Lesson 4 | English homework help

The Man Who Would Be King Pages 13-25
by Rudyard Kipling

 

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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
own.”

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
dolls.”

“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
lamp.

“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
him!”

“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
scar.

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

“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
sea.”

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
Punjab.”

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 making!’

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