The evening was already falling; the shades of autumn were shrouding the wooded hill above the Kennet, as a traveller halted to consider his way to the town of Hungerford. He had managed to gain access to the park, but could not discover any road out of it without rendering himself liable to an accusation of trespass. Here, dressed in fading light, the leaves rustled with an ominous manner, though scarce a breath of wind fanned his cheeks; and as the man thought of retracing his steps, a light suddenly twinkled out from an old manor house in the valley beckoning him to follow it.
He was about to descend the hill through the wood; indeed, he had already taken some steps in that direction, when he became conscious of someone by his side. The evening was still sufficiently light to enable him to see anyone near him, but although he fancied he could hear, and even perceive the disturbance of the leaves by his side, he could see no one.
All this while the dim light still burned in the solitary window of the house. What did it portend? Suddenly, as with the sweeping by of a mist, the intruder became aware of a female figure with a child in her arms passing before him. She was grey and silent, so too the infant. So surprised was he, that he checked himself suddenly, fell heavily, and lay for a while half-stunned.
In this plight, he was found by a labourer, who assisted him to the high road, and there he soon gained shelter, but his guide shook his head when he spoke of the woman, and hinted at some terrible deed in which the “old family” had been implicated.
“That maybe were the haunted room in which ye saw the light,” remarked the man. “Anyone will tell ye the tale of it. It’s well known hereabouts, and they say it’s true. P’r’aps she appeared to you, sir?!”
Instantly, the traveller’s mind was overwhelmed by such an inconceivable thought. Did something reach out to him? Something of the past? With some trepidation he sought to elicit all the facts from the labourer regarding the mystery — and the particulars follow in due order. Continue reading