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reflecting in its small broken stream a low hedge of myrtle and roses. In the steep declivity of the central garden was a grotto, over-arching a cool, sparkling spring, whilst the slopes on either side were carpeted with strawberries and dotted with fruit-trees. One drooping medlar, beneath whose pendant branches I have often hidden, I remember well.
Dearly as I have loved my two later homes, I have never seen anything like that garden. It did not seem a place to be sad in; neither did the house, with its large, lofty rooms, its noble oaken staircases, its marble hall, and the long galleries and corridors, echoing from morning to night with gay visitors, cousins from the North, friends from Hampshire and Berkshire, and the ever-shifting company of the old watering place. One incident that occurred therema frightful danger-a providential escape—I shall never forget.
There was to be a ball at the Rooms, and a party of sixteen or eighteen persons dressed for the assembly were sitting in the dining-room at dessert. The ceiling was ornamented with a rich running pattern of flowers in high relief, the shape of the wreath corresponding pretty exactly with the company arranged round the oval table. Suddenly -whether from the action of the steam of the dinner upon the plaister, or from the movement of the servants in the room, or from some one passing
quickly overhead, was never discovered—but in one instant, without the slightest warning, all that part of the ceiling which covered the assembled company became detached, and fell down in large masses upon
the table and the floor. It seems even now all but miraculous how such a catastrophe could occur without injury to life or limb--for the portions of moulded plaister, although much broken in their descent, were thick and heavy, and the height of the apartment very considerable; but except the bald head of one venerable clergyman, which was
a little scratched, the only things damaged were the flowers and feathers of the ladies, and the crystal and china, the fruits and wines of the dessert. I myself caught instantly in my father's arms, by whose side I was standing, had scarcely even time to be frightened, although, after the danger was over, our fair visitors of course began to scream.
My own nurseries were spacious and airy. But next to the magnificent room in which my grandfather's fine library was arranged, and which, save a very few favourite volumes, remained there, to be disposed in the chances of an auction, next to the book-room, always my favourite haunt in every house, the place which I most affected was a dark pannelled chamber on the first floor, to which I descended through a private door by half a dozen stairs, so steep, that, still a very small and puny
child between eight and a half to nine and a half, and unable to run down them in the common way, I used to jump from one step to the other. This chamber was filled with such fossils as were then known, for the great landslip at Charmouth had not then laid bare the geological treasures of the place. Still it was rich in specimens of petrifactions of various kinds, in glittering spars, in precious-looking ores, in curious shells and gigantic sea-weeds; some the cherished products of my own discoveries, and some broken for me by my father's little hammer from portions of rock that lay beneath the cliffs, under which almost every fine day we used to ramble hand in hand.
Sometimes we would go towards Charmouth, with its sweeping bay passing under the church and churchyard, perched so high above us, and already undermined by the tide; at another, we bent our steps to the Pinny cliffs on the other side of the harbour, those dark beetling cliffs from whose lofty tops little streams of fresh water fell in slender cascades, finding their narrow way across the sands to the sea; the beautiful Pinny cliffs, where, about a mile and a half from the town, an old landslip had deposited a farm-house, with its outbuildings, its garden, and its orchard, tossed half way down amongst the rocks, contrasting so strangely its rich and blossoming vegetation, its look of home and of comfort, with the dark rugged masses above, below, and around. Sometimes, at high water, we paced
the old pier called the Cob, to which Miss Austen has since given such an interest. And sometimes we turned inland, and ascended the hill to Up-Lyme, with its tufted orchards and its pretty streamlets. I used to disdain those streamlets in those days with such scorn as a small damsel fresh from the Thames and the Kennett thinks herself privileged to display. “They call that a river here, papa! Can't you jump me over it ?” quoth I in my sauciness. About a month ago, I heard a young lady from New York talking in some such strain of Father Thames. " It's a pretty little stream,” said she, “but to call it a river !” and I half expected to hear a complete reproduction of my own impertinence, and a request to be jumped from one end to the other of Caversham bridge.
Once too from the highest story of our own house, I saw that fine and awful spectacle a great storm. My father took me from my bed at midnight, that I might see the grandeur and the glory of the tempest, the spray rising to the very tops of the cliffs, pale and ghastly in the lightning, and hear the roar of the sea, the moaning of the wind, the roll of the thunder, and, amongst them all, the fearful sound of the minute guns, telling of death and danger on that iron-bound coast.
This was the one exception to the general brightness of that lovely bay, and it passed by me like a dream. For the most part, all was beauty on every side; the sunshine seemed reflected from the
rich valleys and the glorious sea; and the people of the little port, the thriving peasantry, and the bustling seamen, had a peculiar air of cheerfulness and comfort. It was a strange place to be sad in.
And yet sad I was. Nobody told me, but I felt, I knew, I had an interior conviction, for which I could not have accounted, that in the midst of all this natural beauty and apparent happiness, in spite of the company, in spite of the gaiety, something was wrong. It was such a foreshowing as makes the quicksilver in the barometer sink whilst the weather is still bright and clear.
And at last the change came. My father went again to London ; and lost I think, I have always thought so—more money: all, perhaps, except that positively settled upon my mother, and a legacy of rather smaller amount left to me by the maiden sister of the angry cousin. Then, one by one, our visitors departed ; and my father, who had returned in haste again, in equal haste left home, after short interviews with landlords, and lawyers, and auctioneers; and I knew-I can't tell how, but I did know—that everything was to be parted with, and everybody paid.
That same night two or three large chests were carried away through the garden by George and another old servant, and a day or two after my mother and myself, with Mrs. Mosse, the good