The picture portrait
For the ordinary, sceptical person of current times, it is difficult to accept the existence of spirits, ghosts or other entities that reside in the realm between the world of the living and the dead. But, maybe, sometimes, we should acknowledge the fact that the souls of the dead occasionally do interfere in the life of the mortals.
This is an old story from Dubrovnik about the simple servant girl who, like many of her counterparts, worked for a wealthy family in the city to earn decent money to help her poor folks. She was just like other girls her age, naive, under-educated, but hardworking and modest. Suddenly, one day, she fell ill and ended up in the hospital. There she learned her employers didn’t pay for her health-care, so all her income, everything she had earned, went for the medical bills.
When she was discharged from the hospital, she was all alone and broke, with hardly twenty dinars in her pocket. She couldn't go back to the same service (she was already replaced) and needed to find life and work elsewhere. The girl was desperate, but she confided in the good Lord, so she chose to put her fate into His Providence. She, therefore, paid a holy mass in the main Church of Our Lady.
After the mass ended, and she exited the church, a young nobleman approached her. The young man was very well dressed in a brown suit, wearing a distinguished burgundy tie. Despite his elegant attire, she noticed he had a remarkably deep, almost melancholy look in his dark eyes that stood out on his pale face. He never introduced himself, but he gave her advice informing her about an elderly lady, who lived alone, not too far away from the cathedral, and adding that the lady required help. He gave her directions on how to find her home. She looked in the direction that was indicated to her, and when she looked back, wanting to thank the gentleman, she was startled to discover that he wasn’t there anymore. She looked around, but he was nowhere to be seen.
The young girl took it as a sign from God, and, without further ado, she went straight to the aforementioned address. There, she discovered a lovely old palace. She then knocked with a bronze knocker and waited. In some moments which seemed like an eternity to her, the door slowly opened. A small person peeked from within. The outside light timidly illuminated a face of an aged woman who came out from the shadow inside, with a questioning expression, staring at her visitor.
The girl thus explained how she had heard that the lady might require some aid in the household, so she came to ask if the lady was hiring. Naturally, the first thing the mature dame wanted to find out, in all her curiosity, about the person who had sent the girl her way.
The girl replied: “It was some young gentleman. I do not know his name, he didn’t mention it.” But the lady wanted to hear again – who was he, how did he look like? And once more, the girl stated: “I only know that he was dressed in the brown attire with a red tie.”
After hearing the girl, the lady opened her door and let her kindly into her home. She showed her the way to the parlour and told her to make herself more comfortable. As she was taking her coat off, her gaze went around the room that was crowded with faded, outdated furniture, once elegant and eye-catching, just as the old noblewoman had probably been in her youthful days. Suddenly, her eyes stopped on the old, black and white photo that was hanging on the wall. It was a portrait of the young man. In her recognition, she exclaimed:
“That's the man who told me about you! It was him!”
At first, the lady was dumbfounded. The tears started showing up in the corners of her eyes. The girl, overwhelmed by the lady’s manner, asked: “Did I say something wrong? I’m sorry if I said anything to offend you.”
The old lady, after she composed herself, explained with a smile: “You have said nothing wrong, my child. The gentleman that you had met was none other than my son! You see, he died a year ago.”
* * * * *
Her son, while he was still alive, cared much about his mother, and he continued to do so after his death by sending her a daughter.
Of course, the old lady took the young girl in. The girl served her well, and before the old woman passed away, all her fortune together with the palace, the lady left to her loyal servant girl.
Source and inspiration for the text:
Marks, Ljiljana; Bošković-Stulli, Maja: Usmene priče iz Župe i Rijeke dubrovačke: Pobožnoj djevojci pomogao umrli mladić, Hrvatska književna baština, Ex libris, pp. 512, 513, Zagreb, 2002.