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Hatter’s Castle” by Archibald Joseph Cronin

Book one


It was a singular dwelling. In size it was small, of such dimensions that it could not have contained more than seven rooms, in its construction solid, with the hard stability of new grey stone, in its architecture unique.

The base of the house had the shape of a narrow rectangle with the wider aspect directed towards the street, with walls which arose, not directly from the earth, but from a stone foundation a foot longer and wider than themselves, and upon which the whole structure seemed to sustain itself like an animal upon its deep dug paws. The frontage arising from this supporting pedestal, reared itself with a cold severity to terminate in one half of its extent in a steeply pithched gable and in the other in a low parapet which ran horizontally to join another gable, , similarly shaped to that in front, which formed the coping of the side wall of the house. These gables were peculiar, each converging in a series of steep right angled steps to a chamfered apex which bore with pompous dignity a large round ball of polished grey granite and, each in turn, merging into and become continuous with the parapet which ridged and serrated regularly and deeply after the fashion of a battlement fettered them together, forming thus a heavy stonelinked chain which embraced the body of the house like a manacle.

At the angle of the side gable and the front wall, and shackled, likewise, by this encircling, fillet of battlement, was a short round tower, ornamented in its middle by a deep-cut diamond shaped recess, carved beneath into rounded, diminishing courses which fixed it to the angle of the wall, and rising upwards to crown itself in a turret which carried a thin, reedy flagstaff. The heaviness of its upper dimensions, made the tower squat, deformed, gave to it the appearance of a broad frowning forehead, disfigured by a deep grooved stigma, while the two small embrasured windows which pierced it brooded from beneath the brow like secret, close-set eyes.

Immediately below this tower stood the narrow doorway of the house, the lesser proportion of its width giving it a meager, inhospitable look, like a thin repellent mouth its sides ascending above the horizontal lintel in a steep ogee curve encompassing a shaped and gloomy filling of darkly-stained glass and ending in a sharp lancet point. The windows of the dwelling, like the doorway, were narrow and unbevelled, having the significance merely of apertures stabbed through the sickness of the walls, grudgingly admitting light, yet sealing the interior from observation.

The whole aspect of the house was veiled, forbidding, sinister, its purpose, likewise hidden and obscure. From its very size it failed pitifully to achieve the boldness and magnificence of a baronial dwelling, if this, indeed, were the object of its pinnacle, its ramparts and the repetition of its sharp-pitched angles. And yet, in its coldness, hardness and strength, it could not be dismissed as seeking merely the smug attainment of pompous ostentation. Its battlements were formal but not ridiculous, its design extravagant, but never ludicrous, its grandiose architecture some quality which restrained merriment, some deeper, lurking, more perverse motive, sensed upon intensive scrutiny, which lay about the house like a deformity, and stood within its very structure like a violation of truth in stone.

The people of Levenford never laughed at this house, at least never openly. Something, some intangible potency pervading the atmosphere around it, forbade them even to smile.


Stylistic Analysis /

Date: 2016-01-05; view: 1158

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