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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

The Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir


and I having decided that a purely shikar expedition into the more difficult parts of the country was not suited to our prosaic habits, remained to enjoy the effeminate pleasures of Srinagar till the weather should grow a few degrees warmer.

As we are bidden to a sort of state luncheon to-morrow, given by the Maharajah, it appeared to me to be but right and seemly to go and inscribe my name in the visitors' book of His Highness, and also to call upon his brother, the Rajah Sir Amar Singh. I went with the more alacrity as I thought it might prove interesting. Strolling across the big bridge above the Palace, I soon found myself in the purely native quarter, immersed in a seething crowd of men and beasts, from beneath whose passing feet a cloud of dust rose pungent. The water-sellers, the hawkers of vegetables and of sweets, the cattle, the loafers and the children got into the way and out of it in kaleidoscopic confusion. By the side of the street, money-changers, wrapped in silent consideration, bent over their trays of queer and outlandish coins. Bright cottons and silks flaunted pennons of gorgeous colours. Brass, glowing like gold, rose piled on low wide counters. In front stood the Palace, looking its best from this point, and showing huge beside the huddle of wooden and plaster huts which hem it in.

General Raja Sir Amar Singh lives in a sort of glorified English villa. Were it not for the flowering oleanders

and hibiscus in front and the silvery gleam of temple domes beyond, one might suppose oneself near the banks of Father Thames. And were it not for the group of stalwart retainers at the door, the illusion need not be lost on entering the house.

The hall and staircase were decorated with a profusion of skins and horns, somewhat modern and brilliant rugs, and tall glasses full of flowers closely copied from Nature; while the drawing-room was of a type very frequently seen near London.

Like so many British reception-rooms, it shone replete with _objets d'art_, rather inclining to Oriental luxury than Japanese restraint.

My host, who came in almost immediately, was charming, speaking English with fluency, although he has never been in England.

He is essentially a strong man, and remarkably well posted in everything, both political and social, that occurs in the state, mixing far more freely than his brother with the English, towards whom his courtesy is proverbial.

His elder brother, the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir, is in many respects of a different type. Keeping more aloof from the English colony, he spends much of his time in devotion and the privacy of the inner Palace.

On leaving Sir Amar Singh, one of his henchmen conducted me across the iron bridge spanning a cut from the Jhelum, and into the warren-like precincts of the Palace; presently we emerged from an obscure passage, and found ourselves at the "front door," where, in the visitors' book, by means of the stumpy pencil attached thereto, I inscribed my name and condition.

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