Darjeeling is one of the most favored spots on earth, the loveliest place in India, and the favorite resort and sanitarium of the citizen element as distinguished from military and official circles. It is a hard journey, both going and coming, and a traveler gets impatient when he finds that it takes him from four o'clock in the afternoon of one day until nearly two o'clock of the next to make a journey of 246 miles. He leaves Calcutta with the thinnest clothing he can buy, but when he arrives there he is glad that he brought his overcoat and gloves, and pulls a second blanket over himself at night. At the same time it is not so cold in Darjeeling as one would expect from the altitude of 7,400 feet above the sea, and the latitude, which is about 27 degrees 50 minutes. You travel from four o'clock till seven upon a railway of ordinary gauge, cross the Ganges on a steamboat for an hour, taking your dinner while afloat; change into a three-foot gauge train until half-past four in the morning, when you are routed out, given a cup of coffee and a roll, and transferred to a baby carriage on wheels which crawls up the foothills of the Himalayas at the rate of six miles an hour.

The track is only two feet gauge, with forty-pound rails, which have been laid upon the ancient highway over which the caravans between China and India have passed for thirty centuries. It winds in and out of gorges and defiles and at several points the engineers have had to cut a foothold for it on the edges of tremendous precipices. It doubles on itself repeatedly, describes the letter S and the letter Z and the figure 8, and zigzags about so recklessly that the engineer puts his locomotive first at one end of the train and then at the other. Englishmen who write books on India assert that it is the grandest railway journey in the world, but we can show them several quite as picturesque and attractive in our own beloved Rocky Mountains. The only advantage they have over us there is the superior height of the mountains and the superior size of the trees. But you must remember that our country is young yet, and India is one of the oldest nations in the world.

The first few miles of track lie in a dense jungle, with vegetation of truly tropical luxuriance. Cane stalks grow fifty and sixty feet high, the grass is fifteen feet deep, beautiful bamboo trees, whose foliage is as fine as feathers, and palms which have plumage like a peacock and a bird of paradise, lift their proud and haughty heads above an impenetrable growth which, the guides tell us, is the home of tigers, rhinoceroses, panthers, bears, wild hogs, buffaloes, deer and all sorts of beasts, and snakes as big around as a barrel. Fern trees are lovely, and are found here in their greatest glory, but nevertheless we have foliage at home, and they are no more beautiful than our elms, oaks, and other trees that I might mention.

This is a great tea country, and the mountain sides have been cleared in many places for plantations. A tea planter in India is a heavy swell. He may be no more brilliant or intellectual or virtuous or handsome, but the fact that he grows tea instead of potatoes or wheat or sugar gives him a higher standing in the social scale. I was asking an explanation of this phenomenon from a very wise man the other day, and, although he insisted that his attention had never been called to it before, he was willing to admit that it was so, and he explained it on the theory that so many sons of dukes and earls and lords and the swagger set in England had come to India to engage in tea growing that they had created a caste of their own; so that whenever a man said he was a tea planter the public immediately assumed that his father belonged to the nobility and treated him accordingly. The tea planters usually live in good style. They have beautiful bungalows, gardens, lawns and groves, and although they complain of the depression of the industry, there is no evidence that they suffer for want of the necessities of life. In the Darjeeling district are about two hundred large plantations, employing from one to two thousand laborers each, and producing about 12,000,000 pounds a year. Most of the product is shipped to England.

They carry you up the mountains in tiny little cars seating six persons and open all around so that the passengers can take in all there is to see, and they have plenty of scenery. The trains are not allowed to run faster than six miles an hour as a precaution against accidents, which allows plenty of time to look about, and they twist around so that you can see things from various points of view. And if a passenger gets impatient or is in a hurry he can jump out of the car and walk ahead.

There is little doubt that the views from Darjeeling include the most majestic assemblage of mountains on the earth's surface. For a distance of 200 miles east and west there arise a succession of peaks not less than 22,000 feet high, and several of them more than 25,000. In the immediate vicinity and within sight are the highest mountains in the world. Everest, the king of mountains, which measures 29,200 feet, is only eighty miles distant; Kinchinjunga, which is forty-five miles distant, is 28,156 feet high, and also, in the immediate vicinity, are the following:

  Janu 25,304 Kabru 24,015 
  Chumalari 23,943 Pauhanri 23,186 
  Donkia 23,176 Baudim 22,017 
  Narsingh 22,146 Kanhenjhan 22,500 
  Chomaino 23,300

Between these mountain peaks is an almost continuous succession of snow fields and glaciers beyond all comparison. The snow line is 17,000 feet in midsummer, and in winter comes down to 12,000 and 15,000 feet, and when that altitude is reached snow is continuous and impassable. This is the highest and the most extensive of all mountain ranges. Along the northern frontier of India for 2,000 miles it stands like a vast hedge, the most formidable natural boundary in the world, nowhere lower than 17,000 feet, and impassable for armies the entire distance, with the exception of two gateways: Jeylup Pass here and at the Khyber Pass of which I told you in a previous chapter. There are passes over the snow, but their elevation is seldom less than 16,000 feet; the average elevation of the watershed exceeds 18,000 feet, and the great plateau of Thibet, which lies upon the other side, is between 15,000 and 16,000 feet above the sea.

This plateau, which is sometimes called the "Roof of the World," is 700 miles long and 500 miles wide, and could not be crossed by an army not only because of the winds and the cold, but also because there is very little water, no fuel and no supplies. No invading force could possibly enter India from the north if these passes were defended, because the inhospitable climate of Thibet would not sustain an army, and the enormous distance and altitude would make the transportation of supplies for any considerable force practically impossible. During the summer the plateau is covered with flocks and herds, but when the cold weather comes on the shepherds drive them into the foothills, where they find shelter. The width of the main range of the Himalayas will average about 500 miles between its northern and southern foot-hills; it embraces every possible kind of climate, vegetation and natural products, and is a vast reservoir from which four of the greatest rivers of the world flow across the plains of India, carrying the drainage from the melting snows, and without this reservoir northern India would be a hopeless and dreary desert.

There is a lively dispute among geographers, topographers and other learned pundits of the scientific bureaus of the Indian government as to whether Everest is really the king of the mountains. Other peaks in the group have their advocates, and over in Cashmere are several which lift their heads nearly as high as 30,000 feet, but few of them have been accurately measured, and the height of none can be determined with exactness. Mount Godwin, in Cashmere, is very near the height of Everest, and many claim that Kinchinjunga is even higher.

Darjeeling is a sanitarium of the greatest benefit to the people of India. The town is made up chiefly of hotels, hospitals and summer bungalows belonging to the mercantile class of Calcutta. Few officials except military officers ever go there. The official society follows the viceroy to Simla, where the summer is always gay, but those who seek health and rest only and are fond of nature prefer Darjeeling. The hotels are good, there are plenty of boarding houses, there are hospitals for all sorts of infirmities, and perhaps there is no other place in the world with such an ideal climate within a day's travel of the tropics. The hotels, villas, boarding houses, hospitals and asylums are scattered all over the hillside without regularity of arrangement. Wherever a level spot has been found some kind of a house has been erected, usually without any architectural taste, and the common use of corrugated iron for building material has almost spoiled the looks of the place. There is plenty of timber, and the great mountains are built of stone, so that there is no excuse for the atrocious structures that have been erected there.

Everybody who comes is expected to get up at half-past 3 in the morning in order to see the sun rise. Everything is arranged by the managers of the hotel. They have fixed the sunrise at that hour in order to compel their guests to make the greatest possible effort to see it because they will thus remember the incident, and the experience will remain longer in their memory. They give you a cup of coffee and a roll, and, if you insist upon it, you can get an egg, although the cook is not inclined to be obliging at that hour in the morning. They put you in a sort of sedan chair called a "dandy," and you are carried by four men seven miles up the mountains to a point 12,000 feet above the sea. From there you can look upon the most impressive spectacle that human eye has ever witnessed, the rising of the sun over an amphitheater surrounded by the highest group of peaks on the globe. Their snow-covered summits are illuminated gradually, beginning at the top, as if a searchlight were slowly turned upon them. Mount Everest stands in the center, but is so much farther away that it does not seem so much higher than the rest.

There is little mountain climbing in India compared with the Alps, because the distances and the difficulties are so great. A Boston gentleman and his wife made the ascent of Mount Everest in 1904, and it is claimed that they went higher than anyone had ever gone before.

Darjeeling is not a large town, but it is filled with interesting people, and on Sunday a market is held in the principal bazaar which is declared to be the most picturesque and fascinating in all India. Throngs of natives in quaint costumes come from all parts of the country around, representatives of tribes which do not often stray so far away from their homes. They come from Nepaul, Thibet, Sikkim and the surrounding countries, and bring articles of home manufacture to exchange for "store goods." The features of the people are unmistakable testimony of their Mongolian origin. They are short of stature, with broad, flat faces, high cheek bones and bright, smiling eyes wide apart. The men grow no beards, but have long pigtails of coarse coal-black hair. The women are sturdy, good-natured and unembarrassed; they are adorned with a great quantity of jewelry, chiefly of silver, but often of gold. They wear circlets around their heads made of coral, turquoise, amber, agate, jade or other precious stones, with five or six necklaces and enormous girdles of the same material. Huge ear rings, four or five inches long, pull down the lobes of their ears. Their wrists are heavy with bracelets, their limbs with anklets, and their fingers are half hidden with rings. The entire fortune of a family is usually invested in personal adornments for the women members. They find this much safer than savings banks.

The attention of the world has recently been attracted in that direction because of an unusual and very significant movement of the Indian government, which, in the winter of 1904, took advantage of the embarrassments of Russia in the farther East, and sent a military expedition over the northern border on the pretext of escorting a diplomatic mission. Colonel Younghusband was sent as an envoy extraordinary - very extraordinary - for, with 2,500 British soldiers, he was instructed to make a treaty of commerce and good will with the Grand Lama of Thibet, and his orders were to stay at Lhassa until the treaty was negotiated and as much longer as was necessary to compel the Thibetans to respect its terms and carry out its stipulations. That means the permanent occupation of Lhassa by a British army and the opening of an unknown and mysterious region to trade.

Thibet is the unknown, mysterious country of the world, a land of desert and mountains inhabited by a primitive and bigoted people, who have for many years been under the protection of China, and paid tribute to the emperor until the late war with Japan in 1895. After the result of that conflict became known they seemed to lose their respect for and confidence in their protectors and have sent no envoys or money to Peking since. We know very little about Thibet. Foreigners are not permitted to enter the country, and only a few venturesome explorers have endured the hardships and faced the dangers of a visit to that forbidden land. Indeed, it is so perilous an undertaking that a skeptical public frequently takes the liberty to doubt the statements of the men who have gone there. But all agree that it is the hermit of nations, and its people are under the control of cruel and ignorant Buddhist priests, who endeavor to prevent them from acquiring any modern customs or ideas. One of the objects of Colonel Younghusband's expedition is to change this situation and persuade the ignorant and bigoted ecclesiastics who govern Thibet to open their gates and admit foreign merchants and foreign merchandise into that benighted country. There is considerable commerce, however. Parties of Thibetan traders are continually coming across the frontier into Darjeeling with all sorts of native products and may be seen in the market that is held every Sunday morning and during the weekdays in the bazaars of the city. After selling their goods they buy cottons, drugs, groceries, hardware and other European goods and take them back into their own country; but foreigners are not allowed to pass the line, and practically all of the trade of Thibet is monopolized by the Chinese, who sell the natives large quantities of cotton fabrics and other imported merchandise as well as tea, silk and other Chinese goods. This trade is supposed to be worth many millions of dollars, and the ability of India to furnish the tea and of England to furnish the manufactured goods that the inhabitants of Thibet may need is considered ample reason for sending the Younghusband expedition into that country. But there are other reasons quite as important.

Lying between Thibet and India is the independent state of Nepal, or Nepaul, the home of the Gurkhas, one of the finest fighting races in the world, and there are eighteen full regiments of them in the Indian army. The Gurkhas are a mountain people, industrious, temperate, hardy, brave, loyal, honest, and without sense of fear. They are the main dependence of the Indian government among the native troops. Nepal has its own government and the people are proud of their independence. While they are entirely friendly to Great Britain and have treaties with India under which the latter extends a protectorate over the province and enters into an offensive and defensive alliance, the Maharaja permits no British adviser to take part in his government and receives a representative of the viceroy only in the capacity of envoy or minister plenipotentiary. The latter dare not interfere with the administration of the government and never presumes to tender his advice to the native rulers unless it is asked. His duties are chiefly to keep the viceroy at Calcutta informed as to what is going on in the Nepal province and to cultivate the good will of the officials and the people.

There has never been a census of Nepal and the population has been variously estimated from 2,000,000 to 5,000,000. It is probably near the latter figure. The people are mostly engaged in raising cattle, sheep and goats and growing wheat, barley and other grains in the valleys. The principal exports, which amount to about $8,000,000 a year, are wool, hides and grain, and the imports, which amount to about $5,000,000, are cotton goods and other wearing apparel, iron and steel, cutlery and other manufactured merchandise.

The people of Nepal profess the Hindu faith and have close relations with the Brahmins at Benares, which is the Rome, or the Mecca, of Brahminism. They sometimes in the past have beep bold enough to defy British authority, and, for example, protected Nana Sahib, the leader of the mutiny of 1857, and gave him an asylum when he fled from British vengeance. However amicable the relations between Nepal and the British government, the latter is scrupulously careful not to furnish any excuse for complaint or controversy, because a collision with this powerful people would not only result in the loss of the finest corps in the Indian army, but would make it extremely unpleasant for the people of Assam, Bengal, Oudh and the Punjab, which provinces lie next on the south.

One hundred years ago an army from Nepal invaded Thibet and sacked an important town. The Thibetans appealed to China, which had not yet lost its military vigor, and sent an army to invade Nepal. It came within eighteen miles of Gurkha, the capital, when the Nepals proposed a parley, paid a heavy indemnity and entered into a treaty of permanent peace, promising never to invade Thibet again. That was the last heroic act of the Chinese government, and then, in compliance with the terms of the treaty, all the passes through the Himalaya Mountains between the two countries were permanently closed by common consent, and in many cases were walled up with masonry, adding an artificial barrier to the natural wall. It was also agreed that there should be no communication across the border and that the inhabitants of both provinces would remain upon their own sides. This prohibition has been enforced until to-day, and has not been violated except by Buddhist priests and monks and a few venturesome explorers. No Englishman may even now enter Nepal or pass from Nepal into Thibet without permission from the authorities of both governments.

Mindful of the aggressive policy of Russia, which controls Turkestan, the country north of Thibet, the British government some years ago sent an envoy named McCauley to Lhassa, with the permission of the Chinese government, to open commercial relations with Thibet and find another market for the tea of Assam and the manufactured merchandise of India. But he was unable to do anything. He could not induce the priests, or lamas, who control the government, to negotiate with him. They would not respond to his advances and gave him plainly to understand that they did not care to improve their relations with India. Immediately after his departure the Thibetans began to fortify the passes over the mountains, and invaded the little province of Sikkim, which also adjoins Thibet. The British sent up troops and forbade the continuance of the work. The Thibetans withdrew to the interior and agreed to make a commercial treaty and open their market to Indian goods, promising to send a plenipotentiary to Calcutta for that purpose within six months; but he has never appeared, and frequent reminders from the British have passed without notice.

When Lord Curzon came to India he determined to reverse the policy of indifference which had been pursued by Lord Elgin, his predecessor. The opening of Thibet to Indian trade has been one of the principal features of his administrative programme. In 1900 he sent to Lhassa an ambassador in the person of Colonel Younghusband, a distinguished Asiatic traveler, who speaks the language of Thibet, to talk things over and persuade the Dailai Lama, as the chief ruler of Thibet is called, to carry out his promise about the treaties. The Grand Lama refused to receive Colonel Younghusband, and would have nothing whatever to do with him, rejecting his overtures without explanation and treating his messages with contempt.

While England was suffering the worst of the disasters of the recent war in South Africa the Russian government sent a secret embassy to Lhassa, carrying rich presents and large sums of money to the Grand Lamal for the ostensible purpose of securing permission to construct a branch from its Siberian Railway to Lhassa across Chinese Turkestan. The Grand Lama afterward sent an embassy to return the visit at St. Petersburg, which was received with great honors and presented with rich gifts. The Grand Lama, in recognition of these attentions, conferred upon the czar the title of "Lord and Guardian of the Gifts of Faith." It is the supreme Buddhist honor, and while the title is empty, it is particularly significant in this case, because it implies protection. It is believed that a secret treaty was made under which Russia promised to guarantee the independence of Thibet and protect that government against invasion in exchange for the privilege of constructing a railway line through its territory. The Thibetans are supposed to have accepted these terms because of their fear of China. Until 1895 Thibet was a province of the Chinese Empire, and paid tribute to the emperor every year, but since the war with Japan the Grand Lama has sent no messenger to Peking, has paid no tribute and has ignored the Chinese representative at Lhassa. The priests postponed negotiations on the pretext that it was necessary to consult Peking, and promised to send a mission to Calcutta within six months, but never have done so. In the meantime there has been continual friction on the border; the Indian authorities have repeatedly reminded the Grand Lama of his promise and its postponement, but he has stubbornly refused to communicate with them, and has even returned their communications unopened.

When the secret relations between Russia and Thibet were discovered the Chinese authorities were naturally indignant and the Indian authorities were alarmed. After a conference China granted permission for England to use whatever methods it thought best to bring the Grand Lama to terms. Thereupon Colonel Younghusband was sent to Lhassa again. The Grand Lama again refused to see him, declined to appoint an official to confer with him and returned his credentials unopened, and used other means to show his indifference and contempt for India and England.

When Younghusband returned to Calcutta and reported the failure of his mission and the insults offered him Lord Curzon decided that the time had come to act, and as soon as preparations could be made Colonel Younghusband started back to Lhassa escorted by 2,500 armed men and carrying provisions for two years. He was instructed to avoid collisions, to make friends with the people, to establish permanent posts on the line of march wherever he thought necessary and to remain at Lhassa until he secured a treaty opening the markets of Thibet to British merchants. The treaty is made, and by its terms the Thibetans are to pay England an indemnity of $3,750,000 to cover the cost of the expedition. Until the indemnity is paid the Indian troops will continue to occupy the Churubi Valley which leads to Lhassa.

Lord Curzon did not dispatch this expedition and undertake this strategic movement without considering the present situation of Russia. The czar took occasion to engage in negotiations not only with Thibet, but with Afghanistan also, at the very moment when England was suffering her most serious disasters and embarrassments of recent history, and is getting tit for tat. Before Colonel Younghusband's expedition was dispatched the British ambassador at St. Petersburg was instructed to inquire if the Russian government had any relations with Thibet or any interests there, and was officially informed that it had not, and hence the etiquette of the situation had been complied with and Lord Curzon was perfectly free to act.