Two men were alumni of private schools. Each of them had attended a different one.
One day, they were discussing ghost stories that the pupils were accustomed to tell one another at school. They agreed that the stories were probably versions of tales presented in storybooks.
They also agreed that private schools were not usually haunted by ghosts, but one of them told his companion of an incident that possibly involved the supernatural.
During his school days, he had a special friend named Macleod and a teacher named Sampson. Both played a key role in the story.
Another important element was a Byzantine coin that Sampson had acquired in Constantinople. One side had the picture of some emperor. On the other side, Sampson had carved his initials and a date: “G. W. S. 24 July, 1865.” Sampson had shown this coin to the storyteller when he was in school.
When Sampson taught Latin grammar, he often ordered the class to write a sentence illustrating whatever grammatical rule they happened to be studying.
One day, he wanted them to write a sentence using the Latin word meaning “remember.” Most of the students wrote barbarous sentences. However, Macleod seemed to be in a trance. When he snapped out of it, he wrote an excellent sentence: “Memento putei inter quattuor taxos,” which means: “Remember the well among the four yews.” When Sampson saw this sentence, he was visibly distressed.
Later Macleod said he did not know what the sentence meant. Somehow a picture of the sentence popped into his head, so he wrote it down. He knew that the sentence was a command to remember the well among four trees that were growing outside, but he did not know the name of the trees.
At a later date, another strange incident occurred. The class was supposed to write a conditional sentence in Latin. When the papers were handed in, Sampson looked at the paper on the top of the pile. He made a funny noise in his throat and ran out the door.
The students looked at the paper on top of the pile. It read: “Si tu non veneris ad me, ego veniam ad te,” which means “If you don’t come to me, I’ll come to you.” [In the translation of the two Latin sentences, I decided to use the translation offered by M. R. James.]
Strangely, it was written in red ink – a color that none of the students used. Moreover, none of the students had written it. They counted the papers and learned that there were seventeen papers, but there were only sixteen students.
When Sampson returned to the classroom, he dismissed the class. He said that he was not feeling well.
Another oddity occurred later. The storyteller stole the mysterious paper before the teacher returned. When he later examined it, the paper was blank. The sentence had mysteriously disappeared.
This set the stage for the possible appearance of a ghost. Typically, it took place at night. Macleod saw someone looking into the window of Sampson’s room. He was extremely thin, and Macleod did not know whether or not he was a real human being. He awakened his friend; but when they returned to the window, the figure had disappeared.
The next day, Sampson did not come to teach his class. No one ever saw him again.
The storyteller did not know what had happened to Sampson, but a later discovery shed light on his disappearance. The old well situated among the four yew trees was cleaned out, and two bodies were found. They both had decomposed beyond recognition, but it was evident that one corpse had grasped the other firmly. On the latter corpse, they found the Byzantine coin that belonged to Sampson.
A School Story may be read online. It is presented by World English.