Miriam's Lover by Lucy Maud Montgomery
I had been reading a ghost story to Mrs. Sefton,
and I laid it down at the end with a little shrug of
"What utter nonsense!" I said.
Mrs. Sefton nodded abstractedly above her fancywork.
"That is. It is a very commonplace story indeed. I
don't believe the spirits of the departed trouble
themselves to revisit the glimpses of the moon for
the purpose of frightening honest mortals—or
even for the sake of hanging around the favourite
haunts of their existence in the flesh. If they ever
appear, it must be for a better reason than that."
"You don't surely think that they ever do appear?"
I said incredulously.
"We have no proof that they do not, my dear."
"Surely, Mary," I exclaimed, "you don't mean to
say that you believe people ever do or can see spirits—ghosts,
as the word goes?"
"I didn't say I believed it. I never saw anything of
the sort. I neither believe nor disbelieve. But you
know queer things do happen at times—things
you can't account for. At least, people who you
know wouldn't lie say so. Of course, they may be
mistaken. And I don't think that everybody can see
spirits either, provided they are to be seen. It requires
people of a certain organization—with a
spiritual eye, as it were. We haven't all got that—in
fact, I think very few of us have. I dare say you
think I'm talking nonsense."
"Well, yes, I think you are. You really surprise
me, Mary. I always thought you the least likely person
in the world to take up with such ideas. Something
must have come under your observation to
develop such theories in your practical head. Tell
me what it was."
"To what purpose? You would remain as sceptical
"Possibly not. Try me; I may be convinced."
"No," returned Mrs. Sefton calmly. "Nobody
ever is convinced by hearsay. When a person has
once seen a spirit—or thinks he has—he thenceforth
believes it. And when somebody else is intimately
associated with that person and knows all
the circumstances—well, he admits the possibility,
at least. That is my position. But by the time it gets
to the third person—the outsider—it loses power.
Besides, in this particular instance the story isn't
very exciting. But then—it's true."
"You have excited my curiosity. You must tell me
"Well, first tell me what you think of this. Suppose
two people, both sensitively organized individuals,
loved each other with a love stronger than
life. If they were apart, do you think it might be
possible for their souls to communicate with each
other in some inexplicable way? And if anything
happened to one, don't you think that that one
could and would let the spirit of the other know?"
"You're getting into too deep waters for me,
Mary," I said, shaking my head. "I'm not an authority
on telepathy, or whatever you call it. But
I've no belief in such theories. In fact, I think they
are all nonsense. I'm sure you must think so too in
your rational moments."
"I dare say it is all nonsense," said Mrs. Sefton
slowly, "but if you had lived a whole year in the
same house with Miriam Gordon, you would have
been tainted too. Not that she had 'theories'—at
least, she never aired them if she had. But there
was simply something about the girl herself that
gave a person strange impressions. When I first
met her I had the most uncanny feeling that she
was all spirit—soul—what you will! no flesh, anyhow.
That feeling wore off after a while, but she
never seemed like other people to me.
"She was Mr. Sefton's niece. Her father had died
when she was a child. When Miriam was twenty
her mother had married a second time and went to
Europe with her husband. Miriam came to live
with us while they were away. Upon their return
she was herself to be married.
"I had never seen Miriam before. Her arrival was
unexpected, and I was absent from home when she
came. I returned in the evening, and when I saw
her first she was standing under the chandelier in
the drawing room. Talk about spirits! For five seconds
I thought I had seen one.
"Miriam was a beauty. I had known that before,
though I think I hardly expected to see such wonderful
loveliness. She was tall and extremely graceful,
dark—at least her hair was dark, but her skin
was wonderfully fair and clear. Her hair was
gathered away from her face, and she had a high,
pure, white forehead, and the straightest, finest,
blackest brows. Her face was oval, with very large
and dark eyes.
"I soon realized that Miriam was in some mysterious
fashion different from other people. I think
everyone who met her felt the same way. Yet it was
a feeling hard to define. For my own part I simply
felt as if she belonged to another world, and that
part of the time she—her soul, you know—was
back there again.
"You must not suppose that Miriam was a disagreeable
person to have in the house. On the contrary,
it was the very reverse. Everybody liked her.
She was one of the sweetest, most winsome girls I
ever knew, and I soon grew to love her dearly. As
for what Dick called her 'little queernesses'—well,
we got used to them in time.
"Miriam was engaged, as I have told you, to a
young Harvard man named Sidney Claxton. I
knew she loved him very deeply. When she
showed me his photograph, I liked his appearance
and said so. Then I made some teasing remark
about her love-letters—just for a joke, you know.
Miriam looked at me with an odd little smile and
"'Sidney and I never write to each other.'
"'Why, Miriam!' I exclaimed in astonishment.
'Do you mean to tell me you never hear from him
"'No, I did not say that. I hear from him every
day—every hour. We do not need to write letters.
There are better means of communication between
two souls that are in perfect accord with each
"'Miriam, you uncanny creature, what do you
mean?' I asked.
"But Miriam only gave another queer smile and
made no answer at all. Whatever her beliefs or theories
were, she would never discuss them.
"She had a habit of dropping into abstracted reveries
at any time or place. No matter where she
was, this, whatever it was, would come over her.
She would sit there, perhaps in the centre of a gay
crowd, and gaze right out into space, not hearing
or seeing a single thing that went on around her.
"I remember one day in particular; we were sewing
in my room. I looked up and saw that Miriam's
work had dropped on her knee and she was leaning
forward, her lips apart, her eyes gazing upward
with an unearthly expression.
"'Don't look like that, Miriam!' I said, with a little
shiver. 'You seem to be looking at something a
thousand miles away!'
"Miriam came out of her trance or reverie and
said, with a little laugh:
"'How do you know but that I was?'
"She bent her head for a minute or two. Then
she lifted it again and looked at me with a sudden
contraction of her level brows that betokened vexation.
"'I wish you hadn't spoken to me just then,' she
said. 'You interrupted the message I was receiving.
I shall not get it at all now.'
"'Miriam,' I implored. 'I so wish my dear girl,
that you wouldn't talk so. It makes people think
there is something queer about you. Who in the
world was sending you a message, as you call it?'
"'Sidney,' said Miriam simply.
"'You think it is nonsense because you don't understand
it,' was her calm response.
"I recall another event was when some caller
dropped in and we had drifted into a discussion
about ghosts and the like—and I've no doubt we
all talked some delicious nonsense. Miriam said
nothing at the time, but when we were alone I
asked her what she thought of it.
"'I thought you were all merely talking against
time,' she retorted evasively.
"'But, Miriam, do you really think it is possible
"'I detest that word!'
"'Well, spirits then—to return after death, or to
appear to anyone apart from the flesh?'
"'I will tell you what I know. If anything were to
happen to Sidney—if he were to die or be killed—he
would come to me himself and tell me.'
"One day Miriam came down to lunch looking
pale and worried. After Dick went out, I asked her
if anything were wrong.
"'Something has happened to Sidney,' she replied,
'some painful accident—I don't know what.'
"'How do you know?' I cried. Then, as she
looked at me strangely, I added hastily, 'You
haven't been receiving any more unearthly messages,
have you? Surely, Miriam, you are not so
foolish as to really believe in that!'
"'I know,' she answered quickly. 'Belief or disbelief
has nothing to do with it. Yes, I have had a
message. I know that some accident has happened
to Sidney—painful and inconvenient but not particularly
dangerous. I do not know what it is.
Sidney will write me that. He writes when it is absolutely
"'Aerial communication isn't perfected yet
then?' I said mischievously. But, observing how
really worried she seemed, I added, 'Don't fret,
Miriam. You may be mistaken.'
"Well, two days afterwards she got a note from
her lover—the first I had ever known her to receive—in
which he said he had been thrown from
his horse and had broken his left arm. It had happened
the very morning Miriam received her message.
"Miriam had been with us about eight months
when one day she came into my room hurriedly.
She was very pale.
"'Sidney is ill—dangerously ill. What shall I do?'
"I knew she must have had another of those
abominable messages—or thought she had—and
really, remembering the incident of the broken
arm, I couldn't feel as sceptical as I pretended to. I
tried to cheer her, but did not succeed. Two hours
later she had a telegram from her lover's college
chum, saying that Mr. Claxton was dangerously ill
with typhoid fever.
"I was quite alarmed about Miriam in the days
that followed. She grieved and fretted continually.
One of her troubles was that she received no more
messages; she said it was because Sidney was too ill
to send them. Anyhow, she had to content herself
with the means of communication used by ordinary
"Sidney's mother, who had gone to nurse him,
wrote every day, and at last good news came. The
crisis was over and the doctor in attendance
thought Sidney would recover. Miriam seemed like
a new creature then, and rapidly recovered her
"For a week reports continued favourable. One
night we went to the opera to hear a celebrated
prima donna. When we returned home Miriam
and I were sitting in her room, chatting over the
events of the evening.
"Suddenly she sat straight up with a sort of convulsive
shudder, and at the same time—you may
laugh if you like—the most horrible feeling came
over me. I didn't see anything, but I just felt that
there was something or someone in the room besides
"Miriam was gazing straight before her. She rose
to her feet and held out her hands.
"'Sidney!' she said.
"Then she fell to the floor in a dead faint.
"I screamed for Dick, rang the bell and rushed to
"In a few minutes the whole household was
aroused, and Dick was off posthaste for the doctor,
for we could not revive Miriam from her death-like
swoon. She seemed as one dead. We worked over
her for hours. She would come out of her faint for a
moment, give us an unknowing stare and go shudderingly
"The doctor talked of some fearful shock, but I
kept my own counsel. At dawn Miriam came back
to life at last. When she and I were left alone, she
turned to me.
"'Sidney is dead,' she said quietly. 'I saw him—just
before I fainted. I looked up, and he was standing
between me and you. He had come to say
"What could I say? Almost while we were talking
a telegram came. He was dead—he had died at the
very hour at which Miriam had seen him."
Mrs. Sefton paused, and the lunch bell rang.
"What do you think of it?" she queried as we
"Honestly, I don't know what I think of it," I answered