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'"What else for, dearie?" he said. "I don't stand in need of hedge-stealings. I'm a freeholder, with money in the bank; and now I won't trust women no more! Silly old besom! I do beleft she'd ha' stole the Squire's big fob-watch, if I'd required her."

This is from "Rewards and Fairies" "Marlake Witches" by Kipling. http://pinkmonkey.com/dl/library1/digi300.pdf

What is "hedge-stealings"?

Is this literally the stealing of the hedge?

I am glad if some one kindly teach me.

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This use of hedge- as a prefix to the participle stealing may be intended by Kipling to convey the sense that the object of this particular stealing is of a very paltry sort.

OED has this as one of the definitions of hedge- as a prefix:

a. Born, brought up, habitually sleeping, sheltering, or plying their trade under hedges, or by the road-side (and hence used generally as an attribute expressing contempt), as hedge-bantling, hedge-brat, hedge-chaplain, hedge-curate, hedge-doctor, hedge-lawyer, hedge-parson, hedge-player, hedge-poet, hedge-wench, hedge-whore, etc.

The implication would have been more obvious to a reader in Kipling's time than it is today, and certainly obvious to a speaker in the era of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) in which the story is set.

It is also possible, as you suggest, that he refers here to the actual stealing of hedges for use as firewood, an act which was specifically sanctioned in English law, and noted in some accounts as a problem during that era, and which would be expected only of an impoverished person, which Master Jerry is at pains to make clear he is not.

  • Ah, you worked more quickly than I. All I can add is that the story is specifically set in 1806, when the future Iron Duke Sir Arthur Wesley (he changed the spelling of his name to Wellesley in 1798, but it doubtless took time for the rest of the world to fall in line) returned to England and, as Kipling says, commanded a brigade at Hastings in his time off from acting as MP for Rye. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 8 '16 at 0:57
  • @StoneyB Forsooth, I am slowly learning to type more quickly when I sense your presence online. – P. E. Dant Oct 8 '16 at 0:58
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    Dant It is perhaps worth suggesting that it is not the act of stealing which is denoted, but its fruits. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 8 '16 at 1:00
  • @StoneyB True dat, in current patois! – P. E. Dant Oct 8 '16 at 1:06
  • @StoneyB,, @ P. E. Dant thank you so much for your many and useful suggestions as usual. They are always so helpful! – Hiroshi Inagaki Oct 8 '16 at 5:12

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