‘It was because of the police I bought it,’ was the answer. ’Does all go well in Hind?’
‘Rissaldar Sahib, all goes well.’
’I am like an old tortoise, look you, who puts his head out from the bank and draws it in again. Ay, this is the Road of Hindustan. All men come by this way...’
’Son of a swine, is the soft part of the road meant for thee to scratch thy back upon? Father of all the daughters of shame and husband of ten thousand virtueless ones, thy mother was devoted to a devil, being led thereto by her mother. Thy aunts have never had a nose for seven generations! Thy sister — What Owl’s folly told thee to draw thy carts across the road? A broken wheel? Then take a broken head and put the two together at leisure!’
The voice and a venomous whip-cracking came out of a pillar of dust fifty yards away, where a cart had broken down. A thin, high Kathiawar mare, with eyes and nostrils aflame, rocketed out of the jam, snorting and wincing as her rider bent her across the road in chase of a shouting man. He was tall and grey-bearded, sitting the almost mad beast as a piece of her, and scientifically lashing his victim between plunges.
The old man’s face lit with pride. ‘My child!’ said he briefly, and strove to rein the pony’s neck to a fitting arch.
‘Am I to be beaten before the police?’ cried the carter. ’Justice! I will have Justice -’
’Am I to be blocked by a shouting ape who upsets ten thousand sacks under a young horse’s nose? That is the way to ruin a mare.’
‘He speaks truth. He speaks truth. But she follows her man close,’ said the old man. The carter ran under the wheels of his cart and thence threatened all sorts of vengeance.
‘They are strong men, thy sons,’ said the policeman serenely, picking his teeth.
The horseman delivered one last vicious cut with his whip and came on at a canter.
‘My father!’ He reigned back ten yards and dismounted.
The old man was off his pony in an instant, and they embraced as do father and son in the East.
Good Luck, she is never a lady,
But the cursedest quean alive,
Tricksy, wincing, and jady —
Kittle to lead or drive.
Greet her — she’s hailing a stranger!
Meet her — she’s busking to leave!
Let her alone for a shrew to the bone
And the hussy comes plucking your sleeve!
Largesse! Largesse, O Fortune!
Give or hold at your will.
If I’ve no care for Fortune,
Fortune must follow me still!
Then, lowering their voices, they spoke together. Kim came to rest under a tree, but the lama tugged impatiently at his elbow.
‘Let us go on. The River is not here.’
’Hai mai! Have we not walked enough for a little? Our River will not run away. Patience, and he will give us a dole.’