In March 1830, a young woman applied for the job of maid-servant at a house in Islington Square, Liverpool. Her application was accepted, for although she was dressed rather shabbily, the girl had a honest and likeable face. Her name was Hannah Brade.
Hannah's employer - a widowed woman who lived with her only daughter and young son - initially assumed that the girl was from the 'lower' classes, but on many occasions during the maid-servant's two years of service in the household, the widow was intrigued by Hannah's behaviour.
Whenever strangers visited the house, Hannah would become very nervous for some reason, and seemed to be dreading the arrival of someone she didn't want to meet. It seemed that as soon as the maid saw that the visitors were no threat and did not recognise her for who she really was, she would go about her business with regained confidence.
Sometimes the mask slipped. One day when the widow and her children returned home from a day out earlier than expected, and they were intrigued to hear the euphonious notes of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata emanating from the house. It turned out to be Hannah, sitting at the piano in the drawing room. When she suddenly noticed the widow and her children looking on in amazement, Hannah stopped playing and started dusting the ivories, red with embarrassment. When questioned about her musical talent, Hannah skilfully steered the conversation away from the question.
The mysterious maid also refused to reveal how she had acquired her knowledge of medicine when she successfully treated the widow's son when he went down with a serious fever. Within days he made a full recovery. The family doctor, who had told the widow to expect the worst outcome for her sick son, was baffled at the boy's return to health, and was most curious to learn the ingredients of Hannah's top-secret remedy.
On another occasion, the widow's daughter found Hannah's exquisitely-executed pencil sketch of a rustic cottage crumpled up in a bin. There was no end to the girl's achievements. Another accomplishment was Hannah's command of several foreign languages. One day at a market in the town, a German was asking for directions in broken English, and Hannah, thinking her employer was out of earshot, began to converse fluently with the German in his native tongue. Hannah was also heard to sing in French one morning while she made breakfast.
Hannah soon became the talk of the town. Who was she? Who was she hiding from? She was obviously from a high-class home; how else could she have acquired such a comprehensive education? Was she hiding from justice because she'd committed a crime? There were so many questions, but alas, no one ever got to find out.
One morning, the widow was sad to find that Hannah had packed and left the household. Everyone the girl had come into contact with missed her tremendously, especially the widow's children, who were literally heartbroken by the maid's departure.
Then two months later, a package arrived at the widow's home containing a number of expensive gifts. They were from Hannah.
But no one ever heard of Hannah Brade again. The questions remain; who was she? Why did she adopt the disguise of a maid-servant? Was she merely a young woman from the upper echelons of society, sampling the life of the working class? To spend two years seeing how the other half lives would be some feat of stoical endurance to a young girl accustomed to the luxuries of the well-to-do.
We'll probably never know why a beautiful and educated young woman had to hide behind the apron of a maid-servant.
FROM TOM SLEMEN'S "HAUNTED LIVERPOOL 2"
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