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Kim

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<SPAN NAME="chap12"></SPAN> <H3 ALIGN="center"> Chapter 12 </H3> <BR> <P CLASS="poem"> Who hath desired the Sea&mdash;the sight of salt-water unbounded?<BR> The heave and the halt and the hurl and the crash of the comber wind-hounded?<BR> The sleek-barrelled swell before storm&mdash;grey, foamless, enormous, and growing?<BR> Stark calm on the lap of the Line&mdash;or the crazy-eyed hurricane blowing?<BR> His Sea in no showing the same&mdash;his Sea and the same 'neath all showing&mdash;<BR> His Sea that his being fulfils?<BR> So and no otherwise&mdash;so and no otherwise hill-men desire their Hills!<BR> <BR> The Sea and the Hills.<BR> </P> <BR> <P> '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.' </P> <P> 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. </P> <P> '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.' </P> <P> 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. </P> <P> '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. </P> <P> '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.' </P> <P> 'Is it not enough I have saved thy neck?' </P> <P> 'Not if the work be left unfinished. Did never the healer of sick pearls tell thee so? Comes another Sahib! Ah!' </P> <P> This was a tallish, sallowish District Superintendent of Police&mdash;belt, helmet, polished spurs and all&mdash;strutting and twirling his dark moustache. </P> <P> 'What fools are these Police Sahibs!' said Kim genially. </P> <P> E23 glanced up under his eyelids. 'It is well said,' he muttered in a changed voice. 'I go to drink water. Keep my place.' </P> <P> He blundered out almost into the Englishman's arms, and was bad-worded in clumsy Urdu. </P> <P> 'Tum mut? You drunk? You mustn't bang about as though Delhi station belonged to you, my friend.' </P> <P> 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. </P> <P> 'My good fool,' the Englishman drawled. 'Nickle-jao! Go back to your carriage.' </P> <P> 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&mdash;here Kim almost jumped&mdash;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. </P> <P> 'I don't know what you're saying,'&mdash;the Englishman flushed angrily&mdash;'but it's some piece of blasted impertinence. Come out of that!' </P> <P> E23, affecting to misunderstand, gravely produced his ticket, which the Englishman wrenched angrily from his hand. </P> <P> '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!' </P> <P> The Saddhu followed the policeman, fawning and supplicating. The ruck of passengers, busy, with their babies and their bundles, had not noticed the affair. Kim slipped out behind him; for it flashed through his head that he had heard this angry, stupid Sahib discoursing loud personalities to an old lady near Umballa three years ago. </P> <P> 'It is well', the Saddhu whispered, jammed in the calling, shouting, bewildered press&mdash;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. They told me he was in Peshawur. I might have known that he is like the crocodile&mdash;always at the other ford. He has saved me from present calamity, but I owe my life to thee.' </P> <P> '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. </P> <P> '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.' </P> <P> He bored through the edge of the crowd besieging the carriages, and squatted by the bench near the telegraph-office. </P> <P> 'Return, or they take thy place! Have no fear for the work, brother&mdash;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!' </P> <P> Kim hurried to his carriage: elated, bewildered, but a little nettled in that he had no key to the secrets about him. </P> <P> '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 saved the life of one ... Where is the Kamboh gone, Holy One?' he whispered, as he took his seat in the now crowded compartment. </P> <P> '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&mdash;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?' </P> <P> 'With the polis,' said Kim ... 'Yet I saved the Kamboh's child.' </P> <P> The lama snuffed blandly. </P> <P> '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&mdash;I watched thee&mdash;and with sidelong glances to bewilder an old old man and a foolish farmer: whence calamity and suspicion.' </P> <P> 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. </P> <P> 'It is true,' he murmured. 'Where I have offended thee I have done wrong.' </P> <P> '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.' </P> <P> 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&mdash;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 stone Kim had helped to heave was lapping against the steps of a mosque in far-away Roum&mdash;where it disturbed a pious man at prayers. </P> <P> 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&mdash;though a wonderful thing&mdash;has turned my bones to water. We will use clean air henceforward.' </P> <P> '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. </P> <P> '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?' </P> <P> 'Her tongue grows no shorter with the years, then?' the disciple smiled. </P> <P> 'Nor her desire for charms. I remember once when I spoke of the Wheel of Life'&mdash;the lama fumbled in his bosom for his latest copy&mdash;'she was only curious about the devils that besiege children. She shall acquire merit by entertaining us&mdash;in a little while&mdash;at an after-occasion&mdash;softly, softly. Now we will wander loose-foot, waiting upon the Chain of Things. The Search is sure.' </P> <P> So they travelled very easily across and among the broad bloomful fruit-gardens&mdash;by way of Aminabad, Sahaigunge, Akrola of the Ford, and little Phulesa&mdash;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&mdash;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&mdash;some chosen village spied three hours before across the fat land, and much discussed upon the road. </P> <P> There they told their tale&mdash;a new one each evening so far as Kim was concerned&mdash;and there were they made welcome, either by priest or headman, after the custom of the kindly East. </P> <P> 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&mdash;and they were dreams of dreams. Here was our Heaven and the world of the demi-Gods&mdash;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&mdash;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&mdash;all warmly alive. Often the lama made the living pictures the matter of his text, bidding Kim&mdash;too ready&mdash;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&mdash;lusting after betel-nut, a new yoke of oxen, women, or the favour of kings&mdash;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&mdash;it was nothing less&mdash;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. </P> <P> '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.' </P> <P> '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. </P> <P> 'To abstain from action is well&mdash;except to acquire merit.' </P> <P> 'At the Gates of Learning we were taught that to abstain from action was unbefitting a Sahib. And I am a Sahib.' </P> <P> 'Friend of all the World,'&mdash;the lama looked directly at Kim&mdash;'I am an old man&mdash;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&mdash;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 is sure!' </P> <P> 'I am answered. Is it permitted to ask a question?' </P> <P> The lama inclined his stately head. </P> <P> 'I ate thy bread for three years&mdash;as thou knowest. Holy One, whence came&mdash;?' </P> <P> '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!' </P> <P> 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. </P> <P> 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. </P> <P> 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&mdash;a lean, dry Oorya&mdash;begging them to bring the honour of their presence to his mistress, distressed in her mind that the lama had neglected her so long. </P> <P> 'Now do I remember'&mdash;the lama spoke as though it were a wholly new proposition. 'She is virtuous, but an inordinate talker.' </P> <P> Kim was sitting on the edge of a cow's manger, telling stories to a village smith's children. </P> <P> '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.' </P> <P> 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. </P> <P> '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.' </P> <P> For proof, she harangued the entire household unsparingly till food and drink were brought; and in the evening&mdash;the smoke-scented evening, copper-dun and turquoise across the fields&mdash;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. </P> <P> 'Had the Holy One come alone, I should have received him otherwise; but with this rogue, who can be too careful?' </P> <P> 'Maharanee,' said Kim, choosing as always the amplest title, 'is it my fault that none other than a Sahib&mdash;a polis-Sahib&mdash;called the Maharanee whose face he&mdash;' 'Chutt! That was on the pilgrimage. When we travel&mdash;thou knowest the proverb.' </P> <P> 'Called the Maharanee a Breaker of Hearts and a Dispenser of Delights?' </P> <P> '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&mdash;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&mdash;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&mdash;stand aside, rogue&mdash;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.' </P> <P> 'Oh, Holy One!' said Kim, bubbling with mirth at the lama's rueful face. </P> <P> 'It is true. I gave her one against wind.' </P> <P> 'Teeth&mdash;teeth&mdash;teeth,' snapped the old woman. </P> <P> "'Cure them if they are sick,"' Kim quoted relishingly, "'but by no means work charms. Remember what befell the Mahratta."' </P> <P> '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&mdash;take note, my chela&mdash;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.' </P> <P> 'Arre! and to whom else should I talk? The boy's mother knew nothing, and the father&mdash;in the nights of the cold weather it was&mdash;"Pray to the Gods," said he, forsooth, and turning over, snored!' </P> <P> 'I gave her the charm. What is an old man to do?' </P> <P> "'To abstain from action is well&mdash;except to acquire merit."' </P> <P> 'Ah chela, if thou desertest me, I am all alone.' </P> <P> 'He found his milk-teeth easily at any rate,' said the old lady. 'But all priests are alike.' </P> <P> Kim coughed severely. Being young, he did not approve of her flippancy. 'To importune the wise out of season is to invite calamity.' </P> <P> 'There is a talking mynah'&mdash;the thrust came back with the well-remembered snap of the jewelled fore-finger&mdash;'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 bottles.' </P> <P> The lama, under cover of the monologue, had faded out into the darkness towards the room prepared. </P> <P> 'Thou hast angered him, belike,' said Kim. </P> <P> 'Not he. 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.' </P> <P> 'Who is the hakim, Maharanee?' </P> <P> 'A wanderer, as thou art, but a most sober Bengali from Dacca&mdash;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.' </P> <P> 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&mdash;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.' </P> <P> 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. </P> <P> '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&mdash;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 morning.' </P> <P> 'None but the ignorant deny'&mdash;a thick, heavy voice boomed through the darkness, as a figure came to rest squatting&mdash;'None but the ignorant deny the value of charms. None but the ignorant deny the value of medicines.' </P> <P> 'A rat found a piece of turmeric. Said he: "I will open a grocer's shop,"' Kim retorted. </P> <P> Battle was fairly joined now, and they heard the old lady stiffen to attention. </P> <P> '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.' </P> <P> '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. </P> <P> '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&mdash;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&mdash;' </P> <P> 'That I surely believe,' said Kim. </P> <P> '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.' </P> <P> 'Very mightily they do so,' sighed the old lady. </P> <P> 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&mdash;whither, maybe, the son of this House shall go.' </P> <P> 'He shall indeed. If our neighbour's brat can in a few years be made an F A' (First Arts&mdash;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 Calcutta.' </P> <P> 'Never,' said the voice, 'have I seen such a child! Born in an auspicious hour, and&mdash;but for that colic which, alas! turning into black cholers, may carry him off like a pigeon&mdash;destined to many years, he is enviable.' </P> <P> '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&mdash;round the homestead go I!' </P> <P> The palanquin reeled off, followed by straggling torches and a horde of dogs. Twenty villages knew the Sahiba&mdash;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. </P> <P>
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