His Wedded Wife

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the notes on this tale in the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Plain Tales from the Hills, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.

[Title] “I …. Take thee … to my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward…”. The Form of Solemnization (sic) of Matrimony in The Book of Common Prayer.

[Heading] Attributed to ‘Vibart’s Moralities’ and collected as a Chapter Heading in the Sussex Edition, Definitive Verse and Collected Verse (slightly amended), like the heading to “Kidnapped”, also in this collection.

‘Art thou the man ?’ Perhaps an echo of 2 Samuel 12,7: ‘Thou art the man’.

Cain murdered his brother Abel, Genesis 4, 8. See Kipling’s poem “Cain and Abel”.

[Page 155, line 2] beetles And the poor beetle that we tread upon/ In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great/ As when a giant dies. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure (Act 3, Scene 1, lines 76–78)

[Page 155, line 5] buttons New uniforms came from the tailor with the brass buttons neatly wrapped in tissue-paper.

[Page 155, line 6] red … cheeks Europeans used to arrive in the tropics with rosy complexions that soon turned sallow with fever and general ill-health.

[Page 155, line 7] the worm that turned one version of the proverb is “The smallest worm will turn being trodden on” , Shakespeare, “King Henry VI” part 3, Act 2, Scene 17)

[Page 155, line 11] without a hair on his face It was then usual for officers and men to wear moustaches, supposedly to stop perspiration running into the mouth when in the field. The reason for this reference will be seen later.

[Page 155, line 12] ‘Shikarris’ nickname of a (probably) fictional regiment the officers of which are keen on big-game hunting and shooting. From the Hindi, shikari, a sportsman.

[Page 155, line 14] high-caste They consider themselves to be a high-class regiment.

[Page 155, line 15] banjo a portable stringed instrument popular at the time. [See the poem “The Song of the Banjo”].

[Page 156, line 2] trap in this instance a light two-wheeled cart, pulled by a pony.

[Page 156, line 4] whist a fashionable and skilful card-game for four people, now largely superseded by Bridge.

cut the cloth a billiards table has a slate bed covered by (usually) green cloth. A careless slip of the cue – a ‘miscue’ – can easily cause expensive damage.

[Page 156, line 14] shikarred hunted – or perhaps teased or hounded.

[Page 156, line 23] his Company promotion to Captain.

[Page 156, line 32] sell in this context, a swindle or joke.

[Page 156, line 33] when you get your step When you get your promotion from Lieutenant to Captain, as commander of a Company (see 156/23 above).

[Page 157, line 3] broke a word of several meanings – here signifying bankruptcy or perhaps professional disgrace.

[Page 157, line 27] platform a chabutra or terrace in the garden. See “A Wayside Comedy” in Wee Willie Winkie for another.

Mess House usually a single-storey building where the officers take their meals. There is an ante-room, a verandah and a covered way to the cook-house. There would be bungalows nearby for the single officers, and others for the married ones.

[Page 158, line 15] peg-tables occasional tables alongside the chairs for drinks, ash trays etc., and, in this case, candles.

[Page 158, line 24] trapped in his youth married secretly, like Dick Hatt in “In the Pride of His Youth” later in this collection.

[Page 159, line 7] too demonstrative a touch of sarcasm, or is the “lady” making too much fuss and appearing not genteel enough ?

[Page 159, line 10] Day of Judgement an echo of Revelations and other Books of the Bible, when God shall come to judge the world.

[Page 159, line 13] the Colonel this is another case of neglect of duty by the Commanding Officer and the Majors who would have been aware of the bullying and should have put a stop to it. (See also “Thrown Away” and “The Rescue of Pluffles” earlier in this collection.)

[Page 159, line 27] the fourth act of a tragedy plays of the period were often set in four acts.

[Page 160, lines 11 and 13] one Major…another (Major) The author is perhaps suggesting that these two Majors may have seen through the disguise.

[Page 160, line 30] cur a mongrel dog.

[Page 161, line 22] stays in this context, corsets, closely-fitting foundation-garments, stiffened with whale-bone, worn by women for constricting the waist and hips. (See “The Honours of War” in A Diversity of Creatures for some enforced cross-dressing in another Officers’ Mess)

[Page 162, line 17] a case something like this not identified – perhaps another example of Kipling’s tendency to suggest a certain omniscience.


[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2012 All rights reserved