In the Forbidden Land/Chapter LXXVII
- My note-books and maps—What the Lamas wanted me to say—My refusal—Anger and threats—Ando, the traitor—Chanden Sing's heroism—A scene of cruelty—Rain.
THE two Lamas, leaving Chanden Sing, produced my note-books and maps, and proceeded to interrogate me closely, saying that, if I spoke the truth, I should be spared, otherwise I should be flogged and then beheaded.
I answered that I would speak the truth, whether they punished me or not.
One of the Lamas, a great big brute, who was dressed up in a gaudy red silk coat, with gold embroidery at the collar, and who had taken part in the flogging of Chanden Sing, told me I must say "that my servant had shown me the road across Tibet, and that he had done the maps and sketches." If I would say this, they were willing to release me and have me conveyed back to the frontier, promising to do me no further harm. They would cut my servant's head off, that was all, but no personal injury should be inflicted on me.
I explained clearly to the Lamas that I alone was responsible for the maps and sketches, and for finding my way so far inland. I repeated several times, slowly and distinctly, that my servant was innocent, and that therefore there was no reason to punish him. He had only obeyed my orders in following me to Tibet, and I alone, not my two servants, was to be punished if anybody was punishable.
The Lamas were angry at this, and one of them struck me violently on the head with the butt-end of his riding-crop. I pretended not to notice it, though it made my scalp ache and smart.
"Then we shall beat you and your man until you say what we want," the Lama exclaimed angrily.
"You can beat us if you like," I replied with assurance, "but if you punish us unjustly it will go against yourselves. You can tear our skin off, and you can make us bleed to death, but you cannot make us feel pain."
Ando, the traitor, who spoke Hindustani fluently, acted as interpreter whenever there was a hitch in our Tibetan conversation, and with what I knew of the language, and with this man's help, everything was explained to the Tibetans as clearly as possible. Notwithstanding this, they continued mercilessly to lash my poor servant, who, in his agony, was biting the ground as each blow fell on him and tore away patches of skin and flesh. Chanden Sing behaved heroically. Not a word of complaint, nor a prayer for mercy, came from his lips. He said that he had spoken the truth and had nothing more to say. Watched intently by all the Lamas and soldiers, I sat with affected stoicism before this scene of cruelty, until, angry at my phlegm, order was given to the soldiers that I should be dragged away. Again they led me behind the mud-house, from where I could distinctly hear the angry cries of the Lamas cross-examining Chanden Sing, and those dreadful sounds of the lash still being administered.
It began to rain heavily, and this was a bit of luck for us, for in Tibet, as in China, a shower has a great effect upon the people, and even massacres have been known to be put a stop to until the rain should cease.
Such was the case that day. The moment the first drops fell, the soldiers and Lamas rushed here, there, and everywhere inside the tents, and I was hastily dragged to the most distant tent of the settlement, which became packed with the guards into whose charge I had been given.