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LETTER xx            A DIFFICULT PROBLEM                        95

"Had I come up to dig for the hidden treasure of
Tuk-i-Karu ? " the guide asked. " Was I seeking gold ?
Or was I searching for medicine plants to sell in
Feringhistan ?"

The three days here have been rather lively. The in-
formation concerning routes has been singularly contra-
dictory. There is a path which descends over 4000 feet
to the Holiwar valley, through which, for'certain reasons,
it is desirable to pass. Some say it is absolutely impass-
able for laden mules, others that it can be traversed with
precautions, others again that they would not take even
their asses down; that there are shelving rocks, and that

if a mule slipped it would go down to-------. Hadji

with much force urges that we should descend to the plain,
and go by a comparatively safe route to Khuramabad, leave
the heavy baggage there, and get a strong escort of sowars
from the Governor for the country of the Pulawands.
There is much that is plausible in this plan, the Sahib
approves of it, and the Agha, with whom the decision
rests, has taken it into very careful consideration, but I
am thoroughly averse to it, though I say nothing.

Hadji says he cannot risk his mules on the path
down to the Holiwar valley. I could have filled pages
with the difficulties which have been grappled with during
the last few weeks of the journey as to guides, routes,
perils, etc., two or three hours of every day being occu-
pied in the attempt to elicit truth from men who, from
either inherent vagueness and inaccuracy or from a de-
liberate intention to deceive, contradict both themselves
and each other, but on this occasion the difficulties have
been greater than ever; the order of march has been
changed five times, and we have been obliged to remain
here because the Agha has not considered that the in-
formation he has obtained has warranted him in coming
to a decision.