The canterville ghost. oscar wilde
Oscar Wilde. The Canterville Ghost
When Mr. Hiram B. Otis, the American Minister, bought Canterville
Chase, every one told him he was doing a very foolish thing, as there was no
doubt at all that the place was haunted. Indeed, Lord Canterville himself,
who was a man of the most punctilious honour, had felt it his duty to
mention the fact to Mr. Otis when they came to discuss terms.
"We have not cared to live in the place ourselves," said Lord
Canterville, "since my grand-aunt, the Dowager Duches 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 well as 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 Duches, 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 take the furniture and the
ghost at a valuation. I 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 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 as a 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
A few weeks after 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 53rd 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 chronic ill-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,
will known as an excellent dancer. Gardenias and the peerage were his only
weaknesses. Otherwise he was extremely sensible. Miss Virginia E. Otis was a