‘And have you thought,’ said the uninjured man hotly, ’what sort of spectacle we shall present wandering through these hills among these aborigines?’
Hurree Babu had thought of little else for some hours, but the remark was not to his address.
‘We cannot wander! I can hardly walk,’ groaned Kim’s victim.
’Perhaps the holy man will be merciful in loving-kindness, sar, otherwise -’
’I promise myself a peculiar pleasure in emptying my revolver into that young bonze when next we meet,’ was the unchristian answer.
‘Revolvers! Vengeance! Bonzes!’ Hurree crouched lower. The war was breaking out afresh. ’Have you no consideration for our loss? The baggage! The baggage!’ He could hear the speaker literally dancing on the grass. ’Everything we bore! Everything we have secured! Our gains! Eight months’ work! Do you know what that means? “Decidedly it is we who can deal with Orientals!” Oh, you have done well.’
They fell to it in several tongues, and Hurree smiled. Kim was with the kiltas, and in the kiltas lay eight months of good diplomacy. There was no means of communicating with the boy, but he could be trusted. For the rest, Hurree could so stage-manage the journey through the hills that Hilas, Bunar, and four hundred miles of hill-roads should tell the tale for a generation. Men who cannot control their own coolies are little respected in the Hills, and the hillman has a very keen sense of humour.
‘If I had done it myself,’ thought Hurree, ’it would not have been better; and, by Jove, now I think of it, of course I arranged it myself. How quick I have been! Just when I ran downhill I thought it! Thee outrage was accidental, but onlee me could have worked it — ah — for all it was dam’-well worth. Consider the moral effect upon these ignorant peoples! No treaties — no papers — no written documents at all — and me to interpret for them. How I shall laugh with the Colonel! I wish I had their papers also: but you cannot occupy two places in space simultaneously. Thatt is axiomatic.’
My brother kneels (so saith Kabir)
To stone and brass in heathen wise,
But in my brother’s voice I hear
My own unanswered agonies.
His God is as his Fates assign —
His prayer is all the world’s — and mine.
At moonrise the cautious coolies got under way. The lama, refreshed by his sleep and the spirit, needed no more than Kim’s shoulder to bear him along — a silent, swift-striding man. They held the shale-sprinkled grass for an hour, swept round the shoulder of an immortal cliff, and climbed into a new country entirely blocked off from all sight of Chini valley. A huge pasture-ground ran up fan-shaped to the living snow. At its base was perhaps half an acre of flat land, on which stood a few soil and timber huts. Behind them — for, hill-fashion, they were perched on the edge of all things — the ground fell sheer two thousand feet to Shamlegh-midden, where never yet man has set foot.