painting the peaks and pinnacles of the mountains in weird stipples of alternate red and blue.

“Great heavens!” I exclaimed, “what disordered manner is this!”

The artist glanced swiftly at me, and said disdainfully: “I am a modern of the moderns, and if you cannot see that mountains are like that, it is your fault–not mine. Go back, you stand too close.”

And as I went back I looked over my shoulder, and, truly, the flaring rose-colour had blended amicably with the blue, and I admitted that perhaps Segantini was not so mad as he looked.

A little lower down a stout Scotchman painted a flowery valley. The flowers were many and bright, but not so garish as they appeared to him, and I hinted as much; but he scorned my criticism.

“Mon,” he shouted, “I painted the Three Graces, an’ they made me an Academeesian. I painted a flowery glen in the Tyrol (dearie me, but thae flowers cost me a fortune in blue paint), and it was coft for the Chantry Bequest, and hoo daur _you_ talk to me?”

Then I departed hurriedly and came upon four men, two of them with long beards, and all with unkempt hair, laboriously depicting a blue pine, needle by needle, and every one in its proper place. I asked them if theirs was not a very troublesome way of painting.

They looked at one another with earnest blue eyes, and remarked that here was evidently a Philistine who knew not Cimabue and cared not a jot for Giotto; and the first said: “Sir, methinks he who would climb the golden stairs should do so step by step;” and the second said, sadly: “We are but scapegoats, truly, being cast forth by the vindictive Victorians of our day.”

The third murmured in somewhat broken English.

“Victoria Victrix,
Beata Beatrix,”

whereby I recognised him to be a poet, if not a painter.

But the fourth–an energetic-looking man with a somewhat arrogant manner–said briskly: “Perchance the ass is right; these pine needles are becoming monotonous, and I have seventeen million four hundred and sixty-two thousand five hundred and eleven more to do. Beshrew me if I do not take to pot-boiling!”

Down by the water-side a lady sat, sketching in water-colours for dear life; around her lay a litter of half-finished works, scattered like autumn leaves in Vallombrosa. I approached her, quite friendly, and offered to gather them up for her–at least some of them, saying soothingly, for I saw she was in a temper–

“Dear, dear, Clara, why, what _is_ the matter?”

“I am painting the Venice of the East,” she cried petulantly, “but for the life of me I can’t see a campanile, and how can I possibly paint a picture without a campanile?”

I understood that, of course, she couldn’t, so I stole away softly on tip-toe, leaving her turning doungas into gondolas for all she was worth.

A dark, dapper man, with an alert air and an eyeglass, sat near the seventh bridge, writing. Beside him stood an easel and other painting-gear. I asked him what he was doing, and he answered, with a fine smile, “I am gently making enemies;” so, to turn the subject, I picked up a large canvas, smeared over with invisible grey, like the broadside of a modern battleship, and sprinkled here and there with pale yellow blobs.

“What have we here, James?” I inquired cheerfully, and he, staying his claw-like hand in mid-air, made reply–

“A chromatic in tones of sad colour, with golden accidentals–Kashmir night-lights.”

“Ah! quite so,” I exclaimed; “but have I got it right side up?”

He looked at it doubtfully for a moment, then, pointing to a remarkable butterfly (_Vanessa Sifflerius_) depicted in the corner, cried: “It’s all right; you’ll never make a mistake if you keep this insect in the _right bottom corner_. It is put there on purpose.”

Lastly, on an eminence I saw a man like an eagle, sitting facing full the sun, and upon his glowing canvas was portrayed the heavens above and the earth beneath and the waters under the earth, and behind him sat one who patted him upon the back, and looked at intervals over his shoulder at the glorious work, and then wrote in a book a eulogy thereof; and I, too, came and looked over the painter’s shoulder, and I muttered, with Oliver Wendell Holmes,

“The foreground golden dirt,
The sunshine painted with a squirt.”

Then the man who patted the painter on the back turned upon me aggressively, and said: “This is the only painter who ever was, or will be, and if you don’t agree with me you are a fool.” The painter, smiling a sly Monna-Lisan smile of triumph, remarked: “Right you are, John. I rather think this _will_ knock that rascal Claude,” and I laughed so that I awoke; but the memory of the dream remained with me, and it seemed to me that, perhaps, we poor amateurs might not be any better able to compass aught but caricatures of this marvellous scenery than the ghostly limners of my dream!

The hut just above ours was tenanted by a party of three young Lancers on leave from Rawal Pindi, a gramophone, and a few dogs.

One of the soldiers was laid up with a bad ankle, and it soon became a daily custom for Jane or me to play a game of chess or piquet with the invalid.

Later on, when leave had expired for the hale, when the dogs had departed, and the voice of the gramophone was no more heard in the land, we came to see a great deal of the wounded warrior, and finally arranged to personally conduct him off the premises, and return him, in time for medical survey, to Rawal Pindi.

Many years ago I read a delightful poem called _The Paradise of Birds_–I believe it was by Mortimer Collins,[1] 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,[2] 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:–

THE HOOPOE

_Early history of_.–Tereus, King of Thrace, annoyed his wife Procne so much by the very marked attention which he paid to her sister Philomela, that she lost her temper so far as to chop up her son Itylus, and present him to his papa in the form of a ragout.

This, naturally, disgusted Tereus very much, and he “fell upon” the ladies with a sword, but, just as he was about to stab them to the heart, he was changed into a Hoopoe, Philomela into a nightingale, Procne into a swallow, while Itylus became a pheasant.

“Vertitur in volucrem, cui stant in vertice cristae Prominet immodicum pro longa cuspide rostrum; Nomen epops volucri.”

OVID, _Metam_. lib. vi.

_His crest and patent of nobility_.–Once upon a time, King Solomon, while making a royal progress, was much, incommoded by the powerful rays of the sun, and as he had ascendency over the birds, and knew their language, he called upon the vultures to come and fly betwixt the sun and his nobility, but the vultures refused. Then the kindly Hoopoes assembled, and flew in close mass above his head, thus forming a shade under which he proceeded on his journey in ease and comfort.

At sundown the monarch sent for the King of the Hoopoes, and desired him to name a reward for the service which he and his followers had rendered.

Then the King of the Hoopoes answered that nothing could be more glorious than the golden crown of King Solomon; and so Solomon decreed that the Hoopoes should thenceforward wear golden crowns as a mark of his favour. But alas! when men found the Hoopoes all adorned with golden crowns, they pursued and slew them in great multitudes for greed of the precious metal, until the King of the Hoopoes, in heavy sorrow, hied hastily to King Solomon, and begged that the gift of the golden crowns might be rescinded, ere every Hoopoe was slain.

Then Solomon, seeing the misery they had brought upon themselves by their presumption, transformed their crowns of gold to crowns of feathers, which no man coveted (for the Eastern ladies didn’t wear hats), and the Hoopoes wear them to this day as a mark of royal favour, but all the feathers fell off the necks of the disobliging vultures.

_His amazing talent_.–In those dark ages … the Hoopoe was considered as prodigiously skilful in defeating the machinations of witches, wizards, and hobgoblins. The female, in consequence of this art, could preserve her offspring from these dreaded injuries.

She knew all the plants which defeat fascinations, those which give sight to the blind; and, more wondrous still, those which open gates or doors, locked, bolted, or barred.

Aelian relates that a man having three times successively closed the nest of a Hoopoe, and having remarked the herb with which the bird, as often, opened it, applied the same herb, and _with the same success_, to charm the locks off the strongest coffer.–_Naturalists’ Magazine_ (about 1805).

_His personal appearance_.–The beak is bent, convex and sub-compressed, and in some degree obtuse; the tongue is obtuse, triangular and very short, and the feet are ambulatory. As this bird has a great abundance of feathers, it appears considerably thicker than it is. It is, in fact, about the size of a mistletoe thrush, but looks, while in its feathers, to be as large as a common pigeon.–_Naturalists’ Magazine_.

I had got _no_ further in my _magnum opus_, when I unfortunately showed my notes to Colonel–well, I will not mention his name, but he is the greatest authority on the birds and beasts of Kashmir. He besought me to spare him, pathetically remarking that I should cut the ground from under his feet, and take the bread out of his mouth, and the wind out of his sails, if I went any further with my monograph on the Hoopoe. He saw at a glance that I was conversant with authorities whom he had never consulted, and possessed a knowledge of my subject to which he could hardly aspire, so I gracefully agreed to leave the field to him, and relinquished my _magnum opus_ in its very inception.

One of the chiefest charms of Kashmir, and one which is apt to be overlooked, is the entirely unspoilt freshness of its scenery. No locust horde of personally-conducted “trippers” pollutes its ways and byways, nor has the khansamah of the dak bungalow as yet felt constrained to add sauerkraut and German sausage to his bill of fare–for which Allah be praised!

The world is growing very small, and the globe-trotter rushes round it in eighty days. The trail of the cheap excursionist is all over Europe, from the North Cape to Tarifa, from the highest Alpine summit (which he attains in comfort by a funicular railway) to the deepest mines of Cornwall. Egypt has become his footstool, and the shores of the Mediterranean his wash-pot. Niagara is mapped and labelled for his benefit, and the Yosemite is his happy hunting-ground. He “does” the West Indies in “sixty days for sixty pounds,” and he is now arranging a special cheap excursion from the Cape to Cairo. “But,” it may be remarked, “what were Jane and I but globe-trotters’? and am I not trying to sing the praises of Kashmir with the avowed object of inducing people to go out and see it for themselves?”

By all manner of means let us travel. Far be it from me to wish folks to stay dully at home, while the wonders and beauties of the wide world lie open for the admiration and education of its inhabitants.

But there are globe-trotters and globe-trotters. My objection is only to those–alas! too numerous–vagrants who cannot go abroad without casting shame on the country which bred them; whose vulgarity causes offence in church and picture-gallery; who cannot see a monument or a statue without desiring to chip off a fragment, or at least scrawl their insignificant names upon it.

From these, and such as these, Kashmir is as yet free; but some day, I suppose, it will be “opened up,” when the railway, which is already contemplated, is in going order between Pindi and Srinagar, and cheap excursion tickets are issued from Berlin and Birmingham.

Here is a specimen page of the Guide Book (bound in red) for 19–(?):

“Ascend Apharwat by the funicular railway. The neat little station, with its red corrugated-iron roof, makes a picturesque spot of colour near the Dobie’s Ghat. Fares, 4 an. 6 pi., all the way.”

“A local guide should on no account be omitted (several are always to be found near the station leaning on their khudsticks, and discussing controversial theology in the sweet low tones so noticeable in the Kashmiri). See that he be provided with a horn, to the hooting of which the Echo Lake will be found responsive.”

“From the balcony of the * Hotel Baloo an unrivalled view of Nanga Parbat should be obtained. Glasses can be procured from the anna-in-the-slot machines which are dotted about.”

“This veritable king of the Himal–” (here follows a pageful of regulation guide-book gush).

“Good sport is to be obtained from the obliging and enterprising manager of the hotel, Herr Baer. A few rupees will purchase the privilege of shooting at that monarch of the mountains, the markhor. Start not, fair tourist, for no danger lurks in the sport. No icy precipices need be scaled, no giddy gulfs explored, and the only danger which menaces the bold hunter in the mimic stalk, is that which menaces his shins in the broken soda-water bottles and sharp-edged sardine tins with which the summit of Apharwat is strewn.”

“As a matter of fact, the consumption of mutton is considerable in the Hotel Baloo in the tourist season, and the worthy Baer conceived the brilliant and financially sound scheme of attaching some old ibex and markhor horns (bought cheap when the old library at Srinagar was swept away in the last flood) to his live stock, and turning his decorated flock loose on the mountain’s brow, where the sportsman saves him the trouble of slaughter while enjoying all the excitement and none of the difficulty of a veritable stalk.”

“Another brilliant invention of the good Baer is his ‘sunset spectacles.’ These are made with the glasses in two halves–the upper part orange and the lower one purple. These are simply invaluable to those who have only a brief half-hour in which to ‘do’ Apharwat before darting down to catch the 3.15 express for Leh (_via_ the newly opened Zoji La tunnel), since for the modest sum of 8 a. a superb sunset can be enjoyed at any time of the day.”

“Should, however, the leisured globe-trotter have unlimited time at his disposal, he would do well to lunch at the Hotel Baloo, in order to taste the celebrated Kashmir sauerkraut (made of wild rhubarb) and Gujar pie (composed of the most tempting tit-bits of the water buffalo), before returning to the ‘Savoy’ at Srinagar by the turbine tram from Tangmarg, or by the pneumatic launch which leaves Palhallan Pier every ten minutes, weather permitting.”

“Should the tourist be a naturalist he can hardly fail to observe, and be interested in, the mosquitoes of this charming and picturesque locality. He will note that they rival the song-thrush in magnitude and the Bengal tiger in ferocity. A coating of tar laid with a trowel over the exposed parts of the body will be found the best protection, especially as the new Armour Company’s patent hermetically sealed bear-proof visor will be found too hot for comfort in summer.”

“The environs of Srinagar are charming. Notice the picturesque ‘furnished apartments’ for paying guests all along the water-side, and the mixed bathing establishments, crowded daily by the Smart Set, whose jewelled pyjamas flash in rivalry of the heliographic oil-tins which deck the neighbouring temples.”

“By a visit to the Museum, and an inspection by eye and nose of the quaint specimens of antique clothing exhibited there, the intelligent and imaginative traveller may conjure up a mental picture of the unpolished appearance of the old-time Mangi and his lady before he adopted the tall