A True Story


I’m relating this tale many years after it was originally told to me, and without mentioning any names, but the distance in time and the lack of specifics should not deter you from believing its substance, which I held to be true at the time — despite the incredible nature of its details — and hold to be true to this day.

The events here described took place in Scotland in the 1970s. The friend who told me this story, and to whom these things happened, was dwelling at the time in one of a row of cottages in the countryside near Peebles, the other cottages being occupied by friends of his. One winter, he found that his friends and neighbours had departed for London, and he was alone in the row and charged with looking after a local three-legged dog called Sam — the dog had been maimed by a poacher’s trap years before.

It was a wild and cold Scottish winter’s night: the wind howled through the tall trees of the pine wood which extended up the steep hill opposite the row, turning the treetops into waves like those in a storm-tossed sea. Rain poured down horizontally and occasionally turned to hail.

My friend, growing cold, realised to his dismay that the coal bucket was empty and that the fire was dying — it seemed that he had little choice but to venture out into the maelstrom in order to fetch more coal from the shed, but he was anxious lest Sam, the dog, slip through the door and wander off into the woods. While keeping his grip on the dog’s collar, therefore, he tried to manoeuvre a torch, the coal bucket and a shovel while opening the cottage door in the wild wind — but Sam was too eager to be out and slipped his grasp, disappearing through the crack of the door and vanishing into the darkness.

Cursing, my friend gripped the torch, closed the cottage door and ventured forth into the raging storm, calling out ‘Sam! Sam!’ as he went, though his voice was immediately tossed away into the treetops by the wind. There was no sign of Sam. Supposing that the dog had entered the wood, he went on up the hill between the trees, still calling out and shining his torch down the long, dark avenues between their trunks.

It was quieter and more sheltered in the wood, but there was no Sam to be seen. The wind still roared above him, but he could hear his feet crunch on the pine needles as he made his way up the slope. After a few minutes, in the almost pitch black darkness of the trees, he made out a faint blue light further up the slope.

‘Must be the police,’ he thought. ‘Perhaps they’ve caught a poacher.’ He concentrated on searching for the dog, still calling out as he went up and up.

A moment later, his torch fell upon the dog — it was standing some distance away, rock-still, looking off to the right, towards the blue light, which bathed its face. It paid no attention to my friend as he approached, clearly fascinated by something it could see further off in the trees.

‘There you are Sam!’ my friend said, laying a firm hand upon the dog’s collar — and then he turned to see what the dog was looking at.

There, in a small dell between the trees, a group of small, bright blue figures was dancing in a circle. Each dancer was perhaps no more than two feet high; each linked to the next with tiny hands, turning about and about in a joyful dance to unheard music. A faint but distinct blue radiance clung to the whole tableau.

My friend paused, stunned. Then a twig snapped, and the whole spectacle vanished in an instant, as though it had never been.

Shaking, my friend made his way back to the cottage with the dog, and locked himself in.

Unable to sleep, he was awake the next morning when the old lady from the nearby village called by to collect the laundry from the row as she had been appointed to do. Seeing that my friend was haggard and shaken, she invited him back to her own cottage for a drink.

‘Have a wee dram,’ she said, as her large family gathered around the table in her kitchen for their morning meal, and my friend downed a small glass of whisky, and then another. De