Standing on the step to receive them was an old woman, neatly dressed in black silk, with a white cap and apron. This was Mrs. Umney, the housekeeper, whom Mrs. Otis, at Lady Canterville’s earnest request, had consented to keep on in her former position. She made them each a low curtsey as they alighted, and said in a quaint, old-fashioned manner, “I bid you welcome to Canterville Chase.” Following her, they passed through the fine Tudor hall into the library, a long, low room, panelled in black oak, at the end of which was a large stained-glass window. Here they found tea laid out for them, and, after taking off their wraps, they sat down and began to look round, while Mrs. Umney waited on them.

Suddenly Mrs. Otis caught sight of a dull red stain on the floor just by the fireplace and, quite unconscious of what it really signified, said to Mrs. Umney, “I am afraid something has been spilt there.”
“Yes, madam,” replied the old housekeeper in a low voice, “blood has been spilt on that spot.”
“How horrid,” cried Mrs. Otis; “I don’t at all care for bloodstains in a sitting-room. It must be removed at once.”

The old woman smiled, and answered in the same low, mysterious voice, “It is the blood of Lady Eleanore de Canterville, who was murdered on that very spot by her own husband, Sir Simon de Canterville, in 1575. Sir Simon survived her nine years, and disappeared suddenly under very mysterious circumstances. His body has never been discovered, but his guilty spirit still haunts the Chase. The bloodstain has been much admired by tourists and others, and cannot be removed.

Oscar Wilde
The Canterville Ghost, 1887


Fireside beckons…

I forced my way against an impalpable pressure to the foot of the stairs and looked up at her. She stood, taller than I had seen her before, expanding and gathering form, palely luminous. She began to float down towards me, with a slow, sweeping movement I saw the features; the eyes were intensifying their light. I did not want Stella to see those eyes.

I stood on the second step, with my hands behind me gripping the rail. In that way I could hold myself up from falling, despite the trembling of my knees. I shook all over; my skeleton was of ice and my flesh shrank from it; I could not get my voice out of my throat; the words that I spoke were whispered and my laugh hoarse…

The form shrank and dwindled, losing outline and light; it became a greyish column of fog with a luminous nucleus, and it bent. While I pressed upward, it doubled back. My voice was frozen in my throat, but my thoughts went on beating it, like a flail. I saw it cowering, wreathing and writhing like smoke under a downward wind.

Dorothy Macardle
The Uninvited, 1942