“After twenty years I have seen her”: A ghost story for Mother’s Day: 1885

dark mother 1912

MY OWN STORY.

In the month of September, 1885, my mother was living and, seemingly, in good health, and likely to live for many years longer.

We had for three summers occupied a house at Mianus, a little Connecticut village, not far from CosCob station, and were staying later than usual.

I had been out for a walk one pleasant afternoon, and had come home to find my mother reading in the dining-room. My sisters went up-stairs, but I sat down upon a lounge in the room, and, feeling curiously lazy, stretched my feet out, shut my eyes and instantly fell asleep. I have never known myself to sleep so soundly in the day-time, and it was unusual for me to take that sort of nap. When I awoke it was still a warm, bright twilight.

I lifted myself on my elbow and looked about the room and noted several things. Particularly that while I slept, the new servant had been setting the tea-table without awakening me by the necessary clatter.

As I thought of this, the girl brought in two plates of bread, and I noticed that she had arranged the slices in a very pretty way, the edges overlapping and turned inward, and I saw that everything she had placed on the table was arranged with geometrical precision, and said to myself “she is neat,” and felt the usual satisfaction in thinking this of a newly hired domestic.

I tell you this that you may know I was wide awake, for afterward I found that all was just as I saw it then.

Meanwhile, I noticed that my mother sat in a small carpet-chair, quite unemployed, which was unusual for her, for she generally had a book in her hand, if she were not otherwise busy. “Somehow,” I thought to myself, as the girl left the room, “mother does not look as she usually does.” I had never perceived that there was any resemblance between my mother and grandmother, except the color of their eyes, but now my mother’s features seemed the counterpart of grandma’s. The sudden and perfect likeness startled me; and again, my mother never wore a cap: her hair, still black, though mixed with gray, was worn as she had worn it for long years. Now it was smoothed back beneath a little lace cap, with white satin ribbons, and she had on her shoulders a silk shawl of a soft cream color. I had never known mother to wear such a shawl.

In face, pose of the figure and every item of the dress, she had suddenly become the very counterpart of grandmother—and what was she looking at so wistfully?

I followed the direction of the dark eyes, and saw, at the other end of the long table, my mother, her head bent over the last page of a book which she was intent on finishing before the light faded. Utterly absorbed in it, she noticed nothing else; it was her way when a book pleased her.

The difference in the two faces was more marked than I had thought it.

“It was Grandmother” —I said, under my breath-— Grandmother.”

I looked back again at the little carpet-chair, but it was empty. I arose and went out into a place we called the grove; there I walked up and down, saying to myself: “after twenty years I have seen her again, after twenty years I have seen her.” I had no doubt whatever about it, it was as if one I knew to be alive had come and gone in that strange way. I had been no more excited than I should have been in meeting a living friend so dear as she had been, after so long an absence.

Whatever it was, it was no dream. I said to myself over and over again, “After twenty years I have seen her again,” and the impression made upon my mind was that wherever she dwelt her thoughts were with us still, her tenderness yet ours. The look she had fixed upon my mother was a very earnest one, and I remembered that old belief—the superstition of the peasant everywhere—that when the spirit of a mother is seen looking at a son or daughter, it is because death is close at hand.

I tried to drive the thought away, but it remained with me, although, at the time, my mother was in excellent health and spirits and showed few signs of age, and there was no special reason for anxiety.

I never told my mother of this happening, nor my other relatives, until afterward.

In November, my mother was suddenly taken ill and died after a few weeks’ illness, and, in my sorrow, I confess that the memory of my vision has sometimes comforted me, for though others may believe it an hallucination, I have never been able to consider it one, and it is sweet to think that those two are together, and that mother-love is eternal.

The Freed Spirit: Or Glimpses Beyond the Border, Mary Kyle Dallas, 1894

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mary Kyle Dallas was a prolific poet, playwright, journalist, and author–she once estimated that she had written 8,000 stories.  She had a keen interest in the paranormal; the stories in The Freed Spirit truly Grip the reader. While some of her novels such as Grantford Grange, or The Gipsy Mother and Eunice Earl, or The Fatal Compact were works designed principally to put bread on the table–her father and husband both died while she was quite young, leaving her as the household breadwinner for an extensive family–she also wrote the amusing best-selling book, The Grinder Papers: Being the Adventures of Miss Charity Grinder, Wherein are detailed her numerous hair-breadth escapes and wonderful adventures while on a visit to New York from the country.

Previous posts on mothers and motherhood:  a ghostly mother returns to see her dying son safely across the great divide; baby books holding stories dear to the motherly heart,  a jealous mother’s spirit threatens her children’s stepmother, and an assortment of snippets on babies and motherhood.

For Mother’s Day, that automatic writer over at Haunted Ohio has written about a strange mother and daughter duo–or perhaps trio–in the story of Pearl Curran, her adopted daughter, Patience Worth Curran, and the spirit of a Puritan woman “Patience Worth,” who dictated novels and poetry to Pearl and arranged for the child’s adoption. 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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