SELECTED, WITH AN INTRODUCTION
BY HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES
DOROTHY SCARBOROUGH, PH.D.
LECTURER IN ENGLISH, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
AUTHOR OF "THE SUPERNATURAL IN MODERN ENGLISH FICTION,"
"FUGITIVE VERSES," "FROM A SOUTHERN PORCH," ETC.
COMPILER OF "FAMOUS MODERN GHOST STORIES"
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
The Knickerbocker Press
_Printed in the United States of America_
DR. AND MRS. JOHN T. HARRINGTON
_Life flings miles and years between us,
It is true,--
But brings never to me dearer
Friends than you!_
The Humorous Ghost
The humorous ghost is distinctly a modern character. In early literature
wraiths took themselves very seriously, and insisted on a proper show of
respectful fear on the part of those whom they honored by haunting. A
mortal was expected to rise when a ghost entered the room, and in case
he was slow about it, his spine gave notice of what etiquette demanded.
In the event of outdoor apparition, if a man failed to bare his head in
awe, the roots of his hair reminded him of his remissness. Woman has
always had the advantage over man in such emergency, in that her locks,
being long and pinned up, are less easily moved--which may explain the
fact (if it be a fact!) that in fiction women have shown themselves more
self-possessed in ghostly presence than men. Or possibly a woman knows
that a masculine spook is, after all, only a man, and therefore may be
charmed into helplessness, while the feminine can be seen through by
another woman and thus disarmed. The majority of the comic apparitions,
curiously enough, are masculine. You don't often find women wraithed in
smiles--perhaps because they resent being made ridiculous, even after
they're dead. Or maybe the reason lies in the fact that men have
written most of the comic or satiric ghost stories, and have
chivalrously spared the gentler shades. And there are very few funny
child-ghosts--you might almost say none, in comparison with the number
of grown-ups. The number of ghost children of any or all types is small
proportionately--perhaps because it seems an unnatural thing for a child
to die under any circumstances, while to make of him a butt for jokes
would be unfeeling. There are a few instances, as in the case of the
ghost baby mentioned later, but very few.
Ancient ghosts were a long-faced lot. They didn't know how to play at
all. They had been brought up in stern repression of frivolities as
haunters--no matter how sportive they may have been in life--and in turn
they cowed mortals into a servile submission. No doubt they thought of
men and women as mere youngsters that must be taught their place, since
any living person, however senile, would be thought juvenile compared
with a timeless spook.
But in these days of individualism and radical liberalism, spooks as
well as mortals are expanding their personalities and indulging in
greater freedom. A ghost can call his shade his own now, and exhibit any
mood he pleases. Even young female wraiths, demanding latchkeys, refuse
to obey the frowning face of the clock, and engage in light-hearted
ebullience to make the ghost of Mrs. Grundy turn a shade paler in
horror. Nowadays haunters have more fun and freedom than the haunted. In
fact, it's money in one's pocket these days to be dead, for ghosts have
no rent problems, and dead men pay no bills. What officer would
willingly pursue a ghostly tenant to his last lodging in order to serve
summons on him? And suppose a ghost brought into court demanded trial by
a jury of his peers? No--manifestly death has compensations not
connected with the consolations of religion.
The marvel is that apparitions were so long in realizing their
possibilities, in improving their advantages. The specters in classic
and medieval literature were malarial, vaporous beings without energy to
do anything but threaten, and mortals never would have trembled with
fear at their frown if they had known how feeble they were. At best a
revenant could only rattle a rusty skeleton, or shake a moldy shroud, or
clank a chain--but as mortals cowered before his demonstrations, he
didn't worry. If he wished to evoke the extreme of anguish from his
host, he raised a menacing arm and uttered a windy word or two. Now it
takes more than that to produce a panic. The up-to-date ghost keeps his
skeleton in a garage or some place where it is cleaned and oiled and
kept in good working order. The modern wraith has sold his sheet to the
old clo'es man, and dresses as in life. Now the ghost has learned to
have a variety of good times, and he can make the living squirm far
more satisfyingly than in the past. The spook of to-day enjoys making
his haunted laugh even while he groans in terror. He knows that there's
no weapon, no threat, in horror, to be compared with ridicule.
Think what a solemn creature the Gothic ghost was! How little
originality and initiative he showed and how dependent he was on his own
atmosphere for thrills! His sole appeal was to the spinal column. The
ghost of to-day touches the funny bone as well. He adds new horrors to
being haunted, but new pleasures also. The modern specter can be a
joyous creature on occasion, as he can be, when he wishes, fearsome
beyond the dreams of classic or Gothic revenant. He has a keen sense of
humor and loves a good joke on a mortal, while he can even enjoy one on
himself. Though his fun is of comparatively recent origin--it's less
than a century since he learned to crack a smile--the laughing ghost is
very much alive and sportively active. Some of these new spooks are
notoriously good company. Many Americans there are to-day who would
court being haunted by the captain and crew of Richard Middleton's Ghost
Ship that landed in a turnip field and dispensed drink till they
demoralized the denizens of village and graveyard alike. After that show
of spirits, the turnips in that field tasted of rum, long after the
ghost ship had sailed away into the blue.
The modern spook is possessed not only of humor but of a caustic satire
as well. His jest is likely to have more than one point to it, and he
can haunt so insidiously, can make himself so at home in his host's
study or bedroom that a man actually welcomes a chat with him--only to
find out too late that his human foibles have been mercilessly flayed.
Pity the poor chap in H. C. Bunner's story, _The Interfering Spook_, for
instance, who was visited nightly by a specter that repeated to him all
the silly and trite things he had said during the day, a ghost,
moreover, that towered and swelled at every hackneyed phrase, till
finally he filled the room and burst after the young man proposed to his
admired one, and made subsequent remarks. Ghosts not only have
appallingly long memories, but they possess a mean advantage over the
living in that they have once been mortal, while the men and women they
haunt haven't yet been ghosts. Suppose each one of us were to be haunted
by his own inane utterances? True, we're told that we'll have to give
account Some Day for every idle word, but recording angels seem more
sympathetic than a sneering ghost at one's elbow. Ghosts can satirize
more fittingly than anyone else the absurdities of certain psychic
claims, as witness the delightful seriousness of the story _Back from
that Bourne_, which appeared as a front page news story in the New York
_Sun_ years ago. I should think that some of the futile, laggard
messenger-boy ghosts that one reads about nowadays would blush with
shame before the wholesome raillery of the porgy fisherman.
The modern humorous ghost satirizes everything from the old-fashioned
specter (he's very fond of taking pot-shots at him) to the latest
psychic manifestations. He laughs at ghosts that aren't experts in
efficiency haunting, and he has a lot of fun out of mortals for being
scared of specters. He loves to shake the lugubrious terrors of the past
before you, exposing their hollow futility, and he contrives to create
new fears for you magically while you are laughing at him.
The new ghost hates conventionality and uses the old thrills only to
show what dead batteries they come from. His really electrical effects
are his own inventions. He needs no dungeon keeps and monkish cells to
play about in--not he! He demands no rag nor bone nor clank of chain of
his old equipment to start on his career. He can start up a moving
picture show of his own, as in Ruth McEnery Stuart's _The Haunted
Photograph_, and demonstrate a new kind of apparition. The ghost story
of to-day gives you spinal sensations with a difference, as in the
immortal _Transferred Ghost_, by Frank R. Stockton, where the suitor on
the moonlit porch, attempting to tell his fair one that he dotes on her,
sees the ghost of her ferocious uncle (who isn't dead!) kicking his
heels against the railing, and hears his admonition that he'd better
hurry up, as the live uncle is coming in sight. The thrill with which
you read of the ghost in Ellis Parker Butler's _The Late John Wiggins_,
who deposits his wooden leg with the family he is haunting, on the plea
that it is too materialistic to be worn with ease, and therefore they
must take care of it for him, doesn't altogether leave you even when you
discover that the late John is a fraud, has never been a ghost nor used
a wooden leg. But a terrifying leg-acy while you do believe in it!
The new ghost has a more nimble and versatile tongue as well as wit. In
the older fiction and drama apparitions spoke seldom, and then merely as
_ghosts_, not as individuals. And ghosts, like kings in drama, were of a
dignity and must preserve it in their speech. Or perhaps the authors
were doubtful as to the dialogue of shades, and compromised on a few
stately ejaculations as being safely phantasmal speaking parts. But
compare that usage with the rude freedom of some modern spooks, as John
Kendrick Bangs's spectral cook of Bangletop, who lets fall her h's and
twists grammar in a rare and diverting manner. For myself, I'd hate to
be an old-fashioned ghost with no chance to keep up with the styles in
slang. Think of having always--and always--to speak a dead language!
The humorous ghost is not only modern, but he is distinctively American.
There are ghosts of all nationalities, naturally, but the spook that
provides a joke--on his host or on himself--is Yankee in origin and
development. The dry humor, the comic sense of the incongruous, the
willingness to laugh at himself as at others, carry over into
immaterialization as characteristic American qualities and are preserved
in their true flavor. I don't assert, of course, that Americans have
been the only ones in this field. The French and English selections in
this volume are sufficient to prove the contrary. Gautier's _The Mummy's
Foot_ has a humor of a lightness and grace as delicate as the princess's
little foot itself. There are various English stories of whimsical
haunting, some of actual spooks and some of the hoax type. Hoax ghosts
are fairly numerous in British as in American literature, one of the
early specimens of the kind being _The Specter of Tappington_ in the
_Ingoldsby Legends_. The files of _Blackwood's Magazine_ reveal several
examples, though not of high literary value.
Of the early specimens of the really amusing ghost that is an actual
revenant is _The Ghost Baby_, in _Blackwood's_, which shows originality
and humor, yet is too diffuse for printing here. In that we have a
conventional young bachelor, engaged to a charming girl, who is
entangled in social complications and made to suffer mental torment
because, without his consent, he has been chosen as the nurse and
guardian of a ghost baby that cradles after him wherever he goes. This
is a rich story almost spoiled by being poorly told. I sigh to think of
the laughs that Frank R. Stockton or John Kendrick Bangs or Gelett
Burgess could have got out of the situation. There are other comic
British spooks, as in Baring-Gould's _A Happy Release_, where a widow
and a widower in love are haunted by the jealous ghosts of their
respective spouses, till the phantom couple take a liking to each other
and decide to let the living bury their dead. This is suggestive of
Brander Matthews's earlier and cleverer story of a spectral courtship,
in _The Rival Ghosts_. Medieval and later literature gave us many
instances of a love affair or marriage between one spirit and one
mortal, but it remained for the modern American to celebrate the
nuptials of two ghosts. Think of being married when you know that you
and the other party are going to live ever after--whether happily or no!
Truly, the present terrors are more fearsome than the old!
The stories by Eden Phillpotts and Richard Middleton in this collection
show the diversity of the English humor as associated with apparitions,
and are entertaining in themselves. The _Canterville Ghost_, by Oscar
Wilde, is one of his best short stories and is in his happiest vein of
laughing satire. This travesty on the conventional traditions of the
wraith is preposterously delightful, one of the cleverest ghost stories
in our language. Zangwill has written engagingly of spooks, with a
laughable story about Samuel Johnson. And there are others. But the fact
remains that in spite of conceded and admirable examples, the humorous
ghost story is for the most part American in creation and spirit.
Washington Irving might be said to have started that fashion in
skeletons and shades, for he has given us various comic haunters, some
real and some make-believe. Frank R. Stockton gave his to funny spooks
with a riotous and laughing pen. The spirit in his _Transferred Ghost_
is impudently deathless, and has called up a train of subsequent
haunters. John Kendrick Bangs has made the darker regions seem
comfortable and homelike for us, and has created ghosts so human and so
funny that we look forward to being one--or more. We feel downright
neighborly toward such specters as the futile "last ghost" Nelson Lloyd
evokes for us, as we appreciate the satire of Rose O'Neill's
sophisticated wraith. The daring concept of Gelett Burgess's Ghost
Extinguisher is altogether American. The field is still comparatively
limited, but a number of Americans have done distinctive work in it. The
specter now wears motley instead of a shroud, and shakes his jester's
bells the while he rattles his bones. I dare any, however grouchy,
reader to finish the stories in this volume without having a kindlier
feeling toward ghosts!
INTRODUCTION: THE HUMOROUS GHOST vii
THE CANTERVILLE GHOST 3
BY OSCAR WILDE
THE GHOST-EXTINGUISHER 51
BY GELETT BURGESS
"DEY AIN'T NO GHOSTS" 69
BY ELLIS PARKER BUTLER
THE TRANSFERRED GHOST 89
BY FRANK R. STOCKTON
THE MUMMY'S FOOT 109
BY THÉOPHILE GAUTIER
THE RIVAL GHOSTS 129
BY BRANDER MATTHEWS
THE WATER GHOST OF HARROWBY HALL 159
BY JOHN KENDRICK BANGS
BACK FROM THAT BOURNE 175
THE GHOST-SHIP 187
BY RICHARD MIDDLETON
THE TRANSPLANTED GHOST 205
BY WALLACE IRWIN
THE LAST GHOST IN HARMONY 229
BY NELSON LLOYD
THE GHOST OF MISER BRIMPSON 247
BY EDEN PHILLPOTTS
THE HAUNTED PHOTOGRAPH 275
BY RUTH MCENERY STUART
THE GHOST THAT GOT THE BUTTON 295
BY WILL ADAMS
THE SPECTER BRIDEGROOM 315
BY WASHINGTON IRVING
THE SPECTER OF TAPPINGTON 341
COMPILED BY RICHARD BARHAM
IN THE BARN 385
BY BURGES JOHNSON
A SHADY PLOT 403
BY ELSIE BROWN
THE LADY AND THE GHOST 425
BY ROSE CECIL O'NEILL
HUMOROUS GHOST STORIES
THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
_An amusing chronicle of the tribulations of the Ghost of Canterville
Chase when his ancestral halls became the home of the American Minister
to the Court of St. James._
BY OSCAR WILDE
The Canterville Ghost
BY OSCAR WILDE
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
"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.
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 £50,000 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 _début_ 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.
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
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
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 _rôle_ 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.
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
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.
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
"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
"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
"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,
"No ruins! no curiosities!" answered the Ghost; "you have your navy and
"Good evening; I will go and ask papa to get the twins an extra week's
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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.
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
"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.
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
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
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?"
BY GELETT BURGESS
From the _Cosmopolitan Magazine_, April, 1905. By permission of John
Brisben Walker and Gelett Burgess.
BY GELETT BURGESS
My attention was first called to the possibility of manufacturing a
practicable ghost-extinguisher by a real-estate agent in San Francisco.
"There's one thing," he said, "that affects city property here in a
curious way. You know we have a good many murders, and, as a
consequence, certain houses attain a very sensational and undesirable
reputation. These houses it is almost impossible to let; you can
scarcely get a decent family to occupy them rent-free. Then we have a
great many places said to be haunted. These were dead timber on my hands
until I happened to notice that the Japanese have no objections to
spooks. Now, whenever I have such a building to rent, I let it to Japs
at a nominal figure, and after they've taken the curse off, I raise the
rent, the Japs move out, the place is renovated, and in the market
The subject interested me, for I am not only a scientist, but a
speculative philosopher as well. The investigation of those phenomena
that lie upon the threshold of the great unknown has always been my
favorite field of research. I believed, even then, that the Oriental
mind, working along different lines than those which we pursue, has
attained knowledge that we know little of. Thinking, therefore, that
these Japs might have some secret inherited from their misty past, I
examined into the matter.
I shall not trouble you with a narration of the incidents which led up
to my acquaintance with Hoku Yamanochi. Suffice it to say that I found
in him a friend who was willing to share with me his whole lore of
quasi-science. I call it this advisedly, for science, as we Occidentals
use the term, has to do only with the laws of matter and sensation; our
scientific men, in fact, recognize the existence of nothing else. The
Buddhistic philosophy, however, goes further.
According to its theories, the soul is sevenfold, consisting of
different shells or envelopes--something like an onion--which are shed
as life passes from the material to the spiritual state. The first, or
lowest, of these is the corporeal body, which, after death, decays and
perishes. Next comes the vital principle, which, departing from the
body, dissipates itself like an odor, and is lost. Less gross than this
is the astral body, which, although immaterial, yet lies near to the
consistency of matter. This astral shape, released from the body at
death, remains for a while in its earthly environment, still preserving
more or less definitely the imprint of the form which it inhabited.
It is this relic of a past material personality, this outworn shell,
that appears, when galvanized into an appearance of life, partly
materialized, as a ghost. It is not the soul that returns, for the soul,
which is immortal, is composed of the four higher spiritual essences
that surround the ego, and are carried on into the next life. These
astral bodies, therefore, fail to terrify the Buddhists, who know them
only as shadows, with no real volition. The Japs, in point of fact, have
learned how to exterminate them.
There is a certain powder, Hoku informed me, which, when burnt in their
presence, transforms them from the rarefied, or semi-spiritual,
condition to the state of matter. The ghost, so to speak, is
precipitated into and becomes a material shape which can easily be
disposed of. In this state it is confined and allowed to disintegrate
slowly where it can cause no further annoyance.
This long-winded explanation piqued my curiosity, which was not to be
satisfied until I had seen the Japanese method applied. It was not long
before I had an opportunity. A particularly revolting murder having been
committed in San Francisco, my friend Hoku Yamanochi applied for the
house, and, after the police had finished their examination, he was
permitted to occupy it for a half-year at the ridiculous price of three
dollars a month. He invited me to share his quarters, which were large
and luxuriously furnished.
For a week, nothing abnormal occurred. Then, one night, I was awakened
by terrifying groans followed by a blood-curdling shriek which seemed
to emerge from a large closet in my room, the scene of the late
atrocity. I confess that I had all the covers pulled over my head and
was shivering with horror when my Japanese friend entered, wearing a
pair of flowered-silk pajamas. Hearing his voice, I peeped forth, to see
him smiling reassuringly.
"You some kind of very foolish fellow," he said. "I show you how to fix
He took from his pocket three conical red pastils, placed them upon a
saucer and lighted them. Then, holding the fuming dish in one
outstretched hand, he walked to the closed door and opened it. The
shrieks burst out afresh, and, as I recalled the appalling details of
the scene which had occurred in this very room only five weeks ago, I
shuddered at his temerity. But he was quite calm.
Soon, I saw the wraith-like form of the recent victim dart from the
closet. She crawled under my bed and ran about the room, endeavoring to
escape, but was pursued by Hoku, who waved his smoking plate with
indefatigable patience and dexterity.
At last he had her cornered, and the specter was caught behind a curtain
of odorous fumes. Slowly the figure grew more distinct, assuming the
consistency of a heavy vapor, shrinking somewhat in the operation. Hoku
now hurriedly turned to me.
"You hully up, bling me one pair bellows pletty quick!" he commanded.
I ran into his room and brought the bellows from his fireplace. These
he pressed flat, and then carefully inserting one toe of the ghost into
the nozzle and opening the handles steadily, he sucked in a portion of
the unfortunate woman's anatomy, and dexterously squirted the vapor into
a large jar, which had been placed in the room for the purpose. Two more
operations were necessary to withdraw the phantom completely from the
corner and empty it into the jar. At last the transfer was effected and
the receptacle securely stoppered and sealed.
"In formeryore-time," Hoku explained to me, "old pliests sucked ghost
with mouth and spit him to inside of vase with acculacy. Modern-time
method more better for stomach and epiglottis."
"How long will this ghost keep?" I inquired.
"Oh, about four, five hundled years, maybe," was his reply. "Ghost now
change from spilit to matter, and comes under legality of matter as
"What are you going to do with her?" I asked.
"Send him to Buddhist temple in Japan. Old pliest use him for high
celemony," was the answer.
My next desire was to obtain some of Hoku Yamanochi's ghost-powder and
analyze it. For a while it defied my attempts, but, after many months of
patient research, I discovered that it could be produced, in all its
essential qualities, by means of a fusion of formaldehyde and
hypophenyltrybrompropionic acid in an electrified vacuum. With this
product I began a series of interesting experiments.
As it became necessary for me to discover the habitat of ghosts in
considerable numbers, I joined the American Society for Psychical
Research, thus securing desirable information in regard to haunted
houses. These I visited persistently, until my powder was perfected and
had been proved efficacious for the capture of any ordinary house-broken
phantom. For a while I contented myself with the mere sterilization of
these specters, but, as I became surer of success, I began to attempt
the transfer of ghosts to receptacles wherein they could be transported
and studied at my leisure, classified and preserved for future
Hoku's bellows I soon discarded in favor of a large-sized bicycle-pump,
and eventually I had constructed one of my own, of a pattern which
enabled me to inhale an entire ghost at a single stroke. With this
powerful instrument I was able to compress even an adult life-sized
ghost into a two-quart bottle, in the neck of which a sensitive valve
(patented) prevented the specter from emerging during process.
My invention was not yet, however, quite satisfactory. While I had no
trouble in securing ghosts of recent creation--spirits, that is, who
were yet of almost the consistency of matter--on several of my trips
abroad in search of material I found in old manor houses or ruined
castles many specters so ancient that they had become highly rarefied
and tenuous, being at times scarcely visible to the naked eye. Such
elusive spirits are able to pass through walls and elude pursuit with
ease. It became necessary for me to obtain some instrument by which
their capture could be conveniently effected.
The ordinary fire-extinguisher of commerce gave me the hint as to how
the problem could be solved. One of these portable hand-instruments I
filled with the proper chemicals. When inverted, the ingredients were
commingled in vacuo and a vast volume of gas was liberated. This was
collected in the reservoir provided with a rubber tube having a nozzle
at the end. The whole apparatus being strapped upon my back, I was
enabled to direct a stream of powerful precipitating gas in any desired
direction, the flow being under control through the agency of a small
stopcock. By means of this ghost-extinguisher I was enabled to pursue my
experiments as far as I desired.
So far my investigations had been purely scientific, but before long the
commercial value of my discovery began to interest me. The ruinous
effects of spectral visitations upon real estate induced me to realize
some pecuniary reward from my ghost-extinguisher, and I began to
advertise my business. By degrees, I became known as an expert in my
original line, and my professional services were sought with as much
confidence as those of a veterinary surgeon. I manufactured the Gerrish
Ghost-Extinguisher in several sizes, and put it on the market, following
this venture with the introduction of my justly celebrated Gerrish
Ghost-Grenades. These hand-implements were made to be kept in racks
conveniently distributed in country houses for cases of sudden
emergency. A single grenade, hurled at any spectral form, would, in
breaking, liberate enough formaldybrom to coagulate the most perverse
spirit, and the resulting vapor could easily be removed from the room by
a housemaid with a common broom.
This branch of my business, however, never proved profitable, for the
appearance of ghosts, especially in the United States, is seldom
anticipated. Had it been possible for me to invent a preventive as well
as a remedy, I might now be a millionaire; but there are limits even to
Having exhausted the field at home, I visited England in the hope of
securing customers among the country families there. To my surprise, I
discovered that the possession of a family specter was considered as a
permanent improvement to the property, and my offers of service in
ridding houses of ghostly tenants awakened the liveliest resentment. As
a layer of ghosts I was much lower in the social scale than a layer of
Disappointed and discouraged, I returned home to make a further study of
the opportunities of my invention. I had, it seemed, exhausted the
possibilities of the use of unwelcome phantoms. Could I not, I thought,
derive a revenue from the traffic in desirable specters? I decided to
renew my investigations.
The nebulous spirits preserved in my laboratory, which I had graded and
classified, were, you will remember, in a state of suspended animation.
They were, virtually, embalmed apparitions, their inevitable decay
delayed, rather than prevented. The assorted ghosts that I had now
preserved in hermetically sealed tins were thus in a state of unstable
equilibrium. The tins once opened and the vapor allowed to dissipate,
the original astral body would in time be reconstructed and the
warmed-over specter would continue its previous career. But this
process, when naturally performed, took years. The interval was quite
too long for the phantom to be handled in any commercial way. My problem
was, therefore, to produce from my tinned Essence of Ghost a specter
that was capable of immediately going into business and that could haunt
a house while you wait.
It was not until radium was discovered that I approached the solution of
my great problem, and even then months of indefatigable labor were
necessary before the process was perfected. It has now been well
demonstrated that the emanations of radiant energy sent forth by this
surprising element defy our former scientific conceptions of the
constitution of matter. It was for me to prove that the vibratory
activity of radium (whose amplitudes and intensity are undoubtedly
four-dimensional) effects a sort of allotropic modification in the
particles of that imponderable ether which seems to lie halfway between
matter and pure spirit. This is as far as I need to go in my
explanation, for a full discussion involves the use of quaternions and
the method of least squares. It will be sufficient for the layman to
know that my preserved phantoms, rendered radio-active, would, upon
contact with the air, resume their spectral shape.
The possible extension of my business now was enormous, limited only by
the difficulty in collecting the necessary stock. It was by this time
almost as difficult to get ghosts as it was to get radium. Finding that
a part of my stock had spoiled, I was now possessed of only a few dozen
cans of apparitions, many of these being of inferior quality. I
immediately set about replenishing my raw material. It was not enough
for me to pick up a ghost here and there, as one might get old mahogany;
I determined to procure my phantoms in wholesale lots.
Accident favored my design. In an old volume of _Blackwood's Magazine_ I
happened, one day, to come across an interesting article upon the battle
of Waterloo. It mentioned, incidentally, a legend to the effect that
every year, upon the anniversary of the celebrated victory, spectral
squadrons had been seen by the peasants charging battalions of ghostly
grenadiers. Here was my opportunity.
I made elaborate preparations for the capture of this job lot of
phantoms upon the next anniversary of the fight. Hard by the fatal ditch
which engulfed Napoleon's cavalry I stationed a corps of able
assistants provided with rapid-fire extinguishers ready to enfilade the
famous sunken road. I stationed myself with a No. 4 model magazine-hose,
with a four-inch nozzle, directly in the path which I knew would be
taken by the advancing squadron.
It was a fine, clear night, lighted, at first, by a slice of new moon;
but later, dark, except for the pale illumination of the stars. I have
seen many ghosts in my time--ghosts in garden and garret, at noon, at
dusk, at dawn, phantoms fanciful, and specters sad and spectacular--but
never have I seen such an impressive sight as this nocturnal charge of
cuirassiers, galloping in goblin glory to their time-honored doom. From
afar the French reserves presented the appearance of a nebulous mass,
like a low-lying cloud or fog-bank, faintly luminous, shot with
fluorescent gleams. As the squadron drew nearer in its desperate charge,
the separate forms of the troopers shaped themselves, and the galloping
guardsmen grew ghastly with supernatural splendor.
Although I knew them to be immaterial and without mass or weight, I was
terrified at their approach, fearing to be swept under the hoofs of the
nightmares they rode. Like one in a dream, I started to run, but in
another instant they were upon me, and I turned on my stream of
formaldybrom. Then I was overwhelmed in a cloud-burst of wild warlike
The column swept past me, over the bank, plunging to its historic fate.
The cut was piled full of frenzied, scrambling specters, as rank after
rank swept down into the horrid gut. At last the ditch swarmed full of
writhing forms and the carnage was dire.
My assistants with the extinguishers stood firm, and although almost
unnerved by the sight, they summoned their courage, and directed
simultaneous streams of formaldybrom into the struggling mass of
fantoms. As soon as my mind returned, I busied myself with the huge
tanks I had prepared for use as receivers. These were fitted with a
mechanism similar to that employed in portable forges, by which the
heavy vapor was sucked off. Luckily the night was calm, and I was
enabled to fill a dozen cylinders with the precipitated ghosts. The
segregation of individual forms was, of course, impossible, so that men
and horses were mingled in a horrible mixture of fricasseed spirits. I
intended subsequently to empty the soup into a large reservoir and allow
the separate specters to reform according to the laws of spiritual
Circumstances, however, prevented my ever accomplishing this result. I
returned home, to find awaiting me an order so large and important that
I had no time in which to operate upon my cylinders of cavalry.
My patron was the proprietor of a new sanatorium for nervous invalids,
located near some medicinal springs in the Catskills. His building was
unfortunately located, having been built upon the site of a once-famous
summer hotel, which, while filled with guests, had burnt to the ground,
scores of lives having been lost. Just before the patients were to be
installed in the new structure, it was found that the place was haunted
by the victims of the conflagration to a degree that rendered it
inconvenient as a health resort. My professional services were
requested, therefore, to render the building a fitting abode for
convalescents. I wrote to the proprietor, fixing my charge at five
thousand dollars. As my usual rate was one hundred dollars per ghost,
and over a hundred lives were lost at the fire, I considered this price
reasonable, and my offer was accepted.
The sanatorium job was finished in a week. I secured one hundred and two
superior spectral specimens, and upon my return to the laboratory, put
them up in heavily embossed tins with attractive labels in colors.
My delight at the outcome of this business was, however, soon
transformed to anger and indignation. The proprietor of the health
resort, having found that the specters from his place had been sold,
claimed a rebate upon the contract price equal to the value of the
modified ghosts transferred to my possession. This, of course, I could
not allow. I wrote, demanding immediate payment according to our
agreement, and this was peremptorily refused. The manager's letter was
insulting in the extreme. The Pied Piper of Hamelin was not worse
treated than I felt myself to be; so, like the piper, I determined to
have my revenge.
I got out the twelve tanks of Waterloo ghost-hash from the storerooms,
and treated them with radium for two days. These I shipped to the
Catskills billed as hydrogen gas. Then, accompanied by two trustworthy
assistants, I went to the sanatorium and preferred my demand for payment
in person. I was ejected with contumely. Before my hasty exit, however,
I had the satisfaction of noticing that the building was filled with
patients. Languid ladies were seated in wicker chairs upon the piazzas,
and frail anemic girls filled the corridors. It was a hospital of
nervous wrecks whom the slightest disturbance would throw into a panic.
I suppressed all my finer feelings of mercy and kindness and smiled
grimly as I walked back to the village.
That night was black and lowering, fitting weather for the pandemonium I
was about to turn loose. At ten o'clock, I loaded a wagon with the tanks
of compressed cohorts, and, muffled in heavy overcoats, we drove to the
sanatorium. All was silent as we approached; all was dark. The wagon
concealed in a grove of pines, we took out the tanks one by one, and
placed them beneath the ground-floor windows. The sashes were easily
forced open, and raised enough to enable us to insert the rubber tubes
connected with the iron reservoirs. At midnight everything was ready.
I gave the word, and my assistants ran from tank to tank, opening the
stopcocks. With a hiss as of escaping steam the huge vessels emptied
themselves, vomiting forth clouds of vapor, which, upon contact with the
air, coagulated into strange shapes as the white of an egg does when
dropped into boiling water. The rooms became instantly filled with
dismembered shades of men and horses seeking wildly to unite themselves
with their proper parts.
Legs ran down the corridors, seeking their respective trunks, arms
writhed wildly reaching for missing bodies, heads rolled hither and yon
in search of native necks. Horses' tails and hoofs whisked and hurried
in quest of equine ownership until, reorganized, the spectral steeds
galloped about to find their riders.
Had it been possible, I would have stopped this riot of wraiths long ere
this, for it was more awful than I had anticipated, but it was already
too late. Cowering in the garden, I began to hear the screams of
awakened and distracted patients. In another moment, the front door of
the hotel was burst open, and a mob of hysterical women in expensive
nightgowns rushed out upon the lawn, and huddled in shrieking groups.
I fled into the night.
I fled, but Napoleon's men fled with me. Compelled by I know not what
fatal astral attraction, perhaps the subtle affinity of the creature for
the creator, the spectral shells, moved by some mysterious mechanics of
spiritual being, pursued me with fatuous fury. I sought refuge, first,
in my laboratory, but, even as I approached, a lurid glare foretold me
of its destruction. As I drew nearer, the whole ghost-factory was seen
to be in flames; every moment crackling reports were heard, as the
over-heated tins of phantasmagoria exploded and threw their supernatural
contents upon the night. These liberated ghosts joined the army of
Napoleon's outraged warriors, and turned upon me. There was not enough
formaldybrom in all the world to quench their fierce energy. There was
no place in all the world safe for me from their visitation. No
ghost-extinguisher was powerful enough to lay the host of spirits that
haunted me henceforth, and I had neither time nor money left with which
to construct new Gatling quick-firing tanks.
It is little comfort to me to know that one hundred nervous invalids
were completely restored to health by means of the terrific shock which
"DEY AIN'T NO GHOSTS"
BY ELLIS PARKER BUTLER
From the _Century Magazine_, November, 1911. By permission of the
Century Company and Ellis Parker Butler.
"Dey Ain't No Ghosts"
BY ELLIS PARKER BUTLER
Once 'pon a time dey was a li'l' black boy whut he name was Mose. An'
whin he come erlong to be 'bout knee-high to a mewel, he 'gin to git
powerful 'fraid ob ghosts, 'ca'se dat am sure a mighty ghostly location
whut he lib' in, 'ca'se dey 's a grabeyard in de hollow, an' a
buryin'-ground on de hill, an' a cemuntary in betwixt an' between, an'
dey ain't nuffin' but trees nowhar excipt in de clearin' by de shanty
an' down de hollow whar de pumpkin-patch am.
An' whin de night come erlong, dey ain't no sounds _at_ all whut kin be
heard in dat locality but de rain-doves, whut mourn out,
"Oo-_oo_-o-o-o!" jes dat trembulous _an'_ scary, an' de owls, whut mourn
out, "Whut-_whoo_-o-o-o!" more trembulous an' scary dan dat, an' de
wind, whut mourn out, "You-_you_-o-o-o!" mos' scandalous' trembulous an'
scary ob all. Dat a powerful onpleasant locality for a li'l' black boy
whut he name was Mose.
'Ca'se dat li'l' black boy he so specially black he can't be seen in de
dark _at_ all 'cept by de whites ob he eyes. So whin he go' outen de
house _at_ night, he ain't dast shut he eyes, 'ca'se den ain't nobody
can see him in de least. He jes as invidsible as nuffin'. An' who know'
but whut a great, big ghost bump right into him 'ca'se it can't see him?
An' dat shore w'u'd scare dat li'l' black boy powerful' bad, 'ca'se
yever'body knows whut a cold, damp pussonality a ghost is.
So whin dat li'l' black Mose go' outen de shanty at night, he keep' he
eyes wide open, you may be shore. By day he eyes 'bout de size ob
butter-pats, an' come sundown he eyes 'bout de size ob saucers; but whin
he go' outen de shanty at night, he eyes am de size ob de white chiny
plate whut set on de mantel; an' it powerful' hard to keep eyes whut am
de size ob dat from a-winkin' an' a-blinkin'.
So whin Hallowe'en come' erlong, dat li'l' black Mose he jes mek' up he
mind he ain't gwine outen he shack _at_ all. He cogitate he gwine stay
right snug in de shack wid he pa an' he ma, 'ca'se de rain-doves tek
notice dat de ghosts are philanderin' roun' de country, 'ca'se dey mourn
out, "Oo-_oo_-o-o-o!" an' de owls dey mourn out, "Whut-_whoo_-o-o-o!"
an' de wind mourn out, "You-_you_-o-o-o!" De eyes ob dat li'l' black
Mose dey as big as de white chiny plate whut set on de mantel by side de
clock, an' de sun jes a-settin'.
So dat all right. Li'l' black Mose he scrooge' back in de corner by de
fireplace, an' he 'low' he gwine stay dere till he gwine _to_ bed. But
byme-by Sally Ann, whut live' up de road, draps in, an' Mistah Sally
Ann, whut is her husban', he draps in, an' Zack Badget an' de
school-teacher whut board' at Unc' Silas Diggs's house drap in, an' a
powerful lot ob folks drap in. An' li'l' black Mose he seen dat gwine be
one s'prise-party, an' he right down cheerful 'bout dat.
So all dem folks shake dere hands an' 'low "Howdy," an' some ob dem say:
"Why, dere's li'l' Mose! Howdy, li'l' Mose?" An' he so please' he jes
grin' an' grin', 'ca'se he ain't reckon whut gwine happen. So byme-by
Sally Ann, whut live up de road, she say', "Ain't no sort o' Hallowe'en
lest we got a jack-o'-lantern." An' de school-teacher, whut board at
Unc' Silas Diggs's house, she 'low', "Hallowe'en jes no Hallowe'en _at_
all 'thout we got a jack-o'-lantern." An' li'l' black Mose he stop'
a-grinnin', an' he scrooge' so far back in de corner he 'mos' scrooge
frough de wall. But dat ain't no use, 'ca'se he ma say', "Mose, go on
down to de pumpkin-patch an' fotch a pumpkin."
"I ain't want to go," say' li'l' black Mose.
"Go on erlong wid yo'," say' he ma, right commandin'.
"I ain't want to go," say' Mose ag'in.
"Why ain't yo' want to go?" he ma ask'.
"'Ca'se I's afraid ob de ghosts," say' li'l' black Mose, an' dat de
particular truth an' no mistake.
"Dey ain't no ghosts," say' de school-teacher, whut board at Unc' Silas
Diggs's house, right peart.
"'Co'se dey ain't no ghosts," say' Zack Badget, whut dat 'fear'd ob
ghosts he ain't dar' come to li'l' black Mose's house ef de
school-teacher ain't ercompany him.
"Go 'long wid your ghosts!" say li'l' black Mose's ma.
"Wha' yo' pick up dat nomsense?" say' he pa. "Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' dat whut all dat s'prise-party 'low: dey ain't no ghosts. An' dey
'low dey mus' hab a jack-o'-lantern or de fun all sp'iled. So dat li'l'
black boy whut he name is Mose he done got to fotch a pumpkin from de
pumpkin-patch down de hollow. So he step'outen de shanty an' he stan' on
de doorstep twell he get' he eyes pried open as big as de bottom ob he
ma's wash-tub, mostly, an' he say', "Dey ain't no ghosts." An' he put'
one foot on de ground, an' dat was de fust step.
An' de rain-dove say', "OO-_oo_-o-o-o!"
An' li'l' black Mose he tuck anudder step.
An' de owl mourn' out, "Whut-_whoo_-o-o-o!"
An' li'l' black Mose he tuck anudder step.
An' de wind sob' out, "You-_you_-o-o-o!"
An' li'l' black Mose he tuck one look ober he shoulder, an' he shut he
eyes so tight dey hurt round de aidges, an' he pick' up he foots an'
run. Yas, sah, he run' right peart fast. An' he say': "Dey ain't no
ghosts. Dey ain't no ghosts." An' he run' erlong de paff whut lead' by
de buryin'-ground on de hill, 'ca'se dey ain't no fince eround dat
buryin'-ground _at_ all.
No fince; jes' de big trees whut de owls an' de rain-doves sot in an'
mourn an' sob, an' whut de wind sigh an' cry frough. An byme-by somefin'
jes' _brush_' li'l' Mose on de arm, which mek' him run jes a bit more
faster. An' byme-by somefin' jes brush' li'l' Mose on de cheek, which
mek' him run erbout as fast as he can. An' byme-by somefin' grab' li'l'
Mose by de aidge of he coat, an' he fight' an' struggle' an' cry out:
"Dey ain't no ghosts. Dey ain't no ghosts." An' dat ain't nuffin' but de
wild brier whut grab' him, an' dat ain't nuffin' but de leaf ob a tree
whut brush' he cheek, an' dat ain't nuffin' but de branch ob a
hazel-bush whut brush' he arm. But he downright scared jes de same, an'
he ain't lose no time, 'ca'se de wind an' de owls an' de rain-doves dey
signerfy whut ain't no good. So he scoot' past dat buryin'-ground whut
on de hill, an' dat cemuntary whut betwixt an' between, an' dat
grabeyard in de hollow, twell he come' to de pumpkin-patch, an' he
rotch' down an' tek' erhold ob de bestest pumpkin whut in de patch. An'
he right smart scared. He jes' de mostest scared li'l' black boy whut
yever was. He ain't gwine open he eyes fo' nuffin', 'ca'se de wind go,
"You-_you_-o-o-o!" an' de owls go, "Whut-_whoo_-o-o-o!" an' de
rain-doves go, "Oo-_oo_-o-o-o!"
He jes speculate', "Dey ain't no ghosts," an' wish' he hair don't stand
on ind dat way. An' he jes cogitate', "Dey ain't no ghosts," an' wish'
he goose-pimples don't rise up dat way. An' he jes 'low', "Dey ain't no
ghosts," an' wish' he backbone ain't all trembulous wid chills dat way.
So he rotch' down, an' he rotch' down, twell he git' a good hold on dat
pricklesome stem of dat bestest pumpkin whut in de patch, an' he jes
yank' dat stem wid all he might.
"_Let loosen my head!_" say' a big voice all on a suddent.
Dat li'l' black boy whut he name is Mose he jump' 'most outen he skin.
He open' he eyes, an' he 'gin to shake like de aspen-tree, 'ca'se whut
dat a-standin' right dar behint him but a 'mendjous big ghost! Yas, sah,
dat de bigges', whites' ghost whut yever was. An' it ain't got no head.
Ain't got no head _at_ all! Li'l' black Mose he jes drap' on he knees
an' he beg' an' pray':
"Oh, 'scuse me! 'Scuse me, Mistah Ghost!" he beg'. "Ah ain't mean no
harm _at_ all."
"Whut for you try to take my head?" ask' de ghost in dat fearsome voice
whut like de damp wind outen de cellar.
"'Scuse me! 'Scuse me!" beg' li'l' Mose. "Ah ain't know dat was yo'
head, an' I ain't know you was dar _at_ all. 'Scuse me!"
"Ah 'scuse you ef you do me dis favor," say' de ghost. "Ah got somefin'
powerful _im_portant to say unto you, an' Ah can't say hit 'ca'se Ah
ain't got no head; an' whin Ah ain't got no head, Ah ain't got no mouf,
an' whin Ah ain't got no mouf, Ah can't talk _at_ all."
An' dat right logical fo' shore. Can't nobody talk whin he ain't got no
mouf, an' can't nobody have no mouf whin he ain't got no head, an' whin
li'l' black Mose he look', he see' dat ghost ain't got no head _at_ all.
So de ghost say':
"Ah come on down yere fo' to git a pumpkin fo' a head, an' Ah pick' dat
_ixact_ pumpkin whut yo' gwine tek, an' Ah don't like dat one bit. No,
sah. Ah feel like Ah pick yo' up an' carry yo' away, an' nobody see you
no more for yever. But Ah got somefin' powerful _im_portant to say unto
yo', an' if yo' pick up dat pumpkin an' sot it on de place whar my head
ought to be, Ah let you off dis time, 'ca'se Ah ain't been able to talk
fo' so long Ah right hongry to say somefin'."
So li'l' black Mose he heft up dat pumpkin, an' de ghost he bend' down,
an' li'l' black Mose he sot dat pumpkin on dat ghostses neck. An' right
off dat pumpkin head 'gin' to wink an' blink like a jack-o'-lantern, an'
right off dat pumpkin head 'gin' to glimmer an' glow frough de mouf like
a jack-o'-lantern, an' right off dat ghost start' to speak. Yas, sah,
"Whut yo' want to say unto me?" _in_quire' li'l' black Mose.
"Ah want to tell yo'," say' de ghost, "dat yo' ain't need yever be
skeered of ghosts, 'ca'se dey ain't no ghosts."
An' whin he say dat, de ghost jes vanish' away like de smoke in July. He
ain't even linger round dat locality like de smoke in Yoctober. He jes
dissipate' outen de air, an' he gone _in_tirely.
So li'l' Mose he grab' up de nex' bestest pumpkin an' he scoot'. An'
whin he come' to de grabeyard in de hollow, he goin' erlong same as
yever, on'y faster, whin he reckon' he'll pick up a club _in_ case he
gwine have trouble. An' he rotch' down an' rotch' down an' tek' hold of
a likely appearin' hunk o' wood whut right dar. An' whin he grab' dat
hunk of wood----
"_Let loosen my leg!_" say' a big voice all on a suddent.
Dat li'l' black boy 'most jump' outen he skin, 'ca'se right dar in de
paff is six 'mendjus big ghostes an' de bigges' ain't got but one leg.
So li'l' black Mose jes natchully handed dat hunk of wood to dat bigges'
ghost, an' he say':
"'Scuse me, Mistah Ghost; Ah ain't know dis your leg."
An' whut dem six ghostes do but stand round an' confabulate? Yas, sah,
dass so. An' whin dey do so, one say':
"'Pears like dis a mighty likely li'l' black boy. Whut we gwine do fo'
to _re_ward him fo' politeness?"
An' annuder say':
"Tell him whut de truth is 'bout ghostes."
So de bigges' ghost he say':
"Ah gwine tell yo' somefin' _im_portant whut yever'body don't know: Dey
_ain't_ no ghosts."
An' whin he say' dat, de ghostes jes natchully vanish away, an' li'l'
black Mose he proceed' up de paff. He so scared he hair jes yank' at de
roots, an' whin de wind go', "Oo-_oo_-o-o-o!" an' de owl go',
"Whut-_whoo_-o-o-o!" an' de rain-doves go, "You-_you_-o-o-o-!" he jes
tremble' an' shake'. An' byme-by he come' to de cemuntary whut betwixt
an' between, an' he shore is mighty skeered, 'ca'se dey is a whole
comp'ny of ghostes lined up along de road, an' he 'low' he ain't gwine
spind no more time palaverin' wid ghostes. So he step' offen de road fo'
to go round erbout, an' he step' on a pine-stump whut lay right dar.
"_Git offen my chest!_" say' a big voice all on a suddent, 'ca'se dat
stump am been selected by de captain ob de ghostes for to be he chest,
'ca'se he ain't got no chest betwixt he shoulders an' he legs. An' li'l'
black Mose he hop' offen dat stump right peart. Yes, _sah_; right peart.
"'Scuse me! 'Scuse me!" dat li'l' black Mose beg' an' plead', an' de
ghostes ain't know whuther to eat him all up or not, 'ca'se he step on
de boss ghostes's chest dat a-way. But byme-by they 'low they let him go
'ca'se dat was an accident, an' de captain ghost he say', "Mose, you
Mose, Ah gwine let you off dis time, 'ca'se you ain't nuffin' but a
misabul li'l' tremblin' nigger; but Ah want you should _re_mimimber one
thing mos' particular'."
"Ya-yas, sah," say' dat li'l' black boy; "Ah'll remimber. Whut is dat Ah
got to remimber?"
De captain ghost he swell' up, an' he swell' up, twell he as big as a
house, an' he say' in a voice whut shake' de ground:
"Dey ain't no ghosts."
So li'l' black Mose he bound to remimber dat, an' he rise' up an' mek' a
bow, an' he proceed' toward home right libely. He do, indeed.
An' he gwine along jes as fast as he kin, whin he come' to de aidge ob
de buryin'-ground whut on de hill, an' right dar he bound to stop,
'ca'se de kentry round about am so populate' he ain't able to go frough.
Yas, sah, seem' like all de ghostes in de world habin' a conferince
right dar. Seem' like all de ghosteses whut yever was am havin' a
convintion on dat spot. An' dat li'l' black Mose so skeered he jes fall'
down on a' old log whut dar an' screech' an' moan'. An' all on a suddent
de log up and spoke:
"_Get offen me! Get offen me!_" yell' dat log.
So li'l' black Mose he git' offen dat log, an' no mistake.
An' soon as he git' offen de log, de log uprise, an' li'l' black Mose he
see' dat dat log am de king ob all de ghostes. An' whin de king uprise,
all de congergation crowd round li'l' black Mose, an' dey am about leben
millium an' a few lift over. Yas, sah; dat de reg'lar annyul Hallowe'en
convintion whut li'l' black Mose interrup'. Right dar am all de sperits
in de world, an' all de ha'nts in de world, an' all de hobgoblins in de
world, an' all de ghouls in de world, an' all de spicters in de world,
an' all de ghostes in de world. An' whin dey see li'l' black Mose, dey
all gnash dey teef an' grin' 'ca'se it gettin' erlong toward dey-all's
lunch-time. So de king, whut he name old Skull-an'-Bones, he step' on
top ob li'l' Mose's head, an' he say':
"Gin'l'min, de convintion will come to order. De sicretary please note
who is prisint. De firs' business whut come' before de convintion am:
whut we gwine do to a li'l' black boy whut stip' on de king an' maul'
all ober de king an' treat' de king dat disrespictful'."
An li'l' black Mose jes moan' an' sob':
"'Scuse me! 'Scuse me, Mistah King! Ah ain't mean no harm _at_ all."
But nobody ain't pay no _at_tintion to him _at_ all, 'ca'se yevery one
lookin' at a monstrous big ha'nt whut name Bloody Bones, whut rose up
"Your Honor, Mistah King, an' gin'l'min _an_' ladies," he say', "dis am
a right bad case ob _lasy majesty_, 'ca'se de king been step on. Whin
yivery li'l' black boy whut choose' gwine wander round _at_ night an'
stip on de king ob ghostes, it ain't no time for to palaver, it ain't no
time for to prevaricate, it ain't no time for to cogitate, it ain't no
time do nuffin' but tell de truth, an' de whole truth, an' nuffin' but
An' all dem ghostes sicond de motion, an' dey confabulate out loud
erbout dat, an' de noise soun' like de rain-doves goin',
"Oo-_oo_-o-o-o!" an' de owls goin', "Whut-_whoo_-o-o-o!" an' de wind
goin', "You-_you_-o-o-o!" So dat risolution am passed unanermous, an' no
So de king ob de ghostes, whut name old Skull-an'-Bones, he place' he
hand on de head ob li'l' black Mose, an' he hand feel like a wet rag,
an' he say':
"Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' one ob de hairs whut on de head of li'l' black Mose turn' white.
An' de monstrous big ha'nt whut he name Bloody Bones he lay he hand on
de head ob li'l' black Mose, an' he hand feel like a toadstool in de
cool ob de day, an' he say':
"Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' anudder ob de hairs whut on de head ob li'l' black Mose turn' white.
An' a heejus sperit whut he name Moldy Pa'm place' he hand on de head ob
li'l' black Mose, an' he hand feel like de yunner side ob a lizard, an'
"Dey ain't no ghosts."
An' anudder ob de hairs whut on de head ob li'l' black Mose turn white
An' a perticklar bend-up hobgoblin he put' he hand on de head ob li'l'
black Mose, an' he mek' dat same _re_mark, an' dat whole convintion ob
ghostes an' spicters an' ha'nts an' yiver'thing, which am more 'n a
millium, pass by so quick dey-all's hands feel lak de wind whut blow
outen de cellar whin de day am hot, an' dey-all say, "Dey ain't no
ghosts." Yas, sah, dey-all say dem wo'ds so fas' it soun' like de wind
whin it moan frough de turkentine-trees whut behind de cider-priss. An'
yivery hair whut on li'l' black Mose's head turn' white. Dat whut
happen' whin a li'l' black boy gwine meet a ghost convintion dat-a-way.
Dat's so he ain' gwine forgit to remimber dey ain't no ghostes. 'Ca'se
ef a li'l' black boy gwine imaginate dey _is_ ghostes, he gwine be
skeered in de dark. An' dat a foolish thing for to imaginate.
So prisintly all de ghostes am whiff away, like de fog outen de holler
whin de wind blow' on it, an' li'l' black Mose he ain' see no ca'se for
to remain in dat locality no longer. He rotch' down, an' he raise' up de
pumpkin, an' he perambulate' right quick to he ma's shack, an' he lift'
up de latch, an' he open' de do', an' he yenter' in. An' he say':
"Yere's de pumpkin."
An' he ma an' he pa, an' Sally Ann, whut live up de road, an' Mistah
Sally Ann, whut her husban', an' Zack Badget, an' de school-teacher whut
board at Unc' Silas Diggs's house, an' all de powerful lot of folks whut
come to de doin's, dey all scrooged back in de cornder ob de shack,
'ca'se Zack Badget he been done tell a ghost-tale, an' de rain-doves
gwine, "Oo-_oo_-o-o-o!" an' de owls am gwine, "Whut-_whoo_-o-o-o!" and
de wind it gwine, "You-_you_-o-o-o!" an' yiver'body powerful skeered.
'Ca'se li'l' black Mose he come' a-fumblin' an' a-rattlin' at de do' jes
whin dat ghost-tale mos' skeery, an' yiver'body gwine imaginate dat he a
ghost a-fumblin' an' a-rattlin' at de do'. Yas, sah. So li'l' black Mose
he turn' he white head, an' he look' roun' an' peer' roun', an' he say':
"Whut you all skeered fo'?"
'Ca'se ef anybody skeered, he want' to be skeered too. Dat's natural.
But de school-teacher, whut live at Unc' Silas Diggs's house, she say':
"Fo' de lan's sake, we fought you was a ghost!"
So li'l' black Mose he sort ob sniff an' he sort ob sneer, an' he 'low':
"Huh! dey ain't no ghosts."
Den he ma she powerful took back dat li'l' black Mose he gwine be so
uppetish an' contrydict folks whut know 'rifmeticks an' algebricks an'
gin'ral countin' widout fingers, like de school-teacher whut board at
Unc' Silas Diggs's house knows, an' she say':
"Huh! whut you know 'bout ghosts, anner ways?"
An' li'l' black Mose he jes kinder stan' on one foot, an' he jes kinder
suck' he thumb, an' he jes kinder 'low':
"I don't know nuffin' erbout ghosts, 'ca'se dey ain't no ghosts."
So he pa gwine whop him fo' tellin' a fib 'bout dey ain' no ghosts whin
yiver'body know' dey is ghosts; but de school-teacher, whut board at
Unc' Silas Diggs's house, she tek' note de hair ob li'l' black Mose's
head am plumb white, an' she tek' note li'l' black Mose's face am de
color ob wood-ash, so she jes retch' one arm round dat li'l' black boy,
an' she jes snuggle' him up, an' she say':
"Honey lamb, don't you be skeered; ain' nobody gwine hurt you. How you
know dey ain't no ghosts?"
An' li'l' black Mose he kinder lean' up 'g'inst de school-teacher whut
board at Unc' Silas Diggs's house, an' he 'low':
"'Ca'se--'ca'se--'ca'se I met de cap'n ghost, an' I met de gin'ral
ghost, an' I met de king ghost, an' I met all de ghostes whut yiver was
in de whole worl', an' yivery ghost say' de same thing: 'Dey ain't no
ghosts.' An' if de cap'n ghost an' de gin'ral ghost an' de king ghost
an' all de ghostes in de whole worl' don't know ef dar am ghostes, who
"Das right; das right, honey lamb," say' de school-teacher. And she
say': "I been s'picious dey ain' no ghostes dis long whiles, an' now I
know. Ef all de ghostes say dey ain' no ghosts, dey _ain'_ no ghosts."
So yiver'body 'low' dat so 'cep' Zack Badget, whut been tellin' de
ghost-tale, an' he ain' gwine say "Yis" an' he ain' gwine say "No,"
'ca'se he right sweet on de school-teacher; but he know right well he
done seen plinty ghostes in he day. So he boun' to be sure fust. So he
say' to li'l' black Mose:
"'T ain't likely you met up wid a monstrous big ha'nt whut live' down de
lane whut he name Bloody Bones?"
"Yas," say' li'l' black Mose; "I done met up wid him."
"An' did old Bloody Bones done tol' you dey ain' no ghosts?" say Zack
"Yas," say' li'l' black Mose, "he done tell me perzackly dat."
"Well, if _he_ tol' you dey ain't no ghosts," say' Zack Badget, "I got
to 'low dey ain't no ghosts, 'ca'se he ain' gwine tell no lie erbout it.
I know dat Bloody Bones ghost sence I was a piccaninny, an' I done met
up wif him a powerful lot o' times, an' he ain't gwine tell no lie
erbout it. Ef dat perticklar ghost say' dey ain't no ghosts, dey _ain't_
So yiver'body say':
"Das right; dey ain' no ghosts."
An' dat mek' li'l' black Mose feel mighty good, 'ca'se he ain' lak
ghostes. He reckon' he gwine be a heap mo' comfortable in he mind sence
he know' dey ain' no ghosts, an' he reckon' he ain' gwine be skeered of
nuffin' never no more. He ain' gwine min' de dark, an' he ain' gwine
min' de rain-doves whut go', "Oo-_oo_-o-o-o!" an' he ain' gwine min' de
owls whut go', "Who-_whoo_-o-o-o!" an' he ain' gwine min' de wind whut
go', "You-_you_-o-o-o!" nor nuffin', nohow. He gwine be brave as a lion,
sence he know' fo' sure dey ain' no ghosts. So prisintly he ma say':
"Well, time fo' a li'l' black boy whut he name is Mose to be gwine up de
ladder to de loft to bed."
An' li'l' black Mose he 'low' he gwine wait a bit. He 'low' he gwine jes
wait a li'l' bit. He 'low' he gwine be no trouble _at_ all ef he jes
been let wait twell he ma she gwine up de ladder to de loft to bed, too.
So he ma she say':
"Git erlong wid yo'! Whut yo' skeered ob whin dey ain't no ghosts?"
An' li'l' black Mose he scrooge', and he twist', an' he pucker' up de
mouf, an' he rub' he eyes, an' prisintly he say' right low:
"I ain' skeered ob ghosts whut am, 'ca'se dey ain' no ghosts."
"Den whut _am_ yo' skeered ob?" ask he ma.
"Nuffin," say' de li'l' black boy whut he name is Mose; "but I jes feel
kinder oneasy 'bout de ghosts whut ain't."
Jes lak white folks! Jes lak white folks!
THE TRANSFERRED GHOST
BY FRANK R. STOCKTON
From _The Lady or the Tiger? and Other Stories_. Copyright, 1884, by
Charles Scribner's Sons. By permission of the publishers.
The Transferred Ghost
BY FRANK R. STOCKTON
The country residence of Mr. John Hinckman was a delightful place to me,
for many reasons. It was the abode of a genial, though somewhat
impulsive, hospitality. It had broad, smooth-shaven lawns and towering
oaks and elms; there were bosky shades at several points, and not far
from the house there was a little rill spanned by a rustic bridge with
the bark on; there were fruits and flowers, pleasant people, chess,
billiards, rides, walks, and fishing. These were great attractions; but
none of them, nor all of them together, would have been sufficient to
hold me to the place very long. I had been invited for the trout season,
but should, probably, have finished my visit early in the summer had it
not been that upon fair days, when the grass was dry, and the sun was
not too hot, and there was but little wind, there strolled beneath the
lofty elms, or passed lightly through the bosky shades, the form of my
This lady was not, in very truth, my Madeline. She had never given
herself to me, nor had I, in any way, acquired possession of her. But as
I considered her possession the only sufficient reason for the
continuance of my existence, I called her, in my reveries, mine. It may
have been that I would not have been obliged to confine the use of this
possessive pronoun to my reveries had I confessed the state of my
feelings to the lady.
But this was an unusually difficult thing to do. Not only did I dread,
as almost all lovers dread, taking the step which would in an instant
put an end to that delightful season which may be termed the
ante-interrogatory period of love, and which might at the same time
terminate all intercourse or connection with the object of my passion;
but I was, also, dreadfully afraid of John Hinckman. This gentleman was
a good friend of mine, but it would have required a bolder man than I
was at that time to ask him for the gift of his niece, who was the head
of his household, and, according to his own frequent statement, the main
prop of his declining years. Had Madeline acquiesced in my general views
on the subject, I might have felt encouraged to open the matter to Mr.
Hinckman; but, as I said before, I had never asked her whether or not
she would be mine. I thought of these things at all hours of the day and
night, particularly the latter.
I was lying awake one night, in the great bed in my spacious chamber,
when, by the dim light of the new moon, which partially filled the room,
I saw John Hinckman standing by a large chair near the door. I was very
much surprised at this for two reasons. In the first place, my host had
never before come into my room; and, in the second place, he had gone
from home that morning, and had not expected to return for several days.
It was for this reason that I had been able that evening to sit much
later than usual with Madeline on the moonlit porch. The figure was
certainly that of John Hinckman in his ordinary dress, but there was a
vagueness and indistinctness about it which presently assured me that it
was a ghost. Had the good old man been murdered? and had his spirit come
to tell me of the deed, and to confide to me the protection of his
dear--? My heart fluttered at what I was about to think, but at this
instant the figure spoke.
"Do you know," he said, with a countenance that indicated anxiety, "if
Mr. Hinckman will return to-night?"
I thought it well to maintain a calm exterior, and I answered:
"We do not expect him."
"I am glad of that," said he, sinking into the chair by which he stood.
"During the two years and a half that I have inhabited this house, that
man has never before been away for a single night. You can't imagine the
relief it gives me."
And as he spoke he stretched out his legs, and leaned back in the chair.
His form became less vague, and the colors of his garments more distinct
and evident, while an expression of gratified relief succeeded to the
anxiety of his countenance.
"Two years and a half!" I exclaimed. "I don't understand you."
"It is fully that length of time," said the ghost, "since I first came
here. Mine is not an ordinary case. But before I say anything more about
it, let me ask you again if you are sure Mr. Hinckman will not return
"I am as sure of it as I can be of anything," I answered. "He left
to-day for Bristol, two hundred miles away."
"Then I will go on," said the ghost, "for I am glad to have the
opportunity of talking to someone who will listen to me; but if John
Hinckman should come in and catch me here, I should be frightened out of
"This is all very strange," I said, greatly puzzled by what I had heard.
"Are you the ghost of Mr. Hinckman?"
This was a bold question, but my mind was so full of other emotions that
there seemed to be no room for that of fear.
"Yes, I am his ghost," my companion replied, "and yet I have no right to
be. And this is what makes me so uneasy, and so much afraid of him. It
is a strange story, and, I truly believe, without precedent. Two years
and a half ago, John Hinckman was dangerously ill in this very room. At
one time he was so far gone that he was really believed to be dead. It
was in consequence of too precipitate a report in regard to this matter
that I was, at that time, appointed to be his ghost. Imagine my
surprise and horror, sir, when, after I had accepted the position and
assumed its responsibilities, that old man revived, became convalescent,
and eventually regained his usual health. My situation was now one of
extreme delicacy and embarrassment. I had no power to return to my
original unembodiment, and I had no right to be the ghost of a man who
was not dead. I was advised by my friends to quietly maintain my
position, and was assured that, as John Hinckman was an elderly man, it
could not be long before I could rightfully assume the position for
which I had been selected. But I tell you, sir," he continued, with
animation, "the old fellow seems as vigorous as ever, and I have no idea
how much longer this annoying state of things will continue. I spend my
time trying to get out of that old man's way. I must not leave this
house, and he seems to follow me everywhere. I tell you, sir, he haunts
"That is truly a queer state of things," I remarked. "But why are you
afraid of him? He couldn't hurt you."
"Of course he couldn't," said the ghost. "But his very presence is a
shock and terror to me. Imagine, sir, how you would feel if my case were
I could not imagine such a thing at all. I simply shuddered.
"And if one must be a wrongful ghost at all," the apparition continued,
"it would be much pleasanter to be the ghost of some man other than
John Hinckman. There is in him an irascibility of temper, accompanied
by a facility of invective, which is seldom met with. And what would
happen if he were to see me, and find out, as I am sure he would, how
long and why I had inhabited his house, I can scarcely conceive. I have
seen him in his bursts of passion; and, although he did not hurt the
people he stormed at any more than he would hurt me, they seemed to
shrink before him."
All this I knew to be very true. Had it not been for this peculiarity of
Mr. Hinckman, I might have been more willing to talk to him about his
"I feel sorry for you," I said, for I really began to have a sympathetic
feeling toward this unfortunate apparition. "Your case is indeed a hard
one. It reminds me of those persons who have had doubles, and I suppose
a man would often be very angry indeed when he found that there was
another being who was personating himself."
"Oh! the cases are not similar at all," said the ghost. "A double or
_doppelgänger_ lives on the earth with a man; and, being exactly like
him, he makes all sorts of trouble, of course. It is very different with
me. I am not here to live with Mr. Hinckman. I am here to take his
place. Now, it would make John Hinckman very angry if he knew that.
Don't you know it would?"
I assented promptly.
"Now that he is away I can be easy for a little while," continued the
ghost; "and I am so glad to have an opportunity of talking to you. I
have frequently come into your room, and watched you while you slept,
but did not dare to speak to you for fear that if you talked with me Mr.
Hinckman would hear you, and come into the room to know why you were
talking to yourself."
"But would he not hear you?" I asked.
"Oh, no!" said the other: "there are times when anyone may see me, but
no one hears me except the person to whom I address myself."
"But why did you wish to speak to me?" I asked.
"Because," replied the ghost, "I like occasionally to talk to people,
and especially to someone like yourself, whose mind is so troubled and
perturbed that you are not likely to be frightened by a visit from one
of us. But I particularly wanted to ask you to do me a favor. There is
every probability, so far as I can see, that John Hinckman will live a
long time, and my situation is becoming insupportable. My great object
at present is to get myself transferred, and I think that you may,
perhaps, be of use to me."
"Transferred!" I exclaimed. "What do you mean by that?"
"What I mean," said the other, "is this: Now that I have started on my
career I have got to be the ghost of somebody, and I want to be the
ghost of a man who is really dead."
"I should think that would be easy enough," I said. "Opportunities must
"Not at all! not at all!" said my companion quickly. "You have no idea
what a rush and pressure there is for situations of this kind. Whenever
a vacancy occurs, if I may express myself in that way, there are crowds
of applications for the ghost-ship."
"I had no idea that such a state of things existed," I said, becoming
quite interested in the matter. "There ought to be some regular system,
or order of precedence, by which you could all take your turns like
customers in a barber's shop."
"Oh dear, that would never do at all!" said the other. "Some of us would
have to wait forever. There is always a great rush whenever a good
ghost-ship offers itself--while, as you know, there are some positions
that no one would care for. And it was in consequence of my being in too
great a hurry on an occasion of the kind that I got myself into my
present disagreeable predicament, and I have thought that it might be
possible that you would help me out of it. You might know of a case
where an opportunity for a ghost-ship was not generally expected, but
which might present itself at any moment. If you would give me a short
notice, I know I could arrange for a transfer."
"What do you mean?" I exclaimed. "Do you want me to commit suicide? Or
to undertake a murder for your benefit?"
"Oh, no, no, no!" said the other, with a vapory smile. "I mean nothing
of that kind. To be sure, there are lovers who are watched with
considerable interest, such persons having been known, in moments of
depression, to offer very desirable ghost-ships; but I did not think of
anything of that kind in connection with you. You were the only person I
cared to speak to, and I hoped that you might give me some information
that would be of use; and, in return, I shall be very glad to help you
in your love affair."
"You seem to know that I have such an affair," I said.
"Oh, yes!" replied the other, with a little yawn. "I could not be here
so much as I have been without knowing all about that."
There was something horrible in the idea of Madeline and myself having
been watched by a ghost, even, perhaps, when we wandered together in the
most delightful and bosky places. But, then, this was quite an
exceptional ghost, and I could not have the objections to him which
would ordinarily arise in regard to beings of his class.
"I must go now," said the ghost, rising: "but I will see you somewhere
to-morrow night. And remember--you help me, and I'll help you."
I had doubts the next morning as to the propriety of telling Madeline
anything about this interview, and soon convinced myself that I must
keep silent on the subject. If she knew there was a ghost about the
house, she would probably leave the place instantly. I did not mention
the matter, and so regulated my demeanor that I am quite sure Madeline
never suspected what had taken place. For some time I had wished that
Mr. Hinckman would absent himself, for a day at least, from the
premises. In such case I thought I might more easily nerve myself up to
the point of speaking to Madeline on the subject of our future
collateral existence; and, now that the opportunity for such speech had
really occurred, I did not feel ready to avail myself of it. What would
become of me if she refused me?
I had an idea, however, that the lady thought that, if I were going to
speak at all, this was the time. She must have known that certain
sentiments were afloat within me, and she was not unreasonable in her
wish to see the matter settled one way or the other. But I did not feel
like taking a bold step in the dark. If she wished me to ask her to give
herself to me, she ought to offer me some reason to suppose that she
would make the gift. If I saw no probability of such generosity, I would
prefer that things should remain as they were.
* * * * *
That evening I was sitting with Madeline in the moonlit porch. It was
nearly ten o'clock, and ever since supper-time I had been working myself
up to the point of making an avowal of my sentiments. I had not
positively determined to do this, but wished gradually to reach the
proper point, when, if the prospect looked bright, I might speak. My
companion appeared to understand the situation--at least, I imagined
that the nearer I came to a proposal the more she seemed to expect it.
It was certainly a very critical and important epoch in my life. If I
spoke, I should make myself happy or miserable forever, and if I did not
speak I had every reason to believe that the lady would not give me
another chance to do so.
Sitting thus with Madeline, talking a little, and thinking very hard
over these momentous matters, I looked up and saw the ghost, not a dozen
feet away from us. He was sitting on the railing of the porch, one leg
thrown up before him, the other dangling down as he leaned against a
post. He was behind Madeline, but almost in front of me, as I sat facing
the lady. It was fortunate that Madeline was looking out over the
landscape, for I must have appeared very much startled. The ghost had
told me that he would see me some time this night, but I did not think
he would make his appearance when I was in the company of Madeline. If
she should see the spirit of her uncle, I could not answer for the
consequences. I made no exclamation, but the ghost evidently saw that I
"Don't be afraid," he said--"I shall not let her see me; and she cannot
hear me speak unless I address myself to her, which I do not intend to
I suppose I looked grateful.
"So you need not trouble yourself about that," the ghost continued; "but
it seems to me that you are not getting along very well with your
affair. If I were you, I should speak out without waiting any longer.
You will never have a better chance. You are not likely to be
interrupted; and, so far as I can judge, the lady seems disposed to
listen to you favorably; that is, if she ever intends to do so. There is
no knowing when John Hinckman will go away again; certainly not this
summer. If I were in your place, I should never dare to make love to
Hinckman's niece if he were anywhere about the place. If he should catch
anyone offering himself to Miss Madeline, he would then be a terrible
man to encounter."
I agreed perfectly to all this.
"I cannot bear to think of him!" I ejaculated aloud.
"Think of whom?" asked Madeline, turning quickly toward me.
Here was an awkward situation. The long speech of the ghost, to which
Madeline paid no attention, but which I heard with perfect distinctness,
had made me forget myself.
It was necessary to explain quickly. Of course, it would not do to admit
that it was of her dear uncle that I was speaking; and so I mentioned
hastily the first name I thought of.
"Mr. Vilars," I said.
This statement was entirely correct; for I never could bear to think of
Mr. Vilars, who was a gentleman who had, at various times, paid much
attention to Madeline.
"It is wrong for you to speak in that way of Mr. Vilars," she said. "He
is a remarkably well educated and sensible young man, and has very
pleasant manners. He expects to be elected to the legislature this
fall, and I should not be surprised if he made his mark. He will do well
in a legislative body, for whenever Mr. Vilars has anything to say he
knows just how and when to say it."
This was spoken very quietly, and without any show of resentment, which
was all very natural, for if Madeline thought at all favorably of me she
could not feel displeased that I should have disagreeable emotions in
regard to a possible rival. The concluding words contained a hint which
I was not slow to understand. I felt very sure that if Mr. Vilars were
in my present position he would speak quickly enough.
"I know it is wrong to have such ideas about a person," I said, "but I
cannot help it."
The lady did not chide me, and after this she seemed even in a softer
mood. As for me, I felt considerably annoyed, for I had not wished to
admit that any thought of Mr. Vilars had ever occupied my mind.
"You should not speak aloud that way," said the ghost, "or you may get
yourself into trouble. I want to see everything go well with you,
because then you may be disposed to help me, especially if I should
chance to be of any assistance to you, which I hope I shall be."
I longed to tell him that there was no way in which he could help me so
much as by taking his instant departure. To make love to a young lady
with a ghost sitting on the railing nearby, and that ghost the
apparition of a much-dreaded uncle, the very idea of whom in such a
position and at such a time made me tremble, was a difficult, if not an
impossible, thing to do; but I forbore to speak, although I may have
looked my mind.
"I suppose," continued the ghost, "that you have not heard anything that
might be of advantage to me. Of course, I am very anxious to hear; but
if you have anything to tell me, I can wait until you are alone. I will
come to you to-night in your room, or I will stay here until the lady
"You need not wait here," I said; "I have nothing at all to say to you."
Madeline sprang to her feet, her face flushed and her eyes ablaze.
"Wait here!" she cried. "What do you suppose I am waiting for? Nothing
to say to me indeed!--I should think so! What should you have to say to
"Madeline!" I exclaimed, stepping toward her, "let me explain."
But she had gone.
Here was the end of the world for me! I turned fiercely to the ghost.
"Wretched existence!" I cried. "You have ruined everything. You have
blackened my whole life. Had it not been for you----"
But here my voice faltered. I could say no more.
"You wrong me," said the ghost. "I have not injured you. I have tried
only to encourage and assist you, and it is your own folly that has
done this mischief. But do not despair. Such mistakes as these can be
explained. Keep up a brave heart. Good-by."
And he vanished from the railing like a bursting soap-bubble.
I went gloomily to bed, but I saw no apparitions that night except those
of despair and misery which my wretched thoughts called up. The words I
had uttered had sounded to Madeline like the basest insult. Of course,
there was only one interpretation she could put upon them.
As to explaining my ejaculations, that was impossible. I thought the
matter over and over again as I lay awake that night, and I determined
that I would never tell Madeline the facts of the case. It would be
better for me to suffer all my life than for her to know that the ghost
of her uncle haunted the house. Mr. Hinckman was away, and if she knew
of his ghost she could not be made to believe that he was not dead. She
might not survive the shock! No, my heart could bleed, but I would never
The next day was fine, neither too cool nor too warm; the breezes were
gentle, and nature smiled. But there were no walks or rides with
Madeline. She seemed to be much engaged during the day, and I saw but
little of her. When we met at meals she was polite, but very quiet and
reserved. She had evidently determined on a course of conduct and had
resolved to assume that, although I had been very rude to her, she did
not understand the import of my words. It would be quite proper, of
course, for her not to know what I meant by my expressions of the night
I was downcast and wretched, and said but little, and the only bright
streak across the black horizon of my woe was the fact that she did not
appear to be happy, although she affected an air of unconcern. The
moonlit porch was deserted that evening, but wandering about the house I
found Madeline in the library alone. She was reading, but I went in and
sat down near her. I felt that, although I could not do so fully, I must
in a measure explain my conduct of the night before. She listened
quietly to a somewhat labored apology I made for the words I had used.
"I have not the slightest idea what you meant," she said, "but you were
I earnestly disclaimed any intention of rudeness, and assured her, with
a warmth of speech that must have made some impression upon her, that
rudeness to her would be an action impossible to me. I said a great deal
upon the subject, and implored her to believe that if it were not for a
certain obstacle I could speak to her so plainly that she would
She was silent for a time, and then she said, rather more kindly, I
thought, than she had spoken before:
"Is that obstacle in any way connected with my uncle?"
"Yes," I answered, after a little hesitation, "it is, in a measure,
connected with him."
She made no answer to this, and sat looking at her book, but not
reading. From the expression of her face, I thought she was somewhat
softened toward me. She knew her uncle as well as I did, and she may
have been thinking that, if he were the obstacle that prevented my
speaking (and there were many ways in which he might be that obstacle),
my position would be such a hard one that it would excuse some wildness
of speech and eccentricity of manner. I saw, too, that the warmth of my
partial explanations had had some effect on her, and I began to believe
that it might be a good thing for me to speak my mind without delay. No
matter how she should receive my proposition, my relations with her
could not be worse than they had been the previous night and day, and
there was something in her face which encouraged me to hope that she
might forget my foolish exclamations of the evening before if I began to
tell her my tale of love.
I drew my chair a little nearer to her, and as I did so the ghost burst
into the room from the doorway behind her. I say burst, although no door
flew open and he made no noise. He was wildly excited, and waved his
arms above his head. The moment I saw him, my heart fell within me. With
the entrance of that impertinent apparition, every hope fled from me. I
could not speak while he was in the room.
I must have turned pale; and I gazed steadfastly at the ghost, almost
without seeing Madeline, who sat between us.
"Do you know," he cried, "that John Hinckman is coming up the hill? He
will be here in fifteen minutes; and if you are doing anything in the
way of love-making, you had better hurry it up. But this is not what I
came to tell you. I have glorious news! At last I am transferred! Not
forty minutes ago a Russian nobleman was murdered by the Nihilists.
Nobody ever thought of him in connection with an immediate ghost-ship.
My friends instantly applied for the situation for me, and obtained my
transfer. I am off before that horrid Hinckman comes up the hill. The
moment I reach my new position, I shall put off this hated semblance.
Good-by. You can't imagine how glad I am to be, at last, the real ghost
"Oh!" I cried, rising to my feet, and stretching out my arms in utter
wretchedness, "I would to Heaven you were mine!"
"I _am_ yours," said Madeline, raising to me her tearful eyes.
THE MUMMY'S FOOT
BY THÉOPHILE GAUTIER
Translated for this volume by Sara Goldman.
The Mummy's Foot
By THÉOPHILE GAUTIER
I had sauntered idly into the shop of one of those dealers in old
curiosities--"bric-à-brac" as they say in that Parisian _argot_, so
absolutely unintelligible elsewhere in France.
You have no doubt often glanced through the windows of some of these
shops, which have become numerous since it is so fashionable to buy
antique furniture, that the humblest stockbroker feels obliged to have a
room furnished in medieval style.
Something is there which belongs alike to the shop of the dealer in old
iron, the warehouse of the merchant, the laboratory of the chemist, and
the studio of the painter: in all these mysterious recesses, where but a
discreet half-light filters through the shutters, the most obviously
antique thing is the dust: the cobwebs are more genuine than the laces,
and the old pear-tree furniture is more modern than the mahogany which
arrived but yesterday from America.
The warehouse of my dealer in bric-à-brac was a veritable Capharnaüm;
all ages and all countries seemed to have arranged a rendezvous there;
an Etruscan terra cotta lamp stood upon a Boule cabinet, with ebony
panels decorated with simple filaments of inlaid copper: a duchess of
the reign of Louis XV stretched nonchalantly her graceful feet under a
massive Louis XIII table with heavy, spiral oaken legs, and carvings of
intermingled flowers and grotesque figures.
In a corner glittered the ornamented breastplate of a suit of
damaskeened armor of Milan. The shelves and floor were littered with
porcelain cupids and nymphs, Chinese monkeys, vases of pale green
enamel, cups of Dresden and old Sèvres.
Upon the denticulated shelves of sideboards, gleamed huge Japanese
plaques, with red and blue designs outlined in gold, side by side with
the enamels of Bernard Palissy, with serpents, frogs, and lizards in
From ransacked cabinets tumbled cascades of silvery-gleaming China silk,
the shimmering brocade pricked into luminous beads by a slanting
sunbeam; while portraits of every epoch smiled through their yellowed
varnish from frames more or less tarnished.
The dealer followed me watchfully through the tortuous passages winding
between the piles of furniture, warding off with his hands the perilous
swing of my coat tail, observing my elbows with the disquieting concern
of an antiquarian and a usurer.
He was an odd figure--this dealer; an enormous skull, smooth as a knee,
was surrounded by a scant aureole of white hair, which, by contrast,
emphasized the salmon-colored tint of his complexion, and gave a wrong
impression of patriarchal benevolence, corrected, however, by the
glittering of two small, yellow eyes which shifted in their orbits like
two _louis d'or_ floating on quicksilver. The curve of his nose gave him
an aquiline silhouette, which suggested the Oriental or Jewish type. His
hands, long, slender, with prominent veins and sinews protruding like
the strings on a violin, with nails like the claws on the membraneous
wings of the bat moved with a senile trembling painful to behold, but
those nervously quivering hands became firmer than pincers of steel, or
the claws of a lobster, when they picked up any precious object, an onyx
cup, a Venetian glass, or a platter of Bohemian crystal. This curious
old fellow had an air so thoroughly rabbinical and cabalistic, that,
from mere appearance, he would have been burned at the stake three
"Will you not buy something from me to-day, sir? Here is a kris from
Malay, with a blade which undulates like a flame; look at these grooves
for the blood to drip from, these teeth reversed so as to tear out the
entrails in withdrawing the weapon; it is a fine specimen of a ferocious
weapon, and will be an interesting addition to your trophies; this
two-handed sword is very beautiful--it is the work of Joseph de la Herz;
and this _cauchelimarde_ with its carved guard--what superb
"No, I have enough weapons and instruments of carnage; I should like to
have a small figure, any sort of object which can be used for a paper
weight; for I cannot endure those commonplace bronzes for sale at the
stationers which one sees invariably on everybody's desk."
The old gnome, rummaging among his ancient wares, displayed before me
some antique bronzes--pseudo-antique, at least, fragments of malachite,
little Hindu and Chinese idols, jade monkeys, incarnations of Brahma and
Vishnu, marvelously suitable for the purpose--scarcely divine--of
holding papers and letters in place.
I was hesitating between a porcelain dragon covered with constellations
of warts, its jaws embellished with teeth and tusks, and a hideous
little Mexican fetish, representing realistically the god
Vitziliputzili, when I noticed a charming foot, which at first I
supposed was a fragment of some antique Venus.
It had that beautiful tawny reddish tint, which gives the Florentine
bronzes their warm, life-like appearance, so preferable to the verdigris
tones of ordinary bronzes, which might be taken readily for statues in a
state of putrefaction; a satiny luster gleamed over its curves, polished
by the amorous kisses of twenty centuries; for it must have been a
Corinthian bronze, a work of the finest period, molded perhaps by
"That foot will do," I said to the dealer, who looked at me with an
ironical, crafty expression, as he handed me the object I asked for, so
that I might examine it more carefully.
I was surprised at its lightness. It was not a metal foot but in reality
a foot of flesh, an embalmed foot, a mummy's foot; on examining it more
closely, one could distinguish the grain of the skin, and the almost
imperceptible imprint of the weave of the wrappings. The toes were
slender, delicate, with perfect nails, pure and transparent as agate;
the great toe, slightly separated from the others, in the antique manner
was in pleasing contrast to the position of the other toes, and gave a
suggestion of the freedom and lightness of a bird's foot. The sole,
faintly streaked with almost invisible lines, showed that it had never
touched the ground, or come in contact with anything but the finest mats
woven from the rushes of the Nile, and the softest rugs of panther skin.
"Ha, ha! You want the foot of the Princess Hermonthis," said the dealer
with a strange, mocking laugh, staring at me with his owlish eyes. "Ha,
ha, ha, for a paper weight! An original idea! an artist's idea! If
anyone had told old Pharaoh that the foot of his adored daughter would
be used for a paper weight, particularly whilst he was having a mountain
of granite hollowed out in which to place her triple coffin, painted and
gilded, covered with hieroglyphics, and beautiful pictures of the
judgment of souls, it would truly have surprised him," continued the
queer little dealer, in low tones, as though talking to himself.
"How much will you charge me for this fragment of a mummy?"
"Ah, as much as I can get; for it is a superb piece; if I had the mate
to it, you could not have it for less than five hundred francs--the
daughter of a Pharaoh! there could be nothing more choice."
"Assuredly it is not common; but, still, how much do you want for it?
First, however, I want to acquaint you with one fact, which is, that my
fortune consists of only five louis. I will buy anything that costs five
louis, but nothing more expensive. You may search my vest pockets, and
my most secret bureau drawers, but you will not find one miserable five
franc piece besides."
"Five louis for the foot of the Princess Hermonthis! It is very little,
too little, in fact, for an authentic foot," said the dealer, shaking
his head and rolling his eyes with a peculiar rotary motion. "Very well,
take it, and I will throw in the outer covering," he said, rolling it in
a shred of old damask--"very beautiful, genuine damask, which has never
been redyed; it is strong, yet it is soft," he muttered, caressing the
frayed tissue, in accordance with his dealer's habit of praising an
article of so little value, that he himself thought it good for nothing
but to give away.
He dropped the gold pieces into a kind of medieval pouch which was
fastened at his belt, while he repeated:
"The foot of the Princess Hermonthis to be used for a paper weight!"
Then, fastening upon me his phosphorescent pupils he said, in a voice
strident as the wails of a cat which has just swallowed a fish bone:
"Old Pharaoh will not be pleased; he loved his daughter--that dear man."
"You speak of him as though you were his contemporary; no matter how old
you may be, you do not date back to the pyramids of Egypt," I answered
laughingly from the threshold of the shop.
I returned home, delighted with my purchase.
To make use of it at once, I placed the foot of the exalted Princess
Hermonthis on a stack of papers--sketches of verses, undecipherable
mosaics of crossed out words, unfinished articles, forgotten letters,
posted in the desk drawer, a mistake often made by absent-minded people;
the effect was pleasing, bizarre, and romantic.
Highly delighted with this decoration, I went down into the street, and
took a walk with all the importance and pride proper to a man who has
the inexpressible advantage over the passersby he elbows, of possessing
a fragment of the Princess Hermonthis, daughter of Pharaoh.
I thought people who did not possess, like myself, a paper weight so
genuinely Egyptian, were objects of ridicule, and it seemed to me the
proper business of the sensible man to have a mummy's foot upon his
Happily, an encounter with several friends distracted me from my
raptures over my recent acquisition, I went to dinner with them, for it
would have been hard for me to dine alone.
When I returned at night, with my brain somewhat muddled by the effects
of a few glasses of wine, a vague whiff of oriental perfume tickled
delicately my olfactory nerves. The heat of the room had warmed the
natron, the bitumen, and the myrrh in which the _paraschites_ who
embalmed the dead had bathed the body of the Princess; it was a
delicate, yet penetrating perfume, which four thousand years had not
been able to dissipate.
The Dream of Egypt was for the Eternal; its odors have the solidity of
granite, and last as long.
In a short time I drank full draughts from the black cup of sleep; for
an hour or two all remained in obscurity; Oblivion and Nothingness
submerged me in their somber waves.
Nevertheless the haziness of my perceptions gradually cleared away,
dreams began to brush me lightly in their silent flight.
The eyes of my soul opened, and I saw my room as it was in reality. I
might have believed myself awake, if I had not had a vague consciousness
that I was asleep, and that something very unusual was about to take
The odor of myrrh had increased in intensity, and I had a slight
headache, which I very naturally attributed to several glasses of
champagne that we had drunk to unknown gods, and to our future success.
I scrutinized my room with a feeling of expectation, which there was
nothing to justify. Each piece of furniture was in its usual place; the
lamp, softly shaded by the milky whiteness of its ground crystal globe,
burned upon the console, the water colors glowed from under the Bohemian
glass; the curtains hung in heavy drooping folds; everything suggested
tranquility and slumber.
Nevertheless, after a few moments the quiet of the room was disturbed,
the woodwork creaked furtively, the ash-covered log suddenly spurted out
a blue flame, and the surfaces of the plaques seemed like metallic eyes,
watching, like myself, for what was about to happen.
By chance my eyes fell on the table on which I had placed the foot of
the Princess Hermonthis.
Instead of remaining in the state of immobility proper to a foot which
has been embalmed for four thousand years, it moved about in an agitated
manner, twitching, leaping about over the papers like a frightened frog;
one might have thought it in contact with a galvanic battery; I could
hear distinctly the quick tap of the little heel, hard as the hoof of a
I became rather dissatisfied with my purchase, for I like paper weights
of sedentary habits--besides I found it very unnatural for feet to move
about without legs, and I began to feel something closely resembling
Suddenly I noticed a movement of one of the folds of my curtains, and I
heard a stamping like that made by a person hopping about on one foot.
I must admit that I grew hot and cold by turns, that I felt a mysterious
breeze blowing down my back, and that my hair stood on end so suddenly
that it forced my night-cap to a leap of several degrees.
The curtains partly opened, and I saw the strangest figure possible
It was a young girl, as coffee-coloured as Amani the dancer, and of a
perfect beauty of the purest Egyptian type. She had slanting
almond-shaped eyes, with eyebrows so black that they appeared blue; her
nose was finely chiseled, almost Grecian in its delicacy; she might have
been taken for a Corinthian statue of bronze, had not her prominent
cheekbones and rather African fullness of lips indicated without a doubt
the hieroglyphic race which dwelt on the banks of the Nile.
Her arms, thin, spindle shaped, like those of very young girls, were
encircled with a kind of metal ornament, and bracelets of glass beads;
her hair was twisted into little cords; on her breast hung a green paste
idol, identified by her whip of seven lashes as Isis, guide of souls--a
golden ornament shone on her forehead, and slight traces of rouge were
visible on the coppery tints of her cheeks.
As for her costume, it was very odd.
Imagine a _pagne_ made of narrow strips bedizened with red and black
hieroglyphics, weighted with bitumen, and apparently belonging to a
mummy newly unswathed.
In one of those flights of fancy usual in dreams, I could hear the
hoarse, rough voice of the dealer of bric-à-brac reciting in a
monotonous refrain, the phrase he had kept repeating in his shop in so
enigmatic a manner.
"Old Pharaoh will not be pleased--he loved his daughter very much--that
One peculiar detail, which was hardly reassuring, was that the
apparition had but one foot, the other was broken off at the ankle.
She approached the table, where the mummy's foot was fidgeting and
tossing about with redoubled energy. She leaned against the edge, and I
saw her eyes fill with pearly tears.
Although she did not speak, I fully understood her feelings. She looked
at the foot, for it was in truth her own, with an expression of
coquettish sadness, which was extremely charming; but the foot kept
jumping and running about as though it were moved by springs of steel.
Two or three times she stretched out her hand to grasp it, but did not
Then began between the Princess Hermonthis and her foot, which seemed to
be endowed with an individuality of its own, a very bizarre dialogue, in
an ancient Coptic tongue, such as might have been spoken thirty
centuries before, among the sphinxes of the Land of Ser; fortunately,
that night I understood Coptic perfectly.
The Princess Hermonthis said in a tone of voice sweet and tremulous as
the tones of a crystal bell:
"Well, my dear little foot, you always flee from me, yet I took the best
of care of you; I bathed you with perfumed water, in a basin of
alabaster; I rubbed your heel with pumice stone, mixed with oil of palm;
your nails were cut with golden scissors, and polished with a
hippopotamus' tooth; I was careful to select for you painted and
embroidered _tatbebs_, with turned up toes, which were the envy of all
the young girls of Egypt; on your great toe, you wore rings representing
the sacred Scarab, and you supported one of the lightest bodies that
could be desired by a lazy foot."
The foot answered in a pouting, regretful voice:
"You know well that I no longer belong to myself. I have been bought and
paid for; the old dealer knew what he was about. He bears you a grudge
for having refused to marry him. This is a trick he has played on you.
The Arab who forced open your royal tomb, in the subterranean pits of
the Necropolis of Thebes, was sent there by him. He wanted to prevent
you from attending the reunion of the shades, in the cities of the lower
world. Have you five pieces of gold with which to ransom me?"
"Alas, no! My jewels, my rings, my purses of gold and of silver have all
been stolen from me," answered the Princess Hermonthis with a sigh.
"Princess," I then cried out, "I have never kept possession of anyone's
foot unjustly; even though you have not the five louis which it cost me,
I will return it to you gladly; I should be wretched, were I the cause
of the lameness of so charming a person as the Princess Hermonthis."
I delivered this discourse in a courtly, troubadour-like manner, which
must have astonished the beautiful Egyptian.
She looked at me with an expression of deepest gratitude, and her eyes
brightened with bluish lights.
She took her foot, which this time submitted, and, like a woman about to
put on her brodekin, she adjusted it to her leg with great dexterity.
This operation finished, she took a few steps about the room, as though
to assure herself that she was in reality no longer lame.
"Ah, how happy my father will be, he who was so wretched because of my
mutilation--he who, from the day of my birth, set a whole nation to work
to hollow out a tomb so deep that he might preserve me intact until that
supreme last day, when souls must be weighed in the scales of Amenti!
Come with me to my father; he will be happy to receive you, for you have
given me back my foot."
I found this proposition quite natural. I decked myself out in a
dressing-gown of huge sprawling design, which gave me an extremely
Pharaohesque appearance; I hurriedly put on a pair of Turkish slippers,
and told the Princess Hermonthis that I was ready to follow her.
Before setting out, Hermonthis detached from her necklace the little
green paste image and placed it on the scattered papers which strewed
"It is no more than right," she said smilingly, "that I should replace
your paper weight."
She gave me her hand, which was soft and cool as the skin of a serpent,
and we departed.
For a time we sped with the rapidity of an arrow, through a misty
expanse of space, in which almost indistinguishable silhouettes flashed
by us, on the right and left.
For an instant we saw nothing but sea and sky.
A few minutes later, towering obelisks, pillars, the sloping outlines of
the sphinx, were designed against the horizon.
We had arrived.
The princess conducted me to the side of a mountain of red granite in
which there was an aperture so low and narrow that, had it not been
marked by two monoliths covered with bizarre carvings, it would have
been difficult to distinguish from the fissures in the rock.
Hermonthis lighted a torch and led the way.
The corridors were hewn through the living rock. The walls, with panels
covered with hieroglyphics, and representations of allegorical
processions, must have been the work of thousands of hands for thousands
of years; the corridors, of an interminable length, ended in square
rooms, in the middle of which pits had been constructed, to which we
descended by means of _crampons_ or spiral staircases. These pits led us
into other rooms, from which opened out other corridors embellished in
the same bizarre manner with sparrow-hawks, serpents coiled in circles,
the symbolic tau, pedum, and baris, prodigious works which no living eye
should ever see, interminable legends in granite which only the dead
throughout eternity have time to read.
At last we reached a hall so vast, so boundless, so immeasurable, that
its limits could not be discerned. As far as the eye could see, extended
files of gigantic columns, between which sparkled livid stars of yellow
light. These glittering points of light revealed incalculable depths
The Princess Hermonthis, still holding my hand, greeted graciously the
mummies of her acquaintance.
My eyes gradually became accustomed to the shadowy twilight, and I began
to distinguish the objects around me.
I saw, seated upon their thrones, the kings of the subterranean races.
They were dignified old personages, or dried up, shriveled,
wrinkled-like parchment, and blackened with naphtha and bitumen. On
their heads they wore pschents of gold, and their breastplates and
gorgets scintillated with precious stones; their eyes had the fixedness
of the sphinx, and their long beards were whitened by the snows of
centuries. Behind them stood their embalmed subjects, in the rigid and
constrained postures of Egyptian art, preserving eternally the attitudes
prescribed by the hieratic code. Behind the subjects, the cats, ibixes,
and crocodiles contemporary with them, rendered still more monstrous by
their wrappings, mewed, beat their wings, and opened and closed their
huge jaws in foolish grimaces.
All the Pharaohs were there--Cheops, Chephrenes, Psammetichus, Sesostri,
Amenoteph, all the dark-skinned rulers of the country of the pyramids,
and the royal sepulchers; on a still higher platform sat enthroned the
kings Chronos, and Xixouthros, who were contemporary with the deluge,
and Tubal-Cain, who preceded it.
The beard of King Xixouthros had grown to such lengths that it had
already wound itself seven times around the granite table against which
he leaned, lost in reverie, as though in slumber.
Further in the distance, through a dim exhalation, across the mists of
eternities, I beheld vaguely the seventy-two pre-Adamite kings, with
their seventy-two peoples, vanished forever.
The Princess Hermonthis, after allowing me a few moments to enjoy this
dizzying spectacle, presented me to Pharaoh, her father, who nodded to
me in a most majestic manner.
"I have found my foot--I have found my foot!" cried the Princess,
clapping her little hands, with every indication of uncontrollable joy.
"It was this gentleman who returned it to me."
The races of Kheme, the races of Nahasi, all the races, black, bronze,
and copper-colored, repeated in a chorus:
"The Princess Hermonthis has found her foot."
Xixouthros himself was deeply affected.
He raised his heavy eyelids, stroked his moustache, and regarded me with
his glance charged with the centuries.
"By Oms, the dog of Hell, and by Tmei, daughter of the Sun and of Truth,
here is a brave and worthy young man," said Pharaoh, extending toward me
his scepter which terminated in a lotus flower. "What recompense do you
Eagerly, with that audacity which one has in dreams, where nothing seems
impossible, I asked him for the hand of the Princess Hermonthis. Her
hand in exchange for her foot, seemed to me an antithetical recompense,
in sufficiently good taste.
Pharaoh opened wide his eyes of glass, surprised at my pleasantry, as
well as my request.
"From what country are you, and what is your age?"
"I am a Frenchman, and I am twenty-seven years old, venerable Pharaoh."
"Twenty-seven years old! And he wishes to espouse the Princess
Hermonthis, who is thirty centuries old!" exclaimed in a chorus all the
thrones, and all the circles of nations.
Hermonthis alone did not seem to think my request improper.
"If you were even two thousand years old," continued the old king, "I
would gladly bestow upon you the Princess; but the disproportion is too
great; besides, our daughters must have husbands who will last, and you
no longer know how to preserve yourselves. Of the last persons who were
brought here, scarcely fifteen centuries ago, nothing now remains but a
pinch of ashes. Look! my flesh is as hard as basalt, my bones are bars
of steel. I shall be present on the last day, with the body and features
I had in life. My daughter Hermonthis will last longer than a statue of
bronze. But at that time the winds will have dissipated the last grains
of your dust, and Isis herself, who knew how to recover the fragments of
Osiris, would hardly be able to recompose your being. See how vigorous I
still am, and how powerful is the strength of my arm," said he, shaking
my hand in the English fashion, in a way that cut my fingers with my
His grasp was so strong that I awoke, and discovered my friend Alfred,
who was pulling me by the arm, and shaking me, to make me get up.
"Oh, see here, you maddening sleeper! Must I have you dragged into the
middle of the street, and have fireworks put off close to your ear, in
order to waken you? It is afternoon. Don't you remember that you
promised to call for me and take me to see the Spanish pictures of M.
"Good heavens! I forgot all about it," I answered, dressing hurriedly.
"We can go there at once--I have the permit here on my table." I crossed
over to get it; imagine my astonishment when I saw, not the mummy's foot
I had bought the evening before, but the little green paste image left
in its place by the Princess Hermonthis!
THE RIVAL GHOSTS
BY BRANDER MATTHEWS
From _Tales of Fantasy and Fact_, by Brander Matthews. Copyright, 1886,
by Harper Brothers. By permission of the publishers and Brander
The Rival Ghosts
BY BRANDER MATTHEWS
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 wind, 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
"I hope we sha'n't do that this time. I can't seem to sleep any when the
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 séance. 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-séanced 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
"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 Fé, 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
"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
"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
"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
"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 séances 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 séances, 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
THE WATER GHOST OF HARROWBY HALL
BY JOHN KENDRICK BANGS
From _The Water Ghost, and other Stories_, by John Kendrick Bangs.
Copyright, 1904, by Harper Brothers. By permission of the publishers and
John Kendrick Bangs.
The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall
BY JOHN KENDRICK BANGS
The trouble with Harrowby Hall was that it was haunted, and, what was
worse, the ghost did not content itself with merely appearing at the
bedside of the afflicted person who saw it, but persisted in remaining
there for one mortal hour before it would disappear.
It never appeared except on Christmas Eve, and then as the clock was
striking twelve, in which respect alone was it lacking in that
originality which in these days is a _sine qua non_ of success in
spectral life. The owners of Harrowby Hall had done their utmost to rid
themselves of the damp and dewy lady who rose up out of the best bedroom
floor at midnight, but without avail. They had tried stopping the clock,
so that the ghost would not know when it was midnight; but she made her
appearance just the same, with that fearful miasmatic personality of
hers, and there she would stand until everything about her was
Then the owners of Harrowby Hall caulked up every crack in the floor
with the very best quality of hemp, and over this were placed layers of
tar and canvas; the walls were made waterproof, and the doors and
windows likewise, the proprietors having conceived the notion that the
unexorcised lady would find it difficult to leak into the room after
these precautions had been taken; but even this did not suffice. The
following Christmas Eve she appeared as promptly as before, and
frightened the occupant of the room quite out of his senses by sitting
down alongside of him and gazing with her cavernous blue eyes into his;
and he noticed, too, that in her long, aqueously bony fingers bits of
dripping seaweed were entwined, the ends hanging down, and these ends
she drew across his forehead until he became like one insane. And then
he swooned away, and was found unconscious in his bed the next morning
by his host, simply saturated with sea-water and fright, from the
combined effects of which he never recovered, dying four years later of
pneumonia and nervous prostration at the age of seventy-eight.
The next year the master of Harrowby Hall decided not to have the best
spare bedroom opened at all, thinking that perhaps the ghost's thirst
for making herself disagreeable would be satisfied by haunting the
furniture, but the plan was as unavailing as the many that had preceded
The ghost appeared as usual in the room--that is, it was supposed she
did, for the hangings were dripping wet the next morning, and in the
parlor below the haunted room a great damp spot appeared on the
ceiling. Finding no one there, she immediately set out to learn the
reason why, and she chose none other to haunt than the owner of the
Harrowby himself. She found him in his own cosey room drinking
whiskey--whiskey undiluted--and felicitating himself upon having foiled
her ghost-ship, when all of a sudden the curl went out of his hair, his
whiskey bottle filled and overflowed, and he was himself in a condition
similar to that of a man who has fallen into a water-butt. When he
recovered from the shock, which was a painful one, he saw before him the
lady of the cavernous eyes and seaweed fingers. The sight was so
unexpected and so terrifying that he fainted, but immediately came to,
because of the vast amount of water in his hair, which, trickling down
over his face, restored his consciousness.
Now it so happened that the master of Harrowby was a brave man, and
while he was not particularly fond of interviewing ghosts, especially
such quenching ghosts as the one before him, he was not to be daunted by
an apparition. He had paid the lady the compliment of fainting from the
effects of his first surprise, and now that he had come to he intended
to find out a few things he felt he had a right to know. He would have
liked to put on a dry suit of clothes first, but the apparition declined
to leave him for an instant until her hour was up, and he was forced to
deny himself that pleasure. Every time he would move she would follow
him, with the result that everything she came in contact with got a
ducking. In an effort to warm himself up he approached the fire, an
unfortunate move as it turned out, because it brought the ghost directly
over the fire, which immediately was extinguished. The whiskey became
utterly valueless as a comforter to his chilled system, because it was
by this time diluted to a proportion of ninety per cent of water. The
only thing he could do to ward off the evil effects of his encounter he
did, and that was to swallow ten two-grain quinine pills, which he
managed to put into his mouth before the ghost had time to interfere.
Having done this, he turned with some asperity to the ghost, and said:
"Far be it from me to be impolite to a woman, madam, but I'm hanged if
it wouldn't please me better if you'd stop these infernal visits of
yours to this house. Go sit out on the lake, if you like that sort of
thing; soak the water-butt, if you wish; but do not, I implore you, come
into a gentleman's house and saturate him and his possessions in this
way. It is damned disagreeable."
"Henry Hartwick Oglethorpe," said the ghost, in a gurgling voice, "you
don't know what you are talking about."
"Madam," returned the unhappy householder, "I wish that remark were
strictly truthful. I was talking about you. It would be shillings and
pence--nay, pounds, in my pocket, madam, if I did not know you."
"That is a bit of specious nonsense," returned the ghost, throwing a
quart of indignation into the face of the master of Harrowby. "It may
rank high as repartee, but as a comment upon my statement that you do
not know what you are talking about, it savors of irrelevant
impertinence. You do not know that I am compelled to haunt this place
year after year by inexorable fate. It is no pleasure to me to enter
this house, and ruin and mildew everything I touch. I never aspired to
be a shower-bath, but it is my doom. Do you know who I am?"
"No, I don't," returned the master of Harrowby. "I should say you were
the Lady of the Lake, or Little Sallie Waters."
"You are a witty man for your years," said the ghost.
"Well, my humor is drier than yours ever will be," returned the master.
"No doubt. I'm never dry. I am the Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall, and
dryness is a quality entirely beyond my wildest hope. I have been the
incumbent of this highly unpleasant office for two hundred years
"How the deuce did you ever come to get elected?" asked the master.
"Through a suicide," replied the specter. "I am the ghost of that fair
maiden whose picture hangs over the mantelpiece in the drawing-room. I
should have been your great-great-great-great-great-aunt if I had lived,
Henry Hartwick Oglethorpe, for I was the own sister of your
"But what induced you to get this house into such a predicament?"
"I was not to blame, sir," returned the lady. "It was my father's fault.
He it was who built Harrowby Hall, and the haunted chamber was to have
been mine. My father had it furnished in pink and yellow, knowing well
that blue and gray formed the only combination of color I could
tolerate. He did it merely to spite me, and, with what I deem a proper
spirit, I declined to live in the room; whereupon my father said I could
live there or on the lawn, he didn't care which. That night I ran from
the house and jumped over the cliff into the sea."
"That was rash," said the master of Harrowby.
"So I've heard," returned the ghost. "If I had known what the
consequences were to be I should not have jumped; but I really never
realized what I was doing until after I was drowned. I had been drowned
a week when a sea-nymph came to me and informed me that I was to be one
of her followers forever afterwards, adding that it should be my doom to
haunt Harrowby Hall for one hour every Christmas Eve throughout the rest
of eternity. I was to haunt that room on such Christmas Eves as I found
it inhabited; and if it should turn out not to be inhabited, I was and
am to spend the allotted hour with the head of the house."
"I'll sell the place."
"That you cannot do, for it is also required of me that I shall appear
as the deeds are to be delivered to any purchaser, and divulge to him
the awful secret of the house."
"Do you mean to tell me that on every Christmas Eve that I don't happen
to have somebody in that guest-chamber, you are going to haunt me
wherever I may be, ruining my whiskey, taking all the curl out of my
hair, extinguishing my fire, and soaking me through to the skin?"
demanded the master.
"You have stated the case, Oglethorpe. And what is more," said the water
ghost, "it doesn't make the slightest difference where you are, if I
find that room empty, wherever you may be I shall douse you with my
Here the clock struck one, and immediately the apparition faded away. It
was perhaps more of a trickle than a fade, but as a disappearance it was
"By St. George and his Dragon!" ejaculated the master of Harrowby,
wringing his hands. "It is guineas to hot-cross buns that next Christmas
there's an occupant of the spare room, or I spend the night in a
But the master of Harrowby would have lost his wager had there been
anyone there to take him up, for when Christmas Eve came again he was in
his grave, never having recovered from the cold contracted that awful
night. Harrowby Hall was closed, and the heir to the estate was in
London, where to him in his chambers came the same experience that his
father had gone through, saving only that, being younger and stronger,
he survived the shock. Everything in his rooms was ruined--his clocks
were rusted in the works; a fine collection of water-color drawings was
entirely obliterated by the onslaught of the water ghost; and what was
worse, the apartments below his were drenched with the water soaking
through the floors, a damage for which he was compelled to pay, and
which resulted in his being requested by his landlady to vacate the
The story of the visitation inflicted upon his family had gone abroad,
and no one could be got to invite him out to any function save afternoon
teas and receptions. Fathers of daughters declined to permit him to
remain in their houses later than eight o'clock at night, not knowing
but that some emergency might arise in the supernatural world which
would require the unexpected appearance of the water ghost in this on
nights other than Christmas Eve, and before the mystic hour when weary
churchyards, ignoring the rules which are supposed to govern polite
society, begin to yawn. Nor would the maids themselves have aught to do
with him, fearing the destruction by the sudden incursion of aqueous
femininity of the costumes which they held most dear.
So the heir of Harrowby Hall resolved, as his ancestors for several
generations before him had resolved, that something must be done. His
first thought was to make one of his servants occupy the haunted room at
the crucial moment; but in this he failed, because the servants
themselves knew the history of that room and rebelled. None of his
friends would consent to sacrifice their personal comfort to his, nor
was there to be found in all England a man so poor as to be willing to
occupy the doomed chamber on Christmas Eve for pay.
Then the thought came to the heir to have the fireplace in the room
enlarged, so that he might evaporate the ghost at its first appearance,
and he was felicitating himself upon the ingenuity of his plan, when he
remembered what his father had told him--how that no fire could
withstand the lady's extremely contagious dampness. And then he
bethought him of steam-pipes. These, he remembered, could lie hundreds
of feet deep in water, and still retain sufficient heat to drive the
water away in vapor; and as a result of this thought the haunted room
was heated by steam to a withering degree, and the heir for six months
attended daily the Turkish baths, so that when Christmas Eve came he
could himself withstand the awful temperature of the room.
The scheme was only partially successful. The water ghost appeared at
the specified time, and found the heir of Harrowby prepared; but hot as
the room was, it shortened her visit by no more than five minutes in the
hour, during which time the nervous system of the young master was
well-nigh shattered, and the room itself was cracked and warped to an
extent which required the outlay of a large sum of money to remedy. And
worse than this, as the last drop of the water ghost was slowly
sizzling itself out on the floor, she whispered to her would-be
conqueror that his scheme would avail him nothing, because there was
still water in great plenty where she came from, and that next year
would find her rehabilitated and as exasperatingly saturating as ever.
It was then that the natural action of the mind, in going from one
extreme to the other, suggested to the ingenious heir of Harrowby the
means by which the water ghost was ultimately conquered, and happiness
once more came within the grasp of the house of Oglethorpe.
The heir provided himself with a warm suit of fur under-clothing.
Donning this with the furry side in, he placed over it a rubber garment,
tight-fitting, which he wore just as a woman wears a jersey. On top of
this he placed another set of under-clothing, this suit made of wool,
and over this was a second rubber garment like the first. Upon his head
he placed a light and comfortable diving helmet, and so clad, on the
following Christmas Eve he awaited the coming of his tormentor.
It was a bitterly cold night that brought to a close this twenty-fourth
day of December. The air outside was still, but the temperature was
below zero. Within all was quiet, the servants of Harrowby Hall awaiting
with beating hearts the outcome of their master's campaign against his
The master himself was lying on the bed in the haunted room, clad as
has already been indicated, and then----
The clock clanged out the hour of twelve.
There was a sudden banging of doors, a blast of cold air swept through
the halls, the door leading into the haunted chamber flew open, a splash
was heard, and the water ghost was seen standing at the side of the heir
of Harrowby, from whose outer dress there streamed rivulets of water,
but whose own person deep down under the various garments he wore was as
dry and as warm as he could have wished.
"Ha!" said the young master of Harrowby. "I'm glad to see you."
"You are the most original man I've met, if that is true," returned the
ghost. "May I ask where did you get that hat?"
"Certainly, madam," returned the master, courteously. "It is a little
portable observatory I had made for just such emergencies as this. But,
tell me, is it true that you are doomed to follow me about for one
mortal hour--to stand where I stand, to sit where I sit?"
"That is my delectable fate," returned the lady.
"We'll go out on the lake," said the master, starting up.
"You can't get rid of me that way," returned the ghost. "The water won't
swallow me up; in fact, it will just add to my present bulk."
"Nevertheless," said the master, firmly, "we will go out on the lake."
"But, my dear sir," returned the ghost, with a pale reluctance, "it is
fearfully cold out there. You will be frozen hard before you've been out
"Oh no, I'll not," replied the master. "I am very warmly dressed. Come!"
This last in a tone of command that made the ghost ripple.
And they started.
They had not gone far before the water ghost showed signs of distress.
"You walk too slowly," she said. "I am nearly frozen. My knees are so
stiff now I can hardly move. I beseech you to accelerate your step."
"I should like to oblige a lady," returned the master, courteously, "but
my clothes are rather heavy, and a hundred yards an hour is about my
speed. Indeed, I think we would better sit down here on this snowdrift,
and talk matters over."
"Do not! Do not do so, I beg!" cried the ghost. "Let me move on. I feel
myself growing rigid as it is. If we stop here, I shall be frozen
"That, madam," said the master slowly, and seating himself on an
ice-cake--"that is why I have brought you here. We have been on this
spot just ten minutes; we have fifty more. Take your time about it,
madam, but freeze, that is all I ask of you."
"I cannot move my right leg now," cried the ghost, in despair, "and my
overskirt is a solid sheet of ice. Oh, good, kind Mr. Oglethorpe, light
a fire, and let me go free from these icy fetters."
"Never, madam. It cannot be. I have you at last."
"Alas!" cried the ghost, a tear trickling down her frozen cheek. "Help
me, I beg. I congeal!"
"Congeal, madam, congeal!" returned Oglethorpe, coldly. "You have
drenched me and mine for two hundred and three years, madam. To-night
you have had your last drench."
"Ah, but I shall thaw out again, and then you'll see. Instead of the
comfortably tepid, genial ghost I have been in my past, sir, I shall be
iced-water," cried the lady, threateningly.
"No, you won't, either," returned Oglethorpe; "for when you are frozen
quite stiff, I shall send you to a cold-storage warehouse, and there
shall you remain an icy work of art forever more."
"But warehouses burn."
"So they do, but this warehouse cannot burn. It is made of asbestos and
surrounding it are fireproof walls, and within those walls the
temperature is now and shall forever be 416 degrees below the zero
point; low enough to make an icicle of any flame in this world--or the
next," the master added, with an ill-suppressed chuckle.
"For the last time let me beseech you. I would go on my knees to you,
Oglethorpe, were they not already frozen. I beg of you do not doo----"
Here even the words froze on the water-ghost's lips and the clock struck
one. There was a momentary tremor throughout the ice-bound form, and the
moon, coming out from behind a cloud, shone down on the rigid figure of
a beautiful woman sculptured in clear, transparent ice. There stood the
ghost of Harrowby Hall, conquered by the cold, a prisoner for all time.
The heir of Harrowby had won at last, and to-day in a large storage
house in London stands the frigid form of one who will never again flood
the house of Oglethorpe with woe and sea-water.
As for the heir of Harrowby, his success in coping with a ghost has made
him famous, a fame that still lingers about him, although his victory
took place some twenty years ago; and so far from being unpopular with
the fair sex, as he was when we first knew him, he has not only been
married twice, but is to lead a third bride to the altar before the year
BACK FROM THAT BOURNE
From the New York _Sun_. By permission of the editor.
Back from That Bourne
_Practical Working of Materialization in Maine. A
Strange Story from Pocock Island--A Materialized Spirit
that Will not Go back. The First Glimpse of what May
yet Cause very Extensive Trouble in this World._
(The _Sun_, Saturday, December 19, 1874.)
We are permitted to make extracts from a private letter which bears the
signature of a gentleman well known in business circles, and whose
veracity we have never heard called in question. His statements are
startling and well-nigh incredible, but if true, they are susceptible of
easy verification. Yet the thoughtful mind will hesitate about accepting
them without the fullest proof, for they spring upon the world a social
problem of stupendous importance. The dangers apprehended by Mr. Malthus
and his followers become remote and commonplace by the side of this new
and terrible issue.
The letter is dated at Pocock Island, a small township in Washington
County, Maine, about seventeen miles from the mainland and nearly
midway between Mt. Desert and the Grand Menan. The last state census
accords to Pocock Island a population of 311, mostly engaged in the
porgy fisheries. At the Presidential election of 1872 the island gave
Grant a majority of three. These two facts are all that we are able to
learn of the locality from sources outside of the letter already
The letter, omitting certain passages which refer solely to private
matters, reads as follows:
"But enough of the disagreeable business that brought me here to this
bleak island in the month of November. I have a singular story to tell
you. After our experience together at Chittenden I know you will not
reject statements because they are startling.