Now, you must imagine a very dark night, like tonight, with clear, windblown skies and a quarter moon rising there beyond the oaks, shining on the bloody history of the calm inlet. The sweep of the lighthouse beam has a calming, serene effect, to contrast with the dubious prudence of being out so late, in the dark, wandering strange streets with a woman dressed in a Victorian walking outfit, carrying a lantern. During the day, you had learned of the piracy, plagues, pillaging and pyromania of the past 440 years. I have now led you to the oldest spot in the United States where European colonization truly began. The sky above us is unchanged in the last half millennium, there with Jupiter moving through the constellation of Sirius, racing ahead of the moon for now. You can see stars shimmering in the water as we move away from the sea wall and head west toward our rendezvous.
The wind has caught the train of my hat's veil and it gently flows as we walk to an unexpected little garden, easily missed by the casual passerby. We enter through an overgrown arbor, heavily scented with the late blooms of Confederate Jasmine as stray vines brush uneasily across your arms and through your hair. My lantern provides just enough light that moves hesitantly through the veil over my face, searching out features and expressions for you to interpret as I begin. As you stand around me, shivering slightly with the chilled air, I begin:
What you are seeing behind me is a building whose outer walls stand as a description of the southernmost boundary of this town. Its courtyard faces inward, as these walls were also a part of the defense of the town. It is now, and has been for over 140 years, an Inn. Before it was an Inn, however, it was someone's home, being the residence of Major Hardee and his wife and three small children. Also living with the family was a nephew, and a servant girl from town, named Lily.
In the course of time and natural circumstances, the nephew grew to notice Lily's exotic dark skin and laughing, island eyes, for she carried with her all the melancholy beauty of her home far away in Barbados. How could such a young man, with too much time and too little responsibility be blamed for falling madly in love with her?
Fearing the repercussions of their impropriety, the young lovers trysted where they could steal a moment, a kiss, a longing gaze. Do you note the third floor of this building? It is no longer a rambling attic as it was in Lily's day, but now holds beautiful accommodations for happy tourists. But for Lily and the Nephew, it was a proper attic, full of imposing crates, old furniture, bric-a-brac and books. They would push aside boxes, sit upon the packing crates and foolishly speak of a future which, frankly, could never be.
Their love continued apace and undetected, or so they thought. However, the Major suspected the long glances and discreet smiles bode something more serious and made it his mission to intercept the affair, which thing he did by arriving home in the middle of the day, early, from his usual command of the city's defense.
He began on the first floor. Not finding his nephew or Lily, he ascended to the second floor. From there he found himself climbing to the attic, and rounding a corner, found his nephew and house girl in a fiery embrace.
"LILY!" he roared, At this point, you my dear readers must visualize that the guests in this garden, especially my younger guests, give a startled jump as I lower my voice and boom out this line of the story, "How dare you?"
"How dare you presume upon this house," he continued, " and the good will of your mistress by being alone here with my nephew? You will immediately pack your things and return to your family in town!"
With a shriek of sheer terror and emotional pain Lily jumps up and runs down to her room. The Major, turning his attention to his nephew says, "Young man, it's obvious that you do not have enough to occupy your time and attention. I shall speak with your aunt and think further on how best to remedy this oversight." With a quick turn on his heel, the Major descends to the family area downstairs.
Now, gentle ghost-guests, we have the Major downstairs thinking, Lily on the second floor cyring and packing her things, and the young nephew up in the attic, there you see? That room just to the left, that window there.? Yes, take a picture if you like. He is up there and with all the harrumphing of his uncle and the tears of his beloved weighing on his heart; our forlorn young man is hurting, and that quite keenly.
Like many young people without the perspective that years can lend, he does not realize that his pain will fade. He decides on a very permanent solution to his temporary heartache as he spies a coiled rope. He grabs it up and secures one end of the rope on the rafters above him.
Dear reader, allow that your gaze ascends to the branches of the ancient oak under which we are standing, imagining the rafters as I mime the act of tossing a coil of rope upward. The smaller guests are now watching me intently, for all they can see is the merest glimpse of my features, my eyes now wide with intensity of the moment as I continue my story.
The same trunks and crates where he and Lily had been seated are now stacked upon each other and as he mounts them, he takes the other end of the rope, fashions a noose and places it around his neck. (And now my guests in the garden grow deathly quiet. Hopefully, that damn drunken Hearse Tour won't show up before my dramatic finish.)
Balancing on a small crate, our young lover adjusts the knot and fidgets with the rope, tears stinging his eyes with the agony of his heart breaking. Having taken in all slack, he leans forward on his toes now barely clinging to the edge of an empty crate. After taking in the mouldy furniture, the dim light, the last scent of Lily's lingering presence , he thrusts his body forward and kicks backward on the crate, assuring that there would be no retreat from his protest of pain, no cowardly half-measure of his honor. And there he died.
It is said that Lily, upon hearing the house quiet, crept back up the stairs to take in one more glimpse of that place where she had found such hope for happiness, and spying her love thus expired, mounted the crates and bodily lifted the young boy down with a horrifying thud onto the floor. Kissing his lips now washed with her tears, she re-mounted to the noose and placed it around her neck, so to follow her love in Death as in Life by submitting herself to his fate.
In truth, however, she went back to her family in town and pined away for grief. She died within a month and was quietly buried in the pauper's graveyard. I find this, my dear guests, a better if less dramatic, end to this true story; to pine away for grief and loss of love is a woman's noble death. We are not allowed to battle as men and win glory in death. No, our abiding crown is to die in, of, or for, love. Such was Lily's true Heart and true Death.
But not to worry, my fellow adventurers! For such a tragic death, the lovers are enjoying a blithe haunting of this Inn. Many a traveler has encountered Lily's antics, and indeed, one must reserve "Lily's Room" many months in advance, so popular is her story and certain are her manifestations.
Guests have reported her wandering here in this garden, women have awakened early in the morning, startled by the sound of someone rummaging in their purse, only to have it flung to the floor. Honeymooning couples especially experience Lily's antics. One couple, upon returning from a day of sightseeing, found that Lily had been into the wife's things and had tried on many of her dresses. Nothing malicious, nothing stolen, just the curiosity of a young girl who died many years ago, marveling at the latest fashions.
One young bride reported something even stranger. She was having the most wonderful dream that her new husband was waking her with a kiss. A strong and passionate kiss that thrilled her right into consciousness! She awoke to see her bridegroom sleeping soundly! Ah, the Nephew of course, was sporting about! Of course when she told her husband, he insisted they check out of this Inn and find less exciting lodgings.
There's more. Today's house girls here at the Inn, find that Lily does not like for them to listen to the television while cleaning the guest rooms. She will simply go behind them and turn of the TV. One of my guests on this tour even related that Lily would continually push the television remote off of the coffee table and onto the floor!
When various ghost hunters have been here, they endeavored to see what most hope to see more than any other manifestation of Lily's presence: the indistinct figure of Lily descending the stairs. She appears blurred and uneven, but her hand upon the rail is almost tangible, as real and detailed as my own beautifully gloved hand here before you, my fellow adventurers!
I thank you for joining me here in this bowered garden in the dead of night. You are braver than most! Take your time to wander about and photograph. Imagine young Lily, her bright smile and laugh, the handsome young Nephew's devoted gaze into her eyes, and their merry mischief together, eternally in this place. Perhaps you will find them in the pictures you take tonight!
And now my fellow travelers, I exhort you to be careful to watch your step as we exit back into the street. There are spirits about tonight, mostly of the mineral kind, imbibed by recalcitrant locals in their cars. It is, after all, a Pirate Town...
...They may aim to make you my next ghost story.