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Things certainly had an unpleasant appearance of coming to that pass, and this reflection enabled me to endure the suffering of the dandiwallahs with some equanimity. Fortunately, till we got near to Súgram, there was no precipice for them to drop me over; and when we at last reached one, and had to pass along the edge of it, I got out and walked as well as I could,
I for I felt convinced that outraged human nature could not have resisted the temptation ; and I also took the precaution of keeping the most valuable-looking man of the party in front of me with my hand resting on his shoulder.
Cİ APTER XIV.
SÚGNAM - SHASO-THE CHOKRA-THE BOY NURDASS-SHASO TO
PÚ—THE WORST PATH IN BUSSAHIR-THE GORGE OF THE SUTLEJ
THERE is a route from Súgnam to Pú, by Lío and Hango, which takes over two 14,000 feet passes, and probably would have been the best for me; but we had had enough of 14,000 feet for the time being, and so I chose another route by Shaso, which was represented as shorter, but hard. It was a very small day's journey from Súgnam (which is a large and wealthy village, inhabited by Tartars) to Shaso, and the road was not particularly bad, though I had to be carried across precipitous slopes where there was scarcely footing for the dandiwallahs. My servants had not recovered the Rúhang Pass, however ; and I was so ill that I also was glad to rest the next day at this strange little village in order to prepare for the formidable day's journey to Pú. Shaso consists of only a few houses and narrow terraced fields on the left bank of the Darbúng Lúng-pa, with gigantic and almost precipitous mountains shading it on either side of the stream. My tent was pitched on a narrow strip of grass amid large willow-trees, apricot-trees, and vines, which promised to bear a plentiful crop of large purple grapes.
It was here I engaged the services of the youth Nurdass, who proved so useful to me on my further journey. A boy, to be generally useful, had been engaged at Kotgarh; and as no one except himself could pronounce his name or anything like it, be was dubbed “the Chokra,” or simply boy. Of all things in the world, he offered himself as a dhobi or washerman, for certainly his washing did not begin at home; and he disappeared mysteriously the morning after his first attempt in that line, and after we had gone only six marches. Some clothes were given him to wash at Nachar; and whether it was the contemplation of these clothes after he had washed them—a process which he prolonged far into the night—or that he found the journey and his work too much for him, or, as some one said, he had seen a creditor to whom he owed five rupees,-at all events, when we started in the morning no Chokra was visible, and the only information about him we could get was that he was udhur gya—“gone there,” our informant pointing up to a wilderness of forest, rock, and snow.
Nurdass was a very different and much superior sort of youth. His father—or at least his surviving father, for, though inhabited by an outlying colony of Hindú Kunaits, polyandry flourishes in Shaso—was a doctor as well as a small proprietor, and his son had received such education as could be got among the mountains. The youth, or boy as he looked though fifteen years old, spoke Hindústhani very well, as also Kunáwari, and yet was never at a loss with any of the Tibetan dialect
we came to. He could go up mountains like a wild cat, was not afraid to mount any horse, and though he had never even seen a wheeled carriage until we got to the plains of India, yet amid the bustle and confusion of the railway stations he was cool and collected as possible, and learned immediately what to do there. He was equally at home in a small boat on a rough day in Bombay harbour; and, after seeing three steamers, compared them as critically with one another as if he had been brought up to the iron trade, though there was nothing of the conceited nil admirari of the Chinaman about him, and he was full of wonder and admiration. It was really a bold thing for a little mountain youth of this kind to commit himself to an indefinitely long journey with people whom, with the exception of Phúleyram, he had never seen before. His motive for doing so was a desire to see the world and a hope of bettering his condition in it, for there was no necessity for him to leave Shaso. There was great lamentation when he left; his mother and sisters caressing him, and weeping over him, and beseeching us to take good care of him. The original idea was that Nurdass should return to the Sutlej valley along with Phúleyram, when that caste-man of his should leave us, whether in Spiti or Kashmir. But in Chinese Tibet Phúleyram pulled the little fellow's ears one night, and, in defence of this, most gratuitously accused him of being tipsy, when, if anybody had been indulging, it was only the múnshi himself. This made me doubtful about sending him back the long way from Kashmir to the Sutlej in company with Phúleyram alone ; and on speaking to him on the subject, I found that he was quite frightened at the prospect, and was not only willing but eager to go with me to Bombay,—both because he wished to see a place of which he had heard so much, and because the season was so far advanced he was afraid he might not be able to reach his own home before spring. So Nurdass came on with me to Bombay, where he excited much interest by his intelligence and open disposition; and I might have taken him on farther with me had he been inclined to go; but he said that, though he was not afraid of the kala pani, or dark water, yet he would rather not go with me then, because he had made a long enough journey from his own country, and seen enough wonders, for the first time. Several distinguished persons on our way down wished to take him into their employment; but one day he came to me crying, with his hand upon his heart, saying, that there was something there which made him ill, and that he would die unless he got back to his own pahar, or mountains. He could not have heard of the heimweh of the Swiss, and I was struck by his reference to the mountains in particular. There was evidently no affectation in the feelings he expressed ; so, knowing his wonderful cleverness as a traveller, but taking various precautions for his safety, which was likely to be endangered by his confidence in mankind, I sent him back from Bombay alone to the Himálaya, and have been glad to hear of his having reached Kotgarh, without any mishap, where, I am sure, the kind-hearted Mr Rebsch would see that he was safely convoyed to his little village high up among the great mountains.