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The Woodlanders

Chapter 8
The inspiriting appointment which had led Grace Melbury to indulge in a six-
candle illumination for the arrangement of her attire, carried her over the ground
the next morning with a springy tread. Her sense of being properly appreciated
on her own native soil seemed to brighten the atmosphere and herbage around
her, as the glowworm's lamp irradiates the grass. Thus she moved along, a
vessel of emotion going to empty itself on she knew not what.
Twenty minutes' walking through copses, over a stile, and along an upland lawn
brought her to the verge of a deep glen, at the bottom of which Hintock House
appeared immediately beneath her eye. To describe it as standing in a hollow
would not express the situation of the manor-house; it stood in a hole,
notwithstanding that the hole was full of beauty. From the spot which Grace had
reached a stone could easily have been thrown over or into, the birds'-nested
chimneys of the mansion. Its walls were surmounted by a battlemented parapet;
but the gray lead roofs were quite visible behind it, with their gutters, laps, rolls,
and skylights, together with incised letterings and shoe-patterns cut by idlers
thereon.
The front of the house exhibited an ordinary manorial presentation of Elizabethan
windows, mullioned and hooded, worked in rich snuff-colored freestone from
local quarries. The ashlar of the walls, where not overgrown with ivy and other
creepers, was coated with lichen of every shade, intensifying its luxuriance with
its nearness to the ground, till, below the plinth, it merged in moss.
Above the house to the back was a dense plantation, the roots of whose trees
were above the level of the chimneys. The corresponding high ground on which
Grace stood was richly grassed, with only an old tree here and there. A few
sheep lay about, which, as they ruminated, looked quietly into the bedroom
windows. The situation of the house, prejudicial to humanity, was a stimulus to
vegetation, on which account an endless shearing of the heavy-armed ivy was
necessary, and a continual lopping of trees and shrubs. It was an edifice built in
times when human constitutions were damp-proof, when shelter from the
boisterous was all that men thought of in choosing a dwelling-place, the insidious
being beneath their notice; and its hollow site was an ocular reminder, by its
unfitness for modern lives, of the fragility to which these have declined. The
highest architectural cunning could have done nothing to make Hintock House
dry and salubrious; and ruthless ignorance could have done little to make it
unpicturesque. It was vegetable nature's own home; a spot to inspire the painter
and poet of still life--if they did not suffer too much from the relaxing atmosphere-
-and to draw groans from the gregariously disposed. Grace descended the green
escarpment by a zigzag path into the drive, which swept round beneath the
slope. The exterior of the house had been familiar to her from her childhood, but
 
 
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