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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online

Scottish Ghost Stories


Mrs. Crowe goes on to explain the origin of the phenomenon. According to legend, she says, there was once at Cortachy a drummer, who, incurring the jealousy of the then Lord Airlie, was thrust into his own drum and flung from a window of the tower (in which, by the way, Miss D. slept). Before being put to death thus, the drummer is stated to have said he would for ever after haunt the Airlie family--a threat he has obviously been permitted to fulfil.

During one of my visits to Scotland, I stayed some days in Forfarshire not far from Cortachy. Among the visitors at my hotel was a very old gentleman of the name of Porter, who informed me that, when a boy, he used to visit some relatives who, at that time, lived within easy walking distance of Cortachy. One of these relatives was a lad of about fourteen, named Alec, with whom he had always been the closest of friends. The recollection of their many adventures evidently afforded Mr. Porter infinite amusement, and one of these adventures, in particular, he told me, was as fresh in his mind as if it had happened yesterday.

"Looking back upon it now," he said, with a far-away look in his eyes, "it certainly was a strange coincidence, and if you are interested in the hauntings of Cortachy, Mr. O'Donnell, you may, perhaps, like to hear the account of my ghostly experiences in that neighbourhood."

Of course I replied that nothing would give me greater pleasure, and Mr. Porter forthwith began his story.

"One misty night in October, my friend Alec and I, both being keen on rabbiting, determined to visit a spinney adjoining the Cortachy estate, in pursuit of our quarry. Alec had chosen this particular night, thinking, under cover of the mist, to escape the vigilance of the keepers, who had more than once threatened to take him before the laird for trespassing.

"To gain access to the spinney we had to climb a granite wall and drop on the other side--the drop, in addition to being steep, being rendered all the more precarious by reason of the man-traps the keepers were in the habit of setting. When I got astride the wall and peered into the well-like darkness at our feet, and heard the grim rustling of the wind through the giant pines ahead of me, I would have given all I possessed to have found myself snug and warm in bed; but Alec was of a different 'kidney'--he had come prepared for excitement, and he meant to have it. For some seconds, we both waited on the wall in breathless silence, and then Alec, with a reckless disregard of what might be in store for him, gently let himself drop, and I, fearing more, if anything, than the present danger, to be for ever after branded as a coward if I held back, timidly followed suit. By a great stroke of luck we alighted in safety on a soft carpeting of moss. Not a word was spoken, but, falling on hands and knees, and guiding ourselves by means of a dark lantern Alec had bought second-hand from the village blacksmith, we crept on all-fours along a tiny bramble-covered path, that after innumerable windings eventually brought us into a broad glade shut in on all sides by lofty trees. Alec prospected the spot first of all to see no keepers were about, and we then crawled into it, and, approaching the nearest burrows, set to work at once with our ferrets. Three rabbits were captured in this fashion, and we were eagerly anticipating the taking of more, when a sensation of icy coldness suddenly stole over us, and, on looking round, we perceived, to our utmost consternation, a very tall keeper standing only a few yards away from us. For once in a way, Alec was nonplussed, and a deathly silence ensued. It was too dark for us to see the figure of the keeper very distinctly, and we could only distinguish a gleaming white face set on a very slight and perpendicular frame, and a round, glittering something that puzzled us both exceedingly. Then, a feeling that, perhaps, it was not a keeper gradually stole over me, and in a paroxysm of ungovernable terror I caught hold of Alec, who was trembling from head to foot as if he had the ague. The figure remained absolutely still for about a minute, during which time neither Alec nor I could move a muscle, and then, turning round with an abrupt movement, came towards us.