The Man Who Would Be King
Rudyard Kipling

Produced by Jeffrey Kraus-yao.

The Man Who
Would be King


Rudyard Kipling

Published by Brentano’s at
31 Union Square New York


“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 and 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 patronize
refreshment-rooms. They carry their food
in bundles and pots, and buy sweets from the
native sweetmeat-sellers, and drink the roadside
water. That is why in the 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 a
huge 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 whiskey. 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 days’ food.
“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 million,” 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 underside 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, which is 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 are 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 telegram within ten
days if that will serve you,” I said.

“I couldn’t trust the wire to fetch him
now I think of it. It’s this way. He leaves
Delhi on the 23d for Bombay. That means
he’ll be running through Ajmir about the
night of the 23d.”

“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? ’Twon’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

“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 compartment.
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 ask 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,

“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. Native States
were created by Providence in order to supply
picturesque scenery, tigers and tall-writing.
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 a flapjack, and
drank the running water, and slept under
the same rug as my servant. It was all in a
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 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 is 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 impudence. 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

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
“stuck up” 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

Then I became respectable, and returned
to an Office where there were no Kings and
no incidents except 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 commands 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 punkah-pulling machines,
carriage couplings and unbreakable
swords and axle-trees 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 clamor to have the glories
of their last dance more fully expounded;
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 copy-boys are whining,
“kaa-pi chayha-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 other six months wherein 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
of 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 as 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° to almost 84° for
almost half an hour, and in that chill—you
have no idea how cold is 84° on the grass
until you begin to pray for it—a very tired
man could set 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, was 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

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 see 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 the 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 favor, because you did us a bad
turn about Degumber.”

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 to you 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.”
I watched the test. The men were absolutely
sober, so I gave them each a tepid

“Well and good,” said Carnehan of the
eyebrows, wiping the froth from his mustache.
“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

“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 to-morrow.”

“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 its 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. It’s a mountainous
country, and the women of those
parts are very beautiful.”

“But that is provided against in the Contrack,”
said Carnehan. “Neither Women
nor Liquor, 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 Dy-nasty.”

“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

“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

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 Encyclopædia 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
Roberts’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 the Encyclopædia.

“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 Bellew

“Blow Bellew!” said Carnehan. “Dan,
they’re an all-fired lot of heathens, but this
book here says they think they’re related to
us English.”

I smoked while the men pored over
Raverty, Wood, the maps and the Encyclopædia.

“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-by 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 to govern it.”

“Would two lunatics make a Contrack
like that!” said Carnehan, with subdued
pride, showing me a greasy half-sheet of note-paper
on which was written the following.
I copied it, then and there, as a curiosity:—

This Contract 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.
Daniel Dravot.
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 could sign a Contrack like that
unless we was in earnest? We have kept
away from the two things that make life
worth having.”

“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 four-square
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
there to see whether my friends intended to
keep their word or were lying about drunk.

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 of laughter.

“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
honor 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
feloniously diverted into the hands of other
robbers just across the Border, and whose
misfortunes were the laughing-stock of the
bazar. “Ohé, 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
Kahn be upon his labors!” He spread out
the skirts of his gaberdine 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 my

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. ’Tisn’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 camel-bags
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

“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 astonishment.

“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-by,” said Dravot, giving me his
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 attested 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 friend of mine,
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 notice.

* * * * * * * *

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

“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 whiskey. “What can I do for you?”

He took a gulp of the spirit raw, and shivered
in spite of the suffocating heat.

“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 Lord!”

I was more than a little astonished, and
expressed my feelings accordingly.

“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

“Take the whiskey,” 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 will 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, diamond-shaped

“No, don’t look there. Look at me,” said

“That comes afterwards, 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 sheep-skin 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 whiskey,” I said, very
slowly. “What did you and Daniel Dravot
do when the camels could go no further 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 mountainous
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
mountainous 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 we 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 around 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 respectful with his own nose, patting
him on the head, and saluting in front of it.
He turns round to the men and nods his
head, and says,—‘That’s all right. I’m in
the know too, and these old jim-jams 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 we 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 whiskey 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 and 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 into 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 o’ 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 mountainous. 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 manœuvre about as well as
Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief
to a great big plain on the top of a mountain,
and the Chiefs 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

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

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 cypher 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 failed.

“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 priest 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 pound 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 afterwards, 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 priest 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 we never held office in any Lodge.’

“‘It’s a master-stroke of policy,’ says
Dravot. ‘It means running the country as
easy as a four-wheeled bogy 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 the Lodge-room. The women
must make aprons as you show them. I’ll
hold a levee of Chiefs tonight and Lodge to-morrow.’

“I was fair rim 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 officers’
chairs, and painted the black pavement
with white squares, and did what we
could to make things regular.

“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 Past 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 was 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 Bazar-master when I was
at Mhow, and so on, and so on.

“The most amazing miracle 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 a 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
clamoring 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
fair 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

“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
to 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 him about, and I just waited for

“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 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 manloads 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, Sergeant-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 ship-shape,
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, its 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 snow.’

“‘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, and it was as red as the gold of
his crown.

“‘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 as fair as 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 o’ 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; but 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 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 of the running-shed!’

“‘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
low sun hit his crown and beard on one side,
and the two blazed like hot coals.

“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?’ 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 a 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 know 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 a 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 that 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 says 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 induce the King to 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

“‘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. Peachy, 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 deputation of priests went
down to the little temple to bring up the
girl, and the horns blew up 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 the priests.

“‘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’s protestations. He was
swearing horribly 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

“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

“‘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 smash.

“‘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 blanket left!’

“‘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 will 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-wise as if
they wanted to ask something, but they said
never 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 punkah-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 hands will
show. They used wooden pegs for his hands
and his feet; and 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 knew Dravot, sir! You
knew Right Worshipful Brother Dravot!
Look at him now!”

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 battered temples.

“You behold now,” said Carnehan, “the
Emperor in his habit as he lived—the King
of Kafiristan with his crown upon his
head. Poor old Daniel that was a monarch

I shuddered, for, in spite of defacements
manifold, I recognized 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 whiskey,
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 Poor-house
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 recognize, and I left him singing to
the missionary.

Two days later I inquired after his welfare
of the Superintendent of the Asylum.

“He was admitted suffering from sun-stroke.
He died early yesterday morning,”
said the Superintendent. “Is it true that he
was half an hour bareheaded in the sun at

“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.


Back to Full Books