American Notes By Rudyard Kipling

 -  See here.  Some time ago I had an
assignment to write up the floral tributes when a prominent
citizen had - Page 27
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Some time ago I had an assignment to write up the floral tributes when a prominent citizen had died.

I - Translate, please; I do not understand your pagan rites and ceremonies.

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 hanged.

HE - From which, I suppose you have nothing of that kind in your country?

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

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