’It is the train — only the te-rain. It will not come here. Wait!’ Amazed at the lama’s immense simplicity (he had handed him a small bag full of rupees), Kim asked and paid for a ticket to Umballa. A sleepy clerk grunted and flung out a ticket to the next station, just six miles distant.
‘Nay,’ said Kim, scanning it with a grin. ’This may serve for farmers, but I live in the city of Lahore. It was cleverly done, Babu. Now give the ticket to Umballa.’
The Babu scowled and dealt the proper ticket.
‘Now another to Amritzar,’ said Kim, who had no notion of spending Mahbub Ali’s money on anything so crude as a paid ride to Umballa. ’The price is so much. The small money in return is just so much. I know the ways of the te-rain ... Never did yogi need chela as thou dost,’ he went on merrily to the bewildered lama. ’They would have flung thee out at Mian Mir but for me. This way! Come!’ He returned the money, keeping only one anna in each rupee of the price of the Umballa ticket as his commission — the immemorial commission of Asia.
The lama jibbed at the open door of a crowded third-class carriage. ‘Were it not better to walk?’ said he weakly.
A burly Sikh artisan thrust forth his bearded head. ’Is he afraid? Do not be afraid. I remember the time when I was afraid of the te-rain. Enter! This thing is the work of the Government.’
‘I do not fear,’ said the lama. ‘Have ye room within for two?’
‘There is no room even for a mouse,’ shrilled the wife of a well-to-do cultivator — a Hindu Jat from the rich Jullundur, district. Our night trains are not as well looked after as the day ones, where the sexes are very strictly kept to separate carriages.
‘Oh, mother of my son, we can make space,’ said the blueturbaned husband. ‘Pick up the child. It is a holy man, see’st thou?’
’And my lap full of seventy times seven bundles! Why not bid him sit on my knee, Shameless? But men are ever thus!’ She looked round for approval. An Amritzar courtesan near the window sniffed behind her head drapery.
‘Enter! Enter!’ cried a fat Hindu money-lender, his folded account-book in a cloth under his arm. With an oily smirk: ’It is well to be kind to the poor.’
’Ay, at seven per cent a month with a mortgage on the unborn calf,’ said a young Dogra soldier going south on leave; and they all laughed.
‘Will it travel to Benares?’ said the lama.
‘Assuredly. Else why should we come? Enter, or we are left,’ cried Kim.
‘See!’ shrilled the Amritzar girl. ’He has never entered a train. Oh, see!’
‘Nay, help,’ said the cultivator, putting out a large brown hand and hauling him in. ‘Thus is it done, father.’
’But — but — I sit on the floor. It is against the Rule to sit on a bench,’ said the lama. ‘Moreover, it cramps me.’