Cambridge 1918. As the Great War draws to its end a new and deadly danger stalks the streets of the ancient university town – the Spanish Influenza. But when Eric Milner-White, Dean of King’s College and recently returned from the Front, utters a prayer for the soul of one of the victims, he unwittingly revives a long dormant spirit with a long-held grudge against the college and the power to exact a deadly vengeance. Can the Dean solve the problem of the mysterious puritan girl who has appeared in the glass of the chapel? A Cambridge ghost tale for Christmas, with a gripping and terrifying climax.
DR PHIPPS: Well? What have you got to say?
WILLIAM: I never touched it!
DR PHIPPS: Then how did it end up in your bag?
WILLIAM: Someone must have put it there.
DR PHIPPS: Why would anyone do that?
WILLIAM: Because they don’t like me. Because they make fun of me because I’m not all posh like they are.
DR PHIPPS: So you decided to get your own back by stealing?
WILLIAM: I never!
DR PHIPPS: Don’t lie!
WILLIAM: I’m not lying! I’m not a thief and I’m not a liar!
MILNER-WHITE: William, look at me. You know the difference between right and wrong, don’t you? I want you to think of everyone who has taught it to you: your mother, your father, your vicar, your Sunday School teachers. They have all told you how important it is to tell the truth at all times. Now tell me, on your honour, did you steal this postal order?
WILLIAM: No, sir, I didn’t.
MILNER-WHITE: Then can you tell me how it came to be in your bag?
WILLIAM: I told you. Someone must have put it there. Someone who don’t like me.
DR PHIPPS: You said yourself, you saw exactly where D’Everard put it. You knew where to look.
MILNER-WHITE: It seems unlikely he would incriminate himself, don’t you think, Phipps? If he had really done it?
DR PHIPPS: But it was in his bag, Dean!
MILNER-WHITE: William, that postal order found its way into your bag. There are only three ways that can have happened. Either D’Everard put it there, which I don’t believe, or you put it there, or someone else put it there. Now, if it wasn’t you, it must have been someone else. We all know that you have had your differences with Fleetwood and no-one is blaming you for that. Are you saying that Fleetwood put it in there?
WILLIAM: I don’t know who put it there, sir.
DR PHIPPS: Are you saying Fleetwood put it in there? Yes or no?
DR PHIPPS: Did Logan? Yes or no?
WILLIAM: No. Sir.
DR PHIPPS: Did any of the other choristers?
WILLIAM: No, sir.
DR PHIPPS: You stand condemned out of your own mouth, Harper.
MILNER-WHITE: William, I am deeply disappointed in you. Theft is an abominable thing. It is a low, sneaky type of sin. It is not the conduct of a gentleman. I had hoped that your mother – and your father – might be proud of you. You have let them down, just as much as you have let me down. I am afraid I have no alternative. You are expelled. You must collect your things and leave the school this afternoon.
WILLIAM: But I didn’t do it!
DR PHIPPS: Be silent, boy!
WILLIAM: (Beginning to cry) You don’t like me. Just because of where I come from.
DR PHIPPS: If I don’t like you, Harper, it’s because I don’t like thieves. Wherever they come from. Now get your things. And make sure they are your things, not someone else’s.
MILNER-WHITE: (More kindly) Go and get them, William.
WILLIAM: Will you want all my clobber back, sir? The hat and the collar and such?
MILNER-WHITE: Tomorrow. When you’re back home.
(WILLIAM makes for the door but stops to speak)
WILLIAM: I didn’t take it, because it’s wrong to steal. And I didn’t take it, because Barnaby’s my friend and you don’t steal from a friend. But I tell you what, if I had taken it, I wouldn’t be so stupid as to leave it in my own bag for anyone to find. We may be rough in Barnwell, but we’re not daft.
MILNER-WHITE: When I was in the infirmary, I sat with each afflicted boy and with Phipps.
DR JAMES: How is Phipps?
MILNER-WHITE: Very low. Worse than the boys. I think he has an idea of what it is.
DR JAMES: Of course.
MILNER-WHITE: The thing is, each boy mentioned something to me. Quite without prompting. And, I firmly believe, without any collusion between them. They are in no fit state for anything of that sort, I assure you.
DR JAMES: What did they mention?
MILNER-WHITE: They said that when the illness first struck them – they were in their classroom – each of them saw a girl standing in front of him.
DR JAMES: A girl?
MILNER-WHITE: They said she didn’t say anything, just looked at them and smiled. Not a pleasant smile, you understand. They described it as – well, a very odd smile.
DR JAMES: Who was she?
MILNER-WHITE: No-one knew. She only appeared for an instant and then she faded from their eyes.
DR JAMES: What did she look like?
MILNER-WHITE: Here’s the curious thing. Each of them described her exactly and each description was the same. She was a young girl, dressed in a black dress, with a large white collar, and a white bonnet, just like –
DR JAMES: Just like a Puritan. A seventeenth-century Puritan.
MILNER-WHITE: Exactly. Don’t say you’ve seen her?
DR JAMES: I’m not sure. Possibly I have. But then I haven’t been struck down. Yet.
MILNER-WHITE: Well, I was in the chapel just now and – well, look.
(They are now in the chapel. Lights come on to show stained glass windows. JEMIMA stands in the centre of the glass. Her mouth is moving, as if she is speaking, but no words come out.)
DR JAMES: Good God. How?
MILNER-WHITE: How indeed? But you see – she is dressed exactly as the boys described. A puritan girl of the seventeenth century.
DR JAMES: There is something uncanny going on here, Dean. And you think she is connected with the – the plague?
MILNER-WHITE: I cannot know. But I think we need to know more about her. And fast.
DR JAMES: Is it my eyes, or are her lips moving?
MILNER-WHITE: I think she’s speaking.
DR JAMES: There’s no sound. What is she saying?
MILNER-WHITE: I can’t make it out. Some curse, perhaps?
DR JAMES: (Shivers) I sense we are in the presence of some very dark force here. Come away.
(Exit DR JAMES. MILNER-WHITE makes to follow, but pauses.)
MILNER-WHITE: What is she saying? It must hold the key.
JEMIMA: Help me. Please. Help me.