A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil
T. R. Swinburne
Part 2 out of 5
Yesterday, we went on a shopping excursion down the river, our "hansom"
being a long narrow sort of canoe, propelled and dexterously steered by
four or five paddlers, whose mode of _digging_ along by means of their
heart-shaped blades reminded me not a little of the Kroo boys paddling a
fish-canoe off Elmina on the Gold Coast.
We embarked close to the back of the hotel, at the Chenar Bagh, and went
gaily enough down the strong current of what we took to be an affluent of
the Jhelum. As a matter of fact, the European quarter forms an island, low
and perfectly flat, the banks of which are heaped into a high dyke or
"bund," washed on one side (the south) by the main river, and on the other
by the Sunt-i-kul Canal, down which we have been paddling.
The river life was most fascinating--crowds of heavy doungas lay moored
along the banks--their long, low bodies covered in by matting, and their
extremities sloping up into long peaked platforms for the crew.
These--many of them women and children--were all clothed in neutral-tinted
gowns, the only bit of colour being an occasional note of red or white in
the puggaree of the men or skull-cap of the children. The married women
invariably wore whity-brown veils over the head. The wooden houses that
lined the banks were all in the general low scheme of colour, but a
peculiar charm was added by the roofs covered in thick, green turf.
Srinagar has been called the "Venice of the East," and, inasmuch as
waterways form the main thoroughfares in both, there is a certain
resemblance. Shikaras (the Kashmiri canoes) are first-cousins to
gondolas--rather poor relations perhaps; both are dingy and clumsy in
appearance, and both are managed with an extraordinary dexterity by their
Both cities are "smelly," though Venice, even at its worst, stands many
degrees above the incredible filth of Srinagar.
Finally--both cities are within sight of snowy ranges; although it seems
hardly fair to place in comparison the majestic range that overhangs
Srinagar and the somewhat distant and sketchy view of the Alps as seen
Here, I think, all resemblance ceases. The charm of Venice lies in its
architecture, its art treasures, its historical memories, and its
Srinagar has no architecture in particular, being but a picturesque chaos
of tumble-down wooden shanties. It has no history worth speaking of, and
its inhabitants are--and apparently have always been--a poor lot.
Shopping in Srinagar is not pure and unadulterated joy. Down the river,
spanned by its seven bridges, amidst a network of foul-smelling alleys,
you are dragged to the emporiums of the native merchants whose
advertisements flare upon the river banks, and who, armed with cards, and
possessed of a wonderful supply of the English language, swarm around the
victim at every landing-place, and almost tear one another in pieces while
striving to obtain your custom.
Samad Shall, in a conspicuous hoarding, announces that he can--and
will--supply you with anything you may desire, including money--for he
proclaims himself to be a banker.
Ganymede, in his own opinion, is the only wood-carver worth attention.
Suffering Moses is the prince of workers in lacquer, according to his own
The nose of the boat grates up against the slimy step of the landing-place,
and you plunge forthwith into Babel.
"Will you come to my shop?"
"No--you are going somewhere else."
"No--no time to-day."
"To-morrow, then--I got very naice kyriasity [curiosity]--to-morrow,
"Oh! get out! and leave me alone."
"I send boat for you--ten o'clock to-morrow?"
"Twelve o'clock?" &c. &c.
After a short experience of Kashmiri pertinacity and business methods, you
cease from politeness and curtly threaten the river.
Certainly the Kashmiri are exceedingly clever and excellent workers in
many ways. Their modern embroideries (the old shawl manufacture is totally
extinct) are beautiful and artistic. Their wood-carving, almost always
executed in rich brown walnut, is excellent; and their _old_ papier-mache
lacquer is very good. The tendency, however, is unfortunately to abandon
their own admirable designs, and assimilate or copy Western ideas as
conveyed in very doubtful taste by English visitors.
The embroidery has perhaps kept its individuality the best, although the
trail of the serpent as revealed in "quaint" Liberty or South Kensington
designs is sometimes only too apparent. Certain plants--Lotus, Iris,
Chenar leaf, and so-called Dal Lake leaves, as well as various designs
taken from the old Kashmir shawls, give scope to the nimble brains and
fingers of the embroiderers, who, by-the-bye, are all male.
Their colours, almost invariably obtained from native dyes, are excellent,
and they rarely make a mistake in taste.
The coarser work in wool on cushions, curtains, and thick white numdahs is
most effective and cheap.
Curiously enough, the best of these numdahs (which make capital rugs or
bath blankets) are made in Yarkand; and Stein, in his _Sand-Buried Cities
of Kotan_, found in ancient documents, of the third century or so, "the
earliest mention of the felt-rugs or 'numdahs' so familiar to Anglo-Indian
use, which to this day form a special product of Kotan home industry, and
of which large consignments are annually exported to Ladak and Kashmir."
The manufacture of carpets is receiving attention, and Messrs. Mitchell
own a large carpet factory. Designs and colours are good, but the prices
are not low enough to enable them to compete with the cheap Indian makes;
nor, I make bold to say, is the quality such as to justify high prices.
The shop of Mohamed Jan is well worth a visit, for three good
reasons--first, because his Oriental carpets from Penjdeh and Khiva are of
the best; second, because his house is one of the first specimens of a
high-class native dwelling existing; and third, because he never worries
his customers nor touts for orders--but, then, he is a Persian, and not a
The famous shawls which fetched such prices in England in early Victorian
days are no longer valued, having suffered an eclipse similar to that
undergone by the pictures of certain early Victorian Royal Academicians,
and the loss of the shawl trade was a severe blow to Kashmir. With the
exception of occasional specimens of these shawls, which, however, can be
bought cheaper at sales in London, there are no _old_ embroideries to be
The wood-carving industry, too, is quite modern; but, although of great
excellence and ingenuity in manipulation, it does not appeal to me, being
too florid and copious in its application of design. A restless confusion
of dragons from Leh, lotus from the Dal Lake, and the ever-present chenar
leaf, hobnob together with British--very British--crests and monograms on
the tops of tables and the seats of chairs--portions of the furniture that
should be left severely plain.
British taste is usually bad, and to it, and not to Kashmiri initiative,
must be ascribed the production of such exotic works as bellows
embellished with chaste designs of lotus-buds, and afternoon tea-tables
flaunting coats-of-arms (doubtless dating from the Conquest), beautifully
carved in high relief just where the tray--the bottom of which is probably
ornamented with a flowing design of raised flowers--should rest!
The lacquered papier-mache work--often extremely pretty when left to its
own proper Cabul pattern or other native design--aims too often at
attracting the eye of the mighty hunter by introducing an inappropriate
markhor's head. The old lacquer-work is difficult to get, and, when
obtained, is high in price; but comparison between the old and the new
shows the gulf that lies between the loving and skilful labour of the
artist and the stupid and generally "scamped" achievement of him who
merely "knocks off" candlesticks and tobacco-boxes by the score, to sell
to the English visitor--papier-mache being superseded by wood, and lacquer
The workers in silver, copper, and brass are many, but their productions
are usually rough and inartistic. Genuine old beaten metal-work is almost
unobtainable, although occasionally desirable specimens from Leh do find
their way into the Srinagar shops.
Chinese porcelain is to be got, usually in the form of small bowls; but it
is not of remarkably good quality, and the prices asked for it are higher
than in London.
The jewellers' work is very far behind that of India. Amethysts of pale
colour and yellow topaz are cheap. Fine turquoise do not come into Kashmir,
but plenty of the rough stones (as well as imitations) are to be found,
which, owing to a transitory fashion, are priced far above their intrinsic
value. They come from Thibet.
A great deal of a somewhat soft and ugly-coloured jade is sent from
Yarkand, also agates and carnelian; beads of these are strung into rather
uncouth necklets, which may be bought for half the sum first asked.
Bargaining is an invariable necessity in all shopping in Kashmir, as
everywhere else in the East, where the market value of an article is not
what it costs to produce, but what can be squeezed for it out of the purse
of the--usually--ignorant purchaser.
Three things are essential to the successful prosecution of shopping in
(1) Unlimited time.
(2) A command of emphatic language, sufficient to impress the native mind
with the need for keeping to the point.
(3) A liver in such thorough working order as to insure an extraordinary
supply of good temper.
Without all these attributes the acquisition of objects of "bigotry and
vertue" in Srinagar is attended with pain and tribulation.
The descent of the river is accomplished with ease and rapidity, but
_revocare gradum_ involves much hard paddling, with many pants and grunts;
and it was both cold and dark when we again lay alongside the bank of the
Chenar Bagh, and scurried up the slippery bund to the hotel, with scarcely
time to dress for dinner.
_Sunday, 9th April_.--Friday was a horrible day--rainy, dull, and cold;
but a thrill of excitement was sent through us by the news that Walter has
shot two fine bara singh! Charlotte (who is nothing if not a keen
sportswoman) was filled with zeal and the spirit of emulation, so we
resolved to dash off down the river to Bandipur, join Walter--who has now
presumably joined the ranks of the unemployed, being only permitted by the
Game Laws to kill two stags--and take our pick of the remaining "Royals,"
which, in our vivid imaginations, roamed in dense flocks through the
nullahs beyond Bandipur!
All Friday and yesterday, therefore, were devoted to preparation. I had
already, through the kindness of Major Wigram, secured a shikari, who
immediately demonstrated his zeal and efficiency by purchasing a couple of
bloodthirsty knives and a huge bottle of Rangoon oil at my expense. I
pointed out that one "skian-dhu" seemed to me sufficient for "gralloching"
purposes, but he said two were better for bears. My acquaintance with
bears being hitherto confined to Regent's Park, I bowed to his superior
knowledge and forethought.
A visit to Cockburn's agency resulted in the hire of the "boarded dounga"
_Cruiser_, which the helpful Mr. Cockburn procured for us, in which to go
down the river; also a couple of tents for ourselves with tent furniture,
one for the servants, and a cooking tent.
The local bootmaker or "chaplie-wallah" appeared, as by magic, on the
scene, and chaplies were ordered. These consist of a sort of leather
sandal strapped over soft leather boots or moccasins. They are extremely
comfortable for walking on ordinary ground, but perfectly useless for hill
work, even when the soles are studded with nails. The hideous but
necessary grass shoe is then your only wear. The grass shoe, which is made
as required by the native, is an intricate contrivance of rice straw, kept
in position by a straw twist which is hauled taut between the big and next
toe, and the end expended round some of the side webbing. The cleft sock
and woollen boot worn underneath keep the feet warm, but do not always
prevent discomfort and even much pain if the cords are not properly
adjusted. However, the remedy is simple. Tear off the shoe, using such
language as may seem appropriate to the occasion, throw it at the shikari's
head, and order another pair to be made "ek dam"! Jane and I each
purchased a yakdan, a sort of roughly-made leather box or trunk, strong,
and of suitable size for either pony or coolie transport. Our wardrobe was
stowed in these and secured by padlocks, and the cooking gear, together
with a certain amount of stores in the shape of grocery, bread, and a
couple of bottles of whisky were safely housed in a pair of large covered
creels or "kiltas."
Each of the party provided him or herself with a khudstick, consisting of
a strong and tough shaft about five feet long, tapering slightly towards
the base, where it is shod with a chisel-shaped iron end.
Our staff of retainers had now been brought up to five--the shikari, Ahmed
Bot, having procured a satellite, known as the chota shikari, a youth of
not unprepossessing appearance, but whose necessity in our scheme of
existence I had not quite determined. Ahmed Bot, however, was of opinion
that all sahibs who wanted sport required two shikaris, so I imagined that
while I was to be engaged with one in pursuit of bara singh, the other
would employ himself in "rounding up" a few tigers for the next day's
sport in another direction. Ahmed Bot agreed with me in the main, but did
not feel at all sure about the tigers--he proposed ibex.
The fifth wheel to our coach was a strikingly ugly person, like a
hippopotamus, whose plainness was not diminished by a pair of enormous
goggles; this was the harmless necessary sweeper, that pariah among
domestics, whose usefulness is undreamed of out of India.
After dinner last night we left the hotel, truly thankful to shake the
dust of its gloomy precincts from our feet, and sought our boats, which
were moored in the Chenar Bagh. How snug and bright the "ship" seemed
after the murky corridors of Nedou! And yet the _Cruiser_ was not much to
boast of, really, in the way of luxury.
Let me describe a typical boarded dounga. Upon a long, low, flat-bottomed
hull, which tapered to a sharp point at bow and stern, was raised a light
wooden superstructure with a flat roof, upon which the passengers could
sit. The interior was divided off into some half-a-dozen compartments, a
vestibule or outer cabin held boxes, &c., and through it one passed into
the dining or parlour cabin, which opened again to two little bedrooms and
a couple of bathrooms. There was no furniture to speak of, but we had
hired from Cockburn all that we required for the trip.
The servants, as well as the crew of the dounga, were all stowed in a
"tender" known as the cook boat--no one, except for navigating duties,
having any business on board the "flagship."
Charlotte Smithson had a smaller ship than ours--a light wooden frame,
which supported movable matting screens or curtains, taking the place of
our wooden cabins. The matted dounga looked as though it might be chilly,
particularly if a strong wind came to play among the rather
draughty-looking mats which were all that our poor friend had between her
and a cold world!
OUR FIRST CAMP
The fleet, consisting of four sail (I use this word in its purely
conventional sense, a dounga having no more sails than a battleship), got
under way about 5 A.M., while it was yet but barely daylight, and so we
were well clear of Srinagar when we emerged from our cosy cabins into a
world of clean air and brilliant colour.
The broad smooth current of the Jhelum flowed steadily and calmly through
a level plain, bearing us along at a comfortable four miles an hour, the
crew doing little more than keep steerage-way with pole and paddle.
Beyond the green, tree-studded levels to the south, the range of the Pir
Panjal spread wide its array of dazzling peaks, while on the right towered
the mountains which enclose the Sind Valley, culminating in the
square-headed mass of Haramok. In the clear air the snows seemed quite
close, although we knew that the snow-line was really some three thousand
feet above the level of the valley.
A day like this, as we sit on the little roof of our floating home
watching the silent river unfold its shining curves, goes far to
obliterate the memory of the fuss and worry inseparable from the exodus
from Srinagar. After lunch we tied up for a while, and I took my gun on
shore to try and pick up a few of the duck that dotted the waters of the
little lakes or jheels which lay flashing amid the hillocks beyond the
river banks. The shores of these being perfectly bare and open, it was
obviously impossible to escape the keenly observant eyes of the duck,
which appeared, unlike all other birds in Kashmir, to retain their
Crouching low amid the furrows of a newly-ploughed field, I sent the
shikari with a knot of natives to the far side of the water, whence they
advanced in open line, splashing and shouting.
Presently, with much fuss and indignant quacking, a cloud of duck rose,
and, circling after their fashion, as though reluctant to quit their
resting-place, gave me several chances of a long shot before, working high
into the air, they departed with loud expostulation to some quieter haunt.
Later in the afternoon we tied up to the bank for the night near a large
jheel, where we all landed, Charlotte to try a rifle which she had
borrowed, and I, if possible, to slay a few more duck, while Jane sat
peacefully on a bank and enjoyed the glorious sunset.
The bag having been swelled by the addition of another dozen
"specimens"--obtained by the same manoeuvres as before--we strolled back
to our ships in the luminous dusk, visions of roast "canard" floating
seductively before our mental vision.
There proved to be several varieties of duck among the countless flocks
which I saw, notably mallard, teal, pochard, and shoveller. Likewise there
were many coots, while herons, disturbed in their meditations by the
untoward racket, flapped heavily away with disgusted squawks.
Jane is getting along remarkably well with her Hindustani. I have just
found her diary, and hasten to give an extract:--
"Woke up very early; much bitten by pice. Tom started off to try and shoot
a burra sahib, as he hears and hopes they've not yet shed all their horns."
"He really looked very nice in his new Pushtoo suit, with putty on his
legs and chaplains on his feet.... His chickory walked in front, carrying
"9 A.M.--Sat down to my solitary breakfast of poached ekkas and paysandu
tonga, with excellent chuprassies (something like scones). After breakfast,
tried on my new kilta, which I have had made quite short for walking. I
generally prefer walking to being carried in a pagdandy."
"Then took another lesson in Hindustani from my murghi, though I really
think I hardly require it! My attention a good deal distracted by the
antics of a pair of bul-buls (not at all the same as our coo-coos) in the
"7 P.M.--T. returned after what he called a blank blank day. He found some
bheesties (one of them a chikor ram or wild ghat) chewing the khud on a
"They were rather far off, about a mile he thinks, but he couldn't get any
nearer owing to a frightful ghari-wallah with deep piasses which lay
between, so he put up his ornithoptic sight for 2000 yards and 'pumped
lead' into the bheesties for half-an-hour."
"He says he _thinks_ he hit one, but they all went away--as his chickory
remarked--'ek dam,' and Tom agreed with him."
"He fell into a budmash on his way home and was half-drowned, but the
chickory, assisted by a friendly chota-hazri, managed to pull him out ...
quite an eventful day!"
"10 P.M.--The body of the ram chikor has just been brought in. It looks as
if it had been dead for weeks, but the doolie, who found it, says that in
this climate a few hours is sufficient to obliterate a body.... Anyhow the
head and tail seem all right.... Tom says the proper thing to do is to
measure something--he can't quite remember whether it is the horns or the
tail, but the latter seems the more remarkable, so we measured that, and
found it to be 3 feet 4 inches."
"By a little judicious pulling, the chickory, who knows all about
measuring things, elongated it to 4 feet 3 inches."
"This, he says, is a '_Record_'--how nice!"
_Wednesday, April 12._--The place where we tied up was not far from the
point where the Jhelum expands into the Wular Lake--a broad expanse of
water, some seven or eight miles wide in places, which holds the proud
record of being the largest lake in all India.
The mountains rise steeply from its northern shores, and from their narrow
glens, squalls swift and strong are said frequently to sweep over the open
water, particularly in the afternoons. The bold sailormen of Kashmir are
not conspicuous for nautical daring--in fact their flat-bottomed arks,
top-heavy and unwieldy, destitute alike of anchor and rudder, are not fit
to cope with either wind or wave; they therefore aim at punting hurriedly
across the danger space as soon after dawn as may be--panting with
exertion and terror, they hustle across the smooth and waveless water,
invoking at every breath the protection of local saints.
Long before we had left our beds, and blissfully unconscious of our awful
danger, we were striking out for Bandipur, which haven we safely reached
about 8 A.M. on a still and glorious morning.
Then came the business of collecting coolies and ponies, and loading them
up with the tents and lesser baggage under the direction of Sabz Ali and
By nine o'clock we were off. Charlotte and Jane, mounted astride a brace
of native ponies, led the way, and, in ragged array, the rest of the
procession followed. A quarter of a mile from the landing-place, clustered
at the foot of a steep little hill--a spur from the higher ranges--lies
the village of Bandipur, dirty and picturesque, with, its rickety-looking
wooden houses, and its crowded little bazaar. It is a place of some
importance in Kashmir, being the starting-point for the Astor country and
Gilgit--and here the sahib on shikar bent, obtains coolies and ponies to
take him over the Tragbal Pass into Gurais. A post and telegraph office
stands proudly in the middle of the little village, and behind it lies a
range of "godowns" filled with stores for the use of a flying column
should the British Raj require to send troops quickly along the Gilgit
Passing through into the open country, we found ourselves on a good
road--good, that is to say, for riding or marching, as no roads in Kashmir
are adapted for wheeled traffic excepting the main artery from Baramula to
Srinagar, and the greater portion of the route from Srinagar to Gulmarg.
This road we followed up a gradually narrowing valley, and over a brawling
little river, until at Kralpura the Gilgit road begins the steep ascent to
the Tragbal by a series of wide zigzags up the face of a mountain. The
pass which we should have had to tackle, had we carried out our original
intention of going into Astor for markhor and ibex, is nearly 12,000 feet
above sea level, and is still securely and implacably closed to all but
the hardiest sportsmen. A short cut, which we took up the hill face, led
us through a rough scrub of berberis and wild daphne (the former just
showing green and the latter in flower) until, somewhat scant of breath,
we regained the road, and followed it to the left up a gorge. As the
mountains closed in on either side, we began to look out for the camp,
which we knew was not far up the nullah. Presently, turning off the Gilgit
road, along a track to the left, we came upon Walter--bearded like the
pard--a pard which had left off shaving for about a week. He was pensively
sitting on a big sun-warmed boulder, beguiling the time while awaiting us
by contemplating the antics of a large family of monkeys, which he pointed
out to Jane, to her great joy.
Tender inquiries as to camp and consequent lunch revealed the sad fact
that some miles of exceedingly rough path yet lay betwixt us and the haven
where we would be.
So we pricked forward, along a sort of cattle track, across dirty
snow-filled little gullies, and over rock-strewn slopes, until the white
gleam of Walter's tent showed clear on its perch atop of a flat-roofed
Crossing the stream which tumbled down the valley, by a somewhat "wobbly"
bridge, and picking our way through the mixen which forms the approach to
every well-appointed hut, we arrived upon the roof which supported the
tent. This we achieved without any undue trouble, the building, like most
"gujar" homes, being constructed on the side of a hill sufficiently steep
to obviate the necessity for any back wall--the rear of the roof
springing directly from the hillside. A Gujar village, owing to this
peculiarity of construction, always looks oddly like a deposit of great
half-open oysters clinging to the face of the hill.
After a welcome lunch, the ladies both pronounced decidedly against
remaining in or near the highly-scented precincts of the village. The
argument that there was no flat ground excepting roofs to be seen was
overruled; so Walter and I climbed a neighbouring ridge, and selected a
site on the crest.
It was not, certainly, a very good site for a camp, as it was so narrow
that the unwary might easily step over the edge on either side, and
toboggan gracefully either back on top of the aforesaid roof, or forward
into a very rocky-bedded stream which employed its superfluous energy in
tossing some frayed and battered logs from boulder to boulder, and which
would have rejoiced greatly in doing the same to a fallen nestling from
the eyry above.
Neither was the ridge level, and our tents were pitched at such an angle
that the slumberer whose grasp of the bed-head relaxed
"In the mist and shadow of sleep"
was brought to wakefulness by finding his toes gently sliding out into the
nipping and eager air of night.
The holding-ground for the tent-pegs was not all that could be desired,
and visions of our tents spreading their wings in the gale and vanishing
into space haunted us.
No--it was not an ideal camping-ground, and Jane, whose rosy dreams of
camping in Kashmir had pictured her little white canvas home set up in a
flowery mead by the side of a purling brook, gazed upon the rugged slopes
which rose around--the cold snow gleaming through the shaggy
pine-trees--with a shiver and a distinct air of disapproval.
It grew more than chilly too, as the sun dipped early behind the ridge
that rose jealous between us and the western light, and an icy breeze from
the snow came stealing down the gorge and whispering among the taller
tree-tops in the nullah at our feet.
We were about 1500 feet above the Wular Lake, and snow lay in thick
patches within a few yards of our tents, and had obviously only melted
quite recently from the site of the camp, leaving more clammy mud about
the place than we really required.
As it is reasonable to suppose that the bilingual lady who composes the
fashion columns of the _Daily Horror_ is most anxious to know how the fair
sex was accoutred at our dinner party that night, I hasten to inform her
that Charlotte was gowned in an elegant confection of Puttoo of a simply
indescribable nuance of _creme de boue_--the train, extremely decolletee
at the lower end, cunningly revealing at every turn glimpses of an
enchanting pair of frou-frou putties.
The neat bottines, _a la_ Diane Chasseresse, took a charming touch of
lightness from the aluminium nails which decorated the "uppers" with a
quaint and original Dravidian cornice.
She carried a spring bouquet of wild onions _en branche_--ornaments (of
Every one remarked that Jane was simply too lovely for words, as, with the
sweet simplicity of an _ingenue, en combinaison_ with the craft of a
Machiavella (I beg to point out that I know my Italian genders), she
draped her lissom form in the clinging folds of an enormous habit _de peau
de brebis_--portions of ear and the tip of her nose tilted over the edge
of the deep turned-up collar, which, on one side, supported the coquettish
droop of the hairy "Tammy" that, dexterously pinned to the spikes of a
diamond fender, gave a _clou_ to the entire "_sac d'artifice_."
Walter, having already shot two bara singh and a serow, came under the
"statute of limitations" of the Kashmir Game Laws, and had to sound the
"cease firing" as regards these animals; but Charlotte and I, having
"khubbar" of game, started at 7 A.M. in pursuit. She, attended by Walter
and in tow of Asna (the best shikari in all Kashmir), followed up the
nullah which lay to our right, while I deflected to the north. Having
donned grass shoes, I started off up a very steep slope which rose
directly behind the camp. Reaching snow within a few minutes of leaving my
tent, I was glad to find it hard and the going good, the early sun not yet
having had time to soften and destroy the crisp surface.
Up and up we toiled, I puffing like any grampus--partly by reason of not
yet being in good condition, and partly on account of the height, which
was probably nearly 9000 feet above sea level. As we rose to the shoulder
of the hill the gradient became much easier, and I had leisure to admire
the panorama that stretched around the snowy ridge, which fell away
abruptly on either side through dense pine forests. The day was quite
glorious.... The sun, blazing in a cloudless sky, cast sharp steel-blue
shadows where rock or tree stood between the snow and his nobility. The
white peaks that rose around in marvellous array seemed so near in the
bright air that it seemed as though one could see the smallest creature
moving on their distant slopes. But there was little life observable in
this still and silent world--nothing but an occasional pair of crows
flapping steadily over the woods, or a far vulture circling at a giddy
height in the "blue dome of the air." Silence everywhere, except for the
distant and perpetual voice of many waters murmuring in the unseen depths
To the south--showing clear above the serrated back of the ridge beyond
the camp--stood the Pir Panjal; pale ivory in the pale horizon below the
sun. At the foot of the valley up which we had come yesterday, and partly
screened by the intruding buttresses of its enfolding hills, the Wular
Lake lay a shimmering shield of molten silver.
In front, the sheeted mountains which guard Gurais and flank the icy
portals of the Tragbal stood, a series of glistening slopes and
cold-crowned precipices, while to the east Haramok reared his 17,000 feet
into a threefold peak of snowy majesty.
It was a sight to thank God for, and to remember with joy all the days of
one's life. Doubtless there are many views as wonderful in this lovely
land, but this was the first, and therefore not to be effaced nor its
memory dimmed by anything that may come after.
The shikari had not climbed the mountain's brow to waste time over scenery;
so, having apparently gone as far as he wanted on the ridge, he plunged
down among the silver firs to the right, and I, with my heart in my mouth,
went after him. At first it seemed to the inexperienced that we were
slithering down the most awful places, and that, should the snow give way,
I should have to swiftly embrace the nearest tree to avoid being shot down,
a human avalanche, farther than I cared to think. However, I soon found it
was all right. A welcome halt for lunch brought the tiffin coolie to the
front. A blanket spread upon the hard snow at the foot of a fir made an
excellent seat, and a cold roast teal, an apple, and a small flask of
whisky were soon exhumed from the basket. Water, or rather the want of it,
was a difficulty, for I was uncommonly thirsty, and no sign of any water
was to be seen. A judicious blending of the dry teal with bits of
succulent apple overcame the drought, and the half-hour for refreshment
passed all too quickly.
The men considered it now time to get up some "shikar," so they invented a
bear. This was exciting! They had separated (there were four of them) in
search of traces of bara singh, &c., and some one found the bear, or its
den, or a lock of its wool--I really couldn't quite ascertain which--but
fearful excitement was the immediate result.
A consultation took place in frenzied whispers. My rifle was peeled from
its case, and we proceeded to scramble stealthily down a horribly steep
face much broken by rocks. The shikari being in front with my rifle over
his shoulder, I was favoured with frequent glimpses down its ugly black
barrel as I, like Jill, "came tumbling after," and I rejoiced that all the
cartridges were safely stowed in my own pocket. Well! we searched like
conspirators for that bear, peeped round rocks and peered into holes, and
anxiously eyed all possible and impossible places where a bear might be
supposed to reside, but there was no bear; and at length we arrived on the
bank of the torrent which rioted noisily down the bottom of the nullah.
I now began to realise that plunging about in snow, often over one's knees,
and scrambling among the fallen tree-trunks and great rocks selected by
the torrent to make its bed, was distinctly tiring work!
Presently we came to a bridge over the river. It consisted of a single log,
and appeared extremely slender. The stream was not deep enough to drown a
man, but, all the same, a slip, sending one into the foaming water among a
particularly large and hard collection of boulders, seemed most
undesirable, and I stepped across, like Agag, delicately, carefully
balancing myself with a khudstick. The men came prancing over as if they
were on a good high-road, the careless ease with which they made the
passage bordering on impertinence! I reflected, however, that sheep, and
such like beasts of humble brain, can stroll upon the brink of gruesome
precipices without any fear of falling, and my self-respect returned.
After another half-hour of stiff scrambling I sat down to rest awhile,
leaving the men to spy the neighbourhood. Of course they had to find
something, so this time they found a "serow"--a somewhat scarce beast. I
awaited the coming of the serow at various coigns of vantage where they
said it was bound to pass, while the four men surrounded it from different
directions. Finally, like the Levite, it passed by on the other side--at
least I never saw it. The shikari afterwards informed me, in confidence,
that it was, like the inexcusable baby in _Peter Simple_, "a very little
We now made the best of our way down the nullah, and when an apology for a
path became apparent I rejoiced greatly, and followed it along its
corkscrew course until the camp came suddenly into view as we topped a
spur, which gave the path a final excuse for dragging me up a stiff two
hundred feet, and then sending me down a knee-shaking descent, for no
apparent reason but pure "cussedness."
Charlotte had got home just before me, having seen nothing to shoot at.
She, too, seemed anxious for tea!
During the day Sabz Ali had been doing his level best to improve the
position in our sleeping-tent. The camp-beds had stood at such an angle
that it was almost impossible to avoid sliding gradually into the outer
darkness, but S.A. had scraped out earth from the head, and filled up a
terrace at the foot, in a way which gave us hope of sound sleep. Our
things had been carefully stowed, too, and a sort of hole scooped for the
bath. Luxury stared us in the face!
The sunset certainly was a little dull last night, but we were quite
unprepared for the dreary aspect of Dame Nature to which we awoke this
morning. It was raining very heavily, and a dense pall of mist hung low
among the pines, giving an impression of melancholy durability.
There was obviously nothing to do but exist as cheerfully as might be
until the weather improved. The wet had shrunk canvas and rope gear till
the tent-guys were as taut as fiddle-strings; and as it did not seem to
have occurred to any of the servants to attend to this, an immediate tour
of the camp had to be undertaken, in "rubbers" and waterproofs, to slack
off guys and inspect the drainage system, as we had no wish to have our
earthen floor--already sufficiently cold and clammy--turned into an
These things done, we scuttled and slid down to the mess tent, and
breakfasted as best we might; and the best was surprisingly good,
considering the difficulties the wretched servants must have had in
cooking anything in their wet lair, where the miserable fire of damp
sticks produced apparently little but acrid smoke.
We passed a dismal day, as, wrapped in our warmest clothes, we sat upon
our beds watching the rain turn to snow, then to hail and sleet, and
finally back to rain again; while the ever-changing wisps of grey mist
gathered thick in the glens, or "put forth an arm and crept from pine to
Towards evening the clouds broke a little, and the forest-clad steeps
appeared through them, powdered thickly with new snow. Walter and I
sallied forth from our sodden tents and held a council of war in the mud.
It was decided to quit our somewhat unsatisfactory and precarious position
early to-morrow, if fine, as the weather looked so nasty, and a squall of
wind might have awkward consequences.
_Friday, April_ 14.--A very fairly fine morning enabled us to strike camp
yesterday, and get the baggage off in good time. The Smithsons decided to
make for the jheels near the river, in order to give the duck a final
worry round before the season closes on the 15th.
My shikari having reported a good bara singh in a small nullah off the
Erin, I arranged to go in search of him. The march down to Bandipur was a
short and easy one, and we got comfortably settled on board our boats
early in the afternoon. About sunset the clouds gathered thick over the
hills which we had left, and a thunderstorm broke, its preliminary squall
throwing the crews of our fleet into a fearful fuss, and sending them on
to the bank with extra ropes and holdfasts to make all secure. An elderly
lady, with a dirty red cap and very untidy ringlets, superintended the
business with much clamour. We take her to be the wife or grandmother (not
sure which) of the skipper.
It was with an undoubted sense of solid comfort that we lay in our cosy
beds under a wooden roof, whereon the fat rain-drops sputtered, while the
thunder still crackled and banged in the distance!
We shifted before dawn to a small village a couple of miles to the east,
and at 6.30 Jane and I set out to attack the bara singh, of which the
shikari held out high hope. My wife, mounted on a rough pony, was able to
accomplish with great comfort the two miles of flat country which we had
to traverse before turning off sharp to the right along a track which led
steeply upwards through the scrub that clothed the lower part of the
There is something unusually charming in the dawn here--the crisp, buoyant
air, the silent hills, their lower slopes and corries still a purple
mystery; on high, the silver peaks--looking ridiculously close--change
swiftly from their cold pallor into rosy life at the first touch of the
The first part of our day's work was easy enough. The sun was still hidden
from us behind the mountain flange on our left; the snow patches on the
sky-line ahead seemed comparatively near, and the diabolical swiftness of
the shikari's stealthy walk was yet to be fully realised.
Up and up we went, first through a thick scrub or jungle of a highly
prickly description, over a few small streams, then out upon a grassy
ridge, up which we slowly panted. The gradient became sharper, and I began
to feel a little anxious about Jane, as the short, brown grass was
slippery with frost--a slip would be very easy, and the results unpleasant.
However, with the able assistance of the shikari, she did very well, and,
having crossed a shelving patch of snow by cutting steps with our
khudstick, we found ourselves, after an hour and a half's stiff climbing,
on the sky-line of the ridge that had seemed but an easy stroll from below.
The heights and distances are most deceptive, partly on account of the
crystal clearness of the air, and partly because of the magnitude of
everything in proportion. The mountains are not only high themselves, but
their spurs and foothills would rank as able-bodied mountains were they
not dwarfed by peaks which average 15,000 feet in height above the sea.
The pines which clothe their sides, the chenars and poplars in the valley,
are all enormous when compared with their European cousins.
The view was most remarkable as we gained the crest of the ridge--a sea of
white cloud came boiling up from the valley to the east, and, pouring over
the saddle upon which we stood, gave only occasional glimpses of snow and
pine and precipice above, or the glint of water in the rice-fields far
below. Once, between the swirling cloud masses, the near hills lay clear
in the sunshine for a few moments and revealed a party of five bara singh
hinds, crossing the slope in front of us, and not more than 150 yards away.
Alas! there was no stag.
This was not satisfactory weather for stalking. However I was hopeful, as
I have noticed that in the fine forenoons a thick white belt of cloud
often forms about the snow level--roughly, some 8000 feet above the sea,
or 3000 above the Wular Lake--and hangs there for an hour or two, to
disappear entirely by midday. And so it came about to-day; after a halt
for tiffin, I set forward in brilliant sunshine, while Jane remained
quietly perched on the hillside, as the shikari said the road was not good
for a lady. The shikari was right, as, within ten minutes of starting, we
had to drop from the crest of the ridge to circumvent a big rock which
barred our way, to find ourselves confronted by a very unpleasant-looking
slope of short brown grass, which fell away at an angle of about 50 deg. to
what seemed an endless depth. This grass, having only just become
emancipated from its winter snow, had all its hair--so to speak--brushed
straight down, and there was mighty little stuff to hold on to! Carefully
digging little holes with our khudsticks, and not disdaining the help of
my shikari, I got across, and thankfully scrambled back to the safety of
Now we reached snow, and the going became easier, whereupon Ahmed Bot
promptly set a pace which left me struggling far behind. As the sun grew
stronger the surface-crust of the snow became soft, and at every few steps
one went through to the knees, until both muscles and temper became sorely
tried. For an hour or so we kept climbing up what was evidently one of the
many steep and rugged ranges which, radiating from Haramok, on this side
flank the Wular with their lofty bastions. Having apparently attained the
height he deemed necessary, and got well above the part of the pine forest
in which he expected to find game, Ahmed Bot turned to the left of the
ridge, and we were immediately involved in the deep drifts which covered
the pine-clad slope of the nullah. Over snow-covered trunks of prostrate
trees, over hidden holes and broken rocks, we toiled and scrambled until,
emerging breathless on a bare knoll--smooth and white as a great
wedding-cake--we obtained a searching view into the neighbouring gullies.
Still no sign or track of any "beast," so we worked back until, tired and
hot, I regained the place where Madame lay basking beneath her sunshade.
The shikari and his myrmidons departed to "look" another bit of country,
while I, nothing loth, remained to await events in the neighbourhood of
the refreshment department.
On the return of the men, who had of course seen nothing, we set off for
home, climbing down the edge of the ridge where yellow colchicum starred
the turf. It was steep--verging on the precipitous in places--and Jane
frankly expressed her satisfaction when we accomplished the worst part and
entered a dense jungle of scrubby bushes, all of which seemed to grow
spines of sorts. A bear was said to have been seen here yesterday, so we
kept our weather eyelids lifting, but were not favoured with a sight of
him. We had almost gained the bottom of the hill, with but two short miles
to dinner and a tub, when weird shrieks and whistles were exchanged
between our people and an excited villager below. The shikari, his eyes
gleaming with uncontrollable excitement, announced that the "big stag" was
waiting for me at that very moment!--and therewith Ahmed Bot dashed off
down the hill, leaving me to follow as best I might. Leaving my wife in
charge of the tiffin coolie, I tumbled off after the shikari, whom I found
gloating with the messenger over the inspiriting particulars of the
monarch of the glen, which, I understood, crouched expectant some paltry
2000 feet above us, near the top of the nullah!
It was past six o'clock, and the light already showing signs of waning, so
we lost no time in attacking the hill again. I was pretty well "done," and
had to accept a tow from the shikari, and hand in hand we pressed up that
accursed hill until, at seven o'clock, the sun set and it began to grow
dusk. Lying down near the edge of the snow, to gain breath and let the
shikari crawl round and "look" the face of the hill, I was soon moved to
activity by the news that the stag was lying under a pine tree within a
few hundred yards. A short "crawl" brought me within sight of the beast,
who lay half-hidden by a rock. It was now so dark that even with my
glasses I could only make sure that it was a "horn beast" and not a hind;
there was no time to lose, so, putting up my sight for 150 yards, I let
him have it, and was nearly as much surprised as gratified to see him roll
out on the snow to the shot. My vexation and disgust may be imagined when
I found the noble beast to be a miserable 8-pointer, which I would never
have fired at if I could have seen its head properly. Heartily consigning
the shikari, together with the mendacious villager and all his kind, to a
hot place, I dolefully stumbled away downhill again in the gathering dark,
and finally deposited my weary and dejected self on board the boat, after
fourteen hours of the hardest walking I have ever done.
There is a confused tale prevalent that the bear, taking a mean advantage
of my absence, has been down to the village and eaten a few ponies, or
frightened them--I can't make out which.
BACK TO SRINAGAR
Easter Day, _April_ 23.--We left the Erin district early in the morning
following the bara singh fiasco, and punted and poled up the river to join
the Smithsons in a last attack upon the duck. We found the bold Colonel,
"Rough with slaughter and red with fight,"
enjoying himself hugely among the jheels, and we prepared to join in the
fray; but our _chasse_ was put an end to by the discovery that the 14th,
and not the 15th, was the last legal day for shooting. So we packed away
our guns and towed up to Srinagar, which we reached on Sunday afternoon.
Our brief experience of camping and "shikar" had proved to my wife that
she was not cast in the heroic mould of a female Nimrod. Not being a shot
herself--as Charlotte is--she saw that, as far as she was concerned, a
shooting expedition with the Smithsons would entail a great deal of
solitary rumination in camp, while the rest of the party pursued the red
bear to his den, or chased the nimble markhor up and down the precipices.
The joys of reading, knitting, and washing the family clothes
might--probably would--pall after a time; and the physical exertion of
"walking with the guns" in Kashmir is decidedly more of an undertaking
than over a Perthshire grouse moor! Our original arrangement, before
coming out to join the Smithsons, was that the time should be spent in
camping, boating, "loafing," and shooting. Being perfectly ignorant of the
conditions of life out here, we were unaware of the fact that it is
practically impossible to combine serious shooting with any other form of
amusement. In Scotland one may stalk one day, fish the next, and golf the
third, but out here it is not so. The worshipper of Diana must be prepared
to sacrifice everything else at her shrine; he must go far afield, and be
prepared to live hard and work hard, and even then it may befall that his
trophies of the chase are none too plentiful. That will depend a good deal
on his shikari and his own knowledge, together with luck.
Walter had the good fortune to come upon two fine stags not far from his
camp almost as soon as he got there. He was within fifty yards of them as
they were moving slowly in deep snow, and he killed them both; the best of
these was a remarkably fine 10-pointer, length of horn 41 inches and span
38-1/2 inches. His wife spent an equal time in the same neighbourhood and
never saw anything.
When we talked over plans with Colonel and Mrs. Smithson at Pindi, the
general idea had crystallised into a scheme for going into Astor to shoot,
immediately upon our arrival in Kashmir, and, in order to reach Srinagar
before April 1st--the date of issue of shooting passes--we had struggled
hard to make our way into the country before it was really attractive to
the ordinary visitor.
When we did reach Srinagar we found that our friends had abandoned all
idea of an expedition to Astor, partly on account of expense, but
principally on account of the backwardness of the season, which
practically precluded ladies from crossing the Tragbal and Boorzil Passes
for some time. The merits and demerits of the Tilail district and
Baltistan came up for review, and then we almost decided to go to Leh
until we reflected that the return journey over a bare and open
country--arid and hot as an Egyptian desert--in the month of August might
not be unmixed joy, and the Smithsons were assured that they would find no
sport whatever _en route_, but would have to go several marches beyond Leh
to obtain the chance of an Ovis Ammon or Thibetan antelope.
The Leh scheme thus having come to naught, and our friends being still
wholly intent on "shikar" to the exclusion of all other pursuits, we
decided to be independent, so we hired a nice-looking boarded dounga,
whose fresh and clean appearance pleased us, for a term of three months.
Nedou's Hotel offered so few attractions and so many drawbacks that we
were prepared to do anything rather than return to it, and, as a matter of
economy, we scored heavily, as, on working it out, we found that the boat,
including the cook-boat, would cost 60 rupees per month. Our food and the
wages of those servants whom we should not have required at the hotel came
to approximately 80 rupees per month, making a total of 140 rupees, or L9,
6s. 8d.; whereas our hotel bill would have come to 12 rupees per day,
without extras--or 360 rupees (L24) per month--a clear saving in money as
well as in comfort.
Our new habitation--the house dounga _Moon_--was owned and partly worked
by Satarah, an astute old rascal, whose "tawny beard," like Hudibras'--
"Was the equal grace
Both of his wisdom and his face;
In cut and dye so like a tyle
A sudden view it would beguile:
The upper part whereof was whey,
The nether orange mixt with grey."
His costume consisted of a curious sort of short nightgown worn over white
and flappy trousers, below which were revealed a pair of big, flat naval
feet. The first lieutenant, Sabhana--sleek and civil-spoken, but
desperately afraid of work--was, we understand, son-in-law to the Admiral
Satarah, having to wife the Lady Jiggry, eldest daughter of that worthy,
who, with her younger sisters Nouri, Azizi, and "the Baba," completed the
The _Moon_ differed from an ordinary house-boat in being narrower, and
possessing a long bow and stern which projected far enough from the body
of the boat to enable men to pole or paddle with ease; a house-boat can
only be towed. On embarking by means of a narrow gangway--a plank
possessed of an uncontrollable desire to "tip-up" at unexpected and
disconcerting moments--one entered first a small vestibule, or
"ante-cabin," which held our big boxes and opened into the
drawing-room--quite a roomy apartment, about fifteen feet by ten feet,
fitted with a fireplace, a rough writing-table, and overmantel, surmounted
by a photograph--something faded--of Mrs. Langtry! A small table and a
couple of deck chairs graced the floor, while upon the walls a
heterogeneous collection of pictures, including a coloured lithograph of a
cottage and a brook, a fearful and wonderful portrayal of an otter, and a
very fancy stag of unlimited points dazzled the eye. The ceiling was
decorated with an elaborate and most effective design in wood--a fashion
very common in Srinagar, consisting of a sort of patchwork panelling of
small pieces of wood, cut to length and shape, and tacked on to a backing
in geometrical designs. At a little distance the effect is rich and
excellent, but close inspection shows up the tintacks and the glue, and a
prying finger penetrates the solid-looking panel with perfect ease.
The drawing-room was separated from the dining "saloon" by a sliding
door--which frequently refused to slide at all, or else perversely slid so
suddenly as to endanger finger-tips and cause unseemly words to flow. This
noble apartment of elegant dimensions (to borrow the undefiled English of
the house-agent) could contain four feasters at a pinch. Sabz Ali having
cooked the dinner, the cook-boat was laid alongside, and Sabz Ali,
clambering in and out of the window, proceeded to serve the repast, a
black paw, presumably belonging to Ayata, the kitchenmaid-man, appearing
from time to time to retrieve the soiled plates or hand up the next course.
A funny little sideboard and cupboard contained a slender stock of knives,
forks, and glasses, and part of a broken-down dinner set, while the
fireplace easily held three dozen of soda-water.
Then came Jane's bedroom, fitted with a cupboard and shelves, which were a
constant source of covetousness to me, who had none. A small bathroom
completed our suite of apartments, and, after the bare boards of the
_Cruiser_, the _Moon_ seemed to overflow with luxury.
We have been taking life easily here for the last week. The Smithsons
intend going into Tilail as soon as the Tragbal becomes feasible; we
propose to remain in Srinagar for a while. The weather has not been very
fine--cold winds and a good deal of rain, varied by thunderstorms, being
our daily experience. The spring is, I am told, exceptionally backward,
and, although the almond is in full and lovely flower, the poplars and
chenars are barely showing a sign of life.
My wife having gone to lunch at the Residency this afternoon, I walked
half-way up the Takht-i-Suleiman, whose sharp, rock-strewn pyramid rises a
thousand feet above Srinagar.
The view of the Kashmir plain, through which the river winds like a silver
snake; the solemn ring of mountains, enclosing the valley with a rampart
of rock and snow; the innumerable roofs of the city, glittering like
burnished scales in the keen sunlight, densely clustered round the
fort-crowned height of Hari Parbat, went to make up such a picture as
Turner would have kneeled to.
Of course it is simply futile to compare one magnificent view with another
which differs entirely in kind. All that one can do is to lay by in the
memory a mental picture-gallery of recollection; and as I sat in the
shelter of a big rock, gazing out over the level plain stretching below,
where the changing shadows as they swept by turned the amber masses of the
trees to gold, I conjured up in my mind's eye other scenes whose beauties
will remain with me while life shall last:--The purple and gold of a
glorious sunset over Etna, the Greek theatre of Taormina in front of me,
with the sea below--a shimmering opal that melted away in the haze beyond
Syracuse; the awful rapids raging furiously below Niagara, a very ocean
tortured and maddened to blind fury, pouring its irresistible torrents
through the chasm above the whirlpool; and again, a cloudless October
morning, with just the keen zest of early autumn in the air, as I lay high
up on a hillside in Ardgour watching for deer--with the hills of Lochaber
and Ballachulish reflected in all their glory of purple and russet in the
waters of Loch Linnhe, windless and still!
Chills can be caught amidst the most glorious scenery--the little tufts of
purple self-heal at my feet were shivering and shaking in a biting breeze
that swept down from the snows to the north-east, and although I am an
admirer of Kingsley, I do not hold with him in his wrong-headed admiration
for a "nor'-easter"--so I quitted my perch in search of tea.
_Easter Monday_.--The Smithsons scuttled away in a great hurry to-day,
their shikari, Asna (the best shikari in Kashmir), having heard that,
owing to the lateness of the season, the bara singh have not even yet all
shed their horns--so Charlotte is filled with high hope. The bears, too,
are said to be waking from their winter's doze and poking around in warm
and balmy corners.
Armed to the teeth and thirsting for blood, the hunter and the huntress
cast loose their matted dounga and paddled away merrily down the Jhelum to
Bandipur, thence to pursue the royal bara singh, and later, if possible,
scale the snow-barred slopes of the Tragbal and penetrate the lonely
Tilail Valley to assail the red bear and the multitudinous ibex.
Jane and I having decided that a purely shikar expedition into the more
difficult parts of the country was not suited to our prosaic habits,
remained to enjoy the effeminate pleasures of Srinagar till the weather
should grow a few degrees warmer.
As we are bidden to a sort of state luncheon to-morrow, given by the
Maharajah, it appeared to me to be but right and seemly to go and inscribe
my name in the visitors' book of His Highness, and also to call upon his
brother, the Rajah Sir Amar Singh. I went with the more alacrity as I
thought it might prove interesting. Strolling across the big bridge above
the Palace, I soon found myself in the purely native quarter, immersed in
a seething crowd of men and beasts, from beneath whose passing feet a
cloud of dust rose pungent. The water-sellers, the hawkers of vegetables
and of sweets, the cattle, the loafers and the children got into the way
and out of it in kaleidoscopic confusion. By the side of the street,
money-changers, wrapped in silent consideration, bent over their trays of
queer and outlandish coins. Bright cottons and silks flaunted pennons of
gorgeous colours. Brass, glowing like gold, rose piled on low wide
counters. In front stood the Palace, looking its best from this point, and
showing huge beside the huddle of wooden and plaster huts which hem it in.
General Raja Sir Amar Singh lives in a sort of glorified English villa.
Were it not for the flowering oleanders and hibiscus in front and the
silvery gleam of temple domes beyond, one might suppose oneself near the
banks of Father Thames. And were it not for the group of stalwart
retainers at the door, the illusion need not be lost on entering the house.
The hall and staircase were decorated with a profusion of skins and horns,
somewhat modern and brilliant rugs, and tall glasses full of flowers
closely copied from Nature; while the drawing-room was of a type very
frequently seen near London.
Like so many British reception-rooms, it shone replete with _objets d'art_,
rather inclining to Oriental luxury than Japanese restraint.
My host, who came in almost immediately, was charming, speaking English
with fluency, although he has never been in England.
He is essentially a strong man, and remarkably well posted in everything,
both political and social, that occurs in the state, mixing far more
freely than his brother with the English, towards whom his courtesy is
His elder brother, the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir, is in many respects
of a different type. Keeping more aloof from the English colony, he spends
much of his time in devotion and the privacy of the inner Palace.
On leaving Sir Amar Singh, one of his henchmen conducted me across the
iron bridge spanning a cut from the Jhelum, and into the warren-like
precincts of the Palace; presently we emerged from an obscure passage, and
found ourselves at the "front door," where, in the visitors' book, by
means of the stumpy pencil attached thereto, I inscribed my name and
_April_ 27.--His Highness the Maharajah having invited us to a luncheon
given by him in honour of Colonel Pears, the new Resident, we prepared to
cross the famous Dal Lake to the Nishat Bagh, the scene of the present
feast, which we fondly hoped might recall the glorious days of the Moguls
when Jehangir dallied in the historic Shalimar with the fair Nourmahal.
"Th' Imperial Selim held a feast
In his magnificent Shalimar:--
In whose saloons ...
The valleys' loveliest all assembled."
Our shikara, a sort of canoe paddled by four active fellows, with the
stern, where we sat on cushions, carefully screened from the sun by an
awning, was brought alongside the dounga at about 11.30, as we had some
seven or eight miles to accomplish before reaching the Nishat Bagh.
Leaving the main river just above the Club, we paddled down the Sunt-i-kul
Canal, which runs between the European quarter and the Takht-i-Suleiman,
the rough brown hill which, crowned with its temple, forms a constant
background to Srinagar.
The canal was closely lined with house-boats and their satellite
cook-boats, clinging to the poplar-shaded banks. The golf-links lay on our
left, and on a low spur to the right stood the hospital, which the energy
and philanthropy of the Neves has gained for the remarkably ungrateful
Kashmiri. It is told that a man, being exceedingly ill, was cared for and
nursed during many weeks in the Mission Hospital, his whole family
likewise living on the kindly sahibs. When he was cured and shown the door,
he burst into tears because he was not paid wages for all the time he had
spent in hospital!
Just before entering the waterway of noble chenars, known as the Chenar
Bagh (a camping-ground reserved for bachelors only), we ported our helm
(or at least would have done so had there been any rudders in Kashmir),
and pushed through the lock-gate, which gives entrance to the Dal Lake,
against a brisk current.
This gate, cunningly arranged upon the non-return-valve principle, is
normally kept open by the current from the Dal; but if the Jhelum, rising
in flood, threatens to pour back into the lake and swamp the low ground
and floating gardens, it closes automatically, and so remains sealed until
the outward flow regains the mastery.
A sharp bout of paddling, puffing, and splashing shot us into the peaceful
waters of the Dal Lake, over which every traveller has gushed and raved.
It is difficult, indeed, not to do so, for it is truly a dream of beauty.
A placid sheet of still water, its surface only broken here and there by
the silvery trails of rippled wake left by the darting shikaras or
slow-moving market boats, lay before us, shining in the crystal-clear
atmosphere. On the right rose the Takht, his thousand feet of rocky
stature dwarfed into insignificance by holy Mahadeo and his peers, whose
shattered peaks ring round the lake to the north, their dark cliffs and
shaggy steeps mirrored in its peaceful surface.
On the lower slopes strong patches of yellow mustard and white masses of
blossoming pear-trees rose behind the tender green fringe of the young
As we swept on, the lake widened. On the left a network of water lanes
threaded the maze of low-growing brushwood and whispering reeds, and round
us extended the half-submerged patches of soil which form the celebrated
"floating gardens" of the lake. From any point of view except the
utilitarian, these gardens are a fraud. A combination of matted and
decaying water-plants, mud, and young cabbages kept in place by rows and
thickets of willow scrub, is curious, but not lovely; and our eyes turned
away to where Hari Parbat raised his crown of crumbling forts above the
native city, or to the mysterious ruins of Peri Mahal, clinging like a
swallow's nest to the shelving slopes above Gupkar.
"Still onward; and the clear canal
Is rounded to as clear a lake;"
and we emerged from the willow-fringed water lanes, and saw across the
wider shield of glistering water the white cube of the Nishat Bagh
Pavilion--the Garden of Joy, made for Jehangir the Mogul--standing by the
water's edge, and at its foot a great throng and clutter of boats, amidst
whose snaky prows we pushed our way and landed, something stiff after
sitting for two hours in a cramped shikara.
Other guests--some thirty in all--were arriving, either like us by boat,
or by carriage _via_ Gupkar, and we strolled in groups up the sloping
gardens, which still show, in their wild and unrestrained beauty, the
loving touch of the long-vanished hand of the Mogul.
Down seven wide grassy terraces a series of fountains splashed and
twinkled in the sun. Broad chenars, just beginning to break into leaf,
gave promise of ample shade against the day when the blaze should become
overpowering. So far so good, but the grass that bordered the path was not
the sweet green turf of an English lawn, and the way was edged by big
earthen pots, into which were hastily stuck wisps of iris blooms and
Persian lilac. The topmost terrace widened out, enclosing a large basin of
clear water, in the middle of which played a fountain. On one side was
raised a marquee, revealing welcome preparations for lunch. On the
opposite side of the fountain a profusion of chairs, shaded by a great
awning, stood expectantly facing a bandstand. Here we were welcomed by His
Highness, a somewhat small man with exceedingly neat legs and an enormous
white pugaree, in his customary gracious manner.
It was now half-past two, and we had breakfasted early, so that a move
towards the luncheon tent was most welcome. Finding the fair lady whom I
was detailed to personally conduct, and the ticketed place where I was to
sit, I prepared to make a Gargantuan meal. Was it not almost on this very
"The board was spread with fruit and wine,
With grapes of gold, like those that shine
On Casbin's hills;--pomegranates full
Of melting sweetness, and the pears
And sunniest apples that Cabul
In all its thousand gardens bears.
Plantains, the golden and the green,
Malaya's nectar'd mangusteen;
Prunes of Bokara, and sweet nuts
From the far groves of Samarcand,
And Basra dates, and apricots,
Seed of the sun, from Iran's land;--
With rich conserve of Visna cherries,
Of orange flowers, and of those berries
That, wild and fresh, the young gazelles
Feed on in Erac's rocky dells..
Wines, too, of every clime and hue
Around their liquid lustre threw;
And Shiraz wine, that richly ran..
Melted within the goblets there!"
This reckless, but unsubstantial and very unwholesome meal, was not for us,
and while waiting patiently for the first course to appear, I glanced down
the long table to admire the decorations. They were delightful, consisting
of glass flower-vases spaced regularly along the festive board, and filled
to overflowing with tufts and clumps of flowers. Innumerable plates filled
with fruit and sweetmeats graced the feast, and a magnificent array of
knives and forks gave promise of good things to come.
Presently the expected dainties arrived, resembling but little the
lately-described poetic feast; a strict attention to business enabled us
to keep the wolf from the door, and a very cheerful party finally emerged
from the big tent to stroll by the fountains that flashed under the
The Maharajah, of course, did not lunch with us, but held aloof, peeping
occasionally into the cook-house to satisfy himself that the lions were
being fed properly, and in accordance with their unclean customs.
Finally, he and his chief officers of state vanished into a secluded tent,
where he probably took a little refreshment, having first carefully
performed the ablutions necessary after the contamination of the
His Highness reappeared from nowhere in particular as his guests strolled
across the terrace, and, after a little polite conversation, we took our
leave and set forth for Srinagar.
It was a glorious afternoon, and we deeply regretted that time would not
permit us to visit the neighbouring Shalimar Bagh, which lay hidden among
the trees near by. The excursion must remain a "hope deferred" for the
present, as we had again to thread the maze of half-submerged melon plots
and miniature kitchen gardens which, even in the golden glow of a perfect
evening, could not be made to fit in with our preconceived ideas of
"floating gardens." Jane was frankly disappointed, as she admitted to
having pictured in her mind's eye a series of peripatetic herbaceous
borders in full flower, cruising about the lake at their own sweet will
and tended by fair Kashmirian maidens.
By-the-bye, here let me expose, once for all, the fallacy of Moore's
drivel about the lovely maids of fair "Cashmere." _There are none!_ This
appears a startling statement and a sweeping; but, as a matter of fact,
the Eastern girl is not left, like her Western sister, to flirt and frivol
into middle age in single "cussedness," but almost invariably becomes a
respectable married lady at ten or twelve, and drapes her lovely, but not
over clean, head in the mantle of old sacking, which it is _de rigueur_
for matrons to adopt.
The good Tommy Moore did not know this, but, letting his warm Irish
imagination run riot through a mixed bag of Eastern romancists and their
works, he evolved, amid a _pot pourri_ of impossibilities, an impossible
damsel as unlike anything to be found in these parts as the celebrated
elephant evolved from his inner consciousness by the German professor!
As I traversed the main, or rolled by train,
From my Western habitation,
I frequently thought--perhaps more than I ought--
Upon many a quiet occasion
Of the elegant forms and manifold charms
Of the beautiful female Asian.
For the good Tommy Moore, in his pages of yore,
Sang as though he could never be weary
Of fair Nourmahal--an adorable "gal"--
And of Paradise and the Peri,
Until, I declare, I was wild to be where
I might gaze on the lovely Kashmiri.
Through the hot plains of Ind I fled like the wind,
Unenchanted by mistress or ayah,
The dusky Hindu, I soon saw, wouldn't do,
So I paused not, until in the sky----Ah!--
Far upward arose the perpetual snows
And the peaks of the proud Himalaya.
But in Kashmir, alas! I found not a lass
Who answered to Tommy's description--
For the make of such maid I am sadly afraid
The fond parents have lost the prescription,
And I murmured; "No doubt, the old breed has died out,
At least such is my honest conviction."
In the horrible slums which form the foul homes
Of the rag-covered dames of the city,
I saw wrinkled hags, all wrapped in old rags,
Whose appearance excited but pity.
Beyond question the word which it would be absurd
To apply to these ladies is "pretty."
In the high Gujar huts were but brats and old sluts,
These last being the plainest of women;
Then I sought on the waters the sisters and daughters
Of the Mangis--those "bold, able seamen"
(I have often been told that the Mangi is bold,
And as brave as at least two or three men).
One lady I saw--I am told her papa
In the market did forage and "gram" sell--
Decked all over with rings, necklets, bangles and things,
She appeared a desirable damsel;
And I cried "Oh, Eureka! I've found what I seek:
Tell me quick--Is she 'madam' or 'ma'mselle'?"
It was comical, but to this question I put--
A remarkably innocent query--
I received but a sigh or evasive reply,
Or a blush from the modest Kashmiri;
And I gathered at last that the lady was "fast,"
And her name should be Phryne, not Here.
Toddled up a small tot--her hair tied in a knot--
Who remarked, "I can hardly consider
You've the ghost of a chance on this wild-goosie dance
Unless you should hap on a 'widder!'
For our maidens at ten--ay, and less now and then--
Are all booked to the wealthiest bidder."
"My dear man, it's no use to indulge in abuse
Of our customs, so be not enraged, sir--
No woman a maid is--we're all married ladies.
Our charms very early are caged, sir--
I'm eleven myself," remarked the small elf,
"And a year ago I was engaged, sir!"
Ah, well! The country is the loveliest I ever saw, and that goes far to
make up for its disgusting population.
Here, indeed, it is that
"Every prospect pleases, and only man is vile."
We stopped to look at the ruins of an ancient mosque, built in the days of
Akbar by the Shiahs. Its remains may be deeply interesting to the
archaeologist, but to me a neighbouring ziarat, wooden, with its grassy
roof one blaze of scarlet tulips, was far more attractive. Moving homeward,
we floated under a lovely old bridge, whose three rose-toned arches date
from the sixteenth century--the age of the Great Moguls. The extreme
solidity of its piers contrasts strongly with the exceedingly sketchy (and
sketchable) bridges manufactured by the Kashmiri.
In fairness, though, I must point out that, as the bridge in Kashmir
usually spans a stream liable at almost any moment to overwhelming floods,
it would appear to be a sound idea to build as flimsily as possible, with
an eye to economical replacement.
The Kashmiri carries this plan to its logical conclusion when he fells a
tree across a raging torrent, and calls it a bridge, to the unutterable
discomfiture of the Western wayfarer.
 That lady subsequently killed a remarkably good 13-pointer bara singh
and some bears in October.
_May_ 1.--The pear and cherry blossom has been so lovely in and around
Srinagar that we determined to go to the Lolab Valley and see the apple
blossom in full flower.
We started in some trepidation, for the warm weather lately has melted
much snow on the hills, and Jhelum is so full that we were told that our
three-decker would be unable to pass under the city bridges--of which
there are seven. We decided to see for ourselves, so set forth about
eleven, and soon came to the first bridge, the Amira Kadal, which carries
the main tonga road into Srinagar, tying up just above it, amid the
clamour and jabber of an idle crowd.
The Admiral solemnly measured the clear space between the top of the arch
and the water with a long pole, consulted noisily with the crowd, yelled
his ideas to the crew, and decided to attempt the passage.
Hen-coops, chairs, half-a-dozen flower-pots containing sickly specimens of
plants, and all other movables being cleared from the upper deck, we set
sail, and shot the bridge very neatly, only having a few inches of
daylight between the upper deck and the wooden beams upon which the
_Ce nest que, le premier "pont" que coute_.
The other bridges were all easier than the first, and we shot them gaily,
spending the rest of the day in floating quietly down the river, and
finally anchoring--or rather mooring, for anchors are, like boat-hooks,
masts, sails, rudders, and rigging, alike unknown to the "jollye mariners"
of the Jhelum--some two or three miles above the entrance to the dreaded
This awful stretch of water, so feared by the Kashmiri that his eyes
goggle when he even thinks of it, is an innocent enough looking lake,
generally occupied in reflectively reproducing its surroundings upside
down, but occasionally its calm surface is ruffled by a little breeze, and
it is reported that wild and horrible squalls sweep down the nullahs of
Haramok at times, and destroy the unwary. These squalls are said to be
most frequent in the afternoons, and are probably the accompaniments of
It is only considered possible to cross the Wular between dawn and 10 or
11 A.M., and no persuasion will prevail upon a native boatman to risk his
life on the lake after lunch.
Before turning in, I gave orders that a start should be made next morning
at five o'clock, but a heavy squall of rain and thunder during the night
had the effect of causing orders to be set at naught, and at
breakfast-time there was no sign of "up anchor" nor even of "heaving
short." An interview with the Admiral showed me that the Wular, in his
opinion, was too dangerous to cross to-day--in fact he wouldn't dream of
asking coolies to risk it. He was given to understand that we intended to
cross, and that the sooner he started the safer it would be.
No coolies being forthcoming, I inhumanly gave orders to get under
way--the available crew consisting of the wicked Satarah, the first
lieutenant, and the Lady Jiggry. Sulkily and slowly we wended our way past
the wide flats which border the Wular, all blazing golden with mustard in
full pungent flower.
Before entering the lake the Admiral meekly requested to be allowed to try
for coolies in a small village near by. He was allowed quarter of an hour
for pressgang work, and sure enough he came back within a very reasonable
time with a few spare hands, and then--paddling and poling for dear
life--we glided swiftly through the tangled lily-pads and the green
rosettes of the Singhara, and soon were _in medias res_ and fairly
committed to the deep.
The Wular lay like a burnished mirror, reflecting the buttresses of
Haramok on our right, and the snowy ranges by the Tragbal ahead, its
silvery surface lined here and there with the wavering tracks of other
boats, or broken by bristling clumps of reeds and tall water-plants. Our
transit was perfectly peaceful, and by lunch-time we were safely tied up
to a bank, purple with irises, just below Bandipur.
A visit to the post-office and a stroll up the rocky hill behind it, where
we sat for some time and watched a pair of jackals sneaking about,
completed a peaceful afternoon.
_May_ 3.--We were up with the lark, and, having moved along the coast a
few miles to the west of Bandipur, left the ship before six of the clock
in pursuit of bear. I had "khubbar" of one in the Malingam Nullah, and,
after a brisk walk over the lower slopes, we entered the nullah and
clambered up about 1500 feet to a quiet and retired spot under a shady
thorn-bush, where we breakfasted.
We thereafter climbed a little higher, and then sat down while the
shikaris departed to spy, their method of spying being, I believe,
somewhat after this fashion:--Leaving the sahib with his
belongings--notably the tiffin coolie--in a spot carefully selected for
its seclusion, the miscreants depart hurriedly and rapidly up the nearest
inaccessible crag; this is "business," and throws dust, so to say, in the
eyes of the sahib, by means of an exhibition of activity and zeal. Passing
out of sight over the sky-line, the hunters pause, wink at one another,
and, choosing a shady and convenient corner, proceed to squat, light their
pipes, and discuss matters--chiefly financial--until they deem it time to
return, scrambling and breathless with excitement, to relate all that they
have seen and done.
So, while the shikaris unceasingly spied for bear, for nine mortal hours
Jane and I camped out on a remarkably hard and unyielding stone, varied by
other seats equally tiresome.
Fortunately we had brought books with us, and we relieved the monotony by
observing the habits of a pair of "kastooras," a hawk, and a brace of
chikor at intervals, but it was truly a tedious chase.
At four o'clock the sons of Nimrod returned, declaring that the bear had
been seen, but that as we had on chaplies and not grass shoes, it would be
impossible for us to pursue him. I asked the shikari why the ---- goose he
had let me come out in chaplies instead of grass shoes if the country was
so rough? His reply was to the effect that whatever it pleased me to wear
_May_ 4.--Armed _cap-a-pie_ so to speak, with pith helmets and grass shoes,
we again set forth at dawn of day to hunt the bear. Breakfast under the
same tree, sitting on the same patch of rose-coloured flowers--a sort of
fumitory (_Corydalus rutaefolia_)--followed by another nine-hour bivouac,
brought us to 5 P.M. and the extreme limit of boredom, when lo! the
shikaris burst upon us in a state of frenzied excitement to announce the
bear! Off we went up a steep track for a quarter of an hour, until, at the
foot of a rough snow slope, the shikari told the much disgusted Jane that
she must wait there, the rest of the climb being too hard for her, and, in
truth, it was pretty bad. Up a very steep gully filled with loose stones
and rotten snow, scrambling, and often hauling ourselves up with our hands
by means of roots and trailing branches, we slowly worked our way up a
place I would never have even attempted in cold blood.
Twenty minutes' severe exertion brought us to a shelf, or rather slope, of
rock on the right, sparsely covered with wiry brown grass from which the
snow had but very recently gone, and crowned by a crest of stunted pines.
Up this we wriggled, I being mainly towed up by my shikari's cummerbund,
and, lying under a pine, we peered over the top.
A steep gully divided us from a rough ridge, upon a grassy ledge of which,
about 200 yards off, a big black beast was grubbing and rooting about.
The shikari, shaking with excitement, handed me the rifle, urging me to
shoot. I did nothing of the sort, having no breath, and my hand being
unsteady from a fast and stiff climb.
I regret to be obliged to admit that, not realising that it would be
little short of miraculous to kill a bear stone-dead at 200 yards with a
Mannlicher, and being also, naturally, somewhat carried away by the sight
of a real bear within possible distance, I waited until I was perfectly
steady, and fired. The brute fell over, but immediately picked himself up
again and made off. I saw I had broken his fore-shoulder and fired again
as he disappeared over the far side of the ledge, but missed, and I saw
that bear no more.
We had the utmost difficulty in crossing the precipitous gully to a spot
below the ledge upon which the beast had been feeding--the ledge itself we
could not reach at all; and the lateness of the hour and the difficulty of
the country in which we were, prevented us from trying to enter the next
ravine and work up and back by the way the bear had gone. A neck-breaking
crawl down a horrible grass slope brought us to better ground, and I sadly
joined Jane to be well and deservedly scolded for firing a foolish shot.
The lady was very much disgusted at having been defrauded of the sight of
a bear "quite wild," as she expressed it--a certain short-tempered animal
which had eaten up her best umbrella in the Zoo at Dusseldorf not having
fulfilled the necessary condition of wildness.
Next day I sent out coolies to search for traces, promising lavish
"backshish" in the event of success, but I got no trustworthy news, "and
that was the end of that hunting."
_May_ 6.--Jane took a respite from the chase, and I sallied forth alone at
dawn up a nullah from Alsu to look for a bear which was said to frequent
those parts. A brisk walk of some four miles over the flat, followed by a
climb up a track--steep as usual--to the left of the main track to the
Lolab, brought us to a grassy ridge, where I sat down patiently to await
the bear's pleasure. I took my note-book with me, and whiled away some
time in writing the following:--
Let me jot down a sketch of my present position and surroundings; it will
serve to bring the scene back to me, perhaps, when I am again sitting in
my own particular armchair watching the fat thrushes hopping about the
Well, I am perched in a little hollow under a big grey boulder, which
serves to shelter me to a certain, but limited, extent from the brisk
showers that come sweeping over from the Lolab Valley. The hollow is so
small that it barely contains my tiffin basket, rifle, gun, and self--in
fact, my grass-shod and puttied extremities dangle over the rim, whence a
steep slope shelves down some 200 feet to a brawling burn, the hum of
which, mingling with the fitful sighing of the pines as the breeze sweeps
through their sounding boughs, is perpetually in my ears. Across the
little torrent, and not more than a hundred yards away, rises a slope,
covered with rough grass and scrub, similar to that in the face of which I
Here the bear was seen at 7 A.M. by a Gujar, who gave the fullest
particulars to Ahmed Bot (my shikari) in a series of yells from a hill-top
as we came up the valley. We arrived on the scene about seven, just in
time to be too late, apparently. It is now 3 P.M., and the bear is
supposed to be asleep, and I am possessing my soul in patience until it
shall be Bruin's pleasure to awake and sally forth for his afternoon tea.
There is certainly no bear now, so I pass the time in sleeping, eating,
smoking, writing, and observing the manners and customs of a family of
monkeys who are disporting themselves in a deep glen to the left. Beyond
this ravine rises a high spur, beautifully wooded, the principal trees
being deodar, blue pine (_Excelsa_) and yew. This is sloped at the
invariable and disgusting angle of 45 degrees. Beyond it rise further
wooded slopes, with snow gleaming through the deep green, and above all is
the changing sky, where the clear blue gives way to a billowy expanse of
white rolling clouds or dark rain-laden masses, which pour into the upper
clefts of the ravine, and blot out the serried ranks of the pines, until a
thorough drenching seems inevitable--when lo! a glint of blue through the
gloomy background, and soon again,
"With never a stain, the pavilion of Heaven is bare."
The immediate foreground, as I said before, slopes sharply from my very
feet, where a clump of wild sage and jasmin (the leaves just breaking)
grows over a charming little bunch of sweet violets. Lower down I can see
the lilac flowers of a self-heal, and the bottom of the little gorge is
clothed with a bush like a hazel, only with large, soft whitish flowers.
My solitude has just been enlivened by the appearance of a cheerful party
of lovely birds. They are very busy among the "hazels," flying from bush
to bush with restless activity, and wasting no time in idleness. They are
about the size of large finches--slender in shape, with longish tails.
They are divided into two perfectly distinct kinds, probably male and
female. The former have the back, head, and wings black; the latter barred
with scarlet, the breast and underparts also scarlet. The others--which I
assume to be the females--replace the black with ashy olive, the wings
being barred with yellow, the underparts yellowish. The very familiar note
of the cuckoo, somewhere up in the jungle, reminds me of an English spring.
4 P.M.--I knew it! I knew that if the wind held down the nullah I should
be dragged up that horrible ridge opposite. Hardly had I written the above
when I was hunted from my lair, and rushed down 200 steep feet, and then
up some 500 or 600 on the other side of the stream, through an abattis of
clinging undergrowth that made a severe toil of what could never have been
a pleasure. There can be no doubt but that a pith helmet--a really shady,
broad one--is a most infernal machine under which to force one's way
Well, all things come to an end--wind first, temper next, and finally the
My shikari is a fiend in human shape. He slinks along on the flat at what
_looks_ like a mild three-miles-an-hour constitutional, but unless you are
a _real_ four-mile man you will be left hopelessly astern; but when he
gets upon his favourite "one in one" slope, then does he simply sail away,
with the tiffin coolie carrying a fat basket and all your spare lumber in
his wake, while you toil upward and ever upwards--gasping--until with your
last available breath you murmur "Asti," and sink upon the nearest stone a
limp, perspiring worm!
5.30 P.M.--That bear has taken a sleeping draught!
I am now perched on a lonely rock, my hard taskmaster having routed me out
of a very comfortable place under a blue pine, whose discarded needles
afforded me a really agreeable resting-place, and dragged me away down
again through the pine forest and jungle; hurried me across a roaring
torrent on a fallen tree trunk; personally conducted me hastily up a place
like the roof of a house; and finally, explaining that the bear, when
disturbed, must inevitably come close past me, has departed with his staff
(the chota shikari, the tiffin coolie, and a baboon-faced native) to wake
up the bear and send him along.
After the first flurry of feeling all alone in the world, with only a
probable bear for society, and having loaded all my guns, clasped my visor
on my head and my Bessemer hug-proof strait-waistcoat round my "tummy," I
felt calm enough to await events with equanimity.
6.15 P.M.--A large and solemn monkey is sitting on the top of a thick and
squat yew tree regarding me with unfeigned interest. The torrent is
roaring away in the cleft below. Nothing else seems alive, and I am
becoming bored----What? A bear? No! The shikari, thank goodness!
"Well, shikari--Baloo dekho hai?" No, it is passing strange, but he has
_not_ seen a bear. "All right! Pick up the blunderbuss, and let us make
tracks for the ship."
_Wednesday, May_ 10.--Beguiled by legends of many bears, detailed to me
with apparently heartfelt sincerity by Ahmed Bot, I have been pursuing
these phantoms industriously.
On Monday we quitted our boat, and started upon a trip into the Lolab
Valley. The views, as the path wound up the green and flower-spangled
slope, were very beautiful, and, when we had ascended about 1500 feet and
were about opposite to the supposed haunt of Saturday's bear, we
determined to camp and enjoy the scenery, not omitting an evening
expedition in search of our shy friend.
Jane joining me, we had a most charming ramble down a narrow track to the
bed of the stream which rushes down from the snow-covered ridge guarding
the Lolab. Here we crossed into a splendid belt of gaunt silver firs, the
first I have seen here; whitish yellow marsh-marigolds and a most vivid
"smalt" blue forget-me-not with large flowers were abundant, also an
oxalis very like our own wood-sorrel.
Emerging from the pines, we crossed a grassy slope covered with tall
primulas (P. _denticulata_) of varying shades of mauve and lilac, and sat
down for a bit among the flowers while the shikaris looked for game. (I
need hardly remark that the noble but elusive beast had appeared on the
scene shortly after I left on Saturday; a Gujar told the shikari, and the
shikari told me, so it must be true.) When we had gathered as many flowers
as we could carry, we strolled back to the camp to watch the sunset
transmute the snowy crest of Haramok to a golden rose.
Yesterday, Tuesday, I left the camp at dawn, and went all over the same
ground, but with no better success, only seeing a couple of bara singh,
hornless now, and therefore comparatively uninteresting from a "shikar"
point of view. After a delightful but bearless ramble I returned to
breakfast, and then we struck camp, and completed the ascent of the pass
over into the Lolab. Arrived at the top, we turned off the path to the
right, and, climbing a short way, came out upon the lower part of the
Nagmarg, a pretty, open clearing among the pines where the grass, dotted
thickly with yellow colchicum, was only showing here and there through the
melting snow. Choosing a snug and dry place on some sun-warmed rocks at
the foot of a tree, we prepared to lunch and laze, and soon spread abroad
the contents of the tiffin basket.
There is something, nay much, of charm in the utter freedom and solitude
of Kashmir camp life. There is no beaten track to be followed diligently
by the tourist, German, American, or British, guide-book in hand and guide
at elbow. No empty sardine-tins, nor untidy scraps of paper, mar the clean
and lonely margs or village camping-grounds.
The happy wanderer, selecting a grassy dell or convenient shady tree with
a clear spring or dancing rivulet near by, invokes the tiffin coolie, and
if a duly watchful eye has been kept upon that incorrigible sluggard, in
short space the contents of the basket deck the sward. What have we here?
Yes, of course, cold chicken--
"For beef is rare within these oxless isles."
Bread! (how lucky we sent that coolie into Srinagar the other day). Butter,
nicely stowed in its little white jar, cheese-cakes (one of the Sabz Ali's
masterpieces), and a few unconsidered trifles in the form of "jam pups"
and a stick of chocolate.
Whisky is there, if required, but really the cold spring water is
"delicate to drink" without spirituous accompaniment.
Hunger appeased, the beauty of the surrounding scenery becomes intensified
when seen through the balmy veil of smoke caused by the consumption of a
mild cheroot, and peace and contentment reign while we feed the sprightly
crows with chicken bones and bits of cheese rind.
Shall we ever forget--Jane and I--that simple feast on the Nagmarg?
The sloping snow melting into little rills which trickled through the
fresh-springing flower-strewn grass; the extraordinary blue of the
hillsides overlooking the Lolab Valley seen through the sloping boughs of
the pines; the crows hopping audaciously around or croaking on a dried
branch just above our heads; and above all, the glorious sense of freedom,
of aloofness from all disturbing elements, of utter and irresponsible
independence in a lovely land unspoiled by hand of man?
The afternoon sun smote us full in the face as we descended the bare and
not too smooth path that led into the valley, and we were right glad to
reach the shade of a grove of deodars that covered the lower slopes of the
hill. The Lolab Valley, into which we had now penetrated, is a rich and
picturesque expanse of level plain, some fifteen miles long by three or
four broad, apparently completely surrounded by a densely-wooded curtain
of mountains, rising to an elevation of some 3000 feet above the valley on
the south and west, but ranging on the other sides up into the lofty
summits which bar the route into Gurais and the Tilail. The mountain chain
is not really continuous, the river Pohru, which drains the valley,
finding outlet to the west e'er it bends sharply to the south and enters
the Wular near Sopor.
Perhaps the most noticeable objects in the Lolab are the walnut trees;
they are now just coming into full leaf, and their great trunks, hoary
with age and softly velveted with dark green moss, form the noble columns
of many a lovely camping-ground. We pitched our tents at Lalpura in a
grove of giants, the majesty of which formed an exquisite contrast to the
white foam of a cluster of apple trees in bloom.
It has been so hot to-day that we have stayed quietly in camp, reading,
sketching, and enjoying the _dolce far niente_ of an idle life.
_Sunday, May_ 14.--On Thursday we left Lalpura and marched to Kulgam, a
short distance of some eight or ten miles. Mr. Blunt, the forest
officer, had most kindly placed the forest bungalows of the Lolab at
our disposal; but, as they all lie on the other side of the valley, we are
obliged to camp every night. We have been working along the north side
of the Lolab, as the shikari is full of bear "khubbar," and as long as the
weather remains fair we really do not much care where we go! Skirting the
foot of the wooded ridge on our right, and with the flat and populous
levels of the valley on our left, we marched along a good path shaded in
many places by the magnificent walnuts and snowy fruit-trees for which the
Lolab is justly famed, until, crossing the Pohru by a rickety bridge, and
toiling up a hot, bare slope, we reached Kulgam, nestling at the foot of
After tiffin and a short rest we set forth up the nullah behind the
village to look for (need I say?) a bear. The gradient was stiff, as usual,
and the path none too good. Feeling that our laborious climb deserved to
be rewarded by, at any rate, the sight of game, and Ahmed Bot having sent
a special message to the Lumbadhar at Kulgam directing him to keep the
nullah quiet, we were justly incensed when, having toiled up some couple
of thousand weary feet, we met a gay party of the _elite_ of Kulgam
prancing down the hill with blankets stuffed with wild leeks, or some such
Ahmed Bot showed reckless courage. Having overwhelmed the enemy with a
vituperative broadside, he fell upon them single-handed, tore from them
their cherished blankets, and spilt the leeks to the four winds.
I expected nothing less than to be promptly hurled down the khud, with
Jill after me, by the six enraged burghers of Kulgam. But no. They simply
sat down together on a rock, and blubbered loud and long; we sat down
opposite them on another rock and laughed, and laughed--tableau!
On Friday I went for a delightful walk through the pine and deodar forests,
the ostensible objective being, of course, a bear. Putting aside all ideas
of sport, I gave myself up to the simple joy of mere existence in such a
land; noting a handsome iris with broad red lilac blooms, which I had not
seen before; listening to the intermittent voice of the cuckoo, and
pausing every here and there to gaze over the fair valley, backed by its
encircling ranges of sunlit mountains.
The chota shikari is a youth of great activity, both mental and physical.
He almost wept with excitement on observing the mark of a bear's paw on a
dusty bit of path. He said it was a bear which had left that paw-mark, so
I believed him. Late in the dusk of the afternoon he _saw_ a bear sitting
looking out of a cave. I could only make out a black hole, but he saw its
ears move. I regarded the spot with a powerful telescope, but only saw
more hole; still, I cannot doubt the chota shikari. The burra shikari saw
it too, but was of opinion that it was too late to go and bag it. I think
he was right, so we went back to camp without further adventure.
Yesterday we left Kulgam, and followed up a track to a small village which
lies at the foot of the track leading over to Gurais and the Tilail
country. Here we camped in a grove of walnuts, which stood by an icy
spring. Jane and I went for a stroll, watched a couple of small
woodpeckers hunting the trunk of a young fir within a few feet of us, but
retreated hurriedly to camp on the approach of a heavy thunderstorm. This
was but the prelude to a bad break in the weather; all to-day it has
rained in torrents, and everything is sopping and soaked. The little
stream which yesterday trickled by the camp is become a young river, and
it is a perfect mystery how Sabz Ali manages to cook our food over a fire
guarded from the full force of the rain by blankets propped up with sticks,
and how, having cooked it, he can bring it, still hot, across the twenty
yards of rain-swept space which intervenes between the cook-house and our
_Monday, May_ 15.--The deluge continued all night, and only at about ten
o'clock this forenoon did the heavy curtain of rain break up into ragged
swirls of cloud, which, torn by the serrated ridges of the gloomy pines,
rolled dense and dark up the gorges, resonant now with the roar of
The men are all beginning to complain of fever, and have eaten up a great
quantity of quinine. Considering the dismal conditions under which they
have been living for the last couple of days, this is not surprising; so,
with the first promise of an improvement in the weather, we struck camp,
determined to make for the forest bungalow at Doras and obtain the shelter
of a solid roof. Many showers, but no serious downpour, enlivened our
march, and we arrived at the snug little wooden house just in time to
escape a particularly fine specimen of a thunderstorm. The Doras bungalow
seemed a very palace of luxury, with its dry, airy rooms and wide verandah,
all of sweet-smelling deodar wood. The men, too, were thankful to have a
good roof over their heads, and we heard no more of fever.
_Wednesday, May_ 17.--Yesterday it rained without ceasing, until the
valley in front of us took the appearance of a lake--A party of terns,
white above and with black breasts, skirled and wrangled over the "casual"
water. It was still very wet this morning, but as it cleared somewhat
after breakfast, we made up our minds to quit the Lolab and get back to
Doras has sad memories for Jane, for here died the "chota murghi," a black
chicken endowed with the most affectionate disposition. It was permitted
to sit on the lady's knee, and scratch its yellow beak with its little
yellow claw; but I never cared to let it remain long upon my shoulder--a
perch it ardently affected. Well! it is dead, poor dear, and whether from
shock (the pony which carried its basket having fallen down with it _en
route_ from "Walnut Camp"), or from a surfeit of caterpillars which were
washed in myriads off the trees there, we cannot tell. Sabz Ali brought
the little corpse along, holding it by one pathetic leg to show the
horrified Jane, before giving it to the kites and crows. He has many
"murghis" left; baskets full, as he says, for they are cheap in the Lolab,
but we shall never love another so dearly.
We had a shocking time while climbing to the pass which leads over to
Rampur, the road being deep in slimy mud, and so slippery that the
unfortunate baggage ponies could hardly get along. Jane, who is in
splendid condition now, toiled nobly up a track which would have been
delightful had the weather been a little less hideous.
Reaching the ridge which divides the Lolab from the Pohru Valley, we
turned to the left, along the edge, instead of descending forthwith, as we
had hoped and expected to do. It was raw and cold, with flying wreaths of
damp mist shutting out the view, and we were glad of a comforting tiffin,
swallowed somewhat hurriedly, under a forlorn and stunted specimen of a
blue pine. Then on along a rough and slippery catwalk that made us wonder
if the baggage ponies would achieve a safe arrival at Rampur.
Crossing a steep, rock-strewn ridge, covered with crown imperial in full
flower, we began a sharp descent through a wood of deodars; and now the
thunder, which had been grumbling and rumbling in the distance, came upon
us, and a deafening peal sent us scurrying down the hill at our best pace;
the lightning-blasted trunks stretching skywards their blackened and
tempest-torn limbs in ghastly witness of what had been and what might be
At last we cleared the wood, and, plunging across a perfect slough of deep
mud, crawled on to the verandah of the Rampur forest-house, where we sat
anxiously watching the hillside until we saw our faithful ponies safely
sliding down the hill.
_Thursday, May_ 18.--The changes of weather in this country are sudden and
surprising. This morning we woke to a perfect day--the sun bathing the
warm hillsides, the picturesque brown village, and the brilliant masses of
snowy blossoming fruit-trees with a radiant smile. And, but for the
tell-tale riot of the streams and the sponginess of the compound, there
was nothing to betray the past misdeeds of the clerk of the weather.
At noon we set out to cover the short distance that lay between us and
Kunis, where we had made tryst with Satarah. The country was like a series
of English woodland glades--watered by many purling streams, and bright
with masses of apple blossom; the turf around the trees all white and pink
with petals torn from the branches by the recent storms. Clumps of fir
clothed the hills with sombre green--a perfect background to a perfect
The flowers all along our path to-day were much in evidence after the rain.
Little prickly rose-bushes (_R. Webbiana_) were covered with pink blossoms
just bursting into full glory; bushes of white may, yellow berberis,
Daphne (_Oleoides?_), and many another flowering shrub grew in tangled
profusion, while pimpernel (red and blue), a small androsace
(_rotundifolia_), hawks-bit, stork's bill, wild geranium, a tiny mallow,
eye-bright, forget-me-not, a little yellow oxalis, a speedwell, and many
another, to me unknown, blossom starred the roadside. In the fields round
Kunis the poppies flared, and the iris bordered the fields with a ribbon
of royal purple.
We reached Kunis at two o'clock, and found the village half submerged, the
water being up and over the low shores from the recent rain. Our boats
were moored in a clump of willows, whose feet stood so deeply in the water
that we had to embark on pony-back! After lunch came the usual difference
of opinion with the Admiral, who seems to have great difficulty in
grasping the fact that our will is law as to times and seasons for sailing.
He always assumes the role of passive resister, and is always defeated
with ignominy. He insisted that it was too late to think of reaching
Bandipur, but we maintained that we could get at any rate part of the way;
so he cast off from his willow-tree, and sulkily poked and poled out into
the Wular, taking uncommon good care to hug the shore with fervour.
Here and there a group of willows standing far out into the lake, or a
half-drowned village, drove us out into the open water, and once when,
like a latter-day Vasco de Gama, the Admiral was striving to double the
dreadful promontory of a water-logged fence, a puff of wind fell upon us,
lashing the smooth water into ripples, whereupon the crew lost their wits
with fright, and the lady mariners in the cook-boat set up a dismal
howling; the ark, taking charge, crashed through the fence, her way
carrying us to the very door of a frontier villa of an amphibious village.
With amazing alacrity the crew tied us up to the door-post, and prepared
to go into winter quarters.
This did not suit us at all, and
"The harmless storm being ended,"
we ruthlessly broke away from our haven of refuge, and safely arrived at
_Friday, May_ 19.--An ominous stillness and repose at 3 o'clock this
morning sent me forth to see why the windlass was not being manned. A
thing like a big grey bat flapping about, proved, on inspection, to be
that rascal the Lord High Admiral Satarah. He said he could not start, as
the hired coolies from Kunis had been so terrified by the horrors of
yesterday that they had departed in the night, sacrificing their pay
rather than run any more risks with such daredevils as the mem-sahib and
me. This was vexatious and entirely unexpected, as I had never before
known a coolie to bolt before pay-day. Sabz Ali and Satarah were promptly
despatched on a pressgang foray, while I put to sea with the
first-lieutenant to show that I meant business. A crew was found in a
surprisingly short time, and a frenzied dart was made for the mouth of the
All day we poled round the shore of the lake, over flooded fields where
the mustard had spread its cloth of gold a short week ago, over the very
hedges we had scrambled through when duck-shooting in April, until in the
evening we entered the river just below Sumbal.
The towing-path was almost, in many places quite, under water, and the
whole country looked most forlorn and melancholy as the sun went down--a
pale yellow ball in a pale yellow haze.
_Sunday, May_ 21.--All yesterday we towed up the river against a current
which ran swift and strong.
The passage of the bridge at Surahal gave us some trouble, as the flooded
river brought our upper works within a narrow distance of the highest
point of the span, but we finally scraped through with the loss of a
portion of the railing which decorated our upper deck.
The strain of towing was severe, so, when a brisk squall and threatening
thunder-shower overtook us at the mouth of the Sind River, we decided to
tie up there for the night.
This morning we started at four o'clock, but only reached our berth at
Srinagar at two, having spent no less than six hours in forcing the boats
by pole and rope for the last three miles through the town! An incredible
amount of panting, pushing, yelling, and hauling, with frantic invocations
to "Jampaws" and other saints, was required to enable us to crawl inch by
inch against the racing water which met us in the narrow canal below the
All's well that ends well, and here we are once more in Srinagar, after a
trip which has been really delightful, albeit the weather latterly has not
been by any means all that could have been desired, and we have slain no
 Commonly called the "Jungly-sahib."
 Can it be that Bernier was right? "Il ne s'y trouve ni serpens, ni
tigres, ni ours, ni lions, si ce n'est tres rarement."--_Voyage de
Back to Full Books