(February 2015)

Format: Triple

It seemed altogether impossible that he could die, and neither Ameera nor Holden at first believed the evidence of the little body on the bedstead. Then Ameera beat her head against the wall and would have flung herself down the well in the garden had Holden not restrained her by main force.


This is from “Without Benefit of Clergy” from Life’s Handicap. Holden, a British official, has fallen in love with Ameera, a young Indian woman, secretly married her. and set up house in a native quarter. She has born their little son, whom they adore. But – tragically – he dies from fever. Later Ameera follows him, and Holden’s secret idyll is destroyed for ever.

… journey by journey, passing Miss Fowler’s white face at the morning-room window each time, she brought down in the towel-covered clothes-basket, on the wheelbarrow, thumbed and used Hentys, Marryats, Levers, Stevensons, Baroness Orczys, Garvices, schoolbooks, and atlases, unrelated piles of the Motor Cyclist, the Light Car, and catalogues of Olympia Exhibitions; the remnants of a fleet of sailing-ships from nine-penny cutters to a three-guinea yacht; a prep. school dressing-gown; bats from three-and-sixpence to twenty-four shillings; cricket and tennis balls….


This is from “Mary Postgate” in A Diversity of Creatures. Mary’s much loved young nephew, training to be a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, has died in a flying accident, and she is burning his possessions on a bonfire in the garden. Later she encounters a wounded German airman who has just dropped a bomb, killing a child. With keen satisfaction, she leaves him to die. The tale was published in September 1915, the month in which Kipling’s son John was killed in battle.

They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?


This is from “Mesopotamia”, Kipling’s poem about the disastrous campaign in modrn-day Iraq in 1916, in which many soldiers lost their lives through the incompetence of their commanders.