First published in The Story of the Gadsbys, No 2 of the Indian Railway Library in 1888 and collected in various editions of Soldiers Three and Other Stories in India and England over the years.
Gadsby is in his room with a mass of trooper’s equipment, trying to work out how it can be made lighter, in preparation for a highly technical military discussion with his friend Captain Mafflin. Minnie interrupts him on the pretext that she has scalded her finger, but then settles herself down, resenting his concentration on professional matters, asking foolish questions, and making him increasingly irritated. She riffles through his papers, finds a letter from his former lover, and redoubles his irritation by reading it aloud. He loses his temper at last, but then is completely unmanned when she reveals that she is expecting their baby.
Notes on the Text
[Title and Heading] This is from the famous story La Barbe Bleu (Bluebeard) by Charles Perrault (1628-1703) the French poet and Academician. Bluebeard goes on a journey leaving his new wife Fatima his keys, but forbidding her to enter a certain room in his castle. She naturally goes in, only to find the bodies of his former wives. He returns and is about to kill her when her brothers enter and make an end of him. There are many parallel stories in other countries which are described by Andrew Lang (1844-1912) in his Perrault’s Popular Tales (1888).
[Page184, lines 4-20] set of Hussar’s equipment etc He is examining an outfit of saddlery and associated material with a view to cutting down the weight and making it more convenient and comfortable for horse and man. See “The Captive” (Traffics and Discoveries) for a comment on this and items XXX and XXXI in From Sea to Sea Volume II for the American and Japanese points of view.
[Page 184, lines 12-13] watering-bridle… chains and pulleys [awaiting information; Ed.]
[Page 184, line 9] Jack Captain Mafflin who also appears in this series and later marries Emma Deercourt as disclosed in Kipling’s Preface to Wheelers’ Indian Railway Library edition .
[Page 184, line 18] crupper the strap that goes under the tail to hold the saddle-pad of a draught-horse in place.
[Page 184, line 18] breastplate in this context the meeting-place of straps that pass round the shoulders and chest of the horse to prevent the saddle slipping backwards; its absence would not make much difference to the weight but ‘crupper to breastplate’ means ‘from the rear to the front of the horse’.
[Page185, line 3] Tiparee jam Bengali and Hindi tipari, tepari; the fruit of Physalis peruviana, known in India as the Cape Gooseberry. See Hobson-Jobson for further information.
[Page 186, lines 2-4] three pounds four etc three pounds, four ounces plus seven ounces equals three pounds and eleven ounces, or about 1.7 kg.
[Page 186, line 5] farriery the art of shoeing horses.
[Page 185, line 6] shoe-case a leather box to contain horse-shoes.
[Page 186, line 11] Cream and champagne an extravagant method of cleaning leather boots believed to have been used in earlier years – but here, perhaps, a touch of sarcasm.
[Page 187, line 5] numdahs Hindi namda (singular) felt a felt or woollen pad in the shape of a saddle and about an inch thick and only weighing a few pounds. Perhaps here used as slang for a saddle.
Minnie is a good horsewoman – see the notes to “Poor Dear Mamma” at pages 122, 123 and 128 earlier in this volume, but is clearly not well informed on the diseases of horses [Page 194, line 13 below]. She is also wildly jealous of the Regiment and her husband’s friendship and professional preoccupation with Mafflin from which she is excluded. She has come in to tell Gadsby that she is pregnant but does not know how to set about it, which perhaps accounts for her contrary behavior.
[Page 187, line 10 and line 15] red streak inside your arm…never seen it before It seems surprising to a modern reader that a pregnant married woman should have seen so little of her husband, even though it is clear [Page 200, line 10] that they sleep in separate rooms.
[Page 188, line 5] holster the (usually) leather case attached to the belt and containing a pistol.
[Page 189, line 4] Prince Kraft Prince Kraft of Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen (1827-1892), a General in the Prussian army who wrote Die Kavallerie-Division als Schlacktenksper (1884) and a book of Letters on Cavalry (1887) which are considered to be among the classic 19th Century military texts.
Some were translated and published in Royal Artillery Institution Proceedings in April, 1888. pp. 40 ff. Prince Kraft served in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and elsewhere in Europe. [See The Encyclopaedia of Military Biography by Trevor N. Dupy and others; I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 1992].
[Page 191, line 10] Home in this context, London.
[Page 192, line 12] rule of thumb practical experience as opposed to theory.
[Page 192, line 5] headstall an arrangement of leather straps round the head of a horse to which bit and bridle are attached.
[Page 194, lines 13-23] farcy-buds etc Unpleasant discharging ulcers, symptoms of glanders, a malignant, contagious and occasionally fatal disease of horse and man, affecting the mucus membrane of the nose, lungs and lymphatic system.
[Page 195, line 8] it wasn’t locked up the compromising letter was left on the table instead of being burned as it should have been, like the letter in “His Majesty the King” (Wee Willie Winkie). See also the verses “Certain Maxims of Hafiz”: If She have written a letter, delay not an instant but burn it…
[Page 195, line 9] ‘God made her, therefore let her pass for a woman’ An echo of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, scene 2: God made him, therefore let him pass for a man.
[Page 196, line 23] he literally stepped into it Mafflin was creating a diversion to prevent Mrs. Scargill from disclosing that Mrs Herriot was Gadsby’s mistress (See “The Tents of Kedar” earlier in this volume.)
[Page 197, line 12] ‘almost inevitable Consequences’ Pregnancy – see also Page 200, line 8.
[Page 200, line 7] portière door-curtain.
[Page 200, line 15] ‘Made to be amused only -? He quotes her remark on page 191 above.
[J H McG]
©John McGivering 2005 All rights reserved