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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

The brewhouse and the bakehouse


"We

are nearly home," said my Cousin Dorothy; and pointed with her whip.

"It is pleasant to hear such a word," I said: "for, as for me, I have none."

She said nothing to that; and I was a little ashamed to have said it; for nothing is easier than to touch a maid's heart by playing Othello to her Desdemona.

"I have no business to have said that, cousin," I went on presently: "for England is all home to me just now."

"I hope you will find it so, cousin," she said.

The country was pretty enough through which we rode; though in no ways wonderful. It was pasture-land for the most part, with woods here and there; and plenty of hollow ways (all of which were marked upon the map with great accuracy), by which drovers brought their sheep to the highway. I saw also a good many fields of corn. The hills were lowish, and ran in lines, with long valleys between; and there was one such on the right as we came to Hare Street, through which flowed a little stream, nearly dry in the summer.

The house itself was the greatest house in the village, and lay at the further end of it upon the right; sheltered from the road by limes, in the midst of which was the gateway, and the house twenty yards within. My Cousin Tom came up with us as we entered the village, and shewed me with a great deal of pride

his new iron gate just set up, with a twisted top.

"It is the finest little gate for ten miles round," he said, "and cost me near twenty pound."

We rode past the gate, however, into the yard just beyond; and here there was a great barking of dogs set up; and two or three men ran out. I helped my Cousin Dorothy from her horse; and then all three of us went through a side-door to the front of the house.

The house without was of timber and plaster, very solidly built, but in no way pretentious; and the plaster was stamped, in panels, with a kind of comb-pattern in half circles, peculiar, my cousin told me, to that part of the country. Within, it was very pleasant. There was a little passage as we came in, and to right and left lay the Great Chamber (as it was called), and the dining-room. Beyond the little passage was the staircase, panelled all the way up, with the instruments of the Passion and other emblems carved on a row of the panels; and at the foot of the staircase on the right lay a little parlour, very pretty, with hangings presenting the knights of the Holy Grail riding upon their Quest. Upon the left of the staircase, lay a paved hall, with a little pantry under the stairs, to the left, and the kitchens running out to the back; and opposite to them, enclosing a little grassed court, the brewhouse and the bakehouse. Behind all lay the kitchen gardens; and behind the brewhouse a row of old yews and a part of the lawn, that also ran before the house. The house was of three stories high, and contained about twenty rooms with the attics.

It is strange how some houses, upon a first acquaintance with them, seem like old friends; and how others, though one may have lived in them fifty years are never familiar to those who live in them. Now Hare Street House was one of the first kind. This very day that I first set eyes on it, it was as if I had lived there as a child. The sunlight streamed into the Great Chamber, and past the yews into the parlour; and upon the lawns outside; and the noise of the bees in the limes was as if an organ played softly; and it was all to me as if I had known it a hundred years.


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