‘It is here,’ said Kim’s guide, and halted in a veranda flush with the main road. No door stayed them, but a curtain of beaded reeds that split up the lamplight beyond.
‘He is come,’ said the boy, in a voice little louder than a sigh, and vanished. Kim felt sure that the boy had been posted to guide him from the first, but, putting a bold face on it, parted the curtain. A black-bearded man, with a green shade over his eyes, sat at a table, and, one by one, with short, white hands, picked up globules of light from a tray before him, threaded them on a glancing silken string, and hummed to himself the while. Kim was conscious that beyond the circle of light the room was full of things that smelt like all the temples of all the East. A whiff of musk, a puff of sandal-wood, and a breath of sickly jessamine-oil caught his opened nostrils.
‘I am here,’ said Kim at last, speaking in the vernacular: the smells made him forget that he was to be a Sahib.
‘Seventy-nine, eighty, eighty-one,’ the man counted to himself, stringing pearl after pearl so quickly that Kim could scarcely follow his fingers. He slid off the green shade and looked fixedly at Kim for a full half-minute. The pupils of the eye dilated and closed to pin-pricks, as if at will. There was a fakir by the Taksali Gate who had just this gift and made money by it, especially when cursing silly women. Kim stared with interest. His disreputable friend could further twitch his ears, almost like a goat, and Kim was disappointed that this new man could not imitate him.
‘Do not be afraid,’ said Lurgan Sahib suddenly.
‘Why should I fear?’
’Thou wilt sleep here tonight, and stay with me till it is time to go again to Nucklao. It is an order.’
‘It is an order,’ Kim repeated. ‘But where shall I sleep?’
‘Here, in this room.’ Lurgan Sahib waved his hand towards the darkness behind him.
‘So be it,’ said Kim composedly. ‘Now?’
He nodded and held the lamp above his head. As the light swept them, there leaped out from the walls a collection of Tibetan devil-dance masks, hanging above the fiend-embroidered draperies of those ghastly functions — horned masks, scowling masks, and masks of idiotic terror. In a corner, a Japanese warrior, mailed and plumed, menaced him with a halberd, and a score of lances and khandas and kuttars gave back the unsteady gleam. But what interested Kim more than all these things — he had seen devil-dance masks at the Lahore Museum — was a glimpse of the soft-eyed Hindu child who had left him in the doorway, sitting cross-legged under the table of pearls with a little smile on his scarlet lips.
’I think that Lurgan Sahib wishes to make me afraid. And I am sure that that devil’s brat below the table wishes to see me afraid.
‘This place,’ he said aloud, ’is like a Wonder House. Where is my bed?’