To Highgate and Beyond

Sydney Walk
June 26th 1853

I have heard from her! I have heard from my beautiful dear Mama!

Josiah returned from Blindingham this afternoon in a black mood – something to do with cement, I think he said – and instead of sitting at his knee all night listening to stories about the Hall, I went to a spiritualist meeting. He was incensed but could not stop me in my excitement. He said it was a lot of ungodly nonsense but I did not obey his wish that I should stay in. What a terrible wife I am! I begged Villiers to hurry with arranging the carriage so that my whirlwind of cloaks, shoes and kissing Dauncey goodbye was too much for Josiah’s weary soul to overcome.

And I am glad that I defied my husband’s expressed wishes, for this evening I have received messages from my own darling mother. She whose corporeal presence left this world fifteen years ago!

I had received a note from Mrs Hayden’s representatives in England saying that she had returned to America almost immediately after the night Papa and I saw her. She had allowed for a heightened interest in her subject, though, and had authorised a number of persons here in London to carry out her work. I marvel at the capacity of so many people to speak to the dead – and how lucky we are that they should unearth such a talent just at the time so many of us should clamour for their services.

I was invited to a private meeting – ‘reading’ they called it, but there was no printed material on display (or else I should have spied an opportunity for the Press girls, I am certain). This ‘reading’ was held in an otherwise quite unremarkable house in Highgate, some way out of London. When I arrived I was shown into a curtained booth with a beautiful lamp on the table. The lamp gave off a darkened reddish glow and I sat for quite some time in solitude. I set to thinking, naturally, about whether Mama could see me and am such a silly that I even smoothed my hair in case she thought me unkempt from the journey.

After my wait, a lady entered the booth and came to sit opposite me. Heavens, but she was strange looking! She had a pale face, quite smooth for a woman who seemed to be as old as Mrs Doughty, but with dark eyes and cruelly thin lips. Her dress looked very much like the curtains she had just come through and put me in mind of something I might like to see at Blindingham but before I could think any further she grabbed my hand and addressed me,

“My child, you have suffered a loss, have you not?” she spoke in a faint voice, but one which I could clearly hear. I stayed silent.

“Have you, my dear, have you lost a loved one? I am sure that you have. I have someone here who wishes to speak to you.”

I looked around me but could see no-one else.

“Who are you wishing to contact, child? Tell me.”

I felt a little foolish but I answered her anyway,

“I should love to speak to Mama if I can,” I whispered.

“Your Mama, you say?”


She closed her eyes and lifted her face to the ceiling, breathing in noisily as she did so. Then she said,

“Your Mama is here, child. She asks me to tell you she loves you,”

Oh! I set to sobbing almost straight away! Mama, to whom I had not spoken since childhood, was in the booth with me – I could not see her but I knew she was there! Oh, mama!

“Collect yourself, my dear, the spirits will not speak in the presence of such distress,” she handed me a linen kerchief and I dried my eyes as best I could. The lady waited for me to become calm and then she said,

“You have much to say to your Mama, my dear, but I cannot keep her here for long. Tell me, what is it you would like your mother to help you understand?”

I had not thought of a question, so just said the first thing that came into my mind.

“Will Josiah be prosperous, Mama? And will I ever know the love of my own child, as you knew mine for you?” I held the kerchief tight in my hands.

“I am listening…yes….she is indeed a beauty…..very well, that is what I shall tell her.” The lady was speaking but not to me – she was speaking to Mama. Soon, she lowered her face and looked at me,

“My child, your Mama is proud of you – she says you are as beautiful as she knew you would be. As for your husband , he will be all that you expect of him.”

I was immediately comforted to hear that.

“And a child?” I asked.

“Yes…..what is that you say?… you wish.” The lady looked directly into my watery eyes and said,

“Your Mama knows you will love any child that comes to you.”

This was not quite the promise I had hoped for but I was so happy to be in Mama’s presence that I did not feel it right to insist on any certainties.

Apparently, Mama faded quite soon after that exchange as the lady slumped alarmingly in her chair, declaring Mama had left her. No matter, I had heard from her and I was happy!

As I left the booth a maid held out a silver plate, into which I placed some coins in payment for the reading. I asked if I might be able to come back and speak again with Mama, and was assured that I could make an appointment whenever I wished. The next thing I knew, I was out in the Highgate air and climbing back into my carriage. I felt drained and fulfilled in equal measure – truly, it has been the most remarkable experience!

Josiah had retired by the time I got home, so I have not yet told him what transpired. Indeed, I may not go into detail with him until he shows himself to be a little more broad-minded on the matter. I will most definitely tell Papa, though, as soon as I can!

3 thoughts on “To Highgate and Beyond

  1. Oh dear. Now poor oblivious Effie will be wasting what little money they have on the medium.

    Knowing what we know about Josiah I can only think it’s a hoax…

    I’m always eagerly awaiting the next installment!

  2. I was really hoping her Mama would tell her all about Josiah in no uncertain terms!!! Except that with Effie I’m not sure she could hear that kind of explanation…..

  3. Well the Medium is telling her what she wishes to hear. That all will b well. Just trust the men in your life.
    heh heh
    That how she got into this mess. Plus she was raised to never really grow up. She has never be given any form of responsibility to herself or others. She is treated like a silly little child and so she has become a silly child.

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