by John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
'Kipling was out of his bed in an instant, and before the foremost of the intruders had mastered the geography of the room in the dark, he felt the cold barrel of a revolver at his temple.'Critical comments
...only here the victim is conceived of as capable of salvation. A subaltern who has had the misfortune to spend three years at one of the ancient universities (and who has therefore added intolerable conceit to a natural ill-breeding) has been ragged by his fellows in some approved Kipling fashion, and is caddish enough to propose making the incident an occasion of public scandal. Fortunately ... Stalky ... is around and persuades the aggrieved young man to retort with cunningly contrived physical outrage of his own. Having achieved this, the subaltern apologizes (sic) handsomely to his fellow officers for his previous unpleasing behaviour, and is then forgiven and received back into the favour of the mess.J M S Tompkins examines this story in her Chapter 2, 'Laughter', (p. 34):
The farce here, though elaborate in its appliances, is less so in its movement, since it is man-made, and depends little on chance ... The Demon of Irresponsibility has no part to play. In fact Stalky (now a Colonel) and his henchmen, are entirely responsible; they are playing for the careers of three young men, and the reputation of their regiment.She also notes (p.131) that the story - written on the eve of the Great War, reassures Stalky as to the quality of the younger generation, who - although mainly well-behaved - turn out to be as reckless as he was in his young days. This is another instance in which we can probably regard the narrator as Kipling himself, despite the admonition of Dr Tompkins that we should not do so (page 256).
... can be accepted, if only with difficulty, because one fondly supposes that most things are possible with the adolescent; but Kipling soon abandons even this degree of plausibility, and one finds exactly the same conduct glorified in the Regimental Mess.. See also the introductory notes by Isabel Quigly and Roger Lancelyn Green to Stalky & Co.