ancient baronial castle, surrounded with a moat. At midnight she was
awakened by a ghastly and supernatural scream, and looking out of bed,
beheld in the moonlight a female face and part of the form hovering at
the window. The distance from the ground, as well as the circumstance of
the moat, excluded the possibility that what she beheld was of this
world. The face was that of a young and rather handsome woman, but pale,
and the hair, which was reddish, was loose and disheveled. The dress,
which Lady Fanshaw's terror did not prevent her remarking accurately,
was that of the ancient Irish. This apparition continued to exhibit
itself for some time, and then vanished with two shrieks similar to that
which had first excited Lady Fanshaw's attention. In the morning, with
infinite terror, she communicated to her host what she had witnessed,
and found him prepared not only to credit, but to account for the
superstition. "A near relation of my family," said he; "expired last
night in this castle. We disguised our certain expectation of the event
from you, lest it should throw a cloud over the cheerful reception which
was your due. Now, before such an event happens in this family or
castle, the female specter whom you have seen is always visible. She is
believed to be the spirit of a woman of inferior rank, whom one of my
ancestors degraded himself by marrying, and whom afterwards, to expiate
the dishonor done to his family, he caused to be drowned in the moat."
In strictness this woman could hardly be termed a Banshee. The motive
for the haunting is akin to that in the tale of the Scotch "Drummer of
Cortachy," where the spirit of the murdered man haunts the family out of
revenge, and appears before a death.
Mr. T.J. Westropp, M.A., has furnished the following story: "My maternal
grandmother heard the following tradition from her mother, one of the
Miss Ross-Lewins, who witnessed the occurrence. Their father, Mr.
Harrison Ross-Lewin, was away in Dublin on law business, and in his
absence the young people went off to spend the evening with a friend who
lived some miles away. The night was fine and lightsome as they were
returning, save at one point where the road ran between trees or high
hedges not far to the west of the old church of Kilchrist. The latter,
like many similar ruins, was a simple oblong building, with long
side-walls and high gables, and at that time it and its graveyard were
unenclosed, and lay in the open fields. As the party passed down the
long dark lane they suddenly heard in the distance loud keening and
clapping of hands, as the country-people were accustomed to do when
lamenting the dead. The Ross-Lewins hurried on, and came in sight of the
church, on the side wall of which a little gray-haired old woman, clad
in a dark cloak, was running to and fro, chanting and wailing, and
throwing up her arms. The girls were very frightened, but the young men
ran forward and surrounded the ruin, and two of them went into the
church, the apparition vanishing from the wall as they did so. They
searched every nook, and found no one, nor did any one pass out. All
were now well scared, and got home as fast as possible. On reaching
their home their mother opened the door, and at once told them that she
was in terror about their father, for, as she sat looking out the window
in the moonlight, a huge raven with fiery eyes lit on the sill, and
tapped three times on the glass. They told her their story, which only
added to their anxiety, and as they stood talking, taps came to the
nearest window, and they saw the bird again. A few days later news
reached them that Mr. Ross-Lewin had died suddenly in Dublin. This
occurred about 1776."
Mr. Westropp also writes that the sister of a former Roman Catholic
Bishop told his sisters that when she was a little girl she went out
one evening with some other children for a walk. Going down the road,
they passed the gate of the principal demesne near the town. There was a
rock, or large stone, beside the road, on which they saw something.
Going nearer, they perceived it to be a little dark, old woman, who
began crying and clapping her hands. Some of them attempted to speak to
her, but got frightened, and all finally ran home as quickly as they
could. Next day the news came that the gentleman near whose gate the
Banshee had cried, was dead, and it was found on inquiry that he had
died at the very hour at which the children had seen the specter.
A lady who is a relation of one of the compilers, and a member of a Co.
Cork family of English descent, sends the two following experiences of a
Banshee in her family. "My mother, when a young girl, was standing
looking out of the window in their house at Blackrock, near Cork. She
suddenly saw a white figure standing on a bridge which was easily
visible from the house. The figure waved her arms towards the house, and
my mother heard the bitter wailing of the Banshee. It lasted some
seconds, and then the figure disappeared. Next morning my grandfather
was walking as usual into the city of Cork. He accidentally fell, hit
his head against the curbstone, and never recovered consciousness.
"In March, 1900, my mother was very ill, and one evening the nurse and I
were with her arranging her bed. We suddenly heard the most extraordinary
wailing, which seemed to come in waves round and under her bed. We
naturally looked everywhere to try and find the cause, but in vain. The
nurse and I looked at one another, but made no remark, as my mother did
not seem to hear it. My sister was downstairs sitting with my father.
She heard it, and thought some terrible thing had happened to her little
boy, who was in bed upstairs. She rushed up, and found him sleeping
quietly. My father did not hear it. In the house next door they heard
it, and ran downstairs, thinking something had happened to the servant;
but the latter at once said to them, 'Did you hear the Banshee? Mrs.
P - - must be dying.'"
A few years ago (_i.e._ before 1894) a curious incident occurred in a
public school in connection with the belief in the Banshee. One of the
boys, happening to become ill, was at once placed in a room by himself,
where he used to sit all day. On one occasion, as he was being visited
by the doctor, he suddenly started up from his seat, and affirmed that
he heard somebody crying. The doctor, of course, who could hear or see
nothing, came to the conclusion that the illness had slightly affected
his brain. However, the boy, who appeared quite sensible, still
persisted that he heard some one crying, and furthermore said, "It is
the Banshee, as I have heard it before." The following morning the
head-master received a telegram saying that the boy's brother had been
accidentally shot dead.[G]
That the Banshee is not confined within the geographical limits of
Ireland, but that she can follow the fortunes of a family abroad, and
there foretell their death, is clearly shown by the following story. A
party of visitors were gathered together on the deck of a private yacht
on one of the Italian lakes, and during a lull in the conversation one
of them, a Colonel, said to the owner, "Count, who's that queer-looking
woman you have on board?" The Count replied that there was nobody except
the ladies present, and the stewardess, but the speaker protested that
he was correct, and suddenly, with a scream of horror, he placed his
hands before his eyes, and exclaimed, "Oh, my God, what a face!" For
some time he was overcome with terror, and at length reluctantly looked
up, and cried:
"Thank Heavens, it's gone!"
"What was it?" asked the Count.
"Nothing human," replied the Colonel - "nothing belonging to this world.
It was a woman of no earthly type, with a queer-shaped, gleaming face, a
mass of red hair, and eyes that would have been beautiful but for their
expression, which was hellish. She had on a green hood, after the
fashion of an Irish peasant."
An American lady present suggested that the description tallied with
that of the Banshee, upon which the Count said:
"I am an O'Neill - at least I am descended from one. My family name is,
as you know, Neilsini, which, little more than a century ago, was
O'Neill. My great-grandfather served in the Irish Brigade, and on its
dissolution at the time of the French Revolution had the good fortune to
escape the general massacre of officers, and in company with an O'Brien
and a Maguire fled across the frontier and settled in Italy. On his
death his son, who had been born in Italy, and was far more Italian than
Irish, changed his name to Neilsini, by which name the family has been
known ever since. But for all that we are Irish."
"The Banshee was yours, then!" ejaculated the Colonel. "What exactly
does it mean?"
"It means," the Count replied solemnly, "the death of some one very
nearly associated with me. Pray Heaven it is not my wife or daughter."
On that score, however, his anxiety was speedily removed, for within two
hours he was seized with a violent attack of angina pectoris, and died
Mr. Elliott O'Donnell, to whose article on "Banshees" we are indebted
for the above, adds: "The Banshee never manifests itself to the person
whose death it is prognosticating. Other people may see or hear it, but
the fated one never, so that when every one present is aware of it but
one, the fate of that one may be regarded as pretty well certain."
[E] From "True Irish Ghost Stories."
[F] Scott's _Lady of the Lake_, notes to Canto III (edition of 1811).
[G] A.G. Bradley, _Notes on some Irish Superstitions_, p. 9.
[H] _Occult Review_ for September, 1913.
THE MAN WHO WENT TOO FAR
BY E.F. BENSON
The little village of St. Faith's nestles in a hollow of wooded hill up
on the north bank of the river Fawn in the county of Hampshire, huddling
close round its gray Norman church as if for spiritual protection
against the fays and fairies, the trolls and "little people," who might
be supposed still to linger in the vast empty spaces of the New Forest,
and to come after dusk and do their doubtful businesses. Once outside
the hamlet you may walk in any direction (so long as you avoid the high
road which leads to Brockenhurst) for the length of a summer afternoon
without seeing sign of human habitation, or possibly even catching sight
of another human being. Shaggy wild ponies may stop their feeding for a
moment as you pass, the white scuts of rabbits will vanish into their
burrows, a brown viper perhaps will glide from your path into a clump of
heather, and unseen birds will chuckle in the bushes, but it may easily
happen that for a long day you will see nothing human. But you will not
feel in the least lonely; in summer, at any rate, the sunlight will be
gay with butterflies, and the air thick with all those woodland sounds
which like instruments in an orchestra combine to play the great
symphony of the yearly festival of June. Winds whisper in the birches,
and sigh among the firs; bees are busy with their redolent labor among
the heather, a myriad birds chirp in the green temples of the forest
trees, and the voice of the river prattling over stony places, bubbling
into pools, chuckling and gulping round corners, gives you the sense
that many presences and companions are near at hand.
Yet, oddly enough, though one would have thought that these benign and
cheerful influences of wholesome air and spaciousness of forest were
very healthful comrades for a man, in so far as nature can really
influence this wonderful human genus which has in these centuries
learned to defy her most violent storms in its well-established houses,
to bridle her torrents and make them light its streets, to tunnel her
mountains and plow her seas, the inhabitants of St. Faith's will not
willingly venture into the forest after dark. For in spite of the
silence and loneliness of the hooded night it seems that a man is not
sure in what company he may suddenly find himself, and though it is
difficult to get from these villagers any very clear story of occult
appearances, the feeling is widespread. One story indeed I have heard
with some definiteness, the tale of a monstrous goat that has been seen
to skip with hellish glee about the woods and shady places, and this
perhaps is connected with the story which I have here attempted to piece
together. It too is well-known to them; for all remember the young
artist who died here not long ago, a young man, or so he struck the
beholder, of great personal beauty, with something about him that made
men's faces to smile and brighten when they looked on him. His ghost
they will tell you "walks" constantly by the stream and through the
woods which he loved so, and in especial it haunts a certain house, the
last of the village, where he lived, and its garden in which he was done
to death. For my part I am inclined to think that the terror of the
Forest dates chiefly from that day. So, such as the story is, I have set
it forth in connected form. It is based partly on the accounts of the
villagers, but mainly on that of Darcy, a friend of mine and a friend of
the man with whom these events were chiefly concerned.
* * * * *
The day had been one of untarnished midsummer splendor, and as the sun
drew near to its setting, the glory of the evening grew every moment
more crystalline, more miraculous. Westward from St. Faith's the
beechwood which stretched for some miles toward the heathery upland
beyond already cast its veil of clear shadow over the red roofs of the
village, but the spire of the gray church, over-topping all, still
pointed a flaming orange finger into the sky. The river Fawn, which runs
below, lay in sheets of sky-reflected blue, and wound its dreamy devious
course round the edge of this wood, where a rough two-planked bridge
crossed from the bottom of the garden of the last house in the village,
and communicated by means of a little wicker gate with the wood itself.
Then once out of the shadow of the wood the stream lay in flaming pools
of the molten crimson of the sunset, and lost itself in the haze of
This house at the end of the village stood outside the shadow, and the
lawn which sloped down to the river was still flecked with sunlight.
Garden-beds of dazzling color lined its gravel walks, and down the
middle of it ran a brick pergola, half-hidden in clusters of
rambler-rose and purple with starry clematis. At the bottom end of it,
between two of its pillars, was slung a hammock containing a
The house itself lay somewhat remote from the rest of the village, and a
footpath leading across two fields, now tall and fragrant with hay, was
its only communication with the high road. It was low-built, only two
stories in height, and like the garden, its walls were a mass of
flowering roses. A narrow stone terrace ran along the garden front, over
which was stretched an awning, and on the terrace a young silent-footed
man-servant was busied with the laying of the table for dinner. He was
neat-handed and quick with his job, and having finished it he went back
into the house, and reappeared again with a large rough bath-towel on
his arm. With this he went to the hammock in the pergola.
"Nearly eight, sir," he said.
"Has Mr. Darcy come yet?" asked a voice from the hammock.
"If I'm not back when he comes, tell him that I'm just having a bathe
The servant went back to the house, and after a moment or two Frank
Halton struggled to a sitting posture, and slipped out on to the grass.
He was of medium height and rather slender in build, but the supple ease
and grace of his movements gave the impression of great physical
strength: even his descent from the hammock was not an awkward
performance. His face and hands were of very dark complexion, either
from constant exposure to wind and sun, or, as his black hair and dark
eyes tended to show, from some strain of southern blood. His head was
small, his face of an exquisite beauty of modeling, while the smoothness
of its contour would have led you to believe that he was a beardless lad
still in his teens. But something, some look which living and experience
alone can give, seemed to contradict that, and finding yourself
completely puzzled as to his age, you would next moment probably cease
to think about that, and only look at this glorious specimen of young
manhood with wondering satisfaction.
He was dressed as became the season and the heat, and wore only a shirt
open at the neck, and a pair of flannel trousers. His head, covered very
thickly with a somewhat rebellious crop of short curly hair, was bare as
he strolled across the lawn to the bathing-place that lay below. Then
for a moment there was silence, then the sound of splashed and divided
waters, and presently after, a great shout of ecstatic joy, as he swam
up-stream with the foamed water standing in a frill round his neck. Then
after some five minutes of limb-stretching struggle with the flood, he
turned over on his back, and with arms thrown wide, floated down-stream,
ripple-cradled and inert. His eyes were shut, and between half-parted
lips he talked gently to himself.
"I am one with it," he said to himself, "the river and I, I and the
river. The coolness and splash of it is I, and the water-herbs that wave
in it are I also. And my strength and my limbs are not mine but the
river's. It is all one, all one, dear Fawn."
* * * * *
A quarter of an hour later he appeared again at the bottom of the lawn,
dressed as before, his wet hair already drying into its crisp short
curls again. There he paused a moment, looking back at the stream with
the smile with which men look on the face of a friend, then turned
towards the house. Simultaneously his servant came to the door leading
on to the terrace, followed by a man who appeared to be some half-way
through the fourth decade of his years. Frank and he saw each other
across the bushes and garden-beds, and each quickening his step, they
met suddenly face to face round an angle of the garden walk, in the
fragrance of syringa.
"My dear Darcy," cried Frank, "I am charmed to see you."
But the other stared at him in amazement.
"Frank!" he exclaimed.
"Yes, that is my name," he said laughing, "what is the matter?"
Darcy took his hand.
"What have you done to yourself?" he asked. "You are a boy again."
"Ah, I have a lot to tell you," said Frank. "Lots that you will hardly
believe, but I shall convince you - - "
He broke off suddenly, and held up his hand.
"Hush, there is my nightingale," he said.
The smile of recognition and welcome with which he had greeted his
friend faded from his face, and a look of rapt wonder took its place, as
of a lover listening to the voice of his beloved. His mouth parted
slightly, showing the white line of teeth, and his eyes looked out and
out till they seemed to Darcy to be focused on things beyond the vision
of man. Then something perhaps startled the bird, for the song ceased.
"Yes, lots to tell you," he said. "Really I am delighted to see you. But
you look rather white and pulled down; no wonder after that fever. And
there is to be no nonsense about this visit. It is June now, you stop
here till you are fit to begin work again. Two months at least."
"Ah, I can't trespass quite to that extent."
Frank took his arm and walked him down the grass.
"Trespass? Who talks of trespass? I shall tell you quite openly when I
am tired of you, but you know when we had the studio together, we used
not to bore each other. However, it is ill talking of going away on the
moment of your arrival. Just a stroll to the river, and then it will be
Darcy took out his cigarette case, and offered it to the other.
"No, not for me. Dear me, I suppose I used to smoke once. How very odd!"
"Given it up?"
"I don't know. I suppose I must have. Anyhow I don't do it now. I would
as soon think of eating meat."
"Another victim on the smoking altar of vegetarianism?"
"Victim?" asked Frank. "Do I strike you as such?"
He paused on the margin of the stream and whistled softly. Next moment a
moor-hen made its splashing flight across the river, and ran up the
bank. Frank took it very gently in his hands and stroked its head, as
the creature lay against his shirt.
"And is the house among the reeds still secure?" he half-crooned to it.
"And is the missus quite well, and are the neighbors flourishing? There,
dear, home with you," and he flung it into the air.
"That bird's very tame," said Darcy, slightly bewildered.
"It is rather," said Frank, following its flight.
* * * * *
During dinner Frank chiefly occupied himself in bringing himself
up-to-date in the movements and achievements of this old friend whom he
had not seen for six years. Those six years, it now appeared, had been
full of incident and success for Darcy; he had made a name for himself
as a portrait painter which bade fair to outlast the vogue of a couple
of seasons, and his leisure time had been brief. Then some four months
previously he had been through a severe attack of typhoid, the result of
which as concerns this story was that he had come down to this
sequestered place to recruit.
"Yes, you've got on," said Frank at the end. "I always knew you would.
A.R.A. with more in prospect. Money? You roll in it, I suppose, and, O
Darcy, how much happiness have you had all these years? That is the only
imperishable possession. And how much have you learned? Oh, I don't mean
in Art. Even I could have done well in that."
"Done well? My dear fellow, all I have learned in these six years you
knew, so to speak, in your cradle. Your old pictures fetch huge prices.
Do you never paint now?"
Frank shook his head.
"No, I'm too busy," he said.
"Doing what? Please tell me. That is what every one is for ever asking
"Doing? I suppose you would say I do nothing."
Darcy glanced up at the brilliant young face opposite him.
"It seems to suit you, that way of being busy," he said. "Now, it's your
turn. Do you read? Do you study? I remember you saying that it would do
us all - all us artists, I mean - a great deal of good if we would study
any one human face carefully for a year, without recording a line. Have
you been doing that?"
Frank shook his head again.
"I mean exactly what I say," he said, "I have been _doing_ nothing. And
I have never been so occupied. Look at me; have I not done something to
myself to begin with?"
"You are two years younger than I," said Darcy, "at least you used to
be. You therefore are thirty-five. But had I never seen you before I
should say you were just twenty. But was it worth while to spend six
years of greatly-occupied life in order to look twenty? Seems rather
like a woman of fashion."
Frank laughed boisterously.
"First time I've ever been compared to that particular bird of prey," he
said. "No, that has not been my occupation - in fact I am only very
rarely conscious that one effect of my occupation has been that. Of
course, it must have been if one comes to think of it. It is not very
important. Quite true my body has become young. But that is very little;
I have become young."
Darcy pushed back his chair and sat sideways to the table looking at the
"Has that been your occupation then?" he asked.
"Yes, that anyhow is one aspect of it. Think what youth means! It is the
capacity for growth, mind, body, spirit, all grow, all get stronger, all
have a fuller, firmer life every day. That is something, considering
that every day that passes after the ordinary man reaches the
full-blown flower of his strength, weakens his hold on life. A man
reaches his prime, and remains, we say, in his prime, for ten years, or
perhaps twenty. But after his primest prime is reached, he slowly,
insensibly weakens. These are the signs of age in you, in your body, in
your art probably, in your mind. You are less electric than you were.
But I, when I reach my prime - I am nearing it - ah, you shall see."
The stars had begun to appear in the blue velvet of the sky, and to the
east the horizon seen above the black silhouette of the village was
growing dove-colored with the approach of moon-rise. White moths hovered
dimly over the garden-beds, and the footsteps of night tip-toed through
the bushes. Suddenly Frank rose.
"Ah, it is the supreme moment," he said softly. "Now more than at any
other time the current of life, the eternal imperishable current runs so