A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil
T. R. Swinburne
Part 4 out of 5
hat and frock coat of civilisation, or she had discovered the 'swanbill'!"
 It is by Courthope, not Collins.
 See Appendix II.
Tuesday, _September_ 12.--A second edition of the Noachian deluge is upon
us! It began to rain on Saturday, at the close of a hot and stuffy week,
and, having succeeded in thoroughly soaking the unfortunate ladies who
were engaged in a golf competition that day, it proceeded to rain
abundantly all through Sunday and Monday.
The outlook from our hut is dispiriting; through a thick grey veil of
vapour the gleam of water shines over the swamp that was the polo-ground.
The little muddy stream in which so many erring golf-balls lie low is up
and out for a ramble over its banks. The lower golf-greens resemble
paddy-fields, and round the marg the spires of dull grey pines stand
dripping in a steadfast shower-bath.
Sometimes the heavy cloud folds everything in its leaden wing, blotting
out even the streaming village at our feet, and reducing our view to the
immediate slope below us where the wilted ragwort and rank weeds bend
before the tiny torrents which trickle everywhere. Then comes a break,
falsely suggestive of an improvement, and lo! soaring above the cloudy
boil, the lofty shoulders of Apharwat sheeted in new-fallen snow!
After the somewhat oppressive heat of last week, the sudden raw cold
strikes home, and Jane and I take a great interest in the fire, the "Old
Snake" is an accomplished fire-master, and it is pleasant to watch him
squatting like an ungainly frog in front of the hearth, and sagaciously
feeding the flame with damp and spitting logs.
It is amazing what lavish expenditure of fuel one will indulge in when it
costs nothing a ton!
We are just beginning to find out the exact spots where chairs may be
planted so as to avoid the searching draughts which go far to make our
happy home like a very airy sort of bird-cage.
Well! we might have been worrying through all this in a sodden tent, where
even a boarded floor would barely have kept out rheumatism, and where one
would have been liable to alarms and excursions at all sorts of untoward
times when drains wanted deepening and guys slackening. The mere thought
of such things sent us into a truly thankful state of mind, and we
discussed from our cosy chairs the probable condition of the party from
the Residency which set forth, full of high hope, on Saturday morning to
attack the markhor of Poonch.
Here it has rained with vehemence ever since they left; up in the high
ground it has doubtless snowed; and although they were well armed with
cards and whisky, yet it would appear but a poor business to play bridge
all day in a snow-bound tent on the top of the Pir Panjal! Nothing short
of a hundred aces every few minutes could make the game worth the candle!
This spell of bad weather has greatly interfered with the movements of a
large number of the folks who were to leave Gulmarg early this week. Many
got away betimes on Saturday, and a few faced the elements on Sunday, and
a painful experience they must have had.
We had intended to leave next Thursday, and had ordered boats to meet us
at Parana Chauni, but the road will be so bad that I wired this morning to
put off our transport till further orders.
The end of the season at Gulmarg sees the bazaar stock at low water. Eggs,
fowls, cherry brandy, and spirits of wine are "off," also butter, but the
latter scarcity does not affect us, as we make our own in a pickle jar.
The bazaar butter became very bad, probably because the large numbers of
visitors to Gulmarg caused an additional supply to be got from uncleanly
Gujars, so we, by the kindness of the Assistant Resident, had a special
cow detailed to supply us daily with milk at our own door.
That cow was very friendly; I first made its acquaintance one forenoon.
While I was sitting below the verandah sketching, with a dozen lovely
peaches spread by me on the hoards to obtain their final touch of
perfection in the sun before lunch, the cow strolled up. I was much
interested in the sketch, and believed that the cow was too; but when I
looked up at last, expecting to see its eye fixed upon the work in silent
"The 'cow' was still there, but the 'peaches' were gone."
In the afternoon the weather showed signs of a desire to amend its ways.
The clouds broke here and there, and, though it still rained heavily, it
became apparent that the clerk of the weather had done his worst, and the
supply of rain was running short. Clad in aquascutic garments, and
surmounted by an ungainly two-rupee bazaar umbrella (my dapper British one
having been annexed by a covetous Mangi)--
"Ombrifuge, Lord love you, case o' rain,
I flopped forth 'sbuddikins on my own ten toes."
The whole slope in front of the hut was a trickle of water, threading the
dying stalks of dock and ragwort, and hurrying down to add its dirty
pittance to the small yellow torrent rushing along the greasy strip of
clay that in happier days was the path.
The whole marg was become lake or stream--lake over the polo-ground and
half the golf-links--fed by the weeping slopes on every side, whence
innumerable rills rioted over the grass, emulating in ferocity and haste,
if not in size, the tawny torrents which drained the sides of Apharwat.
The road from the bazaar to the club was all but impassable, but as it had
still a few inches of freeboard, I followed it to the foot of the church
slope, and, skirting the hill, inspected the desolation which had been
wrought at the Kotal hole, where the stream had torn through its banks and
wrecked the green.
During a visit of condolence to Mrs. Smithson, whose unfortunate husband
is pursuing markhor in Poonch, the sky cleared--a splendid effort in the
way of a "clearing shower" being followed by a decided break-up of the
pall of wet cloud in which we have been too long immersed. Not without a
severe struggle did Jupiter Pluvius consent to turn off the tap, but at
length the sun broke through the hanging clouds and sent their sodden grey
fragments swirling up the Ferozepore Nullah to break in foamy wreaths
round the ragged cliffs of Kulan.
Finding the road across to the post-office altogether under water for some
distance--a lake extending from the twelfth hole for nearly a quarter of a
mile to the main road--I wandered back towards the higher ground, joining
a waterproof figure, a member of the Green Committee, who was sadly
regarding the water-logged links with the disconsolate air of the raven let
loose from the ark! We agreed that this was a remarkably good opportunity
for observing the drainage system, and taking notes for future guidance,
and in company we went over as much of the links as possible, finishing
below the second hole, where the cross stream which comes down from the
higher ground had torn away the bridge and cut off the huts beyond from
The homeward stroll at sunset was perfectly beautiful, and showed Gulmarg
in an absolutely new guise. The lower part of the marg, being all lake,
reflected the lustrous golden sky and rich dark pine-woods in a faithful
mirror. Flying fragments of cloud, fleeces of gold and crimson, clung to
the mountain-sides or sailed above the forests, while beyond Apharwat,
coldly clad in a pure white mantle of snow, new fallen, rose silhouetted
against the darkening sky.
_Saturday, September_ 16.--After the Deluge came the Exodus, everybody
trying to leave Gulmarg at once. We had always intended to go down to
Srinagar about the 15th, but, finding that the Residency party meant to
move on that day, we arranged to migrate a day earlier in order to avoid
the pony and coolie famine which a Residential progress entails on the
On Wednesday afternoon the ten ponies, carefully ordered a week before
from the outlying villages, were congregated on the weedy slope which
falls away from our verandah, picking up a scanty sustenance from decaying
ragwort and such like.
Secure in the possession of the necessary transport, Jane and I strolled
forth for a last look at Nanga Parbat, should he haply deign to be on view.
He did not deign, however, preferring to remain, like Achilles, when
bereft of Briseis, sulking in his cloudy tent. So we consoled ourselves
with an exceedingly fine view of the snow-crowned heights at the head of
the Ferozepore Nullah. Upon returning to our beloved log cabin we were met
by Sabz Ali--almost speechless with wrath--who broke to us the distressing
news that six of our ten weight-carriers had departed from the compound.
The entire staff, with the exception of our factotum, were away in pursuit,
and there was nothing for it but to possess our souls in what patience we
might until they returned.
As we had arranged for a four o'clock start next morning, it was most
disconcerting to have all our transport desert so late in the evening. An
urgent note to the Assistant Resident, and some pressure on the Tehsildhar,
produced promise of assistance.
Early on Thursday morning came an indignant chit from an irate General,
complaining that my servants were trying to seize his ponies, for which he
had paid an advance of two rupees, and would I be good enough to
investigate the affair. Here was the murder out. His chuprassie had
obviously bribed my pony wallahs, and a letter, stating my case pretty
clearly, produced the ponies and an apology.
This delay kept us till after midday, when, stowing our invalid snugly in
a dandy, we left Gulmarg and began the descent to Srinagar. I remained
behind to see the hut clear and make a sketch, and then hurried down the
direct path, which drops some 2000 feet to Tangmarg. Here I found Jane and
the invalid comfortably disposed in a landau, but the baggage spread about
anywhere, and the usual clamour of coolies uprising in the heated and
No ekka--the one which had been ordered with the landau having apparently
got another job and departed. Presently a stray ekka, drawn by a sorely
weary-looking mule, appeared on the scene, and we seized upon it instantly,
loaded it up with most of the baggage, and despatched coolies with the
After the storm came a holy calm, and we settled down to a light but
welcome lunch before starting down the long slope into the valley.
We had heard most disquieting tales of floods; the water had burst the
bund at Srinagar, and there was said to be ten feet over the polo-ground.
The occupants of Nedou's Hotel were going in and out by boat, and Srinagar
itself was said to be quite cut off from all access by road.
The Residency party have countermanded their intended move to-morrow.
At the post-office I was told that only a small part of the mail had been
brought into Srinagar, the road being "bund" between Baramula and that
place, while an unusual number of landslips and bridges have come down in
the Jhelum Valley.
Nevertheless, we had made a push to get on; things in Kashmir are often
less gloomy than their reports would make one believe, and so we bowled
quite cheerfully down the road from Tangmarg, basking in the hot and sunny
air, which seemed to us really delicious after the raw cheerlessness of
the last few days at Gulmarg.
From Tangmarg to the dak bungalow at Margam, a steady descent is
maintained by an excellent road over the sloping Karewa, for about ten
miles, of which we had just about travelled half when a series of yells
from the syce behind, a wild swerve, and a heavy plump brought us up just
on the edge of the steep and rocky bank, which fell sharply from the
Alas! the axle of the off hind wheel had snapped, and the wheel itself was
hopelessly lying in the thick white dust, and our landau looked like an
ancient three-decker in a squall.
The horses being unharnessed, we sent the drivers with one of them forward
to look for help, and Hesketh and Jane proceeded to make tea while I sat
by the roadside and sketched.
Presently an empty dandy came "dribbling by" on its return journey to
Gulmarg, and it was immediately impressed for the benefit of the lame.
Hardly had we packed him in, when a wandering tonga hove in sight, and,
being promptly requisitioned, we rattled off the five miles which lay
between us and Margam in no time.
Here we found a large party assembled in the little rest-house. Colonel
and Mrs. Maxwell (who had kindly sent us back the tonga on hearing of the
breakdown); Mr. and Mrs. Allen Baines, whose dandy had been the means of
bringing Hesketh along; and Sadleir-Jackson, and Edwards of the 9th
The bungalow was full, but I found out that one room was appropriated by a
coming event, who had cast his shadow before him in the guise of a bearer.
This being contrary to the etiquette as observed in dak bungalows, I
gently but firmly cleared out the neatly arranged toilet things and
ready-made bed; while Hesketh was taken over, somewhat shattered by his
tedious though exciting day, by his fellow Lancers.
The resources of the little place were severely strained; dinner was a
scanty meal, and soda-water gave out almost immediately: nevertheless, a
cheroot and a rubber of bridge sent us contented to bed.
Yesterday (Friday) the question of how to proceed arose. The road was
reported to be impassable after about five miles, the remaining ten being
We set out after breakfast, Jane perched on a pony which Sabz Ali had
raised or stolen, Hesketh in the dandy, and I on foot. After a warm five
miles' march we came upon signs of a block. Vehicles of many and strange
sorts were drawn up in the shade of a chenar, under whose wide branches
the Baines family was faring sumptuously on biscuits and brandy and water.
Horses, goats, and cattle strayed around, and a chattering mob of natives,
busily engaged, as usual, in doing nothing, completed the picture.
Hesketh was reduced to despair; after two months in bed, this could not
but be a trying journey under the most favourable circumstances, and the
prospect as held out by his pessimistic bearer was pretty gloomy--no boats
available, and no signs of our doungas.
I pushed on to the break in search of my shikari, whom I had sent on by
pony early in the morning, and soon found that estimable person, who is
not really the blithering idiot he looks!
In the first place, he had appropriated the only two shikaras he could
find, and our baggage was already being stowed in them; secondly, he had
discovered both Juma and Ismala, our Mangis, who reported the doungas
moored below Parana Chaum, about four miles away over the flooded fields.
This was good news, and we ate a cheerful lunch under a tree densely
populated by jackdaws.
The Maxwells got away somehow in search of their house-boat, which was
supposed to have left Baramula some days ago. They started cheerfully, but
vaguely, down the Spill Canal, and we trust they found their ark somewhere!
Promising to send back a boat for the Baines, we paid and dismissed
coolies and ponies, and paddled away over the flood water. The country was
simply a vast lake, the main road merely marked by a dense row of poplars.
Trees rose promiscuously out of the calm and sunlit water, wisps of maize
and wreckage clinging to their lower boughs. Presently the road showed in
patches, a broad waterfall breaking it every here and there as the
imprisoned waters from above sought the slightly lower channel of the
We passed a party of natives bivouacking near the roof and upper storey of
their wooden hut, which, floating from above, was held up by the Baramula
road. Sounding now and then with our khudsticks, we found no bottom over
the submerged rice crops, though we could see plainly the laden ears
waving dismally down below. This is nothing less than a great calamity for
the owners, as the rice was just ready for gathering.
Towards dusk we arrived at our ships, calmly lying moored to poplar trees
by the roadside, and right gladly did we clamber on board, for our invalid
was pretty well fagged out.
This morning we cast loose from our poplars, and brought the fleet up to
within half a mile of the seventh bridge, or, rather, of the spot where
the seventh bridge used to be, for all but a fragment has been washed away!
The strong current prevented us from getting any higher up the river in
our doungas. Jane and I, however, were anxious to see what appearance
Srinagar presented, so we manned the shikara with five able-bodied
paddlers and pushed our way upwards. Turning into a side canal we passed a
demolished bridge, and tried to force our way up a small but swift stream.
Failing to make anything of it, we landed and had the boat carried over
into a wider channel. Three times we were obliged to get out and leave our
stalwart crew to force the boat on somehow, and they did it well--hauling,
paddling, and shouting invocations to various saints, particularly the one
whose name sounds like "jam paws!"
The water had already fallen some four or five feet, but there was plenty
left. A great break in the bund between Nusserwanjee's shop and the Punjab
Bank allowed us to paddle into the flooded European quarter, past the
telegraph office, standing knee-deep in muddy water, up over the main road
to Nedou's Hotel, where boats lay moored outside the dining-room windows,
then across the lagoon, lightly rippled by a tiny breeze, beneath which
lay the polo-ground, to the Residency, where we landed to inspect damages.
The water had been all over the lower storey, but a muddy deposit on the
wooden floor, and a brown slimy high-water mark on the door jambs, alone
remained to show what had happened. The piano had been hoisted upon a
table, carpets and curtains bundled upstairs, and everything, apparently,
saved. The poor garden, with its slime-daubed shrubs, broken palings and
torn creepers, trailing wisps of draggled foliage in the oozy brown pools,
was a sad and pitiful sight, especially when mentally contrasted with the
glowing glory of asters and zinneas which it should have been.
The flood has been nearly as bad as the great one of 1903. Fortunately the
Spill Canal, cut above Srinagar to carry off the flood water, took off
some of the pressure; the bund, also, is three feet higher than it was
then, but it gave way in two places--one somewhere near the top, and the
other just below the Bank, letting in the river to a depth of ten feet
over the low-lying quarter. The stream is now falling fast, and, after
doing a little shopping and visiting the post-office, which is temporarily
established on the bund in the midst of an amazing litter of desks, boxes,
and queer pigeon-holes admirably adapted to lose letters by the score, we
spun swiftly down the rushing stream to tea and our cosy dounga.
_Monday, September_ 18.--It was impossible to get our boats up the river
yesterday, so I spent the day sketching amidst the most picturesque, but
horribly smelly, part of the town; much quinine in the evening seemed
desirable as a counterblast to possible malaria.
The sunsets lately have been really magnificent; the poplars and chenars,
darkly olive, reflected in the flooded fields against a red gold sky, in
the foreground the black silhouettes of the armada.
The days are almost too hot, but the nights are cool and delicious, and
the mosquitoes are only noticeable for a brief period of sinful activity
about sundown, after which the wicked cease from troubling and the weary
are at rest.
At half-past ten this morning we set sail; that is to say, we hired nine
extra coolies and a second shikara to tow, and advanced on Srinagar.
Hesketh's boat, being the lighter, kept well ahead (here let me note that
"bow" in that boat is quite the prettiest girl we have seen in Kashmir,
and the minx knows it!), but we had good men, and worked along slowly and
steadily up the main river, the side canals being all choked by broken
bridges and such like. We crept past the Amira Kadal, or first bridge,
about two o'clock, and tied up for lunch, revelling in the most perfect
pears, peaches, and walnuts. As a rule the Kashmir fruit is disappointing;
abundant and cheap certainly, but not by any means of first-rate quality.
Strawberries, cherries, apricots, melons, and grapes might all be far
better if properly cultivated, and scientifically improved from European
The pears alone defy criticism, and the apples, I am told, are excellent
Vegetables are in great plenty, but, like the fruit, would be much
improved by good cultivation.
_Wednesday, September_ 25.--The abomination of desolation wrought by the
flood is borne in upon one more and more as an inspection of the town
reveals the damage done more fully--the houses standing empty, their lower
storeys dank and slimy, the ruined gardens, and muddy, slippery roads. The
wrecked garden of the Punjab Bank is one of the saddest sights, and must
be a painful spectacle to Mr. Harrison, whose joy it was to spend time and
money on importing exotic and improving indigenous plants.
One cannot help reflecting how desperately depressed Noah, and the
probably more impressionable Mrs. Noah, must have been when, discarding
their aquascutums for the first time, they sallied forth, a primeval party,
to observe the emerging country.
Mrs. Noah, tucking up the curious straight garment that is a memory of our
childhood, went ahead with feminine curiosity; Noah, bare-legged,
slithering along in the rear and beseeching the ladies to note the
slipperiness of the alluvial deposit, and for goodness' sake not to make a
glissade down the side of Ararat.
I feel confident they must have taken great precautions, for Sabz Ali
slipped up on the shelving bank of the Jhelum, and, had he not caught the
gunwale of our dounga in his descent, would most certainly have had to
swim for his life--which I doubt if he can do!
Now, Shem and Co. were as valuable to Noah as Sabz Ali is to us, and I
should not be surprised if he made them travel on all-fours in the risky
places. Fathers were very dictatorial in those days, and there was nobody
about to make them consider their dignity.
One can imagine the scene. Ararat, a muddy pyramid dotted here and there
with olive trees--curious, by the way, to find olives so high!--in the
receding waters the vagrant raven cheerfully picking out the eye of a
defunct pterodactyl. The heavy clouds rolling off the sodden world--they
must have indeed been heavy clouds, nimbus of the first water--as they had
raised the world's water-level 250 feet per day during "the flood" ...
surely a record output!
The primeval family party, sadly poking about along the expanding margin
of the world, noting how Abel Brown's tall chimney was beginning to show,
and how Cain Jones' wigwam was clean gone. Mrs. Shem said she knew it
would, the mortar work had been so terribly scamped.
And Naboth Robinson's vineyard--well, _it_ was in a pretty mess, to be
sure, and serve him right, for Mrs. Noah had frequently offered him two of
her (second) best milch mammoths for it; yet he had held on to his nasty
sour grapes, like the mean old curmudgeon that he was.
And now Hammy must set to work and tidy it up; and oh! what lots of nice
manure was floating about, all for nothing the cartload ... And so the
primeval family felt better, and went back to the ark to tea, feeling
almost cheerful, but rather lonesome.
Fortunately this great flood did little injury to life or limb. A certain
amount of destruction of crops and other property was inevitable, but on
the whole the loss was not so great as was at one time feared, and much
was saved that at first seemed irreparable.
A well-known lady artist came near to giving the note of tragedy to the
British community, and losing the number of her mess (to use a nautical,
and therefore appropriate expression) by reason of a big willow tree,
beneath whose shady boughs she had moored her floating studio. This
hapless tree, having all its sustenance swept from beneath by the greedy
water, came down with a crash in the night upon the confiding house-boat,
and all but swamped it.
The cook-boat, occupied as usual by a pair of prolific Mangis and their
large small family, was saved by the proverbial "acid drop"--the children
crawling out somehow or anyhow from among the branches of the fallen tree.
The fair artist, having with shrieks invoked the aid of a neighbour, he
promptly descended from his roof or other temporary camp, and helped her
with basins and chatties to bale out the half-swamped boat. The lady is
now safely moored to the mudbank on the other side of the river where
willow trees do not grow.
The whole bund is in a very unsafe state: it was raised three feet after
the last flood, but its width was not increased correspondingly. Now that
the water has fallen, great fissures and subsidences have appeared, and in
many places large portions of the bank have fallen away, carrying big
trees with them.
 Our pet name for Shikari Mark II., who reigns in the stead of Ahmed
Bot, sacked for expensive inefficiency.
Wednesday, _September_ 27.--We left Srinagar yesterday, very sorry indeed
to part from the many good friends we have made and left there. Truly
Kashmir is a hospitable country, and we have met with more kind
friendliness in the last six months than we could have believed possible,
coming as we did, strangers and pilgrims into a strange land. Our
consolation is that every one comes "Home" sooner or later, so that we can
look forward to meeting most of our friends again ere very long, and
recalling with them memories of this happy summer with those who have done
so much to make it so.
Farewell, Srinagar! Your foulness and inward evilness were lost in the
background behind your picturesque and tumble-down houses as we floated for
the last time down Jhelum's olive waters, where the sharp-nosed boats lay
moored along the margin or, poled by their sturdy Mangis and guided by the
chappars of their wives and daughters, shot athwart the eddying flood,
breaking the long reflections of the storeyed banks.
Past the Palace of the Maharajah, its fantastic mixture of ancient
fairness and modern ugliness blending into a homogeneous beauty as
distance lent it enchantment.
Past the temples, their tin-coated roofs refulgent in the brilliant
sunlight; under the queer wooden bridges, their solid stone piers parting
the suave flow of water into noisy swirl and gurgle.
Past the familiar groups of grave, white-robed men solemnly washing
themselves, then scooping up and drinking the noisome fluid; past their
ladies squatting like frogs by the river-side, washing away at clothes
which never seem a whit the cleanlier for all their talk and trouble.
Past the children and fowls, and cows and crows, all hob-nobbing together
Past all these sights--so strange to us at first and now so strangely
familiar--we floated, till the broken remnant of the seventh bridge lay
behind us, and the lofty poplars that hem in the Baramula road stood stark
and solemn in their endless perspective.
Here a jangling note, out of tune and harsh, was struck by the dobie, with
whom we had a grave difference of opinion regarding the washing.
That gentleman having "lost by neglect" certain articles of my kit--to wit
sundry shirts and other garments--and having rendered others completely
_hors de combat_ by reason of his sinful method of washing, I decided to
"cut" three rupees off his remuneration.
This decision seemed to have taken from him all that life held of worth,
and he implored me to spare his wife, children, and home, all of whom
would be broken up and ruined if I were cruel enough, to enforce my awful
threat. Seeing that I was obdurate, being well backed by the infuriated
Jane, whose underwear showed far more lace and open work than nature
intended, the wretched dobie melted into loud and tearful lamentation, and
perched himself howling in the prow. This soon became so boresome that I
deported him to Hesketh's boat, where he underwent another defeat at the
hands of that irate Lancer, whose shirts and temper had suffered together;
finally the woeful washerman, still howling lugubriously, was landed on
the river bank, and we saw and heard him no more!
Down the gentle river we swiftly glided all day, while the Takht and Hari
Parbat grew smaller and bluer, and Srinagar lay below them invisible in
its swathing greenery.
Reaching Sumbal at sunset, we turned to the left down a narrow canal, and
soon the Wular lay--a sheet of molten gold--upon our right; and by the
time we had moored alongside a low strip of reedy bank, the glorious rosy
lights had faded from the snows of the Pir Panjal, and their royal purple
and gold had turned to soft ebony against the primrose of the sky.
A few hungry mosquitoes worried us somewhat before sunset, promising worse
to follow; but the sharp little breeze that came flickering over the Wular
after dark seemed to upset their plans, and send them shivering and hungry
to shelter among the reeds and rushes.
This morning we crossed the Wular, starting as the first pale dawn showed
over the eastern hills.
Before the sun rose over Apharwat, his shafts struck the higher snows and
turned them rosy; while the lower slopes, their distant pines suffused
with strong purple, stood reflected in the placid mirror of the lake.
"Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain tops with sovran eye,"
but seldom a more lovely one than this--our last on the Wular Lake.
The active figures of the propellent Mangis, and the quiet ones of their
ladies at the helm, completed a picture to be recalled with a sigh when we
are parted by thousands of miles from this entrancing valley.
Sopor we had understood to be but an uninteresting place, but we were,
perhaps, inclined to regard things Kashmirian through somewhat rosy
spectacles. Anyhow, we rather liked Sopor. Mooring close alongside a
remarkably picturesque building standing in the midst of a smooth green
lawn, which was once, I believe, a dak bungalow, we halted to make
arrangements for the hire of coolies and ponies to take us inland, and I
went off to the post-office for letters and to make inquiries as to the
probable depth of water in the river Pohru.
Our skipper, Juma, affirmed that there was no water to speak of; but Juma
probably--nay, certainly--prefers the _otium_ of a sojourn at Sopor to the
toil of punting up the Pohru.
The postmaster declared that there was lots of water, but qualified his
optimism by saying that it was falling fast. So we arranged for our land
transport of ponies for ourselves, and a dandy for Hesketh, to meet us one
march up the river at Nopura, while we ourselves set forward in our boats
to Dubgam, three or four miles down the Jhelum, where the Pohru joins it.
At the entrance are large stores of timber, principally deodar, which is
floated down from the Lolab, stored at Dubgam, and sent thence down
country and otherwhere for sale. The great boom across the river to catch
the floating logs had been carried away in the flood, and merely showed a
few melancholy and ineffectual spikes of wood sticking up above the now
calm and sluggish river.
We towed up easily enough, through a quiet and peaceful country, which
only became gorgeous under the alchemy of sunset, reaching Nopura in good
time to tie up before dinner.
_Friday, September 29_.--On Thursday morning we started, as usual, at dawn,
and proceeded to pole and haul our way up the devious channel of the Pohru.
Some four or five miles we accomplished successfully, although there were
ominous signs of a gradual lack of water, until we came upon a hopeless
shallow, where the river, instead of concentrating its energies on one
deep and narrow channel, had run to waste over a wide bed, where the
wrinkling wavelets showed the golden brown of the gravel just below the
surface. Our big dounga stuck hard and fast at once, and Captain Jurna
promptly gave up all hope of getting farther. He was, in fact, greatly
gratified to find his prophesies come true, and an insufferable air of "I
told you so" overspread his face as he wagged his head with mock sorrow,
and gently poked the bottom with his pole to show how firmly fixed we were.
Having an invalid with us, however, it was important to gain every easy
mile we could, and it was not until all the fleet in turn had attempted to
cross the shallow, and failed, that we made up our minds to take to our
land transport. It was uncommonly hot in the full glare of the sun as
Hesketh in his dandy, Jane on her "tattoo," and I on foot set forward for
the forest house at Harwan, which lay some five miles away across the
fields, where the rice is now being busily cut.
At the foot of a very brown and parched-looking hill stood the little
wooden hut, facing the valley of the Pohru and the Kaj-nag range. Hot and
thirsty, we blessed the good Mr. Blunt, the kindly forest officer, who had
so courteously given us permission to use the forest huts of the Lolab and
the Machipura. Our blessings of Blunt turned swiftly to curses directed
towards the chowkidar, who was not to be seen, and who had left the hut
firmly fastened from within. An attempt to force the door brought upon us
the resentment of a highly irritable swarm of big red wasps, who plainly
regarded us as objectionable intruders; and Jane was really getting quite
cross (she says--she always does--that it was I who lost my
temper)--before the bold sweeper, prying round the back premises, found an
unbarred window, and the joy bells rang once more.
The Colonel turned up from the Malingam direction, and pitched his tent in
the rest-house compound; and, as the afternoon grew cooler, he and I
sallied forth to select a few chikor for the pot.
The chikor is extremely like the ordinary European redleg or Barbary
partridge, not only in colouring, but in habit, loving the same dry,
scrub-covered country, and preferring, like him, to run rather than fly
when pursued. The chikor, however, is certainly far superior in the
capacity of what fowl fanciers call "a table bird," being, in fact, truly
He is not an altogether easy bird to shoot, owing to his annoying
predilection for the steepest and rockiest hillsides, and those most
densely clothed in spiny jungle, wherein lurking, he chooses the
inopportune moment when the sportsman is hopelessly entangled, like
Isaac's ram, to rise chuckling and flee away to another hiding-place.
Without dogs, he would be often extremely hard to find; but unluckily for
himself, being a true Kashmiri bird, he cannot help making a noise, and
thereby betraying his presence. His corpse, when dead, is hard to find in
the jungle, and a runner is, of course, hopeless without canine help. It
is well, therefore, to kill him as dead as possible, and to that end I
used No. 4 shot, with, I think, a certain advantage over Walter, who shot
with No. 6, and who, in consequence, lost several birds.
The friendliness and sociability of the beasts and birds of Kashmir has
been a great joy to us. The thing can be overdone, though, and both the
wasps and the rats of Harwan were inclined to overstep the bounds of
The latter were obviously overjoyed to see visitors, and visions of
unlimited plunder from our festive board would, of course, put them
somewhat above themselves. Still, they should have refrained from rioting
so openly around our beds as soon as the lights were out, and Jane was
naturally indignant when a large one ran over her feet!
On Friday morning we left Harwan, pretty early, as usual, for it is still
somewhat too warm to travel comfortably in the middle of the day. The
Colonel (always an early bird) got away first, followed by our invalid in
his dandy, while Jane and I remained to hunt the loiterers out of camp. A
glorious morning, and the cheering knowledge that breakfast was in front
of us, sent us merrily along for a mile or two, until branching paths led
us to inquire of an intelligent Kashmiri, who appeared to be busily
engaged in reaping rice with a penknife, as to the road taken by our
precursors, especially the tiffin coolie!
The industrious one had seen no sahibs at all pass by. This was a blow,
and Jane and I sat down to review the situation. We finally decided that
the son of the soil was indulging in what the great and good Winston
Churchill has called a "terminological inexactitude," as the others must
have gone by one of the two roads; so, putting our fortunes to the touch,
we took the left-hand path, and were in due time rewarded by reaching
Sogul, and there finding our pioneers peacefully seated under a tree, and
Leaving Sogul, we skirted for some miles a bare ridge which rose on the
right, and which looked an ideal ground for chikor, and then turned into a
beautiful valley drained by the Pohru, now quite a small and insignificant
Drogmulla, our objective, lies about fourteen miles from Harwan, and the
forest house is a full mile beyond the village, at the end of a somewhat
steep and winding path.
A welcome sight was the snug rest-house, perched upon a hillock above a
fussy little stream and surrounded by a fine clump of deodars.
A tiny lawn in front was decorated with an artificial tank full of
water-plants, and through the opening, among the trees, we saw the snowy
crest of Shambrywa and the Kaj-nag rising over the deeply-wooded foothills.
Drogmulla was so fascinating a spot, and the weather was so remarkably
fine, that we made up our minds to remain here for a few days. That old
red-bearded snake, the shikari, has sent the Colonel into a seventh heaven
of anticipation by pointing to the encircling forest with promise of
"pul-lenty baloo, sahib, this pul-lace." We straightway ordained a honk.
Our sick soldier is so much better since leaving Gulmarg that he is able
to hop "around" with considerable activity on his crutches.
_Saturday, September_ 30, 4 P.M.--Walter and I have been bear-honking all
day in a district reputed to be simply crawling with bears. I love
bear-honking; it is such a peaceful occupation.
After a stiff and very hot scramble up a rugged hillside covered with the
infuriating scrub through which nothing but a reptile could crawl easily,
the spot is reached within short range of which (in the opinion of the
"oldest inhabitant," backed up by the "Snake") the bear _must_ pass.
Here the battery of rifles and guns is carefully arranged, and I proceed
to wipe my heated brow and settle down to the calm enjoyment of the honk.
Drawing forth my cigar-case, I am soon wreathed in the fragrant clouds
engendered by the incineration of a halfpenny cheroot, and, with a sigh of
satisfaction, I spread out my writing or sketching materials and proceed
to scribble or paint, calm in the knowledge that nothing on earth is in
the least likely to disturb the flow of ideas, or interrupt the laying on
of a broad flat wash. Now and again, lazily, I lean back to watch the
witless hoverings of a big butterfly, or sleepily listen to the increasing
sound of the tom-toms and the yells of the beaters, whose voices, as those
of demons of the pit, rend the peaceful air and add to my sense of
A feeling of drowsiness steals over me; that succulent cold chikor,
followed by a generous slice of cake upon which I so nobly lunched, clouds
somewhat my active faculties, and the article--"A Bear Battue in the
Himalayas"--which I am engaged in writing for the _Field_--seems to flag a
Come, come! Begone dull sloth--let me continue--
"As the sound of the beaters swells upon the ear, and the thunder of the
tom-toms grows more insistent, the keen-eyed sportsman grasps more firmly
the lever of his four-barrelled Nordenfeldt and prepares to play upon the
bears his hail of stinging missiles. Hark! The plot is thickening, behind
yon dense screen at the end of the cover the ph---- bears are beginning to
crowd, the pattering of their feet upon the dead leaves sends a thrill
through the beating heart of the expectant sportsman. A few bears break
back amid wild yells from the coolies. One or two odd ones dart out here
and there at angles of the covert. Steady! Steady! Here they are,
following the lead of yon fine old cock; with a whirr and a rush the
bouquet is upon us. The shikari, mad with excitement, presses the second
Gatling and the light Howitzer into our hands as he screams: 'Bear to
right, sahib!--Bear over!!--Bear behind!!! Bang--bang!'"
"Eh? What? Oh, all right, shikari. Honk finished? Is it? Saw nothing? Dear
me! how very odd. Very well, then gather up my guns and things, and we'll
go on to the next beat."
_Sunday, October 1_.--To-day being Sunday, we have been idle and
happy--sketching, loafing, and enjoying the scenery and the glorious
weather. Our bear-honk yesterday was only productive of annas to the
beaters, but we picked up some chikor on the way home, and we have found
mushrooms growing close to the hut, so that our lower natures are also
satisfied. After lunch I mustered up energy sufficient to take me down to
the village to sketch a native hut which, surrounded by a patch of flaming
millet, had struck me on Friday as an extraordinary bit of colour. Jane
and Walter, after many "prave 'orts" about climbing the ridge behind
Drogmulla, contented themselves with a minor ascent of a knoll about fifty
feet high, while the Lancer, reckless in his increasing activity, managed
to trip over his crutches and give himself an extremely unfortunate fall.
_Monday, October 2_.--There was a man who, during our bear-honk on
Saturday, rendered himself conspicuous, partly by reason of his likeness
to my shikari, and also because of his complete knowledge of the
whereabouts of all bears for many miles around. He was quite glad to
impart much information to us, and so won upon the sporting but too
trustful heart of the brave Colonel, that he was retained by that officer
in order that he might show sport to the Philistines, and annas and even
rupees were bestowed upon him; and he and the old original "Snake" were
sent forward on Saturday evening, as Joshua and Caleb, to spy out the
promised land in the neighbourhood of Tregam.
Lured by rumours of many bears, Walter and I set forth at daylight for
Tregam, leaving Jane and the youthful Lancer (once more, alas! reduced to
stiff bandages and a painful relapse) in possession of the hut. We "hadna
gane a mile--a mile but barely twa," when the old shikari met us with the
painful intelligence that two sahibs were already at Tregam, and had
killed many bears there, grievously wounding the rest; so we altered
course eight points to port, crossed the Pohru, and made for Rainawari.
A sharp climb over a wooded ridge (on the top of which we halted for
breakfast), followed by a steep descent, brought us into a flat and
well-cultivated plain, which sloped gently from the foothills of the
Kaj-nag to the bed of the Pohru. Everywhere, in the glowing sunlight, the
villagers were busily engaged in reaping the rice, which lay in ripe brown
swathes along the little fields. The walnuts, of which there are a great
plenty in this district, have been lately gathered, some few trees only
still remaining, loaded with a heavy crop, but the main produce lay drying
in heaps in the villages as we rode through.
The road to Rainawari seemed curiously devious. A Kashmiri track seldom
shies at a hill, but pursues its way, heedless of gradient, for its
objective; but this path imitated a corkscrew in its windings, and reduced
us to the utmost limit of our patience before, passing through a small
village whose dull-coloured houses were enlivened with gorgeous festoons
of scarlet chilies, we climbed a steep little hill and found ourselves
upon a park-like lawn or clearing, and facing the cluster of rough wooden
shanties which compose the Rainawari forest bungalow and its outhouses.
Behind the huts the densely-wooded hill drops sharply to where a stream of
good and pure water riots among the maidenhair and mosses.
A large and inquisitive company of apes came up from the wood to take
stock of us, and I sat for a long time watching them as they played about
quite close to me, feeding, chattering, and quarrelling, entirely
unconcerned by the presence of their human spectator.
_Friday, October 6_.--All Tuesday was spent in honking bear in the lower
woods which stretch far towards the Pohru. The high hills which rise above,
covered with jungle, are said to be too large to work, and I can well
believe it! For the first drive I was posted on a steep bank overlooking a
most lovely little hollow, where the shafts of sunlight fell athwart the
grey trunks and heavy green masses of the pines, lighting up the yellow
leaves of the sumachs till they glowed like gold, and casting a flickering
network of strong lights and shadows among the tangled mazes of
undergrowth. A happy family of magpies, grey-blue above, with barred tails
and yellow beaks, flitted about in restless quest, their constant cries
being the only sound which broke the peaceful stillness, until the faint
and distant sound of shouts and tom-toms showed that the first act of the
farce had begun.
Towards the end of the third beat, while I was drowsily digesting tiffin,
and, truly, not far from napping, I was electrified by the report of a
rifle, followed by yells and a second shot! The beaters redoubled their
shouts, and the tom-tommers seemed like to burst their drums.
My shikari, writhing with extreme excitement, hissed, "Baloo, sahib,
baloo!" and began aimlessly running to and fro, apparently hoping to meet
the bear somewhere. It was truly gay for a few minutes, but as nothing
further occurred, and the beaters grew very hoarse with their prodigious
efforts, I hurried on to Walter's post to learn what had happened.
A bear had suddenly come out of the cover some 40 yards off, and stood to
look. The Colonel missed it, whereupon it dashed forward, passing within a
few yards of him, and he missed it again. It departed at top speed across
some open ground behind him, and gained the great woods which stretch away
to the Kaj-nag, and never shall we see that bear again! The Colonel was
much disgusted, and if language--hot, strong, and plenty of it--could
have slain that bear, he would have dropped dead in his tracks.
The beaters brought up a wonderful tale of how another bear, badly wounded
in the leg, had charged through their lines and gone back. They stuck to
their story, and either a second bear actually existed or they are
colossal liars. I incline to the latter theory.
We had wasted all our luck. No more bears came to look at us, and so, late
in the afternoon, we sought the rest-house and consolation from Jane and
Hesketh, who had arrived from Drogmulla.
I had occasion to deplore the bad manners of the rats at Harwan, but their
conduct was exemplary compared with that of the rats of Rainawari! I had
been writing my journal, according to my custom, before going to sleep,
and hardly had "lights out" been sounded than a rat went off with my
candle, literally from below my very nose. Then, from the inadequately
partitioned chamber where the invalid vainly sought repose, came sounds of
strife--boots and curses flying--followed by an extraordinary scraping and
scuffling. A large rat, having fallen into the big tin bath, was making
bids for freedom by ineffectually leaping up the slippery sides. At last
he contrived to get out, and peace reigned until we managed to get to
Wednesday was spent honking in the forlorn hope of a bear, I have now
spent more than fourteen days in pursuit of black bear, and I have only
seen one. Every one said to me in spring, "Oh, go to the Lolab, it's full
of bear," I went, and was informed that it was a late season and I was too
early--the bears were not yet awake. I was consoled by learning that later
on, when the mulberries were ripe, the berry-loving beasts jostled one
another in the pursuit of the delicacy so much, that they were no sport I
went down from Gulmarg for three days, honking among the mulberries, but
saw none. Then I was told the maize season was undoubtedly the best. Now
the maize is full ripe; the maize fields are tempting in their golden
glory, and the only thing wanting to complete the picture is a big, black
Either my luck has been particularly bad (and I think it has, as the
Colonel got a fine bear below Gulmarg, and had another chance at
Rainawari), or else there are not so many bears in real life as exist in
the imaginations of those who know. My own theory is, that, unless he has
remarkable luck, a stranger, in the hands of an ignorant shikari, and
knowing nothing of the language, has but a remote chance of sport. If the
shikari does not happen to know the district thoroughly, he is necessarily
in the hands of the villagers, and has to trust to them to arrange the
beats and place the guns. The villagers want their four annas for a day's
shouting, but do not know or care if a bear is in the neighbourhood, so,
having planted the gun (and shikari with him), they proceed to beat after
their own fashion, in other words to stroll, in Indian file, like geese
across a common, along the line of least resistance, instead of spreading
out and searching all the thickest jungle.
Much yelling serves both to cheer the sahib, and frighten away any bear
which might otherwise haply frighten them.
I cannot say I regret the time I have spent looking for bear. The scenery
has always been fine--sometimes magnificent, and there has always been a
certain cheering hope, which sustained me as I lay hour after hour in the
Malingam Nullah, or sat expectant amid ever varying and always beautiful
glades and passes, watching the bird life, and storing up scenes and
memories which I know I shall never forget.
Alas! we have but a very few days yet before us in Kashmir, and it is
lamentable, for now the climate is simply perfect, the air clear and clean,
and without the haze of summer; the first crispness of coming autumn
making itself felt most distinctly in the early hours of morning ere
"Nor dim nor red, like God's own head,
The glorious sun uprist;"
and each dawn saw us up and out to watch these sunrises, whose splendour
cannot be expressed on paper. This morning it was more than usually
wonderful, the whole flank of Nanga Parbat and his lesser peaks, turning
from clear lemon to softest rose, stood radiant above the purple shades of
the great range which lies around Gurais. In the middle distance, rising
above the level yellow of the plain, still dim and shadowy below the
morning light, rolled wave upon wave of the blue hills which hold in their
embrace the fruitful Lolab. At our feet the deodars, still dark with the
shadow of night, crept up the dewy slope upon whose top we stood. Then
"The sanguine sunrise, with his meteor eyes,"
flamed over the eastern ridges, and in a flood of glory the soft shadows
and pallid lights of the dawn became merged in the brilliance of a Kashmir
Our march yesterday from Rainawari to Kitardaji was charming. I had no
idea that this Machipura country, which is not much visited by summer
sojourners in Kashmir, was so fine. The district lies along the lower
shoulders and foothills of the Kaj-nag, and, while lacking the savage
grandeur of the Lidar or Upper Sind, yet possesses the charm of infinite
variety and, in this early autumn, a climate in which it is a pure joy to
live. On leaving Rainawari we followed up a river valley for some distance,
and then wound through richly cultivated hollows and past well-wooded
hills, where the dark silver firs and the deodars were lit up by splashes
of scarlet and orange, and the deciduous sumach and thorn-bushes hung out
their autumn flags. Walnuts--the trees in many places turning yellow--were
being gathered into heaps, and the apple trees, reddening in the autumn
glow, hung heavy with abundant fruit.
Turning into a narrow gorge, where the trees overhung the path and shaded
the wanderer with many an interlaced bough; where ferns grew in great
green clumps, and the friendly magpies chattered in the luminous shade, I
hurried on, having stayed behind the others to sketch. Up and up, till
only pines waved over me, and the track, leading along the edge of a deep
khud, opened out at last upon a plateau, hot and sunlit; here an
entrancing panorama of Nanga Parbat and the whole range of mountains round
Haramok caused me to stop "at gaze" until a mundane desire for breakfast
sent me scurrying down the dusty and slippery descent to Larch, where I
found, as I had hoped, the rest of the party assembled expectant around
the tiffin basket, while the necromancer, Sabz Ali, had just succeeded in
producing the most delightful stew, omelette, and coffee from the usual
native toy kitchen, made, apparently, in a few minutes with a couple of
stones and a dab of mud!
It has been an unfailing marvel to us how, in storm or calm, rain or fine,
the native cook seems always able to produce a hot meal with such
apparently inadequate materials as he has at his command. Give him a fire
in the open, screened by stones and a mud wall, a _batterie de cuisine_
limited to one or two war-worn "degchies," and let him have a village fowl
and half-a-dozen tiny eggs, and he will in due time serve up, with modest
pride, a most excellent repast.
The remaining half of our twelve-mile march lay along a continually rising
track, which finally brought us to Kitardaji, a cosy pine-built hut,
perched upon a hill clothed with deodars, at the foot of which ran the
This, alas! is our last Kashmir camping-ground, and it is one of the most
charming of all.
At 8.15 this morning we bade farewell to Kitardaji. We had got up before
dawn to see the sunrise, but afterwards took things leisurely, as the
march is short to Baramula, and our boats were to be in waiting there, and
we had made all arrangements for a landau and ekkas to be in readiness to
take us down to Rawal Pindi, while the Colonel returned up the Jhelum for
more shooting before rejoining his wife at Bandipur.
The march of about thirteen miles from Kitardaji to Baramula is fine--the
views of Nanga Parbat in the early hours, before the sun's full strength
cast a golden glow over the distance, were magnificent, and long we
lingered upon the last ridge, gazing over the great valley, ringed with
its guardian mountains, ere we sadly turned our backs for the last time on
the scene, and wended our way downward to Baramula and our boats.
Kashmir seems to be as difficult to get out of as to get into! What was
our amazement and disgust to find neither landau nor ekkas, nor,
apparently, any chance of getting them!
Baramula was in a ferment, and wild confusion reigned because the Viceroy,
having somewhat suddenly determined to come to Jammu, the Maharajah and
all his suite, together with the Resident and his belongings, were to
start down the road at once, and all transport was commandeered by the
State. Here was a coil! Officers innumerable, who had stayed in Kashmir
until the limit of their leave, were struggling vainly to get on, and had
got to Baramula only to find all transport in the hands of the State
officials. Some few had, by fair means or foul, got hold of an ekka or two
and hidden them; others had seized ponies, but nothing to harness them to.
A few of the younger men set forth on foot, and others had their servants
out in ambush on the roads to try and collect transport.
It was most important that we should get on, as Hesketh had to be in Pindi
to go before a medical board on the 14th, in order to be invalided home to
England; and as he was most anxious to catch a steamer sailing on the 25th,
he had no time to spare.
I telegraphed to Sir Amar Singh for authority to engage ekkas, and I sent
for the Tehsildhar of Baramulla to complain of my ekkas being taken. He
appeared in due course--a somewhat pert little person--who promised to do
what he could, which I knew would be nothing. A farewell dinner on board
Walter's ship concluded a fairly busy day.
_Saturday, October 7_.--A strenuous day, to say the least of it. Sir Amar
Singh most courteously met my wishes, and himself directed the local
authorities to assist me. Armed with this power, I again sent for the
Tehsildhar, who promised many ekkas, but appeared to have some difficulty
in fulfilling his promises. I spent the forenoon in hunting transport,
sending out my servants also in pursuit. The Tehsildhar produced one ekka
with great pomp, as earnest of what he could and would do later on.
During the afternoon the landau turned up from Srinagar, and at 6 P.M. one
of my myrmidons rushed in to say that two ekkas had arrived at the dak
It was but a few yards away, and in a couple of minutes I was on the spot.
The ekkas had come up from Pindi, and the sahib who had lured them to
Baramula seemed astonished at my method of taking them over. In an
uncommonly short while the ekkas were parked, with the landau, close to
the boats and under strict watch, while all harness was brought on board
my dounga, just in time, as native officials of some sort romped up and
claimed the ekkas, and threatened to beat my servants. It was explained to
them gently, but firmly, that if they touched my ekkas or landau they
would taste the waters of the Jhelum. We were then left in peaceful
_Tuesday, October 10_.--On Sunday morning we really saw our way to making
a start. We had three ekkas collected, and the Tehsildhar produced a
fourth with a great flourish, as though in expectation of a heavy tip. The
landau was being piled with odds and ends while the last bits of business
were being got through. Juma and his crew were paid and tipped (grumbling,
of course, for the Kashmiri is a lineal descendant of the horse-leech).
The shikari went to Smithson, and the sweeper and permanent coolie were
transferred to the assistant forest officer, while Ayata (in charge of
Freddie, the blackbird) scrambled into the leading ekka.
By noon all was ready, and amid the rattle and jingle of many harness
bells and the salaams of the domestics, we bowled out of Baramula, and set
forward down the valley of the Jhelum.
DELHI AND AGRA
The journey down was uneventful, and quite unlike the journey up, when we
had been briskly occupied in dodging landslips for days. A good road,
white and dry, and sloping steadily downward; a good pair of ponies,
strong and willing; a roomy landau, wherein Hesketh--still suffering from
his fall at Drogmulla--could stretch himself in comparative comfort,
combined to bring us to Kohala this afternoon in a state of excellent
preservation. Here we crossed the bridge, which brought us to the right
bank of the river--from Kashmir to British territory.
Kohala is the proud possessor of one of the very worst dak bungalows yet
discovered. This seems disappointing when stepping under the folds of the
Union Jack full of high hope and confidence.
Climbing up through a particularly noisome bazaar to the bungalow, I was
met with the information that it was already full. I said that was a pity,
but that room must be found for my party.
Room was got somehow, a dak bungalow being an extraordinarily elastic
dwelling. Hesketh was stored in a little tent. I lodged in the dining-room,
and Jane took up her quarters in a sort of dressing-room kindly given up
by a lady, who bravely sought asylum with a sister-in-law and a remarkably
strong-lunged baby. I believe more travellers arrived later,
for--although, thanks to Sir Amax Singh and good luck, we gained a good
start at Baramula--now the tongas are beginning to roll in and the plot to
I cannot think where the last arrivals bestowed themselves--not on the
roof, I trust, for a thunderstorm, accompanied by the usual vigorous
squall of wind, fell upon us during the night, and raged so furiously that
I was greatly relieved to see the Lancer's little tent still braving the
battle and the breeze in the morning.
We had a long day before us, so started in good time to make the tedious
ascent to Murree. It rained steadily, and a cold wind swept down the river
valley as we began to make our slow way up the long, long hill.
I never knew milestones so extraordinarily far apart as those which mark
the distance between Kohala and Murree. There are twenty-five of them,
distributed along a weary winding road which extends without an apparent
variation of gradient from Kohala to the Murree cemetery. The rise from
the river level to Murree is 5000 feet, and this, in a heavy landau over a
road often deep in red mud, is a heavy strain on equine endurance and
We had a fresh pair of horses waiting for us half-way up the hill, but they
proved absolutely useless, being obviously already dead tired and quite
unable to drag the carriage through any of the muddier places even with
every one but the invalid on foot. So we apologetically put the gallant
greys in again, poor beasties, and they took us up well.
From the cemetery the road runs fairly level to where, upon rounding a
sharp corner, the hill station of Murree comes into sight, clinging to its
hill-tops and overlooking the far flat plains beyond Pindi.
I cannot imagine how anybody would willingly abide in Murree who could go
anywhere else for the hot weather. There being no level ground, there is
no polo, no cricket, and no golf. There is no river to fish in, and I do
not think that there is anything at all to shoot. Doubtless, however, it
has its compensations. Probably it abounds in pretty mem-sahibs, who with
bridge and Badminton combine to oil the wheels of life, and make it merry
on the Murree hills.
Leaving the station high on the left, we dipped in a most puzzling manner
down a slope through a fine wood giving magnificent views towards the
hills of our beloved Kashmir, and presently came to "Sunny Bank," whence a
steep road seemed to run sharply hack and up to Murree itself. It was late,
and both we and our unfortunate horses were tired, but a hasty peep into
the little inn showed it to be quite impossible as a lodging, and a biting
wind sent us shivering down the hill as fast as might be to seek rest and
warmth at Tret.
The good greys took us down the eleven miles in a very short time, and we
pulled up at the dak bungalow at 7.30, having been just twelve hours doing
the forty miles from Kohala.
The dak bungalow and all the compound in front was crowded, detachments
_en route_, from Murree to Pindi having halted here for the night. Hesketh
was lucky enough to share a room with a brother Lancer, and a mixed bag of
Gunners and Hussars made up a cheery dinner-table.
The only member of the party showing signs of collapse was the unfortunate
Freddie, who, shaken up in his small cage for three days in an ekka,
seemed in piteous plight, feathers (what there were of them) ruffled and
unkempt, and eyes dim and half closed. Poor dear, it was only sleep he
wanted, for next morning he showed up, as his fond owner remarked, "bright
as a button!"
_12th_.--The road from Tret to Pindi seemed tame to us, but probably
charming to the horses, first down a few gently sloping hills, and then
for the remainder of its six-and-twenty miles it wound its dull and dusty
length along the level.
We halted for our last picnic lunch in a roadside garden full of loquat
trees and big purple hibiscus. The only curious thing here was a pi-dog
which refused to eat cold duck! Certainly it was a _very_ tough duck, but
still, I do not think a pi-dog should he so fastidious.
A few more level dusty miles, and we rattled into Rawal Pindi, where,
after depositing our sick man safely in his own mess precincts, we
proceeded to ensconce ourselves in Flashman's Hotel, which is certainly
far better than the Lime Tree, where we stayed before. Indian hotels are
about the worst in the world. We have sampled rough dens in Spain, in
Tetuan, and in Corsica--especially in Corsica, but then they are
unpretentious inns in unfrequented villages, whereas in India you find in
world-famous cities such as Agra or Delhi the most comfortless dens
calling themselves hotels--hotels where you hardly dare eat half the food
for fear of typhoid, and will not eat the rest because it is so unsavoury!
It may be argued that the hotels, if bad, are cheap, and that one cannot
reasonably expect much in return for five or six rupees per day; it seems,
however, that in a country where food and labour cost next to nothing, a
good landlord should be able to "do" his customers well upon five rupees,
and make a substantial profit into the bargain.
Probably, as the facilities for travel are rapidly increasing, and India
is now as easy to reach as Italy was in days not so long by, the hotels
will soon improve. Hospitality, which is still to-day greater in the East
than in our more selfish Western regions, and which has, until quite
recently, obviated for strangers and pilgrims the necessity for hotels, is
now unable to cope with the increasing flood of visitors and wanderers; as
the need becomes more pressing, so will the supply, consequent upon the
demand, improve both in quality and quantity; and we have already heard of
the new Taj Mahal Hotel at Bombay, the fame of which has been trumpeted
through India, and which is said to rival in luxury the palaces of Ritz!
The real and serious difficulty, and one which at present seems
insurmountable, is to secure cleanliness and safety in that Augean
stable--the cook-house. Until the native can be brought to understand the
inadvisability of using tainted water and unclean utensils, and of
permitting the ubiquitous fly to pervade the larder--until, I say, that
millennium can be attained, the danger of enteric and other ills will
always be very great in Indian hotels.
_Friday, October_ 13.--Lunch with Dr. Munro, who surprised us somewhat by
having married a wife since we played golf and bridge together at Gulmarg
only a few weeks ago. Tea, a farewell repast with our invalid--who goes
before a medical board in a few days, and who will then be doubtless sent
home on long sick leave--and the despatch of our heavy luggage direct to
Bombay, occupied us pretty fully for the day; and in the evening, after
dinner, we took up our residence in a carriage drawn up in a siding to be
attached to the 6.30 mail in the morning. Our last recollection of Pindi
was a vision of the faithful Ayata, paid, tipped, and provided with a
flaming "chit," flapping along the road in the bright moonlight, with all
his worldly possessions, _en route_ for Abbotabad and home.
_Saturday, October_ 14.--A prodigious amount of banging, whistling, and
yelling seemed to be necessary before we could be coupled up to the early
train, and sent flying towards Lahore. It was impossible to sleep, and I
was peacefully watching the landscape as it slid past, first in the pink
flush of early dawn, and gradually losing colour as the sun, gaining in
strength, reduced everything to a white hot glow, when, scraping and
bumping into a wayside station, we were suddenly informed that, owing to
hot bearings or heated axles or something, we must quit our carriage at
once, and so, half dressed and wholly wrathful, we were shot out on a hot
and exceedingly gritty platform, with our hand luggage and bedding all of
a heap, and with the whole length of the train to traverse to attain our
new carriage. Sabz Ali being curled up asleep in an "intermediate," was
all unwitting of this upheaval. The officials were impatient, and so Jane
and I were in a thoroughly unchristian frame of mind by the time we were
stowed, hot and greatly fussed, into a stifling compartment, whose
dust-begrimed windows long withstood all endeavours to open them.
We reached Lahore about noon, and, having some six hours to dispose of
there, we spent them in calm contemplation, sitting on the verandah of
Nedou's Hotel. It was really too hot to think of sight-seeing.
_Thursday, October 19_.--Another night in the train brought us to Delhi at
dawn, and we drove up to the execrable caravansary of Mr. Maiden. I do not
propose to write much about Delhi. Every one who has been in India has
visited the capital of the Moguls, whose wealth of splendid buildings
would alone have rendered it a supreme attraction for the sight-seer, even
had it not played the part it did in the Mutiny, and been memorable as the
scene of the storming of the Kashmir Gate and the death of John Nicholson.
We, personally, carried away from Delhi an uncomfortable sense of
disappointment. It was very hot, and Jane fell a victim to the heat or
something, and took to her bed in the comfortless hotel, while I prowled
sadly about the baking streets, and tried to work up an enthusiasm which I
did not feel.
As soon as Jane was fit, we joined forces with a young fellow-countryman
and his sister, who were the only other English people in the hotel, and
drove out to see the Kutab Minar. On arrival we found a comfortable dak
bungalow, and, having made an excellent breakfast, sallied forth to view
the Kutab. May I confess that I was again a little disappointed? I do not
really know exactly why, but the great tower, whose fluted shaft, dark red
in the sunglow, shoots up some 270 feet into the air, did not appeal to me.
It is like no other column--it is unique, marvellous,--but it leaves me
The splendid arch of the screen of the old temple, and the lovely columns
of the Jain temple opposite, attracted me far more than the Kutab Minar.
Jane and young Buxton went off to see a native jump down a well fifty feet
deep for four annas. The performance sounded curious, but unpleasant. The
sightseers were much impressed! Meanwhile, Miss Buxton and I discovered a
very modern and exceedingly hideous little Hindu temple, painted in the
most appalling manner--altogether a gem of grotesqueness, and truly
delightful and refreshing.
Tea in front of the dak bungalow, in a corner blazing with "gold mohurs"
and rosy oleanders, while the driver and the syce harnessed the lean pair
of horses, a final visit to the Kutab and the great arch, and we fared
back over the eleven bumpy miles that lay between us and Delhi.
A good deal of my spare time, while Jane was _hors de combat_, was spent
in the jewellers' shops of the Chandni chowk, the principal merchants'
quarter of Delhi. I do not think that anything very special in the way of
a "bargain" is to be obtained by the amateur, although stones are
undoubtedly cheaper than in London. I saw little really fine jewellery,
probably because I was obviously unlikely to be a big buyer, but many good
spinels, dark topaz, and rough emeralds. The stones I wanted I failed to
get. Alexandrites were not, and pink topaz scarce and dear. The dealers
generally tried to sell pale spinels as pink topaz. Peridot are cheaper, I
think, at home, and certainly in Cairo, and the only amethysts worth
looking at are sent out from Germany. The pale ones of the country come
from Jaipur. By-the-bye, the best-coloured amethysts I ever remember
seeing were in Clermont Ferrand.
Delhi has always been connected with gems in my mind. I am not certain why.
Partly, perhaps, because the famous Peacock Throne of Shah Jehan stood in
the Palace here. I cannot resist giving the description of it in the words
of Tavernier, who saw it about 1655, and who describes it as follows:--
"This is the largest throne; it is in form like one of our field-beds, six
foot long and four broad. The cushion at the back is round like a bolster;
the cushions on the sides are flat. I counted about a hundred and eight
pale rubies in collets about this throne, the least whereof weighed a
hundred carats. Emeralds I counted about a hundred and forty."
"The under part of the canopy is all embroidered with pearls and diamonds,
with a fringe of pearls round about. Upon the top of the canopy, which is
made like an arch with four paws, stands a peacock with his tail spread,
consisting entirely of sapphires and other proper-coloured stones; the
body is of beaten gold enchased with several jewels; and a great RUBY upon
his breast, to which hangs a pearl that weighs fifty carats. On each aide
of the peacock stand two nosegays as high as the bird, consisting of
various sorts of flowers, all of beaten gold enamelled."
"When the king seats himself upon the throne there is a transparent jewel,
with a diamond appendant of eighty or ninety carats weight, encompassed
with rubies and emeralds, so hung that it is always in his eye. The twelve
pillars also, that uphold the canopy, are set with rows of fair pearl,
round, and of an excellent water, that weigh from six to ten carats
"At the distance of four feet, upon each side of the throne, are placed
two umbrellas, the handles of which are about eight feet high, covered
with diamonds, the umbrellas themselves being of crimson velvet,
embroidered and fringed with pearl."
"This is the famous throne which Tamerlane began and Shah Jehan finished;
and is really reported to have cost a hundred and sixty millions and five
hundred thousand livres of our money."
One can picture the enraptured diamond merchant examining this masterpiece
of Oriental luxury with awe-struck eye, appraising the size and lustre of
each gem, and taking the fullest notes with which to dazzle his countrymen
on returning to the more prosaic Europe from what was then indeed the
"Gorgeous East!" This world-famous throne was seized by Nadir Shah, when
he sacked Delhi in 1739, and carried away (together with our Koh-i-noor
diamond) into Persia. Dow, who saw the famous throne some twenty years
before Tavernier, describes _two_ peacocks standing behind it with their
tails expanded, which were studded with jewels. Between the peacocks stood
a parrot, life size, cut out of a single emerald!
_Friday, October_ 20.--Yesterday at 6 A.M. we spurned the dust of Delhi,
hot and blinding, from our feet and clambered into the train, which
whirled us across the sun-baked plain to Agra.
There has been a woeful shortage of rain in the Punjab and Rajputana, and
a famine seems imminent--not a great and universal famine, as, the monsoon
having been irregular, only some districts have suffered to a serious
extent, and they can be supplied from elsewhere, whereas in the great
famine of 1901 the drought parched the whole land, and no help could be
given by one State to another, all lying equally under the sun's curse.
Not a great famine, perhaps; yet, to one accustomed to the genial
juiciness of the West, the miles and miles of waterless hot plains,
stretching away to where the horizon flickered in the glare, the brown and
parched vegetation, the lean and hungry-looking cattle, tended by equally
lean and famished herds, caused the monotonous view from the carriage
windows to be strangely depressing.
This is the very battle-ground of Nature and the British Raj. We have
given peace and, to a certain extent, prosperity to the teeming millions
of India, and they have increased and multiplied until the land is
overburthened, and Nature, with relentless will, bids Famine and
Pestilence lay waste the cities and the plains. Then Science, with
irrigation works and improved hygiene, strives hard to gain a victory, but
still the struggle rages doubtfully.
Agra we liked as much as we disliked Delhi. To begin with creature
comforts (and the well-being of the body produces a pair of _couleur de
rose_ spectacles for the mental eye), Laurie's Hotel at Agra is very much
more comfortable than the den we abode in at Delhi, and after a good
tiffin we set forth with light hearts to see the Fort.
This, the accumulated achievement of the greatest of the Mogul Emperors,
is a magnificent monument of their power and pride. The earliest part,
built by Akbar, is all of rich red sandstone. The great hall of audience
and other portions show his broad-minded tolerance and catholicity of
taste in being almost pure Hindu in style and decoration. Later, with
Jehangir and Shah Jehan, the high-water mark of sumptuousness was attained
in the use of pure white marble, lavishly inlaid with coloured stones.
As we wandered through halls and corridors of marble most richly wrought,
while the sun-glare outside did but emphasise the cool shade within, or
filter softly through the lace-like tracery of pierced white-marble
screens, one longed to reclothe these glorious skeletons with all the pomp
of their dead magnificence--for one magic moment replace the Great Mogul
upon his peacock throne, surround him with a glittering crowd of courtiers
and attendants, clothe the wide marble floors upon which they stand with
richest carpets from the looms of Persia and the North, and drape the tall
white columns with rustling canopies of silk.
Before the great audience hall let the bare garden-court again glow with a
million blooms; there let the peacocks sun themselves, their living jewels
putting to shame the gems that burn back from aigrette and from sword-hilt;
see and hear the cool waters sparkling once again from their long-dried
founts, flashing in the white sunlight, and flowing over ducts cunningly
inlaid with zigzag bands to imitate the ripple of the mountain stream.
The dead frame alone is left of all this gorgeous picture. The
imperishable marble glows white in the sunlight as it did in the days of
Shah Jehan. The great red bastions of the Fort frown over the same placid
Jumna, and watch each morning the pearly dome of the Taj Mahal rise like a
moon in the dawn-glow, shimmer through the parching glare of an Indian day,
and at eve sink, rosy, into the purple shadows of swiftly-falling night,
as they did when Shah Jehan sat "in the sunset-lighted balcony with his
eyes fixed on the snow-white pile at the bend of the river, and his heart
full of consolation of having wrought for her he loved, through the span
of twenty years, a work that she had surely accepted at the last."
We spent a long afternoon in the Fort, and drove out finally through the
monstrous gateway in a little Victoria, feeling all the time that none but
elephants in all their glory of barbaric caparison could pass through such
a portal worthily.
The moon was full almost a week ago, unfortunately, so we determined that,
failing moonlight, our first visit to the Taj should be at sunset.
The two miles' drive along an excellent road was delightful, and the
approach to the Taj has been laid out with much skill as a beautiful bit
of landscape garden. This care is due to Lord Curzon, who has taken Agra
and its monuments into his especial keeping.
A very small golf-course has been laid out, and the familiar form of the
enthusiast could be seen, blind to everything but the flight of time and
his Haskell, hurrying round to save the last of the daylight.
Beneath a tree was laid out a tea equipage, and a few ladies indolently
putting showed that, after all, the game was not taken too seriously.
I have no intention of trying to describe the Taj Mahal. The attempt has
already been made a thousand times. I may merely remark that the
detestable Indian miniatures, and little ivory or marble models that are,
alas! so common, are incapable of giving an idea, otherwise than
misleading, of this wonderful building, which is not--as they would vainly
show it--glaring, staring, and hard, nor does its formality seem other
than just what it should be.
As we saw it first--opalescent in the soft, clear light of sunset--the
chief impression it made upon us was that of size; for this we were quite
As we approached it from the great red entrance arch, along a smooth path
bordering the central stretch of still, translucent water, the lovely dome
rose fairy-like from the masses of trees that, in their turn, formed a
background of solemn green for gorgeous patches of colour, in bloom and
leaf, which glowed on either side as we advanced.
Ascending a flight of steps to the wide terrace, all of whitest marble,
upon which the Taj is raised, we realised that the detail of carving and
of inlay was as perfect as the general effect of the whole.
High as my expectations had been raised, I was not disappointed in the Taj,
and that is saying much, for one's pre-formed ideas are apt to soar beyond
bounds and to suffer the fate of Icarus. At the same time, I cannot agree
with Fergusson that the Taj Mahal is the most beautiful building in the
world. I do not admit that it is possible to compare structures of such
widely divergent types as the Parthenon, the Cathedral of Chartres, the
Campanile of Giotto, and the Taj Mahal, and pronounce in favour of any one
of them. It is as vain as to contend that the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
is a finer poem than Keats' "Eve of St. Agnes," or that the "Erl Konig" is
better music than "The Moonlight Sonata."
Perhaps it is not too much to say that it is the loveliest tomb in the
world, and the finest specimen of Mohammedan architecture in existence. If
I dared to criticise what would appear to be faultless, I should humbly
suggest that the four corner minarets are not worthy of the centre
building, reminding one rather of lighthouses.
We spent a second day in Agra, revisiting the Fort and the Taj rather than
seeing anything new. We could have hired a motor and rushed out for a
hurried visit to Fatehpur-Sighri, and there was temptation in the idea;
but we decided to content ourselves with the abundant food for eye and
mind which we had in these two wonderful buildings, and in the evening we
took the train for Jaipur.
_Saturday, October 21._--One is apt to be cross and fussed and generally
upset on being landed on a strange platform in the dark at 5.30 A.M., as
we were at Jaipur, but much solace lay in the fact that a comfortable
carriage stood waiting us and a most kind and genial host received us on
the broad verandah of his bungalow, and the cheering fact was borne in
upon us that we shall have henceforward but little to do with Indian
How one appreciates a large, cool room, good servants, good food, and last,
but not least, the society of one's kind, after two or three weeks of
racket and discomfort by road and rail.
A restful morning enlivened us sufficiently to enjoy a garden party at the
Residency in the afternoon, where not only the English society, but a
large number of native gentlemen, were playing lawn-tennis with laudable
After Kashmir, where Sir Amar Singh is the only native who mixes at all
with the English, it was interesting to see and meet on terms of
good-fellowship these Rajput aristocrats.
_Sunday, October_ 22.--The city of Jaipur is, I think, principally
interesting as being modern and enlightened among those of the native
When the ancient city of Amber was abandoned, principally on account of
its scanty water-supply, Jaipur was built upon a regular and prearranged
plan, having a great wide street down the centre, crossed by two large
thoroughfares at right angles, thus dividing the town into six rectangular
We drove into the city in the afternoon, and were much impressed by its
airiness and cleanliness. The houses are all coated with pink stucco,
picked out with white, which, in the bright atmosphere, has, at a little
distance, a charming effect. On closer inspection the real tawdriness and
want of solidity of the work become painfully apparent, and the designs in
white upon the pink, in which the wayward fancy of each householder runs
riot, generally leave much to be desired, both in design and execution.
The broad, clean main streets were a perfect kaleidoscope of colour and
movement. Men in pink pugarees--in lemon-coloured--in emerald green; women
in blood-red saris, bearing shining brass pots upon their heads, all
talking, shouting, jostling--a large family of monkeys on a neighbouring
roof added their quota of conversation--calm oxen, often with red-painted
horns and pink-streaked bodies, camels, asses, horses, strolled about or
pushed their way through the throng. No Hindu cow would ever dream of
making way for anybody. Yes, though! Here comes an elephant rolling along,
and the holy ones with humps discreetly retire aside, covering their
retreat before a _force majeure_ by stepping up to the nearest
greengrocer's stall and abstracting a generous mouthful of the most
succulent of his wares.
Rising in the midst of a lovely garden, just outside the city, is the
Albert Hall, a remarkably fine structure, built in accordance with the
best traditions of Mohammedan architecture adapted to modern requirements
by our host, the designer. It contains both a museum of the products of
Rajputana, and also an instructive collection of objects of art and
science, gathered together for the edification of the intelligent native.
We would willingly have spent hours examining the pottery and brass work
for which Jaipur is famous, or in making friends with the denizens of the
great aviary in the garden, but time is short, and even the baby panther
could only claim a few minutes of our devotion.
The Palace of the Maharajah is neither particularly interesting nor
beautiful, and we did not visit it further than to inspect the ancient
observatory built by Jey Singh, with its huge sundial, whose gnomon stands
80 feet above the ground! What we are pleased to call a superstitious
attention to times lucky or unlucky has given to astronomical observations
in the East an unscientific importance which they have not had for
centuries in Europe. A slight attack of fever prevented me from going
to Amber; so I stayed at home, peacefully absorbing quinine, subsequently
extracting the following from Jane's diary:--
"'Tea ready, mem-sahib.' The familiar and somewhat
plaintive sound of Sabz Ali's voice roused me,
as it so often has in tent, forest hut, or matted dounga;"
but this time I was really puzzled for a moment, on awaking, to find
myself in a real comfortable spring bed, white-enamelled and
mosquito-netted, while for roof I only saw the clear, pale, Indian sky.
Then it was I remembered that, at my host's suggestion, my bed had been
carried out into the shrubbery, and that I had fallen asleep, lulled by
the howling of the jackals and the rustle of the flying squirrels in the
gold mohur-tree overhead.
"Springing on to the cool, grassy carpet, and dressing quickly, to gain as
much time as possible before the rising of the hot October sun, I was soon
ready for breakfast, which Miss Macgregor and I had in the garden among
the parrots and the pigeons, and the dear little squirrels. We were ready
for the road before seven, and were soon trotting along between dusty
hedges of gaunt-fingered cactus, shaded here and there by neem trees and
"Our smart victoria was lent by a Rajput friend of Sir Swinton's, and he
had also sent us his private secretary as guide and escort--a very thin
young man in a black sateen coat and gay-flowered waistcoat."
"Through the pink-stuccoed streets of Jaipur we threaded our way--slowly,
on account of the holy pigeons breakfasting in thousands on the road, and
the sacred bulls, who barely deigned to move aside to let us pass."
"It appears to be the custom, when a man dies, for his relatives to let
loose a bull _in memoriam_, and the happy beast forthwith sets out to live
a life of sloth and luxury. The city is his, and every green-grocer in it
is only too much honoured if the fastidious animal will condescend to make
free with his cabbages."
"Once clear of the crowded streets, we got on quicker, and about six miles
out we found the elephant which had been sent out from the royal stable to
carry us to Amber. We climbed upon her (it was a lady elephant) in a great
hurry, by means of a rickety sort of ladder, as we were told that an
elephant, if 'fresh,' was apt to rise up suddenly, to the great detriment
of the passenger who had 'not arrived.' She was a very friendly-looking
creature though, and her little eyes twinkled most affably; her face was
decorated in a scheme of red and green, and her saddle was a sort of big
mattress surrounded by a railing."
"I am no judge of the paces of elephants, but this one seemed uncommonly
rough; and we held on vigorously to the railing until we reached a ridge
and saw the dead city of Amber before us, dominated by the white marble
palace, standing on a steep cliff, and reflected in the water of the lake
which laps its base."
"Up a steep and narrow path we mounted until we reached the courtyard of
the ancient palace of the ruler of Amber, and there we alighted from our
steed, and set out to explore the ruins. First we came to a small temple,
ugly enough, but interesting, for here a goat is sacrificed every morning
to Kali--a particularly hideous goddess, if the frescoes on the walls and
the golden image in the sanctuary are in any way truthful! Formerly a
human sacrifice was customary, but the unfortunate goat is found to fulfil
modern requirements, since goddesses are more easily pleased or less
pampered than of yore."
"The Palace, which dates from the seventeenth century, is chiefly
remarkable for its magnificent situation, and for its court and hall of
audience of marble and red sandstone."
"This work was so fine as to excite the jealousy of the Mogul Emperor, so
the Prince of Amber had it promptly whitewashed--and whitewashed it
remains to this day. Some of the brazen doors are remarkably fine, as also
those of sandal-wood, inlaid with ivory, in the women's quarters."
"We climbed to the marble court on the roof, where, canopied only by the
sky and lighted by the moon, nocturnal durbars were held. Now, in the
glare of the noonday sun, we fully appreciated the value of an evening
sitting, for it was impossible to remain grilling there, even though the
view of the silent city below, falling in tier after tier to the lake--the
glare only broken here and there by patches of green garden--was superb.
On either side rose the bare, rocky ridges, fort-crowned and looking
formidable even in decay, while in front the dusty road stretched away
into the haze of the dusty plains below. Of course, we should have visited
the great Jain temples and other things worthy of note; but, alas! a green
garden, whose palms overhung the lake, proved more attractive than even
Jain temples, and a charming picnic on fruits and cool drinks strengthened
us sufficiently to enable us to face the hot road home, buoyed up each
mile by the nearer prospect of a tub."
* * * * *
Jaipur is celebrated for its enamelling on gold, so our host kindly sent
for an eminent jeweller to come and show us some trifles. Expectant of a
humble native carrying the usual bundle, we were much impressed when, in
due time, a dignitary drove up in a remarkably well turned out carriage
and pair. His servants were clad in a smart livery, and he himself was
resplendent, with uncut emerald earrings, and the general appearance of a
certain Savoy favourite as the "Rajah of Bong"!
Our spirits sank as he spread himself and his goods out upon the
drawing-room floor, which speedily became a glittering chaos of gold and
jewelled cups, umbrella handles, boxes, scent-bottles, and necklaces. Jane
divided her admiration between a rope of fat pearls and a necklace of
uncut emeralds, either of which might have been hers at the trifling price
of some 7000 rupees, but we finally restricted our acquisitions to very
modest proportions, and the stout jeweller departed, apparently no whit
less cheerful than when he came.
The modern brass-work of Jaipur is somewhat attractive, and we bought
various articles--a tall lamp-stand, an elephant bell, and a few ordinary
bowls of excellent shape.
I have remarked before on the extreme tameness of, and the confidence
shown by, wild creatures out here. A titmouse came and perched on the arm
of my chair while sitting reading on the verandah at Gulmarg.
The rats and mice, who own the forest houses in the Machipura, have to be
kicked off the beds at night. But the little grey squirrels in Sir Swinton
Jacob's garden are--_facile princeps_--the boldest wild-fowl we have yet
Every afternoon about three, when tea was toward, the squirrels gathered
on the gravel path, and prepared to receive bread and butter.
After a few nervous darts and tail whiskings, a bold squirrel would skip
up close, and, after eating a little ground bait, would boldly come up and
nibble out of a motionless hand. In two minutes half-a-dozen pretty little
creatures would be fidgeting round, eating bread and butter daintily,
neatly holding the morsel in their little forepaws and nuzzling into one's
fingers for more.
A handsome magpie, and, of course, a contingent of crows, made up the
fascinating party; while in the background, among the neem trees and the
flaming "gold mohurs," the minahs and green parrots sustained an incessant
and riotous conversation.
_Wednesday, October 25_.--Gladly would we have accepted the Jacobs'
invitation to stay longer at Jaipur. We would have liked nothing better,
but time was flying, and the 5th November--our day of departure from
Bombay--was drawing rapidly near. So yesterday evening we took the 6.30
train for Ajmere, and, reaching there at 10.30, changed into the
narrow-gauge railway for Chitor. We are becoming well accustomed to
sleeping in an Indian train, and Sabz Ali had our beds unrolled and our
innumerable hand luggage stowed away in no time, including four bottles of
soda-water, which he has carefully garnered in the washstand, and which no
hints, however broad, will induce him to relinquish.
 "Au dessus du ciel qui est faite en voute a quatre pans on voit un
Paon, qui a la queue relevee fait de Saphirs bleus et autres pierres
de couleur."--TAVERNIER, livre ii. chap. viii.
 _The Web of Indian Life_
 I fear this is somewhat misleading. Jey Singh was, _par excellence_,
an astronomer, not an astrologer,--T. R. S.
We arrived, very sleepy and gritty, at Chitor at 5.30 A.M., to find an
unprecedented mob of first-class passengers _en route_ for Udaipur, and
only one very minute compartment in which to stow them.
The station-master--a solemn Baboo, full of his own importance, becomingly
clad in a waving white petticoat, with bare legs and elastic-sided boots,
surmounted by a long cutaway frock-coat, topped by a black skull-cap, and
finally decorated by a pen behind his ear--seemed totally unable to cope
with the terrible problem he was set to solve.
I suggested that another carriage should be put on, but he had none, nor
any solution to offer; so we cleared a second-class compartment and
divided the party out, and then, with five people in our tiny compartment,
we set out on the fifty-mile run to Udaipur.
Five people in a carriage in Europe is nowise unusual, but five people in
an Indian one (and that a narrow, very narrow gauge), accompanied by rolls
of bedding, tiffin-baskets, and all the quantity of personal luggage which
is absolutely necessary, not to speak of a large-sized bird-cage (which
cannot, strictly speaking, be classed as a necessary), requires the
ingenuity of a professional packer of herrings or figs to adjust nicely!
By cramming the toilet place with bedding, khudsticks, a five-foot brass
lamp-stand, and the four soda-water bottles, we made shift to stow
portmanteaux, bags, tiffin-baskets, &c., under the seats and ourselves
upon them, and then arranged a sort of centre-piece of Jane's big tin
bonnet-box, surmounted by Freddy in his cage. The other passengers were
very amiably disposed, and not fat, and they even went so far as to
pretend to admire Freddy--a feat of some difficulty, as he is still very
bald and of an altogether forbidding aspect. This admiration so won upon
the heart of Jane, that in the fulness thereof she served out biscuits and
a little tinned butter all round, while Freddy cheerfully spattered food
and water upon all indiscriminately.
About eighteen miles from Udaipur we passed the ruins of Ontala. Here, in
the stormy time when Jehangir had seized Chitor, there happened a
The Rana of Mewar, expelled from his capital, determined to attack and
retake Ontala. Now, the Rajputs were divided into clans as fiery as any of
those whose fatal pride went far to ruin Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden.
The Chondawats and the Saktawats both claimed the right of forming the
vanguard, and the Rana, unable to pronounce in favour of either, subtly
decided that the van should be given to the clan which should first enter
The Saktawats then made straight for the one and only gateway to the
fortress, and, reaching it as day broke, almost surprised the place, but
the walls were quickly manned and defended. Foiled for a moment, the
leader of the Saktawats threw himself from his elephant, and, placing
himself before the great spikes with which the gate was protected against
the assault of the beast, ordered the mahout to charge; and so a crushed
and mangled corpse was forced into the city on the brow of the living
battering-ram, in whose wake the assailants rushed to battle.
Alas! his sacrifice was in vain. The Chondawat chief was already in Ontala.
First of the stormers with scaling-ladders, he was shot dead by the
defenders ere reaching the top of the rampart, and his corpse fell back
among his dismayed followers. Then the chief of Deogurh, rolling the body
in his scarf, tied it upon his back, fought his way to the crest of the
battlements, and hurled the gory body of his chieftain into the city,
shouting, "The vanguard to the Chondawat!"
It is further told how, when the attack began, two Mogul chiefs of note
were engaged within upon a game of chess. Confident of the strength of the
defence, they continued their game, unheeding the din of battle. Suddenly
the foe broke in upon them, upon which they calmly asked for leave to
finish their interesting match. The request was granted by the courtly
Rajputs, but upon its termination they were both put to death.
Udaipur lies in a well-cultivated basin, shut in by a ring of arid hills.
After skirting the flanks of some of the outlying spurs, we bustled
through a tunnel and drew up at a bright little station, draped with great
blue and pink convolvulus. And this was Udaipur.
We were picked out of the usual jabbering, jostling, gibbering crowd of
natives by our host, who, looking most enviably cool and clean, took his
heated, dishevelled, and unbarbered guests off to a comfortable carriage,
and we were quickly sped towards tiffin and a bath.
The station is a long way from the town, as the Maharana, a most staunch
conservative of the old school, having the railway more or less forced
upon him, drew the line at three miles from his capital, and fixed the
terminus there. One cannot help being glad that the prosaic steam-engine,
crowned with foul smoke and heralded by ear-piercing whistles, has not
been allowed to trespass in Udaipur, wherein no discordant note is struck
by train line or factory chimney, and where everything and every one is as
when the city was newly built on the final abandonment of Chitor, the
ancient capital of Mewar.
Here in the heart of the most conservative of native States, whose ruler,
the Maharana, Sir Fateh Singh, claims descent from that ancient luminary
the Sun, we found novelty and interest in every yard of the three miles
that stretch between the station and the capital. The scrub-covered desert
has given place to a wooded and cultivated valley, ringed by a chain of
hills, sterile and steep. The white ribbon of the road, through whose dust
plough stolid buffaloes and strings of creaking bullock-carts, is bordered
by tall cactus and yellow-flowered mimosa on either side. Among the trees
rise countless half-ruined temples and chatries; on whose whitewashed
walls are frequent frescoes of tigers or elephants rampant, and of
wonderful Rajput heroes wearing the curious bell-shaped skirt, which was
their distinctive dress.
The people too, their descendants, who crowd the road to-day, are
remarkable--the men fine-looking, with beards brushed ferociously upwards,
and all but the mere peasants carrying swords; the women, dark-eyed, and
singularly graceful in their red or orange saris, and very full
bell-shaped petticoats. Upright as darts, they walk with slightly swaying
gesture, a slender brown arm upraised to support the big brass chatties on
their heads, revealing an incredible collection of bangles on arms and
ankles. These women are the descendants of those who, in the stormy days
of the sixteenth century, while the Rajput princes still struggled
heroically with the all-powerful Mogul emperors, preferred death to shame,
and, led by Kurnavati (mother of Oodi Singh, the founder of Udaipur),
accepted the "Johur," or death by fire and suffocation, to the number of
13,000, while their husbands and brothers threw open the city gates and
went forth to fight and fall.
As we drew near our destination the towers of the Maharana's Palace rose
up above the trees, gleaming snowy in the cloudless blue. The brown
crenellated walls of the city appeared on our left, and, suddenly sweeping
round a curve, we found ourselves by the border of a lovely lake, whose
blue-rippled waters lapped the very walls of the town. In the foreground a
glorious note of colour was struck by a group of "scarlet women" washing
themselves and their clothes by the margin.
Up a steep incline, and we found ourselves before a verandah, blazing
overhead with bougainvillea, and our hostess waiting to receive us beneath
its cool shade.
In the afternoon, refreshed and rested, we went down to the shore, where
our host had arranged for a state-owned boat and four rowers to be in
waiting. Armed with rods and fishing tackle, we proceeded to see Udaipur
from the lake which washes its northern side. First crossing a small
landlocked bay bordered on the left by a long and picturesque crenellated
wall, and passing through a narrow opening, we found ourselves in a second
division of the water; on the left, still the wall, with a
delightful-looking summer-house perched at a salient angle; on the right,
small wooded islands, the haunt of innumerable cormorants, who, with snaky
necks outstretched, watched us suspiciously from their eyrie.
A curious white bridge, very high in the centre, barred the view of the
main lake till, passing through the central arch, we found ourselves in a
scene of perfect enchantment. Before us the level sheet of molten silver
lay spread, reflecting the snowy palaces and summer-houses that stood amid
the palms and greenery of many tiny islands. On the left the city rose
from the water in a succession of temples and wide-terraced buildings,
culminating in the lofty pile of the Palace of the Maharana. Here, on this
enchanted lake, we rowed to and fro until the sun sank swiftly in the west
and the red gold glowed on temple and turret.
Then, with our catch, about 15 lbs. weight of most excellent fish, we
rowed back past the white city to the landing-place, and, in the gathering
dark, climbed the hillock upon which stood our host's bungalow.
We spent a week at Udaipur--a happy week, whose short days flew by far too
quickly. The weather was splendid; hot in the middle of the day--for the
season is late, and the monsoon has greatly failed in its cooling
duty--but delightful in morning and evening.
Rising one morning at early dawn, before the sun leaped above the eastern
hills, we took boat and rowed to one of the island palaces, where, after
fishing for mahseer, we breakfasted on a marble balcony overlooking the
ripples of the Pichola Lake, which lapped the feet of a group of great
Not the least interesting expedition was to the south end of the lake one
afternoon to see the wild pigs fed. Traversing the whole length of the
Pichola, past the marble ghats where the crimson-clad women washed and
chattered, while above them rose the roofs and temple domes of the fairy
city culminating in the walls and pinnacles of the palace--past the fleet
of queer green barges wherein the Maharana disports himself when
aquatically inclined, we left the many islands marble-crowned on our right;
and finally landed at a little jutting ledge of rock, whence a jungle
track led us in a few minutes to a terrace overlooking a rocky and steep
slope which fell away from the building near which we stood. The scene was
surprising! Hundreds of swine of all sorts and sizes, from grim slab-sided,
gaunt-headed old boars, whose ancient tusks showed menacing, to the
liveliest and sprightliest of little pigs playing hide-and-seek among
their staid relatives, were collected from the neighbouring jungle to
scramble for the daily dole of grain spread for them by the Maharana.
A cloud of dust rose thick in the air, stirred up by the busy feet and
snouts of the multitude, and grunts and squeals were loud and frequent as
a frisky party of younglings in their play would heedlessly bump up
against some short-tempered old boar, who in his turn would angrily butt a
too venturesome rival in the wind and send him, expostulating noisily,
down the hill!
Beyond the crowd of swine on the edge of the clearing, a few peacocks,
attracted by the prospect of a meal, held themselves strictly aloof from
the vulgar herd.
The whole city of Udaipur is a paradise for the artist--not a corner, not
a creature which does not seem to cry aloud to be painted. The only
difficulty in such _embarras de richesses_ of subject and such scantiness
of time, is to decide what not to do.
Hardly has the enthusiastic amateur sat down to delineate the stately pile
of the palace, soaring aloft amid its enveloping greenery, than he is
attracted by a fascinating glimpse of the lake, where, perhaps, a royal
elephant comes down to drink, or a crimson-clad bevy of Rajputni lasses
stoop to fill their brazen chatties with much chatter and laughter.
Bewildered by such wealth of subject, one is but too apt to sit at gaze,
and finally go home with merely a dozen pages of scribbles added to the
little canvas jotting-book!
The Palace of the Maharana is a very splendid pile of buildings, as seen
from some little distance crowning the ridge which rises to the south of
the lake, but it loses much of its beauty when closely viewed. It is, of
course, not to be compared architecturally with the master-works of Agra
and Delhi, and the internal decorations are usually tawdry and
uninteresting. The entrance is fine; the visitor ascends the steep street
to the principal gate, a massive portal, strengthened against the
battering of elephants by huge spikes, and decorated by a pair of these
animals in fresco-rampant. Beyond the first gate rises a second or inner
gate. On the right are huge stables where the royal elephants are kept,
and on the left stand a row of curious arches, beneath one of which the
Maharanas of old were wont to be weighed against bullion after a victory,
the equivalent to the royal avoirdupois being distributed as largesse to
Within the gates, a long and wide terrace stretches along the entire front
of the Palace, on the face of which is emblazoned the Sun of Mewar, the
emblem of the Sesodias. This terrace was evidently the happy home of a
great number of cows, peacocks, geese, and pigeons, which stalked calmly
enough, among the motley crowd of natives, and gave one the impression of
a glorified farmyard. The building itself, like most Indian palaces, is
composed of a heterogeneous agglomeration in all sorts of sizes and styles.
Each successive Maharana having apparently added a bit here and a bit
there as his capricious fancy prompted.
Jane visited the armoury to-day with the Resident, who went to choose a
shield to be presented by the Maharana to the Victoria Museum at Calcutta.
I chose to go sketching, and was derided by Jane for missing such a chance
of seeing what is not shown to visitors as a rule. She whisked away in
great pomp in the Residential chariot, preceded by two prancing sowars on
horseback, and subsequently thus related her experiences:--
* * * * *
"We really drove up far too fast to the Palace, I was so much interested
in the delightful streets; and we just whizzed past the innumerable
shrines and queer shops, and frescoed walls, where extraordinary lions and
tigers, and Rajput warriors, riding in wide petticoats on prancing steeds,
were depicted in flaming colours. I wanted, too, to gaze at the native
women, in their accordion-pleated, dancing frocks of crimson or dark blue;
but it seemed to be the correct thing for a 'Personage' to drive as fast
as possible, and try to run over a few people just to show them what
unconsidered trifles they were. Well, we were received at the entrance to
the Palace by one of the Prime Ministers. There are two Prime
Ministers--one to criticise and frustrate the schemes of the other; the
result being, as the Resident remarked, that it is not easy to get any
business done. Our Prime Minister was dressed in a coat of royal purple
velvet, on his head was wound a big green turban, and round his neck hung
a lovely necklet of pearls and emeralds, with a pendant of the same, he
had also earrings to match. It was truly pitiful to see such ornaments
wasted on a fat old man."
"Going up a narrow and rather steep staircase, we came to a small hall
full of retainers of his Highness, waiting until it should please him to
appear and breakfast with them, for it is the custom of the Maharana to
make that meal a sort of public function. In the middle of the hall
reposed a big bull, evidently very much at ease and quite at home!"
"A few more steps brought us to the door of the armoury. This is small and
badly arranged, which seems a pity, as there were some lovely things.
Chain armour and inlaid suits lay about the floor in heaps; and we were
shown the saddle used by Akbar during the last siege of Chitor. The most
remarkable things, however, were the Rajput shields, of which there were
some beautiful specimens. They are circular, not large, and made, some of
tortoiseshell, some of polished hippo hide, &c. One was inlaid with great
emeralds, a second had bosses of turquoise, and a really lovely one was
inlaid with fine Jaipur enamel in blue and green. There were swords simply
encrusted with jewels--one with a hilt of carved crystal; another was a
curiously-modelled dog's head in smooth silver, and I noticed a beauty in
pale jade. Altogether it was a most fascinating collection, different from,
but in its way quite as interesting, as the fine armoury at Madrid."
Thus did Jane triumph over me with her description of what she had seen
and what I had missed; and I had been trying to delineate the Temple of
Jagganath, and had been disastrously defeated, for it is indeed a
complicated piece of drawing, and the children, both large and small,
crowded round me to my great hindrance. Therefore, it was not until I had
been soothed with an excellent lunch, and the contents of a very long
tumbler, that I felt strong enough to take an intelligent interest in the
contents of the Maharana's curiosity-shop!
_Monday, October_ 30.--The more we see of Udaipur the more we are charmed
with it. The whole place is so absolutely unspoilt by modernism, is so
purely Eastern--and ancient Eastern at that--that we feel as though we
were in a little world far apart from the great one where steam and
electricity shatter the nerves, and drive their victims through life at
Ringed in by a rampart of arid hills, beyond which the scrub-covered
desert stretches for miles, the peaceful city of Udaipur lies secluded in
an oasis, whose centre is a turquoise lake. High in his palace the
Maharana rules in feudal state, and, like Aytoun's Scottish Cavalier,
"A thousand vassals dwelt around--all of his kindred they,
And not a man of all that clan has ever ceased to pray
For the royal race he loves so well."
For to his subjects the Maharana is little less than a divinity, for is he
not a direct descendant of the Sun? Likewise is he not the chief of the
only royal house of Rajputana, who disdained to purchase Mogul friendship
at the price of giving a daughter in marriage to the Mohammedan?
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