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Poor crazy Cissie, my Nurse that I was telling you of, she took three solid silver tablespoons.' 'Took! But isn't that stealing?' Una cried. 'Hsh!' said Philadelphia, looking round at Puck. 'All I say is she took them without my leave. I made it right afterwards. So, as Dad says--and he's a magistrate-, it wasn't a legal offence; it was only compounding a felony.

This is from "Marklake Witches" by Kipling. http://pinkmonkey.com/dl/library1/digi300.pdf

What does "only" mean here ?

Does "compounding" mean "there is possibility of being a felony" ?

I am glad if some one kindly teach me.

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    "Only" here takes its common meaning of merely or no more than. Did you consult a dictionary to learn about the verb to compound? Please see this link. See also definition 10 in the Collins Dictionary. Sep 20, 2016 at 3:42
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    @P.E.Dant I have never heard of this phrase definition in the US. When I first read the example, I thought it was "6. to intensify by an added element ⇒ his anxiety was compounded by her crying", except that would make no sense in this context. But I can see how it might be confusing. Anyway you should write an answer.
    – user3169
    Sep 20, 2016 at 5:14
  • Thank you so much! I have understood the meaning of "compounding a felony" so well. Sep 20, 2016 at 7:52

1 Answer 1

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The author Rudyard Kipling here uses the verb to compound in its special legal sense.

See Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913), definition 5 under verb:

  1. To settle amicably; to adjust by agreement; to compromise; to discharge from obligation upon terms different from those which were stipulated; as, to compound a debt. I pray, my lords, let me compound this strife. Shakespeare. To compound a felony, to accept of a consideration for forbearing to prosecute, such compounding being an indictable offense.

The more modern Collins Dictionary still has under definition 10:

  1. law to agree not to prosecute in return for a consideration ⇒ to compound a crime

In law, an officer of the court (a magistrate, judge or attorney, e.g.) may agree not to prosecute a crime in return for some consideration. In this case, the nurse Cissie purloined three silver tablespoons, but Philadelphia (the speaker in your quotation) "made it right," and as a result Cissie was not punished for the theft.

The adverb only is used here in its normal sense as merely or no more than.

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  • Thank so much for your detailed answer! It is so helpful! Sep 21, 2016 at 2:30
  • Hi. You could also include the definition and link to Collins to show that it is a definition still in a modern dictionary. That would seem to me to make an even better answer, especially since you've already indicated that info in a comment. Sep 22, 2016 at 1:04
  • @AlanCarmack Good point - I originally used the Collins citation, but replaced it with Webster; I'll include both, belt & suspenders. (Chambers has it too, btw, and Oxford, who call it dated.) Sep 22, 2016 at 1:54
  • I actually did not know this use of compound. Sep 22, 2016 at 10:34

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