Cheered by the sight, and invigorated by the fresh breeze blowing in this healthful region, they pressed forward, and soon drew near the mansion, which they found was approached by four noble avenues. They had not advanced far, when a stalwart personage, six feet two high, and proportionately stoutly made, issued from the covert. He had a gun over his shoulder and was attended by a couple of fine dogs. Telling them he was called John Lutcombe, and was the Earl of Craven’s gamekeeper, he inquired their business, and, on being informed of it, changed his surly manner to one of great cordiality, and informed them that Mrs. Buscot—such was the name of Amabel’s aunt—was at home, and would be heartily glad to see them.
“I have often heard her speak of her brother, Mr. Bloundel,” he said, “and am well aware that he is an excellent man. Poor soul! she has been very uneasy about him and his family during this awful dispensation, though she had received a letter to say that he was about to close his house, and hoped, under the blessing of Providence, to escape the pestilence. His daughter will be welcome, and she cannot come to a healthier spot than Ashdown, nor to a better nurse than Mrs. Buscot.”
With this, he led the way to the court-yard, and, entering the dwelling, presently returned with a middle-aged woman, who Amabel instantly knew, from the likeness to her father, must be her aunt. Mrs. Buscot caught her in her arms, and almost smothered her with kisses. As soon as the first transports of surprise and joy had subsided, the good housekeeper took her niece and Nizza Macascree into the house, and desired John Lutcombe to attend to the others.
Erected by Inigo Jones, and still continuing in precisely the same state as at the period of this history, Ashdown Lodge is a large square edifice, built in the formal French taste of the seventeenth century, with immense casements, giving it the appearance of being all glass, a high roof lighted by dormer windows, terminated at each angle by a tall and not very ornamental chimney, and surmounted by a lofty and lantern-like belvedere, crowned in its turn by a glass cupola. The belvedere opens upon a square gallery defended by a broad balustrade, and overlooking the umbrageous masses and lovely hills around it. The house, as has been stated, is approached by four noble avenues, the timber constituting which, is, of course, much finer now than at the period under consideration, and possesses a delightful old-fashioned garden, and stately terrace. The rooms are lofty but small, and there is a magnificent staircase, occupying nearly half the interior of the building. Among other portraits decorating the walls, is one of Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James the First, and Queen of Bohemia, for whom the first Earl of Craven entertained so romantic an attachment, and to whom he was supposed to be privately