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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online
CASE IX - THE ROOM BEYOND. AN ACCOUNT OF THE HAUNTINGS AT HENNERSLEY, NEAR AYR
The house stood by the side of the turnpike road--that broad, white, interminable road, originating from goodness knows where in the north, and passing through Ayr--the nearest town of any importance--to goodness knows where in the south. A shady avenue, entered by a wooden swing gate bearing the superscription "Hennersley" in neat, white letters, led by a circuitous route to it, and not a vestige of it could be seen from the road. In front of it stretched a spacious lawn, flanked on either side and at the farthest extremity by a thick growth of chestnuts, beeches, poplars, and evergreens.
The house itself was curiously built. It consisted of two storeys, and formed a main building and one wing, which gave it a peculiarly lop-sided appearance that reminded me somewhat ludicrously of Chanticleer, with a solitary, scant, and clipped appendage.
It was often on the tip of my tongue to ask my relatives the reason of this singular disparity; whether it was the result of a mere whim on the part of the architect, or whether it had been caused by some catastrophe; but my curiosity was always held in check by a strange feeling that my relatives would not like to be approached on the subject. My aunts Amelia and Deborah belonged to that class of people, unhappily rare, who possess a power of generating in others an instinctive knowledge of "dangerous ground"--a power which enabled them to avert, both from themselves and the might-be offender, many a painful situation. To proceed--the nakedness of the walls of Hennersley was veiled--who shall say it was not designedly veiled--by a thick covering of clematis and ivy, and in the latter innumerable specimens of the feathered tribe found a sure and safe retreat.
On entering the house, one stepped at once into a large hall. A gallery ran round it, and from the centre rose a broad oak staircase. The rooms, with one or two exceptions, opened into one another, and were large, and low and long in shape; the walls and floors were of oak and the ceilings were crossed by ponderous oak beams.
The fireplaces, too, were of the oldest fashion; and in their comfortable ingle-nook my aunts--in the winter--loved to read or knit.
When the warm weather came, they made similar use of the deep-set window-sills, over which they indulgently permitted me to scramble on to the lawn.
The sunlight was a special feature of Hennersley. Forcing its way through the trellised panes, it illuminated the house with a radiancy, a soft golden radiancy I have never seen elsewhere.
My relatives seemed to possess some phenomenal attraction for the sunlight, for, no matter where they sat, a beam brighter than the rest always shone on them; and, when they got up, I noticed that it always followed them, accompanying them from room to room and along the corridors.
But this was only one of the many pleasant mysteries that added to the joy of my visits to Hennersley. I felt sure that the house was enchanted--that it was under the control of some benevolent being who took a kindly interest in the welfare of my relatives.
I remember once, on the occasion of my customary good-morning to Miss Amelia, who invariably breakfasted in bed, I inhaled the most delicious odour of heliotrope. It was wafted towards me, in a cool current of air, as I approached her bed, and seemed, to my childish fancy, to be the friendly greeting of a sparkling sunbeam that rested on Miss Amelia's pillow.
I was so charmed with the scent, that, alas! forgetful of my manners, I gave a loud sniff, and with a rapturous smile ejaculated, "Oh! Auntie! Cherry pie!"