Day 19: The Ghost

The facts

“Cousin Mildred seems to have almost taken to William,” said his mother, with a note of unflattering incredulity in her voice.

  • Number: 2.7
  • Published: 1922 (1920 in magazine form)
  • Book: More William
  • Synopsis: William helps a visiting cousin to get to grips with the supernatural.

Verdict

Another first here: a relative with whom William does get along. Cousin Mildred is elderly and eccentric and a passionate believer in the supernatural.

William, flattered by her attention (“It was a strange experience to him to be accepted by a grown-up as a fellow-being”), is keen to give her a story she can tell for the rest of her life.

“Oh, how I wish that some psychic revelation would happen to me!”
One morning, after the gift of an exceptionally large tin of toffee, William’s noblest feelings were aroused. Manfully he decided that some psychic revelation should happen to her.

He dons, of course, a white sheet, and goes to her room in the night.

“William wondered whether ghosts spoke English or a language of their own. He inclined to the latter view and nobly took the plunge.  ‘Honk. Yonk. Ponk,’ he said, firmly.”

My favourite part, though, is the exchange between an overly-innocent William and an understandably-ireful father, who had just been woken up in the night by a noise caused by the ghostly visitation.

“Did you make that confounded row kicking boots about the passage?” spluttered the man of wrath.
“No, Father,” said William, gently. “I’ve not bin kickin’ no boots about.”
“Were you down on the lower landing just now?” said Mr. Brown, with compressed fury.
William considered this question silently for a few seconds, then spoke up brightly and innocently.
“I dunno, Father. You see, some folks walk in their sleep and when they wake up they dunno where they’ve bin. Why, I’ve heard of a man walkin’ down a fire escape in his sleep, and then he woke up and couldn’t think how he’d got to be there where he was. You see, he didn’t know he’d walked down all them steps sound asleep, and—”
“Be quiet,” thundered his father. “What in the name of… what on earth are you doing making your bed in the middle of the night? Are you insane?”
William, perfectly composed, tucked in one end of his sheet.
“No Father, I’m not insane. My sheet just fell off me in the night and I got out to pick it up. I must of bin a bit restless, I suppose. Sheets come off easy when folks is restless in bed, and they don’t know anythin’ about it till they wake up jus’ same as sleep walkin’. Why, I’ve heard of folks—”
“Be quiet!”