Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"The Phantom Rickshaw." Rudyard Kipling.

One-minute review: India, part of the British Empire. Has a fling with the wife of another man. Grows tired of her. Distraught, she dies. He is now engaged to another woman, when, who should appear in a rickshaw, his now-dead mistress from the past.

No one can see the rickshaw with his former mistress riding in it. Horses pass right through it. But he can see it and the rickshaw canters along twenty paces away, whether he is on his horse or in a carriage. The rickshaw goes everywhere he goes. His behavior becomes erratic. His fiancée leaves him.

He implores his ghostly former mistress to stop tormenting him. The world outside becomes shadowy figures and the only reality is the phantom rickshaw. He has long conversations with his former mistress.

Slowly, oppressed by the dogged presence of the rickshaw, he is dying and he speculates how he will die. “For as surely as ever woman was killed by a man, I killed Mrs. Wessington. And the last portion of my punishment is even now upon me.”

Famous Ghost Stories. Ed. Bennett Cerf. New York: The Modern Library. Random House, inc. 1944.

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