by Nicholas P. Snoek


Chapter Twelve


It's a beautiful sunny morning. The two boys join the men for an early breakfast and they all set out on the trip in high spirits. They have sleeping bags and camping gear for the stay overnight, and enough provisions and gadgetry to do whatever appeals to them in the way of fishing, hunting, or hiking.

None of them are seasoned riders, and the trail is not a well developed one; it's almost overgrown. They have to constantly lean back and forth to avoid tree limbs, and that gets very tiresome. Jack has difficulty understanding how he and his friends could have done this so many times, and it didn't seem so long or so hard.

They arrive at the stopover point in plenty of time, however. And the boys take the opportunity to do some exploring before dark. They run around looking for animals, and for tracks and spoor.

They find a place where some creature must have slept. There is a flattened space in the grass about four feet round, with broken twigs, and bits of hair, and what look like bone splinters scattered about.

The senior partners are quickly called in, and they don't know what to make of this finding. They're all scrounging around looking for more clues, when Viktor finds some droppings. The droppings obviously belong with the bedding lair, but they look for all the world like human stool.

Siem, "Well, I've never seen anything like that before, have you? Some demented savage? A wild boy, a wolf boy?"

Bertus, "I don't know. Pretty large stool. And what about the bone splinters. They would indicate something very powerful. That grass is really squashed down hard. I don't think this was any boy. But what it could be, I can't imagine. Anyway, it's starting to get dark. We'd better fix ourselves something to eat and get ready for night."

Jack is quietly thinking: This was done by a Yeti. But he doesn't say anything to the others. He doesn't know how they would react. A lot of people don't believe in Yetis.

That night the boys don't sleep well. They toss and turn, and dream the dreams of boys. Dreams of kissing girls. Dreams of monsters roaming the woods, leaping over cliffs, crunching up huge bones with powerful jaws.

The men, less impressionable, spend a relatively peaceful night. They arise in the morning refreshed and ready to go. After a good portion of bacon and eggs the boys feel better too, and soon they're all underway again.

Siem, "You know, I'm not sure if it's just the cold air or what, but from time to time I feel a bit giddy. Do any of you find that? Sort of dizzy, with a slight headache?"

Bertus, "It's the altitude. You're not used to it. A lot of people have trouble with it even in Paro, and it's higher, up here. There's less air pressure and less oxygen. The body has to work harder to keep the right amount going to the brain. A lot of the natives think it's because of gases coming out of the ground. Some of them believe it's caused by bad spirits."

Jack tells the others about the farm where Borg came from, and it's decided to stop there for a bit, to see what the people can tell them, about the monastery and the soldiers.

As they pull into the farmyard some dogs come sniffing around, but none of them looks like Borg. An old man is sitting on the porch, and a woman comes out as they approach the house. Mr Schuurman starts to ask her about the monastery, but she motions over to the man, "Ask the priest, he knows."

Jack looks more closely at the old man, and yells out, "Brother Andre! It's you! You're alive! How can you be? They shot you. You were dead. I saw you, even in the night, you were still lying there, dead. Not moving."

"Oh Jack! My dear boy! Come over here and let me hug you. It's really you! Let me look at you. You know, you've changed. I'm sure that didn't all happen just lately, but I remember now that you had a short stubby nose before, and you don't any more. Your nose is getting to be a roman nose. How about that.

I really thought I would never see you again.

No, I wasn't dead. I guess when I fell I hit my head and that knocked me out. There was an awful lump there, anyway. That probably saved my life. If I had moved he would have likely shot me again. Or I would have bled more. Apparently the bullet went right through me, just above my heart, between the left lung and the central plumbing. Very fortunate; the Lord must have wanted me to stay alive.

As it was, I came to, just before dawn. Cold as an icicle. And I dragged myself out of there. I think it took me over two days to get here, but I finally made it, more dead than alive.

They hauled me inside and put me to bed, and nursed me back into existence. I guess I was in a coma, more or less, for several weeks. But this good lady, bless her soul, looked after me like I was a baby, and here I am, just about as good as new."

"Mr Schuurman, this is the head priest, Brother Andre, who was shot, and I thought he was dead."

"Yes Jack, I gathered as much. Brother Andre, my name is Bertus Schuurman. Jack has been staying with us in Paro. This gentleman is my good friend Siem Spiets, and this young fellow is his son Viktor. We've heard a great deal about you, and we're very pleased to meet you, in the flesh as they say."

"How do you do. I'm quite happy to still be in the flesh, yes, and I hope to remain that way for a while yet. I pray my monks have all survived too. I dread to think what they may be going through. So tell me, what brings you up this way?"

"Our friends here have come to Paro for a holiday. And Jack has told us so much about his famous monastery, we thought an outing to have a look at it would be interesting. You know, if you've recovered as much as you say, perhaps you'd care to join us on our way back. Would that be appropriate? The boys can double up on Jack's horse."

"Why thank you, yes. That's a very good idea. If you don't mind an old windbag for company, I would appreciate that very much. Is that alright with you, Jack? And Viktor?"

The boys nod their agreement.

Bertus, with a faint little smile, "From what Jack has told me, I expect the pleasure will be all ours."

"The enthusiasm of youth, I think. But, where are my manners." With a glance at the woman, "Will you sit here on the porch, and have a cup of tea with us?"

Brother Andre helps the lady of the house prepare a brunch with tsampa and rice biscuits and tea, and soon everyone is relaxing and enjoying the company and the simple farm fare on the shaded porch. The old priest has lost some weight but looks healthy otherwise.

Siem, "You know, I think if I had to pick an ideal place to convalesce from an injury, this one would be right at the top of my list. It is so quiet here. The air is so clean and clear, it's out of this world -- it is, it's a different world."

Brother Andre, "Yes, I was very lucky. But I'm afraid I've been enjoying this setting so much that I've let my age and my injuries conspire against my better judgement. It really is time I went about my business. You've come at just the right time; I must see about locating my friends. I'll have to go to Thimphu and start raising a ruckus with the King."

The soldiers at the fort have been keeping a low profile, but they're still there, as far as anyone knows, although none of them have showed up at the farm. The food stores supplemented with occasional game must have been adequate for them.

They apparently did not look for the priest's body, having likely assumed some animals dragged it away. If it wouldn't be for the occasional sound of gunfire their presence would go altogether unnoticed.

It's decided that Brother Andre will join the tourist party on the last leg of their trip up to the monastery. He too would like to know more about the situation there. But before leaving he wants to go see his farmer friend, to say goodbye, and to thank him for his hospitality.

"Jack, would you care to come along for the walk?"

"Yessir, let's go!"

They make their way down the trail out of earshot.

"Jack, what is your situation now? Are you living with these people? Is it a family? The names all sound Dutch. What are they doing in Paro?"

"Yes, Brother Andre, they're a family. Mr and Mrs Schuurman, and four daughters. They're Dutch-Canadian, but they live in Paro, and I guess they've been there for a couple of years. The Schuurmans are international merchants. Viktor says Mr Schuurman is an important man. He does business all over the world. He has a shortwave radio."

"And how do Viktor and Mr Spiets fit in."

"They are friends. The Schuurmans came here from Ontario, in Canada. The Spiets family is just here on a holiday from Haarlemmermeer, in Holland. But they're moving to Canada too, to British Columbia, whenever they can get passage and all their papers are approved. Mr Spiets has a brother there."

"I see. I notice Mr Schuurman's deference to me has a little edge to it. Tell me, what religion are they?"

"The Schuurmans are Christian Reformed, the Spiets are Roman Catholic. And that's something I would like to ask you about. I've noticed a resentment against me for my religion. That doesn't make much sense to me. You and Brother Cyprios have both told me that the major religions all teach the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. If that is so, why do people have this intolerant attitude?"

"Jack, what a religion teaches and what its followers practice are often not the same. There are narrow minded people in every faith. It's one of the human frailties. The best thing to do in mixed religion situations is to remember that God is far, far above all that, and we are all his children, no matter what we think of each other."

"So it's more of a personal problem."

"Right. Now, do you know if the Schuurmans are planning to stay in Bhutan permanently?"

"Gee, I don't know. It never occurred to me they might not stay here. What would I do if they leave?"

"That's what I mean. What would you do?"

"Couldn't I go with them?"

"I can't answer that. There would be some problems. It's not likely they have formally adopted you. So the customs officials will have some questions about you that may cause difficulties. Who are you? Who are your parents. Where is your birth certificate. Do you see what I mean?"

"But you can answer all those questions, Brother Andre. You can tell them all about me."

"Yes and no, Jack. It's not quite that simple. And I guess it's partly my fault. We should have done something years ago about giving you an official existence, by registering your birth and that sort of thing. It never came up at an appropriate time. So it just wasn't done.

Ah, here we are; my good friend is out there in the field. Wait here a minute, will you. I'd like to talk to him for a bit."

Jack is puzzled and worried. His talk with Brother Andre is bringing back some vague memories. Thoughts about mothers and fathers; echoing snatches of conversation having to do with animal not man, and man not animal. Where and when was that? And what was it all about? Is he half remembering some dream?

He wants to ask Brother Andre about this, but cannot think of a question it would make sense to ask.

Chapter Thirteen