'By all means, sir,' the sergeant agrees, silently telling himself that this young gentleman
would go far. 'Perhaps you would care to question Jones when he comes off duty.'
'No, sergeant. I'll leave that to you. But perhaps I might be present.'
When half an hour later, in response to the sergeant's invitation to give a full account of
what he thought he had seen, George did so exactly, and refused to be persuaded that the whole
incident could be rationally explained. His stubbornness puzzled the sergeant. If the Ensign had
not been present, he would undoubtedly have put George on extra duties, but since he was
anxious to show Mr. ap Rice that Englishmen are not the irrational beings he and his countrymen
were he dismissed George with a warning.
'Well what do you think?' the Ensign asked when George had gone.
'A trick of the moonlight, sir,' the sergeant said.
'You don't think the man was lying?'
'No, sir, I don't. But no more do I believe in ghosts.'
'Don't you, sergeant? Don't you?' Smiling, the ensign left the guardroom.
After a moment's cogitation, the sergeant drew the incidence-book towards him, and
wrote, 'Private Jones, G., reported that while on sentry duty on No. 3 point, at about half after one
in the morning, he saw the ghost of a headless woman on the parade ground.'
When the adjutant inspected the book the following morning and read the sergeant's
laconic entry, he smiled. One could always trust the Welsh to be diverting, he told himself.
The incident might have been quite forgotten had not another sentry, three nights later, on
guard at No. 3 point, been found by the orderly officer and the sergeant of the guard in a dead
faint in his box. When he came to, he told much the same story as George had told.
At his later interrogation, it was suggested to him that he had allowed George's story play
too much on his imagination. On the face of it this seemed unlikely, because the man was a
guardsman with some years' service, during which he had proved himself to be an eminently
practical soldier. In any case, he told his interrogators, he had not heard George's story.
This turned out to be quite true, because when George had had some sleep, and came to
think over what had happened, in the cold light of day it seemed too fantastic. So he had decided
to keep quiet about it, and made David Rees promise to do the same.
The Englishman was then recalled, and was instructed on pain of court martial on a charge
of disobeying a lawful order to keep absolutely mum.
When, however, the following week yet another veteran guardsman reported an identical
experience, it became virtually impossible for the story not to get around the regiment, with
somewhat unsteadying results.
Nor was this all. The headless lady was soon found not to be the only ghost haunting the
environments of Recruit House. Another sentry, one Richard Donkin, while on duty behind the
Armory House, had an unsettling experience which he reported not only to his superiors, but to all
who would listen to him.
The matter had now reached such a pitch that the Colonel realized that unless something
were done the effect on the regiment could be extremely detrimental.
'Somehow we must show these stories to have no basis in fact whatsoever,' he wrote to
the Secretary for War. 'I therefore intend, subject to no veto emanating from you, sir, to ask Sir
Richard Ford, one of the Westminster magistrates, to undertake an inquiry, and to take from all
those who claim to have had these experiences statements under oath, with all consequences for
the committal of perjury attached thereto.'
So Sir Richard Ford set up his court of inquiry in the barracks, and took statements from
all concerned, beginning with George. The one point which immediately struck him on
comparing the various statements was the similarity of the facts set out by the witnesses. The
apparition rose from the ground, and aura of light was bright enough for the pattern of the gown
to be seen even on a moonless night, and every man deposed that the figure was headless. Then,
too, it always turned away, and began to walk towards the canal which (at that time) ran through
St. James's Park.
Now Sir Richard was an old inhabitant of Westminster, and going back over the history of
the Foot Guards he recalled that some twenty years before there had been some scandal attaching
to the Coldstreams; something to do with murder. On looking up the records, he discovered that
his memory was sound. A sergeant in the Guards had killed his wife, and in an attempt to make it
difficult to identify the body, had hacked off the head before throwing the remainder of the corpse
in the canal in the park, from which it was eventually recovered. His gruesome attempt to escape
the consequences of his crime failed, because five witnesses came forward who were able to show
that the gown-of cream satin with red stripes and red spots between the stripes-in which the body
was clothed when taken from the canal, was the same that the sergeant's former wife had once
This, contrary to he hopes of the colonel, provided a basis of possibility for the headless
lady, though it did not explain why she had not decided to 'walk' before, for there was no record
of her having been seen by anyone before she appeared to George Jones. With Richard Donkin's
ghost, Sir Richard Ford had less success.
Donkin's signed statement, which he made to the magistrate, reads thus:
'At about twelve o'clock at night, I was on sentry duty behind the Armory House, when I
heard a loud noise coming from an empty house near my post.
'At the same time I heard a voice cry out, 'Bring a light! Bring me a light!' The last
word was uttered in so feeble and changeable a tone of voice that I concluded that some person
was ill, and consequently offered them my assistance. I could, however, obtain no answer to my
proposal, although I repeated it several times, and as often the voice used the same terms.
'I endeavored to see the person who called out, but in vain. On a sudden the violent noise
was renewed, which appeared to me to resemble sashes of windows lifted hastily up and down,
but that they were moved in quick succession and in different parts of the house, nearly at the
same time, so it seems to me impossible that one person could accomplish the whole business.
'I heard several of my regiment say they have heard similar noises and proceedings, but I
have never heard the calls accounted for. I would not have reported this occurrence had it not
been for the incidents relating to the headless lady.'