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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

Yesterday we left Sellar and marched to Bejbehara


GANGABAL

style="text-align: justify;">Friday, _June_ 30.--The last few days have been somewhat uneventful. We left Pahlgam at early dawn on Wednesday, just as the first lemon-coloured light was spreading in the east over the pine-serrated heights above the camp.

The rapids below Colonel Ward's bungalow, which had been fierce and swollen as we passed them on our upward way, were now reduced to roaring after the subdued fashion of the sucking dove; so we hardly paused to contemplate either them or the big boulder, red-stained and holy, at Ganesbal, but hastened on to the point where, just before turning a high bluff which shuts him from sight for the last time, we got the view of Kolahoi, with the newly-risen sun glowing on his upper slopes. An hour flew by much too fast, and it was with great reluctance that we finally turned our back on the finest part of the Lidar Valley, and sadly resumed our march to Sellar, crossing the river and following a rather hot and dull road. Sellar itself is not nearly as pretty as Eshmakam, and we grew rather tired of it by evening, as we arrived soon after one o'clock, and found little to do or see.

Yesterday we left Sellar and marched to Bejbehara, the hottest and dullest march I know of in Kashmir. A shadeless road slopes gently down across the plains to the river. All along this road we overtook parties of coolies laden with creels of silk cocoons, whose destination is the big silk

factory at Srinagar, small clouds of hot red dust rising into the still air, knocked up by the shuffling tread of their grass-shod feet.

In the fields, dry and burnt to our eyes after the green valleys, squatted the reapers, snipping the sparse ears, apparently one by one, with sickles like penknives. They seemed to get the work done somehow, as little sheafs laid in rows bore witness; but the patience of Job must have been upon them!

The chenars of Bejbehara threw a most welcome shade from the noonday sun, which was striking down with evil force as we panted across the steamy rice-fields which surround them.

Hither we came at noon, only to find that our boats were not awaiting us as we had directed. A messenger bearing bitter words was promptly despatched to root the lazy scoundrels out from Islamabad, while Jane and I camped out beneath a huge tree and lunched, worked, and sketched until four o'clock, when the Admiral brought the fleet in and fondly deemed his day's work done.

This was by no means our view of the case, and the usual trouble began--"No coolies"--"Very late"--"Plenty tired," &c. &c.

Of course Satarah was defeated, and was soon to be seen sulkily poling away in the stern-sheets, while his son-in-law still more sulkily paddled in the bow.

We made about eight or ten miles, having a swift current under us, before a strong squall came up the valley, making the old ark slue about prodigiously, and inducing us to tie up for the night.

This morning we slipped down stream to Srinagar, only halting for a short while to obtain some of the native bread for which Pampur is celebrated.

The river seemed exceedingly hot and stuffy after the lovely air which we have been breathing lately, and we quite determined that the sooner we get out of the valley the better for our pleasure, if not for our health.

We have been greatly exercised as to how best dispose of the time until September, for, during the months of July and August, the heat in the valley is very considerable, and every one seeks the higher summer retreats. The Smithsons suggested an expedition to Leh, which would, undoubtedly, have been a most interesting trip, but which would in no wise have spared us in the matter of heat. Had we started about this time for Leh we should have reached our destination towards the end of July, and would therefore have found ourselves setting out again across an arid and extremely hot country on the return journey somewhere about the middle of August.


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