In the Forbidden Land/Chapter LXXXII
- A pitiful scene—A struggle to get to Chanden Sing—Brutally treated—A torturing saddle—Across country at a gallop—A spirited pony—Sand deposits and hills—Speculation—More horsemen coming towards us.
JUST then I heard the voice of my servant Chanden Sing calling to me in a weak agonised tone:
"Hazur, Hazur, hum murgiaega!" ("Sir, sir, I am dying!") and, turning my head in the direction from which these painful sounds came, I perceived my faithful bearer with his hands bound behind his back, dragging himself on his stomach towards the door of one of the other rooms of the mud-house. His poor face was hardly recognisable, it bore the traces of such awful suffering.
I could stand no more. Pushing my guards aside with my shoulders, I endeavoured to get to the poor wretch, and had nearly reached him when the soldiers who stood by sprang upon me, grappling me, and lifting me bodily off my feet. They threw me on the back of a pony.
Though I now feared the worst, I tried to encourage my brave servant by shouting to him that I was being taken to Taklakot, and that he would be brought after me the following day. He had exhausted his last atom of strength in creeping to the door. He was roughly seized, and brutally hurled back into the room of the mud-house, so that we could not exchange a word more. Mansing, the coolie, was placed, with his arms pinioned, on a bare-backed pony. The saddle of the pony I had been thrown upon is worthy of description. It was in reality the wooden frame of a very high-backed saddle, from the back of which some five or six sharp iron spikes stuck out horizontally. As I sat on this implement of torture, the spikes caught me in the small of my back.
My guard having been augmented by twenty or thirty mounted men with muskets and swords, we set off at a furious pace. A horseman riding in front of me led my pony by means of a cord, as my hands were manacled behind my back; and thus we travelled across country for miles.
But for those awful spikes in the saddle, the ride would not have been so very bad, for the pony I rode was a fine spirited animal, and the country around was curious and interesting. We proceeded along an apparently endless succession of yellow sandhills, some of them as high as two or three hundred feet, others not more than twenty or thirty. The sand seemed to have been deposited more by wind than by water, though it is also possible that the whole basin, not very high above the level of the huge stream, may at some time have been altogether under water. The whole space between the mountain-range to the North of the Brahmaputra and the river itself was covered with these sand mounds, except in certain places where the soil was extremely marshy, and where our ponies sank in deep soft mud. We splashed across several rivulets and skirted a number of ponds. From the summit of a hill to which they led me, I could see that the hills were of much greater circumference and height near the river edge, becoming smaller and smaller as they approached the mountain-range to the North. Moreover, they increased in number and size the farther we went in an easterly direction.
The circumstances under which I was now travelling did not permit me to ascertain the quality of the sand, or make any accurate investigations as to where the sand came from, but a glance at the country all round made me feel sure that the sand had been conveyed there from the South. This one could plainly see from depressions and wavelike undulations, showing that it had travelled (roughly) in a northerly direction; and although, having been unable to ascertain this for a fact, I do not wish to be too certain with regard to the movements and sources of these sand deposits, I was pretty firmly convinced that the sand had been deposited there by the wind, which had carried it over the Himahlyan chain from the plains of India.
My guard scoured the country from the high point of vantage to which we had ascended. Away in the distance to the East, we saw a large number of horsemen raising clouds of dust; and, riding down the hill, the ponies sinking in the soft sand, we set off in the direction of the new comers, the surface at the bottom of the hill being more compact and harder.