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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

Oaken doorways with singular carvings


style="text-align: justify;">'Kensington! Ah, to be sure. Well, I suppose your new house takes precedence of all other things for the present.'

'Not my _new_ house,' said Pitt. 'It is anything but that. There is nothing new about it but the master. I thought I should bring you back with me, mother; so I told Mrs. Bunce to have luncheon ready. As I said, she can cook a chop.'

By degrees the houses became thinner, as they drove on; grass and trees were again prominent; and it was in a region that looked at least half country that the carriage at last stopped. Indeed more than half country, for the city was certainly left behind. Everything was in fresh green; the air was mild and delicious; the place quiet. The carriage turned from the road and passed through an iron gateway and up a gravel sweep to the door of an old house, shaded by old trees and surrounded by a spread of velvety turf. The impression, as Betty descended from the carriage, was that here had been ages of dignified order and grave tranquillity. The green-sward was even and soft and of vivid freshness; the old trees were stately with their length of limb and great solid trunks; and the house?--

The house, towards which she turned, as if to ask questions of it, was of moderate size, built of stone, and so massively built as if it had been meant to stand for ever. That was seen at once in the thickness of the walls,

the strong oaken doorway, and the heavy window frames. But as soon as Betty set foot within the door she could almost have screamed with delight.

'Upon my word, very good! very well!' said Mr. Dallas, standing in the hall and reviewing it. And then, perceiving the presence of the servants, he checked himself and reviewed them.

'These are my uncle's faithful old friends, mother,' Pitt was saying; 'Mrs. Bunce, and Stephen Hill. Have you got something ready for travellers, Mrs. Bunce?'

Dignified order and grave tranquillity was the impression on Betty's mind again, as they were ushered into the dining-room. It was late, and the party sat down at once to table.

But Betty could hardly eat, for feasting her eyes. And when they went up-stairs to their rooms that feast still continued. The house was irregular, with rather small rooms and low ceilings; which itself was pleasant after the more commonplace regularity to which Miss Frere had been accustomed; and then it was full--all the rooms were full--of quaintness and beauty. Oak wainscottings, dark with time; oaken doorways with singular carvings; chimney-pieces, before which Betty stood in speechless delight and admiration; small-paned windows set in deep window niches; in one or two rooms dark draperies; but the late Mr. Strahan had not favoured anything that shut out the light, and in most of the house there were no curtains put up. And then, on the walls, in cupboards and presses, on tables and shelves, and in cabinets, there was an endless variety and wealth of treasures and curiosities. Pictures, bronzes, coins, old armour, old weapons, curiosities of historical value, others of natural production, others, still, of art; some of all these were very valuable and precious. To examine them must be the work of many days; it was merely the fact of their being there which Betty took in now, with a sense of the great riches of the new mental pasture-ground in which she found herself. She changed her dress in a kind of breathless mood; noticing as she did so the old-fashioned and aged furniture of her room. Aged, not infirm; the manufacture solid and strong as ever; the wood darkened by time, the patterns quaint, but to Betty's eye the more picturesque. Her apartment was a corner room, with one deep window on each of two sides; the look-out over a sunny landscape of grass, trees, and scattered buildings. On another side was a deep chimney-place, with curious wrought-iron fire-dogs. What a delightful adventure--or what a terrible adventure--was it which had brought her to this house! She would not think of that; she dressed and went down.

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