'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.'
'I say,' began the money-lender, pursing his lips, 'that there is not one rule of right living which these te-rains do not cause us to break. We sit, for example, side by side with all castes and peoples.'
'Yea, and with most outrageously shameless ones,' said the wife, scowling at the Amritzar girl making eyes at the young sepoy.
'I said we might have gone by cart along the road,' said the husband, 'and thus have saved some money.'
'Yes—and spent twice over what we saved on food by the way. That was talked out ten thousand times.'
'Ay, by ten thousand tongues,' grunted he.
'The Gods help us poor women if we may not speak. Oho! He is of that sort which may not look at or reply to a woman.' For the lama, constrained by his Rule, took not the faintest notice of her. 'And his disciple is like him?'
'Nay, mother,' said Kim most promptly. 'Not when the woman is well-looking and above all charitable to the hungry.'
'A beggar's answer,' said the Sikh, laughing. 'Thou hast brought it on thyself, sister!' Kim's hands were crooked in supplication.
'And whither goest thou?' said the woman, handing him the half of a cake from a greasy package.
'Even to Benares.'
'Jugglers belike?' the young soldier suggested. 'Have ye any tricks to pass the time? Why does not that yellow man answer?'
'Because,' said Kim stoutly, 'he is holy, and thinks upon matters hidden from thee.'
'That may be well. We of the Ludhiana Sikhs'—he rolled it out sonorously—'do not trouble our heads with doctrine. We fight.'
'My sister's brother's son is naik [corporal] in that regiment,' said the Sikh craftsman quietly. 'There are also some Dogra companies there.' The soldier glared, for a Dogra is of other caste than a Sikh, and the banker tittered.
'They are all one to me,' said the Amritzar girl.
'That we believe,' snorted the cultivator's wife malignantly.
'Nay, but all who serve the Sirkar with weapons in their hands are, as it were, one brotherhood. There is one brotherhood of the caste, but beyond that again'—she looked round timidly—'the bond of the Pulton—the Regiment—eh?'
'My brother is in a Jat regiment,' said the cultivator. 'Dogras be good men.'
'Thy Sikhs at least were of that opinion,' said the soldier, with a scowl at the placid old man in the corner. 'Thy Sikhs thought so when our two companies came to help them at the Pirzai Kotal in the face of eight Afridi standards on the ridge not three months gone.'
He told the story of a Border action in which the Dogra companies of the Ludhiana Sikhs had acquitted themselves well. The Amritzar girl smiled; for she knew the talk was to win her approval.
'Alas!' said the cultivator's wife at the end. 'So their villages were burnt and their little children made homeless?'
'They had marked our dead. They paid a great payment after we of the Sikhs had schooled them. So it was. Is this Amritzar?'
'Ay, and here they cut our tickets,' said the banker, fumbling at his belt.
The lamps were paling in the dawn when the half-caste guard came round. Ticket-collecting is a slow business in the East, where people secrete their tickets in all sorts of curious places. Kim produced his and was told to get out.
'But I go to Umballa,' he protested. 'I go with this holy man.'
'Thou canst go to Jehannum for aught I care. This ticket is only—'
Kim burst into a flood of tears, protesting that the lama was his father and his mother, that he was the prop of the lama's declining years, and that the lama would die without his care. All the carriage bade the guard be merciful—the banker was specially eloquent here—but the guard hauled Kim on to the platform. The lama blinked—he could not overtake the situation and Kim lifted up his voice and wept outside the carriage window.
'I am very poor. My father is dead—my mother is dead. O charitable ones, if I am left here, who shall tend that old man?'
'What—what is this?' the lama repeated. 'He must go to Benares. He must come with me. He is my chela. If there is money to be paid—'
'Oh, be silent,' whispered Kim; 'are we Rajahs to throw away good silver when the world is so charitable?'
The Amritzar girl stepped out with her bundles, and it was on her that Kim kept his watchful eye. Ladies of that persuasion, he knew, were generous.
'A ticket—a little tikkut to Umballa—O Breaker of Hearts!' She laughed. 'Hast thou no charity?'
'Does the holy man come from the North?'
'From far and far in the North he comes,' cried Kim. 'From among the hills.'
'There is snow among the pine-trees in the North—in the hills there is snow. My mother was from Kulu. Get thee a ticket. Ask him for a blessing.'
'Ten thousand blessings,' shrilled Kim. 'O Holy One, a woman has given us in charity so that I can come with thee—a woman with a golden heart. I run for the tikkut.'
The girl looked up at the lama, who had mechanically followed Kim to the platform. He bowed his head that he might not see her, and muttered in Tibetan as she passed on with the crowd.
'Light come—light go,' said the cultivator's wife viciously.
'She has acquired merit,' returned the lama. 'Beyond doubt it was a nun.'
'There be ten thousand such nuns in Amritzar alone. Return, old man, or the te-rain may depart without thee,' cried the banker.
'Not only was it sufficient for the ticket, but for a little food also,' said Kim, leaping to his