The Swelling of Jordan

The Story of the Gadsbys (8)

(notes edited by John McGivering)


This is the final episode in The Story of the Gadsbys,  first published in The Week’s News, 7 July, 1888 (Martindell has 30 June) and collected in Soldiers Three and Other Stories .

The Story

Gadsby is chatting with his friend and fellow cavalry officer, Mafflin, while his toddler son plays in the verandah. Gadsby confesses to Mafflin that he has made a fateful decision – to leave the Pink Hussars and retire to his estates in England. Mafflin is appalled, and tries to argue – and shame – him out of it, but he is adamant. He is worried about the future in India for his wife and baby. Worse, he has lost his nerve, and on parade or manoeuvres is constantly fearful that he will fall from his horse and be ridden over. Marriage has taken its final toll of his manhood. In the words of  “L’Envoi”  Minnie is slipping the spur from the booted heel.’

Some critical comments

Hart [Walter Morris Hart, Kipling the Story-Writer University of California Press 1918 page 47] commenting on Gadsby’s loss of nerve, wonders if Kipling had been reading Stevenson’s Virginibus Puerisque:

In marriage a man becomes slack and selfish…. The air of the fireside withers out all the fine wildings of the husband’s heart…

See also Kipling’s poem “Snarleyow.”

Notes on the Text

 [Page 214, line 4] ‘Mornin’, Mrs. Gadsby It was an affectation of the English upper classes (and would-be upper classes) to drop beginnings and endings of words occasionally (Huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ !) and the custom for a gentleman to address a colleague’s wife in such a formal manner. This usage began to die out after the 1939 War but survives in some circles.

[Page 214, line 7] Martha the woman who did the work – see the poem “The Sons of Martha”, and Luke 10.

[Page 214, line 10] khitmatgars butlers.

[Page 214, line 15] Europe morning ORG has ‘sleeping late’ but the reference is not clear.

[Page 214, line 16] yearling an animal a year old (the child is ten months old – see line 12 above.)

[Page 214, line 17] bone below the knee good density of bone – desirable in a horse and presumably in a child.

[Page 215, line 4] General Luck General Sir George Luck, K.C.B., C.B., (1840–1916) Inspector-General of Cavalry in India, 1887–1893.

[Page 215, line 8] seventeen-two perambulator seventeen hands and two inches, (a hand in this context being four inches – the way horses are measured) – this being a tall one at 5 feet eight inches or 1.73 metres at the shoulder. A perambulator is a baby-carriage with four wheels, then amd now colloquially known as a “pram”. It was a big pram.

[Page 215, line 13] tailors sedentary workers who were regarded by soldiers as clumsy and of poor physique [Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable].

[Page 215, line 20] hocks the joints on the hind legs of a horse corresponding to the ankle in man.

[Page 215, line 28] Butcha boy baby.

[Page 216, line 7] send in my papers resign from the army.

[Page 216, lines 9-10] mad…married
This is an echo of the saying: “All Sappers (Royal Engineers) are married, Methodist or mad”. In “The Propagation of Knowledge” (Debits and Credits and The Complete Stalky & Co.) Stalky says “All Sappers are mad”. See also the poem “Sappers”.

[Page 217, line 3] the Russian shindy the ever-present possibility of war with Russia – see “The Man who Was” (Life’s Handicap), Kim and Ankers, p. 100. [Arthur R. Ankers, The Pater, John Lockwood Kipling, his Life and Times. Pond View Books 1988].

[Page 217, line 10] Amdheran probably a fictitious battle also mentioned in “With Any Amazement” earlier in this volume and at page 221, line 8 below.

[Page 217, line 11] Jagai also mentioned in “The Ballad of East and West.”

[Page 217, line 12] Ranken tailor and outfitter with branches in Lahore, Simla, etc.

an Utmanzai’s head Utmanzai is a State on the North-West Frontier.

[Page 217, line 22] filthy lucre money – see Timothy 3, 3: ‘…not greedy of filthy lucre…’

[Page 217, line 29] Town in this context, London.

[Page 217, line 32] Home in this context, the United Kingdom.

[Page 218, line 3] the Stud Book Probably a reference to Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage and other such publications listing titled families.

[Page 218, line 7] a Marquis of sorts a ‘Marquis’ (or ‘Marquess’) is an English title of nobility higher than an Earl and below a Duke. Mafflin is saying that if he had been the eldest son he would have become a Marquis. (As a younger son he would have the courtesy title, probably ‘Lord John Mafflin’ as ‘Jack’ would have been considered too vulgar.)

[Page 218, line 12] Kabuli dowagers horse-faced old women.

[Page 218, line 18] jawab me turn me down

[Page 218, line 11] take your place Gadsby is also the heir to a title and a landed estate. ( See pages 218, line 2 and 220, lines 5 and 6)

[Page 219, line 2] the Herriot woman see “The World Without” and “The Tents of Kedar” earlier in this volume.

[Page 219, line 21] a muzzle like a rose-leaf etc. a young horse in excellent condition.

[Page 219, lines 29 – 32] You don’t want to fight, etc. an adaptation of the famous music-hall song of 1878 by George William Hunt (c. 1830–1904) a prolific and successful song-writer:

We don’t want to fight, but, by jingo if we do,
We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too.
We’ve fought the Bear before, and while Britons shall be true.
The Russians shall not have Constantinople.

The Russians were represented in political cartoons as a Bear. The British, French, Turks and Sardinia fought them in the Crimean War of 1853–1855.

David Rogers writes: It’s known as Macdermott’s War Song. See The Victorian Web. The only reason I know about it is that it was one of the songs played by the band shortly before the Princess Alice disaster on the Thames on 3rd September, 1878. My great-great grandfather, George Garrard, was one of the band’s musicians and lost his life along with nearly 700 others.[D.R.]

See “The Man who Was” (Life’s Handicap), Kim and the poem “The Truce of the Bear.” ‘Jingoism’ came to mean aggressive patriotism of which Kipling has been unjustly accused.

[Page 220, lines 12 – 13] ‘Shelter-pit etc’ [reference not traced – information will be appreciated; Ed.]

[Page 220, line 24] your near-fore the horse’s left front hoof.

[Page 220, line 27] considerable Bend a heavy drinking-bout

[Page 220, line 28] a Head and a Hand in this context, a sore head and a shaky hand – a dreadful hangover.

[Page 221. line 8] Amdheran the untraced and probably fictitious battle referred to in “With any Amazement” earlier in this volume.

[Page 221, line 22] column of troop two abreast.

[Page 221, line 23] Once in a Blue Moon very infrequently.

[Page 221, line 33] royal in this context, used sarcastically – magnificent.

[Page 222, line 1] watering-up giving his horse a drink to slow him down.

[Page 222, line 5] mussuck the goat-skin water-bag used by a bhisti or water-carrier. See the verse “Gunga Din”.

[Page 222, line 18] skrim – he was about to say ‘skrimshankers’ – men who avoid work or duty from idleness or cowardice.

[Page 222, line 20] Kashmir the beautiful State north of the Punjab, currently disputed between India and Pakistan. A great holiday area with houseboats on the Dal Lake.

[Page 222, line 21] Rhotang a high pass in Himachal Pradesh, to the north of Manali.

[Page 222, line 23] off your oats usually applied to horses who are not eating well and are out of condition.

[Page 222, line 25] bow-window in this context, a large and protuberant stomach.

[Page 222, line 27] chalkstones Gout – an excess of uric acid crystals in the tissues, causing inflammation in the joints.

[Page 222, line 28] a crock in this context, slang for a horse.

[Page 222, lines 31–32] taken up a hole and a half….wallets shortened his stirrup-leathers and tucked his knees under the equipment so as to reduce the danger of losing his seat and falling off.

[Page 223, line 1] broke in front of the squadron publicly disgraced and dismissed from the Army.

[Page 224, lines 5 – 8] Bailiffs and Drains … no riding a somewhat cynical description of the life of a landed gentleman managing his estates and going in for good causes. The ‘Primrose League’ was a Conservative political association. ‘Yeomanry Cavalry’ comprised volunteer regiments later incorporated in the Territorial Army. The Yeomanry would have been looked down on by regular soldiers.

[Page 224, line 11] a J.P. a Justice of the Peace, an unpaid Magistrate.

[Page 224, lines 12 – 14] the Brigadier … fluttering the dovecotes etc. a pet name for Gadsby’s son Jack (see page 215, line 10) who, if he takes after his father, will be chasing the women of the district.

[Page 226, line 6] the Law and the Prophets

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets. [Matthew 7,12.]

[Page 227, lines 6 – 7] ‘Bring a chair out here, dear. I’ve got something to talk over with you…’ Gadsby obviously wishes to tell his wife of his desire to leave the army but the stress of the moment has brought about a lapse from good manners – he should have got the chair himself or told a servant to do so.

This item is followed by one of the eight different verses called “L’Envoi”. [see KJ 096/10 for a list of Kipling’s several porms under this title]

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2005 All rights reserved