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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online
CASE I - THE DEATH BOGLE OF THE CROSS ROADS, AND THE INEXTINGUISHABLE CANDLE OF THE OLD WHITE HOUSE, PITLOCHRY
Knowing that sleep was utterly out of the question, and that one or two more thrills would make very little difference to my already shattered nerves, I replied that I would listen eagerly to anything she could tell me, however horrible. My permission thus gained--and gained so readily--Miss Macdonald, not without, I noticed, one or two apprehensive glances at the slightly rustling curtains, began her narrative, which ran, as nearly as I can remember, as follows:--
"After my father's death, I told my mother about our adventure the night we drove home from Lady Colin Ferner's party, and asked her if she remembered ever having heard anything that could possibly account for the phenomenon. After a few moments' reflection, this is the story she told me:--
THE INEXTINGUISHABLE CANDLE OF THE OLD WHITE HOUSE
There was once a house, known as "The Old White House," that used to stand by the side of the road, close to where you say the horse first took fright. Some people of the name of Holkitt, relations of dear old Sir Arthur Holkitt, and great friends of ours, used to live there. The house, it was popularly believed, had been built on the site of an ancient burial-ground. Every one used to say it was haunted, and the Holkitts had great trouble in getting servants. The appearance of the haunted house did not belie its reputation, for its grey walls, sombre garden, gloomy hall, dark passages and staircase, and sinister-looking attics could not have been more thoroughly suggestive of all kinds of ghostly phenomena. Moreover, the whole atmosphere of the place, no matter how hot and bright the sun, was cold and dreary, and it was a constant source of wonder to every one how Lady Holkitt could live there. She was, however, always cheerful, and used to tell me that nothing would induce her to leave a spot dear to so many generations of her family, and associated with the happiest recollections in her life. She was very fond of company, and there was scarcely a week in the year in which she had not some one staying with her. I can only remember her as widow, her husband, a major in the Gordon Highlanders, having died in India before I was born. She had two daughters, Margaret and Alice, both considered very handsome, but some years older than I. This difference in age, however, did not prevent our being on very friendly terms, and I was constantly invited to their house--in the summer to croquet and archery, in the winter to balls. Like most elderly ladies of that period, Lady Holkitt was very fond of cards, and she and my mother used frequently to play bezique and cribbage, whilst the girls and I indulged in something rather more frivolous. On those occasions the carriage always came for us at ten, since my mother, for some reason or other--I had a shrewd suspicion it was on account of the alleged haunting--would never return home after that time. When she accepted an invitation to a ball, it was always conditionally that Lady Holkitt would put us both up for the night, and the carriage used, then, to come for us the following day, after one o'clock luncheon. I shall never forget the last time I went to a dance at "The Old White House," though it is now rather more than fifty years ago. My mother had not been very well for some weeks, having, so she thought, taken cold internally. She had not had a doctor, partly because she did not feel ill enough, and partly because the only medical man near us was an apothecary, of whose skill she had a very poor opinion. My mother had quite made up her mind to accompany me to the ball, but at the last moment, the weather being appalling, she yielded to advice, and my aunt Norah, who happened to be staying with us at the time, chaperoned me instead. It was snowing when we set out, and as it snowed all through the night and most of the next day, the roads were completely blocked, and we had to remain at "The Old White House" from Monday evening till the following Thursday. Aunt Norah and I occupied separate bedrooms, and mine was at the end of a long passage away from everybody else's. Prior to this my mother and I had always shared a room--the only really pleasant one, so I thought, in the house--overlooking the front lawn. But on this occasion there being a number of visitors, belated like ourselves, we had to squeeze in wherever we could; and as my aunt and I were to have separate rooms (my aunt liking a room to herself), it was natural that she should be allotted the largest and most comfortable. Consequently, she was domiciled in the wing where all the other visitors slept, whilst I was forced to retreat to a passage on the other side of the house, where, with the exception of my apartment, there were none other but lumber-rooms. All went smoothly and happily, and nothing interrupted the harmony of our visit, till the night before we returned home. We had had supper--our meals were differently arranged in those days--and Margaret and I were ascending the staircase on our way to bed, when Alice, who had run upstairs ahead of us, met us with a scared face.