a thrilling new serial of adventure and intrigue in mysterious Tibet
IT WAS just the right time of year for the South of France, Crete, Cyprus, Aleppo. But carry your eye along that parallel to where I was standing, a week's march north of the Salween River, 17,000 feet above sea level. The Kunlun Range was in sight whenever a buzzsaw wind worried the clouds sufficiently. It was typical Tibetan spring. You couldn’t hear yourself shout. There’s an irritating magnetism in the Tibetan wind at high levels; the méteofological sharks have a different word for it, but calling names doesn’t alter the fact. It’s magnetic.
I .was having hard work to keep my temper with the men, and without excuse for losing it, barring that wind. They were good enough Tibetans. The headman, Bompo Tsering, was particularly good—a flat-faced, stocky, superstitious mountaineer who never spoke without smiling. He had had a dozen chances to betray me to the Tibetan officials. His share of the loot would probably have been a Mauser pistol, some of my money and a third of our supplies. But he was giving me the breaks, on account of my being Tom Grayne’s friend. We got along all right, but he resented my concern for the pack animals. Tibetans are paradoxical in that respect. They protect wild animals, sometimes to the extent of killing people who hunt them; but they are cruel beyond belief to their beasts of burden — stupid about it. My job was to reach Tom Grayne with supplies, and it couldn’t be done with half-dead ponies and yaks.
Tom Grayne happens to be ranking Number One, in Asia, on the Intelligence list. Tom would deny that, and so would the Government, but it’s the fact. Most people think an Intelligence agent’s job is to steal the plans of the General Staffs of foreign armies. But that work is done by mere spies, and most of them would sell out their own crowd to the highest bidder. Such men as Tom Grayne are trouble busters, not trouble makers. His job is to find out what is really happening beneath the surface, beneath the tides of diplomatic verbiage, that might start the Continental armies marching and the big guns belching high explosive. Tibet? Lots of the world’s ruling men don’t even know where it is. Tibet couldn’t cause a world war? Have it your own way. But that was why Tom had been all winter long in a cave on the side of a cliff in a valley of the Kunlun Mountains, where a hot spring freezes before it flows a yard and hermits live like unneighborly ghosts in the comfortless holes in the rock.
If I could keep my temper with the men, and keep the overloaded animals on their feet, there was a chance—not a logical or a reasonable one, because nothing in Tibet is logical or reasonable but a chance to reach Tom Grayne in three more days of forced marching. I knew Tom must be near the hunger line. We had lost two ponies; one fell over a cliff, and the other burst its heart near the summit of a high pass. We had eaten one of the yaks to save its life; wolves killed another—a young bull, a good one, that had been fighting the herd leader and got gored. And of course, we had eaten a lot of the sheep; but we still had ten sheep loaded with ten-pound packages-and plenty of trouble they gave us. The snow was drifting like waves on a wild sea, and sheep can’t tackle that stuff. The underfed and overloaded yaks and ponies couldn’t carry the sheep; so we had to do it ourselves, wherever they couldn’t follow the ponies through the snow.
I don’t think we had made more than two miles by noon that day. Bompo Tsering was for calling a halt; however, there would be less snow on the wind-sw ept ledges, so I had my own way about that for a couple more hours, until Bompo Tsering declared we were surrounded by dugpas. When a Tibetan starts talking about disembodied evil spirits you’ve a job on your hands. I showed him my Mauser pistol. He agreed, as every Tibetan does, that a Mauser is excellent magic. But he said he had never seen a dead dugpa : a Mauser bullet would go straight through a dugpa’s heart without hurting him. Dugpas, he said, could make a lot of trouble for us by making the animals go lame. He said the wise course was to bivouac where we were and say plenty of prayers. He pulled the prayer wheel out of his bokkus and spun it furiously.
I argued, but he stuck to his prayer wheel, smiled and courteously demonstrated that I was a silly foreign devil who didn’t know what he was talking about.
“An-doo-gunni-gun,” he said (my name is Andrew Gunning), “your talking too much. Now your looking. There being too many dugpas. Not going away. Keep on coming.’’
"LJ E WAS right. And they did look like ghosts. The whirl-
-Mng snow was black against the sky, shot through and through with lurid grey where the wind tore gaps that let dim light through. The ghosts approached us from the moaning gloom of that storm, led by a tall one w'ho rode the ghost of a pony. The others staggered behind him. I went out to meet them, but Bompo Tsering spun his prayer wheel and ordered the tent pitched as soon as my back was turned.
It was the most forlorn expedition that I ever encountered. There were nine of them. They all looked like Tibetans, and they all looked famished, including the pony. I waited for them in the lee of a snow-covered rock, where the drift was shallow and I stood only knee-deep. The leader got off his pony. I would have knocked him off if he hadn’t, because it pays in some parts of the world to insist on good manners, especially if you’re outnumbered. The man was dressed like a lama of high rank, but he had none of the take-it-for-granted authority that clings, even in adversity, like an invisible skin to anyone who has really got it. He was trying to impress me. But I got his accent when he asked who I was. So I didn’t tell him; I let him see the butt of my Mauser. He was pretty arrogant about asking for food, but that might have been due to hunger; empty stomachs aren’t always polite. He ordered his eight ragged followers to keep their distance as if they were dirt, and I noticed that they obeyed him—one especially— —without a trace of enthusiasm. I kept an eye on that one man; he looked as ugly as the devil; you could have picked him out of a million as someone either to bet on or keep away from, I wasn’t sure which.
If you cut the ceremonial in Tibet, it means a fight; and I wasn’t looking for a fight. So the leader and I expressed the customary happiness at meeting each other. My men made themselves polite to his men, and found out all about their weapons. We made a lean-to of the spread-out tent in no time. We had saved plenty of yakdung fuel, so pretty soon there was the usual tea, made with rancid butter and salt; and there w'as a yak’s leg. So after I had fed all the animals we sat dowrn under the lean-to and did our duty by gnawing at yak. There was one of my guests who kept the lower part of his face covered, except when he thought I wasn’t looking. He had very intelligent eyes. Twice, I caught him making signals to the man who was dressed like a high lama. And I noticed he seemed nervous about the big old fellow with the weirdly ugly face. It seemed a gxxl idea to check up on my own suspicion.
So presently I opened a can of salmon and set it beside me, watching old Ugly-face. I had a hunch about him. He and another man sat close together as far as they could get from the lantern. So I shifted the lantern. Ugly-face had a long rosary under his coat and kept flicking the beads. 1 thought the man beside him was dying, but there was nothing I could do about that. A Tibetan is like a camel, when he decides to die. he dies. Ugly-face appeared to know the man was dying. The storm was making Uxi much noise for me to hear what he said, but it looked as if he was laying down law and the dying man didn’t dare to answer back.
The fellow who was dressed as a high lama sat beside me, gorged himself, said nothing, and kept glancing at the opened tin of salmon. He didn’t eat like a nobleman, or behave like one in any other way. He seemed much too conscious of the fine texture of the beautiful black robe that he wore under his fur coat. His followers showed him proper respect, but I would have bet my fun in life (and that’s plenty) that he was a phony from hair to heel. That suited me perfectly.
T HAD no lawful business in Tibet. A genuine Tibetan * lama might have made things awkward. He could have turned my own men against me. This man wasn’t genuine. He hadn’t the slightest idea where he was, and he wanted to be told without having to ask. I didn't tell him. Bompo Tsering and my other followers weren’t saying much either. Bompo Tsering seemed mainly occupied in wondering what
I intended to do with the salmon. Old Ugly-face didn’t have to be told what it was for. He only glanced at it once, but he knew. He was that kind of man.
So I made a pretty cautious signal, took the salmon with me and went out to look at the storm. It was a blisterer, growing worse. There was nothing for it but to stay where we were, even at the risk of running short of fodder for the animals. They were already on half rations, and now we had that extra pony to feed. Bompo Tsering noticed my signal and came out. I told him to bring out old Ugly-face. He didn’t like doing it and he put up quite an argument, shouting into my ear against the storm. He said it was very unwise to talk to strangers, who might turn out to be bandits, or perhaps Chinese soldiers, which would be worse. He asked for some salmon. So I missed his jaw carefully with a right hook. He obeyed then, sticking out his tongue at me by way of respect.
Then what I expected happened. Ugly-face showed no surprise whatever; he merely shoved his dying friend into a more comfortable position, tucked his rosary under his coat and got up. As he passed the others the leader who was dressed as a high lama got up, made angry gestures and ordered him back to his place. I couldn’t help laughing, even though it let the wind into my teeth. Ugly-face.
walked past him with the humility of a monarch doing penance with peas in his boots. The leader struck him. Ugly-face took no more notice of him than he did of the wind. He came and stood in front of me and looked right through me. I had a sensation that he could see clear through to my backbone, and that what he saw wasn’t too interesting. He waited for me to speak first, but it seemed to me there was plenty of time. Better to let Tom Grayne do the talking, later. So I simply handed him the can of salmon with as much courtesy as could be managed in a ninety-mile gale. He understood perfectly. The whorls of wrinkles on his leathery face danced with amusement, although his lips didn’t move. He drank the half-frozen liquid out of the can and saved the salmon for later, glancing sideways at the leader and then blinking at me.
I had no doubt he was a Tibetan, although I had never seen one who resembled him. He was big and big-bellied. The shape of his head was something like an owl’s, and he had a nose not unlike an owl’s beak, which is something that you very rarely see in that part of the world. I guessed him at more than sixty years old, but he was strong and healthy looking. He was the only one of that party who didn’t seem to have suffered much from the privation that had weakened the others.
Bompo Tsering and I went to work to make the bivouac more comfortable, and I pulled the covers off two yak-loads to make a separate shelter for the man who was dying, while the phony lama (I felt more than ever sure he was phony) tried to browbeat Ugly-face, who took it in silence, thumbing his rosary. I noticed that the beads were shaped like human skulls. They looked like gold that had been painted black. The black had worn off in places. The phony lama didn’t know I was looking. He produced his own bone rosary and commanded a swap. I got the first glimpse then of what old Ugly-face kept stowed inside him in the way of dynamic anger. He didn’t say much; but he packed quite a personality under that shabby old yakskin overcoat. He made that phony lama cringe by merely looking at him. Then he went back to his dying friend and began eating the salmon, not the way a hungry peasant would have eaten, but reminiscently as if recalling bygone better days.
The phony lama was furious. He faced the storm to pick a quarrel with me about it. He demanded:
“Why did you give that foreign food to my menial, instead of to me?’’
Well, it was my salmon, and I said so. But I suggested that I might give him a drink later on; and then I knew for a positive fact that he was a fraud. He shook his head, but his eyes gave him away. He wanted that drink, he craved it, he intended to get it. So there was a chance that I might get him to talk, without telling him much.
After we had got the bivouac to rights, and had made a windbreak for the animals. I got another line on Ugly-face. Even though we were losing a day, and Tom Grayne was
being kept waiting, the luck was a lot too good to quarrel with. 1 helped Bompo Tsering carry the dying man into the tent we had made from two yak-load covers. We were careful to submit him to no indignities. As Bompo Tsering remarked, a dying man is very near to the spirits of the other world, and who knows what those spirits might do to anyone who is careless? But 1 did get a look at the man’s shirt. It was silk. And I saw the skin of his neck, where the weather hadn’t reached it and the Tibetan dirt hadn’t stuck. He was as clean as old Ugly-face; and he had the same well-bred air of taking privilege for granted. He was too busy dying to pay much attention to me. but he fetched up a smile from somewhere, and he murmured a blessing, moving his right hand. No menial would have dared to do that.
Then what I hoped would happen, did. Old Ugly-face came and crawled under the same shelter with the dying man. For the time being I left them alone. I unpacked a bottle of whisky and rationed it out in teacups. There wasn’t enough for each of them to make even a chicken drunk, but it was a friendly gesture, and it gave the phony lama a grand chance to demonstrate iron virtue. He refused the little cup that I handed to him. He spun his prayer wheel and made a grimace expressing pious horror. But when the others curled up. all close together under three of my blankets, he leaned closer to me and seemed to hesitate. So I encouraged him. I said:
“Your eminence knows best. But is it sinful to take medicine?”
He hadn’t what it takes to fall from grace mannerly. I le was too full of fear for his self-importance. He felt the need
to insult me before letting down his ill-fitting mask of
“You are a mean host,” he retorted. “You have saved an extra cupful for yourself by offering a cup to me when those rhagbyas were looking and I couldn't accept it.”
So I knew he was a heel and a fake too. No one but a heel would have called those men rhagbyas. Rhagbyas are the untouchable outcasts who dispose of the dead. You can generally get a good line on a man by noticing the words that he applies to others. But I let him go on talking, and he thought my silence was a sign of respect. He continued :
“A giver should be generous, or else give nothing. No doubt when those ignorant fellows are asleep you will open another bottle. A little medicine is not much good. There should be plenty.”
So I asked him for a big blessing, which is quite a usual request before obeying a high lama’s command. He gave it grudgingly. I counted nine mistakes in the sonorous phrases that make a genuine high lama’s blessing sound like echoed organ music from beyond the veil that separates the living and the dead. I knew high Tibetan and the ritual better than he did, and I’m no expert. I told him I would look for another bottle, and as soon as he thought my back was turned he grabbed the tot he had refused and swallowed it in one gulp.
So I didn’t have to bother with him; I had his number. I went out and sat in the lee of the makeshift tent where Ugly-face was keeping his dying friend company. For several minutes I couldn’t hear much because of the storm. But it was springtime; the wind changed with a sudden blast like high explosive, and as suddenly died. The snow fell softly in huge flakes that felt warm and comforting. There was a mystic silence, and then I heard the sonorous voice of old Ugly-face. His friend was already dead. He was reciting from the Bardo Thodol:
“Oh nobly bom, that which is called death being come to thee now, resolve thus: ‘O this now is the hour of
death . .
He was instructing the spirit of the dead man how to behave, and what thoughts to cling to, on the plane of existence beyond the veil on which he was now awakening. Old Ugly-face knew the ancient Book of the Dead by heart. Perhaps five or six other men in the world share that accomplishment. I felt as pleased at having spotted a genuine yellow-hat lama as if I had saved a day’s march instead of losing one. Belly and brains and beauty, Uglyface was the real thing. And he was out of luck; which meant luck for me. Tom Grayne would grin one of his slow appreciative grins and accuse me of stealing his luck. It couldn’t have been better.
It would have been stupid to try to find out too much all at once, but a little bit more wouldn’t hurt, if I were careful. So I returned to the phony lama and told him I hadn’t any more whisky. That was true. The other bottle was Tom Grayne’s. He didn’t believe me; and by the way he tried to overawe me I doped him out as a low-grade steward or some such flunky who was masquerading in his master’s make-up. He accused me of being a Russian, told me 1 had no business in Tibet and threatened to make things hot for me unless I made myself useful to him. It was clear enough now that old Ugly-face was a fugitive; he had put a beggar on horseback, by way of a blind, and now the beggar was riding him down, taking a coward’s advantage over his former master and probably meaning to betray him at the first opportunity. Every item of that would be Tom Grayne’s meat.
I lack skill in simulating fear. I can be scared as stiff as anyone, but it isn’t easy to act. It's much easier to pretend you’re not afraid when you are. But I wasn’t dealing with a very intelligent man, so I got away with it that time, and when the phony lama felt sure he had scared me enough, he told me he wanted to reach the Shig-po-ling Monastery, and 1 must help him to do it.
Now I knew all I needed to know. The luck was almost too good to be true. But true it was. The only way to reach that monastery was by the trail along the ledges that led to the caves where Tom Grayne waited for me. I hadn't stumbled on the probable key to the problem that Tom Grayne was working on. The key had stumbled on me. I had nothing whatever to do now but use some ordinary horse sense and avoid being caught by whoever was pursuing these fugitives.
I turned in beside Bompo Tsering. and he and I agreed to stay awake by turns to keep our guests from robbing us in the dark. They might have done that easily because the loads were heaped against the wind, forming a wall of the bivouac. Between watches I slept the sleep of the just, as happy as a prospector on an outcrop of gold.
BY FIVE in the morning the weather had changed. A temporary thaw had set in. The going wasn’t any too good, and it was particularly bad for the loaded sheep. But you’re a fool if you don’t start your march before daybreak in Tibet, because at that altitude the wind gets up at about ten o’clock and it’s w'orse than war fighting against it. First, the dead man had to be disposed of, but that was no great problem. In Tibet, there is no respect for a corpse; it
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is something that the dead man has no further use for. It belongs now to nature. The wild animals may have it, and the sooner the better. The mortal remains of Ugly-face’s dead companion were left sitting upright in a snowdrift, naked. Less than five minutes after the start we heard the wolves.
The three days march was the usual torment, but the luck held. We reached the wind-swept ledges before the thawmade the plain impassable, and it was the thaw that saved us from being overtaken by some cavalry from Lhasa. The phony lama, who hadn’t condescended to tell me his worshipful name, borrowed my binoculars and confirmed my guess they were from Lhasa. They had modern rifles and were well mounted. But they got stuck in the mud that overlay frozen clay. Not long after that, the mud became a lake of roaring water hurrying toward the Salween River. So the cavalry turned back, I suppose to recross the Salween. But it’s quite a river. We never saw them ■ again.
During the march I made a few attempts to get in conversation with Ugly-face, but without much success. He strode along like a mountaineer, in spite of his age and his big belly, and he seemed as unconcerned as a drover. Hardship didn’t bother him. I favored him as much as possible, slipping him fancy rations when the phony lama wasn’t looking; I knew he hadn’t come by his figure on a diet of parched barley and rotten yak. He ate what I gave him without comment. He accepted favors as his natural right and didn’t seem even to notice the phony lama’s insolence. The phony lama tried to bully everybody, me included, principally, I suppose, because I made him walk. I needed that scarecrow pony to lighten the loads of my own emaciated beasts.
Every time I tried to talk to Ugly-face the phony lama turned on both of us and accused old Ugly-face of trying to tempt me to go in some other direction. Old stuff; trusted flunky turning on his master. Phony thought he had Ugly-face down and out. Ugly-face was paying for having trusted the wrong man. But he paid like a good ’un. He never murmured. He had a will of iron. When I walked beside him for nearly an hour toward the end of the second day’s march, he read my thoughts —not at all an unusual feat in that part of the world. The peasants and the lower orders of monks can’t do it; but the genuine mystics can. I was searching memory, wondering who he might be, recalling as well as I could the intricate, almost fantastic details of rumored intrigues in Lhasa. He looked at me suddenly. His fierce eyes and his funny old beak of a nose looked scandalized. He didn’t say much but he spoke English for the first time:
“Curiosity being vice of fools and path to many hells.”
I asked him did he wish to be taken to the Shig-po-ling Monastery? He said he went where wisdom led him. Then he looked at me again suddenly. His eyes twinkled; his leathery old face broke into wrinkles that rippled with humor, and he said two words, making one of them, as they do in Tibet:
He knew ! I had believed I had a surprise in store for Tom and for Ugly-face too. But now it seemed likely that if Ugly-face knew Tom Grayne, as he evidently did, and knew where he was, he must also have known of my march and return with supplies, and what route I would take. How? No use asking, but I was curious to know whether Ugly-face knew my name. I tried a few tricks to get him to address me by name. His eyes twinkled again, and he remarked:
“What men doing presently revealing
what their being. Soon my knowing your being-doing. Name no matter.”
Well, we were getting on terms. One might say, inside terms. High dignitaries of the most involved religion in the world (and I felt positive he was one) don’t waste epigrams on people who don’t interest them.
HOWEVER, getting intimate with Ugly-face was likely to be a long process and there wasn’t time to make more headway. The well-remembered trail along the ledges zigzagged toward the ravine where Tom Grayne waited. On a crag in the distance the Shig-po-iing Monastery glistened suddenly into view like a shiny mud-wasps’ nest. I could see the roof bells through the binoculars. The phony lama’s face became as greedy as a buzzard’s. He wras already counting the reward he would get for betraying Uglyface. A blind man could have guessed that. He took special precautions, telling off two of his men to bully Ugly-face and hustle him and make sure he didn’t slip away among those chaotic rocks. One of them— the fellow I didn’t like, who always kept the lower part of his face covered—tried to search Ugly-face for secreted parched barley that might enable him to live for a few days if he should escape. I clipped that fellow' one and nearly broke my knuckles— came pretty near knocking him off the ledge. It was the first time I had really noticed him—I mean carefully. He took a crack at me, and wre were face to face for I dare say thirty seconds w'hile I learned quite a lot about him; for instance, he could use his fists, as no Tibetan can. He could wrestle, too—knew a bit of jujitsu. He tried to grab my Mauser, and I got his knife. After that he was in such a hurry to get out of my reach that he tried to scramble past the pony w'hose turn it was to carry no load. The pony kicked him and he almost went over the ledge a second time—another notch against me; he would get even for that. His name was supposed to be Rig-dzin. A false name, come to think of it. It didn’t make sense. It dawmed on me all in a hurry that this fellow who called himself Rig-dzin was the hidden joker in the pack. I realized it was he who was the brains behind that phony lama, who hadn’t any brains of his own.
Old Ugly-face glanced at me and pulled a gem of w isdom from his owlish silence: “Anger blinding faculty of perception, all other faculties becoming useless. Better to slay anger, not its object.”
The trail we were on was about the limit that even the yaks could climb unaided. The ponies were having help. In places the ledge was less than three feet wide, with an out-leaning cliff on the right hand. The rock was slippery and as up-and-dowm hill as a devil’s stairway. But it was the last lap; the animals knew it; so w'e got along without accident. The phony lama made the mistake of refusing to work; I made him put his shoulder under a pony’s rump to help it scramble, w'hile I took the worst part of the strain. It was a mistake. I should have known better. Fake dignity can’t endure humiliation. My life wasn’t worth ten cents from that minute, if it should be up to that specimen.
Tom Grayne’s hiding place w'as away up on the face of the cliff, at least a thousand feet above us. It wras utterly impossible to reach that. There were two w'ays to it, and I knew the landmarks; but one way w-ould have made a wild goat hesitate, and the other was a cascade, iced over by the frozen vapor from a hot spring. However, there was a more accessible and much larger cavern iow'er down, where we had cached quite a lot of fodder left over from last year’s expedition. It wasn’t secret, like Tom Grayne’s cave. It was too close to the trail, and too near to a weird com-
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munity of hermits, who are the least talka-
tive but most vigilant spies in the world. It was that lower cavern that I was headed for, and I hoped Tom Gray ne had seen us and would save me the trouble of climbing to his hide-out.
I scrambled to the head of the line, to get first word with Tom in case he should have come down to meet us. And as I led the way around a projecting spur of cliff, there he was, striding toward me.
HE WAS the same old Tom Grayne, except that his beard was more unkempt. He was clean, but a bit ragged from a winter’s hard living. He was wearing the same old windproof hunting suit and laced boots, although I knew he had Tibetan clothing in the cave on the cliff. So I concluded that we were in no danger of being seen. I stood waiting for him at the corner to block the trail behind me and swap the first news without being overheard. The wind was blustering along the ledge and what we said to each other couldn’t have been heard six feet away. “How’s Elsa?” he asked.
“Fine,” I answered. “Prettier than ever. Dreams about you. Better shave or she’ll be having nightmare.”
“You’re a day early,” he said. “How’s the boy?”
“You’re wrong,” I answered. “I'm a day late. The boy takes after you—doesn’t talk. He had six teeth the day I left Darjeeling, and he’d just been vaccinated. He can yell like fury. What did you do —sleep through a couple of days and forget ’em?”
“No. You’re a day early. I heard of your getting hung up at the Salween when the ferry broke away, so I counted out two days. I expected you tomorrow.”
Trust Tom to know what the eagles knew. He held his hand out. I knew he didn’t want to shake mine, we’re too friendly for that. So I fished out Elsa’s letter from my inside pocket. He took it and turned his back to the wind; it blew his hair and I noticed he had a new scar on the back of his head. When he had read the letter he turned to me suddenly and said:
I knew now who old Ugly-face was. I would have whistled if the wind hadn’t cut my lips so that even talking wasn’t easy. Lobsang Pun! His Exalted and Holy Diplomatic Eminence, Lobsang Pun. Ring-ding Ge-long Lama. Member of the Council of Regents! One of the biggest shots in all Asia. Masquerading as the servant of a silly fool who couldn’t say his prayers without making mistakes!
“I had a hunch he’s someone,” I answered.
Tom grinned: “Where’s his companion?” “You mean the fake front? lie thinks he's running the show. He gets what’s coming to him, next break !”
Tom shook his head: “I mean the sick man.”
“Dead. Died happy. Ugly-face gave him the proper obsequies.”
Tom nodded: “We can get along without him—good man, but soft—couldn’t take it. Old Lobsang Pun hasn’t a friend now in the world—barring us. Did he say much?”
“Snubbed me a couple of times.”
“Likes you, does he. So much the worse.” Tom grinned again. “I warn you, he’s tricky. He and I are old enemies.” “Should I have shoved him off the cliff?”
“No,” said Tom. “No, that would have saved him too much trouble. For his sins he’s got to govern Tibet.”
“Any news of the chee-ild?” I didn’t dare to use the name of the young Dalai Lama, even with that wind blowing and a cliff between me and the men.
Tom nodded. “He’s in the monastery. Did you pick up news,” he asked, “of a man named Ambrose St. Malo?”
“No. Who is he?”
“Bad egg. Booted out of China. Headed this way. Same trail we’re on.”
“I never heard of him.
“Any trouble with your Tibetans?” 1 asked.
“Two died. Three couldn’t stick it. I’ve two left. How’s Bompo Tsering?” “Getting wise,” I answered. “Doesn’t need hitting so often. He’s learning how to make the others do most of the work.” “Has he spotted the prelate?”
Tom grinned again. “I bet you’re wrong. Brought some jam?”
“All right, I bet my half of it. Come on. Let’s get busy.”
He turned and strode along the ledge. Yaks are as unaccountable as camels and even more unpredictable. The wind was the wrong way, and the leading yak was around the corner of the cliff, so it wasn’t smell, hearing, or eyesight that set him going the moment I started after Tom. I suspected then, and I’d bet on it now. that the phony lama and his friend Rigdzin had something to do with it. If you stick a yak in the rump with a sharp goad, anything can happen. It was the closest I ever came to that particular kind of death —ice and raw rock for about 3,(XX) feet sheer into a howling ravine. You could hear it howl from where we were, as if all the devils in a Tantric Buddhist’s hell were clamoring for victims. Somehow or other I clung to the yak’s horns. Tom turned back and pulled me out of it. He grinned: “You need work. You’re getting fat. Fat-headed, too. I’ll prove it. Come on.” So I followed him into the cave where our fodder was cached. It was a grand cave, as big as a church, well protected from prevailing winds and warmed by the hot spring; you could hear it gurgling inside the rock. At the far end there was an easy climb into another smaller cavern that was ventilated by a long fissure. Fuel had been the worst problem, but we had solved that, as I will explain later. If the place had been a bit more private, it would have been perfect. It was too near the trail, and too easy to find.
WHILE Bomix) Tsering stabled the animals in the lower cavern, and I posted the l<x>kout, Tom stood on privilege he pulled out Elsa’s letter and studied the snapshots of the son he hadn’t seen. It isn’t manners in Tibet to interrupt a man while he is reading; it might be sacred scripture. Bompo Tsering tore some cloth into prayer flags and stuck them outside where they could flutter in the wind and keep devils away. Tom spoke to no one until the phony lama turned on Ugly-face and grossly insulted him in order to call attention to himself. He ordered Uglyface into the coldest corner of the cavern and set two men to watch him. Ugly-face made no protest—no sign. Neither did Tom. The only man whose face revealed anything much was Rig-dzin; he was watching the phony lama. He let his lip curl. When he noticed I was watching, he scratched his face with his thumb to hide his mouth. I had suspected before that he wasn’t a Tibetan. Now I knew it.
Tom sent bedding to the upper cave and ordered it spread around in a circle. Then at last he addressed the phony lama with the highfiown phrases due to a man of rank. The better you know Tom, the less you expect that from him. But he’s an expert at it. He knows all the rituals. He fooled that fellow. He invited him to lead the way to the upper cavern, where we could confer without being overheard by underlings. The phony lama bestowed a phony blessing on him, whirled.his prayer wheel a few dozen times, and went up with all the dignity possible, considering he had to crawl on hands and knees a good part of the way. Rig-dzin followed without being invited.
Tom grinned at me as soon as both their backs were turned. He didn’t say anything. He made a gesture to Bompo Tsering—just a jerk of the head and a nod. But I knew right away it was Tom’s
strawberry jam. I had lost the bet. Borní» Tsering did know who Ugly-face was. He went and laid his forehead on the floor in front of him. Ugly-face leaned forward, touched him with a blessing, and stood up. His eyes glittered. His leatheryface rippled. His owl’s beak of a nose twitched with humor. Suddenly he opened his mouth and solid laughter roared up from his belly:
“Oo-hah-ha-ha-ha-hah ! Tum-Glain !”
Then he resumed his attitude of austere humility.
Tom smiled slowly and said never a word, but a blind mute could have guessed (here was a showdown coming. All the Tibetans laid their foreheads on the (loor, including the phony lama’s men. I warned Tom in a whisper:
‘‘We’d better tie up those crooks while the tying’s easy.” He seemed not to have heard, so I added: “Those two crooks up aloft there are—”
He had heard me all right. He interrupted: “Things are going like clockwork. I’m giving ’em plenty of time to make mistakes.”
“All right,” I said, “you’re the doctor. But if you asked me—”
“I didn’t ask,” he retorted.
Well, that was that. I took a couple of half-hitches on my temper, wondering whether Tom had gone screwy, staying at that altitude all winter, with bad grub and only Tibetans to talk to. He and Uglyface got talking to each other in a kind of Chinese-sounding duet, while I paced the cavern floor and figured out our chance of living another hour or two unless we grabbed the upper hand. Tom seemed to me to be trusting Ugly-face a lot more than you can afford to trust any man in a strange country.
“Come on,” he said suddenly, so I followed him to the upper cavern, leaving Ugly-face to do as he pleased. On the wayup the ramp where no one could overhear us, he said:
“I’ve got this figured out. I’ll tell you all about it first chance we get.”
THAT phony lama had the gall of any other beggar on horseback. He had undone the cordage and made himself pretty comfortable on my bedding, arranging it so that his seat was the highest. He sat with his back to the light that poured through the hole in the cavern wall. The fellow who called himself Rig-dzin was seated opposite, facing the light. It was two or three seconds before I noticed Tom’s leather brief case lying in the shadow just beyond the edge of a pool of light on the floor. It’s an excellent thing to travel with, is a brief case; you can put everything into it that you want inquisitive people to read. The simplicity of the trick was what surprised me. But it had worked. That was the reason why the Rig-dzin person sat facing the light, instead of beside the phony lama. We had interrupted him. He had sat down in a hurry.
Tom and I sat down between them, facing each other. After a few seconds silence, Tom said to the phony lama:
“Of course, I know who you are. You are the worshipful member of the sacred Council of Regents in Lhasa, who opposed the corrupt but more powerful Regents. You had to escape from Lhasa to save your own life.”
The phony lama was about as comfortable by that time as a criminal at police headquarters. Only we weren’t policemen, and we hadn’t searched him yet. That was Tom’s job. I watched the other man. all the more alertly because I wasn’t exactly proud of not having spotted him sooner. Tom continued talking to the phony lama, using beautiful Tibetan, so scholarly that the phony lama had to work hard to understand him and not betray his own low breeding:
“Of course, I am an ignorant foreigner, so I speak subject to correction. But as I understand it, the holy Dalai Lama died three years ago in Lhasa. Because he was the ablest and most enlightened ruler that
I suppose the phony lama nodded. I was watching the other man, who was a bit restless, trying to make sure that the piece of paper he had sat on in a hurry wasn’t sticking out where I could notice it. It bothered him even more than Tom’s line of conversation.
“And as I. in my benighted ignorance, understand it,” said Tom, “although the holy Dalai Lama dies like any other mortal, especially when he’s poisoned, he immediately reincarnates into the body of a newborn child. It has been explained to me that the new child has to be sought for, found somewhere, anywhere in Tibet, and is recognizable by certain marks. Such a child was searched for, found, identified and acclaimed. The child was brought to Lhasa and installed in his sacred office to be educated under the supervision of the Council of Regents.”
At last the phony lama spoke: “As a foreigner your knowing too much. What your doing in Tibet?”
“Learning,” Tom answered. “I have learned that many foreigners, from many lands, have designs on Tibet.”
The phony lama assented: “All foreigners being devils, having heard of this blessed land, now their wanting it.” Then he added sententiously: “Who wouldn’t? But it being nature of all devils their desiring too much. Your being foreign devil, shall be thrown out. But my wishing to reach Shig-po-ling Monastery. Thus your acquiring merit.”
The man was evidently such a fool that he still believed he could bluff things out.
I couldn’t imagine why Tom thought it worth while to continue playing him. However, now he began talking, not to, but at the man I was watching:
“It is rumored, so that even my ignorant ears have heard it, that one, and only one, member of the Council of Regents has been faithful to his sacred trust. Are not you that member?”
THERE was a pause. The man I was watching seemed scared stiff that the phony lama might make a bad break. But the phony lama didn’t speak. Tom continued:
“I have heard that all the other members of the Council of Regents in Lhasa have been corrupted by the secret agents of Russia and of Japan, each intriguing against the other. I have heard that the Regents quarrelled among themselves for the control of the sacred child. Whichever could get sole control wrould become dictator, and would grow enormously rich from the bribes of foreign Governments, each of whom craves to control the education of the coming ruler of Tibet.”
“My having told you,” said the phony lama, “your knowing too much.”
Tom continued: “So there was strife
between the Regents. That Regent who is also abbot of the Shig-po-ling Monastery over yonder, proved to be the most powerful. He poisoned one of the other Regents. He tortured another to death. He caused another to be slain by soldiers. He drove the only faithful Regent out of Lhasa, so that he barely escaped with his life. And seven months ago he carried away the child lama to the Shig-po-ling Monastery, that we can see from the mouth of this cavern. So he has the child in his power.” It seemed to me about time to give Tom a hint. He isn’t normally a monologist.
“Did you set up school during the winter?” I asked him. But he went on taking:
“Destiny,” he said, “which is inscrutable, has guided me into the sacred presence of that only faithful Regent who was forced to run for his life. You are he. Are you not?”
The phony lama was careful. He searched his mind for important sounding words, and bungled them badly:
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“When nobly bom seeing fit to travel wrapped in cloak of anonymity, ignorant foreigners should not ask improper questions.”
Tom persisted: “I have information for the wise ears of His Holy and Worshipful Eminence, the nobly born Ring-ding Ge-long Lama Lobsang Pun. I must not breathe my information into the wrong ears. It is too important. Are you not Lobsang Pun?”
The fellow I was watching chucked in his hand. He said nothing, but it was as plain as writing on a wall that he there and then abandoned the phony lama to his fate. He had seen what I saw.
Ugly-face had timed it perfectly. He must have crept like a cat up that difficult ramp. How he did it without making a sound I don’t know, but he had been crouching near the top of the entrance into the upper cavern. He stood up now and coughed like a lecturer about to deliver a speech. He didn’t say anything. He was thumbing his beads, flicking them ten to a second. No one can pray that fast.
“Are you not His Holy Eminence Lobsang Pun?” Tom repeated. “Member of the Council of Regents and the only loyal servant of the sacred child, the Dalai Lama?”
“Yes, I am,” said the phony lama. There w'as nothing else that a fool could say.
“Then why,” Tom asked him, “are you on your way to the Shig-po-ling Monastery?” Tom’s voice hardened. “Where the wicked Regent Ram-pa Yap-shi, who expelled you from Lhasa and did his utmost to get you killed, has wrongfully taken the sacred child and is ready to fight all comers? Answer me that.”
"DVERYONE but Tom was breathing hard through his nose. I know I w'as. Barring that, there wras silence for I dare say ten seconds. Then Ugly-face belched like a gun going off. East of, say, Vienna, belching isn’t bad manners. A diplomat may politely include the accomplishment in his code of signals. Tom took it as the' starting gun. He sprang something at last that the phony lama didn’t know, nor I either:
“Since nine days ago, eighteen armed Tibetans have waited in a cave near here. Are they your men?”
The phony lama stared at the man I was watching. Rig-dzin. He was no Tibetan. I saw a sly, overconfident smile vaguely flicker at the corners of his eyes. He had a card up his sleeve; and what w'as more, he wasn’t even interested any longer in the phony lama. He was watching his chance to play his trump card. Tom continued:
“You never heard of these men until now? I believe you ! But who is this, whom you have treated harshly?” Tom gestured with his thumb over his shoulder at old Ugly-face. Ugly-face said nothing. The phony lama hadn’t sense enough to see that Rig-dzin had abandoned him. The news of eighteen armed men revived his impudence.
“That man? Oh, that is my servant,” he answered.
Tom quoted a common proverb that sounds less trite in Tibetan than in some other languages:
“The greatest of us is the servant of the least.”
The man who called himself Rig-dzin almost laughed. I caught him at it. He froze like a good huntsman. I might have begun to like him if I hadn’t already decided not to.
“I am in duty bound,” said Tom, “to tell Your Eminence the secret information that has come to my ignorant ears. You will know what it means. This is it: that corrupt Regent Ram-pa Yap-shi, who is also the abbot of the Shig-po-lir.g Monastery—he who carried off the infant Dalai Lama—has offered an enormous reward for the person of His Holy Eminence Lobsang Pun, to be delivered alive, having been reported dead too many times. This time His Eminence’s death is to be witnessed by many people and to be enjoyed by all
except His Eminence. Had you heard of it?”
Silence. It was news even to me. Old Ugly-face’s nerve was what impressed me most at the moment. The phony lama had only one chance left now, but he didn’t catch Tom napping. The long knife was hardly out of his bosom before Tom snatched it, passed it to me and went on talking:
"So you planned to deliver your master, His Holy Eminence Lobsang Pun, to be put to the torture and slain. Therefore you pretended to your master you would save his life by changing places with him. He to seem to be the servant—you to seem to be the master. To which he agreed. But you did this on the advice of the eloquent stranger calling himself Rig-dzin, who bargained with you for a share of the reward for the betrayal of your master. He showed you a British flag. He told you tales about protection to be had in a British Legation—was it in China? Did he mention China? Rig-dzin knows a lot about China.”
Rig-dzin was growing restless. But he was watching points—me especially. I took care he should see the butt of my Mauser, and he couldn’t reach his without tipping me off.
“But Rig-dzin,” Tom continued, “likes a lion’s share. Not a half share. Rig-dzin is resourceful. Rig-dzin sent his private loads, on fourteen yaks, with eighteen men, to await him in a cave near here. What, do you think, would have happened to you at the hands of the resourceful Rig-dzin’s eighteen men?”
No answer. Rig-dzin moved his right hand. But I had the drop on him, so his hand grew still. I leaned toward him and removed his Mauser pistol. So Rig-dzin liked me the way I wanted him to. It made me feel good all over. His eyes were like hot flint. Old Ugly-face sat down against the wall and belched again. I think he thought Tom was wasting time. So did I. But Tom took it easy:
“What’s going to happen to you now? You’re a scullion. Your name is Shag-la. You're masquerading as a nobly born, eminent lama. You’re found out. You’re a liar, without salt in your tears or spittle on your lips. Speak.”
The phony lama mumbled a mantram to change the luck, but it didn’t work. Old Ugly-face got up and walked toward him. Nobody needed to tell him howr to behave. He didn’t speak. It struck me suddenly that the secret of that old humorist’s grip on life was humility. What the phony lama had done to him on the march was as unimportant now as the wind that had blown away. Malice? Sure, he had, but he kept it for the right people.
The phony lama grovelled, put out his tongue and laid his forehead on the floor. Ugly-face sat down on my bedroll, and the phony lama crawled away to the wall, where he lay face downward. Ugly-face stared for a moment at Tom and then fetched up another laugh from his stomach. Then he looked straight at me—saw slap through to my backbone, the way he did when we first met.
Tom handed him the three snapshots from Elsa’s letter. He stared at them a moment, remarked: “New—young—
Tum-Glain,” and made a blessing motion with his right hand. That may have been a signal. Anyhow, Tom spoke to me:
“And now, fathead, I'll introduce you to Ambrose St. Malo. You said you’d never met him.”
He looked straight at Rig-dzin. Rig-dzin smiled back. Having two Mauser pistols to manage, I laid the phony lama’s knife on the Hoor at my right. I was feeling mean enough by that time to spoil anyone’s game for the sake of a crack at Rigdzin. Ambrose St. Malo. I could almost have liked him for his nerve, if it had been someone else he had fooled instead of me.
THE SUN had moved across the opening and the light had changed. We sat facing one another in a sort of mystic
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twilight. I hate that kind of light. It’s too pious. The cavern walls were almost invisible. The easiest face to see was St. Malo’s because he sat opposite the fissure in the rock through which the weird light came. It looked to me he was pretty scrupulous about having no scruples at all. He hadn’t shaved recently, but his beard was as sparse as a Tibetan’s. He had slightly slanting eyes, a dark skin and rather refined-looking Mongoloid features. But on the whole, now that I knew who he was, I thought Tom had understated things when he called me a fathead. I ought to have spotted him as a pureblooded white in the first five minutes. There were plenty of indications—for instance, his habit of hiding his mouth with his hand. His mouth was a perfect give away, especially his teeth. It’s a strange thing, but as true as anything I know, that when you’ve gone off on the wrong foot you can’t get things straight. I made another mistake, right then, about St. Malo. I supposed he'd throw in his hand. But he didn’t. He opened, and drew one card, from underneath him. It was the paper that he had been sitting on. He crunched it up and tossed it into Tom’s lap.
“You’re not so smart,” he remarked. “You’re on the Moscow payroll. SÍ) am I.”
“That’s all I wanted to be sure about,” Tom answered. “I wrote this. I put it in my brief case for you to steal. I thought you were that kind of rat. Suits me. That makes it personal.”
“Personal? Oh, all right. Go to the devil,” St. Malo answered. “If you fight foul, two can play it. Why are you in Tibet?’’
“One reason why I’m here,” said Tom, “is to prevent you from using the British flag. It causes gossip. So hand it over.”
“Mind now, don’t you desecrate it,” said St. Malo. “It was made in Japan by a
nobleman who’d rather commit hara-kiri than do any dirt.”
I covered him with one of the Mausers while he groped inside his clothing. He produced a silk Union Jack about three feet by two. He threw it toward Tom, but it came unrolled and fell in Ugly-face’s lap. Ugly-face examined it with an expression that I couldn’t fathom; it might have been amusement, or curiosity, or guile. He folded it carefully and tucked it away in his bosom. St. Malo grinned at Tom;
“Talk turkey. I’ve eighteen men. How many have you?”
“All I need.”
“Mine are well armed. Modern rifles. Plenty of ammunition.”
“Japanese rifles?” Tom asked.
St. Malo stared at Ugly-face. “The egregious Lobsang Pun,” he remarked, “knows English. How’d Spanish be, or—”
“Say it plainly,” Tom answered, “any language.”
“All right. My eighteen men are on their way here—now eighteen rifles—what are you going to do about that?”
I knew what I was going to do about it, if it was true. Eighteen armed men could make our outfit look pretty sick. But St. Malo was going to get sick first. He would be pretty hard to miss from where I sat. However, Tom seemed in no hurry.
“You and I come to terms before my men get here, don’t we?” said St. Malo.
“Do we need that much time?” Tom answered.
St. Malo began to lose his temper. “Do we reach a sensible agreement, or—”
“I guess you’ll be sensible,” Tom answered. “That phony fool Shag-la obeyed your signal just now and crawled away to bring your men. But he didn’t get there.” He whistled. Bompo Tsering pitched Shag-la into the cavern and appeared behind him suddenly like a big bear in the gloom.
Tom didn’t even glance at me, but
old Ugly-face did. I had been watching St. Malo too intently to see Shag-la creep out through the baffling shadow. There must have been at least a bit of a scuffle when Bompo Tsering caught him near the head of the ramp; but I had been listening too intently to the conversation. St. Malo noticed that I felt as if I’d missed a vital cue. He rubbed it in;
“I suppose when he’s awake this fellow Andrew Gunning obeys your orders?” he suggested. “All right you’re responsible for him, and you pay him. Lobsang Pun can chip in or take the consequences. He may ride in on his personality and good looks. I’ve eighteen men. The child Dalai Lama is what we’re after. The Shig-po-ling Monastery is where we go get him. He’s worth a million. If Lobsang Pun sits in, we split that three ways. If not, two ways; and my men deal with him.”
I watched old Ugly-face. He didn’t move a muscle or a wrinkle. He didn’t blink. Neither did Tom. St. Malo continued:
“We’ve three lines of retreat. Three markets. Moscow would pay plenty, but it’s a hard trail, we might not get there, and you can’t take money out of Russia. Then there’s Lhasa—lots of cash in Lhasa, and a gang who’d pay through the nose. But the best bet, and the safest, and the easiest route, is Japan by way of China. Maybe Manchukuo. If the Japs could lay their hands on the Dalai Lama brat and educate him. they’d see their chance to control all Tibet later on. And that’s their road to India as soon as China’s sick enough, and—”
Ugly-face belched again. He didn’t say anything, but it sort of stopped the argument from drifting into byways where you couldn’t have recovered it.
St. Malo nodded at Tom. He said: “There’s the setup. Now we know what we’re talking about. Your turn.”
Ugly-face left off thumbing his beads. Bompo Tsering came a step nearer out of the gloom. I watched for Tom’s signal. But it seemed to me something must have happened to Tom. Maybe he’d gone soft from thinking about Elsa and the boy. He didn’t make any sign.
Suddenly Ugly-face found his tongue. He roared at me, or at Tom, I don’t know which :
“Too much talk about too many troubles! Your knowing all about all troubles soon enough. Sinning too much. Thinking too little. Sun, moon—sun, moon—day, week, month—and what your doing?”
Tom spoke as if he was in Sunday school :
“All right. Your Eminence.” The least I had expected was an order to rope St. Malo hand and foot, but Tom spoke to him almost politely. He said:
“Get out of here, and stay out.” Naturally, St. Malo figured that Tom was afraid of him or he wouldn’t have used pink tea language. So he stood up and sneered :
“Nothing doing. I’ll see what you’ve got.”
That was all the excuse I needed. But the very second I moved, old Ugly-face let out a bull roar and Tom grabbed my left arm. I pulled the punch. Old Uglyface looked at me as if he could see to the back of my brains and beyond. Then he spoke, running the English words together as if they were Tibetan:
“Your-letting-anger-govem — your-letting-in-devils — your-letting-ignorantviolence-taking-place-of-knowledge—yourtoo-much-sorrow-later-on.”
Ambrose St. Malo smiled and walked out of the cavern. I couldn’t trust myself to speak, so I went to the head of the ramp and watched St. Malo to make sure he didn’t loot any of our loads in the lower cavern. But I could hear what went on behind me.
Tom said bluntly, in English: “No
violence? I have seen Your Eminence order monks to be flogged for misbehavior
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that was saintly compared to St. Malo’s treachery. He’s a louse.”
“Louses being not convertible by violence,” said Ugly-face. “Also not your duty, your not being holy lama—your being ignorant man. My telling you that even louses having purposes.”
“My purpose.” said Tom, “as you know, is to lend you a hand. The minute I know you’re in control of Tibet, I’ll get out of here so fast that—”
“Tum-Glain! My soon saying many prayers sending you to Elsa. Now your telling your plan.”
“The odds against us are about a couple of million to one.”
“Persons betting on or against unpredictables being like silly sinners betting against hell.” Ugly-face retorted. “So your being angry because my stopping violence?”
"See here,” said Tom. “if I’m to get you into the Shig-po-ling Monastery, and ditch that hypocrite who’s in control of it, and find the young Dalai Lama and get him back into your keeping, with you to protect him, you’ve got to trust me.”
“My trusting your being Tum-Glain. Tum-Glain being sometime silly fellow, sometime presumptuous, sometime needing many thousand prayers, but also learning to be better. My being much instructed holy Ring-ding-Ge-long lama. Therefore my bestowing blessing—on louses also.”
“I'll go and watch that louse,” Tom answered.
He shoved past me and went down the ramp. He was angry, but he had nothing on me. As I followed Tom I caught a glimpse of Ugly-face. He was sitting again on my bedroll. I said:
“Tom, this elevation ’ud soften a sergeant major. You've not gone mystic or any rot like that, have you?”
“You and I have got to use that man,” he answered.
Ar THE moment I didn’t know who he meant. Bompo Tsering was sitting on Shag-la, in the shadow near the top of the ramp. The “louse,” Ambrose St. Malo, was talking to the Tibetans in the lower cavern; he was busy at the moment with a couple of Shag-la’s followers. When he saw Tom and me coming he made a move toward the entrance, but he didn’t go outside; he stood waiting and watching. Near the foot of the ramp, Tom turned to me and said :
“Old Lobsang Pun will play St. Malo against you and me if we don’t watch him. But no matter, we’ve got to put him back in power. He’s the only man who can save Tibet.”
He was going to say more, but things happened, quickly. Bompo Tsering returned to the upper cavern to get Shag-la’s knife that I had left lying on the floor near where I sat. Shag-la hadn’t had all the wind bumped out of him; and he had another knife hidden in his voluminous clothing. He pushed past Bompo Tsering and came down the ramp like a thunderbolt, missing Tom with the knife but ripping my sleeve from top to bottom. It was Tom he was after, not me. He slashed at Tom again, missed him again, shouting. Three of his followers, the two that St. Malo had been talking to, and another, rushed at Tom. They had knives, too. Bompo Tsering came down the ramp in a hurry, but he was too late. Tom ducked away from Shag-la, but he was cornered by the three. I grabber! Shag-la. I could have shot him. but it’s only a fool who kills when he doesn’t have to. Bompo Tsering lent a hand and we three went down together, wdth the knife between us and Shag-la reaching for my Mauser. He was tougher than I thought he’d be.
I got a glimpse of Tom using his fists. Three Tibetans rushed him, and two others started to help them. Shag-la was out for the count and I was figuring on which to shoot of the five who were attacking Tom. Then the really astonishing thing happened, and I didn't shoot anyone.
Ambrose St. Malo, the louse, flung himself into the fight. He laid out two Tibetans with a couple of the smartest left and right hooks I ever saw. Tom. Bompo Tsering and I sent the rest of them reeling in under the legs of the yaks. So that was all right. No harm done, and nobody killed—not
much blood spilled either. It was good for discipline; that kind of trouble was probably over. But the Louse was a brand-new problem. He grinned. He seemed somehow not quite such a louse. I could almost have liked him, if he hadn’t grinned at me the way he did. b To be Continued