J.F. Foster.

Three Months of My Life online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryJ.F. FosterThree Months of My Life → online text (page 1 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by Steven Gibbs, Melissa Er-Raqabi and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net

[Transcriber's Note: At the conclusion of this diary, the author writes:
"If these notes should ever be written out by my relations after my
death - for I am now like to die, let me beg that the many mistakes in
spelling, consequent upon the hurry and roughness of the writing, may by
corrected and not set down to ignorance." The relations may indeed have
corrected many errors, but many remain, and they have been left as in
the original.]




_Edited by LIZZIE A. FREETH._





_And Secondly,_



In laying the following pages before the public, I do so with a feeling
that they will be read with interest, not only by those who knew the
writer, but those to whom the scenes described therein are known, and
also those who appreciate a true description of a country which they may
never have the good fortune to see. We are all familiar with Kashmir in
the "fanciful imagery of Lalla Rookh," at the same time may not object
to reading an account - with a ring of truth in it - of that lovely land,
lovely and grand, beyond the power of poets to describe as it really
is, so travellers say. Readers will see that Mr. Foster intended to have
published this Diary himself had he been spared to reach England, he has
offered any apology that is necessary, so I will say nothing further
than to state, the daily entries were kept in a pocket-book written in
pencil, occasionally a word is not quite legible, that will account for
any little inaccuracy. After being two years at Elizabeth College,
Guernsey, under the Rev. A. Corfe, Mr. Foster entered St. George's
Hospital, as Student of Medicine, he received there in his last year the
"Ten Guinea Prize" for General Proficiency. From St. George's he went to
Netley, and on leaving that he served for a short time in Jersey, with
the 2nd Battallion 1st Royals, and 1st Battallion 6th Royals, after
which he embarked for India, where from February, 1868, to the beginning
of 1869, he served with the following Regiments, &c., 91st Highlanders,
at Dum Dum; F Battery C. Brigade Royal Horse Artillery, at Benares; 27th
Inniskillings, at Hazareebagh, Bengal Depôt, Chinsurah; Detachment 58th
Regiment, at Sahibgunge; Head-Quarters 58th Regiment, at Sinchal, again
at the Bengal Depôt Chinsurah; Head-Quarters 107th Regiment, at
Allahabad; Detachment 107th Regiment, at Fort Allahabad; G Battery 11th
Brigade Royal Artillery, at Cawnpore; Left Wing 36th Regiment,
Moradabad; Head-Quarters 36th Regiment, Peshawur, from whence
ultimately we find he started for Kashmir in the hope of regaining his
health, a vain hope as events proved, as he died on the passage home at
Malta. During the course of publication I have received many letters
from people who were personally acquainted with Mr. Foster who had met
him at home and abroad, from the tone of which letters I gather he was
held in the highest possible estimation as a friend, a medical man, and
an officer. I am indebted to the kindness of his father, Dr. John L.
Foster, of this island, for being allowed to publish these interesting
memorials of one who had now passed "To where beyond these voices there
is peace."

Montpellier, Guernsey, Nov. 1873.


This Work requires few prefatory remarks. I have transcribed without
alteration, the Diary that I kept during my visit to Kashmir. It may
seem a strange jumble of description and sentiment, jocularity and
seriousness. During the greater part of each day I enjoyed perfect rest,
smoking and thinking - sometimes soberly, often I fear idly - and for mere
occupation sake, my thoughts were written as they arose. My mind as
influenced by scene or incident, is fully exposed in these pages, and
while I have concealed nothing, neither have I added to that which I
originally indited. I am necessarily, and indeed intentionally
egotistical, because I write for those who will chiefly value a personal
narrative. Still, I am not ashamed if others see my book, although I
would deprecate their criticism by begging them to remember that I only
offer it for the perusal of those near and dear to me.


In the early morning of Midsummer's-day, 1868, I might have been seen
slowly wending my way towards the office of the Deputy Inspector General
of Hospitals, at Peshawur - for the purpose of appearing before the
standing Medical Committee of the station, and having an enquiry made
concerning the state of my health. A Dooley followed me lest my strength
should prove inadequate to the task of walking a quarter of a mile. But
let me make my description as short as the Committee did their enquiry.
My face, as white as the clothes I wore, told more than my words could,
and I was hardly required to recount how that one burning May-day I was
called at noon to visit a sick woman, and that while all other Europeans
were in their closed and darkened bungalows with punkahs swinging, and
thermautidotes blowing cool breezes, I went forth alone on my medical
mission to encounter the fierce gaze of the baneful sun, and was
overpowered by its fiery influence, or how that I laid a weary month on
the sick bed, tormented by day with a never ceasing headache, and by
night with a terrible dread, worse than any pain, or to conclude, how
the deadly climate of that notoriously evil station afforded me no
prospect of improvement. This relation was scarcely needed to procure
me a certificate, stating that three months leave of absence to Murree
was absolutely essential for my recovery, and a recommendation that I
might be allowed to proceed immediately in anticipation of the leave
being granted. So the next evening saw me start from Peshawur for Rawul
Pindee, in a Dâk Gharie, accompanied by my dog "Silly" and my Madrapee
servant or "Boy." Onwards we sped at a gallop, the horses being changed
every six miles, through Nowshera, the furnace; over the rapid and icy
cold Indus by boat; past Fort Attock, the oven in which our soldiers are
done to death; and Hussan Aboul of Lallah Rooke celebrity; arriving at
the French Hotel at Pinder, ten miles from Peshawur the following
morning. That day I called upon the Officers of the 6th Foot, with whom
I had served in Jersey, and was persuaded to dine at mess. A melancholy
dinner it was for me, meeting old friends whom I had not seen for so
long. Yet not possessing energy enough for conversation or feeling the
spirit of "Hail fellows, well met." I felt that my moody silence and
ghostlike appearance (for I was dressed in black) threw a gloom over
them. This was no doubt a morbid fancy as also was perhaps the idea that
they looked at me with pitying eyes. But these feelings seized me, and
increased till they became unbearable, and I was glad to escape to my



JULY 4th, 1868. - Started from Murree for Kashmir at 5.30 a.m. Bell,
Surgeon 36th Regt. [Since deceased] came with me four miles. Walked on
expecting the dandy to overtake me, but it did not, and I marched all
the way, nine miles up a steep hill to Khaira Gullee, where I halted and
put up in one of the old sheds formerly used by the working party when
the road was being made. I am not tired, though my left heel is
blistered, which is fair considering I have not walked half a mile for
more than a month. The road is excellent and the scenery fine, the Khuds
being sometimes deep, but nothing like the eastern Himalayas. The forest
too is quite different, fir trees predominating here. Saw many beautiful
birds, and regretted I had not brought my gun. In the evening a
thunderstorm came on with a cold wind from the north, so I made a good
fire with a few fir logs. In the middle of the night the storm became
very violent, and large hailstones fell.

JULY 5th. - Got away at sunrise, the rain having quite cleared off, and
marched on to Doonga Gullee, up a hill to an elevation of 9,000 feet,
and then down again to about 7,000; then up a final steep to Doonga
Gullee, 8,000 feet above the sea. The Khuds much grander very deep and
precipitous, sometimes falling one or two thousand feet from the edge of
the road almost perpendicularly. But the hills are too close together to
allow the valleys to be termed magnificent. Reached Doonga Gullee at 10
a.m. The length of last march, eleven miles - the road, a good military
one, has been cut in the face of the mountain. Put up at the Dâk
Bungalow, and dined with the officers of the working party; among them
Heath, of the 88th, and Leggatt and Lyons, of the 77th, whom I knew. A
number of tents are pitched here for the working parties from the 19th
and 77th Regiments (road making). I was carried part of the march in my
dandy - a piece of carpet gathered at each end and hooked to a pole, - the
pole being carried on the shoulders of two men. I swung below it just
off the ground, and could often look down a vast depth between my knees.
My first pickled tongue, cooked the day before yesterday was fly-blown
at breakfast this morning. This may seem a trifling note, but it is
ominous I fear for the whole of my salted stores.

JULY 6th. - Got up at 4 o'clock and marched on to Bugnoota, a distance
of thirteen miles. The first four miles a slight rise, and then a rapid
descent all the rest of the way. The road is much narrower, only a mule
track in fact, I walked twelve miles, and then felt tired, and had a
headache afterwards. Pitched my tent in a tope, (a grove of trees) in
company with Dr. and Mrs. Holmes, of Rohat, whom I did not know. Slight
rain in the middle of the day, but it cleared off towards evening. Felt
all right after an hour's sleep and took a stroll before dinner. Scenery
grand, tent pitched on the edge of a deep gorge at the bottom of which
is a mountain stream, the hills rising abruptly on the opposite side.

JULY 7th. - Marched on to Abbottabad at sunrise, down hill to the river,
and then along its course for two miles over very rough and fatiguing
ground, the river having to be forded twice. In rainy weather this is
very dangerous as its rush is so impetuous. Up hill again then down into
the plain of Abbottabad, 4,000 feet above the sea. Distance twelve miles
though only put down eight in the route. Met the General at the bottom
of the hill. Put up at the Dâk Bungalow, and met Ford, 88th, and De
Marylski, R.A., returning from Kashmir, got some hints from them.
Abbottabad is a small cantonment on a large plain surrounded by bare
mountains, a notice is posted in my room warning travellers not to go
unarmed; so I'll gird on my Kookery to-morrow. A Kookery is a formidable
native knife, about eighteen inches long and over two inches wide,
carried in a peculiar way, sheep and goats heads come off very easily at
a single blow from it. Much hotter down here, the sun powerful after 10
o'clock, but Punkahs not necessary. This is the Head-Quarters of the
Punjab Frontier force. A pity they do not have an English Regiment
stationed here as it is a very pleasant place as regards climate. Snow
in winter, and this the warmest time of the year quite bearable.
Brigadier gone to the _hills_ for the _hot weather._ Took in supplies of
bread and butter and purchased a pair of chuplus or sandals for
marching in, as boots hurt my feet.

JULY 8th. - A long tedious march of nearly fifteen miles to Mansera, put
down in the guide as a level plain road, but having a good many ups and
downs. One of my sandals broke, and I was obliged to ride in the dandy
about half way. Some difficulty occurred in getting my baggage off as
the Coolies did not come. Left my boy to manage it, he came in about
noon with two ponies, I shall not pay for them yet, and then they will
come on with me. A warmer day than yesterday. Mountains rising up in
front, which I shall begin to ascend to-morrow if I make the whole march
of twenty miles. Snow visible above all. The real work of the trip will
now soon commence. The marches hitherto have been child's play compared
with those to come. Mansera is only a native village, but there is a Dâk
Bungalow, in which I am now. Met Captain Ellis, of the 4th Hussars,
returning from Kashmir, and had a talk with him. There are _two_ routes
open to me, he advises the one which yesterday I was warned against by
the other fellows. They have been over both roads, yet do not agree as
to which is the best. Ellis was disappointed with Kashmir, but he has
only been a few months in India, and has not yet forgotten England, for
I expect that Kashmir after all, is only so very pleasant, by contrast
with the plains of India.

JULY 9th. - Started an hour before sunrise and did the whole march to
Ghuri, distance nineteen miles. Walked the greater part of the way in
sandals and socks, which I find the most comfortable way of getting on.
First half of the march along the level to the foot of the hill, then an
undulating road through a pine forest, the latter half easy walking
owing to the ground being covered with fallen fir leaves which made it
as soft as a carpet. A fine view from the top of hill, looking down to
Ghuri. The river Ghuri, a mountain torrent seen for a long distance
rushing with a great roar over its rocky bed, bounded on each side by
high hills, and above by mountains covered with snow, from the melting
of which it arises. The water is consequently icy cold, and my tub at
the end of the march was highly invigorating. Put up at the Dâk
Bungalow, a neat, clean, furnished building, standing on the right bank
of the river, which is crossed just in front by a very fair suspension
bridge. I can trace my route for to-morrow, for several miles, and I
look at it with dismay as it ascends a terribly steep hill. There are
two other men in the Bungalow, but I do not know who they are. I have
not mentioned my equipment. It is so simple that a few lines will tell
all. Two suits of old clothes, three flannel shirts, two warm under
flannels, two pair of boots, "a light pair and a heavy pair of
ammunitions," socks, handkerchiefs, &c., Mackintosh, warm bedding, a
small tent called a "shildaree," a two-rolled ridge tent, about eight
feet square, a dressing bag containing toilet requisites, a metal basin,
salted tongues and humps, potatoes, tea, sugar, flour, mustard, &c., one
bottle of brandy, to be reserved for medicinal use, a portable charpoy
or bedstead, cane stool, a little crockery, knives and forks, cooking
utensils, brass drinking cup for every purpose, a gingham umbrella with
white cover, a dandy (previously described), solar topee, and light cap,
tobacco, soap, and candles, a kookery, a stout alpen stock, a pass into
Kashmir, and bag of money, and "voilà tout." For carrying this baggage,
I require two mules, and two Coolies, or when mules are not procurable,
seven Coolies. Four other Coolies man my dandy, and these men are going
all the way with me. Each Coolie receives four annas, or sixpence a day,
and a mule costs eight annas. Stopped under a "pepel tree" and sent some
Coolies up it for the fruit, which was ripe. This tree is the Indian
fig, and the fruit is very small, not larger than marbles; and without
much flavor. The river is running a few yards from me, with a sound as
of the surf on a rocky beach. I hope ere long to hear the same pleasant
music seated on the cliffs of the south coast of Guernsey. Now my time
in India is drawing to a close, I begin to think that it has not been
altogether wasted, though I would not prolong it a day. All I have seen
and done within a period of three years (so much falls to the lot of few
men to perform) must have had some effect upon my mind; at any rate,
when safe at home again, I shall have much to talk of, many experiences
to relate. My dog Silly who accompanies me, was awfully done up towards
the end of the march. At last we came to a running stream in which he
laid down and was much refreshed, before that his panting had become
gasping though he kept up with us bravely, only lying down for a moment
when we came to a little bit of shade - not often met with, the last
three or four miles. For the last day or two, I have been almost
continually in a cool, gentle perspiration, this is a great contrast to
my state when at Peshawur, where my skin was always as dry as a bone,
and I look upon that as a healthy symptom, I have had no headache since
I left Bugnostan.

JULY 10th. - To Mozufferabad nine miles, but apparently much more, such a
bad fatiguing march. I got away with the first grey of the dawn and
after a mile's tramp began the ascent of the Doabbuller pass, three and
a half miles long and very steep, so steep that I could often touch the
ground with my hands without stooping much. This was terribly exhausting
and I had to make many halts to recover my breath. Then began a rough
descent along the side of a mountain torrent and afterwards over its
bed, which is a narrow gorge between high hills. This walking was very
rough and difficult; the path being covered with great stones and often
undistinguishable. Indeed it was no path at all, only the ground
occasionally a little trodden. Through the stream, backwards and
forwards _innumerable_ times we went. I found that my feet, though naked
except where covered by the straps of the sandals, were able to take
care of themselves, and avoid contusion almost without the help of my
eyes. Then I came to a large and rapid river called the Kishun-gunga
crossed by a rope bridge. Let me describe the bridge. Three or four
leather ropes about one inch in diameter tied into a bundle to walk
upon, three feet above this, a couple of ropes, two feet apart, the
upper ropes connected to the lower one at intervals of four or five
yards by stakes. This formed a V shape, and you walk on the point of the
V and hold on by the two sides. The breadth of the river is sixty yards,
and the bridge which is high above the water forms a considerable curve.
The description of the bridge is easy enough, but how shall I describe
my feelings, when I had gone a few yards and found myself poised in
mid-air like a spider on a web, oscillating, swaying backwards and
forwards over a foaming and roaring torrent, the rush of the water if I
looked at my feet, made me feel as if I was being violently carried in
the opposite direction; the bridge swayed and jumped with the weight of
half a dozen natives coming from the opposite side whom I had to pass,
the whole thing seemed so weak and the danger so terrible that I turned
giddy, lost my head, and cried out to be held. A firm hand at once
grasped me behind and another in front. I shut my eyes and so proceeded
a few yards. Then those dreadful men had to be passed. Imagine meeting
a man on a rope fifty feet above a torrent and requiring him to "give
you the wall." However they were passed by a mysterious interlacing of
feet; and when half way over I regained confidence, and bid the men
"chando" or release me, and so gained the opposite bank, where I sat
down and roared with laughter at my "boy" who was then coming over, and
who evidently was much more affected than I was. However he arrived
safely with his black face _pale_, dripping with perspiration and saying
he was sick. What was most amusing was to see him hooking his legs one
in front of the other on his way over, but I dare say I was equally
laughable to anyone on terra firma. He told me afterwards "water all go
down, and I go up and get sick and giddy." Another two miles over a low
ridge and I got to Mozufferabad and put up at the Barahduree provided by
the Maharajah for the convenience of English travellers free of charge,
for we are now in Kashmerian territory. This is an unfurnished bungalow
built of mud and pine logs, and there is one at every stage. This saves
the trouble of pitching a tent, and is of course much better in wet
weather. I have not had a drop of rain though yet. Met Watson, of Fane's
Horse, at the bungalow going back to Peshawur. Got Incis's Guide from
him for the day, and made some notes at the other end of this book.
There is a picturesque fort on this bank of the river commanding the
bridge, built by the Pathans, apparently of bright red stone or brick.
It was interesting to see mules and ponies swimming across the stream.
Holding on by the tail of each was a man supported by two inflated
Mussaks or goat skins which are ordinarily used by the Bheisties for
carrying water. Though both man and horse struck out vigorously they
were carried down many hundred yards before reaching the opposite side.
To look at them in the foam and rush of the river, and see their
impetuous career down the current, they appeared to be doomed to certain
destruction. I saw about twenty cross in this way. I walked the whole
of this march, though often tired, as I preferred trusting my own legs
to being carried in the dandy over such bad ground. Curran,
Assistant-Surgeon, 88th Connaught Rangers, is one march in front of me.
He has left his pony here till he returns. I suppose the last march was
too much for him. I am very glad I did not bring my horse with me; I was
strongly advised to do so, but I am afraid advice has not much weight
with me; in this instance anyhow, my own opinion has proved the best.
All the men I meet coming back have horses with them, but they are
nearly all shoeless, lame and sick, and have not been ridden for weeks.

JULY 11th. - Marched on Hultian, distant seventeen miles. Much better
road than yesterday, but many ups and downs and short rough bits.
Started two hours before sunrise, by the light of the moon. The road
soon reached the right bank of the Jhelum and continued the whole
distance alongside of that river. It is a rapid river apparently not so
deep and often not so wide as the Kishun-gunga, its bed strewn with huge
boulders over which the water breaks in great waves of foam. It runs in
a narrow rocky channel the precipitous sides of which are a great
height. How many ages must it have taken to cut this channel in the
solid rock? The valley is bounded by high hills, very narrow, the road
so bare of trees, that the latter half of the march became hot and
wearying, so I had recourse to the dandy for four or five miles. But it
was rare gymnastic exercise as swinging from my pole I had to dodge the
great stones on either side of me and keep a sharp look out to avoid
hard bumps. My dog was again very much fatigued. His tail is a good
token of his state, for when fresh it is stiff along his back, and
gradually drops as he goes along until he is quite exhausted, when it
hangs straight down. Stopped at a Barahduree (not so good a one as the
last) a few feet above the Jhelum in which I bathed. There is a rope
bridge opposite, a much older one than the other I crossed, but not more
than half as long, and not high above the water, some of the ropes are
broken, and it seems very shaky. However, I must cross it to-morrow and
get into the Murree road, which runs parallel to this one, on the other
bank, and is on the shady side and much cooler. It has been very hot all
day. The reason I could not come the direct road from Murree is because
the ferry over the Jhelum lower down, was recently carried away and
twenty-six natives drowned. Sir G. Larpent's (of the 88th) baggage was
in the boat, and he lost it all. He had not crossed and had to go back
to Murree minus everything including servants. There is excellent
Mahseer fishing in this river, the fish attain the enormous size of
80lbs. weight and afford exciting sport; but I have no tackle with me,
and did not even bring a gun, as I thought I should be too seedy to do
anything but moon about. I did not then know the great exertion
necessary to reach Kashmir, an exertion which any man with bodily
infirmity would hardly venture on without first providing himself with
an undertaker. Upon making enquiries I find that all the Coolies and
supplies on the other road, have been sent over to this side, so I must

1 3 4 5 6

Online LibraryJ.F. FosterThree Months of My Life → online text (page 1 of 6)