The Late Mrs. Nullby Frank Richard Stockton
There was a wide entrance gate to the old family mansion of Midbranch, but it was never opened to admit the family or visitors; although occasionally a load of wood, drawn by two horses and two mules, came between its tall chestnut posts, and was taken by a roundabout way among the trees to a spot at the back of the house, where the chips of several generations of sturdy wood-choppers had formed a ligneous soil deeper than the arable surface of any portion of the nine hundred and fifty acres which formed the farm of Midbranch. This seldom opened gate was in a corner of the lawn, and the driving of carriages, or the riding of horses through it to the porch at the front of the house would have been the ruin of the short, thick grass which had covered that lawn, it was generally believed, ever since Virginia became a State.
But there had to be some way for people who came in carriages or on horseback to get into the house, and therefore the fence at the bottom of the lawn, at a point directly in front of the porch, was crossed by a set of broad wooden steps, five outside and five inside, with a platform at the top. These stairs were wide enough to accommodate eight people abreast; so that if a large carriage load of visitors arrived, none of them need delay in crossing the fence. At the outside of the steps ran the narrow road which entered the plantation a quarter of a mile away, and passed around the lawn and the garden to the barns and stables at the back.
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