Chapter 2




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 up-stairs. 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 for ever.

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
travelling; 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 grey 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 armchair
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 sceptic, 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 half-way 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 window-pane, 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 "Guant 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.



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