5

I think this story was by Kipling -- it's set in India, during the British Empire.

Maybe a few dozen pages in length.

The plot --

  • An Indian man had had a successful career, as a ruler or a high adviser/administrator, maybe had a medal, was semi-famous
  • Retired, left home, set out to become a holy man or hermit (which the author says is traditional in Indian society in the 3rd phase of life)
  • Leaves the city unnoticed/unrecognised (contrasted with his previous fame)
  • Eventually finds an abandoned spot -- with a room, a little temple or something -- at the top of a hill in the country-side
  • The local villagers bring him alms food and he stays there, becomes their local holy man
  • The local animals become unafraid of him and visit
  • One night he's awoken by a lot of animals arriving
  • He somehow knows there's an earthquake and they all (i.e. he and the animals) race off down the hill-side
  • They pass through the village, which is lower down the hill, wake everyone up, all the villagers leave the village too, gather on the other side of the valley
  • The hillside falls down, obliterating the village (but the villagers are safe)
  • The man then dies (of old age, basically) and the villagers resume their life
7

I think you are looking for The Miracle of Purun Bhagat.

An Indian man had had a successful career, as a ruler or a high adviser/administrator, maybe had a medal, was semi-famous

His name was Purun Dass, and he was the "Prime Minister of one of the semi-independent native States in the north-western part of the country."

Retired, left home, set out to become a holy man or hermit (which the author says is traditional in Indian society in the 3rd phase of life)

"India is the one place in the world where a man can do as he pleases and nobody asks why; and the fact that Dewan Sir Purun Dass, K.C.I.E., had resigned position, palace, and power, and taken up the begging-bowl and ochre-coloured dress of a Sunnyasi, or holy man, was considered nothing extraordinary"

Leaves the city unnoticed/unrecognised (contrasted with his previous fame)

"he walked through the city gates, an antelope skin and brass-handled crutch under his arm, and a begging-bowl of polished brown coco-de-mer in his hand, barefoot, alone, with eyes cast on the ground"

Eventually finds an abandoned spot -- with a room, a little temple or something -- at the top of a hill in the country-side

"One evening he crossed the highest pass he had met till then -- it had been a two-day's climb -- and came out on a line of snow-peaks that banded all the horizon -- mountains from fifteen to twenty thousand feet high, looking almost near enough to hit with a stone, though they were fifty or sixty miles away. The pass was crowned with dense, dark forest -- deodar, walnut, wild cherry, wild olive, and wild pear, but mostly deodar, which is the Himalayan cedar; and under the shadow of the deodars stood a deserted shrine to Kali-- who is Durga, who is Sitala, who is sometimes worshipped against the smallpox.

Purun Dass swept the stone floor clean, smiled at the grinning statue, made himself a little mud fireplace at the back of the shrine, spread his antelope skin on a bed of fresh pine-needles, tucked his bairagi -- his brass-handled crutch -- under his armpit, and sat down to rest."

The local villagers bring him alms food and he stays there, becomes their local holy man

"Then all the housewives of the village said, "Think you he will stay with us?" and each did her best to cook the most savoury meal for the Bhagat."

The local animals become unafraid of him and visit

"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 intruder. 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.

After the monkeys came the barasingh, that big deer which is like our red deer, but stronger. He wished to rub off the velvet of his horns against the cold stones of Kali's statue, and stamped his feet when he saw the man at the shrine.

Afterward, the barasingh brought his doe and fawn -- gentle things that mumbled on the holy man's blanket -- or 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; even brindled, silent mushick-nabha must needs find out what the light in the shrine meant, and drop out her moose-like nose into Purun Bhagat's lap, coming and going with the shadows of the fire."

One night he's awoken by a lot of animals arriving

"It was in the black heart of the night, the rain drumming like a thousand drums, that he was roused by a plucking at his blanket, and, stretching out, felt the little hand of a langur.

The deer's antlers clashed as he strode into the shrine, clashed against the grinning statue of Kali. He lowered them in Purun Bhagat's direction and stamped uneasily, hissing through his half-shut nostrils.

The barasingh backed unwillingly as Purun Bhagat drove a pine torch deep into the flame, twirling it till it was well lit.

He heard, though he could not see, the langurs pressing about him, and behind them the uhh! uhh! of Sona. The rain matted his long white hair into ropes; the water splashed beneath his bare feet, and his yellow robe clung to his frail old body, but he stepped down steadily, leaning against the barasingh."

He somehow knows there's an earthquake and they all (i.e. he and the animals) race off down the hill-side

""Up and out!" cried Purun Bhagat; and he did not know his own voice, for it was years since he had spoken aloud to a man. "The hill falls! The hill is falling! Up and out, oh, you within!""

They pass through the village, which is lower down the hill, wake everyone up, all the villagers leave the village too, gather on the other side of the valley

""Across the valley and up the next hill!" shouted Purun Bhagat. "Leave none behind! We follow!""

The hillside falls down, obliterating the village (but the villagers are safe)

"There was a sigh in the air that grew to a mutter, and a mutter that grew to a roar, and a roar that passed all sense of hearing, and the hillside on which the villagers stood was hit in the darkness, and rocked to the blow."

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