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The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Ghost Stories


THE PHANTOM 'RICKSHAW
May no ill dreams disturb my rest,
Nor Powers of Darkness me molest.
ÑEvening Hymn.
One of the few advantages that India has over England is a great
Knowability. After five years' service a man is directly or indirectly ac-
quainted with the two or three hundred Civilians in his Province, all the
Messes of ten or twelve Regiments and Batteries, and some fifteen hun-
dred other people of the non-official caste. In ten years his knowledge
should be doubled, and at the end of twenty he knows, or knows
something about, every Englishman in the Empire, and may travel any-
where 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, very kind and
helpful.
Rickett of Kamartha stayed with Polder of Kumaon some fifteen years
ago. He meant to stay two nights, 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 bedroom. 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 accountÑan arrangement of loose boxes for In-
curables, his friend called itÑbut it was really a sort of fitting-up shed
for craft that had been damaged by stress of weather. The weather in In-
dia is often sultry, and since the tale of bricks is always 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 meta-
phors in this sentence.
Heatherlegh is the dearest doctor that ever was, and his invariable pre-
scription to all his patients is, "lie low, go slow, and keep cool." He says
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