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Kim

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He 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 of old. </P> <P> 'Oho, hast thou turned yogi with thy begging-bowl?' she cried. </P> <P> 'Nay.' said Kim proudly. 'There is a new priest in the city&mdash;a man such as I have never seen.' </P> <P> 'Old priest&mdash;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?' </P> <P> 'No,' 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.' </P> <P> 'That 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.' </P> <P> The 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. </P> <P> 'See! I have saved more than the bowl will cost thrice over. Now, mother, a little rice and some dried fish atop&mdash;yes, and some vegetable curry.' </P> <P> A growl came out of the back of the shop, where a man lay. </P> <P> 'He 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. </P> <P> 'But 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.' </P> <P> 'It 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. </P> <P> 'That is good. When I am in the bazar the bull shall not come to this house. He is a bold beggar-man.' </P> <P> 'And 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.' </P> <P> But Kim had danced off ere the end of the sentence, dodging pariah dogs and hungry acquaintances. </P> <P> 'Thus do we beg who know the way of it,' said he proudly to the lama, who opened his eyes at the contents of the bowl. 'Eat now and&mdash;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.' </P> <P> 'We men!' said the bhisti, laughing. 'Is one skinful enough for such a pair? Drink, then, in the name of the Compassionate.' </P> <P> He loosed a thin stream into Kim's hands, who drank native fashion; but the lama must needs pull out a cup from his inexhaustible upper draperies and drink ceremonially. </P> <P> 'Pardesi [a foreigner],' Kim explained, as the old man delivered in an unknown tongue what was evidently a blessing. </P> <P> They 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 long. </P> <P> Kim 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-yard. </P> <P> The 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. </P> <P> 'What is this?' said the boy, standing before him. 'Hast thou been robbed?' </P> <P> 'It is my new chela [disciple] that is gone away from me, and I know not where he is.' </P> <P> 'And what like of man was thy disciple?' </P> <P> 'It 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.' </P> <P> Kim 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. </P> <P> 'But 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.' </P> <P> 'The River of the Arrow?' said Kim, with a superior smile. </P> <P> 'Is 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?' </P> <P> 'Thy 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.' </P> <P> 'But the River&mdash;the River of the Arrow?' </P> <P> 'Oh, that I heard when thou wast speaking to the Englishman. I lay against the door.' </P> <P> The lama sighed. 'I thought thou hadst been a guide permitted. Such things fall sometimes&mdash;but I am not worthy. Thou dost not, then, know the River?' </P> <P> 'Not I,' Kim laughed uneasily. 'I go to look for&mdash;for a bull&mdash;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, boylike, he had really thought for as much as twenty minutes at a time of his father's prophecy. </P> <P> 'To what, child?' said the lama. </P> <P> 'God 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&mdash;so used to truth-telling&mdash;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&mdash;thou, thy River; and I, my Bull, and the Strong Pillars and some other matters that I forget.' </P> <P> 'It is not pillars but a Wheel from which I would be free,' said the lama. </P> <P> 'That is all one. Perhaps they will make me a king,' said Kim, serenely prepared for anything. </P> <P> 'I will teach thee other and better desires upon the road,' the lama replied in the voice of authority. 'Let us go to Benares.' </P> <P> 'Not by night. Thieves are abroad. Wait till the day.' </P> <P> 'But 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. </P> <P> 'We shall get good lodging at the Kashmir Serai,' said Kim, laughing at his perplexity. 'I have a friend there. Come!' </P> <P> The 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&mdash;sometimes very rude&mdash;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?' </P> <P> Kim, fending the lama between excited men and excited beasts, sidled along the cloisters to the far end, nearest therailway station, where Mahbub Ali, the horse-trader, lived when he came in from that mysterious land beyond the Passes of the North. </P> <P> Kim had had many dealings with Mahbub in his little life, especially between his tenth and his thirteenth year&mdash;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. </P> <P> 'He is here,' said Kim, hitting a bad-tempered camel on the nose. 'Ohe. Mahbub Ali!' He halted at a dark arch and slipped behind the bewildered lama. </P> <P> The 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. </P> <P> 'Allah! A lama! A Red Lama! It is far from Lahore to the Passes. What dost thou do here?' </P> <P> The lama held out the begging-bowl mechanically. </P> <P> 'God's 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 hungry.' </P> <P> A 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. </P> <P> 'Go!' said Kim, pushing him lightly, and the lama strode away, leaving Kim at the edge of the cloister. </P> <P> 'Go!' said Mahbub Ali, returning to his hookah. 'Little Hindu, run away. God's curse on all unbelievers! Beg from those of my tail who are of thy faith.' </P> <P> 'Maharaj,' whined Kim, using the Hindu form of address, and thoroughly enjoying the situation; 'my father is dead&mdash;my mother is dead&mdash;my stomach is empty.' </P> <P> 'Beg from my men among the horses, I say. There must be some Hindus in my tail.' </P> <P> 'Oh, Mahbub Ali, but am I a Hindu?' said Kim in English. </P> <P> The trader gave no sign of astonishment, but looked under shaggy eyebrows. </P> <P> 'Little Friend of all the World,' said he, 'what is this?' </P> <P> 'Nothing. I am now that holy man's disciple; and we go a pilgrimage together&mdash;to Benares, he says. He is quite mad, and I am tired of Lahore city. I wish new air and water.' </P> <P> 'But for whom dost thou work? Why come to me?' The voice was harsh with suspicion. </P> <P> 'To 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.' </P> <P> 'Um!' said Mahbub Ali, thinking swiftly. 'Thou hast never before lied to me. Call that lama&mdash;stand back in the dark.' </P> <P> 'Oh, our tales will agree,' said Kim, laughing. </P> <P> 'We 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.' </P> <P> 'Maybe&mdash;but the boy?' </P> <P> 'He is my disciple. He was sent, I think, to guide me to that River. Sitting under a gun was I when he came suddenly. Such things have befallen the fortunate to whom guidance was allowed. But I remember now, he said he was of this world&mdash;a Hindu.' </P> <P> 'And his name?' </P> <P> 'That I did not ask. Is he not my disciple?' </P> <P> 'His country&mdash;his race&mdash;his village? Mussalman&mdash;Sikh Hindu&mdash;Jain&mdash;low caste or high?' </P> <P> 'Why should I ask? There is neither high nor low in the Middle Way. If he is my chela&mdash;does&mdash;will&mdash;can anyone take him from me? for, look you, without him I shall not find my River.' He wagged his head solemnly. </P> <P> 'None shall take him from thee. Go, sit among my Baltis,' said Mahbub Ali, and the lama drifted off, soothed by the promise. </P> <P> 'Is he not quite mad?' said Kim, coming forward to the light again. 'Why should I lie to thee, Hajji?' </P> <P> Mahbub puffed his hookah in silence. Then he began, almost whispering: 'Umballa is on the road to Benares&mdash;if indeed ye two go there.' </P> <P> 'Tck! Tck! I tell thee he does not know how to lie&mdash;as we two know.' </P> <P> 'And if thou wilt carry a message for me as far as Umballa, I will give thee money. It concerns a horse&mdash;a white stallion which I have sold to an officer upon the last time I returned from the Passes. But then&mdash;stand nearer and hold up hands as begging&mdash;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."' </P> <P> 'And all for the sake of a white stallion,' said Kim, with a giggle, his eyes aflame. </P> <P> 'That pedigree I will give thee now&mdash;in my own fashion and some hard words as well.' A shadow passed behind Kim, and a feeding camel. Mahbub Ali raised his voice. </P> <P> 'Allah! 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&mdash;' </P> <P> He 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&mdash;thou and the lama. Tomorrow I may give thee service.' </P> <P> Kim 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&mdash;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. </P> <P> But 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&mdash;it was checked by the statements of R17 and M4&mdash;quite true. It concerned all manner of out-of-the-way mountain principalities, explorers of nationalities other than English, and the guntrade&mdash;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 curious developments. </P> <P> And there was that on Mahbub Ali which he did not wish to keep an hour longer than was necessary&mdash;a wad of closely folded tissue-paper, wrapped in oilskin&mdash;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&mdash;' This was entirely in the way of trade, but every one of those telegrams was discussed and rediscussed, 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 the road. </P> <P> When, 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. </P> <P> A 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. </P> <P> He called for a new light-ball to his hookah, and considered the case. If the worst came to the worst, and the boy came to harm, the paper would incriminate nobody. And he would go up to Umballa leisurely and&mdash;at a certain risk of exciting fresh suspicion&mdash;repeat his tale by word of mouth to the people concerned. </P> <P> But 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. </P> <P> Then 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. </P> <P> About 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. </P> <P> 'And 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&mdash;if ever there were such a thing.' </P> <P> 'Nay&mdash;in a matter touching Five Kings it would be next his black heart,' said the pundit. 'Was there nothing?' </P> <P> The 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.' </P> <P> 'They 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."' </P> <P> 'That North country is full of horse-dealers as an old coat of lice. There is Sikandar Khan, Nur Ali Beg, and Farrukh Shah all heads of kafilas [caravans]&mdash;who deal there,' said the Flower. </P> <P> 'They have not yet come in,' said the pundit. 'Thou must ensnare them later.' </P> <P> Phew!' 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&mdash;yaie! Go! I sleep now. This swine will not stir till dawn.' </P> <P> When 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. </P> <P> 'What 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&mdash;perhaps with the knife. So it stands that the boy must go to Umballa&mdash;and by rail&mdash;for the writing is something urgent. I abide here, following the Flower and drinking wine as an Afghan coper should.' </P> <P> He 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. </P> <P> 'Up!' He stirred a sleeper. 'Whither went those who lay here last even&mdash;the lama and the boy? Is aught missing?' </P> <P> 'Nay,' grunted the man, 'the old madman rose at second cockcrow saying he would go to Benares, and the young one led him away.' </P> <P> 'The curse of Allah on all unbelievers!' said Mahbub heartily, and climbed into his own stall, growling in his beard. </P> <P> But it was Kim who had wakened the lama&mdash;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&mdash;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&mdash;the long-drawn choor&mdash;choor! [thief! thief!] that sets the serai ablaze of nights; but he looked more carefully, and, hand on amulet, drew his own conclusions. </P> <P> 'It 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&mdash;time to go to Benares.' </P> <P> The lama rose obediently, and they passed out of the serai like shadows. </P> <BR><BR><BR>
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