eccentric character who had created the domain

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Dinah laughed, but did not reply. Her somewhat flighty brain could not concentrate itself sufficiently to grasp the subtle conversation of Miss Hedge, so she threw herself back on the mossy stone seat and stared between half-closed eyelids at the garden. This was necessary, for the July sunshine blazed down on a mass of colour such as is rarely seen in sober-hued England. The garden might have been that of Eden, as delineated by Martin or Doré, from the tropical exuberance of flower and leaf. But the buildings scattered about this pleasance were scarcely of the primitive type which Adam and his spouse would have inhabited: rather were they expressions of a late and luxurious civilisation.

And again, they could scarcely be called buildings in the accepted sense of the word, as they had been constructed to run on iron rails, at the tail of a locomotive. To be plain, seven railway carriages, with their wheels removed, did duty for dwellings, and very odd they looked amidst surroundings alien to their original purpose. A Brixton villa would scarcely have seemed more out of place in the Desert of Sahara.

Placed in an irregular circle, like Druidical stones, the white-painted woodwork of these derelicts was streaked fantastically with creepers, which, spreading even over the arched roofs, seemed to bind them to the soil. Titania and her fastidious elves might have danced on the smooth central sward, in the middle of which appeared a chipped sundial, upheld by three stone ladies, unclothed, battered, and unashamed.

At the back of these ingeniously contrived huts bloomed flowers in profusion: tall and gaudy hollyhocks, vividly scarlet geraniums, lilies of holy whiteness, and thousands--as it truly seemed--of many-hued poppies. The wide beds, whence these blossoms sprang, stretched back to a girdle of lofty trees, and were aglow with the brilliant flowers of the nasturtium.

The trees which shut in this sylvan paradise from the crooked lane rose from a tangled jungle of coarse grasses, nettles, darnels, and oozy weedy plants, whose succulence betrayed the presence of a small pond gorgeous with water-lilies. Paths led through the miniature forest, winding in and out and round about, so as to make the most of the small space; and the whole was bounded by a high brick wall, mellow and crumbling, but secure for all that, seeing it was topped with iron spikes and bits of broken bottles. One heavy wooden gate, at present bolted and barred, admitted the outside world from the lane into this Garden of Alcinous.

Almost the entire population of the Weald knew of this Eden--that is, by hearsay--for no one entered the jealous gate, unless he or she came to do business with the . Jarvis Alpenny was a miser, hence the presence of disused rail carriages, which saved him the trouble and cost of building a house. In The Camp--so the place was called--he had dwelt for fifty years, and he was as much a recluse as a man well could be, who made his income by usury. It seemed odd, and was odd, that a money-lender should not only dwell in, but carry on his peculiarly urban profession in, so rural a locality as the Weald of Sussex. 


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