This splendid main road in the course of its immense journey across Southern England, extended feelers to many settlements of man, providing them as it were with a talent which, according to the energy of the settlement, might be increased a hundredfold—drained, metalled, tarred, and adorned with splendid telegraph poles and wires—or might be wrapped up in a napkin of neglect, monstrous overgrown hedges and decayed ditches, and allowed to wither: the splendid main road, having regard to its ancient Roman lineage, disdainfully did not care tuppence either way; and for that matter Penny Green, which had ages ago put its feeler in a napkin, did not care tuppence either.
It was now, however, to have a railway.
And meanwhile there was this to be said for it: that whereas some of the dependents of the splendid main road constituted themselves abominably ugly carbuncles on the end of shapely and well-manicured fingers of the main road, Penny Green, at the end of a withered and entirely neglected finger, adorned it as with a jewel.
A Kate Greenaway picture, the garrulous Hapgood had said of Penny Green; and it was well said. At its eastern extremity the withered talent from the splendid main road divided into two talents and encircled the Green which had, as Hapgood had said, a cricket pitch (in summer) and a duck pond (more prominent in winter); also, in all seasons, and the survivors of many ages, a clump of elm trees surrounded by a decayed bench; a well surrounded by a decayed paling, so decayed that it had long ago thrown itself flat on the ground into which it continued venerably to decay; and at the southeastern extremity a village pound surrounded by a decayed grey wall and now used by the youth of the village for the purpose of impounding one another in parties or sides in a game well called “Pound I.”
At the southwestern extremity of the Green, and immediately opposite the Tybar Arms, was a blacksmith’s forge perpetually inhabited and directed by a race named Wirk. The forge was the only human habitation or personal and individual workshop actually on the Green, and it was said, and freely admitted by the successive members of the tribe of Wirk, that it had “no right” to be there. There it nevertheless was, had been for centuries, so far as anybody knew to the contrary, and administered always by a Wirk. In some mysterious way which nobody ever seemed to recognize till it actually happened there was always a son Wirk to continue the forge when the father Wirk died and was carried off to be deposited by his fathers who had continued it before him. It was also said in the village, as touching this matter of “no right”, that nobody could understand how the forge ever came to be there and that it certainly would be turned off one day; and with this also the current members of the tribe of Wirk cordially agreed. They understood less than anybody how they ever came to be there, and they knew perfectly well they would be turned off one day; saying which—and it was a common subject of debate among village sires of a summer evening, seated outside the Tybar Arms—saying which, the Wirk of the day would gaze earnestly up the road and look at his watch as if the power which would turn him off was then on its way and was getting a bit overdue.