Muriel Spark

Day Four

Two potential stories: “The Young Man Who Discovered the Secret of Life” and “The Ghost That Was a Terrible Snob”–I have reconciled the two themes and hope to turn out one short story. Ben, the plasterer’s apprentice, is haunted by the ghost. I drop the secret of life and substitute this snobbish ghost that makes him feel terrible. Plasterer’s apprentice though he is, Ben hesitates to marry Genevieve, because he secretly feels that a designer of scarecrows is socially inferior to a plasterer. However, Ben changes his attitude when Genevieve borrows his sun-hat, his jeans, and one of his shirts to make up one of her scarecrows. She paints a turnip in the likeness of Ben’s face. When she has set up this scarecrow in a field, everyone knows that it is modeled on Ben. The terrible-snob ghost comes to report this to Ben, who goes out next morning to see Genevieve’s handiwork. Instead of taking it amiss he is filled with admiration for Genevieve: He rings her up and makes her fix a date for their marriage. The ghost unfurls himself again that night in Ben’s room, but when he hears of Ben’s adherence to Genevieve, he curls up and disappears. This laying to rest of his ghost is, to Ben, the secret of life.