Letters of Marque



Notes by Brigadier A. Mason, M.C., R.E. for the ORG, with minor additions and amendments by David Page.



[February 15 2008]

Chapter XVIII


Of the Uncivilised Night and the Departure to Things Civilised. Showing how a Friend may keep an Appointment too well



First Publication

25th February, 1888, in the Pioneer and 29th February, 1888, in the Pioneer Mail.


Notes on the text


[Page 184, lines 1 & 2] ‘Let us go hence my songs ...’ see Algernon Charles Swinburne's (1837-1909) "A Leave-Taking".

[Page 184, line 17] to stay your stomach with a well-known phrase in England used by Ben Johnson (1572-1637) in Act III Scene v. of The Alchemist and by Oliver Goldsmith (1728?-1774) in Act II Scene i. of She Stoops to Conquer. [DP]

[Page 185, line 6] Tower musket a type of muzzle-loading flintlock of about 1800 maintained in the Armoury of the Tower of London. It had a smooth bore as distinct from a rifled barrel, and was not a very accurate weapon.

[Page 185, line 21] munshis clerks.

[Page 185, line 21] vakils lawyers.

[Page 185, line 25] chowkidar watchman.

[Page 186, line 12] Swordwide Bridge this editor takes this to be a reference to the Bifrost of Norse mythology, the Rainbow bridge that ran between Midgard (middle earth) and Asgard (the home of the Gods). It was guarded by Heimdall. [DP]

[Page 186, line 19] Lethe's In classical mythology Lethe was the underworld river of which the water brought oblivion. The couplet comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act I, Scene v. and is spoken by the ghost.

[Page 187, line 10] Walter Besant Sir Walter Besant (1836-1901) English author. All Sorts and Conditions of Men was written in 1882. One of the established writers and critics who took an interest in Rudyard when he came to London the following year.

[Page 187, line 20] khet a field, possibly of battle. gunna a sin, but there is a similar word for sugar-cane.


[Page 189, line 22] A giant crane this is the Sarus Crane the largest of the cranes, which stands as high as a man. It 'step-dances' in the breeding season and, if one of the pair is killed, the survivor is inconsolable.

[Page 190, line 14] Situr the village referred to in the title to Chapter XV, a village on the road to Boondi. [DP]

[Page 190, line 25] the Quarter-Guard which should see that all are in their proper places.

[Page 190, line 29] soldier of the Queen he had served in the Indian Army – part of the British Forces in India.

[Page 192, line 2] the ‘set of the day’ the quotation has not been found but the reference is clearly an analogy to the movement of the tides, with their constant ebb and flow.


[A.M./D.P.]

©A Mason and David Page 2008 All rights reserved