reality and ‘go’; and this refulgence,
almost unearthly in its travelling glory, passed over
her small head and played strangely with the pillars
in the hall, without exciting in her any fancies or
any sentiment. The intention of discovering
what was at the end of the picture gallery absorbed
the whole of her essentially practical and active mind.
Deciding on the left-hand flight of stairs, she entered
that immensely long, narrow, and—with blinds
drawn—rather dark saloon. She walked
carefully, because the floor was very slippery here,
and with a kind of seriousness due partly to the darkness
and partly to the pictures. They were indeed,
in this light, rather formidable, those old Caradocs
black, armoured creatures, some of them, who seemed
to eye with a sort of burning, grim, defensive greed
the small white figure of their descendant passing
along between them. But little Ann, who knew
they were only pictures, maintained her course steadily,
and every now and then, as she passed one who seemed
to her rather uglier than the others, wrinkled her
sudden little nose. At the end, as she had thought;
appeared a door. She opened it, and passed on
to a landing. There was a stone staircase in
the corner, and there were two doors. It would
be nice to go up the staircase, but it would also
be nice to open the doors. Going towards the
first door, with a little thrill, she turned the handle.
It was one of those rooms, necessary in houses, for
which she had no great liking; and closing this door
rather loudly she opened the other one, finding herself
in a chamber not resembling the rooms downstairs, which
were all high and nicely gilded, but more like where
she had lessons, low, and filled with books and leather
chairs. From the end of the room which she could
not see, she heard a sound as of someone kissing something,
and instinct had almost made her turn to go away when
the word: “Hallo!” suddenly opened
her lips. And almost directly she saw that Granny
and Grandpapa were standing by the fireplace.
Not knowing quite whether they were glad to see her,
she went forward and began at once:
“Is this where you sit, Grandpapa?”
“It’s nice, isn’t it, Granny?
Where does the stone staircase go to?”
“To the roof of the tower, Ann.”
“Oh! I have to give a message, so I must
“Sorry to lose you.”
Hearing the door shut behind her, Lord and Lady Valleys
looked at each other with a dubious smile.
The little interview which she had interrupted, had
arisen in this way.
Accustomed to retire to this quiet and homely room,
which was not his official study where he was always
liable to the attacks of secretaries, Lord Valleys
had come up here after lunch to smoke and chew the
cud of a worry.
The matter was one in connection with his Pendridny
estate, in Cornwall. It had long agitated both
his agent and himself, and had now come to him for
final decision. The question affected two villages
to the north of the property, whose inhabitants were
solely dependent on the working of a large quarry,
which had for some time been losing money.