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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

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.

But now that Letty herself had witnessed a manifestation, the other
servants no longer felt bound to secrecy, and soon poured into her
ears endless accounts of the hauntings.

Every one, they informed her, except Master Gregory and Perkins (the
butler) had seen one or other of the ghosts, and the cellar
apparition was quite familiar to them all. They also declared that
there were other parts of the house quite as badly haunted as the
cellar, and it might have been partly owing to these gruesome stories
that poor Letty always felt scared, when crossing the passages leading
to the attics. As she was hastening down one of them, early one
morning, she heard some one running after her. Thinking it was one of
the other servants, she turned round, pleased to think that some one
else was up early too, and saw to her horror a dreadful-looking
object, that seemed to be partly human and partly animal. The body was
quite small, and its face bloated, and covered with yellow spots. It
had an enormous animal mouth, the lips of which, moving furiously
without emitting any sound, showed that the creature was endeavouring
to speak but could not. The moment Letty screamed for help the
phantasm vanished.

But her worst experience was yet to come. The spare attic which she
was told was so badly haunted that no one would sleep in it, was the
room next to hers. It was a room Letty could well believe was
haunted, for she had never seen another equally gloomy. The ceiling
was low and sloping, the window tiny, and the walls exhibited all
sorts of odd nooks and crannies. A bed, antique and worm-eaten, stood
in one recess, a black oak chest in another, and at right angles with
the door, in another recess, stood a wardrobe that used to creak and
groan alarmingly every time Letty walked a long the passage. Once she
heard a chuckle, a low, diabolical chuckle, which she fancied came
from the chest; and once, when the door of the room was open, she
caught the glitter of a pair of eyes--the same pale, malevolent eyes
that had so frightened her in the cellar. From her earliest childhood
Letty had been periodically given to somnambulism, and one night, just
about a year after she went into service, she got out of bed, and
walked, in her sleep, into the Haunted Room. She awoke to find herself
standing, cold and shivering, in the middle of the floor, and it was
some seconds before she realised where she was. Her horror, when she
did discover where she was, is not easily described. The room was
bathed in moonlight, and the beams, falling with noticeable
brilliancy on each piece of furniture the room contained, at once
riveted Letty's attention, and so fascinated her that she found
herself utterly unable to move. A terrible and most unusual silence
predominated everywhere, and although Letty's senses were wonderfully
and painfully on the alert, she could not catch the slightest sound
from any of the rooms on the landing.

The night was absolutely still, no breath of wind, no rustle of
leaves, no flapping of ivy against the window; yet the door suddenly
swung back on its hinges and slammed furiously. Letty felt that this
was the work of some supernatural agency, and, fully expecting that
the noise had awakened the cook, who was a light sleeper (or pretended
she was), listened in a fever of excitement to hear her get out of bed
and call out. The slightest noise and the spell that held her prisoner
would, Letty felt sure, be broken. But the same unbroken silence
prevailed. A sudden rustling made Letty glance fearfully at the bed;
and she perceived, to her terror, the valance swaying violently, to
and fro. Sick with fear, she was now constrained to stare in abject
helplessness. Presently there was a slight, very slight movement on
the mattress, the white dust cover rose, and, under it, Letty saw the
outlines of what she took to be a human figure, gradually take shape.
Hoping, praying, that she was mistaken, and that what appeared to be
on the bed was but a trick of her imagination, she continued staring
in an agony of anticipation. But the figure remained--extended at full
length like a corpse. The minutes slowly passed, a church clock boomed
two, and the body moved. Letty's jaw fell, her eyes almost bulged from
her head, whilst her fingers closed convulsively on the folds of her
night-dress. The unmistakable sound of breathing now issued from the
region of the bed, and the dust-cover commenced slowly to slip aside.
Inch by inch it moved, until first of all Letty saw a few wisps of
dark hair, then a few more, then a thick cluster; then something white
and shining--a protruding forehead; then dark, very dark brows; then
two eyelids, yellow, swollen, and fortunately tightly closed; then--a
purple conglomeration of Letty knew not what--of anything but what
was human. The sight was so monstrous it appalled her; and she was
overcome with a species of awe and repulsion, for which the language
of mortality has no sufficiently energetic expression. She momentarily
forgot that what she looked on was merely superphysical, but regarded
it as something alive, something that ought to have been a child,
comely and healthy as herself--and she hated it. It was an outrage on
maternity, a blot on nature, a filthy discredit to the house, a
blight, a sore, a gangrene. It turned over in its sleep, the cover was
hurled aside, and a grotesque object, round, pulpy, webbed, and of
leprous whiteness--an object which Letty could hardly associate with a
hand--came grovelling out. Letty's stomach heaved; the thing was
beastly, indecent, vile, it ought not to live! And the idea of killing
flashed through her mind. Boiling over with indignation and absurdly
forgetful of her surroundings, she turned round and groped for a stone
to smash it. The moonlight on her naked toes brought her to her
senses--the thing in the bed was a devil! Though brought up a member
of the Free Church, with an abhorrence of anything that could in any
way be contorted into Papist practices, Letty crossed herself. As she
did so, a noise in the passage outside augmented her terror. She
strained her ears painfully, and the sound developed into a footstep,
soft, light, and surreptitious. It came gently towards the door; it
paused outside, and Letty intuitively felt that it was listening. Her
suspense was now so intolerable, that it was almost with a feeling of
relief that she beheld the door slowly--very slowly--begin to open. A
little wider--a little wider--and yet a little wider; but still
nothing came. Ah! Letty's heart turned to ice. Another inch, and a
shadowy something slipped through and began to wriggle itself
stealthily over the floor. Letty tried to divert her gaze, but could
not--an irresistible, magnetic attraction kept her eyes glued to the
gradually approaching horror. When within a few feet of her it halted;
and again Letty felt it was listening--listening to the breathing on
the bed, which was heavy and bestial. Then it twisted round, and Letty
watched it crawl into the wardrobe. After this there was a long and
anxious wait. Then Letty saw the wardrobe door slyly open, and the
eyes of the cellar--inexpressibly baleful, and glittering like
burnished steel in the strong phosphorescent glow of the moon, peep
out,--not at her but through her,--at the object lying on the bed.
There were not only eyes, this time, but a form,--vague, misty, and
irregular, but still with sufficient shape to enable Letty to identify
it as that of a woman, tall and thin, and with a total absence of
hair, which was emphasised in the most lurid and ghastly fashion. With
a snakelike movement, the evil thing slithered out of the wardrobe,
and, gliding past Letty, approached the bed. Letty was obliged to
follow every proceeding. She saw the thing deftly snatch the bolster
from under the sleeping head; noted the gleam of hellish satisfaction
in its eyes as it pressed the bolster down; and watched the murdered
creature's contortions grow fainter, and fainter, until they finally
ceased. The eyes then left the room; and from afar off, away below, in
the abysmal cellars of the house, came the sound of digging--faint,
very faint, but unquestionably digging. This terminated the grim,
phantasmal drama for that night at least, and Letty, chilled to the
bone, but thoroughly alert, escaped to her room. She spent her few
remaining hours of rest wide-awake, determining never to go to bed
again without fastening one of her arms to the iron staples.

With regard the history of the house, Letty never learned anything
more remarkable than that, long ago, an idiot child was supposed to
have been murdered in the haunted attic--by whom, tradition did not
say. The Admiral and his family left Pringle's Mansion the year Letty
became Miss South's nurse, and as no one would stay in the house,
presumably on account of the hauntings, it was pulled down, and an
inexcusably inartistic edifice was erected in its place.

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