Scottish myths 32

 The candle

Near the Kinnaird Burn, not far north-east of Pitlochry, there was once a house known as 'The Old White House'. It was supposed to have been built on an ancient burial ground and was thought to be haunted. The people who lived there, a family of the Gordons', were made very much aware of this, and not only because they had great difficulty in persuading their servants to remain with them for any great lengths of time.

In spite of its being alluded to as white, the grey stone walls, the unkempt, sad garden, the dismal hall, dark passages and stairs could only complement the haunted reputation of the house. Even during the summer months the house retained its bleak and sinister atmosphere.
How anyone could abide living in such a place was a wonder in itself.

My family knew the Gordons well, and we were often invited to The Old White House, despite our own forebodings about the place. When we did go, we never stayed longer than politeness permitted.

However on one occasion in winter, we were invited there again. For some reason which now escapes me, it was impossible to refuse. Our mother was quite ill at the time and we firmly persuaded her to remain at home in bed.

Whilst we were at The White House, me (Graham) and my two sisters, it began to snow, and continued so much so that the roads became blocked. We were therefore obliged to stay much longer than we would have wished.

It was on the evening before we were finally able to leave, after supper, as Elsa and I ascended the staircase on our way to our respective bedrooms, Alice, one of the rare, loyal maids of the house, ran down towards us. She was pale with terror.

"Please come to my room, something is very wrong, or else I'm going mad"! she exclaimed.
"What's wrong"? was all we could ask.
"It's the candle in my room, I can't put it out".

This seemed so absurd that it made me laugh. I was quite sure that I could solve the problem, but when we arrived at her bedroom door, we couldn't open it, even though it certainly wasn't locked.
With my sister, we pushed as hard as we could but it made no difference.
Then suddenly it flew open for a few seconds, enough for us to see the strange light of the candle, then it slammed shut again.

I sensed that it would be useless to try once more to open the door, realising with horror that something was indeed paranormal. We all looked at each other probably sharing the same thought. Suddenly the door flew open again and I felt irresistibly drawn into the room. The door then promptly slammed shut once more, seemingly of its own accord.

The atmosphere in the room terrified me so much that I was senseless to the noise of the banging on the door and the entreaties of Alice and Elsa who naturally wanted to know what was happening.
Like a doomed moth I was drawn to the candle. It appeared to harbour some sort of spirit. I blew at it hard, then I wet my fingers to attempt to pinch it out, burning them in the process. I then tried to cover the flame with the candle stick's conical copper snuffer, but it grew so hot that once more I burnt my fingers severely. All this I did in a curious daze of obedience, as if some sort of spiritual force goaded me to challenge its power.

Then suddenly the candle stick rose up and came towards me, as if it were held by a ghost. I was mesmerised as well as horrified, but the terror was quashed by the hypnotic effect the wavering light of the flame had on me. Slowly I backed away against a wall. The candle came nearer and nearer until everything became a terrible blood red, yet I felt no warmth. The coldness was increased by the touch of an ethereal hand on my arm. And that is really all that I can remember.

I awoke in a bed greeted by the anxious faces of Elsa joined by my elder sister Louisa. Alice was there too, just behind them. They told me that the door had opened normally and that they had found me lying unconscious. The candle was by my side, still burning, but in a perfectly natural way. Alice had shyly blown at it, and it simply went out, leaving a feeble wisp of smoke.
Old Craig Gordon had managed to get me to my room. Apparently he was unperturbed by it all.

I had no desire to tell my sisters anything, even though they kept insisting. I had a premonition and was certain that it had been conveyed by the dreadful experience of yesterday evening.
We left for home as soon as we possible could that same day.

That evening there was the most glorious sunset enhanced by the what was left of the snow. The vivid red mirrored the crescendo of my ordeal absolutely, convincing me even more of the premonition.
For when we got home we discovered that our mother's illness had deteriorated to a hopeless degree. The doctor had been called from Pitlochry and had done everything he possibly could whilst we had been away and beyond reach.
I was certain, and curiously reassured, that we had been urgently summoned for a sad but inevitable event, heralded and blest by the last rays of a heavenly sunset.

Scottish myths 33
Scottish myths 31

Retelling and image © Mirino, (from The Inextinguishable Candle of the Old White House, Pitlochry. The project Gutenberg of Scottish Ghost stories, by Elliott O' Donnell). 
With thanks.                                             November, 2013

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