A Damsel in Distress (Chapter 1, page 1 of 16)


 
Next Page

Chapter 1

Inasmuch as the scene of this story is that historic pile, Belpher
Castle, in the county of Hampshire, it would be an agreeable task
to open it with a leisurely description of the place, followed by
some notes on the history of the Earls of Marshmoreton, who have
owned it since the fifteenth century. Unfortunately, in these days
of rush and hurry, a novelist works at a disadvantage. He must
leap into the middle of his tale with as little delay as he would
employ in boarding a moving tramcar. He must get off the mark with
the smooth swiftness of a jack-rabbit surprised while lunching.
Otherwise, people throw him aside and go out to picture palaces.

I may briefly remark that the present Lord Marshmoreton is a
widower of some forty-eight years: that he has two children--a son,
Percy Wilbraham Marsh, Lord Belpher, who is on the brink of his
twenty-first birthday, and a daughter, Lady Patricia Maud Marsh,
who is just twenty: that the chatelaine of the castle is Lady
Caroline Byng, Lord Marshmoreton's sister, who married the very
wealthy colliery owner, Clifford Byng, a few years before his death
(which unkind people say she hastened): and that she has a
step-son, Reginald. Give me time to mention these few facts and I
am done. On the glorious past of the Marshmoretons I will not even
touch.

Luckily, the loss to literature is not irreparable. Lord
Marshmoreton himself is engaged upon a history of the family, which
will doubtless be on every bookshelf as soon as his lordship gets
it finished. And, as for the castle and its surroundings, including
the model dairy and the amber drawing-room, you may see them for
yourself any Thursday, when Belpher is thrown open to the public on
payment of a fee of one shilling a head. The money is collected by
Keggs the butler, and goes to a worthy local charity. At least,
that is the idea. But the voice of calumny is never silent, and
there exists a school of thought, headed by Albert, the page-boy,
which holds that Keggs sticks to these shillings like glue, and
adds them to his already considerable savings in the Farmers' and
Merchants' Bank, on the left side of the High Street in Belpher
village, next door to the Oddfellows' Hall.

 
Next Page


Rate This Book

Current Rating: 2.4/5 (150 votes cast)



Review This Book or Post a Comment