I do not know that any description that could be given of Shadonake would so well answer to the reality as the above familiar form of words.
The house was undoubtedly large, very large, and it was also modern, very modern. It was a handsome stone structure, with a colonnade of white pillars along the entrance side, and with a multiplicity of large plate-glass windows stretching away in interminable vistas in every direction. A broad gravel sweep led up to the front door; to the right were the stables, large and handsome too, with a clock-tower and a belfry over the gateway; and to the left were the gardens and the shrubberies.
There had been an old house once at Shadonake, old and picturesque and uncomfortable; but when the property had been purchased by the present owner—Mr. Andrew Miller—after he had been returned as Conservative member for the county, the old house was swept away, and a modern mansion, more suited to the wants and requirements of his family, arose in its place.
The park was flat, but well wooded. The old trees, of course, remained intact; but the gardens of the first house, being rambling and old-fashioned, had been done away with, to make room for others on a larger and more imposing scale; and vineries and pineries, orchid-houses, and hot-houses of every description arose rapidly all over the site of the old bowling-green and the wilderness, half kitchen garden, half rosary, that had served to content the former owners of Shadonake, now all lying dead and buried in the chancel of the village church.
The only feature of the old mansion which had been left untouched was rather a remarkable one. It was a large lake or pond, lying south of the gardens, and about a quarter of a mile from the house. It lay in a sort of dip in the ground, and was surrounded on all four sides—for it was exactly square—by very steep high banks, which had been cut into by steep stone steps, now gray, and broken, and moss-grown, which led down straight into the water. This pool was called Shadonake Bath. How long the steps had existed no one knew; probably for several hundred years, for there was a ghost story connected with them. Somebody was supposed, before the memory of any one living, to have been drowned there, and to haunt the steps at certain times of the year.
It is certain that but for the fact of a mania for boating, and punting, and skating indulged in by several of his younger sons, Mr. Miller, in his energy for sweeping away all things old, and setting up all things new, would not have spared the Bath any more than he had spared the bowling-green. He had gone so far, indeed, as to have a plan submitted to him for draining it, and turning it into a strawberry garden, and for doing away with the picturesque old stone steps altogether in order to encase the banks in red brick, suitable to the cultivation of peaches and nectarines; but Ernest and Charley, the Eton boys, had thought about their punts and their canoes, and had pleaded piteously for the Bath; so the Bath was allowed to remain untouched, greatly to the relief of many of the neighbours, who were proud of its traditions, and who, in the general destruction that had been going on at Shadonake, had trembled for its safety.