Yesterday again I stood and looked at Hargen Hall from the lake; and
it is this that has brought me to write of my life in it. Wintry winds
were whistling through the withered bracken and the branches, whirling
withered birch-leaves about the south quadrangle; and no birds sang.
When I first entered it I was a girl, one might say--gay enough; but
now I have known what one never forgets; and the days and the hairs
grow grey together.
Five titled names among my friends gained me an entrance to Hargen in
the fall of the year '08. I arrived on the evening of 10 th November;
and shall never forget the strangeness of the impression made on my
mind that night: for even ere I rounded into sight of the house, the
sound of the waters far off filled me with a feeling of the eerily
dreary--the house being almost surrounded with mountain and cliff,
down which a series of cascades shower; and that night I had some
difficulty in catching quite everything that was said to me, though in
two or three days, maybe, my ear became used to the tumult.
It was four days before I met Sir Philip Lister himself--Davenport,
the old butler, told me that his master was "indisposed"--but Sir
Philip sent me a polite missive inviting me to take things carelessly
a little: so I spent the first days in learning my pupil's moods, and
in roaming over the place, from "Queen Elizabeth's Room"--behind the
bed still hung a velvet shield broidered with the royal arms in white
wire--to the apes and the cascades. A sense of forlornness pervaded it
all, for scarcely ten of us were in all the desert of that place, with
an occasional glimpse of two or three gardeners, or a groom. The
kitchen was now a panelled hall like a chapel, with windows of painted
glass containing the six coats-of-arms of the Lister Lynns, a hall in
whose vastness the cook and her assistant looked awfully forlorn and
small; and hardly even a housemaid ever now entered all that part of
the east wing which had been singed by a fire fifty-five years since.
It was on the fourth forenoon, a day of "the Indian summer," that my
pupil took me to see the apes. There were three of them--two
chimpanzees, one gibbon--in three rooms of wire-netting close to the
east line of cliffs, i.e., about six hundred yards from the house.
There, chuckling and chattering in the shadow of chestnuts, they lived
their lives, anon speculating like philosophers upon their knots, or
hearkening to the waters which chanted near in their ears. And there
was a fourth room of netting in the row, but empty; as to which my
pupil said to me:
"The one that used to be in this fourth room was huge, Miss Newnes,
and had a pale face. He died some time before I came to Hargen: but
his ghost walks when the moon is at the full."
"Now Esmé," I muttered. (Her name was Esmé Martagon, daughter of the
Marquis de Martagon and of Margaret Lister, Sir Philip's sister; the
child being at this time twelve years of age, and an orphan--a rather
pretty elf with ebon curls, but as changeable as the shapes of
mercury, now bursting with alacrity, and now cursed with black turns