|Table of Contents|
Kim, by Rudyard Kipling
sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam Zammah on her
brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Gher - the Wonder House, as the
natives call the Lahore Museum. Who hold Zam-Zammah, that 'fire-breathing
dragon', hold the Punjab, for the great green-bronze piece is always first
of the conqueror's loot.
was some justification for Kim - he had kicked Lala Dinanath's boy off the
trunnions - since the English held the Punjab and Kim was English. Though he
was burned black as any native; though he spoke the vernacular by
preference, and his mother-tongue in a clipped uncertain sing-song; though
he consorted on terms of perfect equality with the small boys of the bazar;
Kim was white - a poor white of the very poorest. The half-caste woman who
looked after him (she smoked opium, and pretended to keep a second-hand
furniture shop by the square where the cheap cabs wait) told the
missionaries that she was Kim's mother's sister; but his mother had been
nursemaid in a Colonel's family and had married Kimball O'Hara, a young
colour- sergeant of the Mavericks, an Irish regiment. He afterwards took a
post on the Sind, Punjab, and Delhi Railway, and his Regiment went home
without him. The wife died of cholera in Ferozepore, and O'Hara fell to
drink and loafing up and down the line with the keen-eyed three-year-old
baby. Societies and chaplains, anxious for the child, tried to catch him,
but O'Hara drifted away, till he came across the woman who took opium and
learned the taste from her, and died as poor whites die in India. His estate
at death consisted of three papers - one he called his 'ne varietur' because
those words were written below his signature thereon, and another his
'clearance-certificate'. The third was Kim's birth-certificate. Those
things, he was used to say, in his glorious opium-hours, would yet make
little Kimball a man. On no account was Kim to part with them, for they
belonged to a great piece of magic - such magic as men practised over yonder
behind the Museum, in the big blue-and-white Jadoo-Gher - the Magic House,
as we name the Masonic Lodge. It would, he said, all come right some day,
and Kim's horn would be exalted between pillars - 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 than his father. Nine hundred first-class
devils, whose God was a Red Bull on a green field, would attend to Kim, if
they had not forgotten O'Hara - poor O'Hara that was gang- foreman on the
Ferozepore line. Then he would weep bitterly in the broken rush chair on the
veranda. So it came about after his death that the woman sewed parchment,
paper, and birth- certificate into a leather amulet-case which she strung
round Kim's neck.
some day,' she said, confusedly remembering O'Hara's prophecies, 'there will
come for you a great Red Bull on a green field, and the Colonel riding on
his tall horse, yes, and' dropping into English - 'nine hundred devils.'
said Kim, 'I shall remember. A Red Bull and a Colonel on a horse will come,
but first, my father said, will come the two men making ready the ground for
these matters. That is how my father said they always did; and it is always
so when men work magic.'
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, and sent to
the Masonic Orphanage in the Hills; but what she had heard of magic she
distrusted. Kim, too, held views of his own. As he reached the years of
indiscretion, he learned to avoid missionaries and white men of serious
aspect who asked who he was, and what he did. For Kim did nothing with an
immense success. True, he knew the wonderful walled city of Lahore from the
Delhi Gate to the outer Fort Ditch; was hand in glove with men who led lives
stranger than anything Haroun al Raschid dreamed of; and he lived in a life
wild as that of the Arabian Nights, but missionaries and secretaries of
charitable societies could not see the beauty of it. His nickname through
the wards was 'Little Friend of all the World'; and very often, being lithe
and inconspicuous, he executed commissions by night on the crowded housetops
for sleek and shiny young men of fashion. It was intrigue, - of course he
knew that much, as he had known all evil since he could speak, - but what he
loved was the game for its own sake - the stealthy prowl through the dark
gullies and lanes, the crawl up a waterpipe, the sights and sounds of
the women's world on the flat roofs, and the headlong flight from housetop
to housetop under cover of the hot dark. Then there were holy men,
ash-smeared fakirs by their brick shrines under the trees at the riverside,
with whom he was quite familiar - greeting them as they returned from
begging-tours, and, when no one was by, eating from the same dish. The woman
who looked after him insisted with tears that he should wear European
clothes - trousers, a shirt and a battered hat. Kim found it easier to slip
into Hindu or Mohammedan garb when engaged on certain businesses. One of the
young men of fashion - he who was found dead at the bottom of a well on the
night of the earthquake had once given him a complete suit of Hindu kit, the
costume of a lowcaste street boy, and Kim stored it in a secret place under
some baulks in Nila Ram's timber-yard, beyond the Punjab High Court, where
the fragrant deodar logs lie
seasoning after they have driven down the Ravi. When there was business or
frolic afoot, Kim would use his properties, returning at dawn to the
veranda, all tired out from shouting at the heels of a marriage procession,
or yelling at a Hindu festival. Sometimes there was food in the house, more
often there was not, and then Kim went out again to eat with his native
he drummed his heels against Zam-Zammah he turned now and again from his
king-of-the-castle game with little Chota Lal and Abdullah the
sweetmeat-seller's son, to make a rude remark to the native policeman on
guard over rows of shoes at the Museum door. The big Punjabi grinned
tolerantly: he knew Kim of old. So did the water-carrier, sluicing water on
the dry road from his goat- skin bag. So did Jawahir Singh, the Museum
carpenter, bent over new packing-cases. So did everybody in sight except the
peasants from the country, hurrying up to the Wonder House to view the
things that men made in their own province and elsewhere. The Museum was
given up to Indian arts and manufactures, and anybody who sought wisdom
could ask the Curator to explain.
! Off ! Let me up!' cried Abdullah, climbing up ZamZammah's wheel.
father was a pastry-cook, Thy mother stole the ghi" sang Kim. 'All
Mussalmans fell off Zam-Zammah long ago!'
me up!' shrilled little Chota Lal in his gilt-embroidered cap. His father
was worth perhaps half a million sterling, but India is the only democratic
land in the world.
Hindus fell off Zam-Zammah too. The Mussalmans pushed them off. Thy father
was a pastry-cook -'
stopped; for there shuffled round the corner, from the roaring Motee Bazar,
such a man as Kim, who thought he knew all castes, had never seen. He was
nearly six feet high, dressed in fold upon fold of dingy stuff like
horse-blanketing, and not one fold of it could Kim refer to any known trade
or profession. At his belt hung a long open-work iron pencase and a wooden
rosary such as holy men wear. On his head was a gigantic sort of
tam-o'-shanter. His face was yellow and wrinkled, like that of Fook Shing,
the Chinese bootmaker in the bazar. His eyes turned up at the corners and
looked like little slits of onyx.
is that?' said Kim to his companions.
it is a man,' said Abdullah, finger in mouth, staring.
doubt.' returned Kim; 'but he is no man of India that I have ever seen.'
priest, perhaps,' said Chota Lal, spying the rosary. 'See! He
goes into the Wonder House!'
nay,' said the policeman, shaking his head. 'I do not understand your talk.'
The constable spoke Punjabi. 'O Friend of all the World, what does he say?'
him hither,' said Kim, dropping from Zam-Zammah, flourishing his bare heels.
'He is a foreigner, and thou art a buffalo.'
man turned helplessly and drifted towards the boys. He was old, and his
woollen gaberdine still reeked of the stinking artemisia of the mountain
Children, what is that big house?' he said in very fair Urdu.
Ajaib-Gher, the Wonder House!' Kim gave him no title - such as Lala or Mian.
He could not divine the man's creed.
The Wonder House! Can any enter?'
is written above the door - all can enter.'
go in and out. I am no banker,' laughed Kim.
I am an old man. I did not know.' Then, fingering his rosary, he half turned
to the Museum.
is your caste? Where is your house? Have you come far?' Kim asked.
came by Kulu - from beyond the Kailas - but what know you? >From the
Hills where' - he sighed - 'the air and water are fresh and cool.'
Khitai [a Chinaman],' said Abdullah proudly. Fook Shing had once chased him
out of his shop for spitting at the joss above the boots.
[a hillman],' said little Chota Lal.
child - a hillman from hills thou'lt never see. Didst hear of Bhotiyal
[Tibet]? I am no Khitai, but a Bhotiya [Tibetan], since you must know - a
lama - or, say, a guru in your tongue.'
guru from Tibet,' said Kim. 'I have not seen such a man. They be Hindus in
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 are children, know
as much as I do who am old.' He smiled benignantly on the boys.
fumbled in his bosom and drew forth a worn, wooden begging- bowl. The boys
nodded. All priests of their acquaintance begged.
do not wish to eat yet.' He turned his head like an. old tortoise in the
sunlight. 'Is it true that there are many images in the Wonder House of
Lahore?' He repeated the last words as one making sure of an address.
is true,' said Abdullah. 'It is full of heathen buts.
Thou also art an idolater.'
mind him,' said. Kim. 'That is the Government's house and there is no
idolatry in it, but only a Sahib with a white beard. Come with me and I will
priests eat boys,' whispered Chota Lal.
he is a stranger and a but-parast [idolater],' said Abdullah, the
laughed. 'He is new. Run to your mothers' laps, and be safe. Come!'
clicked round the self-registering turnstile; the old man followed and
halted amazed. In the entrance-hall stood the larger figures of the
Greco-Buddhist sculptures done, savants know how long since, by forgotten
workmen whose hands were feeling, and not unskilfully, for the mysteriously
transmitted Grecian touch. There were hundreds of pieces, friezes of figures
in relief, fragments of statues and slabs crowded with figures that had
encrusted the brick walls of the Buddhist stupas and viharas of the North
Country and now, dug up and labelled, made the pride of the Museum. In
open-mouthed wonder the lama turned to this and that, and finally checked in
rapt attention before a large alto- relief representing a coronation or
apotheosis of the Lord Buddha. The Master was represented seated on a lotus
the petals of which were so deeply undercut as to show almost detached.
Round Him was an adoring hierarchy of kings, elders, and old-time Buddhas.
Below were lotus-covered waters with fishes and water- birds. Two
butterfly-winged dewas held a wreath over His head; above them another pair
supported an umbrella surmounted by the jewelled headdress of the Bodhisat.
Lord! The Lord! It is Sakya Muni himself,' the lama half sobbed; and under
his breath began the wonderful Buddhist invocation:
Him the Way, the Law, apart, Whom Maya held beneath her heart, Ananda's
Lord, the Bodhisat.
He is here! The Most Excellent Law is here also. My pilgrimage is well
begun. And what work! What work!'
is the Sahib.' said Kim, and dodged sideways among the cases of the arts and
manufacturers wing. A white-bearded Englishman was looking at the lama, who
gravely turned and saluted him and after some fumbling drew forth a
note-book and a scrap of paper.
that is my name,' smiling at the clumsy, childish print.
of us who had made pilgrimage to the Holy Places - he is now Abbot of the
Lung-Cho Monastery - gave it me,' stammered the lama. 'He spoke of these.'
His lean hand moved tremulously round.
then, O lama from Tibet. Here be the images, and I am here' - he glanced at
the lama's face - 'to gather knowledge. Come to my office awhile.' The old
man was trembling with excitement.
office was but a little wooden cubicle partitioned off from the
sculpture-lined gallery. Kim laid himself down, his ear against a crack in
the heat-split cedar door, and, following his instinct, stretched out to
listen and watch.
of the talk was altogether above his head. The lama, haltingly at first,
spoke to the Curator of his own lamassery, the Such-zen, opposite the
Painted Rocks, four months' march away. The Curator brought out a huge book
of photos and showed him that very place, perched on its crag, overlooking
the gigantic valley of
ay!' The lama mounted a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles of Chinese work.
'Here is the little door through which we bring wood before winter. And thou
- the English know of these things? He who is now Abbot of Lung-Cho told me,
but I did not believe. The Lord - the Excellent One - He has honour here
too? And His life is known?'
is all carven upon the stones. Come and see, if thou art rested.'
shuffled the lama to the main hall, and, the Curator beside him, went
through the collection with the reverence of a devotee and the appreciative
instinct of a craftsman.
by incident in the beautiful story he identified on the blurred stone,
puzzled here and there by the unfamiliar Greek convention, but delighted as
a child at each new trove. Where the sequence failed, as in the
Annunciation, the Curator supplied it from his mound of books - French and
German, with photographs and reproductions.
was the devout Asita, the pendant of Simeon in the Christian story, holding
the Holy Child on his knee while mother and father listened; and here were
incidents in the legend of the cousin Devadatta. Here was the wicked woman
who accused the Master of impurity, all confounded; here was the teaching in
the Deer-park; the miracle that stunned the fire-worshippers; here was the
Bodhisat in royal state as a prince; the miraculous birth; the death at
Kusinagara, where the weak disciple fainted; while there were almost
countless repetitions of the meditation under the Bodhi tree; and the
adoration of the alms-bowl was everywhere. In a few minutes the Curator saw
that his guest was no mere bead- telling mendicant, but a scholar of parts.
And they went at it all over again, the lama taking snuff, wiping his
spectacles, and talking at railway speed in a bewildering mixture of Urdu
and Tibetan. He had heard of the travels of the Chinese pilgrims, Fu- Hiouen
and Hwen-Tsiang, and was anxious to know if there was any translation of
their record. He drew in his breath as he turned helplessly over the pages
of Beal and Stanislas Julien. "Tis all here. A treasure locked.' Then
he composed himself reverently to listen to fragments hastily rendered into
Urdu. For the first time he heard of the labours of European scholars, who
by the help of these and a hundred other documents have identified the Holy
Places of Buddhism. Then he was shown a mighty map, spotted and traced with
yellow. The brown finger followed the Curator's pencil from point to point.
Here was Kapilavastu, here the Middle Kingdom, and here Mahabodhi, the Mecca
of Buddhism; and here was Kusinagara, sad place of the Holy One's death. The
old man bowed his head over the sheets in silence for a while, and the
Curator lit another pipe. Kim had fallen asleep. When he waked, the talk,
still in spate, was more within his comprehension.
thus it was, O Fountain of Wisdom, that I decided to go to the Holy Places
which His foot had trod - to the Birthplace, even to Kapila; then to
Mahabodhi, which is Buddh Gaya - to the Monastery - to the Deer-park -to the
place of His death.'
lama lowered his voice. 'And I come here alone. For five - seven - eighteen
- forty years it was in my mind that the Old Law was not well followed;
being overlaid, as thou knowest, with devildom, charms, and idolatry. Even
as the child outside said but now. Ay, even as the child said, with but-parasti.'
it comes with all faiths.'
thou? The books of my lamassery I read, and they were dried pith; and the
later ritual with which we of the Reformed Law have cumbered ourselves -
that, too, had no worth to these old eyes. Even the followers of the
Excellent One are at feud on feud with one another. It is all illusion. Ay,
maya, illusion. But I have another desire' - the seamed yellow face drew
within three inches of the Curator, and the long forefinger-nail tapped on
the table. 'Your scholars, by these books, have followed the Blessed Feet in
all their wanderings; but there are things which they have not sought out. I
know nothing - nothing do I know - but I go to free myself from the Wheel of
Things by a broad and open road.' He smiled with most simple triumph. 'As a
pilgrim to the Holy 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. Thou
Curator nodded, wondering what would come next. 'So they made the triple
trial of strength against all comers. And at the test of the Bow, our Lord
first breaking that which they gave Him, called for such a bow as none might
bend. Thou knowest?'
is written. I have read.'
overshooting all other marks, the arrow passed far and far beyond sight. At
the last it fell; and, where it touched earth, there broke out a stream
which presently became a River, whose nature, by our Lord's beneficence, and
that merit He acquired ere He freed himself, is that whoso bathes in it
washes away all taint and speckle of sin.'
it is written,' said the Curator sadly.
lama drew a long breath. "Where is that River? Fountain of Wisdom,
where fell the arrow?"
my brother, I do not know,' said the Curator.
if it please thee to forget - the one thing only that thou hast not told me.
Surely thou must know? See, I am an old man! I ask with my head between thy
feet, O Fountain of Wisdom. We know He drew the bow! We know the arrow fell!
We know the stream gushed! Where, then, is the River? My dream told me to
find it. So I came. I am here. But where is the River?'
I knew, think you I would not cry it aloud?'
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 old man.'
do not know. I do not know.'
lama brought his thousand-wrinkled face once more a handsbreadth from the
Englishman's. 'I see thou dost not know. Not being of the Law, the matter is
hid from thee.'
- hidden - hidden.'
are both bound, thou and I, my brother. But I' - he rose with a sweep of the
soft thick drapery - 'I go to cut myself free. Come also!'
am bound,' said the Curator. 'But whither goest thou?'
to Kashi [Benares]: where else? There I shall meet one of the pure faith in
a Jain temple of that city. He also is a Seeker in secret, and from him
haply I may learn. Maybe he will go with me to Buddh Gaya. Thence north and
west to Kapilavastu, and there will I seek for the River. Nay, I will seek
everywhere as I go - for the place is not known where the arrow fell.'
how wilt thou go? It is a far cry to Delhi, and farther to Benares.'
road and the trains. From Pathankot, having left the Hills, I came hither in
a te-rain. It goes swiftly. At first I was amazed to see those tall poles by
the side of the road snatching up and snatching up their threads,' - he
illustrated the stoop and whirl of a telegraph-pole flashing past the train.
'But later, I was cramped and desired to walk, as I am used.'
thou art sure of thy road?' said the Curator.
for that one but asks a question and pays money, and the appointed persons
despatch all to the appointed place. That much I knew in my lamassery from
sure report,' said the lama proudly.
when dost thou go?' The Curator smiled at the mixture of old-world piety and
modern progress that is the note of India today.
soon as may be. I follow the places of His life till I come to the River of
the Arrow. There is, moreover, a written paper of the hours of the trains
that go south.'
for food?' Lamas, as a rule, have good store of money somewhere about them,
but the Curator wished to make sure.
the journey, I take up the Master's begging-bowl. Yes. Even as He went so go
I, forsaking the ease of my monastery. There was with me when I left the
hills a chela [disciple] who begged for me as the Rule demands, but halting
in Kulu awhile a fever took him and he died. I have now no chela, but I will
take the alms- bowl and thus enable the charitable to acquire merit.' He
nodded his head valiantly. Learned doctors of a lamassery do not beg, but
the lama was an enthusiast in this quest.
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 white English paper:
here be sharpened pencils two and three - thick and thin, all good for a
scribe. Now lend me thy spectacles.'
Curator looked through them. They were heavily scratched, but the power was
almost exactly that of his own pair, which he slid into the lama's hand,
saying: 'Try these.'
feather! A very feather upon the face? The old man turned his head
delightedly and wrinkled up his nose. 'How scarcely do I feel them! How
clearly do I see!
be, bilaur - crystal - and will never scratch. May they help thee to thy
River, for they are thine.'
will take them and the pencils and the white note-book,' said the lama, 'as
a sign of friendship between priest and priest - and now -' He fumbled at
his belt, detached the open-work iron pincers, and laid it on the Curator's
table. 'That is for a memory between thee and me - my pencase. It is
something old - even as I am.'
was a piece of ancient design, Chinese, of an iron that is not smelted these
days; and the collector's heart in the Curator's bosom had gone out to it
from the first. For no persuasion would the lama resume his gift.
I return, having found the River, I will bring thee a written picture of the
Padma Samthora such as I used to make on silk at the lamassery. Yes - and of
the Wheel of Life,' he chuckled, 'for we be craftsmen together, thou and I.'
Curator would have detained him: they are few in the world who still have
the secret of the conventional brush-pen Buddhist pictures which are, 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 a Bodhisat in
meditation, brushed through the turnstiles.
followed like a shadow. What he had overheard excited him wildly. This man
was entirely new to all his experience, and he meant to investigate further,
precisely as he would have investigated a new building 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.
old man halted by Zam-Zammah and looked round till his eye fell on Kim. The
inspiration of his pilgrimage had left him for awhile, and he felt old,
forlorn, and very empty.
not sit under that gun,' said the policeman loftily.
Owl!' was Kim's retort on the lama's behalf 'Sit under that gun if it please
thee. When didst thou steal the milkwoman's slippers, Dunnoo?'
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 up legions of bad
bazar boys if need arose.
whom didst thou worship within?' said Kim affably, squatting in the shade
beside the lama.
worshipped none, child. I bowed before the Excellent Law.'
accepted this new God without emotion. He knew already a few score.
what dost thou do?'
beg. I remember now it is long since I have eaten or drunk. What is the
custom of charity in this town? In silence, as we do of Tibet, or speaking
who beg in silence starve in silence,' said Kim, quoting a native proverb.
The lama tried to rise, but sank back again, sighing for his disciple, dead
in far-away Kulu. Kim watched head to one side, considering and interested.
me the bowl. I know the people of this city - all who are charitable. Give,
and I will bring it back filled.'
as a child the old man handed him the bowl. [start here] 'Rest, thou. I know
trotted off to the open shop of a kunjri, a low-caste vegetable-seller,
which lay opposite the belt-tramway line down the Motee Bazar. She knew Kim
hast thou turned yogi with thy begging-bowl?' she cried.
said Kim proudly. 'There is a new priest in the city a man such as I have
priest - young tiger,' said the woman angrily. 'I am tired of new priests!
They settle on our wares like flies. Is the father of my son a well of
charity to give to all who ask?'
said Kim. 'Thy man is rather yagi [bad-tempered] than yogi [a holy man]. But
this priest is new. The Sahib in the Wonder House has talked to him like a
brother. O my mother, fill me this bowl. He waits.'
bowl indeed! That cow-bellied basket! Thou hast as much grace as the holy
bull of Shiv. He has taken the best of a basket of onions already, this
morn; and forsooth, I must fill thy bowl. He comes here again.'
huge, mouse-coloured Brahmini bull of the ward was shouldering his way
through the many-coloured crowd, a stolen plantain hanging out of his mouth.
He headed straight for the shop, well knowing his privileges as a sacred
beast, lowered his head, and puffed heavily along the line of baskets ere
making his choice. Up flew Kim's hard little heel and caught him on his
moist blue nose. He snorted indignantly, and walked away across the
tram-rails, his hump quivering with rage.
I have saved more than the bowl will cost thrice over. Now, mother, a little
rice and some dried fish atop - yes, and some vegetable curry.'
growl came out of the back of the shop, where a man lay.
drove away the bull,' said the woman in an undertone. 'It is good to give to
the poor.' She took the bowl and returned it full of hot rice.
my yogi is not a cow,' said Kim gravely, making a hole with his fingers in
the top of the mound. 'A little curry is good, and a fried cake, and a
morsel of conserve would please him, I think.'
is a hole as big as thy head,' said the woman fretfully. But she filled it,
none the less, with good, steaming vegetable curry, clapped a fried cake
atop, and a morsel of clarified butter on the cake, dabbed a lump of sour
tamarind conserve at the side; and Kim looked at the load lovingly.
is good. When I am in the bazar the bull shall not come to this house. He is
a bold beggar-man.'
thou?' laughed the woman. 'But
speak well of bulls. Hast thou not told 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 that also, O thou Little Friend of all the World.'
Kim had danced off ere the end of the sentence, dodging pariah dogs and
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 will eat with thee.
Ohe, bhisti!' he called to the water- carrier, sluicing the crotons by the
Museum. 'Give water here. We men are thirsty.'
men!' said the bhisti, laughing. 'Is one skinful enough for such a pair?
Drink, then, in the name of the Compassionate.'
loosed a thin stream into Kim's hands, who drank nativefasion; but the lama
must needs pull out a cup from his inexhaustible upper draperies and drink
[a foreigner],' Kim explained, as the old man delivered in an unknown tongue
what was evidently a blessing.
ate together in great content, clearing the beggingbowl. Then the lama took
snuff from a portentous wooden snuff-gourd, fingered his rosary awhile, and
so dropped into the easy sleep of age, as the shadow of Zam-Zammah grew
loafed over to the nearest tobacco-seller, a rather lively young Mohammedan
woman, and begged a rank cigar of the brand that they sell to students of
the Punjab University who copy English customs. Then he smoked and thought,
knees to chin, under the belly of the gun, and the outcome of his thoughts
was a sudden and stealthy departure in the direction of Nila Ram's timber-
lama did not wake till the evening life of the city had begun with
lamp-lighting and the return of white-robed clerks and subordinates from the
Government offices. He stared dizzily in all directions, but none looked at
him save a Hindu urchin in a dirty turban and Isabella-coloured clothes.
Suddenly he bowed his head on his knees and wailed.
is this?' said the boy, standing before him. 'Hast thou been robbed?'
is my new chela [disciple] that is gone away from me, and I know not where
what like of man was thy disciple?'
was a boy who came to me in place of him who died, on account of the merit
which I had gained when I bowed before the Law within there.' He pointed
towards the Museum. 'He came upon me to show me a road which I had lost. He
led me into the Wonder House, and by his talk emboldened me to speak to the
Keeper of the Images, so that I was cheered and made strong. And when I was
faint with hunger he begged for me, as would a chela 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.'
stood amazed at this, because he had overheard the talk in the Museum, and
knew that the old man was speaking the truth, which is a thing a native on
the road seldom presents to a stranger.
I see now that he was but sent for a purpose. By this I know that I shall
find a certain River for which I seek.'
River of the Arrow?' said Kim, with a superior smile.
this yet another Sending?' cried the lama. 'To none have I spoken of my
search, save to the Priest of the Images. Who art thou?'
chela,' said Kim simply, sitting on his heels. 'I have never seen anyone
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 to chance-met people at
dusk, is in great need of a disciple.'
the River - the River of the Arrow?'
that I heard when thou wast speaking to the- Englishman. I lay against the
lama sighed. 'I thought thou hadst been a guide permitted. Such things fall
sometimes - but I am not worthy. Thou dost not, then, know the River?'
U Kim laughed uneasily. 'I go to look for - for a bull a Red. Bull on a
green field who shall help me.' Boylike, if an acquaintance had a scheme,
Kim was quite ready with one of his own; and,
he had really thought for as much as twenty minutes at a time of his
what, child?' said the lama.
knows, but so my father told me'. I heard thy talk in the Wonder House of
all those new strange places in the Hills, and if one so old and so little -
so used to truth-telling - may go out for the small matter of a river, it
seemed to me that I too must go a-travelling. If it is our fate to find
those things we shall find them - thou, thy River; and I, my Bull, and the
Strong Pillars and some other matters that I forget.'
is not pillars but a Wheel from which I would be free,' said the lama.
is all one. Perhaps they will make me a king,' said Kim, serenely prepared
will teach thee other and better desires upon the road,' the lama replied in
the voice of authority. 'Let us go to Benares.'
by night. Thieves are abroad. Wait till the day.'
there is no place to sleep.' The old man was used to the order of his
monastery, and though he slept on the ground, as the Rule decrees, preferred
a decency in these things.
shall get good lodging at the Kashmir Serai,' said Kim, laughing at his
perplexity. 'I have a friend there. Come!'
hot and crowded bazars blazed with light as they made their way through the
press of all the races in Upper India, and the lama mooned through it like a
man in a dream. It was his first experience of a large manufacturing city,
and the crowded tram- car with its continually squealing brakes frightened
him. Half pushed, half towed, he arrived at the high gate of the Kashmir
Serai: that huge open square over against the railway station, surrounded
with arched cloisters, where the camel and horse caravans put up on their
return from Central Asia. Here were all manner of Northern folk, tending
tethered ponies and kneeling camels; loading and unloading bales and
bundles; drawing water for the evening meal at the creaking well-windlasses;
piling grass before the shrieking, wild-eyed stallions; cuffing the surly
caravan dogs; paying off camel-drivers; taking on new grooms; swearing,
shouting, arguing, and chaffering in the packed square. The cloisters,
reached by three or four 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
into rooms, which were guarded by heavy wooden doors and cumbrous native
padlocks. Locked doors showed that the owner was away, and a few rude -
sometimes very rude - chalk or paint scratches told where he had gone. 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 hast thou allowed this
louse Lutuf to live so long?'
fending the lama between excited men and excited beasts, sidled along the
cloisters to the far end, nearest the -railway station, where Mahbub Ali,
the horse-trader, lived when he came in from that mysterious land beyond the
Passes of the North.
had had many dealings with Mahbub in his little life, especially between his
tenth and his thirteenth year - and the big burly Afghan, his beard dyed
scarlet with lime (for he was elderly and did not wish his grey hairs to
show), knew the boy's value as a gossip. Sometimes he would tell Kim to
watch a man who had nothing whatever to do with horses: to follow him for
one whole day and report every soul with whom he talked. Kim would deliver
himself of his tale at evening, and Mahbub would listen without a word or
gesture. It was intrigue of some kind, Kim knew; but its worth lay in saying
nothing whatever to anyone except Mahbub, who gave him beautiful meals all
hot from the cookshop at the head of the serai, and once as much as eight
annas in money.
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 bewildered lama.
horse-trader, his deep, embroidered Bokhariot belt unloosed, was lying on a
pair of silk carpet saddle-bags, pulling lazily at an immense silver hookah.
He turned his head very slightly at the cry; and seeing only the tall silent
figure, chuckled in his deep. chest.
A lama! A Red Lama! It is far from Lahore to the Passes. What dost thou do
lama held out the begging-bowl mechanically.
curse on all unbelievers!' said Mahbub. 'I do not give to a lousy Tibetan;
but ask my Baltis over yonder behind the camels. They may value your
blessings. Oh, horseboys, here is a countryman of yours. See if he be
shaven, crouching Balti, who had come down with the horses, and who was
nominally some sort of degraded Buddhist, fawned upon the priest, and in
thick gutturals besought the Holy One to sit at the horseboys' fire.
said Kim, pushing him lightly, and the lama strode away, leaving Kim at the
edge of the cloister.
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 thy faith.'
whined Kim, using the Hindu form of address, and thoroughly enjoying the
situation; 'my father is dead - my mother is dead - my stomach is empty.'
from my men among the horses, I say. There must be some Hindus in my tall.'
Mahbub Ali, but am I a Hindu?' said Kim in English.
trader gave no sign of astonishment, but looked under shaggy eyebrows.
Friend of all the World,' said he, 'what is this?'
I am now that holy man's disciple; and we go a pilgrimage together - to
Benares, he says. He is quite mad, and I am tired of Lahore city. I wish new
air and water.'
for whom dost thou work? Why come to me?' The voice was harsh with
whom else should I come? I have no money. It is not good to go about without
money. Thou wilt sell many horses to the officers. They are very fine
horses, these new ones: I have seen them. Give me a rupee, Mahbub Ali, and
when I come to my wealth I will give thee a bond and pay.'
said Mahbub Ali, thinking swiftly. 'Thou hast never before lied to me. Call
that lama - stand back in the dark.'
our tales will agree,' said Kim, laughing.
go to Benares,' said the lama, as soon as he understood the drift of Mahbub
Ali's questions. 'The boy and I, I go to seek for a certain River.'
- but the boy?'
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 have befallen the
fortunate to whom guidance was allowed. But I remember now, he said he was
of this world - a Hindu.'
I did not ask. Is he not my disciple?'
country - his race - his village? Mussalman - Sikh Hindu - Jain - low caste
should I ask? There is neither high nor low in the Middle Way. If he is my
chela - does - will - can anyone take him from me? for, look you, without
him I shall not find my River.' He wagged his head solemnly.
shall take him from thee. Go, sit among my Baltis,' said Mahbub Ali, and the
lama drifted off, soothed by the promise.
he not quite mad?' said Kim, coming forward to the light again. 'Why should
I lie to thee, Hajji?'
puffed his hookah in silence. Then he began, almost whispering: 'Umballa is
on the road to Benares - if indeed ye two go there.'
Tck! I tell thee he does not know how to lie - as we two know.'
if thou wilt carry a message for me as far as Umballa, I will give thee
money. It concerns a horse - a white stallion which I have sold to an
officer upon the last time I returned from the Passes. But then - stand
nearer and hold up hands as begging -the pedigree of the white stallion was
not fully established, and that officer, who is now at Umballa, bade me make
it clear.' (Mahbub here described the horse and the appearance of the
officer.) 'So the message to that officer will be: "The pedigree of the
white stallion is fully established." By this will he know that thou
comest from me. He will then say "What proof hast thou?" and thou
wilt answer: "Mahbub Ali has given me the proof."'
all for the sake of a white stallion,' said Kim, with a giggle, his eyes
pedigree I will give thee now - in my own fashion and some hard words as
well.' A shadow passed behind Kim, and a feeding camel. Mahbub Ali raised
Art thou the only beggar in the city? Thy mother is dead. Thy father is
dead. So is it with all of them. Well, well - '
turned as feeling on the floor beside him and tossed a flap of soft, greasy
Mussalman bread to the boy. 'Go and lie down among my horseboys for tonight
- thou and the lama. Tomorrow I may give thee service.'
slunk away, his teeth in the bread, and, as he expected, he found a small
wad of folded tissue-paper wrapped in oilskin, with three silver rupees -
enormous largesse. He smiled and thrust money and paper into his 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 beside him and
laughed. He knew he had rendered a service to Mahbub Ali, and not for one
little minute did he believe the tale of the stallion's pedigree.
Kim did not suspect that Mahbub Ali, known as one of the best horse-dealers
in the Punjab, a wealthy and enterprising trader, whose caravans penetrated
far and far into the Back of Beyond, was registered in one of the locked
books of the Indian Survey Department as C25 IB. Twice or thrice yearly C25
would send in a little story, baldly told but most interesting, and
generally - it was checked by the statements of R17 and M4 - quite true. It
concerned all manner of out-of-the-way mountain principalities, explorers of
nationalities other than English, and the guntrade - 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 of news from their territories into British India. So those Kings'
Prime Ministers were seriously annoyed and took steps, after the Oriental
fashion. They suspected, among many others, the bullying, red-bearded
horsedealer whose caravans ploughed through their fastnesses belly-deep in
snow. At least, his caravan that season had been ambushed and shot at twice
on the way down, when Mahbub's men accounted for three strange ruffians who
might, or might not, have been hired for the job. Therefore Mahbub had
avoided halting at the insalubrious city of Peshawur, and had come through
without stop to Lahore, where, knowing his country-people, he anticipated
there was that on Mahbub Ali which he did not wish to keep an hour longer
than was necessary - a wad of closely folded tissue- paper, wrapped in
oilskin - an impersonal, unaddressed statement, with five microscopic
pin-holes in one corner, that most scandalously betrayed the five
confederated Kings, the sympathetic Northern Power, a Hindu banker in
Peshawur, a firm of gun-makers in Belgium, and an important,
semi-independent Mohammedan ruler to the south. This last was R17's work,
which Mahbub had picked up beyond the Dora Pass and was carrying in for R17,
who, owing to circumstances over which he had no control, could not leave
his post of observation. Dynamite was milky and innocuous beside that report
Of C25; and even an Oriental, with an Oriental's views of the value of time,
could see that the sooner it was in the proper hands the better. Mahbub had
no particular desire to die by violence, because two or three family
blood-feuds across the Border hung unfinished on his hands, and when these
scores were cleared he intended to settle down as a more or less virtuous
citizen. He had never passed the serai gate since his arrival two days ago,
but had been ostentatious in sending telegrams to Bombay, where he banked
some of his money; to Delhi, where a sub-partner of his own clan was selling
horses to the agent of a Rajputana state; and to Umballa, where an
Englishman was excitedly demanding the pedigree of a white stallion. The
public letter-writer, who knew English, composed excellent telegrams, such
as: 'Creighton, Laurel Bank, Umballa. Horse is Arabian as already advised.
Sorrowful delayed pedigree which am translating.' And later to the same
address: 'Much sorrowful delay. Will forward pedigree.' To his sub-partner
at Delhi he wired: 'Lutuf Ullah. Have wired two thousand rupees your credit
Luchman Narain's bank-' This was entirely in the way of trade, but every one
of those telegrams was discussed and re- discussed, by parties who conceived
themselves to be interested, before they went over to the railway station in
charge of a foolish Balti, who allowed all sorts of people to read them on
in Mahbub's own picturesque language, he had muddied the wells of inquiry
with the stick of precaution, Kim had dropped on him, sent from Heaven; and,
being as prompt as he was unscrupulous, Mahbub Ali used to taking all sorts
of gusty chances, pressed him into service on the spot.
wandering lama with a low-caste boy-servant might attract a moment's
interest as they wandered about India, the land of pilgrims; but no one
would suspect them or, what was more to the point, rob.
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 paper would
incriminate nobody. And he would go up to Umballa leisurely and - at a
certain risk of exciting fresh suspicion - repeat his tale by word of mouth
to the people concerned.
R17's report was the kernel of the whole affair, and it would be distinctly
inconvenient if that failed to come to hand. However, God was great, 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. That would have been a fatal
blot on Kim's character if Mahbub had not known that to others, for his own
ends or Mahbub's business, Kim could lie like an Oriental.
Mahbub Ali rolled across the serai to the Gate of the Harpies who paint
their eyes and trap the stranger, and was at some pains to call on the one
girl who, he had reason to believe, was a particular friend of a
smooth-faced Kashmiri pundit who had waylaid his simple Balti in the matter
of the telegrams. It was an utterly foolish thing to do; because they fell
to drinking perfumed brandy against the Law of the Prophet, and Mahbub grew
wonderfully drunk, and the gates of his mouth were loosened, and he pursued
the Flower of Delight with the feet of intoxication till he fell flat among
the cushions, where the Flower of Delight, aided by a smooth-faced Kashmiri
pundit, searched him from head to foot most thoroughly.
the same hour Kim heard soft feet in Mahbub's deserted stall. The
horse-trader, curiously enough, had left his door unlocked, and his men were
busy celebrating their return to India with a whole sheep of Mahbub's
bounty. A sleek young gentleman from Delhi, armed with a bunch of keys which
the Flower had unshackled from the senseless one's belt, went through every
single box, bundle, mat, and saddle-bag in Mahbub's possession even more
systematically than the Flower and the pundit were searching the owner.
I think.' said the Flower scornfully an hour later, one rounded elbow on the
snoring carcass, 'that he is no more than a pig of an Afghan 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.'
- in a matter touching Five Kings it would be next his black heart,' said
the pundit. 'Was there nothing?'
Delhi man laughed and resettled his turban as he entered. 'I searched
between the soles of his slippers as the Flower searched his clothes. This
is not the man but another. I leave little unseen.'
did not say he was the very man,' said the pundit thoughtfully. 'They said,
"Look if he be the man, since our counsels are troubled."'
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 of kafilas [caravans]
- who deal there,' said the Flower.
have not yet come in,' said the pundit. 'Thou must ensnare them later.'
said the Flower with deep disgust, rolling Mahbub's head from her lap. 'I
earn my money. Farrukh Shah is a bear, Ali Beg a swashbuckler, and old
Sikandar Khan - yaie! Go! I sleep now. This swine will not stir till dawn.'
Mahbub woke, the Flower talked to him severely on the sin of drunkenness.
Asiatics do not wink when they have outmanoeuvred an enemy, but as Mahbub
Ali cleared his throat, tightened his belt, and staggered forth under the
early morning stars, he came very near to it.
a colt's trick!' said he to himself 'As if every girl in Peshawur did not
use it! But 'twas prettily done. Now God He knows how many more there be
upon the Road who have orders to test me - perhaps with the knife. So it
stands that the boy must go to
Umballa - and by rail -for the writing is something urgent. I abide here,
following the Flower and drinking wine as an Afghan coper should.'
halted at the stall next but one to his own. His men lay there heavy with
sleep. There was no sign of Kim or the lama.
He stirred a sleeper. 'Whither went those who lay here last even - the lama
and the boy? Is aught missing?'
grunted the man, 'the old madman rose at second cockcrow saying he would go
to Benares, and the young one led him away.'
curse of Allah on all unbelievers!' said Mahbub heartily, and climbed into
his own stall, growling in his beard.
it was Kim who had wakened the lama - Kim with one eye laid against a
knot-hole in the planking, who had seen the Delhi man's search through the
boxes. This was no common thief that turned over letters, bills, and saddles
- no mere burglar who ran a little knife sideways into the soles of 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 own conclusions.
must be the pedigree of that made-up horse-lie,' said he, 'the thing that I
carry to Umballa. Better that we go now. Those who search bags with knives
may presently search bellies with knives. Surely there is a woman behind
this. Hai! Hai! in a whisper to the light-sleeping old man. 'Come. It is
time - time to go to Benares.'
lama rose obediently, and they passed out of the serai like shadows.
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