William and the Ancient Souls

51 8 22

The house next William's had been unoccupied for several months, and William made full use of its garden. Its garden was in turns a jungle, a desert, an ocean, and an enchanted island. William invited select parties of his friends to it. He had come to look upon it as his own property. He hunted wild animals in it with Jumble, his trusty hound; he tracked Red Indians in it, again with Jumble, his trusty hound; and he attacked and sank ships in it, making his victims walk the plank, again with the help and assistance of Jumble, his trusty hound. Sometimes, to vary the monotony, he made Jumble, his trusty hound, walk the plank into the rain tub. This was one of the many unpleasant things that William brought into Jumble's life. It was only his intense love for William that reconciled him to his existence. Jumble was one of the very few beings who appreciated William.

The house on the other side was a much smaller one, and was occupied by Mr. Gregorius Lambkin. Mr. Gregorius Lambkin was a very shy and rather elderly bachelor. He issued from his front door every morning at half-past eight holding a neat little attaché case in a neatly-gloved hand. He spent the day in an insurance office and returned, still unruffled and immaculate, at about half past six. Most people considered him quite dull and negligible, but he possessed the supreme virtue in William's eyes of not objecting to William. William had suffered much from unsympathetic neighbours who had taken upon themselves to object to such innocent and artistic objects as catapults and pea-shooters, and cricket balls. William had a very soft spot in his heart for Mr. Gregorius Lambkin. William spent a good deal of his time in Mr. Lambkin's garden during his absence, and Mr. Lambkin seemed to have no objection. Other people's gardens always seemed to William to be more attractive than his own—especially when he had no right of entry into them.

There was quite an excitement in the neighbourhood when the empty house was let. It was rumoured that the newcomer was a Personage. She was the President of the Society of Ancient Souls. The Society of Ancient Souls was a society of people who remembered their previous existence. The memory usually came in a flash. For instance, you might remember in a flash when you were looking at a box of matches that you had been Guy Fawkes. Or you might look at a cow and remember in a flash that you had been Nebuchadnezzar. Then you joined the Society of Ancient Souls, and paid a large subscription, and attended meetings at the house of its President in costume. And the President was coming to live next door to William. By a curious coincidence her name was Gregoria—Miss Gregoria Mush. William awaited her coming with anxiety. He had discovered that one's next-door neighbours make a great difference to one's life. They may be agreeable and not object to mouth organs and whistling and occasional stone-throwing, or they may not. They sometimes—the worst kind—go to the length of writing notes to one's father about one, and then, of course, the only course left to one is one of Revenge. But William hoped great things from Miss Gregoria Mush. There was a friendly sound about the name. On the evening of her arrival he climbed up on the roller and gazed wistfully over the fence at the territory that had once been his, but from which he was now debarred. He felt like Moses surveying the Promised Land.

Miss Gregoria Mush was walking in the garden. William watched her with bated breath. She was very long, and very thin, and very angular, and she was reading poetry out loud to herself as she trailed about in her long draperies.

"'Oh, moon of my delight....'" she declaimed, then her eye met William's. The eyes beneath her pince-nez were like little gimlets.

"How dare you stare at me, you rude boy?" she said.

William gasped.
"I shall write to your father," she said fiercely, and then proceeded still ferociously, "'... that knows no wane.'"

"Crumbs!" murmured William, descending slowly from his perch.

She did write to his father, and that note was the first of many. She objected to his singing, she objected to his shouting, she objected to his watching her over the wall, and she objected to his throwing sticks at her cat. She objected both verbally and in writing. This persecution was only partly compensated for by occasional glimpses of meetings of the Ancient Souls. For the Ancient Souls met in costume, and sometimes William could squeeze through the hole in the fence and watch the Ancient Souls meeting in the dining-room. Miss Gregoria Mush arrayed as Mary, Queen of Scots (one of her many previous existences) was worth watching. And always there was the garden on the other side. Mr. Gregorius Lambkin made no objections and wrote no notes. But clouds of Fate were gathering round Mr. Gregorius Lambkin. William first heard of it one day at lunch.

More William √ (Project K.)Read this story for FREE!