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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online
CASE II - THE TOP ATTIC IN PRINGLE'S MANSION, EDINBURGH
A charming lady, Miss South, informs me that no house interested her more, as a child, than Pringle's Mansion, Edinburgh. Pringle's Mansion, by the bye, is not the real name of the house, nor is the original building still standing--the fact is, my friend has been obliged to disguise the locality for fear of an action for slander of title, such as happened in the Egham Case of 1904-7.
Miss South never saw--save in a picture--the house that so fascinated her; but through repeatedly hearing about it from her old nurse, she felt that she knew it by heart, and used to amuse herself hour after hour in the nursery, drawing diagrams of the rooms and passages, which, to make quite realistic, she named and numbered.
There was the Admiral's room, Madame's room, Miss Ophelia's room, Master Gregory's room, Letty's (the nurse's) room, the cook's room, the butler's room, the housemaid's room--and--the Haunted Room.
The house was very old--probably the sixteenth century--and was concealed from the thoroughfare by a high wall that enclosed it on all sides. It had no garden, only a large yard, covered with faded yellow paving-stones, and containing a well with an old-fashioned roller and bucket.
When the well was cleaned out, an event which took place periodically on a certain date, every utensil in the house was called into requisition for ladling out the water, and the Admiral, himself supervising, made every servant in the establishment take an active part in the proceedings. On one of these occasions, the Admiral announced his intention of going down the well in the bucket. That was a rare moment in Letty's life, for when the Admiral had been let down in the bucket, the rope broke!
Indeed, the thought of what the Laird would say when he came up, almost resulted in his not coming up at all. However, some one, rather bolder than the rest, retained sufficient presence of mind to effect a rescue, and the timid ones, thankful enough to survive the explosion, had to be content on "half-rations till further orders."
But in spite of its association with such a martinet, and in spite of her ghostly experiences in it, Letty loved the house, and was never tired of singing its praises.
It was a two-storeyed mansion, with roomy cellars but no basement. There were four reception-rooms--all oak-panelled--on the ground floor; numerous kitchen offices, including a cosy housekeeper's room; and a capacious entrance hall, in the centre of which stood a broad oak staircase. The cellars, three in number, and chiefly used as lumber-rooms, were deep down and dank and horrid.
On the first floor eight bedrooms opened on to a gallery overlooking the hall, and the top storey, where the servants slept, consisted solely of attics connected with one another by dark, narrow passages. It was one of these attics that was haunted, although, as a matter of fact, the ghost had been seen in all parts of the house.
When Letty entered the Admiral's service she was but a bairn, and had never even heard of ghosts; nor did the other servants apprise her of the hauntings, having received strict injunctions not to do so from the Laird.
But Letty's home, humble though it was, had been very bright and cheerful, and the dark precincts of the mansion filled her with dismay. Without exactly knowing why she was afraid, she shrank in terror from descending into the cellars, and felt anything but pleased at the prospect of sleeping alone in an attic. Still nothing occurred to really alarm her till about a month after her arrival. It was early in the evening, soon after twilight, and she had gone down into one of the cellars to look for a boot-jack, which the Admiral swore by all that was holy must be found before supper. Placing the light she had brought with her on a packing-case, she was groping about among the boxes, when she perceived, to her astonishment, that the flame of the candle had suddenly turned blue. She then felt icy cold, and was much startled on hearing a loud clatter as of some metal instrument on the stone floor in the far-off corner of the cellar. Glancing in the direction of the noise, she saw, looking at her, two eyes--two obliquely set, lurid, light eyes, full of the utmost devilry. Sick with terror and utterly unable to account for what she beheld, she stood stock-still, her limbs refusing to move, her throat parched, her tongue tied. The clanging was repeated, and a shadowy form began slowly to crawl towards her. She dared not afterwards surmise what would have happened to her, had not the Laird himself come down at this moment. At the sound of his stentorian voice the phantasm vanished. But the shock had been too much for Letty; she fainted, and the Admiral, carrying her upstairs as carefully as if she had been his own daughter, gave peremptory orders that she should never again be allowed to go into the cellar alone.