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Mrs Zant and the Ghost

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Mrs Zant and the Ghost

by Wilkie Collins

Genre: Drama
Format of Original Source: Novella
Recommended Adaptation Length:

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


“When a man has lost his wife,” she said, “there’s some difference of opinion in Parliament, as I hear, whether he does right or wrong, if he marries his wife’s sister. Wait a bit! I’m coming to the point. My master is one who has a long head on his shoulders; he sees consequences which escape the notice of people like me. In his way of thinking, if one man may marry his wife’s sister, and no harm done, where’s the objection if another man pays a compliment to the family, and marries his brother’s widow? My master, if you please, is that other man. Take the widow away before she marries him.”

This was beyond endurance.

“You insult Mrs. Zant,” Mr. Rayburn answered, “if you suppose that such a thing is possible!”

“Oh! I insult her, do I? Listen to me. One of three things will happen. She will be entrapped into consenting to it–or frightened into consenting to it–or drugged into consenting to it–“

Mr. Rayburn was too indignant to let her go on.

“You are talking nonsense,” he said. “There can be no marriage; the law forbids it.”

“Are you one of the people who see no further than their noses?” she asked insolently. “Won’t the law take his money? Is he obliged to mention that he is related to her by marriage, when he buys the license?” She paused; her humor changed; she stamped furiously on the floor. The true motive that animated her showed itself in her next words, and warned Mr. Rayburn to grant a more favorable hearing than he had accorded to her yet. “If you won’t stop it,” she burst out, “I will! If he marries anybody, he is bound to marry ME. Will you take her away? I ask you, for the last time–_will_ you take her away?”


Collins wrote a number of ghost stories. But from this excerpt, it’s possible the “ghost” in the title is more about a wife’s memories of her deceased husband, and her guilt about feelings for her husband’s brother?


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