AN OLD HOUSE AND ITS STORY.
[Illustration: MOUNT PLEASANT.]
It is pleasant, on a warm, sunny afternoon in the spring-time (or, indeed, at any season of the year, but I love the spring-time best), to take the broad, well-shaded avenue on the east bank of the Schuylkill at Fairmount Park, and, passing the pretty little club boat-houses already green with their thick overhanging vines, to saunter slowly along the narrow roadway on the water’s edge to the great Girard Avenue Bridge, and so on through the cool dark tunnel, coming out on the steep railed path that winds up and away from the river to bury itself for a while in rich deep woodlands, only to bring you presently to the water-side again, where stands the fine old Mount Pleasant mansion, the country-seat of Benedict Arnold nearly a hundred years ago, and bestowed by him as a marriage-gift upon his new-made bride in April, 1779. A sweet, cool air blows up to you from the river, purple and white violets, buttercups and Quaker ladies are set thickly about your feet, the newly-arrived orioles are piping their pert little tunes nigh at hand, and you can spend a meditative hour or two sitting in the shifting specks of yellow sunshine filtered through the tender young leaves overhead, undisturbed by the shades of departed revelers that may be wandering behind the close shutters of the silent old house you have come so far to see. There is a curious and distinct flavor of antiquity about the place; for the woodwork around the doors and windows, which has so bravely withstood the corroding tooth of Time and the wearing rain-drip from the great tree-branches creaking above the roof, is of a quaint but excellent pattern, of which we see too little in these days of hideous sawed scrollery and gimcrack ornament—the masonry of such an honest solidity as may well cause the dweller in modern brick and sandy mortar to sigh enviously for the “good old times.” Although the house appears to be extremely large, it contains very few rooms, and none of these are so spacious as might be reasonably expected from the outside. The staircases are singularly ill-contrived, the landings upon the upper floors occupying a space quite sufficient for goodly-sized chambers. The ceilings and a chimney-panel or two are set out bravely with the usual stucco imitation of wood-carving we almost invariably find (and sigh over) in old American houses—a piteous attempt on the part of our honest ancestors to reproduce in some sort the rare wood-sculpture of their own old English manor-houses: it is a satisfaction, too, to note what little progress we have contrived to make in this unworthy branch of decorative art in the lapse of a century.