THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, Rudyard Kipling TAJIMA, Miss Mitford A CHINESE GIRL GRADUATE, R. K. Douglas
Part 1 out of 3
Etext prepared by Dagny, firstname.lastname@example.org
and John Bickers, email@example.com
STORIES BY ENGLISH AUTHORS
THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, Rudyard Kipling
TAJIMA, Miss Mitford
A CHINESE GIRL GRADUATE, R. K. Douglas
THE REVENGE OF HER RACE, Mary Beaumont
KING BILLY OF BALLARAT, Morley Roberts
THY HEART'S DESIRE, Netta Syrett
THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Brother to a Prince and fellow to a beggar if he be found worthy
The Law, as quoted, lays down a fair conduct of life, and one not easy
to follow. I have been fellow to a beggar again and again under
circumstances which prevented either of us finding out whether the
other was worthy. I have still to be brother to a Prince, though I
once came near to kinship with what might have been a veritable King,
and was promised the reversion of a Kingdom--army, law-courts,
revenue, and policy all complete. But, to-day, I greatly fear that my
King is dead, and if I want a crown I must go hunt it for myself.
The beginning of everything was in a railway-train upon the road to
Mhow from Ajmir. There had been a Deficit in the Budget, which
necessitated travelling, not Second-class, which is only half as dear
as First-Class, but by Intermediate, which is very awful indeed. There
are no cushions in the Intermediate class, and the population are
either Intermediate, which is Eurasian, or native, which for a long
night journey is nasty, or Loafer, which is amusing though
intoxicated. Intermediates do not buy from refreshment-rooms. They
carry their food in bundles and pots, and buy sweets from the native
sweetmeat-sellers, and drink the roadside water. This is why in hot
weather Intermediates are taken out of the carriages dead, and in all
weathers are most properly looked down upon.
My particular Intermediate happened to be empty till I reached
Nasirabad, when the big black-browed gentleman in shirt-sleeves
entered, and, following the custom of Intermediates, passed the time
of day. He was a wanderer and a vagabond like myself, but with an
educated taste for whisky. He told tales of things he had seen and
done, of out-of-the-way corners of the Empire into which he had
penetrated, and of adventures in which he risked his life for a few
"If India was filled with men like you and me, not knowing more than
the crows where they'd get their next day's rations, it isn't seventy
millions of revenue the land would be paying--it's seven hundred
millions," said he; and as I looked at his mouth and chin I was
disposed to agree with him.
We talked politics,--the politics of Loaferdom that sees things from
the under side where the lath and plaster is not smoothed off,--and we
talked postal arrangements because my friend wanted to send a telegram
back from the next station to Ajmir, the turning-off place from the
Bombay to the Mhow line as you travel westward. My friend had no money
beyond eight annas which he wanted for dinner, and I had no money at
all, owing to the hitch in the Budget before mentioned. Further, I was
going into a wilderness where, though I should 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," said my friend, "but that'd mean inquiries for you and for me,
and /I/'ve got my hands full these days. Did you say you were
travelling back 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 telegrams within ten days if that will serve you," I
"I couldn't trust the wire to fetch him, now I think of it. It's this
way. He leaves Delhi on the 23rd for Bombay. That means he'll be
running through Ajmir about the night of the 23rd."
"But I'm going into the Indian Desert," I explained.
"Well /and/ good," said he. "You'll be changing at Marwar Junction to
get into Jodhpore territory,--you must do that,--and he'll be coming
through Marwar Junction in the early morning of the 24th by the Bombay
Mail. Can you be at Marwar Junction on that time? 'T won't be
inconveniencing you, because I know that there's precious few pickings
to be got out of these Central India States--even though you pretend
to be correspondent of the 'Backwoodsman.' "
"Have you ever tried that trick?" I asked.
"Again and again, but the Residents find you out, and then you get
escorted to the Border before you've time to get your knife into them.
But about my friend here. I /must/ give him a word o' mouth to tell
him what's come to me, or else he won't know where to go. I would take
it more than kind of you if you was to come out of Central India in
time to catch him at Marwar Junction, and say to him, 'He has gone
South for the week.' He'll know what that means. He's a big man with a
red beard, and a great swell he is. You'll find him sleeping like a
gentleman with all his luggage round him in a Second-class apartment.
But don't you be afraid. Slip down the window and say, 'He has gone
South for the week,' and he'll tumble. It's only cutting your time of
stay in those parts by two days. I ask you as a stranger--going to the
West," he said, with emphasis.
"Where have /you/ come from?" said I.
"From the East," said he, "and I am hoping that you will give him the
message on the Square--for the sake of my Mother as well as your own."
Englishmen are not usually softened by appeals to the memory of their
mothers; but for 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 asked you
to do it--and now I know that I can depend on you doing it. A Second-
class carriage at Marwar Junction, and a red-haired man asleep in it.
You'll be sure to remember. I get out at the next station, and I must
hold on there till he comes or sends me what I want."
"I'll give the message if I catch him," I said, "and for the sake of
your Mother as well as mine I'll give you a word of advice. Don't try
to run the Central India States just now as the correspondent of the
'Backwoodsman.' There's a real one knocking about here, and it might
lead to trouble."
"Thank you," said he, simply; "and when will the swine be gone? I
can't starve because he's ruining my work. I wanted to get hold of the
Degumber Rajah down here about his father's widow, and give him a
"What did he do to his father's widow, then?"
"Filled her up with red pepper and slippered her to death as she hung
from a beam. I found that out myself, and I'm the only man that would
dare going into the State to get hush-money for it. They'll try to
poison me, same as they did in Chortumna when I went on the loot
there. But you'll give the man at Marwar Junction my message?"
He got out at a little roadside station, and I reflected. I had heard,
more than once, of men personating correspondents of newspapers and
bleeding small Native States with threats of exposure, but I had never
met any of the caste before. They lead a hard life, and generally die
with great suddenness. The Native States have a wholesome horror of
English newspapers, which may throw light on their peculiar methods of
government, and do their best to choke correspondents with champagne,
or drive them out of their mind with four-in-hand barouches. They do
not understand that nobody cares a straw for the internal
administration of Native States so long as oppression and crime are
kept within decent limits, and the ruler is not drugged, drunk, or
diseased from one end of the year to the other. They are the dark
places of the earth, full of unimaginable cruelty, touching the
Railway and the Telegraph on one side, and, on the other, the days of
Harun-al-Raschid. When I left the train I did business with divers
Kings, and in eight days passed through many changes of life.
Sometimes I wore dress-clothes and consorted with Princes and
Politicals, drinking from crystal and eating from silver. Sometimes I
lay out upon the ground and devoured what I could get, from a plate
made of leaves, and drank the running water, and slept under the same
rug as my servant. It was all in the day's work.
Then I headed for the Great Indian Desert upon the proper date, as I
had promised, and the 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 short halt at Marwar. She
arrived just as I got in, and I had just time to hurry to her platform
and go down the carriages. There was only one Second-class on the
train. I slipped the window and looked down upon a flaming-red beard,
half covered by a railway-rug. That was my man, fast asleep, and I dug
him gently in the ribs. He woke with a grunt, and 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 he is gone South for the week. He
has gone South for the week!"
The train had begun to move out. The red man rubbed his eyes. "He has
gone South for the week," he repeated. "Now that's just like his
impidence. Did he say that I was to give you anything? 'Cause I
"He didn't," I said, and dropped away, and watched the red lights die
out in the dark. It was horribly cold because the wind was blowing off
the sands. I climbed into my own train--not an Intermediate carriage
this time--and went to sleep.
If the man with the beard had given me a rupee I should have kept it
as a memento of a rather curious affair. But the consciousness of
having done my duty was my only reward.
Later on I reflected that two gentlemen like my friends could not do
any good if they foregathered and personated correspondents of
newspapers, and might, if they blackmailed one of the little rat-trap
States of Central India or Southern Rajputana, get themselves into
serious difficulties. I therefore took some trouble to describe them
as accurately as I could remember to people who would be interested in
deporting them; and succeeded, so I was later informed, in having them
headed back from the Degumber borders.
Then I became respectable, and returned to an office where there were
no Kings and no incidents outside the daily manufacture of a
newspaper. A newspaper office seems to attract every conceivable sort
of person, to the prejudice of discipline. Zenana-mission ladies
arrive, and beg that the Editor will instantly abandon all his duties
to describe a Christian prize-giving in a back slum of a perfectly
inaccessible village; Colonels who have been overpassed for command
sit down and sketch the outline of a series of ten, twelve, or twenty-
four leading articles on Seniority /versus/ Selection; missionaries
wish to know why they have not been permitted to escape from their
regular vehicles of abuse, and swear at a brother missionary under
special patronage of the editorial We; stranded theatrical companies
troop up to explain that they cannot pay for their advertisements, but
on their return from New Zealand or Tahiti will do so with interest;
inventors of patent punka-pulling machines, carriage couplings, and
unbreakable swords and axletrees call with specifications in their
pockets and hours at their disposal; tea companies enter and elaborate
their prospectuses with the office pens; secretaries of ball
committees clamour to have the glories of their last dance more fully
described; strange ladies rustle in and say, "I want a hundred lady's
cards printed /at once/, please," which is manifestly part of an
Editor's duty; and every dissolute ruffian that ever tramped the Grand
Trunk Road makes it his business to ask for employment as a proof-
reader. And, all the time, the telephone-bell is ringing madly, and
Kings are being killed on the Continent, and Empires are saying,
"You're another," and Mister Gladstone is calling down brimstone upon
the British Dominions, and the little black copyboys are whining,
"/kaa-pi chay-ha-yeh/" ("Copy wanted"), like tired bees, and most of
the paper is as blank as Modred's shield.
But that is the amusing part of the year. There are six other months
when none ever come to call, and the thermometer walks inch by inch up
to the top of the glass, and the office is darkened to just above
reading-light, and the press-machines are red-hot to touch, and nobody
writes anything but accounts of amusements in the Hill-stations or
obituary notices. Then the telephone becomes a tinkling terror,
because it tells you of the sudden deaths of men and women that you
knew intimately, and the prickly heat covers you with a garment, and
you sit down and write: "A slight increase of sickness is reported
from the Khuda Janta Khan District. The outbreak is purely sporadic in
its nature, and, thanks to the energetic efforts of the District
authorities, is now almost at an end. It is, however, with deep regret
we record the death," etc.
Then the sickness really breaks out, and the less recording and
reporting the better for the peace of the subscribers. But the Empires
and the Kings continue to divert themselves as selfishly as before,
and the Foreman thinks that a daily paper really ought to come out
once in twenty-four hours, and all the people at the Hill-stations in
the middle of their amusements say, "Good gracious! 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, as the advertisements say,
"must be experienced to be appreciated."
It was in that season, and a remarkably evil season, that the paper
began running the last issue of the week on Saturday night, which is
to say Sunday morning, after the custom of a London paper. This was a
great convenience, for immediately after the paper was put to bed the
dawn would lower the thermometer from 96 degrees to almost 84 degrees
for half an hour, and in that chill--you have no idea how cold is 84
degrees on the grass until you begin to pray for it--a very tired man
could get off to sleep ere the heat roused him.
One Saturday night it was my pleasant duty to put the paper to bed
alone. A King or courtier or a courtesan or a Community was going to
die or get a new Constitution, or do something that was important on
the other side of the world, and the paper was to be held open till
the latest possible minute in order to catch the telegram.
It was a pitchy-black night, as stifling as a June night can be, and
the /loo/, the red-hot wind from the westward, was booming among the
tinder-dry trees and pretending that the rain was on its heels. Now
and again a spot of almost boiling water would fall on the dust with
the flop of a frog, but all our weary world knew that was only
pretence. It was a shade cooler in the press-room than the office, so
I sat there, while the type ticked and clicked, and the night-jars
hooted at the windows, and the all but naked compositors wiped the
sweat from their foreheads and called for water. The thing that was
keeping us back, whatever it was, would not come off, though the loo
dropped and the last type was set, and the whole round earth stood
still in the choking heat, with its finger on its lip, to wait the
event. I drowsed, and wondered whether the telegraph was a blessing,
and whether this dying man, or struggling people, might be aware of
the inconvenience the delay was causing. There was no special reason
beyond the heat and worry to make tension, but, as the clock-hands
crept up to three o-clock and the machines spun their fly-wheels two
and three times to see that all was in order, before I said the word
that would set them off, I could have shrieked aloud.
Then the roar and rattle of the wheels shivered the quiet into little
bits. I rose to go away, but two men in white clothes stood in front
of me. The first one said, "It's him!" The second said, "So it is!"
And they both laughed almost as loudly as the machinery roared, and
mopped their foreheads. "We seed there was a light burning across the
road, and we were sleeping in that ditch there for coolness, and I
said to my friend here, 'The office is open. Let's come along and
speak to him as turned us back from Degumber State,' " said the
smaller of the two. He was the man I had met in the Mhow train, and
his fellow was the red-bearded man of Marwar Junction. There was no
mistaking the eyebrows of the one or the beard of the other.
I was not pleased, because I wished to go to sleep, not to squabble
with loafers. "What do you want?" I asked.
"Half an hour's talk with you, cool and comfortable, in the office,"
said the red-bearded man. "We'd /like/ some drink,--the Contrack
doesn't begin yet, Peachey, so you needn't look,--but what we really
want is advice. We don't want money. We ask you as a favour, because
we found out you did us a bad turn about Degumber State."
I led from the press-room to the stifling office with the maps on the
walls, and the red-haired man rubbed his hands. "That's something
like," said he. "This was the proper shop to come to. Now, Sir, let me
introduce you to Brother Peachey Carnehan, that's him, and Brother
Daniel Dravot, that is /me/, and the less said about our professions
the better, for we have been most things in our time--soldier, sailor,
compositor, photographer, proof-reader, street-preacher, and
correspondents of the 'Backwoodsman' when we thought the paper wanted
one. Carnehan is sober, and so am I. Look at us first, and see that's
sure. It will save you cutting into my talk. We'll take one of your
cigars apiece, and you shall see us light up."
I watched the test. The men were absolutely sober, so I gave them each
a tepid whisky-and-soda.
"Well /and/ good," said Carnehan of the eyebrows, wiping the froth
from his moustache. "Let me talk now, Dan. We have been all over
India, mostly on foot. We have been boiler-fitters, engine-drivers,
petty contractors, and all that, and we have decided that India isn't
big enough for such as us."
They certainly were too big for the office. Dravot's beard seemed to
fill half the room and Carnehan's shoulders the other half, as they
sat on the big table. Carnehan continued: "The country isn't half
worked out because they that governs it won't let you touch it. They
spend all their blessed time in governing it, and you can't lift a
spade, nor chip a rock, nor look for oil, nor anything like that,
without all the Government saying, 'Leave it alone, and let us
govern.' Therefore, such /as/ it is, we will let it alone, and go away
to some other place where a man isn't crowded and can come to his own.
We are not little men, and there is 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," muttered Dravot.
"Yes, of course," I said. "You've been tramping in the sun, and it's a
very warm night, and hadn't you better sleep over the notion? Come
"Neither drunk nor sunstruck," said Dravot. "We have slept over the
notion half a year, and require to see Books and Atlases, and we have
decided that there is only one place now in the world that two strong
men can Sar-a-/whack/. They call it Kafiristan. By my reckoning it's
the top right-hand corner of Afghanistan, not more than three hundred
miles from Peshawar. They have two and thirty heathen idols there, and
we'll be the thirty-third and fourth. It's a mountaineous country, the
women of those parts are very beautiful."
"But that is provided against in the Contrack," said Carnehan.
"Neither Women nor Liqu-or, Daniel."
"And that's all we know, except that no one has gone there, and they
fight, and in any place where they fight a man who knows how to drill
men can always be a King. We shall go to those parts and say to any
King we find, 'D' you want to vanquish your foes?' and we will show
him how to drill men; for that we know better than anything else. Then
we will subvert that King and seize his Throne and establish a
"You'll be cut to pieces before you're fifty miles across the Border,"
I said. "You have to travel through Afghanistan to get to that
country. It's one mass of mountains and peaks and glaciers, and no
Englishman has been through it. The people are utter brutes, and even
if you reached them you couldn't do anything."
"That's more like," said Carnehan. "If you could think us a little
more mad we would be more pleased. We have come to you to know about
this country, to read a book about it, and to be shown maps. We want
you to tell us that we are fools and to show us your books." He turned
to the bookcases.
"Are you at all in earnest?" I said.
"A little," said Dravot, sweetly. "As big a map as you have got, even
if it's all blank where Kafiristan is, and any books you've got. We
can read, though we aren't very educated."
I uncased the big thirty-two-miles-to-the-inch map of India and two
smaller Frontier maps, hauled down volume INF-KAN of the
"Encyclopaedia Britannica," and the men consulted them.
"See here!" said Dravot, his thumb on the map. "Up to Jagdallak,
Peachey and me know the road. We was there with Robert's Army. We'll
have to turn off to the right at Jagdallak through Laghmann territory.
Then we get among the hills--fourteen thousand feet--fifteen thousand
--it will be cold work there, but it don't look very far on the map."
I handed him Wood on the "Sources of the Oxus." Carnehan was deep in
"They're a mixed lot," said Dravot, reflectively; "and it won't help
us to know the names of their tribes. The more tribes the more they'll
fight, and the better for us. From Jagdallak to Ashang. H'mm!"
"But all the information about the country is as sketchy and
inaccurate as can be," I protested. "No one knows anything about it
really. Here's the file of the 'United Services' Institute.' Read what
"Blow Bellew!" said Carnehan. "Dan, they're a stinkin' lot of
heathens, but this book here says they think they're related to us
I smoked while the men poured over Raverty, Wood, the maps, and the
"There is no use your waiting," said Dravot, politely. "It's about
four o'clock now. We'll go before six o'clock if you want to sleep,
and we won't steal any of the papers. Don't you sit up. We're two
harmless lunatics, and if you come to-morrow evening down to the Serai
we'll say good-bye to you."
"You /are/ two fools," I answered. "You'll be turned back at the
Frontier or cut up the minute you set foot in Afghanistan. Do you want
any money or a recommendation down-country? I can help you to the
chance of work next week."
"Next week we shall be hard at work ourselves, thank you," said
Dravot. "It isn't so easy being a King as it looks. When we've got our
Kingdom in going order we'll let you know, and you can come up and
help us govern it."
"Would two lunatics make a Contrack like that?" said Carnehan, with
subdued pride, showing me a greasy half-sheet of notepaper on which
was written the following. I copied it, then and there, as a
This Contracx between me and you persuing witnesseth in
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 is being settled, look at any
Liquor, nor any Woman, black, white,
or brown, so as to get mixed up with
one or the other harmful.
(Three) That we conduct ourselves with Dignity
and Discretion, and if one of us gets
into trouble the other will stay by him.
Signed by you and me this day.
Peachey Taliaferro Carnehan.
Both Gentlemen at Large.
"There was no need for the last article," said Carnehan, blushing
modestly; "but it looks regular. Now you know the sort of men that
loafers are,--we /are/ loafers, Dan, until we get out of India,--and
/do/ you think that we would sign a Contrack like that unless we was
in earnest? We have kept away from the two things that make life worth
"You won't enjoy your lives much longer if you are going to try this
idiotic adventure. Don't set the office on fire," I said, "and go away
before nine o'clock."
I left them still poring over the maps and making notes on the back of
the "Contrack." "Be sure to come down to the Serai to-morrow," were
their parting words.
The Kumharsen Serai is the great foursquare sink of humanity where the
strings of camels and horses from the North load and unload. All the
nationalities of Central Asia may be found there, and most of the folk
of India proper. Balkh and Bokhara there meet Bengal and Bombay, and
try to draw eye-teeth. You can buy ponies, turquoises, Persian pussy-
cats, saddle-bags, fat-tailed sheep, and musk in the Kumharsen Serai,
and get many strange things for nothing. In the afternoon I went down
to see whether my friends intended to keep their word or were lying
A priest attired in fragments of ribbons and rags stalked up to me,
gravely twisting a child's paper whirligig. Behind him was his servant
bending under the load of a crate of mud toys. The two were loading up
two camels, and the inhabitants of the Serai watched them with shrieks
"The priest is mad," said a horse-dealer to me. "He is going up to
Kabul to sell toys to the Amir. He will either be raised to honour or
have his head cut off. He came in here this morning and has been
behaving madly ever since."
"The witless are under the protection of God," stammered a flat-
cheeked Usbeg in broken Hindi. "They foretell future events."
"Would they could have foretold that my caravan would have been cut up
by the Shinwaris almost within shadow of the Pass!" grunted the
Eusufzai agent of a Rajputana trading-house whose goods had been
diverted into the hands of other robbers just across the Border, and
whose misfortunes were the laughing-stock of the bazaar. "Ohe, priest,
whence come you and whither do you go?"
"From Roum have I come," shouted the priest, waving his whirligig;
"from Roum, blown by the breath of a hundred devils across the sea! O
thieves, robbers, liars, the blessing of Pir Khan on pigs, dogs, and
perjurers! Who will take the Protected of God to the North to sell
charms that are never still to the Amir? The camels shall not gall,
the sons shall not fall sick, and the wives shall remain faithful
while they are away, of the men who give me place in their caravan.
Who will assist me to slipper the King of the Roos with a golden
slipper with a silver heel? The protection of Pir Khan be upon his
labours!" He spread out the skirts of his gabardine and pirouetted
between the lines of tethered horses.
"There starts a caravan from Peshawar to Kabul in twenty days,
/Huzrut/," said the Eusufzai trader. "My camels go therewith. Do thou
also go and bring us good luck."
"I will go even now!" shouted the priest. "I will depart upon my
winged camels, and be at Peshawar in a day! Ho! Hazar Mir Khan," he
yelled to his servant, "drive out the camels, but let me first mount
He leaped on the back of his beast as it knelt, and, turning round to
me, cried, "Come thou also, Sahib, a little along the road, and I will
sell thee a charm--an amulet that shall make thee King of Kafiristan."
Then the light broke upon me, and I followed the two camels out of the
Serai till we reached open road and the priest halted.
"What d' you think o' that?" said he in English. "Carnehan can't talk
their patter, so I've made him my servant. He makes a handsome
servant. 'T isn't for nothing that I've been knocking about the
country for fourteen years. Didn't I do that talk neat? We'll hitch on
to a caravan at Peshawar till we get to Jagdallak, and then we'll see
if we can get donkeys for our camels, and strike into Kafiristan.
Whirligigs for the Amir, O Lor'! Put your hand under the camelbags and
tell me what you feel."
I felt the butt of a Martini, and another and another.
"Twenty of 'em," said Dravot, placidly. "Twenty of 'em and ammunition
to correspond, under the whirligigs and the mud dolls."
"Heaven help you if you are caught with those things!" I said. "A
Martini is worth her weight in silver among the Pathans."
"Fifteen hundred rupees of capital--every rupee we could beg, borrow,
or steal--are invested on these two camels," said Dravot. "We won't
get caught. We're going through the Khaiber with a regular caravan.
Who'd touch a poor mad priest?"
"Have you got everything you want?" I asked, overcome with
"Not yet, but we shall soon. Give us a momento of your kindness,
/Brother/. You did me a service yesterday, and that time in Marwar.
Half my Kingdom shall you have, as the saying is." I slipped a small
charm compass from my watch-chain and handed it up to the priest.
"Good-bye," said Dravot, giving me hand cautiously. "It's the last
time we'll shake hands with an Englishman these many days. Shake hands
with him, Carnehan," he cried, as the second camel passed me.
Carnehan leaned down and shook hands. Then the camels passed away
along the dusty road, and I was left alone to wonder. My eye could
detect no failure in the disguises. The scene in the Serai proved that
they were complete to the native mind. There was just the chance,
therefore, that Carnehan and Dravot would be able to wander through
Afghanistan without detection. But, beyond, they would find death--
certain and awful death.
Ten days later a native correspondent, giving me the news of the day
from Peshawar, wound up his letter with: "There has been much laughter
here on account of a certain mad priest who is going in his estimation
to sell petty gauds and insignificant trinkets which he ascribes as
great charms to H. H. the Amir of Bokhara. He passed through Peshawar
and associated himself to the Second Summer caravan that goes to
Kabul. The merchants are pleased because through superstition they
imagine that such mad fellows bring good fortune."
The two, then, were beyond the Border. I would have prayed for them,
but that night a real King died in Europe, and demanded an obituary
The wheel of the world swings through the same phases again and again.
Summer passed and winter thereafter, and came and passed again. The
daily paper continued and I with it, and upon the third summer there
fell a hot night, a night issue, and a strained waiting for something
to be telegraphed from the other side of the world, exactly as had
happened before. A few great men had died in the past two years, the
machines worked with more clatter, and some of the trees in the office
garden were a few feet taller. But that was all the difference.
I passed over to the press-room, and went through just such a scene as
I have already described. The nervous tension was stronger than it had
been two years before, and I felt the heat more acutely. At three
o'clock I cried, "Print off," and turned to go, when there crept to my
chair what was left of a man. He was bent into a circle, his head was
sunk between his shoulders, and he moved his feet one over the other
like a bear. I could hardly see whether he walked or crawled--this
rag-wrapped, whining cripple who addressed me by name, crying that he
was come back. "Can you give me a drink?" he whimpered. "For the
Lord's sake, give me a drink!"
I went back to the office, the man following with groans of pain, and
I turned up the lamp.
"Don't you know me?" he gasped, dropping into a chair, and he turned
his drawn face, surmounted by a shock of gray hair, to the light.
I looked at him intently. Once before had I seen eyebrows that met
over the nose in an inch-broad black band, but for the life of me I
could not tell where.
"I don't know you," I said, handing him the whisky. "What can I do for
He took a gulp of the spirit raw, and shivered in spite of the
"I've come back," he repeated; "and I was the King of Kafiristan--me
and Dravot--crowned Kings we was! In this office we settled it--you
setting there and giving us the books. I am Peachey,--Peachey
Taliaferro Carnehan,--and you've been setting here ever since--O
I was more than a little astonished, and expressed my feelings
"It's true," said Carnehan, with a dry cackle, nursing his feet, which
were wrapped in rags--"true as gospel. Kings we were, with crowns upon
our heads--me and Dravot--poor Dan--oh, poor, poor Dan, that would
never take advice, not though I begged of him!"
"Take the whisky," I said, "and take your own time. Tell me all you
can recollect of everything from beginning to end. You got across the
Border on your camels, Dravot dressed as a mad priest and you his
servant. Do you remember that?"
"I ain't mad--yet, but I shall be that way soon. Of course I remember.
Keep looking at me, or maybe my words will go all to pieces. Keep
looking at me in my eyes and don't say anything."
I leaned forward and looked into his face as steadily as I could. He
dropped one hand upon the table and I grasped it by the wrist. It was
twisted like a bird's claw, and upon the back was a ragged, red,
"No, don't look there. Look at /me/," said Carnehan. "That comes
afterward, but for the Lord's sake don't distrack me. We left with
that caravan, me and Dravot playing all sorts of antics to amuse the
people we were with. Dravot used to make us laugh in the evenings when
all the people was cooking their dinners--cooking their dinners, and
. . . what did they do then? They lit little fires with sparks that
went into Dravot's beard, and we all laughed--fit to die. Little red
fires they was, going into Dravot's big red beard--so funny." His eyes
left mine and he smiled foolishly.
"You went as far as Jagdallak with that caravan," I said, at a
venture, "after you had lit those fires. To Jagdallak, where you
turned off to try to get into Kafiristan."
"No, we didn't, neither. What are you talking about? We turned off
before Jagdallak, because we heard the roads was good. But they wasn't
good enough for our two camels--mine and Dravot's. When we left the
caravan, Dravot took off all his clothes and mine too, and said we
would be heathen, because the Kafirs didn't allow Mohammedans to talk
to them. So we dressed betwixt and between, and such a sight as Daniel
Dravot I never saw yet nor expect to see again. He burned half his
beard, and slung a sheepskin over his shoulder, and shaved his head
into patterns. He shaved mine too, and made me wear outrageous things
to look like a heathen. That was in a most mountaineous country, and
our camels couldn't go along any more because of the mountains. They
were tall and black, and coming home I saw them fight like wild goats
--there are lots of goats in Kafiristan. And these mountains, they
never keep still, no more than the goats. Always fighting they are,
and don't let you sleep at night."
"Take some more whisky," I said, very slowly. "What did you and Daniel
Dravot do when the camels could go no farther because of the rough
roads that led into Kafiristan?"
"What did which do? There was a party called Peachey Taliaferro
Carnehan that was with Dravot. Shall I tell you about him? He died out
there in the cold. Slap from the bridge fell old Peachey, turning and
twisting in the air like a penny whirligig that you can sell to the
Amir. No; they was two for three ha'pence, those whirligigs, or I am
much mistaken and woful sore. . . . And then these camels were no use,
and Peachey said to Dravot, 'For the Lord's sake let's get out of this
before our heads are chopped off,' and with that they killed the
camels all among the mountains, not having anything in particular to
eat, but first they took off the boxes with the guns and the
ammunition, till two men came along driving four mules. Dravot up and
dances in front of them, singing, 'Sell me four mules.' Says the first
man, 'If you are rich enough to buy, you are rich enough to rob;' but
before ever he could put his hand to his knife, Dravot breaks his neck
over his knee, and the other party runs away. So Carnehan loaded the
mules with the rifles that was taken off the camels, and together we
starts forward into those bitter-cold mountaineous parts, and never a
road broader than the back of your hand."
He paused for a moment, while I asked him if he could remember the
nature of the country through which he had journeyed.
"I am telling you as straight as I can, but my head isn't as good as
it might be. They drove nails through it to make me hear better how
Dravot died. The country was mountaineous and the mules were most
contrary, and the inhabitants was dispersed and solitary. They went up
and up, and down and down, and that other party, Carnehan, was
imploring of Dravot not to sing and whistle so loud, for fear of
bringing down the tremenjus avalanches. But Dravot says that if a King
couldn't sing it wasn't worth being King, and whacked the mules over
the rump, and never took no heed for ten cold days. We came to a big
level valley all among the mountains, and the mules were near dead, so
we killed them, not having anything in special for them or us to eat.
We sat upon the boxes, and played odd and even with the cartridges
that was jolted out.
"Then ten men with bows and arrows ran down that valley, chasing
twenty men with bows and arrows, and the row was tremenjus. They was
fair men--fairer than you or me--with yellow hair and remarkable well
built. Says Dravot, unpacking the guns, 'This is the beginning of the
business. We'll fight for the ten men,' and with that he fires two
rifles at the twenty men, and drops one of them at two hundred yards
from the rock where he was sitting. The other men began to run, but
Carnehan and Dravot sits on the boxes picking them off at all ranges,
up and down the valley. Then we goes up to the ten men that had run
across the snow too, and they fires a footy little arrow at us. Dravot
he shoots above their heads, and they all falls down flat. Then he
walks over them and kicks them, and then he lifts them up and shakes
hands all round to make them friendly like. He calls them and gives
them the boxes to carry, and waves his hand for all the world as
though he was King already. They takes the boxes and him across the
valley and up the hill into a pine wood on the top, where there was
half a dozen big stone idols. Dravot he goes to the biggest--a fellow
they call Imbra--and lays a rifle and a cartridge at his feet, rubbing
his nose respectfuly with his own nose, patting him on the head, and
nods his head, and says, 'That's all right. I'm in the know too, and
these old jimjams are my friends.' Then he opens his mouth and points
down it, and when the first man brings him food, he says, 'No;' and
when the second man brings him food, he says 'no;' but when one of the
old priests and the boss of the village brings him food, he says,
'Yes;' very haughty, and eats it slow. That was how he came to our
first village without any trouble, just as though we had tumbled from
the skies. But we tumbled from one of those damned rope-bridges, you
see, and--you couldn't expect a man to laugh much after that?"
"Take some more whisky and go on," I said. "That was the first village
you came into. How did you get to be King?"
"I wasn't King," said Carnehan. "Dravot he was the King, and a
handsome man he looked with the gold crown on his head and all. Him
and the other party stayed in that village, and every morning Dravot
sat by the side of old Imbra, and the people came and worshipped. That
was Dravot's order. Then a lot of men came into the valley, and
Carnehan Dravot picks them off with the rifles before they knew where
they was, and runs down into the valley and up again the other side,
and finds another village, same as the first one, and the people all
falls down flat on their faces, and Dravot says, 'Now what is the
trouble between you two villages?' and the people points to a woman,
as fair as you or me, that was carried off, and Dravot takes her back
to the first village and counts up the dead--eight there was. For each
dead man Dravot pours a little milk on the ground and waves his arms
like a whirligig, and 'That's all right,' says he. Then he and
Carnehan takes the big boss of each village by the arm, and walks them
down the valley, and shows them how to scratch a line with a spear
right down the valley, and gives each a sod of turf from both sides of
the line. Then all the people comes down and shouts like the devil and
all, and Dravot says, 'Go and dig the land, and be fruitful and
multiply,' which they did, though they didn't understand. Then we asks
the names of things in their lingo--bread and water and fire and idols
and such; and Dravot leads the priest of each village up to the idol,
and says he must sit there and judge the people, and if anything goes
wrong he is to be shot.
"Next week they was all turning up the land in the valley as quiet as
bees and much prettier, and the priests heard all the complaints and
told Dravot in dumb-show what it was about. 'That's just the
beginning,' says Dravot. 'They think we're Gods.' He and Carnehan
picks out twenty good men and shows them how to click off a rifle and
form fours and advance in line; and they was very pleased to do so,
and clever to see the hang of it. Then he takes out his pipe and his
baccy-pouch, and leaves one at one village and one at the other, and
off we two goes to see what was to be done in the next valley. That
was all rock, and there was a little village there, and Carnehan says,
'Send 'em to the old valley to plant,' and takes 'em there and gives
'em some land that wasn't took before. They were a poor lot, and we
blooded 'em with a kid before letting 'em into the new Kingdom. That
was to impress the people, and then they settled down quiet, and
Carnehan went back to Dravot, who had got into another valley, all
snow and ice and most mountaineous. There was no people there, and the
Army got afraid; so Dravot shoots one of them, and goes on till he
finds some people in a village, and the Army explains that unless the
people wants to be killed they had better not shoot their little
matchlocks, for they had matchlocks. We makes friends with the priest,
and I stays there alone with two of the Army, teaching the men how to
drill; and a thundering big Chief comes across the snow with
kettledrums and horns twanging, because he heard there was a new God
kicking about. Carnehan sights for the brown of the men half a mile
across the snow and wings one of them. Then he sends a message to the
Chief that, unless he wished to be killed, he must come and shake
hands with me and leave his arms behind. The Chief comes alone first,
and Carnehan shakes hands with him and whirls his arms about, same as
Dravot used, and very much surprised that Chief was, and strokes my
eyebrows. Then Carnehan goes alone to the Chief, and asks him in dumb-
show if he had an enemy he hated. 'I have,' says the chief. So
Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army
to show them drill, and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre
about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great
big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chief's men rushes into a
village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the
enemy. So we took that village too, and I gives the Chief a rag from
my coat, and says, 'Occupy till I come;' which was scriptural. By way
of a reminder, when me and the Army was eighteen hundred yards away, I
drops a bullet near him standing on the snow, and all the people falls
flat on their faces. Then I sends a letter to Dravot wherever he be by
land or by sea."
At the risk of throwing the creature out of train I interrupted: "How
could you write a letter up yonder?"
"The letter?--oh!--the letter! Keep looking at me between the eyes,
please. It was a string-talk letter, that we'd learned the way of it
from a blind beggar in the Punjab."
I remember that there had once come to the office a blind man with a
knotted twig, and a piece of string which he wound round the twig
according to some cipher of his own. He could, after the lapse of days
or hours, repeat the sentence which he had reeled up. He had reduced
the alphabet to eleven primitive sounds, and tried to teach me his
method, but I could not understand.
"I sent that letter to Dravot," said Carnehan, "and told him to come
back because this Kingdom was growing too big for me to handle; and
then I struck for the first valley, to see how the priests were
working. They called the village we took along with the Chief,
Bashkai, and the first village we took, Er-Heb. The priests at Er-Heb
was doing all right, but they had a lot of pending cases about land to
show me, and some men from another village had been firing arrows at
night. I went out and looked for that village, and fired four rounds
at it from a thousand yards. That used all the cartridges I cared to
spend, and I waited for Dravot, who had been away two or three months,
and I kept my people quiet.
"One morning I heard the devil's own noise of drums and horns, and Dan
Dravot marches down the hill with his Army and a tail of hundreds of
men, and, which was the most amazing, a great gold crown on his head.
'My Gord, Carnehan,' says Daniel, 'this is a tremenjus business, and
we've got the whole country as far as it's worth having. I am the son
of Alexander by Queen Semiramis, and you're my younger brother and a
God too! It's the biggest thing we've ever seen. I've been marching
and fighting for six weeks with the Army, and every footy little
village for fifty miles has come in rejoiceful; and more than that,
I've got the key of the whole show, as you'll see, and I've got a
crown for you! I told 'em to make two of 'em at a place called Shu,
where the gold lies in the rock like suet in mutton. Gold I've seen,
and turquoise I've kicked out of the cliffs, and there's garnets in
the sands of the river, and here's a chunk of amber that a man brought
me. Call up all the priests and, here, take your crown.'
"One of the men opens a black hair bag, and I slips the crown on. It
was too small and too heavy, but I wore it for the glory. Hammered
gold it was--five pounds weight, like a hoop of a barrel.
" 'Peachey,' says Dravot, 'we don't want to fight no more. The Craft's
the trick, so help me!' and he brings forward that same Chief that I
left at Bashkai--Billy Fish we called him afterward, because he was so
like Billy Fish that drove the big tank-engine at Mach on the Bolan in
the old days. 'Shake hands with him,' says Dravot; and I shook hands
and nearly dropped, for Billy Fish gave me the Grip. I said nothing,
but tried him with the Fellow-craft Grip. He answers all right, and I
tried the Master's Grip, but that was a slip. 'A Fellow-craft he is!'
I says to Dan. 'Does he know the word?' 'He does,' says Dan, 'and all
the priests know. It's a miracle! The Chiefs and the priests can work
a Fellow-craft Lodge in a way that's very like ours, and they've cut
the marks on the rocks, but they don't know the Third Degree, and
they've come to find out. It's Gord's Truth. I've known these long
years that the Afghans knew up to the Fellow-craft Degree, but this is
a miracle. A God and a Grand Master of the Craft am I, and a Lodge in
the Third Degree I will open, and we'll raise the head priests and the
Chiefs of the villages.'
" 'It's against all the law,' I says, 'holding a Lodge without warrant
from any one; and you know we never held office in any Lodge.'
" 'It's a master stroke o' policy,' says Dravot. 'It means running the
country as easy as a four-wheeled bogie on a down grade. We can't stop
to inquire now, or they'll turn against us. I've forty Chiefs at my
heel, and passed and raised according to their merit they shall be.
Billet these men on the villages, and see that we run up a Lodge of
some kind. The temple of Imbra will do for a Lodge-room. The women
must make aprons as you show them. I'll hold a levee of Chiefs
to-night and Lodge to-morrow.'
"I was fair run off my legs, but I wasn't such a fool as not to see
what a pull this Craft business gave us. I showed the priests'
families how to make aprons of the degrees, but for Dravot's apron the
blue border and marks was made of turquoise lumps on white hide, not
cloth. We took a great square stone in the temple for the Master's
chair, and little stones for the officer's chairs, and painted the
black pavement with white squares, and did what we could to make
"At the levee which was held that night on the hillside with big
bonfires, Dravot gives out that him and me were Gods and sons of
Alexander, and Passed Grand Masters in the Craft, and was come to make
Kafiristan a country where every man should eat in peace and drink in
quiet, and specially obey us. Then the Chiefs come round to shake
hands, and they were so hairy and white and fair it was just shaking
hands with old friends. We gave them names according as they was like
men we had known in India--Billy Fish, Holly Dilworth, Pikky Kergan,
that was Bazaar-master when I was at Mhow, and so on, and so on.
"/The/ most amazing miracles was at Lodge next night. One of the old
priests was watching us continuous, and I felt uneasy, for I knew we'd
have to fudge the Ritual, and I didn't know what the men knew. The old
priest was a stranger come in from beyond the village of Bashkai. The
minute Dravot puts on the Master's apron that the girls had made for
him, the priest fetches a whoop and a howl, and tries to overturn the
stone that Dravot was sitting on. 'It's all up now,' I says. 'That
comes of meddling with the Craft without warrant!' Dravot never winked
an eye, not when ten priests took and tilted over the Grand Master's
chair--which was to say, the stone of Imbra. The priest begins rubbing
the bottom end of it to clear away the black dirt, and presently he
shows all the other priests the Master's Mark, same as was on Dravot's
apron, cut into the stone. Not even the priests of the temple of Imbra
knew it was there. The old chap falls flat on his face at Dravot's
feet and kisses 'em. 'Luck again,' says Dravot, across the Lodge, to
me; 'they say it's the missing Mark that no one could understand the
why of. We're more than safe now.' Then he bangs the butt of his gun
for a gavel and says, 'By virtue of the authority vested in me by my
own right hand and the help of Peachey, I declare myself Grand Master
of all Freemasonry in Kafiristan in this the Mother Lodge o' the
country, and King of Kafiristan equally with Peachey!' At that he puts
on his crown and I puts on mine,--I was doing Senior Warden,--and we
opens the Lodge in most ample form. It was an amazing miracle! The
priests moved in Lodge through the first two degrees almost without
telling, as if the memory was coming back to them. After that Peachey
and Dravot raised such as was worthy--high priests and Chiefs of far-
off villages. Billy Fish was the first, and I can tell you we scared
the soul out of him. It was not in any way according to Ritual, but it
served our turn. We didn't raise more than ten of the biggest men,
because we didn't want to make the Degree common. And they was
clamouring to be raised.
" 'In another six months,' says Dravot, 'we'll hold another
Communication and see how you are working.' Then he asks them about
their villages, and learns that they was fighting one against the
other, and were sick and tired of it. And when they wasn't doing that
they was fighting with the Mohammedans. 'You can fight those when they
come into our country,' says Dravot. 'Tell off every tenth man of your
tribes for a Frontier guard, and send two hundred at a time to this
valley to be drilled. Nobody is going to be shot or speared any more
so long as he does well, and I know that you won't cheat me, because
you're white people--sons of Alexander--and not like common black
Mohammedans. You are /my/ people, and, by God,' says he, running off
into English at the end, 'I'll make a damned fine Nation of you, or
I'll die in the making!'
"I can't tell all we did for the next six months, because Dravot did a
lot I couldn't see the hang of, and he learned their lingo in a way I
never could. My work was to help the people plough, and now and again
go out with some of the Army and see what the other villages were
doing, and make 'em throw rope bridges across the ravines which cut up
the country horrid. Dravot was very kind to me, but when he walked up
and down in the pine wood pulling that bloody red beard of his with
both fists I knew he was thinking plans I could not advise about, and
I just waited for orders.
"But Dravot never showed me disrespect before the people. They were
afraid of me and the Army, but they loved Dan. He was the best of
friends with the priests and the Chiefs; but any one could come across
the hills with a complaint, and Dravot would hear him out fair, and
call four priests together and say what was to be done. He used to
call in Billy Fish from Bashkai, and Pikky Kergan from Shu, and an old
Chief we called Kafuzelum,--it was like enough to his real name,--and
hold councils with 'em when there was any fighting to be done in small
villages. That was his Council of War, and the four priests of
Bashkai, Shu, Khawak, and Madora was his Privy Council. Between the
lot of 'em they sent me, with forty men and twenty rifles, and sixty
men carrying turquoises, into the Ghorband country to buy those hand-
made Martini rifles, that come out of the Amir's workshops at Kabul,
from one of the Amir's Herati regiments that would have sold the very
teeth out of their mouths for turquoises.
"I stayed in Ghorband a month, and gave the Governor there the pick of
my baskets for hush-money, and bribed the Colonel of the regiment some
more, and, between the two and the tribes-people, we got more than a
hundred hand-made Martinis, a hundred good Kohat Jezails that'll throw
to six hundred yards, and forty man-loads of very bad ammunition for
the rifles. I came back with what I had, and distributed 'em among the
men that the Chiefs sent in to me to drill. Dravot was too busy to
attend to those things, but the old Army that we first made helped me,
and we turned out five hundred men that could drill, and two hundred
that knew how to hold arms pretty straight. Even those cork-screwed,
hand-made guns was a miracle to them. Dravot talked big about powder-
shops and factories, walking up and down in the pine wood when the
winter was coming on.
" 'I won't make a Nation,' says he. 'I'll make an Empire! These men
aren't niggers; they're English! Look at their eyes--look at their
mouths. Look at the way they stand up. They sit on chairs in their own
houses. They're the Lost Tribes, or something like it, and they've
grown to be English. I'll take a census in the spring if the priests
don't get frightened. There must be a fair two million of 'em in these
hills. The villages are full o' little children. Two million people--
two hundred and fifty thousand fighting men--and all English! They
only want the rifles and a little drilling. Two hundred and fifty
thousand men, ready to cut in on Russia's right flank when she tries
for India! Peachey, man,' he says, chewing his beard in great hunks,
'we shall be Emperors--Emperors of the Earth! Rajah Brooke will be a
suckling to us. I'll treat with the Viceroy on equal terms. I'll ask
him to send me twelve picked English--twelve that I know of--to help
us govern a bit. There's Mackray, Serjeant Pensioner at Segowli--
many's the good dinner he's given me, and his wife a pair of trousers.
There's Donkin, the Warder of Tounghoo Jail; there's hundreds that I
could lay my hand on if I was in India. The Viceroy shall do it for
me; I'll send a man through in the spring for those men, and I'll
write for a dispensation from the Grand Lodge for what I've done as
Grand Master. That--and all the Sniders that'll be thrown out when the
native troops in India take up the Martini. They'll be worn smooth,
but they'll do for fighting in these hills. Twelve English, a hundred
thousand Sniders run through the Amir's country in driblets,--I'd be
content with twenty thousand in one year,--and we'd be an Empire. When
everything was shipshape I'd hand over the crown--this crown I'm
wearing now--to Queen Victoria on my knees, and she'd say, "Rise up,
Sir Daniel Dravot." Oh, it's big! It's big, I tell you! But there's so
much to be done in every place--Bashkai, Khawak, Shu, and everywhere
" 'What is it?' I says. 'There are no more men coming in to be drilled
this autumn. Look at those fat black clouds. They're bringing the
" 'It isn't that,' says Daniel, putting his hand very hard on my
shoulder; 'and I don't wish to say anything that's against you, for no
other living man would have followed me and made me what I am as you
have done. You're a first-class Commander-in-Chief, and the people
know you; but--it's a big country, and somehow you can't help me,
Peachey, in the way I want to be helped.'
" 'Go to your blasted priests, then!' I said, and I was sorry when I
made that remark, but it did hurt me sore to find Daniel talking so
superior, when I'd drilled all the men and done all he told me.
" 'Don't let's quarrel, Peachey,' says Daniel, without cursing.
'You're a King too, and the half of this Kingdom is yours; but can't
you see, Peachey, we want cleverer men than us now--three or four of
'em, that we can scatter about for our Deputies. It's a hugeous great
State, and I can't always tell the right thing to do, and I haven't
time for all I want to do, and here's the winter coming on and all.'
He put half his beard into his mouth, all red like the gold of his
" 'I'm sorry, Daniel,' says I. 'I've done all I could. I've drilled
the men and shown the people how to stack their oats better; and I've
brought in those tinware rifles from Ghorband--but I know what you're
driving at. I take it Kings always feel oppressed that way.'
" 'There's another thing too,' says Dravot, walking up and down. 'The
winter's coming, and these people won't be giving much trouble, and if
they do we can't move about. I want a wife.'
" 'For Gord's sake leave the women alone!' I says. 'We've both got all
the work we can, though I /am/ a fool. Remember the Contrack, and keep
clear o' women.'
" 'The Contrack only lasted till such time as we was Kings; and Kings
we have been these months past,' says Dravot, weighing his crown in
his hand. 'You go get a wife too, Peachey--a nice, strappin', plump
girl that'll keep you warm in the winter. They're prettier than
English girls, and we can take the pick of 'em. Boil 'em once or twice
in hot water, and they'll come out like chicken and ham.'
" 'Don't tempt me!' I says. 'I will not have any dealings with a
woman, not till we are a dam' side more settled than we are now. I've
been doing the work o' two men, and you've been doing the work of
three. Let's lie off a bit, and see if we can get some better tobacco
from Afghan country and run in some good liquor; and no women.'
" 'Who's talking o' /women/?' says Dravot. 'I said /wife/--a Queen to
breed a King's son for the King. A Queen out of the strongest tribe,
that'll make them your blood-brothers, and that'll lie by your side
and tell you all the people thinks about you and their own affairs.
That's what I want.'
" 'Do you remember that Bengali woman I kept at Mogul Serai when I was
a plate-layer?' says I. 'A fat lot o' good she was to me. She taught
me the lingo and one or two other things; but what happened? She ran
away with the Station-master's servant and half my month's pay. Then
she turned up at Dadur Junction in tow of a half-caste, and had the
impidence to say I was her husband--all among the drivers in the
" 'We've done with that,' says Dravot; 'these women are whiter than
you or me, and a Queen I will have for the winter months.'
" 'For the last time o' asking, Dan, do /not/,' I says. 'It'll only
bring us harm. The Bible says that Kings ain't to waste their strength
on women, 'specially when they've got a new raw Kingdom to work over.'
" 'For the last time of answering, I will,' said Dravot, and he went
away through the pine-trees looking like a big red devil, the sun
being on his crown and beard and all.
"But getting a wife was not as easy as Dan thought. He put it before
the Council, and there was no answer till Billy Fish said that he'd
better ask the girls. Dravot damned them all round. 'What's wrong with
me?' he shouts, standing by the idol Imbra. 'Am I a dog, or am I not
enough of a man for your wenches? Haven't I put the shadow of my hand
over this country? Who stopped the last Afghan raid?' It was me
really, but Dravot was too angry to remember. 'Who bought your guns?
Who repaired the bridges? Who's the Grand Master of the sign cut in
the stone?' says he, and he thumped his hand on the block that he used
to sit on in Lodge, and at Council, which opened like Lodge always.
Billy Fish said nothing, and no more did the others. 'Keep your hair
on, Dan,' said I, 'and ask the girls. That's how it's done at Home,
and these people are quite English.'
" 'The marriage of the King is a matter of State,' says Dan, in a
white-hot rage, for he could feel, I hope, that he was going against
his better mind. He walked out of the Council-room, and the others sat
still, looking at the ground.
" 'Billy Fish,' says I to the Chief of Bashkai, 'what's the difficulty
here? A straight answer to a true friend.'
" 'You know,' says Billy Fish. 'How should a man tell you who knows
everything? How can daughters of men marry Gods or Devils? It's not
"I remembered something like that in the Bible; but, if after seeing
us as long as they had, they still believed we were Gods, it wasn't
for me to undeceive them.
" 'A God can do anything,' says I. 'If the King is fond of a girl
he'll not let her die.' 'She'll have to,' said Billy Fish. 'There are
all sorts of Gods and Devils in these mountains, and now and again a
girl marries one of them and isn't seen any more. Besides, you two
know the Mark cut in the stone. Only the Gods know that. We thought
you were men till you showed the sign of the Master.'
"I wished then that we had explained about the loss of the genuine
secrets of a Master Mason at the first go-off; but I said nothing. All
that night there was a blowing of horns in a little dark temple half-
way down the hill, and I heard the girl crying fit to die. One of the
priests told us that she was being prepared to marry the King.
" 'I'll have no nonsense of that kind,' says Dan. 'I don't want to
interfere with your customs, but I'll take my own wife.' 'The girl's a
little bit afraid,' says the priest. 'She thinks she's going to die,
and they are a-heartening of her up down in the temple.'
" 'Hearten her very tender, then,' says Dravot, 'or I'll hearten you
with the butt of a gun so you'll never want to be heartened again.' He
licked his lips, did Dan, and stayed up walking about more than half
the night, thinking of the wife that he was going to get in the
morning. I wasn't any means comfortable, for I knew that dealings with
a woman in foreign parts, though you was a crowned King twenty times
over, could not but be risky. I got up very early in the morning while
Dravot was asleep, and I saw the priests talking together in whispers,
and the Chiefs talking together too, and they looked at me out of the
corners of their eyes.
" 'What is up, Fish?' I say to the Bashkai man, who was wrapped up in
his furs and looking splendid to behold.
" 'I can't rightly say,' says he; 'but if you can make the King drop
all this nonsense about marriage, you'll be doing him and me and
yourself a great service.'
" 'That I do believe,' says I. 'But sure, you know, Billy, as well as
me, having fought against and for us, that the King and me are nothing
more than two of the finest men that God Almighty ever made. Nothing
more, I do assure you.'
" 'That may be,' says Billy Fish, 'and yet I should be sorry if it
was.' He sinks his head upon his great fur cloak for a minute and
thinks. 'King,' says he, 'be you man or God or Devil, I'll stick by
you to-day. I have twenty of my men with me, and they will follow me.
We'll go to Bashkai until the storm blows over.'
" A little snow had fallen in the night, and everything was white
except the greasy fat clouds that blew down and down from the north.
Dravot came out with his crown on his head, swinging his arms and
stamping his feet, and looking more pleased than Punch.
" 'For the last time, drop it, Dan,' says I, in a whisper; 'Billy Fish
here says that there will be a row.'
" 'A row among my people!' says Dravot. 'Not much. Peachey, you're a
fool not to get a wife too. Where's the girl?' says he, with a voice
as loud as the braying of a jackass. 'Call up all the Chiefs and
priests, and let the Emperor see if his wife suits him.'
"There was no need to call any one. They were all there leaning on
their guns and spears round the clearing in the centre of the pine
wood. A lot of priests went down to the little temple to bring up the
girl, and the horns blew fit to wake the dead. Billy Fish saunters
round and gets as close to Daniel as he could, and behind him stood
his twenty men with matchlocks--not a man of them under six feet. I
was next to Dravot, and behind me was twenty men of the regular Army.
Up comes the girl, and a strapping wench she was, covered with silver
and turquoises, but white as death, and looking back every minute at
" 'She'll do,' said Dan, looking her over. 'What's to be afraid of,
lass? Come and kiss me.' He puts his arm round her. She shuts her
eyes, gives a bit of a squeak, and down goes her face in the side of
Dan's flaming-red beard.
" 'The slut's bitten me!' says he, clapping his hand to his neck, and,
sure enough, his hand was red with blood. Billy Fish and two of his
matchlock men catches hold of Dan by the shoulders and drags him into
the Bashkai lot, while the priests howls in their lingo, 'Neither God
nor Devil, but a man!' I was all taken aback, for a priest cut at me
in front, and the Army behind began firing into the Bashkai men.
" 'God A'mighty!' says Dan, 'what is the meaning o' this?'
" 'Come back! Come away!' says Billy Fish. 'Ruin and Mutiny is the
matter. We'll break for Bashkai if we can.'
"I tried to give some sort of orders to my men,--the men o' the
regular Army,--but it was no use, so I fired into the brown of 'em
with an English Martini and drilled three beggars in a line. The
valley was full of shouting, howling creatures, and every soul was
shrieking, 'Not a God nor a Devil, but only a man!' The Bashkai troops
stuck to Billy Fish all they were worth, but their matchlocks wasn't
half as good as the Kabul breech-loaders, and four of them dropped.
Dan was bellowing like a bull, for he was very wrathy; and Billy Fish
had a hard job to prevent him running out at the crowd.
" 'We can't stand,' says Billy Fish. 'Make a run for it down the
valley! The whole place is against us.' The matchlock-men ran, and we
went down the valley in spite of Dravot. He was swearing horrible and
crying out that he was a King. The priests rolled great stones on us,
and the regular Army fired hard, and there wasn't more than six men,
not counting Dan, Billy Fish, and Me, that came down to the bottom of
the valley alive.
"Then they stopped firing, and the horns in the temple blew again.
'Come away--for Gord's sake come away!' says Billy Fish. 'They'll send
runners out to all the villages before ever we get to Bashkai. I can
protect you there, but I can't do anything now."
"My own notion is that Dan began to go mad in his head from that hour.
He stared up and down like a stuck pig. Then he was all for walking
back alone and killing the priests with his bare hands; which he could
have done. 'An Emperor am I,' says Daniel, 'and next year I shall be a
Knight of the Queen.'
" 'All right, Dan,' says I; 'but come along now while there's time.'
" 'It's your fault,' says he, 'for not looking after your Army better.
There was mutiny in the midst, and you didn't know--you damned engine-
driving, plate-laying, missionary's-pass-hunting hound!' He sat upon a
rock and called me every foul name he could lay tongue to. I was too
heart-sick to care, though it was all his foolishness that brought the
" 'I'm sorry, Dan,' says I, 'but there's no accounting for natives.
This business is our Fifty-seven. Maybe we'll make something out of it
yet, when we've got to Bashkai.'
" 'Let's get to Bashkai, then,' says Dan, 'and, by God, when I come
back here again I'll sweep the valley so there isn't a bug in a
"We walked all that day, and all that night Dan was stumping up and
down on the snow, chewing his beard and muttering to himself.
" 'There's no hope o' getting clear,' said Billy Fish. 'The priests
have sent runners to the villages to say that you are only men. Why
didn't you stick on as Gods till things was more settled? I'm a dead
man,' says Billy Fish, and he throws himself down on the snow and
begins to pray to his Gods.
"Next morning we was in a cruel bad country--all up and down, no level
ground at all, and no food, either. The six Bashkai men looked at
Billy Fish hungry-way as if they wanted to ask something, but they
never said a word. At noon we came to the top of a flat mountain all
covered with snow, and when we climbed up into it, behold, there was
an Army in position waiting in the middle!
" 'The runners have been very quick,' says Billy Fish, with a little
bit of a laugh. 'They are waiting for us.'
"Three or four men began to fire from the enemy's side, and a chance
shot took Daniel in the calf of the leg. That brought him to his
senses. He looks across the snow at the Army, and sees the rifles that
we had brought into the country.
" 'We're done for,' says he. 'They are Englishmen, these people,--and
it's my blasted nonsense that has brought you to this. Get back, Billy
Fish, and take your men away; you've done what you could, and now cut
for it. Carnehan,' says he, 'shake hands with me and go along with
Billy, Maybe they won't kill you. I'll go and meet 'em alone. It's me
that did it! Me, the King!'
" 'Go!' says I. 'Go to Hell, Dan! I'm with you here. Billy Fish, you
clear out, and we two will meet those folk.'
" 'I'm a Chief,' says Billy Fish, quite quiet. 'I stay with you. My
men can go.'
"The Bashkai fellows didn't wait for a second word, but ran off, and
Dan and Me and Billy Fish walked across to where the drums were
drumming and the horns were horning. It was cold--awful cold. I've got
that cold in the back of my head now. There's a lump of it there."
The punka-coolies had gone to sleep. Two kerosene lamps were blazing
in the office, and the perspiration poured down my face and splashed
on the blotter as I leaned forward. Carnehan was shivering, and I
feared that his mind might go. I wiped my face, took a fresh grip of
the piteously mangled hands, and said, "What happened after that?"
The momentary shift of my eyes had broken the clear current.
"What was you pleased to say?" whined Carnehan. "They took them
without any sound. Not a little whisper all along the snow, not though
the King knocked down the first man that set hand on him--not though
old Peachey fired his last cartridge into the brown of 'em. Not a
single solitary sound did those swines make. They just closed up
tight, and I tell you their furs stunk. There was a man called Billy
Fish, a good friend of us all, and they cut his throat, Sir, then and
there, like a pig; and the King kicks up the bloody snow and says,
'We've had a dashed fine run for our money. What's coming next?' But
Peachey, Peachey Taliaferro, I tell you, Sir, in confidence as betwixt
two friends, he lost his head, Sir. No, he didn't, neither. The King
lost his head, so he did, all along o' one of those cunning rope
bridges. Kindly let me have the paper-cutter, Sir. It tilted this way.
They marched him a mile across that snow to a rope bridge over a
ravine with a river at the bottom. You may have seen such. They
prodded him behind like an ox. 'Damn your eyes!' says the King. 'D'
you suppose I can't die like a gentleman?' He turns to Peachey--
Peachey that was crying like a child. 'I've brought you to this,
Peachey,' says he. 'Brought you out of your happy life to be killed in
Kafiristan, where you was late Commander-in-Chief of the Emperor's
forces. Say you forgive me, Peachey.' 'I do,' says Peachey. 'Fully and
freely do I forgive you, Dan.' 'Shake hands, Peachey,' says he. 'I'm
going now.' Out he goes, looking neither right nor left, and when he
was plumb in the middle of those dizzy dancing ropes, 'Cut you
beggars,' he shouts; and they cut, and old Dan fell, turning round and
round and round, twenty thousand miles, for he took half an hour to
fall till he struck the water, and I could see his body caught on a
rock with the gold crown close beside.
"But do you know what they did to Peachey between two pine-trees? They
crucified him, Sir, as Peachey's hand will show. They used wooden pegs
for his hands and feet; but he didn't die. He hung there and screamed,
and they took him down next day, and said it was a miracle that he
wasn't dead. They took him down--poor old Peachey that hadn't done
them any harm--that hadn't done them any--"
He rocked to and fro and wept bitterly, wiping his eyes with the back
of his scarred hands and moaning like a child for some ten minutes.
"They was cruel enough to feed him up in the temple, because they said
he was more of a God than old Daniel that was a man. Then they turned
him out on the snow, and told him to go home, and Peachey came home in
about a year, begging along the roads quite safe; for Daniel Dravot he
walked before and said, 'Come along, Peachey. It's a big thing we're
doing.' The mountains they danced at night, and the mountains they
tried to fall on Peachey's head, but Dan he held up his hand, and
Peachey came along bent double. He never let go of Dan's hand, and he
never let go of Dan's head. They gave it to him as a present in the
temple, to remind him not to come again; and though the crown was pure
gold and Peachey was starving, never would Peachey sell the same. You
know Dravot, Sir! You knew Right Worshipful Brother Dravot! Look at
He fumbled in the mass of rags round his bent waist; brought out a
black horsehair bag embroidered with silver thread; and shook
therefrom on to my table--the dried, withered head of Daniel Dravot!
The morning sun, that had long been paling the lamps, struck the red
beard and blind sunken eyes; struck, too, a heavy circlet of gold
studded with raw turquoises, that Carnehan placed tenderly on the
"You be'old now," said Carnehan, "the Emperor in his 'abit as he lived
--the King of Kafiristan with his crown upon his head. Poor old Daniel
that was a monarch once!"
I shuddered, for, in spite of defacements manifold, I recognised the
head of the man of Marwar Junction. Carnehan rose to go. I attempted
to stop him. He was not fit to walk abroad. "Let me take away the
whisky, and give me a little money," he gasped. "I was a King once.
I'll go to the Deputy Commissioner and ask to set in the Poorhouse
till I get my health. No, thank you, I can't wait till you get a
carriage for me. I've urgent private affairs--in the south--at
He shambled out of the office and departed in the direction of the
Deputy Commissioner's house. That day at noon I had occasion to go
down the blinding-hot Mall, and I saw a crooked man crawling along the
white dust of the roadside, his hat in his hand, quavering dolorously
after the fashion of street-singers at Home. There was not a soul in
sight, and he was out of all possible earshot of the houses. And he
sang through his nose, turning his head from right to left:
"The Son of Man goes forth to war,
A golden crown to gain;
His blood-red banner streams afar--
Who follows in His train?"
I waited to hear no more, but put the poor wretch into my carriage and
drove him off to the nearest missionary for eventual transfer to the
Asylum. He repeated the hymn twice while he was with me, whom he did
not in the least recognise, and I left him singing it to the
Two days later I inquired after his welfare of the Superintendent of
"He was admitted suffering from sunstroke. He died early yesterday
morning," said the Superintendent. "Is it true that he was half an
hour bareheaded in the sun at midday?"
"Yes," said I; "but do you happen to know if he had anything upon him
by any chance when he died?"
"Not to my knowledge," said the Superintendent.
And there the matter rests.
Once upon a time, a certain ronin, Tajima Shume by name, an able and
well-read man, being on his travels to see the world, went up to
Kiyoto by the Tokaido. [The road of the Eastern Sea, the famous
highroad leading from Kiyoto to Yedo. The name is also used to
indicate the provinces through which it runs.] One day, in the
neighbourhood of Nagoya, in the province of Owari, he fell in with a
wandering priest, with whom he entered into conversation. Finding that
they were bound for the same place, they agreed to travel together,
beguiling their weary way by pleasant talk on divers matters; and so
by degrees, as they became more intimate, they began to speak without
restraint about their private affairs; and the priest, trusting
thoroughly in the honour of his companion, told him the object of his
"For some time past," said he, "I have nourished a wish that has
engrossed all my thoughts; for I am bent on setting up a molten image
in honour of Buddha; with this object I have wandered through various
provinces collecting alms, and (who knows by what weary toil?) we have
succeeded in amassing two hundred ounces of silver--enough, I trust,
to erect a handsome bronze figure."
What says the proverb? "He who bears a jewel in his bosom bears
poison." Hardly had the ronin heard these words of the priest than an
evil heart arose within him, and he thought to himself, "Man's life,
from the womb to the grave, is made up of good and of ill luck. Here
am I, nearly forty years old, a wanderer, without a calling, or even a
hope of advancement in the world. To be sure, it seems a shame; yet if
I could steal the money this priest is boasting about, I could live at
ease for the rest of my days;" and so he began casting about how best
he might compass his purpose. But the priest, far from guessing the
drift of his comrade's thoughts, journeyed cheerfully on till they
reached the town of Kuana. Here there is an arm of the sea, which is
crossed in ferry-boats, that start as soon as some twenty or thirty
passengers are gathered together; and in one of these boats the two
travellers embarked. About half-way across, the priest was taken with
a sudden necessity to go to the side of the boat; and the ronin,
following him, tripped him up while no one was looking, and flung him
into the sea. When the boatmen and passengers heard the splash, and
saw the priest struggling in the water, they were afraid, and made
every effort to save him; but the wind was fair, and the boat running
swiftly under the bellying sails; so they were soon a few hundred
yards off from the drowning man, who sank before the boat could be
turned to rescue him.
When he saw this, the ronin feigned the utmost grief and dismay, and
said to his fellow-passengers, "This priest, whom we have just lost,
was my cousin; he was going to Kiyoto, to visit the shrine of his
patron; and as I happened to have business there as well, we settled
to travel together. Now, alas! by this misfortune, my cousin is dead,
and I am left alone."
He spoke so feelingly, and wept so freely, that the passengers
believed his story, and pitied and tried to comfort him. Then the
ronin said to the boatmen:
"We ought, by rights, to report this matter to the authorities; but as
I am pressed for time, and the business might bring trouble on
yourselves as well, perhaps we had better hush it up for the present;
I will at once go on to Kiyoto and tell my cousin's patron, besides
writing home about it. What think you, gentlemen?" added he, turning
to the other travellers.
They, of course, were only too glad to avoid any hindrance to their
onward journey, and all with one voice agreed to what the ronin had
proposed; and so the matter was settled. When, at length, they reached
the shore, they left the boat, and every man went his way; but the
ronin, overjoyed in his heart, took the wandering priest's luggage,
and, putting it with his own, pursued his journey to Kiyoto.
On reaching the capital, the ronin changed his name from Shume to
Tokubei, and, giving up his position as a samurai, turned merchant,
and traded with the dead man's money. Fortune favouring his
speculations, he began to amass great wealth, and lived at his ease,
denying himself nothing; and in course of time he married a wife, who
bore him a child.
Thus the days and months wore on, till one fine summer's night, some
three years after the priest's death, Tokubei stepped out on the
veranda of his house to enjoy the cool air and the beauty of the
moonlight. Feeling dull and lonely, he began musing over all kinds of
things, when on a sudden the deed of murder and theft, done so long
ago, vividly recurred to his memory, and he thought to himself, "Here
am I, grown rich and fat on the money I wantonly stole. Since then,
all has gone well with me; yet, had I not been poor, I had never
turned assassin nor thief. Woe betide me! what a pity it was!" and as
he was revolving the matter in his mind, a feeling of remorse came
over him, in spite of all he could do. While his conscience thus smote
him, he suddenly, to his utter amazement, beheld the faint outline of
a man standing near a fir-tree in the garden; on looking more
attentively, he perceived that the man's whole body was thin and worn,
and the eyes sunken and dim; and in that poor ghost that was before
him he recognised the very priest whom he had thrown into the sea at
Kuana. Chilled with horror, he looked again, and saw that the priest
was smiling in scorn. He would have fled into the house, but the ghost
stretched forth its withered arm, and, clutching the back of his neck,
scowled at him with a vindictive glare and a hideous ghastliness of
mien so unspeakably awful that any ordinary man would have swooned
with fear. But Tokubei, tradesman though he was, had once been a
soldier, and was not easily matched for daring; so he shook off the
ghost, and, leaping into the room for his dirk, laid about him boldly
enough; but, strike as he would, the spirit, fading into the air,
eluded his blows, and suddenly reappeared only to vanish again; and
from that time forth Tokubei knew no rest, and was haunted night and
At length, undone by such ceaseless vexation, Tokubei fell ill, and
kept muttering, "Oh, misery! misery! the wandering priest is coming to
torture me!" Hearing his moans and the disturbance he made, the people
in the house fancied he was mad, and called in a physician, who
prescribed for him. But neither pill nor potion could cure Tokubei,
whose strange frenzy soon became the talk of the whole neighbourhood.
Now it chanced that the story reached the ears of a certain wandering
priest who lodged in the next street. When he heard the particulars,
this priest gravely shook his head as though he knew all about it, and
sent a friend to Tokubei's house to say that a wandering priest,
dwelling hard by, had heard of his illness, and, were it never so
grievous, would undertake to heal it by means of his prayers; and
Tokubei's wife, driven half wild by her husband's sickness, lost not a
moment in sending for the priest and taking him into the sick man's
But no sooner did Tokubei see the priest than he yelled out, "Help!
help! Here is the wandering priest come to torment me again. Forgive!
forgive!" and hiding his head under the coverlet, he lay quivering all
over. Then the priest turned all present out of the room, put his
mouth to the affrighted man's ear, and whispered:
"Three years ago, at the Kuana ferry, you flung me into the water; and
well you remember it."
But Tokubei was speechless, and could only quake with fear.
"Happily," continued the priest, "I had learned to swim and to dive as
a boy; so I reached the shore, and, after wandering through many
provinces, succeeded in setting up a bronze figure to Buddha, thus
fulfilling the wish of my heart. On my journey homeward, I took a
lodging in the next street, and there heard of your marvellous
ailment. Thinking I could divine its cause, I came to see you, and am
glad to find I was not mistaken. You have done a hateful deed; but am
I not a priest, and have I not forsaken the things of this world, and
would it not ill become me to bear malice? Repent, therefore, and
abandon your evil ways. To see you do so I should esteem the height of
happiness. Be of good cheer, now, and look me in the face, and you
will see that I am really a living man, and no vengeful goblin come to
Seeing he had no ghost to deal with, and overwhelmed by the priest's
kindness, Tokubei burst into tears, and answered, "Indeed, indeed, I
don't know what to say. In a fit of madness I was tempted to kill and
rob you. Fortune befriended me ever after; but the richer I grew, the
more keenly I felt how wicked I had been, and the more I foresaw that
my victim's vengeance would some day overtake me. Haunted by this
thought, I lost my nerve, till one night I beheld your spirit, and
from that time fell ill. But how you managed to escape, and are still
alive, is more than I can understand."
"A guilty man," said the priest, with a smile, "shudders at the
rustling of the wind or the chattering of a stork's beak; a murderer's
conscience preys upon his mind till he sees what is not. Poverty
drives a man to crimes which he repents of in his wealth. How true is
the doctrine of Moshi [Mencius], that the heart of man, pure by
nature, is corrupted by circumstances!"
Thus he held forth; and Tokubei, who had long since repented of his
crime, implored forgiveness, and gave him a large sum of money,
saying, "Half of this is the amount I stole from you three years
since; the other half I entreat you to accept as interest, or as a
The priest at first refused the money; but Tokubei insisted on his
accepting it, and did all he could to detain him, but in vain; for the
priest went on his way, and bestowed the money on the poor and needy.
As for Tokubei himself, he soon shook off his disorder, and
thenceforward lived at peace with all men, revered both at home and
abroad, and ever intent on good and charitable deeds.
A CHINESE GIRL GRADUATE
R. K. DOUGLAS
Who among the three hundred million sons of Han does not know the
There's Paradise above, 't is true;
But here below we've Hang and Soo?
[Hangchow and Soochow]
And though no one will deny the beauty of those far-famed cities, they
cannot compare in grandeur of situation and boldness of features with
many of the towns of the providence of the "Four Streams." Foremost
among the favoured spots of this part of the empire is Mienchu, which,
as its name implies, is celebrated for the silky bamboos which grow in
its immediate neighbourhood. These form, however, only one of the
features of its loveliness. Situated at the foot of a range of
mountains which rise through all the gradations from rich and abundant
verdure to the region of eternal snow, it lies embosomed in groves of
beech, cypress, and bamboo, through the leafy screens of which rise
the upturned yellow roofs of the temples and official residences,
which dot the landscape like golden islands in an emerald sea; while
beyond the wall hurries, between high and rugged banks, the tributary
of the Fu River, which bears to the mighty waters of the Yangtsze-
Kiang the goods and passengers which seek an outlet to the eastern
The streets within the walls of the city are scenes of life and
bustle, while in the suburbs stand the residences of those who can
afford to live in peace and quiet, undisturbed by the clamour of the
Les and Changs [i.e., the people. Le and Chang are the two commonest
names in China.] of the town. There, in a situation which the Son of
Heaven might envy, stands the official residence of Colonel Wen.
Outwardly it has all the appearance of a grandee's palace, and within
the massive boundary-walls which surround it, the courtyards, halls,
grounds, summer-houses, and pavilions are not to be exceeded in
grandeur and beauty. The office which had fallen to the lot of Colonel
Wen was one of the most sought after in the province, and commonly
only fell to officers of distinction. Though not without fame in the
field, Colonel Wen's main claim to honour lay in the high degrees he
had taken in the examinations. His literary acquirements gained him
friends among the civil officers of the district, and the position he
occupied was altogether one of exceptional dignity.
Unfortunately, his first wife had died, leaving only a daughter to
keep her memory alive; but at the time when our story opens, his
second spouse, more kind than his first, had presented him with a
much-desired son. The mother of this boy was one of those bright,
pretty, gay creatures who commonly gain the affections of men much
older than themselves. She sang in the most faultless falsetto, she
played the guitar with taste and expression, and she danced with grace
and agility. What wonder, then, that when the colonel returned from
his tours of inspections and parades, weary with travel and dust, he
found relief and relaxation in the joyous company of Hyacinth! And was
she not also the mother of his son? Next to herself, there can be no
question that this young gentleman held the chief place in the
colonel's affections; while poor Jasmine, his daughter by his first
venture, was left very much to her own resources. No one troubled
themselves about what she did, and she was allowed, as she grew up, to
follow her own pursuits and to give rein to her fancies without let or
hindrance. From her earliest childhood one of her lonely amusements
had been to dress as a boy, and so unchecked had the habit become that
she gradually drifted into the character which she had chosen to
assume. She even persuaded her father to let her go to the
neighbouring boys' school. Her mother had died before the colonel had
been posted to Mienchu, and among the people of that place, who had
always seen her in boy's attire, she was regarded as an adopted son of
her father. Hyacinth was only too glad to get her out of the way as
much as possible, and so encouraged the idea of allowing her to learn
to read and write in the company of their neighbours' urchins.
Being bright and clever, she soon gained an intellectual lead among
the boys, and her uncommon beauty, coupled with the magnetism
belonging to her sex, secured for her a popularity which almost
amounted to adoration. She was tall for her age, as are most young
daughters of Han; and her perfectly oval face, almond-shaped eyes,
willow-leaf eyebrows, small, well-shaped mouth, brilliantly white
teeth, and raven-black hair, completed a face and figure which would
have been noticeable anywhere. By the boys she was worshipped, and no
undertaking was too difficult or too troublesome if it was to give
pleasure to Tsunk'ing, or the "Young Noble," as she was called; for to
have answered to the name of Jasmine would have been to proclaim her
sex at once. Even the grim old master smiled at her through his horn
spectacles as she entered the school-house of a morning, and any
graceful turn in her poetry or scholarly diction in her prose was sure
to win for her his unsparing praise. Many an evening he invited the
"young noble" to his house to read over chapters from Confucius and
the poems of Le Taipoh; and years afterward, when he died, among his
most cherished papers were found odes signed by Tsunk'ing, in which
there was a good deal about bending willows, light, flickering
bamboos, horned moons, wild geese, the sound of a flute on a rainy
day, and the pleasures of wine, in strict accord with the models set
forth in the "Aids to Poetry-making" which are common in the land.
If it had not been for the indifference with which she was treated in
her home, the favour with which she was regarded abroad would have
been most prejudicial to Jasmine; but any conceit which might have
been engendered in the school-house was speedily counteracted when she
got within the portals of the colonel's domain. Coming into the
presence of her father and his wife, with all the incense of kindness,
affection, and, it must be confessed, flattery, with which she was
surrounded by her school-fellows, fresh about her, was like stepping
into a cold bath. Wholesome and invigorating the change may have been,
but it was very unpleasant, and Jasmine often longed to be alone to
give vent to her feelings in tears.
One deep consolation she had, however: she was a devoted student, and
in the society of her books she forgot the callousness of her parents,
and, living in imagination in the bygone annals of the empire, she was
able to take part, as it were, in the great deeds which mark the past
history of the state, and to enjoy the converse and society of the
sages and poets of antiquity. When the time came that she had gained
all the knowledge which the old schoolmaster could impart to her, she
left the school, and formed a reading-party with two youths of her own
age. These lads, by name Wei and Tu, had been her school-fellows, and
were delighted at obtaining her promise to join them in their studies.
So industriously were these pursued that the three friends succeeded
in taking their B.A. degree at the next examination, and, encouraged
by this success, determined to venture on a struggle for a still
Though at one in their affection for Jasmine, Tu and Wei were unlike
in everything else, which probably accounted for the friendship which
existed between them. Wei was the more clever of the two. He wrote
poetry with ease and fluency, and his essays were marked by
correctness of style and aptness of quotation. But there was a want of
strength in his character. He was exceedingly vain, and was always
seeking to excite admiration among his companions. This unhappy
failing made him very susceptible of adverse criticism, and at the
same time extremely jealous of any one who might happen to excel him
in any way. Tu, on the other hand, though not so intellectually
favoured, had a rough kind of originality, which always secured for
his exercises a respectful attention, and made him at all times an
agreeable companion. Having no exaggerated ideas of his capabilities,
he never strove to appear otherwise than he was, and being quite
independent of the opinions of others, he was always natural. Thus he
was one who was sought out by his friends, and was best esteemed by
those whose esteem was best worth having. In outward appearance the
youths were as different as their characters were diverse. Wei was
decidedly good-looking, but of a kind of beauty which suggested
neither rest nor sincerity; while in Tu's features, though there was
less grace, the want was fully compensated for by the strength and
honest firmness of his countenance.
For both these young men Jasmine had a liking, but there was no
question as to which she preferred. As she herself said, "Wei is
pleasant enough as a companion, but if I had to look to one of them
for an act of true friendship--or as a lover," she mentally added--"I
should turn at once to Tu." It was one of her amusements to compare
the young men in her mind, and one day when so occupied Tu suddenly
looked up from his book and said to her:
"What a pity it is that the gods have made us both men! If /I/ were a
woman, the object of my heart would be to be your wife, and if /you/
were a woman, there is nothing I should like better than to be your
Jasmine blushed up to the roots of her hair at having her own thoughts
thus capped, as it were; but before she could answer, Wei broke in
"What nonsense you talk! And why, I should like to know, should you be
the only one the 'young noble' might choose, supposing he belonged to
the other sex?"
"You are both talking nonsense," said Jasmine, who had had time to
recover her composure, "and remind me of my two old childless aunts,"
she added, laughing, "who are always quarrelling about the names they
would have given their children if the goddess Kwanyin had granted
them any half a century ago. As a matter of act, we are three friends
reading for our M.A. degrees, neither more nor less. And I will
trouble you, my elder brother," she added, turning to Tu, "to explain
to me what the poet means by the expression 'tuneful Tung' in the
'The greedy flames devour the tuneful Tung.' "
A learned disquisition by Tu on the celebrated musician who recognised
the sonorous qualities of a piece of Tung timber burning in the
kitchen fire effectually diverted the conversation from the
inconvenient direction it had taken, and shortly afterward Jasmine
took her leave.
Haunted by the thought of what had passed, she wandered on to the
veranda of her archery pavilion, and while gazing half unconsciously
heavenward her eyes were attracted by a hawk which flew past and
alighted on a tree beyond the boundary-wall, and in front of the study
she had lately left. In a restless and thoughtless mood, she took up
her bow and arrow, and with unerring aim compassed the death of her
victim. No sooner, however, had the hawk fallen, carrying the arrow
with it, than she remembered that her name was inscribed on the shaft,
and fearing lest it should be found by either Wei or Tu, she hurried
round in the hope of recovering it. But she was too late. On
approaching the study, she found Tu in the garden in front, examining
the bird and arrow.
"Look," he said, as he saw her coming, "what a good shot some one has
made! and whoever it is, he has a due appreciation of his own skill.
Listen to these lines which are scraped on the arrow:
'Do not lightly draw your bow;
But if you must, bring down your foe.' "
Jasmine was glad enough to find that he had not discovered her name,
and eagerly exchanged banter with him on the conceit of the owner of
the arrow. But before she could recover it, Wei, who had heard the
talking and laughter, joined them, and took the arrow out of Tu's hand
to examine it. Just at that moment a messenger came to summon Tu to
his father's presence, and he had no sooner gone than Wei exclaimed:
"But see, here is the name of the mysterious owner of the arrow, and,
as I live, it is a girl's name--Jasmine! Who, among the goddesses of
heaven can Jasmine be?"
"Oh, I will take the arrow then," said Jasmine. "It must belong to my
sister. That is her name."
"I did not know that you had a sister," said Wei.
"Oh yes, I have," answered Jasmine, quite forgetful of the celebrated
dictum of Confucius: "Be truthful." "She is just one year younger than
I am," she added, thinking it well to be circumstantial.
"Why have you never mentioned her?" asked Wei, with animation. "What
is she like? Is she anything like you?"
"She is the very image of me."
"What! In height and features and ways?"
"The very image, so that people have often said that if we changed
clothes each might pass for the other."
"What a good-looking girl she must be!" said Wei, laughing. "But,
seriously, I have not, as you know, yet set up a household; and if
your sister has not received bridal presents, I would beg to be
allowed to invite her to enter my lowly habitation. What does my elder
brother say to my proposal?"
"I don't know what my sister would feel about it," said Jasmine. "I
would never answer for a girl, if I lived to be as old as the God of
"Will you find out for me?"
"Certainly I will. But remember, not a word must be mentioned on the
subject to my father, or, in fact, to anybody, until I give you
"So long as my elder brother will undertake for me, I will promise
anything," said the delighted Wei. "I already feel as though I were
nine-tenths of the way to the abode of the phenix. Take this box of
precious ointment to your sister as an earnest of my intentions, and I
will keep the arrow as a token from her until she demands its return.
I feel inclined to express myself in verse. May I?"
"By all means," said Jasmine, laughing.
Thus encouraged, Wei improvised as follows:
" 'T was sung of old that Lofu had no mate,
Though Che was willing; for no word was said.
At last an arrow like a herald came,
And now an honoured brother lends his aid."
"Excellent," said Jasmine, laughing. "With such a poetic gift as you
possess, you certainly deserve a better fate than befell Lofu."
From this day the idea of marrying Jasmine's sister possessed the soul
of Wei. But not a word did he say to Tu on the matter, for he was
conscious that, as Tu was the first to pick up the arrow through which
he had become acquainted with the existence of Jasmine's sister, his
friend might possibly lay a claim to her hand. To Jasmine also the
subject was a most absorbing one. She felt that she was becoming most
unpleasantly involved in a risky matter, and that, if the time should
ever come when she should have to make an explanation, she might in
honour be compelled to marry Wei--a prospect which filled her with
dismay. The turn events had taken had made her analyse her feelings
more than she had ever done before, and the process made her doubly
conscious of the depth of her affection for Tu. "A horse," she said to
herself, "cannot carry two saddles, and a woman cannot marry more than
one man." Wise as this saw was, it did not help her out of her
difficulty, and she turned to the chapter of accidents, and determined
to trust to time, that old disposer of events, to settle the matter.
But Wei was inclined to be impatient, and Jasmine was obliged to
resort to more of those departures from truth which circumstances had
forced upon this generally very upright young lady.
"I have consulted my father on the subject," she said to the expectant
Wei, "and he insists on your waiting until the autumn examination is
over. He has every confidence that you will then take your M.A.
degree, and your marriage will, he hopes, put the coping-stone on your
happiness and honour."
"That is all very well," said Wei; "but autumn is a long time hence,
and how do I know that your sister may not change her mind?"
"Has not your younger brother undertaken to look after your interests,
and cannot you trust him to do his best on your behalf?"
"I can trust my elder brother with anything in the world. It is your
sister that I am afraid of," said Wei. "But since you will undertake
"No, no," said Jasmine, laughing, "I did not say that I would
undertake for her. A man who answers for a woman deserves to have
'fool' written on his forehead."
"Well, at all events, I will be content to leave the matter in your
hands," said Wei.
At last the time of the autumn examination drew near, and Tu and Wei
made preparations for their departure to the provincial capital. They
were both bitterly disappointed when Jasmine announced that she was
not going up that time. This determination was the result of a
conference with her father. She had pointed out to the colonel that if
she passed and took her M.A. degree she might be called upon to take
office at any time, and that then she would be compelled to confess
her sex; and as she was by no means disposed to give up the freedom
which her doublet and hose conferred upon her, it was agreed between
them that she should plead illness and not go up. Her two friends,
therefore, went alone, and brilliant success attended their venture.
They both passed with honours, and returned to Mienchu to receive the
congratulations of their friends. Jasmine's delight was very genuine,
more especially as regarded Tu, and the first evening was spent by the
three students in joyous converse and in confident anticipation of the
future. As Jasmine took leave of the two new M.A.'s, Wei followed her
to the outer door and whispered at parting:
"I am coming to-morrow to make my formal proposal to your sister."
Jasmine had no time to answer, but went home full of anxious and
disturbed thoughts, which were destined to take a more tragic turn
than she had ever anticipated even in her most gloomy moments. The
same cruel fate had also decreed that Wei's proposal was to be
suspended, like Buddha, between heaven and earth. The blow fell upon
him when he was attiring himself in the garments of his new degree, in
preparation for his visit. He was in the act of tying his sash and
appending it to his purse and trinkets, when Jasmine burst into the
young men's study, looking deadly pale and bearing traces of acute
mental distress on her usually bright and joyous countenance.
"What is the matter?" cried Tu, with almost as much agitation as was
shown by Jasmine. "Tell me what has happened."
"Oh, my father, my poor father!" sobbed Jasmine.
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