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A Book of Words Actions and Reactions A Kipling Pageant Captains Courageous Collected Dog Stories Collected Verse Debits and Credits Departmental Ditties and Ballads and Barrack-Room Ballads Diversity of Creatures France at War From Sea to Sea His Apologies If Independence Just So Song Book Just So Stories Kim Land and Sea Tales Letters of Travel Life's Handicap: _Being Stories of Mine Own People_ Limits and Renewals Many Inventions Plain Tales from the Hills Puck of Pook's Hill Rewards and Fairies Rudyard Kipling's Inclusive Verse, 1885-1932 Soldier Stories Soldiers Three, The Story of the Gadsbys, and In Black and White Songs for Youth Songs from Books Stalky & Co. Supplication of the Black Aberdeen The Complete Stalky & Co. The Day's Work The Eyes of Asia The Five Nations The Humorous Tales of Rudyard Kipling The Irish Guards in the Great War The Jungle Book The Jungle Book, _Special Illustrated Edition_ The Kipling Birthday Book The Light That Failed The Naulahka (_With Wolcott Balestier_) The Second Jungle Book The Seven Seas The Two Jungle Books The Years Between "Thy Servant A Dog" Traffics and Discoveries Under the Deodars, the Phantom 'Rickshaw, and Wee Willie Winkie
_Doubleday & Company, Inc._
GARDEN CITY NEW YORK
COPYRIGHT, 1900, 1901
BY RUDYARD KIPLING
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Printed in the United States of America
'Oh ye who tread the Narrow Way By Tophet-flare to Judgment Day, Be gentle when the heathen pray To Buddha at Kamakura!'
HE sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammah onher brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Gher--the Wonder House, as thenatives call the Lahore Museum. Who hold Zam-Zammah, that'fire-breathing dragon,' hold the Punjab, for the great green-bronzepiece is always first of the conqueror's loot.
There was some justification for Kim,--he had kicked Lala Dinanath's boyoff the trunnions,--since the English held the Punjab and Kim wasEnglish. Though he was burned black as any native; though he spoke thevernacular by preference, and his mother-tongue in a clipped uncertainsing-song; though he consorted on terms of perfect equality with thesmall boys of the bazar; Kim was white--a poor white of the verypoorest. The half-caste woman who looked after him (she smoked opium,and pretended to keep a second-hand furniture shop by the square wherethe cheap cabs wait) told the missionaries that she was Kim's mother'ssister; but his mother had been nursemaid in a colonel's family and hadmarried Kimball O'Hara, a young colour-sergeant of the Mavericks, anIrish regiment. He afterwards took a post on the Sind, Punjab, and Delhirailway, and his regiment went home without him. The wife died ofcholera in Ferozepore, and O'Hara fell to drink and loafing up and downthe line with the keen-eyed three-year-old baby. Societies andchaplains, anxious for the child, tried to catch him, but O'Hara driftedaway, till he came across the woman who took opium and learned the tastefrom her, and died as poor whites die in India. His estate at deathconsisted of three papers--one he called his 'ne varietur' because thosewords were written below his signature thereon, and another his'clearance-certificate.' The third was Kim's birth-certificate. Thosethings, he was used to say, in his glorious opium-hours, would yet makelittle Kimball a man. On no account was Kim to part with them, for theybelonged to a great piece of magic--such magic as men practised overyonder behind the Museum, in the big blue and white Jadoo-Gher--theMagic House, as we name the Masonic Lodge. It would, he said, all comeright some day, and Kim's horn would be exalted betweenpillars--monstrous pillars--of beauty and strength. The Colonel himself,riding on a horse, at the head of the finest regiment in the world,would attend to Kim,--little Kim that should have been better off thanhis father. Nine hundred first-class devils, whose god was a Red Bull ona green field, would attend to Kim, if they had not forgottenO'Hara--poor O'Hara that was gang-foreman on the Ferozepore line. Thenhe would weep bitterly in the broken rush chair on the veranda. So itcame about after his death that the woman sewed parchment, paper, andbirth-certificate into a leather amulet-case which she strung roundKim's neck.
'And some day,' she said, confusedly remembering O'Hara's prophecies,'there will come for you a great Red Bull on a green field, and theColonel riding on his tall horse, yes, and'--dropping intoEnglish--'nine hundred devils.'
'Ah,' said Kim, 'I shall remember. A Red Bull and a Colonel on a horsewill come, but first, my father said, will come the two men making readythe ground for these matters. That is how, my father said, they alwaysdid; and it is always so when men work magic.'
If the woman had sent Kim up to the local Jadoo-Gher with those papers,he would, of course, have been taken over by the Provincial Lodge andsent to the Masonic Orphanage in the Hills; but what she had heard ofmagic she distrusted. Kim, too, held views of his own. As he reached theyears of indiscretion, he learned to avoid missionaries and white men ofserious aspect who asked who he was, and what he did. For Kim didnothing with an immense success. True, he knew the wonderful walled cityof Lahore from the Delhi Gate to the outer Fort Ditch; was hand in glovewith men who led lives stranger than anything Haroun al Raschid dreamedof; and he lived in a life wild as that of the Arabian Nights, butmissionaries and secretaries of charitable societies could not see thebeauty of it. His nickname through the wards was 'Little Friend of allthe World'; and very often, being lithe and inconspicuous, he executedcommissions by night on the crowded housetops for sleek and shiny youngmen of fashion. It was intrigue, of course,--he knew that much, as hehad known all evil since he could speak,--but what he loved was the gamefor its own sake--the stealthy prowl through the dark gullies and lanes,the crawl up a water-pipe, the sights and sounds of the women's worldon the flat roofs, and the headlong flight from housetop to housetopunder cover of the hot dark. Then there were holy men, ash-smearedfaquirs by their brick shrines under the trees at the riverside, withwhom he was quite familiar--greeting them as they returned frombegging-tours, and, when no one was by, eating from the same dish. Thewoman who looked after him insisted with tears that he should wearEuropean clothes--trousers, a shirt, and a battered hat. Kim found iteasier to slip into Hindu or Mohammedan garb when engaged on certainbusinesses. One of the young men of fashion--he who was found dead atthe bottom of a well on the night of the earthquake--had once given hima complete suit of Hindu kit, the costume of a low-caste street boy, andKim stored it in a secret place under some baulks in Nila Ram'stimber-yard, beyond the Punjab High Court, where the fragrant deodarlogs lie seasoning after they have driven down the Ravee. When there wasbusiness or frolic afoot, Kim would use his properties, returning atdawn to the veranda, all tired out from shouting at the heels of amarriage procession, or yelling at a Hindu festival. Sometimes there wasfood in the house, more often there was not, and then Kim went out againto eat with his native friends.
As he drummed his heels against Zam-Zammah he turned now and again fromhis king-of-the-castle game with little Chota Lai, and Abdullah thesweetmeat-seller's son, to make a rude remark to the native policeman onguard over rows of shoes at the Museum door. The big Punjabi grinnedtolerantly: he knew Kim of old. So did the water-carrier, sluicing wateron the dry road from his goat-skirt bag. So did Jawahir Singh, theMuseum carpenter, bent over new packing-cases. So did everybody in sightexcept the peasants from the country, hurrying up to the Wonder House toview the things that men made in their own Province and elsewhere. TheMuseum
'Off! Off! Let me up!' cried Abdullah, climbing up Zam-Zammah's wheel.
'Thy father was a pastry-cook, Thy mother stole the ghi,' sang Kim. 'AllMussalmans fell off Zam-Zammah long ago!'
'Let me up!' shrilled little Chota Lal in his gilt-embroidered cap. Hisfather was worth perhaps half a million sterling, but India is the onlydemocratic land in the world.
'The Hindus fell off Zam-Zammah too. The Mussalmans pushed them off. Thyfather was a pastry-cook--'
He stopped; for there shuffled round the corner, from the roaring MoteeBazar, such a man as Kim, who thought he knew all castes, had neverseen. He was nearly six feet high, dressed in fold upon fold of dingystuff like horse-blanketing, and not one fold of it could Kim refer toany known trade or profession. At his belt hung a long open-work ironpencase and a wooden rosary such as holy men wear. On his head was agigantic sort of tam-o'-shanter. His face was yellow and wrinkled, likethat of Fook Shing, the Chinese boot-maker in the bazar. His eyes turnedup at the corners and looked like little slits of onyx.
'Who is that?' said Kim to his companions.
'Perhaps it is a man,' said Abdullah, finger in mouth, staring.
'Without doubt,' returned Kim; 'but he is no man of India that I haveever seen.'
'A priest, perhaps,' said Chota Lal, spying the rosary. 'See! He goesinto the Wonder House!'
'Nay, nay,' said the policeman, shaking his head. 'I do not understandyour talk.' The constable spoke Punjabi. 'Oh, Friend of all the World,what does he say?'
'Send him hither' said Kim, dropping from Zam-Zammah, flourishing hisbare heels. 'He is a foreigner, and thou art a buffalo.'
The man turned helplessly and drifted towards the boys. He was old, andhis woollen gaberdine still reeked of the stinking artemisia of themountain passes.
'O Children, what is that big house?' he said in very fair Urdu.
'The Ajaib-Gher, the Wonder House!' Kim gave him no title--such as Lalaor Mian. He could not divine the man's creed.
'Ah! The Wonder House! Can any enter?'
'It is written above the door--all can enter.'
'I go in and out. I am no banker,' laughed Kim.
'Alas! I am an old man. I did not know.' Then, fingering his rosary, hehalf turned to the Museum.
'What is your caste? Where is your house? Have you come far?' Kim asked.
'I came by Kulu--from beyond the Kailas--but what know you? From thehills where'--he sighed--'the air and water are fresh and cool.'
'Aha! Khitai' (a Chinaman), said Abdullah proudly. Fook Shing had oncechased him out of his shop for spitting at the joss above the boots.
'Pahari?' (a hillman), said little Chota Lal.
'Aye, child--a hillman from hills thou'lt never see. Didst hear ofBhotiyal (Tibet)? I am no Khitai, but a Bhotiya (Tibetan), since youmust know--a lama--or, say a guru in your tongue.'
'A guru from Tibet,' said Kim. 'I have not seen such a man. They beHindus in Tibet, then?'
'We be followers of the Middle Way, living in peace in our lamasseries,and I go to see the Four Holy Places before I die. Now do you, who arechildren, know as much as I do who am old.' He smiled benignantly on theboys.
'Hast thou eaten?'
He fumbled in his bosom and drew forth a worn wooden begging-bowl. Theboys nodded. All priests of their acquaintance begged.
'I do not wish to eat yet.' He turned his head like an old tortoise inthe sunlight. 'Is it true that there are many images in the Wonder Houseof Lahore?' He repeated the last words as one making sure of an address.
'That is true,' said Abdullah. 'It is full of heathen buts. Thou alsoart an idolater.'
'Never mind him,' said Kim. 'That is the Government's house and there isno idolatry in it, but only a Sahib with a white beard. Come with me andI will show.'
'Strange priests eat boys,' whispered Chota Lal.
'And he is a stranger and a but-parast' (idolater), said Abdullah, theMohammedan.
Kim laughed. 'He is new. Run to your mothers' laps, and be safe. Come!'
Kim clicked round the self-registering turnstile; the old man followedand halted amazed. In the entrance-hall stood the larger figures of theGreco-Buddhist sculptures done, savants know how long since, byforgotten workmen whose hands were feeling, and not unskilfully, for themysteriously transmitted Grecian touch. There were hundreds of pieces,friezes of figures in relief, fragments of statues and slabs crowdedwith figures that had encrusted the brick walls of the Buddhist stupasand viharas of the North Country and now, dug up and labelled, made thepride of the Museum. In open-mouthed wonder the lama turned to this andthat, and finally checked in rapt attention before a large alto-reliefrepresenting a coronation or apotheosis of the Lord Buddha. The Masterwas represented seated on a lotus the petals of which were so deeplyundercut as to show almost detached. Round Him was an adoring hierarchyof kings, elders, and old-time Buddhas. Below were lotus-covered waterswith fishes and water-birds. Two butterfly-winged dewas held a wreathover His head; above them another pair supported an umbrella surmountedby the jewelled headdress of the Bodhisat.
'The Lord! The Lord! It is Sakya Muni himself,' the lama half sobbed;and under his breath began the wonderful Buddhist invocation:--
'To Him the Way--the Law--Apart-- Whom Maya held beneath her heart Ananda's Lord--the Bodhisat.'
'And He is here! The Most Excellent Law is here also! My pilgrimage iswell begun. And what work! What work!'
'Yonder is the Sahib,' said Kim, and dodged sideways among the cases ofthe arts and manufacture wing. A white-bearded Englishman was looking atthe lama, who gravely turned and saluted him and after some fumblingdrew forth a note-book and a scrap of paper.
'Yes, that is my name,' smiling at the clumsy, childish print.
'One of us who had made pilgrimage to the Holy Places--he is now Abbotof the Lung-Cho Monastery--gave it me,' stammered the lama. 'He spoke ofthese.' His lean hand moved tremulously round.
'Welcome, then, O lama from Tibet. Here be the images, and I amhere'--he glanced at the lama's face--'to gather knowledge. Come to myoffice awhile.' The old man was trembling with excitement.
The office was but a little wooden cubicle partitioned off from thesculpture-lined gallery. Kim laid himself down, his ear against a crackin the heat-split cedar door, and, following his instinct, stretched outto listen and watch.
Most of the talk was altogether above his head. The lama, haltingly atfirst, spoke to the curator of his own lamassery, the Suchzen, oppositethe Painted Rocks, four months' march away. The curator brought out ahuge book of photos and showed him that very place, perched on its crag,overlooking the gigantic valley of many-hued strata.
'Ay, ay!' The lama mounted a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles of Chinesework. 'Here is the little door through which we bring wood beforewinter. And thou--the English know of these things? He who is now Abbotof Lung-Cho told me, but I did not believe. The Lord--the ExcellentOne--He has honour here too? And His life is known?'
'It is all carven upon the stones. Come and see, if thou art rested.'
Out shuffled the lama to the main hall, and, the curator beside him,went through the collection with the reverence of a devotee and theappreciative instinct of a craftsman.
Incident by incident in the beautiful story he identified on the blurredstone, puzzled here and there by the unfamiliar Greek convention, butdelighted as a child at each new trove. Where the sequence failed, as inthe Annunciation, the curator supplied it from his mound ofbooks--French and German, with photographs and reproductions.
Here was the devout Asita, the pendant of Simeon in the Christian story,holding the Holy Child on his knee while mother and father listened; andhere were incidents in the legend of the cousin Devadatta. Here was thewicked woman who accused the Master of impurity, all confounded; herewas the teaching in the Deer-park; the miracle that stunned thef
'And thus it was, O Fountain of Wisdom, that I decided to go to the HolyPlaces which His foot had trod--to the Birth-place, even to Kapila; thento Maha Bodhi, which is Buddh Gaya--to the Monastery--to theDeer-park--to the place of His death.'
The lama lowered his voice. 'And I come here alone. Forfive--seven--eighteen--forty years it was in my mind that the Old Lawwas not well followed; being overlaid, as thou knowest, with devildom,charms, and idolatry. Even as the child outside said but now. Ay, evenas the child said, with but-parasti.'
'So it comes with all faiths.'
'Thinkest thou? The books of my lamassery I read, and they were driedpith; and the later ritual with which we of the Reformed Law havecumbered ourselves--that, too, had no worth to these old eyes. Even thefollowers of the Excellent One are at feud on feud with one another. Itis all illusion. Ay, maya, illusion. But I have another desire'--theseamed yellow face drew within three inches of the curator, and the longforefinger nail tapped on the table. 'Your scholars, by these books,have followed the Blessed Feet in all their wanderings; but there arethings which they have not sought out. I know nothing,--nothing do Iknow,--but I go to free myself from the Wheel of Things by a broad andopen road.' He smiled with most simple triumph. 'As a pilgrim to theHoly Places I acquire merit. But there is more. Listen to a true thing.When our gracious Lord, being as yet a youth, sought a mate, men said,in His father's court, that He was too tender for marriage. Thouknowest?'
The curator nodded, wondering what would come next.
'So they made the triple trial of strength against all comers. And atthe test of the Bow, our Lord first breaking that which they gave Him,called for such a bow as none might bend. Thou knowest?'
'It is written. I have read.'
'And, overshooting all other marks, the arrow passed far and far beyondsight. At the last it fell; and, where it touched earth, there broke outa stream which presently became a River, whose nature, by our Lord'sbeneficence, and that merit He acquired ere He freed himself, is thatwhoso bathes in it washes away all taint and speckle of sin.'
'So it is written,' said the curator sadly.
The lama drew a long breath. 'Where is that River? Fountain of Wisdom,where fell the arrow?'
'Alas, my brother, I do not know,' said the curator.
'Nay, if it please thee to forget--the one thing only that thou hastnot told me. Surely thou must know? See, I am an old man! I ask with myhead between thy feet, O Fountain of Wisdom. We know He drew the bow! Weknow the arrow fell! We know the stream gushed! Where, then, is theRiver? My dream told me to find it. So I came. I am here. But where isthe River?'
'If I knew, think you I would not cry it aloud?'
'By it one attains freedom from the Wheel of Things,' the lama went on,unheeding. 'The River of the Arrow! Think again! Some little stream, maybe--dried in the heats? But the Holy One would never so cheat an oldman.'
'I do not know. I do not know.'
The lama brought his thousand-wrinkled face once more a handsbreadthfrom the Englishman's. 'I see thou dost not know. Not being of the Law,the matter is hid from thee.'
'We are both bound, thou and I, my brother. But I'--he rose with a sweepof the soft thick drapery--'I go to cut myself free. Come also!'
'I am bound,' said the curator. 'But whither goest thou?'
'First to Kashi (Benares): where else? There I shall meet one of thepure faith in a Jain temple of that city. He also is a Seeker in secret,and from him haply I may learn. May be he will go with me to Buddh Gaya.Thence north and west to Kapilavastu, and there will I seek for theRiver. Nay, I will seek everywhere as I go--for the place is not knownwhere the arrow fell.'
'And how wilt thou go? It is a far cry to Delhi, and farther toBenares.'
'By road and the trains. From Pathankot, having left the Hills, I camehither in a te-rain. It goes swiftly. At first I was amazed to see thosetall poles by the side of the road snatching up and snatching up theirthreads,'--he illustrated the stoop and whirl of a telegraph-poleflashing past the train. 'But later, I was cramped and desired to walk,as I am used.'
'And thou art sure of thy road?' said the curator.
'Oh, for that one but asks a question and pays money, and the appointedpersons despatch all to the appointed place. That much I knew in mylamassery from sure report,' said the lama proudly.
'And when dost thou go?' The curator smiled at the mixture of old-worldpiety and modern progress that is the note of India to-day.
'As soon as may be. I follow the places of His life till I come to theRiver of the Arrow. There is, moreover, a written paper of the hours ofthe trains that go south.'
'And for food?' Lamas, as a rule, have good store of money somewhereabout them, but the curator wished to make sure.
'For the journey, I take up the Master's begging-bowl. Yes. Even as Hewent so go I, forsaking the ease of my monastery. There was with me whenI left the hills a chela (disciple) who begged for me as the Ruledemands, but halting in Kulu awhile a fever took him and he died. I havenow no chela, but I will take the alms-bowl and thus enable thecharitable to acquire merit.' He nodded his head valiantly.
Learned doctors of a lamassery do not beg, but the lama was anenthusiast in this quest.
'Be it so,' said the curator, smiling. 'Suffer me now to acquire merit.We be craftsmen together, thou and I. Here is a new book of whiteEnglish paper: here be sharpened pencils two and three--thick and thin,all good for a scribe. Now lend me thy spectacles.'
The curator looked through them. They were heavily scratched, but thepower was almost exactly that of his own pair, which he slid into thelama's hand, saying: 'Try these.'
'A feather! A very feather upon the face!' The old man turned his headdelightedly and wrinkled up his nose. 'How scarcely do I feel them! Howclearly do I see!'
'They be bilaur--crystal and will never scratch. May they help thee tothy River, for they are thine.'
'I will take them and the pencils and the white note-book,' said thelama, 'as a sign of friendship between priest and priest--and now'--hefumbled at his belt, detached the open iron-work pencase, and laid it onthe curator's table. 'That is for a memory between thee and me--mypencase. It is something old--even as I am.'
It was a piece of ancient design, Chinese, of an iron that is notsmelted these days; and the collector's heart in the curator's bosom hadgone out to it from the first. For no persuasion would the lama resumehis gift.
'When I return, having found the River, I will bring thee a writtenpicture of the Padma Samthora--such as I used to make on silk at thelamassery. Yes--and of the Wheel of Life,' he chuckled
The curator would have detained him: they are few in the world who stillhave the secret of the conventional brush-pen Buddhist pictures whichare, as it were, half written and half drawn. But the lama strode out,head high in air, and pausing an instant before the great statue of aBodhisat in meditation, brushed through the turnstiles.
Kim followed like a shadow. What he had overheard excited him wildly.This man was entirely new to all his experience, and he meant toinvestigate further: precisely as he would have investigated a newbuilding or a strange festival in Lahore city. The lama was his trove,and he purposed to take possession. Kim's mother had been Irish too.
The old man halted by Zam-Zammah and looked round till his eye fell onKim. The inspiration of his pilgrimage had left him for a while, and hefelt old, forlorn, and very empty.
'Do not sit under that gun,' said the policeman loftily.
'Huh! Owl!' was Kim's retort on the lama's behalf. 'Sit under that gunif it please thee. When didst thou steal the milk-woman's slippers,Dunnoo?'
That was an utterly unfounded charge sprung on the spur of the moment,but it silenced Dunnoo, who knew that Kim's clear yell could call uplegions of bad bazar boys if need arose.
'And whom didst thou worship within?' said Kim affably, squatting in theshade beside the lama.
'I worshipped none, child. I bowed before the Excellent Law.'
Kim accepted this new god without emotion. He knew already a few score.
'And what dost thou do?'
'I beg. I remember now it is long since I have eaten or drunk. What isthe custom of charity in this town? In silence, as we do of Tibet, orspeaking aloud?'
'Those who beg in silence starve in silence,' said Kim, quoting anative proverb. The lama tried to rise, but sank back again, sighing forhis disciple, dead in far-away Kulu. Kim watched--head to one side,considering and interested.
'Give me the bowl. I know the people of this city--all who arecharitable. Give, and I will bring it back filled.'
Simply as a child the old man handed him the bowl.
'Rest thou. I know the people.'
He trotted off to the open shop of a kunjri, a low-castevegetable-seller, which lay opposite the belt-tramway line down theMotee Bazar. She knew Kim of old.
'Oho, hast thou turned yogi with thy begging-bowl?' she cried.
'Nay,' said Kim proudly. 'There is a new priest in the city--a man suchas I have never seen.'
'Old priest--young tiger,' said the woman angrily. 'I am tired of newpriests! They settle on our wares like flies. Is the father of my son awell of charity to give to all who ask?'
'No,' said Kim. 'Thy man is rather yagi (bad-tempered) than yogi (a holyman). But this priest is new. The Sahib in the Wonder House has talkedto him like a brother. O my mother, fill me this bowl. He waits.'
'That bowl indeed! That cow-bellied basket! Thou hast as much grace asthe holy bull of Shiv. He has taken the best of a basket of onionsalready, this morn; and forsooth, I must fill thy bowl. He comes hereagain.'
The huge, mouse-coloured Brahminee bull of the ward was shouldering hisway through the many-coloured crowd, a stolen plantain hanging out ofhis mouth. He headed straight for the shop, well knowing his privilegesas a sacred beast, lowered his head, and puffed heavily along the lineof baskets ere making his choice. Up flew Kim's hard little heel andcaught him on his moist blue nose. He snorted indignantly, and walkedaway across the tram rails, his hump quivering with rage.
'See! I have saved more than the bowl will cost thrice over. Now,mother, a little rice and some dried fish atop--yes, and some vegetablecurry.'
A growl came out of the back of the shop, where a man lay.
'He drove away the bull,' said the woman in an undertone. 'It is good togive to the poor.' She took the bowl and returned it full of hot rice.
'But my yogi is not a cow,' said Kim gravely, making a hole with hisfingers in the top of the mound. 'A little curry is good, and a friedcake, and a morsel of conserve would please him, I think.'
'It is a hole as big as thy head,' said the woman fretfully. But shefilled it, none the less, with good, steaming vegetable curry, clapped adried cake atop, and a morsel of clarified butter on the cake, dabbed alump of sour tamarind conserve at the side; and Kim looked at the loadlovingly.
'That is good. When I am in the bazar the bull shall not come to thishouse. He is a bold beggarman.'
'And thou?' laughed the woman. 'But speak well of bulls. Hast thou nottold me that some day a Red Bull will come out of a field to help thee?Now hold all straight and ask for the holy man's blessing upon me.Perhaps, too, he knows a cure for my daughter's sore eyes. Ask him thatalso, O thou Little Friend of all the World.'
But Kim had danced off ere the end of the sentence, dodging pariah dogsand hungry acquaintances.
'Thus do we beg who know the way of it,' said he proudly to the lama,who opened his eyes at the contents of the bowl. 'Eat now and--I willeat with thee. Ohe bhistie!' he called to the water-carrier, sluicingthe crotons by the Museum. 'Give water here. We men are thirsty.'
'We men!' said the bhistie, laughing. 'Is one skinful enough for such apair? Drink then, in the name of the Compassionate.'
He loosed a thin stream into Kim's hands, who drank native fashion; butthe lama must needs pull out a cup from his inexhaustible upperdraperies and drink ceremonially.
'Pardesi' (a foreigner), Kim explained, as the old man delivered in anunknown tongue what was evidently a blessing.
They ate together in great content, clearing the beggar's bowl. Then thelama took snuff from a portentous wooden snuff-gourd, fingered hisrosary awhile, and so dropped into the easy sleep of age, as the shadowof Zam-Zammah grew long.
Kim loafed over to the nearest tobacco-seller, a rather lively youngMohammedan woman, and begged a rank cigar of the brand that they sell tostudents of the Punjab University who copy English customs. Then hesmoked and thought, knees to chin, under the belly of the gun, and theoutcome of his thoughts was a sudden and stealthy departure in thedirection of Nila Ram's timber-yard.
The lama did not wake till the evening life of the city had begun withlamp-lighting and the return of white-robed clerks and subordinatesfrom the Government offices. He stared dizzily in all directions, butnone looked at him save a Hindu urchin in a dirty turban andIsabella-coloured clothes. Suddenly he bowed his head on his knees andwailed.
'What is this?' said the boy, standing before him. 'Hast thou beenrobbed?'
'It is my new chela (my disciple) that is gone away from me, and I knownot where he is.'
'And what like of man was thy disciple?'
'It was a boy who came to me in place of him who died, on account of themerit which I had gained when I bowed before the Law within there.' Hepointed towards the Museum. 'He came upon me to show me a road which Ihad lost. He led me into the Wonder House, and by his talk emboldened tospeak to the Keeper of the Images, so that I was cheered and madestrong. And when I was faint with hunger he begged for me, as would achela for his teacher. Suddenly was he sent. Suddenly has he gone away.It was in my mind to have taught him the Law upon the road to Benares.'
Kim stood amazed at this, because he had overheard the talk in theMuseum, and knew that the old man was speaking the truth, which is athing a native on the road seldom presents to a stranger.
'But I see now that he was but sent for a purpose. By this I know that Ishall find a certain River for which I seek.'
'The River of the Arrow?' said Kim, with a superior smile.
'Is this yet another Sending?' cried the lama. 'To none have I spoken ofmy search, save to the Priest of the Images. Who art thou?'
'Thy chela,' said Kim simply, sitting on his heels. 'I have never seenany one like to thee in all this my life. I go with thee to Benares.And, too, I think that so old a man as thou, speaking the truth tochance-met people at dusk, is in great need of a disciple.'
'But the River--the River of the Arrow?'
'Oh, that I he
The lama sighed. 'I thought thou hadst been a guide permitted. Suchthings fall sometimes--but I am not worthy. Thou dost not, then, know ofthe River?'
'Not I.' Kim laughed uneasily. 'I go to look for--for a bull--a Red Bullon a green field who shall help me.' Boylike, if an acquaintance had ascheme, Kim was quite ready with one of his own; and, boylike, he hadreally thought for as much as twenty minutes at a time of his father'sprophecy.
'To what, child?' said the lama.
'God knows, but so my father told me. I heard thy talk in the WonderHouse of all those new strange places in the Hills, and if one so oldand so little--so used to truth-telling--may go out for the small matterof a river, it seemed to me that I too must go a-travelling. If it isour fate to find those things we shall find them--thou, thy River; andI, my Bull, and the strong Pillars and some other matters that Iforget.'
'It is not pillars but a Wheel from which I would be free,' said thelama.
'That is all one. Perhaps they will make me a king,' said Kim, serenelyprepared for anything.
'I will teach thee other and better desires upon the road,' the lamareplied in the voice of authority. 'Let us go to Benares.'
'Not by night. Thieves are abroad. Wait till the day.'
'But there is no place to sleep.' The old man was used to the order ofhis monastery, and though he slept on the ground, as the Rule decrees,preferred a decency in these things.
'We shall get good lodging at the Kashmir Serai,' said Kim, laughing athis perplexity. 'I have a friend there. Come!'
The hot and crowded bazars blazed with light as they made their waythrough the press of all the races in Upper India, and the lama moonedthrough it like a man in a dream. It was his first experience of a largemanufacturing city, and the crowded tram-car with its continuallysquealing brakes frightened him. Half pushed, half towed, he arrived atthe high gate of the Kashmir Serai: that huge open square over againstthe railway station, surrounded with arched cloisters where the cameland horse caravans put up on their return from Central Asia. Here wereall manner of Northern folk, tending tethered ponies and kneelingcamels; loading and unloading bales and bundles; drawing water for theevening meal at the creaking well-windlasses; piling grass before theshrieking, wild-eyed stallions; cuffing the surly caravan dogs; payingoff camel-drivers; taking on new grooms; swearing, shouting, arguing,and chaffering in the packed square. The cloisters, reached by three orfour masonry steps, made a haven of refuge around this turbulent sea.Most of them were rented to traders, as we rent the arches of a viaduct;the space between pillar and pillar being bricked or boarded off intorooms, which were guarded by heavy wooden doors and cumbrous nativepadlocks. Locked doors showed that the owner was away, and a fewrude--sometimes very rude--chalk or paint scratches told where he hadgone. Thus: 'Lutuf Ullah is gone to Kurdistan.' Below, in coarse verse:'O Allah, who sufferest lice to live on the coat of a Kabuli, why hastthou allowed this louse Lutuf to live so long?'
Kim, fending the lama between excited men and excited beasts, sidledalong the cloisters to the far end, nearest the railway station, whereMahbub Ali, the horsetrader, lived when he came in from that mysteriousland beyond the Passes of the North.
Kim had had many dealings with Mahbub in his little life,--especiallybetween his tenth and his thirteenth year,--and the big burly Afghan,his beard dyed scarlet with lime (for he was elderly and did not wishhis gray hairs to show), knew the boy's value as a gossip. Sometimes hewould tell Kim to watch a man who had nothing whatever to do withhorses: to follow him for one whole day and report every soul with whomhe talked. Kim would deliver himself of his tale at evening, and Mahbubwould listen without a word or gesture. It was intrigue of some kind,Kim knew; but its worth lay in saying nothing whatever to any one exceptMahbub, who gave him beautiful meals all hot from the cookshop at thehead of the serai, and once as much as eight annas in money.
'He is here,' said Kim, hitting a bad-tempered camel on the nose. 'Ohe,Mahbub Ali!' He halted at a dark arch and slipped behind the bewilderedlama.
The horse-trader, his deep, embroidered Bokhariot belt unloosed, waslying on a pair of silk carpet saddle-bags, pulling lazily at an immensesilver hookah. He turned his head very slightly at the cry; and seeingonly the tall silent figure, chuckled in his deep chest.
'Allah! A lama! A Red Lama! It is far from Lahore to the Passes. Whatdost thou do here?'
The lama held out the begging-bowl mechanically.
'God's curse on all unbelievers!' said Mahbub. 'I do not give to a lousyTibetan; but ask my Baltis over yonder behind the camels. They may valueyour blessings. Oh, horse-boys, here is a countryman of yours. See if hebe hungry.'
A shaven, crouching Balti, who had come down with the horses, and whowas nominally some sort of degraded Buddhist, fawned upon the priest,and in thick gutturals besought the Holy One to sit at the horse-boys'fire.
'Go!' said Kim, pushing him lightly, and the lama strode away, leavingKim at the edge of the cloister.
'Go!' said Mahbub Ali, returning to his hookah. 'Little Hindu, run away.God's curse on all unbelievers! Beg from those of my tail who are of thyfaith.'
'Maharaj,' whined Kim, using the Hindu form of address, and thoroughlyenjoying the situation; 'my father is dead--my mother is dead--mystomach is empty.'
'Beg from my men among the horses, I say. There must be some Hindus inmy tail.'
'Oh, Mahbub Ali, but am I a Hindu?' said Kim in English.
The trader gave no sign of astonishment, but looked under shaggyeyebrows.
'Little Friend of all the World,' said he, 'what is this?'
'Nothing. I am now that holy man's disciple; and we go a pilgrimagetogether--to Benares, he says. He is quite mad, and I am tired of Lahorecity. I wish new air and water.'
'But for whom, dost thou work? Why come to me?' The voice was harsh withsuspicion.
'To whom else should I come? I have no money. It is not good to go aboutwithout money. Thou wilt sell many horses to the officers. They are veryfine horses, these new ones: I have seen them. Give me a rupee, MahbubAli, and when I come to my wealth I will give thee a bond and pay.'
'Um,' said Mahbub Ali, thinking swiftly. 'Thou hast never before lied tome. Call that lama--stand back in the dark.'
'Oh, our tales will agree,' said Kim laughing.
'We go to Benares,' said the lama, as soon as he understood the drift ofMahbub Ali's questions. 'The boy and I. I go to seek for a certainRiver.'
'Maybe--but the boy?'
'He is my disciple. He was sent, I think, to guide me to that River.Sitting under a gun was I when he came suddenly. Such things havebefallen the fortunate to whom guidance was allowed. But I remember now,he said he was of this world--a Hindu.'
'And his name?'
'That I did not ask. Is he not my disciple?'
'His country--his race--his village? Mussalman--Sikh--Hindu--Jain--lowcaste or high?'
'Why should I ask? There is neither high nor low in the Middle Way. Ifhe is my chela--does--will--can any one take him from me? for, look you,without him I shall not find my River.' He wagged his head solemnly.
'None shall take him from thee. Go, sit among my Baltis,' said MahbubAli, and the lama drifted off, soothed by the promise.
'Is he not quite mad?' said Kim, coming forward to the light again. 'Whyshould I lie to thee, Hajji?'
Mahbub puffed his hookah in silence. Then he began, almost whispering:'Umballa is on the road to Benares--if indeed ye two go there.'
'Tck! Tck! I tell thee he does not know how to lie--as we two know.'
'And if thou wilt carry a message for me as far as Umballa, I will givethee money. It concerns a horse--a white stallion which I have sold toan officer upon the last time I returned from the Passes. Butthen--stand nearer and hold up hands as begging--the pedigree of thewhite stallion was not fully established, and that officer, who is nowat Umballa, bade me make it clear.' (Mahbub here described the horse andthe appearance
'And all for the sake of a white stallion,' said Kim, with a giggle, hiseyes aflame.
'That pedigree I will give thee now--in my own fashion--and some hardwords as well.' A shadow passed behind Kim, and a feeding camel. MahbubAli raised his voice.
'Allah! Art thou the only beggar in the city? Thy mother is dead. Thyfather is dead. So is it with all of them. Well, well--' he turned asfeeling on the floor beside him and tossed a flap of soft, greasyMussalman bread to the boy. 'Go and lie down among my horse-boys forto-night--thou and the lama. To-morrow I may give thee service.'
Kim slunk away, his teeth in the bread, and, as he expected, he found asmall wad of folded tissue-paper wrapped in oil-skin, with three silverrupees--enormous largesse. He smiled and thrust money and paper intohis leather amulet-case. The lama, sumptuously fed by Mahbub's Baltis,was already asleep in a corner of one of the stalls. Kim lay down besidehim and laughed. He knew he had rendered a service to Mahbub Ali, andnot for one little minute did he believe the tale of the stallion'spedigree.
But Kim did not suspect that Mahbub Ali, known as one of the besthorse-dealers in the Punjab, a wealthy and enterprising trader, whosecaravans penetrated far and far into the Back of Beyond, was registeredin one of the locked books of the Indian Survey Department as C.25.1B.Twice or thrice yearly C.25 would send in a little story, badly told butmost interesting, and generally--it was checked by the statements ofR.17 and M.4--quite true. It concerned all manner of out-of-the-waymountain principalities, explorers of nationalities other than English,and the gun-trade--was, in brief, a small portion of that vast mass of'information received' on which the Indian Government acts. But,recently, five confederated Kings, who had no business to confederate,had been informed by a kindly Northern Power that there was a leakage ofnews from their territories into British India. So those Kings' primeministers were seriously annoyed and took steps, after the Orientalfashion. They suspected, among many others, the bullying red-beardedhorse-dealer whose caravans ploughed through their fastnesses belly deepin snow. At least, his caravan that season had been ambushed and shot attwice on the way down, when Mahbub's men accounted for three strangeruffians who might, or might not, have been hired for the job. ThereforeMahbub had avoided halting at the insalubrious city of Peshawur, andhad come through without stop to Lahore, where, knowing hiscountry-people, he anticipated curious developments.
And there was that on Mahbub Ali which he did not wish to keep an hourlonger than was necessary--a wad of closely folded tissue-paper, wrappedin oil-skin--an impersonal, unaddressed statement, with five microscopicpin-holes in one corner, that most scandalously betrayed the fiveconfederated Kings, the sympathetic Northern Power, a Hindu banker inPeshawur, a firm of gun-makers in Belgium, and an important,semi-independent Mohammedan ruler to the south. This last was R.17'swork, which Mahbub had picked up beyond the Dora Pass and was carryingin for R.17, who, owing to circumstances over which he had no control,could not leave his post of observation. Dynamite was milky andinnocuous beside that report of C.25; and even an Oriental, with anOriental's views of the value of time, could see that the sooner it wasin the proper hands the better. Mahbub had no particular desire to dieby violence, because two or three family blood-feuds across the borderhung unfinished on his hands, and when these scores were cleared heintended to settle down as a more or less virtuous citizen. He had neverpassed the serai gate since his arrival two days ago, but had beenostentatious in sending telegrams to Bombay, where he banked some of hismoney; to Delhi, where a sub-partner of his own clan was selling horsesto the agent of a Rajputana state; and to Umballa, where an Englishmanwas excitedly demanding the pedigree of a white stallion. The publicletter-writer, who knew English, composed excellent telegrams, suchas:--'Creighton, Laurel Bank, Umballa.--Horse is Arabian as alreadyadvised. Sorrowful delayed-pedigree which am translating.' And later tothe same address: 'Much sorrowful delay. Will forward pedigree.' To thissub-partner at Delhi he wired: 'Lutuf Ullah.--Have wired two thousandrupees your credit Luchman Narain's bank.' This was entirely in the wayof trade, but every one of those telegrams was discussed andre-discussed, by parties who conceived themselves to be interested,before they went over to the railway station in charge of a foolishBalti, who allowed all sorts of people to read them on the road.
When, in Mahbub's own picturesque language, he had muddied the wells ofinquiry with the stick of precaution, Kim had dropped on him, sent fromheaven; and, being as prompt as he was unscrupulous, Mahbub Ali, used totaking all sorts of gusty chances, pressed him into service on the spot.
A wandering lama with a low-caste boy-servant might attract a moment'sinterest as they wandered about India, the land of pilgrims; but no onewould suspect them or, what was more to the point, rob.
He called for a new light-ball to his hookah, and considered the case.If the worst came to the worst, and the boy came to harm, the paperwould incriminate nobody. And he would go up to Umballa leisurelyand--at a certain risk of exciting fresh suspicion--repeat his tale byword of mouth to the people concerned.
But R.17's report was the kernel of the whole affair, and it would bedistinctly inconvenient if that failed to come to hand. However, God wasgreat, and Mahbub Ali felt he had done all he could for the time being.Kim was the one soul in the world who had never told him a lie. Thatwould have been a fatal blot on Kim's character if Mahbub had not knownthat to others, for his own ends or Mahbub's business, Kim could lielike an Oriental.
Then Mahbub Ali rolled across the serai to the Gate of the Harpies whopaint their eyes and trap the stranger, and was at some pains to call onthe one girl who, he had reason to believe, was a particular friend of asmooth-faced Kashmiri pundit who had waylaid his simple Balti in thematter of the telegrams. It was an utterly foolish thing to do; becausethey fell to drinking perfumed brandy against the Law of the Prophet,and Mahbub grew wonderfully drunk, and the gates of his mouth wereloosened, and he pursued the Flower of Delight with the feet ofintoxication till he fell flat among the cushions, where the Flower ofDelight, aided by a smooth-faced Kashmiri pundit, searched him from headto foot most thoroughly.
About the same hour Kim heard soft feet in Mahbub's deserted stall. Thehorse-trader, curiously enough, had left his door unlocked, and his menwere busy celebrating their return to India with a whole sheep ofMahbub's bounty. A sleek young gentleman from Delhi, armed with a bunchof keys which the Flower had unshackled from the senseless one's belt,went through every single box, bundle, mat, and saddle-bag in Mahbub'spossession even more systematically than the Flower and the pundit weresearching the owner.
'And I think,' said the Flower scornfully an hour later, one roundedelbow on the snoring carcase, 'that he is no more than a pig of anAfghan horse-dealer, with no thought except women and horses. Moreover,he may have sent it away by now--if ever there were such a thing.'
'Nay--in a matter touching Five Kings it would be next his black heart,'said the pundit. 'Was there nothing?'
The Delhi man laughed and resettled his turban as he entered. 'Isearched between the soles of his slippers as the Flower searched hisclothes. This is not the man but another. I leave little unseen.'
'They did not say he was the very man,' said the pundit thoughtfully.'They said, "Look if he be the man, since our councils are troubled."'
'That North country is full of horse-dealers as an old coat of lice.There is Sikandar Khan, Nur Ali Beg, and Farrukh Shah--all heads ofKafilas--who deal there,' said the Flower.
'They have not yet come in,' said the pundit. 'Thou must ensnare themlater.'
'Phew!' said the Flower with deep disgust, rolling Mahbub's head fromher lap. 'I earn my money. Farrukh Shah is a bear, Ali Beg aswashbuckler, and old Sikandar Khan--yaie! Go! I sleep now. This swinewill not stir till dawn.'
'What a colt's trick,' said he to himself. 'As if every girl in Peshawurdid not use it! But 'twas prettily done. Now God He knows how many morethere be upon the road who have orders to test me--perhaps with theknife. So it stands that the boy must go to Umballa--and by rail--forthe writing is something urgent. I abide here, following the Flower anddrinking wine as an Afghan coper should.'
He halted at the stall next but one to his own. His men lay there heavywith sleep. There was no sign of Kim or the lama.
'Up!' He stirred a sleeper. 'Whither went those who lay here lasteven--the lama and the boy? Is aught missing?'
'Nay,' grunted the man; 'the old madman rose at second cockcrow sayinghe would go to Benares, and the young one led him away.'
'The curse of Allah on all unbelievers,' said Mahbub heartily, andclimbed into his own stall, growling in his beard.
But it was Kim who had wakened the lama--Kim with one eye laid against aknot-hole in the planking, who had seen the Delhi man's search throughthe boxes. This was no common thief that turned over letters, bills, andsaddles--no mere burglar who ran a little knife sideways into the solesof Mahbub's slippers, or picked the seams of the saddle-bags so deftly.At first Kim had been minded to give the alarm--the long-drawn'cho-or--choor!' (thief! thief!) that sets the serai ablaze of nights;but he looked more carefully, and, hand on amulet, drew his ownconclusions.
'It must be the pedigree of that made-up horse-lie,' said he, 'the thingthat I carry to Umballa. Better that we go now. Those who search bagswith knives may presently search bellies with knives. Surely there is awoman behind this. Hai! Hai!' in a whisper to the light-sleeping oldman. 'Come. It is time--time to go to Benares.'
The lama rose obediently, and they passed out of the serai likeshadows.
Kim by Rudyard Kipling / Actions & Adventure have rating 3.7 out of 5 / Based on37 votes