“Good afternoon. I’m Mr Kennington. I was the first Head Librarian when this establishment opened, in 1803, and I’ve haunted here ever since my death.”
The new ghost smiled and shook Mr Kennington’s ethereal hand. “I’m Rose Donnelly.” She smiled, a figure in her late fifties, dressed in ghostly Victorian skirt and blouse and with an air of energy and determination around her. “Apparently I’m attached to the books.”
“As am I.” Mr Kennington nodded. “This is Toby. He passed on the premises two years ago.”
Rose tactfully didn’t ask the details but shook his hand. “You look about the same age as my great-great-grandson.” She said. She smiled a little sadly. “It was a shame that he decided to get rid of the collection, but there wasn’t the money and he needed to sell the house, so that was that.” She rubbed her hands briskly. “Besides, they were practically untouched. He spent most of his time on his top lap.”
“Laptop.” Toby said, without thinking. He was watching Elsie. The third ghost was peering over Rhia’s shoulder at the latest display she was putting up.
“Quite.” Rose said. “Who are the ladies?”
“Elsie has been here since she passed away from the influenza, back in…” Mr Kennington thought for a moment.
Tony drifted over to the display. “1919, apparently.”
Rhia looked over her shoulder. “Do you mind?”
“Rhia is the current Head Librarian.” Mr Kennington said quietly. He took Rose’s arm and quietly drifted back into the stacks. “She is somewhat in love with the owner of the Library, Mr Liam Kelshaw. And she is the first employee who can see us.”
“Is that convenient or inconvenient?” Rose asked.
“It has had its uses.” Mr Kennington said. “I managed to direct her to some items which were sold and secured the future of our library, and I’ve deflected her from a few other bits and pieces that I have salted away for future necessity. I cannot, however fully approve.” He sighed. “The ghost is Elsie. She is a good girl, who has always done her best, but she was never much of a reader. She met her young man here, as it was warm and dry and away from her mother, and promised to meet him here when he got back from the Front.”
“And he never came back?” Rose asked.
“I sincerely believe he was a casualty, rather than an unfaithful beau.” Mr Kennington said. “Unlike Elsie, he was a reader, and had great promise. The Great War took many good souls.” He drifted back to the main room. “Elsie doesn’t always keep up with things.” Mr Kennington said. “But she does her best.”
“That’s my name, there.” Elsie said, pointing at a list on the board in Rhia’s beautiful calligraphy.
“That’s right.” Rhia said. “Elsie Stretton, Spanish influenza.”
“And that’s my nan, and my auntie.” Elsie pointed.
“All the people in the parish who died of Spanish Flu.” Rhia said. “I’m trying to show how many were infected.”
“And this is the names of the soldiers who died overseas of the Fluenza.” Elsie said. “That must have taken some working out.”
“I’m a good researcher.” Rhia said. “And I had some help from Toby. He’s wonderful with computers.”
“And that, that’s Albert.” Elsie said, suddenly quiet.
“Albert Birkenshaw, yes he died of the Influenza when he was at Etaples.” Rhia said, shuffling through the copied photos. “It’s very sad. A lot of soldiers who survived the Great War were killed by the Spanish Influenza.”
“My Albert is dead?”
Toby laid a gentle hand on her insubstantial shoulder. “It’s has been a while.” He said.
“Albert was an estimable young man, with great potential.” Mr Kennington said. “I was always confident that he would have returned if at all possible.”
“My Albert is dead?” Elsie repeated. “So he won’t come back to meet me here?”
“I’m afraid that he won’t be able to meet you here.” Mr Kennington said. “He would never let you down if he could possibly help it.”
“Albert can’t come here to meet me.” Elsie said. “If he could, he would.”
“Indeed.” Mr Kennington said sadly, as Elsie started to fade.
“And if he can’t meet me here, why am I waiting?” Elsie said. “What if he’s waiting for me outside the Pearly Gates? I can’t be hanging around here.” There was barely a trace of her left, a wisp hanging in the air. “I’ve got to go and meet my Albert.”
“Goodbye.” Mr Kennington said softly to the empty air. “And God Bless.”