It was Hallowe’en at the Chalet School. The night was cold and very dark. All the girls were fast asleep and the mistresses had all gone to bed too. The only sound was the soft pat pat of Matron’s slippers as she made her last round of the dormies before turning in for the night.
There was no moonlight to shine through the open windows on the corridor, just a slight, spooky breeze sighing through them. A door to an unoccupied dormy creaked ahead of Matey as she walked. The sound seemed very loud in the silence of the night.
Matey, usually brave and no-nonsense, felt a little apprehensive. She’d always been scared at Hallowe’en as a child and never quite got over it…
The door creaked again, louder still. Matey looked at it and decided to go and shut it. As she reached her hand out for the door handle the door suddenly flew back, wide open, banging against the wall behind. Matey jumped, her heart fluttering.
It had given her a nasty fright. She soon calmed down, taking a few deep breaths and laughing at herself for being scared of a door blowing in a gust of wind. The window must be open in that room too.
Matey decided to close it. She advanced into the room and walked down the central space between the empty beds, to the window at the far end. She was just leaning forward to close it when she heard a soft “Who? Who?”. The hair on the back of Matey’s neck stood on end as she froze.
For a moment she couldn’t breathe. Then she overcame her fright enough to realise it was just the sound an owl might make. She wondered vaguely if there were any owls on the Platz?
Trying to reassure herself she spoke aloud to the owl.
“Who indeed?! Who are you?!” And she closed the window firmly.
“Who am I?” said a deep voice behind her.
Matey nearly jumped out of her skin. She whirled round and stared at the vision before her.
A ghostly figure was lounging on top of a bureau a few feet away. It could once have been a man but was now almost see through, especially since its ghostly clothes were white. It was surrounded by a sort of mist.
Matey looked more closely and realised it was smoking a very faint pipe which was emitting most of the mist. Summoning up her courage Matey looked the ghost in what she thought must be his eye and stated firmly:
“Smoking is not allowed indoors here.”
The ghost looked slightly taken aback, coughed and rather sheepishly extinguished his pipe.
“Oh…sorry,” it mumbled.
Matey felt much more confident and continued to stare at the ghost, wondering what on earth to do next. The mist around it cleared a little. The ghost stretched its arms and then its legs, as if it had been sitting still for a long time. It then announced rather grandly:
“In answer to your question, by the way, my name is Edward.”
“Well… good evening Edward,” replied Matey, adding for good measure, “I’m Matron”.
“I know,” sniffed Edward, disparagingly.
Matey felt a bit offended by that.
“How do you know?” she asked.
Edward descended elegantly from his bureau.
“I have resided here for a long time.” He said with dignity. “I used to dwell in this building before it became a school.”
“I’ve never heard of anyone seeing you before,” said Matey.
“I take good care to keep myself hidden. One doesn’t want to be shrieked at by schoolgirls. I hate being shrieked at,” Edward added with emphasis.
“Yes, I suppose you would,” agreed Matey.
Edward looked down his rather long nose at her.
“I have been observing you in particular for some time. You seem to know everything that goes on here”, he added.
“Well, yes,” replied Matey, “except for having a resident ghost, of course. Why have you… er… dwelled here for so long?”
Edward sighed gloomily.
“It is the curse.”
“What curse?” asked Matey, puzzled.
“The curse of all ghosts who were trainee doctors,” intoned Edward dramatically, “We are consigned to wander around remote mountain districts until we encounter a (living) trained nurse who can break the spell.”
“I’m a trained nurse,” said Matey, “I’ve no idea how to break a ghost’s curse though – they didn’t cover that at training school!”
“They never do,” agreed Edward, adding “I’ve been wondering if you were really a nurse. As it is you will be able to help me.”
“How can I help?” asked Matey, wondering what in the world she could do for this somewhat sanctimonious ghost.
Edward looked towards the big clock in the corner of the room. It said 11.30pm.
“We must hurry!” he said. “To break the curse on Hallowe’en you must make nectar of coffee, adding to it one of your own patent doses for me to drink before the clock strikes midnight.”
“Oh… which dose though? I have several,” said Matey.
Edward shut his eyes as if momentarily in pain.
“You should know that – you are the nurse,” he explained.
Twenty minutes later Matey was busy pouring a cup of coffee for Edward laced with yet another of her patent doses. Bottles with labels such as “Matey’s Malingering Mixture”, “Emerence’s Extract” and “Cross Country Avoidance Essence” littered the table beside her. Edward, who had a distinctly green tinge to his ghostly demeanour, was sitting deep in an armchair. He groaned as he was handed the cup.
However this time as he drank the nectar there was a sudden, loud crack and a wall of smoke appeared around him, as if from thin air.
Edward groaned again. Matey stifled a scream. The smoke cleared.
And there was Edward, not nearly so faint and ghostly now. He looked much like the younger doctors at the San, except he had a very white complexion, only slightly tinged with green. He was also wearing a white doctor’s outfit, with his wooden pipe hanging out of one pocket.
Edward stood up gingerly, moving his hands and arms in front of him as though he couldn’t quite believe what had happened. Then he turned to Matey and was able to take her hand in a surprisingly firm handshake.
“Thank you!” he smiled. “My long incarceration as a ghost is over and my new life can begin!”
“What will you do?” asked Matey.
“Do?” he asked, surprised, “Isn’t it obvious? I shall resume my medical training. There is a San nearby, I shall go there!”
And Edward turned joyfully to the door, attempted to walk through it and nearly knocked himself out.
“Bother!” He cried, rubbing his head. “I shall have to remember about opening doors and walking around furniture again now!”
And then he was gone, leaving Matey staring after him open mouthed.