He halted at the stall next but one to his own. His men lay there heavy with sleep. There was no sign of Kim or the lama.
‘Up!’ He stirred a sleeper. ’Whither went those who lay here last even — the lama and the boy? Is aught missing?’
‘Nay,’ grunted the man, ’the old madman rose at second cockcrow saying he would go to Benares, and the young one led him away.’
‘The curse of Allah on all unbelievers!’ said Mahbub heartily, and climbed into his own stall, growling in his beard.
But it was Kim who had wakened the lama — Kim with one eye laid against a knot-hole in the planking, who had seen the Delhi man’s search through the boxes. This was no common thief that turned over letters, bills, and saddles — no mere burglar who ran a little knife sideways into the soles of Mahbub’s slippers, or picked the seams of the saddle-bags so deftly. At first Kim had been minded to give the alarm — the long-drawn choor — choor! [thief! thief!] that sets the serai ablaze of nights; but he looked more carefully, and, hand on amulet, drew his own conclusions.
‘It must be the pedigree of that made-up horse-lie,’ said he, ’the thing that I carry to Umballa. Better that we go now. Those who search bags with knives may presently search bellies with knives. Surely there is a woman behind this. Hai! Hai! in a whisper to the light-sleeping old man. ’Come. It is time — time to go to Benares.’
The lama rose obediently, and they passed out of the serai like shadows.
And whoso will, from Pride released;
Contemning neither creed nor priest,
May feel the Soul of all the East.
About him at Kamakura.
Buddha at Kamakura.
They entered the fort-like railway station, black in the end of night; the electrics sizzling over the goods-yard where they handle the heavy Northern grain-traffic.
‘This is the work of devils!’ said the lama, recoiling from the hollow echoing darkness, the glimmer of rails between the masonry platforms, and the maze of girders above. He stood in a gigantic stone hall paved, it seemed, with the sheeted dead third-class passengers who had taken their tickets overnight and were sleeping in the waiting-rooms. All hours of the twenty-four are alike to Orientals, and their passenger traffic is regulated accordingly.
’This is where the fire-carriages come. One stands behind that hole’ — Kim pointed to the ticket-office — ’who will give thee a paper to take thee to Umballa.’
‘But we go to Benares,’ he replied petulantly.
‘All one. Benares then. Quick: she comes!’
‘Take thou the purse.’
The lama, not so well used to trains as he had pretended, started as the 3.25 a.m. south-bound roared in. The sleepers sprang to life, and the station filled with clamour and shoutings, cries of water and sweetmeat vendors, shouts of native policemen, and shrill yells of women gathering up their baskets, their families, and their husbands.