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Chapter 2

II.

When Hewson came up to the cottage he was sensible of a certain agitation in the air, which was intensified to him by the sight of St. John, in his bare, bald head and the négligé of a flannel housecoat, inspecting, with the gardener and one of the grooms, the fallen trellis under the library window, which from time to time they looked up at, as they talked. Hewson made haste to join them, through the garden gate, and to say shamefacedly enough, "Oh, I'm afraid I'm responsible for that," and he told how he must have thrown down the trellis in getting out of the window.

"Oh!" said St. John, while the two men walked away with dissatisfied grins at being foiled of their sensation. "We thought it was burglars. I'm so glad it was only you." But in spite of his profession, St. John did not give Hewson any very lively proof of his enjoyment. "Deuced uncomfortable to have had one's guests murdered in their beds. Don't say anything about it, please, Hewson. The women would all fly the premises, if there'd been even a suspicion of burglars."

"Oh, no; I won't," Hewson willingly assented; but he perceived a disappointment in St. John's tone and manner, and he suspected him, however unjustly, of having meant to give himself importance with his guests by the rumor of a burglary in the house.

He was a man quite capable of that, Hewson believed, and failing it, capable of pretending that he wanted the matter hushed up in the interest of others.

In any case he saw that it was not to St. John primarily, or secondarily to St. John's guests, that he could celebrate the fact of his apparition. In the presence of St. John's potential vulgarity he keenly felt his own, and he recoiled from what he had imagined doing. He even realized that he would have been working St. John an injury by betraying his house to his guests as the scene of a supernatural incident.

Nobody believes in ghosts, but there is not one in a thousand of us who would not be uncomfortable in a haunted house, or a house so reputed. If Hewson told what he had seen, he would not only scatter St. John's house-party to the four winds, but he would cast such a blight upon St. Johnswort that it would never sell for a tenth of its cost.

William Dean Howells

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