(May 25th to 31st)

Format: Triple

It was a hot, still evening when we began, and the lamp burned very badly. In due course I made the draft to my satisfaction, setting forth how The Boy was the pattern of all virtues, beloved by his regiment, with every promise of a great career before him, and so on; how we had helped him through the sickness—it was no time for little lies, you will understand—and how he had died without pain. I choked while I was putting down these things and thinking of the poor people who would read them. Then I laughed at the grotesqueness of the affair. and the laughter mixed itself up with the choke—and the Major said that we both wanted drinks.


This is from “Thrown Away” in Plain Tales from the Hills.

It is a tragic story of a young man who had had a sheltered upbringing, and cannot handle life as a subaltern in India. He quarrels with his fellow officers, falls into debt, takes his colonel’s rebuke too much to heart, and shoots himself. He is found by the narrator and one of the majors. They concoct a letter to his people at home announcing his death – ‘of cholera’ – and attend to his very private funeral.

A great and glorious thing it is
To learn, for seven years or so,
The Lord knows what of that and this,
Ere reckoned fit to face the foe –
The flying bullet down the Pass,
That whistles clear: ” All flesh is grass.”


This is from “Arithmetic on the Frontier” in Departmental Ditties and Other Verses.

…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; disintegrated steam and clockwork locomotives with their twisted rails; a grey and red tin model of a submarine; a dumb gramophone and cracked records; golf-clubs that had to be broken across the knee, like his walking-sticks …


This is from “Mary Postgate” in A Diversity of Creatures.

Mary is an elderly, conscientous, and deeply repressed companion of a Miss Fowler. When the latter’s orphaned young nephew, Wynn, enters the household, Mary becomes his surrogate mother and `always his butt and his slave’. Wynn joins the Flying Corps on the outbreak of war and is killed on a trial flight, without having been in action. Here the two women are burning his possessions. Later Mary has a fearful and satisfying revenge on an injured German airman, who crashes in the village, and whom she deliberately leaves to die.