|Table of Contents|
Kim, by Rudyard Kipling
'I have found my heart again,'
said E23, under cover of the platform's tumult.
'Hunger and fear make men dazed, or I might have thought of this
escape before. I was right.
They come to hunt for me. Thou
hast saved my head.'
A group of yellow-trousered
Punjab policemen, headed by a hot and perspiring young Englishman, parted
the crowd about the carriages. Behind them, inconspicuous as a cat, ambled a
small fat person who looked like a lawyer's tout.
'See the young Sahib reading from
a paper. My description is in his hand,' said E23. 'Thev go carriage by
carriage, like fisher-folk netting a pool.'
When the procession reached their
compartment, E23 was counting his beads with a steady jerk of the wrist;
while Kim jeered at him for being so drugged as to have lost the ringed
fire-tongs which are the Saddhu's distinguishing mark. The lama, deep in
meditation, stared straight before him; and the farmer, glancing furtively,
gathered up his belongings.
'Nothing here but a parcel of
holy-bolies,' said the Englishman aloud, and passed on amid a ripple of
uneasiness; for native police mean extortion to the native all India over.
'The trouble now, ' whispered
E23, 'lies in sending a wire as to the place where I hid that letter I was
sent to find. I cannot go to the tar-office in this guise.'
'Is it not enough I have saved
'Not if the work be left
unfinished. Did never the
healer of sick pearls tell thee so? Comes
another Sahib! Ah!'
This was a tallish, sallowish
District Superintendent of Police - belt, helmet, polished spurs and all -
strutting and twirling his dark moustache.
'What fools are these Police
Sahibs!' said Kim genially.
E23 glanced up under his eyelids.
'It is well said,' he muttered in a changed voice.
'I go to drink water. Keep
He blundered out almost into the
Englishman's arms, and was bad- worded in clumsy Urdu.
You drunk? You mustn't
bang about as though Delhi station belonged to you, my friend.'
E23, not moving a muscle of his
countenance, answered with a stream of the filthiest abuse, at which Kim
naturally rejoiced. It reminded him of the drummer-boys and the barrack-
sweepers at Umballa in the terrible time of his first schooling.
'My good fool,' the Englishman
Go back to your carriage.'
Step by step, withdrawing
deferentially and dropping his voice, the yellow Saddhu clomb back to the
carriage, cursing the D.S.P. to remotest posterity, by - here Kim almost
jumped - by the curse of the Queen's Stone, by the writing under the Queen's
Stone, and by an assortment of Gods "with wholly, new names.
'I don't know what you're
saving,' - the Englishman flushed angrily - 'but it's some piece of blasted
impertinence. Come out of that!'
E23, affecting to misunderstand,
gravely produced his ticket, which the Englishman wrenched angrily from his
'Oh, zoolum! What oppression!' growled the Jat from his corner. 'All for
the sake of a jest too.' He had been grinning at the freedom of the Saddhu's
tongue. 'Thy charms do not work well today, Holy One!'
The Saddhu followed the
policeman, fawning and supplicating. The ruck of passengers, busy, with
their babies andtheir bundles, had not noticed the affair. Kim slipped
outbehind him; for it flashed through his head that he had heardthis angry,
stupid Sahib discoursing loud personalities to an oldlady near Umballa three
'It is well', the Saddhu
whispered, jammed in the calling, shouting, bewildered press - a Persian
greyhound between his feet and a cageful of yelling hawks under charge of a
Rajput falconer in the small of his back.
'He has gone now to send word of the letter which I hid. Thev told me
he was in Peshawur. I might have known that he is like the crocodile -
always at the other ford. He has saved me from present calamity, but I owe
my life to thee.'
'Is he also one of Us?' Kim
ducked under a Mewar camel-driver's greasy armpit and cannoned off a covey
of jabbering Sikh matrons.
'Not less than the greatest.
We are both fortunate! I
will make report to him of what thou hast done.
I am safe under his protection.'
He bored through the edge of the
crowd besieging the carriages, and squatted by the bench near the
'Return, or they take thy place!
Have no fear for the work, brother - or my life.
Thou hast given me breathing-space, and Strickland Sahib has pulled
me to land. We may work
together at the Game yet. Farewell!'
Kim hurried to his carriage:
elated, bewildered, but a little nettled in that he had no key to the
secrets about him.
'I am only a beginner at the
Game, that is sure. I could not have leaped into safety as did the Saddhu.
He knew it was darkest under the lamp. I could not have thought to tell news
under pretence of cursing ... and how clever was the Sahib! No matter, I
savcd the life of one ... Where is the Kamboh gone, Holy One?' he whispered,
as he took his seat in the now crowded compartment.
'A fear gripped him,' the lama
replied, with a touch of tender malice.
'He saw thee change the Mahratta to a Saddhu in the twinkling of an
eye, as a protection against evil. That
shook him. Then he saw the Saddhu fall sheer into the hands of the polis -
all the effect of thy art. Then
he gathered up his son and fled; for he said that thou didst change a quiet
trader into an impudent bandier of words with the Sahibs, and he feared a
like fate. Where is the Saddhu?'
'With the polis,' said Kim . . .
'Yet I saved the Kamboh's child.'
The lama snuffed blandly.
'Ah, chela, see how thou art
overtaken! Thou didst cure the
Kamboh's child solely to acquire merit.
But thou didst put a spell on the Mahratta with prideful workings - I
watched thee - and with sidelong glances to bewilder an old old man and a
foolish farmer: whence calamity and suspicion.'
Kim controlled himself with an
effort beyond his years. Not more than any other youngster did he like to
eat dirt or to be misjudged, but he saw himself in a cleft stick. The train rolled out of Delhi into the night.
'It is true,' he murmured.
'Where I have offended thee I have done wrong.'
'It is more, chela.
Thou hast loosed an Act upon the world, and as a stone thrown into a
pool so spread the consequences thou canst not tell how far.'
This ignorance was well both for
Kim's vanity and for the lama's peace of mind, when we think that there was
then being handed in at Simla a code-wire reporting the arrival of E23 at
Delhi, and, more important, the whereabouts of a letter he had been
commissioned to - abstract. Incidentally,
an over-zealous policeman had arrested, on charge of murder done in a far
southern State, a horribly indignant Ajmir cotton-broker, who was explaining
himself to a Mr Strickland on Delhi platform, while E23 was paddling through
byways into the locked heart of Delhi city.
In two hours several telegrams had reached the angry minister of a
southern State reporting that all trace of a somewhat bruised Mahratta had
been lost; and by the time the leisurely train halted at Saharunpore the
last ripple of the store Kim had helped to heave was lapping against the
steps of a mosque in far-away Roum - where it disturbed a pious man at
The lama made his in ample form
near the dewy bougainvillea-trellis near the platform, cheered by the clear
sunshine and the presence of his disciple. 'We will put these things behind
us,' he said, indicating the brazen engine and the gleaming track. 'The
jolting of the te-rain - though a wonderful thing - has turned my bones to
water. We will use clean air
'Let us go to the Kulu woman's
house' said Kim, and stepped forth cheerily under the bundles. Early morning Saharunpore-way is clean and well scented.
He thought of the other mornings at St Xavier's, and it topped his
already thrice-heaped contentment.
'Where is this new haste born
from? Wise men do not run about
like chickens in the sun. We
have come hundreds upon hundreds of koss already, and, till now, I have
scarcely been alone with thee an instant. How canst thou receive instruction
all jostled of crowds? How can
I, whelmed by a flux of talk, meditate upon the Way?'
'Her tongue grows no shorter with
the years, then?' the disciple smiled.
'Nor her desire for charms.
I remember once when I spoke of the Wheel of Life' - the lama fumbled
in his bosom for his latest copy - 'she was only curious about the devils
that besiege children. She shall acquire merit by entertaining us - in a
little while - at an after-occasion - softly, softly.
Now we will wander loose-foot, waiting upon the Chain of Things. The
Search is sure.'
So they travelled very easily
across and among the broad bloomful fruit-gardens - by way of Aminabad,
Sahaigunge, Akrola of the Ford, and little Phulesa - the line of the
Siwaliks always to the north, and behind them again the snows.
After long, sweet sleep under the dry stars came the lordly,
leisurely passage through a waking village - begging-bowl held forth in
silence, but eyes roving in defiance of the Law from sky's edge to sky's
edge. Then would Kim return soft-footed through the soft dust to
his master under the shadow of a mango-tree or the thinner shade of a white
Doon siris, to eat and drink at ease. At mid-day, after talk and a little
wayfaring, they slept; meeting the world refreshed when the air was cooler.
Night found them adventuring into new territory - some chosen village
spied three hours before across the fat land, and much discussed upon the
There they told their tale - a
new one each evening so far as Kim was concerned - and there were they made
welcome, either by priest or headman, after the custom of the kindly East.
When the shadows shortened and
the lama leaned more heavily upon Kim, there was always the Wheel of Life to
draw forth, to hold flat under wiped stones, and with a long straw to
expound cycle by cycle. Here sat the Gods on high - and they were dreams of
dreams. Here was our Heaven and the world of the demi-Gods - horsemen
fighting among the hills. Here were the agonies done upon the beasts, souls
ascending or descending the ladder and therefore not to be interfered with.
Here were the Hells, hot and cold, and the abodes of tormented ghosts. Let
the chela study the troubles that come from over-eating - bloated stomach
and burning bowels. Obediently, then, with bowed head and brown finger alert to
follow the pointer, did the chela study; but when they came to the Human
World, busy and profitless, that is just above the Hells, his mind was
distracted; for by the roadside trundled the very Wheel itself, eating,
drinking, trading, marrying, and quarrelling - all warmly
alive. Often the lama made the living pictures the matter of his
text, bidding Kim - too ready - note how the flesh takes a thousand shapes,
desirable or detestable as men reckon, but in truth of no account either
way; and how the stupid spirit, bond-slave to the Hog, the Dove, and the
Serpent - lusting after betel-nut, a new yoke of oxen, women, or the favour
of kings - is bound to follow the body through all the Heavens and all the
Hells, and strictly round again. Sometimes a woman or a poor man, watching
the ritual - it was nothing less - when the great yellow chart was unfolded,
would throw a few flowers or a handful of cowries upon its edge. It sufficed
these humble ones that they had met a Holy One who might be moved to
remember them in his prayers.
'Cure them if they are sick,'
said the lama, when Kim's sporting instincts woke.
'Cure them if they have fever, but by no means work charms.
Remember what befell the Mahratta.'
'Then all Doing is evil?' Kim
replied, lying out under a big tree at the fork of the Doon road, watching
the little ants run over his hand.
'To abstain from action is well -
except to acquire merit.'
'At the Gates of Learning we were
taught that to abstain from action was unbefitting a Sahib. And I am a Sahib.'
'Friend of all the World,' - the
lama looked directly at Kim - 'I am an old man - pleased with shows as are
children. To those who follow
the Way there is neither black nor white, Hind nor Bhotiyal. We be all souls
seeking escape. No matter what
thy wisdom learned among Sahibs, when we come to my River thou wilt be freed
from all illusion - at my side. Hai! My bones ache for that River, as they
ached in the te-rain; but my spirit sits above my bones, waiting. The Search
'I am answered. Is it permitted
to ask a question?'
The lama inclined his stately
'I ate thy bread for three years
- as thou knowest. Holy One, whence came -?'
'There is much wealth, as men
count it, in Bhotiyal,' the lama returned with composure.
'In my own place I have the illusion of honour. I ask for that I
need. I am not concerned with
the account. That is for my monastery.
Ai! The black high seats
in the monastery, and novices all in order!'
And he told stories, tracing with
a finger in the dust, of the immense and sumptuous ritual of
avalanche-guarded cathedrals; of processions and devil-dances; of the
changing of monks and nuns into swine; of holy cities fifteen thousand feet
in the air; of intrigue between monastery and monastery; of voices among the
hills, and of that mysterious mirage that dances on dry snow. He spoke even
of Lhassa and of the Dalai Lama, whom he had seen and adored.
Each long, perfect day rose
behind Kim for a barrier to cut him off from his race and his mother-tongue.
He slipped back to thinking and dreaming in the vernacular, and
mechanically followed the lama's ceremonial observances at eating, drinking,
and the like. The old man's mind turned more and more to his monastery as
his eyes turned to the steadfast snows. His River troubled him nothing. Now and again, indeed, he
would gaze long and long at a tuft or a twig, expecting, he said, the earth
to cleave and deliver its blessing; but he was content to be with his
disciple, at ease in the temperate wind that comes down from the Doon. This was not Ceylon, nor Buddh Gaya, nor Bombay, nor some
grass-tangled ruins that he seemed to have stumbled upon two years ago.
He spoke of those places as a scholar removed from vanity, as a
Seeker walking in humility, as an old man, wise and temperate, illumining
knowledge with brilliant insight. Bit by bit, disconnectedly, each tale
called up by some wayside thing, he spoke of all his wanderings up and down
Hind; till Kim, who had loved him without reason, now loved him for fifty
good reasons. So they enjoyed
themselves in high felicity, abstaining, as the Rule demands, from evil
words, covetous desires; not over- eating, not lying on high beds, nor
wearing rich clothes. Their
stomachs told them the time, and the people brought them their food, as the
saying is. They were lords of
the villages of Aminabad, Sahaigunge, Akrola of the Ford, and little Phulesa,
where Kim gave the soulless woman a blessing.
But news travels fast in India,
and too soon shuffled across the crop-land, bearing a basket of fruits with
a box of Kabul grapes and gilt oranges, a white-whiskered servitor - a lean,
dry Oorya - begging them to bring the honour of their presence to his
mistress, distressed in her mind that the lama had neglected her so long.
'Now do I remember' - the lama
spoke as though it were a wholly new proposition. 'She is virtuous, but an
Kim was sitting on the edge of a
cow's manger, telling stories to a village smith's children.
'She will only ask for another
son for her daughter. I have not forgotten her,' he said.
'Let her acquire merit. Send word that we will come.'
They covered eleven miles through
the fields in two days, and were overwhelmed with attentions at the end; for
the old lady held a fine tradition of hospitality, to which she forced her
son-in-law, who was under the thumb of his women-folk and bought peace by
borrowing of the money-lender. Age had not weakened her tongue or her
memory, and from a discreetly barred upper window, in the hearing of not
less than a dozen servants, she paid Kim compliments that would have flung
European audiences into unclean dismay.
'But thou art still the shameless
beggar-brat of the parao,' she shrilled. 'I have not forgotten thee. Wash ye
and eat. The father of my daughter's son is gone away awhile. So we poor
women are dumb and useless.'
For proof, she harangued the
entire household unsparingly till food and drink were brought; and in the
evening - the smoke-scented evening, copper-dun and turquoise across the
fields - it pleased her to order her palanquin to be set down in the untidy
forecourt by smoky torchlight; and there, behind not too closely drawn
curtains, she gossiped.
'Had the Holy One come alone, I
should have received him otherwise; but with this rogue, who can be too
'Maharanee,' said Kim, choosing
as always the amplest title, 'is it my fault that none other than a Sahib -
a polis-Sahib - called the Maharanee whose face he -'
'Chutt! That was on the pilgrimage. When we travel - thou knowest the
'Called the Maharanee a Breaker
of Hearts and a Dispenser of Delights?'
'To remember that! It was true.
So he did. That was in the time of the bloom of my beauty.' She chuckled
like a contented parrot above the sugar lump. 'Now tell me of thy goings and
comings - as much as may be without shame. How many maids, and whose wives,
hang upon thine eyelashes? Ye hail from Benares? I would have gone there
again this year, but my daughter - we have only two sons. Phaii! Such is the
effect of these low plains. Now in Kulu men are elephants. But I would ask
thy Holy One - stand aside, rogue - a charm against most lamentable windy
colics that in mango-time overtake my daughter's eldest. Two years back he
gave me a powerful spell.'
'Oh, Holy One!' said Kim,
bubbling with mirth at the lama's rueful face.
'It is true. I gave her one against wind.'
'Teeth - teeth - teeth, ' snapped
the old woman.
"'Cure them if they are
sick,"' Kim quoted relishingly, "'but by no means work charms.
Remember what befell the Mahratta."'
'That was two Rains ago; she
wearied me with her continual importunity.' The lama groaned as the Unjust
judge had groaned before him. 'Thus it comes - take note, my chela - that
even those who would follow the Way are thrust aside by idle women. Three
days through, when the child was sick, she talked to me.'
'Arre! 1 6and to whom else should
I talk? The boy's mother knew nothing, and the father - in the nights of the
cold weather it was - "Pray to the Gods," said he, forsooth, and
turning over, snored!'
'I gave her the charm.
What is an old man to do?'
"'To abstain from action is
well - except to acquire merit."'
'Ah chela, if thou desertest me,
I am all alone.'
'He found his milk-teeth easily
at any rate,' said the old lady. 'But all priests are alike.'
Kim coughed severely.
Being young, he did not approve of her flippancy.
'To importune the wise out of season is to invite calamitv.'
'There is a talking mynah' - the
thrust came back with the well- remembered snap of the jewelled fore-finger
- 'over the stables which has picked up the very tone of the family priest.
Maybe I forget honour to my guests, but if ye had seen him double his fists
into his belly, which was like a half-grown gourd, and cry: "Here is
the pain!" ye would forgive. I
am half minded to take the hakim's medicine. He sells it cheap, and
certainly it makes him fat as Shiv's own bull. He does not deny remedies,
but I doubted for the child because of the in-auspicious colour of the
The lama, under cover of the
monologue, had faded out into the darkness towards the room prepared.
'Thou hast angered him, belike,'
He is wearied, and I forgot, being a grandmother. (None but a
grandmother should ever oversee a child. Mothers are only fit for bearing.)
Tomorrow, when he sees how my daughter's son is grown, he will write the
charm. Then, too, he can judge
of the new hakim's drugs.' 'Who
is the hakim, Maharanee?'
'A wanderer, as thou art, but a
most sober Bengali from Dacca - a master of medicine.
He relieved me of an oppression after meat by means of a small pill
that wrought like a devil unchained. He travels about now, vending
preparations of great value. He
has even papers, printed in Angrezi, telling what things he has done for
weak-backed men and slack women. He has been here four days; but hearing ye
were coming (hakims and priests are snake and tiger the world over) he has,
as I take it, gone to cover.'
While she drew breath after this
volley, the ancient servant, sitting unrebuked on the edge of the
torchlight, muttered: 'This house is a cattle-pound, as it were, for all
charlatans and - priests. Let
the boy stop eating mangoes ... but who can argue with a grandmother?' He
raised his voice respectfully: 'Sahiba, the hakim sleeps after his meat. He
is in the quarters behind the dovecote'
Kim bristled like an expectant
terrier. To outface and down- talk a Calcutta-taught Bengali, a voluble
Dacca drug-vendor, would be a good game. It was not seemly that the lama,
and incidentally himself, should be thrown aside for such an one. He knew
those curious bastard English advertisements at the backs of native
newspapers. St Xavier's boys sometimes brought them in by stealth to snigger
over among their mates; for the language of the grateful patient recounting
his symptoms is most simple and revealing. The Oorya, not unanxious to play
off one parasite against the other, slunk away towards the dovecote
'Yes,' said Kim, with measured
scorn. 'Their stock-in-trade is a little coloured water and a very great
shamelessness. Their prey are broken-down kings and overfed Bengalis. Their
profit is in children - who are not born.' The old lady chuckled. 'Do not be
envious. Charms are better, eh? I never gainsaid it. See that thy Holy One writes me a good amulet by the
'None but the ignorant deny' - a
thick, heavy voice boomed through the darkness, as a figure came to rest
squatting - 'None but the ignorant deny the value of charms. None but the
ignorant deny the value of medicines.'
'A rat found a piece of turmeric.
Said he: "I will open a grocer's shop,"' Kim retorted.
Battle was fairly joined now, and
they heard the old lady stiffen to attention.
'The priest's son knows the names
of his nurse and three Gods. Says he: "Hear me, or I will curse you by
the three million Great Ones."' Decidedly this invisible had an arrow
or two in his quiver. He went on: 'I am but a teacher of the alphabet.
I have learned all the wisdom of the Sahibs.'
'The Sahibs never grow old. They
dance and they play like children when they are grandfathers. A
strong-backed breed,' piped the voice inside the palanquin.
'I have, too, our drugs which
loosen humours of the head in hot and angry men. Sina well compounded when
the moon stands in the proper House; yellow earths I have - arplan from
China that makes a man renew
his youth and astonish his household; saffron from Kashmir, and the best
salep of Kabul. Many people have died before -'
'That I surely believe,' said
'They knew the value of my drugs.
I do not give my sick the mere ink in which a charm is written, but hot and
rending drugs which descend and wrestle with the evil.'
'Very mightily they do so,'
sighed the old lady.
The voice launched into an
immense tale of misfortune and bankruptcy, studded with plentiful petitions
to the Government. 'But for my fate, which overrules all, I had been now in
Government employ. I bear a degree from the great school at Calcutta -
whither, maybe, the son of this House shall go.'
'He shall indeed.
If our neighbour's brat can in a few years be made an F A' (First
Arts - she used the English word, of which she had heard so often), 'how
much more shall children clever as some that I know bear away prizes at rich
'Never,' said the voice, 'have I
seen such a child! Born in an
auspicious hour, and - but for that colic which, alas! turning into black
cholers, may carry him off like a pigeon - destined to many years, he is
'Hai mai!' said the old lady. 'To
praise children is inauspicious, or I could listen to this talk. But the
back of the house is unguarded, and even in this soft air men think
themselves to be men, and women we know ... The child's father is away too,
and I must be chowkedar [watchman] in my old age. Up! Up!
Take up the palanquin. Let the hakim and the young priest settle
between them whether charms or medicine most avail. Ho! worthless people,
fetch tobacco for the guests, and - round the homestead go I!'
The palanquin reeled off,
followed by straggling torches and a horde of dogs. Twenty villages knew the
Sahiba - her failings, her tongue, and her large charity.
Twenty villages cheated her after immemorial custom, but no man would
have stolen or robbed within her jurisdiction for any gift under heaven.
None the less, she made great parade of her formal inspections, the riot of
which could be heard half-way to Mussoorie.
Kim relaxed, as one augur must
when he meets another. The hakim, still squatting, slid over his hookah with
a friendly foot, and Kim pulled at the good weed.
The hangers-on expected grave professional debate, and perhaps a
little free doctoring.
'To discuss medicine before the
ignorant is of one piece with teaching the peacock to sing,' said the hakim.
'True courtesy,' Kim echoed, 'is
very often inattention.'
These, be it understood, were
company-manners, designed to impress.
I have an ulcer on my leg,' cried a scullion. 'Look at it!'
'Get hence! Remove!' said the hakim. 'Is it the habit of the place to
pester honoured guests? Ye
crowd in like buffaloes.'
'If the Sahiba knew -' Kim began.
'Ai! Ai! Come away. They are meat
for our mistress. When her young Shaitan's colics are cured perhaps we poor
people may be suffered to -'
'The mistress fed thy wife when
thou wast in jail for breaking the money-lender's head.
Who speaks against her?' The old servitor curled his white moustaches
savagely in the young moonlight. 'I am responsible for the honour of this
house. Go!' and he drove the underlings before him.
Said the hakim, hardly more than
shaping the words with his lips: 'How do you do, Mister O'Hara?
I am jolly glad to see you again.'
Kim's hand clenched about the
pipe-stem. Anywhere on the open road, perhaps, he would not have been
astonished; but here, in this quiet backwater of life, he was not prepared
for Hurree Babu. It annoyed him, too, that he had been hoodwinked.
'Ah ha! I told you at Lucknow -
resurgam - I shall rise again and you shall not know me.
How much did you bet - eh?'
He chewed leisurely upon a few
cardamom seeds, but he breathed uneasily.
'But why come here, Babuji?'
Thatt is the question, as Shakespeare hath it. I come to congratulate you on your extraordinary effeecient
performance at Delhi. Oah!
I tell you we are all proud of you.
It was verree neat and handy. Our
mutual friend, he is old friend of mine. He has been in some dam'-tight
places. Now he will be in some
more. He told me; I tell Mr Lurgan; and he is pleased you graduate so
nicely. All the Department is pleased.'
For the first time in his life,
Kim thrilled to the clean pride (it can be a deadly pitfall, none the less)
of Departmental praise - ensnaring praise from an equal of work appreciated
by fellow- workers. Earth has
nothing on the same plane to compare with it. But, cried the Oriental in
him, Babus do not travel far to retail compliments.
'Tell thy tale, Babu,' he said
'Oah, it is nothing.
Onlee I was at Simla when the wire came in about what our mutual
friend said he had hidden, and old Creighton - ' He looked to see how Kim
would take this piece of audacity.
'The Colonel Sahib,' the boy from
St Xavier's corrected. 'Of
course. He found me at a loose string, and I had to go down to Chitor to
find that beastly letter. I do not like the South - too much railway travel;
but I drew good travelling allowance. Ha! Ha! I meet our mutual at Delhi on
the way back. He lies quiett just now, and says Saddhu-disguise suits him to
the ground. Well, there I hear
what you have done so well, so quickly, upon the instantaneous spur of the
moment. I tell our mutual you take the bally bun, by Jove! It was splendid.
I come to tell you so.'
The frogs were busy in the
ditches, and the moon slid to her setting. Some happy servant had gone out
to commune with the night and to beat upon a drum. Kim's next sentence was
in the vernacular.
'How didst thou follow us?'
'Oah. Thatt was nothing. I know
from our mutual friend you go to Saharunpore. So I come on. Red Lamas are
not inconspicuous persons. I buy myself my drug-box, and I am very good
doctor really. I go to Akrola of the Ford, and hear all about you, and I
talk here and talk there. All the common people know what you do.
I knew when the hospitable old lady sent the dooli. They have great
recollections of the old lama's visits here. I know old ladies cannot keep
their hands from medicines. So I am a doctor, and - you hear my talk? I
think it is verree good. My
word, Mister O'Hara, they know about you and the lama for fifty miles - the
common people. So I come. Do
'Babuji,' said Kim, looking up at
the broad, grinning face, 'I am a Sahib.'
'My dear Mister O'Hara
'And I hope to play the Great
'You are subordinate to me
departmentally at present.'
'Then why talk like an ape in a
tree? Men do not come after one from Simla and change their dress, for the
sake of a few sweet words. I am not a child.
Talk Hindi and let us get to the yolk of the egg. Thou art here -
speaking not one word of truth in ten. Why art thou here?
Give a straight answer.'
'That is so verree disconcerting
of the Europeans, Mister O'Hara. you should know a heap better at your time
'But I want to know,' said Kim,
laughing. 'If it is the Game, I may help.
How can I do anything if you bukh [babble] all round the shop?'
Hurree Babu reached for the pipe,
and sucked it till it guggled again.
'Now I will speak vernacular. You
sit tight, Mister O'Hara . . . It concerns the pedigree of a white
That was finished long ago.'
'When everyone is dead the Great
Game is finished. Not before. Listen to me till the end. There were Five Kings who prepared a sudden war three years
ago, when thou wast given the stallion's pedigree by Mahbub Ali.
Upon them, because of that news, and ere they were ready, fell our
'Ay - eight thousand men with
guns. I remember that night.'
'But the war was not pushed.
That is the Government custom. The troops were recalled because the
Government believed the Five Kings were cowed; and it is not cheap to feed
men among the high Passes. HilaS and Bunar - Rajahs with guns - undertook
for a price to guard the Passes against all coming from the North. They
protested both fear and friendship.' He broke off with a giggle into
English: "Of course, I tell you this unoffeecialiv to elucidate
political situation, Mister O'Hara. Offeecially, I am debarred from
criticizing any action of superiors. Now I go on. - This pleased the
Government, anxious to avoid expense, and a bond was made for so many rupees
a month that Hilas and Bunar should guard the Passes as soon as the State's
troops were withdrawn. At that time - it was after we two met - I, who had
been selling tea in Leh, became a clerk of accounts in the Army.
When the troops were withdrawn, I was left behind to pay the coolies
who made new roads in the Hills. This road-making was part of the bond
between Bunar, Hilas, and the Government.'
'I tell you, it was jolly-beastly
cold up there too, after summer,' said Hurree Babu confidentially. 'I was
afraid these Bunar men would cut my throat every night for thee pay-chest.
My native sepoy-guard, they laughed at me!
By Jove! I was such a
fearful man. Nevar mind thatt. I
go on colloquially ... I send word many times that these two Kings were sold
to the North; and Mahbub Ali, who was yet farther North, amply confirmed it.
Nothing was done. Only my feet were frozen, and a toe dropped off. I sent
word that the roads for which I was paying money to the diggers were being
made for the feet of strangers and enemies.'
'For the Russians. The thing was
an open jest among the coolies. Then I was called down to tell what I knew
by speech of tongue. Mahbub came South too. See the end! Over the Passes
this year after snow-melting' - he shivered afresh - come two strangers
under cover of shooting wild goats. They bear guns, but they bear also
chains and levels and compasses.'
The thing gets clearer.'
'They are well received by Hilas
and Bunar. They make great
promises; they speak as the mouthpiece of a Kaisar with gifts. Up the valleys, down the valleys go they, saying, "Here
is a place to build a breastwork; here can ye pitch a fort. Here can ye hold
the road against an army" - the very roads for which I paid out the
rupees monthly. The Government
knows', but does nothing. The three other Kings, who were not paid for
guarding the Passes, tell them by runner of the bad faith of Bunar and Hilas.
When all the evil is done, look you - when these two strangers with
the levels and the compasses make the Five Kings to believe that a great
army will sweep the Passes tomorrow or the next day - Hill-people are all
fools - comes the order to me, Hurree Babu, "Go North and see what
those strangers do." I say to Creighton Sahib, "This is not a
lawsuit, that we go about to collect evidence."'Hurree returned to his
English with a jerk: "'By Jove," I said, "why the dooce do
you not issue demi-offeecial orders to some brave man to poison them, for an
example? It is, if you permit
the observation, most reprehensible laxity on your part." And Colonel
Creighton, he laughed at me! It is all your beastly English pride. You think
no one dare conspire! That is
Kim smoked slowly, revolving the
business, so far as he understood it, in his quick mind.
'Then thou goest forth to follow
To meet them. They are coming in to Simla to send down their horns
and heads to be dressed at Calcutta. They are exclusively sporting
gentlemen, and they are allowed special faceelities by the Government. Of
course, we always do that. It is our British pride.'
'Then what is to fear from them?'
'By Jove, they are not black
people. I can do all sorts of
things with black people, of course. They
are Russians, and highly unscrupulous people.
I - I do not want to consort with them without a witness.'
'Will they kill thee?'
'Oah, thatt is nothing.
I am good enough Herbert Spencerian, I trust, to meet little thing
like death, which is all in my fate, you know.
But - but they may beat me.'
Hurree Babu snapped his fingers
with irritation. 'Of course I shall affeeliate myself to their camp in
supernumerary capacity as perhaps interpreter, or person mentally impotent
and hungree, or some such thing. And
then I must pick up what I can, I suppose. That is as easy for me as playing
Mister Doctor to the old lady. Onlee - onlee - you see, Mister O'Hara, I am
unfortunately Asiatic, which is serious detriment in some respects. And
all-so I am Bengali - a fearful man.'
'God made the Hare and the
Bengali. What shame?' said Kim,
quoting the proverb.
'It was process of Evolution, I
think, from Primal Necessity, but the fact remains in all the cui bono. I
am, oh, awfully fearful! - I remember once they wanted to cut off my head on
the road to Lhassa. (No, I have never reached to Lhassa.) I sat down and
cried, Mister O'Hara, anticipating Chinese tortures. I do not suppose these
two gentlemen will torture me, but I like to provide for possible
contingency with European assistance in emergency.' He coughed and spat out
the cardamoms. 'It is purely unoffeecial indent, to which you can say
"No, Babu". If you have no pressing engagement with your old man -
perhaps you might divert him; perhaps I can seduce his fancies - I should
like you to keep in Departmental touch with me till I find those sporting
coves. I have great opeenion of
you since I met my friend at Delhi. And
also I will embody your name in my offeecial report when matter is finally
adjudicated. It will be a great feather in your cap. That is why I come really.
The end of the tale, I think, is true; but what of the fore-part?'
'About the Five Kings?
Oah! there is ever so much truth in it. A lots more than you would
suppose,' said Hurree earnestly. 'You come - eh?
I go from here straight into the Doon.
It is verree verdant and painted meads.
I shall go to Mussoorie to good old Munsoorie Pahar, as the gentlemen
and ladies say. Then by Rampur into Chini. That is the only way they can
come. I do not like waiting in the cold, but we must wait for them. I want
to walk with them to Simla. You see, one Russian is a Frenchman, and I know
my French pretty well. I have friends in Chandernagore.'
'He would certainly rejoice to
see the Hills again,' said Kim meditatively. 'All his speech these ten days
past has been of little else. If we go together -'
'Oah! We can be quite strangers
on the road, if your lama prefers. I shall just be four or five miles ahead.
There is no hurry for Hurree - that is an Europe pun, ha! ha! - and you come
after. There is plenty of time; they will plot and survey and map, of
course. I shall go tomorrow, and you the next day, if you choose. Eh? You go
think on it till morning. By Jove, it is near morning now.' He yawned
ponderously, and with never a civil word lumbered off to his sleeping-place.
But Kim slept little, and his thoughts ran in Hindustani:
'Well is the Game called great!
I was four days a scullion at Quetta, waiting on the wife of the man
whose book I stole. And that was part of the Great Game!
From the South - God knows how far - came up the Mahratta, playing
the Great Game in fear of his life. Now I shall go far and far into the
North playing the Great Game. Truly, it runs like a shuttle throughout all
Hind. And my share and my joy' - he smiled to the darkness-'I owe to the
lama here. Also to Mahbub Ali - also to Creighton Sahib, but chiefly to the
Holy One. He is right - a great and a wonderful world - and I am Kim - Kim -
Kim - alone - one person - in the middle of it all. But I will see these
strangers with their levels and chains . . .'
'What was the upshot of last
night's babble?' said the lama, after his orisons
'There came a strolling seller of
drugs - a hanger-on of the Sahiba's. Him
I abolished by arguments and prayers, proving that our charms are worthier
than his coloured waters.'
'Alas, my charms!
Is the virtuous woman still bent upon a new one?'
'Then it must be written, or she
will deafen me with her clamour.' He fumbled at his pencase.
'In the Plains,' said Kim, 'are
always too many people. In the Hills, as I understand, there are fewer.'
'Oh! the Hills, and the snows
upon the Hills.' The lami tore off a tiny square of paper fit to go in an
amulet. 'But what dost thou know of the Hills?'
'They are very close.' Kim thrust
open the door and looked at the long, peaceful line of the Himalayas flushed
in morning- gold. 'Except in the dress of a Sahib, I have never set foot
The lama snuffed the wind
'If we go North,' - Kim put the
question to the waking sunrise - 'would not much mid-day heat be avoided by
walking among the lower hills at least? ... Is the charm made, Holy One?'
'I have written the names of
seven silly devils - not one of whom is worth a grain of dust in the eye.
Thus do foolish women drag us from the Way!'
Hurree Babu came out from behind
the dovecote washing his teeth with ostentatious ritual. Full-fleshed, heavy-haunched, bull-necked, and deep-voiced,
he did not look like 'a fearful man'. Kim
signed almost imperceptibly that matters were in good train, and when the
morning toilet was over, Hurree Babu, in flowery speech, came to do honour
to the lama. They ate, of
course, apart, and afterwards the old lady, more or less veiled behind a
window, returned to the vital business of green-mango colics in the young.
The lama's knowledge of medicine "was, of course, sympathetic only. He believed that the dung of a black horse, mixed with
sulphur, and carried in a snake- skin, was a sound remedy for cholera; but
the symbolism interested him far more than the science. Hurree Babu deferred
to these views with enchanting politeness, so that the lama called him a
courteous physician. Hurree Babu replied that he was no more than an
inexpert dabbler in the mysteries; but at least - he thanked the Gods
therefore - he knew when he sat in the presence of a master. He himself had
been taught by the Sahibs, who do not consider expense, in the lordly halls
of Calcutta; but, as he was ever first to acknowledge, there lay a wisdom
behind earthly wisdom - the high and lonely lore of meditation. Kim looked
on with envy. The Hurree Babu of his knowledge - oily, effusive, and nervous
- was gone; gone, too, was the brazen drug-vendor of overnight. There
remained - polished, polite, attentive - a sober, learned son of experience
and adversity, gathering wisdom from the lama's lips. The old lady confided
to Kim that these rare levels were beyond her. She liked charms with plenty
of ink that one could wash off in water, swallow, and be done with.
Else what was the use of the Gods? She liked men and women, and she
spoke of them - of kinglets she had known in the past; of her own youth and
beauty; of the depredations of leopards and the eccentricities of love
Asiatic; of the incidence of taxation, rack-renting, funeral ceremonies, her
son-in-law (this by allusion, easy to be followed), the care of the young,
and the age's lack of decency. And Kim, as interested in the life of this
world as she soon to leave it, squatted with his feet under the hem of his
robe, drinking all in, while the lama demolished one after another every
theory of body-curing put forward by Hurree Babu.
At noon the Babu strapped up his
brass-bound drug-box, took his patent-leather shoes of ceremony in one hand,
a gay blue-and-white umbrella in the other, and set off northwards to the
Doon, where, he said, he was in demand among the lesser kings of those
'We will go in the cool of the
evening, chela,' said the lama. 'That doctor, learned in physic and
courtesy, affirms that the people among these lower hills are devout,
generous, and much in need of a teacher.
In a very short time - so says the hakim - we come to cool air and
the smell of pines.'
'Ye go to the Hills?
And by Kulu road? Oh, thrice happy!' shrilled the old lady.
'But that I am a little pressed with the care of the homestead I
would take palanquin ... but that would be shameless, and my reputation
would be cracked. Ho! Ho! I know the road - every march of the road I know.
Ye will find charity throughout - it is not denied to the
well-looking. I will give orders for provision. A servant to set you forth
upon your journey? No ... Then
I will at least cook ye good food.'
'What a woman is the Sahiba!'
said the white-bearded Oorya, when a tumult rose by the kitchen quarters.
'She has never forgotten a friend: she has never forgotten an enemy in all
her years. And her cookery - wah!' He rubbed his slim stomach.
There were cakes, there were
sweetmeats, there was cold fowl stewed to rags with rice and prunes - enough
to burden Kim like a mule.
'I am old and useless,' she said.
'None now love me - and none respect - but there are few to compare with me
when I call on the Gods and squat to my cooking-pots.
Come again, O people of good will. Holy One and disciple, come again.
The room is always prepared; the welcome is always ready ... See the women
do not follow thy chela too openly. I
know the women of Kulu. Take
heed, chela, lest he run away when he smells his Hills again ... Hai!
Do not tilt the rice-bag upside down ... Bless the household, Holy
One, and forgive thy servant her stupidities.'
She wiped her red old eyes on a
corner of her veil, and clucked throatily.
'Women talk,' said the lama at
last, 'but that is a woman's infirmity. I gave her a charm. She is upon the
Wheel and wholly given over to the shows of this life, but none the less,
chela, she is virtuous, kindly, hospitable - of a whole and zealous heart.
Who shall say she does not acquire merit?'
'Not I, Holy One,' said Kim,
reslinging the bountiful provision on his shoulders. 'In my mind - behind my
eyes - I have tried to picture such an one altogether freed from the Wheel -
desiring nothing, causing nothing - a nun, as it
'And, O imp?' The lama almost
'I cannot make the picture.'
'Nor I. But there are many, many
millions of lives before her. She will get wisdom a little, it may be, in
'And will she forget how to make
stews with saffron upon that road?'
'Thy mind is set on things
unworthy. But she has skill. I am refreshed all over.
When we reach the lower hills I shall be yet stronger.
The hakim spoke truly to me this morn when he said a breath from the
snows blows away twenty years from the life of a man.
We will go up into the Hills - the high hills - up to the sound of
snow-waters and the sound of the trees - for a little while.
The hakim said that at any time we may return to the Plains, for we
do no more than skirt the pleasant places. The hakim is full of learning;
but he is in no way proud. I spoke to him - when thou wast talking to the
Sahiba - of a certain dizziness that lays hold upon the back of my neck in
the night, and he said it rose from excessive heat - to be cured by cool
air. Upon consideration, I marvelled that I had not thought of such a simple
'Didst thou tell him of thy
Search?' said Kim, a little jealously. He preferred to sway the lama by his
own speech - not through the wiles of Hurree Babu.
'Assuredly. I told him of my
dream, and of the manner by which I had acquired merit by causing thee to be
'Thou didst not say I was a
'What need? I have told thee many
times we be but two souls seeking escape. He said - and he is just herein -
that the River of Healing will break forth even as I dreamed - at my feet,
if need be. Having found the Way, seest thou, that shall free me from the
Wheel, need I trouble to find a way about the mere fields of earth - which
are illusion? That were senseless. I have my dreams, night upon night
repeated; I have Fataka; and I have thee, Friend of all the World. It was
written in thy horoscope that a Red Bull on a green field - I have not
forgotten - should bring thee to honour. Who but I saw that prophecy
accomplished? Indeed, I was the instrument. Thou shalt find me my River,
being in return the instrument. The Search is sure!'
He set his ivory-yellow face,
serene and untroubled, towards the beckoning Hills; his shadow shouldering
far before him in the dust.
|Table of Contents|