“I wish I knew where you’re going to live,” said Ethel. “I’d like to have a correct mental picture of that first Saturday afternoon.”
“It’s a beautiful day for walking,” said Polly Stevens. “Let’s all go out, and take a look at the Warner place. Something tells me that you’ll decide to live there.”
“I hope something else will tell you differently, soon,” said Marian, “for I’ll never give my consent to that arrangement. However, I’d just as lieve walk out there, if only to convince you what a forlorn old place it is.”
“Come on; let’s go, then. We can be back in an hour, and have tea afterwards. I’ll get the key from Mr. Martin, as we go by.”
Like a bombarding army the Tea Club stormed the old Warner house, and once inside its Colonial portal, they made the old walls ring with their laughter. The wide hall was dark and gloomy until Elsie Morris flung open the door at the other end, and let in the December sunshine.
“Seek no farther,” she cried dramatically. “We have crossed the Rubicon and found the Golden Fleece! This is the place of all others for our Tea Club meeting, and it doesn’t matter what the rest of the house may be like. Patty, you will kindly consider the matter settled.”
“I’ll consider anything you like,” said Patty; “and before breakfast, too, if you’ll only hurry up and get out of this damp, musty old place. I’m shivering myself to pieces.”
“Oh, it isn’t cold,” said Laura Russell; “and while we’re here, let’s go through the house.”
“Yes,” said Marian; “examine it carefully, lest some of its numerous advantages should escape your notice. Observe the hardwood floors, the magnificent mahogany stair-rail, and the lofty ceilings!”
The old floors were creaky, worm-eaten, and dusty; the stair-rail was in a most dilapidated condition, and the ceilings were low and smoky; so Marian scored her points.
“But it is antique,” said Ethel Holmes, with the air of an auctioneer. “Ah, ladies, what would you have? It is a fine specimen of the Colonial Empire period, picked out here and there with Queen Anne. The mantels, ah,—the mantels are dreams in marble.”
“Nightmares in painted wood, you mean,” said Lillian.
“But so roomy and expansive,” went on Ethel. “And the wall-papers! Note the fine stage of complete dilapidation left by the moving finger of Time.”
“The wall-papers are all right,” said Patty. “They look as if they’d peel off easily. Come on upstairs.”
The chambers were large, low, and rambling; and the house, in its best days, must have been an interesting specimen of its type. But after a short investigation, Patty was as firmly convinced as Marian that its charms could not offset its drawbacks.
“I’ve seen enough of this moated grange,” cried Patty. “Come on, girls, we’re going back to tea, right, straight, smack off.”
“There’s no pleasing some folks,” grumbled Ethel. “Here’s an ancestral pile only waiting for somebody to ancestralise it. You could make it one of the Historic Homes of Vernondale, and you won’t even consider it for a minute.”