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THE PHANTOM RICKSHAW AND OTHER GHOST STORIES (Rudyard Kipling) online
"THE FINEST STORY IN THE WORLD"
When next he came to me he was drunk--royally drunk on many poets for the first time revealed to him. His pupils were dilated, his words tumbled over each other, and he wrapped himself in quotations. Most of all was he drunk with Longfellow.
"Isn't it splendid? Isn't it superb?" he cried, after hasty greetings. "Listen to this--
"'Wouldst thou,' so the helmsman answered, 'Know the secret of the sea? Only those who brave its dangers Comprehend its mystery.'
"'Only those who brave its dangers Comprehend its mystery.'"
be repeated twenty times, walking up and down the room and forgetting me. "But I can understand it too," he said to himself. "I don't know how to thank you for that fiver. And this; listen--
"'I remember the black wharves and the ships And the sea-tides tossing free, And the Spanish sailors with bearded lips, And the beauty and mystery of the ships, And the magic of the sea.'
I haven't braved any dangers, but I feel as if I knew all about it."
"You certainly seem to have a grip of the sea. Have you ever seen it?"
"When I was a little chap I went to Brighton once; we used to live in Coventry, though, before we came to London. I never saw it,
'When descends on the Atlantic The gigantic Storm-wind of the Equinox.'"
He shook me by the shoulder to make me understand the passion that was shaking himself.
"When that storm comes," he continued, "I think that all the oars in the ship that I was talking about get broken, and the rowers have their chests smashed in by the bucking oar-heads. By the way, have you done anything with that notion of mine yet?"
"No. I was waiting to hear more of it from you. Tell me how in the world you re so certain about the fittings of the ship. You know nothing of ships."
"I don't know. It's as real as anything to me until I try to write it down. I was thinking about it only last night in bed, after you had loaned me 'Treasure Island'; and I made up a a whole lot of new things to go into the story."
"What sort of things?"
"About the food the men ate; rotten figs and black beans and wine in a skin bag, passed from bench to bench."
"Was the ship built so long ago as _that_?"
"As what? I don't know whether it was long ago or not. It's only a notion, but sometimes it seems just as real as if it was true. Do I bother you with talking about it?"
"Not in the least. Did you make up anything else?"
"Yes, but it's nonsense." Charlie flushed a little.
"Never mind; let's hear about it."
"Well, I was thinking over the story, and after awhile I got out of bed and wrote down on a piece of paper the sort of stuff the men might be supposed to scratch on their oars with the edges of their handcuffs. It seemed to make the thing more lifelike. It is so real to me, y'know."
"Have you the paper on you?"
"Ye--es, but what's the use of showing it? It's only a lot of scratches. All the same, we might have 'em reproduced in the book on the front page."