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was slightly discoloured with sand. No ruddier stain crimsoned the tide ; no figure rested on the naked rock; no hand clung to the motionless tree.

“ Devil take the rascal,” growled one; “I hope he har’nt escaped us, arter all.” Noa, noa, he be fast enough, never fear,” rejoined the

sticking like a snig at the bottom o'the pond ; and dang him he deserves it, for he's slipp'd out of our fingers like a snig often enough to-night. But come, let's be stumping, and give poor Hugh Badger a helping hand.”

Whereupon they returned to the assistance of the wounded and discomfited keeper.

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CHAPTER IV.

THE HALL.

I am right against my house - seat of my ancestors.

Yorkshire Tragedy.

RookwooD PLACE was a fine, old, irregular pile, of considerable size, presenting a rich, picturesque outline, with its innumerable gable ends, its fantastical coigns, and tall crest of twisted chimneys. There was no uniformity of style about the building, yet the general effect was pleasing and beautiful. Its very irregularity constituted a charm. Nothing except convenience had been consulted in its construction : additions had from time to time been made to it, but every thing dropped into its proper place, and, without apparent effort or design, grew into an ornament, and heightened the beauty of the whole. It was, in short, one of those glorious, manorial houses, that sometimes unexpectedly greet us in our wanderings, and gladden us like the discovery of a hidden treasure. Some such ancestral hall we have occasionally encountered, in unlooked for quarters, in our native county of Lancaster, or in its smiling sister shire ; and never without feelings of intense delight, rejoicing to behold the freshness of its antiquity, and the greenness of its old age. For, be it observed in passing, a Cheshire or Lancashire hall, time-honoured though it be, with

its often renovated black and white

squares, fancifully filled up with trefoils and quatrefoils, rosettes, and other figures, seems to bear its years so lightly, that its age, so far from detracting from its beauty, only lends it a grace ; and the same mansion, to all outward appearance, fresh and perfect as it existed in the days of good Queen Bess, may be seen in admirable preservation in the days of the youthful Victoria. Such is Bramallsuch Moreton, and many another we might instance ; the former of these houses may, perhaps, be instanced as the best specimen of its class (and its class, in our opinion, is the best) to be met with in Cheshire, considered with reference either to the finished decoration of its exterior, rich in the chequered colouring we have alluded to, preserved with a care and neatness almost Dutch, or to the consistent taste exhibited by its possessor in the restoration and maintenance of all its original and truly national beauty within doors. As an illustration of old English hospitality (that real, hearty hospitality, for which the squirearchy of this country was once so famous—ah! why have they bartered it for other customs less substantially English ?) it may be mentioned, that a road conducted the passenger directly through the great hall of this house, literally “ of entertainment,” where, if he listed, strong ale, and other refreshments, awaited his acceptance, and courted his stay. Well might old King, the Cheshire historian, in the pride of his honest heart, exclaim, “I know divers men, who are but farmers, that in their housekeeping may compare with a lord or baron, in some countries beyond the seas ;

-yea, although I named a higher degree, I were able to justify it.We have no such “ golden farmers” in these degenerate days !

The mansion was originally built by Sir Ranulph de Rookwood, (or, as it was then written, Rokewode,) the firstof the name, a stout Yorkist, who flourished in the reign of Edward IV., and received the fair domain and broad lands upon which the edifice was raised, from his sovereign, in reward for good service ; retiring thither in the decline of life, at the close of the wars of the Roses, to sequestrate himself from scenes of strife, and to consult his spiritual weal in the erection and endowment of the neighbouring church. It was of mixed architecture, and combined the peculiarities of each successive era. Retaining some of the sterner features of earlier days, the period ere yet the embattled manor-house peculiar to the reigns of the later Henries had been merged in the graceful and peaceable hall, the residence of the Rookwoods had early anticipated the gentler characteristics of a later day, though it could boast little of that exuberance of external ornament, luxuriance of design, and prodigality of beauty, which, under the sway of the virgin queen, distinguished the residence of the wealthier English landowner; and rendered the hall of Elizabeth, properly so called, the pride and boast of our domestic architecture.

The site selected by Sir Ranulph for his habitation had been already occupied by a vast fabric of oak, which he in part removed, though some vestiges might still be traced of that ancient pile. A massive edifice succeeded, with gate and tower, court and moat complete, substantial enough one would have thought to have endured for centuries. But even this ponderous structure grew into disuse, and Sir Ranulph's successors, remodelling, repairing, almost rebuilding the whole mansion, in the end so metamorphosed its aspect, that at last little of its original and distinctive character remained. Still, as we said before, it was a fine old house; though some changes had taken place for the worse, which could not be readily pardoned by the eye of taste : as, for instance, the deep embayed windows had dwindled into modernised casements, of lighter construction ; the wide porch, with its flight of steps leading to the great hall of entrance, had yielded to a narrow door ; and the broad, quadrangular court was succeeded by a gravel drive. Yet, despite of all these changes, the house of the Rookwoods, for an old house (and, after all, what is like an old house ?) was no undesirable, or uncongenial abode for any worshipful country gentleman “who had a great estate.”

The hall was situated near the base of a gently declining hill, terminating a noble avenue of limes, and partially embosomed in an immemorial wood of the same timber, which had given its name to the family that dwelt amongst its rook. haunted shades. Descending the avenue, at the point of access afforded by a road that wound down the hill-side, towards a village distant about half a mile, as you advanced, the eye was first arrested by a singular octagonal turret of brick, of more recent construction than the house; and in all probability occupying the place where the bartizan'd gateway stood

This tower rose to a height corresponding with the roof of the mansion ; and was embellished on the side facing

of yore.

the house, with a flamingly gilt dial, peering, like an impudent observer, at all that passed within doors.

Two apartments, which it contained, were appropriated to the houseporter. Despoiled of its martial honours, the gateway still displayed the achievements of the family—the rook and the fatal branch—carved in granite, which had resisted the storms of two centuries, though stained green with moss, and mapped over with lichens. To the left, overgrown with ivy, and peeping from out a tuft of trees, appeared the hoary summit of a dovecot, indicating the near neighbourhood of an ancient barn, contemporary with the earliest dwelling-house; and of a little world of offices and out-buildings buried in the thickness of the foliage. To the right was the garden — the pleasaunce of the place — formal, precise, old fashioned, arti. ficial, yet exquisite !-(for commend us to the bygone, beautiful English garden-really a garden—not that mixture of park, meadow, and wilderness *, brought up to one's very windows—which, since the days of the innovators, Kent, and his “bold associates,” Capability Brown and Co., has obtained so largely)—this was a garden! There might be seen the stately terraces, such as Watteau, and our own Wilson, in his earlier works, painted - the trim alleys exhibiting all the triumphs of Topiarian art

The sidelong walls,
Of shaven yew ; the holly's prickly arms,
Trimm'd into high arcades ; the tonsile box,
Wove in mosaic mode of many a curl,

Around the figured carpet of the lawn, † the gayest of parterres and greenest of lawns, with its admonitory sun-dial, its marble basin in the centre, its fountain, and conched water-god, the quaint summer-house, surmounted

* Payne Knight, the scourge of Repton and his school, speaking of the licence ndulged in by the modern landscape gardeners, thus vents his indignation :

But here, once more, ye rural muses weep
The ivy'd balustrade, and terrace steep;
Walls, mellowed into harmony by time,
On which fantastic creepers used to climb ;
While statues, labyrinths, and alleys pent
Within their bounds, at least were innocent! -
Our modern taste (alas !) no limit knows;
O'er hill, o'er dale, through wood and field it flows;
Spreading o’er all its unprolific spawn,
In never-ending sheets of vapid lawn. -

The Landscape, a didactic Poem,

addressed to Uvedale Price, Esq. † Mason's English Garden,

D

و

with its gilt vane, the statue, glimmering from out its covert of leaves, the cool cascade, the urns, the bowers, and a hundred luxuries beside, suggested and contrived by Art to render Nature most enjoyable, and to enhance the recreative delights of home-out-of-doors (for such a garden should be), with least sacrifice of in-door comfort and convenience.

When Epicurus to the world had taught,

That pleasure was the chiefest good;
(And was perhaps i' th' right, if rightly understood)
His life he to his doctrine brought -

And in his garden's shade that sovereign pleasure sought. * All these delights might once have been enjoyed. But at the time of which we write, this fair garden was for the most part a waste. Ill kept, and unregarded, the gay parterres were disfigured with weeds ; grass grew on the gravel walk; several of the urns were overthrown; the hour upon the dial was untold ; the fountain was choked up, and the smooth-shaven lawn only rescued, it would seem, from the general fate, that it might answer the purpose of a bowling-green, as the implements of that game, scattered about, plainly testified.

Diverging from the garden to the house, we have before remarked that the more ancient and characteristic features of the place had been, for the most part, destroyed ; less by the hand of time than to suit the tastes of different proprietors ; this, however, was not so observable in the eastern wing, which overlooked the garden. Here might be discerned many indications of its antiquity. The strength and solidity of the walls, which had not been, as elsewhere, masked with brickwork; the low, Tudor arches; the mullioned bars of the windows—all attested its age. This wing was occupied by an upper and lower gallery, communicating with suits of chambers, for the most part deserted, excepting one or two, which were used as dormitories; and another little room on the ground floor, with an oriel window opening upon the lawn, and commanding the prospect beyond —a favourite resort of the late Sir Piers. The interior was curious for its honeycomb ceiling, deeply moulded in plaster, with the arms and alliances of the Rookwoods. In the centre was the royal blazon of Elizabeth, who had once honoured the hall with a visit during a progress; and whose cipher E. K. was also displayed upon the immense plate of iron, which formed the fire-grate.

* Cowley.

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