The Other Man by Rudyard Kipling
When the earth was sick and the skies were gray,
And the woods were rotted with rain,
The Dead Man rode through the autumn day
To visit his love again.
Far back in the "seventies," before they had built any Public
Offices at Simla, and the broad road round Jakko lived in a pigeon-
hole in the P. W. D. hovels, her parents made Miss Gaurey marry
Colonel Schriederling. He could not have been MUCH more than
thirty-five years her senior; and, as he lived on two hundred rupees
a month and had money of his own, he was well off. He belonged to
good people, and suffered in the cold weather from lung complaints.
In the hot weather he dangled on the brink of heat- apoplexy; but it
never quite killed him.
Understand, I do not blame Schriederling. He was a good husband
according to his lights, and his temper only failed him when he was
being nursed. Which was some seventeen days in each month. He was
almost generous to his wife about money matters, and that, for him,
was a concession. Still Mrs. Schreiderling was not happy. They
married her when she was this side of twenty and had given all her
poor little heart to another man. I have forgotten his name, but we
will call him the Other Man. He had no money and no prospects. He was
not even good-looking; and I think he was in the Commissariat or
Transport. But, in spite of all these things, she loved him very
madly; and there was some sort of an engagement between the two when
Schreiderling appeared and told Mrs. Gaurey that he wished to marry
her daughter. Then the other engagement was broken off--washed away
by Mrs. Gaurey's tears, for that lady governed her house by weeping
over disobedience to her authority and the lack of reverence she
received in her old age. The daughter did not take after her mother.
She never cried. Not even at the wedding.
The Other Man bore his loss quietly, and was transferred to as bad
a station as he could find. Perhaps the climate consoled him. He
suffered from intermittent fever, and that may have distracted him
from his other trouble. He was weak about the heart also. Both
ways. One of the valves was affected, and the fever made it worse.
This showed itself later on.
Then many months passed, and Mrs. Schreiderling took to being ill.
She did not pine away like people in story books, but she seemed to
pick up every form of illness that went about a station, from simple
fever upwards. She was never more than ordinarily pretty at the best
of times; and the illness made her ugly. Schreiderling said so. He
prided himself on speaking his mind.
When she ceased being pretty, he left her to her own devices, and
went back to the lairs of his bachelordom. She used to trot up and
down Simla Mall in a forlorn sort of way, with a gray Terai hat well
on the back of her head, and a shocking bad saddle under her.
Schreiderling's generosity stopped at the horse. He said that any
saddle would do for a woman as nervous as Mrs. Schreiderling. She
never was asked to dance, because she did not dance well; and she was
so dull and uninteresting, that her box very seldom had any cards in
it. Schreiderling said that if he had known that she was going to be
such a scare-crow after her marriage, he would never have married her.
He always prided himself on speaking his mind, did Schreiderling!
He left her at Simla one August, and went down to his regiment.
Then she revived a little, but she never recovered her looks. I
found out at the Club that the Other Man is coming up sick--very
sick--on an off chance of recovery. The fever and the heart-valves
had nearly killed him. She knew that, too, and she knew--what I had
no interest in knowing--when he was coming up. I suppose he wrote to
tell her. They had not seen each other since a month before the
wedding. And here comes the unpleasant part of the story.
A late call kept me down at the Dovedell Hotel till dusk one
evening. Mrs. Schreidlerling had been flitting up and down the Mall
all the afternoon in the rain. Coming up along the Cart-road, a tonga
passed me, and my pony, tired with standing so long, set off at a
canter. Just by the road down to the Tonga Office Mrs. Schreiderling,
dripping from head to foot, was waiting for the tonga. I turned
up-hill, as the tonga was no affair of mine; and just then she began
to shriek. I went back at once and saw, under the Tonga Office lamps,
Mrs. Schreiderling kneeling in the wet road by the back seat of the
newly-arrived tonga, screaming hideously. Then she fell face down in
the dirt as I came up.
Sitting in the back seat, very square and firm, with one hand on
the awning-stanchion and the wet pouring off his hat and moustache,
was the Other Man--dead. The sixty-mile up-hill jolt had been too
much for his valve, I suppose. The tonga-driver said:--"The Sahib
died two stages out of Solon. Therefore, I tied him with a rope,
lest he should fall out by the way, and so came to Simla. Will the
Sahib give me bukshish? IT," pointing to the Other Man, "should have
given one rupee."
The Other Man sat with a grin on his face, as if he enjoyed the
joke of his arrival; and Mrs. Schreiderling, in the mud, began to
groan. There was no one except us four in the office and it was
raining heavily. The first thing was to take Mrs. Schreiderling
home, and the second was to prevent her name from being mixed up with
the affair. The tonga-driver received five rupees to find a bazar
'rickshaw for Mrs. Schreiderling. He was to tell the tonga Babu
afterwards of the Other Man, and the Babu was to make such
arrangements as seemed best.
Mrs. Schreiderling was carried into the shed out of the rain, and
for three-quarters of an hour we two waited for the 'rickshaw. The
Other Man was left exactly as he had arrived. Mrs. Schreiderling
would do everything but cry, which might have helped her. She tried
to scream as soon as her senses came back, and then she began praying
for the Other Man's soul. Had she not been as honest as the day, she
would have prayed for her own soul too. I waited to hear her do this,
but she did not. Then I tried to get some of the mud off her habit.
Lastly, the 'rickshaw came, and I got her away-- parrtly by force.
It was a terrible business from beginning to end; but most of all
when the 'rickshaw had to squeeze between the wall and the tonga, and
she saw by the lamp-light that thin, yellow hand grasping the
She was taken home just as every one was going to a dance at
Viceregal Lodge--"Peterhoff" it was then--and the doctor found that
she had fallen from her horse, that I had picked her up at the back
of Jakko, and really deserved great credit for the prompt manner in
which I had secured medical aid. She did not die--men of
Schreiderling's stamp marry women who don't die easily. They live
and grow ugly.
She never told of her one meeting, since her marriage, with the
Other Man; and, when the chill and cough following the exposure of
that evening, allowed her abroad, she never by word or sign alluded
to having met me by the Tonga Office. Perhaps she never knew.
She used to trot up and down the Mall, on that shocking bad saddle,
looking as if she expected to meet some one round the corner every
minute. Two years afterward, she went Home, and died--at
Bournemouth, I think.
Schreiderling, when he grew maudlin at Mess, used to talk about "my
poor dear wife." He always set great store on speaking his mind, did