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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online

Scottish Ghost Stories


Miss Vining was decidedly good-looking; she had the typically theatrical features--neatly moulded nose and chin, curly yellow hair, and big, dreamy blue eyes that especially appeal to a certain class of men; like most women, however, I prefer something more solid, both physically and intellectually--I cannot stand "the pretty, pretty." She was, of course, far too ill to converse, and, beyond a few desultory and spasmodic ejaculations, maintained a rigid silence. As there was no occasion for me to sit close beside her, I drew up a chair before the fire, placing myself in such a position as to command a full view of the bed. My first night passed undisturbed by any incident, and in the morning the condition of my patient showed a slight improvement. It was eight o'clock in the evening when I came on duty again, and, the weather having changed during the day, the whole room echoed and re-echoed with the howling of the wind, which was raging round the house with demoniacal fury.

I had been at my post for a little over two hours--and had just registered my patient's temperature, when, happening to look up from the book I was reading, I saw to my surprise that the chair beside the head of the bed was occupied by a child--a tiny girl. How she had come into the room without attracting my attention was certainly extraordinary, and I could only suppose that the shrieking of the wind down the wide chimney had deadened the sound of the door and her footsteps.

I was naturally, of course, very indignant that she had dared to come in without rapping, and, getting up from my seat I was preparing to address her and bid her go, when she lifted a wee white hand and motioned me back. I obeyed because I could not help myself--her action was accompanied by a peculiar,--an unpleasantly peculiar, expression that held me spellbound; and without exactly knowing why, I stood staring at her, tongue-tied and trembling. As her face was turned towards the patient, and she wore, moreover, a very wide-brimmed hat, I could see nothing of her features; but from her graceful little figure and dainty limbs, I gathered that she was probably both beautiful and aristocratic. Her dress, though not perhaps of the richest quality, was certainly far from shoddy, and there was something in its style and make that suggested foreign nationality,--Italy--or Spain--or South America--or even the Orient, the probability of the latter being strengthened by her pose, which was full of the serpent-like ease which is characteristic of the East. I was so taken up with watching her that I forgot all about my patient, until a prolonged sigh from the bed reminded me of her existence. With an effort I then advanced, and was about to approach the bed, when the child, without moving her head, motioned me back, and--again I was helpless. The vision I had obtained of the sick woman, brief though it was, filled me with alarm. She was tossing to and fro on the blankets, and breathing in the most agonised manner as if in delirium, or enthralled by some particularly dreadful nightmare. Her condition so frightened me, that I made the most frantic efforts to overcome my inertia. I did not succeed, however, and at last, utterly overcome by my exertion, I closed my eyes. When I opened them again, the chair by the bed was vacant--the child had gone. A tremendous feeling of relief surged through me, and, jumping out of my seat, I hastened to the bedside--my patient was worse, the fever had increased, and she was delirious. I took her temperature. It was 104. I now sat close beside her, and my presence apparently had a soothing effect. She speedily grew calmer, and after taking her medicine gradually sank into a gentle sleep which lasted until late in the morning. When I left her she had altogether recovered from the relapse. I, of course, told the doctor of the child's visit, and he was very angry.