J.F. Foster.

Three Months of My Life online

. (page 4 of 6)
Online LibraryJ.F. FosterThree Months of My Life → online text (page 4 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

spent away from England, and a fourth is now approaching, one of them on
the ocean, and two in the tented field, the next will I fancy also find
me under canvass, but I trust on my way homewards. Westward Ho! is my
cry; let the gorgeous East with its money bags, its luxuries, and its
many hours of idleness, remain for those who are content to exchange
home-ties and the enjoyment of life for dreary exile and too often
untimely death, who will sell their minds and bodies for the price of

AUGUST 4th. - Marched back to Ganderbul, nine miles. Ganderbul is a very
small place, and the only object of interest I noticed, was a very old
bridge built of rough stones, standing now upon dry land, for the Scind
has left its former channel and runs one hundred yards to to the south
of it, three of the arches remain entire and connected, and at least
twelve others are either decayed or destroyed. This bridge is evidently
of very ancient date. On emerging from the Scind valley, I got a better
view of the vale than I have before had. It was a clear but cloudy
morning - one of those grey days when rays abound, and photographic
efforts are most successful - and every distant object was seen with
great distinctness. The snowy Pin Punjaul range, in its southern
boundary looked magnificent, rising abruptly from the level and
beautiful plain. On board the boat again, I continued the journey
towards Srenuggur. We had not been long afloat before a sudden squall
came down from the hills and blew the roof of the boat off; it took a
long time to repair the mischief, but fortunately all the matting was
blown on to the bank, it was eventually replaced and we proceeded
onwards in a tolerably direct line to the capital, ten miles distant.
But near sunset the wind increased again, and compelled us to take
refuge in a sheltered nook within a mile or two of Srenuggur, the fort
standing above us on the summit of a hill - imposing from its apparently
impregnable position - and there we remained all night.

AUGUST 5th. - Starting early, I soon arrived at the outskirts of the
town, and the boat entered a canal with houses on both sides. There was
some delay at a lock and great excitement in pushing over the fall
caused by the rash of the water. Passed through the city which is a
large one, and encamped under chenars on the banks of the canal on the
other side. The Baboo-Mohu Chundee, an officer appointed by the
Maharajah to attend to the many and varying wants of European
visitors - called upon me and afterwards sent "russud" or a present from
the Maharajah consisting of tea, sugar, flour, butter, rice, salt,
spice, vegetables, a chicken, and a live sheep. Some cloth merchants
also came and I was led into extravagance in purchasing some of their
goods. In the afternoon I got a small boat, a miniature of the larger
one, propelled by six men with paddles. They took me along very quickly,
and I went down the canal which opens into the Jhelum - the main
thoroughfare of Suenaggur opposite to the palace and the adjoining
temple, whose dome is covered with plates of pure gold. It is a very
strange sight, the broad river covered with boats, and lined by houses
built in the curious Kashmirian style. Seven fine bridges cross it, and
on two of them stand rows of shops like our Old London Bridge. I first
went to the Post-office and got a satisfactory communication from our
Paymaster, and also a letter from Bill, giving me the sad tidings of
poor Tyrwhitt's death, which took place at Murree a fortnight after my
departure. It is a selfish consideration, but I cannot help feeling
grateful that he was prevented by an attack of ague from accompanying
me, as he intended. I then went to Sumnad Sha's, the great shawl
merchant, and turned some of the Paymaster's paper into silver currency.
He showed me his stock, and I wished that I possessed the means of
purchasing his goods. But even here a good shawl costs thirty or forty
pounds, very magnificent they are, but I need not describe that which
every English lady knows and longs for, if she has not it. Hewson, the
Paymaster at Chinsurah, is encamped within one hundred yards of me.
Passing in his boat he recognised me, and we went and had a swim and
talked over old times at the Depôt.

AUGUST 6th. - Bought some tackle and went fishing, but the hooks were
rotten and the fish broke several. I only succeeded in landing one trout
of nearly two pounds weight. The spoon bait is a favourite one here.
Bought a variety of stones and pebbles. Ladûk, Yarkund, Opals, Garnets,
&c., for making brooches, bracelets, and studs. I was a long while
making the selection and a long while bargaining, but I seem to have got
them cheap; at all events for less money than Hewson has paid for his.
This, and fishing, occupied the whole day - which was consequently an
uneventful one. In the evening I borrowed writing materials from Hewson,
and wrote a letter to Bell.

AUGUST 7th. - Went out spearing fish, but found it difficult in
consequence of the allowance necessary for the refraction of the water
and the movement of the fish. There is a great temptation to strike in
an apparently direct line with the fish, which I need hardly say, even
if the fish be stationary does not go near it. I only succeeded in
piercing two. But I afterwards went out with a spoon and very soon
landed a couple of trout of two and four pounds weight. I have found out
who was at Baramula - - travelling quietly like a private gentleman,
still, notwithstanding the paucity of his retinue, the unmistakeable
stamp of nobility about him made it plain that he was more than he
appeared to be, obtaining for him the attention which he had wished to
ignore. As a contrast to him we have here X - - , Y - - , and Z - - ,
noticeable like many other Englishmen, when travelling in foreign
countries for the prodigality of their expenditure, one of whom got a
thrashing the other day from - - . Rather a disreputable affair for him,
if all I hear be true. I dare say many a poor native wishes that a small
portion of the money these three men waste was given to them instead.

AUGUST 8th. - I have done nothing to-day except go to Sumnad Shas for
some more money, as I intend to leave Sreenugger to-morrow for the
eastern part of Kashmir. There are two reasons for my idleness; in the
first place Hewson gave me some books he had done with, and I got
interested in James' "Heidelberg" and was reading it all this morning;
and secondly, Hewson left this afternoon and sat a long time with me
before his departure. To lengthen my notes for the day I ought to write
a sermon, or secular discourse, (as I have done before) but I don't feel
inclined to do so. This diary only gets my thoughts when they arise
spontaneously and require no further labour than the mere putting of
them into words. To-day my mind is a blank, and I am not going to search
in hidden recesses for thoughts that may possibly be secreted there.
Perhaps after dinner something may occur to me worth writing about.

AUGUST 9th, Sunday. - On again by the big boat up the Jhelum stopping at
Pampur for two hours fishing under the bridge (the reputed haunt of
large fish) but without success, so continued the journey gliding slowly
along the beautiful river until dark, when the boat was run ashore and
secured. So it has been an uneventful day with no new scenery to
describe and no musings to record.

AUGUST 10th. - Another day passed on the river. From early dawn till dusk
we continued towing against the stream, and then halted for the night at
Kitheryteen (I spell the word from my boatman's pronunciation of it) a
small village on the right bank.

AUGUST 11th. - Started again at daybreak but soon stopped at Bigbikara,
where there is another bridge. All these bridges are alike and similar
to the one described at Baramula, but this one is particularly pretty
from the fact of large trees having grown from the lower part of every
pier. These trees green and flourishing are high above the footway,
between which and the water there is a distant vista of fine mountains.
Fished here, but only hooked one, which I judged from its run to be
large, and lost it. Above the bridge the river narrowed to about half
its former width. We are approaching a very grand range of mountains
which seems to be the boundary of the valley. Before mid-day we reached
Kunbul and completed the trip of forty miles by water. At Kunbul is the
first bridge over the Jhelum, the river here diminishes to a breadth of
only thirty or forty yards, and soon breaks up into a number of small
streams which mostly rise from the water, then along the foot of the

AUGUST 12th. - Marched to Buroen, six miles, on arriving found the
camping ground occupied by numerous "Fakirs" who had lately returned
from Ummernath. These men are horrible looking objects, most of them
being painted white and nearly naked. Ummernath is a mountain 1,600
feet high, and at the top of it is a cave sacred to the Hindoo Deity.
In July pilgrims assemble there for a great religious festival, and
these are some of them on their way back. I intended to visit this cave,
but I have not time now, and I have thought that it may be a trifle too
cold up there. At Burven is a very holy spring. Two tanks are formed
where the water escapes from the ground, and these tanks swarm with tame
fish, some of them of large size. It was a great sight feeding them.
They all rushed to the place struggling and fighting for the food. The
bright green water was black with them, and a space yards wide and long,
and several feet thick, was occupied by a block of fish packed as
closely as if they were pickled herrings. These fish are also very
sacred, and to catch them is prohibited. Soon after leaving Kunbul I
passed through Islamabad, a large town of which I may have more to say
hereafter. There are two other men encamped here with me, but they don't
seem very sociable, and I don't care much for the society of strangers;
we have exchanged "good mornings" and that is all, and now sit staring
at each other at a distance of twenty yards. How different it would have
been if we were Frenchmen instead of cold-blooded Englishmen. After dark
the fakirs had a "tomasha." Singing, bell ringing, tambourine-beating,
and the blowing of discordant horns all at the same time, constituted a
delightful music - to them at least - and was continued for hours,
interrupted by shouting and yelling, and with this din going on I now
hope to sleep.

AUGUST 13th. - Marched back to Islamabad, seven miles, by another road,
as I first visited the ruins of Martund, a temple built (so the legend
goes) ages ago by "gin men" or demons of gigantic stature. These are
really grand ruins, whether position, site, or architecture be
considered. They stand on an open plain, on the summit of a ridge, from
which is a fine view of the surrounding mountains, which are much higher
than in the western part of Kashmir. In the centre is a large block,
containing several rooms, the huge stones of which it is built being
elaborately carved. There are many niches containing figures, but the
defacing hand of time has sadly marred them. On two sides of this
building and only a few feet distant from it rise a couple of wings, and
the whole is enclosed by a stone screen, perforated by trefoil arches,
and having on its inner side a row of fluted columns. In the middle of
the south side of the screens is the main entrance, the pillars of which
are very tall. Vigne, classes these ruins among the finest in the world,
and perhaps he is right. At Islamabad there are several bungalows
provided for visitors, and I went into one of them, having first
cleared it of the "fakirs" - who are here too. These bungalows stand by
tanks in which are tame fish, as at Burven. A spring issues from the
hill side, just above them. Two men of the 7th Hussars, Walker and
Verschoyle, occupied another, and I breakfasted with them. Adjoining the
tanks is a small pleasure garden, with some buildings which are
inhabited by the Maharajah when he visits Islamabad. The place reminds
me more of a tea garden in the New Road, than the resort of Royalty. The
water from the tanks escapes under the front bungalow forming a pretty
cascade. Dined and passed the evening with the other fellows.

AUGUST 14th. - To Atchebul, six miles. This is a charming spot. It is a
pavilion and garden built - if my memory serves me - by the Emperor Shah
Jehan, for his wife; at its upper end rises a hill covered with small
deodars and other trees, and from the foot of this hill four springs
gush forth from crevices in the rock. The volume of water is very large,
and it is conveyed into three tanks at different levels. These tanks are
connected by broad canals lined with stone, and at the extremity of each
canal is a fine waterfall. There are also two lateral canals which run
through the whole length of the gardens, from the boundary of which the
water escapes in three cascades, the centre one from the tanks being
the largest. In the middle tank are twenty-five fountains, which were
turned on for my benefit; only seventeen of them play, and the best jets
are not more than six feet high. In the centre of this tank stands a
pavilion which I now inhabit. Its walls are of wooden trellis work, and
the ceiling is divided into panels on which are painted in many colours
the everlasting shawl pattern; it looks as though the floor-cloth had
been placed on the ceiling by mistake. Along the foot of the hill is a
ruined terrace built of bricks, with arches and alcoves crumbling to
pieces. There is also an arch over the canal, between the second and
third tanks. The whole garden was originally laid out in several
terraces faced with masonry, and having wide flights of stone steps from
one to the other; but all is now much decayed, and the garden itself is
quite uncultivated, except a small portion, and is but a wilderness of
fruit trees and fine chenars. On the left of it is the old Human or
bath, a series of domed and arched rooms containing baths and marble
seats. The interior is in a fair state of preservation, and the various
pipes which conveyed the water to it still exist. The whole ground is
enclosed by a wall, and if it was properly looked after, might be
converted into a very pleasant retreat. In the afternoon Walker and
Verschoyle, rode over from Islamabad and sat some time with me, after a
few hours five other pipes began to squirt - rendered patulous I suppose
by the pressure of the water - so that three only now remain occluded. I
had a great loss last night; the dogs broke open the basket containing
my provisions, and carried away half a large sized cake, and a hump of
beef that had been cooked but was uncut.

AUGUST 15th. - Marched to Nowboog, fifteen miles, this long march was
quite unexpected as Ince in his book puts it down eight miles. It was up
hill nearly all the way - this combined with the sun's heat - for I did
not start so early as I would have done if I had known the distance - and
the vexation of having to go on, long after I considered the march
ought to have been finished, made it very fatiguing. Nowboog is situated
in a small and pretty valley separated by hills from the rest of
Kashmir. I intend to halt here to-morrow, so will reserve further
description until I feel fresh again. It was one or two o'clock before I
arrived, and I have worn a hole in my left heel which will, I fear,
render the next marches painful. Umjoo - the boatman - is now shampooing
my legs and feet. This process consists of violent squeezes and pinches
which make me inclined to cry out, but I am bearing it bravely without
flinching and endeavouring to look happy, and to persuade myself that it
is pleasant - now my toes are being pulled with a strength fit to tear
them off. Oh! - - . There's a cry on paper. He does not hear that, and
it is some sort of relief.

AUGUST 16th, Sunday. - The valley of Nowboog is small but very
picturesque. The surrounding hills are comparatively low, and are
covered with pasture on the open places, while the deodar and many other
trees occupy the ravines and gullies. The large amount of grass and the
grouping of the trees give it a park-like appearance, and the gentle
slopes of the verdant mountains remove all wildness from the scene. It
is a pleasant spot to halt at. A little nook which while it charms the
eye, only suggests peaceful laziness. My coolies sit at a short
distance, singing through their noses Kashmirian songs. There is much
more melody in their music than in that of their brethren of Hindoostan.
Indeed some of the tunes admit of being written, and I have copied a few
of the more rythmical, as they sang them. The principal objection to
them is that they are rather too short to bear repetition for half an
hour as is the custom, there is another music going on - a music that
cannot be written and will be difficult to describe - I mean the song of
the "Cicada Stridulantia" in walnut trees above me. This insect - the
balm cricket - is in appearance a burlesque, just such a house fly as you
might imagine would be introduced in a pantomime; and its cry is as
loud and incessant as it is peculiar. To describe it, fancy to begin
with a number of strange chirps, and that every few seconds, one of
those cogged wheels and spring toys that you buy at fairs to delude
people into the belief that their coats are being torn - is passed
rapidly down the back, with occasionally momentary interruption in the
middle of its course, while between each scratch you hear a mew of a
distant cat - another cat purring loudly all the time, and any number of
grasshoppers chirping to conclude with a running down of the most
impetuous and noisy alarum, and then silence - a silence almost painful
by contrast - until it begins again. Such is the song of the Cicada in
the Himalayan forests. I wonder every Sunday if they miss me at
Peshawur; for I was organist to the church before I left, and I doubt if
there is anybody to take my place. I wish I had the instrument here now
to peal forth to the hills and the wondering Kashmirians Handel's
sublime "Hallelujah Chorus" or "The Marvellous Works" of Haydn. What can
be more inspiring than the grand old church music we possess, bequeathed
to us by composers of immortal memory. Though much opposed to the
present Ritualistic tendencies I do delight in a musical service. It
seems to elevate the mind and give a greater depth to our devotion. Go
into any of our cathedrals and hear the solemn tones of the Liturgy
echoing through the vaulted roof, and your heart must needs join in the
supplication, "And when the glorious burst of music calls to praise and
rejoicing, will not your own soul fly heavenward with the sound and find
unaccustomed fervency in its thanksgivings." There is perhaps one thing
necessary, and that is, that you should know the music you hear,
otherwise the first admiration of its beauty may eclipse all other
considerations. But if you have studied it, if it is as familiar to you
as it ought to be, and is intimately connected in your mind with the
words to which it is set, you will understand its spirit, and see that
however beautiful it may be it is only the means whereby higher thoughts
and nobler feelings are sought to be expressed. I bought here a very
fine pair of Antlers of the "Bara sing" - a large deer found on these

AUGUST 17th. - To Kookur Nag, twelve miles. I am now convinced I came the
wrong road from Atchibul to Nowboog, as I had to march back over a great
portion of it this morning; however, with the exception of a mile or
two, it was all down hill, and as I knew when I started that I had
twelve miles to go, I was not tired. Stopped at the village on the way
where there are iron works, and saw them smelting the ore which is
obtained from the neighbouring mountains, this ore is a yellow powder,
and appears to be almost pure oxide. Their method of working is very
rude; a small furnace, such as a blacksmith uses at home, supplied with
a pair of leather bellows constitutes the whole of the foundry, and is
of course, only capable of smelting a very small quantity of ore at a
time. Kookur Nag is the name of some springs about two miles from the
village I have encamped at, and I walked over this afternoon to see
them. It was scarcely worth the trouble. There are a great number of
them close together and they issue from the ground, as usual, at the
foot of a prettily wooded hill. The water is very pure and cold, and of
sufficient quantity to form immediately a large and rapid stream. This
place lies near the mouth of a wide gorge or valley which leads right up
to the snows, and down which there must have been at one time, either a
mighty rush of water or a vast glacier, as the ground is thickly strewn
with huge boulders. The stratification of one mountain against which it
is evident the flood impinged - is very clearly and beautifully shown.

AUGUST 18th. - To Vernag, ten miles, crossing a range of hills, the
descent being the steepest I have experienced. From the top of the range
there was a fine view of the two valleys of Kookur Nag and Vernag. They
are very similar and down the middle of each is a layer of loose rounded
stones. The springs of Vernag occupy the same position in the valley as
those of Kookur Nag do in the other, but around them is a good sized
village, and their point of exit has been converted into a large and
very deep octagonal tank, which is perfectly crowded with sacred fish.
Surrounding the tank is a series of arches, and on the side from which
the stream escapes is a bungalow for the use of visitors. Six days ago a
Hindoo was drowned here, and his body has not been recovered - so deep is
the water, it is probable that ere this the fish have removed all but
his bones, one hundred yards below the tank is another spring, which is
the finest I believe in Kashmir. It comes straight up on level ground,
and forms a mound of water eighteen inches high, and more than a foot in
diameter. The morning cloudy and very gloomy on account of the eclipse
of the sun of which I saw nothing. This is my birthday and my thoughts
have been running over my past life and speculating upon the future
before me. "But fear not dear reader!" I will not bore you with all my
musings over those twenty-nine unfruitful, if not absolutely mis-spent
evil years, or show you how my "talent" lies carefully folded up and
hidden away, in order that I may have it to return to its "owner". "Oh!
fool, fool that I am." Knowing better things and with a half a lifetime
gone, "I find myself still plodding along the old road paved with good
intentions." The springs of grace indeed surround me, but I am in the
shallows and the water is muddy. The very "Tree of Life" is by my side,
but it is a dwarfed and stunted shrub, whose shoots wither before they
put forth leaves. When will this change? Will my resolutions ever become
deeds? "Will grace abound: or will faith ever give such impetus to my
"Tree of Life," that it may grow up into heaven?" I put to myself the
question that was asked Ezekiel. "Can these dry bones live," and have no
other answer than his to make. These are some of my birthday thoughts.
Pray, forgive, excuse me if I have wearied you.

AUGUST 19th. - Back to Atchibul, twelve miles, the road for the most part
level, but there was one mile of very hard work, over the ridge I
crossed yesterday. I approached Atchibul from the hill I mentioned as
standing at the head of the garden, and from the top of it a very pretty
view of the place is obtained. I found the pavilion unoccupied, and
again took possession of it, set the fountains playing, and imagined
myself the Great Mogul. Just out of Vernag, I caught a small black and
yellow bird, which my boatman calls a "bulbul" (though I think he is
wrong in the name) and says it sings very well. I have had a cage made
for it, and it is now feeding at my side, and is apparently very happy.
I'll try and take it to England. I believe it is only one of the shrike
family, but it is too young to identify at present. However, it is my
fancy to keep it, so why should I not. The old gardener here is very
attentive, constantly bringing me fruit. Shall I do him injustice, by
saying that he probably has expectation of a reward? I think not indeed,
is it not the same expectation or its allied motive, the desire to
escape punishment, which prompts the actions of all of us? We do good, I
fear, more for the sake of the promised recompense, than for any love
of the thing itself. Light rain has fallen all day.

AUGUST 20th. - I halt at Atchibul. I have now completed my wanderings in

1 2 4 6

Online LibraryJ.F. FosterThree Months of My Life → online text (page 4 of 6)