IN the course of a delightful autumn on the west coast of Scotland, I found a genial welcome to various most interesting old homes, where, in the heart of beautiful and romantic scenery, all the luxuries of modern civilization have been engraffed upon the original building, the ancient gray walls and towers of which tell of days when comfort, as we understand it, was a thing unknown and undreamt of,—days when chivalrous knights and fair dames occupied such wretched little dark rooms as no modern scullion would care to sleep in, and dined in halls which, in lieu of carpets, were strewn with green rushes, a soft couch for the dogs which lay under the long tables, awaiting such half-gnawed bones as it might please their masters to throw to them.
Many a thrilling old tale could such walls as these relate, might they but be endowed with power of utterance ! One of those which most fascinated me, and abides most vividly in my memory, is the strange and utterly inexplicable legend of the Ghost Chamber at Inverawe, a most picturesque old castle, which, as its name implies, stands near the spot where the river Awe enters the dark, gloomy pass where it falls into the lake of the same name. In a part of the country where all is beautiful, this place stands preëminent, so lovely are the hanging birch woods which fringe the craggy shores of blue Loch Etive,—a sea-loch in the immediate neighborhood, embosomed in shapely hills, and along whose brink herds of shaggy Highland cattle, with wide-spreading horns and large wondering eyes, find pasture to their liking among the golden sea-weeds which lend such wealth of color to the scene. So still and peaceful is all around that often shy seals swim up Loch Etive, and lie basking on tempting rocks in the little creeks and inlets.
Till very recently, one of the distinctive beauties of Inverawe was a group of most magnificent silver sprucetrees, the finest in Scotland, — trees almost worthy to have grown in Californian forests. Alas! the wild tempest which overswept the British Isles in 1880, doing such irreparable damage to the finest timber, made a clean sweep of these silver firs, a great and abiding loss to the district.
Much of the castle has been renovated in modern days, but all is happily mellowed so as to be in keeping with the ancient hall. Above all there is one room which it would be accounted sacrilegious to touch, — a gloomy room, set with dark oak panels, and furnished with a heavy oaken bedstead and oldfashioned tables and chairs. This is the Ghost Chamber, wherein an eerie warning from the spirit world was delivered to Duncan Campbell, the laird of Inverawe, best known to his retainers by his Gaelic name, Macdonnochie. The story of this warning is so perfectly authenticated, and was so widely known many years before the fulfillment of what was prophesied, that it must rank as one of the most remarkable instances of the mysterious connection between the visible and the invisible world, of which, from time to time, we obtain hints wholly inexplicable by any of the ordinary methods of accounting for such matters. There are several versions of the legend now current among the people of Argyllshire ; all, however, agree in the main points of the story, which, in the form that I am now about to relate, was told to my mother by Sir Thomas Dick Landen early in the present century.
About the year 1742, the young laird of Inverawe (who had already distinguished himself as a gallant officer, having raised and commanded a company of the magnificent Highland regiment known as the Black Watch) was sent to the district of Lorn, in Argyllshire, to carry out the hateful work of burning the houses and effects of several gentlemen known to be adherents of Prince Charles Edward. Having fulfilled this cruel task, he had occasion to cross a wild mountain pass, on his way to some further point, and in so doing missed his track, got separated from all his followers, and as the darkness fell became unpleasantly conscious that he was lost on the rocky moorland in a country where every crag might conceal a foe. There was nothing to be done but to seek a sheltered nook among the rocks, and there watch till morning. Turning towards a narrow ravine, he was startled to find himself face to face with a fine, stalwart Highlander, whose raven black locks and piercing eyes were so remarkable that once seen they could never be forgotten. Each grasped his sword, ready for action, when the stranger paused, and asked Inverawe his errand. He replied that he had lost his way, and claimed a guide. Then a voice behind him, as of a watchful sentinel, cried, “ He is alone, else we would not have suffered him to pass.”
Thus reassured, the stranger turned to Inverawe, and, addressing him by name, promised his protection to one whom he knew to be a brave man, albeit engaged in such cruel work. He refused to reveal his own name, but said that he was one of those whose home had been so ruthlessly destroyed by Campbell’s men. This he knew was but the fortune of war, so he bore the laird no personal enmity, and bade him now follow as he led the way to a cave, wherein smouldered a peat fire, on whose embers some slices of venison were grilling, — a welcome sight to the hungry wayfarer. Hunger being appeased, the man of Lorn offered him a share of his couch of dried brackens, and both slept the sleep of the weary.
At dawn they awoke, and the homeless man of Lorn guided the destroyer of his hearth past his sentinels, and set him on the right track. The two parted cordially, Campbell vowing never to lose a chance of requiting the hospitality so generously bestowed on him. He afterwards learned that his entertainer was one of the small lairds of his own clan who had espoused the Jacobite cause. In those days men might be near neighbors, yet never meet.
Not many years had elapsed ere, peace being restored, Campbell claimed leave of absence from his regiment, that he might remain for a while at his beautiful castle. One night, when, according to his custom, he had dismissed his retainers, and was sitting in the old hall with no companions save his trusty dogs, these commenced barking violently, and a moment later the sound of hasty footsteps was followed by a loud knocking at the gate. Rising to see who sought admission at so late an hour, he was amazed to find Stuart of Appin, a man to whom he and his clan bore small love, but who now, greatly exhausted and with torn garments, stood before him imploring sanctuary. Rapidly he told his tale,—a tale of blood. There had been a fray (such were common enough in Scotland a hundred years ago), and he had slain a man, and dreaded pursuit and capture. He besought Campbell to give him shelter, and to swear on his dirk that he would not betray him.
On the generous impulse of the moment, Campbell swore to protect him, and forbore to press for details. Without rousing any attendant, he brought him meat and drink, and when his guest was warmed and somewhat recovered he took him to a secret hiding-place, such as exists in many old houses whose inmates wore liable to sudden alarm. Scarcely was Stuart securely hidden, when a violent knocking at the door once more summoned Campbell. These new comers were men in pursuit of Stuart, carrying blazing torches to light them on their way. They told him that Donald Campbell of Lorn was crossing the rock boulders which form the stepping-stones across the ford of the Deargan (a dark, beautiful river which flows down a romantic birch-clad glen near Barcaldine Castle), when he was overtaken by Stuart of Appin, with whom he had a mortal feud. The noise of the rushing waters, covering all sound of footsteps, enabled Appin to approach unheard, and instead of calling on Campbell to halt and meet him in fair fight, as became a true Highlander, he sprang upon him, and stabbed him to the heart.
What impulse could have impelled the murderer to cast himself on the protection of the man who, of all others, was bound to bring him to justice, as the murderer of his clansman? His act is unaccountable ; and difficult must have been his flight down the rugged and at that time trackless glen, amid precipitous crags and dense overhanging woods, with tall brackens well-nigh concealing the great fallen rocks. At one point the glen becomes wholly impassable, so that he must have climbed where no goat could find footing, holding on by roots and boughs of overhanging trees. In memory of this dark deed of blood, the lovely ravine is still known to the Highlanders as Glen Saleach, " the dirty pass,” and the dark brown river received the name of Deargan, “the river of the red stain.” Crossing the hills, he came down to a ford at the head of Loch Etive, and then once more breasting the hill reached Inverawe, as we have seen.
Appin’s pursuers knew only that he had started down the stream, and though Inverawe was deeply moved on hearing of the murder of his clansman he could not be false to his oath. So he gave no clue which could awaken their suspicions, and when they went on their way he lay down to rest in the dark oaken bed in the paneled room. Soon he sank into a deep sleep, from which he awakened with a start of horror. A pale, unearthly light shone in the room, enfolding a tall, commanding figure, one which he could never forget. It was the man of Lorn, with the dark, piercing eyes and glossy, jet-black hair, just as Macdonnochie so vividly remembered him in the mountain cave, but now all blood-stained and awful to look upon. Trembling in every limb, he lay gazing on this spectral apparition, when clearly and distinctly he heard a solemn voice say, “ Inverawe! Inverawe! blood has been shed! Shield not the murderer!” (In Scotland, where large districts are occupied by the various branches of one clan, all bearing the same name, such as Campbell, Gordon, Mackintosh, etc., it has always been customary to distinguish the head of each family by the name of his estate; and indeed the same general distinction was applied to all his kinsmen and retainers. Hence the title by which Donald’s ghost appealed to Duncan.)
There was an intense reality about the vision, which convinced Duncan that it was no common dream, born of the fevered thoughts of waking hours ; so when dawn broke he sought the hidingplace where his guest lay concealed, and told him that although, for his oath’s sake, he would not betray him, he could not let him remain any longer under his roof. Nevertheless, at Stuart’s entreaty, he guided him to a cave on Ben Cruachan, where he might lie concealed for a while, and there left him alone with the wild deer.
But still the memory of the vision haunted him, and, as night closed in, eerie thoughts arose, such as were not wont to trouble the bold Highlander. According to his usual custom, he sat down to read ere retiring to rest, when suddenly his favorite dog, which lay sleeping at his feet, started up, trembling and uttering low whines. Duncan raised his eyes, and distinctly saw Campbell of Lorn standing between him and the fire, with his hands outstretched in an attitude of supplication, and again he heard the warning, “Inverawe ! Inverawe ! blood has been shed ; and blood must alone for blood! SHIELD NOT THE MURDERER! ” Then the spectre vanished, leaving Macdonnochie to watch through dark hours of horror.
Uncertain what course to adopt, he went out at break of day, and again climbed Ben Cruachan till he came to the cave to which he had guided the murderer. But the cave was empty, and Stuart was far away. So Duncan, relieved from further responsibility of decision, returned to his castle; and when night came, worn out with his own anxious thoughts, he lay down to rest, trusting to be spared any further spiritual visitations. But a third time he was aroused by the awful vision and by the unearthly voice; and this time its message was no cry for justice, but a dread warning of doom. “ Inverawe ! Inverawe! ” it cried, “ my warnings havebeen in vain. The time is now past. Blood, has been shed, and blood must flow for blood. WE SHALL MEET AGAIN AT TICONDEROGA ! ”
Now Ticonderoga was a name that had never then been heard in Britain, or at any rate was unknown to the people of these far western Highlands. They might have heard of beautiful Lake George and Lake Champlain, but this name conveyed nothing to their minds; so when, at last, haunted by its sound continually ringing in his ears, Duncan confided the story to various friends and kinsmen, not one of them guessed whereabouts was the mysterious trysting-place.
The story, however, got noised abroad, and it became generally known that the murdered and unavenged Campbell of Lorn had summoned his clansman to meet him at Ticonderoga. The gentlemen of that day studied their classics more earnestly than do our modern lairds, and it was only natural that some one should point out a parallel between this ghostly visitation and the apparition to Brutus of the murdered Cæsar, summoning him to a final meeting at Philippi.
A quarter of a century slipped by, and Duncan’s son Donald, having grown up to be a handsome lad, had received his commission in the gallant 42d Highlanders, of which his father was now major, and well known as a brave and popular officer. The ghost story was familiar to all their brother officers, who were often called upon to relate it to their friends, though I need scarcely say it was not a topic to which allusion was ever made in the presence of either father or son.
Troubles arose in Canada, which resulted in the war between France and England ; and thus it came to pass that in 1758 the Black Watch was ordered to Quebec, whence General Abercrombie led his forces down the lake, to storm the fortress which stood on the isthmus which divides Lake Champlain from Lake George, and commanded the whole region. The name of the fortress was Ticonderoga !
On learning this, General Abercrombie, to whom the name at once recalled the ghost story of Inverawe, called together the other officers of the Black Watch, and agreed with them to endeavor, if possible, to conceal from the Campbells this name of ill omen. " Let us call it Fort George, or Fort Hudson,” they said. But they could not avert fate.
The evening before the battle, Duncan went out to inspect the ground, and the weather being wild and stormy he wore his gray regimental overcoat. He approached the rushing river, which connects the two lakes by a series of cascades, and just as he set foot on the bridge he saw a figure coming toward him, also on the bridge. The stranger wore a great-coat like his own. He could not make out his face, but he perceived blood streaming from a ghastly wound in his breast. Duncan drew near and held out his hand, as if to help the stranger, who instantly vanished ; and then Inverawe knew that it was his own image, which he had discerned by the powers of second-sight (of which so many instances are recorded in the Highlands).
He immediately went to the village to ask the people the name of the river. They replied, “ Carillon ” (a name bestowed on it by Samuel Champlain, in his journey of discovery in 1609. He asked if it had no other name, and well was he prepared for the answer: “ Yes, the old Indian name was Ticonderoga,” which means the musical, chiming waters, and was hence translated Carillon.
Then Duncan knew that his hour had come. He rejoined his brother officers, told them what he had seen, and entreated them to seek for his body after the battle. Alter that he made his will. On the morrow the fortress was assaulted, and the terrible battle was fought, in which every officer of the Black Watch was either killed or wounded. Young Donald was numbered with the slain, while his father was mortally wounded. He was found wrapped in his gray greatcoat and with blood streaming from a wound in the breast, exactly as he had described the vision on the bridge.
Duncan sent for the general, and his last words were, “ General, you have deceived me. I have seen HIM again. We have met at Ticonderoga.” He lingered for nine days, then yielded up his spirit, and was buried beside Lake Champlain, at the foot of the hill, where many a grassy mound still shows the graves of those who fell in that sore fight. His grave was marked by a stone bearing this inscription : —
“ Here lyes the body of Duncan Campbell of Inverawe, Esq., Major to the old Highland Regiment, aged 55 years, who died the 17th July, 1758. of the wound received in the attach of the entrenchments of Ticonderoga or Carillon, 8th July, 1758.”
But neither his remains nor the mossy head-stone which marked them now lie near the ruins of the old fort; for after the lapse of some years both were removed, together with the mortal remains of some other members of Clan Campbell, by a family of the name of Gilchrist, who claimed kinship with the dead, and who, on removing to the neighborhood of Fort Edward, carried with them all these precious family links, and there gave them burial anew.
One more glimpse of the spirit world is connected with this history. Macdonnochie had a foster-brother (the son of his nurse), to whom he was greatly attached. In many old Highland tales the foster-brother holds a prominent place, as the most devoted retainer of the chief or the laird ; but in the present instance he held office on the estate, and could not possibly follow Campbell to America. On the night of the fatal battle his young son, who slept in the same room with him, was awakened by a sound of voices, and, looking up, he beheld a soft, clear light, and saw the figure of a Highland officer approach his father’s bed, stoop down, and kiss him. The sleepy and half-frightened child drew his plaid over his head and fell asleep again, when a second time he was awakened by a similar vision. In the morning he told his father of this strange apparition, and they learned afterward that it was indeed the Laird of Inverawe who had come to tell his foster-brother that there had been a great battle in America, and that he was numbered with the slain.
Thus ends the strange legend of Inverawe and Ticonderoga, a tale of the spirit world whose first and last scenes are laid on either side of the mighty ocean, connecting the Old and New World by an eerie spirit flight. The story is as wholly inexplicable as it is incontrovertible. Its every detail was familiar to many contemporaries, men of a class not readily imposed upon, nor much inclined to superstition. I can only call it an unfathomed mystery, suggestive of the great unexplored land which lies beyond the narrow border of our bounded lives,— unfathomed, yet perchance not unfathomable.
C. F. Gordon Cumming.