The Best Ghost Stories HTML version
The Rival Ghosts
By Brander Matthews
The good ship sped on her way across the calm Atlantic. It was an outward passage,
according to the little charts which the company had charily distributed, but most of the
passengers were homeward bound, after a summer of rest and recreation, and they were
counting the days before they might hope to see Fire Island Light. On the lee side of the
boat, comfortably sheltered from the wind, and just by the door of the captain's room
(which was theirs during the day), sat a little group of returning Americans. The Duchess
(she was down on the purser's list as Mrs. Martin, but her friends and familiars called her
the Duchess of Washington Square) and Baby Van Rensselaer (she was quite old enough
to vote, had her sex been entitled to that duty, but as the younger of two sisters she was
still the baby of the family)—the Duchess and Baby Van Rensselaer were discussing the
pleasant English voice and the not unpleasant English accent of a manly young lordling
who was going to America for sport. Uncle Larry and Dear Jones were enticing each
other into a bet on the ship's run of the morrow.
"I'll give you two to one she don't make 420," said Dear Jones.
"I'll take it," answered Uncle Larry. "We made 427 the fifth day last year." It was Uncle
Larry's seventeenth visit to Europe, and this was therefore his thirty-fourth voyage.
"And when did you get in?" asked Baby Van Rensselaer. "I don't care a bit about the run,
so long as we get in soon."
"We crossed the bar Sunday night, just seven days after we left Queenstown, and we
dropped anchor off Quarantine at three o'clock on Monday morning."
"I hope we shan't do that this time. I can't seem to sleep any when the boat stops."
"I can; but I didn't," continued Uncle Larry; "because my state-room was the most for'ard
in the boat, and the donkey-engine that let down the anchor was right over my head."
"So you got up and saw the sunrise over the bay," said Dear Jones, "with the electric
lights of the city twinkling in the distance, and the first faint flush of the dawn in the east
just over Fort Lafayette, and the rosy tinge which spread softly upward, and——"
"Did you both come back together?" asked the Duchess.
"Because he has crossed thirty-four times you must not suppose that he has a monopoly
in sunrises," retorted Dear Jones. "No, this was my own sunrise; and a mighty pretty one
it was, too."