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6. The Barrier
Colonel Menendez conducted us to a long, lofty library in which might be
detected the same note of un-English luxury manifested in the other
appointments of the house. The room, in common with every other which I had
visited in Cray's Folly, was carried out in oak: doors, window frames,
mantelpiece, and ceiling representing fine examples of this massive woodwork.
Indeed, if the eccentricity of the designer of Cray's Folly were not sufficiently
demonstrated by the peculiar plan of the building, its construction wholly of
granite and oak must have remarked him a man of unusual if substantial ideas.
There were four long windows opening on to a veranda which commanded a
view of part of the rose garden and of three terraced lawns descending to a lake
upon which I perceived a number of swans. Beyond, in the valley, lay verdant
pastures, where cattle grazed. A lark hung carolling blithely far above, and the
sky was almost cloudless. I could hear a steam reaper at work somewhere in the
distance. This, with the more intimate rattle of a lawn-mower wielded by a
gardener who was not visible from where I stood, alone disturbed the serene
silence, except that presently I detected the droning of many bees among the
roses. Sunlight flooded the prospect; but the veranda lay in shadow, and that
long, oaken room was refreshingly cool and laden with the heavy perfume of the
From the windows, then, one beheld a typical English summer-scape, but the
library itself struck an altogether more exotic note. There were many glazed
bookcases of a garish design in ebony and gilt, and these were laden with a vast
collection of works in almost every European language, reflecting perhaps the
cosmopolitan character of the colonel's household. There was strange Spanish
furniture upholstered in perforated leather and again displaying much gilt. There
were suits of black armour and a great number of Moorish ornaments. The
pictures were fine but sombre, and all of the Spanish school.
One Velasquez in particular I noted with surprise, reflecting that, assuming it to
be an authentic work of the master, my entire worldly possessions could not have
enabled me to buy it. It was the portrait of a typical Spanish cavalier and beyond
doubt a Menendez. In fact, the resemblance between the haughty Spanish
grandee, who seemed about to step out of the canvas and pick a quarrel with the
spectator, and Colonel Don Juan himself was almost startling. Evidently, our host
had imported most of his belongings from Cuba.
"Gentlemen," he said, as we entered, "make yourselves quite at home, I beg. All
my poor establishment contains is for your entertainment and service."
He drew up two long, low lounge chairs, the arms provided with receptacles to
contain cooling drinks; and the mere sight of these chairs mentally translated me
to the Spanish Main, where I pictured them set upon the veranda of that
hacienda which had formerly been our host's residence.
Harley and I became seated and Colonel Menendez disposed himself upon a
leather-covered couch, nodding apologetically as he did so.