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Wodehouse Interviews the Castle Ghost

Wodehouse Interviews the Castle Ghost

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A 10 part series of Plum's conversations with the ghosts of the stately homes of England.
A 10 part series of Plum's conversations with the ghosts of the stately homes of England.

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Published by: grandmapolly on Jan 28, 2012
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Mr Punch’s Spectral Analyses By P.G. Wodehouse Punch, August 5, 1903 I THE GHOST’S POINT OF VIEW “PHEW!

” gasped the Spectre, collapsing into a chair at my bedside, “you did give me a start.” “If it comes to that,” I replied severely—for the first intimation I had had of his pr esence had been the touch of an icy finger on my forehead while I was asleep—“if it comes to that, you gave me a start; you nearly frightened me into a fit. I wish you would learn to be more careful what you do with your hands.” The Spectre eyed me doubtfully. “Do you mean to tell me,” he said, “that human beings are frightened when they see ghosts?” “Did you think they were amused?” “I always imagined that they took a purely scientific interest in the matter. Of c ourse, we are simply terrified when we see you——” “What! A ghost is frightened when he sees a human being?” “Out of his wits. Did you not know that? Dear me. Well, well, we live and learn.” “But, surely,” I said, interested by this time, “I should have thought that you so con stantly saw us——” “Ah, but that is not the case. We see you as seldom as—apparently—you see us. Why it i s, I don’t know. There are fellows at the Club who could explain it to you. It is something to do with planes or dimensions or something. I remember that, because we were discussing it only the other evening. JONES—I don’t know if you have ever m et him: tall, handsome man with a dagger sticking in his chest—maintained that the re were no such things as human beings; said they didn’t exist, don’t you know. He s aid that the cases cited where ghosts had actually seen them were in reality pur e hysteria. A ghost goes into a house which he knows is haunted, and naturally h e imagines that every shadow is a human being. JONES is a thorough sceptic—hard-he aded man, you know—won’t believe a thing till he sees it. SMITH, on the other hand—I t hink you must have met SMITH, or at any rate heard him. You would know him by hi s get-up. He is a dandy, is SMITH. Faultless winding-sheet, chains on his legs, and so on; carries his head in his right hand, and groans.” “Ah,” I said, “I have heard the groans.” “Yes, I thought you must have done. He’s always practising: groans bass in our choir , you know. Well, SMITH maintained that some of the hundreds of cases quoted mus t be authentic. How, for instance, did Jones account for the haunted room at Bla mis Castle?” “What was that?” I asked. “Oh, it was rather a painful affair. The castle was said to be haunted, and a youn g spectre, who scoffed at the idea, offered to walk the night there. They allowe d him to go, stipulating, however, that directly he saw anything supernatural he should ring the bell.” “Oh,” I interrupted, “then ghosts can ring bells?” “My dear Sir,” said the Spectre a little testily, “we have many limitations, but we ca n do a simple thing like that. You might just as well ask if a ghost can wind up a night watch or write a dead letter. Well, at the stroke of midnight a violent peal was heard. They rushed to the room, and there lay the poor young fellow se nseless. Some time after he had entered, it seemed, he had suddenly become aware—h ow, he could not say—that he was not alone, and, looking round, he saw a man stand ing in the doorway. The apparition advanced slowly, and, to his unspeakable horr or, walked straight through him. Then he fainted, and knew no more until he foun d himself being given spirits in a spoon by his friends. He was never quite hims elf after that.” “And did that convince JONES?” “Not a bit. He simply said that owing to the stories connected with the place it h ad been hypnotically suggested to the young fellow that there was a human being in that particular room, and the rest had followed naturally. But I know what wo

uld settle him.” “Yes?” “If I could bring him here and show you to him. Could you excuse me for one minute ?” “Certainly.” “Then I’ll just run and fetch him.” And he disappeared. I think something must have gone wrong with the dimensions, for though I waited long he never returned, and to this day I have not seen him again.

Mr Punch’s Spectral Analyses By P.G. Wodehouse Punch, August 12, 1903 II THE GHOST WITH SOCIAL TASTES THE wind whistled in the trees with the tuneless violence of the London street-b oy. The moonbeams, like young authors, were thin and struggling. Twelve boomed f rom the castle clock, and I awoke with a strange feeling that I was not alone. N or was I. A groan and a weird phosphorescent gleam at the foot of the bed told t hat the spectre had arrived, right on the scheduled time as usual. I took no not ice. I wished to make the ghost speak first. A ghost hates to have to begin a co nversation. “You might speak to a chap,” said a plaintive voice, at last. “Ah, you there?” I said. “The family ghost, I presume?” “The same,” said the Spectre, courteously, seating himself on the bed. “Frightened?” “Not in the least.” “Hair not turned white, I suppose?” “Not to my knowledge.” “Then you are the man I have been wanting to meet for the last hundred years. Reas onable; that’s what you are. I tell you, Sir, it hurts a fellow when people gibber at him, as most of your human beings do. Rational conversation becomes impossib le.” “But you have other ghosts to talk to?” “Only for four weeks in the year, and on Bank Holidays. You see, these things are managed on a regular system. After a house has been built for a century or two, a ghost is formally appointed to haunt it. He draws a salary for the work, and g ets so many weeks’ holiday in the year. It’s not all beer and skittles, I can assure you. But then there’s the honour, of course. It’s the career of a gentleman. To be appointed to a house is a sign that a ghost is of good family. None of your parv enus need apply. No, Sir. Such an appointment is a hall mark. It stamps a ghost. ‘Where’s No. 1058673 Gerard now?’ you’ll hear a ghost ask. I am No. 1058673 Gerard. We all have telephonic numbers in the spirit world. It saves a deal of confusion. ‘Oh ,’ someone else will say, ‘he’s been appointed to old Sangazure’s place in the Shires, s pare-bedroom department. Capital billet.’ ‘Oh, ah, yes,’ says the first speaker, ‘of cou rse. A very good post. A sort of cousin of mine haunts the Armoury there. I hope they’ll meet.’ And so, you see, I get a reputation for moving in the best society. But on the other hand,” continued the Spectre, crossing his legs, “the life is dull; there are few excitements. Nobody talks to me. Nobody loves me. Oh,” he went on w ith modest fervour, “Oh, to be received into the Family Circle, to be the Honoured Guest. Do you know our host’s little daughters?” he broke off suddenly. “I met them i n the passage yesterday. I believe that in a few minutes we should have been as jolly and sociable as anything. Unfortunately I vanished. That is the worst of b

eing a ghost. You are always liable to vanish without the slightest warning. Whe n I came back they were not there. Now, look here, could you do me a favour? Get old Sangazure to let me play with them in the nursery occasionally. It would ch eer me up like a tonic. My tastes are simple and domestic, and I love children. Then again—” He vanished. I informed Lord SANGAZURE of the ghost’s request. I said that he seemed a perfect gentleman, and had a fine easy flow of conversation. I thought the children woul d like him. “Doesn’t drop his aitches or anything, eh?” “Oh, no,” I said. “Then I see no reason—if he wishes it—by all means tell him we shall be delighted if h e would look in.” On the following evening No. 1058673 Gerard was the life and soul of the festivi ties in the nursery. His genial bonhomie, and his never-failing anxiety to pleas e, speedily won the hearts of all with whom he came in contact. The only blot on the evening’s pleasure, his inability to play hide-and-seek in the dark fairly, o wing to the advantage his habit of night-walking gave him, was soon removed by t he wholeheartedness with which he flung himself into Puss-in-the-Corner and Hunt -the-Slipper. And to this day there is not in all the haunted houses in the kingdom a cheerier , happier, more contented spectre than No. 1058673 Gerard. But, being the soul o f tact, he effaces himself when strangers are present.

Mr Punch’s Spectral Analyses By P.G. Wodehouse Punch, August 26, 1903 III A GHOSTLY CAUSE CÉLÈBRE “ARE you, may I ask,” said my fellow-traveller, as the express rattled through a sta tion, “a man of reasonably strong nerves?” “More or less,” I said. “Then it will possibly interest rather than alarm you to learn that I am a ghost.” I looked at him carefully. There was nothing in his appearance to indicate the s pectre. “Excuse my apparent incredulity,” I said, “but, if what you say is correct, this umbre lla should pass through you. May I make the experiment?” “Certainly. Certainly.” I executed a thrust in tierce at the third button of his waistcoat. The ferule s truck sharply against the cushion at his back. I apologised. “Don’t mention it,” he sa id with that charming courtliness which I have so frequently noticed in ghosts. “P ray don’t mention it. There is a great deal of deceit everywhere nowadays, and we spectres have our full share of it. There was that case of—but I shall bore you wi th my yarns. What do you think of Mr. CHAMBERLAIN’s Fiscal Manœuvres?” I begged him to continue his story. “The case I refer to was that of No. 804 Holborn versus No. 1263 Avenue.Perhaps yo u know that we use telegraphic numbers? You do? Precisely. This case, which form ed our only topic of conversation in the Back of Beyond while it was in progress , was connected with Rigby-Digby Manor in Shropshire, near Bridgnorth. You know the place? Fine old Elizabethan mansion, offering all sorts of possibilities for artistic effects to whoever was lucky enough to get the haunting of it. For the last two hundred years or so the post had been held by a steady old fellow who died in the reign of James the Second. He was a good, sound haunter, and did ver

y well in the unsophisticated times when people lit their houses by candles. But when the lord of the manor put in the electric light, it became quite plain tha t a change was wanted. A spectre more in the movement must be appointed. Efficie ncy is our watchword at the Back of Beyond. “Well, after some consultation the authorities decided on No. 1263 Avenue, a fine young fellow of good family, who had only just joined us. So his predecessor was pensioned off, and he took over the post. The step proved brilliantly successfu l. Within a week he had scared every single person out of the house, with the ex ception of an old servant who acted as caretaker. She owed her immunity to the f act that she was stone deaf, and so proof against No. 1263’s best efforts, which w ere of such a nature as to appeal to the ear more than to the eye. We now come t o No. 804 Holborn’s share in the business. Just as No. 1263 Avenue’s fame was at its height, and there was some talk of a public testimonial, a formal petition was lodged by No. 804 for restitution of property. You can imagine the sensation it caused! His claim was that he had been a member of the Rigby-Digby family, and h ad actually been murdered in the manor. Such a claim, of course, if proved, woul d have been conclusive. If a ghost has been murdered in a house belonging to his own family, he is naturally offered the haunting of that house before all other applicants. The Rigby-Digby claimant, as No. 804 was called, did his best to pr ove his claim. RHADAMANTHUS tried the case, and at the end of the first week it seemed pretty clear that No. 804 had been murdered, and in that house. The only question that remained to be solved was whether he was a member of the family.” “And how did it end?” “I will tell you. All this time, you must remember, No. 1263 had continued to haun t the manor. And at last—with what must have been a supreme effort —he contrived to attract the old servant’s attention, and before long to scare her to death. The ne ws sent a thrill of excitement through Society. Here at last was a reliable witn ess. Directly she stepped off Charon’s boat she was subpœna’d. And what do you think s he said? Why, that No. 804 was a base impostor! He was no more a Rigby-Digby tha n I am. He had been an under-footman at the Manor, and had been killed one morni ng in the library by a volume of the Encyclopœdia Britannica falling on his head f rom a top shelf. What happened to him when he was found out? Fourteen years in T artarus, of course. What do you think? Queer story, isn’t it?” At this moment the guard came to inspect our tickets, and my companion vanished.

Mr Punch’s Spectral Analyses By P.G. Wodehouse Punch, September 2, 1903 IV AN OFFICIAL MUDDLE IT is always my custom when I go to stop at a country house to ask my host to pu t me in the haunted room. I like ghosts. In my earlier literary days I was often a ghost myself, and even now I occasionally do “Cheery Chatter for the Chicks” in B aby’s Own Ickle Magazine for my friend BAMSTEAD BARKER when he wants a holiday. I use a spirit lamp, too, and in a great many other ways exhibit a marked partiali ty for the spectre world. When, therefore, I went to stay at Strathpuffer Castle last autumn, I put my usu al request, and my host sent for the butler. “KEGGS,” he said, “Mr. WUDDUS wishes to sleep in a haunted room. What ghosts have we?” “Well, your lordship,” said Keggs thoughtfully, “there’s Bad Lord ’ERBERT and Dark Lord DE SPARD and the man in armour wot moans and ’er late ladyship as ain’t got no ’ead and e

xhibits of warious gaping wounds, but all the bedrooms wot they ’aunts is took at present. They do say, though, your lordship, as ’ow remarkable sounds ’ave bin ’eard r ecent from the Red Room.” “Then let the Red Room be my bedroom,” I said, dropping into poetry with all the apl omb of a Silas Wegg. “I have never known a Red Room yet that was not haunted.” And t o the Red Room accordingly I went. It was past twelve when I went to bed. Scarcely had I got inside the room when a sepulchral voice on my right said “Boo!” and almost at the same instant a chain rat tled on my left. I sat down on the bed, and spoke with firmness and decision. “This won’t do at all,” I said. “No haunted room is ever allowed two ghosts. One of you must go, or I lodge a formal complaint. Which is it to be?” “I got here first,” said a sulky voice. “Well, you’d no business here,” said the second ghost snappishly. “I was definitely and officially appointed, and I give up my rights to no one.” “I’ve told you a thousand times that I was appointed.” “Nonsense. I was.” “Meaning that I lie, Sir?” “Come, come, come,” I interrupted impatiently. “I won’t have this unseemly wrangling. Se ttle it peaceably, my friends, peaceably.” “Tell you what,” said the ghost with the chain, eagerly; “we’ll have a haunting competit ion, if this gentleman will be good enough to act as referee; and the loser quit s.” “But, my good Sir,” I said, “you forget that I want to go to sleep some time to-night. And besides, if you’ll forgive the criticism, a haunting competition between you two would be poor sport. You are neither of you what I should describe as fliers at the game. You lack finesse. You, Sir, remarked ‘Boo!’ when I came in, and your c olleague rattled a chain. Now, I ask you, what is the good of that kind of thing ?” “Ah,” said the groaning ghost, “but I can do a deal more than that. I can imitate all sorts of things. Thunderstorms and bagpipes, for instance. And I can turn myself into a hearse-and-four and drive up to the front door. And I can——” “Well,” broke in the other, “and can’t I turn myself into a luminous boy and a hideous o ld woman, and a variety of jumpy and ingenious shapes? And can’t I produce raps fr om the furniture and fill a room with a weird, unearthly glow? And can’t I——” “Stop,” I said, “stop. I see it all. A bright idea has struck me. You are respectively outdoor and indoor ghosts. What has happened, I take it, is this. Your muddling officials down below have made out your papers for Strathpuffer Castle and forg otten to give details. I have no doubt that, if you make enquiries, you will fin d that one of you has been appointed to haunt this room, the other the Castle gr ounds. You follow me?” “My preserver!” gasped both spectres simultaneously, and vanished together to make e nquiries at headquarters. That my surmise proved correct was shown on the occasion of my next visit to the Castle. As the carriage passed through the grounds I heard the sound of bagpipe s mingled with thunderclaps from behind an adjacent tree, and the first sight th at met my eyes as I entered the Red Room was a hideous old woman who, even as I gazed, changed into a luminous boy.

Mr Punch’s Spectral Analyses By P.G. Wodehouse Punch, September 16, 1903 V THE BAFFLED BANSHEE

WHEN the Banshee heard that the ancestral castle was about to be occupied once m ore, he felt pleased. He had been feeling a little hipped of late for want of so ciety, for he was always a clubable spirit. There had been a certain amount of m ild fun to be derived at first from howling suddenly at the caretaker in dark pa ssges. But even this had palled after a time, and lately the caretaker had refus ed to be frightened, electing instead to be merely rude. When she had requested him to “get along with his nonsense, and stop worriting, do,” the Banshee, who was t he soul of tact, had felt instinctively that this form of indoor game was played out. On the newcomer’s arrival the Banshee went down to inspect his boxes. “PILLINGSHOT,” he murmured, as he read the label, “PETER PILLINGSHOT. Not Lord PILLING SHOT. Just plain Mister. One of these parvenus, is he! Never seen a ghost in his life, hasn’t he! Doesn’t believe in any such nonsense, doesn’t he! I’ll give him fits. I’ll make him feel all-overish!” In moments of excitement the Banshee, in spite of the fact that he had mixed ext ensively with the aristocracy, was apt to become a little slangy. At this moment a footman, carrying a whisky decanter and a syphon on a tray, wal ked through the Banshee, and made his way upstairs. “Insolent menial!” hissed the spectre. He hated people who walked through him. “Oh, he’s going to the Blue Room, is he? The best place in the castle for our interview. Dear, dear,” mused the Banshee, who had a taste for statistics, “the hairs I have tu rned white in single nights in that room would reach, if placed end to end, from Paris to London.” He passed silently through the wall. In a chair before the fire sat a stout, pro sperous-looking man, dressed in a somewhat boisterous tweed suit. The Banshee cleared his throat, coughed, and ran softly up and down the scale. T hen he rendered a favourite piece of his. In spite of the fact that he rendered it with a good deal of expression, the stranger took no notice. The Banshee trie d again, fortissimo, and making the pizzicato slightly more rallentando. “Eh?” said the man, turning round. “I am a Banshee,” said the spectre; “I should say,” he added modestly, “the Banshee.” “What say?”——“Banshee.” “Black sheep? Dear me. Sorry to hear it. Though I am bound to admit that you look it.” “No, no,” said the spectre irritably, “you don’t take me. Not black sheep. Banshee.” “Ah. And what can I have the pleasure—Ahem. I mean, to what am I indebted for the pl easure of this visit?” This, thought the Banshee, was disheartening. As a rule he hated having to puff himself. He thought it vulgar. But he cleared his throat again, and began: “When Lord BOHAN DE MONTMORENCY went forth to the wars, I foretold what would come of it. When the fair Lady ROWENA DE MONTMORENCY rode on her Arab courser to the boar hunt, did not I prophesy her doom? When——” The man in the tweed suit began to display some signs of interest. “A sporting prophet, are you?” he said. “Excellent. Now if you could put me on to a re ally good thing—don’t go.” But the Banshee had fled. The following evening they met again, this time on the battlements. The scenic e ffects were all that could be desired. The fitful beams of a waning moon struggl ed through the cloud rack. An eerie breeze rustled in the ivy. “Evenin’,” said Mr. PILLINGSHOT. Whether the Banshee would have replied in suitable terms is doubtful. He was abo ut to say something, when at that moment remarkable things happened to the wall of the keep. Suddenly letters of fire blazed out upon it. “PILLINGSHOT’s Peppermint Paste!” they sa id. The Banshee tottered. As he tottered more letters met his eye. “What is PILLINGSHOT’s Peppermint Paste?” said the letters. “A Delicious Sweetmeat. Adul ts like it. Youths dote on it. Children rave about it. Try it.” “Wha—what’s this?” stammered the Banshee. “Oh, a little idea of mine. Makes the old place more like home. Brightens it up, a

s you might say. If you look behind you, you’ll see some more.” The Banshee looked. On the wall behind him appeared in letters of flame these wo rds: “WHAT! NOT tried PILLINGSHOT’s Peppermint Paste! You amaze me! Take some home to tea to-day!” “PILLINGSHOT’s Peppermint Paste,” observed the lord of the castle, “is the most astoundi ng invention of the age. Just ask for a sample. In shilling and two-shilling box es.” “Are these—er—decorations permanent?” inquired the Banshee feverishly. “Bless you, yes,” said the man in the tweed suit. “Our readers will be interested to learn,” said the Spectral News and Hades Adverti ser two mornings later, “that the resident Banshee having applied for the Chiltern Hundreds, the haunting of Castle Montmorency is once more left vacant. It is ru moured that the post will be given to No. 25073 Holborn, who has done good work as assistant haunter at Blamis Castle.”

Mr Punch’s Spectral Analyses By P.G. Wodehouse Punch, September 23, 1903 VI A TECHNICAL ERROR WHEN Mr. GEORGE HERBERT STUTTLEBUCK, of the firm of STUTTLEBUCK and JONES, retur ned to his suburban residence, The Moated Towers, Acacia Road, Upper Tooting, la te one night, and mounted the stairs just in time to see a shadowy form, neglige ntly draped in a winding-sheet, pass smoothly through the door of the spare bedr oom, his first act was to utter a piercing shriek. After this he charged into hi s room with an agility that would have been creditable in a Bounding Brother of the Pyrenees. “M’dear,” he gasped, addressing his startled wife, “A ghos’! A shade! A spectre! Spare bed room. Fact.” And even as he spoke there was a slight groan and a blast of icy air, and the sp ectre shimmered into the room and vanished through the opposite wall. From that moment onward the existence of the Ghost became a recognised fact. The servants fainted in half-companies, and, on recovering, instantly gave notice. The cat as a stock excuse below stairs became out of date. Did JANE demolish a d inner-service? It was the Ghost, Mum, as startled her, coming up suddent-like fr om behind and groaning that awful. Was cook detected in the act of purloining th e best port? It was the Ghost, Mum, as frightened her to that extent as she felt in need of a little something as a stimulant in a manner of speaking. In fact i t soon became evident that, as long as the spectre remained, domestic peace woul d be an impossibility. Mr. STUTTLEBUCK consulted his partner JONES on the subject. JONES said ghosts ne ver haunted you unless you had murdered someone. He warmly advised Mr. STUTTLEBU CK to give himself up to justice. Mr. STUTTLEBUCK’s opinion of JONES as a counsell or in time of need underwent a complete revision. At last Mrs. STUTTLEBUCK’s brother ALFRED came to stay for a week-end. On the firs t night after dinner the news was broken to him. “Object?” said he in his cheery way. “Not at all. I shall enjoy it. But, look here, GE ORGE, it seems to me there’s a mistake somewhere. Are you sure you’re entitled to th is ghost? I always thought it was only the oldest houses that were haunted. Hull o, here is the Ghost. Let’s ask him. Here, you, Sir, one moment.” The Ghost paused and groaned.

“Come, come, there’s no call to be silly about it,” said ALFRED. “What right have you in this house? Hey? Tell me that.” “This is The Moated Towers, I believe?” retorted the spectre coldly. “Very well, then. That’s the name of the house I was appointed to.” “But are you aware that this house has only been in existence half-a-dozen years?” The Ghost’s jaw dropped limply. “What!” he gasped. “Then where—why—what the dooce? They told me it dated from the Conquest .” “What was the name of the family you were told to haunt—STUTTLEBUCK?” “STUTTLEBUCK!” said the Ghost scornfully. “It was DE CLARENCE.” “Then I think I see what has happened. GEORGE, have you a Peerage anywhere?” “Of course,” said Mr. STUTTLEBUCK. “Then look up DE CLARENCE. His family seat in Wiltshire is called The Moated Tower s, is it not? I thought so. That’s where you ought to be. You’ve come to the wrong a ddress.” “Well, of all the chuckle-headed muddlers, I’m——” “Exactly. But don’t let us detain you. The DE CLARENCES will be wondering where you can have got to. The Moated Towers, Wilts, is the place you want. Go to the end of this street, and turn to the left. Better take a green omnibus. You can’t miss the place. Good-night.” Next morning the postman, walking down Acacia Road, noticed that Mr. STUTTLEBUCK’s door-post no longer bore the words, “The Moated Towers.” They had been scraped out. And in their place was the legend “No. 389.” Mr Punch’s Spectral Analyses By P.G. Wodehouse Punch, October 7, 1903 VII A JOKE AND A SEQUEL THE Headless Man seemed pained at the very suggestion. “No,” he said. “No. It was not I who placed the wet sponge on top of your door. I should scorn such an action.” “My dear Sir,” I stammered, hastening to make amends, “I trust you will forgive—unjust s uspicions—cumulative mass of circumstantial ev——” “Say no more, say no more. The episode is forgotten, forgotten. Not,” he added with a snigger, “but what we do play practical jokes at the Back of Beyond. You know wh at GILBERT says of us, ‘We spectres are a jollier crew than you perhaps suppose.’ Sh rewd man, GILBERT. Puts the matter in a nutshell. But we don’t annoy human beings. We confine our pleasantries to our fellow spectres. I remember——” “Yes?” “Oh, only a curious little story. If you’re sure it wouldn’t bore you? Very well, then . A young fellow came over one autumn; he was evidently as unsophisticated and i nnocent as he could possibly be. Guileless, if you understand me. And some of th e frivolous set determined to see if they could not take him in somehow. They th ought and thought, and at last their victim himself suggested an idea to them. H e was always talking of his ambitions, and how he hoped, if he stuck to his work , to be given a responsible post some day as haunter somewhere, so the conspirat ors hit on the notion of sending him a fictitious appointment. As their ringlead er put it rather neatly, ‘He wants a bogey’s appointment. We will give him a bogus o ne.’ So they got hold of a ghost who had been a forger in his lifetime, and drew u p what looked like an official document, appointing No. 428351 Avenue (that was the young fellow’s number) to a certain house in the East End of London. No. 42835 1 felt that this was not quite what he had hoped for—he wanted a castle or an Eliz abethan manor house—but he accepted the commission, and left to go into residence. How the conspirators chuckled! The place they had sent him to haunt was a waxwo rks show! And whenever they thought of him plodding patiently away at the inanim ate figures, and pictured his growing surprise and dismay at their unresponsiven ess, they roared and fell over one another with laughter. Well, No. 428351 toiled along, until one day he discovered everything, and reali

sed how he had been taken in. But he was too proud to go back and be laughed at. He stayed on amongst the waxworks, and at last he attracted the attention of th e proprietor, who forthwith advertised him all over London, so that crowds flock ed to see him. Now, mark the conclusion. Among the crowds was a certain milliona ire who had recently built a great house in the country. All that it needed to m ake it complete was a ghost, and how to get one had long been a puzzle to him. H e had thought of murdering a friend in the best spare bedroom, but had felt that the friend might after all not stay to haunt, in which case all his trouble and the consequent unpleasantness would have been for nothing. When he heard of No. 428351 Avenue he was overjoyed. The very limitations of the young fellow were i n his favour. He did not want a ghost that would scare his guests. One who could only groan and rattle chains would be just the thing. The negotiations were spe edily carried through. No. 428351 signed the agreement, and is now the proud hau nter of one of the very finest houses in England. And so,” concluded the Headless Man unctuously, shifting his head from his right h and to his left, and preparing to vanish through the floor, “we see that Virtue tr iumphs over all obstacles. Indeed, yes.”

Mr Punch’s Spectral Analyses By P.G. Wodehouse Punch, November 18, 1903 VIII THE REFORMED HUMOURIST

“WHEN I told you,” said the Headless Man , “that ghosts never played practical jokes o n human beings, I meant, of course, hardly ever. It is not considered good form, and all the better class of spectres set their faces against it. But you get an occasional case here and there with a very young ghost. You can’t expect old head s on young shoulders, can you? If you aren’t particularly anxious to get to sleep?—T hen you might care to——? Very well, then. “No. 704523186 Holborn was about the very wildest young spook that ever came acros s to the Back of Beyond. Most ghosts have sown their wild oats by the time they leave the world, but he had been cut off early, before he had time to get rid of that youthful exuberance which is so painful to the thoughtful spectre. He had, I believe, broken his neck while robbing an orchard. At any rate he was a mere boy when he came across, and you would hardly believe the trouble he gave the au thorities. Things came to a head when he cheeked—there is no other word for it—when he cheeked RHADAMANTHUS in open court. ‘That boy must go,’ said RHADAMANTHUS, ‘and tha t’s all about it. I don’t care how young he is, he must be given a haunting somewher e. I shall never feel easy in my mind till I know that the Styx is between us. M ake out his papers.’ “So they made out his papers, and off he went. The house to which he had been appo inted belonged to a bachelor. I believe his name was BROWN. On the night of his arrival, the ghost went to the smoking-room to announce himself. BROWN was sitti ng before the fire, smoking. No. 704523186 flitted into the room, and coughed. “‘Hullo, kiddy,’ said BROWN, looking up, ‘and what might you happen to want?’ “‘Don’t call me kiddy,’ replied the ghost with hauteur. ‘If you really want to know, I’ve c me to haunt this old shanty.’ “BROWN rocked in his chair. ‘Haunt!’ he shouted. ‘You! Oh, don’t make me laugh, I’ve got a racked lip.’ “‘All right,’ said the boy bitterly, ‘all right. You just wait.’ And he began haunting tha t night. I suppose no ghost ever had quite such a thin time. Whatever he did, BR OWN simply laughed. He tried everything. He groaned: BROWN smiled—the smile that w ouldn’t come off. He turned himself into all sorts of things: the smile became a g

rin. He disappeared with a report like a pistol shot: BROWN had to be helped to bed by his servant. So at last he gave up trying to frighten him, and thought of another plan. He thought it would be a great triumph for him—‘no end of a score,’ as he put it—if he could induce BROWN to go hunting about for non-existent buried tre asure all over the house and grounds, while he hovered near and did the laughing . He had heard of one case where a facetious spectre had persuaded his host to p ull his house almost to pieces by these means. He accordingly woke BROWN up at t wo o’clock next morning. “‘I say,’ he said. “‘Aw’ri,’ muttered BROWN. ‘Leave it on the mat.’ “‘Treasure,’ howled the boy. ‘Buried treasure. Under the flower-bed.’ “BROWN sat up. ‘What’s that?’ he asked. “‘Do you want some buried treasure?’ inquired the ghost. ‘There’s a lot of it hidden under one of the flower-beds.’ “‘It’s very cold,’ said BROWN. “‘Oh, all right,’ said the ghost, huffily; ‘if you don’t want it——’ “‘Hold on, don’t go. But why dig to-night? Why not to-morrow morning after breakfast?’ “‘My good sir,’ replied No. 704523186, ‘have you ever known buried treasure dug for exce pt at night? It isn’t done.’ “BROWN was persuaded. He dressed, got a spade, and sallied out. There was a frost, and the ground was like iron. It was hard work digging, and No. 704523186 flitt ed about, chuckling to himself. ‘Hot work,’ he said, after a quarter of an hour. “‘Doocid,’ said the man, wiping his forehead. ‘You’re sure the treasure is here?’ “‘Oh, quite, quite. Keep moving.’ And off he went again. “When he had been at it for about an hour No. 704523186 went into the house to fet ch an overcoat. When he reappeared, BROWN was no longer digging. The ghost shimm ered up to him. ‘Mr. BROWN,’ he said. “‘Yes?’ “‘I may as well tell you,’ said the ghost, ‘that there’s no treasure there. Not a penny.’ “‘No,’ replied BROWN with a genial smile, ‘there is not. I have just taken it all out.’ “‘You’ve what!’ stammered the ghost. ‘You don’t mean to tell me there was treasure there?’ “‘To the tune of one thousand pounds,’ said BROWN, ‘and thank you very much for your kin d co-operation.’ “No. 704523186 uttered one unearthly shriek, writhed, and fled. He re-appeared amo ngst us a fortnight later, a changed spectre. Before, he had been flippant and b oisterous. Now he seldom spoke, and his youthful exuberance had entirely disappe ared. He is now one of the most respected ghosts in the whole of the Back of Bey ond. He has a rooted hatred of practical jokes.” “But how,” I asked, “did the treasure come there? Was that ever found out?” “Well,” admitted the Headless Man, “I own I never quite understood that part of the st ory. The tale was that the thousand sovereigns were buried there by the editor o f Snippy Shots, a weekly paper of high literary aims, and it was supposed to hav e something to do with some competition or other. But we can’t swallow that, can w e? Even an editor wouldn’t go and do a silly thing like that, would he? No, how th e money came there I can’t imagine, but there it was, and BROWN found it, and the moral of that story is, if you must play practical jokes, stick to the old-fashi oned apple-pie bed, and don’t try to be too original. G’night.” And he vanished.

Mr Punch’s Spectral Analyses By P.G. Wodehouse Punch, November 25, 1903 IX A SPECTRAL JOB I HAD been told that the Blue Room was haunted, and was prepared accordingly for

a pleasant, sociable evening. “Oh, yes, a splendid old fellow,” said my host, referring to the resident spectre. “Fo ught at Agincourt, and is full of racy stories of the period. You’re certain to li ke him. Get him to tell you that story of his about Sir RALPH and the suit of ar mour. Good-night.” When I reached the Blue Room the first thing I saw was a shadowy form seated in a despondent manner on the chest of drawers. “Evening,” I said; “glad to meet you.” He grunted. “Mind if I open the window?” He grunted again. I was not used to treatment of this kind. All the ghosts I had ever met before h ad been courteous, and, even when not conversationalists, they had never grunted at me. I was hurt. But I determined to make one more effort to place matters on a sociable footing. “You seem a little depressed,” I said. “I quite understand. This shocking weather. Eno ugh to give anyone the blues. But won’t you start haunting? I have often known a l ittle spirited haunting work wonders when a spectre was feeling a cup too low.” This time he did speak. “Oh, haunting be hanged!” he said rudely. “Well, tell me about Agincourt, then. Glorious day that for Old England, Sir.” “I don’t know anything about Agincourt,” he snapped. “Why don’t you read your Little Arthu r?” “But you fought there——” “Do I look as if I had fought at Agincourt?” he asked, coming towards me. I admitted that he did not. I had expected something much more mediæval. The spectre before me was young and modern. I pressed for an explanation. “My host distinctly told me that the Blue Room was haunted by a gentleman who had fought at Agincourt,” I said. “This is the Blue Room, is it not?” “Oh, him,” said the spectre, “he’s a back number. He left a fortnight ago. They sent him away so that they might give me the place. I don’t want to haunt. What’s the good o f haunting? Foolishness, I call it. They talk about a career and making a name. Bah! Rot!” “Tell me all,” I said sympathetically. “Why, it’s not my line at all, this haunting business. But just because I came of an old family, and all my ancestors were haunting houses in different parts of the country, the asses of authorities would have it that I must be given a place, t oo. ‘We’ll make it all right, my boy,’ they kept saying. ‘You leave it to us. We’ll see th at you get a billet.’ I told them I didn’t want to haunt, but they thought it was al l my modesty. They recalled the old chap who was here, and gave me the place. So here I am, haunting an old castle, when I don’t know how to do it, and wouldn’t do it if I could. And everybody in the Back of Beyond is talking of the affair, and saying what a scandalous job it was. And so it was, too. The Spectral News has got a full-page caricature of me this week in colours, with a long leader on the evils of favouritism. Rotten, I call it. And just as I hoped I was going to get the one billet I wanted.” “Ah, what was that?” I inquired. “I wanted to go on the boards, and be a real ghost in a play, you know—just as they have real niggers that don’t need blacking.” “Then your leanings are towards theatrical triumphs?” “Rather,” said he; “I’m all for going on the stage. You should see me knock ’em.” “Then I’ll tell you what I can do for you. I know the manager of the Piccadilly Thea tre. He is just going to produce Hamlet, and I know he is looking about for some one to play the ghost. I don’t see why a real ghost shouldn’t make an enormous hit. Call on him, and he may give you the part.” He was off in an instant. A month later the papers were raving about his interpretation of the part, and w ondering what Shakespeare was thinking about it, and the Blue Room was once more occupied by the ghost who had fought at Agincourt, one of the dearest old fello ws I ever met.

Mr Punch’s Spectral Analyses By P.G. Wodehouse Punch, December 30, 1903 X THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL

The Haunted Mill. DEAR MR. PUNCH,—I feel sure that at Christmas you will not refuse to insert in you r jocund journal a little story of a purely sentimental nature. I feel that at s uch a season it would be out of place for me to jest. I enclose the MS. Look me up here if you are doing nothing else. The Headless Man will be delighted to see you. Yours respectrefully THE ANALYST. ’Twas Christmas night. Down in the village, at the “Bee and Beer Bottle” all was revelry. Gaffer Giles was singing, for the fifth time in half-an-hour, “The Fly on the Turmut.” Farmer BATES a nd Farmer SCROGGINS, forgetful of ancient disagreements, were sitting on the flo or with their arms round each other’s necks, as lovingly as if they had been Lord ROSEBERY and Sir HENRY CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN. Everybody was flushed and happy. But up at the Castle old Sir GUY SCRYMGEOUR-DE-VERE-SCRYMGEOUR sat silent in his vas t dining-hall, alone, but for the pictures of his ancestors that looked down on him from their oak frames. There was little Christmas cheer at the Castle. A dry biscuit and a bottle of Vichy water represented the limits of Sir GUY’s taste for orgies. This was not economy. He did not believe that his food would cost him m ore. He suffered from gout. There was a tap at the door. “Come in,” said Sir GUY, raising his gloomy eyes. The door did not open, but through it shimmered a white figure. It stood beside the table, shuffling its feet, and looking shame-faced. The Baronet started from his chair. “You!” he cried. “Me!” said the ghost. “What is bad grammar if it covers a warm heart?” “To what am I indebted for the honour of this visit?” Sir GUY’s chilly manner was a by word in Little Pigbury. Once, when he had employed it in an argument with a poac her, the poacher had caught pneumonia. The ghost shivered, and wrapped his windi ng-sheet more closely round him. “I thought,” he stammered, “that is to say—perhaps—Christmas comes but once a year—goodwill to man—glad to see me.” “My memory,” said Sir GUY, with cold courtesy, “is not, I regret to say, what it was, but I think that if I had invited you to visit Scrymgeour, I should remember the circumstance.” The ghost shuffled uneasily. “Sir GUY,” he said hastily, “can we not let bygones be bygones? May I not come back?” “You left the castle——” “A year ago to-day.” “As you justly observe, a year ago to-day. You left of your own free will, and aga inst mine. I may add that you seriously dislocated my Christmas arrangements. I had invited a housefull of people to meet you. You were not there to be met. You left to better yourself. I trust you succeeded.” “Alas, no. For the past twelve months I have endured agonies. For some time I haun ted a hopeless vulgarian of the name of SKINNER. He disgusted me, and I left him . After that my career was one long failure. Three times, Sir GUY—pity me—have I bee n laid.” “Eggs,” said the baronet, “are laid every day. They make no complaint.” “But to an egg the process is painless. To a ghost it is anguish. Conceive, Sir GU

Y, what your sensations would be, were you to tread on a tack and fall backwards downstairs into a tank of ice-cold water. That is the sensation a ghost experie nces when laid.” In spite of himself, a look of pity flashed across his hearer’s face. The ghost ma rked it. “You would not turn me from your door?” he pleaded. “If,” said Sir GUY, “you prefer, from force of habit, to make your exit through the wa ll, you are at liberty to do so. Good evening.” “But, Sir GUY——” At this moment the door opened, and an angel form danced in. It was Sir GUY’s little granddaughter. She saw her old friend the ghost, and utter ed a shriek of delight. “Mewwy Chwistmas, doast,” she cried; “doast tum back again.” Though, even at that early age accustomed to mind her p’s and q’s, MARJORIE SCRYMGEO UR-DE-VERE-SCRYMGEOUR had not yet obtained a mastery over her r’s and g’s. The ghost placed a shadowy hand on MARJORIE’s head, and made a last appeal. “Sir GUY,” he said, in a trembling voice, “it is Christmas night. Down in the village men are treating those who have wronged them to ale, and even whisky. The poache r is digging the game-keeper in the ribs and calling him by his Christian name. The village policeman pats the head which, two days ago, he would have clumped. Will you alone refuse forgiveness to one who pleads for it? And really, don’t you know, trifling apart, I am dashed sorry.” There was a silence. Then Sir GUY rose, and stretched out his hand. There were tears in his eyes.

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