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But unconsciously his feet drew him away northward and eastward; till one day he saw the far line of the great Himalayas. "Yonder," said Puran Dass, "Yonder I shall sit down and get knowledge." And the cool wind of the Himalayas whistled about his ears as he trod the road that led up the long approaches to the heavenly peaks. The last time he had come that way it had been in state, with a clattering cavalry escort, to visit the gentlest of Viceroys. This time Puran Dass paid no calls.

He followed the Himalaya-Tibet road, the little ten-foot track that is blasted out of solid rock. And he met Tibetan herdsmen with their dogs and flocks of sheep, and wandering wood-cutters, and cloaked and blanketed Lamas from Tibet, coming into India on pilgrimage; or else for a long, clear day he would see nothing more than a black bear grunting below in the valley. When he first started, the roar of the world he had left still rang in his ears, as the roar of a tunnel rings long after the train has passed through; but when he had put a few mountain passes behind him, that was done, and Puran Dass was alone with himself, walking, wondering, and thinking, his eyes on the ground, and his thoughts with the clouds.

One evening he crossed the highest pass he had met till then - it had been a two days climb - and came out on a line of snow-peaks that banded all the horizon, mountains from fifteen to twenty thousand feet high, looking almost near enough to hit with a stone, though they were fifty or sixty miles away. The pass was crowned with dense, dark forest - pine, walnut, wild cherry, wild olive, but mostly the Himalayan cedar; and under the shadow of the cedars stood a little aged, abandoned shrine to the Mother Goddess Kali.

Puran Dass swept the stone floor clean, smiled at the grinnning statute, made himself a little mud fireplace at the back of the shrine, spread his antelope skin on a bed of fresh pine-needles, tucked his brass-handled crutch under his armpit, and sat down to rest.
Immediately below him the hillside fell away, clean and clear for fifteen hundred feet, where a little village of stonewalled houses clung to the steep tilt. All round it tiny terraced fields and cows no bigger than beetles grazed between the smooth stone circles of the threshing-floors. A few bands of scattered clouds strung up and down the valley, catching on a shoulder of the hills. "Here I shall find peace," said Puran Dass.

Now, a Hill-man makes nothing of a few hundred feet up or down, and as soon as the villagers saw the smoke in the deserted shrine, the village priest climbed up the terraced hillside to welcome the stranger. Wen he met Puran Dass's eyes - the eyes of a man used to controling thousands - he bowed to the earth ,took the begging-bowl without a word, and returned to the village, saying, "We have at last a holy man. Never have I seen such a man. He is of the Plains - but a Brahmin of the Brahmins." Then all the housewives of the villages said, "Think you he will stay with us?" and each did her best to cook the most savory meal for the Holy Man. Hill-food is very simple, but with buckwheat and Indian corn, and rice and red pepper, and honey from the hives in the stone walls, and dried apricots, and tumeric, and wild ginger, a devout woman can make good things, and it was a full bowl that the priest carried to Puran Dass. Was he going to stay? asked the priest. Would he need a chela - a disciple - to beg for him? Had he a blanket against the cold weather? Was the food good?

Puran Dass ate, and thanked the giver. It was in his mind to stay. That was sufficient, said the priest. Let the begging-bowl be placed outside the shrine, in the hollow made by those two twisted roots, and daily the Bhagat, as they called him, would be fed; for the village felt honored that such a man - he looked timidly into Puran Dass's face - that such a man should dwell among them.

That day saw the end of Puran Dass's wanderings. He had come to the place appointed for him - the silence and the space. After this, time stopped, and he, sitting at the mouth of the shrine, could not tell whether he was alive or dead; a man with control of his limbs, or a part of the hills and the clouds. He would repeat a Holy Name softly to himself a hundred, hundred times, till, at each repetition, he seemed to move more and more out of his body, sweeping up to the doors of some tremendous discovery; but, just as the door was opening, his body would drag him back and, with grief, he felt he was locked up again in the flesh and bones of Puran Dass.

Every morning the filled begging-bowl was laid silently in among the twisted roots outside the shrine. Sometimes the priest brought it; sometimes a trader, lodging in the village, and anxious to get merit, trudged up the path; but, more often, it was the woman who had cooked the meal overnight; and she would murmur, hardly above her breath: "Speak for me before the gods, Bhagat. Speak for me and my family." Now and then some bold child would be allowed the honor, and Puran Dass would hear him drop the bowl and run as fast as his little legs would carry him, but the Bhagat never came down to the village. It was laid out like a map at his feet. He could see the evening gatherings held on the circle of the threshing-floors, because that was the only level ground; could see the wonderful green of the young rice, the indigo blues of the Indian corn, and the red bloom of the amaranth and buckwheat.

 
     
 
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