Gerowlia waited in the sunshine, and chuckled to herself like a female pauper when she receives snuff. Her mahout said that he would go away for a drink of water. So he walked, and walked, and walked, till he disappeared on the stone strewn plains, and the Englishman was left alone with Gerowlia, aged fifty one.


This is from the tenth Letter of Marque, the young Kipling’s journey through Rajputana as a roving reporter, soon after his appointment to the Pioneer of Allahabad at the end of 1887. He is at Chitor, the ancient ruined city on a hill, and had hired an elderly female elephant carry him up there. The elephant’s mahout had left him for a while, and he vainly tried to restrain Gerowlia from eating the thatch of the bungalow. When the mahout returns he rides up into Chitor, and is terrified by the place.

Now a bark is feminine beyond all other daughters of the sea, and this tall, hesitating creature, with her white and gilt figurehead, looked like a bewildered woman half lifting her skirts to cross a muddy street under the jeers of bad little boys. This was very much her situation.


This is from the eighth chapter of Captains Courageous. The fleet of fishing boats have forgathered near the shoal called the Virgin, where the Grand Banks slopes up to a rock in the midst of the ocean, with the waves surging and breaking around it. Here a barque on passage across the Atlantic is feeling her way uncertainly across the dangerous waters, mocked by the boisterous fishermen in their little dories.

For Lascar Loo’s mother saw that a power had departed, and that her path lay clear to the custards. Therefore, when the carriages rattled off, the cat on the doorstep heard the wail of the dying prostitute who could not die —

“Oh mother mother won’t you even let me lick the spoon!”


This is from “The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot“, a fearful tale of murder among the poor in the London slums. Badalia is a responsible young woman, bent on helping people poorer than herself. She is asked by a local priest to dispense money for charity, but is betrayed by Lascar Loo’s mother, and her brutal husband kills her for it.