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THE BASE OF THE HINDÚ KÚSH.
THE ABODE OF SNOW.
MODERN TRAVEL-INFLUENCE OF THE HIMÁLAYA.
I HAVE heard of an American backwoodsman who, on finding some people camping about twenty miles from his log cabin, rushed back in consternation to his wife and exclaimed, "Pack thee up, Martha-pack thee up! it's getting altogether too crowded hereabouts.” The annoyance which this worthy complained of is very generally felt at present; and, go almost where he may, the lover of peace and solitude will soon have reason to complain that the country round him is becoming “altogether too crowded.” As for the enterprising and exploring traveller who desires to make a reputation for himself by his explorations, his case is even worse. Kafiristan, Chinese Tibet, and the very centre of Africa, indeed remain for him; but, wherever he may go, he cannot escape the painful conviction that his track will ere long be trodden
ground, and that the special correspondent, the trained reporter, will soon try to obliterate his footsteps. It was not so in older times. The man who went out to see a strange country, if he were fortunate enough to return to his friends alive, became an authority on that country to the day of his death, and continued so for generations afterwards if he had only used his wits well. An accurate description of a country usually stood good for a century or two at least, and for that period there was no one to dispute it; but the Khiva of 1872 is fundamentally different from the Khiva of 1875; and could we stand to-day where Burton, half-blinded, first beheld Lake Tanganyika, or where Speke stood sublimely alone a few years ago at Murchison Falls, when he was accomplishing the heroic feat of passing (for the first time in authentic history) from Zanzibar to Cairo, through the ground where the Nile unquestionably takes its rise, we should probably see an English steamboat, with Colonel Gordon, or one of his officers, on board, moving over the waters of Central Africa. For the change in the relations of one country with another, which has been effected by steam as a means of propulsion, is of a most radical kind; and it proceeds so rapidly, that by the time the little girls at our knees are grandmothers, and have been fired with that noble ambition to see the world which possesses the old ladies of our own day, it will be only a question of money and choice with them as to having a cruise upon the lakes of Central Africa, or going to reason with the Grand Lama of Tibet upon the subject of polyandry.
Such a process, however, will always leave room for books of travel by those who are specially qualified conduct my
either to understand nature or describe mankind; and there are regions of the world, the natural conformation of which will continue to exclude ordinary travellers until we have overcome the difficulty of flying through the air. Especially are such regions to be found in the Himálaya—which, according to the Sanscrit, literally means “The Abode of Snow”—and indeed in the whole of that enormous mass of mountains which really stretches across Asia and Europe, from the China Sea to the Atlantic, and to which Arab geographers have given the expressive title of “ The Stony Girdle of the Earth.” It is to the loftiest valleys and almost the highest peaks of that range that I would
readers from the burning plains of India, in the year 1873, in the hope of finding themes of interest, if not many matters of absolute novelty. I have had the privilege of discoursing from and on many mountains — mountains in Switzerland and Beloochistan, China and Japan—and would now speak
“Of vales more wild and mountains more sublime.” Often, of late years, when thinking of again describing new scenes, the lines have recurred to me with painful force which the dying Magician of the North wrote in pencil by Tweedside :
“How shall the warped and broken board
Endure to bear the painter's dye ?
How to the minstrel's skill reply ?” But the grandest mountains of the world, which have restored something of former strength, may perhaps suggest thoughts of interest, despite the past death-inlife of an invalid in the tropics. There is a lily (F. cordata) which rarely blossoms in India, unless watered