The Hills


THE Hillman and I squatted on our heels and gazed at Halley’s comet. I knew he was looking at it, for I could see nothing of him — his tousled mat of hair and his rags merging with the grass about us. In a minute he turned his face toward me and it shone dully in the sickly green light. I could see him without taking my eyes from the comet. Then, like the Cheshire cat, he softly melted from view again; and now when I looked directly toward him he still remained invisible. We sat motionless for some time. I did not know his thoughts, and I could not put mine into words. When, at midnight, one looks across five ranges of Himalayas, lighted by the silver of starlight and the dull green of a great comet, thoughts become emotion, inarticulate and without simile. One fails to register even the absurd details which are often the most vivid mental aftermath of a profound emotional crisis. I did not notice that my little red notebook from the basement stationery store in Vesey Street was standing on edge in the stunted elephant grass. The following day I learned this fact.

When I turned to my wild Hillman, I wondered again what occupied his thoughts, and at last I was sure I knew. At such times one thinks of the greatest things in life, and this to him was the vision of eight rupees, a great sum which I had promised in return for a pheasant’s nest. And I had lent truth to this incredible thing by actually showing the eight shining coins. He had communed for a few moments with my khansamah, who doubtless had confirmed the suspicion of my madness, and who vouched for no return of sanity, and hence withdrawal of the offer, on my part.

Somewhere in the purple-black valleys behind us was sleeping a small herd of sheep and goats which he had helped to guide over the hills. Each sheep and each goat bore a burden of forty pounds of salt, which, as they were being driven down to the plains to market, seemed an unfair thing to ask of them. My khansamah spread the news of my madness, and with stolid faces, unanswering, the shepherds passed on. At nightfall one of the hillmen stole back, and with fear in his face slipped up to my servant. He had dared to violate all the traditions of his folk. For who had ever exceeded the great adventure of the annual trip to the edge of the Hills? — a day or two of timid bargaining, and, after the Hillman had been shamefully cheated, a hurried return to the nomad village. Where this was we could never learn. Only that it was far to the north, close to the snow peaks which forever kept apart the Tibetans and the wild Hillfolk of hinter Kashmir. He was Hadzia. That was all. And now I knew that, if he was really looking at the comet, the wonderful light it shed glowed to his eyes like the shimmer of eight rupees. And I would have given a second eight and twice eight more to have been able to talk to him in his own tongue and to learn of the hopes which the realization of the eight was to bring to him.

But this was well past midnight and much was to happen before the earning of the eight. For a short space we squatted silent as Buddhas, with no sound of wind in the deodars which dropped down on us from every side. Then from a side valley came a swirl of sound, a confused rustling, with sleepy chattering and mumbling, and we knew a family of banderlog was restless in the strange light.

The low, broken plaints were absurdly like the senile mumbling of old, old men. Aged, toothless ones they seemed, whose sleep was the most prized possession left among the dregs of life. And this struck the chord which vibrated through these western hills: age, infinite age. Again and again this thought recurred in a hundred forms, and every incident, every vista had this as a background.

I seemed to rest upon the very summit of the world, while beneath me file upon file of ghostly minarets sloped steeply into the translucent darkness. The stars were brilliant, and the luminous cloud of the Milky Way softened the shadows. In the East the great train of the comet was drawn across the sky like a second milky way. At the apex the head glowed with a pale green glare. It was the comet, rather than the stars, which etched into the blackness of night. I watched it with a concentrated fascination almost hypnotic. Here was I in the twentieth century, gazing on this splendor of the heavens — a solitary scientist in the heart of this great wilderness of tumbled mountains. There came vividly to mind the changes which had taken place in the affairs of men since last its train brushed the earth. The continent of Asia was then all but unknown, Japan was a mere hermit nation of Mongolian islanders, Italy and Germany were not then kingdom and empire, the flag of Mexico flew over Texas and California, not a mile of railroad had been built in Europe, the telegraph and the Origin of Species were unheard of. Then I thought of the importance of eight rupees, and the affairs of the outer world sank into insignificance. My momentary dream passed, for an insistent call, a mysterious, metallic double note, came from the deodars; a sound which was always to elude me, but which, during this and following nights, from dusk until dawn, was to become a constant background of soft insistent rhythm.

I rose abruptly, motioned to the Hillman to follow, and padded softly down into the forest of deodars and silver firs. The mighty columns rose straight from their deep beds of fallen needles. Almost as tangible as their ghostly trunks was the heavy, exciting incense which filled the glade. The overhead foliage was scanty where I chose my next seat, and the light of the comet and the stars sifted softly through the needles, and reached me, diluted but still greenish. My ways must have been wholly mysterious to my new follower, but he had the philosophy of the hills, and without question squatted silently behind me.

Minute after minute of silence passed and then the great conifers gave forth two sounds. Somewhere a sheep bleated, a sudden, abruptly quenched falsetto. My man rose to his feet with a single motion and answered with a low, guttural exclamation. His calm was broken; the shepherd in him dominated. For we both knew what it was. A strayed animal had been struck down by a leopard or tiger. And I wondered, wholly irrationally, whether the bag of salt was still strapped to the victim. Again the Hillman showed his caste, and against the protest of all his trained instincts remembered the madness of the Sahib and squatted again on the yielding needles.

Then it was my turn. From high overhead in the tracery of foliage came a low chuckle. Probably no sound in the world could have affected me as that. It meant that somewhere near by was a roosting pheasant. And it was to find this that I had come half round the world. It was to become intimate with these birds that I had traversed the fiery Plains and had penetrated deep into the heart of this wilderness— these Hills of Hills. So it was that on this first night I was so wholly absorbed in a desire to penetrate some of their secrets that the sudden indication of their presence, invisible but close at hand, shook me like strong emotion. I sat breathless, tense in every muscle.

No further sound came from either the sheep or its assailant; the bird’s chuckle was not repeated. But at once other actors came on this wilderness stage. Some creature suddenly rushed up the nearest trunk, and we both jumped. Neither tigers nor pheasants have the habit of scrambling up treetrunks, but our reactions were instantaneous and illuminating. Hadzia shrank close to me; I leaned far forward, using all my senses and cursing their inadequacy. With this sound the peace of the night ended and the comet looked down upon swiftly passing incidents.

The creature ascended by starts, each movement sending down upon us a shower of bits of bark. Then another animal climbed after it, steadily and more slowly. Silhouettes against the sky showed the long tails of each. I watched silently. The second creature gained on the first, and suddenly a dark form hurtled through the air toward me. It swooped between my head and the nearest tree, a claw brushing my cap as it went past. It crashed into a low shrub and clambered nimbly to the top. The second animal ran down the trunk a short distance and also leaped or fell with even a harder crash on the other side of where I sat, tense with excitement. It ran to my very feet, when I flashed the electric light full upon it, and with a snarl it drew back, showing the sinuous body and cruel teeth of a pine marten. It slunk off into the blackness behind, but not before other actors had made their presence known.

A third animal ran along a branch overhead and awakened pandemonium in the shape of a pair of koklass pheasants which blundered off through the trees, squawking at the top of their lungs. Reaching the end of the branch, the giant flying squirrel, for such it was, sprang into the air. In the dim night light its wide-spread parachute looked as large as a blanket, and I involuntarily dodged as, with a resounding thump, it struck the tree nearest flying squirrel number one. Then it called — a sudden, sharp, loud squall, ending with a clear metallic note, repeated again and again. The other squirrel answered with an infantile whine, and I read the whole story — the almost tragedy which had been enacted in the gloom of the forest: the murderous pursuit of the marten, the awkward attempt of the young flying squirrel to sail to another tree, the daring but unsuccessful leap of the marten. Then the mother coming, not to the rescue, for these gentle creatures have no weapons of offense, but at least, relying on her activity, to scream her fury at the terrible pursuer. Her flight had been made between two trees at least a hundred feet apart. I had seen her skillful twist and break as, passing against the stars, she steered unerringly for the trunk ahead.

Such was my first meeting with the koklass pheasant, although at the time, in the exciting onrush of other creatures, the flight of the birds was momentarily forgotten.

The pleading cry of the baby squirrel still rang in my ears. It typified pitiful helplessness, utter inexperience. And this tiny creature’s fear and babyhood were all the more pronounced amid these great living trees which had stood here so quietly for centuries, typical of the extreme age of life; and beneath the great glowing comet which stood for the rhythm of recurring cycles, the only semblance of life which the physical can boast. And now the baby squirrel rested in safety close to the great mountain slope which typified the earth age, that span in eternity which has neither life nor rhythm.

I turned to my Hillman and found him watching me calmly, incuriously, waiting for the next move of the Sahib. I had been glad of his company, but I wanted him to be ready for pheasant nesting on the morrow. So I placed my head in my hand, simulating sleep, and motioned him toward camp; and without word or sound he rose and softly climbed the slope.

Deep into the pungent forest I crept on noiseless moccasins, down, down, until the eerie shadows all lay slantwise, and there with my back against a spruce I waited for the dawn. The air suddenly filled with little ghostly forms which, while they hummed close to my face, were invisible in the dimming comet light. Finally my eyes forgot their civilized limitations. Desire and intensive effort slipped the scales away, and I began to detect the pale gray forms of countless moth-millers flitting about. This discovery was absorbing, for I had learned that these millers formed, at this season, the principal food of the wild pheasants, there being twenty or thirty at times in the crop of a single bird. And now the little flyers interested me for themselves. In daylight I had known them as dull dingers to bark and foliage, when disturbed at most scuttling beneath a leaf. Now they were swift and skillful of wing, taking an active share in the night life of the Hills. Their wings hummed so loudly that I thought I was resting amid a maze of beetles. But when a beetle really appeared, the metallic twang of his bass-viol flight removed all doubt. The millers pursued one another and flitted about like ghosts of butterflies. Now and then they alighted on the dead leaves and made remarkably loud rustlings as they walked about.

At five o’clock the buzz of a fly was heard, — a sound wholly unlike the subdued owl-winged humming, — and at this tiny trumpet of day the night ended. As at the crow of the cock in the Danse Macabre, every little ghost scuttled to shelter, and then I looked up and realized that no longer were my eyes straining for vision. The comet had dimmed to the merest etching of light. Several birds broke into song. A pheasant crowed far up the mountain side, and two kaleege challenged below me. A partridge joined in, calling twice. The comet vanished; the East became a blaze of glory, blue and gold streaming over the mountains of Kashmir. A new day had broken in the Hills.


Three days later I again disarranged my khansamah’s plans for a comfortably late, slowly served breakfast. From the mess ground, both he and the chowkidar gave forth intermittent discontented rumbles, which died away as they approached the camp table. This morning, however, it was only for five o’clock that I demanded chota hazri.

As I trudged off with gun and glasses, I saw a gray wraith disappear in the opposite direction, and knew that Hadzia had started on his day’s hunt for the nest which was to bring him eight rupees. Two days of disappointment had passed, and his chagrin was so great that, if possible, I would gladly have ‘salted’ a find for him with a scraped-out depression and four brownstained hen’s eggs. But this day was to be fortunate for both of us: the pheasant star was in the ascendant. Perhaps to this hour Hadzia recounts to his children the madness of Beebe Sahib which took the form of paying out real money for useless eggs and such baubles.

I walked quickly, for I knew my ground, and climbing five or six hundred feet, reached the ridge breathless, but before the sun rose. Keeping well hidden on the nearer side, I crept several hundred yards farther on, and slipped through a boulder scar to my chosen hiding place between an outjutting mass of rocks and two ancient deodars. Beneath me were spruce, fir, deodars, and oaks rising straight as plummets from the steep slope. Every few yards the trees thinned out into open, park-like vistas, carpeted with smooth natural lawns. In one place the grass was starred with myriads of purple and white anemones, but the dominant blossoms were long-stemmed strawberries which grew eight to the foot for acres. I had hardly settled myself and swiveled my glasses to sweep the field ahead when tragedy descended. With a swish of wings which rose to a roar as they passed, an eagle dropped from nowhere, seized some small creature, and with hardly a pause launched out over the valley and out of sight. The tip of a great pinion brushed a shower of dew from a spruce branch as the bird labored outward, and I found myself staring at swaying needles and wondering whether what had passed was reality or a vision. Hardly had the branch settled to rest than a small green warbler flew to it and chanted an absurdly confident ditty. The unconsciousness of the diminutive feathered creature increased the unreality of the tremendously dynamic display of power a second before.

As I mused on this startling introduction to the day’s observation, the wonder came more vividly than ever to mind of the marvel of the narrowness of scientists. With such antitheses to stir the most sluggish blood, how can any real lover of nature and the wilderness of earth fail to react? My wonder is not with mediocre work. Many of us can never hope to reach the clear heights of quick dynamic thought, and the genius of generalization which in the last analysis is the only raison d’être of facts and the search for facts. Most of us must be content to gather the bricks and beams and tiles in readiness for the great architect who shall use them, making them fulfill their destiny if only in rejection. But I marvel that men can spend whole lives in studying the life of the planet, watching its creatures run the gamut from love to hate, bravery to fear, success to failure, life to death, and not at least be greatly moved by the extremes possible to our own existences. Why should science dull our reaction to the love theme of Louise? Why should technicalities dry the emotion when a master makes Dr. Jekyll or Beau Brummel live again? Why should palæontology or taxonomy detract a whit from ‘McAndrew’s Hymn’ or ‘The Jabberwocky’? Must sagittal sections and diagrams ever deaden one’s appreciation of Böcklin and Rodin? Why should a geologist on a ballroom floor, or a botanist in the front row of a lightopera audience be considered worthy objects of abstract humor, instead of evincing a corresponding breadth of real humanness? Is it inevitable that occipital condyles and operas, parietals and poetry, squamosals and sculpture must be beloved by different individuals?

But the end of the minute’s mood which conceived these wild thoughts brought me back to my perch among the deodars, and, like an apt moral, to another antithesis, a tragedy at my finger-tips among the infinitely small. Along the half-decayed bark of a tree fallen across the front of my hiding place, a huge slug made its way. All unknown to me, this slug was a stranger to scientific mankind, and in the course of time he was to be examined half-way round the world by one learned in the structure of slugs, and to be christened with the name of his discoverer. But we were both wholly unconscious of this present lack and impending honor, quite as much as the race of Anadenus beebei is still happy in its ignorance of our altered godfatheral relations.

The great mollusk crept along the damp bark, leaving a broad shining wake of mucus, then tacked slowly and made its way back. In the meantime various creatures, several flies and spiders and two wood-roaches, had sought to cross or alight on the sticky trail and had been caught. Down upon them bore the giant slug and, inevitable as fate, reached and devoured them, sucking the unfortunates between its leaden lips, its four eyed tentacles playing horribly all the while. The whole performance was so slow and certain, the slug so hideous, and my close view so lacking in perspective, that the sensation was of creatures of much larger size being slaughtered. The comparison of this lowly tragedy of slime with the terrific rush and attack of the eagle from out of the heart of the sky tempted one to thoughts even more weird than I have expressed.

But fortunately the actors for whose arrival I had been waiting now began to appear, and I longed for each minute to be made an hour.

We think of a humming bird as quite the most brilliant and colorful creature in the world — a strange little being with the activity and bulk of an insect, the brain of a bird, and the beauty of an opal. Imagine one of these, shorn of its great activity but enlarged many times, and one has an Impeyan pheasant of the Himalayas. Beneath it is black as jet; its crest is a score of feather jewels trembling at the extremity of slender bare stalks. But its cloak of shimmering metal is beyond description, for with each change of light the colors shift and change.

When the shadow of a cloud slips along the mountain slope the Impeyan glows dully — its gold is tempered, its copper cooled, its emerald hues veneered to a pastel of iridescence. But when the clear sun again shines, the white light is shattered on the Impeyan’s plumage into a prismatic burst of color.

My eye caught a trembling among the maidenhair fern, and I swung my glass and brought a full-plumaged Impeyan into the field. The dew and the soft light of early dawn deadened his wonderful coat. His clear brown eyes flashed here and there as he plucked the heads of tiny flowers from among the grass.

For fifteen minutes nothing more happened; then for the space of an hour Impeyans began to appear singly or in pairs, and once three together. Finally fourteen birds, all cocks in full plumage, were assembled. They gathered in a large glade which already showed signs of former work, and there dug industriously, searching for grubs and succulent tubers. They never scratched like common fowl, but always picked, picked with their strong beaks. Every three or four seconds they stood erect, glanced quickly about, and then carefully scanned the whole sky. It was easy to divine the source of their chief fear — the great black eagles which float miles high like motes. The glittering assemblage fed silently, now and then uttering a subdued guttural chuckle.

When the sun’s rays reached the glade, the scene was unforgettable: fourteen moving, shifting mirrors of blue, emerald, violet, purple, and now and then a flash of white, set in the background of green turf and black, newly upturned loam.

After the Impeyans had been feeding for half an hour there arose a sudden excitement. Several disappeared among the surrounding deodars, and all stood listening and watching. Then feeding began in a desultory way, and one by one the birds left the glade until only two remained. My agony of body asserted itself, and with a groan of relief I stretched my cramped limbs — and in doing so shook a branch. At the instant both birds rose with a whirr, soared out over the top of the spruces, and gradually melted from view in the mists of the lower valley. To the last they shone like gems.

This company of birds had come from all directions and were all cocks. Their mates were brooding, hidden on a dozen slopes. Clad in their brilliant plumage, these cocks did not dare approach the nests, but roosted and lived apart. Early each morning they foregathered here for a silent feast in company, friendly with sheathed spurs, to separate after a little while and spend the remainder of the day by themselves, wandering through the magnificent deodars and over the glades of strawberry blossoms.


I had told no one of my destination that morning, and when I peered over the crest of the ridge I was surprised to see a man huddled close to the ground a few hundred feet down the slope. My glasses showed Hadzia sitting quietly, but not asleep. I could not easily return to camp without coming within his field of vision. As he had apparently trailed me, I amused myself by turning the tables, and backing away I crossed the crest farther on, slipping at once into a grove of young deodars. With care I stalked the pitiful bunch of rags, keeping trunk after trunk between us, and crawling on the ground over the one open space which separated us. The last fifty feet was easy, the slope gentle, trees convenient, the carpet of needles soft and deep. In a few moments I had reached the tree at his back and heard a low, minor chanting. Ten feet away it was inaudible; it was full of sorrow, of the tragic cadences of all savage music, yet I found it was Hadzia’s hymn of victory.

The moment I stepped from behind the tree I was sorry I had played my little joke. He did what only the lowest savage does. His whole instinct was flight. There was no reflex reaching for a weapon, or the place where one might carry a weapon. Just sudden hopeless terror, and a rabbit-like bound. Nor was this followed by laughter as it should have been. The fear in his eyes was replaced by wonder, helpless, striving to understand. Then emotion of another sort returned, and shyly coming toward me, he reached into the folds of his garment— coarse, ragged, and as storm-stained as the century-old forest débris about him. Then across his face flitted a new expression. No words fitted it. When I had so thoughtlessly frightened him, his fear seemed to be a racial thing — a terror fostered through generations by threatened death from men and animals. It was impersonal and pitiful because it seemed to lay bare all lack of racial manliness. Where a Ghurka would have reached instinctively for his kokri, or a Dyak for his spear, the Hillman fled.

But now the hopelessness which marked his eyes as he watched my face was very different. This was not Hillmen’s but Hadzia’s sorrow, and the whole became clear as his grimy fingers came forth stained yellow, and with bits of clinging shell which I knew at once. He had found the nest of an Impeyan.

The tragedy was complete. He had told my servant that he could remain only one more day. Two had been wasted, and now, early on the third, success had been attained. By some keen sensing he had followed my track, had not disturbed the Sahib at his inexplicable work, but doglike had crouched where he would intercept him on his return. Here he had waited, thinking no one knows what thoughts, and now at a whim of the Sahib’s — a cruel, meaningless joke — the pheasant’s eggs had been crushed.

Strong emotion has no lasting place in a Hillman’s mind, and with a single shake to clear the yolk from his hand, Hadzia turned toward the camp, with exactly the same expression as when he had first appeared with his fellow hillmen. I was sorry for my lack of words, but led hastily to camp, where I summoned my khansamah and bade him thank Hadzia, pay over the eight rupees at once, and ask him to lead me to the nest. When Hadzia heard the harangue in which my comic khansamah always clothed my simplest sentences, he turned to me and opened his mouth, and for an instant I thought I saw a spark of real emotion in his brown eyes. But that too passed at once, and he took the coins, and placed them apparently in what must have been a pheasant omelette. He turned away a few steps and waited with the patience of which he was such a complete master.


My kindness to Hadzia was a link in the chain to ultimate good fortune, coming when I was on my way to revisit and photograph his empty nest. I sank among a growth of tall ferns to watch a tiny crested tit carrying beakfuls of caterpillars to her brood in a hollow stub. Trip after trip she made, gleaning from low shrubs. Finally I heard her utter a scolding note and pause in her search. She concentrated her attention on a tangle of ivy, and had, I supposed, discovered a snake or some other creature worthy of her vocal contempt. I carefully focused on the spot and saw my first brooding Impeyan. To get a good view I had to climb up a half-dead spruce, and there I studied every web of her mottled plumage. The whole landscape seemed changed. Instead of an indefinite forest with varied interests, all was now centred about this spot — the home of the most beautiful of the pheasants. Just beyond in an open growth of oaks the underbrush was bright with roses and gracefully sweeping, pink-flowered raspberries; lower down under the denser foliage of the deodars were flowers of the shadows, growing singly or in friendly groups of several — lilies-ofthe-valley and Solomon’s seal, or so they appeared to American eyes. Then as a closer setting to the nest were banks upon banks of maidenhair fern, all in deep shadow — a filmy tracery bending to breaths of air which I could not sense. And wherever the ferns failed, crept the ivy, winding its dull green trail over fallen trunks or seeking to hide every stump or half-dead tree.

For two days I watched from a distance, and at discreet intervals, in the absence of the mother, I examined the two amber shells and photographed them. Then late one afternoon as I passed by after a day with koklass pheasants, I saw tragedy, swift and sure, descend upon the Impeyan home.

The crash and roar of a troop of langur monkeys came to my ears. As I approached the noise lessened and died away in the distance; but as I came over the ridge, a long-tailed gray form leaped from the undergrowth upon a bare half-fallen tree and ran along it on three legs, holding something clutched in one hand. I suspected trouble and ran headlong at the monkey, who promptly dropped his booty and fled off through the trees, swearing roundly at me the while. The nest was empty, and one egg in sight had a gaping hole in the side from which the yolk streamed.

Then the marauding monkeys swung past, old and young hurling themselves recklessly from spire to spire. Tree after tree shook and bent as in a terrific gale of wind; branches crashed and splintered; cones, needles, and twigs rained to the ground as the troop rushed by. The uproar which the banderlog creates has usually but little effect upon the lesser creatures of the forest. They well know the danger and the limitations of the four-handed folk.

But when this troop passed from view, quiet did not settle down. There was no wind, no movement of the needles. Even the ferns hung motionless. But there was a sinister undercurrent of sound more potent than noise of elements. Something was about to happen, and not concerning any one animal, or in any one glade. The birds were restless and their notes were those of anxiety; small creatures dashed here and there among the leaves. Without knowing why, I picked up my gun and walked hastily toward camp.

I crossed two ridges. Still no wind, but still a sound of restless life everywhere, a tense uneasiness. And then came the climax. From the distant snows billowed a breath of cold air, — icy, unfriendly, — and at the shock the sun hid his face. A dark mist closed down. The forest creatures became silent as death, and for as long as two minutes the silence was oppressive. Then in the distance the trees bent and straightened, the mist yellowed and a drop of rain fell. Finally came a sound as strange as any in the world, the noise of ice falling on flowers and leaves, a mitrailleuse-volley of hail such as only the great Himalayas know. Our horses whinnied with pain and crowded close to our shelter; a fleeing squirrel was flattened, dying without a struggle. Leaves and fans of needles were torn away and covered the bruised blossoms on the forest floor. The air was a screen of straight white lines, breaking near the ground into a maze of dancing, splintering crystal balls. Before the bombardment ended the sun came out and made the hail translucent, and so beautiful that for a moment one forgot the terrible damage — the shredded foliage, the hosts of stricken nestlings and creatures which had not found a safe retreat. When the last missile had fallen we wondered whether the most hardy tenant of the forest had survived. And Nature in mockery, having ceased her cruel play, sent out the frailest of frail butterflies, flickering its copper wings before me in the sun.


On the last day of my stay in Garhwal I squatted native-fashion on a steep slope, watching the day slowly die, and stirred as I always am with the great desire to remain. So quickly had this isolated valley become home, so familiar had its trails become, yet so few of its secrets had I been able to solve. Always its great age had impressed me, its centuries-old deodars, the soaring lammergeiers which seemed never to have known youth. But now a new sound — in this land of strange sounds — came to me: a rhythmic beat, beat, too mechanical, too regular to be elemental. It was dull, muffled, and seemed very far off. But this was an illusion, for almost at once four men swung into view around a curve in the trail, and four others, and still four and four. My pulse leaped as a whole company of British regulars filed before me and broke ranks near my camp. What a contrast to the ragged Tibetans and Hillmen who for centuries had preceded them and for many years would follow! The spell of the wilderness was broken. My last link had been my thoughts aroused by the rhythm of the comet. Hadzia had fitted into the scheme of detachment here, as if he had been a fawn or satyr. Now my connection with the outside world was forged anew by the rhythm of these men.

That evening as I sat on the hillside with a group of officers and listened to the soldiers’ concert, the cockney accent in story and song fell on my ears like something recurring from a distant memory. I was glad to know that the pheasants and Hadzia had so profoundly influenced me.

When the camp-fire had burned to embers, and I had hand-clasped the last of this splendid type of man, I walked slowly up toward camp. Beyond the ridge I heard yet a new sound, yet a new rhythm, and my heart warmed to the sight. Around a flicker of twig-embers squatted the white forms of four natives—my khansamah and three soldiers’ servants. Two had battered tin pans and sticks, and to the tom-tom beat their voices chanted some sad, minor melody, as old, probably, as India is old. I glanced up at the faint glow of the receding comet, and I thought of Hadzia somewhere deep among the distant mountains, perhaps with his hand close about his eight rupees — rupees whose brightness was dimmed with the yolk which had gained them. For the moment I resented the intrusion of those splendid rhythmic men. I wondered what Hadzia’s thoughts might be. And I knew that if they were filled with affection for these great Hills and a great yearning never to leave them, they were mine also.