Изображения страниц

adverting to the various ways and places in which different heirs of Lambton met with death, our chief authority for this portion of the legend concludes :

Great curiosity prevailed in the life-time of Henry to know if the curse would “hold good to the end." He died in his chariot, crossing the new bridge, in 1761, thus giving the last connecting link to the chain of circumstantial evidence connected with the history of the worm of Lambton. His succeeding brother, General Lambton, who lived to a great age, fearing that the prophecy might be possibly fulfilled by his servants, under the idea that he could not die in his bed, kept a horsewhip beside him in his last illness, and thus eluded the prediction. Although the spell put on this ancient family by the witch is said to have been broken by the death of Henry Lambton in 1761, yet neither of the two last lords have died at home, and this, to the knights of ancient times, says Burke, “would have been sorer punishment than dying in the battle-field, for they loved to sleep in their own country and with their fathers.”

[ocr errors][merged small]

LITTLECOT HOUSE, or Hall as it is sometimes called, the ancient seat of the Darrells, is two miles from Hungerford in Berkshire. It stands in a low and lonely situation, and is thoroughly typical in appearance of a

haunted dwelling. On three sides it is surrounded by a park, which spreads over the adjacent hill, and on the fourth by meadows, through which runs the river Kennet. A thick grove of lofty trees stands on one side

would appear to have been erected towards the close of the age of feudal warfare, when defence came to be no longer the principal object in a country mansion. The interior of the house, however, presents many objects appropriate to feudal times. The hall is very spacious, paved by stones, and lighted by large transon windows. The walls are hung with coats-of-mail and helmets, and

guns, and other suitable ornaments for an old baronial dwelling. Below the cornice at the end of the hall,

shirts, and supposed to have been worn as armour by the retainers of the Darrell family, to whom the old Hall belonged. An enormous oaken table, reaching nearly from one end of the chamber to the other, might have feasted the entire neighbourhood, and an appendage to one end of it made it answer at other times for the old game of shuffleboard. The rest of the furniture is in a corresponding style, or was a few years ago; but the most noticeable article is an old chair of cumbrous workmanship, constructed of wood, curiously carved, with a high back and triangular seat; it is said to have been used by Judge Popham, in the days of Elizabeth.

The entrance into the hall of this ancient mansion is at one end by a low door, communicating with a passage that leads from the outer door in the front of the house to a quadrangle within ; at the other it opens upon a gloomy stair-case, by which you ascend to the first floor, and, passing the doors of some bed-chambers, enter a narrow gallery which extends along the back front of the house from one end to the other of it. This gallery is hung with old family portraits, chiefly in Spanish costumes of the sixteenth century. In one of the bedchambers, which you pass in going towards the gallery, is a bedstead with blue furniture, that time has now made dingy and threadbare ; and in the bottom of one of the bed-curtains you are shown a place where a small piece has been cut out and sewn in again. To account for this curious circumstance, and for the apparitions which tenant this haunted chamber, the following terrible tale is told : was led into a house which, from the length of her walk through the apartments, as well as the sounds about her, she discovered to be the seat of wealth and power.

“It was on a dark rainy night in the month of November, that an old midwife sat musing by her cottage fireside, when on a sudden she was startled by a loud knocking at the door. On opening it she found a horseman, who told her that her assistance was required immediately by a person of rank, and that she should be handsomely rewarded, but that there were reasons for keeping the affair a strict secret, and therefore she must submit to be blind-folded, and to be conducted in that condition to the bed-chamber of the lady. With some hesitation the midwife consented; the horseman bound her eyes, and placed her on a pillion behind him. After proceeding in silence for many miles, through rough and dirty lanes, they stopped, and the midwife

[ocr errors]

“When the bandage was removed from her eyes, she found herself in a bed-chamber, in which were the lady on whose account she had been sent for, and a man of a haughty and ferocious aspect. The lady was delivered of a fine boy. Immediately the man commanded the midwife to give him the child, and, catching it from her, he hurried across the room, and threw it on the back of the fire that was blazing in the chimney. The child, however, was strong, and by its struggles rolled itself off upon the hearth, when the ruffian again seized it with fury, and, in spite of the intercession of the midwife, and the more piteous entreaties of the mother, thrust it under the grate, and, raking the live coals upon it, soon put an end to its life.

“ The midwife, after spending some time in affording all the relief in her power to the wretched mother, was told that she must be gone. Her former conductor appeared, who again bound her eyes, and conveyed her behind him to her own home; he then paid her handsomely and departed. The midwife was strongly agitated by the horrors of the preceding night, and she immediately made a deposition of the facts before a magistrate. Two circumstances afforded hopes of detecting the house in which the crime had been committed; one was, that the midwife, as she sat by the bed-side, had, with a view to discover the place, cut out a piece of the bed-curtain, and sewn it in again; the other was, that as she had

descended the staircase she had counted the steps. Some suspicion fell upon one Darrell, at that time the proprietor of Littlecot House and the domain around it. The house was examined, and identified by the midwife, and Darrell was tried at Salisbury for the murder. By corrupting his judge, he escaped the sentence of the law, but broke his neck by a fall from his horse in hunting, a few months afterwards. The place where this happened is still known by the name of Darrell's Stile,-a spot to be dreaded by the peasant whom the shades of evening have overtaken on his way.”

This is the fearsome legend connected with Littlecot House, the circumstances related are declared to be true, and to have happened in the reign of Elizabeth. With such a tale attached to its guilty walls, no wonder that the apparition of a woman with dishevelled hair, in white garments, and bearing a babe in her arms, haunts that gloomy chamber.


In the well-known diary of Thomas Raikes, and under date of December 26, 1832, is recounted a very singular account of an apparition which appeared to a young lady at the Argyle Rooms, a highly-fashionable establishment in those days, and, need it be stated, then noted for a class of entertainment very different from that it afterwards became known for. Mr. Raikes, who had

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »