I - Translate, please; I do not understand your pagan rites and
HE - I was ordered by the office to describe the flowers, and
wreaths, and so on, that had been sent to a dead man's funeral.
Well, I went to the house. There was no one there to stop me, so
I yanked the tinkler - pulled the bell - and drifted into the room
where the corpse lay all among the roses and smilax. I whipped
out my note-book and pawed around among the floral tributes,
turn-ing up the tickets on the wreaths and seeing who had sent
them. In the middle of this I heard some one saying: "Please,
oh, please!" behind me, and there stood the daughter of the
house, just bathed in tears - I - You unmitigated brute!
HE - Pretty much what I felt myself. "I'm very sorry, miss," I
said, "to intrude on the privacy of your grief. Trust me, I
shall make it as little painful as possible."
I - But by what conceivable right did you outrage - HE - Hold your
horses. I'm telling you. Well, she didn't want me in the house
at all, and between her sobs fairly waved me away. I had half
the tributes described, though, and the balance I did partly on
the steps when the stiff 'un came out, and partly in the church.
The preacher gave the sermon. That wasn't my assignment. I
skipped about among the floral tributes while he was talking. I
could have made no excuse if I had gone back to the office and
said that a pretty girl's sobs had stopped me obeying orders. I
had to do it. What do you think of it all?
I (slowly) - Do you want to know?
HE (with his note-book ready) - Of course. How do you regard it?
I - It makes me regard your interesting nation with the same
shuddering curiosity that I should bestow on a Pappan cannibal
chewing the scalp off his mother's skull. Does that convey any
idea to your mind? It makes me regard the whole pack of you as
heathens - real heathens - not the sort you send missions
to - creatures of another flesh and blood. You ought to have been
shot, not dead, but through the stomach, for your share in the
scandalous business, and the thing you call your newspaper ought
to have been sacked by the mob, and the managing proprietor
HE - From which, I suppose you have nothing of that kind in your
Oh! "Pioneer," venerable "Pioneer," and you not less honest
press of India, who are occasionally dull but never blackguardly,
what could I say? A mere "No," shouted never so loudly,
would not have met the needs of the case. I said no word.
The reporter went away, and I took a train for Niagara Falls,
which are twenty-two miles distant from this bad town, where
girls get drunk of nights and reporters trample on corpses in the
drawing-rooms of the brave and the free!
End of American Notes by Rudyard Kipling