A flight of five or six granite steps led up from the garden to the balcony, and, although they were quite as old as the rest of the house, they looked nearly as fresh and crude as when they were first put down. The balcony itself was strongly built of wood, and faced by a broad and stout railing, darkened by sun and rain, and worn smooth by much leaning and sitting. Overhead spread an ample roof, which kept away the blaze of the noonday sun, but did not deny the later and ruddier beams an entrance. On either side the door-way, the windows of the dining-room and of the professor’s study opened down nearly to the floor. Every thing in the house seemed to have some reference to the balcony, and, in summer, it was certainly the most important part of all.
From the balcony to the front door extended, as has already been said, a straight passage-way, into which the stairs descended, and on which opened the doors of three rooms. It was covered with a deeply-worn strip of oil-cloth, the pattern being quite undistinguishable in the middle, and at the entrances of the doors and foot of the stairs, but appearing with tolerable clearness for a distance of several inches out along the walls. A high wainscoting ran along the sides; at the front door stood an old-fashioned hat-tree, with no hats upon it; for the professor had a way of wearing his hat into the house, and only taking it off when he was seated at his study-table.
The gabled porch was wide and roomy, but had seen its best days, and was rather out of repair. The board flooring creaked as you stepped upon it, and the seams of the roof admitted small rills of water when it rained hard, which, falling on the old brown mat, hastened its decay not a little. A large, arched window opened on either side, so that one standing in the porch could be seen from the upper and lower front windows of the house. The outer woodwork and roof of the porch were covered by a woodbine, trimmed, however, so as to leave the openings clear. A few rickety steps, at the sides and between the cracks of which sprouted tall blades of grass, led down to the path which terminated in the gate. This path was distinguished by an incongruous pavement of white limestone slabs, which were always kept carefully clean. The gate was a rattle-boned affair, hanging feebly between two grandfatherly old posts, which hypocritically tried to maintain an air of solidity, though perfectly aware that they were wellnigh rotted away at the base. The action of this gate was assisted—or more correctly encumbered—by the contrivance of a sliding ball and chain, creating a most dismal clatter and flap as often as it was opened. The white-washed picket fence, scaled and patched by the weather, kept the posts in excellent countenance; and inclosed a moderate grass-plot, adorned with a couple of rather barren black cherry-trees, and as many firs, with low-spread branches.