The Doomed Rider
“The Conan is as bonny a river as we hae in a’ the north country. There’s mony a sweet sunny spot on its banks, an’ mony a time an’ aft hae I waded through its shallows, whan a boy, to set my little scautling-line for the trouts an’ the eels, or to gather the big pearl-mussels that lie sae thick in the fords. But its bonny wooded banks are places for enjoying the day in—no for passing the nicht. I kenna how it is; it’s nane o’ your wild streams that wander desolate through a desert country, like the Aven, or that come rushing down in foam and thunder, ower broken rocks, like the Foyers, or that wallow in darkness, deep, deep in the bowels o’ the earth, like the fearfu’ Auldgraunt; an’ yet no ane o’ these rivers has mair or frightfuller stories connected wi’ it than the Conan. Ane can hardly saunter ower half-a-mile in its course, frae where it leaves Coutin till where it enters the sea, without passing ower the scene o’ some frightful auld legend o’ the kelpie or the waterwraith. And ane o’ the most frightful looking o’ these places is to be found among the woods of Conan House. Ye enter a swampy meadow that waves wi’ flags an’ rushes like a corn-field in harvest, an’ see a hillock covered wi’ willows rising like an island in the midst. There are thick mirk-woods on ilka side; the river, dark an’ awesome, an’ whirling round an’ round in mossy eddies, sweeps away behind it; an’ there is an auld burying-ground, wi’ the broken ruins o’ an auld Papist kirk, on the tap. Ane can see amang the rougher stanes the rose-wrought mullions of an arched window, an’ the trough that ance held the holy water. About twa hunder years ago—a wee mair maybe, or a wee less, for ane canna be very sure o’ the date o’ thae old stories—the building was entire; an’ a spot near it, whar the wood now grows thickest, was laid out in a corn-field. The marks o’ the furrows may still be seen amang the trees.
“A party o’ Highlanders were busily engaged, ae day in harvest, in cutting down the corn o’ that field; an’ just aboot noon, when the sun shone brightest an’ they were busiest in the work, they heard a voice frae the river exclaim:—‘The hour but not the man has come.