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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
LVI SARAH POLGRAIN
By WILLIAM HUNT
A woman, who had lived in Ludgvan, was executed at Bodmin for the murder of her husband. There was but little doubt that she had been urged on to the diabolical deed by a horse-dealer, known as Yorkshire Jack, with whom, for a long period, she was generally supposed to have been criminally acquainted.
Now, it will be remembered that this really happened within the present century. One morning, during my residence in Penzance, an old woman from Ludgvan called on me with some trifling message. While she was waiting for my answer, I made some ordinary remark about the weather.
"It's all owing to Sarah Polgrain," said she.
"Sarah Polgrain," said I; "and who is Sarah Polgrain?"
Then the voluble old lady told me the whole story of the poisoning with which we need not, at present, concern ourselves. By and by the tale grew especially interesting, and there I resume it.
Sarah had begged that Yorkshire Jack might accompany her to the scaffold when she was led forth to execution. This was granted; and on the dreadful morning there stood this unholy pair, the fatal beam on which the woman's body was in a few minutes to swing, before them.
They kissed each other, and whispered words passed between them.
The executioner intimated that the moment of execution had arrived, and that they must part. Sarah Polgrain, looking earnestly into the man's eyes, said:
Yorkshire Jack replied, "I will!" and they separated. The man retired amongst the crowd, the woman was soon a dead corpse, pendulating in the wind.
Years passed on, Yorkshire Jack was never the same man as before, his whole bearing was altered. His bold, his dashing air deserted him. He walked, or rather wandered, slowly about the streets of the town, or the lanes of the country. He constantly moved his head from side to side, looking first over one, and then over the other shoulder, as though dreading that someone was following him.
The stout man became thin, his ruddy cheeks more pale, and his eyes sunken.
At length he disappeared, and it was discovered--for Yorkshire Jack had made a confidant of some Ludgvan man--that he had pledged himself, "living or dead, to become the husband of Sarah Polgrain, after the lapse of years."
To escape, if possible, from himself, Jack had gone to sea in the merchant service.
Well, the period had arrived when this unholy promise was to be fulfilled. Yorkshire Jack was returning from the Mediterranean in a fruit-ship. He was met by the devil and Sarah Polgrain far out at sea, off the Land's End. Jack would not accompany them willingly, so they followed the ship for days, during all which time she was involved in a storm. Eventually Jack was washed from the deck by such a wave as the oldest sailor had never seen; and presently, amidst loud thunders and flashing lightnings, riding as it were in a black cloud, three figures were seen passing onward. These were the devil, Sarah Polgrain, and Yorkshire Jack; and this was the cause of the storm.
"It is all true, as you may learn if you will inquire," said the old woman; "for many of her kin live in Churchtown."