'By the ghost of one of the witches, of course,' interrupted Dear Jones.
'Now how could it be the ghost of a witch, since the witches were all burned at the stake? You never heard of
anybody who was burned having a ghost, did you?'
'That's an argument in favor of cremation, at any rate,' replied Jones, evading the direct question.
'It is, if you don't like ghosts; I do,' said Baby Van Rensselaer.
'And so do I,' added Uncle Larry. 'I love a ghost as dearly as an Englishman loves a lord.'
'Go on with your story,' said the Duchess, majestically overruling all extraneous discussion.
'This little old house at Salem was haunted,' resumed Uncle Larry. 'And by a very distinguished ghost--or at
least by a ghost with very remarkable attributes.'
'What was he like?' asked Baby Van Rensselaer, with a premonitory shiver of anticipatory delight.
'It had a lot of peculiarities. In the first place, it never appeared to the master of the house. Mostly it confined
its visitations to unwelcome guests. In the course of the last hundred years it had frightened away four
successive mothers-in-law, while never intruding on the head of the household.'
'I guess that ghost had been one of the boys when he was alive and in the flesh.' This was Dear Jones's
contribution to the telling of the tale.
'In the second place,' continued Uncle Larry, 'it never frightened anybody the first time it appeared. Only on
the second visit were the ghost-seers scared; but then they were scared enough for twice, and they rarely
mustered up courage enough to risk a third interview. One of the most curious characteristics of this
well-meaning spook was that it had no face--or at least that nobody ever saw its face.'
'Perhaps he kept his countenance veiled?' queried the Duchess, who was beginning to remember that she
never did like ghost stories.
'That was what I was never able to find out. I have asked several people who saw the ghost, and none of them
could tell me anything about its face, and yet while in its presence they never noticed its features, and never
remarked on their absence or concealment. It was only afterward when they tried to recall calmly all the
circumstances of meeting with the mysterious stranger, that they became aware that they had not seen its face.
And they could not say whether the features were covered, or whether they were wanting, or what the trouble
was. They knew only that the face was never seen. And no matter how often they might see it, they never
fathomed this mystery. To this day nobody knows whether the ghost which used to haunt the little old house
in Salem had a face, or what manner of face it had.'
'How awfully weird!' said Baby Van Rensselaer. 'And why did the ghost go away?'
'I haven't said it went away,' answered Uncle Larry, with much dignity.
'But you said it used to haunt the little old house at Salem, so I supposed it had moved. Didn't it?'
'You shall be told in due time. Eliphalet Duncan used to spend most of his summer vacations at Salem, and
the ghost never bothered him at all, for he was the master of the house--much to his disgust, too, because he
wanted to see for himself the mysterious tenant at will of his property. But he never saw it, never. He arranged
with friends to call him whenever it might appear, and he slept in the next room with the door open; and yet
when their frightened cries waked him the ghost was gone, and his only reward was to hear reproachful sighs
as soon as he went back to bed. You see, the ghost thought it was not fair of Eliphalet to seek an introduction
which was plainly unwelcome.'
Dear Jones interrupted the story-teller by getting up and tucking a heavy rug snugly around Baby Van
Rensselaer's feet, for the sky was now overcast and gray, and the air was damp and penetrating.
'One fine spring morning,' pursued Uncle Larry, 'Eliphalet Duncan received great news. I told you that there
was a title in the family in Scotland, and that Eliphalet's father was the younger son of a younger son. Well, it
happened that all Eliphalet's father's brothers and uncles had died off without male issue except the eldest son
of the eldest, and he, of course, bore the title, and was Baron Duncan of Duncan. Now the great news that
Eliphalet Duncan received in New York one fine spring morning was that Baron Duncan and his only son had
been yachting in the Hebrides, and they had been caught in a black squall, and they were both dead. So my
friend Eliphalet Duncan inherited the title and the estates.'