PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS
By Rudyard Kipling
THREE AND AN EXTRA
MISS YOUGHAL'S SAIS
YOKED WITH AN UNBELIEVER
THE RESCUE OF PLUFFLES
HIS CHANCE IN LIFE
WATCHES OF THE NIGHT
THE OTHER MAN
THE CONVERSION OF AURELIAN MCGOGGIN
A GERM DESTROYER
THE ARREST OF LIEUTENANT GOLIGHTLY
THE HOUSE OF SUDDHOO
HIS WEDDED WIFE
THE BROKEN LINK HANDICAPPED.
BEYOND THE PALE
A BANK FRAUD
IN THE PRIDE OF HIS YOUTH
THE ROUT OF THE WHITE HUSSARS
THE BRONCKHORST DIVORCE-CASE
THE BISARA OF POORER
THE GATE OF A HUNDRED SORROWS
THE STORY OF MUHAMMID DIN
ON THE STRENGTH OF A LIKENESS
WRESSLEY OF THE FOREIGN OFFICE
BY WORD OF MOUTH
TO BE HELD FOR REFERENCE
PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS
Look, you have cast out Love! What Gods are these
You bid me please?
The Three in One, the One in Three? Not so!
To my own Gods I go.
It may be they shall give me greater ease
Than your cold Christ and tangled Trinities.
She was the daughter of Sonoo, a Hill-man, and Jadeh his wife. One
year their maize failed, and two bears spent the night in their only
poppy-field just above the Sutlej Valley on the Kotgarth side; so, next
season, they turned Christian, and brought their baby to the Mission
to be baptized. The Kotgarth Chaplain christened her Elizabeth, and
"Lispeth" is the Hill or pahari pronunciation.
came into the Kotgarth Valley and carried off Sonoo and
Jadeh, and Lispeth became half-servant, half-companion to the wife of
the then Chaplain of Kotgarth. This was after the reign of the Moravian
missionaries, but before Kotgarth had quite forgotten her title of
"Mistress of the Northern Hills."
Whether Christianity improved Lispeth, or whether the gods of her own
people would have done as much for her under any circumstances, I do not
know; but she grew very lovely. When a Hill girl grows lovely, she is
worth traveling fifty miles over bad ground to look upon. Lispeth had a
Greek face--one of those faces people paint so often, and see so seldom.
She was of a pale, ivory color and, for her race, extremely
she possessed eyes that were wonderful; and, had she not been dressed in
by Missions, you would, meeting her
on the hill-side unexpectedly, have thought her the original Diana of
the Romans going out to slay.
Lispeth took to Christianity readily, and did not abandon
it when she
reached womanhood, as do some Hill girls. Her own people hated her
because she had, they said, become a memsahib and washed herself daily;
and the Chaplain's wife did not know what to do with her. Somehow,
one cannot ask a stately
goddess, five foot ten in her shoes, to clean
plates and dishes. So she played with the Chaplain's children and took
classes in the Sunday School, and read all the books in the house, and
grew more and more beautiful, like the Princesses in fairy tales. The
Chaplain's wife said that the girl ought to take service in Simla as a
nurse or something "genteel." But Lispeth did not want to take service.
She was very happy where she was.
When travellers--there were not many in those years--came to Kotgarth,
Lispeth used to lock herself into her own room for fear they might take
her away to Simla, or somewhere out into the unknown world.
One day, a few months after she was seventeen years old, Lispeth went
out for a walk. She did not walk in the manner of English ladies--a mile
and a half out, and a ride back again. She covered between twenty and
thirty miles in her little constitutionals, all about and about, between
Kotgarth and Narkunda. This time she came back at full dusk, stepping
down the breakneck descent
into Kotgarth with something heavy in her
arms. The Chaplain's wife was dozing in the drawing-room when Lispeth
came in breathing hard and very exhausted with her burden. Lispeth put
it down on the sofa, and said simply:
"This is my husband. I found him on the Bagi Road. He has hurt himself.
We will nurse him, and when he is well, your husband shall marry him to
This was the first mention Lispeth had ever made of her matrimonial
views, and the Chaplain's wife shrieked with horror. However, the man on
the sofa needed attention first. He was a young Englishman, and his head
had been cut to the bone by something jagged. Lispeth said she had found
him down the khud, so she had brought him in. He was breathing queerly
and was unconscious.
He was put to bed and tended by the Chaplain, who knew something of
medicine; and Lispeth waited outside the door in case she could be
useful. She explained to the Chaplain that this was the man she meant
to marry; and the Chaplain and his wife lectured her severely
impropriety of her conduct. Lispeth listened quietly, and repeated
first proposition. It takes a great deal of Christianity to wipe out
uncivilized Eastern instincts, such as falling in love at first sight.
Lispeth, having found the man she worshipped, did not see why she should
keep silent as to her choice. She had no intention
of being sent away,
either. She was going to nurse that Englishman until he was well enough
to marry her. This was her little programme.
After a fortnight
of slight fever and inflammation, the Englishman
recovered coherence and thanked the Chaplain and his wife, and
Lispeth--especially Lispeth--for their kindness. He was a traveller in
the East, he said--they never talked about "globe-trotters" in those
days, when the P. & O. fleet was young and small--and had come from
Dehra Dun to hunt for plants and butterflies among the Simla hills. No
one at Simla, therefore, knew anything about him. He fancied he must
have fallen over the cliff while stalking a fern on a rotten
and that his coolies must have stolen
and fled. He thought
he would go back to Simla when he was a little stronger. He desired no
He made small haste to go away, and recovered his strength slowly.
Lispeth objected to being advised either by the Chaplain or his wife;
so the latter spoke to the Englishman, and told him how matters stood in
Lispeth's heart. He laughed a good deal, and said it was very pretty and
romantic, a perfect idyl of the Himalayas; but, as he was engaged to a
girl at Home, he fancied that nothing would happen. Certainly he would
behave with discretion. He did that. Still he found it very pleasant to
talk to Lispeth, and walk with Lispeth, and say nice things to her, and
call her pet names while he was getting strong enough to go away. It
meant nothing at all to him, and everything in the world to Lispeth. She
was very happy while the fortnight
lasted, because she had found a man
Being a savage
by birth, she took no trouble to hide her feelings, and
the Englishman was amused. When he went away, Lispeth walked with him,
up the Hill as far as Narkunda, very troubled and very miserable. The
Chaplain's wife, being a good Christian and disliking anything in
the shape of fuss or scandal--Lispeth was beyond her management
entirely--had told the Englishman to tell Lispeth that he was coming
back to marry her. "She is but a child, you know, and, I fear, at heart
a heathen," said the Chaplain's wife. So all the twelve miles up the
hill the Englishman, with his arm around Lispeth's waist, was assuring
the girl that he would come back and marry her; and Lispeth made him
promise over and over again. She wept on the Narkunda Ridge till he had
passed out of sight along the Muttiani path.
Then she dried her tears and went in to Kotgarth again, and said to the
Chaplain's wife: "He will come back and marry me. He has gone to his
own people to tell them so." And the Chaplain's wife soothed Lispeth
and said: "He will come back." At the end of two months, Lispeth grew
impatient, and was told that the Englishman had gone over the seas
to England. She knew where England was, because she had read little
geography primers; but, of course, she had no conception
of the nature
of the sea, being a Hill girl. There was an old puzzle-map of the World
in the House. Lispeth had played with it when she was a child. She
unearthed it again, and put it together of evenings, and cried to
herself, and tried to imagine where her Englishman was. As she had no
ideas of distance or steamboats, her notions were somewhat erroneous. It
would not have made the least difference had she been perfectly
for the Englishman had no intention
of coming back to marry a Hill girl.
He forgot all about her by the time he was butterfly-hunting in Assam.
He wrote a book on the East afterwards. Lispeth's name did not appear.
At the end of three months, Lispeth made daily pilgrimage
to see if her Englishman was coming along the road. It gave her comfort,
and the Chaplain's wife, finding
her happier, thought that she was
getting over her "barbarous and most indelicate folly." A little later
the walks ceased to help Lispeth and her temper
grew very bad. The
Chaplain's wife thought this a profitable
time to let her know the real
state of affairs--that the Englishman had only promised his love to keep
her quiet--that he had never meant anything, and that it was "wrong and
improper" of Lispeth to think of marriage with an Englishman, who was of
a superior clay, besides being promised in marriage to a girl of his own
people. Lispeth said that all this was clearly impossible, because he
had said he loved her, and the Chaplain's wife had, with her own lips,
asserted that the Englishman was coming back.
"How can what he and you said be untrue?" asked Lispeth.
"We said it as an excuse to keep you quiet, child," said the Chaplain's
"Then you have lied to me," said Lispeth, "you and he?"
The Chaplain's wife bowed her head, and said nothing. Lispeth was
silent, too for a little time; then she went out down the valley, and
returned in the dress of a Hill girl--infamously dirty, but without the
nose and ear rings. She had her hair braided into the long pig-tail,
helped out with black thread, that Hill women wear.
"I am going back to my own people," said she. "You have killed Lispeth.
There is only left old Jadeh's daughter--the daughter of a pahari and
the servant of Tarka Devi. You are all liars, you English."
By the time that the Chaplain's wife had recovered from the shock of the
announcement that Lispeth had 'verted to her mother's gods, the girl had
gone; and she never came back.
She took to her own unclean
people savagely, as if to make up the
arrears of the life she had stepped out of; and, in a little time, she
married a wood-cutter who beat her, after the manner of paharis, and her
beauty faded soon.
"There is no law whereby
you can account
for the vagaries of the
heathen," said the Chaplain's wife, "and I believe that Lispeth was
always at heart an infidel." Seeing she had been taken into the Church
of England at the mature
age of five weeks, this statement does not do
credit to the Chaplain's wife.
Lispeth was a very old woman when she died. She always had a perfect
command of English, and when she was sufficiently
drunk, could sometimes
be induced to tell the story of her first love-affair.
It was hard then to realize that the bleared, wrinkled creature, so like
a wisp of charred rag, could ever have been "Lispeth of the Kotgarth
THREE AND--AN EXTRA.
and heel ropes are slipped, do not give chase with
sticks but with gram."
After marriage arrives a reaction, sometimes a big, sometimes a little
one; but it comes sooner or later, and must be tided over by both
parties if they desire the rest of their lives to go with the current.
In the case of the Cusack-Bremmils this reaction
did not set in till the
third year after the wedding. Bremmil was hard to hold at the best
of times; but he was a beautiful husband until the baby died and Mrs.
Bremmil wore black, and grew thin, and mourned as if the bottom of the
universe had fallen out. Perhaps Bremmil ought to have comforted her. He
tried to do so, I think; but the more he comforted the more Mrs. Bremmil
grieved, and, consequently, the more uncomfortable
Bremmil grew. The
fact was that they both needed a tonic. And they got it. Mrs. Bremmil
can afford to laugh now, but it was no laughing matter to her at the
You see, Mrs. Hauksbee appeared on the horizon; and where she existed
was fair chance of trouble. At Simla her bye-name was the "Stormy
Petrel." She had won that title five times to my own certain knowledge.
She was 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--well--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. But that is another story.
Bremmil went off at score after the baby's death and the general
discomfort that followed, and Mrs. Hauksbee annexed him. She took no
pleasure in hiding her captives. She annexed him publicly, and saw that
the public saw it. He rode with her, and walked with her, and talked
with her, and picnicked with her, and tiffined at Peliti's with her,
till people put up their eyebrows and said: "Shocking!" Mrs. Bremmil
stayed at home turning over the dead baby's frocks and crying into the
empty cradle. She did not care to do anything else. But some eight dear,
affectionate lady-friends explained the situation at length to her in
case she should miss the cream of it. Mrs. Bremmil listened quietly,
and thanked them for their good offices. She was not as clever as Mrs.
Hauksbee, but she was no fool. She kept her own counsel, and did not
speak to Bremmil of what she had heard. This is worth remembering.
Speaking to, or crying over, a husband never did any good yet.
When Bremmil was at home, which was not often, he was more affectionate
than usual; and that showed his hand. The affection
was forced partly
soothe his own conscience
Mrs. Bremmil. It failed