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take the weather with you

The following excerpt has been taken from a work of travel literature. Readers are invited to tell us: a) where is the action taking place? b) who is the author? Blackwell's Bookshops will supply pounds 30 of book-tokens each week to the first correct answer out of the hat. Answers on a postcard to: Literally Lost, "Independent on Sunday", 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Usual competition rules apply. Entries to arrive by this Thursday.

Our guide led us very artfully round to a part of the hill, where it was evident in the winter season, not streams of water, but great rivers came pouring down from the hill in several channels, and those (at least some of them) very broad; they were overgrown on either bank with alder- trees, so close and thick, that we rode under them, as in an arbour. In one of these channels we mounted the hill, as the besiegers approach a fortified town by trenches, and were gotten a great way up, before we were well aware of it.

But, as we mounted, these channels lessened gradually, till at length we had the shelter of the trees no longer; and now we ascended till we began to see some of the high hills, which before we thought very lofty, lying under us, low and humble, as if they were part of the plain below, and yet the main hill seemed still to be but beginning, or, as if were but entering upon it.

As we mounted higher we found the hill steeper than at first, also our horses began to complain, and draw their haunches up heavily, so we went very softly. However, we moved still, and went on, till the height began to look really frightful, for, I must own, I wished myself down again; and now we found use for the young fellows that ran before us; for we began to fear, if our horses should stumble or start, we might roll down the hill together; and we began to talk of alighting, but our guide called out and said, No, not yet, by and by you shall; and with that he bid the young fellows take our horses by the head-stalls of the bridles, and lead them. They did so, and we rode up higher still, till at length our hearts failed us all together, and we resolved to alight.

Nor were we so afraid now as when we first mounted the sides of the hill, and especially we were made ashamed of those fears, when to our amazement, we saw a clergy-man, and another gentleman, and two ladies, all on horseback, come up to the top of the hill, with a guide also as we had, and without alighting at all, and only to satisfy their curiosity, which they did it seems. This indeed made us look upon one another with a smile, to think how we were frighted, at our first coming up the hill. And thus it is in most things in nature; fear magnifies the object, and represents things frightful at first sight, which are presently made easy when they grow familiar.

Literally Lost 34

The action took place in Saigon, Vietnam. The author is Gavin Young. The winner was Andrew Chandler, London.