Bessie Fitzgerald, Bessie Williams,

 

 Medium Mrs Bessie Fitzgerald

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 Bessie Fitzgerald, Medium

 

THERE IS NO DEATH by Florence Marryat

 

CHAPTER XVIII - THE MEDIUMSHIP OF BESSIE FITZGERALD

 

One evening I went to have a cup of tea with my friend Miss Schonberg at Shepherd's Bush, when she proposed that we should go and have a seance with Mrs Henry Jencken (Kate Fox), who lived close by. I hailed the idea, as I had heard such great things of the Medium in question, and never had an opportunity of testing them. Consequently, I was proportionately disappointed when, on sending round to her house to ask if she could receive us that evening, we received a message to say that Mr. Jencken, her husband, had died that morning, and she could see no one. Miss Schonberg and I immediately cast about in our minds to see what we should do with our time, and she suggested we should call on Mrs. Fitzgerald. Who is Mrs. Fitzgerald?'' I queried. A wonderful Medium, replied my friend, whom I met at Mrs. Wilson's last week, and who gave me leave to call on her. Let us go together. And accordingly we set forth for Mrs. Fitzgerald's residence in the Goldhawk Road. I only mention these circumstances to show how utterly unpremeditated was my first visit to her. We arrived at her house, and were ushered into a sitting-room, Miss Schonberg only sending up her name. In a few minutes the door opened, and a small, fair woman, dressed in black velvet, entered the room. Miss Schonberg saluted her, and was about to tender some explanation regarding my presence there, when Mrs. Fitzgerald walked straight up to me and took my hand. Her eyes seemed to dilate and contract, like the opening and shutting off of a light, in a manner which I have often seen since, and she uttered rapidly, You have been married once; you have been married twice; and you will be married a third time. I answered, If you know anything, Mrs. Fitzgerald, you must know that I am very much attached to my husband, and that your information can give me no pleasure to hear. No! she said, no! I suppose not, but you cannot alter Fate. She then proceeded to speak of things in my past life which had had the greatest influence over the whole of it, occurrences of so private and important a nature that it becomes impossible to write them down here, and for that very reason doubly convincing to the person whom they concern. Presently Mrs. Fitzgerald wandered to her piano, and commenced to play the air of the ballad so firmly connected in my mind with John Powles, Thou art gone from my gaze, whilst she turned and nodded at me saying, He's here! In fact, after a couple of hours' conversation with her, I felt that this stranger in the black velvet dress had turned out every secret of my life, and laid it naked and bare before me. I was wonderfully attracted to her. Her personality pleased me; her lonely life, living with her two babies in the Goldhawk Road, made me anxious to give her society and pleasure, and her wonderful gifts of clairvoyance and trance mediumship, all combined to make me desire her friendship, and I gave her a cordial invitation to my house in the Regent's Park, where for some years she was a constant visitor, and always sure of a hearty welcome. It was due to her kindness that I first had the opportunity to study trance mediumship at my leisure, and in a short time we became so familiar with her most constant control, Dewdrop, a Red Indian girl, and so accustomed to speak through Mrs. Fitzgerald with our own friends gone before, that we welcomed her advent to our house as the signal for holding a spiritual party. For the sake of the uninitiated and curious, I think I had better here describe what is meant by trance mediumship. A person thus gifted has the power of giving him or herself up to the control of the influences in command, who send him or her of to sleep, a sleep so deep and so like death that the spirit is actually parted pro tem from the body, which other Spirits, sometimes living, but far oftener dead, enter and use as if it were their own. I have mentioned in my chapter on Embodied Spirits how my living friend in India conversed with me through Bessie Fitzgerald in this way, also how Florence spoke to me through the unconscious lips of Mabel Keningale Cook.

 

Of course, I am aware that it would be so easy for a Medium simply to close her eyes, and, professing to be entranced, talk a lot of commonplaces, which open-mouthed fools might accept as a new gospel, that it becomes imperative to test this class of media strictly by what they utter, and to place no faith in them, until you are convinced that the matters they speak of cannot possibly have been known to any one except the friend whose mouthpiece they profess to be. All this I fully proved for myself from repeated trials and researches; but the unfortunate part of it is, that the more forcible and convincing the private proof, the more difficult it is to place it before the public. I must content myself, therefore, with saying that some of my dead friends (so called) came back to me so frequently through Bessie Fitzgerald, and familiarized themselves so completely with my present life, that I forgot sometimes that they had left this world, and flew to them (or rather to Bessie) to seek their advice or ask their sympathy as naturally as if she were their earthly form. Of these my daughter Florence was necessarily the most often with me, and she and Dewdrop generally divided the time which Mrs. Fitzgerald spent with us between them. I never saw a Control so completely identified with its Medium as Dewdrop was with Bessie. It was difficult at times to know which was which, and one could never be certain until she spoke whether the Spirit or the Medium had entered the house. When she did speak, however, there was no mistaking them. Their characters were so different. Bessie Fitzgerald, a quiet, soft-spoken little woman, devoted to her children and generally unobtrusive; Dewdrop, a Sioux Indian girl, wary and deep as her tribe and cute and saucy as a Yankee, with an amount of devilry in her that must at times have proved very inconvenient. She used to play Mrs. Fitzgerald tricks in those days that might have brought her into serious trouble, such as controlling her whilst travelling in an omnibus and talking her Yankee Indian to the passengers until she had made their hair stand on end, with the suspicion that they had a lunatic for a companion. One evening we had a large and rather swell evening party, chiefly composed of ladies and gentlemen of the theatrical profession, and entirely of non-Spiritualists, excepting ourselves. Mrs Fitzgerald had been invited to this party, and declined, because it was out of her line. We were therefore rather astonished, when all the guests were assembled to hear her name announced and see her enter the room in a morning dress. Directly I cast eyes upon her however, I saw that it was not herself, but Dewdrop. The stride with which she walked, the waggish way she rolled from side to side, the devilry in her eye, all betokened the Indian Control. To make matters worse, she went straight up to Colonel Lean, and, throwing herself on the ground at his feet, affectionately laid her head upon his knee, and said, I'se come to the party. Imagine the astonishment of our guests! I was obliged at once, in defence of my friend, to explain to them how matters stood; and though they looked rather incredulous, they were immensely interested, and Dewdrop's visit proved to be the event of the evening. She talked to each one separately, telling them home truths, and prophesying their future in a way that made their cheeks go pale with fright, or red with conscious shame, and there was quite a contest between the men as to who should take Dewdrop down to the supper table. When there, she made herself particularly lively, making personal remarks aloud that were, in some instances, rather trying to listen to, and which Bessie Fitzgerald would have cut out her tongue sooner than utter. She ate, too, of dishes which would have made Bessie ill for a week. This was another strange peculiarity of Dewdrop's control. She had not only ousted the Spirit; she regulated the internal machinery of her Medium's body. Bessie in her normal condition was a very delicate woman with a weak heart and lungs, and obliged to be most careful in her diet. She ate like a sparrow, and of the simplest things. Dewdrop, on the other hand, liked indigestible food, and devoured it freely; yet Bessie has told me that she never felt any inconvenience from the food amalgamated with her system whilst under Dewdrop's control. One day when Mrs. Fitzgerald was dining with us, we had some apples as dessert, which she would have liked to partake of, but was too much afraid of the after consequences. I dare not, she said; were to eat a raw apple, I should have indigestion for a week. She took some preserved ginger instead; and we were proceeding with our dessert, when I saw her hand steal out and grasp an apple. I looked in her face. Dewdrop had taken her place. Dewdrop, I said, authoritatively, you must not eat that. You will hurt Bessie. Put it down directly. I shan't, replied Dewdrop, drawing the dish towards her; I like apples. I'm always wanting 'Medy' to eat them, and she won't, so she must go away till I've had as many as I want. And in effect she ate three or four of them, and Bessie would never have been cognizant of the fact unless I had informed her. On the occasion of the party to which she came uninvited, Dewdrop remained with us to the very last, and went home in a cab, and landed Mrs. Fitzgerald at her house without her being aware that she had ever left it. At that time we were constantly at each other's houses, and many an evening have I spent alone with Bessie in the Goldhawk Road, her servant out marketing and her little children asleep in the room overhead. Her baby was then a great fat fellow of about fifteen months old, who was given to waking and crying for his mother. If Dewdrop were present, she was always very impatient with these interruptions. Both dat George,' she would say; I must go up and quiet him. Then she would disappear for a few minutes, while Bessie woke and talked to me, and then, in the twinkling of an eye, Dewdrop would be back again. One day, apparently, George would not be comforted, for on Dewdrop's return she said to me, It's no good; I've had to bring him down. He's on the mat outside the door; and there, sure enough, we found the poor baby wailing in his nightshirt. Not being able to walk, how he had been spirited from the top storey to the bottom I leave my readers to determine. Bessie's little girl Mabel promised to be as wonderful a medium as her mother. She would come in from the garden flushed from her play with the Spirit Children, ) of whom she talked as familiarly as of her little neighbours next door. I have watched her playing at ball with an invisible child, and have seen the ball thrown, arrested half-way in the air, and then tossed back again just as if a living child had been Mab's opponent. I had lost several infants from premature birth during my second marriage, and the eldest of these, a girl, appeared to be a constant companion  of Mabel's. She was always talking of what Mrs. Lean's girl (as she called her) had done and said; and one day she had a violent fit of weeping because her mother would not promise to buy her a frock like the one Mrs. Lean's girl wore.

 

Apropos of these still-born children, I had a curious experience with Mrs. Fitzgerald the Medium. I had had no idea until then that children so born possessed any souls, or lived again, but Florence undeceived me when she told me she had charge of her little brothers and sisters. She even professed to know the names by which they were known in the spirit world. When a still-born baby is launched upon the other side, she said it is delivered to the nearest relative of its parent, to be called by what name he may choose. Thus my first girl was christened by Colonel Lean's mother Gertrude, after a bosom friend of her's, and my second my father named Joan, as he said it was his favourite female name. Upon subsequent inquiry, we found that Mrs Lean had a friend called Gertrude, and that Joan was distinctly Captain Marryat's beau ideal of a woman's name. However, that signified but little. I became very curious to see or speak with these unknown babies of mine, and used to worry Florence to bring them to me. She would expostulate with me after this fashion: Dear mother, be reasonable. Remember what babies they are, and that this world is quite strange to them. When your earthly children were small you never allowed them to be brought down before strangers, for fear they should cry. Gertie and 'Yonnie' would behave just the same if I brought them back to you now. However, I went on teasing her till she made the attempt, and Gertie returned through Mrs Fitzgerald. It was a long time before we could coax her to remain with us, and when she overcame her first shyness, it was like talking to a little savage. Gertie didn't know the meaning of anything, or the names of anything. Her incessant questions of What's a father, What's a mother, What's a dog? were very difficult to answer; but she would chatter about the spirit- world, and what she did there, as glibly as possible. She told us that she knew her brother Francis (the lad who was drowned at sea) very well, and she ran races, and Francis 'chivied' her; and when he caught her he held her under the fountain, and the spray wetted her frock, and made it look like silver. The word chivied sounding to me very much of a mundane character, I asked Gertie where she learned it; and she said, Francis says 'chivy,' so I may, and it was indeed a common expression with him. Gertie took, after a while, such a keen interest in my ornaments and china, rather to their endangerment, that I bought a doll to see if she would play with it. At first she was vastly delighted with the little spirit, as she called it, and nursed it just as a mortal child would have done. But when she began to question me as to the reason the Loll did not look at her, or answer her, or move about, and I said it was because it was not alive, she was dreadfully disappointed. Not alive! she echoed; didn't God make it? and when I replied in the negative, she threw it to the other end of the room, and would never look at it again.

 

Gertie was about five years old at this period, and seemed to have a great idea of her own importance. She always announced herself as The Princess Gertie, and was very dignified in her behaviour. One day, when a lady friend was present when Gertie came and asked her to kiss her, she extended her hand instead of her face, saying, You may kiss my hand.

 

Yonnie (as Joan called herself) was but eighteen months old, and used to manifest herself, roaring like a child forcibly dragged before strangers, and the only word we could ever extract from her was Sugar-plums. Accordingly, I invested in some for her benefit, with which she filled her mouth so full as nearly to choke the Medium, and Florence rebuked me seriously for my carelessness, and threatened never to bring Yonnie down to this earth again. There had been three other children---boys---whom I was equally anxious to see again, but, for some inexplicable reason, Florence said it was impossible that they could manifest. The little girls, however, came until we were quite familiar with them. I am aware that all this must sound very childish, but had it not borne a remarkable context, I should not have related it. All the wonder of it will be found later on.

 

Medium Bessie Fitzgerald suffered very much at this time from insomnia, which she always declared was benefited after a visit to me. I proposed one night, therefore, when she had stayed with us later than usual, that she should remain and share my bed, and return home in the morning. She consented, and at the usual hour we retired to rest together, I taking care to lock the bedroom door and keep the gas burning; indeed, Bessie was so nervous of what she might see that she would not have remained in the dark for any consideration. The bed we occupied was what is called a half tester, with a canopy and curtains on either side. As soon as ever Bessie got into it, she burrowed under the clothes like a dormouse, and went fast asleep. I was too curious to see what might happen to follow her example, so my head remained on the pillow, and my eyes wide open, and turning in every direction. Presently I saw the curtains on the opposite side of the bed gently shaken, next a white hand and arm appeared round them, and was passed up and down the ridge that represented Bessie Fitzgerald's body; finally, after several times stepping forward and retreating again, a female figure emerged and walked to the foot of the bedstead and stood there regarding me. She was, to all appearance, as solidly formed as any human creature could be, and she was as perfectly distinct as though seen by daylight. Her head and bust reminded me at once of the celebrated Clytie, they were so classically and beautifully formed. Her hair and skin were fair, her eyes luminously liquid and gentle, her whole attitude one of modest dignity. She was clothed in some creamy white material, thick and soft, and intermixed with dull gold. She wore no ornaments, but in her right hand she carried a long branch of palm, or olive, or myrtle, something tall and tapering, and of dark green. She scarcely could be said to smile at me, but there was an indescribable appearance of peace and tranquility about her. When I described this apparition to Bessie in the morning, she recognized it at once as that of her control, Goodness, whom she had seen clairvoyantly, but she affirmed that I was the only person who had ever given her a correct description of this influence, which was the best and purest about her. After Goodness had remained in the same position for a few minutes, she walked back again behind the curtain, which served as a cabinet, and Florence came out and had a whispered conversation with me. Next a dark face, but only a face, said to be that of Dewdrop,' peeped out four or five times, and disappeared again; then a voice said, No more! good night", and I turned round to where Bessie lay sleeping beside me, and went to sleep myself After that, she often came, when suffering worse than usual from insomnia, to pass the night with me, as she said my magnetism caused her to sleep, and similar manifestations always occurred when we were alone and together

 

Mrs. Fitzgerald's mediumship was by no means used, however, for the sole purpose of gratifying curiosity, or foretelling the future. She was a wonderful medical diagnoser, and sat for a long time in the service of a well-known medical man. She would be ensconced in a comer of his waiting room and tell him the exact disease of each patient that entered. She told me she could see the inside of everybody as perfectly as though they were made of glass. This gift, however, induced her to take on a reflection (as it were) of the disease she diagnosed, and after a while her failing strength compelled her to give it up.

 

 

 

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