Captain Wheatcroft





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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