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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online
CASE XVII - GLAMIS CASTLE
It was late in the autumn, the weather was intensely cold, and I arrived at the castle in a blizzard. Indeed, I do not recollect ever having been out in such a frightful storm. It was as much as the horses could do to make headway, and when we reached the castle we found a crowd of anxious faces eagerly awaiting us in the hall.
Chilled! I was chilled to the bone, and thought I never should thaw. But the huge fires and bright and cosy atmosphere of the rooms--for the interior of Glamis was modernised throughout--soon set me right, and by tea time I felt nicely warm and comfortable.
My bedroom was in the oldest part of the castle--the Square Tower--but although I had been warned by some of the guests that it might be haunted, I can assure you that when I went to bed no subject was farther from my thoughts than the subject of ghosts. I returned to my room at about half-past eleven. The storm was then at its height--all was babel and confusion--impenetrable darkness mingled with the wildest roaring and shrieking; and when I peeped through my casement window I could see nothing--the panes were shrouded in snow--snow which was incessantly dashed against them with cyclonic fury. I fixed a comb in the window-frame so as not to be kept awake by the constant jarring; and with the caution characteristic of my sex looked into the wardrobe and under the bed for burglars--though Heaven knows what I should have done had I found one there--placed a candlestick and matchbox on the table by my bedside, lest the roof or window should be blown in during the night or any other catastrophe happen, and after all these preparations got into bed. At this period of my life I was a sound sleeper, and, being somewhat unusually tired after my journey, I was soon in a dreamless slumber. What awoke me I cannot say, but I came to myself with a violent start, such as might have been occasioned by a loud noise. Indeed, that was, at first, my impression, and I strained my ears to try and ascertain the cause of it. All was, however, silent. The storm had abated, and the castle and grounds were wrapped in an almost preternatural hush. The sky had cleared, and the room was partially illuminated by a broad stream of silvery light that filtered softly in through the white and tightly drawn blinds. A feeling that there was something unnatural in the air, that the stillness was but the prelude to some strange and startling event, gradually came over me. I strove to reason with myself, to argue that the feeling was wholly due to the novelty of my surroundings, but my efforts were fruitless. And soon there stole upon me a sensation to which I had been hitherto an utter stranger--I became afraid. An irrepressible tremor pervaded my frame, my teeth chattered, my blood froze. Obeying an impulse--an impulse I could not resist, I lifted myself up from the pillows, and, peering fearfully into the shadowy glow that lay directly in front of me--listened. Why I listened I do not know, saving that an instinctive spirit prompted me. At first I could hear nothing, and then, from a direction I could not define, there came a noise, low, distinct, uninterpretative. It was repeated in rapid succession, and speedily construed itself into the sound of mailed footsteps racing up the long flight of stairs at the end of the corridor leading to my room. Dreading to think what it might be, and seized with a wild sentiment of self-preservation, I made frantic endeavours to get out of bed and barricade my door. My limbs, however, refused to move. I was paralysed. Nearer and nearer drew the sounds; and I could at length distinguish, with a clearness that petrified my very soul, the banging and clanging of sword scabbards, and the panting and gasping of men, sore pressed in a wild and desperate race. And then the meaning of it all came to me with hideous abruptness--it was a case of pursued and pursuing--the race was for--LIFE. Outside my door the fugitive halted, and from the noise he made in trying to draw his breath, I knew he was dead beat. His antagonist, however, gave him but scant time for recovery. Bounding at him with prodigious leaps, he struck him a blow that sent him reeling with such tremendous force against the door, that the panels, although composed of the stoutest oak, quivered and strained like flimsy matchboard.