Arthur Duncan was the procurator fiscal for Cranesmuir, a village near Castle Leoch. His wife, Geillis Duncan, was a charming woman to whom many go for herbal remedies to their ailments, though she was thought to be a witch.
As procurator fiscal for the district, Arthur Duncan was a figure of no mean influence in the village of Cranesmuir. By 1739, he was married to a mysterious woman named Geillis, who gained a reputation as a witch, for her skill at preparing and selling herbal remedies and charms.
Events from the NovelsEdit
In 1743, Arthur's wife persuades him to lessen the sentence for the tanner's boy, who was caught stealing food. He magnanimously orders that the boy be nailed by the ear to the pillory for one hour in the village square.
For several months, Claire notices that Arthur's gastric complaints seem to be getting worse, as does his overall appearance. One day in October, Claire observes Arthur entering his wife's privy closet; there is a small scream from inside, then silence, and Arthur exits with a stunned look about him, which worries Claire that he might be suffering some kind of a fit. He brushes her off, however, and returns downstairs. Although Claire doesn't realize it at the time, Arthur had just seen his wife's naked, pregnant body, and left in shock, knowing that the child could not be his.
That night at Castle Leoch, Arthur collapses during the meal, stricken by convulsions and making choking noises. Thinking he might be choking, Claire pounds him on the back, but to no avail. When he suddenly stops moving, she can't find a pulse and attempts various resuscitation techniques, including mouth-to-mouth breathing. Her efforts prove futile, and Arthur dies.
Later, when Geillis has revealed her pregnancy to Claire in the thieves' hole and confesses to murdering Arthur, Claire realizes that the numbness she experienced in her face after performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was due to the white arsenic with which Geillis had poisoned and killed her husband.
Arthur's personality did not offer much to distinguish him from any other man of high status; he carried out his duties with inflated dignity. He also appeared to be just one of many men to fall under the spell of the witch Geillis's charms, allowing himself to be persuaded by her wishes, such as with the case of the tanner's boy's punishment for thievery.
Arthur is described as plump and rotund, though on the day of his death Claire observes that, like many fat men that lose weight suddenly, the weight had gone from his face, leaving his skin drooping in folds, while he retained his stout figure.
Arthur married Geillis sometime before or during 1739, though she was a stranger to the district of no apparent status. He accepted her cures for his indigestion and other gastric troubles, but near the end of his life suspected that she was poisoning his food. In the end, he died by her hand – arsenic poisoning – though his prior ill health may have disguised the murder for a time before Geillis was taken to trial for witchcraft.
- Arthur is of unknown origin. A possible derivation combines the Celtic elements artos "bear" combined with viros "man" or rigos "king" or related to an obscure Roman family name Artorius.
- Duncan is an anglicized form of the Gaelic name Donnchadh meaning "brown warrior", derived from Gaelic donn "brown" and cath "warrior".
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