The Tibetan population of Likiang was considerable. Although they were at liberty to reside in any quarter of the city, the Tibetans always preferred the houses near Double Stone Bridge which spanned the Likiang River not far from the park. The meadows along the lonely road, which connected my village with this part of the town, were used for the encampment of arriving caravans. The Tibetan community in Likiang enjoyed an importance and standing quite out of proportion to its numbers. Tibetan merchants and dignitaries occupied the best houses and there was no service too great or too small which the Nakhi would not perform to make them comfortable and contented. This preferential attention and affectionate relationship was due, of course, to the racial affinity between the Tibetans and Nakhi; the latter always referred to the Tibetans as ‘our elder brothers’. The fact that at least one people of their own race still remained completely independent and possessed a civilization and culture of widely recognized standing had a strong appeal to the Nakhi’s amour-propre. However, brotherly affection was not the only reason and, I strongly suspect, not the main reason for such a felicitous reception.
When all coastal China was in Japanese hands and Burma was going fast, there remained only two ‘ports of entry’ for China for commerce with the outside world: Likiang in Yunnan and Tachienlu in Sikang. At the other end was Kalimpong to which the goods were shipped from Calcutta and Bombay by rail. Lhasa was the clearing centre and, being born merchants, members of the Tibetan government, great and small lamas, abbots of lamaseries and lesser lights did not hesitate a moment when the golden opportunity so auspiciously presented itself. All available financial resources had been speedily mobilized and even, I was told, a sizeable portion of the Dalai Lama’s private fortune had been invested in the great and lucrative venture. Letters of credit, remittances or plain cash-on-delivery poured into India. Armies of Tibetan merchants, small traders and mere hawkers descended from the icy altitudes of Phari Dzong and Jelap-La and invaded the steamy bazaars and inns of Calcutta. Everything was indented, contracted or bought outright that could be conveniently carried by yak or mule. Sewing-machines, textiles, cases of the best cigarettes, both British and American, whiskies and gins of famous brands, dyes and chemicals, kerosene oil in tins, toilet and canned goods and a thousand and one varieties of small articles started flowing in an unending stream by rail and truck to Kalimpong, to be hastily repacked and dispatched by caravan to Lhasa. There the flood of merchandise was crammed into the halls and courtyards of the palaces and lamaseries and turned over to an army of sorters and professional packers. The least fragile goods were set aside for the northern route to Tachienlu, to be transported by yaks: other articles were packed for delivery at Likiang, especially the liquors and cigarettes which were worth their weight in gold in Kunming, crowded with thirsty American and British troops. To survive the three months’ haulage over the rocky paths, across the highest mountains on earth, in rain or under the scorching sun, the merchandise had to be packed expertly and with infinite care. And so it was. The uniform weight of each package was of particular concern. No horse or mule could carry more than 60 catties (1 catty = 1 1/3lb.) and no yak more than 50 on the long trek. At first the merchandise had been arranged in compact piles, then the piles were wrapped up in wool mats and some even in rugs and carefully sewn up in wet hides. The hides, drying up, shrank and squeezed the contents into one monolithic mass, which could be dropped, thrown about, shaken or sat upon without injury to the goods inside. It was impervious to the scraping of rocks or bushes and quite weatherproof. The cases with cigarettes or crates with sewing-machines were similarly strengthened with a network of wet strips of hides, sewn together.
Transportation by yaks was more hazardous than by mules and horses and, therefore, the merchants always tried to avoid sending fragile goods by these animals. Although some people refer to ‘yak caravans’, I would hesitate to use such a definition. A caravan, to my mind, has always meant an orderly progression of loaded animals or vehicles in a single file. And that is how the horses and mule caravans, descending on Likiang, appeared. But there was nothing orderly about the yaks, and they never proceeded in single file. They were nothing but silly, primitive cows, and they behaved like cows, progressing as a widespread herd in an erratic manner. Sometimes they slowed down, sometimes they rushed ahead, jostling and pushing each other. They did not seem to know or care where they were going, trying to squeeze between two rocks or between two trees, although there might be plenty of space around. I remember how a friend of mine lost a valuable cast-iron cooking range he was expecting from India. Just before reaching Tachienlu the yak which was carrying it had a mind to pass between two rocks. He did it with great speed, much energy and an obvious determination. Afterwards they could find only some chunks of iron, the plates and its legs. The yaks were not the gentle animals one might think. They were suspicious and truculent and always went after horses or strangers in a most threatening manner. I had many close shaves when encountering a herd of yaks unexpectedly. Yaks cannot stand warm weather at all, and therefore their operation is confined to altitudes over 10,000 feet, and they are at their best when they graze on the alpine meadows above 12,000 feet.
It was estimated that some 8,000 mules and horses, and probably 20,000 yaks, were used during Operation Caravan, when all other routes into China had been blocked during the war. Almost every week long caravans arrived in Likiang. So good and profitable was the business that even the rainy seasons failed to stop some adventurous merchants. This was a considerable risk and, in their avarice, they took it. The rainy season is much dreaded in Tibet and on the border, and all caravan and pilgrim traffic usually stops for the duration. The trails become muddy and swampy, rivers and streams swell to incredible proportions, mountains are wrapped in mists and avalanches and landslides become the rule rather than the exception. Many a traveller has been buried for ever under tons of rocks or swept to his death by a raging torrent.
Few people have realized how vast and unprecedented this sudden expansion of caravan traffic between India and China was, or how important. It was a unique and spectacular phenomenon. No complete story has yet been written about it, but it will always live in my memory as one of the great adventures of mankind. Moreover, it demonstrated to the world very convincingly that, should all modern means of communication and transportation be destroyed by some atomic cataclysm, the humble horse, man’s oldest friend, is ever ready to forge again a link between scattered peoples and nations.
The dangers of the rainy season, sickness and other unexpected and unforeseen calamities were not the only hazards which threatened a caravan during its slow progress from Lhasa to Likiang. There were the powerful bands of robbers operating in eastern Tibet which constituted the vast third province, known as Kham, of the holy land. Kham is so remote from the Central Government in Lhasa, so little known and explored that, even to an average Tibetan in the Holy City, it is still a land of mystery and enchantment. To the dwellers of the remaining two provinces, U and Tsang, where Lhasa is located, with their dry gaunt mountains, arid plateaux, dust and howling winds, Kham is an embodiment of the beauty and charm of nature the like of which cannot be found elsewhere in the world. There the world’s greatest rivers, crystal clear and unsullied, flow through marble gorges side by side, amidst the vast and stately forests which cover mountain slopes. Sparkling snow peaks, virgin and unattainable, soar into the blue sky. Even the gods love these paradisical vistas as almost every peak is the throne of a popular deity or yidam, of which the Yidam Demchuk is the best known. Much gold is reputed to be found in Kham, and its lamaseries are said to be particularly wealthy and beautiful. The Khamba (the people of Kham) never fail to excite the awe and admiration of other Tibetans. The men are, as a rule, of gigantic stature and very good-looking and the women are fair to look at and very white.
A goodly portion of this immense province had been detached by the Chinese at the beginning of the present century and placed under the Szechuan Provincial Government, later becoming a part of the newly created Sikang Province. However, in the olden days, when Tibet had not yet been converted to Buddhism, even Likiang was under the sway of the powerful Tibetan conquerors. It was the advent and dissemination of Buddhism that had emasculated the proud country and brought it to its knees.
Kham was infested with robbers and other lawless elements. The dual control, under which it had been placed, was certainly propitious to such an unhappy development. The bands, which had committed crimes in the Tibetan section of the province, could cross into the Chinese territory, and vice versa. The wild character of the country, with its high mountains, impenetrable primeval forests and turbulent rivers made it an ideal hiding-place. However, not all Khamba were robbers; there were many of them who were of sterling character. Banditry in Tibet was a time-honoured profession and was usually confined to the members of certain tribes or clans. The usual concept of Tibet, owing to the lack of precise information, is that the country has a homogeneous population, all speaking alike, dressed alike, with the same customs and religion, and all owing an undivided allegiance to the Dalai Lama and his government. Actually it is not so. Tibet is divided and subdivided into many tribes and clans, little kingdoms, duchies and baronies, all on a feudal system, whose heads owe allegiance to the Central Government and prove it by sending levies of soldiers, tribute and rich gifts to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Kham is no exception and includes many such principalities both on the Tibetan and Chinese side of the frontier. The most notable of these little states, which have been visited by explorers, are the Kingdom of Muli, Principality of Litang, Grand Duchy of Kanze, Duchy of Tsoso, Duchy of Yungning, Principality of Bongdzera, not to speak of innumerable Black Lolo, Black Lissu and other tribal marquisates and baronies. In Muli, Bongdzera and Litang not all the people are of the Tibetan race but they are ardent lamaists just the same, and a steady stream of gold used to flow from their rulers into the Dalai Lama’s treasury. Incidentally the King of Muli was a Mongol. His first ancestor was a general in Kublai Khan’s army which invaded Likiang and Tali via Muli, and in recognition of his services the Great Khan appointed him the King of Muli in perpetuity.
North-west of Likiang and to the west of the Muli Kingdom there is an isolated mountain range called Konkkaling. It consists of three peaks, about 23,000 feet high. It had been discovered and photographed by Dr Joseph Rock, who used to make expeditions to Muli where the king was a great friend of his. These mountains are a veritable breeding place of the most ruthless brigands the world has ever known. To the west of these mountains there are two vast territories known as Hsiangchen and Tongwa. They are peopled with two Tibetan tribes whose members are professional robbers and cut-throats. So wild, untamable and treacherous are they that not even other Tibetans dare to venture into these areas. Although of an enormous size, rivalling some of the large European states, none of these areas has ever been visited by a European and probably will not be for a long time to come. There is no doubt that much of interest to explorers and scientists is concealed in these inaccessible and unmapped regions. There is, for instance, a great snow peak in the bend of the Yalung River in Hsiangchen, called Neito Cavalori. Those tew privileged explorers who have been lucky enough to contemplate it from a distance, compute its height at something like 28,000 feet, and it may yet prove a rival to Mount Everest.
It was these Tongwa and Hsiangchen brigands who always lay in wait for the rich caravans coming from Lhasa. Of course all Tibetan caravan men were heavily armed, and when the caravan was big enough these rascals did not dare to attack them. It was when the caravan was small or poorly armed that their chance came. Madame Alexandra David Neel nevertheless describes the Tibetan bandits as ‘Les Brigands-Gentilhommes’ in her book. I have known this great lady since 1939, when I met her in Tachienlu, and have a profound respect for her. She is certainly one of the greatest travellers the world has known, and I am glad she received such fortunate mercy from these robbers, who even showed a certain gallantry towards her because she was a helpless woman and a detsuma (Reverend Abbess) to boot. Personally I would rather deal with a Chinese or a Nakhi robber than a Tibetan one. A Chinese or a Nakhi robber seldom kills his victim. He robs you but he does it with a degree of finesse and delicacy, and at least leaves you your underwear to enable you to reach the nearest village with a modicum of decency. He usually forbears to search a lady, and may even listen to her protests about taking away certain items of her toilette. Not so with the Tibetan robbers. Their motto is ‘Dead men tell no tales’. They shoot first and then look for anything of value on the dead man’s person or in his baggage. I once heard an interesting story of how one of these Tongwa shot a man walking in the distance, only to discover afterwards that it was his own father.
I am prepared to admit that the Tibetan brigands of some other tribes may be ‘gentlemen’ to some degree but, from what I heard from reliable Tibetan and Nakhi friends, the Tongwa and Hsiangchen cannot be idealized by any stretch of imagination. They are so avaricious and unprincipled that even the bonds of friendship mean nothing to them, and there have been cases when a man has killed a bosom friend for the sake of a couple of rupees in his belt. Everybody in Tongwa and Hsiangchen robs, steals and kills — lamas and trapas, merchants and serfs, men and women: even children learn the trade at a tender age. It is not a question of whether this Tongwa or that Hsiangchen is a robber, but whether the man is a Tongwa or Hsiangchen.
When the caravan has been plundered and witnesses eliminated or scattered, the goods, arms and animals are taken to the robbers’ lair. There the merchandise is carefully repacked and reloaded and, lo and behold, the robber chief, resplendently dressed, enters Likiang as a peaceful and affluent merchant, at the head of a sizable caravan. No questions are asked and no explanations are vouchsafed. Of course rumours do travel, and travel fast; but rumours are rumours and proofs are proofs. The bogus merchant knows that the people know and the people know that he knows what they know, but everything proceeds according to form. The merchant sells his goods, gives generous parties right and left and acquires merit by rich donations to the local lamaseries.
I was very curious to find out what these Tongwa and Hsiangchen men looked like, and was surprised to find that quite a number of them came to Likiang, some accompanied by their wives, for the peaceful purposes of commerce. The men looked, and were dressed, like any other Tibetan. They appeared a little dirtier and more savage looking. The women were dressed after the fashion of the nomads’ wives, but with a difference. The nomadic women carry a large number of metal disks attached to their hair, braided in small queues and spread evenly down the back: the disks of the wealthy are all of solid gold or silver and those of the poor are of brass or copper. This is their way of carrying about with them their fortunes, which may weigh anything from thirty to sixty pounds or even more. Thus even these simple women were willing to endure suffering for the sake of fashion like their sophisticated sisters in civilized China and the West who had endured smilingly the tortures of bound feet and corsets. But the Hsiangchen and Tongwa women, probably to ensure mobility, were content to wear earrings made of large bunches of small cubes woven of multi-coloured bark. These earrings looked unusual, attractive and very chic.
I met a group of Tongwa youths at Madame Ho’s wineshop. One of them, named Dorje (Thunderbolt), became very attached to me and called on me daily. Soon his friends went back but he remained. One evening I found him waiting at my door with a bundle. He said that he had to stay behind to complete a business transaction. He found the inns of Likiang very expensive and wondered whether I would permit him to stay at my house for a few days. My cook and neighbours were horrified at the idea and clearly indicated with the palms of their hands across their throats what kind of fate I was courting. I decided to take a risk, so much did I want to know something about these mysterious people.
Dorje was only seventeen, but looked too tall and big for his age. He was slim and supple. His face was classically Grecian in profile with a high nose, bold outline, finely chiselled mouth and expressive eyes. His hair was brownish, long, and held in place with a red scarf wound around his head. In his left ear he wore a silver ring. He wore an ancient grey jacket with breast-pockets which clearly had belonged once to a Chinese officer. Perhaps this jacket could tell a story of its own; of how it got into the possession of a Tibetan boy in so distant a place. Tied around his waist was an ordinary tunic of unbleached wool, affected by some Tibetan tribes in Kham. Quite unlike the usual run of the Tibetans, who all wore long trousers tucked into their boots, this boy wore very short skin pants. So short were they that, overlapped by his jacket, he appeared to have no pants at all. He certainly excited a great deal of merriment among the brazen Nakhi females when he appeared in the street. To complete his costume he wore a pair of tall soft boots tied at the knees, the tops being of red wool cloth and the bottoms of uncured soft leather. He carried several silver and brass charm boxes suspended from the neck by leather thongs, a short Tibetan sword thrust through the belt and a curved dagger in a leather sheath. Such was Dorje — an unexpected Ganymede from the Tongwa Olympus. So light was his complexion that, dressed in Western clothes, nobody would have guessed that he was a Tibetan, or an Asiatic at all for that matter.
Contrary to all expectations, he was well mannered, modest and unobtrusive. After supper, when I retired to my apartment to read a book by the light of a carbide lamp — a luxury reserved only to myself — he usually came up. The wine we always drank in the evening loosened his tongue and we talked intimately. One evening he unrolled his tunic and showed me a number of musk-pods.
‘This is my merchandise,’ he explained, ‘but the dealers here are trying to beat me down. This is the reason I am staying longer than expected; I am biding my time.’
Next evening he leaned towards me and pulled out a small leather pouch tied to his neck. He opened it and I saw several gold nuggets and a quantity of gold dust.
‘Please keep it secret,’ he pleaded, ‘but with these I hope to buy some merchandise to take back.’
He was very pious and superstitious and constantly touched his amulets to assure himself that they were still there, murmuring the classical mantram, ‘Aum, mani padme hum.’ It was clear that he developed great confidence in me and accepted me as a friend, perhaps a more intimate friend than it would be possible or prudent to have in his own country.
Gathering my courage I began asking him questions about Tongwa, its people and robbers. I did not have to be tactful, or approach the subject in a roundabout manner. He was not a Chinese and my use of Chinese etiquette would have been wasted on him. The Tibetans, if they wish to conceal something, remain silent or, if they wish to talk, they talk frankly and directly and expect a similar attitude from others.
Although I had expected an interesting confession, I was shocked when he calmly confirmed, in all frankness, that all the Tongwa were robbers, thieves and, on occasion, murderers. He admitted, though rather shamefacedly, that he was a robber himself, paraphrasing the old adage, ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do’. But he hotly denied that he had been a party to any killing. ‘I believe in Buddha too much for that,’ he tried to comfort me, seeing my distress. Had then these musk-pods, this gold, been obtained by robbery ? I inquired. But he would neither confirm nor deny. I stared in wonderment at this handsome youth, so calm, so self-possessed and seemingly so pure. By now I was accustomed to robbers and brigands. I had stayed for months among the Black Lolos in the Taliangshan mountains in Sikang, whose profession it was to rob and plunder. I had been a guest of a Chinese robber baron in Helluva, also in Sikang. But all those men looked their part at the first glance; there was no mistake about it. But I could not reconcile myself to the fact that this gentle and dignified boy was a brigand too. I decided to lay my cards on the table.
‘Look, my friend Dorje!’ I said. ‘Does it mean then that, before you leave, you will clean up my house and, perhaps, stab me for good measure?’
‘Ma re, Ma re! (No, no!)’ he cried out, brightening up perceptibly.
Then he assured me that never, never would such a thing be possible. First of all, he regarded me as his best, most valued friend. I had shown him too much kindness, he added, and even the Tongwa are not insensible to true friendships. But the main reason, he explained, was his and his tribe’s standing in the great and free market of Likiang. No Tongwa or Hsiangchen would dare to commit a crime in Likiang. It would be a flagrant admission and material evidence of the fact that both tribes are indeed brigands and thieves. The authorities and people of Likiang of course knew their unsavoury reputation and did not discount the rumours of their depredations. But bad reputation and rumours were one thing and deeds were another. No robber was a robber and no thief was a thief in these border regions until he was caught red-handed. Whatever robberies or bloodshed happened in remote Tongwa and Hsiangchen were no concern of the Likiang authorities. That was a matter for the Tibetan Government to attend to. But to have such acts committed in peaceful Likiang was a totally different thing. The whole weight of militia, police and outraged public opinion would fall not only on the individual culprit but also on the whole tribe. To lose one’s life by being shot was nothing, but to have all the members of the tribe, living and doing business in Likiang, expelled perhaps after a little dose of third degree, and the whole tribe debarred from future visits and business in this great market, the only market in fact, would be no laughing matter. The whole economic life of Tongwa and Hsiangchen, as the case might be, would collapse on account of a paltry robbery or theft. Where could the people of Tongwa take their plunder, after successful raids, for disposal? Certainly not to Lhasa where they were well known and where the goods would surely be identified by the injured merchants. They would be arrested and tortured before they could even open their mouths. Try to prove to the haughty and ruthless Tibetan police that you did not do it, without a ruinous outlay in bribes? No, Likiang was priceless, indispensable. That was the underlying motive for the exemplary behaviour and sterling honesty of these ferocious tribesmen in Likiang. They knew their economics only too well.
After these talks Dorje and I became closer friends and he pressed me all the time to go with him to Tongwa for a visit. I thought this was like an invitation to the biblical lions’ den. I told him that he was clearly playing the role of a decoy to lure me to my destruction. He laughed it off, but became pensive. Finally he confessed that he might not be powerful enough to protect me from other people in Tongwa who were not so friendly to him. It was rather a wrench for me when he announced his departure, as I had become very fond of his company. He gave me a small silver shrine and his dagger as a memento and offered a little gold dust to pay for board and lodging, which I did not accept. He promised to come back again in a year or so with Lhasa rugs and other goods. Perhaps he did keep his promise but I was not there.
My experience with the Hsiangchen tribe was on different lines. A Nakhi friend had informed me that a very rich and powerful Hsiangchen lama had arrived in Likiang and was staying in great state at one of the palatial mansions near King Mu’s compound. He thought that it would be very interesting for me to meet him and that I should call on him to pay my respects. Lowering his voice, he added that the lama was the head of a large lamasery in the heart of Hsiangchen country whose monks were notorious brigands. What is more to the point, he said, was the fact that this very lama and his monks had waylaid and plundered a caravan of one hundred and fifty horses just a few months ago, and that now he had brought the repacked stolen goods for sale in Likiang. It was rumoured that some merchants in the town had received a message from Lhasa to be on the look-out for such goods as could be identified as belonging to certain Lhasa shippers. If this could be done, a great and extremely pungent scandal was inevitable. It was in such an electrified atmosphere that, with my friend, I called on the lama merchant. Passing through a labyrinth of corridors and verandas we were ushered into a spacious room where the great man sat cross-legged on the rich rugs spread over a raised platform. A brazier was burning in front and a huge inlaid copper pot of butter tea was simmering on the fire. Contrary to my expectation, he did not rise to receive me, but motioned to me to sit down on the rug next to him, evidently not considering me of sufficient importance to be worthy of a display of good manners. If I had been sensitive I would have walked out there and then, but it would have caused an unnecessary ‘storm in a teacup’. I always tried to avoid such contretemps even if it involved a slight dent in my dignity. The man was huge and extremely strong. He looked at me with searching and penetrating eyes. He wore a silk jacket of golden-yellow colour, signifying that he was indeed a lama, and the wine-red lama robe was wrapped around his waist. His head was shaven. With an air of boredom he offered me some butter tea in a new silver-inlaid wooden bowl and sipped some himself. We offered the traditional khata — white gauze scarf — as a mark of goodwill and respect, and greeted him. My friend told him who I was and what was my work in Likiang. Seeing that I was not a missionary or local government official, his manner changed; his eyes became friendly, and he talked in a jovial manner about this and that. Finally he exploded in a sharp command to one of the attendant monks and the man rushed out of the room.
‘I like you both,’ he roared. ‘Ara tung! (Let us drink wine!)’
The monk returned with a jar full of white wine, cups were produced and we started toasting each other, munching kanbarr — dried yak meat. We must have stayed at least one hour, having a really jolly time with this unconventional lama.
After a week or so we heard that his sales were going very well indeed under the able direction of Madame Ho in her capacity as a shrewd and well-connected merchandise broker. She made thousands on the deal as she had skilfully beaten down the lama with discreet innuendoes as to the origin of his goods. I and my friend were quite surprised when one day we received invitations to dinner from the lama, and before he left I was invited again to his house for an intimate drink. It appeared that he liked me and wanted me to come with him on a visit to his lamasery. I thought the best policy would be frankness again. I said that I appreciated very much his invitation and, for my part, I always wanted to see his mysterious country, but I could not go to my doom with open eyes, for I still hoped to live a little longer. He said he thought he could protect me but his voice did not carry enough assurance.
One day I was intrigued by the appearance on a street near Double Stone Bridge of a gorgeously attired Tibetan woman, accompanied at a respectful distance by two more modestly dressed women who obviously were her suite. She wore a gold-embroidered semi-conical hat, jacket of gold brocade and a petunia-shaped skirt of some kind of cloth-of-gold. She was of average height and appeared to be in her thirties. Her face was neither beautiful nor ugly, her eyes were cold and commanding and she walked with great dignity. I bowed to her respectfully and she just nodded in return. I met her several times later and once she was accompanied by a giant of a Tibetan who was also magnificently dressed. He wore a similar gold-embroidered hat, rich silk jacket of purple colour, with gold and silver-studded belt, a silver-sheathed short sword and black corduroy trousers. His hair had not been braided in the usual Tibetan style and his black curls fell freely on his shoulders. His face was rounded, with apple-red cheeks and big eyes. His teeth were dazzling. Several times in my childhood I had seen a life-size painting of Peter the Great and it had left a deep impression on me. When I saw the towering, athletic figure of this magnificent man, the same rounded face with red cheeks, the eyes and the black curls falling on the shoulders, the resemblance to the long-dead czar staggered me. Even the dress conformed to that period. The same evening, after dinner, I rushed to Madame Ho’s wine-shop and described to her the woman and the man. She laughed.
‘She is a ruling duchess from Hsiangchen and he is her latest acquisition.’
‘Don’t you think she is a rather hard-looking woman?’ I asked. Madame Ho poured herself and me another cup of yintsieu before replying.
‘Yes, she is. They say that they are fighting already like cat and dog.’
‘That’s funny. He is such a powerful man,’ I ventured.
‘Well, it’s not all gold that glitters,’ was Madame Ho’s cryptic remark, and she started putting up the shutters.
Next day I met my Nakhi friend — the same who had introduced me to the robber lama. I described to him the Hsiangchen princess.
‘Oh, I know her quite well,’ he said. ‘She is rich and powerful and she came to Likiang to enjoy herself,’ he continued. ‘Let us go and I will introduce you to her,’ he proposed. ‘By the way, people say she is divorcing her present husband. Perhaps you will be eligible as the next one,’ he teased me with a sly wink.
The duchess received me graciously. She was seated on a pile of gem-like rugs, surrounded by her ladies. She ordered wine and we chatted for a while. I addressed her from time to time as Wang Mo (Powerful Woman), which is an official title meaning princess or duchess. She was very pleased.
‘O Powerful Woman,’ I said at last, ‘you have acquired such a wonderful husband.’ Even before I completed the sentence I realized that I had committed a dreadful faux pas. She became very angry and her cheeks suffused with red.
‘Are you coming here to insult me?’ she demanded severely. I did not know what to say, so embarrassed was I.
‘You have probably picked up some scandal about me,’ she raged. ‘Wonderful husband indeed!’ she mocked me. ‘He looks good but he is nothing,’ she continued in a loud voice. ‘I have given him another fortnight to regain his virility,’ she almost screamed. ‘Otherwise out he goes!’
I could feel that she was near hysteria. I apologized profusely and we had another drink. I reminded her that Likiang had a foreign-style doctor and several drug stores, so that the happiness of her conjugal life might yet be restored by a clever doctor and the judicious use of certain restoratives. She shook her head sceptically.
In about three weeks I chanced in the street to bump into the poor ‘Peter the Great’. He looked sheepish and dishevelled and his eyes were listless. He did not stop to talk to me and disappeared into an inn. I called on my Nakhi friend.
‘Haven’t you heard the news yet?’ he asked me. ‘She did kick him out. Now she is gone and the poor fellow has been left high and dry to shift for himself.’
I liked the Khamba Tibetans who came on legitimate business. It was always easy to spot these giants walking through crowds in the streets or on the market. Their fluffy caps of fox fur made them appear even taller than they were. They were friendly, cheerful and generous to a fault. They looked very manly indeed with their hats on, but without hats their appearance was peculiar. The hair was braided in many pigtails which were coiled around the head with the aid of red ribbons, and in this way they strongly reminded me of some heroic Wagnerian women of the Brunhilde or Kriemhilde type, dressed in men’s clothes. Several stayed at my house as guests. Their faces, burnt by the fierce sun of high altitudes and coarsened by biting winds, were usually quite dark; but I had occasion to observe that their bodies were always wonderfully white and the skin was like velvet. They never took a bath but rubbed themselves with butter every night. This, of course, made their skin soft, but after their sojourn in my house, the bedsheets were quite black and so impregnated with rancid butter that they could never be washed or used again, and for weeks the whole house smelled like burnt butter.
The highly placed Tibetans of Lhasa liked to come to Likiang for both business and holidays in spite of the great distance. All Tibetans are great travellers, and caravan travel in that vast country, if properly organized, is extremely enjoyable. But one high-class Tibetan family from Lhasa had settled in Likiang. It consisted of two men, a woman and a child, and a retinue of servants. They were mild and gentle people, extremely courteous and thoughtful. One of the gentlemen was a shortish plump man with a beard. He usually wore a purple tunic over his shoulders, tied with a sash at the waist, and a yellow silk shirt which hinted at a connection with a religious organization. His companion was a short man also. His hair was short-cropped, he had a beard too, and his face was somewhat ascetic and extremely intelligent. His attire was openly lamaistic, but he did not often wear the usual lama cloak. The woman was tall, very white and beautiful. She was dressed as a Lhasa lady of high rank, wearing the traditional apron of multi-coloured silk strips. The child was about five years old and was the best-looking Tibetan boy I have ever seen. He was dressed like a little Tibetan gentleman, with high boots, tiny sword and all. They lived by Double Stone Bridge. In due course I was introduced to them and we became great friends. I learned in a roundabout way from friends and Madame Ho, who had become a confidante of the woman, that the elderly man was indeed a lama. He was the Steward of the Royal Household of Reting, the Incarnation of the Sakya (White) Sect and one of the four titulary kings of Tibet. His friend, the man in the lama dress, was the Chaplain of the Incarnation. I was beginning to piece the story together.
It must have been quite a few years before the arrival of these men, that there was some kind of plot in Lhasa, the figure-head of which was Reting. He was arrested by the Government and put in jail. Some people told me that he was tortured slowly and died of his injuries; others insisted with equal vehemence that it was not true and that he died in jail from a disease. Anyway, the Steward and the Chaplain had time to slip away from Lhasa with a considerable fortune in gold and valuable merchandise. Whether they did it after Reting had died or whether Reting, as a precaution, had sent them away with his fortune earlier I could not find out. It was such an unhappy and tragic episode, and it would have been in the worst possible taste for me to broach the subject to the two men direct. It appears that they had travelled to Likiang in a long detour via Kokonor, where they had adherents and friends. On the way the Steward met an attractive Khamba girl of good family and, throwing to the winds his vows of celibacy, married her and had a son. It seems they had wanted to stay in the Tibetan Kham, but the slow-moving tentacles of the Lhasa Government were reaching for them even in that remote province. Thus they settled in the safety of Likiang, selling their goods and gold as needed.
Naturally the old man’s marriage caused a scandal in Lhasa. The ruling Church in Tibet is the Gelugkpa, that is, the Yellow or Reformed Sect, of which the lamas and trapas are strict celibates. But the Tibetans are a warm-blooded and passionate people, and many of them become monks not so much out of religious fervour but because it is practically the only way to security and a career in the theocratic society. Every family with two or more sons sends one to a lamasery the same hopes and motives as a poor family in Europe or America would send its boy to a university. In this respect Tibet is a very democratic country. The Government is essentially theocratic, and there is no limit or obstacle placed in the way of a poor but clever and ambitious monk to reach one of the highest posts in the realm. He may even become a Regent if he is brilliant enough. As a matter of fact the late Reting came from a lowly origin. Hard learning, sagacity and drive are the only ingredients needed for success.
An exemplary life and restraint are also required. A monk may have peccadilloes but he must be very careful to keep them hidden. Open bravado is not tolerated and the punishment is swift and just. It was a courageous step, therefore, for my friend, the Lama Steward, to have married openly, but also it was a folly and an outrage. I always had a suspicion of how declasse he felt in his heart. Naturally he could feel more at ease in Likiang. Likiang’s Lamaism was entirely the old Unreformed Red Sect (Karamapa), which with the Skaya and Bon (Black) sects had been the original Tibetan Church before its reformation. The Red Sect lamas are much more indulgent in their life. They eat and drink what they like and they can have a wife and children so long as they do not bring their wives into a lamasery for cohabitation. But any lama could have his aged father or widowed mother to live with him in his well-appointed apartment, and they helped by cooking, sweeping and washing clothes whilst the lama son was immersed in his devotions or studies.
The two lamas liked my calls and I enjoyed immensely the company of this aristocratic family. I spoke to them in my halting Tibetan. They were always delighted and the lady clapped her hands in glee whenever I turned out a particularly long sentence, mostly with the use of a dictionary I always carried about with me. I was wondering whether this approbation was only a delicate mockery, but they assured me that it was not. They said it tickled them not because a foreigner spoke their language — that was no novelty as they had met explorers and missionaries who spoke Tibetan — but because I spoke the few words I knew in the real Lhasa dialect and used the correct forms and expressions of the honorific language which is the language that should be used when conversing with the lamas and members of Tibetan society. I explained that I had been taught the Tibetan language by a refined Lhasa gentleman during my stay in Tachienlu, and that I had a little practice conversing with the Prince Grand Lama of Litang and with the Grand Lama of Dranggo. They liked me all the more on hearing that I knew such great lamas.
The older man seldom went out. He suffered from an itch, which I thought was a form of eczema, and rheumatism. I tried to help him with the medicines at my disposal and he was always very grateful. I usually came in the morning and stayed for an hour or two enjoying the atmosphere of an elegant Tibetan household. They lived very well and the servants waited on them hand and foot. The drawing-room was expensively decorated in very good taste. There was a profusion of rare and beautiful rugs on couches and chairs, inlaid copper pots, with butter tea, and braziers had been burnished with such zeal that they glowed with red fire in the diffused rays of the sun which filtered through carved windows and doors. Only jade teacups were used by the family, with delicate filigree covers of silver and gold. On the wall above the altar there was a large photograph of their dead master, when he was young, festooned with silk khatas. Below on the altar stood a massive gold shrine with a photograph of the young Dalai Lama. Whatever differences and intrigues there may exist between the different churches of Tibet or between a church and the Government, the Dalai Lama, God King, is above politics, doctrines and favouritism. He always remains the Supreme Head of all the churches, sects and of the Government. He is loved and revered by all and everyone is loyal to him.
The little boy Aja Pentso (Prince Aja) played with his nurse or the other servants. He was an affectionate child. During some of my afternoon ‘cocktail’ sessions with Madame Ho, he used to come with his nurse to buy sweets. He liked to sit on my knee and always asked for a sip or two of the sweet yintsieu I was drinking. As all little children in Likiang drink like little fishes, I did not mind giving him half a cup. Later on, however, his mother asked me not to do it any more, for it appeared that he got drunk every time and created a lot of trouble in the house trying to beat up his mother, father and the nurse.
To the Nakhi and other Tibetans, the presence in their midst of a high-class Tibetan family was very flattering. The Steward and his lama were constantly invited and feted. To repay this hospitality these two gentlemen had arranged one day a truly royal party to which I also received a formal invitation. The invitation was, as is the custom, for three o’clock in the afternoon. But who would be idiotic enough to go at three? Three times the servants called on the invited guests, and at last we presented ourselves at about six. The whole house had been transformed. The walls had been concealed behind red silk tapestries and red woollen mats had been laid on the floor. Benches and chairs had been covered with priceless rugs. On the seven or eight round tables, reserved for the most honoured guests, there had been placed jade teacups with gold stands and covers. The small wine-cups were of chiselled gold, spoons of silver and chopsticks of ivory. Water-melon seeds, almonds and pumpkin seeds, to munch before the meal, were arranged in the centre of each table on gold and silver dishes. The lady of the house came out in full court dress, weighted heavily with gold jewellery. Her husband and the lama wore jackets of gold brocade. Quite unexpectedly several other elegant Tibetan ladies and gentlemen appeared. It was like a scene from the Arabian Nights. The feast itself was of course Chinese, and had been ordered from a famous local caterer, also called Madame Ho. Several kinds of potent wine had been ordered in plenty and were served out of gold and silver pots.
There is no such thing as a Tibetan cuisine. Owing to the limitations imposed by their religion, the purely Tibetan food is extremely monotonous and, as a rule, it is badly cooked. Tibetan women, attractive as they may be and clever in trade and finance, are not good cooks, and anything they cook is uneatable. It may seem too sweeping an accusation, but nevertheless it is true. I had many occasions to sample the efforts of Tibetan ladies and, though extremely hungry, I could not assimilate a single dish. The yak steaks could not be tackled with knives — only with sharp axes; fried potatoes were raw, and the soup was plainly a dirty dish-water with something indescribable floating in it. In Gardar, in Sikang Province, I had to exist for two months on a diet prepared by the Tibetan women of the Morowa tribe and, at the end, nearly gave up the ghost. They used to make a daily soup with almost unwashed pig’s intestines, dried peas and rutabaga. I had to eat it as there was nothing else, and it was only by frequent forays into the neighbouring lamasery that saved me from utter starvation.
Like the rich Englishmen, who solved their culinary problems by the employment of French chefs, Tibetan society solved theirs by the use of Chinese cooks. It was only natural therefore that the Reting’s Steward had ordered a Chinese feast on this occasion. Evidently he had given carte blanche to Madame Ho because there seemed to be no end to the courses. We sat down at seven and I do not think we got up before eleven. Every expensive and elegant dish that could be prepared in Likiang was there, although actually there was not much variety in the ingredients. There was chicken in clear soup, chicken fried and chicken roasted, and the same was true about duck and pig and fish. There was so much food left that it must have lasted a couple of days for the servants’ meals. Wine flowed freely and, perhaps, not too wisely, as many people were ready to go under the table. They were solicitously assisted by their servants, who led them home. All in all, the feast was quite the event of the season. If the guests had not been surprised by the food itself, at least they commented favourably on the quantity. What had impressed them most was the display of wealth by a member of the Tibetan aristocracy.
The Steward and the Lama always spoke nostalgically about Lhasa. They admitted they were terribly homesick. No Tibetan is really happy unless he has at least occasional glimpses of the Holy City and of the God King. And they had been separated from all this by space and time. They admitted, of course, that Likiang’s life was pleasant and free and easy. The men of high standing in Lhasa do not have an easy time. There, they have to present themselves every day before dawn to the State Council chamber for an audience with the Regent and other ministers. Business or no business, they have to sit there ceremoniously sipping cups of butter tea. The whole idea of this strict institution, they said, was really to keep an eye on the activities and movements of the powerful and influential persons. Without such supervision some powerful lord might slip out into a province, where he had influence, and engineer an uprising, not so much against the Dalai Lama, who was loved and revered, but against the Regent who was not liked by certain factions. The situation in Tibet was analogous to the pre-war situation in Japan when that country was ruled not by the Emperor, but by the men who had access to the person of the Emperor, and did all sorts of things in his name.
However, the Steward and the Lama were not sitting idly waiting for things to happen. I could not fail to notice that they were busy with messages and telegrams; there were arrivals and departures of messengers from Chiamdo and Kokonor and, probably, even from Lhasa. Evidently they were scheming and intriguing to have themselves restored and rehabilitated in the eyes of the Dalai Lama and his Government. I did not stay long enough to see what happened to them, but before I left a cruel blow fell upon this gentle family. The little Prince Aja fell ill. I saw the boy and, in my opinion, it was a case of a simple cold, for which I gave him some aspirins. At the end of the week he appeared to be much better. However, listening to ignorant neighbours, the poor boy’s parents decided to accelerate the recovery by a series of the injections recommended by a certain quack doctor from Hoking. This bogus doctor made it known to all Likiang people that all and every sickness could be cured almost at once by his injections. Without telling me anything, the father had invited this scoundrel who administered to the poor child sixteen injections, of what I never found out, between morning and evening. By nightfall the poor little prince had died.
I think it was at the end of 1946, when the war had already become a thing of the past, that a debonair young Tibetan arrived in Likiang. He travelled in style, taking a plane from Calcutta to Kunming and a private car from Kunming to Hsiakwan. He stopped at the house of a friend of mine, who was half-Nakhi and half-Tibetan. I was duly introduced to this cultured Tibetan, who wore European clothes and spoke good English. His name was Neema. It turned out that he was the private secretary to Kusho Kashopa, who was a member of the Tibetan Cabinet. Neema said that he came to Likiang on business, but it was only later that I had found out the nature of this business.
The landlord of the house where Neema stayed had a very pretty daughter. A romance developed between the handsome Tibetan and this Nakhi girl and, in due course, she was ‘sold’ to Neema for a considerable sum of money or, in other words, they got married. They stayed for a couple of months in Likiang and then went to Lhasa. In about a year they returned and then I knew what Neema’s business was.
As I have already described, an unprecedented caravan trade had developed during the war between Lhasa and Likiang which enriched immensely many Likiang merchants and their counterparts in Lhasa. But peace came unexpectedly with the capitulation of Japan, and with the reopening of the ports of Shanghai, Hongkong and Canton no one in the interior of China wanted any more expensive goods brought by caravan. But the great caravans, that had started from Lhasa a month or two before the armistice, began to arrive in Likiang. Most of the goods had been sent on a consignment basis by the profit-hungry Tibetan merchant houses. Dutifully the Likiang merchants were sending the merchandise as soon as it arrived to Kunming, where it was selling at a huge loss or remaining in warehouses. The frantic Tibetans in Lhasa sent telegrams daily asking for the remittances, but no remittances were sent. With a capital of nearly 500,000 Indian rupees sunk in the merchandise already in Likiang, the merchants and the Government in Lhasa found themselves in a tight fix. In addition to the capital of the commercial houses, there was a good deal of money invested in the caravan traffic by the Blue Treasury, other Government people and the minister Kashopa himself.
There had probably been some premonitions in Lhasa about this fantastically expanded caravan traffic to China and some wise people had probably felt that this golden shower could not last for ever. It was due to these considerations, I believe, that Neema had been sent in the first place to assess the capacity of the Likiang and Kunming markets and to probe into the integrity of certain Nakhi and Hoking merchants. It seems probable that the young man had done his work conscientiously and reported to his superiors favourably. Otherwise the caravans would have stopped. But poor Neema could not have foreseen the sudden collapse of the mighty Japanese Empire and the quick peace. After all, he was only a capable secretary and a business man and not the Nechung Oracle, and it is clear that neither his reputation nor his position suffered when the crisis came.
The Tibetans are reasonable people and are true merchant princes when it comes to taking a legitimate risk. The magnitude of the business disaster that had overtaken them was treated as an Act of God, as it should have been. Who could have foreseen the atomic bomb and the sudden armistice when the war seemed to continue year after year without an end in sight? However, they were not a gullible people and the cabled protestations from Likiang and Hoking that not a cent could be remitted had not been accepted at its face value. The Government had decided to conduct an investigation into the failure to pay for the goods duly received at their destination.
Armed with proper credentials and a power of attorney from Kusho Kashopa and the chief minister, Neema flew to Likiang again, bringing his wife. At the same time Nakhi and Hoking merchants in Lhasa had to submit to a mild investigation of their transactions and a restraint on further remittances to India and China was imposed. As a matter of fact, they were looked upon as the hostages.
It was a greatly changed atmosphere that Neema found on his second visit to Likiang. The traditional sweetness and welcome of the principal Nakhi and Hoking merchants for their Tibetan brothers had gone. The cunning foxes had been quick in scenting the true meaning of Neema’s visit. Instead of the sumptuous feasts, a game of hide and seek began. A call on one firm elicited the fact that its owner was at death’s door and could not be seen. At another place Neema was told that the master had gone to Kunming a few days ago. At a third he was informed that an interview could not be arranged as all the directors were still in Hsiakwan. There were similar excuses elsewhere by the dozen. In a truly Oriental tradition, the polished Neema neither flew into a rage nor threatened anybody with the full weight of the law. He merely announced that he was in Likiang on a visit to his father-in-law principally on account of his wife’s health and his business was merely accidental. He said that he would stay indefinitely and possibly make occasional trips to Hoking and Kunming to call on the old merchant friends who had so unfortunately dispersed from Likiang. In the meantime he called on the local Government and began to make his own investigations. Finally the ‘sick’ merchants had to recover and others to return. Then the fun started. Clad in their oldest gowns, these millionaires piteously cried how poor they were on account of their immense losses; they hardly had anything left to eat at home. Accounts were produced to substantiate the crushing losses, and many tricks were used to frustrate Neema’s mission and avoid paying even a cent. Almost every week Neema wired long reports to Lhasa. He swore me to secrecy and asked me to assist him in rendering these messages into English to make them less understandable to his opponents, who had bribed the telegraph clerk to give them copies. He certainly used some pungent expressions to describe these crooks.
A few payments were extracted with extreme difficulty, some unsold goods were located, stored by the crooks with their friends or in secret places. One or two houses were offered in compensation as evidence of bankruptcy of the firm’s owner. This immovable property was not of the least interest to the remote Lhasa Government, and with the end of the trade boom, houses in Likiang had declined sharply in value. With the war’s end the city had rapidly lost its importance as a trade centre and was reverting to its original status of a peaceful little capital of a forgotten tribal kingdom, off the main trail of the world’s events. Finally, with the arrival of the Red regime in Likiang, Neema was prudent enough to interrupt his futile collecting of outstanding debts and left Likiang, together with his wife, on the same plane as myself.
Sitting in my office upstairs one morning, I heard the tinkling of a silver bell and rushed to the window to see who was coming. It was perhaps a bad habit of mine, but I could never refrain from dashing to the window whenever I heard the sound of bells, hooves on the stone path or some unusually loud or unfamiliar noise in the street below. This was from my desire to see everything worth seeing and not to miss anything going on in this magical city. I was so grateful to the Fates who placed me in this house so strategically situated on the main road which led to many tribal villages, to Hsiakwan and to Lhasa itself. From the early morning till late at night it was crowded with a procession of unique people and sights — colourful and enchanting and not to be missed at any cost.
Seated in a silver saddle on a magnificent black mule, led by a soldier in black woollen cloak and carrying a gun, there was a pretty young woman in dark blue pleated skirt and red jacket, wearing an enormous cartwheel turban of scarlet silk. Two women in light blue dresses, barefooted but weighted with silver ornaments, ran behind her. To my surprise the mule stopped at our gate and the soldier entered. I descended just in time to meet the lady as she crossed the threshold. She smiled at me and introduced herself.
‘I am the Queen Awouchin of Lotien,’ she said with an easy grace. ‘I always wanted to see your house,’ she added in a lovely, silvery voice.
She was petite, extremely pretty and vivacious. I bowed and showed her upstairs. She ran up, accompanied by the two ladies-in-waiting and the soldier. She went straight to my desk and seated herself in the chair. The barefooted ladies with the dark-blue turbans sat on the floor together with the soldier. I asked the queen whether she would take tea. She wrinkled her nose and said ‘No.’ Would she drink some boiled water? I inquired again. She laughed outright.
‘Don’t you have anything better than that?’ she said, looking at me challengingly.
I understood. Cups were brought and I produced a jar of best yintsieu. She drank her cup very quickly and I poured her another. She pressed me to keep her company and gave a cup to the soldier herself, explaining that he was really her knight-at-arms. The two ladies-in-waiting drank their cups greedily. We all became merry. Very soon we began asking each other very personal questions. I told her about myself, my work and how old I was. She said that she was only eighteen and had just divorced her sixth husband. She had come to Likiang for shopping and to look up some relatives who lived near the village of Shwowo.
At last she got up and went to my gramophone.
‘Can you play some dance music?’ she asked. I put on a slow foxtrot.
‘Can you dance?’ she asked. I said that I could.
I do not remember how long we danced, probably more than an hour. Like all the Tibetans and Nakhi, who come from remote mountain regions, she was a wonderful dancer. Not once did she miss a step or a movement. Since the music and dances of the Nakhi, Tibetans and Black Lissu along the Yangtze River are essentially Western in rhythm and execution, there was no need for any preliminary explanation or demonstration. She particularly enjoyed my boogie-woogie records and we jitterbugged until I was ready to collapse.
Finally she sat down and we had a few more cups of wine.
‘You ought to come down to Lotien,’ she said. ‘Perhaps we could even be married,’ she added nonchalantly. I pretended to be shocked.
‘At my age!’ I exclaimed. ‘And with you so young!’
She brushed that aside.
‘A foreign husband would give me a lot of prestige,’ she continued. ‘You would have a comfortable life and much money.’
I glanced instinctively at her good-looking knight and he gave me a dirty look.
‘What about your knight?’ I whispered, winking at her.
She laughed. ‘It’s nothing. He is only a friend,’ and she rose to go.
‘Well, I will think it over,’ I said, not wishing to disappoint royalty. I escorted her downstairs.
‘I shall drop in again.’ She waved to me as the two ladies were helping her into the saddle.
I entered my general office. Prince Mu and Wuhsien, my interpreter and organizer, were smiling broadly.
‘That was Her Majesty the Queen Awouchin of Lotien,’ I announced proudly.
‘I know her well,’ said Prince Mu. ‘She is a distant relative of ours.’
‘Is it true that she is only eighteen?’ I inquired. Both men laughed outright.
‘At least twenty-six if a day,’ they cried in unison.
‘What about her husband?’ I continued.
‘She has just divorced her fifth or sixth one,’ they said.
‘And the soldier?’ I asked again.
‘He is clearly a candidate,’ said Wuhsien, ‘otherwise why should she drag him along.’
The next day I was surprised by a visit from the handsome soldier. He went straight up to my room, sat down and unwrapped a small leather pouch. Then he took two small moon-shaped silver sycees and laid them before me.
‘What is that?’ I asked uneasily.
‘This is my present to you if you will lay off the queen,’ he said simply. I felt I was becoming red.
‘What do you mean?’ I gasped, trying to control a burst of laughter.
‘I love her,’ he continued, looking me straight in the eye, ‘and I hope she will choose me for a new husband.’
‘But where do I come in?’ I tried my best to get it clear.
‘Well, she is serious about marrying you. She thinks a foreign husband would be an experience and it would add to her power.’ He said it with conviction.
Now I was laughing so much that the people downstairs thought I had gone mad. I took the sycees and replaced them in the pouch. Then I handed it back to the knight and filled two cups with wine. I told him solemnly:
‘My dear friend, I am not Adonis, and please do not consider me to be your rival for royal favours.’ We took a sip, then I continued: ‘I shall never marry your queen, not because she is not beautiful but because I do not want to spend my life in Lotien.’
He brightened up considerably, but still persisted in trying to give me the silver.
I conducted him gently downstairs. He came back yet once more in the evening and presented me with a jar of my favourite wine; but the Queen of Lotien never came back.