Meeting Mrs Dumoise - Bill Bowler

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This story can be explained by people who know about ghosts. I've lived long enough in India to know it's best just to tell things the way they happened.

Dumoise worked as our doctor at Meridki in the Punjab, in the north-west of India. He was a round, sleepy little man, and he married a young woman as round and sleepy-looking as himself. After their wedding they forgot about the rest of the world and were very happy. Life in Meridki went on quite well without them.

But Dumoise was wrong to shut himself away from the world, as he discovered when there was an epidemic of typhoid in Meridki, and his wife became ill with the disease. Five days were lost before he realized she had more than just a fever. Three more days passed before he visited Mrs Shute, the engineer's wife, and spoke to her in a nervous way about his trouble. She almost hit him round the ears.

'It's a crime you waited so long to tell someone,' she said, and went off immediately to care for the poor woman. Seven people in Meridki caught typhoid that winter, and for fifty-six days we fought the disease and brought them back to the world of the living.

Just when we thought it was all finished, little Mrs Dumoise became worse again, and died in less than a week. Everyone went to the funeral. Dumoise started crying at the edge of the grave and was taken away by friends at once.

After his wife's death, Dumoise went back to their house alone. He didn't want help. He did his job well, but we all told him he should take a holiday. Dumoise was grateful for the idea, and went to the hills in north-east India, on a walking tour.

He took a gun and a big camera with him, hoping to take lots of photographs and forget his grief. A useless Indian servant went with him, to help with his luggage. The man was lazy and not very honest, but he'd been his wife's favorite and most faithful servant, and Dumoise was happy to let him manage everything.

On his way back from the hills, Dumoise went to a place called Bagi. The house where walkers can stay there is open to the winds and a bitterly cold place. He stopped at seven o'clock in the evening, and his servant went down the hillside into the village to find carriers for the next day. The sun had gone down, and it was windy. Dumoise stood in front of the house, waiting for the man to come back. He returned almost immediately, and so quickly that Dumoise thought he'd probably met some wild animal on the way. He was running as hard as he could up the side of the hill.

When he reached Dumoise, he fell down at his feet. Blood came from his nose and his face was grey with fear. Then he said, 'I've seen the Memsahib.'

'Where?' asked Dumoise. 'Down on the road to the village. She was in a blue dress, and she looked at me from under her hat and said, «Ram Dass, say hello to my husband and tell him I'll meet him next month at Nuddea.» Then I ran away because I felt very afraid.'

I don't know what Dumoise did. Ram Dass said he walked up and down in front of the house and waited for the Memsahib to come up the hill, holding out his arms in front of him like someone who was crazy. But no Memsahib came, and the next day Dumoise travelled onwards to Simla, the summer home of the British government in northern India. He asked Ram Dass endless questions about what had happened to him in Bagi along the way.

Ram Dass could only say he'd met Mrs Dumoise, she'd looked at him from under her hat, and had said the words he'd reported. He never changed his story.

'I don't know where Nuddea is, I've never been to Nuddea, and I don't want to go there, even if I'm paid twice what I usually get to go,' he added.

Nuddea is in Bengal in southern India. It has nothing to do with a doctor working in the Punjab. It's more than twelve hundred miles south of Meridki, where Dumoise lived.

Dumoise passed through Simla without stopping, and then went on to Meridki. There he met the doctor who'd taken his place at the hospital while he was away. This man was an old friend of his, and they talked for a day about work. In the evening Dumoise told the man what had happened at Bagi.

At that moment the telegram boy ran in with a telegram from the government offices in Simla. Dumoise read it with interest. It said:

CHOLERA EPIDEMIC AT NUDDEA. BENGAL GOVERNMENT NEEDS HELP. PUNJAB GOVERNMENT SENDING YOU THERE.

Dumoise threw the telegram on the table. 'Well!' he cried.

The other doctor said nothing. What could he say?

Then he remembered Dumoise had passed through Simla.

'Did you hear about this already and take the job in order to make an end of your-?' he began, but Dumoise stopped him.

'Not at all. It's the first I've heard of it. But if death comes for me, I won't be sorry.'

In the half-light the other man helped to put Dumoise's things back in his bags. Ram Dass came in with a light.

'Where's the Sahib going?' he asked.

'To Nuddea,' answered Dumoise softly.

At that, Ram Dass fell to the floor, pulling at Dumoise's legs and asking him not to go. He cried and moaned until he was told to leave the room. Then he put all his things together and came to ask for a reference.

'I'm not going to Nuddea to see the Sahib die, and perhaps die myself,' he said.

So Dumoise paid him, gave him a reference, and went to Nuddea alone. Eleven days later he'd joined his Memsahib, and the Bengal government had to find a new doctor to fight the epidemic in Nuddea. For Dumoise lay dead from cholera in the hospital there.

— THE END -

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