* * *


ACT III. Sc. 11.

GOW: - Had it been your Prince instead of a groom caught in this noose there's not an astrologer of the city--

PRINCE: Sacked! Sacked! We were a city yesterday.

GOW: - So be it, but I was not governor. Not an astrologer, but would ha' sworn he'd foreseen it at the last versary of Venus, when Vulcan caught her with Mars in the house of stinking Capricorn. But since 'tis Jack of the Straw that hangs, the forgetful stars had it not on their tablets.

PRINCE: - Another life! Were there any left to die? How did the poor fool come by it?

GOW: - Simpliciter thus. She that damned him to death knew not that she did it, or would have died ere she had done it. For she loved him. He that hangs him does so in obedience to the Duke, and asks no more than "Where is the rope?" The Duke, very exactly he hath told us, works God's will, in which holy employ he's not to be questioned. We have then left upon this finger, only Jack whose soul now plucks the left sleeve of Destiny in Hell to overtake why she clapped him up like a fly on a sunny wall. Whuff! Sack!

PRlNCE - Your cloak, Ferdinand. I'll sleep now.

FERDlNAND --Sleep, then . . . He too, loved his life?

GOW - He was born of woman . . . but at the end threw her from him, like your Prince, for a little sleep . . . "Have I any look of a King?" said he, clanking his chain - "to be so baited on all sides by Fortune, that I must e'en die now to live with myself one day longer." I left him railing at Fortune and woman's love.

FERDINAND -- Ah, woman's love!

(Aside) Who knows not Fortune, glutted on easy thrones,
Stealing from feasts as rare to coneycatch,
Privily in the hedgerows for a clown
With that same cruel-lustful hand and eye,
Those nails and wedges, that one hammer and lead,
And the very gerb of long-stored lightnings loosed
Yesterday 'gainst some King.

* * *

The day that I chose to visit H.M.S. Peridot in Simon's Bay was the day that the Admiral had chosen to send her up the coast. She was just steaming out to sea as my train came in, and since the rest of the Fleet were either coaling or busy at the rifle-ranges a thousand feet up the hill, I found myself stranded, lunchless, on the sea-front with no hope of return to Cape Town before five P.M. At this crisis I had the luck to come across my friend Inspector Hooper, Cape Government Railways, in command of an engine and a brake-van chalked for repair.

"If you get something to eat," he said, "I'll run you down to Glengariff siding till the goods comes along. It's cooler there than here, you see."

I got food and drink from the Greeks who sell all things at a price, and the engine trotted us a couple of miles up the line to a bay of drifted sand and a plank- platform half buried in sand not a hundred yards from the edge of the surf. Moulded dunes, whiter than any snow, rolled far inland up a brown and purple valley of splintered rocks and dry scrub. A crowd of Malays hauled at a net beside two blue-and-green boats on the beach; a picnic party danced and shouted barefoot where a tiny river trickled across the flat, and a circle of dry hills, whose feet were set in sands of silver, locked us in against a seven-coloured sea. At either horn of the bay the railway line cut just above high-water mark, ran round a shoulder of piled rocks, and disappeared.

"You see there's always a breeze here," said Hooper, opening the door as the engine left us in the siding on the sand, and the strong south-easter buffeting under Elsie's Peak dusted sand into our tickey beer. Presently he sat down to a file full of spiked documents. He had returned from a long trip up-country, where he had been reporting on damaged rolling-stock, as far away as Rhodesia. The weight of the bland wind on my eyelids; the song of it under the car roof; and high up among the rocks; the drift of fine grains chasing each other musically ashore; the tramp of the surf; the voices of the picnickers; the rustle of Hooper's file, and the presence of the assured sun, joined with the beer to cast me into magical slumber. The hills of False Bay were just dissolving into those of fairyland when I heard footsteps on the sand outside, and the clink of our couplings.

"Stop that!" snapped Hooper, without raising his head from his work. "It's those dirty little Malay boys, you see: they're always playing with the trucks...."

"Don't be hard on 'em. The railway's a general refuge in Africa," I replied.

"'Tis -- up-country at any rate. That reminds me," he felt in his waistcoat-pocket, "I've got a curiosity for you from Wankies -- beyond Buluwayo . It's more of a souvenir perhaps than --"

"The old hotel's inhabited," cried a voice. "White men from the language. Marines to the front! Come on, Pritch. Here's your Belmont. Wha -- i -- i!"

The last word dragged like a rope as Mr. Pyecroft ran round to the open door, and stood looking up into my face. Behind him an enormous Sergeant of Marines trailed a stalk of dried seaweed, and dusted the sand nervously from his fingers.

"What are you doing here?" I asked. "I thought the Hierophant was down the coast?"

"We came in last Tuesday -- from Tristan D'Acunha -- for overhaul, and we shall be in dockyard 'ands for two months, wlth boiler-seatings."

"Come and sit down." Hooper put away the file.

"This is Mr. Hooper of the Railway," I exclaimed, as Pyecroft turned to haul up the black-moustached sergeant.

"This is Sergeant Pritchard, of the Agaric, an old shipmate," said he. "We were strollin' on the beach." The monster blushed and nodded. He filled up one side of the van when he sat down.

"And this is my friend, Mr. Pyecroft," I added to Hooper, already busy with the extra beer which my prophetic soul had bought from the Greeks.

"Moi aussi," quoth Pyecroft, and drew out beneath his coat a labelled quart bottle.

"Why, it's Bass," cried Hooper.

"It was Pritchard," said Pyecroft. "They can't resist him."

"That's not so," said Pritchard mildly.

"Not verbatim per'aps, but the look in the eye came to the same thing."

"Where was it?" I demanded.

"Just on beyond here - at Kalk Bay. She was slappin' a rug in a back verandah. Pritch 'adn't more than brought his batteries to bear, before she stepped indoors an' sent it flyin' over the wall."

Pyecroft patted the warm bottle.

"It was all a mistake," said Pritchard. "I shouldn't wonder if she mistook me for Maclean. We're about of a size."

I had heard householders of Muizenburg, St. James's, and Kalk Bay complain of the difficulty of keeping beer or good servants at the seaside, and I began to see the reason. None the less, it was excellent Bass, and I too drank to the health of that large-minded maid.

"It's the uniform that fetches 'em, an' they fetch it," said Pyecroft. "My simple navy blue is respectable, but not fascinatin'. Now Pritch in 'is Number One rig is always 'purr Mary, on the terrace' - ex officio as you might say."

"She took me for Maclean, I tell you," Pritchard insisted. "Why - why - to listen to him you wouldn't think that only yesterday--"


"Mrs. Bathurst" is Kipling's most controversial story. An example of his "late" style, in which he often compressed the raw material for a long novel into a short tale, it is told indirectly, through four narrators. The reader learns fragments of the puzzling story while the narrators themselves are often in the dark. Some readers feel that Kipling did not play fair with the reader -- paring too much incident away, he did not leave the clues that would allow the reader to understand the motivation of the main characters and so he lost control of the story. As a result it is emotionally uninvolving, as well as annoying and pretentious. Others believe that the puzzling aspects of the story were intentional, expressing the author's bleak vision of the enigmatic nature of reality and the destructive power of love. One critic has written that the quantity of interpretations and speculations on "Mrs. Bathurst" rival the speculation on the mystery of Dickens's Edward Drood.

Readers of Mrs. Bathurst who admire it, sometimes extravagantly:
Jorge Luis Borges, in Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express, 366-67.
C.A. Bodelson
Elliott Gilbert
Robert Gottlieb, editor of the highly recommended Everyman edition of Kipling, Collected Stories, see xx-xxi. He puts it on his short list of Kipling's best stories.
Claude Raine

Readers of Mrs. Bathurst who dislike it, sometimes markedly:
Angus Wilson, Strange Ride
Paul Theroux The Old Patagonian Express, 366-67.
C.S. Lewis, "Kipling's World," in Elliott Gilbert, ed., Kipling and the Critics (1965), 100.
James Harrison, Rudyard Kipling (1982), 86

I myself consider "Mrs. Bathurst" flawed, but nevertheless one of Kipling's great stories.

First published in Windsor Magazine and Metropolitan Magazine in March 1904. Collected in book form as the penultimate story (following "They") in Traffics and Discoveries (London: Macmillan 1904 [after August]).

Bauer, Helen Pike, Rudyard Kipling: A Study of the Short Fiction (1994)
Carrington, The Life of Rudyard Kipling (1956)
Bodelson, C.A., Aspects of Kipling's Art (1964)
Gilbert, Elliott, The Good Kipling (1970)
Tompkins, J.M.S., The Art of Rudyard Kipling (1959)
Wilson, Angus, The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling (1978)
Further Bibliography in Bauer 108.

My experiment in hypertextuality does not attempt any real interpretation. Usually I merely fill in vocabulary from Websters and some basic geography (mostly from the resources of the internet). However, I found the geographical background, which had been a blur to me, illuminating. If I'd had any idea how much time it would take, I never would have done it! But like Borges, I am a Kiplingaholic.

[An Elizabethan "forgery" written by Kipling. So the themes, fate and love, will be exactly parallel.]

[[L, "simply."]

[["a variety of yellowish-green olivine, used as a gem"]

[[modern Simon's Town, near Cape Town; it is on False Bay, east of the Cape Peninsula. Named after Simon van der Stel, governor of Cape Town, 1679-1712, it was a British naval base starting in 1814; the Brits finally withdrew in 1957. It is now the principal harbor of the South African Navy.
South Africa
Cape Town
Map of Cape Town
South Africa, Western Cape ]

[[The first of many details that give a military background to this story. In the Boer War, 1899-1902, Great Britain defeated the Boers (Dutch colonists or descendants of same) of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic in South Africa. The more recent imperialist group overpowers the more settled imperialist group. Kipling spent January to March in South Africa from 1900 to 1908. "The White Man's Burden" had been published in 1899.]

[["1, a covering for an outside wall, as of a frame building, consisting generally of overlapping shingles, boards, aluminum panels, etc. 2, a short railroad track connected with a main track by a switch and used for unloading, bypassing, etc.; sidetrack"]

[[From Malaysia, part of Indonesia. South Africa was a crossroads of cultures. Note the "Greeks" just a few lines above this.]

[[Shelters Fish Hoek from the strong southeast wind]


[[A railroad's wheeled vehicles.]

[[Northeast of South Africa, just west of Mozambique.]

[[The great bay east of the Cape Peninsula.]

[[Bulawayo, in southwestern Zimbabwe, north of South Africa]

[[We never see the contents of Hooper's pocket, though we know exactly what is in it.]

[[Tristan da Cunha. A British island (annexed in 1816) some 2,000 miles SW of Cape Town. A volcanic eruption caused the temporary evacuation of the island in 1961. What it looks like ]


[[The four group narrators are thus now fully introduced: narrator, Hooper, Pyecroft, who appears in other nautical tales of Kipling, and Pritchard. The latter two are especially fully characterized. Pyecroft's central narrative, with its salty, amusing slang, provides a striking contrast to the grim, tragic tale he tells. Pritchard is clearly half in love with Mrs. Bathurst himself, and his characterization characterizes her indirectly.]

[[A fishing bay between Muizenberg and Fish Hoek.]

[[North of Fish Hoek, which is north of Simon's Town.]

[[L, "by virtue of his office or position"]