It was a brilliant afternoon towards the end of May. The spring had been unusually cold and late, and it was evident from the general aspect of the lonely Westmoreland valley of Long Whindale that warmth and sunshine had only just penetrated to its bare green recesses, where the few scattered trees were fast rushing into their full summer dress, while at their feet, and along the bank of the stream, the flowers of March and April still lingered, as though they found it impossible to believe that their rough brother, the east wind, had at last deserted them. The narrow road, which was the only link between the farmhouses sheltered by the crags at the head of the valley and those far-away regions of town and civilisation suggested by the smoke wreaths of Whinborough on the southern horizon, was lined with masses of the white heckberry or bird-cherry, and ran, an arrowy line of white, through the greenness of the sloping pastures. The sides of some of the little becks running down into the main river and many of the plantations round the farms were gay with the same tree, so that the farmhouses, gray-roofed and gray-walled, standing in the hollows of the fells, seemed here and there to have been robbed of all their natural austerity of aspect, and to be masquerading in a dainty garb of white and green imposed upon them by the caprice of the spring

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