A Curious Porcelain Bowl: 1860s

A Curious Porcelain Bowl, Bonhams.com

A Curious Porcelain Bowl, Bonhams.com

The Dream Woman

I was the victim of a Brazilian fever and every one had given me up. I heard the priest say at my bedside that I would not live till morning. I was sinking into a heavy stupor, when the door seemed to open and a fair woman in a white gown glided in. She carried in her hand a curious porcelain bowl of water.

“Drink,” she said, in a sweet voice, holding it to my lips.

“The doctor forbids it,” I murmured.

“Drink and fear nothing,” she said.

I obeyed, and drained the vessel she held toward me. “Good night and sweet dreams,” she added, and glided away as mysteriously as she had entered.

The next morning I awoke refreshed and invigorated. I asked to see the lady who had waited upon me in the night, but they smiled and said it was a delirious dream. In time I recovered my health and returned to Virginia. It was ten years after this illness that, in riding past a fine old country house, I saw a lady walk down the path who paused to pick a rose. Her figure was tall, her hair golden, her eyes black. Her motions were graceful. With a wild exclamation of astonishment I recognized the lady of my dream, if dream it were. She looked a little older—nay, a good ten years older—but otherwise was unaltered.

I know not in what words I communicated this fact to the friend with me, but I know I ended by saying: “I must speak to her. She will remember.”

My friend uttered an imperative negative.

“She would think you a madman,” he said. “Come on. You may get yourself shot for staring at another man’s wife. They do such things promptly in the south. I will find out who she is, if you like.”

I assented eagerly. We rode on.

“Talk to me as much as you like,” he said, “but never expose yourself to strangers. It is possible this lady was in Brazil in 18—, and brought you something to drink when you were left alone. In that case a doubt that troubles you will be satisfied. You can, with all propriety, call on her and thank her.”

But, though he spoke in this way, I knew he did not imagine it could be so. That evening we smoked our cigars in Col. Lewis’s company, and my friend diplomatically introduced the subject

“That beautiful house with the large garden,” he said, “is quite a feature of the place. Who owns it?”

“A lone woman, widow of Mr. Vokes,” said the colonel. “She was a belle in her girlhood. She might still be one if she chose.”

“Perhaps we saw her in the garden,” said my friend, beginning a minute description.

“Exactly. It was no one else,” said the colonel.

My friend paused a moment and then said:

“She reminded B. of someone he met in Brazil. In fact, he almost believed her the same person.”

“No, no,” said the old colonel “Mrs. Vokes has never left Virginia. We have known the family since she was two years old. It is only the other day that we spoke of that, and she lamented that she had not travelled more.”

I felt a pang of disappointment, but found courage to say: “I should greatly like to be introduced to her.”

The old colonel instantly offered to introduce me.

“But remember,” said my friend as we parted, “never tell her of your fancy. It would spoil your chances with her, and I see it is a case of love at first sight,”

He was right, and I was very fortunate—very happy. I won this beautiful woman’s heart

Her fortune I did not want, but it was large. I had sufficient means and could not be suspected of mercenary motives. We were married after a long and ardent wooing on my part

She loved me, but a second marriage seemed wrong to her, and it was not until she realized that she had irretrievably given me her heart that she would give me her hand.

Neither of us had ever visited Europe, We decided to cross the ocean during our honeymoon. Before we went she showed me her beautiful home, and all her possessions. Among them was a store of old china.

Suddenly she turned to the shelves of her cabinet and took down a china bowl—transparent, covered with flowers and butterflies of quaint conventional form.

As she held it towards me I saw again the long, low-hung, whitewashed Brazilian room, the figure of the woman advancing towards me. It was her attitude that my wife had assumed. I uttered a cry.

“Are you thirsty?” she asked.

“It is true, then,” I cried. “You are the woman who saved my life when I lay perishing of fever in Brazil?”

She began to tremble. Setting the bowl aside, she threw herself into my arms.

“Long ago,” she panted, “ten years ago—I thought I held that bowl in my hand and made you drink. It was night I do not know whether I dreamed or whether I was mad. In the dead of night I thought a voice called to me: ‘Save the man whom destiny has set apart for you.’ Then I arose and asked ‘How?’

“There is on our plantation a spring, the water of which is magical in its power to cure fevers. I dreamed or thought that some unseen thing led me to this spring. I carried this bowl in my hand. I filled it. Then I stood in a strange room—long, low, white, and you—you—you lay on a pallet, hot with fever. And I said: ‘Are you thirsty?’ and gave you to drink.

“The next morning I could have thought it was all a dream, but that the bowl, still wet, stood at my bedside. Now I have told you this, do you think me mad or superstitious? I have longed so often to tell you, but I dared not.”

But I also had my tale to tell—the one I have told you.

We ask each other often: “What was it? What did it mean? How is it to be explained?” But no answer comes to us.

Whatever it may have been, it brought us together, and I bless it from my soul, for we are happy as few lovers are, my darling wife and I. And, whatever it was, it came from heaven. Nothing unholy had any hand in it—Dr. J. Greeves, in the “Chicago Times

The Two Worlds 20 December 1889: p. 60

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has sought in vain for the original edition of the Chicago Times to see if this charming story of a living ghost was published as a true story or as fiction.  It hardly matters, but those engaged in the manufactory of pharmaceuticals would give much to know the location of such a magical, fever-curing spring.

Stories of “astral projection” are common-place in the literature of the supernatural. They are more usually considered omens of death or associated with the extreme longing for home or a loved one, but how could the lady long for one she had not even met?

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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