While he yet spoke, their horses, of their own accord, passed through the gate which Eccles had thrown wide to admit them, and carried them into the Fountain court. Here, indeed, was a change of aspect! All that Dorothy had hitherto contemplated was the side of the fortress which faced the world—frowning and defiant, although here and there on the point of breaking into a half smile, for the grim, suspicious, altogether repellent look of the old feudal castle had been gradually vanishing in the additions and alterations of more civilised times. But now they were in the heart of the building, and saw the face which the house of strength turned upon its own people. The spring sunshine filled half the court; over the rest lay the shadow of the huge keep, towering massive above the three-storied line of building which formed the side next it. Here was the true face of the Janus-building, full of eyes and mouths; for many bright windows looked down into the court, in some of which shone the smiling faces of children and ladies peeping out to see the visitors, whose arrival had been announced by the creaking chains of the portcullis; and by the doors issued and entered, here a lady in rich attire, there a gentlemen half in armour, and here again a serving man or maid. Nearly in the centre of the quadrangle, just outside the shadow of the keep, stood the giant horse, rearing in white marble, almost dazzling in the sunshine, from whose nostrils spouted the jets of water which gave its name to the court. Opposite the gate by which they entered was the little chapel, with its triple lancet windows, over which lay the picture-gallery with its large oriel lights. Far above their roof, ascended from behind that of the great hall, with its fine lantern window seated on the ridge. From the other court beyond the hall, that upon which the main entrance opened, came the sounds of heavy feet in intermittent but measured tread, the clanking of arms, and a returning voice of loud command: the troops of the garrison were being exercised on the slabs of the pitched court.
From each of the many doors opening into the court they had entered, a path, paved with coloured tiles, led straight through the finest of turf to the marble fountain in the centre, into whose shadowed basin the falling water seemed to carry captive as into a prison the sunlight it caught above. Its music as it fell made a lovely but strange and sad contrast with the martial sounds from beyond.
It was but a moment they had to note these things; eyes and ears gathered them all at once. Two of the warder’s men already held their horses, while two other men, responsive to the warder’s whistle, came running from the hall and helped them to dismount. Hardly had they reached the ground ere a man-servant came, who led the way to the left towards a porch of carved stone on the same side of