The Best Ghost Stories
The Phantom 'Rickshaw
By Rudyard Kipling
"May no ill dreams disturb my rest,
Nor Powers of Darkness me molest."
One of the few advantages that India has over England is a certain great Knowability.
After five years' service a man is directly or indirectly acquainted with the two or three
hundred Civilians in his Province, all the Messes of ten or twelve Regiments and
Batteries, and some fifteen hundred other people of the non-official castes. In ten years
his knowledge should be doubled, and at the end of twenty he knows, or knows
something about, almost every Englishman in the Empire, and may travel anywhere and
everywhere without paying hotel-bills.
Globe-trotters who expect entertainment as a right, have, even within my memory,
blunted this open-heartedness, but, none the less, to-day if you belong to the Inner Circle
and are neither a bear nor a black sheep all houses are open to you and our small world is
very kind and helpful.
Rickett of Kamartha stayed with Polder of Kumaon, some fifteen years ago. He meant to
stay two nights only, but was knocked down by rheumatic fever, and for six weeks
disorganized Polder's establishment, stopped Polder's work, and nearly died in Polder's
bed-room. Polder behaves as though he had been placed under eternal obligation by
Rickett, and yearly sends the little Ricketts a box of presents and toys. It is the same
everywhere. The men who do not take the trouble to conceal from you their opinion that
you are an incompetent ass, and the women who blacken your character and
misunderstand your wife's amusements, will work themselves to the bone in your behalf
if you fall sick or into serious trouble.
Heatherlegh, the Doctor, kept, in addition to his regular practice, a hospital on his private
account—an arrangement of loose-boxes for Incurables, his friends called it—but it was
really a sort of fitting-up shed for craft that had been damaged by stress of weather. The
weather in India is often sultry, and since the tale of bricks is a fixed quantity, and the
only liberty allowed is permission to work overtime and get no thanks, men occasionally
break down and become as mixed as the metaphors in this sentence.
Heatherlegh is the nicest doctor that ever was, and his invariable prescription to all his
patients is "lie low, go slow, and keep cool." He says that more men are killed by
overwork than the importance of this world justifies. He maintains that overwork slew
Pansay who died under his hands about three years ago. He has, of course, the right to
speak authoritatively, and he laughs at my theory that there was a crack in Pansay's head
and a little bit of the Dark World came through and pressed him to death. "Pansay went
off the handle," says Heatherlegh, "after the stimulus of long leave at Home. He may or