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II.2. Allan As A Landed Gentleman
Early on the morning after his first night's rest at Thorpe Ambrose, Allan rose and
surveyed the prospect from his bedroom window, lost in the dense mental
bewilderment of feeling himself to be a stranger in his own house.
The bedroom looked out over the great front door, with its portico, its terrace and
flight of steps beyond, and, further still, the broad sweep of the well-timbered
park to close the view. The morning mist nestled lightly about the distant trees;
and the cows were feeding sociably, close to the iron fence which railed off the
park from the drive in front of the house. "All mine!" thought Allan, staring in
blank amazement at the prospect of his own possessions. "Hang me if I can beat it
into my head yet. All mine!"
He dressed, left his room, and walked along the corridor which led to the staircase
and hall, opening the doors in succession as he passed them.
The rooms in this part of the house were bedrooms and dressing-rooms, light,
spacious, perfectly furnished; and all empty, except the one bed-chamber next to
Allan's, which had been appropriated to Midwinter. He was still sleeping when
his friend looked in on him, having sat late into the night writing his letter to Mr.
Brock. Allan went on to the end of the first corridor, turned at right angles into a
second, and, that passed, gained the head of the great staircase. "No romance
here," he said to himself, looking down the handsomely carpeted stone stairs into
the bright modern hall. "Nothing to startle Midwinter's fidgety nerves in this
house." There was nothing, indeed; Allan's essentially superficial observation had
not misled him for once. The mansion of Thorpe Ambrose (built after the pulling
down of the dilapidated old manor-house) was barely fifty years old. Nothing
picturesque, nothing in the slightest degree suggestive of mystery and romance,
appeared in any part of it. It was a purely conventional country house--the product
of the classical idea filtered judiciously through the commercial English mind.
Viewed on the outer side, it presented the spectacle of a modern manufactory
trying to look like an ancient temple. Viewed on the inner side, it was a marvel of
luxurious comfort in every part of it, from basement to roof. "And quite right,
too," thought Allan, sauntering contentedly down the broad, gently graduated
stairs. "Deuce take all mystery and romance! Let's be clean and comfortable, that's
what I say."
Arrived in the hall, the new master of Thorpe Ambrose hesitated, and looked
about him, uncertain which way to turn next.
The four reception-rooms on the ground-floor opened into the hall, two on either
side. Allan tried the nearest door on his right hand at a venture, and found himself
in the drawing-room. Here the first sign of life appeared, under life's most
attractive form. A young girl was in solitary possession of the drawing-room. The
duster in her hand appeared to associate her with the domestic duties of the house;
but at that particular moment she was occupied in asserting the rights of nature
over the obligations of service. In other words, she was attentively contemplating
her own face in the glass over the mantelpiece.