+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

down, as I saw that I could pick my steps
among the pasture grass without making
myself unfit to be seen; and Randal, out of
pity for his steaming horse, wearied with the
hard struggle through the mud, thanked me
kindly, and helped me down with a springing

The pastures fell gradually down to the
lower land, shut in on either side by rows of
high elms, as if there had been a wide grand
avenue here in former times. Down the
grassy gorge we went, seeing the sun-set sky
at the end of the shadowed descent.
Suddenly we came to a long flight of steps.

"If you'll run down there, Miss, I'll go
round and meet you, and then you'd better
mount again, for my lady will like to see
you drive up to the house."

"Are we near the house?" said I, suddenly
checked by the idea.

"Down there, Miss!" replied he, pointing
with his whip to certain stacks of twisted
chimneys rising out of a group of trees,
in deep shadow against the crimson light,
and which lay just beyond a great square
lawn at the base of the steep slope of a
hundred yards, on the edge of which we

I went down the steps quietly enough. I
met Randal and the gig at the bottom; and,
falling into a side road to the left, we drove
sedately round, through the gateway, and
into the great court in front of the house.

The road by which we had come lay right
at the back.

Hanbury Court is a vast red-brick house;
at least, it is cased in part with red brick;
and the gate-house, and walls about the place
are of brick,—with stone facings at every
corner, and door, and window, such as you
see at Hampton Court. At the back are the
gables, and arched doorways, and stone
mullions, which show (so Lady Ludlow used to
tell us) that it was once a priory. There was
a prior's parlour, I know; only we called it
Mrs. Medlicott's room; and there was a
tithe barn as big as a church, and rows of
fish-ponds, all got ready for the monks'
fasting-days in old time. But all this I did
not see till afterwards. I hardly noticed,
this first night, the great Virginian Creeper
(said to have been the first planted in England
by one of my lady's ancestors) that half-
covered the front of the house. As I had
been unwilling to leave the guard of the
coach, so did I now feel unwilling to leave
Randal, a known friend of three hours. But
there was no help for it; in I must go; past
the grand-looking old gentleman holding the
door open for me, on into the great hall on
the right hand, into which the sun's last rays
were sending in glorious red light,—the
gentleman was now walking before me,—up
a step on to the dais, as I afterwards learnt
that it was called,—then again to the left,
through a series of sitting-rooms, opening
one out of another, and all of them looking
into a stately garden, glowing, even in the
twilight, with the bloom of flowers. We
went up four steps out of the last of these
rooms, and then my guide lifted up a heavy
silk curtain, and I was in the presence of my
Lady Ludlow.

She was very small of stature, and very
upright. She wore a great lace cap, nearly
half her own height, I should think, that
went round her head (caps which tied under
the chin, and which we called mobs, came in
later, and my lady held them in great
contempt, saying people might as well come
down in their nightcaps). In front of my
lady's cap was a great bow of white satin
ribbon; and a broad band of the same ribbon
was tied tight round her head, and served to
keep the cap straight. She had a fine Indian
muslin shawl folded over her shoulders and
across her chest, and an apron of the same;
a black silk mode gown, made with short
sleeves and ruffles, and with the tail thereof
pulled through the pocket-hole, so as to
shorten it to a useful length; beneath it she
wore, as I could plainly see, a quilted
lavender satin petticoat. Her hair was
snowy white, but I hardly saw it, it was so
covered with her cap; her skin, even at her
age, was waxen in texture and tint, her eyes
were large and dark blue, and must have
been her great beauty when she was young,
for there was nothing particular, as far as I
can remember, either in mouth or nose. She
had a great gold-headed stick by her chair;
but I think it was more as a mark of state
and dignity than for use; for she had as
light and brisk a step when she chose as any
girl of fifteen, and, in her private early
walk of meditation in the mornings, would
go as swiftly from garden alley to garden
alley as any one of us.

She was standing up when I went in. I
dropped my curtsey at the door, which my
mother had always taught me as a part of
good manners, and went up instinctively to
my lady. She did not put out her hand,
but raised herself a little on tiptoe, and kissed
me on both cheeks.

"You are cold, my child. You shall have
a dish of tea with me." She rang a little
hand-bell on the table by her, and her
waiting-maid came in from a small ante-
room; and, as if all had been prepared, and
was waiting my arrival, brought with her a
small china-service with tea ready made,
and a plate of delicately cut bread and butter,
every morsel of which I could have eaten,
and been none the better for it, so hungry
was I after my long ride. The waiting-maid
took off my cloak, and I sate down, sorely
alarmed at the silence, the hushed foot-falls
of the subdued maiden over the thick carpet,
and the soft voice and clear pronunciation of
my Lady Ludlow. My teaspoon fell against my
cup with a sharp noise, that seemed so out of
place and season that I blushed deeply. My
lady caught my eye with hers,—both keen