[February 10th 2006]
First published in the Civil and Military Gazette, 19 September 1889. Collected Volume VII, No. 52 of Turn-overs, 1889, and in Abaft the Funnel (Unauthorised and Authorised Editions), 1909 (Story No. 2).
The Narrator of this story meets an alcoholic down-and-out in a San Francisco bar, “Epstin’s Dive”. He realises from his accent that the loafer is an Englishman when first asked to buy him a drink and he says 'I’m dying of thirst'.
After quite a few drinks the man’s tongue is loosened and he tells a tale of being bought a place in an estate agency in Washington Territory by his father, a parson who lives near Salisbury in England. He had fallen in love with an English girl of his 'own set' before coming to the U.S.A. and leaves England on the understanding that they will be married as soon as he has made enough money. He eventually finds out that she has married someone else from an 'odd [old?] copy of an English paper' and turns to drink to drown his sorrows.
The story has similarities to others by Kipling, three of them being collected in Plain Tales from the Hills (1888); “In the Pride of his Youth”, “To be Filed for Reference”, and “ ‘Yoked with an Unbeliever’ ” .
Kipling had left India on 9 March 1889, travelling with Prof “Aleck” and Mrs Edmonia Hill via Burma, Malaya, China, Japan and the U.S.A. on his way back to England. The reports that he sent back to the Pioneer describing his travels were collected in From Sea to Sea (1899). His arrival in San Francisco on 28 May 1889 and his stay in that city until 17 June at the Palace Hotel is described in Chapters XXIII to XXV. Chapter XXVII includes an abbreviated description of his visit to Washington Territory and the town of Tacoma, which 'was literally staggering under a boom of the boomiest', arriving on 22 June. To read the full original version as printed in the Pioneer of 3 January 1890, see “Letter Eight”, Kipling’s America: Travel Letters, 1889-1895, edited by Prof David H. Stewart (2003).
©David Page 2006 All rights reserved