Summary of Chapter 10
Chang tells Conway that so many meetings with a newcomer have never happened before because it is a great strain on the High Lama to speak to those who have not lost their human passions. Conway visits a third and fourth time, and when he comes away, he feels a “sumptuous tranquility” (p. 161). Their talks range over vast territory. At one point, Father Perrault asks Conway what has happened to him to give him such wisdom at an early age. Again, he repeats that his passions were exhausted by the Great War. Conway claims he was like everyone else in the war, “mad-drunk” and he killed and lechered: “it was the self-abuse of all one’s emotions” (p. 162).
As the days pass, Conway feels “an ache of contentment uniting mind and body” (p. 163). He is falling under the spell of Shangri-la and the mountains surround them in “a hedge of inaccessible purity” (p. 163). He has fallen in love with Lo-Tsen, but it does not disturb his happiness because he doesn’t need anything from her, not even a declaration. He feels he has all Time in which to fulfill every desire and therefore desire is quenched.
At times, he has to go back to his other life with Mallinson’s impatience. He feels a strain hiding things from them. Eventually, both Barnard and Miss Brinklow announce they are staying in Shangri-la. Barnard has been going down to the valley to sample its enjoyments, and he feels better than he ever has. Miss Brinklow says that there is “a mysterious power working behind the scenes” (p. 165). She believes it is Providence. She will start a mission to preach against the ideal of moderation.
Mallinson still believes that Conway is coming with him, and Conway realizes how fond he is of the young man. Mallinson confides that he likes Lo-Tsen and wonders why Conway doesn’t speak to her in Chinese and find out her feelings. Conway cannot explain that he does not want to penetrate her privacy. Conway knows there will be a crisis when the porters come, but he does not think of it now. Chang assures him the porters are going to arrive. They will not try to stop Mallinson from leaving, because the porters will be reluctant to take him. He will be disappointed but then he will have to settle down. Conway thinks Mallinson will try to escape on his own and begins to worry. Chang doubts that since nature is their jailer, but Conway points out that the porters do go back and forth with goods. Chang tells Conway it would be dangerous for them to help Mallinson escape because he would publicize their whereabouts.
Conway admits to Chang he is falling in love with Lo-Tsen and wonders if that will fit into the lama training. Chang says it is fine. He himself was once in love with her, but fortunately, she helps men to stay with the training, since she tends to quench desire with her distant and contemplative love. She has helped many men in this way with her attention without giving them full satisfaction. This was enough for them and eventually they lost interest.: “Lo-Tsen gives no caresses” (p. 171).
Meanwhile, Barnard discovers the gold in the valley. He was once a mining engineer. Chang has confirmed his discovery. He has permission to prospect in the valley. He will give them tips how to increase their output. Perhaps people at home won’t want to put him in jail if he can show them this gold mine. He makes a deal to go fifty-fifty with Conway if he will put his name to his report. Conway laughs and humors him. He tells the High Lama about this, but Father Perrault is merely glad Barnard is occupied.
Conway visits Father Perrault often now. Perrault says there might be a lot of people who would like to be in Shangri-la in the coming time, but they can only take a few in their lifeboat. Father Perrault tells Conway he is going to die and he has time for only one thing more. He leaves Shangri-la in Conway’s hands. He has waited for someone like Conway for a long time. It is not an arduous task, and Conway will live through the coming storm and be able to deliver the fruit of Shangri-la to the survivors. As their conversation finishes, Father Perrault closes his eyes and dies. It is midnight. Conway is stunned to realize he is now the master of Shangri-la. Somehow Mallinson finds him and takes his arm.
Commentary on Chapter 10
There has been a transition in this chapter, with three of the newcomers ready to accept Shangri-la, if only for their own motives. The tolerance of the lamas for Miss Brinklow’s preaching against them or Barnard’s discovery of the gold is a sort of humoring them until these petty motives wear off. Eventually they will find deeper aspects of themselves, as Father Perrault did. The atmosphere is working on everyone except Mallinson. The conversation with Chang about the possibility of Mallinson leaving or escaping on his own sets up the tension that will explode in the next chapter. It is important to see that Conway has been thinking deeply about this problem before he has to take action.
Equally important is the discussion about Lo-Tsen, for both Mallinson and Conway are falling in love with her. Conway’s love is safe for it is distant and contemplative. He learns that she has had many lovers without giving any caresses. He also knows how old she is. He understands the lama’s life as Mallinson does not. One assumes that with Conway’s attitude and ability to speak Chinese and play the piano, it is a perfect match. He has no demands or designs on her. Mallinson seems as far from her type as possible, and he cannot communicate with her.
The shock of Perrault’s dying and leaving Shangri-la to Conway heightens the tension. Conway is still in a state of disbelief but takes to the idea very naturally. Shangri-la is dear to him. It is an image of his own mind; everything he holds precious is there. He could be another dynamic leader, like Henschell, able to take the community to the next step, after the coming dark time. Perrault had been waiting for someone like him so he could die.
Summary of Chapter 11
Mallinson takes Conway to the dining room where they eat. He tells him they have till dawn to pack. The porters are here and have agreed to take them. He has arranged it all himself. Conway sinks into a chair.
Conway tells him he has been with the High Lama, and Mallinson says, thank God, it will be the last time. Conway murmurs, yes, the last time. Mallinson says they have to go immediately and wants Conway to pull himself together. Conway is shaky and lights a cigarette. He is having trouble transferring from one world to the other. Mallinson accuses him of not having any guts. Lo-Tsen is going with them, and she is waiting even now with the porters.
At first Conway tries to talk him out of going, bringing up all the impossibilities. When he hears Lo-Tsen is going, he becomes agitated. He says it is impossible she should leave. He accuses Mallinson of not understanding her. Mallinson says there are other ways to understand people than through language. She is a kid and wants to get away. Conway says he is imagining her position. Mallinson refutes that, saying he had Miss Brinklow ask her in Tibetan, and besides that, he implies that there is an emotional attachment between them. He feels he is rescuing her from hell.
Mallinson says the worst thing he has seen at Shangri-la is how it has changed Conway. He wants Conway to be his real self again. He wants to help him by getting him to come away. Conway sees that he has to tell him the whole story, so he sits Mallinson down and tells him everything, about the purpose, and Father Perrault.
He is deeply distressed when Mallinson thinks he is completely mad. He thinks Conway has some kind of war stress and has cracked up. Conway tells him he doesn’t want to go back, and he is not coming with him. They shake hands, and Mallinson leaves.
Conway sits alone by lantern light, realizing the two worlds he has been living in are irreconcilable. Finally Mallinson returns, half sobbing. He didn’t have the nerve to cross the pass. He wants to bomb Shangri-la; it is a prison! He begs Conway to help him and Lo-Tsen. Conway tells him Lo-Tsen came here in 1884. Mallinson tries to convince him that he has accepted the lamas’ claims without any facts. Mallinson argues well, and so Conway has but one final question; is he in love with Lo-Tsen? Mallinson says yes. The two of them were very attracted, and he knows she is young and passionate, not cold. Conway admits that Mallinson and Lo-Tsen are the two people he cares most about, and therefore, he will help them get away. He prepares and then accompanies Mallinson to the pass where Lo-Tsen is waiting, obviously radiant with love for Mallinson. They begin an 1,100-mile journey to China.
Commentary on Chapter 11
This ends Rutherford’s manuscript, leaving out how Conway gets to China. He was only able to write up the details Conway told him before he hurriedly jumped ship in Honolulu. The two worlds Conway is living in collide, and he is forced into making a choice he doesn’t want to make. The question is why does he leave?
Besides the final argument between the two friends, the reader knows all the quiet investigation that Conway has been making on his own. He knows that leaving the valley is certain suicide, and that the only chance Lo-Tsen and Mallinson have is if he goes with him. He is a mountaineer and leader and can deal with the porters. He still feels some obligation as a British official. Mallinson cannot get across the pass without him. He might have helped him across the pass and then gone back, but the last scene with Mallinson’s arguments is so persuasive that Conway doubts for a moment his own perception. Mallinson is so sure of himself. The last straw is that Lo-Tsen is going too. Perhaps as Mallinson says, she is still young and passionate, not a lama, after all. The last pages recount Conway’s distress at losing his beloved Shangri-la. His mind shuts down to a fragment, and he moves into his action mode.