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August 27, 1916: Edinburgh, Scotland
A young woman of my acquaintance saw a ghost. Ordinarily, I would not have given such a melodramatic triviality even passing notice, save for two pertinent facts. One: the ghost appeared in broad daylight at the same country house where my wife and I had been staying that very weekend, and two: the ghost was Pemberton.
What made this eerie curiosity more peculiar still was the fact that the specter materialized in the room we would have occupied if my wife had not come down with a cold earlier that day, thus necessitating our premature departure. We returned to the city so she might rest more comfortably in her own bed that night. Otherwise, we would surely have witnessed the apparition ourselves, and spared Miss Euphemia Gillespie, a young lady of twenty, and the daughter of one of the other guests who was staying that weekend, with whom my wife and I were reasonably well acquainted.
Rumor had it that Miss Gillespie was woken from her nap by a strange sound to find a tall, gaunt figure standing at the foot of her bed. Dressed in a dark suit of clothes, and holding his hat in his hands, he was, she reported, soaking wet, "...as if he had been caught in a fearsome shower without his brolly." The young lady took fright and issued a cry of surprise, whereupon the apparition introduced himself, apologized, and promptly vanished with a bewildered expression on his face.
Be that as it may, the full significance of this event did not truly strike home until word of Pemberton's death reached us twodays later, along with news of the loss of RMS Lusitania in the early afternoon of May 7, 1915, roughly the time when his ghost was seen by Miss Gillespie.
This ghostly manifestation might have made a greater stir if it had not been so completely overshadowed by the sinking of the Lusitania. The daily broadsheets were full of venomous outrage at this latest atrocity: a luxury liner torpedoed without warning by a German U-boat, taking almost twelve hundred civilian souls to a watery grave. The Edinburgh Evening Herald published a list of the missing drawn from the ship's manifest. Among those who had embarked on the trip to Liverpool from New York were a few score Americans; the rest were Europeans of several nationalities. Pemberton's name was on the list. Thus, while the rest of the world contemplated the fact that the war had taken a sinister turn, I mourned the death of a very dear and close friend.
I pondered the meaning of the spectral portent and, no doubt, would have given the matter its due consideration, but I was very soon distracted by the precipitous and worrying decline in my wife's health. The chill which she contracted that day in the country had grown steadily worse, and by the time the doctor diagnosed influenza, it was too late. My dearest, beloved helpmate and partner of forty-four years passed away two days later.
Within the space of a week, I had lost the two most important people in my life. I was bereft and broken. Where I might have expected to rely upon one to help me through the death of the other, I had neither. Both were gone, and I was left behind to struggle on as best I could. The children were some comfort, it is true; but they had busy lives of their own, and were soon called back to their affairs, leaving me to flounder in quiet misery.
Following my dear Caitlin's funeral, I attempted to resume my work at the firm, but quickly found that there was no joy or solace to be had in the to-ing and fro-ing of the legal trade. In truth, I had for some time been deriving little pleasure from the practice of my profession. Now, however, I found the whole enterprise so grindingly tedious that it was all I could do to maintain civil relations with my younger colleagues. I endured the daily agony for three months and then retired.
All through this time, I had been wondering over the future of the Brotherhood. I daily expected the summons, but it never came. I suppose I began to feel as if the death of our leader had dealt a killing blow to our clandestine organization -- in my sorry state of mind it would not have surprised me greatly, I confess. However, the wheels of our Order may grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.
Owing to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Pemberton's death, we of the Inner Circle could not officially recognize our leader's demise until certain protocols had been observed. I understand that now; I didn't then.
Also, owing to the war, Evans -- our esteemed Second Principal -- adopted a cautious and conservative policy. It would not have been the first time a passenger listed as missing at sea later turned up alive and well. So, we waited until there could be no doubt, and prepared to mourn the death of our inestimable leader in our own way.
Meanwhile, I became a man of enforced leisure. With plenty of idle hours on my hands, I filled my time with little tasks and such chores as I deemed needful or pleasing, and kept an increasingly anxious eye out for the daily post -- waiting for the summons I knew must come at some point.
Spring passed into summer, and the days lengthened. News of the war in Europe -- the Great War, the newspapers were calling it -- grew more and more dismal by degrees. I forced myself to read the accounts, and was sickened by them; the more so, I suppose, because my own life was sliding into a season of desperate unhappiness. I naturally found myself pondering the recent tragic events.
Time and again, I wrapped myself in melancholy, recalling some happy time I had... The Mystic Rose. Copyright © by Stephen Lawhead. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.