'Though past question we have good Gods Jullundur-way,' said the cultivator's wife, looking out of the window. 'See how they have blessed the crops.'
'To search every river in the Punjab is no small matter,' said her husband. 'For me, a stream that leaves good silt on my land suffices, and I thank Bhumia, the God of the Home-stead.' He shrugged one knotted, bronzed shoulder.
'Think you our Lord came so far North?' said the lama, turning to Kim.
'It may be,' Kim replied soothingly, as he spat red pan-juice on the floor.
'The last of the Great Ones,' said the Sikh with authority, 'was Sikander Julkarn [Alexander the Great]. He paved the streets of Jullundur and built a great tank near Umballa. That pavement holds to this day; and the tank is there also. I never heard of thy God.'
'Let thy hair grow long and talk Punjabi,' said the young soldier jestingly to Kim, quoting a Northern proverb. 'That is all that makes a Sikh.' But he did not say this very loud.
The lama sighed and shrank into himself, a dingy, shapeless mass. In the pauses of their talk they could hear the low droning 'Om mane pudme hum! Om mane pudme hum!'-and the thick click of the wooden rosary beads.
'It irks me,' he said at last. 'The speed and the clatter irk me. Moreover, my chela, I think that maybe we have over-passed that River.'
'Peace, peace,' said Kim. 'Was not the River near Benares? We are yet far from the place.'
'But-if our Lord came North, it may be any one of these little ones that we have run across.'
'I do not know.'
'But thou wast sent to me-wast thou sent to me?-for the merit I had acquired over yonder at Such-zen. From beside the cannon didst thou come-bearing two faces-and two garbs.'
'Peace. One must not speak of these things here,' whispered Kim. 'There was but one of me. Think again and thou wilt remember. A boy-a Hindu boy-by the great green cannon.'
'But was there not also an Englishman with a white beard holy among images-who himself made more sure my assurance of the River of the Arrow?'
'He-we-went to the Ajaib-Gher in Lahore to pray before the Gods there,' Kim explained to the openly listening company. 'And the Sahib of the Wonder House talked to him-yes, this is truth as a brother. He is a very holy man, from far beyond the Hills. Rest, thou. In time we come to Umballa.'
'But my River-the River of my healing?'
'And then, if it please thee, we will go hunting for that River on foot. So that we miss nothing-not even a little rivulet in a field-side.'
'But thou hast a Search of thine own?' The lama-very pleased that he remembered so well-sat bolt upright.
'Ay,' said Kim, humouring him. The boy was entirely happy to be out chewing pan and seeing new people in the great good-tempered world.
'It was a bull-a Red Bull that shall come and help thee and carry thee-whither? I have forgotten. A Red Bull on a green field, was it not?'
'Nay, it will carry me nowhere,' said Kim. 'It is but a tale I told thee.'
'What is this?' The cultivator's wife leaned forward, her bracelets clinking on her arm. 'Do ye both dream dreams? A Red Bull on a green field, that shall carry thee to the heavens or what? Was it a vision? Did one make a prophecy? We have a Red Bull in our village behind Jullundur city, and he grazes by choice in the very greenest of our fields!'
'Give a woman an old wife's tale and a weaver-bird a leaf and a thread', they will weave wonderful things,' said the Sikh. 'All holy men dream dreams, and by following holy men their disciples attain that power.'
'A Red Bull on a green field, was it?' the lama repeated. 'In a former life it may be thou hast acquired merit, and the Bull will come to reward thee.'
'Nay-nay-it was but a tale one told to me-for a jest belike. But I will seek the Bull about Umballa, and thou canst look for thy River and rest from the clatter of