A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
two or three minutes. I jump out of the saddle and lead the animal
by the bridle through the inky darkness. Both of us proceed at snail's
pace, for we have to pick our way along a route which, as I thought,
is nothing but a jagged mass of irregular rocky fragments.
Frogs croak and hop about the path. I feel the dew drip from the
branches as I brush inadvertently against them.
I guess the time to be about eleven o'clock. Once or twice the
horse chafes at the bridle and then halts, listening with lowered
head, dead still, as it catches the not-too-distant growl of a wild beast
afoot for the night. I pat its face reassuringly and persuade it to finish
this final stretch of our journey more quickly, but I am annoyed with
myself for not having thought of removing an electric torchlight from
the baggage before parting with it to the coolies. The latter are
doubtless fast asleep in some hut for the night and will not arrive till
There is nothing like shooting a beam of glaring electric light into
the unexpectant eyes of some ferocious monster. The fear will then
be on the other side. The poor beast will call out in its own language
for its mother and then do all the running for you! Besides, this
method saves one the bother of getting a gun licence—a thing more
difficult hi India than in any other Country. Hitherto I have done all
my shooting with a camera by day and a pocket torch by night* The
results have been so excellent that E can recommend these weapons
to any intending big-game hunters!
At last the troublesome effort of travelling through a pitch-
black forest upon billowing broken stones comes to an end. We
emerge from the trees suddenly and find ourselves upon the very
summit of the ridge. The stars, with their friendly familiar light,
show their eyes once again. The ground looks comparatively level.
Thirty or forty yards ahead there is the outline of a building and the
yellowish gteam of a lantern-light swings before it. I conclude with
triumphant relief that this is Pratapnagar.
A few minutes later the horse has been handed over to a groom,
and I rest upon the verandah of my new terrestrial home, which
possesses ample architectural proportions. My bedding has not
arrived, will not arrive till the next day. So as soon as I can borrow a
couple of blankets I follow a servant through a huge hall to my
room, where, by the light of the brass oil-lamp which he sets down
upon a table, I perceive the bed whose sdporific comfort will provide
me with that delightful compensation to which I now feel myself