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By Rudyard Kipling
New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994
ISBN: 0-486-28051-9 (pbk.)
102 pages

Bob Corbett
September 2014

THE PHANTOM ‘RICKSHAW (1885) Pp. 1 -19

Theobald Jack Pansay is in India. He had a three year love-affair with Agnes Keith-Wesington who was, at that time, married to an English officer in Bombay. However, Pansay tired of Agnes early on, yet she could not and would not leave the relationship, constantly telling him that he would come to lover her again.

He finally breaks off the relationship and begins a more pleasant one for himself with Kitty Mannering. Eventually Agnes dies, seemingly of a broken heart. However, soon after her death and burial Jack Pansay begins to see her and her servants out riding her in her carriage.

Jack suspects himself of madness and a doctor works with him, and he does come to believe Jack has gone mad. The doctor tries to heal him, but it just doesn’t work and Jack is soon known as a mad man by the local populace.

He finally realizes he will be like this forever and his condition is a punishment for his terrible treatment of Agnes.


Morrowbie Jukes, an Englishman living in India, lives near a town which is rumored to be where “. . . the Dead who did not die, but many may not live, have established their headquarters.” Of course, he can’t imagine what sense could be made of this description.

One late afternoon he sets out on his horse to chase away some raiders on his property and the horse falls into a gigantic sand pit from which there seems to be no escape. He does meet an old India man there who, for the small change he has on him, helps him learn how to survive in this evil place by trapping and eating crows.

However, he discovers there was once another Englishman there and he had an escape plan which Jukes’ partner knows about. However, the man tries to double cross Jukes and to kill him, but Jukes is able to kill the man and save himself. However, he doesn’t know how he can now escape this sand pit.

Ah, but a rather unconvincing ending does the trick.

THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1888) Pp. 41 – 70

This is the story of two crazy English men, poor guys who eked out a life in India by various schemes to cheat or fool others. They decide they will invest their bit of money into some decent rifles and go off in the mountains of Afghanistan and make their fortune.

They explain their plans to an editor, and then go off. It is many months later and one of them returns. He is in physically very bad shape, but he sits and tells the editor a terrifying story of how the plan nearly worked. They did get into the mountains of Afghanistan and did take over a region, primarily by force of their rifles, however, they also convinced the people that they were gods.

One of them, however, got too cocky and set out to violate their own sacred rule: never let the people know they are men, but pass themselves off as gods. But the one decides they have the people completely cowed and he decides that he will wed one of the women of the tribe, thus clearly showing the people they were men and not gods. This causes the people to rise up and successfully kill the one who had claimed them gods. The other got away and got back to India and to the editor who recorded his story.

After a long shocking day of hearing the story, the editor seeks out the man to see how he is doing, but he has died of his wounds and illnesses from his adventure.

The story is fascinating, but, in order for it to be at all believable one has to assume the most primitive nature of the Afghan out-back folk. I don’t think their story does that in the slightest, reading it now, but perhaps, in the India of the 1880 it might have, in some crazy way, have been believable.

WEE WILLIE WINKIE (1888) Pp. 71 – 80

Six year old Wee Willie is the colonel’s son and was raised with military discipline. He likes a young Indian woman whom one of the colonel’s prize soldiers loves and wishes to marry. The English are generally not happy with relations between soldiers and Indian women.

However, one day she goes out riding and Willie’s father had told him that across the near-by river were very dangerous outlaws who would kill any of the people who lived near the military base. Willie himself had been bad and his father had confined him to the house in military fashion. But, Willie senses the real danger the young woman is in so he violates his military rule and hurries to his pony to try to stop the young woman.

She has fallen off her horse and she has badly sprained her ankle. She says they are in grave danger and that she is lost and Willie must hurry back before the natives come. However, he, realizing she will probably ask this of him, has already sent his pony home alone knowing that his father and the soldiers will come looking for him.

In the meantime the enemy arrive and they do seem quite ready to do the two of them harm, however, one of them had at an earlier time worked for the British and warns his colleagues that to harm this boy would be their end, the British would hunt them down and kill them, so they do them no harm. However, Willie becomes the hero of the base for his heroic deed of saving the young woman.

Lovely little tale.


A fairly lowly British soldier has fallen in love with a very young Muslim woman and taken up living with her, but not marrying her. Rather, she and her mother live in a small house he has purchased and the appearance is that they are his servants. And there is a male servant as well. The young woman has his baby and he is overjoyed.

However, the girl and her mother are not too sure of the soldier’s future. Will he really stay and eventually marry the girl, or will he go back to “his” people. He is in love and also adores the small child, so the male servant convinces him to slaughter two lambs as part of a Muslim religious tradition of trading old life for new. He does this despite knowing this whole situation is very dangerous for him.

Things seem blissful. There has been general health in the region for some 30 years and prosperity is the norm. The soldier and his Indian wife have a cute little boy, the joy of their life. But disaster strikes not only their own lives, but all of India as cholera returns to devastate and it not only takes his son, but also his wife. The soldier survives and life goes on, even, eventually the cholera subsides, but he can never forget his lovely wife and the life of which they dreamed.

Oh my, what a deeply sad and powerful story!

The stories were quite early Kipling tales and quite fanciful, but still enjoyable to read. However, I think his later work was of better quality.

Bob Corbett


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