So did the lama speak, coming and going across India as softly as a bat. A sharp-tongued old woman in a house among the fruit-trees behind Saharunpore honoured him as the woman honoured the prophet, but his chamber was by no means upon the wall. In an apartment of the forecourt overlooked by cooing doves he would sit, while she laid aside her useless veil and chattered of spirits and fiends of Kulu, of grandchildren unborn, and of the free-tongued brat who had talked to her in the resting-place. Once, too, he strayed alone from the Grand Trunk Road below Umballa to the very village whose priest had tried to drug him; but the kind Heaven that guards lamas sent him at twilight through the crops, absorbed and unsuspicious, to the Rissaldar’s door. Here was like to have been a grave misunderstanding, for the old soldier asked him why the Friend of the Stars had gone that way only six days before.
‘That may not be,’ said the lama. ’He has gone back to his own people.’
’He sat in that corner telling a hundred merry tales five nights ago,’ his host insisted. ’True, he vanished somewhat suddenly in the dawn after foolish talk with my granddaughter. He grows apace, but he is the same Friend of the Stars as brought me true word of the war. Have ye parted?’
‘Yes — and no,’ the lama replied. ’We — we have not altogether parted, but the time is not ripe that we should take the Road together. He acquires wisdom in another place. We must wait.’
’All one — but if it were not the boy how did he come to speak so continually of thee?’
‘And what said he?’ asked the lama eagerly.
’Sweet words — an hundred thousand — that thou art his father and mother and such all. Pity that he does not take the Qpeen’s service. He is fearless.’
This news amazed the lama, who did not then know how religiously Kim kept to the contract made with Mahbub Ali, and perforce ratified by Colonel Creighton...
‘There is no holding the young pony from the game,’ said the horse-dealer when the Colonel pointed out that vagabonding over India in holiday time was absurd. ’If permission be refused to go and come as he chooses, he will make light of the refusal. Then who is to catch him? Colonel Sahib, only once in a thousand years is a horse born so well fitted for the game as this our colt. And we need men.’
Your tiercel’s too long at hack, Sire.
He’s no eyass
But a passage-hawk that footed ere we caught him,
Dangerously free o’ the air. Faith! were he mine
(As mine’s the glove he binds to for his tirings)
I’d fly him with a make-hawk. He’s in yarak
Plumed to the very point — so manned, so weathered ...
Give him the firmament God made him for,
And what shall take the air of him?