A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
the gods and many of the godlings were not associated with this place
I pass through a dense deodar forest, which sets me thinking of
that deserted friend in the sanctuary. Shall we ever meet again?
The sunlight falls through the foliage and stipples the ground
with light here and there. Banners of moss hang from the trees, which
stand up like tall masts. Here and there the gnarled spreading boughs
of a mighty oak tree, a sylvan king, change the uniformity of the scene.
I keep along the flank of a valley and then turn into another
wildly rugged and dreary region. The ascents and descents are here
sometimes so steep that I prefer to get off the horse occasionally,
rather than tumble with it off th% cliff-side.
The miles are steadily slipping behind me, meanwhile. I am
confident that the journey will be finished before midnight, although
my confidence is really a matter of guesswork because I am totally
ignorant of the conditions which yet await me on the way.
At last, when the sun has begun to decline and both steed and
rider are exceedingly hungry, thirsty and tired, I decide to take a
second and final rest. The sight of an unpolluted bubbling brook
emerging from the tiered rocks of the cliff-wall on my left hand is
the real precipitant of this decision. The horse greedily sticks its nose
into the puddle of pale-blue water on the ground below the brook
and swallows an immense quantity. I, too, take a couple of cupfuls
of the clear sparkling liquid, which has a most refreshing coolness.
Then I open the saddlebag and remove all the solid food for a final
meal, which I share again with the animal, whose obedience and
intelligence have pleased me greatly.
. It is pleasant to rest on the fragrant, flower-starred earth once
again rather thaa on horseback, however, I watch the sun splashing
the world with an apricot-yellow light. The sky is beginning to
change in parts from deep blue to delicate rose with the setting of
Somewhere in the neighbourhood a cuckoo faithfully pipes out
its sweet daily call. A response seems to come with the delightful
song of a skylark. I bend down and touch a wildflower, a blue hare-
bell, which grows in a cranny among the rocks, and inhale its clean
fresh scent. In the most unlikely places one finds these wild plants
clinging for life to stony crevices among the mountain fastnesses.
Even wine-red rhododendrons and yellow primroses bloom amid the
snows, It is extraordinary at what high altitudes flowers can flourish
in the Himalayas.