« ZurückWeiter »
THE SKELETON HAND.
marry at all.
I am about to relate some events left Jodziel, he made a formal offer which took place in the early part of marriage to Miss Anne, which of this century, in a remote little in the presence of her sister she fishing village on the south coast immediately and decisively deof Devonshire. The occurrences clined. Captain Sinclair flew into are in themselves so remarkable the most violent passion, swore that they have been well known he had never been thwarted yet to the present generation of in- by any woman, and that she habitants; but as things get al- should belong to him or never tered in oral transmission through
Anne was so much many persons, it has been thought upset by the terrible scene, and well to place this record in writing. by Captain Sinclair's outrageous
Near the village of Jodziel, in a language, that her sister was very pretty little cottage on the top of glad when an invitation from an the bright red sandstone cliff which aunt residing in London gave overhangs the village, lived two Anne a few weeks' much-needed maiden sisters, the Misses Rutson. change. Mrs Travers was the Their father, a sea-captain, had only near relative remaining to died a year before the events I the Misses Rutson, and owing to
about to relate occurred. various circumstances the sisters Their mother had died in giving had seen but little of their aunt, birth to the younger sister, Anne, though with Maurice Travers, her
, who was now a most beautiful girl only son, they were better acof eighteen. The Misses Rutson quainted. Maurice's regiment had
. were very devotedly attached to
been quartered for the summer of one another, and were much be- 1813 at Plymouth, and he had loved by the village neighbours. frequently been over to see his The hamlet being a very seques- cousins, and many a pleasant sumtered one, they seldom saw any mer day bad they spent wanderone from the outer world except ing along the beautiful Devonshire occasionally sailors, who would coast. Miss Rutson had not been stroll along the cliff from Ply- slow to perceive that stronger atmouth or from other fishing vil- tractions than those of mere scenery lages along the coast. In the brought the young officer so conautumn of 1813 pressgang stantly to their cottage, and she visited South Devon and made was not therefore
much surtheir headquarters for some time prised at receiving one morning, in the village of Jodziel. The cap- about three weeks after Anne's tain, a certain Captain Sinclair by departure from home, a letter anname—a coarse brutal fellow in ap- nouncing her engagement to her pearance- —was very much struck cousin, Maurice Travers, and her by the extraordinary beauty of immediate return to Jodziel. It Miss Anne. He forced himself decided that the marriage upon her, and continued paying should take place early in the her the most distasteful atten- following May, and I will now tions, which the gentle girl did her quote one or two passages from very utmost to check, but in vain. Miss Rutson's diary at this time. The day before Captain Sinclair “ May 1.–Such a horrid meet
ing we have just had. Anne and dashed down the cliff, shouting as I had been for a stroll along the he did so, 'She shall be mine!' shore when we noticed a little boat When I got home, feeling very which lay drawn up under a rock nervous and shaken, who should I at some distance, when Anne's find just starting out to seek me eyes, which are keener than mine, but Maurice, who had come three caught sight of the name painted days earlier than we expected in gold letters. Ah, sister, come him. An hour before I should away,' she cried; it is a boat have felt very cross at having my from the Raven. I thought last quiet hours with Anne so Captain Sinclair was not to be in much curtailed, but now I was these waters again ; he told me he only too thankful to feel we had a was to sail for the West Indies protector near us. He went out last month. We turned, and were after hearing my story, but could hurriedly retracing our steps to- see no trace of either boat or its wards the house when we heard a cry of Stop! I looked at Anne; "May 2.—To my great relief the she was deadly white.
Raven, with Captain Sinclair on quick,' I cried; 'I will speak to board, has left Plymouth this mornhim.' My heart was beating so ing for the West Indies. Maurice fast I could run no longer; be- had business at Plymouth, and he sides, I felt it might be well took the opportunity of making to hear what Captain Sinclair inquiries concerning the Raven, had to say, SO
I drew myself which was, he found in the very together and waited. Presenüly act of putting to sea. I feel, oh, he appeared clambering up the so thankful and relieved. side of the cliff, his swarthy face May 4.
- How shall I ever purple with excitement. Where begin to write the events of this is she?' he gasped. “I have come most dreadful day! Such a brilback to fetch her; I could not sail lianü sunshiny morning, quite like without her, my own beautiful summer, and my darling came Anne!' Recollect yourself, sir' down looking like one of the I cried indignantly. How dare sweet white roses which you speak of my sister in this free just coming into bloom around manner! She has told you most the windows. I plucked a beauclearly, and that in my presence, tiful spray of them, and she put that she looks on your pursu't of them in her white satin waistband her as odious, and she begs, both just before starting for church. I for her own sake and yours, that have those roses by me now as I you will never attempt to see her write, but, O my darling! where again.' 'Do you think I will be are you? The wedding was a very daunted by such a speech from a quiet one.
After the ceremony foolish girl?' he answered scorn- we had the clergyman and doctor, fully; ‘no, no, she shall be mine with their wives and their chilyet, whether she will or no.' dren, to lunch, and presently Anne You are mistaken,' I replied as rose and said she would go and calmly as I could; 'next Monday change her dress. I was going to she marries our first cousin, Mau- follow her, but she stopped me rice Travers, and will be at peace with one of her sweet kisses and from your hated persecutions.' said, “Let me have a few moments
“I shall never forget his scowl alone in the old room to say goodof fury as he turred from me and bye to it all.' I let her go—when
_' He was
did I ever thwart her in anything? one had held fast by them and She went, and Maurice began romp- been dragged forcibly away. Mauing with the children, and we ladies rice and the rest of the party folcut slices of wedding cake, to be lowed me on to the cliff, for the taken round to village favourites alarm had now become general; next day, and still Anne did not for a little while we ran wildly, call. Once, indeed, I had fancied calling her dear name, but presI heard her voice ; but when I ently Maurice came to me, and had gone up-stairs her door was drawing my arm within his own, locked, and she had not answered led me back towards the house. my gentle tap, so I came down 'Some one must be here to receive again, not wishing to intrude upon her when she comes home,' he said her privacy. At length, however, gently, and here his lips grew Maurice became impatient, and white. It might be well to have
• said I must go and fetch her her bed ready in casedown, or they would never be in out of the room without finishing time to catch the coach at Ply. his sentence. It was needless; mouth. The door was still locked. the same horrible fear had already When I got up-stairs I knocked, seized on me. The cliff, the terfirst gently, then more loudly. I rible cliff; I cannot go on writing, was not frightened at first, for my heart is too heavy. there was a door-window in the "Twelve o'clock. — They have room leading down a little flight come back, and, O God! the only of steps into the garden, and I trace of her is the spray of white thought she had gone down these roses I picked for her this mornto take a last look at her flowers, ing. They were found on the top so I called to Maurice to of the cliff about half a mile from round to the garden, for she must here. I think they are a message be there. I remained listening at from my darling to me, for they the bedroom door, which in a mo- were not trampled on or crushed; ment or two flew open, and Mau- she must have taken them carerice, with a very disturbed face, fully and purposely from her belt; stood before me. “She has evi- they shall never, never leave me. dently been in the garden,' he said, May 11.—It is a week since 'for the door on to the outside that dreadful day, and not the steps was open; but there is no smallest clue to her disappearance. one there now.'
I made no an- Poor Maurice is half mad with swer, but flew past him into the grief ; he has sought for her high bedroom. It needed but a glance and low, and spent all the little to show my darling had gone sum destined for their wedding straight through the room ; her journey on these vain researches. gloves and handkerchief Now he wanders along the cliff up thrown on a chair by the window, and down, up and down, the whole and her pale-blue travelling-dress of the long day, and then he comes lay undisturbed upon the bed. I and sits opposite to me with his ran hastily through the room and elbows on his knees, till I tell him garden, which was empty; the it is time for bed, when he goes gate on to the cliff was ajar, and without a word; but I hear him we noticed (but not till later) that pacing his room half the night. there must have been a struggle May 31.-Maurice has had to at the spot, for some of the lilac join his regiment for foreign serboughs were torn down, as if some vice. I am glad : he would have
gone mad had he remained inactive the unhappy sister. She received here,
them without much apparent surSept. 3.—I have been very ill, prise, directed they should be laid but Patty assures me there has not "Miss Anne's bed up-stairs," been a trace of any clue during my and as soon as the men had left long time of blessed unconscious- the house, went and laid herself ness, and now the terrible aching upon the bed also, where her faithvoid is again here. O my darling, ful maid Patty, coming to see my darling, come back !
after her an hour later, found her “ Sept. 6.—Why should I go on stone-dead, and held tight in her
· writing? my life henceforth is only dead grasp was a pair of white waiting."
gloves and a lace pocket-handkerAfter this comes a long break of chief. fully twenty years in the diary; The two sisters were laid to rest then in an aged and trembling char- in one grave, and it was not till acter occurs the following entry :
after the funeral was
over that May 4, 1835.—I don't know it was discovered that, through what impels me once more to pen some inadver nce, ne of the this diary; possibly this wild skeleton hands had not been placed hurricane of wind which is making in the coffin with the rest of the the house rock like a boat has body. upset me, but I feel so glad and At first there was some talk of satisfied, as if my long waiting reopening the grave, but the old were nearly over. I have just maid Patty entreated so earnestly been up-stairs to see that all is in to be allowed to retain the hand order for my darling. We have that she at last succeeded in carrykept everything aired and pre- ing her point. A glass case was pared for her these thirty years, made by Mrs Patty's order, and so that she should find all com- in it the poor hand was placed ; fortable when she comes home at and when Mrs Patty went down last. My poor darling, she will to the inn to spend her last reonly find Patty and me to welcome maining years with her daughter her. Let me think, this is nearly the landlady, the case was placed twenty years ago since we heard on a shelf close to the old woman's of Maurice's death at Waterloo. seat, and many a time would she Oh what a fearful crash! and how recount the sad story to the sailors that rumbling noise goes on sound- who frequented the village inn. ing as if the cliff had given way.” In the spring of 1837 a larger
Here the diary abruptly termin- number than usual were gathered ates; but the remainder of the round the fireside of the Blue tragic story is yet told in that Dragon. A fearful storm, accomlittle Devonshire village. The panied by violent gusts of hail, violence of the storm had in very swept round the house. Suddenly truth caused a subsidence in the the door burst open, and a young cliff, and in doing so had brought man entered, half dragging, half to light a skeleton on which yet supporting an old man, bent and hung some tattered remnants of shrunk with age and infirmity. what had once been white satin, “Here you are, sir," he said to and from whose bony fingers rolled the old man; " this is the Blue a tarnished wedding - ring. The Dragon. You won't find a snugger bones were collected with tender berth between hereand Plymouth;" care and brought to the house of so saying, he thrust the old man
into a chair by the fire, and con- mouth, saying I would rejoin her tinued, half aside to the company, at Falmouth. I meant to bring "Found the old cove wandering Anne with me; I hid in the garabout the cliffs, and thought he den, she came into it alone, I would be blown over, so offered to rushed forward, threw a shawl I guide him here. I think he is a had ready over her head, and carlittle- -” and he tapped his fore- ried her away; she resisted with head significantly. The rest of the all her might, but I was a strong party turned round curiously to man, and her cries were stifled by gaze at the stranger, who, seeming the shawl. Of course I could not to wake from some reverie, pro- get along very fast, and presently ceeded to order something hot both I heard voices of those in search for himself and his self-constituted of her. She heard them also, and guide. The hot gin-and - water made another frantic effort to free seemed further to rouse him, and herself. My strength was nearly he began asking a few questions exhausted, but mad with rage and concerning the country and neigh- disappointment, I drew my knife bourhood; but in the very act of from my belt and stabbed her to speaking his attention was sud- the heart, crying fiercely, 'I have denly arrested by the sight of the kept my oath, you shall never be glass case and skeleton hand. He another's.' Then I hurled the sprang from his chair with a savage body down the cliff, where I saw cry of mingled terror and dismay. it catch in a crevice of the rock. “ The hand,” he cried, “the hand! O God !” he cried, shuddering and why does it point at me? I never covering his face with his hands, meant, O God !- and he fell “I see it now,—that dreadful down in a fit, rolling and gasping scene, the blue waves dancing beon the floor, and shrieking wildly neath the brilliant sunshine, and at intervals, “The hand, the hand!” that white shapeless mass caught They raised the wretched man from in the frowning cliff with one arm the floor and laid him on a bed, sticking stifly upwards. I rolled whilst the doctor was hurriedly down one or two stones, endeavoursummoned. Meanwhile the suf- ing to conceal it; and when I left ferer continued disjointed mutter- the spot, all I could see was a hand ings, till, becoming exhausted, he pointing at me." Here the misersank into à stupor. On the doc- able wretch broke off with a deep tor's arrival, however, he once more groan.
In a moment more he roused himself, and asked in a sprang up with another wild shout quieter and more composed manner of “The hand, the bloody hand !” whose the hand was. On being and so shrieking, his body fell lifetold, he trembled violently, but less to the ground. The skelsaid : “I am Captain Sinclair; I eton hand in the adjoining room knew the wedding-day; I told my was dropping blood. ship to sail without me from Ply