"Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad" Summary

M. R. James


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The title is a line of an old folk song, but a horror, not a lover, comes to the whistle in this story. The introduction occurs in the dining hall of St. James College in Cambridge, where the dons discuss their plans for the coming short vacation. Parkins, a serious young professor of biology, who plans a golfing holiday in Burnstow, is offended when Rogers offers to share his room and “keep the ghosts off.” Parkins, on principle, believes only in the scientifically explicable. However, he agrees to check the remains of a monastery of the Knights Templars for the antiquarian, Professor Disney.

The story proper occupies the three days and two nights after Parkins has been installed in a room with two beds at the Globe Inn. His first day’s golf with Colonel Wilson is trying, and Parkins chooses to walk home alone along the seashore. Near it, he stumbles into a circle of mounds that are the remains of the monastery. While making a plan, he finds, near the altar, a space without turf and under it a rectangular cavity, empty except for a bronze whistle. On it, “Who is this who is coming?” is engraved in Latin. Although the shore had been empty, Parkins, walking home with the whistle in his pocket, sees a vague figure following him. At midnight, a shape is still on watch outside the hotel. When Parkins blows the whistle, the window is forced open by a great gust of wind that soughs through the inn. Sleepless, Parkins seems to hear another person...

(The entire section is 528 words.)