Page:What will he do with it.djvu/82

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BOOK SECOND.




CHAPTER I.

Primitive character of the country in certain districts of Great Britain.—Connection between the features of surrounding scenery and the mental and moral inclinations of man, after the fashion of all sound ethnological historians.—A charioteer, to whom an experience of British laws suggests an ingenious mode of arresting the progress of Roman Papacy, carries Lionel Haughton and his fortunes to a place which allows of description and invites repose.

In safety, but with naught else rare enough, in a railway train, to deserve commemoration, Lionel reached the station to which he was bound. He there inquired the distance to Fawley Manor House; it was five miles. He ordered a fly, and was soon wheeled briskly along a rough parish road, through a country strongly contrasting the gay river scenery he had so lately quitted,—quite as English, but rather the England of a former race than that which spreads round our own generation like one vast suburb of garden-ground and villas. Here, nor village nor spire, nor porter's lodge came in sight. Rare even were the cornfields; wide spaces of unenclosed common opened, solitary and primitive, on the road, bordered by large woods, chiefly of beech, closing the horizon with ridges of undulating green. In such an England, Knights Templars might have wended their way to scattered monasteries, or fugitive partisans in the bloody Wars of the Roses have found shelter under leafy coverts.

The scene had its romance, its beauty—half savage, half gentle—leading perforce the mind of any cultivated and imaginative gazer far back from the present day, waking up long-forgotten passages from old poets. The stillness of such wastes of sward, such deeps of woodland, induced the nurture of revery, gravely soft and lulling. There, Ambition might give rest to the wheel of Ixion, Avarice to the sieve of the Danaids; there, disappointed Love might muse on the brevity of all human passions, and count over the tortured hearts that have found peace in holy meditation, or are now stilled under