The Brazilian Backpacker
Tales from the UK: Supernatural Moonfleet
Once upon a time around the long gone days of the 1980s the awesome Brazilian Backpacker grabbed with all her might a once in a lifetime chance of setting her feet for the first time on Old World soil, more precisely, the United Kingdom.
The idea of seeing with her own eyes all those beauties chanted by bards of all sorts and of all times had been haunting her ever since her early teenage years. Ever since she had read about some of the kingdom’s main characters such as Dr Frankenstein, Count Dracula, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Nessie the Loch Ness Monster and heaps of others…
Below is an extract of what remains of her own travel log about her many adventures in Britain. The passage, narrates her weird experience in Weymouth, a picturesque seaside town on the South Coast of England.
I got totally desperate, the feeling of having nowhere to go just devastates one’s soul. Suddenly, however, out of a deep-seated blue funk came to my mind a thought that would change my life –forever!
What if I turned to my friends in Weymouth as a last resort? They’re ever so kind and understanding, they might well have me as a guest for this fortnight in between courses…
To cut a long, anxious, story short these wonderful Brazilian friends of my mother’s turned out to welcome me with exhilarating relief: they were just about starting their holiday trip to the continent and rejoiced to find a free housekeeper for their two week absence… and moreover, their oldest daughter could save face with her boss by leaving someone to replace her as a chambermaid.
Ironically, I went from rags to riches just overnight. I had now a two-story gorgeous house all for myself and a job to top it all! This way, I found myself safe and sound to wait for my next English course in Stratford-upon-Avon to start.
Leaving my unforgettable days in Bournemouth behind I set off to Weymouth on a sunny end-of-March morning. As I had all my things on me I had to go by taxi to my new home. My friends were by then somewhere in France or Austria. We’d arranged all details on the phone on the eve of their depart: they would leave the keys on a very original secret hiding place so I could have access to them without their being there to hand them in.
Praying that all went well, I crouched to pick the keys up from under the… front door mat, of course. And it happened to actually be there! In a state of sheer relief, I finally settled down and made myself as comfortable as possible, very comfortable indeed. By the way, the only negative remark I got from my friends had to do with my having to beware a police runaway that had supposedly been spotted on the neighbourhood…
Grateful that no criminal disturbed my angel-like sleep I woke up on the following morning ready to start my new duties as a substitute chambermaid. So, I did as I had been told. I walked all the way to Jill’s place from where she would give me a lift to Moonfleet Hotel on the fascinating countryside of Weymouth.
On our way to the hotel, Jill explained to me everything I needed to know about my tasks as a chambermaid. We also chatted a lot about my opinion about England and Brazil. Still laughing we reached Moonfleet Hotel. Before we stepped out of Jill’s car though her face turned grave, no smile shaped her lips anymore. She looked right on my eyes and asked me quite hesitant:
‘Are you afraid of ghosts?’
I gaped and just repeated her last word, ghosts? Jill’s tense face relaxed a bit. She tried not to look alarmed but warned me that Moonfleet Hotel was haunted by Grace, the ghost! If I were to keep out of trouble with Grace I ought to never ever forget to say ‘Hi, Grace!’ on our arrival and then ‘Bye, Grace!’ when leaving the place.
So far in my whole life nobody had ever warned me about a supernatural entity… Grace, what an unusual name for a ghost! I didn’t know what to do, should I laugh or fall apart?
Just in case I said aloud, ‘Hi, Grace!’ and followed Jill off to the rear entrance to the hotel, direct to the staff quarters. Thrilled by the exciting news, I met my new working mates, half a dozen of friendly English ladies who were all smiles to welcome me.
Great start on my first day at work. With spirits all lifted up I was shown to all tools and cleaning products and given a uniform. We would always work in pairs so as never to be on one’s own in the guests’ rooms. As I had never been a chambermaid before, I felt a little lost. But not for too long, my partners would always come up for help whenever I needed.
What a strange sensation to walk into a guest’s room, to see a total stranger’s private belongings… goodness, some absent-minded guests would dare to leave their wallets wide open (full of money) on top of desks or beds. What if they find some money missing… of course the Brazilian maid is the guilty one! Nobody would blame it on Grace, no way. I grew tense.
As I certainly looked pale, my partner commented, ‘Ana, I see you can feel the spooky atmosphere in this room… this is Grace’s very room!’
I shuddered. My body trembled all over in this ghost’s room. Supernaturally, Grace could pinch a guest’s wallet merely to haunt me…
As I always believed in literary ghosts I enjoyed this sensational adventure, a real ghost. What happened next was that chambermaids took two weeks off of the fearsome task of cleaning Grace’s haunting place. And I made the most of my time alone in a ghost‘s room. Unfortunately, Grace refused to show up to a girl from the tropics… Well, at least nothing ever disappeared while I cleaned her room, my reputation got higher and higher!
During those magic two weeks I lived as in a suspense novel written by one of those famous writers whom I used to love so much. Every morning by 11:30am all chambermaids gathered for a tea-break, we had great chatting minutes together but yet, no sign of Grace.
On my last day at Moonfleet Hotel when I said goodbye to Grace for the last time I felt quite disappointed. My only closer contact with her was James Meade Falkner’s novel Moonfleet in which he narrates Grace’s story in Moonfleet Manor. On our way back to Weymouth, Jill came to the conclusion that, obviously, Grace had not bothered me because I had never forgotten to greet her…
What a fool I was. I failed to meet with an English ghost out of politeness. Not fair. And still worse, I’d never have a second chance. What if Grace had desperately been trying to get in touch with me all that time… only wishing I wouldn’t greet her just for once…
*ANA ESTHER (BALBÃO PITHAN) -This story as ghostly as it seems is NOT a work of fiction. The Brazilian Backpacker adventures in the UK have all really happened when the author, myself, has spent a most joyful year there (1989). I’ve changed all people’s real names but all the rest depicts true events and feelings.