A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
One afternoon a man arrives at the house in a pitiable state. He
has been attacked by a rampaging bear only half a mile away and
in brilliant sunlight.
His head is broken open, one eye has been torn, has face, shoulders
and arms are a mass of ugly wounds. His clothes are in pieces and
clotted with blood. The poor fellow has claw-marks and deep gashes
all over his breast. Fortunately the palace doctor is still in Pratap-
nagar, although due to go on leave within a few days. The bear's
victim is patched up, his wounds stitched, the bleeding stopped and
his head and arms swathed in bandages.
The next day, when the poor fellow has rested and recovered
himself somewhat, I hear his story of the encounter. He is a young-
looking man and, I surmise, an educated one. He is probably a
Brahmin by caste.
"I write letters and petitions for those who are illiterate," he
tell? me. "Two days ago I left my village to travel on foot to Tehri
town, where I had some business to attend to. My servant, a small
boy ten years old, accompanied me. Yesterday afternoon, at about
five o'clock, I was nearing the point where the mountain path
forks into two, one going upwards to the top of this ridge and
leading to the palace, and the other turning downwards to the river
valley along which lies Tehri. Suddenly I heard a terrific growl.
I looked up and saw, high on the mountain-side and among the
forest trees, a huge blackish-brown bear with two cubs. The animal
rushed down the slope directly towards me like an avalanche,
grunting ferociously all the time. Its speed was terrific and I
realized that it was useless to run away and that we stood no chance
of escape. But as I know the habits of these bears I prepared to
defend myself. The only weapon I had was an umbrella. I pushed the
weeping boy behind me in order to protect him, shielded my face
with the left hand and held the umbrella forward with my right.
It seemed only a minute before the bear had descended the slope
and reached the path. I saw that it was a female—always more
dangerous and more vicious than the opposite sex. It had a thick
furry coat, large fluffy ears, a black nose, and a shaggy mane of
hair which fell over its forehead and nearly covered one eye. It
flew at me, clawed me around the head, the face and the upper
part of my body. I jabbed my umbrella into its angry face until
the cloth shade was torn to shreds. After the beast had wounded
me frightfully several times and when four or five minutes of this
terrible fight had passed, the bear seemed satisfied with what it had
done and returned to its cubs in the forest I was glad I could save
the boy from being injured. I then managed to stagger here, with the
blood streaming along the trail all the way."