Mrs Bathurst

Notes on the text

Edited by Alastair Wilson, who writes:
as with previous notes for the New Reader’s Guide, I am deeply indebted to the Editor of the notes on this tale in the Old Reader’s Guide (ORG), R.E. Harbord, the Society’s Secretary and the man behind the production of the ORG. His first notes on “Mrs. Bathurst” appeared in the Kipling Journal in March 1960: they do not seem to have been published completely in the Journal, but other contributors, notably Professor Elliott L. Gilbert, and Rear-Admiral P.W Brock wrote KJ articles in 1961-64 which suggest that their contributions to the ORG notes must have been substantial.


[Page 339, line 1] H.M.S. Peridot the warship names here are again fictitious (as they were in virtually all Kipling’s fiction). ‘Peridot’ is a mineral, providing the ancients with a semi-precious gem.

Several corvettes named after gems were launched in the 1870s, and their successors, the light cruisers Amethyst, Diamond, Sapphire and Topaz were completing as Kipling wrote.

[Page 339, line 2] Simon’s Bay an indentation on the west side of False Bay. Simonstown, or Simon’s Town, was a British naval base until April 1957, when it was handed over to what was then the Union of South Africa, now the Republic. H.M. Ships continued to use its facilities until 1974, when there was a fuss in the British press at pictures of Royal Navy sailors enjoying themselves ashore in Capetown. (This was at the height of the period of world condemnation of apartheidt.) The following year the same group of warships returning from the Far East (the Suez Canal was closed) were ordered not to call at the Cape. The Captain’s Night Order book in one ship, on the night of their closest approach to the southern tip of Africa, had a reference to the fact that by government order any land detected on radar should be disregarded as a false echo! Thereafter, no Royal Navy warship visited the Republic until 1994.

[Page 339, line 3] up the coast up to the northward of Capetown.

[Page 339, line 4] my train from Capetown (or Cape Town) it was about twenty miles by train to Simonstown. The Kiplings spent the (English) winters in South Africa from 1899 to 1908, from 1903 onwards at the Woolsack, a house lent to them by Cecil Rhodes.

Although one tends to think of Capetown as being “at the bottom of” South Africa, looking out over the wastes of the southern ocean, it does, in fact, face north and west; and Table Bay is only open to the north-west, and the Atlantic Ocean. The Cape of Good Hope itself lies some 30 miles south of Capetown, and is not the southernmost point of South Africa: that point is Cape Agulhas, some 100 miles further east and 60 miles south of Cape Town. The early navigators, on passing the Cape of Good Hope, and seeing the sea apparently clear to the east and trending sharply northward behind them, found themselves in False Bay, a deep indentation, which is some 18 miles across. Thus they could not see the further side until they were well into the bay. They then had to claw themselves off a lee shore, and make another 30 miles or so to the southward, before they could weather Cape Agulhas to enter the Indian Ocean.

[Page 339, line 5] the Fleet technically, a fleet at that date meant a strong balanced force, including battleships, cruisers and destroyers. (The names and technical descriptions of these types of ships had only recently become codified: prior to about 1860, there were first-, second- and third-rate line-of-battleships, frigates, sloops and corvettes: iron, steam and armour had rendered these descriptions meaningless, and it had taken about 40 years to sort out what was what.) Here “the Fleet” is used colloquially to mean the warships then based on Simon’s Town, under Rear Admiral Sir Arthur Moore (“the Admiral” in line 2 above), appointed “Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s ships employed on the Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa station”.

In early 1903 these included, apart from a pair of old ironclads for harbour duties (e.g., the Griper, from “Judson and the Empire”), five cruisers of varying sizes, a sloop and half-a-dozen gunboats. These last six were obsolescent, and had been retained for coastal policing duties during the Boer War. But all that was about to change. Admiral Fisher brought home and broke up all the old gunboats “too weak to fight and too slow to run away”, and used their manpower and budgeted finance to build up the fleet in Home waters for the fight with Germany which he foresaw. Kipling was observing the passing of the Victorian navy. In strict terms, the ships at the Cape were described as a ‘squadron’, as were the ships on the other stations around the world: until October 1902, the only ‘Fleet’ described as such, and constituted as described above, was the Mediterranean Fleet. In October 1902, the Channel Squadron was reinforced to become the Channel Fleet.

Sir Arthur’s flagship was “the big Gibraltar“, mentioned by Kipling on the first page of “The Captive” – also in Traffics and Discoveries (one of the rare instances where Kipling used actual ships’ names in his tales). His Flag Captain was A.H. Limpus (later Admiral Sir Arthur), who had been specially promoted for his service as second-in-command of the Naval Brigade with the forces under Sir Redvers Buller that eventually relieved Ladysmith.

[Page 339, line 5] coaling until about 1902, steam-propelled warships were exclusively powered by coal, and the first thing that any ship did on return to harbour was to fill up her bunkers. (The first exclusively oil-fired ships in the Royal Navy appeared in 1913; and the last coal-burners didn’t disappear until about 1967)

[Page 339, line 6] the rifle-ranges throughout the Victorian era, there was scarcely a year when there wasn’t a naval brigade somewhere ashore in the Empire, keeping the peace, carrying out punitive expeditions, etc. Infantry drill and musketry were an integral part of every seaman’s training – the latter particularly so after the “imperial lesson” handed out by the Boers recently.

[Page 339, line 10] Inspector Hooper his original is said to have been a man named Teddy Layton, who was lent from the Cape Government Railways to Rhodesia as a locomotive inspector when the Victoria Falls line was under construction (completed in 1905). Kipling gave him several autographed copies of his books.

It is relevant here to discuss Hooper’s status, since it colours the initial relationships between our other two protagonists whom we have not yet met: and the apparent fact that he had a real-life counterpart. Seymour-Smith has assumed that Hooper was a policeman, on the basis of Kipling’s describing him as ‘Inspector Hooper, Cape Government Railways’ (C.G.R.). But this is almost certainly not so: he was, like his real-life counterpart, a locomotive inspector, a superior kind of engine driver, whose main job it is to monitor the driving and firing techniques of locomotive crews, and to report on the running characteristics of locomotives and rolling stock. Although it may well be that the C.G.R. had its own constabulary, in the way that British railway companies did, a police inspector would not have been ‘in command of an engine and a brake van chalked for repair’: on the other hand, a locomotive inspector (or a carriage and wagon inspector) from the running department would have been exactly the man to do the job which is implied by these words – see the note below.

[Page 339, line 12] chalked for repair marked in chalk ‘to be repaired’, and a date. Hooper had presumably been sent down to inspect wagons, etc., which were ‘cripples’, and which were to be worked back to Cape Town for repair at the main workshops. This ‘unnecessary detail’ is an example of the care which Kipling used in setting the scene of any tale. This throwaway line indicates that the train was not a scheduled one, and so Hooper could afford just to ‘run you down to Glengariff siding’ without affecting the railway’s timetable.

[Page 339, line 14] Glengariff presumably a disguise for Glencairn, the next station north of Simon’s Town. It was then only a siding: this meant a place where trains could pass one another, rather than the sense in Britain of being a side-track usually used for storage or loading and unloading of goods wagons (cf. “The Way that he Took” in Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides)

[Page 339, line 16] the Greeks every South African dorp, village or town had a shop-cum-café, then almost invariably owned by a Greek family, providing refreshment as long as there might be a demand for it.

Since it has sometimes been argued that Kipling was aiming at evoking the idea of a Greek coast, it is worth noting the number of items in this paragraph not often conspicuous in Greece; a profusion of drifted sand, moulded dunes, a crowd of Malays, a tiny river flowing in hot weather, a coastal railway line and a tide leaving a high-watermark (the Mediterranean is virtually tide-less).

[Page 339, line 19] a plank-platform Britons were used to their station platforms being solidly built in stone or brick, with a gravel or asphalt surface. Thus the ‘plank-platform’ has a slightly exotic sense. (In Britain, wooden Halts were just starting to appear as a result of the Light Railways Act of 1896.)

[Page 339, line 23] A crowd of Malays a substantial number of labourers from India and Malaya were brought to South Africa in the latter part of the 19th century, and formed (and still form) a substantial segment of society, especially in the Cape Province and Natal. Their stock formed the basis of the Cape coloured population.

[Page 340, line 10] south-easter: the prevailing wind of the South African summer is southerly or south-easterly. (Which is why sailing ships bound for Australia and the Far East rarely saw the Cape of Good Hope, nor called at the Cape on their way out: they would take a slant far more to the south (some 250 miles or so) before turning eastwards with the westerlies behind them; coming home was a different matter, they would come relatively close to the Cape before turning north-westwards ) In the coastal area it is a dry wind and its persistence and strength can be very trying.

[Page 340, line11] Elsie’s Peak a hill rather north of Glencairn, overlooking Vishoek. There is no local record of an eponymous Elsie; the peak may be named after a bird called the elsie, avocet or kluit (recurviirastra avosetta), a wader often seen in the Cape Town area. (Others say it derived from a kind of tree called Els.)

[Page 340, line 12] tickey beer a ‘tickey’ was a small silver threepenny ‘bit’ which remained in use in South Africa long after its equivalent in other countries had been replaced by a larger coin of some base alloy. ‘Tickey beer’ owed its cheapness to being locally brewed: the more highly regarded imported beers would have cost something like a shilling (12 old pennies) even in those days. One critic, in interpreting the tale said that ‘tickey’ meant sixpence, rather than the threepenny bit. Not so, the sixpenny piece was a ‘tizzy’ (similar but different): in the Navy, the Paymaster was known to the lower deck as the ‘tizzy-snatcher’, from his ability to claw back mulcts of pay for various causes.

[Page 341, line 1 Wankies today known as Wankie, a coal mining town and a large game reserve in Zimbabwe, then known to Europeans as Mashonaland; later Southern Rhodesia: it lies on the railway, for which the coal traffic was a major source of revenue, as well as a source of fuel. It is about 60 miles S.E. of Victoria Falls. [There was another Wankies, also in Zimbabwe, a small place actually on the Zambezi, some 30 miles to the northward and eastward of Wankie.]

[Page 341, line 1] Buluwayo Bulawayo: today, the second city of Zimbabwe: it lies in the southern part of Zimbabwe, some 1350 miles from Cape Town. It was then the only township of any size in Matabeleland (the southern portion of modern Zimbabwe), and was the base from which the railway was pushing north to the Zambezi, and on to Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). (Its name was correctly spelt when the story appeared in the Windsor Magazine)

[Page 341. line 5] Belmont near the border between the Cape Province and the Orange Free State, the scene of an action on 23 November 1899, one of the first in which a British Naval Brigade took part in the South African War of 1899-1902 (the Boer War). The Royal Marines in fact obtained greater distinction at Graspan, two days after Belmont. The implication here is that “a voice” (which turns out to belong to Petty Officer Pyecroft) wants a Royal Marine to lead the “engagement”.

[Page 341, line 14] Hierophant the chief priest of the Eleusinian mysteries. As mentioned in the earlier stories, classical names were often given to British cruisers, so Kipling’s choice of this fictitious one is not necessarily aimed at heightening a Grecian atmosphere. [At this time, there was a Doris at the Cape, with Astraea, Imogene, Theseus, Thetis, Psyche, Melpomene, Daphne, Hermione, Iphigenia and Pylades scattered elsewhere around the world.]

[Page 341, line 14] down the coast towards Port Elizabeth, some 400 miles eastward from Simon’s Town.

[Page 341, line 15] Tristan d’Acunha now usually written Tristan Dacunha: an island in the South Atlantic Ocean, some 1750 miles west of Cape Town, now well-known because of the eruption of its supposedly extinct volcano in 1961, which resulted in the two-year exile of its population, most of whom returned in 1963. It is now one of the few places in the world which cannot be accessed by air.

[Page 341, line 17] boiler-seatings the bed-plates of the boilers, down in the bilges of the boiler rooms, difficult of access, and liable to corrode.

[Page 341, line 23] Agaric a mushroom or variety of fungus. There were a number of distinctly un-heroic names, particularly among the Navy’s small warships, but the Admiralty never resorted to fungi and such-like – although during World War I there was a large class of sloops built with flower names, resulting in such non-nautical names as HMS Wallflower; the names were repeated in world War II, and then included HMS Coreopsis.

[Page 341, line 29] my prophetic soul “O my prophetic soul! My Uncle” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene v.)

[Page 341, line 32] coat Petty Officers were then “dressed as seamen”: that is to say they wore “square rig”, like Leading Seamen and below. This comprised blue bell-bottomed trousers (which were creased at the side, hence “square rig”) and a “frock”, which was cut quite loosely and gathered in at the waist, and tucked inside the waistband of the trousers. (The sailor on the front of a packet of Player’s cigarettes is wearing a frock, and until 1997, the crew of the Royal Yachts wore this rig.) Pyecroft did not wear a “coat”, in the sense of a garment which buttoned in the front, but a bottle of Bass could quite easily have been stowed inside the front of the frock.

[Page 341, line 32] quart two pints (1.136 litres)

[Page 341, line 33] Bass still one of the best-known English bottled beers: originally brewed in Burton-on-Trent.

[Page 342, line 4] verbatim word for word. Here Pyecroft mean that the Sergeant’s appeal was not a verbal one.

[Page 342, line 16] Muizenburg, St. James’s, and Kalk Bay all places on False Bay, to the north of Simon’s Town.

[Page 342, line 25] Number One rig best uniform: Pritchard wore the red coat of the Royal Marine Light Infantry.

[Page 342, line 25] purr Mary, on the terrace a pun on the motto of the Royal Marines – Per Mare, Per Terram (by land and sea). British land regiments have, and are rightly proud of, many battle honours carried on the regimental Colours. The Royal Marines have but one, their first, “Gibraltar”: for the rest, the globe of the world is their Honour – there is nowhere in the world, by land or sea, where they have not fought with distinction..

[Page 342, line 33] aggravated desertion desertion, leaving one’s ship without the intention to return, was a problem for the Navy, in particular, at this time. Sailors and Royal Marines were all volunteers (the days of the press gang were long gone), and entered into a contract with the Crown for their employment. They might not have been paid much, and their living conditions were, by today’s standards, poor: but they were fed and paid regularly, had free medical care, complete job security, and a non-contributory pension paid when they left the Navy. But the expanding colonies, the U.S.A. and the South American states offered seemingly unlimited opportunities to men who were not afraid of hard work, and were prepared to stand on their own two feet – Kipling expressed the frustrations of a soldier at this time in his verses “Chant-Pagan” and“The Return” However, as frequently happens, he is trying to be a bit too clever: an aggravated offence was one which was compounded by some additional factor: e.g., to be absent over leave was an offence, but might be “an aggravated offence, Sir, the ship being under sailing orders”. Desertion, however, was desertion, and couldn’t be aggravated – it was a serious offence; full stop.

[Page 343, lines 1 and 2] absence without leaf as mentioned in the previous stories (‘The Bonds of Discipline’ and ‘Their Lawful Occasions’), ‘leave’ was often pronounced ‘leaf’; and this persisted, particularly among West Countrymen, until the 1960s. Here, in the detail, Kipling gets it right: to prove desertion, it had to be shown that the deserter did not intend to return to his duty (for example, by disposing of his uniform kit, either before or after the act of desertion).

[Page 343, line 4] Vancouver in 1887, a small town at the end of the Canadian Pacific Railway (completed in 1885) recovering from a disastrous fire, Vancouver is today a large city on the coast of the mainland of British Columbia. Geography as taught in British schools does not always distinguish clearly between this and Vancouver Island, to the westward. The reference intended here is to the island, which was where the British naval base of the Pacific squadron was, at Esquimalt.

[Page 343, line 5] Who pulled bow … the foremost oar in a pulling (rowing) boat – not a very suitable position for one of Pritchard’s bulk, but perhaps he was slighter in `87.

[Page 343, line 5] gig a light ship’s boat.

[Page 343, line 6] Boy Niven a Boy was a rating, being junior to an Ordinary Seaman, and aged under 17½.

[Page 343, line 7] court-martialled here, perhaps, Kipling underestimates the considerable powers of summary punishment then within the Captain’s jurisdiction: we know they were not charged with desertion but only with being absent over leave (or possibly with improperly leaving their ship): both such offences were well within the Captain’s powers of summary punishment. And there was always the difficulty, on a distant station, of assembling enough officers of suitable seniority and impartiality to form a Court. [The Pacific, and the South-East Coast of America, stations, whose squadrons usually consisted of no more than three ships, were always hard-pressed to hold Courts-martial.]

[Page 343, line 8] the story of Boy Niven in all probability there was a story of this sort, which Kipling adopted in a suitably disguised form, but enquiry of the most likely authorities, including the Provincial Archivist of British Columbia has not traced it.

The appeal of a new life of independence (and perhaps the possibility of a lucky strike in the goldfields) tempted many men to desert from their ships in B.C., California and Australia.

[Page 343, line 18] balmy according to Eric Partridge, ‘balmy’ or perhaps better, ‘barmy’, might mean anything from stolid to manifestly insane but generally implied just a little mad. Pritchard may have used it here mainly for its alliteration with Barna(r)do.

[Page 343, line 18] Barnado Orphan Dr, Thomas John Barnardo (sic) (1845-1905) in 1867 founded the first orphans’ home of what became a great national charity with 112 Homes. A naval school near Norwich trained some of the boys for the Navy and Merchant Navy (it closed in 1949). Barnardo’s still exists as a Charity, working with and for children, but the last Home closed in 1989, largely as a result of social changes, and the greater involvement of Social Services provided by local authorities.

[Page 343, line 21] cocoa-nut woman it is not clear whether she sold cocoa-nuts or ran a cocoa-nut stall on fairgrounds.

[Page 343, line 23] Spit-Kid Jones a spit-kid is a naval spittoon, vide ‘The Bonds of Discipline’, page 57, line 5. In some ships, failure to use it was punished by making the offender carry one slung round his neck until he had caught someone else in the act. The previous reference to Marine Jones, as “him with the mouth” implies that his shipmates considered his mouth to be as large as a spit-kid (usually about 18 inches (45cm) across).

[Page 344, lines 12-13] the Vancouver archipelago now usually referred to as “the Gulf Islands”. The British (now Canadian) naval base at Esquimalt is on the southern tip of Vancouver Island: round the south-east corner there are a large number of islands lying between Vancouver Island and the mainland of Canada and the United States. It was round one of these that Niven took his gullible shipmates.

[Page 344, line 13] the picket the naval police: see ‘The Bonds of Discipline,’ page 43, line 4. The more usual naval word would have been ‘the patrol’.

[Page 344, line 16] Heavy thunder …..unfriendly weather till conclusion of cruise the ship’s authorities were not pleased with them! As implied on line 27 they were awarded a number of days of cell punishment (14 days was usually the maximum, and, depending on their captain’s liver on the day that they were brought before him, it could be expected that they would have received anything from 7 to 14 days). This meant close confinement in a cell about eight feet by four, with a plank bed, and wooden block for a pillow, and a bucket for what we will politely call one’s ablutions. You received your normal rations, and the blanket from your hammock: your task was to ‘pick oakum’ – you were given each day two pounds weight of old rope, to pick apart fibre by fibre, until you finished up with what may be described as a ball of very coarse cotton wool. This had various uses on board – caulking the seams of the deck, and so on. If you were particularly in the Master-at-Arms’ bad books, he gave the rope to the cook to bake, which rendered the task that much more difficult.

[Page 344, line 26-27] steerin’-flat the steering-flat or tiller-flat is a compartment in the after end of the ship, housing the steering-gear. It is infrequently visited when in harbour, and was admirably suited to the administration of rough justice.

[Page 344, line 27] cells from the 1860s onwards most ships of any size had one or more cells for recalcitrant sailors – cell punishment having, in effect, taken the place of flogging in the punishment code. It was not a punishment that was frequently awarded, but bearing in mind that the average age of a ship’s company then (as in earlier years and today) was about 21, it was only to be expected that young men would kick over the traces from time to time. Cell punishment was within the summary judicial power of virtually every captain: i.e., he did not have to apply to a superior officer for a Warrant to award the punishment.

[Page 344, line 29] Signal Boatswain a warrant rank for signalmen, created in March 1890 (there were 14 in the whole Navy in 1899). Mr. Niven has done well.

[Page 344, line 31] Benin a gulf, river, district and town on or near the west coast of Africa (Benin City is now in Nigeria). The massacre of a British mission by the King of Benin in 1897 resulted in a naval punitive expedition led by Rear-Admiral Harry Rawson, then the C-in-C at the Cape, which was a military success, but was heavily punished by fever. There were 2290 cases of fever from 1200 men landed – in other words, on average each man suffered a bout of fever twice during the expedition or in its immediate aftermath: and they were ashore for only 17 days. It can also be suggested that the motives of the slaughtered mission were not of the purest – they were after commercial advantage

[Page 345, line 3] Buncrana a town on the east side of Lough Swilly, Co. Donegal, now in the Irish Republic. The Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway, a narrow-gauge line, ran from Londonderry to Buncrana and on to Carndonagh: there was a branch west to Letterkenny and Burtonport. Lough Swilly was regularly used as an anchorage by the Royal Navy at this time.

[Page 345, line 4] run “Run”, or ‘R’ is the notation made on the Service Certificate of a deserter.

[Page 345, line 6] mormonastic Kipling has invented a portmanteau word for Pyecroft: from ‘Mormon’ and ‘monastic’. The Mormons, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, are a religious society founded by Joseph Smith in the U.S.A. in 1839, and now established in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Book of Mormon, like the Old Testament, recognised polygamy, and Smith and a proportion of earlier members practiced it; but it had to be abandoned before the Territory of Utah was admitted into the Union as a State in 1896.

[Page 345, lines 11-20] This whole paragraph has a marvellous ring of truth about it, and provides a reason why Kipling’s naval tales were highly regarded among naval officers. In those days (1880s and 1890s), the small sloops and gunboats of the Australia station did a great deal of policing and patrol work in the southern Pacific Islands of Polynesia, where the charts tended to be less than 100% accurate (indeed, one of the sloops’ tasks was to make general surveys). And all too often, evidence of the existence of a previously uncharted reef was found only when you ran on to it. [This Editor’s great-grandfather had spent two years, 1867-69, in the survey vessel HMS Rifleman in the South China Sea, and a further three years in the survey vessel HMS Nassau in the Sulu Sea between the Philippines and Celebes (now Sulawesi), where, in the intervals of surveying, they were chasing pirates.]

The reference to ‘her copper’ is to the fact that for some thirty years, 1865-1895, many small warships were built with an iron frame, but an external wooden skin: this was known as “composite construction”. This, in turn, was covered with sheets of thin copper, to prevent the timbers becoming infested with the teredo worm. This practice, for wooden ships, had been introduced in the latter half of the eighteenth century. (Thus, the expression “copper-bottomed” came to mean “of great reliability” – a copper-bottomed ship was more likely to be well-found.) One might have expected that the introduction of iron hulls in the mid-nineteenth century would have seen the end of coppering, but the lack of an effective anti-fouling paint meant that iron ships, especially in warm waters, grew weeds and barnacles to such an extent as to seriously impair their speed. Thus, cruising vessels on tropical stations were usually “composite-built”. This had the added advantage that if, like the fictional Astrild, you spent half your commission “rompin’ up the beach like a she-turtle”, repairs to the wooden planking were well within the capability of the ship’s Carpenter and his crew, whereas an iron hull would have necessitated dry-docking, and factory facilities, which were very few and far between.
Not surprisingly, after repeated groundings, the copper would naturally look somewhat ragged.

[Page 345, line 17] frames the ‘U’-shaped iron or steel vertical ‘ribs’ of her hull structure.

[Page 345, line 17] sprung split, cracked, or loosened

[Page 345, line 17] The commander a slight mis-use of terminology here: Pyecroft is referring to the commanding officer of the Astrild, who was almost certainly of no more than Commander’s rank. However, as the captain of the ship, Pyecroft would almost certainly have said ”Er captain’, or ”Er Owner swore the dockyard …’ “The commander” always referred to the Executive Officer of a bigger ship (who would also have been of Commander’s rank) (sometimes known as “the Bloke”).

[Page 345, line 25] Moon must ‘ave ‘ad sixteen years’ service a man served 22 years before being discharged on a pension: therefore Moon was throwing away his accumulated pension rights, not something to be done lightly – and all for the sake of another woman (another woman, because, in Pyecroft’s words ‘he always showed signs of being a Mormonastic beggar’, and we may assume that he already had a wife – or two). The scene is being set for the circumstances of Vickery’s obsession and desertion – we are just about to meet Vickery. In the days before the state old-age pension, a service pension meant a great deal more than perhaps it does today, and to throw away one’s accumulated rights meant that one’s dependants might be condemned to penury in their old age.

[Page 345, lines 30-33]A service man within eighteen months of his pension the ORG wrote:

One wonders whether Kipling realised that warrant officers did not normally retire until they were fifty. It has also been suggested that a Sergeant of Marines would not have been likely to refer to a warrant officer as “a service man” and that this is another example that Kipling did not recognise the status of a Naval W.O.

To this Editor, the first part of that comment is entirely valid, though its relevance is not clear, since Vickery’s age is never an issue. The second part of the comment is, perhaps, unfair. We will see, in the next two pages, that Pritchard is being circumspect in his references to Vickery, because he is not really sure who Hooper may be. He had been introduced merely as “Mr. Hooper of the Railway” (page 341), and he is clearly a man in authority. He does not seem to have been wearing a uniform, and Pritchard is merely ‘closing ranks’ to protect the reputation of his Service, as he might do to any inquisitive civilian. On the next page, when Hooper starts to ask questions, it becomes apparent that Pritchard suspects that Hooper may indeed be a policeman, although nobody has yet suggested that he is. However, as has been explained in the note on page 339, line 10, Hooper was a locomotive inspector, not a police Inspector.

As regards Vickery’s age, if he was “within eighteen months of his pension”, then he would have been about 48½: promotion was slow in those days: an Able Seaman was unlikely to be rated Leading Seaman until he had had ten years’ service: a Petty Officer would have a minimum of fourteen years’ service (so Pyecroft would be in his early thirties). The earliest that a man could reach warrant rank would be about 34 or 35, giving him 15 years or so service in that rank. There is no suggestion in the tale that he is any younger. Indeed, there is confirmation of a sort in that he clearly married about 16 years ago (he has a 15-year-old daughter), and in the nineteenth century ratings, on the whole, did not marry (other than of necessity to legitimise a love-child) until they had reached at least the Leading rate. We are, perhaps, following a diversion here, but it does help to build up a picture of Vickery in our mind’s eye. He is not a young man infatuated with a woman, but a man of mature middle age, already married, and with a sexual history behind him.

[Page 346, line 4] up-country anywhere away from the main centres of population was ‘up-country’ whether north, south, east or west.

[Page 346, lines 9-10] like columns in the war. They don’t move away from the line the reference is to the Boer War. Troops could not live off the country, and there was no motor transport then, so they had to operate within reach of a railway line.

[Page 346, line 11] Salisbury now known as Harare, and the capital of Zimbabwe. It was established as Fort Salisbury in 1890, and was named after the then British Prime Minister, the 3rd. Marquess of Salisbury. When the tale was written, it was a developing township, the railhead of Rhodesia Railways, with lines from the Cape via Bulawayo and from Mozambique. It stands some 400 miles south-west of Lake Nyas(s)a, and about 1200 miles from Bloemfontein.

[Page 346, line 12] Nyassa or Nyasa. Then, the reference was to the Nyasaland Protectorate, later Nyasaland, today Malawi; or to Lake Nyas(s)a, now Lake Malawi.

[Page 346, line 14] Nyassa Lake Flotilla the lake was freely used by slave traders serving the Arabian market. In 1893, two small screw gunboats, the Adventure and the Pioneer, and the paddle vessel Dove were built for the Navy by Yarrow & Co., shipped out in sections via the Zambesi and Shire Rivers and assembled on the spot. (The Shire River runs some 200 miles south from the southern end of Lake Nyasa to join the Zambesi some 90 miles from the sea.) After two years under the White Ensign, they were transferred to the Administration of British East Africa and remained in service for a dozen years or more before the slave trade was considered to be under control. By then, of course, there were a number of other steamers on the lake.

[Page 346, line 15] a P. & O. quartermaster a Merchant Marine petty officer. His normal duties in a P. & O. liner of the period would not have been very demanding, nor required much initiative. The Navy would have had a commissioned or warrant officer in command. Hooper is implying that jobs on the Lake are not hard to come by.

[Page 346, line 20] Bloemfontein the capital of the Orange Free State, some 240 miles S.S.W. of Johannesburg.

[Page 346, line 20] Navy ammunition presumably for the naval guns mounted on improvised carriages that were landed with the Naval Brigades to help make good a military shortage of heavy guns. Here we may note that the Boer War was ended by the Peace of Vereeniging, whose articles were signed in Pretoria on the 31st May 1902. The end of that year would thus be a reasonable date for collecting the ammunition from inland storage, there being no further use for the naval guns, which would have been returned to their ships, or the Naval Ordnance stores at Simon’s Town.

[Page 346, line 21] Four months ago it will be seen shortly (page 354) that the main events of this tale took place at around Christmas time – presumably 1902 – so the meeting in the brake-van is taking place at the end of April 1903.

[Page 346, line 24] casus belli literally, an act (or a pretext) justifying a war. Used by Pyecroft to mean “the position as we know it”. In the previous Pyecroft tales we have seen that he likes to lard his speech with Latinisms, frequently incorrect, and other rather pretentious English words (e.g., “transpired”, in the same sentence).

[Page 346, line 27] Does the Railway get a reward for returnin’ ’em, then? Pritchard is suspicious of Hooper’s motives in asking the question. We, the intelligent reader, may suspect that Hooper knows something that has not yet been vouchsafed to Pyecroft and Pritchard, because of what he was in the course of revealing to the narrator just before they appeared. Pritchard is protecting the reputation of his own ‘tribe’. As a matter of fact, any person or authority giving information which led to the recovery of a deserter did receive some form of reward.

[Page 347, line 4] Because of an ammunition hoist carryin’ away we are learning a bit more about the unnamed warrant officer. He is a Gunner (at that date the following were warrant officers: Chief Gunners and Gunners; Chief Gunners(T) and Gunners (T) (‘T’ for Torpedo); Chief Boatswains and Boatswains; Chief Carpenters and Carpenters; Artificer Engineers, and Head Schoolmasters).

[Page 347, line 10] ‘Ence, “Click”.” The note on differences in the text between versions of the story shows that in the Windsor Magazine this explanation that the clicking of his false teeth was responsible for the nickname was followed by: “Mr. Vickery was ‘is Number One name”.

[Page 347, lines 10-11] They called ‘im a superior man In this case, “They” must be the naval authorities: and “superior” had a particular naval connotation: for the lower deck, from which Vickery had been promoted to warrant rank, a man’s efficiency in his duties was assessed annually, and “superior” was the highest possible.

[Page 347, lines 12-13] on the lower deck this qualifies “we” two lines earlier. In other words, the unflattering description of Mr. Vickery is that given by the ratings of his ship.

[Page 347, line 23] occupying the foc’sle the forecastle is either the forward deck of a ship or the living spaces under it. Pyecroft’s metaphor suggests that Pritchard was being too pushing.

[Page 347, line 24] status quo usually implying status quo ante; the situation as it previously was. Pyecroft’s wildest malapropisms have their undertones. The basis of this one is “Bring your stern to an anchor”, an expression for “Sit down” used by the doggedly nautical and journalists striving for nautical effect., but Pyecroft is also urging Pritchard not to allow his defence of one of his own cloth against an interloping civilian to upset the good relations that had existed.

[Page 347, line 27] regards you as a emissary of the Law again, high-flown words from Pyecroft – meaning a ‘policeman’. As has been indicated above, Hooper is not a police Inspector, but is an official of the Railway. It is suggested that, had Pyecroft thought that Hooper was a policeman, he would probably have said so. As it is, he is being slightly jocular, in an effort to defuse the situation, and to indicate that he doesn’t think so himself.

[Page 348, lines 10-15] It may also be suggested that if Hooper had been a police Inspector, he would have identified himself as such here.

[Page 348, line 14] your Mr. Vickery (see note on line 10 page 347). Kipling has overlooked the fact that, in revising the tale, he has deleted the only reference to Mr. Vickery’s name.

[Page 348, lines 18-19] Hauraki – near Auckland Hauraki is a small place, about three miles from Devonport, the present naval base across the harbour from Auckland in the North Island of New Zealand. When the ORG was written, the Editor remarked that “we were told that there was no hotel there, so Kipling may have been disguising one in Devonport, or in Auckland itself”. Hauraki is the Maori word for ‘north wind’, and gives its name to (or more properly, takes its name from) an extensive gulf on which the city of Auckland stands.

[Page 349, line 3] that a loose woman.

[Page 349, lines 5-6] work up to the higher pressures an engineering metaphor: the reference is to steam pressure.

[Page 349, lines 11-12] Such faith in a Sergeant of Marines interested me greatly that Sergeant Pritchard’s conviction of Mrs. Bathurst’s integrity should have made such an impression on the narrator does not support one critic’s theory that Pritchard was really appealing to Pyecroft to bolster a wavering faith.

[Page 349, line 15] re-spliced married again.

[Page 349, line 16] hotel for warrants and non-coms naval warrant officers were usually discouraged, both officially and by their own regard for their status, from mixing socially with non-commissioned officers (of Marines) and petty officers (who ranked with N.C.O.s). Some leeway may have been allowed in a place where both facilities and numbers were slender: perhaps they had separate bars. In the special circumstances of this story, Mr. Vickery’s association with Pyecroft on board and in Cape Town seems natural enough.

[Page 349, lines 21-22] Marroquin’s commission Marroquin is rather an odd flight of fancy as a British Warship name. It may have been intended to represent one of those adopted with a captured French ship, but marroquin, more commonly maroquin, means Morocco leather, not a very likely name for the French to use. A Spanish-American writer of that name is an even more doubtful starter.

The length of a Foreign Service commission at the turn of the century was supposed to be three years on the station concerned. An Admiral, who, as Second Naval Lord, was responsible for personnel about this time has recorded that his predecessor tried to get ships home rather earlier than this, but in his own view this was a waste of a fully worked-up ship’s company: he welcomed an excuse for prolonging a commission. Soon after becoming First Sea Lord in October 1904, Sir John Fisher shortened commissions to two years.

[Page 349, line 22] I’d been promoted to N.C.O. Before that, Pritchard would not have been entitled to use the hotel.

[Page 350, line 5] Slits this must have been Schlitz, advertised in the United States as “The Beer that made Milwaukee Famous”. It was then one of the most popular beers in the U.S.A., but the company fell on hard times in the 1970s, and was acquired by another brewer. The brand name survives as a product produced by Pabst, also of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

[Page 350, line 11] particular something especially liked, 19th and 20th century slang. (Eric Partridge)

[Page 350, line 23] a piece of her hair ribbon the ORG says:

this had been said to be the most implausible incident in the story. In the first place, it would take a lot of ribbon to tie a bow round each of four bottles of beer (page 351, line 9); secondly, and more important, after five years the beer would surely be too sour to be drinkable.

As regards the first point, it would require at least two feet of ribbon (600 mm) to tie four individual bows round the necks of four bottles, so, if she did wear a long ribbon in her hair, it would seem that she gave up the majority of her ribbon to the identification of Pritchard’s beer. As regards the second point, bottled beer certainly would keep for an appreciable length of time, since it was exported all round the empire (hence Allsopp’s India Pale Ale), but whether it would last for five years must be debatable.

[Page 351, lines 18-19] she never scrupled to feed a lame duck or set ‘er foot on a scorpion it is suggested that this is a highly significant phrase, as indicating that Mrs. Bathurst would not countenance bad character, or harm or wrong done by one person to another. If this description is accurate, then, when we come to consider Mrs. Bathurst’s relationship with Vickery, it may be suggested that she believed him to be sincere and honest in his dealings with her: had he been blatantly or provably dishonest, she would not have encouraged his attentions. However, Philip Mason, writing in an article in KJ 261, believes that the concealed meaning refers to a meeting (of which neither Pyecroft nor Pritchard are aware, and so it is never mentioned in the story) between Mrs. Bathurst and Vickery, in England, in the summer before the telling of the tale.

[Page 351, lines 26-30] ‘How many women have you been intimate with all over the world, Pritch?’ … ”Undreds,’ said Pyecroft. ‘So’ve I’ we would not wish to incur the Editorial blue pencil, but this remark deserves some examination, if only because Professor Bodelsen, in his extensive critique of this story, uses it in examining the character of Vickery. The point to be made is that it should not be taken literally: it is no more than typical masculine hyperbole. If we are to examine the literal circumstances, then let us do some arithmetic: Pyecroft and Pritchard are both of an age – around 33, with, say 15 years service in the Navy behind them. In those days, sailors did not have extensive periods ashore in barracks and training schools – one went from ship to ship, with very short breaks for home leave. On average, in each of those 15 years, the sailor will have spent six months at sea, with no contact with women. If the rest of the year were spent in harbour, then, only every other night would have been available for leave ashore. Thus, in 15 years, he might have had 1369 nights of shore leave. If we take Pyecroft’s “hundreds” as, say, three hundred, it means that he would have found a new sexual partner every fourth or fifth night of leave. All that this Editor can say is that “in extended observation of the ways and works of” sailors, he has never encountered a man who could sustain such priapic enthusiasm for so long a period. (Quite apart from aspects of morality, on his pay, no sailor could afford professional girls with such frequency)

So, the remark should not be interpreted literally: Pyecroft and Pritchard (and Vickery) may well have enjoyed a ‘girl in every port’, but in fifteen years it may be doubted whether the total reached one hundred: but, in reply to Pyecroft’s question, no-one would say “tens”. As written, though, the remark is utterly typical of young(ish) men’s conversation.

[Page 352, line 12] It this seems to be the first recorded use of the word to describe feminine charm. Elinor Glyn (1864-1943, a celebrated English writer of women’s erotic fiction, popular in the first two decades of the 20th century) picked it up some years later and eventually Hollywood imagined it had been devised by Clara Bow’s press agent.

[Page 352, line 28] I’m lookin’ at you This phrase, or a similar form “I looks towards you”, or “Here’s looking at you, kid” (Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca) is a form of toast, or salutation when drinking: the earliest printed reference that this Editor can find is in Charles Dickens’ short story, ‘Going into Society’.

[Page 352, line 32] dark and bloody mystery our predecessors who produced the ORG had not the advantage of the inestimable ‘Google’, and could not find a source for this apparent quotation or reference. However, we can say, with some confidence, that Kipling was putting Mark Twain’s words into Pyecroft’s mouth: such a quotation might, in reality, have been unlikely for a Pyecroft, but it was entirely likely for a Kipling, who greatly admired Twain. Mark Twain used the quotation at least twice – in the first instance, it was a reference to one of the first ‘leaks to the press’, when a message from President Grant to the Senate was leaked, and Twain used the words, in referring to the source of the leak, in a report to a San Francisco newspaper. The other instance was in a reference to Mono Lake, in California, which he wrote in Roughing It in 1872.

[Page 353, line 1] just now this implies that the Hierophant was a recent arrival on the Cape station, but we have already noted (page 346, line 23) that Mr. Vickery had been absent for four months, and from page 354 it will appear that the Hierophant had been on the east coast and had carried out musketry practice at, or off, Mozambique. The date of her departure cannot be fixed with any certainty, but (see The Timescale) it may be suggested that it was probably early October in the previous year which would have been 1902. Once in the swing of naval routine, time passes almost unmarked. The dates are not strictly germane to the understanding of this story, but they may be helpful in answering questions which are raised by a desire to have every facet explained.

[Page 353, line 18] Phyllis’s Circus “Phyllis” should probably read “Fillis”, the name of a circus proprietor well-known in his day. He had a permanent base in Johannesburg and is said to have been a master of haute école.

[Page 353, line 22-23] “… for a Tickey” the coat of entertainment has risen sharply since then. Thus the ORG. Well, if the cost is related to a pint of beer, perhaps not all that much. 3d, in England, would have bought one-an-a-half pints of beer. Today, the same amount of beer will cost £4.50 – and you can get a seat in a provincial cinema for about £6.00.

We are indebted to Mr. H.C. Willis of Simons Town for the following two extracts from the South African News, published in Cape Town on Friday 8th January 1904, about the time that Kipling was writing the story:

(1) News Item


The management of Fillis’s Circus have arranged to make tonight a fashionable box night, and on Saturday afternoon a grand matinee performance will be given.

(2) Advertisement





During the terrible south-easter of Tuesday night, the building stood firm, and the audience, except for the sound of the wind outside, sat as if unaware of the storm.


Box Seats, 7s. 6d. each: Stalls, 6s.
Second Stalls, 5s: Pit, 3s.: Gallery, 2s. Early doors to all
Parts from 7 to 7.30, 6d. extra.
No half prices to Evening Performance.


It will be seen that on a Grand Fashionable Box Night the prices were higher than Kipling mentions.
The Grand Parade extended from the Castle to what is now Adderley Street. For many years previously, the Circus was near the Town Pier at the bottom of Adderley Street.

[Page 353, line 27] Biograph “Biograph” and “Bioscope” seem to have reached England from the U.S.A. about 1897 as alternative terms for the “cinematograph”. “Bioscope” survived in South Africa at least until the mid-1960s.

[Page 353, line 29] a troopship goin’ to the war we have seen that hostilities ended on 31st May 1902. No doubt troopships were still repatriating troops, but would that still be news and would their sailing from England be called ‘goin’ to the war’? The inference is that some of the films, at least, were not particularly new, and were being shown as a novelty, rather than for their news value.

The ORG‘s Editor added: ‘In 1903 I well remember seeing films just like those described in the Public Baths in Andover, Hampshire. In that case, the firm exhibiting was West’s Pictures‘.

[Page 354, line 3] Cape Town In view of the limited size of Simon’s Town at that time, and Cape Town’s accessibility by rail, most libertymen from a ship at the former would go to Cape Town if they could afford it.

[Page 354, line 5] Durban on the East Coast, in Natal. The ORG wrote: ‘Many thousands of Service men who passed through Durban in 1939-45 will have lasting memories of the hospitality of its people.’ Forty-five years on, those having those memories are a dwindling band. But Durban has retained its reputation among sailors as an excellent “run ashore”.

[Page 354, line 7] Indian peeris in Persian mythology a peri was a fairy or a good (originally evil) genius: later the word was used for a beautiful or graceful being. [Today, it seems mostly to be used in cryptic crossword puzzles.]

The population of Durban includes a large proportion of people of Indian descent.

[Page 354, lines7-8] as our Doctor said to the Pusser warships of cruiser size and above carried at least one qualified medical officer, the successor to Tobias Smollett. His rank was that of Surgeon, Staff Surgeon or Fleet Surgeon (today Surgeon Lieutenant, Surgeon Lieutenant Commander, Surgeon Commander), and he was usually known as “the Doctor” , or “Doc”. He had, and has, to be both physician and surgeon.

The ‘Pusser’ was the Paymaster Lieutenant, the lineal descendant of the old Purser, who was responsible not just for pay and cash, but for victualling, catering and the custody of all stores. In 1944, he became a Lieutenant (S) (for Supply and Secretariat); and today he is a Lieutenant (Logistics) – known (ugh!) as a ‘Loggie’ sometimes, but still traditionally as ‘the Pusser’ (or, if less than popular, ‘the grocer’ or ‘the bean-counter’).

[Page 354, line 10] Mozambique this is a port in, but not the capital of, the Republic of Mozambique, formerly known as Portuguese East Africa.

On the face of it, musketry practice in Mozambique seems unlikely. As the first paragraph of this story shows, there were rifle-ranges at Simon’s Town, and in pre-NATO days most countries were not too keen on having armed aliens about unless they had been invited to take part in a ceremonial parade. Perhaps it is still more unlikely that Kipling invented it: in the absence of other health-giving activities for the ship’s company, special permission may have been obtained for this ploy.

[Page 354, line 12] submerged flat a compartment containing one or more submerged torpedo tubes. Prior to WW I, most ships larger than destroyers which were armed with torpedoes carried them in submerged tubes, which had the advantage that the enemy could not see the moment of discharge (which could be done when attacked by destroyers which all had their tubes on the upper deck, being too small to carry them down below.

[Page 354, lines 13-14] some pride of the West country had sugared up a gyroscope the gyroscope, a swiftly spinning wheel, pivoted in gimbals, that tries to keep its axis pointing in the same direction in space, had not been adopted to control the steering of British torpedoes until 1898. Some years would be needed for all ratings to acquire experience and skill in the maintenance of the gyroscope and its fairly sensitive control system, so the fact that in 1902 someone had “sugared” it up (a euphemism – see the note on “The Bonds of Discipline”, page 47, line 12) does not necessarily imply sabotage.

On the contrary, Pyecroft’s sarcastic ‘pride of the West country’ almost certainly reflects the conviction held by those born elsewhere that the sons of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset relied more on ignorance and brute force than on their mechanical skill. Indeed to the former, ‘West Country’ as an adjectival expression implied a rather unsatisfactory makeshift, e.g. knotting the ends of a parted rope rather than splicing them. “A West Country compliment” meant the gift of something that the donor had no further use for himself. (In later years, the ‘gyro E.A.’ (Electrical Artificer) was a person of considerable importance on board a warship.)

[Page 354, line 15] Carpenter an old and honourable title for another of the ship’s warrant officers: in the wooden Navy he was responsible for all aspects of the wooden structure of the ship. With the coming of iron and steel, he learned the skills necessary to maintain the hull in the new material, while still having to keep his skill in all aspects of wood-work. The Navy being the conservative body that it is in such matters, his title remained Carpenter until changed to Warrant Shipwright in 1918. Admiral Brock’s note in the ORG added; ‘This at least pleased most of the wives of these officers!’

[Page 354, lines 19-20] noddin’ like a lily gemmed with dew this sounds as though it ought to be a quotation, but we have not been able to match it – nor did the ORG.

That was what we wrote in 2008, but in 2018 John McGivering has discovered an on-line reference to the Urban Dictionary, which says that the reference is to ‘shaking off the last drops after urinating’, citing an example from the USA. We believe that this must be what Kipling had in mind when he used the phrase.

[Page 354, line 32] I went astern backed away.

[Page 355, line 7] ‘is face since opinions differ widely about the effect of this experience upon Mr. Vickery, the next three pages should be considered with particular care.

[Page 355, line 14] spirits of wine ethyl alcohol. Good taste (and almost certainly some health and safety regulation) would preclude such a display in a shop window today.

[Page 355, line 18] in the front row for some time it was not realised that for moving pictures, unlike the theatre, the front seats were not the best.

[Page 355, line 29] the Western Mail there was no train carrying that specific name at that time, but we may assume that it is an express train from Plymouth, or from Penzance. It would have had to come via Bristol in those days, and would have stopped at Exeter, Taunton, Bristol and Reading. There is no positive indication as to where Mrs. Bathurst boarded the train.

[Page 356, line 10] reticule the predecessor of the lady’s handbag.

[Page 356, line 15-16] she melted out of the picture – like – like a shadow jumping over a candle some readers see this as a piece of symbolism indicating that Mrs. Bathurst has since died. This Editor has to confess that he has not the faintest idea what Kipling meant.. We know that he gave Pyecroft high-flown expressions from time to time, but usually their meaning was intelligible, if not exactly clear. But what does “a shadow jumping over a candle” mean? For a single candle, any shadow cast by an object within its range will always be on the opposite side of the candle: and no matter how much the object may move, its shadow, from that candle, can never pass over that candle. Where there is more than one candle, then a moving object, casting a shadow from one candle, may indeed pass over another, but would be unaffected by its passage.

[Page 356, line 23] enteric a patient in the last throes of typhoid fever, a disease responsible for many deaths in South Africa in 1899-1902.

[Page 356, lines 32-33] It will be four and twenty hours less four minutes before I see her again. this reflects an eagerness like that of a schoolboy for the end of term.

[Page 357, line 7] the rate o’ knots a colloquial expression for high speed – more usually a rate of knots.

[Page 357, line 13] eighteen knots a Pyecroft hyperbole, and not to be taken literally. But again, Kipling has chosen the figure carefully. Eighteen knots was the maximum speed of a pre-dreadnought battleship of the period, with her reciprocating engines. So Pyecroft is indicating that they were racing from bar to bar – not just going fast.

[Page 357, line 14] measured mile at that time a ship’s speed was measured by a Chernikeef log, a rotating body with fins, towed on the end of a plaited log line. The number of turns in a given time measured the ship’s speed through the water. But it was not precisely accurate. And when a ship was new-built, or after it had undergone modifications, it would run over an accurately-surveyed ‘measured mile’ defined by marks on shore. To allow for the effect of tide or current several runs were made in each direction at steady revolutions, and the resulting speeds were averaged to give the speed for those revolutions.

[Page 357, line 14] tank it is clear from the context what is the meaning of the word ‘tank’ here, but its use for ‘reservoir’ was usually confined to India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

[Page 357, line 16] that big hotel up the hill this would be the Mount Nelson Hotel. The Molteno Reservoir is about half a mile south of it. The Kiplings stayed there in February, 1900.

[Page 357, line 20] limit of drift implying that that was the furthest Vickery went from the centre of Cape Town.

[Page 357, line 21] the Gardens the Municipal Gardens (now the Botanical Gardens) extend about half a mile in a north-easterly direction between the Mount Nelson Hotel and Adderley Street.

[Page 357, line 23] The Docks owing to extensive land reclamation since then, the docks would have been more than half a mile nearer than they are today.

[Page 357, line 24] Salt River an eastern suburb of Cape Town, now mainly industrial in character, about two miles from the docks. It contains the junction of the railway line running south to Simon’s Town with the main line connecting Cape Town with the north and east; also a Kipling Road, named early last century.

[Page 357, line 31] back to the station “back”, together with Pyecroft’s estimate of distance on the following page, indicates that they have returned to Cape Town, although they could have caught the train at Salt River.

[Page 358, line 4] as Scripture says in Genesis, Chapter I, verse 5, etc., but in reverse order.

[Page 358, line 7] fifty knots Pyecroft is using “knots” in its older sense of distance, rather than speed. The sense is that in five nights, they have walked fifty miles (roughly, and whether statute miles or nautical miles is immaterial), or ten miles a night.

[Page 358, line 14] out walk – and drink till train time in the Windsor Magazine this reads: “out – walk and drink till train time” which seems more sensible, if not particularly elegant.

[Page 358, lines 20-22] I know somethin’ o’ maniacs … must Pyecroft is, perhaps, taking advantage of the license permitted by ‘Poseidon’s Law (see the introduction to “The Bonds of Discipline”) in suggesting that lunacy occurred so frequently. At the same time, it must be admitted that in the nineteenth century Navy, long periods at sea, and the isolation of a captain did sometimes lead to what the French call le cafard or, in North American terms, ‘loco’, or ‘becoming bushed’.

[Page 358, line 23] Number One see the note on “The Bonds of Discipline”, page 42, line 25.

[Page 358, line 28] rammers. the stout implements on a stave with which shells were pushed home when loading a gun.

[Page 358, line 28] winch handles iron handles used to turn a winch. They were removable to save space when the winch was not in use.

[Page 358, lines 28-29] I crept up a little into the wind towards Master Vickery in sailing, a helmsman who heads too close to the wind runs the risk of being taken aback. Pyecroft was taking a risk in venturing an inquiry about Mrs. Bathurst and Mr. Vickery reacted sharply. Pyecroft was definitely ‘fishing’ for information – there is nothing explicit in the tale so far which suggests that Mrs. Bathurst was “lookin’ for somebody”. She gets off the train and walks up the platform towards the camera and out of shot. She has not halted to look around, as though she were expecting to be met. But Pyecroft has his suspicions – see page 353, lines 6-7, “There must ‘ave been a good deal between ’em, to my way of thinkin’.”

[Page 359, line 5] like a Marconi ticker see the notes on “Their Lawful Occasions” page 140, line 11. The ticker was the receiving instrument which, in some early sets, actually recorded the dots and dashes of the Morse code. As remarked in the notes to “Their Lawful Occasions”, Pyecroft is particularly well-informed on this newly invented wireless. As a torpedo rating it’s not impossible that he might have been so, but it has to be said that it wasn’t very likely (the chances of the imaginary Hierophant being fitted with wireless when she left the UK in about September 1902 are extremely slim)

[Page 359, line 8] Mr. Pyecroft Navally, Pyecroft was not entitled to the title ‘Mr.’ On board and on duty, Pyecroft would have invariably addressed Vickery as Mr. Vickery; while Vickery would have addressed Pyecroft as Petty Officer Pyecroft, or even just Pyecroft. This formality might have been relaxed when they were yarning together (again, page 353, line 4) ‘E spoke to me once or twice about Auckland and Mrs. B on the voyage out.’ But here, Vickery is being excessively ‘off-duty formal’ in the use of ‘Mr.’ – probably spoken with emphasis (cf, “Et Dona Ferentes”: ‘But oh, beware my country when my country grows polite’). When he relaxes, 20 lines further on, he reverts to the intimate “Pye”.

[Page 359, lines 17-18] I’m almost afraid that ‘ud be a temptation can this, taken in conjunction with ‘As I am now, Pye, I’m not so sure that I could explain anything much’ in lines 28-29 below, be regarded as implying much more than a lack of interest in life, beyond the next performance of the circus?

[Page 360, line 1] chronic this should not be taken in its literal sense of lasting a long time, but is more akin to the meaning which the Oxford English Dictionary gives as: ‘by transference. Continuous, constant. Used colloquially as a vague expression of disapproval: bad.

[Page 360, line 15] owner see notes on“The Bonds of Discipline”, page 44, line 10 and page 45, line 13.

[Page 360, line 16] knocked me out of the boat greatly surprised me.

[Page 360, lines 16-17] five consecutive nights the Hierophant had arrived just before Christmas week (page 354, line 1) Pyecroft had been detained two or three days by the gyroscope imbroglio (page 354, lines 10-11) so a further five days would be getting towards the end of the year.

[Page 360. line 19] a condenser in hell not an electrical condenser, but the tank below the engine in which the spent steam is cooled back into water to feed the boilers. It would be useless in the heat of hell fires.

[Page 360, line 21] the Captain’s coxswain see A Fleet in Being, Kipling’s Notes, (page 80, Note II) Kipling used “cox”, whereas the more usual abbreviation was “cox’n”. The captain’s cox’n was his personal assistant: not a body servant – that was the Captain’s steward – but he attended on the captain in all his duties in and around the ship.

[Page 360, line 25] shipped ‘is court-martial face looked grim.

[Page 360, line 27] ‘ung in correct English, ‘hanged’.

[Page 360, lines 28-33 chucked the guns-sights overboard … generally by a stoker the ORG wrote:

‘a member who has made a special study of disciplinary “incidents” in the Royal Navy does not recall a recorded instance of throwing gun-sights overboard between two cases in the Mediterranean Fleet in 1877, and one in a battleship in China in 1900. He has always regarded this passage as an example of Kipling’s insight and eye for detail.’

This Editor had, in the 1960s, to represent a disgruntled young stoker who had done the 20th century equivalent, by putting sand into the bearing of a pump.

[Page 360, line 32] The Western Morning News is a daily paper still published in Plymouth and circulated widely in Cornwall and Devon.

[Page 361, Lines 6-7] “attend public execution” … corpse at the yardarm the last instance of this in H.M. Ships is believed to have been the hanging of a marine on board the gun-vessel Leven in China, in July 1860, for murder.

[Page 361, line 8] ‘E lunched on the beach an’ returned with ‘is regulation harbour-routine face at about 3 P.M. the implication is that the Captain has been ashore to consult the Admiral and Flag Captain, and between them they have found a solution to whatever problem it was exactly that Vickery had posed.

[Page 361, line 12] epicycloidal gears ‘old timers may recall that this system was used in the old ‘Model T’ Ford car, without a gear lever.’ (That’s what the ORG said in the 1960s; 40 years on there will be very few who remember the ‘Model T’.) Pyecroft means that he was the only person in a position to deduce that the Captain had arranged with the Admiral to send Mr. Vickery to Bloemfontein for special reasons.

[Page 361, line 16] details this is a British military, rather than a naval, term. When the hands fall in, they are not ‘detailed’ but ‘told off’ for work (as in the next line). ‘Ratings’ or ‘working party’ would sound more natural here. (Today, the Navy has adopted the expression ‘detail off’.)

[Page 361, line 21] cutter a boat 28-34 feet long, used under oars or sail, for general ship’s duties.

[Page 361, line 22] through the station rather an odd phrase – it seems to have meant through the dockyard to the railway station.

[Page 361, line 25] the Admiral’s front gate Admiralty House, Simon’s Town is not far north of the Dockyard. It had big teak gates. It is still there, and one can stand where Pyecroft and Vickery stood, though the gates are now half their original height. Kipling stayed here as a guest of Rear-Admiral Sir Arthur Moore. (It was not usual for Rear-Admirals to receive knighthoods, unless they had performed some particularly meritorious service: you usually had to wait to become a Vice-Admiral before you received your ‘K’. However, in King Edward VII’s Coronation Honours List, there was a general distribution of honours to Commanders-in-Chief of flag rank, whatever their grade. Sir Arthur was promoted to Vice-Admiral at the end of 1903, before hauling down his flag in April 1904.)

[Page 361, line 26] Worcester a town about 65 miles eastward of Cape Town (more by rail) on the line to Bloemfontein, and the north and east.

[Page 361, lines 32-33] Consume your own smoke keep your secrets to yourself. Steam railway locomotives were supposed to ‘consume their own smoke’ (for much of the time, what came out of the funnel/chimney was largely steam). In ships, the funnel emissions were smoke – the steam passed through the condenser and back into the boiler, rather than escaping through the funnel to atmosphere.

[Page 362, lines 6-9[ “… I am not a murderer, because my lawful wife died in childbed six weeks after I came out. That much at least I am clear of…” The ORG note says:

The indisputable deductions from this seem to be that:
(a) There were prima facie reasons for supposing that he might perhaps have been guilty of his wife’s death – presumably so that he might marry again

(b) In fact, he was innocent of that, but guilty of other things.

At this stage, the reader is unaware of any death connected with Vickery, so the idea of murder must come as a surprise. Was it a surprise to Pyecroft? Vickery goes on to indicate that the only death with which he is concerned is that of his wife, who died in childbed, a few months ago. But it may be suggested that Vickery is looking to the future, and the consequences of actions he is about to take. Pyecroft suspects, and we are beginning to get an inkling, but Vickery knows, that he is going to desert – perhaps he hopes subsequently to meet Mrs. Bathurst, maybe not.

Had his wife not died in childbed, then the consequences of his desertion would have been disastrous for her. There would have been the shame of his desertion of her, and of his desertion from the Navy: and there would have been the financial consequences of the latter: the immediate stoppage of his pay, a large proportion of which he no doubt allotted to her, and the future loss of his pension – in 1900 England, that might well mean the work house for her. All this might have caused the death of a less-than-strong-minded woman. But happily for his conscience, that will not occur – she died earlier in childbed.

The ORG continued:

Some critics suppose it is significant that in the original appearance of this story in the Windsor Magazine, Mrs. Vickery died “in ‘er bed” rather than “in childbed”. But as Professor Bodelsen has pointed out … the Windsor Magazine version was so puritanically censored that the alteration proves nothing. Quite likely it is a return to what Kipling wrote in the first place.

[Page 362, line 12] The rest … is silence Hamlet, Act V, Scene 2, line 369. Vickery clearly had more than a board school education – again “a superior man”.

[Page 362, lines 28-32] But I’ll swear Mrs. B ‘ad no ‘and in it … five consecutive nights Sergeant Pritchard and Pyecroft provide not only the best available evidence on such points but, for the most part, the only evidence. And by many of the tests usually applied to witnesses, experience, sense, absence of any personal advantage, and so on, they should be quite good ones.

[Page 363, lines 7-8] What d’you suppose the captain knew – or did? A very good question, and one which this Editor would have liked to know the answer, because, on the face of it, the Captain of the Hierophant has connived at the desertion of a warrant officer: furthermore, he has involved some member of the Admiral’s staff in arranging for Vickery, as it were, to be allowed to travel part of the way to his destination (wherever that may have been) at the King’s expense. The narrator clearly thinks that Pyecroft’s reply is at best evasive – ‘Pyecroft answered unblushingly’. However, see “Some Problems” for a possible solution to this particular conundrum. Also see a note on what might have happened afterwards.

[Page 363, line 14] The Honeysuckle and the Bee a very popular song about the turn of the century occasionally heard even today (1964 – thus the ORG – this would have been because Julie Andrews recorded it in 1962). It appeared in a stage play Bluebell in Fairyland, performed in London in 1901. The words were by Albert H. Fitz, the music by William H. Penn. According to ‘Google’, it has been recorded as late as 1995.

[Page 363, line 15] kapje a lady’s bonnet, or sunbonnet (Afrikaans).

[Page 363, line 20] Zambesi the fourth river of Africa: for some distance it forms the boundary between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and this stretch includes the great Victoria Falls. Its outlet to the ocean lies through Mozambique.

[Page 363, line 21] Would he pass there- tryin’ to get to that Lake what’s ‘is name? Pritchard means to Lake Nyas(s)a – there has been an implied suggestion that a deserter could easily find a job on the Lake: but Hooper scouts the suggestion, because, as is about to be revealed, Vickery, or his 99%-certain corpse, has been discovered on an incomplete railway line, some way north-west of Bulawayo, whereas Lake Nyas(s)a lies to the north-east, and could be accessed by a recently-completed railway line from Bulawayo to Salisbury (Harare), and thence by another, the Beira Railway, which led south-eastwards to the Indian Ocean coast. On the latter line there was a junction with a line which led back northwards to Blantyre and Lake Nyas(s)a, though this latter had not been completed at the date of the story. So Vickery was probably not going to Lake Nyas(s)a. In fact, the railway line where he was found was the incomplete line leading to the Victoria Falls. It was then in the course of construction, and he might well have intended to seek work there.

[Page 363, line 25] teak forest – a sort o’ mahogany really the so-called “Rhodesian Teak” (still known as such, though to Africans it is known as Igusi, and botanically is Baikiaea plurijuga) is about 50% harder than Asian teak from Burma or India.

[Page 363, line 26] seventy-two miles without a curve there are two alternative reasons given for this particular piece of railway engineering. One school says that the line was originally paid for at so much per mile laid, but the first section north from Bulawayo was so devious that the contract was altered to so much per mile as the crow flies. The other theory is that the engineer had the reputation of being fond of the bottle and his friends in the Bulawayo Club, alleging that this was the reason for the sinuosities of the line, bet him that he could not lay a mile without a curve. To win it handsomely, he built the seventy-two miles of the “Dett Straight” as it is called. (But the name is taken from a place, not the engineer!)

[Page 363, line 30] a couple of tramps in the teak these, we are about to learn, were Vickery and his companion. It cannot be doubted that, had one of them been a woman, the “sick inspector” would have said so. A woman tramp was rare enough on the roads of Great Britain, but one in the undeveloped bush country of Matabeleland must have excited remark. Thus, suggestions that the other tramp might have been Mrs. Bathurst just cannot hold water. One line later, Pyecroft says ‘I don’t envy that other man if –’: clearly, he does not think it can be Mrs. Bathurst.

[Page 364, line 2] M’Bindwe siding this may have been suggested by M’Benji siding (spelt Mambanje on a recent map), but if so it is not a photographic “copy” of the original, since M’Benji is some ten miles north-west of Dett, on a curving section of the line. (But Kipling is not slavishly subservient to his originals.)

[Page 364, lines 13-14] black as charcoal. That’s what they really were, you see – charcoal this is certainly not a common effect of being struck by lightning and it has been argued that it would be impossible. But the effects of electricity are not always predictable and we are told that Teddy Layton, Inspector Hooper’s “original”, actually found two bodies at M’Benji siding and is supposed to have contributed this incident to the story.

Dr. R.H. Golde, in 1964 Head of the Surges and Transformer Department of the Electrical Research Association replied to a question on this point as follows:

I am quite prepared to share your doubt that Kipling invented the effect which you quote. However, he may have been misled by some stories which he was not in a position to check.

The energy dissipated in a lightning stroke is so small that it is very rare to see any burn marks on the body of a person struck by lightning. I have seen many such photographs and I have spoken to people who have received direct lightning strikes, including the medical man who had that unfortunate experience on a Scottish golf course. [Now that must be a story …! Ed.]
The only marks left on such bodies usually disappear within a few hours and real burn marks, if any, are confined to points which were in contact with metal objects such as a bunch of keys or a necklace. The step from these tiny burn marks to a whole body being completely charred is too large to be acceptable.

I have seen a crow which caused an electrical short circuit on a high-voltage distribution line which, to all intents and purposes, was converted into charcoal. I also witnessed once a servant-girl having her finger wedged in a live electrical fitting with the result that part of her finger was burnt to charcoal. However, in both these cases the electrical fault current lasted for several seconds before it was switched off.

[Page 364, line 26] foul anchor the Admiralty badge, and the badge of rank of a Leading Rating, is a foul anchor – that is, an anchor with a rope twisted about it (a Petty Officer’s badge is two foul anchors, crossed). An anchor is said to be foul when it becomes entangled in some obstruction on the sea-bed: in the days of rope cables, this might quite frequently be the cable itself, caused by the ship’s movement as it swung with the tide or wind.

[Page 365, lines 3-5] And to think of her at Hauraki! … Oh, my Gawd! It would seem that Pritchard assumes the second tramp is Mrs. Bathurst, though it could be that he is merely sympathetic to her part in the whole tragedy.

[Page 365, lines 6-9] On a summer afternoon … these lines are from the song “The Honeysuckle and the Bee”, mentioned earlier. These lines form the first half of the first verse. It is hard to extract any symbolism from this song which is about two happy and fulfilled lovers.

[Page 365, lines 13-16] Well I don’t know how you feel … thank Gawd he’s dead! surely an improbable epitaph if Pyecroft supposed the other victim to be Mrs. Bathurst.

The Epigraph

As an epigraph, “Mrs. Bathurst” has a supposed fragment of an Elizabethan or Jacobean play, said to be called “Irenius”, by a playwright named Lyden. Both are entirely fictitious. This short fragment may be supposed to be a part of the same play “Gow’s Watch”, of which extracts were used as epigraphs for “A Madonna of the Trenches” and “The Prophet and the Country”. At all events, the three characters here, Gow, the Prince and Ferdinand, all appear in “Gow’s Watch”. (“Gow’s Watch”, although written only partially in verse, blank verse, is usually printed as part of the ‘Definitive’ collection of Kipling’s verse.)

These 32 lines at the beginning of “Mrs. Bathurst” echo, or foretell, the events of the tale. Like “Mrs. Bathurst”, they are an example of extreme compression, since in those 32 lines they tell the following tale:

The plot

A city has been under siege in a war of religion. The besiegers are led by ‘The Duke’, the defenders by ‘The Prince’. The city was taken and sacked yesterday, and the Duke’s men have been hunting the defenders through the city, and hanging any of those found. The Prince, Gow and Ferdinand would seem to have escaped from the city, but know what is going on inside the walls: it may be implied that they are watching the hangings taking place on the city walls. They are discussing one Jack of the Straw, a groom, who has been betrayed by his lover, and has been hanged. The similarity with “Mrs. Bathurst” is that the woman did not know that she was responsible for her lover’s death, though he knows that it is by her agency that his life is forfeit.

(One may wonder, incidentally, if the playwright Christopher Fry (1907-2005) had read ‘Gow’s Watch’ when he wrote ‘The Lady’s Not for Burning’, about a soldier who wants to be hanged.)

Notes on the Text

The language of the whole extract is reminiscent of the speech of Nick Culpeper in “A Doctor of Medicine” (Rewards and Fairies). It seems best to give an interpretation of the lines, rather than to explain single words or phrases.

Gow (addressing Ferdinand) Now had it been the Prince who had been caught and hanged instead of this poor groom, you can bet that every astrologer …
Prince (soliloquising) Only yesterday we were in the city, in command of events: now it has fallen, and the enemy has sacked it.
Gow (answering him) Yes, but it’s not my fault – you can bet that every astrologer would have said that he foretold the disaster: but since it’s only poor Jack of the Straw who has been strung up, no one has bothered to cast his horoscope to see if it was all in the stars.
Prince (to Gow) Another of my men – after the assault and the sack, were there any of the garrison left to be taken and hanged? How did it happen?
Gow (ticking off the characters on his fingers) In a nutshell, he was betrayed by his leman, who didn’t know what she was doing, else she had not done it, for she truly loved him. As for the hangman, he was just carrying out the Duke’s orders. To the Duke, Jack was just another heretic, for whom there could be no mercy. And lastly there is Jack, who now lies in Hell, wondering why fate picked him out to be hanged.
Prince (suddenly sleepy) Ferdinand, let me have your cloak – I must sleep now – I cannot think straight.
Ferdinand There you are, then. (To Gow) Was Jack so enamoured of life that he did not want to die, but live under an alien religion?
Gow He was born into this world like any of us, but, having been betrayed, as he thought, deliberately by his woman, life meant no more to him. When he was taken, he said “Why me? It’s not me you want, but the King. When I last saw him he was cursing his luck and all women.
Ferdinand Ah! Woman’s love! (Aside) Fortune is impartial: one moment she’s at some court banquet, toppling a throne – the next she’s after some poor clown in a field, using the same weapons to trap him as she did a King yesterday.

©Alastair Wilson 2008 All rights reserved