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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

The blackbird scrambled into the leading ekka


_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.

CHAPTER XV

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 thicken.

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 human patience.


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