The Man Who Would Be King
The Law, as quoted, lays down a fair conduct of life, and one not easy to follow.
I have beenfellow to a beggar again and again under circumstances which prevented either of usfinding out whether the other was worthy.
I have still to be brother to a Prince, though Ionce came near to kinship with what might have been a veritable King and was promisedthe reversion of a Kingdom - army, law-courts, revenue and policy all complete.
But, today, I greatly fear that my King is dead, and if I want a crown I must go and hunt it formyself.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 eitherIntermediate, which is Eurasian, or native, which for a long night journey is nasty; orLoafer, which is amusing though intoxicated.
Intermediates do not patronize refreshmentrooms. They carry their food in bundles and pots, and buy sweets from the nativesweetmeat-sellers, and drink the roadside water.
That is why in the hot weatherIntermediates are taken out of the carriages dead, and in all weathers are most properlylooked down upon.My particular Intermediate happened to be empty till I reached Nasirabad, when a hugegentleman in shirt-sleeves entered, and, following the custom of Intermediates, passed thetime of day.
He was a wanderer and a vagabond like myself, but with an educated taste forwhiskey.
He told tales of things he had seen and done, of out-of-the-way corners of theEmpire into which he had penetrated, and of adventures in which he risked his life for afew days' food. "If India was filled with men like you and me, not knowing more than thecrows where they'd get their next day's rations, it isn't seventy millions of revenue the landwould be paying - it's seven hundred million," said he; and as I looked at his mouth andchin I was disposed to agree with him.
We talked politics - the politics of Loaferdom thatsees things from the underside where the lath and plaster is not smoothed off - and wetalked postal arrangements because my friend wanted to send a telegram back from thenext station to Ajmir, which is the turning-off place from the Bombay to the Mhow line asyou travel westward.
My friend had no money beyond eight annas which he wanted fordinner, 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 theTreasury, there were no telegraph offices.
I was, therefore, unable to help him in any way.