Campbell's Revenge - by John Ritchie


At Inverchilling Castle on a dark and stormy night
The desperate bangs upon the door gave Campbell quite a fright.
With the heavy bolts slid back, a bloodied man burst in the room;
‘I’ve killed another man,’ he said, ‘I’ve sent him to his doom.
The fight was fair, I promise you, but though I won the test,
His many friends are after me to send me to my rest.
I come here seeking sanctuary, no farther can I flee.’
‘Fear not, young man,’ said Campbell, ‘You’ll be safe now, here, with me.’
‘I have to ask you,’ said the man, ‘upon your dirk to swear
The Highlander’s most sacred oath that you’ll tell none I’m here.’
And so, with Campbell’s promise, was a solemn vow now sealed;
That the presence of the fugitive would never be revealed.

By flickering torchlight Campbell led the man into the gloom
Of the stairway to the cellar and a rarely visited room.
‘You will be safe ‘til morning. No-one will find you now.’
As Campbell left, the man’s voice said ‘Do not forget your vow.’

The lightning flashed and thunder clapped as Campbell climbed the stairs
And at the top he saw three men were waiting for him there.
‘Bad news,’ one said, ‘Your younger cousin, Hamish, has been slain.
And his killer was seen heading here amidst the wind and rain.’
The second man described the way that Hamish had been killed
And when Campbell realised the truth, his heart with hatred filled.
‘You have not seen this man we seek?’ the third man did enquire.
And Campbell knew to keep his oath he must now be a liar.
‘No other man has crossed my door upon this terrible eve.
But should he come, his head from off his shoulders I will cleave.’

The men rode off and Campbell slumped into a fireside chair
And cursed the oath that meant that he had helped his cousin’s slayer.
As he sat there quietly brooding he could feel his stomach churn
As he worried at the thought that the three men may return.
‘I know’, he said, ‘I’ll take this man up to my secret cave;
Perhaps then no more lies I’ll tell his rotten life to save.
And no-one then can truly say the killer of my cousin
Found refuge with a Campbell at the Castle Inverchilling.’
His mind made up, he hurriedly descended to the room
Where the man was waiting fearfully amidst the chilling gloom.
‘It isn’t safe here,’ Campbell said. ‘We really need to go.
I’ll take you to a mountain cave of which no others know.’

When Campbell had performed this task, he made his way to bed
And wondered what his dreams would bring as he lay down his head.
But Campbell’s restless sleep was interrupted on that night
And he woke to focus on a truly terrifying sight.
Bathed in strange unearthly light, the ghost of Hamish stood,
The fearsome wound across his neck still dripping ghostly blood.
The room was chilled and when he spoke his voice was just as cold:
‘Avenge me, Cousin. Undo all the lies that you have told.’
‘I cannot do it,’ Campbell cried with trembling in his voice.
‘I gave my sacred oath to him and now I have no choice.’
‘Blood calls for blood!’ the spectre cried, ‘Which is the greater sin,
To break an oath or help the worthless killer of your kin?
One chance, my Cousin, I shall give to you this terrible night
To set aside your honour and instead do what is right.’
With this the spectre disappeared and Campbell knelt to pray,
To ask the Lord’s forgiveness for the deed he’d do that day.

With dawn approaching Campbell went once more up to the cave,
But found the place deserted and as silent as a grave.
In desperation borne of fear and anger he looked round
But the man who’d murdered Campbell’s kin was nowhere to be found.
Just then the phantom re-appeared and cried ‘The man has fled
And I must also leave you now to join the other dead.
Be warned, the debt of blood I’m owed, that now belongs to you,
And at Carillon, Cousin, I’ll return to claim what’s due.’
With that, the ghost then vanished and left Campbell all alone.
His knees were weak and trembling as he sat down on a stone.
‘Carillon,’ whispered Campbell, ‘It’s a place I do not know,
And now it is a place that I’ll make sure I never go.’

The British Army, Campbell joined, and he fought in foreign lands;
In deadly swamps and jungles and on burning desert sands.
Some nights when he had drunk too much his fable he’d relate
And tell his drunken comrades of his destiny with fate.
His friends would laugh and toast his health and Campbell he’d laugh too,
But a part of him stayed fearful for inside his heart he knew
That one day he would reach a place; a river, town or hill,
That bore the name ‘Carillon’; and then finally fulfil
The promise of his Cousin, made so many years ago,
To meet with Campbell one last time and claim the debt he owed.

One year on and Campbell found himself once more at war
As his regiment, the Black Watch, at Lake George did come ashore.
They rested at Fort William Henry; then, at last, set forth
To fight against the French and Indian forces to the north.

With heavy packs to weigh them down, the soldiers marched all day.
Damp mist swirled low amongst the trees, above the skies were grey.
The weary men were thankful when, amidst the fading light,
The order came to pitch the tents and settle for the night.
They gathered round a blazing fire and spoke in low, hushed tones
They cursed the damp, the food, the war, they shared their moans and groans.
And then, at last, they nervously discussed what lay ahead,
Aware that when the smoke of battle cleared they may be dead.
‘I hear it said that mighty Fort Carillon is the prize.’
And with the mention of this place, some jumped up in surprise.
‘Carillon!’ cried the soldiers, ‘The place that Campbell feared.’
And meanwhile, down at Campbell’s tent, the spectre re-appeared.
‘We meet again, dear Cousin, as you always knew we would
The time has come for you at last to pay your debt of blood.’
The spectre thrust his ghostly sword straight into Campbell’s heart,
And Campbell, with an anguished cry, then did this life depart.
Three soldiers, to investigate the noise that had been made,
Came rushing in, in time to see the apparition fade.