Part 5 out of 7
He could not see what the woman was about, but heard the dish-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
'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
besides 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
'Then you think I had better go?' said Hurree Babu, half rising.
'They are, of course, dematerialized 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
'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
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 curious
About third cockcrow, 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, recognizing 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. Complete 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 releegion, but
rather sub-variant of same. I have contributed rejected notes To
Whom It May Concern: Asiatic Quarterly Review on these subjects. Now
it is curious that the old gentleman himself is totally devoid of
releegiosity. 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
'Oah yes. I have met him several times at Benares, and also at Buddh
Gaya, to interrogate him on releegious 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 lamp-black, 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
'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
'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 ventriloquy. 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
'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
'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 of 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 speecific
organization. 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~Englishized, 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.
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.
The Juggler's Song, 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 today, 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 a rush of a
wounded bird, and passing his hand before his eyes, he shook his
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
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 reveres every sort of holy man. Kim was
guided to the Temple of the Tirthankars, 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
'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 recognize 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 ZamZammah; but
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
'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 tomorrow 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
'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
'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-
'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
He drew from under the table a sheet of strangely scented yellow
Chinese paper, the brushes, and slab of Indian 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 crystallized 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
'I have a little learned to draw,' said Kim. 'But this is a marvel
'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 Tataka.'
He told Kim the story of the elephant with the leg-iron, as he had
told it so often to the Jam 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 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
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
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 Hindustani, with never an
'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
'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
'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
Now the Jains officially recognize 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
'Remember,' - Kim bent over the child -. 'this trouble may come
'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
'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
The pallor of hunger suited Kim very well as he stood, tall and
slim, in his sand-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,
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 in the
'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 leafplatter 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 sweetstuff 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 quarrel-some, but
that is not true. Except when we are crossed, we are like our own
'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
'But for thee,' said the Kamboh to Kim, drawing the child into his
hairy breast, 'I might today 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
'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
'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 today, 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 counsel 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
'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 the 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
'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.
'This 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'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
'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 Jaipur 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
'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 recognized 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
'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
'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
'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 foodstuffs?'
'I - I -'
'Open thy bundle!'
It was the usual collection of small oddments: bits of cloth, quack
medicines, cheap fairings, a clothful of atta - greyish, 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
'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, 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
thine 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
'I see hope,' said E23. 'What is thy scheme?'
'This comes next,' said Kim, plucking the thin body-shirt. E23
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 thine 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 E23, 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-
'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
'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. E23 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 the
breast, great streaks against the background of flour, ash, and
'The blood on them is enough to hang thee, brother.'
'Maybe; 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
Kim had been trained by Lurgan Sahib; E23, 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
'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 thine 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-bins, 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 fakir 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. E23, 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.
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
The sleek-barrelled swell before storm - grey, foamless, enormous,
Stark calm on the lap of the Line - or the crazy-eyed hurricane
His Sea in no showing the same - his Sea and the same 'neath all
His Sea that his being fulfils?
So and no otherwise - so and no otherwise hill-men desire their
The Sea and the Hills.
'I have found my heart again,' said E23, 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 E23. 'Thev go carriage by carriage, like fisher-folk
netting a pool.'
When the procession reached their compartment, E23 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
'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 E23, '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
'What fools are these Police Sahibs!' said Kim genially.
E23 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.'
E23, 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
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!'
E23, 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 today,
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
'It is well', the Saddhu whispered, jammed in the calling,
shouting, bewildered press - a Persian greyhound between his feet
and a cageful 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
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.
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
'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
sidelong 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
'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 E23 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 E23 was paddling through byways 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 koss
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
'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 Siwaliks 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
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
'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 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 Kabul 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
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
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 torchlight; and there, behind not too closely drawn curtains,
'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 -'
'Chutt! That was on the pilgrimage.
When we travel - thou knowest the proverb.'
'Called the Maharanee a Breaker of Hearts and a Dispenser of
'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
thine 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
'It is true. I gave her one against wind.'
'Teeth - teeth - teeth, ' snapped the old woman.
"'Cure them if 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 to 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
'There is a talking mynah' - the thrust came back with the
well-remembered snap of the jewelled fore-finger - '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 in-auspicious 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.) Tomorrow, 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
'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 torchlight, 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 dovecote.'
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 dovecote.
'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
'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
renew his youth and astonish his household; saffron from Kashmir,
and the best salep of Kabul. 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, Mister 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
'But why come here, Babuji?'
'Ah! Thatt is the question, as Shakespeare hath it. 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
'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 you take the bally bun, by
Jove! It was splendid. I come to tell you so.'
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 of the Ford, and hear all about you, and I talk here and talk
there. All the common people know what you do. I knew 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
'Babuji,' said Kim, looking up at the broad, grinning face, 'I am a
'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 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 Europeans, 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
Hurree Babu reached for the pipe, and sucked it till it gurgled
'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 everyone 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
criticizing any action of superiors. 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
'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 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 tomorrow 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
'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.'
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
'God made the Hare and the Bengali. What shame?' said Kim, quoting
'It was process of Evolution, I think, from Primal Necessity, but
the fact remains in all the 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 the 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
'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 Munsoorie
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.'
Back to Full Books