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The Spectre Bridegroom






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 town-place. 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 red-hot
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.





Next: The Pool In The Graveyard

Previous: Drake's Drum



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