ORG Volume 5, page 2555 records the first publication of this item (Uncollected No. 231) in the Daily Express (London) and the People’s Friend (Dundee) on 2 July, 1900. It is one of four stories of the Second Boer War of 1899-1902 in those papers during June and July of that year, the others being "The Way that he Took" (Land and Sea Tales), “The Outsider” (Uncollected, No. 232) and “A Burgher of the Free State” (Uncollected No. 233). All are collected in the Sussex and Burwash Editions.
The Boers have blown up a railway bridge across the Orange River, cutting communications to the important strategic city of Bloemfontein. While the bridge is being repaired by British engineers, travellers have to detrain, make a difficult crossing of the river, and continue their journeys on the other side. A very important financier, responding to an urgent call from Lord Roberts, the C. in C, is making this journey. He is held up for a time by the officiousness of local British officers — but not for long.
Kipling, who had seen much of the army in India, had great respect for fighting soldiers, and for independent initiative, but was contemptuous of anything that smacked of needless officiousness or old-fashioned rigid thinking. See KJ 079/15 for a letter from Cecil J. Sibbett, a war correspondent who met Kipling and wrote an account of a very similar incident. Kipling's 'McManus' was clearly based on the experience of Mr.
(afterwards Sir Lewis) Michel, General Manager of the Standard Bank of
[Title] Folly Bridge This is the name of a bridge over the Thames at Oxford, with a tower believed to have been the home of Friar Roger Bacon, the 13th century philosopher, who appears in “The Benefactors" (Uncollected No. 249) and “The Eye of Allah” (Debits and Credits)
The original bridge was demolished in 1827, so when Kipling visited the city as a child in 1872 (Angus Wilson, page 34) he may well have seen the present bridge, (right) which has a curious house on the island in the middle.
Kipling never attended university, since he started full-time work as a journalist before his seventeenth birthday. After he became an established literary figure he rejected many honours, but accepted the offer of a Honorary Doctorate from Oxford in 1907 (see Something of Myself, page 104).
Field-Marshal Lord Roberts(right) This was 'Bobs', Lord Roberts of Kandahar, who was Commander in Chief in Inidia while Kipling was there. A diminutive, redoubtable, and legenday figure, he was much respected by Kipling, and by the soldiery. See “The Three Musketeers” (Plain Tales from the Hills, page 75, line 32).