A Deal in Cotton

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and, line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Actions and Reactions, as published and frequently reprinted between 1907 and 1950.


[Page 173, line 1] Devadatta an approximate contemporary of The Buddha in the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. and believed to have inspired some of the Jatakas or stories of previous Buddhas.

[Page 173, lines 2-4] Strickland the police-officer who has a Preface to himself in ORG (Vol. 1, p.16) and also appears in “Miss Youghal’s Syce” “The Bronckhorst Divorce-Case” (Plain Tales from the Hills) “The Mark of the Beast” and “The Return of Imray” in Life’s Handicap, “The Son of his Father” in Land and Sea Tales and Kim.

[Page 173, line 6] Weston-super-Mare a seaside resort in Somerset in the West of England.

[Page 173, line 10] harriers packs of hounds for hare-hunting – the followers are on foot.

[Page 173, line 12] that Infant a character in the ‘Stalky’ stories who appears in “A Conference of the Powers” (Many Inventions) “Slaves of the Lamp part II” (Stalky & Co.) and “The Honours of War” in A Diversity of Creatures. He is probably based on a contemporary of Kipling’s at United Services College.

[Page 173, line 13] Eustace Cleever appears in “A Conference of the Powers” mentioned above.

[Page 173 , line 19] Sprue a tropical disease with ulcerated mucus membrane of mouth and chronic enteritis, endemic in India at the time.

[Page 173, line 21] Anglo-Indians then signifying Europeans stationed in India.

[Page 173, line 22] broke his keeper’s heart they would have disturbed the pheasants and other game in the grounds. See page 176, lines 7-8.)

[Page 174, line 2] Corkran ‘Stalky’ in the stories. In real life he was Major General Lionel C. Dunsterville C.B., C.S.I., 20th. Punjabis and first President of the Kipling Society. He published The Adventures of Dunsterforce (1920), And Obey (1925), Stalky’s Reminiscences (1928), More Yarns (1931), and Stalky Settles Down (1932). [See ORG Volume 1 p. 391] See also the notes in this Guide on Stalky & Co.

[Page 174, line 14] Dupé We have not located a place of this name in the Horn of Africa. However, without the accent, a ‘dupe’ is a person who has been deceived or swindled so perhaps this is a play on words .Young Strickland is being led astray or duped by the conspirators purporting to offer slaves for sale so he can accept the money with an easy conscience.

Somilaland is now the Democratic Republic of Somalia on the east coast of Africa.

[Page 174, lines 17-18] three thousand miles out … Kipling seems determined that we shall not know the precise location of the story.

[Page 174, line 24] Yao not traced

[Page 175, line 5] Peshawur fever See Dr Gillian Sheehan’s Notes. Dr Sheehan explains that this was probably Malaria.

[Page 175, line 9] tonneau the rear seats of a car of the time – usually open to the elements.

[Page 175, line 17] Dalhousie a hill-station in Himachal Pradesh – scene of “The Son of His Father” See Note to Page 173, lines 2-4 above, “The Arrest of Lieutenant Golightly” (Plain Tales from the Hills) and Kim.

[Page 176, line 12] crotons a genus of tropical plants yielding medicinal products.

[Page 176, line 14] marigolds any of several plants of genera Calendula and Tagetes with yellow or golden flowers and occasionally the only flowers available in India in the hot weather. Ralph Durand notes (p. 6): ‘In most parts of India it is practically impossible to grow turf. Graves are, therefore, often planted with marigolds.’

[Page 177, line 12] Manchester The city in the north of England which at that time was the centre of an important world-wide trade in cotton.

[Page 177, line 13] Sea Island cotton a fine variety of long-stapled cotton grown on islands off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina in the United States.

[Page 177, line 33] Every dog has his fleasan echo of part of ‘Siphonaptera’ by Augustus de Morgan (1896-1871) ,mathematician and humorist who also wrote on Murphy’s Law which can be summarised as “If anything can go wrong, it will.)

Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas and so ad infinitum

[Page 179, line 1] two electrics broke out she switched the lights on.

[Page 179, line 3] self-playing attachment a cabinet with a perforated paper roll which admits air to the mechanism and actuates ‘fingers’ which press on the keys to produce the desired notes. Known as a ‘Pianola’ when applied to a pianoforte.

[Page 179, line 5] Sheshaheh (The spelling varies.)
Sheshach, whose king is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in Jeremiah 25:26, is supposed to be equivalent to Babel, according to a secret mode of writing practiced among the Jews of unknown antiquity, which consisted in substituting the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet for the first and so on. .(Wikipedia)

[Page 179, line 6] Parsifal an opera by Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

[Page 179, line 8] Ipps he also appears in “The Honours of War” (A Diversity of Creatures).

[Page 179, line 12] Burgundy An excellent wine from Eastern France.

[Page 179, line 13] the faculty the medical profession.

[Page 179, line 15] Sheshaheli country not traced – probably imaginary.

[Page 179, line 27] felo-de-se suicide

[Page 180, line 8] casus belli (Latin) an act justifying war.

[Page 180, line 11] Ibn Makarrah see the headnote.

[Page 181 , line 6] “Once in Royal” “Once in Royal David’s city”, a much-loved hymn for the young by Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895). It is number 329 in some editions of Hymns Ancient and Modern.

[Page 181, line 28] fourteen thousand rupees There were some 15 rupees to the pound sterling, so this was a considerable sum. In the company of Anglo-Indians it would have been normal to express money values in rupees.

[Page 182, line 16] Marmion an epic poem by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

[Page 182, line 17] nigger an offensive expression for a black person not now commonly used.

[Page 182, line 27] Tom Sawyer a novel by Mark Twain, the nom-de-plume of Samuel Langhorne Clements
(1835-1910) See From Sea to Sea Vol. 2 for Kipling’s meeting with him (p.182). Also ORG, Volume 2 p. 859 for some background and p. 887 for Israel Kaplan’s article on Kipling’s pirated American Notes and Mark Twain on Kipling.

[Page 182, line 28] beetle it was a pinchbug – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) Chapter 5.

[Page 182, line 30] sarkied explained in the text. Dr Sheehan classifies this as an unknown poison.

[Page 183, line 1] one time in this context, an expression in use in Sierra Leone in the 1940s meaning ‘instantly’.

soap and trade gunpowder an effective emetic.

[Page 183, line 8] Hajji he had made the pilgrimage to Mecca – see Hobson-Jobson p. 408.

[Page 183, line 10] thuggee murder and robbery carried out by a sect in India that worshipped Kali – see
Hobson-Jobson p. 915.

[Page 183, line 22] French Africa There were various French colonies in west Africa.

[Page 183, line 24] Koran the sacred book of the Mohammedans.

[Page 183, line 27] Sheik-ul-Islam the Grand Mufti, head of the Turkish Mohammedans.

[Page 184, line 13] the Fork as explained below, a piece of timber chained to the necks so the unfortunate prisoners could walk but not escape.

[Page 184, line 15] can’t abide it ORG apologises for explaining the pun – ‘one can’t a-bite it’ like the fork used at table.

[Page 184, line 23] backing your topsails an old custom whereby foreign vessels in British waters (or any waters by some accounts) saluted British warships or risked being fired into. Now the custom is to dip the ensign.

[Page 184, line 27] smoking ‘em out a figure of speech for clearing the ground of enemy soldiers, a reference to bee-keeping where a ‘smoker’ emitting the fumes of smouldering cardboard etc. is used to stupefy the bees so the honey can be harvested or work carried out on the hive. See The Mother Hive, Actions and Reactions, page 94, line 4

[Page 185, line 3] turned up trumps in various card-games, a ‘trump’ is a card of a suit that takes any card of other suits; in this context meaning better than expected.

[Page 185, line 22] 104 degrees Fahrenheit – 40 degrees Centigrade: a high fever.

[Page 185, line 27] paid up cash like a motorist in those early days motorists were often taken to court and fined for speeding and other offences – see “The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat” (A Diversity of Creatures)

[Page 185, line 24] French territory ORG is inclined to place the scene of this story on the West Coast – see page 183, line 22 above and the headnote.

[Page 186, line 7] sovereigns in this context, British gold coins, worth £1 each.

[Page 186, line 24] arsenic a poison – the speaker is sarcastic.

[Page 186, line 32] ’84 see “Miss Youghal’s Syce” (Plain Tales from the Hills) and ORG Volume 1, page 16, the ‘Strickland’ preface. The story in which he first appeared was published in The Civil and Military Gazette in 1887 but Kipling may well have quoted the date from memory.

[Page 187, line 11] hunker down to squat on the heels.

[Page 188, line 18] virtue went out from him an echo of St. Mark, 5, 30: Knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him.

[Page 189, line 7] the stirring of the cold wind

At two o’clock in the morning, if you open your window and listen,
You will hear the feet of the Western wind that is going to call the sun.

(“The Dawn Wind”).

[Page 190, line 10] Angari A name we have not traced, apart from a town in India.

[Page 191, line 28] Job see the Book of Job in the Old Testament. His patience under suffering was proverbial.

[Page 192, line 17] picture-books from Europe catalogues of agricultural implements.

[Page 193, line 22] stabbed the letter on the file essentially a length of wire with a sharp point on a wooden stand

[Page 193, line 25] ambergris a waxy substance found in the sperm whale – such an ornament would be made of amber, a fossilised gum from coniferous trees which is found on the shores of the Baltic and used for jewellery.

[Page 194, line 17 et sequ.] I am a poor man Adam and his Chief would have been talking in English so it is not clear how far Imam Din understood the conversation.

[Page 194, line 18] get in this context, breed.

[Page 194, line 22] Jull- probably Jullundur in the Punjab in Northern India.

[Page 196, line 6] the Magnificat My soul doth magnify the Lord… Luke 1, 46-55, and in the Order for Evensong in the Book of Common Prayer.

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved