Sir Benjamin Thomas is not widely talked about by the other members of parlament as his policies and votes were neither controversial or terribly revolutionary but it is obvious when talking to those who knew him that he made a large impact on many lives. He is described as a considerate and kind gentleman who possessed warmth and an air of approachability uncommon to those of his profession. Which is why it surprised me to hear somewhat ominous stories of his ghostly prescence from villagers in the pub.
They say that you can see him roaming the orchards on misty evenings holding a lantern aloft or hear him in the stables talking to his prized horses when no one is there. I also received reports of piano music coming from his quarters which have remained unoccupied since his death. In order to verify these reports I have traveled to his estate on the outskirts of this small hamlet looking for the truth.
I am greeted at the gate by a young woman who introduces herself as Lily and informs me that she was his headmistress. She seems pleased not only to give me a tour of the grounds and show me how very well maintained she and her late master's other servants are keeping the estate but also to have the opportunity to discuss Sir Thomas whom she was obviously very fond of.
She describes him to me much like others have as a kind gentleman of warmth who was softspoken in all areas of his life. What she adds is an element of familiarity reserved to those who observed him in his daily actions while in the privacy of his home. She states that he was the most fair master she or any of his other servants had ever encountered and displays an obvious sadness over his loss. It is only when I ask her of the tales I have heard of his haunting that her disposition changes.
"Oh, what rubbish," she scoffs, informing me that a man of such quiet nature could never make such a ruckus, either during his life or afterwards. She emphasizes his desire to keep peace within his household during his life and her firm belif that his dispositon would not change so after death. She does, however, inform me of her and the other servants knowledge of the exact moment of his death.
"He would always be sure to say goodbye to each of us indivdually whenever he left for London. We would all line up at the main gate to review our duties during his absence and he would say goodbye by shaking each of our hands," she says. "The physician, of course, would not allow us in the room when he became very ill although I tried my hardest. I would have tended to him better, i'm sure and had his sister not insisted I would never have sent for him at all. As was I was outside the door when I felt it."
"Felt him shake my hand to say goodbye. As soon as I experienced the sensation I knew, before his physician emerged to inform us that he had passed. I already knew and so did everyone else."
Intriguged I ask if anyone else is as firm in this belief as she and sure enough as we tour the grounds she introduces me to gardeners, stable keepers, cooks and other servants who all attest to the same thing. In the kitchen she introduces me to one girl in particular, no more than 12 years of age, whome she informs is her daughter, Rose and says was very close to the master. Rose has a bright disposition and smile uncommon in any servant and seems, much like her mother, very happy for the opportunity to talk about her late master.
"Did you feel the sensation of someone shaking your hand when Sir Thomas died?" I ask her.
"Yes," she smiles, "but I was the only one who got a kiss on the cheek."