MR. PUNCH’S SPECTRAL ANALYSES.
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. “Fought at Agincourt, and is full of racy stories of the period. You’re certain to like him. Get him to tell you that story of his about Sir Ralph and the suit of armour. 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.”
“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 had 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. Enough to give anyone the blues. But won’t you start haunting? I have often known a little 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 Arthur?”
“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 of 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, too. ‘We’ll make it all right, my boy,’ they kept saying. ‘You leave it to us. We’ll see that you get a billet.’ I told them I didn’t want to haunt, but they thought it was all 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 Theatre. He is just going to produce Hamlet, and I know he is looking about for someone 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 wondering what Shakspeare 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 fellows I ever met.
Unsigned story as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 125 of Punch.
For a discussion of Wodehouse’s use of a now-banned term for people of color (and indeed also for performers in blackface makeup), see my article “Wodehouse and Racist Epithets”.