Part 3 out of 7
'And what was the end of the Search? What gift has the Red Bull
brought?' The lama addressed himself to Kim.
'He says, "What are you going to do?"' Bennett was staring uneasily
at Father Victor, and Kim, for his own ends, took upon himself the
office of interpreter.
'I do not see what concern this fakir has with the boy, who is
probably his dupe or his confederate,' Bennett began. 'We cannot
allow an English boy - Assuming that he is the son of a Mason, the
sooner he goes to the Masonic Orphanage the better.'
'Ah! That's your opinion as Secretary to the Regimental Lodge,'
said Father Victor; 'but we might as well tell the old man what we
are going to do. He doesn't look like a villain.'
'My experience is that one can never fathom the Oriental mind. Now,
Kimball, I wish you to tell this man what I say word for word.'
Kim gathered the import of the next few sentences and began thus:
'Holy One, the thin fool who looks like a camel says that I am the
son of a Sahib.'
'Oh, it is true. I knew it since my birth, but he could only find
it out by rending the amulet from my neck and reading all the
papers. He thinks that once a Sahib is always a Sahib, and between
the two of them they purpose to keep me in this Regiment or to send
me to a madrissah [a school]. It has happened before. I have always
avoided it. The fat fool is of one mind and the camel-like one of
another. But that is no odds. I may spend one night here and
perhaps the next. It has happened before. Then I will run away and
return to thee.'
'But tell them that thou art my chela. Tell them how thou didst
come to me when I was faint and bewildered. Tell them of our
Search, and they will surely let thee go now.'
'I have already told them. They laugh, and they talk of the
'What are you saying?' asked Mr Bennett.
'Oah. He only says that if you do not let me go it will stop him in
his business - his ur-gent private af-fairs.' This last was a
reminiscence of some talk with a Eurasian clerk in the Canal
Department, but it only drew a smile, which nettled him. 'And if
you did know what his business was you would not be in such a
beastly hurry to interfere.'
'What is it then?' said Father Victor, not without feeling, as he
watched the lama's face.
'There is a River in this country which he wishes to find so verree
much. It was put out by an Arrow which -' Kim tapped his foot
impatiently as he translated in his own mind from the vernacular to
his clumsy English. 'Oah, it was made by our Lord God Buddha, you
know, and if you wash there you are washed away from all your sins
and made as white as cotton-wool.' (Kim had heard mission-talk in
his time.) 'I am his disciple, and we must find that River. It is
so verree valuable to us.'
'Say that again,' said Bennett. Kim obeyed, with amplifications.
'But this is gross blasphemy!' cried the Church of England.
'Tck! Tck!' said Father Victor sympathetically. 'I'd give a good
deal to be able to talk the vernacular. A river that washes away
sin! And how long have you two been looking for it?'
'Oh, many days. Now we wish to go away and look for it again. It is
not here, you see.'
'I see,' said Father Victor gravely. 'But he can't go on in that
old man's company. It would be different, Kim, if you were not a
soldier's son. Tell him that the Regiment will take care of you and
make you as good a man as your - as good a man as can be. Tell him
that if he believes in miracles he must believe that -'
'There is no need to play on his credulity,' Bennett interrupted.
'I'm doing no such thing. He must believe that the boy's coming
here -to his own Regiment - in search of his Red Bull is in the
nature of a miracle. Consider the chances against it, Bennett. This
one boy in all India, and our Regiment of all others on the line o'
march for him to meet with! It's predestined on the face of it.
Yes, tell him it's Kismet. Kismet, mallum? [Do you understand?]'
He turned towards the lama, to whom he might as well have talked of
'They say,' - the old man's eye lighted at Kim's speech 'they say
that the meaning of my horoscope is now accomplished, and that
being led back - though as thou knowest I went out of curiosity -
to these people and their Red Bull I must needs go to a madrissah
and be turned into a Sahib. Now I make pretence of agreement, for
at the worst it will be but a few meals eaten away from thee. Then
I will slip away and follow down the road to Saharunpore.
Therefore, Holy One, keep with that Kulu woman - on no account
stray far from her cart till I come again. Past question, my sign
is of War and of armed men. See how they have given me wine to
drink and set me upon a bed of honour! My father must have been
some great person. So if they raise me to honour among them, good.
If not, good again. However it goes, I will run back to thee when I
am tired. But stay with the Rajputni, or I shall miss thy feet ...
Oah yess,' said the boy, 'I have told him everything you tell me to
'And I cannot see any need why he should wait,' said Bennett,
feeling in his trouser-pocket. 'We can investigate the details
later - and I will give him a ru -'
'Give him time. Maybe he's fond of the lad,' said Father Victor,
half arresting the clergyman's motion.
The lama dragged forth his rosary and pulled his huge hat-brim over
'What can he want now?'
'He says' - Kim put up one hand. 'He says: "Be quiet." He wants to
speak to me by himself. You see, you do not know one little word of
what he says, and I think if you talk he will perhaps give you very
bad curses. When he takes those beads like that, you see, he always
wants to be quiet.'
The two Englishmen sat overwhelmed, but there was a look in
Bennett's eye that promised ill for Kim when he should be relaxed
to the religious arm.
'A Sahib and the son of a Sahib -' The lama's voice was harsh with
pain. 'But no white man knows the land and the customs of the land
as thou knowest. How comes it this is true?'
'What matter, Holy One? - but remember it is only for a night or
two. Remember, I can change swiftly. It will all be as it was when
I first spoke to thee under Zam-Zammah the great gun -'
'As a boy in the dress of white men - when I first went to the
Wonder House. And a second time thou wast a Hindu. What shall the
third incarnation be?' He chuckled drearily. 'Ah, chela, thou has
done a wrong to an old man because my heart went out to thee.'
'And mine to thee. But how could I know that the Red Bull would
bring me to this business?'
The lama covered his face afresh, and nervously rattled the rosary.
Kim squatted beside him and laid hold upon a fold of his clothing.
'Now it is understood that the boy is a Sahib?' he went on in a
muffled tone. 'Such a Sahib as was he who kept the images in the
Wonder House.' The lama's experience of white men was limited. He
seemed to be repeating a lesson. 'So then it is not seemly that he
should do other than as the Sahibs do. He must go back to his own
'For a day and a night and a day,' Kim pleaded.
'No, ye don't!' Father Victor saw Kim edging towards the door, and
interposed a strong leg.
'I do not understand the customs of white men. The Priest of the
Images in the Wonder House in Lahore was more courteous than the
thin one here. This boy will be taken from me. They will make a
Sahib of my disciple? Woe to me! How shall I find my River? Have
they no disciples? Ask.'
'He says he is very sorree that he cannot find the River now any
more. He says, Why have you no disciples, and stop bothering him?
He wants to be washed of his sins.'
Neither Bennett nor Father Victor found any answer ready.
Said Kim in English, distressed for the lama's agony: 'I think if
you will let me go now we will walk away quietly and not steal. We
will look for that River like before I was caught. I wish I did not
come here to find the Red Bull and all that sort of thing. I do not
'It's the very best day's work you ever did for yourself, young
man,' said Bennett.
'Good heavens, I don't know how to console him,' said Father
Victor, watching the lama intently. 'He can't take the boy away
with him, and yet he's a good man - I'm sure he's a good man.
Bennett, if you give him that rupee he'll curse you root and
They listened to each other's breathing - three - five full
minutes. Then the lama raised his head, and looked forth across
them into space and emptiness.
'And I am a Follower of the Way,' he said bitterly. 'The sin is
mine and the punishment is mine. I made believe to myself for now I
see it was but make-belief - that thou wast sent to me to aid in
the Search. So my heart went out to thee for thy charity and thy
courtesy and the wisdom of thy little years. But those who follow
the Way must permit not the fire of any desire or attachment, for
that is all Illusion. As says ...' He quoted an old, old Chinese
text, backed it with another, and reinforced these with a third. 'I
stepped aside from the Way, my chela. It was no fault of thine. I
delighted in the sight of life, the new people upon the roads, and
in thy joy at seeing these things. I was pleased with thee who
should have considered my Search and my Search alone. Now I am
sorrowful because thou art taken away and my River is far from me.
It is the Law which I have broken!'
'Powers of Darkness below!' said Father Victor, who, wise in the
confessional, heard the pain in every sentence.
'I see now that the sign of the Red Bull was a sign for me as well
as for thee. All Desire is red - and evil. I will do penance and
find my River alone.'
'At least go back to the Kulu woman,' said Kim, 'otherwise thou
wilt be lost upon the roads. She will feed thee till I run back to
The lama waved a hand to show that the matter was finally settled
in his mind.
'Now,' - his tone altered as he turned to Kim, - 'what will they do
with thee? At least I may, acquiring merit, wipe out past ill.'
'Make me a Sahib - so they think. The day after tomorrow I return.
Do not grieve.'
'Of what sort? Such an one as this or that man?' He pointed to
Father Victor. 'Such an one as those I saw this evening, men wearing
swords and stamping heavily?'
'That is not well. These men follow desire and come to emptiness.
Thou must not be of their sort.'
'The Umballa priest said that my Star was War,' Kim interjected. 'I
will ask these fools - but there is truly no need. I will run away
this night, for all I wanted to see the new things.'
Kim put two or three questions in English to Father Victor,
translating the replies to the lama.
Then: 'He says, "You take him from me and you cannot say what you
will make him." He says, "Tell me before I go, for it is not a
small thing to make a child."'
'You will be sent to a school. Later on, we shall see. Kimball, I
suppose you'd like to be a soldier?'
'Gorah-log [white-folk]. No-ah! No-ah!' Kim shook his head
violently. There was nothing in his composition to which drill and
routine appealed. 'I will not be a soldier.'
'You will be what you're told to be,' said Bennett; 'and you should
be grateful that we're going to help you.'
Kim smiled compassionately. If these men lay under the delusion
that he would do anything that he did not fancy, so much the
Another long silence followed. Bennett fidgeted with impatience,
and suggested calling a sentry to evict the fakir.
'Do they give or sell learning among the Sahibs? Ask them,' said
the lama, and Kim interpreted.
'They say that money is paid to the teacher - but that money the
Regiment will give ... What need? It is only for a night.'
'And - the more money is paid the better learning is given?' The
lama disregarded Kim's plans for an early flight. 'It is no wrong
to pay for learning. To help the ignorant to wisdom is always a
merit.' The rosary clicked furiously as an abacus. Then he faced
'Ask them for how much money do they give a wise and suitable
teaching? And in what city is that teaching given?'
'Well,' said Father Victor in English, when Kim had translated,
'that depends. The Regiment would pay for you all the time you are
at the Military Orphanage; or you might go on the Punjab Masonic
Orphanage's list (not that he or you 'ud understand what that
means); but the best schooling a boy can get in India is, of
course, at St Xavier's in Partibus at Lucknow.' This took some time
to interpret, for Bennett wished to cut it short.
'He wants to know how much?' said Kim placidly.
'Two or three hundred rupees a year.' Father Victor was long past
any sense of amazement. Bennett, impatient, did not understand.
'He says: "Write that name and the money upon a paper and give it
him." And he says you must write your name below, because he is
going to write a letter in some days to you. He says you are a good
man. He says the other man is a fool. He is going away.'
The lama rose suddenly. 'I follow my Search,' he cried, and was
'He'll run slap into the sentries,' cried Father Victor, jumping up
as the lama stalked out; 'but I can't leave the boy.' Kim made
swift motion to follow, but checked himself. There was no sound of
challenge outside. The lama had disappeared.
Kim settled himself composedly on the Chaplain's cot. At least the
lama had promised that he would stay with the Raiput woman from
Kulu, and the rest was of the smallest importance. It pleased him
that the two padres were so evidently excited. They talked long in
undertones, Father Victor urging some scheme on Mr Bennett, who
seemed incredulous. All this was very new and fascinating, but Kim
felt sleepy. They called men into the tent - one of them certainly
was the Colonel, as his father had prophesied - and they asked him
an infinity of questions, chiefly about the woman who looked after
him, all of which Kim answered truthfully. They did not seem to
think the woman a good guardian.
After all, this was the newest of his experiences. Sooner or later,
if he chose, he could escape into great, grey, formless India,
beyond tents and padres and colonels. Meantime, if the Sahibs were
to be impressed, he would do his best to impress them. He too was a
After much talk that he could not comprehend, they handed him over
to a sergeant, who had strict instructions not to let him escape.
The Regiment would go on to Umballa, and Kim would be sent up,
partly at the expense of the Lodge and in part by subscription, to
a place called Sanawar.
'It's miraculous past all whooping, Colonel,' said Father Victor,
when he had talked without a break for ten minutes. 'His Buddhist
friend has levanted after taking my name and address. I can't quite
make out whether he'll pay for the boy's education or whether he is
preparing some sort of witchcraft on his own account.' Then to Kim:
'You'll live to be grateful to your friend the Red Bull yet. We'll
make a man of you at Sanawar - even at the price o' making you a
'Certainly - most certainly,' said Bennett.
'But you will not go to Sanawar,' said Kim.
'But we will go to Sanawar, little man. That's the order of the
Commander-in-Chief, who's a trifle more important than O'Hara's
'You will not go to Sanawar. You will go to thee War.'
There was a shout of laughter from the full tent.
'When you know your own Regiment a trifle better you won't confuse
the line of march with line of battle, Kim. We hope to go to "thee
'Oah, I know all thatt.' Kim drew his bow again at a venture. If
they were not going to the war, at least they did not know what he
knew of the talk in the veranda at Umballa.
'I know you are not at thee war now; but I tell you that as soon as
you get to Umballa you will be sent to the war - the new war. It is
a war of eight thousand men, besides the guns.'
'That's explicit. D'you add prophecy to your other gifts? Take him
along, sergeant. Take up a suit for him from the Drums, an' take
care he doesn't slip through your fingers. Who says the age of
miracles is gone by? I think I'll go to bed. My poor mind's
At the far end of the camp, silent as a wild animal, an hour later
sat Kim, newly washed all over, in a horrible stiff suit that
rasped his arms and legs.
'A most amazin' young bird,' said the sergeant. 'He turns up in
charge of a yellow-headed buck-Brahmin priest, with his father's
Lodge certificates round his neck, talkin' God knows what all of a
red bull. The buck-Brahmin evaporates without explanations, an' the
bhoy sets cross-legged on the Chaplain's bed prophesyin' bloody war
to the men at large. Injia's a wild land for a God-fearin' man.
I'll just tie his leg to the tent-pole in case he'll go through the
roof. What did ye say about the war?'
'Eight thousand men, besides guns,' said Kim. 'Very soon you will
'You're a consolin' little imp. Lie down between the Drums an' go
to bye-bye. Those two boys will watch your slumbers.'
Now I remember comrades -
Old playmates on new seas -
Whenas we traded orpiment
Among the savages.
Ten thousand leagues to southward,
And thirty years removed -
They knew not noble Valdez,
But me they knew and loved.
Song of Diego Valdez.
Very early in the morning the white tents came down and disappeared
as the Mavericks took a side-road to Umballa. It did not skirt the
resting-place, and Kim, trudging beside a baggage-cart under fire
of comments from soldiers' wives, was not so confident as
overnight. He discovered that he was closely watched - Father
Victor on the one side, and Mr Bennett on the other.
In the forenoon the column checked. A camel-orderly handed the
Colonel a letter. He read it, and spoke to a Major. Half a mile in
the rear, Kim heard a hoarse and joyful clamour rolling down on him
through the thick dust. Then someone beat him on the back, crying:
'Tell us how ye knew, ye little limb of Satan? Father dear, see if
ye can make him tell.'
A pony ranged alongside, and he was hauled on to the priest's
'Now, my son, your prophecy of last night has come true. Our orders
are to entrain at Umballa for the Front tomorrow.'
'What is thatt?' said Kim, for 'front' and 'entrain' were newish
words to him.
'We are going to "thee War," as you called it.'
'Of course you are going to thee War. I said last night.'
'Ye did; but, Powers o' Darkness, how did ye know?'
Kim's eyes sparkled. He shut his lips, nodded his head, and looked
unspeakable things. The Chaplain moved on through the dust, and
privates, sergeants, and subalterns called one another's attention
to the boy. The Colonel, at the head of the column, stared at him
curiously. 'It was probably some bazar rumour.' he said; 'but even
then -' He referred to the paper in his hand. 'Hang it all, the
thing was only decided within the last forty-eight hours.'
'Are there many more like you in India?' said Father Victor, 'or are
you by way o' being a lusus naturae?'
'Now I have told you,' said the boy, 'will you let me go back to my
old man? If he has not stayed with that woman from Kulu, I am
afraid he will die.'
'By what I saw of him he's as well able to take care of himself as
you. No. Ye've brought us luck, an' we're goin' to make a man of
you. I'll take ye back to your baggage-cart and ye'll come to me
For the rest of the day Kim found himself an object of
distinguished consideration among a few hundred white men. The
story of his appearance in camp, the discovery of his parentage,
and his prophecy, had lost nothing in the telling. A big, shapeless
white woman on a pile of bedding asked him mysteriously whether he
thought her husband would come back from the war. Kim reflected
gravely, and said that he would, and the woman gave him food. In
many respects, this big procession that played music at intervals -
this crowd that talked and laughed so easily - resembled a festival
in Lahore city. So far, there was no sign of hard work, and he
resolved to lend the spectacle his patronage. At evening there came
out to meet them bands of music, and played the Mavericks into camp
near Umballa railway station. That was an interesting night. Men of
other regiments came to visit the Mavericks. The Mavericks went
visiting on their own account. Their pickets hurried forth to bring
them back, met pickets of strange regiments on the same duty; and,
after a while, the bugles blew madly for more pickets with officers
to control the tumult. The Mavericks had a reputation for
liveliness to live up to. But they fell in on the platform next
morning in perfect shape and condition; and Kim, left behind with
the sick, women, and boys, found himself shouting farewells
excitedly as the trains drew away. Life as a Sahib was amusing so
far; but he touched it with a cautious hand. Then they marched him
back in charge of a drummer-boy to empty, lime-washed barracks,
whose floors were covered with rubbish and string and paper, and
whose ceilings gave back his lonely footfall. Native-fashion, he
curled himself up on a stripped cot and went to sleep. An angry man
stumped down the veranda, woke him up, and said he was a
schoolmaster. This was enough for Kim, and he retired into his
shell. He could just puzzle out the various English Police notices
in Lahore city, because they affected his comfort; and among the
many guests of the woman who looked after him had been a queer
German who painted scenery for the Parsee travelling theatre. He
told Kim that he had been 'on the barricades in 'Forty-eight,' and
therefore - at least that was how it struck Kim - he would teach
the boy to write in return for food. Kim had been kicked as far as
single letters, but did not think well of them.
'I do not know anything. Go away!' said Kim, scenting evil.
Hereupon the man caught him by the ear, dragged him to a room in a
far-off wing where a dozen drummer-boys were sitting on forms, and
told him to be still if he could do nothing else. This he managed
very successfully. The man explained something or other with white
lines on a black board for at least half an hour, and Kim continued
his interrupted nap. He much disapproved of the present aspect of
affairs, for this was the very school and discipline he had spent
two-thirds of his young life in avoiding. Suddenly a beautiful idea
occurred to him, and he wondered that he had not thought of it
The man dismissed them, and first to spring through the veranda
into the open sunshine was Kim.
' 'Ere, you! 'Alt! Stop!' said a high voice at his heels. 'I've got
to look after you. My orders are not to let you out of my sight.
Where are you goin'?'
It was the drummer-boy who had been hanging round him all the
forenoon - a fat and freckled person of about fourteen, and Kim
loathed him from the soles of his boots to his cap-ribbons.
'To the bazar - to get sweets - for you,' said Kim, after thought.
'Well, the bazar's out o' bounds. If we go there we'll get a
dressing-down. You come back.'
'How near can we go?' Kim did not know what bounds meant, but he
wished to be polite - for the present.
' 'Ow near? 'Ow far, you mean! We can go as far as that tree down
'Then I will go there.'
'All right. I ain't goin'. It's too 'ot. I can watch you from 'ere.
It's no good your runnin' away. If you did, they'd spot you by your
clothes. That's regimental stuff you're wearin'. There ain't a
picket in Umballa wouldn't 'ead you back quicker than you started
This did not impress Kim as much as the knowledge that his raiment
would tire him out if he tried to run. He slouched to the tree at
the corner of a bare road leading towards the bazar, and eyed the
natives passing. Most of them were barrack-servants of the lowest
caste. Kim hailed a sweeper, who promptly retorted with a piece of
unnecessary insolence, in the natural belief that the European boy
could not follow it. The low, quick answer undeceived him. Kim put
his fettered soul into it, thankful for the late chance to abuse
somebody in the tongue he knew best. 'And now, go to the nearest
letter-writer in the bazar and tell him to come here. I would write
'But - but what manner of white man's son art thou to need a bazar
letter-writer? Is there not a schoolmaster in the barracks?'
'Ay; and Hell is full of the same sort. Do my order, you - you Od!
Thy mother was married under a basket! Servant of Lal Beg' (Kim
knew the God of the sweepers), 'run on my business or we will talk
The sweeper shuffled off in haste. 'There is a white boy by the
barracks waiting under a tree who is not a white boy,' he stammered
to the first bazar letter-writer he came across. 'He needs thee.'
'Will he pay?' said the spruce scribe, gathering up his desk
and pens and sealing-wax all in order.
'I do not know. He is not like other boys. Go and see. It is
Kim danced with impatience when the slim young Kayeth hove in
sight. As soon as his voice could carry he cursed him volubly.
'First I will take my pay,' the letter-writer said. 'Bad words have
made the price higher. But who art thou, dressed in that fashion,
to speak in this fashion?'
'Aha! That is in the letter which thou shalt write. Never was such
a tale. But I am in no haste. Another writer will serve me. Umballa
city is as full of them as is Lahore.'
'Four annas,' said the writer, sitting down and spreading his cloth
in the shade of a deserted barrack-wing.
Mechanically Kim squatted beside him - squatted as only the natives
can - in spite of the abominable clinging trousers.
The writer regarded him sideways.
'That is the price to ask of Sahibs,' said Kim. 'Now fix me a true
'An anna and a half. How do I know, having written the letter, that
thou wilt not run away?'
I must not go beyond this tree, and there is also the stamp to be
'I get no commission on the price of the stamp. Once more, what
manner of white boy art thou?'
'That shall be said in the letter, which is to Mahbub Ali, the
horse-dealer in the Kashmir Serai, at Lahore. He is my friend.'
'Wonder on wonder!' murmured the letter-writer, dipping a reed in
the inkstand. 'To be written in Hindi?'
'Assuredly. To Mahbub Ali then. Begin! I have come down with the
old man as far as Umballa in the train. At Umballa I carried the
news of the bay mare's pedigree.' After what he had seen in the
garden, he was not going to write of white stallions.
'Slower a little. What has a bay mare to do ... Is it Mahbub Ali,
the great dealer?'
'Who else? I have been in his service. Take more ink. Again. As the
order was, so I did it. We then went on foot towards Benares, but
on the third day we found a certain regiment. Is that down?'
'Ay, pulton,' murmured the writer, all ears.
'I went into their camp and was caught, and by means of the charm
about my neck, which thou knowest, it was established that I was
the son of some man in the regiment: according to the prophecy of
the Red Bull, which thou knowest was common talk of our bazar.' Kim
waited for this shaft to sink into the letter-writer's heart,
cleared his throat, and continued: 'A priest clothed me and gave me
a new name ... One priest, however, was a fool. The clothes are
very heavy, but I am a Sahib and my heart is heavy too. They send
me to a school and beat me. I do not like the air and water here.
Come then and help me, Mahbub Ali, or send me some money, for I
have not sufficient to pay the writer who writes this.'
' "Who writes this." It is my own fault that I was tricked. Thou
art as clever as Husain Bux that forged the Treasury stamps at
Nucklao. But what a tale! What a tale! Is it true by any chance?'
'It does not profit to tell lies to Mahbub Ali. It is better to
help his friends by lending them a stamp. When the money comes I
The writer grunted doubtfully, but took a stamp out of his desk,
sealed the letter, handed it over to Kim, and departed. Mahbub
Ali's was a name of power in Umballa.
'That is the way to win a good account with the Gods,' Kim shouted
'Pay me twice over when the money comes,' the man cried over his
'What was you bukkin' to that nigger about?' said the drummer-boy
when Kim returned to the veranda. 'I was watch-in' you.'
'I was only talkin' to him.'
'You talk the same as a nigger, don't you?'
'No-ah! No-ah! I onlee speak a little. What shall we do now?'
'The bugles'll go for dinner in arf a minute. My Gawd! I wish I'd
gone up to the Front with the Regiment. It's awful doin' nothin'
but school down 'ere. Don't you 'ate it?'
I'd run away if I knew where to go to, but, as the men say, in this
bloomin' Injia you're only a prisoner at large. You can't desert
without bein' took back at once. I'm fair sick of it.'
'You have been in Be - England?'
'W'y, I only come out last troopin' season with my mother. I should
think I 'ave been in England. What a ignorant little beggar you
are! You was brought up in the gutter, wasn't you?'
'Oah yess. Tell me something about England. My father he came from
Though he would not say so, Kim of course disbelieved every word
the drummer-boy spoke about the Liverpool suburb which was his
England. It passed the heavy time till dinner - a most unappetizing
meal served to the boys and a few invalids in a corner of a
barrack-room. But that he had written to Mahbub Ali, Kim would have
been almost depressed. The indifference of native crowds he was
used to; but this strong loneliness among white men preyed on him.
He was grateful when, in the course of the afternoon, a big soldier
took him over to Father Victor, who lived in another wing across
another dusty parade-ground. The priest was reading an English
letter written in purple ink. He looked at Kim more curiously than
'An' how do you like it, my son, as far as you've gone? Not much,
eh? It must be hard - very hard on a wild animal. Listen now. I've
an amazin' epistle from your friend.'
'Where is he? Is he well? Oah! If he knows to write me letters, it
is all right.'
'You're fond of him then?'
'Of course I am fond of him. He was fond of me.'
'It seems so by the look of this. He can't write English, can he?'
'Oah no. Not that I know, but of course he found a letter-writer
who can write English verree well, and so he wrote. I do hope you
'That accounts for it. D'you know anything about his money
affairs?' Kim's face showed that he did not.
'How can I tell?'
'That's what I'm askin'. Now listen if you can make head or tail o'
this. We'll skip the first part ... It's written from Jagadhir
Road ... "Sitting on wayside in grave meditation, trusting to be
favoured with your Honour's applause of present step, which
recommend your Honour to execute for Almighty God's sake. Education
is greatest blessing if of best sorts. Otherwise no earthly use."
Faith, the old man's hit the bull's-eye that time! "If your Honour
condescending giving my boy best educations Xavier" (I suppose
that's St Xavier's in Partibus) "in terms of our conversation dated
in your tent 15th instant" (a business-like touch there!) "then
Almighty God blessing your Honour's succeedings to third an' fourth
generation and" - now listen! -"confide in your Honour's humble
servant for adequate remuneration per hoondi per annum three
hundred rupees a year to one expensive education St Xavier,
Lucknow, and allow small time to forward same per hoondi sent to
any part of India as your Honour shall address yourself. This
servant of your Honour has presently no place to lay crown of his
head, but going to Benares by train on account of persecution of
old woman talking so much and unanxious residing Saharunpore in any
domestic capacity." Now what in the world does that mean?'
'She has asked him to be her puro - her clergyman - at Saharunpore,
I think. He would not do that on account of his River. She did
'It's clear to you, is it? It beats me altogether. "So going to
Benares, where will find address and forward rupees for boy who is
apple of eye, and for Almighty God's sake execute this education,
and your petitioner as in duty bound shall ever awfully pray.
Written by Sobrao Satai, Failed Entrance Allahabad University, for
Venerable Teshoo Lama the priest of Such-zen looking for a River,
address care of Tirthankars' Temple, Benares. P. M. -Please note
boy is apple of eye, and rupees shall be sent per hoondi three
hundred per annum. For God Almighty's sake." Now, is that ravin'
lunacy or a business proposition? I ask you, because I'm fairly at
my wits' end.'
'He says he will give me three hundred rupees a year? So he will
give me them.'
'Oh, that's the way you look at it, is it?'
'Of course. If he says so!'
The priest whistled; then he addressed Kim as an equal. 'I don't
believe it; but we'll see. You were goin' off today to the
Military Orphanage at Sanawar, where the Regiment would keep you
till you were old enough to enlist. Ye'd be brought up to the
Church of England. Bennett arranged for that. On the other hand, if
ye go to St Xavier's ye'll get a better education an - an can have
the religion. D'ye see my dilemma? Kim saw nothing save a vision
of the lama going south in a train with none to beg for him.
'Like most people, I'm going to temporize. If your friend sends the
money from Benares - Powers of Darkness below, where's a street-
beggar to raise three hundred rupees? - ye'll go down to Lucknow
and I'll pay your fare, because I can't touch the subscription-
money if I intend, as I do, to make ye a Catholic. If he doesn't,
ye'll go to the Military Orphanage at the Regiment's expense. I'll
allow him three days' grace, though I don't believe it at all. Even
then, if he fails in his payments later on ... but it's beyond
me. We can only walk one step at a time in this world, praise God!
An' they sent Bennett to the Front an' left me behind. Bennett
can't expect everything.'
'Oah yess,' said Kim vaguely.
The priest leaned forward. 'I'd give a month's pay to find what's
goin' on inside that little round head of yours.'
'There is nothing,' said Kim, and scratched it. He was wondering
whether Mahbub Ali would send him as much as a whole rupee. Then he
could pay the letter-writer and write letters to the lama at
Benares. Perhaps Mahbub Ali would visit him next time he came south
with horses. Surely he must know that Kim's delivery of the letter
to the officer at Umballa had caused the great war which the men
and boys had discussed so loudly over the barrack dinner-tables.
But if Mahbub Ali did not know this, it would be very unsafe to
tell him so. Mahbub Ali was hard upon boys who knew, or thought
they knew, too much.
'Well, till I get further news' - Father Victor's voice interrupted
the reverie. 'Ye can run along now and play with the other boys.
They'll teach ye something - but I don't think ye'll like it.'
The day dragged to its weary end. When he wished to sleep he was
instructed how to fold up his clothes and set out his boots; the
other boys deriding. Bugles waked him in the dawn; the schoolmaster
caught him after breakfast, thrust a page of meaningless characters
under his nose, gave them senseless names and whacked him without
reason. Kim meditated poisoning him with opium borrowed from a
barrack-sweeper, but reflected that, as they all ate at one table
in public (this was peculiarly revolting to Kim, who preferred to
turn his back on the world at meals), the stroke might be dangerous.
Then he attempted running off to the village where the priest had tried
to drug the lama -- the village where the old soldier lived. But far-seeing
sentries at every exit headed back the little scarlet figure.
Trousers and jacket crippled body and mind alike so he abandoned the project and fell back,
time and chance. Three days of torment passed in the big, echoing
white rooms. He walked out of afternoons under escort of the
drummer-boy, and all he heard from his companions were the few
useless words which seemed to make two-thirds of the white man's
abuse. Kim knew and despised them all long ago. The boy resented
his silence and lack of interest by beating him, as was only
natural. He did not care for any of the bazars which were in
bounds. He styled all natives 'niggers'; yet servants and sweepers
called him abominable names to his face, and, misled by their
deferential attitude, he never understood. This somewhat consoled
Kim for the beatings.
On the morning of the fourth day a judgement overtook that drummer.
They had gone out together towards Umballa racecourse. He returned
alone, weeping, with news that young O'Hara, to whom he had been
doing nothing in particular, had hailed a scarlet-bearded nigger on
horseback; that the nigger had then and there laid into him with a
peculiarly adhesive quirt, picked up young O'Hara, and borne him
off at full gallop. These tidings came to Father Victor, and he
drew down his long upper lip. He was already sufficiently startled
by a letter from the Temple of the Tirthankars at Benares,
enclosing a native banker's note of hand for three hundred rupees,
and an amazing prayer to 'Almighty God'. The lama would have been
more annoyed than the priest had he known how the bazar letter-
writer had translated his phrase 'to acquire merit.'
'Powers of Darkness below!' Father Victor fumbled with the note.
'An' now he's off with another of his peep-o'-day friends. I don't
know whether it will be a greater relief to me to get him back or
to have him lost. He's beyond my comprehension. How the Divil -
yes, he's the man I mean -can a street-beggar raise money to
educate white boys?'
Three miles off, on Umballa racecourse, Mahbub Ali, reining a grey
Kabuli stallion with Kim in front of him, was saying:
'But, Little Friend of all the World, there is my honour and
reputation to be considered. All the officer-Sahibs in all the
regiments, and all Umballa, know Mahbub Ali. Men saw me pick thee
up and chastise that boy. We are seen now from far across this
plain. How can I take thee away, or account for thy disappearing if
I set thee down and let thee run off into the crops? They would put
me in jail. Be patient. Once a Sahib, always a Sahib. When thou art
a man - who knows? - thou wilt be grateful to Mahbub Ali.'
'Take me beyond their sentries where I can change this red. Give me
money and I will go to Benares and be with my lama again. I do not
want to be a Sahib, and remember I did deliver that message.'
The stallion bounded wildly. Mahbub Ali had incautiously driven
home the sharp-edged stirrup. (He was not the new sort of fluent
horse-dealer who wears English boots and spurs.) Kim drew his own
conclusions from that betrayal.
'That was a small matter. It lay on the straight road to Benares. I
and the Sahib have by this time forgotten it. I send so many
letters and messages to men who ask questions about horses, I
cannot well remember one from the other. Was it some matter of a
bay mare that Peters Sahib wished the pedigree of?'
Kim saw the trap at once. If he had said 'bay mare' Mahbub would
have known by his very readiness to fall in with the amendment that
the boy suspected something. Kim replied therefore:
'Bay mare. No. I do not forget my messages thus. It was a white
'Ay, so it was. A white Arab stallion. But thou didst write "bay
mare" to me.'
'Who cares to tell truth to a letter-writer?' Kim answered, feeling
Mahbub's palm on his heart.
'Hi! Mahbub, you old villain, pull up!' cried a voice, and an
Englishman raced alongside on a little polo-pony. 'I've been
chasing you half over the country. That Kabuli of yours can go. For
sale, I suppose?'
'I have some young stuff coming on made by Heaven for the delicate
and difficult polo-game. He has no equal. He - '
'Plays polo and waits at table. Yes. We know all that. What the
deuce have you got there?'
'A. boy,' said Mahbub gravely. 'He was being beaten by another boy.
His father was once a white soldier in the big war. The boy was a
child in Lahore city. He played with my horses when he was a babe.
Now I think they will make him a soldier. He has been newly caught
by his father's Regiment that went up to the war last week. But I
do not think he wants to be a soldier. I take him for a ride. Tell
me where thy barracks are and I will set thee there.'
'Let me go. I can find the barracks alone.'
'And if thou runnest away who will say it is not my fault?'
'He'll run back to his dinner. Where has he to run to?' the
'He was born in the land. He has friends. He goes where he chooses.
He is a chabuk sawai [a sharp chap]. It needs only to change his
clothing, and in a twinkling he would be a low-caste Hindu boy.'
'The deuce he would!' The Englishman looked critically at the boy
as Mahbub headed towards the barracks. Kim ground his teeth. Mahbub
was mocking him, as faithless Afghans will; for he went on:
'They will send him to a school and put heavy boots on his feet and
swaddle him in these clothes. Then he will forget all he knows.
Now, which of the barracks is thine?'
Kim pointed - he could not speak - to Father Victor's wing, all
staring white near by.
'Perhaps he will make a good soldier,' said Mahbub reflectively.
'He will make a good orderly at least. I sent him to deliver a
message once from Lahore. A message concerning the pedigree of a
Here was deadly insult on deadlier injury - and the Sahib to whom
he had so craftily given that war-waking letter heard it all. Kim
beheld Mahbub Ali frying in flame for his treachery, but for
himself he saw one long grey vista of barracks, schools, and
barracks again. He gazed imploringly at the clear-cut face in which
there was no glimmer of recognition; but even at this extremity it
never occurred to him to throw himself on the white man's mercy or
to denounce the Afghan. And Mahbub stared deliberately at the
Englishman, who stared as deliberately at Kim, quivering and
'My horse is well trained,' said the dealer. 'Others would have
'Ah,' said the Englishman at last, rubbing his pony's damp withers
with his whip-butt. 'Who makes the boy a soldier?'
'He says the Regiment that found him, and especially the Padre-
sahib of that regiment.
'There is the Padre!' Kim choked as bare-headed Father Victor
sailed down upon them from the veranda.
'Powers O' Darkness below, O'Hara! How many more mixed friends do
you keep in Asia?' he cried, as Kim slid down and stood helplessly
'Good morning, Padre,' the Englishman said cheerily. 'I know you by
reputation well enough. Meant to have come over and called before
this. I'm Creighton.'
'Of the Ethnological Survey?' said Father Victor. The Englishman
nodded. 'Faith, I'm glad to meet ye then; an' I owe you some thanks
for bringing back the boy.'
'No thanks to me, Padre. Besides, the boy wasn't going away. You
don't know old Mahbub Ali.' The horse-dealer sat impassive in the
sunlight. 'You will when you have been in the station a month. He
sells us all our crocks. That boy is rather a curiosity. Can you
tell me anything about him?'
'Can I tell you?' puffed Father Victor. 'You'll be the one man that
could help me in my quandaries. Tell you! Powers o' Darkness, I'm
bursting to tell someone who knows something o' the native!'
A groom came round the corner. Colonel Creighton raised his voice,
speaking in Urdu. 'Very good, Mahbub Ali, but what is the use of
telling me all those stories about the pony? Not one pice more than
three hundred and fifty rupees will I give.'
'The Sahib is a little hot and angry after riding,' the horse-
dealer returned, with the leer of a privileged jester. 'Presently,
he will see my horse's points more clearly. I will wait till he has
finished his talk with the Padre. I will wait under that tree.'
'Confound you!' The Colonel laughed. 'That comes of looking at one
of Mahbub's horses. He's a regular old leech, Padre. Wait, then, if
thou hast so much time to spare, Mahbub. Now I'm at your service,
Padre. Where is the boy? Oh, he's gone off to collogue with Mahbub.
Queer sort of boy. Might I ask you to send my mare round under
He dropped into a chair which commanded a clear view of Kim and
Mahbub Ali in conference beneath the tree. The Padre went indoors
Creighton heard Kim say bitterly: 'Trust a Brahmin before a snake,
and a snake before an harlot, and an harlot before a Pathan, Mahbub
'That is all one.' The great red beard wagged solemnly. 'Children
should not see a carpet on the loom till the pattern is made plain.
Believe me, Friend of all the World, I do thee great service. They
will not make a soldier of thee.'
'You crafty old sinner!' thought Creighton. 'But you're not far
wrong. That boy mustn't be wasted if he is as advertised.'
'Excuse me half a minute,' cried the Padre from within, 'but I'm
gettin' the documents in the case.'
'If through me the favour of this bold and wise Colonel Sahib comes
to thee, and thou art raised to honour, what thanks wilt thou give
Mahbub Ali when thou art a man?'
'Nay, nay! I begged thee to let me take the Road again, where I
should have been safe; and thou hast sold me back to the English.
What will they give thee for blood-money?'
'A cheerful young demon!' The Colonel bit his cigar, and turned
politely to Father Victor.
'What are the letters that the fat priest is waving before the
Colonel? Stand behind the stallion as though looking at my bridle!'
said Mahbub Ali.
'A letter from my lama which he wrote from Jagadhir Road, saying
that he will pay three hundred rupees by the year for my
'Oho! Is old Red Hat of that sort? At which school?'
'God knows. I think in Nucklao.'
'Yes. There is a big school there for the sons of Sahibs - and
half-Sahibs. I have seen it when I sell horses there. So the lama
also loved the Friend of all the World?'
'Ay; and he did not tell lies, or return me to captivity.'
'Small wonder the Padre does not know how to unravel the thread.
How fast he talks to the Colonel Sahib!' Mahbub Ali chuckled. 'By
Allah!' the keen eyes swept the veranda for an Instant - 'thy lama
has sent what to me looks like a note of hand. I have had some few
dealings in hoondis. The Colonel Sahib is looking at it.'
'What good is all this to me?' said Kim wearily. 'Thou wilt go
away, and they will return me to those empty rooms where there is
no good place to sleep and where the boys beat me.'
'I do not think that. Have patience, child. All Pathans are not
faithless - except in horseflesh.'
Five - ten - fifteen minutes passed, Father Victor talking
energetically or asking questions which the Colonel answered.
'Now I've told you everything that I know about the boy from
beginnin to end; and it's a blessed relief to me. Did ye ever hear
'At any rate, the old man has sent the money. Gobind Sahai's notes
of hand are good from here to China,' said the Colonel. 'The more
one knows about natives the less can one say what they will or
'That's consolin' - from the head of the Ethnological Survey. It's
this mixture of Red Bulls and Rivers of Healing (poor heathen, God
help him!) an' notes of hand and Masonic certificates. Are you a
Mason, by any chance?'
'By Jove, I am, now I come to think of it. That's an additional
reason,' said the Colonel absently.
'I'm glad ye see a reason in it. But as I said, it's the mixture
o' things that's beyond me. An' his prophesyin' to our Colonel,
sitting on my bed with his little shimmy torn open showing his
white skin; an' the prophecy comin' true! They'll cure all that
nonsense at St Xavier's, eh?'
'Sprinkle him with holy water,' the Colonel laughed.
'On my word, I fancy I ought to sometimes. But I'm hoping he'll be
brought up as a good Catholic. All that troubles me is what'll
happen if the old beggar-man -'
'Lama, lama, my dear sir; and some of them are gentlemen in their
'The lama, then, fails to pay next year. He's a fine business head
to plan on the spur of the moment, but he's bound to die some day.
An' takin' a heathen's money to give a child a Christian education
'But he said explicitly what he wanted. As soon as he knew the boy
was white he seems to have made his arrangements accordingly. I'd
give a month's pay to hear how he explained it all at the
Tirthankars' Temple at Benares. Look here, Padre, I don't pretend
to know much about natives, but if he says he'll pay, he'll pay -
dead or alive. I mean, his heirs will assume the debt. My advice to
you is, send the boy down to Lucknow. If your Anglican Chaplain
thinks you've stolen a march on him -'
'Bad luck to Bennett! He was sent to the Front instead o' me.
Doughty certified me medically unfit. I'll excommunicate Doughty if
he comes back alive! Surely Bennett ought to be content with -'
'Glory, leaving you the religion. Quite so! As a matter of fact I
don't think Bennett will mind. Put the blame on me. I - er -
strongly recommend sending the boy to St Xavier's. He can go down
on pass as a soldier's orphan, so the railway fare will be saved.
You can buy him an outfit from the Regimental subscription. The
Lodge will be saved the expense of his education, and that will put
the Lodge in a good temper. It's perfectly easy. I've got to go
down to Lucknow next week. I'll look after the boy on the way -
give him in charge of my servants, and so on.'
'You're a good man.'
'Not in the least. Don't make that mistake. The lama has sent us
money for a definite end. We can't very well return it. We shall
have to do as he says. Well, that's settled, isn't it? Shall we say
that, Tuesday next, you'll hand him over to me at the night train
south? That's only three days. He can't do much harm in three
'It's a weight off my mind, but - this thing here?' - he
waved the note of hand - 'I don't know Gobind Sahai: or his bank,
which may be a hole in a wall.'
'You've never been a subaltern in debt. I'll cash it if you
like, and send you the vouchers in proper order.'
'But with all your own work too! It's askin' -'
'It's not the least trouble indeed. You see, as an
ethnologist, the thing's very interesting to me. I'd like to make a
note of it for some Government work that I'm doing. The
transformation of a regimental badge like your Red Bull into a sort
of fetish that the boy follows is very interesting.'
'But I can't thank you enough.'
'There's one thing you can do. All we Ethnological men are as
jealous as jackdaws of one another's discoveries. They're of no
interest to anyone but ourselves, of course, but you know what
book-collectors are like. Well, don't say a word, directly or
indirectly, about the Asiatic side of the boy's character - his
adventures and his prophecy, and so on. I'll worm them out of the
boy later on and - you see?'
'I do. Ye'll make a wonderful account of it. Never a word will I
say to anyone till I see it in print.'
'Thank you. That goes straight to an ethnologist's heart. Well, I
must be getting back to my breakfast. Good Heavens! Old Mahbub here
still?' He raised his voice, and the horse-dealer came out from
under the shadow of the tree, 'Well, what is it?'
'As regards that young horse,' said Mahbub, 'I say that when a colt
is born to be a polo-pony, closely following the ball without
teaching - when such a colt knows the game by divination - then I
say it is a great wrong to break that colt to a heavy cart, Sahib!'
'So say I also, Mahbub. The colt will be entered for polo only.
(These fellows think of nothing in the world but horses, Padre.)
I'll see you tomorrow, Mahbub, if you've anything likely for sale.'
The dealer saluted, horseman-fashion, with a sweep of the off hand.
'Be patient a little, Friend of all the World,' he whispered to
the agonized Kim. 'Thy fortune is made. In a little while thou
goest to Nucklao, and - here is something to pay the letter-writer.
I shall see thee again, I think, many times,' and he cantered off
down the road.
'Listen to me,' said the Colonel from the veranda, speaking in the
vernacular. 'In three days thou wilt go with me to Lucknow, seeing
and hearing new things all the while. Therefore sit still for three
days and do not run away. Thou wilt go to school at Lucknow.'
'Shall I meet my Holy One there?' Kim whimpered.
'At least Lucknow is nearer to Benares than Umballa. It may be thou
wilt go under my protection. Mahbub Ali knows this, and he will be
angry if thou returnest to the Road now. Remember - much has been
told me which I do not forget.'
'I will wait,' said Kim, 'but the boys will beat me.'
Then the bugles blew for dinner.
Unto whose use the pregnant suns are poised
With idiot moons and stars retracing stars?
Creep thou betweene - thy coming's all unnoised.
Heaven hath her high, as Earth her baser, wars.
Heir to these tumults, this affright, that fraye
(By Adam's, fathers', own, sin bound alway);
Peer up, draw out thy horoscope and say
Which planet mends thy threadbare fate or mars?
Sir John Christie.
In the afternoon the red-faced schoolmaster told Kim that he had
been 'struck off the strength', which conveyed no meaning to him
till he was ordered to go away and play. Then he ran to the bazar,
and found the young letter-writer to whom he owed a stamp.
'Now I pay,' said Kim royally, 'and now I need another letter to be
'Mahbub Ali is in Umballa,' said the writer jauntily. He was, by
virtue of his office, a bureau of general misinformation.
'This is not to Mahbub, but to a priest. Take thy pen and write
quickly. To Teshoo Lama, the Holy One from Bhotiyal seeking for a
River, who is now in the Temple of the Tirthankars at Benares. Take
more ink! In three days I am to go down to Nucklao to the school at
Nucklao. The name of the school is Xavier. I do not know where that
school is, but it is at Nucklao.'
'But I know Nucklao,' the writer interrupted. 'I know the school.'
'Tell him where it is, and I give half an anna.'
The reed pen scratched busily. 'He cannot mistake.' The man lifted
his head. 'Who watches us across the street?'
Kim looked up hurriedly and saw Colonel Creighton in tennis-
'Oh, that is some Sahib who knows the fat priest in the barracks.
He is beckoning me.'
'What dost thou?' said the Colonel, when Kim trotted up.
'I - I am not running away. I send a letter to my Holy One at
'I had not thought of that. Hast thou said that I take thee to
'Nay, I have not. Read the letter, if there be a doubt.'
'Then why hast thou left out my name in writing to that Holy One?'
The Colonel smiled a queer smile. Kim took his courage in both
'It was said once to me that it is inexpedient to write the names
of strangers concerned in any matter, because by the naming of
names many good plans are brought to confusion.'
'Thou hast been well taught,' the Colonel replied, and Kim flushed.
'I have left my cheroot-case in the Padre's veranda. Bring it to my
house this even.'
'Where is the house?' said Kim. His quick wit told him that he was
being tested in some fashion or another, and he stood on guard.
'Ask anyone in the big bazar.' The Colonel walked on.
'He has forgotten his cheroot-case,' said Kim, returning. 'I must
bring it to him this evening. That is all my letter except, thrice
over, Come to me! Come to me! Come to me! Now I will pay for a
stamp and put it in the post. He rose to go, and as an afterthought
asked: 'Who is that angry-faced Sahib who lost the cheroot-case?'
'Oh, he is only Creighton Sahib - a very foolish Sahib, who is a
Colonel Sahib without a regiment.'
'What is his business?'
'God knows. He is always buying horses which he cannot ride, and
asking riddles about the works of God - such as plants and stones
and the customs of people. The dealers call him the father of
fools, because he is so easily cheated about a horse. Mahbub Ali
says he is madder than most other Sahibs.'
'Oh!' said Kim, and departed. His training had given him some small
knowledge of character, and he argued that fools are not given
information which leads to calling out eight thousand men besides
guns. The Commander-in-Chief of all India does not talk, as Kim had
heard him talk, to fools. Nor would Mahbub Ali's tone have changed,
as it did every time he mentioned the Colonel's name, if the
Colonel had been a fool. Consequently - and this set Kim to
skipping - there was a mystery somewhere, and Mahbub Ali probably
spied for the Colonel much as Kim had spied for Mahbub. And, like
the horse-dealer, the Colonel evidently respected people who did
not show themselves to be too clever.
He rejoiced that he had not betrayed his knowledge of the Colonel's
house; and when, on his return to barracks, he discovered that no
cheroot-case had been left behind, he beamed with delight. Here was
a man after his own heart - a tortuous and indirect person playing
a hidden game. Well, if he could be a fool, so could Kim.
He showed nothing of his mind when Father Victor, for three long
mornings, discoursed to him of an entirely new set of Gods and
Godlings - notably of a Goddess called Mary, who, he gathered, was
one with Bibi Miriam of Mahbub Ali's theology. He betrayed no
emotion when, after the lecture, Father Victor dragged him from
shop to shop buying articles of outfit, nor when envious drummer-
boys kicked him because he was going to a superior school did he
complain, but awaited the play of circumstances with an interested
soul. Father Victor, good man, took him to the station, put him
into an empty second-class next to Colonel Creighton's first, and
bade him farewell with genuine feeling.
'They'll make a man o' you, O'Hara, at St Xavier's - a white man,
an', I hope, a good man. They know all about your comin', an' the
Colonel will see that ye're not lost or mislaid anywhere on the
road. I've given you a notion of religious matters, - at least I
hope so, - and you'll remember, when they ask you your religion,
that you're a Cath'lic. Better say Roman Cath'lic, tho' I'm not
fond of the word.'
Kim lit a rank cigarette - he had been careful to buy a stock in
the bazar - and lay down to think. This solitary passage was very
different from that joyful down-journey in the third-class with the
lama. 'Sahibs get little pleasure of travel,' he reflected.
'Hai mai! I go from one place to another as it might be a kickball.
It is my Kismet. No man can escape his Kismet. But I am to pray to
Bibi Miriam, and I am a Sahib.' He looked at his boots ruefully.
'No; I am Kim. This is the great world, and I am only Kim. Who is
Kim?' He considered his own identity, a thing he had never done
before, till his head swam. He was one insignificant person in all
this roaring whirl of India, going southward to he knew not what
Presently the Colonel sent for him, and talked for a long time. So
far as Kim could gather, he was to be diligent and enter the Survey
of India as a chain-man. If he were very good, and passed the
proper examinations, he would be earning thirty rupees a month at
seventeen years old, and Colonel Creighton would see that he found
Kim pretended at first to understand perhaps one word in three of
this talk. Then the Colonel, seeing his mistake, turned to fluent
and picturesque Urdu and Kim was contented. No man could be a fool
who knew the language so intimately, who moved so gently and
silently, and whose eyes were so different from the dull fat eyes
of other Sahibs.
'Yes, and thou must learn how to make pictures of roads and
mountains and rivers, to carry these pictures in thine eye till a
suitable time comes to set them upon paper. Perhaps some day, when
thou art a chain-man, I may say to thee when we are working
together: "Go across those hills and see what lies beyond." Then
one will say: "There are bad people living in those hills who will
slay the chain-man if he be seen to look like a Sahib." What then?'
Kim thought. Would it be safe to return the Colonel's lead?
'I would tell what that other man had said.'
'But if I answered: "I will give thee a hundred rupees for
knowledge of what is behind those hills - for a picture of a river
and a little news of what the people say in the villages there"?'
'How can I tell? I am only a boy. Wait till I am a man.' Then,
seeing the Colonel's brow clouded, he went on: 'But I think I
should in a few days earn the hundred rupees.'
'By what road?'
Kim shook his head resolutely. 'If I said how I would earn them,
another man might hear and forestall me. It is not good to sell
knowledge for nothing.'
'Tell now.' The Colonel held up a rupee. Kim's hand half reached
towards it, and dropped.
'Nay, Sahib; nay. I know the price that will be paid for the
answer, but I do not know why the question is asked.'
'Take it for a gift, then,' said Creighton, tossing it over. 'There
is a good spirit in thee. Do not let it be blunted at St Xavier's.
There are many boys there who despise the black men.'
'Their mothers were bazar-women,' said Kim. He knew well there is
no hatred like that of the half-caste for his brother-in-law.
'True; but thou art a Sahib and the son of a Sahib. Therefore, do
not at any time be led to contemn the black men. I have known boys
newly entered into the service of the Government who feigned not to
understand the talk or the customs of black men. Their pay was cut
for ignorance. There is no sin so great as ignorance. Remember
Several times in the course of the long twenty-four hours' run
south did the Colonel send for Kim, always developing this latter
'We be all on one lead-rope, then,' said Kim at last, 'the Colonel,
Mahbub Ali, and I - when I become a chain-man. He will use me as
Mahbub Ali employed me, I think. That is good, if it allows me to
return to the Road again. This clothing grows no easier by wear.'
When they came to the crowded Lucknow station there was no sign of
the lama. He swallowed his disappointment, while the Colonel
bundled him into a ticca-gharri with his neat belongings and
despatched him alone to St Xavier's.
'I do not say farewell, because we shall meet again,' he cried.
'Again, and many times, if thou art one of good spirit. But thou
art not yet tried.'
'Not when I brought thee' - Kim actually dared to use the turn of
equals - 'a white stallion's pedigree that night?'
'Much is gained by forgetting, little brother,' said the Colonel,
with a look that pierced through Kim's shoulder-blades as he
scuttled into the carriage.
It took him nearly five minutes to recover. Then he sniffed the new
air appreciatively. 'A rich city,' he said. 'Richer than Lahore.
How good the bazars must be! Coachman, drive me a little through
the bazars here.'
'My order is to take thee to the school.' The driver used the
'thou', which is rudeness when applied to a white man. In the
clearest and most fluent vernacular Kim pointed out his error,
climbed on to the box-seat, and, perfect understanding established,
drove for a couple of hours up and down, estimating, comparing, and
enjoying. There is no city - except Bombay, the queen of all - more
beautiful in her garish style than Lucknow, whether you see her
from the bridge over the river, or from the top of the Imambara
looking down on the gilt umbrellas of the Chutter Munzil, and the
trees in which the town is bedded. Kings have adorned her with
fantastic buildings, endowed her with charities, crammed her with
pensioners, and drenched her with blood. She is the centre of all
idleness, intrigue, and luxury, and shares with Delhi the claim to
talk the only pure Urdu.
'A fair city - a beautiful city.' The driver, as a Lucknow man, was
pleased with the compliment, and told Kim many astounding things
where an English guide would have talked of the Mutiny.
'Now we will go to the school,' said Kim at last. The great old
school of St Xavier's in Partibus, block on block of low white
buildings, stands in vast grounds over against the Gumti River, at
some distance from the city.
'What like of folk are they within?' said Kim.
'Young Sahibs - all devils. But to speak truth, and I drive many of
them to and fro from the railway station, I have never seen one
that had in him the making of a more perfect devil than thou - this
young Sahib whom I am now driving.'
Naturally, for he was never trained to consider them in any way
improper, Kim had passed the time of day with one or two frivolous
ladies at upper windows in a certain street, and naturally, in the
exchange of compliments, had acquitted himself well. He was about
to acknowledge the driver's last insolence, when his eye - it was
growing dusk - caught a figure sitting by one of the white plaster
gate-pillars in the long sweep of wall.
'Stop!' he cried. 'Stay here. I do not go to the school at once.'
'But what is to pay me for this coming and re-coming?' said the
driver petulantly. 'Is the boy mad? Last time it was a dancing-
girl. This time it is a priest.'
Kim was in the road headlong, patting the dusty feet beneath the
dirty yellow robe.
'I have waited here a day and a half,' the lama's level voice
began. 'Nay, I had a disciple with me. He that was my friend at the
Temple of the Tirthankars gave me a guide for this journey. I came
from Benares in the te-rain, when thy letter was given me. Yes, I
am well fed. I need nothing.'
'But why didst thou not stay with the Kulu woman, O Holy One? In
what way didst thou get to Benares? My heart has been heavy since
'The woman wearied me by constant flux of talk and requiring charms
for children. I separated myself from that company, permitting her
to acquire merit by gifts. She is at least a woman of open hands,
and I made a promise to return to her house if need arose. Then,
perceiving myself alone in this great and terrible world, I
bethought me of the te-rain to Benares, where I knew one abode in
the Tirthankars' Temple who was a Seeker, even as I.'
'Ah! Thy River,' said Kim. 'I had forgotten the River.'
'So soon, my chela? I have never forgotten it. But when I had left
thee it seemed better that I should go to the Temple and take
counsel, for, look you, India is very large, and it may be that
wise men before us, some two or three, have left a record of the
place of our River. There is debate in the Temple of the
Tirthankars on this matter; some saying one thing, and some
another. They are courteous folk.'
'So be it; but what dost thou do now?'
'I acquire merit in that I help thee, my chela, to wisdom. The
priest of that body of men who serve the Red Bull wrote me that all
should be as I desired for thee. I sent the money to suffice for
one year, and then I came, as thou seest me, to watch for thee
going up into the Gates of Learning. A day and a half have I waited,
not because I was led by any affection towards thee - that is no
part of the Way - but, as they said at the Tirthankars' Temple,
because, money having been paid for learning, it was right that I
should oversee the end of the matter. They resolved my doubts most
clearly. I had a fear that, perhaps, I came because I wished to see
thee - misguided by the Red Mist of affection. It is not so ...
Moreover, I am troubled by a dream.'
'But surely, Holy One, thou hast not forgotten the Road and all
that befell on it. Surely it was a little to see me that thou didst
'The horses are cold, and it is past their feeding-time,' whined
'Go to Jehannum and abide there with thy reputationless aunt!' Kim
snarled over his shoulder. 'I am all alone in this land; I know not
where I go nor what shall befall me. My heart was in that letter I
sent thee. Except for Mahbub Ali, and he is a Pathan, I have no
friend save thee, Holy One. Do not altogether go away.'
'I have considered that also,' the lama replied, in a shaking
voice. 'It is manifest that from time to time I shall acquire merit
if before that I have not found my River - by assuring myself
that thy feet are set on wisdom. What they will teach thee I do
not know, but the priest wrote me that no son of a Sahib in all
India will be better taught than thou. So from time to time,
therefore, I will come again. Maybe thou wilt be such a Sahib as he
who gave me these spectacles' - the lama wiped them elaborately -
'in the Wonder House at Lahore. That is my hope, for he was a
Fountain of Wisdom - wiser than many abbots .... Again, maybe thou
wilt forget me and our meetings.'
'If I eat thy bread,' cried Kim passionately, 'how shall I ever
'No - no.' He put the boy aside. 'I must go back to
Benares. From time to time, now that I know the customs of letter-
writers in this land, I will send thee a letter, and from time to
time I will come and see thee.'
'But whither shall I send my letters?' wailed Kim, clutching at the
robe, all forgetful that he was a Sahib.
'To the Temple of the Tirthankars at Benares. That is the place I
have chosen till I find my River. Do not weep; for, look you, all
Desire is Illusion and a new binding upon the Wheel. Go up to the
Gates of Learning. Let me see thee go ... Dost thou love me? Then
go, or my heart cracks ... I will come again. Surely I will come
The lama watched the ticca-gharri rumble into the compound, and
strode off, snuffing between each long stride.
'The Gates of Learning' shut with a clang.
The country born and bred boy has his own manners and customs,
which do not resemble those of any other land; and his teachers
approach him by roads which an English master would not understand.
Therefore, you would scarcely be interested in Kim's experiences as
a St Xavier's boy among two or three hundred precocious youths,
most of whom had never seen the sea. He suffered the usual
penalties for breaking out of bounds when there was cholera in the
city. This was before he had learned to write fair English, and so
was obliged to find a bazar letter-writer. He was, of course,
indicted for smoking and for the use of abuse more full-flavoured
than even St Xavier's had ever heard. He learned to wash himself
with the Levitical scrupulosity of the native-born, who in his
heart considers the Englishman rather dirty. He played the usual
tricks on the patient coolies pulling the punkahs in the sleeping-
rooms where the boys threshed through the hot nights telling tales
till the dawn; and quietly he measured himself against his self-
They were sons of subordinate officials in the Railway, Telegraph,
and Canal Services; of warrant-officers, sometimes retired and
sometimes acting as commanders-in-chief to a feudatory Rajah's
army; of captains of the Indian Marine Government pensioners,
planters, Presidency shopkeepers, and missionaries. A few were
cadets of the old Eurasian houses that have taken strong root in
Dhurrumtollah - Pereiras, De Souzas, and D'Silvas. Their parents
could well have educated them in England, but they loved the school
that had served their own youth, and generation followed sallow-
hued generation at St Xavier's. Their homes ranged from Howrah of
the railway people to abandoned cantonments like Monghyr and
Chunar; lost tea-gardens Shillong-way; villages where their fathers
were large landholders in Oudh or the Deccan; Mission-stations a
week from the nearest railway line; seaports a thousand miles
south, facing the brazen Indian surf; and cinchona-plantations
south of all. The mere story of their adventures, which to them
were no adventures, on their road to and from school would have
crisped a Western boy's hair. They were used to jogging off alone
through a hundred miles of jungle, where there was always the
delightful chance of being delayed by tigers; but they would no
more have bathed in the English Channel in an English August than
their brothers across the world would have lain still while a
leopard snuffed at their palanquin. There were boys of fifteen who
had spent a day and a half on an islet in the middle of a flooded
river, taking charge, as by right, of a camp of frantic pilgrims
returning from a shrine. There were seniors who had requisitioned a
chance-met Rajah's elephant, in the name of St Francis Xavier, when
the Rains once blotted out the cart-track that led to their
father's estate, and had all but lost the huge beast in a
quicksand. There was a boy who, he said, and none doubted, had
helped his father to beat off with rifles from the veranda a rush
of Akas in the days when those head-hunters were bold against
And every tale was told in the even, passionless voice of the
native-born, mixed with quaint reflections, borrowed unconsciously
from native foster-mothers, and turns of speech that showed they
had been that instant translated from the vernacular. Kim watched,
listened, and approved. This was not insipid, single-word talk of
drummer-boys. It dealt with a life he knew and in part understood.
The atmosphere suited him, and he throve by inches. They gave him a
white drill suit as the weather warmed, and he rejoiced in the new-
found bodily comforts as he rejoiced to use his sharpened mind over
the tasks they set him. His quickness would have delighted an
English master; but at St Xavier's they know the first rush of
minds developed by sun and surroundings, as they know the half-
collapse that sets in at twenty-two or twenty-three.
None the less he remembered to hold himself lowly. When tales were
told of hot nights, Kim did not sweep the board with his
reminiscences; for St Xavier's looks down on boys who 'go native
all-together.' One must never forget that one is a Sahib, and that
some day, when examinations are passed, one will command natives.
Kim made a note of this, for he began to understand where
Then came the holidays from August to October - the long holidays
imposed by the heat and the Rains. Kim was informed that he would
go north to some station in the hills behind Umballa, where Father
Victor would arrange for him.
'A barrack-school?' said Kim, who had asked many questions and
'Yes, I suppose so,' said the master. 'It will not do you any harm
to keep you out of mischief. You can go up with young De Castro as
far as Delhi.'
Kim considered it in every possible light. He had been diligent,
even as the Colonel advised. A boy's holiday was his own property -
of so much the talk of his companions had advised him, - and a
barrack-school would be torment after St Xavier's. Moreover - this
was magic worth anything else - he could write. In three months he
had discovered how men can speak to each other without a third
party, at the cost of half an anna and a little knowledge. No word
had come from the lama, but there remained the Road. Kim yearned
for the caress of soft mud squishing up between the toes, as his
mouth watered for mutton stewed with butter and cabbages, for rice
speckled with strong scented cardamoms, for the saffron-tinted
rice, garlic and onions, and the forbidden greasy sweetmeats of the
bazars. They would feed him raw beef on a platter at the barrack-
school, and he must smoke by stealth. But again, he was a Sahib and
was at St Xavier's, and that pig Mahbub Ali ... No, he would not
test Mahbub's hospitality - and yet ... He thought
it out alone in the dormitory, and came to the conclusion he had
been unjust to Mahbub.
The school was empty; nearly all the masters had gone away; Colonel
Creighton 's railway pass lay in his hand, and Kim puffed himself
that he had not spent Colonel Creighton's or Mahbub's money in
riotous living. He was still lord of two rupees seven annas. His
new bullock-trunk, marked 'K. O'H.', and bedding-roll lay in the
'Sahibs are always tied to their baggage,'
said Kim, nodding at them. 'You will stay here' He went out into
the warm rain, smiling sinfully, and sought a certain house whose
outside he had noted down some time before...
'Arre'! Dost thou know what manner of women we be in this quarter?
'Was I born yesterday?' Kim squatted native-fashion on the cushions
of that upper room. 'A little dyestuff and three yards of cloth to
help out a jest. Is it much to ask?'
'Who is she? Thou art full young, as Sahibs go, for this devilry.'
'Oh, she? She is the daughter of a certain schoolmaster of a
regiment in the cantonments. He has beaten me twice because I
went over their wall in these clothes. Now I would go as a
gardener's boy. Old men are very jealous.'
'That is true. Hold thy face still while I dab on the juice.'
'Not too black, Naikan. I would not appear to her as a hubshi
'Oh, love makes nought of these things. And how old is she?'
'Twelve years, I think,' said the shameless Kim. 'Spread it also on
the breast. It may be her father will tear my clothes off me, and
if I am piebald -' he laughed.
The girl worked busily, dabbing a twist of cloth into a little
saucer of brown dye that holds longer than any walnut-juice.
'Now send out and get me a cloth for the turban. Woe is me, my head
is all unshaved! And he will surely knock off my turban.'
'I am not a barber, but I will make shift. Thou wast born to be a
breaker of hearts! All this disguise for one evening? Remember, the
stuff does not wash away.' She shook with laughter till her
bracelets and anklets jingled. 'But who is to pay me for this?
Huneefa herself could not have given thee better stuff.'
'Trust in the Gods, my sister,' said Kim gravely, screwing his face
round as the stain dried. 'Besides, hast thou ever helped to paint
a Sahib thus before?'
'Never indeed. But a jest is not money.'
'It is worth much more.'
'Child, thou art beyond all dispute the most shameless son of
Shaitan that I have ever known to take up a poor girl's time with
this play, and then to say: "Is not the jest enough?" Thou wilt go
very far in this world.' She gave the dancing-girls' salutation in
'All one. Make haste and rough-cut my head.' Kim shifted from foot
to foot, his eyes ablaze with mirth as he thought of the fat days
before him. He gave the girl four annas, and ran down the stairs in
the likeness of a low-caste Hindu boy - perfect in every detail. A
cookshop was his next point of call, where he feasted in
extravagance and greasy luxury.
On Lucknow station platform he watched young De Castro, all covered
with prickly-heat, get into a second-class compartment. Kim
patronized a third, and was the life and soul of it. He explained
to the company that he was assistant to a juggler who had left him
behind sick with fever, and that he would pick up his master at
Umballa. As the occupants of the carriage changed, he varied this
tale, or adorned it with all the shoots of a budding fancy, the
more rampant for being held off native speech so long. In all India
that night was no human being so joyful as Kim. At Umballa he got
out and headed eastward, plashing over the sodden fields to the
village where the old soldier lived.
About this time Colonel Creighton at Simla was advised from Lucknow
by wire that young O'Hara had disappeared. Mahbub Ali was in town
selling horses, and to him the Colonel confided the affair one
morning cantering round Annandale racecourse.
'Oh, that is nothing,' said the horse-dealer. 'Men are like horses.
At certain times they need salt, and if that salt is not in the
mangers they will lick it up from the earth. He has gone back to
the Road again for a while. The madrissak wearied him. I knew it
would. Another time, I will take him upon the Road myself. Do not
be troubled, Creighton Sahib. It is as though a polo-pony, breaking
loose, ran out to learn the game alone.'
'Then he is not dead, think you?'
'Fever might kill him. I do not fear for the boy otherwise. A
monkey does not fall among trees.'
Next morning, on the same course, Mahbub's stallion ranged
alongside the Colonel.
'It is as I had thought,' said the horse-dealer. 'He has come
through Umballa at least, and there he has written a letter to me,
having learned in the bazar that I was here.'
'Read,' said the Colonel, with a sigh of relief. It was absurd that
a man of his position should take an interest in a little country-
bred vagabond; but the Colonel remembered the conversation in the
train, and often in the past few months had caught himself thinking
of the queer, silent, self-possessed boy. His evasion, of course,
was the height of insolence, but it argued some resource and nerve.
Mahbub's eyes twinkled as he reined out into the centre of the
cramped little plain, where none could come near unseen.
'"The Friend of the Stars, who is the Friend of all the World -"'
'What is this?'
'A name we give him in Lahore city. "The Friend of all the World
takes leave to go to his own places. He will come back upon the
appointed day. Let the box and the bedding-roll be sent for; and if
there has been a fault, let the Hand of Friendship turn aside the
Whip of Calamity." There is yet a little more, but -'
'No matter, read.'
'"Certain things are not known to those who eat with forks. It is
better to eat with both hands for a while. Speak soft words to
those who do not understand this that the return may be
propitious." Now the manner in which that was cast is, of course,
the work of the letter-writer, but see how wisely the boy has
devised the matter of it so that no hint is given except to those
'Is this the Hand of Friendship to avert the Whip of Calamity?'
laughed the Colonel.
'See how wise is the boy. He would go back to the Road again, as I
said. Not knowing yet thy trade -'
'I am not at all sure of that,' the Colonel muttered.
'He turns to me to make a peace between you. Is he not wise? He
says he will return. He is but perfecting his knowledge. Think,
Sahib! He has been three months at the school. And he is not
mouthed to that bit. For my part, I rejoice. The pony learns the
'Ay, but another time he must not go alone.'
'Why? He went alone before he came under the Colonel Sahib's
protection. When he comes to the Great Game he must go alone -
alone, and at peril of his head. Then, if he spits, or sneezes, or
sits down other than as the people do whom he watches, he may be
slain. Why hinder him now? Remember how the Persians say: The
jackal that lives in the wilds of Mazanderan can only be caught by
the hounds of Mazanderan.'
'True. It is true, Mahbub Ali. And if he comes to no harm, I do not
desire anything better. But it is great insolence on his part.'
'He does not tell me, even, whither he goes,' said Mahbub. 'He is
no fool. When his time is accomplished he will come to me. It is
time the healer of pearls took him in hand. He ripens too quickly -
as Sahibs reckon.'
This prophecy was fulfilled to the letter a month later. Mahbub had
gone down to Umballa to bring up a fresh consignment of horses, and
Kim met him on the Kalka road at dusk riding alone, begged an alms
of him, was sworn at, and replied in English. There was nobody
within earshot to hear Mahbub's gasp of amazement.
'Oho! And where hast thou been?'
'Up and down - down and up.'
'Come under a tree, out of the wet, and tell.'
'I stayed for a
while with an old man near Umballa; anon with a household of my
acquaintance in Umballa. With one of these I went as far as Delhi
to the southward. That is a wondrous city. Then I drove a bullock
for a teli [an oilman] coming north; but I heard of a great feast
forward in Patiala, and thither went I in the company of a
firework-maker. It was a great feast' (Kim rubbed his stomach). 'I
saw Rajahs, and elephants with gold and silver trappings; and they
lit all the fireworks at once, whereby eleven men were killed, my
fire-work-maker among them, and I was blown across a tent but took
no harm. Then I came back to the rel with a Sikh horseman, to whom
I was groom for my bread; and so here.'
'Shabash!' said Mahbub Ali.
'But what does the Colonel Sahib say? I do not wish to be beaten.'
'The Hand of Friendship has averted the Whip of Calamity; but
another time, when thou takest the Road it will be with me. This is
'Late enough for me. I have learned to read and to write English a
little at the madrissah. I shall soon be altogether a Sahib.'
'Hear him!' laughed Mahbub, looking at the little drenched figure
dancing in the wet. 'Salaam - Sahib,' and he saluted ironically.
'Well, art tired of the Road, or wilt thou come on to Umballa with
me and work back with the horses?'
'I come with thee, Mahbub Ali.'
Something I owe to the soil that grew -
More to the life that fed -
But most to Allah Who gave me two
Separate sides to my head.
I would go without shirts or shoes,
Friends, tobacco or bread
Sooner than for an instant lose
Either side of my head.'
The Two-Sided Man.
'Then in God's name take blue for red,' said Mahbub, alluding to
the Hindu colour of Kim's disreputable turban.
Kim countered with the old proverb, 'I will change my faith and my
bedding, but thou must pay for it.'
The dealer laughed till he nearly fell from his horse. At a shop on
the outskirts of the city the change was made, and Kim stood up,
externally at least, a Mohammedan.
Mahbub hired a room over against the railway station, sent for a
cooked meal of the finest with the almond-curd sweet-meats
[balushai we call it] and fine-chopped Lucknow tobacco.
'This is better than some other meat that I ate with the Sikh,'
said Kim, grinning as he squatted, 'and assuredly they give no such
victuals at my madrissah.'
'I have a desire to hear of that same madrissah.' Mahbub stuffed
himself with great boluses of spiced mutton fried in fat with
cabbage and golden-brown onions. 'But tell me first, altogether and
truthfully, the manner of thy escape. For, O Friend of all the
World,' - he loosed his cracking belt - 'I do not think it is
often that a Sahib and the son of a Sahib runs away from there.'
'How should they? They do not know the land. It was nothing,' said
Kim, and began his tale. When he came to the disguisement and the
interview with the girl in the bazar, Mahbub Ali's gravity went
from him. He laughed aloud and beat his hand on his thigh.
'Shabash! Shabash! Oh, well done, little one! What will the healer
of turquoises say to this? Now, slowly, let us hear what befell
afterwards - step by step, omitting nothing.'
Step by step then, Kim told his adventures between coughs as the
full-flavoured tobacco caught his lungs.
'I said,' growled Mahbub Ali to himself, 'I said it was the pony
breaking out to play polo. The fruit is ripe already -except that
he must learn his distances and his pacings, and his rods and his
compasses. Listen now. I have turned aside the Colonel's whip from
thy skin, and that is no small service.'
'True.' Kim pulled serenely. 'That is true.'
'But it is not to be thought that this running out and in is any
'It was my holiday, Hajji. I was a slave for many weeks. Why should
I not run away when the school was shut? Look, too, how I, living
upon my friends or working for my bread, as I did with the Sikh,
have saved the Colonel Sahib a great expense.'
Mahbub's lips twitched under his well-pruned Mohammedan moustache.
'What are a few rupees' - the Pathan threw out his open hand
carelessly - 'to the Colonel Sahib? He spends them for a purpose,
not in any way for love of thee.'
'That,' said Kim slowly, 'I knew a very long time ago.'
'The Colonel Sahib himself. Not in those many words, but plainly
enough for one who is not altogether a mud-head. Yea, he told me in
the te-rain when we went down to Lucknow.'
'Be it so. Then I will tell thee more, Friend of all the World,
though in the telling I lend thee my head.'
'It was forfeit to me,' said Kim, with deep relish, 'in Umballa,
when thou didst pick me up on the horse after the drummer-boy beat
'Speak a little plainer. All the world may tell lies save thou and
I. For equally is thy life forfeit to me if I chose to raise my
'And this is known to me also,' said Kim, readjusting the live
charcoal-ball on the weed. 'It is a very sure tie between us.
Indeed, thy hold is surer even than mine; for who would miss a boy
beaten to death, or, it may be, thrown into a well by the roadside?
Most people here and in Simla and across the passes behind the
Hills would, on the other hand, say: "What has come to Mahbub Ali?"
if he were found dead among his horses. Surely, too, the Colonel
Sahib would make inquiries. But again,'- Kim's face puckered with
cunning, - 'he would not make overlong inquiry, lest people should
ask: "What has this Colonel Sahib to do with that horse-dealer?"
But I - if I lived -'
'As thou wouldst surely die -'
'Maybe; but I say, if I lived, I, and I alone, would know that one
had come by night, as a common thief perhaps, to Mahbub Ali's