Lying in a remote and forested region of South Wales (it is not necessary to indicate the precise spot) there lived in an old feudal mansion a family of the name Hapgood, and though both the incumbents and the house bore the ravages that time had wreaked upon them , they managed to keep up a comparatively respectable appearance. They had an only daughter, a prepossessing girl of seventeen, who was possessed of a lovely and kindly disposition. She was much respected by the tenantry in the neighbourhood.
A young man of winsome character and manner was an accepted lover. His visits were frequent enough, for he was in the full flush of a first attachment.. For nights in succession he kept tryst with the girl, taking long rambles together over hill and mountain; and, at last, he found that he could hide the full desires of his heart no longer.
Suddenly the young man discontinued his visits. This brought great distrust upon the minds of the young girl’s parents; but worse was to come, for soon after they discovered that their daughter had been seduced. Their distress of mind can be better conceived than described, and as time rolled on it was but too plainly demonstrated that their child was about to become a mother, and thus shame and disgrace would fall upon a family that had not a blot upon its escutcheon; but their measure of anguish was not at its full, for their dear and loving child was suddenly missed. The whole of the neighbourhood turned out in quest of her, and after undergoing extreme agony and suspense at receiving no tidings, and suspecting their daughter had destroyed herself, she was brought home far advanced in the evening by her seducer. Struck with astonishment, the parents stood dumb. Beside them the girl, no longer able to hold up, fell into the arms of one of the servants, and the young man threw himself prostrate at the parents’ feet, and craved their mercy. After some considerable time tranquillity was restored, and the young man told the following story: —
“For many weeks I have been in the most desponding state of mind, and, knowing, as I did, that my parents were strictly adverse to the courtship, and that they would disinherit me if I married, I knew not what to do. Some time back a spectre had visited my bedside, and, in an unearthly voice, bade me beware of the future. Its appearance was that of a woman wearing a veil, with a dress damp and tarnished as if it had been subject to a fall. After looking menacingly into my face it vanished. Some days after this I implored my parents to reconsider their verdict, but as they were obdurate I was brought to the verge of despair.
Some time afterwards the ghost appeared again and looked more terrible than ever, till the cold perspiration stood heavy on me and I felt crazed. The ghost, as before, stated it would pay another and last visit, but not till it gave me a look that chilled my blood. Again and again I entreated my parents to consent, but with no better effect. Matters were now assuming an awful crisis, for I dared to look again upon the apparition. Early in the evening I left a note on my parents’ table bidding them adieu, that I should see them no more. At some distance from home I put up at an inn to endeavour to win a little rest to myself, for I was wearied unto death, but it was denied me, and in a short time the apparition again appeared. I heard a noise like a heavy tread on the stairs; and at the bottom of the first flight was the ghost beckoning me to follow. A magnetic power seemed to draw me on until I arrived at a river where I took shelter from the ghastly spectre in a narrow cave. My head must have come in contact with a projecting rock, for I fell senseless upon the ground. When conscience returned, I was lying upon the mossy entrance to the cave, my head facing towards the river. In the dim distance I saw a shape hovering about the bank, its mouth open wide as if in mid-scream; and there, upon the wind, I heard its call, urging me on with all the speed to the river.
As I advanced I saw it was the form of a woman; her long matted hair hanging down below her shoulders; her cheeks were sunken, and a vacant glare of madness was in her eyes — no longer the spectre but my beloved. I hastened to her, as you may perceive, just in time to save your daughter from self-murder.
It was impossible to say whether what I had seen was something of the night or the unconscious projection of a living person. I do not ordinarily believe in such things but I must concede that in the absence of this supernatural benefaction I would be standing here alone.”