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    Irene Iddesleigh

    CHAPTER I.

    SYMPATHISE with me, indeed! Ah, no! Cast your sympathy on the chill waves of troubled waters; fling it on the oases of futurity; dash it against the rock of gossip; or, better still, allow it to remain within the false and faithless bosom of buried scorn.

    Such were a few remarks of Irene as she paced the beach of limited freedom, alone and unprotected. Sympathy can wound the breast of trodden patience,-it hath no rival to insure the feelings we possess, save that of sorrow.

    The gloomy mansion stands firmly within the ivy-covered, stoutly-built walls of Dunfern, vast in proportion and magnificent in display. It has been built over three hundred years, and its structure stands respectably distant from modern advancement, and in some degrees it could boast of architectural 10 designs rarely, if ever, attempted since its construction.

    The entrance to this beautiful home of Sir Hugh Dunfern, the present owner, is planned on most antique principles; nothing save an enormous iron gate meets the gaze of the visitor, who at first is inclined to think that all public rumours relative to its magnificence are only the utterances of the boastful and idle; nor until within its winding paths of finest pebble, studded here and there with huge stones of unpolished granite, could the mind for a moment conceive or entertain the faintest idea of its quaint grandeur.

    Beautiful, however, as Dunfern mansion may seem to the anxious eye of the beholder, yet it is not altogether free from mystery. Whilst many of its rooms, with walls of crystal, are gorgeously and profusely furnished, others are locked incessantly against the foot of the cautious intruder, having in them only a few traditional relics of no material consequence whatever, or even interest, to any outside the ancestral line of its occupants.

    It has often been the chief subject of comment amongst the few distinguished visitors welcomed 11 within its spacious apartments, why seemingly the finest rooms the mansion owned were always shut against their eager and scrutinizing gaze; or why, when referred to by any of them, the matter was always treated with silence.

    All that can now be done is merely to allow the thought to dwindle into bleak oblivion, until aroused to that standard of disclosure which defies hindrance. Within the venerable walls surrounding this erection of amazement and wonder may be seen species of trees rarely, if ever, met with; yea, within the beaded borders of this grand old mansion the eye of the privileged beholds the magnificent lake, studded on every side with stone of costliest cut and finish; the richest vineries, the most elegant ferns, the daintiest conservatories, the flowers and plants of almost every clime in abundance, the most fashionable walks, the most intricate windings that imagination could possibly conceive or genius contrive. In fact, it has well been named "The Eden of Luxury."

    Dunfern mansion was handed down as an heirloom since its purchase by Walter, third Earl of Dunfern, in 1674; and since then has been tenderly cared for internally, and carefully guarded externally, 12 by the skilful hands of noted artisans. The present owner is only son of Sir John Dunfern, by Irene, adopted daughter of Lord and Lady Dilworth, of Dilworth Castle, County Kent.

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