Punch, September 23, 1903


VI.—A Technical Error.


When Mr. George Herbert Stuttlebuck, of the firm of Stuttlebuck and Jones, returned to his suburban residence, The Moated Towers, Acacia Road, Upper Tooting, late one night, and mounted the stairs just in time to see a shadowy form, negligently draped in a winding-sheet, pass smoothly through the door of the spare bedroom, his first act was to utter a piercing shriek. After this he charged into his 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 bedroom. Fact.”

And even as he spoke there was a slight groan and a blast of icy air, and the spectre 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 The cat as a stock excuse below stairs became out of date.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 dinner-service? It was the Ghost, Mum, as startled her, coming up suddent-like from behind and groaning that awful. Was cook detected in the act of purloining the best port? It was the Ghost, Mum, as frightened her to that extent as she felt in need of a little somethink as a stimulant in a manner of speaking. In fact it soon became evident that, as long as the spectre remained, domestic peace would be an impossibility.

Mr. Stuttlebuck consulted his partner Jones on the subject. Jones said ghosts never haunted you unless you had murdered someone. He warmly advised Mr. Stuttlebuck to give himself up to justice. Mr. Stuttlebuck’s opinion of Jones as a counsellor in time of need underwent a complete revision.

At last Mrs. Stuttlebuck’s brother Alfred came to stay for a week-end. On the first 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, George, it seems to me there’s a mistake somewhere. Are you sure you’re entitled to this ghost? I always thought it was only the oldest houses that were haunted. Hullo, 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 Towers, is it not? I thought so. That’s where you ought to be. You’ve come to the wrong address.”

“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.”




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