A regiment was passing through Derbyshire on its way to fresh quarters in the North. The Colonel, as they stayed for the night in one of the country towns, was invited to dine at a country-house in the neighbourhood, and to bring any one he liked with him. Consequently he took with him a young ensign for whom he had taken a great fancy. They arrived, and it was a large party, but the lady of the house did not appear till just as they were going in to dinner, and, when she appeared, was so strangely distraite and preoccupied that she scarcely attended to anything that was said to her.
At dinner, the Colonel observed that his young companion scarcely ever took his eyes off the lady of the house, staring at her in a way that seemed at once rude and unaccountable. It made him observe the lady herself, and he saw that she scarcely seemed to attend to anything said by her neighbours on either side of her, but rather seemed, in a manner quite unaccountable, to be listening to some one or something behind her.
As soon as dinner was over, the young ensign came to the Colonel and said, ‘Oh, do take me away: I entreat you to take me away from this place.’
The Colonel said, ‘Indeed your conduct is so very extraordinary and unpleasant, that I quite agree with you that the best thing we can do is to go away;’ and he made the excuse of his young friend being ill, and ordered their carriage.
When they had driven some distance the Colonel asked the ensign for an explanation of his conduct. He said that he could not help it: during the whole of the dinner he had seen a terrible black shadowy figure standing behind the chair of the lady of the house, and it had seemed to whisper to her, and she to listen to it. He had scarcely told this, when a man on horseback rode rapidly past the carriage, and the Colonel, recognising one of the servants of the house they had just left, called out to know if anything was the matter. ‘Oh, don’t stop me, sir,’ he shouted; ‘I am going for the doctor: my lady has just cut her throat.’
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Another ghastly tale from the pen of Mr Augustus Hare, author and raconteur, whom we previously met recounting a gentleman’s extreme coolness in the face of danger.
Mrs Daffodil knows of a family whose members claim a gift similar to that of the ensign’s: the ability to know when people are about to die. One of them told of seeing a skull face superimposed over the face of an apparently healthy young man, only to be informed that he was dying of cancer. In fact, he died a few months later. Such Second Sight is a most dubious “gift.”
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