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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

With a grass slipper in pursuit of flies


It

is the inexorable necessity for writing day by day one's impressions that becomes so trying; and yet it must be done daily if it is to be done at all, for the only virtue I can attain to in writing is truth; and impressions from memory, like sketches from memory, are of no value from the hand of any but a master.

The time set apart for diary-writing is the hour which properly intervenes between chota hasri and the announcement of my bath; but, somehow, there never seems to be very much time. Either the early tea is late or bath is early, or a shikar expedition, with a grass slipper in pursuit of flies, takes up the precious moments, and so the business of the day gets all behindhand.

The fly question is becoming serious. Personally, I do not consider that fleas, mosquitoes, or any other recognised insect pests (excepting, perhaps, harvest bugs) are so utterly unendurable as the "little, busy, thirsty fly." It seems odd, too, as he neither stings nor bites, that he should be so objectionable; but his tickly method of walking over your nose or down your neck, and the exasperating pertinacity with which he refuses to take "no" for an answer when you flick him delicately with a handkerchief, but "cuts" and comes again, maddens you until you rise, bloody-minded in your wrath, and, seizing the nearest sledgehammer, fall upon the brute as he sits twiddling his legs in a sunny patch on the table, then lo--

justify;"> "Unwounded from the dreadful close "--

he frisks cheerfully away, leaving you to gather up cursefully the fragments of the china bowl your wife bought yesterday in the bazaar!

How he manages to congregate in his legions in this ship is a mystery. Every window is guarded by "meat safe" blinds of wire gauze; the doors are, normally, kept shut; and yet, after one has swept round like an irate whirlwind with a grass slipper, and slain or desperately wounded every visible fly in the cabin, and at last sat down again to pant and paint, hoping for surcease from annoyance, not five minutes pass before one, two, nay, a round dozen of the miscreants are gaily licking the moisture off the cobalt (may they die in agony!), or trying to swim across the glass of water, or playing hop-scotch on the nape of my neck.

From what mysterious lair or hidden orifice they come I know not, but here they are in profusion until another massacre of the innocents is decreed.

It is a sound thing to go round one's sleeping-cabin at night before "turning in," and make a bag of all that can be found "dreaming the happy hours away" on the bulkheads and ceiling. It sends us to bed in the virtuous frame of mind of the Village Blacksmith--

"Something attempted, something done, Has earned a night's repose"

There are other microbes besides flies in Kashmir which are exasperating--coolies, for instance.

I had engaged men through Chattar Singh (the State Transport factotum at Srinagar) to take us up the river, and decreed that we should start at 4 A.M. yesterday.

We had been to an _al fresco_ gathering at the Residency the night before, and so were rather sleepy in the early morning, and I did not wake at four o'clock. At six we had not got far on our way, and at ten we were but level with Pandrettan, barely three miles from Srinagar as the crow (that model of rectilinear volition) flies.


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