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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

Reference code
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper

34.0151366, 71.5249154

Friday 23rd [23 January 1903] Still raining. We drove off and
breakfasted with Captain and Mrs Venour at Barj Hari Singh. It is a
miniature fort 5 miles out (we passed huge Sangars half way and lots
of Afridis and donkeys carrying wood in and out) with loopholed mud
walls and a garrison of a havildar and 50 men. Inside, an ordinary
little Indian bungalow and garden. He told us tales: An Afridi tribe
were the first natives to offer us help in the mutiny. There had been a
little accident, one of our men had been killed by that tribe, but as
soon as they heard of Delhi, they marched down and said "It was a
mistake, we hope you will forget it, and here we are to offer help."
(Old Nabha's father was the first Sikh to come in.) Before we took
over the Pass, the Caravans had to fight their way through or pay the
Afridis bribes. We pay them a yearly subsidy in lieu of this. It used to
pay us amply because we put a small tax on the caravans, but the old
Amir, in want of money, put on such enormous duties that very small
caravans go through now and we are out of pocket. The Afridi chiefs
come in to Jirgah to settle things. They sit one end of a room before a
screen, Capt V. the other and below and behind him a mob of Afridis
talking and presenting petitions while the chiefs do business. He had
a great business arranging for the Duke of C [Connaught]'s visit. 3
months ago very serious fears were entertained, but quite recently an
obstreperous Mullah died and things became easier. It was
arranged that the Khyber Rifles should hold the road (they are Afridis
too) and the independent chiefs guard the approaches to it. "But"
said A "here is B who is my blood enemy and he has heard the
arrangement. He will rise up in the night and lay an ambush for me."
"I will set him at the end of the pass." "No, no!" said B "for C also is
my blood enemy and he will set an ambush for me." "Will you?" said
Capt. V. "Without doubt" said C gravely. Thereupon written
agreements were drawn up "I on my side and he on his side agree to
forego all feuds on the day of the 13th etc" and signed with a thumb
mark. This done, the Duke altered his date! but Capt V. begged the
authorities to keep the Khyber date unchanged and they did. While
the men serve in the Rifles the feuds are suspended; when the
service is over they begin again de plus bel. They are strict Muslims
as regards the fast, but they eat with you and anyone and outside the
town the women are barely veiled. Violets roses nasturtiums and
Cannas in the garden. Russell stories through Mr Grant: When Lord
Curzon came up he asked the Governor whether he had had to make
any special arrangements - "Special arrangements! there are 2000
men lying by the by in gaol. We took up any suspicious person -
fanatics, opium smokers, hashshish eaters. They'll be let out
tomorrow." "Isn't it rather illegal" said the Protector of the Native. A
British regiment was pestered by a sniper. They asked a Khyber
Rifle man to see what he cd do. He returned in a surprisingly short
time with a head. They congratulated him. "Oh yes, I knew his ways.
He was my Father." Capt V said he thought the present Amir must be
a strongish man because he promised an advance to his soldiers on
his accession, and didn't give it! Only a rupee extra to certain old
service men. He told me to look out for Buddhist remains on the
Pass. There are several ruined topes. Lady A. [Arthur] said (through
Mr Grant) that recently the Amir enlisted a body of Afridis (to oppose
our rifles) promising them 25 rupees pay - ours being 10. But when
they got to Kabul they got no pay at all, 600 deserted in one day and 2
were stripped and beaten together with the enlisters. This has tended
to increase the value of our service. Went to the Tahsilda to arrange
tongas for tomorrow. Mud indescribable; we waded through it and
had it up to our necks. After lunch soon out to photograph -
brassworkers beating metal pots and bowls, under a big tree fruit
sellers with split open pomegranates, rope makers, harness makers,
a man embroidering a gold cup, one twisting tinsel into camels
tassels. I asked a man the way, he said: Mujko ma'lum nahi; maii[?]
Kabuli. Lots of them. Tea with the Russells who had just come back
from the Khyber. Rain stopped. The Poshtin man came. Wrote
letters and diary.

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