It certainly sounded attractive, and it was with great curiosity that I went off on the following day, as appointed, for my own interview.
The train drew up at a little wayside station soon after four o’clock on a November afternoon. It was a bare, but rather an attractive landscape. The line ran along a wide, shallow valley, with a stream running at the bottom, with many willows, and pools fringed with withered sedges. The fields were mostly pastures, with here and there a fallow. There were a good many bits of woodland all about, and a tall spire of pale stone, far to the south, overtopped the roofs of a little town. I was met by an old groom or coachman, with a little ancient open cart, and we drove sedately along pleasant lanes, among woods, till we entered a tiny village, which he told me was Aveley, consisting of three or four farmhouses, with barns and ricks, and some rows of stone-built cottages. We turned out of the village in the direction of a small and plain church of some antiquity, behind which I saw a grove of trees and the chimneys of a house surmounted by a small cupola. The house stood close by the church, having an open space of grass in front, with an old sundial, and a low wall separating it from the churchyard. We drove in at a big gate, standing open, with stone gate-posts. The Hall was a long, stone-built Georgian house, perhaps a hundred and fifty years old, with two shallow wings and a stone-tiled roof, and was obviously of considerable size. Some withered creepers straggled over it, and it was neatly kept, but with no sort of smartness. The trees grew rather thickly to the east of the house, and I could see to the right a stable-yard, and beyond that the trees of the garden. We drew up—it was getting dark—and an old manservant with a paternal air came out, took possession of my bag, and led me through a small vestibule into a long hall, with a fire burning in a great open fireplace.