A Vision or a Dream? by Edmund Leamy
I never had a decided opinion one way or the other
on the subject of ghosts—that is to say, I was never
able to affirm my belief in them, nor was I willing,
on the other hand, to deny that occasionally they
visited the glimpses of the moon. Nothing,
however, would induce me to spend a night in a
churchyard, and indeed, it would cost me a considerable
effort to pass by one on a country road after
nightfall if I chanced to be alone. The fact is, I
suffered for many years, and from my earliest childhood
from the effects of a morbid imagination. I
had, when little over six years old, received a
terrible shock by the suicide of a neighbour. I had
often seen him pass by the door of the house in
which we lived. He was, as well as I remember, an
engineer, and he had a rather peculiar cast of
countenance, which had made a deep impression on
me. I did not see him lying dead, but I followed
a crowd mainly composed of women which attended
the coffin, as it was being borne on the shoulders of
four men, to the house of the deceased. When the
coffin was taken inside the door the crowd remained
for a long time outside, and of course the fatal deed
formed the sole topic of conversation. I was close
to three or four women who were listening to another
who was giving a most graphic description of the
manner in which the unhappy man had taken his
life. The details were probably the offspring of her
imagination, but they sank into my mind and the
recollection of them cost me hours and nights of the
bitterest agony—an agony indeed, impossible to
describe. I have not forgotten them yet, though
close on half a century has passed away.
I was, as I have mentioned, only about six years
old at the time, and I was sent to bed every night
about eight o’clock. I slept at the top of the house,
and in the same room one of the servants also slept.
I have no recollection of having, prior to the time I
speak of, felt any fear when left alone in the room
in the dark, but the night on which I heard the
account of the suicide was to open a new experience
for me, and to leave a mark upon my mind and
character which has never been wholly effaced.
I remember well, as if it were only last night,
hearing the footfalls of the servant as she descended
the stairs after having put me to bed. I can
remember, too, the noises in the street, the sound of
feet and the voices talking, when suddenly in the
dark, and close to my face, I saw the face of the
dead man! I have purposely omitted the details
of the suicide, nor do I wish to describe here the
face as I saw it. Let it suffice to say that it was
exactly in the condition as described by the woman
in the crowd. It was the peculiar face which I had
been accustomed to see, only hideously marred by
I screamed as it came close to me—screamed as if
my life was in my throat—screamed and screamed,
but no help came. I was at the top of a high house
and the door was closed. I covered my head with
the clothes until I was almost smothered. I closed
my eyes fast to shut out the horrid sight as I hoped,
but only to see it more clearly. Sometimes the face,
while preserving the likeness to the peculiar face of
the engineer, as I was wont to see it when he was
alive, seemed to spread itself out and then contract,
and every lineament of it seemed to be in convulsive
motion. The pressure of the clothes and the
suffocating heat forced me at length to lift them
up, and again I screamed—screamed like a wild
animal in agony. At last I was heard. Someone
came quickly up the stairs. The door was flung
open, and the candle lighted. It was the servant.
“My God! What’s the matter?” she exclaimed,
as she saw me trembling as if I were in a fit and
covered with perspiration.
I tried to explain as well as I could, and she
endeavoured to soothe me. She remained by my
side until I fell into a disturbed sleep. And for
months after she, by the doctor’s orders, who was
called in next day, sat in the room until I slept.
And for many years, until I became almost a man,
I never ventured to sleep except in a lighted room.
But whenever I was alone, either at night time, or
at day time, I was liable to see the faces such as I
have since read in De Quincey’s volume haunt the
dreams of opium eaters. I have often started back
shuddering from these faces, which have appeared
suddenly in front of me when going by myself
along a country road, even in the broad noon-day,
when the sun was shining. And when people often
expressed surprise that I never could be induced to
visit a wake-house, they little knew that I could do
so only at the price of being haunted for months by
what I saw there, whenever I found myself alone.
I have narrated all this chiefly because it may
serve in some degree to account for the phenomena
which I witnessed under the circumstances I am
about to describe.
About twenty years ago I paid a long promised
visit to a friend, Gerald F——, who then lived in
one of the counties bordering on Dublin, but who
has since died.
He was engaged to be married to a very handsome
girl, a Miss R——, whom he had met in London,
but who was residing with her aunt not many miles
from Creeve house, my friend’s residence. The
wedding was to take place a few months subsequent
to my visit. The marriage promised to be full of
happiness. The girl was as gracious as she was
beautiful, and my friend Gerald was in every way
worthy of her. Both were very well off. The girl,
an orphan, had been well provided for by her
parents, and had large expectations from her aunt.
The young couple were deeply in love with each
other, and Gerald was constantly driving over to her
aunt’s residence, and often took his fiancée for a
drive through the charming country roads.
My visit was made in compliance with a promise
which I had made long before the engagement took
place, and which Gerald had frequently reminded
me of. I came down to him not knowing of the
engagement, and so when I heard the news I could
not help remarking to him that my visit was rather
ill-timed. But Gerald replied that he was delighted
to see his old friend and to be able to talk over his
own good fortune with him, and talk he did, I must
say, to his heart’s content. But one day he said he
feared he was boring me when we were together,
and that I must, on the other hand, find it rather
dull to be left alone, as I often was, when he was
away in the company of his fiancée.
I interrupted him by saying that I rejoiced in his
happiness and to hear him speak of it, and that as
I loved the country and was fond of books I was
able to pass my time very pleasantly in the glorious
summer weather we were having.
And the time undoubtedly slipped away very
agreeably, until one evening, about three weeks after
my arrival, I was reclining on the lawn in front of
the house under the shadow of a fine ash that flung
its branches over the little rippling stream that
wound through the lawn, and thinking myself as
happy as Horace used to be in a similar situation,
when the sound of a very fast galloping horse came
suddenly down the avenue.
I had barely time to turn round when the horse
pulled up before the hall-door, and I saw it was
Gerald’s trap, and that he, white as a sheet, had one
arm twined round Miss R——’s waist, with her head
resting against his breast. I rushed up, and the
look of unutterable agony in Gerald’s eyes satisfied
me, without even the sight of the blood upon Miss
R——’s face, that a terrible tragedy had occurred.
Of course the first thing to be done was to remove
the lady into the house. This was done, and the
doctor was at once sent for, although the slightest
observation satisfied us all that his services were of
no avail. The poor girl was dead!
Gerald was at first too distracted to be able to
give a coherent account of what had happened;
but when he was calm enough to speak the story
was soon told.
He and Miss R—— were driving together past
Creveen Wood when a shot was fired. The lady
was on the side from which it was fired, and she
was struck and killed instantly. The horse,
frightened by the report, had galloped on frantically
making for home. Gerald made no attempt
to stay it, as his sole thought was the wounded girl
who had fallen beside him. Fortunately the gate
leading into the avenue was open, and it was a
pretty wide one, and the horse galloped through it
without coming in contact with the piers.
The doctor arrived, and he was followed by the
police, word having been sent to the neighbouring
barrack. The former was, of course, no use, and the
latter, after having heard what Gerald had to say
went off to the plantation, but were unable to find
any trace that would help them in the discovery of
I need not dwell upon the details of the funeral,
or upon Gerald’s condition of mind, or the terrible
sad nights which followed that of the tragedy. I
remained up for several nights with Gerald, and
indeed, nearly exhausted myself. The doctor,
however, at last insisted that I should have some
rest, and about a week after the dreadful occurrence
I withdrew to my own room for the night.
I tried to sleep the moment I got into bed, but
sleep kept away from me. I had put out the light
and was tossing from side to side, when right in the
dark in front of me was outlined a face! The strain
upon my nerves had brought back the old haunting
visions! The suddenness with which it appeared
and its closeness startled me and brought the old
dread back to me, although it was many years since
I had suffered and I had become very strong.
There was nothing objectionable in the face. It
was that of a young man about eight and twenty,
and it bore something more than a faint resemblance
to that of my friend Gerald. I tried instinctively
the trick of closing my eyes, but only to see it,
if possible more clearly, but as I looked at it, it
began to recede from me, and to fall back towards
the wall. Then I perceived that it was no longer
only a face that presented itself; there was the
figure of a man. He was dressed in dark grey
tweed, rather the worse of wear, and looked like one
who had received a military training. I had never
seen the face before, but this did not surprise me,
as my imagination had been wont to play me
curious tricks in this way.
I began to think of other men whom I had
known, and to bring their faces before me in the
hope of blotting this one out, which, as I have said,
caused me to feel as in the old nights of terror I
was wont to feel, but just as I appeared to be on the
point of succeeding the vision became more vivid,
and again advanced up to the bedside, and then I
noticed that in its right hand it carried a gun.
Soon after it vanished, and I fell into a tolerably
sound sleep, and slept late into the next day.
In about a fortnight after, Gerald, whom I had
scarcely ever left except at bedtime, was coming to
himself, and I found I could go out for an occasional
stroll. And one day my steps involuntarily
turned in the direction of Creveen Wood. Nothing
had in the meantime turned up to elucidate the
mystery. A reward had been offered, but no information
was forthcoming, and all hope of discovery
I had come close to the plantation without being
aware of it, but on recognising it I made an effort
to turn back, but I was prevented doing so by an
irresistible impulse which drove me forward. I
entered the plantation, and after straying through
it for some time my foot knocked against something
hard, which emitted a peculiar sound. This caused
me to look down to see what it was that I had
struck against. I found it was a piece of metal. I
picked it up and examined it carefully, and it
seemed to be the portion of the lock of a gun.
Swift as a lightning flash came the recollection
of what at the time had made no perceptible
impression on my mind. The lock of the gun in
the hand of the figure which I had seen in the
vision was imperfect!
A strange excitement took possession of me, and
I felt that if I could only find the original, if he
existed, of that vision I should find the assassin of
Gerald’s heart was bent on his discovery, and in
one of our talks together he made me promise to
help him in the search. I gave the promise to
soothe him, believing at the time I made it that
there was little or no likelihood that I could assist
I put the piece of metal in my pocket and
returned to Creeve House.
Gerald, who had been able to leave his room, had
come down to the study, and as I entered it I found
him turning over the pages of an album of portraits.
I went over and sat down beside him, and congratulated
him on his improved appearance. He
shook his head sadly, and then, hoping to turn his
thoughts from their object, which I had no doubt
of, I put my finger on the album.
“Who is this?” said I.
It was the figure of an old lady.
“She was an aunt of mine.”
I turned over the leaf, and the next portrait was
that of the man I had seen in the vision! For a
moment I held my breath; then bending down over
the album, that my face might not betray me, I
“Who is this?”
“A half-brother, Frank L——,” he answered.
“He was my mother’s son by her first husband.
Mother was a widow when she married father.”
I burned to ask another question, but feared I
might betray myself.
“She was very fond of him,” he went on, “as
fond as she was of me—fonder, I sometimes think,
because he did not turn out too well. He was a
soldier, and left his regiment under rather cloudy
circumstances; but I don’t know the particulars.”
“He looks somewhat like you,” I ventured to
“More like mother, I should say,” he replied.
“And where is he now?”
“I don’t know. He was, when I last heard of
him, lodging in Kingstown or Blackrock. I don’t
know much about him. We were never friends.
He always resented mother’s second marriage, and,
I fear, hated me in consequence.”
Then Gerald spoke of some other indifferent
subject, and I did not desire to bring him back to
the one uppermost in my mind. But as he talked
the question shaped itself—“Was Frank L—— the
assassin, and if so what could have been his
A few days after I left Creeve House as Gerald
was nearly himself again. I found, however that
the strain of attending him, and the anxiety, and
the vision, and the haunting question ever putting
itself to me, had taxed me more than I had thought,
and I determined to spend a few days at the sea-side,
and I found a couple of rooms that suited me in
one of the houses on the Bray Esplanade not far
from the “Head.”
I took the rooms, put in my luggage, and went to
Dublin for a few hours to transact some private
business. It was near ten at night when I returned.
I found my landlady very much perturbed. The
gentleman who had occupied the rooms I had taken
had, as she thought, gone away finally, but two or
three days of his tenancy were unexpired, and he
returned unexpectedly that evening. If I did not
mind, she said, I could have for the night the room
of another gentleman who was and would be absent
for three or four days.
Of course I assented, and in a few minutes I was
told the room was ready.
Being rather tired I went up to it on receiving
this information. I glanced around it, and was
satisfied. I sat on a chair facing the chimney-piece,
in order to take off my boots; and this done,
I gazed about more leisurely, and observed that
over the mantle-place, in a rack, was suspended a
gun. I went over towards it to examine it, as I am
curious in firearms, and discovered with a sharp
surprise that the lock of the gun was broken.
I hastily put my hand in my pocket, drew out the
piece of metal which I had picked up in Creeveen
Wood. It fitted the fracture perfectly!
For a moment I felt like one dazed, and then I
began to look around the room as if in search of
something, I knew not what. My eyes lighted on
a portmanteau, bearing the initials “F.L.” “Frank
L——, by all that’s wonderful,” said I to myself.
I flung myself undressed upon the bed. I
couldn’t sleep. There was gas in the room, and I
kept it burning all night.
When I met the landlady next morning I asked
her, as if casually, who was the tenant of my room.
“Oh, Mr. L——,” she answered; “he’s been
absent for some weeks, and may not return for some
time. He often stays away for over a month.”
What was I to do? I had no doubt whatever I
had found the assassin!
Was I to tell Gerald F——? Would he believe
in my visions? Would he regard the piece of
metal as a proof, and if he did believe it would he
thank me for convicting his mother’s son of the
No. I wouldn’t tell, at least until I had pursued
the matter further. So the next day I determined
to cause some privately conducted investigations to
be made concerning the recent career of Frank
L——, but before I had well set them on foot, and
within a few days of my discovery in the seaside
lodgings, came the news through the morning
papers that the body of a man was found on the line
between Salthill and Kingstown, and from papers on
him it turned out that he was a Mr. Francis L——!
Gerald F——, I know, attended the funeral. A
week subsequent to it came the information from
the private inquiry office which I had set in motion
that L—— had been paying attentions to Miss
R—— in London, and her maid had stated that she
believed he had made a proposal and had been
L—— was dead and gone. There was no use in
pushing the matter any further. Nothing could be
gained by any disclosure I could make, and the
only question that troubled me, and sometimes
troubles me now, is, was what I saw in Creeve
House a vision or a dream?