Daughter of Darkness
Edwina Noone | Signet Books | 1966 | 143 pages
Amanda Trent, a young University of London scholar, abandons her plans for a grand tour of Europe to accept a position as tutor to the adolescent daughter of the Lord of the Manor House at Walesly-Upon-Thames. Sir Percy Stafford and his daughter Karoleigh have lived alone, with their housekeeper Battle, in the great estate since Sir Percy’s wife fell to her death from the clock tower ten years previously. On her journey to her new position, Amanda’s coach picks up an unscheduled passenger, Sir Harry Allenwood, a landowner and neighbor to the Staffords. Sir Harry warns Amanda that the restless spirit of Sir Percy’s late wife haunts Walesly-Upon-Thames, her white-clad specter repeating her fateful climb up the clock tower’s staircase.
Sir Harry’s warning proved to be prescient; Amanda was awoken on her first night by the sound of eerie laughter just outside her bedroom door. Peeping through the spy-hole, she sees a wraithlike figure in white receding down the passageway. However, Amanda dismisses her fears with the light of the next morning, attributing her vision to the impact of ghastly tale on her impressionable mind, stressed after her long journey. She quickly develops a rapport with young Karoleigh, and finds herself attracted to the tormented Sir Percy, who believes that the “psychic residue” of his late wife lingers in the halls of Walesly.
Enjoying a rare moment alone with Sir Percy on the grounds of the estate, Amanda is nearly killed by a falling piece of masonry. Resting her nerves in her bedchamber, she falls victim to a mysterious illness, possibly inflicted by a poisonous glass of milk provided by the housekeeper. The ghostly visitations continue, and Amanda desperately tries to discover whether she is the target of a supernatural rival for Sir Percy’s affections, or some unknown earthly enemy.
Daughter of Darkness mixes some of the gothic staples—a young charge in a gloomy castle, a supernatural mystery, and a potential romantic interest between two rivals, one of whom could be responsible for the evil occurrences—into an atmospheric, if not original tale. The young heroine’s rationality is at odds with Sir Percy and his library full of occult books, with the paintings of his dead wife hanging as the backdrop to their struggle to understand the goings-on at Walesly. The story isn’t quite as tightly wound as the timepieces under Battle’s daily care, but its brisk pace does lead to the inevitable conclusion atop the clock tower.