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- Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet - 20/42 -
any hopes of bringing down one of the light-heeled little creatures, for their bounding powers put all correctness of aim at that range out of the question.
The next part of the programme was breakfast, but alas! there were no signs in any direction of the bearer of our supplies, and I now recollected that the rock which had so puzzled us would be quite inaccessible to the coolie and his precious charge, without which he himself was useless. All we could do was to ascend a high peak of mountain, in hopes that the breakfast would ascend another, and that we could then exchange signals of distress and obtain relief. However, after reaching our look-out station, which took us some climbing, we could discern nothing around us bearing the slightest resemblance to a coolie, and our hopes began to descend below zero.
It was now about twelve o'clock, and taking advantage of the produce of the country, I made a light breakfast off two stalks of rhubarb, and tying a handkerchief to the top of my pole as a signal, lay down in the very minute portion of shade procurable under a midday sun, and indulged in the pleasures of imagination, conjured up by absent chicken legs and cold chupatties. After a long wait, I came to the conclusion that the two pieces of rhubarb were entirely insufficient to continue the day's work upon, so I reluctantly gave the order to retreat upon our camp, and turned from thoughts of breakfast to those of dinner. My grass shoes were by this time completely worn out by the pointed rocks and flinty ground we had traversed, and my spare ones were in the society of the cold chicken and the chupatties, so that I was soon walking in nothing but socks. Before long, this portion of my property was also run through, and I was finally obliged to borrow the sportsman's pointed slippers, in which I managed to get along over the ruggedest piece of creation I ever traversed, and reached our camp about three P.M. Tired, hungry, and burnt by the sun, a bathe in the rushing torrent and a visit to the kitchen were soon accomplished, and I then learnt that the coolie, being stopped by the rock, had come back at once, and, having been again immediately packed off by F. to search for us, had not been since heard of.
AUGUST 19. -- Found the Q.M.G. to-day laid up with fever and influenza, and administered some quinine pills to him, besides ordering a steed to carry him on to Ladak to-morrow.
Explored the Lama's habitations and temples, and saw some very curious carvings and paintings on stones, some of them not altogether in the Church order of design.
Some of the ceilings were beautifully decorated, and must have cost a good deal of money in their day, but they were now rapidly falling into decay.
During the day we had a good opportunity of seeing the Lamas go through their private devotions. The operation appeared simple enough. Each as he entered the court and passed along the rows of wheels, by simply stretching out his arm set the whole of them in motion, at the same time repeating "Um mani panee" in a dolorous voice to himself. Coming then to the large wheel with painted characters, he gave it an extra energetic spin, which sufficed to keep it in motion for several minutes, and having thus expended his energies for the time being, he again disappeared as he had come. One of the smaller wheels I found in a state of neglect and dilapidation as to its outer case, and thinking it a good opportunity to discover something as to the meaning of the system in general and of "Um mani panee" in particular, I quietly abstracted the inner contents, in full assurance that it would never be missed; that the wheel itself would go round as merrily as ever, and that, as far as the prayers were concerned, there were still sufficient left behind, considering the reduced state of the monasteries, to satisfy the conscience even of the devoutest of Lamas.
As I passed out, however, a huge black dog, which was chained up in the yard, seemed, by the rabid manner in which he made feints at my legs, to be quite aware of what I had done, and he snapped and howled, and strained and tore at his chain as I went by, just as if he detected the holy bundle sticking out of my pocket, and thoroughly understood my consequent guilty appearance. The principal designs upon the stones here -- some of which, in colour, were in wonderful preservation -- appear to be cross-legged effigies of Buddha, seated in that state of entire abstraction from all passions and desires, which seem to be the end and object of Buddhists' aspirations.
A certain rotundity of form, however, and appearance of COMFORTABLENESS, rather tend to suggest that the pleasures of the table at least have not quite been renounced among the other pomps and vanities of Buddhist life.
AUGUST 20. -- Started for Ladak again, nominally at some desperately early hour of the morning, but in reality at about half-past five, the sun not shining upon our position until late, in consequence of our proximity to the mountains. Mr. Rajoo being still indisposed, and, in his own belief, dying, we mounted him upon a hill horse, where he looked like a fly on a dromedary. Halted for breakfast half way, and had a hot wearisome march afterwards into Ladak, the sun being intensely powerful, and the greater part of the journey over a glaring desert of shifting sand and loose stones. So deep was this in some places, that it was with difficulty we could drag our steps along. The latter part seemed perfectly interminable, and not until four o'clock, burnt, tired, and parched with thirst, did we reach our old halting place. Since our departure, the Thanadar had changed his fancy as to brandy, and now requested a bottle of vinegar. This we promised in the event of his procuring us some tea, our stock being low, and none other procurable without government assistance. By this means we obtained a decorated bundle of pale-looking tea for thirteen rupees, or 1L. 6S. The bundle contained 71/2 lbs., so that the price was heavy enough, considering our proximity to the land of tea.
My shoe-leather being in a doubtful state, I invested in a pair of the sheepskin Chino-Esquimaux ones of local manufacture, but soon found that the old saw of "nothing like leather" was quite a fallacy, when the leather savoured so strongly of mutton as that composing my new boots did. In the morning they were absent, and it was not until after much search that the mutilated remains of one foot was discovered, gnawed and sucked out of all semblance to Blucher, Wellington, or any other known order of shoe or boot, while the other appeared irretrievably to have gone to the dogs. Our lantern here was also carried off by some of the canine race, and left beautifully cleaned, but unbroken, not far from our tent door.
Finding that there was no news of caravans, or probability of their arriving, we determined upon striking our camp, and retiring again towards Cashmere, having attained the furthermost point which the limits of our leave allowed.
A Retreat to the Valley.
AUGUST 21. -- Left Ladak about four P.M. and halted for the night on the confines of the desert-plain at Pitok. On the road I succeeded -- much to my astonishment -- in getting a necklace of bits of amber, and a turquoise, from an old lady, whom I found at her cottage-door weaving goat's-hair cloth. She took two rupees for the family jewels, and, when the bargain was struck, seemed in a desperate fright at what she had done, looking about in every direction to see that no avaricious old Lama was near, nor any of her gossiping acquaintance, who would be likely to tell THE MINISTER of what she had done.
For the first time during our travels, the retainers turned a little rusty to-day. The scarcity of the tobacco supply and dislike to quit the amusements of city life were the chief causes, and the consequence was that the cook, who was sent off at two o'clock to have dinner ready for us on arrival, made his appearance about sunset and gave us dinner at nine P.M. The Q.M.G. and the Sipahee sauntered in afterwards at their leisure, having left the coolies and ourselves to pitch the camp how and where we liked. Smarting under these indignities, and knowing that the Sipahee was the head and front of the offending, I, in a weak moment, committed an assault upon that ferocious warrior. The consequence was that the representative of "The Army," feeling its dignity insulted in the face of the populace, immediately set to work upon the unfortunate natives, and assaulted even the gopa, or kotwal, of the village; and so severely was one of the coolies handled, that I was obliged to interfere in the cause of peace, and not without difficulty succeeded in stopping the stone I had thus so unwittingly set rolling.
This same Sipahee rejoiced in the name of Dilour Khan, which might be loosely translated the "Invincible One," and such we always called him. He was a fierce-looking soldier beyond measure to look at, and very terrible among the miserable Thibetians, making desperate onslaughts upon the unfortunate boors, to obtain supplies fit, as he said, for the Grandees, the Cherishers of the Poor, the Protection of the World, &c.
The style of head-dress generally worn among the natives facilitated his efforts immensely in these matters; for, throwing aloft his sword, and relinquishing his umbrella, he used to seize suddenly upon a pig-tail, and, handling it after the fashion of a bell-rope, proceed to insist upon the production of impossible mutton and other delicacies in a way that was almost always successful, even under circumstances apparently the most hopeless.
He had a sharp, detonating way, too, of delivering a volley of Thibetian, at the same time curling up his fierce-looking moustaches and whiskers, and gesticulating with both arms, which always had a great effect, the more so that the expletives were generally in Hindostanee, and not being understood, were all the more terrible to the unfortunate pig-tails on that account.
AUGUST 22. -- Left for Egnemo, over our old ground, which, wanting the attraction of novelty, appeared to us rather longer than on first acquaintance. The sun, too, was more powerful than ever and the deep soft sand more trying, so that we were glad enough to get under shelter at our journey's end. Here we found the apricot trees, which were teeming with fruit when we passed, completely stripped and bare, and it was with difficulty we got a few from the houses for preserving purposes.
AUGUST 23. -- Made an early start, and arrived at Suspul after a pleasant march, a cool breeze from the mountains fanning our faces the entire way. Here we pitched upon a cool and shady camping-ground, close to a rushing torrent, where we were soon immersed in ice-cold water. While making a short cut back to breakfast up a precipitous face of concrete stone, I very nearly finished my wanderings in Thibet with an unpleasantly abrupt full stop. I had nearly reached the top, which was higher than I had imagined, when the treacherous lumps of stone to which I was clinging, came away in my hands, and, with a tremendous crash, down I came in a perfect storm of dirt, dust, and stones, very much to the fright and astonishment of F. and the mate, who were quietly finishing their toilet below. A broken bone in such a place as Egnemo would have been a serious misfortune, and it was therefore a matter of considerable satisfaction to find that, although half-stunned and doing but little credit in appearance to
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