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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online

Scottish Ghost Stories


At the foot of the staircase Mrs. Gibbons met her cousin, and, as she clutched the latter for support, the barrel shot past her, still continuing its descent--bump--bump--bump! (though the steps as far as she could see had ended)--till the sounds gradually dwindled away in the far distance.

Whilst the manifestations lasted, neither Mrs. Gibbons nor her cousin spoke; but the latter, as soon as the sounds had ceased, dragged Mrs. Gibbons away, and, in a voice shaking with terror, cried: "Quick, quick--don't, for Heaven's sake, look round--worse has yet to come." And, pulling Mrs. Gibbons along in breathless haste, she unceremoniously hustled her out of the Tower.

"That was no barrel!" Mrs. Gibbons's cousin subsequently remarked by way of explanation. "I saw it--I have seen it before. Don't ask me to describe it. I dare not--I dare not even think of it. Whenever it appears, a certain thing happens shortly afterwards. Don't, don't on any account say a word about it to any one here." And Mrs. Gibbons, my mother told me, came away from Glamis a thousand times more curious than she was when she went.

* * * * *

The last story I have to relate is one I heard many years ago, when I was staying near Balmoral. A gentleman named Vance, with strong antiquarian tastes, was staying at an inn near the Strathmore estate, and, roaming abroad one afternoon, in a fit of absent-mindedness entered the castle grounds. It so happened--fortunately for him--that the family were away, and he encountered no one more formidable than a man he took to be a gardener, an uncouth-looking fellow, with a huge head covered with a mass of red hair, hawk-like features, and high cheek-bones, high even for a Scot. Struck with the appearance of the individual, Mr. Vance spoke, and, finding him wonderfully civil, asked whether, by any chance, he ever came across any fossils, when digging in the gardens.

"I dinna ken the meaning of fossils," the man replied. "What are they?"

Mr. Vance explained, and a look of cunning gradually pervaded the fellow's features. "No!" he said, "I've never found any of those things, but if you'll give me your word to say nothing about it, I'll show you something I once dug up over yonder by the Square Tower."

"Do you mean the Haunted Tower?--the Tower that is supposed to contain the secret room?" Mr. Vance exclaimed.

An extraordinary expression--an expression such as Mr. Vance found it impossible to analyse--came into the man's eyes. "Yes! that's it!" he nodded. "What people call--and rightly call--the Haunted Tower. I got it from there. But don't you say naught about it!"

Mr. Vance, whose curiosity was roused, promised, and the man, politely requesting him to follow, led the way to a cottage that stood near by, in the heart of a gloomy wood. To Mr. Vance's astonishment the treasure proved to be the skeleton of a hand--a hand with abnormally large knuckles, and the first joint--of both fingers and thumb--much shorter than the others. It was the most extraordinarily shaped hand Mr. Vance had ever seen, and he did not know in the least how to classify it. It repelled, yet interested him, and he eventually offered the man a good sum to allow him to keep it. To his astonishment the money was refused. "You may have the thing, and welcome," the fellow said. "Only, I advise you not to look at it late at night; or just before getting into bed. If you do, you may have bad dreams."