The helpful ghost

Jimmy was excited. Uncle Julius was coming to dinner. Uncle Julius was a civil engineer. He'd travelled all over the world building roads and bridges. And Jimmy knew that whenever Uncle Julius came over he always told stories about his exciting adventures in all the interesting places he'd to.

But today was different. Instead of telling Jimmy about lions in Africa or the carnival in Brazil, Uncle Julius told a story about when he was a student, along, long time ago.

I was studying at university. All year I'd been sharing an old house with some friends. After classes finished my friends all went back to their homes to revise for the exams. I decided to stay in the house alone because I had rather a large family and I knew it would be hard to get the peace and quiet I needed for study.

One night I was sitting at the desk in my bedroom studying calculus. Mathematics wasn't my best subject and I think I must have been falling asleep when all of a sudden I heard the floorboards in the hallway creaking, as though someone was walking.

I got up and looked outside my room, but all was still and quiet.

I called out, "is anybody there?" in case one of my friends had returned to the house. But there was no answer.

I decided I must have been dreaming and went to bed.

The next night I was also struggling with calculus, but this time I was drinking black coffee to keep me awake. Just as the night before I again heard the floorboards outside my room creaking. I got up and looked into the hallway. There was no one there, but I noticed it felt a little chilly and the chandelier was moving slightly as though there was a draft. I thought I must have left a window open, but when I checked they were all tightly shut.

Next night again I tried to study calculus. But this time I couldn't concentrate. I was waiting for the sound of footsteps. Eventually they came. I leapt out of my chair and flung the door open. I just caught a glimpse of a door closing at the end of the hallway. It was the master bedroom and had been used by my friend Henry. I ran to the door calling Henry's name. But no reply. I knocked on the door. No reply. Then I opened it. The room was just as Henry left it before he went home.

I went back to my room feeling a little scared, but I certainly wasn't prepared for what was waiting. As I went into my room I realised someone was sitting in my armchair with their back toward me. Before I had the chance to say anything, or more likely run away, the figure turned to face me. It was an old man. Strange, but when I saw him I stopped feeling scared; his face was so kind.

He spoke in a soft and gentle voice, "concentrate on chapter four." Then he turned away again. Before I had a chance to go over to the chair he had vanished.

I poured myself a glass of wine, and remembering what the old man had said went back to my calculus and began to study chapter four. This time it seemed so much easier.

A few days later my friends returned for the exams. As I sat at my desk waiting for the calculus paper I remembered the old man. "What a strange dream." I thought to myself.

But when I opened the exam paper there wasn't one, or two, but three questions from chapter four.

I passed the exam and eventually became an engineer.

Later I found out that many years before our house had belonged to an old professor from the university. His subject was calculus.

Next: Roger and the Telescope