Griffiths the Safe Man

Notes on the text

(by David Page. The page and line numbers below refer to the Authorised Edition of Abaft the Funnel published by Doubleday and Page, New York, in 1909.)

[Page 62, line 16] a trunk, or travelling chest, is a large cuboid piece of luggage, roughly 3ft long by 2ft wide and 2 ft deep with a handle on both ends. They were designed for use when away from home for a long period on a journey or at boarding school. They usually had reinforced corners and multiple fastenings which could include straps as well as locks.

[Page 63, line 3] carpet-bag a soft travelling bag made of carpet material. Sizes varied but a typical one would be about 18 by 15 by 7 inches.

[Page 63, line 9] Safe bind is safe find Thomas Tusser (c. 1515-1580) uses this proverb on Washing:

Dry sun, dry wind; Safe bind, safe find.

The equivalent “Fast bind, fast find” is recorded as being used by John Heywood
(c. 1497-1580), and by William Shakespeare (1564-1616) in The Merchant of Venice, Act II, Sc. 5.

N. Bailey’s English Dictionary (13th Edition, 1749) defining “Fast bind, fast find” writes:

This proverb teaches that people being generally loose and perfidious, it is a great point of prudence to be upon our guard against treachery and impositions in all our dealings…

[Page 63, line 13] hermetical gun-metal double-end Chubbs Chubb, the famous English firm of lock and safe-makers, was founded in 1818 when the Chubb “detector” lock was patented. It “detected” any tampering or interference with the lock mechanism and prevented the bolt from being moved. The lock-making part of the firm has been owned by Assa Abloy, a Swedish based lock manufacturer, since 2001.

The significance of the words ‘hermetical gun-metal double-end’ has not been discovered, and it is possible that this is one of Kipling’s pseudo-technological descriptions. See also the note for page 66, line 16.

[Page 64, line 11] treaty port a ‘treaty port’ was a port that had been opened to foreign trade, usually under pressure from a foreign government. One of the five treaty ports that had been opened in Japan from 1858 was Nagasaki, where Kipling and Prof ‘Alec’ and Mrs ‘Ted’ Hill had disembarked in April 1889 to tour Japan as part of their journey from India to California.

[Page 64, line 13] our passports at that time Japan required foreigners to carry travel documents that were issued by the Japanese. These were additional to what were normally considered as ‘passports’ issued by a traveller’s own government.

[Page 65, line 9] Otsu is about 10 miles east of Kyoto, on the south-west shore of Lake Biwa.

[Page 66, line 8] belaiti-made handbag an Indian word indicating that the handbag was manufactured in Europe (Belait), and probably Britain.

[Page 66, line 16] “percussating compensator” a piece of Kipling’s invented jargon.

[Page 67, line 1] kul demang manana—catchee… a babel-like mixture of languages, made up of kul (tomorrow in Hindustani), demang (or demain, tomorrow in French), manana (tomorrow or later in Spanish); whilst ‘catchee’ is an English-speaker’s attempt at Chinese. Griffiths has been flustered by his inability to open the locks on his luggage.

[Page 68, line 9] Ollendorfian style this reference also occurs in “Letters of Leave II” (October 1890). It is to Dr Heinrich Godefroy Ollendorff whose New Method of Learning to Read, Write and Speak a Language in Six Months had been adapted to French, Italian and other languages, and enjoyed a wide vogue from the 1840s. (Kipling’s Japan: Collected Writings, ed. Hugh Cortazzi & George Webb, Athlone Press, 1988, p.114, note 4.)

[Page 70, lines 6 & 7] I’m a British subject see the headnote to this story.

[Page 70, line 21] 9th N.I. this likens the four files of Japanese soldiers to an Indian regiment of Native Infantry.

[D. P.]
©David Page 2007 All rights reserved