"The New
Dispensation—II"



(notes by David Page)



notes on the text
[Feb 23 2007]

Publication history

First published in the Civil and Military Gazette, 16 December 1889. Collected Volume VIII, No. 55 of Turn-overs, 1890, and in Abaft the Funnel (Unauthorised and Authorised Editions), 1909.

Background

Kipling had been living in Villiers Street, London for almost two months before this story was first published, after his return to England from India in 1889, but it was written within two weeks of his arrival in London. A letter to Mrs Edmonia Hill in early November 1889 (before the 8th) refers to the two parts of this story (Letters 1, p.358):

Look out in the Civil and Military for two things called “The New Dispensation” which I’ve just done.
The story

Continuing on from Part I, the narrator describes how, in order to get round the problem of his dislike of housemaids, he decided to look for a man from the Indian sub-continent who would be prepared to act as his bearer or personal servant. He goes down to the London docks from which the British India steamers sail and there finds a ‘ragged and very unwashed’ Tamil lascar who admits to having some experience of working as a servant in India. When asked:

“Had he any character (reference) of any kind?”
He thought for a minute and then said cheerfully: “Not a little dam.” Thereat I loved him, because a man who can speak the truth in minor matters may be trusted with important things, such as shirts.
The narrator deals with the unwashed state when they pass a public baths, and with the ragged state by buying the lascar some cheap clothes.

When they arrive at the narrator’s chambers, he tells the existing staff that the Tamil will be working for him as his servant, but the housemaids, probably deliberately, miscall him 'the Camel'.

The Tamil proves to be an excellent bearer, and as well as arranging the laundry and sewing on missing buttons, also prepares pipes to be smoked by the narrator, cleans the rooms, and even cooks for him. The only problem is that the Tamil is looking for vengeance on another lascar who had stabbed him in the side three voyages ago on board the Rewah. He goes to meet every British India ship as it docks looking for information on the whereabouts of the Rewah. At last he is successful in getting his revenge, but in the process is fatally wounded by his enemy. He returns to the narrator’s chambers to say goodbye, but does not ask for any wages, which leads the narrator to believe that he will return. This is not to be, however, since:

"The Camel" had received payment in full from other hands than mine.
Commentary

This second part of the story abandons polemics and gives a practical display of the differences between female English servants and a male Indian servant. The former, whilst clean, are feather-brained and appear to have no pride in their work. The Indian in contrast, although ragged and unclean, shows considerable pride in doing his work properly, taking on more than he needs to in order to please his employer. Furthermore, this story demonstrates the value that he places on his personal honour by the lengths to which he goes to obtain his vengeance.


[D. P.]

©David Page 2007 All rights reserved