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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online
CASE XII - THE GREY PIPER AND THE HEAVY COACH OF DONALDGOWERIE HOUSE, PERTH
"I did not, sir," the luckless footman replied; "no such person came to the door when I was in the hall."
"No more he did when I was there," chimed in the second footman, and all the other servants vociferated in a body, "We never saw any piper, sir, nor heard one either," and they looked at Mary reproachfully.
At this Mr. Whittingen looked exceedingly embarrassed. In the face of such a unanimous denial what could he say? He knew if he suggested the servants were untruthful they would all give notice to leave on the spot, and knowing good servants are scarce in Perth as elsewhere, he felt rather in a fix. At length, turning to Mary, he asked if she was sure it was a piper. "Sure!" Mary screamed, "why, of course I am, did I not tell you he marched up and down here playing on his disgusting bagpipes, which nearly broke the drum of my ear."
"And I saw him too, pa," Martha put in. "I met him in the corridor, he had his pipes under his arm, and the most dreadful expression in his face. I don't wonder Mary was frightened."
"But where did he go?" Mr. Whittingen cried.
"You would not believe me if I told you," Martha said, her cheeks flushing. "He seemed to pass right through me, and then to vanish through the staircase window. I have never been so terribly upset in my life," and, sinking on to the sofa, she began to laugh hysterically.
"Dear me! dear me! it is very odd!" Mr. Whittingen exclaimed, as Mary handed her sister a wineglass of sal-volatile. "They can't both have been dreaming; it must--but there, what a nonsensical notion, there are no such things as ghosts! Only children and nursemaids believe in them nowadays. As soon as you have quite recovered, my dears, we will return to the garden, and I think that under the circumstances, the rather peculiar circumstances, ahem! it will be better to say nothing to your mother. Do you understand?" Mr. Whittingen went on, eyeing the servants, "Nothing to your mistress."
The affair thus terminated, and for some days nothing further happened to disturb the peace of the family. At the end of a week, however, exactly a week after the appearance of the piper, Mary met with a serious accident. She was running across the croquet lawn to speak to her sister-in-law, when she tripped over a hoop that had been accidentally left there, and, in falling, ran a hatpin into her head. Blood poisoning ensued, and within a fortnight she was dead. Martha was the only one in the house, however, who associated Mary's accident and death with the piper; to her that sinister expression in the mysterious Highlander's eyes portended mischief, and she could not but suspect that, in some way or another, he had brought about the catastrophe. The autumn waned, and Christmas was well within sight, when another mysterious occurrence took place. It was early one Sunday evening, tea was just over, and the Whittingen family were sitting round the fire engaged in a somewhat melancholy conversation, for the loss of Mary had affected them all very deeply, when they heard the far-away rumble of a heavy coach on the high-road. Nearer and nearer it came, till it seemed to be about on a level with the front lodge gate; then to their surprise there was a loud crunching of gravel, and they heard it careering at a breakneck speed up the carriage-drive. They looked at one another in the utmost consternation.
"A coach, and driven in this mad fashion! Whose was it? What did it mean? Not visitors, surely!"