quotes_jun23_2013.htm

(June 23rd to 30th)



Format: Triple

The Senior Subaltern had been holding forth on the merits of the girl he was engaged to, and the ladies were purring approval while the men yawned, when there was a rustle of skirts in the dark, and a tired, faint voice lifted itself.

‘Where’s my husband?’

I do not wish in the least to reflect on the morality of the ‘Shikarris’; but it is on record that four men jumped up as if they had been shot. Three of them were married men…

  

This is from “His Wedded Wife” in Plain Tales from the Hills. The Senior Subaltern had made it his business to make life a misery for the Junior Subaltern, Henry Faizanne, commonly known as “The Worm”. But the worm turns. When a beautiful woman arrives in the Mess claiming the Senior Subaltern as her husband, he is much embarrassed. The beautiful ‘wife’ proves to be “The Worm” in disguise, but not before he has made a thorough fool of the Senior Subaltern.


… in the middle of the level men call the Ladies’ Mile the Horror was awaiting me. No other ’rickshaw was in sight—only the four black and white jhampanies, the yellow-paneled carriage, and the golden head of the woman within—all apparently just as I had left them eight months and one fortnight ago! For an instant I fancied that Kitty must see what I saw—we were so marvellously sympathetic in all things. Her next words undeceived me—‘Not a soul in sight! Come along, Jack, and I’ll race you to the Reservoir buildings!” … I pulled my Waler and fell back a little. The ’rickshaw was directly in the middle of the road; and once more the Arab passed through it, my horse following. “Jack! Jack dear! Please forgive me,” rang with a wail in my ears, and, after an interval:—“It’s a mistake, a hideous mistake!”

   

This is from “The Phantom Rickshaw” in Wee Willie Winkie and Other Stories. Jack Pansay has had a passionate romance with Agnes Keith-Wessington, the golden-haired wife of an officer. He wearies of her and tells her so, but she refuses to accept his rejection, insisting that it is all “a hideous mistake” … He becomes engaged to Kitty Mannering whom he deeply loves, and – not long after – Agnes dies of a broken heart. Soon after, his rides out with Kitty around Simla are disrupted by the ghost of Agnes, in her familiar yellow-panelled rickshaw, which only he can see. His life is ruined, and he goes to his death, still haunted by the golden-haired ghost.


He took up his helmet and went out of the room, and Mrs. Boulte sat till the moonlight streaked the floor, thinking and thinking and thinking. She had done her best upon the spur of the moment to pull the house down; but it would not fall. Moreover, she could not understand her husband, and she was afraid. Then the folly of her useless truthfulness struck her, and she was ashamed to write to Kurrell, saying, ‘I have gone mad and told everything. My husband says that I am free to elope with you. Get a dâk for Thursday, and we will fly after dinner.’ There was a cold-bloodedness about that procedure which did not appeal to her. So she sat still in her own house and thought.

   

This from “A Wayside Comedy” in Plain Tales from the Hills. Kashima is a small remote station, the scene of a claustrophobic story of jealousy, infidelity, and hatred, coolly told. Mrs Boulte is having a love affair with Kurrell and hates her husband. Then a new couple, the Vansuythens, are posted to Kashima. Mrs Vansuythen is a charming woman, with ‘very still gray eyes’. She cares only for her husband, yet both Boulte and Kurrell fall in love with her. Meanwhile, Mrs Boulte has told her husband that she hates him, and he responds that she is free to run away with Kurrell. But Kurrell, also in love with the newcomer, is no longer interested…

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