His Wedded Wife

(notes edited by John McGivering)


The story was published in the Civil and Military Gazette on February 25th 1887, in the first Indian edition of Plain Tales from the Hills in 1888, and in subsequent editions of that collection. See David Alan Richards p. 17.

The story

A young officer joins a high-class regiment and is nicknamed “The Worm”. He is bullied and made a fool of by the Senior Subaltern. The Worm bets that he will have his revenge on his tormentor, who has recently become engaged to be married. One evening a beautiful woman appears in the mess. She weeps, and declares to the assembled officers that she is the Senior Subaltern’s wife, and that he has deserted her. She seems to know a great deal about him. Things are looking black for the Senior Subaltern, when the woman reveals herself to be The Worm in disguise. He has won his bet.

Critical comments

This is one of the first of Kipling’s many “revenge” stories, which have been discussed at great length by the commentators. Dobrée observes that (they) are those of a moralist illustrating retributive justice. All his victims have erred, and are brought to book except in the last, rather baffling tale of that nature, “Dayspring Mishandled”, in Kipling’s last collection, Limits and Renewals.

Charles Carrington regards this (p. 107.) as: ‘…a clever story with a smack of Stalky about it…’

Dr Tompkins looks at this and other stories in her Chapter 5, “Hatred and Revenge” (p. 121), observing that Kipling’s
early tales include many anecdotes of revenge:

There are malicious and farcical counterstrokes in “The Judgement of Dungara” and “The Sending of Dana Da”, and there is the effective retaliation of the harassed subaltern in “His Wedded Wife”. There is no strong excitement here; the skill and oddity of the return-match make the story.


[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2012 All rights reserved