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Dilemmas of Pride, (Vol 1 of 3)   By:

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The immense extent and beautiful irregularity of the grounds, the unfathomable depth of the woods, the picturesque ramifications of some of the most conspicuously situated of the very old trees, the hour, for it was almost midnight, the numerous bonfires scattered in all directions, the innumerable tenantry gathered round them, the crowd of moving forms extending as far as the eye could penetrate into the darkness; and, quite in the fore ground, the figure of a blind old man who had been born in the family, and grown grey in its service, playing, with the most extravagant demonstrations of delight, on a rude harp, that instrument so surrounded with poetic associations; seated too beneath a spreading cedar, the trunk and undermost branches of which, together with his countenance and white hair, were strongly illuminated by an adjacent heap of blazing pine, all gave to Arden Park a demesne of such unlimited magnificence, that it formed in itself a sort of sylvan empire, a powerful resemblance, at the moment of which we speak, to what our imaginations are prone to figure of the feasts of Shells , as described by that poet of ancient bards and burning oaks, the venerable Ossian.

On an abrupt and rocky eminence, at some distance, but still within the park, stood the picturesque remains of Arden Castle, once the residence of the ancestors of the family. Its round towers of different dimensions, some still perfect, its perpendicular site, the trees and turn of the river at its base, were all rendered conspicuous by the clear light of the moon now about to set behind the ruins.

In all the ancient deeds the landed property derived its designation from this castle, and it was still customary for the heir to take formal possession of the roofless walls, ere he was considered true Lord of the Manor; a ceremony which had in the course of the day just passed, been duly performed.

A little removed from the old castle, emerging from the trees, appeared the square turret of another ruin, called the Grey Friary, once the residence of monks, to whom at that time a portion of the lands appertained, while along the verge of the horizon, the spires of several churches were just visible, breaking the dark line formed by seemingly interminable woods.

The modern house, a magnificent structure, standing on a commanding eminence, the approach to which was gradual in the midst of a park and woodlands comprising above thirty thousand acres, now poured from every door and window streams of cheerful light.

Figures were discernible within, some moving in the merry dance, others thronging to and from halls dedicated to hospitable cheer.

We have already said it was near midnight: the day had been spent in festivities, held to celebrate the coming of age of Sir Willoughby Arden, now (his father having been sometime dead,) the head of the ancient family to whom the property belonged.

The rejoicings, not only those going forward beneath the sheltering roof of the mansion but those also out of doors, were kept up thus late in compliment to Alfred Arden, the twin brother of the heir. The elder twin had been born about nine in the evening, the younger not till after twelve at night. To unite, therefore, the two distinct birth days in the one festival, and thus preserve unsevered the more than brotherly tie, it had been resolved that no guest, of whatever denomination, should depart till the hour of midnight had been ushered in with every possible demonstration of joy.

The county town, though not above a quarter of a mile removed, was quite planted out: the spires already noticed, and which were highly ornamental to the landscape, being all pertaining of city scenery, which was visible over the tops of the trees... Continue reading book >>

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