The Spectre Maiden: 1880

ghostly woman appears to man The Last Tenant Farjeon

THE SPECTRE MAIDEN.

“The ancient and now ruinous castle belonging to the M‘—s, of —, is situated on a rocky promontory jutting out from the sea coast of one of our Western Islands. Near to this memorial of another and ruder age, stands the modem mansion inhabited by the descendants of this once powerful clan. The M‘—s are distinguished for their free-hearted hospitality, and numerous entertainments are given for the amusement of the guests who annually crowd to ___House. Should the night prove fine these always ended in a ramble in the romantic ruins of the adjoining castle. I chanced to be present at one of these balls, and, in accordance with this time-honoured custom, I and my partner in the dance, the second son, a fine young naval officer, led the way to the ancient halls of the M‘—s.

It was now early dawn, and surrounding objects were distinctly visible in the clear morning light. Imagining myself and partner to have been the first to leave the ball-room, I was surprised and horrified to see a girl whom I took to be the gay and adventurous Maria —-, like myself, a guest at ___, looking in at me through what appeared to be an inaccessible window. ‘Do look at that foolish creature, Maria—; she will be killed if she does not take care,’ and I ran towards her, pulling young M‘—with me.

As I came near to her, I saw she was not Maria—, but a young girl dressed entirely in white, with long fair hair falling over her shoulders, and having on her right arm a broad silver bracelet of peculiar design. She looked at me fixedly for a moment and then disappeared. ‘Good gracious!’ I cried, ‘she has fallen over the rocks.’ And I ran to the window and looked out, but no traces of her were visible: indeed no human being could have scaled the steep precipitous crags on that side the castle.

“I looked at my companion in amazement; he was very pale and silent. On our way back to the house we met Maria — just leaving it. She had never been near the ruins.

“‘Who could it have been?’ I said to M‘—. He made reply—‘Don’t mention what you have seen to any of my family. I will tell you who I think it was; but first let me ask you, Did you observe the bracelet on the girl’s arm?’ ‘Yes;’ I particularly noticed it, and I described it to him.

He became yet paler, and said, ‘You have seen the evil genius of our house. Her history is this: One of my ancestors, and the heir of the M‘—s, fell deeply in love with a beautiful young girl of humble birth. They became engaged, and were about to be married, when the girl suddenly disappeared, and was never again heard of. It was supposed she had been murdered by command of his relations, who were furious at the thought of the connection he was about to form. From time immemorial, there had been preserved in our family two silver bracelets, such as you describe, with which our chiefs betrothed their brides. One of these peculiar bands had shortly before disappeared, and it was believed the infatuated youth had bestowed it on the maid whom he had destined for his wife. Ever since we M‘—s have always been warned of approaching death by a fair-haired girl, with this bracelet on her arm.’

“I am very sorry to have to tell you that my poor young partner on that occasion died not long after we had seen the spectre maiden.”

The Psychological Review August 1882 pp. 127-129

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is a bit unkind to describe the murdered young woman as an “evil genius,” for it was certainly not her ambition to become a token of death for a clan so disdainful of her antecedents.

The wronged woman as death omen is a time-honoured tradition in some of the noblest families in Europe; the Hohenzollerns had their “Lady in White,”while the courts of Bavaria and Sweden were similarly haunted.

It is a curious detail–that banshee’s bracelet–banshees, those harbingers of death, usually found washing the shirts of those about to perish, wailing outside windows, or combing their long, flowing red or grey hair, are not known for jewellery of any sort. Perhaps they would be less vindictive if presented with some pretty trinkets.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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