The History of a Fall

by Rudyard Kipling

MERE English will not do justice to the event. Let us attempt it according to the custom of the French. Thus and so following:

Listen to a history of the most painful—and of the most true. You others, the Grovemors, the Lieutenant-Governors, and the Conmiissionaires of the Oriental Indias.

It is you, foolishly outside of the truth in prey to illusions so blind that I of them remain so stupefied—it is to you that I address myself!

Know you Sir Cyril Wollobie, K.C.S.I., C.M.G., and all the other little things?

He was of the Sacred Order of Yourself—a man responsible enormously—charged of the conservation of millions . . .

Of people. That is understood. The Indian Government conserves not its rupees.

He was the well-loved of kings. I have seen the Viceroy—which is the Lorr-Maire—embrace him of both arms.

That was in Simla. All things are possible in Simla.

Even embraces.

His wife! Mon Dieu, his wife!

The aheuried imagination prostrates itself at the remembrance of the splendours Orientals of the Lady Cyril—the very respectable the Lady Wollobie.

That was in Simla. All things are possible in Simla. Even wives. In those days I was—what you call—a Schnobb. I am now a much larger Schnobb. Voila the only difference. Thus it is true that travel expands the mind.

But let us return to our Wollobies.

I admired that man there with the both hands. I crawled before the Lady Wollobie—platonically. The man the most brave would be only platonic towards that lady. And I was also afraid. Subsequently I went to a dance. The wine equalled not the splendour of the Wollobies. Nor the food. But there was upon the floor an open space—large and park-like. It protected the dignity Wollobicallisme. It was guarded by Aides-de-Camp. With blue silk in their coat-tails—turned up. With pink eyes and white moustaches to ravish. Also turned up.

To me addressed himself an Aide-de-Camp.

That was in Simla. To-day I do not speak to Aides-de-Camp.

I confine myself exclusively to the cabdrivaire. He does not know so much bad language, but he can drive better.

I approached, under the protection of the Aide-de-Camp, the luminosity of Sir Wollobie.

The world entire regarded.

The band stopped. The lights burned blue. A domestic dropped a plate.

It was an inspiring moment.

From the summit of Jakko forty-five monkies looked down upon the crisis.

Sir Wollobie spoke.

To me in that expanse of floor cultured and park-like. He said: “I have long desired to make your acquaintance.”

The blood bouilloned in my head. I became pink. I was aneantied under the weight of an embarras insubrimable.

At that moment Sir Wollobie became oblivious of my personality. That was his custom.

Wiping my face upon my coat-tails I refugied myself among the foules.

I had been spoken to by Sir Wollobie. That was in Simla. That also is history.

.     .     .     .     .

Pass now several years. To the day before yesterday!

This also is history—farcical, immense, tragi-comic, but true.

Know you the Totnam Cortrode?

Here lives Maple, who sells washing appliances and tables of exotic legs.

Here voyages also a Omnibuse Proletariat.

That is to say for One penny.

Two pence is the refined volupte of the Aristocrat.

I am of the people.

Entre nous the connection is not desired by us. The people address to me epithets, entirely unprintable. I reply that they should wash. The situation is strained. Hence the Strike Docks and the Demonstrations Laborious.

Upon the funeste tumbril of the Proletariat I take my seat.

I demand air outside upon the roof.

I will have all my penny.

The tumbril advances.

A man aged loses his equilibrium and deposits himself into my lap.

Following the custom of the Brutal Londoner I demand the Devil where he shoves himself.

He apologises supplicatorically.

I grunt.

Encore the tumbril shakes herself.

I appropriate the desired seat of the old man.

The conductaire cries to loud voice: “Fare, Guvnor.”

He produces one penny.

A reminiscence phantasmal provokes itself.

I beat him on the back.

It is Sir Wollobie; the ex-Everything!

Also the ex-Eveiything else!

Figure you the situation!

He clasps my hand.

As a child clasps the hand of its nurse.

He demands of me particular rensignments of my health. It is to him a matter important.

Other time he regulated the health of forty-five millions.

I riposte. I enquire of his liver—his pancreas, his abdomen.

The sacred internals of Sir Wollobie!

He has them all. And they all make him ill.

He is very lonely. He speaks of his wife. There is no Lady Wollobie, but a woman in a flat in Bayswater who cries in her sleep for more curricles.

He does not say this, but I understand.

He derides the Council of the Indian Office. He imprecates the Government.

He curses the journals.

He has a clob. He curses that clob.

Females with teeth monstrous explain to him the theory of Government.

Men of long hair, the psychologues of the paint-pots, correct him tenderly, but from above.

He has known of the actualities of life—Death, Power, Responsibility, Honour—the Good accomplished, the effacement of Wrong for forty years.

There remains to him a seat in a penny ’bus.

If I do not take him from that.

I rap my heels on the knife-board. I sing “tra la la” I am also well disposed to larmes.

He courbes himself underneath an ulstaire and he damns the fog to eternity.

He wills not that I leave him. He desires that I come to dinner.

I am grave. I think upon Lady Wollobie— shorn of chaprassies—at the Clob. Not in Bayswater.

I accept. He will bore me affreusely, but . . . I have taken his seat.

He descends from the tumbril of his himiiliation, and the street hawker rolls a barrow up his waistcoat.

Then intervenes the fog—dense, impenetrable, hopeless, without end.

It is because of the fog that there is a drop upon the end of my nose so chiselled.

Gentlemen the Governors, the Lieutenant-Governors and the Commissaires, behold the doom prepared.

I am descended to the gates of your Life in Death. Which is Brompton or Bayswater.

You do not believe? You will try the constituencies when you return; is it not so?

You will fail. As others failed.

Your seat waits you on the top of an Omnibuse Proletariat.

I shall be there.

You will embrace me as a shipwrecked man embraces a log. You will be “dam glad t’ see me.”

I shall grin.

Oh Life! Oh Death! Oh Power! Oh Toil! Oh Hope! Oh Stars! Oh Honour! Oh Lodgings! Oh Fog! Oh Omnibuses! Oh Despair! Oh Skittles!