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.'
`This,' said the old soldier suddenly, `is the Friend of the Stars. He brought me the news yesterday. Having seen the very man Himself, in a vision, giving orders for the war.'
`Hm!' said his son, all deep in his broad chest. `He came by a bazar-rumour and made profit of it.'
His father laughed. `At least he did not ride to me begging for a new charger, and the Gods know how many rupees. Are thy brothers' regiments also under orders?'
`I do not know. I took leave and came swiftly to thee in case--'
`In case they ran before thee to beg. O gamblers and spendthrifts all! But thou hast never yet ridden in a charge. A good horse is needed there, truly. A good follower and a good pony also for the marching. Let us see - let us see.' He thrummed on the pommel.
`This is no place to cast accounts in, my father. Let us go to thy house.'
`At least pay the boy, then: I have no pice with me, and he brought auspicious news. Ho! Friend of all the World, a war is toward as thou hast said.'
`Nay, as I know, the war,' returned Kim composedly.
`Eh?' said the lama, fingering his beads, all eager for the road.
`My master does not trouble the Stars for hire. We brought the news - bear witness, we brought the news, and now we go.' Kim half-crooked his hand at his side.
The son tossed a silver coin through the sunlight, grumbling something about beggars and jugglers. It was a four-anna piece, and would feed them well for days. The lama, seeing the flash of the metal, droned a blessing.
`Go thy way, Friend of all the World,' piped the old soldier, wheeling his scrawny mount. `For once in all my days I have met a true prophet - who was not in the Army.'
Father and son swung round together: the old man sitting as erect as the younger.
A Punjabi constable in yellow linen trousers slouched across the road. He had seen the money pass.
`Halt!' he cried in impressive English. `Know ye not that there is a takkus of two annas a head, which is four annas, on those who enter the Road from this side-road? It is the order of the Sirkar, and the money is spent for the planting of trees and the beautification of the ways.'
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