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The Arrears Of Teind

Categories: Ghost Stories
Scary Books: The Book Of Dreams And Ghosts
: Andrew Lang

"Mr. Rutherford, of Bowland, a gentleman of landed property in the

Vale of Gala, was prosecuted for a very considerable sum, the

accumulated arrears of teind (or tithe) for which he was said to be

indebted to a noble family, the titulars (lay impropriators of the

tithes). Mr. Rutherford was strongly impressed with the belief that

his father had, by a form of process peculiar to the law of Scotland,

purchased these tei
ds from the titular, and, therefore, that the

present prosecution was groundless. But, after an industrious search

among his father's papers, an investigation among the public records

and a careful inquiry among all persons who had transacted law

business for his father, no evidence could be recovered to support his

defence. The period was now near at hand, when he conceived the loss

of his law-suit to be inevitable; and he had formed the determination

to ride to Edinburgh next day and make the best bargain he could in

the way of compromise. He went to bed with this resolution, and, with

all the circumstances of the case floating upon his mind, had a dream

to the following purpose. His father, who had been many years dead,

appeared to him, he thought, and asked him why he was disturbed in his

mind. In dreams men are not surprised at such apparitions. Mr.

Rutherford thought that he informed his father of the cause of his

distress, adding that the payment of a considerable sum of money was

the more unpleasant to him because he had a strong consciousness that

it was not due, though he was unable to recover any evidence in

support of his belief. 'You are right, my son,' replied the paternal

shade. 'I did acquire right to these teinds for payment of which you

are now prosecuted. The papers relating to the transaction are in the

hands of Mr. ---, a writer (or attorney), who is now retired from

professional business and resides at Inveresk, near Edinburgh. He was

a person whom I employed on that occasion for a particular reason, but

who never on any other occasion transacted business on my account. It

is very possible,' pursued the vision, 'that Mr. --- may have

forgotten a matter which is now of a very old date; but you may call

it to his recollection by this token, that when I came to pay his

account there was difficulty in getting change for a Portugal piece of

gold and we were forced to drink out the balance at a tavern.'

"Mr. Rutherford awoke in the morning with all the words of the vision

imprinted on his mind, and thought it worth while to walk across the

country to Inveresk instead of going straight to Edinburgh. When he

came there he waited on the gentleman mentioned in the dream--a very

old man. Without saying anything of the vision he inquired whether he

ever remembered having conducted such a matter for his deceased

father. The old gentleman could not at first bring the circumstance

to his recollection, but on mention of the Portugal piece of gold the

whole returned upon his memory. He made an immediate search for the

papers and recovered them, so that Mr. Rutherford carried to Edinburgh

the documents necessary to gain the cause which he was on the verge of


The story is reproduced because it is clearly one of the tales which

come round in cycles, either because events repeat themselves or

because people will unconsciously localise old legends in new places

and assign old occurrences or fables to new persons. Thus every one

has heard how Lord Westbury called a certain man in the Herald's

office "a foolish old fellow who did not even know his own foolish old

business". Lord Westbury may very well have said this, but long

before his time the remark was attributed to the famous Lord

Chesterfield. Lord Westbury may have quoted it from Chesterfield or

hit on it by accident, or the old story may have been assigned to him.

In the same way Mr. Rutherford may have had his dream or the following

tale of St. Augustine's (also cited by Scott) may have been attributed

to him, with the picturesque addition about the piece of Portuguese

gold. Except for the piece of Portuguese gold St. Augustine

practically tells the anecdote in his De Cura pro Mortuis Habenda,

adding the acute reflection which follows. {16}

"Of a surety, when we were at Milan, we heard tell of a certain person

of whom was demanded payment of a debt, with production of his

deceased father's acknowledgment, which debt, unknown to the son, the

father had paid, whereupon the man began to be very sorrowful, and to

marvel that his father while dying did not tell him what he owed when

he also made his will. Then in this exceeding anxiousness of his, his

said father appeared to him in a dream, and made known to him where

was the counter acknowledgment by which that acknowledgment was

cancelled. Which when the young man had found and showed, he not only

rebutted the wrongful claim of a false debt, but also got back his

father's note of hand, which the father had not got back when the

money was paid.

"Here then the soul of a man is supposed to have had care for his son,

and to have come to him in his sleep, that, teaching him what he did

not know, he might relieve him of a great trouble. But about the very

same time as we heard this, it chanced at Carthage that the

rhetorician Eulogius, who had been my disciple in that art, being (as

he himself, after our return to Africa, told us the story) in course

of lecturing to his disciples on Cicero's rhetorical books, as he

looked over the portion of reading which he was to deliver on the

following day, fell upon a certain passage, and not being able to

understand it, was scarce able to sleep for the trouble of his mind:

in which night, as he dreamed, I expounded to him that which he did

not understand; nay, not I, but my likeness, while I was unconscious

of the thing and far away beyond sea, it might be doing, or it might

be dreaming, some other thing, and not in the least caring for his

cares. In what way these things come about I know not; but in what

way soever they come, why do we not believe it comes in the same way

for a person in a dream to see a dead man, as it comes that he sees a

living man? both, no doubt, neither knowing nor caring who dreams of

their images, or where or when.

"Like dreams, moreover, are some visions of persons awake, who have

had their senses troubled, such as phrenetic persons, or those who are

mad in any way, for they, too, talk to themselves just as though they

were speaking to people verily present, and as well with absent men as

with present, whose images they perceive whether persons living or

dead. But just as they who live are unconscious that they are seen of

them and talk with them (for indeed they are not really themselves

present, or themselves make speeches, but through troubled senses

these persons are wrought upon by such like imaginary visions), just

so they also who have departed this life, to persons thus affected

appear as present while they be absent, and are themselves utterly

unconscious whether any man sees them in regard of their image." {18}

St. Augustine adds a similar story of a trance.