Gosford The Ghost Gets His Boo Back
She was ordered to go to the South of France immediately. It was decided that I must go with her, as she could not be trusted to strangers. My mother, absolutely restored to health, would be left with my father, who had also a good nurse valet. My father and I bade each other farewell one early morning in February, We knew we would not meet again on earth. Only one other curious incident do I remember in connection with that town house we lived in. On the night of the 28th December we were all assembled in the library, most of us were reading, and a violent wind storm was howling round the house.
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Suddenly my father laid down the proof sheets he was correcting, and took out his watch. Then he turned to us and said: "At this moment, seven fifteen, on Sunday the 28th of December, , something terrible has happened. I think a bridge must be down. The next day we learned that the Tay Bridge had been blown down at that very hour, and the train and its occupants hurled to death in the waters below.
After my father's death I began to live a much more independent life. I was financially independent, and I proceeded to London, where I felt I would have a wider range of intellectual companionship. I lived in hotels and dispensed with all chaperonage, thus leaving myself free to join my mother on the Riviera in the early spring months.
I never cared for dancing, and always having had the companionship of people who were years older than myself, I had made few girl friends. Lady Campbell was, and is, a very attractive woman, possessed of great charm of manner. Exceedingly cultured and intelligent, she is also an artist to her finger tips. As girls we used to be fond of attending Queen Victoria's Drawing-rooms.
A bevy of us would take lunch with us in the carriages, and thoroughly enjoy our day out. I was the last woman to kiss the hand of Queen Victoria at a Drawing-room. I was stopped by a Court official just as I was moving forward, and told to wait as "Her Majesty is going to withdraw.
On [Pg 34] this occasion I heard the Queen say, "Let this lady pass.
Being very tall I had always a certain difficulty in getting down low enough to kiss the tiny Queen's hand. After I had passed, and as I backed out of "the presence," I saw Her Majesty being assisted out of the queer little half chair, half stool she used. She never held another Drawing-room, and I regret that, being abroad, I had not the honor of making a last curtsy to the little coffin as it passed through the streets of London. Menie Muriel Dowie was a brilliant bohemian, as can be gathered by those who have read her book, "A Girl in the Carpathians. She is as much at home in skilled and polished diplomacy as in practical agriculture.
She has always been a great traveler, yet a delicate woman.
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Only her indomitable spirit kept her going in her youth, as it still does in her beautiful house in Green Street, and her model farm in Gloucestershire. My greatest older friends were Mrs.
Proctor, widow of Barry Cornwall, and mother of Adelaide Proctor, the poet. All people old enough to be my parents. I had a great admiration for Mrs. Lynn Linton's strong, cold intellect; it was so invigorating, and she was so self-reliant, an uncommon thing for a woman to be in those days. We had long arguments over matters occult, but I never could make the least impression upon her strong materialism. She was a great friend and admirer of my aunt, Lady [Pg 35] Priestley, also a woman of very fine intellect, who devoted herself to scientific pursuits.
Had she been a man, or had she lived in the present day, when woman has at last come into her own, she would have made a very strong mark. Robert Browning, whom I had known for some years, used to drop in very often to have a chat, and I rejoiced in him exceedingly as a born mystic of a high order.
We often discussed the possibility of his work being directed from the other side, and we argued as to whether he received inspiration from various quarters, or whether he was the beloved of some poet of a former age, who, active still in the spirit world, expressed his great thoughts through Robert Browning on earth. So many people at that time frankly said they could not understand Browning's poetry, and this I told him was to be attributed to lack of the mystic perception.
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Now that mysticism has so enormously developed, his work is much more comprehensive to the world. I had alas! He dropped in one night to see me, after dinner at a house where Millais, the painter, had been one of the guests. I knew you'd be interested, so I took them down for you. Better write them down [Pg 36] for yourself, but don't mention the subject to him or any of his family. The figures don't always come in that order," he said, "but more often than not they do.
The 13 always comes up as 13, but he's seen 9. What do you make of it? I never mentioned this occurrence to any one, and, indeed, forgot all about it till some years after Millais' death, when I came upon my notes in an old box. I then realized that the great painter had been looking upon the dates of his own death. He died on August 13th, One night some one, I have not the least idea who, came to me in my sleep and bade me take up pencil and paper, and write to dictation.
Still sound asleep I did as I was bidden. I always kept writing materials by my bedside. In the morning I remembered nothing of this till my eye fell upon some sheets of paper.
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The writing upon them was mine, but very big and untidy. Then I recollected the command I had received in the night and eagerly read what I had written. Here it is. I gave Browning a copy as he was so deeply interested—. The sun sank behind the low horizon, and left marshy pools glowing like living opals. A stream of homeward flying rooks made a streak of indigo across the topaz sky where [Pg 37] gauzy wind-riven clouds floated westward.
The sacred hush of eventide brooded under the calm wings of night. And soon the child in its cradle, the tired mother, the aged man, and the pain-laden woman were at peace. The curfew tolled out from the distant hamlet and then was still. By his side, worn out, sat the father, his horny hand clasped in that of his child. I am beloved and courted by all.
How merciful is our vocation. The welcome guest of all, whereas I am shunned, the door is barred as against a secret foe, and I am counted the enemy of the world. And as Lucifer the light-bringer paled in the violet Heavens he silently entered the dwelling. With his golden scythe he cut the silver cord of life, and gathered the child to his faithful bosom. The evenings I most enjoyed were those I spent in the studio of Felix Moscheles, the great apostle of peace. There one met all the genius and talent in London, and any genius of foreign nationality who happened to be visiting England.
The cosmopolitan element always attracted me, and I went to several frankly revolutionary houses, where red ties flaunted, and where those Russian Nihilists found a welcome who were constantly rushing over here to escape Siberia. Through them I learned to understand what the real woes of Russia were, and to expect the present revolution as the inevitable result of brutal repression and misgovernment.
During one winter at Nice I renewed my acquaintance with one of the most remarkable mystics of modern times, Marie, Countess of Caithness and Duchesse de Pomar. I had first met her in Edinburgh in when she was on the eve of her second marriage with Lord Caithness. My father and mother attended her very quiet wedding. Now we met again many years after at her beautiful home, the Palais Tiranty, Nice.