Half-way along the one straggling street of Savilestowe a narrow
lane suddenly opened out between the cottages and turned abruptly
towards the uplands which rose on the northern edge of the village.
Its first course lay between high grey walls, overhung with ivy and
snapdragon. When it emerged from their cool shadowings the church
came in view on one hand and the school on the other, each set on
its own green knoll and standing high above the meadows. Once past
these it became narrower and more tortuous; the banks on either
side rose steeply, and were crowned by ancient oaks and elms. In
the proper season of the year these banks were thick with celandine
and anemone, and the scent of hedge violets rose from the moss
among the spreading roots of the trees. Here the ruts of the lane
were deep, as if no man had any particular business to repair them.
The lane was, in fact, a mere occupation road, and led to nothing
but an out-of-the-way farmstead, which stood, isolated and forlorn,
half a mile from the village. It bore a picturesque
name-Applecroft-and an artist, straying by chance up the lane and
coming suddenly upon it would have rejoiced in its queer gables,
its twisted chimneys, in the beeches and chestnuts that towered
above it, and in the old-world garden and orchard which flanked one
side of its brick walls, mellowed by time to the colour of claret.
But had such a pilgrim looked closer he would have seen that here
were all the marks of ill-fortune and coming ruin-evident, at any
rate, to practical eyes in the neglected gates and fences, in the
empty fold, in the hingeless, tumble-down doors, in the lack of
that stitch in time which by anticipation would have prevented nine
more. He would have seen, in short, that this was one of those
places, of which there are so many in rural England, whereat a
feckless man, short of money, was vainly endeavouring to do what no
man can do without brains and capital.
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