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Published: January 27th 2006
ENTRY 44, April 21 1987 Mule Sahib
In all our travels, Miranda hadn't ever seen anything quite like this! With great fascination she studied the 'travel journals' of Harold Nigel Fox.
Although the material was interesting, it had been difficult going. There appeared to be several occasions where the journals contradicted themselves; sometimes the time line was unclear. There were also problems in continuity: often the story would ramble terribly, resembling a euphoric flight of ideas rather than a travel journal.
The letters from Hans were often in German, and his confidential reports were in Africanns.
On top of all that, the travel journals and other items were damp, the ink had run, and nine times out of ten the pages were stuck together. Enoch couldn't have chosen a worse place to store such material for four decades than the bowels of the Bell Tower. (Even the smell of the material was unpleasant.)
Once the papers were exposed to fresh air, they had a tendency to dry, and then disintegrate.
We soon realized that we would be unable to save
Library in Lawrence Gardens
Miranda takes in the scent of the flowers in front of the palatial library in Lawrence Gardens.
the journals without professional help. I made my way to the Library at Lawrence Gardens, then to the British Consulate Library, and finally to the American Center. At each place I discovered that there was no immediate solution to our problem. For the first time we felt the limits of living in a third-world country.
Miranda suggested we attempt to photocopy Nigel's travel journals. The results were disastrous. Simply opening a travel diary now caused crumbling. There was only one solution as far as I could see: transcribe the contents by hand, filling in the gaps from memory. Luckily, due to the peculiar content, both Miranda and I had a remarkable recollection of what we had just read, for much of the reconstruction had to come from our memories. There were also privacy concerns. We took several steps to address this issue, including changing the names where appropriate.
"What do you make of it?" Miranda asked.
"I really don't know" I replied. "At times he seems quite sane, while . . ."
The Brother of Father Robert Otto
Still, Miranda wanted to find out the end of the story. Her questions kept on
The British Council Library
In a hot city like Lahore, air conditioned English-language libraries were a godsend.
coming. Where did he travel to next? What had happened to Nigel, etc., etc.?
The American Center library had an excellent reference section. I was able to find entries on 'Edward Irving' and the 'Catholic Apostolic Church'!
At the British Counsel Library I encountered some frustration. Clearly, important material was missing.
At Lawrence Gardens, the library had an extraordinary wealth of historical writing, but consistently, key bits of the puzzle were missing.
It was here that I had some luck. The brother of Father Robert Otto, worked for the library and allowed me into the restricted area. The chamber was massive. The temperature and humidity were strictly controlled: the air-conditioning unit filtered out even dust. There were thousands of old documents from the time of Independence. Most were unsorted, and I do believe untouched for years. Sergeant Otto explained to me that few people had ever visited the old documents room.
Over the next several days, I was able to confirm most of what was written in the Fox travel journal. However, it was also clear that the Rev. H. Nigel Fox was manic/depressive or bipolar. Still, his journal held a great fascination for me.
No one seemed to have any knowledge of what had become of the Rev. Harold Nigel Fox, Junior. Nor had anybody heard of a Mrs. Fox, or even of an 'Ashram of Charity'. We had reached a dead end.
I decided to play a hunch. One afternoon, while rereading Hilton's Lost Horizon, I rang the operator and asked for the telephone number of 'Shangri-La',
near Gilgit. To my surprise:
a) the phone worked;
b) the operator was lucid; and
c) there actually was a listing under the Shangri-La Hotel near Gilgit. I dialed the number and the voice at the other end answered in a melodious singsong, "Shangri-La Hotel".
I said, "Good day. My name is Bryan Porter. I am a good friend of Nigel Fox and have an important message for his wife at the Ashram of Charity."
"Sir?" I queried.
"What is your number?"
"53650. In Lahore," I replied.
Then the hotel clerk simply hung up on me. Another dead end.
A Special Retreat During Holy Week
Three weeks later an excited Padre Emmanuel Lorraine summoned me. "You
Cooling off with a Pepsi after Friday worship with Tim and Rachel.
have been rung up! A long distance call for you, Padre Sahib." All the Cathedral clergy gathered around me in a state of awe because: a) the phone worked; b) it was a long distance call.
The voice on the other end was abrupt and told me that Mrs. Fox could see me on Holy Monday. The caller then gave me the details and hung up. All of us were shocked! I, because I had received an invitation from Mrs. Fox, the other Padres because the phone worked! Two miracles in one day.
"Bishop Sahib, I respectfully ask permission to hold a special retreat during Holy Week in a small religious ashram near Gilgit."
"Holy Week, Bryan?" exclaimed a truly incredulous Bishop.
"I will do the two Palm Sunday services and return for the three Easter Services. Padre Emmanuel Lorraine and Padre Nathaniel have agreed to do the ones during Holy Week itself. Monday to Saturday is the only time the members of USPG have off."
The Bishop leaned back in his large leather chair, his good looks pensive, then pronounced: "Retreats are important for the spiritual growth of our Cathedral staff. Make
Miranda and Bryan sit in front of a fountain at Shalimar Gardens in Lahore.
sure that the Holy Week services are in order and you have my blessing."
"Thank you, My Lord Bishop," I said, hurriedly leaving his Bishopsbourne residence.
Miranda and the USPG missionary staff were waiting expectantly for me at the Vicarage. "Is our holiday going to come to fruition?" asked Reginald, in his cultured Oxford accent.
"No," I said.
Miranda piped up. "I knew the Bishop would never give us a holiday during Holy Week."
I continued, "However, the Bishop did give us his blessing for a six-day spiritual retreat."
"Bryan! How could you?" cried Miranda.
"Tally ho and away we go," was Reginald's response.
Our instructions had been to travel by plane to Gilgit. From there, we would be carried by mule to the Valley.
Numerous problems were overcome. However, as we waited for our guides, I realized that there was no way we would make it back for the Easter services.
After waiting for four hours, there were still no signs of guides or mules or anybody. Even by Punjabi time, they were late. And why had we been led to an
isolated area outside of Gilgit? I was heartbroken when I came to the realization that this had all been a hoax.
We were stunned by what happened next. The roar was deafening. Out of the sky came a monster of a machine. Our transport was a helicopter. Stenciled on the side of the craft was its name: "Mule Sahib." We were quickly loaded on board Mr. Mule, and a short time later reached our destination.
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