Monday, February 9, 2015

Two's A Dream, Three's Company

The City of Limerick, a 1300 ton vessel built in 1867 by the Royal Mail Steamship Co. and sailing out of London, had spent the past nine days being tossed about by storms in the North Atlantic. One of its passengers, S. R. Wilmot* of Bridgeport, CT, was returning home to his factory, his children, and his wife, Margaret. Or at least he hoped to.

The relentless squalls were casting a pall over the whole trip. Finally, on the 10th night, the seas calmed and Wilmot looked forward to the first decent sleep in a week in his cabin, which he shared with a man named William Tate** who slept in the bunk above his.

Wilmot lay there in the dark, listening to the gentle creaking of the ship and to Tate's sonorous breathing when suddenly the door creaked open. Wilmot opened his eyes to find a woman standing in the doorway. After a long moment of staring at her in the dim light from the hall, he was startled to realize it was his own wife.

"Margaret," he called out. "What are you doing here?!"

She said nothing, but rather seemed to float across the floor to where he lay. Margaret gently touched his face with her hand and then leaned over to kiss him.

Surely, he thought, this can't be a dream. It felt so real. Suddenly Margaret vanished from his eyes. In the confusion, the overworked gears of his brain, racing to fathom the reality of his experience, began to shut down and sleep soon overtook his exhausted mind.

In the Morning, Wilmot resigned himself to the conclusion that he had had a dream and nothing more.  And he would have been fine with that had his cabin mate not asked him who the woman was that came into their room last night.

Wilmot was shocked. How could Tate have seen his dream? It simply wasn't possible.

When he docked, Wilmot raced to his wife, eager to tell her of his strange experience. But before he could even recount the tale of his peculiarly shared vision, his wife asked him why it was that he didn't have a private room on the ship.

Startled by the curious question, he asked her to clarify.  Well, there was a man sleeping above you, she responded. "How could you know?" he asked, as a cold, queer feeling rose up from the depth of his being.

She explained how she couldn't sleep last night, having read about the storms affecting his voyage. When she did finally drift off she had a strange dream where she floated across the sea and aboard his ship where she entered his cabin and kissed him.

The date of the tale isn't clear, but it must have taken place between 1867 and the The City of Limerick's notorious vanishing (it was as the heart of a mild scandal involving the Centaur Line's newly lengthened steamers that all went down along the same route within a short time of each other) in January 1881. One source has his trip as being October 3, 1863, but the ship had yet been built in 1863. Perhaps there is confusion on which ship he actually sailed. Or perhaps this source is in error as to the date. 

*S. R. Wilmot was a businessman working in the metal industry in the latter half of the 19th Century. He had several successful patents, including improved methods for joining metal sheets and for a successful style of burner plate for oil lamps. 

**In some accounts, his name has been spelled Tait. 

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