Part 7 out of 7
Overborne by strain, fatigue, and the weight beyond his years, Kim
broke down and sobbed at the lama's feet.
'What a to-do is here!' said the old man gently. 'Thou hast never
stepped a hair's breadth from the Way of Obedience. Neglect me?
Child, I have lived on thy strength as an old tree lives on the lime
of a new wall. Day by day, since Shamlegh down, I have stolen
strength from thee. Therefore, not through any sin of thine, art
thou weakened. It is the Body - the silly, stupid Body - that speaks
now. Not the assured Soul. Be comforted! Know at least the devils
that thou fightest. They are earth-born - children of illusion. We
will go to the woman from Kulu. She shall acquire merit in housing
us, and specially in tending me. Thou shalt run free till strength
returns. I had forgotten the stupid Body. If there be any blame, I
bear it. But we are too close to the Gates of Deliverance to weigh
blame. I could praise thee, but what need? In a little - in a very
little - we shall sit beyond all needs.'
And so he petted and comforted Kim with wise saws and grave texts on
that little-understood beast, our Body, who, being but a delusion,
insists on posing as the Soul, to the darkening of the Way, and the
immense multiplication of unnecessary devils.
'Hai! hai! Let us talk of the woman from Kulu. Think you she will
ask another charm for her grandsons? When I was a young man, a very
long time ago, I was plagued with these vapours - and some others -
and I went to an Abbot - a very holy man and a seeker after truth,
though then I knew it not. Sit up and listen, child of my soul! My
tale was told. Said he to me, "Chela, know this. There are many lies
in the world, and not a few liars, but there are no liars like our
bodies, except it be the sensations of our bodies." Considering this
I was comforted, and of his great favour he suffered me to drink tea
In his presence. Suffer me now to drink tea, for I am thirsty.'
With a laugh across his tears, Kim kissed the lama's feet, and set
about the tea-making.
'Thou leanest on me in the body, Holy One, but I lean on thee for
some other things. Dost know it?'
'I have guessed maybe,' and the lama's eyes twinkled. 'We must
So, when with scufflings and scrapings and a hot air of importance,
paddled up nothing less than the Sahiba's pet palanquin sent twenty
miles, with that same grizzled old Oorya servant in charge, and when
they reached the disorderly order of the long white rambling house
behind Saharunpore, the lama took his own measures.
Said the Sahiba cheerily from an upper window, after compliments:
'What is the good of an old woman's advice to an old man? I told
thee - I told thee, Holy One, to keep an eye upon the chela. How
didst thou do it? Never answer me! I know. He has been running among
the women. Look at his eyes - hollow and sunk - and the Betraying
Line from the nose down! He has been sifted out! Fie! Fie! And a
Kim looked up, over-weary to smile, shaking his head in denial.
'Do not jest,' said the lama. 'That time is done. We are here upon
great matters. A sickness of soul took me in the Hills, and him a
sickness of the body. Since then I have lived upon his strength -
'Children together - young and old,' she sniffed, but forbore to
make any new jokes. 'May this present hospitality restore ye! Hold
awhile and I will come to gossip of the high good Hills.'
At evening time - her son-in-law was returned, so she did not need
to go on inspection round the farm - she won to the meat of the
matter, explained low-voicedly by the lama. The two old heads nodded
wisely together. Kim had reeled to a room with a cot in it, and was
dozing soddenly. The lama had forbidden him to set blankets or get
'I know - I know. Who but I?' she cackled. 'We who go down to the
burning-ghats clutch at the hands of those coming up from the River
of Life with full water-jars - yes, brimming water-jars. I did the
boy wrong. He lent thee his strength? It is true that the old eat
the young daily. Stands now we must restore him.'
'Thou hast many times acquired merit -'
'My merit. What is it? Old bag of bones making curries for men
who do not ask "Who cooked this?" Now if it were stored up for my
'He that had the belly-pain?'
'To think the Holy One remembers that! I must tell his mother. It is
most singular honour! "He that had the belly-pain" - straightway the
Holy One remembered. She will be proud.'
'My chela is to me as is a son to the unenlightened.'
'Say grandson, rather. Mothers have not the wisdom of our years. If
a child cries they say the heavens are falling. Now a grandmother is
far enough separated from the pain of bearing and the pleasure of
giving the breast to consider whether a cry is wickedness pure or
the wind. And since thou speakest once again of wind, when last the
Holy One was here, maybe I offended in pressing for charms.'
'Sister,' said the lama, using that form of address a Buddhist monk
may sometimes employ towards a nun, 'if charms comfort thee -'
'They are better than ten thousand doctors.'
'I say, if they comfort thee, I who was Abbot of Such-zen, will make
as many as thou mayest desire. I have never seen thy face -'
'That even the monkeys who steal our loquats count for again. Hee!
'But as he who sleeps there said,' - he nodded at the shut door of
the guest-chamber across the forecourt - 'thou hast a heart of gold
... And he is in the spirit my very "grandson" to me'
'Good! I am the Holy One's cow.' This was pure Hinduism, but the
lama never heeded. 'I am old. I have borne sons in the body. Oh,
once I could please men! Now I can cure them.' He heard her armlets
tinkle as though she bared arms for action. 'I will take over the
boy and dose him, and stuff him, and make him all whole. Hai! hai!
We old people know something yet.'
Wherefore when Kim, aching in every bone, opened his eyes, and would
go to the cook-house to get his master's food, he found strong
coercion about him, and a veiled old figure at the door, flanked by
the grizzled manservant, who told him very precisely the things that
he was on no account to do.
'Thou must have? Thou shalt have nothing. What? A locked box in
which to keep holy books? Oh, that is another matter. Heavens
forbid I should come between a priest and his prayers! It shall be
brought, and thou shalt keep the key.'
They pushed the coffer under his cot, and Kim shut away Mahbub's
pistol, the oilskin packet of letters, and the locked books and
diaries, with a groan of relief. For some absurd reason their weight
on his shoulders was nothing to their weight on his poor mind. His
neck ached under it of nights.
'Thine is a sickness uncommon in youth these days: since young folk
have given up tending their betters. The remedy is sleep, and
certain drugs,' said the Sahiba; and he was glad to give himself up
to the blankness that half menaced and half soothed him.
She brewed drinks, in some mysterious Asiatic equivalent to the
still-room - drenches that smelt pestilently and tasted worse. She
stood over Kim till they went down, and inquired exhaustively after
they had come up. She laid a taboo upon the forecourt, and enforced
it by means of an armed man. It is true he was seventy odd, that his
scabbarded sword ceased at the hilt; but he represented the
authority of the Sahiba, and loaded wains, chattering servants,
calves, dogs, hens, and the like, fetched a wide compass by those
parts. Best of all, when the body was cleared, she cut out from the
mass of poor relations that crowded the back of the buildings -
house-hold dogs, we name them - a cousin's widow, skilled in what
Europeans, who know nothing about it, call massage. And the two of
them, laying him east and west, that the mysterious earth-currents
which thrill the clay of our bodies might help and not hinder, took
him to pieces all one long afternoon - bone by bone, muscle by
muscle, ligament by ligament, and lastly, nerve by nerve. Kneaded to
irresponsible pulp, half hypnotized by the perpetual flick and
readjustment of the uneasy chudders that veiled their eyes, Kim slid
ten thousand miles into slumber - thirty-six hours of it - sleep
that soaked like rain after drought.
Then she fed him, and the house spun to her clamour. She caused
fowls to be slain; she sent for vegetables, and the sober, slow-
thinking gardener, nigh as old as she, sweated for it; she took
spices, and milk, and onion, with little fish from the brooks - anon
limes for sherbets, fat quails from the pits, then chicken-livers
upon a skewer, with sliced ginger between.
'I have seen something of this world,' she said over the crowded
trays, 'and there are but two sorts of women in it -those who take
the strength out of a man and those who put it back. Once I was that
one, and now I am this. Nay - do not play the priestling with me.
Mine was but a jest. If it does not hold good now, it will when thou
takest the road again. Cousin,' - this to the poor relation, never
wearied of extolling her patroness's charity - 'he is getting a bloom
on the skin of a new-curried horse. Our work is like polishing
jewels to be thrown to a dance-girl - eh?'
Kim sat up and smiled. The terrible weakness had dropped from him
like an old shoe. His tongue itched for free speech again, and but a
week back the lightest word clogged it like ashes. The pain in his
neck (he must have caught it from the lama) had gone with the heavy
dengue-aches and the evil taste in the mouth. The two old women, a
little, but not much, more careful about their veils now, clucked as
merrily as the hens that had entered pecking through the open door.
'Where is my Holy One?' he demanded.
'Hear him! Thy Holy One is well,' she snapped viciously. 'Though
that is none of his merit., Knew I a charm to make him wise, I'd
sell my jewels and buy it. To refuse good food that I cooked myself
- and go roving into the fields for two nights on an empty belly -
and to tumble into a brook at the end of it - call you that
holiness? Then, when he has nearly broken what thou hast left of my
heart with anxiety, he tells me that he has acquired merit. Oh, how
like are all men! No, that was not it - he tells me that he is freed
from all sin. I could have told him that before he wetted himself
all over. He is well now - this happened a week ago - but burn me
such holiness! A babe of three would do better. Do not fret thyself
for the Holy One. He keeps both eyes on thee when he is not wading
'I do not remember to have seen him. I remember that the days and
nights passed like bars of white and black, opening and shutting. I
was not sick: I was but tired."
'A lethargy that comes by right some few score years later. But it is
'Maharanee,' Kim began, but led by the look in her eye, changed it
to the title of plain love - 'Mother, I owe my life to thee. How
shall I make thanks? Ten thousand blessings upon thy house and -'
'The house be unblessed!' (It is impossible to give exactly the old
lady's word.) 'Thank the Gods as a priest if thou wilt, but thank
me, if thou carest, as a son. Heavens above! Have I shifted thee and
lifted thee and slapped and twisted thy ten toes to find texts flung
at my head? Somewhere a mother must have borne thee to break her
heart. What used thou to her - son?'
'I had no mother, my mother,' said Kim. 'She died, they tell me,
when I was young.'
'Hai mai! Then none can say I have robbed her of any right if - when
thou takest the road again and this house is but one of a thousand
used for shelter and forgotten, after an easy-flung blessing. No
matter. I need no blessings, but - but -' She stamped her foot at
the poor relation. 'Take up the trays to the house. What is the good
of stale food in the room, O woman of ill-omen?'
'I ha - have borne a son in my time too, but he died,' whimpered the
bowed sister-figure behind the chudder. 'Thou knowest he died! I
only waited for the order to take away the tray.'
'It is I that am the woman of ill-omen,' cried the old lady
penitently. 'We that go down to the chattris [the big umbrellas
above the burning-ghats where the priests take their last dues]
clutch hard at the bearers of the chattis [water-jars - young folk
full of the pride of life, she meant; but the pun is clumsy]. When
one cannot dance in the festival one must e'en look out of the
window, and grandmothering takes all a woman's time. Thy master
gives me all the charms I now desire for my daughter's eldest, by
reason - is it? - that he is wholly free from sin. The hakim is
brought very low these days. He goes about poisoning my servants for
lack of their betters.'
'What hakim, mother?'
'That very Dacca man who gave me the pill which rent me in three
pieces. He cast up like a strayed camel a week ago, vowing that he
and thou had been blood-brothers together up Kulu-way, and feigning
great anxiety for thy health. He was very thin and hungry, so I gave
orders to have him stuffed too - him and his anxiety!'
'I would see him if he is here.'
'He eats five times a day, and lances boils for my hinds to save
himself from an apoplexy. He is so full of anxiety for thy health
that he sticks to the cook-house door and stays himself with scraps.
He will keep. We shall never get rid of him.'
'Send him here, mother' - the twinkle returned to Kim's eye for a
flash - 'and I will try.'
'I'll send him, but to chase him off is an ill turn. At least he had
the sense to fish the Holy One out of the brook; thus, as the Holy
One did not say, acquiring merit.'
'He is a very wise hakim. Send him, mother.'
'Priest praising priest? A miracle! If he is any friend of thine (ye
squabbled at your last meeting) I'll hale him here with horse-ropes
and - and give him a caste-dinner afterwards, my son ... Get up and
see the world! This lying abed is the mother of seventy devils ...
my son! my son!'
She trotted forth to raise a typhoon off the cook-house, and almost
on her shadow rolled in the Babu, robed as to the shoulders like a
Roman emperor, jowled like Titus, bare-headed, with new patent-
leather shoes, in highest condition of fat, exuding joy and
'By Jove, Mister O'Hara, but I are jolly-glad to see you. I will
kindly shut the door. It is a pity you are sick. Are you very sick?'
'The papers - the papers from the kilta. The maps and the murasla!'
He held out the key impatiently; for the present need on his soul
was to get rid of the loot.
'You are quite right. That is correct Departmental view to take. You
have got everything?'
'All that was handwritten in the kilta I took. The rest I threw down
the hill.' He could hear the key's grate in the lock, the sticky
pull of the slow-rending oilskin, and a quick shuffling of papers.
He had been annoyed out of all reason by the knowledge that they lay
below him through the sick idle days - a burden incommunicable. For
that reason the blood tingled through his body, when Hurree,
skipping elephantinely, shook hands again.
'This is fine! This is finest! Mister O'Hara! you have - ha! ha!
swiped the whole bag of tricks - locks, stocks, and barrels. They
told me it was eight months' work gone up the spouts! By Jove, how
they beat me! ... Look, here is the letter from Hilas!' He intoned a
line or two of Court Persian, which is the language of authorized
and unauthorized diplomacy. 'Mister Rajah Sahib has just about put
his foot in the holes. He will have to explain offeecially how the
deuce-an'-all he is writing love-letters to the Czar. And they are
very clever maps ... and there is three or four Prime Ministers of
these parts implicated by the correspondence. By Gad, sar! The
British Government will change the succession in Hilas and Bunar,
and nominate new heirs to the throne. "Trea-son most base" ... but
you do not understand? Eh?'
'Are they in thy hands?' said Kim. It was all he cared for.
'Just you jolly-well bet yourself they are.' He stowed the entire
trove about his body, as only Orientals can. 'They are going up to
the office, too. The old lady thinks I am permanent fixture here,
but I shall go away with these straight off - immediately. Mr Lurgan
will be proud man. You are offeecially subordinate to me, but I
shall embody your name in my verbal report. It is a pity we are not
allowed written reports. We Bengalis excel in thee exact science.'
He tossed back the key and showed the box empty.
'Good. That is good. I was very tired. My Holy One was sick, too.
And did he fall into -'
'Oah yess. I am his good friend, I tell you. He was behaving very
strange when I came down after you, and I thought perhaps he might
have the papers. I followed him on his meditations, and to discuss
ethnological points also. You see, I am verree small person here
nowadays, in comparison with all his charms. By Jove, O'Hara, do you
know, he is afflicted with infirmity of fits. Yess, I tell you.
Cataleptic, too, if not also epileptic. I found him in such a state
under a tree in articulo mortem, and he jumped up and walked into a
brook and he was nearly drowned but for me. I pulled him out.'
'Because I was not there!' said Kim. 'He might have died.'
'Yes, he might have died, but he is dry now, and asserts he has
undergone transfiguration.' The Babu tapped his forehead knowingly.
'I took notes of his statements for Royal Society - in posse. You
must make haste and be quite well and come back to Simla, and I will
tell you all my tale at Lurgan's. It was splendid. The bottoms of
their trousers were quite torn, and old Nahan Rajah, he thought they
were European soldiers deserting.'
'Oh, the Russians? How long were they with thee?'
'One was a Frenchman. Oh, days and days and days! Now all the hill-
people believe all Russians are all beggars. By Jove! they had not
one dam'-thing that I did not get them. And I told the common people
- oah, such tales and anecdotes! - I will tell you at old Lurgan's
when you come up. We will have - ah - a night out! It is feather in
both our caps! Yess, and they gave me a certificate. That is
creaming joke. You should have seen them at the Alliance Bank
identifying themselves! And thank Almighty God you got their papers
so well! You do not laugh verree much, but you shall laugh when you
are well. Now I will go straight to the railway and get out. You
shall have all sorts of credits for your game. When do you come
along? We are very proud of you though you gave us great frights.
And especially Mahbub.'
'Ay, Mahbub. And where is he?'
'Selling horses in this vi-cinity, of course.'
'Here! Why? Speak slowly. There is a thickness in my head still.'
The Babu looked shyly down his nose. 'Well, you see, I am fearful
man, and I do not like responsibility. You were sick, you see, and I
did not know where deuce-an'-all the papers were, and if so, how
many. So when I had come down here I slipped in private wire to
Mahbub - he was at Meerut for races - and I tell him how case
stands. He comes up with his men and he consorts with the lama, and
then he calls me a fool, and is very rude -'
'But wherefore - wherefore?'
'That is what I ask. I only suggest that if anyone steals the papers
I should like some good strong, brave men to rob them back again.
You see, they are vitally important, and Mahbub Ali he did not know
where you were.'
'Mahbub Ali to rob the Sahiba's house? Thou art mad, Babu,' said
Kim with indignation.
'I wanted the papers. Suppose she had stole them? It was only
practical suggestion, I think. You are not pleased, eh?'
A native proverb - unquotable - showed the blackness of Kim's
'Well,' - Hurree shrugged his shoulders - 'there is no accounting
for thee taste. Mahbub was angry too. He has sold horses all about
here, and he says old lady is pukka [thorough] old lady and would
not condescend to such ungentlemanly things. I do not care. I have
got the papers, and I was very glad of moral support from Mahbub. I
tell you, I am fearful man, but, somehow or other, the more fearful
I am the more dam'-tight places I get into. So I was glad you came
with me to Chini, and I am glad Mahbub was close by. The old lady
she is sometimes very rude to me and my beautiful pills.'
'Allah be merciful!' said Kim on his elbow, rejoicing. 'What a beast
of wonder is a Babu! And that man walked alone - if he did walk -
with robbed and angry foreigners!'
'Oah, thatt was nothing, after they had done beating me; but if I
lost the papers it was pretty-jolly serious. Mahbub he nearly beat
me too, and he went and consorted with the lama no end. I shall
stick to ethnological investigations henceforwards. Now good-bye,
Mister O'Hara. I can catch 4.25 p.m. to Umballa if I am quick. It
will be good times when we all tell thee tale up at Mr Lurgan's. I
shall report you offeecially better. Good-bye, my dear fallow, and
when next you are under thee emotions please do not use the
Mohammedan terms with the Tibetan dress.'
He shook hands twice - a Babu to his boot-heels - and opened the
door. With the fall of the sunlight upon his still triumphant face
he returned to the humble Dacca quack.
'He robbed them,' thought Kim, forgetting his own share in the game.
'He tricked them. He lied to them like a Bengali. They give him a
chit [a testimonial]. He makes them a mock at the risk of his life -
I never would have gone down to them after the pistol-shots - and
then he says he is a fearful man ... And he is a fearful man. I must
get into the world again.'
At first his legs bent like bad pipe-stems, and the flood and rush
of the sunlit air dazzled him. He squatted by the white wall, the
mind rummaging among the incidents of the long dooli journey, the
lama's weaknesses, and, now that the stimulus of talk was removed,
his own self-pity, of which, like the sick, he had great store. The
unnerved brain edged away from all the outside, as a raw horse, once
rowelled, sidles from the spur. It was enough, amply enough, that
the spoil of the kilta was away - off his hands - out of his
possession. He tried to think of the lama - to wonder why he had
tumbled into a brook - but the bigness of the world, seen between
the forecourt gates, swept linked thought aside. Then he looked upon
the trees and the broad fields, with the thatched huts hidden among
crops - looked with strange eyes unable to take up the size and
proportion and use of things - stared for a still half-hour. All
that while he felt, though he could not put it into words, that his
soul was out of gear with its surroundings - a cog-wheel
unconnected with any machinery, just like the idle cog-wheel of a
cheap Beheea sugar-crusher laid by in a corner. The breezes fanned
over him, the parrots shrieked at him, the noises of the populated
house behind - squabbles, orders, and reproofs - hit on dead ears.
'I am Kim. I am Kim. And what is Kim?' His soul repeated it again
He did not want to cry - had never felt less like crying in his life
- but of a sudden easy, stupid tears trickled down his nose, and
with an almost audible click he felt the wheels of his being lock up
anew on the world without. Things that rode meaningless on the
eyeball an instant before slid into proper proportion. Roads were
meant to be walked upon, houses to be lived in, cattle to be driven,
fields to be tilled, and men and women to be talked to. They were
all real and true - solidly planted upon the feet - perfectly
comprehensible - clay of his clay, neither more nor less. He shook
himself like a dog with a flea in his ear, and rambled out of the
gate. Said the Sahiba, to whom watchful eyes reported this move:
'Let him go. I have done my share. Mother Earth must do the rest.
When the Holy One comes back from meditation, tell him.'
There stood an empty bullock-cart on a little knoll half a mile
away, with a young banyan tree behind - a look-out, as it were,
above some new-ploughed levels; and his eyelids, bathed in soft air,
grew heavy as he neared it. The ground was good clean dust - no new
herbage that, living, is half-way to death already, but the hopeful
dust that holds the seeds of all life. He felt it between his toes,
patted it with his palms, and joint by joint, sighing luxuriously,
laid him down full length along in the shadow of the wooden-pinned
cart. And Mother Earth was as faithful as the Sahiba. She breathed
through him to restore the poise he had lost lying so long on a cot
cut off from her good currents. His head lay powerless upon her
breast, and his opened hands surrendered to her strength. The many-
rooted tree above him, and even the dead manhandled wood beside,
knew what he sought, as he himself did not know. Hour upon hour he
lay deeper than sleep.
Towards evening, when the dust of returning kine made all the
horizons smoke, came the lama and Mahbub Ali, both afoot, walking
cautiously, for the house had told them where he had gone.
'Allah! What a fool's trick to play in open country!' muttered the
horse-dealer. 'He could be shot a hundred times - but this is not
'And,' said the lama, repeating a many-times-told tale, 'never was
such a chela. Temperate, kindly, wise, of ungrudging disposition, a
merry heart upon the road, never forgetting, learned, truthful,
courteous. Great is his reward!'
'I know the boy - as I have said.'
'And he was all those things?'
'Some of them - but I have not yet found a Red Hat's charm for
making him overly truthful. He has certainly been well nursed.'
'The Sahiba is a heart of gold,' said the lama earnestly. 'She looks
upon him as her son.'
'Hmph! Half Hind seems that way disposed. I only wished to see that
the boy had come to no harm and was a free agent. As thou knowest,
he and I were old friends in the first days of your pilgrimage
'That is a bond between us.' The lama sat down. 'We are at the end
of the pilgrimage.'
'No thanks to thee thine was not cut off for good and all a week
back. I heard what the Sahiba said to thee when we bore thee up on
the cot.' Mahbub laughed, and tugged his newly dyed beard.
'I was meditating upon other matters that tide. It was the hakim
from Dacca broke my meditations.'
'Otherwise' - this was in Pushtu for decency's sake - 'thou wouldst
have ended thy meditations upon the sultry side of Hell - being an
unbeliever and an idolater for all thy child's simplicity. But now,
Red Hat, what is to be done?'
'This very night,' - the words came slowly, vibrating with triumph -
'this very night he will be as free as I am from all taint of sin -
assured as I am, when he quits this body, of Freedom from the Wheel
of Things. I have a sign' - he laid his hand above the torn chart in
his bosom - 'that my time is short; but I shall have safeguarded him
throughout the years. Remember, I have reached Knowledge, as I told
thee only three nights back.'
'It must be true, as the Tirah priest said when I stole his cousin's
wife, that I am a Sufi [a free-thinker]; for here I sit,' said
Mahbub to himself, 'drinking in blasphemy unthinkable ... I remember
the tale. On that, then, he goes to Fannatu l'Adn [the Gardens of
Eden]. But how? Wilt thou slay him or drown him in that wonderful
river from which the Babu dragged thee?'
'I was dragged from no river,' said the lama simply. 'Thou hast
forgotten what befell. I found it by Knowledge.'
'Oh, ay. True,' stammered Mahbub, divided between high indignation
and enormous mirth. 'I had forgotten the exact run of what happened.
Thou didst find it knowingly.'
'And to say that I would take life is - not a sin, but a madness
simple. My chela aided me to the River. It is his right to be
cleansed from sin - with me.'
'Ay, he needs cleansing. But afterwards, old man - afterwards?'
'What matter under all the Heavens? He is sure of Nibban -
enlightened - as I am.'
'Well said. I had a fear he might mount Mohammed's Horse and fly
'Nay - he must go forth as a teacher.'
'Aha! Now I see! That is the right gait for the colt. Certainly he
must go forth as a teacher. He is somewhat urgently needed as a
scribe by the State, for instance.'
'To that end he was prepared. I acquired merit in that I gave alms
for his sake. A good deed does not die. He aided me in my Search. I
aided him in his. Just is the Wheel, O horse-seller from the North.
Let him be a teacher; let him be a scribe - what matter? He will
have attained Freedom at the end. The rest is illusion.'
'What matter? When I must have him with me beyond Balkh in six
months! I come up with ten lame horses and three strong-backed men -
thanks to that chicken of a Babu - to break a sick boy by force out
of an old trot's house. It seems that I stand by while a young Sahib
is hoisted into Allah knows what of an idolater's Heaven by means of
old Red Hat. And I am reckoned something of a player of the Game
myself! But the madman is fond of the boy; and I must be very
reasonably mad too.'
'What is the prayer?' said the lama, as the rough Pushtu rumbled
into the red beard.
'No matter at all; but now I understand that the boy, sure of
Paradise, can yet enter Government service, my mind is easier. I
must get to my horses. It grows dark. Do not wake him. I have no
wish to hear him call thee master.'
'But he is my disciple. What else?'
'He has told me.' Mahbub choked down his touch of spleen and rose
laughing. 'I am not altogether of thy faith, Red Hat - if so small a
matter concern thee.'
'It is nothing,' said the lama.
'I thought not. Therefore it will not move thee, sinless, new-
washed and three parts drowned to boot, when I call thee a good man
- a very good man. We have talked together some four or five
evenings now, and for all I am a horse-coper I can still, as the
saying is, see holiness beyond the legs of a horse. Yea, can see,
too, how our Friend of all the World put his hand in thine at the
first. Use him well, and suffer him to return to the world as a
teacher, when thou hast - bathed his legs, if that be the proper
medicine for the colt.'
'Why not follow the Way thyself, and so accompany the boy?'
Mahbub stared stupefied at the magnificent insolence of the demand,
which across the Border he would have paid with more than a blow.
Then the humour of it touched his worldly soul.
'Softly - softly - one foot at a time, as the lame gelding went over
the Umballa jumps. I may come to Paradise later - I have workings
that way - great motions - and I owe them to thy simplicity. Thou
hast never lied?'
'O Allah, hear him! "What need" in this Thy world! Nor ever harmed a
'Once - with a pencase - before I was wise.'
'So? I think the better of thee. Thy teachings are good. Thou hast
turned one man that I know from the path of strife.' He laughed
immensely. 'He came here open-minded to commit a dacoity [a
house-robbery with violence]. Yes, to cut, rob, kill, and carry off what
'A great foolishness!'
'Oh! black shame too. So he thought after he had seen thee - and a
few others, male and female. So he abandoned it; and now he goes to
beat a big fat Babu man.'
'I do not understand.'
'Allah forbid it! Some men are strong in knowledge, Red Hat. Thy
strength is stronger still. Keep it - I think thou wilt. If the boy
be not a good servant, pull his ears off.'
With a hitch of his broad Bokhariot belt the Pathan swaggered off
into the gloaming, and the lama came down from his clouds so far as
to look at the broad back.
'That person lacks courtesy, and is deceived by the shadow of
appearances. But he spoke well of my chela, who now enters upon his
reward. Let me make the prayer! ... Wake, O fortunate above all born
of women. Wake! It is found!'
Kim came up from those deep wells, and the lama attended his yawning
pleasure; duly snapping fingers to head off evil spirits.
'I have slept a hundred years. Where -? Holy One, hast thou been
here long? I went out to look for thee, but' - he laughed drowsily -
'I slept by the way. I am all well now. Hast thou eaten? Let us go
to the house. It is many days since I tended thee. And the Sahiba
fed thee well? Who shampooed thy legs? What of the weaknesses - the
belly and the neck, and the beating in the ears?'
'Gone - all gone. Dost thou not know?'
'I know nothing, but that I have not seen thee in a monkey's age.
'Strange the knowledge did not reach out to thee, when all my
thoughts were theeward.'
'I cannot see the face, but the voice is like a gong. Has the Sahiba
made a young man of thee by her cookery?'
He peered at the cross-legged figure, outlined jet-black against the
lemon-coloured drift of light. So does the stone Bodhisat sit who
looks down upon the patent self-registering turnstiles of the Lahore
The lama held his peace. Except for the click of the rosary and a
faint clop-clop of Mahbub's retreating feet, the soft, smoky silence
of evening in India wrapped them close.
'Hear me! I bring news.'
'But let us -'
Out shot the long yellow hand compelling silence. Kim tucked his
feet under his robe-edge obediently.
'Hear me! I bring news! The Search is finished. Comes now the Reward
... Thus. When we were among the Hills, I lived on thy strength till
the young branch bowed and nigh broke. When we came out of the
Hills, I was troubled for thee and for other matters which I held in
my heart. The boat of my soul lacked direction; I could not see into
the Cause of Things. So I gave thee over to the virtuous woman
altogether. I took no food. I drank no water. Still I saw not the
Way. They pressed food upon me and cried at my shut door. So I
removed myself to a hollow under a tree. I took no food. I took no
water. I sat in meditation two days and two nights, abstracting my
mind; inbreathing and outbreathing in the required manner ... Upon
the second night - so great was my reward - the wise Soul loosed
itself from the silly Body and went free. This I have never before
attained, though I have stood on the threshold of it. Consider, for
it is a marvel!'
'A marvel indeed. Two days and two nights without food! Where was
the Sahiba?' said Kim under his breath.
'Yea, my Soul went free, and, wheeling like an eagle, saw indeed
that there was no Teshoo Lama nor any other soul. As a drop draws to
water, so my Soul drew near to the Great Soul which is beyond all
things. At that point, exalted in contemplation, I saw all Hind,
from Ceylon in the sea to the Hills, and my own Painted Rocks at
Such-zen; I saw every camp and village, to the least, where we have
ever rested. I saw them at one time and in one place; for they were
within the Soul. By this I knew the Soul had passed beyond the
illusion of Time and Space and of Things. By this I knew that I was
free. I saw thee lying in thy cot, and I saw thee falling downhill
under the idolater - at one time, in one place, in my Soul, which,
as I say, had touched the Great Soul. Also I saw the stupid body of
Teshoo Lama lying down, and the hakim from Dacca kneeled beside,
shouting in its ear. Then my Soul was all alone, and I saw nothing,
for I was all things, having reached the Great Soul. And I meditated
a thousand thousand years, passionless, well aware of the Causes of
all Things. Then a voice cried: "What shall come to the boy if thou
art dead?" and I was shaken back and forth in myself with pity for
thee; and I said: "I will return to my chela, lest he miss the Way."
Upon this my Soul, which is the Soul of Teshoo Lama, withdrew itself
from the Great Soul with strivings and yearnings and retchings and
agonies not to be told. As the egg from the fish, as the fish from
the water, as the water from the cloud, as the cloud from the thick
air, so put forth, so leaped out, so drew away, so fumed up the Soul
of Teshoo Lama from the Great Soul. Then a voice cried: "The River!
Take heed to the River!" and I looked down upon all the world, which
was as I had seen it before - one in time, one in place - and I saw
plainly the River of the Arrow at my feet. At that hour my Soul was
hampered by some evil or other whereof I was not wholly cleansed,
and it lay upon my arms and coiled round my waist; but I put it
aside, and I cast forth as an eagle in my flight for the very place
of the River. I pushed aside world upon world for thy sake. I saw
the River below me - the River of the Arrow - and, descending, the
waters of it closed over me; and behold I was again in the body of
Teshoo Lama, but free from sin, and the hakim from Decca bore up my
head in the waters of the River. It is here! It is behind the mango-
tope here - even here!'
'Allah kerim! Oh, well that the Babu was by! Wast thou very wet?'
'Why should I regard? I remember the hakim was concerned for the
body of Teshoo Lama. He haled it out of the holy water in his hands,
and there came afterwards thy horse-seller from the North with a cot
and men, and they put the body on the cot and bore it up to the
'What said the Sahiba?'
'I was meditating in that body, and did not hear. So thus the Search
is ended. For the merit that I have acquired, the River of the Arrow
is here. It broke forth at our feet, as I have said. I have found
it. Son of my Soul, I have wrenched my Soul back from the Threshold
of Freedom to free thee from all sin - as I am free, and sinless!
Just is the Wheel! Certain is our deliverance! Come!'
He crossed his hands on his lap and smiled, as a man may who has won
salvation for himself and his beloved.
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