Presented in four parts
By Rudyard Kipling
A scary ghost tale such as the one I was to derive from my visit with Strickland seldom begins like this adventure. His fluffy Afghan, Tietjens met me on the verandah with a bay like the boom of the bell of St. Paul’s, putting her paws on my shoulder to show she was glad to see me.
Strickland had clawed together a sort of meal that he called lunch, and immediately after he went out and about his business. I was left alone with Tietjens, and the rain and my own affairs.
Tietjens encamped outside my bedroom window, and storm after storm came up, thundered on the thatch, and died away. The lightning spattered the sky pale blue: and, looking through my split bamboo blinds, I could see the great dog standing, not sleeping, in the verandah, the hackles alift on her back and her feet anchored as tensely as the drawn wire-rope of a suspension bridge.
The thunder ceased, and Tietjens went into the garden and howled at the low moon. I ran into Strickland’s room and asked him whether he was ill, and had been calling for me. He was lying on his bed half dressed, a pipe in his mouth.
Strickland went to his office daily, leaving me alone for eight or ten hours with Tietjens for my only companion. As long as the full light lasted I was comfortable, and so was Tietjens; but in the twilight she and I moved into the back verandah and cuddled each other for company.
The snake-tails drew themselves up and disappeared. We could hear the dry rushing scuttle of long bodies running over the baggy ceiling-cloth. Strickland took a lamp with him, while I tried to make clear to him the danger of hunting roof-snakes between a ceiling-cloth and a thatch, apart from the deterioration of property caused by ripping out ceiling-cloths.
//Strickland: Nonsense! The’re sure to hide near the walls by the cloth. The bricks are too cold for em, and the heat of the room is just what they like. I shall just rip this ceiling cloth from the cornice and lift my head up.
//Me: Take care or you may be the subject of my next scary ghost tale!
There had been a movement under the cloth, and a little snake had wriggled out, to be back-broken by the butt of the mahseer-rod. I was sufficiently sick to make no remarks worth recording.
Strickland meditated, and helped himself to drinks. The arrangement under the cloth made no more signs of life.