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THE PHANTOM RICKSHAW AND OTHER GHOST STORIES (Rudyard Kipling) online
"THE FINEST STORY IN THE WORLD"
_Will you never let us go?_
But in a little time we shall run out of the portholes as the water runs along the oarblade, and though you tell the others to row after us you will never catch us till you catch the oar-thresh and tie up the winds in the belly of the sail. Aho!
_Will you never let us go?_"
"H'm. What's oar-thresh, Charlie?"
"The water washed up by the oars. That's the sort of song they might sing in the galley, y'know. Aren't you ever going to finish that story and give me some of the profits?"
"It depends on yourself. If you had only told me more about your hero in the first instance it might have been finished by now. You're so hazy in your notions."
"I only want to give you the general notion of it--the knocking about from place to place and the fighting and all that. Can't you fill in the rest yourself? Make the hero save a girl on a pirate-galley and marry her or do something."
'You're a really helpful collaborator. I suppose the hero went through some few adventures before he married."
"Well then, make him a very artful card--a low sort of man--a sort of political man who went about making treaties and breaking them--a black-haired chap who hid behind the mast when the fighting began."
"But you said the other day that he was red-haired."
"I couldn't have. Make him black-haired of course. You've no imagination."
Seeing that I had just discovered the entire principles upon which the half-memory falsely called imagination is based, I felt entitled to laugh, but forbore, for the sake of the tale.
"You're right. _You're_ the man with imagination. A black-haired chap in a decked ship," I said.
"No, an open ship--like a big boat."
This was maddening.
"Your ship has been built and designed, closed and decked in; you said so yourself," I protested.
"No, no, not that ship. That was open, or half decked because----. By Jove you're right. You made me think of the hero as a red-haired chap. Of course if he were red, the ship would be an open one with painted sails."
Surely, I thought he would remember now that he had served in two galleys at least--in a three-decked Greek one under the black-haired "political man," and again in a Viking's open sea-serpent under the man "red as a red bear" who went to Markland. The devil prompted me to speak.
"Why, 'of course,' Charlie?" said I.
"I don't know. Are you making fun of me?"
The current was broken for the time being. I took up a notebook and pretended to make many entries in it.
"It's a pleasure to work with an imaginative chap like yourself," I said after a pause. "The way that you've brought out the character of the hero is simply wonderful."
"Do you think so?" he answered, with a pleased flush. "I often tell myself that there's more in me than my mo--than people think."
"There's an enormous amount in you."
"Then, won't you let me send an essay on The Ways of Bank Clerks to Tit-Bits, and get the guinea prize?"
"That wasn't exactly what I meant, old fellow: perhaps it would be better to wait a little and go ahead with the galley-story."
"Ah, but I sha'n't get the credit of that. 'Tit-Bits' would publish my name and address if I win. What are you grinning at? They _would_."
"I know it. Suppose you go for a walk. I want to look through my notes about our story."