by Wiliiam Frederick IVEY
First published in CORNISH LIFE Magazine, 1978
The story I am about to relate is, without doubt, sincere. It was related to me some years ago by a relative of the person concerned and I believe it to be true.
The person will be referred to as “Mr. James Trengrove “, a good living, God-fearing man and a strong temperance reformer. I mention this in case you should think wrongly that he might have had too much recourse to the bottle. James whose occupation was mining, had a younger brother, William had a wild nature. But however rough a diamond, however needless his actions, he always confided in brother James when he found himself in trouble.
William met an untimely end while still young, dying a terrible death in his brother’s arms. It was assumed that his death was a result of his bad life, but details are long forgotten.
Twenty years passed and the memories of William gradually passed as well. His name was occasionally discussed by brother James and his good dame, but to everyone else he was just a lost soul whose body lay in the local cemetery.
James pursued his daily routine work in the nearby mine and adhered strictly to his principles as a religious man. To offer a glass of intoxicating drink of any kind to him was the greatest insult.
One night James was returning from his daily toil at. the mine. He had about two miles to walk and although the night was gloomy, there was enough light from the glistening stars to enable him to proceed without the aid of a candle lantern. Most miners drove to `bal’ using a Donkey Shay – a two-wheeled cart with only a bare board across the shafts serving the purpose of a comfortless seat – but James Trengrove was in the habit of walking, his thoughts no doubt centred around the hot pasty that his good wife would have awaiting on his return.
As he strode along the road his attention was drawn to a man walking ahead of him in the same direction. Embracing the opportunity of company at this late hour he quickened his step with the intention of overtaking the man. But the stranger also quickened his speed, no sound coming from his footfalls.
James, not wishing to intrude, but at the same time naturally curious, stopped. The man in front did the same. This performance was repeated at various intervals, but whatever attempts were made to come up with the other proved to be of no avail.
By this time James Trengrove was nearing home and was approaching a by-lane, heavily overgrown with brambles and seldom used except for driving cattle. The man in front kept the same distance but, when he reached this lane, he stopped! James thought it rather strange that anyone should stop by the lane at this time of night. As he drew level he said, “Good Night” in a friendly voice. He was answered with the one word “James”.
The instant his name was mentioned James was struck with amazement. It was none other than his brother William! Overcoming his astonishment a little James said, “Why William! You’ve been dead over twenty years. What are you doing here?” “James” replied the figure, “What I am about to tell you, speak not a word of to any man”. A conversation took place and at the end of it William vanished into the night air!
When James reached home his wife had supper ready as usual, but he could eat none of it. By his white and drawn face Mrs.Trengrove could see that something was amiss and asked whether he was ill or not. After a long silence and sitting in his usual armchair staring gloomily into the dying embers of a furze fire James spoke, saying “Martha, I have seen William tonight”.
“William?” queried the good soul, hardly believing what she heard. “But he’s been dead these twenty years. What are you saying?” “Never mind,” retorted James, “I’ve seen him tonight and I’ve spoken with him. I charge you, never speak his name to me again.”
James Trengrove and his wife lived many years after, but James carried the secret to his grave. The name William was never again mentioned and what the nature of the conversation was nobody knew and no one ever will. It will remain for ever one of those strange incidents.
William Frederick IVEY