Lurancy Vennum, aged 13, awoke one day animated by the spirit of a dead girl.

When Mrs Roff feels calmer, she declares to Thomas Vennum that she will go to see his daughter Lurancy, but that she would prefer to wait a few days to prepare herself for this meeting…

The following day and the day after that, the Vennums try to make Lurancy-Mary wait patiently as she continues to beg them to take her back to her parents.  She moans:

“It’s been so many years since I’ve seen them!  Why don’t they come to fetch me?”

Her despair is so great that Thomas returns to Dixville and asks the Roffs to come without delay.  He thinks that seeing them might cure her.  Mrs Roff promises to come the next day.

On the following morning, she goes to the Vennums’ place accompanied by her eldest daughter Minerva.  When they alight from the carriole, Lurancy is at the window.  She leaps up joyfully and exclaims:

“It’s Mummy and my sister Nervie!”

These words greatly trouble Mrs Roff.  How can the little girl recognize Minerva whom she has never met and call her by a nickname that only little Mary used to give her?

Lurancy rushes into the courtyard.  She throws herself into Mrs Roff’s arms, crying tears of joy.  Then she embraces Minerva with effusion and leads the two women into the house where Julia Vennum receives them with a sad smile.

When everyone is seated, Lurancy-Mary, without appearing at all affected by the embarrassment reigning in the salon, starts to talk with joyful volubility.  She reminds Mrs Roff of scenes from her childhood in Dixville, talks about her school, asks for news of a dog named Pat, appears sad to learn that it is dead, then evokes immediately afterwards, in a joyful tone, the circumstances of her own agony…

“By the way, Mummy, have you kept the little box full of letters that I received from my friends shortly before my death?”

From the beginning of the conversation, Mrs Roff has been making a considerable effort not to burst into tears.  She manages to answer that the little box is still at home;  but big tears flow down her cheeks.  Lurancy runs to embrace her.

“Don’t cry Mummy.  Because I’m here…”

For a few minutes, Mrs Roff avidly considers this little girl who has just evoked so many minuscule facts known only to herself and Mary.  Is it possible that the spirit of the little dead girl has slipped into Lurancy’s body?  She can’t believe it.  Never has anyone spoken to her about something like this.  But, if it’s not true, who is this child who knows so many things?

Mrs Roff is suddenly taken with such anguish that it seems impossible for her to remain one more minute at the Vennums’ home.  She rises and announces that she is leaving but that she will return.  Lurancy asks why she is not going too.  Mrs Roff replies:

“Not now, in a few days…”

And, gently pushing away the little girl who is clinging to her, crying, Mrs Roff says goodbye to Julia and climbs back into the carriage with Minerva.

***

Two days later, Thomas Vennum returns to see the Roffs.  His daughter now refusing food, he has come to ask them timidly if they would accept to take her with them for a few days.

“We are afraid that she will fall ill.  A little stay with you might help her get better…”

After many hesitations, the Roffs accept and Lurancy, overcome with joy, settles in Dixville.  Straight away, those whom she calls “her parents” notice with great astonishment that she knows not only the smallest corners of their house, but also the places of objects in the cupboards and inside the most secret drawers.  Climbing to the attic, she goes directly to a trunk which holds the doll “Blondie” which had been Mary’s favourite toy.  And when Mrs Roff shows her the famous box of letters, she opens it with emotion and removes a collar from it “that she had worn during a childhood celebration”.  Once more, Mrs Roff’s eyes fill with tears, for Mary, then aged ten, had in fact worn this collar to a fancy-dress ball…

That evening, the little girl goes to sit near the fireplace, in a little rocking chair which had been the favourite seat of the dead child, and continues to evoke former memories.  The Roffs listen, moved, finishing by lending themselves to the crazy illusion of having found their little Mary again…

When it is time to retire for the night, Lurancy takes on a serious air:

“I’m happy to have found you again, but I’ll not stay very long with you.  In May, I’ll have to leave you again…  That’s why, until then, all four of us must love each other a lot and be very happy…”

***

Over the following days, the Roffs, more and more troubled and more and more disposed to believe that a miracle has given their daughter back to them, ask the little girl a thousand questions.  Does she remember this detail?  That cousin?  This outing?  That little school friend?  Lurancy answers, giving astounding details.  They also show her portraits which she identifies without hesitation.  She, herself, takes the initiative of organizing games that the family had forgotten.  For a few weeks, they see former habits return and ressuscitate familiar gestures.  To the point that, little by little, the Roffs become used to talking about Mary in the present tense…

In April, they are convinced that their daughter’s spirit is animating Lurancy’s body.

Then May comes.  For a few days, they are all pretending to live normally.  In fact, everyone in the Dixville house is thinking only of the pending separation, and the Roffs are asking themselves anxiously how it will happen.

It is simple.  One morning, Lurancy-Mary, who is playing in the garden, suddenly rushes towards her “mother” and her “sister” and, hugging them very strongly to her, announces to them “that her time has ended”.

All three start to sob.  Suddenly, the young girl faints.  When she regains consciousness a few minutes later, she looks around her for a long time, stares for a moment at Minerva, then turning toward Mrs Roff, says politely:

“Where am I, Madam?”

She was once more Lurancy Vennum…

***

To be continued.

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