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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

CHAPTER NINE

Storm—Precursors of the Monsoon—My Animal Visitors—The Question of

Clothes.

SOME unaccountably early precursors of the still distant rainy
season make their sudden appearance. Himalaya is exceedingly
erratic these days, each day provides plenty of varying samples,
both good and bad. Unexpected changes begin in that near horizon
where sky meets earth in a white broken line of fleecy cloud and
jagged peak and fallen snow.

The only advantage we derive from the fitful rains is the easing
of our water problem. Hitherto the essential liquid has had to be
carried from the nearest bubbling spring, which is more than a
quarter mile away. But now all that needs to be done is to put our
bulging brass water-pot outside the door and let the elements kindly
fill it. And this is eventually done, so heavy is the rainfall. Yet it is
only sporadic and unreliable.

The nights are sometimes bitterly cold, especially to one who has
come from the torrid South. For with the fall of day clouds sail like
ships over the summits and frequently forgather in the sky, the
terrific Tibetan winds come whistling over the snowy range and
beat against my bungalow, disagreeable murky mists often make
their appearance and blot out the landscape, leaving the building
desolate and lone in space after they have rolled around it. Every-
thing then disappears from sight.

But all this is nothing to a Himalayan storm. It is one of the worst
I have ever seen for intensity, and yet so impressive as to receive a
touch of grandeur. Twice this week we have been stormbound.

It begins with the approach of night. An ominous change occurs
to the temperature, which drops and drops. I barricade myself
against the invading cold by changing into a woollen shirt and a
thick high-collared sweater, and then peer through the door-panel
to watch the brooding storm break. Soon peals of terrific thunder
break out all along the Himalayan range with the fury of detonating
shells, until it seems that the mountains are being undermined,
exploded and shattered by violent subterranean forces. Yet I know
that the quartz and granite and gneiss which form the core of the
Himalayas will well resist the erosions of Nature. But the magnificent
and really beautiful displays of lightning which precede the noise
provide ample compensation. No mere zigzags of electric light are