His Brother’sKeeper

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 111, Title] His Brother’s Keeper See the Bible – Genesis 4, 9: “And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?”

[Page 111, line 1] Whist a card game for four players in two fixed partnerships. A standard pack of 52 cards is used.

[Page 111, line 3] Poker a gambling game using a standard pack of 52 cards. There are several variants to this game.

[Page 111, line 6] Seeking what he may devour See the Bible, 1 Peter 5, 8. More correctly, from the Authorised Version, this should be “seeking whom he may devour.”

[Page 111, line 8] punkah a large fixed and swinging fan, formed of cloth stretched on a rectangular frame, and suspended from the ceiling, which is used to agitate the air in hot weather. (Hobson-Jobson)

[Page 111, line 13] skinning someone winning someone’s money.

[Page 111, line 14] crossed a horse for pleasure ridden a horse for pleasure, the implication being that he only rode to win races and therefore, money.

[Page 111, line 17] Johnnies slang for men.

[Page 111, line 17] Club a meeting place, usually for bachelors in the 1880s, where they could drink, dine, and otherwise amuse themselves.

[Page 111, line 18] the Gaff a low-grade or cheap theatre. (Chambers Dictionary)

[Page 111, line 20] split a small whiskey and a small (split) soda. [ORG]

[Page 112, lines 1 to 3] do burra—burra whiskey-peg lao two big double whiskey tots bring. (This could mean two double-doubles). barf means ‘ice’. [ORG]

[Page 112, line 6] bukking talking.

[Page 112, line 7] Qui hai! Mera wasti bhi Whoever’s there! For me also. (approximate translation, meaning ‘bring me a drink as well’).

[Page 112, line 24] Babu Hindu Clerk.

[Page 113, line 8] heat-apoplexy Dr Gillian Sheehan writes:

The premonitory symptoms of sunstroke included irritability, restlessness and headache, inability to make much exertion without great effort, confusion of ideas, confusion of vision, loquacity, and fits of laughing and crying. Heat apoplexy could be preceded by the premonitory symptoms described above, or it might begin with the person fainting, being hot to the touch, with flushed face and bloodshot eyes, and noisy breathing or snoring. In a short time the person could become unconscious and have convulsions. [Information from William Moore, A Manual of Family Medicine and Hygiene for India, reprinted, Delhi, 1989, p. 372.]

[Page 113, line 10] pukka first class or proper.

[Page 113, line 22] a Johnnie slang for a man, synonymous with a ‘chap’.

[Page 113, line 24] Bearer, cherut lao! Servant, bring a cheroot! (a cylindrical cigar with both ends clipped during manufacture).

[Page 114, line 1] whacker a ‘tall’ story, or a complete fabrication (lie!).

[Page 114, line 4] burlesque of Faust there was a burlesque of Gounod’s opera Faust with music by Meyer Lutz entitled Faust-up-to-Date, produced by George Edwardes at the Gaiety Theatre, London, around 1888. However, this seems to be rather too late to be referred to in the way that Kipling does in this story. Thus, the reference is more likely to be to a home-grown amateur venture created in India before 1888, which would be known to the readers of The Week’s News.

Martha is the elderly companion to Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust.

[Page 114, line 16] Steady the Buffs! Kipling quotes this phrase in three different stories – this one, “Poor Dear Mama”

(The Story of the Gadsbys)

, and “The Last Term” (Stalky & Co.)

The source of this quotation was discussed on the Kipling Mailbase in 2001 and 2002, the following being based on the comments by Roger Ayers, Michael Jefferson, and Tim Connell:

The Buffs were a notable regiment of the British Army, the Third Foot, descended from a regiment raised for Dutch service in 1572, and the London Trainbands, all of which had buff coloured facings to their uniforms. The 3rd Foot had become popularly known as ‘The Buffs’ by 1702, and this became part of their official name by 1751.

The phrase originated in the Peninsular War, and is attributed to the Colonel of the Buffs. During an engagement, the Buffs, as senior Regiment were positioned on the right flank in an advance against the French. The enthusiatic Buffs moved rapidly and got well ahead of the general line of advance, whereupon the Colonel is reputed to have shouted:

‘Steady the Buffs, give the Slashers a chance!’

The ‘Slashers’ was a nickname accorded to the 28th Foot (2nd Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment), the Regiment to the left of the Buffs in the advance line, a name that they are said to have earned when cutting their way out of trouble at the Battle of White Plains in 1777. They share the battle honours Albuhera, Vittoria, Pyrenees and others in the Peninsula with the Buffs, the Berkshires and the Northamptonshires so they were often in action together.

[Page 114, lines 24 & 25] bundobust agreement or arrangement.

[Page 117, line 5] Utamamula Canal probably an invented name but it indicates Madras. [ORG] This could have been an irrigation canal or one for use by shipping since both types were constructed in India in the 19th century.
Headworks dams and other constructions at the start of the canal, or at a junction. Stovey was in charge of building the embankments of the canal. [line 20]

[Page 117, line 6] chumming sharing accommodation, in this case the canal bungalow (lines 10 & 11).

[Page 117, line 9] pukka sweep there is an apparent contradiction in this phrase. A ‘sweep’ here means a ‘rotter’, slang for a rotten or bad person, which together with pukka, means a genuinely bad person or ‘complete rotter’ in the slang of the first half of the 20th century.

[Page 118, line 12] coolie hired labourer. (Hobson-Jobson)

[Page 119, line 2] War Cry A weekly religious paper issued by the Salvation Army in London from 1879. It was obviously well-known even in India in 1888.

[Page 119, line 25] pegging out in this instance, slang for dying.

[Page 120, line 15] fresh as a daisy begin anew, full of energy and enthusiasm. This is a saying based on the observation that new daisies seem to spring up overnight.

[Page 121, line 8] charpoy the light Indian bed, usually consisting of a simple frame bedstead with strings or ribbons as supports for the body.

[Page 121, line 18] Martini A rifle with the breech mechanism invented by Frederic Martini (1832-1897) and the barrel developed by Benjamin Tyler Henry. (hence ‘Martini-Henry’) The weapon is also an important item in both “Black Jack” and “In the Matter of a Private” (Soldiers Three).

[Page 121, line 19] bullumteers Anglo-Sepoy dialect for ‘Volunteers.’ This distinctive title was applied to certain regiments of the old Bengal Army, whose terms of enlistment embraced service overseas; and in the days of that army various ludicrous stories were current in connection with the name. (Hobson-Jobson)

[Page 121, line 20] cartridges a brass case containing the charge (propellant) with a bullet secured in the end.

[Page 121, line 21] ‘I knocked the breech-pin out with the cleaning-rod’ The same action was carried out in “Black Jack” (Soldiers Three). The Martini rifle has a pivoted block moving vertically instead of a bolt working horizontally as in the Lee-Enfield. If the breech-pin is missing, the block would be liable to fall out when the rifle was picked up.

There is a good exploded diagram of the Martini action to be found at: https://www.martinihenry.com/actiondiagram.htm,
and also close-up photographs of the method of removing the breechblock pin at: https://www.martinihenry.com/quick.htm
and breechblock disassembly at:
cleaning-rod usually of metal, some three feet long, used with pieces of flannel 4 inches by 2 inches for cleaning the barrel of the rifle.

[Page 122, line 23] mistries carpenters or masons.

[Page 123, line 7] Chemanghath another fictitious place. [ORG]

[Page 123, line 20] chlorodyne a patent medicine invented by Dr J. Collis Browne, a doctor in the Indian Army. Its ingredients included morphine, chloroform and cannabis.

[Page 124, line 21] lohars as a naksha
lohars are members of the iron-working caste.
‘as a naksha‘ means ‘as a model or example of the required object’.

[Page 125, line 23] peace of Abraham’s bosom dying – see the Bible, Luke 16,22.

[Page 126, line 2] pariah wild or feral dog.

[Page 126, line 16] brindled coat marked with spots or streaks.

[Page 127, line 14] pi a synonym for a pariah dog.

[Page 127, line 18] dâk bungalow A rest house for the accommodation of travellers.

[Page 127, line 25] tiffined Hobson-Jobson defines ‘tiffin’ as ‘Luncheon, Anglo-Indian and Hindustani, at least in English households.’ Thus it would be a repast taken around midday.

[Page 128, line 7] Toopare Club there appears to be no such place as ‘Toopare’. [ORG]


©David Page 2006 All rights reserved