Quotes Vortex


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 (1017).

The narrator, who bears a strong resemblance to Kipling himself, is driving out on a Sunday with his Canadian friend Penfentenyou, and a tiresome talkative theorist of Empire, Mr Lingnam.

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 imperial theorising  has left him.