‘That’s North country.’ She laughed again. ‘Setting aside my good looks and yours, I’ve four thousand a year of my own, and the rents should make it six. That’s a match some old cats would lap tea all night to fettle up.’

This is from "In the Same Boat " by Rudyard Kipling.

I don't understand the meaning below

That’s a match some old cats would lap tea all night to fettle up.

According to the text note of Kipiling society, fettle up normally is an engineering term meaning to finish or smooth metal, but here meaning to bring off or accomplish. https://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/readers-guide/rg_sameboat_notes.htm

  • Thank you. You reminded me I need to read some Kipling. It has been some considerable time.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 4:58

1 Answer 1


So, assuming for "fettle up", the meanings "arrange" or "accomplish" that you have found, here's a gloss:

The match (between you and me) is an attractive one. Some old cats would lap up tea all night to arrange such a match = Some individuals would go to any lengths to secure that.

If you don't know what a cat lapping is, here's a picture of one lapping milk:
cat and milk

As David Siegel mentioned in a comment, the woman is probably referring to mothers plotting around the tea table. It makes more sense that way.

  • 1
    true, but here I think "cats" means not just people but "old women" or more particularly "women old enough to have children of marriageable age". Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 3:35
  • 1
    Since she's talking about a pairing between the two of them, why do you think it's more about her than about him? Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 3:58
  • 2
    Oh, Kipling. A rich depth in every simple statement. The various old ladies making the tea last until all the details are settled, so only dipping their tongues in and not hurrying to drink.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 4:58
  • 1
    Thank you very much for your deep and suggestive answer and comments! Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 7:17
  • @Jack O'Flaherty I don't think that it is more about her, nor that she thinks so. I believe that she is imagining women of their respective mother's circles considering and approving a match between them. As I understand it, at that time and in that social stratum, matchmaking was largely done by the mothers of the parties, and other women of similar age who were socially associated with them. Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 15:48

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