Daily Mail, August 22, 1904
THE papers have been printing letters recently on the subject of the holiday cat, pointing out the cruelty of leaving it to get along as best it can on its own account, while the family is down at the seaside.
A similar and equally serious problem is that of the holiday ghost.
All the best people keep ghosts nowadays, but how few of them think of making any provision for them while they are away from home? In the excitement of packing nobody has time to give the family spectre a thought. I remember a ghost of my acquaintance telling me that once, when he endeavoured to be sociable and make conversation in such circumstances, he was treated with the utmost brusqueness. The father of the family told him to
Stop Rattling His Chain,
as he had got a headache from packing already. While the son of the house actually addressed him as a “rotter,” requested him impatiently to “get out and not make a nuisance of himself,” and finally walked straight through him. Of course, my friend gave notice on the spot, but he has not got over it yet.
When the family have reached the seaside, it is possible that conscience will bring a passing thought of the deserted spook into their minds. “Why, bless my soul,” paterfamilias will say, as he lies dozing on the sand, “I never made any arrangements about the ghost. I must wire to Brown to look in occasionally and talk to him.” And he goes to sleep, and forgets all about it; and no wire reaches Brown, so that the ghost continues to roam disconsolately about the empty house with nobody to haunt and
Nothing to Amuse Him.
And a ghost is essentially a being who depends for his enjoyment of life on plenty of society. Of course people make excuses about it. One can always find excuses for oneself if one looks for them. “Oh,” says Smith, “ghosts like stopping in town. The seaside would bore them to extinction in ten minutes. Besides, it isn’t as if he were alone. There’s the charwoman. He can appear to her; or he can go out into the square and frighten a policeman. A ghost ought to get into the habit of shifting for himself. Manly independence, that’s what I like to see in spectres.”
Jones will protest that he had thought of bringing his ghost with him, but the landladies always made so much unpleasantness about it. “We must respect their prejudices,” he says. “They don’t like ghosts. Well, some people don’t.” And that, in his opinion, settles the matter. Another man will say vaguely that he never has taken his ghost with him on his holidays. As if that were any excuse for not doing so now.
Personally, I always take my own Headless Man with me. He is a pleasant fellow, full of good stories, and a splendid companion for the children on a wet day. And I can always trust him not to be too much in evidence when strangers are about. What he would do, if I left him behind, I do not like to think. There is, as far as I am aware, no authenticated case of a spectre committing suicide, but I am sure he would have a very spirited dash at it.
I am just off to Wales, and my Headless Man is wild with delight, especially as there is an old castle within a stone’s throw of where we are going to stay, where there are two Dark Lords, a Bleeding Abbot (murdered in the thirteenth century) and a Skeleton in Armour. The Headless Man always was in his element in society.
P. G. WODEHOUSE.