On October 27th 1947, the Catholic convent and mission hospital at Baramulla in Kashmir was ransacked by an invading Pathan army. Six people were killed, several others injured, and more than seventy people - priests, nuns, patients, townspeople and indeed a 'Daily Express' war correspondent - were held captive by the invaders in the Baby Ward of the small hospital.
The story of the attack on the mission hospital, and of the invasion which sparked the Kashmir conflict, is told in my book A Mission in Kashmir. When I was working on the book, I came across a remarkable document in the archives of the Mill Hill Missionaries, then at their North London headquarters. In a desk diary, one of the missionary priests at Baramulla, Father George Shanks, recorded his own detailed account of the attack. It was written in longhand five or six years after the events it retold, apparently when Father Shanks (there's a photo of him elsewhere on this site) was convalescing from illness. I suspect that in some ways this work was the priest's response to H.E. Bates's novel The Scarlet Sword, based very loosely on the events at Baramulla.
Father Shanks's account was evidently written for publication. But it was never finished. Indeed, it wasn't revised - and many inconsistencies remain uncorrected. For instance, at some places in his writing people are given their real names while at others they are given a fictional name. Yet this is by far the most detailed account of the attack on the Baramulla mission by anyone who lived through it. Sydney Smith published his account in the 'Daily Express', and it seems to be these cuttings which Bates used as the basis for his novel, but this was a brief and somewhat sensational narrative. What's more, Smith had not been present when the mission was overrun. He was trying to get to the frontline of the fighting, was caught and roughed up by the Pathan fighters, and then put in the mission hospital with their other captives.
I suspect no one apart from Father Shanks had read his account before I chanced on it in the Mill Hill archive. Certainly it has not been cited in any published account I have come across. So I am providing below a transcript, as best I have managed, of Father Shanks's story set down in a spare 1952 desk diary printed in Lahore. I am doing so with the permission of Father Tom O'Brien, the archivist of the Mill Hill Missionaries. He is based at the order's Heritage Centre and can be contacted on email@example.com
The diary was simply used as a convenient place to write. There is no correspondence between the dates on the diary pages and the account written there. So this is only a diary in the sense that it was written in a diary. And while Father Shanks wrote his narrative from the front of the diary, he also at some stage started working on a prologue from the back of the diary, and that is also given below. I have copied some of the manuscript pages so you can get a sense of what the diary entries look like - and the difficulties of deciphering them.
I hope you find it useful and of interest.
Transcript of a manuscript by Father George Shanks in the Central Archive of the Mill Hill Missionaries
paginated per double facing page - originally written in long hand in a desk diary
italics underlined used where items have been deleted as in a list crossed out when items have been incorporated italics used when words appear to be a later interpolation by the author ? queries the word or spelling- ( ? ) means word indecipherable
34. The Sikh ( ? ) ( ? ) her jewellery - 2nd day - Sister Alonzo + the money.
35. Sister Vito + the rabbits.
36. The prostitute - hopeless abandon.
37. The walk to the "condemned cell" - Sister Priscilla. (1)
38. The vestments - first mass and Communion - night prayers
39. The Red X - brainwave of Smith. 8th day
40. The evacuation. 10th night
41. Any examples of humanity among the Pathans - their attitude to the children - help with food, cigarettes -
42. The first rescue party; brave girls but misguidedly enthusiastic - caught in air attack.
43. "Oh for a camera"!
Scenes in Baramulla before:- The Sikh evacuation; the police + special police; the bara khana; the Headmaster; wounded soldiers coming up; the electricity fails; the Hospital is evacuated; refugees come in; consuming the species; packing a suitcase; the best shoes;
44. The special constabulary - more of a hindrance than a help - firing at the aeroplanes under the Red X.
45. A visit to the College.
46. The Tyrolean hat. - First Day
47. Bearded + unashamed!
48. The little Sikh girl with the tragic eyes - a local good Samaritan - the little boy shot in the arm.
49. Wanton destruction -
50. Hungry Mohmands -
51. The Maharaja's aeroplanes.
52. The Hindu woman + the napkins
"Oh for a camera!"
"No idea of etiquette"
"the Pope of the Masuds"
"I was a convent boy myself"
"A little interrogation"
"Where are the keys?"
"Greater love hath no man -"
""... for all the benefits received during the day".
"Daily circulation over 2,000,000"
[January 8/9 - not included among photostats]
Possible Scheme: (1) Day by Day - work up to dramatic climax in the incident of Dholina + the guards, coupled with the burning of Baramula; followed by a lull of a day; build up again to second climax in the night raid - follow by the rumour of departure; another lull and then a final build-up with bombers etc to the last morning.
Prologue: Saturday Oct 25th:-
Begin with packing of suitcase for ( ? ) - Hushed suspense in the town - no more traffic - describe scenes of evening before - the lorries, bullock carts, tongas etc - the refugees coming ( ? ) - the police - precautions as the lights went out - Boots, boots, trousers - Describe walk down road - military trucks with wounded - officers "returning to prepared positions" - vanguard left behind - stuck ?.
Round by church( ? ) on the gate + dispensary -sacred ( ? ) = vessels - arrange for early mass - ( ? ) ( ? ) Hospital - patients evacuated -
Back home via Khaus ? - ( ? ) there - nervousness - The money in the teapots -.
Chapt 1. "I was a Convent pupil myself"
Points essential:-( ? ) Singh and his family - early Mass - mney in the teapots - the special police - night's "rest" - the battle - tea on the floor - finish with approach of Pathans.
Short chapter with ( ? ) conversation with his father.
Change the scene to Hospital - Sister Vito and her rabbits - Dr B+ the sick nuns, their removal to Hospital - Sister Prisc. shuts the dispensary - the battle -
Sister V + Mr Barretto
Sister Pr. photograph
Change the scene to "Major" Sohrab ? ? Soliloquoy - delayed for some reason (- ( ? ) his move in the attack on the road vanguard) - Pathans enter the town - he follows on his motor bike - greeted by M. Shaban in ( ? ) - discuss about the Convent - leaves tea -
The looting of the priests -
The murders in the Convent -
Dr Barretto's husband, 2 sisters, Col + Mrs Dykes, Mrs Pasricha, Nurse + patient
The arrival of ( ? ) - gathering into Hospital -
Rescue in the College - march to the Hospital -
Chap 2: The progress of the battle from pt. of view of college - gathering of personnel - tea - invasion - looting of the houses - departure of Pathans
"AMAH! Amah Lone! Where are you, you lazy devil? Ama-a-a-a-a!"
The voice of Fr. X, priest-in-charge of the mission of St Joseph at Baramulla, rose to an impatient crescendo. Standing on the front steps of the two roomed cottage which served him as study + sleeping quarters, his eyes scanned the limited horizon visible beyond the minute trellis-bounded lawn in front of him. To the right, the unpromising back verandah of the "presbytery" where his assistant, Fr. Y., was probably poring dimly over his correspondence course lessons for the B.I.E.Y. - a mysterious body which, for the ridiculous sum of Rs 270, guaranteed to see that Fr. Y, if he worked for 18 hours a day or thereabouts, would at some indefinite future convocation be admitted to the degree of B.( ? ) of London University. From the superior ( ? ) of Master of Arts of Durham, Fr. X. smiled his indulgence on the efforts of his assistant. Poor lad, it would break his heart if anything happened to his precious notes. He must remind him to put them in a place of safety before the Pathans came ............
!Amah! Hurry up, will you!" The Northumbrian intonation became more marked as Fr. X. grew more impatient. Tyneside and, normally, proud of it, it was a source of lasting regret to him that in moments of excitement he could not stifle the broad accents of his
[on opposite page - and apparently alternative version]
Amah! You lazy lout, where are you? - Amah!"
It was an oft-repeated performance from the steps of my two-roomed cottage, as I tried with all my ling-power to attract the attention of the College factotum. I firmly believed that Amah Lone always heard me much more than he professed to, but deliberately waited, judging with ( ? ) precision the exact moment at which impatience was on the point of giving way to something stronger, and then appeared with his disarming smile and watertight excuse. Amah, I always felt, had been sent by providence to try us: and he dd his best to make the trial as intensive as possible. The trouble was, one could never actually catch him in the act of wasting his master's time - he always gave the impression of being busy, of shouldering half the burden of the Mission. Exasperation got me nowhere with him: he knew my bark was aorse than my bite, and that the crestfallen expression he would assume at will rendered me as wax in his hands. Experienced missionaries whose servants appeared like genii at the merest hint of a half-expressed wish had so often told me: "You have to be strich with these fellows - etc"
I scoured the limited horizon visible beyond the minute trellis-bounded lawn which was called our [next page] 'purdah' garden
boyhood; let him once loosen his grip, and the painfully acquired veneer of B.B.C. was stripped to reveal the permanent "Geordie" it concealed. Even his Urdu accent was not immune from the influence of his native fishing village of ( ? ) at such times. He wondered if he should not start in earnest to learn Kashmiri. After all, Urdu was as much a foreign language to these K. servants of his as it was to him, and it would give him so much more prestige if he were able to swear at them in their own language. Or would it? They would realize soon enough that in any language his bark was worse than his bite. That was his trouble - he had an ominous enough bark, but had never learnt to bite. Experience missionaries, whose servants appeared like genii at the merest hint of a half expressed wish, had told him so often: "You have to be strict with these fellows - give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile; show them right away who's boss". The strange thing was that the paragons who appeared at the snap of a finger were usually dismissed for stealing after a couple of months; while Amah, who maintained a sturdy independence of such rubbing of lamps, had been in Fr. X's service since - when was it? - well, at least since the building of the enw College 10 years ago; and nothing noticeable had been stolen during that time. Perhaps, after all, this ( ? ) business required some thought. Time enough to think about it after
the Pathans had passed through. Now, there were some boys who had been doing a lot of barking lately about the liberation of Kashmir from the unmentionable Hindus + Sikhs, - what would their bite be like? That shiver of apprehension which had become increasingly noticeable as the Frontier hordes stormed their way from the borderduring this last week, chilled his ( ? ) again momentarily.
Through the trellis straight ahead of him, the kitchen buildings 20 yards away appeared unusually deserted. As far as the Hostel kitchen was concerned, that was only to be expected, for the boarding students in the college hostel ("hostellers" they still persisted in calling themselves, to Fr. X's permanent annoyance), Sikhs + Hindus mostly, had decamped to a man the day before, to seek the comparative safety of Srinagar. But the Father's kitchen should be showing some signs of activity, and by now Lal ( ? ) shd be pottering round in his aimless way preparing the evening meal. Unless he thought the Fathers had joined the exodus from Baramulla together with the other local officials? He had been hovering round that morning when Mohammed Yusuf, one of the B.A. students, had come to warn the Fathers.
"You have heard, Father, that the Pathans may enter Baramulla this evening?" he said gravely.
"I do seem to have heard such rumour, Yusuf. What about it? I hope you are not losing your nerve. Aren't you are glad they are coming to liberate you from the Hindus? And haven't you got a big feast ready for them in the Wazir's compound? I believe you yourself are a member of the Students section of the Committee of Welcome".
"That is true, Father, but all the same these are wild people ? . It may be that some of them might get out of hand + do some mischief".
Mischief! With every public building in Muzaffarabad, just inside the border, burnt to the ground; with Uri, a prosperous market centre 27 miles away, completely destroyed, they call is mischief! Smiling grimly to himself, Fr. X wondered what kind of liberation was this, that started by burning the villages of the liberated + rendering them homeless.
"We have heard" continued Yusuf, "that there has been some trouble in Uri -"
"Oh, that! For the Pathans that was just a bit of good, clean fun. Sheer exuberance, you might say. A bit overdone, perhaps, but - "
"Suppose it happens the same way here?"
"I don't see why it should. Your Pathan friends are coming to liberate Kashmir, aren't they? Which is just what the Mission has been trying to do for the last 40 years - to liberate you from ignorance by our school + hospital work. There is no earthly reason why they should molest us. A bit of looting, perhaps, if they have time before they push on to Srinagar, but you don't imagine they are going to stick knives in us or burn the Mission down, do you?"
"All the same, Father, I think you + Fr. Y should go up into the hills for a couple of days, just until the main body of tribesmen has passed through".
"Take to the jungle! Not on your life. I am too much of a coward, Yusuf. I'd never dare to face Baramulla again if I ran away like that!"
"As you wish, Father: I hope you won't regret it". And Yusuf had marched off importantly to help with the preparation of the triumphal arch through which the conquering tribesmen would enter the town.
Watching him go, Fr. X wondered what had prompted this sudden solicitude for the safety of the Fathers. Ten years among the Kashmiris had taught him not to expect much in the way of gratitude from them, to look uncharitably for a double motive. Born twisters, these Kashmiris. Ah well, they had the saving graces of infinite long-suffering, good humour, and, when caught out, a cheerful acceptance of fate. No doubt Yusuf was animated only by the best motives. All the same ..........
To the left, through the orchard, a glimpse of a white habit through the fence separating the College from the Conventshowed one of the sisters busy with her evening rounds. Well, she'd have an easy time today, for once, for the Hospital had practically emptied en masse that morning. He had watched some of them go: girls within a few days of their confinement, women half-dead with T.B. or cancer, young mothers with their few days' old babies, children with stomachs burnt by their "kangris", the little wicker-covered fire pots which they held under their shirt + invariably spilt on themselves in bed: hurried off their sick-beds by fearful husbands + taken away by tonga, on beds, in litters, or painfully dragging themselves of on foot: Hindu, Sikh, Mussulman women fleeing from the
advancing shadow of the bogey-man from Waziristan, the menacing spectre of rape at their heels. A bare handful of patients remained now - a Hindu girl whose people had abandoned her; the Sikh wife of one of Fr. X's College staff, Punam Singh, far advanced in T.B., and in the ninth month of her pregnancy, whose husband, warned of the practical certainty of a miscarriage if she were subjected to the discomforts of a packed lorry into Srinagar, had reluctantly agreed to leave her to the protection of the Mission. Then there was Mrs Dykes with her new baby, her two little boys + her husband: Their sea-passages booked for England, they were only waiting for their plane booking out of Srinagar. Colonel Dykes had been very plainly pleased at the exodus [on facing page: give Colonel's convesation here] of Sikhs + Hindus; and now, safe in the thought of the prestige of the British Army ("saw a couple of British Tommies empty a street of these beggars in Bannu, Padre") awaited events with bored equanimity. The remaining "patient" in the hospital, Mrs Lal, was in a state of nervousness bordering on tears. Poor soul, thought Fr X. she at least had some reason for apprehension. The English wife of a Hindu ex-employee of the Kashmir Govt, it was quite possible that her husband was a marked man. At the best of times she was a bag of nerves. which the burden of an epileptic daughter did little to soothe. The sisters had offered them both refuge in the Hospital, while Mohan Lal
was temporarily installed in the presbytery, with as much of his personal belongings as he could pack into half a dozen large trunks. Well, by this time tomorrow there wouldn't be much left of those six trunks, if the Pathans were in a lotting mood. As for poor old Mohan Lal himself, Fr. X hoped fervently that none of the local Muslims had seen him sneaking into the Mission compound. Suppose they had, and reported the fact to the invaders? He wondered vaguely whether being shot for harbouring Hindus would be considered as martydom by the Church ..........
A stocky figure ambled round the corner of the house.
"Did you call me, Father-jee?"
"Call you! I should have thought ever Amah between here + Sopore could have been on the spot by now!"
The cheerful grin of the college factotum widened at this piece of overstatement. "Sopore, Father-jee? That's a long way off. Dilna, now, that's only 5 miles ........." It was always Amah's most enviable quality, that you just couldn't knock him down.
"Quiet, you lout! Where have you been, anyway?"
"I was in the dispensary, Father; we met a wounded soldier coming up the road, and we took him into the hospital, and Sister gave him tea, and then we took the bullet out of his shoulder and Sister
stitched him up. I helped her".
"I bet you did - not much chance of his recovery if your paws have been mauling him about".
"Well, at least I held the cup of tea for him. Poor man, he was bleding very hard".
"Where did it happen, did he say?"
"A little the other side of Sheri, only about 7 miles from here. There has been a big battle there today - our Kashmiri troops fought like lions, he says, but there are too many Pathans. They are coming in Thousands, along the road, through the forests, over the hills .... He was watching for them coming along the road, when suddenly some of them opened fire from the hill-top ... got him in the shoulder, and he was sent back along the road ....."
"Why wasn't he sent in an ambulance?" Amah spread his hands. "All the ambulances had been sent to Srinagar, full of wounded. He said he tried to get a lift in a truck or a jeep, but those which passed were all full of officers, + there was no room ........... He was lucky to get away: those Pathan devils are taking no prisoners ......" For once the honest face of Amah looked gloomy.
"Cheer up, Amah, they won't touch the ordinary Kashmiris. And think what a fine place Kahsmir will bewhen they have turned out the Pundits for good. You've been waiting for this, you know - "
"True, Father, but I wish the British had come back instead of the Pathans. But you sent for me?"
"Oh yes, I was forgetting. I want you to do something for me, Amah"
"Anything you say, Father".
"I have been thinking that when the Pathans come, perhaps they will pay the school a litle visit too ........"
"No! They wouldn't dare to do that! When they know there are English Fathers living here, and working for the Kashmiris, they will respect you and keep away".
"Well, let's hope so. Still, it is possible, you know. So Father Y and I have been thinking of asking you to take out a suitcase for each of us - just a few clothes and things which you culd take to your village + keep in your house till the Pathans have passed on, just in case ....... They are not likely to bother you in the villages, there will be plenty of loot in the town. Then after it is over, you can bring them back. What do you think?"
"With pleasure, Father-jee. I'll take all your boxes with me ......."
"No need, I'm sure: the one suitcase will do. Now go and tell Fr. Y you'll take his also".
Amah salaamed - he somehow managed to convey a hint of independence to the action - and ambled off.
Fr. X. hastily packed a few spare shirts, socks and other clothes into his suitcase. Under the bed,
his big steel trunk was ready packed for his home leave in December - Kashmiri table-cloths, bed-covers, scarves, a few bits of carving, several pairs of fur gloves + other presents for relatives + friends. He would have liked to send the whole lot off with Amah, but it was too much to ask. Mentally he checked the contents + wondered what he would least like to have stolen: finally he made up his mind, and into the last space in the suitcase went five pairs of fur gloves.
"Got the piano packed yet?" The face of Fr Y his assistant appeared at the window: lean, with high forehead, thinning hair, high cheekbones + long line of jaw, it was the face of an ascetic. "A resemblance" he used to say, "which has no foundation in fact. I have the greatest admiration for the Carthusians, but no wish to look like one".
"I'm leaving that here for you to play the Moonlight Sonata to the Pathans on, in case they get fractious. That'll learn 'em". A couple of years ago, Fr. Y. with his usual energy for new ventures, had set himself to learn the piano. Having arrived at the stage where, with much hard breathing and corpse-like rigidity, he could play the 1st Movt. of the Sonata mechanically perfectly, he had just as suddenly dropped it as an ambition realised + of no further value ...
"Well, here's Amah + his old father to take the
boxes" An old man with the face of a Nativity shepherd hoisted Fr. X's suitcase on to his head, + stood grinning like his son, as the latter struggled with Fr Y's tin box.
"Seems a bit heavy. What have you got in it?" "Oh, just the odd pair of socks, + a few books. I decided that, if we are really robbed here, people afterwards are more likely to present one with shirts than with new Science books. I had a moment of indecision in choosing between the Moral Theology, + the ( ? ): but I decided that few Pathans would be interested in Theology, while many are no doubt yearning to improve their calculus. Hence the scientific library on the worthy Amah's head. And mind" he concluded solemnly, turning to Amah, "that you don't let those tribesmen pinch any of my books, or I'll tell the big Father here to kake you chowkidar again."
Amah registered disapproval of this unkind thrust. He had never been allowed by Fr. Y to live down that episode in his varied career when, as night watchman, Fr. Y had found him asleep under a tree, borrowed a catapult from a boy, fitted a fire-cracker into it, and let fly at the tree an inch or two from his head. With a single leap and twist, Amah had streaked for the boundary wall, and disappeared for the night. He had never quite got
over the subsequent loss of face when returning next morning with a story of how he had pursued four armed dacoits, Fr. Y had presented him with the true facts.
"Coming for a stroll, Gerry?" asked Fr. X as the two men went off with their loads. "Let's go and see how our worthy Pundits are facing up to the possibility of being murdered in their beds tonight."
An unnatural silence hung over the town of Baramulla. Traffic had stopped completely. Little knots of people stood on the main Srinagar road which passed the Mission. The atmosphere was palpably charged with hushed suspense.
"Bit of a difference from yesterday evening, eh?" remarked Fr. Y, as they made their way towards the gates. "Those lorry-walas must have made enough to retire on this last couple of days".
Certainly the main road had presented a different appearance the day before, with the mass exodus of Sikh and Hindu families in full spate. Every available lorry had been pressed into service: Sikh husbands + fathers, knowing that whatever happened, they at least could expect no mercy at the hands of the Pathans, had bundled wives, children + old folk into every possible inch of space. The fare for the 34-mile journey to S'gar, normally a matter of a rupee or so, had risen to fifty + more - a twenty-five seater bus fetched at least fifteen-hundred. He had seen rich Sikh landowners, caught
unawares, frantically begging lorry-drivers for places, offering fantastic prices for the impossible, and finally being forced to send of their families by bullock-cart. All of which afforded ill-concealed delight to the local Muslims, who did not improve matters by regaling them with lurid accounts of the treatment meted out to Sikhs at Muzaffarabad + other places down the road.
A knot of people greeted the Fathers as they reached the School gateway. "Have you heard about our police, Father?" asked Anthony d'Cruz, a Goan Catholic who with his son Gerald had also taken refuge in the presbytery, after putting his Irish wife + daughter in law in the Hospital. "The blighters!"
"No, what's happened to them?"
"Got the wind up this morning and cleared off for Srinagar - told the Super. They weren't going to stay and be beaten up by Pathans. They're shooting anything in uniform, they said, so we're off. Commandeered a lorry and you couldn't see them for dust. Then when they got to Srinagar there was a heck of a row - the I.G. rounded them up + sent them back here under military escort - two truckloads of soldiers. Threatened to have them shot for desertion if they showed up in Srinagar again!"
"So we are once more adequately guarded by our brave police?" smiled Fr. X.
"Not on your life! It takes more ( ? ) to stop a Kashmir from saving his skin - they changed into plain
clothes, grabbed another lorry + hit ? out again half an hour after the troops had left!" Old Anthony, who liked nothing better than a dig at Kashmiri cowardice, slapped his thigh delightedly.
"Well, you can't expect a man to be a hero on 27 rupees a month" observed Fr. Y. "But isn't this a policeman coming alng now?," pointing to a smartly-dressed figure in khaki great-coat + regulation State turban, with rifle + fixed bayonet on his shoulder.
"He is the sergeant in charge of a detachment of the Special Security Police; they are drafted in anywhere that there is likely to be civic disturbance" volunteered one of the bystanders "they came from Srinagar this afternoon".
"Everything all right, Sahib?" enquired the Sergeant as he joined the group. With his well-polished boots + neat uniform, ( ? )-oiled moustaches + business-like bayonet + ( ? ), he exuded confidence.
Fr.X nodded. "You're not expecting trouble today, are you, Sergeant Sahib?"
"Our information" said the policeman importantly, "is that the Pathans will stay the night at Sheri ? , and enter the town tomorrow morning. The Army have taken up a rearguard position on that hill" pointing to the crest of the ridge which commanded the last mile or so of road just at the point where it entered the level Vale after its 100 mile climb through the gorge; "at least they are leaving a platoon or two
there under a few N/C.O.s ....."
".... The officers having retired to "prepared positions" I presume?" put in Fr. Y innocently.
!That is the plan" agreed the sergeant seriously; "they cannot hope to hold the town any longer, only to delay the Pathans long enough to establish a line of battle between here and Pattan. They say in Srinagar that His Highness will probably announce his accession to India tomorrow, + that Nehru will be able to fly in troops. Otherwise there is nothing to stop the tribesmen from reaching Srinagar."
"And what is your part in all this game?" asked Fr. Y. "Do you expect to lay down your life in defence of Baramulla?"
"Sahib, I am no soldier. I am a policeman" was the dignified reply. "My detachment is here especially to see that there is no trouble among the civil population. It is quite possible that the villagers or poorer townspeople may start looting, now that all the Government officials have gone. But don't worry - I have posted men on duty in all the main bazaars - "
"I bet they have their pockets full by now" said the irrepressible Fr. Y, aside.
"and I myself will patrol the main road here. As for the Pathans, it is not likely they will create any disturbance while we are here. Any attempt at molesting the civil population wil be severely checked" And with a twirl of his moustache the Sergeant formed himself into a
procession + moved off majestically towards the bazaar.
"He's got all his buttons on anyway, as we say on Tyneside" said Fr.X. "All the same, I hope I'm on the spot when he tries to slap a Pathan's wrist for looting. The reaction will be worth seeing!"
"I wonder if he'll be here tomorrow?" said Fr. Y. "Not likely!" snorted Anthony; "he'll be off at crack of dawn, you mark my words".
A little down the road, an imposing figure with the typical Pandit turban was talking to a group of Fr. X's college students - Sikhs, most of them. It was Pundit Kichlu, the Headmaster of the Mission High School, and an argument seemed to be in progress.
"I say he got nothing less than he deserved" the heard the Headmaster pronounce pontifically.
"But he would have been killed in any case" retorted Jagjit Singh hotly: "and why shouldn't he take one of the leaders of these swine with him?"
"Good evening, Father," said the Headmaster; "we're just discussing the enws of Brigadier Kirpal Singh".
"Oh, what's happened to him?" They both knew the Sikh Brigadier.
"He was commandign a sector of the road between Mahara and Sheri when the Pathans made a strong attack. He saw he was hopelessly outnumbered, his retreat cut off, and would certainly be cut to pieces ... He ordered the white flag to be flown in token of surrender .... and then when the Pathan force approached close enough, drew his revolver and shot their leader."
"I suppose there's not much left of him by now" said
Fr. X; he could imagine a horde of tribesmen falling tooth + nail on the luckless Birgadier, and -
"On the contrary. The tribesmen would, of course, have torn him to pieces; but their malik stopped them almost with his dying breath. "Don't kill him now," he said, "take him back to Waziristan + hand him over to my people."
Father X shuddered as he recalled bloody stories of the mutilation of captives at the hands of the Pathan women. "He certainly deserved it: all the same, it's a prospect you wouldn't wish your worst enemy. Poor fellow!"
"Talking about prospects, Headmaster", said Fr. Y brightly, "what do you think of your own? Expecting trouble?"
P. Kichlu shrugged his shoulders. "I believe" he answered with a glance "the Pathans will be too busy hunting for Sikhs to bother with us Hindus"
"You haven't started learning the approriate bits out of the Koran yet, then?"
"I have no intention" was the reply, as the Pundit drew himself up with dignity, "of changing my religion at the request of an ignorant rabble. If they kill me, it is God's will: I am ready."
"And what about you, Jagjit?"
"We are resolved to ( ? ) our lives dearly. The Govt. has issued us with rifles, and we have formed a Sikh National Guard. We shall die in defence of our land, + of the honour of our women. We'll make them pay for all the Sikh
women they have abducted this last week between here + Muzaffarabad!”
“He certainly looks fierce enough” mused Fr. X aloud as they walked back along the road towards the Hospital; “but I’m afraid the sight of a horde of Pathans coming round that bend would send them all scuttling.”
x x x x x x
Dusk was beginning to settle down over the Vale: Far over to the East, the last rays of the sun still fell on the summits of the Pir Panjal, bathing their snows in that incredible fiery pink which seemed at such variance with their savage grandeur: the naked rocks beneath the snow line glowed in deepening shades of mauve till they merged into the deep cobalt of the pine forests of the lower slopes, Across the plain, the rich autumn crimsons, scarlets, purples, oranges of the chenars were gradually losing their separate identities in the descending gloom. It had always seemed the most beautiful time of the year to Father X in Kashmir + its beauty seemed enhanced this evening by the ugly things stirring outside that protective girdle of formidable peaks. Kashmir in late autumn was hard to reconcile with stories of rape + pillage, of burning + shooting, of torture at the hands of Frontier women …….
“’Where every prospect pleases….!’” he began quoting, half to himself. “I wonder how many times I;’ve said that
in the last ten years, Gerry.”
“Well, take a good look at it, for God knows it might be that last time you’ll see it for a while”. Fr. Y’s voice was unusually sober. Silently, they turned in at the Hospital gate, on which the Sisters had tacked a large Red Cross; at the end of the drive, on either side of the Dispensary door, were two smaller ones. The Sisters weren’t taking any chances, anyway.
“I’d better pop round to see Rev. Mother for a moment,” said Fr. X, “and arrange about tomorrow morning. I believe our friends like to attack at dawn, so they may be here pretty early. We’ll have to say mass before daylight.”
The usually cheerful form of Mother Clotilda was grave as she came briskly to meet the two priests. Fr X had been careful to talk as lightly as possible of the coming invasion, and to pooh-pooh any idea of violence to the mission: But evidently someone hadn’t been as considerate – probably some of old D’Cruz’s ? loose talk – anyway Rev. Mother had been getting noticeable more jittery day by day. He supposed that his own proceedings on the afternoon had not helped matters either: he and Fr. Y had come along after tea, taken the Blessed Sacrament from the ? tabernacle of the Church, and with the help of a few of the community, had consumed all the particles in the ciborium, leaving only the Benediction Host, locked in the ( ? ) of the Sisters’ private oratory. “It’s just possible that a locked ( ? ) will attract somebody” he pointed out, “and we may as well be on the safe side.”
“What news, Father” enquired Mother C. anxiously.
“They are now at Shari, Mother, and will be in Baramulla certainly sometime tomorrow morning.” Fr. X tried to make his voice as matter-of-fact as possible. Her lips moved in an ejaculatory prayer. “They will, of course, want to examine the convent + hospital when they officially take over the town, so I think we’dbetter have Mass over well before they arrive.”
“Certainly, Father! What time will suit you”.
“Well, they will probably attack at dawn, so I think I had better say Mass at 4. Fr. Y can follow me at 4.30. Then …..” He hesitated, wondering whether he would frighten her too much.
“Yes, Father - ?” Mother C’s eyes widened in apprehension.
“We shall put the remaining Host in a safe place, which doesn’t look too obviously like a strong-box: and if the worst comes to the worst + they start looting the convent, you must get it out + consume it yourself. Can you think of anywhere suitable?”
Mother C. pursed her lips in concentration. “Would it matter if it was my own bedroom?”
“Not a bit”.
“Then we’ll hide It in the little cupboard under my bookcase. They won’t bother to look there.”
“Excellent. What have you done with the other sacred Vessels?”
“I took them all after you’d finished this afternoon + hid them in the X-ray room. Nobody would suspect any valuables being hidden up there.”
“Good. Well, God bless you, Mother, - + don’t worry – everything will pass over all right, you’ll see.” And Rev. M. went off to arrange the hiding-place of her Lord, happy in the thought that He would stay with His little community in their danger, and that St. Joseph, guardian of the convent, foster-father of a Hidden Saviour, would have a job to do right after her own heart tomorrow ………….
……….. The rows of baby napkins on the little triangular lawn between the Babies Ward + the kitchens seemed to put to scorn any notion of violence in this haven of refuge. The shrill music of childish laughter came to the ears of the two priests as they approached the little one-storied hospital, with its four main wards radiating out from a circular verandah. A chorus of welcome greeted them as they entered the ward, and a dozen small children swarmed round their legs, hiding under their cassocks, pulling their red socks ? , squealing with glee when they were thrown into the air. Mostly waifs and abandoned infants, they bore fat-cheeked testimony to the loving care of the Sisters who gathered them from far and wide. It was one of the highlights of Fr. X.’s day, this evening visit to the babies ward, and he wandered happily from barred bed to bed, tickling a rib here, poking a finger into a fat stomach there
[February 29/March 1]
“I hope the children aren’t worrying you, Father” came the voice of Mother Dominic, the Canadian born nun in charge of the crèche, as she bustled in to see what all the noise was about. Five foot nothing of religious dynamite, Mother D. made up in discipline for what she lacked in inches.
“Not more than I’m worrying them, Mother” he replied with a grin; “when I start being worried by children, you can write me off and order my coffin.”
“Got your muscles up for tomorrow, Mother?” enquired Fr Y; “you may need them, you know”.
“I’d like to see those Pathans try to come in here,” she replied grimly; “I’d soon send them packing”.
“I wouldn’t put it past you” chuckled Fr. X. “You missed a great sight the other day, Father – Mother here putting a great six-foot-two Mussulman out of the hospital. She was pushing with her two hands against his chest and he arguing and waving his arms in all directions – she just kept pushing, and he went. I’d have given anything to have my camera with me!”
“It’s the only way with these people, Father; they just won’t listen to any rules about visiting hours. The nurses are at their wits’-ends sometimes, so I have to come to the rescue”.
“Well, don’t manhandle the Pathans too badly tomorrow, Mother; remember they’re strangers + far from home”.
“Well” remarked Fr. X. as the two priests made their way past the[ ? ] room, through the gap in the fence and up the orchard pathtowards the cottage, “all I can say is, I’m
disappointed the tribesmen didn’t come this evening. I had my new pair of shoes on for the occasion, hoping they wouldn’t notice them on my feet. But I’ll be glad to get them off now; and, forty rupees or not, nothing will induce me to put them on tomorrow”.
“Some poor deserving Pathan is going to be lucky then” observed Fr. Y. “Personally, I’d risk the corns and save my forty chips.”
Mohan Lal + Anthony were waiting at the door of the cottage. “Come in and make yourselves comfortable while I get some tea + take these shoes off. Anybody can have them now” said Fr. X hospitably. “Ramezan ? ! Chai, jaldi. Hurry up with some tea! The Englishman’s infallible stand-by in a spot of bother, Mohan Lal!”
“In default of a bottle of beer”, murmured Fr. Y.
“I could do with a cup of tea, Father,” said M. L. gratefully; “this suspense gets on my nerves. I wish to God it was all over!”
It was evident that the last few days had taken their toll of M-L. The hand that tried to fit a cigarette into its holder shook so much that he dropped the cig on the floor. His dark face had a greenish tinge in it, + a twitching nerve wrenched his mouth sideways every few seconds.
“Cheer up! It’ll be all over in a couple of days. It is not very comfortable for you here, I’m afraid, but …”
“I can’t thank you enough for your kindness in taking us in, Father. You’ve helped us when nobody else would. I might have managed to walk to S. myself, but with the wife +
Violet ……. None of my Hindu or Sikh friends would give us any transport, and we daren’t stay in our own bungalow … we’re terribly grateful …”
“Nonsense! We’re all in the same boat, and it’s a poor show if we can’t lend a helping hand. How’s the wife?”
“Not too grand to-night. You know how nervous she is as a rule …. And Violet is always troublesome away from home. We’ve been talking things over, she + I, and we’ve decided that, if we ever get out of this alive, the first thing we’ll do is to become Xtians. You people have shown us the meaning of real charity, taking us in here at risk to your own lives ….. “.
Fr. Y. came to the rescue. “I think a light f some kind is indicated. Where’s the family candle?”
“Here you are. We’ll have to be careful with it – it’s the last one, + no hope of getting any more in the bazaar.”
“Ah, well, we can have a jolly time for approximately two hours. But I do think you, Mr Mohan Lal, as one-time Electrical Engineer of the State, should speak to the Pathans + tell them not to muck about with the electricity next time they come up.”
It had been on the previous night. The two priests had been sitting in Fr. X’s study after dinner wondering where the invaders had reached. Without any warning, the lights had suddenly gone out at half past nine. Silence fell on the two
priests: the room felt suddenly chilly, the darkness alive with nameless dread …….. Then: “Well, that settles it;” said Fr. Y casually “they’ve reached the power house at Mahora – 17 miles isn’t it?”
x x x x x
The other three had gone off to bed. Fr. X stood at the door of the cottage and gratefully drank in the crisp night air. It had been a little exhausting, trying to keep old man M.L. off the topic of the Pathans; Anthony had been almost as bad. Even Fr. Y. normally witty + entertaining, had fallen into unusual spells of silence. It had been a relief when they had all gone off.
He walked to the corner of the cottage + looked towards Baramulla town. Not a light to be seen, not a sound to be heard, save the occasional staccato howl of a jackal. Nothing on the face of it to mark this night out from any other; yet he could feel that behind the huddled walls of the silent town were many who waited wide-eyed for the dawn …….
Far over to the East a growing opulscence behind Haramukh ? , Kashmir’s holy mountain, heralded the rising of the moon. To the West looking only a stone’s throw away, the dark bulk of the Black Mountain loomed threateningly behind that lonely spur on which the last brave remnants of Kashmir’s beaten army waited for destruction. From Sheri, nestling at the foot of that ominous mass, would come tomorrow the tribal hordes to take possession of the town – liberators or
destroyers? For him + Fr. Y, the only thing that mattered would be their attitude towards the Sisters.Captive white women among the Pathans – it didn’t bear thinking of. He breathed a prayer to St Jopseh, to his Guardian Angel + those of the sisters, to his warrior patron, and felt better ……..
Fr X went back into his study, took off his Roman collar + cassock, put on his dressing-gown, loosened his shoes, threw a few pieces of wood into the stove, took out his Rosary and settled himself comfortably in his arm-chair …….
x x x x x x x
Chap. 1 “I was a Convent boy myself ….”.
The usually cheerful face of Amah Lone was pre-occupied this morning. He worked silently, with many a grunt – it was a long time since the Fathers’ “right hand man” had done any serious manual labour – and the unwonted exertion brought beads of sweat which glistened strangely in the early light. He first rays of the sun had not yet struck the walls of his single-roomed, flat-roofed [ ? ] cottage, but Amah had been at work since before daybreak. Not another soul stirred in the village, except his wife, busy just now in brewing him some tea, on whom he had enjoined the strictest secrecy, outlining for her the several picturesque kinds of fate which would befall her if she breathed a word of gossip about his early morning activity. Not that he disturbed his
fellow villagers, but …. Well, times were hard + Kashmiris had always been poor, and the presence of two boxfulls of wealth in their village might be a temptation too strong for their uncertain honesty. Besides, the Pathans had eyes like hawks –
A final grunt followed by a long whistle marked Amah’s satisfaction at the end of his task. A mound of freshly dug earth filled most of the floor-space in the room, and a hole two feet deep gaped in the centre. Amah drank tea noisily, while his father shuffled forward, and dragged into the hole the box + suitcase which they had brought up to the village the evening before; then methodically began packing earth round and on top of them.
“Careful now, old man; don’t let any earth go inside. Our Father will take that case to England with him soon, + what will his wife say if she finds mud in it?” Amah had no doubts of the Fathers’ celibacy during their stay in Baramulla, but was firmly convinced that they had wives and families sorrowing for them at home.
“Son, if a speck of earth goes in, the Father can cut my nose off with his own hands”.
“You might get that done for you soon enough – by the Pathans too.”
“But son ……… the Pathans are our friends, our brothers – they will not touch true Mussulmans ….”
“And how then do they live in the frontier? Have you not heard that they are always making war among themselves for loot. You forget I have lived among them + I know them” …
Amah’s wide knowledge of Pathan psychology was the result of a two days’ visit to Peshawar during an abortive period when he tried his hand as a sahib’s bearer – “I swear a Pathan would murder his own mother for eight annas”.
“But this is a different matter, son; they have come to punish the Sikhs and turn out the Hindus, and – “
“And steal from the Kashmiris! Mark my words, whoever sits on the throne in Srinagar, the Kashmiris will always be poor”.
The hole had steadily disappeared while they were arguing, and at last, Amah, after stamping down the loose soil + scattering the surplus outside on the maize patch, expressed himself satisfied. He finished the last of his tea bade a filial “salaam aleikum” to his father + started off down the hill towards the Mission, a little over a mile away .. The old man called after him:
“If the Fathers want to hide, tell them my house is theirs, + bring them back with you.”
Amah snorted indignantly: “Hidi! My Fathers are brave sahibs: Do you think they will leave the sisters + the babies? Besides, am I not there to help them if there is any danger.” And Amah held his head a little higher, and went on downhill with something of a swagger in his stride ……
x x x x x x
Fr. X. thought he had never before seen a man scared as badly as Kirpal Singh. For once, his trim beard was unkempt, his Sikh turban tied anyhow – sure signs of disturbance in the normally dapper College clerk. But it was his face which shocked the Fathers: it was a dirty grey in colour, they eyes bloodshot + wide, the skin stretched taut over the cheekbones, the nostrils distended; he spoke in a husky whisper, + his throat seemed parched + constricted, so that his his lips scarcely opened over his clenched teeth’ his hands clasped + unclasped incessantly.
“Please, Father”, he begged, “do something for my wife and children. I cannot get them away, they are too small.”
“Weren’t you going to leave them with Mr Shah and his family in the teachers’ quarters there. He is a Xtian, + the Ps will not bother him”
“I had them locked in there last night, but my wife will not stay there. She wants to go to the Hospital. Father, you must help me: I can escape with the two older boys, but the others – please ask the Sisters to take them in – if anybody asks, you can say they are Xtians ……..”
“Well, hardly that …….. but we’ll fix it with Rev Mother, + if anybody gets curious, we’ll find some way of satisfying them. Don’t worry now, but get them across there quickly + then clear out yourself – you’re late enough already”.
“God bless you, Father …..” and to Fr. X’s intense embarrassment, the clerk seized his hand + kissed it. Then he was gone without another word.
“Poor old Kirpal: I never thought I’d see him so scared” said Fr. Y sympathetically. The Fathers were on their
way back from Church. Early morning Mass had been said once, to plan, the last remaining consecrated Host hidden in its appointed place, + nothing remained but to have breakfast and await events.
“Sleep well last night?” he continued.
“Not much; I sat up in the armchair, just in case; and what with cramp, and imaging hordes of cutthroats padding about outside, for once I beat the alarm clock to it”
Anthony d’Cruz met then as they drew near the cottage + as usual he was bursting with information.
“What did I tell you! I’ve just been down to the road, and where do you think our special police are? Back in Srinagar! Didn’t wait for the shooting to start, but sloped off as soon as it got dark last night”.
Fr. Y guffawed, and broke into song: “ ‘When constabulary duty’s to be done’ ….. So it looks as it we’ve had it, Anthony?” D’Cruz’s answering grin did not reach his eyes. “Never mind, I’d sooner have my Guardian Angel, unhampered by assistants like that Sergeant + his merry men. Let’s have breakfast – we may not get anything more to eat for a long time”.
x x x x x x
[On facing page: ‘Make it a talk with Sister P’]
The long morning wore on tediously. Sister Philomena, sitting in the Hospital outpatients’ Dispensary, thought she had never been so bored. Usually at ten o’clock the place was swarming with Kashmiris, and she and sister Blaise, with the occasional assistance of old Mother Agnes – when that old one’s asthma did not trouble her too much – would be busy right up to tiffin time. Today,
not a single soul had turned up, and Sister P had alternated between spells of bottle-washing, reading, and ineffective onslaughts on her needlework. Looking at his hands, Sister P. thought that they were not suited to needlework – square + strong, they were much more at home gripping the bridle of Desdemona, and she and Sister Letitia rode off for one of their periodical visits to the surrounding villages. She was reminded that tomorrow was scheduled for a trip to Singhpura, the Sikh village over the hill, and wondered if the Doctor and her Mere Superieure would allow her to go. Her chest had been troubling her again – it had already brought her as far as the Last Sacrements three times – and la bonne Mere was beginning to look doubtful when further outings were mooted. So far the pleading of Sister P., ably seconded by Sister L., had always carried the day = with the strict proviso of Mere S. + Madame le docteur that she was not to gallop the ‘orse (Sister P’s Roman larynx could never cope with that ‘orrible English aitch). But there, with a big ‘orse like Desdy, out in the open after a fortnight in the stable, one could not hold her back the whole time, and invariably Sister P. found herself forgetting the injunction, and guiltily enjoying the gallops as much as the mare. “Only a little gallop, Mere Superieure ……… Desdy, ‘e need the exercise, pauvre bete, and ‘e take it whether I permit ‘im or not ………” And Mother Superior, noting the tired contenment on Sister P’s face, would order her to bed early and leave the rebuke unspoken.
She hoped that the coming of the Pathans would not delay tomorrow’s trip. Certainly it seemed to have frightened away the Kashmiris,
pauvres gens, for today. Sister P. decided that she would ask Mere Sup to let her help with the babies for this morning: with a final glance round to see if everything was in order, she picked up her book + her needlework, locked the Dispensary, and went towards the Convent.
x x x x x x x x x
[On facing page: ‘Mr Barretto, Col Dykes, + children.’ Further writing obliterated.]
…….. “’Morning, Colonel; how’s the wife?”
Lt.-Col Hynes was sunning himself on the patch of lawn outside his wife’s room as his B. strolled into view round the circular hospital verandah. He finished thumbing a plug of tobacco into his pipe, + lit it with studied care before replying: “Pretty fair, thanks.”
“Judging by the amount of sleep I got last night, I should say there’s nothing wrong with his lungs, anyway”.
“That’s good. I don’t suppose many of us got much sleep, if it comes to that: too busy wondering when these Pathans were going to attack the town. What do you think of the prospects yourself?”
The soldier gave him a long look from under his eyebrows, seemed to come to the conclusion that he could take it, + said slowly:
“Well, between ourselves, I’m not too happy ……. you never can forecast what the Pathan will do in any given circumstances. If he’s allowed to walk in
unhampered, he’ll probably confine himself to loot; if there is any kind of resistance put up, he may go completely trigger-happy and decide that anyone who doesn’t come from S. Waz. Would look much better with a bullet in the stomach ……. And you have to remember that the only contact these fellows have had with Europeans is when they got the thick end of a punitive expedition. They might remember that when they see a lot of white faces here.”
“Well, that’s cheerful! Think we’d better get the whole issue together in the Hospital, just in case - ?”
“Definitely not. Much better to appear completely normal. The Pathan likes nothing better than to blow off, and ….”
“A crowd might just tempt him, eh? Well, that’s Fr. X’s opinion also. But I’m off now to arrange to carry those two sick Sisters from the Convent up here to the ward … Rev. Mother wants them within reach in case there’s any trouble. See you later,” and the portly figure of the retired Anglo-Indian went off jauntily towards the Convent. Colonel H’s eyes followed him speculatively: wonder if I was a bit tactless, talking about Europeans and white faces, he thought. You have to be so careful talking to these people; they’re so damned touchy about their colour. Still, old B, ever if he was a bit dark, seemed a very decent bloke. And that young wife of his was a dashed good doctor – easiest delivery
Edna had ever had, this last one …….. He wondered where those two brats Tony + Peter had skipped off to: probably pestering poor old Sister V. to show them the rabbits again …. Col. H. knocked out his pipe and strolled off, a typical product of the Indian army in his shirt + shorts, in search of his children ………
x x x x x x x
Fr. X, was tired of mooning round his own quarters: for once he had finished off his own Breviary early in the day; no mean feat, in his opinion, especially with the lessons and psalms of today’s feast – the Feast of Xt the King. He could not settle down to do anything. There was an uneasy tension in the air: the normal background of small sounds which one took for granted was missing – the sound of a football from the sports field, the voices of servants +the rattle of their cooking pots, the grinding of overworked lorry-gears. Old man Mohan Lal was pottering about upstairs, locking + unlocking his numerous trunks; Anthony was poking about for news down at the school gate; Fr. Y was probably happily working out a parallelogram of forces or chasing a couple of electrons round a proton. He decided to succumb to the prevailing restlessness, + wondered off towards the Hospital ……. Mechanically, as he passed thro’ the orchard, his eye registered branches that would require pruning, a patch of San Jose scale-blight, a cluster of woolly Aphis – he’d have to watch the spraying
more carefully next time, or those gardeners would scamp their work again. It hadn’t been the same since old Shahana ? died …..
The face of old Mrs O’Brien lit up as the Father entered her room. It had the effect, as always, of humbling Fr. X a little: The old lady put him so obviously on a pedestal to which he hadn’t begun to aspire. He only did his plain duty, after all: heard the good soul’s confession regularly, brought her Holy Communion, listened to her memories of the past, pulled her leg a little. The gratitude shining out of those faded blue eyes belonged to someone of greater [ ? ] station than himself, he felt.
“Well, Mrs O’B, and have you been for your morning run yet?”
“I’m afraid my running days are over, Father dear. If God only gives me the strength to sit up again, I should be quite satisfied. He’s probably punishing me for having done so much running about when I was younger. I’m afraid I was very flighty. I remember - - - “
“Now, now, spare my blushes – I couldn’t stand any stories of your murky youth so early in the day. And don’t you go corrupting the Sisters, either, or I’ll tell them to take away your running shorts.”
Mrs O’Brien had been bed-ridden for two months now, slowly trying to mend a broken hip. It looked as if the attempt was doomed to failure, + that she would be an invalid for the rest of her life. She faced the prospect with perfect equanimity.
“Do you think the tribesmen will come in here, Father?” she inquired.
“I should say its pretty certain. But don’t you worry, old lady; just lift that left eyebrow as you used to do in your old governess days, and they’ll creep out again.”
“Father, you really are incorrigible. But I don’t suppose they’ll take any notice of an old crock like me.”
A young woman passed by the open doorway; her flame-red bodice, bright yellow saree, the cheap jewel in her left nostril, long ear-rings and above all the cigarette which drooped from the corner of her mouth, struck a note of incongruity in the Convent surroundings. That she was ill was only too evident. The flaunting dress could not conceal the painful dragging of her footsteps; The dirty grey of her face was too much for the rouge wh. She had all too sketchily applied. The cynical twist of the lips belied the bold stare of her lustreless eyes; The one invited, The other showed her opinion of those who accepted. She might have been anything between 18 + 28 ………..
“Who is that, Father?”
“The lady’s name, I understand, is Sushila, and she is a dancer from Bombay. And that is all nice girls are supposed to know about her” ; Fr. X. recognised the type. They had strayed into the College often enough on the way up to Srinagar, and it had been his embarrassing duty to show them the gate, under the sniggers of the senior boys;
“But how did she get here?”
“With the rest of the crowd that comes up to Kashmir in the season; fell sick + got stranded without her fare home, + the Sisters picked her up + brought her in. She’s pretty far
gone in T.B., poor soul. Smokes like a chimney, too, which doesn’t help”.
“Poor child! God keep her out of the hands of the Pathans.”
Fr. X. gave Mrs O’B her customary blessing + departed. It was 10.30, and time for a mid-morning cup of tea. The sun shone out of a cloudless October sky; some of the babies’ cradles had been moved out into the sunshine, and the two little Hynes’ boys were solemnly inspecting their occupants. A nun bustled by with a pile of baby-linen on her arm. Sushila was sitting propped up against a pillow in the sun; The regulation women patients’ square of white cloth which she now wore on her head served only to stress her bizarre appearance. She stared unseeingly at the ground.
Fr. X. offered her a cigarette; she took it without gratitude, lit it, and retired again into her own remoteness. The priest paused uncertainly; then dropped the packet at her side, and without a word turned towards the orchard.
Away to the West, a single rifle-shot cracked out.
Chap: 2 “Greater love hath no man ….”
Fr. X.’s stomach performed a complicated spiral movement, and came to rest at what seemed to be a much lower level than usual. The first rifle-shot had scarcely died away, when a rapid fusillade broke out in the same direction. He quickened his footsteps, and in less than a couple of minutes had joined the small group standing outside the door of the Presbytery, staring towards the spur of the hill a little over a mile away from which the sound of firing came with increasing intensity. Evidently he wasn’t the only one to feel a quickening of the pulse at the prospect of an early end to their long period of waiting: there was an all-too-apparent note of strain ? in their greeting of his arrival, and even the characteristically light hearted complaint of Fr. Y, as he came downstairs: “Dash it, there’s another flaming calculus up the spout”, failed to raise more than a perfunctory smile on their set faces.
A shout from young de Souza galvanised them into activity.
“There they come! Over the top of the hill there!” All eyes turned in the direction of his pointing hand. Down from the summit of that hill where, last night, the remnants of the J + K army had lain concealed, thin white lines could be seen winding through the scrub bushes. Puffs of white smoke hung over them: occasionally the line would break + disappear, only to reappear lower down the hill-side
“Looks like the poor old J + K’s have had it” observed Anthony. “They can’t hold up a horde like that for long”.
The heads of the creeping white lines disappeared among the trees at the bottom of the hill; one by one the thin columns followed, leaving the slopes bare again. The whole descent had taken not more than ten minutes.
“Those chaps are moving fairly quickly” said Fr. X; “it takes me the best part of half an hour to get down that hill.”
The crackle of the firing drew nearer, as the one-sided battle swept across the maize fields towards the back of the Mission.
“Those poor devils are running like blazes” said Mohan Lal “I wonder if any of them will get away?”
“They seem to be making for Singhpura; the Sikhs are supposed to be gathered together there. Judging by the speed of these tribesmen, they’ll be lucky if they make it”.
The firing was close at hand now; the watchers could see nothing of either side, but shouts could now be distinguished, and an occasional yell of triumph showed where a tribesman had found his man. They could not be more than two or three hundred yards away from the Mission now –
Zing - ! It seemed to Fr. X. that the bullet missed his ear by inches.
“That” remarked Fr. Y. “is not playing the game. I claim the right of a neutral not to be shot without my consent. I shall retire in dudgeon + have supper”.
[On facing paged: Barretto – removal of Sisters – goes down to Chapel – sends daughter up to H – goes into Col. ? for a visit – [ ? ] Looting of College – departure of tribesmenAttack on Convent. Arrival of Sohiab ? – Rescue of Fathers - ]
The stray bullet was followed by others: the tribesmen were too close for comfort now, and Fr. Y’s suggestion was gratefully accepted: the little knot of watchers melted into the safety of the house. Ramzan, the bearer, had evidently anticipated the move, and tea was waiting on the dining-room table. Cups in hand they stood looking out of the windows: through an open vista behind the kitchen, could be seen, less than two hundred yards away, an occasional scurrying figure, bent low, with rifle at the ready: now and then one would drop flat, take quick aim, and fire. They seemed to be all round the back of the Mission now: + the frequent slap of a bullet against a tree or a wall inside the compound made the watchers draw back hastily. It was clear, however, that these were only random shots, and in a very few minutes the tide had swept past the mission: the sound of firing receded in the direction of Singhpura village. The shouting grew indistinguishable + faded away: the crackle of the rifles grew more + more sporadic …… a few final shots showed that the first raiders had reached the other end of the horseshoe hill where the bridlepath to Singhpura started ……….. a last puff of smoke at the foot of the hill ……. Then silence.
“Poor lads!” Mohan Lal voiced the thought in the minds of all of them: “I’m afraid that’s the end of them”.
“What now?” wondered Fr. X; “I suppose the main body is coming into B. by road. They’ll probably push straight on to Srinagar. Now that they’re actually in the valley, the J + K army hasn’t a dog’s chance of stopping them.”
“Funny they’ve wasted so much time already” said A. “they’ve given the State forces all night + most of the morning to dig themselves in up the road”
“A fat lot of good that’ll do them” responded Fr. Y; “I can’t see a few hundred Kashmiris holding up thousands of these blokes. The only hope for Srinagar is to get Indian troops at once”.
“And that” put in Fr X, “can’t be done because the Maharajah hasn’t acceded to India yet”.
“I should say he’s pretty well bound to do that now” said A. “unless he wants to lose the whole shoot”.
“Well, anyway” remarked Fr X, with a shrug “we are now in the hands of our conquerors. Let’s have another pot of tea while we wait for an official visit from whoever’s in charge. Thank goodness they didn’t take us for a barracks or something”.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
[facing page: Insert Barretto here]
Modh Yunus, second master of St. Joseph’s High School, peered out of the window of his front room towards the bend in the road which led to Sheri. He had had an uninterrupted view, at only a quarter of a mile distance, of the taking of that hill opposite, but then the rout had swept out of his sight. Half an hour had passed without further sign of an invader, + Md Yunus, who had been all keyed up to comport himself as a true Mussulman before his brethren from the Frontier, felt himself gradually deflating. His house lay on the outskirts of the town, + would undoubtedly be one of the first visited. His Holy Q’ran was in a
conspicuous position: he was an earnest Muslim, + an old man into the bargain: he tried hard to forget tales he had heard in the bazaar of the indiscriminate methods of the tribesmen -----
The stutter of a motorcycle broke in upon his thoughts, and a few moments later the rider careered into view round the corner. The old man’s spirits sank still lower as the machine stopped outside his door; but judging that promptness would be more appreciated than timidity, he squared his thin shoulders resolutely + threw open the door to confront the tribesman.
“Assalam aleikum! Welcome to Baramulla!”
“Valeikum assalam!” This was a good beginning anyway.
“Your name, old man?”
“Sir, my name is M. Yunus Khan; I am a teacher, and as you can see, I am a poor man. I have a large family to support, and …”
“Don’t worry, old man; I haven’t come to rob you. All I want is a cup of tea – I’ve had nothing today yet; too busy trying to get these damned men of mine moving.”
“With pleasure, sir. Alia! Make tea for the sahib. Quickly, now!”
The visitor was a formidable enough figure. Well over six feet in height, built on massive lines ? which
were spoilt somewhat by a pronounced paunch and an over-fleshy face, he seemed to fill the small room. A huge + well curled black mustache gave added fierceness to a typical Pathan countenance – sharp-eyed, hawk-nosed, heavy-browed. For the rest he looked, M Yunus was pleased to note,
more civilized than he had expected. He wore the typical Muslim salwars, or baggy white trousers; his shirt + jacket, though soiled, was of obviously good cut; his unturbaned hair was short; and he had an air of authority which owed nothing to the Sten-gun wh. Hung from his shoulder or the revolver holstered at his thigh.
“They moved quickly enough when they came over that hill half an hour ago” said Yunus.
“Oh, that lot!” The tribesman spoke contemptuously: “a rabble from South Waziristan sent in to mop up a few miserable Kashmiris. One of my Afridis is worth three of that mob”.
“You are an Afridi, sir?”
“Of course. I am Major Yakoob Khan, third in command of this expedition. We’re going to get rid of that Maharajah for you, old man, and bring you in to Pakistan – if we don’t waste too much time on the way.” Major Yakoob frowned in annoyance. “But if these blackguards stop to loot every place we take, or roam all over the country chasing hairy Sikhs, we’ll never get to Srinagar. If the other leaders + myself had had our way, we’d have been there today. As it is –“
He shrugged his massive shoulders.
“You cannot take them on to Srinagar today?
“If I could do that, old man, I wouldn’t be sitting here drinking tea with you. I am a Pathan myself, + my men are the bravest fighters in the world. They will follow me anywhere in battle; but once that’s over, let me try to interfere in
their loot, + they’d just as easily knife me”.
“It is possible, then, that they will loot B’la?” asked Yunus anxiously.
“Possible! What do you think they came for? Look at them!” The road outside was now thronged with tribesmen moving into the town: lean, rangy figures, they moved with the effortless, easy lope of the hillman – a motly crowd, dirty, bloodstained, ill-kempt, with ragged beards + hair; some carrying a blanket, most completely unequipped; in salwars, in khaki shorts, in long trousers; in fancy Pathan waistcoats or gaudy pull-overs; in black pugree, fez or karakuli cap;with rifles of Frontier make, double barrelled shotguns, revolvers, daggers, swords, axes + here + there a Sten gun – jostling one another, shouting, cursing + brawling, they came on in a never-ending stream. Yunus’s heart sank as he saw one of them batter at the door of his neighbour’s house, and, receiving no answer, raise his axe and start breaking it in ………..
“I .. I hope there won’t be any bloodshed, Major Sahib?” he stammered at length.
The tribal leader shrugged again. “Who knows? At least the Muslims should be safe enough, if they don’t offer any resistance. Of course, with Wazirs + Mahsuds you can never tell. Those are the fellows with the black –
“God protect the Sisters + the Fathers at the hospital, then”.
“Sisters? Do you mean to say there are Catholic Sisters here? Where are they? Quick, man, there’s not a moment to lose. Where are they?” The Major had
shaken off his indolent mood; his hand gripped Yunus’ arm like a vice as he dragged him out of the house towards his motor-cycle. The old man pointed straight along the main road, crowded as far as the eye could see with hurrying tribesmen. “Nearly a mile along, Major Sahib: hurry, for God’s sake, if there’s any danger of your men molesting the Sisters!”
Without a backward glance, the Major kicked off his cycle + roared up the road, scattering tribesmen right + left as he tore along. Yunus watched him out of sight,his lips moving in prayer: then turned with some dignity to meet an evil-looking ruffian approaching his front door, ------- A rifle swung negligently over his shoulder, he carried a hatchet in his right hand, + walked with a contemptuous swagger. He wore a black turban ………
x x x x x x x
[on facing page: Insert before the last incident]
Mr William Barretto, retired Indian Civil Service, steered a majestic course down the path from the H. to the Convent buildings, smiling benignly on the lesser mortals around him. At least, such was the impression the casual observer would have formed; actually B. was the kindest + most unassuming of men, his majestic pose the result of years of doing his bit to keep up the prestige of the British administration among these “wogs”. Married for the second time late in life to a young doctor, a grandfather at the same time as he became a father again, he was
secretly but acutely conscious of the paucity of his pension + his dependence upon his wife’s income, and painfully anxious to snatch at any opportunity to be of use to the Mission. He was in his element this morning, supervising the removal of the two sick nuns from the Convent up to the Hospital, with a gang of servants under his charge once more.
A small girl ran to meet him as he drew near the chapel. “Daddy, what was all that shooting for?”
“Oh, that was nothing, darling; just some men shooting at birds. Run along to the hospital now, Frances, and play with the babies; Daddy’ll be back soon”.
All the same, he thought, it had been an anxious half-hour. The servants, of course, had all gone to ground, and he had only been able to move one stretcher so far. Well, the other wouldn’t take long now, once Rita had the patient ready for removal – ah, there she was now, just disappearing into the patients’ room. He had a few minutes to spare, so he’d just pop into Chapel and say a few Hail Marys till they were ready ……………
x x x x x x x
A confused babble of shouting brought the two priests + their friends out of the presbytery. It came from the direction of the main gate; a group of half a dozen men broke into view at the end of the high trellis which stretched from the gate to the end of the day-school. The brandished rifles as they ran and shouted something indistinguishable, which resolved itself
into the [ ? ] war-cry “Allah-o-Akbar” as they drew nearer: (“a sentiment” murmured Fr. Y “with which I heartily concur but why do they sound so annoyed about it?”) and as the little group watched, they saw that other similar groups were converging on the house – from the gap between the school + lab. Buildings, from the orchard at the back of the compound, men were streaming in – the hoarse ? blood-chilling cry seemed to come from all directions at once.
The first group of raiders was at the foot of the slight rise on which the P. stood.
“Come on” said Fr X, “let’s get it over”. Mohan Lal’s face was taut and grey as he followed the others to meet the band. Rough hands seized them from all sides, a menacing circle of rifles hemmed them in, unintelligible questions were shouted at them in Pushto, dirty hands explored their pockets. Out of the babel of sound, Fr X caught the word “Hindustani”, shook his head + said “British”. This produced another hoarse outburst, in which he detected some parts of the verb “marna”, to kill: a little rat faced man in a black turban seemed to be the most insistent on this point. Fr. X pointed to his cassock, and said “Missionary”, + tried to explain that the Fathers were working among Muslims in education + hospital work: nobody seemed to have enough Urdu to grasp the point, or to recognise what a missionary was. Rifles were raised menacingly – Fr. X tried to remember the act of contrition …..
One of the tribesmen who seemed to have constituted himself into a kind of leader, pointed to the nearer of the two houses + jangled the bunch of keys he had abstracted from Fr. X’s pocket. The priest nodded, + suffered himself to be hustled towards the house
Barring the threshold stood Caesar, Mohan Lal’s Labrador dog: straining at his chain, he bared his teeth and growled threateningly at the intruders: the rat-faced man shot him through the throat. The raiders poured into the house – The door was slammed in the face of F. Y, + F X found himself alone - - -
Inside the sitting-room, pandemonium broke out again: nobody listened to the orders of the leader. Fr. X was thrust into a corner: Drawers were dragged open + their contents scattered on the floor, axes flew in all directions as cupboards were burst open, knives gleamed as upholstery was slashed to ribbons; violent imprecations were hurled + bows exchanged as men fought for possession of one or other of the priests’ cherished possessions. “Khazana?” (treasury) demanded the leader. The priest pointed mutely to the bedroom. The ruffian felt in his pocket for the keys he had purloined: somebody had stolen them from him in turn. With an enraged oath, he rushed into the other room, dragging the priest with him. The handle had been struck off the safe door, and two or three tribesmen were making ineffectual efforts to insert the key into the patent lock. The floor in front of the safe was strewn with the debris of the store cupboard wh. had stood on top of it.
“Let me do that” urged F. X and took they key + inserted it in the lock: mercifully his eye caught the gleam of the handle lying among the debris on the floor. With anxious fingers he fitted it + swung the safe door open – half a dozen bodies hurled themselves on top of him, half a dozen pairs of hands grabbed the safe’s contents + the room swayed with
struggling tribesmen. The priest retreated to a corner again, + watched with growing resignation his little world crashing about his ears: the ransacking of his wardrobe + chest of drawers, the smashing open of the trunk he had packed with his best clothes, the present he had bought to take home with him, embroidery, pashmina, carvings, silverwork + furs. Blankets were pulled off the bed to make bundles of loot, the leader gave a hoarse command + the house emptied as quickly as it had filled.
“Other Sahib? Where?” Fr. X understood the leader to demand. He pointed to the presbytery, + was hustled along with the mob.
It was clear that Fr. Y. + their friends had fared no better. The presb. swanned with armed + bearded ruffians, wreckage filled the[ ? ] staircase, the sound of smashing furniture mingled with the hoarse shouts of the raiders. Left to his own devices, Fr. X. made his way quickly upstairs to his colleague’s room. Old Anthony was at the top of the stairs, wringing his hands as he watched the savings of a lifetime disappearing.
“The devils, Father” he croaked “they’ve taken everything”.
“Never mind, Anthony” the priest consoled him “it might have been worse: thank God we’re still alive at least”.
The wreck of Fr Y’s room was almost over: Fr Y. seemed to be arguing with a young raider, hardly more than a boy, who was handling his crucifix. “But my good man, I keep telling you it isn’t “zar”, it’s only tin”. Zar”, he explained to Fr X, “seems to mean gold. You’ll note that I am making full use of the occasion to extend my vast store of languages. Here” he addressed the tribesman “I’m
sure you’d look nice in the old school tie” and he knotted one round the raider’s neck.
Fr X could only gape in astonishment. “How on earth you do it beats me, Gerry” he said. “I’d be scared to death to touch one of those brutes”
“What do you think I am, then? Was the reply.
-------- It was over at last, and the raiders gradually departed; Fr. X saw the last of his new top-coat on the shoulders of one man; another won his old biretta on top of his turban; a third wore a benediction stole as a necktie: all of them carried bundles of various sizes: with many a coarse jest at the expense of the Fathers they disappeared one by one through the front door.
Fr. X + his coll. looked at one another. “I thought you were done for when they locked me out down there, George” he said.
“So did I, but fortunately they got too busy scrapping among themselves for the loot to bother with me. Well, that’s that ……… we’d better go over and see how the Sisters are getting on. They won’t find much loot there, anyway”.
They descended the stairs towards the front door …..
x x x x x x x
[on facing page: attack on Convent:-
1)Mother Supr sees band in hospital – consumes Host – rushes up – hears shot – ward – Dykes – Mrs P –
2)2nd band appears – drags out Sisters – Barretto appears – search – Dr. B comes out of sick-room
3)Yakoob appears – rescue to Hospital – gathering to ward -]
Mother Superior stood on the Chapel steps anxiously + scanned what she could see of the Sisters’ compound. To her right ran the high wall separating the comp. from the main road; immediately ahead was the broad path wh. led past the Dispensary, to the main gate; to her left, the hospital buildings lay about a hundred yards away. No sign of disturbance anywhere. Mere Sup. Had not dared to leave the vicinity of the chapel
since the shooting started. Le bon pere had appointed her as the custodian of the Sacred Host, and she must stay near It in case anything happened. She twisted + untwisted her hands nervously, + hoped that the raiders had all passed through, + that life could flow on as usual ………..
A movement to her left wrested her attention … a man was climbing over the wall at the back of the hospital kitchens ….. a bearded man, with a gun on his shoulder …. others appeared on either side of him …..more were running across the fields at the back … Mon Dieu, ils ont venu! ….. They were running towards the hospital building! … Seigneur, misericorde! She awoke to the necessity of action, rushed to the little bedroom at the back of the Community Room, where Mother T was kneeling before the temporary tabernacle -----
“Vite, ma mere, ils sont dans l’hospital … ouvrez l’armoire ….” with trembling fingers she received the [ ? ] from her assistant, fumbled it open, + consumed the single Host it contained. A moment or two of adoration and then …
“Alors, a l’hopital, vite, … ils avait besoin de nous, la-bas ……” stumbling in their haste, the two nuns ran out through the Community Room, avoided the Chapel + took the short cut past the room of the sick nun. Panting, they entered the H. compound + ran up the path by the Babies Ward.
A scream rang out …. A single, high-pitched scream of terror ……. A shot followed ….. a woman’s voice raised in a hysterical shriek … another shot …… they came from
the direction of St Gabriel’s Ward, + Mother Sup. stumbled in that direction ……. bearded tribesmen barred her way, rough hands seized her + turned her away from the door of the ward …… her veil was snatched off, her habit ripped from waist to hem as her pocket were turned inside out … a wicked, bearded face was thrust into hers, a face with hot bloodshot eyes, a hoarse voice shouted unintelligible demands at her. She could only shake her head dumbly. Out of the corner of her eye she glimpsed the tall figure of Hynes running along the verandah, revolver in hand, shouting something as he ran …… a tribesman stepped from behind a pillar, a shot rang out + Hynes fell headlong, both hands clutching at his stomach …….. The ruffian turned away disgustedly + made a sign to one of his henchmen …….. her eyes grew wide with terror as the rifle was raised …. Then “Jesu, Maria, Jose ….” and Mother Teresalina threw herself in front of the body of her Superior as the shot rang out ……. she swayed drunkenly, the buildings swirled around her … the cruel face of the raider loomed in front of her, leering sadistically as he raised his rifle for the second time ….. a crashing blow struck her in the groin …. a roaring filled her ears … the body of M. Teresalina rose up to meet her ……….
The scream, + the shots which followed it, brought Barretto, his wife and the four sisters left in the Convent out into the open. “What has happened? Where
was that shot from?” The question was answered by the third + fourth shots from the hospital ….. these
were followed before B. could recover from the stupor which fell on him + paralysed his limbs. He broke
into a run + made for the gate leading to the hospital …… a bullet sang past his ears ….. he pulled up
short + turned round. The little lawn in front of the chapel was swarmingwith tribesmen …. a mob of them clusteredround his wife + the Sisters … he rushed back distraught, broke into their midst + put a protective arm round his wife ……
“Tum log kya karte? Tum nahin dekh sakte ke yeh Sister log hain? (What are you doing? Don’t you see that these people are Sisters?”)
A huge, six-foot ruffian pushed his way forward.
“Paisa! paisa de do jildi!”
“Give it to him, William, for God’s sake” she urged “or we’ll all be killed!”
He pulled out the few rupees he had in his pocket, added his wrist watch, + put them in the outstretched hand. The raider looked at them contemptuously and growled “aur dena!”
“But that’s all I have on me. Kass khuda ? , I swear that’s all …. you can search me …” He opened his jacket and spread out his hands …….. The tribesman raised his rifle + shot him in the chest …… he swayed + slowly crumpled to the ground ….. Rita’s hands flew to her mouth to stifle a scream:
“You’ve killed him! You’ve killed my husband!” She
dropped on her knees + pillowed his head in her arms. A crimson patch spread slowly over his shirt …… wildly, she recited the Act of Contrition for him ….. his eyes spoke his gratitude as he nodded once …….. a gush of blood came from his lips …. His head dropped back … ……
Stunned with the impact of this brutal murder, surrounded again by their captors, the Sisters passively submitted to the searching contact of those dirty hands; one by one the small possessions poverty allowed were wrenched from them; medals pocketed in the belief that they were silver; Rosaries inspected + thrown aside; the cheap gun-metal watches issued for duty fought over. The pitiful loot fell far short of satisfying the tribesmen; their repeated demands for “paisa” produced nothing; growls of “marna” (kill them) broke out + was taken up on all sides. Roughly, they were pushed back till they stood in a line at the chapel porch … rifles were raised …… lips moved in prayer … “Seigneur, dans tes mains…….” a shout burst from one of the firing-party: the others lowered their rifles as he stepped forward and with grimy fingers tried to pull out the gold tooth he had spotted in Sister Celeste’s mouth. The others smiled sardonically savouring to the full the terror they were inspiring – The tooth held fast ….. baffled, his hadn went to his knife-belt ……
“Un moment …… permettez-moi, monsieur ….” andSister C. fumbled at the tooth …. Seigneur, des secours! …. Nobody knew better than Sister C. that the tooth was immovable: still, anything to gain a little time …. Marie, misericorde! …. The raiders were growling impatiently …. Rifles were raised again…
“Courage, mes soeurs …..”
A stentonian voice bellowed an order from the gateway: all heads turned in that direction. A giant of a tribesman was covering the ground towards the group in huge strides: his face was suffused with rage, the Sten gun under his arm was ready for action. At his heels …… he flung aside the bunch of raiders + confronted the little band of sisters, panting:
“I’m sorry, sisters” he jerked out, “have these devils been troubling you?”
“Well, sir” Sister Patricia replied for the group, “I … I think they were going to shoot us ….. you can see, they ‘ave already killed this poor man ….”
[on facing page, scrawled: Pardaman Singh]
“Major” Yakoob turned on the discomfited-looking Pathans, + poured out a flood of abuse; his men stood alert behind them, rifles ready, eyes watchful. One of the fiercest-looking of the raiders began to bluster, gesticulating towards the Sisters …. The Sten gun moved threateningly towards his stomach …. he subsided sullenly: The Major bashed out another order, fortified with another flood of abuse …. the group shuffled a little ….. the Sten gun moved again … the ruffians decided to make the best of it, + went off the way they had come, with many a backward murderous glance at Yakoob.
“Are there any more of you?” he asked, when he had watched them out of sight.
“But yes, we are many” Sister P. told him “Sisters, + nurses, + children, + refugiees …. They are all in the
‘ospital …… They ‘ave been shooting also there. Please, monsieur, please you tell them to stop iy ……”
“They say” he answered her “that you are all English, kafirs, and that therefore it is best to kill you all. It is fortunate for you that I found six of my own men coming here, otherwise I would have been able to do nothing. I am afraid they are completely out of hand. I must get you to a place of safety -is there a ward in the Hospital where I can put you all?”
“I will show you the Babies Ward”.
“Hurry then, we must get out of this before that gang comes back with reinforcements.”
She led the way with him through the wicket gate leading to the Hospital. The others followed, the man bringing up the rear. Tribesmen swarmed all over the place: sounds of breaking woodwork + glass on all sides. Hands pawed out at them, dragged at their habits as they forced their way through the press of hurrying, shouting, black-turbaned Mahsuds. The Major’s fist felled one man who tore of Sister P.’s veil: another who caught Sister Celeste’s arm was knocked sideways with the butt of one of the guards’ rifles. Angry voices followed their progress: bloodshot lascivious eyes, still filled with the lust of battle, chilled their blood. Panting, sweating, cursing, the Major + his men forced their way ahead: at length, half fainting with fear, exhaustion, + the horror of what they had witnessed, they reached the door of the Babies’ Ward …..
x x x x x x x
[on facing page: Rescue of the Fathers]
As F. X. swayed into the sunshine behind Fr. Y, he heard his colleague grown: “Oh, my God, what’s this?”
A glance down the path showed him the reason for his companion’s dismay: a fresh crowd of tribesmen, empty-handed except for the inevitable rifles, was racing towards the house. The familiar “Allah-o-Akbar” reached their ears …..
“Can’t they think of any other crack?” complained Fr. Y., his composure regained, “I know that one now”.
“I don’t wish to be a wet blanked, Gerry” said Fr. X, “but it seems to me those lads don’t look too pleased; they’ve probably realized that there isn’t much left for them. In which case we’ve had it …..”
The priests’ gloomy forecast seemed only too likely to be fulfilled. The situation looked ugly: The foremost of the raiders were close enough to show expressions of baffled rage + if ever murder looked out of men’s eyes, thought Fr. X, it was here in front of him. Well, he was ready for death …. only, dear God, let them shoot high enough, not in the stomach.
They were still standing at the front door. The nearest of the raiders was so close that Fr. X. could hear his laboured breathing as he ran …… suddenly he stopped in his tracks ….. a colossal tribesman brandishing a Sten gun ran round the corner of the house, and interposed his bulk between the oncoming mob + the priests ……. behind him, panting, dishevelled, ran Sister Patricia. The newcomer shouted something indistinguishable to the raiders …. he was evidently a person of
some authority, + the Sten gun he carried, lent force to his orders. More men appeared behind him, their rifles pointed against their comrades in arms ……
Sister P. ran to the two priests, clutched them by the arms: “Thank God” she gasped “You are still safe: I thought you would be killed …” Tears of relief coursed down her cheeks.
The big tribesman turned abruptly + marched up to them.
“Come quickly” he ordered, “and I shall put you in a place of safety. Gad knows what these barbarians will do next – They are out of all control. Follow me –“ He had been leading them past Fr. X.’s house as he spoke: the half-dozen men who followed him fell in behind Mohan L. + his son and old A. who had joined the group. The little procession made for the Hospital.
Sister P. clutched Fr. X’s arm again. “They ‘ave shoot la Mere Superieure” she sobbed, “and la mere assistante, and le colonel Hynes, et le pauvre M Barretto, + I don’ know who else ….. I think ‘e take us all to kill us. ‘E is a very big man of the Pathans … Major Yakoob …..”
“Where is the rest of the community?”
“They are all in the Babies Ward. ‘E stop them shooting + put all people there …… then I think of you + I bring him over to the College …..”
“God bless you, Sister … you came in the nick of time …. Gerry …. It looks bad all right …. say an act of Contrition + I’ll give you absolution again, + you can do the same for me … it’ll have to be a general absolution for all those left … this
big fellow looks a bit more civilized than most, but ………”
Fr. X. wondered what it would be like to be shot in the back. He was not enlightened, + the little group made their way in silence towards the Babies Ward …..
x x x x x x x
[On facing page: The Babies’ Ward.
Description of the Same – The babies’ cots – The woundedThe nurses – The refugees – the Ssters – Sushila
The first day –Yakoob does his – General [ ? ] – Yakoob’s guards – Death of Dykes – Mrs
Dykes’ body – Pathans attempts to get in
Dr Barretto’s Rs 2/-. Next Day
Night prayers + Rosary
Disturbances during the night – faces at window – “private medicine” –
Evening Meal + Tea. –Last visit of YakoobThe “private audience”
Night prayer – death of Mother Teresalina against background of fire –
The Night - ]
Chapter 3. The Babies’ Ward
A short passage between, on the one side a private patients’ room, + on the other a Dity Room, leads off the circular verandah to a double door, glass panelled at the top, opening into the Babies’ Ward. If you go through this door, you find yourself in a large, airy room, some forty-five feet long and twenty five broad. Immediately to your right, a door gives onto a small triangular lawn, on the side of which is the wood-store, kitchens + laundry of the Hospital. A path leads down this side of the ward to the Sister’s orchard + the chapel. A few feet from the windows on the left of the ward you se the open well used by the patients. At the opposite end of the ward is another small open passage with the Babies’ kitchen on its right side, + on its left a store-room filled with tins of [ ? ]milk, lactose, glucose + those other mysterious, tasteless preparations on which babies seem to thrive. A door at the end of the passage leads out into the grounds, + to the separate toilet room outside.
This was the particular domain of Mother Dominic,
assisted by one Malayali helper, she ruled it with just the right mixture of firmness and motherliness. The normal complement of some eight cots was arranged with mathematical precision, the black + white marble-tiled floor was spotless, the shelves of the store-room a lesson for a chemist’s display. Even the rows of napkins on the clothes-lines outside seemed to march warily, with one eye on the ward, lest they be caught out of step. I used to wipe my shoes carefully before entering that inner sanctuary of hygiene: the wrath of the diminutive Mother Dominic was no respecter of persons, and her fluent comments lost nothing of force for being delivered in a Maltese accent.
The orderly soul of Mother D. would have been riven to its depths that morning of the attack, had she had time to think of it. The sight that met our eyes, as our Major ushered us into the ward, was a shattering one. The eye took in nothing at first except a muddled mass of humanity, + a conscious effort was required to sort it into its constituent parts. Gone was that peace + order. Babies’ cots were huddled together on the left of the ward; near them, sitting on the floor under the windows, the Malayali nurses were rocking themselves backwards + forwards, moaning helplessly: at the far end of the wrad, the women refugees, old da Cruz’s wife, his son-in-law’s wife + her infant son, his nieces, Kirpal Singh’s wife + little boys, a Hindu patient with her children, huddled together in little groups – a picture of hopeless dejection. But what brought the full horror of the situation home to us was the sight of those four wounded bodies: near the wall on the right lay Mohan Lal’s wife, a gaping wound in her right shoulder, her half-witted
daughter staring vacantly at her; a few feet from her lay Rev. Mother, deathlike in her pallor, with only an occasional groan, a flutter of the eyelids, to show that she lived. On the floor in the middle of the room, a Sister bent over the body of Col. Dykes, syringe in hand; Dr. B. + another Sister knelt by the side of Mother Teresalina. Pools of blood glistened on the floor at their sides: the habits of the Sisters were bloodstained to the waist. Some of them had lost their veils, rents in their clothes bore witness to the uncouth handling they had suffered: all of them bore expressions of patient resignation as they moved silently about, bringing warm water, swabs, torn-up bed-linens for bandages, cups of water to moisten parched tongues …… Somebody was saying the Rosary aloud …… a chorus of wailing from the cluster of cots signified the babies’ disapproval of the disturbance in their peaceful routine ……. From the corner nearest the door, back against the wall, knees drawn up to her chin, Soshila surveyed the scene dispassionately, the inevitable cigarette drooping from the corner of her mouth, remote ? as ever ……..
Stupefied by the scene, we could only stare round helplessly …… The Major’s brisk, matter-of-fact voice brought me to my senses.
“Please tell your people that they should not leave the ward on any account,” he announced. “They should not even show their faces at the windows – particularly the women – but remain seated on the floor. My men will remain on guard
at the two entrances – call them if there is any trouble …..”
He called in the men from outside; for the first time I had an opportunity to examine them. They looked, thank God, a superior type to most of the other tribesmen I had seen – fighters rather than robbers – mostly clean-shaven, + wearing round caps of homespun instead of the hateful black turban. They looked curiously around them: one or two murmured expressions of sympathy – one of them, a smallish man with hair bobbed at the level of his ear-lobes, was openly amused …… I took a permanent dislike to him ….
“These are the only men you will allow into the ward,” Yakoob was saying, “This man is in charge of them: he speaks English,” indicating a tall, handsome Afridi; “They are my own men, and they will do their best to protect you ….. I cannot guarantee any more than that.”
It was little enough, I thought, as a glance through the windows showed Major Yakoob’s “barbarians” pouring in and out of wards + rooms in their quest for loot: carrying out blankets, linen, instruments, anything portable. Now + again a group of them would approach one of the windows, + with faces pressed against the panes, scrutinise us with vulture-like eyes which shone with an unspeakable/unmentionable gleam as they lit upon one or other of the women …… God protest us from that, at least, I thought, as a sign from Major Y. sent them slinking off –
He was going out of the door when a thought struck him and he turned back again
“Have you any food?” he enquired. We spread our hands helplessly.
“There will be some potatoes and atta” I mentioned in our store-room, “and the Sisters must have some stores in the Convent”; one of the nuns nodded in confirmation. “But how to get them here?”
“Leave that to me” he answered “I’ll get you something at least”. He went off hastily.
His departure reminded me of the need for action.
“We are still in great danger” I announced, after we had quietened down the wardfull of people, “and we must be prepared for the worst, if God wills it. Say a general act of contrition after me, + I shall give you absolution. O my God ……”
I pronounced the words of forgiveness …… The Sister who had been leading the Rosary took it up again …….. I beckoned Dr. Barretto
“How serious is it, Doctor? I whispered.
She had no hesitation. “Mother Teresalina + Colonel Dykes are dying,” she told me; “Mother Superior may live, if we can only stop the bleeding – there’s nothing I can to do to get the pieces of bullet out of her …. We have no instruments, no dressings, no bandages, no needles – nothing …..” Mrs Pasricha has a flesh wound in the shoulder, + is suffering badly from shock, but she will survive ….”.
I marvelled at her coolness: This was the woman whose
husband, a bare hour before, had been shot before her eyes: dry-eyed, efficient, she was absorbed in her work for others. Only the lines of strain round her eyes told that she was driving herself to activity to shut out the memory of what she had seen ………
…… I knelt on the floor by the side of Mother Teresalina …… She was conscious, but her eyes were closed, and only the frequent contraction of her limbs + the contortion of her face told of the spasms of pain which racked her. Sister Celeste, who had come out from Spain with her only two months before, knelt at the other side, holding one of her hands, wiping off the perspiration which gathered on her brow at each convulsion, re-arranging the sheet over her torn abdomen, whispering prayers into her ear ….
“Ma Mere, Father has come …..” I took her hand in mine: it was icy cold ….. Her eyes flickered and opened a little … She tried to smile ……
“Mon pere ……. est-ce que …je … je … mourrai? ….”
“Oui, ma mere: le bon Dieu vous appelle. Y’a-t-il quelque chose …….?
Haltingly, breathlessly, pausing every little while to struggle against a new surge of pain which tightened the grip on my hand, but brought no cry from her clenched teeth, she made he last Confession………….
I gave her Absolution, the last blessing; whispered a few words of encouragement to her, and left her to the watchful care of Sister Celeste who had not stirred from her side since she
entered the ward.
“She is in terrible pain, Father”, said Mother Gertrude as I passed her “we had a little morphine left, but she refused it ….. told me to give it to the others. She says she would rather offer up her sufferings for the poor Kashmiris, and for those awful men who shot her ……” Her eyes dwelt compassionately on the dying nun. “The others, Mrs Dykes, Mr Barretto, Nurse Priscilla + the Hindu woman, have not suffered so much. The Major told us they had all been shot through the heart ……”
“Where are their bodies?”
“He made some tribesmen bring Mr B’s body up here, + out it in the Duty room outside: the others are still in the rooms where they died.”
Fr. M. drew me aside, and spoke in more subdued tones than I had ever heard him use.
“I have received Mohan Lal+ all his family into the Church” he said “I instructed them in the essentials, and they have promised that, if they ever get out alive, they will complete the instruction + live as Catholics.”
“Good work, Gerry. How’s old man Mohan Lal feeling now?”
“Very pessimistic indeed. Can’t say I blame him, poor chap. He’s lost everything he had in the world, and then to have his wife shot as well – I’d feel pretty sick myself. Not that I have a wife to be shot, you understand” he added, with a weak attempt at his old levity. “I must say the old lady is behaving marvellously, though. Scared to death, but doing her best not to show it, trying to buck him up a bit ……
What-ho! Here comes the worthy Amah”.
I turned incredulously to see Amah Lon struggling through the main door with a sack on his back, followed by the familiar figure of Major Yakoob. He put the sack down carefully in the corner, came across + took my hand wordlessly in his own. The poor fellow was visibly affected as he took in the scene on the floor …… he turned his head away as tears filled his eyes, his face working with grief …..
“Come, cher up, Amah ….. it’s God’s will ….. What have you brought there?”
“Only a few potatoes + onions, Father-ji; I’ll go back and get the rice + atta now ….. Those devils haven’t taken any food yet …… I tried to go into Father’s house to se if I could save anything, but they wouldn’t let me.”
“Are they still there, then?”
“They keep coming and going, + turning over the rubbish on the floor to find something: but there’s nothing left …… all your papers + photographs + books are torn up …. They’ve taken all your clothes …..”
He threatened to weep again at the thought: I clapped him on the shoulder + sent him off again with his escort for the remains of the food. Major Yakoob was enquiring the whereabouts of the Sisters’ store-room, + presently went off, taking two more of the guards with him, on another foraging expedition.
x x x x x x x
The long afternoon wore on. I succeeded, after much coaxing, threatening and commanding, in arousing the Malayali girls out of their lethargy: the Sisters put them to work tidying + arranging the babies cots, washing dirty linen, preparing babies’ food. The group in the corner remained passive. Some time during the afternoon another servant appeared – Jamal Sheikh, the College bhisti ? or water-man, who lived in our servants quarters. Dejectedly he informed us that the Pathans had stripped his quarters of everything, + he had come to throw himself on our mercy. Amah took him in hand. That indefatigable loyalist had been steadily working the whole afternoon, unobtrusively piling up in a corner of the ward whatever food he could lay his hands on – potatoes, onions, rice, flour, sugar, salt, the day’s supply of meat – had found the hospital crockery mostly intact and brought it in, and was now busy chopping wood outside. Under his guidance, delivered with many a picturesque threat, Jamal Sheik brought along bricks + made an impromptu fireplace on the lawn, laid in a store of water, + set to work to clean rice + potatoes ……….
I begged a cigarette from M.L., the only one of us who had managed to save some from the wreck, and sank drown gratefully on Mrs O’B’s bed. The old lady beamed her usual welcome.
[May 31/June 1]
“I’m sorry I’m so useless, Father,” she said, “The poor Sisters have quite enough to do without me to bother with … it’s an awful thing to be so helpless …” She looked genuinely grieved.
“I hope yu didn’t have any trouble with the Pathans, Mrs O’B?” I enquired. It was the first chance I had had of a talk with the old lady …
“I did indeed, Father” she retorted gravely ? . “I’m lucky to have my left hand still ……. An awful-looking man came intro my room + started demanding paisa …. I told him I hadn’t any .. He searched the whole bad, and then he saw my wedding ring …. He snatched my hands + tried to pull it off: of course it wouldn’t come. And then he lifted his axe …” The old lady’s eyes grew wide with terror at the recollection … “I nearly fainted with fright …. But then I told him to be patient, and eased it off myself + gave it to him ….. I was very thankful when that nice Major had me moved in here …. How’s poor Rev. Mother?”
x x x x x x x
Colonel Dykes died at about 4 o’clock. He had been without morphine for the last two hours, and conscious most of the time. We had taken our turns at his side ….. “How’s my wife, Padre?” “Don’t worry, Colonel, she’s quite allright – she’ll be coming soon” …… answering his agonised appeals for morphine with the lie that “someone had gone to look for some” … As I knelt by his side for the last time, a shadow crossed the window nearby ….. four
men passed, carrying the body of Mrs Dykes: evidently, I thought, the Major is collecting the dead bodies for us ………..
The end came with merciful quickness soon after: we put the body in the Duty Room next to that of Mr B …… the next would be Mother Teresalina …. It could not be long now ….
……. Outside, the crowds of tribesmen had thinned down a great deal: they were apparently getting ready their own evening meal. Looking across the circular lawn past the X-ray room, I could see groups of them sitting in the College orchard: The smoke of fires arose from the football field, from the convent grounds, from the Dispensary. There was a constant stream of them coming + going around the wall just outside our windows. They seemed to have chosen the football field as a parking place for their lorries, + the tops of scores of them could be seen over the wall. Every now + again a new one would pull in, and its arrival was the signal for a volley of welcome from dozens of rifles; and every volley jarred afresh on the raw nerves of our women –
Marauders still wandered round the hospital, still peered in upon us; out guards were kept busy, explaining, arguing, sometimes threatening, occasionally bringing in one or more of their own friends for a look around. It was difficult to persuade the wounded woman + the nurses that these [ ? ] were well-intentioned. Rev. Mother was too vividly mindful of her own terrible experiences to do
anything but shrink at the sight of another bearded + armed raider bending over her, howver roughly sympathetic he might be. Nor did their sympathy make them forgetful of their business: our one remaining wrist-watch, worn by a Protestant missionary lady who had taken refuge with us, + which had somehow escaped the first looting, disappeared during one of these “friendly” visits. I had warned her to keep it hidden: a tribesman spotted it, and with an engaging smile informed her that he had no watch, and that the Memsahib would no doubt like to give him hers. The Memsahib did so, and henceforth time lost all value for us.
x x x x x x x
……. The sun had disappeared behind the Black Mountain when Sister Pascal announced that an evening meal was ready. It was simple enough: boiled rice, a taste of meat, a few scraps of potato – but to those of us who had not eaten since five o’clock that morning it was a meal to remember. The guards shared it gratefully with us.
Towards the end of it, when the room was filling with shadows and our single hurricane lamp had already been lit, Major Yakoob paid us a final visit.
“Everything all right, Father? You are satisfied with my men?”
“Thank you, Major: no trouble so far. We’ve been very glad to have them, as there have been several attempts to break in.”
“I am leaving them with you the whole night: you will be quite safe, and I shall look in myself early in the morning.”
“You’ve been a wonderful help, Major Sahib. What would have happened if you hadn’t been here …..”
“I’m only sorry I arrived too late to prevent the shooting of your two Sisters, Directly I heard there was a Convent here, I came as quickly as possible, but ….. You see, I am a Convent boy myself. Yes” he said, noticing my look of surprise,“as a small boy I was educated by the Presentation Sisters in Peshawar, and I’m not likely to forget their kindness.”
He turned abruptly + left me to muse on the strange ways of Providence ….
x x x x x
[scrawled on facing page: “Etiquette”]
“Let us place ourselves in the presence of God, and give him thanks for all the benefits which we have received from Him, particularly this day ……”
One of the children had produced a prayer book, + by the light of the hurricane lamp Fr. M. was reading aloud the Night Prayers. “…. for all the benefits …..”: Baramulla was to have its first martyr, a martyr to Charity. She lay where she had first been placed, on the rought straw palliasse: each dying breath was a prayer: “Seigneur, de la force – Seigneur … pardonnez-leur ……” Sister Celeste held the Crucifix to her lips, whispered prayers in Spanish to her …… still she lingered on …. ;
… the benefit of resignation, of a newly acquired childlike acceptance of what God had in store for us: the benefit of poverty of spirit …. “The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord …”; The benefit of being counted worthy of being of the number of those to whom our Lord addressed the Beatitudes ….. “… Blessed are they that mourn … blessed are they that suffer persecution ……”. If we could count these among the benefits of the day, then we had good reason to be thankful to Our Father’s bounty. The words of the “De Profundis” took on a new meaning that close of day: “… from the morning watch even unto night, let [ ? ] hope in the Lord …”; the prayer for the dying “Heart of Jesus once in agony, have pity on the dying”, said in the presence of the dying Mother Teresalina, must have found a fervent echo in the whole of that stricken crowd ………..
I pronounced the Blessing, and we settled ourselves as best we could on the floor. Some ten or a dozen mattresses probably collected by Amah before her ? went home for the night, were spread on the fllor for the women + children; the few blankets shared out: Those who could not find room on a mattress sat with their backs against the wall, huddled together for warmth. The guards sat in a circle near the door, chatting cheerfully among themselves: two of the Sisters watched by the side of Teresalina ……
Fr.M. and I went out with [ ? ] on to the Verandah for a breath of air. It was a typical Kashmiri October night, cloudless with a promise of frost before morning. Our part
of the hospital was for the moment deserted, save for an occasional searcher, passing round in the darkness. From the Dispensary some fifty yards away, sounds of conversation, singing, arguing showed that a crowd of Pathans were camped there, while the glow of many bonfires from the College football field + orchard indicated that many more had gathered there for the night. Suddenly a bigger glare behind the Presbytery arrested our attention. It grew in volume until its reflection reddened the walls of the Hospital: tongues of flame shot through it: a pall of smoke blotted out the stars in the West. …
“They’ve set fire to Kanti Bagh” said Davis ? .
Kanti Bagh was a prosperous Sikh village about half a mile away from the Mission. Its patriarch, Isher Singh, had befriended B’la’s first Catholic priest nearly fifty years ago, and allowed him to pitch his tent on his own land. The old man took a proprietorial interest in all our doings + his numerous descendants formed a pemanent nucleus in the school. He paid me a regular courtesy visit, after which I searched his pockets before letting him go – it was the old gentleman’s stock joke to pocket something of value in reparation for the exorbitant fees we charged his grandchildren. I wondered now what had befallen him: he had refused to join the Sikh exodus of the last two days. …
Back in the ward, Mother Pascal was talking in a whisper to our head guard. She beckoned me
over: “He wants me to take him to the store-room for some medicine” she said, looking somewhat fearful.
“What kind of medicine?” I asked.
“Oh, just some private medicine,” he replied. It sounded sinister somehow.
“Come with me, Father,” she begged.
“’Come with me, Father’”, mimicked our guard, but offered no objection. It transpired that all he wanted were some M & B tablets. Mother P. was so relieved that she pressed a whole boxful upon him, afterwards discovering that she had presented him with the entire stock left. He stored them away carefully in his pockets, thanked us courteously + went back to his place, grinning broadly at his good fortune, or possibly at the thought of the scare he had put into us ……..
Mother Teresalina died at about 10 that night …. a death that must live long in the memories of those who assisted at it. The prayers of the dying nun, gradually fading away as she slowly sank into unconsciousness: the tear-stricken faces, the bloodstained, torn habits of the Sisters kneeling around: the wailing of the babies, ready for food again: the floor with its jumble of refugees: the pallid face of the Rev. Mother, just visible in the outer circle of the light of the hurricane lamp, watching the last moments of her heroic subordinate: the murmur of voices, the frequent ribald chuckle, from the circle of guards: the distant sounds of brawling from the raiders’ camps all round: The occasional silhouette of a raider against the moonlit
[June 14/19 – some pages apparently missing, though apparently no break in text]
lawn: the red glow of the burning village lighting up the wall behind the dying nun ………. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man give up his life for his friend ….”.
We took her body immediately + put it in the private room outside, from which Mrs O’B had been brought in.
x x x x x x x
I found an empty space on the floor, a corner of somebody’s blanket, + tried to sleep. The guards settled themselves one by one + dropped off. The floor was hard, the air in the room cold + fetid ….. I tried all kinds of positions without avail … The events of the day kept crowding in upon me: the looting and destruction I had myself witnessed, the stories I had heard from the Mother Superior, the Providential rescue from mass murder, …. picture crowded uponpicture …. The rat-faced man, The Major, Barretto’s twisted body, The vulture-like eyes at the window,The predatory nose, The horribly black turban ……… .
….. A stifled scream from one of the women startled us all into wakefulness …… we followed her shaking finger as it pointed to the opposite window. Outlined against the red glow from the burning village, looking incredibly evil in the dim light from the lamp, several of those faces were pressed against the windows ….. The sight completely unnerved the women on that side, + there was a wild scramble for sanctuary on the other side. Someone shook the guards into activity + they ran outside. There was much shouting + arguing,
ending at last in the departure of the intruders, apparently satisfied. We got the ward arranged again, and uneasy silence descended once more ….
….. It was a light shining under the back door which precipitated the next panic rush …… “Somebody’s trying to break in ….!” Again that wild scramble to get away from the danger point: again that investigation by our long-suffering guards: again that wearisome restoration of tranquillity …..
… The long night wore on, torn to shreds by a succession of alarms ……. I snatched a few minutes troubled sleep now + again; but the anticipation of the next prowlers rendered even this impossible during the greater part of the time. I found myself watching the Eastern sky longingly: at best the daylight would take some of the ferocity from those faces ….. might even reveal some friendly ones among them ………
x x x x x x x
[On facing page: Plan of chapter. 1 Describe awakening + breakfast.
3Morning visit of Major – cigarettes.
4Visit of other officers – Rs 2 to Dr B
2Tidying up the ward – Tunjit’s wife + jewellery. Nurses at window – rebuke. Aruguhan ?
7Tyrolean hat – photo –
5Entrance of Sarwar Shah – burial arrangements
6Purdil Khan – the eternal spirit ofadventure.
9the funeral – air attack –
10Afternoon visit of Major – lent motor-bike – withdrawal of guards – general exodus –
Fresh arrivals – Sarwar on guard
11Enter Thompson – motor-bike solved – interrogation by S. Shah –
Passim – new arrivals, esp at night – burning of Gohan
Under normal circumstances, an October dawn in Kashmir is a sight which I would challenge any other country in the world to equal. The spectacle of Hardmukh ? standing out in gaunt majesty against a pale golden sky; the valley and the lower forested hills lost in pools of purple darkness, while the fresh snow of encircling mountain-tops is already tinged with light, so that the Vale seems to be surrounded by a frieze of disembodied rose-coloured peaks – it is a breath-taking experience
A late October sunrise The dawn of a late October day in the Vale of Kashmir ……. Haramukh standing out in gaunt majesty against a pale golden sky ….. the fresh snows on the mountain tops already glowing in the first rays of the hidden sun, against a backdrop of turquoise (?), while the pine-clad slopes beneath are still lost in purple shadow, so that the valley is encircled by a frieze of disembodied, rose-coloured peaks …. A sight which never fails to catch the breath ….
The night of that jumbled mass of humanity on the floor, sleeping at last the sleep of exhaustion: The rattle of the bucket at the well announcing that the Pathans were already busy drawing water for their morning meal: The memory of the unreasoning alarms of the night past …… reminded me that there was work on hand of a much
more prosaic nature than watching the sunrise, however beautiful it might be. The Sisters were already stirring: from the little kitchen in the back passage came an enticing smile of boiling coffee, which drew men like a magnet. Sister Patricia, stirring the brew on a paraffin stove, looked so serene as if yesterdays nightmare was an everyday happening. She greeted me with her slow smile, and poured me a cup of the hot, black coffee, apologising for the absence of milk with as much contrition as if she were really at fault in not providing it. Through the open doorway, I could see Jamal Sheikh busy kindling a fire in his imromptu store ….
“Hot dog!” Fr. M’s characteristic opening gambit announced his arrival. “I hope you haven’t finished all the coffee, G. I could do with something after than night.”
“Yes, it was a bit exciting at times, wasn’t it?” I agreed. “Thank God for the Major + his guards, anyway”.
Sister P. re-appeared in the doorway of the passage.
“I have put hot water and soap in the store-room” she announced “you can have a wash there, Father”.
“Good heavens! Do I have to wash? I thought I was going to dodge that at least” I said in mock dismay; “but you Sisters seem to think of everything. All right, Sister, I’ll even wash my neck if it’ll please you”, and I went dutifully into the store-room. Sister had certainly thought of everything: hot water, towels, soap, brush + comb, and
two toothbrushes (“you had better keep one in your pocket, Father, + you won’t get mixed up”) were carefully arranged on a little table.
“For heaven’s sake, Sister” I pleaded, “don’t go and produce a razor: I’ve made a vow not to shave again until these Pathans clear out.”
“Don’t worry, Father,” she replied. “I find you a razor soon enough, + we make you look nice + fresh”. She bustled off; and I enjoyed my first wash for 24 hours