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for, since my return to Stratford, I have experienced from him nothing but kindness and hospitality."
"I am happy to hear so decided a proof of his good sense," replied Montchensey, as they entered the park, the interesting appearance of which soon absorbed all their attention. It was, indeed, independent of its association with the fame and fortunes of the bard, a scene of great beauty; but to the present party, who viewed Shakspeare with much of that enthusiasm which has only fallen to the public mind within the last century, it was in a very high degree attractive.
"And it was here, my dear Sir," said Helen, addressing the poet, among the sheltered glens and romantic solitudes of Fulbroke park, beneath these deep and lofty woods,
whose boughs are moss'd with age, And high tops bald with dry antiquity,
that you were tempted to commit that trespass which, so fortunate for the lovers of the drama, cast the colour of your future life."
As she uttered these words, the breeze sighed
with a soothing and delicious murmur through the branches of the ancient avenue of oaks beneath which they stood, while, at the same moment, a few vagrant deer were seen bounding across the extremity of the vista.
"Yes, my sweet Helen," cried the poet, emerging with his friends from the broad shadow of the trees upon an open and extensive lawn, "to yonder spot, called Daisy-hill, then, and now, the keeper's lodge," pointing to a small house distantly situated in the park, "was it my fate to be carried, on detection in this adventurous amusement. My fellows in the sport had fled with a precipitation which I disdained to imitate; and here, in a state of jeopardy not much to be envied, had I to wait for some time, until a message from the hall summoned the poor culprit to a severer trial. But before we visit this scene, still present to my memory in all its once humiliating features, you would doubtless wish to see somewhat more of these rich glades and woodlands, which long before I had the misfortune to be entangled with my deer-loving friends, had formed my favourite haunts, and were to me, indeed, in all my youthful cares,
and lonely meditations, a source of never-failing delight."
May I not infer then, my friend," cried Montchensey, as with a perseverance which bade defiance to all common obstacles, the party had now reached the interior depths, and almost pathless solitudes of Fulbroke park, "that we are indebted to your wanderings here for the many exquisite sketches of forest scenery which delight us so much in your play of As You Like It, and which form so fine an accompaniment for the character of the melancholy Jaques ?"
"See," exclaimed Helen, her expressive eyes beaming with delight, as she pointed to a huge oak, whose twisted roots hung fantastically over a rivulet hurrying with loud murmurs to the Avon, while the rays of the sun just tinted, as they passed, one side of its moss-grown trunk, "does not yonder woodland picture most emphatically justify your supposition? for was it not here that the kind-hearted though sarcastic Jaques lay moralising on the wounded deer!
To day, my lord of Amiens and myself,
Under an oak, whose antique root peeps on
Upon the brook that brawls along this wood.''
Shakspeare smiled, and turning to his daughter, "You see, Susanna, that your partiality for your father's productions, however great, is in danger of being completely rivalled." "Yes, my dear Sir," she replied, the tears of rapture starting as she spoke, "I love Helen Montchensey, and revere her parent for the taste and enthusiasm which they feel for your writings. I can well remember, for the day is indelibly fixed on my memory, when first I accompanied you hither, how vividly was brought to my recollection the enchanting solitudes of the forest of Arden, and I can well remember, too, that as we sate, not far from this sequestered spot, and on the banks of this very stream, and whilst our minds were rapt in contemplation of the wild and lone grandeur of these gigantic trees, you confirmed my ideas of similitude by allowing that the first draughts of the woodland scenery of As You Like It,' were founded on the reminiscences of early life, when it was your most delightful recreation to wander through the glades of Fulbroke park."
"It is even so, my love," returned the bard, "nor has the lapse of years in aught diminished my attachment to these almost pathless solitudes.
I can still lose myself beneath their twilight gloom, in the same luxury of reverie, and my imagination still bodies forth those fairy visions which were wont to haunt my footsteps here in early life. Let us now, however, disentangling ourselves from the intricacies of the forest, reseek the Avon, for we have yet to traverse a considerable part of the adjoining grounds of Charlecote, and Sir Thomas, whom I yesterday apprised of our intended visit, may possibly be awaiting our approach."
The party immediately, therefore, though reluctantly, quitted the romantic recesses of Fulbroke, and crossing the Avon, on whose banks were reposing several herds of deer, and which winds through the grounds at the rear of Charlecote-house, they entered the home enclosures, with the view of approaching the mansion by the grand front, and through the noble avenue of trees which led up to it. Montchensey seemed greatly pleased with the appearance of the house as it rose before them through the stately trees in all its Gothic grandeur; it was on a large scale, in the form of the letter E, built of brick with stone coigns, and