Three Quotations

(Feb 17th to 23rd)


1. By this time the village was old in experience of war, and, English fashion, had evolved a ritual to meet it. When the postmistress handed her seven-year-old daughter the official telegram to take to Miss Turrell, she observed to the Rector’s gardener: “It’s Miss Helen’s turn now.” This is from "The Gardener" in Debits and Credits, a subtle and complex tale. Helen Turrell has brought up a boy from infancy whom she pretends to be the child of her dead brother. In reality, he is her own illegitimate son, and as he grows up, her pretence always stands between them. The village, and perhaps the boy himself, know the truth, but in Edwardian England it cannot be acknowledged. When war comes he joins up, and here the implacable news of his death - like that of Kipling's own son - is on its way by telegram.


2. “Go to the stile a-top o’ the Barn field,” said Mary, “and look across Pardons to the next spire. It’s directly under. You can’t miss it - not if you keep to the footpath. My sister’s the telegraphist there. But you’re in the three-mile radius, sir. The boy delivers telegrams directly to this door from Pardons village.” This is from "An Habitation Enforced" in Actions and Reactions. George Chapin, a wealthy young American businessman, has collapsed from overwork, and is travelling in Europe with his wife Sophie to recuperate. A friend has sent them down to a farm in deepest Sussex, and George's first reaction in the morning is to locate the nearest telegraph office. Before long they are captivated by the beauty and remoteness of the place, and its sense of history. They buy a lovely old house, settle down there, and start a family.


3. “You’ve got me on your own ground,” said he, tugging at his overcoat pocket. He pulled out his copy, with the cable forms - for he had written out his telegram - and put them all into my hand, groaning, “I pass. If I hadn’t come to your cursed country - If I had sent it off at Southampton - If I ever get you west of the Alleghanies, if -” This is from "A Matter of Fact" in Many Inventions. Three journalists, an American a Dutchman and an Englishman, on a ship bound for England, have witnessed the death of a great sea monster washed up from the deeps by an earthquake. But, once home, as the Englishman quickly realises, the story seems so sensational that it could not be taken seriously, except as fiction. The American reluctantly agrees.