A Grammatical Ghost





THERE was only one possible ob-

jection to the drawing-room, and

that was the occasional presence

of Miss Carew; and only one pos-

sible objection to Miss Carew. And that was,

that she was dead.



She had been dead twenty years, as a matter

of fact and record, and to the last of her life

sacredly preserved the treasures and traditions

of her family, a family bound up -- as it is

quite unnecessary to explain to any one in

good society -- with all that is most venerable

and heroic in the history of the Republic.

Miss Carew never relaxed the proverbial hos-

pitality of her house, even when she remained

its sole representative. She continued to

preside at her table with dignity and state,

and to set an example of excessive modesty

and gentle decorum to a generation of restless

young women.



It is not likely that having lived a life of

such irreproachable gentility as this, Miss

Carew would have the bad taste to die in any

way not pleasant to mention in fastidious

society. She could be trusted to the last, not

to outrage those friends who quoted her as

an exemplar of propriety. She died very un-

obtrusively of an affection of the heart, one

June morning, while trimming her rose trellis,

and her lavender-colored print was not even

rumpled when she fell, nor were more than

the tips of her little bronze slippers visible.



"Isn't it dreadful," said the Philadelphians,

"that the property should go to a very, very

distant cousin in Iowa or somewhere else on

the frontier, about whom nobody knows any-

thing at all?"



The Carew treasures were packed in boxes

and sent away into the Iowa wilderness; the

Carew traditions were preserved by the His-

torical Society; the Carew property, standing

in one of the most umbrageous and aristo-

cratic suburbs of Philadelphia, was rented to

all manner of folk -- anybody who had money

enough to pay the rental -- and society entered

its doors no more.



But at last, after twenty years, and when all

save the oldest Philadelphians had forgotten

Miss Lydia Carew, the very, very distant

cousin appeared. He was quite in the prime

of life, and so agreeable and unassuming that

nothing could be urged against him save his

patronymic, which, being Boggs, did not

commend itself to the euphemists. With him

were two maiden sisters, ladies of excellent

taste and manners, who restored the Carew

china to its ancient cabinets, and replaced

the Carew pictures upon the walls, with ad-

ditions not out of keeping with the elegance

of these heirlooms. Society, with a magna-

nimity almost dramatic, overlooked the name

of Boggs -- and called.



All was well. At least, to an outsider all

seemed to be well. But, in truth, there was

a certain distress in the old mansion, and in

the hearts of the well-behaved Misses Boggs.

It came about most unexpectedly. The sis-

ters had been sitting upstairs, looking out at

the beautiful grounds of the old place, and

marvelling at the violets, which lifted their

heads from every possible cranny about the

house, and talking over the cordiality which

they had been receiving by those upon whom

they had no claim, and they were filled with

amiable satisfaction. Life looked attractive.

They had often been grateful to Miss Lydia

Carew for leaving their brother her fortune.

Now they felt even more grateful to her. She

had left them a Social Position -- one, which

even after twenty years of desuetude, was fit

for use.



They descended the stairs together, with

arms clasped about each other's waists, and as

they did so presented a placid and pleasing

sight. They entered their drawing-room with

the intention of brewing a cup of tea, and

drinking it in calm sociability in the twilight.

But as they entered the room they became

aware of the presence of a lady, who was

already seated at their tea-table, regarding

their old Wedgewood with the air of a con-

noisseur.



There were a number of peculiarities about

this intruder. To begin with, she was hatless,

quite as if she were a habitué of the house,

and was costumed in a prim lilac-colored

lawn of the style of two decades past. But

a greater peculiarity was the resemblance

this lady bore to a faded daguerrotype. If

looked at one way, she was perfectly discern-

ible; if looked at another, she went out in a

sort of blur. Notwithstanding this compara-

tive invisibility, she exhaled a delicate per-

fume of sweet lavender, very pleasing to the

nostrils of the Misses Boggs, who stood look-

ing at her in gentle and unprotesting surprise.



"I beg your pardon," began Miss Pru-

dence, the younger of the Misses Boggs,

"but --"



But at this moment the Daguerrotype be-

came a blur, and Miss Prudence found her-

self addressing space. The Misses Boggs

were irritated. They had never encountered

any mysteries in Iowa. They began an im-

patient search behind doors and portières,

and even under sofas, though it was quite

absurd to suppose that a lady recognizing

the merits of the Carew Wedgewood would

so far forget herself as to crawl under a

sofa.



When they had given up all hope of dis-

covering the intruder, they saw her standing

at the far end of the drawing-room critically

examining a water-color marine. The elder

Miss Boggs started toward her with stern

decision, but the little Daguerrotype turned

with a shadowy smile, became a blur and an

imperceptibility.



Miss Boggs looked at Miss Prudence Boggs.



"If there were ghosts," she said, "this

would be one."



"If there were ghosts," said Miss Prudence

Boggs, "this would be the ghost of Lydia

Carew."



The twilight was settling into blackness, and

Miss Boggs nervously lit the gas while Miss

Prudence ran for other tea-cups, preferring,

for reasons superfluous to mention, not to

drink out of the Carew china that evening.



The next day, on taking up her embroidery

frame, Miss Boggs found a number of old-

fashioned cross-stitches added to her Ken-

sington. Prudence, she knew, would never

have degraded herself by taking a cross-stitch,

and the parlor-maid was above taking such a

liberty. Miss Boggs mentioned the incident

that night at a dinner given by an ancient

friend of the Carews.



"Oh, that's the work of Lydia Carew, with-

out a doubt!" cried the hostess. "She visits

every new family that moves to the house, but

she never remains more than a week or two

with any one."



"It must be that she disapproves of them,"

suggested Miss Boggs.



"I think that's it," said the hostess. "She

doesn't like their china, or their fiction."



"I hope she'll disapprove of us," added

Miss Prudence.



The hostess belonged to a very old Philadel-

phian family, and she shook her head.



"I should say it was a compliment for even

the ghost of Miss Lydia Carew to approve of

one," she said severely.



The next morning, when the sisters entered

their drawing-room there were numerous evi-

dences of an occupant during their absence.

The sofa pillows had been rearranged so that

the effect of their grouping was less bizarre

than that favored by the Western women; a

horrid little Buddhist idol with its eyes fixed

on its abdomen, had been chastely hidden

behind a Dresden shepherdess, as unfit for

the scrutiny of polite eyes; and on the table

where Miss Prudence did work in water colors,

after the fashion of the impressionists, lay a

prim and impossible composition representing

a moss-rose and a number of heartsease, col-

ored with that caution which modest spinster

artists instinctively exercise.



"Oh, there's no doubt it's the work of Miss

Lydia Carew," said Miss Prudence, contemptu-

ously. "There's no mistaking the drawing of

that rigid little rose. Don't you remember

those wreaths and bouquets framed, among the

pictures we got when the Carew pictures were

sent to us? I gave some of them to an orphan

asylum and burned up the rest."



"Hush!" cried Miss Boggs, involuntarily.

"If she heard you, it would hurt her feelings

terribly. Of course, I mean --" and she

blushed. "It might hurt her feelings --

but how perfectly ridiculous! It's impos-

sible!"



Miss Prudence held up the sketch of the

moss-rose.



"THAT may be impossible in an artistic

sense, but it is a palpable thing."



"Bosh!" cried Miss Boggs.



"But," protested Miss Prudence, "how do

you explain it?"



"I don't," said Miss Boggs, and left the

room.



That evening the sisters made a point of

being in the drawing-room before the dusk

came on, and of lighting the gas at the first

hint of twilight. They didn't believe in Miss

Lydia Carew -- but still they meant to be

beforehand with her. They talked with un-

wonted vivacity and in a louder tone than was

their custom. But as they drank their tea

even their utmost verbosity could not make

them oblivious to the fact that the perfume of

sweet lavender was stealing insidiously through

the room. They tacitly refused to recognize

this odor and all that it indicated, when sud-

denly, with a sharp crash, one of the old

Carew tea-cups fell from the tea-table to the

floor and was broken. The disaster was fol-

lowed by what sounded like a sigh of pain and

dismay.



"I didn't suppose Miss Lydia Carew would

ever be as awkward as that," cried the younger

Miss Boggs, petulantly.



"Prudence," said her sister with a stern

accent, "please try not to be a fool. You

brushed the cup off with the sleeve of your

dress."



"Your theory wouldn't be so bad," said Miss

Prudence, half laughing and half crying, "if

there were any sleeves to my dress, but, as you

see, there aren't," and then Miss Prudence

had something as near hysterics as a healthy

young woman from the West can have.



"I wouldn't think such a perfect lady as

Lydia Carew," she ejaculated between her

sobs, "would make herself so disagreeable!

You may talk about good-breeding all you

please, but I call such intrusion exceedingly

bad taste. I have a horrible idea that she

likes us and means to stay with us. She left

those other people because she did not approve

of their habits or their grammar. It would be

just our luck to please her."



"Well, I like your egotism," said Miss

Boggs.



However, the view Miss Prudence took of

the case appeared to be the right one. Time

went by and Miss Lydia Carew still remained.

When the ladies entered their drawing-room

they would see the little lady-like Daguerro-

type revolving itself into a blur before one of

the family portraits. Or they noticed that

the yellow sofa cushion, toward which she

appeared to feel a peculiar antipathy, had

been dropped behind the sofa upon the floor,

or that one of Jane Austen's novels, which

none of the family ever read, had been re-

moved from the book shelves and left open

upon the table.



"I cannot become reconciled to it," com-

plained Miss Boggs to Miss Prudence. "I

wish we had remained in Iowa where we

belong. Of course I don't believe in the

thing! No sensible person would. But still

I cannot become reconciled."



But their liberation was to come, and in a

most unexpected manner.



A relative by marriage visited them from

the West. He was a friendly man and had

much to say, so he talked all through dinner,

and afterward followed the ladies to the draw-

ing-room to finish his gossip. The gas in the

room was turned very low, and as they entered

Miss Prudence caught sight of Miss Carew, in

company attire, sitting in upright propriety

in a stiff-backed chair at the extremity of the

apartment.



Miss Prudence had a sudden idea.



"We will not turn up the gas," she said,

with an emphasis intended to convey private

information to her sister. "It will be more

agreeable to sit here and talk in this soft

light."



Neither her brother nor the man from the

West made any objection. Miss Boggs and

Miss Prudence, clasping each other's hands,

divided their attention between their corporeal

and their incorporeal guests. Miss Boggs was

confident that her sister had an idea, and was

willing to await its development. As the guest

from Iowa spoke, Miss Carew bent a politely

attentive ear to what he said.



"Ever since Richards took sick that time,"

he said briskly, "it seemed like he shed all

responsibility." (The Misses Boggs saw the

Daguerrotype put up her shadowy head with

a movement of doubt and apprehension.)

"The fact of the matter was, Richards didn't

seem to scarcely get on the way he might have

been expected to." (At this conscienceless

split to the infinitive and misplacing of the

preposition, Miss Carew arose trembling per-

ceptibly.) "I saw it wasn't no use for him to

count on a quick recovery --"



The Misses Boggs lost the rest of the sen-

tence, for at the utterance of the double nega-

tive Miss Lydia Carew had flashed out, not in

a blur, but with mortal haste, as when life

goes out at a pistol shot!



The man from the West wondered why Miss

Prudence should have cried at so pathetic a

part of his story:



"Thank Goodness!"



And their brother was amazed to see Miss Boggs

kiss Miss Prudence with passion and energy.



It was the end. Miss Carew returned no more.





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