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The Rival Ghosts

Scary Books: Humorous Ghost Stories


The good ship sped on her way across the calm Atlantic. It was an

outward passage, according to the little charts which the company had

charily distributed, but most of the passengers were homeward bound,

after a summer of rest and recreation, and they were counting the days

before they might hope to see Fire Island Light. On the lee side of the

boat, comfortably sheltered from the win
, and just by the door of the

captain's room (which was theirs during the day), sat a little group of

returning Americans. The Duchess (she was down on the purser's list as

Mrs. Martin, but her friends and familiars called her the Duchess of

Washington Square) and Baby Van Rensselaer (she was quite old enough to

vote, had her sex been entitled to that duty, but as the younger of two

sisters she was still the baby of the family)--the Duchess and Baby Van

Rensselaer were discussing the pleasant English voice and the not

unpleasant English accent of a manly young lordling who was going to

America for sport. Uncle Larry and Dear Jones were enticing each other

into a bet on the ship's run of the morrow.

"I'll give you two to one she don't make 420," said Dear Jones.

"I'll take it," answered Uncle Larry. "We made 427 the fifth day last

year." It was Uncle Larry's seventeenth visit to Europe, and this was

therefore his thirty-fourth voyage.

"And when did you get in?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer. "I don't care a

bit about the run, so long as we get in soon."

"We crossed the bar Sunday night, just seven days after we left

Queenstown, and we dropped anchor off Quarantine at three o'clock on

Monday morning."

"I hope we sha'n't do that this time. I can't seem to sleep any when the

boat stops."

"I can, but I didn't," continued Uncle Larry, "because my stateroom was

the most for'ard in the boat, and the donkey-engine that let down the

anchor was right over my head."

"So you got up and saw the sun rise over the bay," said Dear Jones,

"with the electric lights of the city twinkling in the distance, and the

first faint flush of the dawn in the east just over Fort Lafayette, and

the rosy tinge which spread softly upward, and----"

"Did you both come back together?" asked the Duchess.

"Because he has crossed thirty-four times you must not suppose he has a

monopoly in sunrises," retorted Dear Jones. "No; this was my own

sunrise; and a mighty pretty one it was too."

"I'm not matching sunrises with you," remarked Uncle Larry calmly;

"but I'm willing to back a merry jest called forth by my sunrise against

any two merry jests called forth by yours."

"I confess reluctantly that my sunrise evoked no merry jest at all."

Dear Jones was an honest man, and would scorn to invent a merry jest on

the spur of the moment.

"That's where my sunrise has the call," said Uncle Larry, complacently.

"What was the merry jest?" was Baby Van Rensselaer's inquiry, the

natural result of a feminine curiosity thus artistically excited.

"Well, here it is. I was standing aft, near a patriotic American and a

wandering Irishman, and the patriotic American rashly declared that you

couldn't see a sunrise like that anywhere in Europe, and this gave the

Irishman his chance, and he said, 'Sure ye don't have'm here till we're

through with 'em over there.'"

"It is true," said Dear Jones, thoughtfully, "that they do have some

things over there better than we do; for instance, umbrellas."

"And gowns," added the Duchess.

"And antiquities."--this was Uncle Larry's contribution.

"And we do have some things so much better in America!" protested Baby

Van Rensselaer, as yet uncorrupted by any worship of the effete

monarchies of despotic Europe. "We make lots of things a great deal

nicer than you can get them in Europe--especially ice-cream."

"And pretty girls," added Dear Jones; but he did not look at her.

"And spooks," remarked Uncle Larry, casually.

"Spooks?" queried the Duchess.

"Spooks. I maintain the word. Ghost, if you like that better, or

specters. We turn out the best quality of spook----"

"You forget the lovely ghost stories about the Rhine and the Black

Forest," interrupted Miss Van Rensselaer, with feminine inconsistency.

"I remember the Rhine and the Black Forest and all the other haunts of

elves and fairies and hobgoblins; but for good honest spooks there is no

place like home. And what differentiates our spook--spiritus

Americanus--from the ordinary ghost of literature is that it responds

to the American sense of humor. Take Irving's stories, for example. The

'Headless Horseman'--that's a comic ghost story. And Rip Van

Winkle--consider what humor, and what good humor, there is in the

telling of his meeting with the goblin crew of Hendrik Hudson's men! A

still better example of this American way of dealing with legend and

mystery is the marvelous tale of the rival ghosts."

"The rival ghosts!" queried the Duchess and Baby Van Rensselaer

together. "Who were they?"

"Didn't I ever tell you about them?" answered Uncle Larry, a gleam of

approaching joy flashing from his eye.

"Since he is bound to tell us sooner or later, we'd better be resigned

and hear it now," said Dear Jones.

"If you are not more eager, I won't tell it at all."

"Oh, do, Uncle Larry! you know I just dote on ghost stories," pleaded

Baby Van Rensselaer.

"Once upon a time," began Uncle Larry--"in fact, a very few years

ago--there lived in the thriving town of New York a young American

called Duncan--Eliphalet Duncan. Like his name, he was half Yankee and

half Scotch, and naturally he was a lawyer, and had come to New York to

make his way. His father was a Scotchman who had come over and settled

in Boston and married a Salem girl. When Eliphalet Duncan was about

twenty he lost both of his parents. His father left him enough money to

give him a start, and a strong feeling of pride in his Scotch birth; you

see there was a title in the family in Scotland, and although

Eliphalet's father was the younger son of a younger son, yet he always

remembered, and always bade his only son to remember, that this ancestry

was noble. His mother left him her full share of Yankee grit and a

little old house in Salem which had belonged to her family for more than

two hundred years. She was a Hitchcock, and the Hitchcocks had been

settled in Salem since the year 1. It was a great-great-grandfather of

Mr. Eliphalet Hitchcock who was foremost in the time of the Salem

witchcraft craze. And this little old house which she left to my friend,

Eliphalet Duncan, was haunted."

"By the ghost of one of the witches, of course?" interrupted Dear Jones.

"Now how could it be the ghost of a witch, since the witches were all

burned at the stake? You never heard of anybody who was burned having a

ghost, did you?" asked Uncle Larry.

"That's an argument in favor of cremation, at any rate," replied Dear

Jones, evading the direct question.

"It is, if you don't like ghosts. I do," said Baby Van Rensselaer.

"And so do I," added Uncle Larry. "I love a ghost as dearly as an

Englishman loves a lord."

"Go on with your story," said the Duchess, majestically overruling all

extraneous discussion.

"This little old house at Salem was haunted," resumed Uncle Larry. "And

by a very distinguished ghost--or at least by a ghost with very

remarkable attributes."

"What was he like?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer, with a premonitory shiver

of anticipatory delight.

"It had a lot of peculiarities. In the first place, it never appeared to

the master of the house. Mostly it confined its visitations to unwelcome

guests. In the course of the last hundred years it had frightened away

four successive mothers-in-law, while never intruding on the head of the


"I guess that ghost had been one of the boys when he was alive and in

the flesh." This was Dear Jones's contribution to the telling of the


"In the second place," continued Uncle Larry, "it never frightened

anybody the first time it appeared. Only on the second visit were the

ghost-seers scared; but then they were scared enough for twice, and they

rarely mustered up courage enough to risk a third interview. One of the

most curious characteristics of this well-meaning spook was that it had

no face--or at least that nobody ever saw its face."

"Perhaps he kept his countenance veiled?" queried the Duchess, who was

beginning to remember that she never did like ghost stories.

"That was what I was never able to find out. I have asked several people

who saw the ghost, and none of them could tell me anything about its

face, and yet while in its presence they never noticed its features, and

never remarked on their absence or concealment. It was only afterwards

when they tried to recall calmly all the circumstances of meeting with

the mysterious stranger that they became aware that they had not seen

its face. And they could not say whether the features were covered, or

whether they were wanting, or what the trouble was. They knew only that

the face was never seen. And no matter how often they might see it, they

never fathomed this mystery. To this day nobody knows whether the ghost

which used to haunt the little old house in Salem had a face, or what

manner of face it had."

"How awfully weird!" said Baby Van Rensselaer. "And why did the ghost go


"I haven't said it went away," answered Uncle Larry, with much dignity.

"But you said it used to haunt the little old house at Salem, so I

supposed it had moved. Didn't it?" the young lady asked.

"You shall be told in due time. Eliphalet Duncan used to spend most of

his summer vacations at Salem, and the ghost never bothered him at all,

for he was the master of the house--much to his disgust, too, because he

wanted to see for himself the mysterious tenant at will of his property.

But he never saw it, never. He arranged with friends to call him

whenever it might appear, and he slept in the next room with the door

open; and yet when their frightened cries waked him the ghost was gone,

and his only reward was to hear reproachful sighs as soon as he went

back to bed. You see, the ghost thought it was not fair of Eliphalet to

seek an introduction which was plainly unwelcome."

Dear Jones interrupted the story-teller by getting up and tucking a

heavy rug more snugly around Baby Van Rensselaer's feet, for the sky was

now overcast and gray, and the air was damp and penetrating.

"One fine spring morning," pursued Uncle Larry, "Eliphalet Duncan

received great news. I told you that there was a title in the family in

Scotland, and that Eliphalet's father was the younger son of a younger

son. Well, it happened that all Eliphalet's father's brothers and

uncles had died off without male issue except the eldest son of the

eldest son, and he, of course, bore the title, and was Baron Duncan of

Duncan. Now the great news that Eliphalet Duncan received in New York

one fine spring morning was that Baron Duncan and his only son had been

yachting in the Hebrides, and they had been caught in a black squall,

and they were both dead. So my friend Eliphalet Duncan inherited the

title and the estates."

"How romantic!" said the Duchess. "So he was a baron!"

"Well," answered Uncle Larry, "he was a baron if he chose. But he didn't


"More fool he!" said Dear Jones, sententiously.

"Well," answered Uncle Larry, "I'm not so sure of that. You see,

Eliphalet Duncan was half Scotch and half Yankee, and he had two eyes to

the main chance. He held his tongue about his windfall of luck until he

could find out whether the Scotch estates were enough to keep up the

Scotch title. He soon discovered that they were not, and that the late

Lord Duncan, having married money, kept up such state as he could out of

the revenues of the dowry of Lady Duncan. And Eliphalet, he decided that

he would rather be a well-fed lawyer in New York, living comfortably on

his practice, than a starving lord in Scotland, living scantily on his


"But he kept his title?" asked the Duchess.

"Well," answered Uncle Larry, "he kept it quiet. I knew it, and a friend

or two more. But Eliphalet was a sight too smart to put 'Baron Duncan of

Duncan, Attorney and Counselor at Law,' on his shingle."

"What has all this got to do with your ghost?" asked Dear Jones,


"Nothing with that ghost, but a good deal with another ghost. Eliphalet

was very learned in spirit lore--perhaps because he owned the haunted

house at Salem, perhaps because he was a Scotchman by descent. At all

events, he had made a special study of the wraiths and white ladies and

banshees and bogies of all kinds whose sayings and doings and warnings

are recorded in the annals of the Scottish nobility. In fact, he was

acquainted with the habits of every reputable spook in the Scotch

peerage. And he knew that there was a Duncan ghost attached to the

person of the holder of the title of Baron Duncan of Duncan."

"So, besides being the owner of a haunted house in Salem, he was also a

haunted man in Scotland?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer.

"Just so. But the Scotch ghost was not unpleasant, like the Salem ghost,

although it had one peculiarity in common with its transatlantic

fellow-spook. It never appeared to the holder of the title, just as the

other never was visible to the owner of the house. In fact, the Duncan

ghost was never seen at all. It was a guardian angel only. Its sole duty

was to be in personal attendance on Baron Duncan of Duncan, and to warn

him of impending evil. The traditions of the house told that the Barons

of Duncan had again and again felt a premonition of ill fortune. Some of

them had yielded and withdrawn from the venture they had undertaken, and

it had failed dismally. Some had been obstinate, and had hardened their

hearts, and had gone on reckless to defeat and to death. In no case had

a Lord Duncan been exposed to peril without fair warning."

"Then how came it that the father and son were lost in the yacht off the

Hebrides?" asked Dear Jones.

"Because they were too enlightened to yield to superstition. There is

extant now a letter of Lord Duncan, written to his wife a few minutes

before he and his son set sail, in which he tells her how hard he has

had to struggle with an almost overmastering desire to give up the trip.

Had he obeyed the friendly warning of the family ghost, the letter would

have been spared a journey across the Atlantic."

"Did the ghost leave Scotland for America as soon as the old baron

died?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer, with much interest.

"How did he come over," queried Dear Jones--"in the steerage, or as a

cabin passenger?"

"I don't know," answered Uncle Larry, calmly, "and Eliphalet didn't

know. For as he was in no danger, and stood in no need of warning, he

couldn't tell whether the ghost was on duty or not. Of course he was on

the watch for it all the time. But he never got any proof of its

presence until he went down to the little old house of Salem, just

before the Fourth of July. He took a friend down with him--a young

fellow who had been in the regular army since the day Fort Sumter was

fired on, and who thought that after four years of the little

unpleasantness down South, including six months in Libby, and after ten

years of fighting the bad Indians on the plains, he wasn't likely to be

much frightened by a ghost. Well, Eliphalet and the officer sat out on

the porch all the evening smoking and talking over points in military

law. A little after twelve o'clock, just as they began to think it was

about time to turn in, they heard the most ghastly noise in the house.

It wasn't a shriek, or a howl, or a yell, or anything they could put a

name to. It was an undeterminate, inexplicable shiver and shudder of

sound, which went wailing out of the window. The officer had been at

Cold Harbor, but he felt himself getting colder this time. Eliphalet

knew it was the ghost who haunted the house. As this weird sound died

away, it was followed by another, sharp, short, blood-curdling in its

intensity. Something in this cry seemed familiar to Eliphalet, and he

felt sure that it proceeded from the family ghost, the warning wraith of

the Duncans."

"Do I understand you to intimate that both ghosts were there together?"

inquired the Duchess, anxiously.

"Both of them were there," answered Uncle Larry. "You see, one of them

belonged to the house, and had to be there all the time, and the other

was attached to the person of Baron Duncan, and had to follow him there;

wherever he was, there was that ghost also. But Eliphalet, he had

scarcely time to think this out when he heard both sounds again, not one

after another, but both together, and something told him--some sort of

an instinct he had--that those two ghosts didn't agree, didn't get on

together, didn't exactly hit it off; in fact, that they were


"Quarreling ghosts! Well, I never!" was Baby Van Rensselaer's remark.

"It is a blessed thing to see ghosts dwell together in unity," said Dear


And the Duchess added, "It would certainly be setting a better example."

"You know," resumed Uncle Larry, "that two waves of light or of sound

may interfere and produce darkness or silence. So it was with these

rival spooks. They interfered, but they did not produce silence or

darkness. On the contrary, as soon as Eliphalet and the officer went

into the house, there began at once a series of spiritualistic

manifestations--a regular dark seance. A tambourine was played upon, a

bell was rung, and a flaming banjo went singing around the room."

"Where did they get the banjo?" asked Dear Jones, sceptically.

"I don't know. Materialized it, maybe, just as they did the tambourine.

You don't suppose a quiet New York lawyer kept a stock of musical

instruments large enough to fit out a strolling minstrel troupe just on

the chance of a pair of ghosts coming to give him a surprise party, do

you? Every spook has its own instrument of torture. Angels play on

harps, I'm informed, and spirits delight in banjos and tambourines.

These spooks of Eliphalet Duncan's were ghosts with all modern

improvements, and I guess they were capable of providing their own

musical weapons. At all events, they had them there in the little old

house at Salem the night Eliphalet and his friend came down. And they

played on them, and they rang the bell, and they rapped here, there, and

everywhere. And they kept it up all night."

"All night?" asked the awe-stricken Duchess.

"All night long," said Uncle Larry, solemnly; "and the next night too.

Eliphalet did not get a wink of sleep, neither did his friend. On the

second night the house ghost was seen by the officer; on the third night

it showed itself again; and the next morning the officer packed his

gripsack and took the first train to Boston. He was a New Yorker, but he

said he'd sooner go to Boston than see that ghost again. Eliphalet

wasn't scared at all, partly because he never saw either the domiciliary

or the titular spook, and partly because he felt himself on friendly

terms with the spirit world, and didn't scare easily. But after losing

three nights' sleep and the society of his friend, he began to be a

little impatient, and to think that the thing had gone far enough. You

see, while in a way he was fond of ghosts, yet he liked them best one at

a time. Two ghosts were one too many. He wasn't bent on making a

collection of spooks. He and one ghost were company, but he and two

ghosts were a crowd."

"What did he do?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer.

"Well he couldn't do anything. He waited awhile, hoping they would get

tired; but he got tired out first. You see, it comes natural to a spook

to sleep in the daytime, but a man wants to sleep nights, and they

wouldn't let him sleep nights. They kept on wrangling and quarreling

incessantly; they manifested and they dark-seanced as regularly as the

old clock on the stairs struck twelve; they rapped and they rang bells

and they banged the tambourine and they threw the flaming banjo about

the house, and, worse than all, they swore."

"I did not know that spirits were addicted to bad language," said the


"How did he know they were swearing? Could he hear them?" asked Dear


"That was just it," responded Uncle Larry; "he could not hear them--at

least, not distinctly. There were inarticulate murmurs and stifled

rumblings. But the impression produced on him was that they were

swearing. If they had only sworn right out, he would not have minded it

so much, because he would have known the worst. But the feeling that the

air was full of suppressed profanity was very wearing, and after

standing it for a week he gave up in disgust and went to the White


"Leaving them to fight it out, I suppose," interjected Baby Van


"Not at all," explained Uncle Larry. "They could not quarrel unless he

was present. You see, he could not leave the titular ghost behind him,

and the domiciliary ghost could not leave the house. When he went away

he took the family ghost with him, leaving the house ghost behind. Now

spooks can't quarrel when they are a hundred miles apart any more than

men can."

"And what happened afterwards?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer, with a pretty


"A most marvelous thing happened. Eliphalet Duncan went to the White

Mountains, and in the car of the railroad that runs to the top of Mount

Washington he met a classmate whom he had not seen for years, and this

classmate introduced Duncan to his sister, and this sister was a

remarkably pretty girl, and Duncan fell in love with her at first sight,

and by the time he got to the top of Mount Washington he was so deep in

love that he began to consider his own unworthiness, and to wonder

whether she might ever be induced to care for him a little--ever so


"I don't think that is so marvelous a thing," said Dear Jones, glancing

at Baby Van Rensselaer.

"Who was she?" asked the Duchess, who had once lived in Philadelphia.

"She was Miss Kitty Sutton, of San Francisco, and she was a daughter of

old Judge Sutton, of the firm of Pixley & Sutton."

"A very respectable family," assented the Duchess.

"I hope she wasn't a daughter of that loud and vulgar old Mrs. Sutton

whom I met at Saratoga one summer four or five years ago?" said Dear


"Probably she was," Uncle Larry responded.

"She was a horrid old woman. The boys used to call her Mother Gorgon."

"The pretty Kitty Sutton with whom Eliphalet Duncan had fallen in love

was the daughter of Mother Gorgon. But he never saw the mother, who was

in Frisco, or Los Angeles, or Santa Fe, or somewhere out West, and he

saw a great deal of the daughter, who was up in the White Mountains. She

was traveling with her brother and his wife, and as they journeyed from

hotel to hotel Duncan went with them, and filled out the quartette.

Before the end of the summer he began to think about proposing. Of

course he had lots of chances, going on excursions as they were every

day. He made up his mind to seize the first opportunity, and that very

evening he took her out for a moonlight row on Lake Winipiseogee. As he

handed her into the boat he resolved to do it, and he had a glimmer of

suspicion that she knew he was going to do it, too."

"Girls," said Dear Jones, "never go out in a rowboat at night with a

young man unless you mean to accept him."

"Sometimes it's best to refuse him, and get it over once for all," said

Baby Van Rensselaer, impersonally.

"As Eliphalet took the oars he felt a sudden chill. He tried to shake it

off, but in vain. He began to have a growing consciousness of impending

evil. Before he had taken ten strokes--and he was a swift oarsman--he

was aware of a mysterious presence between him and Miss Sutton."

"Was it the guardian-angel ghost warning him off the match?" interrupted

Dear Jones.

"That's just what it was," said Uncle Larry. "And he yielded to it, and

kept his peace, and rowed Miss Sutton back to the hotel with his

proposal unspoken."

"More fool he," said Dear Jones. "It will take more than one ghost to

keep me from proposing when my mind is made up." And he looked at Baby

Van Rensselaer.

"The next morning," continued Uncle Larry, "Eliphalet overslept himself,

and when he went down to a late breakfast he found that the Suttons had

gone to New York by the morning train. He wanted to follow them at once,

and again he felt the mysterious presence overpowering his will. He

struggled two days, and at last he roused himself to do what he wanted

in spite of the spook. When he arrived in New York it was late in the

evening. He dressed himself hastily, and went to the hotel where the

Suttons were, in the hope of seeing at least her brother. The guardian

angel fought every inch of the walk with him, until he began to wonder

whether, if Miss Sutton were to take him, the spook would forbid the

banns. At the hotel he saw no one that night, and he went home

determined to call as early as he could the next afternoon, and make an

end of it. When he left his office about two o'clock the next day to

learn his fate, he had not walked five blocks before he discovered that

the wraith of the Duncans had withdrawn his opposition to the suit.

There was no feeling of impending evil, no resistance, no struggle, no

consciousness of an opposing presence. Eliphalet was greatly encouraged.

He walked briskly to the hotel; he found Miss Sutton alone. He asked her

the question, and got his answer."

"She accepted him, of course?" said Baby Van Rensselaer.

"Of course," said Uncle Larry. "And while they were in the first flush

of joy, swapping confidences and confessions, her brother came into the

parlor with an expression of pain on his face and a telegram in his

hand. The former was caused by the latter, which was from Frisco, and

which announced the sudden death of Mrs. Sutton, their mother."

"And that was why the ghost no longer opposed the match?" questioned

Dear Jones.

"Exactly. You see, the family ghost knew that Mother Gorgon was an awful

obstacle to Duncan's happiness, so it warned him. But the moment the

obstacle was removed, it gave its consent at once."

The fog was lowering its thick, damp curtain, and it was beginning to be

difficult to see from one end of the boat to the other. Dear Jones

tightened the rug which enwrapped Baby Van Rensselaer, and then withdrew

again into his own substantial coverings.

Uncle Larry paused in his story long enough to light another of the tiny

cigars he always smoked.

"I infer that Lord Duncan"--the Duchess was scrupulous in the bestowal

of titles--"saw no more of the ghosts after he was married."

"He never saw them at all, at any time, either before or since. But they

came very near breaking off the match, and thus breaking two young


"You don't mean to say that they knew any just cause or impediment why

they should not forever after hold their peace?" asked Dear Jones.

"How could a ghost, or even two ghosts, keep a girl from marrying the

man she loved?" This was Baby Van Rensselaer's question.

"It seems curious, doesn't it?" and Uncle Larry tried to warm himself by

two or three sharp pulls at his fiery little cigar. "And the

circumstances are quite as curious as the fact itself. You see, Miss

Sutton wouldn't be married for a year after her mother's death, so she

and Duncan had lots of time to tell each other all they knew. Eliphalet

got to know a good deal about the girls she went to school with; and

Kitty soon learned all about his family. He didn't tell her about the

title for a long time, as he wasn't one to brag. But he described to

her the little old house at Salem. And one evening towards the end of

the summer, the wedding-day having been appointed for early in

September, she told him that she didn't want a bridal tour at all; she

just wanted to go down to the little old house at Salem to spend her

honeymoon in peace and quiet, with nothing to do and nobody to bother

them. Well, Eliphalet jumped at the suggestion: it suited him down to

the ground. All of a sudden he remembered the spooks, and it knocked him

all of a heap. He had told her about the Duncan banshee, and the idea of

having an ancestral ghost in personal attendance on her husband tickled

her immensely. But he had never said anything about the ghost which

haunted the little old house at Salem. He knew she would be frightened

out of her wits if the house ghost revealed itself to her, and he saw at

once that it would be impossible to go to Salem on their wedding trip.

So he told her all about it, and how whenever he went to Salem the two

ghosts interfered, and gave dark seances and manifested and materialized

and made the place absolutely impossible. Kitty listened in silence, and

Eliphalet thought she had changed her mind. But she hadn't done anything

of the kind."

"Just like a man--to think she was going to," remarked Baby Van


"She just told him she could not bear ghosts herself, but she would not

marry a man who was afraid of them."

"Just like a girl--to be so inconsistent," remarked Dear Jones.

Uncle Larry's tiny cigar had long been extinct. He lighted a new one,

and continued: "Eliphalet protested in vain. Kitty said her mind was

made up. She was determined to pass her honeymoon in the little old

house at Salem, and she was equally determined not to go there as long

as there were any ghosts there. Until he could assure her that the

spectral tenant had received notice to quit, and that there was no

danger of manifestations and materializing, she refused to be married at

all. She did not intend to have her honeymoon interrupted by two

wrangling ghosts, and the wedding could be postponed until he had made

ready the house for her."

"She was an unreasonable young woman," said the Duchess.

"Well, that's what Eliphalet thought, much as he was in love with her.

And he believed he could talk her out of her determination. But he

couldn't. She was set. And when a girl is set, there's nothing to do but

to yield to the inevitable. And that's just what Eliphalet did. He saw

he would either have to give her up or to get the ghosts out; and as he

loved her and did not care for the ghosts, he resolved to tackle the

ghosts. He had clear grit, Eliphalet had--he was half Scotch and half

Yankee and neither breed turns tail in a hurry. So he made his plans and

he went down to Salem. As he said good-by to Kitty he had an impression

that she was sorry she had made him go; but she kept up bravely, and

put a bold face on it, and saw him off, and went home and cried for an

hour, and was perfectly miserable until he came back the next day."

"Did he succeed in driving the ghosts away?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer,

with great interest.

"That's just what I'm coming to," said Uncle Larry, pausing at the

critical moment, in the manner of the trained story-teller. "You see,

Eliphalet had got a rather tough job, and he would gladly have had an

extension of time on the contract, but he had to choose between the girl

and the ghosts, and he wanted the girl. He tried to invent or remember

some short and easy way with ghosts, but he couldn't. He wished that

somebody had invented a specific for spooks--something that would make

the ghosts come out of the house and die in the yard. He wondered if he

could not tempt the ghosts to run in debt, so that he might get the

sheriff to help him. He wondered also whether the ghosts could not be

overcome with strong drink--a dissipated spook, a spook with delirium

tremens, might be committed to the inebriate asylum. But none of these

things seemed feasible."

"What did he do?" interrupted Dear Jones. "The learned counsel will

please speak to the point."

"You will regret this unseemly haste," said Uncle Larry, gravely, "when

you know what really happened."

"What was it, Uncle Larry?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer. "I'm all


And Uncle Larry proceeded:

"Eliphalet went down to the little old house at Salem, and as soon as

the clock struck twelve the rival ghosts began wrangling as before. Raps

here, there, and everywhere, ringing bells, banging tambourines,

strumming banjos sailing about the room, and all the other

manifestations and materializations followed one another just as they

had the summer before. The only difference Eliphalet could detect was a

stronger flavor in the spectral profanity; and this, of course, was only

a vague impression, for he did not actually hear a single word. He

waited awhile in patience, listening and watching. Of course he never

saw either of the ghosts, because neither of them could appear to him.

At last he got his dander up, and he thought it was about time to

interfere, so he rapped on the table, and asked for silence. As soon as

he felt that the spooks were listening to him he explained the situation

to them. He told them he was in love, and that he could not marry unless

they vacated the house. He appealed to them as old friends, and he laid

claim to their gratitude. The titular ghost had been sheltered by the

Duncan family for hundreds of years, and the domiciliary ghost had had

free lodging in the little old house at Salem for nearly two centuries.

He implored them to settle their differences, and to get him out of his

difficulty at once. He suggested that they had better fight it out then

and there, and see who was master. He had brought down with him all

needful weapons. And he pulled out his valise, and spread on the table a

pair of navy revolvers, a pair of shotguns, a pair of dueling-swords,

and a couple of bowie knives. He offered to serve as second for both

parties, and to give the word when to begin. He also took out of his

valise a pack of cards and a bottle of poison, telling them that if they

wished to avoid carnage they might cut the cards to see which one should

take the poison. Then he waited anxiously for their reply. For a little

space there was silence. Then he became conscious of a tremulous

shivering in one corner of the room, and he remembered that he had heard

from that direction what sounded like a frightened sigh when he made the

first suggestion of the duel. Something told him that this was the

domiciliary ghost, and that it was badly scared. Then he was impressed

by a certain movement in the opposite corner of the room, as though the

titular ghost were drawing himself up with offended dignity. Eliphalet

couldn't exactly see those things, because he never saw the ghosts, but

he felt them. After a silence of nearly a minute a voice came from the

corner where the family ghost stood--a voice strong and full, but

trembling slightly with suppressed passion. And this voice told

Eliphalet it was plain enough that he had not long been the head of the

Duncans, and that he had never properly considered the characteristics

of his race if now he supposed that one of his blood could draw his

sword against a woman. Eliphalet said he had never suggested that the

Duncan ghost should raise his hand against a woman, and all he wanted

was that the Duncan ghost should fight the other ghost. And then the

voice told Eliphalet that the other ghost was a woman."

"What?" said Dear Jones, sitting up suddenly. "You don't mean to tell me

that the ghost which haunted the house was a woman?"

"Those were the very words Eliphalet Duncan used," said Uncle Larry;

"but he did not need to wait for the answer. All at once he recalled the

traditions about the domiciliary ghost, and he knew that what the

titular ghost said was the fact. He had never thought of the sex of a

spook, but there was no doubt whatever that the house ghost was a woman.

No sooner was this firmly fixed in Eliphalet's mind than he saw his way

out of the difficulty. The ghosts must be married!--for then there would

be no more interference, no more quarreling, no more manifestations and

materializations, no more dark seances, with their raps and bells and

tambourines and banjos. At first the ghosts would not hear of it. The

voice in the corner declared that the Duncan wraith had never thought of

matrimony. But Eliphalet argued with them, and pleaded and pursuaded and

coaxed, and dwelt on the advantages of matrimony. He had to confess, of

course, that he did not know how to get a clergyman to marry them; but

the voice from the corner gravely told him that there need be no

difficulty in regard to that, as there was no lack of spiritual

chaplains. Then, for the first time, the house ghost spoke, a low,

clear, gentle voice, and with a quaint, old-fashioned New England

accent, which contrasted sharply with the broad Scotch speech of the

family ghost. She said that Eliphalet Duncan seemed to have forgotten

that she was married. But this did not upset Eliphalet at all; he

remembered the whole case clearly, and he told her she was not a married

ghost, but a widow, since her husband had been hanged for murdering her.

Then the Duncan ghost drew attention to the great disparity in their

ages, saying that he was nearly four hundred and fifty years old, while

she was barely two hundred. But Eliphalet had not talked to juries for

nothing; he just buckled to, and coaxed those ghosts into matrimony.

Afterwards he came to the conclusion that they were willing to be

coaxed, but at the time he thought he had pretty hard work to convince

them of the advantages of the plan."

"Did he succeed?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer, with a woman's interest in


"He did," said Uncle Larry. "He talked the wraith of the Duncans and the

specter of the little old house at Salem into a matrimonial engagement.

And from the time they were engaged he had no more trouble with them.

They were rival ghosts no longer. They were married by their spiritual

chaplain the very same day that Eliphalet Duncan met Kitty Sutton in

front of the railing of Grace Church. The ghostly bride and bridegroom

went away at once on their bridal tour, and Lord and Lady Duncan went

down to the little old house at Salem to pass their honeymoon."

Uncle Larry stopped. His tiny cigar was out again. The tale of the rival

ghosts was told. A solemn silence fell on the little party on the deck

of the ocean steamer, broken harshly by the hoarse roar of the