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Book of Scottish Story
The Laird of Cool's Ghost

Upon the 3rd day of February 1722 at seven o’clock in the evening, after I had parted with Thurston, and coming up the burial road, one came up riding after me. Upon hearing the noise of the horse’s feet, I took it to be Thurston ; but looking back, and seeing the horse of a gray colour, I called, "Who’s there?" The answer was, "The Laird of Cool; be not afraid.” Looking to him with the little light the moon afforded, I took him to be Collector Castlelaw, who had a mind to put a trick upon me, and immediately I struck with all my force with my cane, thinking I would leave a mark upon him that would make him remember his presumption ; but although sensible I aimed as well as ever I did in my life, yet my cane finding no resistance, but flying out of my hand to the distance of sixty feet, and observing it by its white head, I dismounted and took it up, but had some difficulty in mounting again, partly by reason of a certain sort of trembling throughout my whole joints, something also of anger had its share in my confusion ; for though he laughed when my staff flew out of my hand, coming up with him again (who halted all the time I was seeking my staff), I asked him once more who he was? He answered, "The Laird of Cool." I inquired, first, if he was the Laird of Cool; secondly, what brought him thither? and thirdly, what was his business with rne? He answered, "The reason that I want you is, that I know you are disposed to do for me what none of your brethren in Nithsdale will so much as attempt, though it serve never so good a purpose. I told him I would never refuse to do anything to serve a good purpose, if I thought I was obliged to do it as my duty. He answered, that I had undertaken what few in Nithsdale would, for he had tried several persons on that subject, who were more obliged to him than I was to any person living. Upon this I drew my bridle reins, and asked in surprise, what I had undertaken? He answered, "That on Sabbath last, I heard you condemned Mr Paton, and the other ministers of Dumfries, for dissuading Mr Menzies from keeping his appointment with me ; and if you had been in their place, would have persuaded the lad to do as I desired, and that you would have gone with him yourself, if he had been afraid; and if you had been in Mr Paton’s place, you would have delivered my commissions yourself, as they tended to do several persons justice." I asked him, "Pray, Cool, who informed you that I talked at that rate?" to which he answered, "You must know that we are acquainted with many things that the living know nothing about; these things you did say, and much more to that purpose, and deliver my commissions to my loving wife.” Upon this I said, " " Tis a pity, Cool, that you who know so many things should not know the difference between an absolute and conditional promise; I did, indeed, at the time you mention, blame Mr Paton, for I thought him justly blamable, in hindering the lad to meet with you, and if I had been in his place, I would have acted quite the reverse ; but I did never say, that if you would come to Innerwick and employ me, that I would go all the way to Dumfries on such an errand ; that is what never so much as entered into my thoughts.” He answered, "What were your thoughts I don’t pretend to know, but I can depend on my information these were your words. But I see you are in some disorder; I will wait upon you when you have more presence of mind.”

By this time we were at James Dickson’s enclosure, below the churchyard; and when I was recollecting in my mind, if ever I had spoken these words he alleged, he broke off from me through the churchyard, with greater violence than any man on horseback is capable of, with such a singing and buzzing noise, as put me in greater disorder than I was in all the time I was with him. I came to my house, and my wife observed more than ordinary paleness in my countenance, and alleged that something ailed me. I called for a dram, and told her I was a little uneasy. After I found myself a little refreshed, I went to my closet to meditate on this most astonishing adventure.

Upon the 5th of March 1722, being at Harehead, baptising the shepherd’s child, I came off about sunsetting, and near William White’s march, the Laird of Cool came up with me as formerly ; and after his first salutation bade me not be afraid. I told him I was not in the least afraid, in the name of God and Christ my Saviour, that he would do me the least harm ; for I knew that He in whom I trusted was stronger than all they put together; and if any of them should attempt to do, even to the horse that I ride upon, as you have done to Doctor Menzies’ man, I have free access to complain to my Lord and Master, to the lash to whose resentment you are as liable now as before.

COOL--You need not multiply words on that head, for you are safe with me ; and safer, if safer can be, than when I was alive.

OGIL.-- Well then, Cool, let me have a peaceable and easy conversation with you for the time we ride together, and give me some information concerning the affairs of the other world, for no man inclines to lose his time in conversing with the dead, without hearing or learning something useful.

COOL-- Well, sir, I will satisfy you as far as I think proper and convenient. Let me know what information you want.

OGIL.-- May I then ask you, if you be in a state of happiness or not?

COOL-- There are a great many things I can answer that the living are ignorant of ; there are a great many things that, notwithstanding the additional knowledge I have acquired since my death, I cannot answer; and there are a great many questions you may start, of which the last is one that I will not answer.

OGIL.-- Then I know how to manage our conversation; whatever I inquire of you, I see you can easily shift me ; to that I might profit more by conversing with myself.

COOL-- You may try.

OGIL.-- Well, then, what sort of a body is that you appear in ; and what sort of a horse is that you ride upon, which appears to be so full of mettle?

COOL-- You may depend upon it, it is not the same body that I was witness to your marriage in, nor in which I died, for that is in the grave rotting ; but it is such a body as serves me in a moment, for I can fly as fleet with it as my soul can do without it; so that I can go to Dumfries, and return again, before you can ride twice the length of your horse ; nay, if I have a mind to go to London, or Jerusalem, or to the moon, if you please, I can perform all these journeys equally soon, for it costs me nothing but a thought or wish: for this body is as fleet as your thought, for in the moment of time you can turn your thoughts on Rome, I can go there in person ; and as for my horse, he is much like myself, for he is Andrew Johnston, my tenant, who died forty-eight hours before me.

OGIL.-- So it seems when Andrew Johnston inclines to ride, you must serve him in the quality of a horse, as he does you now.

COOL-- You are mistaken.

OGIL.-- I thought that all distinctions between mistresses and maids, lairds and tenants, had been done away at death.

COOL-- True it is, but you do not take up the matter.

OGIL.-- This is one of the questions you won’t answer.

COOL-- You are mistaken, for the question I can answer, and after you may understand it.

OGIL.-- Well then, Cool, have you never yet appeared before God, nor received any sentence from Him as a judge?

COOL-- Never yet.

OGIL.-- I know you were a scholar, Cool, and ’tis generally believed there is a private judgment, besides the general at the great day, the former immediately after death. Upon this he interrupted me, arguing.

COOL-- No such thing, no such thing! No trial; no trial till the great day! The heaven which good men enjoy after death consists only in the serenity of their minds, and the satisfaction of a good conscience ; and the certain hopes they have of eternal joy, when that day shall come. The punishment or hell of the wicked, immediately after death, consists in the stings of an awakened conscience, and the terrors of facing the great judge, and the sensible apprehensions of eternal torments ensuing! And this bears still a due proportion to the evils they did when living. So indeed the state of some good folks differ but little in happiness from what they enjoyed in the world, save only that they are free from the body, and the sins and sorrows that attended it. On the other hand, there are some who may be said rather not to have been good, than that they are wicked ; while living, their state is not easily distinguished from that of the former; and under that class comes a great herd of souls—a vast number of ignorant people, who have not much minded the affairs of eternity, but at the same time have lived in much indolence, ignorance, and innocence.

OGIL.-- I thought that their rejecting the terms of salvation offered was sufficient ground for God to punish them with eternal displeasure ; and as to their ignorance, that could never excuse them, since they live in a place of the world where the true knowledge of these things might have been easily attained.

COOL-- They never properly rejected the terms of salvation ; they never, strictly speaking, rejected Christ; poor souls, they had as great a liking both to Him and heaven, as their gross imaginations were capable of. Impartial reason must make many allowances, as the stupidity of their parents, want of education, distance from people of good sense and knowledge, and the uninterrupted applications they were obliged to give to their secular affairs for their daily bread, the impious treachery of their pastors, who persuaded them, that if they were of such a party all was well ; and many other considerations which
God, who is pure and perfect reason itself, will not overlook. These are not so much under the load of Divine displeasure, as they are out of His grace and favour; and you know it is one thing to be discouraged, and quite another thing to be persecuted with all the power and rage of an incensed earthly king. I assure you, men’s faces are not more various and different in the world, than their circumstances are after death.

OGIL.-- I am loath to believe all that you have said at this time, Cool (but I will not dispute those matters with you), because some things you have advanced seem to contradict the Scriptures, which I shall always look upon as the infallible truth of God. For I find, in the parable of Dives and Lazarus, that the one was immediately after death carried up by the angels into Abraham’s bosom, and the other immediately thrust down to hell.

COOL-- Excuse me, sir, that does not contradict one word that I have said; but you seem not to understand the parable, whose only end is to illustrate the truth, that a man may be very happy and flourishing in this world, and wretched and miserable in the next ; and that a man maybe miserable in this world, and happy and glorious in the next.

OGIL.-- Be it so, Cool, I shall yield that point to you, and pass to another, which has afforded me much speculation since our last encounter; and that is, How you came to know that I talked after the manner that I did concerning Mr Paton, on the first Sabbath of February last? Were you present with me, but invisible? He answered very haughtily, No, sir, I was not present myself. I answered, I would not have you angry, Cool. I proposed this question for my own satisfaction ; but if you don’t think proper to answer, let it pass. After he had paused, with his eyes on the ground, for three or four minutes of time at most, with some haste and seeming cheerfulness, he says—

COOL-- Well, sir, I will satisfy you in that point. You must know that there are sent from heaven angels to guard and comfort, and to do other good services to good people, and even the spirits of good men departed are employed in that errand.

OGIL.-- And do you not think that every man has a good angel?

COOL-- No, but a great many particular men have : there are but few houses of distinction especially, but what have at least one attending them; and from what you have already heard of spirits, it is no difficult matter to understand how they may be serviceable to each particular member, though at different places at a great distance. Many are the good offices which the good angels do to them that fear God, though many times they are not sensible of it: and I know assuredly, that one powerful angel, or even an active clever soul departed, may be sufficient for some villages ; but for your great cities, such as London, Edinburgh, or the like, there is one great angel that has the superintendence of the whole; and there are inferior angels, or souls departed, to whose particular care such a man, of such a particular weight or business, is committed. Now, sir, the kingdom of Satan does ape the kingdom of Christ: as much in matters of politics as can be, well knowing that the court of wisdom is from above; so that from thence are sent out missionaries in the same order. But because the kingdom of Satan is much better replenished than the other, instead of one devil there are in many instances two o three commissioned to attend a particular family of influence and distinction.

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