Three Quotations

(January 5th to 11th)


1. ... still swearing, he tried to drag the skeleton out of the saddle, but found that it had been wired into the cantle. The sight of the Colonel, with his arms round the skeleton’s pelvis and his knee in the old Drum-Horse’s stomach, was striking; not to say amusing. He worried the thing off in a minute or two, and threw it down on the ground, saying to the Band—‘Here, you curs, that’s what you're afraid of.’ The skeleton did not look pretty in the twilight. The Band-Sergeant seemed to recognise it, for he began to chuckle and choke. ‘Shall I take it away, sir?’ said the Band-Sergeant. ‘Yes,’ said the Colonel, ‘take it to Hell, and ride there yourselves!’ This is from "The Rout of the White Hussars" in Plain Tales eom the Hills. The White Hussars are ... particularly proud of their Regimental Band and of their Drum Horse who carries the silver kettle-drums. A new colonel takes over as Commanding Officer, and to the fury of the whole regiment insists on replacing the Drum Horse with what they see as a much inferior beast. One of the subalterns buys the horse, pretends to have it slaughtered, and mounts a skeleton on its back. One evening, while the horses are being watered after manoeuvres, the spectral-looking Drum Horse is seen riding towards his old comrades, and the regiment flees in disorder...


2. Of a sudden we heard voices behind the tree—the fine full tones of the unembarrassed English, speaking to their equals—that tore through the hedge like sleet through rafters.

“That it is not called ‘monkey-puzzler’ for nothing, I willingly concede”—this was a rich and rolling note—“but on the other hand—”

“I submit, me lud, that the name implies that it might, could, would, or should be ascended by a monkey, and not that the ascent is a physical impossibility. I believe one of our South American spider monkeys wouldn’t hesitate . . . By Jove, it might be worth trying, if—”
This is from "The Puzzler" in Actions and Reactions.

Seeing a fine Auracaria tree. three men from a house party, including the celebrated judge, Lord Lundie, are discussing whether it would actually puzzle a monkey. By coincidence they encounter an Italian organ-grinder and his monkey, and conduct an experiment. Farcical scenes follow.


3. Mrs. Bellamy opened the window and spoke. It appears she had only charged for damage to the bicycle, not for the entire machine which Mr. Lingnam was ruthlessly gleaning, spoke by spoke, from the highway and cramming into the slack of the hood. At last he answered, and I have never seen a man foam at the mouth before. ‘If you don’t stop, I shall come into your house—in this car—and drive upstairs and—kill you!’ This is from "The Vortex" in A Diversity of Creatures. A party of motoristsm which includes a Mr Lingnam, an appallingly boring enthusiast for complex imperial schemes. They approach a village, crowded with people, where on a hot summer's day there are various festivities going on. With Mr Lingnam at the wheel, they cross a railway bridge, and knock a delivery boy off his bicycle. He had been carrying four boxes of bees, which swarm out into the village, stinging everyone in their path. One ends up in Mr Lingnam's lap, and he throws it over the bridge onto the platform, thinking that there is a river below. He takes refuge, a bedraggled and much-stung figure, in the pond. The whole village is thrown into chaos.

Mr Lingnam is made to take the blame for everything, and pay for the wrecked bicycle, which he wrecks anew. All desire for further negotiation or discussion has left him.