A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
an insect in this high region, flits around my head and alights upon
the fern which droops beard-like from the deodar. Youth and
beauty thus come into striking contrast and juxtaposition with age
and decorum. The gorgeously winged creature, much larger than
its European relatives, attaches herself (surely this daintily-clad,
delicately groomed visitor can only be a high-born lady?) to the
plant, gathers her exquisite highly-coloured raiment around her, and
settles down into a fixed position. Has she come to grace my graceless
The overpowering stillness gathers around us, folds and enfolds
the entire scene.
I notice the dewdrops which still hang, like tears, from the
needle-tips of the old deodar's branches, which sag low as though
weeping. Yes, I too feel like weeping.
Have you any message for me, O deodar?
The intense silence, the unperturbed peace, holds us for a minute
more. At last it is broken, not by any sound, though, but by a thought-
whisper which floats through the atmosphere into my brain.
"You came to me out of a world which I do not know and do not
understand. Sooner or later, I knew that you would be recaptured
by it. Why should I wish to detain you? Have I not learned how to
live alone? Have I not found in my own solitude the strength to
endure all things—even the bufferings of snarling winds and the
rage of destructive lightnings? Where did I get this power of en-
durance from? I drew it forth out of my own heart, where at first it
lay asleep. Now I fear none and nothing—not even death, which
cannot be far away. I have learned to depend on no help, except
my own. That, my younger friend, is my answer io you. Be self-
reliant. Wheresoever you go, remain a hermit inwardly. Then
your world can never weaken you. Do not leave your stillness here
after you find it. Take it back with you into that distant life whose
agitation rarely reaches me, hold to it as your most treasured
possession, and then, unafraid, you may let all storms blow past
you. Remember always that you derive your being from heaven.
My own peace I give to you."
These are the last words I ever hear from the deodar. For with
the ceasing of its telepathic whisper I pass insensibly into a deeper
condition. The peace outside seeps into me. I rapidly become like a
man hypnotized and fall into a semi-trance. I cannot stir a finger,
much less a limb, and remain rooted like a tree to the ground.
No effort to meditate has come from my part, no endeavour to
control the wanderings of thought has arisen. I just slip into this
enchanted state as easily and as resistlessly as a hospital patient
slips into sleep under the grip of a powerful anaesthetic. I am as