The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories HTML version

The Ninth Vibration
There is a place uplifted nine thousand feet in purest air where one of the most ancient
tracks in the world runs from India into Tibet. It leaves Simla of the Imperial councils by
a stately road; it passes beyond, but now narrowing, climbing higher beside the khuds or
steep drops to the precipitous valleys beneath, and the rumor of Simla grows distant and
the way is quiet, for, owing to the danger of driving horses above the khuds, such
baggage as you own must be carried by coolies, and you yourself must either ride on
horseback or in the little horseless carriage of the Orient, here drawn and pushed by four
men. And presently the deodars darken the way with a solemn presence, for-
These are the Friars of the wood,
The Brethren of the Solitude
Hooded and grave-"
-their breath most austerely pure in the gradually chilling air. Their companies increase
and now the way is through a great wood where it has become a trail and no more, and
still it climbs for many miles and finally a rambling bungalow, small and low, is sighted
in the deeps of the trees, a mountain stream from unknown heights falling beside it. And
this is known as the House in the Woods. Very few people are permitted to go there, for
the owner has no care for money and makes no provision for guests. You must take your
own servant and the khansamah will cook you such simple food as men expect in the
wilds, and that is all. You stay as long as you please and when you leave not even a gift
to the khansamah is permitted.
I had been staying in Ranipur of the plains while I considered the question of getting to
Upper Kashmir by the route from Simla along the old way to Chinese Tibet where I
would touch Shipki in the Dalai Lama's territory and then pass on to Zanskar and so
down to Kashmir - a tremendous route through the Himalaya and a crowning experience
of the mightiest mountain scenery in the world. I was at Ranipur for the purpose of
consulting my old friend Olesen, now an irrigation official in the Rampur district - a man
who had made this journey and nearly lost his life in doing it. It is not now perhaps so
dangerous as it was, and my life was of no particular value to any one but myself, and the
plan interested me.
I pass over the long discussions of ways and means in the blinding heat of Ranipur.
Olesen put all his knowledge at my service and never uttered a word of the envy that
must have filled him as he looked at the distant snows cool and luminous in blue air, and,
shrugging good-natured shoulders, spoke of the work that lay before him on the burning
plains until the terrible summer should drag itself to a close. We had vanquished the
details and were smoking in comparative silence one night on the veranda, when he said
in his slow reflective way;