That was most unusual, indeed. Gertrude was always grumbling in the kitchen, complaining about everything and though, Mildred was the gleeful one, it was rare for Gertrude to be polite to her. After a few minutes watching all this excitement, it finally dawned on him what Mr. Sullivan had told him. The most extraordinary things happen this time of year. He had seen it happening all over town. Why hadn’t it helped Walter clean the windows?
“You must learn to say please,” Mildred said as she watched him from the kitchen.
“I’m sorry,” Walter said.
“I’ve seen your mother put you to task all the day long,” she said. “A boy your age should be outside getting fresh air to grow. Being stuck inside is not good. If you ask him kindly and say please he would be happy to help you in your chores.”
“Just leave him a piece of Bakewell tart at night,” added Gertrude without turning around. “He likes those very much.”
Mildred giggled. “Oh, yes, yes, he does.”
Walter was stunned. “I will. Thank you, Miss Yule.”
“You’re welcome,” they said in unison.
Walter edged away from the kitchen and went to go see his Uncle to tell him what he saw. “Uncle Obel, there is something in the kitchen–”
Uncle Obel laughed heartily, shaking his bulging belly. “It happens every time,” he said. “Nothing to be afraid of. It keeps Gertrude mild mannered, though. They call him Bonifacious. He is a poltergeist. You have to say please for him to help you. Everybody loves him here.”
“You don’t mind?”
“Mind, heavens no. It helps run the inn smoothly. Though, your mother seems bothered by it. I don’t think she welcomes Bonifacious. That’s too bad, too.” A patron calls for Uncle Obels’ attention. “We’ll talk later,” he tells Walter and hurries to attend the patron. Walter walks down the corridor into his room for a coat. He walks out into the courtyard and sits on the steps, watching the Psychai fly around the yard.
Walter must have dozed off because he awoke with the sun on the west. The cold weather quickly takes out the sleepiness out of him. Something is tugging on his sleeve. He turns to see a very frighten Psychai. He takes out his father’s pocket watch to look at the time. It was almost seven. He needed to hurry to the cemetery. He stands up and walks back into the inn with the Psychai behind him. He quietly walks down the corridor. Aunt Edith’s door is still close. The laundry room was empty. The kitchen was empty, but Walter can smell the wonderful aroma of beef stew, roasted mutton, dumplings, and sauerkraut.
His stomach rumbles, he had missed lunch. He slinks in for a piece of bread. The ladles are still stirring by themselves, probably by Bonifacious. Walter takes a piece of bread and slathers it with butter. It will have to do until dinner. His eyes catch sight of Mildred’s desserts. He sees her famous rauchy, a small sweet powdered pancake stuffed with apples. Cheesecake and gingerbread cookies sit nearby. Maybe a cookie or two wouldn’t hurt and he takes them. He walks back into the corridor and heads toward the rowdy taproom. He pushes through the crowd and steps out into the cool day.
The Black Coats stroll the streets. Walter wonders if they are patrolling the cemetery. He begins to eat his bread. The Psychai had gotten so frighten of leaving the inn that she flew back to Walter’s room and dove under the pillow. Whatever was out there, frightened her very much. Walter wondered if he should be worried. He reached the cemetery and no Black Coats were around. A sign above the gates read, ‘Cemetery of St. Jon,’ the gates are chained securely with a large padlocked, but there was enough room for Walter to squeeze in. He hears two Black Coats approaching and hurries through the gates. He hides behind a mausoleum.
“Do ye think we should be patrolling the cemetery again?” says one of the Black Coats.
“Nah, it’ll be dark soon and Oi don’t want te be caught in there,” said the other.
“Aye, makes me bones shiver thinking about it.”
“Let’s go back.”
Walter could hear their boots treading away. Walter wondered if this was a good idea to be there. Walter turned to face cemetery and its numerous tombstones, cenotaphs, and pillars spread all over its vast grounds. Some looked new and others looked ancient. Even though rays of light shined on the cemetery, its solemnness still made it ominous, no matter the time of day.
Walter heard the many stories about cemeteries. The quietness even irked him. He thought about going back and wait for Alden outside the gates, but he feared the Black Coats would return and he did not want to face his mother’s wrath. That meant cleaning the windows and wood-burning stove forever or until school was reinstated. That could be months. He decided to take his chances and began walking around the tombstones. He took out his father’s pocket watch again. Ten minutes after seven. Alden should be here.