The Secret Chamber by Margaret Oliphant (1876)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror October 1, 2013
What is it like to be truly haunted? Haunted by another’s thoughts, haunted by mesmeric eyes watching your every step, haunted by sinister laughter that only you can hear.
It’s October 1st, the Horror Month. Begin here as Tales of Terror takes you through a month of Women in Horror. Have you read the works of Scottish born Margaret Oliphant? She produced over 90 novels and 200 stories. To her contemporaries, she was a literary giant and a pioneer in supernatural fiction. Today, she is unaccountably neglected.
A haunted Scottish castle, what could be better than to curl up with The Secret Chamber. Spend an hour here, maybe with a cup of hot Scottish tea or a glass of peaty Scotch over ice. Whatever your pleasure, come and listen to the tower bells chime as the moonlight strikes full at Gowrie Castle.
The Gowrie Castle stands with grey clustered turrets, labyrinths of hidden staircases, vaulted chambers, rich lawns and foliage, and a Scots family history fraught with rebellions and revenges. John Randolph (Lord Gowrie), his wife Lady Gowrie, and their son Lindores are endearing characters that you won’t easily forget. Young Lindores is man of Oxford education, ambitious, generous, and quiet charming. On the night of Lindores’ birthday celebration, when the festivities have finished and all guests have retired, Lindores’ father wakes him. Lindores opens his eyes to his bedroom gleaming with candles, bottle of wine, and an ominous silence.
“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.” Lord Gowrie went to the table 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.”
Lindores is shocked and puzzled. Before he goes? Where?
Lord Gowrie brings his son into the secret chamber. A rite of passage? Lindores bade his nerves be steel to all vulgar horrors.
What would you expect to reside in a secret chamber in a castle? Skeletons of murdered guests? Ghosts of family traitors? A phantom? Here’s a peek for you.
“How there looked him in the face,
An angel beautiful and bright,
And how he knew it was a fiend.”
Are fiends the fancy of mortal men or …?
Read The Secret Chamber online at Gaslight
Need more Oliphant stories? Try The Library Window at Gaslight
or the novella The Beleaguered City at Gutenberg.org
Images are from FromOldBooks.Org
This being the Halloween month, and this being my own “Woman in Horror month,” for Tales of Terror, please drop a line or two in the comment box. What did you think of Margaret Oliphant’s The Secret Chamber? Do you have an author or title you’d like to suggest for our reading this month? Thanks!
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