Saki’s snobbish characters are obsessed with appearances despite their glaring flaws. In “Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger,” Mrs. Packletide travels to India to hunt. Native villagers stake out a goat to attract an ancient tiger, and when Mrs. Packletide shoots, the tiger falls dead. It is later discovered that she shot the goat, and the tiger merely died of heart failure. To save face, she bribes her hired companion to keep the secret. In “Tobermory,” Cornelius Appin announces to the skeptical guests at a weekend party that he has taught his cat to speak. The cat begins to describe the scandalous behavior he has observed among the guests. The guests plot to poison the animal rather than rectify their behavior.
Despite their veneer of respectability, Saki’s characters are heartless and petty. “Esmé” tells the story of a baroness riding on a fox hunt with a companion. They are followed by a hyena that has escaped from a local zoo. The animal seizes a gypsy child and consumes it in the bushes, and the beast itself is soon killed by a car. The baroness claims that the hyena was her show dog and later receives a diamond brooch from the contrite motorist.
Saki’s society is peopled by pretentious people who neither understand nor appreciate the art they pretend to adore. In “The Recessional,” Clovis composes a poem as the result of a wager with a poet who insists that only a rare genius is capable of publishing verse. Clovis’ poem...
(The entire section is 568 words.)