4. The Saddle
I cooeyed to him, but he would not hear. I ran after him, but he had got too good a start.
Then I sat down on a stone and thought the matter carefully over. It was plain that
Chowbok had designedly attempted to keep me from going up this valley, yet he had
shown no unwillingness to follow me anywhere else. What could this mean, unless that I
was now upon the route by which alone the mysteries of the great ranges could be
revealed? What then should I do? Go back at the very moment when it had become plain
that I was on the right scent? Hardly; yet to proceed alone would be both difficult and
dangerous. It would be bad enough to return to my master's run, and pass through the
rocky gorges, with no chance of help from another should I get into a difficulty; but to
advance for any considerable distance without a companion would be next door to
madness. Accidents which are slight when there is another at hand (as the spraining of an
ankle, or the falling into some place whence escape would be easy by means of an
outstretched hand and a bit of rope) may be fatal to one who is alone. The more I
pondered the less I liked it; and yet, the less could I make up my mind to return when I
looked at the saddle at the head of the valley, and noted the comparative ease with which
its smooth sweep of snow might be surmounted: I seemed to see my way almost from my
present position to the very top. After much thought, I resolved to go forward until I
should come to some place which was really dangerous, but then to return. I should thus,
I hoped, at any rate reach the top of the saddle, and satisfy myself as to what might be on
the other side.
I had no time to lose, for it was now between ten and eleven in the morning. Fortunately I
was well equipped, for on leaving the camp and the horses at the lower end of the valley I
had provided myself (according to my custom) with everything that I was likely to want
for four or five days. Chowbok had carried half, but had dropped his whole swag--I
suppose, at the moment of his taking flight--for I came upon it when I ran after him. I
had, therefore, his provisions as well as my own. Accordingly, I took as many biscuits as
I thought I could carry, and also some tobacco, tea, and a few matches. I rolled all these
things (together with a flask nearly full of brandy, which I had kept in my pocket for fear
lest Chowbok should get hold of it) inside my blankets, and strapped them very tightly,
making the whole into a long roll of some seven feet in length and six inches in diameter.
Then I tied the two ends together, and put the whole round my neck and over one
shoulder. This is the easiest way of carrying a heavy swag, for one can rest one's self by
shifting the burden from one shoulder to the other. I strapped my pannikin and a small
axe about my waist, and thus equipped began to ascend the valley, angry at having been
misled by Chowbok, but determined not to return till I was compelled to do so.
I crossed and recrossed the stream several times without difficulty, for there were many
good fords. At one o'clock I was at the foot of the saddle; for four hours I mounted, the
last two on the snow, where the going was easier; by five, I was within ten minutes of the
top, in a state of excitement greater, I think, than I had ever known before. Ten minutes
more, and the cold air from the other side came rushing upon me.