The Rescue of Pluffles

(notes edited by John McGivering and John Radcliffe)


The story was published in the Civil and Military Gazette on November 20th 1886, in the first Indian edition of Plain Tales from the Hills in 1888, and in subsequent editions of that collection. See David Alan
p. 17, passim.

The story

Pluffles, a callow young subaltern, has fallen for the charms of a fascinating and predatory Older Woman, Mrs Reiver, of whom there is ‘nothing good except it was her dress’. Mrs Hauksbee, who loathes Mrs Reiver, and knows that Pluffles is engaged to a girl in England, decides to rescue him. She wins his heart, talks to him like a mother, and sees him safely off Home to be married. This is the second story about Mrs Hauksbee, and shows her in a rather better light than “Three – and an Extra”.

See ORG Preface No.1. “Mrs Hauksbee”, Volume 1, page 5.

Andrew Lycett (p. 138) points out that a horse in “The Broken-link Handicap” later in this volume named in Mrs. Reiver’s honour is called “The Lady Regula Baddun”.

Harry Ricketts (p. 97) writes:

What linked the stories and made them anything but ‘plain’ was their highly distinctive voice – the same insouciant (careless, indifferent) voice that Rud had first tried out in “In the House of Suddhoo” (later in this volume) Sometimes located in the figure of an unnamed narrator, this voice (whether asserting or teasing) always demanded attention. The openings were always arresting and characteristic.

Mrs Hauksbee

In “Three—and an Extra” Mrs Hauksbee is described as :

‘a little, brown, thin, almost skinny, woman, with big, rolling, violet-blue eyes, and the sweetest manners in the world. You had only to mention her name at afternoon teas for every woman in the room to rise up and call her not blessed. She was clever, witty, brilliant, and sparkling beyond most of her kind; but possessed of many devils of malice and mischievousness. She could be nice, though, even to her own sex.’ (Plain Tales, p. 10 l.3)

Thomas Pinney writes (Letters vol I . p. 144)

Mrs Burton (d. 1916), the wife of Major Francis Charles Burton, is identified with Mrn Hauksbee, the clever, witty, and cynical heroine of a number of RK’s Simla stories. She must have been wholly a Simla acquaintance, for the Major was never stationed at Lahore in RK’s day. Major Burton was a staff officer with the 1st Bengal Cavalry ui’ Peshawar in 1887; he later commanded the 2nd Bengal Lancers, and returned to England in 1901.

Mrs Burton was Irish, dressed by preference (it is said) in yellow ol black, and was the mother of four sons and two daughters, none of whom surviw,1 her. RK acted with her and her husband in A Scrap of Paper (an adaptation from Sardou) at Simla in September 1887, the earliest documented evidence of RK’s acqua.intafu•,, with Mrs Burton. But that acquaintance must precede 17 November 1886, when ti”‘ first of the Mrs Hauksbee stories (“Three and – an Extra”) was published.

See also pp. 231-232 in the paperback edition of Kipling Sahib, by Charles Allan.

Mrs Hauksbee figures in seven other Simla stories

A Second-rate Wooman
Three and an Extra
The Education of Otis Yeere
A Supplementary Chapter.
Mrs Hauksbe Sits Out.

She is also mentioned in a number of other stories. See ORG vol;1 pp. 5-6




©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2012 All rights reserved