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OF THE DENE:

THE STORY OF A LIFE.

BY

WILLIAM HO WITT,

AUTHOR OF

“THE HALL AND THE HAMLET,"
“TUE YEAR BOOK OF THE COUNTRY," &c.

IN THREE VOLUMES.

VOL. I.

LONDON:

HENRY COLBURN, PUBLISHER,

GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET.

LONDON: Printed by Schulze and Co., 13, Poland Street.

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MADAM DORRINGTON,

OF

THE DEN E.

CHAPTER I.

The traveller in the midland counties of England, as he pauses on the edge of an ample vale, which spreads its fields, its hedge-rows, its scattered farms, and its masses of dark woods, all clearly and pleasantly before his eye for some miles, running from the north to the south, sees opposite to him, on the other side of the vale, an object which always arrests agreeably his attention. It is a village planted high and airily on the western boundary of the vale. Amid a fine envelopment of trees, its houses are discerned, and its sloping gardens on the hill-side; and on the summit of the

VOL. I.

B

elevation, stands boldly aloft one of those tall, massive square church-towers so common to that part of the country. The large grey mass of the church itself is dimly discerned amid its yew-trees; and often you may hear, especially on a Sunday, or a summer evening, the church bells ringing with a merry music that seems to fall in loving tones over the quiet landscape which has lain listening to them through so many ages. From the bottom of the vale to the village, perhaps a mile in extent, the uplands present a delightful aspect, Green crofts, marked out by their noble hedge-row trees, and ampler fields, swelling and descending in many a ridge and hollow, with copse and scattered tree, and mingled shade and sunshine, charm the eye. Below, in the valley, stretches a wide heath, through which a little river, traceable also by its fringing trees and bushes, and here and there a bright glance of its waters, winds its way. But from this heath to the very village runs a deep, shadowy glen, as if ploughed out of the hill-side ; and more thickly grown with wood, and at its head, yet some way below the great grey church-tower, shines out a considerable white house, flanked and screened at the back with lofty masses of trees.

The

house, with its two semi-hexagonal towers, one at each front corner, and its piazza connecting, as it were, these towers, is an object too peculiar, both for situation and character, not to arrest the gaze at once, and to constitute one of the most marked features of the scene.

As I paused on my way,” says our authority for this narrative, “and drew in the reins of my horse to contemplate this striking landscape, I did what almost every strange traveller on that road does, asked the first person visible, what village that was standing so boldly on the hill, and what house that was which, at the top of the glen, looked out so quaintly pleasant ? The reply was, that village is Westwood, and that house the Dene.”

* The Dene! and why the Dene ?”

“ Mester,” replied the man whom I had asked, and who was no other than a stonebreaker at work just by on the highway, “I see yo're a furriner. It's caw'd th' Dene, becos it stands at th' yead o'th' Dene; that valley ut runs reyt up th' hill-side.”

“And pray who lives there ?”
“Madam Dorrington.”

It was exactly as my friend Vincent had said, but I resolved to ask further.

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