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Innocent : her fancy and his fact   By: (1855-1924)

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Her Fancy and His Fact


Author of "God's Good Man," "The Treasure of Heaven," Etc.





The old by road went rambling down into a dell of deep green shadow. It was a reprobate of a road, a vagrant of the land, having long ago wandered out of straight and even courses and taken to meandering aimlessly into many ruts and furrows under arching trees, which in wet weather poured their weight of dripping rain upon it and made it little more than a mud pool. Between straggling bushes of elder and hazel, blackberry and thorn, it made its solitary shambling way, so sunken into itself with long disuse that neither to the right nor to the left of it could anything be seen of the surrounding country. Hidden behind the intervening foliage on either hand were rich pastures and ploughed fields, but with these the old road had nothing in common. There were many things better suited to its nature, such as the melodious notes of the birds which made their homes year after year amid its bordering thickets, or the gathering together in springtime of thousands of primroses, whose pale, small, elfin faces peeped out from every mossy corner, or the scent of secret violets in the grass, filling the air with the delicate sweetness of a breathing made warm by the April sun. Or when the thrill of summer drew the wild roses running quickly from the earth skyward, twining their stems together in fantastic arches and tufts of deep pink and flush white blossom, and the briony wreaths with their small bright green stars swung pendent from over shadowing boughs like garlands for a sylvan festival. Or the thousands of tiny unassuming herbs which grew up with the growing speargrass, bringing with them pungent odours from the soil as from some deep laid storehouse of precious spices. These choice delights were the old by road's peculiar possession, and through a wild maze of beauty and fragrance it strayed on with a careless awkwardness, getting more and more involved in tangles of green, till at last, recoiling abruptly as it were upon its own steps, it stopped short at the entrance to a cleared space in front of a farmyard. With this the old by road had evidently no sort of business whatever, and ended altogether, as it were, with a rough shock of surprise at finding itself in such open quarters. No arching trees or twining brambles were here, it was a wide, clean brick paved place chiefly possessed by a goodly company of promising fowls, and a huge cart horse. The horse was tied to his manger in an open shed, and munched and munched with all the steadiness and goodwill of the sailor's wife who offended Macbeth's first witch. Beyond the farmyard was the farmhouse itself, a long, low, timbered building with a broad tiled roof supported by huge oaken rafters and crowned with many gables, a building proudly declaring itself as of the days of Elizabeth's yeomen, and bearing about it the honourable marks of age and long stress of weather. No such farmhouses are built nowadays, for life has become with us less than a temporary thing, a coin to be spent rapidly as soon as gained, too valueless for any interest upon it to be sought or desired. In olden times it was apparently not considered such cheap currency. Men built their homes to last not only for their own lifetime, but for the lifetime of their children and their children's children; and the idea that their children's children might possibly fail to appreciate the strenuousness and worth of their labours never entered their simple brains.

The farmyard was terminated at its other end by a broad stone archway, which showed as in a semi circular frame the glint of scarlet geraniums in the distance, and in the shadow cast by this embrasure was the small unobtrusive figure of a girl. She stood idly watching the hens pecking at their food and driving away their offspring from every chance of sharing bit or sup with them, and as she noted the greedy triumph of the strong over the weak, the great over the small, her brows drew together in a slight frown of something like scorn... Continue reading book >>

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