The Story of the Gadsbys

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 Soldiers Three and Other Stories, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.

[Page 131] The characters form a good cross-section of British society in India, the sort of group Kipling would have been familiar with from times in the Club in Lahore:

  • Blayne: a British officer of an Indian cavalry regiment.
  • Curtiss: Royal Artillery.
  • Doone: a Civil Engineer from the Public Works Department.
  • Mackesey: a barrister-at-law.
  • Jervoise: a Civil Servant.
  • Anthony: a Doctor

[Page 131, line 7] khitmatgar waiter.

[Page 131, line 8] poora whisky peg a large glass of whisky.

[Page 131, line 12] bandobust from the Persian Band-o-bast, a system or mode of regulation; in this instance, arrangements for a party.

[Page 131, line 14] ullaged strictly speaking ullage is the amount of liquid a vessel wants of being full, that is to say lost by spillage, evaporation etc., but the slang meaning in this context is dregs or other inferior liquid.

[Page 131, line 17] P.W.D. Public Works Department.

[Page 131, line 20] chlorodyne a mixture of hydrochloride of morphine, chloroform, ether, prussic acid, treacle, liquorice, peppermint and syrup, used in the treatment of diarrhoea , stomach cramps etc., also an excellent cough-cure and reminiscent of Culpeper’s “waters” with which he treated the plague victims in “A Doctor of Medicine” (Rewards and Fairies page 265) and the concoction the Narrator gave Shaynor in “Wireless” (Traffics and Discoveries, page 218)

[Page 132, line 1] memsahib a respectful form of address to a British married lady. The equivalent in England would have been ‘Madam’.

[Page 132, line 7] I mangled garbage literally torn and mutilated animal refuse or other rubbish – here a slang term for eating very poor food.

[Page 132, lines 22-23] ‘Yea, verily, verily, I say unto thee’ John 1,51 has ‘you’ and not ‘thee’.

[Page 132, line 24] Theodore from the Greek, meaning ‘the gift of God’. The name is not in the Bible.

[Page 133, lines 6-7] Three-Star brandy.

[Page 133, line 15] Lucknow chief town of the District of the same name, some 600 north-west of Calcutta. See “Winning the Victoria Cross” (Land and Sea Tales) Kim was at school there (Kim Chapters 7–10)

[Page 133, line 21] Home the United Kingdom.

[Page 133, line 27] Surat a town and District in India after which an iron passenger-steamer was named. She was launched in 1866.

[Page 133, line 28] Massilia a paddle-steamer launched in 1860, and the ancient Greek name for Marseilles the French seaport on the Mediterranean. See Something of Myself Chapter 1. for the overland route to India before the Suez Canal opened in 1869.

[Page 133, line 29] ayahs in this context, nursemaids looking after children.

[Page 134, line 13] Black Infantry a regiment of the Indian Army commanded by a British officer.

[Page 134, line 17] ‘We are what we are’ an echo of the poem Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892):

… that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek to find, and not to yield…

[Page 134, lines 17-18] Gaddy was such a superior animal… life in a cavalry regiment was expensive and officers usually needed private incomes to supplement their army pay. Inevitably some were wealthier than others.

[Page 134, line 21] the turn into the straight a metaphor from the racecourse.

[Page 134, line 30] Tharanda ORG believes this to be a place in Burma but it has not been traced and information will be welcomed.

[Page 134, line 31] platelayer’s daughter he married the daughter of a worker on the railway who was considered socially unsuitable; this ruined his career. See “Kidnapped” for another unsuitable marriage that was prevented and “His Chance in Life”, both in Plain Tales from the Hills.

[Page 135, line 5] no tar-brush no trace of Indian blood.

[Page 135, line 7] Not an anna one-sixteenth of a rupee – the way of calculating the amount of Indian blood in a person of mixed Indian/European race, then termed Eurasian and later, borrowing the term used for British people living in India, Anglo-Indian. See the note to page 134, line 31 above.

[Page 135, line 14] Sybarites the inhabitants of Sybaris, in Italy in ancient times, were notorious for their love of luxury and self-indulgence. The speaker is obviously sarcastic.

[Page 135, line 16] prickly heat Lichen Tropicus, a painful skin disease caused by excessive sweating. See Dr. Sheehan’s notes.

[Page 135, line 17] Beora not traced. [Information will br appreciated; Ed.]

[Page 135, line 20] two cases cholera. (See line 33 below.)

[Page 135, line 24] Grand Trunk Road the great highway that runs from Calcutta on the Bay of Bengal to Peshawar in the marches of Afghanistan. [See Jan Morris, The Spectacle of Empire, (Faber, 1982) page 118. See also John Wiles The Great Trunk Road (Elek, 1972).]

[Page 135, line 25] a bund any artificial embankment, dam, etc., (From Persian and Sanskrit.)

[Page 135, line 31] Amaryllis a shepherdess in the Pastorals of Virgil, Theocritus and other classical writers:

Were it not better done, as others use,
To sport with Amaryllis in the shade…

[Lycidas I, 67, line 30, by John Milton (1608–1674).

[Page 135, line 33] cholera-camp see “Only a Subaltern” (Wee Willie Winkie), Dr. Sheehan’s notes and the illustration to the verses “Cholera Camp” in Newarks’ Kipling’s Soldiers.

[Page 136, line 6] Kümmel a German liqueur flavoured with cumin and caraway seeds.

[Page 136, line 7] carminative a medicine that expels flatulence.

[Page 136, line 11] Actæon in Greek mythology, a huntsman who surprised Diana bathing, or, according to Euripides, boasted of his prowess: whichever he did, he was turned into a stag and eaten by his own hounds. [Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.]

[Page 136, line 12] Diana the ancient Italian goddess of hunting, the moon, fertility and woodlands. See Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable for further details. (She should not be confused with Diana of Ephesus)

[Page 136, line 20] OMNES all (Latin)

[Page 137, line 2] send in his papers resign from the army.

[Page 137, line 7] the six hundred you rooked from our table he won six hundred rupees from them at cards.

[Page 137, line 11] shroff a money-changer, a banker and moneylender.

[Page 137, line 14] three thousand a month a private income presumably from land or investments at home.

[Page 137, line 23] ‘the splendid palace of an Indian pro-consul’ The English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863) was born at Calcutta. [The quotation has not been traced and its source will be welcomed; Ed.]

[Page 138, line 1] Job see the Book of Job in the Old Testament – he questioned God’s inflictions on the righteous and endured great suffering.

[Page 138, line 23] the rupee at one and sixpence In “In Gilded Halls” Kipling has the rupee (a silver coin) at one shilling and fourpence which was, according to ORG, par at the time and until about 1930. It was worth two shillings before 1874, the year after the Paris Mint suspended the free coinage of silver.

This led to large fluctuations in the exchange rates between the United Kingdom and India, whereby the latter suffered heavy losses as it was obliged to make payments to London in gold. [See E. C. Robinson A Text-book of Political Economy, Normal Correspondence College Press, circa 1910, page 202, and Harmsworth Vol. I, page 731. Anglo-Indians were paid in rupees, and were perennially concerned about exchange rates.

[Page 138, line 24] little Dehra Doones a play on words – his surname and Dehra Dun, a District in the United Provinces.

[Page 138, line 25] Mussoorie chi-chi accent the characteristic sing-song intonation of many Indians and Eurasians. See also “The Comprehension of Private Copper” (Traffics and Discoveries.)

[Page 138, line 27] sambhur-horns for Doone to wear Cervus unicolour, a species of deer found in India and Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) a favourite quarry of sportsmen, and here introduced merely to bring in the old saying ‘To wear the horns’ implying that the wife of the wearer is unfaithful to him.

[Page 138, line 33] half our pay See the note to Page 38 line 23 above.

[Page 139, line 1] a third See the note to Page 38 line 23 above.

[Page 139, line 4] the Silver Question See the note to Page 38 line 23 above.

[Page 139, line 33] dipped, in debt.

[Page 140, line 6] Kingdom Come the next world, where one finds oneself after death.

[Page 140, lines 14 – 30] I say fifty … One hundred they subscribe enough money to give Mingle (Miggy) a month in the Hills which should help restore him to health.

[Page 140, line 17] Croesus the legendary King of Lydia (B.C. 560–546) was so rich and powerful that his name became synonymous with wealth.

[Page 141, line 8] chaprassi an office messenger, so called from the chapras, a brass plate with the name of his office engraved thereon.

[Page 141, line 21] pukka Hindi pakka meaning ripe, mature, cooked, but capable of many meanings. In this context it means true.

[Page 141, line 23] the tents of Kedar see Psalm 120, verses 4, 5 & 6 in The Book of Common Prayer, and Genesis 25,13.

Meshech and Kedar refer to a country or people near the Black Sea and a tribe in the Syro-Arabian desert, places so far apart that the names are often taken to represent bitter and implacable foes.(The Oxford Bible Commentary, 2001.)

[Page 142, line ] Mallard was a candlestick he was paraded by Mrs. Herriott to draw attention away from Gadsby who was her real lover. [The source of the phrase has not been traced and suggestions will be welcomed; Ed.]

[Page 142, line 14] Naini Tal a hill-station in the United Provinces.

[Page 142, line 16] globe-trotter a tourist – Kipling describes himself as one in “Letters of Marque” (From Sea to Sea, Volume I) See also the poem “Pagett M.P.”)

[Page 143, line 15] Primum tempus ‘First time’, schoolboy Latin quoted by the Doctor, presumably implying that Gadsby is Mrs. Herriot’s first lover.

[Page 143, line 22] cats in this context, spiteful female gossips.

[Page 143, line 33] card account gambling for cash was (and still is) not permitted in clubs and messes, so the account of each player was debited or credited at the end of a session and settled monthly.

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2005 All rights reserved