"The Three Musketeers"

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the notes on this tale in the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Plain Tales from the Hills, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.



[July 29 2012]

[Page 69, Title] "The Three Musketeers" (French: Les Trois Mousquetaires). The celebrated and enduringly popular novel of that name by Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) was serialized in March–July 1844, and set in the 17th century. It tells of the swashbuckling exploits of d'Artagnan who leaves home for Paris to join the Musketeers of the Guard. The three musketeers of the title are his comrades Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.

A musket is a muzzle-loading smooth bore long gun fired from the shoulder. It replaced the arquebus, and was in turn replaced by the rifle. See “Black Jack” in Soldiers Three. See also Kipling's verse “Brown Bess” which celebrates the musket with which the British infantry were armed between 1700 and 1815.

[Page 69, heading] This verse heading - said by the author to be from a Barrack Room Ballad - like those for "The Madness of Private Ortheris" and "The Daughter of the Regiment", and unlike the other verse headings in Plain Tales from the Hills, was not subsequently collected by Kipling. These verses may not have been written by Kipling, and their sources are unknown. The name 'Barrack-Room Ballads' was, of course, used as the title of one of his most celebrated collections, published five years later, in 1892; these were mainly written after his return to England in October 1889.

Afghan an inhabitant of Afghanistan, usually known as a Pathan in India.

Ghazi a Moslem fanatic who believes he will go straight to Paradise if he kills an 'unbeliever' - that is to say one who does not share his religious beliefs.

Kabul the capital of Afghanistan – well-known to British armies over many years.

Balar ‘Issar the High Citadel of Kabul, containing the British Embassy at the time of the 1879 massacre of the invading British by the Afghans.

[Page 69, line 5] genial blackguardism kindly and of bad character, from the scullions in a medieval kitchen who were regarded as the lowest of the low; not a recommendation for friendship, but perhaps regarded by the writer as lovable rogues.

[Page 69, line 6] Umballa (Now Ambala.) city in Ambala district, state of Haryana, India on the border of Haryana and Punjab with an Indian Army and Air Force presence - the scene of important action in Kim.

[Page 69, line 8] up-train in England a train heading for London from the country – if a provincial line , one heading for an important junction.

[Page 69, line 10] Lord Benira Trig If Benira is a Christian name it implies he is the younger son of a Duke or Marquess otherwise he is probably a Viscount or Baron.Alastair Massie, of the National Army Museum, writes: 'My view is that the colonel's complaisance on this occasion had nothing to do with official sanction and everything to do with the courtesy and deference extended to members of the aristocracy at that time. As to the possible half-holiday on Thursdays it does not seem to have been universal in the Army at the time but may well have been local practice in India.'.

[Page 69, line 11] unofficial not in the Army or Civ il Service.

[Page 69, line 12] Globe–trotter tourist. See “Pagett, M.P.” and Letters of Marque in From Sea to Sea.

[Page 69, line 13] consideration in this context implies that the soldier did not have any regard for unofficial visitors.

[Page 69, line 15] Impedimenta Latin for “the baggage of an army”

[Page 69, line 16] quartering himself arriving and expecting to be accommodated.

[Page 69, line 18] Radical supporters of Parliamentary reform before 1832 and later the progressive wing of the Liberal Party with a republican and semi-socialist policy which Kipling disliked. The word became used less in later years as the Socialist party emerged and then only with a small “r”.

[Page 70, line 6] Helanthami Cantonement either a misprint or a made-up name, as we cannot trace it in India. It has been suggested – whether seriously or not - that it may be a pun - “Hell-and-the-Army” - like the famous “Camp Kwiturbellakin” in America.

[Page 70, line 9]Thursday See 69/10 above

[Page 70, line 22] t’brass Yorkshire dialect for “the money.”

[Page 70, line 27} fower rupees eight annas the price of a bottle of whisky.

[Page 71, line 3] decoity a mispronunciation of dacoity, robbery by gangs. A similar hoax occurs in “The Son of His Father” in Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and guides. (1923}

sedukshun (seduction) an interesting play upon words - usually applied to the action of persuading a woman to surrender her chastity

cockney A Londoner. Strictly one born within the sound of Bow Bells (the bells of Bow Church) in the East End of London.

[Page 71, line 4] abdukshin (abduction) usually the kidnapping of a woman.

[Page 71, line 15] Bismarck Prince Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince von Bismarck; (1815–1898) politician and Chancellor who organised the unification of Germany.

[Page 71, line 23] naygurs slang for Indians an expression not used today.

Mallum his bat understand what he was saying.

[Page 71, line 26] thruck truck – in this instance meaning small goods – parcels.

[Page 71, line 27] Kernel’s b’roosh the Colonel’s barouche - a two-seated open carriage



[Page 71, line 29] hekka an ekka – an Indian gig or two-wheeled light carriage with an awning.

[Page 71, line 33] Thrigg 'Trigg' pronounced with a marked Irish accent.

[Page 71, line 33] neck an’ brisket a variation on “neck and crop” – completely , bodily.

[Page 72, line 2] limb short for “Limb of Satan” or child of the devil.

[Page 72, line 3] jildi fast.

Padsahi Jhil the Royal Lake.

[Page 72, line 5] chirria a small bird.

Jehannum ke marfik, mallum like hell, understand ?

[Page 72, line 6] bukkin’ talking.

[Page 72, line 7] samjao understands.

[Page 72, line 8] bolos says.

Choop be silent.

Chel go on.

[Page 72, line 9] Dekka ? do you see ?

arsty slowly.

arder half.

[Page 72, line 11] the chooper you choops an’ the jildier you chels the less you say and the faster you go.

[Page 72, line 12] kooshy pleased.

[Page 72, line 16] Bote achee ! very good !

[Page 72, line 25] Buldoo the name of a boy .

[Page 72, line 28} fly in this instance meaning quick-witted, cunning and, perhaps, always game for a little mischief, especially if there is something in it for him.

[Page 73, line 1] t’goons Yorkshire dialect for “the guns.”

[Page 73, line 3] sitha see here ('see thee', or 'see you')

A tat an’ a lookri a pony and a stick.

[Page 73, line 7] mon man.

[Page 73, line 15] cuts runs away.

[Page 73, line 18] double the army term for “run.” Still in use today.

[Page 73, line 20] Vic’oria the Victoria Theatre, now known as “The Old Vic” in the Waterloo Road, London.

[Page 73, line 22] hurroosh uproar and disturbance.

[Page 73, line 23] grasscuts grasscutters, men employed to cut and take home grass for horses; in the South of India the job is done by the wife of the sais.

[Page 73, line 24] s’elp me Bob a corruption of “So help me, God.” The end of the Oath taken at Courts Martial,

[Page 73, line 26] An’ we ran an’ they ran a familiar quotation from Murdoch McLennan’s Jacobite ballad “Sherrifmuir”, collected by Hoggin in 1821.

[Page 73, line 28] molloncolly melancholy’

[Page 74, line 11] budmash evil-doer, rogue.

[Page 74, line 20] Serpentine a lake in London’s Hyde Park.

[Page 74, line 26] ornamint ornament – a touch of sarcasm indicating that Trigg is a credit to the House of Lords, the Upper House of Parliament.

[Page 74, line 27] line of quarther–column quarter column - military close formation.

[Page 74, line 30] tattoo a native-bred pony.

[Page 75, line 1] fistes either a misprint, or a slang plural of “fist.”

[Page 75, line 3] arrmy corpsArmy corps; a major military formation within an Army, including all arms of the Service.

[Page 75, line 4] Ahmid Kheyl … Maiwund battles of the Second Afghan War of 1880; the former was a British victory, the latter a defeat, also spelt Maiwand.

[Page 75, line 9] goatskin Water used to be carried by the bhisti (water-carrier) in a goatskin turned inside out with a strap over his shoulder and the neck and three legs tied up. A bhisti gives water to Kim and the Lama in Chapter I and see also the poem “Gunga Din”.


[Page 75, line 16] suk soaked.



[Page 75, line 32] Bobs Bahadur
Frederick Sleigh, first Earl Roberts of Kandahar (1832–1914) Field-Marshal, V.C. (1858); Commander-in-Chief in India and one of the few soldiers to be successful in Afghanistan. Mentioned many times by Kipling who records riding with him at Simla when they discussed the morale of the Army (Something of Myself, p.57.) See the poems "Bobs" , and "Lord Roberts", and the Dictionary of National Biography. Roberts nominated Kipling’s son John for a commission in the Irish Guards, and died in France when he went to inspect the British troops. See also Julian Moore's notes on Kipling and Lord Roberts.

See also KJ 330/08 for an important article on Roberts and an illustration of the Luncheon.

[Page 76, line 6] envelicks envelopes.

[Page 76, line 7] a fiver Five pounds. Enough to buy 16 bottles of whisky, or a good many gallons of beer.

[Page 76, line 11] Clink slang for prison.

[Page 76, line 18] turned his glass upside down in some circles it signifies that he is prepared to fight the best man in the room.

[Page 76, line 25] notebook the narrator is a newspaper reporter who may or may not be Kipling.

[Page 76, line 27] Sherapis Serapis. Yhe Royal Navy built and operated five troopships for the Government of India – H.M.S. Crocodile, Euphrates, Jumna, Malabar and Serapis [Shipping Wonders of the World, ed Clarence Winchester, The Amalgamated Press Ltd, p. 1242].

See "The Big Drunk Draf' " in Soldiers Three.

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2012 All rights reserved