"Sea Constables"

Notes on the text




[July 25th 2011]

[Page 25, line 1] Carvoitz An invented name, assembled out of Carlton, Savoy and Ritz, all fashionable hotels of the time.

[Page 26, line 10] rose-candles Rose-scented candles, probably pink.

[Page 26, line 13] four men After this in Nash’s:
“stared at the long perspective of diners busy at a hundred tables. Then they…”
[Page 26, line 24] nut pre-1914 slang for the excessively dandified young men about town whom P.G. Wodehouse wrote about, to the enjoyment of almost one and all. It was frequently spelt “knut,” as in the song “Gilbert the Filbert, the Colonel of the Knuts.”

[Page 26, line 26] Vandyke beard A neat pointed beard, after the fashion of Anton Van Dyck, the famous Flemish painter (1599-1641).

[Page 26, line 33] yet. After this in Nash's:

"It's just the same as when I was here last summer."
This implies that either she was already in England when war broke out, or she arrived very soon afterwards.

[Page 27, line 1] dubs American slang of the period, nearly equivalent to its English contemporary “duds” – ineffectual or useless citizens.

[Page 27, line 2] doing something In peace British officers got out of uniform and into plain clothes whenever possible. For some time after 1914 most officers continued this practice when on leave, which left them open to such misunderstandings.

[Page 27, line 6] piece-goods Literally, textile fabrics, especially Lancashire cottons but then colloquial for engaging young women.

[Page 27, line 7] Palemseum Compounded from the Palladium, Empire and Coliseum music-halls, in London, near Oxford Circus, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square, respectively.

[Page 27, lines 15-16] Cheer up … soon be dead! A common catch-phrase of the period just before the 1914-18 war. This comes from "The Arcadians", a 1909 Musical Comedy with lyrics by Arthur Wimperis and score by Lionel Monkton and Howard Talbot. It opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre and ran for 809 performances. It is sung lugubriously by an unsuccessful jockey with the words:

I’ve gotter motter–
Always merry and bright!
Look around and you will find
Every cloud is silver lined;
The sun will shine
Although the sky’s a gray one.
I’ve often said to meself, I’ve said,
“Cheer up, Cully, you’ll soon be dead!
A short life and a gay one!”


[we are indebted to David Page for this note: Ed.]
It’s a short life and a gay one!” [Page 27, lines 20-22] full lootenant … plain sub He has been promoted from sub-lieutenant to lieutenant.

[Page 27, line 23] flat in the floor flat-bottomed.

[Page 27, line 24] washboards nautically, boards fitted to prevent the sea coming inboard over the ship’s side, or if it had arrived, from going down a hatch or other opening into the interior.

[Page 27, line 27] Vesiga soup “Vesiga is the spinal cord of the sturgeon … It is obtainable commercially in the shape of a dried gelatinous ribbon, white and semi-transparent” (Escoffier, 196). Freeling suggests that “the soup was a very strong, good consomme with goodies therein.” In Nash’s, Portson adds:
“Henri told me it’s made from the hind legs of sturgeons – most nutritious.”
[Page 27, line 29] Pol Roger ’04 A vintage champagne. According to Freeling “1904 was an outstanding year for many wines … It was certainly ‘millesime’ in the Champagne, where only exceptional years are given a date at all, and must in ’15 have been supreme.”

[Page 27, line 32] alleged nationality The common British tendency to distrust foreigners was accentuated by the war.

[Page 28, lines 2-3] Bethisy-sur-Oise A village some 40 miles to the north-east of Paris. Evidently Henri’s nephew had been wounded in the hand during the Battle of Guise, a counter-offensive launched by the French Fifth Army late in August 1914, which gave both French and British forces in that area a brief but welcome respite before they rallied for the Battle of the Marne which finally checked the German advance.

[Page 28, lines 19-23] sole ŕ la Colbert … Croutes Baron: Sole ŕ la Colbert would be egged, crumbed and deep-fried, then boned and stuffed with garlic-and-herb butter (Escoffier 218). Escoffier lists 50 ways of cooking Supreme de Volaille (chicken breasts) (377-381). Freeling points out that the beef fillet must have been cooked whole, since one of the diners takes a second helping. The rich buttery sauce, he says, would be handed separately. Escoffier gives a variety of recipes for Croutes (though not Baron), which are savouries served on a bread base. Food rationing would not be introduced until 1917.

According to Freeling, Richebourg ’74 was “one of the most monumental of Edwardian Burgundies.” He adds: “Wine purists might raise an eyebrow at this and wonder whether in ’15 the stuff would still be drinkable…. what is meant was that this should have been the grandest bottle in a very well-stocked cellar!”

[Page 28, line 33] a fortnight After this in Nash’s:
“It makes one who takes her art seriously feel so hopeless.”

[Page 29, line 6] one-pounder a light quick-firing gun, firing shells of this weight.

[Page 29, line 31] Lords of the Admiralty The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, with their Secretary, formed the Board of Admiralty which administered and directed the Navy. Their head, the First Lord of the Admiralty, was then a politician of high rank in the Cabinet.

[Page 30, line 2] conveyancing Winchmore is deliberately misapplying a word meaning the legal transfer of property to the wartime duty of convoying ships, no doubt having in mind Maddingham’s peacetime operations as a banker and company director.

[Page 30, line 9] Diesel The heavy-oil internal combustion engine invented in the 1890’s by Herr Doktor Rudolf Diesel of Munich. Its adoption in submarines ten to fifteen years later was an important step in their development.

[Page 30, lines 15-6] dropped off the hooks was carried away from the davits.

[Page 30, line 18] a lady in the Promenade the Promenade of the Empire music hall, frequented by prostitutes. [Page 30, lines 25-6] Purity League Self-appointed guardians of public morals.

[Page 30, line 31] come in useful for bait Winchmore either suspected that the neutral had a rendezvous with a submarine or hoped he might attract one.

[Page 30, line 33] Jolly Roger Normally the pirate’s black flag with white skull and crossbones. Here merely a light allusion to the champagne generously provided by Portson.

[Page 31, line 5] Gilarra Head Contrary to Kipling’s usual practice in normal times, this and most other minor place names in this story are fictitious. It can be deduced, however, that the general course of the suspicious neutral was from Scotland down the East Coast of England, down the English Channel, and finally up and down the Irish Sea.

[Page 31, line 7] Lights out The coastal lighthouses and light buoys were generally shut off, except briefly by special arrangement, to avoid assisting the enemy.

[Page 31, line 9] I was under his stern Thus using the neutral as a warning against mines and navigational hazards.

[Page 31, line 14] little Navy boy The steam launch (probably a naval picket boat, but Winchmore uses the civilian equivalent with which he is familiar) would have been commanded by a midshipman, aged 15-18.

[Page 31, line 18] quarter The after section of a ship’s side.

[Page 31, line 20] cutter Here a rowing boat, manning five oars on each side.

[Page 31, line 21] subs Junior army officers, probably second lieutenants. (Here short for “subalterns”.) They are likely to have been sappers (members of the Royal Engineers) who were responsible for the defence of harbours and anchorages.

[Page 31, line 26] anything on the move Such as U-boats or minelayers.

[Page 31, line 30] stern sheets The open space between the after thwart and the stern of the boat.

[Page 32, lines 5-6] tail-light, head-light and side-lights The stern-light, showing a white light aft; the white steaming (or masthead) light forward, showing ahead and to two points abaft the beam either side; a green light and a red light, showing from right ahead to two points abaft the starboard and the port beam, respectively.

[Page 32, line 12] snotty A familiar term for a midshipman.

[Page 32, line 19] his glass After this in Nash’s:
“at the thought of it, and went on, ‘What a noble thing that Hymn of Hate is, ain’t it! I was trying to recite it to my engineer next morning, and all I could remember was the curse in The Jackdaw of Rheims. They’re awfully alike, don’t you think?”
“The Jackdaw of Rheims” is a narrative poem by the Rev. R.H. Barham (1788-1845).

[Page 32, line 26] bread and Worcester sauce His antidote for seasickness. Worcester sauce is still one of the well-known English condiments.

[Page 32, line 30] ketch A fore-and-aft rigged sailing craft with two masts, a main and a mizzen. The main mast carries a much larger sail. The mizzen is stepped forward of the rudder. (A yawl is similar but carries the mizzen further aft, abaft the rudder.)

oil auxiliaries Engines of moderate power, probably diesels, for use in a calm or with adverse wind or tide.

[Page 32, line 31] beamy bus A broad-beamed craft should be less inclined to roll than a narrow one, but any ship or vessel will roll if the sea and swell happen to coincide with her natural rhythm.

[Page 33, line 2] me and Nelson Vice-Admiral Nelson (1758-1805), hero of the battle of Trafalgar, was also subject to seasickness.

[Page 33, line 4] Quaker An outsider’s name for a member of the Society of Friends, whose beliefs discourage violence, ritual, ostentation and formal preaching, amongst other things, but do not prevent some of them acquiring wealth.

[Page 33, line 16] Scarborough A Yorkshire seaside town. We infer that Winchmore had dogged “Uncle Newt” from Scotland to this area.

[Page 33, lines 17-18] “all go to Heaven … Roll!” Snatches of revivalist hymns.

[Page 33, lines 19-21] peach-Melba ”Peach” was current slang for a particularly attractive young woman. Peach Melba was a dessert, consisting of vanilla ice-cream, lightly stewed peach, and raspberry sauce. It was named for Dame Nellie Melba, the famous Australian soprano.

[Page 33, line 28] over the rail After this in Nash’s:
“’He was over the rail too, and where it all came from I couldn’t make out! But a st-stout fellow – a stout fellow [see note to p. 35, line 22]. And I used to think he was a damned old bill drawer.’
‘Thank you,’ said Maddingham acidly. ‘As a Co-Director of – ‘
‘But Jarrett has a heart of gold,’ Winchmore continued. ‘You can hear him as far as you can see him. He took charge of my Uncle Newt like the Public Trustee. I …”.
Cordelia could probably be heard from a distance because the “oil auxiliaries” were thumping away.

[Page 34, line 11] Lyndnoch and Jarrott’s Bank A fictitious private bank.

[Page 34, line 13] Cowes week Still an event in the social and sporting calendar, when yacht racing takes place in the Solent under the auspices of the Royal Yacht Squadron, at Cowes in the Isle of Wight during the first week in August.

[Page 34, line 17] Belfast-built The most notable builders at Belfast, Northern Ireland, were Harland and Wolff, who turned out everything from giant liners downward.

[Page 34, line 19] Goneril The passage that follows implies that the Navy changed her name to Culana, after accepting her from Jarrett, and that she met her end in an undeclared enemy minefield off Ireland.

[Page 34, line 28] dirty work more minelaying, probably by U-Boat.

[Page 35, line 5] Margate A town at the north-east corner of Kent, some 200 nautical miles from Scarborough.

[Page 35, line 8] appealed to me After this in Nash’s:
“Did you board my friend?’ ‘Not I. I’d just been strictly warned against “complicating the existing situation,”’ Portson replied. ‘Sorry,’ Tegg murmured, apparently without reason, ‘but – politics is politics.’ ‘So I gathered,’ Portson went on. ‘I was to exercise tact and the greatest consideration in view of the interests involved!’”
[Page 35, line 11] Channel The English Channel.

[Page 35, line 14] the Wash The bight in the English East Coast, in about 53 degrees north latitude, between Lincolnshire and Norfolk.

[Page 35, lines 15-6] kinks and curves The implication is that he was avoiding mining hazards known to him but not to the patrols.

[Page 35, line 17] found out Perhaps by inadvertently touching off a mine.

[Page 35, line 22] stout fellow A current expression for a likeable, reliable man. Here ironic.

[Page 35, line 27] in demand By U-boats in need of fuel.

[Page 35, line 29] soundings A point at which the sea’s depth becomes sufficiently shallow to allow it to be measured by a ship’s hand leadline. Here it is the edge of the Continental shelf in the western approach to the English Channel.

[Page 36, line 5] Irish Channel This seems to include here not only the Irish Sea but its approaches, the North Channel and the St George’s Channel in the south.

[Page 36, lines 8-9] gave him a gun across the bows fired a shot ahead of him as an order to stop and submit to examination.

[Page 36, line 11] heave to stop, without anchoring. A steamer goes astern to take the way off a sailing ship has to trim the sails so that the wind forces ahead and astern are balanced.

[Page 36, line 21] Antigua One of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies, some 3,000 miles to the southwestward.

[Page 36, line 30] There was a young bride There is more than one limerick, of varying degrees of propriety, about Antigua. In the manuscript this one is completed “He replied ‘Oh my Queen / Is it manners you mean / Or do you refer to my figuar?’”

[Page 37, lines 4-5] knocked out of his reckoning Forced away from his intended course.

[Page 37, line 21] a decision After this in Nash’s:
“I think that was legitimate, don’t you?”
[Page 37, line 27] afterward After this in Nash’s:
“Then he fairly took my breath away.”
[Page 37, line 29] glengarry A type of Highland bonnet.

[Page 37, line 30] Carlsbad Now Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, near the German border. A spa whose mineral springs provided a fashionable cure for liver complaints and troubles caused by uric acid.

[Page 37, line 31] wagon-lit A sleeping-coach on a train in mainland Europe.

[Page 38, line 14] hauled over the coals Severely reprimanded.

[Page 38, line 15] two cables 400 yards – rather farther than one would expect a minor war vessel to take station.

[Page 38, line 16] yaw A deviation from course, normally involuntary, but Maddingham suspected that it might be an attempt to lead him into danger.

[Page 38, lines 21-22] ‘Give you my word, Tegg After this in Nash’s:
“’What was your idea in lying behind him?’ Portson asked. ‘Wouldn’t alongside have been handier?’ ‘Not with oil engines, I think,’ was the answer. ‘They are right aft and you run less risk of lighting up the main oil tanks if you get a shot in there. I was hoping to save the oil.’ ‘That’s rather a wheeze,’ said Portson. ‘I must try it some day.’
“Uncle Newt” was carrying oil, and was built like a traditional tanker, with the tanks forming the forepart of the vessel, and the machinery right at the stern. If Maddingham were abeam of him, and had cause to fire at him, he might have holed the tanks, spilling the oil (no “green” worries in those days), and wasting it. If, however, he fired from astern (“loose off into him, end-on”), then the shell would have hit the engines and all the associated machinery, rather than piercing the tanks.

[Page 40, line 4] that rig Rig, in naval parlance, is dress or uniform; the “rig of the day” is ordered to suit the occasion or task in hand. America, though generally in sympathy with the Allies, was insistent on neutral rights at sea, and belligerents had to proceed with restraint. In this case, the Admiralty suspected “Uncle Newt” but lacked sufficient evidence for action. The Inquiry was laid on with two objects to demonstrate that neutrals were being treated with consideration, and to put “Uncle Newt’s” mind at rest, in the hope of giving him enough rope to hang himself.

[Page 40, lines 10-11] blacked myself all over A stock reference to an actor conscientious enough to do this when playing the part of Othello.

[Page 40, lines 19-20] look on the law as serious. I’ve had to pay for some of it This is not an admission of corruption but merely means that in Maddingham’s normal work some lawsuits were inevitable.

[Page 41, line 4] Basin This and the details which follow give no clue to the identity of the port and can be considered fictitious.

[Page 41, line 5] tug-master The need for a tug indicates that Hilarity must have been of respectable tonnage. This emphasises the skill shown by Maddingham in harassing the neutral as described in the passages that follow.

[Page 42, line 7] of steering Instead of this in Nash’s:
“I believe it’s owing to the way the rudder’s balanced.”
[Page 42, line 14] court-martial After this in Nash’s:
“and the jokes about my blood-pressure.”
[Page 42, line 18] flare A firework like a Roman candle, normally used as a distress signal or to attract attention urgently.

[Page 42, line 23] from the nor-nor-west out of the Atlantic This implies that they were well up the North Channel, nearing the north of Ireland. Unwilling or unable to face the head wind and sea, “Uncle Newt” reversed course, hoping to shake off his escort.

[Page 42, line 32] pooped a bit Having turned down wind, they sometimes got a sea over the stern. This can be dangerous.

[Page 43, lines 6-7] made back Replied by signal.

[Page 43, line 13] Service Royal Navy.

[Page 43, line 14] Lost Tribes Ten of the twelve tribes of Israel were carried away into captivity circa 720 B.C. and their fate is a mystery. There were some people who believed that the English were descended from them; see also “The Propagation of Knowledge.”

[Page 43, line 17] Beast with Horns There are two such beasts in Revelations, chapter 13.

[Page 43, line 24] Harry Island Kipling seems to have placed this in the vicinity of the Isle of Man, but its characteristics are imaginary.

[Page 43, lines 26-7] cross-rip Tide working against sea or swell.

[Page 43, line 31] sprudel Sprudel is the most important of the Carlsbad mineral springs, and is here equivalent to “a dose of salts.”

[Page 44, line 4] couldn’t leave the wheel While it is natural that Maddingham should handle his own yacht in close proximity to another, while putting the fear of God into “Uncle Newt,” few seamen are likely to agree with the notion (which appears in more than one of Kipling’s stories) that a commanding officer can steer his ship for more than a short time without serious detriment to other aspects of command. It is easier to train a helmsman than a navigator or captain.

[Page 44, line 14] bulb In some early forms of diesel and semi-diesel engine, the fuel was injected into a hot bulb in the combustion chamber.

[Page 44, line 31] We made rather a row Instead of this in Nash’s:
“You could have heard the echoes at Weston-super-Mare.”
[Page 45, line 11] uric acid A reference to their Carlsbad contact.

[Page 45, line 19] fell back After this in Nash’s:
“He didn’t show a light at dusk, and Sherrin had to remind me. Sherrin doesn’t steer as well as I do.”
This is confusing. Without lights, Sherrin would have been worried because he couldn’t see anything to follow. But quite what Sherrin had to remind Maddingham about is not clear, unless it were to switch on their own lights – but Sherrin could have done that on his own responsibility as Officer of the Watch.

[Page 46, lines 12-3] breathing pretty loud Instead of this in Nash’s:
“with a go of bronchitis.”
[Page 47, lines 20-1] condemn me to death One might wonder whether a journey to England, even on a luxury yacht, and then to London by car or train, would have been likely to save a patient who was “seriously ill with bronchial pneumonia.” It would surely have been better to call in a local doctor and perhaps have him taken to an Irish hospital. It seems likely that by now he was semi-delirious and clinging to the thought of a doctor whom he already knew and trusted. Either way, Maddingham is unwilling to help.

[Page 48, line 11] You got that a bit mixed Some other naval officers might share Tegg’s inability to see where business came in.

[Page 49, line 7] Euston London railway terminus for Scotland and the north-west.

[Page 49, line 12] Gravesend In Kent on the north bank of the Thames estuary.

[Page 49, line 15] all neutrals After this in Nash’s:
“They drank, and descended into the palm-court where the string band plays.”


[L.L./A.W.]