The next morning, when the Otis family met at breakfast, they discussed th_host at some length. The United States Minister was naturally a littl_nnoyed to find that his present had not been accepted. “I have no wish,” h_aid, “to do the ghost any personal injury, and I must say that, considerin_he length of time he has been in the house, I don’t think it is at all polit_o throw pillows at him”—a very just remark, at which, I am sorry to say, th_wins burst into shouts of laughter. “Upon the other hand,” he continued, “i_e really declines to use the Rising Sun Lubricator, we shall have to take hi_hains from him. It would be quite impossible to sleep, with such a nois_oing on outside the bedrooms.”
For the rest of the week, however, they were undisturbed, the only thing tha_xcited any attention being the continual renewal of the blood-stain on th_ibrary floor. This certainly was very strange, as the door was always locke_t night by Mr. Otis, and the windows kept closely barred. The chameleon-lik_olour, also, of the stain excited a good deal of comment. Some mornings i_as a dull (almost Indian) red, then it would be vermilion, then a ric_urple, and once when they came down for family prayers, according to th_imple rites of the Free American Reformed Episcopalian Church, they found i_ bright emerald-green. These kaleidoscopic changes naturally amused the part_ery much, and bets on the subject were freely made every evening. The onl_erson who did not enter into the joke was little Virginia, who, for som_nexplained reason, was always a good deal distressed at the sight of th_lood-stain, and very nearly cried the morning it was emerald-green.
The second appearance of the ghost was on Sunday night. Shortly after they ha_one to bed they were suddenly alarmed by a fearful crash in the hall. Rushin_ownstairs, they found that a large suit of old armour had become detache_rom 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 expressio_f acute agony on his face. The twins, having brought their pea-shooters wit_hem, at once discharged two pellets on him, with that accuracy of aim whic_an only be attained by long and careful practice on a writing-master, whil_he 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 _ist, extinguishing Washington Otis’s candle as he passed, and so leaving the_ll in total darkness. On reaching the top of the staircase he recovere_imself, and determined to give his celebrated peal of demoniac laughter. Thi_e had on more than one occasion found extremely useful. It was said to hav_urned Lord Raker’s wig grey in a single night, and had certainly made thre_f Lady Canterville’s French governesses give warning before their month wa_p. He accordingly laughed his most horrible laugh, till the old vaulted roo_ang and rang again, but hardly had the fearful echo died away when a doo_pened, and Mrs. Otis came out in a light blue dressing-gown. “I am afraid yo_re far from well,” she said, “and have brought you a bottle of Dr. Dobell’_incture. If it is indigestion, you will find it a most excellent remedy.” Th_host glared at her in fury, and began at once to make preparations fo_urning himself into a large black dog, an accomplishment for which he wa_ustly renowned, and to which the family doctor always attributed th_ermanent idiocy of Lord Canterville’s uncle, the Hon. Thomas Horton. Th_ound of approaching footsteps, however, made him hesitate in his fel_urpose, so he contented himself with becoming faintly phosphorescent, an_anished 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 mos_iolent agitation. The vulgarity of the twins, and the gross materialism o_rs. Otis, were naturally extremely annoying, but what really distressed hi_ost was, that he had been unable to wear the suit of mail. He had hoped tha_ven modern Americans would be thrilled by the sight of a Spectre In Armour,
if for no more sensible reason, at least out of respect for their nationa_oet Longfellow, over whose graceful and attractive poetry he himself ha_hiled 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 Kenilwort_ournament, and had been highly complimented on it by no less a person tha_he Virgin Queen herself. Yet when he had put it on, he had been completel_verpowered by the weight of the huge breastplate and steel casque, and ha_allen heavily on the stone pavement, barking both his knees severely, an_ruising the knuckles of his right hand.
For some days after this he was extremely ill, and hardly stirred out of hi_oom at all, except to keep the blood-stain in proper repair. However, b_aking great care of himself, he recovered, and resolved to make a thir_ttempt to frighten the United States Minister and his family. He selecte_riday, the 17th of August, for his appearance, and spent most of that day i_ooking over his wardrobe, ultimately deciding in favour of a large slouche_at with a red feather, a winding-sheet frilled at the wrists and neck, and _usty dagger. Towards evening a violent storm of rain came on, and the win_as 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. H_as to make his way quietly to Washington Otis’s room, gibber at him from th_oot of the bed, and stab himself three times in the throat to the sound o_ow music. He bore Washington a special grudge, being quite aware that it wa_e who was in the habit of removing the famous Canterville blood-stain, b_eans of Pinkerton’s Paragon Detergent. Having reduced the reckless an_oolhardy youth to a condition of abject terror, he was then to proceed to th_oom occupied by the United States Minister and his wife, and there to place _lammy hand on Mrs. Otis’s forehead, while he hissed into her tremblin_usband’s ear the awful secrets of the charnel-house. With regard to littl_irginia, he had not quite made up his mind. She had never insulted him in an_ay, and was pretty and gentle. A few hollow groans from the wardrobe, h_hought, would be more than sufficient, or, if that failed to wake her, h_ight grabble at the counterpane with palsy-twitching fingers. As for th_wins, he was quite determined to teach them a lesson. The first thing to b_one was, of course, to sit upon their chests, so as to produce the stiflin_ensation of nightmare. Then, as their beds were quite close to each other, t_tand between them in the form of a green, icy-cold corpse, till they becam_aralysed with fear, and finally, to throw off the winding-sheet, and craw_ound the room, with white, bleached bones and one rolling eyeball, in th_haracter of ‘Dumb Daniel, or the Suicide’s Skeleton,’ a rôle in which he ha_n more than one occasion produced a great effect, and which he considere_uite 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 wa_isturbed by wild shrieks of laughter from the twins, who, with the light-
hearted gaiety of schoolboys, were evidently amusing themselves before the_etired to rest, but at a quarter past eleven all was still, and, as midnigh_ounded, he sallied forth. The owl beat against the window panes, the rave_roaked from the old yew-tree, and the wind wandered moaning round the hous_ike a lost soul; but the Otis family slept unconscious of their doom, an_igh above the rain and storm he could hear the steady snoring of the Ministe_or the United States. He stepped stealthily out of the wainscoting, with a_vil smile on his cruel, wrinkled mouth, and the moon hid her face in a clou_s he stole past the great oriel window, where his own arms and those of hi_urdered wife were blazoned in azure and gold. On and on he glided, like a_vil shadow, the very darkness seeming to loathe him as he passed. Once h_hought he heard something call, and stopped; but it was only the baying of _og from the Red Farm, and he went on, muttering strange sixteenth-centur_urses, 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’_oom. For a moment he paused there, the wind blowing his long grey locks abou_is head, and twisting into grotesque and fantastic folds the nameless horro_f the dead man’s shroud. Then the clock struck the quarter, and he felt th_ime was come. He chuckled to himself, and turned the corner; but no soone_ad he done so, than, with a piteous wail of terror, he fell back, and hid hi_lanched face in his long, bony hands. Right in front of him was standing _orrible spectre, motionless as a carven image, and monstrous as a madman’_ream! 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 o_ire, and a hideous garment, like to his own, swathed with its silent snow_he Titan form. On its breast was a placard with strange writing in antiqu_haracters, some scroll of shame it seemed, some record of wild sins, som_wful calendar of crime, and, with its right hand, it bore aloft a falchion o_leaming 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, an_inally dropping the rusty dagger into the Minister’s jack-boots, where it wa_ound 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 th_lothes. After a time, however, the brave old Canterville spirit asserte_tself, and he determined to go and speak to the other ghost as soon as it wa_aylight. Accordingly, just as the dawn was touching the hills with silver, h_eturned 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 ai_f his new friend, he might safely grapple with the twins. On reaching th_pot, however, a terrible sight met his gaze. Something had evidently happene_o the spectre, for the light had entirely faded from its hollow eyes, th_leaming falchion had fallen from its hand, and it was leaning up against th_all in a strained and uncomfortable attitude. He rushed forward and seized i_n his arms, when, to his horror, the head slipped off and rolled on th_loor, the body assumed a recumbent posture, and he found himself clasping _hite dimity bed-curtain, with a sweeping-brush, a kitchen cleaver, and _ollow turnip lying at his feet! Unable to understand this curiou_ransformation, he clutched the placard with feverish haste, and there, in th_rey 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, an_utwitted! The old Canterville look came into his eyes; he ground hi_oothless gums together; and, raising his withered hands high above his head,
swore, according to the picturesque phraseology of the antique school, tha_hen Chanticleer had sounded twice his merry horn, deeds of blood would b_rought, and Murder walk abroad with silent feet.
Hardly had he finished this awful oath when, from the red-tiled roof of _istant homestead, a cock crew. He laughed a long, low, bitter laugh, an_aited. Hour after hour he waited, but the cock, for some strange reason, di_ot crow again. Finally, at half-past seven, the arrival of the housemaid_ade him give up his fearful vigil, and he stalked back to his room, thinkin_f his vain oath and baffled purpose. There he consulted several books o_ncient chivalry, of which he was exceedingly fond, and found that, on ever_ccasion on which this oath had been used, Chanticleer had always crowed _econd time. “Perdition seize the naughty fowl,” he muttered, “I have seen th_ay when, with my stout spear, I would have run him through the gorge, an_ade him crow for me an ’twere in death!” He then retired to a comfortabl_ead coffin, and stayed there till evening.