Cashel Byron's Profession HTML version

Chapter 1
Wiltstoken Castle was a square building with circular bastions at the corners, each
bastion terminating skyward in a Turkish minaret. The southwest face was the front, and
was pierced by a Moorish arch fitted with glass doors, which could be secured on
occasion by gates of fantastically hammered iron. The arch was enshrined by a
Palladian portico, which rose to the roof, and was surmounted by an open pediment, in
the cleft of which stood a black-marble figure of an Egyptian, erect, and gazing
steadfastly at the midday sun. On the ground beneath was an Italian terrace with two
great stone elephants at the ends of the balustrade. The windows on the upper story
were, like the entrance, Moorish; but the principal ones below were square bays,
mullioned. The castle was considered grand by the illiterate; but architects and readers
of books on architecture condemned it as a nondescript mixture of styles in the worst
possible taste. It stood on an eminence surrounded by hilly woodland, thirty acres of
which were enclosed as Wiltstoken Park. Half a mile south was the little town of
Wiltstoken, accessible by rail from London in about two hours.
Most of the inhabitants of Wiltstoken were Conservatives. They stood in awe of the
castle; and some of them would at any time have cut half a dozen of their oldest friends
to obtain an invitation to dinner, or oven a bow in public, from Miss Lydia Carew, its
orphan mistress. This Miss Carew was a remarkable person. She had inherited the
castle and park from her aunt, who had considered her niece's large fortune in railways
and mines incomplete without land. So many other legacies had Lydia received from
kinsfolk who hated poor relations, that she was now, in her twenty-fifth year, the
independent possessor of an annual income equal to the year's earnings of five
hundred workmen, and under no external compulsion to do anything in return for it. In
addition to the advantage of being a single woman in unusually easy circumstances,
she enjoyed a reputation for vast learning and exquisite culture. It was said in
Wiltstoken that she knew forty-eight living languages and all dead ones; could play on
every known musical instrument; was an accomplished painter, and had written poetry.
All this might as well have been true as far as the Wiltstokeners were concerned, since
she knew more than they. She had spent her life travelling with her father, a man of
active mind and bad digestion, with a taste for sociology, science in general, and the
fine arts. On these subjects he had written books, by which he had earned a
considerable reputation as a critic and philosopher. They were the outcome of much
reading, observation of men and cities, sight-seeing, and theatre-going, of which his
daughter had done her share, and indeed, as she grew more competent and he weaker
and older, more than her share. He had had to combine health-hunting with pleasure-
seeking; and, being very irritable and fastidious, had schooled her in self-control and
endurance by harder lessons than those which had made her acquainted with the works
of Greek and German philosophers long before she understood the English into which
she translated them.
When Lydia was in her twenty-first year her father's health failed seriously. He became
more dependent on her; and she anticipated that he would also become more exacting