Twelve Stories and a Dream
6. The Story Of The Inexperienced Ghost
The scene amidst which Clayton told his last story comes back very vividly to my mind.
There he sat, for the greater part of the time, in the corner of the authentic settle by the
spacious open fire, and Sanderson sat beside him smoking the Broseley clay that bore his
name. There was Evans, and that marvel among actors, Wish, who is also a modest man.
We had all come down to the Mermaid Club that Saturday morning, except Clayton, who
had slept there overnight--which indeed gave him the opening of his story. We had golfed
until golfing was invisible; we had dined, and we were in that mood of tranquil kindliness
when men will suffer a story. When Clayton began to tell one, we naturally supposed he
was lying. It may be that indeed he was lying--of that the reader will speedily be able to
judge as well as I. He began, it is true, with an air of matter-of-fact anecdote, but that we
thought was only the incurable artifice of the man.
"I say!" he remarked, after a long consideration of the upward rain of sparks from the log
that Sanderson had thumped, "you know I was alone here last night?"
"Except for the domestics," said Wish.
"Who sleep in the other wing," said Clayton. "Yes. Well--" He pulled at his cigar for
some little time as though he still hesitated about his confidence. Then he said, quite
quietly, "I caught a ghost!"
"Caught a ghost, did you?" said Sanderson. "Where is it?"
And Evans, who admires Clayton immensely and has been four weeks in America,
shouted, "CAUGHT a ghost, did you, Clayton? I'm glad of it! Tell us all about it right
Clayton said he would in a minute, and asked him to shut the door.
He looked apologetically at me. "There's no eavesdropping of course, but we don't want
to upset our very excellent service with any rumours of ghosts in the place. There's too
much shadow and oak panelling to trifle with that. And this, you know, wasn't a regular
ghost. I don't think it will come again--ever."
"You mean to say you didn't keep it?" said Sanderson.
"I hadn't the heart to," said Clayton.
And Sanderson said he was surprised.
We laughed, and Clayton looked aggrieved. "I know," he said, with the flicker of a smile,
"but the fact is it really WAS a ghost, and I'm as sure of it as I am that I am talking to you
now. I'm not joking. I mean what I say."