A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
moonlight to guide us, because I see that the forest-hidden nature
of the country might quite possibly cause me to miss my destination
and override the pony unnecessarily. And this, I am ashamed to
confess, does happen. We travel a quarter-mile too far when an
uneasy and growing sense of being wrong completely overwhelms
me and forces me to dismount and turn the pony's head in the
direction whence we have come. My electric torch lies thoughtlessly
packed in my baggage. There is no help for it but to make a slow and
careful exploration on foot. And after I have done this I discover
that the trail almost skirts the top of the ridge at one point, where a
little clearing has been made in the dense forest and covers the
mountain-side from top to bottom.
I tether the animal to a tree and clamber up the short steep
bank to the summit. There, gleaming palely in the moonbeams,
are the whitewashed walls of a solitary bungalow set amid a wild
yet Arcadian region upon the very crest of the mountains! I have
reached my new home.
A few paces beyond the building brings me to the edge of another
deep gorge, which abuts on the southern face of the ridge. It is clear
that I shall have to walk warily hereabouts in future!
Once more I reward the pony which, despite its legacies of
painful injuries to my person, has carried me successfully to this
unique and attractive domicile. On this occasion I plunge a hand
more deeply into my pocket and it eagerly gobbles up the liberal
helping of sugar.
A cold wind comes blowing off the snows, and I turn up my
Overhead, the sky scintillates with its wealth of beauty. Planets
wander through the firmament with unnatural brilliancy. The stars,
in their high heaven, are like clusters of diamonds upon the crowned
hair of night.
And now I sit down beside the path to wait patiently for the
party of bearers whom I have outdistanced some hours previously.
I fall into a reverie of the night until, after a time, I am awakened by
hallooing shouts and cries of welcome. Once again the gregarious
sense reasserts itself and I feel pleased that we are all together again.
I count my train of coolies, add the servant, and note that all are
safe after their journey. Their jolly faces smile in accord with mine
when I inform them lightly, "We are seven!" and add a few lines
from a certain poem, but they miss the subtle Wordsworthian
allusion. Perhaps they imagine I am chanting a prayer to my
strange gods, in thanksgiving for our arrival, but I do not know.
The baggage is hauled up the bank and deposited inside the
bungalow. Bags are opened, candies and matches are found, and the