Spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sun Jul 6 13:50:41 EDT 2003

Jenne replied to Robyn:

>> Personally, I was far more put off by all the cat killing in Stalky, but I
>> suppose the determined rehabilitators have an answer to that, too.
>Nope. Potting at cats is the same as potting at rabbits. If you aren't
>planning to eat it, why hunt it?

Whilst not having the faintest idea what this has to do with Kipling's
politics or rehabilitation regarding those, I'd say they *were* planning to
eat the rabbits.  I base this judgement on known facts about the food
provided by that school at that time (and the persistent rumour that one
boy at least was sent home one holiday from the United Services College
with scurvy -- but then, that happened to a friend of mine at Millfield in
the late 1960s, so it may not be so extraordinary a public school
experience) and on comments in Kipling's memoir of the period ("Even by the
standards of those days, it was primitive in its appointments, and our food
would now raise a mutiny in Dartmoor."  "...private bargaining in our only
currency -- food." [*Something of Myself*]).  For internal evidence on the
matter in the text of *Stalky and Co*, I recall the raid on the lower
school formroom, in "Slaves of the Lamp Part 1", where the lower school
were engaged among other things in "cooking sparrows over the gas with
rusty nibs".  They were hungry all the time.  The cat was happenstance:
they were out after food-animals, bunnies.  (They also stole birds' eggs to
eat them rather than for collection purposes.)

I am still fascinated by these plural cats.  I only recall the one cat.
You know, I have a feeling that finding a very dead *rabbit* in the rafters
of a building might have led to a certain amount of suspicion that it
wouldn't have got there by itself[1], whereas the presence of a cat who
perhaps went there "mousing" was justabout plausible, feasible, whatever.
Had they not had a dead cat available, that particular plan would not have
been used, I don't think: Beetle was suggesting other possible stinks,
wasn't he -- sulphur?  I don't suppose they would have gone out looking for
a cat to kill just for that purpose, if it hadn't been an obvious
possibility presented by its already being there, because they probably
wouldn't have thought of it.

Isn't it better that they did at least make *some* use of the cat, on the
Bardot basis of "if you aren't going to eat it or wear it don't kill it"?
They had given it previous decent burial, too, 'cos they had to go and
fetch it after call-over and they drew it forth from under a pile of stones
to show Beetle.

(Hey, I don't *need* to re-read Stalky, I'm beginning to realise I know
whole chunks of the blessed thing by heart!)

[1] it would have been a waste of food, too.  They wouldn't have done it.


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