A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS These last words remind me of a significant anecdote which was related to me some years ago by Sir Francis Younghusband. More than thirty years ago he was placed at the head of a small British military expedition which was sent across the snow-cloaked shoulders of the Eastern Himalayas into Tibet to negotiate a political and commercial agreement with the Lama-King's Govern- ment. The main object of the army's mission was to change the latter* s hostile attitude and to compel the Tibetans to adopt a more reason- able view towards Indian trade. With its entry Tibet's isolation would begin to leak. Sir Francis gave the Tibetans the fullest opportunity of arriving at a peaceful settlement but they were obdurate. A hastily gathered army barred his passage on the treeless road to Lhasa. The opposing force was armed only with ancient and rusty matchlock guns, with bows and arrows, and with swords. The British leader knew how childish was this opposition to his well-equipped soldiers, with modern rifles, machine-guns and mountain artillery. He therefore requested the Tibetan commanders quite a few times not to resist his advance and be massacred, as he sought only to get a treaty signed and then he would immediately evacuate Tibet and return to India. But despite their ill-armed and ill-disciplined body of men, the Tibetans would not budge and affected scorn for the enemy, whom at last they attacked. Colonel Younghusband (as he was then) was compelled to give the order to fire, with the result that the withering shells of his artillery poured into the Tibetan ranks, whilst his quick-firing rifles were repeatedly pumping bullets into the enemy when the latter took a few minutes to reload each wretched muzzle-loading flintlock musket, with the flint often missing fire. The inevitable occurred. Hundreds of Tibetan soldiers were quickly shot down and the survivors fled in disorder. The way to Lhasa lay open. The point of this story is that the real reason of the Tibetan army's opposition in the face of a force with such superior weapons lay in its superstition. Its soldiers had trusted to the sorcery of their reputed magicians and to the spells of their famous priests. They had been told that, with the aid-of specially-prepared amulets and talismans which were freely distributed in their camp, they would be rendered supernaturally invulnerable against the shots of the enemy. And such was their unthinking faith and blind superstition that these poor ill-fated men did attack the British army with complete and complacent confidence that no British bullet would be able to penetrate their bodies! But the laws of Nature will not be suspended, even for any Lama! 7'