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Title: Kim
Author: Kipling, Rudyard, 1865-1936
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Kim" ***

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KIM



BOOKS BY

RUDYARD KIPLING

    A Book of Words
    Actions and Reactions
    A Kipling Pageant
    Captains Courageous
    Collected Dog Stories
    Collected Verse
    Debits and Credits
    Departmental Ditties and Ballads and Barrack-Room Ballads
    Diversity of Creatures
    France at War
    From Sea to Sea
    His Apologies
    If
    Independence
    Just So Song Book
    Just So Stories
    Kim
    Land and Sea Tales
    Letters of Travel
    Life's Handicap: _Being Stories of Mine Own People_
    Limits and Renewals
    Many Inventions
    Plain Tales from the Hills
    Puck of Pook's Hill
    Rewards and Fairies
    Rudyard Kipling's Inclusive Verse, 1885-1932
    Soldier Stories
    Soldiers Three, The Story of the Gadsbys, and In Black and White
    Songs for Youth
    Songs from Books
    Stalky & Co.
    Supplication of the Black Aberdeen
    The Complete Stalky & Co.
    The Day's Work
    The Eyes of Asia
    The Five Nations
    The Humorous Tales of Rudyard Kipling
    The Irish Guards in the Great War
    The Jungle Book
    The Jungle Book, _Special Illustrated Edition_
    The Kipling Birthday Book
    The Light That Failed
    The Naulahka (_With Wolcott Balestier_)
    The Second Jungle Book
    The Seven Seas
    The Two Jungle Books
    The Years Between
    "Thy Servant A Dog"
    Traffics and Discoveries
    Under the Deodars, the Phantom 'Rickshaw, and Wee Willie Winkie

[Illustration: Kim.]



KIM

Rudyard Kipling

[Illustration]

_Doubleday & Company, Inc._

GARDEN CITY NEW YORK



          COPYRIGHT, 1900, 1901

          BY RUDYARD KIPLING

          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

          CL


          Printed in the United States of America



KIM



CHAPTER I

          'Oh ye who tread the Narrow Way
           By Tophet-flare to Judgment Day,
           Be gentle when the heathen pray
               To Buddha at Kamakura!'


HE sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammah on
her brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Gher--the Wonder House, as the
natives call the Lahore Museum. Who hold Zam-Zammah, that
'fire-breathing dragon,' hold the Punjab, for the great green-bronze
piece is always first of the conqueror's loot.

There was some justification for Kim,--he had kicked Lala Dinanath's boy
off the trunnions,--since the English held the Punjab and Kim was
English. Though he was burned black as any native; though he spoke the
vernacular by preference, and his mother-tongue in a clipped uncertain
sing-song; though he consorted on terms of perfect equality with the
small boys of the bazar; Kim was white--a poor white of the very
poorest. The half-caste woman who looked after him (she smoked opium,
and pretended to keep a second-hand furniture shop by the square where
the cheap cabs wait) told the missionaries that she was Kim's mother's
sister; but his mother had been nursemaid in a colonel's family and had
married Kimball O'Hara, a young colour-sergeant of the Mavericks, an
Irish regiment. He afterwards took a post on the Sind, Punjab, and Delhi
railway, and his regiment went home without him. The wife died of
cholera in Ferozepore, and O'Hara fell to drink and loafing up and down
the line with the keen-eyed three-year-old baby. Societies and
chaplains, anxious for the child, tried to catch him, but O'Hara drifted
away, till he came across the woman who took opium and learned the taste
from her, and died as poor whites die in India. His estate at death
consisted of three papers--one he called his 'ne varietur' because those
words were written below his signature thereon, and another his
'clearance-certificate.' The third was Kim's birth-certificate. Those
things, he was used to say, in his glorious opium-hours, would yet make
little Kimball a man. On no account was Kim to part with them, for they
belonged to a great piece of magic--such magic as men practised over
yonder behind the Museum, in the big blue and white Jadoo-Gher--the
Magic House, as we name the Masonic Lodge. It would, he said, all come
right some day, and Kim's horn would be exalted between
pillars--monstrous pillars--of beauty and strength. The Colonel himself,
riding on a horse, at the head of the finest regiment in the world,
would, attend to Kim,--little Kim that should have been better off than
his father. Nine hundred first-class devils, whose god was a Red Bull on
a green field, would attend to Kim, if they had not forgotten
O'Hara--poor O'Hara that was gang-foreman on the Ferozepore line. Then
he would weep bitterly in the broken rush chair on the veranda. So it
came about after his death that the woman sewed parchment, paper, and
birth-certificate into a leather amulet-case which she strung round
Kim's neck.

'And some day,' she said, confusedly remembering O'Hara's prophecies,
'there will come for you a great Red Bull on a green field, and the
Colonel riding on his tall horse, yes, and'--dropping into
English--'nine hundred devils.'

'Ah,' said Kim, 'I shall remember. A Red Bull and a Colonel on a horse
will come, but first, my father said, will come the two men making ready
the ground for these matters. That is how, my father said, they always
did; and it is always so when men work magic.'

If the woman had sent Kim up to the local Jadoo-Gher with those papers,
he would, of course, have been taken over by the Provincial Lodge and
sent to the Masonic Orphanage in the Hills; but what she had heard of
magic she distrusted. Kim, too, held views of his own. As he reached the
years of indiscretion, he learned to avoid missionaries and white men of
serious aspect who asked who he was, and what he did. For Kim did
nothing with an immense success. True, he knew the wonderful walled city
of Lahore from the Delhi Gate to the outer Fort Ditch; was hand in glove
with men who led lives stranger than anything Haroun al Raschid dreamed
of; and he lived in a life wild as that of the Arabian Nights, but
missionaries and secretaries of charitable societies could not see the
beauty of it. His nickname through the wards was 'Little Friend of all
the World'; and very often, being lithe and inconspicuous, he executed
commissions by night on the crowded housetops for sleek and shiny young
men of fashion. It was intrigue, of course,--he knew that much, as he
had known all evil since he could speak,--but what he loved was the game
for its own sake--the stealthy prowl through the dark gullies and lanes,
the crawl up a water-pipe, the sights and sounds of the women's world
on the flat roofs, and the headlong flight from housetop to housetop
under cover of the hot dark. Then there were holy men, ash-smeared
faquirs by their brick shrines under the trees at the riverside, with
whom he was quite familiar--greeting them as they returned from
begging-tours, and, when no one was by, eating from the same dish. The
woman who looked after him insisted with tears that he should wear
European clothes--trousers, a shirt, and a battered hat. Kim found it
easier to slip into Hindu or Mohammedan garb when engaged on certain
businesses. One of the young men of fashion--he who was found dead at
the bottom of a well on the night of the earthquake--had once given him
a complete suit of Hindu kit, the costume of a low-caste street boy, and
Kim stored it in a secret place under some baulks in Nila Ram's
timber-yard, beyond the Punjab High Court, where the fragrant deodar
logs lie seasoning after they have driven down the Ravee. When there was
business or frolic afoot, Kim would use his properties, returning at
dawn to the veranda, all tired out from shouting at the heels of a
marriage procession, or yelling at a Hindu festival. Sometimes there was
food in the house, more often there was not, and then Kim went out again
to eat with his native friends.

As he drummed his heels against Zam-Zammah he turned now and again from
his king-of-the-castle game with little Chota Lai, and Abdullah the
sweetmeat-seller's son, to make a rude remark to the native policeman on
guard over rows of shoes at the Museum door. The big Punjabi grinned
tolerantly: he knew Kim of old. So did the water-carrier, sluicing water
on the dry road from his goat-skirt bag. So did Jawahir Singh, the
Museum carpenter, bent over new packing-cases. So did everybody in sight
except the peasants from the country, hurrying up to the Wonder House to
view the things that men made in their own Province and elsewhere. The
Museum was given up to Indian arts and manufactures, and anybody who
sought wisdom could ask the curator to explain.

'Off! Off! Let me up!' cried Abdullah, climbing up Zam-Zammah's wheel.

'Thy father was a pastry-cook, Thy mother stole the ghi,' sang Kim. 'All
Mussalmans fell off Zam-Zammah long ago!'

'Let me up!' shrilled little Chota Lal in his gilt-embroidered cap. His
father was worth perhaps half a million sterling, but India is the only
democratic land in the world.

'The Hindus fell off Zam-Zammah too. The Mussalmans pushed them off. Thy
father was a pastry-cook--'

He stopped; for there shuffled round the corner, from the roaring Motee
Bazar, such a man as Kim, who thought he knew all castes, had never
seen. He was nearly six feet high, dressed in fold upon fold of dingy
stuff like horse-blanketing, and not one fold of it could Kim refer to
any known trade or profession. At his belt hung a long open-work iron
pencase and a wooden rosary such as holy men wear. On his head was a
gigantic sort of tam-o'-shanter. His face was yellow and wrinkled, like
that of Fook Shing, the Chinese boot-maker in the bazar. His eyes turned
up at the corners and looked like little slits of onyx.

'Who is that?' said Kim to his companions.

'Perhaps it is a man,' said Abdullah, finger in mouth, staring.

'Without doubt,' returned Kim; 'but he is no man of India that I have
ever seen.'

'A priest, perhaps,' said Chota Lal, spying the rosary. 'See! He goes
into the Wonder House!'

'Nay, nay,' said the policeman, shaking his head. 'I do not understand
your talk.' The constable spoke Punjabi. 'Oh, Friend of all the World,
what does he say?'

'Send him hither' said Kim, dropping from Zam-Zammah, flourishing his
bare heels. 'He is a foreigner, and thou art a buffalo.'

The man turned helplessly and drifted towards the boys. He was old, and
his woollen gaberdine still reeked of the stinking artemisia of the
mountain passes.

'O Children, what is that big house?' he said in very fair Urdu.

'The Ajaib-Gher, the Wonder House!' Kim gave him no title--such as Lala
or Mian. He could not divine the man's creed.

'Ah! The Wonder House! Can any enter?'

'It is written above the door--all can enter.'

'Without payment?'

'I go in and out. I am no banker,' laughed Kim.

'Alas! I am an old man. I did not know.' Then, fingering his rosary, he
half turned to the Museum.

'What is your caste? Where is your house? Have you come far?' Kim asked.

'I came by Kulu--from beyond the Kailas--but what know you? From the
hills where'--he sighed--'the air and water are fresh and cool.'

'Aha! Khitai' (a Chinaman), said Abdullah proudly. Fook Shing had once
chased him out of his shop for spitting at the joss above the boots.

'Pahari?' (a hillman), said little Chota Lal.

'Aye, child--a hillman from hills thou'lt never see. Didst hear of
Bhotiyal (Tibet)? I am no Khitai, but a Bhotiya (Tibetan), since you
must know--a lama--or, say a guru in your tongue.'

'A guru from Tibet,' said Kim. 'I have not seen such a man. They be
Hindus in Tibet, then?'

'We be followers of the Middle Way, living in peace in our lamasseries,
and I go to see the Four Holy Places before I die. Now do you, who are
children, know as much as I do who am old.' He smiled benignantly on the
boys.

'Hast thou eaten?'

He fumbled in his bosom and drew forth a worn wooden begging-bowl. The
boys nodded. All priests of their acquaintance begged.

'I do not wish to eat yet.' He turned his head like an old tortoise in
the sunlight. 'Is it true that there are many images in the Wonder House
of Lahore?' He repeated the last words as one making sure of an address.

'That is true,' said Abdullah. 'It is full of heathen buts. Thou also
art an idolater.'

'Never mind him,' said Kim. 'That is the Government's house and there is
no idolatry in it, but only a Sahib with a white beard. Come with me and
I will show.'

'Strange priests eat boys,' whispered Chota Lal.

'And he is a stranger and a but-parast' (idolater), said Abdullah, the
Mohammedan.

Kim laughed. 'He is new. Run to your mothers' laps, and be safe. Come!'

Kim clicked round the self-registering turnstile; the old man followed
and halted amazed. In the entrance-hall stood the larger figures of the
Greco-Buddhist sculptures done, savants know how long since, by
forgotten workmen whose hands were feeling, and not unskilfully, for the
mysteriously transmitted Grecian touch. There were hundreds of pieces,
friezes of figures in relief, fragments of statues and slabs crowded
with figures that had encrusted the brick walls of the Buddhist stupas
and viharas of the North Country and now, dug up and labelled, made the
pride of the Museum. In open-mouthed wonder the lama turned to this and
that, and finally checked in rapt attention before a large alto-relief
representing a coronation or apotheosis of the Lord Buddha. The Master
was represented seated on a lotus the petals of which were so deeply
undercut as to show almost detached. Round Him was an adoring hierarchy
of kings, elders, and old-time Buddhas. Below were lotus-covered waters
with fishes and water-birds. Two butterfly-winged dewas held a wreath
over His head; above them another pair supported an umbrella surmounted
by the jewelled headdress of the Bodhisat.

'The Lord! The Lord! It is Sakya Muni himself,' the lama half sobbed;
and under his breath began the wonderful Buddhist invocation:--

          'To Him the Way--the Law--Apart--
          Whom Maya held beneath her heart
          Ananda's Lord--the Bodhisat.'

'And He is here! The Most Excellent Law is here also! My pilgrimage is
well begun. And what work! What work!'

'Yonder is the Sahib,' said Kim, and dodged sideways among the cases of
the arts and manufacture wing. A white-bearded Englishman was looking at
the lama, who gravely turned and saluted him and after some fumbling
drew forth a note-book and a scrap of paper.

'Yes, that is my name,' smiling at the clumsy, childish print.

'One of us who had made pilgrimage to the Holy Places--he is now Abbot
of the Lung-Cho Monastery--gave it me,' stammered the lama. 'He spoke of
these.' His lean hand moved tremulously round.

'Welcome, then, O lama from Tibet. Here be the images, and I am
here'--he glanced at the lama's face--'to gather knowledge. Come to my
office awhile.' The old man was trembling with excitement.

The office was but a little wooden cubicle partitioned off from the
sculpture-lined gallery. Kim laid himself down, his ear against a crack
in the heat-split cedar door, and, following his instinct, stretched out
to listen and watch.

Most of the talk was altogether above his head. The lama, haltingly at
first, spoke to the curator of his own lamassery, the Suchzen, opposite
the Painted Rocks, four months' march away. The curator brought out a
huge book of photos and showed him that very place, perched on its crag,
overlooking the gigantic valley of many-hued strata.

'Ay, ay!' The lama mounted a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles of Chinese
work. 'Here is the little door through which we bring wood before
winter. And thou--the English know of these things? He who is now Abbot
of Lung-Cho told me, but I did not believe. The Lord--the Excellent
One--He has honour here too? And His life is known?'

'It is all carven upon the stones. Come and see, if thou art rested.'

Out shuffled the lama to the main hall, and, the curator beside him,
went through the collection with the reverence of a devotee and the
appreciative instinct of a craftsman.

Incident by incident in the beautiful story he identified on the blurred
stone, puzzled here and there by the unfamiliar Greek convention, but
delighted as a child at each new trove. Where the sequence failed, as in
the Annunciation, the curator supplied it from his mound of
books--French and German, with photographs and reproductions.

Here was the devout Asita, the pendant of Simeon in the Christian story,
holding the Holy Child on his knee while mother and father listened; and
here were incidents in the legend of the cousin Devadatta. Here was the
wicked woman who accused the Master of impurity, all confounded; here
was the teaching in the Deer-park; the miracle that stunned the
fire-worshippers; here was the Bodhisat in royal state as a prince; the
miraculous birth; the death at Kusinagara, where the weak disciple
fainted; while there were almost countless repetitions of the meditation
under the Bodhi tree; and the adoration of the alms-bowl was everywhere.
In a few minutes the curator saw that his guest was no mere bead-telling
mendicant, but a scholar of parts. And they went at it all over again,
the lama taking snuff, wiping his spectacles, and talking at railway
speed in a bewildering mixture of Urdu and Tibetan. He had heard of the
travels of the Chinese pilgrims, Fo-Hian and Hwen-Thiang, and was
anxious to know if there was any translation of their record. He drew in
his breath as he turned helplessly over the pages of Beal and Stanislas
Julien. ''Tis all here. A treasure locked.' Then he composed himself
reverently to listen to fragments, hastily rendered into Urdu. For the
first time he heard of the labours of European scholars, who by the help
of these and a hundred other documents have identified the Holy Places
of Buddhism. Then he was shown a mighty map, spotted and traced with
yellow. The brown finger followed the curator's pencil from point to
point. Here was Kapilavastu, here the Middle Kingdom, and here Mahabodi,
the Mecca of Buddhism; and here was Kusinagara, sad place of the Holy
One's death. The old man bowed his head over the sheets in silence for a
while, and the curator lit another pipe. Kim had fallen asleep. When he
waked, the talk, still in spate, was more within his comprehension.

'And thus it was, O Fountain of Wisdom, that I decided to go to the Holy
Places which His foot had trod--to the Birth-place, even to Kapila; then
to Maha Bodhi, which is Buddh Gaya--to the Monastery--to the
Deer-park--to the place of His death.'

The lama lowered his voice. 'And I come here alone. For
five--seven--eighteen--forty years it was in my mind that the Old Law
was not well followed; being overlaid, as thou knowest, with devildom,
charms, and idolatry. Even as the child outside said but now. Ay, even
as the child said, with but-parasti.'

'So it comes with all faiths.'

'Thinkest thou? The books of my lamassery I read, and they were dried
pith; and the later ritual with which we of the Reformed Law have
cumbered ourselves--that, too, had no worth to these old eyes. Even the
followers of the Excellent One are at feud on feud with one another. It
is all illusion. Ay, maya, illusion. But I have another desire'--the
seamed yellow face drew within three inches of the curator, and the long
forefinger nail tapped on the table. 'Your scholars, by these books,
have followed the Blessed Feet in all their wanderings; but there are
things which they have not sought out. I know nothing,--nothing do I
know,--but I go to free myself from the Wheel of Things by a broad and
open road.' He smiled with most simple triumph. 'As a pilgrim to the
Holy Places I acquire merit. But there is more. Listen to a true thing.
When our gracious Lord, being as yet a youth, sought a mate, men said,
in His father's court, that He was too tender for marriage. Thou
knowest?'

The curator nodded, wondering what would come next.

'So they made the triple trial of strength against all comers. And at
the test of the Bow, our Lord first breaking that which they gave Him,
called for such a bow as none might bend. Thou knowest?'

'It is written. I have read.'

'And, overshooting all other marks, the arrow passed far and far beyond
sight. At the last it fell; and, where it touched earth, there broke out
a stream which presently became a River, whose nature, by our Lord's
beneficence, and that merit He acquired ere He freed himself, is that
whoso bathes in it washes away all taint and speckle of sin.'

'So it is written,' said the curator sadly.

The lama drew a long breath. 'Where is that River? Fountain of Wisdom,
where fell the arrow?'

'Alas, my brother, I do not know,' said the curator.

'Nay, if it please thee to forget--the one thing only that thou hast
not told me. Surely thou must know? See, I am an old man! I ask with my
head between thy feet, O Fountain of Wisdom. We know He drew the bow! We
know the arrow fell! We know the stream gushed! Where, then, is the
River? My dream told me to find it. So I came. I am here. But where is
the River?'

'If I knew, think you I would not cry it aloud?'

'By it one attains freedom from the Wheel of Things,' the lama went on,
unheeding. 'The River of the Arrow! Think again! Some little stream, may
be--dried in the heats? But the Holy One would never so cheat an old
man.'

'I do not know. I do not know.'

The lama brought his thousand-wrinkled face once more a handsbreadth
from the Englishman's. 'I see thou dost not know. Not being of the Law,
the matter is hid from thee.'

'Ay--hidden--hidden.'

'We are both bound, thou and I, my brother. But I'--he rose with a sweep
of the soft thick drapery--'I go to cut myself free. Come also!'

'I am bound,' said the curator. 'But whither goest thou?'

'First to Kashi (Benares): where else? There I shall meet one of the
pure faith in a Jain temple of that city. He also is a Seeker in secret,
and from him haply I may learn. May be he will go with me to Buddh Gaya.
Thence north and west to Kapilavastu, and there will I seek for the
River. Nay, I will seek everywhere as I go--for the place is not known
where the arrow fell.'

'And how wilt thou go? It is a far cry to Delhi, and farther to
Benares.'

'By road and the trains. From Pathankot, having left the Hills, I came
hither in a te-rain. It goes swiftly. At first I was amazed to see those
tall poles by the side of the road snatching up and snatching up their
threads,'--he illustrated the stoop and whirl of a telegraph-pole
flashing past the train. 'But later, I was cramped and desired to walk,
as I am used.'

'And thou art sure of thy road?' said the curator.

'Oh, for that one but asks a question and pays money, and the appointed
persons despatch all to the appointed place. That much I knew in my
lamassery from sure report,' said the lama proudly.

'And when dost thou go?' The curator smiled at the mixture of old-world
piety and modern progress that is the note of India to-day.

'As soon as may be. I follow the places of His life till I come to the
River of the Arrow. There is, moreover, a written paper of the hours of
the trains that go south.'

'And for food?' Lamas, as a rule, have good store of money somewhere
about them, but the curator wished to make sure.

'For the journey, I take up the Master's begging-bowl. Yes. Even as He
went so go I, forsaking the ease of my monastery. There was with me when
I left the hills a chela (disciple) who begged for me as the Rule
demands, but halting in Kulu awhile a fever took him and he died. I have
now no chela, but I will take the alms-bowl and thus enable the
charitable to acquire merit.' He nodded his head valiantly.

Learned doctors of a lamassery do not beg, but the lama was an
enthusiast in this quest.

'Be it so,' said the curator, smiling. 'Suffer me now to acquire merit.
We be craftsmen together, thou and I. Here is a new book of white
English paper: here be sharpened pencils two and three--thick and thin,
all good for a scribe. Now lend me thy spectacles.'

The curator looked through them. They were heavily scratched, but the
power was almost exactly that of his own pair, which he slid into the
lama's hand, saying: 'Try these.'

'A feather! A very feather upon the face!' The old man turned his head
delightedly and wrinkled up his nose. 'How scarcely do I feel them! How
clearly do I see!'

'They be bilaur--crystal and will never scratch. May they help thee to
thy River, for they are thine.'

'I will take them and the pencils and the white note-book,' said the
lama, 'as a sign of friendship between priest and priest--and now'--he
fumbled at his belt, detached the open iron-work pencase, and laid it on
the curator's table. 'That is for a memory between thee and me--my
pencase. It is something old--even as I am.'

It was a piece of ancient design, Chinese, of an iron that is not
smelted these days; and the collector's heart in the curator's bosom had
gone out to it from the first. For no persuasion would the lama resume
his gift.

'When I return, having found the River, I will bring thee a written
picture of the Padma Samthora--such as I used to make on silk at the
lamassery. Yes--and of the Wheel of Life,' he chuckled, 'for we be
craftsmen together, thou and I.'

The curator would have detained him: they are few in the world who still
have the secret of the conventional brush-pen Buddhist pictures which
are, as it were, half written and half drawn. But the lama strode out,
head high in air, and pausing an instant before the great statue of a
Bodhisat in meditation, brushed through the turnstiles.

Kim followed like a shadow. What he had overheard excited him wildly.
This man was entirely new to all his experience, and he meant to
investigate further: precisely as he would have investigated a new
building or a strange festival in Lahore city. The lama was his trove,
and he purposed to take possession. Kim's mother had been Irish too.

The old man halted by Zam-Zammah and looked round till his eye fell on
Kim. The inspiration of his pilgrimage had left him for a while, and he
felt old, forlorn, and very empty.

'Do not sit under that gun,' said the policeman loftily.

'Huh! Owl!' was Kim's retort on the lama's behalf. 'Sit under that gun
if it please thee. When didst thou steal the milk-woman's slippers,
Dunnoo?'

That was an utterly unfounded charge sprung on the spur of the moment,
but it silenced Dunnoo, who knew that Kim's clear yell could call up
legions of bad bazar boys if need arose.

'And whom didst thou worship within?' said Kim affably, squatting in the
shade beside the lama.

'I worshipped none, child. I bowed before the Excellent Law.'

Kim accepted this new god without emotion. He knew already a few score.

'And what dost thou do?'

'I beg. I remember now it is long since I have eaten or drunk. What is
the custom of charity in this town? In silence, as we do of Tibet, or
speaking aloud?'

'Those who beg in silence starve in silence,' said Kim, quoting a
native proverb. The lama tried to rise, but sank back again, sighing for
his disciple, dead in far-away Kulu. Kim watched--head to one side,
considering and interested.

'Give me the bowl. I know the people of this city--all who are
charitable. Give, and I will bring it back filled.'

Simply as a child the old man handed him the bowl.

'Rest thou. I know the people.'

He trotted off to the open shop of a kunjri, a low-caste
vegetable-seller, which lay opposite the belt-tramway line down the
Motee Bazar. She knew Kim of old.

'Oho, hast thou turned yogi with thy begging-bowl?' she cried.

'Nay,' said Kim proudly. 'There is a new priest in the city--a man such
as I have never seen.'

'Old priest--young tiger,' said the woman angrily. 'I am tired of new
priests! They settle on our wares like flies. Is the father of my son a
well of charity to give to all who ask?'

'No,' said Kim. 'Thy man is rather yagi (bad-tempered) than yogi (a holy
man). But this priest is new. The Sahib in the Wonder House has talked
to him like a brother. O my mother, fill me this bowl. He waits.'

'That bowl indeed! That cow-bellied basket! Thou hast as much grace as
the holy bull of Shiv. He has taken the best of a basket of onions
already, this morn; and forsooth, I must fill thy bowl. He comes here
again.'

The huge, mouse-coloured Brahminee bull of the ward was shouldering his
way through the many-coloured crowd, a stolen plantain hanging out of
his mouth. He headed straight for the shop, well knowing his privileges
as a sacred beast, lowered his head, and puffed heavily along the line
of baskets ere making his choice. Up flew Kim's hard little heel and
caught him on his moist blue nose. He snorted indignantly, and walked
away across the tram rails, his hump quivering with rage.

'See! I have saved more than the bowl will cost thrice over. Now,
mother, a little rice and some dried fish atop--yes, and some vegetable
curry.'

A growl came out of the back of the shop, where a man lay.

'He drove away the bull,' said the woman in an undertone. 'It is good to
give to the poor.' She took the bowl and returned it full of hot rice.

'But my yogi is not a cow,' said Kim gravely, making a hole with his
fingers in the top of the mound. 'A little curry is good, and a fried
cake, and a morsel of conserve would please him, I think.'

'It is a hole as big as thy head,' said the woman fretfully. But she
filled it, none the less, with good, steaming vegetable curry, clapped a
dried cake atop, and a morsel of clarified butter on the cake, dabbed a
lump of sour tamarind conserve at the side; and Kim looked at the load
lovingly.

'That is good. When I am in the bazar the bull shall not come to this
house. He is a bold beggarman.'

'And thou?' laughed the woman. 'But speak well of bulls. Hast thou not
told me that some day a Red Bull will come out of a field to help thee?
Now hold all straight and ask for the holy man's blessing upon me.
Perhaps, too, he knows a cure for my daughter's sore eyes. Ask him that
also, O thou Little Friend of all the World.'

But Kim had danced off ere the end of the sentence, dodging pariah dogs
and hungry acquaintances.

'Thus do we beg who know the way of it,' said he proudly to the lama,
who opened his eyes at the contents of the bowl. 'Eat now and--I will
eat with thee. Ohe bhistie!' he called to the water-carrier, sluicing
the crotons by the Museum. 'Give water here. We men are thirsty.'

'We men!' said the bhistie, laughing. 'Is one skinful enough for such a
pair? Drink then, in the name of the Compassionate.'

He loosed a thin stream into Kim's hands, who drank native fashion; but
the lama must needs pull out a cup from his inexhaustible upper
draperies and drink ceremonially.

'Pardesi' (a foreigner), Kim explained, as the old man delivered in an
unknown tongue what was evidently a blessing.

They ate together in great content, clearing the beggar's bowl. Then the
lama took snuff from a portentous wooden snuff-gourd, fingered his
rosary awhile, and so dropped into the easy sleep of age, as the shadow
of Zam-Zammah grew long.

Kim loafed over to the nearest tobacco-seller, a rather lively young
Mohammedan woman, and begged a rank cigar of the brand that they sell to
students of the Punjab University who copy English customs. Then he
smoked and thought, knees to chin, under the belly of the gun, and the
outcome of his thoughts was a sudden and stealthy departure in the
direction of Nila Ram's timber-yard.

The lama did not wake till the evening life of the city had begun with
lamp-lighting and the return of white-robed clerks and subordinates
from the Government offices. He stared dizzily in all directions, but
none looked at him save a Hindu urchin in a dirty turban and
Isabella-coloured clothes. Suddenly he bowed his head on his knees and
wailed.

'What is this?' said the boy, standing before him. 'Hast thou been
robbed?'

'It is my new chela (my disciple) that is gone away from me, and I know
not where he is.'

'And what like of man was thy disciple?'

'It was a boy who came to me in place of him who died, on account of the
merit which I had gained when I bowed before the Law within there.' He
pointed towards the Museum. 'He came upon me to show me a road which I
had lost. He led me into the Wonder House, and by his talk emboldened to
speak to the Keeper of the Images, so that I was cheered and made
strong. And when I was faint with hunger he begged for me, as would a
chela for his teacher. Suddenly was he sent. Suddenly has he gone away.
It was in my mind to have taught him the Law upon the road to Benares.'

Kim stood amazed at this, because he had overheard the talk in the
Museum, and knew that the old man was speaking the truth, which is a
thing a native on the road seldom presents to a stranger.

'But I see now that he was but sent for a purpose. By this I know that I
shall find a certain River for which I seek.'

'The River of the Arrow?' said Kim, with a superior smile.

'Is this yet another Sending?' cried the lama. 'To none have I spoken of
my search, save to the Priest of the Images. Who art thou?'

'Thy chela,' said Kim simply, sitting on his heels. 'I have never seen
any one like to thee in all this my life. I go with thee to Benares.
And, too, I think that so old a man as thou, speaking the truth to
chance-met people at dusk, is in great need of a disciple.'

'But the River--the River of the Arrow?'

'Oh, that I heard when thou wast speaking to the Englishman. I lay
against the door.'

The lama sighed. 'I thought thou hadst been a guide permitted. Such
things fall sometimes--but I am not worthy. Thou dost not, then, know of
the River?'

'Not I.' Kim laughed uneasily. 'I go to look for--for a bull--a Red Bull
on a green field who shall help me.' Boylike, if an acquaintance had a
scheme, Kim was quite ready with one of his own; and, boylike, he had
really thought for as much as twenty minutes at a time of his father's
prophecy.

'To what, child?' said the lama.

'God knows, but so my father told me. I heard thy talk in the Wonder
House of all those new strange places in the Hills, and if one so old
and so little--so used to truth-telling--may go out for the small matter
of a river, it seemed to me that I too must go a-travelling. If it is
our fate to find those things we shall find them--thou, thy River; and
I, my Bull, and the strong Pillars and some other matters that I
forget.'

'It is not pillars but a Wheel from which I would be free,' said the
lama.

'That is all one. Perhaps they will make me a king,' said Kim, serenely
prepared for anything.

'I will teach thee other and better desires upon the road,' the lama
replied in the voice of authority. 'Let us go to Benares.'

'Not by night. Thieves are abroad. Wait till the day.'

'But there is no place to sleep.' The old man was used to the order of
his monastery, and though he slept on the ground, as the Rule decrees,
preferred a decency in these things.

'We shall get good lodging at the Kashmir Serai,' said Kim, laughing at
his perplexity. 'I have a friend there. Come!'

The hot and crowded bazars blazed with light as they made their way
through the press of all the races in Upper India, and the lama mooned
through it like a man in a dream. It was his first experience of a large
manufacturing city, and the crowded tram-car with its continually
squealing brakes frightened him. Half pushed, half towed, he arrived at
the high gate of the Kashmir Serai: that huge open square over against
the railway station, surrounded with arched cloisters where the camel
and horse caravans put up on their return from Central Asia. Here were
all manner of Northern folk, tending tethered ponies and kneeling
camels; loading and unloading bales and bundles; drawing water for the
evening meal at the creaking well-windlasses; piling grass before the
shrieking, wild-eyed stallions; cuffing the surly caravan dogs; paying
off camel-drivers; taking on new grooms; swearing, shouting, arguing,
and chaffering in the packed square. The cloisters, reached by three or
four masonry steps, made a haven of refuge around this turbulent sea.
Most of them were rented to traders, as we rent the arches of a viaduct;
the space between pillar and pillar being bricked or boarded off into
rooms, which were guarded by heavy wooden doors and cumbrous native
padlocks. Locked doors showed that the owner was away, and a few
rude--sometimes very rude--chalk or paint scratches told where he had
gone. Thus: 'Lutuf Ullah is gone to Kurdistan.' Below, in coarse verse:
'O Allah, who sufferest lice to live on the coat of a Kabuli, why hast
thou allowed this louse Lutuf to live so long?'

Kim, fending the lama between excited men and excited beasts, sidled
along the cloisters to the far end, nearest the railway station, where
Mahbub Ali, the horsetrader, lived when he came in from that mysterious
land beyond the Passes of the North.

Kim had had many dealings with Mahbub in his little life,--especially
between his tenth and his thirteenth year,--and the big burly Afghan,
his beard dyed scarlet with lime (for he was elderly and did not wish
his gray hairs to show), knew the boy's value as a gossip. Sometimes he
would tell Kim to watch a man who had nothing whatever to do with
horses: to follow him for one whole day and report every soul with whom
he talked. Kim would deliver himself of his tale at evening, and Mahbub
would listen without a word or gesture. It was intrigue of some kind,
Kim knew; but its worth lay in saying nothing whatever to any one except
Mahbub, who gave him beautiful meals all hot from the cookshop at the
head of the serai, and once as much as eight annas in money.

'He is here,' said Kim, hitting a bad-tempered camel on the nose. 'Ohe,
Mahbub Ali!' He halted at a dark arch and slipped behind the bewildered
lama.

The horse-trader, his deep, embroidered Bokhariot belt unloosed, was
lying on a pair of silk carpet saddle-bags, pulling lazily at an immense
silver hookah. He turned his head very slightly at the cry; and seeing
only the tall silent figure, chuckled in his deep chest.

'Allah! A lama! A Red Lama! It is far from Lahore to the Passes. What
dost thou do here?'

The lama held out the begging-bowl mechanically.

'God's curse on all unbelievers!' said Mahbub. 'I do not give to a lousy
Tibetan; but ask my Baltis over yonder behind the camels. They may value
your blessings. Oh, horse-boys, here is a countryman of yours. See if he
be hungry.'

A shaven, crouching Balti, who had come down with the horses, and who
was nominally some sort of degraded Buddhist, fawned upon the priest,
and in thick gutturals besought the Holy One to sit at the horse-boys'
fire.

'Go!' said Kim, pushing him lightly, and the lama strode away, leaving
Kim at the edge of the cloister.

'Go!' said Mahbub Ali, returning to his hookah. 'Little Hindu, run away.
God's curse on all unbelievers! Beg from those of my tail who are of thy
faith.'

'Maharaj,' whined Kim, using the Hindu form of address, and thoroughly
enjoying the situation; 'my father is dead--my mother is dead--my
stomach is empty.'

'Beg from my men among the horses, I say. There must be some Hindus in
my tail.'

'Oh, Mahbub Ali, but am I a Hindu?' said Kim in English.

The trader gave no sign of astonishment, but looked under shaggy
eyebrows.

'Little Friend of all the World,' said he, 'what is this?'

'Nothing. I am now that holy man's disciple; and we go a pilgrimage
together--to Benares, he says. He is quite mad, and I am tired of Lahore
city. I wish new air and water.'

'But for whom, dost thou work? Why come to me?' The voice was harsh with
suspicion.

'To whom else should I come? I have no money. It is not good to go about
without money. Thou wilt sell many horses to the officers. They are very
fine horses, these new ones: I have seen them. Give me a rupee, Mahbub
Ali, and when I come to my wealth I will give thee a bond and pay.'

'Um,' said Mahbub Ali, thinking swiftly. 'Thou hast never before lied to
me. Call that lama--stand back in the dark.'

'Oh, our tales will agree,' said Kim laughing.

'We go to Benares,' said the lama, as soon as he understood the drift of
Mahbub Ali's questions. 'The boy and I. I go to seek for a certain
River.'

'Maybe--but the boy?'

'He is my disciple. He was sent, I think, to guide me to that River.
Sitting under a gun was I when he came suddenly. Such things have
befallen the fortunate to whom guidance was allowed. But I remember now,
he said he was of this world--a Hindu.'

'And his name?'

'That I did not ask. Is he not my disciple?'

'His country--his race--his village? Mussalman--Sikh--Hindu--Jain--low
caste or high?'

'Why should I ask? There is neither high nor low in the Middle Way. If
he is my chela--does--will--can any one take him from me? for, look you,
without him I shall not find my River.' He wagged his head solemnly.

'None shall take him from thee. Go, sit among my Baltis,' said Mahbub
Ali, and the lama drifted off, soothed by the promise.

'Is he not quite mad?' said Kim, coming forward to the light again. 'Why
should I lie to thee, Hajji?'

Mahbub puffed his hookah in silence. Then he began, almost whispering:
'Umballa is on the road to Benares--if indeed ye two go there.'

'Tck! Tck! I tell thee he does not know how to lie--as we two know.'

'And if thou wilt carry a message for me as far as Umballa, I will give
thee money. It concerns a horse--a white stallion which I have sold to
an officer upon the last time I returned from the Passes. But
then--stand nearer and hold up hands as begging--the pedigree of the
white stallion was not fully established, and that officer, who is now
at Umballa, bade me make it clear.' (Mahbub here described the horse and
the appearance of the officer.) 'So the message to that officer will be:
"The pedigree of the white stallion is fully established." By this will
he know that thou comest from me. He will then say "What proof hast
thou?" and thou wilt answer: "Mahbub Ali has given me the proof."'

'And all for the sake of a white stallion,' said Kim, with a giggle, his
eyes aflame.

'That pedigree I will give thee now--in my own fashion--and some hard
words as well.' A shadow passed behind Kim, and a feeding camel. Mahbub
Ali raised his voice.

'Allah! Art thou the only beggar in the city? Thy mother is dead. Thy
father is dead. So is it with all of them. Well, well--' he turned as
feeling on the floor beside him and tossed a flap of soft, greasy
Mussalman bread to the boy. 'Go and lie down among my horse-boys for
to-night--thou and the lama. To-morrow I may give thee service.'

Kim slunk away, his teeth in the bread, and, as he expected, he found a
small wad of folded tissue-paper wrapped in oil-skin, with three silver
rupees--enormous largesse. He smiled and thrust money and paper into
his leather amulet-case. The lama, sumptuously fed by Mahbub's Baltis,
was already asleep in a corner of one of the stalls. Kim lay down beside
him and laughed. He knew he had rendered a service to Mahbub Ali, and
not for one little minute did he believe the tale of the stallion's
pedigree.

But Kim did not suspect that Mahbub Ali, known as one of the best
horse-dealers in the Punjab, a wealthy and enterprising trader, whose
caravans penetrated far and far into the Back of Beyond, was registered
in one of the locked books of the Indian Survey Department as C.25.1B.
Twice or thrice yearly C.25 would send in a little story, badly told but
most interesting, and generally--it was checked by the statements of
R.17 and M.4--quite true. It concerned all manner of out-of-the-way
mountain principalities, explorers of nationalities other than English,
and the gun-trade--was, in brief, a small portion of that vast mass of
'information received' on which the Indian Government acts. But,
recently, five confederated Kings, who had no business to confederate,
had been informed by a kindly Northern Power that there was a leakage of
news from their territories into British India. So those Kings' prime
ministers were seriously annoyed and took steps, after the Oriental
fashion. They suspected, among many others, the bullying red-bearded
horse-dealer whose caravans ploughed through their fastnesses belly deep
in snow. At least, his caravan that season had been ambushed and shot at
twice on the way down, when Mahbub's men accounted for three strange
ruffians who might, or might not, have been hired for the job. Therefore
Mahbub had avoided halting at the insalubrious city of Peshawur, and
had come through without stop to Lahore, where, knowing his
country-people, he anticipated curious developments.

And there was that on Mahbub Ali which he did not wish to keep an hour
longer than was necessary--a wad of closely folded tissue-paper, wrapped
in oil-skin--an impersonal, unaddressed statement, with five microscopic
pin-holes in one corner, that most scandalously betrayed the five
confederated Kings, the sympathetic Northern Power, a Hindu banker in
Peshawur, a firm of gun-makers in Belgium, and an important,
semi-independent Mohammedan ruler to the south. This last was R.17's
work, which Mahbub had picked up beyond the Dora Pass and was carrying
in for R.17, who, owing to circumstances over which he had no control,
could not leave his post of observation. Dynamite was milky and
innocuous beside that report of C.25; and even an Oriental, with an
Oriental's views of the value of time, could see that the sooner it was
in the proper hands the better. Mahbub had no particular desire to die
by violence, because two or three family blood-feuds across the border
hung unfinished on his hands, and when these scores were cleared he
intended to settle down as a more or less virtuous citizen. He had never
passed the serai gate since his arrival two days ago, but had been
ostentatious in sending telegrams to Bombay, where he banked some of his
money; to Delhi, where a sub-partner of his own clan was selling horses
to the agent of a Rajputana state; and to Umballa, where an Englishman
was excitedly demanding the pedigree of a white stallion. The public
letter-writer, who knew English, composed excellent telegrams, such
as:--'Creighton, Laurel Bank, Umballa.--Horse is Arabian as already
advised. Sorrowful delayed-pedigree which am translating.' And later to
the same address: 'Much sorrowful delay. Will forward pedigree.' To this
sub-partner at Delhi he wired: 'Lutuf Ullah.--Have wired two thousand
rupees your credit Luchman Narain's bank.' This was entirely in the way
of trade, but every one of those telegrams was discussed and
re-discussed, by parties who conceived themselves to be interested,
before they went over to the railway station in charge of a foolish
Balti, who allowed all sorts of people to read them on the road.

When, in Mahbub's own picturesque language, he had muddied the wells of
inquiry with the stick of precaution, Kim had dropped on him, sent from
heaven; and, being as prompt as he was unscrupulous, Mahbub Ali, used to
taking all sorts of gusty chances, pressed him into service on the spot.

A wandering lama with a low-caste boy-servant might attract a moment's
interest as they wandered about India, the land of pilgrims; but no one
would suspect them or, what was more to the point, rob.

He called for a new light-ball to his hookah, and considered the case.
If the worst came to the worst, and the boy came to harm, the paper
would incriminate nobody. And he would go up to Umballa leisurely
and--at a certain risk of exciting fresh suspicion--repeat his tale by
word of mouth to the people concerned.

But R.17's report was the kernel of the whole affair, and it would be
distinctly inconvenient if that failed to come to hand. However, God was
great, and Mahbub Ali felt he had done all he could for the time being.
Kim was the one soul in the world who had never told him a lie. That
would have been a fatal blot on Kim's character if Mahbub had not known
that to others, for his own ends or Mahbub's business, Kim could lie
like an Oriental.

Then Mahbub Ali rolled across the serai to the Gate of the Harpies who
paint their eyes and trap the stranger, and was at some pains to call on
the one girl who, he had reason to believe, was a particular friend of a
smooth-faced Kashmiri pundit who had waylaid his simple Balti in the
matter of the telegrams. It was an utterly foolish thing to do; because
they fell to drinking perfumed brandy against the Law of the Prophet,
and Mahbub grew wonderfully drunk, and the gates of his mouth were
loosened, and he pursued the Flower of Delight with the feet of
intoxication till he fell flat among the cushions, where the Flower of
Delight, aided by a smooth-faced Kashmiri pundit, searched him from head
to foot most thoroughly.

About the same hour Kim heard soft feet in Mahbub's deserted stall. The
horse-trader, curiously enough, had left his door unlocked, and his men
were busy celebrating their return to India with a whole sheep of
Mahbub's bounty. A sleek young gentleman from Delhi, armed with a bunch
of keys which the Flower had unshackled from the senseless one's belt,
went through every single box, bundle, mat, and saddle-bag in Mahbub's
possession even more systematically than the Flower and the pundit were
searching the owner.

'And I think,' said the Flower scornfully an hour later, one rounded
elbow on the snoring carcase, 'that he is no more than a pig of an
Afghan horse-dealer, with no thought except women and horses. Moreover,
he may have sent it away by now--if ever there were such a thing.'

'Nay--in a matter touching Five Kings it would be next his black heart,'
said the pundit. 'Was there nothing?'

The Delhi man laughed and resettled his turban as he entered. 'I
searched between the soles of his slippers as the Flower searched his
clothes. This is not the man but another. I leave little unseen.'

'They did not say he was the very man,' said the pundit thoughtfully.
'They said, "Look if he be the man, since our councils are troubled."'

'That North country is full of horse-dealers as an old coat of lice.
There is Sikandar Khan, Nur Ali Beg, and Farrukh Shah--all heads of
Kafilas--who deal there,' said the Flower.

'They have not yet come in,' said the pundit. 'Thou must ensnare them
later.'

'Phew!' said the Flower with deep disgust, rolling Mahbub's head from
her lap. 'I earn my money. Farrukh Shah is a bear, Ali Beg a
swashbuckler, and old Sikandar Khan--yaie! Go! I sleep now. This swine
will not stir till dawn.'

When Mahbub woke, the Flower talked to him severely on the sin of
drunkenness. Asiatics do not wink when they have out-manoeuvred an
enemy, but as Mahbub Ali cleared his throat, tightened his belt, and
staggered forth under the early morning stars, he came very near to it.

'What a colt's trick,' said he to himself. 'As if every girl in Peshawur
did not use it! But 'twas prettily done. Now God He knows how many more
there be upon the road who have orders to test me--perhaps with the
knife. So it stands that the boy must go to Umballa--and by rail--for
the writing is something urgent. I abide here, following the Flower and
drinking wine as an Afghan coper should.'

He halted at the stall next but one to his own. His men lay there heavy
with sleep. There was no sign of Kim or the lama.

'Up!' He stirred a sleeper. 'Whither went those who lay here last
even--the lama and the boy? Is aught missing?'

'Nay,' grunted the man; 'the old madman rose at second cockcrow saying
he would go to Benares, and the young one led him away.'

'The curse of Allah on all unbelievers,' said Mahbub heartily, and
climbed into his own stall, growling in his beard.

But it was Kim who had wakened the lama--Kim with one eye laid against a
knot-hole in the planking, who had seen the Delhi man's search through
the boxes. This was no common thief that turned over letters, bills, and
saddles--no mere burglar who ran a little knife sideways into the soles
of Mahbub's slippers, or picked the seams of the saddle-bags so deftly.
At first Kim had been minded to give the alarm--the long-drawn
'cho-or--choor!' (thief! thief!) that sets the serai ablaze of nights;
but he looked more carefully, and, hand on amulet, drew his own
conclusions.

'It must be the pedigree of that made-up horse-lie,' said he, 'the thing
that I carry to Umballa. Better that we go now. Those who search bags
with knives may presently search bellies with knives. Surely there is a
woman behind this. Hai! Hai!' in a whisper to the light-sleeping old
man. 'Come. It is time--time to go to Benares.'

The lama rose obediently, and they passed out of the serai like
shadows.



CHAPTER II

          'For whoso will, from Pride released,
           Contemning neither creed nor priest,
           May hear the Soul of all the East
               About him at Kamakura.'


THEY entered the fort-like railway station, black in the end of night;
the electrics sizzling over the goods yard where they handle the heavy
Northern grain-traffic.

'This is the work of devils!' said the lama, recoiling from the hollow
echoing darkness, the glimmer of rails between the masonry platforms,
and the maze of girders above. He stood in a gigantic stone hall paved,
it seemed, with the sheeted dead--third-class passengers who had taken
their tickets overnight and were sleeping in the waiting-rooms. All
hours of the twenty-four are alike to Orientals, and their passenger
traffic is regulated accordingly.

'This is where the fire-carriages come. One stands behind that
hole'--Kim pointed to the ticket-office--'who will give thee a paper to
take thee to Umballa.'

'But we go to Benares,' he replied petulantly.

'All one. Benares then. Quick: she comes!'

'Take thou the purse.'

The lama, not so well used to trains as he had pretended, started as the
3.25 a. m. south bound roared in. The sleepers sprang to life, and the
station filled with clamour and shoutings, cries of water and sweetmeat
vendors, shouts of native policemen, and shrill yells of women gathering
up their baskets, their families, and their husbands.

'It is the train--only the te-rain. It will come here. Wait!' Amazed at
the lama's immense simplicity (he had handed him a small bag full of
rupees), Kim asked and paid for a ticket to Umballa. A sleepy clerk
grunted and flung out a ticket to the next station, just six miles
distant.

'Nay,' said Kim, scanning it with a grin. 'This may serve for farmers,
but I live in the city of Lahore. It was cleverly done, babu. Now give
the ticket to Umballa.'

The babu scowled and dealt the proper ticket.

'Now another to Amritzar,' said Kim, who had no notion of spending
Mahbub Ali's money oh anything so crude as a paid ride to Umballa. 'The
price is so much. The small money in return is just so much. I know the
ways of the te-rain. . . . Never did yogi need chela as thou dost,' he
went on merrily to the bewildered lama. 'They would have flung thee out
at Mian Mir but for me. This way! Come.' He returned the money, keeping
only one anna in each rupee of the price of the Umballa ticket as his
commission--the immemorial commission of Asia.

The lama jibbed at the open door of a crowded third-class carriage.
'Were it not better to walk?' said he weakly.

A burly Sikh artisan thrust forth his bearded head. 'Is he afraid? Do
not be afraid. I remember the time when I was afraid of the te-rain.
Enter! This thing is the work of the Government.'

[Illustration: 'Beggars a plenty have I met, and holy men to boot, but
never such a _yogi_ nor such a disciple.']

'I do not fear,' said the lama. 'Have ye room within for two?'

'There is no room even for a mouse,' shrilled the wife of a well-to-do
cultivator--a Hindu Jat from the rich Jullundur district. Our night
trains are not as well looked after as the day ones, where the sexes are
very strictly kept to separate carriages.

'Oh, mother of my son, we can make space,' said the blue-turbaned
husband. 'Pick up the child. It is a holy man, see'st thou?'

'And my lap full of seventy times seven bundles! Why not bid him sit on
my knee, Shameless? But men are ever thus!' She looked round for
approval. An Amritzar courtesan near the window sniffed behind her head
drapery.

'Enter! Enter!' cried a fat Hindu money-lender, his folded account-book
in a cloth under his arm. With an oily smirk: 'It is well to be kind to
the poor.'

'Ay, at seven per cent a month with a mortgage on the unborn calf,' said
a young Dogra soldier going south on leave; and they all laughed.

'Will it travel to Benares?' said the lama.

'Assuredly. Else why should we come? Enter, or we are left,' cried Kim.

'See!' shrilled the Amritzar girl. 'He has never entered a train. Oh
see!'

'Nay, help,' said the cultivator, putting out a large brown hand and
hauling him in. 'Thus is it done, father.'

'But--but--I sit on the floor. It is against the Rule to sit on a
bench,' said the lama. 'Moreover, it cramps me.'

'I say,' began the money-lender, pursing his lips, 'that there is not
one rule of right living which these te-rains do not cause us to break.
We sit, for example, side by side with all castes and peoples.'

'Yea, and with most outrageously shameless ones,' said the wife,
scowling at the Amritzar girl making eyes at the young sepoy.

'I said we might have gone by cart along the road,' said the husband,
'and thus have saved some money.'

'Yes--and spent twice over what we saved on food by the way. That was
talked out ten thousand times.'

'Ay, by ten thousand tongues,' grunted he.

'The Gods help us poor women if we may not speak. Oho! He is of that
sort which may not look at or reply to a woman.' For the lama,
constrained by his Rule, took not the faintest notice of her. 'And his
disciple is like him?'

'Nay, mother,' said Kim most promptly. 'Not when the woman is
well-looking and above all charitable to the hungry.'

'A beggar's answer,' said the Sikh, laughing. 'Thou hast brought it on
thyself, sister!' Kim's hands were crooked in supplication.

'And whither goest thou?' said the woman, handing him the half of a cake
from a greasy package.

'Even to Benares.'

'Jugglers belike?' the young soldier suggested. 'Have ye any tricks to
pass the time? Why does not that yellow man answer?'

'Because,' said Kim stoutly, 'he is holy, and thinks upon matters hidden
from thee.'

'That may be well. We of the Loodhiana Sikhs,' he rolled it out
sonorously, 'do not trouble our heads with doctrine. We fight.'

'My sister's brother's son is naik (corporal) in that regiment,' said
the Sikh craftsman quietly. 'There are also some Dogra companies there.'
The soldier glared, for a Dogra is of other caste than a Sikh, and the
banker tittered.

'They are all one to me,' said the Amritzar girl.

'That we believe,' snorted the cultivator's wife malignantly.

'Nay, but all who serve the Sirkar with weapons in their hands are, as
it were, one brotherhood. There is one brotherhood of the caste, but
beyond that again'--she looked round timidly--'the bond of the
Pulton--the Regiment--eh?'

'My brother is in a Jat regiment,' said the cultivator. 'Dogras be good
men.'

'Thy Sikhs at least were of that opinion,' said the soldier, with a
scowl at the placid old man in the corner. 'Thy Sikhs thought so when
our two companies came to help them at the Pirzai Kotal in the face of
eight Afreedee standards on the ridge not three months gone.'

He told the story of a border action in which the Dogra companies of the
Loodhiana Sikhs had acquitted themselves well. The Amritzar girl smiled;
for she knew the tale was to win her approval.

'Alas!' said the cultivator's wife at the end. 'So their villages were
burnt and their little children made homeless?'

'They had marked our dead. They paid a great payment after we of the
Sikhs had schooled them. So it was. Is this Amritzar?'

'Ay, and here they cut our tickets,' said the banker, fumbling at his
belt.

The lamps were paling in the dawn when the half-caste guard came round.
Ticket-collecting is a slow business in the East, where people secrete
their tickets in all sorts of curious places. Kim produced his and was
told to get out.

'But I go to Umballa,' he protested. 'I go with this holy man.'

'Thou canst go to Jehannum for aught I care. This ticket is only to
Amritzar. Out!'

Kim burst into a flood of tears, protesting that the lama was his father
and his mother, that he was the prop of the lama's declining years, and
that the lama would die without his care. All the carriage bade the
guard be merciful,--the banker was specially eloquent here,--but the
guard hauled Kim on to the platform. The lama blinked, he could not
overtake the situation, and Kim lifted up his voice and wept outside the
carriage window.

'I am very poor. My father is dead--my mother is dead. Oh, charitable
ones, if I am left here, who shall tend that old man?'

'What--what is this?' the lama repeated. 'He must go to Benares. He must
come with me. He is my chela. If there is money to be paid--'

'Oh, be silent,' whispered Kim; 'are we Rajahs to throw away good silver
when the world is so charitable?'

The Amritzar girl stepped out with her bundles, and it was on her that
Kim kept his watchful eye. Ladies of that persuasion, he knew, were
generous.

'A ticket--a little tikkut to Umballa--O Breaker of Hearts!' She
laughed. 'Hast thou no charity?'

'Does the holy man come from the North?'

'From far and far in the North he comes,' cried Kim. 'From among the
hills.'

'There is snow among the pine trees in the North--in the hills there is
snow. My mother was from Kulu. Get thee a ticket. Ask him for a
blessing.'

'Ten thousand blessings,' shrilled Kim. 'O Holy One, a woman has given
us in charity so that I can come with thee--a woman with a golden heart.
I run for the tikkut.'

The girl looked up at the lama, who had mechanically followed Kim to the
platform. He bowed his head that he might not see her, and muttered in
Tibetan as she passed on with the crowd.

'Light come--light go,' said the cultivator's wife viciously.

'She has acquired merit,' returned the lama. 'Beyond doubt it was a
nun.'

'There be ten thousand such nuns in Amritzar alone. Return, old man, or
the train may depart without thee,' cried the banker.

'Not only was it sufficient for the ticket, but for a little food also,'
said Kim, leaping to his place. 'Now eat, Holy One. Look. Day comes!'

Golden, rose, saffron, and pink, the morning mists smoked away across
the flat green levels. All the rich Punjab lay out in the splendour of
the keen sun. The lama flinched a little as the telegraph-posts swung
by.

'Great is the speed of the train,' said the banker, with a patronising
grin. 'We have gone farther since Lahore than thou couldst walk in two
days: at even, we shall enter Umballa.'

'And that is still far from Benares,' said the lama wearily, mumbling
over the cakes that Kim offered. They all unloosed their bundles and
made their morning meal. Then the banker, the cultivator, and the
soldier prepared their pipes and wrapped the compartment in choking,
acrid smoke, spitting and coughing and enjoying themselves. The Sikh and
the cultivator's wife chewed pan; the lama took snuff and told his
beads, while Kim, cross-legged, smiled over the comfort of a full
stomach.

'What rivers have ye by Benares?' said the lama of a sudden to the
carriage at large.

'We have Gunga,' returned the banker, when the little titter had
subsided.

'What others?'

'What other than Gunga?'

'Nay, but in my mind was the thought of a certain River of healing.'

'That is Gunga. Who bathes in her is made clean and goes to the gods.
Thrice have I made pilgrimage to Gunga.' He looked round proudly.

'There was need,' said the young sepoy drily, and the travellers' laugh
turned against the banker.

'Clean--to return again to the Gods,' the lama muttered. 'And to go
forth on the round of lives anew--still tied to the Wheel.' He shook his
head testily. 'But maybe there is a mistake. Who, then, made Gunga in
the beginning?'

'The Gods. Of what known faith art thou?' the banker said, appalled.

'I follow the Law--the Most Excellent Law. So it was the Gods that made
Gunga. What like of Gods were they?'

The carriage looked at him in amazement. It was inconceivable that any
one should be ignorant of Gunga.

'What--what is thy God?' said the money-lender at last.

'Hear!' said the lama, shifting the rosary to his hand. 'Hear: for I
speak of Him now! O people of Hind, listen!'

He began in Urdu the tale of the Lord Buddha, but, borne by his own
thoughts, slid into Tibetan and long-droned texts from a Chinese book of
the Buddha's life. The gentle, tolerant folk looked on reverently. All
India is full of holy men stammering gospels in strange tongues; shaken
and consumed in the fires of their own zeal; dreamers, babblers, and
visionaries: as it has been from the beginning and will continue to the
end.

'Um!' said the soldier of the Loodhiana Sikhs. 'There was a Mohammedan
regiment lay next to us at the Pirzai Kotal, and a priest of theirs,--he
was, as I remember, a naik,--when the fit was on him, spake prophecies.
But the mad all are in God's keeping. His officers overlooked much in
that man.'

The lama fell back on Urdu, remembering that he was in a strange land.
'Hear the tale of the Arrow which our Lord loosed from the bow,' he
said.

This was much more to their taste, and they listened curiously while he
told it. 'Now, O people of Hind, I go to seek that River. Know ye aught
that may guide me, for we be all men and women in evil case.'

'There is Gunga--and Gunga alone--who washes away sin,' ran the murmur
round the carriage.

'Though past question we have good Gods Jullundur-way,' said the
cultivator's wife, looking out of window. 'See how they have blessed the
crops.'

'To search every river in the Punjab is no small matter,' said her
husband. 'For me, a stream that leaves good silt on my land suffices,
and I thank Bhumia, the God of the Homestead.' He shrugged one knotted,
bronzed shoulder.

Think you our Lord came so far north?' said the lama, turning to Kim.

'It may be,' Kim replied soothingly, as he spat red pan-juice on the
floor.

'The last of the Great Ones,' said the Sikh with authority, 'was
Sikander Julkarn (Alexander the Great). He paved the streets of
Jullundur and built a great tank near Umballa. That pavement holds to
this day; and the tank is there also. I never heard of thy God.'

'Let thy hair grow long and talk Punjabi,' said the young soldier
jestingly to Kim, quoting a Northern proverb. 'That is all that makes a
Sikh.' But he did not say this very loud.

The lama sighed and shrank into himself, a dingy, shapeless mass. In the
pauses of their talk they could hear, the low droning--'Om mane pudme
hum! Om mane pudme hum!'--and the thick click of the wooden rosary
beads.

'It irks me,' he said at last. 'The speed and the clatter irk me.
Moreover, my chela, I think that may be we have overpassed that River.'

'Peace, peace,' said Kim. 'Was not the River near Benares? We are yet
far from the place.'

'But--if our Lord came north, it may be any one of these little ones
that we have run across.'

'I do not know.'

'But thou wast sent to me--wast thou sent to me?--for the merit I had
acquired over yonder at Suchzen. From beside the cannon didst thou
come--bearing two faces--and two garbs.'

'Peace. One must not speak of these things here,' whispered Kim. 'There
was but one of me. Think again and thou wilt remember. A boy--a Hindu
boy--by the great green cannon.'

'But was there not also an Englishman with a white beard--holy--among
images--who himself made more sure my assurance of the River of the
Arrow?'

'He--we--went to the Ajaib-Gher in Lahore to pray before the gods
there,' Kim explained to the openly listening company. 'And the Sahib of
the Wonder House talked to him--yes, this is truth--as a brother. He is
a Very holy man, from far beyond the hills. Rest thou. In time we come
to Umballa.'

'But my River--the River of my healing?'

'And then, if it please thee, we will go hunting for that River on foot.
So that we miss nothing--not even a little rivulet in a field-side.'

'But thou hast a Search of thine own?' The lama--very pleased that he
remembered so well--sat bolt upright.

'Ay,' said Kim, humouring him. The boy was entirely happy to be out
chewing pan and seeing new people in the great good-tempered world.

'It was a Bull--a Red Bull that shall come and help thee--and carry
thee--whither? I have forgotten. A Red Bull on a green field, was it
not?'

'Nay, it will carry me nowhere,' said Kim. 'It is but a tale I told
thee.'

'What is this?' the cultivator's wife leaned forward, her bracelets
clinking on her arm. 'Do ye both dream dreams? A Red Bull on a green
field, that shall carry thee to the Heavens--or what? Was it a vision?
Did one make a prophecy? We have a Red Bull in our village behind
Jullundur city, and he grazes by choice in the very greenest of our
fields!'

'Give a woman an old wife's tale and a weaver-bird a leaf and a thread,
they will weave wonderful things,' said the Sikh. 'All holy men dream
dreams, and by following holy men their disciples attain that power.'

'A Red Bull on a green field, was it?' the lama repeated. 'In a former
life it may be thou hast acquired merit, and the Bull will come to
reward thee.'

'Nay--nay--it was but a tale one told to me--for a jest belike. But I
will seek the Bull about Umballa, and thou canst look for thy River and
rest from the clatter of the train.'

'It may be that the Bull knows--that he is sent to guide us both,' said
the lama, hopefully as a child. Then to the company, indicating Kim:
'This one was sent to me but yesterday. He is not, I think, of this
world.'

'Beggars a plenty have I met, and holy men to boot, but never such a
yogi nor such a disciple,' said the woman.

Her husband touched his forehead lightly with one finger and smiled. But
the next time the lama would eat they took care to give him their best.

And at last--tired, sleepy, and dusty--they reached Umballa City
Station.

'We abide here upon a law-suit,' said the cultivator's wife to Kim. 'We
lodge with my man's cousin's younger brother. There is room also in the
courtyard for thy yogi and for thee. Will--will he give me a blessing?'

'O holy man! A woman with a heart of gold gives us lodging for the
night. It is a kindly land, this land of the South. See how we have been
helped since the dawn!'

The lama bowed his head in benediction.

'To fill my cousin's younger brother's house with wastrels--' the
husband began, as he shouldered his heavy bamboo staff.

'Thy cousin's younger brother owes my father's cousin something yet on
his daughter's marriage-feast,' said the woman crisply. 'Let him put
their food to that account. The yogi will beg, I doubt not.'

'Ay, I beg for him,' said Kim, anxious only to get the lama under
shelter for the night, that he might seek Mahbub Ali's Englishman and
deliver himself of the white stallion's pedigree.

'Now,' said he, when the lama had come to an anchor in the inner
courtyard of a decent Hindu house behind the cantonments, 'I go away for
a while--to--to buy us victual in the bazar. Do not stray abroad till I
return.'

'Thou wilt return? Thou wilt surely return?' The old man caught at his
wrist. 'And thou wilt return in this very same shape? Is it too late to
look to-night for the River?'

'Too late and too dark. Be comforted. Think how far thou art on the
road--an hundred kos from Lahore already.'

'Yea--and farther from my monastery. Alas! It is a great and terrible
world.'

Kim stole out and away, as unremarkable a figure as ever carried his own
and a few score thousand other folk's fate slung round his neck. Mahbub
Ali's directions left him little doubt of the house in which his
Englishman lived; and a groom, bringing a dog-cart home from the Club,
made him quite sure. It remained only to identify his man, and Kim
slipped through the garden hedge and hid in a clump of plumed grass
close to the veranda. The house blazed with lights, and servants moved
about tables dressed with flowers, glass, and silver. Presently forth
came an Englishman, dressed in black and white, humming a tune. It was
too dark to see his face, so Kim, beggar-wise, tried an old experiment.

'Protector of the Poor!'

The man backed towards the voice.

'Mahbub Ali says--'

'Hah! What says Mahbub Ali?' He made no attempt to look for the speaker,
and that showed Kim that he knew.

'The pedigree of the white stallion is fully established.'

'What proof is there?' The Englishman switched at the rose-hedge in the
side of the drive.

'Mahbub Ali has given me this proof.' Kim flipped the wad of folded
paper into the air, and it fell on the path beside the man, who put his
foot on it as a gardener came round the corner. When the servant passed
he picked it up, dropped a rupee,--Kim could hear the clink,--and strode
into the house, never turning round. Swiftly Kim took up the money; but,
for all his training, he was Irish enough by birth to reckon silver the
least part of any game. What he desired was the visible effect of
action; so, instead of slinking away, he lay close in the grass and
wormed nearer to the house.

He saw--Indian bungalows are open through and through--the Englishman
return to a small dressing-room, in a corner of the veranda, that was
half-office, littered with papers and despatch-boxes, and sit down to
study Mahbub Ali's message. His face, by the full ray of the kerosene
lamp, changed and darkened, and Kim, used as every beggar must be to
watching countenances, took good note.

'Will! Will, dear!' called a woman's voice. 'You ought to be in the
drawing-room. They'll be here in a minute.'

The man still read intently.

'Will!' said the voice, five minutes later. 'He's come. I can hear the
troopers in the drive.'

The man dashed out bareheaded as a big landau with four native troopers
behind it halted at the veranda, and a tall, black-haired man, erect as
an arrow, swung out, preceded by a young officer who laughed pleasantly.

Flat on his belly lay Kim, almost touching the high wheels. His man and
the black stranger exchanged two sentences.

'Certainly, sir,' said the young officer promptly. 'Everything waits
while a horse is concerned.'

'We shan't be more than twenty minutes,' said Kim's man. 'You can do the
honours--keep 'em amused, and all that.'

'Tell one of the troopers to wait,' said the tall man, and they both
passed into the dressing-room together as the landau rolled away. Kim
saw their heads bent over Mahbub Ali's message, and heard the
voices--one low and deferential, the other sharp and decisive.

'It isn't a question of weeks. It is a question of days--hours almost,'
said the elder. 'I'd been expecting it for some time, but this'--he
tapped Mahbub Ali's paper--'clenches it. Grogan's dining here to-night,
isn't he?'

'Yes, sir, and Macklin too.'

'Very good. I'll speak to them myself. That matter will be referred to
the Council, of course, but this is a case where one is justified in
assuming that we take action at once. Warn the Pindi and Peshawur
brigades. It will disorganise all the summer reliefs, but we can't help
that. This comes of not smashing them thoroughly the first time. Eight
thousand should be enough.'

'What about artillery, sir?'

'I must consult Macklin.'

'Then it means war?'

'No. Punishment. When a man is bound by the action of his predecessor--'

'But C.25 may have lied.'

'He bears out the other's information. Practically, they showed their
hand six months back. But Devenish would have it there was a chance of
peace. Of course they used it to make themselves stronger. Send off
those telegrams at once,--the new code, not the old,--mine and
Wharton's. I don't think we need keep the ladies waiting any longer. We
can settle the rest over the cigars. I thought it was coming. It's
punishment--not war.'

As the trooper cantered off Kim crawled round to the back of the house,
where, going on his Lahore experiences, he judged there would be
food--and information. The kitchen was crowded with excited scullions,
one of whom kicked him.

'Aie,' said Kim, feigning tears. 'I came only to wash dishes in return
for a bellyful.'

'All Umballa is on the same errand. Get hence. They go in now with the
soup. Think you that we who serve Creighton Sahib need strange scullions
to help us through a big dinner?'

'It is a very big dinner;' said Kim, looking at the plates.

'Small wonder. The guest of honour is none other than the Jang-i-Lat
Sahib' (the Commander-in-Chief).

'Ho!' said Kim, with the correct guttural note of wonder. He had learned
what he wanted, and when the scullion turned he was gone.

'And all that trouble,' said he to himself, thinking as usual in
Hindustanee, 'for a horse's pedigree! Mahbub Ali should have come to me
to learn a little lying. Every time before that I have borne a message
it concerned a woman. Now it is men. Better. The tall man said that they
will loose a great army to punish some one--somewhere--the news goes to
Pindi and Peshawur. There are also guns. Would I had crept nearer. It is
big news!'

He returned to find the cultivator's cousin's younger brother discussing
the family law-suit in all its bearings with the cultivator and his wife
and a few friends, while the lama dozed. After the evening meal some one
passed him a water-pipe; and Kim felt very much of a man as he pulled at
the smooth cocoanut-shell, his legs spread abroad in the moonlight, his
tongue clicking in remarks from time to time. His hosts were most
polite; for the cultivator's wife had told them of his vision of the Red
Bull, and of his probable descent from another world. Moreover, the lama
was a great and venerable curiosity. The family priest, an old, tolerant
Sarsut Brahmin, dropped in later, and naturally started a theological
argument to impress the family. By creed, of course, they were all on
their priest's side, but the lama was the guest and the novelty. His
gentle kindliness, and his impressive Chinese quotations, that sounded
like spells, delighted them hugely; and in this sympathetic, simple air
he expanded like the Bodhisat's own lotus, speaking of his life in the
great hills of Suchzen, before, as he said, 'I rose up to seek
enlightenment.'

Then it came out that in those worldly days he had been a master-hand at
casting horoscopes and nativities; and the family priest led him on to
describe his methods; each giving the planets names that the other could
not understand, and pointing upwards as the big stars sailed across the
dark. The children of the house tugged unrebuked at his rosary; and he
clean forgot the Rule which forbids looking at women as he talked of
enduring snows, landslips, blocked passes, the remote cliffs where men
find sapphires and turquoise, and that wonderful upland road that leads
at last into Great China itself.

'How thinkest thou of this one?' said the cultivator aside to the
priest.

'A holy man--a holy man indeed. His Gods are not the Gods, but his feet
are upon the Way,' was the answer. 'And his methods of nativities,
though that is beyond thee, are wise and sure.'

'Tell me,' said Kim lazily, 'whether I find my Red Bull on a green
field, as was promised me.'

'What knowledge hast thou of thy birth-hour?' the priest asked, swelling
with importance.

'Between first and second cockcrow of the first night in May.'

'Of what year?'

'I do not know; but upon the hour that I cried first fell the great
earthquake in Srinagur which is in Kashmir.' This Kim had from the woman
who took care of him, and she again from Kimball O'Hara. The earthquake
had been felt in India, and for long stood a leading date in the Punjab.

'Ai!' said a woman excitedly. This seemed to make Kim's supernatural
origin more certain. 'Was not such an one's daughter born then--'

'And her mother bore her husband four sons in four years--all likely
boys,' cried the cultivator's wife, sitting outside the circle in the
shadow.

'None reared in the knowledge,' said the family priest, 'forget how the
planets stood in their Houses upon that night.' He began to draw in the
dust of the courtyard. 'At least thou hast good claim to a half of the
House of the Bull. How runs thy prophecy?'

'Upon a day,' said Kim, delighted at the sensation he was creating, 'I
shall be made great by means of a Red Bull on a green field, but first
there will enter two men making all things ready.'

'Yes: thus ever at the opening of a vision. A thick darkness that clears
slowly; anon one enters with a broom making ready the place. Then begins
the Sight. Two men--thou sayest? Ay, ay. The Sun, leaving the House of
the Bull, enters that of the Twins. Hence the two men of the prophecy.
Let us now consider. Fetch me a twig, little one.'

He knitted his brows, scratched, smoothed out, and scratched again in
the dust mysterious signs--to the wonder of all save the lama, who, with
fine instinct, forbore to interfere.

At the end of half an hour he tossed the twig from him with a grunt.

'Hm. Thus say the stars. Within three days come the two men to make all
things ready. After them follows the Bull; but the sign over against him
is the sign of War and armed men.'

'There was indeed a man of the Loodhiana Sikhs in the carriage from
Lahore,' said the cultivator's wife hopefully.

'Tck! Armed men--many hundreds. What concern hast thou with war?' said
the priest to Kim. 'Thine is a red and an angry sign of War to be loosed
very soon.'

'None--none,' said the lama earnestly. 'We seek only peace and our
River.'

Kim smiled, remembering what he had overheard in the dressing-room.
Decidedly he was a favourite of the stars.

The priest brushed his foot over the rude horoscope. 'More than this I
cannot see. In three days comes the Bull to thee, boy.'

'And my River, my River,' pleaded the lama. 'I had hoped his Bull would
lead us both to the River.'

'Alas, for that wondrous River, my brother,' the priest replied. 'Such
things are not common.'

Next morning, though they were pressed to stay, the lama insisted on
departure. They gave Kim a large bundle of good food and nearly three
annas in copper money for the needs of the road, and with many blessings
watched the two go southward in the dawn.

'Pity it is that these and such as these could not be freed from the
Wheel of Things,' said the lama.

'Nay, then would only evil people be left on the earth, and who would
give us meat and shelter?' quoth Kim, stepping merrily under his burden.

'Yonder is a small stream. Let us look,' said the lama, and he led from
the white road across the fields; walking into a very hornets'-nest of
pariah dogs.



CHAPTER III

          'Yea, voice of every Soul that clung
           To Life that strove from rung to rung
           When Devadatta's rule was young,
           The warm wind brings Kamakura.'


BEHIND them an angry farmer brandished a bamboo pole. He was a
market-gardener, Arain by caste, growing vegetables and flowers for
Umballa city, and well Kim knew the breed.

'Such an one,' said the lama, disregarding the dogs, 'is impolite to
strangers, intemperate of speech and uncharitable. Be warned by his
demeanour, my disciple.'

'Ho, shameless beggars!' shouted the farmer. 'Begone! Get hence!'

'We go,' the lama returned, with quiet dignity. 'We go from these
unblessed fields.'

'Ah,' said Kim, sucking in his breath. 'If the next crops fail, thou
canst only blame thy own tongue.'

The man shuffled uneasily in his slippers. 'The land is full of
beggars,' he began, half apologetically.

'And by what sign didst thou know that we would beg from thee, O Mali?'
said Kim tartly, using the name that a market-gardener least likes. 'All
we sought was to look at that river beyond the field there.'

'River, forsooth!' the man snorted. 'What city do ye hail from not to
know a canal-cut? It runs as straight as an arrow, and I pay for the
water as though it were molten silver. There is a branch of a river
beyond. But if ye need water I can give that--and milk.'

'Nay, we will go to the river,' said the lama, striding out.

'Milk and a meal,' the man stammered, as he looked at the strange tall
figure. 'I--I would not draw evil upon myself--or my crops; but beggars
are so many in these hard days.'

'Take notice,' the lama turned to Kim. 'He was led to speak harshly by
the Red Mist of anger. That clearing from his eyes, he becomes courteous
and of an affable heart. May his fields be blessed. Beware not to judge
men too hastily, O farmer.'

'I have met holy ones who would have cursed thee from hearthstone to
byre,' said Kim to the abashed man. 'Is he not wise and holy? I am his
disciple.'

He cocked his nose in the air loftily and stepped across the narrow
field-borders with great dignity.

'There is no pride,' said the lama, after a pause, 'there is no pride
among such as follow the Middle Way.'

'But thou hast said he was low caste and discourteous.'

'Low caste I did not say, for how can that be which is not? Afterwards
he amended his discourtesy, and I forgot the offence. Moreover, he is as
we are, bound upon the Wheel of Things; but he does not tread the way of
deliverance.' He halted at a little runlet among the fields, and
considered the hoof-pitted bank.

'Now, how wilt thou know thy River?' said Kim, squatting in the shade of
some tall sugar-cane.

'When I find it, an enlightenment will surely be given. This, I feel, is
not the place. O littlest among the waters, if only thou couldst tell
me where runs my River! But be thou blessed to make the fields bear!'

'Look! Look!' Kim sprang to his side and dragged him back. A yellow and
brown streak glided from the purple rustling stems to the bank,
stretched its neck to the water, drank, and lay still--a big cobra with
fixed, lidless eyes.

'I have no stick--I have no stick,' said Kim. 'I will get me one and
break his back.'

'Why? He is upon the Wheel as we are--a life ascending or
descending--very far from deliverance. Great evil must the soul have
done that is cast into this shape.'

'I hate all snakes,' said Kim. No native training can quench the white
man's horror of the Serpent.

'Let him live out his life.' The coiled thing hissed and half opened its
hood. 'May thy release come soon, brother,' the lama continued placidly.
'Hast thou knowledge, by chance, of my River?'

'Never have I seen such a man as thou art,' Kim whispered, overwhelmed.
'Do the very snakes understand thy talk?'

'Who knows?'. He passed within a foot of the cobra's poised head. It
flattened itself among the dusty coils.

'Come thou!' he called over his shoulder.

'Not I,' said Kim. 'I go round.'

'Come. He does no hurt.'

Kim hesitated for a moment. The lama backed his order by some droned
Chinese quotation which Kim took for a charm. He obeyed and bounded
across the rivulet, and the snake, indeed, made no sign.

'Never have I seen such a man.' Kim wiped the sweat from his forehead.
'And now, whither go we?'

'That is for thee to say. I am old, and a stranger--far from my own
place. But that the rel-carriage fills my head with noises of
devil-drums I would go in it to Benares now. . . . Yet by so going we
may miss the River. Let us find another river.'

Where the hard-worked soil gives three and even four crops a
year--through patches of sugar-cane, tobacco, long white radishes, and
nol-kol, all that day they strolled on, turning aside to every glimpse
of water; rousing village dogs and sleeping villages at noonday; the
lama replying to the vollied questions with an unswerving simplicity.
They sought a River--a River of miraculous healing. Had any one
knowledge of such a stream? Sometimes men laughed, but more often heard
the story out to the end and offered them a place in the shade, a drink
of milk, and a meal. The women were always kind, and the little children
as children are the world over, alternately shy and venturesome. Evening
found them at rest under the village tree of a mud-walled, mud-roofed
hamlet, talking to the headman as the cattle came in from the
grazing-grounds and the women prepared the day's last meal. They had
passed beyond the belt of market-gardens round hungry Umballa, and were
among the mile-wide green of the staple crops.

He was a white-bearded and affable elder, used to entertaining
strangers. He dragged out a string bedstead for the lama, set warm
cooked food before him, prepared him a pipe, and, the evening ceremonies
being finished in the village temple, sent for the village priest.

Kim told the older children tales of the size and beauty of Lahore, of
railway travel, and such-like city things, while the men talked, slowly
as their cattle chew the cud.

'I cannot fathom it,' said the headman at last to the priest. 'How
readest thou this talk?' The lama, his tale told, was silently telling
his beads.

'He is a Seeker,' the priest answered. 'The land is full of such.
Remember him who came only last month--the faquir with the tortoise?'

'Ay, but that man had right and reason, for Krishna Himself appeared in
a vision promising him Paradise without the burning-pyre if he journeyed
to Prayag. This man seeks no god who is within my knowledge.'

'Peace, he is old: he comes from far off, and he is mad,' the
smooth-shaven priest replied. 'Hear me.' He turned to the lama. 'Three
kos (six miles) to the westward runs the great road to Calcutta.'

'But I would go to Benares--to Benares.'

'And to Benares also. It crosses all streams on this side of Hind. Now
my word to thee, Holy One, is rest here till to-morrow. Then take the
road' (it was the Grand Trunk Road he meant) 'and test each stream that
it overpasses; for, as I understand, the virtue of thy River lies
neither in one pool nor place, but throughout its length. Then, if thy
gods will, be assured that thou wilt come upon thy freedom.'

'That is well said.' The lama was much impressed by the plan. 'We will
begin to-morrow, and a blessing on thee for showing old feet such a near
road.' A deep, sing-song Chinese half-chant closed the sentence. Even
the priest was impressed, and the headman feared an evil spell: but none
could look at the lama's simple, eager face and doubt him long.

'Seest thou my chela?' he said, diving into his snuff-gourd with an
important sniff. It was his duty to repay courtesy with courtesy.

'I see--and hear.' The headman rolled his eye where Kim was chatting to
a girl in blue as she laid crackling thorns on a fire.

'He also has a Search of his own. No river, but a Bull. Yea, a Red Bull
on a green field will some day raise him to honour. He is, I think, not
altogether of this world. He was sent of a sudden to aid me in this
search, and his name is Friend of all the World.'

The priest smiled. 'Ho there, Friend of all the World,' he cried across
the sharp-smelling smoke, 'what art thou?'

'This Holy One's disciple,' said Kim.

'He says thou art a but' (a spirit).

'Can buts eat?' said Kim, with a twinkle. 'For I am hungry.'

'It is no jest,' cried the lama. 'A certain astrologer of that city
whose name I have forgotten--'

'That is no more than the city of Umballa where we slept last night,'
Kim whispered to the priest.

'Ay, Umballa was it? He cast a horoscope and declared that my chela
should find his desire within two days. But what said he of the meaning
of the stars, Friend of all the World?'

Kim cleared his throat and looked around at the village graybeards.

'The meaning of my Star is War,' he replied pompously.

Somebody laughed at the little tattered figure strutting on the
brickwork plinth under the great tree. Where a native would have lain
down, Kim's white blood set him upon his feet.

'Ay, War,' he answered.

'That is a sure prophecy,' rumbled a deep voice. 'For there is always
war along the Border--as I know.'

It was an old, withered man, who had served the Government in the days
of the Mutiny as a native officer in a newly raised cavalry regiment.
The Government had given him a good holding in the village, and though
the demands of his sons, now gray-bearded officers on their own account,
had impoverished him, he was still a person of consequence. English
officials--Deputy Commissioners even--turned aside from the main road to
visit him, and on those occasions he dressed himself in the uniform of
ancient days, and stood up like a ramrod.

'But this shall be a great war--a war of eight thousand,' Kim's voice
shrilled across the quick-gathering crowd, astonishing himself.

'Redcoats or our own regiments?' the old man snapped, as though he were
asking an equal. His tone made men respect Kim.

'Redcoats,' said Kim at a venture. 'Redcoats and guns.'

'But--but the astrologer said no word of this,' cried the lama, snuffing
prodigiously in his excitement.

'But I know. The word has come to me, who am this Holy One's disciple.
There will rise a war--a war of eight thousand redcoats. From Pindi and
Peshawur they will be drawn. This is sure.'

'The boy has heard bazar-talk,' said the priest.

'But he was always by my side,' said the lama. 'How should he know? I
did not know.'

'He will make a clever juggler when the old man is dead,' muttered the
priest to the headman. 'What new trick is this?'

'A sign. Give me a sign,' thundered the old soldier suddenly. 'If there
were war my sons would have told me.'

'When all is ready, thy sons, doubt not, will be told. But it is a long
road from thy sons to the man in whose hands these things lie.' Kim
warmed to the game, for it reminded him of experiences in the
letter-carrying line, when, for the sake of a few pice, he pretended to
know more than he knew. But now he was playing for larger things--the
sheer excitement and the sense of power. He drew a new breath and went
on.

'Old man, give me a sign. Do underlings order the goings of eight
thousand redcoats--with guns?'

'No.' Still the old man answered as though Kim were an equal.

'Dost thou know who He is then that gives the order?'

'I have seen Him.'

'To know again?'

'I have known Him since he was a lieutenant in the topkhana' (the
Artillery).

'A tall man. A tall man with black hair, walking thus?' Kim took a few
paces in a stiff, wooden style.

'Ay. But that any one may have seen.' The crowd were breathless-still
through all this talk.

'That is true,' said Kim. 'But I will say more. Look now. First the
great man walks thus. Then He thinks thus. (Kim drew a forefinger over
his forehead and downwards till it came to rest by the angle of the
jaw.) Anon He twitches his fingers thus. Anon He thrusts his hat under
his left armpit.' Kim illustrated the motion and stood like a stork.

The old man groaned, inarticulate with amazement; and the crowd
shivered.

'So--so--so. But what does He when He is about to give an order?'

'He rubs the skin at the back of his neck--thus. Then falls one finger
on the table and he makes a small sniffing noise through his nose. Then
He speaks, saying: "Loose such and such a regiment. Call out such
guns."'

The old man rose stiffly and saluted.

'"For"'--Kim translated into the vernacular the clinching sentences he
had heard in the dressing-room at Umballa--'"For," says He, "we should
have done this long ago. It is not war--it is a chastisement. Snff!"'

'Enough. I believe. I have seen Him thus in the smoke of battles. Seen
and heard. It is He!'

'I saw no smoke'--Kim's voice shifted to the rapt sing-song of the
wayside fortune-teller. 'I saw this in darkness. First came a man to
make things clear. Then came horsemen. Then came He, standing in a ring
of light. The rest followed as I have said. Old man, have I spoken
truth?'

'It is He. Past all doubt it is He.'

The crowd drew a long, quavering breath, staring alternately at the old
man, still at attention, and ragged Kim against the purple twilight.

'Said I not--said I not he was from the other world?' cried the lama
proudly. 'He is the Friend of all the World. He is the Friend of the
Stars!'

'At least it does not concern us,' a man cried. 'O thou young
soothsayer, if the gift abides with thee at all seasons, I have a
red-spotted cow. She may be sister to thy Bull for aught I know--'

'Or I care,' said Kim. 'My Stars do not concern themselves with thy
cattle.'

'Nay, but she is very sick,' a woman struck in. 'My man is a buffalo, or
he would have chosen his words better. Tell me if she recover?'

Had Kim been at all an ordinary boy, he would have carried on the play;
but one does not know Lahore city, and least of all the faquirs by the
Taksali Gate, for thirteen years without also knowing human nature.

The priest looked at him sideways, something bitterly--a dry and
blighting smile.

'Is there no priest then in the village? I thought I had seen a great
one even now,' cried Kim.

'Ay--but--' the woman began.

'But thou and thy husband hoped to get the cow cured for a handful of
thanks.' The shot told: they were notoriously the closest-fisted couple
in the village. 'It is not well to cheat the temples. Give a young calf
to thy own priest, and, unless thy gods are angry past recall, she will
give milk within a month.'

'A master-beggar art thou,' purred the priest approvingly. 'Not the
cunning of forty years could have done better. Surely thou hast made the
old man rich?'

'A little flour, a little butter and a mouthful of cardamoms,' Kim
retorted, flushed with the praise, but still cautious--'does one grow
rich on that? And, as thou canst see, he is mad. But it serves me while
I learn the road at least.'

He knew what the faquirs of the Taksali Gate were like when they talked
among themselves, and copied the very inflection of their lewd
disciples.

'Is his Search, then, truth or a cloak to other ends? It may be
treasure.'

'He is mad--many times mad. There is nothing else.'

Here the old soldier hobbled up and asked if Kim would accept his
hospitality for the night. The priest recommended him to do so, but
insisted that the honour of entertaining the lama belonged to the
temple--at which the lama smiled guilelessly. Kim glanced from one face
to the other, and drew his own conclusions.

'Where is the money?' he whispered, beckoning the old man off into the
darkness.

'In my bosom. Where else?'

'Give it me. Quietly and swiftly give it me.'

'But why? Here is no ticket to buy.'

'Am I thy chela, or am I not? Do I not safeguard thy old feet about the
ways? Give me the money and at dawn I will return it.' He slipped his
hand above the lama's girdle and brought away the purse.

'Be it so--be it so.' The old man nodded his head. 'This is a great and
terrible world. I never knew there were so many men alive in it.'

Next morning the priest was in a very bad temper, but the lama was quite
happy; and Kim had enjoyed a most interesting evening with the old man,
who brought out his cavalry sabre and, balancing it on his dry knees,
told tales of the Mutiny and young captains thirty years in their
graves, till Kim dropped off to sleep.

'Certainly the air of this country is good,' said the lama. 'I sleep
lightly, as do all old men; but last night I slept unwaking till broad
day. Even now I am heavy.'

'Drink a draught of hot milk,' said Kim, who had carried not a few such
remedies to opium-smokers of his acquaintance. 'It is time to take the
road again.'

'The long road that overpasses all the rivers of Hind,' said the lama
gaily. 'Let us go. But how thinkest thou, chela, to recompense these
people, and especially the priest, for their great kindness? Truly they
are but-parast, but in other lives, may be, they will receive
enlightenment. A rupee to the temple? The thing within is no more than
stone and red paint, but the heart of man we must acknowledge when and
where it is good.'

'Holy One, hast thou ever taken the road alone?' Kim looked up sharply,
like the Indian crows so busy about the fields.

'Surely, child: from Kulu to Pathankot--from Kulu, where my first chela
died. When men were kind to us we made offerings, and all men were
well-disposed throughout all the Hills.'

'It is otherwise in Hind,' said Kim drily. 'Their gods are many-armed
and malignant. Let them alone.'

'I would set thee on thy road for a little, Friend of all the
World--thou and thy yellow man.' The old soldier ambled up the village
street, all shadowy in the dawn, on a gaunt, scissor-hocked pony. 'Last
night broke up the fountains of remembrance in my so-dried heart, and it
was as a blessing to me. Truly there is war abroad in the air. I smell
it. See! I have brought my sword.'

He sat long-legged on the little beast, with the big sword at his
side,--hand dropped on the pommel,--staring fiercely over the flat lands
towards the north. 'Tell me again how He showed in thy vision. Come up
and sit behind me. The beast will carry two.'

'I am this Holy One's disciple,' said Kim, as they cleared the
village-gate. The villagers seemed almost sorry to be rid of them, but
the priest's farewell was cold and distant. He had wasted some opium on
a man who carried no money.

'That is well spoken. I am not much used to holy men, but respect is
always good. There is no respect in these days--not even when a
Commissioner Sahib comes to see me. But why should one whose Star leads
him to war follow a holy man?'

'But he is a holy man,' said Kim earnestly. 'In truth, and in talk and
in act, holy. He is not like the others. I have never seen such an one.
We be not fortune-tellers, or jugglers, or beggars.'

'Thou art not, that I can see; but I do not know that other. He marches
well, though.'

The first freshness of the day carried the lama forward with long, easy,
camel-like strides. He was deep in meditation, mechanically clicking his
rosary.

They followed the rutted and worn country road that wound across the
flat between the great dark-green mango-groves, the line of the
snow-capped Himalayas faint to the eastward. All India was at work in
the fields, to the creaking of well-wheels, the shouting of ploughmen
behind their cattle, and the clamour of the crows. Even the pony felt
the good influence and almost broke into a trot as Kim laid a hand on
the stirrup-leather.

'It repents me that I did not give a rupee to the shrine,' said the lama
on the last bead of his eighty-one.

The old soldier growled in his beard, so that the lama for the first
time was aware of him.

'Seekest thou the River also?' said he, turning.

'The day is new,' was the reply. 'What need of a river save to water at
before sundown? I come to show thee a short lane to the Big Road.'

'That is a courtesy to be remembered, O man of good will; but why the
sword?'

The old soldier looked as abashed as a child interrupted in his game of
make-believe.

'The sword,' he said, fumbling it. 'Oh, that was a fancy of mine--an
old man's fancy. Truly the police orders are that no man must bear
weapons throughout Hind, but'--he cheered up and slapped the hilt--'all
the constabeels hereabout know me.'

'It is not a good fancy,' said the lama. 'What profit to kill men?'

'Very little--as I know; but if evil men were not now and then slain it
would not be a good world for weaponless dreamers. I do not speak
without knowledge who have seen the land from Delhi south awash with
blood.'

'What madness was that, then?'

'The Gods, who sent it for a plague, alone know. A madness ate into all
the Army, and they turned against their officers. That was the first
evil, but not past remedy if they had then held their hands. But they
chose to kill the Sahibs' wives and children. Then came the Sahibs from
over the sea and called them to most strict account.'

'Some such rumour, I believe, reached me once long ago. They called it
the Black Year, as I remember.'

'What manner of life hast thou led, not to know The Year? A rumour
indeed! All earth knew, and trembled.'

'Our earth never shook but once--upon the day that the Excellent One
received Enlightenment.'

'Umph! I saw Delhi shake at least; and Delhi is the navel of the world.'

'So they turned against women and children? That was a bad deed, for
which the punishment cannot be avoided.'

'Many strove to do so, but with very small profit. I was then in a
regiment of cavalry. It broke. Of six hundred and eighty sabres stood
fast to their salt--how many think you? Three. Of whom I was one.'

[Illustration: He sat long-legged on the little beast, with the big
sword at his side--hand dropped on the pommel--staring fiercely ever the
flat Lands. . .]

'The greater merit.'

'Merit! We did not consider it merit in those days. My people, my
friends, my brothers fell from me. They said: "The time of the English
is accomplished. Let each strike out a little holding for himself." But
I had talked with the men of Sobraon, of Chillianwallah, of Moodkee and
Ferozeshah. I said: "Abide a little and the wind turns. There is no
blessing in this work." In those days I rode seventy miles with an
English memsahib and her babe on my saddle-bow. (Wow! That was a horse
fit for a man!) I placed them in safety, and back came I to my
officer--the one that was not killed of our five. "Give me work," said
I, "for I am an outcast among my own kin, and my cousin's blood is wet
on my sabre." "Be content," said he. "There is great work forward. When
this madness is over there is a recompense."'

'Ay, there is a recompense when the madness is over, surely?' the lama
muttered half to himself.

'They did not hang medals in those days on all who by accident had heard
a gun fired. No! In nineteen pitched battles was I; in six-and-forty
skirmishes of horse; and in small affairs without number. Nine wounds I
bear; a medal and four clasps and the medal of an Order, for my captains
who are now generals, remembered me when the Kaiser-i-Hind had
accomplished fifty years of her reign, and all the land rejoiced. They
said: "Give him the order of Berittish India." I carry it upon my neck
now. I have also my jaghir (holding) from the hands of the State--a free
gift to me and mine. The men of the old days--they are now
Commissioners--come riding to me through the crops,--high upon horses so
that all the village sees,--and we talk out the old skirmishes, one
dead man's name leading to another.'

'And after?' said the lama.

'Oh, afterwards they go away, but not before my village has seen.'

'And at the last what wilt thou do?'

'At the last I shall die.'

'And after?'

'Let the Gods order it. I have never pestered Them with prayers: I do
not think they will pester me. Look you, I have noticed in my long life
that those who eternally break in upon Those Above with complaints and
reports and bellowings and weepings are presently sent for in haste, as
our colonel used to send for slack-jawed down-country men who talked too
much. No, I have never wearied the Gods. They will remember this, and
give me a quiet place where I can drive my lance in the shade, and wait
to welcome my sons: I have no less than three--ressaldar-majors all--in
the regiments.'

'And they likewise, bound upon the Wheel, go forth from life to
life--from despair to despair,' said the lama below his breath, 'hot,
uneasy, snatching.'

'Ay,' the old soldier chuckled. 'Three ressaldar-majors in three
regiments. Gamblers a little, but so am I. They must be well mounted;
and one cannot take the horses as in the old days one took women. Well,
well, my holding can pay for all. How thinkest thou? It is a
well-watered strip, but my men cheat me. I do not know how to ask save
at the lance's point. Ugh! I grow angry and I curse them, and they feign
penitence, but behind my back I know they call me a toothless old ape.'

'Hast thou never desired any other thing?'

Yes--yes--a thousand times! A straight back and a close-clinging knee
once more; a quick wrist and a keen eye; and the marrow that makes a
man. Oh, the old days--the good days of my strength!'

'That strength is weakness.'

'It has turned so; but fifty years since I could have proved it
otherwise,' the old soldier retorted, driving his stirrup-edge into the
pony's lean flank.

'But I know a River of great healing.'

'I have drunk Gunga-water to the edge of dropsy. All she gave me was a
flux, and no sort of strength.'

'It is not Gunga. The River that I know washes from all taint of sin.
Ascending the far bank one is assured of Freedom. I do not know thy
life, but thy face is the face of the honourable and courteous. Thou
hast clung to thy Way, rendering fidelity when it was hard to give, in
that Black Year of which I now remember other tales. Enter now upon the
Middle Way, which is the path to Freedom. Hear the Most Excellent Law,
and do not follow dreams.'

'Speak then, old man,' the soldier smiled, half saluting. 'We be all
babblers at our age.'

The lama squatted under the shade of a mango, whose shadow played
checkerwise over his face; the soldier sat stiffly on the pony; and Kim,
making sure that there were no snakes, lay down in the crotch of the
twisted roots.

There was a drowsy buzz of small life in hot sunshine, a cooing of
doves, and a sleepy drone of well-wheels across the fields. Slowly and
impressively the lama began. At the end of ten minutes the old soldier
slid from his pony, to hear better as he said, and sat with the reins
round his wrist. The lama's voice faltered--the periods lengthened. Kim
was busy watching a gray squirrel. When the little scolding bunch of
fur, close pressed to the branch, disappeared, preacher and audience
were fast asleep, the old officer's strong-cut head pillowed on his arm,
the lama's thrown back against the tree hole, where it showed like
yellow ivory. A naked child toddled up, stared, and, moved by some quick
impulse of reverence made a solemn little obeisance before the
lama--only the child was so short and fat that it toppled over sideways,
and Kim laughed at the sprawling, chubby legs. The child, scared and
indignant, yelled aloud.

'Hai! Hai!' said the soldier leaping to his feet. 'What is it? What
orders? . . . It is . . . a child! I dreamed it was an alarm. Little
one--little one--do not cry. Have I slept? That was discourteous
indeed!'

'I fear! I am afraid!' roared the child.

'What is it to fear? Two old men and a boy? How wilt thou ever make a
soldier, Princeling?'

The lama had waked too, but, taking no direct notice of the child,
clicked his rosary.

'What is that?' said the child, stopping a yell midway. 'I have never
seen such things. Give them me.'

'Aha,' said the lama, smiling, and trailing a loop of it on the grass:

          'This is a handful of cardamoms,
            This is a lump of ghi:
          This is millet and chillies and rice,
            A supper for thee and me!'

The child shrieked with joy, and snatched at the dark, glancing beads.

'Oho!' said the old soldier. 'Whence had thou that song, despiser of
this world?'

'I learned it in Pathankot--sitting on a door-step,' said the lama
shyly. 'It is good to be kind to babes.'

'As I remember, before the sleep came on us, thou hadst told me that
marriage and bearing were darkeners of the true light, stumbling-blocks
upon the way. Do children drop from heaven in thy country? Is it the Way
to sing them songs?'

'No man is all perfect,' said the lama gravely, recoiling the rosary.
'Run now to thy mother, little one.'

'Hear him!' said the soldier to Kim. 'He is ashamed for that he has made
a child happy. There was a very good householder lost in thee, my
brother. Hai, child!' He threw it a pice. 'Sweetmeats are always sweet.'
And as the little figure capered away into the sunshine: 'They grow up
and become men. Holy One, I grieve that I slept in the midst of thy
preaching. Forgive me.'

'We be two old men,' said the lama. 'The fault is mine. I listened to
thy talk of the world and its madness, and one fault led to the next.'

'Hear him! What harm do thy Gods suffer from play with a babe? And that
song was very well sung. Let us go on and I will sing thee the song of
Nikal Seyn before Delhi--the old song.'

And they fared out from the gloom of the mango tope, the old man's high,
shrill voice ringing across the field, as wail by long-drawn wail he
unfolded the story of Nikal Seyn (Nicholson)--the song that men sing in
the Punjab to this day. Kim was delighted, and the lama listened with
deep interest.

'Ahi! Nikal Seyn is dead--he died before Delhi! Lances of North take
vengeance for Nikal Seyn.' He quavered it out to the end, marking the
trills with the flat of his sword on the pony's rump.

'And now we come to the Big Road,' said he, after receiving the
compliments of Kim; for the lama was markedly silent. 'It is long since
I have ridden this way, but thy boy's talk stirred me. See, Holy
One--the Great Road which is the backbone of all Hind. For the most part
it is shaded, as here, with four lines of trees; the middle road--all
hard--takes the quick traffic. In the days before rail-carriages the
Sahibs travelled up and down here in hundreds. Now there are only
country-carts and such like. Left and right is the rougher road for the
heavy carts--grain and cotton and timber, bhoosa, lime and hides. A man
goes in safety here--for at every few kos is a police-station. The
police are thieves and extortioners (I myself would patrol it with
cavalry--young recruits under a strong captain), but at least they do
not suffer any rivals. All castes and kinds of men move here. Look!
Brahmins and chumars, bankers and tinkers, barbers and bunnias, pilgrims
and potters--all the world going and coming. It is to me as a river from
which I am withdrawn like a log after a flood.'

And truly the Grand Trunk Road is a wonderful spectacle. It runs
straight, bearing without crowding India's traffic for fifteen hundred
miles--such a river of life as nowhere else exists in the world. They
looked at the green-arched, shade-flecked length of it, the white
breadth speckled with slow-pacing folk; and the two-roomed
police-station opposite.

'Who bears arms against the law?' a constable called out laughingly, as
he caught sight of the soldier's sword, 'Are not the police enough to
destroy evil-doers?'

'It was because of the police I bought it,' was the answer. 'Does all go
well in Hind?'

'Ressaldar Sahib, all goes well.'

'I am like an old tortoise, look you, who puts his head out from the
bank and draws it in again. Ay, this is the road of Hindustan. All men
come by this way. . . .'

'Son of a swine, is the soft part of the road meant for thee to scratch
thy back upon? Father of all the daughters of shame and husband of ten
thousand virtueless ones, thy mother was devoted to a devil, being led
thereto by her mother; thy aunts have never had a nose for seven
generations! Thy sister--What owl's folly told thee to draw thy carts
across the road? A broken wheel? Then take a broken head and put the two
together at leisure!'

The voice and a venomous whip-cracking came out of a pillar of dust
fifty yards away, where a cart had broken down. A thin, high Kattiwar
mare, with eyes and nostrils aflame, rocketed out of the jam, snorting
and wincing as her rider bent her across the road in chase of a shouting
man. He was tall and gray-bearded, sitting the almost mad beast as a
piece of her, and scientifically lashing his victim between plunges.

The old man's face lit with pride. 'My child!' said he briefly, and
strove to rein the pony's neck to a fitting arch.

'Am I to be beaten before the police?' cried the carter. 'Justice! I
will have Justice--'

'Am I to be blocked by a shouting ape who upsets ten thousand sacks
under a young horse's nose? That is the way to ruin a mare.'

'He speaks truth. He speaks truth. But she follows her man close,' said
the old man. The carter ran under the wheels of his cart and thence
threatened all sorts of vengeance.

'They are strong men, thy sons,' said the policeman serenely, picking
his teeth.

The horseman delivered one last vicious cut with his whip and came on at
a canter.

'My father!' He reined back ten yards and dismounted.

The old man was off his pony in an instant, and they embraced as do
father and son in the East.



CHAPTER IV

          Good Luck, she is never a lady,
          But the cursedest quean alive.
          Tricksy, wincing, and jady--
          Kittle to lead or drive.
          Greet her--she's hailing a stranger!
          Meet her--she's busking to leave!
          Let her alone for a shrew to the bone
          And the hussy comes plucking your sleeve!
            Largesse! Largesse, O Fortune!
            Give or hold at your will
            If I've no care for Fortune,
            Fortune must follow me still!
                                'The Wishing Caps.'


THEN, lowering their voices, they spoke together. Kim came to rest under
a tree, but the lama tugged impatiently at his elbow.

'Let us go on. The River is not here.'

'Hai mai? Have we not walked enough for a little? Our River will not run
away. Patience, and he will give us a dole.'

'That,' said the old soldier suddenly, 'is the Friend of the Stars. He
brought me the news yesterday. Having seen the very man Himself, in a
vision, giving orders for the war.'

'Hm!' said his son, all deep in his broad chest. 'He came by a
bazar-rumour and made profit of it.'

His father laughed. 'At least he did not ride to me begging for a new
charger and the gods know how many rupees. Are thy brothers' regiments
also under orders?'

'I do not know. I took leave and came swiftly to thee in case--'

'In case they ran before thee to beg. O gamblers and spendthrifts all!
But thou hast never yet ridden in a charge. A good horse is needed
there, truly. A good follower and a good pony also for the marching. Let
us see--let us see.' He thrummed on the pommel.

'This is no place to cast accounts in, my father. Let us go to thy
house.'

'At least pay the boy then: I have no pice with me, and he brought
auspicious news. Ho! Friend of all the World, a war is toward as thou
hast said.'

'Nay, as I know, the war,' returned Kim composedly.

'Eh?' said the lama, fingering his beads, all eager for the road.

'My master does not trouble the Stars for hire. We brought the
news--bear witness we brought the news, and now we go.' Kim half-crooked
his hand at his side.

The son tossed a silver coin through the sunlight, grumbling something
about beggars and jugglers. It was a four-anna piece, and would feed
them well for some days. The lama, seeing the flash of the metal, droned
a blessing.

'Go thy way, Friend of all the World,' piped the old soldier, wheeling
his scrawny mount. 'For once in all my days I have met a true
prophet--who was not in the Army.'

Father and son swung round together: the old man sitting as erect as the
younger.

A Punjabi constable in yellow linen trousers slouched across the road.
He had seen the money pass.

'Halt!' he cried in impressive English. 'Know ye not that there is a
takkus of two annas a head, which is four annas, on those who enter the
road from this side-road. It is the order of the Sirkar, and the money
is spent for the planting of trees and the beautification of the ways.'

'And the bellies of the police,' said Kim, skipping out of arm's reach.
'Consider for a while, man with a mud head. Think you we came from the
nearest pond like the frog, thy father-in-law. Hast thou ever heard the
name of thy brother?'

'And who was he? Leave the boy alone,' cried a senior constable,
immensely delighted, as he squatted down to smoke his pipe in the
veranda.

'He took a label from a bottle of belaitee-pani (soda-water), and,
affixing it to a bridge, collected taxes for a month from those who
passed, saying that it was the Sirkar's order. Then came an Englishman
and broke his head. Ah, brother, I am a town-crow, not a village-crow!'

The policeman drew back abashed, and Kim hooted at him all down the
road.

'Was there ever such a disciple as I?' he cried merrily to the lama.
'All earth would have picked thy bones within ten mile of Lahore city if
I had not guarded thee.'

'I consider in my own mind whether thou art a spirit, sometimes, or
sometimes an evil imp,' said the lama, smiling slowly.

'I am thy chela.' Kim dropped into step at his side--that indescribable
gait of the long-distance tramp all the world over.

'Now let us walk,' muttered the lama, and to the click of his rosary
they walked in silence mile upon mile. The lama, as usual, was deep in
meditation, but Kim's bright eyes were open wide. This broad, smiling
river of life, he considered, was a vast improvement on the cramped and
crowded Lahore streets. There were new people and new sights at every
stride--castes he knew and castes that were altogether out of his
experience.

They met a troop of long-haired, strong-scented Sansis with baskets of
lizards and other unclean food on their backs, their lean dogs sniffing
at their heels. These people kept their own side of the road, moving at
a quick, furtive jog-trot, and all other castes gave them ample room;
for the Sansi is deep pollution. Behind them, walking wide and stiffly
across the strong shadows, the memory of his leg-irons still on him,
strode one newly released from the jail; his full stomach and shiny skin
to prove that the Government fed its prisoners better than most honest
men could feed themselves. Kim knew that walk well, and made broad jest
of it as they passed. Then an Akali, a wild-eyed, wild-haired Sikh
devotee in the blue-checked clothes of his faith, with polished-steel
quoits glistening on the cone of his tall blue turban, stalked past,
returning from a visit to one of the independent Sikh States, where he
had been singing the ancient glories of the Khalsa to College-trained
princelings in top-boots and white-cord breeches. Kim was careful not to
irritate that man; for the Akali's temper is short and his arm quick.
Here and there they met or were overtaken by the gaily dressed crowds of
whole villages turning out to some local fair; the women, with their
babes on their hips, walking behind the men, the older boys prancing on
sticks of sugar-cane, dragging rude brass models of locomotives such as
they sell for a halfpenny, or flashing the sun into the eyes of their
betters from cheap toy mirrors. One could see at a glance what each had
bought; and if there were any doubt it needed only to watch the wives
comparing, brown arm against brown arm, the newly purchased dull glass
bracelets that come from the North-West. These merry-makers stepped
slowly, calling one to the other and stopping to haggle with
sweetmeat-sellers, or to make a prayer before one of the wayside
shrines--sometimes Hindu, sometimes Mussalman--which the low caste of
both creeds share with beautiful impartiality. A solid line of blue,
rising and falling like the back of a caterpillar in haste, would swing
up through the quivering dust and trot past to a chorus of quick
cackling. That was a gang of changars--the women who have taken all the
embankments of all the Northern railways under their charge--a
flat-footed, big-bosomed, strong-limbed, blue-petticoated clan of
earth-carriers, hurrying north on news of a job, and wasting no time by
the road. They belong to the caste whose men do not count, and they
walked with squared elbows, swinging hips, and heads on high, as suits
women who carry heavy weights. A little later a marriage procession
would strike into the Grand Trunk with music and shoutings, and a smell
of marigold and jasmine stronger even than the reek of the dust. One
could see the bride's litter, a blur of red and tinsel, staggering
through the haze, while the bridegroom's bewreathed pony turned aside to
snatch a mouthful from a passing fodder-cart. Then Kim would join the
Kentish-fire of good wishes and bad jokes, wishing the couple a hundred
sons and no daughters, as the saying is. Still more interesting and
more to be shouted over it was when a strolling juggler with some
half-trained monkeys, or a panting, feeble bear, or a woman who tied
goats' horns to her feet, and with these danced on a slack-rope, set the
horses to shying and the women to shrill, long-drawn quavers of
amazement.

The lama never raised his eyes. He did not note the money-lender on his
goose-rumped pony, hastening along to collect the cruel interest; or the
long-shouting, deep-voiced little mob--still in military formation--of
native soldiers on leave, rejoicing to be rid of their breeches and
puttees, and saying the most outrageous things to the most respectable
women in sight. Even the seller of Ganges-water he did not see, and Kim
expected that he would at least buy a bottle of that precious stuff. He
looked steadily at the ground, and strode as steadily hour after hour,
his soul busied elsewhere. But Kim was in the seventh heaven of joy. The
Grand Trunk at this point was built on an embankment to guard against
winter floods from the foothills, so that one walked, as it were, a
little above the country, along a stately corridor, seeing all India
spread out to left and right. It was beautiful to behold the many-yoked
grain and cotton waggons crawling over the country-roads: one could hear
their axles, complaining a mile away, coming nearer, till with shouts
and yells and bad words they climbed up the steep incline and plunged on
to the hard main road, carter reviling carter. It was equally beautiful
to watch the people, little clumps of red and blue and pink and white
and saffron, turning aside to go to their own villages, dispersing and
growing small by twos and threes across the level plain. Kim felt these
things, though he could not give tongue to his feelings, and so
contented himself with buying peeled sugar-cane and spitting the pith
generously about his path. From time to time the lama took snuff, and at
last Kim could endure the silence no longer.

'This is a good land--the land of the South!' said he. 'The air is good;
the water is good. Eh?'

'And they are all bound upon the Wheel,' said the lama. 'Bound from life
after life. To none of these has the Way been shown.' He shook himself
back to this world.

'And now we have walked a weary way,' said Kim. 'Surely we shall soon
come to a parao (a resting-place). Shall we stay there? Look, the sun is
sloping.'

'Who will receive us this evening?'

'That is all one. This country is full of good folk. Besides,'--he sunk
his voice beneath a whisper,--'we have money.'

The crowd thickened as they neared the resting-place which marked the
end of their day's journey. A line of stalls selling very simple food
and tobacco, a stack of firewood, a police-station, a well, a
horse-trough, a few trees, and, under them, some trampled ground dotted
with the black ashes of old fires, are all that mark a parao on the
Grand Trunk; if you except the beggars and the crows--both hungry.

By this time the sun was driving broad golden spokes through the lower
branches of the mango trees; the parakeets and doves were coming home in
their hundreds; the chattering, gray-backed Seven Sisters, talking over
the day's adventures, walked back and forth in twos and threes almost
under the feet of the travellers; and shufflings and scufflings in the
branches showed that the bats were ready to go out on the night-picket.
Swiftly the light gathered itself together, painted for an instant the
faces and the cart-wheels and the bullocks' horns as red as blood. Then
the night fell, changing the touch of the air, drawing a low, even haze,
like a gossamer veil of blue, across the face of the country, and
bringing out, keen and distinct, the smell of wood-smoke and cattle and
the good scent of wheaten cakes cooked on ashes. The evening patrol
hurried out of the police-station with important coughings and
reiterated orders; and a live charcoal ball in the cup of a wayside
carter's hookah glowed red while Kim's eye mechanically watched the last
flicker of the sun on the brass tweezers.

[Illustration: The Lama and Kim walked a little to one side; Kim chewing
his stick of sugar-cane, and making way for no one under the status of a
priest.]

The life of the parao was very like that of the Kashmir Serai on a small
scale. Kim dived into the happy Asiatic disorder which, if you only
allow time, will bring you everything that a simple man needs.

His wants were few, because, since the lama had no caste scruples,
cooked food from the nearest stall would serve; but, for luxury's sake,
Kim bought a handful of dung-cakes to build a fire. All about, coming
and going round the little flames, men cried for oil, or grain, or
sweetmeats, or tobacco, jostling one another while they waited their
turn at the well; and under the men's voices you heard from halted,
shuttered carts the high squeals and giggles of women whose faces should
not be seen in public.

Nowadays, well-educated natives are of opinion that when their womenfolk
travel--and they visit a good deal--it is better to take them quickly by
rail in a properly screened compartment; and that custom is spreading.
But there are always those of the old rock who hold by the use of their
forefathers; and, above all, there are always the old women,--more
conservative than the men,--who toward the end of their days go a
pilgrimage. They, being withered and undesirable, do not, under certain
circumstances, object to unveiling. After their long seclusion, during
which they have always been in business touch with a thousand outside
interests, they love the bustle and stir of the open road, the
gatherings at the shrines, and the infinite possibilities of gossip with
like-minded dowagers. Very often it suits a long-suffering family that a
strong-tongued, iron-willed old lady should disport herself about India
in this fashion; for certainly pilgrimage is grateful to the Gods. So
all about India, in the most remote places, as in the most public, you
find some knot of grizzled servitors in nominal charge of an old lady
who is more or less curtained and hid away in a bullock-cart. Such men
are staid and discreet, and when a European or a high-caste native is
near will net their charge with most elaborate precautions; but in the
ordinary haphazard chances of pilgrimage the precautions are not taken.
The old lady is, after all, intensely human, and lives to look upon
life.

Kim marked down a gaily ornamented ruth or family bullock-cart, with a
broidered canopy of two domes, like a double-humped camel, which had
just been drawn into the parao. Eight men made its retinue, and two of
the eight were armed with rusty sabres--sure signs that they followed a
person of distinction, for the common folk do not bear arms. An
increasing cackle of complaints, orders, and jests, and what to a
European would have been bad language, came from behind the curtains.
Here was evidently a woman used to command.

Kim looked over the retinue critically. Half of them were thin-legged,
gray-bearded Ooryas from down country. The other half were duffle-clad,
felt-hatted hillmen of the North: and that mixture told its own tale,
even if he had not overheard the incessant sparring between the two
divisions. The old lady was going south on a visit--probably to a rich
relative, most probably to a son-in-law, who had sent up an escort as a
mark of respect. The hillmen would be of her own people--Kulu or Kangra
folk. It was quite clear that she was not taking her daughter down to be
wedded, or the curtains would have been laced home and the guard would
have allowed no one near the car. A merry and a high-spirited dame,
thought Kim, balancing the dung-cake in one hand, the cooked food in the
other, and piloting the lama with a nudging shoulder. Something might be
made out of the meeting. The lama would give him no help, but, as a
conscientious chela, Kim was delighted to beg for two.

He built his fire as close to the cart as he dared, waiting for one of
the escort to order him away. The lama dropped wearily to the ground,
much as a heavy fruit-eating bat cowers, and returned to his rosary.

'Stand farther off, beggar!' The order was shouted in broken Hindustanee
by one of the hillmen.

'Huh! It is only a pahari' (a hillman), said Kim over his shoulder.
'Since when have the hill-asses owned all Hindustan?'

The retort was a swift and brilliant sketch of Kim's pedigree for three
generations.

'Ah!' Kim's voice was sweeter than ever, as he broke the dung-cake into
fit pieces. 'In my country we call that the beginning of love-talk.'

A harsh, thin cackle behind the curtains put the hillman on his mettle
for a second shot.

'Not so bad--not so bad,' said Kim with calm. 'But have a care, my
brother, lest we--we, I say--be minded to give a curse or so in return.
And our curses have the knack of biting home.'

The Ooryas laughed; the hillman sprang forward threateningly; the lama
suddenly raised his head, bringing his huge tam-o'-shanter cap into the
full light of Kim's new-started fire.

'What is it?' said he.

The man halted as though struck to stone. 'I--I--am saved from a great
sin,' he stammered.

'The foreigner has found him a priest at last,' whispered one of the
Ooryas.

'Hai! Why is that beggar-brat not well beaten?' the old woman cried.

The hillman drew back to the cart and whispered something to the
curtain. There was dead silence, then a muttering.

'This goes well,' thought Kim, pretending neither to see nor hear.

'When--when--he has eaten,'--the hillman fawned on Kim--'it--it is
requested that the Holy One will do the honour to talk to one who would
speak to him.'

'After he has eaten he will sleep,' Kim returned loftily. He could not
quite see what new turn the game had taken, but stood resolute to profit
by it. 'Now, I will get him his food.' The last sentence, spoken loudly,
ended with a sigh as of faintness.

'I--I myself and the others of my people will look to that--if it is
permitted.'

'It is permitted,' said Kim, more loftily than ever. 'Holy One, these
people will bring us food.'

'The land is good. All the country of the South is good--a great and a
terrible world,', mumbled the lama drowsily.

'Let him sleep,' said Kim, 'but look to it that we are well fed when he
wakes. He is a very holy man.'

Again one of the Ooryas said something contemptuously.

'He is not a faquir. He is not a down-country beggar,' Kim went on
severely, addressing the stars. 'He is the most holy of holy men. He is
above all castes. I am his chela.'

'Come here!' said the flat thin voice behind the curtain; and Kim came,
conscious that eyes he could not see were staring at him. One skinny
brown finger heavy with rings lay on the edge of the cart, and the talk
went this way:

'Who is that one?'

'An exceedingly holy one. He comes from far off. He comes from Tibet.'

'Where in Tibet?'

'From behind the snows--from a very far place. He knows the stars; he
makes horoscopes; he reads nativities. But he does not do this for
money. He does it for kindness and great charity. I am his disciple. I
am called also the Friend of the Stars.'

'Thou art no hillman.'

'Ask him. He will tell thee I was sent to him from the stars to show him
an end to his pilgrimage.'

'Humph! Consider, brat, that I am an old woman and not altogether a
fool. Lamas I know, and to these I give reverence, but thou art no more
a lawful chela than this my finger is the pole of this waggon. Thou art
a casteless Hindu--a bold and unblushing beggar, attached, belike, to
the Holy One for the sake of gain.'

'Do we not all work for gain?' Kim changed his tone promptly to match
that altered voice. 'I have heard'--this was a bow drawn at a
venture--'I have heard--'

'What hast thou heard?' she snapped, rapping with the finger.

'Nothing that I well remember, but some talk in the bazars, which is
doubtless a lie, that even Rajahs--small hill Rajahs--'

'But none the less of good Rajput blood.'

'Assuredly of good blood. That these even sell the more comely of their
womenfolk for gain. Down south they sell them--to zemindars and such-all
of Oudh.'

If there be one thing in the world that the small hill Rajahs deny it is
just this charge; but it happens to be one thing that the bazars
believe, when they discuss the mysterious slave-traffics of India. The
old lady explained to Kim, in a tense, indignant whisper, precisely what
manner and fashion of malignant liar he was. Had Kim hinted this when
she was a girl, he would have been pommelled to death that same evening
by an elephant. This was perfectly true.

'Ahai! I am only a beggar's brat, as the Eye of Beauty has said,' he
wailed in extravagant terror.

'Eye of Beauty, forsooth! Who am I that thou shouldst fling
beggar-endearments at me?' And yet she laughed at the long-forgotten
word. 'Forty years ago that might have been said, and not without truth.
Ay, thirty years ago. But it is the fault of this gadding up and down
Hind that a king's widow must jostle all the scum of the land, and be
made a mock by beggars.'

'Great Queen,' said Kim promptly, for he heard her shaking with
indignation, 'I am even what the Great Queen says I am; but none the
less is my master holy. He has not yet heard the Great Queen's order
that--'

'Order? I order a Holy One--a Teacher of the Law--to come and speak to a
woman? Never!'

'Pity my stupidity. I thought it was given as an order--'

'It was not. It was a petition. Does this make all clear?'

A silver coin clicked on the edge of the cart. Kim took it and salaamed
profoundly. The old lady recognised that, as the eyes and the ears of
the lama, he was to be propitiated.

'I am but the Holy One's disciple. When he has eaten perhaps he will
come.'

'Oh, villain and shameless rogue!' The jewelled forefinger shook itself
at him reprovingly; but he could hear the old lady's chuckle.

'Nay, what is it?' he said, dropping into his most caressing and
confidential tone--the one, he well knew, that few could resist. 'Is--is
there any need of a son in thy family? Speak freely, for we priests--'
That last was a direct plagiarism from a faquir by the Taksali Gate.

'We priests! Thou art not yet old enough to--' She checked the joke with
another laugh. 'Believe me, now and again, we women, O priest, think of
other matters than sons. Moreover, my daughter has borne her man-child.'

'Two arrows in the quiver are better than one; and three are better
still.' Kim quoted the proverb with a meditative cough, looking
discreetly earthward.

'True--oh, true. But perhaps that will come. Certainly those
down-country Brahmins are utterly useless. I sent gifts and monies and
gifts again to them and they prophesied.'

'Ah,' drawled Kim, with infinite contempt, 'they prophesied!' A
professional could have done no better.

'And it was not till I remembered my own Gods that my prayers were
heard. I chose an auspicious hour, and--perhaps thy Holy One has heard
of the Abbot of the Lung-Cho lamassery. It was to him I put the matter,
and behold in the due time all came about as I desired. The Brahmin in
the house of the father of my daughter's son has since said that it was
through his prayers--which is a little error that I will explain to him
when we reach our journey's end. And so afterwards I go to Buddh Gaya,
to make shraddha for the father of my children.'

'Thither go we.'

'Doubly auspicious,' chirruped the old lady. 'A second son at least!'

'O Friend of all the World!' The lama had waked, and, simply as a child
bewildered in a strange bed, called for Kim.

'I come! I come, Holy One!' He dashed to the fire, where he found the
lama already surrounded by dishes of food, the hillmen visibly adoring
him and the Southerners looking sourly.

'Go back! Withdraw!' Kim cried. 'Do we eat publicly like dogs?' They
finished the meal in silence, each turned a little from the other, and
Kim topped it with a native-made cigarette.

'Have I not said an hundred times that the South is a good land? Here is
a virtuous and high-born widow of a Hill Rajah on pilgrimage, she says,
to Buddh Gaya. She it is sends us those dishes; and when thou art well
rested she would speak to thee.'

'Is this also thy work?' The lama dipped deep into his snuff-gourd.

'Who else watched over thee since our wonderful journey began?' Kim's
eyes danced in his head as he blew the rank smoke through his nostrils
and stretched him on the dusty ground. 'Have I failed to oversee thy
comforts, Holy One?'

'A blessing on thee.' The lama inclined his solemn head. 'I have known
many men in my so long life, and disciples not a few. But to none among
men, if so be thou art woman-born, has my heart gone out as it has to
thee--thoughtful, wise, and courteous, but something of a small imp.'

'And I have never seen such a priest as thou.' Kim considered the
benevolent yellow face wrinkle by wrinkle. 'It is less than three days
since we took road together, and it is as though it were a hundred
years.'

'Perhaps in a former life it was permitted that I should have rendered
thee some service. May be'--he smiled--'I freed thee from a trap; or,
having caught thee on a hook in the days when I was not enlightened,
cast thee back into the river.'

'May be,' said Kim quietly. He had heard this sort of speculation again
and again, from the mouths of many whom the English would not consider
imaginative. 'Now, as regards that woman in the bullock-cart, I think
she needs a second son for her daughter.'

'That is no part of the Way,' sighed the lama. 'But at least she is from
the Hills. Ah, the Hills, and the snow of the Hills!'

He rose and stalked to the cart. Kim would have given his ears to come
too, but the lama did not invite him; and the few words he caught were
in an unknown tongue, for they spoke some common speech of the
mountains. The woman seemed to ask questions which the lama turned over
in his mind before answering. Now and again he heard the sing-song
cadence of a Chinese quotation. It was a strange picture that Kim
watched between drooped eyelids. The lama, very straight and erect, the
deep folds of his yellow clothing slashed with black in the light of the
parao fires precisely as a knotted tree-trunk is slashed with the shadow
of the long sun, addressed a tinsel and lacquered ruth which burned like
a many-coloured jewel in the same uncertain light. The patterns on the
gold-worked curtains ran up and down, melting and re-forming as the
folds shook and quivered to the night wind; and when the talk grew more
earnest the jewelled forefinger snapped out little sparks of light
between the embroideries. Behind the cart was a wall of uncertain
darkness speckled with little flames and alive with half-caught forms
and faces and shadows. The voices of early evening had settled down to
one soothing hum whose deepest note was the steady chumping of the
bullocks above their chopped straw, and whose highest was the tinkle of
a Bengali dancing-girl's sitar. Most men had eaten and pulled deep at
their gurgling, grunting hookahs, which in full blast sound like
bull-frogs.

At last the lama returned. A hillman walked behind him with a wadded
cotton-quilt and spread it carefully by the fire.

'She deserves ten thousand grandchildren,' thought Kim. 'None the less,
but for me, these gifts would not have come.'

'A virtuous woman--and a wise one.' The lama slackened off, joint by
joint, like a slow camel. 'The world is full of charity to those who
follow the Way.' He flung a fair half of the quilt over Kim.

'And what said she?' Kim rolled up in his share of it.

'She asked me many questions and propounded many problems--the most of
which were idle tales which she had heard from devil-serving priests who
pretend to follow the Way. Some I answered, and some I said were
foolish. Many wear the Robe, but few keep the Way.'

'True. That is true.' Kim used the thoughtful, conciliatory tone of
those who wish to draw confidences.

'But by her lights she is most right-minded. She desires greatly that we
should go with her to Buddh Gaya; her road being ours, as I understand,
for many days' journey to the southward.'

'And?'

'Patience a little. To this I said that my Search came before all
things. She had heard many foolish legends, but this great truth of my
River she had never heard. Such are the priests of the lower hills! She
knew the Abbot of Lung-Cho, but she did not know of my River--nor the
tale of the Arrow.'

'And?'

'I spoke therefore of the Search, and of the Way, and of matters that
were profitable; she desiring only that I should accompany her and make
prayer for a second son.'

'Aha! "We women" do not think of anything save children,' said Kim
sleepily.

'Now, since our roads run together for a while, I do not see that we in
any way depart from our Search if so be we accompany her--at least as
far as--I have forgotten the name of the city.'

'Ohe!' said Kim, turning and speaking in a sharp whisper to one of the
Ooryas a few yards away. 'Where is your master's house?'

'A little behind Saharunpore, among the fruit gardens.' He named the
village.

'That was the place,' said the lama. 'So far, at least, we can go with
her.'

'Flies go to carrion,' said the Oorya, in an abstracted voice.

'For the sick cow a crow; for the sick man a Brahmin.' Kim breathed the
proverb impersonally to the shadow-tops of the trees overhead.

The Oorya grunted and held his peace.

'So then we go with her, Holy One?'

'Is there any reason against? I can still step aside and try all the
rivers that the road overpasses. She desires that I should come. She
very greatly desires it.'

Kim stifled a laugh in the quilt. When once that imperious old lady had
recovered from her natural awe of a lama he thought it probable that she
would be worth listening to.

He was nearly asleep when the lama suddenly quoted a proverb: 'The
husbands of the talkative have a great reward hereafter.' Then Kim heard
him snuff thrice, and dozed off, still laughing.

The diamond-bright dawn woke men and crows and bullocks together. Kim
sat up and yawned, shook himself, and thrilled with delight. This was
seeing the world in real truth; this was life as he would have
it--bustling and shouting, the buckling of belts, and beating of
bullocks and creaking of wheels, lighting of fires and cooking of food,
and new sights at every turn of the approving eye. The morning mist
swept off in a whorl of silver, the parrots shot away to some distant
river in shrieking green hosts: all the well-wheels within earshot went
to work. India was awake, and Kim was in the middle of it, more awake
and more excited than any one, chewing on a twig that he would presently
use as a toothbrush; for he borrowed right- and left-handedly from all
the customs of the country he knew and loved. There was no need to worry
about food--no need to spend a cowrie at the crowded stalls. He was the
disciple of a holy man annexed by a strong-willed old lady. All things
would be prepared for them, and when they were respectfully invited so
to do they would sit and eat. For the rest,--Kim giggled here as he
cleaned his teeth,--his hostess would rather heighten the enjoyment of
the road. He inspected her bullocks critically, as they came up grunting
and blowing under the yokes. If they went too fast--it was not
likely--there would be a pleasant seat for himself along the pole; the
lama would sit beside the driver. The escort, of course, would walk. The
old lady, equally of course, would talk a great deal, and by what he had
heard that conversation would not lack salt. She was already ordering,
haranguing, rebuking, and, it must be said, cursing her servants for
delays.

'Get her her pipe. In the name of the Gods, get her her pipe and stop
her ill-omened mouth,' cried an Oorya, tying up his shapeless bundles of
bedding. 'She and the parrots are alike. They screech in the dawn.'

'The lead-bullocks! Hai! Look to the lead-bullocks!' They were backing
and wheeling as a grain-cart's axle caught them by the horns. 'Son of an
owl, where dost thou go?' This to the grinning carter.

'Ai! Yai! Yai! That within there is the Queen of Delhi going to pray
for a son,' the man called back over his high load. 'Room for the Queen
of Delhi and her prime minister the gray monkey climbing up his own
sword!' Another cart loaded with bark for a down-country tannery
followed close behind, and its driver added a few compliments as the
ruth-bullocks backed and backed again.

From behind the shaking curtains came one volley of invective. It did
not last long, but in kind and quality, in blistering, biting
appropriateness, it was beyond anything that even Kim had heard. He
could see the carter's bare chest collapse with amazement, as the man
salaamed reverently to the voice, leaped from the pole, and helped the
escort haul their volcano on to the main road. Here the voice told him
truthfully what sort of wife he had wedded, and what she was doing in
his absence.

'Oh, shabash!' murmured Kim, unable to contain himself, as the man slunk
away.

'Well done, indeed? It is a shame and a scandal that a poor woman may
not go to make prayer to her gods except she be jostled and insulted by
all the refuse of Hindustan--that she must eat gali (abuse) as men eat
ghi. But I have yet a wag left to my tongue--a word or two well spoken
that serves the occasion. And still am I without my tobacco! Who is the
one-eyed and luckless son of shame that has not yet prepared my pipe?'

It was hastily thrust in by a hillman, and a trickle of thick smoke from
each corner of the curtains showed that peace was restored.

If Kim had walked proudly the day before, disciple of a holy man, to-day
he paced with tenfold pride in the train of a semi-royal procession,
with a recognised place under the patronage of an old lady of charming
manners and infinite resource. The escort, their heads tied up native
fashion, fell in on either side the cart, shuffling enormous clouds of
dust.

The lama and Kim walked a little to one side; Kim chewing his stick of
sugar-cane, and making way for no one under the status of a priest. They
could hear the old lady's tongue clack as steadily as a rice-husker. She
bade the escort tell her what was going on on the road; and so soon as
they were clear of the parao she flung back the curtains and peered out,
her veil a third across her face. Her men did not eye her directly when
she addressed them, and thus the proprieties were more or less observed.

A dark, sallowish District Superintendent of Police, faultlessly
uniformed, an Englishman, trotted by on a tired horse, and, seeing from
her retinue what manner of person she was, chaffed her.

'O mother,' he cried, 'do they do this in the zenanas? Suppose an
Englishman came by and saw that thou hadst no nose?'

'What?' she shrilled back. 'Thy own mother has no nose? Why say so,
then, on the open road?'

It was a fair counter. The Englishman threw up his hand with the gesture
of a man hit at sword-play. She laughed and nodded.

'Is this a face to tempt virtue aside?' She withdrew all her veil and
stared at him.

It was by no means lovely, but as the man gathered up his reins he
called it a Moon of Paradise, a Disturber of Integrity, and a few other
fantastic epithets which doubled her up with mirth.

'That is a nut-cut' (rogue), she said. 'All police-constables are
nut-cuts; but the police-wallahs are the worst. Hai, my son, thou hast
never learned all that since thou camest from Belait (Europe). Who
suckled thee?'

'A pahareen--a hillwoman of Dalhousie, my mother. Keep thy beauty under
a shade--O Dispenser of Delights,' and he was gone.

'These be the sort'--she took a fine judicial tone, and stuffed her
mouth with pan. 'These be the sort to oversee justice. They know the
land and the customs of the land. The others, all new from Europe,
suckled by white women and learning our tongues from books, are worse
than the pestilence. They do harm to Kings.' Then she told a long, long
tale to the world at large, of an ignorant young policeman who had
disturbed some small Hill Rajah, a ninth cousin of her own, in the
matter of a trivial land-case, winding up with a quotation from a work
by no means devotional.

Then her mood changed, and she bade one of the escort ask whether the
lama would walk alongside and discuss matters of religion. So Kim
dropped back into the dust and returned to his sugar-cane. For an hour
or more the lama's tam-o'-shanter showed like a moon through the haze;
and, from all he heard, Kim gathered that the old woman wept. One of the
Ooryas half apologised for his rudeness overnight, saying that he had
never known his mistress of so bland a temper, and he ascribed it to the
presence of the strange priest. Personally, he believed in Brahmins,
though, like all natives, he was acutely aware of their cunning and
their greed. Still, when Brahmins but irritated with begging demands the
mother of his master's wife, and when she sent them away so angry that
they cursed the whole retinue (which was the real reason of the second
off-side bullock going lame, and of the pole breaking the night before),
he was prepared to accept any priest of any other denomination in or out
of India. To this Kim assented with wise nods, and bade the Oorya
observe that the lama took no money, and that the cost of his and Kim's
food would be repaid a hundred times in the good luck that would attend
the caravan henceforward. He also told stories of Lahore city, and sang
a song or two which made the escort laugh. As a town-mouse well
acquainted with the latest songs by the most fashionable
composers,--they are women for the most part,--Kim had a distinct
advantage over men from a little fruit-village behind Saharunpore, but
he let that advantage be inferred.

At noon they, turned aside to eat, and the meal was good, plentiful, and
well served on plates of clean leaves, in decency, out of drift of the
dust. They gave the scraps to certain beggars, that all requirements
might be fulfilled, and sat down to a long, luxurious smoke. The old
lady had retreated behind her curtains, but mixed most freely in the
talk, her servants arguing with and contradicting her as servants do
throughout the East. She compared the cool and the pines of the Kangra
and Kulu hills with the dust and the mangoes of the South; she told a
tale of some old local Gods at the edge of her husband's territory; she
roundly abused the tobacco which she was then smoking, reviled all
Brahmins, and speculated without reserve on the coming of many
grandsons.



CHAPTER V

          Here come I to my own again--
          Fed, forgiven, and known again--
          Claimed by bone of my bone again,
              And sib to flesh of my flesh!
          The fatted calf is dressed for me,
          But the husks have greater zest for me . . .
          I think my pigs will be best for me,
              So I'm off to the styes afresh.
                                   'The Prodigal Son.'


ONCE more the lazy, string-tied, shuffling procession got under way, and
she slept till they reached the next halting-stage. It was a very short
march, and time lacked an hour to sundown, so Kim cast about for means
of amusement.

'But why not sit and rest?' said one of the escort. 'Only the devils and
the English walk to and fro without reason.'

'Never make friends with the Devil, a monkey, or a boy. No man knows
what they will do next,' said his fellow.

Kim turned a scornful back--he did not want to hear the old story how
the Devil played with the boys and repented of it--and walked idly
across country.

The lama strode after him. All that day, whenever they passed a stream,
he had turned aside to look at it, but in no case had he received any
warning that he had found his River. Insensibly too the comfort of
speaking to some one in a reasonable tongue, and of being properly
considered and respected as her spiritual adviser by a well-born woman,
had weaned his thoughts a little from the Search. And further, he was
prepared to spend serene years in his quest; having nothing of the white
man's impatience, but a great faith.

'Where goest thou?' he called after Kim.

'No whither--it was a small march, and all this'--Kim waved his hands
abroad--'is new to me.'

'She is beyond question a wise and a discerning woman. But it is hard to
meditate when--'

'All women are thus.' Kim spoke as might have Solomon.

'Before the lamassery was a broad platform,' the lama muttered, looping
up the well-worn rosary, 'of stone. On that I have left the marks of my
feet--pacing to and fro with these.'

He clicked the beads, and began the 'Om mane pudme hum' of his devotion;
grateful for the cool, the quiet, and the absence of dust.

One thing after another drew Kim's idle eye across the plain. There was
no purpose in his wanderings, except that the build of the huts near by
seemed new, and he wished to investigate.

They came out on a broad tract of grazing-ground, brown and purple in
the afternoon light, with a heavy clump of mangoes in the centre. It
struck Kim as curious that no shrine stood in so eligible a spot: the
boy was observing as any priest for these things. Far across the plain
walked side by side four men, made small by the distance. He looked
intently under his curved palms and caught the sheen of brass.

'Soldiers. White soldiers!' said he. 'Let us see.'

'It is always soldiers when thou and I go out alone together. But I have
never seen the white soldiers.'

'They do no harm except when they are drunk. Keep behind this tree.'

They stepped behind the thick trunks in the cool dark of the mango-tope.
Two little figures halted; the other two came forward uncertainly. They
were the advance-party of a regiment on the march, sent out, as usual,
to mark the camp. They bore five-foot sticks with fluttering flags, and
called to each other as they spread over the flat earth.

At last they entered the mango-grove, walking heavily.

'It's here or hereabouts--officers' tents under the trees, I take it,
an' the rest of us can stay outside. Have they marked out for the
baggage-waggons behind?'

They cried again to their comrades in the distance, and the rough answer
came back faint and mellowed.

'Shove the flag in here, then,' said one.

'What do they prepare?' said the lama, wonder-struck. 'This is a great
and terrible world. What is the device on the flag?'

A soldier thrust a stave within a few feet of them, grunted
discontentedly, pulled it up again, conferred with his companion, who
looked up and down the shaded cave of greenery, and returned it.

Kim stared with all his eyes, his breath coming short and sharp between
his teeth. The soldiers stamped off into the sunshine.

'O Holy One,' he gasped, 'my horoscope! The drawing in the dust by the
priest at Umballa! Remember what he said. First come two--ferashes--to
make all things ready--in a dark place, as it is always at the beginning
of a vision.'

'But this is not vision,' said the lama. 'It is the world's Illusion,
and no more.'

'And after them comes the Bull--the Red Bull on the green field. Look!
It is he!'

He pointed to the flag that was snap-snapping in the evening breeze not
ten feet away. It was no more than an ordinary camp marking-flag; but
the regiment, always punctilious in matters of millinery, had charged it
with the regimental device, the Red Bull, which is the crest of the
Mavericks--the great Red Bull on a background of Irish green.

'I see, and now I remember,' said the lama. 'Certainly it is thy Bull.
Certainly, also, the two men came to make all ready.'

'They are soldiers--white soldiers. What said the priest? "The sign over
against the Bull is the sign of War and armed men." Holy One, this thing
touches my Search.'

'True. It is true.' The lama stared fixedly at the device that flamed
like a ruby in the dusk. 'The priest at Umballa said that thine was the
sign of War.'

'What is to do now?'

'Wait. Let us wait.'

'Even now the darkness clears,' said Kim. It was only natural that the
descending sun should at last strike through the tree-trunks, across the
grove, filling it with mealy gold light for a few minutes; but to Kim it
was crown of the Umballa Brahmin's prophecy.

'Hark!' said the lama. 'One beats a drum--far off!'

At first the sound, carrying diluted through the still air, resembled
the beating of an artery in the head. Soon a sharpness was added.

'Ah! The music,' Kim explained. He knew the sound of a regimental band,
but it amazed the lama.

At the far end of the plain a heavy, dusty column crawled in sight. Then
the wind brought the tune:--

              'We crave your condescension
              To tell you what we know
          Of marching in the Mulligan Guards
              To Sligo Port below.'

Here broke in the shrill-tongued fifes:--

                  'We shouldered arms,
                  We marched--we marched away
                  From Phoenix Park
                  We marched to Dublin Bay.
                  The drums and the fifes,
                  Oh, sweetly they did play,
          As we marched--marched--marched--with the Mulligan Guards!'

It was the band of the Mavericks playing the regiment to camp; for the
men were route-marching with their baggage. The rippling column swung
into the level--carts behind it--divided left and right, ran about like
an ant-hill, and . . .

But this is sorcery!' said the lama.

The plain dotted itself with tents that seemed to rise, all spread, from
the carts. Another rush of men invaded the grove, pitched a huge tent in
silence, ran up yet eight or nine more by the side of it, unearthed
cooking-pots, pans, and bundles, which were taken possession of by a
crowd of native servants; and behold the mango-tope turned into an
orderly town as they watched!

'Let us go,' said the lama, sinking back afraid, as the fires twinkled
and white officers with jingling swords stalked into the mess-tent.

'Stand back in the shadow. No one can see beyond the light of a fire,'
said Kim, his eyes still on the flag. He had never before watched the
routine of a seasoned regiment pitching camp in thirty minutes.

'Look! look! look!' clucked the lama. 'Yonder comes a priest.'

It was Bennett, the Church of England chaplain of the regiment, limping
in dusty black. One of his flock had made some rude remarks about the
chaplain's mettle; and to abash him Bennett had marched step by step
with the men that day. The black dress, gold cross on the watch-chain,
the hairless face, and the soft, black wideawake hat would have marked
him as a holy man anywhere in all India. He dropped into a camp-chair by
the door of the mess-tent and slid off his boots. Three or four officers
gathered round him, laughing and joking over his exploit.

'The talk of white men is wholly lacking in dignity,' said the lama, who
judged only by tone. 'But I have considered the countenance of that
priest, and I think he is learned. Is it likely that he will understand
our talk? I would talk to him of my Search.'

'Never speak to a white man till he is fed,' said Kim, quoting a
well-known proverb. 'They will eat now, and--and I do not think they are
good to beg from. Let us go back to the resting-place. After we have
eaten we will come again. It certainly was a Red Bull--my Red Bull.'

They were both noticeably absent-minded when the old lady's retinue set
their meal before them; so none broke their reserve, for it is not lucky
to annoy guests.

'Now,' said Kim, picking his teeth, 'we will return to that place; but
thou, O Holy One, must wait a little way off, because thy feet are
heavier than mine and I am anxious to see more of that Red Bull.'

'But how canst thou understand the talk? Walk slowly. The road is dark,'
the lama replied uneasily.

Kim put the question aside. 'I marked a place near to the trees,' said
he, 'where thou canst sit till I call. Nay,' as the lama made some sort
of protest, 'remember this is my Search--the Search for my Red Bull. The
sign in the Stars was not for thee. I know a little of the customs of
white soldiers, and I always desire to see some new things.'

'What dost thou not know of this world?' The lama squatted obediently in
a little hollow of the ground not a hundred yards from the hump of the
mango trees dark against the star-powdered sky.

'Stay till I call.' Kim flitted into the dusk. He knew that in all
probability there would be sentries round the camp, and smiled to
himself as he heard the thick boots of one. A boy who can dodge over the
roofs of Lahore city on a moonlight night, using every little patch and
corner of darkness to discomfit his pursuer, is not likely to be checked
by a line of well-trained soldiers. He paid them the compliment of
crawling between a couple, and, running and halting, crouching and
dropping flat, worked his way toward the lighted mess-tent where, close
pressed behind the mango tree, he waited till some chance word should
give him a returnable lead.

The one thing in his mind now was further information as to the Red
Bull. For aught he knew, and Kim's limitations were as curious and
sudden as his expansions, the men, the nine hundred thorough devils of
his father's prophecy, might pray to the beast after dark, as Hindus
pray to the Holy Cow. That at least would be entirely right and logical,
and the Padre with the gold cross would be therefore the man to consult
in the matter. On the other hand, remembering sober-faced padres whom he
had avoided in Lahore city, the priest might be an inquisitive nuisance
who would bid him learn. But had it not been proven at Umballa that his
sign in the high heavens portended war and armed men? Was he not the
Friend of the Stars as well as of all the world, crammed to the teeth
with dreadful secrets? Lastly,--and firstly as the undercurrent of all
his quick thoughts,--this adventure, though he did not know the English
word, was a stupendous lark--a delightful continuation of his old
flights across the housetops, as well as the fulfilment of sublime
prophecy. He lay belly-flat and wriggled towards the mess-tent door, a
hand on the amulet round his neck.

It was as he suspected. The Sahibs prayed to their God; for in the
centre of the mess-table--its sole ornament when they were on the line
of march--stood a golden bull fashioned from old-time loot of the Summer
Palace at Pekin--a red-gold bull with lowered head, ramping upon a field
of Irish green. To him the Sahibs held out their glasses and cried aloud
confusedly.

Now the Reverend Arthur Bennett always left mess after that toast, and
being rather tired by his march his movements were more abrupt than
usual. Kim, with slightly raised head, was still staring at his totem on
the table, when the chaplain stepped on his right shoulder-blade. Kim
flinched under the leather, and, rolling sideways, brought down the
chaplain, who, ever a man of action, caught him by the throat and nearly
choked the life out of him. Kim then kicked him desperately in the
stomach. Mr. Bennett gasped and doubled up but without relaxing his
grip, rolled over again, and silently hauled Kim to his own tent. The
Mavericks were incurable practical jokers; and it occurred to the
Englishman that silence was best till he had made complete inquiry.

'Why, it's a boy!' he said, as he drew his prize under the light of the
tent-pole lantern, then shaking him severely cried: 'What were you
doing? You're a thief. Choor? Mallum?' His Hindustanee was very limited,
and the ruffled and disgusted Kim intended to keep to the character laid
down for him. As he recovered his breath he was inventing a beautifully
plausible tale of his relations to some mess-scullion, and at the same
time keeping a keen eye on and a little under the chaplain's left
armpit. The chance came; he ducked for the doorway, but a long arm shot
out and clutched at his neck, snapping the amulet string and closing on
the amulet.

'Give it me. O give it me. Is it lost? Give me the papers.'

The words were in English--the tinny, saw-cut English of the
native-bred, and the chaplain jumped.

'A scapular,' said he, opening his hand. 'No, some sort of heathen
charm. Why--why, do you speak English? Little boys who steal are beaten.
You know that?'

'I do not--I did not steal.' Kim danced in agony like a terrier at a
lifted stick. 'O give it me. It is my charm. Do not thieve it from me.'

The chaplain took no heed, but, going to the tent door, called aloud. A
fattish, clean-shaven man appeared.

'I want your advice, Father Victor,' said Bennett. 'I found this boy in
the dark outside the mess-tent. Ordinarily, I should have chastised him
and let him go, because I believe him to be a thief. But it seems he
talks English, and he attaches some sort of value to a charm round his
neck. I thought perhaps you might help me.'

Between himself and the Roman Catholic chaplain of the Irish contingent
lay, as Bennett believed, an unbridgeable gulf, but it was noticeable
that whenever the Church of England dealt with a human problem she was
likely to call in the Church of Rome. Bennett's official abhorrence of
the Scarlet Woman and all her ways was only equalled by his private
respect for Father Victor.

'A thief talking English is it? Let's look at his charm. No, it's not a
scapular, Bennett.' He held out his hand.

'But have we any right to open it? A sound whipping--'

'I did not thieve,' protested Kim. 'You have hit me kicks all over my
body. Now give me my charm and I will go away.'

'Not quite so fast; we'll look first,' said Father Victor, leisurely
rolling out poor Kimball O'Hara's 'ne varietur' parchment, his
clearance-certificate, and Kim's baptismal certificate. On this last
O'Hara--with some confused idea that he was doing wonders for his
son--had scrawled scores of times: 'Look after the boy. Please look
after the boy,'--signing his name and regimental number in full.

'Powers of Darkness below!' said Father Victor, passing all over to Mr.
Bennett. 'Do you know what these things are?'

'Yes,' said Kim. 'They are mine, and I want to go away.'

'I do not quite understand,' said Mr. Bennett. 'He probably brought them
on purpose. It may be a begging trick of some kind.'

'I never saw a beggar less anxious to stay with his company, then.
There's the makings of a gay mystery here. Ye believe in Providence,
Bennett?'

'I hope so.'

'Well, I believe in miracles, so it comes to the same thing. Powers of
Darkness! Kimball O'Hara! And his son! But then he's a native, and I saw
Kimball married myself to Annie Shott. How long have you had these
things, boy?'

'Ever since I was a little baby.' Father Victor stepped forward quickly
and opened the front of Kim's upper garment. 'You see, Bennett, he's not
very black. What's your name?'

'Kim.'

'Or Kimball?'

'Perhaps. Will you let me go away?'

'What else?'

'They call me Kim Rishti ke. That is Kim of the Rishti.'

'What is that--"Rishti"?'

'Eye-rishti--that was the regiment--my father's.'

'Irish, oh I see.'

'Yess. That was how my father told me. My father, he has lived.'

'Has lived where?'

'Has lived. Of course he is dead--gone-out.'

'Oh. That's your abrupt way of putting it, is it?'

Bennett interrupted. 'It is possible I have done the boy an injustice.
He is certainly white, though evidently neglected. I am sure I must have
bruised him. I do not think spirits--'

'Get him a glass of sherry, then, and let him squat on the cot. Now,
Kim,' continued Father Victor, 'no one is going to hurt you. Drink that
down and tell us about yourself. The truth, if you've no objection.'

Kim coughed a little as he put down the empty glass, and considered.
This seemed a time for caution and fancy. Small boys who prowl about
camps are generally turned out after a whipping. But he had received no
stripes; the amulet was evidently working in his favour, and it looked
as though the Umballa horoscope and the few words that he could remember
of his father's maunderings fitted in most miraculously. Else why did
the fat padre seem so impressed, and why the glass of hot yellow wine
from the lean one?

'My father, he is dead in Lahore city since I was very little. The
woman, she kept kabarri-shop near where the hire-carriages are.' Kim
began with a plunge, not quite sure how far the truth would serve him.

'Your mother?'

'No'--with a gesture of disgust. 'She went out when I was born. My
father, he got these papers from the Jadoo-Gher--what do you call that?'
(Bennett nodded) 'because he was in--good-standing. What do you call
that?' (again Bennett nodded). 'My father told me that. He said too, and
also the Brahmin who made the drawing in the dust at Umballa two days
ago, he said, that I shall find a Red Bull on a green field and that the
Bull shall help me.'

'A phenomenal little liar,' muttered Bennett.

'Powers of Darkness below, what a country!' murmured Father Victor. 'Go
on, Kim.'

'I did not thieve. Besides, I am just now disciple of a very holy man.
He is sitting outside. We saw two men come with flags, making the place
ready. That is always so in a dream, or on account of a--a--prophecy. So
I knew it was come true. I saw the Red Bull on the green field, and my
father he said: "Nine hundred pukka devils and the Colonel riding on a
horse will look after you when you find the Red Bull!" I did not know
what to do when I saw the Bull, but I went away and I came again when it
was dark. I wanted to see the Bull again, and I saw the Bull again with
the--the Sahibs praying to it. I think the Bull shall help me. The holy
man said so too. He is sitting outside. Will you hurt him, if I call him
a shout now? He is very holy. He can witness to all the things I say,
and he knows I am not a thief.'

'"Officers praying to a bull!" What in the world do you make of that?'
said Bennett. '"Disciple of a holy man!" Is the boy mad?'

'It's O'Hara's boy, sure enough. O'Hara's boy leagued with all the
Powers of Darkness. It's very much what his father would have done--if
he was drunk. We'd better invite the holy man. He may know something.'

'He does not know anything,' said Kim. 'I will show you him if you come.
He is my master. Then afterwards we can go.'

'Powers of Darkness!' was all that Father Victor could say, as Bennett
marched off, with a firm hand on Kim's shoulder.

They found the lama where he had dropped.

'The Search is at an end for me,' shouted Kim in the vernacular. 'I have
found the Bull, but God knows what comes next. They will not hurt you.
Come to the fat priest's tent with this thin man and see the end. It is
all new, and they cannot talk Hindi. They are only uncurried donkeys.'

'Then it is not well to make a jest of their ignorance,' the lama
returned. 'I am glad if thou art rejoiced, chela.'

Dignified and unsuspicious, he strode into the little tent, saluted the
Churches as a Churchman, and sat down by the open charcoal brazier. The
yellow lining of the tent reflected in the lamplight made his face
red-gold.

Bennett looked at him with the triple-ringed uninterest of the creed
that lumps nine-tenths of the world under the title of 'heathen.'

'And what was the end of the search? What gift has the Red Bull
brought?' The lama addressed himself to Kim.

'He says, "What are you going to do?"' Bennett was staring uneasily at
Father Victor, and Kim, for his own ends, took upon himself the office
of interpreter.

'I do not see what concern this faquir has with the boy, who is probably
his dupe or his confederate,' Bennett began. 'We cannot allow an English
boy--Assuming that he is the son of a Mason, the sooner he goes to the
Masonic Orphanage the better.'

'Ah! That's your opinion as Secretary to the Regimental Lodge,' said
Father Victor; 'but we might as well tell the old man what we are going
to do. He doesn't look like a villain.'

'My experience is that one can never fathom the Oriental mind. Now,
Kimball, I wish you to tell this man what I say--word for word.'

Kim gathered the import of the next few sentences and began thus:

'Holy One, the thin fool who looks like a camel says that I am the son
of a Sahib.'

'But how?'

'Oh, it is true. I knew it since my birth, but he could only find it out
by rending the amulet from my neck and reading all the papers. He thinks
that once a Sahib is always a Sahib, and between the two of them they
purpose to keep me in this regiment or to send me to a madrissah (a
school). It has happened before. I have always avoided it. The fat fool
is of one mind and the camel-like one of another. But that is no odds. I
may spend one night here and perhaps the next. It has happened before.
Then I will run away and return to thee.'

'But tell them that thou art my chela. Tell them how thou didst come to
me when I was faint and bewildered. Tell them of our Search, and they
will surely let thee go now.'

'I have already told them. They laugh, and they talk of the Police.'

'What are you saying?' asked Mr. Bennett.

'Oah. He only says that if you do not let me go it will stop him in his
business--his ur-gent private affairs.' This last was a reminiscence of
some talk with a Eurasian clerk in the Canal Department, but it only
drew a smile, which nettled him. 'And if you did know what his business
was you would not be in such a beastly hurry to interfere.'

'What is it then?' said Father Victor, not without feeling, as he
watched the lama's face.

'There is a River in this country which he wishes to find so verree
much. It was put out by an Arrow which--' Kim tapped his foot
impatiently as he translated in his own mind from the vernacular to his
clumsy English. 'Oah, it was made by our Lord God Buddha, you know, and
if you wash there you are washed away from all your sins and made as
white as cotton-wool.' (Kim had heard mission-talk in his time.) 'I am
his disciple, and we must find that River. It is so verree valuable to
us.'

'Say that again,' said Bennett. Kim obeyed, with amplifications.

'But this is gross blasphemy!' cried the Church of England.

'Tck! Tck!' said Father Victor sympathetically. 'I'd give a good deal to
be able to talk the vernacular. A river that washes away sin! And how
long have you two been looking for it?'

'Oh, many days. Now we wish to go away and look for it again. It is not
here, you see.'

'I see,' said Father Victor gravely. 'But he can't go on in that old
man's company. It would be different, Kim, if you were not a soldier's
son. Tell him that the regiment will take care of you and make you as
good a man as your--as good a man as can be. Tell him that if he
believes in miracles he must believe that--'

'There is no need to play on his credulity,' Bennett interrupted.

'I'm doing no such thing. He must believe that the boy's coming here--to
his own regiment--in search of his Red Bull is in the nature of a
miracle. Consider the chances against it, Bennett. This one boy in all
India, and our regiment of all others on the line o' march for him to
meet with! It's predestined on the face of it. Yes, tell him it's
Kismet. Kismet, mallum?' (Fate! Do you understand?)

He turned towards the lama, to whom he might as well have talked of
Mesopotamia.

'They say,'--the old man's eye lighted at Kim's speech,--'they say that
the meaning of my horoscope is now accomplished, and that being led
back--though as thou knowest I went out of curiosity--to these people
and their Red Bull I must needs go to a madrissah and be turned into a
Sahib. Now I make pretence of agreement, for at the worst it will be but
a few meals eaten away from thee. Then I will slip away and follow down
the road to Saharunpore. Therefore, Holy One, keep with that Kulu
woman--on no account stray far from her cart till I come again. Past
question, my sign is of War and of armed men. See how they have given me
wine to drink and set me upon a bed of honour! My father must have been
some great person. So if they raise me to honour among them, good. If
not, good again. However it goes, I will run back to thee when I am
tired. But stay with the Rajputni, or I shall miss thy feet. . . . Oah
yess,' said the boy, 'I have told him everything you tell me to say.'

'And I cannot see any need why he should wait,' said Bennett, feeling in
his trouser-pocket. 'We can investigate the details later--and I will
give him a ru--'

'Give him time. May be he's fond of the lad,' said Father Victor,
half-arresting the clergyman's motion.

The lama dragged forth his rosary and pulled his huge hat-brim over his
eyes.

'What can he want now?'

'He says'--Kim put up one hand. 'He says: Be quiett. He wants to speak
to me by himself. You see you do not know one little word of what he
says, and I think if you talk he will perhaps give you very bad curses.
When he takes those beads like that, you see he always wants to be
quiett.'

The two Englishmen sat overwhelmed, but there was a look in Bennett's
eye that promised ill for Kim when he should be relaxed to the religious
arm.

'A Sahib and the son of a Sahib--' The lama's voice was harsh with pain.
'But no white man knows the land and the customs of the land as thou
knowest. How comes it this is true?'

'What matter, Holy One: but remember it is only for a night or two.
Remember, I can change swiftly. It will all be as it was when I first
spoke to thee under Zam-Zammah the great gun--'

'As a boy in the dress of white men--when I first went to the Wonder
House. And a second time thou wast a Hindu. What shall the third
incarnation be?' He chuckled drearily. 'Ah, chela, thou hast done a
wrong to an old man because my heart went out to thee.'

'And mine to thee. But how could I know that the Red Bull would bring me
to this business?'

The lama covered his face afresh, and nervously rattled the rosary. Kim
squatted beside him and laid hold upon a fold of his clothing.

'Now it is understood that the boy is a Sahib?' he went on in a muffled
tone. 'Such a Sahib as was he who kept the images in the Wonder House.'
The lama's experience of white men was limited. He seemed to be
repeating a lesson. 'So then it is not seemly that he should do other
than as the Sahibs do. He must go back to his own people.'

'For a day and a night and a day,' Kim pleaded.

'No, ye don't!' Father Victor saw Kim edging towards the door, and
interposed a strong leg.

'I do not understand the customs of white men. The Priest of the Images
in the Wonder House in Lahore was more courteous than the thin one here.
This boy will be taken from me. They will make a Sahib of my disciple?
Woe to me, how shall I find my River? Have they no disciples? Ask.'

'He says he is very sorry that he cannot find the River now any more. He
says, Why have you no disciples, and stop bothering him? He wants to be
washed of his sins.'

Neither Bennett nor Father Victor found any answer ready.

Said Kim in English, distressed for the lama's agony: 'I think if you
will let me go now we will walk away quietly and not steal. We will look
for that River like before I was caught. I wish I did not come here to
find the Red Bull and all that sort of thing. I do not want it.'

'It's the very best day's work you ever did for yourself, young man,'
said Bennett.

'Good heavens, I don't know how to console him,' said Father Victor,
watching the lama intently. 'He can't take the boy away with him, and
yet he's a good man--I'm sure he's a good man. Bennett, if you give him
that rupee he'll curse you root and branch!'

They listened to each other's breathing--three--five full minutes. Then
the lama raised his head, and looked forth across them into space and
emptiness.

'And I am a follower of the Way,' he said bitterly. 'The sin is mine and
the punishment is mine. I made believe to myself--for now I see it was
but make-belief--that thou wast sent to me to aid in the Search. So my
heart went out to thee for thy charity and thy courtesy and the wisdom
of thy little years. But those who follow the Way must permit not the
fire of any desire or attachment, for that is all illusion. As says . . .'
He quoted an old, old Chinese text, backed it with another, and
reinforced these with a third. 'I stepped aside from the Way, my chela.
It was no fault of thine. I delighted in the sight of life, the new
people upon the roads, and in thy joy at seeing these things. I was
pleased with thee who should have considered my Search and my Search
alone. Now I am sorrowful because thou art taken away and my River is
far from me. It is the Law which I have broken!'

'Powers of Darkness below!' said Father Victor, who, wise in the
confessional, heard the pain in every sentence.

'I see now that the sign of the Red Bull was a sign for me as well as
for thee. All Desire is red--and evil. I will do penance and find my
River alone.'

'At least go back to the Kulu woman,' said Kim, 'otherwise thou wilt be
lost upon the roads. She will feed thee till I run back to thee.'

The lama waved a hand to show that the matter was finally settled in his
mind.

'Now,'--his tone altered as he turned to Kim,--'what will they do with
thee? At least I may, acquiring merit, wipe out past ill.'

'Make me a Sahib--so they think. The day after to-morrow I return. Do
not grieve.'

'Of what sort? Such an one as this or that man?' He pointed to Father
Victor. 'Such an one as those I saw this evening--men wearing swords and
stamping heavily?'

'Maybe.'

'That is not well. These men follow desire and come to emptiness. Thou
must not be of their sort.'

'The Umballa priest said that my Star was War,' Kim interjected. 'I will
ask these fools--but there is truly no need. I will run away this night,
for all I wanted to see the new things.'

Kim put two or three questions in English to Father Victor, translating
the replies to the lama.

Then: 'He says, "You take him from me and you cannot say what you will
make him." He says, "Tell me before I go, for it is not a small thing to
make a child."'

'You will be sent to a school. Later on, we shall see. Kimball, I
suppose you'd like to be a soldier?'

'Gorah-log (white-folk). No-ah! No-ah!' Kim shook his head violently.
There was nothing in his composition to which drill and routine
appealed. 'I will not be a soldier.'

'You will be what you're told to be,' said Bennett; and you should be
grateful that we're going to help you.'

Kim smiled compassionately. If these men lay under the delusion that he
would do anything that he did not fancy, so much the better.

Another long silence followed. Bennett fidgeted with impatience, and
suggested calling a sentry to evict the faquir.

'Do they give or sell learning among the Sahibs? Ask them,' said the
lama, and Kim interpreted.

'They say that money is paid to the teacher--but that money the regiment
will give. . . . What need? It is only for a night.'

'And--the more money is paid the better learning is given?' The lama
disregarded Kim's plans for an early flight. 'It is no wrong to pay for
learning; to help the ignorant to wisdom is always a merit.' The rosary
clicked furiously as an abacus. Then he faced his oppressors.

'Ask them for how much money do they give a wise and suitable teaching?
and in what city is that teaching given?'

'Well,' said Father Victor in English, when Kim had translated, 'that
depends. The regiment would pay for you all the time you are at the
Military Orphanage; or you might go on the Punjab Masonic Orphanage's
list (not that he or you'ud understand what that means); but the best
schooling a boy can get in India is, of course, at St. Xavier's in
Partibus at Lucknow.' This took some time to interpret, for Bennett
wished to cut it short.

'He wants to know how much?' said Kim placidly.

'Two or three hundred rupees a year.' Father Victor was long past any
sense of amazement. Bennett, impatient, did not understand.

'He says: "Write that name and the money upon a paper and give it him."
And he says you must write your name below, because he is going to write
a letter in some days to you. He says you are a good man. He says the
other man is a fool. He is going away.'

The lama rose suddenly. 'I follow my Search,' he cried, and was gone.

'He'll run slap into the sentries,' cried Father Victor, jumping up as
the lama stalked out; 'but I can't leave the boy.' Kim made swift motion
to follow, but checked himself. There was no sound of challenge outside.
The lama had disappeared.

Kim settled himself composedly on the chaplain's cot. At least the lama
had promised that he would stay with the Rajput woman from Kulu, and the
rest was of the smallest importance. It pleased him that the two padres
were so evidently excited. They talked long in undertones, Father Victor
urging some scheme on Mr. Bennett, who seemed incredulous. All this was
very new and fascinating, but Kim felt sleepy. They called men into the
tent--one of them certainly was the Colonel, as his father had
prophesied--and they asked him an infinity of questions, chiefly about
the woman who looked after him, all of which Kim answered truthfully.
They did not seem to think the woman a good guardian.

After all, this was the newest of his experiences. Sooner or later, if
he chose, he could escape into great, gray, formless India, beyond tents
and padres and colonels. Meantime, if the Sahibs were to be impressed,
he would do his best to impress them. He too was a white man.

After much talk that he could not comprehend, they handed him over to a
sergeant, who had strict instructions not to let him escape. The
regiment would go on to Umballa, and Kim would be sent up, partly at the
expense of the Lodge and in part by subscription, to a place called
Sanawar.

'It's miraculous past all whooping, Colonel,' said Father Victor, when
he had talked without a break for ten minutes. 'His Buddhist friend has
levanted after taking my name and address. I can't quite make out
whether he'll pay for the boy's education or whether he is preparing
some sort of witchcraft on his own account.' Then to Kim: 'You'll live
to be grateful to your friend the Red Bull yet. We'll make a man of you
at Sanawar--even at the price o' making you a Protestant.'

'Certainly--most certainly,' said Bennett.

'But you will not go to Sanawar,' said Kim.

'But we will go to Sanawar, little man. That's the order of the
Commander-in-Chief, who's a trifle more important than O'Hara's son.'

'You will not go to Sanawar. You will go to thee war.'

There was a shout of laughter from the full tent.

'When you know your own regiment a trifle better you won't confuse the
line of march with line of battle, Kim. We hope to go to "thee war"
sometime.'

'Oah, I know all thatt.' Kim drew his bow again at a venture. If they
were not going to the war, at least they did not know what he knew of
the talk in the veranda at Umballa.

'I know you are not at thee war now; but I tell you that as soon as you
get to Umballa you will be sent to the war--the new war. It is a war of
eight thousand men, besides the guns.'

'That's explicit. D'you add prophecy to your other gifts? Take him
along, Sergeant. Take up a suit for him from the Drums, an' take care he
doesn't slip through your fingers. Who says the age of miracles is gone
by? I think I'll go to bed. My poor mind's weakening.'

At the far end of the camp, silent as a wild animal, an hour later sat
Kim, newly washed all over, in a horrible stuff suit that rasped his
arms and legs.

'A most amazin' young bird,' said the Sergeant. 'He turns up in charge
of a yellow-headed buck-Brahmin priest, with his father's Lodge
certificates round his neck, talkin' God knows what all of a red bull.
The buck-Brahmin evaporates without explanations, an' the bhoy sets
cross-legged on the chaplain's bed prophesyin' bloody war to the men at
large. Injia's a wild land for a God-fearin' man. I'll just tie his leg
to the tent-pole in case he'll go through the roof. What did ye say
about the war?'

'Eight thousand men, besides guns,' said Kim. 'Very soon you will see.'

'You're a consolin' little imp. Lie down between the Drums an' go to
bye-bye. Those two boys beside ye will watch your slumbers.'



CHAPTER VI

          Now I remember comrades--
            Old playmates on new seas--
          Whenas we traded orpiment
            Among the savages.
          Ten thousand leagues to southward,
            And thirty years removed--
          They knew not noble Valdez,
            But me they knew and loved.
                        'Song of Diego Valdez.'


VERY early in the morning the white tents came down and disappeared as
the Mavericks took a side road to Umballa. It did not skirt the
resting-place, and Kim, trudging beside a baggage-cart under fire of
comments from soldiers' wives, was not so confident as over-night. He
discovered that he was closely watched--Father Victor on the one side,
and Mr. Bennett on the other.

In the forenoon the column checked. A camel-orderly handed the Colonel a
letter. He read it, and spoke to a major. Half a mile in the rear, Kim
heard a hoarse and joyful clamour rolling down on him through the thick
dust. Then some one beat him on the back, crying: 'Tell us how ye knew,
ye little limb of Satan? Father dear, see if ye can make him tell.'

A pony ranged alongside, and he was hauled on to the priest's
saddle-bow.

'Now, my son, your prophecy of last night has come true. Our orders are
to entrain at Umballa for the front to-morrow.'

'What is thatt?' said Kim, for 'front' and 'entrain' were newish words
to him.

'We are going to "thee war," as you called it.'

'Of course you are going to thee war. I said last night.'

'Ye did; but, Powers o' Darkness, how did ye know?'

Kim's eyes sparkled. He shut his lips, nodded his head, and looked
unspeakable things. The chaplain moved on through the dust, and
privates, sergeants, and subalterns called one another's attention to
the boy. The Colonel, at the head of the column, stared at him
curiously. 'It was probably some bazar rumour,' he said; 'but even
then--' He referred to the paper in his hand. 'Hang it all, the thing
was only decided within the last forty-eight hours.'

'Are there many more like you in India?' said Father Victor, 'or are you
by way o' being a lusus naturæ?'

'Now I have told you,' said the boy, 'will you let me go back to my old
man? If he has not stayed with that woman from Kulu, I am afraid he will
die.'

'By what I saw of him he's as well able to take care of himself as you.
No. Ye've brought us luck, an' we're goin' to make a man of you. I'll
take ye back to your baggage-cart and ye'll come to me this evening.'

For the rest of the day Kim found himself an object of distinguished
consideration among a few hundred white men. The story of his appearance
in camp, the discovery of his parentage, and his prophecy, had lost
nothing in the telling. A big, shapeless white woman on a pile of
bedding asked him mysteriously whether he thought her husband would come
back from the war. Kim reflected gravely, and said that he would, and
the woman gave him food. In many respects, this big procession that
played music at intervals--this crowd that talked and laughed so
easily--resembled a festival in Lahore city. So far, there was no sign
of hard work, and he resolved to lend the spectacle his patronage. At
evening there came out to meet them bands of music, and played the
Mavericks into camp near Umballa railway station. That was an
interesting night. Men of other regiments came to visit the Mavericks.
The Mavericks went visiting on their own account. Their pickets hurried
forth to bring them back, met pickets of strange regiments on the same
duty; and, after a while, the bugles blew madly for more pickets with
officers to control the tumult. The Mavericks had a reputation for
liveliness to live up to. But they fell in on the platform next morning
in perfect shape and condition; and Kim, left behind with the sick,
women, and boys, found himself shouting farewells excitedly as the
trains drew away. Life as a Sahib was amusing so far; but he touched it
with a cautious hand. Then they marched him back in charge of a
drummer-boy to empty, lime-washed barracks, whose floors were covered
with rubbish and string and paper, and whose ceilings gave back his
lonely footfall. Native fashion, he curled himself up on a stripped cot
and went to sleep. An angry man stumped down the veranda, woke him up,
and said he was a schoolmaster. This was enough for Kim, and he retired
into his shell. He could just puzzle out the various English Police
notices in Lahore city, because they affected his comfort; and among the
many guests of the woman who looked after him had been a queer German
who painted scenery for the Parsee travelling theatre. He told Kim that
he had been 'on the barricades in Forty-eight,' and therefore--at least
that was how it struck Kim--he would teach the boy to write in return
for food. Kim had been kicked as far as single letters, but did not
think well of them.

'I do not know anything. Go away!' said Kim, scenting evil. Hereupon the
man caught him by the ear, dragged him to a room in a far-off wing where
a dozen drummer-boys were sitting on forms, and told him to be still if
he could do nothing else. This he managed very successfully. The man
explained something or other with white lines on a black board for at
least half an hour, and Kim continued his interrupted nap. He much
disapproved of the present aspect of affairs, for this was the very
school and discipline he had spent two-thirds of his young life in
avoiding. Suddenly a beautiful idea occurred to him, and he wondered
that he had not thought of it before.

The man dismissed them, and first to spring through the veranda into the
open sunshine was Kim.

''Ere you! 'Alt! Stop!' said a high voice at his heels. 'I've got to
look after you. My orders are not to let you out of my sight. Where are
you goin'?'

It was the drummer-boy who had been hanging round him all the
forenoon--a fat and freckled person of about fourteen, and Kim loathed
him from the soles of his boots to his cap-ribbons.

'To the bazar--to get sweets--for you,' said Kim, after thought.

'Well, the bazar's out o' bounds. If we go there we'll get a
dressing-down. You come back.'

'How near can we go?' Kim did not know what bounds meant, but he wished
to be polite--for the present.

''Ow near? 'Ow far, you mean? We can go as far as that tree down the
road.'

'Then I will go there.'

'All right. I ain't goin'. It's too 'ot. I can watch you from 'ere. It's
no good runnin' away. If you did, they'd spot you by your clothes.
That's regimental stuff you're wearin'. There ain't a picket in Umballa
wouldn't 'ead you back quicker than you started out.'

This did not impress Kim as much as the knowledge that his raiment would
tire him out if he tried to run. He slouched to the tree at the corner
of a bare road leading towards the bazar, and eyed the natives passing.
Most of them were barrack-servants of the lowest caste. Kim hailed a
sweeper, who promptly retorted with a piece of unnecessary insolence, in
the natural belief that the European boy could not follow. The low,
quick answer undeceived him. Kim put his fettered soul into it, thankful
for the late chance to abuse somebody in the tongue he knew best. 'And
now, go to the nearest letter-writer in the bazar and tell him to come
here. I would write a letter.'

'But--but what manner of white man's son art thou, to need a bazar
letter-writer? Is there not a schoolmaster in the barracks?'

'Ay; and Hell is full of the same sort. Do my order, you--you Od! Thy
mother was married under a basket! Servant of Lal Beg' (Kim knew the god
of the sweepers), 'run on my business or we will talk again.'

The sweeper shuffled off in haste. 'There is a white boy by the barracks
waiting under a tree who is not a white boy,' he stammered to the first
bazar letter-writer he came across. 'He needs thee.'

'Will he pay?' said that spruce scribe, gathering up his desk and pens
and sealing-wax all in order.

'I do not know. He is not like other boys. Go and see. It is well
worth.'

Kim danced with impatience when the slim young Kayeth hove in sight. As
soon as his voice could carry he cursed him volubly.

'First I will take my pay,' the letter-writer said. 'Bad words have made
the price higher. But who art thou, dressed in that fashion, to speak in
this fashion?'

'Aha! That is in the letter which thou shalt write. Never was such a
tale. But I am in no haste. Another writer will serve me. Umballa city
is as full of them as is Lahore.'

'Four annas,' said the writer, sitting down and spreading his cloth in
the shade of a deserted barrack-wing.

Mechanically Kim squatted beside him,--squatted as only the natives
can,--in spite of the abominable clinging trousers.

The writer regarded him sideways.

'That is the price to ask of Sahibs,' said Kim. 'Now fix me a true one.'

'An anna and a half. How do I know, having written the letter, that thou
wilt not run away?'

'I must not go beyond this tree, and there is also the stamp to be
considered.'

'I get no commission on the price of the stamp. Once more, what manner
of white boy art thou?'

'That shall be said in the letter, which is to Mahbub Ali, the
horse-dealer in the Kashmir Serai, at Lahore. He is my friend.'

'Wonder on wonder!' murmured the letter-writer, dipping a reed in the
inkstand. 'To be written in Hindi?'

'Assuredly. To Mahbub Ali then. Begin! "I have come down with the old
man as far as Umballa in the train. At Umballa I carried the news of the
bay mare's pedigree."' After what he had seen in the garden, he was not
going to write of white stallions.

'Slower a little. What has a bay mare to do. . . . Is it Mahbub Ali the
great dealer?'

'Who else? I have been in his service. Take more ink. Again. "As the
order was, so I did it. We then went on foot towards Benares, but on the
third day we found a certain regiment." Is that down?'

'Ay, "pulton,"' murmured the writer, all ears.

'"I went into their camp and was caught, and by means of the charm about
my neck, which thou knowest, it was established that I was the son of
some man in the regiment: according to the prophecy of the Red Bull,
which thou knowest was common talk of our bazar."' Kim waited for this
shaft to sink into the letter-writer's heart, cleared his throat, and
continued: '"A priest clothed me and gave me a new name . . . One priest,
however, was a fool. The clothes are very heavy, but I am a Sahib and my
heart is heavy too. They send me to a school and beat me. I do not like
the air and water here. Come then and help me, Mahbub Ali, or send me
some money, for I have not sufficient to pay the writer who writes
this."'

'"Who writes this." It is my own fault that I was tricked. Thou art as
clever as Husain Bux that forged the Treasury stamps at Nucklao. But
what a tale! What a tale! Is it true by any chance?'

[Illustration: 'First I will take my pay,' the letter-writer said.]

'It does not profit to tell lies to Mahbub Ali. It is better to help his
friends by lending them a stamp. When the money comes I will repay.'

The writer grunted doubtfully, but took a stamp out of his desk, sealed
the letter, handed it over to Kim, and departed. Mahbub Ali's was a name
of power in Umballa.

'That is the way to win a good account with the Gods,' Kim shouted after
him.

'Pay me twice over when the money comes,' the man cried over his
shoulder.

'What was you bukkin' to that nigger about?' said the drummer-boy when
Kim returned to the veranda. 'I was watchin' you.'

'I was only talkin' to him.'

'You talk the same as a nigger, don't you?'

'No-ah! No-ah! I onlee speak a little. What shall we do now?'

'The bugles 'ill go for dinner in arf a minute. My Gawd! I wish I'd gone
up to the front with the regiment. It's awful doin' nothin' but school
down 'ere. Don't you 'ate it?'

'Oah yess!'

'I'd run away if I knew where to go to, but, as the men say, in this
bloomin' Injia you're only a prisoner at large. You can't desert without
bein' took back at once. I'm fair sick of it.'

'You have been in Be--England?'

'W'y, I only come out last troopin' season with my mother. I should
think I 'ave been in England. What a ignorant little beggar you are. You
was brought up in the gutter, wasn't you?'

'Oah yess. Tell me something about England. My father he came from
there.'

Though he would not say so, Kim of course disbelieved every word the
drummer-boy spoke about the Liverpool suburb which was his England. It
passed the heavy time till dinner--a most unappetising meal served to
the boys and a few invalids in a corner of a barrack-room. But that he
had written to Mahbub Ali, Kim would have been almost depressed. The
indifference of native crowds he was used to; but this strong loneliness
among white men preyed on him. He was grateful when, in the course of
the afternoon, a big soldier took him over to Father Victor, who lived
in another wing across another dusty parade-ground. The priest was
reading an English letter written in purple ink. He looked at Kim more
curiously than ever.

'An' how do you like it, my son, as far as you've gone? Not much, eh? It
must be hard--very hard on a wild animal. Listen now. I've an amazin'
epistle from your friend.'

'Where is he? Is he well? Oah! If he knows to write me letters, it is
all right.'

'You're fond of him then?'

'Of course I am fond of him. He was fond of me.'

'It seems so by the look of this. He can't write English, can he?'

'Oah no. Not that I know, but of course he found a letter-writer who can
write English verree well, and so he wrote. I do hope you understand.'

'That accounts for it. D'you know anything about his money affairs?'
Kim's face showed that he did not.

'How can I tell?'

'That's what I'm askin'. Now listen if you can make head or tail o'
this. We'll skip the first part. . . . It's written from Jagadhir
Road. . . . "Sitting on wayside in grave meditation, trusting to be
favoured with your Honour's applause of present step, which recommend
your Honour to execute for Almighty God's sake. Education is greatest
blessing if of best sorts. Otherwise no earthly use." Faith, the old
man's hit the bull's-eye that time! "If your Honour condescending giving
my boy best educations Xavier" (I suppose that's St. Xavier in Partibus)
"in terms of our conversation dated in your tent 15th instant" (a
business-like touch there!) "then Almighty God blessing your Honour's
succeedings to third an' fourth generation and"--now listen!--"confide
in your Honour's humble servant for adequat remuneration per hoondie per
annum three hundred rupees a year to one expensive education St. Xavier,
Lucknow, and allow small time to forward same per hoondie sent to any
part of India as your Honour shall address yourself. This servant of
your Honour has presently no place to lay crown of his head, but going
to Benares by train on account of persecution of old woman talking so
much and unanxious residing Saharunpore in any domestic capacity." Now
what in the world does that mean?'

'She has asked him to be puro--her clergyman--at Saharunpore, I think.
He would not do that on account of his River. She did talk.'

'It's clear to you, is it? It beats me altogether. "So going to Benares,
where will find address and forward rupees for boy who is apple of eye,
and for Almighty God's sake execute this education, and your petitioner
as in duty bound shall ever awfully pray. Written by Sobrao Satai,
Failed Entrance Allahabad University, for Venerable Teshoo Lama the
priest of Suchzen looking for a River, address care of Tirthankers'
Temple, Benares. P. M.--Please note boy is apple of eye, and rupees
shall be sent per hoondie three hundred per annum. For God Almighty's
sake." Now, is that ravin' lunacy or a business proposition? I ask you,
because I'm fairly at my wits' end.'

'He says he will give me three hundred rupees a year, so he will give me
them.'

'Oh, that's the way you look at it, is it?'

'Of course. If he says so!'

The priest whistled; then he addressed Kim as an equal.

'I don't believe it; but we'll see. You were goin' off to-day to the
Military Orphanage at Sanawar, where the regiment would keep you till
you were old enough to enlist. Ye'd be brought up to the Church of
England. Bennett arranged for that. On the other hand, if ye go to St.
Xavier's ye'll get a better education an'--an' can have the religion.
D'ye see my dilemma?'

Kim saw nothing save a vision of the lama going south in a train with
none to beg for him.

'Like most people, I'm going to temporise. If your friend sends the
money from Benares--Powers of Darkness below, where's a street-beggar to
raise three hundred rupees?--ye'll go down to Lucknow and I'll pay your
fare, because I can't touch the subscription-money if I intend, as I do,
to make ye a Catholic. If he doesn't, ye'll go to the Military Orphanage
at the regiment's expense. I'll allow him three days' grace, though I
don't believe it at all. Even then, if he fails in his payments later on
. . . but it's beyond me. We can only walk one step at a time in this
world, praise God! An' they sent Bennett to the front an' left me
behind. Bennett can't expect everything.'

'Oah yess,' said Kim vaguely.

The priest leaned forward. 'I'd give a month's pay to find what's goin'
on inside that little round head of yours.'

'There is nothing,' said Kim, and scratched it. He was wondering whether
Mahbub Ali would send him as much as a whole rupee. Then he could pay
the letter-writer and write letters to the lama at Benares. Perhaps
Mahbub Ali would visit him next time he came south with horses. Surely
he must know that Kim's delivery of the letter to the officer at Umballa
had caused the great war which the men and boys had discussed so loudly
over the barrack dinner-tables. But if Mahbub Ali did not know this, it
would be very unsafe to tell him so. Mahbub Ali was hard upon boys who
knew, or thought they knew, too much.

'Well, till I get further news'--Father Victor's voice interrupted the
reverie--'ye can run along and play with the other boys. They'll teach
ye something--but I don't think ye'll like it.'

The day dragged to its weary end. When he wished to sleep he was
instructed how to fold up his clothes and set out his boots; the other
boys deriding. Bugles waked him in the dawn; the schoolmaster caught him
after breakfast, thrust a page of meaningless characters under his nose,
gave them senseless names, and whacked him without reason. Kim meditated
poisoning him with opium borrowed from a barrack-sweeper, but reflected
that, as they all ate at one table in public (this was peculiarly
revolting to Kim, who preferred to turn his back on the world at his
meals), the stroke might be dangerous. Then he attempted running off to
the village where the priest had tried to drug the lama--the village
where the old soldier lived. But far-seeing sentries at every exit
headed back the little scarlet figure. Trousers and jacket crippled body
and mind alike, so he abandoned the project and fell back, Oriental
fashion, on time and chance. Three days of torment passed in the big,
echoing white rooms. He walked out of afternoons under escort of the
drummer-boy, and all he heard from his companion were the few useless
words which seemed to make two-thirds of the white man's abuse. Kim knew
and despised them all long ago. The boy resented his silence and lack of
interest by beating him, as was only natural. He did not care for any of
the bazars which were in bounds. He styled all natives 'niggers'; yet
servants and sweepers called him abominable names to his face, and,
misled by their deferential attitude, he never understood. This somewhat
consoled Kim for the beatings.

On the morning of the fourth day a judgment overtook that drummer. They
had gone out together towards Umballa race-course. He returned alone,
weeping, with news that young O'Hara, to whom he had been doing nothing
in particular, had hailed a scarlet-bearded nigger on horseback; that
the nigger had then and there laid into him with a peculiarly adhesive
quirt, picked up young O'Hara, and borne him off at full gallop. These
tidings came to Father Victor, and he drew down his long upper lip. He
was already sufficiently startled by a letter from the Temple of the
Tirthankers at Benares, enclosing a native banker's note of hand for
three hundred rupees, and an amazing prayer to 'Almighty God.' The lama
would have been more annoyed than the priest had he known how the bazar
letter-writer had translated his phrase 'to acquire merit.'

'Powers of Darkness below!' Father Victor fumbled with the note. 'An'
now he's off with another of his peep-o'-day friends. I don't know
whether it will be a greater relief to me to get him back or to have him
lost. He's beyond my comprehension. How the Divil--yes, He's the man I
mean--can a street-beggar raise money to educate white boys?'

Three miles off, on Umballa race-course, Mahbub Ali, reining a gray
Cabuli stallion with Kim in front of him, was saying:

'But, Little Friend of all the World, there is my honour and reputation
to be considered. All the officer-sahibs in all the regiments, and all
Umballa, know Mahbub Ali. Men saw me pick thee up and chastise that boy.
We are seen now from far across this plain. How can I take thee away, or
account for thy disappearing if I set thee down and let thee run off
into the crops? They would put me in jail. Be patient. Once a Sahib,
always a Sahib. When thou art a man--who knows--thou wilt be grateful to
Mahbub Ali.'

'Take me beyond their sentries where I can change this red. Give me
money and I will go to Benares and be with my lama again. I do not want
to be a Sahib, and remember I did deliver that message.'

The stallion bounded wildly. Mahbub Ali had incautiously driven home the
sharp-edged stirrup. (He was not the new sort of fluent horse-dealer who
wears English boots and spurs.) Kim drew his own conclusions from that
betrayal.

'That was a small matter. It lay on the straight road to Benares. I and
the Sahib have by this time forgotten it. I send so many letters and
messages to men who ask questions about horses, I cannot well remember
one from the other. Was it some matter of a bay mare that Peters Sahib
wished the pedigree of?'

Kim saw the trap at once. If he had said 'bay mare' Mahbub would have
known by his very readiness to fall in with the amendment that the boy
suspected something. Kim replied therefore:

'Bay mare? No. I do not forget my messages thus. It was a white
stallion.'

'Ay, so it was. A white Arab stallion. But thou didst write bay mare to
me.'

'Who cares to tell truth to a letter-writer?' Kim answered, feeling
Mahbub's palm on his heart.

'Hi! Mahbub, you old villain, pull up!' cried a voice, and an Englishman
raced alongside on a little polo-pony. 'I've been chasing you half over
the country. That Cabuli of yours can go. For sale, I suppose?'

'I have some young stuff coming on made by Heaven for the delicate and
difficult polo-game. He has no equal. He--'

'Plays polo and waits at table. Yes. We know all that. What the deuce
have you got there?'

'A boy,' said Mahbub gravely. 'He was being beaten by another boy. His
father was once a white soldier in the big war. The boy was a child in
Lahore city. He played with my horses when he was a babe. Now I think
they will make him a soldier. He has been newly caught by his father's
regiment that went up to the war last week. But I do not think he wants
to be a soldier. I take him for a ride. Tell me where thy barracks are
and I will set thee there.'

'Let me go. I can find the barracks alone.'

'And if thou runnest away who will say it is not my fault?'

'He'll run back to his dinner. Where has he to run to?' the Englishman
asked.

'He was born in the land. He has friends. He goes where he chooses. He
is a chabuk sawai (a sharp chap). It needs only to change his clothing,
and in a twinkling he would be a low-caste Hindi boy.'

'The deuce he would!' The Englishman looked critically at the boy as
Mahbub headed towards the barracks. Kim ground his teeth. Mahbub was
mocking him, as faithless Afghans will; for he went on:

'They will send him to a school and put heavy boots on his feet and
swaddle him in these clothes. Then he will forget all he knows. Now
which of the barracks is thine?'

Kim pointed--he could not speak--to Father Victor's wing, all staring
white near by.

'Perhaps he will make a good soldier,' said Mahbub reflectively. 'He
will make a good orderly at least. I sent him to deliver a message once
from Lahore. A message concerning the pedigree of a white stallion.'

Here was deadly insult on deadlier injury--and the Sahib to whom he had
so craftily given that war-making letter heard it all. Kim beheld Mahbub
Ali frying in flame for his treachery, but for himself he saw one long
gray vista of barracks, schools, and barracks again. He gazed
imploringly at the clear-cut face in which there was no glimmer of
recognition; but even at this extremity it never occurred to him to
throw himself on the white man's mercy or to denounce the Afghan. And
Mahbub stared deliberately at the Englishman, who stared as deliberately
at Kim, quivering and tongue-tied.

'My horse is well trained,' said the dealer. 'Others would have kicked,
Sahib.'

'Ah,' said the Englishman at last, rubbing his pony's damp withers with
his whip-butt. 'Who makes the boy a soldier?'

'He says the regiment that found him, and especially the padre-sahib of
that regiment.'

'There is the padre!' Kim choked as bare-headed Father Victor sailed
down upon them from the veranda.

'Powers o' Darkness below, O'Hara! How many more mixed friends do you
keep in Asia?' he cried, as Kim slid down and stood helplessly before
him.

'Good morning, Padre,' the Colonel said cheerily. 'I know you by
reputation well enough. Meant to have come over and called before this.
I'm Creighton.'

'Of the Ethnological Survey?' said Father Victor. The Colonel nodded.
'Faith I'm glad to meet ye then; an' I owe you some thanks for bringing
back the boy.'

'No thanks to me, Padre. Besides, the boy wasn't going away. You don't
know old Mahbub Ali'--the horse-dealer sat impassive in the sunlight.
'You will when you have been in the station a month. He sells us all our
crocks. That boy is rather a curiosity. Can you tell me anything about
him?'

'Can I tell you?' puffed Father Victor. 'You'll be the one man that
could help me in my quandaries. Tell you! Powers o' Darkness, I'm
bursting to tell some one who knows something o' the native!'

A groom came round the corner. Colonel Creighton raised his voice,
speaking in Urdu. 'Very good, Mahbub Ali, but what is the use of telling
me all those stories about the pony. Not one pie more than three hundred
and fifty rupees will I give.'

'The Sahib is a little hot and angry after riding,' the horse-dealer
returned, with the leer of a privileged jester. 'Presently, he will see
my horse's points more clearly. I will wait till he has finished his
talk with the padre. I will wait under that tree.'

'Confound you!' The Colonel laughed. 'That comes of looking at one of
Mahbub's horses. He's a regular old leech, Padre. Wait then, if thou
hast so much time to spare, Mahbub. Now I'm at your service, Padre.
Where is the boy? Oh, he's gone off to collogue with Mahbub. Queer sort
of boy. Might I ask you to send my mare round under cover?'

He dropped into a chair which commanded a clear view of Kim and Mahbub
Ali in conference beneath the tree. The padre went indoors for cheroots.

Creighton heard Kim say bitterly: 'Trust a Brahmin before a snake, and a
snake before a harlot, and a harlot before an Afghan, Mahbub Ali.'

'That is all one,' the great red beard wagged solemnly. 'Children should
not see a carpet on the loom till the pattern is made plain. Believe me,
Friend of all the World, I do thee great service. They will not make a
soldier of thee.'

'You crafty old sinner,' thought Creighton. 'But you're not far wrong.
That boy mustn't be wasted if he is as advertised.'

'Excuse me half a minute,' cried the padre from within, 'but I'm gettin'
the documents of the case.'

'If through me the favour of this bold and wise Colonel Sahib comes to
thee, and thou art raised to honour, what thanks wilt thou give Mahbub
Ali when thou art a man?'

'Nay, nay; I begged thee to let me take the road again, where I should
have been safe; and thou hast sold me back to the English. What will
they give thee for blood-money?'

'A cheerful young demon!' The Colonel bit his cigar, and turned politely
to Father Victor.

'What are the letters that the fat priest is waving before the Colonel?
Stand behind the stallion as though looking at my bridle!' said Mahbub
Ali.

'A letter from my lama which he wrote from Jagadhir Road, saying that he
will pay three hundred rupees by the year for my schooling.'

'Oho! Is old Red Hat of that sort? At which school?'

'God knows. I think in Nucklao.'

'Yes. There is a big school there for the sons of Sahibs--and
half-Sahibs. I have seen it when I sell horses there. So the lama also
loved the Friend of all the World?'

'Ay; and he did not tell lies, or return me to captivity.'

'Small wonder the padre does not know how to unravel the thread. How
fast he talks to the Colonel Sahib.' Mahbub Ali chuckled. 'By
Allah!'--the keen eyes swept the veranda for an instant--'thy lama has
sent what to me looks like a note of hand. I have had some small
dealings in hoondies. The Colonel Sahib is looking at it.'

'What good is all this to me?' said Kim wearily. 'Thou wilt go away, and
they will return me to those empty rooms where there is no good place to
sleep and where the boys beat me.'

'I do not think that. Have patience, child. All Pathans are not
faithless--except in horseflesh.'

Five--ten--fifteen minutes passed, Father Victor talking energetically
or asking questions which the Colonel answered.

'Now I've told you everything that I know about the boy from beginnin'
to end; and it's a blessed relief to me. Did ye ever hear the like?'

'At any rate, the old man has sent the money. Gobind Sahai's notes of
hand are good from here to China,' said the Colonel. 'The more one knows
about natives the less can one say what they will or won't do.'

'That's consolin'--from the head of the Ethnological Survey. It's this
mixture of Red Bulls and Rivers of Healing (poor heathen, God help him!)
an' notes of hand and Masonic certificates. Are you a Mason, by any
chance?'

'By Jove, I am, now I come to think of it. That's an additional reason,'
said the Colonel absently.

'I'm glad ye see a reason in it. But as I said, it's the mixture o'
things that's beyond me. An' his prophesyin' to our Colonel sitting on
my bed with his little shimmy torn open showing his white skin; an' the
prophecy comin' true! They'll cure all that nonsense at St. Xavier's,
eh?'

'Sprinkle him with holy water,' the Colonel laughed.

'On my word, I fancy I ought to sometimes. But I'm hoping he'll be
brought up as a good Catholic. All that troubles me is what'll happen if
the old beggarman--'

'Lama, lama, my dear sir; and some of them are gentlemen in their own
country.'

'The lama, then, fails to pay next year. He's a fine business head to
plan on the spur of the moment, but he's bound to die some day. An'
takin' a heathen's money to give a child a Christian education--'

'But he said explicitly what he wanted. As soon as he knew the boy was
white he seems to have made his arrangements accordingly. I'd give a
month's pay to hear how he explained it all at the Tirthankers' Temple
at Benares. Look here, Padre, I don't pretend to know much about
natives, but if he says he'll pay, he'll pay--dead or alive. I mean his
heirs will assume the debt. My advice to you is, send the boy down to
Lucknow. If your Anglican chaplain thinks you've stolen a march on
him--'

'Bad luck to Bennett! He was sent to the front instead o' me. Doughty
certified me medically unfit. I'll excommunicate Doughty if he comes
back alive! Surely Bennett ought to be content with--'

'Glory, leaving you the religion. Quite so! As a matter of fact I don't
think Bennett will mind. Put the blame on me. I--er--strongly recommend
sending the boy to St. Xavier's. He can go down on pass as a soldier's
orphan, so the railway fare will be saved. You can buy him an outfit
from the regimental subscription. The Lodge will be saved the expense of
his education, and that will put the Lodge in a good temper. It's
perfectly easy. I've got to go down to Lucknow next week. I'll look
after the boy on the way--give him in charge of my servants, and so on.'

'You're a good man.'

'Not in the least. Don't make that mistake. The lama has sent us money
for a definite end. We can't very well return it. We shall have to do as
he says. Well, that's settled, isn't it? Shall we say that, Tuesday
next, you'll hand him over to me at the night train south? That's only
three days. He can't do much harm in three days.'

'It's a weight off my mind, but--this thing here?'--he waved the note of
hand--'I don't know Gobind Sahai: or his bank, which may be a hole in a
wall.'

'You've never been a subaltern in debt. I'll cash it if you like, and
send you the vouchers in proper order.'

'But with all your own work too! It's askin'--'

'It's not the least trouble indeed. You see, as an ethnologist, the
thing's very interesting to me. I'd like to make a note of it for some
Government work that I'm doing. The transformation of a regimental badge
like your Red Bull into a sort of fetish that the boy follows is very
interesting.'

'But I can't thank you enough.'

'There's one thing you can do. All we Ethnological men are as jealous as
jackdaws of one another's discoveries. They're of no interest to any one
but ourselves, of course, but you know what book-collectors are like.
Well, don't say a word, directly or indirectly, about the Asiatic side
of the boy's character--his adventures and his prophecy, and so on. I'll
worm them out of the boy later on and--you see?'

'I do. Ye'll make a wonderful account of it. Never a word will I say to
any one till I see it in print.'

'Thank you. That goes straight to an ethnologist's heart. Well, I must
be getting back to my breakfast. Good heavens! Old Mahbub here still?'
He raised his voice, and the horse-dealer came out from under the shadow
of the tree. 'Well, what is it?'

'As regards that young horse,' said Mahbub, 'I say that when a colt is
born to be a polo-pony, closely following the ball without
teaching--when such a colt knows the game by divination--then I say it
is a great wrong to break that colt to a heavy cart, Sahib!'

'So do I say also, Mahbub. The colt will be entered for polo only.
(These fellows think of nothing in the world but horses, Padre.) I'll
see you to-morrow, Mahbub, if you've anything likely for sale.'

The dealer saluted, horseman fashion, with a sweep of the off hand. 'Be
patient a little, Friend of all the World,' he whispered to the agonised
Kim. 'Thy fortune is made. In a little while thou goest to Nucklao
and--here is something to pay the letter-writer. I shall see thee again,
I think, many times,' and he cantered off down the road.

'Listen to me,' said the Colonel from the veranda, speaking in the
vernacular. 'In three days thou wilt go with me to Lucknow, seeing and
hearing new things all the while. Therefore sit still for three days and
do not run away. Thou wilt go to school at Lucknow.'

'Shall I meet my Holy One there?' Kim whimpered.

'At least Lucknow is nearer to Benares than Umballa. It may be thou wilt
go under my protection. Mahbub Ali knows this, and he will be angry if
thou returnest to the road now. Remember--much has been told to me which
I do not forget.'

'I will wait,' said Kim, 'but the boys will beat me.'

Then the bugles blew for dinner.

[Illustration: '. . . Pathans are not faithless--except in
horse-flesh.']



CHAPTER VII

          Unto whose use the pregnant suns are poised
            With idiot moons and stars retracting stars?
          Creep thou betweene--thy coming's all unnoised.
            Heaven hath her high, as earth her baser, wars.
          Heir to these tumults, this affright, that fray
          (By Adam's, fathers', own, sin bound alway);
          Peer up, draw out thy horoscope and say
            Which planet mends thy threadbare fate or mars!
                                           Sir John Christie.


IN the afternoon the red-faced schoolmaster told Kim that he had been
'struck off the strength,' which conveyed no meaning to him till he was
ordered to go away and play. Then he ran to the bazar, and found the
young letter-writer to whom he owed a stamp.

'Now I pay,' said Kim royally, 'and now I need another letter to be
written.'

'Mahbub Ali is in Umballa,' said the writer jauntily. He was, by virtue
of his office, a bureau of general misinformation.

'This is not to Mahbub, but to a priest. Take thy pen and write quickly.
"To Teshoo Lama, the holy one from Bhotiyal seeking for a River, who is
now in the Temple of the Tirthankers at Benares." Take more ink! "In
three days I am to go down to Nucklao to the school at Nucklao. The name
of the school is Xavier. I do not know where that school is, but it is
at Nucklao."

'But I know Nucklao,' the writer interrupted. 'I know the school.'

'Tell him where it is, and I give half an anna.'

The reed pen scratched busily. 'He cannot mistake.' The man lifted his
head. 'Who watches us across the street?'

Kim looked up hurriedly and saw Colonel Creighton in tennis-flannels.

'Oh, that is some Sahib who knows the fat priest in the barracks. He is
beckoning me.'

'What dost thou?' said the Colonel, when Kim trotted up.

'I--I am not running away. I send a letter to my Holy One at Benares.'

'I had not thought of that. Hast thou said that I take thee to Lucknow?'

'Nay, I have not. Read the letter, if there be a doubt.'

'Then why hast thou left out my name in writing to that Holy One?' The
Colonel smiled a queer smile. Kim took his courage in both hands.

'It was said once to me that it is inexpedient to write the names of
strangers concerned in any matter, because by the naming of names many
good plans are brought to confusion.'

'Thou hast been well taught,' the Colonel replied, and Kim flushed. 'I
have left my cheroot-case in the padre's veranda. Bring it to my house
this even.'

'Where is the house?' said Kim. His quick wit told him that he was being
tested in some fashion or another, and he stood on guard.

'Ask any one in the big bazar.' The Colonel walked on.

'He has forgotten his cheroot-case,' said Kim, returning. 'I must bring
it to him this evening. That is all my letter except, thrice over, "Come
to me! Come to me! Come to me!" Now I will pay for a stamp and put it in
the post.' He rose to go, and as an afterthought asked, 'Who is that
angry-faced Sahib who lost the cheroot-case?'

'Oh, he is only Creighton Sahib--a very foolish Sahib, who is a Colonel
Sahib without a regiment.'

'What is his business?'

'God knows. He is always buying horses which he cannot ride, and asking
riddles about the works of God--such as plants and stones and the
customs of people. The dealers call him the father of fools, because he
is so easily cheated about a horse. Mahbub Ali says he is madder than
all other Sahibs.'

'Oh!' said Kim, and departed. His training had given him some small
knowledge of character, and he argued that fools are not given
information which leads to calling out eight thousand men, besides guns.
The Commander-in-Chief of all India does not talk, as Kim had heard him
talk, to fools. Nor would Mahbub Ali's tone have changed, as it did
every time he mentioned the Colonel's name, if the Colonel had been a
fool. Consequently--and this set Kim to skipping--there was a mystery
somewhere, and Mahbub Ali probably spied for the Colonel much as Kim had
spied for Mahbub. And, like the horse-dealer, the Colonel evidently
respected people who did not show themselves to be too clever.

He rejoiced that he had not betrayed his knowledge of the Colonel's
house; and when, on his return to barracks, he discovered that no
cheroot-case had been left behind, he beamed with delight. Here was a
man after his own heart--a tortuous and indirect person playing a hidden
game. Well, if he could be a fool, so could Kim.

He showed nothing of his mind when Father Victor, for three long
mornings, discoursed to him of an entirely new set of gods and
godlings--notably of a goddess called Mary, who, he gathered, was one
with Bibi Miriam of Mahbub Ali's theology. He betrayed no emotion when,
after the lecture, Father Victor dragged him from shop to shop buying
articles of outfit, nor when envious drummer-boys kicked him because he
was going to a superior school did he complain, but awaited the play of
circumstances with an interested soul. Father Victor, good man, took him
to the station, put him into an empty second-class next to Colonel
Creighton's first, and bade him farewell with genuine feeling.

'They'll make a man o' you, O'Hara, at St. Xavier's--a white man, an', I
hope, a good man. They know all about your comin', an' the Colonel will
see that ye're not lost or mislaid anywhere on the road. I've given you
a notion of religious matters,--at least I hope so,--and you'll
remember, when they ask you your religion, that you're a Cath'lic.
Better say Roman Cath'lic, tho' I'm not fond of the word.'

Kim lit a rank cigarette--he had been careful to buy a stock in the
bazar--and lay down to think. This solitary passage was very different
from that joyful down-journey in the third-class with the lama. 'Sahibs
get little pleasure of travel,' he reflected. 'Hai mai! I go from one
place to another as it might be a kick-ball. It is my kismet. No man
can escape his kismet. But I am to pray to Bibi Miriam and I am a
Sahib'--he looked at his boots ruefully. 'No; I am Kim. This is the
great world, and I am only Kim. Who is Kim?' He considered his own
identity, a thing he had never done before, till his head swam. He was
one insignificant person in all this roaring whirl of India, going
southward to he knew not what fate.

Presently the Colonel sent for him, and talked for a long time. So far
as Kim could gather, he was to be diligent and enter the Survey of India
as a chain-man. If he were very good, and passed the proper
examinations, he would be earning thirty rupees a month at seventeen
years old, and Colonel Creighton would see that he found a suitable
employment.

Kim pretended at first to understand perhaps one word in three of this
talk. Then the Colonel, seeing his mistake, turned to fluent and
picturesque Urdu and Kim was contented. No man could be a fool who knew
the language so intimately, who moved so gently and silently, and whose
eyes were so different from the dull fat eyes of other Sahibs.

'Yes, and thou must learn how to make pictures of roads and mountains
and rivers--to carry these pictures in thy eye till a suitable time
comes to set them upon paper. Perhaps some day, when thou art a
chain-man, I may say to thee when we are working together: "Go across
those hills and see what lies beyond." Then one will say: "There are bad
people living in those hills who will slay the chain-man if he be seen
to look like a Sahib." What then?'

Kim thought. Would it be safe to return the Colonel's lead?

'I would tell what that other man had said.'

'But if I answered: "I will give thee a hundred rupees for knowledge of
what is behind those hills--for a picture of a river and a little news
of what the people say in the villages there"?'

'How can I tell? I am only a boy. Wait till I am a man.' Then, seeing
the Colonel's brow clouded, he went on: 'But I think I should in a few
days earn the hundred rupees.'

'By what road?'

Kim shook his head resolutely. 'If I said how I would earn them, another
man might hear and forestall me. It is no good to sell knowledge for
nothing.'

'Tell now.' The Colonel held up a rupee. Kim's hand half reached towards
it, and dropped.

'Nay, Sahib; nay. I know the price that will be paid for the answer, but
I do not know why the question is asked.'

'Take it for a gift, then,' said Creighton, tossing it over. 'There is a
good spirit in thee. Do not let it be blunted at St. Xavier's. There are
many boys there who despise the black men.'

'Their mothers were bazar-women,' said Kim. He knew well there is no
hatred like that of the half-caste for his brother-in-law.

'True; but thou art a Sahib and the son of a Sahib. Therefore, do not at
any time be led to contemn the black men. I have known boys newly
entered into the service of the Government who feigned not to understand
the talk or the customs of black men. Their pay was cut for ignorance.
There is no sin so great as ignorance. Remember this.'

Several times in the course of the long twenty-four hours' run south
did the Colonel send for Kim, always developing this latter text.

'We be all on one lead-rope, then,' said Kim at last, 'the Colonel,
Mahbub Ali, and I--when I become a chain-man. He will use me as Mahbub
Ali employed me, I think. That is good, if it allows me to return to the
road again. This clothing grows no easier by wear.'

When they came to the crowded Lucknow station there was no sign of the
lama. He swallowed his disappointment, while the Colonel bundled him
into a ticca-garri with his neat belongings and dispatched him alone to
St. Xavier's.

'I do not say farewell, because we shall meet again,' he cried. 'Again,
and many times, if thou art one of good spirit. But thou art not yet
tried.'

'Not when I brought thee'--Kim actually dared to use the tum of
equals--'a white stallion's pedigree that night?'

'Much is gained by forgetting, little brother,' said the Colonel, with a
look that pierced through Kim's shoulder-blades as he scuttled into the
carriage.

It took him nearly five minutes to recover. Then he sniffed the new air
appreciatively. 'A rich city,' he said. 'Richer than Lahore. How good
the bazars must be! Coachman, drive me a little through the bazars
here.'

'My order is to take thee to the school.' The driver used the 'thou,'
which is rudeness when applied to a white man. In the clearest and most
fluent vernacular Kim pointed out his error, climbed on to the box-seat,
and, perfect understanding established, drove for a couple of hours up
and down, estimating, comparing, and enjoying. There is no city--except
Bombay, the queen of all--more beautiful in her garish style than
Lucknow, whether you see her from the bridge over the river, or from the
top of the Imambara looking down on the gilt umbrellas of the Chutter
Munzil, and the trees in which the town is bedded. Kings have adorned
her with fantastic buildings, endowed her with charities, crammed her
with pensioners, and drenched her with blood. She is the centre of all
idleness, intrigue, and luxury, and shares with Delhi the claim to talk
the only pure Urdu.

'A fair city--a beautiful city.' The driver, as a Lucknow man, was
pleased with the compliment, and told Kim many astounding things where
an English guide would have talked of the Mutiny.

'Now we will go to the school,' said Kim at last. The great old school
of St. Xavier's in Partibus, block on block of low white buildings,
stands in vast grounds over against the Gumti River, at some distance
from the city.

'What like of folk are they within?' said Kim.

'Young Sahibs--all devils; but to speak truth, and I drive many of them
to and fro from the railway station, I have never seen one that had in
him the making of a more perfect devil than thou--this young Sahib whom
I am now driving.'

Naturally, for he was never trained to consider them in any way
improper, Kim had passed the time of day with one or two frivolous
ladies at upper windows in a certain street, and naturally, in the
exchange of compliments, had acquitted himself well. He was about to
acknowledge the driver's last insolence, when his eye--it was growing
dusk--caught a figure sitting by one of the white plaster gate-pillars
in the long sweep of wall.

'Stop!' he cried. 'Stay here! I do not go to the school at once.'

'But what is to pay me for this coming and recoming?' said the driver
petulantly. 'Is the boy mad? Last time it was a dancing-girl. This time
it is a priest.'

Kim was in the road headlong, patting the dusty feet beneath the dirty
yellow robe.

'I have waited here a day and a half,' the lama's level voice began.
'Nay, I had a disciple with me. He that was my friend at the Temple of
the Tirthankers gave me a guide for this journey. I came from Benares in
the train, when thy letter was given me. Yes, I am well fed. I need
nothing.'

'But why didst thou not stay with the Kulu woman, O Holy One? In what
way didst thou get to Benares? My heart has been heavy since we parted.'

'The woman wearied me by constant flux of talk and requiring charms for
children. I separated myself from that company, permitting her to
acquire merit by gifts. She is at least a woman of open hands, and I
made a promise to return to her house if need arose. Then, perceiving
myself alone in this great and terrible world, I bethought me of the
te-rain to Benares, where I knew one abode in the Tirthankers' Temple
who was a Seeker, even as I.'

'Ah! Thy River,' said Kim. 'I had forgotten the River.'

'So soon, my chela? I have never forgotten it; but when I had left thee
it seemed better that I should go to the temple and take counsel, for,
look you, India is very large, and it may be that wise men before us,
some two or three, have left a record of the place of our River. There
is debate in the Temple of the Tirthankers on this matter; some saying
one thing, and some another. They are courteous folk.'

'So be it; but what dost thou do now?'

'I acquire merit in that I help thee, my chela, to wisdom. The priest of
that body of men who serve the Red Bull wrote me that all should be as I
desired for thee. I sent the money to suffice for one year, and then I
came, as thou seest me, to watch for thee going up into the Gates of
Learning. A day and a half have I waited--not because I was led by any
affection towards thee--that is not part of the Way--but, as they said
at the Tirthankers' Temple, because, money having been paid for
learning, it was right that I should oversee the end of the matter. They
resolved my doubts most clearly. I had a fear that, perhaps, I came
because I wished to see thee--misguided by the red mist of affection. It
is not so. . . . Moreover, I am troubled by a dream.'

'But surely, Holy One, thou hast not forgotten the Road and all that
befell on it. Surely it was a little to see me that thou didst come?'

'The horses are cold, and it is past their feeding-time,' whined the
driver.

'Go to Jehannum and abide there with thy reputationless aunt!' Kim
snarled over his shoulder. 'I am all alone in this land; I know not
where I go nor what shall befall me. My heart was in that letter I sent
thee. Except for Mahbub Ali, and he is a Pathan, I have no friend save
thee, Holy One. Do not altogether go away.'

'I have considered that also,' the lama replied, in a shaking voice. 'It
is manifest that from time to time I shall acquire merit--if before that
I have not found my River--by assuring myself that thy feet are set on
wisdom. What they will teach thee I do not know, but the priest wrote me
that no son of a Sahib in all India will be better taught than thou. So
from time to time, therefore, I will come again. May be thou wilt be
such a Sahib as he who gave me these spectacles'--the lama wiped them
elaborately--'in the Wonder House at Lahore. That is my hope, for he was
a Fountain of Wisdom--wiser than many abbots. . . . Again, may be thou
wilt forget me and our meetings.'

'If I eat thy bread,' cried Kim passionately, 'how shall I ever forget
thee?'

'No--no.' He put the boy aside. 'I must go back to Benares. From time to
time, now that I know the customs of letter-writers in this land, I will
send thee a letter, and from time to time I will come and see thee.'

'But whither shall I send my letters?' wailed Kim, clutching at the
robe, all forgetful that he was a Sahib.

'To the Temple of the Tirthankers at Benares. That is the place I have
chosen till I find my River. Do not weep; for, look you, all Desire is
illusion and a new binding upon the Wheel. Go up to the Gates of
Learning. Let me see thee go. . . . Dost thou love me? Then go, or my
heart cracks. . . . I will come again. Surely I will come again.'

The lama watched the ticca-garri rumble into the compound, and strode
off, snuffing between each long stride.

'The Gates of Learning' shut with a clang.

       *       *       *       *       *

The country born and bred boy has his own manners and customs, which do
not resemble those of any other land; and his teachers approach him by
roads which an English master would not understand. Therefore, you
would scarcely be interested in Kim's experiences as a St. Xavier's boy
among two or three hundred precocious youths, most of whom had never
seen the sea. He suffered the usual penalties for breaking out of bounds
when there was cholera in the city. This was before he had learned to
write fair English, and so was obliged to find a bazar letter-writer. He
was, of course, indicted for smoking and for the use of abuse more
full-flavoured than even St. Xavier's had ever heard. He learned to wash
himself with the Levitical scrupulosity of the native-born, who in his
heart considers the Englishman rather dirty. He played the usual tricks
on the patient coolies pulling the punkahs in the sleeping-rooms where
the boys thrashed through the hot nights telling tales till the dawn;
and quietly he measured himself against his self-reliant mates.

They were sons of subordinate officials in the Railway, Telegraph, and
Canal services; of warrant-officers sometimes retired and sometimes
acting as commanders-in-chief to a feudatory Rajah's army; of captains
of the Indian Marine, Government pensioners, planters, Presidency
shopkeepers, and missionaries. A few were cadets of the old Eurasian
houses that have taken strong root in Dhurrumtollah--Pereiras, De
Souzas, and D'Silvas. Their parents could well have educated them in
England, but they loved the school that had served their own youth, and
generation followed sallow-hued generation at St. Xavier's. Their homes
ranged from Howrah of the railway people to abandoned cantonments like
Monghyr and Chunar; lost tea-gardens Shillong-way; villages where their
fathers were large landholders in Oudh or the Deccan; Mission-stations a
week from the nearest railway line; seaports a thousand miles south,
facing the brazen Indian surf; and cinchona-plantations south of all.
The mere story of their adventures, which to them were no adventures, on
their road to and from school would have crisped a Western boy's hair.
They were used to jogging off alone through a hundred miles of jungle,
where there was always the delightful chance of being delayed by tigers;
but they would no more have bathed in the English Channel in an English
August than their brothers across the world would have lain still while
a leopard snuffed at their palanquin. There were boys of fifteen who had
spent a day and a half on an islet in the middle of a flooded river,
taking charge, as by right, of a camp of frantic pilgrims returning from
a shrine; there were seniors who had requisitioned a chance-met Rajah's
elephant, in the name of St. Francis Xavier, when the rains once blotted
out the cart-track that led to their father's estate, and had all but
lost the huge beast in a quicksand. There was a boy who, he said, and
none doubted, had helped his father to beat off with rifles from the
veranda a rush of Akas in the days when those head-hunters were bold
against lonely plantations.

And every tale was told in the even, passionless voice of the
native-born, mixed with quaint reflections, borrowed unconsciously from
native foster-mothers, and turns of speech that showed they had been
that instant translated from the vernacular. Kim watched, listened, and
approved. This was not insipid, single-word talk of drummer-boys. It
dealt with a life he knew and in part understood. The atmosphere suited
him, and he throve by inches. They gave him a white drill suit as the
weather warmed, and he rejoiced in the new-found bodily comforts as he
rejoiced to use his sharpened mind over the tasks they set him. His
quickness would have delighted an English master; but at St. Xavier's
they know the first rush of minds developed by sun and surroundings, as
well as they know the half-collapse that sets in at twenty-two or
twenty-three.

None the less he remembered to hold himself lowly. When tales were told
of hot nights, Kim did not sweep the board with his reminiscences; for
St. Xavier's looks down on boys who 'go native altogether.' One must
never forget that one is a Sahib, and that some day, when examinations
are passed, one will command natives. Kim made a note of this, for he
began to understand where examinations led.

Then came the holidays from August to October--the long holidays imposed
by the heat and the rains. Kim was informed that he would go north to
some station in the hills behind Umballa, where Father Victor would
arrange for him.

'A barrack-school?' said Kim, who had asked many questions and thought
more.

'Yes, I suppose so,' said the master. 'It will not do you any harm to
keep you out of mischief. You can go up with young De Castro as far as
Delhi.'

Kim considered it in every possible light. He had been diligent, even as
the Colonel advised. A boy's holiday was his own property,--of so much
the talk of his companions had advised him,--and a barrack-school would
be torment after St. Xavier's. Moreover--this was magic worth anything
else--he could write. In three months he had discovered how men can
speak to each other without a third party, at the cost of half an anna
and a little knowledge. No word had come from the lama, but there
remained the Road. Kim yearned for the caress of soft mud squishing up
between the toes, as his mouth watered for mutton stewed with butter and
cabbages, for rice speckled with strong-scented cardamoms, for the
saffron-tinted rice, garlic and onions, and the forbidden greasy
sweetmeats of the bazars. They would feed him raw beef on a platter at
the barrack-school, and he must smoke by stealth. But again, he was a
Sahib and was at St. Xavier's, and that pig Mahbub Ali . . . No, he would
not test Mahbub's hospitality--and yet . . . He thought it out alone in
the dormitory, and came to the conclusion he had been unjust to Mahbub.

The school was empty; nearly all the masters had gone away; Colonel
Creighton's railway-pass lay in his hand, and Kim puffed himself that he
had not spent Colonel Creighton's or Mahbub's money in riotous living.
He was still lord of two rupees seven annas. His new bullock-trunk,
marked 'K. O'H.,' and bedding-roll lay in the empty sleeping-room.
'Sahibs are always tied to their baggage,' said Kim, nodding at them.
'You will stay here.' He went out into the warm rain, smiling sinfully,
and sought a certain house whose outside he had noted down some time
before. . . .

'Arre! Dost thou know what manner of women we be in this quarter? O
shame!'

'Was I born yesterday?' Kim squatted native fashion on the cushions of
that upper room. 'A little dye-stuff and three yards of cloth to help
out a jest. Is it much to ask?'

'Who is she? Thou art full young, as Sahibs go, for this devilry.'

'Oh, she? She is the daughter of a certain schoolmaster of a regiment in
the cantonments. He has beaten me twice because I went over their wall
in these clothes. Now I would go as a gardener's boy. Old men are very
jealous.'

'That is true. Hold thy face still while I dab on the juice.'

'Not too black, Naikan. I would not appear to her as a hubshi' (nigger).

'Oh, love makes nought of these things. And how old is she?'

'Twelve years, I think,' said the shameless Kim. 'Spread it also on the
breast. It may be her father will tear my clothes off me and if I am
piebald--' he laughed.

The girl worked busily, dabbing a twist of cloth into a little saucer of
brown dye that holds longer than any walnut juice.

'Now send out and get me a cloth for the turban. Woe is me, my head is
all unshaved! And he will surely knock off my turban.'

'I am not a barber, but I will make shift. Thou wast born to be a
breaker of hearts! All this disguise for one evening? Remember, the
stuff does not wash away.' She shook with laughter till her bracelets
and anklets jingled. 'But who is to pay me for this? Huneefa herself
could not have given thee better stuff.'

'Trust in the Gods, my sister,' said Kim gravely screwing his face round
as the stain dried. 'Besides, hast thou ever helped to paint a Sahib
thus before?'

'Never indeed. But a jest is not money.'

'It is worth much more.'

'Child, thou art beyond all dispute the most shameless son of Shaitan
that I have ever known to take up a poor girl's time with this play, and
then to say: "Is not the jest enough?" Thou wilt go very far in this
world.' She gave the dancing-girls' salutation in mockery.

'All one. Make haste and rough-cut my head.' Kim shifted from foot to
foot, his eyes ablaze with mirth as he thought of the fat days before
him. He gave the girl four annas, and ran down the stairs in the
likeness of a low-caste Hindu boy--perfect in every detail. A cookshop
was his next point of call, where he feasted in extravagance and greasy
luxury.

On Lucknow station platform he watched young De Castro, all covered with
prickly-heat, get into a second-class compartment. Kim patronised a
third, and was the life and soul of it. He explained to the company that
he was assistant to a juggler who had left him behind sick with fever,
and that he would pick up his master at Umballa. As the occupants of the
carriage changed, he varied this tale, or adorned it with all the shoots
of a budding fancy, the more rampant for being held off native speech so
long. In all India that night was no human being so joyful as Kim. At
Umballa he got out and headed eastward, plashing over the sodden fields
to the village where the old soldier lived.

About this time Colonel Creighton at Simla was advised from Lucknow by
wire that young O'Hara had disappeared. Mahbub Ali was in town selling
horses, and to him the Colonel confided the affair one morning cantering
round Annandale race-course.

'Oh, that is nothing,' said the horse-dealer. 'Men are like horses. At
certain times they need salt, and if that salt is not in the mangers
they will lick it up from the earth. He has gone back to the Road again
for a while. The madrissah wearied him. I knew it would. Another time, I
will take him upon the Road myself. Do not be troubled, Creighton
Sahib. It is as though a polo-pony, breaking loose, ran out to learn the
game alone.'

'Then he is not dead, think you?'

'Fever might kill him. I do not fear for the boy otherwise. A monkey
does not fall among trees.'

Next morning, on the same course, Mahbub's stallion ranged alongside the
Colonel.

'It is as I had thought,' said the horse-dealer. 'He has come through
Umballa at least, and there he has written a letter to me, having
learned in the bazar that I was here.'

'Read,' said the Colonel, with a sigh of relief. It was absurd that a
man of his position should take an interest in a little country-bred
vagabond; but the Colonel remembered the conversation in the train, and
often in the past few months had caught himself thinking of the queer,
silent, self-possessed boy. His evasion, of course, was the height of
insolence, but it argued some resource and nerve.

Mahbub's eyes twinkled as he reined out into the centre of the cramped
little plain, where none could come near unseen.

'"The Friend of the Stars, who is the Friend of all the World--"'

'What is this?'

'A name we give him in Lahore city. "The Friend of all the World takes
leave to go to his own places. He will come back upon the appointed day.
Let the box and the bedding-roll be sent for; and if there has been a
fault, let the Hand of Friendship turn aside the Whip of Calamity."
There is yet a little more, but--'

'No matter, read.'

'"Certain things are not known to those who eat with forks. It is better
to eat with both hands for a while. Speak soft words to those who do not
understand this that the return may be propitious." Now the manner in
which that was cast is of course the work of the letter-writer, but see
how wisely the boy has devised the matter of it so that no hint is given
except to those who know!'

'Is this the Hand of Friendship to avert the Whip of Calamity?' laughed
the Colonel.

'See how wise is the boy. He would go back to the Road again, as I said.
Not knowing yet thy trade--'

'I am not quite sure of that,' the Colonel muttered.

'He turns to me to make a peace between you. Is he not wise? He says he
will return. He is but perfecting his knowledge. Think, Sahib! He has
been three months at the school. And he is not mouthed to that bit. For
my part, I rejoice: the pony learns the game.'

'Ay, but another time he must not go alone.'

'Why? He went alone before he came under the Colonel Sahib's protection.
When he comes to the Great Game he must go alone--alone, and at peril of
his head. Then, if he spits, or sneezes, or sits down other than as the
people do whom he watches, he may be slain. Why hinder him now? Remember
how the Persians say: The jackal that lives in the wilds of Mazanderan
can only be caught by the hounds of Mazanderan.'

'True. It is true, Mahbub Ali. And if he comes to no harm, I do not
desire anything better. But it is great insolence on his part.'

'He does not tell me, even, whither he goes,' said Mahbub. 'He is no
fool. When his time is accomplished he will come to me. It is time the
healer of pearls took him in hand. He ripens too quickly--as Sahibs
reckon.'

This prophecy was fulfilled to the letter a month later. Mahbub had gone
down to Umballa to bring up a fresh consignment of horses, and Kim met
him on the Kalka road at dusk riding alone, begged an alms of him, was
sworn at, and replied in English. There was nobody within earshot to
hear Mahbub's gasp of amazement.

'Oho! And where hast thou been?'

'Up and down--down and up.'

'Come under a tree, out of the wet, and tell.'

'I stayed for a while with an old man near Umballa; anon with a
household of my acquaintance in Umballa. With one of these I went as far
as Delhi to the southward. That is a wondrous city. Then I drove a
bullock for a teli (an oilman) coming north; but I heard of a great
feast forward in Puttiala, and thither went I in the company of a
firework-maker. It was a great feast' (Kim rubbed his stomach). 'I saw
Rajahs, and elephants with gold and silver trappings; and they lit all
the fireworks at once, whereby eleven men were killed, my firework-maker
among them, and I was blown across a tent but took no harm. Then I came
back to the rel with a Sikh horseman, to whom I was groom for my bread;
and so here.'

'Shabash!' said Mahbub Ali.

'But what does the Colonel Sahib say? I do not wish to be beaten.'

'The Hand of Friendship has averted the Whip of Calamity; but another
time, when thou takest the Road it will be with me. This is too early.'

'Late enough for me. I have learned to read and to write English a
little at the madrissah. I shall soon be altogether a Sahib.'

'Hear him!' laughed Mahbub, looking at the little drenched figure
dancing in the wet. 'Salaam--Sahib,' and he saluted ironically. 'Well,
art tired of the Road, or wilt thou come on to Umballa with me and work
back with the horses?'

'I come with thee, Mahbub Ali.'



CHAPTER VIII

          'Something I owe to the soil that grew--
             More to the life that fed--
           But most to Allah Who gave me two
             Separate sides to my head.

           I would go without shirts or shoes,
             Friends, tobacco or bread
           Sooner than for an instant lose
             Either side of my head.'


'THEN in God's Name take blue for red,' said Mahbub, alluding to the
Hindu colour of Kim's disreputable turban.

Kim countered with the old proverb, 'I will change my faith and my
bedding, but thou must pay for it.'

The dealer laughed till he nearly fell from his horse. At a shop on the
outskirts of the city the change was made, and Kim stood up, externally
at least, a Mohammedan.

Mahbub hired a room over against the railway station, sent for a cooked
meal of the finest with almond-curd sweetmeats (balushai we call it) and
fine-chopped Lucknow tobacco.

'This is better than some other meat that I ate with the Sikh,' said
Kim, grinning as he squatted, 'and assuredly they give no such victuals
at my madrissah.'

'I have a desire to hear of that same madrissah.' Mahbub stuffed himself
with great boluses of spiced mutton fried in fat with cabbage and
golden-brown onions. 'But tell me first, altogether and truthfully, the
manner of thy escape. For, O Friend of all the World,'--he loosed his
cracking belt,--'I do not think it is often that a Sahib and the son of
a Sahib runs away from there.'

'How should they? They do not know the land. It was nothing,' said Kim,
and began his tale. When he came to the disguisement and the interview
with the girl in the bazar, Mahbub Ali's gravity went from him. He
laughed aloud and beat his hand on his thigh.

'Shabash! Shabash! Oh, well done, little one! What will the healer of
turquoises say to this? Now, slowly, let us hear what befell
afterwards--step by step, omitting nothing.'

Step by step then, Kim told his adventures between coughs as the
full-flavoured tobacco caught his lungs.

'I said,' growled Mahbub Ali to himself, 'I said it was the pony
breaking out to play polo. The fruit is ripe already--except that he
must learn his distances and his pacings, and his rods and his
compasses. Listen now. I have turned aside the Colonel's whip from thy
skin, and that is no small service.'

'True.' Kim puffed serenely. 'That is all true.'

'But it is not to be thought that this running out and in is any way
good.'

'It was my holiday, Hajji. I was a slave for many weeks. Why should I
not run away when the school was shut? Look, too, how I, living upon my
friends or working for my bread, as I did with the Sikh, have saved the
Colonel Sahib a great expense.'

Mahbub's lips twitched under his well-pruned Mohammedan moustache.

'What are a few rupees'--the Pathan threw out his open hand
carelessly--'to the Colonel Sahib? He spends them for a purpose, not in
any way for love of thee.'

'That,' said Kim slowly, 'I knew a very long time ago.'

'Who told?'

'The Colonel Sahib himself. Not in those many words, but plainly enough
for one who is not altogether a mud-head. Yea, he told me in the te-rain
when we went down to Lucknow.'

'Be it so. Then I will tell thee more, Friend of all the World, though
in the telling I lend thee my head.'

'It was forfeit to me,' said Kim, with deep relish, 'in Umballa, when
thou didst pick me up on the horse after the drummer-boy beat me.'

'Speak a little plainer. All the world may tell lies save thou and I.
For equally is thy life forfeit to me if I chose to raise my finger
here.'

'And this is known to me also,' said Kim, readjusting the live
charcoal-ball on the weed. 'It is a very sure tie between us. Indeed thy
hold is surer even than mine; for who would miss a boy beaten to death,
or, it may be, thrown into a well by the roadside? Many people here and
in Simla and across the passes behind the Hills would, on the other
hand, say: "What has come to Mahbub Ali," if he were found dead among
his horses. Surely too the Colonel Sahib would make inquiries. But
again,'--Kim's face puckered with cunning,--'he would not make overlong
inquiry, lest people should ask: "What has this Colonel Sahib to do with
that horse-dealer?" But I--if I lived--'

'As thou wouldst surely die--'

'It may be; but I say, if I lived, I, and I alone, would know that one
had come by night, as a common thief perhaps, to Mahbub Ali's bulkhead
in the serai, and there had slain him, either before or after that thief
had made a full search into his saddle-bags and between the soles of his
slippers. Is that news to tell to the Colonel, or would he say to me--(I
have not forgotten when he sent me back for a cigar-case that he had not
left behind him)--"What is Mahbub Ali to me?"'

Up went a gout of heavy smoke. There was a long pause; then Mahbub Ali
spoke in admiration: 'And with these things on thy mind, dost thou lie
down and rise again among all the Sahibs' little sons at the madrissah
and meekly take instruction from thy teachers?'

'It is an order,' said Kim blandly. 'Who am I to dispute an order?'

'A most finished son of Eblis,' said Mahbub Ali. 'But what is this tale
of the thief and the search?'

'That which I saw,' said Kim, 'the night that my lama and I lay next thy
place in the Kashmir Serai. The door was left unlocked, which I think is
not thy custom, Mahbub. He came in as one assured that thou wouldst not
soon return. My eye was against a knot-hole in the plank. He searched as
it were for something--not a rug, not stirrups, nor a bridle, nor brass
pots--something little and most carefully hid. Else why did he prick
with an iron between the soles of thy slippers?'

'Ha!' Mahbub Ali smiled gently. 'And seeing these things, what tale
didst thou fashion to thyself, Well of the Truth?'

'None. I put my hand upon my amulet, which lies always next to my skin,
and, remembering the pedigree of a white stallion that I had bitten out
of a piece of Mussalmani bread, I went away to Umballa perceiving that a
heavy trust was laid upon me. At that hour, had I chosen, thy head was
forfeit. It needed only to say to that man, "I have here a paper
concerning a horse which I cannot read." And then?' Kim peered at Mahbub
under his eyebrows.

'Then thou wouldst have drunk water twice--perhaps thrice, afterwards. I
do not think more than thrice,' said Mahbub simply.

'It is true. I thought of that a little, but most I thought that I loved
thee, Mahbub. Therefore I went to Umballa, as thou knowest, but (and
this thou dost not know) I lay hid in the garden-grass to see what
Colonel Creighton Sahib might do upon reading the white stallion's
pedigree.'

'And what did he?' for Kim had bitten off the conversation.

'Dost thou give news for love, or dost thou sell it?' Kim asked.

'I sell and--I buy.' Mahbub took a four-anna piece out of his belt and
held it up.

'Eight!' said Kim, mechanically following the huckster instinct of the
East.

Mahbub laughed, and put away the coin. 'It is too easy to deal in that
market, Friend of all the World. Tell me for love. Our lives lie in each
other's hand.'

'Very good. I saw the Jang-i-Lat Sahib (the Commander-in-Chief) come to
a big dinner. I saw him in Creighton Sahib's office. I saw the two read
the white stallion's pedigree. I heard the very orders given for the
opening of a great war.'

'Hah!' Mahbub nodded with deepest eyes afire. The game is well played.
That war is done now, and the evil, we hope, nipped before the
flower--thanks to me--and thee. What didst thou later?'

'I made the news as it were a hook to catch me victual and honour among
the villagers in a village whose priest drugged my lama. But I bore away
the old man's purse, and the Brahmin found nothing. So next morning he
was angry. Ho! Ho! And I also used the news when I fell into the hands
of that white regiment with their Bull!'

'That was foolishness.' Mahbub scowled. 'News is not meant to be thrown
about like dung-cakes, but used sparingly--like bhang.'

'So I think now, and, moreover, it did me no sort of good. But that was
very long ago,'--he made as to brush it all away with a thin brown
hand,--'and since then, and especially in the nights under the punkah at
the madrissah, I have thought very greatly.'

'Is it permitted to ask whither the Heaven-born's thought might have
led?' said Mahbub, with an elaborate sarcasm, smoothing his scarlet
beard.

'It is permitted,' said Kim, and threw back the very tone. 'They say at
Nucklao that no Sahib must tell a black man that he has made a fault.'

Mahbub's hand shot into his bosom, for to call a Pathan a 'black man'
(kala admi) is a blood-insult. Then he remembered and laughed. 'Speak,
Sahib: thy black man hears.'

'But,' said Kim, 'I am not a Sahib, and I say I made a fault when I
cursed thee, Mahbub Ali, on the day at Umballa I thought I was betrayed
by a Pathan. I was senseless; for I was but newly caught, and I wished
to kill that low-caste drummer-boy. I say now, Hajji, that it was well
done; and I see my road all clear before me to a good service. I will
stay in the madrissah till I am ripe.'

'Well said. Especially are distances and numbers and the manner of using
compasses to be learned in that game. One waits in the Hills above to
show thee.'

'I will learn their teaching upon a condition--that my time is given to
me without question when the madrissah is shut. Ask that for me of the
Colonel.'

'But why not ask the Colonel in the Sahib's tongue?'

'The Colonel is the servant of the Government. He is sent hither and yon
at a word, and must consider his own advancement. (See how much I have
already learned at Nucklao!) Moreover, the Colonel I know since three
months only. I have known one Mahbub Ali for six years. So! To the
madrissah I will go. At the madrissah I will learn. In the madrissah I
will be a Sahib. But when the madrissah is shut, then must I be free and
go among my people. Otherwise I die!'

'And who are thy People, Friend of all the World?'

'This great and beautiful land,' said Kim, waving his paw round the
little clay-walled room where the oil-lamp in its niche burned heavily
through the tobacco-smoke. 'And, further, I would see my lama again. And
further, I need money.'

'That is the need of everyone,' said Mahbub ruefully. 'I will give thee
eight annas, for much money is not picked out of horses' hooves, and it
must suffice for many days. As to all the rest, I am well pleased, and
no further talk is needed. Make haste to learn, and in three years, or
it may be less, thou wilt be an aid--even to me.'

'Have I been such a hindrance till now?' said Kim, with a boy's giggle.

'Do not give answers,' Mahbub grunted. 'Thou art my new horse-boy. Go
and bed among my men. They are near the north end of the station, with
the horses.'

'They will beat me to the south end of the station if I come without
authority.'

Mahbub felt in his belt, wetted his thumb on a cake of Chinese ink, and
dabbed the impression on a piece of soft native paper. From Balkh to
Bombay men know that rough-ridged print with the old scar running
diagonally across it.

'That is enough to show my headman. I come in the morning.'

'By which road?' said Kim.

'By the road from the City. There is but one, and then we return to
Creighton Sahib. I have saved thee a beating.'

'Allah! What is a beating when the very head is loose on the shoulders?'

Kim slid out quietly into the night, walked half round the house,
keeping close to the walls, and headed away from the station for a mile
or so. Then, fetching a wide compass, he worked back at leisure, for he
needed time to invent a story if any of Mahbub's retainers asked
questions.

They were camped on a piece of waste ground beside the railway, and,
being natives, had not, of course, unloaded the two trucks in which
Mahbub's animals stood among a consignment of country-breds bought by
the Bombay tram-company. The headman, a broken-down, consumptive-looking
Mohammedan, promptly challenged Kim, but was pacified at sight of
Mahbub's sign-manual.

'The Hajji has of his favour given me service,' said Kim testily. 'If
this be doubted, wait till he comes in the morning. Meantime, a place by
the fire.'

Followed the usual aimless babble that every low-caste native must raise
on every occasion. It died down, and Kim lay out behind the little knot
of Mahbub's followers, almost under the wheels of a horse-truck, a
borrowed blanket for covering. Now a bed among brickbats and
ballast-refuse on a damp night, between overcrowded horses and unwashen
Baltis, would not appeal to many white boys; but Kim was utterly happy.
Change of scene, service, and surroundings were the breath of his little
nostrils, and thinking of the neat white cots of St. Xavier's all arow
under the punkah gave him joy as keen as the repetition of the
multiplication-table in English.

'I am very old,' he thought sleepily. 'Every month I become a year more
old. I was very young, and a fool to boot, when I took Mahbub's message
to Umballa. Even when I was with that white regiment I was very young
and small and had no wisdom. But now I learn every day, and in three
years the Colonel will take me out of the madrissah and let me go upon
the Road with Mahbub hunting for horses' pedigrees, or maybe I shall go
by myself; or maybe I shall find the lama and go with him. Yes; that is
best. To walk again as a chela with my lama when he comes back to
Benares.' The thoughts came more slowly and disconnectedly. He was
plunging into a beautiful dreamland when his ears caught a whisper, thin
and sharp, above the monotonous babble round the fire. It came from
behind the iron-skinned horse-truck.

'He is not here then?'

'Where should he be but roystering in the City. Who looks for a rat in a
frog-pond? Come away. He is not our man.'

'He must not go back beyond the Passes a second time. It is the order.'

'Hire some woman to drug him. It is a few rupees only, and there is no
evidence.'

'Except the woman. It must be more certain; and remember the price upon
his head.'

'Ay, but the police have a long arm, and we are far from the Border. If
it were in Peshawur now!'

'Yes--in Peshawur,' the second voice sneered. 'Peshawur, full of his
blood-kin--full of bolt-holes and women behind whose clothes he will
hide. Yes, Peshawur or Jehannum would suit us equally well.'

'Then what is the plan?'

'O fool, have I not told it a hundred times. Wait till he comes to lie
down, and then one sure shot. The trucks are between us and pursuit. We
have but to run back over the lines and go our way. They will not see
whence the shot came. Wait here at least till the dawn. What manner of
faquir art thou to shiver at a little watching?'

'Oho!' thought Kim, behind close-shut eyes. 'Once again it is Mahbub.
Indeed a white stallion's pedigree is not a good thing to peddle to
Sahibs! Or maybe Mahbub has been selling other news. Now what is to do,
Kim? I know not where Mahbub houses, and if he comes here before the
dawn they will shoot him. That would be no profit for thee, Kim. And
this is not a matter for the police. That would be no profit for Mahbub;
and,' he giggled almost aloud, 'I do not remember any lesson at Nucklao
which will help me. Allah! Here is Kim and yonder are they. First then,
Kim must wake and go away, so that they shall not suspect. A bad dream
wakes a man--thus--'

He threw the blanket off his face, and raised himself suddenly with the
terrible, bubbling, meaningless yell of the Asiatic roused by nightmare.

'Urr-urr-urr-urr! Ya-la-la-la-la! Narain! The churel! The churel!'

A churel is the peculiarly malignant ghost of a woman who has died in
child-bed. She haunts lonely roads, her feet are turned backwards on the
ankles, and she leads men to torment.

Louder rose Kim's quavering howl, till at last he leaped to his feet and
staggered off sleepily, while the camp cursed him for waking them. Some
twenty yards farther up the line he lay down again, taking care that the
whisperers should hear his grunts and groans as he recomposed himself.
After a few minutes he rolled towards the road and stole away into the
thick darkness.

[Illustration: 'They are all most holy and--most greedy . . . I have
walked the pillars and trodden the temples till my feet are flayed, and
the child is no whit better.']

He paddled along swiftly till he came to a culvert, and dropped behind
it, his chin on a level with the coping-stone. Here he could command all
the night-traffic, himself unseen.

Two or three carts passed, jingling out to the suburbs; a coughing
policeman and a hurrying foot-passenger or two who sang to keep off evil
spirits. Then rapped the shod feet of a horse.

'Ah! This is more like Mahbub,' thought Kim, as the beast shied at the
little head above the culvert.

'Ohe, Mahbub Ali,' he whispered, 'have a care!'

The horse was reined back almost on its haunches, and forced towards the
culvert.

'Never again,' said Mahbub, 'will I take a shod horse for night-work.
They pick up all the bones and nails in the city.' He stooped to lift
its forefoot, and that brought his head within a foot of Kim's.
'Down--keep down,' he muttered. 'The night is full of eyes.'

'Two men wait thy coming behind the horse-trucks. They will shoot thee
at thy lying down, because there is a price on thy head. I heard,
sleeping near the horses.'

'Didst thou see them? . . . Hold still, Sire of Devils!' This furiously
to the horse.

'No.'

'Was one dressed belike as a faquir?'

'One said to the other, "What manner of a faquir art thou, to shiver at
a little watching?"'

'Good. Go back to the camp and lie down. I do not die to-night.'

Mahbub wheeled his horse and vanished. Kim tore back down the ditch till
he reached a point opposite his second resting-place, slipped across the
road like a weasel, and recoiled himself in the blanket.

'At least Mahbub knows,' he thought contentedly. 'And certainly he spoke
as one expecting it. I do not think those two men will profit by
to-night's watch.'

An hour passed, and, with the best will in the world to keep awake all
night, he slept deeply. Now and again a night train roared along the
metals within twenty feet of him; but he had all the Oriental's
indifference to mere noise, and it did not even weave a dream through
his slumber.

Mahbub was anything but asleep. It annoyed him vehemently that people
outside his tribe and unaffected by his casual amours should pursue him
for the life. His first and natural impulse was to cross the line lower
down, work up again, and, catching his well-wishers from behind,
summarily slay them. Here, he reflected with sorrow, another branch of
the Government, totally unconnected with Colonel Creighton, might demand
explanations which would be hard to supply; and he knew that south the
Border a perfectly ridiculous fuss is made about a corpse or so. He had
not been troubled in this way since he sent Kim to Umballa with the
message, and hoped that suspicion had been finally diverted.

Then a most brilliant notion struck him.

'The English do eternally tell the truth,' he said, 'therefore we of
this country are eternally made foolish. By Allah, I will tell the truth
to an Englishman! Of what use is the Government police if a poor Kabuli
be robbed of his horses in their very trucks. This is as bad as
Peshawur! I should lay a complaint at the station. Better still, some
young Sahib on the Railway! They are zealous, and if they catch thieves
it is remembered to their honour.'

He tied up his horse outside the station, and strode on to the platform.

'Hullo, Mahbub Ali!' said a young Assistant District Traffic
Superintendent who was waiting to go down the line--a tall, tow-haired,
horsey youth in dingy white linen. 'What are you doing here? Selling
weeds--eh?'

'No; I am not troubled for my horses. I come to look for Lutuf Ullah. I
have a truck-load up the line. Could any one take them out without the
Railway's knowledge?'

'Shouldn't think so, Mahbub. You can claim against us if they do.'

'I have seen two men crouching under the wheels of one of the trucks
nearly all the night. Faquirs do not steal horses, so I gave them no
more thought. I would find Lutuf Ullah, my partner.'

'The deuce you did? And you didn't bother your head about it? 'Pon my
word, it's just almost as well that I met you. What were they like, eh?'

'They were only faquirs. They will no more than take a little grain
perhaps from one of the trucks. There are many up the line. The State
will never miss the dole. I came here seeking for my partner, Lutuf
Ullah--'

'Never mind your partner. Where are your horse-trucks?'

'A little to this side of the farthest place where they make lamps for
the trains.'

'The signal-box. Yes.'

'And upon, the rail nearest to the road upon the right-hand
side--looking up the line thus. But as regards Lutuf Ullah--a tall man
with a broken nose, and a Persian greyhound--Aie!'

The boy had hurried off to wake up a young and enthusiastic policeman;
for, as he said, the Railway had suffered much from depredations in the
goods-yard. Mahbub Ali chuckled in his dyed beard.

'They will walk in their boots, making a noise, and then they will
wonder why there are no faquirs. They are very clever boys--Barton Sahib
and Young Sahib.'

He waited idly for a few minutes, expecting to see them hurry up the
line girt for action. A light engine slid through the station, and he
caught a glimpse of young Barton in the cab.

'I did that child an injustice. He is not altogether a fool,' said
Mahbub Ali. 'To take a fire-carriage for a thief is a new game!'

When Mahbub Ali came to his camp in the dawn, no one thought it worth
while to tell him any news of the night. No one, at least, but one small
horse-boy, newly advanced to the great man's service, whom Mahbub called
to his tiny tent to assist in some packing.

'It is all known to me,' whispered Kim, bending above saddle-bags. 'Two
Sahibs came up on a te-rain. I was running to and fro in the dark on
this side of the trucks as the te-rain moved up and down slowly. They
fell upon two men sitting under this truck--Hajji, what shall I do with
this lump of tobacco? Wrap it in paper and put it under the salt-bag?
Yes--and struck them down. But one man struck at a Sahib with a faquir's
buck's horn' (Kim meant the conjoined black-buck horns, which are a
faquir's sole temporal weapon)--'the blood came. So the other Sahib,
first smiting his own man senseless, smote the stabber with a short gun
which had rolled from the first man's hand. They all raged as though mad
together.'

Mahbub smiled with heavenly resignation. 'No! That is not so much
dewanee (madness, or a case for the civil court--the word can be punned
upon both ways) as nizamut (a criminal case). A gun sayest thou? Ten
good years in jail.'

'Then they both lay still, but I think they were nearly dead when they
were put on the te-rain. Their heads moved thus. And there is much blood
on the line. Come and see?'

'I have seen blood before. Jail is the sure place--and assuredly they
will give false names, and assuredly no man will find them for a long
time. They were unfriends of mine. Thy Fate and mine seem on one string.
What a tale for the healer of pearls! Now swiftly with the saddle-bags
and the cooking-platter. We will take out the horses and away to Simla.'

Swiftly,--as Orientals understand speed,--with long explanations, with
abuse and windy talk, carelessly, amid a hundred checks for little
things forgotten, the untidy camp broke up and led the half-dozen stiff
and fretful horses along the Kalka road in the fresh of the rain-swept
dawn. Kim, regarded as Mahbub Ali's favourite by all who wished to stand
well with the Pathan, was not called upon to work. They strolled on by
the easiest of stages, halting every few hours at a wayside shelter.
Very many Sahibs travel along the Kalka road; and, as Mahbub Ali says,
every young Sahib must needs esteem himself a judge of a horse, and,
though he be over head in debt to the money-lender, must make as if to
buy. That was the reason that Sahib after Sahib, rolling along in a
stage-carriage, would stop and open talk. Some would even descend from
their vehicles and feel the horses' legs; asking inane questions, or,
through sheer ignorance of the vernacular, grossly insulting the
imperturbable trader.

'When first I dealt with Sahibs, and that was when Colonel Soady Sahib
was Governor of Fort Abazai and flooded the Commissioner's
camping-ground for spite,' Mahbub confided to Kim as the boy filled his
pipe under a tree, 'I did not know how greatly they were fools, and this
made me wroth. As thus--' and he told Kim a tale of an expression,
misused in all innocence, that doubled Kim up with mirth. 'Now I see,
however,'--he exhaled smoke slowly,--'that it is with them as with all
men--in certain matters they are wise, and in others most foolish. Very
foolish it is to use the wrong word to a stranger; for though the heart
may be clean of offence, how is the stranger to know that? He is more
like to search truth with a dagger.'

'True. True talk,' said Kim solemnly. 'Fools speak of a cat when a woman
is brought to bed, for instance. I have heard them.'

'Therefore, in one situate as thou art, it particularly behoves thee to
remember this with both kinds of faces. Among Sahibs, never forgetting
thou art a Sahib; among the folk of Hind, always remembering thou art--'
he paused, with a puzzled smile.

'What am I? Mussalman, Hindu, Jain, or Buddhist? That is a hard nut.'

'Thou art beyond question an unbeliever, and therefore thou wilt be
damned. So says my Law--or I think it does. But thou art also my Little
Friend of all the World, and I love thee. So says my heart. This matter
of creeds is like horseflesh. The wise man knows horses are good--that
there is a profit to be made from all; and for myself--but that I am a
good Sunni and hate the men of Tirah--I could believe the same of all
the Faiths. Now manifestly a Kattiawar mare taken from the sands of her
birthplace and removed to the west of Bengal founders--nor is even a
Balkh stallion (and there are no better horses than those of Balkh, were
they not so heavy in the shoulder) of any account in the great Northern
deserts beside the snow-camels I have seen. Therefore I say in my heart
the Faiths are like the horses. Each has merit in its own country.'

'But my lama said altogether a different thing.'

'Oh, he is an old dreamer of dreams from Bhotiyal. My heart is a little
angry, Friend of all the World, that thou shouldst see such worth in a
man so little known.'

'It is true, Hajji; but that worth do I see; and to him my heart is
drawn.'

'And his to thine, I hear. Hearts are like horses. They come and they go
against bit or spur. Shout Gul Sher Khan yonder to drive in that bay
stallion's pickets more firmly. We do not want a horse-fight at every
resting-stage, and the dun and the black will be locked in a little. . . .
Now hear me. Is it necessary to the comfort of thy heart to see that
lama?'

'It is one part of my bond,' said Kim. 'If I do not see him, and if he
is taken from me, I will go out of that madrissah in Nucklao and,
and--once gone, who is to find me again?'

'It is true. Never was colt held on a lighter heel-rope than thou.'
Mahbub nodded his head.

'Do not be afraid.' Kim spoke as though he could have evanished on the
moment. 'My lama has said that he will come to see me at the
madrissah--'

'A beggar and his bowl in the presence of those young Sa--'

'Not all!' Kim cut in with a snort. 'Their eyes are blued and their
nails are blackened with low-caste blood, many of them. Sons of
metheeranees--brothers-in-law to the bhungi' (sweeper).

We need not follow the rest of the pedigree; but Kim made his little
point clearly and without heat, chewing a piece of sugar-cane the while.

'Friend of all the World,' said Mahbub, pushing over the pipe for the
boy to clean, 'I have met many men, women, and boys, and not a few
Sahibs. I have never in all my days met such an imp as thou art.'

'And why? When I always tell thee the truth.'

'Perhaps the very reason, for this is a world of danger to honest men.'
Mahbub Ali hauled himself off the ground, girt in his belt, and went
over to the horses.

'Or sell it?'

There was that in the tone that made Mahbub halt and turn. 'What new
devilry?'

'Eight annas, and I will tell,' said Kim, grinning. 'It touches thy
peace.'

'O Shaitan!' Mahbub gave the money.

'Rememberest thou the little business of the thieves in the dark, down
yonder at Umballa?'

'Seeing they sought my life, I have not altogether forgotten. Why?'

'Rememberest thou the Kashmir Serai?'

'I will twist thy ears in a moment--Sahib.'

'No need--Pathan. Only, the second faquir, whom the Sahibs beat
senseless, was the man who came to search thy bulkhead at Lahore. I saw
his face as they helped him on the engine. The very same man.'

'Why didst thou not tell before?'

'Oh, he will go to jail, and be safe for some years. There is no need to
tell more than is necessary at any one time. Besides, I did not then
need money for sweetmeats.'

'Allah Karim!' said Mahbub Ali. 'Wilt thou some day sell my head for a
few sweetmeats if the fit takes thee?'

       *       *       *       *       *

Kim will remember till he dies that long, lazy journey from Umballa,
through Kalka and the Pinjore Gardens near by, up to Simla. A sudden
spate in the Gugger River swept down one horse (the most valuable, be
sure), and nearly drowned Kim among the dancing boulders. Farther up the
road the horses were stampeded by a Government elephant, and being in
high condition of grass food, it cost a day and a half to get them
together again. Then they met Sikandar Khan coming down with a few
unsaleable screws,--remnants of his string,--and Mahbub, who has more of
horse-coping in his little finger nail than Sikandar Khan in all his
tents, must needs buy two of the worst, and that meant eight hours'
laborious diplomacy and untold tobacco. But it was all pure delight--the
wandering road, climbing, dipping, and sweeping about the growing spurs;
the flush of the morning laid along the distant snows; the branched
cacti, tier upon tier on the stony hillsides; the voices of a thousand
water-channels; the chatter of the monkeys; the solemn deodars, climbing
one after another with down-drooped branches; the vista of the Plains
rolled out far beneath them; the incessant twanging of the tonga-horns
and the wild rush of the led horses when a tonga swung round a curve;
the halts for prayers (Mahbub was very religious in dry-washings and
bellowings when time did not press); the evening conferences by the
halting-places, when camels and bullocks chewed solemnly together and
the stolid drivers told the news of the Road--all these things lifted
Kim's heart to song within him.

'But, when the singing and dancing is done,' said Mahbub Ali, 'comes the
Colonel Sahib's, and that is not so sweet.'

'A fair land--a most beautiful land is this of Hind--and the land of the
Five Rivers is fairer than all,' Kim half chanted. 'Into it I will go
again if Mahbub Ali or the Colonel lift hand or foot against me. Once
gone, who shall find me? Look, Hajji, is yonder the city of Simla?
Allah, what a city!'

'My father's brother, and he was an old man when Mackerson Sahib's well
was new at Peshawur, could recall when there were but two houses in it.'

He led the horses below the main road into the lower Simla bazar--the
crowded rabbit-warren that climbs up from the valley to the town-hall at
an angle of forty-five. A man who knows his way there can defy all the
police of India's summer capital; so cunningly does veranda communicate
with veranda, alley-way with alley-way, and bolt-hole with bolt-hole.
Here live those who minister to the wants of the glad city--jhampanis
who pull the pretty ladies' rickshaws by night and gamble till the dawn;
grocers, oil-sellers, curio-vendors, firewood dealers, priests,
pickpockets, and native employees of the Government: here are discussed
by courtesans the things which are supposed to be profoundest secrets of
the India Council; and here gather all the sub-sub-agents of half the
native States. Here, too, Mahbub Ali rented a room, much more securely
locked than his bulkhead at Lahore, in the house of a Mohammedan
cattle-dealer. It was a place of miracles, too, for there went in at
twilight a Mohammedan horse-boy, and there came out an hour later a
Eurasian lad--the Lucknow girl's dye was of the best--in badly fitting
shop-clothes.

'I have spoken with Creighton Sahib,' quoth Mahbub Ali, 'and a second
time has the Hand of Friendship averted the Whip of Calamity. He says
that thou hast altogether wasted sixty days upon the Road, and it is too
late, therefore, to send thee to any hill-school.'

'I have said that my holidays are my own. I do not go to school twice
over. That is one part of my bond.'

'The Colonel Sahib is not yet aware of the contract. Thou art to lodge
in Lurgan Sahib's house till it is time to go again to Nucklao.'

'I had sooner lodge with thee, Mahbub.'

'Thou dost not know the honour. Lurgan Sahib himself asked for thee.
Thou wilt go up the hill and along the road atop, and there thou must
forget for a while that thou hast ever seen or spoken to me, Mahbub Ali,
who sells horses to Creighton Sahib, whom thou dost not know. Remember
this order.'

Kim nodded. 'Good,' said he, 'and who is Lurgan Sahib? Nay'--he caught
Mahbub's sword-keen glance 'indeed I have never heard his name. Is he by
chance'--he lowered his voice--'one of us?'

'What talk is this of us, Sahib?' Mahbub Ali returned, in the tone he
used towards Europeans. 'I am a Pathan; thou art a Sahib and the son of
a Sahib. Lurgan Sahib has a shop among the European shops. All Simla
knows it. Ask there . . . and, Friend of all the World, he is one to be
obeyed to the last wink of his eyelashes. Men say he does magic, but
that should not touch thee. Go up the hill and ask. Here begins the
Great Game.'



CHAPTER IX

          S'doaks was son of Yelth the wise--
            Chief of the Raven clan.
          Itswoot the Bear had him in care
            To make him a medicine-man.

          He was quick and quicker to learn--
            Bold and bolder to dare:
          He danced the dread Kloo-Kwallie Dance
            To tickle Itswoot the Bear!
                                   'Oregon Legend.'


KIM flung himself whole-heartedly upon the next turn of the wheel. He
would be a Sahib again for a while. In that idea, so soon as he had
reached the broad road under Simla town-hall, he cast about for one to
impress. A Hindu child, some ten years old, squatted under a lamp-post.

'Where is Mr. Lurgan's house?' demanded Kim.

'I do not understand English,' was the answer, and Kim shifted his
speech accordingly.

'I will show.'

Together they set off through the mysterious dusk, full of the noises of
a city below the hillside, and the breath of a cool wind in
deodar-crowned Jakko, shouldering the stars. The house-lights, scattered
on every level, made, as it were, a double firmament. Some were fixed,
others belonged to the rickshaws of the careless, open-spoken English
folk, going out to dinner.

'It is here,' said Kim's guide, and halted in a veranda flush with the
main road. No door stayed them, but a curtain of beaded reeds that split
up the lamp-light beyond.

'He is come,' said the boy, in a voice little louder than a sigh, and
vanished. Kim felt sure that the boy had been posted to guide him from
the first, but putting a bold face on it, parted the curtain. A
black-bearded man, with a green shade over his eyes, sat at a table,
and, one by one, with short, white hands, picked up globules of light
from a tray before him, threaded them on a glancing silken string, and
hummed to himself the while. Kim was conscious that beyond the circle of
light the room was full of things that smelt like all the temples of all
the East. A whiff of musk, a puff of sandal-wood, and a breath of sickly
jessamine-oil caught his opened nostrils.

'I am here,' said Kim at last, speaking in the vernacular: the smells
made him forget that he was to be a Sahib.

'Seventy-nine, eighty, eighty-one,' the man counted to himself,
stringing pearl after pearl so quickly that Kim could scarcely follow
his fingers. He slid off the green shade and looked fixedly at Kim for a
full half-minute. The pupils of the eye dilated and closed to
pin-pricks, as if at will. There was a faquir by the Taksali Gate who
had just this gift and made money by it, especially when cursing silly
women. Kim stared with interest. His disreputable friend could further
twitch his ears, almost like a goat, and Kim was disappointed that this
new man could not imitate him.

'Do not be afraid,' said Mr. Lurgan suddenly.

'Why should I fear?'

'Thou wilt sleep here to-night, and stay with me till it is time to go
again to Nucklao. It is an order.'

'It is an order,' Kim repeated. 'But where shall I sleep?'

'Here, in this room.' Lurgan Sahib waved his hand towards the darkness
behind him.

'So be it,' said Kim composedly. 'Now?'

He nodded and held the lamp above his head. As the light swept them,
there leaped out from the walls a collection of Tibetan devil-dance
masks, hanging above the fiend-embroidered draperies of those ghastly
functions--horned masks, scowling masks, and masks of idiotic terror. In
a corner, a Japanese warrior, mailed and plumed, menaced him with a
halberd, and a score of lances and khandas and kuttars gave back the
unsteady gleam. But what interested Kim more than all these things--he
had seen devil-dance masks at the Lahore Museum--was a glimpse of the
soft-eyed Hindu child who had left him in the doorway, sitting
cross-legged under the table of pearls with a little smile on his
scarlet lips.

'I think that Lurgan Sahib wishes to make me afraid. And I am sure that
the devil's brat below the table wishes to see me afraid. This place,'
he said aloud, 'is like a Wonder House. Where is my bed?'

Lurgan Sahib pointed to a native quilt in a corner by the loathsome
masks, picked up the lamp, and left the room black.

'Was that Lurgan Sahib?' Kim asked as he cuddled down. No answer. He
could hear the Hindu boy breathing, however, and, guided by the sound,
crawled across the floor, and cuffed into the darkness, crying: 'Give
answer, devil! Is this the way to lie to a Sahib?'

From the darkness he fancied he could hear the echo of a chuckle. It
could not be his soft-fleshed companion, because he was weeping. So Kim
lifted up his voice and called aloud: 'Lurgan Sahib! O Lurgan Sahib! Is
it an order that thy servant does not speak to me?'

'It is an order.' The voice came from behind him and he started.

'Very good. But remember,' he muttered, as he resought the quilt, 'I
will beat thee in the morning. I do not love Hindus.'

That was no cheerful night; the room being overfull of voices and music.
Kim was waked twice by some one calling his name. The second time he set
out in search, and ended by bruising his nose against a box that
certainly spoke with a human tongue, but in no sort of human accent. It
seemed to end in a tin trumpet and to be joined by wires to a smaller
box on the floor--so far, at least, as he could judge by touch. And the
voice, very hard and whirring, came out of the trumpet. Kim rubbed his
nose and grew furious, thinking, as usual, in Hindi.

'This with a beggar from the bazar might be good but--I am a Sahib and
the son of a Sahib and, which is twice as much more beside, a student of
Nucklao. Yess' (here he turned to English), 'a boy of St. Xavier's. Damn
Mr. Lurgan's eyes!--It is some sort of machinery like a sewing-machine.
Oh, it is a great cheek of him--we are not frightened that way at
Lucknow--No!' Then in Hindi: 'But what does he gain? He is only a
trader--I am in his shop. But Creighton Sahib is a Colonel--and I think
Creighton Sahib gave orders that it should be done. How I will beat
that Hindu in the morning! What is this?'

The trumpet-box was pouring out a string of the most elaborate abuse
that even Kim had ever heard, in a high uninterested voice, that for a
moment lifted the short hairs of his neck. When the vile thing drew
breath, Kim was reassured by the soft, sewing-machine-like whirr.

'Chup!' (be still) he cried, and again he heard a chuckle that decided
him. 'Chup--or I break your head.'

The box took no heed. Kim wrenched at the tin trumpet and something
lifted with a click. He had evidently raised a lid. If there were a
devil inside, now was its time for--he sniffed--thus did the
sewing-machines of the bazar smell. He would clean that shaitan. He
slipped off his jacket, and plunged it into the box's mouth. Something
long and round bent under the pressure, there was a whirr and the voice
stopped--as voices must if you ram a thrice-doubled coat on to the wax
cylinder and into the works of an expensive phonograph. Kim finished his
slumbers with a serene mind.

In the morning he was aware of Lurgan Sahib looking down on him.

'Oah!' said Kim, firmly resolved to cling to his Sahibdom. 'There was a
box in the night that gave me bad talk. So I stopped it. Was it your
box?'

The man held out his hand.

'Shake hands, O'Hara,' he said. 'Yes, it was my box. I keep such things
because my friends the Rajahs like them. That one is broken, but it was
cheap at the price. Yes, my friends the Kings are very fond of toys--and
so am I sometimes.'

[Illustration: Full-fleshed, heavy-haunched, bull-necked, and
deep-voiced.]

Kim looked him over out of the corners of his eyes. He was a Sahib in
that he wore Sahib's clothes; the accent of his Urdu, the intonation of
his English, showed that he was anything but a Sahib. He seemed to
understand what moved in Kim's mind ere the boy opened his mouth, and he
took no pains to explain himself as did Father Victor or the Lucknow
masters. Sweetest of all--he treated Kim as an equal on the Asiatic
side.

'I am sorry you cannot beat my boy this morning. He says he will kill
you with a knife or poison. He is jealous, so I have put him in the
corner and I shall not speak to him to-day. He has just tried to kill
me. You must help me with the breakfast. He is almost too jealous to
trust, just now.'

Now a genuine imported Sahib from England would have made a great to do
over this tale. Lurgan Sahib stated it as simply as Mahbub Ali was used
to record his little affairs in the North.

The back veranda of the shop was built out over the sheer hillside, and
they looked down into their neighbours' chimney-pots, as is the custom
of Simla. But even more than the purely Persian meal cooked by Lurgan
Sahib with his own hands, the shop fascinated Kim. The Lahore Museum was
larger, but here were more wonders--ghost-daggers and prayer-wheels from
Tibet; turquoise and raw amber necklaces; green jade bangles; curiously
packed incense-sticks in jars crusted over with raw garnets; the
devil-masks of overnight and a wall of peacock-blue draperies; gilt
figures of Buddha, and little portable lacquer altars; Russian samovars
with turquoises on the lid; egg-shell china sets in quaint octagonal
cane boxes; yellow ivory crucifixes--from Japan of all places in the
world, so Lurgan Sahib said; carpets in dusty bales, smelling
atrociously, pushed back behind torn and rotten screens of geometrical
work; Persian water-jugs for the hands after meals; dull copper
incense-burners neither Chinese nor Persian, with friezes of fantastic
devils running round them; tarnished silver belts that knotted like raw
hide; hairpins of jade, ivory, and plasma; arms of all sorts and kinds,
and a thousand other oddments were cased, or piled, or merely thrown
into the room, leaving a clear space only round the rickety deal table,
where Lurgan Sahib worked.

'Those things are nothing,' said his host, following Kim's glance. 'I
buy them because they are pretty, and sometimes I sell--if I like the
buyer's look. My work is on the table--some of it.'

It blazed in the morning light--all red and blue and green flashes,
picked out with the vicious blue-white spurt of a diamond here and
there. Kim opened his eyes.

'Oh, they are quite well, those stones. It will not hurt them to take
the sun. Besides, they are cheap. But with sick stones it is very
different.' He piled Kim's plate anew. 'There is no one but me can
doctor a sick pearl and re-blue turquoises. I grant you opals--any fool
can cure an opal--but for a sick pearl there is only me. Suppose I were
to die! Then there would be no one. . . . Oh no! You cannot do anything
with jewels. It will be quite enough if you understand a little about
the Turquoise--some day.'

He moved to the end of the veranda to refill the heavy, porous clay
water-jug from the filter.

'Do you want drink?'

Kim nodded. Lurgan Sahib, fifteen feet off, laid one hand on the jar.
Next instant, it stood at Kim's elbow, full to within half of inch of
the brim--the white cloth only showing, by a small wrinkle, where it had
slid into place.

'Wah!' said Kim in most utter amazement. 'That is magic.' Lurgan Sahib's
smile showed that the compliment had gone home.

'Throw it back.'

'It will break.'

'I say, throw it back.'

Kim pitched it at random. It fell short and crashed into fifty pieces,
while the water dripped through the rough veranda boarding.

'I said it would break.'

'All one. Look at it. Look at the largest piece.'

That lay with a sparkle of water in its curve, as it were a star on the
floor. Kim looked intently; Lurgan Sahib laid one hand gently on the
nape of the neck, stroked it twice or thrice, and whispered: 'Look! It
shall come to life again, piece by piece. First the big piece shall join
itself to two others on the right and the left--on the right and the
left. Look!'

To save his life, Kim could not have turned his head. The light touch
held him as in a vise, and his blood tingled pleasantly through him.
There was one large piece of the jar where there had been three, and
above them the shadowy outline of the entire vessel. He could see the
veranda through it, but it was thickening and darkening with each beat
of his pulse. Yet the jar--how slowly the thoughts came!--the jar had
been smashed before his eyes. Another wave of prickling fire raced down
his neck, as Lurgan Sahib moved his hand.

'Look! It is coming into shape,' said Lurgan Sahib.

So far Kim had been thinking in Hindi, but a tremor came on him, and
with an effort like that of a swimmer before sharks, who hurls himself
half out of the water, his mind leaped up from a darkness that was
swallowing it and took refuge in--the multiplication-table in English!

'Look! It is coming into shape,' whispered Lurgan Sahib.

The jar had been smashed--yess, smashed--not the native word, he would
not think of that--but smashed--into fifty pieces, and twice three was
six, and thrice three was nine, and four times three was twelve. He
clung desperately to the repetition. The shadow-outline of the jar
cleared like a mist after rubbing eyes. There were the broken shards;
there was, the spilt water drying in the sun, and through the cracks of
the veranda showed, all ribbed, the white house-wall below--and thrice
twelve was thirty-six!

'Look! Is it coming into shape?' asked Lurgan Sahib.

'But it is smashed--smashed,' he gasped--Lurgan Sahib had been muttering
softly for the last half-minute. Kim wrenched his head aside. 'Look!
Dekho! It is there as it was there.'

'It is there as it was there,' said Lurgan, watching Kim closely while
the boy rubbed his neck. 'But you are the first of a many who have ever
seen it so.' He wiped his broad forehead.

'Was that more magic?' Kim asked suspiciously. The tingle had gone from
his veins; he felt unusually wide awake.

'No, that was not magic. It was only to see if there was--a flaw in a
jewel. Sometimes very fine jewels will fly all to pieces if a man holds
them in his hand, and knows the proper way. That is why one must be
careful before one sets them. Tell me, did you see the shape of the
pot?'

'For a little time. It began to grow like a flower from the ground.'

'And then what did you do? I mean, how did you think?'

'Oah! I knew it was broken, and so, I think, that was what I
thought--and it was broken.'

'Hm! Has any one ever done that same sort of magic to you before?'

'If it was,' said Kim, 'do you think I should let it again? I should run
away.'

'And now you are not afraid--eh?'

'Not now.'

Lurgan Sahib looked at him more closely than ever. 'I shall ask Mahbub
Ali--not now, but some day later,' he muttered. 'I am pleased with
you--yes; and I am pleased with you--no. You are the first that ever
saved himself. I wish I knew what it was that . . . But you are right.
You should not tell that--not even to me.'

He turned into the dusky gloom of the shop, and sat down at the table,
rubbing his hands softly. A small, husky sob came from behind a pile of
carpets. It was the Hindu child obediently facing towards the wall: his
thin shoulders worked with grief.

'Ah! He is jealous, so jealous. I wonder if he will try to poison me
again in my breakfast, and make me cook it twice.'

'Kubbee--kubbee nahin,' came the broken answer.

'And whether he will kill this other boy?'

'Kubbee--kubbee nahin' (never--never. No!).

'What do you think he will do?' He turned suddenly on Kim.

'Oah! I do not know. Let him go, perhaps. Why did he want to poison
you?'

'Because he is so fond of me. Suppose you were fond of some one, and you
saw some one come, and the man you were fond of was more pleased with
him than he was with you, what would you do?'

Kim thought. Lurgan repeated the sentence slowly in the vernacular.

'I should not poison that man,' said Kim reflectively, 'but I should
beat that boy--if that boy was fond of my man. But first I would ask
that boy if it were true.'

'Ah! He thinks every one must be fond of me.'

'Then I think he is a fool.'

'Hearest thou?' said Lurgan Sahib to the shaking shoulders. 'The Sahib's
son thinks thou art a little fool. Come out, and next time thy heart is
troubled, do not try white arsenic quite so openly. Surely the Devil
Dasim was lord of our table-cloth that day! It might have made me ill,
child, and then a stranger would have guarded the jewels. Come!'

The child, heavy-eyed with much weeping, crept out from behind the bale
and flung himself passionately at Lurgan Sahib's feet, with an
extravagance of remorse that impressed even Kim.

'I will look into the ink-pools--I will faithfully guard the jewels! Oh,
my father and my mother, send him away!' He indicated Kim with a
backward jerk of his bare heel.

'Not yet--not yet. In a little while he will go away again. But now he
is at school--at a new madrissah--and thou shalt be his teacher. Play
the Play of the Jewels against him. I will keep tally.'

The child dried his tears at once, and dashed to the back of the shop,
whence he returned with a copper tray.

'Give me!' he said to Lurgan Sahib. 'Let them come from thy hand, for he
may say that I knew them before.'

'Gently--gently,' the man replied, and from a drawer under the table
dealt a half handful of clattering trifles into the tray.

'Now,' said the child, waving an old newspaper. 'Look on them as long as
thou wilt, stranger. Count and, if need be, handle. One look is enough
for me.' He turned his back proudly.

'But what is the game?'

'When thou hast counted and handled and art sure that thou canst
remember them all, I cover them with this paper, and thou must tell over
the tally to Lurgan Sahib. I will write mine.'

'Oah!' The instinct of competition waked in his breast. He bent over the
tray. There were but fifteen stones on it. 'That is easy,' he said after
a minute. The child slipped the paper over the winking jewels and
scribbled in a native account-book.

'There are under that paper five blue stones--one big, one smaller, and
three small,' said Kim, all in haste. 'There are four green stones, and
one with a hole in it; there is one yellow stone that I can see through,
and one like a pipe-stem. There are two red stones, and--and--I made the
count fifteen, but two I have forgotten. No! Give me time. One was of
ivory, little and brownish; and--and--give me time . . .'

'One--two'--Lurgan Sahib counted him out up to ten. Kim shook his head.

'Hear my count!' the child burst in, trilling with laughter. 'First, are
two flawed sapphires--one of two ruttees and one of four as I should
judge. The four-ruttee sapphire is chipped at the edge. There is one
Turkestan turquoise, plain with black veins, and there are two
inscribed--one with a Name of God in gilt, and the other being cracked
across, for it came out of an old ring, I cannot read. We have now all
five blue stones. Four flawed emeralds there are, but one is drilled in
two places, and one is a little carven--'

'Their weights?' said Lurgan Sahib impassively.

'Three--five--five--and four ruttees as I judge it. There is one piece
of old greenish pipe amber, and a cut topaz from Europe. There is one
ruby of Burma, of two ruttees, without a flaw, and there is a
balas-ruby, flawed, of two ruttees. There is a carved ivory from China
representing a rat sucking an egg; and there is last--ah ha!--a ball of
crystal as big as a bean set in a gold leaf.'

He clapped his hands at the close.

'He is thy master,' said Lurgan Sahib, smiling.

'Huh! He knew the names of the stones,' said Kim, flushing. 'Try again!
With common things such as he and I both know.'

They heaped the tray again with odds and ends gathered from the shop,
and even the kitchen, and every time the child won, till Kim marvelled.

'Bind my eyes--let me feel once with my fingers, and even then I will
leave thee open-eyed behind,' he challenged.

Kim stamped with vexation when the lad made his boast good.

'If it were men--or horses,' he said, 'I could do better. This playing
with tweezers and knives and scissors is too little.'

'Learn first--teach later,' said Lurgan Sahib. 'Is he thy master?'

'Truly. But how is it done?'

'By doing it many times over till it is done perfectly--for it is worth
doing.'

The Hindu boy, in highest feather, actually patted Kim on the back.

'Do not despair,' he said. 'I myself will teach thee.'

'And I will see that thou art well taught,' said Lurgan Sahib, still
speaking in the vernacular, 'for except my boy here--it was foolish of
him, to buy so much white arsenic when, if he had asked, I could have
given it--except my boy here I have not in a long time met with one
better worth teaching. And there are ten days more ere thou canst return
to Lucknow where they teach nothing--at the long price. We shall, I
think, be friends.'

They were a most mad ten days, but Kim enjoyed himself too much to
reflect on their craziness. In the morning they played the Jewel
Game--sometimes with veritable stones, sometimes with piles of swords
and daggers, sometimes with photographs of natives. Through the
afternoons he and the Hindu boy would mount guard in the shop, sitting
dumb behind a carpet-bale or a screen and watching Mr. Lurgan's many and
very curious visitors. There were small Rajahs, escorts coughing in the
veranda, who came to buy curiosities--such as phonographs and mechanical
toys. There were ladies in search of necklaces, and men, it seemed to
Kim--but his mind may have been vitiated by early training--in search of
the ladies; natives from independent and feudatory courts whose
ostensible business, was the repair of broken necklaces--rivers of light
poured out upon the table--but whose true end seemed to be to raise
money for angry Maharanees or young Rajahs. There were Babus to whom
Lurgan Sahib talked with austerity and authority, but at the end of each
interview he gave them money in coined silver and currency notes. There
were occasional gatherings of long-coated theatrical natives who
discussed metaphysics in English and Bengali, to Mr. Lurgan's great
edification. He was always interested in religions. At the end of the
day, Kim and the Hindu boy--whose name varied at Lurgan's pleasure--were
expected to give a detailed account of all that they had seen and
heard--their view of each man's character, as shown in his face, talk,
and manner, and their notions of his real errand. After dinner, Lurgan
Sahib's fancy turned more to what might be called dressing-up, in which
game he took a most informing interest. He could paint faces to a
marvel; with a brush-dab here and a line there changing them past
recognition. The shop was full of all manner of dresses and turbans, and
Kim was apparelled variously as a young Mohammedan of good family, an
oilman, and once--which was a joyous evening--as the son of an Oudh
landholder in the fullest of full dress. Lurgan Sahib had a hawk's eye
to detect the least flaw in the make-up; and lying on a worn teak-wood
couch, would explain by the half-hour together how such and such a caste
talked, or walked, or coughed, or spat, or sneezed, and, since 'hows'
matter little in this world, the 'why' of everything. The Hindu child
played this game clumsily. That little mind, keen as an icicle where
tally of jewels was concerned, could not temper itself to enter
another's soul; but a demon in Kim woke up and sang with joy as he put
on the changing dresses, and changed speech and gesture therewith.

Carried away by enthusiasm, he volunteered to show Lurgan Sahib one
evening how the disciples of a certain caste of faquir, old Lahore
acquaintances, begged doles by the roadside; and what sort of language
he would use to an Englishman, to a Punjabi farmer going to a fair, and
to a woman without a veil. Lurgan Sahib laughed immensely, and begged
Kim to stay as he was, immobile for half an hour--cross-legged,
ash-smeared, and wild-eyed, in the back room. At the end of that time
entered a hulking, obese Babu whose stockinged legs shook with fat, and
Kim opened on him with a shower of wayside chaff. Lurgan Sahib--this
annoyed Kim--watched the Babu and not the play.

'I think,' said the Babu heavily, lighting a cigarette, 'I am of
opeenion that it is most extraordinary and effeecient performance.
Except that you had told me I should have opined that--that--that you
were pulling my legs. How soon can he become approximately effeecient
chain-man? Because then I shall indent for him.'

'That is what he must learn at Lucknow.'

'Then order him to be jolly dam-quick. Good-night, Lurgan.' The Babu
swung out with the gait of a bogged cow.

When they were telling over the day's list of visitors, Lurgan Sahib
asked Kim who he thought the man might be.

'God knows!' said Kim cheerily. The tone might almost have deceived
Mahbub Ali, but it failed entirely with the healer of sick pearls.

'That is true. God, He knows; but I wish to know what you think.'

Kim glanced sideways at his companion, whose eye had a way of compelling
truth.

'I--I think he will want me when I come from the school,
but'--confidentially, as Lurgan Sahib nodded approval--'I do not
understand how he can wear many dresses and talk many tongues.'

'Thou wilt understand many things later. He is a writer of tales for a
certain Colonel. His honour is great only in Simla, and it is noticeable
that he has no name, but only a number and a letter--that is a custom
among us.'

'And is there a price upon his head too--as upon Mah--all the others?'

'Not yet; but if a boy rose up who is now sitting here and went--look,
the door is open!--as far as a certain house with a red-painted veranda,
behind that which was the old theatre in the Lower Bazar, and whispered
through the shutters: "Hurree Chunder Mookerjee bore the bad news of
last month," that boy might take away a belt full of rupees.'

'How many?' said Kim promptly.

'Five hundred--a thousand--as many as he might ask for.'

'Good. And how long might such a boy live after the news was told?' He
smiled merrily at Lurgan Sahib's very beard.

'Ah! That is to be well thought of. Perhaps if he were very clever, he
might live out the day--but not the night. By no means the night.'

'Then what is the Babu's pay if so much is put upon his head?'

'Eighty--perhaps a hundred--perhaps a hundred and fifty rupees; but the
pay is the least part of the work. From time to time, God causes men to
be born--and thou art one of them--who have a lust to go abroad at the
risk of their lives and discover news--to-day it may be of far-off
things, to-morrow of some hidden mountain, and the next day of some
near-by men who have done a foolishness against the State. These souls
are very few; and of these few, not more than ten are of the best. Among
these ten I count the Babu, and that is curious. How great therefore and
desirable must be a business that brazens the heart of a Bengali!'

'True. But the days go slowly for me. I am yet a boy, and it is only
within two months I learned to write Angrezi. Even now I cannot read it
well. And there are yet years and years and long years before I can be
even a chain-man.'

'Have patience, Friend of all the World'--Kim started at the title.
'Would I had a few of the years that so irk thee. I have proved thee in
several small ways. This will not be forgotten when I make my report to
the Colonel Sahib.' Then, changing suddenly into English with a deep
laugh:--

'By Jove! O'Hara, I think there is a great deal in you; but you must not
become proud and you must not talk. You must go back to Lucknow and be a
good little boy and mind your book, as the English say, and perhaps,
next holidays if you care, you can come back to me!' Kim's face fell.
'Oh, I mean if you like. I know where you want to go.'

Four days later a seat was booked for Kim and his small trunk at the
rear of a Kalka tonga. His companion was the whale-like Babu, who, with
a fringed shawl wrapped round his head, and his fat openwork-stockinged
left leg tucked under him, shivered and grunted in the morning chill.

'How comes it that this man is one of us?' thought Kim, considering the
jelly-back as they jolted down the road; and the reflection threw him
into most pleasant day-dreams. Lurgan Sahib had given him five rupees--a
splendid sum--as well as the assurance of his protection if he worked.
Unlike Mahbub, Lurgan Sahib had spoken most explicitly of the reward
that would follow obedience, and Kim was content. If only, like the
Babu, he could enjoy the dignity of a letter and a number--and a price
upon his head! Some day he would be all that and more. Some day he might
be almost as great as Mahbub Ali! The housetops of his search should be
half India; he would follow Kings and ministers, as in the old days he
had followed vakils and lawyers' touts across Lahore city for Mahbub
Ali's sake. Meantime, there was the present, and not at all unpleasant,
fact of St. Xavier's immediately before him. There would be new boys to
condescend to, and there would be tales of holiday adventures to hear.
Young Martin, son of the tea-planter at Manipur, had boasted that he
would go to war, with a rifle, against the head-hunters. That might be,
but it was certain young Martin had not been blown half across the
forecourt of a Patiala palace by an explosion of fireworks; nor had
he. . . . Kim fell to telling himself the story of his own adventures
through the last three months. He could paralyse St. Xavier's--even the
biggest boys who shaved--with the recital, were that permitted. But it
was, of course, out of the question. There would be a price upon his
head in good time, as Lurgan Sahib had assured him; and if he talked
foolishly now, not only would that price never be set, but Colonel
Creighton would cast him off--and he would be left to the wrath of
Lurgan Sahib and Mahbub Ali--for the short space of life that would
remain to him.

'So I should lose Delhi for the sake of a fish,' was his proverbial
philosophy. It behoved him to forget his holidays (there would always
remain the fun of inventing imaginary adventures) and, as Lurgan Sahib
had said, to work.

Of all the boys hurrying back to St. Xavier's, from Sukkur in the sands
to Galle beneath the palms, none was so filled with virtue as Kimball
O'Hara, jiggeting down to Umballa behind Hurree Chunder Mookerjee, whose
name on the books of one section of the Ethnological Survey was R.17.

And if additional spur were needed, the Babu supplied it. After a huge
meal at Kalka, he spoke uninterruptedly. Was Kim going to school? Then
he, an M. A. of Calcutta University, would explain the advantages of
education. There were marks to be gained by due attention to Latin and
Wordsworth's 'Excursion' (all this was Greek to Kim). French, too, was
vital, and the best was to be picked up in Chandernagore, a few miles
from Calcutta. Also a man might go far, as he himself had done, by
strict attention to plays called 'Lear' and 'Julius Caesar,' both much
in demand by examiners. 'Lear' was not so full of historical allusions
as 'Julius Caesar'; the book cost four annas, but could be bought
second-hand in Bow Bazar for two. Still more important than Wordsworth,
or the eminent authors, Burke and Hare, was the art and science of
mensuration. A boy who had passed his examination in these
branches--for which, by the way, there were no cram-books--could, by
merely marching over a country with a compass and a level and a straight
eye, carry away a picture of that country which might be sold for large
sums in coined silver. But as it was occasionally inexpedient to carry
about measuring-chains, a boy would do well to know the precise length
of his own foot-pace, so that when he was deprived of what Hurree
Chunder called 'adventitious aids' he might still tread his distances.
To keep count of thousands of paces, Hurree Chunder's experience had
shown him nothing more valuable than a rosary of eighty-one or a hundred
and eight beads, for 'it was divisible and sub-divisible into many
multiples and sub-multiples.' Through the volleying drifts of English,
Kim caught the general trend of the talk, and it interested him very
much. Here was a new craft that a man could tuck away in his head; and
by the look of the large wide world unfolding itself before him, it
seemed that the more a man knew the better for him.

[Illustration: 'I am the woman of Shamlegh.']

Said the Babu when he had talked for an hour and a half, 'I hope some
day to enjoy your offeecial acquaintance. Ad interim, if I may be
pardoned that expression, I shall give you this betel-box which is
highly valuable article and cost me two rupees only four years ago.' It
was a cheap, heart-shaped brass thing with three compartments for
carrying the eternal betel-nut, lime and pan-leaf; but it was filled
with little tabloid-bottles. 'That is reward of merit for your
performance in character of that holy man. You see, you are so young you
think you will last for ever and not take care of your body. It is great
nuisance to go sick in the middle of business. I am fond of drugs
myself, and they are handy to cure poor people too. These are good
departmental drugs--quinine and so on. I give it you for souvenir. Now
good-bye. I have urgent private business here by the roadside.'

He slipped out noiselessly as a cat, on the Umballa road, hailed a
passing ekka and jingled away, while Kim, tongue-tied, twiddled the
brass betel-box in his hands.

       *       *       *       *       *

The record of a boy's education interests few save his parents, and, as
you know, Kim was an orphan. It is written in the books of St. Xavier in
Partibus that a report of Kim's progress was forwarded at the end of
each term to Colonel Creighton and to Father Victor, from whose hands
duly came the money for his schooling. It is further recorded in the
same books that he showed a great aptitude for mathematical studies as
well as map-making, and carried away a prize ('The Life of Lord
Lawrence,' tree-calf, two vols., nine rupees, eight annas) for
proficiency therein; and the same term played in St. Xavier's eleven
against the Allyghur Mohammedan College, his age being fourteen years
and ten months. He was also re-vaccinated (from which we may assume that
there had been another epidemic of small-pox at Lucknow) about the same
time. Pencil notes on the edge of an old muster-roll record that he was
punished several times for 'conversing with improper persons,' and it
seems that he was once sentenced to heavy pains for 'absenting himself
for a day in the company of a street beggar.' That was when he got over
the gate and pleaded with the lama through a whole day down the banks of
the Goomtee to accompany him on the Road next holidays--for one
month--for a little week; and the lama set his face as a flint against
it, averring that the time had not yet come. Kim's business, said the
old man as they ate cakes together, was to get all the wisdom of the
Sahibs and then he would see. The hand of friendship must in some way
have averted the whip of calamity, for six weeks later Kim seems to have
passed an examination in elementary surveying 'with great credit,' his
age being fifteen years and eight months. From this date the record is
silent. His name does not appear in the year's batch of those who
entered for the subordinate Survey of India, but against it stand the
words 'removed on appointment.'

Several times in those three years, cast up at the Temple of the
Tirthankers in Benares the lama, a little thinner and a shade yellower,
if that were possible, but gentle and untainted as ever. Sometimes it
was from the South that he came--from south of Tuticorin, whence the
wonderful fire-boats go to Ceylon where are priests who know Pali;
sometimes it was from the wet green West and the thousand cotton-factory
chimneys that ring Bombay; and once from the North, where he had doubled
back eight hundred miles to talk a day with the Keeper of the Images in
the Wonder House. He would stride to his cell in the cool, cut
marble--the priests of the temple were good to the old man--wash off the
dust of travel, make prayer, and depart for Lucknow, well accustomed now
to the ways of the rail, in a third-class carriage. Returning, it was
noticeable, as his friend the Seeker pointed out to the head-priest,
that he ceased for a while to mourn the loss of his River, or to draw
wondrous pictures of the Wheel of Life, but preferred to talk of the
beauty and wisdom of a certain mysterious chela whom no man of the
temple had ever seen. Yes, he had followed the traces of the Blessed
Feet throughout all India. (The curator has still in his possession a
most marvellous account of his wanderings and meditations.) There
remained nothing more in life but to find the River of the Arrow. Yet it
was shown to him in dreams that it was a matter not to be undertaken
with any hope of success unless that seeker had with him the one chela
appointed to bring the event to a happy issue, and versed in great
wisdom---such wisdom as white-haired Keepers of Images possess. For
example (here came out the snuff-gourd, and the kindly Jain priests made
haste to be silent):--

'Long and long ago, when Devadatta was King of Benares--let all listen
to the "Jataka"!--an elephant was captured for a time by the king's
hunters and, ere he broke free, beringed with a grievous leg-iron. This
he strove to remove with hate and frenzy in his heart, and hurrying up
and down the forests, besought his brother-elephants to wrench it
asunder. One by one, with their strong trunks, they tried and failed. At
the last they gave it as their opinion that the ring was not to be
broken by any bestial power. And in a thicket, new-born, wet with the
moisture of birth, lay a day-old calf of the herd whose mother had died.
The fettered elephant, forgetting his own agony, said: "If I do not help
this suckling it will perish under our feet." So he stood above the
young thing, making his legs buttresses against the uneasily moving
herd; and he begged milk of a virtuous cow, and the calf throve, and the
ringed elephant was the calf's guide and defence. Now the days of an
elephant--let all listen to the "Jataka"!--are thirty-five years to his
full strength, and through thirty-five Rains the ringed elephant
befriended the younger, and all the while the fetter ate into the flesh.

'Then one day the young elephant saw the half-buried iron, and turning
to the elder said: "What is this?" "It is even my sorrow," said he who
had befriended him. Then that other put out his trunk and in the
twinkling of an eyelash abolished the ring, saying: "The appointed time
has come." So the virtuous elephant who had waited temperately and done
kind acts was relieved, at the appointed time, by the very calf whom he
had turned aside to cherish--let all listen to the "Jataka"!--for the
Elephant was Ananda, and the Calf that broke the ring was none other
than The Lord Himself. . . .'

Then he would shake his head benignly, and over the ever-clicking rosary
point out how free that elephant calf was from the sin of pride. He was
as humble as a chela who, seeing his master sitting in the dust outside
the Gates of Learning, overleapt the gates (though they were locked) and
took his master to his heart in the presence of the proud-stomached
city. Rich would be the reward of such a master and such a chela when
the time came for them to seek freedom together!

So did the lama speak, coming and going across India as softly as a bat.
A sharp-tongued old woman in a house among the fruit-trees behind
Saharunpore honoured him as the woman honoured the prophet, but his
chamber was by no means upon the wall. In an apartment of the forecourt
overlooked by cooing doves he would sit, while she laid aside her
useless veil and chattered of spirits and fiends of Kulu, of
grandchildren unborn, and of the free-tongued brat who had talked to her
in the resting-place. Once, too, he strayed alone from the Grand Trunk
Road below Umballa to the very village whose priest had tried to drug
him; but the kind heaven that guards lamas sent him at twilight through
the crops, absorbed and unsuspicious, to the ressaldar's door. Here was
like to have been a grave misunderstanding, for the old soldier asked
him why the Friend of the Stars had gone that way only six days before.

'That may not be,' said the lama. 'He has gone back to his own people.'

'He sat in that corner telling a hundred merry tales five nights ago,'
his host insisted. 'True, he vanished somewhat suddenly in the dawn
after foolish talk with my grand-daughter. He grows apace, but he is the
same Friend of the Stars as brought me true word of the war. Have ye
parted?'

'Yes--and No,' the lama replied. 'We--we have not altogether parted, but
the time is not ripe that we should take the Road together. He acquires
wisdom in another place. We must wait.'

'All one--but if it were not the boy how did he come to speak so
continually of thee?'

'And what said he?' asked the lama eagerly.

'Sweet words--an hundred thousand--that thou art his father and mother
and such all. Pity that he does not take the Queen's service. He is
fearless.'

This news amazed the lama, who did not then know how religiously Kim
kept to the contract made with Mahbub Ali, and perforce ratified by
Colonel Creighton. . . .

'There is no holding the young pony from the game,' said the
horse-dealer when the Colonel pointed out that vagabonding over India in
holiday time was absurd. 'If permission be refused to go and come as he
chooses, he will make light of the refusal. Then who is to catch him?
Colonel Sahib, only once in a thousand years is a horse born so well
fitted for the game as this our colt. And we need men.'



CHAPTER X

          Your tiercel's too long at hack, Sire. He's no eyass
          But a passage-hawk that footed ere we caught him,
          Dangerously free o' the air. Faith! were he mine
          (As mine's the glove he binds to for his tirings)
          I'd fly him with a make-hawk. He's in yarak
          Plumed to the very point--so manned so weathered . . .
          Give him the firmament God made him for,
          And what shall take the air of him?
                                                  --Old Play.


LURGAN SAHIB did not use as direct speech, but his advice tallied with
Mahbub's; and the upshot was good for Kim. He knew better now than to
leave Lucknow city in native garb, and if Mahbub were anywhere within
reach of a letter, it was to Mahbub's camp he headed, and made his
change under the Pathan's wary eye. Could the little Survey paint-box
that he used for map-tinting in term-time have found a tongue to tell of
holiday doings, he might have been expelled. Once Mahbub and he went
together as far as the beautiful city of Bombay, with three truck-loads
of tram-horses, and Mahbub nearly melted when Kim proposed a sail in a
dhow across the Indian Ocean to buy Gulf Arabs, which he understood from
a hanger-on of the dealer Abdul Rahman, fetched better prices than mere
Cabulis.

He dipped his hand into the dish with that great trader when Mahbub and
a few co-religionists were invited to a big Haj dinner. They came back
by way of Karachi by sea, when Kim took his first experience of
sea-sickness sitting on the fore-hatch of a coasting-steamer, well
persuaded he had been poisoned. The Babu's famous drug-box proved
useless, though Kim had restocked it at Bombay. Mahbub had business at
Quetta, and there Kim, as Mahbub admitted, earned his keep, and perhaps
a little over, by spending four curious days as scullion in the house of
a fat Commissariat sergeant, from whose office-box, in an auspicious
moment, he removed a little vellum ledger which he copied out--it seemed
to deal entirely with cattle and camel sales--by moonlight, lying behind
an outhouse, all through one hot night. Then he returned the ledger to
its place, and, at Mahbub's word, left that service unpaid, rejoining
him six miles down the road, the clean copy in his bosom.

'That soldier is a small fish,' Mahbub Ali explained, 'but in time we
shall catch the larger one. He only sells oxen at two prices--one for
himself and one for the Government--which I do not think is a sin.'

'Why could not I take away the little book and be done with it?'

'Then he would have been frightened, and he would have told his master.
Then we should miss, perhaps, a great number of new rifles which seek
their way up from Quetta to the North. The Game is so large that one
sees but a little at a time.'

'Oho!' said Kim, and held his tongue. That was in the monsoon holidays,
after he had taken the prize for mathematics. The Christmas holidays he
spent--deducting ten days for private amusements--with Lurgan Sahib,
where he sat for the most part in front of a roaring wood-fire--Jakko-road
was four feet deep in snow that year--and--the small Hindu had gone away
to be married--helped Lurgan to thread pearls. He made Kim learn whole
chapters of the Koran by heart, till he could deliver them with the very
roll and cadence of a mullah. Moreover, he told Kim the names and
properties of many native drugs, as well as the runes proper to recite
when you administer them. And in the evenings he wrote charms on
parchment--elaborate pentagrams crowned with the names of devils--Murra,
and Awan the Companion of Kings--all fantastically written in the
corners. More to the point, he advised Kim as to the care of his own
body, the cure of fever-fits, and simple remedies of the Road. A week
before it was time to go down, Colonel Creighton Sahib--this was
unfair--sent Kim a written examination-paper that concerned itself
solely with rods and chains and links and angles.

Next holidays he was out with Mahbub, and here, by the way, he nearly
died of thirst, plodding through the sand on a camel to the mysterious
city of Bikaneer, where the wells are four hundred feet deep, and lined
throughout with camel-bone. It was not an amusing trip from Kim's point
of view, because--in defiance of the contract--the Colonel ordered him
to make a map of that wild, walled city; and since Mohammedan horse-boys
and pipe-tenders are not expected to drag Survey-chains round the
capital of an independent native state, Kim was forced to pace all his
distances by means of a bead rosary. He used the compass for bearings as
occasion served--after dark chiefly, when the camels had been fed--and
by the help of his little Survey paint-box of six colour-cakes and three
brushes, he achieved something not remotely unlike the city of
Jeysalmir. Mahbub laughed a great deal, and advised him to make up a
written report as well; and in the back of the big account-book that lay
under the flap of Mahbub's pet saddle Kim fell to work.

'It must hold everything that thou hast seen or touched or considered.
Write as though the Jung-i-Lat Sahib himself had come by stealth with a
vast army outsetting to war.'

'How great an army?'

'Oh, half a lakh of men.'

'Folly! Remember how few and bad were the wells in the sand. Not a
thousand thirsty men could come near by here.'

'Then write that down--also all the old breaches in the walls--and
whence the firewood is cut--and what is the temper and disposition of
the King. I stay here till all my horses are sold. I will hire a room by
the gateway, and thou shalt be my accountant. There is a good lock to
the door.'

The report in its unmistakable St. Xavier's running script, and the
brown, yellow, and lake-daubed map, was on hand a few years ago (a
careless clerk filed it with the rough notes of E.23's second Seistan
survey), but by now the pencil characters must be almost illegible. Kim
translated it, sweating under the light of an oil-lamp, to Mahbub, the
second day of their return-journey. The Pathan rose and stooped over his
dappled saddle-bags.

'I knew it would be worthy a dress of honour, and so I made one ready,'
he said smiling. 'Were I Amir of Afghanistan (and some day we may see
him), I would fill thy mouth with gold.' He laid the garments formally
at Kim's feet. There was a gold-embroidered Peshawur turban-cap, rising
to a cone, and a big turban-cloth ending in a broad fringe of gold.
There was a Delhi embroidered waistcoat to slip over a milky-white
shirt, fastening to the right, ample and flowing; green pyjamas with
twisted silk waist-string; and that nothing might be lacking,
russia-leather slippers, smelling divinely, with arrogantly curled tips.

'Upon a Wednesday, and in the morning, to put on new clothes is
auspicious,' said Mahbub solemnly. 'But we must not forget the wicked
folk in the world. So!'

He capped all the splendour, that was taking Kim's delighted breath
away, with a mother-of-pearl, nickel-plated, self-extracting .450
revolver.

'I had thought of a smaller bore, but reflected that this takes
Government bullets. A man can always come by those--especially across
the Border. Stand up and let me look.' He clapped Kim on the shoulder.
'May you never be tired, Pathan! Oh, the hearts to be broken! Oh, the
eyes under the eyelashes, looking sideways!'

Kim turned about, pointed his toes, stretched, and felt mechanically for
the moustache that was just beginning. Then he stooped towards Mahbub's
feet to make proper acknowledgment with fluttering, quick-patting hands;
his heart too full for words. Mahbub forestalled and embraced him.

'My son,' said he, 'what need of words between us? But is not the little
gun a delight? All six cartridges come out at one twist. It is borne in
the bosom next the skin, which, as it were, keeps it oiled. Never put
it elsewhere, and please God, thou shalt some day kill a man with it.'

'Hai mai!' said Kim ruefully. 'If a Sahib kills a man he is hung in the
jail.'

'True: but one pace beyond the Border, men are wiser. Put it away; but
fill it first. Of what use is a gun unfed?'

'When I go back to the madrissah I must return it. They do not allow
little guns. Thou wilt keep it for me?'

'Son, I am wearied of that madrissah, where they take the best years of
a man to teach him what he can only learn upon the Road. The folly of
the Sahibs has neither top nor bottom. No matter. Maybe thy written
report shall save thee further bondage; and God He knows we need men
more and more in the Game.'

They marched, jaw-bound against blowing sand, across the salt desert to
Jodhpore, where Mahbub and his handsome nephew Habib-Ullah did much
trading; and then sorrowfully, in European clothes, which he was fast
outgrowing, Kim went second-class to St. Xavier's. Three weeks later,
Colonel Creighton, pricing Tibetan ghost-daggers at Lurgan's shop, faced
Mahbub Ali openly mutinous. Lurgan Sahib operated as support in reserve.

'The pony is made--finished--mouthed and paced, Sahib! From now on, day
by day, he will lose his manners if he is kept at tricks. Drop the rein
on his back and let go,' said the horse-dealer. 'We need him.'

'But he is so young, Mahbub--not more than sixteen--is he?'

'When I was fifteen, I had shot my man and begot my man, Sahib.'

'You impenitent old heathen.' Creighton turned to Lurgan. The black
beard nodded assent to the wisdom of the Afghan's dyed scarlet.

'I should have used him long ago,' said Lurgan. 'The younger the better.
That is why I always have my really valuable jewels watched by a child.
You sent him to me to try. I tried him in every way: he is the only boy
I could not make to see things.'

'In the crystal--in the ink-pool?' demanded Mahbub.

'No. Under my hand, as I told you. That has never happened before. It
means that he is strong enough--but you think it skittles, Colonel
Creighton--to make any one do anything he wants. And that is three years
ago. I have taught him a good deal since, Colonel Creighton. I think you
waste him now.'

'Hmm! Maybe you're right. But, as you know, there is no Survey work for
him at present.'

'Let him out--let him go,' Mahbub interrupted. 'Who expects any colt to
carry heavy weight at first? Let him run with the caravans like our
white camel-colts--for luck. I would take him myself, but--'

'There is a little business where he would be most useful--in the
South,' said Lurgan, with peculiar suavity, dropping his heavy blued
eyelids.

'E.23 has that in hand,' said Creighton quickly. 'He must not go down
there. Besides, he knows no Turki.'

'Only tell him the shape and the smell of the letters we want and he
will bring them back,' Lurgan insisted.

'No. That is a man's job,' said Creighton.

It was a wry-necked matter of unauthorised and incendiary correspondence
between a person who claimed to be the ultimate authority in all matters
of the Mohammedan religion throughout the world, and a younger member
of a royal house who had been brought to book for kidnapping women
within British territory. The Moslem Archbishop had been emphatic and
over-arrogant; the young prince was merely sulky at the curtailment of
his privileges, but there was no need he should continue a
correspondence which might some day compromise him. One letter indeed
had been procured, but the finder was later found dead by the roadside
in the habit of an Arab trader, as E.23, taking up the work, duly
reported.

These facts, and a few others not to be published, made both Mahbub and
Creighton shake their heads.

'Let him go out with his Red Lama,' said the horse-dealer with visible
effort. 'He is fond of the old man. He can learn his paces by the rosary
at least.'

'I have had some dealings with the old man--by letter,' said Colonel
Creighton, smiling to himself. 'Whither goes he?'

'Up and down the land, as he has these three years. He seeks a River of
Healing. God's curse upon all--' Mahbub checked himself. 'He beds down
at the Temple of the Tirthankers or at Buddh Gaya when he is in from the
Road. Then he goes to see the boy at the madrissah as we know, for the
boy was punished for it twice or thrice. He is quite mad, but a peaceful
man. I have met him. The Babu also has had dealings with him. We have
watched him for three years. Red Lamas are not so common in Hind that
one loses track.'

'Babus are very curious,' said Lurgan meditatively. 'Do you know what
Hurree Babu really wants? He wants to be made a member of the Royal
Society by taking ethnological notes. I tell you, I tell him about the
lama everything that Mahbub and the boy have told me. Hurree Babu goes
down to Benares--at his own expense, I think.'

'I don't,' said Creighton briefly. He had paid Hurree's travelling
expenses, out of a most lively curiosity to learn what the lama might
be.

'And he applies to the lama for information on lamaism, and devil
dances, and spells and charms, several times in these few years. Holy
Virgin! I could have told him all that yee-ars ago. I think Hurree Babu
is getting too old for the Road. He likes better to collect manners and
customs information. Yes, he wants to be an F. R. S.'

'Hurree thinks well of the boy, doesn't he?'

'Oh, very indeed--we have had some pleasant evenings at my little
place--but I think it would be waste to throw him away with Hurree on
the Ethnological side.'

'Not for a first experience. How does that strike you, Mahbub? Let the
boy run with the lama for six months. After that we can see. He will get
experience.'

'He has it already, Sahib--as a fish controls the water he swims in; but
for every reason it will be well to loose him from the school.'

'Very good, then,' said Creighton, half to himself. 'He can go with the
lama, and if Hurree Babu cares to keep an eye on them so much the
better. He won't lead the boy into any danger as Mahbub would.
Curious--his wish to be an F. R. S. Very human, too. He is best on the
Ethnological side--Hurree.'

No money and no preferment would have drawn Creighton from his work on
the Indian Survey, but deep in his heart also lay the ambition to write
'F. R. S.' after his name. Honours of a sort he knew could be obtained
by ingenuity and the help of friends, but, to the best of his belief,
nothing save work--papers representing a life of it--took a man into the
Society which he had bombarded for years with monographs on strange
Asiatic cults and unknown customs. Nine men out of ten would flee from a
Royal Society soiree in extremity of boredom; but Creighton was the
tenth, and at times his soul yearned for the crowded rooms in easy
London where silver-haired, bald-headed gentlemen who know nothing of
the Army move among spectroscopic experiments, the lesser plants of the
frozen tundras, electric flight-measuring machines, and apparatus for
slicing into fractional millimetres the left eye of the female mosquito.
By all right and reason, it was the Royal Geographical that should have
appealed to him, but men are as chancy as children in their choice of
playthings. So Creighton smiled, and thought the better of Hurree Babu,
moved by like desires.

He dropped the ghost-dagger and looked up at Mahbub.

'How soon can we get the colt from the stable?' said the horse-dealer,
reading his eyes.

'Hmm. If I withdraw him by order now--what will he do, think you? I have
never before assisted at the teaching of such an one.'

'He will come to me,' said Mahbub promptly. 'Lurgan Sahib and I will
prepare him for the Road.'

'So be it, then. For six months he shall run at his choice: but who will
be his sponsor?'

Lurgan slightly inclined his head. 'He will not tell anything, if that
is what you are afraid of, Colonel Creighton.'

[Illustration: He crossed his hands on his lap and smiled, as a man who
has won Salvation for himself and his beloved.]

'It's only a boy, after all.'

'Ye-es; but first, he has nothing to tell; and secondly, he knows what
would happen. Also, he is very fond of Mahbub, and of me a little.'

'Will he draw pay?' demanded the practical horse-dealer.

'Food and water allowance only. Twenty rupees a month.'

One advantage of the Secret Service is that it has no worrying audit.
The service is ludicrously starved, of course, but the funds are
administered by a few men who do not call for vouchers or present
itemised accounts. Mahbub's eyes lighted with almost a Sikh's love of
money. Even Lurgan's impassive face changed. He considered the years to
come when Kim would have been entered and made to the Great Game that
never ceases day and night, throughout India. He foresaw honour and
credit in the mouths of a chosen few, coming to him from his pupil.
Lurgan Sahib had made E.23 what E.23 was, out of a bewildered,
impertinent, lying, little North-West Province man.

But the joy of these masters was pale and smoky beside the joy of Kim
when St. Xavier's Head called him aside, with word that Colonel
Creighton had sent for him.

'I understand, O'Hara, that he has found you a place as an assistant
chain-man in the Canal Department: that comes of taking up mathematics.
It is great luck for you, for you are only seventeen; but of course you
understand that you do not become pukka (permanent) till you have passed
the autumn examination. So you must not think you are going out into the
world to enjoy yourself, or that your fortune is made. There is a great
deal of hard work before you. Only, if you succeed in becoming pukka,
you can rise, you know, to four hundred and fifty a month.' Whereat the
Principal gave him much good advice as to his conduct, and his manners,
and his morals; and others, his elders, who had not been wafted into
billets, talked, as only Anglo-Indian lads can, of favouritism and
corruption. Indeed, young Cazalet, whose father was a pensioner at
Chunar, hinted very broadly that Colonel Creighton's interest in Kim was
directly paternal; and Kim, instead of retaliating, did not even use
language. He was thinking of the immense fun to come, of Mahbub's letter
of the day before, all neatly written in English, making appointment for
that afternoon in a house the very name of which would have crisped the
Principal's hair with horror. . . .

Said Kim to Mahbub in Lucknow railway station that evening, above the
luggage-scales--'I feared lest, at the last, the roof would fall upon me
and cheat me. Is it indeed all finished, O my father?'

Mahbub snapped his fingers to show the utterness of that end, and his
eyes blazed like red coals.

'Then where is the pistol that I may wear it?'

'Softly! A half-year, to run without heel-ropes. I begged that much from
Colonel Creighton Sahib. At twenty rupees a month. Old Red Hat knows
that thou art coming.'

'I will pay thee dustoorie (commission) on my pay for three months,'
said Kim gravely. 'Yea, two rupees a month. But first we must get rid of
these.' He plucked his thin linen trousers and dragged at his collar. 'I
have brought with me all that I need on the Road. My trunk has gone up
to Lurgan Sahib's.'

'Who sends his salaams to thee--Sahib.'

'Lurgan Sahib is a very clever man. But what dost thou do?'

'I go North again, upon the Great Game. What else? Is thy mind still set
on following old Red Hat?'

'Do not forget he made me that I am--though he did not know it. Year by
year, he sent the money that taught me.'

'I would have done as much--had it struck my thick head,' Mahbub
growled. 'Come away. The lamps are lit now, and none will mark thee in
the bazar. We go to Huneefa's house.'

On the way thither, Mahbub gave him much the same sort of advice as his
mother gave to Lemuel, and curiously enough, Mahbub was exact to point
out how Huneefa and her likes destroyed kings.

'And I remember,' he quoted maliciously, 'one who said, "Trust a snake
before a harlot and a harlot before a Pathan, Mahbub Ali." Now,
excepting as to Pathans, of whom I am one, all that is true. Most true
is it in the Great Game, for it is by means of woman that all plans come
to ruin and we lie out in dawning with our throats cut. So it happened
to such a one,'--he gave the reddest particulars.

'Then why--?' Kim paused before a filthy staircase that climbed to the
warm darkness of an upper chamber in the ward that is behind Azim
Ullah's tobacco-shop. Those who know it call it The Bird-cage--it is so
full of whisperings and whistlings and chirrupings.

The room, with its dirty cushions and half-smoked hookahs, smelt
abominably of stale tobacco. In one corner lay a huge and shapeless
woman clad in greenish gauzes, and decked, brow, nose, ear, neck, wrist,
arm, waist, and ankle, with heavy native jewellery. When she turned it
was like the clashing of copper pots. A lean cat in the balcony outside
the window mewed hungrily. Kim checked, bewildered, at the door-curtain.

'Is that the new stuff, Mahbub?' said Huneefa lazily, scarce troubling
to remove the mouthpiece from her lips. 'O Buktanoos!'--like most of her
kind, she swore by the Djinns--'O Buktanoos! He is very good to look
upon.'

'That is part of the selling of the horse,' Mahbub explained to Kim, who
laughed.

'I have heard that talk since my Sixth Day,' he replied, squatting by
the light. 'Whither does it lead?'

'To protection. To-night we change thy colour. This sleeping under roofs
has blanched thee like an almond. But Huneefa has the secret of a colour
that catches. No painting of a day or two. Also, we fortify thee against
the chances of the Road. That is my gift to thee, my son. Take out all
metals on thee and lay them here. Make ready, Huneefa.'

Kim dragged forth his compass, Survey paint-box, and the new-filled
medicine-box. They had all accompanied his travels, and boy-like he
valued them immensely.

The woman rose slowly and moved with her hands a little spread before
her. Then Kim saw that she was blind. 'No, no,' she muttered, 'the
Pathan speaks truth--my colour does not go in a week or a month, and
those whom I protect are under strong guard.'

'When one is far off and alone, it would not be well to grow blotched
and leprous of a sudden,' said Mahbub. 'When thou wast with me I could
oversee the matter. Besides, a Pathan is a fair-skin. Strip to the waist
now and look how thou art whitened.' Huneefa felt her way back from an
inner room. 'It is no matter, she cannot see.' He took a pewter bowl
from her ringed hand.

The dye-stuff showed blue and gummy. Kim experimented on the back of his
wrist, with a dab of cotton wool; but Huneefa heard him.

'No, no,' she cried, 'the thing is not done thus, but with the proper
ceremonies. The colouring is the least part. I give thee the full
protection of the Road.'

'Jadoo?' (magic), said Kim, with a half start. He did not like the
white, sightless eyes. Mahbub's hand on his neck bowed him to the floor,
nose within an inch of the boards.

'Be still. No harm comes to thee, my son. I am thy sacrifice!'

He could not see what the woman was about, but heard the clish-clash of
her jewellery for many minutes. A match lit up the darkness; he caught
the well-known purr and fizzle of grains of incense. Then the room
filled with smoke--heavy, aromatic, and stupefying. Through growing
drowse he heard the names of devils--of Zulbazan, Son of Eblis, who
lives in bazars and paraos, making all the sudden lewd wickedness of
wayside halts; of Dulhan, invisible about mosques, the dweller among the
slippers of the Faithful, who hinders folk from their prayers; and
Musboot, Lord of lies and panic. Huneefa, now whispering in his ear, now
talking as from an immense distance, touched him with horrible soft
fingers, but Mahbub's grip never shifted from his neck till, relaxing
with a sigh, the boy lost his senses.

'Allah! How he fought! We should never have done it but for the drugs.
That was his White blood, I take it,' said Mahbub testily. 'Go on with
the dawut (invocation). Give him full Protection.'

'O Hearer! Thou that hearest with ears, be present. Listen, O Hearer!'
Huneefa moaned, her dead eyes turned to the west. The dark room filled
with moanings and snortings.

From the outer balcony, a ponderous figure raised a round bullet head
and coughed nervously.

'Do not interrupt this ventriloquial necromanciss, my friend,' it said
in English. 'I opine that it is very disturbing to you, but no
enlightened observer is jolly well upset.'

'. . . I will lay a plot for their ruin! O Prophet, bear with the
unbelievers. Let them alone awhile!' Huneefa's face, turned to the
northward, worked horribly, and it was as though voices from the ceiling
answered her.

Hurree Babu returned to his note-book, balanced on the window-sill, but
his hand shook. Huneefa, in some sort of drugged ecstasy, wrenched
herself to and fro as she sat cross-legged by Kim's still head, and
called upon devil after devil, in the ancient order of the ritual,
binding them to avoid the boy's every action.

'With Him are the keys of the Secret Things! None knoweth them beside
Himself. He knoweth that which is in the dry land and in the sea!' Again
broke out the unearthly whistling responses.

'I--I apprehend it is not at all malignant in its operation?' said the
Babu, watching the throat-muscles quiver and jerk as Huneefa spoke with
tongues. 'It--it is not likely that she has killed the boy? If so, I
decline to be witness at the trial. . . . What was the last hypothetical
devil mentioned?'

'Babuji,' said Mahbub in the vernacular. 'I have no regard for the
devils of Hind, but the Sons of Eblis are far otherwise, and whether
they be jumalee (well-affected) or jullalee (terrible) they love not
Kafirs.'

'Then you think I had better go?' said Hurree Babu, half rising. 'They
are, of course, dematerialised phenomena. Spencer says--'

Huneefa's crisis passed, as these things must, in a paroxysm of howling,
with a touch of froth at the lips. She lay spent and motionless beside
Kim, and the crazy voices ceased.

'Wah! That work is done. May the boy be better for it; and Huneefa is
surely a mistress of dawut. Help haul her aside, Babu. Do not be
afraid.'

'How am I to fear the absolutely non-existent?' said Hurree Babu,
talking English to reassure himself. It is an awful thing still to dread
the magic that you contemptuously investigate--to collect folk-lore for
the Royal Society with a lively belief in all Powers of Darkness.

Mahbub chuckled. He had been out with Hurree on the Road ere now. 'Let
us finish the colouring,' said he. 'The boy is well protected if--if the
Lords of the Air have ears to hear. I am a sufi (free-thinker), but when
one can get blind-sides of a woman, a stallion, or a devil, why go round
to invite a kick? Set him upon the way, Babu, and see that old Red Hat
does not lead him beyond our reach. I must get back to my horses.'

'All raight,' said Hurree Babu. 'He is at present a curious spectacle.'

       *       *       *       *       *

About third cock-crow, Kim woke after a sleep of thousands of years.
Huneefa, in her corner, snored heavily, but Mahbub was gone.

'I hope you were not frightened,' said an oily voice at his elbow. 'I
superintended entire operation, which was most interesting from
ethnological point of view. It was high-class dawut.'

'Huh!' said Kim, recognising Hurree Babu, who smiled ingratiatingly.

'And also I had honour to bring down from Lurgan your present costume. I
am not in the habit offeecially of carrying such gauds to subordinates,
but'--he giggled--'your case is noted as exceptional on the books. I
hope Mr. Lurgan will note my action.'

Kim yawned and stretched himself. It was good to turn and twist within
loose clothes once again.

'What is this?' He looked curiously at the heavy duffle-stuff loaded
with the scents of the far North.

'Oho! That is inconspicuous dress of chela attached to service of
lamaistic lama. Com-plete in every particular,' said Hurree Babu,
rolling into the balcony to clean his teeth at a goglet. 'I am of
opeenion it is not your old gentleman's precise religion, but rather
sub-variant of same. I have contributed rejected notes to "Asiatic
Quarterly Review" on these subjects. Now it is curious that the old
gentleman himself is totally devoid of religiosity. He is not a dam
particular.'

'Do you know him?'

Hurree Babu held up his hand to show he was engaged in the prescribed
rites that accompany tooth-cleaning and such things among decently bred
Bengalis. Then he recited in English an Arya-Somaj prayer of a
theistical nature, and stuffed his mouth with pan and betel.

'Oah yes. I have met him several times at Benares, and also at Buddh
Gaya, to interrogate him on religious points and devil-worship. He is
pure agnostic--same as me.'

Huneefa stirred in her sleep, and Hurree Babu jumped nervously to the
copper incense-burner, all black and discoloured in morning-light,
rubbed a finger in the accumulated lampblack, and drew it diagonally
across his face.

'Who has died in thy house?' asked Kim in the vernacular.

'None. But she may have the Evil Eye--that sorceress,' the Babu replied.

'What dost thou do now, then?'

'I will set thee on thy way to Benares, if thou goest thither, and tell
thee what must be known by Us.'

'I go. At what hour runs the te-rain?' He rose to his feet, looked round
the desolate chamber and at the yellow-wax face of Huneefa as the low
sun stole across the floor. 'Is there money to be paid that witch?'

'No. She has charmed thee against all devils and all dangers--in the
name of her devils. It was Mahbub's desire.' In English: 'He is highly
obsolete, I think, to indulge in such supersteetion. Why, it is all
ventrilo-quy. Belly-speak--eh?'

Kim snapped his fingers mechanically to avert whatever evil--Mahbub, he
knew, meditated none--might have crept in through Huneefa's
ministrations; and Hurree giggled once more. But as he crossed the room
he was careful not to step in Huneefa's blotched, squat shadow on the
boards. Witches--when their time is on them--can lay hold of the heels
of a man's soul if he does that.

'Now you must well listen,' said the Babu when they were in the fresh
air. 'Part of these ceremonies which we witnessed they include supply
of effeecient amulet to those of our Department. If you feel in your
neck you will find one small silver amulet, verree cheap. That is ours.
Do you understand?'

'Oah yes, hawa-dilli' (a heart-lifter), said Kim, feeling at his neck.

'Huneefa she makes them for two rupees twelve annas with--oh, all sorts
of exorcisms. They are quite common, except they are partially black
enamel, and there is a paper inside each one full of names of local
saints and such things. Thatt is Huneefa's look-out, you see? Huneefa
makes them onlee for us, but in case she does not, when we get them we
put in, before issue, one small piece of turquoise. Mr. Lurgan, he
gives, them. There is no other source of supply; but it was me invented
all this. It is strictly unoffeecial of course, but convenient for
subordinates. Colonel Creighton he does not know. He is European. The
turquoise is wrapped in the paper. . . . Yes, that is road to railway
station. . . . Now suppose you go with the lama, or with me, I hope,
some day, or with Mahbub. Suppose we get into a dam-tight place. I am a
fearful man--most fearful--but I tell you I have been in dam-tight
places more than hairs on my head. You say: "I am Son of the Charm."
Verree good.'

'I do not understand quite. We must not be heard talking English here.'

'That is all raight. I am only Babu showing off my English to you. All
we Babus talk English to show off,' said Hurree, flinging his
shoulder-cloth jauntily. 'As I was about to say, "Son of the Charm"
means that you may be member of the Sat Bhai--the Seven Brothers, which
is Hindi and Tantric. It is popularly supposed to be extinct society,
but I have written notes to show it is still extant. You see it is all
my invention. Verree good. Sat Bhai has many members, and perhaps before
they jolly-well-cut-your-throat they may give you just a chance for
life. That is useful, anyhow. And, moreover, these foolish natives--if
they are not too excited--they always stop to think before they kill a
man who says he belongs to any specific organisation. You see? You say
then when you are in tight place, "I am Son of the Charm," and you
get--perhaps--ah--your second wind. That is only in extreme instances,
or to open negotiations with a stranger. Can you quite see? Verree good.
But suppose now, I, or any one of the Department, come to you dressed
quite different. You would not know me at all unless I choose, I bet
you. Some day I will prove it. I come as Ladakhi trader--oh
anything--and I say to you: "You want to buy precious stones?" You say:
"Do I look like a man who buys precious stones?" Then I say: "Even
verree poor man can buy a turquoise or tarkeean."'

'That is kichree--vegetable curry,' said Kim.

'Of course it is. You say: "Let me see the tarkeean." Then I say: "It
was cooked by a woman, and perhaps it is bad for your caste." Then you
say: "There is no caste when men go to--look for tarkeean." You stop a
little between those words, "to--look." That is thee whole secret. The
little stop before the words.'

Kim repeated the test-sentence.

'That is all right. Then I will show you my turquoise if there is time,
and then you know who I am, and then we exchange views and documents and
those-all things. And so it is with any other man of us. We talk
sometimes about turquoises and sometimes about tarkeean, but always
with that little stop in the words. It is verree easy. First, "Son of
the Charm," if you are in a tight place. Perhaps that may help
you--perhaps not. Then what I have told you about the tarkeean, if you
want to transact offeecial business with a strange man. Of course, at
present, you have no offeecial business. You are--ah ha!--supernumerary
on probation. Quite unique specimen. If you were Asiatic of birth you
might be employed right off; but this half-year of leave is to make you
de-Englishised, you see? The lama, he expects you, because I have
demi-offeecially informed him you have passed all your examinations, and
will soon obtain Government appointment. Oh ho! You are on
acting-allowance you see: so if you are called upon to help Sons of the
Charm mind you jolly well try. Now I shall say good-bye, my dear fellow,
and I hope you--ah--will come out top-side all raight.'

Hurree Babu stepped back a pace or two into the crowd at the entrance of
Lucknow station and--was gone. Kim drew a deep breath and hugged himself
all over. The nickel-plated revolver he could feel in the bosom of his
sad-coloured robe, the amulet was on his neck; begging-gourd, rosary,
and ghost-dagger (Mr. Lurgan had forgotten nothing) were all to hand,
with medicine, paint-box, and compass, and in a worn old purse-belt
embroidered with porcupine quill-patterns lay a month's pay. Kings could
be no richer. He bought sweetmeats in a leaf-cup from a Hindu trader,
and ate them with glad rapture till a policeman ordered him off the
steps.



CHAPTER XI

          Give the man who is not made
              To his trade
          Swords to fling and catch again,
          Coins to ring and snatch again,
          Men to harm and cure again,
          Snakes to charm and lure again--
          He'll be hurt by his own blade,
          By his serpents disobeyed,
          By his clumsiness bewrayed,
          By the people mocked to scorn.
            So 'tis not with juggler born.
          Pinch of dust or withered flower,
            Chance-flung fruit or borrowed staff,
          Serve his need and shore his power,
            Bind the spell, or loose the laugh!
                          'But a man who, etc.,' Op. 15.


FOLLOWED a sudden natural reaction.

'Now am I alone--all alone,' he thought. 'In all India is no one so
alone as I! If I die to-day, who shall bring the news--and to whom? If I
live and God is good, there will be a price upon my head, for I am a Son
of the Charm--I, Kim.'

A very few white people, but many Asiatics, can throw themselves into a
mazement as it were by repeating their own names over and over again to
themselves, letting the mind go free upon speculation as to what is
called personal identity. When one grows older, the power, usually,
departs, but while it lasts it may descend upon a man at any moment.

'Who is Kim--Kim--Kim?'

He squatted in a corner of the clanging waiting-room, rapt from all
other thoughts; hands folded in lap, and pupils contracted to
pin-points. In a minute--in another half second--he felt he would arrive
at the solution of the tremendous puzzle; but here, as always happens,
his mind dropped away from those heights with the rush of a wounded
bird, and passing his hand before his eyes, he shook his head.

A long-haired Hindu bairagi (holy man), who had just bought a ticket,
halted before him at that moment and stared intently.

'I also have lost it,' he said sadly. 'It is one of the Gates to the
Way, but for me it has been shut many years.'

'What is the talk?' said Kim, abashed.

'Thou wast wondering there in thy spirit what manner of thing thy soul
might be. The seizure came of a sudden. I know. Who should know but I?
Whither goest thou?'

'Toward Kashi'(Benares).

'There are no Gods there. I have proved them. I go to Prayag (Allahabad)
for the fifth time--seeking the road to Enlightenment. Of what faith art
thou?'

'I too am a Seeker,' said Kim, using one of the lama's pet words.
'Though'--he forgot his Northern dress for the moment--'though Allah
alone knoweth what I seek.'

The old fellow slipped the bairagi's crutch under his armpit and sat
down on a patch of ruddy leopard's skin as Kim rose at the call for the
Benares train.

'Go in hope, little brother,' he said. 'It is a long road to the feet of
the One; but thither do we all travel.'

Kim did not feel so lonely after this, and ere he had sat out twenty
miles in the crowded compartment, was cheering his neighbours with a
string of most wonderful yarns about his own and his master's magical
gifts.

Benares struck him as a peculiarly filthy city, though it was pleasant
to find how his cloth was respected. At least one-third of the
population prays eternally to some group or other of the many million
deities, and so revere every sort of holy man. Kim was guided to the
Temple of the Tirthankers, about a mile outside the city, near Sarnath,
by a chance-met Punjabi farmer--a Kamboh from Jullundur-way who had
appealed in vain to every God of his homestead to cure his small son,
and was trying Benares as a last resort.

'Thou art from the North?' he asked, shouldering through the press of
the narrow, stinking streets much like his own pet bull at home.

'Ay, I know the Punjab. My mother was a Pahareen, but my father came
from Amritzar--by Jandiala,' said Kim, oiling his ready tongue for the
needs of the Road.

'Jandiala--Jullundur? Oho! Then we be neighbours in some sort, as it
were.' He nodded tenderly to the wailing child in his arms. 'Whom dost
thou serve?'

'A most holy man at the Temple of the Tirthankers.'

'They are all most holy and--most greedy,' said the Jat with bitterness.
'I have walked the pillars and trodden the temples till my feet are
flayed, and the child is no whit better. And the mother being sick
too. . . . Hush, then, little one. . . . We changed his name when the
fever came. We put him into girl's clothes. There was nothing we did not
do, except--I said to his mother when she bundled me off to Benares--she
should have come with me--I said Sakhi Sarwar Sultan would serve us
best. We know His generosity, but these down-country Gods are
strangers.'

The child turned on the cushion of the huge corded arms and looked at
Kim through heavy eyelids.

'And was it all worthless?' Kim asked, with easy interest.

'All worthless--all worthless,' said the child, lips cracking with
fever.

'The Gods have given him a good mind, at least,' said the father
proudly. 'To think he should have listened so cleverly. Yonder is thy
temple. Now I am a poor man,--many priests have dealt with me,--but my
son is my son, and if a gift to thy master can cure him--I am at my very
wits' end.'

Kim considered for a while, tingling with pride. Three years ago he
would have made prompt profit on the situation and gone his way without
a thought; but now, the very respect the Jat paid him proved that he was
a man. Moreover, he had tasted fever once or twice already, and knew
enough to recognise starvation when he saw it.

'Call him forth and I will give him a bond on my best yoke, so that the
child is cured.'

Kim halted at the carved outer door of the temple. A white-clad Oswal
banker from Ajmir, his sins of usury new wiped out, asked him what he
did.

'I am chela to Teshoo Lama, an Holy One from Bhotiyal--within there. He
bade me come. I wait. Tell him.'

'Do not forget the child,' cried the importunate Jat over his shoulder,
and then bellowed in Punjabi: 'O Holy One--O disciple of the Holy One--O
Gods above all the Worlds--behold affliction sitting at the gate!' That
cry is so common in Benares that the passers never turned their heads.

The Oswal, at peace with mankind, carried the message into the darkness
behind him, and the easy, uncounted Eastern minutes slid by; for the
lama was asleep in his cell, and no priest would wake him. When the
click of his rosary again broke the hush of the inner court where the
calm images of the Arhats stand, a novice whispered, 'Thy chela is
here,' and the old man strode forth, forgetting the end of that prayer.

Hardly had the tall figure shown in the doorway than the Jat ran before
him, and, lifting up the child, cried: 'Look upon this, Holy One; and if
the Gods will, he lives--he lives!'

He fumbled in his waist-belt and drew out a small silver coin.

'What is now?' The lama's eyes turned to Kim. It was noticeable he spoke
far clearer Urdu than long ago, under Zam-Zammah; but the father would
allow no private talk.

'It is no more than a fever,' said Kim. 'The child is not well fed.'

'He sickens at everything, and his mother is not here.'

'If it be permitted, I may cure, Holy One.'

'What! Have they made thee a healer? Wait here,' said the lama, and he
sat down by the Jat upon the lowest step of the temple, while Kim,
looking out of the corner of his eyes, slowly opened the little
betel-box. He had dreamed dreams at school of returning to the lama as
a Sahib--of chaffing the old man before he revealed himself--boy's
dreams all. There was more drama in this abstracted, brow-puckered
search through the tabloid-bottles, with a pause here and there for
thought and a muttered invocation between whiles. Quinine he had in
tablets, and dark brown meat-lozenges--beef most probably, but that was
not his business. The little thing would not eat, but it sucked at a
lozenge greedily, and said it liked the salt taste.

'Take then these six.' Kim handed them to the man. 'Praise the Gods, and
boil three in milk; other three in water. After he has drunk the milk
give him this (it was the half of a quinine pill), and wrap him warm.
Give him the water of the other three, and the other half of this white
pill when he wakes. Meantime, here is another brown medicine that he may
suck at on the way home.'

'Gods, what wisdom!' said the Kamboh, snatching.

It was as much as Kim could remember of his own treatment in a bout of
autumn malaria--if you except the patter that he added to impress the
lama.

'Now go! Come again in the morning.'

'But the price--the price,' said the Jat, and threw back his sturdy
shoulders. 'My son is my son. Now that he will be whole again, how shall
I go back to his mother and say I took help by the wayside and did not
even give a bowl of curds in return?'

'They are alike, these Jats,' said Kim softly. 'The Jat stood on his
dunghill and the King's elephants went by. "O driver," said he, "what
will you sell those little donkeys for?"'

The Jat burst into a roar of laughter, stifled with apologies to the
lama. 'It is the saying of my own country--the very talk of it. So
are we Jats all. I will come to-morrow with the child; and the blessing
of the Gods of the Homesteads--who are good little Gods--be on you
both. . . . Now, son, we grow strong again. Do not spit it out, little
Princeling! King of my Heart, do not spit it out, and we shall be strong
men, wrestlers and club-wielders, by morning.'

He moved away, crooning and mumbling. The lama turned to Kim, and all
the loving old soul of him looked out through his narrow eyes.

'To heal the sick is to acquire merit; but first one gets knowledge.
That was wisely done, O Friend of all the World.'

'I was made wise by thee, Holy One,' said Kim, forgetting the little
play just ended; forgetting St. Xavier's; forgetting his white blood;
forgetting even the Great Game as he stooped, Mohammedan fashion, to
touch his master's feet in the dust of the Jain temple. 'My teaching I
owe to thee. I have eaten thy bread three years. My time is finished. I
am loosed from the schools. I come to thee.'

'Herein is my reward. Enter! Enter! And is all well?' They passed to the
inner court, where the afternoon sun sloped golden across. 'Stand that I
may see. So!' He peered critically. 'It is no longer a child, but a man,
ripened in wisdom, walking as a physician. I did well--I did well when I
gave thee up to the armed men on that black night. Dost thou remember
our first day under Zam-Zammah?'

'Ay,' said Kim. 'Dost thou remember when I leapt off the carriage the
first day I went to--'

'The Gates of Learning? Truly. And the day that we ate the cakes
together at the back of the river by Nucklao. Aha! Many times hast thou
begged for me, but that day I begged for thee.'

'Good reason,' quoth Kim. 'I was then a scholar in the Gates of
Learning, and attired as a Sahib. Do not forget, Holy One,' he went on
playfully, 'I am still a Sahib--by thy favour.'

'True. And a Sahib in most high esteem. Come to my cell, chela.'

'How is that known to thee?'

The lama smiled. 'First by means of letters from the kindly priest whom
we met in the camp of armed men; but he is now gone to his own country,
and I sent the money to his brother.' Colonel Creighton, who had
succeeded to the trusteeship when Father Victor went to England with the
Mavericks, was hardly the chaplain's brother. 'But I do not well
understand Sahibs' letters. They must be interpreted to me. I chose a
surer way. Many times when I returned from my Search to this temple,
which has always been a nest to me, there came one seeking
Enlightenment--a man from Leh--that had been, he said, a Hindu, but
wearied of all those Gods.' The lama pointed to the Arhats.

'A fat man?' said Kim, a twinkle in his eye.

'Very fat; but I perceived in a little his mind was wholly given up to
useless things--such as devils and charms and the form and fashion of
our tea-drinkings in the monasteries, and by what road we initiated the
novices. A man abounding in questions; but he was a friend of thine,
chela. He told me that thou wast on the road to much honour as a scribe.
And I see thou art a physician.'

'Yes, that am I--a scribe, when I am a Sahib, but it is set aside when
I come as thy disciple. I have accomplished the years appointed for a
Sahib.'

'As it were a novice?' said the lama, nodding his head. 'Art thou freed
from the schools? I would not have thee unripe.'

'I am all free. In due time I take service under the Government as a
scribe--'

'Not as a warrior. That is well.'

'But first I come to wander--with thee. Therefore I am here. Who begs
for thee, these days?' he went on quickly. The ice was thin.

'Very often I beg myself; but, as thou knowest, I am seldom here, except
when I come to look again at my disciple. From one end to another of
Hind have I travelled afoot and in the te-rain. A great and a wonderful
land! But here, when I put in, is as though I were in my own Bhotiyal.'

He looked round the little clean cell complacently. A low cushion gave
him a seat, on which he had disposed himself in the cross-legged
attitude of the Bodhisat emerging from meditation; a black teak-wood
table, not twenty inches high, set with copper tea-cups, was before him.
In one corner stood a tiny altar, also of heavily carved teak, bearing a
copper-gilt image of the seated Buddha and fronted by a lamp, an
incense-holder, and a pair of copper flower-pots.

'The Keeper of the Images in the Wonder House acquired merit by giving
me these a year since,' he said, following Kim's eye. 'When one is far
from one's own land such things carry remembrance; and we must reverence
the Lord for that He showed the Way. See!' he pointed to a
curiously-built mound of coloured rice crowned with a fantastic metal
ornament. 'When I was abbot in my own place--before I came to better
knowledge--I made that offering daily. It is the Sacrifice of the
Universe to the Lord. Thus do we of Bhotiyal offer all the world daily
to the Excellent Law. And I do it even now, though I know that the
Excellent One is beyond all pinchings and pattings.' He snuffed from his
gourd.

'It is well done, Holy One,' Kim murmured, sinking at ease on the
cushions, very happy and rather tired.

'And also,' the old man chuckled, 'I write pictures of the Wheel of
Life. Three days to a picture. I was busied on it--or it may be I shut
my eyes a little--when they brought word of thee. It is good to have
thee here: I will show thee my art--not for pride's sake, but because
thou must learn. The Sahibs have not all this world's wisdom.'

He drew from under the table a sheet of strangely scented yellow-Chinese
paper, the brushes, and slab of India ink. In cleanest, severest outline
he had traced the Great Wheel with its six spokes, whose centre is the
conjoined Hog, Snake, and Dove (Ignorance, Anger, and Lust), and whose
compartments are all the heavens and hells, and all the chances of human
life. Men say that the Bodhisat Himself first drew it with grains of
rice upon dust, to teach His disciples the cause of things. Many ages
have crystallised it into a most wonderful convention crowded with
hundreds of little figures whose every line carries a meaning. Few can
translate the picture-parable; there are not twenty in all the world who
can draw it surely without a copy: of those who can both draw and
expound are but three.

'I have a little learned to draw,' said Kim. 'But this is a marvel
beyond marvels.'

'I have written it for many years,' said the lama. 'Time was when I
could write it all between one lamp-lighting and the next. I will teach
thee the art--after due preparation; and I will show thee the meaning of
the Wheel.'

'We take the Road, then?'

'The Road and our Search. I was but waiting for thee. It was made plain
to me in a hundred dreams--notably one that came upon the night of the
day that the Gates of Learning first shut--that without thee I should
never find my River. Again and again, as thou knowest, I put this from
me, fearing an illusion. Therefore I would not take thee with me that
day at Lucknow, when we ate the cakes. I would not take thee till the
time was ripe and auspicious. From the Hills to the Sea, from the Sea to
the Hills have I gone, but it was vain. Then I remembered the "Jataka."'

He told Kim the story of the elephant with the leg-iron, as he had told
it so often to the Jain priests.

'Further testimony is not needed,' he ended serenely. 'Thou wast sent
for an aid. That aid removed, my Search came to naught. Therefore we
will go out again together, and our Search is sure.'

'Whither go we?'

'What matters, Friend of all the World? The Search, I say, is sure. If
need be, the River will break from the ground before us. I acquired
merit when I sent thee to the Gates of Learning, and gave thee the jewel
that is Wisdom. Thou didst return, I saw even now, a follower of
Sakyamuni, the Physician, whose altars are many in Bhotiyal. It is
sufficient. We are together, and all things are as they were--Friend of
all the World--Friend of the Stars--my chela!'

Then they talked of matters secular; but it was noticeable that the lama
never demanded any details of life at St. Xavier's, nor showed the
faintest curiosity as to the manners and customs of Sahibs. His mind
moved all in the past, and he revived every step of their wonderful
first journey together, rubbing his hands and chuckling, till it pleased
him to curl himself up into the sudden sleep of old age.

Kim watched the last dusty sunshine fade out of the court, and played
with his ghost-dagger and rosary. The clamour of Benares, oldest of all
earth's cities awake before the Gods, day and night, beat round the
walls as the sea's roar round a breakwater. Now and again, a Jain priest
crossed the court, with some small offering to the images, and swept the
path about him lest by chance he should take the life of a living thing.
A lamp twinkled, and there followed the sound of a prayer. Kim watched
the stars as they rose one after another in the still, sticky dark, till
he fell asleep at the foot of the altar. That night he dreamed in
Hindustanee, with never an English word. . . .

'Holy One, there is the child to whom we gave the medicine,' he said,
about three o'clock in the morning, when the lama, also waking from
dreams, would have fared forth on pilgrimage. 'The Jat will be here at
the light.'

'I am well answered. In my haste I would have done a wrong.' He sat down
on the cushions and returned to his rosary. 'Surely old folk are as
children,' he said pathetically. 'They desire a matter--behold, it must
be done at once, or they fret and weep! Many times when I was upon the
Road I have been ready to stamp with my feet at the hindrance of an
ox-cart in the way, or a mere cloud of dust. It was not so when I was a
man--a long time ago. None the less it is wrongful--'

'But thou art indeed old, Holy One.'

'The thing was done. A Cause was put out into the world, and, old or
young, sick or sound, knowing or unknowing, who can rein in the effect
of that Cause? Does the Wheel hang still if a child spin it--or a
drunkard? Chela, this is a great and a terrible world.'

'I think it good,' Kim yawned. 'What is there to eat? I have not eaten
since yesterday even.'

'I had forgotten thy need. Yonder is good Bhotiyal tea and cold rice.'

'We cannot walk far on such stuff.' Kim felt all the European's lust for
flesh-meat, which is not accessible in a Jain temple. Yet, instead of
going out at once with the begging-bowl, he stayed his stomach on slabs
of cold rice till the full dawn. It brought the farmer, voluble,
stuttering with gratitude.

'In the night the fever broke and the sweat came,' he cried. 'Feel
here--his skin is fresh and new! He esteemed the salt lozenges, and took
milk with greed.' He drew the cloth from the child's face, and it smiled
sleepily at Kim. A little knot of Jain priests, silent but
all-observant, gathered by the temple door. They knew, and Kim knew that
they knew, how the old lama had met his disciple. Being courteous folk,
they had not obtruded themselves overnight by presence, word, or
gesture. Wherefore Kim repaid them as the sun rose.

'Thank the Gods of the Jains, brother,' he said, not knowing how those
Gods were named. 'The fever is indeed broken.'

'Look! See!' The lama beamed in the background upon his hosts of three
years. 'Was there ever such a chela? He follows our Lord the Healer.'

Now the Jains officially recognise all the Gods of the Hindu creed, as
well as the Lingam and the Snake. They wear the Brahminical thread; they
adhere to every claim of Hindu caste-law. But, because they knew and
loved the lama, because he was an old man, because he sought the Way,
because he was their guest, and because he collogued long of nights with
the head-priest--as free-thinking a metaphysician as ever split one hair
into seventy--they murmured assent.

'Remember,'--Kim bent over the child,--'this trouble may come again.'

'Not if thou hast the proper spell,' said the father.

'But in a little while we go away.'

'True,' said the lama to all the Jains. 'We go now together upon the
Search whereof I have often spoken. I waited till my chela was ripe.
Behold him! We go North. Never again shall I look upon this place of my
rest, O people of good will.'

'But I am not a beggar.' The cultivator rose to his feet, clutching the
child.

'Be still. Do not trouble the Holy One,' a priest cried.

'Go,' Kim whispered. 'Meet us again under the big railway bridge, and
for the sake of all the Gods of our Punjab, bring food--curry, pulse,
cakes fried in fat, and sweetmeats. Specially sweetmeats. Be swift!'

The pallor of hunger suited Kim very well as he stood, tall and slim, in
his sad-coloured, sweeping robes, one hand on his rosary and the other
in the attitude of benediction, faithfully copied from the lama. An
English observer might have said that he looked rather like the young
saint of a stained-glass window, whereas he was but a growing lad faint
with emptiness.

Long and formal were the farewells, thrice ended and thrice renewed. The
Seeker--he who had invited the lama to that haven from far-away Tibet, a
silver-faced, hairless ascetic--took no part in it, but meditated, as
always, alone among the images. The others were very human; pressing
small comforts upon the old man,--a betel-box, a fine new iron pencase,
a food-bag, and such like,--warning him against the dangers of the world
without, and prophesying a happy end to the Search. Meantime Kim,
lonelier than ever, squatted on the steps, and swore to himself in the
language of St. Xavier's.

'But it is my own fault,' he concluded. 'With Mahbub, I ate Mahbub's
bread, or Lurgan Sahib's. At St. Xavier's, three meals a day. Here I
must jolly well look out for myself. Besides, I am not in good training.
How I could eat a plate of beef now! . . . Is it finished, Holy One?'

The lama, both hands raised, intoned a final blessing in ornate Chinese.
'I must lean on thy shoulder,' said he, as the temple-gates closed. 'We
grow stiff, I think.'

The weight of a six-foot man is not light to steady through miles of
crowded streets, and Kim, loaded down with bundles and packages for the
way, was glad to reach the shadow of the railway bridge.

'Here we eat,' he said resolutely, as the Kamboh, blue-robed and
smiling, hove in sight, a basket in one hand and the child on the other.

'Fall to, Holy Ones!' he cried from fifty yards. (They were by the shoal
under the first bridge-span, out of sight of hungry priests.) 'Rice and
good curry, cakes all warm and well scented with hing (asafoetida),
curds and sugar. King of my fields,' this to the small son, 'let us show
these holy men that we Jats of Jullundur can pay a service. . . . I had
heard the Jains would eat nothing that they had not cooked, but
truly'--he looked away politely over the broad river--'where there is no
eye there is no caste.'

'And we,' said Kim, turning his back and heaping a leaf-platter for the
lama, 'are beyond all castes.'

They gorged themselves on the good food in silence. Nor till he had
licked the last of the sticky sweet-stuff from his little finger did Kim
note that the Kamboh too was girt for travel.

'If our roads lie together,' he said roughly, 'I go with thee. One does
not often find a worker of miracles, and the child is still weak. But I
am not altogether a reed.' He picked up his lathi--a five-foot
male-bamboo ringed with bands of polished iron--and flourished it in the
air. 'The Jats are called quarrelsome, but that is not true. Except when
we are crossed, we are like our own buffaloes.'

'So be it,' said Kim. 'A good stick is a good reason.'

The lama gazed placidly up-stream, where in long, smudged perspective
the ceaseless columns of smoke go up from the burning-ghats by the
river. Now and again, despite all municipal regulations, the fragment of
a half-burned body bobbed by on the full current.

'But for thee,' said the Kamboh to Kim, drawing his child into his hairy
breast, 'I might to-day have gone thither--with this one. The priests
tell us that Benares is holy--which none doubt--and desirable to die in.
But I do not know their Gods, and they ask for money; and when one has
done one worship a shaved-head vows it is of none effect except one do
another. Wash here! Wash there! Pour, drink, lave, and scatter
flowers--but always pay the priests. No, the Punjab for me, and the soil
of the Jullundur-doab for the best soil in it.'

'I have said many times--in the temple I think--that if need be, the
River will open at our feet. We will therefore go North,' said the lama,
rising. 'I remember a pleasant place, set about with fruit-trees, where
one can walk in meditation--and the air is cooler there. It comes from
the Hills and the snow of the Hills.'

'What is the name?' said Kim.

'How should I know? Didst thou not--no, that was after the Army rose out
of the earth and took thee away. I abode there in meditation in a room
against the dovecot--except when she talked eternally.'

'Oho! the woman from Kulu. That is by Saharunpore,' Kim laughed.

'How does the spirit move thy master? Does he go afoot, for the sake of
past sins?' the Jat demanded cautiously. 'It is a far cry to Delhi.'

'No,' said Kim. 'I will beg a tikkut for the te-rain.' One does not own
to the possession of money in India.

'Then in the name of the Gods, let us take the fire-carriage. My son is
best in his mother's arms. The Government has brought on us many taxes,
but it gives us one good thing--the te-rain that joins friends and
unites the anxious. A wonderful matter is the te-rain.'

They all piled into it a couple of hours later, and slept through the
heat of the day. The Kamboh plied Kim with ten thousand questions as to
the lama's walk and work in life, and received some curious answers. Kim
was content to be where he was, to look out upon the flat North-Western
landscape, and to talk to the changing mob of fellow-passengers. Even
to-day, tickets and ticket-clipping are dark oppression to Indian
rustics. They do not understand why, when they have paid for a magic
piece of paper, strangers should punch great pieces out of the charm. So
long and furious are the debates between travellers and Eurasian
ticket-collectors. Kim assisted at two or three with grave advice, meant
to darken council and to show off his wisdom before the lama and the
admiring Kamboh. But at Somna Road the Fates sent him a matter to think
upon. There tumbled into the compartment, as the train was moving off, a
mean, lean little person--a Mahratta, so far as Kim could judge by the
cock of the tight turban. His face was cut, his muslin upper-garment was
badly torn, and one leg was bandaged. He told them that a country-cart
had upset and nearly slain him: he was going to Delhi, where his son
lived. Kim watched him closely. If, as he asserted, he had been rolled
over and over on the earth, there should have been signs of gravel-rash
on the skin. But all his injuries seemed clean cuts, and a mere fall
from a cart could not cast a man into such extremity of terror. As, with
shaking fingers, he knotted up the torn cloth about his neck he laid
bare an amulet of the kind called a keeper-up of the heart. Now, amulets
are common enough, but they are not generally strung on square-plaited
copper wire, and still fewer amulets bear black enamel on silver. There
were none except the Kamboh and the lama in the compartment, which,
luckily, was of an old type with solid ends. Kim made as to scratch in
his bosom, and thereby lifted his own amulet. The Mahratta's face
changed altogether at the sight, and he disposed the amulet fairly on
his breast.

'Yes,' he went on to the Kamboh, 'I was in haste, and the cart, driven
by a bastard, bound its wheel in a water-cut, and besides the harm done
to me there was lost a full dish of tarkeean. I was not a Son of the
Charm (a lucky man) that day.'

'That was a great loss,' said Kamboh, withdrawing interest. His
experience of Benares had made him suspicious.

'Who cooked it?' said Kim.

'A woman.' The Mahratta raised his eyes.

'But all women can cook tarkeean,' said the Kamboh. 'It is a good curry,
as I know.'

'Oh, yes, it is a good curry,' said the Mahratta.

'And cheap,' said Kim. 'But what about caste?'

'Oh, there is no caste where men go to--look for tarkeean,' the Mahratta
replied, in the prescribed cadence. 'Of whose service art thou?'

'Of the service of this Holy One.' Kim pointed to the happy, drowsy
lama, who woke with a jerk at the well-loved word.

'Ah, he was sent from Heaven to aid me. He is called the Friend of all
the World. He is also called the Friend of the Stars. He walks as a
physician--his time being ripe. Great is his wisdom.'

'And a Son of the Charm,' said Kim under his breath, as the Kamboh made
haste to prepare a pipe lest the Mahratta should beg.

'And who is that?' the Mahratta asked, glancing sideways nervously.

'One whose child I--we have cured, who lies under great debt to us.--Sit
by the window, man from Jullundur. Here is a sick one.'

'Humph! I have no desire to mix with chance-met wastrels. My ears are
not long. I am not a woman wishing to overhear secrets.' The Jat slid
himself heavily into a far corner.

'Art thou anything of a healer? I am ten leagues deep in calamity,'
cried the Mahratta, picking up the cue.

'The man is cut and bruised all over. I go about to cure him,' Kim
retorted. 'None interfered between thy babe and me.'

'I am rebuked,' said the Kamboh meekly. 'I am thy debtor for the life of
my son. Thou art a miracle-worker--I know it.'

'Show me the cuts.' Kim bent over the Mahratta's neck, his heart nearly
choking him; for this was the Great Game with a vengeance. 'Now, tell
thy tale swiftly, brother, while I say a charm.'

'I come from the South, where my work lay. One of us they slew by the
roadside. Hast thou heard?' Kim shook his head. He, of course, knew
nothing of E.23's predecessor, slain down South in the habit of an Arab
trader. 'Having found a certain letter which I was sent to seek, I came
away. I escaped from the city and ran to Mhow. So sure was I that none
knew, I did not change my face. At Mhow a woman brought charge against
me of theft of jewellery in that city which I had left. Then I saw the
cry was out against me. I ran from Mhow by night, bribing the police,
who had been bribed to hand me over without question to my enemies in
the South. Then I lay in old Chitor city a week, a penitent in a temple,
but I could not get rid of the letter which was my charge. I buried it
under the Queen's Stone, at Chitor, in the place known to us all.'

Kim did not know, but not for worlds would he have broken the thread.

'At Chitor, look you, I was all in Kings' country; for Kotah to the east
is beyond the Queen's law, and east again lie Jeypur and Gwalior.
Neither love spies, and there is no justice. I was hunted like a wet
jackal; but I broke through at Bandakui, where I heard there was a
charge against me of murder in the city I had left--of the murder of a
boy. They have both the corpse and the witnesses waiting.'

'But cannot the Government protect?'

'We of the Game are beyond protection. If we die, we die. Our names are
blotted from the book. That is all. At Bandakui, where lives one of us,
I thought to slip the scent by changing my face, and so made me a
Mahratta. Then I came to Agra, and would have turned back to Chitor to
recover the letter. So sure I was I had slipped them. Therefore I did
not send a tar (telegram) to any one saying where the letter lay. I
wished the credit of it all.'

Kim nodded. He understood that feeling well.

'But at Agra, walking in the streets, a man cried a debt against me, and
approaching with many witnesses, would hale me to the courts then and
there. Oh, they are clever in the South! He recognised me as his agent
for cotton. May he burn in Hell for it!'

'And wast thou?'

'O fool! I was the man they sought for the matter of the letter! I ran
into the Fleshers' Ward and came out by the House of the Jew, who feared
a riot and pushed me forth. I came afoot to Somna Road--I had only money
for my tikkut to Delhi--and there, while I lay in a ditch with a fever,
one sprang out of the bushes and beat me and cut me and searched me
from head to foot. Within earshot of the te-rain it was!'

'Why did he not slay thee out of hand?'

'They are not so foolish. If I am taken in Delhi at the instance of
lawyers, upon a proven charge of murder, my body is handed over to the
State that desires it. I go back guarded, and then--I die slowly for an
example to the rest of us. The South is not my country. I run in
circles--like a goat with one eye. I have not eaten for two days. I am
marked'--he touched the filthy bandage on his leg--'so that they will
know me at Delhi.'

'Thou art safe in the te-rain, at least.'

'Live a year at the Great Game and tell me that again! The wires will be
out against me at Delhi, describing every tear and rag upon me.
Twenty--a hundred, if need be--will have seen me slay that boy. And thou
art useless!'

Kim knew enough of native methods of attack not to doubt that the case
would be deadly complete--even to the corpse. The Mahratta twitched his
fingers with pain from time to time. The Kamboh in his corner glared
sullenly; the lama was busy over his beads; and Kim, fumbling
doctor-fashion at the man's neck, thought out his plan between
invocations.

'Hast thou a charm to change my shape? Else I am dead. Five--ten minutes
alone, if I had not been so pressed, and I might--'

'Is he cured yet, miracle-worker?' said the Kamboh jealously. 'Thou hast
chanted long enough.'

'Nay. There is no cure for his hurts, as I see, except he sit for three
days in the habit of a bairagi.' This is a common penance, often imposed
on a fat trader by his spiritual teacher.

'One priest always goes about to make another priest,' was the retort.
Like most grossly superstitious folk, the Kamboh could not keep his
tongue from deriding his Church.

'Will thy son be a priest, then? It is time he took more of my quinine.'

'We Jats are all buffaloes,' said the Kamboh, softening anew.

Kim rubbed a finger-tip of bitterness on the child's trusting little
lips. 'I have asked for nothing,' he said sternly to the father, 'except
food. Dost thou grudge me that? I go to heal another man. Have I thy
leave--Prince?'

Up flew the man's huge paws in supplication. 'Nay--nay. Do not mock me
thus.'

'It pleases me to cure this sick one. Thou shalt acquire merit by
aiding. What colour ash is there in thy pipe-bowl? White. That is
auspicious. Was there raw turmeric among thy food-stuffs?'

'I--I--'

'Open thy bundle!'

It was the usual collection of small oddments: bits of cloth, quack
medicines, cheap fairings, a clothful of atta,--grayish, rough-ground
native flour,--twists of down-country tobacco, tawdry pipe-stems, and a
packet of curry-stuff, all wrapped in a quilt. Kim turned it over with
the air of a wise warlock, muttering a Mohammedan invocation.

'This is wisdom I learned from the Sahibs,' he whispered to the lama;
and here, when one thinks of his training at Lurgan's, he spoke no more
than the truth. 'There is a great evil in this man's fortune, as shown
by the stars, which--which troubles him. Shall I take it away?'

'Friend of the Stars, thou hast done well in all things. Let it be at
thy pleasure. Is it another healing?'

'Quick! Be quick!' gasped the Mahratta. 'The train may stop.'

'A healing against the shadow of death,' said Kim, mixing the Kamboh's
flour with the mingled charcoal and tobacco ash in the red-earth bowl of
the pipe. E.23, without a word, slipped off his turban and shook down
his long black hair.

'That is my food--priest,' the Jat growled.

'A buffalo in the temple! Hast thou dared to look even thus far?' said
Kim. 'I must do mysteries before fools; but have a care for thy eyes. Is
there a film before them already? I save the babe, and for return
thou--oh, shameless!' The man flinched at the direct gaze, for Kim was
wholly in earnest. 'Shall I curse thee, or shall I--' He picked up the
outer cloth of the bundle and threw it over the bowed head. 'Dare so
much as to think a wish to see, and--and--even I cannot save thee. Sit!
Be dumb!'

'I am blind--dumb. Forbear to curse! Co--come, child; we will play a
game of hiding. Do not, for my sake, look from under the cloth.'

'I see hope,' said E.23. 'What is thy scheme?'

'This comes next,' said Kim, plucking the thin body-shirt. E.23
hesitated, with all a North-West man's dislike of baring his body.

'What is caste to a cut throat?' said Kim, rending it to the waist. 'We
must make thee a yellow Saddhu all over. Strip--strip swiftly, and shake
thy hair over thy eyes while I scatter the ash. Now, a caste-mark on thy
forehead.' He drew from his bosom the little Survey paint-box and a cake
of crimson lake.

'Art thou only a beginner?' said E.23, labouring literally for the dear
life, as he slid out of his body-wrappings and stood clear in the
loin-cloth while Kim splashed in a noble caste-mark on the ash-smeared
brow.

'But two days entered to the Game, brother,' Kim replied. 'Smear more
ash on the bosom.'

'Hast thou met--a physician of sick pearls?' He switched out his long,
tight-rolled turban-cloth and, with swiftest hands, rolled it over and
under about his loins into the intricate devices of a Saddhu's cincture.

'Hah! Dost thou know his touch, then? He was my teacher for a while. We
must bar thy legs. Ash cures wounds. Smear it again.'

'I was his pride once, but thou art almost better. The Gods are kind to
us! Give me that.'

It was a tin box of opium pills among the rubbish of the Jat's bundle.
E.23 gulped down a half handful. 'They are good against hunger, fear,
and chill. And they make the eyes red too,' he explained. 'Now I shall
have heart to play the Game. We lack only a Saddhu's tongs. What of the
old clothes?'

Kim rolled them small, and stuffed them into the slack folds of his
tunic. With a yellow-ochre paint cake he smeared the legs and breast,
great streaks against the background of flour, ash, and turmeric.

'The blood on them is enough to hang thee, brother.'

'May be; but no need to throw them out of the window. . . . It is
finished.' His voice thrilled with a boy's pure delight in the Game.
'Turn and look, O Jat!'

'The Gods protect us,' said the hooded Kamboh, emerging like a buffalo
from the reeds. 'But--whither went the Mahratta? What hast thou done?'

Kim had been trained by Lurgan Sahib; and E.23, by virtue of his
business, was no bad actor. In place of the tremulous, shrinking trader
there lolled against the corner an all but naked, ash-smeared,
ochre-barred, dusty-haired Saddhu, his swollen eyes--opium takes quick
effect on an empty stomach--luminous with insolence and bestial lust,
his legs crossed under him, Kim's brown rosary round his neck, and a
scant yard of worn, flowered chintz on his shoulders. The child buried
his face in his amazed father's arms.

'Look up, Princeling! We travel with warlocks, but they will not hurt
thee. Oh, do not cry. . . . What is the sense of curing a child one day
and killing him with fright the next?'

'The child will be fortunate all his life. He has seen a great healing.
When I was a child I made clay men and horses.'

'I have made them too. Sir Banas, he comes in the night and makes them
all alive at the back of our kitchen-midden,' piped the child.

'And so thou art not frightened at anything. Eh, Prince?'

'I was frightened because my father was frightened. I felt his arms
shake.'

'Oh, chicken-man,' said Kim, and even the abashed Jat laughed. 'I have
done a healing on this poor trader. He must forsake his gains and his
account-books, and sit by the wayside three nights to overcome the
malignity of his enemies. The Stars are against him.'

'The fewer money-lenders the better, say I; but, Saddhu or no Saddhu, he
should pay for my stuff on his shoulders.'

'So? But that is thy child on thy shoulder--given over to the
burning-ghat not two days ago. There remains one thing more. I did this
charm in thy presence because need was great. I changed his shape and
his soul. None the less, if, by any chance, O man from Jullundur, thou
rememberest what thou hast seen, either among the elders sitting under
the village tree, or in thy own house, or in company of thy priest when
he blesses thy cattle, a murrain will come among the buffaloes, and a
fire in thy thatch, and rats in the corn-bin, and the curse of our Gods
upon thy fields that they may be barren before thy feet and after thy
ploughshare.' This was part of an old curse picked up from a faquir by
the Taksali Gate in the days of Kim's innocence. It lost nothing by
repetition.

'Cease, Holy One! In mercy, cease!' cried the Jat. 'Do not curse the
household. I saw nothing! I heard nothing! I am thy cow!' and he made to
grab at Kim's bare foot beating rhythmically on the carriage floor.

'But since thou hast been permitted to aid me in the matter of a pinch
of flour and a little opium and such trifles as I have honoured by using
in my art, so will the Gods return a blessing,' and he gave it at
length, to the man's immense relief. It was one that he had learned from
Lurgan Sahib.

The lama stared through his spectacles as he had not stared at the
business of disguisement.

'Friend of the Stars,' he said at last, 'thou hast acquired great
wisdom. Beware that it do not give birth to pride. No man having the Law
before his eyes speaks hastily of any matter which he has seen or
encountered.'

'No--no--no indeed,' cried the farmer, fearful lest the master should be
minded to improve on the pupil. E.23, with relaxed mouth, gave himself
up to the opium that is meat, tobacco, and medicine to the spent
Asiatic.

So, in a silence of awe and great miscomprehension, they slid into Delhi
about lamp-lighting time.



CHAPTER XII

  'Who hath desired the Sea--the sight of salt-water unbounded?
   The heave and the halt and the hurl and the crash of the comber
                wind-hounded?
   The sleek-barrelled swell before storm--gray, foamless, enormous,
                and growing?
   Stark calm on the lap of the Line--or the crazy-eyed hurricane
                blowing?
   His Sea in no showing the same--his Sea and the same 'neath all
                showing--
          His Sea that his being fulfils?
   So and no otherwise--so and no otherwise Hill-men desire their
                Hills!'


'I HAVE found my heart again,' said E.23, under cover of the platform's
tumult. 'Hunger and fear make men dazed, or I might have thought of this
escape before. I was right. They come to hunt for me. Thou hast saved my
head.'

A group of yellow-trousered Punjab policemen, headed by a hot and
perspiring young Englishman, parted the crowd about the carriages.
Behind them, inconspicuous as a cat, ambled a small fat person who
looked like a lawyer's tout.

'See the young Sahib reading from a paper. My description is in his
hand,' said E.23. 'They go carriage by carriage, like fisher-folk
netting a pool.'

When the procession reached their compartment, E.23 was counting his
beads with a steady jerk of the wrist; while Kim jeered at him for being
so drugged as to have lost the ringed fire-tongs which are the Saddhu's
distinguishing mark. The lama, deep in meditation, stared straight
before him; and the farmer, glancing furtively, gathered up his
belongings.

'Nothing here but a parcel of holy-bolies,' said the Englishman aloud,
and passed on amid a ripple of uneasiness; for native police mean
extortion to the native all India over.

'The trouble now,' whispered E.23, 'lies in sending a wire as to the
place where I hid that letter I was sent to find. I cannot go to the
tar-office in this guise.'

'Is it not enough I have saved thy neck?'

'Not if the work be left unfinished. Did never the healer of sick pearls
tell thee so? Comes another Sahib! Ah!'

This was a tallish, sallowish District Superintendent of Police,--belt,
helmet, polished spurs and all,--strutting and twirling his dark
moustache.

'What fools are these Police Sahibs!' said Kim genially.

E.23 glanced up under his eyelids. 'It is well said,' he muttered in a
changed voice. 'I go to drink water. Keep my place.'

He blundered out almost into the Englishman's arms, and was bad-worded
in clumsy Urdu.

'Tum-mut? You drunk? You mustn't bang about as though Delhi station
belonged to you, my friend.'

E.23, not moving a muscle of his countenance, answered with a stream of
the filthiest abuse, at which Kim naturally rejoiced. It reminded him of
the drummer-boys and the barrack-sweepers at Umballa in the terrible
time of his first schooling.

'My good fool,' the Englishman drawled. 'Nickle-jao! Go back to your
carriage.'

Step by step, withdrawing deferentially, and dropping his voice, the
yellow Saddhu clomb back to the carriage, cursing the D. S. P. to
remotest posterity by--here Kim almost jumped--by the curse of the
Queen's Stone, by the writing under the Queen's Stone, and by an
assortment of Gods with wholly new names.

'I don't know what you're saying,'--the Englishman flushed
angrily,--'but it's some piece of blasted impertinence. Come out of
that!'

E.23, affecting to misunderstand, gravely produced his ticket, which the
Englishman wrenched angrily from his hand.

'Oh zoolum! What oppression!' growled the Jat from his corner. 'All for
the sake of a jest too.' He had been grinning at the freedom of the
Saddhu's tongue. 'Thy charms do not work well to-day, Holy One!'

The Saddhu followed the policeman, fawning and supplicating. The ruck of
passengers, busy with their babies and their bundles, had not noticed
the affair. Kim slipped out behind him; for it flashed through his head
that he had heard this angry, stupid Sahib discoursing loud
personalities to an old lady near Umballa three years ago.

'It is well,' the Saddhu whispered, jammed in the calling, shouting,
bewildered press--a Persian greyhound between his feet and a cadgeful of
yelling hawks under charge of a Rajput falconer in the small of his
back. 'He has gone now to send word of the letter which I hid. They told
me he was in Peshawur. I might have known that he is like the
crocodile--always at the other ford. He has saved me from present
calamity, but I owe my life to thee.'

'Is he also one of Us?' Kim ducked under a Mewar camel-driver's greasy
armpit and cannoned off a covey of jabbering Sikh matrons.

'Not less than the greatest. We are both fortunate! I will make report
to him of what thou hast done. I am safe under his protection.'

He bored through the edge of the crowd besieging the carriages, and
squatted by the bench near the telegraph-office.

'Return, or they take thy place! Have no fear for the work, brother--or
my life. Thou hast given me breathing-space, and Strickland Sahib has
pulled me to land. We may work together at the Game yet. Farewell!'

Kim hurried to his carriage: elated, bewildered, but a little nettled in
that he had no key to the secrets about him.

'I am only a beginner at the Game, that is sure. I could not have leaped
into safety as did the Saddhu. He knew it was darkest under the lamp. I
could not have thought to tell news under pretence of cursing . . . and
how clever was the Sahib! No matter, I saved the life of one. . . . Where
is the Kamboh gone, Holy One?' he whispered, as he took his seat in the
now crowded compartment.

'A fear gripped him,' the lama replied, with a touch of tender malice.
'He saw thee change the Mahratta to a Saddhu in the twinkling of an
eye, as a protection against evil. That shook him. Then he saw the
Saddhu fall sheer into the hands of the polis--all the effect of thy
art. Then he gathered up his son and fled; for he said that thou didst
change a quiet trader into an impudent bandier of words with the Sahibs,
and he feared a like fate. Where is the Saddhu?'

'With the polis,' said Kim. . . . 'Yet I saved the Kamboh's child.'

The lama snuffed blandly.

'Ah, chela, see how thou art overtaken! Thou didst cure the Kamboh's
child solely to acquire merit. But thou didst put a spell on the
Mahratta with prideful workings--I watched thee--and with side-long
glances to bewilder an old old man and a foolish farmer: whence calamity
and suspicion.'

Kim controlled himself with an effort beyond his years. Not more than
any other youngster did he like to eat dirt or to be misjudged, but he
saw himself in a cleft stick. The train rolled out of Delhi into the
night.

'It is true,' he murmured. 'Where I have offended thee I have done
wrong.'

'It is more, chela. Thou hast loosed an Act upon the world, and as a
stone thrown into a pool so spread the consequences thou canst not tell
how far.'

This ignorance was well both for Kim's vanity and for the lama's peace
of mind, when we think that there was then being handed in at Simla a
code-wire reporting the arrival of E.23 at Delhi, and, more important,
the whereabouts of a letter he had been commissioned to--abstract.
Incidentally, an over-zealous policeman had arrested, on charge of
murder done in a far southern State, a horribly indignant Ajmir
cotton-broker, who was explaining himself to a Mr. Strickland on Delhi
platform, while E.23 was paddling through by-ways into the locked heart
of Delhi city. In two hours several telegrams had reached the angry
minister of a southern State reporting that all trace of a somewhat
bruised Mahratta had been lost; and by the time the leisurely train
halted at Saharunpore the last ripple of the stone Kim had helped to
heave was lapping against the steps of a mosque in far-away Roum--where
it disturbed a pious man at prayers.

The lama made his in ample form near the dewy bougainvillea-trellis near
the platform, cheered by the clear sunshine and the presence of his
disciple. 'We will put these things behind us,' he said, indicating the
brazen engine and the gleaming track. 'The jolting of the
te-rain--though a wonderful thing--has turned my bones to water. We will
use clean air henceforward.'

'Let us go to the Kulu woman's house,' said Kim, and stepped forth
cheerily under the bundles. Early morning Saharunpore-way is clean and
well scented. He thought of the other mornings at St. Xavier's, and it
topped his already thrice-heaped contentment.

'Where is this new haste born from? Wise men do not run about like
chickens in the sun. We have come hundreds upon hundreds of kos already,
and, till now, I have scarcely been alone with thee an instant. How
canst thou receive instruction all jostled of crowds? How can I, whelmed
by a flux of talk, meditate upon the Way?'

'Her tongue grows no shorter with the years, then?' The disciple smiled.

'Nor her desire for charms. I remember once when I spoke of the Wheel of
Life'--the lama fumbled in his bosom for his latest copy--'she was only
curious about the devils that besiege children. She shall acquire merit
by entertaining us--in a little while--at an after-occasion--softly,
softly. Now we will wander loose-foot, waiting upon the Chain of Things.
The Search is sure.'

So they travelled very easily across and among the broad bloomful
fruit-gardens--by way of Aminabad, Sahaigunge, Akrola of the Ford, and
little Phulesa--the line of the Sewaliks always to the north, and behind
them again the snows. After long, sweet sleep under the dry stars came
the lordly, leisurely passage through a waking village--begging-bowl
held forth in silence, but eyes roving in defiance of the Law from sky's
edge to sky's edge. Then would Kim return soft-footed through the soft
dust to his master under the shadow of a mango tree or the thinner shade
of a white Doon siris, to eat and drink at ease. At mid-day, after talk
and a little wayfaring, they slept; meeting the world refreshed when the
air was cooler. Night found them adventuring into new territory--some
chosen village spied three hours before across the fat land, and much
discussed upon the road.

There they told their tale,--a new one each evening so far as Kim was
concerned,--and there were they made welcome, either by priest or
headman, after the custom of the kindly East.

When the shadows shortened and the lama leaned more heavily upon Kim,
there was always the Wheel of Life to draw forth, to hold flat under
wiped stones, and with a long straw to expound cycle by cycle. Here sat
the Gods on high--and they were dreams of dreams. Here was our Heaven
and the world of the demi-Gods--horsemen fighting among the hills. Here
were the agonies done upon the beasts, souls ascending or descending
the ladder and therefore not to be interfered with. Here were the Hells,
hot and cold, and the abodes of tormented ghosts. Let the chela study
the troubles that come from over-eating--bloated stomach and burning
bowels. Obediently then, with bowed head and brown finger alert to
follow the pointer, did the chela study; but when they came to the Human
World, busy and profitless, that is just above the Hells, his mind was
distracted; for by the roadside trundled the very Wheel itself, eating,
drinking, trading, marrying, and quarrelling--all warmly alive. Often
the lama made the living pictures the matter of his text, bidding,
Kim--too ready--note how the flesh takes a thousand thousand shapes,
desirable or detestable as men reckon; but in truth of no account either
way; and how the stupid spirit, bond-slave to the Hog, the Dove, and the
Serpent--lusting after betel-nut, a new yoke of oxen, women, or the
favour of kings--is bound to follow the body through all the Heavens and
all the Hells, and strictly round again. Sometimes a woman or a poor
man, watching the ritual--it was nothing less--when the great yellow
chart was unfolded, would throw a few flowers or a handful of cowries
upon its edge. It sufficed these humble ones that they had met a Holy
One who might be moved to remember them in his prayers.

'Cure them if they are sick,' said the lama, when Kim's sporting
instincts woke. 'Cure them if they have fever, but by no means work
charms. Remember what befell the Mahratta.'

'Then all Doing is evil?' Kim replied, lying out under a big tree at the
fork of the Doon road, watching the little ants run over his hand.

'To abstain from action is well--except to acquire merit.'

'At the Gates of Learning we were taught that to abstain from action was
unbefitting a Sahib. And I am a Sahib.'

'Friend of all the World,'--the lama looked directly at Kim,--'I am an
old man--pleased with shows as are children. To those who follow the Way
there is neither black nor white, Hind nor Bhotiyal. We be all souls
seeking escape. No matter what thy wisdom learned among Sahibs, when we
come to my River thou wilt be freed from all illusion--at my side. Hai!
my bones ache for that River, as they ached in the te-rain; but my
spirit sits above my bones, waiting. The Search is sure!'

'I am answered. Is it permitted to ask a question?'

The lama inclined his stately head.

'I ate thy bread for three years--as thou knowest. Holy One, whence
came--?'

'There is much wealth, as men count it, in Bhotiyal,' the lama returned
with composure. 'In my own place I have the illusion of honour. I ask
for that I need. I am not concerned with the account. That is for my
monastery. Ai! The black high seats in the monastery, and the novices
all in order!'

And he told stories, tracing with a finger in the dust, of the immense
and sumptuous ritual of avalanche-guarded cathedrals; of processions and
devil-dances; of the changing of monks and nuns into swine; of holy
cities fifteen thousand feet in the air; of intrigue between monastery
and monastery; of voices among the hills, and of that mysterious mirage
that dances on dry snow. He spoke even of Lhassa and of the Dalai Lama,
whom he had seen and adored.

Each long, perfect day rose behind Kim for a barrier to cut him off from
his race and his mother-tongue. He slipped back to thinking and dreaming
in the vernacular, and mechanically followed the lama's ceremonial
observances at eating, drinking, and the like. The old man's mind turned
more and more to his monastery as his eyes turned to the steadfast
snows. His River troubled him nothing. Now and again, indeed, he would
gaze long and long at a tuft or a twig, expecting, he said, the earth to
cleave and deliver its blessing; but he was content to be with his
disciple, at ease in the temperate wind that comes down from the Doon.
This was not Ceylon, nor Buddh Gaya, nor Bombay, nor some grass-tangled
ruins that he seemed to have stumbled upon two years ago. He spoke of
those places as a scholar removed from vanity, as a Seeker walking in
humility, as an old man, wise and temperate, illumining knowledge with
brilliant insight. Bit by bit, disconnectedly, each tale called up by
some wayside thing, he spoke of all his wanderings up and down Hind;
till Kim, who had loved him without reason, now loved him for fifty good
reasons. So they enjoyed themselves in high felicity, abstaining, as the
Rule demands, from evil words, covetous desires; not over-eating, not
lying on high beds, nor wearing rich clothes. Their stomachs told them
the time, and the people brought them their food, as the saying is. They
were lords of the villages of Aminabad, Sahaigunge, Akrola of the Ford,
and little Phulesa, where Kim gave the soulless woman a blessing.

But news travels fast in India, and too soon shuffled across the
crop-land, bearing a basket of fruits with a box of Cabul grapes and
gilt oranges, a white-whiskered servitor--a lean, dry Oorya--begging
them to bring the honour of their presence to his mistress, distressed
in her mind that the lama had neglected her so long.

'Now do I remember'--the lama spoke as though it were a wholly new
proposition. 'She is virtuous, but an inordinate talker.'

Kim was sitting on the edge of a cow's manger, telling stories to a
village smith's children.

'She will only ask for another son for her daughter. I have not
forgotten her,' he said. 'Let her acquire merit. Send word that we will
come.'

They covered eleven miles through the fields in two days, and were
overwhelmed with attentions at the end; for the old lady held a fine
tradition of hospitality; to which she forced her son-in-law, who was
under the thumb of his women-folk and bought peace by borrowing of the
money-lender. Age had not weakened her tongue or her memory, and from a
discreetly barred upper window, in the hearing of not less than a dozen
servants, she paid Kim compliments that would have flung European
audiences into unclean dismay.

'But thou art still the shameless beggar-brat of the parao,' she
shrilled. 'I have not forgotten thee. Wash ye and eat. The father of my
daughter's son is gone away awhile. So we poor women are dumb and
useless.'

For proof, she harangued the entire household unsparingly till food and
drink were brought; and in the evening--the smoke-scented evening,
copper-dun and turquoise across the fields--it pleased her to order her
palanquin to be set down in the untidy forecourt by smoky torch-light;
and there, behind not too closely drawn curtains, she gossiped.

'Had the Holy One come alone, I should have received him otherwise; but
with this rogue, who can be too careful?'

'Maharanee,' said Kim, choosing as always the amplest title, 'is it my
fault that none other than a Sahib--a polis-sahib--called the Maharanee
whose face he--'

'Chitt! That was on the pilgrimage. When we travel--thou knowest the
proverb.'

'Called the Maharanee a Breaker of Hearts and a Dispenser of Delights?'

'To remember that! It was true. So he did. That was in the time of the
bloom of my beauty.' She chuckled like a contented parrot above the
sugar lump. 'Now tell me of thy goings and comings--as much as may be
without shame. How many maids, and whose wives, hang upon thy eyelashes?
Ye hail from Benares? I would have gone there again this year, but my
daughter--we have only two sons. Phaii! Such is the effect of these low
plains. Now in Kulu men are elephants. But I would ask thy Holy
One--stand aside, rogue--a charm against most lamentable windy colics
that in mango-time overtake my daughter's eldest. Two years back he gave
me a powerful spell.'

'Oh, Holy One!' said Kim, bubbling with mirth at the lama's rueful face.

'It is true. I gave her one against wind.'

'Teeth--teeth--teeth,' snapped the old woman.

'Cure them when they are sick,' Kim quoted relishingly, 'but by no means
work charms. Remember what befell the Mahratta.'

'That was two Rains ago; she wearied me with her continual importunity.'
The lama groaned as the Unjust Judge had groaned before him. 'Thus it
comes--take note, my chela--that even those who would follow the Way
are thrust aside by idle women. Three days through, when the child was
sick, she talked to me.'

'Arre! and to whom else should I talk? The boy's mother knew nothing,
and the father--in the nights of the cold weather it was--"Pray to the
Gods," said he, forsooth, and turning over, snored!'

'I gave her the charm. What is an old man to do?'

'"To abstain from action is well--except when we acquire merit."'

'Ah, chela, if thou desertest me, I am all alone.'

'He found his milk-teeth easily at any rate,' said the old lady. 'But
all priests are alike.'

Kim coughed severely. Being young, he did not approve of her flippancy.
'To importune the wise out of season is to invite calamity.'

'There is a talking mynah'--the thrust came back with the
well-remembered snap of the jewelled forefinger--'over the stables which
has picked up the very tone of the family-priest. Maybe I forget honour
to my guests, but if ye had seen him double his fists into his belly,
which was like a half-grown gourd, and cry: "Here is the pain!" ye would
forgive. I am half minded to take the hakim's medicine. He sells it
cheap, and certainly it makes him fat as Shiv's own bull. He does not
deny remedies, but I doubted for the child because of the inauspicious
colour of the bottles.'

The lama, under cover of the monologue, had faded out into the darkness
towards the room prepared.

'Thou hast angered him, belike,' said Kim.

'Not he. He is wearied, and I forgot, being a grandmother. (None but a
grandmother should ever oversee a child. Mothers are only fit for
bearing.) To-morrow, when he sees how my daughter's son is grown, he
will write the charm. Then, too, he can judge of the new hakim's
drugs.'

'Who is the hakim, Maharanee?'

'A wanderer, as thou art, but a most sober Bengali from Dacca--a master
of medicine. He relieved me of an oppression after meat by means of a
small pill that wrought like a devil unchained. He travels about now,
vending preparations of great value. He has even papers, printed in
Angrezi, telling what things he has done for weak-backed men and slack
women. He has been here four days; but hearing ye were coming (hakims
and priests are snake and tiger the world over) he has, as I take it,
gone to cover.'

While she drew breath after this volley, the ancient servant, sitting
unrebuked on the edge of the torch-light, muttered: 'This house is a
cattle-pound, as it were, for all charlatans and--priests. Let the boy
stop eating mangoes . . . but who can argue with a grandmother?' He
raised his voice respectfully: 'Sahiba, the hakim sleeps after his meat.
He is in the quarters behind the dovecot.'

Kim bristled like an expectant terrier. To outface and down-talk a
Calcutta-taught Bengali, a voluble Dacca drug-vendor, would be a good
game. It was not seemly that the lama, and incidentally himself, should
be thrown aside for such an one. He knew those curious bastard English
advertisements at the backs of native newspapers. St. Xavier's boys
sometimes brought them in by stealth to snigger over among their mates;
for the language of the grateful patient recounting his symptoms is most
simple and revealing. The Oorya, not unanxious to play off one parasite
against the other, slunk away towards the dovecot.

'Yes,' said Kim, with measured scorn. 'Their stock-in-trade is a little
coloured water and a very great shamelessness. Their prey are
broken-down kings and overfed Bengalis. Their profit is in children--who
are not born.'

The old lady chuckled. 'Do not be envious. Charms are better, eh? I
never gainsaid it. See that thy Holy One writes me a good amulet by the
morning.'

'None but the ignorant deny'--a thick, heavy voice boomed through the
darkness, as a figure came to rest squatting--'None but the ignorant
deny the value of charms. None but the ignorant deny the value of
medicines.'

'A rat found a piece of turmeric. Said he: "I will open a grocer's
shop,"' Kim retorted.

Battle was fairly joined now, and they heard the old lady stiffen to
attention.

'The priest's son knows the names of his nurse and three Gods. Says he:
"Hear me, or I will curse you by the three million Great Ones."'
Decidedly this invisible had an arrow or two in his quiver. He went on:
'I am but a teacher of the alphabet. I have learned all the wisdom of
the Sahibs.'

'The Sahibs never grow old. They dance and they play like children when
they are grandfathers. A strong-backed breed,' piped the voice inside
the palanquin.

'I have, too, our drugs which loosen humours of the head in hot and
angry men. Sina well compounded when the moon stands in the proper
House; yellow earths I have--arplan from China that makes a man to renew
his youth and astonish his household; saffron from Kashmir, and the best
salep of Cabul. Many people have died before--'

'That I surely believe,' said Kim.

'They knew the value of my drugs. I do not give my sick the mere ink in
which a charm is written, but hot and rending drugs which descend and
wrestle with the evil.'

'Very mightily they do so,' sighed the old lady.

The voice launched into an immense tale of misfortune and bankruptcy,
studded with plentiful petitions to the Government. 'But for my fate,
which overrules all, I had been now in Government employ. I bear a
degree from the great school at Calcutta--whither, maybe, the son of
this house shall go.'

'He shall indeed. If our neighbour's brat can in a few years be made an
F. A.' (First Arts--she used the English word, of which she had heard so
often), 'how much more shall children clever as some that I know bear
away prizes at rich Calcutta.'

'Never,' said the voice, 'have I seen such a child! Born in an
auspicious hour, and--but for that colic which, alas! turning into black
cholers, may carry him off like a pigeon--destined to many years, he is
enviable.'

'Hai mai!' said the old lady. 'To praise children is inauspicious, or I
could listen to this talk. But the back of the house is unguarded, and
even in this soft air men think themselves to be men and women we
know. . . . The child's father is away too, and I must be chowkedar
(watchman) in my old age. Up! Up! Take up the palanquin. Let the hakim
and the young priest settle between them whether charms or medicine most
avail. Ho! worthless people, fetch tobacco for the guests, and--round
the homestead go I!'

The palanquin reeled off, followed by straggling torches and a horde of
dogs. Twenty villages knew the Sahiba--her failings, her tongue, and
her large charity. Twenty villages cheated her after immemorial custom,
but no man would have stolen or robbed within her jurisdiction for any
gift under Heaven. None the less, she made great parade of her formal
inspections, the riot of which could be heard half-way to Mussoorie.

Kim relaxed, as one augur must when he meets another. The hakim, still
squatting, slid over his hookah with a friendly foot, and Kim pulled at
the good weed. The hangers-on expected grave professional debate, and
perhaps a little free doctoring.

'To discuss medicine before the ignorant is of one piece with teaching
the peacock to sing,' said the hakim.

'True courtesy,' Kim echoed, 'is very often inattention.'

These, be it understood, were company-manners, designed to impress.

'Hi! I have an ulcer on my leg,' cried a scullion. 'Look at it!'

'Get hence! Remove!' said the hakim. 'Is it the habit of the place to
pester honoured guests? Ye crowd in like buffaloes.'

'If the Sahiba knew--' Kim began.

'Ai! Ai! Come away. They are meat for our mistress. When her young
Shaitan's colics are cured perhaps we poor people may be suffered to--'

'The mistress fed thy wife when thou wast in jail for breaking the
money-lender's head. Who speaks against her?' The old servitor curled
his white moustaches savagely in the young moonlight. 'I am responsible
for the honour of this house. Go!' and he drove the underlings before
him.

Said the hakim, hardly more than shaping the words with his lips: 'How
do you do, Mr. O'Hara? I am jolly glad to see you again.'

Kim's hand clenched about the pipe-stem. Anywhere on the open road,
perhaps, he would not have been astonished; but here, in this quiet
backwater of life, he was not prepared for Hurree Babu. It annoyed him,
too, that he had been hoodwinked.

'Ah ha! I told you at Lucknow--resurgam--I shall rise again and you
shall not know me. How much did you bet--eh?'

He chewed leisurely upon a few cardamom seeds, but he breathed uneasily.

'But why come here, Babuji?'

'Ah! Thatt is the question, as Shakespeare hath said. I come to
congratulate you on your extraordinary effeecient performance at Delhi.
Oah! I tell you we are all proud of you. It was verree neat and handy.
Our mutual friend, he is old friend of mine. He has been in some
dam-tight places. Now he will be in some more. He told me; I tell Mr.
Lurgan; and he is pleased you graduate so nicely. All the Department is
pleased.'

For the first time in his life, Kim thrilled to the clean pride (it can
be a deadly pitfall, none the less) of Departmental praise--ensnaring
praise from an equal of work appreciated by fellow-workers. Earth has
nothing on the same plane to compare with it. But, cried the Oriental in
him, Babus do not travel far to retail compliments.

'Tell thy tale, Babu,' he said authoritatively.

'Oah, it is nothing. Onlee I was at Simla when the wire came in about
what our mutual friend said he had hidden, and old Creighton--' He
looked to see how Kim would take this piece of audacity.

'The Colonel Sahib,' the boy from St. Xavier's corrected.

'Of course. He found me at a loose string, and I had to go down to
Chitor to find that beastly letter. I do not like the South--too much
railway travel; but I drew good travelling allowance. Ha! Ha! I meet our
mutual at Delhi on the way back. He lies quiett just now, and says
Saddhu-disguise suits him to the ground. Well, there I hear what you
have done so well, so quickly, upon the instantaneous spur of the
moment. I tell our mutual friend you take the bally bun, by Jove! It was
splendid. I come to tell you so.'

'Umm!'

The frogs were busy in the ditches, and the moon slid to her setting.
Some happy servant had gone out to commune with the night and to beat
upon a drum Kim's next sentence was in the vernacular.

'How didst thou follow us?'

'Oah. Thatt was nothing. I know from our mutual friend you go to
Saharunpore. So I come on. Red lamas are not inconspicuous persons. I
buy myself my drug-box, and I am very good doctor really. I go to Akrola
by the Ford, and hear all about you, and I talk here and talk there. All
the common people know what you do. I know when the hospitable old lady
sent the dooli. They have great recollections of the old lama's visits
here. I know old ladies cannot keep their hands from medicines. So I am
a doctor, and--you hear my talk? I think it is verree good. My word,
Mister O'Hara, they know about you and the lama for fifty miles--the
common people. So I come. Do you mind?'

'Babuji,' said Kim, looking up at the broad, grinning face, 'I am a
Sahib.'

'My dear Mister O'Hara--'

'And I hope to play the Great Game.'

'You are subordinate to me departmentally at present.'

'Then why talk like an ape up in a tree? Men do not come after one from
Simla and change their dress, for the sake of a few sweet words. I am
not a child. Talk Hindi and let us get to the yolk of the egg. Thou art
here--speaking not one word of truth in ten. Why art thou here? Give a
straight answer.'

'That is so verree disconcerting of the European, Mister O'Hara. You
should know a heap better at your time of life.'

'But I want to know,' said Kim, laughing. 'If it is the Game, I may
help. How can I do anything if you bukh (babble) all round the shop.'

Hurree Babu reached for the pipe, and sucked it till it guggled again.

'Now I will speak vernacular. You sit tight, Mister O'Hara. . . . It
concerns the pedigree of a white stallion.'

'Still? That was finished long ago.'

'When every one is dead the Great Game is finished. Not before. Listen
to me till the end. There were Five Kings who prepared a sudden war
three years ago, when thou wast given the stallion's pedigree by Mahbub
Ali. Upon them, because of that news, and ere they were ready, fell our
Army.'

'Ay--eight thousand men with guns. I remember that night.'

'But the war was not pushed. That is the Government custom. The troops
were recalled because the Government believed the Five Kings were cowed;
and it is not cheap to feed men among the high Passes. Hilas and
Bunar--Rajahs with guns--undertook for a price to guard the passes
against all coming from the North. They protested both fear and
friendship.' He broke off with a giggle into English: 'Of course, I tell
you this unoffeecially to elucidate political situation, Mister O'Hara.
Offeecially, I am debarred from criticising any action of superior. Now
I go on.--This pleased the Government, anxious to avoid expense, and a
bond was made for so many rupees a month that Hilas and Bunar should
guard the Passes as soon as the State's troops were withdrawn. At that
time--it was after we two met--I, who had been selling tea in Leh,
became a clerk of accounts in the Army. When the troops were withdrawn,
I was left behind to pay the coolies who made new roads in the Hills.
This road-making was part of the bond between Bunar, Hilas, and the
Government.'

'So; and then?'

'I tell you, it was jolly beastly cold up there too, after summer,' said
Hurree Babu confidentially. 'I was afraid these Bunar men would cut my
throat every night for thee pay-chest. My native sepoy-guard, they
laughed at me! By Jove! I was such a fearful man! Nevar mind thatt. I go
on colloquially. . . . I send word many times that these two Kings were
sold to the North; and Mahbub Ali, who was yet farther north, amply
confirmed it. Nothing was done. Only my feet were frozen, and a toe
dropped off. I sent word that the roads for which I was paying money to
the diggers were being made for the feet of strangers and enemies.'

'For?'

'For the Russians. The thing was an open jest among the coolies. Then I
was called down to tell what I knew by speech of tongue. Mahbub came
South too. See the end! Over the Passes this year after
snow-melting'--he shivered afresh--'come two strangers under cover of
shooting wild goats. They bear guns, but they bear also chains and
levels and compasses.'

'Oho! The thing gets clearer.'

'They are well received by Hilas and Bunar. They make great promises;
they speak as the mouthpiece of a Kaisar with gifts. Up the valleys,
down the valleys go they, saying, "Here is a place to build a
breastwork; here can ye pitch a fort. Here can ye hold the road against
an army"--the very roads for which I paid out the rupees monthly. The
Government knows, but does nothing. The three other Kings, who were not
paid for guarding the passes, tell them by runner of the bad faith of
Bunar and Hilas. When all the evil is done, look you--when these two
strangers with the levels and the compasses make the Five Kings to
believe that a great army will sweep the Passes to-morrow or the next
day--Hill-people are all fools--comes the order to me, Hurree Babu, "Go
North and see what those strangers do." I say to Creighton Sahib, "This
is not a lawsuit, that we go about to collect evidence."' Hurree
returned to his English with a jerk: '"By Jove," I said, "why the dooce
do you not issue demi-offeecial orders to some brave man to poison them,
for an example? It is, if you permit the observation, most reprehensible
laxity on your part." And Colonel Creighton, he laughed at me! It is all
your beastly English pride. You think no one dare conspire! That is all
tommy-rott.'

Kim smoked slowly, revolving the business, so far as he understood it,
in his quick mind.

'Then thou goest forth to follow the strangers?'

'No; to meet them. They are coming in to Simla to send down their horns
and heads to be dressed at Calcutta. They are exclusively sporting
gentlemen, and they are allowed special faceelities by the Government.
Of course, we always do that. It is our British pride.'

'Then what is to fear from them?'

'By Jove, they are not black people. I can do all sorts of things with
black people, of course. They are Russians, and highly unscrupulous
people. I--I do not want to consort with them without a witness.'

'Will they kill thee?'

'Oah, thatt is nothing. I am good enough Herbert Spencerian, I trust, to
meet little thing like death, which is all in my fate, you know.
But--but they may beat me.'

'Why?'

Hurree Babu snapped his fingers with irritation. 'Of course I shall
affeeliate myself to their camp in supernumerary capacity as perhaps
interpreter, or person mentally impotent and hungree, or some such
thing. And then I must pick up what I can, I suppose. That is as easy
for me as playing Mister Doctor to the old lady. Onlee--onlee--you see,
Mister O'Hara, I am unfortunately Asiatic, which is serious detriment in
some respects. And all-so I am Bengali--a fearful man.'

'God made the Hare and the Bengali. What shame?' said Kim, quoting the
proverb.

'It was process of Evolution, I think, from Primal Necessity, but the
fact remains in all its cui bono. I am, oh, awfully fearful!--I remember
once they wanted to cut off my head on the road to Lhassa. (No, I have
never reached to Lhassa.) I sat down and cried, Mister O'Hara,
anticipating Chinese tortures. I do not suppose these two gentlemen will
torture me, but I like to provide for possible contingency with European
assistance in emergency.' He coughed and spat out his cardamoms. 'It is
purely unoffeecial indent, to which you can say, "No, Babu." If you have
no pressing engagement with your old man--perhaps you might divert him;
perhaps I can seduce his fancies--I should like you to keep in
Departmental touch with me till I find those sporting coves. I have
great opeenion of you since I met my friend at Delhi. And also I will
embody your name in my offeecial report when matter is finally
adjudicated. It will be a great feather in your cap. That is why I come
really.'

'Humph! The end of the tale, I think, is true; but what of the
fore-part?'

'About the Five Kings? Oah! there is ever so much truth in it. A lots
more than you would suppose,' said Hurree earnestly. 'You come--eh? I go
from here straight into the Doon. It is verree verdant and painted
meads. I shall go to Mussoorie--to good old Mussoorie Pahar, as the
gentlemen and ladies say. Then by Rampur into Chini. That is the only
way they can come. I do not like waiting in the cold, but we must wait
for them. I want to walk with them to Simla. You see, one Russian is a
Frenchman, and I know my French pretty well. I have friends in
Chandernagore.'

'He would certainly rejoice to see the Hills again,' said Kim
meditatively. 'All his speech these ten days past has been of little
else. If we go together--'

'Oah! We can be quite strangers on the road, if your lama prefers. I
shall just be four or five miles ahead. There is no hurry for
Hurree--that is an Europe pun, ha! ha!--and you come after. There is
plenty of time; they will plot and survey and map of course. I shall go
to-morrow, and you the next day, if you choose. Eh? You go think on it
till morning. By Jove, it is near morning now.' He yawned ponderously,
and with never a civil word lumbered off to his sleeping-place. But Kim
slept little, and his thoughts ran in Hindustanee:

'Well is the Game called great! I was four days a scullion at Quetta,
waiting on the wife of the man whose book I stole. And that was part of
the Great Game! From the South--God knows how far--came up the Mahratta,
playing the Great Game in fear of his life. Now I shall go far and far
into the North playing the Great Game. Truly, it runs like a shuttle
throughout all Hind. And my share and my joy'--he smiled to the
darkness--'I owe to the lama here. Also to Mahbub Ali--also to Creighton
Sahib, but chiefly to the Holy One. He is right--a great and a wonderful
world--and I am Kim--Kim--Kim--alone--one person--in the middle of it
all. But I will see these strangers with their levels and chains . . .'

'What was the upshot of last night's babble?' said the lama, after his
orisons.

'There came a strolling seller of drugs--a hanger-on of the Sahiba's.
Him I abolished by arguments and prayers, proving that our charms are
worthier than his coloured waters.'

'Alas! my charms. Is the virtuous woman still bent upon a new one?'

'Very strictly.'

'Then it must be written, or she will deafen me with her clamour.' He
fumbled at his pencase.

'In the Plains,' said Kim, 'are always too many people. In the Hills, as
I understand, there are fewer.'

'Oh! the Hills, and the snow upon the Hills.' The lama tore off a tiny
square of paper fit to go in an amulet. 'But what dost thou know of the
Hills?'

'They are very close.' Kim thrust open the door and looked at the long,
peaceful line of the Himalayas flushed in morning-gold. 'Except in the
dress of a Sahib, I have never set foot among them.'

The lama snuffed the wind wistfully.

'If we go north,'--Kim put the question to the waking sunrise,--'would
not much mid-day heat be avoided by walking among the lower hills at
least? . . . Is the charm made, Holy One?'

'I have written the names of seven silly devils--not one of whom is
worth a grain of dust in the eye. Thus do foolish women drag us from the
Way!'

Hurree Babu come out from behind the dovecot, washing his teeth with
ostentatious ritual. Full-fleshed, heavy-haunched, bull-necked, and
deep-voiced, he did not look like 'a fearful man.' Kim signed almost
imperceptibly that matters were in good train, and when the morning
toilet was over Hurree Babu, in flowery speech, came to do honour to the
lama. They ate, of course, apart, and afterwards the old lady, more or
less veiled behind a window, returned to the vital business of
green-mango colics in the young. The lama's knowledge of medicine was of
course sympathetic only. He believed that the dung of a black horse,
mixed with sulphur, and carried in a snake-skin, was a sound remedy for
cholera; but the symbolism interested him far more than the science.
Hurree Babu deferred to these views with enchanting politeness, so that
the lama called him a courteous physician. Hurree Babu replied that he
was no more than an inexpert dabbler in the mysteries; but at least--he
thanked the Gods therefor--he knew when he sat in the presence of a
master. He himself had been taught by the Sahibs, who do not consider
expense, in the lordly halls of Calcutta; but, as he was ever first to
acknowledge, there lay a wisdom behind earthly wisdom--the high and
lonely lore of meditation. Kim looked on with envy. The Hurree Babu of
his knowledge--oily, effusive, and nervous--was gone; gone too was the
brazen drug-vendor of overnight. There remained--polished, polite,
attentive--a sober, learned son of experience and adversity, gathering
wisdom from the lama's lips. The old lady confided to Kim that these
rare levels were beyond her. She liked charms with plenty of ink that
one could wash off in water, swallow, and be done with. Else what was
the use of the Gods? She liked men and women, and she spoke of them--of
kinglets she had known in the past; of her own youth and beauty; of the
depredations of leopards and the eccentricities of love Asiatic; of the
incidence of taxation, rack-renting, funeral ceremonies, her son-in-law
(this by allusion, easy to be followed), the care of the young, and the
age's lack of decency. And Kim, as interested in the life of this world
as she soon to leave it, squatted with his feet under the hem of his
robe, drinking all in, while the lama demolished one after another every
theory of body-curing put forward by Hurree Babu.

At noon the Babu strapped up his brass-bound drug-box, took his
patent-leather shoes of ceremony in one hand, a gay blue and white
umbrella in the other, and set off northwards to the Doon, where, he
said, he was in demand among the lesser kings of those parts.

'We will go in the cool of the evening, chela,' said the lama. 'That
doctor, learned in physic and courtesy, affirms that the people among
these lower hills are devout, generous, and much in need of a teacher.
In a very short time--so says the hakim--we come to cool air and the
smell of pines.'

'Ye go to the Hills. And by Kulu-road? Oh, thrice happy!' shrilled the
old lady. 'But that I am a little pressed with the care of the homestead
I would take palanquin . . . but that would be shameless, and my
reputation would be cracked. Ho! Ho! I know the road--every march of the
road I know. Ye will find charity throughout--it is not denied to the
well-looking. I will give orders for provision. A servant to set you
forth upon your journey? No. . . . Then I will at least cook ye good
food.'

'What a woman is the Sahiba!' said the white-bearded Oorya, when a
tumult rose by the kitchen quarters. 'She has never forgotten a friend:
she has never forgotten an enemy in all her years. And her
cookery--wah!' He rubbed his slim stomach.

There were cakes, there were sweetmeats, there was cold fowl stewed to
rags with rice and prunes--enough to burden Kim like a mule.

'I am old and useless,' she said. 'None now love me--and none
respect--but there are few to compare with me when I call on the Gods
and squat to my cooking-pots. Come again, O people of good will! Holy
One and disciple, come again! The room is always prepared; the welcome
is always ready. . . . See the women do not follow thy chela too openly.
I know the women of Kulu. Take heed, chela, lest he run away when he
smells his Hills again. . . . Hai! Do not tilt the rice-bag upside
down. . . . Bless the household, Holy One, and forgive thy servant her
stupidities.'

She wiped her red old eyes on a corner of her veil, and clucked
throatily.

'Women talk,' said the lama at last, 'but that is a woman's infirmity. I
gave her a charm. She is upon the Wheel and wholly given over to the
shows of this life, but none the less, chela, she is virtuous, kindly,
hospitable--of a whole and zealous heart. Who shall say she does not
acquire merit?'

'Not I, Holy One,' said Kim, reslinging the bountiful provision on his
shoulders. 'In my mind--behind my eyes--I have tried to picture such an
one altogether freed from the Wheel--desiring nothing, causing
nothing--a nun, as it were.'

'And, O imp?' The lama almost laughed aloud.

'I cannot make the picture.'

'Nor I. But there are many, many millions of lives before her. She will
get wisdom a little, it may be, in each one.'

'And will she forget how to make stews with saffron upon that road?'

'Thy mind is set on things unworthy. But she has skill. I am refreshed
all over. When we reach the lower hills I shall be yet stronger. The
hakim spoke truly to me this morn when he said a breath from the snows
blows away twenty years from the life of a man. We will go, up into the
Hills--the high hills--up to the sound of snow-water and the sound of
the trees--for a little while. The hakim said that at any time we may
return to the Plains, for we do no more than skirt the pleasant places.
The hakim is full of learning; but he is in no way proud. I spoke to
him--when thou wast talking to the Sahiba--of a certain dizziness that
lays hold upon the back of my neck in the night, and he said it rose
from excessive heat--to be cured by cool air. Upon consideration, I
marvelled that I had not thought of such a simple remedy.'

'Didst thou tell him of thy Search?' said Kim, a little jealously. He
preferred to sway the lama by his own speech--not through the wiles of
Hurree Babu.

'Assuredly. I told him of my dream, and of the manner by which I had
acquired merit by causing thee to be taught wisdom.'

'Thou didst not say I was a Sahib?'

'What need? I have told thee many times we be but two souls seeking
escape. He said--and he is just herein--that the River of Healing will
break forth even as I dreamed--at my feet if need be. Having found the
Way, seest thou, that shall free me from the Wheel, need I trouble to
find a way about the mere fields of earth--which are illusion? That were
senseless. I have my dreams, night upon night repeated; I have the
"Jataka"; and I have thee, Friend of all the World. It was written in
thy horoscope that a Red Bull on a green field--I have not
forgotten--should bring thee to honour. Who but I saw that prophecy
accomplished? Indeed, I was the instrument. Thou shalt find me my River,
being in return the instrument. The Search is sure!'

He set his ivory-yellow face, serene and untroubled, towards the
beckoning Hills; his shadow shouldering far before him in the dust.



CHAPTER XIII

  'Who hath desired the Sea--the immense and contemptuous surges?
   The shudder, the stumble, the swerve ere the star-stabbing bowsprit
                emerges--
   The orderly clouds of the Trades and the ridged roaring sapphire
                thereunder--
   Unheralded cliff-lurking flaws and the head-sails' low-volleying
                thunder?
   His Sea in no wonder the same--his Sea and the same in each wonder--
           His Sea that his being fulfils?
   So and no otherwise--so and no otherwise Hill-men desire their
                Hills!'


'WHO goes to the Hills goes to his mother.'

They had crossed the Sewaliks and the half-tropical Doon, left Mussoorie
behind them, and headed north along the narrow hill-roads. Day after day
they struck deeper into the huddled mountains, and day after day Kim
watched the lama return to a man's strength. Among the terraces of the
Doon he had leaned on the boy's shoulder, ready to profit by wayside
halts. Under the great ramp to Mussoorie he drew himself together as an
old hunter faces a well-remembered bank, and where he should have sunk
exhausted swung his long draperies about him, drew a deep
double-lungful of the diamond air, and walked as only a hillman can.
Kim, plains-bred and plains-fed, sweated and panted astonished. 'This is
my country,' said the lama. 'Beside Suchzen, this is flatter than a
rice-field'; and with steady, driving strokes from the loins he strode
upwards. But it was on the steep downhill marches, three thousand feet
in three hours, that he went utterly away from Kim, whose back ached
with holding back, and whose big toe was nigh cut off by his grass
sandal-string. Through the speckled shadow of the great deodar-forests;
through oak feathered and plumed with ferns; birch, ilex, rhododendron,
and pine, out on to the bare hillsides' slippery sunburnt grass, and
back into the woodlands' coolth again, till oak gave way to bamboo and
palm of the valley, the lama swung untiring.

Glancing back in the twilight at the huge ridges behind him and the
faint thin line of the road whereby they had come, he would lay out,
with a hillman's generous breadth of vision, fresh marches for the
morrow; or, halting in the neck of some uplifted pass that gave on Spiti
and Kulu, would stretch out his hands yearningly towards the high snows
of the horizon. In the dawns they flared windy-red above stark blue, as
Kedarnath and Badrinath--kings of that wilderness--took the first
sunlight. All day long they lay like molten silver under the sun, and at
evening put on their jewels again. At first they breathed temperately
upon the travellers, winds good to meet when one crawled over some
gigantic hogback; but in a few days, at a height of nine or ten thousand
feet, those breezes bit: and Kim kindly allowed a village of hillmen to
acquire merit by giving him a rough blanket-coat. The lama was mildly
surprised that any one should object to the knife-edged breezes which
had cut the years off his shoulders.

'These are but the lower hills, chela. There is no cold till we come to
the true Hills.'

'Air and water are good, and the people are devout enough, but the food
is very bad,' Kim growled; 'and we walk as though we were mad--or
English. It freezes at night, too.'

'A little, maybe; but only enough to make old bones rejoice in the sun.
We must not always delight in the soft beds and rich food.'

'We might at the least keep to the road.'

Kim had all a plains-man's affection for the well-trodden track, not six
feet wide, that snaked among the mountains; but the lama, being Tibetan,
could not refrain from short cuts over spurs and the rims of
gravel-strewn slopes. As he explained to his limping disciple, a man
bred among mountains can prophesy the course of a mountain-road, and
though low-lying clouds might be a hindrance to a short-cutting
stranger, they made no earthly difference to a thoughtful man. Thus,
after long hours of what would be reckoned very fair mountaineering in
civilised countries, they would pant over a saddle-back, sidle past a
few landslips, and drop through forest at an angle of forty-five on to
the road again. Along their track lay the villages of the hill-folk--mud
and earth huts, the timbers now and then rudely carved with an
axe--clinging like swallows' nests against the steeps, huddled on tiny
flats half-way down a three-thousand-foot glissade; jammed into a corner
between cliffs that funnelled and focused every wandering blast; or, for
the sake of summer pasture, cowering down on a neck that in winter would
be ten feet deep in snow. And the people--the sallow, greasy,
duffle-clad people, with short bare legs and faces almost
Esquimaux--would flock out and adore. The Plains--kindly and gentle--had
treated the lama as a holy man among holy men. But the Hills worshipped
him as one in the confidence of all the devils. Theirs was an almost
obliterated Buddhism, overlaid with a nature-worship fantastic as their
own landscapes, elaborate as the terracing of their tiny fields; but
they recognised the big hat, the clicking rosary, and the rare Chinese
texts for great authority; and they respected the man under the hat.

'We saw thee come down over the black Breasts of Eua,' said a Betah who
gave them cheese, sour milk, and stone-hard bread one evening. 'We do
not use that often--except when calving cows stray in summer. There is a
sudden wind among those stones that casts men down on the stillest day.
But what should such folk care for the Devil of Eua!'

Then did Kim, aching in every fibre, dizzy with looking down, footsore
with cramping desperate toes into inadequate crannies, take joy in the
day's march--such joy as a boy of St. Xavier's who had won the
quarter-mile on the flat might take in the praises of his friends. The
hills sweated the ghi and sugar suet off his bones; the dry air, taken
sobbingly at the head of cruel passes, firmed and built out his upper
ribs; and tilted levels put new hard muscles into calf and thigh.

They meditated often on the Wheel of Life--the more so since, as the
lama said, they were freed from its visible temptations. Except the gray
eagle and an occasional far-seen bear grubbing and rooting on the
hillside, the vision of a furious painted leopard met at dawn in a still
valley devouring a goat, and now and again a bright-coloured bird, they
were alone with the winds and the grass singing under the wind. The
women of the smoky huts over whose roofs the two walked as they
descended the mountains, were unlovely and unclean, wives of many
husbands, and afflicted with goitre. The men were wood-cutters when they
were not farmers--meek, and of an incredible simplicity. But that
suitable discourse might not fail, Fate sent them, overtaking and
overtaken upon the road, the courteous Dacca physician, who paid for his
food in ointments good for goitre and counsels that restore peace
between men and women. He seemed to know these hills as well as he knew
the hill dialects, and gave the lama the lie of the land towards Ladakh
and Tibet. He said they could return to the Plains at any moment.
Meantime, for such as loved mountains, yonder road might amuse. This was
not all revealed in a breath, but at evening encounters on the stone
threshing-floors, when, patients disposed of, the doctor would smoke and
the lama snuff, while Kim watched the wee cows grazing on the
house-tops, or threw his soul after his eye across the deep blue gulfs
between range and range. And there were talks apart in the dark woods,
when the doctor would seek herbs, and Kim, as budding physician, must
accompany him.

'You see, Mister O'Hara, I do not know what the deuce-an'-all I shall do
when I find our sporting friends; but if you will kindly keep within
sight of my umbrella, which is fine fixed point for cadastral survey, I
feel much better.'

Kim looked out across the jungle of peaks. 'This is not my country,
hakim. Easier, I think, to find one louse in a bearskin.'

'Oah, thatt is my strong points. There is no hurry for Hurree. They were
at Leh not so long ago. They said they had come down from the Kara Korum
with their heads and horns and all. I am onlee afraid they will have
sent back all their letters and compromising things from Leh into
Russian territoree. Of course they will walk away as far to the East as
possible--just to show that they were never among the Western States.
You do not know the Hills?' He scratched with a twig on the earth.
'Look! They should have come in by Srinagar or Abbottabad. Thatt is
their short road--down the river by Bunji and Astor. But they have made
mischief in the West. So'--he drew a furrow from left to right--'they
march and they march away East to Leh (ah! it is cold there), and down
the Indus to Han-le (I know that road), and then down, you see, to
Bushahr and Chini valley. That is ascertained by process of elimination,
and also by asking questions from people that I cure so well. Our
friends have been a long time playing about and producing impressions.
So they are well known from far off. You will see me catch them
somewhere in Chini valley. Please keep your eye on the umbrella.'

It nodded like a wind-blown harebell down the valleys and round the
mountain sides, and in due time the lama and Kim, who steered by
compass, would overhaul it, vending ointments and powders at eventide.
'We came by such and such a way!' The lama would throw a careless finger
backward at the ridges, and the umbrella would expend itself in
compliments.

They crossed a snowy pass in cold moonlight, when the lama, mildly
chaffing Kim, went through up to his knees, like a Bactrian camel--the
snow-bred, shag-haired sort that come into the Kashmir Serai. They
dipped across beds of light snow and snow-powdered shale, where they
took refuge from a gale in a camp of Tibetans hurrying down tiny sheep,
each laden with a bag of borax. They came out upon grassy shoulders
still snow-speckled, and through forest, to grass anew. For all their
marchings, Kedarnath and Badrinath were not impressed; and it was only
after days of travel that Kim, uplifted upon some insignificant
ten-thousand-foot hummock, could see that a shoulder-knot or horn of the
two great lords had--ever so slightly--changed outline.

At last they entered a world within a world--a valley of leagues where
the high hills were fashioned of the mere rubble and refuse from off the
knees of the mountains. Here one day's march carried them no farther, it
seemed, than a dreamer's clogged pace bears him in a nightmare. They
skirted a shoulder painfully for hours, and, behold, it was but an
outlying boss in an outlying buttress of the main pile! A rounded meadow
revealed itself, when they had reached it, for a vast tableland running
far into the valley. Three days later, it was a dim fold in the earth to
southward.

'Surely the Gods live here,' said Kim, beaten down by the silence and
the appalling sweep and dispersal of the cloud-shadows after rain. 'This
is no place for men!'

'Long and long ago,' said the lama, as to himself, 'it was asked of the
Lord whether the world were everlasting. To this the Excellent One
returned no answer. . . . When I was in Ceylon, a wise Seeker confirmed
that from the gospel which is written in Pali. Certainly, since we know
the way to Freedom, the question were unprofitable, but--look, and know
illusion, chela! These are the true Hills! They are like my hills by
Suchzen. Never were such hills!'

Above them, still enormously above them, earth towered away towards the
snow-line, where from east to west across hundreds of miles, ruled as
with a ruler, the last of the bold birches stopped. Above that, in
scarps and blocks upheaved, the rocks strove to fight their heads above
the white smother. Above these again, changeless since the world's
beginning, but changing to every mood of sun and cloud, lay out the
eternal snow. They could see blots and blurs on its face where storm and
wandering wullie-wa got up to dance. Below them, as they stood, the
forest slid away in a sheet of blue-green for mile upon mile; below the
forest was a village in its sprinkle of terraced fields and steep
grazing-grounds; below the village they knew, though a thunderstorm
worried and growled there for the moment, a pitch of twelve or fifteen
hundred feet gave to the moist valley where the streams gather that are
the mothers of young Sutluj.

As usual, the lama had led Kim by cow-track and byroad, far from the
main route along which Hurree Babu, that 'fearful man,' had bucketed
three days before through a storm to which nine Englishmen out of ten
would have given full right of way. Hurree was no game-shot,--the snick
of a trigger made him change colour,--but, as he himself would have
said, he was 'fairly effeecient stalker,' and he had raked the huge
valley with a pair of cheap binoculars to some purpose. Moreover, the
white of worn canvas tents against green carries far. Hurree Babu had
seen all he wanted to see when he sat on the threshing-floor of Ziglaur,
twenty miles away as the eagle flies, and forty by road--that is to
say, two small dots which one day were just below the snow-line, and the
next had moved downward perhaps six inches on the hillside. Once cleaned
out and set to the work, his fat bare legs could cover a surprising
amount of ground, and this was the reason why, while Kim and the lama
lay in a leaky hut at Ziglaur till the storm should be overpassed, an
oily, wet, but always smiling Bengali, talking the best of English with
the vilest of phrases, was ingratiating himself with two sodden and
rather rheumatic foreigners. He had arrived, revolving many wild
schemes, on the heels of a thunderstorm which had split a pine over
against their camp, and so convinced a dozen or two forcibly impressed
baggage-coolies the day was inauspicious for farther travel that with
one accord they had thrown down their loads and jibbed. They were
subjects of a Hill-Rajah who farmed out their services, as is the
custom, for his private gain; and, to add to their personal distresses,
the strange Sahibs had already threatened them with rifles. The most of
them knew rifles and Sahibs of old: they were trackers and shikarris of
the Northern valleys, keen after bear and wild goat; but they had never
been thus treated in their lives. So the forest took them to her bosom,
and, for all oaths and clamour, refused to restore. There was no need to
feign madness or--the Babu had thought of another means of securing a
welcome. He wrung out his wet clothes, slipped on his patent-leather
shoes, opened the blue and white umbrella, and with mincing gait and a
heart beating against his tonsils appeared as 'agent for His Royal
Highness, the Rajah of Rampur, gentlemen. What can I do for you,
please?'

The gentlemen were delighted. One was visibly French, the other
Russian, but they spoke English not much inferior to the Babu's. They
begged his kind offices. Their native servants had gone sick at Leh.
They had hurried on because they were anxious to bring the spoils of the
chase to Simla ere the skins grew moth-eaten. They bore a general letter
of introduction (the Babu salaamed to it orientally) to all Government
officials. No, they had not met any other shooting-parties en route.
They did for themselves. They had plenty of supplies. They only wished
to push on as soon as might be. At this he waylaid a cowering hillman
among the trees, and after three minutes' talk and a little silver (one
cannot be economical upon State service, though Hurree's heart bled at
the waste) the eleven coolies and the three hangers-on reappeared. At
least the Babu would be a witness to oppression.

'My royal master, he will be much annoyed, but these people are onlee
common people and grossly ignorant. If your honours will kindly overlook
unfortunate affair, I shall be much pleased. In a little while rain will
stop and we can then proceed. You have been shooting, eh? That is fine
performance!'

He skipped nimbly from one kilta to the next, making pretence to adjust
each conical basket. The Englishman is not, as a rule, familiar with the
Asiatic, but he would not strike across the wrist a kindly Babu who had
accidentally upset a kilta with a red oilskin top. On the other hand, he
would not press drink upon a Babu were he never so friendly, nor would
he invite him to meat. The strangers did all these things, and asked
many questions,--about women mostly,--to which Hurree returned gay and
unstudied answers. They gave him a glass of whitish fluid like to gin,
and then more; and in a little time his gravity departed from him. He
became thickly treasonous, and spoke in terms of sweeping indecency of a
Government which had forced upon him a white man's education and
neglected to supply him with a white man's salary. He babbled tales of
oppression and wrong till the tears ran down his cheeks for the miseries
of his land. Then he staggered off, singing love-songs of Lower Bengal,
and collapsed upon a wet tree-trunk. Never was so unfortunate a product
of English rule in India more unhappily thrust upon aliens.

'They are all just of that pattern,' said one sportsman to the other in
French. 'When we get into India proper thou wilt see. I should like to
visit his Rajah. One might speak the good word there. It is possible
that he has heard of us and wishes to signify his goodwill.'

'We have not time. We must get into Simla as soon as may be,' his
companion replied. 'For my own part, I wish our reports had been sent
back from Hilas, or even Leh.'

'The English post is better and safer. Remember we are given all
facilities--and name of God!--they give them to us too! Is it
unbelievable stupidity?'

'It is pride--pride that deserves and will receive punishment.'

'Yes! To fight a fellow-Continental in our game is something. There is a
risk attached, but these people--bah! It is too easy.'

'Pride--all pride, my friend.'

'Now what the deuce is good of Chandernagore being so close to Calcutta
and all,' said Hurree, snoring open-mouthed on the sodden moss, 'if I
cannot understand their French. They talk so par-tic-ularly fast! It
would have been much better to cut their beastly throats.'

When he presented himself again he was racked with a headache--penitent,
and volubly afraid that in his drunkenness he might have been
indiscreet. He loved the British Government--it was the source of all
prosperity and honour, and his master at Rampur held the very same
opinion. Upon this the men began to deride him and to quote past words,
till step by step, with deprecating smirks, oily grins, and leers of
infinite cunning, the poor Babu was beaten out of his defences and
forced to speak--truth! When Lurgan was told the tale later, he mourned
aloud that he could not have been in the place of the stubborn,
inattentive coolies, who with grass mats over their heads and the
raindrops puddling in their foot-prints, waited on the weather. All the
Sahibs of their acquaintance--rough-clad men joyously returning year
after year to their chosen gullies--had servants and cooks and
orderlies, very often hillmen. These Sahibs travelled without any
retinue. Therefore they were poor Sahibs, and ignorant; for no Sahib in
his senses would follow a Bengali's advice. But the Bengali, appearing
from somewhere, had given them money, and would make shift with their
dialect. Used to comprehensive ill-treatment from their own colour, they
suspected a trap somewhere, and stood by to run if occasion offered.

Then through the new-washed air, steaming with delicious earth-smells,
the Babu led the way down the slopes--walking ahead of the coolies in
pride; walking behind the foreigners in humility. His thoughts were many
and various. The least of them would have interested his companions
beyond words. But he was an agreeable guide, ever keen to point out the
beauties of his royal master's domain. He peopled the hills with
anything they had a mind to slay--thar, ibex, or markhor, and bear by
Elisha's allowance. He discoursed of botany and ethnology with
unimpeachable inaccuracy, and his store of local legends--he had been a
trusted agent of the State for fifteen years, remember--was
inexhaustible.

'Decidedly this fellow is an original,' said the taller of the two
foreigners. 'He is like the nightmare of a Viennese courier.'

'He represents in petto India in transition--the monstrous hybridism of
East and West,' the Russian replied. 'It is we who can deal with
Orientals.'

'He has lost his own country and has not acquired any other. But he has
a most complete hatred of his conquerors. Listen. He confides to me last
night,' etc.

Under the striped umbrella Hurree Babu was straining ear and brain to
follow the quick-poured French, and keeping both eyes on a kilta full of
maps and documents--an extra large one with a double red oilskin cover.
He did not wish to steal anything. He only desired to know what to
steal, and, incidentally, how to get away when he had stolen it. He
thanked all the Gods of Hindustan, and Herbert Spencer, that there
remained some valuables to steal.

On the second day the road rose steeply to a grass spur above the
forest; and it was here, about sunset, that they came across an aged
lama--but they called him a bonze--sitting cross-legged above a
mysterious chart held down by stones, which he was explaining to a young
man, evidently a neophyte, of singular, though unwashen, beauty. The
striped umbrella had been sighted half a march away, and Kim had
suggested a halt till it came up to them.

'Ha!' said Hurree Babu, resourceful as Puss-in-Boots. 'That is eminent
local holy man. Probably subject of my royal master.'

'What is he doing? It is very curious.'

'He is expounding holy picture--all hand-worked.'

The two men stood bare-headed in the wash of the afternoon sunlight low
across the gold-coloured grass. The sullen coolies, glad of the check,
halted and slid down their loads.

'Look!' said the Frenchman. 'It is like a picture for the birth of a
religion--the first teacher and the first disciple. Is he a Buddhist?'

'Of some debased kind,' the other answered. 'There are no true Buddhists
among the Hills. But look at the folds of the drapery. Look at his
eyes--how insolent! Why does this make one feel that we are so young a
people?' The speaker struck passionately at a tall weed. 'We have
nowhere left our mark yet. Nowhere! That, do you understand, is what
disquiets me.' He scowled at the placid face, and the monumental calm of
the pose.

'Have patience. We shall make your mark together--we and you young
people. Meantime, draw his picture.'

The Babu advanced loftily; his back out of all keeping with his
deferential speech, or his wink towards Kim.

'Holy One, these be Sahibs. My medicines cured one of a flux, and I go
into Simla to oversee his recovery. They wish to see thy picture--'

'To heal the sick is always good. This is the Wheel of Life,' said the
lama, 'the same I showed thee in the hut at Ziglaur when the rain fell.'

'And to hear thee expound it.'

The lama's eyes lighted at the prospect of new listeners. 'To expound
the Most Excellent Way is good. Have they any knowledge of Hindi, such
as had the Keeper of Images?'

'A little, maybe.'

Hereat, simply as a child engrossed with a new game, the lama threw back
his head and began the full-throated invocation of the Doctor of
Divinity ere he opens the full doctrine. The strangers leaned on their
alpenstocks and listened. Kim, squatting humbly, watched the red
sunlight on their faces, and the blend and parting of their long
shadows. They wore un-English leggings and curious girt-in belts that
reminded him hazily of the pictures in a book at St. Xavier's library:
'The Adventures of a Young Naturalist in Mexico' was its name. Yes, they
looked very like the wonderful M. Sumichrast of that tale, and very
unlike the 'highly unscrupulous folk' of Hurree Babu's imagining. The
coolies, earth-coloured and mute, crouched reverently some twenty or
thirty yards away, and the Babu, the slack of his thin gear snapping
like a marking-flag in the chill breeze, stood by with an air of happy
proprietorship.

'These are the men,' Hurree whispered, as the ritual went on and the two
whites followed the grass blade sweeping from Hell to Heaven and back
again. 'All their books are in the large kilta with the reddish
top,--books and reports and maps,--and I have seen a King's letter that
either Hilas or Bunar has written. They guard it most carefully. They
have sent nothing back from Hilas or Leh. That is sure.'

'Who is with them?'

'Only the beggar-coolies. They have no servants. They are so close they
cook their own food.'

'But what am I to do?'

'Wait and see. Only if any chance comes to me thou wilt know where to
seek for the papers.'

'This were better in Mahbub Ali's hands than a Bengali's,' said Kim
scornfully.

'There are more ways of getting to a sweetheart than butting down a
wall.'

'See here the Hell appointed for avarice and greed. Flanked upon the one
side by Desire and on the other by Weariness.' The lama warmed to his
work, and one of the strangers sketched him in the quick-fading light.

'That is enough,' the man said at last brusquely. 'I cannot understand
him, but I want that picture. He is a better artist than I. Ask him if
he will sell it.'

'He says "No, sar,"' the Babu replied. The lama, of course, would no
more have parted with his chart to a casual wayfarer than an archbishop
would pawn the holy vessels of a cathedral. All Tibet is full of cheap
reproductions of the Wheel; but the lama was an artist, as well as a
wealthy abbot in his own place.

'Perhaps in three days, or four, or ten, if I perceive that the Sahib is
a Seeker and of good understanding, I may myself draw him another. But
this was used for the initiation of a novice. Tell him so, hakim.'

'He wishes it now--for money.'

The lama shook his head slowly and began to fold up the Wheel. The
Russian, on his side, saw no more than an unclean old man haggling over
a dirty piece of paper. He drew out a handful of rupees, and snatched
half-jestingly at the chart, which tore in the lama's grip. A low
murmur of horror went up from the coolies--some of whom were Spiti men
and, by their lights, good Buddhists. The lama rose at the insult; his
hand went to the heavy iron pencase that is the priest's weapon, and the
Babu danced in agony.

'Now you see--you see why I wanted witnesses. They are highly
unscrupulous people. Oh Sar! Sar! You must not hit holy man!'

'Chela! He has defiled the Written Word!'

It was too late. Before Kim could ward him off, the Russian struck the
old man full on the face. Next instant he was rolling over and over down
hill with Kim at his throat. The blow had waked every unknown Irish
devil in the boy's blood, and the sudden fall of his enemy did the rest.
The lama dropped to his knees, half-stunned; the coolies under their
loads fled up the hill as fast as plainsmen run across the level. They
had seen sacrilege unspeakable, and it behoved them to get away before
the Gods and devils of the hills took vengeance. The Frenchman ran
towards the lama, fumbling at his revolver with some notion of making
him a hostage for his companion. A shower of cutting stones--hillmen are
very straight shots--drove him away, and a coolie from Ao-chung snatched
the lama into the stampede. All came about as swiftly as the sudden
mountain-darkness.

'They have taken the baggage and all the guns,' yelled the Frenchman,
firing blindly into the twilight.

'All right, Sar! All right! Don't shoot. I go to rescue,' and Hurree,
pounding down the slope, cast himself bodily upon the delighted and
astonished Kim, who was banging his breathless foe's head against a
boulder.

'Go back to the coolies,' whispered the Babu in his ear. 'They have the
baggage. The papers are in the kilta with the red top, but look through
all. Take their papers, and specially the murasla (King's letter). Go!
The other man comes!'

Kim tore up hill. A revolver-bullet rang on a rock by his side, and he
cowered partridge-wise.

'If you shoot,' shouted Hurree, 'they will descend and annihilate us. I
have rescued the gentleman, Sar. This is par-tic-ularly dangerous.'

'By Jove!' Kim was thinking hard in English. 'This is dam-tight place,
but I think it is self-defence.' He felt in his bosom for Mahbub's gift,
and uncertainly--save for a few practice shots in the Bikaner desert, he
had never used the little gun--pulled trigger.

'What did I say, Sar!' The Babu seemed to be in tears. 'Come down here
and assist to resuscitate. We are all up a tree, I tell you.'

The shots ceased. There was a sound of stumbling feet, and Kim hurried
upward through the gloom, swearing like a cat--or a country-bred.

'Did they wound thee, chela?' called the lama above him.

'No. And thou?' He dived into a clump of stunted firs.

'Unhurt. Come away. We go with these folk to Shamlegh-under-the-Snow.'

'But not before we have done justice,' a voice cried. 'I have got the
Sahibs' guns--all four. Let us go down.'

'He struck the Holy One--we saw it! Our cattle will be barren--our wives
will cease to bear! The snows will slide upon us as we go home. . . .
Atop of all other oppression too!'

The little fir-clump filled with clamouring coolies--panic-stricken, and
in their terror capable of anything. The man from Ao-chung clicked the
breech-bolt of his gun impatiently, and made as to go down hill.

'Wait a little, Holy One; they cannot go far: wait till I return.'

'It is this person who has suffered wrong,' said the lama, his hand over
his brow.

'For that very reason,' was the reply.

'If this person overlooks it, your hands are clean. Moreover, ye acquire
merit by obedience.'

'Wait, and we will all go to Shamlegh together,' the man insisted.

For a moment, for just so long as it needs to stuff a cartridge into a
breech-loader, the lama hesitated. Then he rose to his feet, and laid a
finger on the man's shoulder.

'Hast thou heard? I say there shall be no killing--I who was Abbot of
Suchzen. Is it any lust of thine to be re-born as a rat, or a snake
under the eaves--a worm in the belly of the most mean beast? Is it thy
wish to--'

The man from Ao-chung fell to his knees, for the voice boomed like a
Tibetan devil-gong.

'Ai! ai!' cried the Spiti men. 'Do not curse us--do not curse him. It
was but his zeal, Holy One! . . . Put down the rifle, fool!'

'Anger on anger! Evil on evil! There will be no killing. Let the
priest-beaters go in bondage to their own acts. Just and sure is the
Wheel, swerving not a hair! They will be born many times--in torment.'
His head drooped, and he leaned heavily on Kim's shoulder.

'I have come near to great evil, chela,' he whispered in that dead hush
under the pines. 'I was tempted to loose the bullet; and truly, in Tibet
there would have been a heavy and a slow death for them. . . . He struck
me across the face . . . upon the flesh . . .' He slid to the ground,
breathing heavily, and Kim could hear the over-driven heart bump and
check.

'Have they hurt him to the death?' said the Ao-chung man, while the
others stood mute.

Kim knelt over the body in deadly fear. 'Nay,' he cried passionately,
'this is only a weakness.' Then he remembered that he was a white man,
with a white man's camp-fittings at his service. 'Open the kiltas! The
Sahibs may have a medicine.'

'Oho! Then I know it,' said the Ao-chung man with a laugh. 'Not for five
years was I Yankling Sahib's shikarri without knowing that medicine. I
too have tasted it. Behold!'

He drew, from his breast a bottle of cheap whisky--such as is sold to
explorers at Leh--and cleverly forced a little between the lama's teeth.

'So I did when Yankling Sahib twisted his foot beyond Astor. Aha! I have
already looked into their baskets--but we will make fair division at
Shamlegh. Give him a little more. It is good medicine. Feel! His heart
goes better now. Lay his head down and rub a little on the chest. If he
had waited quietly while I accounted for the Sahibs this would never
have come. But perhaps the Sahibs may chase us here. Then it would not
be wrong to shoot them with their own guns, heh?'

'One is paid, I think, already,' said Kim between his teeth. 'I kicked
him in the groin as we went down hill. Would I had killed him!'

'It is well to be brave when one does not live in Rampur,' said one
whose hut lay within a few miles of the Rajah's rickety palace. 'If we
get a bad name among the Sahibs, none will employ us as shikarris any
more.'

'Oh, but these are not Angrezi Sahibs--not merry-minded men like Fostum
Sahib or Yankling Sahib. They are foreigners--they cannot speak Angrezi
as do Sahibs.'

Here the lama coughed and sat up, groping for the rosary.

'There shall be no killing,' he murmured. 'Just is the Wheel! Evil on
evil--'

'Nay, Holy One. We are all here.' The Ao-chung man timidly patted his
feet. 'Except by thy order, no one shall be slain. Rest awhile. We will
make a little camp here, and later, as the moon rises, we go to
Shamlegh-under-the-Snow.'

'After a blow,' said a Spiti man sententiously, 'it is best to sleep.'

'There is, as it were, a dizziness at the back of my neck, and a
pinching in it. Let me lay my head on thy lap, chela. I am an old man,
but not free from passion. . . . We must think of the Cause of Things.'

'Give him a blanket. We dare not light a fire lest the Sahibs see.'

'Better get away to Shamlegh. None will follow us to Shamlegh.'

This was the nervous Rampur man.

'I have been Fostum Sahib's shikarri, and I am Yankling Sahib's
shikarri. I should have been with Yankling Sahib now but for this cursed
beegar (the corvee). Let two men watch below with the guns lest the
Sahibs do more foolishness. I shall not leave this Holy One.'

They sat down a little apart from the lama, and, after listening awhile,
passed round a water-pipe whose receiver was an old Day and Martin
blacking-bottle. The glow of the red charcoal as it went from hand to
hand lit up the narrow, blinking eyes, the high Chinese cheek-bones, and
the bull-throats that melted away into the dark duffle folds round the
shoulders. They looked like kobolds from some magic mine--gnomes of the
hills in conclave. And while they talked, the voices of the snow-waters
round them diminished one by one as the night-frost choked and clogged
the runnels.

'How he stood up against us!' said a Spiti man admiring. 'I remember an
old ibex, out Ladakh-way, that Dupont Sahib missed on a shoulder-shot,
seven seasons back, standing up just like him. Dupont Sahib was a good
shikarri.'

'Not as good as Yankling Sahib.' The Ao-chung man took a pull at the
whisky-bottle and passed it over. 'Now hear me--unless any other man
thinks he knows more.'

The challenge was not taken up.

'We go to Shamlegh when the moon rises. There we will fairly divide the
baggage between us. I am content with this new little rifle and all its
cartridges.'

'Are the bears only bad on thy holding?' said a mate, sucking at the
pipe.

'No; but musk-pods are worth six rupees apiece now, and thy women can
have the canvas of the tents and some of the cooking-gear. We will do
all that at Shamlegh before dawn. Then we all go our ways, remembering
that we have never seen or taken service with these Sahibs, who may,
indeed, say that we have stolen their baggage.'

'That is well for thee, but what will our Rajah say?'

'Who is to tell him? Those Sahibs, who cannot speak our talk, or the
Babu, who for his own ends gave us money? Will he lead an army against
us? What evidence will remain? That we do not need we shall throw on
Shamlegh midden, where no man has yet set foot.'

'Who is at Shamlegh this summer?' The place was only a grazing centre of
three or four huts.

'The Woman of Shamlegh. She has no love for Sahibs, as we know. The
others can be pleased with little presents; and here is enough for us
all.' He patted the fat sides of the nearest basket.

'But--but--'

'I have said they are not true Sahibs. All their skins and heads were
bought in the bazar at Leh. I know the marks. I showed them to ye last
march.'

'True. They were all bought skins and heads. Some had even the moth in
them.'

That was a shrewd argument, and the Ao-chung man knew his fellows.

'If the worst comes to the worst, I shall tell Yankling Sahib, who is a
man of a merry mind, and he will laugh. We are not doing any wrong to
any Sahibs whom we know. They are priest-beaters. They frightened us. We
fled! Who knows where we dropped the baggage? Do ye think Yankling Sahib
will permit down-country police to wander all over the hills, disturbing
his game? It is a far cry from Simla to Chini, and farther from Shamlegh
to Shamlegh midden.'

'So be it, but I carry the big kilta. The basket with the red top that
the Sahibs pack themselves every morning.'

'Thus it is proved,' said the Shamlegh man adroitly, 'that they are
Sahibs of no account. Who ever heard of Fostum Sahib, or Yankling Sahib,
or even the little Peel Sahib that sits up of nights to shoot serow--I
say, who ever heard of these Sahibs coming into the hills without a
down-country cook, and a bearer, and--and all manner of well-paid,
high-handed and oppressive folk in their tail? How can they make
trouble? What of the kilta?'

'Nothing, but that it is full of the Written Word--books and papers in
which they wrote, and strange instruments, as of worship.'

'Shamlegh midden will take them all.'

'True! But how if we insult the Sahibs' Gods thereby? I do not like to
handle the Written Word in that fashion. And their brass idols are
beyond my comprehension. It is no plunder for simple hill-folk.'

'The old man still sleeps. Hst! We will ask his chela.' The Ao-chung man
refreshed himself, and swelled with pride of leadership.

'We have here,' he whispered, 'a kilta whose nature we do not know.'

'But I do,' said Kim cautiously. The lama drew breath in natural, easy
sleep, and Kim had been thinking of Hurree's last words. As a player of
the Great Game, he was disposed just then to reverence the Babu. 'It is
a kilta with a red top full of very wonderful things, not to be handled
by fools.'

'I said it; I said it,' cried the bearer of that burden. 'Thinkest thou
it will betray us?'

'Not if it be given to me. I will draw out its magic. Otherwise it will
do great harm.'

'A priest always takes his share.' Whisky was demoralising the Ao-chung
man.

'It is no matter to me,' Kim answered, with the craft of his
mother-country. 'Share it among you, and see what comes!'

'Not I. I was only jesting. Give the order. There is more than enough
for us all. We go our way from Shamlegh in the dawn.'

They arranged and re-arranged their artless little plans for another
hour, while Kim shivered with cold and pride. The humour of the
situation tickled the Irish and the Oriental in his soul. Here were the
emissaries of the dread Power of the North, very possibly as great in
their own land as Mahbub or Colonel Creighton, suddenly smitten
helpless. One of them, he privately knew, would be lame for a time. They
had made promises to Kings. To-night they lay out somewhere below him,
chartless, foodless, tentless, gunless--except for Hurree Babu,
guideless. And this collapse of their Great Game (Kim wondered to whom
they would report it), this panicky bolt into the night, had come about
through no craft of Hurree's or contrivance of Kim's, but simply,
beautifully, and inevitably as the capture of Mahbub's faquir-friends by
the zealous young policeman at Umballa.

'They are there--with nothing; and, by Jove, it is cold! I am here with
all their things. Oh, they will be angry! I am sorry for Hurree Babu.'

Kim might have saved his pity, for though at that moment the Bengali
suffered acutely in the flesh, his soul was puffed and lofty. A mile
down the hill, on the edge of the pine-forest, two half-frozen men--one
powerfully sick at intervals--were varying mutual recriminations with
the most poignant abuse of the Babu, who seemed distraught with terror.
They demanded a plan of action. He explained that they were very lucky
to be alive; that their coolies, if not then stalking them, had passed
beyond recall; that the Rajah, his master, was ninety miles away, and,
so far from lending them money and a retinue for the Simla journey,
would surely cast them into prison if he heard that they had hit a
priest. He enlarged on this sin and its consequences till they bade him
change the subject. Their one hope, said he, was unostentatious flight
from village to village till they reached civilisation; and, for the
hundredth time dissolved in tears, he demanded of the high stars why the
Sahibs 'had beaten holy man.'

Ten steps would have taken Hurree into the creaking gloom utterly beyond
their reach--to the shelter and food of the nearest village, where
glib-tongued doctors were scarce. But he preferred to endure cold,
belly-pinch, bad words, and occasional blows in the company of his
honoured employers. Crouched against a tree-trunk, he sniffed dolefully.

'And have you thought,' said the uninjured man hotly, 'what sort of
spectacle we shall present wandering through these hills among these
aborigines?'

Hurree Babu had thought of little else for some hours, but the remark
was not to his address.

'We cannot wander! I can hardly walk,' groaned Kim's victim.

'Perhaps the holy man will be merciful in loving-kindness, Sar,
otherwise--'

'I promise myself a peculiar pleasure in emptying my revolver into that
young bonze when next we meet,' was the unchristian answer.

'Revolvers! Vengeance! Bonzes!' Hurree crouched lower. The war was
breaking out afresh. 'Have you no consideration for our loss? The
baggage! The baggage!' He could hear the speaker literally dancing on
the grass. 'Everything we bore! Everything we have secured! Our gains!
Eight months' work! Do you know what that means? "Decidedly it is we who
can deal with Orientals!" Oh, you have done well.'

They fell to it in several tongues, and Hurree smiled. Kim was with the
kiltas, and in the kiltas lay eight months of good diplomacy. There was
no means of communicating with the boy, but he could be trusted. For the
rest, he could so stage-manage the journey through the hills that Hilas,
Bunar, and four hundred miles of hill-roads should tell the tale for a
generation. Men who cannot control their own coolies are little
respected in the Hills, and the hillman has a very keen sense of humour.

'If I had done it myself,' thought Hurree, 'it would not have been
better; and, by Jove, now I think of it, of course I arranged it myself.
How quick I have been! Just when I ran down hill I thought it! Thee
outrage was accidental, but onlee me could have worked it--ah--for all
it was dam well worth. Consider the moral effect upon these ignorant
peoples! No treaties--no papers--no written documents at all--and me to
interpret for them. How I shall laugh with the Colonel! I wish I had
their papers also: but you cannot occupy two places in space
simultaneously. Thatt is axiomatic.'



CHAPTER XIV

          My brother kneels (so saith Kabir)
            To stone and brass in heathen-wise,
          But in my brother's voice I hear
            My own unanswered agonies.
          His God is as his Fates assign--
          His prayer is all the world's--and mine.
                                                Kabir.


AT moonrise the cautious coolies got under way. The lama, refreshed by
his sleep and the spirit, needed no more than Kim's shoulder to bear him
along--a silent, swift-striding man. They held the shale-sprinkled grass
for an hour, swept round the shoulder of an immortal cliff, and climbed
into a new country entirely blocked off from all sight of Chini valley.
A huge pasture-ground ran up fan-shaped to the living snow. At its base
was perhaps half an acre of flat land, on which stood a few soil and
timber huts. Behind them--for, hill-fashion, they were perched on the
edge of all things--the ground fell sheer two thousand feet to Shamlegh
midden, where never yet man has set foot.

The men made no motion to divide the plunder till they had seen the lama
bedded down in the best room of the place, with Kim shampooing his feet,
Mohammedan fashion.

'We will send food,' said the Ao-chung man, 'and the red-topped kilta.
By dawn there will be none to give evidence, one way or the other. If
anything is not needed in the kilta--see here!'

He pointed through the window--opening into space that was filled with
moonlight reflected from the snow--and threw out an empty whisky-bottle.

'No need to listen for the fall. This is the world's end,' he said, and
swung off. The lama looked forth, a hand on either sill, with eyes that
shone like yellow opals. From the enormous pit before him white peaks
lifted themselves yearning to the moonlight. The rest was as the
darkness of interstellar space.

'These,' he said slowly, 'are indeed my Hills. Thus should a man abide,
perched above the world, separated from delights, considering vast
matters.'

'Yes; if he has a chela to prepare tea for him, and to fold a blanket
for his head, and to chase out calving cows.'

A smoky lamp burned in a niche, but the full moonlight beat it down; and
by the mixed light, stooping above the food-bag and cups, Kim moved like
a tall ghost.

'Ai! But now I have let the blood cool my head still beats and drums,
and there is a cord round the back of my neck.'

'No wonder. It was a strong blow. May he who dealt it--'

'But for my own passions there would have been no evil.'

'What evil? Thou hast saved the Sahibs from death they deserved a
hundred times.'

'The lesson is not well learnt, chela.' The lama came to rest on a
folded blanket, as Kim went forward with his evening routine. 'The blow
was but a shadow upon a shadow. Evil in itself--my legs weary apace
these latter days!--it met evil in me--anger, rage, and a lust to return
evil. These wrought in my blood, woke tumult in my stomach, and dazzled
my ears.' Here he drank scalding block-tea ceremonially, taking the hot
cup from Kim's hand. 'Had I been passionless, the evil blow would have
done only bodily evil--a scar, or a bruise--which is illusion. But my
mind was not abstracted, for rushed in straightway a lust to let the
Spiti men kill. In fighting that lust, my soul was torn and wrenched
beyond a thousand blows. Not till I had repeated the Blessings (he meant
the Buddhist Beatitudes) did I achieve calm. But the evil planted in me
by that moment's carelessness works out to its end. Just is the Wheel,
swerving not a hair! Learn the lesson, chela.'

'It is too high for me,' Kim muttered. 'I am still all shaken. I am glad
I hurt the man.'

'I felt that sleeping upon thy knees, in the wood below. It disquieted
me in my dreams--the evil in thy soul working through to mine. Yet on
the other hand'--he loosed his rosary--'I have acquired merit by saving
two lives--the lives of those that wronged me. Now I must see into the
Cause of Things. The boat of my soul staggers.'

'Sleep, and be strong. That is wisest.'

'I meditate: there is a need greater than thou knowest.'

Till the dawn, hour after hour, as the moonlight paled on the high
peaks, and that which had been belted blackness on the sides of the far
hills showed as tender green forest, the lama stared fixedly at the
wall. From time to time he groaned. Outside the barred door, where
discomfited kine came to ask for their old stable, Shamlegh and the
coolies gave itself up to plunder and riotous living. The Ao-chung man
was their leader, and once they had opened the Sahibs' tinned foods and
found that they were very good they dared not turn back. Shamlegh
kitchen-midden took the dunnage.

When Kim, after a night of bad dreams, stole forth to brush his teeth in
the morning chill, a fair-coloured woman with turquoise-studded headgear
drew him aside.

'The others have gone. They left thee this kilta as the promise was. I
do not love Sahibs, but thou wilt make us a charm in return for it. We
do not wish little Shamlegh to get a bad name on account of
the--accident. I am the Woman of Shamlegh.' She looked him over with
bold, bright eyes, unlike the usual furtive glance of hillwomen.

'Assuredly. But it must be done in secret.'

She raised the heavy kilta like a toy and slung it into her own hut.

'Out and bar the door! Let none come near till it is finished.'

'But afterwards--we may talk?'

Kim tilted the kilta on the floor--a cascade of Survey-instruments,
books, diaries, letters, maps, and queerly scented, native
correspondence. At the very bottom was an embroidered bag covering a
sealed, gilded, and illuminated document such as one King sends to
another. Kim caught his breath with delight, and reviewed the situation
from a Sahib's point of view.

'The books I do not want. Besides, they are logarithms--Survey, I
suppose.' He laid them aside. 'The letters I do not understand, but
Colonel Creighton will. They must all be kept. The maps--they draw
better maps than me--of course. All the native letters--oho!--and
particularly the murasla.' He sniffed the embroidered bag. 'That must be
from Hilas or Bunar, and Hurree Babu spoke truth. By Jove! It is a fine
haul. I wish Hurree could know. . . . The rest must go out of the window.'
He fingered a superb prismatic compass and the shiny top of a
theodolite. But after all, a Sahib cannot very well steal, and the
things might be inconvenient evidence later. He sorted out every scrap
of manuscript, every map, and the native letters. They made one softish
slab. The three locked ferril-backed books, with five worn pocket-books,
he put aside.

'The letters and the murasla I must carry inside my coat and under my
belt, and the hand-written books I must put into the food-bag. It will
be very heavy. No. I do not think there is anything more. If there is,
the coolies have thrown it down the khud, so thatt is all right. Now you
go too.' He repacked the kilta with all he meant to lose, and hove it up
on to the window-sill. A thousand feet below lay a long, lazy,
round-shouldered bank of mist, as yet untouched by the morning sun. A
thousand feet below that was an hundred-year-old pine-forest. He could
see the green tops looking like a bed of moss when a wind-eddy thinned
the cloud.

'No! I don't think any one will go after you!'

The wheeling basket vomited its contents as it dropped. The theodolite
hit a jutting cliff-ledge and exploded like a shell; the books,
inkstand, paint-boxes, compasses, and rulers showed for a few seconds
like a swarm of bees. Then they vanished; and, though Kim, hanging half
out of window, strained his young ears, never a sound came up from the
gulf.

'Five hundred--a thousand rupees could not buy them,' he thought
sorrowfully. 'It was verree wasteful, but I have all their other
stuff--everything they did--I hope. Now how the deuce am I to tell
Hurree Babu, and whatt the deuce am I to do? And my old man is sick. I
must tie up the letters in oilcloth. That is something to do first--else
they will get all sweated. . . . And I am all alone!' He bound them into
a neat packet, swedging down the stiff, sticky oilcloth at the corners,
for his roving life had made him as methodical as an old hunter in
matters of the road. Then with double care he packed away the books at
the bottom of the food-bag.

The woman rapped at the door.

'But thou hast made no charm,' she said, looking about.

'There is no need.' Kim had completely overlooked the necessity for a
little patter-talk. The woman laughed at his confusion irreverently.

'None--for thee. Thou canst cast a spell by the mere winking of an eye.
But think of us poor people when thou art gone! They were all too drunk
last night to hear a woman. Thou art not drunk?'

'I am a priest.' Kim had recovered himself, and, the woman being aught
but unlovely, thought best to stand on his office.

'I warned them that the Sahibs will be angry and will make an
inquisition and a report to the Rajah. There is also the Babu with them.
Clerks have long tongues.'

'Is that all thy trouble?' The plan rose fully formed in Kim's mind, and
he smiled ravishingly.

'Not all,' quoth the woman, putting out a hard brown hand all covered
with turquoises set in silver.

'I can finish that in a breath,' he went on quickly. 'The Babu is the
very hakim (thou hast heard of him?) who was wandering among the hills
by Ziglaur. I know him.'

'He will tell for the sake of a reward. Sahibs cannot distinguish one
hillman from another, but Babus have eyes for men--and women.'

'Carry a word to him from me.'

'There is nothing I would not do for thee.'

He accepted the compliment calmly, as men must in lands where women make
the love, tore a leaf from a note-book, and with a patent indelible
pencil wrote in gross Shikast--the script that bad little boys use when
they write dirt on walls: 'I have everything that they have written:
their pictures of the country, and many letters. Especially the murasla.
Tell me what to do. I am at Shamlegh-under-the-Snow. The old man is
sick.'

'Take this to him. It will altogether shut his mouth. He cannot have
gone far.'

'Indeed no. They are still in the forest across the spur. Our children
went to watch them when the light came, and have cried the news as they
moved.'

Kim looked his astonishment; but from the edge of the sheep-pasture
floated a shrill, kite-like trill. A child tending cattle had picked it
up from a brother or sister on the far side of the slope that commanded
Chini valley.

'My husbands are also out there gathering wood.' She drew a handful of
walnuts from her bosom, split one neatly, and began to eat. Kim affected
blank ignorance.

'Dost thou not know the meaning of the walnut--priest?' she said coyly,
and handed him the half-shells.

'Well thought of.' He slipped the piece of paper between them quickly.
'Hast thou a little wax to close them on this letter?'

The woman sighed aloud, and Kim relented.

'There is no payment till service has been rendered. Carry this to the
Babu, and say it was sent by the Son of the Charm.'

'Ai! Truly! Truly! By a magician--who is like a Sahib.'

'Nay, Son of the Charm: and ask if there be any answer.'

'But if he offer a rudeness? I--I am afraid.'

Kim laughed. 'He is, I have no doubt, very tired and very hungry. The
Hills make cold bedfellows. Hai, my'--it was on the tip of his tongue to
say Mother, but he turned it to Sister--'thou art a wise and witty
woman. By this time all the villages know what has befallen the
Sahibs--eh?'

'True. News was at Ziglaur by midnight, and by to-morrow should be at
Kotgarh. The villages are both afraid and angry.'

'No need. Tell the villages to feed the Sahibs and pass them on, in
peace. We must get them quietly away from our valleys. To steal is one
thing--to kill another. The Babu will understand, and there will be no
after-complaints. Be swift. I must tend my master when he wakes.'

'So be it. After service--thou hast said?--comes the reward. I am the
Woman of Shamlegh, and I hold from the Rajah. I am no common bearer of
babes. Shamlegh is thine: hoof and horn and hide, milk and butter. Take
or leave.'

She turned resolutely uphill, her silver necklaces clicking on her broad
breast, to meet the morning sun fifteen hundred feet above them. This
time Kim thought in the vernacular as he waxed down the oilskin edges of
the packets.

'How can a man follow the Way or the Great Game when he is eternally
pestered by women? There was that girl at Akrola by the Ford; and there
was the scullion's wife behind the dovecot--not counting the others--and
now comes this one! When I was a child it was well enough, but now I am
a man and they will not regard me as a man. Walnuts indeed! Ho! ho! It
is almonds in the Plains!'

He went out to levy on the village--not with a begging-bowl, which might
do for down-country, but in the manner of a prince. Shamlegh's summer
population is only three families--four women and eight or nine men.
They were all full of tinned meats and mixed drinks, from ammoniated
quinine to white vodka, for they had taken their full share in the
overnight loot. The neat Continental tents had been cut up and shared
long ago, and there were patent aluminum saucepans abroad.

But they considered the lama's presence a perfect safeguard against all
consequences, and impenitently brought Kim of their best--even to a
drink of chang--the barley-beer that comes from Ladakh-way. Then they
thawed out in the sun, and sat with their legs hanging over infinite
abysses, chattering, laughing, and smoking. They judged India and its
Government solely from their experience of wandering Sahibs who had
employed them or their friends as shikarris. Kim heard tales of shots
missed upon ibex, serow, or markhor, by Sahibs twenty years in their
graves--every detail lighted from behind like twigs on tree-tops seen
against lightning. They told him of their little diseases, and, more
important, the diseases of their tiny, sure-footed cattle; of trips as
far as Kotgarh, where the strange missionaries live, and beyond even to
marvellous Simla, where the streets are paved with silver, and any one,
look you, can get service with the Sahibs, who ride about in two-wheeled
carts and spend money with a spade. Presently, grave and aloof, walking
very heavily, the lama joined himself to the chatter under the eaves,
and they gave him great room. The thin air refreshed him, and he sat on
the edge of precipices with the best of them, and, when talk languished,
flung pebbles into the void. Thirty miles away, as the eagle flies, lay
the next range, seamed and channelled and pitted with little patches of
brush--forests, each a day's dark march. Behind the village, Shamlegh
hill itself cut off all view to southward. It was like sitting in a
swallow's nest under the eaves of the roof of the world.

From time to time the lama stretched out his hand, and with a little,
low-voiced prompting would point out the road to Spiti and north across
the Parungla.

'Beyond, where the hills lie thickest, lies De-ch'en' (he meant Han-le),
'the great Monastery. s'Tag-stanras-ch'en built it, and of him there
runs this tale.' Whereupon he told it: a fantastic piled narrative of
bewitchment and miracles that set Shamlegh agasping. Turning west a
little, he speered for the green hills of Kulu, and sought Kailung under
the glaciers. 'For thither came I in the old, old days. From Leh I
came; over the Baralachi.'

'Yes, yes; we know it,' said the far-faring people of Shamlegh.

'And I slept two nights with the priests of Kailung. These are the hills
of my delight! Shadows blessed above all other shadows! There my eyes
opened on this world; there my eyes were opened to this world; there I
found Enlightenment; and there I girt my loins for my Search. Out of the
Hills I came--the high Hills and the strong winds. Oh, just is the
Wheel!' He blessed them in detail--the great glaciers, the naked rocks,
the piled moraines and tumbled shale; dry upland, hidden salt-lake,
age-old timber and fruitful water-shot valley one after the other, as a
dying man blesses his folk, and Kim marvelled at his passion.

'Yes--yes. There is no place like our Hills,' said the people of
Shamlegh. And they fell to wondering how a man could live in the hot
terrible Plains where the cattle run as big as elephants, unfit to
plough on a hillside; where village touches village, they had heard, for
a hundred miles; where folk went about stealing in gangs, and what the
robbers spared the Police carried utterly away.

So the still forenoon wore through, and at the end of it Kim's messenger
dropped from the steep pasture as unbreathed as when she had set out.

'I sent a word to the hakim,' Kim explained, while she made reverence.

'He joined himself to the idolaters? Nay, I remember he did a healing
upon one of them. He has acquired merit, though the healed employed his
strength for evil. Just is the Wheel! What of the hakim?'

'I feared that thou hadst been bruised and--and I knew he was wise.' Kim
took the waxed walnut-shell and read in English on the back of his note:
'Your favour received. Cannot get away from present company at present,
but shall take them into Simla. After which, hope to rejoin you.
Inexpedient to follow angry gentlemen. Return by same road you came, and
will overtake. Highly gratified about correspondence due to my
forethought.' 'He says, Holy One, that he will escape from the
idolaters, and will return to us. Shall we wait awhile at Shamlegh,
then?'

The lama looked long and lovingly upon the hills and shook his head.

'That may not be, chela. From my bones outward I do desire it, but it is
forbidden. I have seen the Cause of Things.'

'Why? When the Hills give thee back thy strength day by day? Remember we
were weak and fainting down below there in the Doon.'

'I became strong to do evil and to forget. A brawler and a swashbuckler
upon the hillsides was I.' Kim bit back a smile. 'Just and perfect is
the Wheel, swerving not a hair. When I was a man--a long time ago--I did
pilgrimage to Guru Ch'wan among the poplars' (he pointed Bhotanwards),
'where they keep the Sacred Horse.'

'Quiet, be quiet!' said Shamlegh, all arow. 'He speaks of
Jam-lin-nin-k'or, the Horse That Can Go Round The World In a Day.'

'I speak to my chela only,' said the lama, in gentle reproof, and they
scattered like frost on south eaves of a morning. 'I did not seek truth
in those days, but the talk of doctrine. All illusion! I drank the beer
and ate the bread of Guru Ch'wan. Next day one said: "We go out to
fight Sangor Gutok down the valley to discover (mark again how Lust is
tied to Anger!) which abbot shall bear rule in the valley, and take the
profit of the prayers they print at Sangor Gutok." I went, and we fought
a day.'

'But how, Holy One?'

'With our long pencases as I could have shown. . . . I say, we fought
under the poplars, both abbots and all the monks, and one laid open my
forehead to the bone. See!' He tilted back his cap and showed a puckered
silvery scar. 'Just and perfect is the Wheel! Yesterday the scar itched,
and after fifty years I recalled how it was dealt and the face of him
who dealt it; dwelling a little in illusion. Followed that which thou
didst see--strife and stupidity. Just is the Wheel! The idolater's blow
fell upon the scar. Then I was shaken in my soul: my soul was darkened,
and the boat of my soul rocked upon the waters of illusion. Not till I
came to Shamlegh could I meditate upon the Cause of Things, or trace the
running grass-roots of Evil. I strove all the long night.'

'But, Holy One, thou art innocent of all evil. May I be thy sacrifice!'

Kim was genuinely distressed at the old man's sorrow, and Mahbub Ali's
phrase slipped out unawares.

'In the dawn,' he went on more gravely, ready rosary clicking between
the slow sentences, 'came enlightenment. It is here. . . . I am an old
man . . . hill-bred, hill-fed, never to sit down among my Hills. Three
years I travelled through Hind, but--can earth be stronger than Mother
Earth? My stupid body yearned to the Hills and the snow of the Hills,
from below there. I said, and it is true, my Search is sure. So, at the
Kulu woman's house I turned hillward, over-persuaded by myself. There is
no blame to the hakim. He--following Desire--foretold that the Hills
would make me strong. They strengthened me to do evil, to forget my
Search. I delighted in life and the lust of life. I desired strong
slopes to climb. I cast about to find them. I measured the strength of
my body, which is evil, against the high hills. I made a mock of thee
when thy breath came short under Jamnotri. I jested when thou wouldst
not face the snow of the pass.'

'But what harm? I was afraid. It was just. I am not a hillman; and I
loved thee for thy new strength.'

'More than once I remember,' he rested his cheek dolefully on his hand,
'I sought thy praise and the hakim's for the mere strength of my legs.
Thus evil followed evil till the cup was full. Just is the Wheel! All
Hind for three years did me all honour. From the Fountain of Wisdom in
the Wonder House to'--he smiled--'a little child playing by a big
gun--the world prepared my road. And why?'

'Because we loved thee. It is only the fever of the blow. I myself am
still sick and shaken.'

'No! It was because I was upon the Way--tuned as are sinen (cymbals) to
the purpose of the Law. I departed from that ordinance. The tune was
broken: followed the punishment. In my own Hills, on the edge of my own
country, in the very place of my evil desire, comes the buffet--here!'
(He touched his brow.) 'As a novice is beaten when he misplaces the
cups, so am I beaten, who was Abbot of Suchzen. No word, look you, but a
blow, chela.'

'But the Sahibs did not know thee, Holy One?'

'We were well matched. Ignorance and Lust met Ignorance and Lust upon
the road, and they begat Anger. The blow was a sign to me, who am no
better than a strayed yak, that my place is not here. Who can read the
Cause of an act is half-way to Freedom! "Back to the path," says the
Blow. "The Hills are not for thee. Thou canst not choose Freedom and go
in bondage to the delight of life."'

'If we had never met that thrice-cursed Russian!'

'Our Lord Himself cannot make the Wheel swing backward. And for my merit
that I had acquired I gain yet another sign.' He put his hand in his
bosom, and drew forth the Wheel of Life. 'Look! I considered this after
I had meditated. There remains untorn by the idolater no more than the
breadth of my finger-nail.'

'I see.'

'So much, then, is the span of my life in this body. I have served the
Wheel all my days. Now the Wheel serves me. But for the merit I have
acquired in guiding thee upon the Way, there would have been added to me
yet another life ere I had found my River. Is it plain, chela?'

Kim stared at the brutally disfigured chart. From left to right
diagonally the rent ran--from the Eleventh House where Desire gives
birth to the Child (as it is drawn by Tibetans)--across the human and
animal worlds, to the Fifth House--the empty House of the Senses. The
logic was unanswerable.

'Before our Lord won enlightenment,' the lama folded all away with
reverence, 'He was tempted. I too have been tempted, but it is finished.
The Arrow fell in the Plains--not in the Hills. Therefore, what make we
here?'

'Shall we at least wait for the hakim?'

'I know how long I live in this body. What can a hakim do?'

'But thou art all sick and shaken. Thou canst not walk.'

'How can I be sick if I see Freedom?' He rose unsteadily to his feet.

'Then I must get food from the village. Oh, the weary Road!' Kim felt
that he too needed rest.

'That is lawful. Let us eat and go. The Arrow fell in Plains . . . but
I yielded to Desire. Make ready, chela.'

Kim turned to the woman with the turquoise headgear who had been idly
pitching pebbles over the cliff. She smiled very kindly.

'I found him like a strayed buffalo in a corn-field--the Babu; snorting
and sneezing with cold. He was so hungry that he forgot his dignity and
gave me sweet words. The Sahibs have nothing.' She flung out an empty
palm. 'One is very sick about the stomach. Thy work?'

Kim nodded, with a bright eye.

'I spoke to the Bengali first--and to the people of a nearby village
after. The Sahibs will be given food as they need it--nor will the
people ask money. The plunder is already distributed. That Babu makes
lying speeches to the Sahibs. Why does he not leave them?'

'Out of the greatness of his heart.'

''Was never a Bengali yet had one bigger than a dried walnut. But it is
no matter. . . . Now as to walnuts. After service comes reward. I have
said the village is thine.'

'It is my loss,' Kim began. 'Even now I had planned desirable things in
my heart which'--there is no need to go through the compliments proper
to these occasions. He sighed deeply . . . 'But my master, led by a
vision--'

'Huh! What can old eyes see except a full begging-bowl?'

'--turns from this village to the Plains again.'

'Bid him stay.'

Kim shook his head. 'I know my Holy One, and his rage if he be crossed,'
he replied impressively. 'His curses shake the Hills.'

'Pity they did not save him from a broken head! I heard that thou wast
the tiger-hearted one who smote the Sahib. Let him dream a little
longer. Stay!'

'Hillwoman,' said Kim, with austerity that could not harden the outlines
of his young oval face, 'these matters are too high for thee.'

'The Gods be good to us! Since when have men and women been other than
men and women?'

'A priest is a priest. He says he will go upon this hour. I am his
chela, and I go with him. We need food for the Road. He is an honoured
guest in all the villages, but'--he broke into a pure boyish grin--'the
food here is good. Give me some.'

'What if I do not give it thee? I am the woman of this village.'

'Then I curse thee--a little--not greatly, but enough to remember.' He
could not help smiling.

'Thou hast cursed me already by the down-dropped eyelash and the
uplifted chin. Curses? What should I care for mere words?' She clenched
her hands upon her bosom. . . . 'But I would not have thee to go in
anger, thinking hardly of me--a gatherer of cow-dung and grass at
Shamlegh, but still a woman of substance.'

'I think nothing,' said Kim, 'but that I am grieved to go, for I am very
tired, and that we need food. Here is the bag.'

The woman snatched it angrily. 'I was foolish,' said she. 'Who is thy
woman in the Plains? Fair or black? I was fair once. Laughest thou?
Once, long ago, if thou canst believe, a Sahib looked on me with favour.
Once, long ago, I wore European clothes at the Mission-house yonder.'
She pointed towards Kotgarh. 'Once, long ago, I was Ker-lis-ti-an and
spoke English--as the Sahibs speak it. Yes. My Sahib said he would
return and wed me--yes, wed me. He went away--I had nursed him when he
was sick--but he never returned. Then I saw that the Gods of the
Kerlistians lied, and I went back to my own people. . . . I have never
set eyes on a Sahib since. (Do not laugh at me. The fit is past, little
priestling.) Thy face and thy walk and thy fashion of speech put me in
mind of my Sahib, though thou art only a wandering mendicant to whom I
give a dole. Curse me? Thou canst neither curse nor bless!' She set her
hands on her hips and laughed bitterly. 'Thy Gods are lies; thy works
are lies; thy words are lies. There are no Gods under all the heavens. I
know it. . . . But for a while I thought it was my Sahib come back, and
he was my God. Yes, once I made music on a pianno in the Mission-house
at Kotgarh. Now I give alms to priests who are heatthen.' She wound up
with the English word, and tied the mouth of the brimming bag.

'I wait for thee, chela,' said the lama, leaning against the door-post.

The woman swept the tall figure with her eyes. 'He walk? He cannot cover
half a mile. Whither would old bones go?'

At this Kim, already perplexed by the lama's collapse, and foreseeing
the weight of the bag, fairly lost his temper.

'What is it to thee, woman of ill-omen, where he goes?'

'Nothing--but something to thee, priest with a Sahib's face. Wilt thou
carry him on thy shoulders?'

'I go to the Plains. None must hinder my return. I have wrestled with my
soul till I am strengthless. The stupid body is spent, and we are far
from the Plains.'

'Behold!' she said simply, and drew aside to let Kim see his own utter
helplessness. 'Curse me. May be it will give him strength. Make a charm!
Call on thy great God. Thou art a priest.' She turned away.

The lama had squatted limply, still holding by the door-post. One cannot
strike down an old man that he recovers again like a boy in a night.
Weakness bowed him to the earth, but his eyes that hung on Kim were
alive and imploring.

'It is all well,' said Kim. 'It is the thin air that weakens thee. In a
little while we go! It is the mountain-sickness. I too am a little sick
at stomach,' . . . and he knelt and comforted with such poor words as
came first to his lips. Then the woman returned, more erect than ever.

'Thy Gods useless, heh? Try mine. I am the Woman of Shamlegh.' She
hailed hoarsely, and there came out of a cow-pen her two husbands and
three others with a dooli, the rude native litter of the Hills, that
they use for carrying the sick and for visits of state. 'These cattle,'
she did not condescend to look at them, 'are thine for so long as thou
shalt need.'

'But we will not go Simla-way. We will not go near the Sahibs,' cried
the first husband.

'They will not run away as the others did, nor will they steal baggage.
Two I know for weaklings. Stand to the rear-pole, Sonoo and Taree.' They
obeyed swiftly. 'Lower now, and lift in that holy man. I will see to the
village and your virtuous wives till ye return.'

'When will that be?'

'Ask the priests. Do not pester me. Lay the food-bag at the foot, it
balances better so.'

'Oh, Holy One, thy Hills are kinder than our Plains!' cried Kim,
relieved, as the lama tottered to the litter. 'It is a very king's
bed--a place of honour and ease. And we owe it to--'

'A woman of ill-omen. I need thy blessings as much as I do thy curses.
It is my order and none of thine. Lift and away! Here! Hast thou money
for the road?'

She beckoned Kim to her hut, and stooped above a battered English
cash-box under her cot.

'I do not need anything,' said Kim, angered where he should have been
grateful. 'I am already rudely loaded with favours.'

She looked up with a curious smile and laid a hand on his shoulder. 'At
least, thank me. I am foul-faced and a hillwoman, but, as thy talk goes,
I have acquired merit. Shall I show thee how the Sahibs render thanks?'
and her hard eyes softened.

'I am but a wandering priest,' said Kim, his eyes lighting in answer.
'Thou needest neither my blessings nor my curses.'

'Nay. But for one little moment--thou canst overtake the dooli in ten
strides--if thou wast a Sahib, shall I show thee what thou wouldst do?'

'How if I guess, though?' said Kim, and putting his arm round her waist,
he kissed her on the cheek, adding in English: 'Thank you verree much,
my dear.'

Kissing is practically unknown among Asiatics, which may have been the
reason that she leaned back with wide-open eyes and a face of panic.

'Next time,' Kim went on, 'you must not be so sure of your heatthen
priests. Now I say good-bye.' He held out his hand English-fashion. She
took it mechanically. 'Good-bye, my dear.'

'Good-bye, and--and'--she was remembering her English words one by
one--'you will come back again? Good-bye, and--thee God bless you.'

Half an hour later, as the creaking litter jolted up the hill path that
leads south-easterly from Shamlegh, Kim saw a tiny figure at the hut
door waving a white rag.

'She has acquired merit beyond all others,' said the lama. 'For to set a
man upon the way to Freedom is half as great as though she had herself
found it.'

'Umm,' said Kim thoughtfully, considering the past. 'It may be that I
have acquired merit also. . . . At least she did not treat me like a
child.' He hitched the front of his robe, where lay the slab of
documents and maps, restowed the precious food-bag at the lama's feet,
laid his hand on the litter edge, and buckled down to the slow pace of
the grunting husbands.

'These also acquire merit,' said the lama, after three miles.

'More than that, they shall be paid in silver,' quoth Kim. The Woman of
Shamlegh had given it to him; and it was only fair, he argued, that her
men should earn it back again.



CHAPTER XV

          I'd not give room for an Emperor--
              I'd hold my road for a King.
          To the Triple Crown I'd not bow down--
              But this is a different thing!
          I'll not fight with the Powers of Air--
              Sentries pass him through!
          Drawbridge let fall--He's the Lord of us all--
              The Dreamer whose dream came true!
                                  'The Siege of the Fairies.'


TWO hundred miles north of Chini, on the blue shale of Ladakh, lies
Yankling Sahib, the merry-minded man, spy-glassing wrathfully across the
ridges for some sign of his pet tracker--a man from Ao-chung. But that
renegade, with a new Mannlicher rifle and two hundred cartridges, is
elsewhere, shooting musk-deer for the market, and Yankling Sahib will
learn next season how very ill he has been.

Up the valleys of Bushahr--the far-beholding eagles of the Himalayas
swerve at his new blue-and-white gored umbrella--hurries a Bengali, once
fat and well-looking, now lean and weather-worn. He has received the
thanks of two foreigners of distinction, piloted not unskillfully to
Mashobra tunnel which leads to the great and gay capital of India. It
was not his fault that, blanketed by wet mists, he conveyed them past
the telegraph-station and European colony of Kotgarh. It was not his
fault, but that of the Gods, of whom he discoursed so engagingly, that
he led them into the borders of Nahan, where the Rajah of that state
mistook them for deserting British soldiery. Hurree Babu explained the
greatness and glory, in their own country, of his companions, till the
drowsy kinglet smiled. He explained it to every one who asked--many
times--aloud--variously. He begged food, arranged accommodation, proved
a skilful leech for an injury of the groin--such a blow as one may
receive rolling down a rock-covered hillside in the dark--and in all
things indispensable. The reason of his friendliness did him credit.
With millions of fellow-serfs, he had learned to look upon Russia as the
great deliverer from the North. He was a fearful man. He had been afraid
that he could not save his illustrious employers from the anger of an
excited peasantry. He himself would just as lief hit a holy man as not,
but. . . . He was deeply grateful and sincerely rejoiced that he had
done his 'little possible' towards bringing their venture to--barring
the lost baggage--a successful issue. He had forgotten the blows; denied
that any blows had been dealt that unseemly first night under the pines.
He asked neither pension nor retaining fee, but, if they deemed him
worthy, would they write him a testimonial? It might be useful to him
later, if others, their friends, came over the Passes. He begged them to
remember him in their future greatnesses, for he 'opined subtly' that
he, even he, Mohendro Lal Dutt, M. A. of Calcutta, had 'done the state
some service.'

They gave him a certificate praising his courtesy, helpfulness, and
unerring skill as a guide. He put it in his waist-belt and sobbed with
emotion; they had endured so many dangers together. He led them at high
noon along crowded Simla Mall to the Alliance Bank of Simla, where they
wished to establish their identity. Thence he vanished like a dawn-cloud
on Jakko.

Behold him, too fine drawn to sweat, too pressed to vaunt the drugs in
his little brass-bound box, ascending Shamlegh slope, a just man made
perfect. Watch him, all Babudom laid aside, smoking at noon on a cot,
while a woman with turquoise-studded head-gear points south-easterly
across the bare grass. Litters, she says, do not travel as fast as
single men, but his birds should now be in the Plains. The holy man
would not stay though Lispeth pressed him. The Babu groans heavily,
girds up his huge loins, and is off again. He does not care to travel
after dusk; but his days' marches--there is none to enter them in a
book--would astonish folk who mock at his race. Kindly villagers,
remembering the Dacca drug-vendor of two months ago, give him shelter
against evil spirits of the wood. He dreams of Bengali Gods, University
text-books of education, and the Royal Society, London, England. Next
dawn the bobbing blue-and-white umbrella goes forward.

On the edge of the Doon, Mussoorie well behind them and the Plains
spread out in golden dust before, rests a worn litter in which--all the
Hills know it--lies a sick lama who seeks a River for his healing.
Villages have almost come to blows over the honour of bearing it, for
not only has the lama given them blessings, but his disciple good
money--full one-third Sahibs' prices. Twelve miles a day has the dooli
travelled, as the greasy, rubbed pole-ends show, and by roads that few
Sahibs use. Over the Nilang Pass in storm when the driven snow-dust
filled every fold of the impassive lama's drapery; between the black
horns of Raieng where they heard the whistle of the wild goats through
the clouds; pitching and strained on the shale below; hard-held between
shoulder and clenched jaw when they rounded the hideous curves of the
Cut Road under Bhagirati; swinging and creaking to the steady jog-trot
of the descent into the Valley of the Waters; pressed along the steamy
levels of that locked valley; up, up and out again, to meet the roaring
gusts off Kedarnath; set down of mid-days in the dun gloom of kindly
oak-forests; passed from village to village in dawn-chill, when even
devotees may be forgiven for swearing at impatient holy men; or by
torchlight, when the least fearful think of ghosts--the dooli has
reached her last stage. The little hill-folk sweat in the modified heat
of the lower Sewaliks, and gather round the priests for their blessing
and their wage.

'Ye have acquired merit,' says the lama. 'Merit greater than your
knowing. And ye will return to the Hills,' he sighs.

'Surely. The high hills as soon as may be.' The bearer rubs his
shoulder, drinks water, spits it out again, and readjusts his grass
sandal. Kim--his face is drawn and tired--pays very small silver from
his belt, heaves out the food-bag, crams an oilskin packet--they are
holy writings--into his bosom, and helps the lama to his feet. The peace
has come again into the old man's eyes, and he does not look for the
hills to fall down and crush him as he did that terrible night when they
were delayed by the flooded river.

The men pick up the dooli and swing out of sight between the scrub
clumps.

The lama raises a hand toward the rampart of the Himalayas. 'Not with
you, O blessed among all hills, fell the Arrow of Our Lord! And never
shall I breathe your air again!'

'But thou art ten times the stronger man in this good air,' says Kim,
for to his wearied soul appeal the well-cropped, kindly plains. 'Here,
or hereabouts, fell the Arrow, yes. We will go very softly, perhaps a
kos a day, for the Search is sure. But the bag weighs heavy.'

'Ay, our Search is sure. I have come out of great temptation.'

       *       *       *       *       *

It was never more than a couple of miles a day now, and Kim's shoulders
bore all the weight of it--the burden of an old man, the burden of the
heavy food-bag with the locked books, the load of the writings on his
heart, and the details of the daily routine. He begged in the dawn, set
blankets for the lama's meditation, held the weary head on his lap
through the noon-day heats, fanning away the flies till his wrist ached,
begged again in the evenings, and rubbed the lama's feet, who rewarded
him with promise of Freedom--to-day, to-morrow, or, at furthest, the
next day.

'Never was such a chela. I doubt at times whether Ananda more faithfully
nursed Our Lord. And thou art a Sahib? When I was a man--a long time
ago--I forgot that. Now I look upon thee often, and every time I
remember that thou art a Sahib. It is strange.'

'Thou hast said there is neither black nor white. Why plague me with
this talk, Holy One? Let me rub the other foot. It vexes me. I am not a
Sahib. I am thy chela, and my head is heavy on my shoulders.'

'Patience a little! We reach Freedom together. Then thou and I, upon
the far bank of the River, will look back upon our lives as in the Hills
we saw our days' marches laid out behind us. Perhaps I was once a
Sahib.'

''Was never a Sahib like thee, I swear it.'

'I am certain the Keeper of the Images in the Wonder House was in past
life a very wise abbot. But even his spectacles do not make my eyes see.
There fall shadows when I would look steadily. No matter--we know the
tricks of the poor stupid carcass--shadow changing to another shadow. I
am bound by the illusion of Time and Space. How far came we to-day in
the flesh?'

'Perhaps half a kos.' Three-quarters of a mile, and it was a weary
march.

'Half a kos. Ha! I went ten thousand thousand in the spirit. How we are
all lapped and swathed and swaddled in these senseless things.' He
looked at his thin blue-veined hand that found the beads so heavy.
'Chela, hast thou never a wish to leave me?'

Kim thought of the oilskin packet and the books in the food-bag. If some
one duly authorised would only take delivery of them the Great Game
might play itself for aught he then cared. He was tired and hot in his
head, and a cough that came from the stomach worried him.

'No,' he said almost sternly. 'I am not a dog or a snake to bite when I
have learned to love.'

'Thou art too tender for me.'

'Not that either. I have moved in one matter without consulting thee. I
have sent a message to the Kulu woman by that woman who gave us the
goat's milk this morn, saying that thou wast a little feeble and would
need a litter. I beat myself in my mind that I did not do it when we
entered the Doon. We stay in this place till the litter returns.'

'I am content. She is a woman with a heart of gold, as thou sayest, but
a talker--something of a talker.'

'She will not weary thee. I have looked to that also. Holy One, my heart
is very heavy for my many carelessnesses towards thee.' An hysterical
catch rose in his throat. 'I have walked thee too far; I have not picked
good food always for thee; I have not considered the heat; I have talked
to people on the road and left thee alone. . . . I have--I have . . .
Hai mai! But I love thee . . . and it is all too late. . . . I was a
child. . . . Oh why was I not a man! . . .' Overborne by strain,
fatigue, and the weight beyond his years, Kim broke down and sobbed at
the lama's feet.

'What a to-do is here,' said the old man gently. 'Thou hast never
stepped a hair's breadth from the Way of Obedience. Neglect me? Child, I
have lived on thy strength as an old tree lives on the lime of a new
wall. Day by day since Shamlegh down, I have stolen strength from thee.
Therefore, not through any sin of thine art thou weakened. It is the
Body--the silly, stupid Body--that speaks now. Not the assured Soul. Be
comforted! Know at least the devils that thou fightest. They are
earth-born--children of illusion. We will go to the woman from Kulu. She
shall acquire merit in housing us, and specially in tending me. Thou
shalt run free till strength returns. I had forgotten the stupid Body.
If there be any blame, I bear it. But we are too close to the Gates of
Deliverance to weigh blame. I could praise thee, but what need? In a
little--in a very little--we shall sit beyond all needs.'

And so he petted and comforted Kim with wise saws and grave texts on
that little-understood beast, our Body, who, being but a delusion,
insists on posing as the Soul, to the darkening of the Way, and the
immense multiplication of unnecessary devils.

'Hai! hai! Let us talk of the woman from Kulu. Think you she will ask
another charm for her grandsons? When I was a young man, a very long
time ago, I was plagued with these vapours--and some others--and I went
to an abbot--a very holy man and a seeker after truth, though then I
knew it not. Sit up and listen, child of my soul! My tale was told. Said
he to me, "Chela, know this. There are many lies in the world, and not a
few liars, but there are no liars like our bodies, except it be the
sensations of our bodies." Considering this I was comforted, and of his
great favour he suffered me to drink tea in his presence. Suffer me now
to drink tea, for I am thirsty.'

With a laugh above his tears, Kim kissed the lama's feet, and went about
tea-making.

'Thou leanest on me in the body, Holy One, but I lean on thee for some
other things. Dost know it?'

'I have guessed maybe,' and the lama's eyes twinkled. 'We must change
that.'

So, when with scufflings and scrapings and a hot air of importance,
paddled up nothing less than the Sahiba's pet palanquin sent twenty
miles, with that same grizzled old Oorya servant in charge, and when
they reached the disorderly order of the long white rambling house
behind Saharunpore, the lama took his own measures.

Said the Sahiba cheerily from an upper window, after compliments: 'What
is the good of an old woman's advice to an old man? I told thee--I told
thee, Holy One, to keep an eye upon the chela. How didst thou do it?
Never answer me! I know. He has been running among the women. Look at
his eyes--hollow and sunk--and the Betraying Line from the nose down! He
has been sifted out! Fie! Fie! And a priest, too!'

Kim looked up over-weary to smile, shaking his head in denial.

'Do not jest,' said the lama. 'That time is done. We are here upon great
matters. A sickness of soul took me in the Hills, and him a sickness of
the body. Since then I have lived upon his strength--eating him.'

'Children together--young and old,' she sniffed, but forbore to make any
new jokes. 'May this present hospitality restore ye. Hold awhile and I
will come to gossip of the high good hills.'

At evening time--her son-in-law was returned, so she did not need to go
on inspection round the farm--she won to the meat of the matter,
explained low-voicedly by the lama. The two old heads nodded wisely
together. Kim had reeled to a room with a cot in it, and was dozing
soddenly. The lama had forbidden him to set blankets or get food.

'I know--I know. Who but I?' she cackled. 'We who go down to the
burning-ghats clutch at the hands of those coming up from the River of
Life with full water-jars--yes, brimming water-jars. I did the boy
wrong. He lent thee his strength? It is true that the old eat the young
daily. 'Stands now we must restore him.'

'Thou hast many times acquired merit--'

'My merit. What is it? Old bag of bones making curries for men who do
not ask "Who cooked this?" Now if it were stored up for my grandson--'

'He that had the belly-pain?'

'To think the Holy One remembers that! I must tell his mother. It is
most singular honour! "He that had the belly-pain"--straightway the Holy
One remembered. She will be proud.'

'My chela is to me as a son to the unenlightened.'

'Say grandson, rather. Mothers have not the wisdom of our years. If a
child cries they say the heavens are falling. Now a grandmother is far
enough separated from the pain of bearing and the pleasure of giving the
breast to consider whether a cry is wickedness pure or the wind. And
since thou speakest once again of wind, when last the Holy One was here,
maybe I offended in pressing for charms.'

'Sister,' said the lama, using that form of address a Buddhist monk may
sometimes employ towards a nun, 'if charms comfort thee--'

'They are better than ten thousand doctors.'

'I say, if they comfort thee, I who was Abbot of Suchzen will make as
many as thou mayest desire. I have never seen thy face--'

'That even the monkeys who steal our loquats count for a gain. Hee!
hee!'

'But as he who sleeps there said,' he nodded at the shut door of the
guest-chamber across the forecourt, 'thou hast a heart of gold. . . .
And he is in the spirit my very "grandson" to me.'

'Good! I am the Holy One's cow.' This was pure Hinduism, but the lama
never heeded. 'I am old. I have borne sons in the body. Oh, once I could
please men! Now I can cure them.' He heard her armlets tinkle as though
she bared arms for action. 'I will take over the boy and dose him, and
stuff him, and make him all whole. Hai! hai! We old people know
something yet.'

Wherefore when Kim, aching in every bone, opened his eyes, and would go
to the cook-house to get his master's food, he found strong coercion
about him, and a veiled old figure at the door, flanked by the grizzled
manservant, who told him precisely the very things that he was on no
account to do.

'Thou must have? Thou shalt have nothing. What? A locked box in which to
keep holy books? Oh, that is another matter. Heavens forbid I should
come between a priest and his prayers! It shall be brought, and thou
shalt keep the key.'

They pushed the coffer under his cot, and Kim shut away Mahbub's pistol,
the oilskin packet of letters, and the locked books and diaries, with a
groan of relief. For some absurd reason their weight on his shoulders
was nothing to their weight on his poor mind. His neck ached under it of
nights.

'Thine is a sickness uncommon in youth these days: since young folk have
given up tending their betters. The remedy is sleep, and certain drugs,'
said the Sahiba; and he was glad to give himself up to the blankness
that half menaced and half soothed him.

She brewed drinks, in some mysterious Asiatic equivalent to the
still-room--drenches that smelt pestilently and tasted worse. She stood
over Kim till they went down, and inquired exhaustively after they had
come up. She laid a taboo upon the forecourt, and enforced it by means
of an armed man. It is true he was seventy odd, that his scabbarded
sword ceased at the hilt; but he represented the authority of the
Sahiba, and loaded wains, chattering servants, calves, dogs, hens, and
the like, fetched a wide compass by those parts. Best of all, when the
body was cleared, she cut out from the mass of poor relations that
crowded the back of the buildings--household dogs, we name them--a
cousin's widow, skilled in what Europeans, who know nothing about it,
call massage. And the two of them, laying him east and west, that the
mysterious earth-currents which thrill the clay of our bodies might help
and not hinder, took him to pieces all one long afternoon--bone by bone,
muscle by muscle, ligament by ligament, and lastly, nerve by nerve.
Kneaded to irresponsible pulp, half hypnotised by the perpetual flick
and readjustment of the uneasy chudders that veiled their eyes, Kim slid
ten thousand miles into slumber--thirty-six hours of it--sleep that
soaked like rain after drought.

Then she fed him, and the house spun to her clamour. She caused fowls to
be slain; she sent for vegetables, and the sober, slow-thinking
gardener, nigh as old as she, sweated for it; she took spices, and milk,
and onion, with little fish from the brooks--anon limes for sherbets,
fat quails of the pit, then chicken-livers upon a skewer, with sliced
ginger between.

'I have seen something of this world,' she said over the crowded trays,
'and there are but two sorts of women in it--those who take the strength
out of a man and those who put it back. Once I was that one, and now I
am this. Nay--do not play the priestling with me. Mine was but a jest.
If it does not hold good now, it will when thou takest the road again.
Cousin'--this to the poor relation, never wearied of extolling her
patroness's charity--'he is getting a bloom on the skin of a new-curried
horse. Our work is like polishing jewels to be thrown to a
dance-girl--eh?'

Kim sat up and smiled. The terrible weakness had dropped from him like
an old shoe. His tongue itched for free speech again, and but a week
back the lightest word clogged it like ashes. The pain in his neck (he
must have caught it from the lama) had gone with the heavy dengue-aches
and the evil taste in the mouth. The two old women, a little, but not
much, more careful about their veils now, clucked as merrily as the hens
that had entered pecking through the open door.

'Where is my Holy One?' he demanded.

'Hear him! Thy Holy One is well,' she snapped viciously. 'Though that is
none of his merit. Knew I a charm to make him wise, I'd sell my jewels
and buy it. To refuse good food that I cooked myself--and go roving into
the fields for two nights on an empty belly--and to tumble into a brook
at the end of it--call you that holiness? Then, when he has nearly
broken what thou hast left of my heart with anxiety, he tells me that he
has acquired merit. Oh, how like are all men! No, that was not it--he
tells me that he is freed from all sin. I could have told him that
before he wetted himself all over. He is well now--this happened a week
ago--but burn me such holiness! A babe of three would do better! Do not
fret thyself for the Holy One. He keeps both eyes on thee when he is not
wading our brooks.'

'I do not remember to have seen him. I remember that the days and nights
passed like bars of white and black, opening and shutting. I was not
sick: I was only tired.'

'A lethargy that comes by right some few score years later. But it is
all done now.'

'Maharanee,' Kim began, but led by the look in her eye, changed it to
the title of plain love--'Mother, I owe my life to thee. How shall I
make thanks? Ten thousand blessings upon thy house and--'

'The house be unblessed.' (It is impossible to give exactly the old
lady's word.) 'Thank the Gods as a priest if thou wilt, but thank me if
thou carest as a son. Heavens above! Have I shifted thee and lifted thee
and slapped and twisted thy ten toes to find texts flung at my head?
Somewhere a mother must have borne thee to break her heart. What used
thou to her--son?'

'I had no mother, my mother,' said Kim. 'She died, they tell me, when I
was young.'

'Hai mai! Then none can say I have robbed her of any right if--when thou
takest the road again and this house is but one of a thousand used for
shelter and forgotten, after an easy-flung blessing. No matter. I need
no blessings, but--but--' She stamped her foot at the poor relation:
'Take up the trays to the house. What is the good of stale food in the
room, oh woman of ill-omen?'

'I ha--have borne a son in my time too, but he died,' whimpered the
bowed sister-figure behind the chudder. 'Thou knowest he died! I only
waited for the order to take away the tray.'

'It is I that am the woman of ill-omen,' cried the old lady penitently.
'We that go down to the chattris (the big umbrellas above the
burning-ghats where the priests take their last dues) clutch hard at the
bearers of the chattis (water-jars--young folk full of the pride of
life, she meant; but the pun is clumsy). When one cannot dance in the
festival one must e'en look out of the window, and grandmothering takes
all a woman's time. Thy master gives me all the charms I now desire for
my daughter's eldest, by reason--is it?--that he is wholly free from
sin. The hakim is brought very low these days. He goes about poisoning
my servants for lack of their betters.'

'What hakim, mother?'

'That very Dacca man who gave me the pill which rent me in three pieces.
He cast up like a strayed camel a week ago, vowing that he and thou had
been blood-brothers together up Kulu-way, and feigning great anxiety for
thy health. He was very thin and hungry, so I gave orders to have him
stuffed too--him and his anxiety!'

'I would see him if he is here.'

'He eats five times a day, and lances boils for my hinds to save himself
from an apoplexy. He is so full of anxiety for thy health that he sticks
to the cook-house door and stays himself with scraps. He will keep. We
shall never get rid of him.'

'Send him here, mother'--the twinkle returned to Kim's eye for a
flash--'and I will try.'

'I'll send him, but to chase him off is an ill turn. At least he had the
sense to fish the Holy One out of the brook; thus, as the Holy One did
not say, acquiring merit.'

'He is a very wise hakim. Send him, mother.'

'Priest praising priest? A miracle! If he is any friend of thine (ye
squabbled at your last meeting) I'll hale him here with horse-ropes
and--and give him a caste-dinner afterwards, my son. . . . Get up and
see the world! This lying abed is the mother of seventy devils . . . my
son! my son!'

She trotted forth to raise a typhoon off the cook-house, and almost on
her shadow rolled in the Babu, robed as to the shoulders like a Roman
emperor, jowled like Titus, bareheaded, with new patent-leather shoes,
in highest condition of fat, exuding joy and salutations.

'By Jove, Mister O'Hara, but I am jolly glad to see you. I will kindly
shut the door. It is a pity you are sick. Are you very sick?'

'The papers--the papers from the kilta. The maps and the murasla!' He
held out the key impatiently; for the present need on his soul was to
get rid of the loot.

'You are quite right. That is correct departmental view to take. You
have got everything?'

'All that was handwritten in the kilta I took. The rest I threw down the
hill.' He could hear the key's grate in the lock, the sticky pull of the
slow-rending oilcloth, and a quick shuffling of papers. He had been
annoyed out of all reason by the knowledge that they lay below him
through the sick idle days--a burden incommunicable. For that reason the
blood tingled through his body, when Hurree, skipping elephantinely,
shook hands again.

'This is fine! This is finest! Mister O'Hara! You have--ha! ha!--swiped
the whole bag of tricks--locks, stocks, and barrels. They told me it was
eight months' work gone up the spouts! By Jove, how they beat me! . . .
Look, here is the letter from Hilas!' He intoned a line or two of Court
Persian, which is the language of authorised and unauthorised diplomacy.
'Mister Rajah Sahib has just about put his foot in the holes. He will
have to explain offeecially how the deuce-an'-all he is writing
love-letters to the Czar. And they are very clever maps . . . and there
is three or four Prime Ministers of these parts implicated by the
correspondence. By Gad, Sar! The British Government will change the
succession in Hilas and Bunar, and nominate new heirs to the throne.
"Treason most base" . . . but you do not understand? Eh?'

'Are they in thy hands?' said Kim. It was all he cared for.

'Just you jolly well bet yourself they are.' He stowed the entire trove
about his body, as only Orientals can. 'They are going up to the office,
too. The old lady thinks I am permanent fixture here, but I shall go
away with these straight off--immediately. Mr. Lurgan will be proud man.
You are offeecially subordinate to me, but I shall embody your name in
my verbal report. It is a pity we are not allowed written reports. We
Bengalis excel in thee exact science.' He tossed back the key and showed
the box empty.

'Good. That is good. I was very tired. My Holy One was sick, too. And
did he fall into--'

'Oah yess. I am his good friend, I tell you. He was behaving very
strange when I came down after you, and I thought perhaps he might have
the papers. I followed him on his meditations, and to discuss
ethnological points also. You see, I am verree small person here
nowadays in comparison with all his charms. By Jove, O'Hara, do you
know, he is afflicted with infirmity of fits. Yess, I tell you.
Cataleptic, too, if not also epileptic. I found him in such a state
under a tree in articulo mortem, and he jumped up and walked into a
brook and he was nearly drowned but for me. I pulled him out.'

'Because I was not there!' said Kim. 'He might have died.'

'Yes, he might have died, but he is dry now, and asserts he has
undergone transfiguration.' The Babu tapped his forehead knowingly. 'I
took notes of his statements for Royal Society--in posse. You must make
haste and be quite well and come back to Simla, and I will tell you all
my tale at Lurgan's. It was splendid. The bottoms of their trousers were
quite torn, and old Nahan Rajah, he thought they were European soldiers
deserting.'

'Oh, the Russians? How long were they with thee?'

'One was a Frenchman. Oh, days and days and days! Now all the
hill-people believe all Russians are all beggars. By Jove! they had not
one dam-thing that I did not get them. And I told the common
people--oah, such tales and anecdotes! I will tell you at old Lurgan's
when you come up. We will have--ah--a night out! It is feather in both
our caps! Yess, and they gave me a certificate. That is creaming joke.
You should have seen them at the Alliance Bank identifying themselves!
And thank Almighty God you got their papers so well! You do not laugh
verree much, but you shall laugh when you are well. Now I will go
straight to the railway and get out. You shall have all sorts of credits
for your game. When do you come along? We are very proud of you, though
you gave us great frights. And especially Mahbub.'

'Ay, Mahbub. And where is he?'

'Selling horses in this vi-cinity, of course.'

'Here! Why? Speak slowly. There is a thickness in my head still.'

The Babu looked shyly down his nose. 'Well, you see, I am fearful man,
and I do not like responsibility. You were sick, you see, and I did not
know where deuce-an'-all the papers were, and if so, how many. So when I
had come down here I slipped in private wire to Mahbub--he was at
Meerut for races--and I tell him how case stands. He comes up with his
men and he consorts with the lama, and then he calls me a fool, and is
very rude--'

'But wherefore--wherefore?'

'That is what I ask. I only suggest that if any one steals the papers I
should like some good strong, brave men to rob them back again. You see
they are vitally important, and Mahbub Ali he did not know where you
were.'

'Mahbub Ali to rob the Sahiba's house? Thou art mad, Babu,' said Kim
with indignation.

'I wanted the papers. Suppose she had stole them? It was only practical
suggestion, I think. You are not pleased, eh?'

A native proverb--unquotable--showed the blackness of Kim's disapproval.

'Well,'--Hurree shrugged his shoulders,--'there is no accounting for
thee taste. Mahbub was angry too. He has sold horses all about here, and
he says old lady is pukka (thorough) old lady and would not condescend
to such ungentlemanly things. I do not care. I have got the papers, and
I was very glad of moral support from Mahbub. I tell you I am fearful
man, but, somehow or other, the more fearful I am the more dam-tight
places I get into. So I was glad you came with me to Chini, and I am
glad Mahbub was close by. The old lady she is sometimes very rude to me
and my beautiful pills.'

'Allah be merciful,' said Kim on his elbow, rejoicing. 'What a beast of
wonder is a Babu! And that man walked alone--if he did walk--with robbed
and angry foreigners!'

'Oah, thatt was nothing, after they had done beating me; but if I lost
the papers it was pretty jolly serious. Mahbub he nearly beat me too,
and he went and consorted with the lama no end. I shall stick to
ethnological investigations henceforwards. Now good-bye, Mister O'Hara.
I can catch 4.25 p. m. to Umballa if I am quick. It will be good times
when we all tell thee tale up at Mister Lurgan's. I shall report you
offeecially better. Good-bye, my dear fallow, and when next you are
under thee emotions please do not use the Mohammedan terms with the
Tibetan dress.'

He shook hands twice--a Babu to his boot-heels--and opened the door.
With the fall of the sunlight upon his still triumphant face he returned
to the humble Dacca quack.

'He robbed them,' thought Kim, forgetting his own share in the game. 'He
tricked them. He lied to them like a Bengali. They give him a chit (a
testimonial). He makes them a mock at the risk of his life--I never
would have gone down to them after the pistol-shots--and then he says he
is a fearful man. . . . And he is a fearful man. I must get into the world
again.'

At first his legs bent like bad pipe-stems, and the flood and rush of
the sunlit air dazzled him. He squatted by the white wall, the mind
rummaging among the incidents of the long dooli journey, the lama's
weaknesses, and, now that the stimulus of talk was removed, his own
self-pity, of which, like the sick, he had great store. The unnerved
brain edged away from all the outside, as a raw horse, once rowelled,
sidles from the spur. It was enough, amply enough, that the spoil of the
kilta was away--off his hands--out of his possession. He tried to think
of the lama,--to wonder why he had tumbled into a brook,--but the
bigness of the world, seen between the forecourt gates, swept linked
thought aside. Then he looked upon the trees and the broad fields, with
the thatched huts hidden among crops--looked with strange eyes unable to
take up the size and proportion and use of things--stared for a still
half-hour. All that while he felt, though he could not put it into
words, that his soul was out of gear with its surroundings--a cog-wheel
unconnected with any machinery, just like the idle cog-wheel of a cheap
Beheea sugar-crusher laid by in a corner. The breezes fanned over him,
the parrots shrieked at him, the noises of the populated house
behind--squabbles, orders, and reproofs--hit on dead ears.

'I am Kim. I am Kim. And what is Kim?' His soul repeated it again and
again.

He did not want to cry,--had never felt less like crying in his
life,--but of a sudden easy, stupid tears trickled down his nose, and
with an almost audible click he felt the wheels of his being lock up
anew on the world without. Things that rode meaningless on the eyeball
an instant before slid into proper proportion. Roads were meant to be
walked upon, houses to be lived in, cattle to be driven, fields to be
tilled, and men and women to be talked to. They were all real and
true--solidly planted upon the feet--perfectly comprehensible--clay of
his clay, neither more nor less. He shook himself like a dog with a flea
in his ear, and rambled out of the gate. Said the Sahiba, to whom
watchful eyes reported this move: 'Let him go. I have done my share.
Mother Earth must do the rest. When the Holy One comes back from
meditation, tell him.'

There stood an empty bullock-cart on a little knoll half a mile away,
with a young banian tree behind--a look-out, as it were, above some
new-ploughed levels; and his eyelids, bathed in soft air, grew heavy as
he neared it. The ground was good clean dust--no new herbage that,
living, is half-way to death already, but the hopeful dust that holds
the seed of all life. He felt it between his toes, patted it with his
palms, and joint by joint, sighing luxuriously, laid him down full
length along in the shadow of the wooden-pinned cart. And Mother Earth
was as faithful as the Sahiba. She breathed through him to restore the
poise he had lost lying so long on a cot cut off from her good currents.
His head lay powerless upon her breast, and his opened hands surrendered
to her strength. The many-rooted tree above him, and even the dead
man-handled wood beside, knew what he sought, as he himself did not
know. Hour upon hour he lay deeper than sleep.

Towards evening, when the dust of returning kine made all the horizons
smoke, came the lama and Mahbub Ali, both afoot, walking cautiously, for
the house had told them where he had gone.

'Allah! What a fool's trick to play in open country,' muttered the
horse-dealer. 'He could be shot a hundred times--but this is not the
Border.'

'And,' said the lama, repeating a many-times-told tale, 'never was such
a chela. Temperate, kindly, wise, of ungrudging disposition, a merry
heart upon the road, never forgetting, learned, truthful, courteous.
Great is his reward!'

'I know the boy--as I have said.'

'And he was all those things?'

'Some of them--but I have not yet found a Red Hat's charm for making him
overly truthful. He has certainly been well nursed.'

'The Sahiba is a heart of gold,' said the lama earnestly. 'She looks
upon him as her son.'

'Hmph! Half Hind seems that-way disposed. I only wished to see that the
boy had come to no harm and was a free agent. As thou knowest, he and I
were old friends in the first days of your pilgrimage together.'

'That is a bond between us.' The lama sat down. 'We are at the end of
the pilgrimage.'

'No thanks to thee thine was not cut off for good and all a week back. I
heard what the Sahiba said to thee when we bore thee up on the cot.'
Mahbub laughed, and tugged his newly-dyed beard.

'I was meditating upon other matters that tide. It was the hakim from
Dacca broke my meditations.'

'Otherwise'--this was in Pashtu for decency's sake--'thou wouldst have
ended thy meditations upon the sultry side of Hell--being an unbeliever
and an idolater for all thy child's simplicity. But now, Red Hat, what
is to be done?'

'This very night,'--the words came slowly, vibrating with
triumph,--'this very night he will be as free as I am from all taint of
sin--assured as I am when he quits this body of Freedom from the Wheel
of Things. I have a sign,' he laid his hand above the torn chart in his
bosom, 'that my time is short; but I shall have safeguarded him
throughout the years. Remember, I have reached Knowledge, as I told thee
only three nights back.'

'It must be true, as the Tirah priest said when I stole his cousin's
wife, that I am a sufi (a freethinker); for here I sit,' said Mahbub to
himself, 'drinking in blasphemy unthinkable. . . . I remember the tale.
On that, then, he goes to Jannatu l'Adn (the Gardens of Eden). But how?
Wilt thou slay him or drown him in that wonderful river from which the
Babu dragged thee?'

'I was dragged from no river,' said the lama simply. 'Thou hast
forgotten what befell. I found it by knowledge.'

'Oh, aye. True,' stammered Mahbub, divided between high indignation and
enormous mirth. 'I had forgotten the exact run of what happened. Thou
didst find it knowingly.'

'And to say that I would take life is---not a sin, but a madness simple.
My chela aided me to the River. It is his right to be cleansed from
sin--with me.'

'Ay, he needs cleansing. But afterwards, old man--afterwards?'

'What matter under all the heavens? He is sure of
Nibban--enlightened--as I am.'

'Well said. I had a fear he might mount Mohammed's Horse and fly away.'

'Nay--he must go forth as a teacher.'

'Aha! Now I see! That is the right gait for the colt. Certainly he must
go forth as a teacher. He is somewhat urgently needed as a scribe by the
State, for instance.'

'To that end he was prepared. I acquired merit in that I gave alms for
his sake. A good deed does not die. He aided me in my Search. I aided
him in his. Just is the Wheel, O horse-seller from the North. Let him be
a teacher; let him be a scribe--what matter? He will have attained
Freedom at the end. The rest is illusion.'

'What matter? When I must have him with me beyond Balkh in six months! I
come up with ten lame horses and three strong-backed men--thanks to
that chicken of a Babu--to break a sick boy by force out of an old
trot's house. It seems that I stand by while a young Sahib is hoisted
into Allah knows what of an idolater's heaven by means of old Red Hat.
And I am reckoned something of a player of the Game myself! But the
madman is fond of the boy; and I must be very reasonably mad too.'

'What is the prayer?' said the lama, as the rough Pashtu rumbled into
the red beard.

'No matter at all; but now I understand that the boy, sure of Paradise,
can yet enter Government service, my mind is easier. I must get to my
horses. It grows dark. Do not wake him. I have no wish to hear him call
thee master.'

'But he is my disciple. What else?'

'He has told me.' Mahbub choked down his touch of spleen and rose
laughing. 'I am not altogether of thy faith, Red Hat--if so small a
matter concern thee.'

'It is nothing,' said the lama.

'I thought not. Therefore it will not move thee sinless, new-washed and
three parts drowned to boot, when I call thee a good man--a very good
man. We have talked together some four or five evenings now, and for all
I am a horse-coper I can still, as the saying is, see holiness beyond
the legs of a horse. Yea, can see, too, how our Friend of all the World
put his hand in thine at the first. Use him well, and suffer him to
return to the world as a teacher, when thou hast--bathed his legs, if
that be the proper medicine for the colt.'

'Why not follow the Way thyself, and so accompany the boy?'

Mahbub stared stupefied at the magnificent insolence of the demand,
which across the Border he would have paid with more than a blow. Then
the humour of it touched his worldly soul.

'Softly--softly--one foot at a time, as the lame gelding went over the
Umballa jumps. I may come to Paradise later--I have workings that
way--great motions--and I owe them to thy simplicity. Thou hast never
lied?'

'What need?'

'O Allah, hear him! "What need" in this Thy world! Nor ever harmed a
man?'

'Once--with a pencase--before I was wise.'

'So? I think the better of thee. Thy teachings are good. Thou hast
turned one man that I know from the path of strife.' He laughed
immensely. 'He came here open-minded to commit a dacoity (a
house-robbery with violence). Yes, to cut, rob, kill, and carry off what
he desired.'

'A great foolishness!'

'Oh! black shame too. So he thought after he had seen thee--and a few
others, male and female. So he abandoned it; and now he goes to beat a
big fat Babu man.'

'I do not understand.'

'Allah forbid it! Some men are strong in knowledge, Red Hat. Thy
strength is stronger still. Keep it--I think thou wilt. If the boy be
not a good servant, pull his ears off.'

With a hitch of his broad Bokhariot belt the Pathan swaggered off into
the gloaming, and the lama came down from his clouds so far as to look
at the broad back.

'That person lacks courtesy, and is deceived by the shadow of
appearances. But he spoke well of my chela, who now enters upon his
reward. Let me make the prayer! . . . Wake, O fortunate above all born
of women. Wake! It is found!'

Kim came up from those deep wells, and the lama attended his yawning
pleasure; duly snapping fingers to head off evil spirits.

'I have slept a hundred years. Where--? Holy One, hast thou been here
long? I went out to look for thee, but'--he laughed drowsily--'I slept
by the way. I am all well now. Hast thou eaten? Let us go to the house.
It is many days since I tended thee. And the Sahiba fed thee well? Who
shampooed thy legs? What of the weaknesses--the belly and the neck, and
the beating in the ears?'

'Gone--all gone. Dost thou not know?'

'I know nothing, but that I have not seen thee in a monkey's age. Know
what?'

'Strange the knowledge did not reach out to thee, when all my thoughts
were theeward.'

'I cannot see the face, but the voice is like a gong. Has the Sahiba
made a young man of thee by her cookery?'

He peered at the cross-legged figure, outlined jet-black against the
lemon-coloured drift of light. So does the stone Bodhisat sit who looks
down upon the patent self-registering turnstiles of the Lahore Museum.

The lama held his peace. Except for the click of the rosary and a faint
'clop-clop' of Mahbub's retreating feet, the soft, smoky silence of
evening in India wrapped them close.

'Hear me! I bring news.'

'But let us--'

Out shot the long yellow hand compelling silence. Kim tucked his feet
under his robe-edge obediently.

'Hear me! I bring news! The Search is finished. Comes now the
Reward. . . . Thus. When we were among the Hills, I lived on thy
strength till the young branch bowed and nigh broke. When we came out of
the Hills, I was troubled for thee and for other matters which I held in
my heart. The boat of my soul lacked direction; I could not see into the
Cause of Things. So I gave thee over to the virtuous woman altogether. I
took no food. I drank no water. Still I saw not the Way. They pressed
food upon me and cried at my shut door. So I removed myself to a hollow
under a tree. I took no food. I took no water. I sat in meditation two
days and two nights, abstracting my mind; inbreathing and outbreathing
in the required manner. . . . Upon the second night--so great was my
reward--the wise Soul loosed itself from the silly Body and went free.
This I have never before attained, though I have stood on the threshold
of it. Consider, for it is a marvel!'

'A marvel indeed. Two days and two nights without food! Where was the
Sahiba?' said Kim under his breath.

'Yea, my Soul went free, and, wheeling like an eagle, saw indeed that
there was no Teshoo Lama nor any other soul. As a drop draws to water,
so my soul drew near to the Great Soul which is beyond all things. At
that point, exalted in contemplation, I saw all Hind, from Ceylon in the
sea to the Hills, and my own Painted Rocks at Suchzen; I saw every camp
and village, to the least, where we have ever rested. I saw them at one
time and in one place; for they were within the Soul. By this I knew the
Soul had passed beyond the illusion of Time and Space and of Things. By
this I knew that I was free. I saw thee lying in thy cot, and I saw
thee falling down hill under the idolater--at one time, in one place, in
my Soul, which, as I say, had touched the Great Soul. Also I saw the
stupid body of Teshoo Lama lying down, and the hakim from Dacca kneeled
beside, shouting in its ear. Then my Soul was all alone, and I saw
nothing, for I was all things, having reached the Great Soul. And I
meditated a thousand thousand years, passionless, well aware of the
Causes of all Things. Then a voice cried: "What shall come to the boy if
thou art dead?" and I was shaken back and forth in myself with pity for
thee; and I said: "I will return to my chela, lest he miss the Way."
Upon this my Soul, which is the soul of Teshoo Lama, withdrew itself
from the Great Soul with strivings and yearnings and retchings and
agonies not to be told. As the egg from the fish, as the fish from the
water, as the water from the cloud, as the cloud from the thick air; so
put forth, so leaped out, so drew away, so fumed up the soul of Teshoo
Lama from the Great Soul. Then a voice cried: "The River! Take heed to
the River!" and I looked down upon all the world, which was as I had
seen it before--one in time, one in place--and I saw plainly the River
of the Arrow at my feet. At that hour my Soul was hampered by some evil
or other whereof I was not wholly cleansed, and it lay upon my arms and
coiled round my waist; but I put it aside, and I cast forth as an eagle
in my flight for the very place of the River. I pushed aside world upon
world for thy sake. I saw the River below me--the River of the
Arrow--and, descending, the waters of it closed over me; and behold I
was again in the body of Teshoo Lama, but free from sin, and the hakim
from Dacca bore up my head in the waters of the River. It is here! It
is behind the mango-tope here--even here!'

'Allah Karim! Oh, well that the Babu was by! Wast thou very wet?'

'Why should I regard? I remember the hakim was concerned for the body of
Teshoo Lama. He haled it out of the holy water in his hands, and there
came afterwards thy horse-seller from the North with a cot and men, and
they put the body on the cot and bore it up to the Sahiba's house.'

'What said the Sahiba?'

'I was meditating in that body, and did not hear. So thus the Search is
ended. For the merit that I have acquired, the River of the Arrow is
here. It broke forth at our feet, as I have said. I have found it. Son
of my Soul, I have wrenched my Soul back from the Threshold of Freedom
to free thee from all sin--as I am free, and sinless. Just is the Wheel!
Certain is our deliverance. Come!'

He crossed his hands on his lap and smiled, as a man may who has won
Salvation for himself and his beloved.


THE END


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Due to being unable to discern which spelling idiosyncracies Kipling
would have preferred to keep as displaying dialect and which were
typesetting errors, all were retained except the one listed below. This
includes, for example, the two uses of "quiett" on page 118.

Only the most obvious punctuation errors were repaired. This includes
such things as a closing double-quotation mark in place of a single one,
missing periods at the end of sentences, etc.

Page 139, "Mahbud" changed to "Mahbub" to match rest of usage. (Umballa
race-course, Mahbub Ali)





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