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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online

Scottish Ghost Stories


To me Hennersley is what the Transformation Scene at a Pantomime was to the imaginative child--the dreamy child of long ago--a floral paradise full of the most delightful surprises. Here, at Hennersley, from out the quite recently ice-bound earth, softened and moistened now by spring rain, there rises up row upon row of snowdrops, hyacinths and lilies, of such surpassing sweetness and beauty that I hold my breath in astonishment, and ecstatically chant a Te Deum to the fairies for sending such white-clad loveliness.

And then--then, ere my wonder has had time to fade, it is summer. The ground opens, and there springs up, on all sides, a veritable sea of vivid, variegated colour,--scarlet, pink, and white geraniums; red, white and yellow roses; golden honeysuckle; bright-hued marigolds; purple pansies; pale forget-me-nots; wallflowers; sweet peas; many-tinted azaleas; showy hydrangeas; giant rhododendrons; foxgloves, buttercups, daisies, hollyhocks, and heliotropes; a floral host too varied to enumerate.

Overcome with admiration, bewildered with happiness, I kneel on the soft carpet of grass, and, burying my face extravagantly, in alternate laps of luxurious, downy, scent-laden petals, fill my lungs with soul-inspiring nectar.

My intoxication has barely worn off before my eyes are dimly conscious that the soil all around me is generously besprinkled with the remains of my floral friends. I spring hurriedly to my feet, and, gazing anxiously about me, suddenly perceive the gaily nodding heads of new arrivals--dahlias, sunflowers, anemones, chrysanthemums. As I continue gazing, the aromatic odour of mellow apples from the Hennersley orchards reaches my nostrils; I turn round, and there, there in front of me, I see row upon row of richly-laden fruit trees, their leaves a brilliant copper in the scintillating rays of the ruddy autumn sun. I gasp for breath--the beauty of tint and tone surpasses all that I have hitherto seen--it is sublime, the grand climax of transformation. As the curtain falls with the approach of winter, I hurry to my Edinburgh home and pray for the prompt return of early spring.

For many years my aged relatives, the Misses Amelia and Deborah Harbordeens, lived at Hennersley. Rarest and kindest of old ladies, they were the human prototypes of the flowers both they and I loved. Miss Amelia, with her beautiful complexion, rounded form and regal mien, suggested to my childish mind more, much more, than the mere semblance of a rose, whilst Miss Deborah, with her sprightly grace and golden hair, was only masquerading as a woman--she was in reality a daffodil.

Unlike so many of the fair sex who go in for gardening, my aunts were essentially dainty. Their figures were shapely and elegant, their hands slim and soft. I never saw them working without gloves, and I have good reason to believe they anointed their fingers every night with a special preparation to keep them smooth and white. They were not--decidedly not--"brainy," neither were they accomplished, never having made any special study of the higher arts; but they evinced nevertheless the keenest appreciation of painting, music, and literature. Their library--a large one--boasted a delightful harbourage of such writers as Jane Austen, Miss Mitford, and Maria Edgeworth. And in their drawing-room, on the walls of which art was represented by the old as well as modern masters, might be seen and sometimes heard--for the Misses Harbordeens often entertained--a well-tuned Broadwood, and a Bucksen harpsichord. I will describe this old-world abode, not as I first saw it, for when I first visited my aunts Amelia and Deborah, I was only one year old, but as I first remember it--a house with the glamour of a many-gabled roof and diamond window-panes.