Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

As far as can be ascertained no elucidation of this mysterious affair was ever forthcoming. Mrs. Croweto whose knowledge the account was brought-subsequently wrote to the editor of the Bristol Times, and received a reply that “the whole affair remains wrapped in the same mystery as when chronicled in the pages of” the paper, and this statement was subsequently confirmed by Mrs. Jones.

CAMBRIDGE.

In the narrative about to be recited, the appearance, of the apparition, and the coincidence of the date of death with its appearance, differ in no way from the usual records of such things. But the wonderful series of events by which the discrepancies between the official report and the spectral visit were ultimately explained, render this story one of the most marvellous known. It is related by Robert Dale Owen, in his famous Footfalls, wherein he declares that although in accordance with the wishes of the family some of the names are merely represented by initials, they are all known to him. As, however, the name of the officer subsequently appeared in print, we shall not be committing any breach of courtesy or of good feeling in stating that Captain German Wheatcroft is the name in full. The story taken as a whole is so truly marvellous, that it is deemed but just that it should be given verbatim from Owen's record, not abridging or altering a single foot-note, nor omitting aught save a spiritual episode which does not affect the general narrative. The tale runs thus :

“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 bed-side. 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 the 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 asit 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:56 No. 9579

WAR OFFICE,

30th January, 1858. 66. 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, 1857.7

“ (Signed) B. HAWES.' "Mr. Wilkinson called at the office of Messrs. Cox and Greenwood, the army agents, to ascertain if there were no mistake in the certificate. But nothing there appeared to confirm any surmise of inaccuracy. Captain Wheatcroft's death was mentioned in two separate despatches of Sir Colin Campbell, and in both the date corresponded with that given in the telegram.

“ So matters rested, until, in the month of March, 1858, the family of Captain Wheatcroft received from Captain

* “ 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.—R. D. OWEN.”

" Into this certificate, of which I possess the original, an error has crept. Captain German Wheatcroft was of the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, not of the 6th Dragoon Guards.-R. D. OWEN.”

G C , then of the Military Train, a letter dated near Lucknow, on the 19th of December, 1857. This letter informed them that Captain Wheatcroft had been killed before Lucknow, while gallantly leading on the squadron, not on the 15th of November, as reported in Sir Colin Campbell's despatches, but on the fourteenth, in the afternoon. Captain C- was riding close by his side at the time he saw him fall. He was struck by a fragment of shell in the breast, and never spoke after he was hit. He was buried at the Dilkoosha; and on a wooden cross, erected by his friend, Lieutenant R— of the 9th Lancers, at the head of his grave, are cut the initials ‘G. W.,' and the date of his death, the 14th of November, 1857.**

“The War Office finally made the correction as to the date of death, but not until more than a year after the event occurred. Mr. Wilkinson, having occasion to apply for an additional copy of the certificate in April, 1857, found it in exactly the same words as that which I have given, only that the 14th of November had been substituted for the 15th.f

* “It was not in his own regiment, which was then at Meerut, that Captain Wheatcroft was serving at the time of his death. Immediately on arriving from England at Cawnpore, he had offered his services to Colonel Wilson, of the 64th. They were at first declined, but finally accepted; and he joined the Military Train then starting for Lucknow. It was in their ranks that he fell.—R. D. OWEN.”

† “ The originals of both these certificates are in my possession: the first bearing date 30th January, 1858, and certifying, as already shown, to the 15th; the second, dated 5th April, 1859, and testifying to the 14th.-R. D. OWEN.”

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »