Quotes Servants


‘Heaven-born, in my poor opinion, this that was my master has descended into the Dark Places, and there has been caught because he was not able to escape with sufficient speed. We have the spur for evidence that he fought with Fear. Thus I have seen men of my race do with thorns when a spell was laid on them to overtake them in their sleeping hours and they dared not sleep.’


This is from “At the End of the Passage” (1890) collected in Life’s Handicap.

Hummil, a young Assistant Engineer in a remote station, has died in his sleep, out of exhaustion and terror.

He had been afflicted by terrible dreams, reflected in his sightless eyes, struggling to keep himself awake by putting spurs in his bed.

The polo-ball was an old one, scarred, chipped, and dinted. It stood on the mantelpiece among the pipe-stems which Imam Din, khitmatgar, was cleaning for me.

‘Does the Heaven-born want this ball?’ said Imam Din deferentially. The Heaven-born set no particular store by it; but of what use was a polo-ball to a khitmatgar?

‘By Your Honour’s favour, I have a little son. He has seen this ball, and desires it to play with. I do not want it for myself.’


This is from “The Story of Muhammed Din”  (1886), collected in Plain Tales from the Hills.

Muhammed Din is ‘a tiny plump figure in a ridiculously inadequate shirt’. Like Kipling in his childhood, he loves elaborate make-believe. He bears away the ball and happily constructs elaborate palaces of flowers and pebbles and sea shells around it.

But it is a short-lived happiness, for Muhammad Din catches fever, and a few days later is carried to the burying ground by his father, wrapped in a white cloth.

The news of his trouble was already in his bungalow. He read the knowledge in his butler’s eyes when Ahmed Khan brought in food, and for the first and last time in his life laid a hand upon his master’s shoulder, saying ‘Eat, sahib, eat. Meat is good against sorrow. I also have known. Moreover the shadows come and go, sahib; the shadows come and go. These be curried eggs.’


This is from “Without Benefit of Clergy“, collected in Plain Tales from the Hills

John Holden leads a double life. To his colleagues he is a bachelor, living in spartan bachelor quarters, and sometimes neglecting his work. But he has set up a young Muslim girl, Ameera, in a little house on the edge of the old city.

She is the love of his life, and he of hers. They are idyllically happy together, and when she gives birth to a baby boy, Tota, their happiness is complete. When Tota dies of fever, they are distraught. Then Ameera is stricken with cholera and dies in Holden’s arms. He is left desolate.

Here, back in his bungalow, his servant offers him a rare moment of sympathy.