Margaret Capel: A Novel, vol. 2 of 3

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Where’er we gaze, above, around, below,
What rainbow tints, what magic charms are found!
Rock, river, forest, mountain, all abound;
And bluest skies that harmonise the whole.
Beneath, the distant torrent’s rushing sound,
Tells where the volumed cataract doth roll,
Between those hanging rocks that shock yet please the soul.

There is a portion of the coast in one of the southern counties of England, which, without aspiring to the sublimity of foreign scenery, possesses a certain grandeur from the abruptness and variety of its outline. High cliffs stand boldly forward into the sea, while the intermediate shore rises and falls in gentle and uncertain undulations. For many miles inland, this irregular character of the surface continues. The ground rises and falls so suddenly, that in many places the trees which clothe the tops of the hills, almost shut out the sky from the spectator in the valley; while many coloured rocks, vary by their wild forms and rich tints, the even line of verdure which extends over the precipitous sides of these ravines.

This part of the country is rich in scenes of peculiar beauty. Brooks trickle from the shade of deep thickets, or sparkle in stony cells overgrown with creepers at the foot of a confused heap of broken rocks.

Hill and dale crowd upon each other in quick succession—every turn in the way leads to fresh aspects of the prospect. Now the traveller’s view is bounded by high banks, overgrown with trees and tangled brushwood; now the ground breaks away in such a gradual slope, that the sea may be discerned in the distance, trembling in the sunshine, or breaking in rough foam upon the long brown line of the beach.

Half way between one of these bold headlands and the shore, there stood a beautiful cottage, with a thickly wooded hill at the back, and a highly cultivated plot of garden ground in the front: while the side of the house stood so near the edge of a sudden descent in the cliff, that nothing but a broad terrace-walk intervened between the garden-windows, and the abrupt declivity which was washed by the waves when the tide was higher than usual.

It was a brilliant evening. The sun had almost descended to the horizon, and a long pathway of golden light fell upon the calm sea, and the wet sand from which the waves had just receded.

A dim radiance seemed to fill the air, and to blend hills, trees, and sky together in one soft and many tinted confusion of colours; while the lengthened rays threaded their brilliant way among the slender stems of the trees, and dropped like diamonds upon the dark rivulets that lay in shadow among the brushwood during the early part of the day.

It was an evening when the whole earth looked so bright, so costly, steeped in sunlight, and surrendered to the stillness which belongs to that quiet hour, that it seemed as if this lower world might be fitly inhabited only by fairies or other such fragile creatures of the imagination. Such, however, were not the denizens of the cottage by the hill-side; but a comely old lady in an antique cap and black silk gown, who had the appearance of a house-keeper, or confidential servant, and who was leaning over the Gothic gate at the end of the shrubbery, and looking along the winding road, as if on the watch for some expected travellers.

Her patience was not put to any lengthened test. In a few minutes, a carriage was seen rapidly advancing to the house. The old woman retreated to the porch; the carriage drew up, and a lady of a commanding aspect descended, followed by a slight graceful girl.

“Ah! nurse, dear nurse! how glad I am to see you!” exclaimed the young lady, throwing herself into the old woman’s arms.

“Welcome to England! Welcome back, my darling!” said the nurse, endeavouring to execute a curtsey to the elder lady, while imprisoned in the embrace of the younger one.

“I am rejoiced to see you again, nurse Grant,” said Mrs. Fitzpatrick, the elder of the two ladies, “Aveline, my love, we are just in the way here—let us go in.”

“Yes, mamma. I long to see the dear rooms again. How comfortable every thing looks! Nurse, come in. Mamma, you said that nurse should drink tea with us to-night.”

“Yes, if nurse pleases,” said the lady, as they went into the drawing-room, where tea was awaiting them in all the English delicacy of that meal. “Aveline has been depending on your company all the way from Southampton, Mrs. Grant.”

“Bless her, the darling!” said the old woman. “She is tired with her journey, is she not? I hope she means to eat something. A fresh egg, or some cold chicken, Miss Aveline?”

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