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The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Ghost Stories


Speaking now as a condemned criminal might speak ere the drop-
bolts are drawn, my story, wild and hideously improbable as it may ap-
pear, demands at least attention. That it will ever receive credence I ut-
terly disbelieve. Two months ago I should have scouted as mad or drunk
the man who had dared tell me the like. Two months ago I was the hap-
piest man in India. Today, from Peshawur to the sea, there is no one
more wretched. My doctor and I are the only two who know this. His ex-
planation is, that my brain, digestion, and eyesight are all slightly af-
fected; giving rise to my frequent and persistent "delusions." Delusions,
indeed! I call him a fool; but he attends me still with the same unwearied
smile, the same bland professional manner, the same neatly trimmed red
whiskers, till I begin to suspect that I am an ungrateful, evil-tempered in-
valid. But you shall judge for your-selves.
Three years ago it was my fortuneÑmy great misfortuneÑto sail from
Gravesend to Bombay, on return from long leave, with one Agnes Keith-
Wessington, wife of an officer on the Bombay side. It does not in the least
concern you to know what manner of woman she was. Be content with
the knowledge that, ere the voyage had ended, both she and I were des-
perately and unreasoningly in love with one another. Heaven knows that
I can make the admission now without one particle of vanity. In matters
of this sort there is always one who gives and another who accepts. From
the first day of our ill-omened attachment, I was conscious that Agnes's
passion was a stronger, a more dominant, andÑif I may use the expres-
sionÑa purer sentiment than mine. Whether she recognized the fact
then, I do not know. Afterward it was bitterly plain to both of us.
Arrived at Bombay in the spring of the year, we went our respective
ways, to meet no more for the next three or four months, when my leave
and her love took us both to Simla. There we spent the season together;
and there my fire of straw burned itself out to a pitiful end with the clos-
ing year. I attempt no excuse. I make no apology. Mrs. Wessington had
given up much for my sake, and was prepared to give up all. From my
own lips, in August, 1882, she learned that I was sick of her presence,
tired of her company, and weary of the sound of her voice. Ninety-nine
women out of a hundred would have wearied of me as I wearied of
them; seventy-five of that number would have promptly avenged them-
selves by active and obtrusive flirtation with other men. Mrs. Wessing-
ton was the hundredth. On her neither my openly expressed aversion
nor the cutting brutalities with which I garnished our interviews had the
least effect.
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