Then on to Silchester, its furzy common and scattered village and the vast ruinous walls, overgrown with ivy, bramble, and thorn, of ancient Roman Calleva. Inside the walls, at one spot, a dozen men were still at work in the fading light; they were just finishing—shovelling earth in to obliterate all that had been opened out during the year. The old flint foundations that had been revealed; the houses with porches and corridors and courtyards and pillared hypocausts; the winter room with its wide beautiful floor—red and black and white and grey and yellow, with geometric pattern and twist and scroll and flower and leaf and quaint figures of man and beast and bird—all to be covered up with earth so that the plough may be driven over it again, and the wheat grow and ripen again as it has grown and ripened there above the dead city for so many centuries. The very earth within those walls had a reddish cast owing to the innumerable fragments of red tile and tessera mixed with it. Larks and finches were busily searching for seeds in the reddish-brown soil. They would soon be gone to their roosting-places and the tired men to their cottages, and the white owl coming from his hiding-place in the walls would have old Silchester to himself, as he has had it since the cries and moans of the conquered died into silence so long ago.
I came by chance to the village—Norton, we will call it, just to call it something, but the county in which it is situated need not be named. It happened that about noon that day I planned to pass the night at a village where, as I was informed at a small country town I had rested in, there was a nice inn—“The Fox and Grapes”—to put up at, but when I arrived, tired and hungry, I was told that I could not have a bed and that the only thing to do was to try Norton, which also boasted an inn. It was hard to have to turn some two or three miles out of my road at that late hour on