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Kim

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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. </P> <P> 'To discuss medicine before the ignorant is of one piece with teaching the peacock to sing,' said the hakim. </P> <P> 'True courtesy,' Kim echoed, 'is very often inattention.' </P> <P> These, be it understood, were company-manners, designed to impress. </P> <P> 'Hi! I have an ulcer on my leg,' cried a scullion. 'Look at it!' </P> <P> 'Get hence! Remove!' said the hakim. 'Is it the habit of the place to pester honoured guests? Ye crowd in like buffaloes.' </P> <P> 'If the Sahiba knew&mdash;' Kim began. </P> <P> '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&mdash;' </P> <P> '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. </P> <P> 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.' </P> <P> 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. </P> <P> 'Ah ha! I told you at Lucknow&mdash;resurgam&mdash;I shall rise again and you shall not know me. How much did you bet&mdash;eh?' </P> <P> He chewed leisurely upon a few cardamom seeds, but he breathed uneasily. </P> <P> 'But why come here, Babuji?' </P> <P> 'Ah! 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.' </P> <P> 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&mdash;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. </P> <P> 'Tell thy tale, Babu,' he said authoritatively. </P> <P> '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&mdash;' He looked to see how Kim would take this piece of audacity. </P> <P> '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&mdash;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.' </P> <P> 'Umm!' </P> <P> 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. </P> <P> 'How didst thou follow us?' </P> <P> '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&mdash;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&mdash;the common people. So I come. Do you mind?' </P> <P> 'Babuji,' said Kim, looking up at the broad, grinning face, 'I am a Sahib.' </P> <P> 'My dear Mister O'Hara&mdash;' </P> <P> 'And I hope to play the Great Game.' </P> <P> 'You are subordinate to me departmentally at present.' </P> <P> '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&mdash;speaking not one word of truth in ten. Why art thou here? Give a straight answer.' </P> <P> 'That is so verree disconcerting of the Europeans, Mister O'Hara. You should know a heap better at your time of life.' </P> <P> '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?' </P> <P> Hurree Babu reached for the pipe, and sucked it till it gurgled again. </P> <P> 'Now I will speak vernacular. You sit tight, Mister O'Hara ... It concerns the pedigree of a white stallion.' </P> <P> 'Still? That was finished long ago.' </P> <P> '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 Army.' </P> <P> 'Ay&mdash;eight thousand men with guns. I remember that night.' </P> <P> '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&mdash;Rajahs with guns&mdash;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 unoffeecially to elucidate political situation, Mister O'Hara. Offeecially, I am debarred from criticizing any action of superiors. Now I go on.&mdash;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&mdash;it was after we two met&mdash;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.' </P> <P> 'So? And then?' </P> <P> '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.' </P> <P> 'For?' </P> <P> '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'&mdash;he shivered afresh&mdash;'come two strangers under cover of shooting wild goats. They bear guns, but they bear also chains and levels and compasses.' </P> <P> 'Oho! The thing gets clearer.' </P> <P> '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"&mdash;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&mdash;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&mdash;Hill-people are all fools&mdash;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 all tommy-rott.' </P> <P> Kim smoked slowly, revolving the business, so far as he understood it, in his quick mind. </P> <P> 'Then thou goest forth to follow the strangers?' </P> <P> 'No. 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.' </P> <P> 'Then what is to fear from them?' </P> <P> '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&mdash;I do not want to consort with them without a witness.' </P> <P> 'Will they kill thee?' </P> <P> '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&mdash;but they may beat me.' </P> <P> 'Why?' </P> <P> 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&mdash;onlee&mdash;you see, Mister O'Hara, I am unfortunately Asiatic, which is serious detriment in some respects. And all-so I am Bengali&mdash;a fearful man.' </P> <P> 'God made the Hare and the Bengali. What shame?' said Kim, quoting the proverb. </P> <P> 'It was process of Evolution, I think, from Primal Necessity, but the fact remains in all the cui bono. I am, oh, awfully fearful!&mdash;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&mdash;perhaps you might divert him; perhaps I can seduce his fancies&mdash;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.' </P> <P> 'Humph! The end of the tale, I think, is true; but what of the fore-part?' </P> <P> '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&mdash;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.' </P> <P> '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&mdash;' </P> <P> '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&mdash;that is an Europe pun, ha! ha!&mdash;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: </P> <P> '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&mdash;God knows how far&mdash;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'&mdash;he smiled to the darkness&mdash;'I owe to the lama here. Also to Mahbub Ali&mdash;also to Creighton Sahib, but chiefly to the Holy One. He is right&mdash;a great and a wonderful world&mdash;and I am Kim&mdash;Kim&mdash;Kim&mdash;alone&mdash;one person&mdash;in the middle of it all. But I will see these strangers with their levels and chains...' </P> <P> 'What was the upshot of last night's babble?' said the lama, after his orisons. </P> <P> 'There came a strolling seller of drugs&mdash;a hanger-on of the Sahiba's. Him I abolished by arguments and prayers, proving that our charms are worthier than his coloured waters.' </P> <P> 'Alas, my charms! Is the virtuous woman still bent upon a new one?' </P> <P> 'Very strictly.' </P> <P> 'Then it must be written, or she will deafen me with her clamour.' He fumbled at his pencase. </P> <P> 'In the Plains,' said Kim, 'are always too many people. In the Hills, as I understand, there are fewer.' </P> <P> '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?' </P> <P> '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 among them.' </P> <P> The lama snuffed the wind wistfully. </P> <P> 'If we go North,'&mdash;Kim put the question to the waking sunrise&mdash;'would not much mid-day heat be avoided by walking among the lower hills at least? ... Is the charm made, Holy One?' </P> <P> 'I have written the names of seven silly devils&mdash;not one of whom is worth a grain of dust in the eye. Thus do foolish women drag us from the Way!' </P> <P> 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&mdash;he thanked the Gods therefore&mdash;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&mdash;the high and lonely lore of meditation. Kim looked on with envy. The Hurree Babu of his knowledge&mdash;oily, effusive, and nervous&mdash;was gone; gone, too, was the brazen drug-vendor of overnight. There remained&mdash;polished, polite, attentive&mdash;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&mdash;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. </P> <P> 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 parts. </P> <P> '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&mdash;so says the hakim&mdash;we come to cool air and the smell of pines.' </P> <P> '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&mdash;every march of the road I know. Ye will find charity throughout&mdash;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.' </P> <P> '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&mdash;wah!' He rubbed his slim stomach. </P> <P> There were cakes, there were sweetmeats, there was cold fowl stewed to rags with rice and prunes&mdash;enough to burden Kim like a mule. </P> <P> 'I am old and useless,' she said. 'None now love me&mdash;and none respect&mdash;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.' </P> <P> She wiped her red old eyes on a corner of her veil, and clucked throatily. </P> <P> '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&mdash;of a whole and zealous heart. Who shall say she does not acquire merit?' </P> <P> 'Not I, Holy One,' said Kim, reslinging the bountiful provision on his shoulders. 'In my mind&mdash;behind my eyes&mdash;I have tried to picture such an one altogether freed from the Wheel&mdash;desiring nothing, causing nothing&mdash;a nun, as it were.' </P> <P> 'And, O imp?' The lama almost laughed aloud. </P> <P> 'I cannot make the picture.' </P> <P> 'Nor I. But there are many, many millions of lives before her. She will get wisdom a little, it may be, in each one.' </P> <P> 'And will she forget how to make stews with saffron upon that road?' </P> <P> '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&mdash;the high hills&mdash;up to the sound of snow-waters and the sound of the trees&mdash;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&mdash;when thou wast talking to the Sahiba&mdash;of a certain dizziness that lays hold upon the back of my neck in the night, and he said it rose from excessive heat&mdash;to be cured by cool air. Upon consideration, I marvelled that I had not thought of such a simple remedy.' </P> <P> 'Didst thou tell him of thy Search?' said Kim, a little jealously. He preferred to sway the lama by his own speech&mdash;not through the wiles of Hurree Babu. </P> <P> 'Assuredly. I told him of my dream, and of the manner by which I had acquired merit by causing thee to be taught wisdom.' </P> <P> 'Thou didst not say I was a Sahib?' </P> <P> 'What need? I have told thee many times we be but two souls seeking escape. He said&mdash;and he is just herein&mdash;that the River of Healing will break forth even as I dreamed&mdash;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&mdash;which are illusion? That were senseless. I have my dreams, night upon night repeated; I have Jataka; and I have thee, Friend of all the World. It was written in thy horoscope that a Red Bull on a green field&mdash;I have not forgotten&mdash;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!' </P> <P> He set his ivory-yellow face, serene and untroubled, towards the beckoning Hills; his shadow shouldering far before him in the dust. </P> <BR><BR><BR>
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