George Scott Robertson.

The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; online

. (page 16 of 38)
Online LibraryGeorge Scott RobertsonThe Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; → online text (page 16 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

left me. Snow hid the spot and prevented his finding
it when he went away for good. The treasure eventu-
ally became the property of a lucky Kafir, w^hose little
son found the money, which had become exposed by field-
rats digging up the handkerchief.

The total result of the Kusala episode was unfortunate
in every way. The Kafir appetite for unearned gains had
been whetted. Ever afterwards they looked upon me as
a person of extraordinary wealth, who could not possibly
have brought so many rupees into the country for his
own private use. A gradually increasing suspicion arose
in the tribe that my own personal adherents gained much
profit by my continued residence in Kamdesh, while the
"bulk of the Kam people derived no benefit from it what-
ever. The suspicion that a few favoured individuals
received presents and money was quite unfounded, but
it had the unpleasant eftect of persuading my friends
that they ought to receive what every one believed they
actually were receiving. These growing feelings of sus-


picion on the part of some, that gifts were being distri-
buted with partiality among a people claiming equal
rights, and the impatience of others at finding them-
selves gradually incurring the dislike of their fellow-
tribesmen without any compensating advantage in the
way of increasing wealth, eventually led to my expulsion
from the Kdm Valley, An entire reversal of my policy,
the open giving of money to a limited number, a delibe-
rate but straightforward attempt to create a party enthu-
siastic for my return, and another larger party hopeful
of personal advantage by my being again among them,
enabled me to get back again to Kamdesh after having
been once expelled, although my return journey was
naturally undertaken in circumstances of considerable
difficulty and danger. But this is anticipating. The
chief annoyances at the moment were, first, the envious,
covetous eyes witli which my visitors gazed always round
my room ; and secondly, the impossibility of my enter-
taining my guests properly with tea, tobacco, sweetmeats,
and so on, for Rusala, taking advantage of my illness,
had made unto himself friends of the mammon of un-
righteousness, by distributing my little stock of luxuries
with a carelessly lavish hand. At the termination of the
liusalti episode it seemed advisable, on many grounds,
for me to leave Kamdesh for a short period. V>y remov-
ing to a warmer climate T could alone hope to regain,
my health and strength, while the somewhat unsatis-
factory relations which still existed between the Kafirs
and myself made it advisable that, for a time at least,
we should not see too much of one another.


The narrative continued — Opposition to my journey — I am boycotted — Halt
at jMergrom — Send for Gul Muhammad Khan — Shooting in the Charad-
gul Valley — The Kam beg me to return to Ktimdesh — Zanr ^lalik — Hun
out of supplies — Lost — Shelter in the " pshal " — Hospitable reception —
A lively bearskin couch — Hidden position of camp — A markhor hunt —
Valley swarming with game — March from the Charadgul Valley —
"Gabars" — Birkot — Personal appearance of the Gabar — The Gabar
women — Arandu — An easy rope-bridge — A quarrel — The Kafirs give
trouble — Bad behaviour of the peoi)le of Ntiri — Hostility of the Malik
— Nari — Return journey to Kamdesh — Smallpox in Mergrom — Night
in a cow-stable — Reach Kamdesh — Want of cordiality in the people —
Renewed intrigues of the Mehtar of Chitral — His change of front —
The Kiim debate the advisability of detaining me a prisoner — Question
satisfactorily arranged — Mian Gul as an intriguer — His attempt at
black-mailing — Shermalik implores me to leave the valley — Boycotted
again — Summoned to appear before the headmen — Arguments and
threats — Torag Merak waxes abusive — Victory rests Avith me — 3Ii;in
Gul a perpetual thorn in my side — Sojourn in Agatsi.

The moment my intention of leaving Kamdesh was
announced, the greatest opposition was aroused on the
part of the people, and I was so absolutely boycotted,
that no Kam man could be induced to accompany
me, either as guide or escort. That nothing should
prevent my carrying out my fixed resolve, we started
down the Kamdesh hill through the deep snow, but
were compelled, on account of my bad health, to halt
for a few days in great discomfort at the village of
Mergrom, which is a kind of city of refuge for those
Kafirs and their direct descendants who have killed
fellow-tribesmen, and who continue unable or unwilling
to pay the necessary ransom for the shedding of blood.


From Mergrom a message was sent to Gul Muhammad
Khan, the " 'verted " son of Torag iSIerak, who lived near
Gonrdesh. He came at once at my summons, bringing
with him several hunting-dogs, and we went shooting
together up the Charadgul Valley.

On the 30th of December a Kam friend of mine had
caught me up. He was called by the appropriate name
of Zanr (red) Malik ; he remarked that he had followed
to help me secretly, but no one else was coming. The
Kam people, however, when they perceived that they
were out-manoeuvred, hurried off two of their number
to overtake me, and to offer all manner of excuses for
leaving me to wander about the country alone, and then
to try, on various pretexts, to persuade me to return to
Kamdesh at once ; but I refused to listen to these mes-

V^e got one or two markhor, and as we had run out of
all supplies, we had to live exclusively on the flesh of that
animal, while Gul Muhammad's servant, Yara, and one of
my Baltis were away getting flour at Gourdesh. On the
2nd of January we moved our camp, the baggage going
straight up the Charadgul Valley, while we proposed to
shoot on the hills and meet it at tlio pslial (goat-])ens,
&c.) where we intended to camp. Gul Muhammad led
the way with his dogs. Mir Alam followed behind. He
was to have strapped my greatcoat on to his back, but
forgot all about it. After a climb of three or four thou-
sand feet the dogs were slipped, but the result was disap-
pointing. We saw several markhor, but Gul Muhammad's
dogs were wild and ill-trained, and separately hunted the
animals in different directions. After an hour or .so the
dogs returned one by one, completely exhausted, ^^'c


wandered about for a few hours aimlessly, when Gul
Muliammad, pointing to a distant ridge, asked me to go
and wait there for a time, when, if nothing happened, we
were all to proceed to our new camp, the precise position
of which he indicated in fluent Pashtu to Mir Alam, who
declared, with characteristic " cock-sureness," that he
fully understood, and could go there without a mistake.
I'athans are scarcely less infallible than a last-joined
Indian Civil Servant. It was now four o'clock, and we
had a steep and difficult descent before us. Mir Alam at
once came to grief, wounding his hand severely in the
fall. We marched on confidently enough until it grew
dark. It seemed we must have lost our way, but Mir
Alam in a superior manner pointed to certain tracks in
the snow which he identified as those of my dogs. He
even particularised which man each dog was following.
It seemed wonderfully clever, but at length the tracks
ended in a clean sheet of snow, and it was clear we had
been following old marks. Upon this, even Mir Alam
had to acknowledge himself at fault. We were both
very tired, the cold was intense, and, as bad fortune would
have it, we had nothing with which we could light a fire
to warm ourselves, and at the same time to signal our
position to Gul Muhammad Khan, who would certainly
be on the hills with a search party. I finally determined
to follow the Charadgul stream down to our old camp,
near which was a pshal, and to rest there for the night. We
blundered in the dark down the bed of the stream, twist-
ing our ankles in the crevices between the water-worn
stones, and crossing and re-crossing and wading the
stream fifty times, when once would have been sufficient
had we only known the way, or had we been able to see


To face page 261.


our path. In the end, all out, as the phrase goes, we
arrived at the place we had quitted in the morning, and
soon found the pshal. The Kafirs were immensely sur-
prised, but received us with hospitality. We had little to
say in reply to their many questions, we w^ere so hungry,
cold, and fatigued. The pshal was of the regulation
size, about twenty feet square, and w'as strongly built in
the usual Kafir method. It contained over a hundred
goats, many kids, four men, and two girl-wives, thir-
teen or fourteen years old. In the corner blazed a huge
fire, in front of which a youth sat superintending the
cooking of some markhor meat in a big earthen pot
w'ith a small mouth. He w^as attired in a too abbre-
viated goat-skin. In his hand he had a wooden cup
with a handle a foot long. The bowl of the implement
was too large to be of any real service in skimming the
boiling fluid, but the boy worked away at his task as
if he were employed most usefully. He possessed an
abominably shrill voice, w-hich lacerated one's exhausted
nerves. There was a small door-shaped window near
the fire, but this w^as only opened when drinking-water
w'as required from a vessel placed to keep cool on a
shelf outside. A\'atching the cooking and offering
occasional remarks, were the rest of the company. I
was given a block of wood to sit upon, and supplied
with some delicious goat's milk, while one of the Kiifirs
produced from a bag something which looked like a
stone, but which turned out to be a kind of bread.
The bleating and familiarity of the goats, the cries of
the kids from their little enclosed platform, the piercing
voice of the cook, in addition to the general smell of
ordure and the closeness of the atmosphere, counted

262 Tin; kAfirs of the hindu-kush

for nothin

Online LibraryGeorge Scott RobertsonThe Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; → online text (page 16 of 38)