At the physical heart of Scotland lies the county of Perth, and almost bisecting the county laterally
is Glen Lyon, the largest of all the Scottish glens, whose cold clear stream, rising on the borders
of Argyllshire, swells as it tumbles its way down eastwards, until it meets the River Tay as a
considerable tributary just north of the northern tip of Loch Tay.
Even among the barbaric romanticism which characterizes so rawly the glens and their
inhabitants, Glen Lyon's history has a special glow all its own. Originally the property of the
Clan Macgregor, it was taken from them in the late sixteenth century, when, as a punishment for
opposition to the throne, 'letters of fire and sword' were issued against them, and those who
escaped death were deprived of their patrimony, and dispersed. About a century later, some of
the Highland chiefs took a deep dislike to the new regime of William and Mary. One of them,
Alexander Macdonald of Glencoe, was so slow in taking the oath of allegiance to the monarchs
that the government resolved to punish him and his men as technical traitors.
The Master of Stair, Sir John Dalrymple, the official responsible for ordering and
organizing the Macdonalds' punishment, probably recalled the 'letters of fire and sword' issued
against the Macgregors, for he gave orders for the destruction of the clan. He bestowed the
commission upon Captain Campbell of Glen Lyon, who went about his task with such devotion
that he cheerfully resorted to treachery. Through the majority of the Macdonalds escaped with
their families to the hills, when Captain Campbell had finished forty Macdonalds were dead, and
the Massacre of Glencoe remained a permanent blot on the already violent history of Scotland.
On his way to the homes and mountains of the Macdonalds, Captain Campbell had stayed
the night at Meggernie Castle, which lies roughly half-way up Glen Lyon. The oldest parts of the
castle date from the fifteenth century, and are characterized by walls of immense thickness. But
additions were made later when Scots architects were under the influence of their counterparts
among their French allies. For example, the square baronial tower, with its high-pointed roof and
battlemented parapet, might well have graced a rather solid chteau.
Since Meggernie castle was taken from the Macgregors it has passed through various
hands, and in 1862 it was owned by a Mr. Herbert Wood. Wood was an hospitable man, and
enjoyed nothing so much as having a castle full of guests.
To one such party he invited a friend, E. J. Simons, who lived at Ullesthorpe, in
Leicestershire. Simons was late in arriving, and by the time he reached Meggernie all the guests
rooms had been allocated, with the exception of a large room in the tower.
'I hope you won't mind being tucked away up there,' Wood said to his guest. 'You
won't be alone. In the adjoining room I've put a very good friend of mine, Beaumont
'I don't mind at all,' Simons assured Wood. 'The tower is the oldest part of Meggernie,
if I'm not mistaken. I shall find it most interesting.'
'It is quite pleasant up there,' Wood admitted. 'There are fine views of the glen, and I'm
sure you'll find Fetherstone a congenial sort of chap.'
Shown to his room, Simons discovered that his host had, in fact, been too modest in
describing the prospect it provided. from the north window he looked out on the hills at whose
base the castle stood, and which sheltered it from the cold northerly blasts. From the south
window was a view of the rich meadows and majestic park, with a swift silent stretch of the River
Lyon beyond, at no father distance than a long stone's throw. Across the river lay the heathercarpeted
In the drawing-room before dinner, Simon found his fellow guest in the tower to be as
agreeable, in his own way, as the room. Beaumont Fetherstone was a man of about his own age-
in the early forties-good-looking, good-humored, with a gay laugh and lively eyes, giving an
overall impression of levelheadedness. 'A man after my own heart,' Simons told himself.
It had been a long and tiring journey from the railhead at Perth to the castle, and not long
after dinner Simons excused himself, saying that he would like a good night's rest to refresh for
the stalk which had been arranged for the following day. Beaumont Fetherstone overheard him
making his apologies and said that it was a good idea, and one that he himself would follow.
Together the two men made their way to their rooms in the tower, pausing outside
Simons's to wish one another good night. In his room, Simons closed his door, and as he turned
into the room his attention was caught by another door which he had not noticed earlier and which
looked as though it should connect with Fetherstone's room next door.
Crossing to it, Simons discovered that it had been securely fastened and that even its
keyhole had been blocked up. He knocked on it to attract his neighbor's attention, and when
Fetherstone called out, asked, 'Does this door lead into your room?'
'Well, yes and no!' Fetherstone replied. 'It leads into a small cupboard which looks as if
it might have been used as a powder closet. I tried it before you arrived, but it's securely screwed
up on my side. Would you mind if I came and had a look at it from your side?'
'Certainly,' Simons told him, and for the next twenty minutes or so the two men inspected
door and cupboard, surmising this and that reason for its being securely walled up. Then once
more they bade one another goodnight and prepared for bed.
How long Simons had actually been asleep he could never say, but in the early hours he
was awakened by what felt like the light touch of a branding-iron on his cheek. The sensation
was nevertheless so fierce that he believed that the flesh had been seared through to the bone.
It brought him to his senses with such force, however, that not fully realizing what he was
doing, he leapt out of bed. And as he did so he saw distinctly the upper half of a woman's body
drifting across the room towards the sealed-up door, through which it disappeared.
Simons rushed to the door, expecting to find it open. But it was as securely fastened as it
had been when he and Fetherstone had carefully inspected it a few hours earlier.
He was, however, a man of cool courage, recognizing no misapprehension of phenomena
for which at first sight there appeared to be no rational explanation. At least that is the kind of
man he seems to have been from his immediately subsequent behavior.
For he did not call out, nor do anything to rouse his fellow guest next door, but having
first lit his candle he went to the mirror above the dressing-table to examine his still smarting
cheek, expecting to find some sign of the cause of the pain. To his complete surprise he found not the slightest mark.