The Result Of A Curse
The following account of an apparition being witnessed outside an unnamed West End church appeared in The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain (1897) by John Ingram.
In Dr. Lee’s Glimpses of the Supernatural a collection of ghost tales and revivified mediseval legends is given a marvellous narrative of the results of a curse, as, according to the reverend author, “fresh evidence of the existence of the supernatural amongst us, had we only eyes to see and ears to hear.” We include the story in our collection as a fair specimen of the way in which such subjects are treated in our days, but must suggest that it would bear a greater air of resemhlance were the names of some at least of the persons introduced given, or some more definite clue to the localities afforded. The story, as told by Dr. Lee, is this:
“The younger son of a Nova Scotia baronet, under promise of marriage, betrayed the only surviving daughter of a Northumbrian yeoman of ancient and respectable family, nearly allied to a peer, so created in William the Fourth’s reign. She was a person of rare beauty and of considerable accomplishments, having received an education of a very superior character in Edinburgh. After her betrayal, she was deserted by her lover, who fled abroad. The night before he left, however, at her earnest request, he met her in company with a friend, with the avowed intention of promising marriage in the future, when his family, as he declared, might be less averse to it.
“After events show that this was merely an empty promise, and that he had no intention of fulfilling it. A long discussion took place between the girl and her betrayer, in the presence of the female friend in question, a first cousin of her father. High words, strong phrases, and sharp upbraidings were uttered on both sides; until at last the young man, in cruel and harsh language, turning upon her fiercely, declared that he would never marry her at all, and held himself, as he maintained, perfectly free to wed whom he should choose.
“You will be my certain death,’ she exclaimed, ‘but death will be more welcome than life.’
“Die and be,’ he replied.
“At this the girl, with a wail of agony, swooned away. On her recovery she seemed to gather up her strength to pronounce a curse upon him and his. She uttered it with deliberation, yet with wildness and bitterness, maintaining that she was his wife, and would haunt him to the day of his death; declaring at the same time to her relation present, ‘ And you shall be the witness.’
“He left the place of meeting without any reconciliation or kind word, and, it was believed, went abroad. In less than five months, in giving birth to her child, she died, away from her home, and was buried with it (for the child, soon after its baptism, died likewise) in a village church-yard near Ambleside. Neither stone nor memorial marks her grave. Her father, a widower, wounded to the quick by the loss of his only daughter, pined away and soon followed her to his last resting-place.
“Five years had passed, and the female cousin of the old yeoman, being possessed of a competency, had gone to live in London, when, on a certain morning in the spring of the year 1842, she was passing by a church in the West End, where, from the number of carriages waiting, she saw that a marriage was being solemnized. She felt mysteriously and instinctively drawn to look in. On doing so, and pressing forwards towards the altar, she beheld, to her astonishment, the very man, somewhat altered and weather-worn, who had caused so much misery to her relations, being married (as on inquiring she discovered) to the daughter of a rich city merchant. This affected lier deeply, bringing back the saddest memories of the past. But, as the bridal party were passing out of the church, and she pushed forward to look, and be quite sure she had made no mistake, both herself and the bridegroom at one moment saw an apparition of her relation, the poor girl whom he had ruined, dressed in white, with flowing hair and a wild look, holding up in both hands her little infant. Both seemed perfectly natural in appearance and to be of ordinary flesh and blood. There was no mistaking her certain identity. This occurred in the full sunshine of noon, and under a heavy Palladian porch in the presence of a crowd. The bridegroom turned deathly pale in a moment, trembled violently, and then, staggering, fell forward down the steps. This occasioned a vast stir and sensation among the crowd. It seemed incomprehensible. The bridegroom, said the church officials in answer to inquiries, was in a fit. He was carried down the steps and taken in the bridal carriage to his father-in-law’s house. But it was reported that he never spoke again; and this fact is mentioned in a contemporary newspaper account of the event. Anyhow, his marriage and death appeared in the same number of one of the daily papers.
“And although the family of the city merchant knew nothing of the apparition, what is thus set forth was put on record by the lady in question, who knew the mysterious circumstances in all their details, which record is reasonably believed by her to afford at once a signal example of retributive justice. Names, for various reasons, are not mentioned here. The truth of this narrative, however, was affirmed on oath by the lady in question,” why or wherefore Dr. Lee does not state, “before two justices of the peace at Windsor, on October 3rd- 1848, one of whom was a beneficed clergyman in the diocese of Oxford, well known to the editor of this volume, to whom this record was given in the year 1857 (when he was assistant minister of Berkley Chapel) by a lady of rank who worshipped there.”