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Sarah Polgrain






A woman, who had lived in Ludgvan, was executed at Bodmin for the murder
of her husband. There was but little doubt that she had been urged on to
the diabolical deed by a horse-dealer, known as Yorkshire Jack, with
whom, for a long period, she was generally supposed to have been
criminally acquainted.

Now, it will be remembered that this really happened within the present
century. One morning, during my residence in Penzance, an old woman from
Ludgvan called on me with some trifling message. While she was waiting
for my answer, I made some ordinary remark about the weather.

"It's all owing to Sarah Polgrain," said she.

"Sarah Polgrain," said I; "and who is Sarah Polgrain?"

Then the voluble old lady told me the whole story of the poisoning with
which we need not, at present, concern ourselves. By and by the tale
grew especially interesting, and there I resume it.

Sarah had begged that Yorkshire Jack might accompany her to the scaffold
when she was led forth to execution. This was granted; and on the
dreadful morning there stood this unholy pair, the fatal beam on which
the woman's body was in a few minutes to swing, before them.

They kissed each other, and whispered words passed between them.

The executioner intimated that the moment of execution had arrived, and
that they must part. Sarah Polgrain, looking earnestly into the man's
eyes, said:

"You will?"

Yorkshire Jack replied, "I will!" and they separated. The man retired
amongst the crowd, the woman was soon a dead corpse, pendulating in the
wind.

Years passed on, Yorkshire Jack was never the same man as before, his
whole bearing was altered. His bold, his dashing air deserted him. He
walked, or rather wandered, slowly about the streets of the town, or the
lanes of the country. He constantly moved his head from side to side,
looking first over one, and then over the other shoulder, as though
dreading that someone was following him.

The stout man became thin, his ruddy cheeks more pale, and his eyes
sunken.

At length he disappeared, and it was discovered--for Yorkshire Jack had
made a confidant of some Ludgvan man--that he had pledged himself,
"living or dead, to become the husband of Sarah Polgrain, after the
lapse of years."

To escape, if possible, from himself, Jack had gone to sea in the
merchant service.

Well, the period had arrived when this unholy promise was to be
fulfilled. Yorkshire Jack was returning from the Mediterranean in a
fruit-ship. He was met by the devil and Sarah Polgrain far out at sea,
off the Land's End. Jack would not accompany them willingly, so they
followed the ship for days, during all which time she was involved in a
storm. Eventually Jack was washed from the deck by such a wave as the
oldest sailor had never seen; and presently, amidst loud thunders and
flashing lightnings, riding as it were in a black cloud, three figures
were seen passing onward. These were the devil, Sarah Polgrain, and
Yorkshire Jack; and this was the cause of the storm.

"It is all true, as you may learn if you will inquire," said the old
woman; "for many of her kin live in Churchtown."




LVII






Previous: The Good O'donoghue



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