In the Forbidden Land/Chapter XCIII
- Our lives to be spared—An unpleasant march—Chanden Sing still alive—A sleepless night—Towards the frontier—Long and painful marches—How we slept at night—A map drawn with blood.
THE Pombo ordered that my life should be spared, and that I should on that very day start on my return journey towards the Indian frontier. He took from my own money one hundred and twenty rupees, which he placed in my pocket for my wants during the journey, and commanded that, though I must be kept chained up, I was to be treated kindly, and my servants also.
When all was ready, Mansing and I were led on foot to Toxem, our guard consisting of some fifty horsemen riding on ponies. We had to travel at a great speed despite our severely lacerated feet, our aching bones, and the sores and wounds with which we were covered all over. The soldiers led me tied by the neck like a dog, and dragged me along when, panting, exhausted and suffering, I could not keep up with the ponies. We crossed several cold streams, sinking in water and mud up to our waists.
At Toxem, to my great delight, I beheld Chanden Sing still alive. He had been kept prisoner in the mud-house, where he had remained tied upright to a post for over three days, and for four days he had not eaten food nor drunk anything. He was told that I had been beheaded. He was in a dreadful condition; almost dying from his wounds, cold and starvation.
We were detained there for the night, half-choked by smoke in one of the rooms of the mud-house packed with soldiers, who, with a woman of easy morals, gambled the whole night, and sang and swore and fought, preventing us from sleeping for even a few minutes.
The next day at sunrise Chanden Sing and I were placed on yaks, not on riding saddles, but on pack-saddles such as those shown in the illustration in chapter xl. p. 223. Poor Mansing was made to walk, and was beaten mercilessly when, tired and worn out, he fell or remained behind. They again tied him with a rope by the neck and dragged him along in a most brutal manner. We had a strong guard to prevent our escaping, and they demanded fresh relays of yaks and ponies and food for themselves at all the encampments, so that we travelled very fast. In the first five days we covered one hundred and seventy-eight miles, the two longest marches being respectively forty-two and forty-five miles; but afterwards we did not cover quite such great distances.
We suffered considerably on these long marches, as the soldiers ill-treated us and would not allow us to eat every day for fear we should get too strong. They let us have food only every two or three days, and our exhaustion and the pain caused by riding those wretched yaks in our wounded condition were terrible.
All our property had been taken away from us, and our clothes were in rags and swarming with vermin. We were bare-footed and practically naked. The first few days we generally marched from before sunrise till sometimes an hour or two after sunset; and when we reached camp we were torn off our yaks and our jailers fastened iron cuffs round our ankles, in addition to those we had already round our wrists. Being considered quite safe, we were left to sleep out in the open without a covering of any kind, and often lying on snow or deluged with rain. Our guard generally pitched a tent under which they slept; but even when they did not have one, they usually went to brew their tea some fifty yards or so from us.
Helped by my two servants, who sat by me to keep watch and to screen me, I managed, at considerable risk, to keep a rough record of the journey back, on a small piece of paper that had remained in my pocket when I had been searched by the Tibetans. As I did when on the rack, I used to draw my right hand out of its cuff, and, with a small piece of bone I had picked up as pen, and my blood as ink, I drew brief cipher notes, and a map of the whole route back.
Necessarily, as I had no instruments with which to take careful observations, I had to content myself with taking my bearings by the sun, the position of which I got fairly accurately by constantly watching the shadow projected by my body on the ground. Of course, when it rained or snowed, I was altogether at a loss, and had to reckon my bearings by the observations of the previous day.