A pony ranged alongside, and he was hauled on to the priest’s saddlebow.
’Now, my son, your prophecy of last night has come true. Our orders are to entrain at Umballa for the Front tomorrow.’
‘What is thatt?’ said Kim, for ‘front’ and ‘entrain’ were newish words to him.
‘We are going to “thee War,” as you called it.’
‘Of course you are going to thee War. I said last night.’
‘Ye did; but, Powers o’ Darkness, how did ye know?’
Kim’s eyes sparkled. He shut his lips, nodded his head, and looked unspeakable things. The Chaplain moved on through the dust, and privates, sergeants, and subalterns called one another’s attention to the boy. The Colonel, at the head of the column, stared at him curiously. ‘It was probably some bazar rumour.’ he said; ’but even then -’ He referred to the paper in his hand. ’Hang it all, the thing was only decided within the last forty-eight hours.’
‘Are there many more like you in India?’ said Father Victor, ’or are you by way o’ being a lusus naturae?’
‘Now I have told you,’ said the boy, ’will you let me go back to my old man? If he has not stayed with that woman from Kulu, I am afraid he will die.’
’By what I saw of him he’s as well able to take care of himself as you. No. Ye’ve brought us luck, an’ we’re goin’ to make a man of you. I’ll take ye back to your baggage-cart and ye’ll come to me this evening.’
For the rest of the day Kim found himself an object of distinguished consideration among a few hundred white men. The story of his appearance in camp, the discovery of his parentage, and his prophecy, had lost nothing in the telling. A big, shapeless white woman on a pile of bedding asked him mysteriously whether he thought her husband would come back from the war. Kim reflected gravely, and said that he would, and the woman gave him food. In many respects, this big procession that played music at intervals — this crowd that talked and laughed so easily — resembled a festival in Lahore city. So far, there was no sign of hard work, and he resolved to lend the spectacle his patronage. At evening there came out to meet them bands of music, and played the Mavericks into camp near Umballa railway station. That was an interesting night. Men of other regiments came to visit the Mavericks. The Mavericks went visiting on their own account. Their pickets hurried forth to bring them back, met pickets of strange regiments on the same duty; and, after a while, the bugles blew madly for more pickets with officers to control the tumult. The Mavericks had a reputation for liveliness to live up to. But they fell in on the platform next morning in perfect shape and condition; and Kim, left behind with the sick, women, and boys, found himself shouting farewells excitedly as the trains drew away. Life as a Sahib was amusing so far; but he touched it with a cautious hand. Then they marched him back in charge of