He used the compass for bearings as occasion served - after dark chiefly, when the camels had been fed - and by the help of his little Survey paint-box of six colour-cakes and three brushes, he achieved something not remotely unlike the city of Jeysulmir. Mahbub laughed a great deal, and advised him to make up a written report as well; and in the back of the big account-book that lay under the flap of Mahbub's pet saddle Kim fell to work.

`It must hold everything that thou hast seen or touched or considered. Write as though the Jung-i-Lat Sahib himself had come by stealth with a vast army outsetting to war.'

`How great an army?'

`Oh, half a lakh of men.'

`Folly! Remember how few and bad were the wells in the sand. Not a thousand thirsty men could come near by here.'

`Then write that down - also all the old breaches in the walls and whence the firewood is cut - and what is the temper and disposition of the King. I stay here till all my horses are sold. I will hire a room by the gateway, and thou shalt be my accountant. There is a good lock to the door.'

The report in its unmistakable St Xavier's running script, and the brown, yellow, and lake-daubed map, was on hand a few years ago (a careless clerk filed it with the rough notes of E23's second Seistan survey), but by now the pencil characters must be almost illegible. Kim translated it, sweating under the light of an oil-lamp, to Mahbub, the second day of their return-journey. The Pathan rose and stooped over his dappled saddle-bags.

`I knew it would be worthy a dress of honour, and so I made one ready,' he said, smiling. `Were I Amir of Afghanistan (and some day we may see him), I would fill thy mouth with gold.' He laid the garments formally at Kim's feet. There was a gold-embroidered Peshawur turban-cap, rising to a cone, and a big turban-cloth ending in a broad fringe of gold. There was a Delhi embroidered waistcoat to slip over a milky white shirt, fastening to the right, ample and flowing; green pyjamas with twisted silk waist-string; and that nothing might be lacking, russia-leather slippers, smelling divinely, with arrogantly curled tips.

`Upon a Wednesday, and in the morning, to put on new clothes is auspicious,' said Mahbub solemnly. `But we must not forget the wicked folk in the world. So!'

He capped all the splendour, that was taking Kim's delighted breath away, with a mother-of-pearl, nickel- plated, self-extracting .450 revolver.

`I had thought of a smaller bore, but reflected that this takes Government bullets. A man can always come by those - especially across the Border. Stand up and let me look.' He clapped Kim on the shoulder. `May you never be tired, Pathan! Oh, the hearts to be broken! Oh, the eyes under the eyelashes, looking sideways!'

Kim turned about, pointed his toes, stretched, and felt mechanically for the moustache that was just beginning. Then he stooped towards Mahbub's feet to make proper acknowledgment with fluttering, quick-patting hands; his heart too full for words. Mahbub forestalled and embraced him.

`My son' said he, `what need of words between us? But is not the little gun a delight? All six cartridges come out at one twist. It is borne in the bosom next the skin, which, as it were, keeps it ogled. Never put it elsewhere, and please God, thou shalt some day kill a man with it.'

`Hai mai!' said Kim ruefully. `If a Sahib kills a man he is hanged in the jail.'

`True: but one pace beyond the Border, men are wiser. Put it away; but fill it first. Of what use is a gun unfed?'

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.