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whilst the ladies, Dr. Hall, and Ben Jonson, who had all been included in the proposed visit, declined that honour for the present; the latter, however, declaring, with a hearty shake of the hand, and a bumper to their next meeting, that he would not fail to see how the cellars at Wyeburne Hall were stored in the course of the autumn, adding at the same time, that, as he was likewise on the wing, he would, with their leave, escort Master Montchensey and his daughter, on a part of their road the next morning.
With this arrangement, and with a promise on the part of Shakspeare, that the mission of honest Ben should not be altogether fruitless, but that he certainly would, if health were allowed him, rejoin his old friends at the Mermaid for a few days during the winter, the party separated for the night.
(To be continued.)
I range in fancy's consecrated round,
NoT more than a fortnight had elapsed from the departure of Montchensey and his daughter from Stratford, when Shakspeare, having received another urgent invitation from his new friends, determined on carrying his promised visit into effect.
It was on the afternoon of the third day of his journey, at a time when he entertained hopes of reaching the place of his destination in the course of a very few hours, that, having crossed one of those long and dreary wastes so frequent in Derbyshire, he began to descend into a deep and narrow valley. So precipitous, indeed, was the declivity, that it was with difficulty either he or his servant, though they dismounted from
their horses, could keep the animals from falling. The scenery, however, which at every step began to unfold itself, was of a character well fitted to attract attention even from the most careless mind, much more from that of the mighty minstrel who now stood gazing on its confines. It appeared, in fact, as if the chasm opening at his feet, had been effected by some stupendous convulsion of nature, which had riven the rocks asunder to their very base, disclosing at the same time the waters of a torrent, which had rolled and raved along its course for unnumbered ages in darkness and concealment.
Nor while such was the impression which the first view of this singular glen, or rather abyss, conveyed to the mind, were its details, though sometimes blending romantic forms with those of stern and rude sublimity, ineffective in completing the picture; which was, indeed, in all its parts, worthy the pencil of Salvator Rosa, and, what is still higher and more efficient praise, of the genius of him who now contemplated it..
Formidable, in short, as were the jaws or portals of this valley, its savage yet majestic wildness seemed to start forth with additional
features, as our bard pursued its downward course. Here rose cliffs, from whose faces, abrupt and perpendicular, and tinted with every hue which mosses and lichens could supply, were projected huge masses of the purest limestone, so singularly formed by the sportive hand of nature, that being partially covered with a net-work of ivy, they had all the appearance of the towers, buttresses, and mouldings of some ruined but gigantic castle; and further on, and deeper in the dell, and towering several hundred feet in height, were seen rocks whose scathed and naked summits over-browed and darkened the rugged road which lay winding at their feet; whilst, midway from their fractured sides and yawning chinks, grew several aged oaks and mountain ashes, whose fantastic roots and writhed branches, streaming in the air, threw over the whole scene a grotesque yet gloomy grandeur.
Striking, however, as these features were, they became immeasurably enhanced in their effect, both by the peculiar sinuosity of the glen, and by the bold character of the stream which watered its bosom; the former powerfully exciting the imagination, as well by a glimpse of
recesses into which, from the devious direction of the valley, the eye could not penetrate, as by the perpetual shutting-in, and folding, as it were, into each other, of the various precipices, which from the like cause were every where presented to the view; whilst the latter, pouring along its rugged bed, either lashed into fury by obstructing rocks or narrowing straits, or foaming with continual murmur over shelves stretching across its channel, stamped on all around it a character of turbulent yet diversified sublimity.
It was whilst absorbed in the contemplation of this romantic scenery, and whilst visions not less varied and sublime than those which physical nature now offered to his view, were kindling in the mind of Shakspeare, that he was suddenly startled from his reverie by the explosion of a musket or carabine, which echoed, as it immediately was, from numerous faces of the rocks, seemed to fill the valley with dissonance and confusion. Scarcely, indeed, had he time to turn his attention to the spot whence the first report had seemed to issue, when a second and a third were heard in different directions, and presently there appeared to start