In the month of September 1857 Captain German Wheatcroft, of the 6th
(Inniskilling) Dragoons, went out to India to join his regiment.
His wife remained in England, residing at Cambridge. On the night
between the 14th and 15th of November 1857, towards morning, she dreamed
that she saw her husband, looking anxious and ill; upon which she
immediately awoke, much agitated. It was bright moonlight; and, looking
up, she perceived the same figure standing by her bedside. He appeared
in his uniform, the hands pressed across the breast, the hair
dishevelled, the face very pale. His large dark eyes were fixed full
upon her; their expression was that of great excitement, and there was a
peculiar contraction of the mouth, habitual to him when agitated. She
saw him, even to each minute particular of his dress, as distinctly as
she had ever done in her life; and she remembers to have noticed between
his hands the white of his shirt-bosom, unstained, however, with blood.
The figure seemed to bend forward, as if in pain, and to make an effort
to speak; but there was no sound. It remained visible, the wife thinks,
as long as a minute, and then disappeared.
Her first idea was to ascertain if she was actually awake. She rubbed
her eyes with the sheet, and felt that the touch was real. Her little
nephew was in bed with her; she bent over the sleeping child and
listened to its breathing; the sound was distinct, and she became
convinced that what she had seen was no dream. It need hardly be added
that she did not again go to sleep that night.
Next morning she related all this to her mother, expressing her
conviction, though she had noticed no marks of blood on his dress, that
Captain Wheatcroft was either killed or grievously wounded. So fully
impressed was she with the reality of that apparition, that she
thenceforth refused all invitations. A young friend urged her soon
afterwards to go with her to a fashionable concert, reminding her that
she had received from Malta, sent by her husband, a handsome dress
cloak, which she had never yet worn. But she positively declined,
declaring that, uncertain as she was whether she was not already a
widow, she would never enter a place of amusement until she had letters
from her husband (if indeed he still lived) of a later date than the
14th of November.
It was on a Tuesday, in the month of December 1857, that the telegram
regarding the actual fate of Captain Wheatcroft was published in London.
It was to the effect that he was killed before Lucknow on the
_fifteenth_ of November.
This news, given in the morning paper, attracted the attention of Mr
Wilkinson, a London solicitor, who had in charge Captain Wheatcroft's
affairs. When at a later period this gentleman met the widow, she
informed him that she had been quite prepared for the melancholy news,
but that she had felt sure her husband could not have been killed on the
15th of November, inasmuch as it was during the night between the 14th
and 15th that he appeared to her.
The certificate from the War Office, however, which it became Mr
Wilkinson's duty to obtain, confirmed the date given in the telegram,
its tenor being as follows:--
"No. 9579/1 war officeW,
_30th January 1858._
"These are to certify that it appears, by the records in this office,
that Captain German Wheatcroft of the 6th Dragoon Guards, was killed in
action on the 15th of November 1857.
"(_Signed_) B. HAWES."
The difference of longitude between London and Lucknow being about five
hours, three or four o'clock a.m. in London would be eight or nine
o'clock a.m. at Lucknow. But it was in the _afternoon_ not in the
_morning_, as will be seen in the sequel, that Captain Wheatcroft was
killed. Had he fallen on the 15th, therefore, the apparition to his wife
would have appeared several hours before the engagement in which he
fell, and while he was yet alive and well.
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