This one was another unexpected great read. We meet our narrator before our two aspiring kings as he is forced to deliver a message for one of them based upon the social ties that bind them rather than any real inclination to help the scheme at hand. He delivers the message but forewarns the people that are to be hoodwinked, and thinks nothing more of the incident until the two men, the one sending the message and the other receiving it, appear in his newspaper office with a new scheme to sneak across the border into Afghanistan and set themselves up as kings in some remote region where the English have yet to travel. There is real humor here that I did not expect such as in the beginning sequence on a train through India where Peachey Carnehan asks the narrator to deliver his missive.
"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 cusions 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 buy from refreshment-rooms. They carry their food in bundles and pots, and buy sweets from the native sweetmeat-sellers, and drink the road-side 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."
And Peachey and his friend, Daniel Dravot, also provide quite a few laughs in their pursuit, but this is a trajectory that will shift radically by the story's end. This shift could be read in a number of different ways, but I prefer to think that Kipling provides a clever way of illustrating that the English often approached their imperialistic pursuits without the proper gravitas, grossly underestimating the natives in a variety of ways.
Super quick. Super entertaining.