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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A   HERMIT   IN   THE   HIMALAYAS

these, but large circling masses of white phosphoresence that glow
weirdly against the surrounding blackness.

A fierce gusty gale shakes the tops of my tall fir trees and makes
the branches s6ugh hither and thither as it blows along with the
speed of an express train. The blustering winds beat down the
valleys and thresh the frailer trees of their leaves. Rain comes down
in bucketfuls, large drops that will fall furiously and unabatedly for
some hours. To complete the bombardment, the fierce patter of hail-
stones, each as big as playing marbles, sounds all over the roof.

These hailstones can be very destructive. Sometimes they even
reach the size of walnuts. After a heavy storm I find the little bodies
of a few birds near the bungalow, as an earnest of what has been
done farther along the ridges, whilst a tall deodar lies struck dead
and splintered by lightning.

Early this morning I awaken from sleep to the sound of rattling
peals of thunder which echo all over the mountain valleys. The
tempest howls furiously outside. And when, later, the cold grey light
of a sunless dawn spreads over the land, I look out of my doorway at
a bleak inhospitable scene. Impenetrable thick white mists envelop
the entire region beyond the first serried rank of fir trees, which
stand up at the border of the mists like soldiers on sentry guard. The
forest itself has disappeared, the snowy line of crags and pinnacles
has vanished as if it had never existed. Here we are, ten thousand feet
high in the air, marooned in a sea of milk-white mist. India, Tibet,
Englandóall these seem now but the mere names of mythical
countries. This planet Earth, apparently, has dissolved into white
space and we are the sole survivors, perched on a scanty foothold in
the midst of the ether.

The drenching mists which gather like fleecy wraps all over the
landscape, rolling through the valleys, lapping at the steep slopes,
and enwreathing the peaks and ridges, finally blotting everything
from view, are matched only by the greyish-black sulphurous fogs
of wintry England, but the former are far pleasanter. They are, at
least, white and clean-looking. But they isolate one so perfectly that
life becomes strangely uncanny, infinitely and inexpressibly solitary,
enough to satisfy the taste of the most exacting anchorite.

I do not mind these few fitful mists, but the lashing rains and
thunderous storms drive me now and again from my gorge-top
sanctuary. My meditations have then perforce to be conducted
indoors. At such times I can no longer adventure into stillness amid a
delightful environment of russet leaves and midget-headed flowers,
but have to squat on an oaken blanketed bed, with eyes fixed upon
the blank space of a buff-distempered wall. I wonder what my
deodar tree thinks of such truancies. What a weakling he must