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When the year turned, the roofs of the huts were all little squares of purest gold, for it was on the roofs that they laid out their cobs of corn to dry. Hiving and harvesting, rice-sowing and husking, passed before his eyes, all embroidered down there on the many-sided plots of fields, and he thought of them and wondered what and where all this led to at long last.

Even in populated India a man cannot a day sit still before the wild things run over him as though he were a rock; and in that wilderness very soon the wild things, who knew Kali's Shrine well, came back to look at the stranger who had intruded into their shrine. The langurs, the big gray-whiskered monkeys of the Himalayas, were, naturally, the first, for they are alive with curiosity; and when they had upset the begging-bowl, and rolled it round the floor, and tried their teeth on the brass-handled crutch, and made faces at the antelope skin, they decided that the human being who sat so still was harmless.

At evening, they would leap down from the pines, and beg with their hands for things to eat, and then swing off in graceful curves. They liked the warmth of the fire, too, and huddled round it till Puran Dass had to push them aside to throw on more fuel; and in the morning, as often as not, he would find a furry ape sharing his blanket. All day long, one or other of the tribe would sit by his side, staring out at the snows, crooning and looking unspeakably wise and sorrowful.

After the monkeys came the barasingh, the big deer. He wished to rub off the velvet of his horns against the old stones of Kali's statue, and stamped his feet when he saw the man at the shrine. But Puran Dass never moved, and little by little, the royal stag edged up and nuzzled his shoulder. Puran Dass slid one cool hand along the hot antlers, and the touch soothed the beast. The deer bowed his head and Puran Dass very softly rubbed off the velvet that had coated his horns. Afterward, the barasingh brought his doe and fawn - gentle things that mumbled on the holy man's blanket - or the singh would come alone at night, his eyes green in the fire-flicker, to take his share of fresh walnuts.

At last, the musk-deer, the shyest and almost the smallest of the deerlets, came too, her big rabbity ears erect; for she too must find out what the light in the shrine meant, and drop her moose-like nose into Puran Dass's lap. He called them "my brothers," and his low call of "Bhai! Bhai!" would draw them from the forest at noon if they were within earshot. The Himalayan black bear Sona, moody and suspicious, passed that way more than once; and since the Bhagat showed no fear, Sona showed no anger, but watched him, and came closer, and begged a share of the caresses, and a dole of bread or wild berries.

Nearly all hermits and holy men who live apart from the big cities have the reputation of being able to work miracles with the wild things, but all the miracle lies in lovingly welcoming every guest with an open and generous heart, but all this silently and inwardly, while outwardly never making a hasty movement, and for a long time, at least, never looking directly at a visitor. The villagers saw the outline of the barasingh stalking like a shadow through the dark forest behind the shrine; they saw the Himalayan pheasant, blazing in her best colors before Kali's statue; and the langurs, the monkeys on their haunches, inside playing with the walnut shells.

Some of the children too, had heard Sona, the big bear, singing to himself, bear fashion, behind the fallen rocks, and the Bhagat's reputation as a miracle worker stood firm.
Yet nothing was farther from his mind than miracles. He believed that all things were one big Miracle, and when a man knows that much he knows something to really go on. He knew for a certainty that there was nothing great and nothing little in this world; and day and night he strove to think out his way into the heart of things, back to the place whence his soul had come.

So thinking, his untrimmed hair fell down about his shoulders, and the place between the tree trunks, where the begging-bowl rested day after day, sunk and wore into a hollow and each beast knew his exact place at the fire. The fields changed their colors with the seasons; the threshing-floors filled and emptied, and filled again and again; and again and again. There were few changes in the village. The priest was older, and many of the little children who used to come with the begging-dish sent their own children now; and when you asked of the villagers how long their holy man had lived in Kali's Shrine at the head of the pass, they answered, "Always."

Then came such summer rains as had not ben known in the hills for many seasons. Through three good months the valley was wrapped in cloud and soaking mist, steady, unrelenting downfall, breaking off into thunder-shower after thunder-shower. Kali's Shrine stood above the clouds, for the most part, and there was a whole month in which Puran Dass never caught a glimpse of his village. It was packed away under a white floor of cloud that swayed and shifted and rolled on itself and bulged upward.

All that time he heard nothing but the sound of a million little waters, overhead from the treees, and underfoot along the ground, soaking through the pine needles, dripping from the fern, and spouting in muddy channels down the slopes. Then the sun came out, and drew forth the good incense of the cedars and the rhodedendrons, and that far-off, clean smell which the Hill people call "the smell of the snows."

 
     
 
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