Chapter II.

The storm raged fiercely all that night, but nothing of particular note occurred. The next morning, however, when they came down to breakfast, they found the terrible stain of blood once again on the floor. "I don't think it can be the fault of the Paragon Detergent," said Washington, "for I have tried it with everything. It must be the ghost." He accordingly rubbed out the stain a second time, but the second morning it appeared again. The third morning also it was there, though the library had been locked up at night by Mr. Otis himself, and the key carried up-stairs. The whole family were now quite interested; Mr. Otis began to suspect that he had been too dogmatic in his denial of the existence of ghosts, Mrs. Otis expressed her intention of joining the Psychical Society, and Washington prepared a long letter to Messrs. Myers and Podmore on the subject of the Permanence of Sanguineous Stains when connected with Crime. That night all doubts about the objective existence of phantasmata were removed for ever.

The day had been warm and sunny; and, in the cool of the evening, the whole family went out to drive. They did not return home till nine o'clock, when they had a light supper. The conversation in no way turned upon ghosts, so there were not even those primary conditions of receptive expectations which so often precede the presentation of psychical phenomena. The subjects discussed, as I have since learned from Mr. Otis, were merely such as form the ordinary conversation of cultured Americans of the better class, such as the immense superiority of Miss Fanny Devonport over Sarah Bernhardt as an actress; the difficulty of obtaining green corn, buckwheat cakes, and hominy, even in the best English houses; the importance of Boston in the development of the world-soul; the advantages of the baggage-check system in railway travelling; and the sweetness of the New York accent as compared to the London drawl. No mention at all was made of the supernatural, nor was Sir Simon de Canterville alluded to in any way. At eleven o'clock the family retired, and by half-past all the lights were out. Some time after, Mr. Otis was awakened by a curious noise in the corridor, outside his room. It sounded like the clank of metal, and seemed to be coming nearer every moment. He got up at once, struck a match, and looked at the time. It was exactly one o'clock. He was quite calm, and felt his pulse, which was not at all feverish. The strange noise still continued, and with it he heard distinctly the sound of footsteps. He put on his slippers, took a small oblong phial out of his dressing-case, and opened the door. Right in front of him he saw, in the wan moonlight, an old man of terrible aspect. His eyes were as red burning coals; long grey hair fell over his shoulders in matted coils; his garments, which were of antique cut, were soiled and ragged, and from his wrists and ankles hung heavy manacles and rusty gyves.

"My dear sir," said Mr. Otis, "I really must insist on your oiling those chains, and have brought you for that purpose a small bottle of the Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator. It is said to be completely efficacious upon one application, and there are several testimonials to that effect on the wrapper from some of our most eminent native divines. I shall leave it here for you by the bedroom candles, and will be happy to supply you with more, should you require it." With these words the United States Minister laid the bottle down on a marble table, and, closing his door, retired to rest.

For a moment the Canterville ghost stood quite motionless in natural indignation; then, dashing the bottle violently upon the polished floor, he fled down the corridor, uttering hollow groans, and emitting a ghastly green light. Just, however, as he reached the top of the great oak staircase, a door was flung open, two little white-robed figures appeared, and a large pillow whizzed past his head! There was evidently no time to be lost, so, hastily adopting the Fourth dimension of Space as a means of escape, he vanished through the wainscoting, and the house became quite quiet.

On reaching a small secret chamber in the left wing, he leaned up against a moonbeam to recover his breath, and began to try and realize his position. Never, in a brilliant and uninterrupted career of three hundred years, had he been so grossly insulted. He thought of the Dowager Duchess, whom he had frightened into a fit as she stood before the glass in her lace and diamonds; of the four housemaids, who had gone into hysterics when he merely grinned at them through the curtains on one of the spare bedrooms; of the rector of the parish, whose candle he had blown out as he was coming late one night from the library, and who had been under the care of Sir William Gull ever since, a perfect martyr to nervous disorders; and of old Madame de Tremouillac, who, having wakened up one morning early and seen a skeleton seated in an armchair by the fire reading her diary, had been confined to her bed for six weeks with an attack of brain fever, and, on her recovery, had become reconciled to the Church, and broken off her connection with that notorious sceptic, Monsieur de Voltaire. He remembered the terrible night when the wicked Lord Canterville was found choking in his dressing-room, with the knave of diamonds half-way down his throat, and confessed, just before he died, that he had cheated Charles James Fox out of £50,000 at Crockford's by means of that very card, and swore that the ghost had made him swallow it. All his great achievements came back to him again, from the butler who had shot himself in the pantry because he had seen a green hand tapping at the window-pane, to the beautiful Lady Stutfield, who was always obliged to wear a black velvet band round her throat to hide the mark of five fingers burnt upon her white skin, and who drowned herself at last in the carp-pond at the end of the King's Walk. With the enthusiastic egotism of the true artist, he went over his most celebrated performances, and smiled bitterly to himself as he recalled to mind his last appearance as "Red Reuben, or the Strangled Babe," his début as "Guant Gibeon, the Blood-sucker of Bexley Moor," and the furore he had excited one lovely June evening by merely playing ninepins with his own bones upon the lawn-tennis ground. And after all this some wretched modern Americans were to come and offer him the Rising Sun Lubricator, and throw pillows at his head! It was quite unbearable. Besides, no ghost in history had ever been treated in this manner. Accordingly, he determined to have vengeance, and remained till daylight in an attitude of deep thought.

Footnotes

  1. Notice that in recalling his "great achievements" and relishing in his artful performances as a ghost, Sir Simon doesn't express any sympathy or remorse for his victims. In addition to killing his wife, Sir Simon is responsible for several other deaths as well. He apparently has not sought atonement or forgiveness since his death.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Lady Stutfield appears to be a fictional character of Wilde's creation. While this story Lady Stutfield drowns herself in a carp-pond, Wilde uses the same name later for one of the characters in his play *A Woman of No Importance*.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Charles James Fox (1749–1806) was a British statesman who became a main opponent of King George III. In his private life, he was a notorious gambler, womanizer, and hedonist.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Wilde reveals Sir Simon, the ghost, to be a true artist completely devoted to the aesthetics of his craft, which in this case is creating and spreading terror. The ghost has no reasons behind his art, and he seeks no objective over than perfecting the beauty of it. This approach to art and aesthetics was known as Decadence. Wilde shares these traits with his creation and was a leading member of the Decadent movement in the 19th century.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. While Madame de Tremouillac is not a historical figure, Monsieur de Voltaire is. Known by his pen name Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet was a well known writer famous for his criticisms of the Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of expression, religion, and separation of church and state.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Wilde is referring to the 19th-century English physician Sir William Gull, 1st Baronet of Brook Street. Sir William made significant contributions to medical science through his work on paraplegia, Bright's disease, and anorexia nervosa. He is mentioned here to emphasize how badly the ghost scared the local rector; the rector needed one of the best doctors to deal with the nervous disorder he suffered from the ghost's actions.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. Wilde again satirizes American faith in materialism and ingenuity in this passage. Rather than believing that his trusted detergent is either defective or ineffective, Washington concludes that supernatural activity must account for the reoccurrence of the blood stain.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Wilde is likely adopting a more popular notion of the Fourth dimension by using it to suggest that the ghost moves in ways that are different from and incomprehensible to the living. This is what allows the ghost to vanish from view or to move through physical objects. By providing a "scientific" name for what the ghost does, Wilde uses the narrator to reveal popular understanding of science at the end of the 19th century.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. Similar to his son Washington's approach with the detergent, Mr. Otis also provides a chemical solution to the "problem" of the ghost. He fails to appreciate or recognize the ghost's efforts to scare him, highlighting the differences in how the ghost and the Otises value and understand aesthetics. For the ghost, rattling chains is part of the art of being a ghost, but for Mr. Otis, the rattling chains are problems meant to be solved.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Notice that the following lists of items discussed all represent the American family's stereotypical belief that all things American, from accents to actresses, are superior to their European counterparts. This not only highlights the contrast between American and European culture, but it also shows how the family has practically no interest in discussing the ghost.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. Earlier, the narrator established himself as a fellow Englishman, and here we learn that he is recounting the events of the story based on what he learned firsthand from Mr. Otis. This style of narration gives the tale a sense of intimacy as if the narrator we sharing a very personal and true tale with his audience.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. Sarah Bernhardt was a French actress regarded as one of the best actors of all time. She became famous in France in the 1870s and was soon after highly in demand in Europe and the United States. The comparison here between Bernhardt and Davenport refers to the role that both of the stage actresses played in Victorien Sardou's *Fédora*. Of course, Wilde makes sure to have the American family prefer the American actress.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. Fanny Devonport was an Anglo-American stage actress during the late 19th century. Later in her career, she acquired the American rights to the French dramatist Victorien Sardou's *Fédora*, a play that was a big hit for the actress Sarah Bernhardt in Paris. Devonport turned it into a lucrative success in the US, premiering the play in New York in 1883 and continuing its tours through 1887.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  14. Frederic W.H. Myers and Frank Podmore were members of the Society for Psychical Research who co-authored, along with Edmund Gurney one of the first publications of the organization *Phantasms of the Living* in 1886.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. The Society For Psychical Research was founded in the United Kingdom in 1882, five years before "The Canterville Ghost" was published. Their stated purpose is to understand and comprehend psychic or paranormal activities that fall outside the range of scientific behavior. Mrs. Otis's willingness to join the group and inability to distinguish between science and pseudo-science parodies the Victorian era's faith in scientific progress.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. This is an alternate spelling of the word "furor," which refers to a situation in which many people are angry or upset.

    — Susan Hurn
  17. "Wainscoting" refers to a certain type of wooden panels that cover the lower part of the walls of a room or hallway. The area above the wainscoting can be painted plaster, wallpaper, or some other material design.

    — Susan Hurn
  18. In context, Mr. Otis is either referring to the most famous and respected American clergymen or theologians or he is using "native divines" to mean prominent scientists and entrepreneurs.

    — Susan Hurn
  19. "Phial" is another word for "vial," which is a small glass container used especially for containing liquid medicines.

    — Susan Hurn