Epilogue 13

While I was washing up the tea things I started to wander
again, and there was Nick, but this time he was walking and
carrying what looked like a very heavy backpack. He was clad in
furs and as I looked around I saw they were up in the high
mountains with the snow glistening in the sun, but it would still be
bitterly cold, I knew this from experience. It may look like a
beautiful summer’s day but at those altitudes the air was thin and
very very cold.
With Nick were several other travellers as well as several asses
and a couple of Yaks. The other men, like Nick, were dressed as
Lamas and had heavy backpacks, all but the man in the centre of
the group who I took to be the head Rampocke, the others
would be travelling with him to protect and serve him on his
journey. Nick looked so tired and drawn and was obviously totally
unaware of my presence, which was just as well I thought, he
might be tempted to talk to me and speaking in English would
never do. Since the Chinese had taken over Tibet, they ruled it with
a hand of iron and anyone they even considered subversive,
innocent or not, would be shown no mercy. This was why it had
been imperative that I persuade |Nick to move out of Tibet and
the mountains and down to the lowlands of India, even in the
mountains of India he would not be safe, there were bands of marauders who kidnapped foreigners for ransom. As long as he
was with Lamas he would be safe. No one would interfere with
Holy men, especially as now all he spoke was the language of
Tibet he would not be questioned, and anyway, I thought, with
all that chanting there was not a lot of time for conversation where
he could possible give himself away if he did indeed remember any
of his former language.
The little band trundled on down the mountains the men as
surefooted as the asses and the Yaks. In places the ice glistened
and I knew that these glaciers were treacherous to man and
beast, fortunately they seemed to know where they were going and
traversed around each one successfully.

I was back in the sink with my washing up, I wished there
was more I could do, but there was not. Later I would
telephone Carole and tell her that Nick was on his way down from
the mountains, and she in turn could notify her friend at the
Embassy. That thought cheered me up greatly, that way I felt
I was doing something constructive, and not just daydreaming,
I knew her daydreams were a very useful tool but I was a
creature of action, real action, hands on stuff, not thought stuff.
I was doing something constructive, and not just daydreaming,
I knew my daydreams were a very useful tool but I was a
creature of action, real action, hands on stuff, not thought stuff.
As I thought these thoughts I suddenly started to chuckle to
myself. ‘Yes, I would be much happier being airdropped into a
zone where he is and lifting him out bodily’ I thought, if only.
That morning I had received an Invitation to take Christmas
Dinner with Colonel Fredrickson. Bates had brought the invitation
and explained that there would only be the Colonel, me and
himself for lunch, and there would be Turkey and all the
trimmings.. I told him I would be delighted to accept the
Colonel’s invitation and asked Bates to thank him very much.
Times were arranged and Bates left waving until he was out of
sight.
I felt really excited about spending Christmas day with the
Colonel and Bates, they were both wonderful old men and
somehow felt like family to me, possibly the father and then the
guardian I no longer had.
‘I must find something to take and presents’. I thought
frantically.
Thank heavens I had bought all those bits and pieces when I
was in London, I had wondered at the time who on earth I was
going to give them all to, well, now I knew. I also had a bottle
of vintage whiskey and another of brandy upstairs in the cupboard
which had come from my guardian’s house,I was sure the
Colonel could put those to good use.
There had always been alcohol at my guardian’s home for the use
of anyone who had the urge, and I hadn’t really thought about it,
until after my guardian’s death and had had to clear out his home
and found a cellar full of wine and spirit. Most of it had been sold
at auction and to my great surprise, for a tremendous amount of
money, he apparently had been quite a collector of rare wines, and
liquors, and many had been sold to oversees buyers and collectors.
Odds and ends I had salvaged and brought with me to my new
home, not particularly wanting to partake myself but more by way
of hospitality to guests. Yet, when anyone visited I always
offered them either tea or coffee, silly really I supposed, but
when one didn’t drink alcohol oneself other people’s preference for
it was rather overlooked, not deliberately but by omission from
lack of use.
Going through Uncle Max’s things I found an old leather
bound book, rather dusty, I opened it and saw with delight it was
a very old copy of a history of India with beautifully illustrated
colour plates. I knew immediately where that was going, I felt
certain that Colonel Fredrickson would love it. All the places he
had talked about were in there and probably a lot more he hadn’t
talked about but would know, there was also a silver handled
riding crop which I felt sure he would like too.
At the very bottom of the enormous cupboard there was a trunk
and opening it I found some tissue paper wrapped around a
small but bulky object. I couldn’t for the life of me remember
having seen it before and I pulled away the tissue to see what it
was. It was obviously new, a small case of shiny brown leather
with leather fasteners, I opened it and it was a man’s vanity set -
well, I supposed that was what it would be called – a silver
backed hairbrush and comb, the comb made of tortoiseshell, a
mirror with a tortoiseshell back and all the requirements for
shaving. It really was a lovely thing, and I designated that in her
mind for Bates. Then I had a thought, these were not new
things, even though the vanity case was unused it was not
technically new, would they mind? but as quickly as I thought it she remembered all the antiques Ihad picked up in London, and
these were no different, besides, I told herself, it is the thought
that counts. I couldn’t have thought or planned better presents
for the Colonel and Bates no matter how I had tried.
I found a bottle of Brandy and a bottle of whisky and put them
on the pile to go to the Colonels on Christmas morning. I found
another bottle of Brandy which I thought could go to the
Inspector, if he didn’t like it he could always give it to his friends
to drink.
Also in the trunk I found a beautiful feather Boa, and laughingly
put that aside for Carole, it was just her style, even though it was
probably from the golden age of the twenties.
I really got into the swing of the thing, and even though I had
presents for my friends I added to them from the cupboard,
which seemed to have an endless store and supply of goodies.
While I was engrossed in my task, often chuckling to myself,
out of my peripheral view I caught a fleeting glimpse of
movement, hairy movement, black and white hairy movement, and
it was in the cupboard. I froze and looked closer, praying it was
not some creature like a rat that had managed to secrete itself in
there. It appeared again, but this time I was looking head on at it.

Epilogue 13

hilarydougill

Co Durham, United Kingdom

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