The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Ghost Stories HTML version

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 author-
itatively, 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 stimu-
lus of long leave at Home. He may or he may not have behaved like a
blackguard to Mrs. Keith-Wessington. My notion is that the work of the
Katabundi Settlement ran him off his legs, and that he took to brooding
and making much of an ordinary P. & O. flirtation. He certainly was en-
gaged to Miss Mannering, and she certainly broke off the engagement.
Then he took a feverish chill and all that nonsense about ghosts de-
veloped. Overwork started his illness, kept it alight, and killed him poor
devil. Write him off to the SystemÑone man to take the work of two and
a half men."
I do not believe this. I used to sit up with Pansay sometimes when
Heatherlegh was called out to patients, and I happened to be within
claim. The man would make me most unhappy by describing in a low,
even voice, the procession that was always passing at the bottom of his
bed. He had a sick man's command of language. When he recovered I
suggested that he should write out the whole affair from beginning to
end, knowing that ink might assist him to ease his mind. When little
boys have learned a new bad word they are never happy till they have
chalked it up on a door. And this also is Literature.
He was in a high fever while he was writing, and the blood-and-thun-
der Magazine diction he adopted did not calm him. Two months after-
ward he was reported fit for duty, but, in spite of the fact that he was ur-
gently needed to help an undermanned Commission stagger through a
deficit, he preferred to die; vowing at the last that he was hag-ridden. I
got his manuscript before he died, and this is his version of the affair,
dated 1885:
My doctor tells me that I need rest and change of air. It is not improb-
able that I shall get both ere longÑrest that neither the red-coated mes-
senger nor the midday gun can break, and change of air far beyond that
which any homeward-bound steamer can give me. In the meantime I am
resolved to stay where I am; and, in flat defiance of my doctor's orders,
to take all the world into my confidence. You shall learn for yourselves
the precise nature of my malady; and shall, too, judge for yourselves
whether any man born of woman on this weary earth was ever so tor-
mented as I.