فصل 04

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فصل 04

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CHAPTER FOUR

The Grand Trunk Road

The next morning, both Kim and the lama were ready to start. ‘It is time to travel the great road,’ said Kim.

‘The long road that crosses all the rivers of India,’ said the lama happily.

As they were leaving the village, they saw the old man again. Now he was on an old horse and carried a sword.

‘I would like to take you to the Grand Trunk Road,’ said the old man.

‘That is very kind of you,’ said the lama.

The three left on their long walk, and after many hours they arrived at the Grand Trunk Road.

‘And now we have arrived at the big road,’ said the old soldier. ‘Look, Holy Man, this is the backbone of all of India. All kinds of men move here. Look! Brahmins, bankers, barbers, shopkeepers, pilgrims - all the world coming and going - a vast river of people.’

Kim and the lama said goodbye to the old man and began their pilgrimage.

‘Now let’s walk,’ said the lama quietly.

The lama never looked up. He didn’t see the group of gypsies with their lizards and dogs, the young soldiers, the little children with their toys from religious festivals or the happy wedding party singing, shouting, dancing and laughing.

Finally, Kim could not stand the silence any longer and said, ‘This is a good land - the land of the South! The air and the water are good, aren’t they?’

‘And they are all attached to the Wheel,’ said the lama. ‘Attached from life after life. None of these people has seen the Way.’ Then he went back to his prayers.

‘We have had a long and hard walk today,’ said Kim. ‘Soon, we will come to a resting-place. Shall we stay there? Look, the sun is going down.’

‘What shall we do for food?’ asked the lama.

‘This country is full of good people. In any case,’ here Kim whispered, ‘we have money.’

The crowd became larger as they came to a resting-place. A line of stalls sold food, tobacco and firewood. There was also a police-station, water for horses and a few trees. Kim also saw a cart with a curtain. There were eight servants with it. Four of them, Kim noticed, came from the hills of the north, and four of them were from the south. Behind the curtain there was probably a wealthy old lady from the hills of the north who was going to visit family in the south.

‘We can probably get some good food and help from this group,’ thought Kim, and so he began to build his fire close to the cart.

‘Don’t come so close, beggar!’ shouted one of the servants, one of the men from the hills of the north.

‘Huh, it is only a man from the hills. Do donkeys from the hills own all of India now?’ said Kim.

The servants from the south laughed, but the man from the hills became angry. He ran towards Kim.

But when he saw the lama he stopped immediately.

‘Oh!’ cried the servant from the hills, when he saw the lama, ‘I almost committed a horrible sin!’

‘What has happened?’ shouted an old woman behind the curtain. ‘Why doesn’t someone beat that beggar and send him away?’

The servant from the hills went to the cart, and whispered something to the old lady.

‘This is going very well,’ thought Kim.

The servant came back from the old lady. Since they came from the north, they had the greatest respect for the old lama.

‘When he has eaten,’ the servant from the hills said respectfully to Kim, ‘my lady, the Sahiba, would like to have the great honour of speaking with the Holy One.’

‘After he has eaten he will sleep,’ said Kim. He did not know where his game was going, but he wanted to take advantage of it.

‘Now I will get the Holy Man his food,’ said Kim.

‘I and the other servants will take care of that - if it is permitted,’ said the servant, respectfully.

‘It is permitted,’ said Kim. ‘Holy One, these people will bring us food.’

‘The land is good. All the country of the south is good,’ said the lama quietly. He was very tired now.

‘Come here!’ said the woman behind the curtain. ‘Listen, beggar, I am an old woman, but I am not a complete fool. He is certainly a holy lama, and I respect him. But you do not come from the hills. You are just a beggar who wants to make money.’

‘Doesn’t everybody want to make money,’ replied Kim. ‘Anyway, I have heard -‘

‘What have you heard?’ asked the old woman: she was certain that Kim was going to begin another one of his amusing insults.

‘I have heard that the Rajahs of the hills in the north sometimes sell their most beautiful daughters for money in the south.’

‘Be careful, beggar!’ cried the old woman, ‘you know the punishment for saying such things - an elephant steps on you and you die!’

‘Oh, please,’ cried Kim with exaggerated terror. ‘Oh please, Eye of Beauty, Great Queen!’

‘Forty years ago, or maybe thirty years ago people called me the Eye of Beauty, but not today,’ said the old lady with a laugh. Kim soon discovered that the old lady was going on a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya. She asked Kim and the lama to go with her. She wanted to laugh with Kim some more, and she also had important spiritual matters to talk about with the lama. This was very fortunate, and Kim was happy to accept her offer.

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