Quotes Ghosts

(November 20th to 27th)


Even as she spoke her horse, swerving from a laden mule, threw himself directly in front of the advancing ’rickshaw. I had scarcely time to utter a word of warning when, to my unutterable horror, horse and rider passed through men and carriage as if they had been thin air.

“What’s the matter?” cried Kitty; “what made you call out so foolishly, Jack?


This is from “The Phantom Rickshaw”, one of Kipling’s earliest stories, published in 1885 when he was nineteen.

Jack Pansay has had a passionate affair with Agnes Keith-Wessington, the golden-haired wife of an officer. He tires of her and tells her so, but she refuses to accept his rejection, insisting that it is all “a hideous mistake”.

She grows wan and thin, but he continues to respond curtly and brutally. He becomes engaged to Kitty Mannering, a lively young woman, whom he deeply loves. Agnes dies of a broken heart.. Soon after, his rides out with Kitty around Simla are disrupted by the ghost of Agnes, in her familiar yellow-panelled rickshaw, which only he can see. She is still insisting that it is all “a hideous mistake”. His friends think he is mad or drunk, his doctor is mystified, and Kitty breaks off the engagement.

His life is ruined, and he goes to his death, still haunted by the golden-haired ghost in her yellow rickshaw.

.. the gloom overtook me before I could take in the meaning of the message. I moved toward the bed, every nerve already aching with the foreknowledge of the pain that was to be dealt it, and sat down, while my amazed and angry soul dropped, gulf by gulf, into that horror of great darkness which is spoken of in the Bible, and which, as auctioneers say, must be experienced to be appreciated.

Despair upon despair, misery upon misery, fear after fear, each causing their distinct and separate woe, packed in upon me for an unrecorded length of time, until at last they blurred together,


This is from “The House Surgeon“, collected in Actions and Reactions.(1909)

The narrator has made friends with a wealthy business-man, who tells him that his fine country house is haunted by a sense of depression which afflicts everyone who enters it. On their return to England he asks him down for the weekend to see for himself. Here,, as he settles into his bedroom, he depression closes in on him.

Determined to discover the cause of the dreadful atmosphere, the narrator gets to know the lawyer who had handled the sale of the house. The previous owners were three old sisters. One of them had fallen from the window of that very bedroom to her death, and the surviving two had always believed that she had committed suicide, condemning herself, as they believed, to eternal damnation. Ever since they had brooded on the tragedy, and every day they revisited the house in their imagination.

The narrator realises that it was more likely that the dead sister had fallen by accident when seeking fresh air in the night. He persuades the sisters to revisit the fatal room, and they too realise that it must have been an accident. Their sense of gloom, and the depression in the house, is lifted.

An’ then—’give you me word I didn’t recognise the voice—he stretches out ‘is neck a bit, in a way ’e ’ad, an’ he says: “Why, Bella!” ’e says. “Oh, Bella!” ’e says. “Thank Gawd!” ’e says. Just like that! An’ then I saw—I tell you I saw—Auntie Armine herself standin’ by the old dressin’station door where first I’d thought I’d seen her. He was lookin’ at ’er an’ she was lookin’ at him. I saw it, an’ me soul turned over inside me because—because it knocked out everything I’d believed in. I ’ad nothin’ to lay ’old of, d’ye see? An’ ’e was lookin’ at ’er as though he could ’ave et ’er, an’ she was lookin’ at ’im the same way, out of ’er eyes. Then he says: “Why, Bella,” ’e says, “this must be only the second time we’ve been alone together in all these years.” An’ I saw ’er half hold out her arms to ’im in that perishin’ cold. An’ she nearer fifty than forty an’ me own Aunt!


This is from “A Madonna of the trenches“, collected in Debits and Credits (1926).

Clem Strangwick, a young ex-soldier who is deeply disturbed, describes the horrors he has known in the trenchhes, but admits that the cause of his trouble was not these but the suicide of Sergeant Godsoe, who had been a father figure to him.  Clem tells that Godsoe and his aunt had been deeply in love, though married to others. He had only found this out when the aunt died of breast cancer and her ghost appeared to Clem and “Uncle John” in a remote trench, by an empty dug-out.

Godsoe took two charcoal braziers, went into the dug-out with the ghost, wedged up the door and stifled to death. . [L.L.]