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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A  HERMIT   IN  THE   HIMALAYAS

Next morning we follow a narrow ribbon-like path which winds
across the face of a ridge. A brown crag which towers high into the
air at the valley end is our objective. In the background we see the
jagged mass of snowy mountains, soaring upward through banks
of cloud, a long line which shimmers in the pre-noon light. The
glaciers show themselves as clear white streaks running down to
the foot of the range.

This region through which we march offers plenty of game.
Wild animals haunt the Tehri-Garhwal forests and mountains.
From time to time I hear some wild creature's howl breaking the
forest's uncanny stillness when I lay awake at night, and then
realize what a tempting field of operation the State of Tehri would
be for me were I a game-hunter.

We ascend a sloping ridge along a trail of broken bits of rock
and loose stones, which are swept down from the mountain-sides
by the high winds which sometimes attain cyclonic force. We skirt
around ravines and then make our way along the face of a high
bluff. We climb to the top of another ridge and later dip downwards
a little towards a grove of deodars. In one place we have literally
to cling to roots and stones with both fingers and feet, such is its
steepness. When we have walked or climbed for some miles, heavy
mists come rapidly on the scene, blotting out most of the landscape
and threatening rain. We are compelled to halt.

Fortunately for us the mists clear later. As they lift and float
away below our feet into the valleys below, they disclose the mass
of tangled ranges once more and the scene is magically changed.
We make our way along the high, tree-girt ridges.

Our conversation turns to talk of the Prince's own country
while we ramble onwards. Interesting odds and ends of fact about
Nepal emerge from his lips, interesting because the ruling authorities
of his land keep it still a land of mystery and permit very few persons
of Western birth to cross its frontiers, although they do not go so far
as Tibet in their exclusiveness. Nevertheless it is a closed land—
closed doubtless by mistrust of the Europeans. Moreover, the
mountains of Nepal are already separated from India by the Terai
Jungle—that hot, rank, malarious and deadly tract at their foot.

"In these post-war days part of Europe has taken to dictator-
ship as the most effective form of governing a country," I remark,
"and I believe that your people have adopted that form too."

Prince Mussooree replies:

"Yes, what Nepal did more than half a century ago Europe is

doing today! My uncle, His Highness the Maharajah, wields the

widest powers over the people and is virtually a dictator. He rules

in the fullest sense of the term. But his rule is benevolent and his

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