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be said to offer, on a small scale, almost every species of variety. The whole valley, indeed, on both sides of the water, together with a considerable extent of the forests and moorlands beyond and above it, and which had been for ages the property of the Montchenseys, exhibited a perpetual interchange of aspect and scenery, alike calculated to gratify the eye, and to furnish opportunities for rural diversion; the moors affording an ample range for the amusement of hunting and coursing, whilst the Wye and its immediate vicinage offered as rich a field for the sports of fishing and water-hawking.
Though, from his long residence in the capital, Shakspeare had lost some of the keen relish which he once felt for the active diversions of the country, yet was he, as much as ever, the enthusiastic worshipper of Nature, in all her rural habitudes and forms; nor could he wander in the wild and woody glades which stretched nearly on all sides from the hospitable mansion of Montchensey, furnishing, as they occasionally did, such contrasted views of what was most lovely and romantic in landscapepainting, without experiencing that absorption
of mind, that ever-fertile and exclusory association of ideas, to which a creative imagination is so remarkably subject. Thus was it, as his eye, glancing over the sparkling current of theWye, caught suddenly, through an opening in a group of trees, a prospect of the distant hamlet, as it lay reposing in the morning light, dropped, as it seemed to be, for the purpose of beauty and effect, between the lofty-shelving and woodclothed sides of the glen, which, in this part of its track, left little more space than was sufficient for the site of the village, its accompanying stream, and a range of greensward, that, on either hand, stretched to the foot of the cliffs. It was an object which, in his glowing fancy, instantly gave birth to a thousand fascinating pictures of human life and character; and so intensely was he occupied in this world of his own creation, that Helen Montchensey had stolen upon his retreat, and had actually stood for nearly a minute before him, ere he was aware of her presence. She had learnt, almost as soon as she had risen, that he had walked into the park; and, after a long search, she had found him reclined on the roots of an old oak,
whose gigantic branches stretched far and wide over his head, thus contemplating the little village of Wyeburne, as, gleaming in the sun-light, it was seen terminating the vista which accident, and not art, had opened at this spot. So truly beautiful, indeed, seemed the view under its present disposition of light and shade, that Helen, often as she had seen it at all times of the day, could not help, for the instant, imbibing a portion of the same fascination which had fixed the poet in reverie; and, after a moment's thought, she felt almost inclined to retire, nor disturb his abstraction, when her dog Tray, who entertained no scruples of the kind, and who had been for some little time endeavouring, but in vain, to arrest her attention, began suddenly to bark, and Shakspeare, starting in surprise from his trance, yet laughing as he beheld the arch look with which his fair visitor surveyed him, "Yes, my dear Helen," he exclaimed, "you may well seem astonished at seeing your father's sage friend thus stretched, like a lovesick youth, beneath the shade: but I am, I must confess, enamoured with the aspect of yonder lovely village; and if, on a nearer approach, it
should realise the visions which this first and distant view of it has awakened in my imagination, I will call it a little paradise on earth."
"Ah! my dear Sir," cried Helen, sighing, "how often does it happen in life, that we dress a distant object in rainbow colours, which fade as we draw near! But in this instance," she added, resuming her wonted cheerfulness, "I may venture to say, you will not be disappointed; for Wyeburne is, indeed, a lovely spot, and as little contaminated, perhaps, with human vice and folly, as the frailty of our nature will allow."
"Had the reflection you have just uttered," rejoined Shakspeare, "fallen from myself, it had been, I trust, more in character; for your pilgrimage has been short, my fair friend, and, I would fain think, as yet unmingled with aught that can have paled the bloom of hope."
"And does not the canker ofttimes eat its Iway into the bud ?" said Helen, whilst a tear started to her eye; but a moment dissipated, or seemed to dissipate, her sorrow; and she instantly proposed a walk to the village. "It is little more than a mile," she observed, "and we
shall be thither and back again before the heat becomes oppressive."
"Were it a dozen, my dear Helen," returned the poet with emotion, "I would gladly accompany you ;" and taking her arm within his, they soon reached the banks of the river, where a path which followed the course of the stream led them by a very delightful, though somewhat circuitous route, to the object they had in view.
Nothing could well, indeed, surpass either in variety or amenity, this walk through the park grounds to the little hamlet of Wyeburne; whilst at the same time the cool breeze which just played upon the surface of the water, and the lively verdure of the greensward on its banks, yet glistening with dew, produced that delicious sensation of freshness which an hour or two's further advance in the day would, at this season of the year, have inevitably dissipated. "How exhilarating to the spirits," exclaimed Shakspeare," is this prime of a summer's morning, and how all things seem to smile, my love, on our approach to your favourite village; for not only do we look up delighted to these eminences just kindling in the rosy light of day,