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 Bhotya 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.'
`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
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