The Education of Otis Yeere

(notes edited by John McGivering)


This story was first published in The Week’s News, 10 and 17 March 1888. It was included in Under the Deodars the fourth of the paperback Indian Railway Library published later that year in Allahabad by A H Wheeler & Co., and in London in 1890 by Sampson Low. It was subsequently collected in Wee Willie Winkie and Other Stories in 1895, and in numerous later reprints of the same collection.

The story

Mrs Hauksbee and Mrs Mallowe, two clever attractive Simla society women of a certain age, are gossiping together. They talk about their conquests and their strategies, and the weaknesses of the men, soldiers and civilians, who rule the Anglo-Indian world. Mrs Hauksbee, who is rather bored, decides to find a man that she can make something of, not as a lover, but to satisfy her need for power and influence.

She takes up Otis Yeere, a hard-working middle-ranking administrator from a swampy difficult district of Bengal, and flatters him into greater confidence and higher ambition. But he falls in love with her, which was not the plan at all, and the project founders.
Norman Page in A Kipling Companion quotes the verdict of The Athenaeum that this story left ‘a disagreeable taste in the mouth.’

Mrs Hauksbee figures in ten of Kipling’s stories, including “Three and – an Extra” and “Consequences” in Plain Tales from the Hills.