Image from Pxhere.com
It’s been a tough couple of weeks with regard to getting my new book out there. I had planned to print and distribute through IngramSpark, but things just didn’t work out in a manner that worked well for me. No recriminations. Choosing a company to print and distribute is rather like finding someone to date. The other person can be perfectly nice, but somehow just doesn’t click with you. That was the case for me when it came to IngramSpark.
So now I’m back at Lulu, which has done all my print books, anyway. (Note: I put eBooks out on Kindle. Sometimes you can’t fight City Hall, which in this case is Amazon). The good news of making the change is that I’ve ordered a print proof from Lulu and as soon as I get it and approve it, A Good Community will be out in print form. I will release the Kindle version at the same time.
As I’ve said before, indie authors need to “do it all” when it comes to getting their work out there. It’s frustrating and chaotic at times, but I suspect that most of us would write regardless of our ability to publish our work. We do it out of love. Anything that follows is gravy.
Now for the second thing.
Let’s talk about Maggie.
In the new book, we once again find her trying to do the right thing – and once again it gets her in trouble. But that’s the problem with doing the right thing. First, it isn’t easy. Second, it doesn’t always lead to popularity. In fact, it probably will lead to the opposite reaction.
And yet, throughout literature of all kinds, including literature found in the Bible, the theme of “the right thing” crops up again and again. Let me go a little theological on you. Currently I’m leading a study based on the late Rachel Held Evans’ book Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. By the way, this is a great book if you cannot accept a “literal” interpretation of biblical literature but sense that it must be inspired or important to the point that it won’t leave you alone. Something I read the other day in the chapter on resistance really struck me.
Sadly, I can’t give you Evans’ direct quote about love, because I helpfully left the book at the church office, but in one chapter, she says something like this: the most radical act of resistance that one can do to upend the soul-stealing, life-quenching, greedy excesses created powerful and wealthy forces (i.e., the Empire) is to practice love. In short, Jesus presented his followers with a model of God’s intention for Creation that stands in direct opposition to the Powers running the world. This kind of resistance leads us to love others (including our enemies), practice mercy and kindness, create justice, practice generosity, and all other activities that lead to life and health.
Jesus’ approach to life is what my character Maggie wholeheartedly accepts and strives to embody in her own. And because she does this openly, it puts her at odds with the attitudes and practices of her time.
Like us, Maggie lives in a difficult, confusing, and violent era and, to be candid, I use her to explore how we might practice love today. It should surprise no one when I say that the issues of 1860s America are still at large in our time. I believe these things are still with us mainly because we only dealt cosmetically with them, rather than making the difficult, deep changes required for love to flourish.
So, although I make my stories entertaining, they have another level in them, one that I hope challenges readers to go out and, as Maggie might put it, “strive to live by the law of Love.”
Have a good weekend. And, please, do something out of love, too. One small thing might make a world of difference.
My little experiment of writing a short story for Halloween and posting it as a serial, was interesting, if not a bit exhausting. Doing a quick, lightly edited and revised story was a demanding and scary activity. Not sure it was the best thing I’ve ever written, but when I dare to read it in the coming months, I’m sure I can polish it and bring it up to snuff.
Unlike “All Hallows Eve,” the upcoming Saint Maggie novel, A Good Community, has had a lot of thought and a great deal of writing, as well as revision and beta reader commentary. One reader said family matters had forced her to stop reading in the middle of the second to last chapter, and she was itching to get back to see how it all turned out. That’s always a hopeful sign!
The book will be printed through IngramSpark. Sadly, I hit a slight roadblock in getting a paperback proof copy. Eproofs are all right if you’re dealing with an ebook, but for a paperback, I like to see the cover and interior just to make sure everything is okay. So, if I can get that fixed and get my hands on a hard copy, the book should be available within a month.
In the meantime, here’s what the front and back cover, and spine will look like. Thank you, Erin Vieth Brochu of Vieth Design!
As for the blurb, I’ve written it out below, so you don’t have to mess with stretching the image.
Maggie Beatty Blaine Smith is a woman with a big heart. She used to run a rooming house and happily welcomed “down on their luck” boarders. Maggie also is a white woman who lives and works with her friends Nate and Emily Johnson, who are black. Because the boarding house had been located next to Blaineton’s town square, the people living in there were clearly visible, meaning that the town folk wrinkled their noses at Maggie’s establishment and labeled her as an eccentric do-gooder.
But now it is 1864. The members of her household have become more prosperous and they all have moved to the edge of Blaineton and into the spacious confines of Greybeal House. And Maggie is free to pursue her loving, welcoming lifestyle without having to face the town’s disapproval.
So, when Mary and Addie, two orphaned girls of color, show up, Maggie and Emily take them in without a thought. Upon learning that the girls need an education, the two women decide to enroll them in the Blaineton School, only to discover there’s a problem: the school no longer takes black pupils. Worse yet, the only other educational option for children of color has been closed down.
Maggie and Emily quickly come up with a solution: start a privately funded school not just for Mary and Addie, but for all of Blaineton’s black children, one that will be far away from prying eyes. But word soon begins to spread about the school, talk morphs into resentment and anger, and things rapidly spin out of control. When controversy finally threatens to blow Blaineton apart, Maggie is called upon to unite the town.
Obviously, I’m looking forward to the book’s release. While the subject matter is about racial and social justice, there is plenty of character interaction, humor, and nineteenth-century ambiance to pull you along, as well as the aforementioned “how’s this all going to end” dynamic.
I’ll let you know more about the release date as soon as I can. In the meantime, if you like my stories and novels, please tell your friends, buy a copy or two as a holiday present, and drop a review over on Amazon, since their analytics are set so that books with only a few reviews disappear into the ether – something which seems to have happened to mine. Reviews do matter.
It’s not easy being an indie author. Basically we have to do everything from writing, to making sure we get the thing edited, to printing, marketing and publicity. I do all this while working at a “real” job as an assistant pastor. Of course, it is the kind of job that follows me home and won’t stay nicely in the church – but I knew that going into my calling.
The point is, a number of my author friends are working and writing at the same time, too. I don’t think any of us expect to become fabulously wealthy from it. That seems to be something reserved for those who are already fabulously wealthy and famous who happen to write books. Rather, we do it because we love telling stories. To borrow a little theological terminology, writing is a calling. It’s something we do out of love and dedication, and because we can’t help it. After all, if we don’t write, the ideas and storylines will build up inside us and – BANG! – we’ll explode and make a nasty mess all over the place.
Okay. The part about exploding isn’t true. Although, as my sister has told me time and again, she believes I will go crazy if I don’t write. And I guess she knows me better than anyone else. So perhaps we can say authors write to stay mentally and emotionally in balance. It’s how we deal with the stuff life throws at us.
So, given all of the above, if you know any indie authors, please give them a little love. They will appreciate it, believe me.
I’ll be back in a few days, now that I’ve recovered sufficiently from churning out a quick short story over Halloween week.
Photo from JSTOR Daily, Grant Shreve, “When Women Channeled the Dead to Be Heard,” 2 February 2018. https://daily.jstor.org/when-women-channeled-the-dead-to-be-heard/
All Hallows Eve: A Saint Maggie Short Story
Chapter 4: The Séance
Mrs. Knightsbridge took a breath. “Now… let us be in absolute silence.”
One minute passed.
Mrs. Knightsbridge finally spoke up. “I feel the veil opening. I call upon the spirits of this place. Come forward.”
Frankie shifted uneasily on her chair, while Eli wondered how long he could put up with this balderdash, Josiah looked around the darkened room, Lydia wished she could be with her husband, and Maggie felt a chill go up the back of her neck.
“Is anyone here who would like to speak with us?”
“Are any spirits in this room with us?”
Something thumped the bottom of the table enough to make it jump.
Frankie gasped. “Is… is that a… a…”
“I think the word you’re looking for is ghost,” Eli replied. “And no, it’s not. It’s a device under the table.”
With a more powerful bang, the table tipped to one side, forcing the séance participants to push it back down.
“Yes,” the medium intoned, “I feel the presence of a spirit. I know there is an unbeliever amongst us. But show yourself so that he may believe.”
Somewhere in the dark something shook a tambourine.
“Thank you! I am glad you are agreeable to proving your existence.” Mrs. Knightsbridge closed her eyes. “Will you come to us now? Materialize so that we may see you.”
A low moan issued from a corner of the room.
“Who dares disturb me?” a male voice lamented.
“Seekers,” the medium replied. “Seekers who want to speak with you, who want to see you.”
“So be it.” In the corner where the voice had come from, something white and filmy emerged.
“With whom are we speaking?” Mrs. Knightsbridge asked.
“Why are you a wanderer?”
“I did something wrong. Something terrible.” The shape began to float around the table behind the participants’ chairs but just out of their reach.
“What did you do?”
“I took a life.” It glided past Mrs. Knightsbridge.
“Years and years and years ago.” It was moving past Josiah now.
Frankie leaned toward to Lydia. “Do you think it’s Mr. Ma – ”
“Shh!” Lydia commanded. “Don’t say anything.”
The wraith passed by Maggie’s chair.
“What is your name?” Mrs. Knightsbridge inquired.
The women all gasped, some repeating his name.
But Eli reached under his seat, grabbed his cane, and stuck it in the path of the shrouded figure just as it reached his chair. He felt a leg make contact, heard a strangled cry, and then a loud thud.
“Lydia,” he barked. “Grab whoever that is.”
Lydia leapt from her chair and lunged for the person on the floor, landing on the alleged ghost and sending her hoops in the air.
“Stop it,” Mrs. Knightsbridge cried. “Stop it this second! You’re scaring them away! You’re scaring…” With an abrupt gasp, she fell back against her chair, and said nothing more.
“Spirits never were here to begin with.” Eli dragged himself to his feet.
“Liddy!” Frankie hopped up and, hitching her crinoline cage, plopped down onto the mysterious figure’s back just as Lydia rolled off.
Thankful that the room was quite dark, Lydia stood and rearranged her clothing. “I’m afraid we’ve been made fools.”
“Get up,” Eli ordered to the figure on the floor.
A man rose, removing his shroud as he did so. He was small in stature and balding.
A chill swept across Maggie’s shoulders. No windows were open. Why was she so cold? She wrapped her arms about herself and shivered.
“Mr. Knightsbridge, I presume?” Eli was asking.
The man nodded.
Josiah was on his feet now. “Fraud! How dare you?” He turned to Mrs. Knightsbridge. “And you!”
But she sat silent, head lolling forward.
“Do you not hear me? Speak!”
When she said nothing, Josiah touched her hand. “She’s cold! Someone light more candles. Quick!”
Maggie was freezing now. And the room felt like it was closing in on her, as if to push her out of herself.
Frankie leaned across the table, took the single taper and lit the two others on candelabra. As light grew in the room, she saw Mrs. Knightsbridge. “Liddy! Look.”
Lydia immediately went to the medium’s side. “Mrs. Knightsbridge?” She gently patted the woman’s face. “Mrs. Knightsbridge!” She took hold of her wrist and felt for a pulse. “She’s alive.”
“What’s wrong with my wife?” the little man asked.
“I don’t know.” Lydia patted the woman’s face again. “Hello. Can you hear me, Mrs. Knightsbridge? Are you able to speak?”
The medium’s eyes fluttered open.
“Very good,” Lydia murmured. “That’s the stuff. Can you speak?”
The woman looked anxiously from and then in a breathy voice said, “I… I…”
The woman gasped for air. “Where am I? Why am I in here?”
“You were conducting a séance, Mrs. Knightsbridge and – ”
“Stop calling me that name.” Panicking, she glanced around at the others. She appeared terrified. “No. No! No, not now!”
Lydia was concerned. “What do you mean?”
“Her,” she breathed. “She is coming. She will… she will…”
“Who is she?”
“Her! You opened the door. She’s on her way.”
Mr. Knightsbridge hurried around the table to be near his wife. “Can this be?”
Lydia looked up at him. “What?”
“Can she be… possessed?”
On the other side of the table, Eli rolled his eyes. “Bunkum! She’s faking.”
“She isn’t,” the little man barked. “I know my wife. She’s never done this before.” He stopped by the medium’s chair and, taking on of her hands in his, knelt before her. “What is your name, my dear?”
A pair of confused blue eyes locked onto his. “My name? Why, it’s Leah.”
Maggie’s hand flew to her mouth. “It can’t be.” She was beginning to feel light like a feather.
“But Leah is…” Frankie began, but stopped.
Josiah spoke up. “Who is Leah?”
“Our cousin. She… she was murdered in 1861. Poisoned.”
Using his cane, Eli thumped over to the medium. “Come on, Knightsbridge, you and your wife knew what happened Leah all along, didn’t you?”
Maggie was beginning to feel as if she were floating, somehow outside of herself. Peculiar, she thought. Why do I feel so peculiar.
The little man stood up. “We read about the murder in the papers. But…” He glanced worriedly at his wife. “For the life of me, I’ve never seen this. It’s not an act, believe me.”
Mrs. Knightsbridge suddenly flew to her feet, her face ashen. “She’s on her way! She’s almost here. God help us! Good help –”
The candles blew out and the room was swallowed in darkness.
“Damn,” Eli hissed. “Damn, damn, and damn! Has anyone got a match?”
A wild wind blew through the chamber. It was followed with a wicked, high pitched laugh.
Eli felt something fly past his shoulder, so close it nearly touched him. Whatever it was hit the floor with a crash. It sounded like a plate. “What the?” he muttered.
“Hold on, Smith. I’ve got matches.” There was the sound of a match tip striking a surface and then light broke the gloom once again.
No sooner had he shaken the match out, than Josiah alerted to something moving toward him. He ducked as a wine glass flew over his head and shattered against the wall.
Hands trembling a bit, he straightened up and took a candle from the holder. “There are some lamps on the serving tables.” He tried to sound in control, but his voice had a tremor to it.
“Papa?” Frankie’s voice small, like a child’s. “What’s going on?”
Eli gimped over to his stepdaughter. “I don’t know, but if this is some kind of trick, someone’s going to pay.”
Josiah managed to get two oil lamps lit, which pushed the darkness into the corners now.
“It’s not a trick,” Mr. Knightsbridge was insisting. “I swear it. We never intended any of this madness.” Suddenly his face grew pale. “Look!”
They all turned in time to see an oil painting crash to the floor.
Mrs. Knightsbridge began shrieking, “She’s here! She’s here. My murderer!”
Wicked laughter echoed in the chamber and bounced off the walls, ceiling, and floor.
Maggie abruptly found herself on the other side of the room. She wondered how she got there. She could see the group gathered around the table. But who was that other woman? The one wearing the same dress as she.
Then a horrible thought came to her. No. This can’t be, Maggie argued with herself. But it was. She was on one side of the room, and yet she was on the other side, except she was without her mind and her soul.
“Get out,” a disembodied voice boomed. “Get out!”
Angry now, Frankie stiffened her back and shouted, “Is that you Carrie Hillsborough? The one who killed my cousin? The one who nearly killed my mother?”
The laughter cackled again.
That was when the other Maggie stepped into the middle of the room, put her hands on her hips, and shouted, “Now see here! I will not stand for this nonsense in my house, do you understand?”
The laughter ricocheted off the walls.
“Leave my house this instant, you troublemaker!”
“Make me,” the voice hissed. “Go ahead.”
“You bad, evil girl,” Maggie snarled. “Do you think I don’t know who you are? Do you think I wasn’t around long before you showed up, making sure my house was safe? Did you not think that I wouldn’t see you seducing that young minister? Putting ideas in his head about poison? You are not welcome here. Now get!”
The laughter reverberated once more, but it did not sound quite as arrogant and threatening as it did previously. In fact, there was a touch of fear in it.
“That is right, missy! I will not stand for this nonsense. I call down God’s angels and the forces of heaven to chase you out of here and into the darkness an unrepentant soul like you deserves.”
“No,” it whispered.
Maggie shook her fist. “I say, yes! May God’s angels fill this room with light. Now, scat! Go to the darkness and stay there until you ask for forgiveness. Go!”:
Suddenly the room blazed with a flash of light so bright that it caused the others to cover their eyes until it was safe to look around again.
Candles and lamps now bathed the room in a comforting yellow glow. There was no sign of broken glass or china. Even the painting was back on the wall.
Josiah managed to say, “What just happened?”
“Your land has been cleansed,” Maggie told him.
The voice did not belong to his wife. Concerned, Eli hurried to her side. When she gazed upon him, it wasn’t Maggie that he saw behind her eyes. It was someone else. For a moment, he lost his voice and was only able to croak, “Who are you?”
She smiled. “Letty.” Then her eyes rolled back, and she fell forward into his arms.
Lydia ran over as Eli worked to set his wife onto a chair. Once that had been accomplished, Lydia took Maggie’s arm and felt for her pulse. “She fine.” She looked up at her stepfather and smiled with relief.
“What was that I just saw?”
“What do you mean?”
“That… that wasn’t Maggie. I mean, it was Maggie’s body, but her eyes… someone else was looking at me.”
Maggie suddenly sighed.
“Sweetheart! Are you all right?” Eli took her hand, brought it to his lips, and kissed the back of it. When she opened her eyes, he saw with relief the Maggie he always expected to see. “What happened?”
She tried to recollect her thoughts. “I don’t know. For a moment there, I imagined I was on the other side of the room, watching everything as if it were a play.”
Mr. Knightsbridge said, “You were possessed “ He glanced at his wife, whose hand he held. “So was my wife.”
At that the medium came around. “Whew!” She put a hand to her head. “That was a bit forceful.”
“Are you all right now, my dear?”
“Oh, yes. Quite fine now.” The plump woman stood, although she wobbled a bit, something that was corrected when her husband put his hand around her upper arm. “How are the rest of you?”
Frankie replied, “I don’t think I’ll be sleeping much tonight.”
“Oh, you’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” Mrs. Knightsbridge took a deep, cleansing breath. “Yes. Apparently, all this commotion was just a bit of bad business between two spirits.”
Eli turned to Josiah. “It’s time to come clean. We didn’t tell you that a Methodist minister, Jeremiah Madison lived in the boarding house from 1860 to 1861. He flirted with my wife’s niece, Leah, and had to marry her. When the marriage didn’t work out, he found solace in the company of her maid, Carrie. Carrie was a bad sort and brought poison into the picture. Because Mrs. Smith got too close to the truth, Carrie tried to kill her with arsenic. But she did manage to kill Leah. Eventually the truth came out. Madison was brought to trial, but before Carrie could be arrested, she took her own life.” He grimaced. “The reason I limp today is because she shot me three times. One of the bullets lodged in my leg. Haven’t been the same since.”
Gathering up her skirts, Mrs. Knightsbridge walked toward the others. “And because of the suffering and distress caused by the situation, Leah and Carrie’s spirits remained attached to the property. But they are gone now and shall not return.”
“So my hotel is safe?”
“Completely.” At this the medium held back a smile. “Well, safe from the activity of the dead, that is. As for the living… well, that’s your problem, is it not?”
Josiah managed a weary laugh. “I believe that is something we can handle.”
Mrs. Knightsbridge turned her attention to Maggie. “And you, my dear, a spirit momentarily inhabited you.”
“But I don’t believe in such things.”
“It doesn’t matter. It found a momentary home with you. Do you know who it was?”
“Letty,” Eli answered for her. “It was her Aunt Letty.”
Maggie’s eyes widened.
“She was protecting her property.” He gave her a loving smile. “And her family.”
Worried, Maggie frowned.
The medium took her arm. “Don’t worry. It won’t happen again.”
“How do you know?”
The other woman lifted an incredulous, blond eyebrow. “My dear Mrs. Smith! Do you need to ask me that?”
Maggie laughed tiredly. “No. I don’t imagine I do.”
Maggie’s Journal, 31 October 1864
Like Frankie, I don’t believe I shall sleep tonight. When we returned home, I spent a good hour on my knees, searching for God’s love and light until it filled me and held me close.
I believe Grandpa is right. The veil is the thinnest between the living and the dead on All Hallows Eve. And I believe Emily is right, too. Such things as spirits and ghosts should be left to their sleep – or whatever it is that they do – and are not to be trifled with.
Lydia and Frankie both seem shaken by the experience, as were we all. But I know the two will comfort each other and talk long into the night until they finally fall asleep.
As for Eli… well, he got the bottle of whiskey down from the cupboard. Instead of giving him my usual talk, I simply told him not to drink too much, kissed him on the head, and went upstairs to our chamber, so I could nurse our little Faith.
I hope Josiah’s hotel truly is free from trouble. When we left him, he was quite disturbed by the evening’s events, as were we all. It may be that he will not think of this ever again. But perhaps he will. And perhaps he will realize that there is something out there greater than money and hotels, mills, and factories. But I will let God and time see to that.
As for me, I think I shall tread more thoughtfully next All Hallows Eve and shall stay home in the company of my household.
I hope you enjoyed this special Saint Maggie short story. Happy Halloween, everyone!
Photo by Alina Vilchenko from Pexels
All Hallows Eve: A Saint Maggie Short Story
Chapter 3: The Medium
Once Maggie had found Josiah Norton in the crowd, she led him back to their table, explaining that they were interested in taking part in a séance. After giving them effusive thanks, Josiah led them out of the Grand Ballroom and into the hotel’s massive reception area.
“I have obtained the services of a medium, whom I have been told is quite reputable,” he was saying.
“What’s her name?” Eli asked.
“Mrs. Knightsbridge.” He led them down a hallway to their right. “I realize I am taking extreme measures to employ such a person, but I just don’t know what else to do.”
Eli considered the other man’s words. “You did make sure that the occurrences here weren’t the work of a prankster or the nighttime imaginings of easily-frightened people?”
“I did. And, Mr. Smith…” Josiah turned to face Eli. “The people who reported the goings-on were sincere. In fact, some told me that things have happened in broad daylight. Voices. Books flying off shelves. Water glasses breaking. It’s all very disturbing.”
“Oh, dear,” Maggie replied. “How frightening for your guests.”
“Yes, indeed.” Josiah hesitated before adding, “Actually, there’s more. This is the first time I have told anyone about this. The staff who work in the stables have told me that they’ve felt cold breezes pass over them, even in the heat of summer. And one stall in the stables spooks the horses.”
“What do you mean?” Eli asked.
“They cannot find a horse who will submit to going inside it.”
Frankie whispered to Lydia, “That’s not good.”
Lydia nodded in agreement.
Josiah continued, “The stable hands have no idea what causes the horses to be afraid of that one stall. But they fully admit that they, too, feel uneasy in the area.”
Eli’s dark eyebrows knit in a frown. “Where are the stables located?”
“At the back of the property. Nearest First Street.”
Eli met Maggie’s eyes. “That’s where my print shop was.”
Maggie’s whispered, “Oh, no. It can’t be.”
This, of course, did not pass Josiah’s notice. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s just…” Maggie stopped, but then pushed on. “Well, it’s just that something happened there in 1861.”
“What was it?” Josiah wanted to know.
Maggie opened her mouth to tell him, but Eli stopped her with a hand to her arm. ”No. Don’t tell him.”
“Why on earth not?”
“Because I don’t want Mrs. Knightsbridge to get any more information about this hotel and the buildings that were there when you owned the property. People sometimes say things unintentionally, which a medium can use to piece together knowledge about a location or a situation. We want to make sure that Mrs. Knightsbridge is as ignorant about this place’s background as possible, so we may see whether or not she really is in touch with the spiritual realm.”
There was a silence on Josiah’s part, until he murmured, “Yes, I can see where that would be logical.”
“So are we agreed not to give her any more information than she needs to know?”
The group, including Josiah, assented.
Josiah then over walked to a closed door labeled “Private Dining Room” and knocked. He glanced over his shoulder at the others. “Mrs. Knightsbridge insists on privacy so that she may prepare.”
“Hmm…” Eli muttered, eyes narrowing suspiciously.
Within a few seconds, the door opened to reveal a pleasingly plump woman in a cheerful, teal gown. Her strawberry blond hair was arranged neatly in snood at the back of her neck and she was smiling warmly at the group. “Ah! Welcome, Mr. Norton! Welcome to you all! Do come in.”
The room was dark, with the exception of a single candle at its furthest end that had been placed upon a cloth-covered round table. Maggie understood that the little table was where the séance would take place.
“Mrs. Knightsbridge,” Josiah was saying, “these are my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Dr. Frost, and Miss Blaine.”
“I am pleased to meet you.” She tipped her head. “What has Mr. Norton told you?”
“He spoke to us of the odd occurrences taking place here,” Maggie replied. “And, since we are friends of his, we thought we’d like to come with him to this… séance.” She found it hard, and a bit blasphemous, to say the word. It just didn’t feel right.
As Eli’s eyes gradually became adjusted to the gloom, he noted that the regular dining tables had been pushed aside and against the walls. And then he spotted something unusual: a tall cabinet positioned near the séance table.
He said, “Excuse me, Mrs., Knightsbridge, but that cabinet. Is it yours?”
“Oh, it is, indeed,” she cheerily replied and motioned for them to follow her to the round table. “It is my spirit cabinet. A portal, if you will, through which spirits travel from their realm to ours.”
Eli held back a skeptical smile. “You don’t say.”
“Elijah,” Maggie whispered. “Behave.”
“I shall, my love. I shall.”
Mrs. Knightsbridge indicated the table. “Please take a seat.”
They arranged themselves on six of the eight chairs there. Obviously, Mrs. Knightsbridge expected a group – and most likely that was because Josiah had told her he would be bringing other people.
Eli’s newspaperman instincts began kicking in, telling him that this situation indeed would make an interesting story, perhaps even an exposé.
Mrs. Knightsbridge removed the spare seats as she said, “If you will, please space yourselves around the table so that you are evenly distributed.”
There was some shuffling as they rearranged themselves and then waited quietly for more directions.
Frankie was excited and wondering what would happen next. Would they see a spirit? Would it be someone she knew? Would there be celestial music? A guitar or a piano, perhaps? Or maybe table knocking. She scarcely could wait.
Lydia, meanwhile, was dubious about the proceedings. Seated beside Eli, she peeped at her stepfather and fellow skeptic.
Despite the dim lighting, Eli saw her and threw her a sly smile. Lydia immediately saw that he was up to something and answered him with raised eyebrows. He responded with a slight nod, indicating that she was correct. Lydia nodded in reply, her way of saying, “Fine. Just don’t upset Mama.”
Maggie was the only one feeling any anxiety. Perhaps Emily was right, she ruminated. Perhaps they shouldn’t be part of such a thing as a séance. And, regardless of what time of the year it was, maybe it was wrong to attempt to contact the dead. What if All Hallows Eve really was the time when the veil between the living and the dead was thinnest? And what if someone really did come through? Someone who was dead? Some who –
Maggie blocked the last thought, praying, Lord, protect us. Please!
Mrs. Knightsbridge’s gentle, alto voice broke the silence. “Are all of you ready to begin?”
The group replied with a variety of nods.
“Excellent. Now, if you all will place your hands upon the table so that you are touching the hands of those sitting beside you.”
They did as they were told.
Seated to the other side of Eli, Maggie felt their pinkies come into contact. When her husband gave her finger an affectionate tap, Maggie looked over at him. She could see Eli’s face, although it was distorted by flickering candlelight and shadows. But she clearly saw his smile and somehow got the impression that he winked at her, too. Both of which, calmed her jittery nerves.
“Now,” Mrs. Knightsbridge was saying, “once we begin the séance, do not break contact with one another, as it will break our connection with the dearly departed. Also, no matter how shocking or frightening things may appear, please know that you are perfectly safe here, as long as you remain at the table.”
Maggie’s mouth suddenly became uncomfortably dry.
“Shall we begin?” the medium chirped. “Excellent! Let us pray the Lord’s Prayer to settle our minds, hearts, and souls and prepare the atmosphere for our departed brothers and sisters. Let us pray: Our Father, which art in heaven…”
As they chanted the well-known prayer, Maggie’s heart continued her own prayers for her family’s protection.
Why did she have this pervasive sense of foreboding?
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder