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Title: The Spectre Bridegroom
Author: William Hunt
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605891.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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The Spectre Bridegroom
William Hunt



LONG, long ago a farmer named Lenine lived in Boscean. He had but one
son, Frank Lenine, who was indulged into waywardness by both his
parents. In addition to the farm servants, there was one, a young
girl, Nancy Trenoweth, who especially assisted Mrs. Lenine in all the
various duties of a small farmhouse.

Nancy Trenoweth was very pretty, and although perfectly uneducated, in
the sense in which we now employ the term education, she possessed
many native graces, and she had acquired much knowledge, really useful
to one whose aspirations would probably never rise higher than to be
mistress of a farm of a few acres. Educated by parents who had
certainly never seen the world beyond Penzance, her ideas of the world
were limited to a few miles around the Land's-End. But although her
book of nature was a small one, it had deeply impressed her mind with
its influences. The wild waste, the small but fertile valley, the
rugged hills, with their crowns of cairns, the moors rich in the
golden furze and the purple heath, the sea-beaten cliffs and the
silver sands, were the pages she had studied, under the guidance of a
mother who conceived, in the sublimity of her ignorance, that
everything in nature was the home of some spirit form. The soul of the
girl was imbued with the deeply religious dye of her mother's mind,
whose religion was only a sense of an unknown world immediately beyond
our own. The elder Nancy Trenoweth exerted over the villagers around
her considerable power. They did not exactly fear her. She was too
free from evil for that; but they were conscious of a mental
superiority, and yielded without complaining to her sway.

The result of this was, that the younger Nancy, although compelled to
service, always exhibited some pride, from a feeling that her mother
was a superior woman to any around her.

She never felt herself inferior to her master and mistress, yet she
complained not of being in subjection to them. There were so many
interesting features in the character of this young servant girl that
she became in many respects like a daughter to her mistress. There was
no broad line of division in those days, in even the manorial hall,
between the lord and his domestics, and still less defined was the
position of the employer and the employed in a small farmhouse.
Consequent on this condition of things, Frank Lenine and Nancy were
thrown as much together as if they had been brother and sister. Frank
was rarely checked in anything by his over-fond parents, who were
especially proud of their son, since he was regarded as the handsomest
young man in the parish. Frank conceived a very warm attachment for
Nancy, and she was not a little proud of her lover. Although it was
evident to all the parish that Frank and Nancy were seriously devoted
to each other, the young man's parents were blind to it, and were
taken by surprise when one day Frank asked his father and mother to
consent to his marrying Nancy.

The Lenines had allowed their son to have his own way from his youth
up; and now, in a matter which brought into play the strongest of
human feelings, they were angry because he refused to bend to their
wills.

The old man felt it would be a degradation for a Lenine to marry a
Trenoweth, and, in the most unreasoning manner, he resolved it should
never be.

The first act was to send Nancy home to Alsia Mill, where her parents
resided; the next was an imperious command to his son never again to
see the girl.

The commands of the old are generally powerless upon the young where
the affairs of the heart are concerned. So were they upon Frank. He
who was rarely seen of an evening beyond the garden of his father's
cottage, was now as constantly absent from his home. The house, which
was wont to be a pleasant one, was strangely altered. A gloom had
fallen over all things; the father and son rarely met as friends--the
mother and her boy had now a feeling of reserve. Often there were
angry altercations between the father and son, and the mother felt she
could not become the defender of her boy, in his open acts of
disobedience, his bold defiance of his parents' commands.

Rarely an evening passed that did not find Nancy and Frank together in
some retired nook. The Holy Well was a favourite meeting-place, and
here the most solemn vows were made. Locks of hair were exchanged; a
wedding-ring, taken from the finger of a corpse, was broken, when they
vowed that they would be united either dead or alive; and they even
climbed at night the granite-pile at Treryn, and swore by the Logan
Rock the same strong vow.

Time passed onward unhappily, and as the result of the endeavours to
quench out the passion by force, it grew stronger under the repressing
power, and, like imprisoned steam, eventually burst through all
restraint.

Nancy's parents discovered at length that moonlight meetings between
two untrained, impulsive youths, had a natural result, and they were
now doubly earnest in their endeavours to compel Frank to marry their
daughter.

The elder Lenine could not be brought to consent to this, and he
firmly resolved to remove his son entirely from what he considered the
hateful influences of the Trenoweths. He resolved to go to Plymouth,
to take his son with him, and, if possible, to send him away to sea,
hoping thus to wean him from his folly, as he considered this love-
madness. Frank, poor fellow, with the best intentions, was not capable
of any sustained effort, and consequently he at length succumbed to
his father; and, to escape his persecution, he entered a ship bound
for India, and bade adieu to his native land.

Frank could not write, and this happened in days when letters could be
forwarded only with extreme difficulty, consequently Nancy never heard
from her lover.

A babe had been born into a troublesome world, and the infant became a
real solace to the young mother. As the child grew, it became an
especial favourite with its grandmother; the elder Nancy rejoiced over
the little prattler, and forgot her cause of sorrow. Young Nancy lived
for her child, and on the memory of its father. Subdued in spirit she
was, but her affliction had given force to her character, and she had
been heard to declare that wherever Frank might be, she was ever
present with him, whatever might be the temptations of the hour, that
her influence was all powerful over him for good. She felt that no
distance could separate their souls, that no time could be long enough
to destroy the bond between them.

A period of distress fell upon the Trenoweths, and it was necessary
that Nancy should leave her home once more, and go again into service.
Her mother took charge of the babe, and she found a situation in the
village of Kimyall, in the parish of Paul. Nancy, like her mother,
contrived by force of character to maintain an ascendancy amongst her
companions. She had formed an acquaintance, which certainly never grew
into friendship, with some of the daughters of the small farmers
around. These girls were all full of the superstitions of the time and
place.

The winter was coming on, and nearly three years had passed away since
Frank Lenine left his country. As yet there was no sign. Nor father,
nor mother, nor maiden had heard of him, and they all sorrowed over
his absence. The Lenines desired to have Nancy's child, but the
Trenoweths would not part with it. They went so far even as to
endeavour to persuade Nancy to live again with them, but Nancy was not
at all disposed to submit to their wishes.

It was All-Hallows' eve, and two of Nancy's companions persuaded
her,--no very difficult task,--to go with them and sow hemp-seed.

At midnight the three maidens stole out unperceived into Kimyall town-
place to perform their incantation. Nancy was the first to sow, the
others being less bold than she.

Boldly she advanced, saying, as she scattered the seed,--

"Hemp-seed I sow thee.
Hemp-seed grow thee;
And he who will my true love be.
Come after me
And shaw thee."

This was repeated three times, when, looking back over her left
shoulder, she saw Lenine; but he looked so angry that she shrieked
with fear, and broke the spell. One of the other girls, however,
resolved now to make trial of the spell, and the result of her labours
was the vision of a white coffin. Fear now fell on all, and they went
home sorrowful, to spend, each one, a sleepless night.

November came with its storms, and during one terrific night a large
vessel was thrown upon the rocks in Bernowhall Cliff, and, beaten by
the impetuous waves, she was soon in pieces. Amongst the bodies of the
crew washed ashore, nearly all of whom had perished, was Frank Lenine.
He was not dead when found, but the only words he lived to speak were
begging the people to send for Nancy Trenoweth, that he might make her
his wife before he died.

Rapidly sinking, Frank was borne by his friends on a litter to
Boscean, but he died as he reached the townplace. His parents,
overwhelmed in their own sorrows, thought nothing of Nancy, and
without her knowing that Lenine had returned, the poor fellow was laid
in his last bed, in Burian Churchyard.

On the night of the funeral, Nancy went, as was her custom, to lock
the door of the house, and as was her custom too, she looked out into
the night. At this instant a horseman rode up in hot haste, called her
by name, and hailed her in a voice that chilled her blood.

The voice was the voice of Lenine. She could never forget that; and
the horse she now saw was her sweetheart's favourite colt, on which he
had often ridden at night to Alsia.

The rider was imperfectly seen; but he looked very sorrowful, and
deathly pale, still Nancy knew him to be Frank Lenine.

He told her that he had just arrived home, and that the first moment
he was at liberty he had taken horse to fetch his loved one, and to
make her his bride.

Nancy's excitement was so great, that she was easily persuaded to
spring on the horse behind him, that they might reach his home before
the morning.

When she took Lenine's hand a cold shiver passed through her, and as
she grasped his waist to secure herself in her seat, her arm became as
stiff as ice. She lost all power of speech, and suffered deep fear,
yet she knew not why. The moon had arisen, and now burst out in a full
flood of light, through the heavy clouds which had obscured it. The
horse pursued its journey with great rapidity, and whenever in
weariness it slackened its speed, the peculiar voice of the rider
aroused its drooping energies. Beyond this no word was spoken since
Nancy had mounted behind her lover. They now came to Trove Bottom,
where there was no bridge at that time; they dashed into the river.
The moon shone full in their faces. Nancy looked into the stream, and
saw that the rider was in a shroud and other grave-clothes. She now
knew that she was being carried away by a spirit, yet she had no power
to save herself; indeed, the inclination to do so did not exist.

On went the horse at a furious pace, until they came to the
blacksmith's shop, near Burian Church-town, when she knew by the light
from the forge fire thrown across the road that the smith was still at
his labours. She now recovered speech. "Save me! save me! save me!"
she cried with all her might. The smith sprang from the door of the
smithy, with a redhot iron in his hand, and as the horse rushed by,
caught the woman's dress, and pulled her to the ground. The spirit,
however, also seized Nancy's dress in one hand, and his grasp was like
that of a vice. The horse passed like the wind, and Nancy and the
smith were pulled down as far as the old Alms-houses, near the
churchyard. Here the horse for a moment stopped. The smith seized that
moment, and with his hot iron burned off the dress from the rider's
hand, thus saving Nancy, more dead than alive; while the rider passed
over the wall of the churchyard, and vanished on the grave in which
Lenine had been laid but a few hours before.

The smith took Nancy into his shop, and he soon aroused some of his
neighbours, who took the poor girl back to Alsia. Her parents laid her
on her bed. She spoke no word, but to ask for her child, to request
her mother to give up her child to Lenine's parents, and her desire to
be buried in his grave. Before the morning light fell on the world
Nancy had breathed her last breath.

A horse was seen that night to pass through the Church-town like a
ball from a musket, and in the morning Lenine's colt was found dead in
Bernowhall Cliff, covered with foam, its eyes forced from its head,
and its swollen tongue hanging out of its mouth. On Lenine's grave was
found the piece of Nancy's dress which was left in the spirit's hand
when the smith burnt her from his grasp.

It is said that one or two of the sailors who survived the wreck
related after the funeral, how, on the 30th of October, at night,
Lenine was like one mad; they could scarcely keep him in the ship. He
seemed more asleep than awake, and, after great excitement, he fell as
if dead upon the deck, and lay so for hours. When he came to himself,
he told them that he had been taken to the village of Kimyall, and
that if he ever married the woman who had cast the spell, he would
make her suffer the longest day she had to live for drawing his soul
out of his body.

Poor Nancy was buried in Lenine's grave, and her companion in sowing
hemp-seed, who saw the white coffin, slept beside her within the year.



THE END



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