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"My dears, where have you been? What have you been doing, girls? Was that Mr Burlington's carriage? Have you seen any one? Where have you been?" asked Mrs Atheling, while Agnes cried eagerly, 'Mamma, you are not to be angry and Marian answered, "Oh, mamma! we have been in fairyland!"
And then they sat down upon the old hair-cloth sofa beside the family table, upon which, its sole ornaments, stood Mrs Atheling's full work-basket, and some old toys of Bell's and Beau's; and thus, sometimes speaking together, sometimes interrupting each other, with numberless corrections on the part of Marian and supplementary remarks from Agnes, they told their astonishing story. They had leisure now to enjoy all they had seen and heard when they were safe in their own house, and reporting it all to Mamma. They described everything, remembered everything, went over every word and gesture of Mrs Edgerley, from her first appearance in Mr Burlington's room until their parting with her; and Marian faithfully recorded all her compliments to Hope Hazlewood, and Agnes her admira tion of Marian. It was the prettiest scene in the world to see them both, flushed and animated, breaking in, each upon the other's narrative, contradicting each other, after a fashion; remonstrating "Oh Ágnes !" explain ing, and adding description to description; while the mother sat before them in her easy-chair, sometimes quietly wiping her eyes, sometimes interfering or commanding, "One at a time, my dears," and all the time thinking to herself that the honours that were paid to "girls like these!" were no such wonder after all. And indeed Mrs Atheling would not be sufficiently amazed at all this grand and wonderful story. She was extremely touched and affected by the kindness of Mrs Edgerley, and dazzled with the prospect of all the great people who were waiting with so much anxiety to make acquaintance with the author of Hope Hazlewood, but she was by no means properly surprised.
My dears, I foresaw how it would be," said Mrs Atheling with her simple wisdom. "I knew quite well all this must happen, Agnes. I have
not read about famous people for nothing, though I never said much about it. To be sure, my dear, I knew people would appreciate youit is quite natural it is quite proper, my dear child! I know they will never make you forget what is right, and your duty, let them flatter as they will !"
Mrs Atheling said this with a little effusion, and with wet eyes. Agnes hung her head, blushed very deeply, grew extremely grave for a moment, but concluded by glancing up suddenly again with a little overflow of laughter. In the midst of all, she could not help recollecting how perfectly ridiculous it was to make all this commotion about her. "Me!" said Agnes with a start; "they will find me out directly-they must, mamma. You know I cannot talk or do anything; and indeed everybody that knew me would laugh to think of people seeing anything in me!"
Now this was perfectly true, though the mother and the sister, for the moment, were not quite inclined to sanction it. Agnes was neither brilliant nor remarkable, though she had genius, and was, at twenty and a half, a successful author in her way; As she woke from her first awe and amazement, Agnes began to find out the ludicrous side of her new fame. It was all very well to like the book; there was some reason in that, the young author admitted candidly; but surely those people must expect something very different from the reality, who were about to besiege Mrs Edgerley for introductions to
However, it was very easy to forget this part of the subject in returning to this dawn of social patronage, and in anticipating the invitation they had received. Mrs Atheling, too, was somewhat disappointed that they had made so little acquaintance with Mr Burlington, and could scarcely even describe him, how he looked or what he said. Mr Burlington had quite gone down in the estimation of the girls. His lady client had entirely eclipsed, overshadowed, and taken the glory out of the publisher. The talk was all of Mrs Edgerley, her beauty, her kindness, her great house, her approaching party. They began already to be agitated about this, re
membering with terror the important article of dress, and the simple nature and small variety of their united wardrobe. Before they had been an hour at home, Miss Willsie made an abrupt and sudden visit from Killiecrankie Lodge, to ascertain all about the extraordinary apparition of the carriage, and to find out where the girls had been; and it did not lessen
their own excitement to discover the extent of the commotion which they had caused in Bellevue. The only drawback was, that a second telling of the story was not practicable for the instruction and advantage of Papa-for, for the first time in a dozen years, Mr Atheling, all by himself, and solitary, was away from home.
A VISIT TO SELBORNE,
WHO that has read Gilbert White's Natural History of Selborne-and who has not read that delightful work?-but must have felt the desire to visit the scenes whose picturesque features, and varied phenomena of animal and vegetable life, have been there described with so much charming truth and elegant simplicity.
This desire, long entertained and strengthened by each successive perusal of White's never-tiring pages, I have lately had gratified, through the hospitality of an esteemed scientific friend, who has become the possessor of the house and grounds at Selborne formerly inhabited by Gilbert White, and made classical by his well-known work.
Amongst the changes that have taken place since the publication of the first edition of The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, 4to, London, 1789-the edition to which reference will be made in the present notice of the place-perhaps the most striking is that which has occurred in the time and mode of travelling from London to that secluded part of the county of Hampshire. In White's Eighteenth Letter, dated July 27, 1768, he incidentally notices the time in which some objects he was desirous of transmitting with speed might be forwarded from Selborne to London. The worthy field-naturalist had collected some specimens for the illustration of a work which his friend and correspondent, Thomas Pennant, the book-naturalist, was at that period preparing on British Zoology; and he writes: This morning, in a basket, I packed a little earthern pot full of
VOL. LXXX.-NO. CCCCXC.
wet moss, and in it some sticklebacks, male and female, the females big with spawn; some lamperns; some bullsheads; but I could procure no minnows. This basket will be in Fleet Street by eight this evening; so I hope Mazel (Pennant's artist) will have them fresh and fair to-morrow morning."-P. 52.
One fine day in the summer of 185-, my host of Selborne, another zoological friend, and myself, started from the London and South-Western Railway Station, Waterloo Bridge, at 1 P.M., for Farnham, and although Selborne was at the rare distance of sixteen miles from that--the then nearest
railway station, we arrived in good time for a half-hour's stroll in the old garden before sitting down to a five o'clock dinner.
The house in which Gilbert White lived and died remains as it is depicted in p. ix. of the second 4to edition of his History of Selborne, with the addition of one room to the western end, built in the same style, and strictly in accordance with the rest of the tenement. The garden and grounds have been restored, from the neglected condition in which my friend found them, as nearly as possible to the state in which they were left by the good old natural historian.
The brick-walk which he had laid down to his summer-house, to prevent damp feet, remains to fulfil the same preventive sanitary purpose for his successor. The garden is still bounded by the ha-ha down which the old tortoise took care not to fall, and into which Gilbert White tried, but failed, to introduce a colony of crickets,
although they tarried a while in the deep holes which he bored in the sloping turf. The ancient sun-dial still stands in the middle of the terrace walk at the bottom of the garden, which overlooks "the sheltered district between me and the Hanger," where we saw the housemartins sailing about in the same "placid, easy manner" in which their ancestors were recounted to do when "feasting on those insects which love to haunt a spot secure from ruffling winds." ""*
The fields into which this spot was divided in the historian's time, are now thrown into a charming little park of about twenty acres; and the eye travels from the smooth garden lawn over the verdant tract, to rest on the fine natural boundary of the sylvan scene formed by the far-extended hanging wood called "The Hanger." The covert of this steep declivity still consists exclusively of the beeches, "whose smooth rind or bark, glossy foliage, and graceful pendant boughs," led White to regard them as the most lovely of all forest trees." The park is adorned with noble specimens of many other kinds of tree, conspicuous amongst which rises the one mentioned by White as my great spreading oak,' round which, one fine evening in August 1789, "the fern-owl showed off in a very unusual and entertaining manner, by hawking round and round the circumference, keeping mostly close to the grass, but occasionally glancing up amidst the boughs of the tree." Another oak, planted by Gilbert himself, at the eastern end of his terrace walk, is now also a fine flourishing tree.
Within doors, our host introduced us to White's book-case and barometer, his box-compass, his spectacles, and a pair of old-fashioned highbacked chairs, that formed part of the original furniture of the drawingroom. The barometer is the one referred to in Letter Sixty, to the Hon. Daines Barrington (p. 284.)
A day or two before our arrival, Selborne had been visited by a thun
der-and-hail storm, the course and duration of which closely accorded with the brief but graphic account of that which occurred on June 5, 1784, given by White in the concluding letter of his Natural History. Many windows in the village were broken by the recent storm, and our friend's "garden lights and hand - glasses" have suffered as in good old Gilbert's time. One small farmer in the neighbourhood has had his little crops destroyed; it was curious to observe, as we passed the fields in our evening's ramble, how neatly the green heads of the wheat had been struck off by the hailstones. That poor man will bless the day that brought into White's house at Selborne one who combines with the same charity as his predecessor, more power to effect his benevolent intentions.
Those who, after a busy year spent in the midst of the noisy metropolis, are able to escape for a holiday to some distant village, know well the soothing influence of the contrasted silence which reigns around the bed on which the first night's rest is taken.
To me had been assigned the large bedroom in which Gilbert White breathed his last. My reflections on the happy peaceful career of that good and gifted man were broken only by the distant baying of a village cur, and the occasional light tap of the bat's wing as it flitted past the window. All else was profound repose, into which I, too, soon sank.
The bright summer morning's light, and a struggling ray of sunshine through a fissure of the curtained window, soon completed the return to wakefulness which some early village movement had originated. One has little inclination to indulge in a morning's nap in a strange bed; and to many, no doubt, as to myself, the impulse is irresistible to rise on awaking after the first night passed under a new roof.
Already the clang of the milk-pail sounded from the yard; and as I opened my window to let in the fresh
* History of Selborne, p. 272.
and fragrant air, I could hear the sharpening of a scythe in the garden. I soon, therefore, descended into the little oak-panelled library, which my friend has added to the old parlour, and thence, by a window opening upon the lawn, I walked forth to the beautiful scene, bounded by the beechen Hanger which had charmed and interested us the evening before. The sunlit sky was checkered by a few passing fleecy clouds, and the rich foliage was enlivened by alternate waves of light and shade. The willow-wren (Sylvia trochilus), so well distinguished by White in his Sixteenth Letter, was pouring forth its "joyous, easy, laughing note" from an evergreen covert near part of the old garden-wall, in which its nest had been strictly preserved by our excellent zoological host. A fly-catcher, which had also built its incubating cradle in a niche of the trunk of a fine sycamore, was ever and anon darting forth, securing its prey by its oddly tortuous flight, and returning still to the same stand without having touched ground. greensward the wagtails, white and On the grey, were making their short hasty turns, stopping abruptly between to pick up the insect from the close grass; whilst the descendants of the swallows on whose winter torpidity White loved to speculate, were skimming in smooth and gentle curves through the mild and fresh morning air.
Two mowers were at work on the lawn which rises to the left of White's old bricked walk. I was amused by the proceedings of a tame magpie, a pet of one of the men, whom the bird followed, pecking at his trousers, perhaps as a hint for breakfast; and also by the manoeuvres of our host's fine tortoise-shell cat, who, without venturing directly to attack the bird, stole about as if making believe to spring. But Maggie, without showing alarm, contrived to give a wide berth to Grimalkin, who thereupon sat upright, and began, as disappointed cats are wont, vehemently to scratch her ear. of The next impulse puss was to spring into a neighbouring tree, and then came Maggie's turn. She followed, flitting to a
branch above pussie, who thereupon put herself into position; but the hopping to a higher bough, and so wary bird avoided the charge_by led on the cat, in rising circles, to branches weight; and as they shook under her, that barely bore retreating awkwardly, Mag chattered out a chuckling triumph over her baffled enemy.
by the hearty greetings of my fellowMy meditations were soon broken guest and our kind host. After a few turns to see and comment on the little domain-more restored than restorations and improvements in the altered-we returned to sit down to that English country breakfast, the merits of which Howitt, I think, has recorded con gusto in one of his pleasing writings.
arranged. The pony-carriage took us Our excursion for the day was then through the straggling village, and along deep-shaded grassy lanes to Empshot, where we alighted, and pursued the rest of our way on foot to Hawkley-mill; then round by The little church at Empshot is reGrulay Farm and Nore Hill home. markable for the contrast of its beauing outside. Notwithstanding its tiful interior with its plain unpromissmall dimensions, a double row of low thick Saxon columns support the roof clear of the side walls, between of aisles presents the always pleasing which and the pillars, the narrowest through Farmer Bennett's well-trimeffect of shady cloisters. We passed med garden into the old park behind the church, and along a bosky valley Hawkley. to the picturesque water-mill at
hanger at Hawkley is commemorated The steep and woody by White in his Forty-fifth Letter there in the year 1774. Amongst the for the great landslip that took place incidents which he narrates are those that happened to the inhabitants of a cottage implicated in the subsithe time occupied by an old woman dence of the soil, and which was at and her son and his wife. "These people in the evening, which was very dark and tempestuous, observed that the brick floors of their kitchens began to heave and part, and that the walls seemed to open and the
roofs to crack; but they all agree that no tremor of the ground indicating an earthquake was ever felt, only that the wind continued to make a most tremendous roaring in the woods and hangers. The miserable inhabitants, not daring to go to bed, remained in the utmost solicitude and confusion, expecting every moment to be buried under the ruins of their shattered edifices. When daylight came they were at leisure to contemplate the devastations of the night: they then found that a deep rift or chasm had opened under their houses and torn them as it were in two, and that one end of a barn had suffered in a similar manner; that a pond near the cottage had undergone a strange reverse, becoming deep at the shallow end, and so vice versa; that many large oaks were moved out of their perpendicular, some thrown down, and some fallen into the heads of neighbouring trees; and that a gate was thrust forward, with its hedge, full six feet, so as to require a new track to be made to it. From the foot of the cliff, the general course of the ground, which is pasture, inclines in a moderate descent for half a mile, and is interspersed with some hillocks, which were rifted in every direction, as well towards the great woody hanger as from it. In the first pasture the deep clefts began, and, running across the lane and under the buildings, made such vast shelves that the road was impassable for some time, and so over to an arable field on the other side, which was strangely torn and disordered. The second pasture-field, being more soft and springy, was protruded forward without many fissures in the turf, which was raised in long ridges resembling graves, lying at right angles to the motion. At the bottom of this enclosure, the soil and turf rose many feet against the bodies of some oaks that obstructed their further course, and terminated this awful commotion. The perpendicular height of the precipice in general is twenty-three yards; the length of the lapse or slip, as seen from the
Op. cit. p. 248.
fields below, one hundred and eightyone; and a partial fall, concealed in the coppice, extends seventy yards more, so that the total length of this fragment that fell was two hundred and fifty-one yards. About fifty acres of land suffered from this violent convulsion; two houses were entirely destroyed; one end of a new barn was left in ruins, the walls being cracked through the very stones that composed them; and a hanging coppice was changed to a naked rock.”*
It was beautiful to see, as we contrasted the scene before us with that described by White, how kindly nature, in the lapse of years, had healed over her great wound, and had clothed the once bare cliff with a particoloured garment_of lichens, mosses, and shrubs. gaping fissures in the fields below have been filled up, and the irregular surface more or less levelled by the spade and plough; yet still the main features of the scene testify how accurately the recent catastrophe was described by the gifted historian of his parish. Satisfied with this comparison, we sauntered along the green shady lanes, and through meadows redolent of haymaking or of wildflowers whose varied hues were lit up by the bright sunshine, until we came upon the high grounds joining the noble chalk promontory of Nore Hill, where the perennial stream called "Wellhead "gushes forth, and winds its way with a cool refreshing murmur towards the vale of Selborne.
Gilbert White describes how this stream makes one branch of the Wey, and meeting the Black Down stream at Hedleigh, and the Alton and Farnham stream at Tilford Bridge, swells into a considerable river, navigable to Godalming, from whence it passes to Guildford, and so into the Thames at Weybridge; and as it rose at Nore Hill, so the good man pleased himself with the remark, that it finally passed "at the Nore into the German Ocean." +
Continuing our gradual ascent upon the fine chalky sheep-down of Sel