In the Forbidden Land/Chapter XCVI

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Towards Mansarowar—Mansing's vision—Bathing in Mansarowar.

THE next day, amidst repeated good-byes and professions of friendship on the part of our hosts and jailers, we departed towards Mansarowar, and late in the afternoon reached the Tucker village and Gomba, where we put up at the same serai in which I had slept on my way out. All our bonds were here removed for good, and we enjoyed comparative freedom, though four men walked by my side wherever I went, and an equal number looked after Chanden Sing and Mansing. Naturally we were not allowed to go far from the serai, but we could prowl about in the village. I took this opportunity to have a swim in the Mansarowar Lake, and Chanden Sing and Mansing again paid fresh salaams to the gods and plunged in the sacred water.

The Lamas, who had been so friendly during my former visit, were now extremely sulky and rude; and, after having witnessed our arrival, they all withdrew into the monastery, banging the gate after them. All the villagers, too, hastily retired to their respective houses. The place was deserted with the exception of the soldiers round us.

Poor Mansing, who, worn out and in great pain, was sitting close by me, looking vaguely at the lake, had an extraordinary vision, the result, probably, of fever or exhaustion.

"Oh, sahib," said he, as if in a dream, though he was quite awake; "look, look! Look at the crowd of people walking on the water. There must be more than a thousand men! Oh, how big they are getting!... And there is God ... Seva.... No, they are Tibetans, they are coming to kill us, they are Lamas! Oh, come, sahib, they are so near.... Oh, they are flying...!"

I could see that the poor fellow was under an hallucination. His forehead was burning and he was in a high fever.

"They have all disappeared!" he exclaimed, as I placed my hand on his forehead and he woke from his trance.

He seemed quite stupefied for a few moments; and, on my inquiring of him later whether he had seen the phantom crowd again, he could not remember ever having seen it at all.

The natives came to visit us in the serai during the evening, and we had great fun with them, for the Tibetans are full of humour and have many comical ways. As for ourselves, now that we were only two marches from Taklakot, it was but natural that our spirits were high. Only two more days of captivity, and then a prospect of freedom.

It was still dark when we were roused and ordered to start. The soldiers dragged us out of the serai. We entreated them to let us have another plunge in the sacred Mansarowar, and the three of us were eventually allowed to do so. The water was bitterly cold, and we had nothing to dry ourselves with.

It was about an hour before sunrise when we were placed on our yaks and, surrounded by some thirty soldiers, rode off.