OH, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
And he has lifted the Colonel's mare that is the Colonel's pride:
He has lifted her out of the stable-door between the dawn and the day,
And turned the calkins upon her feet, and ridden her far away.
Then up and spoke the Colonel's son that led a troop of the Guides:
``Is there never a man of all my men can say where Kamal hides?''
Then up and spoke Mahommed Khan, the son of the Ressaldar,
``If ye know the track of the morning-mist, ye know where his pickets are.
But he must go by Fort Bukloh to his own place to fare,
So if ye gallop to Fort Bukloh as fast as a bird can fly,
By the favour of God ye may cut him off ere he win to the Tonuge of Jagai,
But if he be passed the Tongue of Jagai, right swiftly turn ye then,
For the length and the breadth of that grisly plain is sown with Kamal's men.
There is rock to the left, and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,
And ye may hear a breech-bolt snick where never a man is seen.''
With the mouth of a bell and the heart of Hell, and the head of a gallows-tree.
The Colonel's son to the Fort has won, they bid him stay to eat--
Who rides at the tail of a Border thief, he sits not long at his meat.
He's up and away from Fort Bukloh as fast as he can fly,
Till he was aware of his father's mare in the gut of the Tonue of Jagai,
Till he was aware of his father's mare with Kamal upon her back,
And when he could spy the white of her eye, he made the pistol crack.
``Ye shoot like a soldier,'' Kamal said. ``Show now if ye can ride.''
It's up and over the Tongue of Jagai, as blown dust-devils go,
The dun he fled like a stag of ten, but the mare like a barren doe.
The dun he leaned against the bit and slugged his head above,
But the red mare played with the snaffle-bars, as a maiden plays with a glove.
There was rock to the left and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,
And thrice he heard a breech-bolt snick tho' never a man was seen.
The dun he went like a wounded bull, but the mare like a new-roused fawn.
The dun he fell at a water-course--in a woeful heap fell he,
And Kamal has turned the red mare back, and pulled the rider free.
He has knocked the pistol out of his hand--small room was there to strive,
``'Twas only by favour of mine,'' quoth he, ``ye rode so long alive:
There was not a rock for twenty mile, there was not a clump of tree,
But covered a man of my own men with his rifle cocked on his knee.
The little jackals that flee so fast were feasting all in a row:
If I had bowed my head on my breast, as I have held it high,
The kite that whistles above us now were gorged till she could not fly.''
Lightly answered the Colonel's son:--``Do good to bird and beast,
But count who come for the broken meats before thou makest a feast.
If there should follow a thousand swords to carry my bones away,
Belike the price of a jackal's meal were more than a thief could pay.
The thatch of the byres will serve their fires when all the cattle are slain.
But if thou thinkest the price be fair,--thy brethren wait to sup,
The hound is kin to the jackal-spawn,--howl, dog, and call them up!
And if thou thinkest the price be high, in steer and gear and stack,
Give me my father's mare again, and I'll fight my own way back!''
Kamal has gripped him by the hand and set him upon his feet.
``No talk shall be of dogs,'' said he, ``when wolf and grey wolf meet.
What dam of lances brought thee forth to jest at the dawn with Death?''
Lightly answered the Colonel's son: ``I hold by the blood of my clan:
Take up the mare for my father's gift,--by God, she has carried a man.!''
The red mare ran to the Colonel's son, and nuzzled against his breast,
``We be two strong men,'' said Kamal then, ``but she loveth the younger best.
So she shall go with a lifter's dower, my turquoise-studded rein,
My broidered saddle and saddle-cloth, and silver stirrups twain.''
``Ye have taken the one from a foe,'' said he; ``will ye take the mate from a friend?''
``A gift for a gift,'' said Kamal straight, ``a limb for the risk of limb.
Thy father has sent his son to me, I'll send my son to him!''
With that he whistled his only son, that dropped from a mountain-crest--
He trod the ling like a buck in spring, and he looked like a lance at rest.
``Now here is thy master,'' Kamal said, ``who leads a troop of the Guides,
And thou must ride at his left side as shield on the shoulder rides.
Thy life is his--thy fate it is to guard him with thy head.
So thou must eat the White Queen's meat, and all her foes are thine,
And thou must harry thy father's hold for the peace of the Border-line,
And thou must make a trooper tough and hack thy way to power--
Belike they will raise thee to Ressaldar when I am hanged in Peshawur.''
They have looked each other between the eyes, and there they found not fault,
They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on leavened bread and salt:
On the hilt and the haft of the Khyber knife, and the Wondrous Names of God.
The Colonel's son he rides the mare and Kamal's boy the dun,
And two have come back to Fort Bukloh where there went forth but one.
And when they drew to the Quarter-Guard, full twenty swords flew clear--
There was not a man but carried his feud with the blood of the mountaineer.
``Ha' done! ha' done!'' said the Colonel's son. ``Put up the steel at your sides!
Last night ye had struck at a Border thief--to-night 'tis a man of the Guides!''