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ARABIAN NIGHTS OUTDONE.
have a foreglance into a science text-book of a century hence! Could the wildest dreams of our ancestors ever have imagined the wonders of steam and electricity? We have outdone even the fabled marvels of the Arabian Nights. Fact is ever stranger than fiction, and our modern machinewrought miracles are in very truth stranger far than any story conceived by the fertile brain of the inventive oriental.
It was very pleasant that peaceful evening, loitering by the side of the slowly-flowing Deben, watching the water as it glided gurgling on its way to the all-absorbing sea, golden where it reflected the sunset glow above, and a silvery grey where it stretched away in shade till lost in the dreamy distance. What a soothing, restful thing it is thus to watch a river in the evening light, glancing and gleaming along with a ceaseless onward flow, motion almost without sound! There always seems to me to be a certain sense of mystery about a river seen in the half light of the uncertain gloaming. However undefined the landscape may be, you may trace the river's winding way by its golden or silvery gleaming leading the eye into a far-off shadowy dreamland. All rivers lead to the sea, and the sea leads everywhere; even the most insignificant river is in touch with the whole wide world, and how silently and spectrally in the gloaming the ships upon a river pass you by! Whence have they come and whither are they going?-the question arises almost without your knowing it. At such an hour there is a sort of vague delight in letting fancy have for once
her way. Comes yonder ghost-like ship-so ghostlike that she might be the veritable 'Flying Dutchman' herself that at last Vanderdecken had managed to steer into port-comes she from some Western El Dorado, or from the golden cities of far Cathay, or from whence? But a truce to these romantic imaginings.
Old ocean holds no terrors any more;
We touch the limits of the farthest zone,
Oh, leave some spot that fancy still may own,
As we lingered by the quiet riverside watching the golden light fading from the sky and the night being slowly evolved from the day, our romantic dreams were brought to a termination by the 'cravings of the inner man,' for it is hard for a hungry mortal to be poetic; we therefore bade farewell to the pleasant Deben and sought our hotel. sought our hotel. A very picturesque and pleasant river in truth is the Deben, though it cannot boast upon its side of any ruined abbey, or crumbling castle, or stately home, or any famous town; and though the very name of it, I make bold to say, is known to but few Englishmen living out of Suffolk, still it is a charming stream. Perhaps it is even the more charming for the absence of these things; its gentle windings and quiet flow are best suited to the homelike scenery through which it runs its uneventful course.
As we retraced our steps homeward, or rather hotelward, we chanced to glance into the window of a stationer's shop, and our eyes were attracted by the
photograph of an apparently half-ruined mansion, manifestly a grand building in its day. Judging that possibly it was in the near neighbourhood, we made inquiry, and found that the old house was Seckford Hall, and only two short miles away; and as from the photograph the structure appeared a rambling one, and to be interesting, we determined to walk thither in the morning and to defer our start that we might have full leisure to inspect and sketch it, for, as we were never tired of reminding ourselves, we had no train to catch and no time-tables to worry us.
A pleasant walk through a pretty country, that made the two miles seem like one, brought us to Seckford Hall. We came upon the old home suddenly, for it is built in a hollow and is not visible till just before you reach it. Why our ancestors so generally selected secluded hollows and valleys in which to raise their stately edifices has always been a problem to me. It is stated that they were so placed for shelter, but our forefathers were a hardy race, and I can hardly imagine that merely the consideration of shelter would much influence their choice of spot for a residence. But for some cause or another we do find a large majority of old-time homes lowly placed; there are a few notable exceptions, such as Hardwick Hall, which stands boldly on the on the top of a hill, facing and braving all the winds of heaven, but the few exceptions only emphasise the prevailing rule.
Seckford Hall we found in a neglected if picturesque state. A portion of the ancient mansion is now converted into a farmhouse, and in this portion