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The Canterville Ghost






BY OSCAR WILDE


I

When Mr. Hiram B. Otis, the American Minister, bought Canterville Chase,
everyone told him he was doing a very foolish thing, as there was no
doubt at all that the place was haunted. Indeed, Lord Canterville
himself, who was a man of the most punctilious honor, had felt it his
duty to mention the fact to Mr. Otis when they came to discuss terms.

"We have not cared to live in the place ourselves," said Lord
Canterville, "since my grand-aunt, the Dowager Duchess of Bolton, was
frightened into a fit, from which she never really recovered, by two
skeleton hands being placed on her shoulders as she was dressing for
dinner, and I feel bound to tell you, Mr. Otis, that the ghost has been
seen by several living members of my family, as well as by the rector of
the parish, the Rev. Augustus Dampier, who is a Fellow of King's
College, Cambridge. After the unfortunate accident to the Duchess, none
of our younger servants would stay with us, and Lady Canterville often
got very little sleep at night, in consequence of the mysterious noises
that came from the corridor and the library."

"My Lord," answered the Minister, "I will take the furniture and the
ghost at a valuation. I have come from a modern country, where we have
everything that money can buy; and with all our spry young fellows
painting the Old World red, and carrying off your best actors and
prima-donnas, I reckon that if there were such a thing as a ghost in
Europe, we'd have it at home in a very short time in one of our public
museums, or on the road as a show."

"I fear that the ghost exists," said Lord Canterville, smiling, "though
it may have resisted the overtures of your enterprising impresarios. It
has been well known for three centuries, since 1584 in fact, and always
makes its appearance before the death of any member of our family."

"Well, so does the family doctor for that matter, Lord Canterville. But
there is no such thing, sir, as a ghost, and I guess the laws of Nature
are not going to be suspended for the British aristocracy."

"You are certainly very natural in America," answered Lord Canterville,
who did not quite understand Mr. Otis's last observation, "and if you
don't mind a ghost in the house, it is all right. Only you must remember
I warned you."

A few weeks after this, the purchase was concluded, and at the close of
the season the Minister and his family went down to Canterville Chase.
Mrs. Otis, who, as Miss Lucretia R. Tappan, of West 53d Street, had been
a celebrated New York belle, was now a very handsome, middle-aged woman,
with fine eyes, and a superb profile. Many American ladies on leaving
their native land adopt an appearance of chronic ill-health, under the
impression that it is a form of European refinement, but Mrs. Otis had
never fallen into this error. She had a magnificent constitution, and a
really wonderful amount of animal spirits. Indeed, in many respects, she
was quite English, and was an excellent example of the fact that we have
really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course,
language. Her eldest son, christened Washington by his parents in a
moment of patriotism, which he never ceased to regret, was a
fair-haired, rather good-looking young man, who had qualified himself
for American diplomacy by leading the German at the Newport Casino for
three successive seasons, and even in London was well known as an
excellent dancer. Gardenias and the peerage were his only weaknesses.
Otherwise he was extremely sensible. Miss Virginia E. Otis was a little
girl of fifteen, lithe and lovely as a fawn, and with a fine freedom in
her large blue eyes. She was a wonderful Amazon, and had once raced old
Lord Bilton on her pony twice round the park, winning by a length and a
half, just in front of the Achilles statue, to the huge delight of the
young Duke of Cheshire, who proposed for her on the spot, and was sent
back to Eton that very night by his guardians, in floods of tears.
After Virginia came the twins, who were usually called "The Stars and
Stripes," as they were always getting swished. They were delightful
boys, and, with the exception of the worthy Minister, the only true
republicans of the family.

As Canterville Chase is seven miles from Ascot, the nearest railway
station, Mr. Otis had telegraphed for a wagonette to meet them, and they
started on their drive in high spirits. It was a lovely July evening,
and the air was delicate with the scent of the pinewoods. Now and then
they heard a wood-pigeon brooding over its own sweet voice, or saw, deep
in the rustling fern, the burnished breast of the pheasant. Little
squirrels peered at them from the beech-trees as they went by, and the
rabbits scudded away through the brushwood and over the mossy knolls,
with their white tails in the air. As they entered the avenue of
Canterville Chase, however, the sky became suddenly overcast with
clouds, a curious stillness seemed to hold the atmosphere, a great
flight of rooks passed silently over their heads, and, before they
reached the house, some big drops of rain had fallen.

Standing on the steps to receive them was an old woman, neatly dressed
in black silk, with a white cap and apron. This was Mrs. Umney, the
housekeeper, whom Mrs. Otis, at Lady Canterville's earnest request, had
consented to keep in her former position. She made them each a low
curtsy as they alighted, and said in a quaint, old-fashioned manner, "I
bid you welcome to Canterville Chase." Following her, they passed
through the fine Tudor hall into the library, a long, low room, paneled
in black oak, at the end of which was a large stained glass window. Here
they found tea laid out for them, and, after taking off their wraps,
they sat down and began to look round, while Mrs. Umney waited on them.

Suddenly Mrs. Otis caught sight of a dull red stain on the floor just by
the fireplace, and, quite unconscious of what it really signified, said
to Mrs. Umney, "I am afraid something has been spilled there."

"Yes, madam," replied the old housekeeper in a low voice, "blood has
been spilled on that spot."

"How horrid!" cried Mrs. Otis; "I don't at all care for blood-stains in
a sitting-room. It must be removed at once."

The old woman smiled, and answered in the same low, mysterious voice,
"It is the blood of Lady Eleanore de Canterville, who was murdered on
that very spot by her own husband, Sir Simon de Canterville, in 1575.
Sir Simon survived her nine years, and disappeared suddenly under very
mysterious circumstances. His body has never been discovered, but his
guilty spirit still haunts the Chase. The blood-stain has been much
admired by tourists and others, and cannot be removed."

"That is all nonsense," cried Washington Otis; "Pinkerton's Champion
Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent will clean it up in no time," and
before the terrified housekeeper could interfere, he had fallen upon his
knees, and was rapidly scouring the floor with a small stick of what
looked like a black cosmetic. In a few moments no trace of the
blood-stain could be seen.

"I knew Pinkerton would do it," he exclaimed, triumphantly, as he looked
round at his admiring family; but no sooner had he said these words than
a terrible flash of lightning lit up the somber room, a fearful peal of
thunder made them all start to their feet, and Mrs. Umney fainted.

"What a monstrous climate!" said the American Minister, calmly, as he
lit a long cheroot. "I guess the old country is so overpopulated that
they have not enough decent weather for everybody. I have always been of
opinion that emigration is the only thing for England."

"My dear Hiram," cried Mrs. Otis, "what can we do with a woman who
faints?"

"Charge it to her like breakages," answered the Minister; "she won't
faint after that"; and in a few moments Mrs. Umney certainly came to.
There was no doubt, however, that she was extremely upset, and she
sternly warned Mr. Otis to beware of some trouble coming to the house.

"I have seen things with my own eyes, sir," she said, "that would make
any Christian's hair stand on end, and many and many a night I have not
closed my eyes in sleep for the awful things that are done here." Mr.
Otis, however, and his wife warmly assured the honest soul that they
were not afraid of ghosts, and, after invoking the blessings of
Providence on her new master and mistress, and making arrangements for
an increase of salary, the old housekeeper tottered off to her own room.


II

The storm raged fiercely all that night, but nothing of particular note
occurred. The next morning, however, when they came down to breakfast,
they found the terrible stain of blood once again on the floor. "I don't
think it can be the fault of the Paragon Detergent," said Washington,
"for I have tried it with everything. It must be the ghost." He
accordingly rubbed out the stain a second time, but the second morning
it appeared again. The third morning also it was there, though the
library had been locked up at night by Mr. Otis himself, and the key
carried upstairs. The whole family were now quite interested; Mr. Otis
began to suspect that he had been too dogmatic in his denial of the
existence of ghosts, Mrs. Otis expressed her intention of joining the
Psychical Society, and Washington prepared a long letter to Messrs.
Myers and Podmore on the subject of the Permanence of Sanguineous Stains
when connected with Crime. That night all doubts about the objective
existence of phantasmata were removed forever.

The day had been warm and sunny; and, in the cool of the evening, the
whole family went out to drive. They did not return home till nine
o'clock, when they had a light supper. The conversation in no way turned
upon ghosts, so there were not even those primary conditions of
receptive expectations which so often precede the presentation of
psychical phenomena. The subjects discussed, as I have since learned
from Mr. Otis, were merely such as form the ordinary conversation of
cultured Americans of the better class, such as the immense superiority
of Miss Fanny Devonport over Sarah Bernhardt as an actress; the
difficulty of obtaining green corn, buckwheat cakes, and hominy, even in
the best English houses; the importance of Boston in the development of
the world-soul; the advantages of the baggage-check system in railway
traveling; and the sweetness of the New York accent as compared to the
London drawl. No mention at all was made of the supernatural, nor was
Sir Simon de Canterville alluded to in any way. At eleven o'clock the
family retired, and by half-past all the lights were out. Some time
after, Mr. Otis was awakened by a curious noise in the corridor, outside
his room. It sounded like the clank of metal, and seemed to be coming
nearer every moment. He got up at once, struck a match, and looked at
the time. It was exactly one o'clock. He was quite calm, and felt his
pulse, which was not at all feverish. The strange noise still continued,
and with it he heard distinctly the sound of footsteps. He put on his
slippers, took a small oblong phial out of his dressing-case, and opened
the door. Right in front of him he saw, in the wan moonlight, an old man
of terrible aspect. His eyes were as red burning coals; long gray hair
fell over his shoulders in matted coils; his garments, which were of
antique cut, were soiled and ragged, and from his wrists and ankles hung
heavy manacles and rusty gyves.

"My dear sir," said Mr. Otis, "I really must insist on your oiling those
chains, and have brought you for that purpose a small bottle of the
Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator. It is said to be completely efficacious
upon one application, and there are several testimonials to that effect
on the wrapper from some of our most eminent native divines. I shall
leave it here for you by the bedroom candles, and will be happy to
supply you with more, should you require it." With these words the
United States Minister laid the bottle down on a marble table, and,
closing his door, retired to rest.

For a moment the Canterville ghost stood quite motionless in natural
indignation; then, dashing the bottle violently upon the polished floor,
he fled down the corridor, uttering hollow groans, and emitting a
ghastly green light. Just, however, as he reached the top of the great
oak staircase, a door was flung open, two little white-robed figures
appeared, and a large pillow whizzed past his head! There was evidently
no time to be lost, so, hastily adopting the Fourth dimension of Space
as a means of escape, he vanished through the wainscoting, and the
house became quite quiet.

On reaching a small secret chamber in the left wing, he leaned up
against a moonbeam to recover his breath, and began to try and realize
his position. Never, in a brilliant and uninterrupted career of three
hundred years, had he been so grossly insulted. He thought of the
Dowager Duchess, whom he had frightened into a fit as she stood before
the glass in her lace and diamonds; of the four housemaids, who had gone
into hysterics when he merely grinned at them through the curtains on
one of the spare bedrooms; of the rector of the parish, whose candle he
had blown out as he was coming late one night from the library, and who
had been under the care of Sir William Gull ever since, a perfect martyr
to nervous disorders; and of old Madame de Tremouillac, who, having
wakened up one morning early and seen a skeleton seated in an arm-chair
by the fire reading her diary, had been confined to her bed for six
weeks with an attack of brain fever, and, on her recovery, had become
reconciled to the Church, and broken off her connection with that
notorious skeptic, Monsieur de Voltaire. He remembered the terrible
night when the wicked Lord Canterville was found choking in his
dressing-room, with the knave of diamonds halfway down his throat, and
confessed, just before he died, that he had cheated Charles James Fox
out of L50,000 at Crockford's by means of that very card, and swore that
the ghost had made him swallow it. All his great achievements came back
to him again, from the butler who had shot himself in the pantry because
he had seen a green hand tapping at the windowpane, to the beautiful
Lady Stutfield, who was always obliged to wear a black velvet band round
her throat to hide the mark of five fingers burnt upon her white skin,
and who drowned herself at last in the carp-pond at the end of the
King's Walk. With the enthusiastic egotism of the true artist, he went
over his most celebrated performances, and smiled bitterly to himself as
he recalled to mind his last appearance as "Red Reuben, or the Strangled
Babe," his debut as "Gaunt Gibeon, the Blood-sucker of Bexley Moor,"
and the furore he had excited one lovely June evening by merely
playing ninepins with his own bones upon the lawn-tennis ground. And
after all this some wretched modern Americans were to come and offer him
the Rising Sun Lubricator, and throw pillows at his head! It was quite
unbearable. Besides, no ghost in history had ever been treated in this
manner. Accordingly, he determined to have vengeance, and remained till
daylight in an attitude of deep thought.


III

The next morning, when the Otis family met at breakfast, they discussed
the ghost at some length. The United States Minister was naturally a
little annoyed to find that his present had not been accepted. "I have
no wish," he said, "to do the ghost any personal injury, and I must say
that, considering the length of time he has been in the house, I don't
think it is at all polite to throw pillows at him,"--a very just remark,
at which, I am sorry to say, the twins burst into shouts of laughter.
"Upon the other hand," he continued, "if he really declines to use the
Rising Sun Lubricator, we shall have to take his chains from him. It
would be quite impossible to sleep, with such a noise going on outside
the bedrooms."

For the rest of the week, however, they were undisturbed, the only thing
that excited any attention being the continual renewal of the
blood-stain on the library floor. This certainly was very strange, as
the door was always locked at night by Mr. Otis, and the windows kept
closely barred. The chameleon-like color, also, of the stain excited a
good deal of comment. Some mornings it was a dull (almost Indian) red,
then it would be vermilion, then a rich purple, and once when they came
down for family prayers, according to the simple rites of the Free
American Reformed Episcopalian Church, they found it a bright
emerald-green. These kaleidoscopic changes naturally amused the party
very much, and bets on the subject were freely made every evening. The
only person who did not enter into the joke was little Virginia, who,
for some unexplained reason, was always a good deal distressed at the
sight of the blood-stain, and very nearly cried the morning it was
emerald-green.

The second appearance of the ghost was on Sunday night. Shortly after
they had gone to bed they were suddenly alarmed by a fearful crash in
the hall. Rushing downstairs, they found that a large suit of old armor
had become detached from its stand, and had fallen on the stone floor,
while seated in a high-backed chair was the Canterville ghost, rubbing
his knees with an expression of acute agony on his face. The twins,
having brought their pea-shooters with them, at once discharged two
pellets on him, with that accuracy of aim which can only be attained by
long and careful practice on a writing-master, while the United States
Minister covered him with his revolver, and called upon him, in
accordance with Californian etiquette, to hold up his hands! The ghost
started up with a wild shriek of rage, and swept through them like a
mist, extinguishing Washington Otis's candle as he passed, and so
leaving them all in total darkness. On reaching the top of the staircase
he recovered himself, and determined to give his celebrated peal of
demoniac laughter. This he had on more than one occasion found extremely
useful. It was said to have turned Lord Raker's wig gray in a single
night, and had certainly made three of Lady Canterville's French
governesses give warning before their month was up. He accordingly
laughed his most horrible laugh, till the old vaulted roof rang and rang
again, but hardly had the fearful echo died away when a door opened,
and Mrs. Otis came out in a light blue dressing-gown. "I am afraid you
are far from well," she said, "and have brought you a bottle of Doctor
Dobell's tincture. If it is indigestion, you will find it a most
excellent remedy." The ghost glared at her in fury, and began at once to
make preparations for turning himself into a large black dog, an
accomplishment for which he was justly renowned, and to which the family
doctor always attributed the permanent idiocy of Lord Canterville's
uncle, the Hon. Thomas Horton. The sound of approaching footsteps,
however, made him hesitate in his fell purpose, so he contented himself
with becoming faintly phosphorescent, and vanished with a deep
churchyard groan, just as the twins had come up to him.

On reaching his room he entirely broke down, and became a prey to the
most violent agitation. The vulgarity of the twins, and the gross
materialism of Mrs. Otis, were naturally extremely annoying, but what
really distressed him most was that he had been unable to wear the suit
of mail. He had hoped that even modern Americans would be thrilled by
the sight of a Specter in armor, if for no more sensible reason, at
least out of respect for their national poet Longfellow, over whose
graceful and attractive poetry he himself had whiled away many a weary
hour when the Cantervilles were up in town. Besides it was his own suit.
He had worn it with great success at the Kenilworth tournament, and had
been highly complimented on it by no less a person than the Virgin Queen
herself. Yet when he had put it on, he had been completely overpowered
by the weight of the huge breastplate and steel casque, and had fallen
heavily on the stone pavement, barking both his knees severely, and
bruising the knuckles of his right hand.

For some days after this he was extremely ill, and hardly stirred out of
his room at all, except to keep the blood-stain in proper repair.
However, by taking great care of himself, he recovered, and resolved to
make a third attempt to frighten the United States Minister and his
family. He selected Friday, August 17th, for his appearance, and spent
most of that day in looking over his wardrobe, ultimately deciding in
favor of a large slouched hat with a red feather, a winding-sheet
frilled at the wrists and neck, and a rusty dagger. Towards evening a
violent storm of rain came on, and the wind was so high that all the
windows and doors in the old house shook and rattled. In fact, it was
just such weather as he loved. His plan of action was this. He was to
make his way quietly to Washington Otis's room, gibber at him from the
foot of the bed, and stab himself three times in the throat to the sound
of low music. He bore Washington a special grudge, being quite aware
that it was he who was in the habit of removing the famous Canterville
blood-stain by means of Pinkerton's Paragon Detergent. Having reduced
the reckless and foolhardy youth to a condition of abject terror, he
was then to proceed to the room occupied by the United States Minister
and his wife, and there to place a clammy hand on Mrs. Otis's forehead,
while he hissed into her trembling husband's ear the awful secrets of
the charnel-house. With regard to little Virginia, he had not quite made
up his mind. She had never insulted him in any way, and was pretty and
gentle. A few hollow groans from the wardrobe, he thought, would be more
than sufficient, or, if that failed to wake her, he might grabble at the
counterpane with palsy-twitching fingers. As for the twins, he was quite
determined to teach them a lesson. The first thing to be done was, of
course, to sit upon their chests, so as to produce the stifling
sensation of nightmare. Then, as their beds were quite close to each
other, to stand between them in the form of a green, icy-cold corpse,
till they became paralyzed with fear, and finally, to throw off the
winding-sheet, and crawl round the room, with white, bleached bones and
one rolling eyeball in the character of "Dumb Daniel, or the Suicide's
Skeleton," a role in which he had on more than one occasion produced a
great effect, and which he considered quite equal to his famous part of
"Martin the Maniac, or the Masked Mystery."

At half-past ten he heard the family going to bed. For some time he was
disturbed by wild shrieks of laughter from the twins, who, with the
light-hearted gayety of schoolboys, were evidently amusing themselves
before they retired to rest, but at a quarter-past eleven all was still,
and, as midnight sounded, he sallied forth. The owl beat against the
window-panes, the raven croaked from the old yew-tree, and the wind
wandered moaning round the house like a lost soul; but the Otis family
slept unconscious of their doom, and high above the rain and storm he
could hear the steady snoring of the Minister for the United States. He
stepped stealthily out of the wainscoting, with an evil smile on his
cruel, wrinkled mouth, and the moon hid her face in a cloud as he stole
past the great oriel window, where his own arms and those of his
murdered wife were blazoned in azure and gold. On and on he glided, like
an evil shadow, the very darkness seeming to loathe him as he passed.
Once he thought he heard something call, and stopped; but it was only
the baying of a dog from the Red Farm, and he went on, muttering strange
sixteenth century curses, and ever and anon brandishing the rusty dagger
in the midnight air. Finally he reached the corner of the passage that
led to luckless Washington's room. For a moment he paused there, the
wind blowing his long gray locks about his head, and twisting into
grotesque and fantastic folds the nameless horror of the dead man's
shroud. Then the clock struck the quarter, and he felt the time was
come. He chuckled to himself, and turned the corner; but no sooner had
he done so than, with a piteous wail of terror, he fell back, and hid
his blanched face in his long, bony hands. Right in front of him was
standing a horrible specter, motionless as a carven image, and monstrous
as a madman's dream! Its head was bald and burnished; its face round,
and fat, and white; and hideous laughter seemed to have writhed its
features into an eternal grin. From the eyes streamed rays of scarlet
light, the mouth was a wide well of fire, and a hideous garment, like to
his own, swathed with its silent snows the Titan form. On its breast was
a placard with strange writing in antique characters, some scroll of
shame it seemed, some record of wild sins, some awful calendar of crime,
and, with its right hand, it bore aloft a falchion of gleaming steel.

Never having seen a ghost before, he naturally was terribly frightened,
and, after a second hasty glance at the awful phantom, he fled back to
his room, tripping up in his long winding-sheet as he sped down the
corridor, and finally dropping the rusty dagger into the Minister's
jack-boots, where it was found in the morning by the butler. Once in the
privacy of his own apartment, he flung himself down on a small
pallet-bed, and hid his face under the clothes. After a time, however,
the brave old Canterville spirit asserted itself, and he determined to
go and speak to the other ghost as soon as it was daylight. Accordingly,
just as the dawn was touching the hills with silver, he returned towards
the spot where he had first laid eyes on the grisly phantom, feeling
that, after all, two ghosts were better than one, and that, by the aid
of his new friend, he might safely grapple with the twins. On reaching
the spot, however, a terrible sight met his gaze. Something had
evidently happened to the specter, for the light had entirely faded from
its hollow eyes, the gleaming falchion had fallen from its hand, and it
was leaning up against the wall in a strained and uncomfortable
attitude. He rushed forward and seized it in his arms, when, to his
horror, the head slipped off and rolled on the floor, the body assumed a
recumbent posture, and he found himself clasping a white dimity
bed-curtain, with a sweeping-brush, a kitchen cleaver, and a hollow
turnip lying at his feet! Unable to understand this curious
transformation, he clutched the placard with feverish haste, and there,
in the gray morning light, he read these fearful words:

YE OTIS GHOSTE
Ye Onlie True and Originale Spook,
Beware of Ye Imitationes.
All others are counterfeite.

The whole thing flashed across him. He had been tricked, foiled, and
outwitted! The old Canterville look came into his eyes; he ground his
toothless gums together; and, raising his withered hands high above his
head, swore according to the picturesque phraseology of the antique
school, that, when Chanticleer had sounded twice his merry horn, deeds
of blood would be wrought, and murder walk abroad with silent feet.

Hardly had he finished this awful oath when, from the red-tiled roof of
a distant homestead, a cock crew. He laughed a long, low, bitter laugh,
and waited. Hour after hour he waited, but the cock, for some strange
reason, did not crow again. Finally, at half-past seven, the arrival of
the housemaids made him give up his fearful vigil, and he stalked back
to his room, thinking of his vain oath and baffled purpose. There he
consulted several books of ancient chivalry, of which he was exceedingly
fond, and found that, on every occasion on which this oath had been
used, Chanticleer had always crowed a second time. "Perdition seize the
naughty fowl," he muttered, "I have seen the day when, with my stout
spear, I would have run him through the gorge, and made him crow for me
an 'twere in death!" He then retired to a comfortable lead coffin, and
stayed there till evening.


IV

The next day the ghost was very weak and tired. The terrible excitement
of the last four weeks was beginning to have its effect. His nerves were
completely shattered, and he started at the slightest noise. For five
days he kept his room, and at last made up his mind to give up the point
of the blood-stain on the library floor. If the Otis family did not
want it, they clearly did not deserve it. They were evidently people on
a low, material plane of existence, and quite incapable of appreciating
the symbolic value of sensuous phenomena. The question of phantasmic
apparitions, and the development of astral bodies, was of course quite a
different matter, and really not under his control. It was his solemn
duty to appear in the corridor once a week, and to gibber from the large
oriel window on the first and third Wednesdays in every month, and he
did not see how he could honorably escape from his obligations. It is
quite true that his life had been very evil, but, upon the other hand,
he was most conscientious in all things connected with the supernatural.
For the next three Saturdays, accordingly, he traversed the corridor as
usual between midnight and three o'clock, taking every possible
precaution against being either heard or seen. He removed his boots,
trod as lightly as possible on the old worm-eaten boards, wore a large
black velvet cloak, and was careful to use the Rising Sun Lubricator for
oiling his chains. I am bound to acknowledge that it was with a good
deal of difficulty that he brought himself to adopt this last mode of
protection. However, one night, while the family were at dinner, he
slipped into Mr. Otis's bedroom and carried off the bottle. He felt a
little humiliated at first, but afterwards was sensible enough to see
that there was a great deal to be said for the invention, and, to a
certain degree, it served his purpose. Still, in spite of everything he
was not left unmolested. Strings were continually being stretched across
the corridor, over which he tripped in the dark, and on one occasion,
while dressed for the part of "Black Isaac, or the Huntsman of Hogley
Woods," he met with a severe fall, through treading on a butter-slide,
which the twins had constructed from the entrance of the Tapestry
Chamber to the top of the oak staircase. This last insult so enraged him
that he resolved to make one final effort to assert his dignity and
social position, and determined to visit the insolent young Etonians the
next night in his celebrated character of "Reckless Rupert, or the
Headless Earl."

He had not appeared in this disguise for more than seventy years; in
fact, not since he had so frightened pretty Lady Barbara Modish by means
of it, that she suddenly broke off her engagement with the present Lord
Canterville's grandfather, and ran away to Gretna Green with handsome
Jack Castletown, declaring that nothing in the world would induce her to
marry into a family that allowed such a horrible phantom to walk up and
down the terrace at twilight. Poor Jack was afterwards shot in a duel by
Lord Canterville on Wandsworth Common, and Lady Barbara died of a broken
heart at Tunbridge Wells before the year was out, so, in every way, it
had been a great success. It was, however, an extremely difficult
"make-up," if I may use such a theatrical expression in connection with
one of the greatest mysteries of the supernatural, or, to employ a more
scientific term, the higher-natural world, and it took him fully three
hours to make his preparations. At last everything was ready, and he was
very pleased with his appearance. The big leather riding-boots that went
with the dress were just a little too large for him, and he could only
find one of the two horse-pistols, but, on the whole, he was quite
satisfied, and at a quarter-past one he glided out of the wainscoting
and crept down the corridor. On reaching the room occupied by the twins,
which I should mention was called the Blue Bed Chamber on account of the
color of its hangings, he found the door just ajar. Wishing to make an
effective entrance, he flung it wide open, when a heavy jug of water
fell right down on him, wetting him to the skin, and just missing his
left shoulder by a couple of inches. At the same moment he heard stifled
shrieks of laughter proceeding from the four-post bed. The shock to his
nervous system was so great that he fled back to his room as hard as he
could go, and the next day he was laid up with a severe cold. The only
thing that at all consoled him in the whole affair was the fact that he
had not brought his head with him, for, had he done so, the consequences
might have been very serious.

He now gave up all hope of ever frightening this rude American family,
and contented himself, as a rule, with creeping about the passages in
list slippers, with a thick red muffler round his throat for fear of
draughts, and a small arquebus, in case he should be attacked by the
twins. The final blow he received occurred on the 19th of September. He
had gone downstairs to the great entrance-hall feeling sure that there,
at any rate, he would be quite unmolested, and was amusing himself by
making satirical remarks on the large Saroni photographs of the United
States Minister and his wife, which had now taken the place of the
Canterville family pictures. He was simply but neatly clad in a long
shroud, spotted with churchyard mold, had tied up his jaw with a strip
of yellow linen, and carried a small lantern and a sexton's spade. In
fact, he was dressed for the character of "Jonas the Graveless, or the
Corpse-Snatcher of Chertsey Barn," one of his most remarkable
impersonations, and one which the Cantervilles had every reason to
remember, as it was the real origin of their quarrel with their
neighbor, Lord Rufford. It was about a quarter-past two o'clock in the
morning, and, as far as he could ascertain, no one was stirring. As he
was strolling towards the library, however, to see if there were any
traces left of the blood-stain, suddenly there leaped out on him from a
dark corner two figures, who waved their arms wildly above their heads,
and shrieked out "BOO!" in his ear.

Seized with a panic, which, under the circumstances, was only natural,
he rushed for the staircase, but found Washington Otis waiting for him
there with the big garden-syringe, and being thus hemmed in by his
enemies on every side, and driven almost to bay, he vanished into the
great iron stove, which, fortunately for him, was not lit, and had to
make his way home through the flues and chimneys, arriving at his own
room in a terrible state of dirt, disorder, and despair.

After this he was not seen again on any nocturnal expedition. The twins
lay in wait for him on several occasions, and strewed the passages with
nutshells every night to the great annoyance of their parents and the
servants, but it was of no avail. It was quite evident that his feelings
were so wounded that he would not appear. Mr. Otis consequently resumed
his great work on the history of the Democratic party, on which he had
been engaged for some years; Mrs. Otis organized a wonderful clam-bake,
which amazed the whole county; the boys took to lacrosse, euchre, poker,
and other American national games, and Virginia rode about the lanes on
her pony, accompanied by the young Duke of Cheshire, who had come to
spend the last week of his holidays at Canterville Chase. It was
generally assumed that the ghost had gone away, and, in fact, Mr. Otis
wrote a letter to that effect to Lord Canterville, who, in reply,
expressed his great pleasure at the news, and sent his best
congratulations to the Minister's worthy wife.

The Otises, however, were deceived, for the ghost was still in the
house, and though now almost an invalid, was by no means ready to let
matters rest, particularly as he heard that among the guests was the
young Duke of Cheshire, whose grand-uncle, Lord Francis Stilton, had
once bet a hundred guineas with Colonel Carbury that he would play dice
with the Canterville ghost, and was found the next morning lying on the
floor of the card-room in such a helpless paralytic state that, though
he lived on to a great age, he was never able to say anything again but
"Double Sixes." The story was well known at the time, though, of course,
out of respect to the feelings of the two noble families, every attempt
was made to hush it up, and a full account of all the circumstances
connected with it will be found in the third volume of Lord Tattle's
Recollections of the Prince Regent and his Friends. The ghost, then,
was naturally very anxious to show that he had not lost his influence
over the Stiltons, with whom, indeed, he was distantly connected, his
own first cousin having been married en secondes noces to the Sieur de
Bulkeley, from whom, as everyone knows, the Dukes of Cheshire are
lineally descended. Accordingly, he made arrangements for appearing to
Virginia's little lover in his celebrated impersonation of "The Vampire
Monk, or the Bloodless Benedictine," a performance so horrible that when
old Lady Startup saw it, which she did on one fatal New Year's Eve, in
the year 1764, she went off into the most piercing shrieks, which
culminated in violent apoplexy, and died in three days, after
disinheriting the Cantervilles, who were her nearest relations, and
leaving all her money to her London apothecary. At the last moment,
however, his terror of the twins prevented his leaving his room, and the
little Duke slept in peace under the great feathered canopy in the Royal
Bedchamber, and dreamed of Virginia.


V

A few days after this, Virginia and her curly-haired cavalier went out
riding on Brockley meadows, where she tore her habit so badly in getting
through a hedge that, on their return home, she made up her mind to go
up by the back staircase so as not to be seen. As she was running past
the Tapestry Chamber, the door of which happened to be open, she fancied
she saw someone inside, and thinking it was her mother's maid, who
sometimes used to bring her work there, looked in to ask her to mend her
habit. To her immense surprise, however, it was the Canterville ghost
himself! He was sitting by the window, watching the ruined gold of the
yellowing trees fly through the air, and the red leaves dancing madly
down the long avenue. His head was leaning on his hand, and his whole
attitude was one of extreme depression. Indeed, so forlorn, and so much
out of repair did he look, that little Virginia, whose first idea had
been to run away and lock herself in her room, was filled with pity, and
determined to try and comfort him. So light was her footfall, and so
deep his melancholy, that he was not aware of her presence till she
spoke to him.

"I am so sorry for you," she said, "but my brothers are going back to
Eton to-morrow, and then, if you behave yourself, no one will annoy
you."

"It is absurd asking me to behave myself," he answered, looking round in
astonishment at the pretty little girl who had ventured to address him,
"quite absurd. I must rattle my chains, and groan through keyholes, and
walk about at night, if that is what you mean. It is my only reason for
existing."

"It is no reason at all for existing, and you know you have been very
wicked. Mrs. Umney told us, the first day we arrived here, that you had
killed your wife."

"Well, I quite admit it," said the ghost, petulantly, "but it was a
purely family matter and concerned no one else."

"It is very wrong to kill anyone," said Virginia, who at times had a
sweet puritan gravity, caught from some old New England ancestor.

"Oh, I hate the cheap severity of abstract ethics! My wife was very
plain, never had my ruffs properly starched, and knew nothing about
cookery. Why, there was a buck I had shot in Hogley Woods, a magnificent
pricket, and do you know how she had it sent to table? However, it is no
matter now, for it is all over, and I don't think it was very nice of
her brothers to starve me to death, though I did kill her."

"Starve you to death? Oh, Mr. Ghost--I mean Sir Simon, are you hungry?
I have a sandwich in my case. Would you like it?"

"No, thank you, I never eat anything now; but it is very kind of you,
all the same, and you are much nicer than the rest of your horrid, rude,
vulgar, dishonest family."

"Stop!" cried Virginia, stamping her foot, "it is you who are rude, and
horrid, and vulgar, and as for dishonesty, you know you stole the paints
out of my box to try and furbish up that ridiculous blood-stain in the
library. First you took all my reds, including the vermilion, and I
couldn't do any more sunsets, then you took the emerald-green and the
chrome-yellow, and finally I had nothing left but indigo and Chinese
white, and could only do moonlight scenes, which are always depressing
to look at, and not at all easy to paint. I never told on you, though I
was very much annoyed, and it was most ridiculous, the whole thing; for
who ever heard of emerald-green blood?"

"Well, really," said the Ghost, rather meekly, "what was I to do? It is
a very difficult thing to get real blood nowadays, and, as your brother
began it all with his Paragon Detergent, I certainly saw no reason why I
should not have your paints. As for color, that is always a matter of
taste: the Cantervilles have blue blood, for instance, the very bluest
in England; but I know you Americans don't care for things of this
kind."

"You know nothing about it, and the best thing you can do is to emigrate
and improve your mind. My father will be only too happy to give you a
free passage, and though there is a heavy duty on spirits of every kind,
there will be no difficulty about the Custom House, as the officers are
all Democrats. Once in New York, you are sure to be a great success. I
know lots of people there who would give a hundred thousand dollars to
have a grandfather, and much more than that to have a family ghost."

"I don't think I should like America."

"I suppose because we have no ruins and no curiosities," said Virginia,
satirically.

"No ruins! no curiosities!" answered the Ghost; "you have your navy and
your manners."

"Good evening; I will go and ask papa to get the twins an extra week's
holiday."

"Please don't go, Miss Virginia," he cried; "I am so lonely and so
unhappy, and I really don't know what to do. I want to go to sleep and I
cannot."

"That's quite absurd! You have merely to go to bed and blow out the
candle. It is very difficult sometimes to keep awake, especially at
church, but there is no difficulty at all about sleeping. Why, even
babies know how to do that, and they are not very clever."

"I have not slept for three hundred years," he said sadly, and
Virginia's beautiful blue eyes opened in wonder; "for three hundred
years I have not slept, and I am so tired."

Virginia grew quite grave, and her little lips trembled like
rose-leaves. She came towards him, and kneeling down at his side,
looked up into his old withered face.

"Poor, poor ghost," she murmured; "have you no place where you can
sleep?"

"Far away beyond the pinewoods," he answered, in a low, dreamy voice,
"there is a little garden. There the grass grows long and deep, there
are the great white stars of the hemlock flower, there the nightingale
sings all night long. All night long he sings, and the cold crystal moon
looks down, and the yew-tree spreads out its giant arms over the
sleepers."

Virginia's eyes grew dim with tears, and she hid her face in her hands.

"You mean the Garden of Death," she whispered.

"Yes, death. Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth,
with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have
no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at
peace. You can help me. You can open for me the portals of death's
house, for love is always with you, and love is stronger than death is."

Virginia trembled, a cold shudder ran through her, and for a few moments
there was silence. She felt as if she was in a terrible dream.

Then the ghost spoke again, and his voice sounded like the sighing of
the wind.

"Have you ever read the old prophecy on the library window?"

"Oh, often," cried the little girl, looking up; "I know it quite well.
It is painted in curious black letters, and is difficult to read. There
are only six lines:

"'When a golden girl can win
Prayer from out the lips of sin,
When the barren almond bears,
And a little child gives away its tears,
Then shall all the house be still
And peace come to Canterville.'

"But I don't know what they mean."

"They mean," he said, sadly, "that you must weep with me for my sins,
because I have no tears, and pray with me for my soul, because I have no
faith, and then, if you have always been sweet, and good, and gentle,
the angel of death will have mercy on me. You will see fearful shapes in
darkness, and wicked voices will whisper in your ear, but they will not
harm you, for against the purity of a little child the powers of Hell
cannot prevail."

Virginia made no answer, and the ghost wrung his hands in wild despair
as he looked down at her bowed golden head. Suddenly she stood up, very
pale, and with a strange light in her eyes. "I am not afraid," she said
firmly, "and I will ask the angel to have mercy on you."

He rose from his seat with a faint cry of joy, and taking her hand bent
over it with old-fashioned grace and kissed it. His fingers were as cold
as ice, and his lips burned like fire, but Virginia did not falter, as
he led her across the dusky room. On the faded green tapestry were
broidered little huntsmen. They blew their tasseled horns and with their
tiny hands waved to her to go back. "Go back! little Virginia," they
cried, "go back!" but the ghost clutched her hand more tightly, and she
shut her eyes against them. Horrible animals with lizard tails and
goggle eyes blinked at her from the carven chimney-piece, and murmured,
"Beware! little Virginia, beware! we may never see you again," but the
ghost glided on more swiftly, and Virginia did not listen. When they
reached the end of the room he stopped, and muttered some words she
could not understand. She opened her eyes, and saw the wall slowly
fading away like a mist, and a great black cavern in front of her. A
bitter cold wind swept round them, and she felt something pulling at her
dress. "Quick, quick," cried the ghost, "or it will be too late," and in
a moment the wainscoting had closed behind them, and the Tapestry
Chamber was empty.


VI

About ten minutes later, the bell rang for tea, and, as Virginia did not
come down, Mrs. Otis sent up one of the footmen to tell her. After a
little time he returned and said that he could not find Miss Virginia
anywhere. As she was in the habit of going out to the garden every
evening to get flowers for the dinner-table, Mrs. Otis was not at all
alarmed at first, but when six o'clock struck, and Virginia did not
appear, she became really agitated, and sent the boys out to look for
her, while she herself and Mr. Otis searched every room in the house. At
half-past six the boys came back and said that they could find no trace
of their sister anywhere. They were all now in the greatest state of
excitement, and did not know what to do, when Mr. Otis suddenly
remembered that, some few days before, he had given a band of gipsies
permission to camp in the park. He accordingly at once set off for
Blackfell Hollow, where he knew they were, accompanied by his eldest son
and two of the farm-servants. The little Duke of Cheshire, who was
perfectly frantic with anxiety, begged hard to be allowed to go too, but
Mr. Otis would not allow him, as he was afraid there might be a scuffle.
On arriving at the spot, however, he found that the gipsies had gone,
and it was evident that their departure had been rather sudden, as the
fire was still burning, and some plates were lying on the grass. Having
sent off Washington and the two men to scour the district, he ran home,
and dispatched telegrams to all the police inspectors in the county,
telling them to look out for a little girl who had been kidnapped by
tramps or gipsies. He then ordered his horse to be brought round, and
after insisting on his wife and the three boys sitting down to dinner,
rode off down the Ascot road with a groom. He had hardly, however, gone
a couple of miles, when he heard somebody galloping after him, and,
looking round, saw the little Duke coming up on his pony, with his face
very flushed, and no hat. "I'm awfully sorry, Mr. Otis," gasped out the
boy, "but I can't eat any dinner as long as Virginia is lost. Please
don't be angry with me; if you had let us be engaged last year, there
would never have been all this trouble. You won't send me back, will
you? I can't go! I won't go!"

The Minister could not help smiling at the handsome young scapegrace,
and was a good deal touched at his devotion to Virginia, so leaning down
from his horse, he patted him kindly on the shoulders, and said, "Well,
Cecil, if you won't go back, I suppose you must come with me, but I must
get you a hat at Ascot."

"Oh, bother my hat! I want Virginia!" cried the little Duke, laughing,
and they galloped on to the railway station. There Mr. Otis inquired of
the station-master if anyone answering to the description of Virginia
had been seen on the platform, but could get no news of her. The
station-master, however, wired up and down the line, and assured him
that a strict watch would be kept for her, and, after having bought a
hat for the little Duke from a linen-draper, who was just putting up his
shutters, Mr. Otis rode off to Bexley, a village about four miles away,
which he was told was a well-known haunt of the gipsies, as there was a
large common next to it. Here they roused up the rural policeman, but
could get no information from him, and, after riding all over the
common, they turned their horses' heads homewards, and reached the Chase
about eleven o'clock, dead-tired and almost heart-broken. They found
Washington and the twins waiting for them at the gate-house with
lanterns, as the avenue was very dark. Not the slightest trace of
Virginia had been discovered. The gipsies had been caught on Brockley
meadows, but she was not with them, and they had explained their sudden
departure by saying that they had mistaken the date of Chorton Fair, and
had gone off in a hurry for fear they should be late. Indeed, they had
been quite distressed at hearing of Virginia's disappearance, as they
were very grateful to Mr. Otis for having allowed them to camp in his
park, and four of their number had stayed behind to help in the search.
The carp-pond had been dragged, and the whole Chase thoroughly gone
over, but without any result. It was evident that, for that night at any
rate, Virginia was lost to them; and it was in a state of the deepest
depression that Mr. Otis and the boys walked up to the house, the groom
following behind with the two horses and the pony. In the hall they
found a group of frightened servants, and lying on a sofa in the library
was poor Mrs. Otis, almost out of her mind with terror and anxiety, and
having her forehead bathed with eau de cologne by the old housekeeper.
Mr. Otis at once insisted on her having something to eat, and ordered up
supper for the whole party. It was a melancholy meal, as hardly anyone
spoke, and even the twins were awestruck and subdued, as they were very
fond of their sister. When they had finished, Mr. Otis, in spite of the
entreaties of the little Duke, ordered them all to bed, saying that
nothing more could be done that night, and that he would telegraph in
the morning to Scotland Yard for some detectives to be sent down
immediately. Just as they were passing out of the dining-room, midnight
began to boom from the clock tower, and when the last stroke sounded
they heard a crash and a sudden shrill cry; a dreadful peal of thunder
shook the house, a strain of unearthly music floated through the air, a
panel at the top of the staircase flew back with a loud noise, and out
on the landing, looking very pale and white, with a little casket in her
hand, stepped Virginia. In a moment they had all rushed up to her. Mrs.
Otis clasped her passionately in her arms, the Duke smothered her with
violent kisses, and the twins executed a wild war-dance round the group.

"Good heavens! child, where have you been?" said Mr. Otis, rather
angrily, thinking that she had been playing some foolish trick on them.
"Cecil and I have been riding all over the country looking for you, and
your mother has been frightened to death. You must never play these
practical jokes any more."

"Except on the ghost! except on the ghost!" shrieked the twins, as they
capered about.

"My own darling, thank God you are found; you must never leave my side
again," murmured Mrs. Otis, as she kissed the trembling child, and
smoothed the tangled gold of her hair.

"Papa," said Virginia, quietly, "I have been with the ghost. He is dead,
and you must come and see him. He had been very wicked, but he was
really sorry for all that he had done, and he gave me this box of
beautiful jewels before he died."

The whole family gazed at her in mute amazement, but she was quite grave
and serious; and, turning round, she led them through the opening in the
wainscoting down a narrow secret corridor, Washington following with a
lighted candle, which he had caught up from the table. Finally, they
came to a great oak door, studded with rusty nails. When Virginia
touched it, it swung back on its heavy hinges, and they found themselves
in a little low room, with a vaulted ceiling, and one tiny grated
window. Embedded in the wall was a huge iron ring, and chained to it was
a gaunt skeleton, that was stretched out at full length on the stone
floor, and seemed to be trying to grasp with its long fleshless fingers
an old-fashioned trencher and ewer, that were placed just out of its
reach. The jug had evidently been once filled with water, as it was
covered inside with green mold. There was nothing on the trencher but a
pile of dust. Virginia knelt down beside the skeleton, and, folding her
little hands together, began to pray silently, while the rest of the
party looked on in wonder at the terrible tragedy whose secret was now
disclosed to them.

"Hallo!" suddenly exclaimed one of the twins, who had been looking out
of the window to try and discover in what wing of the house the room was
situated. "Hallo! the old withered almond-tree has blossomed. I can see
the flowers quite plainly in the moonlight."

"God has forgiven him," said Virginia, gravely, as she rose to her feet,
and a beautiful light seemed to illumine her face.

"What an angel you are!" cried the young Duke, and he put his arm round
her neck, and kissed her.


VII

Four days after these curious incidents, a funeral started from
Canterville Chase at about eleven o'clock at night. The hearse was drawn
by eight black horses, each of which carried on its head a great tuft of
nodding ostrich-plumes, and the leaden coffin was covered by a rich
purple pall, on which was embroidered in gold the Canterville
coat-of-arms. By the side of the hearse and the coaches walked the
servants with lighted torches, and the whole procession was wonderfully
impressive. Lord Canterville was the chief mourner, having come up
specially from Wales to attend the funeral, and sat in the first
carriage along with little Virginia. Then came the United States
Minister and his wife, then Washington and the three boys, and in the
last carriage was Mrs. Umney. It was generally felt that, as she had
been frightened by the ghost for more than fifty years of her life, she
had a right to see the last of him. A deep grave had been dug in the
corner of the churchyard, just under the old yew-tree, and the service
was read in the most impressive manner by the Rev. Augustus Dampier.
When the ceremony was over, the servants, according to an old custom
observed in the Canterville family, extinguished their torches, and, as
the coffin was being lowered into the grave, Virginia stepped forward,
and laid on it a large cross made of white and pink almond-blossoms. As
she did so, the moon came out from behind a cloud, and flooded with its
silent silver the little churchyard, and from a distant copse a
nightingale began to sing. She thought of the ghost's description of the
Garden of Death, her eyes became dim with tears, and she hardly spoke a
word during the drive home.

The next morning, before Lord Canterville went up to town, Mr. Otis had
an interview with him on the subject of the jewels the ghost had given
to Virginia. They were perfectly magnificent, especially a certain ruby
necklace with old Venetian setting, which was really a superb specimen
of sixteenth-century work, and their value was so great that Mr. Otis
felt considerable scruples about allowing his daughter to accept them.

"My lord," he said, "I know that in this country mortmain is held to
apply to trinkets as well as to land, and it is quite clear to me that
these jewels are, or should be, heirlooms in your family. I must beg
you, accordingly, to take them to London with you, and to regard them
simply as a portion of your property which has been restored to you
under certain strange conditions. As for my daughter, she is merely a
child, and has as yet, I am glad to say, but little interest in such
appurtenances of idle luxury. I am also informed by Mrs. Otis, who, I
may say, is no mean authority upon Art,--having had the privilege of
spending several winters in Boston when she was a girl,--that these gems
are of great monetary worth, and if offered for sale would fetch a tall
price. Under these circumstances, Lord Canterville, I feel sure that you
will recognize how impossible it would be for me to allow them to remain
in the possession of any member of my family; and, indeed, all such vain
gauds and toys, however suitable or necessary to the dignity of the
British aristocracy, would be completely out of place among those who
have been brought up on the severe, and I believe immortal, principles
of Republican simplicity. Perhaps I should mention that Virginia is very
anxious that you should allow her to retain the box, as a memento of
your unfortunate but misguided ancestor. As it is extremely old, and
consequently a good deal out of repair, you may perhaps think fit to
comply with her request. For my own part, I confess I am a good deal
surprised to find a child of mine expressing sympathy with medievalism
in any form, and can only account for it by the fact that Virginia was
born in one of your London suburbs shortly after Mrs. Otis had returned
from a trip to Athens."

Lord Canterville listened very gravely to the worthy Minister's speech,
pulling his gray moustache now and then to hide an involuntary smile,
and when Mr. Otis had ended, he shook him cordially by the hand, and
said: "My dear sir, your charming little daughter rendered my unlucky
ancestor, Sir Simon, a very important service, and I and my family are
much indebted to her for her marvelous courage and pluck. The jewels are
clearly hers, and, egad, I believe that if I were heartless enough to
take them from her, the wicked old fellow would be out of his grave in a
fortnight, leading me the devil of a life. As for their being heirlooms,
nothing is an heirloom that is not so mentioned in a will or legal
document, and the existence of these jewels has been quite unknown. I
assure you I have no more claim on them than your butler, and when Miss
Virginia grows up, I dare say she will be pleased to have pretty things
to wear. Besides, you forget, Mr. Otis, that you took the furniture and
the ghost at a valuation, and anything that belonged to the ghost passed
at once into your possession, as, whatever activity Sir Simon may have
shown in the corridor at night, in point of law he was really dead, and
you acquired his property by purchase."

Mr. Otis was a good deal distressed at Lord Canterville's refusal, and
begged him to reconsider his decision, but the good-natured peer was
quite firm, and finally induced the Minister to allow his daughter to
retain the present the ghost had given her, and when, in the spring of
1890, the young Duchess of Cheshire was presented at the Queen's first
drawing-room on the occasion of her marriage her jewels were the
universal theme of admiration. For Virginia received the coronet, which
is the reward of all good little American girls, and was married to her
boy-lover as soon as he came of age. They were both so charming, and
they loved each other so much, that everyone was delighted at the match,
except the old Marchioness of Dumbleton, who had tried to catch the Duke
for one of her seven unmarried daughters, and had given no less than
three expensive dinner-parties for that purpose, and, strange to say,
Mr. Otis himself. Mr. Otis was extremely fond of the young Duke
personally, but, theoretically, he objected to titles, and, to use his
own words, "was not without apprehension lest, amid the enervating
influences of a pleasure-loving aristocracy, the true principles of
Republican simplicity should be forgotten." His objections, however,
were completely over-ruled, and I believe that when he walked up the
aisle of St. George's, Hanover Square, with his daughter leaning on his
arm, there was not a prouder man in the whole length and breadth of
England.

The Duke and Duchess, after the honeymoon was over, went down to
Canterville Chase, and on the day after their arrival they walked over
in the afternoon to the lonely churchyard by the pinewoods. There had
been a great deal of difficulty at first about the inscription on Sir
Simon's tombstone, but finally it had been decided to engrave on it
simply the initials of the old gentleman's name, and the verse from the
library window. The Duchess had brought with her some lovely roses,
which she strewed upon the grave, and after they had stood by it for
some time they strolled into the ruined chancel of the old abbey. There
the Duchess sat down on a fallen pillar, while her husband lay at her
feet smoking a cigarette and looking up at her beautiful eyes. Suddenly
he threw his cigarette away, took hold of her hand, and said to her,
"Virginia, a wife should have no secrets from her husband."

"Dear Cecil! I have no secrets from you."

"Yes, you have," he answered, smiling, "you have never told me what
happened to you when you were locked up with the ghost."

"I have never told anyone, Cecil," said Virginia, gravely.

"I know that, but you might tell me."

"Please don't ask me, Cecil, I cannot tell you. Poor Sir Simon! I owe
him a great deal. Yes, don't laugh, Cecil, I really do. He made me see
what Life is, and what Death signifies, and why Love is stronger than
both."

The Duke rose and kissed his wife lovingly.

"You can have your secret as long as I have your heart," he murmured.

"You have always had that, Cecil."

"And you will tell our children some day, won't you?"

Virginia blushed.





Next: The Ghost-extinguisher

Previous: The Dead Valley



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