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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

For here died the chota murghi


_Wednesday,

May_ 17.--Yesterday it rained without ceasing, until the valley in front of us took the appearance of a lake--A party of terns, white above and with black breasts, skirled and wrangled over the "casual" water. It was still very wet this morning, but as it cleared somewhat after breakfast, we made up our minds to quit the Lolab and get back to our boat.

Doras has sad memories for Jane, for here died the "chota murghi," a black chicken endowed with the most affectionate disposition. It was permitted to sit on the lady's knee, and scratch its yellow beak with its little yellow claw; but I never cared to let it remain long upon my shoulder--a perch it ardently affected. Well! it is dead, poor dear, and whether from shock (the pony which carried its basket having fallen down with it _en route_ from "Walnut Camp"), or from a surfeit of caterpillars which were washed in myriads off the trees there, we cannot tell. Sabz Ali brought the little corpse along, holding it by one pathetic leg to show the horrified Jane, before giving it to the kites and crows. He has many "murghis" left; baskets full, as he says, for they are cheap in the Lolab, but we shall never love another so dearly.

We had a shocking time while climbing to the pass which leads over to Rampur, the road being deep in slimy mud, and so slippery that the unfortunate baggage ponies could hardly get along. Jane, who is in splendid condition now, toiled nobly

up a track which would have been delightful had the weather been a little less hideous.

Reaching the ridge which divides the Lolab from the Pohru Valley, we turned to the left, along the edge, instead of descending forthwith, as we had hoped and expected to do. It was raw and cold, with flying wreaths of damp mist shutting out the view, and we were glad of a comforting tiffin, swallowed somewhat hurriedly, under a forlorn and stunted specimen of a blue pine. Then on along a rough and slippery catwalk that made us wonder if the baggage ponies would achieve a safe arrival at Rampur.

Crossing a steep, rock-strewn ridge, covered with crown imperial in full flower, we began a sharp descent through a wood of deodars; and now the thunder, which had been grumbling and rumbling in the distance, came upon us, and a deafening peal sent us scurrying down the hill at our best pace; the lightning-blasted trunks stretching skywards their blackened and tempest-torn limbs in ghastly witness of what had been and what might be again.

At last we cleared the wood, and, plunging across a perfect slough of deep mud, crawled on to the verandah of the Rampur forest-house, where we sat anxiously watching the hillside until we saw our faithful ponies safely sliding down the hill.

_Thursday, May_ 18.--The changes of weather in this country are sudden and surprising. This morning we woke to a perfect day--the sun bathing the warm hillsides, the picturesque brown village, and the brilliant masses of snowy blossoming fruit-trees with a radiant smile. And, but for the tell-tale riot of the streams and the sponginess of the compound, there was nothing to betray the past misdeeds of the clerk of the weather.

At noon we set out to cover the short distance that lay between us and Kunis, where we had made tryst with Satarah. The country was like a series of English woodland glades--watered by many purling streams, and bright with masses of apple blossom; the turf around the trees all white and pink with petals torn from the branches by the recent storms. Clumps of fir clothed the hills with sombre green--a perfect background to a perfect picture.


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