‘Shall I meet my Holy One there?’ Kim whimpered.
’At least Lucknow is nearer to Benares than Umballa. It may be thou wilt go under my protection. Mahbub Ali knows this, and he will be angry if thou returnest to the Road now. Remember — much has been told me which I do not forget.’
‘I will wait,’ said Kim, ‘but the boys will beat me.’
Then the bugles blew for dinner.
Unto whose use the pregnant suns are poised
With idiot moons and stars retracing stars?
Creep thou betweene — thy coming’s all unnoised.
Heaven hath her high, as Earth her baser, wars.
Heir to these tumults, this affright, that fraye
(By Adam’s, fathers’, own, sin bound alway);
Peer up, draw out thy horoscope and say
Which planet mends thy threadbare fate or mars?
Sir John Christie.
In the afternoon the red-faced schoolmaster told Kim that he had been ‘struck off the strength’, which conveyed no meaning to him till he was ordered to go away and play. Then he ran to the bazar, and found the young letter-writer to whom he owed a stamp.
‘Now I pay,’ said Kim royally, ’and now I need another letter to be written.’
‘Mahbub Ali is in Umballa,’ said the writer jauntily. He was, by virtue of his office, a bureau of general misinformation.
’This is not to Mahbub, but to a priest. Take thy pen and write quickly. To Teshoo Lama, the Holy One from Bhotiyal seeking for a River, who is now in the Temple of the Tirthankars at Benares. Take more ink! In three days I am to go down to Nucklao to the school at Nucklao. The name of the school is Xavier. I do not know where that school is, but it is at Nucklao.’
‘But I know Nucklao,’ the writer interrupted. ‘I know the school.’
‘Tell him where it is, and I give half an anna.’
The reed pen scratched busily. ‘He cannot mistake.’ The man lifted his head. ‘Who watches us across the street?’
Kim looked up hurriedly and saw Colonel Creighton in tennis-flannels.
’Oh, that is some Sahib who knows the fat priest in the barracks. He is beckoning me.’
‘What dost thou?’ said the Colonel, when Kim trotted up.
’I — I am not running away. I send a letter to my Holy One at Benares.’
’I had not thought of that. Hast thou said that I take thee to Lucknow?’
‘Nay, I have not. Read the letter, if there be a doubt.’
‘Then why hast thou left out my name in writing to that Holy One?’ The Colonel smiled a queer smile. Kim took his courage in both hands.
’It was said once to me that it is inexpedient to write the names of strangers concerned in any matter, because by the naming of names many good plans are brought to confusion.’
‘Thou hast been well taught,’ the Colonel replied, and Kim flushed. ’I have left my cheroot-case in the Padre’s veranda. Bring it to my house this even.’