Three Quotations

(August 22nd to Sep 1st)


1. I set up in business alone as a trader with savages (the wreck parts of the tale never much interested me), in a mildewy basement room where I stood my solitary confinements. My apparatus was a coconut shell strung on a red cord, a tin trunk, and a piece of packing-case which kept off any other world. Thus fenced about, everything inside the fence was quite real, but mixed with the smell of damp cupboards. If the bit of board fell, I had to begin the magic all over again. This is from the first chapter of Kipling's autobiography, Something of Myself, "A Very Young Person".

He describes his joy in make-believe having read Robinson Crusoe for the first time as a small boy of eight or so in the 'House of Desolation' in Southsea.


2. One day I stumbled upon some of his handiwork far down the grounds. He had half buried the polo-ball in dust, and stuck six shrivelled old marigold flowers in a circle round it. Outside that circle again was a rude square, traced out in bits of red brick alternating with fragments of broken china; the whole bounded by a little bank of dust. The water-man from the well-curb put in a plea for the small architect, saying that it was only the play of a baby and did not much disfigure my garden.

This is from "The Story of Muhammad Din" in Plain Tales from the Hills.

Muhammad Din is a small boy who loves to play make-believe games in the Sahib's garden. Their friendship is short-lived, for—like many small children in India—he dies of fever.


3. 'I went forward; but I cannot say whither I went, and there was no more food for myself or the sister. And upon a hot night, she weeping and calling for food, we came to a well, and I bade her sit upon the kerb, and thrust her in, for, in truth, she could not see; and it is better to die than to starve.’ This is from "Little Tobrah" in Life's Handicap.

Little Tobrah and his blind little sister were orphaned when their parents were smitten by the smallpox. Without livelihood they went away hand in hand, but their little money was soon spent. In desperation Little Tobrah had pushed his sister down a well, and now tells his story.