“But I’m going into the Indian Desert,” I explained. “Well and good,” said he. “You’ll be

“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
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 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
jump.”
“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. 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.