Old Lisbeth: 1887

old woman bent double 

Mr. T., a high judicial dignity, now pensioned off, had in his service a faithful creature, “old Lisbeth,” handed over to him by his parents, to whom he had promised to keep her for life. Lisbeth had saved money during her life-long service in the family, and this seemed to have aroused the cupidity of some relatives, who finally induced her to leave her kind master, and live with them. She parted from him in tears, and Mr. T. was also deeply moved, having tried his utmost to dissuade her. Years elapsed. He had moved to a distant town, but on her birthdays and also at Christmas he had invariably written to the old woman, and sent her some money, without, however, getting a single acknowledgment. Still, he never doubted that she was otherwise than well and happy, as he had strictly enjoined on her to appeal to him in case of need. But Mr. T. narrates: “One cold, dark November night in 1887, at about 4 A. m., I was suddenly and violently awakened, and made to sit up in bed. A nameless terror seized on me. In full possession of all my mental faculties, and with my eyes wide open, I felt spellbound and paralyzed by a strange influence, and by a will apparently more powerful than my own. Involuntarily was made to look in a certain direction, and then with terrible reality a vision was presented to me. I saw a deep river faintly illuminated by a yellowish-grey light, and floating on it, with head and body distinctly visible, and the long grey hair tossed by the stream, the well-known form of old Lisbeth. She stared at me reproachfully with eyes fixed and expressive of despair, intensified to frenzy, from which I was unable to avert my own. They held me spellbound, and a conversation without words, but distinctly striking my ear, took place between us.

“‘Master,’ she said, ‘master, why did you leave me so entirely forlorn? You were my only hope and consolation: your fault it is that I must die so miserably.’

“‘Lisbeth,’ I replied, ‘you had money, and in every letter I wrote to you I sent you some. Why did yon not write or return to me? Your faithful services to me, your devotion to my parents I never forgot.’

“‘O master,’ said the form, ‘now I know you did not forsake me; but my relatives intercepted your letters, and kept the money. They flattered me, until I had given them nearly all I had, and the rest they forced from me by threats. They would not let me write or come to you, and when I had nothing more to give them they beat me, starved me, and made me sleep, half-naked, in a cow’s pen on a little straw. Only last evening my own sister’s child said unto me, “Make sure you die soon. Yon are not fit for anything else. Tomorrow you most leave this house.” To-night I could not sleep, and knew not what to do. I thought of you, but then I said: ‘He will have nothing more to do with me,’ and I heard a voice saying: “Nobody will help you; make an end to your misery.” I ran to the river and jumped in. Master, you are good.’ With these words a happy smile lit up the old face. The eyes lost their terrible expression, and assumed one soft and peaceful. The whole vision became gradually more distant, faded, and was gone. Further sleep that night was impossible. Mr. T. determined to write at once to the clergyman of the parish in which Lisbeth lived, but urgent business that day prevented him, and he was already beginning to smile at himself for allowing a “vivid waking dream” to agitate him so much. When reading his paper on the following morning, he found in it an account of old Lisbeth’s suicide by drowning, at the time he had the vision, and under circumstances and from causes exactly identical with those revealed to him at that time, an incredible story, or at best but a marvellous coincidence, says the ignorant skeptic. Marvellous, indeed, says I, but one of those marvels of God’s spiritual universe, of which but an infinitesimal fraction probably is revealed to us in our earth-life. The spirit of a drowning woman in the very act of departing from the body, rushes to the person then uppermost in her thoughts, and impresses on that person not Only these thoughts, but even her own picture, and that of her surroundings.

Religio-Philosophical Journal 4 January 1890

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This is a sad tale. Yet it is curious that Mr T., who had the legal training and had been so good a friend to “old Lisbeth,” did not think of bringing her vile relatives to justice. There were many cases in the popular press where the families of persons of even a slight fortune were convicted of neglect, torture, and extortion to the accompaniment of stern remarks from the bench. Still, it should serve as a warning to all domestics who might be thinking of leaving a place where they are well-suited in search of betterment, which too often turns out to be illusory.  That plausible widowed gentleman in search of a companion to his young daughter invariably turns out to be an arch-seducer in disguise; relatives pretending to be solicitous of the welfare of their aged sibling end by openly wishing her dead.

Mrs Daffodil has been prudent with her money in the course of her career, but has also been fortunate enough not to have any remaining relatives whose cupidity might be aroused by her little nest-egg. As far as she knows, she is the last of the Daffodils.

For another servant’s ghost, please see “Ann Frost’s Ghost.”

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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