After having been writing under the tutelage of Patience Worth for more than 6 years, Pearl Curran wanted to spread her own wings as a writer and submitted a short story to the Saturday Evening Post entitled Rosa Alvaro, Entrante. It was accepted by the magazine and published in the November 22, 1919 issue. Briefly it is a story of a young women, Mayme Ladd, bored with her life as a sales clerk in a department store in the early 1900s who assumes a more exciting personality of Rosa Alvaro, the spirit of a Spanish lady whom she contacted through a medium. Pearl was able to draw details of the story from her own experiences as a young woman working as a sales clerk in Chicago and from the milieu of mediumship surrounding the previous 6 years of her involvement with Patience Worth and all of the trappings associated, in the public mind, with spirit communication. Pearl had an abundance of material to write an entertaining story—which she did!
Much has been made of this story in a PhD dissertation by Mia Grandolfi Wall and by others who use it to “disprove previous spiritualistic theories regarding the nature of Pearl Curran’s automatic writing.” That is, Wall’s thesis is that Pearl Curran is revealing in this story that, just as Mayme Ladd faked the personality of Rosa Alvaro, she also faked the personality of Patience Worth. And as other critics have tediously conjectured, Wall states that Pearl Curran struggled “to develop a feminine sexual identity and to suppress her professional ambition.” I may have more to say about this thesis later but for now, take a look at the writing style of Pearl Curran in her short story Rosa Alvaro, Entrante.
Madam Martin mopped herself with a heavily scented handkerchief and swayed form side to side. Finally with a guttural sigh she said pantingly: “The conditions is strong. Miss, will you have a life reading? You oughta. What I sees for you is worth it.”
She held her hand forth and the shaking hand of Mayme laid two dollars therein. “Thanks,” said the madam, beaming. “I said right off when I seen you—-” She stopped and hiccupped, then spilled: “Herself, she lost herself.” She smiled and went on easily: “Poor Laughing Water! She thinks you are lost. She’s such a child. Why, last week she took me and slid down the banister for a young reporter from the Post. Be still, Laffie. After while you can talk to the paleface.
“Shall I trance? All right now, just you be in rappert. Now hold my hands and think a question. Don’t be scared. Laughing Water won’t hurt you. She loves paleface.” Here the voice again assumed the cracked childish tone: “Me like lady paleface. She be controllum by big long-time-dead Spanish lady, name Rosa, Rosa AL-Al-Alvaro, Rosa Alvaro.
“Rosa say why you wurra? She say she help paleface lady. She say what you ask dis medium, nothin’ to what she do for you. You get Rosa controllum you. You homely. She lovely. She make you Spanish bootifiul. You come Madam Martin; she develop you strong. You lost, you lost out yourself. You b’lieve Laughing Water? Ha, ha, ha! Good-by.”
Madam Martin struggled and became her beaming self. After more mopping she continued: “You know, I don’t know what goes on in a trance. Did she tell you something?” Mayme nodded. “You ought to develop, deary, I sees groups and groups of ’em round you. You could raise out of your vibrations and be happy. Do you know, deary, that us psychical people are that sensitive that we have to bathe ourselves to get rid of the vibrations They settles on us like dust, you know. I feel your soul sphere is so high that you suffer. You was born in aqua, That’s water, and that’s what ails you. I sees the spirit of a beautiful Spanish lady. She says her name is Rosa Alvaro and she was a child of Napolyun Bonypart. She says she has watched over you since you was a child. Rosa says you must follow her to avenge her mother. She make the world acknowledge you. You will be big lady, Laughing Water say.”
Mayme sat with her dull eyes staring straight into the shifty ones of Madam Martin. Something in their directness seemed to stop the prophecy and the madam led off in another direction: “Do you want to ask any questions?” she asked.
“Yes,” Mayme answered. “Will I succeed?”
‘Yes, yes, yes!” said the madam. “You will, deary. I see you successful, and they tell me you will meet a blond man, changin’ your fortune. I sees lace and silk and gold, and sees you laughing. Any other question?”
“No.” Mayme had risen, the dullness settling once more upon her.
“You should develop, deary. I ain’t nothin’ to what you’d be.”
Madam Martin was opening the door and the hot street gleamed grayly under the street lights as Mayme descended the stone stairway and walked toward Wabash. She moved listlessly along until she reached Mrs. Winthrop’s, climbed the hot stairs, opened the dusty screen, entered the dimly lit, musty, hot hall and climbed the stuffy padded stairs to the second floor. Walking the length of the long hall she opened her own door with its ridiculously large key, lighted the gas and sank into a chair and passed a shaking hand over her dripping brow.
Through the window at the end of the room came the tinny sound of a piano cart playing what sounded a little like Sicilian Rose. Mayme got up wearily and began to undress.
The card bearing Madam Martin’s name fluttered to the floor, She stooped and took it up. “Know the future” she read and smiled wanly, placing the card upon the dresser and slipping into a dull kimono and sitting before the window to listen. Presently she rose, procured a tablet and pencil, reseated herself and wrote with a swift hand upon the white surface. “The world owes you a living. All you got to do is collect.”
After sitting for sometime considering the line she got up and pinned it to the frame of the looking-glass, stood for a moment silent, then flung herself across the bed and sobbed brokenly.
I can just see Pearl Curran, giggling and laughing to herself as she was writing this. I think she was writing ‘tongue-in-cheek”, giving her readers what she thought they would relate to in a stereotypical story about séances, mediums, spirits and multiple personalities, something she knew a lot about.
What do you think?