Punch, September 16, 1903


V.—The Baffled Banshee.


When the Banshee heard that the ancestral castle was about to be occupied once more, he felt pleased. He had been feeling a little hipped of late for want of society, for he was always a clubable spirit. There had been a certain amount of mild fun to be derived at first from howling suddenly at the caretaker in dark passages. But even this had palled after a time, and lately the caretaker had refused 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 the 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 Pillingshot. 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 extensively 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, walked 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 turned 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, prosperous-looking man, dressed in a somewhat boisterous tweed suit.

The Banshee cleared his throat, coughed, and ran softly up and down the scale. Then 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 tried 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 pleasure 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 really good thing—don’t go.”

But the Banshee had fled.

The following evening they met again, this time on the battlements. The scenic effects were all that could be desired. The fitful beams of a waning moon struggled 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 about 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 said.

The Banshee tottered. As he tottered more letters met his eye.

“What is Pillingshot’s Peppermint Paste?” said the letters. “A Delicious Sweetmeat. Adults 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, as 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 words:

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 astounding invention of the age. Just ask for a sample. In shilling and two-shilling boxes.”

“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 Advertiser 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 rumoured that the post will be given to No. 25073 Holborn, who has done good work as assistant haunter at Blamis Castle.”




Unsigned story as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 125 of Punch.