Today is All Souls Day in the Catholic Liturgical Year. Not All Saints Day, that was yesterday. All saints Day is for celebrating the lives of all saints known and unknown. That is, everyone who made it to heaven whether canonized or not. No, today is for praying for all the souls- saintly and otherwise. The otherwise are presumed to need your prayers to lesson the trials of purgatory or where ever they are.
November is of course, also when the old year begins to die. Although you wouldn’t know that here because it’s still pretty warm and the leaves have just begun to turn.
That’s why many cultures associate the dead with this time year- Halloween, Dia de los Muertas, Walpurgisnacht, etc. In Brittany, November is the time for ghost stories. So gather around….
The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA is in an old building that was once the town armory. Across the street is another colonial era building that today is a hotel. Once upon a time however, that building was a military academy. Sometime before the beginning of this story, a tunnel was made under the street to connect the two buildings. However, by the Civil War, the tunnel had been blocked up. I don’t know if it was to keep the curious boy soldiers out of trouble or to prevent the school from damage if the munitions in the armory should catch on fire, but it was not blocked with a wall or even dirt, just some old unwanted, broken pieces of furniture, and other leftovers.
When the Civil War began, the students went off to war and the tunnel was forgotten about. The school was turned into a hospital for wounded soldiers. A young woman, probably pretty, who was looking after the wounded took a liking to one of the young men in her care. This young soldier, who must have been handsome, played the fiddle. She spent many an evening at his bedside while he played for her and of course, they fell in love. But the soldier’s wounds became infected and before too long he was gravely ill. He told her, as he knew he was dying, that he wanted her to have his fiddle and a day or two later he lost consciousness. She was holding his hand when he slipped away.
When it came time to gather his few belongings together- the fiddle could not be found. It had disappeared.
Shortly after this the town was shelled by the advancing army of the opposing side. The hospital was hit particularly hard and the young nurse was in a wing that caught on fire. The doors and windows were blocked with flames and she was trapped but she heard the sound of a violin playing. She had a terrible need to find it believing against all reason that he must be alive. She followed the sound to a stairwell which went to the very bottom of the building, underground, to a place she had never been before. It was dark and she could barely find her way but she could still hear the violin faintly. It seemed to be coming from a long dark passage leading away from the basement. The only other way out was already filling with flame and smoke and she ran into the passage. She had to climb over and crawl thru bits of wood and boxes and pieces of chairs and other things in the way but she kept going because she could hear the violin playing faster and faster- hurry, hurry, it sang. She thought she saw a figure with a fiddle at the end of the tunnel and she knew it was him. Hopefully, she rushed out of the tunnel and into the armory but he wasn’t there. Only the violin was there, lying just outside the passage.
Sometimes in the theatre at night, if it’s very quiet, one can hear a fiddle music playing faintly from a long way away.