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Two on a Tower

Chapter 1
On an early winter afternoon, clear but not cold, when the vegetable world was a
weird multitude of skeletons through whose ribs the sun shone freely, a gleaming
landau came to a pause on the crest of a hill in Wessex. The spot was where the
old Melchester Road, which the carriage had hitherto followed, was joined by a
drive that led round into a park at no great distance off.
The footman alighted, and went to the occupant of the carriage, a lady about
eight- or nine-and-twenty. She was looking through the opening afforded by a
field-gate at the undulating stretch of country beyond. In pursuance of some
remark from her the servant looked in the same direction.
The central feature of the middle distance, as they beheld it, was a circular
isolated hill, of no great elevation, which placed itself in strong chromatic contrast
with a wide acreage of surrounding arable by being covered with fir-trees. The
trees were all of one size and age, so that their tips assumed the precise curve of
the hill they grew upon. This pine-clad protuberance was yet further marked out
from the general landscape by having on its summit a tower in the form of a
classical column, which, though partly immersed in the plantation, rose above the
tree-tops to a considerable height. Upon this object the eyes of lady and servant
were bent.
'Then there is no road leading near it?' she asked.
'Nothing nearer than where we are now, my lady.'
'Then drive home,' she said after a moment. And the carriage rolled on its way.
A few days later, the same lady, in the same carriage, passed that spot again.
Her eyes, as before, turned to the distant tower.
'Nobbs,' she said to the coachman, 'could you find your way home through that
field, so as to get near the outskirts of the plantation where the column is?'
The coachman regarded the field. 'Well, my lady,' he observed, 'in dry weather
we might drive in there by inching and pinching, and so get across by Five-and-
Twenty Acres, all being well. But the ground is so heavy after these rains that
perhaps it would hardly be safe to try it now.'
'Perhaps not,' she assented indifferently. 'Remember it, will you, at a drier time?'
And again the carriage sped along the road, the lady's eyes resting on the
segmental hill, the blue trees that muffled it, and the column that formed its apex,
till they were out of sight.
A long time elapsed before that lady drove over the hill again. It was February;
the soil was now unquestionably dry, the weather and scene being in other
respects much as they had been before. The familiar shape of the column
seemed to remind her that at last an opportunity for a close inspection had
arrived. Giving her directions she saw the gate opened, and after a little
manoeuvring the carriage swayed slowly into the uneven field.
Although the pillar stood upon the hereditary estate of her husband the lady had
never visited it, owing to its insulation by this well- nigh impracticable ground. The
drive to the base of the hill was tedious and jerky, and on reaching it she
alighted, directing that the carriage should be driven back empty over the clods,
 
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