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THE PHANTOM RICKSHAW AND OTHER GHOST STORIES (Rudyard Kipling) online
"THE FINEST STORY IN THE WORLD"
Grish Chunder looked at him keenly for a minute.
"I beg your pardon," Charlie said, uneasily; "I didn't know you had any one with you."
"I am going," said Grish Chunder.
He drew me into the lobby as he departed.
"That is your man," he said, quickly. "I tell you he will never speak all you wish. That is rot-bosh. But he would be most good to make to see things. Suppose now we pretend that it was only play"--I had never seen Grish Chunder so excited--"and pour the ink-pool into his hand. Eh, what do you think? I tell you that he could see _anything_ that a man could see. Let me get the ink and the camphor. He is a seer and he will tell us very many things."
"He may be all you say, but I'm not going to trust him to your Gods and devils."
"It will not hurt him. He will only feel a little stupid and dull when he wakes up. You have seen boys look into the ink-pool before."
"That is the reason why I am not going to see it any more. You'd better go, Grish Chunder."
He went, declaring far down the staircase that it was throwing away my only chance of looking into the future.
This left me unmoved, for I was concerned for the past, and no peering of hypnotized boys into mirrors and ink-pools would help me do that. But I recognized Grish Chunder's point of view and sympathized with it.
"What a big black brute that was!" said Charlie, when I returned to him. "Well, look here, I've just done a poem; did it instead of playing dominoes after lunch. May I read it?"
"Let me read it to myself."
"Then you miss the proper expression. Besides, you always make my things sound as if the rhymes were all wrong.
"Read it aloud, then. You're like the rest of 'em."
Charlie mouthed me his poem, and it was not much worse than the average of his verses. He had been reading his book faithfully, but he was not pleased when I told him that I preferred my Longfellow undiluted with Charlie.
Then we began to go through the MS. line by line; Charlie parrying every objection and correction with:
"Yes, that may be better, but you don't catch what I'm driving at."
Charlie was, in one way at least, very like one kind of poet.
There was a pencil scrawl at the back of the paper and "What's that?" I said.
"Oh that's not poetry 't all. It's some rot I wrote last night before I went to bed and it was too much bother to hunt for rhymes; so I made it a sort of a blank verse instead."
Here is Charlie's "blank verse":
"We pulled for you when the wind was against us and the sails were low.
_Will you never let us go?_
We ate bread and onions when you took towns or ran aboard quickly when you were beaten back by the foe.
The captains walked up and down the deck in fair weather singing songs, but we were below.
We fainted with our chins on the oars and you did not see that we were idle for we still swung to and fro.
_Will you never let us go?_
The salt made the oar handles like sharkskin; our knees were cut to the bone with salt cracks; our hair was stuck to our foreheads; and our lips were cut to our gums and you whipped us because we could not row.