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
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
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-
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 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
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
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
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
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-
Miss Prudence held up the sketch of the
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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:
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.