The Blue Castle
rain! Why didn't SOME ONE open the door and let him in? The other
picture was a faded, passe-partouted engraving of Queen Louise
coming down a stairway, which Aunt Wellington had lavishly given
her on her tenth birthday. For nineteen years she had looked at it
and hated it, beautiful, smug, self-satisfied Queen Louise. But
she never dared destroy it or remove it. Mother and Cousin
Stickles would have been aghast, or, as Valancy irreverently
expressed it in her thoughts, would have had a fit.
Every room in the house was ugly, of course. But downstairs
appearances were kept up somewhat. There was no money for rooms
nobody ever saw. Valancy sometimes felt that she could have done
something for her room herself, even without money, if she were
permitted. But her mother had negatived every timid suggestion and
Valancy did not persist. Valancy never persisted. She was afraid
to. Her mother could not brook opposition. Mrs. Stirling would
sulk for days if offended, with the airs of an insulted duchess.
The only thing Valancy liked about her room was that she could be
alone there at night to cry if she wanted to.
But, after all, what did it matter if a room, which you used for
nothing except sleeping and dressing in, were ugly? Valancy was
never permitted to stay alone in her room for any other purpose.
People who wanted to be alone, so Mrs. Frederick Stirling and
Cousin Stickles believed, could only want to be alone for some
sinister purpose. But her room in the Blue Castle was everything a
room should be.
Valancy, so cowed and subdued and overridden and snubbed in real
life, was wont to let herself go rather splendidly in her day-
dreams. Nobody in the Stirling clan, or its ramifications,
suspected this, least of all her mother and Cousin Stickles. They
never knew that Valancy had two homes--the ugly red brick box of a
home, on Elm Street, and the Blue Castle in Spain. Valancy had
lived spiritually in the Blue Castle ever since she could remember.
She had been a very tiny child when she found herself possessed of
it. Always, when she shut her eyes, she could see it plainly, with
its turrets and banners on the pine-clad mountain height, wrapped
in its faint, blue loveliness, against the sunset skies of a fair
and unknown land. Everything wonderful and beautiful was in that
castle. Jewels that queens might have worn; robes of moonlight and
fire; couches of roses and gold; long flights of shallow marble
steps, with great, white urns, and with slender, mist-clad maidens
going up and down them; courts, marble-pillared, where shimmering
fountains fell and nightingales sang among the myrtles; halls of
mirrors that reflected only handsome knights and lovely women--
herself the loveliest of all, for whose glance men died. All that
supported her through the boredom of her days was the hope of going
on a dream spree at night. Most, if not all, of the Stirlings
would have died of horror if they had known half the things Valancy
did in her Blue Castle.
For one thing she had quite a few lovers in it. Oh, only one at a
time. One who wooed her with all the romantic ardour of the age of
chivalry and won her after long devotion and many deeds of derring-
do, and was wedded to her with pomp and circumstance in the great,
banner-hung chapel of the Blue Castle.