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FERNCLIFFE.

CIIAPTER I.

HOW, WHEN, AND WHERE WILL THEY MEET AGAIN ?

“My father blessed me fervently,

Yet did not much complain ;
But sorely will my mother sigh

Till I come back again."

BYRON.

“ The joy of youth and health her eyes displayed, And ease of heart her every look conveyed.” CRABBE.

THE little village of Ferncliffe is pleasantly situated at the foot of a beautiful hill thickly studded with trees. From the south and west of the village spread away into the blue distance the rich mea. dow-lands which abound in Devonshire. The monotony of the landscape is varied by a silver stream, which

“ Winds about and in and out,

With here a blossom sailing ;
And here and there a lusty trout,

And here and there a grayling ;"

and the course of which may be traced by the willows which grow on its banks. Numerous groups of fine old forest trees, which in this part of the country attain to a great size, relieve the eye on every side.

The seats of several wealthy gentlemen can be distinctly seen among the trees on the slope of the hill; and the spire of the little Catholic church, situated in the centre of the village, rises white and clear against. the dark woody background. Nor must we forget the old church desecrated in the cruel reign of Elizabeth; for what village in England will you find without one?

It was towards the close of a cold bright day in the month of December that two persons might be seen to leave the small presbytery that was attached to the Catholic church, and to take the road which led to a pretty little cottage situated on the outskirts of the village. A close observer could easily discover that some unusual trouble engrossed the thoughts of each as they walked briskly along for some distance without exchanging a word, and apparently engaged in deep thought. The one was a tall fine-looking young man of twenty years, who seemed to have an habitually pensive expression, though there was a look of determination about his mouth which showed that his character was not wanting in resolution. His companion, a young girl of some seventeen years, had naturally a gay and happy temper, but was evidently at the present time absorbed in melancholy reflections. There was a a

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decided, though an indefinable, likeness between the brother and sister, for such they were. The latter was of middle height and slight figure. Ier face, though pleasing, was not beautiful; the only striking features being her eyes, which were very large and of a bright gray color.

“ Agnes,” at length said the youth, turning towards her, “Father Hudson's words have reassured me. I no longer feel that misgiving which your penetration discovered. I am glad I followed your good advice, as his kind words of encouragement have had so happy an effect upon my spirits.”

Why, surely, Walter," exclaimed Agnes, “you did not think of abandoning your resolution!”

“Far from it, my dear sister,” replied Walter; " the only thing that unnerved me was the thought of leaving my mother and sisters without a protector. For myself, I cannot possibly have any fear in so good a cause. Your kind godfather will, I know, in part supply my place; but I could not help feeling that you would be somewhat unprotected in the little cottage.”

While Walter and his sister continue their walk home, we must inform our readers of the position in life of the two characters with whom we have commenced our story.

Mr. Falkland, their father, who had died some years previously, had been a barrister with a good practice. Though not a very wealthy man, he had given his two eldest children a first-rate education. At his death he left his widow and orphans tolerably well provided for; but as their income had lately suffered considerable diminution, in consequence of the failure of a railway company, in which they had taken shares, Agnes had, for the last six or eight months, been giving music-lessons in the neighborhood. She was very kindly supported in this undertaking by several families, who, having known and respected the father were anxious to assist his widow and orphans. Agnes was a great proficient in music, for it had been her father's delight to have this talent well cultivated; she was therefore quite competent to instruct pupils, many of them older than herself. She was also intrusted by her mother with the education of her little sister Rose, who was at this time about eight years old.

We must now return to Walter and Agnes, who had arrived, after their cold walk, at the pleasant little cottage, which the former was on the eve of quitting for years, and perhaps forever ; for the errand on which he was going—that of joining the Pope's army under Lamoriciere—was a dangerous and uncertain one; and his mother and sisters felt that it was possible, nay probable, that they might shortly hear that he had died a martyr in the noble cause.

Rose, a bright-looking little girl, with dark hair and eyes like her brother, opened the door for them. The small parlor looked warm and cheerful, the fire was blazing briskly, the urn was hissing on the table, and they soon sat down to tea.

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