The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

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For the attics were Anglo-Saxon. The third door Norman. The second Cinque-cento. The first-floor Elizabethan. The right wing Pure Doric.
The centre Early English, with a huge portico copied from the Parthenon. The left wing pure Boeotian, which the country folk admired most of all, became it was just like the new barracks in the town, only three times as big. The grand staircase was copied from the Catacombs at Rome.
The back staircase from the Tajmahal at Agra. This was built by Sir John’s great-great-great-uncle, who won, in Lord Clive’s Indian Wars, plenty of money, plenty of wounds, and no more taste than his betters.
The cellars were copied from the caves of Elephanta. The offices from the Pavilion at Brighton.
And the rest from nothing in heaven, or earth, or under the earth.
So that Harthover House was a great puzzle to antiquarians, and a thorough Naboth’s vineyard to critics, and architects, and all persons who like meddling with other men’s business, and spending other men’s money. So they were all setting upon poor Sir John, year after year, and trying to talk him into spending a hundred thousand pounds or so, in building, to please them and not himself. But he always put them off, like a canny North-countryman as he was. One wanted him to build a Gothic house, but he said he was no Goth; and another to build an Elizabethan, but he said he lived under good Queen Victoria, and not good Queen Bess; and another was bold enough to tell him that his house was ugly, but he said he lived inside it, and not outside; and another, that there was no unity in it, but he said that that was just why he liked the old place. For he liked to see how each Sir John, and Sir Hugh, and Sir Ralph, and Sir Randal, had left his mark upon the place, each after his own taste; and he had no more notion of disturbing his ancestors’ work than of disturbing their graves. For now the house looked like a real live house, that had a history, and had grown and grown as the world grew; and that it was only an upstart fellow who did not know who his own grandfather was, who would change it for some spick and span new Gothic or Elizabethan thing, which looked as if it bad been all spawned in a night, as mushrooms are. From which you may collect (if you have wit enough) that Sir John was a very sound-headed, sound-hearted squire, and just the man to keep the country side in order, and show good sport with his hounds.
But Tom and his master did not go in through the great iron gates, as if they had been Dukes or Bishops, but round the back way, and a very long way round it was; and into a little back-door, where the ash-boy let them in, yawning horribly; and then in a passage the housekeeper met them, in such a flowered chintz dressing-gown, that Tom mistook her for My Lady herself, and she gave Grimes solemn orders about “You will take care of this, and take care of that,” as if he was going up the chimneys, and not Tom. And Grimes listened, and said every now and then, under his voice, “You’ll mind that, you little beggar?” and Tom did mind, all at least that he could. And then the housekeeper turned them into a grand room, all covered up in sheets of brown paper, and bade them begin, in a lofty and tremendous voice; and so after a whimper or two, and a kick from his master, into the grate Tom went, and up the chimney, while a housemaid stayed in the room to watch the furniture; to whom Mr. Grimes paid many playful and chivalrous compliments, but met with very slight encouragement in return.