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exquisite is the pleasure I derive from the sylvan and picturesque beauties. of Hales Court, contrasting as they do with the bare, flat uninteresting fields or open moors with which I am surrounded when at home. Agatha ! Agatha ! I will run for her. I shall be delighted to accompany you."
There was good reason for the enthusiasm with which Edith spoke of the surrounding scenery, although she had hitherto seen but little of it, the house hanging like a bird's-nest amid a wilderness of boughs and leaves, which afforded glimpses rather than views from the windows, or from the embowered lawn in front, while the ground at the back rose so rapidly as to afford no prospect but that of trees, climbing above one another. Agatha was soon found and equipped for their excursion, when Mr. Shelton, passing out of a gate on one side of the lawn, conducted his companions to a walk, that wound for some distance under a hanging coppice, planted with sycamores and maples, while the ground was thickly covered
with wild foxglove and tufted lilies of the valley, clustering around the roots of the trees which overcanopied the walk in its whole extent. Sometimes their branches were so thickly interwoven as only to admit a cool, dim light, that seemed to have acquired a green hue, as it oozed through the leaves; while at others the sun darted from partial openings, flickering upon the golden grass as the waving boughs checquered it with their shade; but the hand of art was everywhere carefully concealed ; the walk, which was not gravelled, seemed to be a natural one, the wild flowers and bushes of hawthorn, briar, and woodbine, on either side, being left undisturbed. Rustic seats were distributed at intervals, and Edith gladly rested herself upon one placed beside a cool pellucid brook, surrounded with aspens, whose rustling leaves sounded like a waterfall, blending not inharmoniously with the song of the numerous birds who had built their nests in this secure asylum.
“ How lulling and delicious,” exclaimed
Edith, “is the enjoyment that seems to pervade every sense of the body, and every perception of the mind, as we sit here inhaling fragrance, listening to Nature's music, beholding her beauties on every side, or looking upwards through the branches at the blue heavens, as they hang serenely over this little bower of tranquil loveliness. If I might judge by my own delightful sensations, I should say, that a scene like this would soothe the heaviest heart."
“ Few, however, are so sensitive as your own,” said Agatha ; “but, in truth, it is a pleasant, tranquillizing spot, whose benignant influence has been experienced both by my dear father and myself, when we have resorted to it with wounded feelings. But we have finer and grander views than this, and if you have rested long enough, we will lead you towards them."
My body has rested long enough, but my mind would be content to linger still at this sweet spot. However, I am ready to accom
pany you.” She started up, and they proceeded along the same path, which now became narrower and darker, from the umbrageous canopy over-head, while they were occasionally obliged to pass beneath rude arches of rock, where the obscurity was purposely deepened, in order to heighten the effect of the opening, to which they were gradually winning their way along an imperceptible ascent. They gained it at length, suddenly emerging from the leafy gloom upon a grassy eminence, which, shelving gently down to a sheet of water beneath, commanded an extensive sunny landscape
of the most unbounded fertility and beauty. Immediately upon their left were the stately woods of Sir Halsewell Tynte, affording a glimpse of the noble park, animated with deer, and of Goathurst Church ; the groves of Hales Court extended to the right; in front, the eye luxuriated to the distance of twelve miles over a vast vale of rich enclosures, spotted with hamlets and spires, and gleaming objects, and bounded by the Bristol Channel, radiant
with sun-light; from the midst of which, the Steep Holm rose boldly and abruptly, presenting its shaded side to the spectators, while the view was terminated by the Welsh mountains, towering one above another, in every variety of light, outline, and hue.
There was a silence of some minutes; for the Sheltons wished to afford their visitant, who had never been to this spot before, leisure to discover all its beauties; and when Agatha, at length, inquired whether the prospect equalled her expectations, the enthusiastic Edith was at first unable to make any articulate reply. Her voice was shaken to pieces by deep emotion ; she pressed both her hands upon her heart, as if to control its throbbing, and the tears of silent ecstasy coursed one another down her cheeks.
My dear friend, you are ill; you are deeply affected,” exclaimed Agatha.--" What has overcome you so suddenly ?”
Delight !” faltered Edith, in an emphatic whisper-—" an ecstasy most sweet and holy;