The Naulahka – XXI

Notes on the text

by Sharad Keskar

[Heading] These verses, with two more added before the last one, were collected in Songs from Books, 1912, under the title “My Lady’s Law”, with the alternative title “The Law and the Lady”.
‘The Law whereby my lady moves…’ The poem reflects the crisis when Kate finds out that Tarvin used his work on the dam as a blind, because “I couldn’t tell Colonel Nolan that I had come courting you, could I?” He still doesn’t tell her about the Naulahka. She is horrified at his dishonesty, especially in taking the King’s money to build a dam he knew to be worthless.

‘He knew the tone of finality he heard in her voice; it went with a certain look of scorn when she spoke of any form of moral baseness that moved her. He recognised his condemnation in it and shuddered. He recognised this for the crisis of his life.’ (p. 317)
‘She could not know … how entirely he must always define morality as what pleased Kate.’ (p. 318)

He does not understand “his Lady’s law” but he will obey it. [P.H.]

page 1

[Page 308, line 10] an enemy hath done this see Matthew 13,28.

page 2

[Page 311, line 10] Salaam, baba Mur Singh, hardly more than a baba (baby), is being told to say “Salaam”, a polite gesture or salute, without being saluted himself.

[Page 312, line 3] phut slang from the Hindustani for broken or burst: to fizzle out.

[Page 313, line 6] Jai ! Jungle da badshah jai ‘Hail victory! King of the Jungle, victory!’ badshah means ‘king’.

page 3

[Page 315, line 12] I want you to this sentence is in reply to “do you want to go alone?” and it would be more complete had it read “I want you to go without me” because as it stands it might be understood to mean “I want you too”.

page 4

[Page 318, line 10] do the square thing to do what is right and proper.

[Page 318, line 18] confections in dressmaking it was the word (from the French) for any ready-made article of attire, especially mantles, cloaks, wraps, etc.

[Page 319, line 4] $2,000 a month A mine turning out $2,000 (£500) a month seems a small affair.

page 5

[Page 324, line 1] spank colloquial word for specifically smacking a child on the buttocks with the open hand; metaphorically to chasten someone.

[Page 326, line 4] tamasha a display or exhibition or big party.

page 6

[Page 328, line 1] arsenal a magazine for explosives and fire-arms.

[Page 329, line 5] lays over is more dangerous and important.

[Page 329, line 6] left mistaken.

[Page 330, line 13] It is not wealth… the two doggerel lines were probably concocted by the author.

page 7

[Page 330, line 17] Aravullis (more usually Aravallis) The substantial range of hills in Rajasthan.

[Page 330, line 32] fox-headed bats the fruit-eating bats known sometimes as flying-foxes; (genus Pteropus).

[Page 331, line 5] twisted their tails then and even now the common practice by the bullock-cart drivers in India.

[Page 332, line 7] Mayo College The college at Ajmer, referred to earlier.

Tumble?: Do you understand? As, ‘at last he tumbled’, meaning he suddenly understood a joke or a reference or realised he was being teased.

[Page 332, line 26] A side issue this refers to the necklace and through it, the coming of the railway to Topaz. Tarvin had failed in that mission, but his main aim was achieved—that of marrying Kate.