Page:Kim - Rudyard Kipling (1912).djvu/236

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210

KIM

'How great an army?'

'Oh, half a lash of men.'

'Folly! Remember how few and bad were the wells in the pest. 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 go 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 hand, 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 E.23'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 the dappled saddle-bags.

'I knew it would be worthy a dress of honour, and so I made one ready,' he said smiling. 'Were I the 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 there are wicked folk in the world. So!'

He capped all the splendour, that was taking Kim's delighted