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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
I came to the end of the corridor, I descended half a dozen stairs, I got to the middle of the gallery overlooking the large entrance hall--below me, above me, on all sides of me, was Stygian darkness. I stopped, and there suddenly rang out, apparently from close at hand, a loud, clear, most appallingly clear, blood-curdling cry, which, beginning in a low key, ended in a shriek so horrid, harsh, and piercing, that I felt my heart shrivel up within me, and in sheer desperation I buried my fingers in my ears to deaden the sound.
I was now too frightened to move one way or the other. All the strength departed from my limbs, and when I endeavoured to move my feet, I could not--they appeared to be fastened to the ground with lead weights.
I felt, I intuitively felt that the author of the disturbance was regarding my terror with grim satisfaction, and that it was merely postponing further action in order to enjoy my suspense. To block out the sight of this dreadful creature, I clenched my eyelids tightly together, at the same time earnestly imploring God to help me.
Suddenly I heard the low wail begin again, and then the echo of a far-off silvery voice came softly to me through the gloom: "It's an owl--only an owl!"
With lightning-like rapidity the truth then dawned on me, and as I withdrew my clammy finger-tips from my ears, the faint fluttering of wings reached me, through an open skylight. Once again I moved on; the gallery was left behind, and I was well on my way down the tortuous passage leading to my goal, when a luminous object, of vast height and cylindrical shape, suddenly barred my progress.
Overcome by a deadly sickness, I sank on the floor, and, burying my face in my hands, quite made up my mind that my last moments had come.
How long I remained in this position I cannot say, to me it seemed eternity. I was eventually freed from it by the echo of a gentle laugh, so kind, and gay, and girlish, that my terror at once departed, and, on raising my head, I perceived that the cause of my panic was nothing more than a broad beam of moonlight on a particularly prominent angle of the wall.
Heartily ashamed at my cowardice, I got up, and, stepping briskly forward, soon reached the stained-glass window.
Pressing my face against the pane, I peered through it, and there immediately beneath me lay the flowers, glorified into dazzling gold by the yellow colour of the glass. The sight thrilled me with joy--it was sublime. My instinct had not deceived me, this was indeed the long-looked-for home of the genii.
The temperature, which had been high, abnormally so for June, now underwent an abrupt change, and a chill current of air, sweeping down on me from the rear, made my teeth chatter. I involuntarily shrank back from the window, and, as I did so, to my utter astonishment it disappeared, and I saw, in its place, a room.
It was a long, low room, and opposite to me, at the farthest extremity, was a large bay window, through which I could see the nodding tops of the trees. The furniture was all green and of a lighter, daintier make than any I had hitherto seen. The walls were covered with pictures, the mantelshelf with flowers. Whilst I was busily employed noting all these details, the door of the room opened, and the threshold was gorgeously illuminated by a brilliant sunbeam, from which suddenly evolved the figure of a young and lovely girl.