Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Holding the sea-lanes

      But I ain’t mocking him, much, and I’ve got a sight more use for him and his like that for the psalm-smiting Holy Joes who pay lip service to delivering the heathen from error’s chain by preaching and giving their ha’pence to the Anti-Slavery Society, but spare never a though for young Ballantyne holding the sea-lanes for civilisation and Jack Legerwood dying the kind of death you wouldn’t wish for your worst enemy. I’ve even heard ‘em maligned like my old shipmate Brooke* for taking a high hand and shooting first and hammering slavers and pirates and brigands like the wrath of God. Censure’s so easy from a distance, but I’ve seen them on the frontiers, schoolboys with the down still on their cheeks doing a man’s work and getting a seedeboy’s pay¹² and damn-all thanks and more often than not a bullet for their twenty-first birthday . . .

12. Seedeboy, sifiboy, Anglo-Indian slang for an African, usually a labourer (see Kipling, The Lost Legion. “We’ve starved on a Seedeboy’s pay”). Eric Partridge points out, in his Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, the irony that the word derives from sidi, a lord. 

Flashman on the March, p.20, Harper Collins, paperback edition 2005.

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