deer found shelter enough by crouching amongst the
fern; the smoothly shaven grassy walk was soft and yielding under the foot; nor was there a month in the year in which the plough was idle.
The large landed proprietors dwelt often in houses which had descended to them from the times when England
was gemmed all over with the most delicate and most solid structures of Gothic art. The very lanes were memorials of early days, and ran as they had been laid out before the conquest; and in mills for grinding corn, water-wheels revolved at their work just where they had been doing so for at least eight hundred years. Hospitality also had its traditions; and for untold centuries Christmas
had been the most joyous of the seasons.
The system was so completely the ruling element in English history and English life, especially in the country, that it seemed the most natural organization of society, and was even endeared to the dependent people.
Hence the manners of the aristocracy, without haughtiness or arrogance, implied rather than expressed the consciousness of undisputed rank; and female beauty added to its loveliness the blended graces of dignity and humility—most winning, where acquaintance with sorrow had softened the feeling of superiority, and increased the sentiment of compassion.
Yet the privileged class defended its rural pleasures and its agricultural interests with impassioned vigilance.
The game laws parcelling out among the large proprietors the exclusive right of hunting, which had been wrested from the king as too grievous a prerogative, were maintained with relentless severity; and to