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Book III. Netherwoods
Chapter 32. In The Gray Room
The house inhabited by Miss Ladd and her pupils had been built, in the early part
of the present century, by a wealthy merchant--proud of his money, and eager to
distinguish himself as the owner of the largest country seat in the neighborhood.
After his death, Miss Ladd had taken Netherwoods (as the place was called),
finding her own house insufficient for the accommodation of the increasing
number of her pupils. A lease was granted to her on moderate terms.
Netherwoods failed to attract persons of distinction in search of a country
residence. The grounds were beautiful; but no landed property--not even a park--
was attached to the house. Excepting the few acres on which the building stood,
the surrounding land belonged to a retired naval officer of old family, who
resented the attempt of a merchant of low birth to assume the position of a
gentleman. No matter what proposals might be made to the admiral, he refused
them all. The privilege of shooting was not one of the attractions offered to
tenants; the country presented no facilities for hunting; and the only stream in the
neighborhood was not preserved. In consequence of these drawbacks, the
merchant's representatives had to choose between a proposal to use
Netherwoods as a lunatic asylum, or to accept as tenant the respectable mistress
of a fashionable and prosperous school. They decided in favor of Miss Ladd.
The contemplated change in Francine's position was accomplished, in that vast
house, without inconvenience. There were rooms unoccupied, even when the
limit assigned to the number of pupils had been reached. On the re-opening of
the school, Francine was offered her choice between two rooms on one of the
upper stories, and two rooms on the ground floor. She chose these last.