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29. The Silver Lady
When it was known that Lady de Lannoy had come to Lannoy there was a prompt rush of
such callers as the county afforded. Stephen, however, did not wish to see anyone just at
present. Partly to avoid the chance meeting with strangers, and partly because she
enjoyed and benefited by the exercise, she was much away from home every day.
Sometimes, attended only by a groom, she rode long distances north or south along the
coast; or up over the ridge behind the castle and far inland along the shaded roads through
the woods; or over bleak wind- swept stretches of moorland. Sometimes she would walk,
all alone, far down to the sea-road, and would sit for hours on the shore or high up on
some little rocky headland where she could enjoy the luxury of solitude.
Now and again in her journeyings she made friends, most of them humble ones. She was
so great a lady in her station that she could be familiar without seeming to condescend.
The fishermen of the little ports to north and south came to know her, and to look gladly
for her coming. Their goodwives had for her always a willing curtsy and a ready smile.
As for the children, they looked on her with admiration and love, tempered with awe. She
was so gentle with them, so ready to share their pleasures and interests, that after a while
they came to regard her as some strange embodiment of Fairydom and Dreamland. Many
a little heart was made glad by the arrival of some item of delight from the Castle; and the
hearts of the sick seemed never to hope, or their eyes to look, in vain.
One friend she made who became very dear and of great import. Often she had looked up
at the old windmill on the crest of the ridge and wondered who inhabited it; for that some
one lived in it, or close by, was shown at times by the drifting smoke. One day she made
up her mind to go and see for herself. She had a fancy not to ask anyone about it. The
place was a little item of mystery; and as such to be treasured and exploited, and in due
course explored. The mill itself was picturesque, and the detail at closer acquaintance
sustained the far-off impression. The roadway forked on the near side of the mill,
reuniting again the further side, so that the place made a sort of island--mill, out-offices
and garden. As the mill was on the very top of the ridge the garden which lay seawards
was sheltered by the building from the west, and from the east by a thick hedge of thorn
and privet, which quite hid it from the roadway. Stephen took the lower road. Finding no
entrance save a locked wooden door she followed round to the western side, where the
business side of the mill had been. It was all still now and silent, and that it had long
fallen into disuse was shown by the grey faded look of everything. Grass, green and
luxuriant, grew untrodden between the cobble-stones with which the yard was paved.
There was a sort of old-world quietude about everything which greatly appealed to
Stephen dismounted and walked round the yard admiring everything. She did not feel as
if intruding; for the gateway was wide open.
A low door in the base of the mill tower opened, and a maid appeared, a demure pretty
little thing of sixteen or seventeen years, dressed in a prim strait dress and an old-