The Debt

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 Limits and Renewals, as published and frequently reprinted between 1932 and 1950.

[Page 207 line 3] ayah lady’s maid or children’s nurse – the latter in this instance.

[Page 207 line 8] when skirts were skirts assuming the story is set in 1929 when the King was convalescing at Bognor in Sussex, this could refer to the fashion of the late 1890s when skirts were worn right down to the floor. In the 1920s hemlines moved up above the knee.

[Page 207 line 14] Festubert an attack by the British army in the Artois region of France on the Western Front during World War I, beginning on May 15, 1915 and continuing until May 25. The assault was beeen Neuve Chapelle to the north and the village of Festubert to the south, on a three mile front, initially by Indian troops.

[Page 208 line 6] Busi-Bandah not traced – apart from Bandah-Busi in Pakistan.

[Page 208 line 7] Goosey-gander a nursery-rhyme believed to date from the 16th Century, reflecting religious intolerance. For another interpretation see Chris Roberts, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown, The Reason Behind the Rhyme (Granta Books, 2004, page 23.):

Goosey Goosey Gander
Where shall I wander,
Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady’s chamber
There I met an old man who wouldn’t say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs.

[Page 208 line 22] hukah or ‘Hookah’, a water-pipe (right), commonly known as a ‘hubble-bubble’.

[Page 208 line 27] wireless-cabinet some domestic radio-sets
of the time came in wooden cases.

[Page 208 line 28] Padishah Hindi from the Persian for ‘prince’, ‘king’, ’emperor’ [Hobson-Jobson]. Here it refers to King George V.

[Page 209 line 21] ‘tenshin ‘Attention!’ – an order to troops on parade – usually pronounced ‘shun!’ On the command they would stand up straight with their feet together, looking to their front, with fingers lightly clenched and the thumb in line with the seam of the trousers.

[Page 209 line 23] hem nor border nor fringe not traced.

[Page 209 line 27] Khaiber hills (or ‘Khyber’ and other variants). The mountains dividing the North West Frontier region British India (now in Pakistan) from Afghanistan, containing the pass of the same name. For photographs and a plan, see Paddy Docherty, The Khyber Pass, A History of Empire and Invasion, (Faber, 2007)

The Khyber Pass was the classic route for a Russian invasion of India, a source of comcern to the British for many years. See “The Man who Was” (Life’s Handicap) and Michael Edwardes, Playing the Great Game, (Hamish Hamilton 1975, p. 90).

During his time as a newspaper correspondent Kipling had visited the Khyber Pass, and was greeted by a volley of stones (Andrew Lycett page 105), but, in Something of Myself (page 44) he recalls it as a shot. He was under fire again in South Africa (Something of Myself page 159) but mercifully was not hit on either occasion.

[Page 210 line 10] the Abjad the first four letters of the proto-Canaanite alphabet (used in Phoenician, Aramaic and Hebrew). These older alphabets contained 22 letters. The Old Arabic alphabet, thought to be derived from Aramaic by way of the Nabateans, also followed this pattern: aleph, beth, gimel, and daleth.

[Page 210 line 16] amulets charms against evil – Kim kept his birth-certificate etc. in a leather amulet-case on a lanyard round his neck. (Chapter I) and acquired others when he joined the Great Game as a British agent.

[Page 210 line 28] Saturn ‘an evil planet to be born under’ [Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable] See “A Doctor of Medicine” (Rewards and Fairies).

[Page 210 line 30] Archer Sagittarius, one of the Signs of the Zodiac, based on the constellations of stars through which the planets move across the night sky. See “The Children of the Zodiac” (Many Inventions page 363, line 2)

[Page 211 line 6] Crab Cancer; another Sign of the Zodiac.

[Page 211 line 15] Mars the fourth planet from the sun – see page 210 line 28 above.

[Page 211 line 28] Zad see “The Truce of the Bear”, ‘ … Adam-Zad, – the Bear that walks like a man !’

[Page 212 line 7] my burnt cousin a Mohammedan term of contempt – a man whose body has been cremated instead of being buried will not go to paradise.

[Page 212 line 10] black shed as will be seen later, this contains the gallows.

[Page 212 line 19] eskootah a native pronunciation of ‘scooter’.

[Page 313 line 28] below the age of personality see Something of Myself, pp. 1-2.

[Page 214 line 2] Yahudi a Jew.

Hubshi a black person.

[Page 214 line 11] the People of the Graves the bodies of the allied dead of the Great War.

[Page 214 line 12] little water the English Channel.

[Page 214 line 13] Belait usually Europe, but in this context, England.

Frangistan also Europe, but here, France.

[Page 215 line 12] khana from the Persian – ‘a house’.

[Page 215 line 26] British warrum ‘British Warm’ – an overcoat, shorter than the greatcoat worn on parade.

[Page 216 line 22] the very sickness the King remained in his bedroom on 16 January, and the next day this bulletin was issued:

The bronchial catarrh from which His Majesty the King is suffering is not severe, but there have appeared signs of cardiac weakness which must be regarded with some disquiet.

[Page 216 line 28] put forward his sword-hilt a mark of homage and respect. See “The Tomb of Hs Ancestors” (The Day’s Work p. 111) and “The Man who Was” (Life’s Handicap, page 103)

[Page 217 line 16] five full years the King died at 11.55 p.m. on 20 January, 1936, two days after Kipling.

[Page 217 line 31] crooked Kabul-made rifles Hand-made weapons have been produced in Afghanistan and Pakistan for many years:

In the gun town of Darra Adam Khel, deep inside the Tribal Areas… ( Pakistan) ….. perfect replicas of modern weapons are crafted by hand in dozens of basic workshops. This tradition of gun-making dates back to the British days.
[Docherty, p. 129 – see Plate 15 for a gunsmith making a pistol.]

[Page 218 line 5] The quality and nature of the Padishah In his Chapter 8, “Home Life”, ((p. 81) Rose discusses the King’s behaviour to his family, ministers, staff and servants, sudden outbursts of temper at any departure by others from his strict code of gentlemanly conduct or when matters did not go according to programme or as he expected, but, generally speaking, he always showed pleasant, kindly courtesy and consideration for others, with many private acts of generous assistance with money and advice.

The picture emerges of an Edwardian gentleman, who, after retiring from the Navy, would have preferred to live on his estates, engaged in country pursuits. He did not get on very well with his sons, particularly the Prince of Wales (who succeeded him as King Edward VIII, and then abdicated (becoming the Duke of Windsor) in favour of his younger brother Prince Albert, Duke of York, who reigned as King George VI.