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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

This morning we crossed the Wular


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 as usual.

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.


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