site logo

Riding Home From Mess

Categories: Waking Hallucinations
Scary Books: The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts
: Andrew Lang

In 1854, General Barter, C.B., was a subaltern in the 75th Regiment,

and was doing duty at the hill station of Murree in the Punjaub. He

lived in a house built recently by a Lieutenant B., who died, as

researches at the War Office prove, at Peshawur on 2nd January, 1854.

The house was on a spur of the hill, three or four hundred yards under

the only road, with which it communicated by a "bridle path," never

used by ho
semen. That path ended in a precipice; a footpath led into

the bridle path from Mr. Barter's house.

One evening Mr. Barter had a visit from a Mr. and Mrs. Deane, who

stayed till near eleven o'clock. There was a full moon, and Mr.

Barter walked to the bridle path with his friends, who climbed it to

join the road. He loitered with two dogs, smoking a cigar, and just

as he turned to go home, he heard a horse's hoofs coming down the

bridle path. At a bend of the path a tall hat came into view, then

round the corner, the wearer of the hat, who rode a pony and was

attended by two native grooms. "At this time the two dogs came, and

crouching at my side, gave low frightened whimpers. The moon was at

the full, a tropical moon, so bright that you could see to read a

newspaper by its light, and I saw the party above me advance as

plainly as if it were noon-day; they were above me some eight or ten

feet on the bridle road. . . . On the party came, . . . and now I had

better describe them. The rider was in full dinner dress, with white

waistcoat and a tall chimney-pot hat, and he sat on a powerful hill

pony (dark-brown, with black mane and tail) in a listless sort of way,

the reins hanging loosely from both hands." Grooms led the pony and

supported the rider. Mr. Barter, knowing that there was no place they

could go to but his own house, cried "Quon hai?" (who is it?), adding

in English, "Hullo, what the devil do you want here?" The group

halted, the rider gathered up the reins with both hands, and turning,

showed Mr. Barter the known features of the late Lieutenant B.

He was very pale, the face was a dead man's face, he was stouter than

when Mr. Barter knew him and he wore _a dark Newgate fringe_.

Mr. Barter dashed up the bank, the earth thrown up in making the

bridle path crumbled under him, he fell, scrambled on, reached the

bridle path where the group had stopped, and found nobody. Mr. Barter

ran up the path for a hundred yards, as nobody could go _down_ it

except over a precipice, and neither heard nor saw anything. His dogs

did not accompany him.

Next day Mr. Barter gently led his friend Deane to talk of Lieutenant

B., who said that the lieutenant "grew very bloated before his death,

and while on the sick list he allowed the fringe to grow in spite of

all we could say to him, and I believe he was buried with it". Mr.

Barter then asked where he got the pony, describing it minutely.

"He bought him at Peshawur, and killed him one day, riding in his

reckless fashion down the hill to Trete."

Mr. Barter and his wife often heard the horse's hoofs later, though he

doubts if any one but B. had ever ridden the bridle path. His Hindoo

bearer he found one day armed with a lattie, being determined to

waylay the sound, which "passed him like a typhoon". {74} Here the

appearance gave correct information unknown previously to General

Barter, namely, that Lieutenant B. grew stout and wore a beard before

his death, also that he had owned a brown pony, with black mane and

tail. Even granting that the ghosts of the pony and lieutenant were

present (both being dead), we are not informed that the grooms were

dead also. The hallucination, on the theory of "mental telegraphy,"

was telegraphed to General Barter's mind from some one who had seen

Lieutenant B. ride home from mess not very sober, or from the mind of

the defunct lieutenant, or, perhaps, from that of the deceased pony.

The message also reached and alarmed General Barter's dogs.

Something of the same kind may or may not explain Mr. Hyndford's view

of the family coach, which gave no traceable information.

The following story, in which an appearance of the dead conveyed

information not known to the seer, and so deserving to be called

veracious, is a little ghastly.