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Title:      Lost Horizon (1933)
Author:     James Hilton
eBook No.:  0500141.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Title:      Lost Horizon (1933)
Author:     James Hilton






PROLOGUE


Cigars had burned low, and we were beginning to sample the
disillusionment that usually afflicts old school friends who have
met again as men and found themselves with less in common than they
had believed they had.  Rutherford wrote novels; Wyland was one of
the Embassy secretaries; he had just given us dinner at Tempelhof--
not very cheerfully, I fancied, but with the equanimity which a
diplomat must always keep on tap for such occasions.  It seemed
likely that nothing but the fact of being three celibate Englishmen
in a foreign capital could have brought us together, and I had
already reached the conclusion that the slight touch of priggishness
which I remembered in Wyland Tertius had not diminished with years
and an M.V.O.  Rutherford I liked more; he had ripened well out of
the skinny, precocious infant whom I had once alternately bullied
and patronized.  The probability that he was making much more money
and having a more interesting life than either of us gave Wyland and
me our one mutual emotion--a touch of envy.

The evening, however, was far from dull.  We had a good view of the
big Lufthansa machines as they arrived at the aerodrome from all
parts of Central Europe, and towards dusk, when arc flares were
lighted, the scene took on a rich, theatrical brilliance.  One of
the planes was English, and its pilot, in full flying kit, strolled
past our table and saluted Wyland, who did not at first recognize
him.  When he did so there were introductions all around, and the
stranger was invited to join us.  He was a pleasant, jolly youth
named Sanders.  Wyland made some apologetic remark about the
difficulty of identifying people when they were all dressed up in
Sibleys and flying helmets; at which Sanders laughed and answered:
"Oh, rather, I know that well enough.  Don't forget I was at
Baskul."  Wyland laughed also, but less spontaneously, and the
conversation then took other directions.

Sanders made an attractive addition to our small company, and we
all drank a great deal of beer together.  About ten o'clock Wyland
left us for a moment to speak to someone at a table nearby, and
Rutherford, into the sudden hiatus of talk, remarked:  "Oh, by the
way, you mentioned Baskul just now.  I know the place slightly.
What was it you were referring to that happened there?"

Sanders smiled rather shyly.  "Oh, just a bit of excitement we had
once when I was in the Service."  But he was a youth who could not
long refrain from being confidential.  "Fact is, an Afghan or an
Afridi or somebody ran off with one of our buses, and there was the
very devil to pay afterwards, as you can imagine.  Most impudent
thing I ever heard of.  The blighter waylaid the pilot, knocked him
out, pinched his kit, and climbed into the cockpit without a soul
spotting him.  Gave the mechanics the proper signals, too, and was
up and away in fine style.  The trouble was, he never came back."

Rutherford looked interested.  "When did this happen?"

"Oh--must have been about a year ago.  May, 'thirty-one.  We were
evacuating civilians from Baskul to Peshawar owing to the
revolution--perhaps you remember the business.  The place was in a
bit of an upset, or I don't suppose the thing could have happened.
Still, it DID happen--and it goes some way to show that clothes
make the man, doesn't it?"

Rutherford was still interested.  "I should have thought you'd have
had more than one fellow in charge of a plane on an occasion like
that?"

"We did, on all the ordinary troop carriers, but this machine was a
special one, built for some maharajah originally--quite a stunt
kind of outfit.  The Indian Survey people had been using it for
high-altitude flights in Kashmir."

"And you say it never reached Peshawar?"

"Never reached there, and never came down anywhere else, so far as
we could discover.  That was the queer part about it.  Of course,
if the fellow was a tribesman he might have made for the hills,
thinking to hold the passengers for ransom.  I suppose they all got
killed, somehow.  There are heaps of places on the frontier where
you might crash and not be heard of afterwards."

"Yes, I know the sort of country.  How many passengers were there?"

"Four, I think.  Three men and some woman missionary."

"Was one of the men, by any chance, named Conway?"

Sanders looked surprised.  "Why, yes, as a matter of fact.  'Glory'
Conway--did you know him?"

"He and I were at the same school," said Rutherford a little self-
consciously, for it was true enough, yet a remark which he was
aware did not suit him.

"He was a jolly fine chap, by all accounts of what he did at
Baskul," went on Sanders.

Rutherford nodded.  "Yes, undoubtedly . . . but how extraordinary
. . . extraordinary . . ."  He appeared to collect himself after a
spell of mind-wandering.  Then he said:  "It was never in the
papers, or I think I should have read about it.  How was that?"

Sanders looked suddenly rather uncomfortable, and even, I imagined,
was on the point of blushing.  "To tell you the truth," he replied,
"I seem to have let out more than I should have.  Or perhaps it
doesn't matter now--it must be stale news in every mess, let alone
in the bazaars.  It was hushed up, you see--I mean, about the way
the thing happened.  Wouldn't have sounded well.  The government
people merely gave out that one of their machines was missing, and
mentioned the names.  Sort of thing that didn't attract an awful
lot of attention among outsiders."

At this point Wyland rejoined us, and Sanders turned to him half-
apologetically.  "I say, Wyland, these chaps have been talking
about 'Glory' Conway.  I'm afraid I spilled the Baskul yarn--I hope
you don't think it matters?"

Wyland was severely silent for a moment.  It was plain that he was
reconciling the claims of compatriot courtesy and official
rectitude.  "I can't help feeling," he said at length, "that it's a
pity to make a mere anecdote of it.  I always thought you air
fellows were put on your honor not to tell tales out of school."
Having thus snubbed the youth, he turned, rather more graciously,
to Rutherford.  "Of course, it's all right in your case, but I'm
sure you realize that it's sometimes necessary for events up on the
frontier to be shrouded in a little mystery."

"On the other hand," replied Rutherford dryly, "one has a curious
itch to know the truth."

"It was never concealed from anyone who had any real reason for
wanting to know it.  I was at Peshawar at the time, and I can
assure you of that.  Did you know Conway well--since school days, I
mean?"

"Just a little at Oxford, and a few chance meetings since.  Did YOU
come across him much?"

"At Angora, when I was stationed there, we met once or twice."

"Did you like him?"

"I thought he was clever, but rather slack."

Rutherford smiled.  "He was certainly clever.  He had a most
exciting university career--until war broke out.  Rowing Blue and a
leading light at the Union and prizeman for this, that, and the
other--also I reckon him the best amateur pianist I ever heard.
Amazingly many-sided fellow, the kind, one feels, that Jowett would
have tipped for a future premier.  Yet, in point of fact, one never
heard much about him after those Oxford days.  Of course the war
cut into his career.  He was very young and I gather he went
through most of it."

"He was blown up or something," responded Wyland, "but nothing very
serious.  Didn't do at all badly, got a D.S.O. in France.  Then I
believe he went back to Oxford for a spell as a sort of don.  I
know he went east in 'twenty-one.  His Oriental languages got him
the job without any of the usual preliminaries.  He had several
posts."

Rutherford smiled more broadly.  "Then of course, that accounts for
everything.  History will never disclose the amount of sheer
brilliance wasted in the routine decoding F.O. chits and handing
round tea at legation bun fights."

"He was in the Consular Service, not the Diplomatic," said Wyland
loftily.  It was evident that he did not care for the chaff, and he
made no protest when, after a little more badinage of a similar
kind, Rutherford rose to go.  In any case it was getting late, and
I said I would go, too.  Wyland's attitude as we made our farewells
was still one of official propriety suffering in silence, but
Sanders was very cordial and he said he hoped to meet us again
sometime.

I was catching a transcontinental train at a very dismal hour of
the early morning, and, as we waited for a taxi, Rutherford asked
me if I would care to spend the interval at his hotel.  He had a
sitting room, he said, and we could talk.  I said it would suit me
excellently, and he answered:  "Good.  We can talk about Conway, if
you like, unless you're completely bored with his affairs."

I said that I wasn't at all, though I had scarcely known him.  "He
left at the end of my first term, and I never met him afterwards.
But he was extraordinarily kind to me on one occasion.  I was a new
boy and there was no earthly reason why he should have done what he
did.  It was only a trivial thing, but I've always remembered it."

Rutherford assented.  "Yes, I liked him a good deal too, though I
also saw surprisingly little of him, if you measure it in time."

And then there was a somewhat odd silence, during which it was
evident that we were both thinking of someone who had mattered to
us far more than might have been judged from such casual contacts.
I have often found since then that others who met Conway, even
quite formally and for a moment, remembered him afterwards with
great vividness.  He was certainly remarkable as a youth, and to
me, who had known him at the hero-worshipping age, his memory is
still quite romantically distinct.  He was tall and extremely good-
looking, and not only excelled at games but walked off with every
conceivable kind of school prize.  A rather sentimental headmaster
once referred to his exploits as "glorious," and from that arose
his nickname.  Perhaps only he could have survived it.  He gave a
Speech Day oration in Greek, I recollect, and was outstandingly
first-rate in school theatricals.  There was something rather
Elizabethan about him--his casual versatility, his good looks, that
effervescent combination of mental with physical activities.
Something a bit Philip-Sidney-ish.  Our civilization doesn't often
breed people like that nowadays.  I made a remark of this kind to
Rutherford, and he replied:  "Yes, that's true, and we have a
special word of disparagement for them--we call them dilettanti.  I
suppose some people must have called Conway that, people like
Wyland, for instance.  I don't much care for Wyland.  I can't stand
his type--all that primness and mountainous self-importance.  And
the complete head-prefectorial mind, did you notice it?  Little
phrases about 'putting people on their honor' and 'telling tales
out of school'--as though the bally Empire were the fifth form at
St. Dominic's!  But, then, I always fall foul of these sahib
diplomats."

We drove a few blocks in silence, and then he continued:  "Still, I
wouldn't have missed this evening.  It was a peculiar experience
for me, hearing Sanders tell that story about the affair at Baskul.
You see, I'd heard it before, and hadn't properly believed it.  It
was part of a much more fantastic story, which I saw no reason to
believe at all, or well, only one very slight reason, anyway.  NOW
there are TWO very slight reasons.  I daresay you can guess that
I'm not a particularly gullible person.  I've spent a good deal of
my life traveling about, and I know there are queer things in the
world--if you see them yourself, that is, but not so often if you
hear of them secondhand.  And yet . . ."

He seemed suddenly to realize that what he was saying could not
mean very much to me, and broke off with a laugh.  "Well, there's
one thing certain--I'm not likely to take Wyland into my
confidence.  It would be like trying to sell an epic poem to Tit-
Bits.  I'd rather try my luck with you."

"Perhaps you flatter me," I suggested.

"Your book doesn't lead me to think so."

I had not mentioned my authorship of that rather technical work
(after all, a neurologist's is not everybody's "shop"), and I was
agreeably surprised that Rutherford had even heard of it.  I said
as much, and he answered:  "Well, you see, I was interested,
because amnesia was Conway's trouble at one time."

We had reached the hotel and he had to get his key at the bureau.
As we went up to the fifth floor he said:  "All this is mere
beating about the bush.  The fact is, Conway isn't dead.  At least
he wasn't a few months ago."

This seemed beyond comment in the narrow space and time of an
elevator ascent.  In the corridor a few seconds later I responded:
"Are you sure of that?  How do you know?"

And he answered, unlocking his door:  "Because I traveled with him
from Shanghai to Honolulu in a Jap liner last November."  He did
not speak again till we were settled in armchairs and had fixed
ourselves with drinks and cigars.  "You see, I was in China in the
autumn on a holiday.  I'm always wandering about.  I hadn't seen
Conway for years.  We never corresponded, and I can't say he was
often in my thoughts, though his was one of the few faces that have
always come to me quite effortlessly if I tried to picture it.  I
had been visiting a friend in Hankow and was returning by the Pekin
express.  On the train I chanced to get into conversation with a
very charming Mother Superior of some French sisters of charity.
She was traveling to Chung-Kiang, where her convent was, and,
because I knew a little French, she seemed to enjoy chattering to
me about her work and affairs in general.  As a matter of fact, I
haven't much sympathy with ordinary missionary enterprise, but I'm
prepared to admit, as many people are nowadays, that the Romans
stand in a class by themselves, since at least they work hard and
don't pose as commissioned officers in a world full of other ranks.
Still, that's by the by.  The point is that this lady, talking to
me about the mission hospital at Chung-Kiang, mentioned a fever
case that had been brought in some weeks back, a man who they
thought must be a European, though he could give no account of
himself and had no papers.  His clothes were native, and of the
poorest kind, and when taken in by the nuns he had been very ill
indeed.  He spoke fluent Chinese, as well as pretty good French,
and my train companion assured me that before he realized the
nationality of the nuns, he had also addressed them in English with
a refined accent.  I said I couldn't imagine such a phenomenon, and
chaffed her gently about being able to detect a refined accent in a
language she didn't know.  We joked about these and other matters,
and it ended by her inviting me to visit the mission if ever I
happened to be thereabouts.  This, of course, seemed then as
unlikely as that I should climb Everest, and when the train reached
Chung-Kiang I shook hands with genuine regret that our chance
contact had come to an end.  As it happened, though, I was back in
Chung-Kiang within a few hours.  The train broke down a mile or two
further on, and with much difficulty pushed us back to the station,
where we learned that a relief engine could not possibly arrive for
twelve hours.  That's the sort of thing that often happens on
Chinese railways.  So there was half a day to be lived through in
Chung-Kiang--which made me decide to take the good lady at her word
and call at the mission.

"I did so, and received a cordial, though naturally a somewhat
astonished, welcome.  I suppose one of the hardest things for a non-
Catholic to realize is how easily a Catholic can combine official
rigidity with non-official broad-mindedness.  Is that too
complicated?  Anyhow, never mind, those mission people made quite
delightful company.  Before I'd been there an hour I found that a
meal had been prepared, and a young Chinese Christian doctor sat
down with me to it and kept up a conversation in a jolly mixture of
French and English.  Afterwards, he and the Mother Superior took me
to see the hospital, of which they were very proud.  I had told
them I was a writer, and they were simpleminded enough to be
aflutter at the thought that I might put them all into a book.  We
walked past the beds while the doctor explained the cases.  The
place was spotlessly clean and looked to be very competently run.
I had forgotten all about the mysterious patient with the refined
English accent till the Mother Superior reminded me that we were
just coming to him.  All I could see was the back of the man's
head; he was apparently asleep.  It was suggested that I should
address him in English, so I said 'Good afternoon,' which was the
first and not very original thing I could think of.  The man looked
up suddenly and said 'Good afternoon' in answer.  It was true; his
accent was educated.  But I hadn't time to be surprised at that,
for I had already recognized him, despite his beard and altogether
changed appearance and the fact that we hadn't met for so long.  He
was Conway.  I was certain he was, and yet, if I'd paused to think
about it, I might well have come to the conclusion that he couldn't
possibly be.  Fortunately I acted on the impulse of the moment.  I
called out his name and my own, and though he looked at me without
any definite sign of recognition, I was positive I hadn't made any
mistake.  There was an odd little twitching of the facial muscles
that I had noticed in him before, and he had the same eyes that at
Balliol we used to say were so much more of a Cambridge blue than
an Oxford.  But besides all that, he was a man one simply didn't
make mistakes about--to see him once was to know him always.  Of
course the doctor and the Mother Superior were greatly excited.  I
told them that I knew the man, that he was English, and a friend of
mine, and that if he didn't recognize me, it could only be because
he had completely lost his memory.  They agreed, in a rather amazed
way, and we had a long consultation about the case.  They weren't
able to make any suggestions as to how Conway could possibly have
arrived at Chung-Kiang in his condition.

"To make the story brief, I stayed there over a fortnight, hoping
that somehow or other I might induce him to remember things.  I
didn't succeed, but he regained his physical health, and we talked
a good deal.  When I told him quite frankly who I was and who he
was, he was docile enough not to argue about it.  He was quite
cheerful, even, in a vague sort of way, and seemed glad enough to
have my company.  To my suggestion that I should take him home, he
simply said that he didn't mind.  It was a little unnerving, that
apparent lack of any personal desire.  As soon as I could I
arranged for our departure.  I made a confidant of an acquaintance
in the consular office at Hankow, and thus the necessary passport
and so on were made out without the fuss there might otherwise have
been.  Indeed, it seemed to me that for Conway's sake the whole
business had better be kept free from publicity and newspaper
headlines, and I'm glad to say I succeeded in that.  It could have
been jam, of course, for the press.

"Well, we made our exit from China in quite a normal way.  We
sailed down the Yangtze to Nanking, and then took a train for
Shanghai.  There was a Jap liner leaving for 'Frisco that same
night, so we made a great rush and got on board."

"You did a tremendous lot for him," I said.

Rutherford did not deny it.  "I don't think I should have done
quite as much for anyone else," he answered.  "But there was
something about the fellow, and always had been--it's hard to
explain, but it made one enjoy doing what one could."

"Yes," I agreed.  "He had a peculiar charm, a sort of winsomeness
that's pleasant to remember even now when I picture it, though, of
course, I think of him still as a schoolboy in cricket flannels."

"A pity you didn't know him at Oxford.  He was just brilliant--
there's no other word.  After the war people said he was different.
I, myself, think he was.  But I can't help feeling that with all
his gifts he ought to have been doing bigger work.  All that
Britannic Majesty stuff isn't my idea of a great man's career.  And
Conway was--or should have been--GREAT.  You and I have both known
him, and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it's an
experience we shan't ever forget.  And even when he and I met in
the middle of China, with his mind a blank and his past a mystery,
there was still that queer core of attractiveness in him."

Rutherford paused reminiscently and then continued:  "As you can
imagine, we renewed our old friendship on the ship.  I told him as
much as I knew about himself, and he listened with an attention
that might almost have seemed a little absurd.  He remembered
everything quite clearly since his arrival at Chung-Kiang, and
another point that may interest you is that he hadn't forgotten
languages.  He told me, for instance, that he knew he must have had
something to do with India, because he could speak Hindostani.

"At Yokohama the ship filled up, and among the new passengers was
Sieveking, the pianist, en route for a concert tour in the States.
He was at our dining table and sometimes talked with Conway in
German.  That will show you how outwardly normal Conway was.  Apart
from his loss of memory, which didn't show in ordinary intercourse,
there couldn't have seemed much wrong with him.

"A few nights after leaving Japan, Sieveking was prevailed upon to
give a piano recital on board, and Conway and I went to hear him.
He played well, of course, some Brahms and Scarlatti, and a lot of
Chopin.  Once or twice I glanced at Conway and judged that he was
enjoying it all, which appeared very natural, in view of his own
musical past.  At the end of the program the show lengthened out
into an informal series of encores which Sieveking bestowed, very
amiably, I thought, upon a few enthusiasts grouped round the piano.
Again he played mostly Chopin; he rather specializes in it, you
know.  At last he left the piano and moved towards the door, still
followed by admirers, but evidently feeling that he had done enough
for them.  In the meantime a rather odd thing was beginning to
happen.  Conway had sat down at the keyboard and was playing some
rapid, lively piece that I didn't recognize, but which drew
Sieveking back in great excitement to ask what it was.  Conway,
after a long and rather strange silence, could only reply that he
didn't know.  Sieveking exclaimed that it was incredible, and grew
more excited still.  Conway then made what appeared to be a
tremendous physical and mental effort to remember, and said at last
that the thing was a Chopin study.  I didn't think myself it could
be, and I wasn't surprised when Sieveking denied it absolutely.
Conway, however, grew suddenly quite indignant about the matter--
which startled me, because up to then he had shown so little
emotion about anything.  'My dear fellow,' Sieveking remonstrated,
'I know everything of Chopin's that exists, and I can assure you
that he never wrote what you have just played.  He might well have
done so, because it's utterly his style, but he just didn't.  I
challenge you to show me the score in any of the editions.'  To
which Conway replied at length:  'Oh, yes, I remember now, it was
never printed.  I only know it myself from meeting a man who used
to be one of Chopin's pupils. . . .  Here's another unpublished
thing I learned from him.'"

Rutherford studied me with his eyes as he went on:  "I don't know
if you're a musician, but even if you're not, I daresay you'll be
able to imagine something of Sieveking's excitement, and mine, too,
as Conway continued to play.  To me, of course, it was a sudden and
quite mystifying glimpse into his past, the first clew of any kind
that had escaped.  Sieveking was naturally engrossed in the musical
problem, which was perplexing enough, as you'll realize when I
remind you that Chopin died in 1849.

"The whole incident was so unfathomable, in a sense, that perhaps I
should add that there were at least a dozen witnesses of it,
including a California university professor of some repute.  Of
course, it was easy to say that Conway's explanation was
chronologically impossible, or almost so; but there was still the
music itself to be explained.  If it wasn't what Conway said it
was, then what WAS it?  Sieveking assured me that if those two
pieces were published, they would be in every virtuoso's repertoire
within six months.  Even if this is an exaggeration, it shows
Sieveking's opinion of them.  After much argument at the time, we
weren't able to settle anything, for Conway stuck to his story, and
as he was beginning to look fatigued, I was anxious to get him away
from the crowd and off to bed.  The last episode was about making
some phonograph records.  Sieveking said he would fix up all
arrangements as soon as he reached America, and Conway gave his
promise to play before the microphone.  I often feel it was a great
pity, from every point of view, that he wasn't able to keep his
word."

Rutherford glanced at his watch and impressed on me that I should
have plenty of time to catch my train, since his story was
practically finished.  "Because that night--the night after the
recital--he got back his memory.  We had both gone to bed and I was
lying awake, when he came into my cabin and told me.  His face had
stiffened into what I can only describe as an expression of
overwhelming sadness--a sort of universal sadness, if you know what
I mean--something remote or impersonal, a Wehmut or Weltschmerz, or
whatever the Germans call it.  He said he could call to mind
everything, that it had begun to come back to him during
Sieveking's playing, though only in patches at first.  He sat for a
long while on the edge of my bed, and I let him take his own time
and make his own method of telling me.  I said that I was glad his
memory had returned, but sorry if he already wished that it hadn't.
He looked up then and paid me what I shall always regard as a
marvelously high compliment.  'Thank God, Rutherford,' he said,
'you are capable of imagining things.'  After a while I dressed and
persuaded him to do the same, and we walked up and down the boat
deck.  It was a calm night, starry and very warm, and the sea had a
pale, sticky look, like condensed milk.  Except for the vibration
of the engines, we might have been pacing an esplanade.  I let
Conway go on in his own way, without questions at first.  Somewhere
about dawn he began to talk consecutively, and it was breakfast-
time and hot sunshine when he had finished.  When I say 'finished'
I don't mean that there was nothing more to tell me after that
first confession.  He filled in a good many important gaps during
the next twenty-four hours.  He was very unhappy, and couldn't have
slept, so we talked almost constantly.  About the middle of the
following night the ship was due to reach Honolulu.  We had drinks
in my cabin the evening before; he left me about ten o'clock, and I
never saw him again."

"You don't mean--"  I had a picture in mind of a very calm,
deliberate suicide I once saw on the mail boat from Holyhead to
Kingstown.

Rutherford laughed.  "Oh, Lord, no--he wasn't that sort.  He just
gave me the slip.  It was easy enough to get ashore, but he must
have found it hard to avoid being traced when I set people
searching for him, as of course I did.  Afterwards I learned that
he'd managed to join the crew of a banana boat going south to
Fiji."

"How did you get to know that?"

"Quite straightforwardly.  He wrote to me, three months later, from
Bangkok, enclosing a draft to pay the expenses I'd been put to on
his account.  He thanked me and said he was very fit.  He also said
he was about to set out on a long journey--to the northwest.  That
was all."

"Where did he mean?"

"Yes, it's pretty vague, isn't it?  A good many places lie to the
northwest of Bangkok.  Even Berlin does, for that matter."

Rutherford paused and filled up my glass and his own.  It had been
a queer story--or else he had made it seem so; I hardly knew which.
The music part of it, though puzzling, did not interest me so much
as the mystery of Conway's arrival at that Chinese mission
hospital; and I made this comment.  Rutherford answered that in
point of fact they were both parts of the same problem.  "Well, how
DID he get to Chung-Kiang?" I asked.  "I suppose he told you all
about it that night on the ship?"

"He told me something about it, and it would be absurd for me,
after letting you know so much, to be secretive about the rest.
Only, to begin with, it's a longish sort of tale, and there
wouldn't be time even to outline it before you'd have to be off for
your train.  And besides, as it happens, there's a more convenient
way.  I'm a little diffident about revealing the tricks of my
dishonorable calling, but the truth is, Conway's story, as I
pondered over it afterwards, appealed to me enormously.  I had
begun by making simple notes after our various conversations on the
ship, so that I shouldn't forget details; later, as certain aspects
of the thing began to grip me, I had the urge to do more, to
fashion the written and recollected fragments into a single
narrative.  By that I don't mean that I invented or altered
anything.  There was quite enough material in what he told me: he
was a fluent talker and had a natural gift for communicating an
atmosphere.  Also, I suppose, I felt I was beginning to understand
the man himself."  He went to an attaché case, and took out a
bundle of typed manuscript.  "Well, here it is, anyhow, and you can
make what you like of it."

"By which I suppose you mean that I'm not expected to believe it?"

"Oh, hardly so definite a warning as that.  But mind, if you DO
believe, it will be for Tertullian's famous reason--you remember?
quia impossibile est.  Not a bad argument, maybe.  Let me know what
you think, at all events."

I took the manuscript away with me and read most of it on the
Ostend express.  I intended returning it with a long letter when I
reached England, but there were delays, and before I could post it
I got a short note from Rutherford to say that he was off on his
wanderings again and would have no settled address for some months.
He was going to Kashmir, he wrote, and thence "east."  I was not
surprised.



CHAPTER 1


During that third week of May the situation in Baskul had become
much worse and, on the 20th, air force machines arrived by
arrangement from Peshawar to evacuate the white residents.  These
numbered about eighty, and most were safely transported across the
mountains in troop carriers.  A few miscellaneous aircraft were
also employed, among them being a cabin machine lent by the
maharajah of Chandrapur.  In this, about 10 a.m., four passengers
embarked:  Miss Roberta Brinklow, of the Eastern Mission; Henry D.
Barnard, an American; Hugh Conway, H.M. Consul; and Captain Charles
Mallinson, H.M. Vice Consul.

These names are as they appeared later in Indian and British
newspapers.



Conway was thirty-seven.  He had been at Baskul for two years, in a
job which now, in the light of events, could be regarded as a
persistent backing of the wrong horse.  A stage of his life was
finished; in a few weeks' time, or perhaps after a few months'
leave in England, he would be sent somewhere else.  Tokyo or
Teheran, Manila or Muscat; people in his profession never knew what
was coming.  He had been ten years in the Consular Service, long
enough to assess his own chances as shrewdly as he was apt to do
those of others.  He knew that the plums were not for him; but it
was genuinely consoling, and not merely sour grapes, to reflect
that he had no taste for plums.  He preferred the less formal and
more picturesque jobs that were on offer, and as these were often
not good ones, it had doubtless seemed to others that he was
playing his cards rather badly.  Actually, he felt he had played
them rather well; he had had a varied and moderately enjoyable
decade.

He was tall, deeply bronzed, with brown short-cropped hair and
slate-blue eyes.  He was inclined to look severe and brooding until
he laughed, and then (but it happened not so very often) he looked
boyish.  There was a slight nervous twitch near the left eye which
was usually noticeable when he worked too hard or drank too much,
and as he had been packing and destroying documents throughout the
whole of the day and night preceding the evacuation, the twitch was
very conspicuous when he climbed into the aeroplane.  He was tired
out, and overwhelmingly glad that he had contrived to be sent in
the maharajah's luxurious airliner instead of in one of the crowded
troop carriers.  He spread himself indulgently in the basket seat
as the plane soared aloft.  He was the sort of man who, being used
to major hardships, expected minor comforts by way of compensation.
Cheerfully he might endure the rigors of the road to Samarkand, but
from London to Paris he would spend his last tenner on the Golden
Arrow.

It was after the flight had lasted more than an hour that Mallinson
said he thought the pilot wasn't keeping a straight course.
Mallinson sat immediately in front.  He was a youngster in his
middle twenties, pink-cheeked, intelligent without being
intellectual, beset with public school limitations, but also with
their excellences.  Failure to pass an examination was the chief
cause of his being sent to Baskul, where Conway had had six months
of his company and had grown to like him.

But Conway did not want to make the effort that an aeroplane
conversation demands.  He opened his eyes drowsily and replied that
whatever the course taken, the pilot presumably knew best.

Half an hour later, when weariness and the drone of the engine had
lulled him nearly to sleep, Mallinson disturbed him again.  "I say,
Conway, I thought Fenner was piloting us?"

"Well, isn't he?"

"The chap turned his head just now and I'll swear it wasn't he."

"It's hard to tell, through that glass panel."

"I'd know Fenner's face anywhere."

"Well, then, it must be someone else.  I don't see that it
matters."

"But Fenner told me definitely that he was taking this machine."

"They must have changed their minds and given him one of the
others."

"Well, who is this man, then?"

"My dear boy, how should I know?  You don't suppose I've memorized
the face of every flight lieutenant in the air force, do you?"

"I know a good many of them, anyway, but I don't recognize this
fellow."

"Then he must belong to the minority whom you don't know."  Conway
smiled and added:  "When we arrive in Peshawar very soon you can
make his acquaintance and ask him all about himself."

"At this rate we shan't get to Peshawar at all.  The man's right
off his course.  And I'm not surprised, either--flying so damned
high he can't see where he is."

Conway was not bothering.  He was used to air travel, and took
things for granted.  Besides, there was nothing particular he was
eager to do when he got to Peshawar, and no one particular he was
eager to see; so it was a matter of complete indifference to him
whether the journey took four hours or six.  He was unmarried;
there would be no tender greetings on arrival.  He had friends, and
a few of them would probably take him to the club and stand him
drinks; it was a pleasant prospect, but not one to sigh for in
anticipation.

Nor did he sigh retrospectively, when he viewed the equally
pleasant, but not wholly satisfying vista of the past decade.
Changeable, fair intervals, becoming rather unsettled; it had been
his own meteorological summary during that time, as well as the
world's.  He thought of Baskul, Pekin, Macao, and other places--he
had moved about pretty often.  Remotest of all was Oxford, where he
had had a couple of years of donhood after the war, lecturing on
Oriental history, breathing dust in sunny libraries, cruising down
the High on a push bicycle.  The vision attracted, but did not stir
him; there was a sense in which he felt that he was still a part of
all that he might have been.

A familiar gastric lurch informed him that the plane was beginning
to descend.  He felt tempted to rag Mallinson about his fidgets,
and would perhaps have done so had not the youth risen abruptly,
bumping his head against the roof and waking Barnard, the American,
who had been dozing in his seat at the other side of the narrow
gangway.  "My God!" Mallinson cried, peering through the window.
"Look down there!"

Conway looked.  The view was certainly not what he had expected,
if, indeed, he had expected anything.  Instead of the trim,
geometrically laid-out cantonments and the larger oblongs of the
hangars, nothing was visible but an opaque mist veiling an immense,
sun-brown desolation.  The plane, though descending rapidly, was
still at a height unusual for ordinary flying.  Long, corrugated
mountain ridges could be picked out, perhaps a mile or so closer
than the cloudier smudge of the valleys.  It was typical frontier
scenery, though Conway had never viewed it before from such an
altitude.  It was also, which struck him as odd, nowhere that he
could imagine near Peshawar.  "I don't recognize this part of the
world," he commented.  Then, more privately, for he did not wish to
alarm the others, he added into Mallinson's ear:  "Looks as if
you're right.  The man's lost his way."

The plane was swooping down at a tremendous speed, and as it did
so, the air grew hotter; the scorched earth below was like an oven
with the door suddenly opened.  One mountaintop after another
lifted itself above the horizon in craggy silhouette; now the
flight was along a curving valley, the base of which was strewn
with rocks and the debris of dried-up watercourses.  It looked like
a floor littered with nutshells.  The plane bumped and tossed in
air pockets as uncomfortably as a rowboat in a swell.  All four
passengers had to hold onto their seats.

"Looks like he wants to land!" shouted the American hoarsely.

"He can't!" Mallinson retorted.  "He'd be simply mad if he tried
to!  He'll crash and then--"

But the pilot did land.  A small cleared space opened by the side
of a gully, and with considerable skill the machine was jolted and
heaved to a standstill.  What happened after that, however, was
more puzzling and less reassuring.  A swarm of bearded and turbaned
tribesmen came forward from all directions, surrounding the machine
and effectively preventing anyone from getting out of it except the
pilot.  The latter clambered to earth and held excited colloquy
with them, during which proceeding it became clear that, so far
from being Fenner, he was not an Englishman at all, and possibly
not even a European.  Meanwhile cans of gasoline were fetched from
a dump close by, and emptied into the exceptionally capacious
tanks.  Grins and disregarding silence met the shouts of the four
imprisoned passengers, while the slightest attempt to alight
provoked a menacing movement from a score of rifles.  Conway, who
knew a little Pushtu, harangued the tribesmen as well as he could
in that language, but without effect; while the pilot's sole retort
to any remarks addressed to him in any language was a significant
flourish of his revolver.  Midday sunlight, blazing on the roof of
the cabin, grilled the air inside till the occupants were almost
fainting with the heat and with the exertion of their protests.
They were quite powerless; it had been a condition of the
evacuation that they should carry no arms.

When the tanks were at last screwed up, a gasoline can filled with
tepid water was handed through one of the cabin windows.  No
questions were answered, though it did not appear that the men were
personally hostile.  After a further parley the pilot climbed back
into the cockpit, a Pathan clumsily swung the propeller, and the
flight was resumed.  The takeoff, in that confined space and with
the extra gasoline load, was even more skillful than the landing.
The plane rose high into the hazy vapors; then turned east, as if
setting a course.  It was mid-afternoon.

A most extraordinary and bewildering business!  As the cooler air
refreshed them, the passengers could hardly believe that it had
really happened; it was an outrage to which none could recall any
parallel, or suggest any precedent, in all the turbulent records of
the frontier.  It would have been incredible, indeed, had they not
been victims of it themselves.  It was quite natural that high
indignation should follow incredulity, and anxious speculation only
when indignation had worn itself out.  Mallinson then developed the
theory which, in the absence of any other, they found easiest to
accept.  They were being kidnaped for ransom.  The trick was by no
means new in itself, though this particular technique must be
regarded as original.  It was a little more comforting to feel that
they were not making entirely virgin history; after all, there had
been kidnapings before, and a good many of them had ended up all
right.  The tribesmen kept you in some lair in the mountains till
the government paid up and you were released.  You were treated
quite decently, and as the money that had to be paid wasn't your
own, the whole business was only unpleasant while it lasted.
Afterwards, of course, the Air people sent a bombing squadron, and
you were left with one good story to tell for the rest of your
life.  Mallinson enunciated the proposition a shade nervously; but
Barnard, the American, chose to be heavily facetious.  "Well,
gentlemen, I daresay this is a cute idea on somebody's part, but I
can't exactly see that your air force has covered itself with
glory.  You Britishers make jokes about the holdups in Chicago and
all that, but I don't recollect any instance of a gunman running
off with one of Uncle Sam's aeroplanes.  And I should like to know,
by the way, what this fellow did with the real pilot.  Sandbagged
him, I bet."  He yawned.  He was a large, fleshy man, with a hard-
bitten face in which good-humored wrinkles were not quite offset by
pessimistic pouches.  Nobody in Baskul had known much about him
except that he had arrived from Persia, where it was presumed he
had something to do with oil.

Conway meanwhile was busying himself with a very practical task.
He had collected every scrap of paper that they all had, and was
composing messages in various native languages to be dropped to
earth at intervals.  It was a slender chance, in such sparsely
populated country, but worth taking.

The fourth occupant, Miss Brinklow, sat tight-lipped and straight-
backed, with few comments and no complaints.  She was a small,
rather leathery woman, with an air of having been compelled to
attend a party at which there were goings-on that she could not
wholly approve.

Conway had talked less than the two other men, for translating SOS
messages into dialects was a mental exercise requiring concentration.
He had, however, answered questions when asked, and had agreed,
tentatively, with Mallinson's kidnaping theory.  He had also
agreed, to some extent, with Barnard's strictures on the air force.
"Though one can see, of course, how it may have happened.  With the
place in commotion as it was, one man in flying kit would look very
much like another.  No one would think of doubting the bona fides
of any man in the proper clothes who looked as if he knew his job.
And this fellow MUST have known it--the signals, and so forth.
Pretty obvious, too, that he knows how to fly . . . still, I agree
with you that it's the sort of thing that someone ought to get into
hot water about.  And somebody will, you may be sure, though I
suspect he won't deserve it."

"Well, sir," responded Barnard, "I certainly do admire the way you
manage to see both sides of the question.  It's the right spirit to
have, no doubt, even when you're being taken for a ride."

Americans, Conway reflected, had the knack of being able to say
patronizing things without being offensive.  He smiled tolerantly,
but did not continue the conversation.  His tiredness was of a kind
that no amount of possible peril could stave off.  Towards late
afternoon, when Barnard and Mallinson, who had been arguing,
appealed to him on some point, it appeared that he had fallen
asleep.

"Dead beat," Mallinson commented.  "And I don't wonder at it, after
these last few weeks."

"You're his friend?" queried Barnard.

"I've worked with him at the Consulate.  I happen to know that he
hasn't been in bed for the last four nights.  As a matter of fact,
we're damned lucky in having him with us in a tight corner like
this.  Apart from knowing the languages, he's got a sort of way
with him in dealing with people.  If anyone can get us out of the
mess, he'll do it.  He's pretty cool about most things."

"Well, let him have his sleep, then," agreed Barnard.

Miss Brinklow made one of her rare remarks.  "I think he LOOKS like
a very brave man," she said.



Conway was far less certain that he WAS a very brave man.  He had
closed his eyes in sheer physical fatigue, but without actually
sleeping.  He could hear and feel every movement of the plane, and
he heard also, with mixed feelings, Mallinson's eulogy of himself.
It was then that he had his doubts, recognizing a tight sensation
in his stomach which was his own bodily reaction to a disquieting
mental survey.  He was not, as he knew well from experience, one of
those persons who love danger for its own sake.  There was an
aspect of it which he sometimes enjoyed, an excitement, a purgative
effect upon sluggish emotions, but he was far from fond of risking
his life.  Twelve years earlier he had grown to hate the perils of
trench warfare in France, and had several times avoided death by
declining to attempt valorous impossibilities.  Even his D.S.O. had
been won, not so much by physical courage, as by a certain hardly
developed technique of endurance.  And since the war, whenever
there had been danger ahead, he had faced it with increasing lack
of relish unless it promised extravagant dividends in thrills.

He still kept his eyes closed.  He was touched, and a little
dismayed, by what he had heard Mallinson say.  It was his fate in
life to have his equanimity always mistaken for pluck, whereas it
was actually something much more dispassionate and much less
virile.  They were all in a damnably awkward situation, it seemed
to him, and so far from being full of bravery about it, he felt
chiefly an enormous distaste for whatever trouble might be in
store.  There was Miss Brinklow, for instance.  He foresaw that in
certain circumstances he would have to act on the supposition that
because she was a woman she mattered far more than the rest of them
put together, and he shrank from a situation in which such
disproportionate behavior might be unavoidable.

Nevertheless, when he showed signs of wakefulness, it was to Miss
Brinklow that he spoke first.  He realized that she was neither
young nor pretty--negative virtues, but immensely helpful ones in
such difficulties as those in which they might soon find
themselves.  He was also rather sorry for her, because he suspected
that neither Mallinson nor the American liked missionaries,
especially female ones.  He himself was unprejudiced, but he was
afraid she would find his open mind a less familiar and therefore
an even more disconcerting phenomenon.  "We seem to be in a queer
fix," he said, leaning forward to her ear, "but I'm glad you're
taking it calmly.  I don't really think anything dreadful is going
to happen to us."

"I'm certain it won't if you can prevent it," she answered; which
did not console him.

"You must let me know if there is anything we can do to make you
more comfortable."

Barnard caught the word.  "Comfortable?" he echoed raucously.
"Why, of course we're comfortable.  We're just enjoying the trip.
Pity we haven't a pack of cards--we could play a rubber of bridge."

Conway welcomed the spirit of the remark, though he disliked
bridge.  "I don't suppose Miss Brinklow plays," he said, smiling.

But the missionary turned round briskly to retort:  "Indeed I do,
and I could never see any harm in cards at all.  There's nothing
against them in the Bible."

They all laughed, and seemed obliged to her for providing an
excuse.  At any rate, Conway thought, she wasn't hysterical.

All afternoon the plane had soared through the thin mists of the
upper atmosphere, far too high to give clear sight of what lay
beneath.  Sometimes, at longish intervals, the veil was torn for a
moment, to display the jagged outline of a peak, or the glint of
some unknown stream.  The direction could be determined roughly
from the sun; it was still east, with occasional twists to the
north; but where it had led depended on the speed of travel, which
Conway could not judge with any accuracy.  It seemed likely,
though, that the flight must already have exhausted a good deal of
the gasoline; though that again depended on uncertain factors.
Conway had no technical knowledge of aircraft, but he was sure that
the pilot, whoever he might be, was altogether an expert.  That
halt in the rock-strewn valley had demonstrated it, and also other
incidents since.  And Conway could not repress a feeling that was
always his in the presence of any superb and indisputable
competence.  He was so used to being appealed to for help that mere
awareness of someone who would neither ask nor need it was slightly
tranquilizing, even amidst the greater perplexities of the future.
But he did not expect his companions to share such a tenuous
emotion.  He recognized that they were likely to have far more
personal reasons for anxiety than he had himself.  Mallinson, for
instance, was engaged to a girl in England; Barnard might be
married; Miss Brinklow had her work, vocation, or however she might
regard it.  Mallinson, incidentally, was by far the least composed;
as the hours passed he showed himself increasingly excitable--apt,
also, to resent to Conway's face the very coolness which he had
praised behind his back.  Once, above the roar of the engine, a
sharp storm of argument arose.  "Look here," Mallinson shouted
angrily, "are we bound to sit here twiddling our thumbs while this
maniac does everything he damn well wants?  What's to prevent us
from smashing that panel and having it out with him?"

"Nothing at all," replied Conway, "except that he's armed and we're
not, and that in any case, none of us would know how to bring the
machine to earth afterwards."

"It can't be very hard, surely.  I daresay you could do it."

"My dear Mallinson, why is it always ME you expect to perform these
miracles?"

"Well, anyway, this business is getting hellishly on my nerves.
Can't we MAKE the fellow come down?"

"How do you suggest it should be done?"

Mallinson was becoming more and more agitated.  "Well, he's THERE,
isn't he?  About six feet away from us, and we're three men to one!
Have we got to stare at his damned back all the time?  At least we
might force him to tell us what the game is."

"Very well, we'll see."  Conway took a few paces forward to the
partition between the cabin and the pilot's cockpit, which was
situated in front and somewhat above.  There was a pane of glass,
about six inches square and made to slide open, through which the
pilot, by turning his head and stooping slightly, could communicate
with his passengers.  Conway tapped on this with his knuckles.  The
response was almost comically as he had expected.  The glass panel
slid sideways and the barrel of a revolver obtruded.  Not a word;
just that.  Conway retreated without arguing the point, and the
panel slid back again.

Mallinson, who had watched the incident, was only partly satisfied.
"I don't suppose he'd have dared to shoot," he commented.  "It's
probably bluff."

"Quite," agreed Conway, "but I'd rather leave you to make sure."

"Well, I do feel we ought to put up some sort of a fight before
giving in tamely like this."

Conway was sympathetic.  He recognized the convention, with all its
associations of red-coated soldiers and school history books, that
Englishmen fear nothing, never surrender, and are never defeated.
He said:  "Putting up a fight without a decent chance of winning is
a poor game, and I'm not that sort of hero."

"Good for you, sir," interposed Barnard heartily.  "When somebody's
got you by the short hairs you may as well give in pleasantly and
admit it.  For my part I'm going to enjoy life while it lasts and
have a cigar.  I hope you don't think a little bit of extra danger
matters to us?"

"Not so far as I'm concerned, but it might bother Miss Brinklow."

Barnard was quick to make amends.  "Pardon me, madam, but do you
mind if I smoke?"

"Not at all," she answered graciously.  "I don't do so myself, but
I just love the smell of a cigar."

Conway felt that of all the women who could possibly have made such
a remark, she was easily the most typical.  Anyhow, Mallinson's
excitement had calmed a little, and to show friendliness he offered
him a cigarette, though he did not light one himself.  "I know how
you feel," he said gently.  "It's a bad outlook, and it's all the
worse, in some ways, because there isn't much we can do about it."

"And all the better, too, in other ways," he could not help adding
to himself.  For he was still immensely fatigued.  There was also
in his nature a trait which some people might have called laziness,
though it was not quite that.  No one was capable of harder
work, when it had to be done, and few could better shoulder
responsibility; but the facts remained that he was not passionately
fond of activity, and did not enjoy responsibility at all.  Both
were included in his job, and he made the best of them, but he was
always ready to give way to anyone else who could function as well
or better.  It was partly this, no doubt, that had made his success
in the Service less striking than it might have been.  He was not
ambitious enough to shove his way past others, or to make an
important parade of doing nothing when there was really nothing
doing.  His dispatches were sometimes laconic to the point of
curtness, and his calm in emergencies, though admired, was often
suspected of being too sincere.  Authority likes to feel that a man
is imposing some effort on himself, and that his apparent
nonchalance is only a cloak to disguise an outfit of well-bred
emotions.  With Conway the dark suspicion had sometimes been
current that he really was as unruffled as he looked, and that
whatever happened, he did not give a damn.  But this, too, like the
laziness, was an imperfect interpretation.  What most observers
failed to perceive in him was something quite bafflingly simple--a
love of quietness, contemplation, and being alone.

Now, since he was so inclined and there was nothing else to do, he
leaned back in the basket chair and went definitely to sleep.  When
he woke he noticed that the others, despite their various
anxieties, had likewise succumbed.  Miss Brinklow was sitting bolt
upright with her eyes closed, like some rather dingy and outmoded
idol; Mallinson had lolled forward in his place with his chin in
the palm of a hand.  The American was even snoring.  Very sensible
of them all, Conway thought; there was no point in wearying
themselves with shouting.  But immediately he was aware of certain
physical sensations in himself, slight dizziness and heart-thumping
and a tendency to inhale sharply and with effort.  He remembered
similar symptoms once before--in the Swiss Alps.

Then he turned to the window and gazed out.  The surrounding sky
had cleared completely, and in the light of late afternoon there
came to him a vision which, for the instant, snatched the remaining
breath out of his lungs.  Far away, at the very limit of distance,
lay range upon range of snow peaks, festooned with glaciers, and
floating, in appearance, upon vast levels of cloud.  They compassed
the whole arc of the circle, merging towards the west in a horizon
that was fierce, almost garish in coloring, like an impressionist
backdrop done by some half-mad genius.  And meanwhile, the plane,
on that stupendous stage, was droning over an abyss in the face of
a sheer white wall that seemed part of the sky itself until the sun
caught it.  Then, like a dozen piled-up Jungfraus seen from Mürren,
it flamed into superb and dazzling incandescence.

Conway was not apt to be easily impressed, and as a rule he did not
care for "views," especially the more famous ones for which
thoughtful municipalities provide garden seats.  Once, on being
taken to Tiger Hill, near Darjeeling, to watch the sunrise upon
Everest, he had found the highest mountain in the world a definite
disappointment.  But this fearsome spectacle beyond the window-pane
was of different caliber; it had no air of posing to be admired.
There was something raw and monstrous about those uncompromising
ice cliffs, and a certain sublime impertinence in approaching them
thus.  He pondered, envisioning maps, calculating distances,
estimating times and speeds.  Then he became aware that Mallinson
had wakened also.  He touched the youth on the arm.



CHAPTER 2


It was typical of Conway that he let the others waken for
themselves, and made small response to their exclamations of
astonishment; yet later, when Barnard sought his opinion, gave it
with something of the detached fluency of a university professor
elucidating a problem.  He thought it likely, he said, that they
were still in India; they had been flying east for several hours,
too high to see much, but probably the course had been along some
river valley, one stretching roughly east and west.  "I wish I
hadn't to rely on memory, but my impression is that the valley of
the upper Indus fits in well enough.  That would have brought us by
now to a very spectacular part of the world, and, as you see, so it
has."

"You know where we are, then?" Barnard interrupted.

"Well, no--I've never been anywhere near here before, but I
wouldn't be surprised if that mountain is Nanga Parbat, the one
Mummery lost his life on.  In structure and general layout it seems
in accord with all I've heard about it."

"You are a mountaineer yourself?"

"In my younger days I was keen.  Only the usual Swiss climbs, of
course."

Mallinson intervened peevishly:  "There'd be more point in
discussing where we're going to.  I wish to God somebody could tell
us."

"Well, it looks to me as if we're heading for that range yonder,"
said Barnard.  "Don't you think so, Conway?  You'll excuse me
calling you that, but if we're all going to have a little adventure
together, it's a pity to stand on ceremony."

Conway thought it very natural that anyone should call him by his
own name, and found Barnard's apologies for so doing a trifle
needless.  "Oh, certainly," he agreed, and added:  "I think that
range must be the Karakorams.  There are several passes if our man
intends to cross them."

"Our man?" exclaimed Mallinson.  "You mean our maniac!  I reckon
it's time we dropped the kidnaping theory.  We're far past the
frontier country by now, there aren't any tribes living around
here.  The only explanation I can think of is that the fellow's a
raving lunatic.  Would anybody except a lunatic fly into this sort
of country?"

"I know that nobody except a damn fine airman COULD," retorted
Barnard.  "I never was great at geography, but I understand that
these are reputed to be the highest mountains in the world, and if
that's so, it'll be a pretty first-class performance to cross
them."

"And also the will of God," put in Miss Brinklow unexpectedly.

Conway did not offer his opinion.  The will of God or the lunacy of
man--it seemed to him that you could take your choice, if you
wanted a good enough reason for most things.  Or, alternatively
(and he thought of it as he contemplated the small orderliness of
the cabin against the window background of such frantic natural
scenery), the will of man and the lunacy of God.  It must be
satisfying to be quite certain which way to look at it.  Then,
while he watched and pondered, a strange transformation took place.
The light turned to bluish over the whole mountain, with the lower
slopes darkening to violet.  Something deeper than his usual
aloofness rose in him--not quite excitement, still less fear, but a
sharp intensity of expectation.  He said:  "You're quite right,
Barnard, this affair grows more and more remarkable."

"Remarkable or not, I don't feel inclined to propose a vote of
thanks about it," Mallinson persisted.  "We didn't ask to be
brought here, and heaven knows what we shall do when we get THERE,
wherever THERE is.  And I don't see that it's any less of an
outrage because the fellow happens to be a stunt flyer.  Even if he
is, he can be just as much a lunatic.  I once heard of a pilot
going mad in midair.  This fellow must have been mad from the
beginning.  That's my theory, Conway."

Conway was silent.  He found it irksome to be continually shouting
above the roar of the machine, and after all, there was little
point in arguing possibilities.  But when Mallinson pressed for an
opinion, he said:  "Very well-organized lunacy, you know.  Don't
forget the landing for gasoline, and also that this was the only
machine that could climb to such a height."

"That doesn't prove he isn't mad.  He may have been mad enough to
plan everything."

"Yes, of course, that's possible."

"Well, then, we've got to decide on a plan of action.  What are we
going to do when he comes to earth?  If he doesn't crash and kill
us all, that is.  What are we going to do?  Rush forward and
congratulate him on his marvelous flight, I suppose."

"Not on your life," answered Barnard.  "I'll leave you to do all
the rushing forward."

Again Conway was loth to prolong the argument, especially since the
American, with his levelheaded banter, seemed quite capable of
handling it himself.  Already Conway found himself reflecting that
the party might have been far less fortunately constituted.  Only
Mallinson was inclined to be cantankerous, and that might partly be
due to the altitude.  Rarefied air had different effects on people;
Conway, for instance, derived from it a combination of mental
clarity and physical apathy that was not unpleasant.  Indeed, he
breathed the clear cold air in little spasms of content.  The whole
situation, no doubt, was appalling, but he had no power at the
moment to resent anything that proceeded so purposefully and with
such captivating interest.

And there came over him, too, as he stared at that superb mountain,
a glow of satisfaction that there were such places still left on
earth, distant, inaccessible, as yet unhumanized.  The icy rampart
of the Karakorams was now more striking than ever against the
northern sky, which had become mouse-colored and sinister; the
peaks had a chill gleam; utterly majestic and remote, their very
namelessness had dignity.  Those few thousand feet by which they
fell short of the known giants might save them eternally from the
climbing expedition; they offered a less tempting lure to the
record-breaker.  Conway was the antithesis of such a type; he was
inclined to see vulgarity in the Western ideal of superlatives, and
"the utmost for the highest" seemed to him a less reasonable and
perhaps more commonplace proposition than "the much for the high."
He did not, in fact, care for excessive striving, and he was bored
by mere exploits.

While he was still contemplating the scene, twilight fell, steeping
the depths in a rich, velvet gloom that spread upwards like a dye.
Then the whole range, much nearer now, paled into fresh splendor; a
full moon rose, touching each peak in succession like some
celestial lamplighter, until the long horizon glittered against a
blue-black sky.  The air grew cold and a wind sprang up, tossing
the machine uncomfortably.  These new distresses lowered the
spirits of the passengers; it had not been reckoned that the flight
could go on after dusk, and now the last hope lay in the exhaustion
of gasoline.  That, however, was bound to come soon.  Mallinson
began to argue about it, and Conway, with some reluctance, for he
really did not know, gave as his estimate that the utmost distance
might be anything up to a thousand miles, of which they must
already have covered most.  "Well, where would that bring us?"
queried the youth miserably.

"It's not easy to judge, but probably some part of Tibet.  If these
are the Karakorams, Tibet lies beyond.  One of the crests, by the
way, must be K2, which is generally counted the second highest
mountain in the world."

"Next on the list after Everest," commented Barnard.  "Gee, this is
some scenery."

"And from a climber's point of view much stiffer than Everest.  The
Duke of Abruzzi gave it up as an absolutely impossible peak."

"OH, GOD!" muttered Mallinson testily, but Barnard laughed.  "I
guess you must be the official guide on this trip, Conway, and I'll
admit that if I only had a flash of café cognac I wouldn't care if
it's Tibet or Tennessee."

"But what are we going to do about it?" urged Mallinson again.
"Why are we here?  What can be the point of it all?  I don't see
how you can make jokes about it."

"Well, it's as good as making a scene about it, young fellow.
Besides, if the man IS off his nut, as you've suggested, there
probably ISN'T any point."

"He MUST be mad.  I can't think of any other explanation.  Can you,
Conway?"

Conway shook his head.

Miss Brinklow turned round as she might have done during the
interval of a play.  "As you haven't asked my opinion, perhaps I
oughtn't to give it," she began, with shrill modesty, "but I should
like to say that I agree with Mr. Mallinson.  I'm sure the poor man
can't be quite right in his head.  The pilot, I mean, of course.
There would be no excuse for him, anyhow, if he were NOT mad."  She
added, shouting confidentially above the din:  "And do you know,
this is my first trip by air!  My very first!  Nothing would ever
induce me to do it before, though a friend of mine tried her very
best to persuade me to fly from London to Paris."

"And now you're flying from India to Tibet instead," said Barnard.
"That's the way things happen."

She went on:  "I once knew a missionary who had been to Tibet.  He
said the Tibetans were very odd people.  They believe we are
descended from monkeys."

"Real smart of 'em."

"Oh, dear, no, I don't mean in the modern way.  They've had the
belief for hundreds of years, it's only one of their superstitions.
Of course I'm against all of it myself, and I think Darwin was far
worse than any Tibetan.  I take my stand on the Bible."

"Fundamentalist, I suppose?"

But Miss Brinklow did not appear to understand the term.  "I used
to belong to the L.M.S.," she shrieked, "but I disagreed with them
about infant baptism."

Conway continued to feel that this was a rather comic remark long
after it had occurred to him that the initials were those of the
London Missionary Society.  Still picturing the inconveniences of
holding a theological argument at Euston Station, he began to think
that there was something slightly fascinating about Miss Brinklow.
He even wondered if he could offer her any article of his clothing
for the night, but decided at length that her constitution was
probably wirier than his.  So he huddled up, closed his eyes, and
went quite easily and peacefully to sleep.

And the flight proceeded.

Suddenly they were all wakened by a lurch of the machine.  Conway's
head struck the window, dazing him for the moment; a returning
lurch sent him floundering between the two tiers of seats.  It was
much colder.  The first thing he did, automatically, was to glance
at his watch; it showed half-past one, he must have been asleep for
some time.  His ears were full of a loud, flapping sound, which he
took to be imaginary until he realized that the engine had been
shut off and that the plane was rushing against a gale.  Then he
stared through the window and could see the earth quite close,
vague and snail-gray, scampering underneath.  "He's going to land!"
Mallinson shouted; and Barnard, who had also been flung out of his
seat, responded with a saturnine:  "If he's lucky."  Miss Brinklow,
whom the entire commotion seemed to have disturbed least of all,
was adjusting her hat as calmly as if Dover Harbor were just in
sight.

Presently the plane touched ground.  But it was a bad landing this
time--"Oh, my God, damned bad, DAMNED bad!" Mallinson groaned as he
clutched at his seat during ten seconds of crashing and swaying.
Something was heard to strain and snap, and one of the tires
exploded.  "That's done it," he added in tones of anguished
pessimism.  "A broken tailskid, we'll have to stay where we are
now, that's certain."

Conway, never talkative at times of crisis, stretched his stiffened
legs and felt his head where it had banged against the window.  A
bruise, nothing much.  He must do something to help these people.
But he was the last of the four to stand up when the plane came to
rest.  "Steady," he called out as Mallinson wrenched open the door
of the cabin and prepared to make the jump to earth; and eerily, in
the comparative silence, the youth's answer came:  "No need to be
steady--this looks like the end of the world--there's not a soul
about, anyhow."

A moment later, chilled and shivering, they were all aware that
this was so.  With no sound in their ears save the fierce gusts of
wind and their own crunching footsteps, they felt themselves at the
mercy of something dour and savagely melancholy--a mood in which
both earth and air were saturated.  The moon looked to have
disappeared behind clouds, and starlight illumined a tremendous
emptiness heaving with wind.  Without thought or knowledge, one
could have guessed that this bleak world was mountain-high, and
that the mountains rising from it were mountains on top of
mountains.  A range of them gleamed on a far horizon like a row of
dogteeth.

Mallinson, feverishly active, was already making for the cockpit.
"I'm not scared of the fellow on land, whoever he is," he cried.
"I'm going to tackle him right away. . . ."

The others watched apprehensively, hypnotized by the spectacle of
such energy.  Conway sprang after him, but too late to prevent the
investigation.  After a few seconds, however, the youth dropped
down again, gripping his arm and muttering in a hoarse, sobered
staccato:  "I say, Conway, it's queer. . . .  I think the fellow's
ill or dead or something . . . I can't get a word out of him.  Come
up and look. . . .  I took his revolver, at any rate."

"Better give it to me," said Conway, and though still rather dazed
by the recent blow on his head, he nerved himself for action.  Of
all times and places and situations on earth, this seemed to him to
combine the most hideous discomforts.  He hoisted himself stiffly
into a position from which he could see, not very well, into the
enclosed cockpit.  There was a strong smell of gasoline, so he did
not risk striking a match.  He could just discern the pilot,
huddled forward, his head sprawling over the controls.  He shook
him, unfastened his helmet, and loosened the clothes round his
neck.  A moment later he turned round to report:  "Yes, there's
something happened to him.  We must get him out."  But an observer
might have added that something had happened to Conway as well.
His voice was sharper, more incisive; no longer did he seem to be
hovering on the brink of some profound doubtfulness.  The time, the
place, the cold, his fatigue, were now of less account; there was a
job that simply had to be done, and the more conventional part of
him was uppermost and preparing to do it.

With Barnard and Mallinson assisting, the pilot was extracted from
his seat and lifted to the ground.  He was unconscious, not dead.
Conway had no particular medical knowledge, but, as to most men who
have lived in outlandish places, the phenomena of illness were
mostly familiar.  "Possibly a heart attack brought on by the high
altitude," he diagnosed, stooping over the unknown man.  "We can do
very little for him out here--there's no shelter from this infernal
wind.  Better get him inside the cabin, and ourselves too.  We
haven't an idea where we are, and it's hopeless to make a move
until daylight."

The verdict and the suggestion were both accepted without dispute.
Even Mallinson concurred.  They carried the man into the cabin and
laid him full length along the gangway between the seats.  The
interior was no warmer than outside, but offered a screen to the
flurries of wind.  It was the wind, before much time had passed,
that became the central preoccupation of them all--the leitmotif,
as it were, of the whole mournful night.  It was not an ordinary
wind.  It was not merely a strong wind or a cold wind.  It was
somehow a frenzy that lived all around them, a master stamping and
ranting over his own domain.  It tilted the loaded machine and
shook it viciously, and when Conway glanced through the windows it
seemed as if the wind were whirling splinters of light out of the
stars.

The stranger lay inert, while Conway, with difficulty in the
dimness and confined space, made what examination he could by the
light of matches.  But it did not reveal much.  "His heart's
faint," he said at last, and then Miss Brinklow, after groping in
her handbag, created a small sensation.  "I wonder if this would be
any use to the poor man," she proffered condescendingly.  "I never
touch a drop myself, but I always carry it with me in case of
accidents.  And this IS a sort of accident, isn't it?"

"I should say it was," replied Conway with grimness.  He unscrewed
the bottle, smelt it, and poured some of the brandy into the man's
mouth.  "Just the stuff for him.  Thanks."  After an interval the
slightest movement of eyelids was visible.  Mallinson suddenly
became hysterical.  "I can't help it," he cried, laughing wildly.
"We all look such a lot of damn fools striking matches over a
corpse. . . .  And he isn't much of a beauty, is he?  Chink, I
should say, if he's anything at all."

"Possibly."  Conway's voice was level and rather severe.  "But he's
not a corpse yet.  With a bit of luck we may bring him round."

"Luck?  It'll be his luck, not ours."

"Don't be too sure.  And shut up for the time being, anyhow."

There was enough of the schoolboy still in Mallinson to make him
respond to the curt command of a senior, though he was obviously in
poor control of himself.  Conway, though sorry for him, was more
concerned with the immediate problem of the pilot, since he, alone
of them all, might be able to give some explanation of their
plight.  Conway had no desire to discuss the matter further in a
merely speculative way; there had been enough of that during the
journey.  He was uneasy now beyond his continuing mental curiosity,
for he was aware that the whole situation had ceased to be
excitingly perilous and was threatening to become a trial of
endurance ending in catastrophe.  Keeping vigil throughout that
gale-tormented night, he faced facts nonetheless frankly because he
did not trouble to enunciate them to the others.  He guessed that
the flight had progressed far beyond the western range of the
Himalayas towards the less known heights of the Kuen-Lun.  In that
event they would by now have reached the loftiest and least
hospitable part of the earth's surface, the Tibetan plateau, two
miles high even in its lowest valleys, a vast, uninhabited, and
largely unexplored region of windswept upland.  Somewhere they
were, in that forlorn country, marooned in far less comfort than on
most desert islands.  Then abruptly, as if to answer his curiosity
by increasing it, a rather awe-inspiring change took place.  The
moon, which he had thought to be hidden by clouds, swung over the
lip of some shadowy eminence and, whilst still not showing itself
directly, unveiled the darkness ahead.  Conway could see the
outline of a long valley, with rounded, sad-looking low hills on
either side jet-black against the deep electric blue of the night
sky.  But it was to the head of the valley that his eyes were led
irresistibly, for there, soaring into the gap, and magnificent in
the full shimmer of moonlight, appeared what he took to be the
loveliest mountain on earth.  It was an almost perfect cone of
snow, simple in outline as if a child had drawn it, and impossible
to classify as to size, height or nearness.  It was so radiant, so
serenely poised, that he wondered for a moment if it were real at
all.  Then, while he gazed, a tiny puff clouded the edge of the
pyramid, giving life to the vision before the faint rumble of the
avalanche confirmed it.

He had an impulse to rouse the others to share the spectacle, but
decided after consideration that its effect might not be
tranquilizing.  Nor was it so, from a commonsense viewpoint; such
virgin splendors merely emphasized the facts of isolation and
danger.  There was quite a probability that the nearest human
settlement was hundreds of miles away.  And they had no food; they
were unarmed except for one revolver; the aeroplane was damaged and
almost fuel-less, even if anyone had known how to fly.  They had no
clothes suited to the terrific chills and winds; Mallinson's
motoring coat and his own ulster were quite inadequate, and even
Miss Brinklow, woolied and mufflered as for a polar expedition
(ridiculous, he had thought, on first beholding her), could not be
feeling happy.  They were all, too, except himself, affected by the
altitude.  Even Barnard had sunk into melancholy under the strain.
Mallinson was muttering to himself; it was clear what would happen
to him if these hardships went on for long.  In face of such
distressful prospects Conway found himself quite unable to restrain
an admiring glance at Miss Brinklow.  She was not, he reflected, a
normal person, no woman who taught Afghans to sing hymns could be
considered so.  But she was, after every calamity, still normally
abnormal, and he was deeply obliged to her for it.  "I hope you're
not feeling too bad?" he said sympathetically, when he caught her
eye.

"The soldiers during the war had to suffer worse things than this,"
she replied.

The comparison did not seem to Conway a very valuable one.  In
point of fact, he had never spent a night in the trenches quite so
thoroughly unpleasant, though doubtless many others had.  He had
concentrated his attention on the pilot, now breathing fitfully and
sometimes slightly stirring.  Probably Mallinson was right in
guessing the man Chinese.  He had the typical Mongol nose and
cheekbones, despite his successful impersonation of a British
flight lieutenant.  Mallinson had called him ugly, but Conway, who
had lived in China, thought him a fairly passable specimen, though
now, in the burnished circle of match flame, his pallid skin and
gaping mouth were not pretty.

The night dragged on, as if each minute were something heavy and
tangible that had to be pushed to make way for the next.  Moonlight
faded after a time, and with it that distant specter of the
mountain; then the triple mischiefs of darkness, cold, and wind
increased until dawn.  As though at its signal, the wind dropped,
leaving the world in compassionate quietude.  Framed in the pale
triangle ahead, the mountain showed again, gray at first, then
silver, then pink as the earliest sun rays caught the summit.  In
the lessening gloom the valley itself took shape, revealing a floor
of rock and shingle sloping upwards.  It was not a friendly
picture, but to Conway, as he surveyed, there came a queer
perception of fineness in it, of something that had no romantic
appeal at all, but a steely, almost an intellectual quality.  The
white pyramid in the distance compelled the mind's assent as
passionlessly as a Euclidean theorem, and when at last the sun rose
into a sky of deep delphinium blue, he felt only a little less than
comfortable again.

As the air grew warmer the others wakened, and he suggested
carrying the pilot into the open, where the sharp dry air and the
sunlight might help to revive him.  This was done, and they began a
second and pleasanter vigil.  Eventually the man opened his eyes
and began to speak convulsively.  His four passengers stooped over
him, listening intently to sounds that were meaningless except to
Conway, who occasionally made answers.  After some time the man
became weaker, talked with increasing difficulty, and finally died.
That was about mid-morning.



Conway then turned to his companions.  "I'm sorry to say he told me
very little--little, I mean, compared with what we should like to
know.  Merely that we are in Tibet, which is obvious.  He didn't
give any coherent account of why he had brought us here, but he
seemed to know the locality.  He spoke a kind of Chinese that I
don't understand very well, but I think he said something about a
lamasery near here, along the valley, I gathered, where we could
get food and shelter.  Shangri-La, he called it.  La is Tibetan for
mountain pass.  He was most emphatic that we should go there."

"Which doesn't seem to me any reason at all why we should," said
Mallinson.  "After all, he was probably off his head.  Wasn't he?"

"You know as much about that as I do.  But if we don't go to this
place, where else are we to go?"

"Anywhere you like, I don't care.  All I'm certain of is that this
Shangri-La, if it's in that direction, must be a few extra miles
from civilization.  I should feel happier if we were lessening the
distance, not increasing it.  Damnation, man, aren't you going to
get us back?"

Conway replied patiently:  "I don't think you properly understand
the position, Mallinson.  We're in a part of the world that no one
knows very much about, except that it's difficult and dangerous
even for a fully equipped expedition.  Considering that hundreds of
miles of this sort of country probably surround us on all sides,
the notion of walking back to Peshawar doesn't strike me as very
hopeful."

"I don't think I could possibly manage it," said Miss Brinklow
seriously.

Barnard nodded.  "It looks as if we're darned lucky, then, if this
lamasery IS just around the corner."

"Comparatively lucky, maybe," agreed Conway.  "After all, we've no
food, and as you can see for yourselves, the country isn't the kind
it would be easy to live on.  In a few hours we shall all be
famished.  And then tonight, if we were to stay here, we should
have to face the wind and the cold again.  It's not a pleasant
prospect.  Our only chance, it seems to me, is to find some other
human beings, and where else should we begin looking for them
except where we've been told they exist?"

"And what if it's a trap?" asked Mallinson, but Barnard supplied an
answer.  "A nice warm trap," he said, "with a piece of cheese in
it, would suit me down to the ground."

They laughed, except Mallinson, who looked distraught and nerve-
racked.  Finally Conway went on:  "I take it, then, that we're all
more or less agreed?  There's an obvious way along the valley; it
doesn't look too steep, though we shall have to take it slowly.  In
any case, we could do nothing here.  We couldn't even bury this man
without dynamite.  Besides, the lamasery people may be able to
supply us with porters for the journey back.  We shall need them.
I suggest we start at once, so that if we don't locate the place by
late afternoon we shall have time to return for another night in
the cabin."

"And supposing we DO locate it?" queried Mallinson, still
intransigeant.  "Have we any guarantee that we shan't be murdered?"

"None at all.  But I think it is a less, and perhaps also a
preferable risk to being starved or frozen to death."  He added,
feeling that such chilly logic might not be entirely suited for the
occasion:  "As a matter of fact, murder is the very last thing one
would expect in a Buddhist monastery.  It would be rather less
likely than being killed in an English cathedral."

"Like Saint Thomas of Canterbury," said Miss Brinklow, nodding an
emphatic agreement, but completely spoiling his point.  Mallinson
shrugged his shoulders and responded with melancholy irritation:
"Very well, then, we'll be off to Shangri-La.  Wherever and
whatever it is, we'll try it.  But let's hope it's not half-way up
that mountain."

The remark served to fix their glances on the glittering cone
towards which the valley pointed.  Sheerly magnificent it looked in
the full light of day; and then their gaze turned to a stare, for
they could see, far away and approaching them down the slope, the
figures of men.  "Providence!" whispered Miss Brinklow.



CHAPTER 3


Part of Conway was always an onlooker, however active might be the
rest.  Just now, while waiting for the strangers to come nearer, he
refused to be fussed into deciding what he might or mightn't do in
any number of possible contingencies.  And this was not bravery, or
coolness, or any especially sublime confidence in his own power to
make decisions on the spur of the moment.  It was, if the worst
view be taken, a form of indolence, an unwillingness to interrupt
his mere spectator's interest in what was happening.

As the figures moved down the valley they revealed themselves to be
a party of a dozen or more, carrying with them a hooded chair.  In
this, a little later, could be discerned a person robed in blue.
Conway could not imagine where they were all going, but it
certainly seemed providential, as Miss Brinklow had said, that such
a detachment should chance to be passing just there and then.  As
soon as he was within hailing distance he left his own party and
walked ahead, though not hurriedly, for he knew that Orientals
enjoy the ritual of meeting and like to take their time over it.
Halting when a few yards off, he bowed with due courtesy.  Much to
his surprise the robed figure stepped from the chair, came forward
with dignified deliberation, and held out his hand.  Conway
responded, and observed an old or elderly Chinese, gray-haired,
clean-shaven, and rather pallidly decorative in a silk embroidered
gown.  He in his turn appeared to be submitting Conway to the same
kind of reckoning.  Then, in precise and perhaps too accurate
English, he said:  "I am from the lamasery of Shangri-La."

Conway bowed again, and after a suitable pause began to explain
briefly the circumstances that had brought him and his three
companions to such an unfrequented part of the world.  At the end
of the recital the Chinese made a gesture of understanding.  "It is
indeed remarkable," he said, and gazed reflectively at the damaged
aeroplane.  Then he added:  "My name is Chang, if you would be so
good as to present me to your friends."

Conway managed to smile urbanely.  He was rather taken with this
latest phenomenon, a Chinese who spoke perfect English and observed
the social formalities of Bond Street amidst the wilds of Tibet.
He turned to the others, who had by this time caught up and were
regarding the encounter with varying degrees of astonishment.
"Miss Brinklow . . . Mr. Barnard, who is an American . . . Mr.
Mallinson . . . and my own name is Conway.  We are all glad to see
you, though the meeting is almost as puzzling as the fact of our
being here at all.  Indeed, we were just about to make our way to
your lamasery, so it is doubly fortunate.  If you could give us
directions for the journey--"

"There is no need for that.  I shall be delighted to act as your
guide."

"But I could not think of putting you to such trouble.  It is
exceedingly kind of you, but if the distance is not far--"

"It is not far, but it is not easy, either.  I shall esteem it an
honor to accompany you and your friends."

"But really--"

"I must insist."

Conway thought that the argument, in its context of place and
circumstance, was in some danger of becoming ludicrous.  "Very
well," he responded.  "I'm sure we are all most obliged."

Mallinson, who had been somberly enduring these pleasantries, now
interposed with something of the shrill acerbity of the barrack
square.  "Our stay won't be long," he announced curtly.  "We shall
pay for anything we have, and we should like to hire some of your
men to help us on our journey back.  We want to return to
civilization as soon as possible."

"And are you so very certain that you are away from it?"

The query, delivered with much suavity, only stung the youth to
further sharpness.  "I'm quite sure I'm far away from where I want
to be, and so are we all.  We shall be grateful for temporary
shelter, but we shall be more grateful still if you'll provide
means for us to return.  How long do you suppose the journey to
India will take?"

"I really could not say at all."

"Well, I hope we're not going to have any trouble about it.  I've
had some experience of hiring native porters, and we shall expect
you to use your influence to get us a square deal."

Conway felt that most of all this was rather needlessly truculent,
and he was just about to intervene when the reply came, still with
immense dignity:  "I can only assure you, Mr. Mallinson, that you
will be honorably treated and that ultimately you will have no
regrets."

"ULTIMATELY!" Mallinson exclaimed, pouncing on the word, but there
was greater ease in avoiding a scene since wine and fruit were now
on offer, having been unpacked by the marching party, stocky
Tibetans in sheepskins, fur hats, and yak-skin boots.  The wine had
a pleasant flavor, not unlike a good hock, while the fruit included
mangoes, perfectly ripened and almost painfully delicious after so
many hours of fasting.  Mallinson ate and drank with incurious
relish; but Conway, relieved of immediate worries and reluctant to
cherish distant ones, was wondering how mangoes could be cultivated
at such an altitude.  He was also interested in the mountain beyond
the valley; it was a sensational peak, by any standards, and he was
surprised that some traveler had not made much of it in the kind of
book that a journey in Tibet invariably elicits.  He climbed it in
mind as he gazed, choosing a route by col and couloir until an
exclamation from Mallinson drew his attention back to earth; he
looked round then and saw the Chinese had been earnestly regarding
him.  "You were contemplating the mountain, Mr. Conway?" came the
enquiry.

"Yes.  It's a fine sight.  It has a name, I suppose?"

"It is called Karakal."

"I don't think I ever heard of it.  Is it very high?"

"Over twenty-eight thousand feet."

"Indeed?  I didn't realize there would be anything on that scale
outside the Himalayas.  Has it been properly surveyed?  Whose are
the measurements?"

"Whose would you expect, my dear sir?  Is there anything
incompatible between monasticism and trigonometry?"

Conway savored the phrase and replied:  "Oh, not at all--not at
all."  Then he laughed politely.  He thought it a poorish joke, but
one perhaps worth making the most of.  Soon after that the journey
to Shangri-La was begun.



All morning the climb proceeded, slowly and by easy gradients; but
at such height the physical effort was considerable, and none had
energy to spare for talk.  The Chinese traveled luxuriously in his
chair, which might have seemed unchivalrous had it not been absurd
to picture Miss Brinklow in such a regal setting.  Conway, whom the
rarefied air troubled less than the rest, was at pains to catch the
occasional chatter of the chair-bearers.  He knew a very little
Tibetan, just enough to gather that the men were glad to be
returning to the lamasery.  He could not, even had he wished, have
continued to converse with their leader, since the latter, with
eyes closed and face half-hidden behind curtains, appeared to have
the knack of instant and well-timed sleep.

Meanwhile the sun was warm; hunger and thirst had been appeased, if
not satisfied; and the air, clean as from another planet, was more
precious with every intake.  One had to breathe consciously and
deliberately, which, though disconcerting at first, induced after a
time an almost ecstatic tranquillity of mind.  The whole body moved
in a single rhythm of breathing, walking, and thinking; the lungs,
no longer discrete and automatic, were disciplined to harmony with
mind and limb.  Conway, in whom a mystical strain ran in curious
consort with skepticism, found himself not unhappily puzzled over
the sensation.  Once or twice he spoke a cheerful word to
Mallinson, but the youth was laboring under the strain of the
ascent.  Barnard also gasped asthmatically, while Miss Brinklow was
engaged in some grim pulmonary warfare which for some reason she
made efforts to conceal.  "We're nearly at the top," Conway said
encouragingly.

"I once ran for a train and felt just like this," she answered.

So also, Conway reflected, there were people who considered cider
was just like champagne.  It was a matter of palate.

He was surprised to find that beyond his puzzlement he had few
misgivings, and none at all on his own behalf.  There were moments
in life when one opened wide one's soul just as one might open wide
one's purse if an evening's entertainment were proving unexpectedly
costly but also unexpectedly novel.  Conway, on that breathless
morning in sight of Karakal, made just such a willing, relieved,
yet not excited response to the offer of new experience.  After ten
years in various parts of Asia he had attained to a somewhat
fastidious valuation of places and happenings; and this he was
bound to admit promised unusually.

About a couple of miles along the valley the ascent grew steeper,
but by this time the sun was overclouded and a silvery mist
obscured the view.  Thunder and avalanches resounded from the
snowfields above; the air took chill, and then, with the sudden
changefulness of mountain regions, became bitterly cold.  A flurry
of wind and sleet drove up, drenching the party and adding
immeasurably to their discomfort; even Conway felt at one moment
that it would be impossible to go much further.  But shortly
afterwards it seemed that the summit of the ridge had been reached,
for the chair-bearers halted to readjust their burden.  The
condition of Barnard and Mallinson, who were both suffering
severely, led to continued delay; but the Tibetans were clearly
anxious to press on, and made signs that the rest of the journey
would be less fatiguing.

After these assurances it was disappointing to see them uncoiling
ropes.  "Do they mean to hang us already?" Barnard managed to
exclaim, with desperate facetiousness; but the guides soon showed
that their less sinister intention was merely to link the party
together in ordinary mountaineering fashion.  When they observed
that Conway was familiar with rope craft, they became much more
respectful and allowed him to dispose the party in his own way.  He
put himself next to Mallinson, with Tibetans ahead and to the rear,
and with Barnard and Miss Brinklow and more Tibetans further back
still.  He was prompt to notice that the men, during their leader's
continuing sleep, were inclined to let him deputize.  He felt a
familiar quickening of authority; if there were to be any difficult
business he would give what he knew was his to give--confidence and
command.  He had been a first-class mountaineer in his time, and
was still, no doubt, pretty good.  "You've got to look after
Barnard," he told Miss Brinklow, half jocularly, half meaning it;
and she answered with the coyness of an eagle:  "I'll do my best,
but you know, I've never been roped before."

But the next stage, though occasionally exciting, was less arduous
than he had been prepared for, and a relief from the lung-bursting
strain of the ascent.  The track consisted of a traverse cut along
the flank of a rock wall whose height above them the mist obscured.
Perhaps mercifully it also obscured the abyss on the other side,
though Conway, who had a good eye for heights, would have liked to
see where he was.  The path was scarcely more than two feet wide in
places, and the manner in which the bearers maneuvered the chair at
such points drew his admiration almost as strongly as did the
nerves of the occupant who could manage to sleep through it all.
The Tibetans were reliable enough, but they seemed happier when the
path widened and became slightly downhill.  Then they began to sing
amongst themselves, lilting barbaric tunes that Conway could
imagine orchestrated by Massenet for some Tibetan ballet.  The rain
ceased and the air grew warmer.  "Well, it's quite certain we could
never have found our way here by ourselves," said Conway intending
to be cheerful, but Mallinson did not find the remark very
comforting.  He was, in fact, acutely terrified, and in more danger
of showing it now that the worst was over.  "Should we be missing
much?" he retorted bitterly.  The track went on, more sharply
downhill, and at one spot Conway found some edelweiss, the first
welcome sign of more hospitable levels.  But this, when he
announced it, consoled Mallinson even less.  "Good God, Conway,
d'you fancy you're pottering about the Alps?  What sort of hell's
kitchen are we making for, that's what I'd like to know?  And
what's our plan of action when we get to it?  WHAT ARE WE GOING TO
DO?"

Conway said quietly, "If you'd had all the experiences I've had,
you'd know that there are times in life when the most comfortable
thing is to do nothing at all.  Things happen to you and you just
let them happen.  The war was rather like that.  One is fortunate
if, as on this occasion, a touch of novelty seasons the
unpleasantness."

"You're too confoundedly philosophic for me.  That wasn't your mood
during the trouble at Baskul."

"Of course not, because then there was a chance that I could alter
events by my own actions.  But now, for the moment at least,
there's no such chance.  We're here because we're here, if you want
a reason.  I've usually found it a soothing one."

"I suppose you realize the appalling job we shall have to get back
by the way we've come.  We've been slithering along the face of a
perpendicular mountain for the last hour--I've been taking notice."

"So have I."

"Have you?" Mallinson coughed excitedly.  "I daresay I'm being a
nuisance, but I can't help it.  I'm suspicious about all this.  I
feel we're doing far too much what these fellows want us to.
They're getting us into a corner."

"Even if they are, the only alternative was to stay out of it and
perish."

"I know that's logical, but it doesn't seem to help.  I'm afraid I
don't find it as easy as you do to accept the situation.  I can't
forget that two days ago we were in the consulate at Baskul.  To
think of all that has happened since is a bit overwhelming to me.
I'm sorry.  I'm overwrought.  It makes me realize how lucky I was
to miss the war; I suppose I should have got hysterical about
things.  The whole world seems to have gone completely mad all
round me.  I must be pretty wild myself to be talking to you like
this."

Conway shook his head.  "My dear boy, not at all.  You're twenty-
four years old, and you're somewhere about two and a half miles up
in the air: those are reasons enough for anything you may happen to
feel at the moment.  I think you've come through a trying ordeal
extraordinarily well, better than I should at your age."

"But don't YOU feel the madness of it all?  The way we flew over
those mountains and that awful waiting in the wind and the pilot
dying and then meeting these fellows, doesn't it all seem
nightmarish and incredible when you look back on it?"

"It does, of course."

"Then I wish I knew how you manage to keep so cool about
everything."

"Do you really wish that?  I'll tell you if you like, though you'll
perhaps think me cynical.  It's because so much else that I can
look back on seems nightmarish too.  This isn't the only mad part
of the world, Mallinson.  After all, if you MUST think of Baskul,
do you remember just before we left how the revolutionaries were
torturing their captives to get information?  An ordinary washing
mangle, quite effective, of course, but I don't think I ever saw
anything more comically dreadful.  And do you recollect the last
message that came through before we were cut off?  It was a
circular from a Manchester textile firm asking if we knew of any
trade openings in Baskul for the sale of corsets!  Isn't that mad
enough for you?  Believe me, in arriving here the worst that can
have happened is that we've exchanged one form of lunacy for
another.  And as for the war, if you'd been in it you'd have done
the same as I did, learned how to funk with a stiff lip."

They were still conversing when a sharp but brief ascent robbed
them of breath, inducing in a few paces all their earlier strain.
Presently the ground leveled, and they stepped out of the mist into
clear, sunny air.  Ahead, and only a short distance away, lay the
lamasery of Shangri-La.



To Conway, seeing it first, it might have been a vision fluttering
out of that solitary rhythm in which lack of oxygen had encompassed
all his faculties.  It was, indeed, a strange and half-incredible
sight.  A group of colored pavilions clung to the mountainside with
none of the grim deliberation of a Rhineland castle, but rather
with the chance delicacy of flower petals impaled upon a crag.  It
was superb and exquisite.  An austere emotion carried the eye
upward from milk-blue roofs to the gray rock bastion above,
tremendous as the Wetterhorn above Grindelwald.  Beyond that, in a
dazzling pyramid, soared the snow slopes of Karakal.  It might well
be, Conway thought, the most terrifying mountainscape in the world,
and he imagined the immense stress of snow and glacier against
which the rock functioned as a gigantic retaining wall.  Someday,
perhaps, the whole mountain would split, and a half of Karakal's
icy splendor come toppling into the valley.  He wondered if the
slightness of the risk combined with its fearfulness might even be
found agreeably stimulating.

Hardly less an enticement was the downward prospect, for the
mountain wall continued to drop, nearly perpendicularly, into a
cleft that could only have been the result of some cataclysm in the
far past.  The floor of the valley, hazily distant, welcomed the
eye with greenness; sheltered from winds, and surveyed rather than
dominated by the lamasery, it looked to Conway a delightfully
favored place, though if it were inhabited its community must be
completely isolated by the lofty and sheerly unscalable ranges on
the further side.  Only to the lamasery did there appear to be any
climbable egress at all.  Conway experienced, as he gazed, a slight
tightening of apprehension; Mallinson's misgivings were not,
perhaps, to be wholly disregarded.  But the feeling was only
momentary, and soon merged in the deeper sensation, half-mystical,
half-visual, of having reached at last some place that was an end,
a finality.

He never exactly remembered how he and the others arrived at the
lamasery, or with what formalities they were received, unroped, and
ushered into the precincts.  That thin air had a dream-like
texture, matching the porcelain-blue of the sky; with every breath
and every glance he took in a deep anesthetizing tranquillity that
made him impervious alike to Mallinson's uneasiness, Barnard's
witticisms, and Miss Brinklow's portrayal of a lady well prepared
for the worst.  He vaguely recollected surprise at finding the
interior spacious, well warmed, and quite clean; but there was no
time to do more than notice these qualities, for the Chinese had
left his hooded chair and was already leading the way through
various antechambers.  He was quite affable now.  "I must
apologize," he said, "for leaving you to yourselves on the way, but
the truth is, journeys of that kind don't suit me, and I have to
take care of myself.  I trust you were not too fatigued?"

"We managed," replied Conway with a wry smile.

"Excellent.  And now, if you will come with me, I will show you to
your apartments.  No doubt you would like baths.  Our accommodation
is simple, but I hope adequate."

At this point Barnard, who was still affected by shortness of
breath, gave vent to an asthmatic chuckle.  "Well," he gasped, "I
can't say I like your climate yet--the air seems to stick on my
chest a bit--but you've certainly got a darned fine view out of
your front windows.  Do we all have to line up for the bathroom, or
is this an American hotel?"

"I think you will find everything quite satisfactory, Mr. Barnard."

Miss Brinklow nodded primly.  "I should hope so, indeed."

"And afterwards," continued the Chinese, "I should be greatly
honored if you will all join me at dinner."

Conway replied courteously.  Only Mallinson had given no sign of
his attitude in the face of these unlooked-for amenities.  Like
Barnard, he had been suffering from the altitude, but now, with an
effort, he found breath to exclaim:  "And afterwards, also, if you
don't mind, we'll make our plans for getting away.  The sooner the
better, so far as I'm concerned."



CHAPTER 4


"So you see," Chang was saying, "we are less barbarian than you
expected. . . ."

Conway, later that evening, was not disposed to deny it.  He was
enjoying that pleasant mingling of physical ease and mental
alertness which seemed to him, of all sensations, the most truly
civilized.  So far, the appointments of Shangri-La had been all
that he could have wished, certainly more than he could ever have
expected.  That a Tibetan monastery should possess a system of
central heating was not, perhaps, so very remarkable in an age that
supplied even Lhasa with telephones; but that it should combine the
mechanics of Western hygiene with so much that was Eastern and
traditional, struck him as exceedingly singular.  The bath, for
instance, in which he had recently luxuriated, had been of a
delicate green porcelain, a product, according to inscription, of
Akron, Ohio.  Yet the native attendant had valeted him in Chinese
fashion, cleansing his ears and nostrils, and passing a thin, silk
swab under his lower eyelids.  He had wondered at the time if and
how his three companions were receiving similar attentions.

Conway had lived for nearly a decade in China, not wholly in the
bigger cities; and he counted it, all things considered, the
happiest part of his life.  He liked the Chinese, and felt at home
with Chinese ways.  In particular he liked Chinese cooking, with
its subtle undertones of taste; and his first meal at Shangri-La
had therefore conveyed a welcome familiarity.  He suspected, too,
that it might have contained some herb or drug to relieve
respiration, for he not only felt a difference himself, but could
observe a greater ease among his fellow guests.  Chang, he noticed,
ate nothing but a small portion of green salad, and took no wine.
"You will excuse me," he had explained at the outset, "but my diet
is very restricted: I am obliged to take care of myself."

It was the reason he had given before, and Conway wondered by what
form of invalidism he was afflicted.  Regarding him now more
closely, he found it difficult to guess his age; his smallish and
somehow undetailed features, together with the moist clay texture
of his skin, gave him a look that might either have been that of a
young man prematurely old or of an old man remarkably well
preserved.  He was by no means without attractiveness of a kind; a
certain stylized courtesy hung about him in a fragrance too
delicate to be detected till one had ceased to think about it.  In
his embroidered gown of blue silk, with the usual side-slashed
skirt and tight-ankled trousers, all the hue of watercolor skies,
he had a cold metallic charm which Conway found pleasing, though he
knew it was not everybody's taste.

The atmosphere, in fact, was Chinese rather than specifically
Tibetan; and this in itself gave Conway an agreeable sensation of
being at home, though again it was one that he could not expect the
others to share.  The room, too, pleased him; it was admirably
proportioned, and sparingly adorned with tapestries and one or two
fine pieces of lacquer.  Light was from paper lanterns, motionless
in the still air.  He felt a soothing comfort of mind and body, and
his renewed speculations as to some possible drug were hardly
apprehensive.  Whatever it was, if it existed at all, it had
relieved Barnard's breathlessness and Mallinson's truculence; both
had dined well, finding satisfaction in eating rather than talk.
Conway also had been hungry enough, and was not sorry that
etiquette demanded gradualness in approaching matters of
importance.  He had never cared for hurrying a situation that was
itself enjoyable, so that the technique well suited him.  Not,
indeed, until he had begun a cigarette did he give a gentle lead to
his curiosity; he remarked then, addressing Chang:  "You seem a
very fortunate community, and most hospitable to strangers.  I
don't imagine, though, that you receive them often."

"Seldom indeed," replied the Chinese, with measured stateliness.
"It is not a traveled part of the world."

Conway smiled at that.  "You put the matter mildly.  It looked to
me, as I came, the most isolated spot I ever set eyes on.  A
separate culture might flourish here without contamination from the
outside world."

"Contamination, would you say?"

"I use the word in reference to dance bands, cinemas, electric
signs, and so on.  Your plumbing is quite rightly as modern as you
can get it, the only certain boon, to my mind, that the East can
take from the West.  I often think that the Romans were fortunate;
their civilization reached as far as hot baths without touching the
fatal knowledge of machinery."

Conway paused.  He had been talking with an impromptu fluency
which, though not insincere, was chiefly designed to create and
control an atmosphere.  He was rather good at that sort of thing.
Only a willingness to respond to the superfine courtesy of the
occasion prevented him from being more openly curious.

Miss Brinklow, however, had no such scruples.  "Please," she said,
though the word was by no means submissive, "will you tell us about
the monastery?"

Chang raised his eyebrows in very gentle deprecation of such
immediacy.  "It will give me the greatest of pleasure, madam, so
far as I am able.  What exactly do you wish to know?"

"First of all, how many are there of you here, and what nationality
do you belong to?"  It was clear that her orderly mind was
functioning no less professionally than at the Baskul mission
house.

Chang replied:  "Those of us in full lamahood number about fifty,
and there are a few others, like myself, who have not yet attained
to complete initiation.  We shall do so in due course, it is to be
hoped.  Till then we are half-lamas, postulants, you might say.  As
for our racial origins, there are representatives of a great many
nations among us, though it is perhaps natural that Tibetans and
Chinese make up the majority."

Miss Brinklow would never shirk a conclusion, even a wrong one.  "I
see.  It's really a native monastery, then.  Is your head lama a
Tibetan or a Chinese?"

"No."

"Are there any English?"

"Several."

"Dear me, that seems very remarkable."  Miss Brinklow paused only
for breath before continuing:  "And now, tell me what you all
believe in."

Conway leaned back with somewhat amused expectancy.  He had always
found pleasure in observing the impact of opposite mentalities; and
Miss Brinklow's girl-guide forthrightness applied to Lamaistic
philosophy promised to be entertaining.  On the other hand, he did
not wish his host to take fright.  "That's rather a big question,"
he said, temporizingly.

But Miss Brinklow was in no mood to temporize.  The wine, which had
made the others more reposeful, seemed to have given her an extra
liveliness.  "Of course," she said with a gesture of magnanimity,
"I believe in the true religion, but I'm broad-minded enough to
admit that other people, foreigners, I mean, are quite often
sincere in their views.  And naturally in a monastery I wouldn't
expect to be agreed with."

Her concession evoked a formal bow from Chang.  "But why not,
madam?" he replied in his precise and flavored English.  "Must we
hold that because one religion is true, all others are bound to be
false?"

"Well, of course, that's rather obvious, isn't it?"

Conway again interposed.  "Really, I think we had better not argue.
But Miss Brinklow shares my own curiosity about the motive of this
unique establishment."

Chang answered rather slowly and in scarcely more than a whisper:
"If I were to put it into a very few words, my dear sir, I should
say that our prevalent belief is in moderation.  We inculcate the
virtue of avoiding excess of all kinds--even including, if you will
pardon the paradox, excess of virtue itself.  In the valley which
you have seen, and in which there are several thousand inhabitants
living under the control of our order, we have found that the
principle makes for a considerable degree of happiness.  We rule
with moderate strictness, and in return we are satisfied with
moderate obedience.  And I think I can claim that our people are
moderately sober, moderately chaste, and moderately honest."

Conway smiled.  He thought it well expressed, besides which it made
some appeal to his own temperament.  "I think I understand.  And I
suppose the fellows who met us this morning belonged to your valley
people?"

"Yes.  I hope you had no fault to find with them during the
journey?"

"Oh, no, none at all.  I'm glad they were more than moderately
surefooted, anyhow.  You were careful, by the way, to say that the
rule of moderation applied to THEM--am I to take it that it does
not apply to your priesthood also?"

But at that Chang could only shake his head.  "I regret, sir, that
you have touched upon a matter which I may not discuss.  I can only
add that our community has various faiths and usages, but we are
most of us moderately heretical about them.  I am deeply grieved
that at the moment I cannot say more."

"Please don't apologize.  I am left with the pleasantest of
speculations."  Something in his own voice, as well as in his
bodily sensations, gave Conway a renewed impression that he had
been very slightly doped.  Mallinson appeared to have been
similarly affected, though he seized the present chance to remark:
"All this has been very interesting, but I really think it's time
we began to discuss our plans for getting away.  We want to return
to India as soon as possible.  How many porters can we be supplied
with?"

The question, so practical and uncompromising, broke through the
crust of suavity to find no sure foothold beneath.  Only after a
longish interval came Chang's reply:  "Unfortunately, Mr.
Mallinson, I am not the proper person to approach.  But in any
case, I hardly think the matter could be arranged immediately."

"But something has GOT to be arranged!  We've all got our work to
return to, and our friends and relatives will be worrying about us.
We simply MUST return.  We're obliged to you for receiving us like
this, but we really can't slack about here doing nothing.  If it's
at all feasible, we should like to set out not later than tomorrow.
I expect there are a good many of your people who would volunteer
to escort us--we should make it well worth their while, of course."

Mallinson ended nervously, as if he had hoped to be answered before
saying so much; but he could extract from Chang no more than a
quiet and almost reproachful:  "But all this, you know, is scarcely
in my province."

"Isn't it?  Well, perhaps you can do SOMETHING, at any rate.  If
you could get us a large-scale map of the country, it would help.
It looks as if we shall have a long journey, and that's all the
more reason for making an early start.  You have maps, I suppose?"

"Yes, we have a great many."

"We'll borrow some of them, then, if you don't mind.  We can return
them to you afterwards.  I suppose you must have communications
with the outer world from time to time.  And it would be a good
idea to send messages ahead, also, to reassure our friends.  How
far away is the nearest telegraph line?"

Chang's wrinkled face seemed to have acquired a look of infinite
patience, but he did not reply.

Mallinson waited a moment and then continued:  "Well, where do you
send to when you want anything?  Anything civilized, I mean."  A
touch of scaredness began to appear in his eyes and voice.
Suddenly he thrust back his chair and stood up.  He was pale, and
passed his hand wearily across his forehead.  "I'm so tired," he
stammered, glancing round the room.  "I don't feel that any of you
are really trying to help me.  I'm only asking a simple question.
It's obvious you must know the answer to it.  When you had all
these modern baths installed, how did they get here?"

There followed another silence.

"You won't tell me, then?  It's part of the mystery of everything
else, I suppose.  Conway, I must say I think you're damned slack.
Why don't YOU get at the truth?  I'm all in, for the time being--
but--tomorrow, mind--we MUST get away tomorrow--it's essential--"

He would have slid to the floor had not Conway caught him and
helped him to a chair.  Then he recovered a little, but did not
speak.

"Tomorrow he will be much better," said Chang gently.  "The air
here is difficult for the stranger at first, but one soon becomes
acclimatized."

Conway felt himself waking from a trance.  "Things have been a
little trying for him," he commented with rather rueful mildness.
He added, more briskly:  "I expect we're all feeling it somewhat.
I think we'd better adjourn this discussion and go to bed.
Barnard, will you look after Mallinson?  And I'm sure YOU'RE in
need of sleep too, Miss Brinklow."  There had been some signal
given, for at that moment a servant appeared.  "Yes, we'll get
along--good night--good night--I shall soon follow."  He almost
pushed them out of the room, and then, with a scantness of ceremony
that was in marked contrast with his earlier manner, turned to his
host.  Mallinson's reproach had spurred him.

"Now, sir, I don't want to detain you long, so I'd better come to
the point.  My friend is impetuous, but I don't blame him, he's
quite right to make things clear.  Our return journey has to be
arranged, and we can't do it without help from you or from others
in this place.  Of course, I realize that leaving tomorrow is
impossible, and for my own part I hope to find a minimum stay quite
interesting.  But that, perhaps, is not the attitude of my
companions.  So if it's true, as you say, that you can do nothing
for us yourself, please put us in touch with someone else who can."

The Chinese answered:  "You are wiser than your friends, my dear
sir, and therefore you are less impatient.  I am glad."

"That's not an answer."

Chang began to laugh, a jerky high-pitched chuckle so obviously
forced that Conway recognized in it the polite pretense of seeing
an imaginary joke with which the Chinese "saves face" at awkward
moments.  "I feel sure you have no cause to worry about the
matter," came the reply, after an interval.  "No doubt in due
course we shall be able to give you all the help you need.  There
are difficulties, as you can imagine, but if we all approach the
problem sensibly, and without undue haste--"

"I'm not suggesting haste.  I'm merely seeking information about
porters."

"Well, my dear sir, that raises another point.  I very much doubt
whether you will easily find men willing to undertake such a
journey.  They have their homes in the valley, and they don't care
for leaving them to make long and arduous trips outside."

"They can be prevailed upon to do so, though, or else why and where
were they escorting you this morning?"

"This morning?  Oh, that was quite a different matter."

"In what way?  Weren't you setting out on a journey when I and my
friends chanced to come across you?"

There was no response to this, and presently Conway continued in a
quieter voice:  "I understand.  Then it was not a chance meeting.
I had wondered all along, in fact.  So you came there deliberately
to intercept us.  That suggests you must have known of our arrival
beforehand.  And the interesting question is, HOW?"

His words laid a note of stress amidst the exquisite quietude of
the scene.  The lantern light showed up the face of the Chinese; it
was calm and statuesque.  Suddenly, with a small gesture of the
hand, Chang broke the strain; pulling aside a silken tapestry, he
undraped a window leading to a balcony.  Then, with a touch upon
Conway's arm, he led him into the cold crystal air.  "You are
clever," he said dreamily, "but not entirely correct.  For that
reason I should counsel you not to worry your friends by these
abstract discussions.  Believe me, neither you nor they are in any
danger at Shangri-La."

"But it isn't danger we're bothering about.  It's delay."

"I realize that.  And of course there MAY be a certain delay, quite
unavoidably."

"If it's only for a short time, and genuinely unavoidable, then
naturally we shall have to put up with it as best we can."

"How very sensible, for we desire nothing more than that you and
your companions should enjoy your stay here."

"That's all very well, and as I told you, in a personal sense I
can't say I shall mind a great deal.  It's a new and interesting
experience, and in any case, we need some rest."

He was gazing upward to the gleaming pyramid of Karakal.  At that
moment, in bright moonlight, it seemed as if a hand reached high
might just touch it; it was so brittle-clear against the blue
immensity beyond.

"Tomorrow," said Chang, "you may find it even more interesting.
And as for rest, if you are fatigued, there are not many better
places in the world."

Indeed, as Conway continued to gaze, a deeper repose overspread
him, as if the spectacle were as much for the mind as for the eye.
There was hardly any stir of wind, in contrast to the upland gales
that had raged the night before; the whole valley, he perceived,
was a landlocked harbor, with Karakal brooding over it, lighthouse-
fashion.  The smile grew as he considered it, for there was
actually light on the summit, an ice-blue gleam that matched the
splendor it reflected.  Something prompted him then to enquire the
literal interpretation of the name, and Chang's answer came as a
whispered echo of his own musing.  "Karakal, in the valley patois,
means Blue Moon," said the Chinese.



Conway did not pass on his conclusion that the arrival of himself
and party at Shangri-La had been in some way expected by its
inhabitants.  He had had it in mind that he must do so, and he was
aware that the matter was important; but when morning came his
awareness troubled him so little, in any but a theoretical sense,
that he shrank from being the cause of greater concern in others.
One part of him insisted that there was something distinctly queer
about the place, that the attitude of Chang on the previous evening
had been far from reassuring, and that the party were virtually
prisoners unless and until the authorities chose to do more for
them.  And it was clearly his duty to compel them to do this.
After all, he was a representative of the British government, if
nothing else; it was iniquitous that the inmates of a Tibetan
monastery should refuse him any proper request. . . .  That, no
doubt, was the normal official view that would be taken; and part
of Conway was both normal and official.  No one could better play
the strongman on occasions; during those final difficult days
before the evacuation he had behaved in a manner which (he
reflected wryly) should earn him nothing less than a knighthood and
a Henty school prize novel entitled With Conway at Baskul.  To have
taken on himself the leadership of some scores of mixed civilians,
including women and children, to have sheltered them all in a small
consulate during a hot-blooded revolution led by anti-foreign
agitators, and to have bullied and cajoled the revolutionaries into
permitting a wholesale evacuation by air, it was not, he felt, a
bad achievement.  Perhaps by pulling wires and writing interminable
reports, he could wangle something out of it in the next New Year
Honors.  At any rate it had won him Mallinson's fervent admiration.
Unfortunately, the youth must now be finding him so much more of a
disappointment.  It was a pity, of course, but Conway had grown
used to people liking him only because they misunderstood him.  He
was not genuinely one of those resolute, strong-jawed, hammer-and-
tongs empire builders; the semblance he had given was merely a
little one-act play, repeated from time to time by arrangement with
fate and the foreign office, and for a salary which anyone could
turn up in the pages of Whitaker.

The truth was, the puzzle of Shangri-La, and of his own arrival
there, was beginning to exercise over him a rather charming
fascination.  In any case he found it hard to feel any personal
misgivings.  His official job was always liable to take him into
odd parts of the world, and the odder they were, the less, as a
rule, he suffered from boredom; why, then, grumble because accident
instead of a chit from Whitehall had sent him to this oddest place
of all?

He was, in fact, very far from grumbling.  When he rose in the
morning and saw the soft lapis blue of the sky through his window,
he would not have chosen to be elsewhere on earth either in
Peshawar or Piccadilly.  He was glad to find that on the others,
also, a night's repose had had a heartening effect.  Barnard was
able to joke quite cheerfully about beds, baths, breakfasts, and
other hospitable amenities.  Miss Brinklow admitted that the most
strenuous search of her apartment had failed to reveal any of the
drawbacks she had been well prepared for.  Even Mallinson had
acquired a touch of half-sulky complacency.  "I suppose we shan't
get away today after all," he muttered, "unless somebody looks
pretty sharp about it.  Those fellows are typically Oriental, you
can't get them to do anything quickly and efficiently."

Conway accepted the remark.  Mallinson had been out of England just
under a year; long enough, no doubt, to justify a generalization
which he would probably still repeat when he had been out for
twenty.  And it was true, of course, in some degree.  Yet to Conway
it did not appear that the Eastern races were abnormally dilatory,
but rather that Englishmen and Americans charged about the world in
a state of continual and rather preposterous fever heat.  It was a
point of view that he hardly expected any fellow Westerner to
share, but he was more faithful to it as he grew older in years and
experience.  On the other hand, it was true enough that Chang was a
subtle quibbler and that there was much justification for
Mallinson's impatience.  Conway had a slight wish that he could
feel impatient too; it would have been so much easier for the boy.

He said:  "I think we'd better wait and see what today brings.  It
was perhaps too optimistic to expect them to do anything last
night."

Mallinson looked up sharply.  "I suppose you think I made a fool of
myself, being so urgent?  I couldn't help it; I thought that
Chinese fellow was damned fishy, and I do still.  Did you succeed
in getting any sense out of him after I'd gone to bed?"

"We didn't stay talking long.  He was rather vague and noncommittal
about most things."

"We shall jolly well have to keep him up to scratch today."

"No doubt," agreed Conway, without marked enthusiasm for the
prospect.  "Meanwhile this is an excellent breakfast."  It
consisted of pomelo, tea, and chupatties, perfectly prepared and
served.  Towards the finish of the meal Chang entered and with a
little bow began the exchange of politely conventional greetings
which, in the English language, sounded just a trifle unwieldy.
Conway would have preferred to talk in Chinese, but so far he had
not let it be known that he spoke any Eastern tongue; he felt it
might be a useful card up his sleeve.  He listened gravely to
Chang's courtesies, and gave assurances that he had slept well and
felt much better.  Chang expressed his pleasure at that, and added:
"Truly, as your national poet says, 'Sleep knits up the raveled
sleeve of care.'"

This display of erudition was not too well received.  Mallinson
answered with that touch of scorn which any healthy-minded young
Englishman must feel at the mention of poetry.  "I suppose you mean
Shakespeare, though I don't recognize the quotation.  But I know
another one that says 'Stand not upon the order of your going, but
go at once.'  Without being impolite, that's rather what we should
all like to do.  And I want to hunt round for those porters right
away, this morning, if you've no objection."

The Chinese received the ultimatum impassively, replying at length:
"I am sorry to tell you that it would be of little use.  I fear we
have no men available who would be willing to accompany you so far
from their homes."

"But good God, man, you don't suppose we're going to take that for
an answer, do you?"

"I am sincerely regretful, but I can suggest no other."

"You seem to have figgered it all out since last night," put in
Barnard.  "You weren't nearly so dead sure of things then."

"I did not wish to disappoint you when you were so tired from your
journey.  Now, after a refreshing night, I am in hope that you will
see matters in a more reasonable light."

"Look here," intervened Conway briskly, "this sort of vagueness and
prevarication won't do.  You know we can't stay here indefinitely.
It's equally obvious that we can't get away by ourselves.  What,
then, do you propose?"

Chang smiled with a radiance that was clearly for Conway alone.
"My dear sir, it is a pleasure to make the suggestion that is in my
mind.  To your friend's attitude there was no answer, but to the
demand of a wise man there is always a response.  You may recollect
that it was remarked yesterday, again by your friend, I believe,
that we are bound to have occasional communication with the outside
world.  That is quite true.  From time to time we require certain
things from distant entrepôts, and it is our habit to obtain them
in due course, by what methods and with what formalities I need not
trouble you.  The point of importance is that such a consignment is
expected to arrive shortly, and as the men who make delivery will
afterwards return, it seems to me that you might manage to come to
some arrangement with them.  Indeed I cannot think of a better
plan, and I hope, when they arrive--"

"When DO they arrive?" interrupted Mallinson bluntly.

"The exact date is, of course, impossible to forecast.  You have
yourself had the experience of the difficulty of movement in this
part of the world.  A hundred things may happen to cause
uncertainty, hazards of weather--"

Conway again intervened.  "Let's get this clear.  You're suggesting
that we should employ as porters the men who are shortly due here
with some goods.  That's not a bad idea as far as it goes, but we
must know a little more about it.  First, as you've already been
asked, when are these people expected?  And second, where will they
take us?"

"That is a question you would have to put to them."

"Would they take us to India?"

"It is hardly possible for me to say."

"Well, let's have an answer to the other question.  When will they
be here?  I don't ask for a date, I just want some idea whether
it's likely to be next week or next year."

"It might be about a month from now.  Probably not more than two
months."

"Or three, four, or five months," broke in Mallinson hotly.  "And
you think we're going to wait here for this convoy or caravan or
whatever it is to take us God knows where at some completely vague
time in the distant future?"

"I think, sir, the phrase 'distant future' is hardly appropriate.
Unless something unforeseen occurs, the period of waiting should
not be longer than I have said."

"But TWO MONTHS!  Two months in this place!  It's preposterous!
Conway, you surely can't contemplate it!  Why, two weeks would be
the limit!"

Chang gathered his gown about him in a little gesture of finality.
"I am sorry.  I did not wish to offend.  The lamasery continues to
offer all of you its utmost hospitality for as long as you have the
misfortune to remain.  I can say no more."

"You don't need to," retorted Mallinson furiously.  "And if you
think you've got the whip hand over us, you'll soon find you're
damn well mistaken!  We'll get all the porters we want, don't
worry.  You can bow and scrape and say what you like--"

Conway laid a restraining hand on his arm.  Mallinson in a temper
presented a child-like spectacle; he was apt to say anything that
came into his head, regardless alike of point and decorum.  Conway
thought it readily forgivable in one so constituted and
circumstanced, but he feared it might affront the more delicate
susceptibilities of a Chinese.  Fortunately Chang had ushered
himself out, with admirable tact, in good time to escape the worst.



CHAPTER 5


They spent the rest of the morning discussing the matter.  It was
certainly a shock for four persons who in the ordinary course
should have been luxuriating in the clubs and mission houses of
Peshawar to find themselves faced instead with the prospect of two
months in a Tibetan monastery.  But it was in the nature of things
that the initial shock of their arrival should have left them with
slender reserves either of indignation or astonishment; even
Mallinson, after his first outburst, subsided into a mood of half-
bewildered fatalism.  "I'm past arguing about it, Conway," he said,
puffing at a cigarette with nervous irritability.  "You know how I
feel.  I've said all along that there's something queer about this
business.  It's crooked.  I'd like to be out of it this minute."

"I don't blame you for that," replied Conway.  "Unfortunately, it's
not a question of what any of us would like, but of what we've all
got to put up with.  Frankly, if these people say they won't or
can't supply us with the necessary porters, there's nothing for it
but to wait till the other fellows come.  I'm sorry to admit that
we're so helpless in the matter, but I'm afraid it's the truth."

"You mean we've got to stay here for two months?"

"I don't see what else we can do."

Mallinson flicked his cigarette ash with a gesture of forced
nonchalance.  "All right, then.  Two months it is.  And now let's
all shout hooray about it."

Conway went on:  "I don't see why it should be much worse than two
months in any other isolated part of the world.  People in our jobs
are used to being sent to odd places, I think I can say that of us
all.  Of course, it's bad for those of us who have friends and
relatives.  Personally, I'm fortunate in that respect, I can't
think of anyone who'll worry over me acutely, and my work, whatever
it might have been, can easily be done by somebody else."

He turned to the others as if inviting them to state their own
cases.  Mallinson proffered no information, but Conway knew roughly
how he was situated.  He had parents and a girl in England; it made
things hard.

Barnard, on the other hand, accepted the position with what Conway
had learned to regard as an habitual good humor.  "Well, I guess
I'm pretty lucky, for that matter, two months in the penitentiary
won't kill me.  As for the folks in my hometown, they won't bat an
eye.  I've always been a bad letter writer."

"You forget that our names will be in the papers," Conway reminded
him.  "We shall all be posted missing, and people will naturally
assume the worst."

Barnard looked startled for the moment; then he replied, with a
slight grin:  "Oh, yes, that's true, but it don't affect me, I
assure you."

Conway was glad it didn't, though the matter remained a little
puzzling.  He turned to Miss Brinklow, who till then had been
remarkably silent; she had not offered any opinion during the
interview with Chang.  He imagined that she too might have
comparatively few personal worries.  She said brightly:  "As Mr.
Barnard says, two months here is nothing to make a fuss about.
It's all the same, wherever one is, when one's in the Lord's
service.  Providence has sent me here.  I regard it as a call."

Conway thought the attitude a very convenient one, in the
circumstances.  "I'm sure," he said encouragingly, "you'll find
your mission society pleased with you when you DO return.  You'll
be able to give much useful information.  We'll all of us have had
an experience, for that matter.  That should be a small
consolation."

The talk then became general.  Conway was rather surprised at the
ease with which Barnard and Miss Brinklow had accommodated
themselves to the new prospect.  He was relieved, however, as well;
it left him with only one disgruntled person to deal with.  Yet
even Mallinson, after the strain of all the arguing, was
experiencing a reaction; he was still perturbed, but more willing
to look at the brighter side of things.  "Heaven knows what we
shall find to do with ourselves," he exclaimed, but the mere fact
of making such a remark showed that he was trying to reconcile
himself.

"The first rule must be to avoid getting on each other's nerves,"
replied Conway.  "Happily, the place seems big enough, and by no
means overpopulated.  Except for servants, we've only seen one of
its inhabitants so far."

Barnard could find another reason for optimism.  "We won't starve,
at any rate, if our meals up to now are a fair sample.  You know,
Conway, this place isn't run without plenty of hard cash.  Those
baths, for instance, they cost real money.  And I can't see that
anybody earns anything here, unless those chaps in the valley have
jobs, and even then, they wouldn't produce enough for export.  I'd
like to know if they work any minerals."

"The whole place is a confounded mystery," responded Mallinson.  "I
daresay they've got pots of money hidden away, like the Jesuits.
As for the baths, probably some millionaire supporter presented
them.  Anyhow, it won't worry me, once I get away.  I must say,
though, the view IS rather good, in its way.  Fine winter sport
center if it were in the right spot.  I wonder if one could get any
skiing on some of those slopes up yonder?"

Conway gave him a searching and slightly amused glance.
"Yesterday, when I found some edelweiss, you reminded me that I
wasn't in the Alps.  I think it's my turn to say the same thing
now.  I wouldn't advise you to try any of your Wengen-Scheidegg
tricks in this part of the world."

"I don't suppose anybody here has ever seen a ski jump."

"Or even an ice-hockey match," responded Conway banteringly.  "You
might try to raise some teams.  What about 'Gentlemen v. Lamas'?"

"It would certainly teach them to play the game," Miss Brinklow put
in with sparkling seriousness.

Adequate comment upon this might have been difficult, but there was
no necessity, since lunch was about to be served and its character
and promptness combined to make an agreeable impression.
Afterwards, when Chang entered, there was small disposition to
continue the squabble.  With great tactfulness the Chinese assumed
that he was still on good terms with everybody, and the four exiles
allowed the assumption to stand.  Indeed, when he suggested that
they might care to be shown a little more of the lamasery
buildings, and that if so, he would be pleased to act as guide, the
offer was readily accepted.  "Why, surely," said Barnard.  "We may
as well give the place the once-over while we're here.  I reckon
it'll be a long time before any of us pay a second visit."

Miss Brinklow struck a more thought-giving note.  "When we left
Baskul in that aeroplane I'm sure I never dreamed we should ever
get to a place like this," she murmured as they all moved off under
Chang's escort.

"And we don't know yet why we have," answered Mallinson
unforgetfully.



Conway had no race or color prejudice, and it was an affectation
for him to pretend, as he sometimes did in clubs and first-class
railway carriages, that he set any particular store on the
"whiteness" of a lobster-red face under a topee.  It saved trouble
to let it be so assumed, especially in India, and Conway was a
conscientious trouble-saver.  But in China it had been less
necessary; he had had many Chinese friends, and it had never
occurred to him to treat them as inferiors.  Hence, in his
intercourse with Chang, he was sufficiently unpreoccupied to see in
him a mannered old gentleman who might not be entirely trustworthy,
but who was certainly of high intelligence.  Mallinson, on the
other hand, tended to regard him through the bars of an imaginary
cage; Miss Brinklow was sharp and sprightly, as with the heathen in
his blindness; while Barnard's wise-cracking bonhomie was of the
kind he would have cultivated with a butler.

Meanwhile the grand tour of Shangri-La was interesting enough to
transcend these attitudes.  It was not the first monastic
institution Conway had inspected, but it was easily the largest
and, apart from its situation, the most remarkable.  The mere
procession through rooms and courtyards was an afternoon's
exercise, though he was aware of many apartments passed by, indeed,
of whole buildings into which Chang did not offer admission.  The
party were shown enough, however, to confirm the impressions each
one of them had formed already.  Barnard was more certain than ever
that the lamas were rich; Miss Brinklow discovered abundant
evidence that they were immoral.  Mallinson, after the first
novelty had worn off, found himself no less fatigued than on many
sight-seeing excursions at lower altitudes; the lamas, he feared,
were not likely to be his heroes.

Conway alone submitted to a rich and growing enchantment.  It was
not so much any individual thing that attracted him as the gradual
revelation of elegance, of modest and impeccable taste, of harmony
so fragrant that it seemed to gratify the eye without arresting it.
Only indeed by a conscious effort did he recall himself from the
artist's mood to the connoisseur's, and then he recognized
treasures that museums and millionaires alike would have bargained
for, exquisite pearl-blue Sung ceramics, paintings in tinted inks
preserved for more than a thousand years, lacquers in which the
cold and lovely detail of fairyland was not so much depicted as
orchestrated.  A world of incomparable refinements still lingered
tremulously in porcelain and varnish, yielding an instant of
emotion before its dissolution into purest thought.  There was no
boastfulness, no striving after effect, no concentrated attack upon
the feelings of the beholder.  These delicate perfections had an
air of having fluttered into existence like petals from a flower.
They would have maddened a collector, but Conway did not collect;
he lacked both money and the acquisitive instinct.  His liking for
Chinese art was an affair of the mind; in a world of increasing
noise and hugeness, he turned in private to gentle, precise, and
miniature things.  And as he passed through room after room, a
certain pathos touched him remotely at the thought of Karakal's
piled immensity over against such fragile charms.

The lamasery, however, had more to offer than a display of
Chinoiserie.  One of its features, for instance, was a very
delightful library, lofty and spacious, and containing a multitude
of books so retiringly housed in bays and alcoves that the whole
atmosphere was more of wisdom than of learning, of good manners
rather than seriousness.  Conway, during a rapid glance at some of
the shelves, found much to astonish him; the world's best
literature was there, it seemed, as well as a great deal of
abstruse and curious stuff that he could not appraise.  Volumes in
English, French, German, and Russian abounded, and there were vast
quantities of Chinese and other Eastern scripts.  A section which
interested him particularly was devoted to Tibetiana, if it might
be so called; he noticed several rarities, among them the Novo
Descubrimento de grao catayo ou dos Regos de Tibet, by Antonio de
Andrada (Lisbon, 1626); Athanasius Kircher's China (Antwerp, 1667);
Thevenot's Voyage à la Chine des Pères Grueber et d'Orville; and
Beligatti's Relazione Inedita di un Viaggio al Tibet.  He was
examining the last named when he noticed Chang's eyes fixed on him
in suave curiosity.  "You are a scholar, perhaps?" came the
enquiry.

Conway found it hard to reply.  His period of donhood at Oxford
gave him some right to assent, but he knew that the word, though
the highest of compliments from a Chinese, had yet a faintly
priggish sound for English ears, and chiefly out of consideration
for his companions he demurred to it.  He said:  "I enjoy reading,
of course, but my work during recent years hasn't supplied many
opportunities for the studious life."

"Yet you wish for it?"

"Oh, I wouldn't say all that, but I'm certainly aware of its
attractions."

Mallinson, who had picked up a book, interrupted:  "Here's
something for your studious life, Conway.  It's a map of the
country."

"We have a collection of several hundreds," said Chang.  "They are
all open to your inspection, but perhaps I can save you trouble in
one respect.  You will not find Shangri-La marked on any."

"Curious," Conway made comment.  "I wonder why?"

"There is a very good reason, but I am afraid that is all I can
say."

Conway smiled, but Mallinson looked peevish again.  "Still piling
up the mystery," he said.  "So far we haven't seen much that anyone
need bother to conceal."

Suddenly Miss Brinklow came to life out of a mute preoccupation.
"Aren't you going to show us the lamas at work?" she fluted, in the
tone which one felt had intimidated many a Cook's man.  One felt,
too, that her mind was probably full of hazy visions of native
handicrafts, prayer-mat weaving, or something picturesquely
primitive that she could talk about when she got home.  She had an
extraordinary knack of never seeming very much surprised, yet of
always seeming very slightly indignant, a combination of fixities
which was not in the least disturbed by Chang's response:  "I am
sorry to say it is impossible.  The lamas are never, or perhaps I
should say only very rarely, seen by those outside the lamahood."

"I guess we'll have to miss 'em then," agreed Barnard.  "But I do
think it's a real pity.  You've no notion how much I'd like to have
shaken the hand of your head man."

Chang acknowledged the remark with benign seriousness.  Miss
Brinklow, however, was not yet to be sidetracked.  "What do the
lamas do?" she continued.

"They devote themselves, madam, to contemplation and to the pursuit
of wisdom."

"But that isn't DOING anything."

"Then, madam, they do nothing."

"I thought as much."  She found occasion to sum up.  "Well, Mr.
Chang, it's a pleasure being shown all these things, I'm sure, but
you won't convince me that a place like this does any real good.  I
prefer something more practical."

"Perhaps you would like to take tea?"

Conway wondered at first if this were intended ironically, but it
soon appeared not; the afternoon had passed swiftly, and Chang,
though frugal in eating, had the typical Chinese fondness for tea-
drinking at frequent intervals.  Miss Brinklow, too, confessed that
visiting art galleries and museums always gave her a touch of
headache.  The party, therefore, fell in with the suggestion, and
followed Chang through several courtyards to a scene of quite
sudden and unmatched loveliness.  From a colonnade steps descended
to a garden, in which a lotus pool lay entrapped, the leaves so
closely set that they gave an impression of a floor of moist green
tiles.  Fringing the pool were posed a brazen menagerie of lions,
dragons, and unicorns, each offering a stylized ferocity that
emphasized rather than offended the surrounding peace.  The whole
picture was so perfectly proportioned that the eye was entirely
unhastened from one part to another; there was no vying or vanity,
and even the summit of Karakal, peerless above the blue-tiled
roofs, seemed to have surrendered within the framework of an
exquisite artistry.  "Pretty little place," commented Barnard, as
Chang led the way into an open pavilion which, to Conway's further
delight, contained a harpsichord and a modern grand piano.  He
found this in some ways the crowning astonishment of a rather
astonishing afternoon.  Chang answered all his questions with
complete candour up to a point; the lamas, he explained, held
Western music in high esteem, particularly that of Mozart; they had
a collection of all the great European compositions, and some were
skilled performers on various instruments.

Barnard was chiefly impressed by the transport problem.  "D'you
mean to tell me that this pi-anno was brought here by the route we
came along yesterday?"

"There is no other."

"Well, that certainly beats everything!  Why, with a phonograph and
a radio you'd be all fixed complete!  Perhaps, though, you aren't
yet acquainted with up-to-date music?"

"Oh, yes, we have had reports, but we are advised that the
mountains would make wireless reception impossible, and as for a
phonograph, the suggestion has already come before the authorities,
but they have felt no need to hurry in the matter."

"I'd believe that even if you hadn't told me," Barnard retorted.
"I guess that must be the slogan of your society, 'No hurry.'" He
laughed loudly and then went on:  "Well, to come down to details,
suppose in due course your bosses decide that they DO want a
phonograph, what's the procedure?  The makers wouldn't deliver
here, that's a sure thing.  You must have an agent in Pekin or
Shanghai or somewhere, and I'll bet everything costs plenty by the
time you handle it."

But Chang was no more to be drawn than on a previous occasion.
"Your surmises are intelligent, Mr. Barnard, but I fear I cannot
discuss them."

So there they were again, Conway reflected, edging the invisible
borderline between what might and might not be revealed.  He
thought he could soon begin to map out that line in imagination,
though the impact of a new surprise deferred the matter.  For
servants were already bringing in the shallow bowls of scented tea,
and along with the agile, lithe-limbed Tibetans there had also
entered, quite inconspicuously, a girl in Chinese dress.  She went
directly to the harpsichord and began to play a gavotte by Rameau.
The first bewitching twang stirred in Conway a pleasure that was
beyond amazement; those silvery airs of eighteenth-century France
seemed to match in elegance the Sung vases and exquisite lacquers
and the lotus pool beyond; the same death-defying fragrance hung
about them, lending immortality through an age to which their
spirit was alien.  Then he noticed the player.  She had the long,
slender nose, high cheekbones, and eggshell pallor of the Manchu;
her black hair was drawn tightly back and braided; she looked very
finished and miniature.  Her mouth was like a little pink
convolvulus, and she was quite still, except for her long-fingered
hands.  As soon as the gavotte was ended, she made a little
obeisance and went out.

Chang smiled after her and then, with a touch of personal triumph,
upon Conway.  "You are pleased?" he queried.

"Who is she?" asked Mallinson, before Conway could reply.

"Her name is Lo-Tsen.  She has much skill with Western keyboard
music.  Like myself, she has not yet attained the full initiation."

"I should think not, indeed!" exclaimed Miss Brinklow.  "She looks
hardly more than a child.  So you have women lamas, then?"

"There are no sex distinctions among us."

"Extraordinary business, this lamahood of yours," Mallinson
commented loftily, after a pause.  The rest of the tea-drinking
proceeded without conversation; echoes of the harpsichord seemed
still in the air, imposing a strange spell.  Presently, leading the
departure from the pavilion, Chang ventured to hope that the tour
had been enjoyable.  Conway, replying for the others, seesawed with
the customary courtesies.  Chang then assured them of his own equal
enjoyment, and hoped they would consider the resources of the music
room and library wholly at their disposal throughout their stay.
Conway, with some sincerity, thanked him again.  "But what about
the lamas?" he added.  "Don't they ever want to use them?"

"They yield place with much gladness to their honored guests."

"Well, that's what I call real handsome," said Barnard.  "And
what's more, it shows that the lamas do really know we exist.
That's a step forward, anyhow, makes me feel much more at home.
You've certainly got a swell outfit here, Chang, and that little
girl of yours plays the pi-anno very nicely.  How old would she be,
I wonder?"

"I am afraid I cannot tell you."

Barnard laughed.  "You don't give away secrets about a lady's age,
is that it?"

"Precisely," answered Chang with a faintly shadowing smile.



That evening, after dinner, Conway made occasion to leave the
others and stroll out into the calm, moon-washed courtyards.
Shangri-La was lovely then, touched with the mystery that lies at
the core of all loveliness.  The air was cold and still; the mighty
spire of Karakal looked nearer, much nearer than by daylight.
Conway was physically happy, emotionally satisfied, and mentally at
ease; but in his intellect, which was not quite the same thing as
mind, there was a little stir.  He was puzzled.  The line of
secrecy that he had begun to map out grew sharper, but only to
reveal an inscrutable background.  The whole amazing series of
events that had happened to him and his three chance companions
swung now into a sort of focus; he could not yet understand them,
but he believed they were somehow to be understood.

Passing along a cloister, he reached the terrace leaning over the
valley.  The scent of tuberose assailed him, full of delicate
associations; in China it was called "the smell of moonlight."  He
thought whimsically that if moonlight had a sound also, it might
well be the Rameau gavotte he had heard so recently; and that set
him thinking of the little Manchu.  It had not occurred to him to
picture women at Shangri-La; one did not associate their presence
with the general practice of monasticism.  Still, he reflected,
it might not be a disagreeable innovation; indeed, a female
harpsichordist might be an asset to any community that permitted
itself to be (in Chang's words) "moderately heretical."

He gazed over the edge into the blue-black emptiness.  The drop was
phantasmal; perhaps as much as a mile.  He wondered if he would be
allowed to descend it and inspect the valley civilization that had
been talked of.  The notion of this strange culture pocket, hidden
amongst unknown ranges, and ruled over by some vague kind of
theocracy, interested him as a student of history, apart from the
curious though perhaps related secrets of the lamasery.

Suddenly, on a flutter of air, came sounds from far below.
Listening intently, he could hear gongs and trumpets and also
(though perhaps only in imagination) the massed wail of voices.
The sounds faded on a veer of the wind, then returned to fade
again.  But the hint of life and liveliness in those veiled depths
served only to emphasize the austere serenity of Shangri-La.  Its
forsaken courts and pale pavilions shimmered in repose from which
all the fret of existence had ebbed away, leaving a hush as if
moments hardly dared to pass.  Then, from a window high above the
terrace, he caught the rose-gold of lantern light; was it there
that the lamas devoted themselves to contemplation and the pursuit
of wisdom, and were those devotions now in progress?  The problem
seemed one that he could solve merely by entering at the nearest
door and exploring through gallery and corridor until the truth
were his; but he knew that such freedom was illusory, and that in
fact his movements were watched.  Two Tibetans had padded across
the terrace and were idling near the parapet.  Good-humored fellows
they looked, shrugging their colored cloaks negligently over naked
shoulders.  The whisper of gongs and trumpets uprose again, and
Conway heard one of the men question his companion.  The answer
came:  "They have buried Talu."  Conway, whose knowledge of Tibetan
was very slight, hoped they would continue talking; he could not
gather much from a single remark.  After a pause the questioner,
who was inaudible, resumed the conversation, and obtained answers
which Conway overheard and loosely understood as follows:

"He died outside."

"He obeyed the high ones of Shangri-La."

"He came through the air over the great mountains with a bird to
hold him."

"Strangers he brought, also."

"Talu was not afraid of the outside wind, nor of the outside cold."

"Though he went outside long ago, the valley of Blue Moon remembers
him still."

Nothing more was said that Conway could interpret, and after
waiting for some time he went back to his own quarters.  He had
heard enough to turn another key in the locked mystery, and it
fitted so well that he wondered he had failed to supply it by his
own deductions.  It had, of course, crossed his mind, but a certain
initial and fantastic unreasonableness about it had been too much
for him.  Now he perceived that the unreasonableness, however
fantastic, was to be swallowed.  That flight from Baskul had not
been the meaningless exploit of a madman.  It had been something
planned, prepared, and carried out at the instigation of Shangri-
La.  The dead pilot was known by name to those who lived there; he
had been one of them, in some sense; his death was mourned.
Everything pointed to a high directing intelligence bent upon its
own purposes; there had been, as it were, a single arch of
intentions spanning the inexplicable hours and miles.  But what WAS
that intention?  For what possible reason could four chance
passengers in the British government aeroplane be whisked away to
these trans-Himalayan solitudes?

Conway was somewhat aghast at the problem, but by no means wholly
displeased with it.  It challenged him in the only way in which he
was readily amenable to challenge--by touching a certain clarity of
brain that only demanded a sufficient task.  One thing he decided
instantly; the cold thrill of discovery must not yet be
communicated, neither to his companions, who could not help him,
nor to his hosts, who doubtless would not.



CHAPTER 6


"I reckon some folks have to get used to worse places," Barnard
remarked towards the close of his first week at Shangri-La, and it
was doubtless one of the many lessons to be drawn.  By that time
the party had settled themselves into something like a daily
routine, and with Chang's assistance the boredom was no more acute
than on many a planned holiday.  They had all become acclimatized
to the atmosphere, finding it quite invigorating so long as heavy
exertion was avoided.  They had learned that the days were warm and
the nights cold, that the lamasery was almost completely sheltered
from winds, that avalanches on Karakal were most frequent about
midday, that the valley grew a good brand of tobacco, that some
foods and drinks were more pleasant than others, and that each one
of themselves had personal tastes and peculiarities.  They had, in
fact, discovered as much about each other as four new pupils of a
school from which everyone else was mysteriously absent.  Chang was
tireless in his efforts to make smooth the rough places.  He
conducted excursions, suggested occupations, recommended books,
talked with his slow, careful fluency whenever there was an awkward
pause at meals, and was on every occasion benign, courteous, and
resourceful.  The line of demarcation was so marked between
information willingly supplied and politely declined that the
latter ceased to stir resentment, except fitfully from Mallinson.
Conway was content to take note of it, adding another fragment to
his constantly accumulating data.  Barnard even "jollied" the
Chinese after the manner and traditions of a Middle West Rotary
convention.  "You know, Chang, this is a damned bad hotel.  Don't
you have any newspapers sent here ever?  I'd give all the books in
your library for this morning's Herald Tribune."  Chang's replies
were always serious, though it did not necessarily follow that he
took every question seriously.  "We have the files of The Times,
Mr. Barnard, up to a few years ago.  But only, I regret to say, the
London Times."

Conway was glad to find that the valley was not to be "out of
bounds," though the difficulties of the descent made unescorted
visits impossible.  In company with Chang they all spent a whole
day inspecting the green floor that was so pleasantly visible from
the cliff edge, and to Conway, at any rate, the trip was of
absorbing interest.  They traveled in bamboo sedan chairs, swinging
perilously over precipices while their bearers in front and to the
rear picked a way nonchalantly down the steep track.  It was not a
route for the squeamish, but when at last they reached the lower
levels of forest and foothill the supreme good fortune of the
lamasery was everywhere to be realized.  For the valley was nothing
less than an enclosed paradise of amazing fertility, in which the
vertical difference of a few thousand feet spanned the whole gulf
between temperate and tropical.  Crops of unusual diversity grew in
profusion and contiguity, with not an inch of ground untended.  The
whole cultivated area stretched for perhaps a dozen miles, varying
in width from one to five, and though narrow, it had the luck to
take sunlight at the hottest part of the day.  The atmosphere,
indeed, was pleasantly warm even out of the sun, though the little
rivulets that watered the soil were ice-cold from the snows.
Conway felt again, as he gazed up at the stupendous mountain wall,
that there was a superb and exquisite peril in the scene; but for
some chance-placed barrier, the whole valley would clearly have
been a lake, nourished continually from the glacial heights around
it.  Instead of which, a few streams dribbled through to fill
reservoirs and irrigate fields and plantations with a disciplined
conscientiousness worthy of a sanitary engineer.  The whole design
was almost uncannily fortunate, so long as the structure of the
frame remained unmoved by earthquake or landslide.

But even such vaguely future fears could only enhance the total
loveliness of the present.  Once again Conway was captivated, and
by the same qualities of charm and ingenuity that had made his
years in China happier than others.  The vast encircling massif
made perfect contrast with the tiny lawns and weedless gardens, the
painted teahouses by the stream, and the frivolously toy-like
houses.  The inhabitants seemed to him a very successful blend of
Chinese and Tibetan; they were cleaner and handsomer than the
average of either race, and seemed to have suffered little from the
inevitable inbreeding of such a small society.  They smiled and
laughed as they passed the chaired strangers, and had a friendly
word for Chang; they were good-humored and mildly inquisitive,
courteous and carefree, busy at innumerable jobs but not in any
apparent hurry over them.  Altogether Conway thought it one of the
pleasantest communities he had ever seen, and even Miss Brinklow,
who had been watching for symptoms of pagan degradation, had to
admit that everything looked very well "on the surface."  She was
relieved to find the natives "completely" clothed, even though the
women did wear ankle-tight Chinese trousers; and her most
imaginative scrutiny of a Buddhist temple revealed only a few items
that could be regarded as somewhat doubtfully phallic.  Chang
explained that the temple had its own lamas, who were under loose
control from Shangri-La, though not of the same order.  There were
also, it appeared, a Taoist and a Confucian temple further along
the valley.  "The jewel has facets," said the Chinese, "and it is
possible that many religions are moderately true."

"I agree with that," said Barnard heartily.  "I never did believe
in sectarian jealousies.  Chang, you're a philosopher, I must
remember that remark of yours.  'Many religions are moderately
true.'  You fellows up on the mountain must be a lot of wise guys
to have thought that out.  You're right, too, I'm dead certain of
it."

"But we," responded Chang dreamily, "are only MODERATELY certain."

Miss Brinklow could not be bothered with all that, which seemed to
her a sign of mere laziness.  In any case she was preoccupied with
an idea of her own.  "When I get back," she said with tightening
lips, "I shall ask my society to send a missionary here.  And if
they grumble at the expense, I shall just bully them until they
agree."

That, clearly, was a much healthier spirit, and even Mallinson,
little as he sympathized with foreign missions, could not forbear
his admiration.  "They ought to send YOU," he said.  "That is, of
course, if you'd like a place like this."

"It's hardly a question of LIKING it," Miss Brinklow retorted.
"One wouldn't like it, naturally--how could one?  It's a matter of
what one feels one ought to do."

"I think," said Conway, "if I were a missionary I'd choose this
rather than quite a lot of other places."

"In that case," snapped Miss Brinklow, "there would be no merit in
it, obviously."

"But I wasn't thinking of merit."

"More's the pity, then.  There's no good in doing a thing because
you like doing it.  Look at these people here!"

"They all seem very happy."

"Exactly," she answered with a touch of fierceness.  She added:
"Anyhow, I don't see why I shouldn't make a beginning by studying
the language.  Can you lend me a book about it, Mr. Chang?"

Chang was at his most mellifluous.  "Most certainly, madam, with
the greatest of pleasure.  And, if I may say so, I think the idea
an excellent one."

When they ascended to Shangri-La that evening he treated the matter
as one of immediate importance.  Miss Brinklow was at first a
little daunted by the massive volume compiled by an industrious
nineteenth-century German (she had more probably imagined some
slighter work of a "Brush up your Tibetan" type), but with help
from the Chinese and encouragement from Conway she made a good
beginning and was soon observed to be extracting grim satisfaction
from her task.

Conway, too, found much to interest him, apart from the engrossing
problem he had set himself.  During the warm, sunlit days he made
full use of the library and music room, and was confirmed in his
impression that the lamas were of quite exceptional culture.  Their
taste in books was catholic, at any rate; Plato in Greek touched
Omar in English; Nietzsche partnered Newton; Thomas More was there,
and also Hannah More, Thomas Moore, George Moore, and even Old
Moore.  Altogether Conway estimated the number of volumes at
between twenty and thirty thousand; and it was tempting to
speculate upon the method of selection and acquisition.  He sought
also to discover how recently there had been additions, but he did
not come across anything later than a cheap reprint of Im Western
Nichts Neues.  During a subsequent visit, however, Chang told him
that there were other books published up to about the middle of
1930 which would doubtless be added to the shelves eventually; they
had already arrived at the lamasery.  "We keep ourselves fairly up-
to-date, you see," he commented.

"There are people who would hardly agree with you," replied Conway
with a smile.  "Quite a lot of things have happened in the world
since last year, you know."

"Nothing of importance, my dear sir, that could not have been
foreseen in 1920, or that will not be better understood in 1940."

"You're not interested, then, in the latest developments of the
world crisis?"

"I shall be very deeply interested--in due course."

"You know, Chang, I believe I'm beginning to understand you.
You're geared differently, that's what it is.  Time means less to
you than it does to most people.  If I were in London I wouldn't
always be eager to see the latest hour-old newspaper, and you at
Shangri-La are no more eager to see a year-old one.  Both attitudes
seem to me quite sensible.  By the way, how long is it since you
last had visitors here?"

"That, Mr. Conway, I am unfortunately unable to say."

It was the usual ending to a conversation, and one that Conway
found less irritating than the opposite phenomenon from which he
had suffered much in his time--the conversation which, try as he
would, seemed never to end.  He began to like Chang rather more as
their meetings multiplied, though it still puzzled him that he met
so few of the lamasery personnel; even assuming that the lamas
themselves were unapproachable, were there not other postulants
besides Chang?

There was, of course, the little Manchu.  He saw her sometimes when
he visited the music room; but she knew no English, and he was
still unwilling to disclose his own Chinese.  He could not quite
determine whether she played merely for pleasure, or was in some
way a student.  Her playing, as indeed her whole behavior, was
exquisitely formal, and her choice lay always among the more
patterned compositions--those of Bach, Corelli, Scarlatti, and
occasionally Mozart.  She preferred the harpsichord to the piano,
but when Conway went to the latter she would listen with grave and
almost dutiful appreciation.  It was impossible to know what was in
her mind; it was difficult even to guess her age.  He would have
doubted her being over thirty or under thirteen; and yet, in a
curious way, such manifest unlikelihoods could neither of them be
ruled out as wholly impossible.

Mallinson, who sometimes came to listen to the music for want of
anything better to do, found her a very baffling proposition.  "I
can't think what she's doing here," he said to Conway more than
once.  "This lama business may be all right for an old fellow like
Chang, but what's the attraction in it for a girl?  How long has
she been here, I wonder?"

"I wonder too, but it's one of those things we're not likely to be
told."

"Do you suppose she likes being here?"

"I'm bound to say she doesn't appear to DIS-like it."

"She doesn't appear to have feelings at all, for that matter.
She's like a little ivory doll more than a human being."

"A charming thing to be like, anyhow."

"As far as it goes."

Conway smiled.  "And it goes pretty far, Mallinson, when you come
to think about it.  After all, the ivory doll has manners, good
taste in dress, attractive looks, a pretty touch on the
harpsichord, and she doesn't move about a room as if she were
playing hockey.  Western Europe, so far as I recollect it, contains
an exceptionally large number of females who lack those virtues."

"You're an awful cynic about women, Conway."

Conway was used to the charge.  He had not actually had a great
deal to do with the other sex, and during occasional leaves in
Indian hill stations the reputation of cynic had been as easy to
sustain as any other.  In truth he had had several delightful
friendships with women who would have been pleased to marry him if
he had asked them--but he had not asked them.  He had once got
nearly as far as an announcement in the Morning Post, but the girl
did not want to live in Pekin and he did not want to live at
Tunbridge Wells, mutual reluctances which proved impossible to
dislodge.  So far as he had had experience of women at all, it had
been tentative, intermittent, and somewhat inconclusive.  But he
was not, after all that, a cynic about them.

He said with a laugh:  "I'm thirty-seven--you're twenty-four.
That's all it amounts to."

After a pause Mallinson asked suddenly:  "Oh, by the way, how old
should you say Chang is?"

"Anything," replied Conway lightly, "between forty-nine and a
hundred and forty-nine."

Such information, however, was less trustworthy than much else that
was available to the new arrivals.  The fact that their curiosities
were sometimes unsatisfied tended to obscure the really vast
quantity of data which Chang was always willing to outpour.  There
were no secrecies, for instance, about the customs and habits of
the valley population, and Conway, who was interested, had talks
which might have been worked up into a quite serviceable degree
thesis.  He was particularly interested, as a student of affairs,
in the way the valley population was governed; it appeared, on
examination, to be a rather loose and elastic autocracy operated
from the lamasery with a benevolence that was almost casual.  It
was certainly an established success, as every descent into that
fertile paradise made more evident.  Conway was puzzled as to the
ultimate basis of law and order; there appeared to be neither
soldiers nor police, yet surely some provision must be made for the
incorrigible?  Chang replied that crime was very rare, partly
because only serious things were considered crimes, and partly
because everyone enjoyed a sufficiency of everything he could
reasonably desire.  In the last resort the personal servants of the
lamasery had power to expel an offender from the valley--though
this, which was considered an extreme and dreadful punishment, had
only very occasionally to be imposed.  But the chief factor in the
government of Blue Moon, Chang went on to say, was the inculcation
of good manners, which made men feel that certain things were "not
done," and that they lost caste by doing them.  "You English
inculcate the same feeling," said Chang, "in your public schools,
but not, I fear, in regard to the same things.  The inhabitants of
our valley, for instance, feel that it is 'not done' to be
inhospitable to strangers, to dispute acrimoniously, or to strive
for priority amongst one another.  The idea of enjoying what your
English headmasters call the mimic warfare of the playing field
would seem to them entirely barbarous--indeed, a sheerly wanton
stimulation of all the lower instincts."

Conway asked if there were never disputes about women.

"Only very rarely, because it would not be considered good manners
to take a woman that another man wanted."

"Supposing somebody wanted her so badly that he didn't care a damn
whether it was good manners or not?"

"Then, my dear sir, it would be good manners on the part of the
other man to let him have her, and also on the part of the woman to
be equally agreeable.  You would be surprised, Conway, how the
application of a little courtesy all round helps to smooth out
these problems."

Certainly during visits to the valley Conway found a spirit of
goodwill and contentment that pleased him all the more because he
knew that of all the arts, that of government has been brought
least to perfection.  When he made some complimentary remark,
however, Chang responded:  "Ah, but you see, we believe that to
govern perfectly it is necessary to avoid governing too much."

"Yet you don't have any democratic machinery--voting, and so on?"

"Oh, no.  Our people would be quite shocked by having to declare
that one policy was completely right and another completely wrong."

Conway smiled.  He found the attitude a curiously sympathetic one.

Meanwhile, Miss Brinklow derived her own kind of satisfaction from
a study of Tibetan; meanwhile, also, Mallinson fretted and groused,
and Barnard persisted in an equanimity which seemed almost equally
remarkable, whether it were real or simulated.

"To tell you the truth," said Mallinson, "the fellow's cheerfulness
is just about getting on my nerves.  I can understand him trying to
keep a stiff lip, but that continual joking of his begins to upset
me.  He'll be the life and soul of the party if we don't watch
him."

Conway too had once or twice wondered at the ease with which the
American had managed to settle down.  He replied:  "Isn't it rather
lucky for us he DOES take things so well?"

"Personally, I think it's damned peculiar.  What do you KNOW about
him, Conway?  I mean who he is, and so on."

"Not much more than you do.  I understood he came from Persia and
was supposed to have been oil prospecting.  It's his way to take
things easily--when the air evacuation was arranged I had quite a
job to persuade him to join us at all.  He only agreed when I told
him that an American passport wouldn't stop a bullet."

"By the way, did you ever see his passport?"

"Probably I did, but I don't remember.  Why?"

Mallinson laughed.  "I'm afraid you'll think I haven't exactly been
minding my own business.  Why should I, anyhow?  Two months in this
place ought to reveal all our secrets, if we have any.  Mind you,
it was a sheer accident, in the way it happened, and I haven't let
slip a word to anyone else, of course.  I didn't think I'd tell
even you, but now we've got on to the subject I may as well."

"Yes, of course, but I wish you'd let me know what you're talking
about."

"Just this.  Barnard was traveling on a forged passport and he
isn't Barnard at all."

Conway raised his eyebrows with an interest that was very much less
than concern.  He liked Barnard, so far as the man stirred him to
any emotion at all; but it was quite impossible for him to care
intensely who he really was or wasn't.  He said:  "Well, who do you
think he is, then?"

"He's Chalmers Bryant."

"The deuce he is!  What makes you think so?"

"He dropped a pocketbook this morning and Chang picked it up and
gave it to me, thinking it was mine.  I couldn't help seeing it was
stuffed with newspaper clippings--some of them fell out as I was
handling the thing, and I don't mind admitting that I looked at
them.  After all, newspaper clippings aren't private, or shouldn't
be.  They were all about Bryant and the search for him, and one of
them had a photograph which was absolutely like Barnard except for
a mustache."

"Did you mention your discovery to Barnard himself?"

"No, I just handed him his property without any comment."

"So the whole thing rests on your identification of a newspaper
photograph?"

"Well, so far, yes."

"I don't think I'd care to convict anyone on that.  Of course you
might be right--I don't say he couldn't POSSIBLY be Bryant.  If he
were, it would account for a good deal of his contentment at being
here--he could hardly have found a better place to hide."

Mallinson seemed a trifle disappointed by this casual reception of
news which he evidently thought highly sensational.  "Well, what
are you going to do about it?" he asked.

Conway pondered a moment and then answered:  "I haven't much of an
idea.  Probably nothing at all.  What can one do, in any case?"

"But dash it all, if the man IS Bryant--"

"My dear Mallinson, if the man were Nero it wouldn't have to matter
to us for the time being!  Saint or crook, we've got to make what
we can of each other's company as long as we're here, and I can't
see that we shall help matters by striking any attitudes.  If I'd
suspected who he was at Baskul, of course, I'd have tried to get in
touch with Delhi about him--it would have been merely a public
duty.  But now I think I can claim to be OFF duty."

"Don't you think that's rather a slack way of looking at it?"

"I don't care if it's slack so long as it's sensible."

"I suppose that means your advice to me is to forget what I've
found out?"

"You probably can't do that, but I certainly think we might both of
us keep our own counsel about it.  Not in consideration for Barnard
or Bryant or whoever he is, but to save ourselves the deuce of an
awkward situation when we get away."

"You mean we ought to let him go?"

"Well, I'll put it a bit differently and say we ought to give
somebody else the pleasure of catching him.  When you've lived
quite sociably with a man for a few months, it seems a little out
of place to call for the handcuffs."

"I don't think I agree.  The man's nothing but a large-scale thief--
I know plenty of people who've lost their money through him."

Conway shrugged his shoulders.  He admired the simple black-and-
white of Mallinson's code; the public school ethic might be crude,
but at least it was downright.  If a man broke the law, it was
everyone's duty to hand him over to justice--always provided that
it was the kind of law one was not allowed to break.  And the law
pertaining to checks and shares and balance sheets was decidedly
that kind.  Bryant had transgressed it, and though Conway had not
taken much interest in the case, he had an impression that it was a
fairly bad one of its kind.  All he knew was that the failure of
the giant Bryant group in New York had resulted in losses of about
a hundred million dollars--a record crash, even in a world that
exuded records.  In some way or other (Conway was not a financial
expert) Bryant had been monkeying on Wall Street, and the result
had been a warrant for his arrest, his escape to Europe, and
extradition orders against him in half a dozen countries.

Conway said finally:  "Well, if you take my tip you'll say nothing
about it--not for his sake but for ours.  Please yourself, of
course, so long as you don't forget the possibility that he mayn't
be the fellow at all."

But he was, and the revelation came that evening after dinner.
Chang had left them; Miss Brinklow had turned to her Tibetan
grammar; the three male exiles faced each other over coffee and
cigars.  Conversation during the meal would have languished more
than once but for the tact and affability of the Chinese; now, in
his absence, a rather unhappy silence supervened.  Barnard was for
once without jokes.  It was clear to Conway that it lay beyond
Mallinson's power to treat the American as if nothing had happened,
and it was equally clear that Barnard was shrewdly aware that
something HAD happened.

Suddenly the American threw away his cigar.  "I guess you all know
who I am," he said.

Mallinson colored like a girl, but Conway replied in the same quiet
key:  "Yes, Mallinson and I think we do."

"Darned careless of me to leave those clippings lying about."

"We're all apt to be careless at times."

"Well, you're mighty calm about it, that's something."

There was another silence, broken at length by Miss Brinklow's
shrill voice:  "I'm sure I don't know who you are, Mr. Barnard,
though I must say I guessed all along you were traveling
incognito."  They all looked at her enquiringly and she went on:
"I remember when Mr. Conway said we should all have our names in
the papers, you said it didn't affect you.  I thought then that
Barnard probably wasn't your real name."

The culprit gave a slow smile as he lit himself another cigar.
"Madam," he said eventually, "you're not only a smart detective,
but you've hit on a really polite name for my present position, I'm
traveling incognito.  You've said it, and you're dead right.  As
for you boys, I'm not sorry in a way that you've found me out.  So
long as none of you had an inkling, we could all have managed, but
considering how we're fixed it wouldn't seem very neighborly to
play the high hat with you now.  You folks have been so darned nice
to me that I don't want to make a lot of trouble.  It looks as if
we were all going to be joined together for better or worse for
some little time ahead, and it's up to us to help one another out
as far as we can.  As for what happens afterwards, I reckon we can
leave that to settle itself."

All this appeared to Conway so eminently reasonable that he gazed
at Barnard with considerably greater interest, and even--though it
was perhaps odd at such a moment--a touch of genuine appreciation.
It was curious to think of that heavy, fleshy, good-humored, rather
paternal-looking man as the world's hugest swindler.  He looked far
more the type that, with a little extra education, would have made
a popular headmaster of a prep school.  Behind his joviality there
were signs of recent strains and worries, but that did not mean
that the joviality was forced.  He obviously was what he looked--a
"good fellow" in the world's sense, by nature a lamb and only by
profession a shark.

Conway said:  "Yes, that's very much the best thing, I'm certain."

Then Barnard laughed.  It was as if he possessed even deeper
reserves of good humor which he could only now draw upon.  "Gosh,
but it's mighty queer," he exclaimed, spreading himself in his
chair.  "The whole darned business, I mean.  Right across Europe,
and on through Turkey and Persia to that little one-horse burg!
Police after me all the time, mind you--they nearly got me in
Vienna!  It's pretty exciting at first, being chased, but it gets
on your nerves after a bit.  I got a good rest at Baskul, though--I
thought I'd be safe in the midst of a revolution."

"And so you were," said Conway with a slight smile, "except from
bullets."

"Yeah, and that's what bothered me at the finish.  I can tell you
it was a mighty hard choice--whether to stay in Baskul and get
plugged, or accept a trip in your government's aeroplane and find
the bracelets waiting at the other end.  I wasn't exactly keen to
do either."

"I remember you weren't."

Barnard laughed again.  "Well, that's how it was, and you can
figure it out for yourself that the change of plan which brought me
here don't worry me an awful lot.  It's a first-class mystery, but,
speaking personally, there couldn't have been a better one.  It
isn't my way to grumble as long as I'm satisfied."

Conway's smile became more definitely cordial.  "A very sensible
attitude, though I think you rather overdid it.  We were all
beginning to wonder how you managed to be so contented."

"Well, I WAS contented.  This ain't a bad place, when you get used
to it.  The air's a bit snappy at first, but you can't have
everything.  And it's nice and quiet for a change.  Every fall I go
down to Palm Beach for a rest cure, but they don't give you it,
those places--you're in the racket just the same.  But here I guess
I'm having just what the doctor ordered, and it certainly feels
grand to me.  I'm on a different diet, I can't look at the tape,
and my broker can't get me on the telephone."

"I daresay he wishes he could."

"Sure.  There'll be a tidy-sized mess to clear up, and I know it."

He said this with such simplicity that Conway could not help
responding:  "I'm not much of an authority on what people call high
finance."

It was a lead, and the American accepted it without the slightest
reluctance.  "High finance," he said, "is mostly a lot of bunk."

"So I've often suspected."

"Look here, Conway, I'll put it like this.  A feller does what he's
been doing for years, and what lots of other fellers have been
doing, and suddenly the market goes against him.  He can't help it,
but he braces up and waits for the turn.  But somehow the turn
don't come as it always used to, and when he's lost ten million
dollars or so he reads in some paper that a Swede professor thinks
it's the end of the world.  Now I ask you, does that sort of thing
help markets?  Of course, it gives him a bit of a shock, but he
still can't help it.  And there he is till the cops come--if he
waits for 'em.  I didn't."

"You claim it was all just a run of bad luck, then?"

"Well, I certainly had a large packet."

"You also had other people's money," put in Mallinson sharply.

"Yeah, I did.  And why?  Because they all wanted something for
nothing and hadn't the brains to get it for themselves."

"I don't agree.  It was because they trusted you and thought their
money was safe."

"Well, it wasn't safe.  It couldn't be.  There isn't safety
anywhere, and those who thought there was were like a lot of saps
trying to hide under an umbrella in a typhoon."

Conway said pacifyingly:  "Well, we'll all admit you couldn't help
the typhoon."

"I couldn't even pretend to help it--any more than you could help
what happened after we left Baskul.  The same thing struck me then
as I watched you in the aeroplane keeping dead calm while Mallinson
here had the fidgets.  You knew you couldn't do anything about it,
and you weren't caring two hoots.  Just like I felt myself when the
crash came."

"That's nonsense!" cried Mallinson.  "Anyone can help swindling.
It's a matter of playing the game according to the rules."

"Which is a darned difficult thing to do when the whole game's
going to pieces.  Besides, there isn't a soul in the world who
knows what the rules are.  All the professors of Harvard and Yale
couldn't tell you 'em."

Mallinson replied rather scornfully:  "I'm referring to a few quite
simple rules of everyday conduct."

"Then I guess your everyday conduct doesn't include managing trust
companies."

Conway made haste to intervene.  "We'd better not argue.  I don't
object in the least to the comparison between your affairs and
mine.  No doubt we've all been flying blind lately, both literally
and in other ways.  But we're here now, that's the important thing,
and I agree with you that we could easily have had more to grumble
about.  It's curious, when you come to think about it, that out of
four people picked up by chance and kidnaped a thousand miles,
three should be able to find some consolation in the business.  YOU
want a rest cure and a hiding place; Miss Brinklow feels a call to
evangelize the heathen Tibetan."

"Who's the third person you're counting?" Mallinson interrupted.

"Not me, I hope?"

"I was including myself," answered Conway.  "And my own reason is
perhaps the simplest of all--I just rather like being here."

Indeed, a short time later, when he took what had come to be his
usual solitary evening stroll along the terrace or beside the lotus
pool, he felt an extraordinary sense of physical and mental
settlement.  It was perfectly true; he just rather liked being at
Shangri-La.  Its atmosphere soothed while its mystery stimulated,
and the total sensation was agreeable.  For some days now he had
been reaching, gradually and tentatively, a curious conclusion
about the lamasery and its inhabitants; his brain was still busy
with it, though in a deeper sense he was unperturbed.  He was like
a mathematician with an abstruse problem--worrying over it, but
worrying very calmly and impersonally.

As for Bryant, whom he decided he would still think of and address
as Barnard, the question of his exploits and identity faded
instantly into the background, save for a single phrase of his--
"the whole game's going to pieces."  Conway found himself
remembering and echoing it with a wider significance than the
American had probably intended; he felt it to be true of more than
American banking and trust-company management.  It fitted Baskul
and Delhi and London, war-making and empire-building, consulates
and trade concessions and dinner parties at Government House; there
was a reek of dissolution over all that recollected world, and
Barnard's cropper had only, perhaps, been better dramatized than
his own.  The whole game WAS doubtless going to pieces, but
fortunately the players were not as a rule put on trial for the
pieces they had failed to save.  In that respect financiers were
unlucky.

But here, at Shangri-La, all was in deep calm.  In a moonless sky
the stars were lit to the full, and a pale blue sheen lay upon the
dome of Karakal.  Conway realized then that if by some change of
plan the porters from the outside world were to arrive immediately,
he would not be completely overjoyed at being spared the interval
of waiting.  And neither would Barnard, he reflected with an inward
smile.  It was amusing, really; and then suddenly he knew that he
still liked Barnard, or he wouldn't have found it amusing.  Somehow
the loss of a hundred million dollars was too much to bar a man
for; it would have been easier if he had only stolen one's watch.
And after all, how COULD anyone lose a hundred millions?  Perhaps
only in the sense in which a cabinet minister might airily announce
that he had been "given India."

And then again he thought of the time when he would leave Shangri-
La with the returning porters.  He pictured the long, arduous
journey, and that eventual moment of arrival at some planter's
bungalow in Sikkim or Baltistan--a moment which ought, he felt, to
be deliriously cheerful, but which would probably be slightly
disappointing.  Then the first hand shakings and self-introductions;
the first drinks on clubhouse verandas; sun-bronzed faces staring
at him in barely concealed incredulity.  At Delhi, no doubt,
interviews with the viceroy and the C.I.C., salaams of turbaned
menials; endless reports to be prepared and sent off.  Perhaps
even a return to England and Whitehall; deck games on the
P. & O.; the flaccid palm of an under secretary; newspaper
interviews; hard, mocking, sex-thirsty voices of women--"And is it
really true, Mr. Conway, that when you were in Tibet . . .?"  There
was no doubt of one thing; he would be able to dine out on his yarn
for at least a season.  But would he enjoy it?  He recalled a
sentence penned by Gordon during the last days at Khartoum--"I
would sooner live like a dervish with the Mahdi than go out to
dinner every night in London."  Conway's aversion was less definite--
a mere anticipation that to tell his story in the past tense would
bore him a great deal as well as sadden him a little.

Abruptly, in the midst of his reflections, he was aware of Chang's
approach.  "Sir," began the Chinese, his slow whisper slightly
quickening as he spoke, "I am proud to be the bearer of important
news. . . ."

So the porters HAD come before their time, was Conway's first
thought; it was odd that he should have been thinking of it so
recently.  And he felt the pang that he was half-prepared for.
"Well?" he queried.

Chang's condition was as nearly that of excitement as seemed
physically possible for him.  "My dear sir, I congratulate you," he
continued.  "And I am happy to think that I am in some measure
responsible--it was after my own strong and repeated recommendations
that the High Lama made his decision.  He wishes to see you
immediately."

Conway's glance was quizzical.  "You're being less coherent than
usual, Chang.  What has happened?"

"The High Lama has sent for you."

"So I gather.  But why all the fuss?"

"Because it is extraordinary and unprecedented--even I who urged it
did not expect it to happen yet.  A fortnight ago you had not
arrived, and now you are about to be received by HIM!  Never before
has it occurred so soon!"

"I'm still rather fogged, you know.  I'm to see your High Lama--I
realize that all right.  But is there anything else?"

"Is it not enough?"

Conway laughed.  "Absolutely, I assure you--don't imagine I'm being
discourteous.  As a matter of fact, something quite different was
in my head at first.  However, never mind about that now.  Of
course, I shall be both honored and delighted to meet the
gentleman.  When is the appointment?"

"Now.  I have been sent to bring you to him."

"Isn't it rather late?"

"That is of no consequence.  My dear sir, you will understand many
things very soon.  And may I add my own personal pleasure that this
interval--always an awkward one--is now at an end.  Believe me, it
has been irksome to me to have to refuse you information on so many
occasions--extremely irksome.  I am joyful in the knowledge that
such unpleasantness will never again be necessary."

"You're a queer fellow, Chang," Conway responded.  "But let's be
going, don't bother to explain anymore.  I'm perfectly ready and I
appreciate your nice remarks.  Lead the way."



CHAPTER 7


Conway was quite unruffled, but his demeanor covered an eagerness
that grew in intensity as he accompanied Chang across the empty
courtyards.  If the words of the Chinese meant anything, he was on
the threshold of discovery; soon he would know whether his theory,
still half-formed, were less impossible than it appeared.

Apart from this, it would doubtless be an interesting interview.
He had met many peculiar potentates in his time; he took a detached
interest in them, and was shrewd as a rule in his assessments.
Without self-consciousness he had also the valuable knack of being
able to say polite things in languages of which he knew very little
indeed.  Perhaps, however, he would be chiefly a listener on this
occasion.  He noticed that Chang was taking him through rooms he
had not seen before, all of them rather dim and lovely in lantern
light.  Then a spiral staircase climbed to a door at which the
Chinese knocked, and which was opened by a Tibetan servant with
such promptness that Conway suspected he had been stationed behind
it.  This part of the lamasery, on a higher storey, was no less
tastefully embellished than the rest, but its most immediately
striking feature was a dry, tingling warmth, as if all the windows
were tightly closed and some kind of steam-heating plant were
working at full pressure.  The airlessness increased as he passed
on, until at last Chang paused before a door which, if bodily
sensation could have been trusted, might well have admitted to a
Turkish bath.

"The High Lama," whispered Chang, "will receive you alone."  Having
opened the door for Conway's entrance, he closed it afterwards so
silently that his own departure was almost imperceptible.  Conway
stood hesitant, breathing an atmosphere that was not only sultry,
but full of dusk, so that it was several seconds before he could
accustom his eyes to the gloom.  Then he slowly built up an
impression of a dark-curtained, low-roofed apartment, simply
furnished with table and chairs.  On one of these sat a small,
pale, and wrinkled person, motionlessly shadowed and yielding an
effect as of some fading, antique portrait in chiaroscuro.  If
there were such a thing as presence divorced from actuality, here
it was, adorned with a classic dignity that was more an emanation
than an attribute.  Conway was curious about his own intense
perception of all this, and wondered if it were dependable or
merely his reaction to the rich, crepuscular warmth; he felt dizzy
under the gaze of those ancient eyes, took a few forward paces, and
then halted.  The occupant of the chair grew now less vague in
outline, but scarcely more corporeal; he was a little old man in
Chinese dress, its folds and flounces loose against a flat,
emaciated frame.  "You are Mr. Conway?" he whispered in excellent
English.



The voice was pleasantly soothing, and touched with a very gentle
melancholy that fell upon Conway with strange beatitude; though
once again the skeptic in him was inclined to hold the temperature
responsible.

"I am," he answered.

The voice went on.  "It is a pleasure to see you, Mr. Conway.  I
sent for you because I thought we should do well to have a talk
together.  Please sit down beside me and have no fear.  I am an old
man and can do no one any harm."

Conway answered:  "I feel it a signal honor to be received by you."

"I thank you, my dear Conway--I shall call you that, according to
your English fashion.  It is, as I said, a moment of great pleasure
for me.  My sight is poor, but believe me, I am able to see you in
my mind, as well as with my eyes.  I trust you have been
comfortable at Shangri-La since your arrival?"

"Extremely so."

"I am glad.  Chang has done his best for you, no doubt.  It has
been a great pleasure to him also.  He tells me you have been
asking many questions about our community and its affairs?"

"I am certainly interested in them."

"Then if you can spare me a little time, I shall be pleased to give
you a brief account of our foundation."

"There is nothing I should appreciate more."

"That is what I had thought--and hoped. . . .  But first of all,
before our discourse . . ."

He made the slightest stir of a hand, and immediately, by what
technique of summons Conway could not detect, a servant entered to
prepare the elegant ritual of tea-drinking.  The little eggshell
bowls of almost colorless fluid were placed on a lacquered tray;
Conway, who knew the ceremony, was by no means contemptuous of it.
The voice resumed:  "Our ways are familiar to you, then?"

Obeying an impulse which he could neither analyze nor find desire
to control, Conway answered:  "I lived in China for some years."

"You did not tell Chang?"

"No."

"Then why am I so honored?"

Conway was rarely at a loss to explain his own motives, but on this
occasion he could not think of any reason at all.  At length he
replied:  "To be quite candid, I haven't the slightest idea, except
that I must have wanted to tell you."

"The best of all reasons, I am sure, between those who are to
become friends. . . .  Now tell me, is this not a delicate aroma?
The teas of China are many and fragrant, but this, which is a
special product of our own valley, is in my opinion their equal."

Conway lifted the bowl to his lips and tasted.  The savor was
slender, elusive, and recondite, a ghostly bouquet that haunted
rather than lived on the tongue.  He said:  "It is very delightful,
and also quite new to me."

"Yes, like a great many of our valley herbs, it is both unique and
precious.  It should be tasted, of course, very slowly--not only in
reverence and affection, but to extract the fullest degree of
pleasure.  This is a famous lesson that we may learn from Kou Kai
Tchou, who lived some fifteen centuries ago.  He would always
hesitate to reach the succulent marrow when he was eating a piece
of sugarcane, for, as he explained--'I introduce myself gradually
into the region of delights.'  Have you studied any of the great
Chinese classics?"

Conway replied that he was slightly acquainted with a few of them.
He knew that the allusive conversation would, according to
etiquette, continue until the tea bowls were taken away; but he
found it far from irritating, despite his keenness to hear the
history of Shangri-La.  Doubtless there was a certain amount of Kou
Kai Tchou's reluctant sensibility in himself.

At length the signal was given, again mysteriously, the servant
padded in and out, and with no more preamble the High Lama of
Shangri-La began:

"Probably you are familiar, my dear Conway, with the general
outline of Tibetan history.  I am informed by Chang that you have
made ample use of our library here, and I doubt not that you have
studied the scanty but exceedingly interesting annals of these
regions.  You will be aware, anyhow, that Nestorian Christianity
was widespread throughout Asia during the Middle Ages, and that its
memory lingered long after its actual decay.  In the seventeenth
century a Christian revival was impelled directly from Rome through
the agency of those heroic Jesuit missionaries whose journeys, if I
may permit myself the remark, are so much more interesting to read
of than those of St. Paul.  Gradually the Church established itself
over an immense area, and it is a remarkable fact, not realized by
many Europeans today, that for thirty-eight years there existed a
Christian mission in Lhasa itself.  It was not, however, from Lhasa
but from Pekin, in the year 1719, that four Capuchin friars set out
in search of any remnants of the Nestorian faith that might still
be surviving in the hinterland.

"They traveled southwest for many months, by Lanchow and the Koko-
Nor, facing hardships which you will well imagine.  Three died on
the way, and the fourth was not far from death when by accident he
stumbled into the rocky defile that remains today the only
practical approach to the valley of Blue Moon.  There, to his joy
and surprise, he found a friendly and prosperous population who
made haste to display what I have always regarded as our oldest
tradition--that of hospitality to strangers.  Quickly he recovered
health and began to preach his mission.  The people were Buddhists,
but willing to hear him, and he had considerable success.  There
was an ancient lamasery existing then on this same mountain shelf,
but it was in a state of decay both physical and spiritual, and as
the Capuchin's harvest increased, he conceived the idea of setting
up on the same magnificent site a Christian monastery.  Under his
surveillance the old buildings were repaired and largely
reconstructed, and he himself began to live here in the year 1734,
when he was fifty-three years of age.

"Now let me tell you more about this man.  His name was Perrault,
and he was by birth a Luxembourger.  Before devoting himself to Far
Eastern missions he had studied at Paris, Bologna, and other
universities; he was something of a scholar.  There are few
existing records of his early life, but it was not in any way
unusual for one of his age and profession.  He was fond of music
and the arts, had a special aptitude for languages, and before he
was sure of his vocation he had tasted all the familiar pleasures
of the world.  Malplaquet was fought when he was a youth, and he
knew from personal contact the horrors of war and invasion.  He was
physically sturdy; during his first years here he labored with his
hands like any other man, tilling his own garden, and learning from
the inhabitants as well as teaching them.  He found gold deposits
along the valley, but they did not tempt him; he was more deeply
interested in local plants and herbs.  He was humble and by no
means bigoted.  He deprecated polygamy, but he saw no reason to
inveigh against the prevalent fondness for the tangatse berry, to
which were ascribed medicinal properties, but which was chiefly
popular because its effects were those of a mild narcotic.
Perrault, in fact, became somewhat of an addict himself; it was his
way to accept from native life all that it offered which he found
harmless and pleasant, and to give in return the spiritual treasure
of the West.  He was not an ascetic; he enjoyed the good things of
the world, and was careful to teach his converts cooking as well as
catechism.  I want you to have an impression of a very earnest,
busy, learned, simple, and enthusiastic person who, along with his
priestly functions, did not disdain to put on a mason's overall and
help in the actual building of these very rooms.  That was, of
course, a work of immense difficulty, and one which nothing but his
pride and steadfastness could have overcome.  Pride, I say, because
it was undoubtedly a dominant motive at the beginning--the pride in
his own Faith that made him decide that if Gautama could inspire
men to build a temple on the ledge of Shangri-La, Rome was capable
of no less.

"But time passed, and it was not unnatural that this motive should
yield place gradually to more tranquil ones.  Emulation is, after
all, a young man's spirit, and Perrault, by the time his monastery
was well established, was already full of years.  You must bear in
mind that he had not, from a strict point of view, been acting very
regularly; though some latitude must surely be extended to one
whose ecclesiastical superiors are located at a distance measurable
in years rather than miles.  But the folk of the valley and the
monks themselves had no misgivings; they loved and obeyed him, and
as years went on, came to venerate him also.  At intervals it was
his custom to send reports to the Bishop of Pekin; but often they
never reached him, and as it was to be presumed that the bearers
had succumbed to the perils of the journey, Perrault grew more and
more unwilling to hazard their lives, and after about the middle of
the century he gave up the practice.  Some of his earlier messages,
however, must have got through, and a doubt of his activities have
been aroused, for in the year 1769 a stranger brought a letter
written twelve years before, summoning Perrault to Rome.

"He would have been over seventy had the command been received
without delay; as it was, he had turned eighty-nine.  The long trek
over mountain and plateau was unthinkable; he could never have
endured the scouring gales and fierce chills of the wilderness
outside.  He sent, therefore, a courteous reply explaining the
situation, but there is no record that his message ever passed the
barrier of the great ranges.

"So Perrault remained at Shangri-La, not exactly in defiance of
superior orders, but because it was physically impossible for him
to fulfill them.  In any case he was an old man, and death would
probably soon put an end both to him and his irregularity.  By this
time the institution he had founded had begun to undergo a subtle
change.  It might be deplorable, but it was not really very
astonishing; for it could hardly be expected that one man unaided
should uproot permanently the habits and traditions of an epoch.
He had no Western colleagues to hold firm when his own grip
relaxed; and it had perhaps been a mistake to build on a site that
held such older and differing memories.  It was asking too much;
but was it not asking even more to expect a white-haired veteran,
just entering the nineties, to realize the mistake that he had
made?  Perrault, at any rate, did not then realize it.  He was far
too old and happy.  His followers were devoted even when they
forgot his teaching, while the people of the valley held him in
such reverent affection that he forgave with ever-increasing ease
their lapse into former customs.  He was still active, and his
faculties had remained exceptionally keen.  At the age of ninety-
eight he began to study the Buddhist writings that had been left at
Shangri-La by its previous occupants, and his intention was then to
devote the rest of his life to the composition of a book attacking
Buddhism from the standpoint of orthodoxy.  He actually finished
this task (we have his manuscript complete), but the attack was
very gentle, for he had by that time reached the round figure of a
century--an age at which even the keenest acrimonies are apt to
fade.

"Meanwhile, as you may suppose, many of his early disciples had
died, and as there were few replacements, the number resident under
the rule of the old Capuchin steadily diminished.  From over eighty
at one time, it dwindled to a score, and then to a mere dozen, most
of them very aged themselves.  Perrault's life at this time grew to
be a very calm and placid waiting for the end.  He was far too old
for disease and discontent; only the everlasting sleep could claim
him now, and he was not afraid.  The valley people, out of
kindness, supplied food and clothing; his library gave him work.
He had become rather frail, but still kept energy to fulfill the
major ceremonial of his office; the rest of the tranquil days he
spent with his books, his memories, and the mild ecstasies of the
narcotic.  His mind remained so extraordinarily clear that he even
embarked upon a study of certain mystic practices that the Indians
call yoga, and which are based upon various special methods of
breathing.  For a man of such an age the enterprise might well have
seemed hazardous, and it was certainly true that soon afterwards,
in that memorable year 1789, news descended to the valley that
Perrault was dying at last.

"He lay in this room, my dear Conway, where he could see from the
window the white blur that was all his failing eyesight gave him of
Karakal; but he could see with his mind also; he could picture the
clear and matchless outline that he had first glimpsed half a
century before.  And there came to him, too, the strange parade of
all his many experiences, the years of travel across desert and
upland, the great crowds in Western cities, the clang and glitter
of Marlborough's troops.  His mind had straitened to a snow-white
calm; he was ready, willing, and glad to die.  He gathered his
friends and servants round him and bade them all farewell; then he
asked to be left alone awhile.  It was during such a solitude, with
his body sinking and his mind lifted to beatitude, that he had
hoped to give up his soul . . . but it did not happen so.  He lay
for many weeks without speech or movement, and then he began to
recover.  He was a hundred and eight."

The whispering ceased for a moment, and to Conway, stirring
slightly, it appeared that the High Lama had been translating, with
fluency, out of a remote and private dream.  At length he went on:

"Like others who have waited long on the threshold of death,
Perrault had been granted a vision of some significance to take
back with him into the world; and of this vision more must be said
later.  Here I will confine myself to his actions and behavior,
which were indeed remarkable.  For instead of convalescing idly, as
might have been expected, he plunged forthwith into rigorous self-
discipline somewhat curiously combined with narcotic indulgence.
Drug-taking and deep-breathing exercises--it could not have seemed
a very death-defying regimen; yet the fact remains that when the
last of the old monks died, in 1794, Perrault himself was still
living.

"It would almost have brought a smile had there been anyone at
Shangri-La with a sufficiently distorted sense of humor.  The
wrinkled Capuchin, no more decrepit than he had been for a dozen
years, persevered in a secret ritual he had evolved, while to the
folk of the valley he soon became veiled in mystery, a hermit of
uncanny powers who lived alone on that formidable cliff.  But there
was still a tradition of affection for him, and it came to be
regarded as meritorious and luck-bringing to climb to Shangri-La
and leave a simple gift, or perform some manual task that was
needed there.  On all such pilgrims Perrault bestowed his blessing--
forgetful, it might be, that they were lost and straying sheep.
For 'Te Deum Laudamus' and 'Om Mane Padme Hum' were now heard
equally in the temples of the valley.

"As the new century approached, the legend grew into a rich and
fantastic folklore--it was said that Perrault had become a god,
that he worked miracles, and that on certain nights he flew to the
summit of Karakal to hold a candle to the sky.  There is a paleness
always on the mountain at full moon; but I need not assure you that
neither Perrault or any other man has ever climbed there.  I
mention it, even though it may seem unnecessary, because there is a
mass of unreliable testimony that Perrault did and could do all
kinds of impossible things.  It was supposed, for instance, that he
practiced the art of self-levitation, of which so much appears in
accounts of Buddhist mysticism; but the more sober truth is that he
made many experiments to that end, but entirely without success.
He did, however, discover that the impairment of ordinary senses
could be somewhat offset by a development of others; he acquired
skill in telepathy which was perhaps remarkable, and though he made
no claim to any specific powers of healing, there was a quality in
his mere presence that was helpful in certain cases.

"You will wish to know how he spent his time during these
unprecedented years.  His attitude may be summed up by saying that,
as he had not died at a normal age, he began to feel that there was
no discoverable reason why he either should or should not do so at
any definite time in the future.  Having already proved himself
abnormal, it was as easy to believe that the abnormality might
continue as to expect it to end at any moment.  And that being so,
he began to behave without care for the imminence with which he had
been so long preoccupied; he began to live the kind of life that he
had always desired, but had so rarely found possible; for he had
kept at heart and throughout all vicissitudes the tranquil tastes
of a scholar.  His memory was astonishing; it appeared to have
escaped the trammels of the physical into some upper region of
immense clarity; it almost seemed that he could now learn
EVERYTHING with far greater ease than during his student days he
had been able to learn ANYTHING.  He was soon, of course, brought
up against a need for books, but there were a few he had had with
him from the first, and they included, you may be interested to
hear, an English grammar and dictionary and Florio's translation of
Montaigne.  With these to work on he contrived to master the
intricacies of your language, and we still possess in our library
the manuscript of one of his first linguistic exercises--a
translation of Montaigne's essay on Vanity into Tibetan--surely a
unique production."

Conway smiled.  "I should be interested to see it sometime, if I
might."

"With the greatest of pleasure.  It was, you may think, a
singularly unpractical accomplishment, but recollect that Perrault
had reached a singularly unpractical age.  He would have been
lonely without some such occupation--at any rate until the fourth
year of the nineteenth century, which marks an important event in
the history of our foundation.  For it was then that a second
stranger from Europe arrived in the valley of Blue Moon.  He was a
young Austrian named Henschell who had soldiered against Napoleon
in Italy--a youth of noble birth, high culture, and much charm of
manner.  The wars had ruined his fortunes, and he had wandered
across Russia into Asia with some vague intention of retrieving
them.  It would be interesting to know how exactly he reached the
plateau, but he had no very clear idea himself; indeed, he was as
near death when he arrived here as Perrault himself had once been.
Again the hospitality of Shangri-La was extended, and the stranger
recovered--but there the parallel breaks down.  For Perrault had
come to preach and proselytize, whereas Henschell took a more
immediate interest in the gold deposits.  His first ambition was to
enrich himself and return to Europe as soon as possible.

"But he did not return.  An odd thing happened--though one that has
happened so often since that perhaps we must now agree that it
cannot be very odd after all.  The valley, with its peacefulness
and its utter freedom from worldly cares, tempted him again and
again to delay his departure, and one day, having heard the local
legend, he climbed to Shangri-La and had his first meeting with
Perrault.

"That meeting was, in the truest sense, historic.  Perrault, if a
little beyond such human passions as friendship or affection, was
yet endowed with a rich benignity of mind which touched the youth
as water upon a parched soil.  I will not try to describe the
association that sprang up between the two; the one gave utmost
adoration, while the other shared his knowledge, his ecstasies, and
the wild dream that had now become the only reality left for him in
the world."

There was a pause, and Conway said very quietly, "Pardon the
interruption, but that is not quite clear to me."

"I know."  The whispered reply was completely sympathetic.  "It
would be remarkable indeed if it were.  It is a matter which I
shall be pleased to explain before our talk is over, but for the
present, if you will forgive me, I will confine myself to simpler
things.  A fact that will interest you is that Henschell began our
collections of Chinese art, as well as our library and musical
acquisitions.  He made a remarkable journey to Pekin and brought
back the first consignment in the year 1809.  He did not leave the
valley again, but it was his ingenuity which devised the
complicated system by which the lamasery has ever since been able
to obtain anything needful from the outer world."

"I suppose you found it easy to make payment in gold?"

"Yes, we have been fortunate in possessing supplies of a metal
which is held in such high esteem in other parts of the world."

"Such high esteem that you must have been very lucky to escape a
gold rush."

The High Lama inclined his head in the merest indication of
agreement.  "That, my dear Conway, was always Henschell's fear.  He
was careful that none of the porters bringing books and art
treasures should ever approach too closely; he made them leave
their burdens a day's journey outside, to be fetched afterwards by
our valley folk themselves.  He even arranged for sentries to keep
constant watch on the entrance to the defile.  But it soon occurred
to him that there was an easier and more final safeguard."

"Yes?"  Conway's voice was guardedly tense.

"You see there was no need to fear invasion by an army.  That will
never be possible, owing to the nature and distances of the
country.  The most ever to be expected was the arrival of a few
half-lost wanderers who, even if they were armed, would probably be
so weakened as to constitute no danger.  It was decided, therefore,
that henceforward strangers might come as freely as they chose--
with but one important proviso.

"And, over a period of years, such strangers did come.  Chinese
merchants, tempted into the crossing of the plateau, chanced
occasionally on this one traverse out of so many others possible to
them.  Nomad Tibetans, wandering from their tribes, strayed here
sometimes like weary animals.  All were made welcome, though some
reached the shelter of the valley only to die.  In the year of
Waterloo two English missionaries, traveling overland to Pekin,
crossed the ranges by an unnamed pass and had the extraordinary
luck to arrive as calmly as if they were paying a call.  In 1820 a
Greek trader, accompanied by sick and famished servants, was found
dying at the topmost ridge of the pass.  In 1822 three Spaniards,
having heard some vague story of gold, reached here after many
wanderings and disappointments.  Again, in 1830, there was a larger
influx.  Two Germans, a Russian, an Englishman, and a Swede made
the dreaded crossing of the Tian-Shans, impelled by a motive that
was to become increasingly common--scientific exploration.  By the
time of their approach a slight modification had taken place in the
attitude of Shangri-La towards its visitors--not only were they
welcomed if they chanced to find their way into the valley, but it
had become customary to meet them if they ever ventured within a
certain radius.  All this was for a reason I shall later discuss,
but the point is of importance as showing that the lamasery was no
longer hospitably indifferent; it had already both a need and a
desire for new arrivals.  And indeed in the years to follow it
happened that more than one party of explorers, glorying in their
first distant glimpse of Karakal, encountered messengers bearing a
cordial invitation--and one that was rarely declined.

"Meanwhile the lamasery had begun to acquire many of its present
characteristics.  I must stress the fact that Henschell was
exceedingly able and talented, and that the Shangri-La of today
owes as much to him as to its founder.  Yes, quite as much, I often
think.  For his was the firm yet kindly hand that every institution
needs at a certain stage of its development, and his loss would
have been altogether irreparable had he not completed more than a
lifework before he died."

Conway looked up to echo rather than question those final words.
"He DIED!"

"Yes.  It was very sudden.  He was killed.  It was in the year of
your Indian Mutiny.  Just before his death a Chinese artist had
sketched him, and I can show you that sketch now--it is in this
room."

The slight gesture of the hand was repeated, and once again a
servant entered.  Conway, as a spectator in a trance, watched the
man withdraw a small curtain at the far end of the room and leave a
lantern swinging amongst the shadows.  Then he heard the whisper
inviting him to move, and it was extraordinary how hard it was to
do so.

He stumbled to his feet and strode across to the trembling circle
of light.  The sketch was small, hardly more than a miniature in
colored inks, but the artist had contrived to give the flesh tones
a waxwork delicacy of texture.  The features were of great beauty,
almost girlish in modeling, and Conway found in their winsomeness a
curiously personal appeal, even across the barriers of time, death,
and artifice.  But the strangest thing of all was one that he
realized only after his first gasp of admiration: the face was that
of a young man.

He stammered as he moved away:  "But--you said--this was done just
before his death?"

"Yes.  It is a very good likeness."

"Then if he died in the year you said--"

"He did."

"And he came here, you told me, in 1803, when he was a youth."

"Yes."

Conway did not answer for a moment; presently, with an effort, he
collected himself to say:  "And he was killed, you were telling
me?"

"Yes.  An Englishman shot him.  It was a few weeks after the
Englishman had arrived at Shangri-La.  He was another of those
explorers."

"What was the cause of it?"

"There had been a quarrel--about some porters.  Henschell had just
told him of the important proviso that governs our reception of
guests.  It was a task of some difficulty, and ever since, despite
my own enfeeblement, I have felt constrained to perform it myself."

The High Lama made another and longer pause, with just a hint of
enquiry in his silence; when he continued, it was to add:  "Perhaps
you are wondering, my dear Conway, what that proviso may be?"

Conway answered slowly and in a low voice:  "I think I can already
guess."

"Can you indeed?  And can you guess anything else after this long
and curious story of mine?"

Conway dizzied in brain as he sought to answer the question; the
room was now a whorl of shadows with that ancient benignity at its
center.  Throughout the narrative he had listened with an
intentness that had perhaps shielded him from realizing the fullest
implications of it all; now, with the mere attempt at conscious
expression, he was flooded over with amazement, and the gathering
certainty in his mind was almost stifled as it sprang to words.
"It seems impossible," he stammered.  "And yet I can't help
thinking of it--it's astonishing--and extraordinary--and quite
incredible--and yet not ABSOLUTELY beyond my powers of belief--"

"What is, my SON?"

And Conway answered, shaken with an emotion for which he knew no
reason and which he did not seek to conceal:  "THAT YOU ARE STILL
ALIVE, FATHER PERRAULT."



CHAPTER 8


There had been a pause, imposed by the High Lama's call for further
refreshment; Conway did not wonder at it, for the strain of such a
long recital must have been considerable.  Nor was he himself
ungrateful for the respite.  He felt that the interval was as
desirable from an artistic as from any other point of view, and
that the bowls of tea, with their accompaniment of conventionally
improvised courtesies, fulfilled the same function as a cadenza in
music.  This reflection brought out (unless it were mere
coincidence) an odd example of the High Lama's telepathic powers,
for he immediately began to talk about music and to express
pleasure that Conway's taste in that direction had not been
entirely unsatisfied at Shangri-La.  Conway answered with suitable
politeness and added that he had been surprised to find the
lamasery in possession of such a complete library of European
composers.  The compliment was acknowledged between slow sips of
tea.  "Ah, my dear Conway, we are fortunate in that one of our
number is a gifted musician--he was, indeed, a pupil of Chopin's--
and we have been happy to place in his hands the entire management
of our salon.  You must certainly meet him."

"I should like to.  Chang, by the way, was telling me that your
favorite Western composer is Mozart."

"That is so," came the reply.  "Mozart has an austere elegance
which we find very satisfying.  He builds a house which is neither
too big nor too little, and he furnishes it in perfect taste."

The exchange of comments continued until the tea bowls were taken
away; by that time Conway was able to remark quite calmly:  "So, to
resume our earlier discussion, you intend to keep us?  That, I take
it, is the important and invariable proviso?"

"You have guessed correctly, my son."

"In other words, we are to stay here forever?"

"I should greatly prefer to employ your excellent English idiom and
say that we are all of us here 'for good.'"

"What puzzles me is why we four, out of all the rest of the world's
inhabitants, should have been chosen."

Relapsing into his earlier and more consequential manner, the High
Lama responded:  "It is an intricate story, if you would care to
hear it.  You must know that we have always aimed, as far as
possible, to keep our numbers in fairly constant recruitment--
since, apart from any other reasons, it is pleasant to have with us
people of various ages and representative of different periods.
Unfortunately, since the recent European War and the Russian
Revolution, travel and exploration in Tibet have been almost
completely held up; in fact, our last visitor, a Japanese, arrived
in 1912, and was not, to be candid, a very valuable acquisition.
You see, my dear Conway, we are not quacks or charlatans; we do not
and cannot guarantee success; some of our visitors derive no
benefit at all from their stay here; others merely live to what
might be called a normally advanced age and then die from some
trifling ailment.  In general we have found that Tibetans, owing to
their being inured to both the altitude and other conditions, are
much less sensitive than outside races; they are charming people,
and we have admitted many of them, but I doubt if more than a few
will pass their hundredth year.  The Chinese are a little better,
but even among them we have a high percentage of failures.  Our
best subjects, undoubtedly, are the Nordic and Latin races of
Europe; perhaps the Americans would be equally adaptable, and I
count it our great good fortune that we have at last, in the person
of one of your companions, secured a citizen of that nation.  But I
must continue with the answer to your question.  The position was,
as I have been explaining, that for nearly two decades we had
welcomed no newcomers, and as there had been several deaths during
that period, a problem was beginning to arise.  A few years ago,
however, one of our number came to the rescue with a novel idea; he
was a young fellow, a native of our valley, absolutely trustworthy
and in fullest sympathy with our aims; but, like all the valley
people, he was denied by nature the chance that comes more
fortunately to those from a distance.  It was he who suggested that
he should leave us, make his way to some surrounding country, and
bring us additional colleagues by a method which would have been
impossible in an earlier age.  It was in many respects a
revolutionary proposal, but we gave our consent after due
consideration.  For we must move with the times, you know, even at
Shangri-La."

"You mean that he was sent out deliberately to bring someone back
by air?"

"Well, you see, he was an exceedingly gifted and resourceful youth,
and we had great confidence in him.  It was his own idea, and we
allowed him a free hand in carrying it out.  All we knew definitely
was that the first stage of his plan included a period of tuition
at an American flying school."

"But how could he manage the rest of it?  It was only by chance
that there happened to be that aeroplane at Baskul--"

"True, my dear Conway--many things are by chance.  But it happened,
after all, to be just the chance that Talu was looking for.  Had he
not found it, there might have been another chance in a year or two--
or perhaps, of course, none at all.  I confess I was surprised
when our sentinels gave news of his descent on the plateau.  The
progress of aviation is rapid, but it had seemed likely to me that
much more time would elapse before an average machine could make
such a crossing of the mountains."

"It wasn't an average machine.  It was a rather special one, made
for mountain flying."

"Again by chance?  Our young friend was indeed fortunate.  It is a
pity that we cannot discuss the matter with him--we were all
grieved at his death.  You would have liked him, Conway."

Conway nodded slightly; he felt it very possible.  He said, after a
silence:  "But what's the idea behind it all?"

"My son, your way of asking that question gives me infinite
pleasure.  In the course of a somewhat long experience it has never
before been put to me in tones of such calmness.  My revelation has
been greeted in almost every conceivable manner--with indignation,
distress, fury, disbelief, and hysteria--but never until this night
with mere interest.  It is, however, an attitude that I most
cordially welcome.  Today you are interested; tomorrow you will
feel concern; eventually, it may be, I shall claim your devotion."

"That is more than I should care to promise."

"Your very doubt pleases me--it is the basis of profound and
significant faith. . . .  But let us not argue.  You are
interested, and that, from you, is much.  All I ask in addition is
that what I tell you now shall remain, for the present, unknown to
your three companions."

Conway was silent.

"The time will come when they will learn, like you, but that
moment, for their own sakes, had better not be hastened.  I am so
certain of your wisdom in this matter that I do not ask for a
promise; you will act, I know, as we both think best. . . .  Now
let me begin by sketching for you a very agreeable picture.  You
are still, I should say, a youngish man by the world's standards;
your life, as people say, lies ahead of you; in the normal course
you might expect twenty or thirty years of only slightly and
gradually diminishing activity.  By no means a cheerless prospect,
and I can hardly expect you to see it as I do--as a slender,
breathless, and far too frantic interlude.  The first quarter-
century of your life was doubtless lived under the cloud of being
too young for things, while the last quarter-century would normally
be shadowed by the still darker cloud of being too old for them;
and between those two clouds, what small and narrow sunlight
illumines a human lifetime!  But you, it may be, are destined to be
more fortunate, since by the standards of Shangri-La your sunlit
years have scarcely yet begun.  It will happen, perhaps, that
decades hence you will feel no older than you are today--you may
preserve, as Henschell did, a long and wondrous youth.  But that,
believe me, is only an early and superficial phase.  There will
come a time when you will age like others, though far more slowly,
and into a condition infinitely nobler; at eighty you may still
climb to the pass with a young man's gait, but at twice that age
you must not expect the whole marvel to have persisted.  We are not
workers of miracles; we have made no conquest of death or even of
decay.  All we have done and can sometimes do is to slacken the
tempo of this brief interval that is called life.  We do this by
methods which are as simple here as they are impossible elsewhere;
but make no mistake; the end awaits us all.

"Yet it is, nevertheless, a prospect of much charm that I unfold
for you--long tranquillities during which you will observe a sunset
as men in the outer world hear the striking of a clock, and with
far less care.  The years will come and go, and you will pass from
fleshly enjoyments into austerer but no less satisfying realms; you
may lose the keenness of muscle and appetite, but there will be
gain to match your loss; you will achieve calmness and profundity,
ripeness and wisdom, and the clear enchantment of memory.  And,
most precious of all, you will have Time--that rare and lovely gift
that your Western countries have lost the more they have pursued
it.  Think for a moment.  You will have time to read--never again
will you skim pages to save minutes, or avoid some study lest it
prove too engrossing.  You have also a taste for music--here, then,
are your scores and instruments, with Time, unruffled and
unmeasured to give you their richest savor.  And you are also, we
will say, a man of good fellowship--does it not charm you to think
of wise and serene friendships, a long and kindly traffic of the
mind from which death may not call you away with his customary
hurry?  Or, if it is solitude that you prefer, could you not employ
our pavilions to enrich the gentleness of lonely thoughts?"

The voice made a pause which Conway did not seek to fill.

"You make no comment, my dear Conway.  Forgive my eloquence--I
belong to an age and a nation that never considered it bad form to
be articulate. . . .  But perhaps you are thinking of wife,
parents, children, left behind in the world?  Or maybe ambitions to
do this or that?  Believe me, though the pang may be keen at first,
in a decade from now even its ghost will not haunt you.  Though in
point of fact, if I read your mind correctly, you have no such
griefs."

Conway was startled by the accuracy of the judgment.  "That's so,"
he replied.  "I'm unmarried; I have few close friends and no
ambitions."

"No ambitions?  And how have you contrived to escape those
widespread maladies?"

For the first time Conway felt that he was actually taking part in
a conversation.  He said:  "It always seemed to me in my profession
that a good deal of what passed for success would be rather
disagreeable, apart from needing more effort than I felt called
upon to make.  I was in the Consular Service--quite a subordinate
post, but it suited me well enough."

"Yet your soul was not in it?"

"Neither my soul nor my heart nor more than half my energies.  I'm
naturally rather lazy."

The wrinkles deepened and twisted till Conway realized that the
High Lama was very probably smiling.  "Laziness in doing stupid
things can be a great virtue," resumed the whisper.  "In any case,
you will scarcely find us exacting in such a matter.  Chang, I
believe, explained to you our principle of moderation, and one of
the things in which we are always moderate is activity.  I myself,
for instance, have been able to learn ten languages; the ten might
have been twenty had I worked immoderately.  But I did not.  And it
is the same in other directions; you will find us neither
profligate nor ascetic.  Until we reach an age when care is
advisable, we gladly accept the pleasures of the table, while--for
the benefit of our younger colleagues--the women of the valley have
happily applied the principle of moderation to their own chastity.
All things considered, I feel sure you will get used to our ways
without much effort.  Chang, indeed, was very optimistic--and so,
after this meeting, am I.  But there is, I admit, an odd quality in
you that I have never met in any of our visitors hitherto.  It is
not quite cynicism, still less bitterness; perhaps it is partly
disillusionment, but it is also a clarity of mind that I should not
have expected in anyone younger than--say, a century or so.  It is,
if I had to put a single word to it, passionlessness."

Conway answered:  "As good a word as most, no doubt.  I don't know
whether you classify the people who come here, but if so, you can
label me '1914-18.'  That makes me, I should think, a unique
specimen in your museum of antiquities--the other three who arrived
along with me don't enter the category.  I used up most of my
passions and energies during the years I've mentioned, and though I
don't talk much about it, the chief thing I've asked from the world
since then is to leave me alone.  I find in this place a certain
charm and quietness that appeals to me, and no doubt, as you
remark, I shall get used to things."

"Is that all, my son?"

"I hope I am keeping well to your own rule of moderation."

"You are clever--as Chang told me, you are very clever.  But is
there nothing in the prospect I have outlined that tempts you to
any stronger feeling?"

Conway was silent for an interval and then replied:  "I was deeply
impressed by your story of the past, but to be candid, your sketch
of the future interests me only in an abstract sense.  I can't look
so far ahead.  I should certainly be sorry if I had to leave
Shangri-La tomorrow or next week, or perhaps even next year; but
how I shall feel about it if I live to be a hundred isn't a matter
to prophesy.  I can face it, like any other future, but in order to
make me keen it must have a point.  I've sometimes doubted whether
life itself has any; and if not, long life must be even more
pointless."

"My friend, the traditions of this building, both Buddhist and
Christian, are very reassuring."

"Maybe.  But I'm afraid I still hanker after some more definite
reason for envying the centenarian."

"There IS a reason, and a very definite one indeed.  It is the
whole reason for this colony of chance-sought strangers living
beyond their years.  We do not follow an idle experiment, a mere
whimsy.  We have a dream and a vision.  It is a vision that first
appeared to old Perrault when he lay dying in this room in the year
1789.  He looked back then on his long life, as I have already told
you, and it seemed to him that all the loveliest things were
transient and perishable, and that war, lust, and brutality might
someday crush them until there were no more left in the world.  He
remembered sights he had seen with his own eyes, and with his mind
he pictured others; he saw the nations strengthening, not in
wisdom, but in vulgar passions and the will to destroy; he saw
their machine power multiplying until a single-weaponed man might
have matched a whole army of the Grand Monarque.  And he perceived
that when they had filled the land and sea with ruin, they would
take to the air. . . .  Can you say that his vision was untrue?"

"True indeed."

"But that was not all.  He foresaw a time when men, exultant in the
technique of homicide, would rage so hotly over the world that
every precious thing would be in danger, every book and picture and
harmony, every treasure garnered through two millenniums, the
small, the delicate, the defenseless--all would be lost like the
lost books of Livy, or wrecked as the English wrecked the Summer
Palace in Pekin."

"I share your opinion of that."

"Of course.  But what are the opinions of reasonable men against
iron and steel?  Believe me, that vision of old Perrault will come
true.  And that, my son, is why I am here, and why YOU are here,
and why we may pray to outlive the doom that gathers around on
every side."

"To outlive it?"

"There is a chance.  It will all come to pass before you are as old
as I am."

"And you think that Shangri-La will escape?"

"Perhaps.  We may expect no mercy, but we may faintly hope for
neglect.  Here we shall stay with our books and our music and our
meditations, conserving the frail elegancies of a dying age, and
seeking such wisdom as men will need when their passions are all
spent.  We have a heritage to cherish and bequeath.  Let us take
what pleasure we may until that time comes."

"And then?"

"Then, my son, when the strong have devoured each other, the
Christian ethic may at last be fulfilled, and the meek shall
inherit the earth."

A shadow of emphasis had touched the whisper, and Conway
surrendered to the beauty of it; again he felt the surge of
darkness around, but now symbolically, as if the world outside were
already brewing for the storm.  And then he saw that the High Lama
of Shangri-La was actually astir, rising from his chair, standing
upright like the half-embodiment of a ghost.  In mere politeness
Conway made to assist; but suddenly a deeper impulse seized him,
and he did what he had never done to any man before; he knelt, and
hardly knew why he did.

"I understand you, Father," he said.

He was not perfectly aware of how at last he took his leave; he was
in a dream from which he did not emerge till long afterwards.  He
remembered the night air icy after the heat of those upper rooms,
and Chang's presence, a silent serenity, as they crossed the
starlit courtyards together.  Never had Shangri-La offered more
concentrated loveliness to his eyes; the valley lay imaged over the
edge of the cliff, and the image was of a deep unrippled pool that
matched the peace of his own thoughts.  For Conway had passed
beyond astonishments.  The long talk, with its varying phases, had
left him empty of all save a satisfaction that was as much of the
mind as of the emotions, and as much of the spirit as of either;
even his doubts were now no longer harassing, but part of a subtle
harmony.  Chang did not speak, and neither did he.  It was very
late, and he was glad that all the others had gone to bed.



CHAPTER 9


In the morning he wondered if all that he could call to mind were
part of a waking or a sleeping vision.

He was soon reminded.  A chorus of questions greeted him when he
appeared at breakfast.  "You certainly had a long talk with the
boss last night," began the American.  "We meant to wait up for
you, but we got tired.  What sort of a guy is he?"

"Did he say anything about the porters?" asked Mallinson eagerly.

"I hope you mentioned to him about having a missionary stationed
here," said Miss Brinklow.

The bombardment served to raise in Conway his usual defensive
armament.  "I'm afraid I'm probably going to disappoint you all,"
he replied, slipping easily into the mood.  "I didn't discuss with
him the question of missions; he didn't mention the porters to me
at all; and as for his appearance, I can only say that he's a very
old man who speaks excellent English and is quite intelligent."

Mallinson cut in with irritation:  "The main thing to us is whether
he's to be trusted or not.  Do you think he means to let us down?"

"He didn't strike me as a dishonorable person."

"Why on earth didn't you worry him about the porters?"

"It didn't occur to me."

Mallinson stared at him incredulously.  "I can't understand you,
Conway.  You were so damned good in that Baskul affair that I can
hardly believe you're the same man.  You seem to have gone all to
pieces."

"I'm sorry."

"No good being sorry.  You ought to buck up and look as if you
cared what happens."

"You misunderstand me.  I meant that I was sorry to have
disappointed you."

Conway's voice was curt, an intended mask to his feelings, which
were, indeed, so mixed that they could hardly have been guessed by
others.  He had slightly surprised himself by the ease with which
he had prevaricated; it was clear that he intended to observe the
High Lama's suggestion and keep the secret.  He was also puzzled by
the naturalness with which he was accepting a position which his
companions would certainly and with some justification think
traitorous; as Mallinson had said, it was hardly the sort of thing
to be expected of a hero.  Conway felt a sudden half-pitying
fondness for the youth; then he steeled himself by reflecting that
people who hero-worship must be prepared for disillusionments.
Mallinson at Baskul had been far too much the new boy adoring the
handsome games captain, and now the games captain was tottering if
not already fallen from the pedestal.  There was always something a
little pathetic in the smashing of an ideal, however false; and
Mallinson's admiration might have been at least a partial solace
for the strain of pretending to be what he was not.  But pretense
was impossible anyway.  There was a quality in the air of Shangri-
La--perhaps due to its altitude--that forbade one the effort of
counterfeit emotion.

He said:  "Look here, Mallinson, it's no use harping continually on
Baskul.  Of course I was different then--it was a completely
different situation."

"And a much healthier one in my opinion.  At least we knew what we
were up against."

"Murder and rape--to be precise.  You can call that healthier if
you like."

The youth's voice rose in pitch as he retorted:  "Well, I DO call
it healthier--in one sense.  It's something I'd rather face than
all this mystery business."  Suddenly he added:  "That Chinese
girl, for instance--how did SHE get here?  Did the fellow tell
you?"

"No.  Why should he?"

"Well, why shouldn't he?  And why shouldn't you ask, if you had any
interest in the matter at all?  Is it usual to find a young girl
living with a lot of monks?"

That way of looking at it was one that had scarcely occurred to
Conway before.  "This isn't an ordinary monastery," was the best
reply he could give after some thought.

"My God, it isn't!"

There was a silence, for the argument had evidently reached a dead
end.  To Conway the history of Lo-Tsen seemed rather far from the
point; the little Manchu lay so quietly in his mind that he hardly
knew she was there.  But at the mere mention of her Miss Brinklow
had looked up suddenly from the Tibetan grammar which she was
studying even over the breakfast table (just as if, thought Conway,
with secret meaning, she hadn't all her life for it).  Chatter of
girls and monks reminded her of those stories of Indian temples
that men missionaries told their wives, and that the wives passed
on to their unmarried female colleagues.  "Of course," she said
between tightened lips, "the morals of this place are quite hideous--
we might have expected that."  She turned to Barnard as if
inviting support, but the American only grinned.  "I don't suppose
you folks'd value my opinion on a matter of morals," he remarked
dryly.  "But I should say myself that quarrels are just as bad.
Since we've gotter be here for some time yet, let's keep our
tempers and make ourselves comfortable."

Conway thought this good advice, but Mallinson was still
unplacated.  "I can quite believe you find it more comfortable than
Dartmoor," he said meaningly.

"Dartmoor?  Oh, that's your big penitentiary?--I get you.  Well,
yes, I certainly never did envy the folks in them places.  And
there's another thing too--it don't hurt when you chip me about it.
Thick-skinned and tenderhearted, that's my mixture."

Conway glanced at him in appreciation, and at Mallinson with some
hint of reproof; but then abruptly he had the feeling that they
were all acting on a vast stage, of whose background only he
himself was conscious; and such knowledge, so incommunicable, made
him suddenly want to be alone.  He nodded to them and went out into
the courtyard.  In sight of Karakal misgivings faded, and qualms
about his three companions were lost in an uncanny acceptance of
the new world that lay so far beyond their guesses.  There came a
time, he realized, when the strangeness of everything made it
increasingly difficult to realize the strangeness of anything; when
one took things for granted merely because astonishment would have
been as tedious for oneself as for others.  Thus far had he
progressed at Shangri-La, and he remembered that he had attained a
similar though far less pleasant equanimity during his years at the
War.

He needed equanimity, if only to accommodate himself to the double
life he was compelled to lead.  Thenceforward, with his fellow
exiles, he lived in a world conditioned by the arrival of porters
and a return to India; at all other times the horizon lifted like a
curtain; time expanded and space contracted and the name Blue Moon
took on a symbolic meaning, as if the future, so delicately
plausible, were of a kind that might happen once in a blue moon
only.  Sometimes he wondered which of his two lives were the more
real, but the problem was not pressing; and again he was reminded
of the War, for during heavy bombardments he had had the same
comforting sensation that he had many lives, only one of which
could be claimed by death.

Chang, of course, now talked to him completely without reserve, and
they had many conversations about the rule and routine of the
lamasery.  Conway learned that during his first five years he would
live a normal life, without any special regimen; this was always
done, as Chang said, "to enable the body to accustom itself to the
altitude, and also to give time for the dispersal of mental and
emotional regrets."

Conway remarked with a smile:  "I suppose you're certain, then,
that no human affection can outlast a five-year absence?"

"It can, undoubtedly," replied the Chinese, "but only as a
fragrance whose melancholy we may enjoy."

After the probationary five years, Chang went on to explain, the
process of retarding age would begin, and if successful, might give
Conway half a century or so at the apparent age of forty--which was
not a bad time of life at which to remain stationary.

"What about yourself?" Conway asked.  "How did it work out in your
case?"

"Ah, my dear sir, I was lucky enough to arrive when I was quite
young--only twenty-two.  I was a soldier, though you might not have
thought it; I had command of troops operating against brigand
tribes in the year 1855.  I was making what I should have called a
reconnaissance if I had ever returned to my superior officers to
tell the tale, but in plain truth I had lost my way in the
mountains, and of my men only seven out of over a hundred survived
the rigors of the climate.  When at last I was rescued and brought
to Shangri-La I was so ill that extreme youth and virility alone
could have saved me."

"Twenty-two," echoed Conway, performing the calculation.  "So
you're now ninety-seven?"

"Yes.  Very soon, if the lamas give their consent, I shall receive
full initiation."

"I see.  You have to wait for the round figure?"

"No, we are not restricted by any definite age limit, but a century
is generally considered to be an age beyond which the passions and
moods of ordinary life are likely to have disappeared."

"I should certainly think so.  And what happens afterwards?  How
long do you expect to carry on?"

"There is reason to hope that I shall enter lamahood with such
prospects as Shangri-La has made possible.  In years, perhaps
another century or more."

Conway nodded.  "I don't know whether I ought to congratulate you--
you seem to have been granted the best of both worlds, a long and
pleasant youth behind you, and an equally long and pleasant old age
ahead.  When did you begin to grow old in appearance?"

"When I was over seventy.  That is often the case, though I think I
may still claim to look younger than my years."

"Decidedly.  And suppose you were to leave the valley now, what
would happen?"

"Death, if I remained away for more than a very few days."

"The atmosphere, then, is essential?"

"There is only one valley of Blue Moon, and those who expect to
find another are asking too much of nature."

"Well, what would have happened if you had left the valley, say,
thirty years ago, during your prolonged youth?"

Chang answered:  "Probably I should have died even then.  In any
case, I should have acquired very quickly the full appearance of my
actual age.  We had a curious example of that some years ago,
though there had been several others before.  One of our number had
left the valley to look out for a party of travelers who we had
heard might be approaching.  This man, a Russian, had arrived here
originally in the prime of life, and had taken to our ways so well
that at nearly eighty he did not look more than half as old.  He
should have been absent no longer than a week (which would not have
mattered), but unfortunately he was taken prisoner by nomad tribes
and carried away some distance.  We suspected an accident and gave
him up for lost.  Three months later, however, he returned to us,
having made his escape.  But he was a very different man.  Every
year of his age was in his face and behavior, and he died shortly
afterwards, as an old man dies."

Conway made no remark for some time.  They were talking in the
library, and during most of the narrative he had been gazing
through a window towards the pass that led to the outer world; a
little wisp of cloud had drifted across the ridge.  "A rather grim
story, Chang," he commented at length.  "It gives one the feeling
that Time is like some balked monster, waiting outside the valley
to pounce on the slackers who have managed to evade him longer than
they should."

"SLACKERS?" queried Chang.  His knowledge of English was extremely
good, but sometimes a colloquialism proved unfamiliar.

"'Slacker,'" explained Conway, "is a slang word meaning a lazy
fellow, a good-for-nothing.  I wasn't, of course, using it
seriously."

Chang bowed his thanks for the information.  He took a keen
interest in languages and liked to weigh a new word philosophically.
"It is significant," he said after a pause, "that the English
regard slackness as a vice.  We, on the other hand, should vastly
prefer it to tension.  Is there not too much tension in the world
at present, and might it not be better if more people were
slackers?"

"I'm inclined to agree with you," Conway answered with solemn
amusement.

During the course of a week or so after the interview with the High
Lama, Conway met several others of his future colleagues.  Chang
was neither eager nor reluctant to make the introductions, and
Conway sensed a new and, to him, rather attractive atmosphere in
which urgency did not clamor nor postponement disappoint.
"Indeed," as Chang explained, "some of the lamas may not meet you
for a considerable time--perhaps years--but you must not be
surprised at that.  They are prepared to make your acquaintance
when it may so happen, and their avoidance of hurry does not imply
any degree of unwillingness."  Conway, who had often had similar
feelings when calling on new arrivals at foreign consulates,
thought it a very intelligible attitude.

The meetings he did have, however, were quite successful, and
conversation with men thrice his age held none of the social
embarrassments that might have obtruded in London or Delhi.  His
first encounter was with a genial German named Meister, who had
entered the lamasery during the 'eighties, as the survivor of an
exploring party.  He spoke English well, though with an accent.  A
day or two later a second introduction took place, and Conway
enjoyed his first talk with the man whom the High Lama had
particularly mentioned--Alphonse Briac, a wiry, small-statured
Frenchman who did not look especially old, though he announced
himself as a pupil of Chopin.  Conway thought that both he
and the German would prove agreeable company.  Already he was
subconsciously analyzing, and after a few further meetings he
reached one or two general conclusions; he perceived that though
the lamas he met had individual differences, they all possessed
that quality for which agelessness was not an outstandingly good
name, but the only one he could think of.  Moreover, they were all
endowed with a calm intelligence which pleasantly overflowed into
measured and well-balanced opinions.  Conway could give an exact
response to that kind of approach, and he was aware that they
realized it and were gratified.  He found them quite as easy to get
on with as any other group of cultured people he might have met,
though there was often a sense of oddity in hearing reminiscences
so distant and apparently so casual.  One white-haired and
benevolent-looking person, for instance, asked Conway, after a
little conversation, if he were interested in the Brontës.  Conway
said he was, to some extent, and the other replied:  "You see, when
I was a curate in the West Riding during the 'forties, I once
visited Haworth and stayed at the Parsonage.  Since coming here
I've made a study of the whole Brontë problem--indeed, I'm writing
a book on the subject.  Perhaps you might care to go over it with
me sometime?"

Conway responded cordially, and afterwards, when he and Chang were
left together, commented on the vividness with which the lamas
appeared to recollect their pre-Tibetan lives.  Chang answered that
it was all part of the training.  "You see, my dear sir, one of the
first steps toward the clarifying of the mind is to obtain a
panorama of one's own past, and that, like any other view, is more
accurate in perspective.  When you have been among us long enough
you will find your old life slipping gradually into focus as
through a telescope when the lens is adjusted.  Everything will
stand out still and clear, duly proportioned and with its correct
significance.  Your new acquaintance, for instance, discerns that
the really big moment of his entire life occurred when he was a
young man visiting a house in which there lived an old parson and
his three daughters."

"So I suppose I shall have to set to work to remember my own big
moments?"

"It will not be an effort.  They will come to you."

"I don't know that I shall give them much of a welcome," answered
Conway moodily.



But whatever the past might yield, he was discovering happiness in
the present.  When he sat reading in the library, or playing Mozart
in the music room, he often felt the invasion of a deep spiritual
emotion, as if Shangri-La were indeed a living essence, distilled
from the magic of the ages and miraculously preserved against time
and death.  His talk with the High Lama recurred memorably at such
moments; he sensed a calm intelligence brooding gently over every
diversion, giving a thousand whispered reassurances to ear and eye.
Thus he would listen while Lo-Tsen marshaled some intricate fugue
rhythm, and wonder what lay behind the faint impersonal smile that
stirred her lips into the likeness of an opening flower.  She
talked very little, even though she now knew that Conway could
speak her language; to Mallinson, who liked to visit the music room
sometimes, she was almost dumb.  But Conway discerned a charm that
was perfectly expressed by her silences.

Once he asked Chang her history, and learned that she came of royal
Manchu stock.  "She was betrothed to a prince of Turkestan, and was
traveling to Kashgar to meet him when her carriers lost their way
in the mountains.  The whole party would doubtless have perished
but for the customary meeting with our emissaries."

"When did this happen?"

"In 1884.  She was eighteen."

"Eighteen THEN?"

Chang bowed.  "Yes, we are succeeding very well with her, as you
may judge for yourself.  Her progress has been consistently
excellent."

"How did she take things when she first came?"

"She was, perhaps, a little more than averagely reluctant to accept
the situation--she made no protest, but we were aware that she was
troubled for a time.  It was, of course, an unusual occurrence--to
intercept a young girl on the way to her wedding. . . .  We were
all particularly anxious that she should be happy here."  Chang
smiled blandly.  "I am afraid the excitement of love does not make
for an easy surrender, though the first five years proved ample for
their purpose."

"She was deeply attached, I suppose, to the man she was to have
married?"

"Hardly that, my dear sir, since she had never seen him.  It was
the old custom, you know.  The excitement of her affections was
entirely impersonal."

Conway nodded, and thought a little tenderly of Lo-Tsen.  He
pictured her as she might have been half a century before,
statuesque in her decorated chair as the carriers toiled over the
plateau, her eyes searching the windswept horizons that must have
seemed so harsh after the gardens and lotus pools of the East.
"Poor child!" he said, thinking of such elegance held captive over
the years.  Knowledge of her past increased rather than lessened
his content with her stillness and silence; she was like a lovely
cold vase, unadorned save by an escaping ray.

He was also content, though less ecstatically, when Briac talked to
him of Chopin, and played the familiar melodies with much
brilliance.  It appeared that the Frenchman knew several Chopin
compositions that had never been published, and as he had written
them down, Conway devoted pleasant hours to memorizing them
himself.  He found a certain piquancy in the reflection that
neither Cortot nor Pachmann had been so fortunate.  Nor were
Briac's recollections at an end; his memory continually refreshed
him with some little scrap of tune that the composer had thrown off
or improvised on some occasion; he took them all down on paper as
they came into his head, and some were very delightful fragments.
"Briac," Chang explained, "has not long been initiated, so you must
make allowances if he talks a great deal about Chopin.  The younger
lamas are naturally preoccupied with the past; it is a necessary
step to envisaging the future."

"Which is, I take it, the job of the older ones?"

"Yes.  The High Lama, for instance, spends almost his entire life
in clairvoyant meditation."

Conway pondered a moment and then said:  "By the way, when do you
suppose I shall see him again?"

"Doubtless at the end of the first five years, my dear sir."

But in that confident prophecy Chang was wrong, for less than a
month after his arrival at Shangri-La Conway received a second
summons to that torrid upper room.  Chang had told him that the
High Lama never left his apartments, and that their heated
atmosphere was necessary for his bodily existence; and Conway,
being thus prepared, found the change less disconcerting than
before.  Indeed, he breathed easily as soon as he had made his bow
and been granted the faintest answering liveliness of the sunken
eyes.  He felt kinship with the mind beyond them, and though he
knew that this second interview following so soon upon the first
was an unprecedented honor, he was not in the least nervous or
weighed down with solemnity.  Age was to him no more an obsessing
factor than rank or color; he had never felt debarred from liking
people because they were too young or too old.  He held the High
Lama in most cordial respect, but he did not see why their social
relations should be anything less than urbane.

They exchanged the usual courtesies, and Conway answered many
polite questions.  He said he was finding the life very agreeable
and had already made friendships.

"And you have kept our secrets from your three companions?"

"Yes, up to now.  It has proved awkward for me at times, but
probably less so than if I had told them."

"Just as I surmised; you have acted as you thought best.  And the
awkwardness, after all, is only temporary.  Chang tells me he
thinks that two of them will give little trouble."

"I daresay that is so."

"And the third?"

Conway replied:  "Mallinson is an excitable youth--he's pretty keen
to get back."

"You like him?"

"Yes, I like him very much."

At this point the tea bowls were brought in, and talk became less
serious between sips of the scented liquid.  It was an apt
convention, enabling the verbal flow to acquire a touch of that
almost frivolous fragrance, and Conway was responsive.  When the
High Lama asked him whether Shangri-La was not unique in his
experience, and if the Western world could offer anything in the
least like it, he answered with a smile:  "Well, yes--to be quite
frank, it reminds me very slightly of Oxford, where I used to
lecture.  The scenery there is not so good, but the subjects of
study are often just as impractical, and though even the oldest of
the dons is not quite so old, they appear to age in a somewhat
similar way."

"You have a sense of humor, my dear Conway," replied the High Lama,
"for which we shall all be grateful during the years to come."



CHAPTER 10


"Extraordinary," Chang said, when he heard that Conway had seen the
High Lama again.  And from one so reluctant to employ superlatives,
the word was significant.  It had never happened before, he
emphasized, since the routine of the lamasery became established;
never had the High Lama desired a second meeting until the five
years' probation had effected a purge of all the exile's likely
emotions.  "Because, you see, it is a great strain on him to talk
to the average newcomer.  The mere presence of human passions is an
unwelcome and, at his age, an almost unendurable unpleasantness.
Not that I doubt his entire wisdom in the matter.  It teaches us, I
believe, a lesson of great value--that even the fixed rules of our
community are only moderately fixed.  But it is extraordinary, all
the same."

To Conway, of course, it was no more extraordinary than anything
else, and after he had visited the High Lama on a third and fourth
occasion, he began to feel that it was not very extraordinary at
all.  There seemed, indeed, something almost preordained in the
ease with which their two minds approached each other; it was as if
in Conway all secret tensions were relaxed, giving him, when he
came away, a sumptuous tranquillity.  At times he had the sensation
of being completely bewitched by the mastery of that central
intelligence, and then, over the little pale blue tea bowls, the
celebration would contract into a liveliness so gentle and
miniature that he had an impression of a theorem dissolving
limpidly into a sonnet.

Their talks ranged far and fearlessly; entire philosophies were
unfolded; the long avenues of history surrendered themselves for
inspection and were given new plausibility.  To Conway it was an
entrancing experience, but he did not suspend the critical
attitude, and once, when he had argued a point, the High Lama
replied:  "My son, you are young in years, but I perceive that your
wisdom has the ripeness of age.  Surely some unusual thing has
happened to you?"

Conway smiled.  "No more unusual than has happened to many others
of my generation."

"I have never met your like before."

Conway answered after an interval:  "There's not a great deal of
mystery about it.  That part of me which seems old to you was worn
out by intense and premature experience.  My years from nineteen to
twenty-two were a supreme education, no doubt, but rather
exhausting."

"You were very unhappy at the war?"

"Not particularly so.  I was excited and suicidal and scared and
reckless and sometimes in a tearing rage--like a few million
others, in fact.  I got mad drunk and killed and lechered in great
style.  It was the self-abuse of all one's emotions, and one came
through it, if one did at all, with a sense of almighty boredom and
fretfulness.  That's what made the years afterwards so difficult.
Don't think I'm posing myself too tragically--I've had pretty fair
luck since, on the whole.  But it's been rather like being in a
school where there's a bad headmaster--plenty of fun to be got if
you feel like it, but nerve-racking off and on, and not really very
satisfactory.  I think I found that out rather more than most
people."

"And your education thus continued?"

Conway gave a shrug.  "Perhaps the exhaustion of the passions is
the beginning of wisdom, if you care to alter the proverb."

"That also, my son, is the doctrine of Shangri-La."

"I know.  It makes me feel quite at home."



He had spoken no less than the truth.  As the days and weeks passed
he began to feel an ache of contentment uniting mind and body; like
Perrault and Henschell and the others, he was falling under the
spell.  Blue Moon had taken him, and there was no escape.  The
mountains gleamed around in a hedge of inaccessible purity, from
which his eyes fell dazzled to the green depths of the valley; the
whole picture was incomparable, and when he heard the harpsichord's
silver monotony across the lotus pool, he felt that it threaded the
perfect pattern of sight and sound.

He was, and he knew it, very quietly in love with the little
Manchu.  His love demanded nothing, not even reply; it was a
tribute of the mind, to which his senses added only a flavor.  She
stood for him as a symbol of all that was delicate and fragile; her
stylized courtesies and the touch of her fingers on the keyboard
yielded a completely satisfying intimacy.  Sometimes he would
address her in a way that might, if she cared, have led to less
formal conversation; but her replies never broke through the
exquisite privacy of her thoughts, and in a sense he did not wish
them to.  He had suddenly come to realize a single facet of the
promised jewel; he had Time, Time for everything that he wished to
happen, such Time that desire itself was quenched in the certainty
of fulfillment.  A year, a decade hence, there would still be Time.
The vision grew on him, and he was happy with it.

Then, at intervals, he stepped into the other life to encounter
Mallinson's impatience, Barnard's heartiness, and Miss Brinklow's
robust intention.  He felt he would be glad when they all knew as
much as he; and, like Chang, he could imagine that neither the
American nor the missionary would prove difficult cases.  He was
even amused when Barnard once said:  "You know, Conway, I'm not
sure that this wouldn't be a nice little place to settle down in.
I thought at first I'd miss the newspapers and the movies, but I
guess one can get used to anything."

"I guess one can," agreed Conway.

He learned afterwards that Chang had taken Barnard down to the
valley, at his own request, to enjoy everything in the way of a
"night out" that the resources of the locality could provide.
Mallinson, when he heard of this, was rather scornful.  "Getting
tight, I suppose," he remarked to Conway, and to Barnard himself he
commented:  "Of course it's none of my business, but you'll want to
keep yourself pretty fit for the journey, you know.  The porters
are due in a fortnight's time, and from what I gather, the return
trip won't be exactly a joy ride."

Barnard nodded equably.  "I never figgered it would," he answered.
"And as for keeping fit, I guess I'm fitter than I've been for
years.  I get exercise daily, I don't have any worries, and the
speakeasies down in the valley don't let you go too far.
Moderation, y'know--the motto of the firm."

"Yes, I've no doubt you've been managing to have a moderately good
time," said Mallinson acidly.

"Certainly I have.  This establishment caters for all tastes--some
people like little Chink gels who play the pi-anno, isn't that so?
You can't blame anybody for what they fancy."

Conway was not at all put out, but Mallinson flushed like a
schoolboy.  "You can send them to jail, though, when they fancy
other people's property," he snapped, stung to fury that set a raw
edge to his wits.

"Sure, if you can catch 'em."  The American grinned affably.  "And
that leads me to something I may as well tell you folks right away,
now we're on the subject.  I've decided to give those porters a
miss.  They come here pretty regular, and I'll wait for the next
trip, or maybe the next but one.  That is, if the monks'll take my
word that I'm still good for my hotel expenses."

"You mean you're not coming with us?"

"That's it.  I've decided to stop over for a while.  It's all very
fine for you--you'll have the band playing when YOU get home, but
all the welcome I'll get is from a row of cops.  And the more I
think about it, the more it don't seem good enough."

"In other words, you're just afraid to face the music?"

"Well, I never did like music, anyhow."

Mallinson said with cold scorn:  "I suppose it's your own affair.
Nobody can prevent you from stopping here all your life if you feel
inclined."  Nevertheless he looked round with a flash of appeal.
"It's not what everybody would choose to do, but ideas differ.
What do you say, Conway?"

"I agree.  Ideas DO differ."

Mallinson turned to Miss Brinklow, who suddenly put down her book
and remarked:  "As a matter of fact, I think I shall stay too."

"WHAT?" they all cried together.

She continued, with a bright smile that seemed more an attachment
to her face than an illumination of it:  "You see, I've been
thinking over the way things happened to bring us all here, and
there's only one conclusion I can come to.  There's a mysterious
power working behind the scenes.  Don't you think so, Mr. Conway?"

Conway might have found it hard to reply, but Miss Brinklow went on
in a gathering hurry:  "Who am I to question the dictates of
Providence?  I was sent here for a purpose, and I shall stay."

"Do you mean you're hoping to start a mission here?" Mallinson
asked.

"Not only hoping, but fully intending.  I know just how to deal
with these people--I shall get my own way, never fear.  There's no
real grit in any of them."

"And you intend to introduce some?"

"Yes, I do, Mr. Mallinson.  I'm strongly opposed to that idea of
moderation that we hear so much about.  You can call it broad-
mindedness if you like, but in my opinion it leads to the worst
kind of laxity.  The whole trouble with the people here is their so-
called broad-mindedness, and I intend to fight it with all my
powers."

"And they're so broad-minded that they're going to let you?" said
Conway, smiling.

"Or else she's so strong-minded that they can't stop her," put in
Barnard.  He added with a chuckle:  "It's just what I said--this
establishment caters for all tastes."

"Possibly, if you happen to LIKE prison," Mallinson snapped.

"Well, there's two ways of looking even at that.  My goodness, if
you think of all the folks in the world who'd give all they've got
to be out of the racket and in a place like this, only they can't
get out!  Are WE in the prison or are THEY?"

"A comforting speculation for a monkey in a cage," retorted
Mallinson; he was still furious.



Afterwards he spoke to Conway alone.  "That man still gets on my
nerves," he said, pacing the courtyard.  "I'm not sorry we shan't
have him with us when we go back.  You may think me touchy, but
being chipped about that Chinese girl didn't appeal to my sense of
humor."

Conway took Mallinson's arm.  It was becoming increasingly clear to
him that he was very fond of the youth, and that their recent weeks
in company had deepened the feeling, despite jarring moods.  He
answered:  "I rather took it that I was being ragged about her, not
you."

"No, I think he intended it for me.  He knows I'm interested in
her.  I am, Conway.  I can't make out why she's here, and whether
she really likes being here.  My God, if I spoke her language as
you do, I'd soon have it out with her."

"I wonder if you would.  She doesn't say a great deal to anyone,
you know."

"It puzzles me that you don't badger her with all sorts of
questions."

"I don't know that I care for badgering people."

He wished he could have said more, and then suddenly the sense of
pity and irony floated over him in a filmy haze; this youth, so
eager and ardent, would take things very hardly.  "I shouldn't
worry about Lo-Tsen if I were you," he added.  "She's happy
enough."



The decision of Barnard and Miss Brinklow to remain behind seemed
to Conway all to the good, though it threw Mallinson and himself
into an apparently opposite camp for the time being.  It was an
extraordinary situation, and he had no definite plans for tackling
it.

Fortunately there was no apparent need to tackle it at all.  Until
the two months were past, nothing much could happen; and afterwards
there would be a crisis no less acute for his having tried to
prepare himself for it.  For this and other reasons he was
disinclined to worry over the inevitable, though he did once say:
"You know, Chang, I'm bothered about young Mallinson.  I'm afraid
he'll take things very badly when he finds out."

Chang nodded with some sympathy.  "Yes, it will not be easy to
persuade him of his good fortune.  But the difficulty is, after
all, only a temporary one.  In twenty years from now our friend
will be quite reconciled."

Conway felt that this was looking at the matter almost too
philosophically.  "I'm wondering," he said, "just how the truth's
going to be broached to him.  He's counting the days to the arrival
of the porters, and if they don't come--"

"But they WILL come."

"Oh?  I rather imagined that all your talk about them was just a
pleasant fable to let us down lightly."

"By no means.  Although we have no bigotry on the point, it is our
custom at Shangri-La to be moderately truthful, and I can assure
you that my statements about the porters were almost correct.  At
any rate, we are expecting the men at or about the time I said."

"Then you'll find it hard to stop Mallinson from joining them."

"But we should never attempt to do so.  He will merely discover--no
doubt by personal experiment--that the porters are reluctantly
unable to take anyone back with them."

"I see.  So that's the method?  And what do you expect to happen
afterwards?"

"Then, my dear sir, after a period of disappointment, he will--
since he is young and optimistic--begin to hope that the next
convoy of porters, due in nine or ten months' time will prove more
amenable to his suggestions.  And this is a hope which, if we are
wise, we shall not at first discourage."

Conway said sharply:  "I'm not so sure that he'll do that at all.
I should think he's far more likely to try an escape on his own."

"ESCAPE?  Is that REALLY the word that should be used?  After all,
the pass is open to anyone at any time.  We have no jailers, save
those that Nature herself has provided."

Conway smiled.  "Well, you must admit that she's done her job
pretty well.  But I don't suppose you rely on her in every case,
all the same.  What about the various exploring parties that have
arrived here?  Was the pass always equally open to THEM when they
wanted to get away?"

It was Chang's turn now to smile.  "Special circumstances, my dear
sir, have sometimes required special consideration."

"Excellent.  So you only allow people the chance of escape when you
know they'd be fools to take it?  Even so, I expect some of them
do."

"Well, it has happened very occasionally, but as a rule the
absentees are glad to return after the experience of a single night
on the plateau."

"Without shelter and proper clothing?  If so, I can quite
understand that your mild methods are as effective as stern ones.
But what about the less usual cases that don't return?"

"You have yourself answered the question," replied Chang.  "They do
not return."  But he made haste to add:  "I can assure you,
however, that there are few indeed who have been so unfortunate,
and I trust your friend will not be rash enough to increase the
number."

Conway did not find these responses entirely reassuring, and
Mallinson's future remained a preoccupation.  He wished it were
possible for the youth to return by consent, and this would not be
unprecedented, for there was the recent case of Talu, the airman.
Chang admitted that the authorities were fully empowered to do
anything that they considered wise.  "But SHOULD we be wise, my
dear sir, in trusting our future entirely to your friend's feeling
of gratitude?"

Conway felt that the question was pertinent, for Mallinson's
attitude left little doubt as to what he would do as soon as he
reached India.  It was his favorite theme, and he had often
enlarged upon it.

But all that, of course, was in the mundane world that was
gradually being pushed out of his mind by the rich, pervasive world
of Shangri-La.  Except when he thought about Mallinson, he was
extraordinarily content; the slowly revealed fabric of this new
environment continued to astonish him by its intricate suitability
to his own needs and tastes.

Once he said to Chang:  "By the way, how do you people here fit
love into your scheme of things?  I suppose it does sometimes
happen that those who come here develop attachments?"

"Quite often," replied Chang with a broad smile.  "The lamas, of
course, are immune, and so are most of us when we reach the riper
years, but until then we are as other men, except that I think we
can claim to behave more reasonably.  And this gives me the
opportunity, Mr. Conway, of assuring you that the hospitality of
Shangri-La is of a comprehensive kind.  Your friend Mr. Barnard has
already availed himself of it."

Conway returned the smile.  "Thanks," he answered dryly.  "I've no
doubt he has, but my own inclinations are not--at the moment--so
assertive.  It was the emotional more than the physical aspect that
I was curious about."

"You find it easy to separate the two?  Is it possible that you are
falling in love with Lo-Tsen?"

Conway was somewhat taken aback, though he hoped he did not show
it.  "What makes you ask that?"

"Because, my dear sir, it would be quite suitable if you were to do
so--always, of course, in moderation.  Lo-Tsen would not respond
with any degree of passion--that is more than you could expect--but
the experience would be very delightful, I assure you.  And I speak
with some authority, for I was in love with her myself when I was
much younger."

"Were you indeed?  And did she respond then?"

"Only by the most charming appreciation of the compliment I paid
her, and by a friendship which has grown more precious with the
years."

"In other words, she didn't respond?"

"If you prefer it so."  Chang added, a little sententiously:  "It
has always been her way to spare her lovers the moment of satiety
that goes with all absolute attainment."

Conway laughed.  "That's all very well in your case, and perhaps
mine too--but what about the attitude of a hot-blooded young fellow
like Mallinson?"

"My dear sir, it would be the best possible thing that could
happen!  Not for the first time, I assure you, would Lo-Tsen
comfort the sorrowful exile when he learns that there is to be no
return."

"COMFORT?"

"Yes, though you must not misunderstand my use of the term.  Lo-
Tsen gives no caresses, except such as touch the stricken heart
from her very presence.  What does your Shakespeare say of
Cleopatra?--'She makes hungry where she most satisfies.'  A popular
type, doubtless, among the passion-driven races, but such a woman,
I assure you, would be altogether out of place at Shangri-La.  Lo-
Tsen, if I might amend the quotation, REMOVES hunger where she
LEAST satisfies.  It is a more delicate and lasting accomplishment."

"And one, I assume, which she has much skill in performing?"

"Oh, decidedly--we have had many examples of it.  It is her way to
calm the throb of desire to a murmur that is no less pleasant when
left unanswered."

"In that sense, then, you could regard her as a part of the
training equipment of the establishment?"

"YOU could regard her as that, if you wished," replied Chang with
deprecating blandness.  "But it would be more graceful, and just as
true, to liken her to the rainbow reflected in a glass bowl or to
the dewdrops on the blossoms of the fruit tree."

"I entirely agree with you, Chang.  That would be MUCH more
graceful."  Conway enjoyed the measured yet agile repartees which
his good-humored ragging of the Chinese very often elicited.

But the next time he was alone with the little Manchu he felt that
Chang's remarks had had a great deal of shrewdness in them.  There
was a fragrance about her that communicated itself to his own
emotions, kindling the embers to a glow that did not burn, but
merely warmed.  And suddenly then he realized that Shangri-La and
Lo-Tsen were quite perfect, and that he did not wish for more than
to stir a faint and eventual response in all that stillness.  For
years his passions had been like a nerve that the world jarred on;
now at last the aching was soothed, and he could yield himself to
love that was neither a torment nor a bore.  As he passed by the
lotus pool at night he sometimes pictured her in his arms, but the
sense of time washed over the vision, calming him to an infinite
and tender reluctance.

He did not think he had ever been so happy, even in the years of
his life before the great barrier of the war.  He liked the serene
world that Shangri-La offered him, pacified rather than dominated
by its single tremendous idea.  He liked the prevalent mood in
which feelings were sheathed in thoughts, and thoughts softened
into felicity by their transference into language.  Conway, whom
experience had taught that rudeness is by no means a guarantee of
good faith, was even less inclined to regard a well-turned phrase
as a proof of insincerity.  He liked the mannered, leisurely
atmosphere in which talk was an accomplishment, not a mere habit.
And he liked to realize that the idlest things could now be freed
from the curse of time-wasting, and the frailest dreams receive the
welcome of the mind.  Shangri-La was always tranquil, yet always a
hive of unpursuing occupations; the lamas lived as if indeed
they had time on their hands, but time that was scarcely a
featherweight.  Conway met no more of them, but he came gradually
to realize the extent and variety of their employments; besides
their knowledge of languages, some, it appeared, took to the full
seas of learning in a manner that would have yielded big surprises
to the Western world.  Many were engaged in writing manuscript
books of various kinds; one (Chang said) had made valuable
researches into pure mathematics; another was coordinating Gibbon
and Spengler into a vast thesis on the history of European
civilization.  But this kind of thing was not for them all, nor for
any of them always; there were many tideless channels in which they
dived in mere waywardness, retrieving, like Briac, fragments of old
tunes, or like the English ex-curate, a new theory about Wuthering
Heights.  And there were even fainter impracticalities than these.
Once, when Conway made some remark in this connection, the High
Lama replied with a story of a Chinese artist in the third century
B.C. who, having spent many years in carving dragons, birds, and
horses upon a cherrystone, offered his finished work to a royal
prince.  The prince could see nothing in it at first except a mere
stone, but the artist bade him "have a wall built, and make a
window in it, and observe the stone through the window in the glory
of the dawn."  The prince did so, and then perceived that the stone
was indeed very beautiful.  "Is not that a charming story, my dear
Conway, and do you not think it teaches a very valuable lesson?"

Conway agreed; he found it pleasant to realize that the serene
purpose of Shangri-La could embrace an infinitude of odd and
apparently trivial employments, for he had always had a taste for
such things himself.  In fact, when he regarded his past, he saw it
strewn with images of tasks too vagrant or too taxing ever to have
been accomplished; but now they were all possible, even in a mood
of idleness.  It was delightful to contemplate, and he was not
disposed to sneer when Barnard confided in him that he too
envisaged an interesting future at Shangri-La.

It seemed that Barnard's excursions to the valley, which had been
growing more frequent of late, were not entirely devoted to drink
and women.  "You see, Conway, I'm telling you this because you're
different from Mallinson--he's got his knife into me, as probably
you've gathered.  But I feel you'll be better at understanding the
position.  It's a funny thing--you British officials are so darned
stiff and starchy at first, but you're the sort a fellow can put
his trust in, when all's said and done."

"I wouldn't be too sure," replied Conway, smiling.  "And anyhow,
Mallinson's just as much a British official as I am."

"Yes, but he's a mere boy.  He don't look at things reasonably.
You and me are men of the world--we take things as we find them.
This joint here, for instance--we still can't understand all the
ins and outs of it, and why we've been landed here, but then, isn't
that the usual way of things?  Do we know why we're in the world at
all, for that matter?"

"Perhaps some of us don't, but what's all this leading up to?"

Barnard dropped his voice to a rather husky whisper.  "Gold, my
lad," he answered with a certain ecstasy.  "Just that, and nothing
less.  There's tons of it--literally--in the valley.  I was a
mining engineer in my young days and I haven't forgotten what a
reef looks like.  Believe me, it's as rich as the Rand, and ten
times easier to get at.  I guess you thought I was on the loose
whenever I went down there in my little armchair.  Not a bit of it.
I knew what I was doing.  I'd figgered it out all along, you know,
that these guys here couldn't get all their stuff sent in from
outside without paying mighty high for it, and what else could they
pay with except gold or silver or diamonds or something?  Only
logic, after all.  And when I began to scout round, it didn't take
me long to discover the whole bag of tricks."

"You found it out on your own?" asked Conway.

"Well, I won't say that, but I made my guess, and then I put the
matter to Chang--straight, mind you, as man to man.  And believe
me, Conway, that Chink's not as bad a fellow as we might have
thought."

"Personally, I never thought him a bad fellow at all."

"Of course, I know you always took to him, so you won't be
surprised at the way we got on together.  We certainly did hit it
famously.  He showed me all over the workings, and it may interest
you to know that I've got the full permission of the authorities to
prospect in the valley as much as I like and make a comprehensive
report.  What d'you think of that, my lad?  They seemed quite glad
to have the services of an expert, especially when I said I could
probably give 'em tips on how to increase output."

"I can see you're going to be altogether at home here," said
Conway.

"Well, I must say I've found a job, and that's something.  And you
never know how a thing'll turn out in the end.  Maybe the folks at
home won't be so keen to jail me when they know I can show 'em the
way to a new gold mine.  The only difficulty is--would they take my
word about it?"

"They might.  It's extraordinary what people WILL believe."

Barnard nodded with enthusiasm.  "Glad you get the point, Conway.
And that's where you and I can make a deal.  We'll go fifty-fifty
in everything of course.  All you've gotter do is to put your name
to my report--British Consul, you know, and all that.  It'll carry
weight."

Conway laughed.  "We'll have to see about it.  Make your report
first."

It amused him to contemplate a possibility so unlikely to happen,
and at the same time he was glad that Barnard had found something
that yielded such immediate comfort.



So also was the High Lama, whom Conway began to see more and more
frequently.  He often visited him in the late evening and stayed
for many hours, long after the servants had taken away the last
bowls of tea and had been dismissed for the night.  The High Lama
never failed to ask him about the progress and welfare of his three
companions, and once he enquired particularly as to the kind of
careers that their arrival at Shangri-La had so inevitably
interrupted.

Conway answered reflectively:  "Mallinson might have done quite
well in his own line--he's energetic and has ambitions.  The two
others--"  He shrugged his shoulders.  "As a matter of fact, it
happens to suit them both to stay here--for a while, at any rate."

He noticed a flicker of light at the curtained window; there had
been mutterings of thunder as he crossed the courtyard on his way
to the now familiar room.  No sound could be heard, and the heavy
tapestries subdued the lightning into mere sparks of pallor.

"Yes," came the reply, "we have done our best to make both of them
feel at home.  Miss Brinklow wishes to convert us, and Mr. Barnard
would also like to convert us--into a limited liability company.
Harmless projects--they will pass the time quite pleasantly for
them.  But your young friend, to whom neither gold nor religion can
offer solace, how about HIM?"

"Yes, he's going to be the problem."

"I am afraid he is going to be YOUR problem."

"Why mine?"

There was no immediate answer, for the tea bowls were introduced at
that moment, and with their appearance the High Lama rallied a
faint and desiccated hospitality.  "Karakal sends us storms at this
time of the year," he remarked, feathering the conversation
according to ritual.  "The people of Blue Moon believe they are
caused by demons raging in the great space beyond the pass.  The
'outside,' they call it--perhaps you are aware that in their patois
the word is used for the entire rest of the world.  Of course they
know nothing of such countries as France or England or even India--
they imagine the dread altiplano stretching, as it almost does,
illimitably.  To them, so snug at their warm and windless levels,
it appears unthinkable that anyone inside the valley should ever
wish to leave it; indeed, they picture all unfortunate 'outsiders'
as passionately desiring to enter.  It is just a question of
viewpoint, is it not?"

Conway was reminded of Barnard's somewhat similar remarks, and
quoted them.  "How very sensible!" was the High Lama's comment.
"And he is our first American, too--we are truly fortunate."

Conway found it piquant to reflect that the lamasery's fortune was
to have acquired a man for whom the police of a dozen countries
were actively searching; and he would have liked to share the
piquancy but for feeling that Barnard had better be left to tell
his own story in due course.  He said:  "Doubtless he's quite
right, and there are many people in the world nowadays who would be
glad enough to be here."

"TOO many, my dear Conway.  We are a single lifeboat riding the
seas in a gale; we can take a few chance survivors, but if all the
shipwrecked were to reach us and clamber aboard we should go down
ourselves. . . .  But let us not think of it just now.  I hear that
you have been associating with our excellent Briac.  A delightful
fellow countryman of mine, though I do not share his opinion that
Chopin is the greatest of all composers.  For myself, as you know,
I prefer Mozart. . . ."

Not till the tea bowls were removed and the servant had been
finally dismissed did Conway venture to recall the unanswered
question.  "We were discussing Mallinson, and you said he was going
to be MY problem.  Why mine, particularly?"

Then the High Lama replied very simply:  "Because, my son, I am
going to die."

It seemed an extraordinary statement, and for a time Conway was
speechless after it.  Eventually the High Lama continued:  "You are
surprised?  But surely, my friend, we are all mortal--even at
Shangri-La.  And it is possible that I may still have a few moments
left to me--or even, for that matter, a few years.  All I announce
is the simple truth that already I see the end.  It is charming of
you to appear so concerned, and I will not pretend that there is
not a touch of wistfulness, even at my age, in contemplating death.
Fortunately little is left of me that can die physically, and as
for the rest, all our religions display a pleasant unanimity of
optimism.  I am quite content, but I must accustom myself to a
strange sensation during the hours that remain--I must realize that
I have time for only one thing more.  Can you imagine what that
is?"

Conway was silent.

"It concerns you, my son."

"You do me a great honor."

"I have in mind to do much more than that."

Conway bowed slightly, but did not speak, and the High Lama, after
waiting awhile, resumed:  "You know, perhaps, that the frequency of
these talks has been unusual here.  But it is our tradition, if I
may permit myself the paradox, that we are never slaves to
tradition.  We have no rigidities, no inexorable rules.  We do as
we think fit, guided a little by the example of the past, but still
more by our present wisdom, and by our clairvoyance of the future.
And thus it is that I am encouraged to do this final thing."

Conway was still silent.

"I place in your hands, my son, the heritage and destiny of Shangri-
La."

At last the tension broke, and Conway felt beyond it the power of a
bland and benign persuasion; the echoes swam into silence, till all
that was left was his own heartbeat, pounding like a gong.  And
then, intercepting the rhythm, came the words:

"I have waited for you, my son, for quite a long time.  I have sat
in this room and seen the faces of newcomers, I have looked into
their eyes and heard their voices, and always in hope that someday
I might find you.  My colleagues have grown old and wise, but you
who are still young in years are as wise already.  My friend, it is
not an arduous task that I bequeath, for our order knows only
silken bonds.  To be gentle and patient, to care for the riches of
the mind, to preside in wisdom and secrecy while the storm rages
without--it will all be very pleasantly simple for you, and you
will doubtless find great happiness."

Again Conway sought to reply, but could not, till at length a vivid
lightning flash paled the shadows and stirred him to exclaim:  "The
storm . . . this storm you talked of. . . ."

"It will be such a one, my son, as the world has not seen before.
There will be no safety by arms, no help from authority, no answer
in science.  It will rage till every flower of culture is trampled,
and all human things are leveled in a vast chaos.  Such was my
vision when Napoleon was still a name unknown; and I see it now,
more clearly with each hour.  Do you say I am mistaken?"

Conway answered:  "No, I think you may be right.  A similar crash
came once before, and then there were the Dark Ages lasting five
hundred years."

"The parallel is not quite exact.  For those Dark Ages were not
really so very dark--they were full of flickering lanterns, and
even if the light had gone out of Europe altogether, there were
other rays, literally from China to Peru, at which it could have
been rekindled.  But the Dark Ages that are to come will cover the
whole world in a single pall; there will be neither escape nor
sanctuary, save such as are too secret to be found or too humble to
be noticed.  And Shangri-La may hope to be both of these.  The
airman bearing loads of death to the great cities will not pass our
way, and if by chance he should, he may not consider us worth a
bomb."

"And you think all this will come in my time?"

"I believe that you will live through the storm.  And after,
through the long age of desolation, you may still live, growing
older and wiser and more patient.  You will conserve the fragrance
of our history and add to it the touch of your own mind.  You will
welcome the stranger, and teach him the rule of age and wisdom; and
one of these strangers, it may be, will succeed you when you are
yourself very old.  Beyond that, my vision weakens, but I see, at a
great distance, a new world stirring in the ruins, stirring
clumsily but in hopefulness, seeking its lost and legendary
treasures.  And they will all be here, my son, hidden behind the
mountains in the valley of Blue Moon, preserved as by miracle for a
new Renaissance. . . ."

The speaking finished, and Conway saw the face before him full of a
remote and drenching beauty; then the glow faded and there was
nothing left but a mask, dark-shadowed, and crumbling like old
wood.  It was quite motionless, and the eyes were closed.  He
watched for a while, and presently, as part of a dream, it came to
him that the High Lama was dead.



It seemed necessary to rivet the situation to some kind of
actuality, lest it become too strange to be believed in; and with
instinctive mechanism of hand and eye, Conway glanced at his
wristwatch.  It was a quarter-past midnight.  Suddenly, when he
crossed the room to the door, it occurred to him that he did not in
the least know how or whence to summon help.  The Tibetans, he
knew, had all been sent away for the night, and he had no idea
where to find Chang or anyone else.  He stood uncertainly on the
threshold of the dark corridor; through a window he could see that
the sky was clear, though the mountains still blazed in lightning
like a silver fresco.  And then, in the midst of the still-
encompassing dream, he felt himself master of Shangri-La.  These
were his beloved things, all around him, the things of that inner
mind in which he lived increasingly, away from the fret of the
world.  His eyes strayed into the shadows and were caught by golden
pinpoints sparkling in rich, undulating lacquers; and the scent of
tuberose, so faint that it expired on the very brink of sensation,
lured him from room to room.  At last he stumbled into the
courtyards and by the fringe of the pool; a full moon sailed behind
Karakal.  It was twenty minutes to two.

Later, he was aware that Mallinson was near him, holding his arm
and leading him away in a great hurry.  He did not gather what it
was all about, but he could hear that the boy was chattering
excitedly.



CHAPTER 11


They reached the balconied room where they had meals, Mallinson
still clutching his arm and half-dragging him along.  "Come on,
Conway, we've till dawn to pack what we can and get away.  Great
news, man--I wonder what old Barnard and Miss Brinklow will think
in the morning when they find us gone . . .  Still, it's their own
choice to stay, and we'll probably get on far better without
them . . .  The porters are about five miles beyond the pass--they
came yesterday with loads of books and things . . . tomorrow they
begin the journey back . . .  It just shows how these fellows here
intended to let us down--they never told us--we should have been
stranded here for God knows how much longer . . .  I say, what's
the matter?  Are you ill?"

Conway had sunk into a chair, and was leaning forward with elbows
on the table.  He passed his hand across his eyes.  "Ill?  No.  I
don't think so.  Just--rather--tired."

"Probably the storm.  Where were you all the while?  I'd been
waiting for you for hours."

"I--I was visiting the High Lama."

"Oh, HIM!  Well, THAT'S for the last time, anyhow, thank God."

"Yes, Mallinson, for the last time."

Something in Conway's voice, and still more in his succeeding
silence, roused the youth to irascibility.  "Well, I wish you
wouldn't sound so deuced leisurely about it--we've got to get a
considerable move on, you know."

Conway stiffened for the effort of emerging into keener
consciousness.

"I'm sorry," he said.  Partly to test his nerve and the reality of
his sensations he lit a cigarette.  He found that both hands and
lips were unsteady.  "I'm afraid I don't quite follow . . . you say
the porters . . ."

"Yes, the porters, man--do pull yourself together."

"You're thinking of going out to them?"

"THINKING of it?  I'm damn well certain--they're only just over the
ridge.  And we've got to start immediately."

"IMMEDIATELY?"

"Yes, yes--why not?"

Conway made a second attempt to transfer himself from one world
into the other.  He said at length, having partly succeeded:  "I
suppose you realize that it mayn't be quite as simple as it
sounds?"

Mallinson was lacing a pair of knee-high Tibetan mountain boots as
he answered jerkily:  "I realize everything, but it's something
we've got to do, and we shall do it, with luck, if we don't delay."

"I don't see how--"

"Oh, Lord, Conway, must you fight shy of everything?  Haven't you
any guts left in you at all?"

The appeal, half-passionate and half-derisive, helped Conway to
collect himself.  "Whether I have or haven't isn't the point, but
if you want me to explain myself, I will.  It's a question of a few
rather important details.  Suppose you DO get beyond the pass and
find the porters there, how do you know they'll take you with them?
What inducement can you offer?  Hasn't it struck you that they
mayn't be quite so willing as you'd like them to be?  You can't
just present yourself and demand to be escorted.  It all needs
arrangements, negotiations beforehand--"

"Or anything else to cause a delay," exclaimed Mallinson bitterly.
"God, what a fellow you are!  Fortunately I haven't you to rely on
for arranging things.  Because they HAVE been arranged--the porters
have been paid in advance, and they've agreed to take us.  And here
are clothes and equipment for the journey, all ready.  So your last
excuse disappears.  Come on, let's DO something."

"But--I don't understand. . . ."

"I don't suppose you do, but it doesn't matter."

"Who's been making all these plans?"

Mallinson answered brusquely:  "Lo-Tsen, if you're really keen to
know.  She's with the porters now.  She's waiting."

"WAITING?"

"Yes.  She's coming with us.  I assume you've no objection?"



At the mention of Lo-Tsen the two worlds touched and fused suddenly
in Conway's mind.  He cried sharply, almost contemptuously:
"That's nonsense.  It's impossible."

Mallinson was equally on edge.  "Why is it impossible?"

"Because . . . well, it is.  There are all sorts of reasons.  Take
my word for it; it won't do.  It's incredible enough that she
should be out there now--I'm astonished at what you say has
happened--but the idea of her going any further is just
preposterous."

"I don't see that it's preposterous at all.  It's as natural for
her to want to leave here as for me."

"But she doesn't want to leave.  That's where you make the
mistake."

Mallinson smiled tensely.  "You think you know a good deal more
about her than I do, I daresay," he remarked.  "But perhaps you
don't, for all that."

"What do you mean?"

"There are other ways of getting to understand people without
learning heaps of languages."

"For heaven's sake, what ARE you driving at?"  Then Conway added
more quietly:  "This is absurd.  We mustn't wrangle.  Tell me,
Mallinson, what's it all about?  I still don't understand."

"Then why are you making such an almighty fuss?"

"Tell me the truth, PLEASE tell me the truth."

"Well, it's simple enough.  A kid of her age shut up here with a
lot of queer old men--naturally she'll get away if she's given a
chance.  She hasn't had one up to now."

"Don't you think you may be imagining her position in the light of
your own?  As I've always told you, she's perfectly happy."

"Then why did she say she'd come?"

"She said that?  How could she?  She doesn't speak English."

"I asked her--in Tibetan--Miss Brinklow worked out the words.  It
wasn't a very fluent conversation, but it was quite enough to--to
lead to an understanding."  Mallinson flushed a little.  "Damn it,
Conway, don't stare at me like that--anyone would think I'd been
poaching on YOUR preserves."

Conway answered:  "No one would think so at all, I hope, but the
remark tells me more than you were perhaps intending me to know.  I
can only say that I'm very sorry."

"And why the devil should you be?"

Conway let the cigarette fall from his fingers.  He felt tired,
bothered, and full of deep conflicting tenderness that he would
rather not have had aroused.  He said gently:  "I wish we weren't
always at such cross-purposes.  Lo-Tsen is very charming, I know,
but why should we quarrel about it?"

"CHARMING?"  Mallinson echoed the word with scorn.  "She's a good
bit more than that.  You mustn't think everybody's as cold-blooded
about these things as you are yourself.  Admiring her as if she
were an exhibit in a museum may be your idea of what she deserves,
but mine's more practical, and when I see someone I like in a
rotten position I try and DO something."

"But surely there's such a thing as being too impetuous?  Where do
you think she'll go to if she does leave?"

"I suppose she must have friends in China or somewhere.  Anyhow,
she'll be better off than here."

"How can you possibly be so sure of that?"

"Well, I'll see that she's looked after myself, if nobody else
will.  After all, if you're rescuing people from something quite
hellish, you don't usually stop to enquire if they've anywhere else
to go to."

"And you think Shangri-La is hellish?"

"Definitely, I do.  There's something dark and evil about it.  The
whole business has been like that, from the beginning--the way we
were brought here, without reason at all, by some madman--and the
way we've been detained since, on one excuse or another.  But the
most frightful thing of all--to me--is the effect it's had on you."

"On ME?"

"Yes, on you.  You've just mooned about as if nothing mattered and
you were content to stay here forever.  Why, you even admitted you
liked the place. . . .  Conway, what HAS happened to you?  Can't
you manage to be your real self again?  We got on so well together
at Baskul--you were absolutely different in those days."

"My DEAR boy!"

Conway reached his hand towards Mallinson's, and the answering grip
was hot and eagerly affectionate.  Mallinson went on:  "I don't
suppose you realize it, but I've been terribly alone these last few
weeks.  Nobody seemed to be caring a damn about the only thing that
was really important--Barnard and Miss Brinklow had reasons of a
kind, but it was pretty awful when I found YOU against me."

"I'm sorry."

"You keep on saying that, but it doesn't help."

Conway replied on sudden impulse:  "Then let me help, if I can, by
telling you something.  When you've heard it, you'll understand, I
hope, a great deal of what now seems very curious and difficult.
At any rate, you'll realize why Lo-Tsen can't possibly go back with
you."

"I don't think anything would make me see that.  And do cut it as
short as you can, because we really haven't time to spare."

Conway then gave, as briefly as he could, the whole story of
Shangri-La, as told him by the High Lama, and as amplified by the
conversation both with the latter and with Chang.  It was the last
thing he had ever intended to do, but he felt that in the
circumstances it was justified and even necessary; it was true
enough that Mallinson WAS his problem, to solve as he thought fit.
He narrated rapidly and easily, and in doing so came again under
the spell of that strange, timeless world; its beauty overwhelmed
him as he spoke of it, and more than once he felt himself reading
from a page of memory, so clearly had ideas and phrases impressed
themselves.  Only one thing he withheld--and that to spare himself
an emotion he could not yet grapple with--the fact of the High
Lama's death that night and of his own succession.

When he approached the end he felt comforted; he was glad to have
got it over, and it was the only solution, after all.  He looked up
calmly when he had finished, confident that he had done well.

But Mallinson merely tapped his fingers on the tabletop and said,
after a long wait:  "I really don't know what to say, Conway . . .
except that you must be completely mad. . . ."

There followed a long silence, during which the two men stared
at each other in far different moods--Conway withdrawn and
disappointed, Mallinson in hot, fidgeting discomfort.  "So you
think I'm mad?" said Conway at length.

Mallinson broke into a nervous laugh.  "Well, I should damn well
say so, after a tale like that.  I mean . . . well, really . . .
such utter nonsense . . . it seems to me rather beyond arguing
about."

Conway looked and sounded immensely astonished.  "You think it's
nonsense?"

"Well . . . how else can I look at it?  I'm sorry, Conway--it's a
pretty strong statement--but I don't see how any sane person could
be in any doubt about it."

"So you still hold that we were brought here by blind accident--by
some lunatic who made careful plans to run off with an aeroplane
and fly it a thousand miles just for the fun of the thing?"

Conway offered a cigarette, and the other took it.  The pause was
one for which they both seemed grateful.  Mallinson answered
eventually:  "Look here, it's no good arguing the thing point by
point.  As a matter of fact, your theory that the people here sent
someone vaguely into the world to decoy strangers, and that this
fellow deliberately learned flying and bided his time until it
happened that a suitable machine was due to leave Baskul with four
passengers . . . well, I won't say that it's literally impossible,
though it does seem to me ridiculously farfetched.  If it stood by
itself, it might just be worth considering, but when you tack it on
to all sorts of other things that are ABSOLUTELY impossible--all
this about the lamas being hundreds of years old, and having
discovered a sort of elixir of youth, or whatever you'd call
it . . . well, it just makes me wonder what kind of microbe has
bitten you, that's all."

Conway smiled.  "Yes, I daresay you find it hard to believe.
Perhaps I did myself at first--I scarcely remember.  Of course it
IS an extraordinary story, but I should think your own eyes have
had enough evidence that this is an extraordinary place.  Think of
all that we've actually seen, both of us--a lost valley in the
midst of unexplored mountains, a monastery with a library of
European books--"

"Oh, yes, and a central heating plant, and modern plumbing, and
afternoon tea, and everything else--it's all very marvelous, I
know."

"Well, then, what do you make of it?"

"Damn little, I admit.  It's a complete mystery.  But that's no
reason for accepting tales that are physically impossible.
Believing in hot baths because you've had them is different from
believing in people hundreds of years old just because they've told
you they are."  He laughed again, still uneasily.  "Look here,
Conway, it's got on your nerves, this place, and I really don't
wonder at it.  Pack up your things and let's quit.  We'll finish
this argument a month or two hence after a jolly little dinner at
Maiden's."

Conway answered quietly:  "I've no desire to go back to that life
at all."

"What life?"

"The life you're thinking of . . . dinners . . . dances . . .
polo . . . and all that. . . ."

"But I never said anything about dances and polo!  Anyhow, what's
wrong with them?  D'you mean that you're not coming with me?
You're going to stay here like the other two?  Then at least you
shan't stop me from clearing out of it!"  Mallinson threw down his
cigarette and sprang towards the door with eyes blazing.  "You're
off your head!" he cried wildly.  "You're mad, Conway, that's
what's the matter with you!  I know you're always calm, and I'm
always excited, but I'm sane, at any rate, and you're not!  They
warned me about it before I joined you at Baskul, and I thought
they were wrong, but now I can see they weren't--"

"What did they warn you of?"

"They said you'd been blown up in the war, and you'd been queer at
times ever since.  I'm not reproaching you--I know it was nothing
you could help--and heaven knows I hate talking like this. . . .
Oh, I'll go.  It's all frightful and sickening, but I must go.  I
gave my word."

"To Lo-Tsen?"

"Yes, if you want to know."

Conway got up and held out his hand.  "Good-by, Mallinson."

"For the last time, you're not coming?"

"I can't."

"Good-by, then."

They shook hands, and Mallinson left.



Conway sat alone in the lantern light.  It seemed to him, in a
phrase engraved on memory, that all the loveliest things were
transient and perishable, that the two worlds were finally beyond
reconciliation, and that one of them hung, as always, by a thread.
After he had pondered for some time he looked at his watch; it was
ten minutes to three.

He was still at the table, smoking the last of his cigarettes, when
Mallinson returned.  The youth entered with some commotion, and on
seeing him, stood back in the shadows as if to gather his wits.  He
was silent, and Conway began, after waiting a moment:  "Hullo,
what's happened?  Why are you back?"

The complete naturalness of the question fetched Mallinson forward;
he pulled off his heavy sheepskins and sat down.  His face was
ashen and his whole body trembled.  "I hadn't the nerve," he cried,
half-sobbing.  "That place where we were all roped--you remember?
I got as far as that . . . I couldn't manage it.  I've no head for
heights, and in moonlight it looked fearful.  Silly, isn't it?"  He
broke down completely and was hysterical until Conway pacified him.
Then he added:  "They needn't worry, these fellows here--nobody
will ever threaten them by land.  But, my God, I'd give a good deal
to fly over with a load of bombs!"

"Why would you like to do that, Mallinson?"

"Because the place wants smashing up, whatever it is.  It's
unhealthy and unclean--and for that matter, if your impossible yarn
were true, it would be more hateful still!  A lot of wizened old
men crouching here like spiders for anyone who comes near . . .
it's filthy . . . who'd want to live to an age like that, anyhow?
And as for your precious High Lama, if he's half as old as you say
he is, it's time someone put him out of his misery. . . .  Oh, why
WON'T you come away with me, Conway?  I hate imploring you for my
own sake, but damn it all, I'm young and we've been pretty good
friends together--does my whole life mean nothing to you compared
with the lies of these awful creatures?  And Lo-Tsen, too--SHE'S
young--doesn't SHE count at all?"

"Lo-Tsen is not young," said Conway.

Mallinson looked up and began to titter hysterically.  "Oh, no, not
young--not young at all, of course.  She looks about seventeen, but
I suppose you'll tell me she's really a well-preserved ninety."

"Mallinson, she came here in 1884."

"You're raving, man!"

"Her beauty, Mallinson, like all other beauty in the world, lies at
the mercy of those who do not know how to value it.  It is a
fragile thing that can only live where fragile things are loved.
Take it away from this valley and you will see it fade like an
echo."

Mallinson laughed harshly, as if his own thoughts gave him
confidence.  "I'm not afraid of that.  It's here that she's only an
echo, if she's one anywhere at all."  He added after a pause:  "Not
that this sort of talk gets us anywhere.  We'd better cut out all
the poetic stuff and come down to realities.  Conway, I want to
help you--it's all the sheerest nonsense, I know, but I'll argue it
out if it'll do you any good.  I'll pretend it's something possible
that you've told me, and that it really does need examining.  Now
tell me, seriously, what evidence have you for this story of
yours?"

Conway was silent.

"Merely that someone spun you a fantastic rigmarole.  Even from a
thoroughly reliable person whom you'd known all your life, you
wouldn't accept that sort of thing without proof.  And what proofs
have you in this case?  None at all, so far as I can see.  Has Lo-
Tsen ever told you her history?"

"No, but--"

"Then why believe it from someone else?  And all this longevity
business--can you point to a single outside fact in support of it?"

Conway thought a moment and then mentioned the unknown Chopin works
that Briac had played.

"Well, that's a matter that means nothing to me--I'm not a
musician.  But even if they're genuine, isn't it possible that he
could have got hold of them in some way without his story being
true?"

"Quite possible, no doubt."

"And then this method that you say exists--of preserving youth and
so on.  What is it?  You say it's a sort of drug--well, I want to
know WHAT drug?  Have you ever seen it or tried it?  Did anyone
ever give you any positive facts about the thing at all?"

"Not in detail, I admit."

"And you never asked for details?  It didn't strike you that such a
story needed any confirmation at all?  You just swallowed it
whole?"  Pressing his advantage, he continued:  "How much do you
actually know of this place, apart from what you've been told?
You've seen a few old men--that's all it amounts to.  Apart from
that, we can only say that the place is well fitted up, and seems
to be run on rather highbrow lines.  How and why it came into
existence we've no idea, and why they want to keep us here, if they
do, is equally a mystery, but surely all that's hardly an excuse
for believing any old legend that comes along!  After all, man,
you're a critical sort of person--you'd hesitate to believe all you
were told even in an English monastery--I really can't see why you
should jump at everything just because you're in Tibet!"

Conway nodded.  Even in the midst of far keener perceptions he
could not restrain approval of a point well made.  "That's an acute
remark, Mallinson.  I suppose the truth is that when it comes to
believing things without actual evidence, we all incline to what we
find most attractive."

"Well, I'm dashed if I can see anything attractive about living
till you're half-dead.  Give me a short life and a gay one, for
choice.  And this stuff about a future war--it all sounds pretty
thin to me.  How does anyone know when the next war's going to be
or what it'll be like?  Weren't all the prophets wrong about the
last war?"  He added, when Conway did not reply:  "Anyhow, I don't
believe in saying things are inevitable.  And even if they were,
there's no need to get into a funk about them.  Heaven knows I'd
most likely be scared stiff if I had to fight in a war, but I'd
rather face up to it than bury myself here."

Conway smiled.  "Mallinson, you have a superb knack of
misunderstanding me.  When we were at Baskul you thought I was a
hero--now you take me for a coward.  In point of fact, I'm neither--
though of course it doesn't matter.  When you get back to India
you can tell people, if you like, that I decided to stay in a
Tibetan monastery because I was afraid there'd be another war.  It
isn't my reason at all, but I've no doubt it'll be believed by the
people who already think me mad."

Mallinson answered rather sadly:  "It's silly, you know, to talk
like that.  Whatever happens, I'd never say a word against you.
You can count on that.  I don't understand you--I admit that--but--
but--I wish I did.  Oh, I wish I did.  Conway, can't I possibly
help you?  Isn't there anything I can say or do?"

There was a long silence after that, which Conway broke at last by
saying:  "There's just a question I'd like to ask--if you'll
forgive me for being terribly personal."

"Yes?"

"Are you in love with Lo-Tsen?"

The youth's pallor changed quickly to a flush.  "I daresay I am.  I
know you'll say it's absurd and unthinkable, and probably it is,
but I can't help my feelings."

"I don't think it's absurd at all."

The argument seemed to have sailed into a harbor after many
buffetings, and Conway added:  "I can't help MY feelings either.
You and that girl happen to be the two people in the world I care
most about . . . though you may think it odd of me."  Abruptly he
got up and paced the room.  "We've said all we CAN say, haven't
we?"

"Yes, I suppose we have."  But Mallinson went on, in a sudden rush
of eagerness.  "Oh, what stupid nonsense it all is--about her not
being young!  And foul and horrible nonsense, too.  Conway, you
CAN'T believe it!  It's just too ridiculous.  How can it really
mean anything?"

"How can you really know that she's young?"

Mallinson half-turned away, his face lit with a grave shyness.
"Because I DO know. . . .  Perhaps you'll think less of me for
it . . . but I DO know.  I'm afraid you never properly understood
her, Conway.  She was cold on the surface, but that was the result
of living here--it had frozen all the warmth.  But the warmth was
there."

"To be unfrozen?"

"Yes . . . that would be one way of putting it."

"And she's YOUNG, Mallinson--you are so SURE of that?"

Mallinson answered softly:  "God, yes--she's just a girl.  I was
terribly sorry for her, and we were both attracted, I suppose.  I
don't see that it's anything to be ashamed of.  In fact in a place
like this I should think it's about the decentest thing that's ever
happened. . . ."

Conway went to the balcony and gazed at the dazzling plume of
Karakal; the moon was riding high in a waveless ocean.  It came to
him that a dream had dissolved, like all too lovely things, at the
first touch of reality; that the whole world's future, weighed in
the balance against youth and love, would be light as air.  And he
knew, too, that his mind dwelt in a world of its own, Shangri-La in
microcosm, and that this world also was in peril.  For even as he
nerved himself, he saw the corridors of his imagination twist and
strain under impact; the pavilions were toppling; all was about to
be in ruins.  He was only partly unhappy, but he was infinitely and
rather sadly perplexed.  He did not know whether he had been mad
and was now sane, or had been sane for a time and now mad again.

When he turned, there was a difference in him; his voice was
keener, almost brusque, and his face twitched a little; he looked
much more the Conway who had been a hero at Baskul.  Clenched for
action, he faced Mallinson with a sudden new alertness.  "Do you
think you could manage that tricky bit with a rope if I were with
you?" he asked.

Mallinson sprang forward.  "CONWAY!" he cried chokingly.  "You mean
you'll COME?  You've made up your mind at last?"



They left as soon as Conway had prepared himself for the journey.
It was surprisingly simple to leave--a departure rather than an
escape; there were no incidents as they crossed the bars of
moonlight and shadow in the courtyards.  One might have thought
there was no one there at all, Conway reflected; and immediately
the idea of such emptiness became an emptiness in himself; while
all the time, though he hardly heard him, Mallinson was chattering
about the journey.  How strange that their long argument should
have ended thus in action, that this secret sanctuary should be
forsaken by one who had found in it such happiness!  For indeed,
less than an hour later, they halted breathlessly at a curve of the
track and saw the last of Shangri-La.  Deep below them the valley
of Blue Moon was like a cloud, and to Conway the scattered roofs
had a look of floating after him through the haze.  Now, at that
moment, it was farewell.  Mallinson, whom the steep ascent had kept
silent for a time, gasped out:  "Good man, we're doing fine--carry
on!"

Conway smiled, but did not reply; he was already preparing the rope
for the knife-edge traverse.  It was true, as the youth had said,
that he had made up his mind; but it was only what was left of his
mind.  That small and active fragment now dominated; the rest
comprised an absence hardly to be endured.  He was a wanderer
between two worlds and must ever wander; but for the present, in a
deepening inward void, all he felt was that he liked Mallinson and
must help him; he was doomed, like millions, to flee from wisdom
and be a hero.

Mallinson was nervous at the precipice, but Conway got him over in
traditional mountaineering fashion, and when the trial was past,
they leaned together over Mallinson's cigarettes.  "Conway, I must
say it's damned good of you. . . .  Perhaps you guess how I
feel. . . .  I can't tell you how glad I am. . . ."

"I wouldn't try, then, if I were you."

After a long pause, and before they resumed the journey, Mallinson
added:  "But I AM glad--not only for my own sake, but for yours as
well. . . .  It's fine that you can realize now that all that stuff
was sheer nonsense . . . it's just wonderful to see you your real
self again. . . ."



"Not at all," responded Conway, with a wryness that was for his own
private comforting.

Towards dawn they crossed the divide, unchallenged by sentinels,
even if there were any; though it occurred to Conway that the
route, in the true spirit, might only be moderately well watched.
Presently they reached the plateau, picked clean as a bone by
roaring winds, and after a gradual descent the encampment of
porters came in sight.  Then all was as Mallinson had foretold;
they found the men ready for them, sturdy fellows in furs and
sheepskins, crouching under the gale and eager to begin the journey
to Tatsien-Fu--eleven hundred miles eastward on the China border.

"He's coming with us!" Mallinson cried excitedly when they met Lo-
Tsen.  He forgot that she knew no English; but Conway translated.

It seemed to him that the little Manchu had never looked so
radiant.  She gave him a most charming smile, but her eyes were all
for the boy.



EPILOGUE


It was in Delhi that I met Rutherford again.  We had been guests at
a Viceregal dinner party, but distance and ceremonial kept us apart
until the turbaned flunkeys handed us our hats afterwards.  "Come
back to my hotel and have a drink," he invited.

We shared a cab along the arid miles between the Lutyens still life
and the warm, palpitating motion picture of Old Delhi.  I knew from
the newspapers that he had just returned from Kashgar.  His was one
of those well-groomed reputations that get the most out of
everything; any unusual holiday acquires the character of an
exploration, and though the explorer takes care to do nothing
really original, the public does not know this, and he capitalizes
the full value of a hasty impression.  It had not seemed to me, for
instance, that Rutherford's journey, as reported in the press, had
been particularly epoch-making; the buried cities of Khotan were
old stuff, if anyone remembered Stein and Sven Hedin.  I knew
Rutherford well enough to chaff him about this, and he laughed.
"Yes, the truth would have made a better story," he admitted
cryptically.

We went to his hotel room and drank whisky.  "So you DID search for
Conway?" I suggested when the moment seemed propitious.

"Search is much too strong a word," he answered.  "You can't search
a country half as big as Europe for one man.  All I can say is that
I have visited places where I was prepared to come across him or to
get news of him.  His last message, you remember, was that he had
left Bangkok for the northwest.  There were traces of him up-
country for a little way, and my own opinion is that he probably
made for the tribal districts on the Chinese border.  I don't think
he'd have cared to enter Burma, where he might have run up against
British officials.  Anyhow, the definite trail, you may say, peters
out somewhere in Upper Siam, but of course I never expected to
follow it that far."

"You thought it might be easier to look for the valley of Blue
Moon?"

"Well, it did seem as if it might be a more fixed proposition.  I
suppose you glanced at that manuscript of mine?"

"Much more than glanced at it.  I should have returned it, by the
way, but you left no address."

Rutherford nodded.  "I wonder what you made of it?"

"I thought it very remarkable--assuming, of course, that it's all
quite genuinely based on what Conway told you."

"I give you my solemn word for that.  I invented nothing at all--
indeed, there's even less of my own language in it than you might
think.  I've got a good memory, and Conway always had a way of
describing things.  Don't forget that we had about twenty-four
hours of practically continuous talk."

"Well, as I said, it's all very remarkable."

He leaned back and smiled.  "If that's all you're going to say, I
can see I shall have to speak for myself.  I suppose you consider
me a rather credulous person.  I don't really think I am.  People
make mistakes in life through believing too much, but they have a
damned dull time if they believe too little.  I was certainly taken
with Conway's story--in more ways than one--and that was why I felt
interested enough to put as many tabs on it as I could--apart from
the chance of running up against the man himself."

He went on, after lighting a cigar.  "It meant a good deal of odd
journeying, but I like that sort of thing, and my publishers can't
object to a travel book once in a while.  Altogether I must have
done some thousands of miles--Baskul, Bangkok, Chung-Kiang, Kashgar--
I visited them all, and somewhere inside the area between them the
mystery lies.  But it's a pretty big area, you know, and all my
investigations didn't touch more than the fringe of it--or of the
mystery either, for that matter.  Indeed, if you want the actual
downright facts about Conway's adventures, so far as I've been able
to verify them, all I can tell you is that he left Baskul on the
twentieth of May and arrived in Chung-Kiang on the fifth of
October.  And the last we know of him is that he left Bangkok again
on the third of February.  All the rest is probability, possibility,
guesswork, myth, legend, whatever you like to call it."

"So you didn't find anything in Tibet?"

"My dear fellow, I never got into Tibet at all.  The people up at
Government House wouldn't hear of it; it's as much as they'll do to
sanction an Everest expedition, and when I said I thought of
wandering about the Kuen-Luns on my own, they looked at me rather
as if I'd suggested writing a life of Gandhi.  As a matter of fact,
they knew more than I did.  Strolling about Tibet isn't a one-man
job; it needs an expedition properly fitted out and run by someone
who knows at least a word or two of the language.  I remember when
Conway was telling me his story I kept wondering why there was all
that fuss about waiting for porters--why didn't they simply walk
off?  I wasn't very long in discovering.  The government people
were quite right--all the passports in the world couldn't have got
me over the Kuen-Luns.  I actually went as far as seeing them in
the distance, on a very clear day--perhaps fifty miles off.  Not
many Europeans can claim even that."

"Are they so very forbidding?"

"They looked just like a white frieze on the horizon, that was all.
At Yarkand and Kashgar I questioned everyone I met about them, but
it was extraordinary how little I could discover.  I should think
they must be the least-explored range in the world.  I had the luck
to meet an American traveler who had once tried to cross them, but
he'd been unable to find a pass.  There ARE passes, he said, but
they're terrifically high and unmapped.  I asked him if he thought
it possible for a valley to exist of the kind Conway described, and
he said he wouldn't call it impossible, but he thought it not very
likely--on geological grounds, at any rate.  Then I asked if he had
ever heard of a cone-shaped mountain almost as high as the highest
of the Himalayas, and his answer to that was rather intriguing.
There was a legend, he said, about such a mountain, but he thought
himself there could be no foundation for it.  There were even
rumors, he added, about mountains actually higher than Everest, but
he didn't himself give credit to them.  'I doubt if any peak in the
Kuen-Luns is more than twenty-five thousand feet, if that,' he
said.  But he admitted that they had never been properly surveyed.

"Then I asked him what he knew about Tibetan lamaseries--he'd been
in the country several times--and he gave me just the usual
accounts that one can read in all the books.  They weren't
beautiful places, he assured me, and the monks in them were
generally corrupt and dirty.  'Do they live long?' I asked, and he
said, yes, they often did, if they didn't die of some filthy
disease.  Then I went boldly to the point and asked if he'd ever
heard legends of extreme longevity among the lamas.  'Heaps of
them,' he answered: 'it's one of the stock yarns you hear
everywhere, but you can't verify them.  You're told that some foul-
looking creature has been walled up in a cell for a hundred years,
and he certainly looks as if he might have been, but of course you
can't demand his birth certificate.'  I asked him if he thought
they had any occult or medicinal way of prolonging life or
preserving youth, and he said they were supposed to have a great
deal of very curious knowledge about such things, but he suspected
that if you came to look into it, it was rather like the Indian
rope trick--always something that somebody else had seen.  He did
say, however, that the lamas appeared to have odd powers of bodily
control.  'I've watched them,' he said, 'sitting by the edge of a
frozen lake, stark naked, with a temperature below zero and in a
tearing wind, while their servants break the ice and wrap sheets
round them that have been dipped in the water.  They do this a
dozen times or more, and the lamas dry the sheets on their own
bodies.  Keeping warm by willpower, so one imagines, though that's
a poor sort of explanation.'"

Rutherford helped himself to more drink.  "But of course, as my
American friend admitted, all that had nothing much to do with
longevity.  It merely showed that the lamas had somber tastes in
self-discipline. . . .  So there we were, and probably you'll agree
with me that all the evidence, so far, was less than you'd hang a
dog on."

I said it was certainly inconclusive, and asked if the names
Karakal and Shangri-La had meant anything to the American.

"Not a thing--I tried him with them.  After I'd gone on questioning
him for a time, he said:  'Frankly, I'm not keen on monasteries--
indeed, I once told a fellow I met in Tibet that if I went out of
my way at all, it would be to avoid them, not pay them a visit.'
That chance remark of his gave me a curious idea, and I asked him
when this meeting in Tibet had taken place.  'Oh, a long time ago,'
he answered, 'before the war--in nineteen-eleven, I think it was.'
I badgered him for further details, and he gave them, as well as he
could remember.  It seemed that he'd been traveling then for some
American geographical society, with several colleagues, porters,
and so on--in fact, a pukka expedition.  Somewhere near the Kuen-
Luns he met this other man, a Chinese who was being carried in a
chair by native bearers.  The fellow turned out to speak English
quite well, and strongly recommended them to visit a certain
lamasery in the neighborhood--he even offered to be the guide
there.  The American said they hadn't time and weren't interested,
and that was that."  Rutherford went on, after an interval:  "I
don't suggest that it means a great deal.  When a man tries to
remember a casual incident that happened twenty years ago, you
can't build too much on it.  But it offers an attractive
speculation."

"Yes, though if a well-equipped expedition had accepted the
invitation, I don't see how they could have been detained at the
lamasery against their will."

"Oh, quite.  And perhaps it wasn't Shangri-La at all."

We thought it over, but it seemed too hazy for argument, and I went
on to ask if there had been any discoveries at Baskul.

"Baskul was hopeless, and Peshawar was worse.  Nobody could tell me
anything, except that the kidnaping of the aeroplane did undoubtedly
take place.  They weren't keen even to admit that--it's an episode
they're not proud of."

"And nothing was heard of the plane afterwards?"

"Not a word or a rumor, or of its four passengers either.  I
verified, however, that it was capable of climbing high enough to
cross the ranges.  I also tried to trace that fellow Barnard, but I
found his past history so mysterious that I wouldn't be at all
surprised if he really were Chalmers Bryant, as Conway said.  After
all, Bryant's complete disappearance in the midst of the big hue
and cry was rather amazing."

"Did you try to find anything about the actual kidnaper?"

"I did.  But again it was hopeless.  The air force man whom the
fellow had knocked out and impersonated had since been killed, so
one promising line of enquiry was closed.  I even wrote to a friend
of mine in America who runs an aviation school, asking if he had
had any Tibetan pupils lately, but his reply was prompt and
disappointing.  He said he couldn't differentiate Tibetans from
Chinese, and he had had about fifty of the latter--all training to
fight the Japs.  Not much chance there, you see.  But I did make
one rather quaint discovery--and which I could have made just as
easily without leaving London.  There was a German professor at
Jena about the middle of the last century who took to globe-
trotting and visited Tibet in 1887.  He never came back, and there
was some story about him having been drowned in fording a river.
His name was Friedrich Meister."

"Good heavens--one of the names Conway mentioned!"

"Yes--though it may only have been coincidence.  It doesn't prove
the whole story, by any means, because the Jena fellow was born in
1845.  Nothing very exciting about that."

"But it's odd," I said.

"Oh, yes, it's odd enough."

"Did you succeed in tracing any of the others?"

"No.  It's a pity I hadn't a longer list to work on.  I couldn't
find any record of a pupil of Chopin's called Briac, though of
course that doesn't prove that there wasn't one.  Conway was pretty
sparing with his names, when you come to think about it--out of
fifty-odd lamas supposed to be on the premises he only gave us one
or two.  Perrault and Henschell, by the way, proved equally
impossible to trace."

"How about Mallinson?" I asked.  "Did you try to find out what
happened to him?  And that girl--the Chinese girl?"

"My dear fellow, of course I did.  The awkward part was, as you
perhaps gathered from the manuscript, that Conway's story ended at
the moment of leaving the valley with the porters.  After that he
either couldn't or wouldn't tell what happened--perhaps he might
have done, mind you, if there'd been more time.  I feel that we can
guess at some sort of tragedy.  The hardships of the journey would
be perfectly appalling, apart from the risk of brigandage or even
treachery among their own escorting party.  Probably we shall never
know exactly what did occur, but it seems tolerably certain that
Mallinson never reached China.  I made all sorts of enquiries, you
know.  First of all I tried to trace details of books, et cetera,
sent in large consignments across the Tibetan frontier, but at all
the likely places, such as Shanghai and Pekin, I drew complete
blanks.  That, of course, doesn't count for much, since the lamas
would doubtless see that their methods of importation were kept
secret.  Then I tried at Tatsien-Fu.  It's a weird place, a sort of
world's-end market town, deuced difficult to get at, where the
Chinese coolies from Yunnan transfer their loads of tea to the
Tibetans.  You can read about it in my new book when it comes out.
Europeans don't often get as far.  I found the people quite civil
and courteous, but there was absolutely no record of Conway's party
arriving at all."

"So how Conway himself reached Chung-Kiang is still unexplained?"

"The only conclusion is that he wandered there, just as he might
have wandered anywhere else.  Anyhow, we're back in the realm of
hard facts when we get to Chung-Kiang, that's something.  The nuns
at the mission hospital were genuine enough, and so, for that
matter, was Sieveking's excitement on the ship when Conway played
that pseudo-Chopin."  Rutherford paused and then added reflectively:
"It's really an exercise in the balancing of probabilities, and I
must say the scales don't bump very emphatically either way.  Of
course if you don't accept Conway's story, it means that you doubt
either his veracity or his sanity--one may as well be frank."

He paused again, as if inviting a comment, and I said:  "As you
know, I never saw him after the war, but people said he was a good
deal changed by it."

Rutherford answered:  "Yes, and he was, there's no denying the
fact.  You can't subject a mere boy to three years of intense
physical and emotional stress without tearing something to tatters.
People would say, I suppose, that he came through without a
scratch.  But the scratches were there--on the inside."

We talked for a little time about the war and its effects on
various people, and at length he went on:  "But there's just one
more point that I must mention--and perhaps in some ways the oddest
of all.  It came out during my enquiries at the mission.  They all
did their best for me there, as you can guess, but they couldn't
recollect much, especially as they'd been so busy with a fever
epidemic at the time.  One of the questions I put was about the
manner Conway had reached the hospital first of all--whether he had
presented himself alone, or had been found ill and been taken there
by someone else.  They couldn't exactly remember--after all, it was
a long while back--but suddenly, when I was on the point of giving
up the cross-examination, one of the nuns remarked quite casually,
'I think the doctor said he was brought here by a woman.'  That was
all she could tell me, and as the doctor himself had left the
mission, there was no confirmation to be had on the spot.

"But having got so far, I wasn't in any mood to give up.  It
appeared that the doctor had gone to a bigger hospital in Shanghai,
so I took the trouble to get his address and call on him there.  It
was just after the Jap air raiding, and things were pretty grim.
I'd met the man before during my first visit to Chung-Kiang, and he
was very polite, though terribly overworked--yes, terribly's the
word, for, believe me, the air raids on London by the Germans were
just nothing to what the Japs did to the native parts of Shanghai.
Oh, yes, he said instantly, he remembered the case of the
Englishman who had lost his memory.  Was it true he had been
brought to the mission hospital by a woman? I asked.  Oh, yes,
certainly, by a woman, a Chinese woman.  Did he remember anything
about her?  Nothing, he answered, except that she had been ill of
the fever herself, and had died almost immediately. . . .  Just
then there was an interruption--a batch of wounded were carried in
and packed on stretchers in the corridors--the wards were all full--
and I didn't care to go on taking up the man's time, especially as
the thudding of the guns at Woosung was a reminder that he would
still have plenty to do.  When he came back to me, looking quite
cheerful even amidst such ghastliness, I just asked him one final
question, and I daresay you can guess what it was.  'About that
Chinese woman,' I said.  'Was she young?'"

Rutherford flicked his cigar as if the narration had excited him
quite as much as he hoped it had me.  Continuing, he said:  "The
little fellow looked at me solemnly for a moment, and then answered
in that funny clipped English that the educated Chinese have--'Oh,
no, she was most old--most old of anyone I have ever seen.'"

We sat for a long time in silence, and then talked again of Conway
as I remembered him, boyish and gifted and full of charm, and of
the war that had altered him, and of so many mysteries of time and
age and of the mind, and of the little Manchu who had been "most
old," and of the strange ultimate dream of Blue Moon.  "Do you
think he will ever find it?" I asked.


WOODFORD GREEN
April, 1933



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Lost Horizon by James Hilton





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