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removed, and the body of the fabric forming a square with an interior court, was seen rising immediately from the most elevated portion of the surrounding park, which gradually dropped down on three sides to the banks of the Wye, whose stream taking a bold semi-circular sweep in its way to the village, was an object of life and beauty from almost every part of the mansion. It was built chiefly of brick with stone mouldings, had a lofty tower projecting in the centre of its front, and surmounting its porch, and four turrets, one at each corner of the entire quadrangle. The hall, into which you entered directly from the porch, was spacious, had an antique arched roof with sculptured wood of curious workmanship, and was adorned with eight figures of bucks carved in brown wood, and large as life, which were ranged at intervals along its sides. There were, also, on the ground floor of the principal front, beside the tapestried room which we have already mentioned, a library, a back parlour, and a banquetting or dining room, the latter being enriched with several fine pictures from the easel of Hans Holbein. At the upper end of the interior court,
or court of the fountains, as it was called, from two beautiful displays of this kind in its centre, and the lower part of whose sides consisted of open cloisters, was situated, in a direction immediately opposite the hall, a small chapel, elegantly finished in the florid Gothic style; and over the above-mentioned cloisters in each wing was a long gallery, that on the right being hung with a rich collection of family pictures, and above all a suite of chambers; the height, however, of the sides of the court being two stories lower than that of the principal front, whilst the chapel in altitude rose to a level with the en
Such were the prominent features of the architectural arrangement of Wyeburne Hall, a fabric then more than two centuries old, and which, though it had undergone some slight internal changes and improvements, in accordance with the taste of the times, had not been violated exteriorly by the introduction of that incongruous mixture of Grecian and Gothic styles so common during the latter part of the sixteenth and commencement of the seventeenth century.
But, reverting to our story; after the first cordial salutations had passed between Shakspeare and his friends, the latter very naturally inquired into what had occasioned such unexpected delay in the arrival of their guest, mentioning, at the same time, how greatly their apprehensions had been excited lest any unforeseen accident should have detained him so much beyond the hour he had thought it probable he should reach them; in replying to which Shakspeare gave a full detail of his having, by mistake, passed through the valley of, and of his encounter there with Roland the freebooter.
At the mention of this name he was surprised to observe the agitation into which Montchensey appeared to be thrown; and he could not help adding, “I am afraid, my friend, that your property, nay, perhaps your lives, may be endangered by the neighbourhood of this lawless adventurer and his wild associates."
"I cannot say," returned Montchensey, as soon as he had sufficiently recovered to speak with composure, "that in these respects we have lately had reason to complain; on the contrary, since this fellow, Roland, as he terms
himself, became the leader of the gang, now better than a year ago, this place has remained perfectly unmolested; nay, indeed, the village itself may look up to him as their protector from every species of depredation. But there is a mystery and pretension about this young man that, connected as they are with some circumstances which have lately occurred, very justly excite my apprehensions; and his conduct towards you this day, noble and praiseworthy as it is, and indicative of a lofty and cultivated spirit, only adds to my astonishment and suspicions."
"And have you made no representations to government," enquired Shakspeare, "relative to the existence and enormities of these desperadoes?"
"I know not that they absolutely merit the title which you have given them," returned Montchensey, "especially since Roland has assumed the direction of their affairs; for though we still occasionally hear of a wealthy or obnoxious neighbour having been disburthened by them of his purse, and even of his horse as he journeyed, yet he has nearly, if not altogether, succeeded in limiting their spoliations to the
contents of our forests and deer-parks. Mine, however, from some cause or other which I am anxious to learn, have been lately exempt from all levy of this arbitrary kind; and as the villagers, whose poultry and cattle used formerly to be laid under heavy contribution, now experience a similar forbearance, Roland has, not undeservedly, become a mighty favourite amongst them; and, indeed, if we except the lordly proprietors of venison, with the whole country side; for, though his irregularities are neither small nor infrequent, there is, I understand, a courtesy and gallantry in his bearing and demeanour to the lower orders which reconciles them to all his faults. In short, under the influence of their present chief, these outlaws, once remembered with dread and detestation, and against whom for more than ten years we had all been accustomed to go armed, have now become little other than Robin Hood's men ; making free, it is true, with the out-door superfluities of the rich, but sparing at the same time, and even protecting, the poor. These circumstances, together with the conviction which repeated experience has brought home to us, that