‘I have spoken with Creighton Sahib,’ quoth Mahbub Ali, ’and a second time has the Hand of Friendship averted the Whip of Calamity. He says that thou hast altogether wasted sixty days upon the Road, and it is too late, therefore, to send thee to any Hill-school.’
’I have said that my holidays are my own. I do not go to school twice over. That is one part of my bond.’
’The Colonel Sahib is not yet aware of that contract. Thou art to lodge in Lurgan Sahib’s house till it is time to go again to Nucklao.’
‘I had sooner lodge with thee, Mahbub.’
’Thou dost not know the honour. Lurgan Sahib himself asked for thee. Thou wilt go up the hill and along the road atop, and there thou must forget for a while that thou hast ever seen or spoken to me, Mahbub Ali, who sells horses to Creighton Sahib, whom thou dost not know. Remember this order.’
Kim nodded. ‘Good,’ said he, ‘and who is Lurgan Sahib? Nay’ — he caught Mahbub’s sword-keen glance — ’indeed I have never heard his name. Is he by chance — he lowered his voice — ‘one of us?’
‘What talk is this of us, Sahib?’ Mahbub Ali returned, in the tone he used towards Europeans. ’I am a Pathan; thou art a Sahib and the son of a Sahib. Lurgan Sahib has a shop among the European shops. All Simla knows it. Ask there ... and, Friend of all the World, he is one to be obeyed to the last wink of his eyelashes. Men say he does magic, but that should not touch thee. Go up the hill and ask. Here begins the Great Game.’
S’ doaks was son of Yelth the wise —
Chief of the Raven clan.
Itswoot the Bear had him in care
To make him a medicine-man.
He was quick and quicker to learn —
Bold and bolder to dare:
He danced the dread Kloo-Kwallie Dance
To tickle Itswoot the Bear!
Kim flung himself whole-heartedly upon the next turn of the wheel. He would be a Sahib again for a while. In that idea, so soon as he had reached the broad road under Simla Town Hall, he cast about for one to impress. A Hindu child, some ten years old, squatted under a lamp-post.
‘Where is Mr Lurgan’s house?’ demanded Kim.
‘I do not understand English,’ was the answer, and Kim shifted his speech accordingly.
‘I will show.’
Together they set off through the mysterious dusk, full of the noises of a city below the hillside, and the breath of a cool wind in deodar-crowned Jakko, shouldering the stars. The house-lights, scattered on every level, made, as it were, a double firmament. Some were fixed, others belonged to the ’rickshaws of the careless, open-spoken English folk, going out to dinner.