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MIRANDA;

A MIDSUMMER MADNESS.

CHAPTER I.

HER GRANDFATHER AND GRANDMOTHER.

“ Most learned scion of unlearned race,

Revered far more than parson or than squire ;
He lived a century in his native place,

A strange old village in a strange old shire.”

Whoso makes pilgrimage to the quaint village of Rothescamp-in-the-Valley, will find much to reward him. There is the churchan abbey church originally—with a massive square tower, inhabited by jackdaws innumerable, and the most daring of flying buttresses, and one of the finest peals of bells in the kingdom. The story is, that when those bells were being cast, Guy de Rothescamp, just returned from the Crusades, threw into the

VOL. I.

A

molten mass all his gold and silver plate. As evidence hereof is engraven on the tenor bell

E Solyma laurum + nunc Xristo aurum.

Then there is the beautiful rivulet Rothe, always full and free and clear, always containing trout innumerable. Then there is the famous old inn and posting-house, the Tachbrook Arms ;—for the Rothescamps have long perished from the land, and their estates and lordships have passed to the Tachbrooks, whose house, at Rothescamp-on-the-Hill, is a famous show-place. Rothescamp-on-the-Hill is five miles away, up over the downs, by a white chalky road, which bears the inappropriate name of Long River. The stands almost alone, only a few cottages clustering around its lofty outer walls; and it is a long time now since any Tachbrook has dwelt there. The last baronet was killed in a duel; the present baronet is commonly reported to be in a lunatic asylum. The old house is kept in order by a few staid old servants. The estate is sagaciously administered by a trusty old steward; but no Tachbrook, save one, has been seen in either Rothescamp for many a year.

great house

Save one. Walk up the village street, and you will see a long red brick house, two stories high, with a row of pollarded limes in front of it. If the hall-door is open you may admire the old stairway of black oak, and the pleasant garden, which may be seen through an arched doorway. Look at the brass-plate on that entrance-door, and you will see engraven“Septimus Tachbrook, M.D.” Enter a quaint study on the left, and you will see Doctor Septimus Tachbrook—a spare man, six feet four inches high, with stooping shoulders, an eagle's beak, and eyes so keen that you at once conclude he wears those gold-rimmed spectacles to moderate their power.

Doctor Tachbrook is the youngest son of the brother of the last baronet. He is seventh son of a seventh sona doctor heaven-born. He made himself what he is. His father, considering himself hardly used, because he was the youngest son when he ought to have been the eldest, consoled himself with wine and the dice, and died an outlaw. Septimus Tachbrook's eldest brothers

took
very

much after their father : they were obliged to work for their living; they did the genteelest work they could find. One married a rich widow ; another started a bank on a new principle; a third got an appointment under Government, and so on.

Not so Septimus. An old maiden lady, his mother's cousin, seeing that he meant to work, helped him to obtain a medical education. Medicine was his natural faculty. A thorough disciple of Asklepios, he loved the healing art. He practised with success in London for some time ; but when the old lady died, she left him her little property, a few hundreds a year, and he, drawn towards his native air, bought the old house in Rothescamp village, and settled down for life. Soon he had a capital practice, for all the county families for miles round were delighted to have as doctor a real Tachbrook. He ruined two or three rivals, who had previously been trying to ruin each other. He had more than he could do; his curricle and pair seemed ubiquitous. Nobody of any standing, for miles around Rothescamp, could be born or die without Doctor Tachbrook's aid.

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