Page images

truth, one gets accustomed to that sort of thing. Whatever care be taken, it is impossible to travel for any time among the Himalaya without making the acquaintance of a good many little friends. It is impossible to describe the shuddering disgust with which the discovery of the first is made ; but, by the time you get to the five-hundredth, you cease to care about them, and take it as a matter of course. When our bedding and all our baggage is carried on the backs of coolies, there must be some transference of that class of parasites which haunt the human body and clothes ; but they are easily got rid of entirely when the supply stops.

Though the children were so fair, the men of the house were dark and long-featured, with almost nothing of the Tartar in their countenances; but their language is quite Tibetan, and I should say that we have here a distinct instance of a people who speak the language of an alien race and that alone. It will be curious if my supposition be correct that these Zanskaries are the congeners of the Celtic race, and the subject is well worthy of examination. I was not admitted into the room dedicated to religious purposes, but saw there were Búdhist images, brass basins, and saucer-lights similar to those used both by the Chinese and the Indians. The young Balti who had taken refuge with us from the storm displayed his honesty, though he was going in a different direction from ours; for, on my giving him four annas (sixpence) for quite a number of the apricots of his country which he had presented me with, he said that was too much, and brought me more of his dried fruit, which must have been carried over a difficult journey of weeks. I met several large parties of Baltis in this part of the Himalaya, and was struck by their Jewish appearance. Though Mohammedans, their language is Tibetan, and Nurdass had no difficulty in talking with them. Here is another instance where a people, evidently not of a Tartar race, speak a Tartar language ; and I must again protest

; against the extreme to which the philologists have employed the clue of language. The Hebrews of China have entirely lost their own tongue, and their nationality has been recognised only by two or three customs, and by their possession of copies of the Pentateuchwhich they are unable to read. Such matters are often as well treated by men of general knowledge and large capacity of thought as by the devotees of some particular branch of knowledge.






On the second morning after our arrival at Phe the storm had entirely passed off, and a council of the villagers was held to determine whether or not we could be got over the Pense La or Pense Pass. I should have been delighted to remain in Zanskar all winter, though not in such an apartment as I have described, but was in a manner bound in honour to my servants to proceed if it were possible to do so; and the villagers were anxious to see us off their hands, for it would have been a serious matter for them had we remained all winter. So, with a strong body of bigarrís and a number of ponies and cows, we started at nine in the morning. The open valley presented å most lovely scene. Pure white snow rose up on either side of it nearly from the river to the tops of the high mountains, dazzling in the sunlight. Above, there was a clear, brilliant, blue sky, unspotted by any cloud or fleck of mist, but with great eagles occasionally flitting across it. Close to the river the snow had melted, or was melting from the grass, displaying beautiful autumn flowers which had been uninjured by it; the moisture on these flowers and on the grass was sparkling in the sunlight. Every breath of the pure keen air was exhilarating; and for music we had the gush of snow-rivulets, and the piping of innumerable large marmots, which came out of their holes on the sides of the valley, and whistled to each other. It was more like an Alpine scene in spring than in autumn, and reminded me of Beattie's lines describing the outbreak of a Lapland spring

“ Thus on the chill Lapponian's dreary land,

For many a long month lost in snow profound,
When Sol from Cancer sends the seasons bland,
And in their northern cave the storms are bound,
From silent mountains, straight with startling sound,
Torrents are hurled ; green hills emerge ; and, lo !
The trees with foliage, cliffs with flowers are crowned,
Pure rills through vales of verdure warbling flow."

On reaching the last village, called Abring, it was determined not to stay there, but to camp as high up on the pass as we could reach before nightfall, in order to have the whole of the next day for getting over the deep snow with which its summit is covered. On ascending from the larger valley, we passed through a number of picturesque small vales, and then got on a more open tract, on one side of which, where there were some birch-bushes, we camped at eve.

My tent had to be pitched on snow, and I may say that for the next seven days, or until I reached Dras, I was very little off that substance; and for six nights my tent was either pitched on snow or on ground which had

[ocr errors]

been swept clear of it for the purpose.

At this camp on the Pense La, darkness came on (there being only a crescent moon in the early morning) before our preparations for the night were concluded. My thermometer sank to 22°, and there was something solemn suggested on looking into the darkness and along the great snowy wastes. My bigarrís were very much afraid of bears, saying that the place was haunted by them ; but none appeared.

Starting early next morning, we passed through several miles of thick brushwood, chiefly birch an willow, just before we approached the col of the Pense Pass. A great glacier flowed over it, and for some way our ascent lay up the rocky slopes to the right side of the ice-stream ; but that was tedious work, and when we got up a certain distance, and the snow was thick enough to support us, we moved on to the glacier itself, and so made the remainder of the ascent. The fall of snow here had been tremendous. I probed in vain with my seven-feet long alpenstock to strike the ice beneath ; but every now and then a crevasse, too large to be bridged by the snow, showed the nature of the ground we were on. I fancy this was the most dangerous ground I rode over in all the Himálaya, for the snow over a crevasse might have given way beneath a horse and his rider; but several of the Zanskar men were riding and did not dismount, so I was fain to trust to this local knowledge, though I did not put any confidence in it.

Not far from the top of the pass we came upon a beautiful little lake in the glacier, šunk within walls of blue ice, and frozen, but with the snow which had fallen and the upper ice of its surface all melted. For

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »