Three Quotations

(July 25th to August 1st)


1. There are not many happinesses so complete as those that are snatched under the shadow of the sword. They sat together and laughed, calling each other openly by every pet name that could move the wrath of the gods. The city below them was locked up in its own torments.

This is from "Without Benefit of Clergy" in Life's Handicap. John Holden, a British official, has fallen in love with Ameera, a young Muslim girl, and for a time they are innocently happy together. But tragedy is hanging over them, for there is cholera in the city. Ameera falls ill, and dies in Holden's arms. Soon the house where they met is in ruins, and its as if it had never been.


2. '…I went, crying like a jackal, to the appointed place which was near the byre of the headman's house. But my love was already there, weeping. She feared that the flood had swept my hut at the Barwhi Ford. When I came softly through the ankle-deep water, She thought it was a ghost, and would have fled, but I put my arms round her …' This is from "In Flood Time" in Soldiers Three and Other Stories. An old man, a Hindu, is telling a tale of how in his youth, he had loved a Muslim girl, and how he had fought his way through a river in flood for a tryst with her. On the way he had found a drowned corpse, floating in the river, and had used it to help his passage through the rushing waters. When he reached the other side, he found it was the body of his rival.


3. There was a young moon, and one stream of light fell down into Amir Nath’s Gully, and struck the grating which was drawn away as he knocked. From the black dark Bisesa held out her arms into the moonlight. Both hands had been cut off at the wrists, and the stumps were nearly healed. This is from "Beyond the Pale" in Plain Tales from the Hills. A beautiful young Indian woman, Bisesa, has been widowed very young, and longs for a lover. An Englishman, Trejago, wanders into the gully where she sits behind a barred window, and has a flirtatious exchange with her. They secretly become passionate lovers. But after a lapse of some weeks, the next time she answers his knock at the window, it is only to thrust out the stumps of her amputated hands in the moonlight. Both have paid heavily for stepping beyond the limits of their own people.