Kim - Rudyard Kipling - ebook

The novel, published in 1901, tells the story of Kimball O'Hara, an orphan boy from an Irish sergeant. Kim is poor and lives begging. His wanderings will enable him to be involved in a job of espionage between Russians and English. Rudyard Kipling was born on 30 December 1865 in Bombay. British writer and poet of Indian origins, in 1907 (when he was only 41 years old) Kipling received the Nobel Prize for Literature. His novels include: Captains Courageous and The Man Who Would Be King. He died in London, the 18 January 1936.

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Veste grafica, nota introduttiva e cenni biografici

a cura di Infilaindiana Edizioni.



The novel, published in 1901, tells the story of Kimball O’Hara, an orphan boy from an Irish sergeant. Kim is poor and lives begging. His wanderings will enable him to be involved in a job of espionage between Russians and English.


Rudyard Kipling was born on 30 December 1865 in Bombay. British writer and poet of Indian origins, in 1907 (when he was only 41 years old) Kipling received the Nobel Prize for Literature. His novels include: Captains Courageous and The Man Who Would Be King. He died in London, the 18 January 1936.





Rudyard Kipling

Chapter 1


O ye who tread the Narrow Way

By Tophet-flare to Judgment Day,

Be gentle when ‘the heathen’ pray

To Buddha at Kamakura!


Buddha at Kamakura.


He sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam Zammah on

her brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Gher – the Wonder House, as

the natives call the Lahore Museum. Who hold Zam-Zammah, that

‘fire-breathing dragon’, hold the Punjab, for the great green-bronze

piece is always first of the conqueror’s loot.


There was some justification for Kim – he had kicked Lala Dinanath’s boy

off the trunnions – since the English held the Punjab and Kim was

English. Though he was burned black as any native; though he spoke the

vernacular by preference, and his mother-tongue in a clipped uncertain

sing-song; though he consorted on terms of perfect equality with the

small boys of the bazar; Kim was white – a poor white of the very

poorest. The half-caste woman who looked after him (she smoked opium,

and pretended to keep a second-hand furniture shop by the square where

the cheap cabs wait) told the missionaries that she was Kim’s mother’s

sister; but his mother had been nursemaid in a Colonel’s family and had

married Kimball O’Hara, a young colour-sergeant of the Mavericks, an

Irish regiment. He afterwards took a post on the Sind, Punjab, and

Delhi Railway, and his Regiment went home without him. The wife died

of cholera in Ferozepore, and O’Hara fell to drink and loafing up and

down the line with the keen-eyed three-year-old baby. Societies and

chaplains, anxious for the child, tried to catch him, but O’Hara

drifted away, till he came across the woman who took opium and learned

the taste from her, and died as poor whites die in India. His estate

at death consisted of three papers – one he called his ‘ne varietur’

because those words were written below his signature thereon, and

another his ‘clearance-certificate’. The third was Kim’s

birth-certificate. Those things, he was used to say, in his glorious

opium-hours, would yet make little Kimball a man. On no account was

Kim to part with them, for they belonged to a great piece of

magic – such magic as men practised over yonder behind the Museum, in

the big blue-and-white Jadoo-Gher – the Magic House, as we name the

Masonic Lodge. It would, he said, all come right some day, and Kim’s

horn would be exalted between pillars – monstrous pillars – of beauty and

strength. The Colonel himself, riding on a horse, at the head of the

finest Regiment in the world, would attend to Kim – little Kim that

should have been better off than his father. Nine hundred first-class

devils, whose God was a Red Bull on a green field, would attend to Kim,

if they had not forgotten O’Hara – poor O’Hara that was gang-foreman on

the Ferozepore line. Then he would weep bitterly in the broken rush

chair on the veranda. So it came about after his death that the woman

sewed parchment, paper, and birth-certificate into a leather

amulet-case which she strung round Kim’s neck.


‘And some day,’ she said, confusedly remembering O’Hara’s prophecies,

‘there will come for you a great Red Bull on a green field, and the

Colonel riding on his tall horse, yes, and’ dropping into

English – ’nine hundred devils.’


‘Ah,’ said Kim, ‘I shall remember. A Red Bull and a Colonel on a horse

will come, but first, my father said, will come the two men making

ready the ground for these matters. That is how my father said they

always did; and it is always so when men work magic.’


If the woman had sent Kim up to the local Jadoo-Gher with those papers,

he would, of course, have been taken over by the Provincial Lodge, and

sent to the Masonic Orphanage in the Hills; but what she had heard of

magic she distrusted. Kim, too, held views of his own. As he reached

the years of indiscretion, he learned to avoid missionaries and white

men of serious aspect who asked who he was, and what he did. For Kim

did nothing with an immense success. True, he knew the wonderful

walled city of Lahore from the Delhi Gate to the outer Fort Ditch; was

hand in glove with men who led lives stranger than anything Haroun al

Raschid dreamed of; and he lived in a life wild as that of the Arabian

Nights, but missionaries and secretaries of charitable societies could

not see the beauty of it. His nickname through the wards was ‘Little

Friend of all the World’; and very often, being lithe and

inconspicuous, he executed commissions by night on the crowded

housetops for sleek and shiny young men of fashion. It was

intrigue, – of course he knew that much, as he had known all evil since

he could speak, – but what he loved was the game for its own sake – the

stealthy prowl through the dark gullies and lanes, the crawl up a

waterpipe, the sights and sounds of the women’s world on the flat

roofs, and the headlong flight from housetop to housetop under cover of

the hot dark. Then there were holy men, ash-smeared fakirs by their

brick shrines under the trees at the riverside, with whom he was quite

familiar – greeting them as they returned from begging-tours, and, when

no one was by, eating from the same dish. The woman who looked after

him insisted with tears that he should wear European clothes – trousers,

a shirt and a battered hat. Kim found it easier to slip into Hindu or

Mohammedan garb when engaged on certain businesses. One of the young

men of fashion – he who was found dead at the bottom of a well on the

night of the earthquake – had once given him a complete suit of Hindu

kit, the costume of a lowcaste street boy, and Kim stored it in a

secret place under some baulks in Nila Ram’s timber-yard, beyond the

Punjab High Court, where the fragrant deodar logs lie seasoning after

they have driven down the Ravi. When there was business or frolic

afoot, Kim would use his properties, returning at dawn to the veranda,

all tired out from shouting at the heels of a marriage procession, or

yelling at a Hindu festival. Sometimes there was food in the house,

more often there was not, and then Kim went out again to eat with his

native friends.


As he drummed his heels against Zam-Zammah he turned now and again from

his king-of-the-castle game with little Chota Lal and Abdullah the

sweetmeat-seller’s son, to make a rude remark to the native policeman

on guard over rows of shoes at the Museum door. The big Punjabi grinned

tolerantly: he knew Kim of old. So did the water-carrier, sluicing

water on the dry road from his goat-skin bag. So did Jawahir Singh,

the Museum carpenter, bent over new packing-cases. So did everybody in

sight except the peasants from the country, hurrying up to the Wonder

House to view the things that men made in their own province and

elsewhere. The Museum was given up to Indian arts and manufactures,

and anybody who sought wisdom could ask the Curator to explain.


‘Off! Off! Let me up!’ cried Abdullah, climbing up Zam-Zammah’s wheel.


‘Thy father was a pastry-cook, Thy mother stole the ghi,’ sang Kim.

‘All Mussalmans fell off Zam-Zammah long ago!’


‘Let me up!’ shrilled little Chota Lal in his gilt-embroidered cap.

His father was worth perhaps half a million sterling, but India is the

only democratic land in the world.


‘The Hindus fell off Zam-Zammah too. The Mussalmans pushed them off.

Thy father was a pastry-cook – ’


He stopped; for there shuffled round the corner, from the roaring Motee

Bazar, such a man as Kim, who thought he knew all castes, had never

seen. He was nearly six feet high, dressed in fold upon fold of dingy

stuff like horse-blanketing, and not one fold of it could Kim refer to

any known trade or profession. At his belt hung a long open-work iron

pencase and a wooden rosary such as holy men wear. On his head was a

gigantic sort of tam-o’-shanter. His face was yellow and wrinkled, like

that of Fook Shing, the Chinese bootmaker in the bazar. His eyes

turned up at the corners and looked like little slits of onyx.


‘Who is that?’ said Kim to his companions.


‘Perhaps it is a man,’ said Abdullah, finger in mouth, staring.


‘Without doubt,’ returned Kim; ‘but he is no man of India that I have

ever seen.’


‘A priest, perhaps,’ said Chota Lal, spying the rosary. ‘See! He goes

into the Wonder House!’


‘Nay, nay,’ said the policeman, shaking his head. ‘I do not understand

your talk.’ The constable spoke Punjabi. ‘O Friend of all the World,

what does he say?’


‘Send him hither,’ said Kim, dropping from Zam-Zammah, flourishing his

bare heels. ‘He is a foreigner, and thou art a buffalo.’


The man turned helplessly and drifted towards the boys. He was old,

and his woollen gaberdine still reeked of the stinking artemisia of the

mountain passes.


‘O Children, what is that big house?’ he said in very fair Urdu.


‘The Ajaib-Gher, the Wonder House!’ Kim gave him no title – such as

Lala or Mian. He could not divine the man’s creed.


‘Ah! The Wonder House! Can any enter?’


‘It is written above the door – all can enter.’


‘Without payment?’


‘I go in and out. I am no banker,’ laughed Kim.


‘Alas! I am an old man. I did not know.’ Then, fingering his rosary,

he half turned to the Museum.


‘What is your caste? Where is your house? Have you come far?’ Kim



‘I came by Kulu – from beyond the Kailas – but what know you? From the

Hills where’ – he sighed – ’the air and water are fresh and cool.’


‘Aha! Khitai [a Chinaman],’ said Abdullah proudly. Fook Shing had

once chased him out of his shop for spitting at the joss above the



‘Pahari [a hillman],’ said little Chota Lal.


‘Aye, child – a hillman from hills thou’lt never see. Didst hear of

Bhotiyal [Tibet]? I am no Khitai, but a Bhotiya [Tibetan], since you

must know – a lama – or, say, a guru in your tongue.’


‘A guru from Tibet,’ said Kim. ‘I have not seen such a man. They be

Hindus in Tibet, then?’


‘We be followers of the Middle Way, living in peace in our lamasseries,

and I go to see the Four Holy Places before I die. Now do you, who are

children, know as much as I do who am old.’ He smiled benignantly on

the boys.


‘Hast thou eaten?’


He fumbled in his bosom and drew forth a worn, wooden begging-bowl. The

boys nodded. All priests of their acquaintance begged.


‘I do not wish to eat yet.’ He turned his head like an old tortoise in

the sunlight. ‘Is it true that there are many images in the Wonder

House of Lahore?’ He repeated the last words as one making sure of an



‘That is true,’ said Abdullah. ‘It is full of heathen busts. Thou

also art an idolater.’


‘Never mind him,’ said. Kim. ‘That is the Government’s house and

there is no idolatry in it, but only a Sahib with a white beard. Come

with me and I will show.’


‘Strange priests eat boys,’ whispered Chota Lal.


‘And he is a stranger and a but-parast [idolater],’ said Abdullah, the



Kim laughed. ‘He is new. Run to your mothers’ laps, and be safe.



Kim clicked round the self-registering turnstile; the old man followed

and halted amazed. In the entrance-hall stood the larger figures of

the Greco-Buddhist sculptures done, savants know how long since, by

forgotten workmen whose hands were feeling, and not unskilfully, for

the mysteriously transmitted Grecian touch. There were hundreds of

pieces, friezes of figures in relief, fragments of statues and slabs

crowded with figures that had encrusted the brick walls of the Buddhist

stupas and viharas of the North Country and now, dug up and labelled,

made the pride of the Museum. In open-mouthed wonder the lama turned

to this and that, and finally checked in rapt attention before a large

alto-relief representing a coronation or apotheosis of the Lord Buddha.

The Master was represented seated on a lotus the petals of which were

so deeply undercut as to show almost detached. Round Him was an adoring

hierarchy of kings, elders, and old-time Buddhas. Below were

lotus-covered waters with fishes and water-birds. Two butterfly-winged

devas held a wreath over His head; above them another pair supported an

umbrella surmounted by the jewelled headdress of the Bodhisat.


‘The Lord! The Lord! It is Sakya Muni himself,’ the lama half sobbed;

and under his breath began the wonderful Buddhist invocation:


To Him the Way, the Law, apart, Whom Maya held beneath her heart,

Ananda’s Lord, the Bodhisat.


‘And He is here! The Most Excellent Law is here also. My pilgrimage

is well begun. And what work! What work!’


‘Yonder is the Sahib.’ said Kim, and dodged sideways among the cases

of the arts and manufacturers wing. A white-bearded Englishman was

looking at the lama, who gravely turned and saluted him and after some

fumbling drew forth a note-book and a scrap of paper.


‘Yes, that is my name,’ smiling at the clumsy, childish print.


‘One of us who had made pilgrimage to the Holy Places – he is now Abbot

of the Lung-Cho Monastery – gave it me,’ stammered the lama. ‘He spoke

of these.’ His lean hand moved tremulously round.


‘Welcome, then, O lama from Tibet. Here be the images, and I am

here’ – he glanced at the lama’s face – ’to gather knowledge. Come to my

office awhile.’ The old man was trembling with excitement.


The office was but a little wooden cubicle partitioned off from the

sculpture-lined gallery. Kim laid himself down, his ear against a

crack in the heat-split cedar door, and, following his instinct,

stretched out to listen and watch.


Most of the talk was altogether above his head. The lama, haltingly at

first, spoke to the Curator of his own lamassery, the Such-zen,

opposite the Painted Rocks, four months’ march away. The Curator

brought out a huge book of photos and showed him that very place,

perched on its crag, overlooking the gigantic valley of many-hued



‘Ay, ay!’ The lama mounted a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles of Chinese

work. ‘Here is the little door through which we bring wood before

winter. And thou – the English know of these things? He who is now

Abbot of Lung-Cho told me, but I did not believe. The Lord – the

Excellent One – He has honour here too? And His life is known?’


‘It is all carven upon the stones. Come and see, if thou art rested.’


Out shuffled the lama to the main hall, and, the Curator beside him,

went through the collection with the reverence of a devotee and the

appreciative instinct of a craftsman.


Incident by incident in the beautiful story he identified on the

blurred stone, puzzled here and there by the unfamiliar Greek

convention, but delighted as a child at each new trove. Where the

sequence failed, as in the Annunciation, the Curator supplied it from

his mound of books – French and German, with photographs and



Here was the devout Asita, the pendant of Simeon in the Christian

story, holding the Holy Child on his knee while mother and father

listened; and here were incidents in the legend of the cousin

Devadatta. Here was the wicked woman who accused the Master of

impurity, all confounded; here was the teaching in the Deer-park; the

miracle that stunned the fire-worshippers; here was the Bodhisat in

royal state as a prince; the miraculous birth; the death at Kusinagara,

where the weak disciple fainted; while there were almost countless

repetitions of the meditation under the Bodhi tree; and the adoration

of the alms-bowl was everywhere. In a few minutes the Curator saw that

his guest was no mere bead-telling mendicant, but a scholar of parts.

And they went at it all over again, the lama taking snuff, wiping his

spectacles, and talking at railway speed in a bewildering mixture of

Urdu and Tibetan. He had heard of the travels of the Chinese pilgrims,

Fu-Hiouen and Hwen-Tsiang, and was anxious to know if there was any

translation of their record. He drew in his breath as he turned

helplessly over the pages of Beal and Stanislas Julien. ‘’Tis all

here. A treasure locked.’ Then he composed himself reverently to

listen to fragments hastily rendered into Urdu. For the first time he

heard of the labours of European scholars, who by the help of these and

a hundred other documents have identified the Holy Places of Buddhism.

Then he was shown a mighty map, spotted and traced with yellow. The

brown finger followed the Curator’s pencil from point to point. Here

was Kapilavastu, here the Middle Kingdom, and here Mahabodhi, the Mecca

of Buddhism; and here was Kusinagara, sad place of the Holy One’s

death. The old man bowed his head over the sheets in silence for a

while, and the Curator lit another pipe. Kim had fallen asleep. When

he waked, the talk, still in spate, was more within his comprehension.


‘And thus it was, O Fountain of Wisdom, that I decided to go to the

Holy Places which His foot had trod – to the Birthplace, even to Kapila;

then to Mahabodhi, which is Buddh Gaya – to the Monastery – to the

Deer-park – to the place of His death.’


The lama lowered his voice. ‘And I come here alone. For

five – seven – eighteen – forty years it was in my mind that the Old Law

was not well followed; being overlaid, as thou knowest, with devildom,

charms, and idolatry. Even as the child outside said but now. Ay,

even as the child said, with but-parasti.’


‘So it comes with all faiths.’


‘Thinkest thou? The books of my lamassery I read, and they were dried

pith; and the later ritual with which we of the Reformed Law have

cumbered ourselves – that, too, had no worth to these old eyes. Even

the followers of the Excellent One are at feud on feud with one

another. It is all illusion. Ay, maya, illusion. But I have another

desire’ – the seamed yellow face drew within three inches of the

Curator, and the long forefinger-nail tapped on the table. ‘Your

scholars, by these books, have followed the Blessed Feet in all their

wanderings; but there are things which they have not sought out. I

know nothing – nothing do I know – but I go to free myself from the Wheel

of Things by a broad and open road.’ He smiled with most simple

triumph. ‘As a pilgrim to the Holy Places I acquire merit. But there

is more. Listen to a true thing. When our gracious Lord, being as yet

a youth, sought a mate, men said, in His father’s Court, that He was

too tender for marriage. Thou knowest?’


The Curator nodded, wondering what would come next.


‘So they made the triple trial of strength against all comers. And at

the test of the Bow, our Lord first breaking that which they gave Him,

called for such a bow as none might bend. Thou knowest?’


‘It is written. I have read.’


‘And, overshooting all other marks, the arrow passed far and far beyond

sight. At the last it fell; and, where it touched earth, there broke

out a stream which presently became a River, whose nature, by our

Lord’s beneficence, and that merit He acquired ere He freed himself, is

that whoso bathes in it washes away all taint and speckle of sin.’


‘So it is written,’ said the Curator sadly.


The lama drew a long breath. ‘Where is that River? Fountain of

Wisdom, where fell the arrow?’


‘Alas, my brother, I do not know,’ said the Curator.


‘Nay, if it please thee to forget – the one thing only that thou hast

not told me. Surely thou must know? See, I am an old man! I ask with

my head between thy feet, O Fountain of Wisdom. We know He drew the

bow! We know the arrow fell! We know the stream gushed! Where, then,

is the River? My dream told me to find it. So I came. I am here. But

where is the River?’


‘If I knew, think you I would not cry it aloud?’


‘By it one attains freedom from the Wheel of Things,’ the lama went on,

unheeding. ‘The River of the Arrow! Think again! Some little stream,

maybe – dried in the heats? But the Holy One would never so cheat an

old man.’


‘I do not know. I do not know.’


The lama brought his thousand-wrinkled face once more a handsbreadth

from the Englishman’s. ‘I see thou dost not know. Not being of the

Law, the matter is hid from thee.’


‘Ay – hidden – hidden.’


‘We are both bound, thou and I, my brother. But I’ – he rose with a

sweep of the soft thick drapery – ’I go to cut myself free. Come also!’


‘I am bound,’ said the Curator. ‘But whither goest thou?’


‘First to Kashi [Benares]: where else? There I shall meet one of the

pure faith in a Jain temple of that city. He also is a Seeker in

secret, and from him haply I may learn. Maybe he will go with me to

Buddh Gaya. Thence north and west to Kapilavastu, and there will I

seek for the River. Nay, I will seek everywhere as I go – for the place

is not known where the arrow fell.’


‘And how wilt thou go? It is a far cry to Delhi, and farther to



‘By road and the trains. From Pathankot, having left the Hills, I came

hither in a te-rain. It goes swiftly. At first I was amazed to see

those tall poles by the side of the road snatching up and snatching up

their threads,’ – he illustrated the stoop and whirl of a telegraph-pole

flashing past the train. ‘But later, I was cramped and desired to

walk, as I am used.’


‘And thou art sure of thy road?’ said the Curator.


‘Oh, for that one but asks a question and pays money, and the appointed

persons despatch all to the appointed place. That much I knew in my

lamassery from sure report,’ said the lama proudly.


‘And when dost thou go?’ The Curator smiled at the mixture of

old-world piety and modern progress that is the note of India today.


‘As soon as may be. I follow the places of His life till I come to the

River of the Arrow. There is, moreover, a written paper of the hours

of the trains that go south.’


‘And for food?’ Lamas, as a rule, have good store of money somewhere

about them, but the Curator wished to make sure.


‘For the journey, I take up the Master’s begging-bowl. Yes. Even as

He went so go I, forsaking the ease of my monastery. There was with me

when I left the hills a chela [disciple] who begged for me as the Rule

demands, but halting in Kulu awhile a fever took him and he died. I

have now no chela, but I will take the alms-bowl and thus enable the

charitable to acquire merit.’ He nodded his head valiantly. Learned

doctors of a lamassery do not beg, but the lama was an enthusiast in

this quest.


‘Be it so,’ said the Curator, smiling. ‘Suffer me now to acquire

merit. We be craftsmen together, thou and I. Here is a new book of

white English paper: here be sharpened pencils two and three – thick

and thin, all good for a scribe. Now lend me thy spectacles.’


The Curator looked through them. They were heavily scratched, but the

power was almost exactly that of his own pair, which he slid into the

lama’s hand, saying: ‘Try these.’


‘A feather! A very feather upon the face.’ The old man turned his

head delightedly and wrinkled up his nose. ‘How scarcely do I feel

them! How clearly do I see!’


‘They be bilaur – crystal – and will never scratch. May they help thee

to thy River, for they are thine.’


‘I will take them and the pencils and the white note-book,’ said the

lama, ‘as a sign of friendship between priest and priest – and now – ’ He

fumbled at his belt, detached the open-work iron pincers, and laid it

on the Curator’s table. ‘That is for a memory between thee and me – my

pencase. It is something old – even as I am.’


It was a piece of ancient design, Chinese, of an iron that is not

smelted these days; and the collector’s heart in the Curator’s bosom

had gone out to it from the first. For no persuasion would the lama

resume his gift.


‘When I return, having found the River, I will bring thee a written

picture of the Padma Samthora such as I used to make on silk at the

lamassery. Yes – and of the Wheel of Life,’ he chuckled, ‘for we be

craftsmen together, thou and I.’


The Curator would have detained him: they are few in the world who

still have the secret of the conventional brush-pen Buddhist pictures

which are, as it were, half written and half drawn. But the lama

strode out, head high in air, and pausing an instant before the great

statue of a Bodhisat in meditation, brushed through the turnstiles.


Kim followed like a shadow. What he had overheard excited him wildly.

This man was entirely new to all his experience, and he meant to

investigate further, precisely as he would have investigated a new

building or a strange festival in Lahore city. The lama was his trove,

and he purposed to take possession. Kim’s mother had been Irish, too.


The old man halted by Zam-Zammah and looked round till his eye fell on

Kim. The inspiration of his pilgrimage had left him for awhile, and he

felt old, forlorn, and very empty.


‘Do not sit under that gun,’ said the policeman loftily.


‘Huh! Owl!’ was Kim’s retort on the lama’s behalf. ‘Sit under that

gun if it please thee. When didst thou steal the milkwoman’s slippers,



That was an utterly unfounded charge sprung on the spur of the moment,

but it silenced Dunnoo, who knew that Kim’s clear yell could call up

legions of bad bazaar boys if need arose.


‘And whom didst thou worship within?’ said Kim affably, squatting in

the shade beside the lama.


‘I worshipped none, child. I bowed before the Excellent Law.’


Kim accepted this new God without emotion. He knew already a few score.


‘And what dost thou do?’


‘I beg. I remember now it is long since I have eaten or drunk. What is

the custom of charity in this town? In silence, as we do of Tibet, or

speaking aloud?’


‘Those who beg in silence starve in silence,’ said Kim, quoting a

native proverb. The lama tried to rise, but sank back again, sighing

for his disciple, dead in far-away Kulu. Kim watched head to one side,

considering and interested.


‘Give me the bowl. I know the people of this city – all who are

charitable. Give, and I will bring it back filled.’


Simply as a child the old man handed him the bowl.


‘Rest, thou. I know the people.’


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.


‘Oho, hast thou turned yogi with thy begging-bowl?’ she cried.


‘Nay.’ said Kim proudly. ‘There is a new priest in the city – a man

such as I have never seen.’


‘Old priest – 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?’


‘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



‘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



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.


‘See! I have saved more than the bowl will cost thrice over. Now,

mother, a little rice and some dried fish atop – yes, and some vegetable



A growl came out of the back of the shop, where a man lay.


‘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



‘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.’


‘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.


‘That is good. When I am in the bazar the bull shall not come to this

house. He is a bold beggar-man.’


‘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.’


But Kim had danced off ere the end of the sentence, dodging pariah dogs

and hungry acquaintances.


‘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 – 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.’


‘We men!’ said the bhisti, laughing. ‘Is one skinful enough for such

a pair? Drink, then, in the name of the Compassionate.’


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.


‘Pardesi [a foreigner],’ Kim explained, as the old man delivered in an

unknown tongue what was evidently a blessing.


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.


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.


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



‘What is this?’ said the boy, standing before him. ‘Hast thou been



‘It is my new chela [disciple] that is gone away from me, and I know

not where he is.’


‘And what like of man was thy disciple?’


‘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.’


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.


‘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.’


‘The River of the Arrow?’ said Kim, with a superior smile.


‘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?’


‘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.’


‘But the River – the River of the Arrow?’


‘Oh, that I heard when thou wast speaking to the Englishman. I lay

against the door.’


The lama sighed. ‘I thought thou hadst been a guide permitted. Such

things fall sometimes – but I am not worthy. Thou dost not, then, know

the River?’


‘Not I,’ Kim laughed uneasily. ‘I go to look for – for a bull – 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.


‘To what, child?’ said the lama.


‘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 – so used to truth-telling – 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 – thou, thy

River; and I, my Bull, and the Strong Pillars and some other matters

that I forget.’


‘It is not pillars but a Wheel from which I would be free,’ said the



‘That is all one. Perhaps they will make me a king,’ said Kim,

serenely prepared for anything.


‘I will teach thee other and better desires upon the road,’ the lama

replied in the voice of authority. ‘Let us go to Benares.’


‘Not by night. Thieves are abroad. Wait till the day.’


‘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.


‘We shall get good lodging at the Kashmir Serai,’ said Kim, laughing at

his perplexity. ‘I have a friend there. Come!’


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 – sometimes very rude – 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



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.


Kim had had many dealings with Mahbub in his little life, especially

between his tenth and his thirteenth year – 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.


‘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.


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.


‘Allah! A lama! A Red Lama! It is far from Lahore to the Passes.

What dost thou do here?’


The lama held out the begging-bowl mechanically.


‘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.’


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’



‘Go!’ said Kim, pushing him lightly, and the lama strode away, leaving

Kim at the edge of the cloister.


‘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.’


‘Maharaj,’ whined Kim, using the Hindu form of address, and thoroughly

enjoying the situation; ‘my father is dead – my mother is dead – my

stomach is empty.’


‘Beg from my men among the horses, I say. There must be some Hindus in

my tail.’


‘Oh, Mahbub Ali, but am I a Hindu?’ said Kim in English.


The trader gave no sign of astonishment, but looked under shaggy



‘Little Friend of all the World,’ said he, ‘what is this?’


‘Nothing. I am now that holy man’s disciple; and we go a pilgrimage

together – to Benares, he says. He is quite mad, and I am tired of

Lahore city. I wish new air and water.’


‘But for whom dost thou work? Why come to me?’ The voice was harsh

with suspicion.


‘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.’


‘Um!’ said Mahbub Ali, thinking swiftly. ‘Thou hast never before lied

to me. Call that lama – stand back in the dark.’


‘Oh, our tales will agree,’ said Kim, laughing.


‘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



‘Maybe – but the boy?’


‘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 – a Hindu.’


‘And his name?’


‘That I did not ask. Is he not my disciple?’


‘His country – his race – his village? Mussalman – Sikh Hindu – Jain – low

caste or high?’


‘Why should I ask? There is neither high nor low in the Middle Way.

If he is my chela – does – will – can anyone take him from me? for, look

you, without him I shall not find my River.’ He wagged his head



‘None shall take him from thee. Go, sit among my Baltis,’ said Mahbub

Ali, and the lama drifted off, soothed by the promise.


‘Is he not quite mad?’ said Kim, coming forward to the light again.

‘Why should I lie to thee, Hajji?’


Mahbub puffed his hookah in silence. Then he began, almost whispering:

‘Umballa is on the road to Benares – if indeed ye two go there.’


‘Tck! Tck! I tell thee he does not know how to lie – as we two know.’


‘And if thou wilt carry a message for me as far as Umballa, I will give

thee money. It concerns a horse – a white stallion which I have sold to

an officer upon the last time I returned from the Passes. But

then – stand nearer and hold up hands as begging – 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



‘And all for the sake of a white stallion,’ said Kim, with a giggle,

his eyes aflame.


‘That pedigree I will give thee now – in my own fashion and some hard

words as well.’ A shadow passed behind Kim, and a feeding camel.

Mahbub Ali raised his voice.


‘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 – ’


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 – thou and the lama. Tomorrow I may give thee service.’


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 – 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.


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 – it was checked by the statements

of R17 and M4 – quite true. It concerned all manner of out-of-the-way

mountain principalities, explorers of nationalities other than English,

and the guntrade – 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



And there was that on Mahbub Ali which he did not wish to keep an hour

longer than was necessary – a wad of closely folded tissue-paper,

wrapped in oilskin – 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 – ’ 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.


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.


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.


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 – at a certain risk of exciting fresh suspicion – repeat his tale by

word of mouth to the people concerned.


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.


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.


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.


‘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 – if ever there were such a



‘Nay – in a matter touching Five Kings it would be next his black

heart,’ said the pundit. ‘Was there nothing?’


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.’


‘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.”’


‘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] – who deal there,’ said the Flower.


‘They have not yet come in,’ said the pundit. ‘Thou must ensnare them



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 – yaie! Go! I sleep now. This

swine will not stir till dawn.’


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.


‘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 – perhaps with the knife. So it stands that the boy must go to

Umballa – and by rail – for the writing is something urgent. I abide

here, following the Flower and drinking wine as an Afghan coper should.’


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.


‘Up!’ He stirred a sleeper. ‘Whither went those who lay here last

even – the lama and the boy? Is aught missing?’


‘Nay,’ grunted the man, ‘the old madman rose at second cockcrow saying

he would go to Benares, and the young one led him away.’


‘The curse of Allah on all unbelievers!’ said Mahbub heartily, and

climbed into his own stall, growling in his beard.


But it was Kim who had wakened the lama – 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 – 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 – the long-drawn choor – choor! [thief! thief!] that sets the

serai ablaze of nights; but he looked more carefully, and, hand on

amulet, drew his own conclusions.


‘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 – time to go to Benares.’


The lama rose obediently, and they passed out of the serai like shadows.

Chapter 2


And whoso will, from Pride released;

Contemning neither creed nor priest,

May feel the Soul of all the East.

About him at Kamakura.


Buddha at Kamakura.


They entered the fort-like railway station, black in the end of night;

the electrics sizzling over the goods-yard where they handle the heavy

Northern grain-traffic.


‘This is the work of devils!’ said the lama, recoiling from the hollow

echoing darkness, the glimmer of rails between the masonry platforms,

and the maze of girders above. He stood in a gigantic stone hall

paved, it seemed, with the sheeted dead third-class passengers who had

taken their tickets overnight and were sleeping in the waiting-rooms.

All hours of the twenty-four are alike to Orientals, and their

passenger traffic is regulated accordingly.


‘This is where the fire-carriages come. One stands behind that

hole’ – Kim pointed to the ticket-office – ’who will give thee a paper to

take thee to Umballa.’


‘But we go to Benares,’ he replied petulantly.


‘All one. Benares then. Quick: she comes!’


‘Take thou the purse.’


The lama, not so well used to trains as he had pretended, started as

the 3.25 a.m. south-bound roared in. The sleepers sprang to life, and

the station filled with clamour and shoutings, cries of water and

sweetmeat vendors, shouts of native policemen, and shrill yells of

women gathering up their baskets, their families, and their husbands.


‘It is the train – only the te-rain. It will not come here. Wait!’

Amazed at the lama’s immense simplicity (he had handed him a small bag

full of rupees), Kim asked and paid for a ticket to Umballa. A sleepy

clerk grunted and flung out a ticket to the next station, just six

miles distant.


‘Nay,’ said Kim, scanning it with a grin. ‘This may serve for farmers,

but I live in the city of Lahore. It was cleverly done, Babu. Now

give the ticket to Umballa.’


The Babu scowled and dealt the proper ticket.


‘Now another to Amritzar,’ said Kim, who had no notion of spending

Mahbub Ali’s money on anything so crude as a paid ride to Umballa.

‘The price is so much. The small money in return is just so much. I

know the ways of the te-rain … Never did yogi need chela as thou

dost,’ he went on merrily to the bewildered lama. ‘They would have

flung thee out at Mian Mir but for me. This way! Come!’ He returned

the money, keeping only one anna in each rupee of the price of the

Umballa ticket as his commission – the immemorial commission of Asia.


The lama jibbed at the open door of a crowded third-class carriage.

‘Were it not better to walk?’ said he weakly.


A burly Sikh artisan thrust forth his bearded head. ‘Is he afraid? Do

not be afraid. I remember the time when I was afraid of the te-rain.

Enter! This thing is the work of the Government.’


‘I do not fear,’ said the lama. ‘Have ye room within for two?’


‘There is no room even for a mouse,’ shrilled the wife of a well-to-do

cultivator – a Hindu Jat from the rich Jullundur, district. Our night

trains are not as well looked after as the day ones, where the sexes

are very strictly kept to separate carriages.


‘Oh, mother of my son, we can make space,’ said the blueturbaned

husband. ‘Pick up the child. It is a holy man, see’st thou?’


‘And my lap full of seventy times seven bundles! Why not bid him sit

on my knee, Shameless? But men are ever thus!’ She looked round for

approval. An Amritzar courtesan near the window sniffed behind her

head drapery.


‘Enter! Enter!’ cried a fat Hindu money-lender, his folded

account-book in a cloth under his arm. With an oily smirk: ‘It is

well to be kind to the poor.’


‘Ay, at seven per cent a month with a mortgage on the unborn calf,’

said a young Dogra soldier going south on leave; and they all laughed.


‘Will it travel to Benares?’ said the lama.


‘Assuredly. Else why should we come? Enter, or we are left,’ cried



‘See!’ shrilled the Amritzar girl. ‘He has never entered a train. Oh,



‘Nay, help,’ said the cultivator, putting out a large brown hand and

hauling him in. ‘Thus is it done, father.’


‘But – but – I sit on the floor. It is against the Rule to sit on a

bench,’ said the lama. ‘Moreover, it cramps me.’


‘I say,’ began the money-lender, pursing his lips, ‘that there is not

one rule of right living which these te-rains do not cause us to break.

We sit, for example, side by side with all castes and peoples.’


‘Yea, and with most outrageously shameless ones,’ said the wife,

scowling at the Amritzar girl making eyes at the young sepoy.


‘I said we might have gone by cart along the road,’ said the husband,

‘and thus have saved some money.’