Returning now from the Spirit World, the spirit of Nan finding Helen in the cottage, thinks Helen herself is a ghost !
The spirit of Nan the housekeeper returned one afternoon later in August, 1972 when Helen was reading a book.
Nan - I'm not frightened anymore. If you're a ghost, you look REAL enough!
Helen - I'm not a ghost. I AM real.
Nan - I expected you'd say that. I expect all ghosts do. But you ain't clankin' chains or nothin' like that, are you?
Helen - No, but then, you see, I don't come from hell.
Nan - Ooh! You mean there's REALLY hell?
Helen - It isn't called that, and it isn't like you might think, either - I mean hell-fire and all that. Hell can be a Land of Shadows.
Nan - A Land of Shadows? Why?
Helen - Because it is dark there, and dingy. The souls there live in shabby streets, in misery, with no love and no joy. They are unhappy people. They lived selfish and often cruel lives on earth. Or else they committed some crime against their fellows.
Nan - Crime? What sort of crime?
Helen - Hateful actions that hurt others.
Nan - Like murder?
Helen - Yes, of course, murder, taking away another's life. But murder is not the only crime. There is cruelty, lack of compassion, even towards one's own flesh and blood.
Nan - You mean your own children?
Helen - Of course. Even mothers have been unkind and unloving to their own children.
Nan - That's wot SHE did. My Mistress. She hated her boy. She was cruel to 'im. She didn't really care when he died, she didn't.
[So the old servant harboured hatred, as well as a sneaking admiration for her former mistress. These were contributing factors in her earthbound state].
Nan - Is SHE in the shadows, then?
Helen - Yes, I am told that your Mistress is in the Land of the Shadows.
Nan (chuckling) - She deserves to be! Cruel to 'im she was, and hoity-toity to me. Mean, too. And suspicious of what I knew about her. Never give me as much as a 'thank-you' for looking after the Boy, nor nothin' extra neither. Nor no days off. Oh, she was a beauty, she was! Treated us as slaves and 'im as a burden. So, if she ain't going to burn in 'ell as the parson used to tell us when I went to Sunday school, then she's getting herself lost in the Shadows, eh?
Helen - She has...poor soul!
Nan - Poor soul? She, with all her airs and graces! She living in a dingy hole? Lost in the Shadows, eh? For ever?
Helen - No, not for ever. Only until she has learned to be sorry for what she did. And until she forgives and learns to forgive others.
Nan – Forgive others? Her? What she got to forgive?
Helen – I wouldn’t know that.
Nan (talking to herself) – She’s in the Shadow Lands. My Mistress is in the Shadows! In the Shadows. I ’ope she stays there forever.
Helen – That is not kind!
Nan – Kind? So I should be kind to her, eh? I…after all she did to me? Kind to the likes of ’er?
Helen – I’m told that you will have to learn to forgive, too, or you might find yourself in the Shadows.
Nan (talking to herself again) – Talkin’ to the dead. Talkin’ to the dead. T’aint possible. I’m dreaming. That’s wot. An’ me in the Land of Shadows, with the Mistress? Oh, God, not that. I been so peaceful in me cottage. Why can’t I stay as I am? She (meaning Helen) says, she says she’s real, not dead. She seems to know a lot, though. And she’s always talkin’ about being dead. That’s queer. I wish I knew what it was all about, I do. Who’s dead? Oh, I know the Mistress is. I remember ’er goin’ off in that heart attack. But who else? That’s what I want to know. An’ all this talk of forgiving. Why should I forgive ’er?
Nan faded away into her own illusory world, and was gone. It wasn't until one afternoon late in November, after another visit from her Mistress a fortnight earlier that Nan returned and demanded Helen's attention while she was washing dishes.
Nan - I'm excited. I've found out something. I know now, I know wot it's all about! You remember our last talk? I thought you were dead, eh? It scared me. I can tell you it did! And I 'oped I'd never see you again. But I was wrong. Madam, I was wrong. One of us was dead, all right, only it weren't you, It's me...it's me! I'm dead, or wot you call dead, ain't I? I found out, YOU'RE on earth, like I used to be, and I am...well, I don't rightly know where I am, but I ain't livin', least, not like I used to be.
Helen - So you've found that out. How did you?
Nan - It's like this. All your talkin' of a doctor, it was, Madam. 'Get a doctor,' you says. An' where can I get a doctor? I thinks. I ain't seen a doctor for ages. I worried about it, and then it brought me up to somethin' else. I ain't seen nobody else, either, for that matter, I says to myself. An' then I begins to worry. Why ain't I seen nobody? Why didn't I know where you could get a doctor? Where was I? I seemed to be always on me own, nobody ever come to see me. It must 'a been ages, an' yet it didn't seem long. I was still in me cottage, an' yet it weren't like me cottage, somehow. Then again, what was you doin' in the cottage? You seemed to be livin' there, but then so was I. An' I never used to 'ave any one, let alone a lodger.
Helen - So you thought I was a lodger?
Nan - I sat and thought and thought about it, I did. I wondered if I'd gone barmy. An' I can tell you I felt bad. Doctors. I tells meself, when did I last see doctors? An' why? An' where? Madam, I felt I'd lost me memory altogether. Then, it all come back. It was after the Mistress died, a long time after. I got to know that much...
Helen - Yes, yes. Go on. What was your last memory of doctors?
Nan - My last memory? You want me to say wot I remembered? Oh, Madam, it weren't 'appy-making, it weren't. It were a real shock. I cried about it, I did. It was in a 'ospital, Madam, in the infirmary. I fell down on the floor of me cottage...I well remember that now; but what 'appened after? I dunno, only I woke up in the infirmary. I knew it was that 'cos there were nurses and doctors. Yes, Madam, that's where I last saw a doctor. An' I couldn't bear it, 'cos I begun to know I must 'a died.
Helen - And if you did die, you're still 'alive,' aren't you? You can think and you still ARE. Was that all you found out?
Nan - No, Madam, not really all. I 'ad another shock, that was the one wot told me...I come back to see you 'ere.
Helen - But you LIVE here. Where had you been?
Nan - That I don't really rightly know. But you weren't 'ere. I sat a long time puzzlin' me 'ead about it all. An' then...then I 'saw' the stove weren't 'ere no more. My stove 'ad gone, so 'ad my furniture, my bits and pieces, all gone. The place 'ad changed, it weren't like my cottage no more. It was what the Mistress, drat 'er, used to call 'elegant'. It made me cry terrible. I'd lost my 'ome. I felt I'd got no place of my own. An' I didn't know where I was. An'...all of a sudden I knew like. I knew I was dead. There weren't no doubts about it. I'd died in that 'ospital. I'd died. God 'elp me, yet I wasn't buried. I 'adn't any grave that I knew of. An' you 'ad my cottage. You was alive. I was dead. I 'ad no right to be here. I was frightened. I went out. an' I wondered about.
Helen - You poor dear! You'll find a new home, you know. Someone will come to fetch you now.
Nan - No, Miss I'm lost. I got to find me grave, anyway.
Helen - You don't need your grave. That's where you old body is. You've got a new body now. You're going to live in some pleasant place.
Nan looked confused, lost without any knowledge or hope of a future life. Then she was gone. Helen sent out a prayer for guidance for her.
Reviewed by Richard R. from "The Wheel of Eternity" by Helen Greaves, C.W. Daniel. 1974. Other books by Helen Greaves include "The Dissolving Veil," 1967, "Testimony of Light" 1969, "Living Waters" 1978, and "The Challenging Light" 1984.
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