The Smith Administration
THE GREAT CENSUS
Notes edited by David Page.
In preparing these notes, the present
Editor has drawn where appropriate
on those of the ORG.
Here is another tale. Right away in the Desert there is a city set in 150 miles of sand, ruled by a mad king and smitten with a grievous water famine so that the city is empty. No one ever goes there: it is a semi independent native state and Englishmen are unknown to the inhabitants.
A low caste servant of an Englishman about four hundred miles east of this place wearied of his inactive life and stole some money from his master and a Treacher's price-list. Treacher is a the big general merchant at Bombay and his lists resemble the fat books of the Cooperative stores. Armed with this book, the native hired a fleet camel and went away into the desert. When he came to a village he said, waving the price-list: – "There is a big war at Cabul and the British Government says that every able bodied man must go up and fight. How many have you available. I am Mahommed Suruf Kahn, a servant of the British government." Naturally, these poor devils who cling to their little oases as a Swiss to his mountains said: – "For God's sake, get out of this with your terrible book and we'll give you money to report that we have no fighting levies." By the way all our soldiers are volunteers and we have the pick and flower of the land. He used to take the bribe and go on, on his camel to another village, pretending to write men down in his book, taking money and scaring the souls out of the men of Jeysulmir.
Presently, the Native State got wind of his proceedings and sent out a man on a fleet camel to catch him. Try to catch a wild bunny on the Grange lawn to realize what hunting one man across the desert means. However they caught him just when he had rooked enough to retire on and – mark the sequel as a purely Oriental bit of justice. He got three months for obtaining money under false pretences and frightening all the countryside but he got one year for pretending to be a Mahommedan of good family when he was only a low caste Hindu. He was caught by a Mussalman state you see. The case never came into Our jurisdiction at all for the man knew better than to go into British territory where he would have been laughed at by the first village headman.
[See Letters of Rudyard Kipling Thomas Pinney (Ed.)]