صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

I was

Rarung with their burdens, joking to each other as they passed the astonished mutineers, who little expected to see me thus far from home so speedily supplied with carriage. In fact they had somewhat reckoned without their host, and thought that

far advanced into the hills, they might safely dictate the terms on which they wished to be retained. Five of the number afterwards repented and followed me to the next stage, begging to be reinstated, which I granted, but fourteen others went back sulkily to Simla.

In Kunawur the women often carry quite as much as the men, and several of them marched along with apparent ease under burdens which the effeminate Simla coolies pronounced to be too heavy. One fine stout Kunawuree, whipped up in the scramble four bags of shot, amounting in weight to 56 seers, or 112 lbs, and carried them on his back the whole march, which is hilly and over the worst bye paths I ever saw, even in the hills. Two men had previously brought these same bags from Simla, and grumbled at the weight which was allotted to them, namely 28 seers each. The hardy Kunawuree demanded only two annas for his work, while the Simla men had refused to carry half the weight for three annas a day. While on this subject it may not be amiss to inquire why, since throughout Kunawur and all the neighbouring districts, the coolie demands but two annas per diem for his labour, those of Simla are allowed to refuse to take less than three? For two months and a half I had occasion to hire daily a number of these men at every stage ; not one ever dreamed of asking more than a paolee, or two annas, nor was there hesitation and grumbling in lifting their allotted loads ; each took his burden on his back and trudged merrily along with it to his journey's end. returning to Kotgurh not a man would move under three annas, and all objected that the loads were too heavy, although the same had often been carried for long and fatiguing stages by the women of Kunawur. The weight allotted to each coolie is, by order, not to exceed thirty seers, but when was a coolie hired within the British rule, who did not hesitate and often refuse to carry twenty seers ? They will come and lift the load, pronounce it too heavy, and walk off, and as far as I know, there is no redress for it, or at least I never heard of any one getting it. It is childish to fix a load at thirty seers and yet leave the coolies at liberty to reject half the weight if it 80 please them. The Kunawur coolie carries more, carries quicker, and demands less for his labour, than those within our rule; with whom the fault may lay, I do not presume to say, but it seems to me that a remedy for the evil might easily be found, by an order from

those in authority regulating the fare of a coolie to be two annas a day, marching or halting, and that any man plying as a coolie and refusing to lift a load not exceeding the regulated weight, shall be sub. ject to punishment, or be turned out of the bazar, and not allowed to ply again. For the purpose of seeing these orders carried into effect, a coolie mate or police Chupprassee could be appointed from out of the many idle hangers on, of the Political Agent, and the coolies might be ticketed or licensed to ply. From Simla to Bhar, which is in reality but three marches, a greater imposition still exists, for no coolies will go either up or down under twelve annas, which is at the rate of four annas a day, and often the demand, when Simla is filling or people are returning to the plains, is one and even two rupees. In former days things were much better managed, for there are those still living in the hills who remember a coolie's hire to have been two annas marching, and one and a half halting. Now, however, every coolie talks of non-interference, and the rights of a British subject ! and threatens you with his vakeel and a lawsuit, and many other combustibles besides.

There is perhaps no bazar in India where the European is more at the mercy of the native than in that of Simla, for there exists no Nerick of any kind, and I have heard it maintained by those in authority, “ that a man may demand what he pleases for his labour or his goods ;” which is in other words to say, that the native may be as exhorbitant as he pleases, and the European must pay the piper !

No one can more warmly advocate the strict administration of jus. tice between man and man, than I do, whatever be his colour, what. ever be his situation in life ; but it appears to me by no means either just or necessary to uphold the native on all occasions, or to consider the European as always in fault. Such a system tends materially to lower the dignity of the British character without in the least increas. ing the popularity of him who adopts it, for the shrewd native is ever willing to join with the European in the cry, “ 'Tis a very bad bird that befouls its own nest !”

But to return,-" The high road across the gbats from Punggee to Leepee being impassable from the depth of snow in which it was buried, I was obliged to change my route and proceed by a lower and more circuitous road to Rarung. On leaving the main road, we followed a bye. path which dipped so suddenly and abruptly down the glen that it was with the greatest difficulty we could keep from sliding down the slope, so slippery was the ground from moisture and from the pine Jeaves strewed around. In some places indeed a single false step, or a

fall on the back, would have sent the unfortunate flying down into the foaming torrent below, at a rate as rapid as that of a slider on a". Russian mountain.” We managed however, with much care and fatigue, to get slowly and safely to the bottom, where we crossed the river (which was furnished by the snows above) on a broken sangho, formed merely of four spars laid close together, and rendered slippery by the spray which was continually dashing over it. From this we again ascended by a road not many shades better than the one by which we had just come down, and it continued thus the whole way to Rarung.

We had also to cross many smaller snow streams, which being with out sangho or stepping stones, obliged us nolens volens to walk through them, sometimes nearly up to the knee in water, at a temperature of 38°, or only 6 degrees above the freezing point! It was indeed anything but agreeable, for we felt as if our legs were being cut off, and I vowed coute qui coute to cross the ghats on my return, whether they were blocked with snow or not. The forest all along this march was composed of Kayloo and Neoza pines. These names are only applied by the inhabitants of the lower bills and plains, the trees being known in Kunawur as the “Kelmung," and the “Kee,"and the fruit or edible seed of the latter is alone called “ Neoza."

From Rarung we had rather a better road than yesterday, but still bad, being chiefly over sharp blocks of granite and gneiss. This day we encamped at Jung-gee, and again proceeded on the morning of the 4th of June towards Leepee. The hills on the road from Punggee to Leepee have a shattered and decomposing aspect, vast masses being annually brought down by the action of the frost and snow, leaving in some parts high mural cliffs rising perpendicularly above the path to eight hundred and a thousand feet, while at their base is stretched a wide field of disjointed fragments of every size mixed up with beds of sand, decomposing mica 'slates, and felspar. These slope more or less gradually down to the river's edge, often at two and three thousand feet lower than the base of the cliffs. If a snow stream happens to descend near these accumulations, its waters are turned upon them by artificial drains, and in a few short months the former barren waste is seen to smile with young vineyards and rich crops of barley. But if, on the other hand, as too often happens, there is no stream near, the sands are left barren and dry along the river's course, sometimes increasing from fresh supplies from above, at others partially swept away by the force of the river wherf swollen by the melting snows in June and July. In the descent of these falling masses

whole acres are sometimes ploughed up, and the trees of the forest are crushed or uprooted by the rocky avalanche, more completely than if the axe had cleared the way for cultivation. This devastation is chiefly caused by the alternations of heat and frost ;-the power of the sun during the day acting on the beds of snow, causes innumerable streams to percolate through the cracks and crevices of the rocks and earth, which being frozen again during the frosts of night, cause by expansion the splitting of the granite into blocks, which being loosened by the heat of the following day from the earth which had tended to support them, come thundering down with fearful rapidity and irresistible weight through the forests which clothe the mountain's sides. After proceeding somewhat more than half way to Leepee, my guide, whose thoughts were " wool gathering,” very wisely took the wrong road, and led me down a steep glen, at the bottom of which had once been a sangho across the stream, and the road from it was a somewhat nearer route to Leepee; but alas! when we arrived at the bottom the torrent had washed away the bridge, and although we might have forded the stream, we learned from some shepherds that it would be labour lost, as the road up the opposite side of the glen had given way and followed the bridge down the stream, so that it was impassable. In this dilemma we had nothing left for it, but to reascend on the side we were on, and the shepherds gave us some comfort, by saying we need only climb up a little way, when we should find a path. To work we went accordingly, setting our faces to the hill with a willingness that did not last very long, for we found that the short way of a Kunawurree was something like the “mile and a bittock" of bonnie old Scotland, aye the langer, the farther we went."

This was truly the steepest hill-side I had ever encountered. Without the vestige of a path or any track, up we toiled, now grasping by the rock, and now by the roots of shrubs or tufts of grass, until at last it got so bad that we could scarcely proceed at all, partly owing to the steepness, and partly to the slippery nature of the pine leaves which thickly covered the soil. At several places the first up was obliged to let down a rope or a part of his dress to assist the others up. After a time, however, as we approached the top of the hill, and when well nigh exhausted with fatigue and heat, the ascent became more easy, and at last we debouched from the forest of pines upon a large open, swampy tract, immediately below the snows, which supplied water for a hundred rills, studded with a small yellow flowered ranunculus that I have some recollection of having seen in

similar situations in Europe. There were here many plants familiar to me, as the strawberry, the little pheasant's eye, the mare's tail, and a plant in search of which many of us in our boyish days have wandered through the fields of old England, in order to feed our rabbits, it is known, if I forget not, by the name of “queen of the meadows," or " meadow

sweet,” and

grows abundantly, as it does here, by the side of ditches and brooks. The currant, wild rose, and dwarf willow were plentiful also, especially the latter, for which the swampy nature of the ground was particularly genial and adapted. Here we at length found the path for which we had so long toiled in vain, and now when found, as often elsewhere happens, it was not worth the trouble it had cost, being but a mere sheep track along the side of a decomposing and crumbling hill, where the footing was as insecure as well could be, and where the prospect below was inevitable death to the unfortunate who should misplace his foot or lose his balance. Time and care however took us safely to Leepee, where I was right glad to find my tent pitched ; and as the Himalayan ibex or sikeen was said to be found in the neighbourhood, I determined to make it an excuse for halting a day or two. This measure had moreover become somewhat necessary, for the toil and fatigue of climbing over such broken and rugged paths as we had travelled for the last three or four days, in the heat of the noonday sun, when the thermometer generally indicated a temperature exceeding 95°, had brought on so severe a pain in my right side, that often I found it absolutely necessary to lie down for awhile on the ground, until it had somewhat abated. This, added to a severe cold, caught from the necessity we were sometimes under, of wading when profusely heated with walk, ing, nearly knee-deep through several streams, whose waters having only recently left the beds of snow above, caused the thermometer to stand at the cooling temperature of 38°, made it necessary that I should take a rest, and while doing so, I determined to dispatch men into the upper glens in search of the long wished for ibex.

On arriving at my tent I made immediate inquiries for sportsmen, or shikarrees, and heard to my dismay that the only man in the place who knew how to handle a gun, had gone “away to the mountain's brow," to sow phuppra seed for the autumn crop. Seeing my disappointment at this unexpected piece of bad news, a little dirty, halfclad urchin offered to start off to the shikarree and tell him that a “Sahib” had arrived, which news would of itself be sufficient to bring him down. I asked how far he had to go, and when he would be back? to which he replied, “ It is eight miles going and coming, but

« السابقةمتابعة »