Canterville, "since my grandaunt, 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 wellas 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 takethe 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 asa 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."
[Illustration: MISS VIRGINIA E. OTIS]
A few weeksafter 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 chronicill-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 proposedfor 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 Star 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.
[Illustration: "HAD ONCE RACED OLD LORD BILTON ON HER...