The two large fields lay on a hillside facing south. Being
newly cleared of hay, they were golden green, and they shone
almost blindingly in the sunlight. Across the hill, half-way up,
ran a high hedge, that flung its black shadow finely across the
molten glow of the sward. The stack was being built just above
the hedge. It was of great size, massive, but so silvery and
delicately bright in tone that it seemed not to have weight. It
rose dishevelled and radiant among the steady, golden-green glare
of the field. A little farther back was another, finished
The empty wagon was just passing through the gap in the hedge.
From the far-off corner of the bottom field, where the sward was
still striped grey with winrows, the loaded wagon launched
forward, to climb the hill to the stack. The white dots of the
hay-makers showed distinctly among the hay.
The two brothers were having a moment's rest, waiting for the
load to come up. They stood wiping their brows with their arms,
sighing from the heat and the labour of placing the last load.
The stack they rode was high, lifting them up above the
hedge-tops, and very broad, a great slightly-hollowed vessel into
which the sunlight poured, in which the hot, sweet scent of hay
was suffocating. Small and inefficacious the brothers looked,
half-submerged in the loose, great trough, lifted high up as if
on an altar reared to the sun.
Maurice, the younger brother, was a handsome young fellow of
twenty-one, careless and debonair, and full of vigour. His grey
eyes, as he taunted his brother, were bright and baffled with a
strong emotion. His swarthy face had the same peculiar smile,
expectant and glad and nervous, of a young man roused for the
first time in passion.
"Tha sees," he said, as he leaned on the pommel of his fork,
"tha thowt as tha'd done me one, didna ter?" He smiled as he
spoke, then fell again into his pleasant torment of musing.
"I thought nowt--tha knows so much," retorted Geoffrey, with
the touch of a sneer. His brother had the better of him. Geoffrey
was a very heavy, hulking fellow, a year older than Maurice. His
blue eyes were unsteady, they glanced away quickly; his mouth was
morbidly sensitive. One felt him wince away, through the whole of
his great body. His inflamed self-consciousness was a disease in
"Ah but though, I know tha did," mocked Maurice. "Tha went
slinkin' off"--Geoffrey winced convulsively--"thinking as that
wor the last night as any of us'ud ha'e ter stop here, an' so
tha'd leave me to sleep out, though it wor thy turn--"
He smiled to himself, thinking of the result of Geoffrey's
"I didna go slinkin' off neither," retorted Geoffrey, in his
heavy, clumsy manner, wincing at the phrase. "Didna my feyther
send me to fetch some coal--"
"Oh yes, oh yes--we know all about it. But tha sees what tha
missed, my lad."
Maurice, chuckling, threw himself on his back in the bed of
hay. There was absolutely nothing in his world, then, except the
shallow ramparts of the stack, and the blazing sky. He clenched
his fists tight, threw his arms across his face, and braced his
muscles again. He was evidently very much moved, so acutely that
it was hardly pleasant, though he still smiled. Geoffrey,
standing behind him, could just see his red mouth, with the young
moustache like black fur, curling back and showing the teeth in a
smile. The elder brother leaned his chin on the pommel of his
fork, looking out across the country.
Far away was the faint blue heap of Nottingham. Between, the
country lay under a haze of heat, with here and there a flag of
colliery smoke waving. But near at hand, at the foot of the hill,
across the deep-hedged high road, was only the silence of the old
church and the castle farm, among their trees. The large view
only made Geoffrey more sick. He looked away, to the wagons
crossing the field below him, the empty cart like a big insect
moving down hill, the load coming up, rocking like a ship, the
brown head of the horse ducking, the brown knees lifted and
planted strenuously. Geoffrey wished it would be quick.
"Tha didna think--"
Geoffrey started, coiled within himself, and looked down at
the handsome lips moving in speech below the brown arms of his
"Tha didna think 'er'd be thur wi' me--or tha wouldna ha' left
me to it," Maurice said, ending with a little laugh of excited
memory. Geoffrey flushed with hate, and had an impulse to set his
foot on that moving, taunting mouth, which was there below him.
There was silence for a time, then, in a peculiar tone of
delight, Maurice's voice came again, spelling out the words, as
"Ich bin klein, mein Herz ist rein,
Ist niemand d'rin als Christ allein."
Maurice chuckled, then, convulsed at a twinge of recollection,
keen as pain, he twisted over, pressed himself into the hay.
"Can thee say thy prayers in German?" came his muffled
"I non want," growled Geoffrey.
Maurice chuckled. His face was quite hidden, and in the dark
he was going over again his last night's experiences.
"What about kissing 'er under th' ear, Sonny," he said, in a
curious, uneasy tone. He writhed, still startled and inflamed by
his first contact with love.
Geoffrey's heart swelled within him, and things went dark. He
could not see the landscape.
"An' there's just a nice two-handful of her bosom," came the
low, provocative tones of Maurice, who seemed to be talking to
The two brothers were both fiercely shy of women, and until
this hay harvest, the whole feminine sex had been represented by
their mother and in presence of any other women they were dumb
louts. Moreover, brought up by a proud mother, a stranger in the
country, they held the common girls as beneath them, because
beneath their mother, who spoke pure English, and was very quiet.
Loud-mouthed and broad-tongued the common girls were. So these
two young men had grown up virgin but tormented.
Now again Maurice had the start of Geoffrey, and the elder
brother was deeply mortified. There was a danger of his sinking
into a morbid state, from sheer lack of living, lack of interest.
The foreign governess at the Vicarage, whose garden lay beside
the top field, had talked to the lads through the hedge, and had
fascinated them. There was a great elder bush, with its broad
creamy flowers crumbling on to the garden path, and into the
field. Geoffrey never smelled elder-flower without starting and
wincing, thinking of the strange foreign voice that had so
startled him as he mowed out with the scythe in the hedge bottom.
A baby had run through the gap, and the Fräulein, calling in
German, had come brushing down the flowers in pursuit. She had
started so on seeing a man standing there in the shade, that for
a moment she could not move: and then she had blundered into the
rake which was lying by his side. Geoffrey, forgetting she was a
woman when he saw her pitch forward, had picked her up carefully,
asking: "Have you hurt you?"
Then she had broken into a laugh, and answered in German,
showing him her arms, and knitting her brows. She was nettled
"You want a dock leaf," he said. She frowned in a puzzled
"A dock leaf?" she repeated. He had rubbed her arms with the
And now, she had taken to Maurice. She had seemed to prefer
himself at first. Now she had sat with Maurice in the moonlight,
and had let him kiss her. Geoffrey sullenly suffered, making no
Unconsciously, he was looking at the Vicarage garden. There
she was, in a golden-brown dress. He took off his hat, and held
up his right hand in greeting to her. She, a small, golden
figure, waved her hand negligently from among the potato rows. He
remained, arrested, in the same posture, his hat in his left
hand, his right arm upraised, thinking. He could tell by the
negligence of her greeting that she was waiting for Maurice. What
did she think of himself? Why wouldn't she have him?
Hearing the voice of the wagoner leading the load, Maurice
rose. Geoffrey still stood in the same way, but his face was
sullen, and his upraised hand was slack with brooding. Maurice
faced up-hill. His eyes lit up and he laughed. Geoffrey dropped
his own arm, watching.
"Lad!" chuckled Maurice. "I non knowed 'er wor there." He
waved his hand clumsily. In these matters Geoffrey did better.
The elder brother watched the girl. She ran to the end of the
path, behind the bushes, so that she was screened from the house.
Then she waved her handkerchief wildly. Maurice did not notice
the manoeuvre. There was the cry of a child. The girl's figure
vanished, reappeared holding up a white childish bundle, and came
down the path. There she put down her charge, sped up-hill to a
great ash-tree, climbed quickly to a large horizontal bar that
formed the fence there, and, standing poised, blew kisses with
both her hands, in a foreign fashion that excited the brothers.
Maurice laughed aloud, as he waved his red handkerchief.
"Well, what's the danger?" shouted a mocking voice from below.
Maurice collapsed, blushing furiously.
"Nowt!" he called.
There was a hearty laugh from below.
The load rode up, sheered with a hiss against the stack, then
sank back again upon the scotches. The brothers ploughed across
the mass of hay, taking the forks. Presently a big, burly man,
red and glistening, climbed to the top of the load. Then he
turned round, scrutinized the hillside from under his shaggy
brows. He caught sight of the girl under the ash-tree.
"Oh, that's who it is," he laughed. "I thought it was some
such bird, but I couldn't see her."
The father laughed in a hearty, chaffing way, then began to
teem the load. Geoffrey, on the stack above, received his great
forkfuls, and swung them over to Maurice, who took them, placed
them, building the stack. In the intense sunlight, the three
worked in silence, knit together in a brief passion of work. The
father stirred slowly for a moment, getting the hay from under
his feet. Geoffrey waited, the blue tines of his fork glittering
in expectation: the mass rose, his fork swung beneath it, there
was a light clash of blades, then the hay was swept on to the
stack, caught by Maurice, who placed it judiciously. One after
another, the shoulders of the three men bowed and braced
themselves. All wore light blue, bleached shirts, that stuck
close to their backs. The father moved mechanically, his thick,
rounded shoulders bending and lifting dully: he worked
monotonously. Geoffrey flung away his strength. His massive
shoulders swept and flung the hay extravagantly.
"Dost want to knock me ower?" asked Maurice angrily. He had to
brace himself against the impact. The three men worked intensely,
as if some will urged them. Maurice was light and swift at the
work, but he had to use his judgement. Also, when he had to place
the hay along the far ends, he had some distance to carry it. So
he was too slow for Geoffrey. Ordinarily, the elder would have
placed the hay as far as possible where his brother wanted it.
Now, however, he pitched his forkfuls into the middle of the
stack. Maurice strode swiftly and handsomely across the bed, but
the work was too much for him. The other two men, clenched in
their receive and deliver, kept up a high pitch of labour.
Geoffrey still flung the hay at random. Maurice was perspiring
heavily with heat and exertion, and was getting worried. Now and
again, Geoffrey wiped his arm across his brow, mechanically, like
an animal. Then he glanced with satisfaction at Maurice's moiled
condition, and caught the next forkful.
"Wheer dost think thou'rt hollin' it, fool!" panted Maurice,
as his brother flung a forkful out of reach.
"Wheer I've a mind," answered Geoffrey.
Maurice toiled on, now very angry. He felt the sweat trickling
down his body: drops fell into his long black lashes, blinding
him, so that he had to stop and angrily dash his eyes clear. The
veins stood out in his swarthy neck. He felt he would burst, or
drop, if the work did not soon slacken off. He heard his father's
fork dully scrape the cart bottom.
"There, the last," the father panted. Geoffrey tossed the last
light lot at random, took off his hat, and, steaming in the
sunshine as he wiped himself, stood complacently watching Maurice
struggle with clearing the bed.
"Don't you think you've got your bottom corner a bit far out?"
came the father's voice from below. "You'd better be drawing in
now, hadn't you?"
"I thought you said next load," Maurice called, sulkily.
"Aye! All right. But isn't this bottom corner--?"
Maurice, impatient, took no notice.
Geoffrey strode over the stack, and stuck his fork in the
offending corner. "What--here?" he bawled in his great voice.
"Aye--isn't it a bit loose?" came the irritating voice.
Geoffrey pushed his fork in the jutting corner, and, leaning
his weight on the handle, shoved. He thought it shook. He thrust
again with all his power. The mass swayed.
"What art up to, tha fool!" cried Maurice, in a high
"Mind who tha'rt callin' a fool," said Geoffrey, and he
prepared to push again. Maurice sprang across, and elbowed his
brother aside. On the yielding, swaying bed of hay, Geoffrey lost
his foothold, and fell grovelling. Maurice tried the corner.
"It's solid enough," he shouted angrily.
"Aye--all right," came the conciliatory voice of the father;
"you do get a bit of rest now there's such a long way to cart
it," he added reflectively.
Geoffrey had got to his feet.
"Tha'll mind who tha'rt nudging, I can tell thee," he
threatened heavily; adding, as Maurice continued to work, "an'
tha non ca's him a fool again, dost hear?"
"Not till next time," sneered Maurice.
As he worked silently round the stack, he neared where his
brother stood like a sullen statue, leaning on his fork-handle,
looking out over the countryside. Maurice's heart quickened in
its beat. He worked forward, until a point of his fork caught in
the leather of Geoffrey's boot, and the metal rang sharply.
"Are ter going ta shift thysen?" asked Maurice threateningly.
There was no reply from the great block. Maurice lifted his upper
lip like a dog. Then he put out his elbow, and tried to push his
brother into the stack, clear of his way.
"Who are ter shovin'?" came the deep, dangerous voice.
"Thaïgh," replied Maurice, with a sneer, and straightway
the two brothers set themselves against each other, like opposing
bulls, Maurice trying his hardest to shift Geoffrey from his
footing, Geoffrey leaning all his weight in resistance. Maurice,
insecure in his footing, staggered a little, and Geoffrey's
weight followed him. He went slithering over the edge of the
Geoffrey turned white to the lips, and remained standing,
listening. He heard the fall. Then a flush of darkness came over
him, and he remained standing only because he was planted. He had
not strength to move. He could hear no sound from below, was only
faintly aware of a sharp shriek from a long way off. He listened
again. Then he filled with sudden panic.
"Feyther!" he roared, in his tremendous voice: "Feyther!
The valley re-echoed with the sound. Small cattle on the
hill-side looked up. Men's figures came running from the bottom
field, and much nearer a woman's figure was racing across the
upper field. Geoffrey waited in terrible suspense.
"Ah-h!" he heard the strange, wild voice of the girl cry out.
"Ah-h!"--and then some foreign wailing speech. Then: "Ah-h! Are
He stood sullenly erect on the stack, not daring to go down,
longing to hide in the hay, but too sullen to stoop out of sight.
He heard his eldest brother come up, panting:
"Whatever's amiss!" and then the labourer, and then his
"Whatever have you been doing?" he heard his father ask, while
yet he had not come round the corner of the stack. And then, in a
low, bitter tone:
"Eh, he's done for! I'd no business to ha' put it all on that
There was a moment or two of silence, then the voice of Henry,
the eldest brother, said crisply:
"He's not dead--he's coming round."
Geoffrey heard, but was not glad. He had as lief Maurice were
dead. At least that would be final: better than meeting his
brother's charges, and of seeing his mother pass to the
sick-room. If Maurice was killed, he himself would not explain,
no, not a word, and they could hang him if they liked. If Maurice
were only hurt, then everybody would know, and Geoffrey could
never lift his face again. What added torture, to pass along,
everybody knowing. He wanted something that he could stand back
to, something definite, if it were only the knowledge that he had
killed his brother. He must have something firm to back up
to, or he would go mad. He was so lonely, he who above all needed
the support of sympathy.
"No, he's commin' to; I tell you he is," said the
"He's not dea-ed, he's not dea-ed," came the passionate,
strange sing-song of the foreign girl. "He's not dead--no-o."
"He wants some brandy--look at the colour of his lips," said
the crisp, cold voice of Henry. "Can you fetch some?"
"Wha-at? Fetch?" Fräulein did not understand.
"Brandy," said Henry, very distinct.
"Brrandy!" she re-echoed.
"You go, Bill," groaned the father.
"Aye, I'll go," replied Bill, and he ran across the field.
Maurice was not dead, nor going to die. This Geoffrey now
realized. He was glad after all that the extreme penalty was
revoked. But he hated to think of himself going on. He would
always shrink now. He had hoped and hoped for the time when he
would be careless, bold as Maurice, when he would not wince and
shrink. Now he would always be the same, coiling up in himself
like a tortoise with no shell.
"Ah-h! He's getting better!" came the wild voice of the
Fräulein, and she began to cry, a strange sound, that
startled the men, made the animal bristle within them. Geoffrey
shuddered as he heard, between her sobbing, the impatient moaning
of his brother as the breath came back.
The labourer returned at a run, followed by the Vicar. After
the brandy, Maurice made more moaning, hiccuping noise. Geoffrey
listened in torture. He heard the Vicar asking for explanations.
All the united, anxious voices replied in brief phrases.
"It was that other," cried the Fräulein. "He knocked him
She was shrill and vindictive.
"I don't think so," said the father to the Vicar, in a quite
audible but private tone, speaking as if the Fräulein did
not understand his English.
The Vicar addressed his children's governess in bad German.
She replied in a torrent which he would not confess was too much
for him. Maurice was making little moaning, sighing noises.
"Where's your pain, boy, eh?" the father asked,
"Leave him alone a bit," came the cool voice of Henry. "He's
winded, if no more."
"You'd better see that no bones are broken," said the anxious
"It wor a blessing as he should a dropped on that heap of hay
just there," said the labourer. "If he'd happened to ha' catched
hisself on this nog o' wood 'e wouldna ha' stood much
Geoffrey wondered when he would have courage to venture down.
He had wild notions of pitching himself head foremost from the
stack: if he could only extinguish himself, he would be safe.
Quite frantically, he longed not to be. The idea of going through
life thus coiled up within himself in morbid self-consciousness,
always lonely, surly, and a misery, was enough to make him cry
out. What would they all think when they knew he had knocked
Maurice off that high stack?
They were talking to Maurice down below. The lad had recovered
in great measure, and was able to answer faintly.
"Whatever was you doin'?" the father asked gently. "Was you
playing about with our Geoffrey?--Aye, and where is he?"
Geoffrey's heart stood still.
"I dunno," said Henry, in a curious, ironic tone.
"Go an' have a look," pleaded the father, infinitely relieved
over one son, anxious now concerning the other. Geoffrey could
not bear that his eldest brother should climb up and question him
in his high-pitched drawl of curiosity. The culprit doggedly set
his feet on the ladder. His nailed boots slipped a rung.
"Mind yourself," shouted the overwrought father.
Geoffrey stood like a criminal at the foot of the ladder,
glancing furtively at the group. Maurice was lying, pale and
slightly convulsed, upon a heap of hay. The Fräulein was
kneeling beside his head. The Vicar had the lad's shirt full open
down the breast, and was feeling for broken ribs. The father
kneeled on the other side, the labourer and Henry stood
"I can't find anything broken," said the Vicar, and he sounded
"There's nowt broken to find," murmured Maurice, smiling.
The father started. "Eh?" he said. "Eh?" and he bent over the
"I say it's not hurt me," repeated Maurice.
"What were you doing?" asked the cold, ironic voice of Henry.
Geoffrey turned his head away: he had not yet raised his
"Nowt as I know on," he muttered in a surly tone.
"Why!" cried Fräulein in a reproachful tone. "I see
him--knock him over!" She made a fierce gesture with her elbow.
Henry curled his long moustache sardonically.
"Nay lass, niver," smiled the wan Maurice. "He was fur enough
away from me when I slipped."
"Oh, ah!" cried the Fräulein, not understanding.
"Yi," smiled Maurice indulgently.
"I think you're mistaken," said the father, rather
pathetically, smiling at the girl as if she were "wanting".
"Oh no," she cried. "I see him."
"Nay, lass," smiled Maurice quietly.
She was a Pole, named Paula Jablonowsky: young, only twenty
years old, swift and light as a wild cat, with a strange,
wild-cat way of grinning. Her hair was blonde and full of life,
all crisped into many tendrils with vitality, shaking round her
face. Her fine blue eyes were peculiarly lidded, and she seemed
to look piercingly, then languorously, like a wild cat. She had
somewhat Slavonic cheekbones, and was very much freckled. It was
evident that the Vicar, a pale, rather cold man, hated her.
Maurice lay pale and smiling in her lap, whilst she cleaved to
him like a mate. One felt instinctively that they were mated. She
was ready at any minute to fight with ferocity in his defence,
now he was hurt. Her looks at Geoffrey were full of fierceness.
She bowed over Maurice and caressed him with her foreign-sounding
"You say what you lai-ike," she laughed, giving him lordship
"Hadn't you better be going and looking what has become of
Margery?" asked the Vicar in tones of reprimand.
"She is with her mother--I heared her. I will go in a
whai-ile," smiled the girl, coolly.
"Do you feel as if you could stand?" asked the father, still
"Aye, in a bit," smiled Maurice.
"You want to get up?" caressed the girl, bowing over him, till
her face was not far from his.
"I'm in no hurry," he replied, smiling brilliantly.
This accident had given him quite a strange new ease, an
authority. He felt extraordinarily glad. New power had come to
him all at once.
"You in no hurry," she repeated, gathering his meaning. She
smiled tenderly: she was in his service.
"She leaves us in another month--Mrs Inwood could stand no
more of her," apologized the Vicar quietly to the father.
"Why, is she--?"
"Like a wild thing--disobedient, and insolent."
The father sounded abstract.
"No more foreign governesses for me."
Maurice stirred, and looked up at the girl.
"You stand up?" she asked brightly. "You well?"
He laughed again, showing his teeth winsomely. She lifted his
head, sprung to her feet, her hands still holding his head, then
she took him under the armpits and had him on his feet before
anyone could help. He was much taller than she. He grasped her
strong shoulders heavily, leaned against her, and, feeling her
round, firm breast doubled up against his side, he smiled,
catching his breath.
"You see I'm all right," he gasped. "I was only winded."
"You all raïght?" she cried, in great glee.
"Yes, I am."
He walked a few steps after a moment.
"There's nowt ails me, Father," he laughed.
"Quite well, you?" she cried in a pleading tone. He laughed
outright, looked down at her, touching her cheek with his
"That's it--if tha likes."
"If I lai-ike!" she repeated, radiant.
"She's going at the end of three weeks," said the Vicar
consolingly to the farmer.
While they were talking, they heard the far-off hooting of a
"There goes th' loose a'," said Henry, coldly. "We're
not going to get that corner up to-day."
The father looked round anxiously.
"Now, Maurice, are you sure you're all right?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm all right. Haven't I told you?"
"Then you sit down there, and in a bit you can be getting
dinner out. Henry, you go on the stack. Wheer's Jim? Oh, he's
minding the hosses. Bill, and you, Geoffrey, you can pick while
Maurice sat down under the wych elm to recover. The
Fräulein had fled back. He made up his mind to ask her to
marry him. He had got fifty pounds of his own, and his mother
would help him. For a long time he sat musing, thinking what he
would do. Then, from the float he fetched a big basket covered
with a cloth, and spread the dinner. There was an immense rabbit
pie, a dish of cold potatoes, much bread, a great piece of
cheese, and a solid rice pudding.
These two fields were four miles from the home farm. But they
had been in the hands of the Wookeys for several generations,
therefore the father kept them on, and everyone looked forward to
the hay harvest at Greasley: it was a kind of picnic. They
brought dinner and tea in the milk-float, which the father drove
over in the morning. The lads and the labourers cycled. Off and
on, the harvest lasted a fortnight. As the high road from
Alfreton to Nottingham ran at the foot of the fields, someone
usually slept in the hay under the shed to guard the tools. The
sons took it in turns. They did not care for it much, and were
for that reason anxious to finish the harvest on this day. But
work went slack and disjointed after Maurice's accident.
When the load was teemed, they gathered round the white cloth,
which was spread under a tree between the hedge and the stack,
and, sitting on the ground, ate their meal. Mrs Wookey sent
always a clean cloth, and knives and forks and plates for
everybody. Mr Wookey was always rather proud of this spread:
everything was so proper.
"There now," he said, sitting down jovially. "Doesn't this
look nice now--eh?"
They all sat round the white spread, in the shadow of the tree
and the stack, and looked out up the fields as they ate. From
their shady coolness, the gold sward seemed liquid, molten with
heat. The horse with the empty wagon wandered a few yards, then
stood feeding. Everything was still as a trance. Now and again,
the horse between the shafts of the load that stood propped
beside the stack, jingled his loose bit as he ate. The men ate
and drank in silence, the father reading the newspaper, Maurice
leaning back on a saddle, Henry reading the Nation, the
others eating busily.
Presently "Helloa! 'Er's 'ere again!" exclaimed Bill. All
looked up. Paula was coming across the field carrying a
"She's bringing something to tempt your appetite, Maurice,"
said the eldest brother ironically. Maurice was midway through a
large wedge of rabbit pie, and some cold potatoes.
"Aye, bless me if she's not," laughed the father. "Put that
away, Maurice, it's a shame to disappoint her."
Maurice looked round very shamefaced, not knowing what to do
with his plate.
"Give it over here," said Bill. "I'll polish him off."
"Bringing something for the invalid?" laughed the father to
the Fräulein. "He's looking up nicely."
"I bring him some chicken, him!" She nodded her head at
Maurice childishly. He flushed and smiled.
"Tha doesna mean ter bust 'im," said Bill.
Everybody laughed aloud. The girl did not understand, so she
laughed also. Maurice ate his portion very sheepishly.
The father pitied his son's shyness.
"Come here and sit by me," he said. "Eh, Fräulein! Is
that what they call you?"
"I sit by you, Father," she said innocently.
Henry threw his head back and laughed long and
She settled near to the big, handsome man.
"My name," she said, "is Paula Jablonowsky."
"Is what?" said the father, and the other men went into roars
"Tell me again," said the father. "Your name--?"
"Paula? Oh--well, it's a rum sort of name, eh? His name--" he
nodded at his son.
"Maurice--I know." She pronounced it sweetly, then laughed
into the father's eyes. Maurice blushed to the roots of his
They questioned her concerning her history, and made out that
she came from Hanover, that her father was a shop-keeper, and
that she had run away from home because she did not like her
father. She had gone to Paris.
"Oh," said the father, now dubious. "And what did you do
"In school--in a young ladies' school."
"Did you like it?"
"Oh no--no laïfe--no life!"
"When we go out--two and two--all together--no more. Ah, no
life, no life."
"Well, that's a winder!" exclaimed the father. "No life in
Paris! And have you found much life in England?"
"No--ah no. I don't like it." She made a grimace at the
"How long have you been in England?"
"And what will you do?"
"I will go to London, or to Paris. Ah, Paris!--Or get
married!" She laughed into the father's eyes.
The father laughed heartily.
"Get married, eh? And who to?"
"I don't know. I am going away."
"The country's too quiet for you?" asked the father.
"Too quiet--hm!" she nodded in assent.
"You wouldn't care for making butter and cheese?"
"Making butter--hm!" She turned to him with a glad, bright
gesture. "I like it."
"Oh," laughed the father. "You would, would you?"
She nodded vehemently, with glowing eyes.
"She'd like anything in the shape of a change," said Henry
"I think she would," agreed the father. It did not occur to
them that she fully understood what they said. She looked at them
closely, then thought with bowed head.
"Hullo!" exclaimed Henry, the alert. A tramp was slouching
towards them through the gap. He was a very seedy, slinking
fellow, with a tang of horsey braggadocio about him. Small, thin,
and ferrety, with a week's red beard bristling on his pointed
chin, he came slouching forward.
"Have yer got a bit of a job goin'?" he asked.
"A bit of a job," repeated the father. "Why, can't you see as
we've a'most done?"
"Aye--but I noticed you was a hand short, an' I thowt as
'appen you'd gie me half a day."
"What, are you any good in a hay close?" asked Henry,
with a sneer.
The man stood slouching against the haystack. All the others
were seated on the floor. He had an advantage.
"I could work aside any on yer," he bragged.
"Tha looks it," laughed Bill.
"And what's your regular trade?" asked the father.
"I'm a jockey by rights. But I did a bit o' dirty work for a
boss o' mine, an' I was landed. "E got the benefit,
I got kicked out. "E axed me--an' then 'e looked as
if 'e'd never seed me."
"Did he, though!" exclaimed the father sympathetically.
"'E did that!" asserted the man.
"But we've got nothing for you," said Henry coldly.
"What does the boss say?" asked the man, impudent.
"No, we've no work you can do," said the father. "You can have
a bit o' something to eat, if you like."
"I should be glad of it," said the man.
He was given the chunk of rabbit pie that remained. This he
ate greedily. There was something debased, parasitic, about him,
which disgusted Henry. The others regarded him as a
"That was nice and tasty," said the tramp, with gusto.
"Do you want a piece of bread 'n' cheese?" asked the
"It'll help to fill up," was the reply.
The man ate this more slowly. The company was embarrassed by
his presence, and could not talk. All the men lit their pipes,
the meal over.
"So you dunna want any help?" said the tramp at last.
"No--we can manage what bit there is to do."
"You don't happen to have a fill of bacca to spare, do
The father gave him a good pinch.
"You're all right here," he said, looking round. They resented
this familiarity. However, he filled his clay pipe and smoked
with the rest.
As they were sitting silent, another figure came through the
gap in the hedge, and noiselessly approached. It was a woman. She
was rather small and finely made. Her face was small, very ruddy,
and comely, save for the look of bitterness and aloofness that it
wore. Her hair was drawn tightly back under a sailor hat. She
gave an impression of cleanness, of precision and directness.
"Have you got some work?" she asked of her man. She ignored
the rest. He tucked his tail between his legs.
"No, they haven't got no work for me. They've just gave me a
draw of bacca."
He was a mean crawl of a man.
"An' am I goin' to wait for you out there on the lane all
"You needn't if you don't like. You could go on."
"Well, are you coming?" she asked contemptuously. He rose to
his feet in a rickety fashion.
"You needn't be in such a mighty hurry," he said. "If you'd
wait a bit you might get summat."
She glanced for the first time over the men. She was quite
young, and would have been pretty, were she not so hard and
"Have you had your dinner?" asked the father.
She looked at him with a kind of anger, and turned away. Her
face was so childish in its contours, contrasting strangely with
"Are you coming?" she said to the man.
"He's had his tuck-in. Have a bit, if you want it," coaxed the
"What have you had?" she flashed to the man.
"He's had all what was left o' th' rabbit pie," said Geoffrey,
in an indignant, mocking tone, "and a great hunk o' bread an'
"Well, it was gave me," said the man.
The young woman looked at Geoffrey, and he at her. There was a
sort of kinship between them. Both were at odds with the world.
Geoffrey smiled satirically. She was too grave, too deeply
incensed even to smile.
"There's a cake here, though--you can have a bit o' that,"
said Maurice blithely.
She eyed him with scorn.
Again she looked at Geoffrey. He seemed to understand her. She
turned, and in silence departed. The man remained obstinately
sucking at his pipe. Everybody looked at him with hostility.
"We'll be getting to work," said Henry, rising, pulling off
his coat. Paula got to her feet. She was a little bit confused by
the presence of the tramp.
"I go," she said, smiling brilliantly. Maurice rose and
followed her sheepishly.
"A good grind, eh?" said the tramp, nodding after the
Fräulein. The men only half-understood him, but they hated
"Hadn't you better be getting off?" said Henry.
The man rose obediently. He was all slouching, parasitic
insolence. Geoffrey loathed him, longed to exterminate him. He
was exactly the worst foe of the hyper-sensitive: insolence
without sensibility, preying on sensibility.
"Aren't you goin' to give me summat for her? It's nowt she's
had all day, to my knowin'. She'll 'appen eat it if I take it
'er--though she gets more than I've any knowledge of"--this with
a lewd wink of jealous spite. "And then tries to keep a tight
hand on me," he sneered, taking the bread and cheese, and
stuffing it in his pocket.
Geoffrey worked sullenly all the afternoon, and Maurice did
the horse-raking. It was exceedingly hot. So the day wore on, the
atmosphere thickened, and the sunlight grew blurred. Geoffrey was
picking with Bill--helping to load the wagons from the winrows.
He was sulky, though extraordinarily relieved: Maurice would not
tell. Since the quarrel neither brother had spoken to the other.
But their silence was entirely amicable, almost affectionate.
They had both been deeply moved, so much so that their ordinary
intercourse was interrupted: but underneath, each felt a strong
regard for the other. Maurice was peculiarly happy, his feeling
of affection swimming over everything. But Geoffrey was still
sullenly hostile to the most part of the world. He felt isolated.
The free and easy intercommunication between the other workers
left him distinctly alone. And he was a man who could not bear to
stand alone, he was too much afraid of the vast confusion of life
surrounding him, in which he was helpless. Geoffrey mistrusted
himself with everybody.
The work went on slowly. It was unbearably hot, and everyone
"We s'll have getting-on-for another day of it," said the
father at tea-time, as they sat under the tree.
"Quite a day," said Henry.
"Somebody'll have to stop, then," said Geoffrey. "It 'ud
better be me."
"Nay, lad, I'll stop," said Maurice, and he hid his head in
"Stop again to-night!" exclaimed the father. "I'd rather you
"Nay, I'm stoppin'," protested Maurice.
"He wants to do his courting," Henry enlightened them.
The father thought seriously about it.
"I don't know . . ." he mused, rather perturbed.
But Maurice stayed. Towards eight o'clock, after sundown, the
men mounted their bicycles, the father put the horse in the
float, and all departed. Maurice stood in the gap of the hedge
and watched them go, the cart rolling and swinging downhill, over
the grass stubble, the cyclists dipping swiftly like shadows in
front. All passed through the gate, there was a quick clatter of
hoofs on the roadway under the lime trees, and they were gone.
The young man was very much excited, almost afraid, at finding
Darkness was rising from the valley. Already, up the steep
hill the cart-lamps crept indecisively, and the cottage windows
were lit. Everything looked strange to Maurice, as if he had not
seen it before. Down the hedge a large lime-tree teemed with
scent that seemed almost like a voice speaking. It startled him.
He caught a breath of the over-sweet fragrance, then stood still,
Up hill, a horse whinneyed. It was the young mare. The heavy
horses went thundering across to the far hedge.
Maurice wondered what to do. He wandered round the deserted
stacks restlessly. Heat came in wafts, in thick strands. The
evening was a long time cooling. He thought he would go and wash
himself. There was a trough of pure water in the hedge bottom. It
was filled by a tiny spring that filtered over the brim of the
trough down the lush hedge bottom of the lower field. All round
the trough, in the upper field, the land was marshy, and there
the meadow-sweet stood like clots of mist, very sickly-smelling
in the twilight. The night did not darken, for the moon was in
the sky, so that as the tawny colour drew off the heavens they
remained pallid with a dimmed moon. The purple bell-flowers in
the hedge went black, the ragged robin turned its pink to a faded
white, the meadow-sweet gathered light as if it were
phosphorescent, and it made the air ache with scent.
Maurice kneeled on the slab of stone bathing his hands and
arms, then his face. The water was deliriously cool. He had still
an hour before Paula would come: she was not due till nine. So he
decided to take his bath at night instead of waiting till
morning. Was he not sticky, and was not Paula coming to talk to
him? He was delighted the thought had occurred to him. As he
soused his head in the trough, he wondered what the little
creatures that lived in the velvety silt at the bottom would
think of the taste of soap. Laughing to himself, he squeezed his
cloth into the water. He washed himself from head to foot,
standing in the fresh, forsaken corner of the field, where no one
could see him by daylight, so that now, in the veiled grey tinge
of moonlight, he was no more noticeable than the crowded flowers.
The night had on a new look: he never remembered to have seen the
lustrous grey sheen of it before, nor to have noticed how vital
the lights looked, like live folk inhabiting the silvery spaces.
And the tall trees, wrapped obscurely in their mantles, would not
have surprised him had they begun to move in converse. As he
dried himself, he discovered little wanderings in the air, felt
on his sides soft touches and caresses that were peculiarly
delicious: sometimes they startled him, and he laughed as if he
were not alone. The flowers, the meadow-sweet particularly,
haunted him. He reached to put his hand over their fleeciness.
They touched his thighs. Laughing, he gathered them and dusted
himself all over with their cream dust and fragrance. For a
moment he hesitated in wonder at himself: but the subtle glow in
the hoary and black night reassured him. Things never had looked
so personal and full of beauty, he had never known the wonder in
At nine o'clock he was waiting under the elder-bush, in a
state of high trepidation, but feeling that he was worthy, having
a sense of his own wonder. She was late. At a quarter-past nine
she came, flitting swiftly, in her own eager way.
"No, she would not go to sleep," said Paula, with a
world of wrath in her tone. He laughed bashfully. They wandered
out into the dim, hillside field.
"I have sat--in that bedroom--for an hour, for hours," she
cried indignantly. She took a deep breath: "Ah, breathe!" she
She was very intense, and full of energy.
"I want"--she was clumsy with the language--"I want--I should
laike--to run--there!" She pointed across the field.
"Let's run, then," he said, curiously.
And in an instant she was gone. He raced after her. For all he
was so young and limber, he had difficulty in catching her. At
first he could scarcely see her, though he could hear the rustle
of her dress. She sped with astonishing fleetness. He overtook
her, caught her by the arm, and they stood panting, facing one
another with laughter.
"I could win," she asserted blithely.
"Tha couldna," he replied, with a peculiar, excited laugh.
They walked on, rather breathless. In front of them suddenly
appeared the dark shapes of the three feeding horses.
"We ride a horse?" she said.
"What, bareback?" he asked.
"You say?" She did not understand.
"With no saddle?"
"No saddle--yes--no saddle."
"Coop, lass!" he said to the mare, and in a minute he had her
by the forelock, and was leading her down to the stacks, where he
put a halter on her. She was a big, strong mare. Maurice seated
the Fräulein, clambered himself in front of the girl, using
the wheel of the wagon as a mount, and together they trotted
uphill, she holding lightly round his waist. From the crest of
the hill they looked round.
The sky was darkening with an awning of cloud. On the left the
hill rose black and wooded, made cosy by a few lights from
cottages along the highway. The hill spread to the right, and
tufts of trees shut round. But in front was a great vista of
night, a sprinkle of cottage candles, a twinkling cluster of
lights, like an elfish fair in full swing, at the colliery, an
encampment of light at a village, a red flare on the sky far off,
above an iron-foundry, and in the farthest distance the dim
breathing of town lights. As they watched the night stretch far
out, her arms tightened round his waist, and he pressed his
elbows to his side, pressing her arms closer still. The horse
moved restlessly. They clung to each other.
"Tha doesna want to go right away?" he asked the girl behind
"I stay with you," she answered softly, and he felt her
crouching close against him. He laughed curiously. He was afraid
to kiss her, though he was urged to do so. They remained still,
on the restless horse, watching the small lights lead deep into
the night, an infinite distance.
"I don't want to go," he said, in a tone half pleading.
She did not answer. The horse stirred restlessly.
"Let him run," cried Paula, "fast!"
She broke the spell, startled him into a little fury. He
kicked the mare, hit her, and away she plunged downhill. The girl
clung tightly to the young man. They were riding bareback down a
rough, steep hill. Maurice clung hard with hands and knees. Paula
held him fast round the waist, leaning her head on his shoulders,
and thrilling with excitement.
"We shall be off, we shall be off," he cried, laughing with
excitement; but she only crouched behind and pressed tight to
him. The mare tore across the field. Maurice expected every
moment to be flung on to the grass. He gripped with all the
strength of his knees. Paula tucked herself behind him, and often
wrenched him almost from his hold. Man and girl were taut with
At last the mare came to a standstill, blowing. Paula slid
off, and in an instant Maurice was beside her. They were both
highly excited. Before he knew what he was doing, he had her in
his arms, fast, and was kissing her, and laughing. They did not
move for some time. Then, in silence, they walked towards the
It had grown quite dark, the night was thick with cloud. He
walked with his arm round Paula's waist, she with her arm round
him. They were near the stacks when Maurice felt a spot of
"It's going to rain," he said.
"Rain!" she echoed, as if it were trivial.
"I s'll have to put the stack-cloth on," he said gravely. She
did not understand.
When they got to the stacks, he went round to the shed, to
return staggering in the darkness under the burden of the immense
and heavy cloth. It had not been used once during the hay
"What are you going to do?" asked Paula, coming close to him
in the darkness.
"Cover the top of the stack with it," he replied. "Put it over
the stack, to keep the rain out."
"Ah!" she cried, "up there!" He dropped his burden. "Yes," he
Fumblingly he reared the long ladder up the side of the stack.
He could not see the top.
"I hope it's solid," he said, softly.
A few smart drops of rain sounded drumming on the cloth. They
seemed like another presence. It was very dark indeed between the
great buildings of hay. She looked up the black wall, and shrank
"You carry it up there?" she asked.
"Yes," he answered.
"I help you?" she said.
And she did. They opened the cloth. He clambered first up the
steep ladder, bearing the upper part, she followed closely,
carrying her full share. They mounted the shaky ladder in
As they climbed the stacks a light stopped at the gate on the
high road. It was Geoffrey, come to help his brother with the
cloth. Afraid of his own intrusion, he wheeled his bicycle
silently towards the shed. This was a corrugated iron erection,
on the opposite side of the hedge from the stacks. Geoffrey let
his light go in front of him, but there was no sign from the
lovers. He thought he saw a shadow slinking away. The light of
the bicycle lamp sheered yellowly across the dark, catching a
glint of raindrops, a mist of darkness, shadow of leaves and
strokes of long grass. Geoffrey entered the shed--no one was
there. He walked slowly and doggedly round to the stacks. He had
passed the wagon, when he heard something sheering down upon him.
Starting back under the wall of hay, he saw the long ladder
slither across the side of the stack, and fall with a bruising
"What wor that?" he heard Maurice, aloft, ask cautiously.
"Something fall," came the curious, almost pleased voice of
"It wor niver th' ladder," said Maurice. He peered over the
side of the stack. He lay down, looking.
"It is an' a'!" he exclaimed. "We knocked it down with the
cloth, dragging it over."
"We fast up here?" she exclaimed with a thrill.
"We are that--without I shout and make 'em hear at the
"Oh no," she said quickly.
"I don't want to," he replied, with a short laugh. There came
a swift clatter of raindrops on the cloth. Geoffrey crouched
under the wall of the other stack.
"Mind where you tread--here, let me straighten this end," said
Maurice, with a peculiar intimate tone--a command and an embrace.
"We s'll have to sit under it. At any rate, we shan't get
"Not get wet!" echoed the girl, pleased, but agitated.
Geoffrey heard the slide and rustle of the cloth over the top
of the stack, heard Maurice telling her to "Mind!"
"Mind!" she repeated. "Mind! you say 'Mind!'"
"Well, what if I do?" he laughed. "I don't want you to fall
over th' side, do I?" His tone was masterful, but he was not
quite sure of himself.
There was silence a moment or two.
"Maurice!" she said, plaintively.
"I'm here," he answered, tenderly, his voice shaky with
excitement that was near to distress. "There, I've done. Now
should we--we'll sit under this corner."
"Maurice!" she was rather pitiful.
"What? You'll be all right," he remonstrated, tenderly
"I be all raïght," she repeated, "I be all raïght,
"Tha knows tha will--I canna ca' thee Powla. Should I ca' thee
It was the name of a dead sister.
"Minnie?" she exclaimed in surprise.
"Aye, should I?"
She answered in full-throated German. He laughed shakily.
"Come on--come on under. But do yer wish you was safe in th'
Vicarage? Should I shout for somebody?" he asked.
"I don't wish, no!" She was vehement.
"Art sure?" he insisted, almost indignantly.
"Sure--I quite sure." She laughed.
Geoffrey turned away at the last words. Then the rain beat
heavily. The lonely brother slouched miserably to the hut, where
the rain played a mad tattoo. He felt very miserable, and jealous
His bicycle lamp, downcast, shone a yellow light on the stark
floor of the shed or hut with one wall open. It lit up the
trodden earth, the shafts of tools lying piled under the beam,
beside the dreary grey metal of the building. He took off the
lamp, shone it round the hut. There were piles of harness, tools,
a big sugar box, a deep bed of hay--then the beams across the
corrugated iron, all very dreary and stark. He shone the lamp
into the night: nothing but the furtive glitter of raindrops
through the mist of darkness, and black shapes hovering
Geoffrey blew out the light and flung himself on to the hay.
He would put the ladder up for them in a while, when they would
be wanting it. Meanwhile he sat and gloated over Maurice's
felicity. He was imaginative, and now he had something concrete
to work upon. Nothing in the whole of life stirred him so
profoundly, and so utterly, as the thought of this woman. For
Paula was strange, foreign, different from the ordinary girls:
the rousing, feminine quality seemed in her concentrated,
brighter, more fascinating than in anyone he had known, so that
he felt most like a moth near a candle. He would have loved her
wildly--but Maurice had got her. His thoughts beat the same
course, round and round. What was it like when you kissed her,
when she held you tight round the waist, how did she feel towards
Maurice, did she love to touch him, was he fine and attractive to
her; what did she think of himself--she merely disregarded him,
as she would disregard a horse in a field; why should she do so,
why couldn't he make her regard himself, instead of Maurice: he
would never command a woman's regard like that, he always gave in
to her too soon; if only some woman would come and take him for
what he was worth, though he was such a stumbler and showed to
such disadvantage, ah, what a grand thing it would be; how he
would kiss her. Then round he went again in the same course,
brooding almost like a madman. Meanwhile the rain drummed deep on
the shed, then grew lighter and softer. There came the drip, drip
of the drops falling outside.
Geoffrey's heart leaped up his chest, and he clenched himself,
as a black shape crept round the post of the shed and, bowing,
entered silently. The young man's heart beat so heavily in
plunges, he could not get his breath to speak. It was shock,
rather than fear. The form felt towards him. He sprang up,
gripped it with his great hands, panting "Now, then!"
There was no resistance, only a little whimper of despair.
"Let me go," said a woman's voice.
"What are you after?" he asked, in deep, gruff tones.
"I thought 'e was 'ere," she wept despairingly, with little,
"An' you've found what you didn't expect, have you?"
At the sound of his bullying she tried to get away from
"Let me go," she said.
"Who did you expect to find here?" he asked, but more his
"I expected my husband--him as you saw at dinner. Let me
"Why, is it you?" exclaimed Geoffrey. "Has he left you?"
"Let me go," said the woman sullenly, trying to draw away. He
realized that her sleeve was very wet, her arm slender under his
grasp. Suddenly he grew ashamed of himself: he had no doubt hurt
her, gripping her so hard. He relaxed, but did not let her
"An' are you searching round after that snipe as was here at
dinner?" he asked. She did not answer.
"Where did he leave you?"
"I left him--here. I've seen nothing of him since."
"I s'd think it's good riddance," he said. She did not answer.
He gave a short laugh, saying:
"I should ha' thought you wouldn't ha' wanted to clap eyes on
"He's my husband--an' he's not goin' to run off if I can stop
Geoffrey was silent, not knowing what to say.
"Have you got a jacket on?" he asked at last.
"What do you think? You've got hold of it."
"You're wet through, aren't you?"
"I shouldn't be dry, comin' through that teemin' rain. But
'e's not here, so I'll go."
"I mean," he said humbly, "are you wet through?"
She did not answer. He felt her shiver.
"Are you cold?" he asked, in surprise and concern.
She did not answer. He did not know what to say.
"Stop a minute," he said, and he fumbled in his pocket for his
matches. He struck a light, holding it in the hollow of his
large, hard palm. He was a big man, and he looked anxious.
Shedding the light on her, he saw she was rather pale, and very
weary looking. Her old sailor hat was sodden and drooping with
rain. She wore a fawn-coloured jacket of smooth cloth. This
jacket was black-wet where the rain had beaten, her skirt hung
sodden, and dripped on to her boots. The match went out.
"Why, you're wet through!" he said.
She did not answer.
"Shall you stop in here while it gives over?" he asked. She
did not answer.
"'Cause if you will, you'd better take your things off, an'
have th' rug. There's a horse-rug in the box."
He waited, but she would not answer. So he lit his bicycle
lamp, and rummaged in the box, pulling out a large brown blanket,
striped with scarlet and yellow. She stood stock still. He shone
the light on her. She was very pale, and trembling fitfully.
"Are you that cold?" he asked in concern. "Take your jacket
off, and your hat, and put this right over you."
Mechanically, she undid the enormous fawn-coloured buttons,
and unpinned her hat. With her black hair drawn back from her
low, honest brow, she looked little more than a girl, like a girl
driven hard with womanhood by stress of life. She was small, and
natty, with neat little features. But she shivered
"Is something a-matter with you?" he asked.
"I've walked to Bulwell and back," she quivered, "looking for
him--an' I've not touched a thing since this morning." She did
not weep--she was too dreary-hardened to cry. He looked at her in
dismay, his mouth half open: "Gormin", as Maurice would have
"'Aven't you had nothing to eat?" he said.
Then he turned aside to the box. There, the bread remaining
was kept, and the great piece of cheese, and such things as sugar
and salt, with all table utensils: there was some butter.
She sat down drearily on the bed of hay. He cut her a piece of
bread and butter, and a piece of cheese. This she took, but ate
"I want a drink," she said.
"We 'aven't got no beer," he answered. "My father doesn't have
"I want water," she said.
He took a can and plunged through the wet darkness, under the
great black hedge, down to the trough. As he came back he saw her
in the half-lit little cave sitting bunched together. The soaked
grass wet his feet--he thought of her. When he gave her a cup of
water, her hand touched his and he felt her fingers hot and
glossy. She trembled so she spilled the water.
"Do you feel badly?" he asked.
"I can't keep myself still--but it's only with being tired and
having nothing to eat."
He scratched his head contemplatively, waited while she ate
her piece of bread and butter. Then he offered her another
"I don't want it just now," she said.
"You'll have to eat summat," he said.
"I couldn't eat any more just now."
He put the piece down undecidedly on the box. Then there was
another long pause. He stood up with bent head. The bicycle, like
a restful animal, glittered behind him, turning towards the wall.
The woman sat hunched on the hay, shivering.
"Can't you get warm?" he asked.
"I shall by an' by--don't you bother. I'm taking your
seat--are you stopping here all night?"
"I'll be goin' in a bit," she said.
"Nay, I non want you to go. I'm thinkin' how you could get
"Don't you bother about me," she remonstrated, almost
"I just want to see as the stacks is all right. You take your
shoes an' stockin's an' all your wet things off: you can easy
wrap yourself all over in that rug, there's not so much of
"It's raining--I s'll be all right--I s'll be going in a
"I've got to see as the stacks is safe. Take your wet things
"Are you coming back?" she asked.
"I mightn't, not till morning."
"Well, I s'll be gone in ten minutes, then. I've no rights to
be here, an' I s'll not let anybody be turned out for me."
"You won't be turning me out."
"Whether or no, I shan't stop."
"Well, shall you if I come back?" he asked. She did not
He went. In a few moments, she blew the light out. The rain
was falling steadily, and the night was a black gulf. All was
intensely still. Geoffrey listened everywhere: no sound save the
rain. He stood between the stacks, but only heard the trickle of
water, and the light swish of rain. Everything was lost in
blackness. He imagined death was like that, many things dissolved
in silence and darkness, blotted out, but existing. In the dense
blackness he felt himself almost extinguished. He was afraid he
might not find things the same. Almost frantically, he stumbled,
feeling his way, till his hand touched the wet metal. He had been
looking for a gleam of light.
"Did you blow the lamp out?" he asked, fearful lest the
silence should answer him.
"Yes," she answered humbly. He was glad to hear her voice.
Groping into the pitch-dark shed, he knocked against the box,
part of whose cover served as table. There was a clatter and a
"That's the lamp, an' the knife, an' the cup," he said. He
struck a match.
"Th' cup's not broke." He put it into the box.
"But th' oil's spilled out o' th' lamp. It always was a rotten
old thing." He hastily blew out his match, which was burning his
fingers. Then he struck another light.
"You don't want a lamp, you know you don't, and I s'll be
going directly, so you come an' lie down an' get your night's
rest. I'm not taking any of your place."
He looked at her by the light of another match. She was a
queer little bundle, all brown, with gaudy border folding in and
out, and her little face peering at him. As the match went out
she saw him beginning to smile.
"I can sit right at this end," she said. "You lie down."
He came and sat on the hay, at some distance from her. After a
spell of silence:
"Is he really your husband?" he asked.
"He is!" she answered grimly.
"Hm!" Then there was silence again.
After a while: "Are you warm now?"
"Why do you bother yourself?"
"I don't bother myself--do you follow him because you like
him?" He put it very timidly. He wanted to know.
"I don't--I wish he was dead," this with bitter contempt. Then
doggedly; "But he's my husband."
He gave a short laugh.
"By Gad!" he said.
Again, after a while: "Have you been married long?"
"Four years--why, how old are you?"
"Are you turned twenty-three?"
"Then you're four month older than me." He mused over it. They
were only two voices in the pitch-black night. It was eerie
"And do you just tramp about?" he asked.
"He reckons he's looking for a job. But he doesn't like work
in any shape or form. He was a stableman when I married him, at
Greenhalgh's, the horse-dealers, at Chesterfield, where I was
housemaid. He left that job when the baby was only two month, and
I've been badgered about from pillar to post ever sin'. They say
a rolling stone gathers no moss . . ."
"An' where's the baby?"
"It died when it was ten month old."
Now the silence was clinched between them. It was quite a long
time before Geoffrey ventured to say sympathetically: "You
haven't much to look forward to."
"I've wished many a score time when I've started shiverin' an'
shakin' at nights, as I was taken bad for death. But we're not
that handy at dying."
He was silent. "But what ever shall you do?" he faltered.
"I s'll find him, if I drop by th' road."
"Why?" he asked, wondering, looking her way, though he saw
nothing but solid darkness.
"Because I shall. He's not going to have it all his own
"But why don't you leave him?"
"Because he's not goin' to have it all his own
She sounded very determined, even vindictive. He sat in
wonder, feeling uneasy, and vaguely miserable on her behalf. She
sat extraordinarily still. She seemed like a voice only, a
"Are you warm now?" he asked, half afraid.
"A bit warmer--but my feet!" She sounded pitiful.
"Let me warm them with my hands," he asked her. "I'm hot
"No, thank you," she said, coldly.
Then, in the darkness, she felt she had wounded him. He was
writhing under her rebuff, for his offer had been pure
"They're 'appen dirty," she said, half mocking.
"Well--mine is--an' I have a bath a'most every day," he
"I don't know when they'll get warm," she moaned to
"Well, then, put them in my hands."
She heard him faintly rattling the match-box, and then a
phosphorescent glare began to fume in his direction. Presently he
was holding two smoking, blue-green blotches of light towards her
feet. She was afraid. But her feet ached so, and the impulse
drove her on, so she placed her soles lightly on the two blotches
of smoke. His large hands clasped over her instep, warm and
"They're like ice!" he said, in deep concern.
He warmed her feet as best he could, putting them close
against him. Now and again convulsive tremors ran over her. She
felt his warm breath on the balls of her toes, that were bunched
up in his hands. Leaning forward, she touched his hair delicately
with her fingers. He thrilled. She fell to gently stroking his
hair, with timid, pleading finger-tips.
"Do they feel any better?" he asked, in a low voice, suddenly
lifting his face to her. This sent her hand sliding softly over
his face, and her finger-tips caught on his mouth. She drew
quickly away. He put his hand out to find hers, in his other palm
holding both her feet. His wandering hand met her face. He
touched it curiously. It was wet. He put his big fingers
cautiously on her eyes, into two little pools of tears.
"What's a matter?" he asked, in a low, choked voice.
She leaned down to him, and gripped him tightly round the
neck, pressing him to her bosom in a little frenzy of pain. Her
bitter disillusionment with life, her unalleviated shame and
degradation during the last four years, had driven her into
loneliness, and hardened her till a large part of her nature was
caked and sterile. Now she softened again, and her spring might
be beautiful. She had been in a fair way to make an ugly old
She clasped the head of Geoffrey to her breast, which heaved
and fell, and heaved again. He was bewildered, full of wonder. He
allowed the woman to do as she would with him. Her tears fell on
his hair, as she wept noiselessly; and he breathed deep as she
did. At last she let go her clasp. He put his arms round her.
"Come and let me warm you," he said, folding her up on his
knee, and lapping her with his heavy arms against himself. She
was small and câline. He held her very warm and
close. Presently she stole her arms round him.
"You are big," she whispered.
He gripped her hard, started, put his mouth down wanderingly,
seeking her out. His lips met her temple. She slowly,
deliberately turned her mouth to his, and with opened lips, met
him in a kiss, his first love kiss.
It was breaking cold dawn when Geoffrey woke. The woman was
still sleeping in his arms. Her face in sleep moved all his
tenderness: the tight shutting of her mouth, as if in resolution
to bear what was very hard to bear, contrasted so pitifully with
the small mould of her features. Geoffrey pressed her to his
bosom: having her, he felt he could bruise the lips of the
scornful, and pass on erect, unabateable. With her to complete
him, to form the core of him, he was firm and whole. Needing her
so much, he loved her fervently.
Meanwhile the dawn came like death, one of those slow, livid
mornings that seem to come in a cold sweat. Slowly, and
painfully, the air began to whiten. Geoffrey saw it was not
raining. As he was watching the ghastly transformation outside,
he felt aware of something. He glanced down: she was open-eyed,
watching him; she had golden-brown, calm eyes, that immediately
smiled into his. He also smiled, bowed softly down and kissed
her. They did not speak for some time. Then:
"What's thy name?" he asked curiously.
"Lydia," she said.
"Lydia!" he repeated, wonderingly. He felt rather shy.
"Mine's Geoffrey Wookey," he said.
She merely smiled at him.
They were silent for a considerable time. By morning light,
things look small. The huge trees of the evening were dwindling
to hoary, small, uncertain things, trespassing in the sick pallor
of the atmosphere.
There was a dense mist, so that the light could scarcely
breathe. Everything seemed to quiver with cold and
"Have you often slept out?" he asked her.
"Not so very," she answered.
"You won't go after him?" he asked.
"I s'll have to," she replied, but she nestled in to Geoffrey.
He felt a sudden panic.
"You musn't," he exclaimed, and she saw he was afraid for
himself. She let it be, was silent.
"We couldn't get married?" he asked, thoughtfully.
He brooded deeply over this. At length:
"Would you go to Canada with me?"
"We'll see what you think in two months' time," she replied
quietly, without bitterness.
"I s'll think the same," he protested, hurt.
She did not answer, only watched him steadily. She was there
for him to do as he liked with; but she would not injure his
fortunes; no, not to save his soul.
"Haven't you got no relations?" he asked.
"A married sister at Crick."
"On a farm?"
"No--married a farm labourer--but she's very comfortable. I'll
go there, if you want me to, just till I can get another place in
He considered this.
"Could you get on a farm?" he asked wistfully.
"Greenhalgh's was a farm."
He saw the future brighten: she would be a help to him. She
agreed to go to her sister, and to get a place of service--until
Spring, he said, when they would sail for Canada. He waited for
"You will come with me, then?" he asked.
"When the time comes," she said.
Her want of faith made him bow his head: she had reason for
"Shall you walk to Crick, or go from Langley Mill to
Ambergate? But it's only ten mile to walk. So we can go together
up Hunt's Hill--you'd have to go past our lane-end, then I could
easy nip down an' fetch you some money," he said, humbly.
"I've got half a sovereign by me--it's more than I s'll
"Let's see it," he said.
After a while, fumbling under the blanket, she brought out the
piece of money. He felt she was independent of him. Brooding
rather bitterly, he told himself she'd forsake him. His anger
gave him courage to ask:
"Shall you go in service in your maiden name?"
He was bitterly wrathful with her--full of resentment.
"I bet I s'll niver see you again," he said, with a short,
hard laugh. She put her arms round him, pressed him to her bosom,
while the tears rose to her eyes. He was reassured, but not
"Shall you write to me to-night?"
"Yes, I will."
"And can I write to you--who shall I write to?"
"'Bredon'!" he repeated bitterly.
He was exceedingly uneasy.
The dawn had grown quite wan. He saw the hedges drooping wet
down the grey mist. Then he told her about Maurice.
"Oh, you shouldn't!" she said. "You should ha' put the
ladder up for them, you should."
"Well--I don't care."
"Go and do it now--and I'll go."
"No, don't you. Stop an' see our Maurice, go on, stop an' see
him--then I s'll be able to tell him."
She consented in silence. He had her promise she would not go
before he returned. She adjusted her dress, found her way to the
trough, where she performed her toilet.
Geoffrey wandered round to the upper field. The stacks looked
wet in the mist, the hedge was drenched. Mist rose like steam
from the grass, and the near hills were veiled almost to a
shadow. In the valley, some peaks of black poplar showed fairly
definite, jutting up. He shivered with chill.
There was no sound from the stacks, and he could see nothing.
After all, he wondered, were they up there. But he reared the
ladder to the place whence it had been swept, then went down the
hedge to gather dry sticks. He was breaking off thin dead twigs
under a holly tree when he heard, on the perfectly still air:
"Well I'm dashed!"
He listened intently. Maurice was awake.
"Sithee here!" the lad's voice exclaimed. Then, after a while,
the foreign sound of the girl:
"Aye, th' ladder's there, right enough."
"You said it had fall down."
"Well, I heard it drop--an' I couldna feel it nor see it."
"You said it had fall down--you lie, you liar."
"Nay, as true as I'm here--"
"You tell me lies--make me stay here--you tell me lies--" She
was passionately indignant.
"As true as I'm standing here--" he began.
"Lies!--lies!--lies!" she cried. "I don't believe you, never.
You mean, you mean, mean, mean!"
"A' raïght, then!" he was now incensed, in his turn.
"You are bad, mean, mean, mean."
"Are yer commin' down?" asked Maurice, coldly.
"No--I will not come with you--mean, to tell me lies."
"Are ter commin' down?"
"No, I don't want you."
"A' raïght, then!"
Geoffrey, peering through the holly tree, saw Maurice
negotiating the ladder. The top rung was below the brim of the
stack, and rested on the cloth, so it was dangerous to approach.
The Fräulein watched him from the end of the stack, where
the cloth thrown back showed the light, dry hay. He slipped
slightly, she screamed. When he had got on to the ladder, he
pulled the cloth away, throwing it back, making it easy for her
"Now are ter comin'?" he asked.
"No!" she shook her head violently, in a pet.
Geoffrey felt slightly contemptuous of her. But Maurice
"Are ter comin'?" he called again.
"No," she flashed, like a wild cat.
"All right, then I'm going."
He descended. At the bottom, he stood holding the ladder.
"Come on, while I hold it steady," he said.
There was no reply. For some minutes he stood patiently with
his foot on the bottom rung of the ladder. He was pale, rather
washed-out in his appearance, and he drew himself together with
"Are ter commin', or aren't ter?" he asked at length. Still
there was no reply.
"Then stop up till tha'rt ready," he muttered, and he went
away. Round the other side of the stacks he met Geoffrey.
"What, are thaïgh here?" he exclaimed.
"Bin here a' naïght," replied Geoffrey. "I come to help
thee wi' th' cloth, but I found it on, an' th' ladder down, so I
thowt tha'd gone."
"Did ter put th' ladder up?"
"I did a bit sin."
Maurice brooded over this, Geoffrey struggled with himself to
get out his own news. At last he blurted:
"Tha knows that woman as wor here yis'day dinner--'er come
back, an' stopped i' th' shed a' night, out o' th' rain."
"Oh--ah!" said Maurice, his eye kindling, and a smile crossing
"An' I s'll gi'e her some breakfast."
"Oh--ah!" repeated Maurice.
"It's th' man as is good-for-nowt, not her," protested
Geoffrey. Maurice did not feel in a position to cast stones.
"Tha pleases thysen," he said, "what ter does." He was very
quiet, unlike himself. He seemed bothered and anxious, as
Geoffrey had not seen him before.
"What's up wi' thee?" asked the elder brother, who in his own
heart was glad, and relieved.
"Nowt," was the reply.
They went together to the hut. The woman was folding the
blanket. She was fresh from washing, and looked very pretty. Her
hair, instead of being screwed tightly back, was coiled in a knot
low down, partly covering her ears. Before, she had deliberately
made herself plain-looking: now she was neat and pretty, with a
sweet, womanly gravity.
"Hello. I didn't think to find you here," said Maurice, very
awkwardly, smiling. She watched him gravely without reply. "But
it was better in shelter than outside, last night," he added.
"Yes," she replied.
"Shall you get a few more sticks?" Geoffrey asked him. It was
a new thing for Geoffrey to be leader. Maurice obeyed. He
wandered forth into the damp, raw morning. He did not go to the
stack, as he shrank from meeting Paula.
At the mouth of the hut, Geoffrey was making the fire. The
woman got out coffee from the box: Geoffrey set the tin to boil.
They were arranging breakfast when Paula appeared. She was
hatless. Bits of hay stuck in her hair, and she was
white-faced--altogether, she did not show to advantage.
"Ah--you!" she exclaimed, seeing Geoffrey.
"Hello!" he answered. "You're out early."
"I dunno, he should be back directly."
Paula was silent.
"When have you come?" she asked.
"I come last night, but I could see nobody about. I got up
half an hour sin', an' put th' ladder up ready to take the
Paula understood, and was silent. When Maurice returned with
the faggots, she was crouched warming her hands. She looked up at
him, but he kept his eyes averted from her. Geoffrey met the eyes
of Lydia, and smiled. Maurice put his hands to the fire.
"You cold?" asked Paula tenderly.
"A bit," he answered, quite friendly, but reserved. And all
the while the four sat round the fire, drinking their smoked
coffee, eating each a small piece of toasted bacon, Paula watched
eagerly for the eyes of Maurice, and he avoided her. He was
gentle, but would not give his eyes to her looks. And Geoffrey
smiled constantly to Lydia, who watched gravely.
The German girl succeeded in getting safely into the Vicarage,
her escapade unknown to anyone save the housemaid. Before a week
was out, she was openly engaged to Maurice, and when her month's
notice expired, she went to live at the farm.
Geoffrey and Lydia kept faith one with the other.