THE CRIME OF THE BRIGADIER (I)

In all the great hosts of France there was only one officer towards whom the English of Wellington’s army retained a deep, steady, and unchangeable hatred. There were plunderers among the French, and men of violence, gamblers, duellists, and roues. All these could be forgiven, for others of their kidney were to be found among the ranks of the English. But one officer of Massena’s force had committed a crime which was unspeakable, unheard of, abominable; only to be alluded to with curses late in the evening, when a second bottle had loosened the tongues of men. The news of it was carried back to England, and country gentlemen who knew little of the details of the war grew crimson with passion when they heard of it, and yeomen of the shires raised freckled fists to Heaven and swore. And yet who should be the doer of this dreadful deed but our friend the Brigadier, Etienne Gerard, of the Hussars of Conflans, gay-riding, plume-tossing, debonnaire, the darling of the ladies and of the six brigades of light cavalry.

But the strange part of it is that this gallant gentleman did this hateful thing, and made himself the most unpopular man in the Peninsula, without ever knowing that he had done a crime for which there is hardly a name amid all the resources of our language. He died of old age, and never once in that imperturbable self-confidence which adorned or disfigured his character knew that so many thousand Englishmen would gladly have hanged him with their own hands. On the contrary, he numbered this adventure among those other exploits which he has given to the world, and many a time he chuckled and hugged himself as he narrated it to the eager circle who gathered round him in that humble cafe where, between his dinner and his dominoes, he would tell, amid tears and laughter, of that inconceivable Napoleonic past when France, like an angel of wrath, rose up, splendid and terrible, before a cowering continent. Let us listen to him as he tells the story in his own way and from his own point of view….

by: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
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Ghost…THE END

I’m trying to be rational. There are no ghosts. I am having delusions. I am not dead. I am not a ghost. This is the dream of someone who has suffered hypothermia. I have staggered into this shelter and collapsed and now I’m having hallucinations. Perhaps the voices come from people who have come to find me. Perhaps I am already in hospital, flown perhaps by helicopter, to safety and now the doctors and nurses are standing round talking, chatting. And the voices belong perhaps to my friends, standing round my bed with useless bunches of grapes. Is that why I feel no hunger – because I’m being fed by intravenous drip?
I’m trying to be rational. What other explanation can there be? Yet it all seems so real. These stone walls. I strike them with my fist. This fire. The ultimate test. I thrust my hand into the fire. Nothing. No effect. I hear voices in the wind
I’m frightened. THE END

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Ghost…

Today I wrote few words in this logbook and then sat for hours staring at them. Nothing happened. No effect at all. the words remained. But that wasn’t the real test. I didn’t want to do it. But I had to. I closed the book and opened it again immediately. The book was completely blank.
It doesn’t matter what direction. Every way I go the wind is head on and blowing like a hurricane. I can’t stand up against the wind. It drives me back here again. Has there ever been a blizzard in Scotland which has lasted so many days? I don’t think so. I don’t know why I bother to write these words. They will disappear as soon as I close the book.
More voices. They are here – right now. They seem to be sitting all round me. I can’t hear the words just the voices. Outside the wind is roaring. Inside the fire is burning. Why do I bother? It produces no heat.
I’m definitely frightened.
What is this place? A prison? It keeps me here. It turns the wind against me and drives me back. I surrounds me with wordless voices. I burn a fire – but there is no heat. I write, but there are no words.
I’m frightened.

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Ghost…

I can hear whole groups of people. I can’t hear what they are saying. Sometimes they walk past the bothy on the path. Sometimes they walk through the bothy – right through the walls and out the other side. When they do that, they seem to be coming into the bothy at a point halfway up the wall and then descending into the room and then climbing out of it again as they pass through the other wall. I hear the voices coming and then going. Today I shouted to them. No response. I’m not sure I wanted a response. That might have been even more frightening.
I did a test. I lit the most enormous fire. No effect. The wood pile was undiminished and the bothy was still cold as ice. Cold as death.

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Ghost…

Today I wrote few words in this logbook and then sat for hours staring at them. Nothing happened. No effect at all. the words remained. But that wasn’t the real test. I didn’t want to do it. But I had to. I closed the book and opened it again immediately. The book was completely blank.
It doesn’t matter what direction. Every way I go the wind is head on and blowing like a hurricane. I can’t stand up against the wind. It drives me back here again. Has there ever been a blizzard in Scotland which has lasted so many days? I don’t think so. I don’t know why I bother to write these words. They will disappear as soon as I close the book.
More voices. They are here – right now. They seem to be sitting all round me. I can’t hear the words just the voices. Outside the wind is roaring. Inside the fire is burning. Why do I bother? It produces no heat.
I’m definitely frightened.

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Ghost…

Either I’m dreaming or this bothy is a ghost bothy … Can you have a ghost bothy? Is that possible? These are the only explanations I can think of. Every time I go out of sight of the bothy and then come back, everything has reverted to the way it was when I first came to it. My written accounts in the logbook and the wood pile is restored. I’m beginning to hate this place. And I’m beginning to get frightened. I heard a dog barking last night and voices calling the dog. What’s going on? Am I going mad?

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Children’s Book Review : Medusa Island


Medusa Island by authors Stuart & Linda Macfarlane
Reviewed by Kathryn Moss
Suitable for children aged 9 to 12 years, this book is a classic famous five (except there are three!) adventure story with a twist: it conjures up numerous figures from Greek mythology and places them in a modern setting.

The story starts on the Scottish mainland when three of Simon’s classmates disappear and no one seems to bat an eyelid. He and a friend soon discover their missing friends, however to their horror they have been turned to stone! They then meet Melissa who is doing a very good impression of Medusa snakes and all, and they are only saved from a similar fate because they’re wearing mirrored sunglasses. From Melissa they learn that an evil scientist, Doctor X, has found a way to turn people and animals into mythical creatures and has already transformed everyone on the little Scottish Island of Gogha, where Melissa hails from. Doctor X has big plans for his evil work!

Naturally only the three children can save the world and there follows great adventure as they make their way through an island overrun by dangerous creatures such as Harpies, Minotaurs, Chimeras, Cyclops, a Nine-headed Hydra, to name but a few. Their aim: to get to Doctor X’ evil lair and undo all his bad work. Read the book and see how they get on.

This book is exciting and great fun. The characters are well developed with quirky names and clever links between the creatures and their previous incarnations. A great present for children and it may even stimulate their interest in mythology, you never know!

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Ghost…

No go.
I got a couple of miles along the path. The wind strength has increased. And it has veered so that it was head on. I was reduced to crawling on hands and knees. I had to turn and run for it back here. At least there is fire wood. Fortunately, too, I still don’t feel too hungry. Once again, all the stuff I wrote in this book has faded and vanished. It’s as if I hadn’t written anything at all.
The voices came again in the night. Really weird. Not only did they seem to pass through the bothy, they seemed to pass through ME. I’ve built the fire high but I just can’t get this place warm at all. And I have no food left. So why don’t I feel hungry? I tell myself not to worry. Just to feel grateful.
With the wind being in the other direction I’ll try going back to Guirig. I’m packed. I’m leaving now.
Cheerio bothy. Well meet again some time.
Still no go.
The wind veered yet again and drove me back. And once again the stuff I wrote in this book has vanished. I thought it was fading ink, but I held the book up to the light and there isn’t a sign of a depression in the page where the writing was. I don’t get it. It’s weird.
And another thing. I’ve been burning wood every day for – how many days? And there is absolutely no sign of the wood pile getting any smaller.
And my stomach. Why isn’t it eating itself by this time? I haven’t eaten in days.
And the voices.
I think I’m beginning to be a little frightened.

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Ghost

I like to think of myself as being a very rational person. I am a scientist and by that I do not mean that I am a professional scientist. I don’t wear a white coat in a laboratory. I don’t earn a living that way. What I mean is that I do not hold beliefs which are unsupported by some kind of evidence. And even then, the strength of my belief is proportional to the strength of the evidence. But then, according to scientific rationality, every belief is temporary. Every theory is provisional until something better comes along. So I have to admit every possibility. And I wonder …. And it is in that wondering that the danger lies. No one, I have decided, is immune from superstitious fears. Allow your mind to wander down that path … Enough of that. I have practical problems. My last chocolate bar is gone.
At least I have a fire. I re-lit it this morning to heat water. I’ve got nothing to put in it of course – no tea or coffee or hot chocolate. Strangely the water didn’t get hot. And that’s another thing. The supply of wood has hardly diminished.
The blizzard is still blowing but I’ll need to make a break for it. I’m feeling not too bad but without food it is only a matter of time. I should go while I still have the strength. It’s only twelve miles. So I’ll give it a try. Four hours in good conditions. My bivy-bag, and all the warm clothing I’ve got, will go with me, but to make my pack as light as possible, I’ll leave behind everything I don’t need. So here goes. I’m packed. I’m ready.
Goodbye bothy – whatever your name is. You’ve been a good friend. I’ll come back sometime in the Spring, to say thank you.
Copyright: Hugh Noble, December 1999

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