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Kim, by Rudyard Kipling
Followed a sudden natural
'Now am I alone all alone,' he thought. 'In all India is no one so alone as
I! If I die today, who shall bring the news -and to whom? If I live and God
is good, there will be a price upon my head, for I am a Son of the Charm -
A very few white people, but many
Asiatics, can throw themselves into a mazement as it were by repeating their
own names over and over again to themselves, letting the mind go free upon
speculation as to what is called personal identity. When one grows older,
the power, usually, departs, but while it lasts it may descend upon a man at
'Who is Kim - Kim - Kim?'
He squatted in a corner of the
clanging waiting-room, rapt from all other thoughts; hands folded in lap,
and pupils contracted to pin- points. In a minute - in another half-second -
he felt he would arrive at the solution of the tremendous puzzle; but here,
as always happens, his mind dropped away from those heights with a rush of a
wounded bird, and passing his hand before his eyes, he shook his head.
A long-haired Hindu bairagi [holy
man], who had just bought a ticket, halted before him at that moment and
'I also have lost it,' he said
sadly. 'It is one of the Gates to the Way, but for me it has been shut many
'What is the talk?' said Kim,
'Thou wast wondering there in thy
spirit what manner of thing thy soul might be. The seizure came of a sudden.
I know. Who should know but I? Whither goest thou?'
'Toward Kashi [Benares].'
'There are no Gods there. I have
proved them. I go to Prayag [Allahabad] for the fifth time - seeking the
Road to Enlightenment. Of what faith art thou?'
'I too am a Seeker,' said Kim,
using one of the lama's pet words. 'Though'-
he forgot his Northern dress for the moment - 'though Allah alone
knoweth what I seek.'
The old fellow slipped the
bairagi's crutch under his armpit and sat down on a patch of ruddy leopard's
skin as Kim rose at the call for the Benares train.
'Go in hope, little brother,' he
said. 'It is a long road to the feet of the One; but thither do we all
Kim did not feel so lonely after
this, and ere he had sat out twenty miles in the crowded compartment, was
cheering his neighbours with a string of most wonderful yarns about his own
and his master's magical gifts.
Benares struck him as a
peculiarly filthy city, though it was pleasant to find how his cloth was
respected. At least one-third of the
population prays eternally to some group or other of the many million
deities, and so reveres every sort of holy man. Kim was guided to the Temple
of the Tirthankars, about a mile outside the city, near Sarnath, by a
chance-met Punjabi farmer -
a Kamboh from Jullundur-way who had appealed in vain to every God of
his homestead to cure his small son, and was trying Benares as a last
'Thou art from the North?' he
asked, shouldering through the press of the narrow, stinking streets much
like his own pet bull at home.
'Ay, I know the Punjab. My mother
was a pahareen, but my father came from Amritzar - by Jandiala,' said Kim,
oiling his ready tongue for the needs of the Road.
'Jandiala - Jullundur? Oho! Then
we be neighbours in some sort, as it were.' He nodded tenderly to the
wailing child in his arms. 'Whom dost thou serve?'
'A most holy man at the Temple of
'They are all most holy and -
most greedy,' said the Jat with bitterness. 'I have walked the pillars and
trodden the temples till my feet are flayed, and the child is no whit
better. And the mother being sick too ... Hush, then, little one ... We
changed his name when the fever came. We put him into girl's clothes. There
was nothing we did not do, except - I said to his mother when she bundled me
off to Benares -she should have come with me - I said Sakhi Sarwar Sultan
would serve us best. We know His generosity, but these down-country Gods are
The child turned on the cushion
of the huge corded arms and looked at Kim through heavy eyelids.
'And was it all worthless?' Kim
asked, with easy interest.
'All worthless - all worthless,'
said the child, lips cracking with fever.
'The Gods have given him a good
mind, at least' said the father proudly. 'To think he should have listened
so cleverly. Yonder is thy Temple. Now I am a poor man - many priests have
dealt with me - but my son is my son, and if a gift to thy master can cure
him - I am at my very wits' end.'
Kim considered for a while,
tingling with pride. Three years ago he would have made prompt profit on the
situation and gone his way without a thought; but now, the very respect the
Jat paid him proved that he was a man. Moreover, he had tasted fever once or
twice already, and knew enough to recognize starvation when he saw it.
'Call him forth and I will give
him a bond on my best yoke, so that the child is cured.'
Kim halted at the carved outer
door of the temple. A white-clad Oswal
banker from Ajmir, his
sins of usury new wiped out, asked him what he did.
'I am chela to Teshoo Lama, an
Holy One from Bhotiyal -within there. He bade me come. I wait. Tell him.'
'Do not forget the child,' cried
the importunate Jat over his shoulder, and then bellowed in Punjabi; 'O Holy
One - O disciple of the Holy One - O Gods above all the Worlds -behold
affliction sitting at the gate!' That cry is so common in Benares that the
passers never turned their heads.
The Oswal, at peace with mankind,
carried the message into the darkness behind him, and the easy, uncounted
Eastern minutes slid by; for the lama was asleep in his cell, and no priest
would wake him. When the click of his rosary again broke the hush of the
inner court where the calm images of the Arhats stand, a novice whispered,
'Thy chela is here,' and the old man strode forth, forgetting the end of
Hardly had the tall figure shown
in the doorway than the Jat ran before him, and, lifting up the child,
cried: 'Look upon this, Holy One; and if the Gods will, he lives - he
He fumbled in his waist-belt and
drew out a small silver coin.
'What is now?' The lama's eyes
turned to Kim. It was noticeable he spoke far clearer Urdu than long ago,
under ZamZammah; but father would allow no private talk.
'It is no more than a fever,'
said Kim. 'The child is not well fed.'
'He sickens at everything, and
his mother is not here.'
'If it be permitted, I may cure,
'What! Have they made thee a
healer? Wait here,' said the lama, and he sat down by the Jat upon the
lowest step of the temple, while Kim, looking out of the corner of his eyes,
slowly opened the little betel-box. He had dreamed dreams at school of
returning to the lama as a Sahib - of chaffing the old man before he
revealed himself - boy's dreams all. There was more drama in this
abstracted, brow- puckered search through the tabloid-bottles, with a pause
here and there for thought and a muttered invocation between whiles. Quinine
he had in tablets, and dark brown meat-lozenges - beef most probably, but
that was not his business. The little thing would not eat, but it sucked at
a lozenge greedily, and said it liked the salt taste.
'Take then these six.' Kim handed
them to the man. 'Praise the Gods, and boil three in milk; other three in
water. After he has drunk the milk give him this' (it was the half of a
quinine pill), 'and wrap him warm. Give him the water of the other three,
and the other half of this white pill when he wakes. Meantime, here is
another brown medicine that he may suck at on the way home.'
'Gods, what wisdom!' said the
It was as much as Kim could
remember of his own treatment in a bout of autumn malaria - if you except
the patter that he added to impress the lama.
'Now go! Come again in the
'But the price - the price,' said
the Jat, and threw back his sturdy shoulders. 'My son is my son. Now that he
will be whole again, how shall I go back to his mother and say I took help
by the wayside and did not even give a bowl of curds in return?'
'They are alike, these Jats,'
said Kim softly. 'The Jat stood on his dunghill and the King's elephants
went by. "O driver," said he, "what will you sell those
little donkeys for?"'
The Jat burst into a roar of
laughter, stifled with apologies to the lama. 'It is the saying of my own
country the very talk of it. So
are we Jats all. I will come tomorrow with the child; and the blessing of
the Gods of the Homesteads - who are good little Gods - be on you both ...
Now, son, we grow strong again. Do not spit it out, little Princeling! King
of my Heart, do not spit it out, and we shall be strong men, wrestlers and
club-wielders, by morning.'
He moved away, crooning and
mumbling. The lama turned to Kim, and all the loving old soul of him looked
out through his narrow eyes.
'To heal the sick is to acquire
merit; but first one gets knowledge. That was wisely done, O Friend of all
'I was made wise by thee, Holy
One,' said Kim, forgetting the little play just ended; forgetting St
Xavier's; forgetting his white blood; forgetting even the Great Game as he
stooped, Mohammedan-fashion, to touch his master's feet in the dust of the
Jain temple. 'My teaching I owe to thee. I have eaten thy bread three years.
My time is finished. I am loosed from the schools. I come to thee.'
'Herein is my reward. Enter!
Enter! And is all well?' They passed to the inner court, where the afternoon
sun sloped golden across. 'Stand that I may see. So!' He peered critically.
'It is no longer a child, but a man, ripened in wisdom, walking as a
physician. I did well - I did well when I gave thee up to the armed men on
that black night. Dost thou remember our first day under Zam-Zammah?'
'Ay,' said Kim. 'Dost thou
remember when I leapt off the carriage the first day I went to -'
'The Gates of Learning? Truly.
And the day that we ate the cakes together at the back of the river by
Nucklao. Aha! Many times hast thou begged for me, but that day I begged for
'Good reason,' quoth Kim. 'I was
then a scholar in the Gates of Learning, and attired as a Sahib. Do not
forget, Holy One,' he went on playfully. 'I am still a Sahib - by thy favour.'
'True. And a Sahib in most high
esteem. Come to my cell, chela.'
'How is that known to thee?'
The lama smiled. 'First by means
of letters from the kindly priest whom we met in the camp of armed men; but
he is now gone to his own country, and I sent the money to his brother.'
Colonel Creighton, who had succeeded to the trusteeship when Father Victor
went to England with the Mavericks, was hardly the Chaplain's brother. 'But
I do not well understand Sahibs' letters. They must be interpreted to me. I
chose a surer way. Many times when I returned from my Search to this Temple,
which has always been a nest to me, there came one seeking Enlightenment - a
man from Leh - that had been, he said, a Hindu, but wearied of all those
Gods.' The lama pointed to the Arhats.
'A fat man?' said Kim, a twinkle
in his eye.
'Very fat; but I perceived in a
little his mind was wholly given up to useless things - such as devils and
charms and the form and fashion of our tea-drinkings in the monasteries, and
by what road we initiated the novices. A man abounding in questions; but he
was a friend of thine, chela. He told me that thou wast on the road to much
honour as a scribe. And I see thou art a physician.'
'Yes, that am I - a scribe, when
I am a Sahib, but it is set aside when I come as thy disciple. I have
accomplished the years appointed for a Sahib.'
'As it were a novice?' said the
lama, nodding his head. 'Art thou freed from the schools? I would not have
'I am all free. In due time I
take service under the Government as a scribe -'
'Not as a warrior. That is well.'
'But first I come to wander
with thee. Therefore I am here. Who begs for thee, these days?' he
went on quickly. The ice was thin.
'Very often I beg myself; but, as
thou knowest, I am seldom here, except when I come to look again at my
disciple. From one end to another of Hind have I travelled afoot and in the
te-rain. A great and a wonderful land! But here, when I put in, is as though
I were in mv own Bhotiyal.'
He looked round the little clean
cell complacently. A low cushion gave him a seat, on which he had disposed
himself in the cross- legged attitude of the Bodhisat emerging from
meditation; a black teak-wood table, not twenty inches high, set with copper
tea-cups, was before him. In one corner stood a tiny altar, also of heavily
carved teak, bearing a copper-gilt image of the seated Buddha and fronted by
a lamp, an incense-holder, and a pair of copper flower- pots.
'The Keeper of the Images in the
Wonder House acquired merit by giving me these a year since,' he said,
following Kim's eye. 'When one is far from one's own land such things carry
remembrance; and we must reverence the Lord for that He showed the Way.
See!' He pointed to a curiously-built mound of coloured rice crowned with a
fantastic metal ornament. 'When I was Abbot in my own place - before I came
to better knowledge I made that
offering daily. It is the Sacrifice of the Universe to the Lord. Thus do we
of Bhotiyal offer all the world daily to the Excellent Law. And I do it even
now, though I know that the Excellent One is beyond all pinchings and
pattings.' He snuffed from his gourd.
'It is well done, Holy One,' Kim
murmured, sinking at ease on the cushions, very happy and rather tired.
'And also,' the old man chuckled,
'I write pictures of the Wheel of Life. Three days to a picture. I was
busied on it - or it may be I shut my eyes a little - when they brought word
of thee. It is good to have thee here: I will show thee my art - not for
pride's sake, but because thou must learn. The Sahibs have not all this
He drew from under the table a
sheet of strangely scented yellow Chinese paper, the brushes, and slab of
Indian ink. In cleanest, severest outline he had traced the Great Wheel with
its six spokes, whose centre is the conjoined Hog, Snake, and Dove
(Ignorance, Anger, and Lust), and whose compartments are all the Heavens and
Hells, and all the chances of human life. Men say that the Bodhisat Himself
first drew it with grains of rice upon dust, to teach His disciples the
cause of things. Many ages have crystallized it into a most wonderful
convention crowded with hundreds of little figures whose every line carries
a meaning. Few can translate the picture- parable; there are not twenty in
all the world who can draw it surely without a copy: of those who can both
draw and expound are but three.
'I have a little learned to
draw,' said Kim. 'But this is a marvel beyond marvels.'
'I have written it for many
years,' said the lama. 'Time was when I could write it all between one
lamp-lighting and the next. I will teach thee the art - after due
preparation; and I will show thee the meaning of the Wheel.'
'We take the Road, then?'
'The Road and our Search. I was
but waiting for thee. It was made plain to me in a hundred dreams
- notably one that came upon the night of the day that the Gates of
Learning first shut that
without thee I should never find my River. Again and again, as thou knowest,
I put this from me, fearing an illusion. Therefore I would not take thee
with me that day at Lucknow, when we ate the cakes. I would not take thee
till the. time was ripe and auspicious. From the Hills to the Sea, from the
Sea to the Hills have I gone, but it was vain. Then I remembered the Tataka.'
He told Kim the story of the
elephant with the leg-iron, as he had told it so often to the Jam priests.
'Further testimony is not
needed,' he ended serenely. 'Thou wast sent for an aid. That aid removed, my
Search came to naught. Therefore we will go out again together, and our
'Whither go we?'
'What matters, Friend of all the
World? The Search, I say, is sure. If need be, the River will break from the
ground before us. I acquired merit when I sent thee to the Gates of
Learning, and gave thee the jewel that is Wisdom. Thou didst return, I saw
even now, a follower of Sakyamuni, the Physician, whose altars are many in
Bhotiyal. It is sufficient. We are together, and all things are as they were
- Friend of all the World -Friend of the Stars - my chela!'
Then they talked of matters
secular; but it was noticeable that the lama never demanded any details of
life at St Xavier's, nor showed the faintest curiosity as to the manners and
customs of Sahibs. His mind moved all in the past, and he revived every step
of their wonderful first journey together, rubbing his hands and chuckling,
till it pleased him to curl himself up into the sudden sleep of old age.
Kim watched the last dusty
sunshine fade out of the court, and played with his ghost-dagger and rosary.
The clamour of Benares, oldest of all earth's cities awake before the Gods,
day and night, beat round the
walls as the sea's roar round a breakwater. Now and again, a Jain priest
crossed the court, with some small offering to the images, and swept the
path about him lest by chance he should take the life of a living thing. A
lamp twinkled, and there followed the sound of a prayer. Kim watched the
stars as they rose one after another in the still, sticky dark, till he fell
asleep at the foot of the altar. That night he dreamed in Hindustani, with
never an English word...
'Holy One, there is the child to
whom we gave the medicine,' he said,
about three o'clock in the morning, when the lama, also waking from dreams,
would have fared forth on pilgrimage. 'The Jat will be here at the light.'
'I am well answered. In my haste
I would have done a wrong.' He sat down on the cushions and returned to his
rosary. 'Surely old folk are as children,' he said pathetically. 'They
desire a matter - behold, it
must be done at once, or they fret and weep! Many times when I was upon the
Road I have been ready to stamp with my feet at the hindrance of an ox-cart
in the way, or a mere cloud of dust. It was not so when I was a man - a long
time ago. None the less it is wrongful -'
'But thou art indeed old, Holy
'The thing was done. A Cause was
put out into the world, and, old or young, sick or sound, knowing or
unknowing, who can rein in the effect of that Cause? Does the Wheel hang
still if a child spin it - or a drunkard? Chela, this is a great and a
'I think it good,' Kim yawned.
'What is there to eat? I have not eaten since yesterday even.'
'I had forgotten thy need. Yonder
is good Bhotiyal tea and cold rice.'
'We cannot walk far on such
stuff.' Kim felt all the European's lust for flesh-meat, which is not
accessible in a Jain temple. Yet, instead of going out at once with the
begging-bowl, he stayed his stomach on slabs of cold rice till the full
dawn. It brought the farmer, voluble, stuttering with gratitude.
'In the night the fever broke and
the sweat came, he cried. 'Feel here - his skin is fresh and new! He
esteemed the salt lozenges, and took milk with greed.' He drew the cloth
from the child's face, and it smiled sleepily at Kim. A little knot of Jain
priests, silent but all-observant, gathered by the temple door. They
knew, and Kim knew that they knew, how the old lama had met his disciple.
Being courteous folk, they had not obtruded themselves overnight by
presence, word, or gesture. Wherefore Kim repaid them as the sun rose.
'Thank the Gods of the Jains,
brother,' he said, not knowing how those Gods were named. 'The fever is
'Look! See!' The lama beamed in
the background upon his hosts of three years. 'Was there ever such a chela?
He follows our Lord the Healer.'
Now the Jains officially
recognize all the Gods of the Hindu creed, as well as the Lingam and the
Snake. They wear the Brahminical thread; they adhere to every claim of Hindu
caste-law. But, because they knew and loved the lama, because he was an old
man, because he sought the Way, because he was their guest, and because he
collogued long of nights with the head-priest - as free-thinking a
metaphysician as ever split one hair into seventy - they murmured assent.
'Remember,' - Kim bent over the
child -. 'this trouble may come again.
'Not if thou hast the proper
spell,' said the father.
'But in a little while we go
'True,' said the lama to all the
Jains. 'We go now together upon the Search whereof I have often spoken. I
waited till my chela was ripe. Behold him! We go North. Never again shall I
look upon this place of my rest, O people of good will.'
'But I am not a beggar.' The
cultivator rose to his feet, clutching the child.
'Be still. Do not trouble the
Holy One,' a priest cried.
'Go,' Kim whispered. 'Meet us
again under the big railway bridge, and for the sake of all the Gods of our
Punjab, bring food - curry, pulse, cakes fried in fat, and sweetmeats.
Specially sweetmeats. Be swift!'
The pallor of hunger suited Kim
very well as he stood, tall and slim, in his sand-coloured, sweeping robes,
one hand on his rosary and the other in the attitude of benediction,
faithfully copied from the lama. An English observer might have said that he
looked rather like the young saint of a stained-glass window, whereas he was
but a growing lad faint with emptiness.
Long and formal were the
farewells, thrice ended and thrice renewed.
The Seeker - he who had invited the lama to that haven from far- away
Tibet, a silver-faced, hairless ascetic -took no part in it, but meditated,
as always, alone among the images. The others were very human; pressing
small comforts upon the old man - a betel-box, a fine new iron pencase, a
food-bag, and such-like - warning him against the dangers of the world
without, and prophesying a happy end to the Search. Meantime Kim, lonelier
than ever, squatted on the steps, and swore to himself in the language of St
'But it is my own fault,' he
concluded. 'With Mahbub, I ate Mahbub's bread, or Lurgan Sahib's. At St
Xavier's, three meals a day. Here I must jolly-well look out for myself.
Besides, I am not in good training. How I could eat a plate of beef now! ...
Is it finished, Holy One?'
The lama, both hands raised,
intoned a final blessing in ornate Chinese. 'I must lean on thy shoulder,'
said he, as the temple gates closed. 'We grow stiff, I think.'
The weight of a six-foot man is
not light to steady through miles of crowded streets, and Kim, loaded down
with bundles and packages for the way, was glad to reach the shadow of the
'Here we eat,' he said
resolutely, as the Kamboh, blue-robed and smiling, hove in sight, a basket
in one hand and the child in the other.
'Fall to, Holy Ones!' he cried
from fifty yards. (They were by the shoal under the first bridge-span, out
of sight of hungry priests.) 'Rice and good curry, cakes all warm and well
scented with king [asafoetida), curds and sugar. King of my fields,' -this
to the small son - 'let us show these holy men that we Jats of Jullundur can
pay a service . . . I had heard the Jams would eat nothing that they had not
cooked, but truly' - he looked away politely over the broad river - 'where
there is no eye there is no caste.'
'And we,' said Kim, turning his
back and heaping a leafplatter for the lama, 'are beyond all castes.'
They gorged themselves on the
good food in silence. Nor till he had licked the last of the sticky
sweetstuff from his little finger did Kim note that the Kamboh too was girt
'If our roads lie together,' he
said roughly, 'I go with thee. One does not often find a worker of miracles,
and the child is still weak. But I am not altogether a reed.' He picked up
his lathi - a five-foot male-bamboo ringed with bands of polished iron - and
flourished it in the air. 'The Jats are called quarrel-some, but that is not
true. Except when we are crossed, we are like our own buffaloes.'
'So be it,' said Kim. 'A good
stick is a good reason.'
The lama gazed placidly
up-stream, where in long, smudged perspective the ceaseless columns of smoke
go up from the burning- ghats by the river. Now and again, despite all
municipal regulations, the fragment of a half-burned body bobbed by on the
'But for thee,' said the Kamboh
to Kim, drawing the child into his hairy breast, 'I might today have gone
thither - with this one. The priests tell us that Benares is holy - which
none doubt - and desirable to die in. But I do not know their Gods, and they
ask for money; and when one has done one worship a shaved-head vows it is of
none effect except one do another. Wash here! Wash there! Pour, drink, lave,
and scatter flowers -but always pay the priests. No, the Punjab for me, and
the soil of the Jullundur-doab for the best soil in it.
'I have said many times - in the
Temple, I think - that if need be, the River will open at our feet. We will
therefore go North,' said the lama, rising. 'I remember a pleasant place,
set about with fruit-trees, where one can walk in meditation - and the air
is cooler there. It comes from the Hills and the snow of the Hills.'
'What is the name?' said Kim.
'How should I know? Didst thou
not - no, that was after the Army rose out of the earth and took thee away.
I abode there in meditation in a room against the dovecot - except when she
'Oho! the woman from Kulu. That
is by Saharunpore.' Kim laughed.
'How does the spirit move thy
master? Does he go afoot, for the sake of past sins?' the Jat demanded
cautiously. 'It is a far cry to Delhi.'
'No,' said Kim. 'I will beg a
tikkut for the te-rain.' One does not own to the possession of money in
'Then, in the name of the Gods,
let us take the fire-carriage. My son is best in his mother's arms. The
Government has brought on us many taxes, but it gives us one good thing -
the te-rain that joins friends and unites the anxious. A wonderful matter is
They all piled into it a couple
of hours later, and slept through the heat of the day. The Kamboh plied Kim
with ten thousand questions as to the lama's walk and work in life, and
received some curious answers. Kim was content to be where he was, to look
out upon the flat North-Western landscape, and to talk to the changing mob
of fellow-passengers. Even today, tickets and ticket- clipping are dark
oppression to Indian rustics. They do not understand why, when they have
paid for a magic piece of paper, strangers should punch great pieces out of
the charm. So, long and furious are the debates between travellers and
Eurasian ticket- collectors. Kim assisted at two or three with grave advice,
meant to darken counsel and to show off his wisdom before the lama and the
admiring Kamboh. But at Somna Road the Fates sent him a matter to think
upon. There tumbled into the compartment, as the train was moving off, a
mean, lean little person - a Mahratta, so far as Kim could judge by the cock
of the tight turban. His face was cut, his muslin upper-garment was badly
torn, and one leg was bandaged. He told them that a country-cart had upset
and nearlv slain him: he was going to Delhi, where his son lived. Kim
watched him closely. If, as he asserted, he had been rolled over and over on
the earth, there should have been signs of gravel-rash on the skin. But all
his injuries seemed clean cuts, and a mere fall from a cart could not cast a
man into such extremity of terror. As, with shaking fingers, he knotted up
the torn cloth about his neck he laid bare an amulet of the kind called a
keeper-up of the heart. Now, amulets are common enough, but they are not
generally strung on square-plaited copper wire, and still fewer amulets bear
black enamel on silver. There were none except the Kamboh and the lama in
the compartment, which, luckily, was of an old type with solid ends. Kim
made as to scratch in his bosom, and thereby lifted his own amulet. The
Mahratta's face changed altogether at the sight, and he disposed the amulet
fairly on his breast.
'Yes,' he went on to the Kamboh,
'I was in haste, and the cart, driven by a bastard, bound its wheel in a
water-cut, and besides the harm done to me there was lost a full dish of
tarkeean. I was not a Son of the Charm [a lucky man] that day.'
'That was a great loss,' said the
Kamboh, withdrawing interest. His experience of Benares had made him
'Who cooked it?' said Kim.
'A woman.' The Mahratta raised
'But all women can cook tarkeean,'
said the Kamboh. 'It is a good curry, as I know.'
'Oh yes, it is a good curry,'
said the Mahratta.
'And cheap,' said Kim. 'But what
'Oh, there is no caste where men
go to - look for tarkeean,' the Mahratta replied, in the prescribed cadence.
'Of whose service art thou?'
'Of the service of this Holy
One.' Kim pointed to the happy, drowsy lama, who woke with a jerk at the
'Ah, he was sent from Heaven to
aid me. He is called the Friend of all the World. He is also called the
Friend of the Stars. He walks as a physician - his time being ripe. Great is
'And a Son of the Charm,' said
Kim under his breath, as the Kamboh made haste to prepare a pipe lest the
Mahratta should beg.
'And who is that?' the Mahratta
asked, glancing sideways nervously.
'One whose child I - we have
cured, who lies under great debt to us. Sit by the window, man from
Jullundur. Here is a sick one.'
'Humph! I have no desire to mix
with chance-met wastrels. My ears are not long. I am not a woman wishing to
overhear secrets.' The Jat slid himself heavily into a far corner.
'Art thou anything of a healer? I
am ten leagues deep in calamity,' cried the Mahratta, picking up the cue.
'This man is cut and bruised all
over. I go about to cure him,' Kim retorted. 'None interfered between thy
babe and me.'
'I am rebuked,' said the Kamboh
meekly. 'I am thy debtor for the life of my son. Thou art a miracle-worker -
I know it.'
'Show me the cuts.' Kim bent over
the Mahratta's neck, his heart nearly choking him; for this was the Great
Game with a vengeance. 'Now, tell thy tale swiftly, brother, while I say a
'I come from the South, where my
work lay. One of us they slew by the roadside. Hast thou heard?' Kim shook
his head. He, of course, knew nothing of E's predecessor, slain down South
in the habit of an Arab trader. 'Having found a certain letter which I was
sent to seek, I came away. I escaped from the city and ran to Mhow. So sure
was I that none knew, I did not change my face. At Mhow a woman brought
charge against me of theft of jewellery in that city which I had left. Then
I saw the cry was out against me. I ran from Mhow by night, bribing the
police, who had been bribed to hand me over without question to my enemies
in the South. Then I lay in old Chitor city
a week, a penitent in a temple, but I could not get rid of the letter
which was my charge. I buried it under the Queen's Stone, at Chitor, in the
place known to us all.'
Kim did not know, but not for
worlds would he have broken the thread.
'At Chitor, look you, I was all
in Kings' country; for Kotah to
the east is beyond the Queen's law, and east again lie Jaipur and Gwalior.
Neither love spies, and there is no justice. I was hunted like a wet jackal;
but I broke through at Bandakui, where I heard there was a charge
against me of murder in the city I had left - of the murder of a boy. They
have both the corpse and the witnesses waiting.'
'But cannot the Government
'We of the Game are beyond
protection. If we die, we die. Our names are blotted from the book. That is
all. At Bandakui, where lives one of Us, I thought to slip the scent by
changing my face, and so made me a Mahratta. Then I came to Agra, and would
have turned back to Chitor to recover the letter. So sure I was I had
slipped them. Therefore I did not send a tar [telegram] to any one saying
where the letter lay. I wished the credit of it all.'
Kim nodded. He understood that
'But at Agra, walking in the
streets, a man cried a debt against me, and approaching with many witnesses,
would hale me to the courts then and there. Oh, they are clever in the
South! He recognized me as his agent for cotton. May he burn in Hell for
'And wast thou?'
'O fool! I was the man they
sought for the matter of the letter! I ran into the Fleshers' Ward and came out by the House of the Jew, who feared a riot and
pushed me forth. I came afoot to Somna Road - I had only money for my tikkut
to Delhi - and there, while I lay in a ditch with a fever, one sprang out of
the bushes and beat me and cut me and searched me from head to foot. Within
earshot of the te- rain it was!'
'Why did he not slay thee out of
'They are not so foolish. If I am
taken in Delhi at the instance of lawyers, upon a proven charge of murder,
my body is handed over to the State that desires it. I go back guarded, and
then - I die slowly for an example to the rest of Us. The South is not my
country. I run in circles - like a goat with one eye. I have not eaten for
two days. I am marked' - he touched the filthy bandage on his leg - 'so that
they will know me at Delhi.'
'Thou art safe in the te-rain, at
'Live a year at the Great Game
and tell me that again! The wires will be out against me at Delhi,
describing every tear and rag upon me. Twenty - a hundred, if need be - will
have seen me slay that boy. And thou art useless!'
Kim knew enough of native methods
of attack not to doubt that the case would be deadly complete - even to the
corpse. The Mahratta twitched his fingers with pain from time to time. The
Kamboh in his corner glared sullenly; the lama was busy over his beads; and
Kim, fumbling doctor-fashion at the man's neck, thought out his plan between
'Hast thou a charm to change my
shape? Else I am dead. Five - ten minutes alone, if I had not been so
pressed, and I might -'
'Is he cured yet,
miracle-worker?' said the Kamboh jealously. 'Thou hast chanted long enough.'
'Nay. There is no cure for his
hurts, as I see, except he sit for three days in the habit of a bairagi.'
This is a common penance, often imposed on a fat trader by his spiritual
'One priest always goes about to
make another priest,' was the retort. Like most grossly superstitious folk,
the Kamboh could not keep his tongue from deriding his Church.
'Will thy son be a priest, then?
It is time he took more of my quinine.'
'We Jats are all buffaloes,' said
the Kamboh, softening anew.
Kim rubbed a finger-tip of
bitterness on the child's trusting little lips. 'I have asked for nothing,'
he said sternly to the father, 'except food. Dost thou grudge me that? I go
to heal another man. Have I thy leave - Prince?'
Up flew the man's huge paws in
supplication. 'Nay - nay. Do not mock me thus.'
'It pleases me to cure this sick
one. Thou shalt acquire merit by aiding. What colour ash is there in thy
pipe-bowl? White. That is auspicious. Was there raw turmeric among thy foodstuffs?'
'I - I -'
'Open thy bundle!'
It was the usual collection of
small oddments: bits of cloth, quack medicines, cheap fairings, a clothful
of atta - greyish, rough- ground native flour - twists of down-country
tobacco, tawdry pipe- stems, and a packet of curry-stuff, all wrapped in. a
quilt. Kim turned it over with the air of a wise warlock, muttering a
'This is wisdom I learned from
the Sahibs,' he whispered to the lama; and here, when one thinks of his
training at Lurgan's, he spoke no more than the truth. 'There is a great
evil in this man's fortune, as shown by the Stars, which - which troubles
him. Shall I take it away?'
'Friend of the Stars, thou hast
done well in all things. Let it be at thy pleasure. Is it another healing?'
'Quick! Be quick!' gasped the
Mahratta. 'The train may stop.'
'A healing against the shadow of
death,' said Kim, mixing the Kamboh's flour with the mingled charcoal and
tobacco ash in the red- earth bowl of the pipe. E, without a word, slipped
off his turban and shook down his long black hair.
'That is my food - priest,' the jat growled.
'A buffalo in the temple!
Hast thou dared to look even thus far?' said Kim.
'I must do mysteries before fools; but have a care for thine eyes.
Is there a film before them already?
I save the babe, and for return thou - oh, shameless!' The man
flinched at the direct gaze, for Kim was wholly in earnest.
'Shall I curse thee, or shall I
-' He picked up the outer cloth of the bundle and threw it over the bowed
head. 'Dare so much as to think
a wish to see, and - and - even I cannot save thee.
'I am blind - dumb.
Forbear to curse! Co - come, child; we will play a game of hiding.
Do not, for my sake, look from under the cloth.'
'I see hope,' said E23.
'What is thy scheme?'
'This comes next,' said Kim,
plucking the thin body-shirt. E23 hesitated, with all a North-West man's
dislike of baring his body.
'What is caste to a cut throat?'
said Kim, rending it to the waist. 'We must make thee a yellow Saddhu all
over. Strip -
strip swiftly, and shake thy hair over thine eyes while I scatter the
ash. Now, a caste-mark on thy forehead.' He drew from his bosom the little
Survey paint-box and a cake of crimson lake.
'Art thou only a beginner?' said
E23, labouring literally for the dear life, as he slid out of his
body-wrappings and stood clear in the loin-cloth while Kim splashed in a
noble caste-mark on the ash- smeared brow.
'But two days entered to the
Game, brother,' Kim replied. 'Smear more ash on the bosom.'
'Hast thou met - a physician of
sick pearls?' He switched out his long, tight-rolled turban-cloth and, with
swiftest hands, rolled it over and under about his loins into the intricate
devices of a Saddhu's cincture.
Dost thou know his touch, then?
He was my teacher for a while. We
must bar thy legs. Ash cures
wounds. Smear it again.'
'I was his pride once, but thou
art almost better. The Gods are
kind to us! Give me that.'
It was a tin box of opium pills
among the rubbish of the Jat's bundle.
E23 gulped down a half handful.
'They are good against hunger, fear, and chill.
And they make the eyes red too,' he explained.
'Now I shall have heart to play the Game.
We lack only a Saddhu's tongs. What
of the old clothes?'
Kim rolled them small, and
stuffed them into the slack folds of his tunic.
With a yellow-ochre paint cake he smeared the legs and the breast,
great streaks against the background of flour, ash, and turmeric.
'The blood on them is enough to
hang thee, brother.'
'Maybe; but no need to throw them
out of the window ... It is finished.' His voice thrilled with a boy's pure
delight in the Game. 'Turn and
look, O jat!'
'The Gods protect us,' said the
hooded Kamboh, emerging like a buffalo from the reeds. 'But - whither went
the Mahratta? What hast thou done?'
Kim had been trained by Lurgan
Sahib; E23, by virtue of his business, was no bad actor.
In place of the tremulous, shrinking trader there lolled against the
corner an all but naked, ash- smeared, ochre-barred, dusty-haired Saddhu,
his swollen eyes - opium takes quick effect on an empty stomach - luminous
with insolence and bestial lust, his legs crossed under him, Kim's brown
rosary round his neck, and a scant yard of worn, flowered chintz on his
shoulders. The child buried his
face in his amazed father's arms.
'Look up, Princeling!
We travel with warlocks, but they will not hurt thee.
Oh, do not cry ... What is the sense of curing a child one day and
killing him with fright the next?'
'The child will be fortunate all
his life. He has seen a great
healing. When I was a child I
made clay men and horses.'
'I have made them too.
Sir Banas, he comes in the night and makes them all alive at the back
of our kitchen-midden,' piped the child.
'And so thou art not frightened
at anything. Eh, Prince?'
'I was frightened because my
father was frightened. I felt
his arms shake.'
'Oh, chicken-man!' said Kim, and
even the abashed Jat laughed. 'I have done a healing on this poor trader.
He must forsake his
gains and his account-books, and sit by the wayside
three nights to overcome the malignity of his enemies. The
Stars are against him.'
'The fewer money-lenders the
better, say I; but, Saddhu or no Saddhu, he should pay for my stuff on his
'So? But that is thy child on thy
shoulder - given over to the burning-ghat not two days ago. There remains
one thing more. I did this charm in thy presence because need was great.I
changed his shape and his soul. None
the less, if, by any chance, O man from Jullundur, thou rememberest what
thou hast seen, either among the elders sitting under the village tree, or
in thine own house, or in company of thy priest when he blesses thy cattle,
a murrain will come among the buffaloes, and a fire in thy thatch, and rats
in the corn-bins, and the curse of our Gods upon thy fields that they may be
barren before thy feet and after thy ploughshare.' This was part of an old
curse picked up from a fakir by the Taksali Gate in the days of Kim's
innocence. It lost nothing by repetition.
'Cease, Holy One!
In mercy, cease!' cried the Jat.
'Do not curse the household. I
saw nothing! I heard nothing! I
am thy cow!' and he made to grab at Kim's bare foot beating rhythmically on
the carriage floor. 'But since thou hast been permitted to aid me in the
matter of a pinch of flour and a little opium and such trifles as I have
honoured by using in my art, so will the Gods return a blessing,' and he
gave it at length, to the man's immense relief. It was one that he had
learned from Lurgan Sahib.
The lama stared through his
spectacles as he had not stared at the business of disguisement. 'Friend of
the Stars,' he said at last, 'thou
hast acquired great wisdom. Beware that it do not give birth to pride. No
man having the Law before his eyes speaks hastily of any matter which he has
seen or encountered.'
'No - no - no, indeed,' cried the
farmer, fearful lest the master should be minded to improve on the pupil.
E23, with relaxed mouth, gave himself up to the opium that is meat, tobacco,
and medicine to the spent Asiatic.
So, in a silence of awe and great miscomprehension, they slid into Delhi about lamp-lighting time.
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