HotFreeBooks.com
In the Forbidden Land
by Arnold Henry Savage Landor
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

We then hurried down the steep declivity on the Tibetan side, to get away quickly from the bitterly cold, windy pass. Describing a wide arc of a circle, and then making straight down across several long snow-beds, we at last reached the river level and pitched our tents on snow at an altitude of 16,900 feet. There was no wood, no yak or pony dung, no lichens, no moss, and therefore nothing with which we could make a fire. It seemed hard upon my men that, after such a toilsome day, they should be compelled to go to sleep without having had a good meal. They believe—and they are right—that eating cold food at such high elevations, with such low temperature, leads to certain death. They preferred, therefore, to remain without food altogether. Night came, and with it the wind blowing in gusts, and piling the grit and snow around our tents. During the nocturnal hours, with the hurricane raging, we had to turn out of our flapping canvases several times to make the loose pegs firmer. Fastening all the frozen ropes was very cold work. At 2 A.M. the thermometer was down to 12 deg.. At 9 A.M. in the sun, it went up to 26 deg., and inside the tent at the same hour we had a temperature as high as 32 deg.—freezing-point.



CHAPTER XXVI

Mysterious footprints—Brigand or spy?—Passes and tracks—Intense cold—No fuel—A high flat plateau—Fuel at last!—Two spies in disguise—What they took us for.

IN a hurricane of grit and drenching rain we packed up our traps as best we could and again started on our way. I was slightly in advance when, to my surprise, I noticed, some two hundred yards only from camp, a double line of recent footmarks on the snow. Those coming towards us were somewhat indistinct and nearly covered with grit, those going in the opposite direction seemed quite recent. After carefully examining these footprints, I felt pretty certain that they had been made by a Tibetan. Where the footprints stopped, marks in the snow showed that the man had at different points laid himself flat on the ground. No doubt we had been spied upon and watched. My own men had shown many signs of terror ever since we had crossed to this side of the Himahlyas, and were now all anxiously stooping low over these prints and speculating on their origin. Their excitement and fear were strange to watch. Some surmised that the man must be a Daku, a brigand, and that in the evening we should be attacked by the whole band; others maintained that the spy could only be a Sepoy sent by the Gyanema officers to watch our movements. In any case, this incident was held to be an evil omen, and during our march in a N.W. direction along the bank of the river we continually saw the trail. The wildest speculations and imaginations were rife. To the left of us we passed the valleys leading south to the Neway Pass; then a second to the Kats, 230 deg. (b.m.). The bearings were taken from the mouth of the river descending from it, a tributary of the Darma Yangti.



Six miles from our last camp, at bearings 340 deg., was the Luway Pass.

We were travelling on flat or slightly undulating barren ground. We waded across another cold river with water up to our waists, and my men became so exhausted that one mile farther we had to halt at 16,650 feet.

The cold was intense, and again we had no fuel of any kind. A furious wind was blowing, with snow falling heavily in the evening. My carriers, half starved, ate a little satoo, a kind of oatmeal, but Chanden Sing, a Rajiput, could not, without breaking his caste, eat his food without undressing. It was two days since he had had his last meal, but rather than infringe the rules of his religion, or take off his clothes in such frigid regions, he preferred to curl up in his blanket and go to sleep fasting.

The doctor left the warmth and comfort of blankets to go and talk with the men, and get their views about weather prospects and the chances of our route. I preferred the comfort of such warmth as I could get in our tent, where the temperature was 28 deg. Fahr., or four degrees below freezing. The snow was lying a foot deep, and it was still falling heavily. The carriers were all attempting to sleep, huddled as close as possible to each other for warmth; they refused to move, saying they would rather die, and we found it convenient to believe them, and get what warmth and sleep we could under blankets in the tent.

Two or three hours later the weather cleared. The coolies, half starved, came to complain that they were again unable to find fuel to cook their food, and that they would leave me. The position of affairs was critical. I immediately took my telescope and clambered to the top of a small hillock. It was curious to note what unbounded faith the coolies had in this glass. It was evident that they believed in a childlike fashion that I could see through mountains with it. I came down with the reassuring news that one day's march further would bring us to a fine supply of fuel.

They cheerfully hastened to pack up the loads, and set forth with unusual energy in the direction I had pointed out. We followed a parallel line to the high flat plateau on the other side of the stream, the slopes of which, in relation to the plain we were standing on, were at an obtuse angle of about 115 deg.. The snow-covered plateau extended from S.W. to N.E. Beyond it to the N. could be seen some high snowy peaks, in all probability the lofty summits S.E. of Gartok. At the point where the Luway joins the other three rivers there is a direct way to the summit of the tableland, along which it continues across the Himahlyas by the Luway Pass. To our right we were flanked by high rugged mountains, with an occasional precipitous torrent. Six hours' brisk marching took us to a sheltered nook, where a few lichens and shrubs were growing. If we had suddenly descended into the Black Forest of Germany, or the Yosemite Valley, with their gigantic century old trees, our delight could not have been greater. As it was, the highest of these shrubs stood no higher than six or seven inches from the ground, while the diameter of the largest piece of wood we collected was smaller than that of an ordinary pencil. With feverish activity all hands went to work to root up these plants for fuel.

When night came, the same number of hands were busy cooking and transferring with alarming celerity such steaming food as was available from the different fires to the mouths of the famished coolies. Happiness reigned in camp, and all recent hardships were forgotten.

A fresh surprise was awaiting us when we rose. Two Tibetans disguised as beggars had come to our camp. They professed to be suffering from cold and starvation. I gave orders that they should be properly fed and kindly treated. On being cross-examined they confessed that they were spies sent by the officer at Gyanema to ascertain whether a sahib had crossed the frontier, and whether we had seen anything of him.

We had so many things to attend to in the morning, and it was so cold, that washing had really become a nuisance, and I for my part gave it up, at least pro tem. We were sunburnt, and we wore turbans and snow-glasses, so the Tibetans departed under the impression that our party consisted of a Hindoo doctor, his brother, and a caravan of servants (none of whom had seen a sahib coming), and that we were now on a pilgrimage to the sacred Mansarowar Lake and Kelas Mount.

Before the men we treated this as a great joke, but, all the same, Wilson and I anxiously consulted as to our immediate plans. Should we make a rapid march during the night over the mountain range to our right, and strike east by the jungle, or should we face the Gyanema leader and his soldiers?

We decided to meet them rather than go out of our way, and I gave orders to raise camp immediately.



CHAPTER XXVII

Lama Chokden—A Tibetan guard—The sacred Kelas—Reverence of my men for the Sacred Mountain—Trying hard to keep friends with the gods—Obos—Water flowing to us.

WE altered our course from N. to N.E., rising to 16,600 feet, and leaving the high tableland to the west. We arrived at Lama Chokden (or Chorten), a pass protected by a Tibetan guard, who quickly turned out, matchlocks in hand, as we approached. They seemed a miserable lot, and not only offered no resistance, but actually begged for money and food. They complained of ill-treatment by their superiors, stating that they received no pay, and even food was only occasionally sent to them at this outpost. Their tunics were in rags; each man carried a sword stuck in front through the girdle. Here, too, we had more inquiries about the young sahib, as messengers on horseback had been sent post-haste from Taklakot to warn the Gyanema officer not to let him penetrate into Hundes[15] by the Lumpiya Pass, should he attempt it. Their description of my supposed appearance was very amusing, and when they said that if the sahib came they would have to cut his head off, I felt so touched by their good-natured confidence that I wanted to distribute a few rupees among them.

"Do not give them anything, sir," said Kachi and the doctor. "These fellows are hand and glove with the bands of dacoits; the latter will soon be told that we have money, and we shall run great risk of being attacked at night."

I insisted on giving them a present.

"No, sir," cried Kachi, distressed; "do not do it, or it will bring us no end of trouble and misfortune. If you give them four annas, that will be ample."



Accordingly the officer in command had this large sum deposited in the outstretched palm of his hand, and to show his satisfaction, he pulled out his tongue to its full length, waving both his hands at me for some minutes, and bowing clumsily at the same time. His fur cap had been previously removed and thrown on the ground. This was indeed a grand salaam, a ceremonious acknowledgment of a gift of something less than fourpence!

While the doctor remained in conversation with him, I happened to witness a very beautiful sight. To the north the clouds had dispersed, and the snow-capped sacred Kelas Mount stood majestic before us. In appearance not unlike the graceful roof of a temple, Kelas towers over the long white-capped range, contrasting in beautiful blending of tints with the warm sienna colour of the lower elevations. Kelas is some two thousand feet higher than the other peaks of the Gangir chain, with strongly defined ledges and terraces marking its stratifications, and covered with horizontal layers of snow standing out in brilliant colour against the dark ice-worn rock. The Tibetans, the Nepalese, the Shokas, the Humlis, Jumlis and Hindoos, all have a strong veneration for this mountain, which is believed by them to be the abode of all the good gods, especially of the god Siva. In fact, the ledge round its base is said by the Hindoos to be the mark of the ropes used by the devil (Rakas) to pull down the throne of Siva.

My men, with heads uncovered, their faces turned towards the sacred peak, were muttering prayers. With joined hands, which they slowly raised as high as the forehead, they prayed fervently, and then went down on their knees, with heads bent low to the ground. My brigand follower, who was standing close by me, hurriedly whispered that I should join in this act of prayer.

"You must keep friends with the gods," said the bandit; "misfortune will attend you if you do not salaam to Kelas; that is the home of a good god!" and he pointed to the peak with the most devout air of conviction.

To please him I saluted the mountain with the utmost deference, and, taking my cue from the others, placed a white stone on one of the hundreds of Chokdens or Obos (stone pillars) erected by devotees at this spot. These Obos, or rough pyramids of stones, are found on the tracks traversing all high passes, near lakes, in fact, everywhere, but rarely in such quantities as at Lama Chokden. The hill in front, and at the back of the guard-house, was literally covered with these structures. Each passer-by deposits a stone on one of them—a white stone if possible—and this is supposed to bring him good fortune, or if he has a wish he desires accomplished, such a contribution will enhance the chances of its fulfilment.

The guard-house itself was of rough stone, mean and desolate, and in any country but Tibet would not be considered fit accommodation for pigs.

After going a mile or so farther, as the sun was fast disappearing, we searched for a suitable spot to pitch our tents. There was no sign of any water, only the stony bed of a dried rivulet. We were discussing the situation, when a faint sound as of rushing water struck our ears. It grew louder and louder, and then we saw coming towards us a stream of limpid molten snow, gradually advancing over the bed of stones. Evidently the snow of the mountains had taken all day to melt, and the water was only now reaching this spot. My dacoit was in a great state of excitement.

"Water flowing to you, sahib!" he exclaimed, with his arms outstretched. "You will have great luck! Look! Look! You want water for your camp, and a stream comes to you! Heaven blesses you. You must dip your fingers into the water as soon as it comes up to you, and throw some drops over your shoulders. Then will fortune attend you on your journey."

I readily fell in with this Tibetan superstition, and we all dipped our fingers, and sprinkled the water behind our backs. Wilson, however, who took the matter quite seriously, said it was all nonsense, and would not give in to such "childish fancy."

Good fortune would have meant much to me, but in the days to come this simple rite proved to have been futile!

[15] Hundes = Tibet.



CHAPTER XXVIII

An extensive valley—Kiang, or wild horse—Their strange ways—The Gyanema fort—Apprehension at our appearance—A parley—"Cut off our heads!"—Revolt and murder contemplated—Hypocritical ways of Tibetan officials—Help summoned from everywhere—Preparing for war.

IN front of our camp was a great stretch of flat alluvial land, which had been, to all appearance, at some remote time the bed of a large lake about ten miles long and fourteen wide. With my telescope I could see plainly to 40 deg. (b.m.), at the foot of a small hill, the camping-ground of Karko. There were many tents, and my men seemed much reassured when by their shape and colour we made them out to be those of the Joharis from Milam, who come over at this place to trade with the Hunyas[16]. To E.N.E. we had a valley extending for many miles between two high ranges, and to the W. and N.W. were hills between us and the Darma Yangti, flowing there in a N.N.E. direction. Beyond Karko to the North, a stretch of water, the Gyanema Lake, showed brilliantly, and beyond it some comparatively low hill ranges. In the distance, more snowy peaks were visible.

On leaving camp we traversed the plain for six miles in a N.E. direction, and then, on a course of 80 deg. (b.m.), turned into a smaller valley well enclosed by hills, following it for a distance of three or four miles. This formed, as it were, an arm of the other large valley.

During our march we saw many large herds of Kiang (wild horse). These animals came quite close to us. They resembled zebras in shape and movement of body, but in colour they were mostly light brown. The natives regarded their near proximity as extremely dangerous; for their apparent tameness is often deceptive, enabling them to draw quite close to the unwary traveller, and then with a sudden dash seize him by the stomach, inflicting a horrible wound with their powerful jaws. Their graceful and coquettish ways were most taking; we occasionally threw stones at them to keep them at a safe distance, but after cantering prettily away, they would follow us again and come within a few yards. I succeeded in taking some very good negatives, which unfortunately were afterwards destroyed by the Tibetan authorities. I still have, however, some of the sketches I made of them. We climbed over another hill range, and descended on the other side into a grassy stretch of flat land, in the Northern portion of which was a sheet of water. On a hill South of the lake stood the Gyanema Khar or fort, a primitive tower-like structure of stones, with a tent pitched over it to answer the purpose of roof, supporting a flagstaff, on which flew two dirty white rags. They were not the colours of Hundes, but only wind prayers. Lower down, at the foot of the hill, were two or three large black tents and a small shed of stones. Hundreds of black, white, and brown yaks were grazing on the green patches of grass.

The appearance of our party evidently created some apprehension, for we had hardly shown ourselves on the summit of the col when from the fort a gong began to sound loudly, filling the air with its unmelodious metallic notes. A shot was fired. Soldiers with their matchlocks were seen running here and there. They pulled down one of the black tents and hastily conveyed it inside the fort, the greater part of the garrison also seeking shelter within the walls with the empressement almost of a stampede. When, after some little time, they convinced themselves that we had no evil intentions, some of the Tibetan officers, followed by their men, came trembling to meet us. The doctor, unarmed, went ahead to talk with them, whereas my bearer and I remained with the coolies for the double purpose of protecting our baggage in case of a treacherous attack, and of preventing my panic-stricken carriers from abandoning their loads and escaping. But matters looked peaceful enough. Rugs were spread on the grass, and eventually we all sat down. An hour's trying parley with the Tibetan officers, during which time the same things were repeated over and over again, led to nothing. They said they could on no account allow any one from India, whether native or sahib, to proceed, and we must go back. We on our side stated that we were doing no harm. We were pilgrims to the sacred Lake of Mansarowar, only a few miles farther. We had gone to much expense and trouble. How could we now turn back when so near our goal? We would not go back, and trusted they would allow us to proceed.

We treated them courteously and kindly, and probably mistaking this for fear they promptly took advantage of it, especially the Magbun[17] or chief officer in charge of the Gyanema fort. His marked humility, of which at first he had made so much display, suddenly turned into arrogance. "You will have to cut off my head," said he with a vicious countenance, "or rather I will cut off yours before I let you go another step."

"Cut off my head?" cried I, jumping on my feet and shoving a cartridge into my rifle.

"Cut off my head?" repeated my bearer, pointing with his Martini-Henry at the official.

"Cut off our heads?" queried angrily the Brahmin and the two Christian servants of Dr. Wilson, handling a Winchester and a couple of Gourkha kukris (large knives).

"No, no, no, no! Salaam, salaam, salaam!" poured forth the Magbun with the celerity of speech only possessed by a panic-stricken man. "Salaam, salaam," repeated he again, bowing down to the ground, tongue out, and depositing his hat at our feet in a disgustingly servile manner. "Let us talk like friends!"

The Magbun's men, no braver than their master, shifted their positions in a nonchalant manner so as to be screened by their superiors in case of our firing, and on second thoughts, judging even such a precaution to ensure them but scanty safety, they one after the other got up, walked steadily away for half-a-dozen steps, to show it was not fear that made them leave, and then took to their heels.

The Magbun and the other officers who remained became more and more meek. We spoke and argued in a friendly manner for two long hours, but with no appreciable results. The Magbun could not decide of his own accord. He would consult with his officers, and he could give us an answer no sooner than the next morning. In the meantime he would provide for our general comfort and ensure our safety, if we would encamp near his tent. This, of course, I well knew to be an expedient to gain time, so as to send for soldiers to Barca, north of the Rakstal Lake, as well as to all the neighbouring camps. I frankly told him my suspicions, but added that I wished to deal fairly with the Tibetan authorities before resorting to force. I reminded the Magbun again, and made him plainly understand, that we were merely peaceful travellers, and had not come to fight; that I was paying tenfold for anything I purchased from him or his men, and was glad to do so; but at the same time, let the hand beware that dared touch or twist a single hair of any one belonging to my party! The Magbun declared that he understood perfectly. He swore friendship, and as friends he begged us to stop over the night near his camp. By the Sun and Kunju Sum (Trinity) he gave a solemn oath that we should in no way be harmed. He took humble leave of us and retired.

The doctor and I had been sitting in front, next were Chanden Sing, the Brahmin, and the two Christians. The carriers were behind. When the Magbun had gone I turned round to look at them. Behold, what a sight! They one and all were crying miserably, each man hiding his face in his hands. Kachi had tears streaming down his cheeks, Dola was sobbing, while the Daku and the other Tibetan in my employ, who had for the occasion assumed a disguise, were concealing themselves behind their loads. Serious though the situation was, I could not help laughing at the demoralisation of my men. We pitched our tents, and I had been sitting a while inside one, registering my observations and writing up my diary, when Kachi crept in, apparently in great distress. He seemed so upset that he could hardly speak.

"Master!" he whispered. "Master! The Tibetans have sent a man to your coolies threatening them that they must betray you or die. They must abandon you during the night, and if you attempt to retain them, they must kill you."

At the same time that this agent had been sent to conspire with my coolies, other envoys of the Magbun brought huge masses of dry dung to make our fires, conveying to me his renewed declarations of friendship. Notwithstanding this, soldiers were despatched in every direction to call for help. I saw them start: one went towards Kardam and Taklakot; a second proceeded in the direction of Barca, and a third galloped to the West.

My carriers were evidently preparing a coup-de-main as I watched them through an opening in the tent. They were busily engaged separating their blankets and clothes from my loads, dividing the provisions among themselves, and throwing aside my goods. I went out to them, patiently made them repack the things, and cautioned them that I would shoot any one who attempted to revolt or desert.

While the doctor and I sat down to a hearty meal, which rumours in camp said would be our last, Chanden Sing was entrusted with the preparations for war on our side. He cleaned the rifles with much care, and got the ammunition ready, for he was longing to fight. The Brahmin, on whose faithfulness we could also rely, remained cool and collected through the whole affair. He was a philosopher, and never worried over anything. He took no active part in preparing for our defence, for he feared not death. God alone could kill him, he argued, and all the matchlocks in the country together could not send a bullet through him unless God wished it. And if it were the God's decree that he should die, what could be the use of rebelling against it? The two converts, like good Christians, were more practical, and lost no time in grinding the huge blades of their kukris to the sharpness of razors.

When darkness came a guard was placed, at a little distance off, all round our camp. It seemed likely that a rush on our tent with the help of my treacherous carriers was contemplated, should an opportunity occur. One of us kept watch outside all through the night, and those inside lay down in their clothes, with loaded rifles by them. I can't say that either Dr. Wilson or I felt particularly uneasy, for the Tibetan soldiers with their clumsy matchlocks, long spears, and jewelled swords and daggers, inspired us more with admiration for their picturesque appearance than with fear.

[16] Hunyas = Tibetans.

[17] Magpun or Magbun = General-in-Chief.



CHAPTER XXIX

Arrival of a high official—The Barca Tarjum—A tedious palaver—The Tarjum's anxiety—Permission to proceed—A traitor—Entreated to retrace our steps—Thirty armed horsemen—A pretty speech.

QUITE early the next morning we were roused by the distant sound of tinkling horse-bells. On looking out of the tent, I saw a long row of pack-ponies heavily laden, escorted by a number of mounted soldiers with matchlocks and spears. It was evident that some high official was coming. This advance detachment consisted of his subalterns and his baggage. They took a long sweep far away from our tent and dismounted by the Gyanema fort. Other soldiers and messengers were constantly arriving in groups from all directions. The leader of one party, with a considerable escort of soldiers, was received with profuse salaams and I concluded that he must be an important personage.

After some time a message was sent to us that this new comer, the Barca Tarjum, practically a potentate equal in rank to a king under a protectorate, wished to have the honour of seeing us. We replied that we were having our breakfast and that we would send for him when we wished to speak to him. Our experience had taught us that it was advisable to treat Tibetan officials as inferiors, as they were then more subdued, and easier to deal with. At eleven we despatched a messenger to the fort to say we should be pleased to receive the Tarjum. He came immediately with a large following, a picturesque figure dressed in a long coat of green silk of Chinese shape, with large sleeves turned up, showing his arms up to the elbow; he had a cap similar to those worn by Chinese officials, and was shod with heavy long black boots, with large nails under the soles. His long, pale, angular face was remarkable in many ways; it was interestingly stolid, and though somewhat effeminate, had rather fine features; unmistakable signs of depravity indicated his low class of mind and morals. Long hair fell in loose curls down to his shoulders, and hanging from his left ear was an earring of large dimensions, with malachite ornaments and a pendant. In his nervous fingers he held a small roll of Tibetan material, which he used with both hands as a handkerchief to blow his nose inconsequently every time that he was at a loss to answer a question. The Tarjum and his men were profuse in their bows, and there was, as usual, a great display of tongues. These were, I noticed, of an unhealthy whitish colour, caused throughout Tibet by excessive tea-drinking, a practice which ruins the digestion, and furs their tongues. We had rugs placed outside our principal tent, and the doctor and I sat on one, asking the Tarjum to sit on the one facing us. His followers squatted around him. It is a well-known fact that in Tibet, if you are a "somebody," or if you wish people to recognise your importance, you must have an umbrella spread over your head. Fortunately, the ever-provident doctor had two in his possession; which two of our men held over our respective heads. The Tarjum himself was shaded by a parasol of colossal dimensions, held in position by his secretary.

In spite of the extravagant terms of friendship which fell from the Tarjum's lips, I was convinced, by close observation of the man's face, that his words were insincere and that it would be unsafe to trust him. He never looked us straight in the face; his eyes were fixed on the ground all the time, and he spoke in a despicably affected manner. I did not like the man from the very first, and, friend or no friend, I kept my loaded rifle on my lap.



After endless ponderous speeches, clumsy compliments, and tender inquiries after all relations they could possibly think of; after tiring parabolic sentences with fine sounds but no meaning; after repeated blowing of the nose and loud coughing, which always came on opportunely when we asked whether they had yet come to a conclusion as to what we should be allowed to do, at last, when my patience was nearly exhausted, our negotiations of the previous day were reopened. We argued for hours. We asked to be allowed to go on. They were still uncertain whether they would let us or not. To simplify matters, and hasten their decision before other reinforcements arrived, the doctor applied for permission to let only eight of us proceed to Mansarowar. He (the doctor) himself would remain at Gyanema with the remainder of the party as a guarantee of good faith. But even this offer they rejected, not directly, but with hypocritical excuses and delays, for they thought we would not find our way, and that if we did, we should find it very rough, and the climate too severe; that the brigands might attack us, and so on, and so on. All this was very tiresome, and there were signs even of a nasty side to their attitude. I decided to know what I was about.

Still holding the rifle cocked at safety on my lap, I turned the muzzle of it towards the Tarjum, and purposely let my hand slide down to the trigger. He became uncomfortable and his face showed signs of wild terror. His eyes, until now fixed upon the ground, became first unsteady, and then settled fixedly, and with a look of distress, on the muzzle of my rifle. At the same time he tried to dodge the aim right or left by moving his head, but I made the weapon follow all his movements. The Tarjum's servants fully shared their master's fear. Without doubt the poor fellow was in agony; his tone of voice, a moment before boisterous and aggressive, now dwindled into the humblest intonations imaginable. With much meekness he expressed himself ready to please us in every way.

"I see that you are good people," said he in a faint whisper, accompanied by a deep bow. "I cannot give, as I would like to do, my official sanction to your journey forward, but you can go if you wish. I cannot say more. Eight of you can proceed to the sacred Mansarowar Lake. The others will remain here."

Before giving his final decision he said that he would prefer to have another consultation with his officers.

We accorded this readily.

The Tarjum then presented the doctor with a roll of Tibetan cloth.



I had bathed as usual in the morning, and my Turkish towel was spread outside the tent to dry. The Tarjum, who showed great interest in all our things, took a particular fancy to its knotty fabric. He sent for his child to see this wonderful material, and when he arrived the towel was placed on the youth's back as if it were a shawl. I at once offered it to him as a present if he would accept it. There were no bounds to his delight, and our relations, somewhat strained a few minutes earlier, became now of the friendliest character. We invited the party inside our tent, and they examined everything with curiosity, asking endless questions. They were now quite jovial and pleasant, and even occasionally amusing. Tibetans have a craving for alcohol at all times and they soon asked me if I had any to give them; there was nothing they would like more. As I never carry any when travelling, I could not offer them any recognised drink, but not wishing to disappoint them, I produced a bottle of methylated spirits (which I used for my hypsometrical apparatus). This they readily drank, apparently appreciating its throat-burning qualities, and asked for more. The Tarjum complained of an ailment from which he had suffered for some time, and the doctor was able to give him a suitable remedy, and all the other officers received small presents when they departed.

In the afternoon a messenger came from the Barca Tarjum. He had good news for us. The Tarjum wished us to understand that "as we had been so kind to him and his followers, he regarded us as his personal friends; and as we were so anxious to visit the Mansarowar Lake and the great Kelas Mount, and had already experienced many difficulties and great expense in coming so far, he agreed to eight of our party proceeding to the sacred spots. It was impossible for him to give an official consent, but he repeated again that we could go if we wished."

This news naturally delighted me. Once at Kelas, I felt sure I could easily find some means of going farther.

On the same evening, a traitor in our camp sneaked from under the tent in which my men were sleeping, and paid a visit to the Tarjum. There is no doubt that he told him I was not the doctor's brother, nor a Hindoo pilgrim. He disclosed that I was a sahib, and that I was on my way to Lhassa. From what I heard afterwards, it seemed that the Tarjum did not quite believe his informant; but fresh doubts arising in his mind, he sent a message during the night, entreating us to return the way we came.

"If there is really a sahib in your party, whom you have kept concealed from me, and I let you go on, my head will be cut off by the Lhassa people. You are now my friends, and you will not allow this."

"Tell the Tarjum," I replied to the messenger, "that he is my friend, and I will treat him as a friend."

In the morning, we found thirty horsemen fully armed posted some hundred yards from our tent. To proceed with the demoralised crowd under me, and be followed by this company, would certainly prove disastrous and I felt again that some ruse was a necessity.

Much to the astonishment and terror of the armed force and their superiors, the doctor, Chanden Sing and I, rifles in hand, walked firmly towards the contingent of sepoys. After us came the trembling coolies. The Magbun and the Tarjum's officers could hardly believe their eyes. The soldiers quickly dismounted, and laid their arms down to show that they had no intention of fighting. We passed them without any notice. The Magbun ran after me. He begged me to stop one moment. Dola was summoned to interpret his elaborate speech. A pair of prettily embroidered cloth-boots were produced from the loose folds of the official's coat, and he offered them with the following words:

"Though your face is sunburnt and black, and your eyes are sore (they were not, as a matter of fact, but I wore snow-spectacles), your features tell me that you are of a good family, therefore, you must be a high officer in your country. Your noble feelings also show that you would not have us punished for your sake, and now our hearts are glad to see you retrace your steps. Let me offer you these boots, so that your feet may not get sore on the long and difficult journey back to your native land."

It was neatly put, though the mode of reasoning was peculiar. It was not to my interest to disillusionise the Tibetan as to my purpose, so I accepted the boots. The Magbun and his guard salaamed to the ground.

Without further parleying, we left the Magbun, and retracing our steps, proceeded in a W.S.W. direction as though we had decided to turn back, and leave the country.



CHAPTER XXX

Spying our movements—Disguised sepoys—A gloomy look-out—Troublesome followers—Another march back—An amusing incident.

WE reached the summit of the hill and crossed to the other side. My men went on down the slope, but I remained, screened by a large stone, to observe with my telescope the folks at Gyanema. No sooner had my last man disappeared on the other side of the pass, than the cavalrymen jumped into their saddles and, raising clouds of dust, galloped after us. This was what I had expected. I hastened to rejoin my men. When down in the plain, I again took my telescope, and watched the sky-line of the hill we had just descended. Some thirty heads could be seen peeping over the rocks from among the boulders. The soldiers had evidently dismounted, and were spying our movements. I felt annoyed that they did not openly follow us, if they so wished, instead of watching us from a distance, so I sighted my rifle to eight hundred yards, lay down flat, and took aim at a figure I could see more plainly than the others.

The doctor snatched the rifle from my shoulder.

"You must not shoot," said he, with his usual calmness; "you might kill somebody."

"I only wish to teach these cowards a lesson."

"That is all very well. But every man in Tibet is so cowardly that the lesson would have to be constantly repeated," answered Wilson with his perpetual wisdom.

I slung my rifle over my shoulder and made up my mind to start some other time on the cyclopean task I had then so nearly begun.

When we had covered a mile or so of the plain, our phantomlike escort crossed the pass, and came full gallop down the hill. I gave orders to my men to halt, seeing which, the soldiers also came to a dead stop. I watched them through the telescope. They seemed to be holding a discussion. At last five men rode full speed northwards, probably to guard the track in that direction. Three men remained where they were, and the remainder, as if seized by panic, galloped frantically up the hill again, and disappeared over the summit.

We resumed our march. The three horsemen followed a course one mile south of ours, close against the foot of the hills, and lying low upon their ponies' heads, they probably imagined that they were passing us unperceived. Seeing that our bearings were for our old camp at Lama Chokden, they left our line and rode ahead of us.

When in the evening we reached Lama Chokden, two shepherds came to greet us. Then another appeared.

"Our sheep are far away," said they. "We are hungry. We are poor. Can we stop near your camp and pick up the food that you will throw away?"

"Certainly," I replied. "But mind you do not pick up anything else."

These simple folk, thinking I should not know them, had left their ponies at the Lama Chokden guard-house, and, disguised as shepherds, they were now trying to ingratiate themselves with us, with the object of discovering our movements and plans. They were, of course, no other than the three sepoys from Gyanema.

At each step in our retreat towards the Himahlyas my heart became heavier and my spirits more depressed. I was full of stratagems, but to think out plans and to carry them into effect were two different things.

How many times had not my schemes been upset? How often had I not had to begin afresh when all seemed ready and in perfect working order?—that, too, when I had plenty of good material at my disposal to work upon. Now things had changed altogether for the worse. My chances of success, notwithstanding my incessant struggle, were getting smaller and smaller every day. I could not but feel that there must be an end eventually to the capability and endurance of my followers and myself. It is hard enough to start on a difficult task, but when you are well started, and have already overcome many difficulties, to have to come back and begin again is more than galling.

The outlook was dark and gloomy; I stood face to face with apparent failure, and I was uncertain of the loyalty of my own men.

At this camp, for instance, the Daku (brigand), who had changed his disguise several times since coming in contact with the Tibetans, announced his immediate departure. The doctor, with his usual kindness, had already entreated him to remain, but without avail. We well knew that in this region, infested by dacoits, this man was only leaving us to recommence his late marauding habits. He would, in all probability, join some band, and without much doubt we might soon expect a visit during the darkest hours of the night. The Daku knew that I carried a large sum of money, and during the last two days his behaviour had been more than strange. Had he come across some of his mates? or had he heard from the sepoys that they were in the neighbourhood?

The Daku had a bundle of his blankets strapped on his back in readiness for immediate departure. My men, distressed at this new danger, came to report it to me. I immediately sent for him. Speaking bluntly, and keeping his eyes fixed on the ground, he said: "I am going, sahib."

"Where?" I inquired.

"I have friends near here, and I am going to them."

"Very good, go," I replied, calmly taking up my rifle.

His load was off his shoulder in less time than it takes to describe the event. He resumed his work as usual. One or two other riotous coolies were brought back to reason by similar menaces.

I heard later that a band of brigands attacked a party near the frontier only two days after this occurred.

Another march back! How painful it was to me! Yet it was advisable. We went a few miles and encamped on the bank of a rapid stream, the Shirlangdu. From this point, with some difficulty and danger, it would be possible to climb over the mountain range during the night, and attempt to elude the spies and watchmen, by crossing the jungle to Mansarowar. I made up my mind to attempt this. It seemed to add to the risk to have so large a following as my thirty men, so I decided that only four or five should accompany me. Going alone was impracticable, because of the difficulty of carrying sufficient food, or I would have by far preferred it. Nevertheless, if the worst came to the worst, I resolved to attempt this latter mode of travelling, and rely on the chance of obtaining food from Tibetans.

All the loads were made ready. Articles of clothing and comfort, niceties in the way of food, and extras in the way of medicines, were left behind to make room for my scientific instruments.

Each pound in weight more that I dedicated to science meant a pound less food to take us to Lhassa. Everything that was not of absolute necessity had to be left.

Two Tibetan spies came to camp in the afternoon, in the disguise, as usual, of beggars. They asked for food, and exacted it. Their manner was unbearably insulting. This was a little too much for us, and Bijesing the Johari, and Rubso the Christian cook, were the first to enter into an open fight with them! They punched and kicked them, driving them down a steep ravine leading to a river, then, assisted by other men in camp, showered stones upon them. The unfortunate intruders, unable to wade quickly across the rapid stream, received as fine a reception as they deserved.

This little skirmish amused the camp, but many of the Shokas and Hunyas in my service were still scared out of their wits. It was quite sufficient for them to see a Tibetan to crumble into nothing.



CHAPTER XXXI

An attempt that failed—A resolution—A smart Shoka lad—The plucky Chanden Sing proposes to accompany me—Mansing the leper becomes my servant's servant.

THE hour fixed for my flight was 9 P.M. Five men had been induced to follow me by the offer of a handsome reward.

At the hour appointed no single one of them had put in an appearance. I went in search of them. One man had purposely injured his feet and was disabled, another pretended to be dying, the others positively refused to come. They were shivering with fright and cold.

"Kill us, sahib, if you like," they implored of me, "but we will not follow you."

At 3 A.M. all attempts to get even one man to carry a load had proved futile. I had to abandon the idea of starting.

My prospects became more gloomy than ever. Another march back towards the cold and dreary pass by which I had entered Tibet!

"You are depressed, Mr. Landor," remarked the doctor.

I admitted the fact. Every step backwards was to me like a stab in the heart. I had wished to push on at all costs, and it was only in consideration of my good and kind friend, the doctor, that I had reluctantly refrained from making my way by force. My blood was boiling. I felt feverish. The cowardice of my men made them absolutely contemptible, and I could not bear to see them even.

Immersed in my thoughts, I walked quickly on, and the rugged way seemed short and easy. I found a suitable spot for our next camp. Here before me, and on every side, stood high snowy mountains; there, in front, towered that same Lumpiya Pass by which I had crossed into Tibet with such high hopes. I detested the sight of it on the present occasion; its snowy slopes seemed to mock at my failure.

Whether it is that storms invariably come when one is depressed, or whether one gets depressed when storms are coming, I am not here prepared to say, but the fact remains that, before we had time to pitch our tents, the wind, which had been high all through the afternoon, increased tenfold. The clouds above were wild and threatening, and snow soon fell in feathery flakes.

"What are you going to do?" inquired the doctor of me. "I think you had better return to Garbyang, get fresh men, and make another start."

"No, doctor. I will die rather than continue this backward march. There will be a far better chance if I go alone, and I have resolved to start to-night, for I am convinced that I shall find my way over the range."

"No, no, it is impossible, Mr. Landor," cried the doctor, with tears in his eyes. "That must mean death to any one attempting it."

I told him that I was quite determined.

The poor doctor was dumbfounded. He knew that it was useless to try to dissuade me. I went into the tent to rearrange and reduce my baggage, making a load small enough to carry on my back, in addition to the daily kit and instruments.

Whilst I was making preparations for my journey, Kachi Ram entered the tent. He looked frightened and perplexed.

"What are you doing, sir?" inquired he hurriedly. "The doctor says you are going to leave alone to-night, cross the mountain range, and go to Lhassa by yourself."

"Yes, that is true."

"Oh, sir! The perils and dangers are too great, you cannot go."

"I know, but I am going to try."

"Oh, sir! Then I will come with you."

"No, Kachi. You will suffer too much. Go back to your father and mother now that you have the opportunity."

"No, sir; where you go, I will go. Small men never suffer. If they do it does not matter. Only great men's sufferings are worth noticing. If you suffer, I will suffer. I will come."

Kachi's philosophy touched me. I ascertained beyond doubt that he meant what he said, and then decided to take him.

This was a piece of luck. Kachi Ram had five bosom friends among the young Shoka coolies. They were all friends of the Rambang, and in the evenings in camp they often used to join and sing weird songs in honour of the fair maids of their hearts, whom they had left on the other side of the Himahlyas.

Kachi hurried away in a state of feverish excitement. He was back in a few minutes.

"How many coolies will you take, sir?"

"None will come."

"Oh, I will get them. Will five do?"

"Yes," I murmured incredulously.

My scepticism sustained a shock when Kachi returned, buoyant, saying in his peculiar English:

"Five Shokas come, sir. Then you, sir, I, sir, five coolies, sir, start night-time, what clock?"

"By Jove, Kachi," I could not help exclaiming, "you are a smart lad."

"'Smart,' sir?" inquired he sharply, hearing a new word. He was most anxious to learn English, and he had a mania for spelling. "'Smart!' What is meaning? How spell?"

"S-m-a-r-t. It means 'quick, intelligent.'"

"Smart," he repeated solemnly, as he wrote the newly-acquired word in a book which I had given him for the purpose. Kachi was undoubtedly, in spite of some small faults, a great character. He was a most intelligent, sharp, well-meaning fellow. His never failing good humour, and his earnest desire to learn and to be useful, were quite refreshing.

My luck seemed to have turned indeed. A few minutes later my bearer, quite unaware that any one would accompany me, entered the tent, and exclaimed in a disgusted manner:

"Shoka crab, sahib! Hunya log bura crab. Hazur hum, do admi jaldi Lhasa giao." ("The Shokas are bad. The Hunyas are very bad. Your honour and I, we two alone, will go quickly by ourselves to Lhassa.")

Here was another plucky and useful man anxious to come. He professed to have no fear of death. He was the type of man I wanted. How true the poor fellow's protestations were I learned at a later date!

Chanden Sing was a man of strong sporting proclivities. His happiness was complete when he could fire his rifle at something, though he was never known to hit the mark. He had been severely reprimanded and punished by me only a few days before for wasting several cartridges on kiang (wild horse) three miles distant. Ordinary work, however, such as doing his own cooking, or keeping my things tidy, was distasteful to him, and was invariably passed on to others.

Mansing the leper, being unfortunately of the same caste as Chanden Sing, became my servant's servant. The two Hindoos constantly quarrelled and fought, but at heart they were the best of friends. The bearer, by means of promises, mingled at intervals with blows, eventually succeeded in inducing his protege to join in our new plan, and face with us the unknown dangers ahead.



CHAPTER XXXII

"Devil's Camp"—A fierce snowstorm—Abandoning our tents—Dangers and perils in prospect—Collecting the men—One load too many!—Another man wanted and found—A propitious night—Good-bye to Wilson—The escape—Brigands.

BY eight o'clock in the evening I had collected all the men who had promised to follow me. They comprised my bearer, Kachi and six coolies.



We named this camp "Devil's Camp," for diabolical indeed was the wind that shook our tents, not to speak of the snow blown into our shelters by the raging storm. During the night the wind grew in fury. Neither wood, dung, nor lichen for fuel was to be found. Our tents were pitched at 16,900 feet above sea-level, and to ascend to the summit of the range would mean a further climb of two thousand feet. In such weather the difficulties of the ascent were increased tenfold, though for evading the vigilance of the Tibetan watchmen, who spied upon our movements, we could have no better chance than a dirty night like this. I arranged with the doctor that he was to take back to Garbyang all the baggage I had discarded and the men who had declined to follow me. He must display all our tents until late in the afternoon of the next day, so as to let the Tibetans suppose that we were all under them, and give me time to make a long forced march before they could get on our track. Hard as it would be for us going forward, we would take no tent except the small tente d'abri, weighing about four pounds. We should anyhow be unable to pitch one for several days, for fear of being detected by the Tibetans, who would be soon seen abroad in search of us. We should have to march long distances at night, keeping mostly on the summit of the range, instead of proceeding, like other travellers, along the valleys, and we must get what little sleep we could during the day, when we could hide in some secluded spot. The thought of seeing a fire had to be abandoned for an indefinite period, because, even in the remote contingency of our finding fuel at the great altitudes where we should have to camp, every one knows that a fire and a column of smoke can be seen at a very great distance, both by day and night. We pondered and discussed all these matters before we made a start, and, moreover, we were fully aware that, if the Tibetans could once lay their hands upon us, our numbers were too small to offer a stout resistance, and we might well give ourselves up for lost. In fact, taking things all round, I rather doubted whether the lives of my few followers and my own were worth more than a song from the moment of our leaving "Devils' Camp."

With this full knowledge of what we were undertaking, we may have been foolish in starting at all, but lack of determination cannot in fairness be credited as one of our faults.

The thoughtful doctor had brought with him from our last camp a few lichens, with which he was now attempting to light a fire, to cook me some chapatis before leaving. Alas! four hours' hard work, and an equal number of boxes of matches, failed to produce the semblance of a flame.

At midnight I sent Chanden Sing and Kachi to collect the men. Two came trembling into the tent; the others could not be roused. I went myself and took them, one by one, to their loads. They were all crying like children. It was then that I discovered that in the haste and confusion I had made one load too many. Here was a dilemma! Everything was ready and propitious for our flight, and a delay at this juncture was fatal. At any cost, I must have another man.

The moans and groans in the coolies' tent, when I went in search of one, were pitiful. You would have thought that they were all going to die within a few minutes, and that they were now in their last agonies, all because of the terror of being picked out to follow me.

At last, after endless trouble, threats and promises, Bijesing the Johari was persuaded to come. But the load was too heavy for him; he would only carry half. To save trouble, I agreed I would carry the other half myself in addition to my own load.

We put out our hurricane lantern, and at 2 A.M., when the gale was raging at its height, driving the grit and snow like spikes into our faces; when the wind and cold seemed to penetrate with biting force to the marrow of our bones, when, as it seemed, all the gods were giving vent to their anger by putting every obstacle in our way, a handful of silent men, half frozen and staggering, left the camp to face the blizzard. I ordered my men to keep close together, and we made immediately for the mountain side, taking care to avoid the places where we supposed the Tibetan spies were posted.

We could not have selected a more suitable night for our escape. It was so dark that we could only see a few inches in front of our noses. The doctor, silent and with a swelling heart, accompanied me for a couple of hundred yards. I urged him to return to the tent. He stopped to grasp my hand, and in a broken voice the good man bade me farewell and God-speed.

"The dangers of your journey," whispered Wilson, "are so great and so numerous that God alone can guide you through. When I think of the cold, hunger and hardships you will have to endure, I can but tremble for you."

"Good-bye, doctor," said I, deeply moved.

"Good-bye," he repeated, "good——" and his voice failed him.

Two or three steps and the darkness separated us, but his touching words of farewell rang and echoed in my ears, as with sadness I remembered the loyalty and cheerful kindness of this good friend. The journey towards Lhassa had recommenced in grim earnest. In a short while our ears, fingers, and toes were almost frozen, and the fast driving snow beat mercilessly against our faces, making our eyes ache. We proceeded like so many blind people, speechless and exhausted, rising slowly higher on the mountain range, and feeling our way with our feet. As we reached greater altitudes it grew still colder, and the wind became more piercing. Every few minutes we were compelled to halt and sit close together in order to keep warm and get breath, as the air was so rarefied that we could barely proceed under our heavy loads.

We heard a whistle, and sounds like distant voices. My men collected round me, whispered, "Dakus, dakus!" ("Brigands, brigands!"), and then threw themselves flat on the snow. I loaded my rifle and went ahead, but it was vain to hope to pierce the obscurity. I listened. Yet another shrill whistle!

My Shokas were terrified. The sound seemed to come from straight in front of us. We slightly altered our course, winning our way upward slowly and steadily, until we found at sunrise we were near the mountain top. It was still snowing hard. One final effort brought us to the plateau on the summit.

Here we felt comparatively safe. Thoroughly exhausted, we deposited our burdens on the snow, and laid ourselves down in a row close to one another to keep ourselves warm, piling on the top of us all the blankets available.



CHAPTER XXXIII

S.E. wind—Hungry and half frozen—Lakes at 18,960 feet above sea-level—Cold food at high altitudes—Buried in snow—Mansing's sufferings—Fuel at last.

AT 1 P.M. we woke up, drenched to the skin, the sun having thawed the thick coating of snow over us. This camp was at 18,000 feet. The wind from the S.E. cut like a knife, and we suffered from it, not only on this occasion, but every day during the whole time we were in Tibet. It begins to blow with great fierceness and regularity at one o'clock in the afternoon, and it is only at about eight in the evening that it sometimes abates and gradually ceases. Frequently, however, the wind, instead of dropping at this time, increases in violence, blowing with terrible vehemence during the whole night. As we were making ready to start again, with limbs cramped and stiff, the sky once more became suddenly covered with heavy grey clouds, and fresh snow fell. There was no possibility of making a fire, so we started hungry and half-frozen, following a course of 70 deg. (b.m.). We waded up to our waists through a freezingly cold stream, and climbing steadily higher and higher for six miles, we at last reached another and loftier plateau to the N.E. of the one where we had camped in the morning. The altitude was 18,960 feet, and we were surprised to find four lakes of considerable size close to one another on this high tableland. The sun, breaking for a moment through the clouds, shone on the snow-covered tops of the surrounding mountains, silvering the water of the lakes, and making a beautiful and spectacular picture, wild and fascinating in effect.

Hunger and exhaustion prevented full appreciation of the scene; nothing could stand in the way of quickly finding a suitable place to rest our weak and jaded bodies, under the shelter of the higher hills round the plateau, or in some depression in the ground. I was anxious to push across the plateau, and descend on the N.E. side to some lower altitude where we should more probably find fuel, but my men, half-starved and fagged, could go no farther. Their wet loads were considerably heavier than usual, they panted terribly owing to the great altitude, and no sooner had we come to a partially sheltered spot between the larger lake and its most eastern neighbouring sheet of water, than they all collapsed and were unable to proceed. I was much concerned about them, as they refused to take any cold food, saying it would cause their death. I was really at a loss to see how they could recover sufficient strength for the next day's marching. Eventually, by personally pledging them that they would not die, I persuaded them to eat a little sato and ghur. Unfortunately, no sooner had they eaten some of it mixed with cold water, than nearly all were seized with violent pains in their stomachs, from which they suffered for the greater part of the night.

There is no doubt that experience had taught them that eating cold food at great altitudes is more dangerous than eating no food at all, and I regretted my ill-timed, if kindly meant advice. One is apt to judge other people by oneself, and personally I never felt any difference, whether my food was cold or hot.



Soon after sunset the cold was intense. It was still snowing hard, and our wet garments and blankets were now freezing. I lighted a small spirit lamp, round which we all sat close together, and covered over with our frozen wraps. I even attempted to cook on the flame some concentrated broth, but, owing to the high altitude, the water was a long time losing its chill, apart from boiling, and when it was just getting tepid the flame went out, and I could afford no more spirits of wine to light it again: so the cooking had to be abandoned, and as the night grew colder and colder, we huddled together under our respective blankets in a vain attempt to sleep. We had made a protecting wall with our baggage, and my men covered their heads and everything with their blankets; but I never could adopt their style of sleeping, as it seemed to suffocate me. I always slept with my head uncovered, for not only was it more comfortable, but I wished to be on the alert should we at any time be surprised by Tibetans. My men moaned, groaned, and chattered their teeth convulsively during the night. I woke many times with a bad pain in my ears from frostbite; my eyes, too, suffered as the eyelashes became covered with icicles. Every time I tried to open them there was an uncomfortable feeling as if the eyelashes were being torn off, for the slit of the eye became fast frozen directly the lids were closed.

At last the morning came! The night had seemed endless. When I tried to raise the blanket in order to sit up, it seemed of an extraordinary weight and stiffness. No wonder! It was frozen hard, and as rigid as cardboard, covered over with a foot of snow. The thermometer during the night had gone down to 24 deg.. I called my men. They were hard to wake, and they, too, were buried in snow.

"Uta, uta, uta!" ("Get up, get up, get up!") I called, shaking one by one, and brushing off as much snow as I could.

"Baroff bahut!" ("There is much snow!") remarked one as he put his nose outside his blanket, and rubbed his eyes, smarting from the white glare around us. "Salaam, sahib," added he, as, having overcome his first surprise, he perceived me, and he waved his hand gracefully up to his forehead.

The others behaved in a similar manner. Kachi was, as usual, the last one to wake.

"O, Kachi," I shouted, "get up!"

"O, bahiyoh!" ("O, father!") yawned he, stretching his arms. Half asleep, half awake, he looked round as if in a trance, muttering incoherent words.

"Good morning, sir. Oh, much snow. Oh look, sir, two kiangs there! What is 'kiang' in English?"

"Wild horse."

"'Wild' you spell w-i-l-d?"

"Yes."

Here the note-book was produced from under his pillow, and the word registered in it.

Odd creatures these Shokas! The average European, half-starved and frozen, would hardly give much thought to exact spelling.

Poor Mansing the leper suffered terribly. He groaned through the whole night. I had given him one of my wrappers, but his circulation seemed suspended. His face was grey and cadaverous, with deep lines drawn by suffering, and his feet were so frozen that for some time he could not stand.

Again the Shokas would eat nothing, for snow was still falling. We started towards the N.E. After a mile of flat we began a steep descent over unpleasant loose debris and sharp rocks. The progress was rapid, but very painful. Scouring the country below with my telescope, I perceived shrubs and lichens far down in the valley to the N.E. and also a tent and some sheep. This was unfortunate, for we had to alter our course in order not to be seen. We again climbed up to the top of the plateau and rounded unperceived the mountain summit, striking a more Easterly route. Towards sunset we began our descent from the latter point, and we crossed the river with no great difficulty. Having selected a nicely sheltered depression in the ground, we pitched my little tente d'abri there, by the side of a pond of melted snow. With natural eagerness, we all set out collecting lichens and shrubs for our fires, and each man carried into camp several loads of the drier fuel. In a moment there were three big fires blazing, and not only were we able to cook a specially abundant dinner and drown our past troubles in a bucketful of boiling tea, but we also managed to dry our clothes and blankets. The relief of this warmth was wonderful, and in our comparative happiness we forgot the hardships and sufferings we had so far encountered. With the exception of a handful of sato, this was the first solid meal we had had for forty-eight hours. In those two days we had travelled twenty miles, each of us carrying a weight averaging considerably over sixty pounds.

We were at 16,500 feet, which seemed quite a low elevation after our colder and loftier camping-grounds. The reaction was quite pleasant, and for myself I contemplated our future plans and possibilities with better hope. The outlook had changed from our deepest depression to a condition of comparative cheerfulness and content.



CHAPTER XXXIV

Dacoits—No nonsense allowed—A much-frequented region—A plateau—The Gyanema-Taklakot track—A dangerous spot—Soldiers waiting for us—Burying our baggage—Out of provisions—A fall into the Gakkon River—A bright idea—Nettles our only diet.

IN front of us, to the N.E., was a high mountain, then farther towards the East, a narrow valley between two hill ranges, while at 238 deg. (b.m.) a river passed through a picturesque gorge in the direction of the Mangshan Mountain.

It was necessary for me to proceed along the valley to the east, as we should thus save ourselves much trouble, time and exertion, though there would be some risk of our meeting Tibetans, especially bands of dacoits, with whom this part of Nari Khorsum[18] is infested. We had, therefore, to proceed cautiously, especially as my Shokas seemed no less timid and afraid of these folks. We had hardly gone half a mile over the undulating country, and I had stopped behind my men to take some observations with my prismatic compass, when my carriers suddenly threw themselves flat on the ground and began to retreat, crawling on hands and knees.

"Dakus, Dakus!" ("Brigands, brigands!") they whispered, as I got near them.

It was too late. We had been seen, and a number of dacoits, armed with matchlocks and swords, came rapidly towards us. It has always been my experience that, in such cases, the worst thing to do is to run away, for nothing encourages a man more than to see that his opponent is afraid of him. I therefore loaded my Mannlicher, and my bearer did likewise with the Martini-Henry. I gave orders to the Shokas to squat down by their respective loads and not stir an inch. We two strolled towards the fast approaching band, now less than a hundred yards distant. I shouted to them to stop, and Chanden Sing signalled that they must go back; but they took no notice of our warnings, and came on all the faster towards us. Undoubtedly they thought that we were only Shoka traders, and looked, from experience, to find an easy prey. Making ready to rush us as soon as they got near enough, they separated with the obvious intention of taking us on all sides.



"Dushu! Dushu!" ("Go back!") I cried angrily at them, raising my rifle to my shoulder and taking a steady aim at the leader. Chanden Sing followed suit with one of the others, and this seemed to have a salutary effect on them, for they immediately made a comical salaam and took to their heels, Chanden Sing and I pursuing them for some distance so as to get them well out of our way. Having occupied a prominent position on a small mound, we discovered that a short way off they had a number of mates and some three thousand sheep, presumably their last loot. We signalled that they must get away from our course, and eventually, driving their booty before them, they scurried off in the direction I indicated. When they were well clear of us, and my Shokas, who thought their last hour had come, had partly recovered from their fright, we proceeded on our journey, entering the narrow valley between the two hill ranges. That we were now in a much-frequented region could be plainly seen from the numerous encamping-grounds alongside the stream. But our success of the morning had raised our spirits, and we stepped out cheerily, keeping to the left bank. A steepish climb brought us to a plateau at an altitude of 16,400 feet, from which we obtained a fine view of the snow range running from East to West from the Mangshan Mountain to the Lippu Pass, and beyond to the N.E. the four lofty peaks of Nimo Nangil, 25,360 feet, 22,200 feet, 22,850 feet, 22,670 feet. The highest peaks were at 84 deg., 92 deg., 117 deg. (b.m.). This plateau sloped gently, and was broken by many deep crevasses, conveying the water-flow down into the Gakkon River.

On the lower portion of this plateau, and then along the course of the river, a track ran from Gyanema to Taklakot via Kardam and Dogmar, and another seldom-frequented track to Mangshan, S.S.W. of this place. The edge of the plateau was 15,800 feet above sea-level, and the river 550 feet lower.

This was for us a very dangerous spot, since, no doubt, by this time the Tibetans must be aware that I had escaped and was well on my way into their country. I knew that soldiers and spies must be guarding all the tracks and searching for us. This thoroughfare, being more frequented than the others, was all the more insecure, and we had to display great caution in order to avoid detection. In Tibet, I may here note, the atmosphere is so clear that moving objects can be plainly seen at exceptionally long distances. I scoured the country with my telescope, but I could see no one, so we went on. However, my men considered it safer to descend into one of the numerous creeks, where we should be less exposed, but we had hardly reached the border of it when we heard noises rising from the valley below.



Crawling on our stomachs, my bearer and I peeped over the edge of the plateau. Some five hundred feet below was a Tibetan encampment, with a number of yaks and ponies grazing. Unnoticed, I watched them for some time. There were several soldiers, most probably posted there on the look-out for me. With my glass I recognised some of the Gyanema men. We deemed it advisable to find a spot where we could hide until night came. Then, making a detour, we descended to the river, 15,250 feet, scrambled across in the dark, and made our way up a narrow gorge between high cliffs until we came to a well-hidden spot, where I called a halt. Followed by my men, I climbed up from rock to rock on the cliff to our left, and found a small natural platform, sheltered by a huge boulder projecting over it. This seemed a safe enough spot for us to stop. We dared not put up a tent, and we took the precaution of burying all our baggage in case of a surprise during the night. Unhampered, we should at any moment be able to hide ourselves away from our pursuers or run before them, and we could always come back afterwards for our things if an opportunity offered itself.

And now, just as everything seemed to be running smoothly, I made a terrible discovery. At this stage of the journey, when it was important for me to move very rapidly, I found that we were out of provisions. This was indeed an unpleasant surprise, for before leaving the larger body of my expedition I had given orders to my men to take food for ten days. The doctor, who had been deputed to see to this, had assured me that the loads contained quite enough to last us over that length of time, and now for some unaccountable reason we had only sufficient food for one meagre meal. Moreover, I discovered that we had only a few grains of salt left.

"What have you done with it?" I inquired angrily, as it immediately flashed across my mind that there had been foul play among my carriers. I had ordered each man to take half seer (1 lb.) of salt.

"Yes, sahib, but we forgot to take it," said the men in a chorus.

After the terrible hardships and fatigue we had gone through, and the anxiety and difficulty of carrying on my surveying, photography, sketching, writing, collecting, &c., under conditions of unusual discomfort and risk, it was, indeed, a hard blow to me to see all my plans thus unexpectedly frustrated, for we were still three or four days' journey from Mansarowar, where I relied on getting fresh supplies. Having come thus far, should I be compelled now to go back or give in, and be captured by the Tibetan soldiers whom I had so successfully evaded? Though not usually much affected by physical pain, I unfortunately suffer greatly under any mental stress. I felt quite ill and depressed, and, to add bodily discomfort to my moral sufferings, came the fact that I had slipped, while jumping in semi-darkness from stone to stone across the Gakkon River, and had fallen flat into about four feet of water. The wind was very high at the time, and the thermometer down to 26 deg., so that, sitting in my wet clothes to discuss our present situation with my men, I suddenly became so cold, shivery and exhausted, that I thought I was about to collapse altogether. My usual good spirits, which had done much towards carrying me so far, seemed extinguished; my strength failed me entirely, and a high fever set in, increasing in violence so fast that, notwithstanding my desperate struggle not to give in, I became almost delirious. With my teeth chattering and my temperature at its highest, I saw all my troubles assume an exaggerated form, and failure seemed inevitable. The more I ransacked my brain the more hopeless seemed our position, until, when I was almost in despair, an expedient suddenly flashed across my mind; an idea more adapted for romance perhaps than real life, yet not, I hoped, impossible to be carried into execution. Four of my men should go disguised, two as traders and two as beggars, into the Takla[19] fort, and purchase food from my enemies. We remaining in camp would, in the meantime, keep well hidden until they returned. I spoke to my followers, and after some easily conceivable reluctance, four Shokas undertook to perform, the daring duty. Discovery would mean to them the loss of their heads, probably preceded by cruel tortures of all kinds; so, though they eventually betrayed me, I cannot help giving them credit for the pluck and fidelity they displayed in the present emergency.

During the night my men were extremely good to me. We did not sleep for fear of being surprised by the Tibetan soldiers, and we passed hour after hour listening to Shoka stories of brigands and Tibetan tortures, terrible enough not only to keep us awake, but to make every hair on our heads stand on end. Early in the morning, when it grew light, we gathered a quantity of nettles, which were to be found in profusion at this camp, and having boiled them in different fashions, we made of them a hearty if not an appetising meal. They did not seem very unpalatable at the time, only it was unfortunate that we had no more salt, for that would have added to the digestibility of our prickly diet. We supplied the deficiency by mixing with them a double quantity of pepper, and it was a relief to know that, while nettles existed near our camp, we should at least not die of starvation.

[18] Nari Khorsum—name of that province.

[19] Takla-khar or Taklak t = Takla fort.



CHAPTER XXXV

All that remained of my men's provisions—The plan to enter the fort—Appearance of yaks—A band of brigands—Erecting fortifications—Changes in the temperature—Soldiers in search of us!

THE food supply for my men was now reduced in all to four pounds of flour, two pounds of rice, and two pounds of sato. This we gave to the four men who were to attempt to enter Taklakot, for their road would be long and fatiguing. For us, there were plenty of nettles to fall back upon.



I carefully instructed the four Shokas how to enter the Tibetan fort one by one in their disguises, and purchase, in small quantities at a time, the provisions we required. When a sufficient amount was obtained to make a load, a man should immediately start towards our camp, and the others were to follow separately for a few marches, when at a given spot, they would all four meet again and return to us. It was exciting work to prepare the different disguises and arrange for everything, and at last, after repeated good-byes and words of encouragement, the four messengers left on their perilous errand. All seemed very quiet round us, so quiet that I unburied my sextant and artificial horizon, and was taking observations for longitude as well as for latitude (by double altitudes, as the angle was too great to be measured at noon), when, to our dismay, a herd consisting of over a hundred yaks appeared on the pass, North of our camp, and slowly advanced towards us. Were we discovered? Were the Tarjum's men coming, preceded by their animals? No time was to be lost; instruments and blankets were quickly cleared away and hidden, and then, crawling up towards the animals, who had stopped on perceiving us, we threw stones at them in order to drive them down the next creek. As luck would have it, we were just in time to do this, for from our hiding-place on the summit of the pass we could see, on the other side, a number of Tibetans following the yaks we had driven away. They passed only a couple of hundred yards below us, evidently quite unconscious of our presence. They were singing, and apparently looking for somebody's tracks, for they often stooped to examine the ground. Later in the afternoon I went to reconnoitre down the Gyanema road, and in the hope of watching, unseen, the Tibetans who passed on their way to and from Taklakot. I saw no soldiers, but a strong band of Jogpas (brigands), driving before them thousands of sheep and yaks, was an interesting sight. They all rode ponies, and seemed to obey their leader very smartly, when in a hoarse voice, and never ceasing to turn his prayer-wheel, he muttered orders. They went briskly along in fine style, women as well as men riding their ponies astride. The men had matchlocks and swords, and each pony carried, besides its rider, bags of food slung behind the saddle. I watched the long procession from behind some rocks, and felt somewhat relieved when the last horsemen, who passed only some twenty yards from me, rode away with the rest of the caravan. I retraced my steps, and judging that this camp was not quite so safe as I had at first supposed, I proceeded, with the aid of my men, to erect a rough entrenchment and wall round our platform, along the rock under which we lived. These bulwarks answered the double purpose of sheltering us from the sight of the Tibetans and of acting as fortifications in case of a night attack. All our things were buried a little way above our camp.

Another long dreary day had elapsed. We had used our last grain of salt; and yet another day on nettles alone; and a third day and a fourth, on the same diet! How sick we got of nettles! The days seemed endless as, lying flat on a peak above our camp, I remained hour after hour scanning with my telescope the long plateau above the Gakkon River in search of our returning messengers. Every time I perceived men in the distance my heart leaped, but on focussing them with my glass they turned out to be Jogpas (bandits), or Dogpas (nomad tribes of smugglers), or travelling Humlis or Jumlis, on their way to Gyanema and Gartok. And how many times did we not listen and then anxiously peep through the fissures in our fortifications when some unusual noise struck our ears! As time went on, and they did not put in an appearance, we began to entertain doubts as to their safety, or would they betray us and never return? Or, as was more likely, had they been caught by the Jong Pen (the master of the fort), and been imprisoned and tortured?

My bearer, who was somewhat of a bon vivant, declined to eat any more food, as he said it was better not to eat at all than to eat the same thing constantly. He swore he could fast for ten days, and he made up for want of food by sleeping.

My fortified abode was comfortable enough during the morning, when the sun shone on it, though often it got so warm that we had to abandon it in the middle of the day, when the thermometer registered as much as 120 deg., 122 deg., and even 124 deg.. From 1 P.M. till 10 at night a bitter wind blew from the S.E., and seemed to get right into our bones; so cold was it that the temperature suddenly dropped down to 60 deg., and even lower, the moment the sun disappeared behind the mountains, and continued to fall as low as 40 deg., 34 deg. and 32 deg.; the minimum during the night. One night we had a terrible gale and a snowstorm. Such was the force of the wind, that our wall was blown down upon us as we slept in its shelter, and the hours we had dedicated to rest had to be spent in repairing the damage done. On the following morning we were gathering nettles for our meal, when we heard the distant tinkling of fast approaching horse-bells. We quickly put out the fires, hid our things, and hastened behind our entrenchment. I seized my rifle; Chanden Sing loaded the Martini. A Shoka, who was too far off to reach our fortified abode in time, screened himself behind some rocks. In the nick of time! Half-a-dozen sepoys with matchlocks, to which were attached red flags, slung over their shoulders, were cantering gaily up the hillside only a few yards in front of us. They were undoubtedly searching for me, judging by the way they looked in every direction, but fortunately they never turned towards the castle walls that concealed us. They were expecting, I presumed, to see a large European tent in one of the valleys, and never even dreamt that we should be where we were. We covered them well with our rifles, but we had no occasion to fire. They rode on, and the sound of their horse-bells grew fainter and fainter as they disappeared behind the pass. To be sure these horsemen could only be soldiers despatched by the Tarjum to guard this track. They were now probably on their way back to him, satisfied that the sahib was not to be found in that part of the country.



CHAPTER XXXVI

"Terror Camp"—Two more messengers leave camp—A tribe of Dogpas—A strange sahib—Our messengers return from Taklakot—The account and adventures of their mission—In great distress—Two fakirs who suffered through me—Five hundred rupees offered for my head—The Shokas want to abandon me—A plot—How it failed.

WE named this spot "Terror Camp," for many and horrible were the experiences that befell us here. Another weary day dragged slowly to its close, and there was still no sign of the messengers' return. Two men volunteered to go into Kardam, a settlement some miles off, and try to obtain food from the Tibetans. One of them had a friend at this place, and he thought he could get from him sufficient provisions to enable us to go on a few days longer.

They started, disguised as pilgrims, a disguise not difficult to assume, for their clothes were falling to pieces owing to the rough marching we had done of late. They were away the whole day, and only returned late at night, having an amusing tale to tell. Meeting a tribe of Dogpas, they had boldly entered their camp, asking to purchase food. Unfortunately the Dogpas had not sufficient for themselves, and could not spare any. Incidentally my men were informed that Lando Plenki—the name the Tibetans had given me—had taken a large army of men into Tibet, and that great excitement prevailed at Taklakot as well as at other places, owing to the fact that the sahib had the extraordinary power of making himself invisible when the Tibetan soldiers were in his vicinity. He had been reported as having been seen in many places in Tibet: soldiers had been despatched in all directions to capture him. His tracks had several times been discovered and followed, and yet he could never be found. Messengers had been hastily sent out from Taklakot to Lhassa (sixteen days' journey), and to Gartok, a great bazaar in West Tibet, asking for soldiers to assist in the capture of this strange invader, who was also said to have the power of walking on the water when crossing the rivers, and of flying over mountains when he chose. When I recalled our struggles and sufferings in climbing over the mountains, and in crossing the streams on our journey, this account of myself given by the Tibetans, and now repeated to me, struck me as almost cruelly ironical. Anyhow, I was pleased that the Tibetans credited me with such supernatural powers, for it could hardly fail to be an advantage in keeping them from getting to too close quarters with us.

Three more days had to be spent in a state of painful uncertainty and anxiety regarding the fate of our messengers to Taklakot. On the night of the 3rd we had retired to our fortress in despair, fearing that they had been captured and probably beheaded. It was 10 P.M., and we were worn out and ready to turn in; our fire down below at the bottom of the creek was slowly dying out, and nature around us was still and silent, when I suddenly heard sounds of approaching steps. We listened, peeping through the fissures in our wall. Were these Tibetans trying to surprise us in our sleep, or could they be our men returning at last?

We closely watched the gorge from which the sounds came, faint sounds of voices and of footsteps. Silent as we were, there were not wanting signs of the nervous excitement of my men. At last four staggering figures crawled cautiously into camp, and we could not even then discern in the dim light whether these were our messengers or not.

"Kuan hai?" ("Who is there?") I shouted.

"Dola!" replied a voice, and instantly we gave them a joyful and hearty greeting. But our happiness was not to last long. The men did not respond. They seemed quite exhausted, and apparently terrified. I asked them to explain the cause of their distress, but, sobbing and embracing my feet, they showed great disinclination to tell me. Grave, indeed, was the news they brought, presaging much trouble in store.

"Your days are numbered, sahib," at last cried Dola. "It is impossible for you to get out of this country alive ... they will kill you, and the Jong Pen of Taklakot says that he must have your head at all costs."

"Do not look so far ahead, Dola," I replied, trying to calm him, "but tell me first how you reached Taklakot."

"Oh, sahib, we followed your plan. We suffered much on the road, as the marches were long and severe, and we had very little food. We walked day and night for two days, keeping away from the track, and hiding whenever we saw any one. When we got near the Tibetan fort, we saw at the foot of the hill a few tents of the Tinker and Chongur Shokas from Nepal. None of the Biassi or Chaudassi Shokas had been allowed to enter Tibet owing to the Jong Pen's anger with them regarding his claims for land revenue. There was a guard day and night at the river, and a sharp look-out was kept to stop and arrest anybody entering the country. Two fakirs, who were on a pilgrimage to the sacred Mansarowar, unaware of the danger, had crossed over the Lippu Pass, and had proceeded down to Taklakot, where they were immediately seized and accused of being you, sahib, in disguise. As the Tibetans were not quite certain as to which of the two was the real sahib, they severely punished both, beating them almost to death. What became of them afterwards we were unable to learn. Anyhow, the Tibetans subsequently found out that you had entered Tibet by another pass, and soldiers have been sent in every direction to look for you.

"No sooner did we appear at Taklakot," sobbed Dola, "than we were pounced upon, knocked about, and arrested. They cross-examined us closely. We professed to be Johari traders, who had run short of food, and had made for Taklakot to buy provisions. They beat us and treated us badly, until your friend Zeniram, the head village man of Chongur (in Nepal), came to our rescue and gave thirty rupees surety for us. We were then allowed to remain in his tent, guarded by Tibetan soldiers. We secretly purchased from him and packed the provisions, and at night Zeniram succeeded in decoying the soldiers that were guarding us into his tent, and gave them choekti to drink until they became intoxicated. One by one we four succeeded in escaping with our loads. For three nights we marched steadily back, concealing ourselves during the day for the sake of safety. Now we have returned to you, sahib."

Dola paused for a minute or two.

"Sahib," he continued, "we were told in Taklakot that over a thousand soldiers are searching for you everywhere, and more are expected from Lhassa and Sigatz,[20] whither the Jong Pen has hastily sent messengers. They fear you, sahib, but they have orders from Lhassa to capture you at all costs. They say that you can make yourself invisible when you like, and exorcisms are made and prayers offered daily, so that in future you may be seen and arrested. Once caught, they will have no pity on you, and you will be beheaded, for the Jong Pen is angry with you owing to the defiant messages you sent him from Garbyang. He has given orders to the soldiers to bring you back dead or alive, and whoever brings your head will receive a reward of 500 rupees."

"I had no idea that my head was so valuable," I could not help exclaiming. "I shall take great care of it in the future."

As a matter of fact 500 rupees in Tibet represents a fortune, and the man possessing it is a very rich man.

But my men were not in a laughing mood and they looked upon the whole affair as very serious.

I gave a handsome backshish to the four men who had brought the provisions, but that did not prevent all the Shokas declaring that the danger was so great that they must leave me there and then. Appeals are useless on such occasions, and so I simply stated that I should shoot any man attempting to leave camp. Having now provisions for ten days, I informed them that we must at once push on.

Sulky and grumbling they left our fortified corner and went below to the creek. They said they preferred sleeping down there. I suspected them, however, and I sat up watching them and listening instead of sleeping. My bearer rolled himself up in his blanket and, as usual, was soon asleep. The Shokas lighted a fire, sat round it, and with their heads close together, held an excited council in semi-whispers. In the heated discussion some spoke louder than they imagined, and the night being particularly still and the place well adapted for carrying sound, I overheard words which put me on the alert, for I soon convinced myself that they were arranging to sell my head ... yes ... and to divide the money.

The men got closer together, and spoke so faintly, that I could hear no more. Then they each in turn placed one hand above the other along a stick, until the end of it was reached; each man then passed it to his neighbour, who went through the same form; a complicated manner of drawing lots, common among the Shokas. Eventually the man selected by fate drew from a load a large Gourkha kukri, and removed its scabbard. A strange, almost fantastic impression remains on my mind of the moment when the men, with their faces lighted by the small flame of the flickering fire, all looked up towards my eyrie. The culminating point of their treachery had come, and their countenances seemed ghastly and distorted, as seen from the fissure in the wall behind which I knelt. They listened to hear if we were asleep. Then all but one rolled themselves in their blankets, completely covering their heads and bodies. The one figure I could now see sat up by the fire for some time, as if absorbed in thought. Every now and then he turned his head up towards my fortress, and listened. At last he got up, and with his feet smothered the fire. It was a lovely night, and as soon as the reddish flame was put out the stars shone again like diamonds in the small patch of deep blue sky visible above my head.

I rested the barrel of my rifle on the wall, my eyes being fixed on the black figure down below. I watched as, stooping low, it crawled step by step the few yards up to my abode, pausing to listen each time that a rolling stone caused a noise. It was now only two or three yards away, and seemed to hesitate. Drawing back, and ready to spring up, I kept my eyes fixed on the top of the wall. I waited some time, but the man was in no hurry, and I grew impatient.

I slowly got up, rifle in hand, and as I raised my head above the wall I found myself face to face with the man on the other side. I lost no time in placing the muzzle of my Mannlicher close to his face, and the perplexed Shoka, dropping his kukri, went down on his knees to implore my pardon. After giving him a good pounding with the butt of my rifle, I sent him about his business. The man lacked the qualities of a murderer, but I felt I had better see that no other disturbance took place during the night. It is true that two men attempted to crawl out of camp and desert, but I discovered this and stopped them in time. At last the sun rose, and the night ended with all its troubles and anxieties.

[20] Sigatz, usually called "Shigatze" by English people.



CHAPTER XXXVII

A Tibetan guard's encampment—Nattoo volunteers to be a guide—Treachery and punishment of the Shokas—All ways forward barred to me—Evading the soldiers by another perilous march at night—Mansing again lost—A marvellous phenomenon—Sufferings of my men—Severe cold.

ON my last scouting journey up the hill above the camp, I had espied, by the aid of my telescope, the encampment of a guard of Tibetans, about three miles north of us, and I informed my followers of this fact.

In the morning, when we again dug up the main part of our baggage and made ready to start, one of the men, the Kutial Nattoo, came forward and professed to be able to guide us directly to the Mansarowar Lake. He seemed very anxious to undertake this task, saying that there would be no chance of detection by the route he knew, and consequently we might march during the daytime.

We started up the creek, led by this man, and I was astonished at the willingness with which the Shokas agreed to proceed. In a little time I felt convinced that he was deliberately taking us to the spot I most wished to avoid. On my remonstrating and stopping further progress in that direction, the Shokas mutinied and, depositing their loads, tried to escape, but my bearer quickly barred their way ahead in the narrow creek and I prevented their escape from the opposite side, so they had to surrender. Painful as it was to me, I had to severely punish them all, and while I took care that no one should bolt, Chanden Sing took special pleasure in knocking them about until they were brought back to their senses. On being closely cross-examined, they openly confessed that they had made a plot to hand me over to the Tibetan guard, in order to escape the horrors of torture by the Tibetans. This last act of treachery, coming after what had happened during the night, and from the very men whom I had just been more than lenient towards, was too much for me, and I used a stick, which Chanden Sing handed me, very freely on their backs and legs, Nattoo the Kutial receiving the largest share of blows, because he was undoubtedly the head of the conspiracy.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse