A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
them with reverence, with awe and with admiration. But in that
blizzard-swept world of deep crevasses and dangerous avalanches,
of slithering snow glaciers with boulder-strewn wastes and huge
hanging ice blocks, which stretches to right hand and left, there
is no place for someone who wants to sit still, untroubled and
The dense forest of straight dark firs and stately deodars
stretches away almost from my feet into the deep ravine down
What luck! To have an entire forest of Christmas trees at one*s
door! And each tree carries a load of gifts upon its needled branches
—gifts intangible and invisible, maybe; gifts of serenity and quietude!
The tops of these towering trees reach almost to my very door, but
their roots are forty or fifty feet down the mountain-side. What
the firs lack in girth, they make up for in height. They are lordly
and grand in their vivid green garments.
Lichen coats their barks. The ground is thick with fallen brown
fir-needles. The creeping plants which entwine themselves around a
few of these trunks in front of my door show snow-white blossoms of
faintly scented little flowers which brighten the shadowed scene.
They spangle the dark foliage like a firmament of shining stars.
Among these silent tree-shadows I may find, doubtless, what the
towns cannot give—peace, depth and healing. But the gradient is
set at an exceedingly steep angle and one can scarcely descend
into it without clinging with both amis to each trunk as one passes.
Moreover, the sun does not yet penetrate the thick foliage of the
innumerable branches; the forest is cold and gloomy; and I, as a
sun-lover, must bask in the golden rays. Once again I turn away.
These forests in the kingdom of Tehri provide almost the sole
income of the State, so little land being fit for cultivation. They are
therefore the State's most valuable possession; and the lumber that
is hewn out of them is floated down the rivers during the monsoon
rains into British-ruled India for sale to the railways. Forest-
inspection officers travel on circuit to supervise this property. In
order that they might have some decent shelter and proper accom-
modation during their circuit, bungalows have been built in lonely
parts. Such a bungalow is the one I now occupy, through the
courtesy of the State Authorities. An officer is unlikely to use it
more than two or three times during the entire year, and then only
for a night or two on his travels.
Leaving the door, I walk in the cool crisp air around the bunga-
low. The narrow ridge on which it stands continues its eastward
way for half a mile beyond the clearing and then rises abruptly
into a seven-hundred-feet hillock, part of which i? bare and stony