July 9th to 15th


‘It was worse when you were in town. The rain’s taking off now. If it wasn’t for that pond, I wouldn’t worry so much. There’s Sidney’s bell. Come on!’ She broke into a run. A cracked bell was jangling feebly down the valley.

‘Keep on the road!’ Midmore shouted. The ditches were snorting bank-full on either side, and towards the brook-side the fields were afloat and beginning to move in the darkness.

‘Catch me going off it! There’s his light burning all right.’ She halted undistressed at a little rise. ‘But the flood’s in the orchard.  Look!’ She swung her lantern to show a front rank of old apple-trees reflected in still, out-lying waters beyond the half-drowned hedge. They could hear above the thud-thud of the gorged flood-gates, shrieks in two keys as monotonous as a steam-organ.

‘The high one’s the pig.’ Miss Sperrit laughed.


This is from “My Son’s Wife” in A Diversity of Creatures.  Frankwell Midmore, who had been living a Bohemian life among leftish Hampstead intelligentsia, inherits a house in deepest Sussex and becomes a country squire. Here he is experiencing some of the joys of life in the country in Winter, floods, a villainous tenant famer with an eccentrric household, hunting, neighbours, a world away from his previous existence. He takes to it.

A shrill wail ran along the line, growing to a yell, half fear, half wonder: the face of the river whitened from bank to bank between the stone facings, and the far-away spurs went out in spouts of foam. Mother Gunga had come bank-high in haste, and a wall of chocolate-coloured water was her messenger. There was a shriek above t the roar of the water, the complaint of the spans coming down on their blocks as the cribs were whirled out from under their bellies. The stone-boats groaned and ground each other in the eddy that swung round the abutment, and their clumsy masts rose higher and higher against the dim sky-line.


This is from “The Bridgebuilders” in The Day’s Work. A great new bridge across the Ganges has been nearly completed when it is threatened by a massive flood. It is as if the bridge has offended the old gods of India. Will it syand ?

Ninefold deep to the top of the dyke the galloping breakers stride,
And their overcarried spray is a sea -a sea on the other side
Coming like stallions they paw with their hooves, going they snatch with their teeth,
Till the bents and the furze and the sand are dragged out, and the old-time hurdles beneath.


This is from “The Dykes” collected in The Five Nations in 1903. It warns of the need for the Empire to look to its defences against ever-present dangers from over the seas.

Ever sine his childhood Kipling had found the margins between land and sea, beaches, foreshores, marshland, dykes, unsettling places, fraught with danger and melancholy.

See also “White Horses