Esme – H. H. Munro

by H. H. Munro

(about 1700 words)




While on a fox hunting trip one day, the Baroness and her friend Constance happen to come upon a hyena that has escaped from a local, private zoo. The hyena is quite tame, and follows the two mounted women as they head off after their disconcerted hounds. Constance is quite perturbed by the presence of the hyena, but the Baroness takes it in stride, and decides to call the animal Esme.

As they are riding, Esme suddenly takes off into some bushes, where he mauls a gypsy child to death. Constance is mortified, but the Baroness shakes it off like it’s no big deal. Esme unfortunately comes to his own grisly end when he is struck and killed by an automobile. Finally the Baroness is stirred into outrage, claiming that the motorist killed her Esme. Deeply distraught over having killed someone’s presumed dog, the motorist apologies and gives the Baroness an expensive broach as compensation. She sells this and gives none of the money to either Constance nor Lord Pabham, the hyena’s supposed owner. She explains it thus:

I pointed out that the Esme part of the affair was my own invention, and the hyena part of it belonged to Lord Pabham, if it really was his hyena, of which, of course, I’ve no proof.

Saki--H.H. MunroHector Hugh Munro (AKA Saki) was born on December 18, 1870 in Akyab, Burma. His father was an inspector-general of the police there. His mother unfortunately died in a cow related accident and Munro and his brother and sister were sent to live with their obligatorily cruel aunts. After completing his schooling, Munro returned to Burma where he enlisted in the Colonial Burmese Military Police, returning to England again only due to poor health. For a time he was a journalist, writing satirical pieces for different newspapers and magazines. He worked as a foreign correspondent after that, and began publishing his first novels around the same time. Being like most bad-ass writers of the time, he volunteered for the army at the start of World War 1, even though he was technically too old, and wrote many of his short stories from the trenches. He was fatally shot by a German sniper in France in 1916.


8 thoughts on “Esme – H. H. Munro

  1. I’m not sure who I’m sorrier for–poor dead Esme, poor dead gypsy child, poor petless Lord Whatshisname (though why he kept a hyena in the first place, in England, takes points off), or the poor naïve driver who gives up a heirloom brooch (assuming it was a heirloom, since it seems it was given up at the moment of the accident, and why would anyone be carrying a spare expensive brooch if it was meaningless, right?) to this cold-hearted woman. Wow. Talk about a moral quandary.
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

    • I know, right? If you read the original story (no pressure) it’s even worse, because it’s told in such a casual, dismissive way, as if the death of the small child equates to the hyena trampling someone’s flower bed. It certainly makes it more amusing, but horrifying at the same time.

    • Not in those exact words, no. But I’m digging up lots of interesting family deaths in all this research. The world was a death trap in the previous centuries. 😛

  2. Hey, Saki! Huzzah! I love him! Though Esme isn’t my favorite story of his- I recommend Gabriel Ernst, The Toys of Peace, Laura (if that’s the one with the otter)… and… some others? Anyway, Saki was pretty neat, though the dangerous thing about reading his short stories is that you’ll get three funny ones in a row and you’ll start on the fourth… it seems like it will be funny… and then you discover it is the most depressing story on earth, and it is too late not to be sad. Or that is my experience with his work, anyway. Great piece on a fun writer!

  3. oooo! Thank you for the recommendation. I quite enjoyed this story, but it’s the first of his that I’ve read (that I’m aware of). Oh dear. He pulls the rug out from under the reader, huh? Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I always love it when someone has read the authors I showcase here.

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