Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 “Why is my District death-rate low?”
  Said Binks of Hezabad.
“Well, drains, and sewage-outfalls are
  “My own peculiar fad.
“I learnt a lesson once. It ran
“Thus,” quoth that most veracious man:—

IT was an August evening and, in snowy garments clad,
I paid a round of visits in the lines of Hezabad;
When, presently, my Waler saw, and did not like at all,
A Commissariat elephant careering down the Mall.
I couldn’t see the driver, and across my mind it rushed        5
That that Commissariat elephant had suddenly gone musth. 1
I didn’t care to meet him, and I couldn’t well get down,
So I let the Waler have it, and we headed for the town.
The buggy was a new one and, praise Dykes, it stood the strain,
Till the Waler jumped a bullock just above the City Drain;        10
And the next that I remember was a hurricane of squeals,
And the creature making toothpicks of my five-foot patent wheels.
He seemed to want the owner, so I fled, distraught with fear,
To the Main Drain sewage-outfall while he snorted in my ear—
Reached the four-foot drain-head safely and, in darkness and despair,        15
Felt the brute’s proboscis fingering my terror-stiffened hair.
Heard it trumpet on my shoulder—tried to crawl a little higher—
Found the Main Drain sewage outfall blocked, some eight feet up, with mire;
And, for twenty reeking minutes, Sir, my very marrow froze,
While the trunk was feeling blindly for a purchase on my toes!        20
It missed me by a fraction, but my hair was turning grey
Before they called the drivers up and dragged the brute away.
Then I sought the City Elders, and my words were very plain.
They flushed that four-foot drain-head and—it never choked again!
You may hold with surface-drainage, and the sun-for-garbage cure,        25
Till you’ve been a periwinkle shrinking coyly up a sewer.
I believe in well-flushed culverts….
                        This is why the death-rate’s small;
And, if you don’t believe me, get shikarred 2 yourself. That’s all.
Note 1. Mad. [back]
Note 2. Hunted. [back]

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