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ON THE PULNEY HILLS.
[16 APRIL-14 JUNE, 1862.]
[It is a happy society that collects during the summer months at the health-retreat of the mission upon the Pulneys. All care is cast aside, and for a few weeks India heat and enervation are forgotten in the enjoyment of a northern climate. There are not enough houses in the settlement for all the mission at once, so that an arrangement is made by which the families spend the former or latter half of the hot season upon the Hills, alternating with each other. The society which can be had only rarely below is here thoroughly enjoyed, and the coolness of the air permits a kind of life which had been wholly laid aside since leaving America. Beside the mission families, English officers, civil or army, also resort to the health-retreat, so that quite a little colony is maintained. How pleasant this change was will be learned from the animated account which David gives of the ascent and sojourn. His letters will indicate also how a period of cessation from work gave an opportunity for more reflection, which was attended by something of his old self-reproachful moods.]
KODI KÂNAL, PULNEY HILLS, April 18, 1862. “ Praise the Mount; I'm fixed upon it!" has been not irreverently running in my head ever since we crossed the brow of Nebo. Yes, we are actually up on the Hills. Like the brave captain who stood by his ship till he saw all safe out of her, and then put himself into the boat, we have seen everybody else safe off the burning plains, and have now left ourselves. The clouds are sweeping up over the hills, and big birds are sweeping by our window, as we sit in our cottage. I am too full of business and feeling to write coherently, I fear, but this incorrigible mail-day is hard by, and I must not let one mail pass without writing.
But what a spot this is ! Night before last we could hardly breathe, it was so stifling and hot ; last night I could with difficulty breathe, the air was so rare.
We have left our spacious mansion below, sweltering under a temperature of 100°, and to-day sit in our snuggery, with a fire in the air-tight stove. Night before last the thinnest sheet was oppressive ; last night we were comfortable with two thick blankets. . . Mr. Hunt and I went out this morning to watch for Mr. Yorke. We missed him, but planting the Stars and Stripes on the high peak overlooking the plains and my house away below, we amused ourselves with plunging rocks over a big precipice, and seeing them go crashing, tearing down for a mile or more. This afternoon we went into the woods, plucked violets, Solomon's seal, eat raspberries, sat and chatted, cut grass for the horse, and did everything that you at home do in the country, but that dwellers on the plain can't do. I raced after the boys, seized our United States flag, shouted out “ Long may it wave!” when our anti-North English doctor was near, waved it at the English collector, as he came up the hills just from Madura, and did other uncouth things that I am capable of doing up here — not down there. .
But I suppose I must give you for once an orderly account of how we got up to this height of joy. We finished packing on Wednesday; we had crockery to pack, books, of course, mattresses, etc. Then our matting must be rolled up and put out of reach of white ants ; picture-backs daubed with solution of corrosive sublimate, to keep off book-worms; loose articles put away. All the packages had to be weighed. Fifty pounds is a Coolie load; if a box weighs over that the contents must be reduced. All was done by nine o'clock, and we lay down on the mattress after setting the invaluable 6 ticker” at two o'clock. I had a restless nap, dreaming of Coolies and boxes and hills until
rattle, rattle!” went the ticker, and we were on our feet in a jiffy. I went out and roused the Coolie master, and sent for Savarimuttu. Dressing for the trip was a queer thing. There were we sweltering, thermometer at 90°, and I proceeded to wrap up my poor body in home fall-clothing. Boots that had slept eight months were hauled out and pulled on, and a cloth coat must come out of its hiding-place. Then the ayah must put on more clothing than ever she had before. Manuel, the catechist, was on hand to help us off. The Coolies, about a dozen, and mostly women, were ready, and, lifting the loads on to each others' heads, took up their march. Three pack-horses jogged off, each with a double load. Then our bullock-bandy was brought out and bullocks attached. Baby was waked up, and evidently was amazed at the stir. Then leaving our last orders and the keys with Manuel, the ayah, baby, H., and I tumbled into the bandy, Miss Julia staring with all her eyes. The Coolies led the march, then followed the bandy, the sweeper-woman's little boy running after with a big bottle in his hand, then the sweeper, and Savarimuttu leading his dog.
It is a good four miles to the tope (grove) at the base of the hills. It was three o'clock, and the moon was shining brightly, just past the full. The road was familiar, but the drive delightful. We passed lots of donkeys loaded with produce, bound for the hills, and reached the tope about half-past four. There the dhooly was awaiting us. This is a hill contriyance, you must know. It is a small palanquin, very small, with a cloth covering arched over the box. H. and baby were soon stowed in, and my tats were in readiness. A tat is a native pony, about as large as a big Shetland, very hardy, used mainly as a pack-horse. To go up the hills we hire two for fifty cents. The saddle was a native one, a cushion-like thing, and for bridle I had a rope tied round his neck. Armed with my cowhide, I mounted and sent the dhooly on ahead. All the rest must walk. H. had four bearers, who started off on a grunt. I made effort to keep up on my beast, but did not learn the ways at first. I found the only way to spur up was to get near enough to the other horse that always kept in front, to slash him. He would run and mine would follow. Just as we started, the east was catching its first tint of red and the birds were beginning their songs. A few rods on, as we entered the gorge, the unwonted sound of running water greeted us. The dim moonlight cast a sombreness over all that was very pleasing. The hills on each side rose rapidly, and in front a great mountain closed the ravine.
As day broke, the outlines of the hills grew more distinct, and we began to see flowers on the trees and
shrubs on every side.
side. By seven o'clock we had reached the first stopping-place, about a third of the way up. There was a brook, and we got some tolerably good
The Coolies took their breakfast, and rested about half an hour, and all sorts of people, Coolies, donkeys, horses gathered about, stopping, too, to get a peep at baby. Just beyond we met our cows and pony that had been sent on the day previous. The horsekeeper had an exciting story to tell about a tiger that had scared pony so that he broke loose. The fact was, that the man had felt rather reluctant to spend the night on the road, as a tiger had killed some cows only a day or two ago. They saw one, and were of course frightened, but so was his highness. There is one prowling about here ; an Englishman saw him a week ago. After leaving the half-way place, the road leads right up the face of the mountain that has been facing you. So steep is the hill that the zigzags seem almost parallel lines. I walked a good deal to spare pony, which I had now taken, running after flowers for H.; getting out of breath in cutting across, but catching good long whiffs of the delicious air that now and then would steal over us. From the hill-side we could look back on the plains beyond the gorge, from constantly higher positions, and we made free use of interjections.
At last the tiresome zigzag was over, we shot round the shoulder of this hill, and came in full view of the range on which the houses are. Here Mr. Hunt's horse came in sight. He had sent it to relieve mine. Looking up way above, I could see two white-covered umbrellas, and the horse-keeper said these were Mr. Burnell and Mr. Taylor. I pushed ahead, and in quarter of an hour I came up with them in a beautiful