2009-11-03

003 - There Is No Death, by Florence Marryat: The Last Apparition of Major Cooper



Before the question of Spiritualism arose in modern times, I had had my own little private experiences on the subject. From an early age I was accustomed to see, and to be very much alarmed at seeing, certain forms that appeared to me at night. One in particular, I remember, was that of a very short or deformed old woman, who was very constant to me. She used to stand on tiptoe to look at me as I lay in bed, and however dark the room might be, I could always see every article in it, as if illuminated, whilst she remained there.
I was in the habit of communicating these visions to my mother and sisters (my father had passed from us by that time), and always got well ridiculed for my pains. “Another of Flo's optical illusions,” they would cry, until I really came to think that the appearances I saw were due to some defect in my eye-sight. I have heard my first husband say, that when he married me he thought he should never rest for an entire night in his bed, so often did I wake him with the description of some man or woman I had seen in the room. I recall these figures distinctly. They were always dressed in white, from which circumstance I imagined that they were natives who had stolen in to rob us, until, from repeated observation, I discovered they only formed part of another and more enlarged series of my “optical illusions”.
All this time I was very much afraid of seeing what I termed “ghosts”. No love of occult science led me to investigate the cause of my alarm. I only wished never to see the “illusions” again, and was too frightened to remain by myself lest they should appear to me.








When I had been married for about two years, the head-quarters of my husband’s regiment, the 12th Madras Native Infantry, was ordered to Rangoon, whilst the left wing, commanded by a Major Cooper, was sent to assist in the bombardment of Canton. Major Cooper had only been married a short time, and by rights his wife had no claim to sail with the head-quarters for Burmah, but as she had no friends in Madras, and was moreover expecting her confinement, our Colonel permitted her to do so, and she accompanied us to Rangoon, settling herself in a house not far from our own.
One morning, early in July, I was startled by receiving a hurried scrawl from her, containing only these words: “Come! Come! Come!” I set off at once, thinking she had been taken ill, but on my arrival I found Mrs. Cooper sitting up in bed with only her usual servants about her.
“What is the matter?” I exclaimed.
“Mark is dead,” she answered me. “He sat in that chair…”  She pointed to one by the bedside.  “He sat in that chair, all last night. I noticed every detail of his face and figure. He was in undress, and he never raised his eyes, but sat with the peak of his forage cap pulled down over his face. But I could see the back of his head and his hair, and I know it was he. I spoke to him but he did not answer me, and I am sure he is dead.”
Naturally, I imagined this vision to have been dictated solely by fear and the state of her health. I laughed at her for a simpleton, and told her it was nothing but fancy, and reminded her that by the last accounts received from the seat of war, Major Cooper was perfectly well and anticipating a speedy reunion with her.
Laugh as I would, however, I could not laugh her out of her belief, and seeing how low-spirited she was, I offered to pass the night with her. It was a very nice night indeed. As soon as ever we had retired to bed, although a lamp burned in the room, Mrs. Cooper declared that her husband was sitting in the same chair as the night before, and accused me of deception when I declared that I saw nothing at all.
I sat up in bed and strained my eyes, but I could discern nothing but an empty arm-chair, and told her so. She persisted that Major Cooper sat there, and described his personal appearance and actions. I got out of bed and sat in the chair, when she cried out: “Don’t, don’t! You are sitting right on him!”
It was evident that the apparition was as real to her as if it had been flesh and blood. I jumped up again fast enough, not feeling very comfortable myself, and lay by her side for the remainder of the night, listening to her asseverations that Major Cooper was either dying or dead. She would not part with me, and on the third night I had to endure the same ordeal as on the second.
After the third night the apparition ceased to appear to her, and I was permitted to return home. But before I did so, Mrs. Cooper showed me her pocket-book, in which she had written down against the 8th, 9th and l0th of July this sentence: “Mark sat by my bedside all night.”
The time passed on, and no bad news arrived from China, but the mails had been intercepted and postal communication suspended. Occasionally, however, we received letters by a sailing vessel. At last came September, and on the third of that month Mrs. Cooper’s baby was born and died. She was naturally in great distress about it, and I was doubly horrified when I was called from her bedside to receive the news of her husband’s death, which had taken place from a sudden attack of fever at Macao.
We did not intend to let Mrs. Cooper hear of this until she was convalescent, but as soon as I re-entered her room she broached the subject. “Are there any letters from China?” she asked. (Now this question was remarkable in itself, because the mails having been cut off, there was no particular date when letters might be expected to arrive from the seat of war.)
Fearing she would insist upon hearing the news, I temporized and answered her: “We have received none.”
“But there is a letter for me,” she continued. “A letter with the intelligence of Mark’s death… It is useless denying it. I know he is dead. He died on the l0th of July.”
And on reference to the official memorandum, this was found to be true. Major Cooper had been taken ill on the first day he had appeared to his wife, and died on the third. And this incident was the more remarkable, because they were neither of them young nor sentimental people, neither had they lived long enough together to form any very strong sympathy or accord between them. But as I have related it, so it occurred. 


This is part of the "There Is No Death" series, a non-fiction book by Florence Marryat, edited by Patrick Bernauw. 



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