Ghost Story Review: "Through the Ivory Gate" by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews
Philip Fairfield Beckwith is a northern son of a proud (if impoverished) southern family. He’s never seen the Kentucky home of his mother’s relatives, but he will inherit it one day. He has recurring dreams of a boy standing outside a great old house offering him a key. Philip takes to the boy immediately, as if they were old friends. He never tells his parents about the dreams.
One day when he is about 15, he sees his mother going through some old papers and photographs. He sees a picture of a young boy in a black and white plaid outfit with large squares of black velvet sewed here and there as decoration. It is the boy he’s seen in his dreams. He asks his mother who the boy is.
“It’s your little uncle—my brother, for whom you were named.” She tells him that her brother died when he was 5, then asks why he wants to know.
“You’ll laugh at me, but I’ve seen this chap in a dream…”
“Oh, Philip! What have you been eating for dinner, I’d like to know? I can’t have you seeing visions of your ancestors at fifteen—it’s unhealthy.”
She then goes on to tell him how her brother died. Her father was recovering from wounds received in the battle of Malvern Hill during the War. He felt the Yankees closing in and was going to send his family away for safety, along with $10,000 in gold in a tin box but died on the way, leaving the secret of the place of its burial with little Philip. The boy was barely 4 and sworn to tell NO ONE where it lay hidden, so he didn’t—not even his mother. She hoped that as he grew older, he would see the sense of telling his mother where it was so the family could eat. Problem was, little Philip never got older and no one ever found the gold.
But Northern Philip wasn’t to worry! It wasn’t like they needed the money now! And his mother intended to live a very long time! Things don’t always go to plan, of course. Mrs. Beckwith died within the year. But Northern Philip wasn’t a milquetoast and rose to the occasion, making his way in the world.
This story is really a soap opera with a ghost tacked on to make it even more melodramatic. Philip gets the girl in the end and (I trust I give nothing away) the $10,000 in gold and the family estate, etc. In the meantime, there are more than a few “darkies” and “mammies” in the story whose existence is acknowledged but are generally regarded as props. On the merits of its melodrama alone, I would have to avoid recommending this one.
Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews is now best remembered for a short story about Abraham Lincoln writing the Gettysburg Address, titled “The Perfect Tribute.” Many of her stories, also published in Scribner’s, centered on the sentimental. She also wrote some adventure stories aimed at young boys.
Title: “Through the Ivory Gate” first published in Scribner’s Monthly June 1905
Author: Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews (1860-1936)
Yesterday review: “Tree, Spare That Woodman” by David Dryfoos
Last ghost story: “The Canterville Ghost” by Oscar Wilde
©2015 Denise Longrie
An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It had been removed and is no longer visible. The review has been updated and expanded for it inclusion at PP
Image Credit » https://pixabay.com/en/ghost-town-forgotten-place-wild-west-551136/ by werner22brigitte