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BELOW THE SURFACE.

A Story of English Country Life.

BY

SIR ARTHUR HALLAM ELTON, BART.,

AUTHOR OF

66

HERBERT CHAUNCEY."

A NEW EDITION, REVISED.

LONDON:

SMITH, ELDER AND CO., 65, CORNHILL.

M.DCCC.LX.

249 2.537.

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BELOW THE SURFACE.

CHAPTER I.

THE MANOR-HOUSE FARM.

The Manor Farm was situated in a spacious valley between two lofty ranges of hill that ran nearly due east and west. As the eye followed their undulating sweep, and the abruptness with which they seemed to slope suddenly upwards from the level plain below, you could easily believe the popular tradition, that a wide and noble river, or even an arm of the sea, had once upon a time ebbed and flowed along that valley, now rich with green pastures and waving corn and stately rows of elms; and had washed the base of those hills jutting out into rocky promontories, sparely interspersed with ancient oaks, or receding into sheltered ravines, where larch and birch mixed their tender green with the foliage of the Scotch fir, almost black by contrast. Broad downs of close sweet herbage, on which sheep were feeding, rose above the woods and plantations which clothed the sides of these hills; and, as you traced the varying outlines of either side of the valley, now receding, now advancing, you perceived the farthest vista shrouded miles away in a kind of purple haze, where the eye lost itself in uncertain conjecture.

A road which was tolerably frequented, wound along the valley, following pretty closely the outer edge of the first slope of hills on the southern side. It was occasionally lined by trim gardens, orchards whose thick-blossomed foliage seemed in the distance a cloud of delicate white smoke hanging stationary upon the green plains, and thatched cottages buried in roses and jessamine. Lower down in the valley, the grass and growing crops wore a ranker and more luxuriant aspect; whilst occasional alder beds, and clumps of poplar, bore witness to the more humid character of the soil.

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