Notes on the text
Notes 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.
A jay hasn't got any more principle than a Congressman. A jay will lie, a jay will steal, a jay will deceive, a jay will betray; and four times out of five, a jay will go back on his solemnest promise.“under sail half the time” demonstrates that the Whanghoa was in that intermediate stage of the transition from sail to steam when vessels were still equipped to take advantage of both means of propulsion. [see KJ 307, Sep 2003, p.26 for an illustration of a vessel rigged this way, supplied by Roger Ayers].
This term is often applied to the Chinaman's [sic] long plait of hair, by transfer from the queue of our grandfathers, to which the name was much more appropriate. Though now universal among the Chinese, the fashion was only introduced by their Manchu conquerors in the 17th century . . .[Page 8, line 6] ’Frisco San Francisco in California was well-known for its Chinese colony and their way of life. Bret Harte summed it up in “Plain Language from Truthful James” (1870), the last stanza being:
Which is why I remark,[Page 8, line 13] heeled American slang for “armed” (usually with a revolver), but Erastasius was armed with claws. Literally “provided” (with weapon understood). Perhaps there is a double meaning here, Erastasius carrying his weapons in his feet if not his heels. [ORG]
And my language is plain,
That for ways that are dark,
And for tricks that are vain,
The heathen Chinee is peculiar,—
Which the same I am free to maintain.
[See also the Background to the story.]
“And before the Throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal”.[Page 11, line 6] touch-hole A touch hole is a small hole at the breech end, through which the propellent charge of a cannon or muzzleloading gun is ignited. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touch_hole]