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The doors of the garden parlour, and of the dressing-room of the master of the house, were both standing open; birds were singing outside, and, within, Sir Frederick Derwent was performing his toilet, and whistling snatches of one of the Italian airs Clarice had been singing the night before. Once or twice, he changed it, and tried something else; but the tune seemed to haunt him. After a few minutes, he went back to it again.
Two or three times, in the course of dressing, he came to the glass-door, and looked out at the grass-plot, bordered with shrubs, upon which it opened. It was quite early in the morning. The trees cast long shadows. Every blade of the turf was steeped in moisture, and the little flower roots, at the edge of the border,
had large drops of dew standing in the shining cups of their blossoms, and glittering on their petals. A sparkling shower fell through the branches, as the fresh wind passed over and stirred the young trees of the plantation.
Old Derwent, as he frequently called himself, was not insensible to the pleasantness of the
After he had rung, and ordered his horse, he took several turns in the shrubbery. Since Miss Derwent and Clarice had become acquainted with the position of his apartments, they had been careful not to intrude upon him. Other walks, besides the one which went from the front of the mansion past his windows, led to the pleasure grounds and flower-garden. He was as much at liberty to smoke his cigar in the labyrinthine wood-paths, on the western side of the dwelling, as when he had been living alone, in his solitary state, at Maydwell. They were at the utmost pains not to interfere, with his proceedings. It was his own fault if he fell in with them,
when he wandered from the part of the grounds near his own rooms to the lawn in front of the house ; but, at this early hour, it was scarcely likely that any one but himself should be stirring. Probably he wished to take advantage of this circumstance; for he boldly turned into what had always been called the Lady's walk; and went fearlessly on, under the shining walls of evergreen, all bathed in dew, still with Clarice Le Sage's Italian song upon his lips, “whistling for want of thought."
This broad path conducted him straight from the east angle of the house to the brook. He leaned over the rail of the bridge, and looked at the pebbles in the clear stream, disturbing the water hens from their nests, and sending them screaming across the lawn. The hares ran along the path beyond in the plantations, which was left wild and overgrown with moss: only the part of the grounds near the house being kept up with much
Even the game was not very strictly preserved. The boards declaring that man-traps and spring-guns were set in the woods, gave no alarm except to strangers. Laura and Clarice rambled about, without fear or impediment, among the boles of the trees against which the threatening notifications were affixed. The keepers said the poachers were growing so audacious, that, if stringent measures were not taken, all the birds would be netted, and the fish out of the very ponds under the windows stolen. Though Sir Frederick often announced his intention of checking and punishing these depredators, at present the old order of things, which had prevailed in Mrs. Derwent's time, continued.
Exactly at the moment of his pausing by the bridge, Clarice, looking fresh and cool. as the dewy morning, came through the wood, with a small basket of wild strawberries on her arm, which she had gathered at the roots of the old trees, for the inveterately-lazy Laura's
breakfast. Sir Frederick had flung their letters through the partly-open door of Miss Derwent's apartment, at nine o'clock, so often, without eliciting anything but an ejaculation of alarm at the idea of his intrusion, that he did not in the least expect to find either of his fair guests, at seven o'clock, in the woods. He congratulated Clarice on her good taste, and told her he should be back from his ride in a couple of hours, by which time Laura would, he trusted, be up and dressed, and ready to take a drive with him. Holcombe and some of the young farmers were coming to play at cricket; and he wanted to go over to Fordington, and tell Bingley's lads that the ground was open.
He walked by her side to the house, talking all the way, and stealing the tempting-looking strawberries from under the cool green leaves with which she had covered them. In pay. ment, he gathered for her a bunch of roses, that grew near the corner of the house, with sharp, thickly-set thorns, which ran into and