Anthea Devine, being absolute mistress of Dapplemere, was in the habit of exerting her authority, and having her own way in most things; therefore, she glanced up, in some surprise, at this tall, dusty, rather lazy looking personage; and she noticed, even as had Small Porges, that he was indeed very big and wide; she noticed also that, despite the easy courtesy of his manner, and the quizzical light of his gray eyes, his chin was very square, and that, despite his gentle voice, he had the air of one who meant exactly what he said. Nevertheless she was much inclined to take issue with him upon the matter; plainly observing which, Bellew smiled, and shook his head.
“Pray be reasonable,” he said in his gentle voice, “if you send me away to some horrible inn or other, it will cost me—being an American, —more than that every week, in tips and things,—so let’s shake hands on it, and call it settled,” and he held out his hand to her.
Four pounds a week! It would be a veritable God-send just at present, while she was so hard put to it to make both ends meet. Four pounds a week! So Anthea stood, lost in frowning thought until meeting his frank smile, she laughed.
“You are dreadfully persistent!” she said, “and I know it is too much,—but—we’ll try to make you as comfortable as we can,” and she laid her hand in his.
And thus it was that George Bellew came to Dapplemere in the glory of the after-glow of an August afternoon, breathing the magic air of Arcadia which is, and always has been, of that rare quality warranted to go to the head, sooner, or later.
And thus it was that Small Porges with his bundle on his shoulder, viewed this tall, dusty Uncle with the eye of possession which is oft-times an eye of rapture.
And Anthea? She was busy calculating to a scrupulous nicety the very vexed question as to exactly how far four pounds per week might be made to go to the best possible advantage of all concerned.
Of the sad condition of the Haunting Spectre of the Might Have Been
Dapplemere Farm House, or “The Manor,” as it was still called by many, had been built when Henry the Eighth was King, as the carved inscription above the door testified.
The House of Dapplemere was a place of many gables, and latticed windows, and with tall, slender chimneys shaped, and wrought into things of beauty and delight. It possessed a great, old hall; there were spacious chambers, and broad stairways; there were panelled corridors; sudden flights of steps that led up, or down again, for no apparent reason; there were broad, and generous hearths, and deep window-seats; and everywhere, within, and without, there lurked an indefinable, old-world charm that was the heritage of years.
Storms had buffeted, and tempests had beaten upon it, but all in vain, for, save that the bricks glowed a deeper red where they peeped out beneath the clinging ivy, the old house stood as it had upon that far day when it was fashioned,—in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Five Hundred and Twenty-four.