Lord Denbigh sent to Mr. Hare an account of a supernatural vision which he had heard from Henry Malet in 1869. Malet said that, in the winter of 1854-55, he was in Paris, and saw a good deal of Palgrave Simpson, the dramatic author. One evening after a dinner Simpson expressed himself a believer in clairvoyant phenomena. A few days afterward Malet received an order to return to London and hold himself in readiness to embark for the Crimea with his regiment.
On the night before his departure for Malta, he received a note from Simpson inclosing an antique ring. The note said: “Do not laugh at me, but while you are in the Crimea wear the inclosed ring. It was given to me by the last representative of an old Hungarian family on her deathbed. In her family it was an heirloom, and considered as a most precious talisman to preserve the wearer from any external harm.”
Malet slipped the ring on his finger without attaching any great importance to the matter, and the next morning sailed from Portsmouth. Mr. Malet thus goes on with the story:
“We touched at Gibraltar, but it was not till our arrival at Malta that I heard from my family. Then I found a letter from my mother dated from Frankfort on the very day of our sailing from England. It said: ‘I have been quite brokenhearted about you and could find no comfort anywhere; but now all is changed, for a most extraordinary reason. This morning, as I lay in bed in broad daylight, and after my maid had brought my hot water, just as I was about to get up, a most beautiful young lady, very fair and dressed in gray silk, drew aside the curtain of my bed and leant over me and said: “Do not be unhappy about your son; no harm shall happen to him.” I am quite certain I have had a vision, yet it seemed as if I were awake; certainly I was so the moment before this happened. The whole thing is as distinct as possible, and as unlike an effect of imagination. Of course, I cannot account for it, but it has made me quite happy, and I know you will come back safe.’
“On receipt of this letter I bethought me of the ring, and begged my mother in reply to describe minutely the appearance of the mysterious visitor. My mother said it was a young woman about twenty-seven years of age, rather pale, with very straight features, large gray eyes and an abundance of brown hair worn in rather an old-fashioned manner. The sleeves of the gray silk dress were what we call ‘bishop sleeves.’
“I sent copies of my mother’s letter to Palgrave Simpson, and he answered me that the description was in the minutest particular the counterpart of the lady who on her deathbed had given him the ring, some sixteen or seventeen years before. It is to be observed that no communication whatever passed between me and my mother between the receipt of the ring and my arrival at Malta, and I will swear that I told no one the story.”
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: John Palgrave Simpson [1807-87] was a writer of popular Victorian melodramas and an adapter of other works, such as A Tale of Two Cities, for the stage. Henry Malet was Sir Henry Charles Eden Malet, 3rd Baronet Wilbury [1835-1904]. He was a Lt Col in the Grenadier Guards who served in the Crimean War. He was present for the lifting of the Siege of Sevastopol. Sir Henry’s mother, Mary, Lady Malet, was right to be concerned. The War was not going particularly well and news of the disastrous charge of the Light Brigade on 25 October 1854 would have undoubtedly reached her. It was very considerate of the Hungarian lady’s spirit to transfer the protective powers of the ring to a comparative stranger and to kindly reassure Sir Henry’s mother.
The Story of My Life, Augustus J. C. Hare
For other stories related by that master raconteur Augustus Hare see “Saved by the Bell (wire),” “The Ensign Sees a Horror,” and “A Ghostly Murder Victim Appeals to Count Axel von Fersen: c. 1800”
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