The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

The Man Who Would Be King

subjects: Adventure Fiction, Short Stories

Description

Two former British soldiers who were sent in the early 19th century to British controlled India to search for adventure end up becoming kings of Kafiristan. This story is inspired by Josiah Harlan, an American adventurer who claimed the title of Prince of Ghor after leding a military force into Afghanistan in the mid-19th century.

Excerpt

“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.