The Arrest of Lieutenant Golightly

Notes on the text

(These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The medical notes have been contributed by Dr. Gillian Sheehan, M.B., B.Ch.,B.A.O., and the military comments by Lt-Col Roger Ayers. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Plain Tales from the Hills, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.)


[Title] Golightly A play upon words. To go lightly, to travel light, as the Lieutenant did with disastrous results

[Heading] countersign Sign and Countersign were the challenge and response of a two-part password system that ensured mutual recognition of challenger and challenged. The sentry would have challenged with the Sign and waited for the Countersign to identify a ‘friend’. In action, lack of a countersign would have resulted in a shot; in barracks, the sentry referred the problem upwards. The challenge and response still form the two parts of a password but are referred to as such, the words sign and countersign having been dropped. [R.A.]

Private Ortheris one of the three soldiers featured in four stories in this volume and others in Soldiers Three, Life’s Handicap, Many Inventions and Actions and Reactions. (See ORG Volume 1, page 7.)
On the cover of “Soldiers Three” he is on the left, cockney, small of stature, sharp of tongue, a lover of dogs and a crack shot

Choop! “silence!“

An’ s’elp me soul and so help my soul. No more is known of the Autobiography of Private Ortheris, another of Kipling’s fictional attributions.

[Page 136, line 9] cantle the raised hind part of a saddle – he was an adequate horseman.

[Page 136, line 11] whist-table Whist is a game of cards for (usually) four people which developed into Bridge.

[Page 137, line 5] Dalhousie a Hill Station at 7,500 ft. in North-West Himachal Pradesh, 26 miles North-East of Pathankote.

[Page 137, line 6] khaki not accepted as an English word in 1888 – it is the Hindi for “dusty” from the Persian khak – dust or earth. This was the colour of the uniforms worn by some of the Punjab regiments at the siege of Delhi in 1857.

[Page 137, line 9] solah helmet Shold in Hindi, corrupted to sola by the Bengali inability to pronounce it. This was the name of the plant aeschynomene aspera, the pith of which was made into sun-helmets. [Hobson-Jobson]

[Page 137, line 10] riding post changing horses every ten miles or so at depots provided for the purpose along the route.

[Page 137, line 17] ‘light marching–order’ as laid down in the Field Service Pocket Book of the time. ‘Light Marching Order’ in the infantry in 1882 consisted of: Rifle and Haversack, Waistbelt with pouches and 70 rounds of ammunition plus bayonet frog, bayonet and scabbard, knife and waterbottle. All this weighd 25lb 7 oz. ‘Full Marching Order’ added another 18lb 8 oz of Greatcoat, Cape and Valise. [R.A.]

[Page 137, line 19] bundobust probably Persian band–o–bast, literally “tying and binding” meaning any system or mode of regulation [Hobson-Jobson], or, perhaps, organisation.

[Page 137, line 22] monsoonish very heavy rain.

[Page 137, line 27] coolth in this context a refreshingly lower temperature – early 16th Century but rarely used until the 20th. [O.E.D.]

[Page 137, line 30] get rid of in this context to throw the rider from his saddle.

[Page 137, line 33] spur devices with a with a small spiked wheel on the heels of riding-boots for urging on the horse.

[Page 138, line 7] solah–topee literally “pith-dome”, the helmet described above.

[Page 138, line 31] Dhar this means “an edge” and is a common place-name; not the same root as Dharmsala which means “The Place of Good Works” and is on the same ridge.

[Page 139, line 4] khitmatgar Hind. Khidmat; service, so “One rendering service.” Peculiar to Bengal, where it was applied to a Musulman servant who waited at table. [Hobson-Jobson]

[Page 139, line 8] ropy wrinkled, like loops of rope.

[Page 139, line 13] peg a word of many meanings but here a measure of brandy or whisky.

[Page 139, line 13] eight annas half a rupee.

[Page 139, line 18] Khasa a station West of Umritsar, (Amritsar) which is 32 miles East of Lahore.

[Page 140, line 21] Umritsar now Amritsar – city in the Punjab, in north-west India, historically known as Ramdaspur and colloquially as Ambarsar. The spiritual centre for the Sikh religion and the site of their Golden Temple.

[Page 140, line 25] intermediate a class on some Indian trains between Second and Third, and thus not at all comfortable. See “The Man who Would be King” Wee Willie Winkie, p. 200-201:

There had been a Deficit in the Budget, which necessitated travelling, not Second-class, which is only half as dear as First-class, but by Intermediate, which is very awful indeed. There are no cushions in the Intermediate class, and the population are either Intermediate, which is Eurasian, or native, which for a long night journey is nasty, or Loafer, which is amusing though intoxicated. Intermediates do not buy from refreshment-rooms. They carry their food in bundles and pots, and buy sweets from the native sweetmeat-sellers, and drink the road-side water. That is why in the hot weather Intermediates are taken out of the carriages dead, and in all weathers are most properly looked down upon.

[Page 140, line 27] vernaculars Punjabi, Pahari, or perhaps Hindustani. There are nearly 150 to choose from.

[Page 140, line 29] Corporal and two men the usual escort for a prisoner. Had any of them known Binks, as they might well have done if his conduct had been bad prior to his desertion, the story would have come to an end here!

[Page 141, line 4] ‘stow his lip’ be quiet!

[Page 141, line 10] Rogue’s March a characteristic drum-beat used to escort a soldier to the barrack-gate when he is discharged with ignominy – drummed out.

[Page 141, line 11] quickstep usually 140 paces to the minute, as used by Rifle Regiments in the British Army as opposed to the usual 120 for other infantry. (Some British Guards Regiments march at 110 to the minute)

‘running up’ forced to run, by a man on either side.

[Page 141, line 18] Govindghar or Gobindghar. This fort is about a mile from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and the same distance from the railway station. Kipling also refers to this fort in “Hunting a Miracle”, p. 382 line 25 in From Sea to Sea vol. II.

[Page 141, line 19] Frog March drunken or violent prisoners are carried, face downwards by four men who each take a limb.

[Page 141, line 26] clink prison – there is still a Clink Street on the South Bank of the Thames in London near where the famous prison of that name used to be

blind, stiff and crack on curse and swear. The Partridge Dictionary of Slang cites this very story for the origin. See also the poem “The Young British Soldier.”

[Page 142, line 5] Martini the Martini-Henry rifle (see the note on Page 119, line 12.)

[Page 142, line 5] yerking in this context pulling or pushing with sudden movement, jerking, but used in “Old Men at Pevensey” (Puck of Pook’s Hill p.112 line 11) to signify a dig in the ribs.

[Page 142, line 13] Lahore now capital of the Pakistan province of Punjab and the second largest city in the country.- the scene of much of Kipling’s work in India, and of much of the action of Kim.

[Page 142, line 20] dunghill a manure-heap, thus a contemptuous epithet, perhaps an echo of Shakespeare’s dishevelled and drunken Falstaff who is so addressed in his “The Merry Wives of Windsor”. Falstaff also appears in Kipling’s verse fragment “The Marrèd Drives of Windsor” line 89.

[Page 142, line 28] D.T. Delirium Tremens : it is now generally accepted that this is a true withdrawal state (withdrawal from alcohol, not drugs or nicotine) It usually occurs in a chronic alcoholic following a drinking bout. Clinical features include hallucinations, usually visual and inducing intense fear, also sleeplessness, restlessness agitation and delirium. It is a serious medical emergency requiring expert supervision if a fatal outcome is to be avoided. (Henry Matthew and A.A.H. Lawson Treatment of Common Acute Poisonings 3rd. ed, 1975) [G.S.]

See also “In Error” later in this volume.

[Page 142, line 32] war-paint pigment applied to face and body by some Native American tribes before going into battle.

[Page 143, line 4] Home in this context, the United Kingdom.

[Page 143, line 8] ‘of course, very sorry’ a touch of sarcasm here – they would probably have considered this affair the greatest joke of their military careers.


[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2012 All rights reserved