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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

The liberated tonga overtook us


It was blowing hard, the stormy wind striking chill and bleak through the bending pines; it was raining in torrents; it was 5 P.M., and we were still some six miles from the haven where we would be; so, after a short and utterly ineffectual attempt to get the carriage past the obstacle, Jane and I set off to walk down the hill and seek help.

It was exciting, as we had to dodge the rock-falls and run past the shaky-looking places! At a turn of the road we came upon the gunners' tonga, embedded in a mud-slide. The occupants had had an escape from total wreck, as one of the ponies had swerved over the khud, but the other saved the situation by lying down in the mud! Hunt had gone off into the landscape to try for a village and help, while Hill remained to wrestle with the tonga, which, however, remained obstinately immovable. We could do nothing to mend matters, so we fled on, meeting Hunt, with a few natives and a shovel, on his way back to the scene of action.

After an hour and a half of very anxious work, we emerged at dusk from the wood, hoping our troubles were over. We could dimly see, and hear, through the mist a stream below us; but, alas! no bridge was visible. I commandeered a man from the first hut we came to, and tried by signs to make him understand that he was to carry the lady across the river; but, luckily, just as we reached the bank of what was a very nasty-looking stream in full spate, the liberated tonga overtook us, and Jane was bundled into it, while we three men waded. The stream was strong and up to our knees, and level with the tonga floor, and the horses getting frightened began to jib. Hill seized one by the head, and Jane was safely drawn to shore and sent on her way under guidance of the driver, while we tramped on in the dark until a second torrent barred our way. Here, in the gloom, we made out the tonga empty, and stuck fast against the far bank. It was all right though, for Jane had crawled out at the front and wandered on in search of the dak bungalow, leaving the driver squatting helplessly beside the water.

It was so dark that she missed the bungalow, which stands a little above the road, and struggled on till she came to a small cluster of native huts. One of the inhabitants, on being boldly accosted, was good enough to point out the way, and so the re-united party--tired, wet, and with no prospect of dry clothing--took possession of the cheerless-looking dak bungalow. Things now began to improve. To our joy we found our ekkas with their contents drawn up in the yard. And while a fire was being encouraged into a blaze, and the lean fowl was being captured and slain on the back premises, we obtained dry garments--of sorts--from the baggage.

Madame's dinner costume consisted of a blue flannel garment--nocturnal by design--delicately covered by a quilted dressing-gown, and the rest of us were _en suite_, a great lack of detail as to collars and foot-wear being apparent! Nevertheless, the fire blazed royally, and we ate up all the old hen and called for more, and prepared to make a night of it until, about ten o'clock, our bearer Sabz Ali appeared, with a train of coolies carrying our bedding and the other contents of the derelict carriage.

This morning the two young gunners departed on foot, leaving their tonga, as the road to Domel is reported to be quite impassable. They intend to walk by a short cut over the hills, and get on as best they may, the race for Astor being a keen one.


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