Part 4 out of 7
bulkhead in the serai, and there had slain him, either before or
after that thief had made a full search into his saddlebags and
between the soles of his slippers. Is that news to tell to the
Colonel, or would he say to me - (I have not forgotten when he sent
me back for a cigar-case that he had not left behind him) - "What
is Mahbub Ali to me?"?'
Up went a gout of heavy smoke. There was a long pause: then Mahbub
Ali spoke in admiration: 'And with these things on thy mind, dost
thou lie down and rise again among all the Sahibs' little sons at
the madrissah and meekly take instruction from thy teachers?'
'It is an order,' said Kim blandly. 'Who am I to dispute an order?'
'A most finished Son of Eblis,' said Mahbub Ali. 'But what is this
tale of the thief and the search?'
'That which I saw,' said Kim, 'the night that my lama and I lay
next thy place in the Kashmir Seral. The door was left unlocked,
which I think is not thy custom, Mahbub. He came in as one assured
that thou wouldst not soon return. My eye was against a knot-hole
in the plank. He searched as it were for something - not a rug, not
stirrups, nor a bridle, nor brass pots - something little and most
carefully hid. Else why did he prick with an iron between the soles
of thy slippers?'
'Ha!' Mahbub Ali smiled gently. 'And seeing these things, what tale
didst thou fashion to thyself, Well of the Truth?'
'None. I put my hand upon my amulet, which lies always next to my
skin, and, remembering the pedigree of a white stallion that I had
bitten out of a piece of Mussalmani bread, I went away to Umballa
perceiving that a heavy trust was laid upon me. At that hour, had I
chosen, thy head was forfeit. It needed only to say to that man, "I
have here a paper concerning a horse which I cannot read." And
then?' Kim peered at Mahbub under his eyebrows.
'Then thou wouldst have drunk water twice - perhaps thrice,
afterwards. I do not think more than thrice,' said Mahbub simply.
'It is true. I thought of that a little, but most I thought that I
loved thee, Mahbub. Therefore I went to Umballa, as thou knowest,
but (and this thou dost not know) I lay hid in the garden-grass to
see what Colonel Creighton Sahib might do upon reading the white
'And what did he?' for Kim had bitten off the conversation.
'Dost thou give news for love, or dost thou sell it?' Kim asked.
'I sell and - I buy.' Mahbub took a four-anna piece out of his belt
and held it up.
'Eight!' said Kim, mechanically following the huckster instinct of
Mahbub laughed, and put away the coin. 'It is too easy to deal in
that market, Friend of all the World. Tell me for love. Our lives
lie in each other's hand.'
'Very good. I saw the Jang-i-Lat Sahib [the Commander-in-Chief]
come to a big dinner. I saw him in Creighton Sahib's office. I saw
the two read the white stallion's pedigree. I heard the very orders
given for the opening of a great war.'
'Hah!' Mahbub nodded with deepest eyes afire. 'The game is well
played. That war is done now, and the evil, we hope, nipped before
the flower - thanks to me - and thee. What didst thou later?'
'I made the news as it were a hook to catch me victual and honour
among the villagers in a village whose priest drugged my lama. But
I bore away the old man's purse, and the Brahmin found nothing. So
next morning he was angry. Ho! Ho! And I also used the news when I
fell into the hands of that white Regiment with their Bull!'
'That was foolishness.' Mahbub scowled. 'News is not meant to be
thrown about like dung-cakes, but used sparingly - like bhang.'
'So I think now, and moreover, it did me no sort of good. But that
was very long ago,' he made as to brush it all away with a thin
brown hand - 'and since then, and especially in the nights under
the punkah at the madrissah, I have thought very greatly.'
'Is it permitted to ask whither the Heaven-born's thought might
have led?' said Mahbub, with an elaborate sarcasm, smoothing his
'It is permitted,' said Kim, and threw back the very tone. 'They
say at Nucklao that no Sahib must tell a black man that he has made
Mahbub's hand shot into his bosom, for to call a Pathan a 'black
man' [kala admi] is a blood-insult. Then he remembered and laughed.
'Speak, Sahib. Thy black man hears.'
'But,' said Kim, 'I am not a Sahib, and I say I made a fault to
curse thee, Mahbub Ali, on that day at Umballa when I thought I was
betrayed by a Pathan. I was senseless; for I was but newly caught,
and I wished to kill that low-caste drummer-boy. I say now, Hajji,
that it was well done; and I see my road all clear before me to a
good service. I will stay in the madrissah till I am ripe.'
'Well said. Especially are distances and numbers and the manner of
using compasses to be learned in that game. One waits in the Hills
above to show thee.'
'I will learn their teaching upon a condition - that my time is
given to me without question when the madrissah is shut. Ask that
for me of the Colonel.'
'But why not ask the Colonel in the Sahibs' tongue?'
'The Colonel is the servant of the Government. He is sent hither
and yon at a word, and must consider his own advancement. (See how
much I have already learned at Nucklao!) Moreover, the Colonel I
know since three months only. I have known one Mahbub Ali for six
years. So! To the madrissah I will go. At the madrissah I will
learn. In the madrissah I will be a Sahib. But when the madrissah
is shut, then must I be free and go among my people. Otherwise I
'And who are thy people, Friend of all the World?'
'This great and beautiful land,' said Kim, waving his paw round the
little clay-walled room where the oil-lamp in its niche burned
heavily through the tobacco-smoke. 'And, further, I would see my
lama again. And, further, I need money.'
'That is the need of everyone,' said Mahbub ruefully. 'I will give
thee eight annas, for much money is not picked out of horses'
hooves, and it must suffice for many days. As to all the rest, I am
well pleased, and no further talk is needed. Make haste to learn,
and in three years, or it may be less, thou wilt be an aid - even
'Have I been such a hindrance till now?' said Kim, with a boy's
'Do not give answers,' Mahbub grunted. 'Thou art my new horse-boy.
Go and bed among my men. They are near the north end of the
station, with the horses.'
'They will beat me to the south end of the station if I come
Mahbub felt in his belt, wetted his thumb on a cake of Chinese ink,
and dabbed the impression on a piece of soft native paper. From
Balkh to Bombay men know that rough-ridged print with the old scar
running diagonally across it.
'That is enough to show my headman. I come in the morning.'
'By which road?' said Kim.
'By the road from the city. There is but one, and then we return to
Creighton Sahib. I have saved thee a beating.'
'Allah! What is a beating when the very head is loose on the
Kim slid out quietly into the night, walked half round the house,
keeping close to the walls, and headed away from the station for a
mile or so. Then, fetching a wide compass, he worked back at
leisure, for he needed time to invent a story if any of Mahbub's
retainers asked questions.
They were camped on a piece of waste ground beside the railway,
and, being natives, had not, of course, unloaded the two trucks in
which Mahbub's animals stood among a consignment of country-breds
bought by the Bombay tram-company. The headman, a broken-down,
consumptive-looking Mohammedan, promptly challenged Kim, but was
pacified at sight of Mahbub's sign-manual.
'The Hajji has of his favour given me service,' said Kim testily.
'If this be doubted, wait till he comes in the morning. Meantime, a
place by the fire.'
Followed the usual aimless babble that every low-caste native must
raise on every occasion. It died down, and Kim lay out behind the
little knot of Mahbub's followers, almost under the wheels of a
horse-truck, a borrowed blanket for covering. Now a bed among
brickbats and ballast-refuse on a damp night, between overcrowded
horses and unwashed Baltis, would not appeal to many white boys;
but Kim was utterly happy. Change of scene, service, and
surroundings were the breath of his little nostrils, and thinking
of the neat white cots of St Xavier's all arow under the punkah
gave him joy as keen as the repetition of the multiplication-table
'I am very old,' he thought sleepily. 'Every month I become a year
more old. I was very young, and a fool to boot, when I took
Mahbub's message to Umballa. Even when I was with that white
Regiment I was very young and small and had no wisdom. But now I
learn every day, and in three years the Colonel will take me out of
the madrissah and let me go upon the Road with Mahbub hunting for
horses' pedigrees, or maybe I shall go by myself; or maybe I shall
find the lama and go with him. Yes; that is best. To walk again as
a chela with my lama when he comes back to Benares.'
came more slowly and disconnectedly. He was plunging into a
beautiful dreamland when his ears caught a whisper, thin and sharp,
above the monotonous babble round the fire. It came from behind the
'He is not here, then?'
'Where should he be but roystering in the city. Who looks for a rat
in a frog-pond? Come away. He is not our man.'
'He must not go back beyond the Passes a second time. It is the
'Hire some woman to drug him. It is a few rupees only, and there is
'Except the woman. It must be more certain; and remember the price
upon his head.'
'Ay, but the police have a long arm, and we are far from the
Border. If it were in Peshawur, now!'
'Yes - in Peshawur,' the second voice sneered. 'Peshawur, full of
his blood-kin - full of bolt-holes and women behind whose clothes
he will hide. Yes, Peshawur or Jehannum would suit us equally
'Then what is the plan?'
'O fool, have I not told it a hundred times? Wait till he comes to
lie down, and then one sure shot. The trucks are between us and
pursuit. We have but to run back over the lines and go our way.
They will not see whence the shot came. Wait here at least till the
dawn. What manner of fakir art thou, to shiver at a little
'Oho!' thought Kim, behind close-shut eyes. 'Once again it is
Mahbub. Indeed a white stallion's pedigree is not a good thing to
peddle to Sahibs! Or maybe Mahbub has been selling other news. Now
what is to do, Kim? I know not where Mahbub houses, and if he comes
here before the dawn they will shoot him. That would be no profit
for thee, Kim. And this is not a matter for the police. That would
be no profit for Mahbub; and' - he giggled almost aloud - 'I do not
remember any lesson at Nucklao which will help me. Allah! Here is
Kim and yonder are they. First, then, Kim must wake and go away, so
that they shall not suspect. A bad dream wakes a man - thus -'
He threw the blanket off his face, and raised himself suddenly with
the terrible, bubbling, meaningless yell of the Asiatic roused by
'Urr-urr-urr-urr! Ya-la-la-la-la! Narain! The churel! The churel!'
A churel is the peculiarly malignant ghost of a woman who has died
in child-bed. She haunts lonely roads, her feet are turned
backwards on the ankles, and she leads men to torment.
Louder rose Kim's quavering howl, till at last he leaped to his
feet and staggered off sleepily, while the camp cursed him for
waking them. Some twenty yards farther up the line he lay down
again, taking care that the whisperers should hear his grunts and
groans as he recomposed himself. After a few minutes he rolled
towards the road and stole away into the thick darkness.
He paddled along swiftly till he came to a culvert, and dropped
behind it, his chin on a level with the coping-stone. Here he could
command all the night-traffic, himself unseen.
Two or three carts passed, jingling out to the suburbs; a coughing
policeman and a hurrying foot-passenger or two who sang to keep off
evil spirits. Then rapped the shod feet of a horse.
'Ah! This is more like Mahbub,' thought Kim, as the beast shied at
the little head above the culvert.
'Ohe', Mahbub Ali,' he whispered, 'have a care!'
The horse was reined back almost on its haunches, and forced
towards the culvert.
'Never again,' said Mahbub, 'will I take a shod horse for night-
work. They pick up all the bones and nails in the city.' He stooped
to lift its forefoot, and that brought his head within a foot of
'Down - keep down,' he muttered. 'The night is full of
'Two men wait thy coming behind the horse-trucks. They will shoot
thee at thy lying down, because there is a price on thy head. I
heard, sleeping near the horses.'
'Didst thou see them? ... Hold still, Sire of Devils!' This
furiously to the horse.
'Was one dressed belike as a fakir?'
'One said to the other, "What manner of fakir art thou, to shiver
at a little watching?"'
'Good. Go back to the camp and lie down. I do not die tonight.'
Mahbub wheeled his horse and vanished. Kim tore back down the ditch
till he reached a point opposite his second resting-place, slipped
across the road like a weasel, and re-coiled himself in the
'At least Mahbub knows,' he thought contentedly. 'And certainly he
spoke as one expecting it. I do not think those two men will profit
by tonight's watch.'
An hour passed, and, with the best will in the world to keep awake
all night, he slept deeply. Now and again a night train roared
along the metals within twenty feet of him; but he had all the
Oriental's indifference to mere noise, and it did not even weave a
dream through his slumber.
Mahbub was anything but asleep. It annoyed him vehemently that
people outside his tribe and unaffected by his casual amours should
pursue him for the life. His first and natural impulse was to cross
the line lower down, work up again, and, catching his well-wishers
from behind, summarily slay them. Here, he reflected with sorrow,
another branch of the Government, totally unconnected with Colonel
Creighton, might demand explanations which would be hard to supply;
and he knew that south of the Border a perfectly ridiculous fuss is
made about a corpse or so. He had not been troubled in this way
since he sent Kim to Umballa with the message, and hoped that
suspicion had been finally diverted.
Then a most brilliant notion struck him.
'The English do eternally tell the truth,' he said, 'therefore we
of this country are eternally made foolish. By Allah, I will tell
the truth to an Englishman! Of what use is the Government police if
a poor Kabuli be robbed of his horses in their very trucks. This is
as bad as Peshawur! I should lay a complaint at the station. Better
still, some young Sahib on the Railway! They are zealous, and if
they catch thieves it is remembered to their honour.'
He tied up his horse outside the station, and strode on to the
'Hullo, Mahbub Ali' said a young Assistant District Traffic
Superintendent who was waiting to go down the line - a tall, tow-
haired, horsey youth in dingy white linen. 'What are you doing
here? Selling weeds - eh?'
'No; I am not troubled for my horses. I come to look for Lutuf
Ullah. I have a truck-load up the line. Could anyone take them out
without the Railway's knowledge?'
'Shouldn't think so, Mahbub. You can claim against us if they do.'
'I have seen two men crouching under the wheels of one of the
trucks nearly all night. Fakirs do not steal horses, so I gave them
no more thought. I would find Lutuf Ullah, my partner.'
'The deuce you did? And you didn't bother your head about it? 'Pon
my word, it's just almost as well that I met you. What were they
'They were only fakirs. They will no more than take a little grain,
perhaps, from one of the trucks. There are many up the line. The
State will never miss the dole. I came here seeking for my partner,
'Never mind your partner. Where are your horse-trucks?'
'A little to this side of the farthest place where they make lamps
for the trains.'
'The signal-box! Yes.'
'And upon the rail nearest to the road upon the right-hand side -
looking up the line thus. But as regards Lutuf Ullah - a tall man
with a broken nose, and a Persian greyhound Aie!'
The boy had hurried off to wake up a young and enthusiastic
policeman; for, as he said, the Railway had suffered much from
depredations in the goods-yard. Mahbub Ali chuckled in his dyed
'They will walk in their boots, making a noise, and then they will
wonder why there are no fakirs. They are very clever boys -- Barton
Sahib and Young Sahib.'
He waited idly for a few minutes, expecting to see them hurry up
the line girt for action. A light engine slid through the station,
and he caught a glimpse of young Barton in the cab.
'I did that child an injustice. He is not altogether a fool,' said
Mahbub Ali. 'To take a fire-carriage for a thief is a new game!'
When Mahbub Ali came to his camp in the dawn, no one thought it
worth while to tell him any news of the night. No one, at least,
but one small horseboy, newly advanced to the great man's service,
whom Mahbub called to his tiny tent to assist in some packing.
'It is all known to me,' whispered Kim, bending above saddlebags.
'Two Sahibs came up on a te-train. I was running to and fro in the
dark on this side of the trucks as the te-train moved up and down
slowly. They fell upon two men sitting under this truck - Hajji,
what shall I do with this lump of tobacco? Wrap it in paper and put
it under the salt-bag? Yes - and struck them down. But one man
struck at a Sahib with a fakir's buck's horn' (Kim meant the
conjoined black-buck horns, which are a fakir's sole temporal
weapon) - 'the blood came. So the other Sahib, first smiting his
own man senseless, smote the stabber with a short gun which had
rolled from the first man's hand. They all raged as though mad
Mahbub smiled with heavenly resignation. 'No! That is not so much
dewanee [madness, or a case for the civil court - the word can be
punned upon both ways] as nizamut [a criminal case]. A gun, sayest
thou? Ten good years in jail.'
'Then they both lay still, but I think they were nearly dead when
they were put on the te-train. Their heads moved thus. And there is
much blood on the line. Come and see?'
'I have seen blood before. Jail is the sure place - and assuredly
they will give false names, and assuredly no man will find them for
a long time. They were unfriends of mine. Thy fate and mine seem on
one string. What a tale for the healer of pearls! Now swiftly with
the saddle-bags and the cooking-platter. We will take out the
horses and away to Simla.'
Swiftly - as Orientals understand speed - with long explanations,
with abuse and windy talk, carelessly, amid a hundred checks for
little things forgotten, the untidy camp broke up and led the half-
dozen stiff and fretful horses along the Kalka road in the fresh of
the rain-swept dawn. Kim, regarded as Mahbub Ali's favourite by all
who wished to stand well with the Pathan, was not called upon to
work. They strolled on by the easiest of stages, halting every few
hours at a wayside shelter. Very many Sahibs travel along the Kalka
road; and, as Mahbub Ali says, every young Sahib must needs esteem
himself a judge of a horse, and, though he be over head in debt to
the money-lender, must make as if to buy. That was the reason that
Sahib after Sahib, rolling along in a stage-carriage, would stop
and open talk. Some would even descend from their vehicles and feel
the horses' legs; asking inane questions, or, through sheer
ignorance of the vernacular, grossly insulting the imperturbable
'When first I dealt with Sahibs, and that was when Colonel Soady
Sahib was Governor of Fort Abazai and flooded the Commissioner's
camping-ground for spite,' Mahbub confided to Kim as the boy filled
his pipe under a tree, 'I did not know how greatly they were fools,
and this made me wroth. As thus -,' and he told Kim a tale of an
expression, misused in all innocence, that doubled Kim up with
mirth. 'Now I see, however,' - he exhaled smoke slowly - 'that it
is with them as with all men - in certain matters they are wise,
and in others most foolish. Very foolish it is to use the wrong
word to a stranger; for though the heart may be clean of offence,
how is the stranger to know that? He is more like to search truth
with a dagger.'
'True. True talk,' said Kim solemnly. 'Fools speak of a cat when a
woman is brought to bed, for instance. I have heard them.'
'Therefore, in one situate as thou art, it particularly behoves
thee to remember this with both kinds of faces. Among Sahibs, never
forgetting thou art a Sahib; among the folk of Hind, always
remembering thou art -' He paused, with a puzzled smile.
'What am I? Mussalman, Hindu, Jain, or Buddhist? That is a hard
'Thou art beyond question an unbeliever, and therefore thou wilt be
damned. So says my Law - or I think it does. But thou art also my
Little Friend of all the World, and I love thee. So says my heart.
This matter of creeds is like horseflesh. The wise man knows horses
are good - that there is a profit to be made from all; and for
myself - but that I am a good Sunni and hate the men of Tirah - I
could believe the same of all the Faiths. Now manifestly a
Kathiawar mare taken from the sands of her birthplace and removed
to the west of Bengal founders - nor is even a Balkh stallion (and
there are no better horses than those of Balkh, were they not so
heavy in the shoulder) of any account in the great Northern deserts
beside the snow-camels I have seen. Therefore I say in my heart the
Faiths are like the horses. Each has merit in its own country.'
'But my lama said altogether a different thing.'
'Oh, he is an old dreamer of dreams from Bhotiyal. My heart is a
little angry, Friend of all the World, that thou shouldst see such
worth in a man so little known.'
'It is true, Hajji; but that worth do I see, and to him my heart is
'And his to thine, I hear. Hearts are like horses. They come and
they go against bit or spur. Shout Gul Sher Khan yonder to drive in
that bay stallion's pickets more firmly. We do not want a horse-
fight at every resting-stage, and the dun and the black will be
locked in a little ... Now hear me. Is it necessary to the
comfort of thy heart to see that lama?'
'It is one part of my bond,' said Kim. 'If I do not see him, and if
he is taken from me, I will go out of that madrissah in Nucklao
and, and - once gone, who is to find me again?'
'It is true. Never was colt held on a lighter heel-rope than thou.'
Mahbub nodded his head.
'Do not be afraid.' Kim spoke as though he could have vanished on
the moment. 'My lama has said that he will come to see me at the
'A beggar and his bowl in the presence of those young Sa -'
'Not all!' Kim cut in with a snort. 'Their eyes are blued and their
nails are blackened with low-caste blood, many of them. Sons of
mehteranees - brothers-in-law to the bhungi [sweeper].'
We need not follow the rest of the pedigree; but Kim made his
little point clearly and without heat, chewing a piece of sugar-
cane the while.
'Friend of all the World,' said Mahbub, pushing over the pipe for
the boy to clean, 'I have met many men, women, and boys, and not a
few Sahibs. I have never in all my days met such an imp as thou
'And why? When I always tell thee the truth.'
'Perhaps the very reason, for this is a world of danger to honest
men.' Mahbub Ali hauled himself off the ground, girt in his belt,
and went over to the horses.
'Or sell it?'
There was that in the tone that made Mahbub halt and turn. 'What
'Eight annas, and I will tell,' said Kim, grinning. 'It touches thy
'O Shaitan!' Mahbub gave the money.
'Rememberest thou the little business of the thieves in the dark,
down yonder at Umballa?'
'Seeing they sought my life, I have not altogether forgotten. Why?'
'Rememberest thou the Kashmir Serai?'
'I will twist thy ears in a moment - Sahib.'
'No need - Pathan. Only, the second fakir, whom the Sahibs beat
senseless, was the man who came to search thy bulkhead at Lahore. I
saw his face as they helped him on the engine. The very same man.'
'Why didst thou not tell before?'
'Oh, he will go to jail, and be safe for some years. There is no
need to tell more than is necessary at any one time. Besides, I did
not then need money for sweetmeats.'
'Allah kerim!' said Mahbub Ah. 'Wilt thou some day sell my head for
a few sweetmeats if the fit takes thee?'
Kim will remember till he dies that long, lazy journey from
Umballa, through Kalka and the Pinjore Gardens near by, up to
Simla. A sudden spate in the Gugger River swept down one horse
(the most valuable, be sure), and nearly drowned Kim among the
dancing boulders. Farther up the road the horses were stampeded by
a Government elephant, and being in high condition of grass food,
it cost a day and a half to get them together again. Then they met
Sikandar Khan coming down with a few unsaleable screws - remnants
of his string - and Mahbub, who has more of horse-coping in his
little fingernail than Sikandar Khan in all his tents, must needs
buy two of the worst, and that meant eight hours' laborious
diplomacy and untold tobacco. But it was all pure delight - the
wandering road, climbing, dipping, and sweeping about the growing
spurs; the flush of the morning laid along the distant snows; the
branched cacti, tier upon tier on the stony hillsides; the voices
of a thousand water-channels; the chatter of the monkeys; the
solemn deodars, climbing one after another with down-drooped
branches; the vista of the Plains rolled out far beneath them; the
incessant twanging of the tonga-horns and the wild rush of the led
horses when a tonga swung round a curve; the halts for prayers
(Mahbub was very religious in dry-washings and bellowings when time
did not press); the evening conferences by the halting-places, when
camels and bullocks chewed solemnly together and the stolid drivers
told the news of the Road - all these things lifted Kim's heart to
song within him.
'But, when the singing and dancing is done,' said Mahbub Ali,
'comes the Colonel Sahib's, and that is not so sweet.'
'A fair land - a most beautiful land is this of Hind - and the land
of the Five Rivers is fairer than all,' Kim half chanted. 'Into it
I will go again if Mahbub Ali or the Colonel lift hand or foot
against me. Once gone, who shall find me? Look, Hajji, is yonder
the city of Simla? Allah, what a city!'
'My father's brother, and he was an old man when Mackerson Sahib's
well was new at Peshawur, could recall when there were but two
houses in it.'
He led the horses below the main road into the lower Simla bazar -
the crowded rabbit-warren that climbs up from the valley to the
Town Hall at an angle of forty-five. A man who knows his way there
can defy all the police of India's summer capital, so cunningly
does veranda communicate with veranda, alley-way with alley-way,
and bolt-hole with bolt-hole. Here live those who minister to the
wants of the glad city - jhampanis who pull the pretty ladies'
'rickshaws by night and gamble till the dawn; grocers, oil-sellers,
curio-vendors, firewood-dealers, priests, pickpockets, and native
employees of the Government. Here are discussed by courtesans the
things which are supposed to be profoundest secrets of the India
Council; and here gather all the sub-sub-agents of half the Native
States. Here, too, Mahbub Ali rented a room, much more securely
locked than his bulkhead at Lahore, in the house of a Mohammedan
cattle-dealer. It was a place of miracles, too, for there went in
at twilight a Mohammedan horseboy, and there came out an hour later
a Eurasian lad - the Lucknow girl's dye was of the best - in badly-
'I have spoken with Creighton Sahib,' quoth Mahbub Ali, 'and a
second time has the Hand of Friendship averted the Whip of
Calamity. He says that thou hast altogether wasted sixty days upon
the Road, and it is too late, therefore, to send thee to any Hill-
'I have said that my holidays are my own. I do not go to school
twice over. That is one part of my bond.'
'The Colonel Sahib is not yet aware of that contract. Thou art to
lodge in Lurgan Sahib's house till it is time to go again to
'I had sooner lodge with thee, Mahbub.'
'Thou dost not know the honour. Lurgan Sahib himself asked for
thee. Thou wilt go up the hill and along the road atop, and there
thou must forget for a while that thou hast ever seen or spoken to
me, Mahbub Ali, who sells horses to Creighton Sahib, whom thou dost
not know. Remember this order.'
Kim nodded. 'Good,' said he, 'and who is Lurgan Sahib? Nay' - he
caught Mahbub's sword-keen glance - 'indeed I have never heard his
name. Is he by chance - he lowered his voice - 'one of us?'
'What talk is this of us, Sahib?' Mahbub Ali returned, in the tone
he used towards Europeans. 'I am a Pathan; thou art a Sahib and the
son of a Sahib. Lurgan Sahib has a shop among the European shops.
All Simla knows it. Ask there ... and, Friend of all the World, he
is one to be obeyed to the last wink of his eyelashes. Men say he
does magic, but that should not touch thee. Go up the hill and ask.
Here begins the Great Game.'
S' doaks was son of Yelth the wise -
Chief of the Raven clan.
Itswoot the Bear had him in care
To make him a medicine-man.
He was quick and quicker to learn -
Bold and bolder to dare:
He danced the dread Kloo-Kwallie Dance
To tickle Itswoot the Bear!
Kim flung himself whole-heartedly upon the next turn of the wheel.
He would be a Sahib again for a while. In that idea, so soon as he
had reached the broad road under Simla Town Hall, he cast about for
one to impress. A Hindu child, some ten years old, squatted under a
'Where is Mr Lurgan's house?' demanded Kim.
'I do not understand English,' was the answer, and Kim shifted his
'I will show.'
Together they set off through the mysterious dusk, full of the
noises of a city below the hillside, and the breath of a cool wind
in deodar-crowned Jakko, shouldering the stars. The house-lights,
scattered on every level, made, as it were, a double firmament.
Some were fixed, others belonged to the 'rickshaws of the careless,
open-spoken English folk, going out to dinner.
'It is here,' said Kim's guide, and halted in a veranda flush with
the main road. No door stayed them, but a curtain of beaded reeds
that split up the lamplight beyond.
'He is come,' said the boy, in a voice little louder than a sigh,
and vanished. Kim felt sure that the boy had been posted to guide
him from the first, but, putting a bold face on it, parted the
curtain. A black-bearded man, with a green shade over his eyes, sat
at a table, and, one by one, with short, white hands, picked up
globules of light from a tray before him, threaded them on a
glancing silken string, and hummed to himself the while. Kim was
conscious that beyond the circle of light the room was full of
things that smelt like all the temples of all the East. A whiff of
musk, a puff of sandal-wood, and a breath of sickly jessamine-oil
caught his opened nostrils.
'I am here,' said Kim at last, speaking in the vernacular: the
smells made him forget that he was to be a Sahib.
'Seventy-nine, eighty, eighty-one,' the man counted to himself,
stringing pearl after pearl so quickly that Kim could scarcely
follow his fingers. He slid off the green shade and looked fixedly
at Kim for a full half-minute. The pupils of the eye dilated and
closed to pin-pricks, as if at will. There was a fakir by the
Taksali Gate who had just this gift and made money by it,
especially when cursing silly women. Kim stared with interest. His
disreputable friend could further twitch his ears, almost like a
goat, and Kim was disappointed that this new man could not imitate
'Do not be afraid,' said Lurgan Sahib suddenly.
'Why should I fear?'
'Thou wilt sleep here tonight, and stay with me till it is time to
go again to Nucklao. It is an order.'
'It is an order,' Kim repeated. 'But where shall I sleep?'
'Here, in this room.' Lurgan Sahib waved his hand towards the
darkness behind him.
'So be it,' said Kim composedly. 'Now?'
He nodded and held the lamp above his head. As the light swept
them, there leaped out from the walls a collection of Tibetan
devil-dance masks, hanging above the fiend-embroidered draperies of
those ghastly functions - horned masks, scowling masks, and masks
of idiotic terror. In a corner, a Japanese warrior, mailed and
plumed, menaced him with a halberd, and a score of lances and
khandas and kuttars gave back the unsteady gleam. But what
interested Kim more than all these things - he had seen devil-dance
masks at the Lahore Museum - was a glimpse of the soft-eyed Hindu
child who had left him in the doorway, sitting cross-legged under
the table of pearls with a little smile on his scarlet lips.
'I think that Lurgan Sahib wishes to make me afraid. And I am sure
that that devil's brat below the table wishes to see me afraid.
'This place,' he said aloud, 'is like a Wonder House. Where is my
Lurgan Sahib pointed to a native quilt in a corner by the loathsome
masks, picked up the lamp, and left the room black.
'Was that Lurgan Sahib?' Kim asked as he cuddled down. No answer.
He could hear the Hindu boy breathing, however, and, guided by the
sound, crawled across the floor, and cuffed into the darkness,
crying: 'Give answer, devil! Is this the way to lie to a Sahib?'
From the darkness he fancied he could hear the echo of a chuckle.
It could not be his soft-fleshed companion, because he was weeping.
So Kim lifted up his voice and called aloud:
'Lurgan Sahib! O Lurgan Sahib! Is it an order that thy servant does
not speak to me?'
'It is an order.' The voice came from behind him and he started.
'Very good. But remember,' he muttered, as he resought the quilt,
'I will beat thee in the morning. I do not love Hindus.'
That was no cheerful night; the room being overfull of voices and
music. Kim was waked twice by someone calling his name. The second
time he set out in search, and ended by bruising his nose against a
box that certainly spoke with a human tongue, but in no sort of
human accent. It seemed to end in a tin trumpet and to be joined by
wires to a smaller box on the floor - so far, at least, as he could
judge by touch. And the voice, very hard and whirring, came out of
the trumpet. Kim rubbed his nose and grew furious, thinking, as
usual, in Hindi.
'This with a beggar from the bazar might be good, but - I am a
Sahib and the son of a Sahib and, which is twice as much more
beside, a student of Nucklao. Yess' (here he turned to English),
'a boy of St Xavier's. Damn Mr Lurgan's eyes! - It is some sort of
machinery like a sewing-machine. Oh, it is a great cheek of him -
we are not frightened that way at Lucknow - No!' Then in Hindi:
'But what does he gain? He is only a trader - I am in his
shop. But Creighton Sahib is a Colonel - and I think Creighton
Sahib gave orders that it should be done. How I will beat that
Hindu in the morning! What is this?'
The trumpet-box was pouring out a string of the most elaborate
abuse that even Kim had ever heard, in a high uninterested voice,
that for a moment lifted the short hairs of his neck. When the vile
thing drew breath, Kim was reassured by the soft, sewing-machine-
'Chup! [Be still)' he cried, and again he heard a chuckle that
decided him. 'Chup - or I break your head.'
The box took no heed. Kim wrenched at the tin trumpet and something
lifted with a click. He had evidently raised a lid. If there were a
devil inside, now was its time, for - he sniffed -thus did the
sewing-machines of the bazar smell. He would clean that shaitan. He
slipped off his jacket, and plunged it into the box's mouth.
Something long and round bent under the pressure, there was a whirr
and the voice stopped - as voices must if you ram a thrice-doubled
coat on to the wax cylinder and into the works of an expensive
phonograph. Kim finished his slumbers with a serene mind.
In the morning he was aware of Lurgan Sahib looking down on him.
'Oah!' said Kim, firmly resolved to cling to his Sahib-dom. 'There
was a box in the night that gave me bad talk. So I stopped it. Was
it your box?'
The man held out his hand.
'Shake hands, O'Hara,' he said. 'Yes, it was my box. I keep such
things because my friends the Rajahs like them. That one is broken,
but it was cheap at the price. Yes, my friends, the Kings, are very
fond of toys - and so am I sometimes.'
Kim looked him over out of the corners of his eyes. He was a Sahib
in that he wore Sahib's clothes; the accent of his Urdu, the
intonation of his English, showed that he was anything but a Sahib.
He seemed to understand what moved in Kim's mind ere the boy opened
his mouth, and he took no pains to explain himself as did Father
Victor or the Lucknow masters. Sweetest of all - he treated Kim as
an equal on the Asiatic side.
'I am sorry you cannot beat my boy this morning. He says he will
kill you with a knife or poison. He is jealous, so I have put him
in the corner and I shall not speak to him today. He has just tried
to kill me. You must help me with the breakfast. He is almost too
jealous to trust, just now.'
Now a genuine imported Sahib from England would have made a great
to-do over this tale. Lurgan Sahib stated it as simply as Mahbub
Ali was used to record his little affairs in the North.
The back veranda of the shop was built out over the sheer hillside,
and they looked down into their neighbours' chimney-pots, as is the
custom of Simla. But even more than the purely Persian meal cooked
by Lurgan Sahib with his own hands, the shop fascinated Kim. The
Lahore Museum was larger, but here were more wonders - ghost-
daggers and prayer-wheels from Tibet; turquoise and raw amber
necklaces; green jade bangles; curiously packed incense-sticks in
jars crusted over with raw garnets; the devil-masks of overnight
and a wall full of peacock-blue draperies; gilt figures of Buddha,
and little portable lacquer altars; Russian samovars with
turquoises on the lid; egg-shell china sets in quaint octagonal
cane boxes; yellow ivory crucifixes - from Japan of all places in
the world, so Lurgan Sahib said; carpets in dusty bales, smelling
atrociously, pushed back behind torn and rotten screens of
geometrical work; Persian water-jugs for the hands after meals;
dull copper incense-burners neither Chinese nor Persian, with
friezes of fantastic devils running round them; tarnished silver
belts that knotted like raw hide; hairpins of jade, ivory, and
plasma; arms of all sorts and kinds, and a thousand other oddments
were cased, or piled, or merely thrown into the room, leaving a
clear space only round the rickety deal table, where Lurgan Sahib
'Those things are nothing,' said his host, following Kim's glance.
'I buy them because they are pretty, and sometimes I sell - if I
like the buyer's look. My work is on the table - some of it.'
It blazed in the morning light - all red and blue and green
flashes, picked out with the vicious blue-white spurt of a diamond
here and there. Kim opened his eyes.
'Oh, they are quite well, those stones. It will not hurt them to
take the sun. Besides, they are cheap. But with sick stones it is
very different.' He piled Kim's plate anew. 'There is no one but me
can doctor a sick pearl and re-blue turquoises. I grant you opals -
any fool can cure an opal - but for a sick pearl there is only me.
Suppose I were to die! Then there would be no one ... Oh no! You
cannot do anything with jewels. It will be quite enough if you
understand a little about the Turquoise - some day.'
He moved to the end of the veranda to refill the heavy, porous clay
water-jug from the filter.
'Do you want drink?'
Kim nodded. Lurgan Sahib, fifteen feet off, laid one hand on the
jar. Next instant, it stood at Kim's elbow, full to within half an
inch of the brim - the white cloth only showing, by a small
wrinkle, where it had slid into place.
'Wah!' said Kim in most utter amazement. 'That is magic.' Lurgan
Sahib's smile showed that the compliment had gone home.
'Throw it back.'
'It will break.'
'I say, throw it back.'
Kim pitched it at random. It fell short and crashed into fifty
pieces, while the water dripped through the rough veranda boarding.
'I said it would break.'
'All one. Look at it. Look at the largest piece.'
That lay with a sparkle of water in its curve, as it were a star on
the floor. Kim looked intently. Lurgan Sahib laid one hand gently
on the nape of his neck, stroked it twice or thrice, and whispered:
'Look! It shall come to life again, piece by piece. First the big
piece shall join itself to two others on the right and the left -
on the right and the left. Look!'
To save his life, Kim could not have turned his head. The light
touch held him as in a vice, and his blood tingled pleasantly
through him. There was one large piece of the jar where there had
been three, and above them the shadowy outline of the entire
vessel. He could see the veranda through it, but it was thickening
and darkening with each beat of his pulse. Yet the jar - how slowly
the thoughts came! - the jar had been smashed before his eyes.
Another wave of prickling fire raced down his neck, as Lurgan Sahib
moved his hand.
'Look! It is coming into shape,' said Lurgan Sahib.
So far Kim had been thinking in Hindi, but a tremor came on him,
and with an effort like that of a swimmer before sharks, who hurls
himself half out of the water, his mind leaped up from a darkness
that was swallowing it and took refuge in - the multiplication-
table in English!
'Look! It is coming into shape,' whispered Lurgan Sahib.
The jar had been smashed - yess, smashed - not the native word, he
would not think of that - but smashed - into fifty pieces, and
twice three was six, and thrice three was nine, and four times
three was twelve. He clung desperately to the repetition. The
shadow-outline of the jar cleared like a mist after rubbing eyes.
There were the broken shards; there was the spilt water drying in
the sun, and through the cracks of the veranda showed, all ribbed,
the white house-wall below - and thrice twelve was thirty-six!
'Look! Is it coming into shape?' asked Lurgan Sahib.
'But it is smashed - smashed,' he gasped - Lurgan Sahib had been
muttering softly for the last half-minute. Kim wrenched his head
aside. 'Look! Dekho! It is there as it was there.'
'It is there as it was there,' said Lurgan, watching Kim closely
while the boy rubbed his neck. 'But you are the first of many who
has ever seen it so.' He wiped his broad forehead.
'Was that more magic?' Kim asked suspiciously. The tingle had gone
from his veins; he felt unusually wide awake.
'No, that was not magic. It was only to see if there was - a flaw
in a jewel. Sometimes very fine jewels will fly all to pieces if a
man holds them in his hand, and knows the proper way. That is why
one must be careful before one sets them. Tell me, did you see the
shape of the pot?'
'For a little time. It began to grow like a flower from the
'And then what did you do? I mean, how did you think?'
'Oah! I knew it was broken, and so, I think, that was what I
thought - and it was broken.'
'Hm! Has anyone ever done that same sort of magic to you before?'
'If it was,' said Kim 'do you think I should let it again? I should
'And now you are not afraid - eh?'
Lurgan Sahib looked at him more closely than ever. 'I shall ask
Mahbub Ali - not now, but some day later,' he muttered. 'I am
pleased with you - yes; and I am pleased with you - no. You are the
first that ever saved himself. I wish I knew what it was that ...
But you are right. You should not tell that - not even to me.'
He turned into the dusky gloom of the shop, and sat down at the
table, rubbing his hands softly. A small, husky sob came from
behind a pile of carpets. It was the Hindu child obediently facing
towards the wall. His thin shoulders worked with grief.
'Ah! He is jealous, so jealous. I wonder if he will try to poison
me again in my breakfast, and make me cook it twice.
'Kubbee - kubbee nahin [Never - never. No!]', came the broken
'And whether he will kill this other boy?'
'Kubbee - kubbee nahin.'
'What do you think he will do?' He turned suddenly on Kim.
'Oah! I do not know. Let him go, perhaps. Why did he want to poison
'Because he is so fond of me. Suppose you were fond of someone, and
you saw someone come, and the man you were fond of was more pleased
with him than he was with you, what would you do?'
Kim thought. Lurgan repeated the sentence slowly in the vernacular.
'I should not poison that man,' said Kim reflectively, 'but I
should beat that boy - if that boy was fond of my man. But first, I
would ask that boy if it were true.'
'Ah! He thinks everyone must be fond of me.'
'Then I think he is a fool.'
'Hearest thou?' said Lurgan Sahib to the shaking shoulders. 'The
Sahib's son thinks thou art a little fool. Come out, and next time
thy heart is troubled, do not try white arsenic quite so openly.
Surely the Devil Dasim was lord of our table-cloth that day! It
might have made me ill, child, and then a stranger would have
guarded the jewels. Come!'
The child, heavy-eyed with much weeping, crept out from behind the
bale and flung himself passionately at Lurgan Sahib's feet, with an
extravagance of remorse that impressed even Kim.
'I will look into the ink-pools - I will faithfully guard the
jewels! Oh, my Father and my Mother, send him away!' He indicated
Kim with a backward jerk of his bare heel.
'Not yet - not yet. In a little while he will go away again. But
now he is at school - at a new madrissah - and thou shalt be his
teacher. Play the Play of the Jewels against him. I will keep
The child dried his tears at once, and dashed to the back of the
shop, whence he returned with a copper tray.
'Give me!' he said to Lurgan Sahib. 'Let them come from thy hand,
for he may say that I knew them before.'
'Gently - gently,' the man replied, and from a drawer under the
table dealt a half-handful of clattering trifles into the tray.
'Now,' said the child, waving an old newspaper. 'Look on them as
long as thou wilt, stranger. Count and, if need be, handle. One
look is enough for me.' He turned his back proudly.
'But what is the game?'
'When thou hast counted and handled and art sure that thou canst
remember them all, I cover them with this paper, and thou must tell
over the tally to Lurgan Sahib. I will write mine.'
'Oah!' The instinct of competition waked in his breast. He bent
over the tray. There were but fifteen stones on it. 'That is easy,'
he said after a minute. The child slipped the paper over the
winking jewels and scribbled in a native account-book.
'There are under that paper five blue stones - one big, one
smaller, and three small,' said Kim, all in haste. 'There are four
green stones, and one with a hole in it; there is one yellow stone
that I can see through, and one like a pipe-stem. There are two red
stones, and - and - I made the count fifteen, but two I have
forgotten. No! Give me time. One was of ivory, little and brownish;
and - and - give me time...'
'One - two' - Lurgan Sahib counted him out up to ten. Kim shook his
'Hear my count!' the child burst in, trilling with laughter.
'First, are two flawed sapphires - one of two ruttees and one of
four as I should judge. The four-ruttee sapphire is chipped at the
edge. There is one Turkestan turquoise, plain with black veins, and
there are two inscribed - one with a Name of God in gilt, and the
other being cracked across, for it came out of an old ring, I
cannot read. We have now all five blue stones. Four flawed emeralds
there are, but one is drilled in two places, and one is a little
'Their weights?' said Lurgan Sahib impassively.
'Three - five - five - and four ruttees as I judge it. There is one
piece of old greenish pipe amber, and a cut topaz from Europe.
There is one ruby of Burma, of two ruttees, without a flaw, and
there is a balas-ruby, flawed, of two ruttees. There is a carved
ivory from China representing a rat sucking an egg; and there is
last - ah ha! - a ball of crystal as big as a bean set on a gold
He clapped his hands at the close.
'He is thy master,' said Lurgan Sahib, smiling.
'Huh! He knew the names of the stones,' said Kim, flushing. 'Try
again! With common things such as he and I both know.'
They heaped the tray again with odds and ends gathered from the
shop, and even the kitchen, and every time the child won, till Kim
'Bind my eyes - let me feel once with my fingers, and even then I
will leave thee opened-eyed behind,' he challenged.
Kim stamped with vexation when the lad made his boast good.
'If it were men - or horses,' he said, 'I could do better. This
playing with tweezers and knives and scissors is too little.'
'Learn first - teach later,' said Lurgan Sahib. 'Is he thy master?'
'Truly. But how is it done?'
'By doing it many times over till it is done perfectly - for it is
The Hindu boy, in highest feather, actually patted Kim on the back.
'Do not despair,' he said. 'I myself will teach thee.'
'And I will see that thou art well taught,' said Lurgan Sahib,
still speaking in the vernacular, 'for except my boy here - it was
foolish of him to buy so much white arsenic when, if he had asked,
I could have given it - except my boy here I have not in a long
time met with one better worth teaching. And there are ten days
more ere thou canst return to Lucknao where they teach nothing - at
the long price. We shall, I think, be friends.'
They were a most mad ten days, but Kim enjoyed himself too much to
reflect on their craziness. In the morning they played the Jewel
Game - sometimes with veritable stones, sometimes with piles of
swords and daggers, sometimes with photo-graphs of natives. Through
the afternoons he and the Hindu boy would mount guard in the shop,
sitting dumb behind a carpet-bale or a screen and watching Mr
Lurgan's many and very curious visitors. There were small Rajahs,
escorts coughing in the veranda, who came to buy curiosities - such
as phonographs and mechanical toys. There were ladies in search of
necklaces, and men, it seemed to Kim - but his mind may have been
vitiated by early training - in search of the ladies; natives from
independent and feudatory Courts whose ostensible business was the
repair of broken necklaces - rivers of light poured out upon the
table - but whose true end seemed to be to raise money for angry
Maharanees or young Rajahs. There were Babus to whom Lurgan Sahib
talked with austerity and authority, but at the end of each
interview he gave them money in coined silver and currency notes.
There were occasional gatherings of long-coated theatrical natives
who discussed metaphysics in English and Bengali, to Mr Lurgan's
great edification. He was always interested in religions. At the
end of the day, Kim and the Hindu boy - whose name varied at
Lurgan's pleasure - were expected to give a detailed account of all
that they had seen and heard - their view of each man's character,
as shown in his face, talk, and manner, and their notions of his
real errand. After dinner, Lurgan Sahib's fancy turned more to what
might be called dressing-up, in which game he took a most informing
interest. He could paint faces to a marvel; with a brush-dab here
and a line there changing them past recognition. The shop was full
of all manner of dresses and turbans, and Kim was apparelled
variously as a young Mohammedan of good family, an oilman, and once
- which was a joyous evening - as the son of an Oudh landholder in
the fullest of full dress. Lurgan Sahib had a hawk's eye to detect
the least flaw in the make-up; and lying on a worn teak-wood couch,
would explain by the half-hour together how such and such a caste
talked, or walked, or coughed, or spat, or sneezed, and, since
'hows' matter little in this world, the 'why' of everything. The
Hindu child played this game clumsily. That little mind, keen as an
icicle where tally of jewels was concerned, could not temper itself
to enter another's soul; but a demon in Kim woke up and sang with
joy as he put on the changing dresses, and changed speech and
Carried away by enthusiasm, he volunteered to show Lurgan Sahib one
evening how the disciples of a certain caste of fakir, old Lahore
acquaintances, begged doles by the roadside; and what sort of
language he would use to an Englishman, to a Punjabi farmer going
to a fair, and to a woman without a veil. Lurgan Sahib laughed
immensely, and begged Kim to stay as he was, immobile for half an
hour - cross-legged, ash-smeared, and wild-eyed, in the back room.
At the end of that time entered a hulking, obese Babu whose
stockinged legs shook with fat, and Kim opened on him with a shower
of wayside chaff. Lurgan Sahib - this annoyed Kim - watched the
Babu and not the play.
'I think,' said the Babu heavily, lighting a cigarette, 'I am of
opeenion that it is most extraordinary and effeecient performance.
Except that you had told me I should have opined that- that- that
you were pulling my legs. How soon can he become approximately
effeecient chain-man? Because then I shall indent for him.'
'That is what he must learn at Lucknow.'
'Then order him to be jolly-dam'-quick. Good-night, Lurgan.' The
Babu swung out with the gait of a bogged cow.
When they were telling over the day's list of visitors, Lurgan
Sahib asked Kim who he thought the man might be.
'God knows!' said Kim cheerily. The tone might almost have deceived
Mahbub Ali, but it failed entirely with the healer of sick pearls.
'That is true. God, He knows; but I wish to know what you think.'
Kim glanced sideways at his companion, whose eye had a way of
'I - I think he will want me when I come from the school, but' -
confidentially, as Lurgan Sahib nodded approval - 'I do not
understand how he can wear many dresses and talk many tongues.'
'Thou wilt understand many things later. He is a writer of tales
for a certain Colonel. His honour is great only in Simla, and it is
noticeable that he has no name, but only a number and a letter -
that is a custom among us.'
'And is there a price upon his head too - as upon Mah - all the
'Not yet; but if a boy rose up who is now sitting here and went -
look, the door is open! - as far as a certain house with a red-
painted veranda, behind that which was the old theatre in the Lower
Bazar, and whispered through the shutters: "Hurree Chunder
Mookerjee bore the bad news of last month", that boy might take
away a belt full of rupees.'
'How many?' said Kim promptly.
'Five hundred - a thousand - as many as he might ask for.'
'Good. And for how long might such a boy live after the news was
told?' He smiled merrily at Lurgan's Sahib's very beard.
'Ah! That is to be well thought of. Perhaps if he were very clever,
he might live out the day - but not the night. By no means the
'Then what is the Babu's pay if so much is put upon his head?'
'Eighty - perhaps a hundred - perhaps a hundred and fifty rupees;
but the pay is the least part of the work. From time to time,
God causes men to be born - and thou art one of them - who have a
lust to go abroad at the risk of their lives and discover news -
today it may be of far-off things, tomorrow of some hidden mountain,
and the next day of some near-by men who have done a foolishness
against the State. These souls are very few; and of these few, not
more than ten are of the best. Among these ten I count the Babu,
and that is curious. How great, therefore, and desirable must be a
business that brazens the heart of a Bengali!'
'True. But the days go slowly for me. I am yet a boy, and it is only
within two months I learned to write Angrezi. Even now I cannot
read it well. And there are yet years and years and long years
before I can be even a chain-man.'
'Have patience, Friend of all the World' - Kim started at the title.
'Would I had a few of the years that so irk thee. I have proved thee
in several small ways. This will not be forgotten when I make my
report to the Colonel Sahib.' Then, changing suddenly into English
with a deep laugh:
'By Jove! O'Hara, I think there is a great deal in you; but you must
not become proud and you must not talk. You must go back to Lucknow
and be a good little boy and mind your book, as the English say, and
perhaps, next holidays if you care, you can come back to me!' Kim's
face fell. 'Oh, I mean if you like. I know where you want to go.'
Four days later a seat was booked for Kim and his small trunk at the
rear of a Kalka tonga. His companion was the whale-like Babu, who,
with a fringed shawl wrapped round his head, and his fat openwork-
stockinged left leg tucked under him, shivered and grunted in the
'How comes it that this man is one of us?' thought Kim considering
the jelly back as they jolted down the road; and the reflection
threw him into most pleasant day-dreams. Lurgan Sahib had given him
five rupees - a splendid sum - as well as the assurance of his
protection if he worked. Unlike Mahbub, Lurgan Sahib had spoken most
explicitly of the reward that would follow obedience, and Kim was
content. If only, like the Babu, he could enjoy the dignity of a
letter and a number - and a price upon his head! Some day he would
be all that and more. Some day he might be almost as great as Mahbub
Ali! The housetops of his search should be half India; he would
follow Kings and Ministers, as in the old days he had followed
vakils and lawyers' touts across Lahore city for Mahbub Ali's sake.
Meantime, there was the present, and not at all unpleasant, fact of
St Xavier's immediately before him. There would be new boys to
condescend to, and there would be tales of holiday adventures to
hear. Young Martin, son of the tea-planter at Manipur, had boasted
that he would go to war, with a rifle, against the head-hunters.
That might be, but it was certain young Martin had not been blown
half across the forecourt of a Patiala palace by an explosion of
fireworks; nor had he... Kim fell to telling himself the story of
his own adventures through the last three months. He could paralyse
St Xavier's - even the biggest boys who shaved - with the recital,
were that permitted. But it was, of course, out of the question.
There would be a price upon his head in good time, as Lurgan Sahib
had assured him; and if he talked foolishly now, not only would that
price never be set, but Colonel Creighton would cast him off - and
he would be left to the wrath of Lurgan Sahib and Mahbub Ali - for
the short space of life that would remain to him.
'So I should lose Delhi for the sake of a fish,' was his proverbial
philosophy. It behoved him to forget his holidays (there would
always remain the fun of inventing imaginary adventures) and, as
Lurgan Sahib had said, to work. Of all the boys hurrying back to St
Xavier's, from Sukkur in the sands to Galle beneath the palms, none
was so filled with virtue as Kimball O'Hara, jiggeting down to
Umballa behind Hurree Chunder Mookerjee, whose name on the books of
one section of the Ethnological Survey was R.17.
And if additional spur were needed, the Babu supplied it. After a
huge meal at Kalka, he spoke uninterruptedly. Was Kim going to
school? Then he, an M A of Calcutta University, would explain the
advantages of education. There were marks to be gained by due
attention to Latin and Wordsworth's Excursion (all this was Greek to
Kim). French, too was vital, and the best was to be picked up in
Chandernagore a few miles from Calcutta. Also a man might go far, as
he himself had done, by strict attention to plays called Lear and
Julius Caesar, both much in demand by examiners. Lear was not so
full of historical allusions as Julius Caesar; the book cost four
annas, but could be bought second-hand in Bow Bazar for two. Still
more important than Wordsworth, or the eminent authors, Burke and
Hare, was the art and science of mensuration. A boy who had passed
his examination in these branches - for which, by the way, there
were no cram-books - could, by merely marching over a country with a
compass and a level and a straight eye, carry away a picture of that
country which might be sold for large sums in coined silver. But as
it was occasionally inexpedient to carry about measuring-chains a
boy would do well to know the precise length of his own foot-pace,
so that when he was deprived of what Hurree Chunder called
adventitious aids' he might still tread his distances. To keep count
of thousands of paces, Hurree Chunder's experience had shown him
nothing more valuable than a rosary of eighty-one or a hundred and
eight beads, for 'it was divisible and sub-divisible into many
multiples and sub-multiples'. Through the volleying drifts of
English, Kim caught the general trend of the talk, and it interested
him very much. Here was a new craft that a man could tuck away in
his head and by the look of the large wide world unfolding itself
before him, it seemed that the more a man knew the better for him.
Said the Babu when he had talked for an hour and a half 'I hope some
day to enjoy your offeecial acquaintance. Ad interim, if I may be
pardoned that expression, I shall give you this betel-box, which is
highly valuable article and cost me two rupees only four years ago.'
It was a cheap, heart-shaped brass thing with three compartments for
carrying the eternal betel-nut, lime and pan-leaf; but it was filled
with little tabloid-bottles.
'That is reward of merit for your
performance in character of that holy man. You see, you are so young
you think you will last for ever and not take care of your body. It
is great nuisance to go sick in the middle of business. I am fond of
drugs myself, and they are handy to cure poor people too. These are
good Departmental drugs - quinine and so on. I give it you for
souvenir. Now good-bye. I have urgent private business here by the
He slipped out noiselessly as a cat, on the Umballa road, hailed a
passing cart and jingled away, while Kim, tongue-tied, twiddled the
brass betel-box in his hands.
The record of a boy's education interests few save his parents, and,
as you know, Kim was an orphan. It is written in the books of St
Xavier's in Partibus that a report of Kim's progress was forwarded
at the end of each term to Colonel Creighton and to Father Victor,
from whose hands duly came the money for his schooling. It is
further recorded in the same books that he showed a great aptitude
for mathematical studies as well as map-making, and carried away a
prize (The Life of Lord Lawrence, tree-calf, two vols., nine rupees,
eight annas) for proficiency therein; and the same term played in St
Xavier's eleven against the Alighur Mohammedan College, his age
being fourteen years and ten months. He was also re-vaccinated (from
which we may assume that there had been another epidemic of smallpox
at Lucknow) about the same time. Pencil notes on the edge of an old
muster-roll record that he was punished several times for
'conversing with improper persons', and it seems that he was once
sentenced to heavy pains for 'absenting himself for a day in the
company of a street beggar'. That was when he got over the gate and
pleaded with the lama through a whole day down the banks of the
Gumti to accompany him on the Road next holidays - for one month -
for a little week; and the lama set his face as a flint against it,
averring that the time had not yet come. Kim's business, said the
old man as they ate cakes together, was to get all the wisdom of the
Sahibs and then he would see. The Hand of Friendship must in some
way have averted the Whip of Calamity, for six weeks later Kim seems
to have passed an examination in elementary surveying 'with great
credit', his age being fifteen years and eight months. From this
date the record is silent. His name does not appear in the year's
batch of those who entered for the subordinate Survey of India, but
against it stand the words 'removed on appointment.'
Several times in those three years, cast up at the Temple of the
Tirthankars in Benares the lama, a little thinner and a shade
yellower, if that were possible, but gentle and untainted as ever.
Sometimes it was from the South that he came - from south of
Tuticorin, whence the wonderful fire-boats go to Ceylon where are
priests who know Pali; sometimes it was from the wet green West and
the thousand cotton-factory chimneys that ring Bombay; and once from
the North, where he had doubled back eight hundred miles to talk for
a day with the Keeper of the Images in the Wonder House. He would
stride to his cell in the cool, cut marble - the priests of the
Temple were good to the old man, - wash off the dust of travel, make
prayer, and depart for Lucknow, well accustomed now to the way of
the rail, in a third-class carriage. Returning, it was noticeable,
as his friend the Seeker pointed out to the head-priest, that he
ceased for a while to mourn the loss of his River, or to draw
wondrous pictures of the Wheel of Life, but preferred to talk of the
beauty and wisdom of a certain mysterious chela whom no man of the
Temple had ever seen. Yes, he had followed the traces of the Blessed
Feet throughout all India. (The Curator has still in his possession
a most marvellous account of his wanderings and meditations.) There
remained nothing more in life but to find the River of the Arrow.
Yet it was shown to him in dreams that it was a matter not to be
undertaken with any hope of success unless that seeker had with him
the one chela appointed to bring the event to a happy issue, and
versed in great wisdom - such wisdom as white-haired Keepers of
Images possess. For example (here came out the snuff-gourd, and the
kindly Jain priests made haste to be silent):
'Long and long ago, when Devadatta was King of Benares - let all
listen to the Tataka! - an elephant was captured for a time by the
king's hunters and ere he broke free, beringed with a grievous
legiron. This he strove to remove with hate and frenzy in his heart,
and hurrying up and down the forests, besought his brother-elephants
to wrench it asunder. One by one, with their strong trunks, they
tried and failed. At the last they gave it as their opinion that the
ring was not to be broken by any bestial power. And in a thicket,
new-born, wet with moisture of birth, lay a day-old calf of the herd
whose mother had died. The fettered elephant, forgetting his own
agony, said: "If I do not help this suckling it will perish under
our feet." So he stood above the young thing, making his legs
buttresses against the uneasily moving herd; and he begged milk of a
virtuous cow, and the calf throve, and the ringed elephant was the
calf's guide and defence. Now the days of an elephant - let all
listen to the Tataka! - are thirty-five years to his full strength,
and through thirty-five Rains the ringed elephant befriended the
younger, and all the while the fetter ate into the flesh.
'Then one day the young elephant saw the half-buried iron, and
turning to the elder said: "What is this?" "It is even my sorrow,"
said he who had befriended him. Then that other put out his trunk
and in the twinkling of an eyelash abolished the ring, saying: "The
appointed time has come." So the virtuous elephant who had waited
temperately and done kind acts was relieved, at the appointed time,
by the very calf whom he had turned aside to cherish - let all
listen to the Tataka! for the Elephant was Ananda, and the Calf
that broke the ring was none other than The Lord Himself...'
Then he would shake his head benignly, and over the ever-clicking
rosary point out how free that elephant-calf was from the sin of
pride. He was as humble as a chela who, seeing his master sitting in
the dust outside the Gates of Learning, over-leapt the gates (though
they were locked) and took his master to his heart in the presence
of the proud-stomached city. Rich would be the reward of such a
master and such a chela when the time came for them to seek freedom
So did the lama speak, coming and going across India as softly as a
bat. A sharp-tongued old woman in a house among the fruit-trees
behind Saharunpore honoured him as the woman honoured the prophet,
but his chamber was by no means upon the wall. In an apartment of
the forecourt overlooked by cooing doves he would sit, while she
laid aside her useless veil and chattered of spirits and fiends of
Kulu, of grandchildren unborn, and of the free-tongued brat who had
talked to her in the resting-place. Once, too, he strayed alone from
the Grand Trunk Road below Umballa to the very village whose priest
had tried to drug him; but the kind Heaven that guards lamas sent
him at twilight through the crops, absorbed and unsuspicious, to the
Rissaldar's door. Here was like to have been a grave
misunderstanding, for the old soldier asked him why the Friend of
the Stars had gone that way only six days before.
'That may not be,' said the lama. 'He has gone back to his own
'He sat in that corner telling a hundred merry tales five nights
ago,' his host insisted. 'True, he vanished somewhat suddenly in the
dawn after foolish talk with my granddaughter. He grows apace, but
he is the same Friend of the Stars as brought me true word of the
war. Have ye parted?'
'Yes - and no,' the lama replied. 'We - we have not altogether
parted, but the time is not ripe that we should take the Road
together. He acquires wisdom in another place. We must wait.'
'All one - but if it were not the boy how did he come to speak so
continually of thee?'
'And what said he?' asked the lama eagerly.
'Sweet words - an hundred thousand - that thou art his father and
mother and such all. Pity that he does not take the Qpeen's service.
He is fearless.'
This news amazed the lama, who did not then know how religiously Kim
kept to the contract made with Mahbub Ali, and perforce ratified by
'There is no holding the young pony from the game,' said the horse-
dealer when the Colonel pointed out that vagabonding over India in
holiday time was absurd. 'If permission be refused to go and come as
he chooses, he will make light of the refusal. Then who is to catch
him? Colonel Sahib, only once in a thousand years is a horse born so
well fitted for the game as this our colt. And we need men.'
Your tiercel's too long at hack, Sire. He's no eyass
But a passage-hawk that footed ere we caught him,
Dangerously free o' the air. Faith! were he mine
(As mine's the glove he binds to for his tirings)
I'd fly him with a make-hawk. He's in yarak
Plumed to the very point - so manned, so weathered ...
Give him the firmament God made him for,
And what shall take the air of him?
Lurgan Sahib did not use as direct speech, but his advice tallied
with Mahbub's; and the upshot was good for Kim. He knew better now
than to leave Lucknow city in native garb, and if Mahbub were
anywhere within reach of a letter, it was to Mahbub's camp he
headed, and made his change under the Pathan's wary eye. Could
the little Survey paint-box that he used for map-tinting in term-
time have found a tongue to tell of holiday doings, he might have
been expelled. Once Mahbub and he went together as far as the
beautiful city of Bombay, with three truckloads of tram-horses, and
Mahbub nearly melted when Kim proposed a sail in a dhow across the
Indian Ocean to buy Gulf Arabs, which, he understood from a hanger-
on of the dealer Abdul Rahman, fetched better prices than mere
He dipped his hand into the dish with that great trader when Mahbub
and a few co-religionists were invited to a big Haj dinner. They
came back by way of Karachi by sea, when Kim took his first
experience of sea-sickness sitting on the fore-hatch of a coasting-
steamer, well persuaded he had been poisoned. The Babu's famous
drug-box proved useless, though Kim had restocked it at Bombay.
Mahbub had business at Quetta, and there Kim, as Mahbub admitted,
earned his keep, and perhaps a little over, by spending four curious
days as scullion in the house of a fat Commissariat sergeant, from
whose office-box, in an auspicious moment, he removed a little
vellum ledger which he copied out - it seemed to deal entirely with
cattle and camel sales - by moonlight, lying behind an outhouse, all
through one hot night. Then he returned the ledger to its place,
and, at Mahbub's word, left that service unpaid, rejoining him six
miles down the road, the clean copy in his bosom.
'That soldier is a small fish,' Mahbub Ali explained, 'but in time
we shall catch the larger one. He only sells oxen at two prices -
one for himself and one for the Government - which I do not think is
'Why could not I take away the little book and be done with it?'
'Then he would have been frightened, and he would have told his
master. Then we should miss, perhaps, a great number of new rifles
which seek their way up from Quetta to the North. The Game is so
large that one sees but a little at a time.'
'Oho!' said Kim, and held his tongue. That was in the monsoon
holidays, after he had taken the prize for mathematics. The
Christmas holidays he spent - deducting ten days for private
amusements - with Lurgan Sahib, where he sat for the most part in
front of a roaring wood-fire - Jakko road was four feet deep in snow
that year - and - the small Hindu had gone away to be married -
helped Lurgan to thread pearls. He made Kim learn whole chapters of
the Koran by heart, till he could deliver them with the very roll
and cadence of a mullah. Moreover, he told Kim the names and
properties of many native drugs, as well as the runes proper to
recite when you administer them. And in the evenings he wrote charms
on parchment - elaborate pentagrams crowned with the names of devils
- Murra, and Awan the Companion of Kings - all fantastically written
in the corners. More to the point, he advised Kim as to the care of
his own body, the cure of fever-fits, and simple remedies of the
Road. A week before it was time to go down, Colonel Creighton Sahib
- this was unfair - sent Kim a written examination paper that
concerned itself solely with rods and chains and links and angles.
Next holidays he was out with Mahbub, and here, by the way, he
nearly died of thirst, plodding through the sand on a camel to the
mysterious city of Bikanir, where the wells are four hundred feet
deep, and lined throughout with camel-bone. It was not an amusing
trip from Kim's point of view, because - in defiance of the contract
- the Colonel ordered him to make a map of that wild, walled city;
and since Mohammedan horse-boys and pipe-tenders are not expected to
drag Survey-chains round the capital of an independent Native State,
Kim was forced to pace all his distances by means of a bead rosary.
He used the compass for bearings as occasion served - after dark
chiefly, when the camels had been fed - and by the help of his
little Survey paint-box of six colour-cakes and three brushes, he
achieved something not remotely unlike the city of Jeysulmir. Mahbub
laughed a great deal, and advised him to make up a written report as
well; and in the back of the big account-book that lay under the
flap of Mahbub's pet saddle Kim fell to work..
'It must hold everything that thou hast seen or touched or
considered. Write as though the Jung-i-Lat Sahib himself had come by
stealth with a vast army outsetting to war.'
'How great an army?'
'Oh, half a lakh of men.'
'Folly! Remember how few and bad were the wells in the sand. Not a
thousand thirsty men could come near by here.'
'Then write that down - also all the old breaches in the walls and
whence the firewood is cut - and what is the temper and disposition
of the King. I stay here till all my horses are sold. I will hire a
room by the gateway, and thou shalt be my accountant. There is a
good lock to the door.'
The report in its unmistakable St Xavier's running script, and the
brown, yellow, and lake-daubed map, was on hand a few years ago (a
careless clerk filed it with the rough notes of E's second Seistan
survey), but by now the pencil characters must be almost illegible.
Kim translated it, sweating under the light of an oil-lamp, to
Mahbub, the second day of their return-journey.
The Pathan rose and stooped over his dappled saddle-bags.
'I knew it would be worthy a dress of honour, and so I made one
ready,' he said, smiling. 'Were I Amir of Afghanistan (and some day
we may see him), I would fill thy mouth with gold.' He laid the
garments formally at Kim's feet. There was a gold-embroidered
Peshawur turban-cap, rising to a cone, and a big turban-cloth ending
in a broad fringe of gold. There was a Delhi embroidered waistcoat
to slip over a milky white shirt, fastening to the right, ample and
flowing; green pyjamas with twisted silk waist-string; and that
nothing might be lacking, russia-leather slippers, smelling
divinely, with arrogantly curled tips.
'Upon a Wednesday, and in the morning, to put on new clothes is
auspicious,' said Mahbub solemnly. 'But we must not forget the
wicked folk in the world. So!'
He capped all the splendour, that was taking Kim's delighted breath
away, with a mother-of-pearl, nickel-plated, self-extracting .450
'I had thought of a smaller bore, but reflected that this takes
Government bullets. A man can always come by those - especially
across the Border. Stand up and let me look.' He clapped Kim on the
shoulder. 'May you never be tired, Pathan! Oh, the hearts to be
broken! Oh, the eyes under the eyelashes, looking sideways!'
Kim turned about, pointed his toes, stretched, and felt mechanically
for the moustache that was just beginning. Then he stooped towards
Mahbub's feet to make proper acknowledgment with fluttering, quick-
patting hands; his heart too full for words. Mahbub forestalled and
'My son, said he, 'what need of words between us? But is not the
little gun a delight? All six cartridges come out at one twist. It
is borne in the bosom next the skin, which, as it were, keeps it
oiled. Never put it elsewhere, and please God, thou shalt some day
kill a man with it.'
'Hai mai!' said Kim ruefully. 'If a Sahib kills a man he is hanged
in the jail.'
'True: but one pace beyond the Border, men are wiser. Put it away;
but fill it first. Of what use is a gun unfed?'
'When I go back to the madrissah I must return it. They do not allow
little guns. Thou wilt keep it for me?'
'Son, I am wearied of that madrissah, where they take the best years
of a man to teach him what he can only learn upon the Road. The
folly of the Sahibs has neither top nor bottom. No matter. Maybe thy
written report shall save thee further bondage; and God He knows we
need men more and more in the Game.'
They marched, jaw-bound against blowing sand, across the salt desert
to Jodhpur, where Mahbub and his handsome nephew Habib Ullah did
much trading; and then sorrowfully, in European clothes, which he
was fast outgrowing, Kim went second-class to St Xavier's. Three
weeks later, Colonel Creighton, pricing Tibetan ghost-daggers at
Lurgan's shop, faced Mahbub Ali openly mutinous. Lurgan Sahib
operated as support in reserve.
'The pony is made - finished - mouthed and paced, Sahib! From now
on, day by day, he will lose his manners if he is kept at tricks.
Drop the rein on his back and let go,' said the horse-dealer. 'We
'But he is so young, Mahbub - not more than sixteen - is he?'
'When I was fifteen, I had shot my man and begot my man, Sahib.'
'You impenitent old heathen!' Creighton turned to Lurgan. The black
beard nodded assent to the wisdom of the Afghan's dyed scarlet.
'I should have used him long ago,' said Lurgan. 'The younger the
better. That is why I always have my really valuable jewels watched
by a child. You sent him to me to try. I tried him in every way: he
is the only boy I could not make to see things.'
'In the crystal - in the ink-pool?' demanded Mahbub.
'No. Under my hand, as I told you. That has never happened before.
It means that he is strong enough - but you think it skittles,
Colonel Creighton - to make anyone do anything he wants. And that is
three years ago. I have taught him a good deal since, Colonel
Creighton. I think you waste him now.'
'Hmm! Maybe you're right. But, as you know, there is no Survey work
for him at present.'
'Let him out let him go,' Mahbub interrupted. 'Who expects any colt
to carry heavy weight at first? Let him run with the caravans - like
our white camel-colts - for luck. I would take him myself, but -'
'There is a little business where he would be most useful - in the
South,' said Lurgan, with peculiar suavity, dropping his heavy blued
'E.23 has that in hand,' said Creighton quickly. 'He must not go down
there. Besides, he knows no Turki.'
'Only tell him the shape and the smell of the letters we want and he
will bring them back,' Lurgan insisted.
'No. That is a man's job,' said Creighton.
It was a wry-necked matter of unauthorized and incendiary
correspondence between a person who claimed to be the ultimate
authority in all matters of the Mohammedan religion throughout the
world, and a younger member of a royal house who had been brought to
book for kidnapping women within British territory. The Moslem
Archbishop had been emphatic and over-arrogant; the young prince was
merely sulky at the curtailment of his privileges, but there was no
need he should continue a correspondence which might some day
compromise him. One letter indeed had been procured, but the finder
was later found dead by the roadside in the habit of an Arab trader,
as E.23, taking up the work, duly reported.
These facts, and a few others not to be published, made both Mahbub
and Creighton shake their heads.
'Let him go out with his Red Lama,' said the horse-dealer with
visible effort. 'He is fond of the old man. He can learn his paces
by the rosary at least.'
'I have had some dealings with the old man - by letter,' said
Colonel Creighton, smiling to himself. 'Whither goes he?'
'Up and down the land, as he has these three years. He seeks a River
of Healing. God's curse upon all -' Mahbub checked himself. 'He beds
down at the Temple of the Tirthankars or at Buddh Gaya when he is in
from the Road. Then he goes to see the boy at the madrissah, as we
know for the boy was punished for it twice or thrice. He is quite
mad, but a peaceful man. I have met him. The Babu also has had
dealings with him. We have watched him for three years. Red Lamas
are not so common in Hind that one loses track.'
'Babus are very curious,' said Lurgan meditatively. 'Do you know
what Hurree Babu really wants? He wants to be made a member of the
Royal Society by taking ethnological notes. I tell you, I tell him
about the lama everything which Mahbub and the boy have told me.
Hurree Babu goes down to Benares - at his own expense, I think.'
'I don't,' said Creighton briefly. He had paid Hurree's travelling
expenses, out of a most lively curiosity to learn what the lama
'And he applies to the lama for information on lamaism, and devil-
dances, and spells and charms, several times in these few years.
Holy Virgin! I could have told him all that yeears ago. I think
Hurree Babu is getting too old for the Road. He likes better to
collect manners and customs information. Yes, he wants to be an FRS.
'Hurree thinks well of the boy, doesn't he?'
'Oh, very indeed - we have had some pleasant evenings at my little
place - but I think it would be waste to throw him away with Hurree
on the Ethnological side.'
'Not for a first experience. How does that strike you, Mahbub? Let
the boy run with the lama for six months. After that we can see. He
will get experience.'
'He has it already, Sahib - as a fish controls the water he swims
in. But for every reason it will be well to loose him from the
'Very good, then,' said Creighton, half to himself. 'He can go with
the lama, and if Hurree Babu cares to keep an eye on them so much
the better. He won't lead the boy into any danger as Mahbub would.
Curious - his wish to be an F R S. Very human, too. He is best on
the Ethnological side - Hurree.'
No money and no preferment would have drawn Creighton from his work
on the Indian Survey, but deep in his heart also lay the ambition to
write 'F R S' after his name. Honours of a sort he knew could be
obtained by ingenuity and the help of friends, but, to the best of
his belief, nothing save work - papers representing a life of it -
took a man into the Society which he had bombarded for years with
monographs on strange Asiatic cults and unknown customs. Nine men
out of ten would flee from a Royal Society soiree in extremity of
boredom; but Creighton was the tenth, and at times his soul yearned
for the crowded rooms in easy London where silver-haired, bald-
headed gentlemen who know nothing of the Army move among
spectroscopic experiments, the lesser plants of the frozen tundras,
electric flight-measuring machines, and apparatus for slicing into
fractional millimetres the left eye of the female mosquito. By all
right and reason, it was the Royal Geographical that should have
appealed to him, but men are as chancy as children in their choice
of playthings. So Creighton smiled, and thought the better of Hurree
Babu, moved by like desire.
He dropped the ghost-dagger and looked up at Mahbub.
'How soon can we get the colt from the stable?' said the horse-
dealer, reading his eyes.
'Hmm! If I withdraw him by order now - what will he do, think you? I
have never before assisted at the teaching of such an one.'
'He will come to me,' said Mahbub promptly. 'Lurgan Sahib and I will
prepare him for the Road.'
'So be it, then. For six months he shall run at his choice. But who
will be his sponsor?'
Lurgan slightly inclined his head. 'He will not tell anything, if
that is what you are afraid of, Colonel Creighton.'
'It's only a boy, after all.'
'Ye-es; but first, he has nothing to tell; and secondly, he knows
what would happen. Also, he is very fond of Mahbub, and of me a
'Will he draw pay?' demanded the practical horse-dealer.
'Food and water allowance only. Twenty rupees a month.'
One advantage of the Secret Service is that it has no worrying
audit. That Service is ludicrously starved, of course, but the funds
are administered by a few men who do not call for vouchers or
present itemized accounts. Mahbub's eyes lighted with almost a
Sikh's love of money. Even Lurgan's impassive face changed. He
considered the years to come when Kim would have been entered and
made to the Great Game that never ceases day and night, throughout
India. He foresaw honour and credit in the mouths of a chosen few,
coming to him from his pupil. Lurgan Sahib had made E.23 what E.23 was,
out of a bewildered, impertinent, lying, little North-West Province
But the joy of these masters was pale and smoky beside the joy of
Kim when St Xavier's Head called him aside, with word that Colonel
Creighton had sent for him.
'I understand, O'Hara, that he has found you a place as an assistant
chain-man in the Canal Department: that comes of taking up
mathematics. It is great luck for you, for you are only sixteen; but
of course you understand that you do not become pukka [permanent]
till you have passed the autumn examination. So you must not think
you are going out into the world to enjoy yourself, or that your
fortune is made. There is a great deal of hard work before you.
Only, if you succeed in becoming pukka, you can rise, you know, to
four hundred and fifty a month.' Whereat the Principal gave him much
good advice as to his conduct, and his manners, and his morals; and
others, his elders, who had not been wafted into billets, talked as
only Anglo-Indian lads can, of favouritism and corruption. Indeed,
young Cazalet, whose father was a pensioner at Chunar, hinted very
broadly that Colonel Creighton's interest in Kim was directly
paternal; and Kim, instead of retaliating, did not even use
language. He was thinking of the immense fun to come, of Mahbub's
letter of the day before, all neatly written in English, making
appointment for that afternoon in a house the very name of which
would have crisped the Principal's hair with horror...
Said Kim to Mahbub in Lucknow railway station that evening, above
the luggage-scales: 'I feared lest at the last, the roof would fall
upon me and cheat me. It is indeed all finished, O my father?'
Mahbub snapped his fingers to show the utterness of that end, and
his eyes blazed like red coals.
'Then where is the pistol that I may wear it?'
'Softly! A half-year, to run without heel-ropes. I begged that much
from Colonel Creighton Sahib. At twenty rupees a month. Old Red Hat
knows that thou art coming.'
'I will pay thee dustoorie [commission] on my pay for three months,'
said Kim gravely. 'Yea, two rupees a month. But first we must get
rid of these.' He plucked his thin linen trousers and dragged at his
collar. 'I have brought with me all that I need on the Road. My
trunk has gone up to Lurgan Sahib's.'
'Who sends his salaams to thee - Sahib.'
'Lurgan Sahib is a very clever man. But what dost thou do?'
'I go North again, upon the Great Game. What else? Is thy mind still
set on following old Red Hat?'
'Do not forget he made me that I am - though he did not know it.
Year by year, he sent the money that taught me.'
'I would have done as much - had it struck my thick head,' Mahbub
growled. 'Come away. The lamps are lit now, and none will mark thee
in the bazar. We go to Huneefa's house.'
On the way thither, Mahbub gave him much the same sort of advice as
his mother gave to Lemuel, and curiously enough, Mahbub was exact to
point out how Huneefa and her likes destroyed kings.
'And I remember,' he quoted maliciously, 'one who said, "Trust a
snake before an harlot, and an harlot before a Pathan, Mahbub Ali."
Now, excepting as to Pathans, of whom I am one, all that is true.
Most true is it in the Great Game, for it is by means of women that
all plans come to ruin and we lie out in the dawning with our
throats cut. So it happened to such a one.' He gave the reddest
'Then why -?' Kim paused before a filthy staircase that climbed to
the warm darkness of an upper chamber, in the ward that is behind
Azim Ullah's tobacco-shop. Those who know it call it The Birdcage -
it is so full of whisperings and whistlings and chirrupings.
The room, with its dirty cushions and half-smoked hookahs, smelt
abominably of stale tobacco. In one corner lay a huge and shapeless
woman clad in greenish gauzes, and decked, brow, nose, ear, neck,
wrist, arm, waist, and ankle with heavy native jewellery. When she
turned it was like the clashing of copper pots. A lean cat in the
balcony outside the window mewed hungrily. Kim checked, bewildered,
at the door-curtain.
'Is that the new stuff, Mahbub?' said Huneefa lazily, scarce
troubling to remove the mouthpiece from her lips. 'O Buktanoos!' -
like most of her kind, she swore by the Djinns - 'O Buktanoos! He is
very good to look upon.'
'That is part of the selling of the horse,' Mahbub explained to Kim,
'I have heard that talk since my Sixth Day,' he replied, squatting
by the light. 'Whither does it lead?'
'To protection. Tonight we change thy colour. This sleeping under
roofs has blanched thee like an almond. But Huneefa has the secret
of a colour that catches. No painting of a day or two. Also, we
fortify thee against the chances of the Road. That is my gift to
thee, my son. Take out all metals on thee and lay them here. Make
Kim dragged forth his compass, Survey paint-box, and the new-filled
medicine-box. They had all accompanied his travels, and boylike he
valued them immensely.
The woman rose slowly and moved with her hands a little spread
before her. Then Kim saw that she was blind. 'No, no,' she muttered,
'the Pathan speaks truth - my colour does not go in a week or a
month, and those whom I protect are under strong guard.'
'When one is far off and alone, it would not be well to grow
blotched and leprous of a sudden,' said Mahbub. 'When thou wast with
me I could oversee the matter. Besides, a Pathan is a fair-skin.
Strip to the waist now and look how thou art whitened.' Huneefa felt
her way back from an inner room. 'It is no matter, she cannot see.'
He took a pewter bowl from her ringed hand.
The dye-stuff showed blue and gummy. Kim experimented on the back of
his wrist, with a dab of cotton-wool; but Huneefa heard him.
'No, no,' she cried, 'the thing is not done thus, but with the
proper ceremonies. The colouring is the least part. I give thee the
full protection of the Road.'
'Tadoo? [magic],'said Kim, with a half start. He did not like the
white, sightless eyes. Mahbub's hand on his neck bowed him to the
floor, nose within an inch of the boards.
'Be still. No harm comes to thee, my son. I am thy sacrifice!'