The Return of Imray

Notes on the text

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 Life’s Handicap, as published and frequently reprinted between 1891 and 1950.


[Page 260, line 5] Heading An eight-line verse by Kipling.
Philip Holberton writes: In these lines a ghost follows its enemy. It can b seen but is completely powerless:

… he could not stir
A hair of the Baron’s miniver.

The ghost in the story can do a bit more: it is seen by the narrator’s servant and by the dog Tietjens, it tramps around the house, tries to open a door, and speaks in a husky whisper. (Miniver is a fur used in trimming ceremonial dress – OED)

In Life’s Handicap the verse is attributed to “The Baron”. The ORG editors write:

Kipling’s lines are based on “The Baron of St. Castine” Part Two of “The Student’s Tale” in Tales of a Wayside Inn by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882).

However, I am sceptical about whether “The Baron of St. Castine” deserves to be credited as Kipling’s inspiration. There’s a Baron and a castle, but no wraith and no enemy to follow. And the verse form is very common – what Byron called ‘The fatal facility of the octo-syllabic verse. [P.H.]

[Page 260, line 5] station in this context, where the English officials of a district live, also the European society of such a place.

[Page 260, line 12] dogcart a light two-wheeled trap drawn by a horse – usually with a compartment for dogs.

[Page 261, line 2] ponds were dragged ropes with small grapnels were hauled across the bottom in the hope of catching in the clothing of any bodies that might be there.

[Page 261, line 19] Strickland the police-officer see “Miss Youghal’s Sais” (Plain Tales from the Hills) for Notes and the stories in which he appears, also ORG Volume 1, p. 16.

[Page 261, line 22] Miss Youghal see the Note to line 19 above.

[Page 261, line 33] mahseer-rods fishing-rods.

[Page 262, line 3] Tietjens Afrikaans for ‘Tiger-Eyes’. [Why Kipling makes a man serving in India give his dog such a name is an intriguing question to which we would be delighted to have an answer; Ed.]

[Page 262, line 4] Rampur see the Notes to two stories in Soldiers Three;
The Solid Muldoon” page 41, line 3,
and “Black Jack” page 92, line 2, where it is spelt ‘Rampore’.

[Page 262, line 23] the Andaman Islands a group of islands in the Bay of Bengal, some 400 miles east of the Indian coast, where the Government of India then had a penal colony. The reference is probably to the sixth Earl of Mayo (1822-1872), Viceroy and Governor-General of India, who was assassinated on a visit to Port Blair, the capital.

[Page 262, line 30] Kashmir cloth also ‘Cashmere’. The Vale of Kashmir is a famous valley in the Western Himalayas where the goats yield a very fine soft wool.

[Page 263, line 12] bungalow a single-storey dwelling, usually with a thatched roof; see Hobson-Jobson, pp. 128 ff.

[Page 263, line 24] the bell of St. Paul’s Great Paul, a seventeen-ton bell in St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London. [See Arthur Mee, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1937, p. 298.]

[Page 263, line 33] ramrods used for pushing the charge into muzzle-loading guns and now, in the days of breech-loaders, known as cleaning-rods – see notes to “Black Jack” (Soldiers Three).
The military equivalent of Raining Cats and Dogs !

[Page 264, line 9] prickly heat an irritating rash caused by the blocking of the sweat-glands. [See Dr. Sheehan’s Notes].

[Page 264, line 23] lights see Note to “At the End of the Passage” at page 195, line 15.

[Page 265, line 19] the better animal the author is expressing the traditional male view of those times that men are inherently superior beings to women; see his verse “The Betrothed”, in particular the notorious lines:

…a woman is only a woman,
but a good cigar is a Smoke.

[Page 267, line 21] trim the lamps see the Note to page 198, line 4 above.

[Page 268, line 5] one little affair see “The Mark of the Beast” earlier in this volume.

[Page 268, line 16] ‘Pon my soul ‘Upon my soul ….’ Then an expression in common use, but seldom or never heard now.

[Page 268, lines 25 – 27] man’s fall …. evicted from Eden see Genesis, 3.

[Page 272, line 1] lie like Aryans ‘Aryans’ are thought by some authorities to have been the parent stock of the Indo-European family of nations – see Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable and Hobson-Jobson; [we have no explanation, however, for the author’s implication they should lie any more than other races; Ed.]

[Page 273, line 9] black-buck Antilope cervicapra, related to the gazelle, found in parts of India.

[Page 273, line 15] ·360 Express in this context a magazine-rifle, capable of rapid fire.

[Page 274, lines 14-20] he cast his eyes upon my child …. my child died This is the old superstition of the Evil Eye and the bad luck that follows praise which calls down the jealousy of the ‘higher powers.’– hence it is customary to speak of children (who are particularly susceptible) in a derogatory manner. See “Without Benefit of Clergy” earlier in this volume, and “The Story of Mohammed Din” (Plain Tales from the Hills) where the Narrator avoids any such danger by confining his conversations with the child to formal greetings. See lines 33 and overleaf.

[Page 274, line 24] Heaven-born  An expression of respect to a person of a higher rank, often used  by Kipling to convey in English the sense of such a dialogue. Harish Trivedi notes that it is not a direct translation of a phrase in Punjabi or Hindi.

[Page 275, line 30] the public scaffold he might have been hanged in public in those days, but by 1930, according to “The Debt” (Limits and Renewals page 212, line 10) executions took place in private.

[Page 276, line 6] karait or ‘krait’. Bungarus caeruleus – a deadly little rock-snake, which also figures in “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” (The Jungle Book).

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved