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Chapter 4

  • The next day the ghost was very weak and tired. The terrible excitement of th_ast four weeks was beginning to have its effect. His nerves were completel_hattered, and he started at the slightest noise. For five days he kept hi_oom, and at last made up his mind to give up the point of the blood-stain o_he library floor. If the Otis family did not want it, they clearly did no_eserve 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. I_as his solemn duty to appear in the corridor once a week, and to gibber fro_he large oriel window on the first and third Wednesdays in every month, an_e did not see how he could honourably escape from his obligations. It i_uite true that his life had been very evil, but, upon the other hand, he wa_ost conscientious in all things connected with the supernatural. For the nex_hree Saturdays, accordingly, he traversed the corridor as usual betwee_idnight and three o’clock, taking every possible precaution against bein_ither heard or seen. He removed his boots, trod as lightly as possible on th_ld worm-eaten boards, wore a large black velvet cloak, and was careful to us_he Rising Sun Lubricator for oiling his chains. I am bound to acknowledg_hat it was with a good deal of difficulty that he brought himself to adop_his last mode of protection. However, one night, while the family were a_inner, he slipped into Mr. Otis’s bedroom and carried off the bottle. He fel_ little humiliated at first, but afterwards was sensible enough to see tha_here 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 lef_nmolested. Strings were continually being stretched across the corridor, ove_hich he tripped in the dark, and on one occasion, while dressed for the par_f ‘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 th_ntrance 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 t_ssert his dignity and social position, and determined to visit the insolen_oung Etonians the next night in his celebrated character of ‘Reckless Rupert,
  • or the Headless Earl.’
  • He had not appeared in this disguise for more than seventy years; in fact, no_ince he had so frightened pretty Lady Barbara Modish by means of it, that sh_uddenly broke off her engagement with the present Lord Canterville’_randfather, and ran away to Gretna Green with handsome Jack Castletown,
  • declaring that nothing in the world would induce her to marry into a famil_hat allowed such a horrible phantom to walk up and down the terrace a_wilight. Poor Jack was afterwards shot in a duel by Lord Canterville o_andsworth Common, and Lady Barbara died of a broken heart at Tunbridge Well_efore the year was out, so, in every way, it had been a great success. I_as, however, an extremely difficult ‘make-up,’ if I may use such a theatrica_xpression in connection with one of the greatest mysteries of th_upernatural, or, to employ a more scientific term, the higher-natural world,
  • and it took him fully three hours to make his preparations. At last everythin_as ready, and he was very pleased with his appearance. The big leathe_iding-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 wa_uite satisfied, and at a quarter past one he glided out of the wainscotin_nd crept down the corridor. On reaching the room occupied by the twins, whic_ should mention was called the Blue Bed Chamber, on account of the colour o_ts hangings, he found the door just ajar. Wishing to make an effectiv_ntrance, he flung it wide open, when a heavy jug of water fell right down o_im, wetting him to the skin, and just missing his left shoulder by a coupl_f inches. At the same moment he heard stifled shrieks of laughter proceedin_rom the four-post bed.
  • The shock to his nervous system was so great that he fled back to his room a_ard as he could go, and the next day he was laid up with a severe cold. Th_nly thing that at all consoled him in the whole affair was the fact that h_ad not brought his head with him, for, had he done so, the consequences migh_ave been very serious.
  • He now gave up all hope of ever frightening this rude American family, an_ontented himself, as a rule, with creeping about the passages in lis_lippers, with a thick red muffler round his throat for fear of draughts, an_ small arquebuse, in case he should be attacked by the twins. The final blo_e received occurred on the 19th of September. He had gone downstairs to th_reat entrance-hall, feeling sure that there, at any rate, he would be quit_nmolested, and was amusing himself by making satirical remarks on the larg_aroni photographs of the United States Minister and his wife, which had no_aken the place of the Canterville family pictures. He was simply but neatl_lad in a long shroud, spotted with churchyard mould, had tied up his jaw wit_ strip of yellow linen, and carried a small lantern and a sexton’s spade. I_act, he was dressed for the character of ‘Jonas the Graveless, or the Corpse-
  • Snatcher of Chertsey Barn,’ one of his most remarkable impersonations, and on_hich the Cantervilles had every reason to remember, as it was the real origi_f their quarrel with their neighbour, Lord Rufford.
  • It was about a quarter past two o’clock in the morning, and, as far as h_ould 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, suddenl_here leaped out on him from a dark corner two figures, who waved their arm_ildly above their heads, and shrieked out “BOO!” in his ear.
  • Seized with a panic, which, under the circumstances, was only natural, h_ushed for the staircase, but found Washington Otis waiting for him there wit_he 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 th_lues 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 i_ait for him on several occasions, and strewed the passages with nutshell_very night to the great annoyance of their parents and the servants, but i_as of no avail. It was quite evident that his feelings were so wounded tha_e would not appear. Mr. Otis consequently resumed his great work on th_istory of the Democratic Party, on which he had been engaged for some years;
  • Mrs. Otis organised a wonderful clam-bake, which amazed the whole county; th_oys took to lacrosse, euchre, poker, and other American national games; an_irginia rode about the lanes on her pony, accompanied by the young Duke o_heshire, who had come to spend the last week of his holidays at Cantervill_hase. 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 t_he Minister’s worthy wife.
  • The Otises, however, were deceived, for the ghost was still in the house, an_hough 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 wit_olonel Carbury that he would play dice with the Canterville ghost, and wa_ound the next morning lying on the floor of the card-room in such a helples_aralytic state, that though he lived on to a great age, he was never able t_ay 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 th_ircumstances connected with it will be found in the third volume of Lor_attle’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 th_tiltons, with whom, indeed, he was distantly connected, his own first cousi_aving been married en secondes noces to the Sieur de Bulkeley, from whom, a_very one knows, the Dukes of Cheshire are lineally descended. Accordingly, h_ade arrangements for appearing to Virginia’s little lover in his celebrate_mpersonation of ‘The Vampire Monk, or, the Bloodless Benedictine,’ _erformance so horrible that when old Lady Startup saw it, which she did o_ne fatal New Year’s Eve, in the year 1764, she went off into the mos_iercing shrieks, which culminated in violent apoplexy, and died in thre_ays, 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 th_ittle Duke slept in peace under the great feathered canopy in the Roya_edchamber, and dreamed of Virginia.