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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


"This fear of solitude brought Grettir, at last, to his end."

Ghosts being seldom dangerous to human life, we follow up the homicidal Glam with a Scottish traditional story of malevolent and murderous sprites.


"About 1820 there lived a Farrier of the name of Keane in the village of Longformacus in Lammermoor. He was a rough, passionate man, much addicted to swearing. For many years he was farrier to the Eagle or Spottiswood troop of Yeomanry. One day he went to Greenlaw to attend the funeral of his sister, intending to be home early in the afternoon. His wife and family were surprised when he did not appear as they expected and they sat up watching for him. About two o'clock in the morning a heavy weight was heard to fall against the door of the house, and on opening it to see what was the matter, old Keane was discovered lying in a fainting fit on the threshold. He was put to bed and means used for his recovery, but when he came out of the fit he was raving mad and talked of such frightful things that his family were quite terrified. He continued till next day in the same state, but at length his senses returned and he desired to see the minister alone.

"After a long conversation with him he called all his family round his bed, and required from each of his children and his wife a solemn promise that they would none of them ever pass over a particular spot in the moor between Longformacus and Greenlaw, known by the name of 'The Foul Fords' (it is the ford over a little water-course just east of Castle Shields). He assigned no reason to them for this demand, but the promise was given and he spoke no more, and died that evening.

"About ten years after his death, his eldest son Henry Keane had to go to Greenlaw on business, and in the afternoon he prepared to return home. The last person who saw him as he was leaving the town was the blacksmith of Spottiswood, John Michie. He tried to persuade Michie to accompany him home, which he refused to do as it would take him several miles out of his way. Keane begged him most earnestly to go with him as he said he _must_ pass the Foul Fords that night, and he would rather go through hell-fire than do so. Michie asked him why he said he _must_ pass the Foul Fords, as by going a few yards on either side of them he might avoid them entirely. He persisted that he _must_ pass them and Michie at last left him, a good deal surprised that he should talk of going over the Foul Fords when every one knew that he and his whole family were bound, by a promise to their dead father, never to go by the place.

"Next morning a labouring man from Castle Shields, by name Adam Redpath, was going to his work (digging sheep-drains on the moor), when on the Foul Fords he met Henry Keane lying stone dead and with no mark of violence on his body. His hat, coat, waistcoat, shoes and stockings were lying at about 100 yards distance from him on the Greenlaw side of the Fords, and while his flannel drawers were off and lying with the rest of his clothes, his trousers were on. Mr. Ord, the minister of Longformacus, told one or two persons what John Keane (the father) had said to him on his deathbed, and by degrees the story got abroad. It was this. Keane said that he was returning home slowly after his sister's funeral, looking on the ground, when he was suddenly roused by hearing the tramping of horses, and on looking up he saw a large troop of riders coming towards him two and two. What was his horror when he saw that one of the two foremost was the sister whom he had that day seen buried at Greenlaw! On looking further he saw many relations and friends long before dead; but when the two last horses came up to him he saw that one was mounted by a dark man whose face he had never seen before. He led the other horse, which, though saddled and bridled, was riderless, and on this horse the whole company wanted to compel Keane to get. He struggled violently, he said, for some time, and at last got off by promising that one of his family should go instead of him.

"There still lives at Longformacus his remaining son Robert; he has the same horror of the Foul Fords that his brother had, and will not speak, nor allow any one to speak to him on the subject.

"Three or four years ago a herd of the name of Burton was found dead within a short distance of the spot, without any apparent cause for his death." {272}

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