‘What fools are these Police Sahibs!’ said Kim genially.
E23 glanced up under his eyelids. ‘It is well said,’ he muttered in a changed voice. ‘I go to drink water. Keep my place.’
He blundered out almost into the Englishman’s arms, and was bad-worded in clumsy Urdu.
’Tum mut? You drunk? You mustn’t bang about as though Delhi station belonged to you, my friend.’
E23, not moving a muscle of his countenance, answered with a stream of the filthiest abuse, at which Kim naturally rejoiced. It reminded him of the drummer-boys and the barrack-sweepers at Umballa in the terrible time of his first schooling.
‘My good fool,’ the Englishman drawled. ’Nickle-jao! Go back to your carriage.’
Step by step, withdrawing deferentially and dropping his voice, the yellow Saddhu clomb back to the carriage, cursing the D.S.P. to remotest posterity, by — here Kim almost jumped — by the curse of the Queen’s Stone, by the writing under the Queen’s Stone, and by an assortment of Gods “with wholly, new names.
‘I don’t know what you’re saying,’ — the Englishman flushed angrily - ‘but it’s some piece of blasted impertinence. Come out of that!’
E23, affecting to misunderstand, gravely produced his ticket, which the Englishman wrenched angrily from his hand.
‘Oh, zoolum! What oppression!’ growled the Jat from his corner. ‘All for the sake of a jest too.’ He had been grinning at the freedom of the Saddhu’s tongue. ’Thy charms do not work well today, Holy One!’
The Saddhu followed the policeman, fawning and supplicating. The ruck of passengers, busy, with their babies and their bundles, had not noticed the affair. Kim slipped out behind him; for it flashed through his head that he had heard this angry, stupid Sahib discoursing loud personalities to an old lady near Umballa three years ago.
‘It is well’, the Saddhu whispered, jammed in the calling, shouting, bewildered press — a Persian greyhound between his feet and a cageful of yelling hawks under charge of a Rajput falconer in the small of his back. ’He has gone now to send word of the letter which I hid. They told me he was in Peshawur. I might have known that he is like the crocodile — always at the other ford. He has saved me from present calamity, but I owe my life to thee.’
‘Is he also one of Us?’ Kim ducked under a Mewar camel-driver’s greasy armpit and cannoned off a covey of jabbering Sikh matrons.
’Not less than the greatest. We are both fortunate! I will make report to him of what thou hast done. I am safe under his protection.’
He bored through the edge of the crowd besieging the carriages, and squatted by the bench near the telegraph-office.
’Return, or they take thy place! Have no fear for the work, brother - or my life. Thou hast given me breathing-space, and Strickland Sahib has pulled me to land. We may work together at the Game yet. Farewell!’