THE NINTH VIBRATION - ET. AL.
THE NINTH VIBRATION - ET. AL.
L. ADAMS BECK
THE NINTH VIBRATION
A ROMANCE OF THE EAST
THE INCOMPARABLE LADY
A STORY OF CHINA WITH A MORAL
THE HATRED OF THE QUEEN
A STORY OF BURMA
FIRE OF BEAUTY
THE BUILDING OF THE TAJ MAHAL
"HOW GREAT IS THE GLORY OF KWANNON!"
"THE ROUND-FACED BEAUTY"
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;
"You don't like the average hotel Ormond and you'll like it
still less up Simla way with all the Simla crowd of grass-widows
and fellows out for as good a time as they can cram into the hot
weather. I wonder if I could get you a permit for The House in
the Woods while you re waiting to fix up your men and route for
He explained and of course I jumped at the chance. It belonged
he said to a man named Rup Singh a pandit or learned man of
Ranipur. He had always spent the summer there but age and
failing health made this impossible now and under certain
conditions he would occasionally allow people known to friends of
his own to put up there.
"And Rup Singh and I are very good friends" Olesen said; "I won
his heart by discovering the lost Sukh Mandir or Hall of
Pleasure built many centuries ago by a Maharao of Ranipur for a
summer retreat in the great woods far beyond Simla. There are
lots of legends about it here in Ranipur. They call it The House
of Beauty. Rup Singh's ancestor had been a close friend of the
Maharao and was with him to the end and that's why he himself
sets such store on the place. You have a good chance if I ask for
He told me the story and since it is the heart of my own I give
it briefly. Many centuries ago the Ranipur Kingdom was ruled by
the Maharao Rai Singh a prince of the great lunar house of the
Rajputs. Expecting a bride from some far away kingdom (the name
of this is unrecorded) he built the Hall of Pleasure as a summer
palace a house of rare and costly beauty. A certain great
chamber he lined with carved figures of the Gods and their
stories almost unsurpassed for truth and life. So with the pine
trees whispering about it the secret they sigh to tell he hoped
to create an earthly Paradise with this Queen in whom all
loveliness was perfected. And then some mysterious tragedy ended
all his hopes. It was rumoured that when the Princess came to his
court she was by some terrible mistake received with insult
and offered the position only of one of his women. After that
nothing was known. Certain only is it that he fled to the hills
to the home of his broken hope and there ended his days in
solitude save for the attendance of two faithful friends who
would not abandon him even in the ghostly quiet of the winter
when the pine boughs were heavy with snow and a spectral moon
stared at the panthers shuffling through the white wastes
beneath. Of these two Rup Singh's ancestor was one. And in his
thirty fifth year the Maharao died and his beauty and strength
passed into legend and his kingdom was taken by another and the
jungle crept silently over his Hall of Pleasure and the story
"There was not a memory of the place up there" Olesen went on.
"Certainly I never heard anything of it when I went up to the
Shipki in 1904. But I had been able to be useful to Rup Singh and
he gave me a permit for The House in the Woods and I stopped
there for a few days' shooting. I remember that day so well. I
was wandering in the dense woods while my men got their midday
grub and I missed the trail somehow and found myself in a part
where the trees were dark and thick and the silence heavy as
lead. It was as if the trees were on guard - they stood shoulder
to shoulder and stopped the way. Well I halted and had a notion
there was something beyond that made me doubt whether to go on. I
must have stood there five minutes hesitating. Then I pushed on
bruising the thick ferns under my shooting boots and stooping
under the knotted boughs. Suddenly I tramped out of the jungle
into a clearing and lo and behold a ruined House with blocks of
marble lying all about it and carved pillars and a great roof
all being slowly smothered by the jungle. The weirdest thing you
ever saw. I climbed some fallen columns to get a better look and
as I did I saw a face flash by at the arch of a broken window. I
sang out in Hindustani but no answer: only the echo from the
woods. Somehow that dampened my ardour and I didn't go in to
what seemed like a great ruined hall for the place was so eerie
and lonely and looked mighty snaky into the bargain. So I came
ingloriously away and told Rup Singh. And his whole face
changed. 'That is The House of Beauty' he said. 'All my life
have I sought it and in vain. For friend of my soul a man must
lose himself that he may find himself and what lies beyond and
the trodden path has ever been my doom. And you who have not
sought have seen. Most strange are the way of the Gods'. Later on
I knew this was why he had always gone up yearly thinking and
dreaming God knows what. He and I tried for the place together
but in vain and the whole thing is like a dream. Twice he has let
friends of mine stay at The House in the Woods and I think he
won't refuse now."
"Did he ever tell you the story?"
"Never. I only know what I've picked up here. Some horrible
mistake about the Rani that drove the man almost mad with
remorse. I've heard bits here and there. There's nothing so vital
as tradition in India."
"I wonder'. what really happened."
"That we shall never know. I got a little old picture of the
Maharao - said to be painted by a Pahari artist. It's not likely
to be authentic but you never can tell. A Brahman sold it to me
that he might complete his daughter's dowry and hated doing it."
"May I see it?"
"Why certainly. Not a very good light but - can do as the
He brought it out rolled in silk stuff and I carried it under the
hanging lamp. A beautiful young man indeed with the air of race
these people have beyond all others;- a cold haughty face
immovably dignified. He sat with his hands resting lightly on the
arms of his chair of State. A crescent of rubies clasped the
folds of the turban and from this sprang an aigrette scattering
splendours. The magnificent hilt of a sword was ready beside him.
The face was not only beautiful but arresting.
"A strange picture" I said. "The artist has captured the man
himself. I can see him trampling on any one who opposed him and
suffering in the same cold secret way. It ought to he authentic
if it isn't. Don't you know any more?"
"Nothing. Well - to bed and tomorrow I'll see Rup Singh."
I was glad when he returned with the permission. I was to be very
careful he said to make no allusion to the lost palace for two
women were staying at the House in the Woods - a mother and
daughter to whom Rup Singh had granted hospitality because of an
obligation he must honor. But with true Oriental distrust of
women he had thought fit to make no confidence to them. I
promised and asked Olesen if he knew them.
"Slightly. Canadians of Danish blood like my own. Their name is
Ingmar. Some people think the daughter good-looking. The mother
is supposed to be clever; keen on occult subjects which she came
back to India to study. The husband was a great naturalist and
the kindest of men. He almost lived in the jungle and the natives
had all sorts of rumours about his powers. You know what they
are. They said the birds and beasts followed him about. Any old
thing starts a legend."