‘Where is the house?’ said Kim. His quick wit told him that he was being tested in some fashion or another, and he stood on guard.
‘Ask anyone in the big bazar.’ The Colonel walked on.
‘He has forgotten his cheroot-case,’ said Kim, returning. ’I must bring it to him this evening. That is all my letter except, thrice over, Come to me! Come to me! Come to me! Now I will pay for a stamp and put it in the post. He rose to go, and as an afterthought asked: ‘Who is that angry-faced Sahib who lost the cheroot-case?’
’Oh, he is only Creighton Sahib — a very foolish Sahib, who is a Colonel Sahib without a regiment.’
‘What is his business?’
’God knows. He is always buying horses which he cannot ride, and asking riddles about the works of God — such as plants and stones and the customs of people. The dealers call him the father of fools, because he is so easily cheated about a horse. Mahbub Ali says he is madder than most other Sahibs.’
‘Oh!’ said Kim, and departed. His training had given him some small knowledge of character, and he argued that fools are not given information which leads to calling out eight thousand men besides guns. The Commander-in-Chief of all India does not talk, as Kim had heard him talk, to fools. Nor would Mahbub Ali’s tone have changed, as it did every time he mentioned the Colonel’s name, if the Colonel had been a fool. Consequently — and this set Kim to skipping — there was a mystery somewhere, and Mahbub Ali probably spied for the Colonel much as Kim had spied for Mahbub. And, like the horse-dealer, the Colonel evidently respected people who did not show themselves to be too clever.
He rejoiced that he had not betrayed his knowledge of the Colonel’s house; and when, on his return to barracks, he discovered that no cheroot-case had been left behind, he beamed with delight. Here was a man after his own heart — a tortuous and indirect person playing a hidden game. Well, if he could be a fool, so could Kim.
He showed nothing of his mind when Father Victor, for three long mornings, discoursed to him of an entirely new set of Gods and Godlings — notably of a Goddess called Mary, who, he gathered, was one with Bibi Miriam of Mahbub Ali’s theology. He betrayed no emotion when, after the lecture, Father Victor dragged him from shop to shop buying articles of outfit, nor when envious drummer-boys kicked him because he was going to a superior school did he complain, but awaited the play of circumstances with an interested soul. Father Victor, good man, took him to the station, put him into an empty second-class next to Colonel Creighton’s first, and bade him farewell with genuine feeling.
‘They’ll make a man o’ you, O’Hara, at St Xavier’s — a white man, an’, I hope, a good man. They know all about your comin’, an’ the Colonel will see that ye’re not lost or mislaid anywhere on the road. I’ve given you a notion of religious matters, — at least I hope so, — and you’ll remember, when they ask you your religion, that you’re a Cath’lic. Better say Roman Cath’lic, tho’ I’m not fond of the word.’