Oryx-and-Crake (oryx_and_crake) wrote in linguaphiles,

Expression - "order up the tumbrils"

Dear linguaphiles,

I am still struggling with Robertson Davies. There is a character who is extremely rude and uncooperating but gradually starts being more amicable and companionable. Another character says about her: "...[she is] Clean, putting on a little flesh, finding her tongue, and she doesn’t look at us any more as if she was just about to order up the tumbrils."

What does the expression in bold means? I found several meanings for tumbril/tumbrel that may be relevant, i) a cart that took the prisoners to the guillotine, ii) a ducking stool or cucking stool that was used to punish scolding women, and iii) a two-wheeled covered cart that carried tools or ammunition for an army. So, either the character in question wants to send everybody else to the guillotine, or she wants to punish them for scolding (does not look very probable - it is more likely to be the other way round, i.e. the others would like to punish her for her rudeness), or she is, figurally speaking, seen as one ordering up the ammunition to fight everybody else. Which do you think is more likely?

(here's the entire page if anyone is interested in more context)

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