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52

CHAPTER I

THE TREVERYANS OF LANEITHIN

UPON a weather-beaten headland, at one of the most inaccessible points of the southern coast of Cornwall, stands the old parish church of St. Erroc. Even now there is no railway within several miles of it; and the parish is perhaps as isolated and oldfashioned as any in England. Its southern boundary is formed by a line of rugged cliffs, with one or two difficult landing-places which can be approached only when the wind is off shore. To the north is rough moorland, overgrown with gorse and the beautiful Cornish heath; and beyond the moorland are the bare treeless hills, eternally swept by the winds of the Atlantic. The parish consists of several scattered hamlets and farms at some distance from the church, which stands on high ground with some trees and a village clustering round it. The tall slender spire is a conspicuous landmark for ships at sea. The principal house in St. Erroc is the old manor-house of Laneithin, a substantial building of gray stone, which stands in a wooded hollow near the edge of the moorland, about two miles from the sea. From an architectural point of view Laneithin is not beautiful or otherwise worthy of remark; but it is a fair specimen of a Cornish country-house, and in its way picturesque enough. About it are some clumps of fine trees; and from one side a deep glen runs down to a cove among the cliffs.

Forty years ago Laneithin was occupied by John Treveryan, generally known as the Squire, whose family had held the house, and some good land round it, since the days of the Tudors. John Treveryan had, when a young man, served for a time in the army; but he had retired on succeeding to his estate, and had soon afterwards married a very fair and very charming lady, who shared his Cornish home for nearly thirty years. When she died

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she was very deeply mourned, not only by her husband, but by the whole population of that wild district of farmers and fisherOf her children Margaret, the eldest, was then with her father. A son, Erroc, had entered the army, and gone to India with his regiment. A second daughter had married the curate of the neighbouring church of St. Kerle's, and had afterwards left the county.

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After Mrs. Treveryan's death her husband seemed for a time quite broken by his loss. People pitied the 'poor old Squire,' and said he would never be the same man again. Perhaps he never was the same man again. But as time went on, it was found that John Treveryan had by no means done with life. When the violence of his grief abated, the Squire began once more to show an interest in what was passing around him; and after a year or two he was again to all appearances as cheery as ever. His daughter managed his house for him exceedingly well, and was soon as popular as her mother had been. In the sunshine of her love and care the Squire seemed content and even happy.

He was a singularly fine-looking man; tall and powerful, with a high-bred regular face and taking manners, hearty but courteous. His complexion and his blue eyes were clear and bright; and his reddish hair was still thick and almost untouched by gray. The broad rounded forehead and slightly aquiline nose, and the straight strongly-marked eyebrows, gave evidence of talent and character. Those eyebrows, rather broad than heavy, were the distinctive feature of the Treveryans. They were to be found in almost every one of the family pictures. The Squire shaved all but his whiskers, showing a mobile well-cut mouth, and a rather prominent underlip and chin. A handsomer man one could hardly see.

Unfortunately the Squire was not free from some dangerous qualities. He had a strong will, with undeniable talent and originality of mind; but his judgment was not altogether trustworthy, and his reckless disregard for money had often been a trouble to his wife. It was not extravagance of the ordinary type. He spent little on horses, or shooting, or dress, or wine, or any of the usual luxuries. He rarely drank anything but water, and though he had a magnificent appetite he liked the plainest of food; and in every way his tastes were very simple. But he seemed to look upon money as a worthless thing, to be given away with the most lavish generosity if any one wanted it, and to be spent without limit or calculation upon any object

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