THE SECRET CHAMBER
[Dedicated to the inquirers in the Norman Tower.]
by Margaret Oliphant
from Blackwood's Edinburgh magazine,
CASTLE GOWRIE is one of the most famous and
interesting in all Scotland. It is a beautiful old house, to
start with, perfect in old feudal grandeur, with its
clustered turrets and walls that could withstand an army,
its labyrinths, its hidden stairs, its long mysterious
passages passages that seem in many cases to lead to
nothing, but of which no one can be too sure what they lead
to. The front, with its fine gateway and flanking towers, is
approached now by velvet lawns, and a peaceful, beautiful
old avenue, with double rows of trees, like a cathedral; and
the woods out of which these grey towers rise, look as soft
and rich in foliage, if not so lofty in growth, as the
groves of the South. But this softness of aspect is all new
to the place, that is, new within the century or two
which count for but little in the history of a
dwelling-place, some part of which, at least, has been
standing since the days when the Saxon Athelings brought
such share of the arts as belonged to them to solidify and
regulate the original Celtic art which reared incised stones
upon rude burial-places, and twined mystic knots on its
crosses, before historic days. Even of this primitive
decoration there are relics at Gowrie, where the twistings
and twinings of Runic cords appear still on some bits of
ancient wall, solid as rocks, and almost as everlasting.
From these to the graceful French turrets, which recall many
a grey chateau, what a long interval of years!
But these are filled with stirring chronicles enough,
besides the dim, not always decipherable records, which
different developments of architecture have left on the old
house. The Earls of Gowrie had been in the heat of every
commotion that took place on or about the Highland line for
more generations than any but a Celtic pen could record.
Rebellions, revenges, insurrections, conspiracies, nothing
in which blood was shed and lands lost, took place in
Scotland, in which they had not had a share; and the annals
of the house are very full, and not without many a stain.
They had been a bold and vigorous race with much evil in
them, and some good; never insignificant, whatever else they
might be. It could not be said, however, that they are
remarkable nowadays. Since the first Stuart rising, known in
Scotland as "the Fifteen," they have not done much
that has been worth recording; but yet their family history
has always been of an unusual kind. The Randolphs could not
be called eccentric in themselves: on the contrary, when you
knew them, they were at bottom a respectable race, full of
all the country-gentleman virtues; and yet their public
career, such as it was, had been marked by the strange leaps
and jerks of vicissitude. You would have said an impulsive,
fanciful family now making a grasp at some visionary
advantage, now rushing into some wild speculation, now
making a sudden sally into public life but soon falling
back into mediocrity, not able apparently, even when the
impulse was purely selfish and mercenary, to keep it up. But
this would not have been at all a true conception of the
family character; their actual virtues were not of the
imaginative order, and their freaks were a mystery to their
friends. Nevertheless these freaks were what the general
world was most aware of in the Randolph race. The late Earl
had been a representative peer of Scotland (they had no
English title), and had made quite a wonderful start, and
for a year or two had seemed about to attain a very eminent
place in Scotch affairs; but his ambition was found to have
made use of some very equivocal
modes of gaining influence, and he dropped accordingly at
once and for ever from the political firmament. This was
quite a common circumstance in the family. An apparently
brilliant beginning, a discovery of evil means adopted for
ambitious ends, a sudden subsidence, and the curious
conclusion at the end of everything that this schemer, this
unscrupulous speculator or politician, was a dull, good man
after all unambitious, contented, full of domestic
kindness and benevolence. This family peculiarity made the
history of the Randolphs a very strange one, broken by the
oddest interruptions, and with no consistency in it. There
was another circumstance, however, which attracted still
more the wonder and observation of the public. For one who
can appreciate such a recondite matter as family character,
there are hundreds who are interested in a family secret,
and this the house of Randolph possessed in perfection. It
was a mystery which piqued the imagination and excited the
interest of the entire country. The story went, that
somewhere hid amid the massive walls and tortuous passages
there was a secret chamber in Gowrie Castle. Everybody knew
of its existence; but save the earl, his heir, and one other
person, not of the family, but filling a confidential post
in their service, no mortal knew where this mysterious
hiding-place was. There had been countless guesses made at
it, and expedients of all kinds invented to find it out.
Every visitor who ever entered the old gateway, nay, even
passing travellers who saw the turrets from the road,
searched keenly for some trace of this mysterious chamber.
But all guesses and researches were equally in vain.
I was about to say that no ghost-story I ever
heard of has been so steadily and long believed. But this
would be a mistake, for nobody knew even with any certainty
that there was a ghost connected with it. A secret chamber
was nothing wonderful in so old a house. No doubt they exist
in many such old houses, and are always curious and
interesting strange relics, more moving than any history,
of the time when a man was not safe in his own house, and
when it might be necessary to secure a refuge beyond the
reach of spies or traitors at a moment's notice. Such a
refuge was a necessity of life to a great medieval noble.
The peculiarity about this secret chamber, however, was that
some secret connected with the very existence of the family
was always understood to be involved in it. It was not only
the secret hiding-place for an emergency, a kind of
historical possession presupposing the importance of his
race, of which a man might be honestly proud; but there was
something hidden in it of which assuredly the race could not
be proud. It is wonderful how easily a family learns to
pique itself upon any distinctive possession. A ghost is a
sign of importance not to be despised; a haunted room is
worth as much as a small farm to the complacency of the
family that owns it. And no doubt the younger branches of
the Gowrie family the lightminded portion of the race
felt this, and were proud of their unfathomable secret, and
felt a thrill of agreeable awe and piquant suggestion go
through them, when they remembered the mysterious something
which they did not know in their familiar home. That thrill
ran through the entire circle of visitors, and children, and
servants, when the Earl peremptorily forbade a projected
improvement, or stopped a reckless exploration. They looked
at each other with a pleasurable shiver. "Didyou
hear?" they said. "He will not let Lady Gowrie
have that closet she wants so much in that bit of wall. He
sent the workmen about their business before they could
touch it, though the wall is twenty feet thick if it is an
inch; ah!" said the visitors, looking at each other;
and this lively suggestion sent tinglings of excitement to
their very finger-points; but even to his wife, mourning the
commodious closet she had intended, the Earl made no
explanations. For anything she knew, it might be there, next
to her room, this mysterious lurking-place; and it may be
supposed that this suggestion conveyed to Lady Gowrie's
veins a thrill more keen and strange, perhaps too vivid to
be pleasant. But she was not in the favoured or unfortunate
number of those to whom the truth could be revealed.
I need not say what the different theories on
the subject were. Some thought there had been a treacherous
massacre there, and that the secret chamber was blocked by
the skeletons of murdered guests, a treachery no doubt
covering the family with shame in its day, but so condoned
by long softening of years as to have all the shame taken
out of it. The Randolphs could not have felt their character
affected by any such interesting historical record. They
were not so morbidly sensitive. Some said, on the other
hand, that Earl Robert, the wicked Earl, was shut up there
in everlasting penance, playing cards with the devil for his
soul. But it would have been too great a feather in the
family cap to have thus got the devil, or even one of his
angels, bottled up, as it were, and safely in hand, to make
it possible that any lasting stigma could be connected with
such a fact as this. What a thing it would be to know where
to lay one's hand upon the Prince of Darkness, and prove him
once for all, cloven foot and everything else, to the
confusion of gainsayers!
So this was not to be received as a
satisfactory solution, nor could any other be suggested
which was more to the purpose. The popular mind gave it up,
and yet never gave it up; and still everybody who visits
Gowrie, be it as a guest, be it as a tourist, be it only as
a gazer from a passing carriage, or from the flying railway
train which just glimpses its turrets in the distance, daily
and yearly spends a certain amount of curiosity, wonderment,
and conjecture about the Secret Chamber the most piquant
and undiscoverable wonder which has endured unguessed and
undeciphered to modern times.
This was how the matter stood when young John
Randolph, Lord Lindores, came of age. He was a young man of
great character and energy, not like the usual Randolph
strain for, as we have said, the type of character common
in this romantically-situated family, notwithstanding
the erratic incidents common to them, was that of dullness
and honesty, especially in their early days. But young
Lindores was not so. He was honest and honourable, but not
dull. He had gone through almost a remarkable course at
school and at the university not perhaps in quite the
ordinary way of scholarship, but enough to attract men's
eyes to him. He had made more than one great speech at the
Union. He was full of ambition, and force, and life,
intending all sorts of great things, and meaning to make his
position a stepping-stone to all that was excellent in
public life. Not for him the countrygentleman existence
which was congenial to his father. The idea of succeeding to
the family honours and becoming a Scotch peer, either
represented or representative, filled him with horror; and
filial piety in his case was made warm by all the energy of
personal hopes when he prayed that his father might live, if
not for ever, yet longer than any Lord Gowrie had lived for
the last century or two. He was as sure of his election for
the county the next time there was a chance, as anybody can
be certain of anything; and in the meantime he meant to
travel, to go to America, to go no one could tell where,
seeking for instruction and experience, as is the manner of
high-spirited young men with parliamentary tendencies in the
present day. In former times he would have gone "to the
wars in the Hie Germanie," or on a crusade to the Holy
Land; but the days of the crusaders and of the soldiers of
fortune being over, Lindores followed the fashion of his
time. He had made all his arrangements for his tour, which
his father did not oppose. On the contrary, Lord Gowrie
encouraged all those plans, though with an air of melancholy
indulgence which his son could not understand. "It will
do you good," he said, with a sigh. "Yes, yes, my
boy; the best thing for you." This, no doubt, was true
enough; but there was an implied feeling that the young man
would require something to do him good that he would want
the soothing of change and the gratification of his wishes,
as one might speak of a convalescent or the victim of some
calamity. This tone puzzled Lindores, who, though he thought
it a fine thing to travel and acquire information, was as
scornful of the idea of being done good to as is natural to
any fine young fellow fresh from Oxford and the triumphs of
the Union. But he reflected that the old school had its own
way of treating things, and was satisfied. All was settled
accordingly for this journey, before he came home to go
through the ceremonial performances of the coming of age,
the dinner of the tenantry, the speeches, the
congratulations, his father's banquet, his mother's ball. It
was in summer, and the country was as gay as all the
entertainments that were to be given in his honour. His
friend who was going to accompany him on his tour, as he had
accompanied him through a considerable portion of his life
Almeric Ffarrington, a young man of the same aspirations
came up to Scotland with him for these festivities. And as
they rushed through the night on the Great Northern Railway,
in the intervals of two naps, they had a scrap of
conversation as to these birthday glories. "It will be
a bore, but it will not last long," said Lindores. They
were both of the opinion that anything that did not produce
information or promote culture was a bore.
"But is there not a revelation to be
made to you, among all the other things you have to go
through?" said Ffarrington. "Have not you to be
introduced to the secret chamber, and all that sort of
thing? I should like to be of the party there,
"Ah," said the heir, "I had
forgotten that part of it," which, however, was not the
case. "Indeed I don't know if I am to be told. Even
family dogmas are shaken nowadays."
"Oh, I should insist on that," said
Ffarrington, lightly. "It is not many who have the
chance of paying such a visit better than Home and all
the mediums. I should insist upon that."
"I have no reason to suppose that it has
any connection with Home or the mediums," said
Lindores, slightly nettled. He was himself an esprit
fort; but a mystery in one's own family is not like
vulgar mysteries. He liked it to be respected.
"Oh, no offence," said his
companion. "I have always thought that a railway train
would be a great chance for the spirits. If one was to show
suddenly in that vacant seat beside you, what a triumphant
proof of their existence that would be! but they don't take
advantage of their opportunities."
Lindores could not tell what it was that made
him think at that moment of a portrait he had seen in a back
room at the castle of old Earl Robert, the wicked Earl. It
was a bad portrait a daub a copy made by an amateur of
the genuine portrait, which, out of horror of Earl Robert
and his wicked ways, had been removed by some intermediate
lord from its place in the gallery. Lindores had never seen
the original nothing but this daub of a copy. Yet somehow
this face occurred to him by some strange link of
association seemed to come into his eyes as his friend
spoke. A slight shiver ran over him. It was strange. He made
no reply to Ffarrington, but he set himself to think how it
could be that the latent presence in his mind of some
anticipation of this approaching disclosure, touched into
life by his friend's suggestion, should have called out of
his memory a momentary realisation of the acknowledged
magician of the family. This sentence is full of long words;
but unfortunately long words are required in such a case.
And the process was very simple when you traced it out. It
was the clearest case of unconscious cerebration. He shut
his eyes by way of securing privacy while he thought it out;
and being tired, and not at all alarmed by his unconscious
cerebration, before he opened them again fell fast asleep.
And his birthday, which was the day following
his arrival at Glenlyon, was a very busy day. He had not
time to think of anything but the immediate occupations of
the moment. Public and private greetings, congratulations,
offerings, poured upon him. The Gowries were popular in this
generation, which was far from being usual in the family.
Lady Gowrie was kind and generous, with that kindness which
comes from the heart, and which is the only kindness likely
to impress the keen-sighted popular judgment; and Lord
Gowrie had but little of the equivocal reputation of his
predecessors. They could be splendid now and then on great
occasions, though in general they were homely enough; all
which the public likes. It was a bore, Lindores said; but
yet the young man did not dislike the honours, and the
adulation, and all the hearty speeches and good wishes. It
is sweet to a young man to feel himself the centre of all
hopes. It seemed very reasonable to him very natural
that he should be so, and that the farmers should feel a
pride of anticipation in thinking of his future speeches in
Parliament. He promised to them with the sincerest good
faith that he would not disappoint their expectations
that he would feel their interest in him an additional spur.
What so natural as that interest and these expectations? He
was almost solemnised by his own position so young,
looked up to by so many people so many hopes depending on
him; and yet it was quite natural. His father, however, was
still more solemnised than Lindores and this was strange,
to say the least. His face grew graver and graver as the day
went on, till it almost seemed as if he were dissatisfied
with his son's popularity, or had some painful thought
weighing on his mind. He was restless and eager for the
termination of the dinner, and to get rid of his guests; and
as soon as they were gone, showed an equal anxiety that his
son should retire too. "Go to bed at once, as a favour
to me," Lord Gowrie said. "You will have a great
deal of fatigue to-morrow." "You need not be
afraid for me, sir," said Lindores, half affronted; but
he obeyed, being tired. He had not once thought of the
secret to be disclosed to him, through all that long day.
But when he woke suddenly with a start in the middle of the
night, to find the candles all lighted in his room, and his
father standing by his bedside, Lindores instantly thought
of it, and in a moment felt that the leading event the
chief incident of all that had happened was going to take
LORD GOWRIE was very grave, and very
pale. He was standing with his hand on his son's shoulder to
wake him; his dress was unchanged from the moment they had
parted. And the sight of this formal costume was very
bewildering to the young man as he started up in his bed.
But next moment he seemed to know exactly how it was, and,
more than that, to have known it all his life. Explanation
seemed unnecessary. At any other moment, in any other place,
a man would be startled to be suddenly woke up in the middle
of the night. But Lindores had no such feeling; he did not
even ask a question, but sprang up, and fixed his eyes,
taking in all the strange circumstances, on his father's
"Get up, my boy," said Lord Gowrie,
"and dress as quickly as you can; it is full time. I
have lighted your candles, and your things are all ready.
You have had a good long sleep."
Even now he did not ask, What is it? as under
any other circumstances he would have done. He got up
without a word, with an impulse of nervous speed and
rapidity of movement such as only excitement can give, and
dressed himself, his father helping him silently. It was a
curious scene: the room gleaming with lights, the silence,
the hurried toilet, the stillness of deep night all around.
The house, though so full, and with the echoes of festivity
but just over, was quiet as if there was not a creature
within it more quiet, indeed, for the stillness of
vacancy is not half so impressive as the stillness of hushed
and slumbering life.
Lord Gowrie went to the table when this first
step was over, and poured out a glass of wine from a bottle
which stood there, a rich, golden-coloured, perfumy wine,
which sent its scent through the room. "You will want
all your strength," he said; "take this before you
go. It is the famous Imperial Tokay; there is only a little
left, and you will want all your strength."
Lindores took the wine; he had never drunk
any like it before, and the peculiar fragrance remained in
his mind, as perfumes so often do, with a whole world of
association in them. His father's eyes dwelt upon him with a
melancholy sympathy. "You are going to encounter the
greatest trial of your life," he said; and taking the
young man's hand into his, felt his pulse. "It is
quick, but it is quite firm, and you have had a good long
sleep." Then he did what it needs a great deal of
pressure to induce an Englishman to do, he kissed his son
on the cheek. "God bless you!" he said,
faltering. "Come, now, everything is ready,
He took up in his hand a small lamp, which he
had apparently brought with him, and led the way. By this
time Lindores began to feel himself again, and to wake to
the consciousness of all his own superiorities and
enlightenments. The simple sense that he was one of the
members of a family with a mystery, and that the moment of
his personal encounter with this special power of darkness
had come, had been the first thrilling, overwhelming
thought. But now as he followed his father, Lindores began
to remember that he himself was not altogether like other
men; that there was that in him which would make it natural
that he should throw some light, hitherto unthought of, upon
this carefully-preserved darkness. What secret even there
might be in it secret of hereditary tendency, of psychic
force, of mental conformation, or of some curious
combination of circumstances at once more and less potent
than these it was for him to find out. He gathered all
his forces about him, reminded himself of modern
enlightenment, and bade his nerves be steel to all vulgar
horrors. He, too, felt his own pulse as he followed his
father. To spend the night perhaps amongst the skeletons of
that old-world massacre, and to repent the sins of his
ancestors to be brought within the range of some optical
illusion believed in hitherto by all the generations, and
which, no doubt, was of a startling kind, or his father
would not look so serious, any of these he felt himself
quite strong to encounter. His heart and spirit rose. A
young man has but seldom the opportunity of distinguishing
himself so early in his career; and his was such a chance as
occurs to very few. No doubt it was something that would be
extremely trying to the nerves and imagination. He called up
all his powers to vanquish both. And along with this call
upon himself to exertion, there was the less serious impulse
of curiosity: he would see at last what the Secret Chamber
was, where it was, how it fitted into the labyrinths of the
old house. This he tried to put in its due place as a most
interesting object. He said to himself that he would
willingly have gone a long journey at any time to be present
at such an exploration; and there is no doubt that in other
circumstances a secret chamber, with probably some
unthought-of historical interest in it, would have been a
very fascinating discovery. He tried very hard to excite
himself about this; but it was curious how fictitious he
felt the interest, and how conscious he was that it was an
effort to feel any curiosity at all on the subject. The fact
was, that the Secret Chamber was entirely secondary
thrown back, as all accessories are, by a more pressing
interest. The overpowering thought of what was in it drove
aside all healthy, natural curiosity about itself.
It must not be supposed, however, that the
father and son had a long way to go to have time for all
these thoughts. Thoughts travel at lightning speed, and
there was abundant leisure for this between the time they
had left the door of Lindores' room and gone down the
corridor, no further off than to Lord Gowrie's own chamber,
naturally one of the chief rooms of the house. Nearly
opposite this, a few steps further on, was a little
neglected room devoted to lumber, with which Lindores had
been familiar all his life. Why this nest of old rubbish,
dust, and cob-webs should be so near the bedroom of the head
of the house had been a matter of surprise to many people
to the guests who saw it while exploring, and to each new
servant in succession who planned an attack upon its ancient
stores, scandalised by finding it to have been neglected by
their predecessors. All their attempts to clear it out had,
however, been resisted, nobody could tell how, or indeed
thought it worth while to inquire. As for Lindores, he had
been used to the place from his childhood, and therefore
accepted it as the most natural thing in the world. He had
been in and out a hundred times in his play. And it was
here, he remembered suddenly, that he had seen the bad
picture of Earl Robert which had so curiously come into his
eyes on his journeying here, by a mental movement which he
had identified at once as unconscious cerebration. The first
feeling in his mind, as his father went to the open door of
this lumberroom, was a mixture of amusement and surprise.
What was he going to pick up there? some old pentacle, some
amulet or scrap of antiquated magic to act as armour against
the evil one? But Lord Gowrie, going on and setting down the
lamp on the table, turned round upon his son with a face of
agitation and pain which barred all further amusement: he
grasped him by the hand, crushing it between his own.
"Now my boy, my dear son," he said, in tones that
were scarcely audible. His countenance was full of the
dreary pain of a looker-on one who has no share in the
excitement of personal danger, but has the more terrible
part of watching those who are in deadliest peril. He was a
powerful man, and his large form shook with emotion; great
beads of moisture stood upon his forehead. An old sword with
a cross handle lay upon a dusty chair among other dusty and
battered relics. "Take this with you," he said, in
the same inaudible, breathless way whether as a weapon,
whether as a religious symbol, Lindores could not guess. The
young man took it mechanically. His father pushed open a
door which it seemed to him he had never seen before, and
led him into another vaulted chamber. Here even the limited
powers of speech Lord Gowrie had retained seemed to forsake
him, and his voice became a mere hoarse murmur in his
throat. For want of speech he pointed to another door in the
further corner of this small vacant room, gave him to
understand by a gesture that he was to knock there, and then
went back into the lumber-room. The door into this was left
open, and a faint glimmer of the lamp shed light into this
little intermediate place this debatable land between the
seen and the unseen. In spite of himself, Lindores' heart
began to beat. He made a breathless pause, feeling his head
go round. He held the old sword in his hand, not knowing
what it was. Then, summoning all his courage, he went
forward and knocked at the closed door. His knock was not
loud, but it seemed to echo all over the silent house. Would
everybody hear and wake, and rush to see what had happened?
This caprice of imagination seized upon him, ousting all the
firmer thoughts, the steadfast calm of mind with which he
ought to have encountered the mystery. Would they all rush
in, in wild déshabille, in terror
and dismay, before the door opened? How long it was of
opening! He touched the panel with his hand again. This
time there was no delay. In a moment, as if thrown suddenly
open by some one within, the door moved. It opened just wide
enough to let him enter, stopping half-way as if some one
invisible held it, wide enough for welcome, but no more.
Lindores stepped across the threshold with a beating heart.
What was he about to see? the skeletons of the murdered
victims? a ghostly charnel-house full of bloody traces of
crime? He seemed to be hurried and pushed in as he made that
step. What was this world of mystery into which he was
plunged what was it he saw?
He saw nothing except what was
agreeable enough to behold, an antiquated room hung with
tapestry, very old tapestry of rude design, its colours
faded into softness and harmony; between its folds here and
there a panel of carved wood, rude too in design, with
traces of half-worn gilding; a table covered with strange
instruments, parchments, chemical tubes, and curious
machinery, all with a quaintness of form and dimness of
material that spoke of age. A heavy old velvet cover, thick
with embroidery faded almost out of all colour, was on the
table; on the wall above it, something that looked like a
very old Venetian mirror, the glass so dim and crusted that
it scarcely reflected at all, on the floor an old soft
Persian carpet, worn into a vague blending of all colours.
This was all that he thought he saw. His heart, which had
been thumping so loud as almost to choke him, stopped that
tremendous upward and downward motion like a steam piston;
and he grew calm. Perfectly still, dim, unoccupied: yet not
so dim either; there was no apparent source of light, no
windows, curtains of tapestry drawn everywhere no lamp
visible, no fire and yet a kind of strange light which
made everything quite clear. He looked round, trying to
smile at his terrors, trying to say to himself that it was
the most curious place he had ever seen that he must show
Ffarrington some of that tapestry that he must really
bring away a panel of that carving, when he suddenly saw
that the door was shut by which he had entered nay, more
than shut, undiscernible, covered like all the rest of the
walls by that strange tapestry. At this his heart began to
beat again in spite of him. He looked round once more, and
woke up to more vivid being with a sudden start. Had his
eyes been incapable of vision on his first entrance?
Unoccupied? Who was that in the great chair?
It seemed to Lindores that he had seen
neither the chair nor the man when he came in. There they
were, however, solid and unmistakable; the chair carved like
the panels, the man seated in front of the table. He looked
at Lindores with a calm and open gaze, inspecting him. The
young man's heart seemed in his throat fluttering like a
bird, but he was brave, and his mind made one final effort
to break this spell. He tried to speak, labouring with a
voice that would not sound, and with lips too parched to
form a word. "I see how it is," was what he wanted
to say. It was Earl Robert's face that was looking at him;
and startled as he was, he dragged forth his philosophy to
support him. What could it be but optical delusions,
unconscious cerebration, occult seizure by the impressed and
struggling mind of this one countenance? But he could not
hear himself speak any word as he stood convulsed,
struggling with dry lips and choking voice.
The Appearance smiled, as if knowing his
thoughts not unkindly, not malignly with a certain
amusement mingled with scorn. Then he spoke, and the sound
seemed to breathe through the room not like any voice that
Lindores had ever heard, a kind of utterance of the place,
like the rustle of the air or the ripple of the sea.
"You will learn better tonight: this is no phantom of
your brain; it is I."
"In God's name," cried the young
man in his soul; he did not know whether the words ever got
into the air or not, if there was any air; "in God's
name, who are you?"
The figure rose as if coming to him to reply;
and Lindores, overcome by the apparent approach, struggled
into utterance. A cry came from him he heard it this time
and even in his extremity felt a pang the more to hear
the terror in his own voice. But he did not flinch, he stood
desperate, all his strength concentrated in the act; he
neither turned nor recoiled. Vaguely gleaming through his
mind came the thought that to be thus brought in contact
with the unseen was the experiment to be most desired on
earth, the final settlement of a hundred questions; but his
faculties were not sufficiently under command to entertain
it. He only stood firm, that was all.
And the figure did not approach him; after a
moment it subsided back again into the chair subsided,
for no sound, not the faintest, accompanied its movements.
It was the form of a man of middle age, the hair white, but
the beard only crisped with grey, the features those of the
picture a familiar face, more or less like all the
Randolphs, but with an air of domination and power
altogether unlike that of the race. He was dressed in a long
robe of dark colour, embroidered with strange lines and
angles. There was nothing repellent or terrible in his air
nothing except the noiselessness, the calm, the absolute
stillness, which was as much in the place as in him, to keep
up the involuntary trembling of the beholder. His expression
was full of dignity and thoughtfulness, and not malignant or
unkind. He might have been the kindly patriarch of the
house, watching over its fortunes in a seclusion that he had
chosen. The pulses that had been beating in Lindores were
stilled. What was his panic for? A gleam even of
self-ridicule took possession of him, to be standing there
like an absurd hero of antiquated romance with the rusty,
dusty sword good for nothing, surely not adapted for use
against this noble old magician in his hand
"You are right," said the voice,
once more answering his thoughts; "what could you do
with that sword against me, young Lindores? Put it by. Why
should my children meet me like an enemy? You are my flesh
and blood. Give me your hand."
A shiver ran through the young man's frame.
The hand that was held out to him was large and shapely and
white, with a straight line across the palm a family
token upon which the Randolphs prided themselves a
friendly hand; and the face smiled upon him, fixing him with
those calm, profound, blue eyes. "Come," said the
voice. The word seemed to fill the place, melting upon him
from every corner, whispering round him with softest
persuasion. He was lulled and calmed in spite of himself.
Spirit or no spirit, why should not he accept this proferred
courtesy? What harm could come of it? The chief thing that
retained him was the dragging of the old sword, heavy and
useless, which he held mechanically, but which some internal
feeling he could not tell what prevented him from
putting down. Superstitition, was it?
"Yes, that is superstition," said
his ancestor, serenely; "put it down and come."
"You know my thoughts," said
Lindores; "I did not speak."
"Your mind spoke, and spoke justly. Put
down that emblem of brute force and superstition together.
Here it is the intelligence that is supreme. Come."
Lindores stood doubtful. He was calm; the
power of thought was restored to him. If this benevolent
venerable patriarch was all he seemed, why his father's
terror? why the secrecy in which his being was involved? His
own mind, though calm, did not seem to act in the usual way.
Thoughts seemed to be driven across it as by a wind. One of
these came to him suddenly now
"How there looked him in the face,
An angel beautiful and bright,
And how he knew it was a fiend."
The words were not ended, when Earl Robert
replied suddenly with impatience in his voice, "Fiends
are of the fancy of men; like angels and other follies. I am
your father. You know me; and you are mine, Lindores. I have
power beyond what you can understand; but I want flesh and
blood to reign and to enjoy. Come, Lindores!"
He put out his other hand. The action, the
look, were those of kindness, almost of longing, and the
face was familiar, the voice was that of the race.
Supernatural! was it supernatural that this man should live
here shut up for ages? and why? and how? Was there any
explanation of it? The young man's brain began to reel. He
could not tell which was real the life he had left half
an hour ago, or this. He tried to look round him, but could
not; his eyes were caught by those other kindred eyes, which
seemed to dilate and deepen as he looked at them, and drew
him with a strange compulsion. He felt himself yielding,
swaying towards the strange being who thus invited him. What
might happen if he yielded? And he could not turn away, he
could not tear himself from the fascination of those eyes.
With a sudden strange impulse which was half despair and
half a bewildering half-conscious desire to try one potency
against another, he thrust forward the cross of the old
sword between him and those appealing hands. "In the
name of God!" he said.
Lindores never could tell whether it was that
he himself grew faint, and that the dimness of swooning came
into his eyes after this violence and strain of emotion, or
if it was his spell that worked. But there was an
instantaneous change. Everything swam around him for the
moment, a giddiness and blindness seized him, and he saw
nothing but the vague outlines of the room, empty as when he
entered it. But gradually his consciousness came back, and
he found himself standing on the same spot as before,
clutching the old sword, and gradually, as though a dream,
recognised the same figure emerging out of the mist which
was it solely in his own eyes? had enveloped everything.
But it was no longer in the same attitude. The hands which
had been stretched out to him were busy now with some of the
strange instruments on the table, moving about, now in the
action of writing, now as if managing the keys of a
telegraph. Lindores felt that his brain was all atwist and
set wrong; but he was still a human being of his century. He
thought of the telegraph with a keen thrill of curiosity in
the midst of his reviving sensations. What communication
was this which was going on before his eyes? The magician
worked on. He had his face turned towards his victim, but
his hands moved with unceasing activity. And Lindores, as he
grew accustomed to the position, began to weary to feel
like a neglected suitor waiting for an audience. To be wound
up to such a strain of feeling, then left to wait, was
intolerable; impatience seized upon him. What circumstances
can exist, however horrible, in which a human being will not
feel impatience? He made a great many efforts to speak
before he could succeed. It seemed to him that his body felt
more fear than he did that his muscles were contracted,
his throat parched, his tongue refusing its office, although
his mind was unaffected and undismayed. At last he found an
utterance in spite of all resistance of his flesh and blood.
"Who are you?" he said hoarsely.
"You that live here and oppress this house?"
The vision raised its eyes full upon him,
with again that strange shadow of a smile, mocking yet not
unkind. "Do you remember me," he said, "on
your journey here?"
"That was a delusion." The young
man gasped for breath.
"More like that you are a delusion. You
have lasted but one-and-twenty years, and I for
"How? For centuries and why? Answer
me are you man or demon?" cried Lindores, tearing
the words as he felt out of his own throat. "Are you
living or dead?"
The magician looked at him with the same
intense gaze as before. "Be on my side, and you shall
know everything, Lindores. I want one of my own race. Others
I could have in plenty; but I want you. A Randolph,
a Randolph! and you. Dead! do I seem dead? You
shall have everything more than dreams can give if you
will be on my side."
Can he give what he has not? was the thought
that ran through the mind of Lindores. But he could not
speak it. Something that choked and stifled him was in his
"Can I give what I have not? I have
everything power, the one thing worth having; and you
shall have more than power, for you are young my son!
To argue was natural, and gave the young man
strength. "Is this life," he said, "here?
What is all your power worth here? To sit for ages, and
make a race unhappy?"
A momentary convulsion came across the still
face. "You scorn me", he cried, with an appearance
of emotion, "because you do not understand how I move
the world. Power! 'Tis more than fancy can grasp. And you
shall have it!" said the wizard, with what looked like
a show of enthusiasm. He seemed to come nearer, to
grow larger. He put forth his hand again, this time so close
that it seemed impossible to escape. And a crowd of wishes
seemed to rush upon the mind of Lindores. What harm to try
if this might be true? To try what it meant perhaps
nothing, delusions, vain show, and then there could be no
harm; or perhaps there was knowledge to be had, which was
power. Try, try, try! the air buzzed about him. The room
seemed full of voices urging him. His bodily frame rose into
a tremendous whirl of excitement, his veins seemed to swell
to bursting, his lips seemed to force a yes, in spite of
him, quivering as they came apart. The hiss of the s
seemed in his ears. He changed it into the name which was a
spell too, and cried, "Help me, God!" not knowing
Then there came another pause he felt as
if he had been dropped from something that had held him, and
had fallen, and was faint. The excitement had been more than
he could bear. Once more everything swam around him, and he
did not know where he was. Had he escaped altogether? was
the first waking wonder of consciousness in his mind. But
when he could think and see again, he was still in the same
spot, surrounded by the old curtains and the carved panels
but alone. He felt, too, that he was able to move, but the
strangest dual consciousness was in him throughout all the
rest of his trial. His body felt to him as a frightened
horse feels to a traveller at night a thing separate from
him, more frightened than he was starting aside at every
step, seeing more than its master. His limbs shook with fear
and weakness, almost refusing to obey the action of his
will, trembling under him with jerks aside when he compelled
himself to move. The hair stood upright on his head every
finger trembled as with palsy his lips, his eyelids,
quivered with nervous agitation. But his mind was strong,
stimulated to a desperate calm. He dragged himself round the
room, he crossed the very spot where the magician had been
all was vacant, silent, clear. Had he vanquished the
enemy? This thought came into his mind with an involuntary
triumph. The old strain of feeling came back. Such efforts
might be produced, perhaps, only by imagination, by
excitement, by delusion
Lindores looked up, by a sudden attraction he
could not tell what: and the blood suddenly froze in his
veins that had been so boiling and fermenting. Some one was
looking at him from the old mirror on the wall. A face not
human and life-like, like that of the inhabitant of this
place, but ghostly and terrible, like one of the dead; and
while he looked, a crowd of other faces came behind, all
looking at him, some mournfully, some with a menace in their
terrible eyes. The mirror did not change, but within its
small dim space seemed to contain an innumerable company,
crowded above and below, all with one gaze at him. His lips
dropped apart with a gasp of horror. More and more and more!
He was standing close by the table when this crowd came.
Then all at once there was laid upon him a cold hand. He
turned; close to his side, brushing him with his robe,
holding him fast by the arm, sat Earl Robert in his great
chair. A shriek came from the young man's lips. He seemed to
hear it echoing away into unfathomable distance. The cold
touch penetrated to his very soul.
"Do you try spells upon me, Lindores?
That is a tool of the past. You shall have something better
to work with. And are you so sure of whom you call upon? If
there is such a one, why should He help you who never called
on Him before?"
Lindores could not tell if these words were
spoken; it was a communication rapid as the thoughts in the
mind. And he felt as if something answered that was not all
himself. He seemed to stand passive and hear the argument.
"Does God reckon with a man in trouble, whether he has
ever called to Him before? I call now" (now he felt it
was himself that said): "go, evil spirit! go, dead
and cursed! go, in the name of God!"
He felt himself flung violently against the
wall. A faint laugh, stifled in the throat, and followed by
a groan, rolled round the room; the old curtains seemed to
open here and there, and flutter, as if with comings and
goings. Lindores leaned with his back against the wall, and
all his senses restored to him. He felt blood trickle down
his neck; and in this contact once more with the physical,
his body, in its madness of fright, grew manageable. For the
first time he felt wholly master of himself. Though the
magician was standing in his place, a great, majestic,
appalling figure, he did not shrink. "Liar!" he
cried, in a voice that rang and echoed as in natural air
"clinging to miserable life like a worm like a
reptile; promising all things, having nothing, but this den,
unvisited by the light of day. Is this your power your
superiority to men who die? is it for this that you oppress
a race, and make a house unhappy? I vow, in God's name, your
reign is over! You and your secret shall last no more."
There was no reply. But Lindores felt his
terrible ancestor's eyes getting once more that mesmeric
mastery over him which had already almost overcome his
powers. He must withdraw his own, or perish. He had a human
horror of turning his back upon that watchful adversary: to
face him seemed the only safety; but to face him was to be
conquered. Slowly, with a pang indescribable, he tore
himself from that gaze: it seemed to drag his eyes out of
their sockets, his heart out of his bosom. Resolutely, with
the daring of desperation, he turned round to the spot where
he entered the spot where no door was, hearing already
in anticipation the step after him feeling the grip that
would crush and smother his exhausted life but too
desperate to care.
HOW wonderful is the blue dawning of
the new day before the sun! not rosy-fingered, like that Aurora
of the Greeks who comes later with all her wealth; but still,
dreamy, wonderful, stealing out of the unseen, abashed by
the solemnity of the new birth. When anxious watchers see
that first brightness come stealing upon the waiting skies,
what mingled relief and renewal of misery is in it! another
long day to toil through yet another sad night over! Lord
Gowrie sat among the dust and cobwebs, his lamp flaring idly
into the blue morning. He had heard his son's human voice,
though nothing more; and he expected to have him brought out
by invisible hands, as had happened to himself, and left
lying in long deathly swoon outside that mystic door. This
was how it had happened to heir after heir, as told from
father to son, one after another, as the secret came down.
One or two bearers of the name Lindores had never recovered;
most of them had been saddened and subdued for life. He
remembered sadly the freshness of existence which had never
come back to himself; the hopes that had never blossomed
again; the assurance with which never more he had been able
to go about the world. And now his son would be as himself
the glory gone out of his living his ambitions, his
aspirations wrecked. He had not been endowed as his boy was
he had been a plain, honest man, and nothing more; but
experience and life had given him wisdom enough to smile by
times at the coquetries of mind in which Lindores indulged.
Were they all over now, those freaks of young intelligence,
those enthusiasms of the soul? The curse of the house had
come upon him the magnetism of that strange presence,
ever living, ever watchful, present in all the family
history. His heart was sore for his son; and yet along with
this there was a certain consolation to him in having
henceforward a partner in the secret some one to whom he
could talk of it as he had not been able to talk since his
own father died. Almost all the mental struggles which
Gowrie had known had been connected with this mystery; and
he had been obliged to hide them in his bosom to conceal
them even when they rent him in two. Now he had a partner in
his trouble. This was what he was thinking as he sat through
the night. How slowly the moments passed! He was not aware
of the daylight coming in. After a while even thought got
suspended in listening. Was not the time nearly over? He
rose and began to pace about the encumbered space, which was
but a step or two in extent. There was an old cupboard in
the wall, in which there were restoratives pungent
essences and cordials, and fresh water which he had himself
brought everything was ready; presently the ghastly body
of his boy, half dead, would be thrust forth into his care.
But this was not how it happened. While he
waited, so intent that his whole frame seemed to be capable
of hearing, he heard the closing of the door, boldly shut
with a sound that rose in muffled echoes through the house,
and Lindores himself appeared, ghastly indeed as a dead man,
but walking upright and firmly, the lines of his face drawn,
and his eyes staring. Lord Gowrie uttered a cry. He was more
alarmed by this unexpected return than by the helpless
prostration of the swoon which he had expected. He recoiled
from his son as if he too had been a spirit.
"Lindores!" he cried; was it Lindores, or some one
else in his place? The boy seemed as if he did not see him.
He went straight forward to where the water stood on the
dusty table, and took a great draught, then turned to the
door. "Lindores!" said his father, in miserable
anxiety; "don't you know me?" Even then the young
man only half looked at him, and put out a hand almost as
cold as the hand that had clutched himself in the Secret
Chamber; a faint smile came upon his face. "Don't stay
here," he whispered; "come! come!"
Lord Gowrie drew his son's arm within his
own, and felt the thrill through and through him of nerves
strained beyond mortal strength. He could scarcely keep up
with him as he stalked along the corridor to his room,
stumbling as if he could not see, yet swift as an arrow.
When they reached his room he turned and closed and locked
the door, then laughed as he staggered to the bed.
"That will not keep him out, will it?" he said.
"Lindores," said his father,
"I expected to find you unconscious. I am almost more
frightened to find you like this. I need not ask if you have
seen him "
"Oh, I have seen him. The old liar!
Father, promise to expose him, to turn him out promise to
clear out that accursed old nest! It is our own fault. Why
have we left such a place shut out from the eye of day?
Isn't there something in the Bible about those who do evil
hating the light?"
"Lindores! you don't often quote the
"No, I suppose not; but there is more
truth in many things than we thought."
"Lie down," said the anxious
father. "Take some of this wine try to sleep."
"Take it away; give me no more of that
devil's drink. Talk to me that's better. Did you go
through it all the same, poor papa? and hold me fast. You
are warm you are honest!" he cried. He put forth his
hands over his father's, warming them with the contact. He
put his cheek like a child against his father's arm. He gave
a faint laugh, with the tears in his eyes. "Warm and
honest," he repeated. "Kind flesh and blood! and
did you go through it all the same?"
"My boy!" cried the father, feeling
his heart glow and swell over the son who had been parted
from him for years by that development of young manhood and
ripening intellect which so often severs and loosens the
ties of home. Lord Gowrie had felt that Lindores half
despised his simple mind and duller imagination; but this
childlike clinging overcame him, and tears stood in his
eyes. "I fainted, I suppose. I never knew how it ended.
They made what they liked of me. But you, my brave boy, you
came out of your own will."
Lindores shivered. "I fled!" he
said. "No honour in that. I had not courage to face him
longer. I will tell you by-and-by. But I want to know about
What an ease it was to the father to speak!
For years and years this had been shut up in his breast. It
had made him lonely in the midst of his friends.
"Thank God," he said, "that I
can speak to you, Lindores. Often and often I have been
tempted to tell your mother. But why should I make her
miserable? She knows there is something; she knows when I
see him, but she knows no more."
"When you see him?" Lindores raised
himself, with a return of his first ghastly look, in his
bed. Then he raised his clenched fist wildly, and shook it
in the air. "Vile devil, coward, deceiver!"
"Oh hush, hush, hush, Lindores! God help
us! what troubles you may bring!"
"And God help me, whatever troubles I
bring," said the young man. "I defy him, father.
An accursed being like that must be less, not more powerful,
than we are with God to back us. Only stand by me: stand
by me "
"Hush, Lindores! You don't feel it yet
never to get out of hearing of him all your life! He will
make you pay for it if not now, after; when you remember
he is there; whatever happens, knowing everything! But I
hope it will not be so bad with you as with me, my poor boy.
God help you indeed if it is, for you have more imagination
and more mind. I am able to forget him sometimes when I am
occupied when in the hunting-field, going across country.
But you are not a hunting man, my poor boy," said Lord
Gowrie, with a curious mixture of a regret, which was less
serious than the other. Then he lowered his voice.
"Lindores, this is what has happened to me since the
moment I gave him my hand."
"I did not give him my hand."
"You did not give him your hand? God
bless you, my boy! You stood out?" he cried, with tears
again rushing to his eyes; "and they say they say
but I don't know if there is any truth in it." Lord
Gowrie got up from his son's side, and walked up and down
with excited steps. "If there should be truth in it!
Many people think the whole thing is a fancy. If there
should be truth in it, Lindores!"
"In what, father?"
"They say, if he is once resisted his
power is broken once refused. You could stand
against him you! Forgive me, my boy, as I hope God will
forgive me, to have thought so little of His best
gifts," cried Lord Gowrie, coming back with wet eyes;
and stooping, he kissed his son's hand. "I thought you
would be more shaken by being more mind than body," he
said, humbly. "I thought if I could but have saved you
from the trial; and you are the conqueror!"
"Am I the conqueror? I think all my
bones are broken, father out of their sockets," said
the young man, in a low voice. "I think I shall go to
"Yes, rest, my boy. It is the best thing
for you," said the father, though with a pang of
Lindores fell back upon the pillow. He was so
pale that there were moments when the anxious watcher
thought him not sleeping but dead. He put his hand out
feebly, and grasped his father's hand. "Warm
honest," he said, with a feeble smile about his lips,
and fell asleep.
The daylight was full in the room, breaking
through shutters and curtains and mocking at the lamp that
still flared on the table. It seemed an emblem of the
disorders, mental and material, of this strange night; and,
as such, it affected the plain imagination of Lord Gowrie,
who would have fain got up to extinguish it, and whose mind
returned again and again, in spite of him, to this symptom
of disturbance. By-and-by, when Lindores' grasp relaxed, and
he got his hand free, he got up from his son's bedside, and
put out the lamp, putting it carefully out of the way. With
equal care he put away the wine from the table, and gave the
room its ordinary aspect, softly opening a window to let in
the fresh air of the morning. The park lay fresh in the
early sunshine, still, except for the twittering of the
birds, refreshed with dews, and shining in that soft
radiance of the morning which is over before mortal cares
are stirring. Never, perhaps, had Gowrie looked out upon the
beautiful world around his house without a thought of the
weird existence which was going on so near to him, which had
gone on for centuries, shut up out of sight of the sunshine.
The Secret Chamber had been present with him since ever he
saw it. He had never been able to get free of the spell of
it. He had felt himself watched, surrounded, spied upon, day
after day, since he was of the age of Lindores, and that was
thirty years ago. He turned it all over in his mind, as he
stood there and his son slept. It had been on his lips to
tell it all to his boy, who had now come to inherit the
enlightenment of his race. And it was a disappointment to
him to have it all forced back again, and silence imposed
upon him once more. Would he care to hear it when he woke?
would he not rather, as Lord Gowrie remembered to have done
himself, thrust the thought as far as he could away from
him, and endeavour to forget for the moment until the
time came when he would not be permitted to forget? He had
been like that himself, he recollected now. He had not
wished to hear his own father's tale. "I
remember," he said to himself; "I remember"
turning over everything in his mind if Lindores might
only be willing to hear the story when he woke! But then he
himself had not been willing when he was Lindores, and he
could understand his son, and could not blame him; but it
would be a disappointment. He was thinking this when he
heard Lindores' voice calling him. He went back hastily to
his bedside. It was strange to see him in his evening dress
with his worn face, in the fresh light of the morning, which
poured in at every crevice. "Does my mother know?"
said Lindores; "what will she think?"
"She knows something; she knows you have
some trial to go through. Most likely she will be praying
for us both; that's the way of women," said Lord
Gowrie, with the tremulous tenderness which comes into a
man's voice sometimes when he speaks of a good wife.
"I'll go and ease her mind, and tell her all is well
"Not yet. Tell me first," said the
young man, putting his hand upon his father's arm.
What an ease it was! "I was not so good
to my father," he thought to himself, with sudden
penitence for the long-past, long-forgotten fault, which,
indeed, he had never realised as a fault before. And then he
told his son what had been the story of his life how he
had scarcely ever sat alone without feeling, from some
corner of the room, from behind some curtain, those eyes
upon him; and how, in the difficulties of his life, that
secret inhabitant of the house had been present, sitting by
him and advising him. "Whenever there has been anything
to do: when there has been a question between two ways, all
in a moment I have seen him by me: I feel when he is coming.
It does not matter where I am here or anywhere as soon
as ever there is a question of family business; and always
he persuades me to the wrong way, Lindores. Sometimes I
yield to him, how can I help it? He makes everything so
clear; he makes wrong seem right. If I have done unjust
things in my day "
"You have not, father."
"I have: there were these Highland
people I turned out. I did not mean to do it, Lindores; but
he showed me that it would be better for the family. And my
poor sister that married Tweedside and was wretched all her
life. It was his doing, that marriage; he said she would be
rich, and so she was, poor thing, poor thing! and died of
it. And old Macalister's lease Lindores, Lindores! when
there is any business it makes my heart sick. I know he will
come, and advise wrong, and tell me something I will
"The thing to do is to decide
beforehand, that, good or bad, you will not take his
Lord Gowrie shivered. "I am not strong
like you, or clever; I cannot resist. Sometimes I repent in
time and don't do it; and then! But for your mother and you
children, there is many a day I would not have given a
farthing for my life."
"Father," said Lindores, springing
from his bed. "two of us together can do many things.
Give me your word to clear out this cursed den of darkness
this very day."
"Lindores, hush, hush, for the sake of
"I will not, for the sake of heaven!
Throw it open let everybody who likes see it make an
end of the secret pull down everything, curtains, walls.
What do you say? sprinkle holy water? Are you laughing at
"I did not speak," said Earl
Gowrie, growing very pale, and grasping his son's arm with
both his hands. "Hush, boy; do you think he does not
And then there was a low laugh close to them
so close that both shrank; a laugh no louder than a
"Did you laugh father?"
"No, Lindores." Lord Gowrie had his
eyes fixed. He was as pale as the dead. He held his son
tight for a moment; then his gaze and his grasp relaxed, and
he fell back feebly in a chair.
"You see!" he said; "whatever
we do it will be the same; we are under his power."
And then there ensued the blank pause with which baffled men
confront a hopeless situation. But at that moment the first
faint stirrings of the house a window being opened, a bar
undone, a movement of feet, and subdued voices became
audible in the stillness of the morning. Lord Gowrie roused
himself at once. "We must not be found like this,"
he said; "we must not show how we have spent the night.
It is over, thank God! and oh, my boy, forgive me! I am
thankful there are two of us to bear it; it makes the burden
lighter though I ask your pardon humbly for saying so. I
would have saved you if I could, Lindores."
"I don't wish to have been saved; but I
will not bear it. I will end it," the young man said,
with an oath out of which his emotion took all profanity.
His father said, "Hush, hush." With a look of
terror and pain, he left him; and yet there was a thrill of
tender pride in his mind. How brave the boy was! even after
he had been there. Could it be that this would all come to
nothing, as every other attempt to resist had done before?
"I suppose you know all about it now,
Lindores," said his friend Ffarrington, after
breakfast; "luckily for us who are going over the
house. What a glorious old place it is!"
"I don't think that Lindores enjoys the
glorious old place today," said another of the guests
under his breath. "How pale he is! He doesn't look as
if he had slept."
"I will take you over every nook where I
have ever been," said Lindores. He looked at his father
with almost command in his eyes. "Come with me, all of
you. We shall have no more secrets here."
"Are you mad?" said his father in
"Never mind," cried the young man.
"0h, trust me; I will do it with judgment. Is everybody
ready?" There was an excitement about him that half
frightened, half roused the party. They all rose, eager, yet
doubtful. His mother came to him and took his arm.
"Lindores! you will do nothing to vex
your father; don't make him unhappy. I don't know your
secrets, you two; but look, he has enough to bear."
"I want you to know our secrets, mother.
Why should we have secrets from you?"
"Why, indeed?" she said, with tears
in her eyes. "But, Lindores, my dearest boy, don't make
it worse for him."
"I give you my word, I will be
wary," he said; and she left him to go to his father,
who followed the party, with an anxious look upon his face.
"Are you coming, too?" he asked.
"I? No; I will not go: but trust him
trust the boy, John."
"He can do nothing; he will not be able
to do anything," he said.
And thus the guests set out on their round
the son in advance, excited and tremulous, the father
anxious and watchful behind. They began in the usual way,
with the old state-rooms and picture-gallery; and in a
short time the party had half forgotten that there was
anything unusual in the inspection. When, however, they were
half-way down the gallery, Lindores stopped short with an
air of wonder. "You have had it put back then?" he
said. He was standing in front of the vacant space where
Earl Robert's portrait ought to have been. "What is
it?" they all cried, crowding upon him, ready for any
marvel. But as there was nothing to be seen, the strangers
smiled among themselves. "Yes, to be sure, there is
nothing so suggestive as a vacant place," said a lady
who was of the party. "Whose portrait ought to be
there, Lord Lindores?"
He looked at his father, who made a slight
assenting gesture, then shook his head drearily.
"Who put it there?" Lindores said,
in a whisper.
"It is not there; but you and I see
it," said Lord Gowrie, with a sigh.
Then the strangers perceived that something
had moved the father and the son, and, notwithstanding their
eager curiosity, obeyed the dictates of politeness, and
dispersed into groups looking at the other pictures.
Lindores set his teeth and clenched his hands. Fury was
growing upon him not the awe that filled his father's
mind. "We will leave the rest of this to another
time," he cried, turning to the others, almost
fiercely. "Come, I will show you something more
striking now." He made no further pretence of going
systematically over the house. He turned and went straight
up-stairs, and along the corridor. "Are we going over
the bedrooms?" some one said. Lindores led the way
straight to the old lumber-room, a strange place for such a
gay party. The ladies drew their dresses about them. There
was not room for half of them. Those who could get in began
to handle the strange things that lay about, touching them
with dainty fingers, exclaiming how dusty they were. The
window was half blocked up by old armour and rusty weapons;
but this did not hinder the full summer daylight from
penetrating in a flood of light. Lindores went in with fiery
determination on his face. He went straight to the wall, as
if he would go through, then paused with a blank gaze.
"Where is the door?" he said.
"You are forgetting yourself," said
Lord Gowrie, speaking over the heads of the others.
"Lindores! you know very well there never was any door
there; the wall is very thick; you can see by the depth of
the window. There is no door there."
The young man felt it over with his hand. The
wall was smooth, and covered with the dust of ages. With a
groan he turned away. At this moment a suppressed laugh,
low, yet distinct, sounded close by him. "You
laughed?" he said, fiercely, to Ffarrington, striking
his hand upon his shoulder.
"I laughed! Nothing was farther from
my thoughts," said his friend, who was curiously
examining something that lay upon an old carved chair.
"Look here! what a wonderful sword, cross-hilted! Is it
an Andrea? What's the matter, Lindores?"
Lindores had seized it from his hands; he
dashed it against the wall with a suppressed oath. The two
or three people in the room stood aghast.
"Lindores!" his father said, in a
tone of warning. The young man dropped the useless weapon
with a groan. "Then God help us!" he said;
"but I will find another way."
"There is a very interesting room close
by," said Lord Gowrie, hastily "this way!
Lindores has been put out by some changes that have been
made without his knowledge," he said, calmly. "You
must not mind him. He is disappointed. He is perhaps too
much accustomed to have his own way."
But Lord Gowrie knew that no one believed
him. He took them to the adjoining room, and told them some
easy story of an apparition that was supposed to haunt it.
"Have you ever seen it?" the guests said,
pretending interest. "Not I; but we don't mind ghosts
in this house," he answered, with a smile. And then
they resumed their round of the old noble mystic house.
I cannot tell the reader what young Lindores has done to
carry out his pledged word and redeem his family. It may not
be known, perhaps, for another generation, and it will not
be for me to write that concluding chapter: but when, in the
ripeness of time, it can be narrated, no one will say that
the mystery of Gowrie Castle has been a vulgar horror,
though there are some who are disposed to think so now.