The House That Berry Built

This is the only description of a stone staircase being built that I have ever read in a novel.The House That Berry Built (Gideon of Scotland Yard)
It certainly captures the wonder, although isn’t entirely accurate… My copy was published in 1945 by Ward Lock & Co.

Extract from page 196:

And then came the day that the marble stair was hung.

The brothers had advised us beforehand.

Henri spoke for them both.

“Specialists, of course, will do it : but it is an operation which should be observed.  Mesdames and Messieurs will enjoy it.  Myself I have seen it three times. But I shall be there on Wednesday, because it takes me by storm.”

That we all paraded on Wednesday, I need not say.

The three lowest steps had been laid. They had no support. Risers and treads simply jutted into the semi-circular wall. They were five feet long, and they jutted into the wall to the depth of an inch. They were set with plaster : and the plaster joined together the risers and treads.

The fourth riser was fitted. We saw it laid. Then the specialist chipped out his niche, and his helpers lifted the fourth step and guided it into place. The specialist plastered it into place. It took him perhaps, two minutes to do this work.  He adjusted it to his liking and wiped the spare plaster away. And then he walked up the stair and stood on that step.

I do not expect to be believed, but we all of us saw him do it. He must have weighed thirteen stone, but the step never budged. And the step itself must have weighed a hundredweight.

“But why doesn’t it collapse?” said Daphne, putting a hand to her head.

The brothers, Jean and Henri, laughed and laughed.

“Madame, we cannot tell you, and we are builders ourselves. It is an art beyond us. But the specialist only smiles and talks about stresses and strains. “