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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


On seeing Clerk and Macdonald strike and shoot the man in the silver- laced hat, Cameron and his companion ran away, nor did Cameron mention the matter till nine months later, and then only to Donald (not he who was hanged). Donald advised him to hold his tongue. This Donald corroborated at the trial. The case against Clerk and Macdonald looked very black, especially as some witnesses fled and declined to appear. Scott, who knew Macintosh, the counsel for the prisoners, says that their advocates and agent "were convinced of their guilt". Yet a jury of Edinburgh tradesmen, moved by Macintosh's banter of the apparition, acquitted the accused solely, as Scott believes, because of the ghost and its newly-learned Gaelic. It is indeed extraordinary that Prestongrange, the patron of David Balfour, allowed his witnesses to say what the ghost said, which certainly "is not evidence". Sir Walter supposes that Macpherson and Mrs. MacHardie invented the apparition as an excuse for giving evidence. "The ghost's commands, according to Highland belief, were not to be disobeyed." Macpherson must have known the facts "by ordinary means". We have seen that Clerk and Macdonald were at once suspected; there was "a clatter" against them. But Angus Cameron had not yet told his tale of what he saw. Then who _did_ tell? Here comes in a curious piece of evidence of the year 1896. A friend writes (29th December, 1896):--


"I enclose a tradition connected with the murder of Sergeant Davies, which my brother picked up lately before he had read the story in your Cock Lane. He had heard of the event before, both in Athole and Braemar, and it was this that made him ask the old lady (see next letter) about it.

"He thinks that Glenconie of your version (p. 256) must be Glenclunie, into which Allt Chriostaidh falls. He also suggests that the person who was chased by the murderers may have got up the ghost, in order to shift the odium of tale-bearing to other shoulders. The fact of being mixed up in the affair lends some support to the story here related."

Here follows my friend's brother's narrative, the name of the witness being suppressed.


There is at present living in the neighbourhood of --- an old lady, about seventy years of age. Her maiden name is ---, {140} and she is a native of Braemar, but left that district when about twenty years old, and has never been back to it even for a visit. On being asked whether she had ever heard the story of Sergeant Davies, she at first persisted in denying all knowledge of it. The ordinary version was then related to her, and she listened quietly until it was finished, when she broke out with:--

"That isn't the way of it at all, for the men _were_ seen, and it was a forbear of my own that saw them. He had gone out to try to get a stag, and had his gun and a deer-hound with him. He saw the men on the hill doing something, and thinking they had got a deer, he went towards them. When he got near them, the hound began to run on in front of him, and at that minute _he saw what it was they had_. He called to the dog, and turned to run away, but saw at once that he had made a mistake, for he had called their attention to himself, and a shot was fired after him, which wounded the dog. He then ran home as fast as he could, never looking behind him, and did not know how far the men followed him. Some time afterwards the dog came home, and he went to see whether it was much hurt, whereupon it flew at him, and had to be killed. They thought that it was trying to revenge itself on him for having left it behind."