The men made no motion to divide the plunder till they had seen the lama bedded down in the best room of the place, with Kim shampooing his feet, Mohammedan-fashion.
’We will send food, ’ said the Ao-chung man, ’and the red-topped kilta. By dawn there will be none to give evidence, one way or the other. If anything is not needed in the kilta — see here!’
He pointed through the window — opening into space that was filled with moonlight reflected from the snow — and threw out an empty whisky-bottle.
‘No need to listen for the fall. This is the world’s end,’ he said, and went out. The lama looked forth, a hand on either sill, with eyes that shone like yellow opals. From the enormous pit before him white peaks lifted themselves yearning to the moonlight. The rest was as the darkness of interstellar space.
‘These,’ he said slowly, ’are indeed my Hills. Thus should a man abide, perched above the world, separated from delights, considering vast matters.’
’Yes; if he has a chela to prepare tea for him, and to fold a blanket for his head, and to chase out calving cows.’
A smoky lamp burned in a niche, but the full moonlight beat it down; and by the mixed light, stooping above the food-bag and cups, Kim moved like a tall ghost.
’Ai! But now I have let the blood cool, my head still beats and drums, and there is a cord round the back of my neck.’
‘No wonder. It was a strong blow. May he who dealt it -’
‘But for my own passions there would have been no evil.’
’What evil? Thou hast saved the Sahibs from the death they deserved a hundred times.’
‘The lesson is not well learnt, chela.’ The lama came to rest on a folded blanket, as Kim went forward with his evening routine. ’The blow was but a shadow upon a shadow. Evil in itself — my legs weary apace these latter days! — it met evil in me: anger, rage, and a lust to return evil. These wrought in my blood, woke tumult in my stomach, and dazzled my ears.’ Here he drank scalding black-tea ceremonially, taking the hot cup from Kim’s hand. ’Had I been passionless, the evil blow would have done only bodily evil — a scar, or a bruise — which is illusion. But my mind was not abstracted, for rushed in straightway a lust to let the Spiti men kill. In fighting that lust, my soul was torn and wrenched beyond a thousand blows. Not till I had repeated the Blessings’ (he meant the Buddhist Beatitudes) ’did I achieve calm. But the evil planted in me by that moment’s carelessness works out to its end. Just is the Wheel, swerving not a hair! Learn the lesson, chela.’
‘It is too high for me,’ Kim muttered. ’I am still all shaken. I am glad I hurt the man.’
’I felt that, sleeping upon thy knees, in the wood below. It disquieted me in my dreams — the evil in thy soul working through to mine. Yet on the other hand’ — he loosed his rosary — ’I have acquired merit by saving two lives — the lives of those that wronged me. Now I must see into the Cause of Things. The boat of my soul staggers.’