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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Above the point where I had left Sadek


The

sun was scorching, and when the sand got hot, too, walking was most unpleasant. When we were not on sand while ascending the hill slopes and tops we were on cutting shale. Sadek, who had not yet recovered from his previous night's experience at Sahib Chah, was still sick, and with the extra exertion somehow or other lost his head altogether.

After having gone up and down, I should not like to say how many times, we were confronted by a flat valley to the south-west and more mountains to be crossed in the direction we were going, to the north-east. Sadek thereupon maintained that the track must perforce be along the valley, to which I would not agree, and I insisted on keeping east, which I knew would bring us right in the end. As we climbed hill after hill, Sadek dragged himself behind me with a discontented face, every few minutes glancing back at the distant flat valley to the south-west, to which he pointed, sighing: "Good master, that's road!"

But up and down we continued, away from it, eastwards, range after range of hills being left behind and more ranges standing in front of us. Sadek, who was sweating under the weight of the rifle and camera, grumbled that he was ill and tired, hungry and thirsty, and it was very little consolation to think that from this spot, the two nearest wells of drinkable water were distant one about twenty-eight miles, the other over forty miles. We had nothing whatever with

us to eat or drink.

After some three hours of uncertainty--and I must confess that it was somewhat trying each time we had reached the top of a range, which we climbed with anxious enthusiasm, expecting to get a glimpse of the track, to find our view obstructed by yet another range, generally higher than the one on which we stood,--after hours of toiling, as I was saying, we now came to a rocky range about double the height of any we had climbed so far.

Sadek, on looking at it, declined to climb any more. He said he knew the track must be in the opposite direction and we should only have to climb all these hills back again. He sat down and puffed away at cigarettes to allay his hunger and thirst and soothe his temper, while I climbed to the highest point, some 480 feet, above the point where I had left Sadek. Behold! on reaching the summit, beyond another range lower to the north, along a wide undulating plain I did discern a whitish streak like a chalk line stretching from west to east,--unmistakably the road.

I signalled the news to Sadek, and shouted to him to come up, which he most reluctantly did. When panting half-way up the hill, he still turned round to the south-west and disconsolately exclaimed, "No can be road, my good master. That is road!" (to the south-west). I ordered him to hurry up to my point of vantage and see for himself.

"May be road, may be not road," was his obstinate verdict, when the white streak across the plain was triumphantly pointed out to him.

"But, Sadek, can you not see the white perfectly straight line stretching along, straighter than anything else around you?"

"I can see plenty white lines, master. _Up-stairs_ mountains, _down-stairs_ mountains"--(by which he meant gypsum strata on the top and foot of hills). "May be," he added, sarcastically, "all roads to Shalkot (Quetta)!"

"Can you not see that the white track leads exactly in the direction where my compass says we must go?"

"Pfff! Compass no good!" he exclaimed with an air of amusing superiority, and he stooped to pick two pebbles of different colours. "Take one of these in one hand, and one in the other," he asked of me. "Now throw one towards the east and one towards the west."


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