A Bank Fraud

Notes on the Text

(These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The medical notes have been contributed by Dr. Gillian Sheehan, M.B., B.Ch.,B.A.O. 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.)


[Heading] collected under Chapter Headings in Definitive Verse and Inclusive Verse.

stuck in this context, sold a worthless horse for an inflated price.

[Page 186, line 1] Reggie Burke also appears in “The Enlightenments of Pagett M.P.” which appeared in The Pioneer on 11 and 12 September 1890, and is collected in the Sussex and Outward Bound Editions.

[Page 186, line 4] Sind and Sialkote Bank Sind is the province through which the lower reaches of the River Indus flow to the sea, and is now in Pakistan. Sialkote is a military station in the Rechna Doab, some 65 miles north of Lahore. The combination makes an excellent name for a fictitious bank.

It is interesting to remember here that Sir Charles Napier, after the Battle of Miani in 1843, is said to have used ‘peccavi’ (‘I have sinned’ in Latin) as a punning way to report his victory in a one-word despatch [Brewer] Ed.

[Page 186, line 16] four and ten after office hours, which ended at 4 o’ clock in the afternoon.

[Page 186, line 17] gymkhana … riding-picnic see the notes to “Thrown Away” and “False Dawn” (Page 45, line 5.)

[Page 187, line 1] ten and four office hours were from ten o’clock in the morning until 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

[Page 187, line 6] two thousand rupee loan … five hundred pound insurance policy Kipling is suggesting what even he, with his poor grasp of money knew to be an impossible request. Here is a customer of the bank asking to borrow £135 against a Life Policy – this amount being due at death or after a term of years, say twenty-two, £80 having been paid in premiums over the previous (say) six or seven years. The policy would have a surrender value of some £50 and the customer would be obliged to pay not only the annual premiums for another twenty years or so, but interest on the loan as well. Not a commercial proposition to the bank, but one which a hard-pressed subaltern might well try for in an emergency.

[Page 187, line 14] breaking-strain Dobrée (p. 31) notes this theme that runs through a lot of Kipling’s work, and quotes Rider Haggard’s She for a similar phrase. See the poem “The Hymn of Breaking Strain.”

[Page 187, line 23] hoondi a bill of exchange, from the Hindi hundi.

[Page 187, line 23] accommodation not lodgings, but money on loan.

[Page 187, line 30] the Gunners’ Madeira a very pleasant fortified dessert wine usually thirteen to twenty-one percent alcohol, often drunk in officers’ messes in Kipling’s day after dinner instead of port. A gallon is obviously an exaggeration and would probably kill even a hardened drinker, but this implies he can carry his liquor.

[Page 188, line 5] best county in England a matter of opinion, but Kipling was of Yorkshire descent.

[Page 188, line 13] money is cheap it can be borrowed at a low rate of interest.

[Page 189, line 12] Huddersfield and Beverley a mixed urban and rural area of Yorkshire.

[Page 190, line 27] consumption This was the name for pulmonary tuberculosis before Robert Koch isolated the tubercle bacillus in 1882. In the middle of the nineteenth century it was the most important cause of death in Britain. Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that can infect practically every organ in the body. The pulmonary form is by far the most common. [G.S.]

[Page 191, line 13] burked smothered or quietly murdered. From William Burke (born 1792) an Irishman living in Edinburgh, who was hanged in 1829 for murdering people to sell their bodies to hospitals for dissection. He, and his partner in crime William Hare, are mentioned in Kim (page 231, line 31), where Hurree Chunder Mookerjee mistakes them for authors. This pun on the name of the principal character must have occurred to Kipling when he prepared this story for collection, since the original publication of this story in the CMG reads ‘burnt’ for ‘burked’.

[Page 191, line 26] Gilbarte probably James William Gilbart, (1794 – 1863) author of Practical Treatise on Banking (1827) and

History and Principles of Banking


[Page 191, line 27] Hardie Peter Hardie, F.R.S., author of The Doctrine of Simple and Compound Interest, Annuities and Reversions (1839).

[Page 193, line 21] ‘Methody’ an abbreviation for Methodism, the evengelical Protestant Christian movement founded by John Wesley in 1739 within the Church of England, which became a separate body in 1795.

[Page 193, line 31] 116 degrees the Farenheit thermometer or 47 degrees Centigrade/Celsius. Hot enough to be uncomfortable, but in a dry climate like Sialkot, not too bad for a fit man.

[Page 194, line 22] nowt Yorkshire dialect for nothing.

[J. McG.]