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CHAPTER X I.
KOTGARH TO CHINI.
THE RAJAL OF BUSSAHIR - DEATH OF A HILLMAN SCENERY OF
THE SUTLEJ VALLEY SENTIENT NATURE OF PLANTS HIMA-
I SHALL say very little about the journey up to Chini, as it is so often undertaken, but may mention two incidents which occurred upon it.
Between Nirth and Rampúr the heat was so intense, close, and suffocating, that I travelled by night, with torches; and stopping to rest a little, about midnight, I was accosted by a native gentleman, who came out of the darkness, seated himself behind me, and said in English, “Who are you?” I had a suspicion who my
friend was, but put
, a similar question to him ; on which he replied, not without a certain dignity, "I am the Rajah of Bussahir.” This Bussahir, which includes Kunawar, and extends
up the Sutlej valley to Chinese Tibet, is the state in which I was travelling. Its products are opium, grain, and woollen manufactures, and it has a population of 90,000, and a nominal revenue of 50,000 rupees; but the sums drawn from it in one way or another, by Government officers, must considerably
exceed that amount. Its rajah was exceedingly affable; and his convivial habits are so well known, and have been so often alluded to, that I hope there is no harm in saying that on this occasion he was not untrue to his character. I found him, however, to be a very agreeable man, and he is extremely well-meaning—so much so, as to be desirous of laying down his sovereignty if only the British Government would be good enough to accept it from him, and give him a pension instead. But there are much worse governed states than Bussahir, notwithstanding the effects on its amiable and intelligent rajah of a partial and ill-adjusted English education, in which undue importance was assigned to the use of brandy. He caused some alarm among my people by insisting on handling my revolver, which was loaded ; but he soon showed that he knew how to use it with extraordinary skill; for, on a lighted candle being put up for him to fire at, about 30 paces off, though he could scarcely stand by this time, yet he managed, somehow or other, to prop himself up against a tree, and snuffed out the candle at the first shot. On the whole, the rajah made a very favourable impression upon me, despite his peculiarity, if such it may be called ; and my nocturnal interview with him, under huge trees, in the middle of a dark wet night, remains a very curious and pleasant recollection.
The other incident was of a more serious character, and illustrated a danger which every year carries off a certain number of the hillmen. Standing below the bungalow at Serahan, I noticed some men, who were ascending to their village, racing against each other on the grassy brow of a precipice that rose
above the road leading to Gaura. One of them unfortunately lost his footing, slipped a little on the edge, and then went over the precipice, striking the road below with a tremendous thud, after an almost clear fall of hundreds of feet, and then rebounding from off the road, and falling about a hundred feet into a ravine below. I had to go round a ravine some way in order to reach him, so that when I did so he was not only dead, but nearly cold. The curious thing is, that there was no external bruise about him. The mouth and nostrils were filled with clotted blood, but otherwise there was no indication even of the cause of his death. The rapidity of his descent through the air must have made him so far insensible as to prevent that contraction of the muscles which is the great cause of bones being broken; and then the tremendous concussion when he struck the road must have knocked every particle of life out of him. This man's brother-his polyandric brother, as it turned out, though polyandry only commences at Serahan, being a Lama and not a Hindú institution, but the two religions are mixed up a little at the point of contact-reached the body about the same time as I did, and threw himself upon it, weeping and lamenting. I wished to try the effect of some very strong ammonia, but the brother objected to this, because, while probably it would have been of no use, it would have defiled the dead, according to his religious ideas. The only other sympathy I could display was the rather coarse one of paying the people of Serahan, who showed no indications of giving assistance, for carrying the corpse up to its village ; but the brother, who understood Hindústhani, preferred to take the money himself, in order to purchase wood for the funeral pyre.
He was a large strong man, whereas the deceased was little and slight, so he wrapped the dead body in his plaid, and slung it over his shoulders. There was something almost comic, as well as exceedingly pathetic, in the way in which he toiled up the mountain with his sad burden, wailing and weeping over it whenever he stopped to rest, and kissing the cold face.
The road up to Chini is almost trodden ground, and so does not call for special description; but it is picturesque in the highest degree, and presents wonderful combinations of beauty and grandeur. It certainly has sublime heights above, and not less extraordinary depths below. Now we catch a glimpse of a snowy peak 20,000 feet high rising close above us, and the next minute we look down into a dark precipitous gorge thousands of feet deep. Then we have, below the snowy peaks, Himalayan hamlets, with their flat roofs, placed on ridges of rock or on green sloping meadows ; enormous deodars, clothed with veils of white flowering clematis; grey streaks of water below, from whence comes the thundering sound of the imprisoned Sutlej -the classic Hesudrus ; almost precipitous slopes of shingle, and ridges of mountain fragments. Above, there are green alps, with splendid trees traced out against the sky; the intense blue of the sky, and the dark overshadowing precipices. Anon the path descends into almost tropical shade at the bottom of the great ravines, with ice-cold water falling round the dark roots of the vegetation, and an almost ice-cold air fanning the great leafy branches. The trees which meet us almost at every step in this upper Sutlej valley are worthy of the sublime scenery by which they are sur
rounded, and are well fitted to remind us, ere we pass into the snowy regions of unsullied truth untouched by organic life, that the struggling and half-developed vegetable world aspires towards heaven, and has not been unworthy of the grand design. Even beneath the deep blue dome, the cloven precipices and the skypointing snowy peaks, the gigantic deodars (which cluster most richly about Nachar) may well strike with awe by their wonderful union of grandeur and perfect beauty. In the dog and the elephant we often see a devotion so touching, and the stirring of an intellect so great and earnest as compared with its cruel narrow bounds, that we are drawn towards them as to something almost surpassing human nature in confiding simplicity and faithful tenderness. No active feeling of this kind can be called forth by the innumerable forms of beauty which rise around us from the vegetable world. They adorn our gardens and clothe our hillsides, giving joy to the simplest maiden, yet directing the winds and rains, and purifying the great expanses of air. So far as humanity, so dependent upon them, is concerned, they are silent; no means of communication exist between us; and silently, unremonstrantly, they answer to our care or indifference for them, by reproducing, in apparently careless abundance, their more beautiful or noxious forms. But we cannot say that they are not sentient, or even conscious, beings. The expanding of flowers to the light, and the contraction of some to the touch, indicate a highly sentient nature ; and in the slow, cruel action of carnivorous plants, there is something approaching to the fierce instincts of the brute world. Wordsworth, than whom no poet more profoundly understood