Lesson 3

READ THIS TEXT AND ANSWER QUESTIONS ATTACHEDThe Man Who Would Be King Pages 1-13by Rudyard KiplingPublished by Brentano’s at31 Union Square New York“Brother to a Prince and fellow to a beggar if hebe found worthy.”The Law, as quoted, lays down a fair conductof life, and one not easy to follow. Ihave been fellow to a beggar again andagain under circumstances which preventedeither of us finding out whether the otherwas worthy. I have still to be brother to aPrince, though I once came near to kinshipwith what might have been a veritable Kingand was promised the reversion of a Kingdom—army, law-courts, revenue and policyall complete. But, to-day, I greatly fearthat my King is dead, and if I want a crownI must go and hunt it for myself.The beginning of everything was in a railwaytrain upon the road to Mhow fromAjmir. There had been a deficit in theBudget, which necessitated travelling, notSecond-class, which is only half as dear asFirst-class, but by Intermediate, which isvery awful indeed. There are no cushionsin the Intermediate class, and the populationare either Intermediate, which is Eurasian,or native, which for a long night journey isnasty; or Loafer, which is amusing thoughintoxicated. Intermediates do not patronizerefreshment-rooms. They carry their foodin bundles and pots, and buy sweets from thenative sweetmeat-sellers, and drink the roadsidewater. That is why in the hot weatherIntermediates are taken out of the carriagesdead, and in all weathers are most properlylooked down upon.My particular Intermediate happened tobe empty till I reached Nasirabad, when ahuge gentleman in shirt-sleeves entered,and, following the custom of Intermediates,passed the time of day. He was a wandererand a vagabond like myself, but with aneducated taste for whiskey. He told talesof things he had seen and done, of out-of-the-waycorners of the Empire into which hehad penetrated, and of adventures in whichhe risked his life for a few days’ food.“If India was filled with men like you andme, not knowing more than the crows wherethey’d get their next day’s rations, it isn’tseventy millions of revenue the land wouldbe paying—it’s seven hundred million,” saidhe; and as I looked at his mouth and chin Iwas disposed to agree with him. We talkedpolitics—the politics of Loaferdom that seesthings from the underside where the lathand plaster is not smoothed off—and wetalked postal arrangements because myfriend wanted to send a telegram back fromthe next station to Ajmir, which is theturning-off place from the Bombay to theMhow line as you travel westward. Myfriend had no money beyond eight annaswhich he wanted for dinner, and I had nomoney at all, owing to the hitch in theBudget before mentioned. Further, I wasgoing into a wilderness where, though Ishould resume touch with the Treasury,there were no telegraph offices. I was,therefore, unable to help him in any way.“We might threaten a Station-master,and make him send a wire on tick,” saidmy friend, “but that’d mean inquiries foryou and for me, and I’ve got my hands fullthese days. Did you say you are travellingback along this line within any days?”“Within ten,” I said.“Can’t you make it eight?” said he.“Mine is rather urgent business.”“I can send your telegram within tendays if that will serve you,” I said.“I couldn’t trust the wire to fetch himnow I think of it. It’s this way. He leavesDelhi on the 23d for Bombay. That meanshe’ll be running through Ajmir about thenight of the 23d.”“But I’m going into the Indian Desert,”I explained.“Well and good,” said he. “You’ll bechanging at Marwar Junction to get intoJodhpore territory—you must do that—andhe’ll be coming through Marwar Junctionin the early morning of the 24th by theBombay Mail. Can you be at MarwarJunction on that time? ’Twon’t be inconveniencingyou because I know that there’sprecious few pickings to be got out of theseCentral India States—even though you pretendto be correspondent of the Backwoodsman.”“Have you ever tried that trick?” Iasked.“Again and again, but the Residents findyou out, and then you get escorted to theBorder before you’ve time to get your knifeinto them. But about my friend here. Imust give him a word o’ mouth to tell himwhat’s come to me or else he won’t knowwhere to go. I would take it more thankind of you if you was to come out of CentralIndia in time to catch him at MarwarJunction, and say to him:—‘He has goneSouth for the week.’ He’ll know what thatmeans. He’s a big man with a red beard,and a great swell he is. You’ll find himsleeping like a gentleman with all his luggageround him in a second-class compartment.But don’t you be afraid. Slip downthe window, and say:—‘He has gone Southfor the week,’ and he’ll tumble. It’s onlycutting your time of stay in those parts bytwo days. I ask you as a stranger—going tothe West,” he said with emphasis.“Where have you come from?” said I.“From the East,” said he, “and I amhoping that you will give him the messageon the Square—for the sake of my Motheras well as your own.”Englishmen are not usually softened byappeals to the memory of their mothers, butfor certain reasons, which will be fully apparent,I saw fit to agree.“It’s more than a little matter,” said he,“and that’s why I ask you to do it—andnow I know that I can depend on you doingit. A second-class carriage at Marwar Junction,and a red-haired man asleep in it.You’ll be sure to remember. I get out atthe next station, and I must hold on theretill he comes or sends me what I want.”“I’ll give the message if I catch him,” Isaid, “and for the sake of your Mother aswell as mine I’ll give you a word of advice.Don’t try to run the Central India Statesjust now as the correspondent of the Backwoodsman.There’s a real one knockingabout here, and it might lead to trouble.”“Thank you,” said he simply, “and whenwill the swine be gone? I can’t starve becausehe’s ruining my work. I wanted toget hold of the Degumber Rajah down hereabout his father’s widow, and give him ajump.”“What did he do to his father’s widow,then?”“Filled her up with red pepper and slipperedher to death as she hung from a beam.I found that out myself and I’m the onlyman that would dare going into the State toget hush-money for it. They’ll try to poisonme, same as they did in Chortumnawhen I went on the loot there. But you’llgive the man at Marwar Junction my message?”He got out at a little roadside station, andI reflected. I had heard, more than once, ofmen personating correspondents of newspapersand bleeding small Native States withthreats of exposure, but I had never met anyof the caste before. They lead a hard life,and generally die with great suddenness.The Native States have a wholesome horrorof English newspapers, which may throwlight on their peculiar methods of government,and do their best to choke correspondentswith champagne, or drive them out oftheir mind with four-in-hand barouches.They do not understand that nobody cares astraw for the internal administration of NativeStates so long as oppression and crimeare kept within decent limits, and the ruleris not drugged, drunk, or diseased from oneend of the year to the other. Native Stateswere created by Providence in order to supplypicturesque scenery, tigers and tall-writing.They are the dark places of the earth,full of unimaginable cruelty, touching theRailway and the Telegraph on one side, and,on the other, the days of Harun-al-Raschid.When I left the train I did business withdivers Kings, and in eight days passedthrough many changes of life. Sometimes Iwore dress-clothes and consorted with Princesand Politicals, drinking from crystal andeating from silver. Sometimes I lay outupon the ground and devoured what I couldget, from a plate made of a flapjack, anddrank the running water, and slept underthe same rug as my servant. It was all in aday’s work.Then I headed for the Great Indian Desertupon the proper date, as I had promised, andthe night Mail set me down at Marwar Junction,where a funny little, happy-go-lucky,native managed railway runs to Jodhpore.The Bombay Mail from Delhi makes a shorthalt at Marwar. She arrived as I got in,and I had just time to hurry to her platformand go down the carriages. There was onlyone second-class on the train. I slipped thewindow and looked down upon a flamingred beard, half covered by a railway rug.That was my man, fast asleep, and I dug himgently in the ribs. He woke with a gruntand I saw his face in the light of the lamps.It was a great and shining face.“Tickets again?” said he.“No,” said I. “I am to tell you that heis gone South for the week. He is goneSouth for the week!”The train had begun to move out. Thered man rubbed his eyes. “He has goneSouth for the week,” he repeated. “Nowthat’s just like his impudence. Did he saythat I was to give you anything?—’Cause Iwon’t.”“He didn’t,” I said and dropped away,and watched the red lights die out in thedark. It was horribly cold because the windwas blowing off the sands. I climbed intomy own train—not an Intermediate Carriagethis time—and went to sleep.If the man with the beard had given me arupee I should have kept it as a memento ofa rather curious affair. But the consciousnessof having done my duty was my onlyreward.Later on I reflected that two gentlemenlike my friends could not do any good ifthey foregathered and personated correspondentsof newspapers, and might, if they“stuck up” one of the little rat-trap states ofCentral India or Southern Rajputana, getthemselves into serious difficulties. I thereforetook some trouble to describe them asaccurately as I could remember to peoplewho would be interested in deporting them;and succeeded, so I was later informed, inhaving them headed back from the Degumberborders.Then I became respectable, and returnedto an Office where there were no Kings andno incidents except the daily manufacture ofa newspaper. A newspaper office seems toattract every conceivable sort of person, tothe prejudice of discipline. Zenana-missionladies arrive, and beg that the Editor will instantlyabandon all his duties to describe aChristian prize-giving in a back-slum of aperfectly inaccessible village; Colonels whohave been overpassed for commands sitdown and sketch the outline of a series often, twelve, or twenty-four leading articleson Seniority versus Selection; missionarieswish to know why they have not been permittedto escape from their regular vehiclesof abuse and swear at a brother-missionaryunder special patronage of the editorial We;stranded theatrical companies troop up to explainthat they cannot pay for their advertisements,but on their return from NewZealand or Tahiti will do so with interest;inventors of patent punkah-pulling machines,carriage couplings and unbreakableswords and axle-trees call with specificationsin their pockets and hours at their disposal;tea-companies enter and elaborate their prospectuseswith the office pens; secretaries ofball-committees clamor to have the gloriesof their last dance more fully expounded;strange ladies rustle in and say:—“I want ahundred lady’s cards printed at once, please,”which is manifestly part of an Editor’s duty;and every dissolute ruffian that ever trampedthe Grand Trunk Road makes it his businessto ask for employment as a proof-reader.And, all the time, the telephone-bell is ringingmadly, and Kings are being killed on theContinent, and Empires are saying, “You’reanother,” and Mister Gladstone is callingdown brimstone upon the British Dominions,and the little black copy-boys are whining,“kaa-pi chayha-yeh” (copy wanted) liketired bees, and most of the paper is as blankas Modred’s shield.But that is the amusing part of the year.There are other six months wherein noneever come to call, and the thermometerwalks inch by inch up to the top of the glass,and the office is darkened to just above readinglight, and the press machines are red-hotof touch, and nobody writes anything butaccounts of amusements in the Hill-stationsor obituary notices. Then the telephone becomesa tinkling terror, because it tells youof the sudden deaths of men and womenthat you knew intimately, and the prickly-heatcovers you as with a garment, and yousit down and write:—“A slight increase ofsickness is reported from the Khuda JantaKhan District. The outbreak is purely sporadicin its nature, and, thanks to the energeticefforts of the District authorities, is nowalmost at an end. It is, however, with deepregret we record the death, etc.”Then the sickness really breaks out, andthe less recording and reporting the betterfor the peace of the subscribers. But theEmpires and the Kings continue to divertthemselves as selfishly as before, and theforeman thinks that a daily paper reallyought to come out once in twenty-four hours,and all the people at the Hill-stations in themiddle of their amusements say:—“Goodgracious! Why can’t the paper be sparkling?I’m sure there’s plenty going on up here.”That is the dark half of the moon, and, asthe advertisements say, “must be experiencedto be appreciated.”It was in that season, and a remarkablyevil season, that the paper began runningthe last issue of the week on Saturday night,which is to say Sunday morning, after thecustom of a London paper. This was agreat convenience, for immediately after thepaper was put to bed, the dawn would lowerthe thermometer from 96° to almost 84° foralmost half an hour, and in that chill—youhave no idea how cold is 84° on the grassuntil you begin to pray for it—a very tiredman could set off to sleep ere the heatroused him.One Saturday night it was my pleasantduty to put the paper to bed alone. A Kingor courtier or a courtesan or a communitywas going to die or get a new Constitution,or do something that was important on theother side of the world, and the paper was tobe held open till the latest possible minutein order to catch the telegram. It was apitchy black night, as stifling as a June nightcan be, and the loo, the red-hot wind fromthe westward, was booming among the tinder-drytrees and pretending that the rainwas on its heels. Now and again a spot ofalmost boiling water would fall on the dustwith the flop of a frog, but all our wearyworld knew that was only pretence. It wasa shade cooler in the press-room than theoffice, so I sat there, while the type tickedand clicked, and the night-jars hooted at thewindows, and the all but naked compositorswiped the sweat from their foreheadsand called for water. The thing that waskeeping us back, whatever it was, would notcome off, though the loo dropped and thelast type was set, and the whole round earthstood still in the choking heat, with its fingeron its lip, to wait the event. I drowsed, andwondered whether the telegraph was a blessing,and whether this dying man, or strugglingpeople, was aware of the inconveniencethe delay was causing. There was no specialreason beyond the heat and worry to maketension, but, as the clock-hands crept up tothree o’clock and the machines spun theirfly-wheels two and three times to see that allwas in order, before I said the word thatwould set them off, I could have shriekedaloud.Then the roar and rattle of the wheelsshivered the quiet into little bits. I rose togo away, but two men in white clothes stoodin front of me. The first one said:—“It’shim!” The second said —“So it is!” Andthey both laughed almost as loudly as themachinery roared, and mopped their foreheads.“We see there was a light burningacross the road and we were sleeping inthat ditch there for coolness, and I said tomy friend here, the office is open. Let’scome along and speak to him as turned usback from the Degumber State,” said thesmaller of the two. He was the man I hadmet in the Mhow train, and his fellow wasthe red-bearded man of Marwar Junction.There was no mistaking the eyebrows of theone or the beard of the other.I was not pleased, because I wished to goto sleep, not to squabble with loafers.“What do you want?” I asked.“Half an hour’s talk with you cool andcomfortable, in the office,” said the red-beardedman. “We’d like some drink—theContrack doesn’t begin yet, Peachey, so youneedn’t look—but what we really want isadvice. We don’t want money. We askyou as a favor, because you did us a badturn about Degumber.”I led from the press-room to the stiflingoffice with the maps on the walls, and thered-haired man rubbed his hands. “That’ssomething like,” said he. “This was theproper shop to come to. Now, Sir, let meintroduce to you Brother Peachey Carnehan,that’s him, and Brother Daniel Dravot, thatis me, and the less said about our professionsthe better, for we have been most things inour time. Soldier, sailor, compositor, photographer,proof-reader, street-preacher, andcorrespondents of the Backwoodsman whenwe thought the paper wanted one. Carnehanis sober, and so am I. Look at us firstand see that’s sure. It will save you cuttinginto my talk. We’ll take one of your cigarsapiece, and you shall see us light.”I watched the test. The men were absolutelysober, so I gave them each a tepidpeg.“Well and good,” said Carnehan of theeyebrows, wiping the froth from his mustache.“Let me talk now, Dan. We havebeen all over India, mostly on foot. Wehave been boiler-fitters, engine-drivers, pettycontractors, and all that, and we have decidedthat India isn’t big enough for suchas us.”They certainly were too big for the office.Dravot’s beard seemed to fill half the roomand Carnehan’s shoulders the other half, asthey sat on the big table. Carnehan continued:—“The country isn’t half workedout because they that governs it won’t letyou touch it. They spend all their blessedtime in governing it, and you can’t lift aspade, nor chip a rock, nor look for oil, noranything like that without all the Governmentsaying—‘Leave it alone and let usgovern.’ Therefore, such as it is, we will letit alone, and go away to some other placewhere a man isn’t crowded and can come tohis own. We are not little men, and thereis nothing that we are afraid of except Drink,and we have signed a Contrack on that.Therefore, we are going away to be Kings.”“Kings in our own right,” mutteredDravot.“Yes, of course,” I said. “You’ve beentramping in the sun, and it’s a very warmnight, and hadn’t you better sleep over thenotion? Come to-morrow.”“Neither drunk nor sunstruck,” saidDravot. “We have slept over the notionhalf a year, and require to see Books andAtlases, and we have decided that there isonly one place now in the world that twostrong men can Sar-a-whack. They call itKafiristan. By my reckoning its the topright-hand corner of Afghanistan, not morethan three hundred miles from Peshawar.They have two and thirty heathen idols there,and we’ll be the thirty-third. It’s a mountainouscountry, and the women of thoseparts are very beautiful.”“But that is provided against in the Contrack,”said Carnehan. “Neither Womennor Liquor, Daniel.”“And that’s all we know, except that noone has gone there, and they fight, and inany place where they fight a man whoknows how to drill men can always be aKing. We shall go to those parts and sayto any King we find—‘D’ you want to vanquishyour foes?’ and we will show himhow to drill men; for that we know betterthan anything else. Then we will subvertthat King and seize his Throne and establisha Dy-nasty.”“You’ll be cut to pieces before you’refifty miles across the Border,” I said.“You have to travel through Afghanistanto get to that country. It’s one mass ofmountains and peaks and glaciers, and noEnglishman has been through it. The peopleare utter brutes, and even if you reachedthem you couldn’t do anything.”“That’s more like,” said Carnehan. “Ifyou could think us a little more mad wewould be more pleased. We have come toyou to know about this country, to read abook about it, and to be shown maps. Wewant you to tell us that we are fools and toshow us your books.” He turned to thebook-cases.“Are you at all in earnest?” I said.“A little,” said Dravot, sweetly. “As biga map as you have got, even if it’s all blankwhere Kafiristan is, and any books you’vegot. We can read, though we aren’t veryeducated.”I uncased the big thirty-two-miles-to-the-inchmap of India, and two smaller Frontiermaps, hauled down volume INF-KAN ofthe Encyclopædia Britannica, and the menconsulted them.“See here!” said Dravot, his thumb onthe map. “Up to Jagdallak, Peachey andme know the road. We was there withRoberts’s Army. We’ll have to turn off tothe right at Jagdallak through Laghmannterritory. Then we get among the hills—fourteen thousand feet—fifteen thousand—it will be cold work there, but it don’t lookvery far on the map.”I handed him Wood on the Sources ofthe Oxus. Carnehan was deep in the Encyclopædia.“They’re a mixed lot,” said Dravot, reflectively;“and it won’t help us to knowthe names of their tribes. The more tribesthe more they’ll fight, and the better for us.From Jagdallak to Ashang. H’mm!”“But all the information about the countryis as sketchy and inaccurate as can be,”I protested. “No one knows anythingabout it really. Here’s the file of theUnited Services’ Institute. Read what Bellewsays.”“Blow Bellew!” said Carnehan. “Dan,they’re an all-fired lot of heathens, but thisbook here says they think they’re related tous English.”I smoked while the men pored overRaverty, Wood, the maps and the Encyclopædia.“There is no use your waiting,” saidDravot, politely. “It’s about four o’clocknow. We’ll go before six o’clock if youwant to sleep, and we won’t steal any ofthe papers. Don’t you sit up. We’re twoharmless lunatics, and if you come, to-morrowevening, down to the Serai we’ll saygood-by to you.”“You are two fools,” I answered. “You’llbe turned back at the Frontier or cut up theminute you set foot in Afghanistan. Doyou want any money or a recommendationdown-country? I can help you to thechance of work next week.”“Next week we shall be hard at work ourselves,thank you,” said Dravot. “It isn’tso easy being a King as it looks. Whenwe’ve got our Kingdom in going order we’lllet you know, and you can come up and helpus to govern it.”“Would two lunatics make a Contracklike that!” said Carnehan, with subduedpride, showing me a greasy half-sheet of note-paperon which was written the following.I copied it, then and there, as a curiosity:—This Contract between me and you persuing witnessethin the name of God—Amen and so forth.(One) That me and you will settle this matter together:i.e., to be Kings of Kafiristan.(Two) That you and me will not while this matter isbeing settled, look at any Liquor, nor anyWoman black, white or brown, so as to getmixed up with one or the other harmful.(Three) That we conduct ourselves with Dignity andDiscretion, and if one of us gets into troublethe other will stay by him.Signed by you and me this day.Peachey Taliaferro Carnehan.Daniel Dravot.Both Gentlemen at Large.“There was no need for the last article,”said Carnehan, blushing modestly; “but itlooks regular. Now you know the sort ofmen that loafers are—we are loafers, Dan,until we get out of India—and do you thinkthat we could sign a Contrack like thatunless we was in earnest? We have keptaway from the two things that make lifeworth having.”“You won’t enjoy your lives much longerif you are going to try this idiotic adventure.Don’t set the office on fire,” I said, “and goaway before nine o’clock.”I left them still poring over the maps andmaking notes on the back of the “Contrack.”“Be sure to come down to the Serai to-morrow,”were their parting words.

 

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