Part 6 out of 7
'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 tomorrow, 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
'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
'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?'
'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 snows upon the Hills.' The lami 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 came out from behind the dovecote 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
therefore - 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
'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-waters 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 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.
Who hath desired the Sea - the immense and contemptuous surges?
The shudder, the stumble, the swerve ere the star-stabbing bowsprit
The orderly clouds of the Trades and the ridged roaring
sapphire thereunder -
Unheralded cliff-lurking flaws and the head-sails' low-volleying
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
The Sea and the Hills.
'Who goes to the hills goes to his mother.'
They had crossed the Siwaliks 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
Such-zen, 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 Kedar- nath 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 hog's-back; 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
anyone 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 soft beds and rich food.'
'We might at least keep to the road.'
Kim had all a plainsman'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 civilized countries, they would pant over a saddle-back, sidle
past a few landslips, and drop through forest at an angle of forty-
five onto the road again. Along their track lay the villages of the
hillfolk - mud and earth huts, 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 their 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 recognized the big hat, the clicking rosary, and the rare
Chinese texts for great authority; and they respected the man
beneath 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 the 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 grey eagle and an occasional far-seen bear grubbing and rooting
on the hillside; a 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 woodcutters 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 housetops,
or threw his soul after his eyes 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
'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 shall 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 bear-skin.'
'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
Karakorum 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 Hanle (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 came 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 a 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. On 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
As usual, the lama had led Kim by cow-track and by-road, 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 over-past, 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 their 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
'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 good-
'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
'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
particularly fast! It would have been much better to cut their
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 footprints, 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 could 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 thev 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 little 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 confided to
me last night,' said the other.
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
oil-skin 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 bareheaded 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
'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
'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 in 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
'Who is with them?'
'Only the beegar-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
'There are more ways of getting to a sweetheart than butting down a
'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-
'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 his 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
'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 holyman!'
'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 downhill 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
aross 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 uphill. 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 particularly
'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 Bikanir desert, he had never used the little gun -pulled the
'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
'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-
'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 downhill.
'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 Such-zen. 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
'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
'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
'One is paid, I think, already,' said Kim between his teeth. 'I
kicked him in the groin as we went downhill. Would I had killed
'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
'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
'After a blow,' said a Spiti man sententiously, 'it is best to
'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
'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
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
'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
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 can draw out its magic. Otherwise it
will do great harm.'
'A priest always takes his share.' Whisky was demoralizing the Ao-
'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. Tonight 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 fakir-friends by the zealous young policeman at
'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
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 civilization; 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
'And have you thought,' said the uninjured man hotly, 'what sort of
spectacle we shall present wandering through these hills among these
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,
'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, Hurree 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 downhill 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.'
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.
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
'No need to listen for the fall. This is the world's end,' he said,
and went out. 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
'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 the 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 black-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
'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
'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 windowsill. 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 a 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, inkstands, 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 the 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 oilskin. 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 oilskin at
the comers, 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
'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
'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, a 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 tomorrow 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
'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 so - always
pestered by women? There was that girl at Akrola of 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 aluminium saucepans
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
anyone, 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-stan-ras-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 a-gasping.
Turning west a little, he steered 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
'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
'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
Kim was genuinely distressed at the old man's sorrow, and Mahbub
Ali's phrase slipped out unawares.
'In the dawn,' the lama 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 snows 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 si-nen
[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
Such-zen. 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 halfway 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."'
'Would we had never met that 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 fingernail.'
'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,
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 shall 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
'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 the 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 cornfield - 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 near-by
village after. The Sahibs will be given food as they need it - nor
will the people ask money. The plunder is already distributed. The
Babu makes lying speeches to the Sahibs. Why does he not leave
'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
'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
boy's 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 weary; 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 awhile 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-
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. Maybe 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
the 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
'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
'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, re-stowed the precious food-bag at the lama's
feet, laid his hand on the litter's 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.
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 -
Sentry, 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 unskilfully 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 Rahah 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 everyone 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, MA of Calcutta, had 'done the State some
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 headgear 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
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 Siwaliks, 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
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 airs 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 koss a day, for the Search is sure. But the bag weighs
'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 noonday heats, fanning away the
flies till his wrists ached, begged again in the evenings, and
rubbed the lama's feet, who rewarded him with promise of Freedom -
today, tomorrow, 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
"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 today in the flesh?'
'Perhaps half a koss.' (Three quarters of a mile, and it was a
'Half a koss. 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
someone duly authorized 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 towards 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 wouldst 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
'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? ...'
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