St. Andrews Ghost Stories/The Bewitched Ermentrude

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3072086St. Andrews Ghost Stories — The Bewitched ErmentrudeWilliam Thomas Linskill

The Bewitched Ermentrude.

Very many years ago now I was santering down historic old South Street one November afternoon, my object being to lunch in one of the quaint houses with my old time friend, Harold Slitherwick. Lunch was not, however, the main object of my visit, but to meet a man called Reginald Saedegar, an ex-Indian judge, who had actually seen a genuine spirit or ghost.

It is a sad, nay, a melancholy fact (for I have been told this by the very best authorities) that I am not Psychic, despite the fact that I have spent days and nights in gloomy, grimly-haunted chambers and ruins, and even a lonesome Hallowe'en night on the summit of St Rule's ancient Tower (my only companions being sandwiches, matches, some cigars, and the necessary and indispensable flask), yet, alas! I have never heard or seen anything the least abnormal, or felt the necessary, or much-talked-of mystic presence.

Arrived at the old mansion, I was duly ushered in by Slitherwick's butler, one Joe Bingworthy, a man with the manner and appearance of an archbishop, and from whom one always seemed to expect a sort of pontifical blessing.

There were several fellows there, and I was speedily made known to Sædeger, a very cheery, pleasant little person, with dark hair and big eyebrows.

There was a very heated discussion going on when I entered as to what was really a properly constituted Cathedral. Darkwood was shouting, "No Bishop's Chair, no Cathedral." "If," he said, "a Bishop had his chair in a tiny chapel, it was a Cathedral, but if a religious building was as big as the Crystal Palace, and there was no Bishop's Chair there, it was not one bit a Cathedral."

I stopped this discussion suddenly by asking Sædegar about his ghost, and was told I would hear the whole story after lunch.

Before we adjourned to the smoke room Sædeger was telling us he felt a bit knocked up with his long journey. He had a thirty-six hours' journey after he left good old Tony-Pandy. Visions of "Tony Lumpkin," and "Tony Faust," in "My Sweetheart," flitted through my brain, then I suddenly remembered, luckily, that "Tony-pandy" was a town in Wales.

Once comfortably seated in the smoke-room with pipes, cigars, and whisky, Reginald Sædeger became at once the centre of all the interest.

"Lots of years ago," he said, in a quiet legal voice, "I came to visit some friends in St Andrews, and I had a most unaccountable experience. I will tell you all about it. I never saw anything supernatural before, and have never seen anything the least remarkable since; but one night, my first night in that house, I undoubtedly saw the wraith of the 'Blue Girl.'"

"What had you for supper that evening?" I mildly asked.

"Only chicken and salad," was the reply. "I was not thinking of anything ghostly. If you fix your mind intently on one thing, some folk can, you can self-hypnotise yourself. I had no idea but golf in my mind when I went off to roost."

"Well, drive ahead," said I.

"I had a charming, comfortable, big old-world room given me, nice fire, and all that sort of thing," continued Sædeger, "and as I was deuced tired I soon went to bed and to sleep.

"I woke suddenly, later, with the firm conviction that a pair of eyes were fixed on me. I suppose everyone knows that if you stare fixedly at any sleeping person, they will soon awake. I got a start when I half-opened my eyes, for leaning on the mantelpiece staring hard at me in the mirror was a most beautiful girl in a light blue gauzy dress, her back, of course, was to the bed, and I saw she had masses of wavy, golden-brown hair hanging down long past her waist.

"I was utterly astonished, and watched the movements of this beautiful creature with my eyes almost closed. I felt sure it was someone in the house having a lark at my expense, so pretended to be asleep. As I watched, the girl turned round and faced me, and I marvelled at the extraordinary loveliness of her figure and features. I wondered if she was a guest in the house, and what she was doing wandering about at that time of night, and if she was sleep-walking? She then glided—it certainly was not walking—to a corner of the room, and then I noticed that her feet were bare. She seemed to move along above the carpet—not on it—a curious motion. She drifted, and stood beneath a big picture, took out a key and opened a small aumbrey, or cupboard, in the wall quite noiselessly. And from this receptacle she took out some small things that glittered in her pretty fingers, long taper fingers."

"How on earth did you contrive to see all that in a dark bedroom?" I sarcastically inquired.

"The room wasn't dark," said Sædeger. "I always keep the light burning in a strange house and in a strange room."

"Oh, I see," I replied. "Go on."

"Well," continued Reginald Sædeger, "she then turned and came towards the bed, and I got a more distinct view of her. I had never seen anyone a bit like her before; it was an utterly unforgettable face. I have certainly never before, or since, seen anyone as pretty as she was—yet it was a strange, unearthly beauty, and her huge forget-me-not blue eyes were perfection of pathos. Nearer, and yet nearer, she came, and when quite close to the bed, she bent over me and raised her hand with the glittering thing in it high over my head. Then I made a tremendous spring out of bed, crying loudly, 'Now I'll see who is trying to frighten me.' I flung out my arms to grasp her, but they closed on nothing, and to my utter astonishment I saw her standing smiling at me on the opposite side of the room.

"That was odd and uncanny enough, but then she gradually began to disappear, dissolving into a thin blue-grey mist, until nothing whatever remained—I was absolutely alone in the room and dumfoundered."

"What next?" I asked.

"Well! what could I do or think?" said Sædeger. "I was fairly flabbergasted at the unexpected turn of events. I admit I felt shaky, so I took a stiff whisky and soda, smoked a pipe, and went back to bed to reflect on the matter, and fell asleep. I was wakened in the morning by my host, Harold Slitherwick, walking into the room carrying a pony brandy for me."

"Well, old blighter, how have you slept?" he asked.

"Then I told him about the blue girl."

"Bless my heart! Have you seen her too? Lots of people, my wife among the number, declare they have seen her; but as you have seen her now, I really begin to believe there is some truth in the tale."

"I then told my host there was no dubiety about the matter, and pointed out the place under the picture where there was a cupboard. We both went and looked. There was no cupboard to be seen."

"Very rum thing," said my host; "there was a murder once took place in this room ages ago. Perhaps the blue lady had something to do with it; but let us hunt for your cupboard."

"On rapping with our knuckles on the wall we found a hollow spot, scraped off the paper, and there sure enough was the little door I had seen. We soon forced it open, and discovered a receptacle, about a foot square, going very deep into the thick stone wall. There were a lot of things in that place, scissors, a thimble, a dagger, a work-box, and a lot of old musty, dusty papers. And then we found a long tress of ruddy-gold hair in an envelope and a beautiful miniature magnificently painted on ivory of the blue girl I had seen—every detail, the face, the dress, the hair, and the bare feet, were perfectly exact. On both the envelope and the miniature were written the names 'Ermentrude Ermengarde Annibal Beaurepaire,' with the date 1559.

"We then examined the old documents which gave us some clue to the mystery. It was a very long story that we had to read over, but I will tell it to you briefly. Long ages ago this ancient house was the property of a Frenchman, Monsieur Louis Beaurepaire. He had an only and lovely daughter of twenty, named Ermentrude Ermengarde Annibal Beaurepaire, who was intended to be a bride of the Church, otherwise a nun. This idea, apparently, did not appeal to her views. She pasionately loved a young student, and was equally beloved by him, whose name was Eugene Malvoisine.

"All went well it seems, for two years, and they were to be married in the Cathedral at Easter. All the arrangements were complete for the nuptials; but fortune is a fickle jade, and willed it otherwise. A rival turned up on the scene in the person of Marie de Mailross, a cousin of the Beaurepaires, and a frequent guest at their house. Ermentrude found that her beloved Eugene had proved faithless, and transferred his youthful affections to the lovely Marie, and that a speedy elopement was pending.

"Ermentrude went and consulted a wise woman, otherwise a witch, who resided in Argyll, outwith the Shoegate Port. This witch, by name "Alistoun Brathwaite," used her evil powers on the fair Ermentrude, and enraged her jealousy to fury and a desire for revenge, and presented her with a potion, and a cunning, well-wrought dagger.

"The witch threw a spell over Ermentrude, and took all the good within her away, and implanted evil passions within her breast. It seems that Marie of Mailross slept in this old room, and one night Ermentrude, willed by the witch, went to Marie's bedside, and planted the dagger in her heart, and she died. It seems Ermentrude disappeared, and was never seen or heard of again, and was supposed to have drowned herself at the Maiden Rock—hence the name it bears.

"That," said Sædeger, "is my quaint tale. The room I slept in was the very room in which in ages past, Marie was done to death by Ermentrude, and it seems to have been my lot to see Ermentrude and discover the secret that lay in that old cupboard."

We all thanked Sædeger, and after thoughtfully consuming a few more whiskies and sodas, and a few more cigars, went off to the Links pondering deeply.