Page images

or how a coffin was to be made for me. About the 10th and 12th of July it looked very like as if the time had come for arrangements of that kind being made; and poor Mrs Pagell was, naturally enough, greatly at a loss what to do in the absence of her husband. Ground is very valuable at Pú, and difficult to be had, being entirely artificial, and terraced up on the mountain-side. For a stranger to occupy any portion of it in perpetuity would have been a serious and expensive matter; and Moravian feeling revolted at the idea of growing vegetables or buckwheat over my grave. Then, as everything should be done decently and in order, the question as to a coffin was very perplexing. Had the practical missionary himself been there, he could at least have supervised the construction of one by the Pú carpenters; but his wife felt quite unequal to that, and was much distressed in consequence. Had I known of this anxiety, I could have put her mind at rest, because it rever occurred to me that, in the circumstances, the responsibility of making arrangements would fall upon any one except myself. Death never appeared to myself so near as the people beside me believed it to be; and my determination was, if it became inevitable, to make arrangements to have my body carried up, without a coffin, high up the mountains above the snow-line. I had fully considered how this could have been insured, and have always had a fancy, nay, something more than a fancy, to be so disposed of, far away from men and their ways. There are wishes of this kind which, I believe,

. have a real relationship to the future, though the connection may be too subtle to be clearly traced. There is a twofold idea in death, by virtue of which man still


attaches himself to the earth while his spirit may look forward to brighter worlds; and for me it was a real consolation to think of myself resting up there among the high peaks

“There, watched by silence and by night,

And folded in the strong embrace
Of the great mountains, with the light

Of the sweet heavens upon my face.” But it had not come to that. By day I watched the sunbeams slanting through the apricot-trees, or looked up longingly to the green slopes and white snows of the “Windy Peak” of Gerard's map. Eve after eve I saw the sunlight receding up the wild precipices and fading on the snowy summits. Night after night the most baleful of the constellations drew its horrid length across a space of open sky between the trees, and its red star, Cor Scorpionis, glared down upon my sickbed like a malignant eye in heaven. And while the crash of falling rocks and the movements of stealthy wild creatures were occasionally heard, night and day there ever rose from beneath the dull thunderous sound of the Sutlej, to remind me, if that were needed, that I was still in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.






Just after I had managed to get the better of my

illness, but was still in danger from it, and confined to my cot, Mr Pagell arrived, having been recalled from a place in Spiti, ten days' journey off, by the letter which his wife forwarded to him. I found the Moravian missionary to be a strong, active, and cheerful man; no great scholar, perhaps, but with a considerable knowledge of English, able to speak Tibetan fluently, acquainted with the Lama religion, well liked by the people of the country, and versed in the arts which were so necessary for a man in his isolated and trying position. He had been established, with Mrs Pagell, at Pú for about ten years; and, before that, had spent some years in the Moravian mission at Kaelang, in Lahaul, where also Tibetan is spoken. The house he had constructed for himself, or, at least, had supervised the construction of, was small, but it was strongly built, the thick beams having been brought


from a distance, and was well fitted to keep out the cold of winter, though not so agreeable as a summer residence. There was a small chapel in his compound, in which service was conducted on Sundays for the benefit of the few Christians, and of any strangers or people of the place who might choose to attend. Christianity has not made much progress at Pú, but this is to be attributed to the entire contentment of the people with their own religion, rather than to any want of zeal or ability on the part of the missionary. Besides himself and his wife, two or three men, with their families, constituted the entire Christian community; and of these one was the hereditary executioner of Kunáwar, the office having been abolished during the lifetime of his father; while of another, a true Tibetan, who acted as a house servant, Mrs Pagell said that he was a schande, or scandal, to the Christian name, from his habits of begging and borrowing money right and left. The good lady's opinion of the people among whom she dwelt, whether Christians or Búdhists, was lower than that of her husband ; and, in particular, she accused them of being very ungrateful. I saw a little to show me that they were so—and even Mr Pagell admitted that; but, as a rule, he was inclined to take their part, to regard them in a kindly manner, and to find excuses for their faults-even for their polyandry--in the circumstances of their life.

A youth, christened Benjamin, who accompanied us for some days on our further journey, seemed the best of the Christians, and I think he was glad to get away for a time in order to escape from the hateful practice which Mrs Pagell compelled him to undergo, of washing his hands and face every morning. In language, dress, religion, and manners, the people are thoroughly Tibetan; and though they are nominally subject to the Rajah of Bussahir, yet their village is so difficult of access that they pay little regard to his commands. Mr Pagell estimated the population at about 600, but I should have thought there were more, and perhaps he meant families. There is so much cultivation at Pú that the place must be tolerably wealthy. During my stay there most of the men were away trading in Chinese Tibet and Ladak, and I could not but admire the wonderful industry of the women. There were some fields before my tent in which they worked literally day and night, in order to lose no time in getting the grain cut, and in preparing the ground for a second crop, one of buckwheat. Besides labouring at this the whole day, they returned to their fields after dinner in the evening, and worked there, with the aid of torches of resinous pine-wood, until one or two in the morning. The enormous flocks of blue pigeons must have caused great loss in the grain harvest. There are vines at Pú, and very good tobacco, but when prepared for smoking it is not properly dried, and remains of a green colour. I found that this tobacco when well sieved, so as to free it from the dust and pieces of stalk, afforded capital smoking material, and I prefer it to Turkish tobacco.

Mr Pagell's society assisted me in recovery, and I was soon able to sit up during the day in front of my tent in an easy-chair, with which he furnished me; and on the 30th of July I was able to visit his house. But I knew that my recovery would go on much more rapidly if I could get up to some of the heights above the Sutlej valley. Though Pú is about 10,000 feet

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »