Death by Misadventure by Edmund Leamy
“Superstitious?” Well, I confess I am a little. I
would rather not sit down at table with twelve
others, and I think that no really good host should
expose his guest to such a predicament. I have,
indeed, made one of thirteen at dinner on more
than one occasion, and was not a penny the worse,
nor, as far as I can recall, was anyone else. But all
the same, I don’t like the number. And I would
rather see two magpies than one any day, and I
don’t like to hear the ‘tick’ of the death watch at
I would rather not pass a churchyard alone after
dark, but then I don’t like churchyards even in the
daytime, and would avoid them if I could. I was
once induced to make one at a seance of Spiritualists,
and sat for at least half an hour, with five or
six others, round a table in the dark, vainly
hoping for a glimpse of a spirit from the other
world, or for a sound of the rapping, the system
of telegraphy said to be employed by its denizens,
but I neither saw nor heard anything.
The reader will gather from this that I am
like nine out of ten of his acquaintances in matters
of this kind. I am not a convinced sceptic as to
supernatural visitations, and, on the other hand,
I am not a believer in them. All I know is that
I had never seen anything to bring me in touch,
real or imaginary, with the other world until a
certain night in the first days of the month of
September, over twenty years ago, when I was
staying at one of the most charming seaside resorts
on the eastern coast of Ireland.
The weather was simply delightful. The breath
of summer seemed still to linger in the leaves,
almost as many as they are in June, and which
had hardly begun to put on their autumn tints.
The sea for days had been like a mill-pond. The
tide glided in and out almost imperceptibly, and
only in the still night could one hear its soft sighing
I was lodged in a ‘furnished house’ close to the
sea. My rooms were very bright, and offered
splendid views of sea and mountain, and of the
rich foliage that crowned the hills that rose up,
gently sloping, almost from the strand.
The house was furnished after the fashion of
many seaside houses let for the season, and idle
during the winter months. The furniture was
indifferent, but sufficient. But of this I had not
taken much notice. I was easily satisfied, and
moreover I spent most of my time out of doors.
But there came a day when the sky was covered
with black clouds, from which the rain poured down
unceasingly, and the sea was hidden in a mist.
I had smoked and read for two or three hours,
and then got up, stretched my legs and walked
about my sitting room. And for the first time, I
think, I paid serious attention to the pictures on
the walls. With one exception, they were all
photographs. This exception was the allegorical
representation of Hope—a beautiful female figure.
The others were photos of family groups, churches,
etc., and they suggested in an unmistakeable way
a “job lot” at an auction.
This suggestion set me speculating on the fortunes
of their former owner. And what encouraged
me in this was the character of the largest photograph.
It was a wedding group, evidently taken
just after the arrival from church. The persons
forming it stood on the steps of a rather fine house,
over the porch of which the word ‘Welcome’ was
formed in rosebuds. There were in the group about
twenty persons in all. The bride, with a bouquet
in her hand, was standing beside the bridegroom, on
the top step, and both came out very well in the
photo, and as the central figures, of course they
naturally excited more interest than the others.
The bride was tall, shapely and decidedly good-looking,
while the bridegroom, on the other hand,
was stumpy, thick-necked, and of an ill-favoured
countenance, and apparently much older than the
bride. Was it a match of love or convenience?
How did it fare with the two standing here side by
side, whose future life till death would them part
were linked together for good or ill, for happiness
An idle question, the reader may say, but then it
was in an idle hour I put it to myself. As I turned
from this photo to the others, it occurred to
me that all of them were somehow connected.
There were photos of two country churches, one
with a tower and steeple recently erected at the
time the picture was taken if one might judge
from the clearly defined lines of masonry, and the
low size of the firs and yews planted round it. The
other had a square tower and was almost concealed
by ivy, and a glimpse was given of the churchyard
and of some of the tombstones, including a fine
Celtic cross. In one or other of these I decided the
marriage had taken place. In the new church
doubtless, for the photo was mounted on a grey
toned card, as was that of the wedding group.
Moreover, both were from the same photographic
studio of Grafton-street, Dublin. The photo of the
old church was by a different artist, and was
mounted differently. The remaining photos were
of the Madeleine, the Place de la Concorde, the
tomb of Napoleon, and the Louvre—souvenirs, no
doubt, of the honeymoon spent in Paris, and there
was one of a pretty cottage, which was, I surmised,
the first home of the newly married couple. In
this way I explained satisfactorily to myself all the
pictures, save that of the old church, with the
glimpse of the graveyard. Then it seemed to me that
I had arrived at the end of the story, and so I gave it
up and returned to my lounge, my book and my pipe.
That evening a friend from town dropped in after
dinner and spent a few hours with me. I went
down to the station to see him off by the last train,
which went about eleven o’clock. Returning alone
in a starless night, and with the damp breath of the
sea fog clinging to my face, and the long, low moan
of the ocean falling upon my ears, a ‘creepy’ feeling
came over me. I was like one rescued from
a harassing but unseen enemy when I got back into
the shelter of my lodgings, and had closed and
bolted the door.
I went almost straight to my bedroom, and I
found myself leaving the gas lighting, an unusual
circumstance with me. After a while I fell asleep,
and began, as I thought, to dream. It seemed to
me as though I was sitting alone in the sittingroom
downstairs, and that I was looking curiously at the
pictures, tracing from them again the little history
already given. Then my eyes rested steadily
on the picture of the old church, and then I
thought that the picture itself had vanished, and
that I was actually standing at the gate of the
churchyard. Over the church and the little cemetery
the morning was breaking, and the grass and leaves
appeared to be quite wet as if the heavy rain
had only just ceased. Then, when about to
move away from the gate, I saw a white, and
at first, shadowy figure standing by the Celtic
cross in the graveyard. In a few seconds it seemed
to become a defined and substantial form. It was
that of a lady of about thirty years of age. She
wore about her head drapery similar to that on the
head of the allegorical picture of Hope, which, as I
have said, was among the pictures in the sitting-room,
but the face was different—it was that
of the bride! Then I saw the figure leave
the cross and pass out by another gate than that
at which I was standing and go along the
road. I felt myself drawn after it, and it seemed
to me that both it and I flew rather than
walked, so swiftly did we pass over the road.
We must have gone some miles when the
figure stopped in front of a rose-clad cottage,
identical with the cottage in the photo.
The figure entered the cottage, and I thought I
should see it no more. But in a second the exterior
of the cottage disappeared, and I saw instead a
bedroom, in which a woman was lying. It was
the face and figure which I had followed. The
face was pale, and she appeared ill and suffering.
By the bed was a man, whose back
was at first towards me, but soon he moved
and I saw that he was the image of the bridegroom.
The woman raised herself uneasily on the pillow.
Her eyes were wide and glistening, and she made a
gesture towards a table at the head of the bed,
on which were two or three medicine bottles. The
man, in reply to her gesture, poured out something
from one of the bottles into a cup and put it to her
lips. She appeared to drink it all, and then, lying
back quietly on the pillow, seemed to fall into
a deep sleep.
I awoke, and knew I had been dreaming—to
my great surprise, found myself in my dressing-gown
in the sitting-room, to which I must have
made my way during my sleep.
I started up, shivering with cold, and forgetting
all about the dream, went up to my bedroom
and was soon asleep.
However, when I awoke the dream came back to
me, and so persistently that I determined to
find out something about the photos, which
had now a keener interest for me than before.
I questioned my landlady. She was unable to
give me any information save what I had already
guessed, that they had been bought at an auction
at one of the Dublin salerooms, but she had no idea
who the owner was, or who were the people in the
group. She remembered that a former lodger had
remarked that the old church was some church near
Dublin, but she could not say which.
Here was something of a clue, and I determined
to pursue it. I took the photo from the frame, and
the next time I went to Dublin showed it to a monument
maker in Brunswick Street. He at once told
me the church was St. M——s, a few miles outside
the city. I asked if it were he who had put
up the Celtic cross. He said he had not, but
adding it was the work of another sculptor who
lived near Glasnevin.
I went to the sculptor whom he named, and
showed him the photo. At once he recognised
the cross at a glance. It had been erected to
the memory of Mrs. A—— D——, who had died
a few years after her marriage. Her death was,
he said, the result of a misadventure, she having
accidently taken the wrong medicine.
“Did she take it herself?” I asked.
“Yes, that was the evidence at the inquest. The
husband was dreadfully cut up about it. It was he
who put up the cross, one of the finest that ever left
a Dublin yard,” said my informant, with an air of
“But for all that,” he continued, “he got married
within a few months after his wife’s death, and
then,” he added reflectively, “it is often the way,
the greater the grief in the beginning the sooner it
is got over.”
A question not to be decided this side of the
grave if the whole of my dream might not have
been true so much having proved itself so.