2009-12-23

013 - There Is No Death, by Florence Marryat: A Ghost Announcing His Death







My eldest daughter was spending a holiday with me once after my second marriage, and during the month of August. She had been very much overworked, and I made her lie in bed till noon.


One morning I had been to her room at that hour to wake her, and on turning to leave it (in the broad daylight, remember), I encountered a man on the landing outside her door. He was dressed in a white shirt with black studs down the front, and a pair of black cloth trousers. He had dark hair and eyes, and small features; altogether, he struck me as having rather a sinister and unpleasant appearance.



I stood still, with the open door in my hand, and gazed at him. He looked at me also for a minute, and then turned and walked upstairs to an upper storey where the nursery was situated, beckoning me, with a jerk of his hand, to follow him.


My daughter (remarking a peculiar expression in my eyes, which I am told they assume on such occasions) said: “Mother! What do you see?”


“Only a spirit,” I answered, “and he has gone upstairs.”


“Now, what is the good of seeing them in that way?” said Eva, rather impatiently (for this dear child always disliked and avoided Spiritualism), and I was fain to confess that I really did not know the especial good of encountering a sinister-looking gentleman in shirt and trousers, on a blazing noon in August. After which the circumstance passed from my mind, until recalled again.


A few months later I had occasion to change the children's nurse, and the woman who took her place was an Icelandic girl named Margaret Thommassen, who had only been in England for three weeks. I found that she had been educated far above the average run of domestic servants, and was well acquainted with the writings of Swedenborg and other authors.


One day as I walked up the nursery stairs to visit the children in bed, I encountered the same man I had seen outside my daughter's room, standing on the upper landing, as though waiting my approach. He was dressed as before, but this time his arms were folded across his breast and his face downcast, as though he were unhappy about something. He disappeared as I reached the landing, and I mentioned the circumstance to no one.


A few days later, Margaret Thommassen asked me timidly if I believed in the possibility of the spirits of the departed returning to this earth. When I replied that I did, she appeared overjoyed, and said she had never hoped to find anyone in England to whom she could speak about it. She then gave me a mass of evidence on the subject which forms a large part of the religion of the Icelanders.


Margaret told me that she felt uneasy about her eldest brother, to whom she was strongly attached. He had left Iceland a year before to become a waiter in Germany, and had promised faithfully that so long as he lived she should hear from him every month, and when he failed to write she must conclude he was dead. She had heard nothing from him now for three months, and each night when the nursery light was put out, someome came and sat at the foot of her bed and sighed.


She then produced his photograph, and to my astonishment I recognized at once the man who had appeared to me some months before I knew that such a woman as Margaret Thommassen existed. He was taken in a shirt and trousers, just as I had seen him, and wore the same repulsive (to me) and sinister expression. I then told his sister that I had already seen him twice in that house, and she grew very excited and anxious to learn the truth.


In consequence I sat with her in hopes of obtaining some news of her brother, who immediately came to the table, and told her that he was dead, with the circumstances under which he had died, and the address where she was to write, to obtain particulars. And on Margaret Thommassen writing as she was directed, she obtained the practical proofs of her brother's death, without which this story would be worthless.



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