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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
Miss Amelia started. "Dear me, child!" she exclaimed, "how quietly you entered. I had no idea you were in the room. Heliotrope is the name of the scent, my dear, but please do not allude to it again. Your Aunt Deborah and I are very fond of it"--here she sighed--"but for certain reasons--reasons you would not understand--we do not like to hear the word heliotrope mentioned. Kiss me, dear, and run away to your breakfast."
For the first time in my life, perhaps, I was greatly puzzled. I could not see why I should be forbidden to refer to such a pleasant and harmless subject--a subject that, looked at from no matter what point of view, did not appear to me to be in the slightest degree indelicate. The more I thought over it, the more convinced I became that there was some association between the scent and the sunbeam, and in that association I felt sure much of the mystery lay.
The house was haunted--agreeably, delightfully haunted by a golden light, a perfumed radiant light that could only have in my mind one origin, one creator--Titania--Titania, queen of the fairies, the guardian angel of my aged, my extremely aged relatives.
"Aunt Deborah," I said one morning, as I found her seated in the embrasure of the breakfast room window crocheting, "Aunt Deborah! You love the sunlight, do you not?"
She turned on me a startled face. "What makes you ask such strange questions, child?" she said. "Of course I like the--sun. Most people do. It is no uncommon thing, especially at my age."
"But the sunbeams do not follow every one, auntie, do they?" I persisted.
Miss Deborah's crochet fell into her lap.
"How queerly you talk," she said, with a curious trembling of her lips. "How can the sunbeams follow one?"
"But they do, auntie, they do indeed!" I cried. "I have often watched a bright beam of golden light follow Aunt Amelia and you, in different parts of the room. And it has settled on your lace collar now."
Miss Deborah looked at me very seriously; but the moistening of her eyes I attributed to the strong light. "Esther," she said, laying one of her soft hands on my forehead, "there are things God does not want little girls to understand--question me no more."
I obeyed, but henceforth I felt more than ever assured that my aunts, consciously or unconsciously, shared their charming abode with some capricious genii, of whose presence in their midst I had become accidentally aware; and to find out the enchanted neighbourhood of its mysterious retreat was to me now a matter of all-absorbing importance. I spent hour after hour roaming through the corridors, the copses, and my beloved flower gardens, in eager search of some spot I could unhesitatingly affirm was the home of the genii. Most ardently I then hoped that the sunbeams would follow me, and that the breeze charged with cool heliotrope would greet me as it did Aunt Deborah.
In the daytime, all Hennersley was sunshine and flowers, and, stray where I would, I never felt lonely or afraid; but as the light waned I saw and felt a subtle change creep over everything. The long aisles of trees that in the morning only struck me as enchantingly peaceful and shady, gradually filled with strangely terrifying shadows; the hue of the broad swards deepened into a darkness I did not dare interpret, whilst in the house, in its every passage, nook, and corner, a gloom arose that, seeming to come from the very bowels of the earth, brought with it every possible suggestion of bogey.