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THE NEW FOREST

CHAPTER I.

Are not these woods

More free from peril than the envious Court:
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, booke in the running brooks.
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.

SHAKSPEARB

O^ the southern verge of the New Forest in Hampshire, and at no great distance from the sea, stands a larga and populous village, to which, for special reasons of our own, we shall assign the fictitious appellation of Thaxted. Its situation and appearance were much more picturesque than might have been expected from its vicinity to the sea, an element which, in our northern latitudes, generally imparts a sterile and unlovely character to the contiguous shores, either preventing altogether the growth of trees, or giving such a stunted, warped, and cankered appearance to those that struggle against the chalky soil and the stormy winds, as to make them rather disfiguring than ornamental to the scenery. Such was not the case at Thaxted, which was sufficiently removed from the great landscape-spoiler to be beyond the reach of its baneful influence, and yet near enough to derive from it all those scenic embellishments which so eminently enhance the beauty of a rich land-view, by affording occasional glimpses of the gleaming sea, or a white sail, caught beneath the boughs of noble trees, athwart the undulating hollows of the intervening downs, or over an enclosed and cultivated level. The village stood upon the extreme edge of a heath, not of such extent as some of those which, forming spacious openings in the interior of the New Forest, are extensive enough to deserve the name of—

« Vast savannas, where the wand'ring eye,
Unfixed, is in a verdant ocean lost ;*

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