When I was a child I used to glance at the first sentence in a new book to see whether it looked interesting. If it began, "There was once a boy, who lived in a fine house," I was encouraged to go on.
Now I wish to make these little books very interesting to my young readers. I want to have the words so simple that they can be read and not skipped over, and at the same time my object is to give you useful information. As you will learn, I am to tell you in these six volumes many things about building a house, and to explain the different kinds of labor or trades which are necessary for such a purpose; but first I shall introduce you to the family of Mr. Curtis, a gentleman who loves children and whom I am sure you will love before the book is finished.
Quite a number of years ago, a carriage drawn by two dapple-gray horses was passing slowly through the main street of a beautiful village, which I shall call Oxford.
There were five persons in it. On the front seat was a gentleman whose keen, sparkling eye and laughing mouth always made people wish to learn more of him. By his side were two children, Herbert and Winifred, or, as they were usually called, Bertie and Winnie.
The back seat was occupied by Mrs. Curtis and her nurse. The lady was just recovering from a long and painful illness, and still looked very pale. She was supported by cushions, and sometimes as the carriage rolled slowly over the smooth gravelled road she fell asleep. But now Mrs. Curtis was wide awake, her eyes gazing through the large glass in the side of the carriage at the beautiful prospect before them.
"Oh, look at that lake!" she exclaimed; "isn't it lovely? See the wooded banks, and that pretty green slope. I've dreamed of a home in just such a spot."
Mr. Curtis stopped the horses, and leaning from the carriage, gazed all about him. It was indeed a lovely view. The village of Oxford was situated in a valley sheltered on three sides by hills; and here in a little cleft between them a small lake lay nestled, almost shut from view by the thick trees which grew down close to the banks.
As the gentleman gazed right and left, his eye at last rested on a slight elevation where the ground was more open, and from which it ran down with a gentle slope to the water. The green here and there was dotted with a fine spreading elm, or a huge oak, which looked as if they might have weathered the storms of a hundred years.
"What are you stopping so long for, papa?" asked Bertie, wondering at his father's unusual silence.
He did not seem to hear the question, for he presently turned to his wife and asked, smiling,—
"Would you like a house on that hill, Cecilia? There, just beyond the cluster of chestnut trees, is the spot I should choose."
"Oh, Lawrence! everything seems so quiet and peaceful in this neat village, a home there would be almost a paradise."
After one more glance at the fresh greensward, where the summer sun was casting such pleasant shadows under the grand old trees, Mr....