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Title: Gipsy Waggon. The Story of a Ploughman's Progress. [apparently published in England in 1933 as The Ploughman's Progress]
Author: Kaye-Smith, Sheila (1887-1956)
Date of first publication: 1933
Place and date of edition used as base for this ebook: New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1933 (First U.S. Edition)
Date first posted: 17 July 2008
Date last updated: 17 July 2008
Project Gutenberg Canada ebook #148

This ebook was produced by: Andrew Templeton

Gipsy Waggon

The Story of a Ploughman's Progress


Sheila Kaye-Smith

Harper & Brothers Publishers
New York and London


Gipsy Waggon



The cottage seemed asleep under the trees, resting among them as if it felt the comfort of their sheltering strength. It was about two hundred years old, but looked much older, for it had been built in a jerry-building century, and succeeding occupiers had patched and propped it, tarred and boarded its crumbling brick, and re-thatched its moulting roof. It had always been a working-man's cottage, and no one had ever made a complete job of it, with the result that while older dwellings still stood firm in their integrity of Caen stone or oak beams, the cottage at Float Farm had a tumbling look, and almost seemed about to settle back into the earth under the trees.

The little windows were so small that they looked like half-shut eyes. Fred Sinden stared at them critically. He ought to have pulled down the blinds—that was what you did for a funeral, and there were blinds on them too, roller blinds that he had fixed himself. But somehow he had not thought of it till now, when it was too late. He had bought a black suit, which would do for Sundays afterwards, and he had ordered a wreath from the gardener at Cock Marling, and written on a black-edged card—"Dear Dad. Not lost but gone before, from Fred." But he had forgotten to pull down the blinds. The fact that the cottage was half a mile off the road and that no one but himself would have noticed the failure made no difference at all.

Well, never mind. Perhaps they would not have come down even if he had pulled them. It was two years since he had fixed them, and Dad would never have them used, because he didn't like the blind-dark. Most likely the damp had got into them. He would have to see about that, because Ivy might like them used; he expected Ivy to be very fine and particular in some of her notions.

He opened the door and went in. Even though the blinds were up, the cottage was dark, full of a green shadow from the overhanging trees. In order to see his way about in the kitchen he had to leave the door open. The remains of his dinner welcomed him home—bacon rind, a crust of bread, the peel of an orange, the smell of an onion. He had not had time to clear away before the Frenches came for Dad. They had done the funeral well, those Frenches, with Tom Masters to help them and Percy Smith from Reedbed. They had looked proper undertakers' men in their black coats and top hats—you forgot having seen them yesterday at the Garage in their overalls. The flowers had looked nice too, and they had arranged them so carefully round the coffin, and looked so solemn and spoken so respectful that you might have thought that Fred Sinden was paying for the funeral on the nail instead of at a monthly rate that made it look as if he would be dead himself before poor Dad was paid for.

After the funeral Ashdown had offered to come home with him, and Mr. Vincent had walked part of the home but he had told them he was expecting Ivy, and they had left him. But it had been kind of them all the same—kinder than he deserved, for he couldn't really pretend that he was sorry about Dad, not truly, tur'ble sorry. Dad was long past the proper age for dying, and for many months had been a miserable old nuisance both to himself and to his son. There was no good pretending that Fred or anyone would miss him much, poor old chap.

Besides, his death removed the last of the idea that he was ploughman at Float Farm, with Fred working under him at a labourer's wages. On that short bit of way between Leasan churchyard and the turning to Float, Mr. Vincent had offered him his father's job in style.

"You mustn't think I haven't noticed that for this last year you've been doing the work and he's been taking the wages. But it wasn't a thing we could change, seeing he's been ploughman at Float since my father's time—and anyway the wages was in the family, and knowing he had to die of that growth I kept on, rather than make trouble with a dying man. But now I tell you I can take you on in his place at two pounds a week."

That sounded good, that sounded fine. It was true that Dad's wages had stood at two pounds five, but Fred did not expect to step at once into the whole of his glory. Besides he knew that extra five shillings, forced up during the war, had always been a trial to Mr. Vincent, especially since he had bought Float Farm on a mortgage at the Alard Sale. . . . Young Sinden felt tenderly for his master's purse.

"I'll be glad of that," he said, shutting into those words all the bounding hopefulness and thankfulness of his heart.

"You'll be able to marry now," said Mr. Vincent.

"Reckon I shall."

"I'm sorry I can't do anything for you about the cottage; till I've paid for Float I've no money over for repairs. That building society interest comes heavy every year."

"Reckon it does."

"But I could let you have a bit of corrugated iron if you want to mend the roof."

"I might do that."

They touched hats and parted at the top of the lane. There was no denying that the roof wanted mending, and in his heart Fred was grateful for that promised bit of iron. He went out of the kitchen into the adjoining parlour. For years this had suffered all the neglect due to it in a masculine establishment. Three green stuff chairs stood round a green-draped table, and from the wall green wallpaper depended in strips bulging in other places into huge warts and blisters as the damp found its way behind it through the roof, which at the back of the cottage sloped down almost to the ground. The plaster had dropped away from the slanting ceiling, revealing the thatch, and those miserable birds had been pulling it out for their nests, so that in one or two places you could see the sky. He must get that iron over the gap before it rained, or the whole place would be spoiled. Ivy would be sure to want a parlour to sit in, being used to the gentry and their ways. To-day it required a considerable effort of imagination to picture her sitting in the parlour at Float Cottage, and for a moment Fred's ruddy face almost matched the gravity of his funeral attire.


A bicycle bell rang outside the cottage. That must be Ivy—and once more his face was in cheerful contrast with his coat. He ran back into the kitchen, and found her in the doorway, gazing about her. She looked so sweet and lovely, standing there, with the shadows of the leaves on her summer gown, that for a moment his breath seemed to go, and he could not speak to her.

"Oh, Fred! there you are! I thought you must be still at the . . . and then I thought you must be back, as the door was open."

"And what do you think now?"

He took her in his arms and kissed her, thrilling with the delicious feel of her close to his heart.

"Which do you think now?"

She laughed happily, then checked herself; for she remembered that this was a house of mourning.

"Fred, you didn't mind my not coming to the funeral? They had people to lunch, and I couldn't get away. I told you I didn't think I could come."

Her eyes were telling him that she didn't like funerals.

"I didn't expect you to come, and it wouldn't really have done if you had. If you'd come I'd have had to take a cab for us. As it was I rode on the hearse and saved five shillings."

"How did it go off?"

"Oh, fine. Uncommon fine. Those Frenches did the thing in proper style. And quite a lot of folk was there—Ashdown and Masters, of course, and Piper came over from Eggs Hole, and there was Mr. and Mrs. Vincent, both of 'em, and Mrs. Waters from the shop, and some more besides. I've only just got back or I'd have made the place tidier for you."

Out of the tail of his eye he had caught sight of the litter of rind and peel on the table.

"Oh, don't you worry about that. I'll tidy it for you."

"Why should you? You spend your days at tidying. Have a rest now."

"No, let me; I'd rather. And I'll put the kettle on for some tea."

Their voices were in curious contrast, though they had been born and bred within three miles of each other. Sinden spoke the rough, slurring speech of the Sussex man, with great broad vowels like pools in which the consonants drowned. Ivy spoke in a slow, rather conscious voice the language she heard on the wireless and in the houses of her various employers. In Leasan parish the women spoke quite differently from the men. Quicker to adapt themselves to changing conditions they had shed certain roughnesses of speech and manner which the men, less observant and more independent, still kept—though it must not be thought that Ivy conversed with her sweetheart at Float Cottage as she conversed with her mistress at Cock Marling Place.

Fred loved her little elegances, though he often teased her about them. This afternoon he felt apologetic, and started on a long-winded account of his day's work, which would explain why the cottage had not been swept or dusted for a week.

But Ivy, though a housemaid of diffused experience—having been employed for periods varying from a month to a year by most of the better-class houses in Leasan—had no personal objection to a little dust. The cottage certainly seemed small and poorly furnished in comparison with Cock Marling Place or Leasan Parsonage, or even with the small inconvenient house where Mrs. George Alard lived in the village street, but it was to Ivy that day a place of enchantment, as it was to Fred. For the first time they were alone in it. A certain chivalry towards the dead and respect for an old tradition prevented them saying how pleased they were to be without the presence of a cross and sick old man, either sitting glaring at them in his corner, or calling down from the bedroom every other minute, to be moved or to be given something that he wanted, or simply to know what they were doing.

Ivy's tea-making proceeded slowly. She got the fire to burn, while Fred filled the kettle with thick green water; then she wiped two cups and saucers with a cloth (to save him going to the well again), and they sat down together in the dead man's chair, to pass very pleasantly the half hour which must elapse before the water could boil.

"Ivy, you know I've been given Dad's job."

"You told me that you would be."

"It means two pound a week."

"Your father got two pound five."

"But that was more than Mr. Vincent could properly afford. He'd never stand for it now, and anyway it's more than most of the chaps in these parts are getting—older chaps than me. It'll be enough, to marry on, love."

"Oh, Fred"—she leaned back against him, teasing his mouth with her hair, and his nostrils with that vague yet heady smell which was the smell of Ivy.

"Why not? I'll never get no more if I wait to be a hundred."

"Well, I haven't said anything against it."

"You darling little bird"—he kissed her mouth as it smiled up at him—"Ivy, we'll be married and live here. You won't mind living here; will you, girl?"

"Of course I shan't. I shall love it."

"It's only a poor little place. And you've lived in some grand houses."

"And in some uncommon queer ones. You should have seen my bedroom at Mrs. Alard's with that beastly child of hers. No, I shall love this place, and I could make it look sweet with just a few yards of cretonne for curtains."

"Do you like blinds, Ivy?"


"Yes, window-blinds. I've got 'em on all the windows here. I meant to draw them down for the funeral and then I went and disremembered it. Father would never use them. He didn't like the blind-dark."

"I don't like the dark much, either. I'd rather have curtains, Freddy dear. And I tell you what I simply must have, and that's an oil stove. I never could cook properly on a fire, specially if it burns wood."

"It 'ud be, a pity to burn anything else seeing as we get the wood here for next to nothing. Ashdown always gives me his chucks when he mends the hedges, and I can pick up what I like after Mr. Pannell when he's clearing a shaw, and buy a cord of first-class wood off him at five shillings."

"I like wood well enough to warm us by, but not to cook on. Wouldn't you be able to buy me an oil stove, Fred?"

"Well, I dunno, my dear. I'm paying eight shilling a month for the funeral till goodness knows. Father quarrelled with the Buffaloes, as maybe you've heard."

"But surelye they gave him back his funeral money."

"They did, but he spent a lot of it before he died. He said he'd sooner spend money on himself alive than dead."

"He might have thought of us. . . ." Ivy checked an uncharitable criticism of the deceased. "Well, you can buy an oil stove by instalments, you know."

"Maybe I can. It's easier to buy things that way. I paid cash down for this suit—thirty shillings. Do you think it would do for the wedding too?"

Ivy hesitated. Navy blue was the correct attire for weddings. But she didn't want poor Fred to spend more than he need, and it would be sheer wicked waste for him to have two good suits.

"It would do well enough if you could afford a fawn hat to go with it, just to show it isn't black for mourning."

"Reckon I could do that, and coloured socks and a tie and maybe a pair of brown shoes. I was a fool to buy it, for I knew I should be marrying you before the year was out. But somehow I felt poor Dad deserved something better of me than a black band."

Ivy nodded in agreement—she too was grateful to Dad, for dying; but her mind was busy with an earlier statement.

"What do you mean by saying you knew we should be married this year."

"Well, ain't we getting married at Christmas?"

"But it's September now."

"What of it? That's more'n three months till Christmas. You'll have time enough to fix your curtains, love."

"But there's everything else—my clothes, and the bedlinen, and that oil stove, and maybe some other bits of furniture too."

"I'll see that everything's fixed up proper—don't you fret, sweetheart. As soon as we've had our tea we'll go round the place and see what wants doing."

"But, Fred . . . aren't we too young to get married?"

"Too young! What tur'ble nonsense! Who ever heard the like of that? We're twenty-one, both of us—and what should we wait for? I shan't ever make more money than I'm making now, and as for owing for the funeral, those Frenches 'ud never press me, and anyways I can afford it. It won't cost us more'n a pound a week to live here—not for the first year anyway."

Ivy saw his delicate implication.

"Oh, Fred. . . ."

"Well, what of it, I say? Sweetheart, you'd never leave me lonely here now that the place is ready and waiting for you, and I've got the money to keep you with and more beside. It ain't that you're not serious about me, is it?—oh, Ivy, Ivy, don't say that!"

She was shocked at the distress that showed itself suddenly in his voice and in his whole body; she could feel his knees shaking under her while his arms gripped her in a hold that was suddenly hard and fierce.

"No, no, no! I don't mean that. I'm only thinking—oughtn't we to wait till we've saved a bit?"

"No. Why should we? We can pay for things as we go along—instalments, as you said. Besides, I shall be living here alone for three months, not spending a quarter of two pounds a week. I should ought to have saved twelve to fifteen pounds by Christmas. Ivy, say you'll marry me then. Oh, sweetheart, I've never said much about things, but now Dad's gone I can't bear to wait for you."

She understood him, and moved by a sudden tender stir, pressed her mouth on his. For some moments they did not move. The sunlight filtering through the thicknesses of trees and old window-glass, faintly lit their two heads, close together, his a bleached brown, hers a shining black. Her arms were round his neck and his were round her waist, as they sat together in the dead man's chair, with the kettle singing to them.


The coils of her hair were still neat and shining when two hours later she set off home. Fred was not a rough lover—indeed in her secret heart Ivy sometimes wished he would be rougher, more masterful, more like those strange dark men she saw on rare occasions at the Kinema in Rye. But she had seen enough of married life in other women to know that this gentleness, though occasionally a disappointment in courtship, would be a comfort in marriage. Some women's husbands were a terrible trial and took a lot too much for granted. It was just as well to have no such fears of Fred.

Her neatness may also have been owing to the fact that they had a lot to do besides love-making. Their kisses were like stars washed out in a greater illumination. In the light that streamed from their marriage at Christmas—time they had abandoned the fireside chair and had gone up and down and about the house, inspecting furniture and making plans, deciding just how much of Dad's old stuff would do, and how much must be re-renewed, and how much it would cost. Their calculations were swift and hopeful. Ivy looked rather blank when she saw the parlour, but was eager to believe Fred's assurances that with Mr. Vincent's corrugated iron and a few yards of wallpaper at sixpence three-farthings, he could make the room look as fine and nice as any which she had ever dusted for other women.

"And then there'll be my curtains. . . ."

Ivy was a great believer in flowered cretonne as an embellisher and moderniser of ancient dwelling-places.

At six o'clock she had to go. The head housemaid was out, so she must help wait at table.

"And, Fred, if we're to be married at Christmas, I'd better give notice at once."

"You could stop another month or two if you liked."

"But I don't like. I shall be much too busy to do my work, and I'd like to spend the last two months at home with mother."

"Do just as you fancy, sweetheart; but I'm sure they'll be unaccountable sorry to lose you."

Ivy was not so sure, but she said nothing of her misgivings. She kissed Fred, invited him to her mother's for next Thursday evening, and went off, pushing her bicycle up the little rutted lane, which was too rough and steep for her to ride.

She went southwards, making for Vinehall ridge and Cock Marling Place. A few minutes later Fred Sinden set out northwards, for Leasan ridge and the Queen's Head Inn. Float Farm lay in the valley of the River Tillingham, between the two villages of Vinehall and Leasan on their hills.


The sun was still above the clouds that were piling beyond Starvecrow, and a golden, rainy light came down the valley, full of the shadows of trees and hedges that stretched over the grass till they looked no longer what they were, but became the first dark touches of night. The little lane that wound up the hill to Leasan was entirely in shadow, and already chill. But for the light that still stroked the fields on either side of it, you would have thought the sun had set. As Fred walked up the hill the radiance seemed to contract, till it was mere strokes of light on darkness, instead of being a field of light where the shadows wandered. By the time he had reached the junction of the lane with the high road, the last of it was gone, and the first shiver of night came up to him from the valley, making him turn up his coat collar and thrust his hands deep into his pockets.

He was glad to see the lights of the Queen's Head, warm and welcoming at the cross-roads, though there was still enough light in the sky to show the queen's head on the sign and the legend: "Queenshead. Car far hire" hung on the garden pales. Inside, the bar was lit by two lamps with red shades standing on the counter, which gave the place a ruddy, cheerful look, but made the distant corners rather dim, so that at first it was difficult for him to see who was there.

"Good evening, Mrs. Allwork—good evening, Jack—good evening, Bill—good evening, Mr. Crouch."

"Good evening, Fred."

There was something subdued about their greeting. Till the moment he came in they had been wondering if he would show up to-night. There had been an argument as to whether he would or wouldn't. Some held that his coming would be an affront to the dead; others that you couldn't expect the poor chap to sit at home all by himself on the night of the funeral. Fred had expected a divided opinion—he had faced the fact that he would offend some; but he had no notion of sitting at home by himself for fear of upsetting a few old-fashioned chaps. He had stopped away on the actual night of his father's death and had never felt so bored and lonely in his life.

Whatever might be the feelings of those present, nothing was said either in criticism or comfort. Death was too big a thing to be touched by a casual word. He ordered half a pint of beer from Mrs. Allwork behind the counter, and went and sat down beside Mr. Crouch, his future father-in-law.

Fred did not like the old man, and certainly caught no glimpse of his beloved in that gnarled crimson face, darkened over with a cloud which was partly whisker and partly soot, for Mr. Crouch was a chimney-sweep among many professions. But he wanted to be friendly with Ivy's father: perhaps he hoped to talk to him about her—if so, he was disappointed.

Mr. Crouch wiped his mouth on his sleeve and said:

"I've just come out o' de oast."

"I thought we hadn't seen you here for a long time. Where have you been?"


"How did their hops do this year?"


"Everybody's hops seems to have done rotten," said Wood, a farm-hand from Tanhouse, who sat near Crouch. "How's Mr. Vincent been this time, Fred?"

"Oh, not so bad."

"Finished yet?"

"We finished Thursday. Cleared over seven hundred bushel. Not so bad."

"You'll have to see what price you get for 'em before you say it's not so bad, or if you sell 'em at all."

"We'll sell 'em right enough."

"Don't you talk so sure. Last year at Newhouse they never sold a single pocket."

"That was because they was bad hops. Ours is good hops."

"Good hops, bad hops, 'tis all the same, with rates and taxes and furriners taking the money, and the brewers growing their own stuff instead of buying it from the farms. Have you heard as Hobday and Hitch are buying Perryman's and turning it all into hops?"

Various sounds of incredulity and denial came from the bar.

"Perryman's ain't for sale," said Crouch.

"That shows how much you know," said Wood. "Perryman's been up for sale, private like, for the last six months."

"How should you know about it, then? Did they ask you to buy it?"

"No; they didn't; but their looker, Ted Springett, happens to be a friend of mine, and he told me a good six months ago as the old man 'ud take three thousand for it if he could get it."

"But Perryman's ain't doing so bad."

"Not so bad in the markets, but you've got to think what the old man has to pay out—rates and taxes and all that building society rent; that's what comes so heavy."

"I reckon all the farmers are feeling the weight of their farms," said Pannell, a master wood-cutter, from his seat near the counter, "leastways all that bought theirs at the Alard sale. I know they was always cursing the Squire while he was alive, and saying he never spent any money on the land or kept nothing in order; but at least he paid the rates and taxes—the farmers had only their rent to find. Now they've got Sheddle A and Sheddle B and six per cent. and a bit of the principal as well. Mr. Collins of Winterland was telling me about it only last week."

"And yet folk said it was a fine thing when they was all given the chance of buying in their farms before the sale."

"So it would have been, a fine thing, if the farms had been worth buying. But not a stroke had been done to any of 'em for twenty years—not a beam nor a tile put in. Mr. Cook's barn fell down on him only the day after he signed the contract."

"If you ask me," said Brotheridge, a looker at Ethnam on the Rother Marsh, "it was a bad day for this neighbourhood when the Alards sold up. Mr. Gervase should never ought to have done it."

"He ain't Mr. Gervase," said Crouch, "he's Sir Gervase Alard now. He couldn't sell his Bart."

"What's it matter which he is, seeing as he's shut up in a monastery and can't be called neither? He should never ought to have done it. The place was his, and he should have stood by it."

"He said the land ought to go back to the people," said Wood.

"Back to 'em? I never knew as it was theirs."

"He said it used to be, in the olden times, when they all danced round maypoles."

"Well, I can't see what good it's going to do us now—and we ain't got it, anyway; the farmers have got it, or rather the building societies. I'd sooner the Squire owned the land than the building societies."

"It's very sad not having anyone now at Conster Manor," said Mrs. Allwork from behind the bar.

"Anyone, ma'am! Why, it's just about chocked with people."

"Anyone of the Alard family, I mean. I miss having a Squire in the place. It seems to me so low-class when visitors ask me and say: Who lives at Conster Manor? And I have to say it's a home for spiritual healing."

"They spend more money roundabouts than the Squire used to," said Young, a cowman from Dinglesden.

"And well they may. I'm told they charge twelve guineas a week."

"It's a pity Mr. Gervase didn't run it as a home," said Brotheridge, "then he could have mended a few of our roofs before he sold 'em to us. And he could have done the spiritual healing something proper, I should say, judging by his antics in Vinehall Church. I've heard Miss Doris went down to him on her knees and begged him to be a Boy Scout instead of a monk, but he wouldn't listen to her."

"There's näun in the way of a Squire about here," said Pannell, "till you come to Cock Marling and find Mr. Parish."

"I like Jim Parish; he's a good chap, though he's got only two thousand acres. Sir John Alard had more'n twice that."

"Two thousand's enough when you've got no money to spend on it. The Parishes are as broke as the Alards."

"But Jim Parish 'ud never sell the place," declared Brotheridge, "however broke he was. That's all the difference between him and young Gervase."

"Young Gervase didn't sell the land on account of his being broke, but on account of his having notions—and uncommon bad notions too."

"Come, Mr. Pannell," cried Sinden. "Not so bad. There's some chaps doing pretty well out of their farms."


"Well, my old man. He's doing fine."

"Is he? I'm glad of it. Who else?"

"Well, I've heard they're not so bad at Dinglesden—what d'you say, Young?"

"They ain't so bad, surelye."

"And I met Mr. Blazier last week from Ellenwhorne and he said he'd done better with his wheat than he'd ever done before."

"Maybe, maybe. I've heard about that. He put in some stuff for an agricultural college, some new stuff they wanted tried out, and they didn't charge him nothing for it and gave him a lot of help. But maybe next year it won't be so fine. I tell you there ain't going to be trouble all at once. It's in the next few years that the farmers 'ull feel the weight. Perryman's been the first, and he's managed to shift it pretty comfortable; but other men's turns is coming—Float, Tanhouse, Ethnam, Ellenwhorne, Dinglesden, everyone—and they won't all be able to sell to the brewers. Then where 'ull you working men be?"

"Working for the next boss."

"I wouldn't feel too sure. I tell you there's bad times coming. I can see it in my job. Prices are going down. Four years ago I'd pay twenty or thirty pounds an acre for standing wood, and pay it gladly, because I knew I'd get twice as much for it as timber. But now . . . Mr. Standen of Gooseleys said to me only the other day—'My twelve acre's ready to cut. How much will you give me?' and when I said four pounds an acre he was nearly took bad. Folk think the high prices are going to last, but they ain't, of course they ain't."

"Old croaking Jonah, have a drink," said Young.

"Aye, let's have a drink all around," said Wood; "this talk makes me feel low."

"So it does me," said Sinden. "I don't believe the times are bad."

"No more they are," said Pannell, "but they're going to be."

"Oh, adone do wud this old-fashioned talk. Tell him to be quiet, Mrs. Allwork. Now, what's yours?"

The company gathered round the bar counter, replenishing its glasses with the thin mild ale that would never make a man take a rosy view of a dark situation. While they were ordering their drinks the door opened and a couple of gipsies came in. Most of the men knew them by sight, for they had been three weeks at Leasan for the hopping, and often came into the Queen's Head, but no one took any notice of them. Between these houseless adventurers of the roads and honest working men there was a deep gulf fixed.

"Evening, gents," said one of the gipsies.


"Fine evening, ain't it?"


Conversation languished. There could be no free interchange of ideas before these outcasts. The gipsies ordered spirits, and stood leaning against the bar drinking them. Every now and then they jingled money in their pockets. How was it that gipsies always had such a lot more money than honest working men? How was it that they could afford to drink whiskey at eighteen pence a glass when honest men could scarcely afford half a pint of ale? No good reason for certain sure.


Cock Marling Place had been the chief house of the district ever since the sale of the Alard property in the parishes of Leasan and Vinehall. At this sale some dozen farms had changed hands, and some dozen more become the hopeful burden of their former tenants. About a hundred scattered acres had gone in building-sites, small holdings and market-gardens, and an ancient manor house had passed into the care of amiable eccentrics, who cultivated the body at high prices for mystical ends.

The collapse of the Alards had been the sensation of two years ago. Immediately after the war the family, though sunk and shaken, had seemed firmly established on its five thousand mortgaged acres. Sir John Alard would never sell so much as a field, and his elder son Peter had seemed the certain heir not only of his land but of his tradition. Then suddenly everything had fallen to pieces like a house of cards. Sir John and Peter had died within a few hours of each other, the Squire of a stroke, his heir of what was either accident or suicide—Peter had had an unfortunate love affair, and had been inclined to brood over the encumbrances of the estate. His death was the end of the house of Alard, for though married he left only a daughter; Conster Manor and its lands were entailed on his only surviving brother Gervase, an eccentric, rebel-minded youth, who had just entered an Anglican monastery. It had been hoped by the family that Gervase would come back to Conster and take over the duties of his inheritance. Instead of which he ordered the whole thing to be put up for sale.

Gervase Alard did not see the Squires as props of the integrity of the British Empire or as the protectors and benefactors of the English countryside. He saw them rather as a harmful anachronism, a dangerous Hanoverian survival. It was a bad joke that had made him the heir of five thousand acres. With youthful enthusiasm, he had broken up a glorious if encumbered estate, paid off its fifty thousand pounds' worth of mortgages, handed over the rest of the money to his mother and unmarried sister, and gone back into his monastery to dream of England as a land of yeomen and Anglo-Catholic priests. To make at least a part of this dream come true he had ordered that specially favourable terms should be given to those tenants who wished to buy their farms; but the claims of the mortgagees had prevented any really useful concessions, and only about half of the Alard farmers had taken advantage of the offer. Some of the other farms were still unsold, and others had passed into the hands of "gentry" and become small country houses of an indefinite kind.

The only large estate in the Rye division now belonged to the Parishes of Cock Marling, and that was large only by comparison. Cock Marling owned six farms—Jordans, Road End, Newhouse, Watland, Stonelink and Pickdick; a seventh, Billingham, had recently been sold to pay death duties, for old Mr. Sutton Parish had died only a few months after Sir John. He had left all his money to his wife, and his estate to his eldest son—not a bad arrangement, on the face of it, for Mrs. Parish had never cared for Cock Marling, and had always hankered after life in London, while Jim Parish loved his father's house and land as much as Peter Alard had loved Conster.

But actually his bequest could have been due only to ignorance or to paternal malice, for without old Sutton's twenty thousand pounds in five and six per cents. the Cock Marling estate became an annual loss. It had never flourished, and it had always been the heir's complaint that his father's dividends went on luxuries of living rather than on the needs of fields and farms. He had not been able to refrain from planning what he would do with them when they became his own. He himself had a personal income of seven hundred a year, a legacy from his grandfather, and this had from his first possession of it been poured into the abyss of Cock Marling; while he went short of many things. Half of it had gone in interest on mortgages on Jordans and Pickdick, their two best farms, and the rest had paid the wages of an extra man, mended roofs and walls, and stocked fields.

He had even refused to let it help forward his marriage with Jenny Alard, Sir John's youngest daughter, to whom he had been unofficially engaged for two years; with the result that in the end he had lost his lady, who imbibing the heresies of her brother Gervase, failed to understand his renunciation, and had married a yeoman farmer at Fourhouses in the next parish, for whom she cheerfully scrubbed and swept and baked, and bore children, only rarely and occasionally regretting her lost love.

Jim Parish had done his best to make his mother give at least a part of her money to Cock Marling—a couple of thousand spent on essential re-stocking and repairs would make all the difference, he felt, between success and failure, and still leave her enough capital and income for a very pleasant life. But Mrs. Parish had had too much of Cock Marling already, and she would have no more, and it should have nothing from her.

"Why don't you sell the place? I'm sure your father meant you to do that."

"I dare say he did, but he might have known I never would—and so might you."

"But why shouldn't you? It isn't as if it were a historic estate like Conster. You can't say 'There's always been a Parish at Cock Marling.' You know it was only a moderate-sized farm till your grandfather bought it."

"I know. I'm not posing as the last scion of an ancient county family. It's only that I happen to be fond of the place, and to enjoy living in it and running it."

"Then you must be prepared to pay for your pleasures, Jim. You'll be at least five hundred out of pocket every year, but as your own income is seven hundred a year——"

"You know that half of it goes in mortgage interest."

"Why don't you pay off your mortgages?" said Mrs. Parish, who was not a practical woman.

"Darling mother, why don't I keep a pack of hounds and a racing stable?"

"But you could sell some un-mortgaged land and pay them off that way." Mrs. Parish was not a proud woman either.

"Yes—follow Gervase Alard's example. You'd like to see me do that, wouldn't you, dear? After all, I might get a lot for the Vinehall road frontage if I put it up as building sites, and I could sell the farms to the tenants and make more gallant yeomen, and I could sell this house as a home or rest for Pentecostal Dancers. But the queer thing is that I would rather starve."

"Yes, dear, I think it is a very queer thing."

"But you apparently don't mind if I do."

"I should mind if I really thought you would, but I don't. I think that if this place gets really hopeless, you will sell it, in spite of all you say, and then you could come and live with me in London."

"And get some sort of a job there, I suppose? No, mother dear, if I sell this place I shall imitate Gervase Alard completely, and go into a monastery, and think what a fine chap I am to have ruined a whole countryside."

Jim Parish hated Gervase Alard, who had betrayed the Squires.


There were three young Parishes besides Jim, who was not very young, and they were all at dinner together that September evening. Ivy Crouch helped wait on them, for the head housemaid was out and there was too much company for Holmes the butler—who was not a real butler, being only half a married couple, the other half of which was the cook. Ivy did not care for waiting at table, for she felt shy and afraid of doing the wrong thing, but she liked listening to the conversation, especially at Cock Marling, where nobody seemed to mind what was said or to bother whether she was in the room or not. Mrs. George Alard had always said something in French about domestics when the talk began to get interesting.

Not that this had happened often, for Mrs. George Alard had only very seldom "entertained," as she called having company at meals. She was a Parson's widow with very little to live on, having married Sir John's second son, who had been Rector of Leasan and had died just after the war. She kept only one maid—Ivy in her raw beginnings—and did most of the work herself. Ivy had not stayed with her long.

To-night there was another Alard present, Mrs. Godfrey of Fourhouses, who had been Miss Jenny Alard and engaged to Mr. Jim Parish for quite a long time. Her presence here to-night Ivy thought rather improper, especially as her husband had not been able to come with her, having been called upon at the last moment to deliver a valuable cow of her first calf. In her honour there was an extra course and a cream sweet, which the servants considered an unnecessary trouble given them, knowing well what she sat down to at home.

Of the Parish family, Ivy liked Miss Betsy best. She knew that people told terrible tales about her, said that she was no better than a bad lot, and that when she was up in London she behaved fit to match her face, which had shocked the village ever since she took to painting it during the war. But Ivy liked her because she was careless and kind; even if she sometimes lost her temper and used bad words, she never said, "Ivy, I heard you come in ten minutes late last night," or "Ivy, those stair-rods haven't been cleaned this week," or "Ivy, don't you ever use that lavatory brush I bought you a month ago?" It was rather nice having a mistress only a few years older than yourself, who never troubled about how you did your work, but was much more interested in your evenings out and your young man and the new hat you had bought in Rye.

The men of the house were more troublesome. They howled at her if she was unpunctual, or left the electric light burning or did not bring their shaving water hot enough. Mr. Vernon, the schoolboy, was the worst, for sometimes he would be sarcastic and, without scolding or finding fault, make her feel scolded and silly—she could not forgive him that, for against such an attack she had neither shield nor sword. Mr. Jim wasn't so bad, though sometimes he could be very fussy and particular, and Mr. Ronald was at home only because he had lost his job two months ago, and still had some of a visitor's reticences.


Mr. Jim always talked a lot at meals. He was talking a great deal to-night, chiefly to Mrs. Godfrey.

"Have some more claret, Jenny—you're looking tired, my dear"—he always called his women friends "my dear" and "my child," and Ivy knew he meant nothing special, though she couldn't approve of it. "Holmes, fill up Mrs. Godfrey's glass. You really do look tired," he repeated. "Has Ben been making you help him with the cow?"

"No, of course not, or I shouldn't be here. Besides, Ben would never dream of such a thing."

"He isn't like me, then. When such crises arise I always shriek wildly for help. I once made even Betsy come out and try to be useful."

"And was I useful?" asked Betsy.

"No, my dear, you were not. But I hold it that no woman should live in the country if she wants to live like a lady; unless"—with a bow towards Jenny—"she marries a real farmer."

"I don't want to live in the country," said Betsy, "or to live like a lady."

She sat with her elbows on the table, smoking a cigarette. She had lovely long arms and legs, and thick hair of the palest gold that swept back from her forehead to her ears. Her mouth was like a moist red flower. Beside her, Jenny Godfrey looked faded, weather-beaten and countrified.

"I don't want to live in the country either," said Ronald, "but I want to live like a gentleman."

"I want to live in the country," said Vernon, "and to live like a gentleman too."

"And I want to live in the country and don't particularly care about living like a gentleman; and that exhausts all possible choices—like those menus where you choose either soup or fish with a joint or a bird. . . . By the way did anyone ever taste a worse fish soufflé than this?"

"I have," said Jenny, "many times. It was a favourite dish of my mother's."

"So it was. I remember it—fish bones in a cave, a sort of marine landscape. But how we used to enjoy those dinners at Conster, Jenny!"

"I never did."

"Oh, but you must have. There was such lovely wine. One didn't really notice the food. I should have liked to buy some of your father's burgundy at the sale, but the London buyers sent up the prices quite out of my reach. By the way, has Starvecrow gone yet?"

"No, I haven't heard so."

"I keep on asking, because I wish it would go; I don't like Starvecrow being empty."

"Queer that it should be empty," said Ronald, "for it's got much the best house of the lot."

"That's the trouble, I'm afraid—too fine a house for a farmer. It used to be a lovely place. I suppose it was Vera who made old Peter titivate it out of knowledge."

"I suppose it was," said Jenny. "She didn't really like it as a farm."

"Well, it's all a great pity, for there it is hanging fire in the market and the land going to pieces, though Elias does his best. By the way, I've heard that Fuggle has had to sell Perryman's."

"Had to sell it? He only bought it two years ago."

"But it's sunk him already, my child, and the other day Hobday's brewery came along and made him an offer for it. Tell that to your brother Gervase when you write next—the first of his yeomen gone."

"I shall tell him nothing of the kind. Anyway, it doesn't concern him now."

"I think he ought to be concerned with the mess he's left behind him."

"It isn't a mess at all—according to his ideas. He's got rid of the Alard estate and given back the land to the people, which is all he cares about."

"But he hasn't given back the land to the people, my dear. Less than a dozen farms have been bought by their tenants in a bad condition at an awkward price; a few others have been bought by farmers from other parts of the country and one or two are still for sale, including his brother Peter's beloved Starvecrow. The remainder have, as far as I can see, been bought by retired townsmen and colonials—people, no doubt, but not The People in any capital sense."

"They're changing all the old names," said Vernon. "I noticed that. I biked by Medersham yesterday and it had Mandalay painted up on the gate."

"Speaks for itself, doesn't it?"

"And the postman told me that Dadlands is to be called St. Bernard's. He was getting quite worried about the changes—they muddle him terribly."

"On the other hand, neither Louse Hall nor Frogs Hole is a really good address, and Burnt House isn't likely to attract paying guests. But I should be sorry to see Ellenwhorne become The Gables or Dinglesden turn into Sunset View."

"They're not likely ever to do that," said Jenny.

"Why not? When you've bought a place you can call it what you damn well like. By splitting up the neighbourhood into a lot of small-holdings, which is, after all, what Gervase has done, he has abolished all the usual safeguards. Starvecrow may be bought as an 'estate' by a speculative builder. You can't stop it."

"Well, anything's better than a bankrupt family sitting heavily on the land, for no better reason than that it's sat there for centuries, while everything slowly deteriorates and falls to pieces for want of money spent on it."

"And who's going to spend money on it now? Not the farmers who've bought their farms by raising mortgages on them, and not the 'gentry,' who are spending only on their houses and letting the land go out of cultivation. And the uses of a Squire aren't only to spend money—or else I shouldn't have the face to keep on at Cock Marling; he's a sort of hub of things—without him they seem to fly from the centre and disintegrate. . . . I still maintain that the end of the Alards wouldn't have been half such a tragedy if your mother had stayed on at Conster, even if she'd kept no more land than the park."

"Gervase did offer her that, but she didn't care about it. She really didn't want to stay there without father, and she's certainly much happier living abroad—quite rejuvenated—and Doris is really happier too, though she didn't like going."

"Do you often hear from Gervase?" asked Betsy.

"Fairly often. About once a fortnight. I took the children over to see him last month."

"How did he look?"

"Not very well—pale and rather tired."

"I expect you wish he'd come out again."

"For my own personal pleasure I do. Otherwise, I can't. What would he do if he came out? He's sold everything, and he wouldn't be able to get back into his old job."

"No," said Ronald bitterly. "I'd guarantee that. And I hope to goodness he won't try. I wish more people would go into monasteries."

"Instead of swarming round whatever job Ronald's after. Poor Ronald!" said Betsy lightly. "He and I are the Londoners, Jen, and yet you find both of us, at Cock Marling."

"Why do I find you? You could go away if you liked."

"Yes, I've got my money. I'm one of grandpa's two lucky ones. But the trouble is I can't get away. I don't like being here, but the place has a hold on me. I feel I must come down for a week and I stay six months. It's bloody."

"Don't believe her," said Jim. "She only comes down when she's broke and stays till she's cleared her next quarter's money. She doesn't care two hoots about Cock Marling."

"No, I don't, and for days on end I'm bored stiff; and yet, if I plan to go off, something always comes along to keep me here."

"What sort of thing?" asked Vernon.

"I would scarcely call Sam Hurst a thing," said Parish.

"He's not keeping me here—you needn't think it. He helps me to pass the time, but I could find many people more amusing in London, even Sam himself three days a week, somewhere in the neighbourhood of Holborn Viaduct."

"I like Sam," said Jim. "He's a perfect piece of urbs in rure. You should have married him, Jenny."


"Well, weren't you meant to? I can remember a dinner party at Conster when life was poisoned for me by hints from your mother and sister that he was the eligible suitor met at last."

"How sweet mother and Doris used to be to you! But Sam was already engaged even then."

"And so were you, Jenny. Don't forget."

"I don't. But neither father nor mother would have considered that an obstacle if I had been free."

"No, I suppose they wouldn't, and they would have been quite right. A good marriage into the city of London might have saved Conster."

"Not unless everything else had been different too and Peter lived to inherit the place. Gervase would have done just the same even if we hadn't been broke."

"I suppose he would. Conster was doomed, and the only difference would have been that you and Betsy would probably not now be on speaking terms. On the whole, my dear, I'm glad you married Godfrey, which is a noble admission. By the way, is he coming here at all to-night?"

"Not at all, I'm afraid. He expects to be busy till quite late."

"Then I will drive you home."

"No, no; why should you?"—her manner became a little sharp and conscious. "I enjoy driving in the dark. Besides, how would you get back?"

"Walk. I enjoy walking in the dark. Then I needn't see the thistles or the empty pastures or the 'land for sale' boards. I can think I'm back in the eighteenth century, among those Hanoverian Squires your brother loves so much—walking through well-farmed land, seventy per cent. arable and producing nineteen hundredweights to the acre——"

"I don't believe it was like that."

"It was, my child. There are plenty of records to prove it. What your brother persists in talking of as if it had been the Dark Ages was really a Golden Age. The Squires flourished, and so did the farmers. It didn't matter to them that they were only tenants. They didn't care who owned the land as long as they made money out of it. Let me go on telling you my dream that I shall dream to-night. At the end of my walk I'll find a comfortable manor-house, furnished in Chippendale, in the middle of a prosperous estate that brings me in five thousand a year instead of costing me five hundred. The Parson will be dropping in to crack a bottle with me and come to an amiable understanding over his tithe. . . . By the way, Jenny, I've decided to sell the advowson."

"So that when Luce goes you can put in a Hanoverian Parson?"

"Not quite that. I can't be bothered with choosing parsons. It's simply a question of money, my dear; I must get ready cash for something, and my solicitors tell me that if I don't do it now I may never be able to, as there's some talk of making the sale of advowsons illegal."

"Gervase will be sorry if Luce has to go."

"He won't have to go. The new patrons, whoever they may be, can't turn him out. Parson's freehold and all that. I must say I wish he'd go, though. I'd like someone a bit more matey at the Parsonage and a bit less exotic in the Church."

"Someone who'd come in and crack a bottle with you," said Vernon.

"Precisely. We'll have to leave out the amiable compromise about tithe because Queen Anne's bounty has spoiled all that."

"And in the middle of your bottle the village constable will bring in some poor blighter who's poached a rabbit and you'll send him off to twenty-years penal servitude in Van Diemen's land."

"Alas, no! I'm afraid that good custom's gone the same way as friendly compromises on tithe."

"I think you're as big a reactionary as Gervase," said his brother heartily.

"Bigger, dear lad. Gervase never knew whether the Golden Age was ahead of him or behind him, whereas I know definitely that it's behind. But not so far back as he would put it."

"I think your Golden Age is very gross," said Jenny.

"Not gross at all. I'm rather stressing the material side of things at present, but there's more to it than that. Think of Burke, Warburton, Berkeley, Paine, Newton. . . . We've no one to touch them now. In comparison with them we're not civilized. If you compare these times with those you're comparing the culture and ideas of grown-up men and women with the culture and ideas of children. The eighteenth century was an adult civilization, and most people to-day are mentally aged somewhere between ten and fifteen. That's why the present age despises the eighteenth century, and either looks behind it to another childish age when men told each other fairy tales and tried animals for crime, or forward to a lovely time when we'll all be grown up and do exactly what we like. . . ."


"He's still talking," said Holmes, gloomily.

"And he'll talk for another half-hour," said Mrs. Holmes. "You should have taken the coffee into the drawing-room—that would have made 'em move."

"But he's a good chap, all the same," said Holmes. "I like him."

"I like her," said Ivy.

"I don't. I don't like her sort. If you ask me she's no better than a tart."

"She's just given me a coat and skirt that she's worn no more than a dozen times. That isn't what they generally do."

"You may take my word Mr. Hurst didn't like it."

"Mr. Hurst? What's it got to do with Mr. Hurst?"

"A lot, if you ask me; or rather the things that's underneath it."

"Be quiet, Holmes," said his wife. "You shouldn't talk like that before the girls. Run along, Edie, and wash out those saucepans; and Ivy . . . there! I do believe I hear them moving."

The dining-room door opened and shut, then voices sounded in the hall. They did not pass into the drawing-room, but hovered for some time round the hall door. Then that was flung open, and a minute or two later came the distinctive rattle of Mrs. Godfrey's car.

"What, gone already?"

"Sounds like it."

"I wonder why."

"Reckon she had to get back to her house and her children. She hasn't time for dinner parties. I wonder if he's gone with her?"

"Mr. Jim? Why should he?—or why shouldn't he, if it comes to that?"

"Well, I'm going to clear away," said Ivy.

"Right-o, my dear. I'll join you in a minute. By the way, d'you think you could carry in the drinks for me to-night? There's an eye-witness's account on the wireless of the match between Heegan and MacFlannery. I don't want to miss that, if I can help it."

"All right. I'll take them in," said Ivy.

When the time came for her to do so, she found Betsy Parish sitting alone. The men had gone, either to Fourhouses with Mrs. Godfrey or off somewhere else. Betsy sat under the lamp, her feet on the fender, reading a novel. She did not look up as Ivy came in and carefully set down her tray with the whisky and siphon and barley-water on a Sheraton table close to the fire. But Ivy had made up her mind.

All the evening she had been bursting with her news. She was going to be married at Christmas and wanted to leave Cock Marling at the end of the month. She had abstained from telling the Holmeses or Edie the kitchen-maid, because she would rather they knew nothing about it till the deed was done. "I've given notice—I'm leaving next month." They would be surprised—astounded. They would ask her why, and then she would tell them: "I'm to be married at Christmas." Two dramatic announcements, of which at the moment the first seemed as important as the second. It was not often that Ivy had given notice—only once, in fact, to Mrs. Alard, whom she had left to better herself. On the other occasions it was she who had been given it—by Mrs. Williams, because she stopped out late two evenings in succession, by Mrs. Bateman because they were "cutting down expenses," by Mrs. Fuller because her sewing wasn't good enough. But now it was she who would say: "Please, ma'am, I want to leave you this day month."

She said it—suddenly. Betsy started.

"Hullo, Ivy! What's that?"

"Please'm, I want to leave you."

"In God's name, why?"

"Because I'm getting married at Christmas."

"Once more, in God's name, why?"

Her mistress was not reacting properly. She was showing Ivy the dark side of her qualities.

"Oh, Miss Betsy, you know about Fred."

"Of course I do. But I didn't know you were going to marry him so soon."

"No, Miss, and I wasn't. But his father's just died, as most likely you've heard, and now Mr. Vincent's made Fred ploughman at Float at two pounds a week and his cottage."

"And you'll marry him on that. My brother couldn't marry Jenny Alard because he'd only seven hundred a year. You're a gambler, Ivy."

"But two pounds a week's a lot more than most of the men are getting on the farms now, Miss. Thirty-five shillings is more usual."

"Yes, I suppose the war-wages are coming down—and I suppose you can manage on two pounds a week."

"Oh yes, Miss. I'll do well on that. It's more'n most women——"

"I know. But you are a little different. After all, you've been in service some years and you're used to a certain amount of—what shall I say?—comfort."

"But it's not the same as having your own house, Miss."

"Quite. But I can't help thinking that you may find your standard of living a little high, even for two pounds a week. For instance, most of the cottages round here let in the wet appallingly."

"I know. Mother's does. But it doesn't worry me."

"Doesn't it? That's convenient for your landlord, anyway. I've never seen the cottage at Float Farm, but I imagine it's wringing damp in winter. Float was one of the Alard farms, wasn't it?"

"Yes, Miss. Mr. Vincent bought it at the sale."

"Then I take my oath there's nothing been done to the place for thirty years."

"It's not a bad little cottage, Miss Betsy. It's got two rooms upstairs, and two down and a wash-house. I dare say it's not so bad as Mrs. George Alard's. The rain used to come into my room there, if you like, and she wouldn't do anything about it."

"I bet she wouldn't. But tell me, Ivy, can you cook?"

"I've cooked things at mother's; and Fred has promised to get me an oil-stove. I never could cook on a wood fire."

"Oh, I expect you'll manage. I'm not prying on you, Ivy; I'm only interested. I'm sure you'll do terribly well together really, for you're fond of Fred, aren't you?"

"Oh, yes, Miss, I am."

"My brother knows him and thinks a lot of him."

"People do think a lot of Fred."

"I'm sure he'll make you very happy. I was only wondering whether the life would be too rough for you after what you've been used to in places like this."

"Oh, no, Miss, not in my home."

"That's all right, then. Clear out now—I want to get on with my book."

Ivy went to the door. On the threshold she turned back, to see if she had remembered to put fresh wood on the fire. The drawing-room was softly lit by the lamp under which Betsy Parish sat reading. There was another in a far corner, and between them the room was held in a warm light, half rosy, half golden. In that mixed light Ivy could not see colours that were faded and substances that were worn; she could see only the gleam of dark, polished wood, of ancient, shining silver. There were flowers, and there were soft dim fabrics on the couches and arm-chairs, and a pervading scent of flowers and wood-smoke. For the first time in her life she received a definitely aesthetic impression, and with it came an almost sensual realization of comfort, of order, of convenience. She had never thought much before of these things or troubled much about these other women's homes where she earned her living, or contrasted them with any home that she herself would have. She had taken them for granted, without much interest in them except in so far as their working concerned her personally. But now she saw the meaning of Miss Betsy's words—there undoubtedly was a difference between the drawing-room at Cock Marling Place and the parlour at Float Cottage, and would be even when Fred had nailed Mr. Vincent's corrugated iron over the roof and she had put up her curtains. But did it matter? For a moment she wasn't sure, then she decided that it didn't. She shut the door quietly and went out, forgetting what she had looked back to see.


During Ivy's last month at Cock Marling, the preparations for her wedding were begun. With her they took the form of sixteen yards of synthetic crêpe de Chine bought at a bargain price in Rye. These were destined to make three complete sets of underclothes, for which she further bought the patterns and some transfers of embroidery. Beyond this point the matter made little progress, as she had not much time for needlework, all her hours and evenings off being spent with Fred; also it was not out of mere caprice that Mrs. Fuller had found fault with her sewing.

Fred moved more briskly with his preparations at Float Cottage. In spite of his work on the farm and his evenings with Ivy he managed to nail Mr. Vincent's piece of iron into position. The shaggy windward sprawl of the cottage roof now gleamed with an enormous patch of corrugated iron, and the next rain fell harmlessly, if a bit more noisily than usual. Greatly encouraged, Fred bought some pots of paint—an odd lot Mrs. Waters was selling off in Leasan—and repainted the woodwork in a favourite shade of buff. There was not quite enough paint to finish the job, but an upstairs cupboard and skirting could wait for another time; he had successfully painted the kitchen and the parlour and the best bedroom, and very nice they looked.

Ivy was delighted, especially when they had bought the stuff for her curtains—cornflowers and poppies on a golden background that seemed to put sunshine into the little dark rooms. She took them home to her mother, who had promised to make them up for her and also to "cover" the couch and the arm-chair. Mrs. Crouch had been in service once very long ago, and still occasionally went out "obliging" here and there. But her advertised profession was upholsteress, and Vinehall and Leasan ladies who could not afford Hastings prices would occasionally summon her into their drawing-rooms, where she would squirm round the furniture with her mouth full of pins and her hair falling in loops and streaks over her baffled, good-humoured face. Her style was distinctive, and generally provoked the comment: "Ah, I see you've had Mrs. Crouch in"; but to her daughter she was invaluable, as they could not have afforded to pay an outsider, and when it came to cutting out material Ivy found the arms and legs of furniture even more confounding than her own.

Those days were full of a restless happiness, which did not seem to belong to October and the year's resignation. They seemed rather to hold the fret of spring. They were troubled with promises. Ivy lived in the future—the future of three months ahead when she and Fred would always be together, or the future of the next hour when they would meet at the bottom of the lane. There did not seem to be any savour in the present—she hardly could bring herself to notice it and its concerns. She was about as much use at Cock Marling as a swallow that has flown into the house, just as a noise of beating wings; and no one, except Betsy, was sorry when the time came for her to go to her parents' cottage across the valley at Barline.


Ivy could not have explained why she looked forward so eagerly to her marriage, why she was so sure that it would bring her a time of pure happiness, and give her everything she wanted in the world. None of the marriages she had observed at close quarters was particularly encouraging. Her parents got on fairly well together, though it was obvious that Mrs. Crouch enjoyed life most when her husband was away charcoal burning or hop-drying. "I'm used to him," was the phrase with which she would explain certain symptoms of anxiety which showed on rare occasions when he failed to return from his wood or his oast or his public-house. But if there had ever been romantic love in the cottage at Barline, its gold had all been spent before Ivy was born.

Ivy had a married sister living in Walthamstow and a married brother living in Vinehall. The former she saw only seldom, but certainly her lot was not a pleasant one as her husband had been out of work for two years. Her brother, who worked for Mr. Pannell in the woods, had been forced into a hurried marriage with a girl he did not particularly want, and was always complaining of her sluttish ways and ready childbearing. Ivy understood that she "drank," and the Crouch family was inclined to regard Jack as her victim, though she herself had different views.

As for marriage in another way of life, in the houses of her employers, it had not appeared very different from in the houses of her friends—if it had appeared at all, that is to say, for on the whole, Ivy had not found the ladies of Leasan so prone to matrimony as their working-class sisters. Miss Betsy Parish was not married, though rumour said she was twenty-eight, and she was pretty, and knew lots of gentlemen too, both at home and in London. Perhaps it was true that she was a bad lot and that no decent fellow would marry her—though in that case she ought to learn a few things from Jack's Dolly. Mrs. Alard had been a widow and steadily remained one in spite of being short of money. Mrs. Bateman was the wife of a rubber planter in Singapore and had not seen him for two years though she wrote every Tuesday. Mrs. Williams, the rector's wife, was certainly married to Mr. Williams, but they were both so busy that they seemed only to meet occasionally and then talked of nothing but parish affairs. Mrs. Fuller was the only mistress who had ever given her maid any hint of a romance. She was always showing how tenderly fond she was of Mr. Fuller, who suffered from his lungs owing to having been gassed during the war; but every now and then they would have a terrible row—as bad as any that brought the neighbours in to Jack and Dolly.

Ivy had no reason to view marriage romantically or even hopefully, except for the fact—she knew it was a fact—that her Fred was unlike any other man. Certainly it was a fact that he did not drink, nor, with his good job, was he likely to be out of work, and she would be exceedingly surprised if he should ever lose his temper and rage and swear like Mr. Fuller. When she was with him she felt a deep thrilling peace in her body, a sense of rest and support that was infinitely comforting—none of that restlessness and excitement that fluttered through her when he was away. It is true that his love-making was still unlike that of the picture heroes, but then that too was in its way a hopeful sign—for though love on the pictures was quite wonderful, marriage was on the whole even worse than in real life. After marriage on the pictures came divorce, kidnappings, quarrels, catastrophes—it was just as well that Fred should be so different. . . .

Sometimes, though, she was disappointed, and once her mother found her crying because she had gone down to the cottage and Fred had forgotten to kiss her because he was so excited about the new lid he had put on the copper. Mrs. Crouch was cryptic rather than consoling.

"Copper lids are safer than kisses before you're married, and you yourself 'ud sooner have 'em afterwards."


The cottage at Barline had once been Alard property. It was only a little bigger than the cottage at Float, and stood alone in a field, about half a mile from the lane. It had been sold separately from the rest of Barline Farm. The latter had been bought by an artist and his wife, who had completely transformed it. They were nice people, but of course they knew nothing about farming, and Barline's two hundred acres were let to Mr. Cooper of Dinglesden, and fast becoming derelict—the tenant holding that it was the landlord's business to keep his fields in order, the landlord being quite unaware that grazing land needed any upkeep at all. As against this, the barns and oasthouses had been put into an almost startling state of repair. They had become store-places and studios and even guest-rooms, and were painted black and green and orange, and thatched with Norfolk reeds, and hung with quaint, swinging signs. Sometimes the Crouch family looked enviously at them.

Their cottage had been bought by a certain Mr. Miller, who, though evidently interested in house-property—he owned cottages at Pelsham and Eggs Hole and Purster as well as at Barline—preferred himself to live in a caravan. He called every Monday for his rent, and the Crouches both despised and liked him—despised him for belonging to the outcast order of the Cart People, liked him for his pleasant, accommodating ways. He was the ideal landlord—the fact that he did not keep their cottage in repair in no wise distinguished him from other landlords they had known; he charged them a rent of half a crown a week, and was always willing to wait for it if any of Mr. Crouch's trades were not prospering, or if, as sometimes happened without his meaning it, he had drunk his money.

The weeks passed. November became December with a great drip of rain into Ivy's bedroom from the place where the thatch met the tiles on the roof. She did not mind for herself, but she carefully spread her mackintosh every night over the chest of drawers where her wedding things were stored. Those three silk nightgowns were finished now and embroidered in green, pink, and blue respectively, and the chemises and knickers that went with them would be finished too if only Ivy could find the time. But what with helping her mother, and seeing Fred, and going into Rye to buy clothes and sheets and saucepans, she found that she had even less time for needlework than she used to have at Cock Marling. Her trousseau was actually finished the night before the wedding-she and her mother sitting up till four in the morning with a sewing-machine charitably lent them by Mrs. Fagge, the dressmaker at Leasan.

Somehow or other those endless seams and hems were stitched, those aggravating roses and hollyhocks given a silky substance—though seen in the light of Barline's kitchen lamp, and set in a frame of Mrs. Crouch's thumb marks, they no longer looked so seductive as they had looked in the pages of Miss Modern—and the women of the house retired to bed just as the master was leaving it to go chimney-sweeping.

For Mr. Crouch had, to the consternation of his wife and daughter, announced that he was going out sweeping on the morning of the twenty-third of December, just as if it was only a common day.

"But you can't!" Mrs. Crouch had cried. "You know it takes me two hours to get you clean afterwards, and me with Ivy to see to, and the breakfast and everything else."

"I'm booked to sweep all de chimbleys at Conster tomorrow mornun."

"Since when are you booked? I never booked it." Mrs. Crouch acted as her husband's clerk, as he could not read or write.

"I booked it myself."

"And how did you do that?"

"Cut two crosses and a nick on my broom säum as is done on de wood piles."

"Because you knew I'd never book you for to-morrow. What made you choose to-morrow? You could have gone the day after."

"They couldn't have me de day after—starting Christmas dere dey are. To-morrow's de only day dey can manage, and if I'd said I couldn't go dey'd have had a chap out from Hastings."

"I don't believe it. You've only done it out of spite and contrariness; and next time you can do your own bookings, seeing you're so clever with your nicks and crosses. I'm shut of it."

She flung out of the room in a temper, and Ivy burst into tears, being much given that way lately.


But all turned out well in the end. Mr. Crouch came back in time to be cleaned up for the wedding, and the Sussex Mercury put on record with all the certainty and immortality of print that "the bride, who looked charming in a dress of saxe blue taffetas with a felt hat to match, was given away by her father, Mr. Edward Crouch." It had been a delightful surprise to find that piece in the paper. She had not expected it. It was true that it had not been given the importance of a separate announcement, appearing under the general title of "Leasan Jottings"; but the unknown recorder had headed his paragraph "A Pretty Wedding," and Ivy cut it out with delight and reverence and kept it carefully for many years.

She was glad to have the printed assurance of a pretty wedding, for she herself could not remember much about it. She had felt so confused and so bothered and so shy. There had been so many people staring at her, and Mr. Williams had been late, and Fred had dropped his new hat and grovelled to retrieve it from under a pew, and Connie, her brother's youngest, dressed in yellow sateen as bridesmaid, had cried loudly and perseveringly because no one would take her out to satisfy nature's ill-timed demands.

But Miss Betsy had been there, in her best frock, and Mr. Parish, and they had both come into the vestry afterwards and signed the register; and nothing had gone wrong with the wedding-breakfast, or, in the beautiful words of the Sussex Mercury, "Some twenty guests attended the wedding reception which was held subsequently at Barline Cottage." And her sister Hilda had sent a telegram of good wishes, being unable to afford a personal attendance, and, again to quote the Mercury, "Mr. and Mrs. Sinden received many useful and attractive presents."

Actually the presents did not amount to more than a dozen, but they included a very pretty tea-service from Miss Betsy, a tea-cosy shaped like a rabbit from Miss Fagge, and a gilt wastepaper-basket threaded with pink ribbon from Mrs. Waters at the shop. There was also a set of saucepans from her brother and his wife, sheets and pillow-cases from her father and mother, and best of all a Valor-Perfectum oil-stove from Fred, duly installed, though not completely paid for, and awaiting her at Float Cottage.

On its immaculate heat she cooked the first supper of her married life—liver and bacon diffusing their aroma through a mingled scent of oil and varnish and enamel. The smell of her new stove was the smell of her first evening at Float Cottage, a proud and cosy smell. She cooked the liver and bacon a little too long and they stuck to the frying-pan, but that was a misfortune that might have happened to anyone on any stove. Fred helped her scrape them off, and they sat down together at the kitchen table with two bottles of beer left over from the "breakfast," as Ivy called the wedding feast till she had learned better from the Sussex Mercury.

Fred helped her wash up after supper, and then they sat together in the parlour, which was his glory, just as the oil-stove was her's. He had re-plastered and whitewashed the ceiling and re-papered the walls, and there were the new curtains and the new covers made by Mrs. Crouch, to put soft gay colours into the lamplight and firelight. The arm-chair from the kitchen had been moved in, and Fred and Ivy sat in it together, her arms about his neck and his about her waist.

It was not so different from the days of their courtship, when they had so often sat together in a dead man's chair—and yet it was different. She knew that she belonged to Fred and he to her, and that the time would never come when she should slide out of his arms and take her bicycle from where it leaned against the wall, and ride away on her dark journey back to Barline.

Just for a moment she felt she would like to be going as usual, to see the golden beam of her lamp upon the ruts, pedalling with the night wind on her face and the smell of night rising up from the fields around her—back to her own little bed under the leaking roof. . . . But the moment passed, leaving her almost with a sense of treachery; and as if to compensate him for the unfaithfulness he would never know, she strained her arms more tightly round him, and made him turn his head so that she could kiss his mouth.

He held her kiss in a way that was new. She could feel his lips press almost fiercely down on hers, then she felt his hands move upwards from her waist, groping for the fastening of her gown. The old Ivy seemed to be slipping away, to be indeed riding off on her bicycle up the lane, leaving Mrs. Sinden alone with Mr. Sinden at Float Cottage. Well, nobody wanted her back. For, after all, Mr. Sinden was only Fred . . . and it was good to lie back in his arms, with his kisses and the firelight moving together upon her closed eyes.



Fred's position as ploughman on Float Farm was not as glorious as it would have been fifty years ago when his father started work. Old Sinden belonged to an earlier day—Fred being the child of his second marriage, which took place after his two grown-up sons had left him to go to Australia—a day when Sussex was an arable country and farmers paid their tithe in some relation to their crops. In those times all the low fields of the Tillingham valley had been hop-gardens, and the higher slopes had borne wheat and oats and barley. Now they seemed almost as remote as the times when the sea had crept up the valley at every tide, to lie in its last pool between Float and Barline. Of the hops only some fourteen acres remained at Float, of the corn about twenty-two; the rest was woodland, and pasture for Mr. Vincent's cows, and keep for marsh tegs in winter.

Fred's work with the plough was therefore much less than his father's had been. A lot of his time was given to his horses and to various carting jobs—sometimes going out on the roads for the County Council—and to working with the other men as necessity arose.

Besides Fred, Mr. Vincent employed two men and a boy. Ashdown was the general labourer, a single man living in lodgings in Vinehall. He was a downright, simple sort of chap, never going out of his way or losing his temper for anyone. Fred liked him better than Masters, the cowman and looker, who was a married man with a large family, and always grumbling and evil-speaking about somebody. The boy was his eldest son who had reached school-leaving age just in time to step into the job that Fred had nominally held before his father's death. For Mr. Vincent had not engaged a man to take Fred's old place. He said he could not afford the wages and must take a boy instead. Young Masters worked well—indeed nearly as well as a man—but otherwise he was poor company, for he hardly ever opened his mouth, possibly because he was scared of his father, and possibly because he had a queer twitch or stammer in his speech, which made him take twice as long as most people to say what he wanted.

Mr. Vincent had only a horse plough, but it was a good make and fairly new, and once a year he hired a tractor for cleaning the fields and mowing down the thistles—it was cheaper than spudding them now that the women gave themselves such airs and wanted to be paid sixpence or even eightpence an hour for a job their mothers had done for fourpence and their grandmothers for a penny. For the hay he had a horse-cutter and rake, but the stacking had all to be done by hand, as it would be some time before he could afford an elevator.

Every morning from May to October Fred was at work by seven—in winter he started half an hour or an hour later according to the light. Ivy was not used to such early rising, for her father's work had either kept him out all night or called for his appearance at an hour when the women of his household might reasonably claim to be excused. So he managed for himself and on the days between his jobs often lay in bed till tea-time. In her various situations Ivy's rising hour had varied from half-past six (needless to say at Mrs. Alard's) to a quarter to eight—sometimes—at Cock Marling. But now she was Fred's wife she must get up with the light, often before it. She would never forget that first morning, waking after a sleep that had been peculiarly sweet and heavy, to see Fred bending over her in the dim blue gleam of earliest day.

"Wha-what is it?" she had murmured, drawing his dear warm face down to her for a kiss.

"Time to get up, sweetheart."

"Oh, must we?—what time is it? it looks like the middle of the night"—and she had tried to draw him back again beside her into the thick, billowing warmth of the feathers.

But Fred would not fail Mr. Vincent or his horses even on the morning after his wedding night. He kissed her and told her he must be off to work in an hour. Then he said he would run down and make her a cup of tea. This was a great help and comfort to her, and made easy those first dark mornings of her married life. By the time Fred had grown into some of the slackness of the established husband, and no longer saw why he should be the first to get up, with a long day's work before him, and go down in his shirt into the cold, dark kitchen, to light the oil-stove and put on the kettle—when this time came she had learned to do without it.


She had been married six months, and had just watched him go off to work on a fine morning in July, smoking a contented woodbine after his good breakfast of tea and bacon and bread, and carrying with him in a parcel his lunch of bread and cheese and an onion. At twelve o'clock he would be back to dinner—more bread and cheese, more onions, a dish of faggots and the remains of a jam suet roll. With her memories of other ways still clear, Ivy sometimes wondered why the working men of Leasan chose to cram three meals out of the day's four into the first few hours, and then exist till bedtime on nothing but a tea-supper at six o'clock. It made her morning uncomfortably crowded. Not that it mattered now, when she had only herself and Fred to work for, but later on, when the baby came. . . .

She ought to be starting on the clothes. Mrs. Hurst at the Women's Institute had been so kind, cutting out the patterns for her. But so far married life had been a nightmare of sewing—first all her wedding clothes to prepare, then Fred to mend and darn for, to say nothing of her own things, which had not worn well, and now these little dresses and petticoats and pilches . . . it came hard on the housemaid Mrs. Fuller had dismissed for slackness with her needle.

Ivy picked up a broom and wandered from the kitchen into the parlour. She dragged the broom over the carpet and a cloud of dust flew up. Ivy coughed and made a face, but persevered until the cloud of dust was all round her. Then she gave it up—it was pleasant to feel that she was her own mistress, and had no Mrs. Williams or Mrs. Fuller or Mrs. Alard to come into the room and ask why she hadn't finished it.

The dust had collected on the mirror: she wiped it off with her handkerchief, and the glass filled itself once more with the window's square of light. She could see the swaying branches of the ash trees beyond the window and the spatter of sunlight among the leaves. Between the mirror and the light was the darkness of her own shape. She examined it critically. Could you notice anything yet? She did not think so. After all, she was only three months gone. There was some time to run yet before she would be like those women she sometimes saw at the shop or met walking back from the Queen's Head with their beer in a jug . . . Jack's Dolly often and Mrs. Masters and Mrs. Pannell sometimes . . . heavy, unwieldy, yet triumphant shapes.

When she was like that would she feel proud or ashamed? Would she walk about as they did with her coat undone and flapping away from her burden, or would she hide in the cottage and never come out till after dark? She was not sure. She did not think she would hide, but it would be nice to have a long cloak or something—like that thing Miss Betsy wore, which hung in such graceful lines. She had worn it a long time—perhaps she would soon be giving it away or sending it to the jumble. Perhaps there would be no harm in asking her what she meant to do. . . .


A bicycle bell rang outside, and Ivy hurried to the door. Her meditations had been appropriate, for there on the doorstep stood the District Nurse.

"Good morning, Mrs. Sinden."

"Good morning, Nurse. Won't you come in?"

Nurse came in and sat down on one of the kitchen chairs, beside the remains of Fred's breakfast, still on the table. She was a portly, comfortable creature, and her broad seat overflowed the seat of the chair. What it must look like on a bicycle Ivy could only imagine.

"I thought I might as well call, as Mrs. Williams said you'd be wanting me some time near Christmas."

"I don't know what Mrs. Williams knows about it," snapped Ivy—"it was Mrs. Hurst who cut out the clothes for me at the Institute."

"Well, maybe she told Mrs. Williams, and Mrs. Williams thought you might be wanting the maternity bag and asked me to find out exactly when the little dear is expected."

"But I don't want the maternity bag," said Ivy, her nose in the air, "Mr. Sinden earns two pound a week and we can quite well manage to get our own things."

"I'm sure you can—quite sure you can; and between ourselves no one wants that old maternity bag, but she's always trying to push it off on some poor girl. I think it goes against her not having it used when she made all the things in it herself."

"Yes, she was making them when I was there, out of some government stuff left over from the war. I don't want my baby to wear stuff made to cover zeppelins."

"Nor does anyone, dear. The only people that maternity bag 'ud be any good to would be the gipsies, who never have a rag. But they either go into the Infirmary or else they have the baby on the cart steps while they're cooking the dinner, and don't stop stirring the pot for more than a minute."

"I wish I was made like that. Do you think I'll have a bad time, Nurse? Mother says she thinks I will because she had a terrible bad time when she had me."

"She's no business to say things like that. There's no sense in 'em, either. Let's have a look at you. You look a fine strong girl—a trifle on the small side, but most of 'em are nowadays and manage none the worse. You take care of yourself and behave sensibly and don't fret—it's fretting does the harm. After all it's more natural for a woman to have children than not to have them, and if we act according to nature she takes care of us—at least that's my idea."

She asked Ivy a number of questions and between them they were able to fix the date of the baby's arrival with a greater preciseness than had arisen out of any of Ivy's discussions with her mother.

"I'll book you for round and about the first of January," said Nurse, "and I'll call in now and then just to see how you're getting on. But don't think of yourself as an invalid for pity's sake; and now I must be off, for I've a busy morning to get through."

"Won't you stop and have a cup of tea, Nurse? I could boil up the kettle again in a minute."

"No, thank you, dear. I mustn't spare the time. And here comes someone else to see you, if I'm not mistaken."


There was a slither and suck of wheels on the unmade clay of the lane. Nurse hurriedly snatched her bicycle out of the way of a huge yellow car that came nosing between the cottage and the trees.

"It's Miss Betsy—I expect she's come for her washing."

She did a little washing every week for Betsy Parish, silk things which were too fragile to send to the laundry, and which Ivy had washed regularly at Cock Marling. She washed well enough and was glad of the extra money. She thought it a pity that Miss Betsy should call like this and see her clothes at a time when they were best invisible. There they hung, drying in the smoky darkness of the kitchen, some on a string, others on the backs of chairs, all mixed up with Fred's shirts and her own chemises. It was difficult to imagine how fresh and sweet they would look when she had ironed them and laid them in their basket.

But Miss Betsy did not seem to notice, as Mrs. Williams or Mrs. Alard would have noticed. She walked into the room, smoking a cigarette.

"I've come for my washing, Ivy. I hope no one's ill. I saw Nurse Ashley riding away as I came."

"Oh, no. She only came to see me about something. I'm sorry about the washing, Miss Betsy, but somehow I didn't seem to have time for anything last week, and now I'm all behindhand."

"Well, it doesn't really matter, except that I'm running rather short. I simply must go up to London and buy some more things . . . and anyway I'm sick of being down here . . . do you think you could get them done by to-night?"

"Oh, yes. I think so. They're pretty well dry—they've only got to be ironed. Fred can take them up this evening."

"Thanks terribly. How are you, Ivy? How soon do you expect the baby?"

"Not till after Christmas . . . but how did you know about it?"

"I've no idea—'spect I heard it somewhere. Are you pleased?"

Once again Betsy Parish was not reacting properly to life as understood by Ivy Sinden.

"Oh yes, Miss"—there was a little stiffness in her reply.

"Well, everybody isn't, you know. Babies cost money, and give you a tummy-ache."

"Fred earns two pounds a week and I've only been sick three times, and Nurse says that's very good indeed."

"Excellent, I should think, and I don't want to snarl at your good luck, Ivy. I'm sure you've done well for yourself and ought to be happy. Perhaps I'm jealous."

"Oh, Miss, how could you be?"

"Well, I'm not sure I'm not."

"But you could get married any day you chose, for all that people say"—she bit her tongue, for running on so far.

"What do they say?"

Ivy searched for a polite and plausible evasion, but could not find one.

"That you can't," she answered lamely.

"Well, perhaps I can't."

"Oh, Miss, I'm sure you can."

"I'm not so sure, though; you see, I'm nearly thirty, and most of the men I like are already married."

Ivy did not know what to say. Miss Betsy had never talked to her like this in the old days at Cock Marling. Then she had been interested in her maid's affairs, but had said very little about her own. Now she walked about the tiny kitchen at Float Cottage, picking up Ivy's ornaments and putting them down again, without seeming to notice them, while every now and then she began sentences, or seemed to finish others of which she had only thought the beginning. Ivy was not sure if she was talking to her or not. Then suddenly she faced her, and asked——

"Don't you ever want to smash every single thing in this house and run out of it and never come back?"

Ivy's eyes bulged at her.

"No, Miss—never."

"You really enjoy living with a man and working for him and bringing his children into the world?"

"Yes, Miss. I'm uncommon fond of Fred."

"You really wouldn't rather go up to Leasan every night and meet any young man that took your fancy and go off and sleep with him somewhere—free?"

"No, no, Miss. Certainly not. Whoever heard of such a terrible thing?"

Betsy laughed at her horrified face, but felt a little annoyed with her for being such a block.

"Ivy, I wonder if I should like it, if life could be as simple for me as it is for you. I don't think I should like it at all really."

Ivy felt that Miss Betsy was being rude, and answered her with a certain indignation.

"I don't see that my life's simple at all. You wouldn't find things simple, Miss, if you had to get up at five in the morning and get ready three meals before twelve o'clock and clean four rooms, to say nothing of all this washing and mending, and a baby coming too."

Betsy Parish grinned and Ivy loved her again.

"No, I daresay I shouldn't. And I'm a beast to have plagued you about the washing. It'll do quite well if Fred brings it up some time to-morrow."

"Oh, I can get it done by to-night; don't you worry about that, Miss."

The conversation had gone back to the safeties of its beginning, and took no more dangerous turns before Betsy drove off in her big Lanchester, grinding the surface of the lane.

She had left a lot of cigarette ash on the floor and on the table-cloth, and Ivy dusted it off rather contemptuously—"She's got some fine untidy ways—reckon she'll have to manage better when she comes to have a house of her own."


The Lanchester tore its way up to the Vinehall road, snapping off twigs from the hedges as it brushed between them. Betsy cursed—"There goes the paint." The lane debouched on the road at an angle of thirty degrees, with hedges towering either side of it. Turning blind into the road she nearly ran into a woman who stood at the corner. The brakes screamed, the horn honked, the woman scuffled and dropped her shopping basket. "Hullo, Rose. I'm terribly sorry. But this corner's quite blind, and you were standing rather near it."

Mrs. George Alard gave her an unforgiving look as she stooped to pick up a rolling tin of Vim.

"I don't think you sounded your horn."

"I was coming up on bottom gear, and Lord knows that makes as much noise as fifty horns. But really I'm sorry, Rose. Let me help you"—and she jumped out of the car in time to catch a tin of cocoa before it started off down the lane.

"Your parcels are the wrong shape for dropping on a hill. I suppose you're waiting for the 'bus. Can I run you back to Leasan?"

Rose Alard looked less stern.

"Thank you, Betsy; that would be very kind of you. I go into Vinehall once a week to get soda. Vennall sells it at nine pounds for sixpence, and it's a penny a pound at Mrs. Waters'."

"And the bus fare's twopence, so you don't save much in the end."

"It's a penny if you take the bus at Float corner—I always walk as far as that. And I collect my Savings Club money too. Quite a lot of the Vinehall women belong to ours, because they've no proper parish organizations of their own. By the way, have you heard the news?"

She was sitting in the car beside Betsy now, her basket on her knee, her face already a little reddened by the wind that was meeting them.

"No, what news? You're always full of news, Rose."

"Well, the advowson—the living of Vinehall has been bought by the Protestant League."

"Oh, that! . . ." that wasn't news as Betsy understood the word—"I've heard that, of course. Jim had a simply smoking letter from Gervase Alard this morning."

"Oh, had he? I expect Gervase is furious"—this thought compensated her a little for Betsy's lack of interest.

"He's cursing mad—but of course it wasn't Jim's fault. His solicitors sold the advowson to some other solicitors for a client whom Jim took to be a private person. Not that he really minds who buys it as long as it's sold, and anyway nothing can be done about it now."

"I expect Father Luce is very angry."

"I expect he is."

"I'm not Low Church myself—George always considered himself a moderate High Churchman, and of course I was the same. But I must say I'm glad that all those silly extreme practices should come to an end at Vinehall. They were simply the ruin of Gervase. I believe he'd be at Conster Manor now, running the place properly, if it hadn't been for the nonsense he learned in church."

Betsy said nothing, finding the driving of the car between a stationary lorry and a gipsy's cart more absorbing than Rose's conversation.

"It's dreadfully sad to see the country changing so," continued Mrs. George—"ever since the Alard sale there's been nothing but changes. As for those people at Conster . . . well, I don't know of course but I should think something would have to be done about it some day. Young Waters was delivering groceries there last Tuesday, and it just took his fancy to climb up and look over the kitchen-garden wall, to see if the melon frames were still there as they used to be . . . and would you believe it, he saw three women lying out on rugs stark naked."

"How nice for young Waters."

"It wasn't nice at all. He's a good, clean-minded boy, and he was dreadfully shocked. He came home crying about it—he was really quite upset; and his mother came round to me, and I took her in to Mr. Cotton, as it happened to be his day at Leasan. But he said we could do nothing as it was on private property and behind a wall."

"And it would be difficult to prove that young Waters had looked over only on the chance of seeing melons."

"Of course it wouldn't have been difficult"—Rose thanked heaven that she hadn't Betsy's mind—"Tell me," she added suddenly, "when you came up Float lane, had you been to see Ivy Sinden?"

"I had."

"Did she by any chance tell you when she wanted the maternity bag?"

"We never spoke of maternity bags."

"But you know she's going to have a baby, don't you?"

"Yes, I do. But I take no interest in the technical side of it."

"Well, Mrs. Williams is extremely anxious that she should have the bag. The women round here are so tiresome about it as a rule, because there's an absurd rumour that the things are made of Zeppelin cloth."

"And aren't they?"

"No, of course not. They're made of a specially nice sort of calico that was on sale by some government department directly after the war—stuff meant for hospitals."

"I expect Ivy wants to dress her baby in silk and lace."

"I expect she does. They all do nowadays, and I always thought Ivy a very vain little thing. Some of the clothes she made for her wedding were quite preposterous—so shoddy too. I've always taken an interest in her, for she was with me as housemaid for a year. She was with you too, of course. How did you like her?"

"Very Much."

"Oh, she wasn't a bad girl in some ways. But I'm sorry she married that nice Fred Sinden. How did her cottage look? Was she keeping it clean and tidy?"

"I didn't notice."

"Oh! . . ." Mrs. Alard was at a loss what to say. It would be rude to say "you wouldn't," if the cottage had been dirty, and yet Mrs. Alard was quite sure it had been dirty. Their arrival at her own door saved her the necessity of speech.

Betsy helped her to lift her shopping bag out of the car and carry it up the ragged little garden path. Rose's garden had an untended look, because she was always too busy in the village to do much gardening. The house itself was scarcely more than a glorified workman's cottage. The door stood open and a smell of stew came out of it.

"Thank you, Betsy," said Rose, carefully setting her bag on the worn but highly-polished surface of her hall table—"Won't you come in for a moment? Won't you come in and see the children?"

"No, thanks terribly: I must be getting home."

"Edna and Lilian often wonder why you never come to see them."

"Why on earth should they wonder? I'm not an aunt."

"No, but they have a great many grown-up friends—through the guides, you know—and it's nice for them to know people with big houses and gardens, instead of always being cramped in this little place."

"Bring them up to Cock Marling any day you like"—said Betsy, understanding her at last "Bring 'em to tea on Monday. But I must dash back now. The Hursts are coming to lunch."

"Oh, are they?" Rose's large pale eyes brightened at once. "Both of them?"

"Yes: Tom Hurst hardly ever goes to town on Thursdays."

"I know. I wasn't meaning him——"

Betsy would probably not have noticed the slip if Rose had not suddenly, checked herself and turned red.

"Oh, I see. You were meaning that you're surprised at Mrs. Hurst accepting invitations from me while I'm sleeping with her husband——"

"Betsy! You really do say the most awful things. As if I'd ever dream . . . and do you think I'd ask you if I could bring the children to tea if I imagined——"

"You can imagine what you like. I'd be sorry to put any restraint on such a fine, healthy instinct as your imagination."

"But I don't imagine anything. As I said, I'd never ask if I could bring the children. . . . But you don't often have Mrs. Hurst to lunch, do you?"

"Quite as often as we have her husband. They both bore me to sobs—like most people I meet down here. Good-bye, Rose. I really must rush."

She walked down the path to her car.

"Good-bye!" Rose cried after her, in a bright, cheerful tone that was meant to wipe out any unpleasantness there might have been. I don't believe he bores her, she thought to herself—I believe she really likes him very much—too much. Everyone's talking. Though how could she be so utterly coarse as to say what she did? . . . imagine I thought they had . . . "sleep"—such a very coarse word.


Betsy gripped the wheel of her car, trod on the gas and cursed Rose Alard. She's a nosing, meddling, grabbing, yapping beast. She's got a mind like a bad egg—a lot of rot in a narrow space. I never met anyone so bloody . . . and yet she's like everyone else down here, everyone of the miserable gentry . . . stinting and scraping what she's got and trying to grab what she hasn't—so respectable, so economical, so shabby and proud of it . . . suspecting everyone who's different from herself . . . enjoying other people's sins because she hasn't the pluck to commit any of her own . . . I was a fool to let her think I sleep with Hurst—she'll get a lot of pleasure out of the idea, far more than I should out of the fact . . . and why in hell's name did I ask those brats to tea on Monday? I don't want them, and yet I've got to have them because we're all living together in the country. Hell! how I hate the country.

She swung in at Cock Marling's gate and down the long untidy avenue—that was really only a farm-lane strewn with beach—to where the house hung on the edge of the Tillingham valley. Beyond it the ground sloped so steeply that it had the look of being balanced above the marshes . . . a push, and it would slide down on them, sweeping its oasts and farmyard before it from their perch still farther down the hill.

The house had been built at two periods at least five centuries apart. Its Georgian front faced westward with an air of sunny decorum, hiding a much older, more sinister building of Caen stone, that had been thought too old to live in even in George the Second's time. A prosperous farmer of those days had built a new dwelling-house, using the ancient place as a store-house and auxiliary barn. The Parishes' grandfather had turned it back to its old uses, largely rebuilding it, and the house was now quite a big one and raised to the dignity of a Place. Seven hundred acres of land had been owned by the yeoman who had last held it as a farm, and old Anthony Parish had bought more and more acres till at last his land marched with Sir William Alard's down the Tillingham valley; and though some of it had been sold in his son's time and more in his grandson's, it was still a big estate, the only big one now that the Alards were gone.

On that summer day, with a faint breeze moving in the oaks, and with the sunlight golden on that bland façade, the sight of it calmed the savagery of Betsy's mood. But she was still frowning as she climbed out of the car. Her brother stood on the doorstep.

"Hullo, Betsy! Back at last. I was wondering if I should be alone to receive our guests. How cross you look!"

"I hate the country."

"No, my dear, you hate country life. It isn't the same thing."

"What's the difference?"

"Well, the country's—this," and he waved his arm towards the sunny, dreaming house, and the oaks and the view of distant pastures—"this, and my work with George Bates on the cow-lodge, and people like George Bates and Fred Sinden and John Ehas, and farms like Eggs Hole and Stonelink and Dinglesden, and this year's harvest even if it's a bad one, and draining the Tillingham marshes, and hearing owls call at night, and seeing a vixen and her cubs on the lawn when you look out early in the morning. . . . That's the country. But country life's all gardening and shooting and having your neighbours to meals, which I probably like more than you do; and meeting people like Mrs. Williams and Rose Alard and those shirkers at Barline, which I probably hate as much as you——"

"I met Rose Alard on the Vinehall road this morning."

"Ah, that accounts for your ravaged look."

"Yes, and I drove her in to Leasan and invited her two wretched brats to tea on Monday."

"Betsy, you shouldn't be so kind. It hurts nobody but yourself, as I shall be in Ashford all Monday. But why did you do it?"

"Oh, I dunno. It's the sort of thing one does in the country—and she practically made me do it, for the matter of that. And now I must go in and wash or those Hursts will be upon us. Oh, why did you ask them?"

"Kindness again. Kindness to them and kindness to you. I thought the man was a flame of yours."


She walked away from him into the house.


The Hursts were late, and arrived apologizing. Ruth Hurst had been staking her delphiniums against the wireless forecast of a gale, an excuse of which the Parishes had heard at least a dozen variations. Plants that must be tied, bulbs that simply had to be got into the ground, a border whose planting must either, be done at once or else abandoned for ever provided the country equivalent of the traffic-block excuse in town. Betsy smiled perfunctorily. Jim said: "How refined, Ruth! When I'm late for lunch it's generally because I'm digging up a drain."

Tom Hurst could never understand why Parish, who lived in a big house and owned a big estate, chose to do so much dirty work himself, instead of leaving it to properly appointed underlings. He knew that he had built a pig-sty with his own hands and was now at work upon a cow-lodge, that he did a lot of his own household repairs and improvements, never calling in the carpenter or the locksmith or the plumber. If anyone helped him it would be one of his farm-men, generally George Bates, whom he consulted as if they were on equal terms and whose sayings he reported as if quoting from an old, experienced friend.

Peter Alard had been very like him—poor old Peter! Tom himself never spoke to the country people more than he could help, because he could not understand them and often they seemed surly. Men like Alard and Parish, he thought, were letting down the traditions of the countryside. He himself was not a countryman. His father, who had made the Hurst money, had bought the Furnace House at Leasan and then cleared out of it on his son's marriage. Tom had spent a good deal on the house and garden and was extremely proud of his place. He liked having his nights and week-ends in the country, driving up to town almost every day in his enormous Daimler, which went much faster than any local train. It was nice to come back in the evening to the fresh air and the scents of earth and flowers, and to his wife, wearing her lace dinner-gown after a long day in the garden, where—as he had imported several tons of loamy soil—flowers grew that would grow nowhere else in the country of Vinehall and Leasan.

It was also nice to make love occasionally to a girl like Betsy Parish. He could not have found anyone more suitable had he lived in town, nor, he told himself, could there have been less gossip. People said there was always such a lot of gossip in the country, but he himself had never heard a word, and nor, he would swear, had Ruth. The only drawback was that the affair had not moved so fast as the lady's reputation had encouraged him to hope; and lately it had shown definite symptoms of decline—instead of drawing closer to each other they seemed to be slipping apart.

To-day she seemed specially inclined to silence. Over the cocktails there was a desultory conversation about delphiniums in which she did not join at all, and when he pressed her hand with his while lighting her cigarette, she quickly drew it away. At lunch she was still less encouraging. There was only the four of them, as Vernon and Ronald were both in London with their mother; and he found himself seated opposite her at the beautiful little Sheraton table which was used for meals at Cock Marling when numbers were few. It was the easiest thing in the world for him to stretch his legs and take between them her elegant foot and ankle.

It had often happened before, but this time she kicked out with vicious indiscretion, sending up his foot against the table in a kick of his own that made the knives and glasses rattle and the water slop out of the central rose-bowl. The servants looked anxious, Ruth Hurst, who knew nothing of what had happened, sat waiting for exclamations of surprise or else for some explanation; Jim Parish, who guessed pretty well what had, merely said:

"I heard from young Alard this morning."

"Oh . . . er . . . indeed—have you?"—perhaps it was a dog under the table—or could it really have been that odious young woman?

"Yes, he's in a fine temper about my having sold Vinehall to some religious crowd he doesn't approve of. I must say I didn't mean to—I thought it was a private buyer; but apparently some league or other was behind him."

"Is it really a bad thing?" said Mrs. Hurst.

"No. To be honest, I think it's a very good thing. I don't like Luce's ways and I'm glad they're going to end."

"Will he be turned out?"

"Oh, no: they'll have to wait till he dies or runs away. But the whole things ends when he does, which is a mercy."

"I agree with you there," said Hurst—"I don't like Luce's ways either."

"But won't it be rather hard on the people of Vinehall," said Ruth, "to get used to one sort of religion and then have to learn another."

"I don't suppose they'll learn anything, or have learned anything. I don't suppose they'll even notice the change, and I shall tell Gervase Alard that."

"Oh, but I think people often do notice when a Church is High."

"In which case they're generally glad when it lies low again. I really see no good in Gervase getting so furious with me. I couldn't help it, though I don't know that I would if I could. Anyway, he could have got his own back with Leasan if he hadn't been such a mug as to sell Conster—and he could have put himself in as successor to Williams if he hadn't prayed so hard for a golden age that now you aren't allowed to present yourself with a fat living. I think I shall point that out to him, too—how much better the Hanoverian system of church patronage was than the present one, and how, if he and his kind hadn't abolished it, he could now be looking forward to Romanizing Leasan in revenge for what I've done to Vinehall. Ruth, will you take hock, or do you share my passion for old ale?"

Lunch continued, without any more alarms, Jim talking a great deal, Betsy very nearly silent, Ruth Hurst still a little nervous, Tom Hurst a little sulky. The food was good of its country kind—a dish of eggs and cheese, a chicken served with new potatoes and the newest peas, and gooseberry fool made with cream. Jim Parish was interested in food when it was the produce of his farm and garden. It was he who had arranged the meal with Mrs. Holmes. Betsy did not care for housekeeping, and her erratic appearances and disappearances made it as well that she should not. Jim was proud of his cellar too, but careful, and had not considered the Hursts worth more than a bottle of 1920 hock. He himself drank old ale, and Betsy drank water.

After lunch they walked out into the garden, for the guests to earn the praises of their own delphiniums by duly admiring those of their host. Tom Hurst tried more than once to draw Betsy on ahead so that he could remove any little misunderstanding there might be and win back some of her favour. But his efforts were frustrated both by the reluctance of Betsy herself, who dawdled obstinately, and by the pursuit of his wife, who was determined they should not be alone together, having recently heard from her sewing woman that they met in London at least one day every week.


At last they were gone, and Jim Parish was left alone, for Betsy also had disappeared. He pulled out his pipe and heaved a sigh of relief, not because he was really glad to be rid of his guests, but because he felt at ease, alone in his afternoon mood, with nothing particular to do at the moment. He could walk to where the trees cleared just above the slope, and look down on the Tillingham valley, hazy under a web of mist and sunshine, through which the river sent sudden stabs of light.

The hay had long been cut and carried, and the new-mown fields were as green as the fields of May. Only the uncut cornfields showed the coming golds of August, and there were not so many of them as there used to be. Parish counted nine—his own four, three at Float and two at Dinglesden, a poor hundred acres in all. And once all the slopes of the valley had been golden. He remembered how as a boy when they had sung in church "the valleys stand so thick with corn that they shall laugh and sing," he had always thought of the Tillingham valley, golden to the rims in the afternoon August light. Now all that was changed—a few yellow patches on the green, that was all. Of course the southern slopes had never done so well, but there ought to be more growing north of the river. Those were Alard farms, long neglected, and now mortgaged to the building societies that had helped realize Gervase Alard's idle dream. Blight him! Jim's hand clenching in his pocket met the letter he had received that morning. Blight him indeed? What business had he to interfere in an affair like this when he had left a whole countryside to go to ruin? What did it matter who was Rector of Vinehall? What mattered was who was Squire of Conster. He took out the letter, and tore it to pieces. He wouldn't trouble to answer it. There was nothing that he could trust himself to say.

As the breeze took the fragments and scattered them, his mood seemed to blow away. He saw that he had been a little silly. After all, it was hardly Gervase Alard's fault that the Tillingham valley had ceased to be a corn-growing district. For that he must blame almost every agricultural and political circumstance since the repeal of the corn-laws. The immediate causes were the fall in the price of wheat and the expiry of contracts. No farmer in his senses nowadays grew wheat except under contract. He himself had a contract with a big firm of flour merchants in Lewes, and Vincent of Float had one with a firm in Maidstone. When contracts expired they were seldom renewed, as the price offered to-day did not make the cultivation of the land worth while. It was impossible to blame Gervase Alard for that; a succession of Squires at Conster could not have prevented it, unless they had had money to blew and to burn.

Indeed his own land was little better off. On his farm at Cock Marling he had forty-seven acres growing wheat and oats when he ought to have had a hundred. He could not afford more—he could not afford the labour or the uncertainties of the market. If only he had a few thousand pounds behind him he might venture a little. But he was entirely without capital, and any mistake would have to be paid for out of the place itself. Cock Marling must be content to be as Conster had been with the only difference that he would never leave it. He loved it far too much. He loved it though its fields were Ichabod—though its glory had departed, and unlike Alard he had not the memories of fifty generations to bind him to its soil.

He loved it as a man best loves a woman, because it seemed a part of himself, and bound up with all his thoughts and hopes and experiences. The countryside of Vinehall and Leasan, the valleys of the Tillingham and the Brede River, not merely those acres that he owned himself, but all of it, was his romance, the outlet of those emotions which might have gone to the wife and children he would never have. He would never marry now; the only woman he had cared for enough to marry was Jenny Alard, and he had been unable to love even her better than Cock Marling. He had let her go, and no one else was worth the fuss. If he had loved Cock Marling as Peter Alard loved Conster, he would have married to beget an heir, but his love for his place was not traditional and possessive but personal and emotional. He was quite content merely to live in it, working at his pottering improvements, avoiding the worst disasters, now and then spending a few pounds on a piece of Sheraton or Chippendale, so that in his house he could dream of the eighteenth century and the golden days of the Squires, entertaining his friends to unpretentious meals, and talking to them with a queer pompous garrulity that he was sometimes himself aware of about the things that interested him most, gossiping with his men on terms of kindly and most un-Hanoverian equality, and every now and then, as on a day like this, brooding over the beauty which had not changed and which he told himself would never change. Once he might have been disappointed, could he have known that his middle-age would hold nothing warmer or more stirring than this; but now he had no regrets, save very gentle ones. He was content to go on like this till he died—when Cock Marling would be sold, for none of the others would ever want to live there. But he did not trouble about that, for by that time his dust would be inseparably a part of it.


He knocked out his pipe against the stump of an oak, and turned back towards the house. He must change his tidy clothes and get to work again on the cow-lodge, or George Bates would feel himself forsaken. As he walked up the steps that spread fan-wise from the columned porch in Georgian illusion—for he and George Bates had made them out of cement—Betsy came running down them, a suitcase in each hand.

"Hullo! where are you off to?"


"London! "—he stared at her—"Why?"

"Because I'm fed-up with this place. I've been here more than eight months, and I can't stand any more of it."

"When are you coming back?"

"I don't know. At present I feel like never. But I expect I'll come back some day."

"Shall you stay with Mother?"

"Not at first. I shall go to my club."

"Oh. . . ." He looked blank and hurt; not because he loved Betsy so dearly that he could not bear her going—after all they had almost nothing in common—but because she had insulted his place, running away from it like this, in a hurry as if it had burnt her. But the next moment he recovered himself, and spoke with his usual slow flippancy:

"Surely there are other ways of avoiding having Rose and her children to tea on Monday."

"I'd forgotten all about them."

"Then why are you going?"

"I've told you—I'm fed-up."

"But what's fed you so suddenly? You've been here since last August and borne it pretty well as far as I can see. Why can't you wait a day or two, and do the thing properly instead of rushing off like this? It isn't decent."

"I can't help that. Lunch to-day simply finished me."

"Lunch to-day wasn't so bad."

She relented a little at the note of injury in his voice.

"Poor Jim! I don't mean the food, though Lord knows I'm sick of always having chicken when we've visitors and mutton when we haven't—I mean everything."

"Poor Tom, in fact. But I thought he was doing his best under the table."

"Please don't be silly. You bore me so with your archness. And it wasn't him at all—at least not him only. He's just a part of it."

"Part of what?"

"The whole thing—the silliness, the smallness, the gossip, the deadness, the delphiniums. Oh hell!"

"I've told you before that you must discriminate between the country and country-life."

"I can't. They're all mixed up together; and anyhow no amount of cubs on the lawn at dawn—I forget how your poem went—would make up to me for having to meet people like Rose Alard and the Hursts and the Williamses and the Fullers and pretend all their pretences."

"They're not pretending anything at all—don't be so damn superior, Betsy—they're just living their lives."

"Well, I intend to live mine—so good-bye."

"Good-bye. But what about your luggage? Are those bags all you're taking?"

"Hilda will pack my trunk and send it after me. I may, be away for a year."

"No, not as long as that," he said, suddenly feeling angry with her, and threatening, her. "The place will bring you back. You once said it had a hold on you. It'll bring you back again, Betsy."

"I dare say it will—It or my overdraft. But I'm going now."

She was already in the driving seat, and as she mocked his threat, her foot pressed the starter. The car moved forward and hummed away, leaving him standing rather dismayed in the Georgian illusion of his portico.


The Tillingham fields ripened and were reaped. It was a good harvest—a little heavy in straw, perhaps, owing to early rains, but good in comparison with other years. Fred Sinden was glad to have such a good harvest, and felt that with such weather, the credit was all his. They had a fine spell for the reaping, and though Mr. Vincent had only a horse-drawn reaper, there was plenty of time to finish the work before the rain came down again.

Everyone at Float went out on the last day—Mrs. Vincent and her two children and some of the little Masterses and Ivy—to watch the last cant being reaped and to see the rabbits bolt out of their last stronghold in the corn, with the three farm dogs in pursuit. Ivy, who had not attended this ceremony for some years, thought it rather cruel and shocking, and even cried when a rabbit was pulled down at her feet. But no one else had a tear to shed for the arch-enemy of the farms—Mus' Coney, even a bigger thief and destroyer than Mus' Reynolds the fox. Fred petted and comforted her, and Mrs. Vincent promised to give her a puppy from Nell's next litter, since she seemed so fond of animals.

Ivy was quite big now, though she still had four months to go. Her mother said she was sure she would have twins, which frightened her till Mrs. Vincent said she was sure she would not. Nurse Ashley advised her to go and see the doctor, and Ivy had gone once at the start, but could not bring herself to go again. Dr. Egan was quite a good sort of doctor, but he was new to the district and still regarded as a stranger. She would not have minded going to his predecessor, Dr. Mount, who had worked in the neighbourhood twenty-five years and brought most of the young people into the world, including Ivy herself. But it was quite different going to a foreigner, and a young man too. Besides, this was not a doctor's business at all. There wasn't a married woman in the two parishes of Vinehall and Leasan who wasn't brimming over with advice, encouragement and cautionary tales.

As time passed she found she had no inclination to join the sisterhood who marched, proud of their burdens, on the Leasan road. She felt shy and shrinking from the eyes that might watch her progress to motherhood, and before December came had even given up her shopping, buying instead from the travelling shop that bumped down the lane once a week with a mean store of groceries, mops, and ancient linoleum. It belonged to two of that vagrant population she had been taught to despise, but she was grateful for the privacy it made possible. Mr. and Mrs. Chittenden, the owners, were always most obliging and would even buy things for her at Mrs. Waters' shop in the village if she gave them the money. They, of course, knew the reason for her patronage, and expressed the hope that she would continue to deal with them when the little dear had come. But they never stared or asked questions, though Mrs. Chittenden once offered to give her a charm, which Ivy, full of the wisdom of her mother, Jack's Dolly, Mrs. Masters, Mrs. Vincent and many others, looked down on as a low form of superstition.


Her time came before she expected it. All Christmas day she had been feeling ill, and had spent the evening alone with Fred, roasting chestnuts and listening to the wireless which was his Christmas present and surprise for her. He had fixed it up, with the help of Sam and Archie French from the garage, one day while she was out shopping. For the day before Christmas she had forced herself to go out, and had taken the 'bus to Vinehall, which, though the larger village of the two, had seemed to her a more private place, since she was not so well known in it as in Leasan.

The Chittendens' cart had not called for more than a week, as they had gone to spend Christmas with a married daughter who camped near Portsmouth. Anyway, there was a number of special things they could not be expected to provide—Fred's Christmas present, for example; in Mr. Vennall's shop she carefully chose the tie and handkerchief, cut out of the same piece of checked synthetic silk, which were to brighten the blackness of his best suit for the Christmas festivities. She bought a new feather mount for her own hat, a green velvet tea-cosy for her mother, a packet of shag for her father, and a laced-edged handkerchief for Jack's Dolly. These were all the presents she would give this year, for ten shillings was her limit, with the baby coming so soon. She made up the sum with a bag of oranges, some chestnuts, and a packet of stuffed dates. She and Fred were going to her mother's for Christmas Day, but he wanted them to have their own little bit of Christmas together at home.

Then, as things happened, they had it all at home, for when the next day came she did not feel well enough to go to Barline. But she did not expect the baby so soon, for all that—nor did her mother when Fred walked across to the cottage and described his wife's symptoms.

"It'll pass off. It's only come from getting wet and riding in the 'bus," said the oracle, and Fred, who knew nothing of these things, believed her.

Certainly Ivy had got very wet yesterday, for it had poured with rain as she came out of Vennall's shop. She had gone into the church for shelter, for in the shop people would stare at her if she dawdled about, and her old coat was revealing. What a pity Miss Betsy had gone off in a hurry like that, so that Ivy had had no chance of asking her for her white cloak.

The church had been discreetly empty and comfortingly dark. At one end was the Christmas crib, which had been part of Ivy's reason for going; most people in Vinehall and Leasan went to see the crib, even if they never went into the church on other occasions. Ivy had been every year. But this year it seemed different. Outwardly, no doubt, it was the same—the stable made of wood and straw, the painted figures that had been in the same positions for many years. But this time, as she peered into it, Ivy thought: "This is like me." Never before had she thought of anyone in the Bible being like anyone on earth, but this evening she did not gaze so much at sacred, mysterious figures, as at herself and Fred and the coming child.

Even if she had been well she would not have gone to church on Christmas Day—she had not been to church, except for her marriage, since the days when she attended Mrs. George Alard's Sunday School, and the Reverend George Alard was Vicar of Leasan—but as she jolted home in the 'bus that evening she almost felt it would be nice to go. Holly and evergreens and the Herald Angels . . . partly because of these, but more because of this secret link she had discovered between herself and Bethlehem. She did not say anything of her discovery, even to Fred, but the thought of it was with her all through Christmas Day, with the queer pain that kept coming and going, and the little creep of fear in her heart.


The next morning the sweetness, the pain and the fear were gone together. Fred went off to work as usual, and she set about her household tasks. Her mind was full of common little thoughts, such as wondering when the Chittendens would come back, because she had nearly run out of tea . . . and it was a deplorable but inescapable fact that all the baby-clothes were not quite finished yet; she must find a minute to sit down and hem one of the little frocks.

But before she found that minute, the pain came back, this time unmistakable. Even her ignorance must know what was happening to her. Where was Fred? Could she possibly run out and find him? Or must she wait till he came in to dinner? Directly he came in she must send him to fetch mother——Oh, mother! mother! She wanted her mother more than anyone, even more than Fred. Her mother knew all about these things and would help her. And there was Nurse Ashley too; she must be fetched. But she wanted her mother most.

Her mother came. Miraculously she stood in the doorway without a summons.

"Hullo, Ivy! What's the matter?"

"Oh, mother—it's begun—I'm sure. It's the baby coming."

Surely, then, it was Providence that had so chivied and delayed and bullied and badgered Mrs. Crouch, that the chair-covers she had faithfully promised Mrs. Fuller for Christmas Eve, had not been ready in time, and that she should be taking them over to Oak View this morning. In the night she had dreamed that all her hens had turned black, and as everyone knows that it is most unlucky to dream of hens, that black means a funeral, she had for the first time taken alarm at Ivy's symptoms and decided to call at Float on her way to Mrs. Fuller.

When Fred came home to dinner he found his mother-in-law helping his wife to bed, and shouting downstairs to him to fetch the Nurse.

"And there's a parcel of my work on the table that I promised Mrs. Fuller for Christmas Eve, so you might just run over with it—I can't leave Ivy. But go to Nurse first."

Fred left the parcel on the kitchen table—there was no room in his mind or life for anything but Ivy. Up till now he had not felt much alarm. These things, he knew, happened, and happen they must, and he'd very seldom heard of their not happening safely. Ivy had always looked strong and well, though such a little thing, and even yesterday, when she had felt ill and he a trifle anxious, Mrs. Crouch's words had quickly reassured him. Now he knew that she must have been mistaken—perhaps he ought not to have believed her—perhaps he ought to have fetched Nurse yesterday—perhaps Ivy would suffer for his fault. . . . He ran over the fields to Nurse's cottage.

Here once more he found reassurance. Nurse was at her dinner, and her business-like reception of his news put him back into his world of safety. There she sat munching, and telling him it was quite all right and that she'd be over in a few minutes when she'd finished her dinner. Fred walked back instead of running.


Nurse did not find husbands so temperamental as her sisters in a more expensive walk of life. The husbands of her patients, and indeed the patients themselves, took things as a rule pretty quietly—metaphorically speaking, for actually the women of Leasan and Vinehall were hearty screamers, having been taught by their mothers that screaming was of therapeutic value—"Let it go, dear—it loosens everything wonderful."

On the whole, Nurse found mothers far more troublesome than husbands and would have been glad if she could have sent Mrs. Crouch out to work instead of Fred that afternoon. She was full of old-fashioned, discredited lore, tales and scares, and watched modern hospital methods with clearly expressed foreboding; the worst trouble was that Ivy was inclined to believe her rather than Nurse and take her obsolete advice—for had not her mother borne five children herself, while Nurse was a spinster-virgin? Nurse knew that these were the ultimate values of the countryside and that as soon as she went away Barline would triumph over Guy's Hospital. But Mrs. Crouch must stay where she was—anyhow till Fred came home—and come back every day to cook the meals and tidy the house till her daughter was about again.

Fred came home at five o'clock, slow and comfortable and tired as usual. He had felt little or no anxiety as he worked that afternoon, for he knew that Ivy was in good hands—her clever Nurse's and her experienced mother's—and that there was nothing he could do at home, whereas at Float there was a big field that had to go into potash this year and needed cleaning badly.

It was a good day for such work, cold but without frost, the air being heavy with a cold puffing moisture which he knew meant rain on the way with wind. He went about his work just as usual except that he thought about the child more than he had ever done before. Hitherto he had not thought much about it—he had thought more than usual about his wife during these last weeks but not about the child. He and she had often talked of it of course, and the names they would give it, but that had not somehow made it seem alive. Fred had wanted it called after himself if it was a boy, or else after his father. But Ivy said Jeremiah was a terrible old-fashioned name and Frederick was a dull one. Her brother's boys were called Ronald and Norman and her sister's were called Clarence and Stanley and Percy. She would like her little boy to have as good a name as any of his cousins.

This afternoon he did not think about names, but about the child itself, which seemed for the first time to come alive in his imagination. He hoped it would be a boy, so that he could train it up to work with him, and then perhaps some day it would take his place at Float as he had taken his father's. He liked to think of things going on—Fred coming after Jerry and Norman after Fred. He liked to think that young Bertie Vincent, now a kicking terror, would succeed his father as owner of Float's two hundred acres. He liked to hear Ashdown say, looking at a hedge that had not been laid along for thirty years: "I reckon that's my father's work." First the Jeremiahs and the Solomons and the Amoses, and then the Freds and the Jacks and the Bills, and soon the Normans and the Clarences and the Ronalds to come after them. . . . Ivy was right—names changed and he supposed they must follow the fashions; but the men who bore the names went on, and that was all he cared about. He saw Norman as a little knickered figure staggering along by his father's side in the thick damp earth. . . . One day he would give him his whip to hold, and then a year or two later he would let him hold the handle of the plough and think he was guiding it. Of course they might have a motor plough by then . . . or perhaps Mr. Vincent would not be growing corn at all . . . a chill wind seemed to blow suddenly over his dreams, as he remembered that Mr. Vincent's contract with Cope Brothers of Maidstone came to an end next year. But, after all, that sort of thing had happened many times before—three years ago his contract had ended and been renewed. And Float had the best wheat-growing land in the Tillingham valley. It would be a sin to let it go out of cultivation. No, no, he needn't worry about that. He could go back to his dream of little Norman carrying his father's whip. Pray God the child was a boy.


It was a boy. The succession was assured—Jeremiah, Fred, Norman. But before he came Fred had once more been driven out of his safe world into one of fear and strangeness and uncertainty. When she had cooked his supper Mrs. Crouch had to go back to cook her old man's; she didn't like going, because as she said, though Ivy seemed cheerful, there was never any knowing with a first, and of course there had been that dream about her hens. . . . But Fred did not share her alarm, for he knew that Nurse was coming back in an hour or two, and meanwhile Ivy seemed to be getting on all right. In fact, when Fred went up to see her she seemed better than she had seemed at dinner-time. The pains had stopped—she had not had one for half an hour, she said. He made her a cup of tea and brought it up to her, and still she was without them, sitting up in bed and trying to get the baby's last frock finished. Her darling face was hot and dry when he kissed it, but she smiled at him, and fondled his hand against her breast.

"Poor boy—I'm so sorry to turn you out of your nice warm bed to-night."

"Never mind. I shall sleep uncommon well on the parlour sofa."

"Take the cover off, dear, or you'll mess it up. And there's two extra blankets folded away in the kitchen cupboard."

He promised to make himself comfortable, and soon afterwards Nurse arrived, deepening his sense of security. Indeed he felt so confident that he half thought of going up to the Queen's Head for half an hour, but on reflection it seemed better to stay where he was in case Ivy needed him. He ate his supper, washed up his cup and plate and knife, and settled himself to sleep by the kitchen fire. It was only seven o'clock, but he could always go to sleep when he wanted to, and there was nothing else to do to-night, since he did not like to turn on the wireless.

He must have dropped off, though he did not remember doing so, for he was in the middle of a queer dream about having an old sheep yoked to his plough, when he suddenly opened his eyes and saw Nurse standing beside him. She was shaking his shoulder.

"Wake up," she said kindly, but firmly—"I want you to go for the doctor."

"The doctor!"

He was still only half-awake, but he could feel terror stabbing through the daze.

"Yes, you needn't go to his house. You can ring up from Mrs. Waters."

"Has—has anything gone wrong?"

"I hope that everything will be perfectly all right, but at present there's an obstruction and a doctor ought to see her. Please be quick."

He was off, without waiting to put on his coat. He was so seldom afraid that fear, when it came, came with all the sinister effects of the unknown. He could not control it, coax it, or suppress it, as the naturally fearful learn to do. He was quite sure that Ivy would die. Ivy and the child would die . . . the little boy with a whip . . . oh, God, don't let them die. . . . Our Father chartin heaven. . . .

The night was pitch dark, but he knew his way from long custom. He would go by the fields, for the lane twisted and looped . . . three fields between him and the telephone . . . the ten-acre, the High and the Dew Spring. . . . He could smell the wet grass and hear the soak and suck of his boots in it, but he could see nothing—not even his own body; he was like a bodiless ghost running over the field.

What was the matter? What had the nurse meant? How he wished he knew more about these things—perhaps there was something he ought to have done for Ivy and had not. . . . But he had never had much of that sort of work on the farm, and Masters had never asked for his help with the cows till fairly late, when things went wrong . . . as they had gone wrong with Ivy . . . he remembered a calf being pulled out of a dead cow with a rope. . . . Oh, Ivy, Ivy. . . . Oh, God, don't let me think of such things—it's tur'ble—tur'ble. Suppose the doctor isn't in. . . . Boxing Night—most likely he's out enjoying himself somewhere . . . or suppose Mrs. Waters' telephone won't work and I have to go catering after him all the way to Golden Wood. . . . Where am I now? Only in the High . . . all that way yet to go. Oh, God, don't let them die—don't let me think of the tur'ble things I'm thinking of. . . .

Whomp! Whoof!

The breath was all out of his body. He had hit a mountain and fallen across it. He sprawled over a warm moving surface, smelling of milk and manure. The mountain heaved and a low rumble went through it.

It was only a cow, who made no further protest when she found that no attack was meant on her and that the blunderer was already on his feet and hurrying away. At first he had not known what it was—the sudden impact and fall had been the terror of his mind translated into physical terms, and somehow the translation gave him a queer relief. The smell of a cow and the feel of her hide had suddenly become a part of his fear and had taken away its strangeness, while indignation against Masters for leaving his cows in the field at such an hour diluted it with a more manageable emotion. He could control it now, he could argue with himself—remind himself that the Nurse had said everything ought to be all right.

At last he was in the lane, running under the lights of the Queen's Head towards Mrs. Waters' shop. Perhaps she was out. . . . No, she was in . . . and her telephone worked. Leasan Seventeen. "Is that Dr. Egan's?" Yes—and the doctor was in, too. A calm, clear voice was answering him, unhurried, undismayed. "Certainly, I'll come along at once." The doctor would probably be there before he was, and anyway he had done all he could, and must leave things to happen, as he had so often left them and always liked to leave them. Then they would happen right . . . a little boy with a whip.



Mr. Vincent was worried. His trouble had first shown a year or two ago, a cloud on the horizon no bigger than a man's hand. But by the summer of 1926 his sky was exceeding dark with clouds. In fact, it may be said that the general heavens of Leasan and Vinehall were none too bright. Four years of mortgage-interest, tithe, rates, Schedule A and Schedule B, coupled with the general decline from war-time standards of agricultural prosperity had not improved the condition of Gervase Alard's yeomen. Indeed Blazier of Ellenwhorne had given up the struggle and gone into liquidation: his farm was now for sale "by order of the mortgagees." Mr. Vincent still felt himself a long way off that, but he saw it as an ultimate catastrophe unless something was done in the meanwhile—a vague something, vaguely financial.

He did not say anything to his men—Sinden, Ashdown and Masters—it was no use scaring them. But he didn't see how he was to go on running the farm at his present rate of wages. His contract with Cope Brothers expired this year and probably would not be renewed—he did not expect them to offer enough to make it worth his while. Wheat at ninety shillings a quarter . . . that's what it had been at one time during the war, and of course such a sum had more than paid for the labour and the material, even at the soaring prices of those days. But now everything was going down—down—down—down . . . down to fifty and forty and thirty shillings a quarter—it might go to ten. . . .

If only he had a bit of capital he wouldn't worry so much. A few hundred pounds would help him get the place on its feet and tide him over the bad times.

But he hadn't a penny, nor the means of raising it, since the four-fifths mortgage on Float wiped out his only security. Six years ago he would have gone to Mr. Peter Alard and talked over matters with him; but there were no Alards at Conster now, only strangers who would look at him blankly, who would not even know who he was. It was all very well owning your place and being your own master, but in times like these it often meant no more than it had meant to Robinson Crusoe. Standing on your own feet was all very well if you had dry ground under them and your boots were paid for.

For some months he pondered the matter, talking of it to no one but his wife. It was she who finally suggested that he should go to Mr. Parish and talk things over with him, in the clear yet fragile hope that he might guarantee an overdraft.

"There was those people at Wassall, got old Mr. Hurst when he was at the Furnace to guarantee them an overdraft at the bank up to a hundred pounds."

"A hundred pounds wouldn't be any use to me. They were only poultry people. I'd want five times that to pull me out."

"Well, perhaps Mr. Parish will guarantee you five hundred."

Vincent shook his head.

"It's a lot of money."

"But he won't have to pay it—at least not if you're sensible. All he does is to act as security for your paying it back to the bank, which you're sure to be able to do as soon as times get better."

Mrs. Vincent was a hopeful as well as a hard-working woman. She could not believe that things would not go back to what they were when she had married Vincent—in the third year of the war, when wheat was ninety shillings a quarter and the contractors bought your stuff off you as fast as you could get it into the ground. But her husband's longer memory told him that the war had been only a temporary rise in the long graph of agriculture's decline. Things had been bad before the war, and even in the good times he had known they would be bad again, and now all he wondered was how bad.

Events justified him rather than his wife. He went to see Jim Parish, and the interview took place in the big, untidy, shabby room that was called "the office." They talked about the weather first, and the opening of the cricket season, and the general strike that was only just over, edging to their subject by slow degrees in the decent manner of South country men. At the end of a quarter of an hour Vincent introduced it, and made his request. Would Mr. Parish guarantee his overdraft up to five hundred pounds?

Alas! Mr. Parish's own overdraft stood at three times that sum.

"You know how I'm situated, Vincent. Everybody knows. My father left me Cock Marling, but no money to run it with. The money belongs to my mother, and I have to get along as best I can. I'm in exactly the same trouble as you."

"I take it you've been able to keep up with your mortgages, Sir."

"Till now, but of course I can't say for how long. I may have to sell. I don't mind telling you in confidence that I'm prepared to part with everything in the end except Cock Marling and the land belonging to it. But I shall hang on as long as I can."

"I know, Sir. So shall I. But if it comes to the worst I've only got Float."

Parish nodded sympathetically. He was sorry, desperately sorry, but he could do nothing. All he could offer was a little practical advice and some vague hopes based on a Conservative government.

"They've promised to de-rate agricultural land—that ought to help us."

"As long as the local councils don't put up the assessments on the buildings."

Parish grinned—"As they're sure to do, you would say. I know. They'll probably find some way of cancelling out; but at least it's something—the only thing that's been done for agriculture for many a long day."

"Yes, Sir. The government don't take much notice of us, does it? When it's Conservative, they think of nothing but rich men and foreigners; and when it's Labour, then they don't call us labour at all because' we don't live in towns; and when it's Liberal, as it used to be years ago, they only meddled and meddled till they'd smashed up everything."

"You're right, Vincent. You've got the political situation in a nutshell as it affects agriculture. Still, I shall continue to vote and hope Conservative for a little while longer yet. I wonder how tariffs would help us."

The conversation had moved from personal urgencies to the mistier ground of political remedies. They talked on for another quarter of an hour, winding up the interview, which was a pleasant interview in spite of its failure to achieve its purpose, and came to a friendly close, after the decent manner of the South country.


Fred Sinden knew nothing definite about Float's troubles, but he smelt them as did Ashdown and Masters. Sometimes they talked of them together, but they thought more than they talked. Fred was, on the whole, the most anxious of the three, for Ashdown was a single man, and though Masters was far from single—in fact he might be called a multiple man, if you counted all the little Masterses—he had long ceased to feel responsible for nature's reckless arithmetic. Fred, on the other hand, felt responsible for a comparatively modest sum—he could not help worrying a little, when he saw Ivy and the baby, dependent on him for everything, and thought of the other little one who was coming.

For once again his love for Ivy had borne a double fruit of fear and hope. The hope was for the spring and a little girl called Doris. Ivy's fear was chiefly for herself, for she knew what to expect this time; Fred's fear was not only for Ivy, but for the children and himself, and then spread cloudily over Mr. Vincent and Float Farm.

But on the whole they both of them hoped more than they feared. The Nurse had told Ivy that if she went regularly to the clinic at Hastings nothing would go wrong this time, and everyone told her that the second was never anything like so bad as the first. While Fred took comfort in the renewal of Messrs. Cope's wheat contract for another year, and told himself, and sometimes Masters and Ashdown, that everyone was feeling the pinch but that there wasn't more wrong with Float than with other farms.

That autumn he took out his plough with a deep sense of relief—what would have happened if the contract had not been renewed? and let us forget that it is only for one year. The Hundred field was to be ploughed for roots—first a shallow ploughing to bury manure, then a deep ploughing such as the roots like and makes them sing together in their dark house under the earth. The Clay field was to be ploughed for oats, and the Knabspot for wheat. Then his plough would rest over Christmas, while the sods cleaved together in the deep, dank, heavy deadness of clay in winter time. At the spring ploughings half the Red field was to go into wheat and half into beans, and the eight-acre into barley; but between the spring and the autumn ploughings that other seed which he had sown long months ago would have fruited for his and Ivy's private joy.

So far most of his joy in his children was yet to come. Even Norman had not yet given him more than the pleasures of imagination. He was still more little boy with a whip, who one day would trot beside his father down the furrows, rather than that crimson, squealing, dribbling atom that Ivy fed and hugged, and which occasionally spoiled Fred's nights with windy roarings. Children belonged to the women till they were five or six years old. Then they became the proper companions and pride of men. Not that Fred did not do his part as a father—often when the child cried at nights he would get up and walk about with him in his arms, and sometimes he helped Ivy wheel him in his push-cart to the Leasan road, so that he might take the air on summer evenings. But he did it all for Ivy's rather than for Norman's sake. His love for his son was so far held in trust by his wife. Before the baby's birth he would not have believed that he could love Ivy more, but now he knew how big and tender love can grow, almost till it bursts the heart. It was his love for Ivy that hurt him, making him feel burdened and anxious, rather than any definite fears for the fields of Float Farm.


Doris was born in March. So far, the Sindens' children had admirably fulfilled their parents' expectations. She was a fine, healthy little thing, and Ivy had what the Nurse called a very good time, though Ivy did not agree with her. Anyway, she was soon up and about again, which was just as well as she now had two babies to look after.

She had changed a good deal in two years of marriage—she had changed more than Fred. She had grown rather thicker and stouter, and her skin had coarsened, especially the skin of her hands. She now looked far more like her mother's daughter, especially as the clothes she had bought for her marriage were wearing out and she could not afford new ones. Mentally she had changed too. She had ceased to compare Fred with the cinema heroes—partly because she had not been to the cinema since her marriage, and partly because her ideals of lovemaking had changed. Marriage had taught her to value tenderness. She also thought less of her oil-stove and her cretonne curtains—the former lost favour because things boiled over so easily on it if you forgot them; and the qualities of the latter were soon lost in a changing scale of values which made Ivy's ideal a dry house rather than a pretty one.

For Float cottage was beginning to let in the weather. The patch of corrugated iron which Fred had fixed over the parlour ceiling already had had to be renewed, and this time was not nearly so satisfactory. Stains of damp spread from it to the walls, and Fred had an uneasy feeling that the second lot of nails had cracked the joists. There was also a place in the roof where for some inexplicable reason the thatch ended and tiles began. In wet weather the rain would run off the thatch on to the tiles and then dribble through them into the back of the kitchen. Ivy told herself that it was a grand thing no water came into the bedrooms, but every now and then she worried about the state of the kitchen and the parlour. The latter especially was in a bad way, because the fire was very seldom lit in it, and patches of mould began to appear on the walls, and one day she discovered what she described as "a lot of mushrooms" coming up out of a chink between the outer wall and the floor.

"Do you think Mr. Vincent 'ud do anything about it?" she asked Fred.

"No; and I don't like to ask him."

Ivy dropped Mr. Vincent out of the conversation—she had not really expected anything so unreasonable as that he should repair Float Cottage.

"Do you think we could get into a council house?"

Fred dropped his pipe and gazed at her.

"What! Move! Leave here!"

"Well, we might think of it. It isn't that I really mind the weather coming in—I'm used to it. But what I feel about this place is that it'll get worse instead of better, and now we've got both the children. . . ."

"Aye, and a council house 'ud cost us seven shilling a week, and I'd be a mile and a half from my work, and anyway if it's wet you mind you'll get it coming into a council house just as bad as you do here."

"Oh, Fred!"

"It's truth. Old Mus' Jenner was telling me only the other night that those new council houses at Leasan let in the weather something tur'ble."

"I can hardly believe it."

"Aye, but he said as all their top-floor ceilings came down in last week's gale, and the rain was pouring down the chimbleys as if it came out of a jug. I tell you it makes no difference if you live in an old house or a new one, or a gentleman's house, neither—it comes in so bad now at Dr. Egan's that there's two rooms they can't live in at all. And if I'm to have the weather in I'll choose to have it in my own house that I've lived in all my life, and that's near my work, and I don't have to pay more'n two shillun a week for, and that's a good old house that I know the lay and the ways of."

Ivy looked up at the darkened beams above her, and for the first time felt a vague respect for so old a place.


A month or so later when Fred was harrowing the Red field, Mr. Vincent came out and watched him. He stood by the hedge, waiting for him to come back from the farther side. At first Fred wondered what he was doing there watching, then he thought he knew. Some of the warmth seemed to go out of the day as he turned his team southward and harrowed back to where the farmer stood beside the gate, his dog at his feet.

"Well, Fred."

"Well, Mus' Vincent."

"Pretty near through with it now, ain't you?"

"Aye—this is the last of 'em."

"How's it looking all round?"

"Not so bad. There's too many tillers in the Hundred, but the Clay's doing uncommon well this year and so's the Knabspot. I'm afraid the birds have got more than they should ought out of here."

"That's the worst of spring sowings. I shan't be doing this again next year, Fred."

"No, Mus' Vincent."

"I can't afford it and that's a plain fact. I saw Cope's man yesterday, and he said they wouldn't pay thirty shillings again; he didn't know what it 'ud be next year, but it wouldn't be thirty anyhow—and thirty scarcely pays me, so I said I'd quit."

Fred nodded slowly.

"There'll be the hops still of course. I've got them for another year at least. But I'm done with the corn."


"What about Flossie's hock?—does she go better now?"

The conversation had left its critical level, and wound quietly through safe channels, till it came to an end, and Mr. Vincent walked off down the hedge. Fred went back to his harrow, and as he drove it northward up the field, words came and sang themselves in his head—no more corn, no more wheat, no more oats, no more barley, no more roots, no more beans, no more ploughing.

Where's the ploughman's job, then?

Of course there would be the hops. They would have to be ploughed—as long as they lasted, that's to say. And most likely Mr. Vincent would go on growing roots for a bit. But he wasn't going to pay anyone two pounds a week for that. Fred knew what the conversation meant. It didn't mean that he was going to lose his job—if anyone had to go it would be Ashdown, as he was a single man. Mr. Vincent was going to reduce his wages. Two pounds was a lot of money and he couldn't afford to pay it. That was why he had said what he did, leaving Fred to think out the rest for himself.

In a day or two Mr. Vincent would tell him how much he was going to lose, and then he would have to talk to Ivy about it; till then he would not say anything.

The fact was that Ivy, dear little thing, was not too good a manager, and it took the whole of that two pounds to buy food for them all and to pay the rent and insurance and his subscription to the Buffaloes and the money still owing on Dad's funeral. Many women managed the same on less, but Ivy could not be expected to do better, being brought up as she was and having been out in service with her keep and all found and forty pounds a year to spend as she liked. He must not ask more of her—But he would have to ask more . . . there was no help for it. They would have to spend less, even though there were four of them now. He would have to give up going to the Queen's Head in the evenings. It was a heavy thought, and for a moment the bar at Queen's Head with its red lights and good company swam across the field like a mirage. . . . He drove it away—he mustn't upset himself before the time came.

When he got back to the farm in the evening he found that Mr. Vincent had been speaking to the other men. Evidently he meant to make changes.

"It'll be me to go," said Ashdown stolidly. "Has he told you?"

"He didn't what you'd call tell me, but he made it properly clear."

"Well, you're a single man," said Masters—"it's right that you should go, and not us married men who have mouths to feed. I'd change places with you any day if I could."

"I reckon I'll have some trouble in finding a job."

"But you can go where you like, and don't have to bother about a house. It's terrifying when you've a family of eight and can't find anywhere to put 'em."

"Howsumever, I wish I weren't going. I don't like changes."

"It äun't only you who'll have the changes. I reckon the old man ull ask both Sinden and me to take less."

"He can't ask you to take less than what's fixed."

"Can't he? And anyways it's fixed uncommon low. What 'ud you do if you had to bring up a wife and eight children on thirty shilling a week?"

"My father got eighteen."

"Things were different then—he had his cottage and maybe five cords of wood, and his milk all in too; and everything cheaper to buy—a pound of meat for eightpence and beer at twopence a pint. You could live like a king in those days. These days they grudge you everything."

"Oh, come, Jack," said Fred—"It äun't fair to talk like that of Mr. Vincent. He does the best he can by us, but he's been had all the way round."

"Aye, I know that. He as good as told me he hasn't paid his tithe for three years. That old tithe ull come out of our pockets in the long run, see if it don't—and the interest, too; he'll soon be owing on that."

"I say that nowadays," said Ashdown, "there's too much done with money. You're always paying for something. When I was a boy you never paid for nothing. If you wanted roots off a man you gave him a cord of wood instead, and you never worried about such things as interest and insurance and the like. Even the tithe—you could take up a pig or a few fowls to Parson and he'd be just as pleased; but now it's all got to be written out and paid to the Ecclesiastical Missioners, who have a hundred million a year of their own to live upon, so I've been told."

Ashdown, though a single man, was getting on in years. Now and then people asked him why he had never married, but he could not tell them. Sometimes he just said he hadn't had the time.


Mr. Vincent spoke out plainly in a day or two. Ashdown would have to go, and so would Masters' boy, and both Masters and Sinden would have to take lower wages. He was extremely sorry, and said so again and again, but there was no help for it. If he could not cut down expenses he would have to give up the farm, and then no one would be any better off.

Masters was bitterly aggrieved, and made rather a fuss about having his boy stood off, but in two days he had found a job for him as gardener's boy at the Furnace, at fifteen shillings a week, which was more than twice as much as he had had at Float, and meant a total gain of one shilling a week to the Masters family even with their father's wages down. Sinden could expect no such lucky turn to his fortunes. He had to break the sad news to Ivy that henceforth she would have to manage on thirty-four shillings a week.

"But how can I, my dear?"

"It's no less than many men get around here, and their wives have to manage. Ted Young has never had more than thirty-two shilling a week in his life, and both his children go to the Grammar School at Rye."

But it only discouraged Ivy to hear of such feats.

"My dad scarce ever brings back anything less than thirty-five shillings, and sometimes it's as much as three pounds. And you can't say as him and mother are any too well off."

"Because he drinks half of it," said Fred unkindly, "I'm going to cut down my drinks to two evenings a week and no more'n a pint each time."

"I'd sooner you earned more money and drank the same as usual."

"But I can't earn more money. I tell you I see where Mus' Vincent stands, and if he don't cut down he'll be sold up—that's plain."

"But there's others can give you a job. Why don't you try and get a job on some other farm? There's lots would take you, with the good name you have in these parts."

"I wouldn't be too sure of that. No one wants a ploughman, and even if I was to find another job I shouldn't get more than thirty-seven shilling a week these days."

"Well, that's three shillings more than you're getting now—it 'ud pay the insurance and the Buffaloes and your baccy and more besides."

"I'd never leave Mus' Vincent for three shillings—and anyway I doubt if I'd get another job, things being as they are."

"But you might try."

Fred began to feel irritated. Ivy was nagging him.

"Surelie—I might try. But I won't. Float's good enough for me."

"So good that you'll see your wife and children go short rather than leave it."

"No one need go short if you manage properly."

"I don't know what you mean by managing properly. It's been hard enough to run things on the money you've been getting up till now. I haven't bought a rag or a stitch for myself since we married, but I can't go on for ever with my clothes falling to pieces, and the children are growing so fast you can't keep up with them—Norman ought to have new shoes at once. If you'd wanted someone who'd scrimp and save and not mind looking a fright and having the children frights too, you should have married Nell Standen or Dorothy Dawes,"—naming the two least attractive damsels of her acquaintance.

"Come now, Ivy, that äun't a proper thing to say. Think now what you'd do if you were Mrs. Masters with Masters down to thirty-two shilling and Stanley stood off, and seven children beside to manage and do for."

"She's no call to grumble; Stanley's getting fifteen shillings from Mr. Hurst—a jolly good thing for them that he was stood off if you ask me. And her second boy's getting three shillings for taking round parcels for Mrs. Waters out of school hours. It'll be years and years before either of our poor little things are old enough to earn a penny."

"But they don't cost much as they are now—next to nothing you might say; and soon we'll have finished paying for Dad's funeral. That'll make it the same as if I had thirty-six shillings a week, which is a middling good wage around here. Two pounds was out of the ordinary."

"I believe you'd get it if you looked for it. But you won't try."

"I'm not going to leave Float Farm, if that's what you're after. I like Mr. Vincent, and I've worked for him ever since I was a boy, and I won't leave him now till he asks me."

Ivy began to cry.


Fred really felt quite upset with her. She wasn't behaving at all properly—trying to make him give up his job at Float in hopes of getting a better one. He would be mad to do such a thing—ten to one they would find themselves tramping the roads in a few months' time . . . it didn't bear thinking of. And anyway he wasn't going to leave Float Farm. He did not ask himself how much of his decision to stay was due to the risks of leaving and how much to his loyalty to Mr. Vincent; but he was a little shocked that Ivy should view so lightly his obligations to the place where he was born and the man who had employed his father. He began to remember what he had heard said about the Crouches before he married—"an ornery lot—gipsy blood in them." Perhaps it was true that Ivy had gipsy blood in her veins, an inheritance which had given her not only her coal-black hair, but this love of moving and wandering—for so Fred interpreted both her desire to live in a council house and her desire for him to look for a better job. It was something born in her—she couldn't help it. When he had thought this over for some time, he could understand her better and forgive her.

They were friends again over their supper that night, talking about Norman getting his bottom teeth and being so uncommonly knowing with that rabbit-skin his father had brought in, telling each other what a good baby little Doris was, so that you'd never know she was there, sleeping between them in the bed at nights—there was no need to get that basket for her that Nurse was always worrying about. But they could not mention Fred's work at Float without tears, and when he brought home his first week's reduced money, Ivy made such a scene that he lost his temper and shook her. She wanted him to go and look for work without saying anything to Mr. Vincent about it, but just to tell him after he had fixed himself up. She couldn't understand Fred's not wanting to treat the farmer in such an ordinary way—she accused him of treating his wife worse than anybody. It was a terrible way to speak and he wouldn't listen to it. He went and spent his evening at the Queen's Head.

Here he unexpectedly found a remedy for his trouble. It came from Ashdown, who was in good spirits, having found himself in work again with surprising quickness. He was going as builder's labourer to Mr. Snashall, the principal builder of the neighbourhood, who had a big job on, converting Ellenwhorne Farm into a gentleman's residence for some London people. He would have two pounds a week, and Fred envied him in a way, and wished he was more of an all-round man himself. But on the whole he was glad not to have to come off the land. Even though there wouldn't be much ploughing for him these days he would sooner build stacks than walls, drain fields than houses. Ashdown was different—he had always enjoyed puddling about with cement, and putting up walls. He could thatch too, though when it came to re-roofing the cow-lodge at Float he had chosen galvanized iron, as being more useful and up to date.

This evening he stood drinks to both his former workmates, and listened sympathetically to their tales. He was glad to hear that Masters had done so well, getting his boy into Mr. Hurst's, and he was sorry to hear of Ivy's distress and her desire to leave Float.

"Fair terrifying she is," confided Sinden, "always at me to find better paid work—as if I could, or would, for that matter. I'm better off where I am."

"Surelie," nodded Ashdown, "but I'm sorry you're getting such bad money."

"It äun't bad—it's only less. I tell Ivy she should ought to do with it."

"Let her wait till she's eight brats to feed," joked Masters inopportunely.

"Her father 'ud often bring in over three pound a week, and seldom less than two. She's used to having money—what with being out in service besides. It äun't what you've got that matters, but what you're used to. She's used to two pound a week and more."

"Well, she can't have it now, and that's plain."

"Could she go out and work for ladies now and then? I'm told a woman can get what she asks in some of these new places."

"'At that she can!" broke in Masters—"they'll pay a woman a shilling an hour for scrubbing a few floors, when they won't give a man tenpence for digging out a hedge. Soon we'll all be sitting at home and sending our wives out to work for us."

"Ivy can't go out to work," said Fred, "she's got the children."

"She might take a lodger," said Ashdown.

"Do you know of anyone who wants a room?"—it struck Fred that this was not a bad idea. A lodger could be asked for five or six shillings a week.

"I don't rightly know of anyone, but I reckon we could hear of somebody in no time if we put it around."

"I've got a room and furniture for a single man—the room I used to have before we married. It 'ud do fine for any young chap at work in these parts."

"Maybe it 'ud do for one of Snashall's men. One or two of them come from Hurst Green or thereabouts and 'ud sooner live near their work."

"I'll ask Ivy what she feels about it. It'll mean more work for her, but not too much, I reckon. He'll take his lunch and dinner out, and being a single man he won't want to stop at home in the evening."

"If she likes the idea, you pass the word to me and I'll do what I can about it."


Ivy liked the idea very much. Fred had not felt sure how she would receive it, for of course it would mean extra work and a certain amount of spoiling their times together—though since they'd taken to quarrelling they hadn't set such store by these. But Ivy did not think the work would come to much.

"I have to keep the room clean anyhow. It'll only be his bed to make. And I reckon he'll have his friends and 'ull go about with them quite a lot; so we shan't find him much in the way. What a mercy the weather doesn't come in upstairs."

She was much pleased at the thought of the extra money. In her opinion the room was well worth six shillings, and she expected to make a bit on the lodger's food. They would be better off than before. She kissed Fred and was his old contented Ivy.

It remained only to find the lodger, and for this they relied on Ashdown and the rumour of the Queen's Head. It soon got about that the Sindens had a room to let, and after a while applicants came. The first was a woman, which they had not bargained for—woman in the district of Leasan and Vinehall had not yet achieved independence. But here was one who said she'd been taken on as gardener by the artists at Barline Farm—a foreign woman gardener when the men of the place were hard put to it for a living. Ivy said she could not do with a woman, and the woman said that she could not do with Ivy's accommodation, so the interview was decisive if not satisfactory.

Then came a thin, bald-headed, heavily moustached man who had quarrelled with his landlady at Bannisters Town, and was, so he earnestly told Ivy, looking for quiet, clean lodgings with Christian people. Ivy was uncertain how far Float Cottage fulfilled any of these requirements, nor did she much like the look of him; but she felt reluctant to send him away, in case no one else came. However, inquiries at the Queen's Head revealed that he had paid only three shillings a week for his room at Mrs. White's, and had insisted on cooking his own food on a primus stove—the cause of the quarrel. Fred advised her to wait and see if somebody didn't come along from Snashall's.

She waited, and somebody came—a little young man of two or three and twenty, whose people lived at Wittersham. He had been taken on by Snashall's for the Ellenwhorne job, but it was not the distance from his work that troubled him, as somehow he had managed to save three pounds and buy a car. In this car, a prewar Morris, he arrived and bewildered Ivy. She had never met his sort before, though it was to grow increasingly common. His father was a cowman at Owlie Farm, and he himself was getting only tenpence an hour at Snashall's for ordinary digging and trenching, but he wore a suit of plus-fours, and on his sunburnt cheeks two flat peninsulas of hair gave Ivy a sudden aching memory of heroes she had forgotten.

Not that in other ways he suggested a cinema star—he was undersized and far from handsome. He spoke with the voice of the Kent and Sussex borders, but his words were London words—later on she would hear him swear, mixing good common speech with oaths that no decent Sussex man would use, even though he'd learned them in the war, which this chap had not. She did not know what to make of him, and asked him to call again and see Fred.

Fred on the whole approved of him. He was quite a pleasant chap, and just the sort who would be out and about a lot. His car presented difficulties, but he did not seem to mind where he kept it, and a disused and almost disintegrated cowshed in the field behind the cottage was considered adequate. He was likely to keep on at Snashall's, because his uncle was foreman and would find him a better-paid job as soon as he could manage it. Anyway, he didn't want to go back to the Isle of Oxney —he had quarrelled with his dad over a spikall the latter accused him of having stolen. He told the story at great length with a kind of dramatic force that was new to the Sindens, and made him appear the victim of fate.

So they agreed to let him have the room at six shillings a week, and he was to pay another six shillings for his meals. He told them that he expected to go out most evenings, but he did not frequent the Queen's Head—preferring the George at Vinehall. He told Fred that the Leasan bar was full of nothing but bloody hedgers and ditchers—he liked a place where he could meet girls.

"I've got the car you see, and I can take 'em out anywhere I like and anytime I like and do anything with 'em I like, and they're glad of it, too. I paid three pounds four and six for her at Gillingham and Golightly's in Ashford, but it's cheaper than getting married."

Fred told him to shut up about it.



The year that followed brought a kind of slow fading and changing to the district of Leasan and Vinehall. The tide of gold ebbed even farther from the Tillingham valley, as Float's cornlands were sown for grass. Other farms too were reducing their arable land—it did not pay. Quite a number grubbed up their hops. The valley, as indeed the whole of Sussex and most of England, was putting its faith in live stock. Beasts meant lighter and cheaper labour, smaller risks, larger and quicker returns.

Jim Parish was sorry to see the corn go and the hops go, but he could not blame the farmers for cutting down their risks. Already they had risked and lost enough. Ignored by their politicians, deserted by their Squires, these yeomen born out of due time struggled with difficulties their fathers never knew. In the good days of the Squires a plentiful harvest would have made the whole district prosperous for the year, but now the harvests did not seem so much to matter, as prices bore small relation to the earth's fruitfulness, being governed by conditions beyond the reach or even the knowledge of Leasan and Vinehall. Just as the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had taken the place of the Parson as receivers of tithe, so had vague, sinister abstractions referred to as "the banks" or "the government" taken the place of the weather and the soil as influences of prosperity. With these there was no reckoning—no barometer to foretell change, no manures or chemicals to improve bad conditions. Agricultural life was losing its substance and becoming a dream, in which the dreamer has no power over his environment, but must drift at the mercy of the terrifying unknown.

Parish himself had been able to keep up his arable acreage, though he did not know how long he would be able to go on. But he was determined not to make demoralizing changes unless compelled to do so. He knew that, involved and struggling as he was, he was better off than most of his neighbours. He must fly his flag for their sakes—it would never do if they saw him give up the battle to grow hops and corn, and he had not so far been able to share their one pastoral hope; beasts would be all very well for a time, then they would slump too. Besides, he must keep his men—his conscience would not let him economize in labour. Not that the stood-off labourers of other farms did not find work sooner or later—there was no real scandal of agricultural unemployment so far—but most of them found it off the land. The men were coming off the land, being driven off it, rather, chiefly into the building and engineering trades; and all the time fools were shouting "Back to the land! Back to the land!" and deluded idealists among ex-servicemen were commuting their pensions to start smallholdings and poultry farms.

He no longer blamed Gervase Alard entirely for the present state of affairs. A great deal would have happened with the Alards still at Conster, though not so much, nor so quickly. It was the sale of the Alard estate which was sending the farmers to ruin: on the other hand, if it had happened ten years earlier, they would probably most of them have managed to scramble through. As things were, the first months of 1928 saw the beginnings of a regional slide into bankruptcy. Sale notices appeared on walls and barn-ends, some with the sinister heading "By order of the Mortgagees." Six years of mortgage-interest, tithe and income tax, coupled with steadily falling prices, had been too much for these new yeomen. Agricultural de-rating, came too late to save them—and anyhow made surprisingly little difference.

Winterland was the first to go, then Gooseleys, then Dinglesden. The first two sales were compulsory, the third a forlorn hope—Mr. Cooper of Dinglesden would join a brother who was farming near Luton. He hoped for better things from better soil and a shorter distance from the town; and anyway he would be starting afresh, his mortgage and his tithe and his taxes all paid off, leaving him with little to put into the new business but his sad experience and a heart that always in the flat, clean fields of the Shires would ache for marshy bottoms and little tangled woods.

Mr. Muggeridge and Mr. Standen bowed to the inevitable in the shape of their mortgagees, and watched their farms put up for sale, complete with stock and furniture. They made no plans for what they would do when they had lost everything—it didn't bear thinking of. As it happened, none of the three farms was sold at auction. The bids did not come near the reserve price. For some time the Muggeridges and the Standens hung on in their doomed homes, watching desultorily over cattle whose increase they would never see and sowing what they would never reap. Mrs. Standen even took in paying guests as usual that summer, risking the chance of everyone being turned out at a few days' notice.

In the end, Winterland farmhouse and ten acres went to a retired London surgeon; the test of the land was sold to the new arrivals at Ellenwhorne, under the threat of "immediate development," and the whole hundred and fifteen acres was grazed for thirty pounds a year by Mr. Vidler of Semsted Farm, to whom his neighbours' ill-wind had certainly blown something good. Gooseleys went in much the same way, piecemeal—the house to gentry, the land here and there to adjoining farms, and a few acres near Leasan village as building plots. The gentry removed Gooseleys' homely, ugly, apple-red front of tiles, and with whoops of joy discovered par-getting and old oak beams, in fact a complete sixteenth-century façade which, stripped of its protection, was to cost them at least fifty pounds a year in repairs. Dinglesden, being an impossible house with lands useless and inaccessible to builders, hung on in the market for two years or more, when at last it was sold for twelve hundred pounds to a farmer from Appledore, moving west, either in defiance or ignorance of the saying that the best land always lies eastward.


Jim Parish watched these changes with uneasiness. He saw them as a threat of something more fundamental. He was haunted by a nightmare of all the neighbouring farms becoming the property of gentlefolk, with their land neglected—let for grazing or else cut up into building sites—while their labourers were either driven into the towns or became country artisans. The rot was spreading, for the sale of the three big farms had produced a kind of panic, and a great deal of land was privately for sale. Every farm whose fields adjoined the Parish estate had offered at least a part of itself to Cock Marling.

"If I wasn't so broke, I'd buy 'em. I could do with more land, and a few hundreds of ready money would stop some of these chaps feeling jumpy. If I don't buy they'll probably sell to the builders."

"It would be a shame if this country got built over," said his mother, to whom he had addressed these remarks. "I was stopping with the Stewarts near St. Albans last week-end, and it's terrible to see all the little bungalows that are springing up along the roads."

"Well, Mother, it's for you to stop it. If you'll give or even lend me a couple of thousand pounds, I'll undertake that there isn't a bungalow nearer than a mile."

Mrs. Parish laughed the little unreal laugh of her age.

"My dear boy, as if I could lend you two thousand pounds. I'm not so rich as all that."

Jim stared at her gloomily.

"You're hateful, Mother. I simply can't understand your generation. You're so irresponsible."

"Because I won't lend you money I can't afford?"

"Because you spend it all on a sickening merry-go-round when you might spend it on the solid earth. If even you'd so much as live here . . . but you won't. You dash madly about the place—like Lady Alard. I hear she's taken to gambling now—won eight thousand francs at Monte Carlo. I tell you that you old ladies are irresponsible—irresponsible—and shock your children."

"I don't shock Betsy."

"I bet you do. I haven't seen her for a year, but I bet you shock her."

"I don't, Jim. She shocks me. Really, I feel quite anxious about the poor child; she never tells me anything, but——"

"I don't want to talk about Betsy. I've almost forgotten who she is. But seriously, Mother, if you could let me have even one thousand, I'd pay you five per cent., so you wouldn't lose on it."

"I should lose my capital. Your father used to say that a country estate is a bottomless well into which all your money goes sooner or later. I'm sure that's why he left me everything. He knew that whatever you had you would lose on the land. In time you will be grateful to me."

"Why should I be grateful to you?"

"Because when I'm gone you children will come into nearly twenty-thousand pounds."

"None of which will be any use, because I shall have been sold up long before that."

"I hope you will. Then my money may really do you some good."

"What good?"

"You may want to marry."

"I shall never marry."

"Ah, so you say—so everyone says till the time comes."

"And journeys end in lovers' meeting, don't they? And when he thinks he's past love it's then he meets his last love. Mother, you're as romantic as you're irresponsible. I believe you'd like Ben Godfrey to die and me to marry Jenny in the last chapter."

"Yes, I should. I always liked Jenny, and I think you treated her badly."

"I didn't. I didn't."

He was moved—suddenly angry at this revival of an old conflict. Not that he had any real regrets, but his mother ought to know better than to rake things up. It was scarcely decent of her. But then she was irresponsible—romantic and irresponsible. He must forgive her.

"I forgive you," he said.

"What on earth for?"

"For leaving me in the lurch like this—for punishing me for being unable to stop caring for what you cared for once."

"I never cared for Cock Marling. Of course when your father was alive I lived here. I thought it was my duty. But now I really feel I've a right to live what I've got left of life in my own way."

She spoke with more sincerity than he often had from her.

"Yes, I suppose you're right. But it's rather loathesome to be left like this holding the baby."

"My dear boy, that's entirely your own choice. Your father made no restrictions in his will—sell the baby."

His face seemed to close, wrinkling obstinately.

"You know I won't do that. I may have to sell one or two of the farms, but I won't do it till I'm obliged, and I'll keep this place if I die bankrupt."

"Then you'll be a fool, my dear."

"You don't understand. If I sell land nowadays I'm selling something that's much more than land—I'm selling history and tradition. You simply can have no idea of the wreckage that the Alard sale will have made of this place, by let's say, nineteen-thirty. It's beginning to crack up now—farms being sold, not to other farmers, but to the kind of people who up to the war used to live in towns. They're buying up the country, and driving the country people out. We're becoming greasily urban——"

"My dear Jim, don't talk such nonsense—on the strength of two farms having been bought by town people."

"Two out of three that were for sale—sixty-seven per cent. And I tell you worse is coming. All this new electricity business that the government has set up is going to make the country too damn easy to live in——"

"I think it's going to be a god-send. One of the chief reasons I disliked Cock Marling was the lamps."

"Now you're being frivolous."

"And you're being reactionary."

"No—I'm not reactionary—I'm an anachronism. I'm a man born out of his proper time. I ought to have lived in the eighteenth century."

"Then you would have groused because you didn't live in the sixteenth. You'd be miserable if you couldn't look behind you."

"No, I shouldn't. I tell you, Mother, I'm not a reactionary. I don't just hanker after the good old times—I hanker after one especial time, which in every way except mechanical convenience was years ahead of ours. I'm sick of our childish politics, our childish newspapers, our childish arts. I want to live in a world of grown-up men."

"That's probably, dear Jim, because you're rather childish yourself—I always feel as if you were younger than Ronald or even than Vernon."

He turned from her with a sigh. She wearied him with her flutterings between an intelligent opposition and mere motherishness. At the same time he felt queerly hurt by her misunderstanding—which was unreasonable of him. Why should he expect her to understand him? She was like everyone else—not merely of her own generation but of those before and after it. She identified progress with invention, prosperity with comfort, kindness with humanitarianism, tolerance with apathy. She believed in modern life on the authority of her newspaper. She would never understand how he longed for an England of unmade roads and unlighted towns, of slow travel and savage laws, which was yet an England of wit and sense and learning—the country of Chesterfield, Newton, Warburton, Burke and Walpole, and other prosperous, tolerant, kind, progressive men.


The day after Mrs. Parish had gone back to London, Rose Alard called at Cock Marling. Unlike a great many people, Parish approved of Rose. Theoretically he acknowledged that she was a detestable woman, interfering, petty and boring, and he had never liked her husband when he was alive; but he liked Rose. Though born and bred in the suburbs she was more an Alard than any Alard living. Old Peter used to say the same—he had agreed with Jim. Rose was loyal. When George died she had not left the district (as Peter's own Vera alas! had done), but had settled there, to bring up her children under the shadow of Conster. And now that Conster itself had become a shadow, there seemed to be a splinter of it, a relic, surviving in Rose's mean house—a spot which was for ever Conster.

This morning she was much as usual. She came in with a laden shopping basket (it was her day for soda in Vinehall) and a "have you heard?"

"What? Sit down, Rose, and have a drink—coffee of course."

"Thank you, Jim, but I mustn't wait. I've that woman to see."

"What woman?"

"Ivy Sinden: I've got to speak to her about her lodger, that dreadful little Collins boy."

"What's he done?"

"What's he not done?" said Rose darkly, "but I didn't come to tell you about him. It's about Luce."

"What's he done?"

"He's gone over to Rome."

"I thought he'd done that years ago."

"Oh Jim, how could you? He couldn't go over to Rome and remain a parson of the Church of England."

"Couldn't he? I didn't know. Some of them behave exactly like Catholics. Luce did."

"I'm not saying he wasn't a Catholic; in fact, I think he was more of one then than he is now—" and she embarked on a theological excursion from which he recalled her plaintively.

"Tell me about Ivy Siden's lodger."

Rose was hurt. He had undervalued the importance of her news. The lodger at Float was a stale topic now, having been discussed already with five different people that morning. But Luce's apostacy was hot from the oven—she had only just heard of it that moment.

"It'll mean a change, you know; for the Protestant Alliance is sure to put in some one very Low Church. Gervase Alard will be furious."

"I'm glad of that; and I'm not sorry Luce is going. I could do with a new Parson at Vinehall. Let's hope for a three-bottle man."

"What nonsense you talk. If he's Low Church he'll probably be a teetotaller."

"I hope not. Luce at least would sometimes take half a glass."

"I think he's behaved very meanly—never saying a word about it to anyone. He preached twice last Sunday and never gave so much as a hint of what he was going to do."

"Perhaps it isn't true."

"Of course it is. I heard it from his churchwarden, Mr. Besmer. He's cleared out of his cottage and gone, though I will say he's arranged for a locum for next Sunday. He's gone to stay at a monastery near Horsham—he's very much upset and was sick directly he arrived and had to go and lie down."

"I must say you've mastered all the details. Do have something, Rose. Have a°cigarette—or a medlar—or some ale—or some nice water."

"No, thank you, Jim. I really must get off, or Sinden will be back and I want to talk to his wife alone."


"Well, it's not a subject I like to discuss in mixed company."

"Oh, tell me, Rose—we're not mixed."

"It can't really interest you. It's only that he took one of my G. F. S. girls for a ride."

"And bumped her off? Do tell me."

"I can't tell you, Jim. But he behaved dreadfully—shockingly—and the poor girl came back in tears, and her mother's frightfully upset. She says there's complaints of him all over the village and he ought to be stopped."

"And can Ivy Sinden stop him?"

"She can stop letting him her room, and no one else I'm sure, will take him in, so he will have to go home to his parents at Wittersham."

"And take the girls at Wittersham for a ride?"

"They know all about him."

"Well, so will the girls here in time. And anyhow, Rose, his car will soon stop if he doesn't. As far as I can see it only goes by clockwork."

"He'll buy another; he's got a lot of money—that's the terrible thing."

"I shouldn't find it so; but he and I are different—certainly very different in the way we spend our money. I'm glad you take a sensible view of such things, Rose."

"I think it's dreadful the way the village people are spending their wages on luxuries. Even the Sindens have a wireless."

"Dreadful indeed; I agree with you—it's shocking the way the working classes manage to amuse themselves without asking us to help them. Fifty or sixty years ago their entertainment was carefully doled out to them from the Manor House with their boots and blankets."

Rose looked at him suspiciously.

"You're being sarcastic, Jim, and I'm surprised. I thought you always admired the good old days."

"The good old days of two centuries ago, not of Queen Victoria's time. Things had got bad by then. In Hanoverian times the working man knew how to enjoy himself without the Squire, and I'm glad he does to-day; though I must say that some of his amusements are not mine."

"Well, I really must go, or Sinden will be home. Good-bye, Jim."

"Good-bye, Rose."


Ivy was not going to give away anything to Mrs. George Alard—miserable old cat! what business was it of hers? Who cared what anyone did to her G. F. S. girls? and what right had she to meddle with folks earning their living?—but for some weeks she had been worrying about her lodger. He had been with them now for nearly eighteen months. The job at Ellenwhorne had taken longer than was expected, and as soon as it was finished Mr. Snashall had been given a contract to convert Winterland oast into a gentleman's residence. An incredulous neighbourhood had watched casement windows being inserted into cracking, nine-inch walls, while the beheaded kiln was weather-proofed with tar. The general effect, when finished, was of a gigantic high-heeled shoe lying upside down.

This architectural achievement exhausted Mr. Snashall for a time—he was not clever at estimating costs, and there had been a lot of extra expense putting things right that had been done wrong owing to the inexperience of his workmen, mostly translated farm-hands. Ivy had then just begun to hope that Bob Collins was leaving—he had begun to worry her. But instead of leaving, he found another job with Mr. Kemp, the builder at Vinehall, and announced cheerfully that he was going to stay for ever.

It wasn't that she and Fred didn't like him—they did, in a way, both of them, and they didn't believe half the stories that were told about him. He was a good lodger, too—paid well and punctually, gave very little trouble. She hardly knew what worried her and she never spoke of it to Fred. Perhaps it was his way, his little air of swagger and exaggeration—those flat pieces of hair each side of his face . . . his fair-isle sweater . . . his brightly painted car . . . it was all Different, and it worried her, though most of it was just what the girls in Leasan liked. Perhaps she was silly.

Yet she knew it was not silly to mind some of his ways—the way his hand came suddenly over hers, sometimes, when no one was there. He would say "Beg pardon," and look at her, and she would look away. She would pretend to herself that it was an accident, but she knew that it was not—it happened too often. She would feel offended. He did not attract her in the least, but he thought that every woman must want him to make love to her. He thought himself an almighty man with women, and those silly girls of Leasan and Vinehall encouraged him. He couldn't see the difference between a silly, fat, giggling girl and a decent woman who had her own husband. She was angry, and she was worried.

On the other hand, if he left, there would be difficulties. She could not manage without a lodger—there was no use trying—and it wasn't likely that she would find anyone else to pay six shillings a week, with wages going down all round and working men leaving the district. Besides, no one would give as little trouble as Collins, because no one would ever go out as much as he. He went out every evening in that car of his—sometimes he didn't even have his supper. Anyone else would probably sit in three evenings a week, and there was nowhere to sit but the kitchen, for the parlour was ruined now, with the ceiling down again and the paper hanging in strips—oh, why wouldn't Fred try for a council house?—and in the kitchen there wasn't properly room for them all. She had only one easy chair, and that was Fred's by rights, and the weather was coming in behind the sink . . . anybody but Collins would grumble and say that four shillings was quite enough to pay for such a place. No, she must put up with him somehow till she had got round Fred and made him try for a council house—then she could ask ten to twelve shillings a week for a decent room and get quite a different class of lodger—someone's chauffeur or manservant . . . she could not believe that those palaces of slate and rough-cast on the Leasan road let in as much weather as Float Cottage.


Bob Collins suffered from indigestion. It was the one dark spot in his glittering career. Only the uncharitable and wilfully misled would put it down to Ivy Sinden's cooking, for neither she nor Fred nor either of the children ever had a pang. There must be something wrong with him—after all, he was an undersized little chap. Sometimes he'd hardly have a bite all day, which was one reason why he was such a convenient and profitable lodger. On such days, Ivy would make him a basin of bread and milk, to which he would add a splash from his whisky flask. For he always carried a flask of whisky about with him, and it was said that he gave it to the girls.

In the fall of that year he took a turn for the worse, and Ivy felt sorry for him, and guilty when she thought of how much she had wanted him to go—and might have asked him to go if it hadn't been for Mrs. George Alard interfering. Sometimes he'd feel so bad that he didn't go out—he would go to bed instead, so that they still had the kitchen to themselves, and she would take up his basin of pap to him, and somehow feel wrung and maternal at the sight of his little pinched face between its ridiculous Rudolph Valentino whiskers.

"You ought to see a doctor," she told him, but he replied that he didn't hold with doctors.

However, after a time, as he grew worse instead of better, he called on Dr. Egan, and returned in a mixed mood of horror and elation.

"He says it's my teeth. He says I should ought to have 'em all out. They're gone antiseptic, he says."

His teeth were certainly not his strong point and one or two were already missing.

"How'd you fancy me with a lovely set of false teeth? I'd fancy myself, you bet, and so 'ud some folk I know of. They wouldn't ache, neither. I tell you I've sometimes had toothache just about cruel. The doctor wants me to go to the hospital for 'em, but I say I'd sooner go to a proper dentist and have something smart."

This part of the programme stimulated him: for a couple of days he talked of nothing but his new teeth, and the various merits of the dentists in Hastings and Rye. But as time passed, and eventually an appointment was made, the dark side of the enterprise began to show.

"Have you ever had any teeth out?" he asked Ivy rather pathetically.

"I'd four out when I was at school."

"Did it hurt much?"

"Not much, though I bet I hollered. The dentist put some stuff in."

"So he said he would for me. He said I shouldn't feel nothing."

"And no more you will. Mother had a tooth out only six months ago, and didn't feel a thing, though the dentist was pulling and twisting for more'n a quarter of an hour."

"More'n a quarter of an hour!"—his eyes grew round with horror—"why, that'll mean—that'll mean—I've thirty teeth in my head—it'll take him three whole bloody hours to finish me."

"Oh, I reckon yours won't take nearly so long as mother's. Hers was a great old fang—been terrifying her for years. Yours ull be out in a minute."

She tried to comfort him, but as the ordeal drew nearer his fear increased. Fred was inclined to be contemptuous.

"He's scared as a rat—I never seen the like."

"Well, you'd be scared too if all yours had to come out."

"His haven't got to come out. It's only his vanity—thinking how nice he'll look with a set of make-believes."

"The doctor said they must all come out."

"But he wouldn't have it done if it wasn't for his looks. He's a proper little cockerel."

"Now, Fred, you're being unkind. I'm sorry for him—he's only a boy."

"Boy, indeed! He's man enough to be the father of three children, so he should ought to be man enough to face having his teeth out."

"I don't believe he's the father of three children—that's just your gossip—that you talk at that everlasting old pub of yours."

"It äun't gossip—it's plain truth, and you know yourself as there's been three bastards born since he came into these parts."

"I know, but it doesn't follow he's the father."

"He's the father all right."

"Then why don't they bring him into court and ask for an order? Answer me that. I'll never believe such things against the poor boy, and you oughtn't to, neither—and if you do you shouldn't keep him here."

"I don't know as I mean to keep him here."

"What are you talking about, Fred? You know that if he went we'd lose six shillings a week."

"We'd get another lodger soon enough, and anyway I'm not sure as I wouldn't rather have nobody than a man who's spoken against."

"It's your own fault for listening to a lot of dirty gossip, and you've no right to believe such things of him. I don't."

She spoke hotly and her cheeks were hot. She knew now that she didn't want him to go.


The next day Collins came back to dinner, for he had the afternoon off to go to the dentist. He was pale, and' his hands were shaking. His knife and fork rattled against the plate.

"Feeling cold, Bob?" asked Fred. "Ivy, you can't have made the fire up properly."

"Thanks, I äun't cold."

"Reckon you must be, for your teeth are chattering—chattering for the last time. You won't be able to rattle 'em however cold you feel to-night."

"Oh, hold your bloody tongue!"

"Come now—I won't have you talk like that before my wife and children. I'm sick of your dirty language."

"Fred, Fred. . . ."

It struck her that his temper had been getting worse of late. Maybe it was having to do work he didn't like—he missed his plough . . . well, it was his own fault not trying for another place.

Both the men became silent and the meal continued. Little Doris sat on her mother's lap, eating sippets of bread soaked in gravy; Norman, now nearly three years old, had a piece of meat on his plate, cooked into solid exercise for his young teeth. Thus occupied, he too was silent, but his great eyes stared in relentless observation of the grown-up people. The gipsy strain in the Crouches showed itself in Norman's eyes—they were huge, black and mysterious, and could stare as only gipsy eyes can stare.

His father was eating quicker than usual, shoving his knife and fork alternately into his mouth in a way that Norman knew well was rude and forbidden. Then suddenly he stood up, pushed back his chair, mumbled something like "I'm off," and went out.

"Daddy!" cried Norman.

"Daddy!" squeaked Doris.

It was not usually thus that he took leave of them. Generally he stopped a few minutes to play with them or give them a ride on his knee.

"Daddy's in a hurry," said their mother.

"But I want a ride-a-cock-horse. He's never given me a ride-a-cock-horse. Mr. Collins, please give me a ride-a——"

"Be quiet, Norman. Don't bother Mr. Collins. Now you get down and take Doris out to play."

"I've nothing to play with—my cart's broken."

"Haven't you got your conkers?"


"Well, go out and find some conkers. There'll be some still by the shaw. You run out and find some."

She tied a muffler round the neck of each, crammed two woollen caps on their heads and sent them out on a quest she knew was vain but would occupy them till she had got rid of the afternoon's victim.

"Now, cheer up, Bob. It won't be nearly so bad as you think."

"I reckon it'll be worse."

"Oh no, it won't—for the matter of that, it couldn't be, you worrying yourself like this. Come now, have a drop of whisky—that'll make you feel better."

"I might do that."

He had filled up his flask at the pub on his way home. Now he poured out a pretty strong dose and swallowed it neat.

He blinked, and held out the flask to Ivy.

"Have some?"

"No thanks. I never touch spirits. Besides, you'll need it yourself."

"Reckon I will."

His misery came down on him again. His hands shook and his teeth chattered and his eyes were bolting like a rabbit's. Ivy's heart ached for him.

"Cheer up," she said, and patted his shoulder.

"I've half a mind not to go."

"But you must go and get it over. And think how nice you'll look when it's done."

"Those teeth ull cost a tur'ble lot of money—a pound down to-day, a pound when I get the set, and a pound when I'm satisfied."

"Yes, it's a lot, but it'll be worth while if it cures your indigestion. And now you'd better start off, or you'll be late."

He rose from the table, smiling wanly.

"I shan't be much to look at when you see me again."

"Never mind about that—it won't be for long, and I'll have some nice soup ready for you to-night; the stock's cooking now. Take your warm scarf and cover your mouth up when you drive home or you'll catch cold in it."

Thus she fussed over him maternally, while he put on his overcoat, picked up his scarf, gave a fleeting and melancholy look at himself in the kitchen glass, and moved towards the door. Then suddenly he turned round, and his manner changed.

"Ivy, Ivy—you might give me a kiss, just to comfort me."

For a moment she was startled, then she was moved by the appeal of his poor bolting eyes; after all, there was no harm in it—a kiss for comfort.

Without coming any nearer, she leaned forward and kissed him. She had meant to kiss his cheek, but it was their lips that met. She would have withdrawn hers after a touch, but his seemed to hold them—seemed to hold the whole of her. She could not escape from his hold, and she knew now why girls and women loved him. There was something about him that held and thrilled—she could feel her skin creep, and a kind of trembling seemed to pass from him to her. Then with an effort she tore her mouth away, and moved back from him, out of his reach. He made no effort to follow her, but opened the door, said "So-long," and went out as if nothing had happened.


She was horrified at herself. She could scarcely believe it. What had made her do it?—and yet what she had done was harmless enough; it was what she had felt . . . she could scarcely believe that she, Fred's wife, could have felt like that all suddenly for another man. . . . It explained him, of course, and his power over the village girls, but it did not explain her—not to herself. She could never have imagined that any other man than Fred had power to move her, and yet when she thought of that kiss it seemed as if Fred had never kissed her at all.

She must not think of it. It was wicked. She was wicked. She knew that when Fred came home she would want to tell him all about it, and at the same time she knew that she must not. He would be more horrified even than she deserved—he would say that she ought never to have kissed Bob; and yet how could she have refused him as he stood there, looking so miserable, and begging her? . . . Just to comfort him—Lord knew there hadn't been a thought in her heart but comfort when she consented. She'd no more thought of anything wrong than if it had been little Norman . . . at least—she couldn't quite say that, she'd known that really it wasn't quite the proper thing to do, and she'd only done it because she hadn't the heart to refuse. She shouldn't have been so good-hearted, and yet if it was all to happen again she'd do just the same—she couldn't help it; poor little fellow! standing there so scared and so miserable, asking her to comfort him—he hadn't meant anything wrong, he just couldn't help the way he was made. She must forget all about it. Thinking only made it worse.

The November day, gleamy with watery, yellow sunshine was turning to rain. She could hear the sudden leap and howl of wind round the house, and the swish of it in the trees. She ran out to fetch in the children, who were playing disconsolately by the shaw. Then she ran to collect bowls and basins to stand round the parlour walls and receive the worst of the "weather." All the while Norman was crying to her that he had nothing to play with.

"Mum, there wasn't any conkers in the shaw."

"What have you done with those you used to have, you naughty boy?"

"I dunno."

"You must have lost them out of doors. They aren't anywhere in the house."

"Mum, will Dad buy me a new cart?"

"Dad hasn't any money to buy you a new cart—at least not till Christmas. You be a good boy now and sit quiet, and Mum will cut you some pictures out of the papers."

"What sort of pictures?"

"Any sort you like—you can choose."

She took an old Mirror out of the drawer where she kept them for fire lighting, and they sat down all three together at the table, two little faces leaning over her arms and breathing on her hands as she clumsily manoeuvred the scissors.

"Cut out some ladies," asked Norman.

"Pussies," begged Doris.

Ivy cut out both. Pictures that in the newspaper were quite uninteresting became glamorous and exciting when cut out of it. Each child stared with pleasure at a growing pile. All was comfort and happiness. As she sat there between her children Ivy forgot that she had been wicked, had felt what she ought not to feel. She could scarcely remember now what it had been . . . the memory of that kiss was lost—even when she tried she could not recall it; it was dead as a forgotten tune.


Fred came home early. Darkness was falling early with the rain, and he could not see to work in fields that were veiled in rain and dusk. All that day and for the last week he had been hedging, a lonely, dreary job that he considered ought to have been given to Masters. Since he was no longer ploughman he ought to have been made cowman and looker. But Masters stuck to the job that had always been his, and Sinden, though the better paid man of the two, did the inferior work. He resented it. Ivy was only half right when she guessed he missed his plough; what he missed most of all was his horses. He was used to working with animals, and felt lonely without them. Mr. Vincent had sold two of his four horses, and mostly went out with the other two himself. Norman would never be the little boy with a whip of his father's dreams—instead he would carry a handbill and swap the hedgerow grass and lop the shoots of oak and beech and maple, or "lay along" the sprouting ash-tillers of the woodland fence. Fred invested Norman with the same melancholy as he felt himself, working in the cold sapless days of the year, the same sense of estrangement from work he loved. It was terrible to see the Hundred now, all sown with grass and scarred with thistles.

He did not always feel so bad—there were hours, many hours, when he enjoyed his work and was thankful to have it. But this day had been depressing—hedgework always depressed him—and he came home as much in need of comfort as Bob Collins had been when he left it. Ivy, who had not expected him, was still playing with the children at the kitchen table; the room was nearly dark, and from the next came the tinkle and splash of the rain as it fell into the pans.

"Hullo, Fred—I didn't expect you back so soon."

He said nothing, feeling unreasonably annoyed because she was not ready for him.

"I'll have the kettle on in a minute."

But this proved a too hopeful forecast. The water-bucket was empty, and he had to go down to the well and fill it, and then Ivy found she had run out of oil, and had allowed the fire to go right down owing to her absorption in the children. It was three-quarters of an hour before Fred had his tea.

"I've got a pussy," said Doris, showing him what her mother had cut out.

"I've got a lady," said Norman. "Mum, will you gum summat at the back to make her stand up?"

"No, I'm far too busy getting Daddy's tea."

"Dad, will you give me a cart for Christmas?"

Fred tried to amuse the children and keep them quiet while Ivy got the tea. He felt he had been a bit short with them at dinner time, and a bit short with Ivy now at tea time. It seemed as if he was getting a bit short all round. He mustn't let that happen, for she was a good little girl and they were good little children. He must remember that if things were hard for him they were just as hard for them, and not so hard for them as they were for some people. He had heard that day that Standen and his wife from Gooseleys had had to go into service as cook and handyman, having been unable to find any other kind of work now their farm was gone.

At last tea was ready and set on the table with the remains of the rabbit stew warmed up for Fred, and some baked potatoes for Ivy and the children.

"I wonder Bob isn't home," said Fred.

"I don't suppose he'll be long now."

"Maybe he wants a drink and 'ull wait up at Vinehall till the pub opens."

"He had his whisky with him."

"That should ought to be enough for him, but I guess it won't be. I shouldn't be surprised if he came home drunk."

"Oh, Fred, you know he's never drunk."

"He can stand a lot, I grant you. But I shouldn't be surprised if to-day he didn't take more'n he could stand. He was scared as a rabbit at dinner time."

"He was, and you were terrible rough and unkind. Poor little chap——"

She broke off—her wickedness had come alive again, and somehow she felt ashamed to be talking of him to Fred. She thought of what she must hide and the thought was both sweet and bitter. Pity was a snare.

"You won't be going out again to-night?" she said, to change the subject.

"I dunno. It äun't properly my night for the Queen's Head"—he had cut down his beer to two pints a week now money was scarce. "But if that chap comes back there äun't room for us all at home."

"I don't suppose he'll come back, and if he does he'll go to bed."

"I wouldn't be too sure. I think I'll go up to-night and stay at home to-morrow."

"Oh, Fred, do stay."

"What d'you want me for?"

"It's only—only that it's such a terrible bad night, and I—I like having you at home."

"I'd stay if there was room for me, but mark my words that chap 'ull come back, and you'll be putting him in the easy chair and making a fuss of him just because he's making a fuss of himself."

"I shan't—of course I shan't. And it's silly to talk as if there was no room. I'll have the children in bed in a minute, and you can get into that chair now, and then if you get out it's no one's choice but your own."

"Very well, then." Grumbling a little, he sat down by the fire. But he did not take off his boots. In his mind was a snug image of the Queen's Head bar, and somehow he could not bear to cut himself off from it by an irrevocable step like taking off his boots.

Ivy cleared the table, heaping everything by the sink, preparatory to washing up later. Then she turned to the children, who were playing together squeakily in a corner.

"Bed-time now."

But neither Doris nor Norman had any mind for bed. "I wanner stay up and play with my ladies."

"You can play with them to-morrow. Come along at once."


"I say you're to come at once."

"No-o-o—" a passionate wail went up—"I don't wanner go to bed. I wanner hear the children's birthdays on the wireless."

"You can't possibly stay up for that. That's not for a long time yet."

He had got his mother arguing, and by that method might have put off his bed-time another ten minutes had not his father intervened.

"You get to bed at once or I'll beat you," he threatened from his seat in the chimney corner.

Norman collapsed at once, and Ivy led them both upstairs, feeling inexplicably ashamed of her victory.

When she came down again half an hour later Fred was buttoning on his overcoat.

"What! You're never going out!"

"Yes, I am. I'm going up to the Queen's Head."

"But you said you'd stay. . . . And it's a justabout terrible night."

"It won't be much wetter out o' doors than it is in here," and he looked round disgustedly at the oozing walls, "and at the Queen's Head it'll be much drier."

He was asking for it. She simply could not help crying at him:

"Fred, why don't you try for a council house?"

"Because it wouldn't be any drier than this one."

"It would—you know it would."

"I know it wouldn't, my girl, and I'd have to pay five shillings a week more for getting wet in a council house than I pay for getting wet in here."

He went out, leaving Ivy drearily convinced that he was right.


Half an hour went by and still Bob Collins did not come back. Fred was right and he had most likely gone to the pub; now she began to wonder if he would come home drunk. If he was drunk he might have an accident—it was none too easy to drive a car down the lane even if one was sober. It struck her that it might not be a bad thing if he did have an accident—nothing terrible, but just enough for him to be taken to hospital. She would be glad not to see him for a few weeks—Fred could visit him and cheer him up, but she would not have to go; he would understand that she was busy with the children. But she would send him in some nice soup—the jug with the blue border would do to carry it in—and the nurses would say "What lovely jelly—that's what I call perfect soup jelly"—and Fred would say "That's my Missus—wonderful soup she makes. . . ."

Thus Ivy dreamed, lifting from her mind the burden of reality, as one lifts a chafing saddle from a weary horse. While her hands fumbled plates and cups in the greasy water of the sink, her relations with her husband and her lodger were straightened out in cheerful phantasy, and a new image of herself was set up, as of a woman acclaimed by her husband and the world at large as a perfect cook and housewife. This was her daily recreation—day-dreaming over her sink as a more favoured woman might day-dream in her bath. She always felt the better for these little frisks, and always wore her saddle again quite willingly.

Just as she finished washing up, Collins came in. At first she thought he was very drunk—his eyes looked watery and his face flushed and swollen, while his speech was mumbled and nearly incomprehensible; but soon she saw that he was only a little drunk and that his condition was mainly due to the state of his mouth.

His teeth had been devils to come out, he told her, bloody devils. The dentist had pulled and tugged till he'd thought his head was coming off. No, it hadn't hurt him much at the time, but it was beginning to hurt now—hurt like hell. He boasted gloomily of his sufferings, which were obviously mingled with relief that the ordeal was over. Ivy made him some soup, but it was some time before he could drink it, because he could not bear anything hot. She was anxious to get him off to bed before Fred came in. Fred would be as contemptuous of this garrulous grandiloquent mood as he had been of his earlier terrors. It was not so that Fred himself reacted to adversity.

After a time, when his soup was drunk, and he had described his ordeal about four times over, he agreed to go to bed. She watched him go with a queer feeling of mingled disgust and relief. He did not please her when he was like this, talking and boasting—and he was drunk, too; certainly a little drunk. As she listened to his footsteps retreating and slipping on the stairs, she felt her heart beat quickly with a sense of release. She didn't feel afraid of him any more, nor of herself; and she no longer felt wicked. All that was over and done with. It had been silly and muddling and worrying, but it was over now. She needn't think of it any more, or feel guilty before Fred.


The next morning Collins did not come down to breakfast. It was Fred who suggested that Ivy should go up and find out what had happened.

She knocked at the door and heard an inarticulate sound. She took this to mean "come in," so went in and looked at him.

The room was dark, for he had not drawn up the blind. She could dimly see the untidy shape of clothes on a chair, and distinguish the darkness of his head and shoulders against the pillow. The room was stuffy, and there was a sour smell of whisky about. She heard him groan.

"What's the matter? Aren't you feeling well?"

"Christ!" he groaned.

"Ssh!" said Ivy.

She came nearer and looked at him; then she went to pull up the blind.

"Don' do tha'. I ca' bear the ligh'."

She was now able to see that his mouth was so swollen that he could hardly speak. His face was flushed and his eyes were bleared and running.

"My face! My hea'!"

"You must have caught cold motoring home. I told you to beware of that. And you've been drinking, too—that's bad."

"They to' me to drink whisky—all say it's goo' for tee'. Maybe I've ha' too much."

"Reckon you have. What would you like now? Some bread and milk?"

"No, no—nothing—for God's sake!"

She went out and shut the door. There was nothing she could do, at least not now. She must go down and look after Fred.

He was in a much better temper than yesterday, and inclined to take a tolerant view of his lodger's affliction.

"Poor chap! Reckon he feels tur'ble awkward. He won't be going to work to-day."

"No, he won't, nor to-morrow either, I should think. His poor face is all swelled up"—she found herself unaccountably ashamed and afraid of the word "poor"; she went back and took it out of the sentence—"his face is all swollen."

"Well, he was a fool to have so much done to it. Stands to reason a chap feels ordinary when he's lost every tooth in his head."

"The doctor said they were to come out. It was for his indigestion. But he can't ever have wrapped himself up properly driving home, and he's gone and drunk a lot too much whisky, thinking it was good for him."

"Um," said Fred, "that was a poor notion. But he'll get over it," he added more kindly; "he'll lie in bed and sleep it off."

Mindful of this, Ivy left her lodger alone for the whole morning. She had not much time to spare for him, being busy with the house and the children, but just before it was time to prepare Fred's dinner, she thought she might as well go up and see if he wanted anything. She found him awake, and he indignantly repudiated the notion that sleep was possible.

"I feel much too bad. My head aches—oh, Ivy!"

His skinny young arm shot out from under the bedclothes and his hand clasped hers. Something instinctive urged her to pull it away, but something equally instinctive and more kind would not let her do so. Poor little chap! she mustn't be hard on him. There he was, suffering miserably, and with no one to be kind to him but her.

"You wait," she said, "and I'll make you more comfortable."

She shook and turned his pillow and smoothed his tumbled bedclothes. Then she patted his shoulder. She could not help it—kindness was better than caution. If he'd been at home his mother would have made a fuss of him, but since he was not at home she must make the fuss of him. After all, he was far too ill to take any liberties. She felt a little ashamed of herself for having been so cold and careful at breakfast time.

"Now won't you let me fetch you a cup of milk?"

"Um . . . maybe I could do with a drop now. But no bread in it."

"No, just milk. I'll go down and heat it."

When she brought it up, she persuaded him not to add any whisky. Then she settled him down to sleep, drawing the bedclothes over his shoulder, and patting it again. She couldn't do less.

"Dear Ivy," he muttered, and his eyes smiled at her above his swollen mouth.

Well, there was no harm in that. She was not afraid of him now. He was just the same to her as little Norman—no, that was an idea which had already brought her trouble. . . .

"Go to sleep," she said quite roughly.

The rest of the day was all on that rather disturbing note. She seemed to be always doing more or less than she ought. Every time she smoothed his pillow, arranged his blanket or patted his shoulder she knew that his mother would not have stopped at that. At the same time her feelings as she did these few small things were not such as to warrant her attempting more. Bob's mother no doubt would have made his bed for him, dusted his room, and chatted to him for a bit. She certainly would have helped him foment his torn and swollen mouth, instead of just leaving the jug with him. She would certainly have kissed him, too, and fondled that poor hand that was always being thrust out at her from under the bedclothes. And all the time she would rightly think that he was just the same to her as little Norman . . . oh, dear! Up till now Ivy had always thought that right and wrong were two utterly different, distinct and separate things. But to-day they seemed all mixed up together, so that she could not tell which was which. Whether she waited on him and comforted him, or whether she neglected him or spoke to him sharply, she could not tell if she was doing right or if she was doing wrong.


The next day, the rain, which had cleared the previous afternoon, came on with renewed violence, breaking through the worn defences of Float Cottage and enlarging its waterways. Resignedly Ivy put out her set of pans and basins to catch the falling drops.

Her lodger seemed much the same as yesterday. His mouth was less swollen, but he insisted that he felt just as bad.

"Shall I get the doctor for you?" asked Ivy.

"No, no—I don't want him pushing and prying at me."

"Well"—Ivy had a sudden inspiration—"what about asking your mother to come over? I could write her a line this evening—I've got some paper and ink. I reckon she'd do better for you than I can."

"No, she wouldn't. She'd be no use at all. What I say is thank heaven I äun't at home."

"But maybe she'd be grumbling at me for not letting her know."

"She won't care. And don't you worry. I'll be better soon, I will. It's only to-day I feel so bad; and you're so sharp with me."

"I! Sharp!"

"Yes, you're always snapping at me and running out of the room."

She was speechless. She could not think of what to say. She felt that it would be useless to try to explain.

"You might be kinder to me, Ivy. It's miserable for me here—not able to go out or to see anyone but you, and my mouth terrifying me so."

"I never meant to be unkind. It's only—it's only I'm sometimes in a hurry."

"Well, you've no call to be in a hurry, and it wouldn't take you long just to say 'poor old chap,' or do summat to comfort me."

His hand came out from under the bedclothes, and this time she must hold it, as his mother would have done if she had been any use.

"Poor old chap," she mumbled.

"That's better."

He turned his head on the pillow, and his eyes smiled above his rigid mouth. She could feel his fingers playing with hers and she longed to pull them away. But she would not let herself hurt him. Poor boy! Poor chap!—thinking her "sharp"—not understanding. . . . How could he understand? Reckon he didn't feel much like love-making now. He'd never guess what she was feeling—now, while his hand stroked hers. She was a fool, and she'd no right to let her foolishness make him miserable. She smiled bravely and kindly at him.

"Well," she said at last, "I must be going now."

"But you'll come back?"

"Of course. I'll come back and make your bed, and bring you some nice hot milk."

"Thank you. That'll be fine. Don't be too long."

She promised not to be too long, and ran downstairs, her cheeks burning. Well, there was nothing more to be done about it—she couldn't help herself. Whichever way she acted she was wrong, so she'd better act the way that wouldn't hurt him. She mustn't hurt Fred either . . . but there was no question of hurting Fred; he wouldn't mind these things she said and did, for he would not know what she felt while she said and did them. He would not have liked the kiss, no doubt, but then that would never happen again. Poor soul! he had no mouth for kissing. And Fred wouldn't mind her holding his hand, not when he was so miserable; he would never know what the touch of that hand made her feel. It was her feelings that were wrong; but she did not see what she could do about them. She could not help that creep of her skin, that swoon of her heart.

Downstairs the children were waiting for her.

"Mum, may we have those little paper boats that Dad made for us?"

Fred had stayed at home yesterday evening, and had played with the children, making them paper boats out of an old newspaper. Ivy reached them down from the shelf where she had put them for safety.

"Mum, may we sail them on the water in the next room?"

Ivy looked doubtful. This was a new game, and she was nervous of its possible developments, but it promised to keep them out of her way while she was busy.

"Well—if you take care not to upset anything and not to get wet—and if you put on your outdoor coats and mufflers; it's uncommon cold in there."

The children thought it rather fun to be dressed up to play indoors, and in a few minutes Ivy had them ready, and sailing their boats in the rain-water that had already collected in the largest dish.

She washed up the breakfast things, cleaned and tidied the kitchen, and put a rabbit stew on the stove for dinner. To the gravy of the stew she added a soup square. She felt extra particular to-day about Fred's dinner, more anxious than usual for it to be nice. She remembered Bob's milk, but somehow she delayed putting it on to warm. She did not want to go up to him again just yet. She was afraid . . . she felt so helpless now. He had broken down her poor defences. . . . Oh, dear! It was not thus that in the old days Temptation had appeared to the heroines of the pictures. On the pictures, if you were tempted by a man who was not your husband, he was always someone very handsome and strong and charming, while your husband, just to make things clear, was a regular brute. Whereas, poor Bob was ill and disfigured and far from charming, and Fred was a good kind chap whom she loved much better than Bob. . . . She tried to remember a single picture that had suggested even a single parallel to her case—she even ransacked her fading memories of Holy Writ . . . it was no good—no one else apparently had ever been tempted in this peculiar way. She began to feel vaguely monstrous to herself.


For some time she had been aware of a new sound, weaving itself into the web of sound that muffled her ears—a web of wind and rain, of soughing, cracking trees, of water tinkling into pans, of hissing wood on the fire, of her children's voices in the next room. Plop, plop, plop—it sounded like the rain coming in somewhere and no basin to catch it. But it did not come from the parlour. Plop, plop, plop—she looked round, and saw a drop of water fall from between the two middle beams of the ceiling on to the kitchen table. For a moment she stared bewildered, then she realized what was happening; the weather was coming in upstairs.

She felt something very like despair. Hitherto it had always been such a comfort to think that whatever happened to her parlour and kitchen her bedrooms were warm and dry. But now . . . with an exclamation of misery, she ran out, leaving her spoon in the stew. She must know the worst at once, though most likely she couldn't do anything about it till Fred came in.

The bedroom over the kitchen was her own, and she found, as she had expected, that the rain was coming through the roof immediately above it. Already a large patch of ceiling was wet, and probably soon would fall. With a sigh she put the washing-basin in the middle of the floor to catch the water and save the room below. Then she heard herself called from the other bedroom:


She pretended not to hear.


She'd better go and see what he wanted. Then she could run down again and leave him till Fred came home.

"Ivy, why have you been such a tur'ble long time? Have you forgotten my milk?"

No, she had not forgotten it. She had deliberately withheld it. Her heart smote her.

"I'll go and get it now."

"No, I don't want it now. I want you to come and talk to me. I feel so awkward."

Ivy found herself shutting the door behind her.

"How long do you think I'll look like this?" he asked.

"I dunno. I should hope not long."

"So should I, surelie. But it don't seem to get any better."

"Why won't you let me get the doctor in? Reckon he could do something for you—give you something to take."

"Maybe I will if I äun't better to-morrow. Ivy, I'm scared of being like this. I must go back to work in a day or two or I'll lose my job, and reckon all the other chaps 'ull laugh at me."

"No, no, no; you won't show so badly in a day or two."

"But it'll be weeks before I'll be able to wear my new teeth. It'll be weeks before my friends won't be ashamed to be seen about with me."

Ivy understood him, and understanding sent the tears to her eyes. Poor little chap! He'd been so looking forward to swaggering about with his new teeth. He'd never thought of the days, perhaps weeks, he'd have to live through first without them. No girl would go out with him looking as he did now.

"You cheer up," she said pityingly; "it won't be nearly so long as you think. And you must be a lot better today or you wouldn't be talking so much."

"My mouth äun't so swollen as it was yesterday. But it hurts more. It's terrifying."

Out shot that hand she had learned to dread.

"Oh, Ivy, sit by me a moment and hold my hand: Tell me I'll be better soon."

"I've been telling you——"

"But I like to hear you say it. I like to hear your voice. Won't you sit down by me?"

She looked round for a chair. There was only the one on which his clothes were tumbled, and that was out of her reach as she stood beside him holding his hand.

"Sit down on the bed."

He pulled her down beside him.

She sat there holding his hand between her own. Then she found herself stroking it and saying, "Poor boy, poor boy." His other hand came out from under the bedclothes, so that their four hands were together in her lap.

"It's nice having you here, Ivy. I like you. No one else bothers about me but you. I reckon there's no one been here to ask after me since I was took bad."

"Well, I'm here, and they aren't," said Ivy lamely. She found that if she stroked his hand it lay quiet; then it was safer than when it moved about. But his other hand was there, moving up her arm.

"Oh, don't," she murmured.

"Don't what?"

"Don't. . . ." She could say no more. His hand crept up her arm under her sleeve.

"I'd better go."

"No, don't go. I want you to stay."

"But the weather's coming into the next room."

"Never mind. You can't do nothing about it."

His hands closed unexpectedly on both wrists, and with a sudden movement he pulled her forward so that she fell beside him on the bed. She struggled to rise, but he held her there, and soon she was powerless to move.

"Ivy, stay with me, and comfort me like this."

He turned his head to her and snuggled his face into her bosom.


Poor Ivy! Twice in one hour the weather was her betrayer. If the rain had not come in through the roof she would not have gone upstairs into temptation, and if wind and rain had not squalled and lashed round the house, splitting the noon with a thousand crazy voices, she would have heard her husband come in; she would have heard him come upstairs—when he saw the wet patch on the kitchen ceiling. As it was she heard nothing till the door latch moved, and then it was too late. During that horrible slow-motion of time which passed in five seconds on the clock, she realized that she was in a situation which she could not explain, even to Fred—some would say least of all to Fred.

He was not a hasty man or an angry man, and he would have been willing to give Ivy the benefit of almost any doubt. But it is hard, indeed impossible, for the husband who finds his wife in bed with the lodger, to believe that she is acting only out of pity, even if she tells him so again and again in the midst of sobs and streaming tears.

"Oh, Fred . . . do understand . . . do forgive me . . . it's only that I'm so sorry for him without his teeth."

He raised his arm, and for a moment she thought that he would strike her as she stood weeping before him. But instead his hand swooped to Collins. Ivy screamed as he seized him by the scruff and with one movement of his powerful arm dragged him out of bed and threw him on the floor.

"Don't! Don't!" she cried. She had a vision of Fred pounding Bob's swollen mouth with his fist. "Don't hurt him. He's ill."

"I'll be damned!" But he did not strike Bob when he picked himself up and stood facing him. For a moment Ivy thought that Bob would hit Fred, but just as he would have lunged, Fred had him again by the scruff, and ran him through the door.

"Out you go!"

"Oh, Fred, let him dress first!"

But her husband took no notice. The children, distracted from their play, watched in amazed excitement their father running downstairs with the lodger, who looked very strange and wore only his shirt. The stairs at Float Cottage were not made for speedy descent, and near the bottom both men tripped and fell. Fred, however, kept hold of his enemy's scruff and the next moment dragged him to his feet again, and sent him through the door with a well-placed kick, just as Ivy, who had snatched up the first garments she could lay hands on, came tumbling in their wake with a cap, a waistcoat and a woollen scarf.

"Let him have his clothes, Fred; he mustn't catch cold."

Fred snatched the things from her and threw them out, then realizing that there were omissions went upstairs and threw the rest out of the bedroom window. Then he threw out other things that were not clothes—the lodger's brush and comb, his collar-box, his razor, his photograph of his married sister and her family. Then he opened the drawers and threw out his best suit, his pullover, his felt hat, his other pair of boots, and all he could find in the way of socks, ties and handkerchiefs. Then he tore up some letters, and sent the pieces showering from the window like snow. Then he felt better.

Meanwhile Ivy sat on a chair in the kitchen, crying and crying. Her sobs were loud and rhythmic, and seemed to come strangely from outside herself, and her tears washed her cheeks as the rain washed the windows. The children stared at her in bewilderment. They could not understand what was happening to-day. Dad, Mum, and the lodger were all behaving in a queer, frightening manner. They began to whimper a little, but their Mum took no notice; she sat there on the chair, rocking and crying.

She could hear Fred stamping to and fro in the lodger's room. What was he doing? She hoped he wasn't smashing up the place. Though it would be no more than she deserved if he did. Oh, she'd been wicked! wicked! wicked! . . . and Fred would never believe that she still loved him, that she had only let Bob cuddle her out of pity—he would catch his death of cold out there in the rain . . . well, no matter if he did—he'd been wicked too—he'd played her up . . . her pity suddenly turned to rage, and her sobs grew louder. Miserable little tyke that he was!—he'd played her up—he'd played her up. What a fool she'd been! Fred would never believe her—would never believe her. Oh, Fred, Fred!

She was sobbing out his name now, but he did not hear her, or if he heard took no notice. He wasn't thumping about any more. . . . She strained her ears to listen. She thought she could hear a car at the back of the house-that must be Bob going off. She wondered if he was dressed-he would die of cold if he drove a long way without proper clothes . . . well, let him die! He deserved to die-so did she. Oh, Fred! Fred!

At last she heard him coming down. He would have to come into the kitchen—he couldn't go out of the house unless he did. She sprang to her feet, and seized his arm as he came in. He shook her off.

"None of that."

"Oh, Fred, Fred-do believe me."

"Believe you!—I saw you. I don't have to believe anything."

"But you've got to believe it was only because I was sorry for him—that I don't love him. I love you. And I didn't even mean . . ."

Sobs broke her voice. Fred caught sight of the children's enormous eyes.

"Here—you clear out. Get in there."

He opened the parlour door, and they trotted through it, confused and scared.

"I wonder you äun't ashamed to carry on like that before your children. You're a wicked mother and a wicked wife. I'm shut of you."

"Fred, before God I swear I didn't mean any harm. All the time he was well I never thought of him, though he used to try and make up to me——"

"Made up to you, did he? You never told me nothing of that."

"No, I—I——"

"Why didn't you, if you never thought of him?"

"I was afraid you'd turn him out and then we'd lose the money. He was a good lodger."

"He was a ——" said Fred, using a word which he had learned from Bob, "and as for you—well, I won't begin to tell you what you are. If I was the man I ought to be I'd take off my belt and beat you. But it äun't worth the trouble."

"Oh, Fred, Fred! I swear I don't love anyone but you. It was only that he was so miserable and ordinary—I couldn't help it. He kept on asking me to comfort him."

"And that was the only way you could do it—getting into bed with him?"

"Well, one thing led to another. Oh, Fred, you don't know how I struggled and fought against temptation——"

"No, I don't, and don't you begin to tell me, for I don't want any more lies."

"They aren't lies. Fred, I swear——"

"I don't want any more of your swearing, neither. Hold your tongue. I'm going out."

"Without your dinner? Oh, please don't go. Oh, Fred, do wait and have your dinner. I'll get it ready in a moment."

"Dinner! it 'ud choke me. Don't be a fool."

He broke from her detaining hand and went out. Her heart was rent at the thought of him without his dinner.


Ivy sobbed till she could sob no more. Then she stumbled to her feet, groped for the matches and lit the oil-stove. A few last tears fell hissing into the saucepan as she pulled it forward over the burner, but only a few, for she felt as if all the tears had been squeezed out of her—she was wrung.

The slow processes of cooking went forward, and in the end the children's dinner of suet and vegetables was set on the table. She called them in and they stared at her solemnly, observing her altered features.

"Mum, do your teeth hurt?" asked Norman, struck by a new resemblance between his mother's face and the lodger's.

"No, dear. It's my head."

"Did Dad hit it?"

"Oh, no, no."

"I thought he said he was going to."

"He never said any such thing. You mustn't get these ideas, Norman."

"Was Dad angry with Mr. Collins or were they just playing?"

"They were just playing."

"Was Dad playing with you?"

"Oh, be quiet and don't ask so many questions. You shouldn't be always wanting to know what grown-up people do."

Then grown-up people shouldn't behave in such an unusual, frightening and exciting manner . . . Norman brooded over the situation for a few minutes. Doris asked:

"Where's Mum's din-din?"

"Mum's not having any to-day. Her head aches."

"Poor Mum"—Doris reached up to lay a hot sticky hand on her mother's forehead. "Made it better," she announced triumphantly.

"Is it better, Mum?" asked the more sceptical Norman.

Ivy tried to smile brightly.

"Ever so much better."

"Where's Dad's din-din?"

"He's taken it out with him. He's busy."

"Where's Mr. Collins' din-din?"

"He's having it at home. Now, don't ask any more questions."

Mercifully after dinner the rain stopped and the wind went down, so she was able to send them out to play. It was dreadful having to think of answers to their questions. It was also dreadful to have to sit alone in the house, wondering what Fred was doing, or worse still, what Fred was thinking. Would he ever forgive her? . . . But the distant and uncertain future of his forgiveness was easier to face than the certain imminence of his evening return. What would he say to her? How would he look? Would he eat his supper? The questions that she asked herself were worse than the children's.

She must do something to take her mind off things. When she had washed up her crocks and tidied the kitchen, she went into the parlour and did her best with that. She emptied the rain pans, and lit a small fire of sticks to dry the place. Then she went upstairs, and tried to work up a counter-irritation of woe at the sight of the fallen flakes of ceiling and the brimming basin on the floor. But she knew in her heart that she did not really mind about this new misfortune. The house might blow down and she would not care if only she could have Fred back, forgiving her and loving her again.

Last of all she went into the lodger's room, and there she saw what had happened. Fred had thrown out all his things, so he hadn't had to drive away in his shirt—not that she'd care if he had. It would have served him right. She looked out of the window and saw nothing except some torn pieces of paper on the ground. He'd taken everything, then. . . . Oh, Fred was kind . . . and he hadn't made much mess of the room, either—some men would have broken everything up as a punishment for their wives. But there was no harm done here that she couldn't put right. She tidied the place. She made it look as much as possible as it had looked before Collins came down to lodge there.


The November day drew to its swift closing. A darkness of mist and night swallowed up Float Cottage. There was no wind, only a thick silence hanging over the trees—not a footstep on the mud, not the cry of an owl, not even the sudden croak of a moorhen from the pond beside the shaw. Sounds inside the house seemed large and unnatural by contrast. The kettle on the fire was a band playing, the clink of china was the crash of armies. Ivy prepared the tea and waited.

"When's Daddy coming home?"

"Daddy's late to-night."

She'd known he would be late—he'd dread the bad hour of meeting as much as she did.

"Mum, may I have my tea? I'm hungry."

Better give them their tea quickly and put them to bed. It would be better to have them out of the way; though she realized now that she had been counting on their presence as a sort of protection. . . . But she could not abide their questions, and anyhow they would have to go to bed some time—to keep them up would only be putting off the bad hour.

All the time she was washing and undressing them upstairs she expected to hear Fred come in, but he did not. He was really late now—too late for mere dawdling; and there was no sort of work in winter that would keep him at the farm. No, he must mean to stop away—perhaps he would never come back—perhaps he was done with her for ever . . . hadn't she heard him say, "I'm shut of you"?

Her teeth began to chatter. She could hardly keep her self-control before the children. She hurried to get them into bed so that she could run away before they noticed anything. At last they were settled—Norman in the little packing-case crib that Daddy had made for him, Doris in the middle of the big bed with her own little tiny pillow. Ivy kissed them both, gave automatically her good-night counsel to be good and to go to sleep quickly; then she slipped out of the room, almost happy in her freedom to be as miserable as she liked.

The clock at Float Cottage was not reliable, and she did not take seriously the extremely late hour that it indicated. But she knew that Fred must be a full hour and a half later than his usual time for coming home in winter. What was he doing? He couldn't be working overtime at this time of year; and he couldn't have gone to the pub, for that didn't open till six, and he'd never go wandering about for an hour and a half without his tea . . . and he hadn't eaten any dinner. Oh, Fred, Fred!

She wished she hadn't taken up this idea that he didn't mean to come back—that he meant to leave her. He couldn't be so cruel—he'd never go off without giving her a chance to explain. . . . Oh, if only he would listen, she could make him understand. The meeting which all that afternoon had been the thing she most dreaded was now the thing she most longed for. Fred, come back and let me tell you exactly what happened—what didn't happen—how I still love you, always loved you, never loved anybody else.

His habit was so invariable that she could not find any explanation that did not involve his meaning to stay away. Besides, he had said he was "shut of her"—she remembered it clearly now. Yet surely if he had meant to leave her for ever he would have taken some of his things, whereas he had taken nothing . . . and she knew that he had very little money, for it was Thursday evening. . . . Perhaps—a still more ghastly thought invaded her shaken mind—perhaps he had meant to "leave her" in another way, to get shut of her by getting shut of the whole of the life that had suddenly gone bad on him. . . . Perhaps he had thrown himself into some pond—there were several in the woods—and was at this very moment lying cold and drowned and dead. She put her hand over her mouth or she would have screamed. He was one of those quiet regular chaps there was no telling with. Though she would never have suspected him to commit suicide she never could say for certain what he would do. And she had taken all the goodness out of his life . . . oh, poor, poor Fred . . . he loved her and he thought he had lost her, and he could not live without her.

Ivy was not a constant reader of any newspaper, but husbands occasionally disappeared even in East Sussex. Sometimes they came back, with or without explanations, sometimes they wrote from distant addresses—asking either for their things to be sent after them or for the price of their ticket home; sometimes their bodies were found, drowned in ponds or hanged in outhouses. . . . Again Ivy put her hand over her mouth. Then there was the wireless with its recurring S O S messages—"Missing from his home . . . it is feared some ill has befallen him." She had sometimes tried to imagine what those men's wives must feel. Now she knew.

It struck her that this was just about the time the wireless would be giving out such messages. . . . "Missing from his home at Float Cottage, Leasan. . . ." She switched on the battery, and the voice of the distant god was heard—"Bertie Holloway of Purley Down. Many happy returns to Rosie Keen of Honiton, Veronica Pyke of Enfield, Leslie MacAndrew of Georgemas. . . ." They hadn't got as far as the news yet. That was the children's birthdays . . . and she'd meant to send up Norman's name before his birthday came at Christmas; she must remember to do it. After all, now she came to think of it, the S O S messages must be sent up too. The wireless was not likely to know anything about Fred unless she told it—at least, not so soon as this. Why, he hadn't been missing two hours yet—it wasn't so late as she'd thought. . . . "Dulcie Turleigh of Peacehaven. . . ." She switched off the bright voice. She suddenly felt convinced that Fred was at the pub.


Fred was not at the pub. He had left work early, because the light had failed early, and also because he could not set his mind to anything. He was shocked—not in the merely conventional sense of the word, but in its full medical meaning. Sometimes he could hardly believe what he had seen, he felt that he must have dreamed it; sometimes it seemed to swallow up the whole of life—his marriage, his fatherhood, all he had ever loved and thought good, leaving him with a dreadful sense of outrage and betrayal, as if the earth had lied. If he had sown wheat and reaped turnip-tops, or picked the deadly bryony berry as the fruit of his apple tree he would not have seen the course of nature more upset than when he had seen his wife in another man's bed. And all that she had said and done to him afterwards, crying and pleading and making such poor excuses, had been so like Ivy herself that it made the other unlikeness appear all the more monstrous and shocking. He was shocked; his arms shook on the spade-handle, his legs were weak—he could not dig his ditches. He carried the spade to the outhouse farthest from the farm, and left it there, seeing and speaking to no one.

He could not work, and he could not go home. He trailed miserably through the growing darkness, crossing the fields to the upper part of the lane, so that he cut off Float Cottage; though he could not help seeing the chimney-smoke rising through the dusk. He did not know where he was going. He was taking the Vinehall direction, away from Leasan. He did not want to go to the Queen's Head, even when it was open. He was ashamed. He could not sit with his fellows in the bar, talking good sensible talk, if his heart was full of humiliation. He was best alone.

Coming up to the Vinehall road he found the dusk almost as thick as in the valley. Though the rain had ceased the sky was low, with heavy clouds swagging over the fields. The only light seemed to come from the road, of which the wet surface gleamed a luminous grey. Fred walked along it, following its shining path through the darkness. Every now and then a bicycle skimmed past him; the farm-workers were riding home on their unlighted bicycles—skimming through the shadows like moths, with a soft whirring sound. Like moths, too, they flew towards the lamplight—to their homes, with the lamp lighted on the table and good food spread under it, and their children's faces golden round it . . . he saw it all as a warm and golden picture that made his heart feel sad. For a moment he thought of turning round and going back to his own lamp, but the next he felt that he couldn't, and set his face once more to the opposite darkness.

So far he had had the road to himself except for the bicyclists—the Vinehall road, though clamorous with cars on summer Sundays, saw very little traffic in winter after dark; but as he drew near Jordan's Farm he noticed a man walking ahead of him, a man who carried a gun and was followed by a dog. He dawdled along and Fred gained on him rapidly. It was too dark to see much, but something about him seemed familiar. He was evidently one of the "gentry," and they were close to Cock Marling, so Fred had little doubt who he must be.

Neither custom nor inclination allowed him, even in this outlawed moment, to pass Jim Parish without a greeting. He swung his arm in the usual vague salute, which might be partly due to recent military influences, partly a survival of the old forelock-touching days.


"Good evening—oh, Sinden? Hullo, how are you?"

He had not expected such a cordial greeting. He had to halt his stride to the other's stroll.

"Very well, Sir, thanks."

"I don't often see you nowadays, nor in these parts. Vinehall isn't much in your way, is it?"

"No, Sir."

It struck Parish that Sinden was not behaving or talking quite naturally. He wondered what he had been up to—poaching, he guessed, and his experienced eye swept the dim shape beside him for bulging pockets. Well, never mind—he didn't care if the man had taken a rabbit or two. Lord knew there were enough for everyone and some to spare. . . . Boorman, his keeper, made an unnecessary fuss about a little illicit ferreting. Besides, he liked Fred, and liked talking to him and his kind. He would rather talk to him even than walk alone in the darkness, which obliterating the outline of to-day might well be the darkness of a good time long ago. He had dawdled so that his dreams could take shape, and fill the fields with corn and the farms with plenty, the parsonage and the manor house with learning and good cheer; but now he quickened his pace so that the other man shouldn't forge ahead of him.

"How are you, Fred? How's life? How's Ivy?"

"Quite well, thank you."

He certainly wasn't answering in his usual way. As a rule he was glad enough to talk, but to-night his voice sounded almost surly.

Parish did not want to make him talk unwillingly, and was about to send him on his way with a friendly "good night," when it struck him that the man was surly because he was miserable. Something had happened. . . .

"How's Vincent getting on?"

He would take the conversation a little further, till he saw for certain that Fred did not want to talk.

"Pretty ordinary."

"Most farmers are nowadays. On the whole I think they're the worst treated set of men throughout the length and breadth of England. When I feel tempted to grouse I generally try to remind myself that I'm not so badly off as a farmer—and nor are you, Fred. We all get hit nowadays, but the farmer gets hit hardest."

Fred said nothing. They tramped on for some hundred yards in silence. Parish felt vaguely embarrassed by his companion and a little unhappy. He thought that Fred must be in some sort of trouble, but did not like to question him. He shrank from using methods that he would not use with a man of his own class, but Fred was not so responsive to hints as a man of his own class would be. Should he be more direct? Fred was a good fellow, and he did not care to think of him wandering sadly in some private muddle that could perhaps be straightened out by a more experienced or more powerful hand. He liked him—partly for his own sake and partly for the sake of his kind, which Parish found more congenial than any other kind. With such a man he dropped his usual, slightly-posed air, and spoke naturally, as he felt. He liked entertaining the neighbouring gentry, showing them his possessions, confusing them with his ideas, but—with the past exceptions of Peter Alard and one or two others—he never felt at his ease with them as he did with George Bates and his fellows. The intervening class, the farmers, yeomen or tenants, he respected and commiserated but did not like; he felt towards his own tenant-farmers much as they in their turn felt towards their labourers—that without them he wouldn't be sunk in quite such a deep hole.

They had reached Cock Marling's gate—an unpretentious farm gate, differentiated from a thousand others only by a coat of white paint and a planting of limes at either side of the drive beyond it.

"Well, I must turn in here. Going much further?"

"I dunno."

"Where are you making for?"

"Nowheres. I'm only walking."

Parish felt he could not let this poor man go unfriended.

"Look here—you're worried about something, aren't you? Can't I—I mean is there nothing I can do?"

"I'm afraid not, Sir."

Fred was surprised that the Squire had noticed anything wrong.

"Tell me, is it anything up at Float?—has Vincent stood you off?"

"Oh no, Sir, not that,"—he hesitated—"it's only that I've had a row with the Missus."

"With Ivy? That's bad—I'm terribly sorry. But after all, Fred, most men do have rows with their wives and make it up again. I'm a bachelor myself, but I should say that not to have a row with one's wife was the exception rather than the rule."

"I've never had a row with anyone in my whole life till to-day."

"Then, Fred, you ought to be stuffed and put in a glass case—or rather you ought to have been if you hadn't had this row and proved yourself a human being after all."

"But I don't like it—having it with Ivy. Seeing as I've never so much as argued even with that chap Masters it seems hard to start on her."

"Can't you go straight home and make it up?"

"No, Sir. Not after the way she's treated me."

Parish saw that it was a long story.

"Come up to the house and have a drink."

"No, thank you, Sir. I'd rather not."

"You'd better come. If you're upset about anything there's no good wandering in the dark and making yourself feel worse. You'll feel better after a drink, and you needn't tell me anything you don't want to."

Fred hesitated. Parish's goodwill had touched him, made him feel warmer. And there certainly was no harm in a drink; he had wanted one all the evening, but he hadn't liked the idea of going to the pub and sitting among the elders with his secret shame. If he went up to Cock Marling he could have a drink in private and not say a word he didn't want to.


A few minutes later they were sitting by the fire in Parish's study, each with a glass of beer in his hand, and a well-filled jug on the table behind them. This certainly was better than wandering in the dark. Fred felt thankful and friendly towards Parish, especially as the latter did not press him to tell him anything private, but opened the conversation on the safe subject of Leasan's chances for the Football Charity Cup. They talked about football, of which Fred was an occasional spectator, about cricket, about the new recreation ground at Vinehall, about the new bungalows that were being built along the Leasan road on land that had once been Gooseleys', about the need for more council houses, and at lower rents too, about the need for more houses generally, and the shocking state of many of the old ones, leading to the shocking state of Float Cottage in particular, with the weather coming into three rooms out of five.

By this time Fred was feeling warmed and comforted and had drunk two glasses of beer. It seemed easy and natural to pass from the structural deficiencies of Float Cottage to its recent spiritual upheaval. He found himself beginning to tell Mr. Parish about Ivy. Mr. Parish was a good chap, he knew how to hold a conversation in the proper way—a way which is like an old lane, wandering from cottage to cottage and farm to farm, down to the stream and up the bill and down to the stream again, and not apparently going anywhere in particular, but getting there safely in the end. Mr. Parish was, of course, not a married man himself, but he seemed quite sensible, and certainly it was good to talk to someone—a great relief.

"You see, it's all on account of this lodger. Mus' Vincent had taken seven shilling off my wage, and it came hard on Ivy, so we thought we'd take a lodger."

"And quite a good idea, too—but I don't like your lodger, Fred."

"He äun't my lodger no more now. I've thrown him out and everything he's got—I chucked it out of the winder."

"I hope you threw his car out of the window. I hate his car."

Fred chuckled at the idea of a car being thrown out of a window. It struck him as funny even in the midst of his distress.

"So do I, Sir. But I'm glad he had it this afternoon, for he drove away in it. He's gone."

"And a good riddance, too. What led to it exactly?"

"Well you see . . . he—he'd been making free with Ivy."

A burning crimson came over Fred's brown face, making it the colour of mahogany. He lit a cigarette with a shaking hand.

"Dirty little dog!" said Parish.

He waited for Fred to say something more, but evidently his feelings had gone beyond speech. He sat smoking in a silence which the other had to break.

"But I'm sure Ivy must feel about it just as you do."

"She don't, Sir. That's the tur'ble part. Ivy—Ivy—she . . ."

"She can't really like him. It would be impossible."

"Lots of girls do."

"I know, but only one girl's got you, Fred."

Again Fred was silent for a while.

"Are you sure she likes him?" asked Parish; "that you haven't made a mistake about her side of the business?"

"What am I to think when I saw——"

"You caught 'em at it, did you?"

"In the very act."

A dim Scriptural echo seemed to hang about the room. Parish felt stirred both to rage and to compassion.

"Well, I must say I'm terribly sorry, Fred. I hope you beat him up—I think it uncommonly self-controlled of you not to have wrung his neck."

"I gave him a good kick in his bottom, Sir; but I didn't like to do more, seeing he'd had all his teeth out."

"All his teeth out. . . ."

"Yes; he went into Hastings on Tuesday and had 'em all out—every one. He was in a proper state about it, and yesterday and to-day his mouth terrified him something cruel. That was why Ivy said she did it—she was sorry for him, she said."


A new improbability had been added to the situation and for a moment Parish found it difficult to make any adequate comment. Luckily Fred's speech had gathered momentum with the recital of his woes.

"Aye, would you believe it? She said he'd made up to her I dunna' many times before and she wouldn't look at him, but now she was that sorry for him she couldn't stand out any longer. She begged and prayed me to believe her, but I've more sense than to do that."

"Ivy's penitent, then?"

"She's what, Sir?"

"She's sorry, I mean. She doesn't want to go off with Collins? She wants you to forgive her?"

"She's begged me to forgive her, to understand, she says, and let her tell me all about it. But I don't want her lies."

"Are you quite sure they're lies?"

"What else can they be? I'll never believe . . . she äun't a true woman. There's things no one 'ud do just out of pity."

"I quite agree, and I'm not defending Ivy. But if she's asked you to forgive her—if she's shown no signs of wanting to go off with Collins. . . ."

"She'd never dare do such a thing—and she's got her children, too."

"Yes. Your children, Fred."

"I know, Sir—poor little mites. There they were, playing together in the middle of it—not knowing the kind of woman their mother is. Oh, how she had the heart!"

He suddenly buried his face in his hands.

"But it needn't affect them. They need never know. You—you hadn't thought, had you, of doing anything drastic?"

Fred didn't know what he had thought of doing.

"They're bound to know some time."

"Not if you forgive her."

"I don't know as I've any heart to forgive her. I don't know as how I can."

"But if she isn't really fond of the other chap—if it was just the temptation of the moment . . . if it's true what she told you about being sorry for him——"

"I don't believe it's true."

"It might be. Surely, Fred, if she was inventing an excuse, she'd have thought of a better one. I don't pretend to know much about women, but it seems to me that if a woman's going to invent an excuse for herself she'll invent as good a one as she can; whereas I can hardly think of a poorer reason for being unfaithful to your husband than that the other man's had all his teeth out."

"It's the very thing Ivy ud do, Sir. She's that silly in some of her notions——"

"There, Fred! Listen to yourself talking. If it's exactly the silly sort of thing she would do, then she's probably done it."

"Maybe she has, Sir. But all the same it was a tur'ble thing."

"I agree, a terrible thing—and honestly quite beyond my comprehension. I suppose there was nothing that started it—no earlier trouble between her and you?"

"Not as I know on. She didn't like my dropping that seven bob a week, and she mutters about the weather coming in; but we've never had anything more than a few words. I—I—you could—I couldn't believe my eyes to see her—" and once more he covered his face.

"You must forget what you saw."

"I shall never do that—it wouldn't be right, neither."

"Are you sure of that? She's behaved in a way that neither you nor I, nor probably herself, can understand. But she's sorry. She's asked you to forgive her."

"I don't see as how I can."

"What'll you do if you don't forgive her?"

Fred hadn't properly thought of that.

"If you send her home to her mother," continued Parish, "she'll take the children with her, and that'll be punishing you. If you want the children you'll probably have to go to law about it—get a separation or a divorce. Do you want to do that?"

"I dunno as I do."

"Well, if you don't, you'll have to let her take the children away from you, or you'll have to live in the house with her and the children—which will be most unpleasant if you don't forgive her."

Fred said nothing to this, and appeared for a while lost in thought. Parish filled up his glass.

"Go on—have another drink. This stuff's good for you."

Fred took a long pull, but still said nothing. The clock ticked on towards seven; an owl began to call outside a sad, falling note. Parish re-lit his pipe which had gone out during the discussion, and smoked silently. He would not say any more—Fred must be allowed to think.

After a few minutes he picked up his glass and drank again.

"If I forgive her," he said as he put it down, "she'll have to manage on my wages."

"That's only reasonable."

"I won't let her take in another lodger—not if she asks me on her knees."

"I shouldn't think she would. She'll have had enough of lodgers after this."

"But she won't like being six shillings down. And I don't know how she'll manage—she äun't a good manager."

"Perhaps you could earn a little more. I don't say now, but when summer comes you might do a bit of gardening in the evenings."

"I don't know who I'd do it for."

"There's all these new people settling around—at Winterland oast and the Gooseleys bungalows—people we don't want here, but who are going to be jolly useful to us all the same. They'll be glad of a little help now and then; and I think I could find something for you here at Cock Marling in the summer. You might easily make an extra twelve or fifteen shillings a week if you didn't mind working hard and late."

"I shouldn't mind if I was paid for it. It's uncommon kind of you, Sir, to think of me. I'd be glad to do a job at Cock Marling."

"I wish I could give you the job you really ought to be doing—make a ploughman of you again."

"I wish you could, Sir. But I've a feeling I'll never get back to the plough. That's done with. They'll never put those fields into corn again. Sometimes I think I'll be lucky if I keep any sort of job on the land."

"You must—it would be a crime for you, of all men, to be driven into the town. You're one of our few skilled men and a hereditary ploughman. You must hang on somehow, Fred. Maybe we've got to go down to the bottom of the hill, but we shan't stay there—we'll come up again."

"Maybe, Sir. But that's for them as can afford to wait. I can't. I've a wife and family to keep."

"You're not expecting to have to leave Float, are you?"

"Not exactly expecting it——"

"Then don't think of it. It won't happen."

"But I may have my wages brought down again. Mus' Vincent says he's paying more out on the farm than it's bringing in."

"He can't reduce your wages below thirty-one shillings—that's fixed round here."

"There's chaps as are taking less and saying nothing about it, just to keep their jobs."

"I bet they're not skilled men like you. Cheer up, Fred. I really think I can put you on to a bit more in the summer."

"I should be uncommon glad of that, Sir. I know there's many women around here manages on less than Ivy; but she can't do it—she äun't no manager. She's been in service, you understand."

"I quite understand; and I'll do my best so that she doesn't have to manage. I shall soon be glad of an extra part-time man. The whole of the Cock Marling land wants draining. Like most of the land round here it was drained fifty or sixty years ago when the farms were doing well, and it badly needs new drains now. I can't afford to do much, but I was thinking of laying a mole-drain. . . ."

The conversation was ending properly as it had begun. Sinden and Parish chatted about land-drains for nearly a quarter of an hour. Then Fred thought he heard a car drive up at the door—most likely someone to see the Squire . . . it was past seven o'clock, and he realized that he had been sitting with him over long. He mustn't take up any more of his time.

"Well, Sir, I should ought to get home."

He stood up and held out his hand, which Parish grasped warmly.

"I suppose you ought. But I'm sorry you've got to go; I've enjoyed our chat."

"So have I. And thank you for all you've said."

"I've said nothing. But I hope it'll be all right between you and Ivy."

"Maybe it will, Sir, now. Anyway, you see, she's asked to be forgiven, and that shows a proper spirit."

"Yes, it does. Go home to her, Fred; I expect she's crying her eyes out."

"Well, it won't do her any harm to be a little sorry."

Parish realized that Ivy had duly been tried at the bar of Fred's judgment, and sentenced in those last words. He did not think that he himself had said or done anything to influence him, beyond, perhaps, making his mercy swifter by giving him a drink. Fred would have forgiven Ivy sooner or later because there was really nothing else for him to do.

But he was glad that Sinden no longer saw his home in ruins, and that he was content for the sinner to be only a little sorry. . . .

"God bless you, Fred."

He opened the door, and as he did so both men exclaimed, for just outside in the passage, ghostly in her long coat of pale fur, stood Betsy Parish.

"Hullo! Where on earth do you come from? I'd no idea you were coming down."

"Nor had I till this morning. It's all right, isn't it?"

"Of course. But if you'd sent a wire I'd have kept Mrs. Holmes in. It's her night out and I'm dining with the Fullers."

"It doesn't matter. I don't want any dinner. All I want is to go to bed."

Her voice had something of the sad, hollow quality of a ghost's.

"This is Sinden, Betsy."

"Sorry, Fred. I didn't recognize you with your back to the light. How are you? How's Ivy?"

"Very well, thank you."

"Remember me to her, won't you? And will you please tell her that I've some washing for her, if she's able to do it for me. I'll bring it down to-morrow or the day after."

"Yes, Miss, I'll tell her. She'll be pleased to do it, for certain. Good night."

He left them there together, and slipped out.


So Betsy Parish was back, was she? That would be something to tell Ivy. She'd looked changed, somehow—older. He wondered why she'd come back all of a sudden like that. Mr. Parish hadn't looked any too pleased to see her. Most likely he didn't hold with her ways. Mr. Parish was a nice-feeling chap. It had done Fred good to have a crack with him, and his notions on draining were uncommon sensible. It would be a fine thing, too, to have some extra work in the summer. If he made ten or twelve shillings a week, then he could put some by for the winter months and there wouldn't need to be any talk with Ivy about taking another lodger, which would be one good thing.

If he stood at the corner here the 'bus would pass in a minute and take him as far as the top of Float Lane. He could tell by the new-risen moon that it was past seven o'clock. The moon had a ring round her—that meant more rain. And the rain was coming into the bedroom now—a bad business. He would have to look to-morrow and see what could be done; and anyway if the worst came to the worst they could move into the lodger's bedroom, which was plenty big enough for two. It was lucky getting rid of the lodger like that just in time. Miserable little tyke that he was—Fred wished he had given him more than one kick; he deserved kicking round a twenty-acre field. But it was too late to do anything about it now. Please God they'd never see his face again; he'd never dare show himself around Vinehall and Leasan after what had happened. Well, maybe, some of it was Fred's own fault, for keeping him as a lodger after he knew the sort of fellow he was. Maybe it hadn't been fair on Ivy. . . .

A shaft of light came burning between the hedges. The Vinehall to Leasan 'bus was like a torch, all lit up and blazing within, kindling the road before it for half a mile. Fred stepped out of the hedge-row and hailed it, and it stopped to pick him up. "Evenun', Mr. Sinden—evenun', Mr. Hornblower." He entered the shining palace of its interior, where there was no other passenger, and sat down on one of a wide choice of seats. He had exactly one penny in his pocket. The gears ground, changed, the engine roared, and the 'bus leaped forward into the darkness, a fiery chariot commanded by his penny to bear him home.



Betsy Parish's return caused a mild excitement in the neighbourhood of Leasan and Vinehall. She had been so long away that her coming back almost savoured of a new arrival. It was rumoured too that she looked ill—was ill. Certainly she did not seem to go about much. Her car was hardly ever on the roads. One or two people said they had seen her moping in the garden, and it was freely stated (though without any further evidence) that she had had an unhappy love affair. Well, that might be a good thing—it might cure her of some of her ways. Everyone knew that it was terrible the way she went on in London. . . . Mr. Gain of Eyelid, who had an aunt living in Leytonstone and therefore a claim to inside knowledge of the capital, asserted that she had been turned out of an hotel for getting drunk. Anyway, her return was doubtless part of the usual story—she was broke and had run away from her debts; she would stay down at Cock Marling till she'd scraped up some money, and then she would run away from another lot of debts. When she had dashed off like that in the summer of '25 she had owed quite three pounds in the district.

She was gossiped about in the drawing-rooms as well as in the pubs. Rose Alard hinted complete knowledge of her story, but evaded questioning. Mr. and Mrs. Fuller were surprised not to find her dining with her brother at the Hursts, and Mr. and Mrs. Williams were disappointed not to meet her at Mrs. Bateman's tea-party.

"It almost seems as if she was hiding from someone," said Mrs. Williams.

"She's hiding from all of us," said Rose. "She doesn't like to face us after what's happened."

"What's happened?" asked Mr. Williams.

Rose looked mysterious, and a little disapproving of his bluntness.

The occasion was a tea-party given by Mrs. George Alard to introduce the new Rector of Vinehall to a select circle. How Rose, emphatically proclaimed by herself as a lone widow, should have contrived social relations before anybody else with the newly-settled bachelor was a mystery, and likely to remain one. She even had the honourable pleasure of introducing him to his fellow-cleric at Leasan, each gentleman having been out when the other called. Besides the Williamses she had invited Miss de Pledge, an established spinster of Leasan, and two slightly younger women, Lorna and Carey Ashton, either of whom she thought would make him a good wife.

For of course he must not be allowed to remain a bachelor. It had been bad enough having Luce for twelve years unmarried amongst them; if this man did not marry it would establish a tradition and do a lot of harm. Certainly Mr. Brady had no religious reasons for not marrying—he was as Low Church as his predecessor had been High; nor could he have, thought Rose, any personal ones. He was aged between thirty and forty, strong, well-made and nice-looking, without being actually handsome. The living of Vinehall brought him in less than two hundred a year, but he was reported to have ample private means, and had given substance to the report by taking possession of the ancient Rectory, which Luce had always refused to live in, and turning it into a very comfortable sort of country house. Indeed, so eligible did he appear, that Rose began to wonder if he couldn't be made to wait a year or two for Edna or for Lilian—Edna would soon be old enough to marry; perhaps it would be a pity to waste him on either of the Miss Ashtons. . . . She was glad to see that their new winter hats were distinctly unbecoming.

The only thing against him was that he was an Irishman. Apparently the Society that had the presentation of the living had been unable to find any Englishman Low-Church enough to fulfil their requirements, so had drawn from the number of Protestant Irish clergy who had come to England after the proclamation of the Free State. Certainly a Protestant Irishman was better than a Catholic Irishman, but Rose would rather not have had an Irishman at all. You could not trust the Irish, she said. They were thriftless, shiftless, dirty, plausible, dishonest and indigent. It is true that Mr. Brady showed no signs of being any of these things; but then you could not trust the Irish—he might be all of them underneath.

He certainly was rather quiet and shy for an Irishman. You expected an Irishman to be full of brogue and blarney, keeping the company in a roar with his bedads and his begorras and his tales about Biddy O'Flanagan's cow . . . perhaps it was being a Protestant that made the difference. After all, Rose supposed, it would. And he certainly had a very slight, gentle brogue that pleasantly slowed his speech, though he never said bedad or begorra. The conversation, being firmly centred in Betsy Parish, did not give him much of an opportunity. He sat quietly listening and drinking his tea while stranger tongues demolished the unknown.

But the conversation must have interested him, for walking back to Vinehall with Mr. Williams—who, anxous for a little ministerial chat, had sent his wife home without him—he suddenly began:

"I believe I'm soon to meet the lady they were talking about at tea. At least her brother has invited me to luncheon at his house."

"You'll find Cock Marling a very pleasant place. It's the only really important house in the district now that the Alards are gone. I suppose you've heard all about the Alards—a sad story."

But Mr. Brady was not interested in the Alards. His deep, gentle voice persisted:

"After what I've heard I shall be interested to meet Miss Parish. But perhaps she will not appear."

"Oh, she's certain to appear, I should think, at luncheon in her own house. She hasn't gone out much, I understand, since her return. But you're sure to find her at home."

"It was only that from the conversation at tea I gathered that she was something in the nature of a fallen woman, and I thought perhaps the family——"

"My dear man! You mustn't think any such thing. Mrs. Alard's tongue sometimes runs away with her; but you mustn't infer . . . fallen woman, indeed! What a dreadful idea! Miss Parish is certainly a bit modern in some of her ways, but she is also unmistakably a lady."

"Then," said the new parson in a voice that was suddenly loud and fierce, "they spoke very wickedly, to speak of her as they did. They had no business to speak in that way of a virtuous woman."

"Oh, I don't say she's exactly that. . . ."

"She must be one or the other."

Mr. Williams coughed and said nothing. This innocent clergyman from the Irish wilds made him appear sophisticated by contrast and Vinehall metropolitan.

"It was wrong," continued the other, "very wrong to say such things if they are not true. I thought possibly they were speaking from a good motive and meant to warn me. But to tear a young woman's character to pieces like that—it was abominable, and if it happens again I shall speak out—I shall tell them what I think of such wicked slander."

A backwoodsman indeed.


Jim Parish was both sorry and glad to have his sister at home. He was sorry because her whole conduct and attitude towards life had always been a challenge to his. She held his gods in contempt, she outraged his conventions. On the other hand, her return was a testimony to Cock Marling's power over her. Though she had not fulfilled his threat and come back in a year, she had come back at last. She could not keep away. She was irresistibly drawn to what she pretended to despise. The place would get her in the end.

Moreover, he was glad to have her with him, for it was dreary living in that rambling house alone, among the echoes and memories of the family that should have been there and was not. Vernon spent his school holidays mostly with his mother in London, and Ronald had found a job—he was now a traveller in silk stockings, and clad in a hyperbole of plus fours drove about the country, calling at lonely farmhouses to tempt farmers' wives with the shining produce of a Leicestershire mill.

It was good to have someone in the house, a woman too, who would play hostess to his guests, though she gave him a free hand in their entertainment. She would be hostess, while he remained housekeeper, which was what he wanted; and if occasionally she derided both the guests and the housekeeping, he would regard that only as the price he paid for a convenient and unusual arrangement.

The first entertainment of 1929, which Betsy was to preside at and he to organize, was the luncheon to which he had invited Mr. Brady. He was aware that it need have been only a very simple occasion—he need perhaps have invited no more than the new Rector himself. But Parish disliked parsons, that is to say, modern ones, and required a bodyguard both for offence and defence. For the attacking troops he had engaged Mr. and Mrs. Williams, whom he also disliked, but for whom he had the tolerance of custom. They would do most of the talking to Mr. Brady, and entertain him with the sort of stuff he liked. For his protection he had invited Jenny Godfrey and her husband. It is true that Godfrey seldom spoke on such occasions, being a little out of his element, but he would give Parish the invisible support of his five hundred acres, the consciousness of Four-houses piled on Cock Marling as a tower of defence. And Jenny, bless her, was, in spite of her treachery to it, still a citizen of his world, speaking his language.

The menu, he reflected, need cause him no special anxiety. Mrs. Holmes could be allowed to send in the meal which was by now almost a reflex reaction to his announcement of company for lunch. It is true that the Williamses had already eaten many times her entrée of eggs and cheese, her roast chicken, and her trifle, but as such dishes were almost unknown in the straits of their own living, they would cheerfully eat them many times more. The same applied to the Godfreys, whose coarse, scrambling meals were dictated not so much by economy as by custom and the need always to feed one or two farmhands at their table. As for wine, he certainly would not serve anything choice until he had made sure his chief guest was worthy of it.

His hopes were small, and when the time came they were extinguished.

"Water, please," said Mr. Brady firmly.

Parish glanced down the table in the hope that Betsy had put on her richest carmine for his outrage. But of late she had not troubled much about make-up, and today her face was pale and her large mouth only faintly pink. It might be the pallor and pink of art, but that fool would never know.

The conversation followed his plan pretty accurately at first. Mr. Brady was on Betsy's right hand, with Mrs. Williams beyond him, and Mr. Williams sat on her left, so that she was sucked into the clerical element, or rather floated on it like some alien substance on the surface of a pond. Jim had the two Godfreys on either side of him and talked about what he liked.

"Are you smitten with the new hope, Godfrey? the hope which is to make the wilderness of Vinehall and Leasan to blossom and the farmers of the Tillingham valley to turn their overdrafts into super-tax?"

"No, I haven't heard of any such hope."

He spoke gruffly, for he was always on his guard with Parish, and could not really understand his talk.

"What is it?" asked Jenny.

"Change the last letter and you have the answer—hops."

"The man who puts his hope in hops," said Godfrey, "deserves what he's likely to get."

"I'm glad to hear you say that, for I agree with you. I've been arguing with Chivers, my tenant at Pickdick, most of this morning, and yesterday I was arguing with his neighbour at Billingham. They're both convinced that this is going to be a record year for hops. They tell me that the whole neighbourhood thinks the same. Generally we keep ourselves to ourselves down here, but this year we seem to have come together and decided that what we want is hops and hops and hops."

"Last year I grubbed up ten acres of mine."

"The grubbing up of hops has been an annual custom until now, but this year apparently we are to plant them."

"I can't see that this is the time for it."

"Well, the idea is that prices are going up. There's a duty on foreign hops, there's a government marketing board, and we have also discovered that hops can be used for dyeing other things besides drink."

"But that's well known."

"Not by some of your neighbours, Godfrey. It has just burst upon them in the light of a new revelation. I tell you there's a sort of wave going through the district, a kind of mob suggestion—the stampede of a herd of farmers maddened by a new idea."

"Hops are scarcely a new idea."

"No, but the idea that they may make money is."

"Perhaps it's due to Hobday and Hitch," said Jenny; "their fields at Perrymans and in the Rother valley have done extremely well, I believe, for the last two years."

"Yes, but look at them, my child. They're grown and they're dried by entirely new processes. Hobday and Hitch are building new kilns, with scientifically bellowsed furnaces and all sorts of up-to-date appliances—no more of old Crouch crawling round like a stunted devil, blowing up a charcoal fire with the draught of a wooden shutter, and spoiling one bushel in every five."

"Well, you don't expect the local farmers to build new, up-to-date oasts, do you?"

"No, I don't, so I don't expect their hops to make money. Farming is like most other industries in England, failing for want of modern equipment."

"It's the price of labour makes the trouble nowadays," said Godfrey.

"There you speak as a farmer and as a farmer I agree with you. But when I think of these things as an ordinary human being it seems to me that it wants some nerve to ask another human being to live on less than thirty-one shillings a week."

"If they would take less, we could employ more of them."

"And get back to Jim's Golden Age, when the peasantry starved on three shillings a week."

"Jenny, you don't know what you're talking about. The peasantry starved in the nineteenth, not in the eighteenth, century, and the farmers starved with them. When the farmer flourishes the farm-labourer flourishes too. The fact that he's not starving now is due to the fact that there are so many other trades to absorb him. He's not starving because he's not here—he's gone. No one stops in the country nowadays except for love. If a countryman loves the country, as some of them do round here, he'll stay in it and face the consequences, not otherwise. Even our farmers are farming for love—all those who were farming for money have cleared out long ago. We're a land of lovers. I run this place for love—it doesn't bring me in a penny; on the contrary, it costs me about five hundred a year out of my private income. If I hadn't got private means I couldn't stop here another month, any more than Mr. Brady could stop at Vinehall."

"I beg your pardon; were you speaking to me?"

"I was merely impressing on Mr. and Mrs. Godfrey that this is a land of lovers, and that the Squire and the farmer must make up their minds to be like the parson and do their work for love."

"Surely the best work is always done for love."

"Not by farmers. I don't know about the clergy, but if you see a farm that's run for love and compare it with one that's run for money—if such can still be found, you will notice the difference. Besides, when I said we were a land of lovers I was only saying in English what most people would say in French. Most people would say we were a land of amateurs."

"If you suggest that the clergy are amateurs," said Mr. Williams, "all I can say is Thank God."

"I wasn't speaking specially of the clergy, but of the country as a whole. As a people we are amateurs, and if our clergy alone were professional we should be driven into righteousness before we could help ourselves, so I join with you, sir, in saying Thank God."

"Jim," said Betsy sharply, "I think you're being outrageous."

Mr. Brady's large grey eyes stared at him in luminous gravity.

"A professional clergy," he said, "has been the curse of Ireland, and far from driving the country into righteousness I hold that the Catholic priesthood is responsible for its present state of moral degeneracy."

"You must find the people here very different from your people in Ireland," said Mrs. Williams brightly, feeling that the conversation was getting too ecclesiastical and controversial for the luncheon table.

"There used to be many more gentry in my congregation at Clonmara. I had the Roskills and the Herberts and the Tynans—the Protestant Tynans, of course. Here there seem to be no great families."

"I don't think there are," said Parish, "now that the Alards have gone. But of course the Alards never went to church at Vinehall—except Gervase; he was Luce's white-headed boy for a number of years. No, I'm afraid the only gentry belonging to Vinehall are what you see before you."

"And you never come to church."

There was a moment's silence, in which the Williamses could be heard to gasp.

"Oh yes, I do, sometimes. But Sunday's my busy day—George Bates and I are both extremely busy on Sundays, owing to all the other men being in bed or standing round the village pump. Betsy does nothing—Betsy will have to go. You can go now, Betsy, for Mr. Brady has made Vinehall church safe for devout members of the Church of England like yourself. Tell me, Mr. Brady; how did you manage with Luce's leavings? Last time I went inside the place it was full of idols. What have you done with them all?"

"Most of the things belonged to Mr. Luce himself, and I've sent them to him at his request. The church looks very different now."

"And has your congregation noticed the difference?"

"Indeed it has. Many people have come to me and expressed their pleasure at being able to worship in their parish church again."

"And what about those who liked Luce's ways? Have they expressed anything?"

"I don't think so. There were not many of them, and a number of them left when Mr. Luce did."

"My impression—you and Mr. Williams must correct me—is that only about a third of the people go to church, in any parish, and therefore if you drive the whole of your congregation out by your goings-on and what not, there's still two-thirds of the population left to draw from."

"I should put down a third as a very rosy estimate," said Mr. Williams, "unless you count in the people who go to chapel. I believe you have a large number of Nonconformists in your parish, Mr. Brady. One usually finds that where the church is or has been extreme."

"Yes, I have a large number. But I get on with them very well now that they know I preach the Gospel."

"Oh, of course; I make a point of getting on with my Nonconformist neighbours—excellent men. I even have a family of Roman Catholics in my parish and we are very good friends."

"But I suppose you go and reason with them."

"Oh, no—oh, dear me, no."

Mr. Brady looked surprised and a little alarmed.

"But if you do nothing, aren't you afraid that the poison may spread?—they may corrupt others. My experience is that a Catholic is like a rotten apple in your loft—it's only a question of time before the rot is everywhere."

Here Mrs. Williams again plunged desperately into the conversation.

"Talking of apples, have you ever noticed . . ."


When his guests were gone, Parish turned to his sister.

"Well, Betsy my dear, that's over. What do you think of him?"

"The point is rather what I think of you."

"I didn't know you ever thought of me. What do you think?"

"I think that you were often silly and sometimes rude."

"How kind you are! How kind to say 'often' when you mean 'always.' But I deny that I was rude."

"You were perpetually trying to make a fool of him, which most people would call rude."

"I did not try to make a fool of him; there was no need for any effort on my part."

"He talked quite sensibly when you were busy with the Godfreys at your end of the table. It was only when you began bewildering him with your attempts at humour that he said some things that some people might think silly."

"Some people, but not you?"

"No. If anyone's lucky enough to believe anything I can't see that it's silly to believe it very strongly. I thought old Williams was much sillier with his dreadful, official broadmindedness. At least Brady's honest."

"Betsy, I believe you like him."

"Why shouldn't I like him? He's a real person, which is more than most of our neighbours are."

"But you didn't like Luce, and Luce was just as real, just as bigoted, as Brady."

"Brady's not a bit like Luce."

"I agree. He's much bigger and better-looking. Bigger and Better Brady—broad-shouldered if not broadminded."

"Don't be an ass, Jim. Can't you see that he's alive?"

"I wish he wasn't—at least, not in these parts."

"What do you mean? He hasn't done you any harm—you don't care what happens to the church."

"No, but I care what happens to you. I always looked upon you as an intelligent, if unsympathetic, woman, and I'm surprised to see you fall for a stupid man who's no more 'real' or 'alive' than any other stupid man you've met."

"I haven't fallen for him."

"Then why do you insist on regarding him as Titania regarded Bottom? Can't you see that he's only a poor clown with an ass's head?"

"It's you who have the ass's head. You think of nothing but thistles."

"My dear Betsy, what has bewitched you?"


Float Farm had a share in that new hope which had spread so suddenly and surprisingly down the Tillingham valley. Certainly it was going to be a good year for hops, and the farmers would be fools if they left all the profits to Messrs. Hobday and Hitch. Doubtless the success of those mighty men at Perryman's and in the Rother valley was in part responsible for the mounting tide of optimism. Fabulous rumours circulated as to their profits, and at the same time a profound contempt was entertained for their scientific improvements and devices. If Hobday and Hitch had done so well with that ugly, useless contraptious kiln, how much better must fare the honest farmer with his honest oast.

Float grew some fourteen acres of hops, which Mr. Vincent, for the first time in his experience, wished were more. He was now in a state when he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. If this year was only no worse than the last he would be bankrupt. If he gambled he stood to lose no more than he would lose anyhow, and he stood to win at least a year's respite for himself and his farm. So, greatly daring, he did the almost unprecedented thing of planting another six acres. They had been a hop-field not so very long ago; the position was sheltered and the soil was good. He planted fuggles and saw them make a promising start.

Fred Sinden was glad to have the work of the hop-fields to do. It was nearer to his old job than any other. Not that pushing his little hand plough up and down the rows could be compared to the furrows he had dug behind Flossie and Soldier across the Hundred or the Red; but at least it was skilled work, the kind of work his father had done and he had been bred up to do. He was used to hops, and now the corn was gone they were his only comfort. He set up the hop-poles, too, and spent days in spreading the cat's cradle that was to be a trellis for the vines. He knew that Messrs. Hobday and Hitch had a permanent system of poles and wires which did not have to come down and be put up again every year, and he did not share Mr. Vincent's derision of such a scheme. On the whole, the farmhands of the district, especially the young ones, were more advanced in their agricultural notions than the farmers. But then, of course, they did not have to pay for improvements.

Ivy would have liked to help with the tying—she would have been glad of the extra bit of money it brought in. But it was skilled work, and she had never troubled to learn it, though she had had many opportunities; for her mother was an experienced and capable tier, and visited many farms every spring. Now Ivy felt sorry when she saw the cart come up with the women in it, and wished she had not been too lazy and new-fangled to learn an accomplishment which would be useful to her now.

But she could help with the picking. That was a thing anyone could do, and she had done it every year except when she was in service. The children would help too—even little Doris would be big enough to pick her share. They would spend long, happy days in the hop-fields, in the steaming, scented sunshine; grouped in bright colours round the bins whence would rise friendly talk and joking and laughter. Most of the houses in Vinehall and Leasan would be shut up, because the families would be out in the fields. The schools would be closed too, to release the children for the labour which was holiday. Their parents would take the kettle down to the hop-field and boil it under the hedge, and they would all picnic together in the sweet, dry, shortening days. In that merry company Ivy would forget the burden of the child she carried, even though it would be drawing near its time. Sometimes she wondered dreamily why her babies always came in the winter. The bare branches of the trees outside her window had become a part of the pattern of childbirth in her mind.


No year could have been better for hops than 1929. Early frosts had cleaned the ground—there was a remarkable absence of pests. Rain fell at the right time, and then scarcely fell again. During the three summer months a drought lightened and crumbled the soil. All crops were good and farmers who had turned their cornlands into grass felt almost regretful. The hop-harvest came early and was gathered in almost perfect weather.

So heavy was it that oasts which had long been out of action had their fires lit again. The oast at Starvecrow, which had not been used since Peter Alard's death, was hired by Mr. Elphick of Eggs Hole as supplementary to his own; and neglected oasts at Ethnam, Newhouse, Sempsted and Doucegrove were requisitioned for overflowing crops. Soon there was scarcely an oast in the district which was not breathing out perfume. One by one the blue pennons of the newly-lit fires streamed from the cowls, and the air at dusk became full of a troubling sweetness—scents that came and went on imperceptible breezes, that lurked in hollows with the mist, that crept into cottage rooms at dawn and sweetened the stagnant breath of pools at night.

The Crouches were jubilant. It was long since they had had such a year. After a spring of busy tying, Mrs. Crouch was now booked to pick at Ethnam and at Float, where the harvests were in accommodating succession. As for her husband, he had had to refuse one or two jobs that could not be fitted in. His activities as a hop-dryer had been dwindling steadily during the past few years, till they had almost reached the receding point of his activities as a charcoal-burner; and though, while these trades went down others were coming up—his trades of chimney-sweep and water-diviner, for instance, which made him much in request by the new inhabitants of the bungalows and metamorphosed farms—none had the same merit of taking him for long periods from home. So it was with a thankful heart and a cheerful countenance that Mrs. Crouch waved him farewell as he set off with his tins and his teapot and his lanthorn and his gun for Sempsted oast, and he on his side was moved to shout "Cheer-oh, old girl. See you again Christmas." It was long since they had had such amiable exchanges.

Most of the pickers were local. Only a few of the bigger farms—Jordans or Eyelid or Stonelink—encouraged foreigners from Hastings or "cart people." Ivy picked at Float, of course, with her mother and her sister-in-law and a set of friends and acquaintances from the village. The place swarmed with children, crowding round the bins to earn their threepennies or playing in the alley-ways, in the shadow of the unpicked hops that hung like bunches of grapes from the trellises. The sunshine would grow thick with the dust and fume of the hops, and towards evening everyone would begin to feel drowsy, and sometimes one or two would nod over the bins, or even fall asleep and dream—a quick, fleeting little dream like a breeze running down the alleys. The cold would wake them, as damps rose from the brook and the ponds and autumn proclaimed itself in a twilight chill. They would stand up, yawn and sigh and laugh a little, and give in their accounts to the tallyman, and wander home rather slowly, thinking how good supper and bedtime would be.


Fred enjoyed the hop-picking less than his wife. He had no special love for gossiping with his neighbours and he did not like to see the farm so overrun. Sometimes the children strayed, and broke down hedges or scared stock, and everywhere you would find the litter of meals, paper and tin cans and bits of rubbish, making the place look ordinary. How was it, he wondered, that all the village wanted to pick hops and would come and do it even if you offered no more than twopence a bushel? while if you ever wanted a woman or two in spring to terrify the thistles, not one would come except at a fancy price.

Another drawback to hop-picking was the gipsies. They came in numbers, and camped on those farms that would employ them. There was a whole field of them at Jordan's. In the evenings they would come up to the George at Vinehall and the Queen's Head at Leasan, spoiling those places for decent men. Not that Fred went much to the pub these days. All that summer he had been working up till the last of the light, at Cock Marling for Mr. Parish, at Ellenwhorne Oast, where they were making a tennis lawn, and occasionally at one of the Gooseleys bungalows—Rookery Nook it was called to Fred's secret bewilderment. Then when he came home after work he liked to sit with Ivy. They were good friends now, and never so much as thought of Bob Collins and all the trouble he had brought them. The house was in better heart, too. He had mended the roof himself, and anyway the weather never came into the place in summer.

So he generally sat at home in the evenings after his work, but now and then he liked to go up to the Queen's Head just to hear the news; and the gipsies spoilt it, because no one could talk freely before them. It was all mumbling over your beer, while they leaned against the bar and drank their whiskies. The money jingling in their pockets was an outrage on honest men.

One evening a young gipsy came into the bar, looking uncommon pleased with himself. He was working at Eyelid and most of the company knew him by sight.

"Good evening, gents," he said, looking round him, proud and careless as a lord.

There were unwilling mumbles of "evenun."

"Your very good health, gents," said the gipsy. "Won't you join me? I've had a piece of luck. I've sold a horse for twice as much as I gave for him."

"Twice nothing äun't much," muttered Brotheridge to Fred.

"Well, since you're so kind. . . ."

Everyone looked round to see who had spoken. It was Young, who used to be cowman at Dinglesden, and had been out of work, except for occasional jobs, ever since the farm was sold. He had been hop-picking with everyone else, but all the money he earned was owed for rent and to the shop, so he had nothing over for a drink. Now and then he came up to the Queen's Head just for half a pint, or perhaps in hope somebody would treat him. To-day somebody had.

"Fine," said the gipsy. "What'll you take?"

"Same as yours," said Young.

"And you other gents, what'll you have?"

There was a moment's pause, then Masters said:

"Thank you, but I must be getting home."

He stood up and moved towards the door.

"Whatever's this, Mr. Masters?" cried Mrs. Allwork; "this isn't your usual time. You're never going now! Nor you, Mr. Brotheridge."

They mumbled something unintelligible as they went out.

"I think I'd better be getting off," said Mr. Pannell, the woodcutter. "My Missus'ull want to go to bed early after the picking."

"Same with mine," said Boorman, from Doucegrove Farm. "I'd better be off. Thank you all the same," he added as he passed the gipsy.

Fred thought he might as well go with the rest, and they left the gipsy alone with Young, who was poor and thirsty, and with Ashdown, who was a kind-hearted man.


The Sindens were not church-goers. Float Cottage was nearly three miles from Leasan Church, and to be there by half-past ten in their best clothes and skins would involve an early rising which both considered out of place on Sunday. For the evening they had the complementary excuse that the children ought to be in bed and could not be left alone. And anyway, morning and evening, three miles was three miles—six miles, in fact, by the time you had got home again.

But there was always an exception made for the Harvest Thanksgiving. On Harvest Sunday nearly everyone went to church, including the Sindens. Even the chapel-goers went; any resentment which might have been roused in their Ministers' breasts being appeased by the thought that when the chapel thanksgiving came the church-goers would come to chapel. Dogmatic barriers in Leasan were not high, and attendance at any place of worship was governed by personal and territorial rather than theological considerations.

That September evening, as Fred set out, dressed in his careful, outgrown best, and carrying little Doris in his arms, while Ivy led young Norman, the bells came ringing down from Leasan on an easterly breeze. Often those bells were Float's only Sunday, stealing to Fred as he leaned on the gate by the pond at Dodyland shaw, and troubling his head with queer thoughts that were half religious and half quite different; they even reached Ivy as she washed up the tea things and made her feel it would be very nice to go to church if she had the time. It was nice to be walking towards them this evening, up the hill to the Leasan road where the sunshine still lingered though it had left the valley. At the top of the lane they had to wait only a very few minutes before Mr. Pannell's lorry came along to take them the rest of the way. Like them, he always went to church on Harvest Sunday, and he always gave them a lift. They could hardly have managed without him.

The evening air was chill, and Ivy had quite a struggle to keep Doris wrapped up. The little thing was always trying to look out and see about her. Inside the church it was warm enough—warm with the comfortable, substantial warmth of oil lamps and human bodies. The last of the sunlight was there too, pouring through the west window like a heavenly limelight, a great golden shaft lighting up the stage of the chancel set with cabbages and lettuces and marrows and runner beans and piles of apples and trails of hops. There seemed more hops than ever that year, as if grateful farmers had been specially generous in memorials of their harvest. The hops trailed over the chancel screen, and wreathed the great, squat pillars of the aisle. Their scent triumphed over the smell of the lamp-oil—they were an incense smoking before the Lord of the Harvest.

Fred felt pleased to be worshipping among so much friendly growth and fruitfulness. The hops, the green-stuff and the apples made him feel good, though something that was almost pain smote his heart as he looked at the two little sheaves of corn on the altar.

It was all according to custom—the harvest hymns: "Come ye faithful people, come, Raise the song of harvest home," "We plough the fields and scatter The good seed on the land" (alas! many of us no longer do that), "To thee O lord our hearts we raise," and other old favourites. There was the harvest psalm about the valleys laughing and singing, and there was the special thanksgiving "For a Bountiful Harvest," and Mr. Williams' sermon, which he preached twice every Harvest Sunday but did his best every time to make sound new. This year he could be more eloquent than usual on the special bounty of the earth. The weather had been excellent, conditions ideal, the harvest plentiful, especially in the hop-fields. Perhaps there was hope for the hop growers again. For many years they had been sacrificed to foreign interests, but now it looked as if the tide was turning . . . a few sentences later the sun was rising, and soon the daystar had appeared. Then the ethical application was made, and the congregation were on their feet again, stretching their cramped legs and filling their lungs:

"All good gifts around us
   Are sent from heaven above.
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
   For all His love."

After such a thanksgiving it was a pity and a disillusion to find out, as they found out later, that as a part of the queer new twist and change of the times the last thing they had cause to thank the Lord for was a bountiful harvest. When the harvest is good there is a glut and prices drop to nothing. When the harvest is bad at least a few lucky ones may make a fortune; but when it is good nobody makes anything at all. While tons of coffee beans were being thrown away as useless in Brazil and the Middle West farmers were burning wheat instead of tares, the bountiful hop harvest of the Tillingham Valley was rotting in the London warehouses. The district had produced nearly fifty per cent. more hops than could be sold at the prices the government marketing board was asking. It seemed a mistake to pray and a farce to give thanks for such a thing.


Before this was fully known, and before Float Farm realized that it must be destroyed by the abundance for which it had hoped, Fred Sinden's youngest son was born. Once more Ivy saw those dark bare boughs in restless design against a moving sky. Under the bark she could see the swelling of the black ash buds, for winter seldom struck or nipped the valley of the Tillingham, and every year when the old leaves fell the buds of the new leaves would show on the bough, while primroses hid a secret yellow in the woods and the catkins hung like rain upon the hedges.

The baby's head upon her arm was like a black ash bud. Every now and then she looked at it tenderly. She seemed to love each one of her children better than the last; and this child was specially dear as the flower of the second spring of her love for Fred. Lying there in the great bed spread as a field about her, watching the bare ash boughs, their brief estrangement seemed to her like a dream. Her unfaithfulness was a dream—it had never happened. How could she have lain in any man's arms but Fred's? Bob Collins's arms were not real; she had lain with a ghost.

She thought of him, though, sometimes, as one would think of a figure in a dream; and sometimes she heard gossip about him and once she had even seen him. She had heard that he was one of the Yellow Boys—a gang of youths in highly-coloured pullovers, who, roving in from the surrounding villages, would collect outside the Picture House at Rye. Rumour said that in winter they took girls down to jury's Gap, to the deserted bungalows; in summer they took them into the woods. On the only occasion during the past year that Ivy had been into Rye she had seen Bob Collins standing in the High Street, and he had seen her too, and smiled at her with a full white grin of surpassing splendour. She knew then that he had forgiven her. He had got what he wanted and had suffered so much to obtain—his wonderful new teeth; and now she too perhaps was only a creature in a dream.

She lay so much alone there with the baby that sometimes she would almost seem a dream to herself. Rafters sagging low over her head felt more real than she did. Perhaps nothing was real except solid things like false teeth and Float Cottage. After all, your soul was the chief part of you—at least so she had been taught—and what was a soul but a ghost? A ghost was somebody dead, and when you were dead you were a soul, so a soul and a ghost must be the same thing. There she lay with a ghost inside her, herself already dead. One day her soul would wander out beyond those ash trees. She seemed to find herself beyond them now, naked and homeless, crying to come back. Her soul was like a bird, crying in the ash tree. Oh surely there is something more than this—somebody should have told me . . . I can't get back, and my baby's there. I can see its head on the pillow.

"Oh. . . ." She was looking up into Fred's eyes. He was leaning over her and his breath was on her face, warm and comforting.

"Poor girl! had a bad dream?"

"I didn't know I was asleep. I thought I was dead."

"But you äun't dead. You're doing uncommon well. Nurse told me."

She gave a deep sigh of relief and closed her eyes. She could still feel and smell him as he leaned over her, and she was reminded of her wedding night when he had leaned over her in the darkness, and she had known he was there, because, though she could not see him, she could feel the warmth coming from him and the good smell of his skin.

She opened her eyes.

"Kiss little Clarence."

"I'll kiss you first."

He kissed them both as they lay there, his heart full of a strange mixture of fear and thankfulness. He was thankful for her safety and he was thankful for the child, but he had anxieties which at present she must not share. He knew that things were not going well with Mr. Vincent and Float Farm, that trouble might come of that bountiful harvest, and yet here he was increasing his stakes just when it looked as if the game must go against him.

It shouldn't ought to be, he told himself. A working man with three children had no business to feel afraid and awkward before the world. It shouldn't ought to be. Yet so it was. Times were changing, and a fruitful marriage and a fruitful field were no longer the good things they were once. Something was wrong, he felt, when blessings were changed like this into curses.



          By Order of the Mortgagees


         Will offer for sale by Auction
      on Wednesday, April 16th, at 11 a.m.
         the Freehold Property known as
               FLOAT FARM, LEASAN.

                  Consisting of

192 acres of grass and arable land, with valuable
road frontages, together with dwelling-house
containing five bedrooms and two reception
rooms, kitchen and offices, also cottage, cow lodge,
cart lodge, barn and oast.

           The Land is in Good Heart


Float's bill of sale, affixed throughout the district to walls and hoardings, and displayed on the front page of the Sussex Mercury, had varying effects on those principally concerned. Mr. Vincent's chief emotion was, paradoxically, one of relief. The struggle was ended. He had lost; but he need not fight any longer, see himself being driven back inch by inch, feel himself shaken to and fro between hope and disappointment, each of which had come by this time to be as painful as the other. The worst had happened, so he need no longer dread it—wake in a sweat for fear of it and then lie racking his poor head for means of escape. He need no longer drive himself or his men to do more than a day's work in a day, and he need no longer urge his wife to contrivances and economies that were bad for her and the children. He had thrown in his hand and he did not even feel ashamed. He was too tired, and a positive state even in ruin, was too great a relief after years of restless uncertainty for him to feel any other emotion than a kind of empty quiet, in which rested not only his body and his mind, but his whole character, all he had of honour and kindliness. It was some time before he could even feel sorry for his men.

They certainly had no experience of relief. Not only had their struggle been lighter, so that they still felt able to go on with it and thought that he might too, but the gulf of the future yawned more pitilessly and closely to their feet. Their employer's ruin was relative rather than absolute. The price of land, especially land with a good road frontage and therefore possibilities of development, had not yet sunk so low that the selling price would fail to cover the mortgagees' demands. There would probably be a bit over for Mr. Vincent to go on with. He would manage something—farmers always did. He would go into partnership with somebody, like Mr. Cooper, or start again somewhere else as a tenant-farmer—landlords were so anxious to find tenants nowadays that they did not mind a man having failed with his own place.

But what about them? They lost their jobs and it was unlikely that they would find others. Float might be bought by gentry and the land become mere grazing. Or it might be bought by a farmer who would work the place with a partner or a pupil or with his own sons. That was the only way to make farming pay nowadays, people said; manage without hired labour. There was not one single farm in all the place around that had a vacancy now for a hired man of any kind. Either they would have to go right away somewhere else to find work, or they would have to find some other sort of work here.

It was true, of course, that none of this might happen; Float might merely change hands and go on as before. But such a thing was most unlikely according to recent experience; they had no reason to expect a better fate than had befallen their fellows at Gooseleys and at Ellenwhorne and at Winterland and at Dinglesden. Besides, whichever way you looked at it the future was uncertain. Mr. Vincent had peace because his failure had brought him the relief of certainty, but his men, on the contrary, were brought by it out of an accustomed routine into a waste land of mapless wandering.

Masters, as was inevitable, considered himself the worse used.

"What's to become of me? I've got eight children to provide for. There ought to be something done for men with more than four children."

"Well, anyway you've got your cottage. Mine's up for sale with the farm."

"I pay four shillings a week rent and I shan't be able to find that when I'm out of a job."

"Mr. Waters 'ull wait for his money."

"Not he! leastways, not more than a week or two. He'll chuck me out, and I'll never find another place. Nobody 'ull look at a man with eight children. You'll be all right with only three."

"I'll be all right if I can find somewhere to go at a rent I can afford to pay. But I don't expect to do that easy."

"No, we'll both soon be homeless, I reckon—under the hedge or in the workhouse. But it'll be worse for me than it'll be for you. You're a lucky man with only three children."

"Three's bad enough when the eldest is five. Your Stanley brings you in fifteen shillings a week from Mr. Hurst, and soon your girls 'ull be old enough to go out and earn a bit. But it'll be eight or nine years at least before one of my poor little lot earns anything."

"Your Missus 'ull be able to go out houseworking. She's been in smart service, and they say some of those new folk 'ull pay a woman a pound a week for cleaning their houses."

"Ivy could never leave the children. They're too small."

"But there's only three of 'em. My Missus could never go out, if you like. She's got 'em at all ages."

It seemed undignified to Fred to go on arguing like this about their comparative misfortunes. He turned away from Masters and plodded off homewards, also turning away his mind, and comforting himself with the thought that had already comforted him many times since Messrs. Carter, Winch and Seal's poster had first put it into his head. For the auctioneers had proclaimed in print for all the world to see: "The Land is in Good Heart."


He and Ivy often talked things over together and wondered what they should do. Of course they knew that Fred must find another job, but that was about as much to start on as if they'd known he must go to Australia. The question was which was the best way to set about it. Fred did not like to begin looking round before Float was sold—it would be barely decent, and besides, suppose the new man decided to let things go on as before . . . he'd be properly had if that happened. On the other hand, it would never do to let any chance slip or miss any good advice his friends might have to give him.

He duly canvassed the matter at the Queen's Head—to his inevitable confusion. Some were for having him go into the building trade. There were one or two quite good jobs about. Messrs. Snashall kept a permanent staff of six men, in addition to which they "took on" others according to the work they had to do. At present they were building council houses at Vinehall, a bungalow at Gooseleys and another on a piece of land that had been snipped off Starvecrow. In the future they would probably have still more work, as farm after farm went up for sale or sold off bits of itself as "eligible building sites." The trouble was that Fred, unlike so many of his fellow workers, had no real knowledge of bricklaying. He could dig, because he was strong, but he could do little else, because, skilled in one job, he had not troubled about skill in another. And as builder's labourer it was well known that sometimes you were paid as little as eightpence an hour and were liable to be turned off as soon as your part of the work was done.

Others suggested going "on road-work." If you were able to get a job on the permanent staff of the County Council, you did well. The pay was good and the work was regular. But it was most unlikely that a man who up till now had been doing something quite different could find anything better than a temporary job, and there was not even a good chance of that at present. The Council had just stood off nearly fifty men, having—so rumour insisted—spent all its money in cutting off the wrong corner of Snailham hill, and very little work would be done on the roads before next year.

Building and the roads were the main hopes of those labouring men for whom the farms no longer had any use, but who wished perversely to remain on the land that refused to nourish them. Alternatively there was the chance of getting a job with one of the strangers—that stream of retired townsfolk that was beginning to dribble through the broken defences of the countryside. It was one of the many contradictions of the times that while the land was being drained of its native population it should also be more thickly inhabited than ever before. And a good thing too, they said at the Queen's Head. Nobody liked strangers, but at least they spent money and gave employment. It would have been terrible if things had gone in Leasan and Vinehall the way they had gone in some of the Shires, if the empty farms had stayed for ever uninhabited and the empty land gone derelict and all the village shopkeepers and innkeepers gone bankrupt for want of custom. At least things weren't so bad as that. Land that no longer grew corn could grow bricks and mortar, and the buyers of bricks and mortar required an army of handymen—gardeners and motor-drivers and carpenters and wood-cutters and coal carriers and water-diviners and well-cleaners and hedge-trimmers, besides milk and bread and eggs and chickens and fruit and all sorts of stuff that brought good to others as well as to themselves.

Fred might find a job with one of these invaders, though at present no one knew of anything definite that was going; and if he did, then probably he would be paid more than Mr. Vincent had ever paid him. But he did not like the idea. He had never done any gardening beyond that required by his own little patch, and he knew nothing about motor-cars. It was all very well for those chaps to talk; they were jacks of all trades and masters of none. He was master of a trade which no one wanted any more.


It struck him, having exhausted the counsel of the Queen's Head, that Mr. Parish might be able to help him. If he could not give him anything himself, he would know of something, and he would understand Fred's wish to stay where he was and do the sort of work he was accustomed to. Fred had thought very highly of Mr. Parish ever since that terrible night of his quarrel with Ivy. He had shown himself a sensible and good-feeling sort of man. Of course there were some that said he was queer, and even less good at his job than the Alards had been, but he was comfortable to talk to and, in Fred's opinion, knew what he was talking about.

So one evening he walked up to Cock Marling and asked to see the Squire. He was shown into the office, where maps and schedules and plans and bills littered the floor, and the bursting leather of the armchairs.

"Hullo, Fred!" said Parish, who was stooping over the safe to which he was attached by a key on his watch chain. "Clear a place for yourself and sit down. I'll be ready in a minute. I've been having a row with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who insist that I must pay tithe on my pond. They say corn grew there in 1830 or something, so I'm hunting for an ancient map to show 'em that it didn't."

"From what I've heard of those 'Missioners, they'll soon be telling us that corn's been growing in our hats."

"Reckon they will, but it won't do them much good. The farmers' backs are up now and they just won't pay."

"And quite right, too, I think. I understand those 'Missioners have a hundred million pounds a year."

"Let's say two hundred million, Fred—and that's pitiful compared to some of the figures I've heard. Anyhow they've got more money than we have, so I don't like them taking ours."

"I can't understand things, Sir. You'd think that if a man has a farm he shouldn't ought to pay out more than he has to pay for stock. But seemingly there's no one pays quite so much as a farmer in tithes and taxes."

"If he owns the land he farms, certainly. If not it's his landlord who has to pay. Landowning is a sin, Fred. It was made a sin in nineteen-twelve and all the holy politicians are trying to stop the sin by punishing the sinners. Unfortunately it's such a darling sin that some people will never give it up—they'd rather be fined every penny they've got in the world."

"I shouldn't care about it much myself. I don't know as I've ever wanted to own anything more than what I've got. Belongings are a trouble."

"But you wouldn't be without any at all."

"Maybe not, Sir. But not too many. Anyway, my belongings are things and people. I don't want any places to belong to me."

"There, Fred, is where you and I differ. I don't want people to belong to me, but I must have places—a place. And you ought to want a place—Gervase Alard thinks you ought to be a landowner and that's why he cleared out of Conster and sent us all to wrack and ruin eight years ago."

"I understood he wanted the farmers to have their farms."

"Well, they've got 'em now, haven't they?—or haven't they?"

"They haven't, Sir. Leastways mine hasn't. That's why I've come to see you. I was wondering if you knew of anything that 'ud suit me when Float's sold up."

Parish groaned. He sat down in one of the bursting armchairs and stared at Fred.

"I wish I did. I wish I could offer you something on Cock Marling—I wish I could give you a hundred acres to plough. But, my friend, it's no good—I already employ more men than I can afford at a wage I'm ashamed to pay."

"I'm not particular as to the ploughing; I know I äun't likely to get much more of that. All I ask is my wages and my house. I can do any sort of job on a farm, I reckon—look after stock, milk, mow, see to the woods and the hedges. I äun't as particular as I was, and I'd do any sort of work nowadays, even what used to be woman's work such as terrifying thistles."

"You're used to horses, of course."

"All that, Sir. And I could look sheep and manage cows too."

"Do you know anything about mechanics? Ever driven a tractor?"

"No, Mus' Vincent used to manage that himself."

"Well, there aren't such a number of them about here. We aren't so mechanically minded as the Shires; though we're having the electricity brought out to us, as you know."

"Yes; they're going to have it at the Queen's Head."

"It was one of the late Conservative Government's gestures towards agriculture—graceful as a kiss, and of about as much use. We poor broken farmers can't afford it. The only people to benefit will be the people from the towns. They'll find the country still more pleasant to live in and will flock into it in still greater numbers, and Mus' Muddle and Mus' Puddle, the builders, will build them lovely houses with pink asbestos roofs. . . . I hear that part of Starvecrow has been sold to a Hastings builder and is to be developed as an 'estate.' It's just on the line of the proposed electric main."

"I wish they'd build some houses for working people. It's the thought of getting a house worries me more than getting a job."

"Couldn't you get into one of the Council Houses?"

"That's what Ivy always used to say. But I told her it's no good. Every one of them's full, and dozens waiting."

"It's a bad business, I know. But take heart, Fred. After all Float may be bought by a decent farmer who'll be only too glad to have a man like you."

"I hope so, but after what's happened in other parts I daren't think it. That's why I made so bold as to come and see you."

"I'm more sorry than I can say to be so useless. But you know my position. I can't afford to employ you myself or I certainly would. I promise you I'll keep a look out, though, and tell you if I hear of anything going. How would you like to be a gardener to one of the new people settled here? Two pounds a week and a house—it wouldn't be so bad."

"No; not so bad in the way of money, but I shouldn't like it. Gardening's a sort of idling to me—I should feel as if I was playing all the time."

"But you wouldn't refuse to do it?"

"Oh, no, Sir. I wouldn't refuse nothing—not now."

They talked on desultorily for a few minutes, then Fred rose to go. He felt that he had had a very comfortable chat with Mr. Parish, though nothing much was likely to come of it.


Jim Parish did not regard it as a comfortable chat. All the time he had felt ashamed. It was scandalous that a good man like Fred should be wandering about in search of work. It was wicked that a skilled workman should have to suffer because he had thoroughly learned his job. It was pitiful that the only big landowner in the district could do nothing but bid him hope for the mercies of strangers.

Fred Sinden's job had been the occupation of mankind for hundreds and thousands of years, ever since in the dawn of the world some scientist had invented the first plough. But now it was a job that mankind no longer wanted. The day of the horse plough was over, and the motor plough had not much of a future in the small, hilly countryside of East Sussex. Civilization was abandoning the idea of self-contained, self-supporting communities; in the future wheat would be grown in districts chosen from the acreage of the world instead of from the acreage of a single farm. As methods of production changed and transport facilities grew, men would no longer argue whether the High field or the Low bore the better crop, but whether to sow in Russia or in Canada or in Rumania. Instead of each farm having its own plough and ploughman, whole nations of ploughmen would spring up, the population of a whole country be given to the plough, not as peasants, but as chemists and mechanics, learned in machinery and the medicine of the soil.

That would not be in England—the world would not take seriously England or even Scotland as a corn-growing country. England would be planted over with skyscrapers . . . no, sky-scrapers needed a rocky soil—all the sky-scrapers would be in America or in parts of Asia. England would be given over to charming villégiature—an English countryside—purged of recent building excesses, with about one studiously picturesque house to the half-acre . . . neatly planted roads, plenty of market gardens and poultry farms, and no doubt a national park with rural industries working for show, and perhaps a rustic or two carefully preserved and reared to pull a forelock, and say "I be. . . ."

"What on earth's the matter, Jim?"

His young brother Vernon had come in and was staring at him.

"What on earth's the matter? You look as if you wanted to be sick."

"So I do. So I will, if I think any more about this ghastly business."

"What ghastly business?"

"Fred Sinden from Float Farm has just been in to see me. His boss is going to be sold up, you know, and he wondered if I could help him to a job."

"And you can't?"

"Of course I can't. Fred's a skilled man—skilled at a special kind of work nobody wants."

"Then he'd better learn something else."

"That's just what I've been telling him. I've told him he'd better take up gardening."

"And won't he?"

"Oh, I daresay he will; but it's a shame—a bloody shame."

"What's a shame?"

"That a good ploughman should be wasted as a gardener, you young ass."

"It's a pity if you like, but I can't see that it's a shame. He ought to have known when he took up ploughing that it wasn't the sort of job that would last."

"How could he have known that? He's a ploughman's son, and he grew up during the war when England was almost a corn-growing country. You couldn't expect him to foresee all that's happened since. I didn't foresee it myself—not until the Alards quitted."

"It's nothing to do with the Alards. It's a thing that was bound to happen. The war delayed it a bit, but it was beginning to happen even before the war."

"As you remember clearly."

Vernon sat down and lit a cigarette.

"I came to ask if you'd play a set of singles with me. But you don't look as if you would."

"You know I hate tennis. Can't Betsy help you if you want to be hearty?"

"Not now. She's out driving with that Parson—showing him Bodiam castle and what not."

Parish groaned.

"Vernon, isn't that association the surprise of your young life?"

"Not exactly. Betsy always liked going about with men.

"Yes, but—men. Hurst I can understand—not Brady."

"Personally I prefer Brady. Hurst's a bounder."

"Quite, but so is Betsy. I'd have thought they'd get on together pretty well. But Brady—what has she in common with a fanatical Irish parson from the wilds of Kerry?"

"I don't suppose she's got anything in common with him. But I think Betsy's changed from what she used to be. She seems to want things quieter."

"I agree with you. She's changed, and I don't like it."

"In my opinion she's changed for the better."

"I daresay she has. But I don't like changes."

Vernon surveyed him critically.

"I wonder if you had a very difficult birth."

"What the hell do you mean?"

"In psycho-therapy it's pretty well established that when otherwise normal people have an intense dislike of change, it's nearly always due to a premature or complicated birth."

"You don't think it reasonable to object to seeing a bad thing being substituted for a good one?"

"In Betsy's case you've just said you don't think it's a bad thing."

"I don't always mean everything I say. You can cut Betsy out. Do you think my objection to changes in this country is reasonable?"

"No I don't. Not really. I can't see that they're changing for the worse. A gardener isn't worse than a ploughman."

"But a field full of thistles is worse than a field full of corn."

"Quite. But the choice isn't limited to corn and thistles."

"No; we can have asbestos bungalows. Do you think they're better than a crop of wheat?"

"They don't look so nice certainly, but they're probably just as useful. If the population increases, we must house it."

"And not feed it?"

"We can feed it from other countries that are better suited to food production than we are."

"Blast you! you talk like the Wireless, and you're only telling me what I know already. I know it's got to come, but I wish it hadn't—and anyway I don't see why it need be so hideous."

"New types are always hideous—at the start. The first trains were hideous strings of travestied stage-coaches, and the first cars were hideous caricatures of dog-carts. It wasn't till the designers forgot the thing they'd started from that they made anything beautiful."

"I don't think either trains or cars are beautiful."

"I do."

"Yes, I suppose you do. We're different generations really, although we're brothers. When I was a brat I played with a Noah's Ark, but you played with tin Rolls Royces and the Scotch Express. And now you've left school I suppose you'll want to play all your life with engines and wheels, while I'll just live on and rot and die here in my Noah's Ark."

"I don't feel specially mechanical. As a matter of fact I'm going to Greenland."


"Yes, I meant to tell you. It's all fixed now. I'm to go with Kettelby's expedition. Mother's putting up the money."

"My God! what a thing to spring on me! How did it happen?"

"I met him at Winchester last term, and he suggested it. But I never thought anything would come of it, because of mother. However, she decided to play up."

"You're young to be so lucky."

"Do you want to go to Greenland?"

"God forbid! But it might have been a good thing if I'd met an explorer when I was at school and he'd taken me off to the North Pole years and years ago. At present I feel like a spinster daughter who's always stopped at home with Mamma, and now Mamma is dying—rather unpleasantly. What will you do in Greenland?"

"Oh, just look round—see what the country's good for. We shall have our base at Upernivik, and make expeditions inland. There's a lot of Greenland that's never been explored."

"Blessed experience! It will be like throwing away a sucked orange and starting on a fresh one."

"I must say I'm looking forward to it."

He threw his cigarette end into the fire and stood up to go.

"You won't come out and hit a ball?"

"No thanks. I'm busy here. There's always a lot wants doing in my Noah's Ark."

Vernon went out, and for a minute or two Jim sat thinking. Greenland! That was one way out—one way of escape from a world that he suspected his young brother liked as little as he did; though doubtless he was not running away from the thistles and the bungalows so much as from the prospect of having to sell silk stockings. . . . Greenland—hundreds and hundreds of miles of utterly useless ice-cap; that was the only sort of country left now in its integrity—country that was either too hot or too cold to be any use. . . . Greenland, Spitzbergen, the Poles, the Himalayas, the Sahara, the forests of the Amazon, the Mountains of the Moon. . . . Vernon would doubtless spend the rest of his life visiting strange lands, and coming home at intervals to reproach his brother for lamenting the ruin of his countryside. Young humbug! What was he doing himself but running away from changes?—seeking the unchanged in its few remaining strongholds. The memory of an old hymn revived and droned itself in his head—"Change and decay in all around I see." Wasn't there another hymn about Greenland's icy mountains? He would ask Brady—or perhaps by this time Betsy would know. Change and decay in all around I see—even in Betsy. Oh, damn! I'll go and talk to George Bates.


Float Farm was duly put up for auction and duly failed to find a purchaser. This was the common fate of farms at auction and nobody minded very much. It was now the auctioneers' business to sell the place privately, and as usual they decided it would go better in lots. Lot I was the dwelling-house, with the tangled wilderness of roses, peasticks and ancient plum trees that in better times had been the garden. A small field went with it, and a shaw with a bog and a pool. These were the rudiments of a "gentleman's residence," "complete with kitchen garden, flower garden, shrubbery and ornamental water," advertised for sale in the Sussex Mercury.

Lot II was the farm-buildings and about forty acres. These might go either as a small-holding or to those eccentric people who liked living in oast-houses. Just as some years ago it had been discovered that any tumbledown house could be sold for a lot of money if only it was old enough, so now the local agents were beginning to realize the hitherto unsuspected residential qualities of oast-houses and windmills. Somebody would soon be sure to come along and buy at a high price Float's cracked old oast, knock windows in it, divide its lofts into rooms, build fireplaces, and settle down contentedly to a future of leaking walls and smoking chimneys.

Lot III was some meadowland by the Tillingham. This was good grazing land and of no use to anyone for anything else. It would probably go to some local grazier for a moderate sum after much careful bargaining. Lot IV was poor Fred Sinden's cottage, with the shaw and about ten acres—poultry farm or week-end cottage with "a wealth of old oak." Lot V consisted of the two fields fronting the Leasan road—"Building plots to suit purchaser" and suiting best those able to live without water, of which there was none.

There remained some odd lots of from seven to fifteen acres which the agents proceeded to get rid of by a kind of blackmail. One by one the owners of adjoining properties were approached and offered some part of Float, otherwise "ripe for immediate development." One or two—the new arrivals at Ellenwhorne and at Winterland—succumbed at once and bought their views fairly expensively. Others, older residents at the Furnace and at Eyelid and Jim Parish at Cock Marling, damned the agents with a lofty silence. By the time—some two years ahead—that the farm was at last completely sold, it had realized almost as much as Vincent gave for it on the ill-starred day he bought it from Gervase Alard.

Meanwhile he lived on in it—first in the house, and then when that was sold—and it soon went to some artist friends of the people at Barline—in the outbuildings. He did not like leaving the place, and the mortgagees were willing that he should stay there to keep the land in order. He brought his furniture into the barns, and made them look as homelike as he could with his bits and pieces. Mrs. Vincent managed her cooking and washing with the help of an oil stove and a wooden tub. There was a separate bedroom with their beds set up in it, very clean and neat, and in that way they contrived to live for several months, undisturbed by any prowling Health Officer. Vincent kept round him the dwindling remains of his stock—four cows, two horses, and about a hundred and fifty head of poultry, caring for them with the help of his wife and his eldest boy, who was about twelve years old. So ended a yeoman.


Of the men, Masters fared better than his employer, and Sinden worse. Masters was lucky. Only luck could be held responsible for the sudden death of the gardener at the Furnace and the economic stress which urged the Hursts to engage a local man in his place. Hurst had been wont to sneer at local gardening, with its slow fatalistic methods and ignorance of any flower or vegetable more exotic than the marigold and the potato. But as his grievance grew against a Labour government he decided that his gardener's wages could not henceforth be more than two pounds a week, and that he had better engage Stanley's father who happened to be out of a job. Two pounds a week and a cottage—the words were forgotten music in the Tillingham Valley. There would be Stanley's wages too, and Mrs. Masters would be sure to get odd jobs at the house, and when Connie was older she might start as under-housemaid . . . through the gate of adversity the Masters marched to plenty. The string of their washing in the first Monday's breeze outside Mr. Hurst's new, brick-built six-roomed cottage was like the fluttering pennons of a triumphant army.

Fred saw it from the road on his way to Doucegrove, where he had heard there might be a job going. "Masters is in," he said. Lucky Masters. Not so lucky Fred—there was no job for him at Doucegrove, nor at Sempsted, nor at Knelle, nor at Eggs Hole, nor at any other places he tried even as far away as Kent. In those first days of unemployment he was still set on getting something on a farm, on doing the kind of work he was used to even if he could never find himself again behind a plough. But after a while he saw there was little hope even of this. Farmers were turning men off instead of taking them on.

He would have to accept his fate and take to gardening. There was no first-class job going for him as it had gone for Masters. The gentry, new and old, were apparently equipped with gardeners. All he could do was to get a few hours here and there with the people at the bungalows—mostly retired policemen and tradesmen, living in little brick boxes on land that had once been Gooseleys' grazing and Winterland's hops; there was still the great, tall hedge standing northward of the sullen little row, making pretence of protecting them as it had once protected the hops.

Some of the people at the bungalows were good gardeners, and they mostly managed for themselves; but some knew little or nothing, and for one or two of these he did what he could—digging and sowing and planting and trimming a few hours every week, raising the homely plants that were the only plants he knew, phlox, and Canterbury bells and stocks and marigolds, cabbages, onions, peas and runner beans.

He sometimes worked at Cock Marling too. Mr. Parish had been extremely kind and had had him on to help with the hay-making and the harvest; and of course at hop-picking time they had all had plenty to do—Ivy and the children as well as himself. Ivy never complained now or said she could not manage on a pound a week, which was the most, outside harvest times, he ever brought her. Something seemed to have struck her and shown her that the time for protest and complaint had passed; that the time of endurance had begun. Besides, they still had a roof over them. Float Cottage was theirs to live in as long as they paid the rates—no rent was asked of them now. They both knew that the time would come when this comfort would be taken from them, but they would not think of it before they must.

The summer passed and Fred's gardening came to an end, except for one afternoon a week he still put in at tenpence an hour for an old lady living over at Staple Cross. For three weeks that was all he earned. Ivy made two or three shillings by washing for Miss Betsy. She would always be able to count on that, for Miss Betsy was going to marry the new parson at Vinehall and would never go back to London. (People wondered how much he knew about her and how much he would find out when it was too late, and what he would do about it then. It was also said that he had ordered Mrs. George Alard out of his house for trying to tell him.)

On October Fred had six weeks' work as builder's labourer; in December Mr. Pannell took him on to help him in the woods, cutting and splitting the chestnut pales, binding the brushwood into bavins. Mr. Pannell was cutting the underwood of Stentbog and Wagmary down on the marsh by the Tillingham, where the river runs red and angry with iron and floods, tearing at its banks and choking its course with uprooted sallows. Fred liked his new labour, among the woodfires, in the sweet-smelling air, with the woodsmoke and the mist smeething together over the tops of the oaks, and the little red hearts of the fires glowing and leaping in the shadows under them. He was sorry when at last the wood was finished and closed up—the hedge of ash and hornbeam carefully "laid along" by his fingers almost loving to be at such work again.

After that came a month with nothing at all but his afternoon's gardening and Ivy's washing for Miss Betsy. He had almost made up his mind to go to the parish when he was again offered a job as builder's labourer, for new houses were going up on the Leasan frontage of Float's land. He kept on at this, with occasional weeks of idleness, till the spring had come with its better hopes.

Somehow he had contrived to live through the winter and to keep his little family alive without asking for charity. Now and then he had been down very low, but in the country you can always keep going if you have a place to live in. People, too, are kind. Mrs. Waters never asked for payment when he was out of a job—"you can pay me when you're in work again, Mr. Sinden" . . . just as she let poor old Sam Luck, who had nothing but his old-age pension and a cottage as full of holes as a sieve, come and sit by the counter in her shop when it rained, and keep himself warm and dry and smell the sugar and tea. When Fred was working in the woods, too, Mr. Pannell had let him have four great sacks of chucks all for nothing. They had kept his fire going through the winter—they and the bits he was able to pick up, or, if the truth were told of his need, cut down in Float's neglected shaws. Ivy never said now that she could not cook except on an oil-stove.

Another mercy was the fact that since the going of the Alards there had been no attempt to preserve game, and the whole place was alive with rabbits. If for the same reason there was also a plague of foxes, this made no difference to the Sindens, for in the matter of conies there was plenty for man and beast; they ate rabbit stew at least four times a week. Now and then, too, Fred would catch and skin a moorhen; they were not good eating, but they made a change.

In the country one might live even if one could not work. Nor did the blight of uselessness and idleness descend on Fred as it descended on his brothers in the towns. He dug in his garden, and kept his cottage in some sort of repair, and when he had nothing to do at home he went and helped Mr. Vincent with what was left of the farm. They worked together as equals now, no longer as master and man. Mr. Vincent wore a frayed blue shirt and an old pair of postman's trousers, which for some reason were common wear among the labouring men of the Tillingham valley. They felt friendly and easy together, bound by their common misfortune, their struggle to live, and the uncertainty of the future for both of them.


But in spite of his having made shift to live through it, the memory of that winter would always be to Fred like a bad dream. For six months he had wakened daily to face the chances of hunger and homelessness. His tiny edge of security depended on Float Cottage remaining unsold. He was like a man who has fallen over a precipice and found a perilous refuge on some ledge half-way down the abyss—it is only a question of time before he must fall to the bottom . . . unless he is rescued, and Sinden had begun to despair of rescue. All through the winter he had looked for work and there was none—he could hear of none. In summer he supposed it would have to be last year's round of gardening. This time, feeling more sure of himself, he would ask a shilling an hour, but even that would not bring him in much more than twenty-five shillings a week. It would be enough to live on, of course, but it would not allow him to save; all the children wanted boots and shoes, and Norman would have to go to school in the fall—and then again winter would come. . . .

He wondered if he could learn a trade, such as bricklaying. . . . But even that would be uncertain if he stayed in the country. In spite of all this new building, Mr. Snashall did not as a rule take on extra people for more than a few weeks at a time. He would have to go into the town and become a Union man and get the dole . . . but his spirit shrank from going into the town—he would not know what to do there and any evil times would be tenfold worse than in the country . . . they said you were often asked as much as a pound a week for rent. He must keep out of the town, even though there was no hope for him in the country? Why didn't the government do something for countrymen? They called themselves Labour, but it was only labour in towns they thought about. No one cared for the country now. The country was turning into a place for rich, retired people to come and play in. The countryman who wanted to get on must go into the town. But he would not go into the town. Thank you, but we'll stay here. We'd sooner starve here than in the town.

His worst moments were when people came to look at the cottage. This did not happen very often, but sometimes a car would come lurching down the road and one of two sorts of people get out of it. One sort would be a brisk-looking young man in a soft hat and a mackintosh; he would go round and tap the walls and jot things down in a notebook. He of course was a builder's man come to see if the place was worth as much as half what was asked for it. If he thought it worth while, his firm would buy it and mend it and decorate it and put it up for sale for four times the money. The other sort would be gentry, laughing, chattering people. They would go round saying "we could do this" or "we could do that," and sometimes they would scream "Oh, look at this lovely old oak." Fred did not know which he hated most, the brisk young builders' men or the rapturous week-enders. Both equally would rob him of his cottage, the only part of his old life he had left, the only thing that stood firm in his shaken world. Sometimes he had strange murderous feelings, such as he had never known before—he would feel he wanted to rush into one of those comfortable new-built houses and turn the people out and put his own family in and shut the door and shout "God damn you all!" He was often surprised at himself.



He had expected the blow for so long that when it fell he accepted it meekly. His cottage was bought by a Hastings firm of builders and he received a fortnight's notice to quit. They could turn him out any day they liked, for he had paid no rent for a year, so had no legal claim on anybody. It was kind of them to give him a fortnight.

That evening he went up to the Queen's Head. He hardly ever went there now, for he had not the money to spend on drink. But if he went he might hear of something in the way of a house—there might be a rumour of some cheap place in another parish. He knew of nothing in Leasan nor in Vinehall.

It was a soft, clear evening, cool for the time of year, with a greenish sky, burning at the rims, and a few big stars hanging low like lamps above the woods of the Furnace and Brede Eye. Lights also began to appear among the fields, and brighter ones along the string of the Leasan road; for after some valiant resistance on the part of the inhabitants the electric light had come to the village from Hastings. It had been duly installed at the Queen's Head, and instead of the two oil lamps with their red shades standing on the counter there were two white dishes of radiance hanging from the ceiling. Fred told himself that the red lamps had looked cosier, and the shining dishes were often a danger to one's head; but on the other hand it was useful to see at a glance exactly who was in the bar.

There were not many people there to-night. Low wages and uncertainty were incompatible with the price of beer; but he saw Mr. Pannell, and Ashdown, and Brotheridge, and Masters was there sitting very comfortably—Young did not come any more.

He took his half-pint to Ashdown's table. His old friend had been useful in the matter of the lodger (if it had come to no good in the end, that wasn't his fault) and perhaps could help him now. But Ashdown knew nothing about any house to let.

"There's no such thing, leastways not at any rent a working man could pay. I hear there's a bungalow going at Brownsmiths, but they're asking a pound a week for it."

"Which don't leave much over if the most you earn is fifteen shillings."

Nobody said anything to that, but they all brooded sorrowfully.

"You'd better get into lodgings," said Ashdown at last.

"At how much a week?"

"I dunno. I pay five shillings for my room—you'd want more than one room, though."

"I äun't sure as we should. But five shilling's a lot. More than I could properly afford to pay—and only lodgings too."

"You can get a Council House for seven shilling," said Brotheridge.

"You can't get a Council House for love or money. There's a'dunnamany names on the waiting list, and anyhow they'd never let one to a man that's out of work."

There was another sorrowful silence.

"I know a chap," said Masters, "who built himself a house. Jack Sivers, I mean, over at Guestling Thorn. I saw it in the Mercury only the other week—all about him being had up for it before the Magistrates."

"Can you be had up for building yourself a house?"

"Surelie, if you don't do it proper and send the plans to the Council. This old house of Sivers, he'd built it of bits of wood and co'gated iron he'd picked up and some winders he'd come on somehow. He was like you, Fred—turned out of his place, and couldn't get any work; but his brother had done better and he said Jack could run up a shack in his garden, and so he did, and I can't say it looked any worse than many of the places they put up nowadays. But the Inspector came along and made a terrification, saying it wasn't a fit and proper human dwelling. Then Jack he had an idea and he said it wasn't a fixed dwelling, but a caravan what he'd taken the wheels off, so the Inspector said he was to put the wheels on again, and poor Jack he went catering about to find four wheels what nobody wanted, and it wasn't so easy. But when the Inspector came again there was four wheels under it—two old motor-wheels he'd found on a car that had been left in Leanham Wood, and a wagon wheel, and a cart-wheel. Jack had near sweated his heart out getting the house on to 'em, and after all the Inspector wouldn't have it, and had him up before the magistrates, who fined him a pound. They do all they can to make things hard for poor people."

He noticed a certain air of discomposure among his listeners. While he was finishing his story the door had opened and a gipsy had come in—one of the gipsies who was often there in hopping time, but as much out of season now as fox-hunting. Curiosity and disapproval were in the glances shot him through the white electric glare. Then the conversation was resumed rather consciously.

"I know of a family that's been living for months in a barn at Eggs Hole," said Mr. Pannell, "and nobody's interfered with them."

"People have got to live somewhere," said Brotheridge.

"I hear," said Ashdown, "as how a Hastings builder's bought all the Hobbyhorse land of Starvecrow and is going to make it into an estate, with real cheap houses—fifteen pounds down, and then ten shillings a week till it's paid for."

"That may help somebody," said Fred, "but it won't help me."

"I should try for lodgings," said Ashdown. "Maybe you'll find something cheap if you look for it close enough."

"That äun't likely," said Masters. "I know a family that's paying twelve shilling for couple of bedrooms. Those Austins, you know, from Alpha Place in Vinehall. Their house was condemned and they mustn't sleep in it, so they sleep over at Mrs. Southerden's every night and go back to their own place in the morning. They've got plenty of money, but they can't find a cottage."

"Yes, indeed," said Mr. Pannell. "Money don't always help—at least not unless you've enough to buy your house."

"People have got to live somewhere," said Brotheridge.

"Excuse me, gentlemen."

The gipsy had spoken, and silence fell swiftly and disapprovingly on the bar. What did he want? Was he going to offer to treat anyone again? Hands moved for hats and sticks.

"Excuse me, gentlemen, but I couldn't help hearing what you said about this gentleman not being able to find a house. Now my sister, Mrs. Serena Smith, has a very fine caravan for sale—a caravan that's as fine as a king's palace, with a stove in it and a double bed and window-curtains and a letter-box in the door. She would sell it cheap, having no use for it herself. Any offers, gentlemen?"

No offers.

"Nobody here wants a caravan," said Mr. Pannell.

"I dare say my sister would let it for a time, if she finds no one will buy. The rent would be less than for a cottage and would include a fine horse. The fruit-picking season will be beginning soon and any gentleman who is out of work could make a lot of money between now and October."

"How much does she want for it?" asked Fred; "how much a week?"

Everybody stared at him, and he laughed, pretending to himself as well as to them that he had not meant it seriously.

"Five shillings a week, gentleman, and if you go fruit-picking you will earn three pounds."

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" laughed Fred.

The gipsy fumbled in his velveteen waistcoat pocket, and brought out, surprisingly, a visiting-card. On it was printed "Tom Playden. Dealer."

"I shall be back in a week," he said, "and if you will come in here at twelve o'clock on Thursday, I will meet you and show you the caravan."

Fred laughed again, but when the others were not looking he pocketed the card. Brotheridge was right—people must live somewhere.


All the same, he did not think seriously of the gipsy's offer till he had tramped twice round the district and found nowhere to go. There was nothing to let at any price that he could pay, and even lodgings would be difficult to come by, on account of the children. If he had been a single man he could have found a room at four or five shillings a week, but nobody would take in three young children, unless, perhaps, for extra money. He had only five days left before he had to clear out—into the lane seemingly; unless he closed with the gipsy's offer.

After all, he had known honest people live in a caravan. There had been that fellow Barnes at Reedbed Farm, who had lived in a caravan for nearly a year, during the housing shortage after the war. He had gone to work from it and sent his children to school and no one had thought any the worse of him. Nor would anyone think the worse of Fred; he too would work and send his children to school—he would not go with the gipsies and cart people, he would keep himself to himself and be just as good a man as he was before. It was worth asking about, anyhow. . . . Of course the rent was too high, though less than he would have to pay for any lodgings they might get . . . and he didn't reckon there would be much in fruit-picking this year . . . if he stayed, he would have his gardening and Ivy her washing. They would be sure of earning at least five shillings a week between them. . . . And probably have to pay eight or nine shillings rent. Perhaps he could get the gipsy to take four shillings, or even three-and-six . . . and if he went to the right places he and Ivy between them might make as much as thirty shillings a week at the picking—that would be more than they would ever earn at home. Besides, they had nowhere to live—all his wondering and guessing came back to that. They must have a roof to cover them—a caravan roof if no other could be found. He might hire a caravan and pitch it on some unsold part of Float; perhaps the gipsy would let him have it cheaper without the horse.

He decided to talk over the matter with Ivy. After all, it was her affair as much as his, and he must find out what she wanted. She seemed to like the idea better than he had expected.

"It'll be somewhere for us to go, anyhow. It's been worrying me not having anywhere. And mother was saying only the other day that you can get two pound a week fruit picking."

"Depends on the season, and it äun't likely to be too good this year. I'd a notion we might stop where we are for a bit; they'd let me keep the caravan in the Clay field, by the bridge."

"No, if we live in a caravan I'd like to move off somewhere else. Everyone's looking down on us as it is."

"I'd never say that."

"But I would, with Mr. Firrell thinking steak's too good for us."

She would never forget the insult she had received when she went to buy her usual pound and a half of steak for Sunday. The butcher actually had said, "I've got something that'll suit you better than that," and had offered her six pounds of broken meat, pieces he had cut off joints and steaks—good meat all of it, he had said, though not easy to dispose of, and Ivy could have the lot for eighteen pence, and he'd throw in some suet to make a pudding of it.

"There he was, offering me a lot of broken pieces I'd feed the pigs with—and knowing we've always had fried steak on Sundays, and never gone without it. 'Thanks,' I said, 'I'd sooner have the steak'; and he had to give it to me, and I walked out."

"I reckon he meant to do you a good turn."

"Maybe, but if he hadn't known I was poor he wouldn't have dared. He'd never have offered broken meat like that to Miss Betsy or Mrs. Hurst, or even to Mrs. George Alard. It's just because everyone knows we're poor and takes advantage of it."

"Well anyone who likes can take advantage of me in that way. I äun't so proud. If we stop along here I can keep on with my gardening and you'll still be able to do your washing."

"How can I do washing in a caravan? I'll have enough to do to wash our own things without taking in other people's. And your gardening never brought us in more than fifteen shillings a week—and those people have left Rookery Nook. Besides, we'll have a horse, so we may as well travel."

"Maybe they'd let us have the caravan cheaper without the horse."

"Not they. They'll let it with the horse to somebody else."

They argued on for some time. They both had their pride, but it was of different kinds. Fred's shrank from driving off in a caravan like any old pikey or diddicoy; he would feel quite different if the caravan were horseless and stationary, as Joe Barnes's had been. Ivy's pride on the other hand was sensitive of the opinion of her neighbours and anxious to travel out of reach of their contempt. Also, unknown to Fred, she had, when in a tight place, borrowed money from her mother, who was now clamouring for its return, being in process of moving into a new house of her very own (or to be her very own in twenty years' time when all the instalments were paid) on the Hobbyhorse estate.

However, the outcome of the matter was that Fred went to see the gipsy at the Queen's Head.


That day he had not a penny to buy a drink, so he told Mrs. Allwork he had come to meet a man, and asked if he might wait there.

"Have one on the house, Mr. Sinden."

Fred had one on the house, trusting it would make him feel less old-fashioned. The gipsy was late, and Fred hoped to goodness that he would come before any of his friends did. He did not like the idea of making his arrangements before them. At present none of them was there—only one or two village people whom he scarcely knew except to nod to. As a rule the farm hands and Mr. Pannell did not come in till the evening; they had not time between twelve and one to do more than eat their dinners.

At a quarter-past twelve the gipsy came, looking dark and brisk after the manner of his kind.

"What's yours, gentleman?" he asked Fred.

"Nothing thanks"—he did not want any chance of his being muzzed up before seeing the caravan. So he made Mrs. Allwork's half-pint last out the gipsy's whisky, and then they went out together.

The caravan was quite close, in a field at the back of a cottage known as Frog's Hall. It was not very new, and it badly needed paint, but for a caravan it was roomy and in tolerable repair. Fred looked inside—it still smelled of gipsies, but they had left no London bugs behind them—he examined it carefully to make sure. There were the stove and the double bed he had been promised, and some shelves and two stools and a great deal of brass-work. At least it would give them somewhere to live and sleep out of the rain.

"You may buy it for twenty pounds, gentleman," said the gipsy.

"I'll buy it for nothing—not a penny more."

"You may buy it for fifteen, and two pounds for the horse."

"You told me last Thursday I could have it and the horse for five shilling a week."

"But since then we've had many fine gentlemen after it, and ladies too. I could sell it for thirty pounds tomorrow."

Fred knew that this was what you had to expect when bargaining with a gipsy. He had half a mind to give up the whole thing, but his common sense made him stick to it—his common sense and his fear of having nowhere to live next week.

"I was going to ask if you'd let me have it for three shillings a week without the horse."

"Without the horse! But, gentleman, what would you do without the horse? You could not travel from place to place and make a gorgeous fortune fruit-picking. And he's a fine, splendid, gorgeous horse. Look at him there behind my sister's caravan. Isn't he a good horse? He'll take you from here to Scotland and back and never feel it."

Fred looked at the horse—first from a distance and then closely. He was the oldest horse he had ever seen. He was covered with a mangy ginger coat, and his mane was half hogged, half falling on his sad neck. His eyes were melancholy and resigned. But something about him appealed, though it would be hard to say what it was, unless it were the fact that all his life up till two years ago Fred had lived and worked with horses. For two years he had had nothing to do with them, and he must have missed them more even than he knew. There was something about this old horse, wretched as he was, that linked him up with Flossie and Sorrel and Soldier and many another better horse of better days. He blew down his nose against Fred's hand. In three months I reckon I can make a change in him, thought Fred.

But he would not have acknowledged that his liking for the horse had anything to do with his agreeing to take the caravan at five shillings a week. After all he had plenty of good reasons for paying more than he could afford for some sort of a home. Tom Playden would not budge an inch; he knew he could get that much for it anywhere. So in the end Fred agreed to pay him what he asked, though he had hoped to get it for less. By the time the bargaining was finished they had been joined by all the rest of the fraternity—Serena Smith and her dirty children and her husband Leander Smith and her other brother Joseph Playden. They all stood round and praised the horse and the caravan and reproached their brother Tom for giving them away; though the reason for selling the latter was apparent in Mrs. Smith's smart new caravan that glittered with brass. As for the horse, thought Fred, he's his own reason.

A fresh difficulty now arose. Letting a caravan is not the same as letting a cottage—the tenants may go off in it anywhere; and though Tom Playden would have been surprised if the horse had really taken the Sindens to Scotland, he might well take them where they might be difficult to find when wanted. The first four weeks' rent must be paid in advance and a meeting arranged for the next payment; meanwhile the gentleman would leave some pledge with the poor people—his watch and chain, or a ring, or a tie-pin, or some piece of furniture from the gorgeous home he was leaving.

Again Fred argued and tried to impress his landlord with the fact that he would probably stay all the summer within a few miles of Leasan. The gipsy remained as before, politely, respectfully, subserviently obstinate. He must have his four weeks' rent and his pledge of future payments. Later on, when he and the gentleman knew each other better, perhaps they might come to some other little arrangement. Fred knew that he would have to sell some of his furniture—otherwise he would have to pay for its storing—and as the sign of the Three Golden Balls is not the same temptation in country districts as it is in towns, he had still in his possession many little treasures that a townsman would have parted with in his distress. He had a heavy old silver watch that had belonged to his father, and this Tom Playden agreed to take in pledge of their meeting at Haffenden Quarter, in Kent, when a fresh payment would be made.

Haffenden was a farm belonging to a big firm of fruit growers, and in another month the cherry picking would begin.

"You go to the big places, gentleman," said Playden; "the little places will only be able to pay little wages this year, because the times are going to be bad. So you follow the poor people round to the big places; and they will pay you big money and you will pay my little rent."

Fred was determined in his mind not to follow the poor people.


Never in all his life would he have believed that the day would come when he would turn out of his cottage and live in a caravan. But that day came towards the end of May, with a sultry wind blowing, the hawthorn off the hedges and a grey sky sullen against the green. He brought the caravan himself from Frog's Hall—he would not endure the shame of a dirty gipsy driving it to the door. Ivy was ready, a little tearful, with the children, who were a little excited. She had packed all their clothes in a wooden box, which would not take up much room and would do for an extra seat. Besides their clothes, she had brought the bedding and blankets and one or two coloured tablecloths, all their crockery, of course, and pots and pans. Otherwise there was not much room for any furniture, and she had agreed to Fred's suggestion that they should sell some of it to pay the first month's rent. The rest her mother had taken to her new abode, where she would keep it for them free of charge till they came back. Fred would not know—at least not for some time—that she had given her mother the old grandfather clock in payment of that troublesome debt.

Float Cottage was empty. Without the furniture that had crowded it for so long it looked a miserable little place. But never had Ivy loved it more—indeed, until that moment she had not known that she loved it at all. As for Fred he would not think about it. He could not. That part of his mind which belonged to Float Cottage must be shut up and left just as the cottage was being shut up and left.

"Sure you got everything?" he said to Ivy rather roughly.

"Yes, I'm sure. Oh, Fred, what a terrible horse."

"He's good enough."

"He looks as if he'd fall down dead."

"I tell you he won't, and he's good enough for five shillings a week."

"May I ride on him?" asked Norman, moved by memories of better days on the farm.

"No—get inside."

Norman got inside rather dejectedly, and Ivy lifted in the other children.

"Oh, what a funny little house," said Doris.

She looked round her at the queer, gay little windows, the brass rail, the big bed at the end, on which was heaped all their bedclothes and crockery and kitchen stuff in attractive confusion.

"I like it. Are we going to live here?"

"For a time," said her mother.

"Then shall we come home again?"

"No—not to this house."


"Oh, don't worry me, dear."

Fred took the horse by the bridle and coaxed him. The caravan jerked forward and began to move up the lane, the wheels rumbling and lurching in the ruts. All the crockery sang and rang, and the boughs of the ash tree rattled on the roof as it passed under them.


They were not going far just at first. There had been a sop to Fred's pride in the offer of a job which would keep him in the country for at least a fortnight, while Ivy's had been satisfied by the prospect of a move into Kent at the end of it. She would not mind just a fortnight in the low field by the bridge—it would be as well, perhaps, to get used to living in a caravan before they set out on their journey. And Fred would be earning thirty shillings a week for helping make Mr. Potter's tennis-lawn at Winterland oast. Three pounds would set them up nicely.

The remains of Float were up for auction now Mr. Vincent had been lucky enough to get a bailiff's job in West Sussex, and was leaving. Barn walls and the Mercury offered the world his Live and Dead Farming Stock—his four head of dairy cattle, his two cart-horses, his hundred and fifty head of poultry, his plough, his harrow, his chaff-cutter, his quoiler, carts, shims, bins and troughs. Soon nothing would be left but the empty barns. Fred could not help feeling glad that he would be gone before that happened.

Down by the brook there was peace from the fluttering, sultry wind. The branches of the sallows moved against the sky, and there was a queer little moan of wind among them; but it was a sheltered corner, with a sunshine of buttercups in the grass and a great white blow of hawthorn in the sheltering hedge. Hops had once grown there, long ago.

Fred unharnessed the horse and let him graze. It would be some time, poor beast, before he got him looking anything like a horse, but the effort would interest him and help fill up some of the empty place that was growing in his heart. "Woa, Ginger, good boy," he said, and patted the sagging neck.

He built a fireplace of some stones, and Ivy heated up some remains of stew for their dinner. The children were excited by this new experience of dinner out of doors. They associated meals with the darkness of the kitchen and the heat and smell of the oil-stove—there was something almost magical in sitting out of doors with their little bowls on their knees and the buttercups rising round them and the May petals blowing down on them like snow. Little Clarence would put out his hand to the butterflies, trying to catch them as he used to try to catch the motes in the kitchen sunlight. Doris said:

"Are we going to sleep out of doors?"

"No, you're going to sleep in the caravan, in a hammock daddy's going to put up for you."

"What's a hammock?"

"A bed made out of a rabbit net."

"Will the rabbits want to sleep in it too?"

"No, no. Of course not. The rabbits sleep in the ground."

Norman asked:

"Why have we left our house?"

In the evening they went up to see Ivy's mother. She was now no longer in the Barline cottage, but in a new and luxurious bungalow on the Hobbyhorse estate. Old Crouch had quarrelled with his gipsy landlord, and to spite him had applied to the parish council to have his cottage condemned. Though his charcoal-burning and hop-drying trades had decreased, he had done well during the past two years and had saved a bit of money. He was now firmly established as the local chimney-sweep, and sometimes travelled as far east as Peasmarsh and as far west as Staple Cross, to sweep the chimneys of important houses, where the incongruous cleanliness of his work would earn the praises of butlers and parlourmaids. He also went long distances to find water; all the neighbouring builders employed him, and in his shapeless, gnarled old hands the hazel twig would leap and quiver, responding to some primitive understanding between him and the waters under the earth. He hoped that all this talk about bringing a proper water-supply from Tenterden would come to nothing.

His powers had not been requisitioned for the Hobbyhorse Estate. There one or two surface wells supplied the needs of the eight or nine bungalows that had been put up during the winter. A Hastings builder had seen the economic wisdom of providing homes for a homeless people. The prices of the bungalows that were going up on the wrecks of Gooseleys and Float, and on the road frontages that the yeomen of Eggs Hole, Ethnam and Reedbed were selling to save their farms from the same fate, were beyond the reach of a working man. They attracted retired tradesmen and professional people from the big seaside towns, and had now been built in excess of the demand for them. There was not much more money in them now. But there was money in really cheap houses which would help relieve the housing shortage among work people. Any working man who had done well at his job could find ten pounds for a deposit, and ten shillings a week was quite a normal rent. The land had been acquired cheaply, for Starvecrow had remained on the market longest of all the Alard farms. The little houses were built on piles, so saved the expense of foundations; their walls were of planks coated with solignum, their roofs of asbestos tiling. Their proximity to the electric cable from Hastings did away with any necessity to build chimneys and fireplaces and allowed their creators to advertise them as "all-electric, labour-saving homes."

They looked more like chicken-houses than human dwellings, and their erection had plunged their more genteel neighbours into a panic of protest, while even the Rural District Council took alarm and began to consider town-planning as a possibility. But it could not be denied that they were better to live in than Barline cottage. Even with the wind blowing up between the floor-boards round her feet Mrs. Crouch expressed herself well pleased.

"When we've got the carpet down we shan't notice it. And the bedroom's a treat—as dry as old bones. How do you like your place, Ivy?"

"I haven't been much in it yet. It's small."

"And so is this, but what I say is the smaller the better. You don't have half so much trouble. At Barline I'd always be stumping about the kitchen fetching things, and on a stone floor too, while here I can stand at the table and reach what I want out of the cupboard without moving. And what's the use of stairs if they're so rotten that every time you go up you're like to fall through them?"

"I wish I had a place like this."

"Well, maybe you will some day. I heard only this morning that a rich stockbroker from London was going to buy their oast at Reedbed. Fred should go there as gardener."

"I don't know enough about gardening for that sort of job."

"But you can learn. Why are you so set against learning anything new?"

"I don't know as I'm set. But I don't see as how I'm going to learn much with nobody to teach me."

"You don't want nobody to teach you. Look at Dad—he knows plenty, but nobody ever taught him nothing."

"I wur born knowing things," said Dad.

"Well, I wasn't, except maybe to plough, and I've got no chance of that."

"You'd much better forget all about the ploughing. There's not going to be any more. We're going to get all our wheat from Russia."

"Whoever told you that?"

"I read it in the newspaper. The Russians don't want any money for ploughing, so it comes cheap to them to do it."

"Reckon it does."

"Yes, and it stands to reason that if they can get people to plough for nothing they won't want people who ask two pound a week for it."

"I never had two pound a week after the first year."

"Let Fred alone, Mother," said Ivy. "He does his best."

"But he ought to learn some sort of a new job. Maybe Dad 'ud learn him chimbley-sweeping."

"'At dat I wouldn't. Dere äun't de work fur two in dis country."

"Fred's got a good job at Winterland, making their tennis lawn," said Ivy.

"Yes, and I do hear they'll be having a lawn-tennis at Barline too. He should get himself started as a lawn-tennis maker."

"There won't be enough lawn-tennises to keep me in work all the year round. What I want's a regular job winter and summer. I don't ask for much, but I want it regular."

"Maybe you'll hear of something when we go into Kent," said Ivy. "There may be some jobs going on farms out there."

"Anything to get me into Kent, Missus. But I don't believe in it."

He recovered his spirits, however, when his mother-in-law had brought out some bottled beer, and they had all drunk to their housemoving, and then drunk again. In the end everyone was noisily cheerful and inclined to think their lives had changed for the better. It was a long time since Fred had had more than half a pint. Under the influence of at least four times that amount he began to see the future in a rosier light—money earned and money saved, low expenses, and a healthy life for the children in summer time . . . and sure to find a job before the winter. Nothing like going round and looking at things. . . .

It was nearly midnight when he and Ivy set out, each carrying a sleeping child, while Norman clung stumbling to his father's hand. The great stars wheeled over the black sky—Jack and his Waggon, and the Kite, and many others whose shapes would never change, no matter how much things changed under them. . . . It was queer to be going down to the brook. He would not look to the right of him, for there among the ash trees in the hollow he would see the chimney of Float Cottage thrust up cold and smokeless to the stars; he would look at the stars instead. Down by the brook the owls were calling—hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo—and from Dodyland shaw came the song of a nightingale. Things had not really changed much. . . . They used to hear owls at the cottage, and every year in May a nightingale had sung among the sallows by the pool. In Kent too there would be owls and nightingales . . . and the same stars and the same smells and the same ways of living and speaking. Only if he had gone into a town would he have lost these things. So thank the Lord he had not gone into a town. What could he have done without these things? . . . hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo. . . . He felt almost happy as he helped little Norman up the caravan steps.


When the time came, he found that he was glad to go into Kent. Those two weeks by the brook taught him that a caravan is a thing to move about in—it seems smaller, somehow, when it stands still. Also he could not help feeling awkward while he lived in his own district and met his old friends. It was not the same as living in a house; he felt at a disadvantage . . . and it hurt him to see, as he had seen almost every day, Float Cottage standing empty—first just empty, waiting for the builder's men to begin, then with the door and windows torn out and the stairs broken down, in the process of some queer change . . . he would be glad when he did not have to see it any more.

His work was finished at Winterland, and he set forward with more money in his pocket than he had had for a very long time. It was a fine day, warm and sunny, and the old horse, refreshed by his fortnight's rest, pulled with a will. Fred walked beside him, holding Norman by the hand. Ivy did not like to ride on the caravan steps like a gipsy, so sat inside with the two younger children, who pressed their noses against the windows, one between each pair of little lace curtains tied with pink ribbon.

It was about ten o'clock and everyone was at work—they did not meet a soul to say good-bye to. They had actually said good-bye to no one—Fred told himself that it was not worth while, as they would soon be back again. He meant to come and go quite a lot—he could do as he liked now that his home was on wheels—and anyhow he would be back for the hop-picking; there were as good hops in Sussex as any in Kent—it was only for fruit that a man must cross the border.

They pushed forward till twelve o'clock when they stopped for a dinner of bread and cheese and bacon, washed down with some hot tea. At first Ivy had had a certain difficulty in managing the stove, which was uncertain and volcanic in action; but she was used to it now, except on hot days when it raised the indoor temperature to infernal degrees and compelled her to ask Fred to make her a fire outside.

After dinner they all dozed on the grass verge beside the lane. It was a lonely byway, and no passing car disturbed their sleep. The sun shone hot on a still air, and all the world seemed vividly blue and green. It was good to be able to lie on the warm grass and sleep instead of having to go to work directly after dinner, as he had done for the last fortnight. That bit of work at Winterland had specially gone against him—turning a meadow into a tennis lawn . . . that was a wicked thing to do when you came to think of it, and he had thought of it often. Also, Mr. Potter who owned the place and had called it The Towers, was a set, hard-driving sort of man, always wanting the men to work overtime and refusing to believe that three weeks were as good as a fortnight. It had all been so sadly different from the slow work of the fields, where a man so seldom has to hurry and to-morrow is nearly always as good as to-day. He felt quite glad to be off work . . . perhaps his year of intermittent idleness had made him lose the habit.

When the day was cooler, he put to the horse and they set out again. They had gone over the edge of the world as he knew it and he must advance carefully, studying sign-posts and asking his way. Ivy was the more travelled of the two of them, for she had been as far as Tenterden, besides several times to Rye and to Hastings. Fred had been once to Hastings and two or three times to Rye, but never northward of Vinehall Market. They were now in a little lane between Sandhurst and Benenden, in a country very like the country they had left—a country of shaws and brooks, meadows and hop-fields, oasts and red-tiled farmhouses. They had plenty of time before it was necessary to be at Haffenden Quarter; they could travel as they liked, stop where they liked, eat and sleep where they liked.

This was not quite true, as they found when they started to pitch their camp for the night in a field near Rolvenden. Fred had unharnessed the horse and was looking for stones to build Ivy's fireplace when he suddenly heard the barking of a dog, and a voice cried:

"Hi! you! get out of here."

"We äun't doing any harm," said Fred, going forward to meet the shadowy figure that came to him from the hedge.

The dog leaped and snarled at him. He was not used to that.

"Harm?" cried the farmer—"of course you're doing harm, mucking up my meadow. You be off or I'll fetch the police. You damned diddicoy!"

So this was what he had to expect from such people. With a crimson face he re-harnessed Ginger, drove the children back into the caravan, and set out again through the curtain of white mist that was rising from the brooks. Of course it was only a question of waiting till it was quite dark and finding another field and then packing off again before people were about in the morning; but the experience had hurt him, it had made him feel something less than a man.


Haffenden Quarter was one of a chain of farms owned by a newly started fruit-canning firm. They had taken over nearly a hundred acres of existing cherry orchard, and planted two hundred more. The times were certainly against them, with falling prices and competing nations, but they had the advantage of being among the first to venture in this way, also of having in their directorate a rare combination of progress and experience.

The land under the trees had been planted with potatoes, pease, and other vegetables, and they were besides digging about twenty acres to plant with asparagus another year. They employed a certain amount of local regular labour, a great deal of local casual labour, and a great deal more of visiting casual labour at picking time. Fred had the new experience of entering a district in which almost every able-bodied male could work on the land if he chose. Omenden, the company's nearest farm to Haffenden, was only a mile away, and there was another three miles away at Stede Quarter and another at Middle Quarter—no need here to sell farms for building land and gentlemen's residences, no need to turn pasture fields into tennis lawns, no need for ploughmen and carters and stockmen to change into bricklayers and gardeners and chimney-sweeps. Perhaps now there might be a chance of finding regular work and settlement. . . . The old work that provided for man's necessities of meat and bread was not needed any more, but the new work that provided for his luxuries in the way of fruit and vegetables out of season was beginning to flourish and looked as if it might continue.

Fred found no difficulty in getting himself and Ivy taken on as pickers at a piece rate that he was told by other pickers would with luck bring them in each between thirty and forty shillings a week. The foreman recognized him at once for a respectable out-of-work, which though generally slower and less effective than the vagrant type, was more honest and steady. He told him he could put his caravan in a field already containing half a dozen others, besides a row of pickers' huts built of corrugated iron. There was a very good spring of water there, he said.

Sinden's first feeling was one of honourable establishment. He had once more a home and a job. The home was only the caravan he had lived in for the last three weeks, but after ignominious dodging and wandering it had once more its rightful station—no one here would call him a damned diddicoy and set the dog on him. The job was only for a few weeks, but it was well paid and would probably lead to others of the same kind. He felt so pleased with himself that he went up and had a drink at the pub.

Here he found a number of his fellow pickers. For the most part they were a rough crowd, but friendly. One or two were derelict farm hands like himself, others were East London out-of-works, the majority belonged to the familiar genus—gipsies, pikeys, cart-people, all one and the same thing according to his notions up till then. But apparently his notions were all wrong . . . that day began his initiation into the ways of the road and its people, among whom he was to find as many and as sharp social distinctions as among the householders of Vinehall and Leasan.

Most of the people he met at Haffenden were anxious to assure him that they were not gipsies—had never had any connection with gipsies. There were practically only three real gipsy families in the South, the Ripleys, the Boswells and the Lees, but as their numbers ran into hundreds they were the virtual bosses of the road—it was unlucky to fall out with them. As for going with them, no one ever did that, nor would they have it.

An old man with whom Fred fell into conversation over a pint of Kent's Best told him these things. He also told him that there was a gang of half-and-halfs, to whom his landlord and his father-in-law's late landlord, Messrs. Playden and Miller, belonged. They lived in caravans, some of which were very fine, whereas the real gipsies favoured carts and tents—"like Chinese heathen," the old man said in a slow, plaintive voice that came from nowhere Fred knew. The half-and-halfs as well as the gipsies were often very rich, and owned house-property and strings of horses.

After these princes and dukes of the road came a proletariat of tramps, pushing barrows and perambulators. Some were real tramps, that is to say they tramped because they liked tramping, others were not so real and tramped in search of work. Often the not so real ended by becoming real—"those don't come here of course—they just goes from workhouse to workhouse till they drops down dead."

The old man seemed to have plenty of money on him, and when they had finished their pints he treated Fred to another, after which of course Fred had to treat him. The result was that he left the Lamb Inn in even better spirits than he had arrived, though gnawing at them was a vague anxiety as to how Ivy would receive him after so long an absence and the expenditure of one and nine.


He found his wife, however, in as good a humour as he was. She too had made friends, and at the moment of his return was actually entertaining company. Somehow she had managed to light a fire on the grass by the caravan, and round it, eating large chunks of bread and margarine and something which looked and smelled like sausages, sat Ivy and the children, and a couple which at first Fred took for two old men, as they both wore cloth caps on their heads, striped mufflers round their necks and extended enormous broken boots to the fire. A closer inspection revealed a nob of hair and two hairpins under one of the caps, a ragged skirt stopping an inch or two above the beginning of one pair of boots, and beneath one muffler a large, collapsing bosom.

"Fred," said Ivy, "this is Mrs. Dalrymple—and Mr. Dalrymple."

"Mrs. Reginald Dalrymple," corrected the lady as she shook hands. "We've got to be particular about that."

"Bloody particular," elaborated her husband.

"No, not bloody, Reg. That's not a word to use. It's only that there's such a lot of Dalrymples on the road—Charley Dalrymple and his lot, and Stanley Dalrymple, and all those others. They're always getting jugged, too, so it 'ud never do for us to be mixed up with them."

"It bloody well wouldn't," corroborated Mr. Dalrymple.

Having once rebuked her spouse and thus shown that she understood the difference between good and bad language, Mrs. Dalrymple made no further effort to restrain him. Fred being, like most countrymen, soft and nice in his speech, at first listened with some anxiety for his family's ears. But a few more sentences soon showed that Mr. Dalrymple had only just the one word, which he used so generously—sometimes even stuffing other words with it—that in a short time familiarity had made it almost unnoticeable.

"Mrs. Sinden was having a bit of trouble with her stove," continued their new acquaintance, "so being used to such things I made so bold as to help her. We've a stove of our own, you see; leastways it's my daughter Sue's, but we're travelling with her and her lot for the present. Her husband's in the osier trade, and they're all out now selling baskets, so I thought no harm to bring along a few hot dogs she'd got in for supper."

"Very kind of you, ma'am, I'm sure," said Fred.

"Sit down and try one. Your wife has cooked them for us. But there's plenty left for Sue and her lot when she comes home. She's doing well, she is, and I tell you there's no stint in that place."

Fred sat down and was given a sizzling sausage and a cup of tea.

"Mrs. Dalrymple says she knows our part," said Ivy. "She says she knows Dinglesden and Starvecrow."

"Yes, indeed, many's the time Reg and I have stayed at Starvecrow; once we were there almost a whole week."

"In Mr. Peter Alard's time?"

Fred was wondering vaguely if this was a couple that had seen better days.

"Oh no—since the place became empty. We stop a lot at empty houses, Reg and I. You see it's only some times that we lives in a caravan. When we're alone we mostly walk. Then a place like Starvecrow comes in handy."

"Doesn't nobody ever try to turn you out?"

"Sometimes, it's happened, of course; but not often. And we never do the smallest harm. There's some you know wouldn't think anything of burning a few banisters, but Reg and me we always goes out and picks up wood even when it's raining. Don't we, Reg?"

"We does, old lady."

"Are you picking at Haffenden?"

"Sue and her lot are, and I am, but Mr. Dalryrnple isn't. He doesn't work"—in the tone of one who should say: He doesn't smoke, or He doesn't drink—"but I must say I enjoy a bit of work now and again, as long as it's well paid and don't last too long and don't happen too often."

"How do you live," asked Ivy, "when you don't work?"

Mrs. Dalrymple went into a fit of wheezy laughter.

"Ask him," she choked, nudging her husband in the ribs. "Ask him. He knows a dodge or two. He knows how to live without working, don't you, Reg?"

Mr. Dalrymple spluttered and winked, laid his finger against his nose, and spluttered and winked again.

"He'll show you one day," said his lady, "if you keep along of us, we'll learn you a thing or two."

"What sort of things?" asked Fred, rather anxiously.

"Oh, fine, first-class, gorgeous things—nothing to land you in the jug."

"Maybe you've done a bit of poaching yourself in your time," said Mr. Dalrymple.

Fred felt his cheeks redden.

"Well, I may now and again have trod on a rabbit. . . ."

"Rabbit!" shouted Mrs. Dalrymple. "Rabbit! Ha! Ha! Ha! D'you hear that, Reg?"

"Rabbit!" yelled her spouse, convulsed. "Ha! Ha! That's bloody good! Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabloodybit! Rabbit! Rabbit!"

"Rabbit! Rabbit!" piped the children, thinking it was a funny game.

At this crisis the proceedings were interrupted by the return of Sue and her lot. Mrs. Dalrymple checked her mirth to perform the necessary introductions, and soon Fred lost his embarrassment in conjecture as to how Mrs. William Stubberfield, her husband, her father and mother, her husband's father, and her five children fitted into their caravan. She looked more of a gipsy than her parents, with her flashing black eyes, and big black loops of hair hanging over big gold loops of earrings; but her husband was certainly a gentile—blue-eyed and sandy-haired, hulking and loose-jointed. The children took after him, from the eldest who was about thirteen to the youngest, swung in his mother's shawl. Nothing here of that dark, dapper gipsy trimness that marked even those who spurned the name of Egypt. The sight of Bill Stubberfield and his sandy brats did much to reassure Fred, who had begun to feel nervous as to his company.


They stopped three weeks at Haffenden Quarter, during which the Sindens earned nearly ten pounds between them. Their living expenses were contrastingly low, so they found themselves in a new and surprising state of affluence, even after another month's rent had been paid to Tom Playden.

On leaving Haffenden they picked for a fortnight at Stede Quarter, and then turned north-west, to Kipping Cross and Brenchley, and the villages round Tonbridge and Sevenoaks for the soft fruit. This went with a rush, and after another fortnight they were back in the area of Kent's Best. It was not yet time for the apple-picking to begin, but Fred found a week's harvesting job on a farm known as Catherine Wheel.

Throughout this excursion they were accompanied by the Stubberfield caravan; indeed their whole journey had been planned in the light of a wider experience than their own. Stubberfield had been on the roads ever since the war, during which he had served in the Royal Sussex Regiment with only minor inconveniences, until a month before the armistice, when he was badly wounded in the head by a shell-burst. He proudly pointed out to Fred the steel trepanning of his skull and the fact that two spinal vertebræ were missing. He could not hold his head upright, and any violent exertion was liable to bring on what he called his "fits." He was unable to go back to his old job of stockman, and as in a moment of war-irresponsibility he had married on his last leave the daughter of the Dalrymples—or Lovells as they called themselves in those days—it had been easy for him to take to a wandering life. He had his pension, and made money, besides, out of selling baskets. He was, by Fred's standards, a wealthy man, and lived as he did from choice rather than from necessity.

His company on the road was a reassurance. Here was no gipsy or piker but a labouring man like himself—a labouring man who had lost his job, though more honourably than he, and like him was making the best of it. He had, Fred found, been stockman at a farm near Arundel and also at Shoyswell Farm near Ticehurst, some fifteen miles from Vinehall. They could talk of farm life together, though to Stubberfield all that had by this time grown rather dim. The war raged between him and those peaceful years of leading beasts and tramping the clay; and since the war there had been marriage and the begetting of children. He had almost forgotten what it was like to live in a house, and as a family man knew nothing but his swarming caravan, relieved by a brown tent which he pitched at night.

He bad no regrets and few sorrows. His only real trouble was his "fits," but that, as he pointed out, wasn't nearly so bad as it might have been, because he always knew when they were coming on. Then Sue would turn the children out, so that he could have the place to himself.

"Sometimes I'll be unconscious for two hours," he would say proudly, "screaming and hollering fit to send the roof off. Sue says the language I use is something tur'ble; but I don't remember none of it when I wake up."

Sue was not so happy about him as he was about himself.

"It's bad to hear him—I don't like it. He goes on as if he was back at the war, and I'm scared of him hurting himself when he rolls about. He's getting worse, and the doctor says a time ull come when he'll have to lie in bed always . . . there's some positions already as he can't get into, and some he can't get out of when he gets into them. He says to me 'Sue, lift my head up—I can't move it.' Oh, I know as there's some been out in that war and caught it worse than Bill; but we notice it more with him, because he's ours."


Though he was sorry for her, Fred could not like Sue as much as he liked her husband. There was something about her that was plainly gipsyish. She belonged to that bad old lot of the Dalrymples and followed their ways. Stubberfield sometimes did the same, it must be confessed. He was not above a bit of poaching—and chickens, too . . . when it came to chickens Fred had always called it stealing, but apparently it was only poaching to the Stubberfields and Dalrymples. Stealing was when you went after bigger game, such as pigs, sheep and horses; also when you took things like spoons or tools or money. Neither the Stubberfields nor the Dalrymples would ever steal, but they poached freely—they ate roast chicken at least once a week.

Fred told Ivy sternly that if ever he found her cooking a fowl he was shut of her for good. But he could not stop her learning from Sue other ways of cooking which, though not dishonest, he considered undesirable and unclean. Sue taught Ivy how to cook a hedgehog, also that you could eat rabbits out of season without getting poisoned, which was contrary to a doctrine firmly held in the district of Vinehall and Leasan. Now there was always something unpaid for in Ivy's pot, and though Fred disapproved he could not deny that the meat was tasty.

As time passed he gradually got used to this idea o£ feeding like the gipsies, especially when he found how much it saved his pocket. When they lived at Float Cottage their Sunday's fried steak had cost them nearly two shillings every week; now in the place of this expensive cinder, which Fred had only moderately enjoyed, they ate plump, roast hedgehog, basted to tenderness and stuffed with herbs, and a salad of dandelion leaves, and some of the spoiled fruit of the orchards. It cost them nothing and they thrived on it—Fred felt he could not really object, though it was not till the end of the season that something in his heart stopped disapproving.

In other ways he learned better things from his companions. Stubberfield's advice saved him a lot of trouble, idleness and expense. Stubberfield knew of the best farms to go to, the big places that employed outside labour, the well-founded, go-ahead places that did not feel the slump. They wandered down the whole chain of Messrs. Cameron's farms, from cherries to apples. They lifted potatoes. They picked peas and beans. They visited the big corn-growing farms of the Kentish plain, where Fred had the pain of helping reap the fruit of other men's ploughing. Sometimes they stopped at a place for a night, sometimes for two or three weeks.

On Stubberfield's advice, Fred took out pedlars' licences for himself and Ivy. In certain places that felt the slump the fruit was being almost given away, and it was good business to buy it and hawk it round for twice the money, but still cheaply, to those housewives who were too lazy or ignorant to buy it direct from the grower. There were also empty days or even empty weeks that could be filled with basket making and basket selling. This was gipsy work, and at first Fred had protested, but Stubberfield pointed out that he had made baskets for fifteen years and not turned into a gipsy—and the gipsies did not so often make baskets themselves as buy them from industrious gentiles who had made them. . . . It was profitable work, too; you made a basket for nothing out of osiers you had picked without paying for—indeed you didn't know whom they belonged to, and anyhow nobody cared—and sold it for two shillings or half a crown. There was money in that.

There seemed to be more money on the roads than Fred had imagined, especially if you weren't too particular. But even if you were, you found it easier to live than settled in a house. Not only was living cheaper, but it was easier to find work—you did not have to sit at home waiting to hear of something, nor did you have to tramp in search of it round a circle of country limited by the walking powers of your two legs. If work did not come to you, you could go after it. There was always the rumour of it somewhere to be chased. His journeyings did not take him very far; all that summer he was within the areas of Kent's Best and Messrs. Style and Winch's breweries—he never went as far north as Friary ales or as far east or west as Tamplin's or Hobday and Hitch. But that piece of country—which had the kindly grace of being like the rest of the world he knew—gave him enough work to put in his pockets more money than they had held since the days when he was earning two pounds a week.

At first he had had hopes of being able to find a permanent job, but as the summer wore on these grew fainter. The times were bad—worse than they had ever been—and were going to be worse still, so everybody said. In the pubs they talked about a National Government and coming off the gold standard, before they passed on to the more absorbing topics of Smarden's chance against Frittenden at cricket and what would win the 3.40 race at Folkestone. Fred saw the future as a narrow cross-country lane, going inevitably downhill, down and down and down, to that inevitable stream at the bottom, and that bridge which was "Dangerous for Heavy Traffic. . . ." Thank God, he was travelling light!—lighter than he had ever travelled, with this new cheap living and his moving home.

His only big expense was the rent of the caravan. Stubberfield said he was paying far too much for it.

"Why, in three months you've paid him nearly four pounds, and you could have bought the whole thing for five."

"He was asking twenty."

"Twenty! The dirty, gipsy dog! Why, look at it—it's scarce worth twenty shillings with those cracks in the roof. I wonder you can sleep in it on rainy nights."

"I'm used to the rain coming in. It came in worse than this at Float."

"I don't say those cracks couldn't be mended, but what's the use of mending another man's property? When do you see him again?"

"I'm meeting him next week at Ramstile."

"Then you offer him four pounds for it. You can run to that, can't you?"

"Maybe I can. But he'll never take it."

"Take it! He'll jump at it. He's had three pounds out of you already. Four and three makes seven, and I've told you the thing ain't worth five."

"What about Ginger?"

"You offer him thirty bob for Ginger."

Fred did not expect his offer to be accepted; but it was. No doubt the presence of Stubberfield had something to do with his success in bargaining. Stubberfield was a gentile, but he knew all about gipsy ways. He had only to tell Playden that if he wouldn't sell there was a much better cart and horse he knew of for less money, and the dealer was rushing down a sliding scale of five shillings till he had hit Fred's level.

"Not that the horse and cart aren't worth thirty pounds, gentleman, being a very fine horse and cart, such as a lord or an earl might be proud to ride in. But this new gold standard allows me to sell them cheap. The wise people say that everything is to be cheaper now except beer."

Sinden had parted with more than half the money he had put aside to see him through the winter, in case he could not find any winter work. But against that he had now a home of his own, bought with his money and belonging to him, so that no one could turn him out nor could any poverty make him homeless. Whatever happened he would have shelter for himself and his little family, and he and Ivy would be able to make something out of the basket trade. Besides, there was the hop-picking still ahead—that would help fill up his pockets again.

Stubberfield wanted him to stop in Kent for the hop-picking, and work with him at the big hop farms round Pluckley and Paddock Wood, but Fred was determined to go back to Leasan. He could find work on some farm he knew, with people he knew. During the hop-picking there was no need for him to wander in the foreign land of Kent. When it was over he would join Stubberfield again at an appointed place, but for three weeks at least he would be back among his own folk.


It was with mixed feelings that he led his horse up the road that winds past Reedbed and Ethnam to Leasan street. It seemed almost queer to be going over the familiar way again—queer and good. Yes, on the whole it was good. He might look like a gipsy, with all those baskets hanging from the eaves of the caravan, but he was not a gipsy, nor did he go with gipsies—the Stubberfields were not gipsies, nor even the Dalrymples. He had behaved himself, and he had made a lot of money.

He had done better than he could have done if he had stayed in the Leasan district, even if he had been able to find a house. He had earned more and he had spent less. He fancied himself, too, as a house-owner. He had mended his roof, and his caravan was drier than Float Cottage had been. Moreover, he now had a stock of poultry. Stubberfield had sold him half a dozen fowls (at what, four months ago, he would have considered an ominously low price) and these travelled in a kind of crate he had made and slung beneath the caravan. When it came to rest they were turned out, and scratched by the wayside, and apparently they did not resent their strange mode of life enough to deny him their eggs. No, indeed, Fred did not return to Leasan as a vagrant, but as a travelling householder, which was quite a different thing.

Ivy, too, had lost some of her shame and her anxiety as to her neighbours' opinion. She had spent a whole day in cleaning the caravan and polishing the brasses. She had washed the window curtains and put a jar of flowers on the window-sill. The children looked, she knew, the picture of health—the roving outdoor life had suited them; living in a caravan, she had not been able to keep them much indoors, they had had to learn to be out in all weathers, and they had thriven on it. As for herself she did not look so bad, as she had kept some of what she called her "good clothes," and wore them on this critical day of her return. Also she and the children had never under any provocation given up wearing their hats.

The first thing to do was to find a pitch. Fred was wiser now than he had been in those first days on the road; he no longer risked the wrath of farmers and of dogs by illicit camping. Either he drew up on the grass verge of the road or in the mouth of some unused lane or on some free common-land, or else he called at a farm and formally asked permission. This had seldom been refused him, as he was a man of good speech and honest looks.

To-day he went to Eyelid Farm and asked if they would let him pitch in a field some way from the house. It was a good field for camping, because the ground sloped away from the wind towards a little stream. Beyond the stream rose the oak and chestnut of Wagmary Wood, and the sunshine spilled itself on that sheltered corner, brewing a scent of grass and leaves and common flowers like clover and daisies and milkwort and fleabane. They would do very well here if Mr. Gain of Eyelid would let them stay.

Mr. Gain knew Fred at once.

"What, you, Sinden! You've come back?"

"Just for a while—for the picking; and I've called around to ask you if I may put my caravan in the field yonder by Wagmary Wood."

"So you've still got your caravan? I heard you'd gone away in one."

"I've bought it now. It's mine."

"Then you like living in a caravan?"

"I can't find anywhere else to live."

"Got a good horse?"

"Not so bad. He was something tur'ble when I took him on, but I've fed him up, and now he's just strong enough to pull us around."

"Well, you're welcome to the Wagmary field for as long as you like. We start our picking here on Monday. Maybe you and your wife 'ud like to come on at that."

"'At that we would. I'd meant to ask you if you could take us on."

"I'm paying only tuppence a bushel this year. These are bad times, especially for hops."

"No one's paying more than tuppence a bushel, I reckon—not even Hobday and Hitch."

"How did you do all the summer? You must have made some money if you've bought your caravan."

"I went fruit-picking at Messrs. Cameron's farms—Haffenden, and Stede, and two others over at Tonbridge; and I lifted some potatoes too, and got one good harvesting job."

He did not say anything about the baskets.

"They say there's going to be money in fruit," said Gain doubtfully. "This new government's going to tax foreigners, leastways they will after the election. Maybe it 'ud pay us to grow it then—or maybe it'll just be the same business over again as it was with the hops."

"That wouldn't do us any good."

"Reckon it wouldn't. Vidler of Sempsted was telling me the other day as he was thinking of growing fruit, so I said to him, 'That won't hurt you as long as you don't do any more than think of it' Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! I'm going to wait and see how things go before I even so much as start thinking. They say some of those Kentish growers have been giving their fruit away. But sometimes I think anything would be better than seeing the place cut up as it is. Ethnam's gone now."

"What! Up for sale?"

"Sold. They've sold the house for old oak, and cut up the land into small holdings. Seemingly bungalows don't pay any more, but everybody wants to start chicken-farming."

"Anyone bought Starvecrow yet?"

"No one. That'll never go now with the Hobbyhorse land all built over. Though I did hear a rumour as some one was after it for a tea-place. The tramps that come and doss there are just about terrifying. Mrs. Hornblower, who's got one of the Hobbyhorse houses—Hobbyhouses they sometimes call 'em now—Ha! Ha! Ha!—she was telling me only the other day that she can hear the language that they use. There was an old chap lost his boot, and what he said was worse than you hear on the Pictures."

"How's Mus' Parish getting on?"

"Oh, him! He's all right. He's got money. You can't take him seriously as a farmer. He's all for doing fancy things, like putting chemicals into the ground. Give me honest crops, I say—wheat, and then roots, and then barley. None of your chemicals that are like to blow the place up."

"Is Miss Betsy married yet?"

"She was married last month. I never thought it 'ud happen. I made sure as either she'd scare him off or he'd scare her off. However, neither of 'em did. And it was a fine wedding too, with those two young girls of Mrs. Alard's for bridesmaids, and a lot of people down from London. Mrs. Parish came and young Ronald, but Vernon's gone to the North Pole."

"Seems a queer place to go."

"Oh, he was uncommon set up with it, I can tell you. I reckon he means to start farming there. Ha! Ha! Ha! Not so bad, it wouldn't be—no tithe, no taxes. . . . We've had a terrification about the tithe since you left, Mr. Honeysett of Ethnam was put up for sale to pay his, and everybody came along and bid in sixpences. The auctioneer was properly wild, I can tell you—selling a whole flock of sheep for under two pound. We all laughed fit to bust ourselves, and someone went along and stirred up all the cattle, so as they went rushing everywhere—and there was a dead sheep put in the auctioneer's car. Ha! Ha! Ha! Q.A.B.—that's Queen Anne's Bounty—R.I.P.—that's French for dead—they wrote it on the gate-post. I tell you it's years since I laughed so much."


It was George Bates who told Jim Parish that Sinden had come back.

"He's living in a caravan on Mus' Gain's field at Eyelid. I understand he's picking for 'em there."

"Um . . . I wonder if he means to stay. Do you know of any job that's going for him, George?"

"No, I don't—nor a house neither."

"It's a pity."

"A tur'ble pity. Looks as if we shan't be able to catch that wheel before it rolls down hill."

"Oh, come, George—Fred's a decent, steady chap. He won't roll down hill."

George muttered something discouraging and inarticulate, and Parish said no more about Fred Sinden while they were together. But when their day's work was over, and he had taken off his dungarees, and washed, and combed the sweaty straggles of hair which was all that remained of the dark plume that Jenny Alard used to stroke in years gone by, he found himself thinking bitterly and deeply.

Another good man gone wrong. . . . Fred had been a part of the honest, settled life of the countryside, and here he was a vagrant. He might have gone into the town, or he might have gone to the colonies; the only thing he could not have done was to have gone on living where he was and where he wanted to be. Parish acknowledged in his heart that he could not blame Fred; yet he felt angry with him. Why hadn't he been to see him before going off like this? He might have been able to do something. . . . No, damn it all! Don't let's have any humbug. He could have done nothing—he would have had to let him go just the same. It was only that his vanity would have been pleased if Fred had consulted him. He liked to think of himself as friend and counsellor of the neighbourhood, and of course he was nothing of the kind. They had all grown that much beyond the Squire, even before Gervase Alard cleared out and left them. They no more wanted the Squire to help and advise them than they wanted Lady Bountiful to give them buns. He ought not to mind the one any more than he minded the other; but he did. It was a sign of change, and a change for which he could not blame Gervase Alard.

"Change and decay in all around I see. . . ."

He had lit his pipe, and lay back, pulling at it, in his leather arm-chair. He always sat in the office now. The house seemed to grow more and more empty. He could not think why that was, because for years he had lived in it alone. It had not felt empty at the start, but now it seemed already empty with the emptiness it would have when he was gone. How old was he? Forty-seven. That was past middle age. He would have to go and leave no one to come after him. Why had he never married? He could marry now, of course—a man with all his limbs and wits and faculties, even without a few of them, can always find somebody. . . . That was it, of course. He did not want somebody—or even anybody. He did not want even Jenny Alard now. That was all over and done with; though he could not help feeling pleased that Godfrey was at last beginning to feel the draught. . . . Damn him for his smug naïvety, stealing away that lovely girl. She had been lovely then, though she was lovely no longer now; he remembered her free step and clear, dark, laughing eye. Change and decay even in Jenny . . . and he couldn't blame Gervase Alard—yes, he could, for Gervase had encouraged that preposterous marriage, and it was marriage that had worn her and dimmed her and changed her. She should never have married. She should have lived on in some small village house, a glorified Rose Alard, and helped him save the neighbourhood from the Alard wreck, and encouraged his work at Cock Marling, and beamed her bright eye upon him over an evening glass of wine. They would have slid into an intimacy which when the times were ripe would have slid into marriage—a marriage that would not have dimmed her. But she had refused to wait, and he refused to remember that she would not wait because she hated the things he loved and loved the things he hated.

What would happen, he wondered, if he left Cock Marling to Jenny's eldest son? That lumpkin youth would without fail grow up a Godfrey and despise any better heritage than Fourhouses, if he did not by then despise that. No, better leave it to one of Betsy's sons. For Betsy now would probably have sons . . . he found it as hard to think of her sons as to think of knitting socks in the Casino at Monte Carlo. Why had she done this insane, incongruous thing? Yet he knew she had not done it insanely; she had known and faced all that it meant. But she had said, "I am tired. I will lie down and rest." That had been the gist of the wild, angry conversation they had had when she announced her decision. She had been tired and the man had offered her rest, and she had believed that he could give it to her. Women, he supposed, were like that.

But there were other influences, too, as he had seen when he watched them together. Her eyes had melted as they looked at him, become soft and suffused, and his had glowed—their hands had stolen together. . . . After all, this man was a fine creature, and the strangeness of his mind was softened by the warmth of his heart. Jim had to confess that in some ways he approved of him. He rode to hounds, bred pigs, and farmed his glebe. Probably he would not object at all to coming himself to live at Cock Marling if his brother-in-law were to die before him. Given some training and encouragement, and ignoring certain wild Evangelical tendencies (as doubtless they could be ignored, or even tired Betsy would not have married him), he might in time make an excellent squarson. There was always that abominable water-drinking, of course. . . . He would bring up his children as teetotallers. But that would mean that they would drink like Hanoverian Squires when they grew up. Certainly a son of his might be no unsuitable heir of Cock Marling. . . . He would talk about it to Betsy when they came to dinner to-night.


John and Betsy Brady had just come back from their honeymoon. That her name would be Betsy Brady had been a part of her brother's argument against her marriage. It was, she reflected, just like him to drag out a reason like that when she would not listen to the others. As if she cared what her name was. . . . As a matter of fact, it was Elisabeth. Her husband always called her Elisabeth. He was not the man for toying with small names; and she was glad to be changed without as well as within. Elisabeth Brady seemed a different woman from Betsy Parish—older, quieter, happier, already experienced in a new kind of life.

She looked a different woman, too, as she alighted from her husband's car and entered her brother's house. She had chosen her new clothes with a view to Vinehall parsonage, and they were quietly becoming, rich rather than smart. She had dusted her face with powder, but had left it uncoloured. Glancing at herself in the hall mirror she was struck by the fact that her pallor had given her that air of mystery and sophistication which fashionable women sought in 1931.

It felt strange to be entering Cock Marling as Jim's guest for dinner. Clear soup, flavoured with if not reeking of sherry, fried fillets of plaice, roast chicken, a cream sweet, and minced haddock on toast . . . she knew the menu as she knew Jim's old-fashioned dinner jacket and the rosebud he would have in his button-hole. John, for all his unworldliness, looked better dressed. . . . What a fine man he was . . . the silken expanse of his clerical evening waistcoat spoke to her of a strength and beauty that were as much a part of her love as his kindness. The white unbroken circle of his collar seemed to light up his face, so living and so true . . . she was looking at him rather than at her brother as she walked into the room.

"Hullo, Betsy my dear! Greetings. Hullo, John. Have a glass of sherry."

"No, thank you."

They both said it.

"Oh, Betsy—you too?"

"Yes; why not? John doesn't approve of it, so I'm not going to worry him. Alcohol hasn't the moral significance for me that it has for you."

"It hasn't any moral significance for me—but your going teetotal has."

"There you are! You've said it. And I haven't gone teetotal—only till John's got used to me."

"And how long will that take?"

"I don't know—some time yet. Don't look so shocked, Jim. Have a glass yourself and feel better."

Jim poured himself out a glass, feeling injured.

"Now are we going to sit staring at each other till dinner's ready?"

"Not unless you'd rather. Personally I'm able to talk without stimulants, and so can John—or he'd never talk at all, bless him!"

"But one's lost a social force. Can't you feel it?"

"No—and anyhow, Jim, aperitifs are out of place in your Hanoverian scheme of life. They're modern and they're foreign. If you really want to be an eighteenth-century Englishman you must get drunk at dinner instead."

"I probably shall."

"Then we'd better start telling you now about Ballycullagh. John has quite converted me to Irish scenery—haven't you, John?"

She wanted to make him talk—he was shy, and she was encouraging him. Oh Lord, how she was changed!

They talked rather meaninglessly at first, forcing conversation till they were at the dinner table. Thank heaven John would have to drink sherry in his soup—unless he refused soup altogether. But either he did not smell the devil or he accepted him as a cooking ingredient. There was sherry in the trifle too . . . really Mrs. Holmes should not have done that; but to-night he would forgive her because she had made John swallow two lots of cooking sherry after having refused his best Amontillado.

He had always found it difficult to talk to John, and now the fact that he was actually his brother-in-law did not seem to make it easier. There was also a new embarrassment in talking to Betsy. By marrying this man she had proclaimed herself incomprehensible, and the mystery grew as he watched her so plainly loving him—always with her eyes upon him, her voice stroking him, her mind searching for opportunities to show off his.

Certainly the man might have been worse. He was a sincere fool, and so many fools are insincere. He was presentable too, and had good if rather simple manners. But he was more alien than a Frenchman, with his Irish idealism and intolerance. Could there be anything more remote than an intolerant idealism from the golden age of civilization, when men's minds were mellow as their port and materialistic as their politics? The trouble was that Betsy too seemed now to share in this remoteness. He could not talk to her, he could not even quarrel with her as he used to do. He made conversation laboriously. . . . And all the time he was wondering how much this man she loved was a stranger. How much about her did he know? What had she told him? What was there to tell? After all, he knew very little himself about his sister, and had never believed half or even a quarter of the gossip that had reached his ears. Perhaps it was all nothing—the phantasy of country prudes, based on highly-coloured appearances and their own smouldering desires. Perhaps this clerical bridegroom had taken to himself a virgin merely tongue-soiled. . . . On the other hand, he was just the sort of man who would have enjoyed forgiving her. His love would feed on forgiveness—butter on a lordly dish. . . . Well, her brother would never be told. Betsy had always been a riddle to him, a riddle as to whose answer he had up till this moment felt perfectly indifferent. Now, for the first time, he would like to know one or two things that he would never know.

Meanwhile his tongue made the conversation.

"Betsy, the Sindens are back."

"Oh yes, they went off in a caravan, didn't they?"

"Alas! and they've come back in it."

"Who are the Sindens?" asked John.

"Ivy used to be housemaid here once—not a bad little thing; and she married a very decent chap, who lost his job owing to the slump. They've been wandering about all the summer and now they're back here for the hop-picking."

"Are they parishioners?"

"They usen't to be. They lived in Float Cottage, which is strictly speaking in Leasan. But now they're camping in the Wagmary field at Eyelid. I believe that's in your parish all right, if you want to pay them a pastoral visitation. But I warn you, they're not used to it."

John stared through the uncurtained window at some dim place beyond the evening star.

"I mean to visit all my parishioners—every one. I know they're not used to it, but that doesn't excuse me."

"Oh, no, quite; but it may excuse them if they don't receive you quite in the manner you've been accustomed to. However, I do want you to see Fred, because I've been wondering if you could possibly give him a job."

"What sort of a job?"

"Well, you're farming your glebe, aren't you? Couldn't he help you there?"

"I've got Fred Waters, you know. He was on the land when Weller farmed it, and I can't very well turn him off."

"No, I suppose not. Of course not. And no one wants an extra man. You don't want to grow wheat, do you, by any chance? They say there's a good time coming for wheat, and Fred used to be a fine ploughman."

"I haven't the time to farm seriously. I shall keep a few sheep and cows, that's all, and see that the land's kept in order."

"Well, that's a good work. But I wish I could find something for poor Fred."

"What can he do?"

"Ploughing very well, and almost anything else not so well. He'd drain your fields for you if you wanted it."

"I understand that they were drained in nineteen-twelve. Anyway they don't want draining now. But, tell me, can he work indoors? Elisabeth was saying only this morning that she doesn't like the man we've got."

"I don't like him because he doesn't know his job; but Fred would know it still less. My wildest imagination can't picture Fred Sinden as a butler."

"Nor can mine. But Ivy might do as a parlourmaid. Couldn't you take her on as a parlourmaid, Betsy, and let him be with her as a sort of handyman? You'd find him useful in a lot of ways, and you needn't give them more than her normal wages if you let them have board and lodging."

"My dear Jim, haven't they got at least six children?"

"No, only three."

"But I can't take in a married couple and three children."

"We could put them in the attics, dear," said John, taking fire at an altruistic scheme. "You said yourself that our attics would make quite a nice little self-contained flat."

"For one of us, if we ever get tired of each other—not for a clumping ploughman, a draggle-tail, incapable slut and their three dirty children."

"Betsy! Betsy!" cried Jim, "that's not talking like a clergyman's wife."

"It's talking like the sort of clergyman's wife I mean to be. I know John would willingly house all the homeless population of this neighbourhood, but I won't have it."

"You'd get good service in exchange."

"My dear Jim, have you forgotten how you were always cursing Ivy?—saying that she was untidy and lazy and forgetful and ought to be sacked . . . and now you want me to take her on as parlourmaid. She's probably gone to pieces entirely since her marriage."

"Most women do, I know. But she'll recover when she finds herself at her job again."

"The old war-horse sniffing the battle, eh? Somehow I don't get that idea of Ivy."

"We might give her a trial," said John. "I don't like to think of decent people living in a caravan."

"Good man," said Jim, warming towards his brother-in-law. "Make her obey you. She's promised it."

"With mental reservations," said Betsy.

"It would only be for a short time," argued her husband. "I understand that the man will take a ploughman's job again as soon as there's one going."

"As there may be quite soon, if we get a National Government."

"How many governments have you hoped in, Jim?"

The conversation switched on to politics.


Fred Sinden enjoyed his three weeks in the Wagmary field. The weather kept fine for most of the time, and he, Ivy and the children picked hops first at Eyelid and afterwards for a week at Jordan's. Even at twopence a bushel their earnings were good.

Most evenings Fred went up to the Queen's Head and met his old friends. At first he had felt rather anxious as to how they would receive him. Would they look upon him as a gipsy and a foreigner, or would they understand his position? He was relieved to find little or no change in the atmosphere. They pitied him for losing his work and his home, but they did not despise him. On the contrary, they seemed glad to see him back again, and listened with interest to his traveller's tales about the country beyond the Kent Ditch, about Haffenden Quarter and all Messrs. Cameron's farms and fruit-picking and fruit-growing.

They were interested in fruit, for one or two farmers were thinking of planting cherry and apple trees. There was a vague unquiet hope about the countryside—that there might be money in fruit. The augurs said that there was going to be a National Government that would tax everything foreign and send up prices for home growers. Pessimists mumbled "hops," and meanwhile many heads were shaken over fat-stock prices, which were rushing down. But it was a fact that Mr. Vidler was going to plant thirty acres of fruit trees at Sempsted.

It did Fred good to be among his old friends again. One or two of them were no longer there. Young had left the neighbourhood—he had gone into the town and was working at a garage; they said that he was going to learn to drive a 'bus. Brotheridge was out of a job owing to the sale of Ethnam, and could not afford beer at its present price. Everyone seemed to be very careful with his money and to be drinking less. The shadow of uncertainty hung over the neighbourhood. No one knew who would be sold up next, and the invading townspeople were feeling their increased income tax, and showing their displeasure by making wages their first economy. There was a general air of anxiety and depression—deeper than it had been before Sinden left, in spite of political hopes. Sometimes he almost felt glad that he was no longer settled here among them, that any day he could pack up and go to seek his fortune where it promised best.

While Fred sat at the pub among his friends, Ivy, seeing hers at home, also felt pleased to find her social fears unjustified. Her mother, her brother and sister-in-law, Nurse Ashley, Mrs. Waters and Mrs. Masters all came to see her and were impressed by the luxury of her dwelling. None of them had ever properly seen the inside of a caravan, which they had imagined to be something much worse than it was. They were delighted with the big double bed, for which Ivy had made a spread out of the best of her old curtains at Float. They praised the little windows with their frills; they admired the corner cupboard that Fred had made and painted a cheerful blue; and they were amazed at the convenience with which everything, including the children's hammocks, was stored away by day. Ivy's stove, too, with its volcanic action over which she had now complete control, excited their respect.

Her caravan was much better kept than, it must be owned, Float Cottage had been. But there she had had four rooms and a wash-house to cope with. Here all was compact and easy. Also Fred helped her more—he had more time. A motive she only partly acknowledged was the necessity to prove herself better than the gipsies . . . if anyone took her for a gipsy, let them look inside and see for themselves. No gipsy ever had a place so fresh and polished, so entirely without smells, or children so neat and well-washed; no gipsy ever cooked her food so carefully. To Ivy's buried sense of inferiority her husband owed a new domestic ease and her friends and neighbours a certain amount of surprise.

The Sindens had been only once to look at their old home. Curiosity, and some fainter and sadder emotion, had drawn them down through the rustling underwood of Wagmary to the Tillingham marshes, and then along beside the stream till they came to a neglected slope of fields above which stood the ruddy crown of Float's farmsteading. They crossed the fields into the lane and walked up to it a short way. There stood a queer little timbered house, neat if a little crooked, with walls washed yellow between the beams, and rather a bright roof which did not seem to belong to it. The door was open and there were men at work inside. Fred recognized a man called Goodsell who used to work at Reedbed.

"Hullo," he said. "You here!"

"Aye, I'm working for Small and Son of Hastings. They've taken me on for six weeks at this job. What are you doing now?"

"Picking hops at Eyelid. This used to be my house."

"Did it, now! What d'you think of it?"

Fred grinned.

"Not much."

"We've smartened it up a bit."

"I think it looks nice," said Ivy.

"Those joists will never bear that roof," said Fred.

"They'll bear it for a year or two, which is all we want."

"Is it sold?"

"'At that it is—to some people called Bennett. He's a retired lawyer from Eastbourne."

"A large family?" asked Ivy.

"No, only himself and two daughters. They're over here most days."

"When do they come in?"

"They was to have been in a fortnight ago, but we couldn't get finished in time. Now they're always driving over in their motor-car and plaguing us. But they äun't here to-day. Like to take a look round the place?"

Fred was not sure, but Ivy cried: "Oh, do let us!"

So they went in and had a look round. It was all very much changed, and every now and then Ivy had to tell herself that this was Float Cottage. All the wallpaper had been taken off and the walls washed with a yellow distemper, while the beams were dark with solignum. The stairs had been made a part of the kitchen, instead of being shut into a kind of cupboard of their own, and the kitchen was to be used as a dining-room, so Goodsell said, and the cooking done in what used to be the wash-house. In the new kitchen a bath had also been installed and there was some joking between Fred and Ivy and the workmen on the chances of the newcomers ever having any water in it. Upstairs the bedrooms looked cold and featureless with their distempered walls, and Ivy noticed that two boughs of the ash tree had been cut away—they darkened the room, according to Goodsell. The old floors had been left, but were in process of being stained dark brown. Now that all the wood had been uncovered, Fred could see how much dry rot there was in the house.

"I don't so much mind leaving it," he said, "now I've seen it like this. It wouldn't have lasted us our time. We'd have had to turn out before long."

"But it'll last better now," said Ivy, "with all they've done to it."

"I wouldn't be too sure of that, mum," said Goodsell, "now we've taken off the wall-paper. Reckon that was what mostly held it up."

"Well," said Fred, "it's been interesting to see it."

They went out, and noticed that a name had been painted in antique letters on the garden gate—"Olde Wayes."


It was a warm Saturday afternoon near the end of September. The Wagmary field smelled of hops, for the wind was blowing that way—from Eyelid's oast and Cock Marling's, and from the fields of Tanhouse and Road End, where the picking was not quite finished yet.

It was finished at Jordan's, and in a day or two the Sindens would leave for Kent, unless in the meanwhile Fred heard of something to keep him where he was. He was sitting on the caravan steps, smoking a pipe and reading the Sussex Mercury. Ivy sat just inside, mending the children's clothes. The children lay asleep on a blanket in the sun. Ivy had grown used to the idea of their sleeping out of doors; she always spread her old mackintosh under the blanket, and certainly they did not seem any the worse for it. Indeed she could have said that they looked all the better.

The sun was very hot, in spite of the September breeze. But there was a smell of autumn about—not only the smell of hops, but a dim, soaking sweetness of decay, in earth, in trees, in hedges, faint as the gold that was spreading in the green, but hovering in the wind like a sigh—telling of the fall of the year, of the winter fogs and the dead leaves that would muffle the earth. Even though now and then he put up his hand to wipe the sweat from his forehead, Fred knew that summer was gone.

This time he did not feel as he had felt last year. He did not have that same sense of terror and foreboding. His five months of wandering life had given him a new feeling of independence. He was no longer a man tied to a stake, to suffer blows, but a man who can move about and dodge his troubles. Moreover he had seven pounds saved, besides a horse and caravan; and Stubberfield, whom he was to meet in a fortnight's time, had a hopeful plan for the winter. There was no real need for him to worry.

"Fred," said Ivy, "somebody's coming."

He must have dozed off over his newspaper and his thoughts, or he would have heard the approaching footsteps before she did. He sprang up, and was surprised to see Mr. Parish coming down the field.

"Hullo, Fred!"

"Good day, Mus' Parish."

This was the first time a visitor of such eminence had called upon them. Ivy hastily looked round, and saw to her relief that the caravan was tidy. The little folding table Fred had made was even set for tea. Mr. Parish would be surprised, like everyone else, to see how nice her place was.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Parish."

"Good afternoon, Ivy. How are you?"

"I'm very well, Sir, thank you."

"And the children?"

"They're fine. It suits them being out of doors. Get Mr. Parish a stool, Fred. I won't ask you in, Sir, for it's a bit hot inside, this time of day."

Parish sat down and gazed round him. The Sindens certainly looked well—sunburnt and flourishing; and the place was unexpectedly clean. They had not yet learned gipsy ways.

"I've been meaning for a long time to come and see you," he said, "but I've been working hard, putting a new roof on my cart lodge. Besides, I thought that possibly you would come and see me."

Fred felt the implied reproach.

"I'm sorry, Sir. I thought of it, but I didn't like to."

"Why not?"

"Well, I knew there was no use troubling you."

"I've never been much good to you, have I? I know that, and it's worried me a bit. But speaking comparatively, the bad times have got me quite as badly as they've got you."

"I wasn't meaning that. I know you'd help me if you could, and I know you can't, so I didn't like to worry you."

"And it didn't strike you to come and see me as a friend? Well, never mind—I've come to see you. I'm glad you're all looking so well."

"We're in good heart all of us, I'm glad to say; and we've all done our share of the picking."

"What are your plans? The picking's nearly over now. Are you going to stay here?"

"No, we're going back into Kent."

"Can't hear of anything in these parts?"

"No—I've tried, but I can't. I was over at Delmonden yesterday, having heard as the new people there meant to farm it. But when I got there it was only a tale."

"Do you think you're more likely to hear of anything in Kent?"

"I dunno, I'm sure; but I might. Anyway, I'm going to meet a chap who knows of a good place for the winter. There's a farm seemingly where they let out ground to campers: you pay a shilling a week and there's water on the place, and a tin shed where everyone does their cooking. It won't be so bad."

"And what will you live on?"

"Well, I've saved seven pounds, even after buying the caravan, and I reckon I'll get some sort of odd job now and again; and then there's our basket trade—we make sometimes as much as ten shillings a week out of that."

"Oh Fred. . . ."

"Mus' Parish?"

"It's damnable, that's all—to see a good, skilled man like you, wandering about in a caravan and living from hand to mouth. . . ."

He looked genuinely distressed. He had taken off his hat as he sat on his shady stool, and his hand stroked back his thin soft hair with a nervous, despairing gesture. Fred and Ivy were surprised to see him looking so upset.

"There you are," he continued, "one of the aristocracy of this neighbourhood. I won't talk doubtful rot about de Syndens or anything like that, but certainly you come of an older and better family than I do. Your people were living here, most likely as farmers or small landowners, when mine were probably tradesmen in some place unknown. And now you're without a job and without a home—driven out of your own place—your own place, mind you, yours by right. . . ."

His indignation seemed to choke him.

"It äun't so bad as it looks," said Fred, "nor as I thought it 'ud be. You get used to most things."

"Alas!" said Parish, "you do."

"And I reckon I'll get a job some day if only I've the patience to look for it."

"I suppose you wouldn't care for domestic work?—I mean, for Ivy to go back into service and you to go with her as gardener or handyman."

"And what about the children?" asked Ivy. "What 'ud we do with them?"

"Wouldn't your employers take them? As it happens I've been speaking to my brother-in-law—you know Miss Betsy's married the new Rector of Vinehall—and he was quite willing to have you and the children. There's a number of big, unused attics at the top of his house, and my idea was that he should let you live there and pay Ivy so much a week for being parlourmaid, while Fred did odd jobs about the place just for his keep. I know it's not a grand offer, but it's something, and I thought it might keep you going for a while, anyhow. Brady himself thought it quite a good idea, and I expect his wife will in time, though at present she's raising objections. If I could tell her that you are willing. . . ."

He looked at them expectantly, and they looked at each other. The scheme seemed to both of them quite terrible.

"I think Miss Betsy's right," said Ivy, "it wouldn't do. I never was a real parlourmaid, you know—only when the other girl was out—and I expect I'm a bit rusty at even what I used to do."

"And the children," said Fred; "it would be a tur'ble business keeping them quiet and out of the way. It's kind of you to think of it, Sir"—he saw that in some strange way he was on this man's conscience—"but I don't think I could live like that in somebody's house. It would be more awkward than living in lodgings."

"I'm sure Miss Betsy would never have it," said Ivy, "nor would any other lady I've heard of."

"Just a blundering male scheme, in fact, and you both spurn it. I'm sorry; for even though it is somebody's house, I'd rather think of you living in Vinehall Parsonage than in a caravan."

"A caravan isn't so bad," said Ivy. "We fit in very nice and comfortable."

"I'm sure you do. I'm sure you've made the very best that can be made of it. But it can't be the same as living in a house . . . and do you like being on the roads?—meeting road people?"

"We never go with gipsies and such like," said Fred, "but there's a lot of road people the same sort of people as us. This man Stubberfield I go with, he used to be stockman on a farm near Arundel, and afterwards he was at Shoyswell, over by Ticehurst."

"And how long has he been on the roads?"

"I dunno exactly—ever since the war."

"Ever since the war! Why, that's thirteen years."

"He could have had a job if he'd wanted it, I reckon. But he äun't in good heart, and he'd sooner be free and live on his pension."

Parish stood up.

"Don't tell me any more, Fred. It's just the sort of thing I can't bear to hear. . . . And I must be going now. I wanted to see you both and to tell you about this idea of mine—which you won't have, and probably you're right. If I hear of anything at all likely to suit you—decent farm work, I mean—I'll let you know at once."

"I'd be uncommon thankful if you would."

"Where can I get hold of you?"

"I shall be at Tiffenden all the winter."

"Tiffenden?—is that where you're going to stay?"

"Tiffenden Farm, near Shadoxhurst, in Kent. It's the place I told you of, where there's a camp."

"I'll write to you there if I've any news. I don't suppose I shall have, but I hope I shall . . . I don't want you to stay on the roads as long as your friend."

He smiled a little wryly as he shook hands with them both, and walked away. They watched him going up the field, a small, disappointed figure in that great swamp of sunshine.



Tiffenden Farmhouse stands back from the unfrequented lane that winds by Harlakenden and Gablehook to Shadoxhurst. Fred Sinden had never seen that part of the country; it was away from the big fruit farms and mostly given to small ways in agriculture. The farmer, Mr. Surrenden, who had been there since the war, suffered from a tender heart that lately had reproached him for refusing work and money to the wanderers who came to his door. Yet, as he said again and again to Mrs. Surrenden, what could he do about it? There wasn't any more work on his seventy acres than he and his men could manage quite easily, with a little extra help at harvest time. He had no work to give, nor could he afford to give money. Yet he lay awake worrying about those he sent away.

It was Mrs. Surrenden who suggested that they should set apart the Wagstaff field as a sort of camping-ground for ex-service men. It was at a suitable distance from the house, sheltered, and well-supplied with water. It contained moreover the remains of an old barn, which could be put in order and used as a sort of field kitchen. They would let ex-service men and regular down-and-outs camp there for nothing, but the others could pay a rent of one or two shillings, just to save the place from being over-run.

This scheme was received with more enthusiasm by her husband than by the neighbourhood at large, who regarded it as a prelude to every horror of disease, dishonesty and violence. The well-to-do chattered of lost amenities, the poorer sort locked up their chickens. And it must be owned that there was something to be said for their attitude. It was not long before the Wagstaff field became no transient camping-place but the permanent home of the lost ones of the countryside, a sort of rural limbo, where dwelt in a deep sighing those who had lost the heaven of home and work but had managed to escape the hell of the poorhouse, the prison and the town.

At first Mr. Surrenden had meant to limit the time of sojourn, but he soon found that it was easier to refuse newcomers on the plea that the place was full than to tell established residents that they must go. So there arose on Wagstaff a permanent population, housed variously in railway carriages, buses and cars; to which in winter would be added an array of tents and caravans, as the battle of life on the roads settled down into trench warfare. There was trouble of course for everyone, and complaints and interference from the health authorities, but Mr. Surrenden had managed to keep the place going for two years.

It was not so bad, really, and he was able to point out that the number of dwellings to the acre was actually smaller than on a neighbouring bungalow estate. The sanitation had been organized by himself and one or two others with camp memories, while the water supply was more abundant than in the village. In the course of two years the railway carriages and buses had managed to wreath themselves in roses, though compelled by law to retain their wheels and thus proclaim their mobility even when sunk above the axles in mud.

When the Sindens drove into the Wagstaff field one evening in November, the washing on innumerable clothes-lines fluttered like the flags of an army. Against the cold, crimson sky rose the dark shapes of caravans, with their chimney-stumps and over-hanging eaves. Fires glowed and twinkled in the shadows by the hedge, for a section of the inhabitants would always prefer to cook out of doors in spite of the facilities given in the barn.

The Stubberfields were there before them, for Fred had managed to get a fortnight's root-lifting over by Witters Oak. His friend came out to greet him and show him where he might pull up his caravan and where he could graze his horse. Fred would have to pay a shilling as weekly rent, for he was too young to remember the war except as a continuous faint mumble of guns over Snailham hill. There had been trouble on that account, said Stubberfield, with his wife's parents. He of course camped for nothing, being an ex-serviceman, but Mr. Surrenden did not see why he should give free lodging to the Dalrymples, and had insisted that they should pay the weekly shilling, which Stubberfield acknowledged they could quite well afford in spite of the fact that they never did any work. Where they got their money from was more than he knew, and didn't want to know either. They were now in a tent of their own, thinking a shilling too much to pay for a corner of someone else's caravan. Fred was surprised to find that Stubberfield regarded their going as a catastrophe.

"Sue created something terrible, but I told her they'd be back with us in the summer."

"They haven't gone far, have they?"

"No—that's them."

He pointed to a small brown pyramid, from the apex of which ascended a column of flavourous smoke, heavy with some queer cooking smell. On one side moved a mysterious bulge, which in time pushed open the flap and revealed itself as the hinder parts of Mrs. Dalrymple, stooping over the pot. There was also a glimpse of the hairy, crimson face of her husband, pillowed on some sacks.

"I reckon it must be thick in there," said Fred.

"You get!" said Stubberfield, "they know how to make themselves comfortable. Hi! Ma! Come out. Here's Fred Sinden back."

The tent heaved convulsively and Mrs. Dalrymple came out, carrying a kipper impaled on a fork.

"Good evening, Fred. Got your Missus there?"

"Aye, she's in the cart."

"Tell her I'll be round to see her soon, but I'm busy at the moment cooking supper. We've got our own place now."

"So I see. How do you like it?"

"Fine. I haven't been so comfortable since we stayed at Conster Manor. We've got our photographs up and all. I don't say we ain't a bit crowded, but we're warm, and so far there ain't a bug amongst us. Come in and have a look, and maybe a bite of something tasty."

"Thank you kindly," said Fred, "but I must be getting back and help my Missus unpack her things."

"That's right. You go and be a good husband. I'm all for husbands helping their wives. Reg helped me put up this tent and now he's helping me cook the supper, and soon I reckon he'll help me eat it. You tell Ivy I'll come and see her as soon as she's straight, and anyway we'll all meet and talk again to-morrow. I reckon we're going to have a fine, snug sort of winter here in this place."


So she may have found it, for to her, "fine" was kippers and "snug" an atmosphere one part human reek, one part cooking reek, and one part smoke. All Fred could say when at last he stood on the further shore of spring was that the winter had not been so bad as the one before.

He had been free of the spectre of uncertainty. He had not sat there wondering when he would be turned out of his home. He had enjoyed the supreme comfort of his own dwelling, which no one could conceivably snatch from him to turn into a middle-class bower of rotting oak. He had been spared too the ceaseless anxiety of hunting for a job. The money he had saved, with the money he earned by basket selling and one or two occasional jobs and deals, had been enough to keep them through the winter according to the modest standards of their new life. But he had grown tired of the amenities of the Wagstaff field and his company depressed him.

Hitherto he had had to do only with the more successful population of the roads. On the big fruit farms he had met chiefly those who were still ready and able to find work, like Stubberfield, or who, like the gipsies, managed somehow to be prosperous without working. There had indeed been more money about than at Leasan—no stint of meals or beer. But here at Tiffenden he had found those whose dire poverty had the sole triumph of having escaped the workhouse—and that only because men and women were willing to accept the same standard of living as beasts.

The aristocrats were there too, coming and going. A gipsy would drive his cart in at the mud-stodged gate, set up his tent, and spend a few days at Wagstaff with a medley of children, dogs and horses. Now and then the glittering caravan of a half-breed would arrive, also with children, dogs and horses. But these gentry never stayed long. They were so made that they could not endure to stay more than a short time in the same place. Soon they would be off again, amidst a lot of shouting and whoa-hoaing, their gay-coloured women rocking on the carts with rolls of lino and festoons of baskets, clothes-pegs and rag mats.

There were also humbler tourists—those who had been walking for so many years that they could not now sit still. One day an old man and woman came in, hairy and shaggy like animals, boiled some tea in a biscuit tin, and went to sleep in a tent made of sacks stretched on an old umbrella frame. Another time a very old tramp, wearing a woman's hat, came in pushing his few possessions in a doll's perambulator. He had no food, and Ivy felt so sorry for him that she gave him some bread and dripping, while Mrs. Stubberfield made him a cup of tea. But public opinion forbade him to stay the night. After all, anyone in his position had no need of Wagstaff as a camping-place. The field ought to be reserved for those whose residence wanted some larger site than the grass verge of the lane. Besides, he looked just the sort who might be found dead next morning . . . everyone at Tiffenden knew that once the place achieved the notoriety of a coroner's inquest, some public busybody would be sure to interfere and have it abolished; which would come very hard on a lot of people. So they bundled him out and told him the way to Cranbrook where there was a workhouse. But he was a childish old man and did not seem to understand them.

The permanent population was divided between the prosperous and the unprosperous. First among the resident aristocracy were the Boormans, living in a disused railway carriage. Boorman had regular work at Batchelors Farm near by, and lived at Wagstaff only because of the impossibility of finding a cottage. After him came a half-gipsy widow with seven children, living in a bus, a rat-catcher and his wife in an old army tent and various others in various dwellings, shading down to the Misses Bellhurst, two old maiden ladies living in a derelict Ford car.

These two, though financially at the bottom with five shillings a week to live on, considered themselves and indeed were considered by everyone else, to be socially far above their surroundings. They had lost their money in the approved style of genteel spinsterhood, through a dishonest solicitor, and now lived at Wagstaff in much the same mental atmosphere as they had lived three years earlier in a suburb of Tunbridge Wells. Materially of course, it could not be the same. They had to allow for the restrictions of life in a car. Their residence stood a little apart from the others, sunk by this time almost to the chassis-top in mud, but proclaiming its mobility by its steering-wheel, wind-screen and engine, all intact if a little rusty. The limousine was fitted with two bunks, two stools, and a folding table. They did their cooking and washing in the barn, where their few crocks and pans were kept with scrupulous cleanliness, and as scrupulously respected by the other users of that common kitchen. They had both of late come to suffer very much from rheumatism; and sometimes Miss Lucy Bellhurst, the younger sister, was unable for days to leave the car. They answered inquiries briefly and politely—they would not mix with their social inferiors, as indeed nobody did at Wagstaff, so it was not expected of them.

The Sindens consorted mostly with the Boormans and the Stubberfields. It was realized that they were not "cart-people," but genuine working-folk down on their luck. Occasionally some visitor would offer to fraternize, but Fred had learned to "keep himself to himself"—that war-cry of struggling respectability. Norman was now past school age, and went to school with the little Boormans and Stubberfields, walking three miles to the village and back every day. Meanwhile Fred and Stubberfield would often go out together, snaring rabbits, and sometimes pheasants, and collecting the spare parts of derelict motor-cars (such as are driven into the hearts of woods and left there by their owners, failing other methods of disposal). They did a trade in rabbit skins, mole-skins, and old iron, which did not make them rich, but helped them pay their way and pass the time.

When they were not out, but could be relied on to look after the cooking and the children, Mrs. Sinden would go out with Mrs. Stubberfield, and sell baskets. They sometimes brought back quite a lot of money, and bits of clothing that they had been given by well-disposed housewives. Now and then Fred would feel anxious in case Ivy was learning to beg—after all Sue Stubberfield was little better than a gipsy; but she always strenuously denied that she had asked for any of the things she was given, and though of course if she had learned begging she might also have learned lying, he felt bound to believe her.


One day he stood on some high ground beyond Wagstaff and saw the pippin face of old Tiffenden through a golden mist of hazel catkins. Spring had come and it was time to leave the Wagstaff field and its sad company, and look for work again. Perhaps this year things would improve and he would be successful. Hope rose again in him, budding like the hazel catkins.

Stubberfield advised him to stay a while yet. There was sure to be some more bad weather before spring really came. Fred replied that he could have the same roof over him wherever he went; he was tired of his winter quarters—the mud, the swarming children, the fluttering washing-lines, the many little fires. . . . He was not used to living so close to other people. He would be glad to find himself alone on the grass edge of the road or in some old lane's mouth.

Ivy was sorry to go; she had enjoyed her expeditions with Mrs. Stubberfield, and she declared that they would not do nearly so well when they were by themselves. And what about Norman's schooling? Hadn't they better wait till the Easter holidays?

But Fred could not endure another month of Wagstaff. He must run the risk of Norman's absence from school getting them into trouble. After all, that risk was not great. Some of the gipsy children never went to school at all, and their parents managed somehow to dodge the inspector. Not that he meant to bring his family up like that . . . no, of course not; they should all go properly to school. But that could wait till he found a settled job, or if he should again be unsuccessful, till he went back to Haffenden Quarter for the picking. Then Norman could go to Biddenden school, which was also within reach of Stede and Middle Quarter.

So early in March, Fred Sinden led the unwilling Ginger out of the Wagstaff field. He had bidden a friendly good-bye to Stubberfield and arranged to meet him at Haffenden in June. He had also said good-bye to Mr. Surrenden, asking him to keep him in mind if he should hear of any likely job in the neighbourhood; which Mr. Surrenden promised to do, as he had already promised at least thirty working men that winter.

The first night they pitched at French Hay, and the next they were back in the Wagmary field at Leasan. For Fred had been unable to keep away from the countryside of his birth and friends. Often during the winter he had thought of it and wondered how things were going there. Were any more farms up for sale?—were any more of his old friends out of work? Or in more hopeful moods: had any rich people come to the neighbourhood and made work for poor people? That was what he would like to hear.

He did not hear it, but it was almost as good to hear Mr. Gain's friendly welcome and free offer of his old pitch.

"For as long as you like, Fred—as long as you like. I'm only too glad to oblige a chap like you. I know you're careful and won't stodge up the place; and if ever you like to terrify a thistle or two we'll take it as rent. Ha! Ha!"

It was good to be back in peace and loneliness. That was what he had been used to all his life; he was not used to camps and crowds and comings and goings, and it had hurt him to see so many people so unfortunate. He did not consider himself unfortunate; he had good health and enough money to live on, and his wife and children were healthy too. But at Wagstaff he had been unable to keep himself from wondering what he might come to . . . it was silly, of course, but he could not help occasionally seeing himself as that old childish man in the woman's hat, with nothing to live on but the charity of poor people . . . or himself and Ivy as those two who had slept under the old umbrella . . . or Ivy and the children as that poor woman living in the bus with her dirty, hungry brats.

But now that he was back in the Wagmary field he no longer troubled about such things. He knew that he was no nearer them now than he had been during his last years at Float. A working man can always lose his job; but when he has lost it and learned all the various ways by which he can keep himself alive without it, he has really less to worry about than when he had his work.

He had also learned to feel comfortable in his caravan. At first it had seemed cramped, but by now what used to be cramped had become cosy. He could remember how cold and draughty the rooms at Float Cottage had been—how deadeningly cold in the early morning, when to get out of bed had been like stepping into a bath of cold water. Now their risings were always warm, with the stove kept in all night, and he found himself going back to a custom he had dropped quite soon after his marriage—that of getting up and making Ivy a cup of tea. After all, he hadn't, most mornings, got a long day's work before him—he could do that much for her.

In certain other ways he and Ivy seemed to be returning to a lost estate. They no longer quarrelled and argued over things, with nerves on edge; she had less to worry her, and showed it in a renewal of playfulness and amorousness. She seemed to grow young again, or rather to have stopped growing old. . . . Yes, certainly they were better off in many ways.

Of course it would be awkward if their numbers increased, if Ivy ever had another baby. People sometimes had as many as six or seven children in a caravan, but Fred did not approve of that—he did not think it healthy. He was relieved to find that Ivy did not seem to be going to do it again; little Clarence was still the baby at four years old. Their love's impunity might have some connection with that nasty strain she had given herself some time ago, when she was helping him mend the roof at Float Cottage . . . she had been in great pain for hours and he had wanted her to let him fetch the doctor. But she had refused—she had said it was nothing. Well, as things had turned out, he could not feel sorry; though at the bottom of his heart was still a protest against that untoward twist of things which had made barrenness a blessing.

Ivy was hanging out the washing, a clothes-peg in her mouth, but in spite of it humming a little tune. Moved by an impulse which was partly the spring, partly his relief to be alone again with his family, he went up behind her and put his arms around her waist.

"Oh. . . ."

Ivy dropped the peg, and the song turned into a squeal and then into a laugh.

"Oh, how you did frighten me!"

He put his cheek to hers.

"Tell me you're glad to be home again."

"Home. . . ."

"Aye, this is home, äun't it? We're back in our own place, along of our own people. The house don't matter."

"Reckon it don't"—she turned to him, her mouth still young and fruit-like in her fading face—"Reckon nothing matters but us two and the children."

"And having our place and enough to live on."

"You want a lot."

"No more'n I've got. We've been lucky, my dear. Things haven't turned out half as bad as I thought they would a year ago."

He hugged her to him and kissed her mouth which had begun to sing again.


The Sindens stayed two months in the Wagmary field, little Norman trotting every day to school at Leasan, for all the world as if they were still living at Float Cottage. Fred got a month's ditching at Eyelid. Mr. Gain asked him if he would come on for twenty-five shillings a week, and nothing said to anyone about it—he could not afford to pay more and if Fred would not come for that the work would have to wait till next year. At first Sinden was glad to have the job, but by the end of the month he was heartily tired of it. He had never cared for ditching, and twenty-five shillings seemed a miserable sum to receive for such hard labour. At the fruit-picking, for half the trouble he could earn half as much again.

Nevertheless he began seriously to look for work. Now was the time—when the farms were getting busy. Not that he dared hope for much; everybody said that this year would be worse than last, with the stock prices still going down, and a long time yet to run before the Government's plans for agriculture could do any good—if they ever did any good. But Fred felt that he must make the attempt—he could not sit there and resign himself to living in a cart and doing casual labour all his life. No, that would be a cowardly, miserable thing to do.

So he set out once again, and tramped the country day by day, returning every evening to his caravan as he used to return to Float Cottage. He could not find a job, though he walked as far as Fairlight, and Battle, and Ticehurst, and Hawkhurst, and Wittersham and Rye. Here and there he thought he saw signs of increased cultivation—a farmer hoping enough from the wheat quota to put another ten acres under the plough—but nobody wanted a ploughman, or a cowman or a carter or a looker or anything Fred was willing to call himself to get a job. If they did there was always plenty of men in their own part of the country waiting to be taken on. Every night he would come home to the Wagmary field as tired and disappointed as he used to come to Float Cottage.

The only difference was that it did not seem to matter so much. After Ivy had given him his supper he would soon cheer up and want to go off to the Queen's Head. That was the reason, perhaps, for his feeling more cheerful about it—he had money in his pocket and soon would be earning more, even if he did not find regular work. And Ivy did not have to greet him with tales of the people who had been to visit their home with a view to turning them all out of it. No, decidedly it did not matter so much. He would often feel tired and fed-up, but there was also that feeling that the worst had already happened and was not so bad as he had thought it would be.

He had lost all his old anxious sense of shame when he was among his friends. Even if, as it sometimes seemed to him now, they did not take quite the right view of him—could not see the distinction between him and a gipsy that was so plain to his better knowledge of road life—there was always the moral support of his money; he had as much as and more than they, even though he was not in regular work. He still had some of his summer savings left, and Ivy still brought in money from the sale of baskets, also from the sale of garments which she seemed to be given as generously by the ladies round Vinehall and Leasan as by the ladies round Shadoxhurst. He no longer worried himself about her begging; she had told him that she didn't and he left it at that.

He still felt that he belonged to the neighbourhood and had a right to discuss its affairs. He would go up to the Queen's Head almost every evening, and sit in the bar, talking about the sale of Glaseneye, the new kiln Messrs. Hobday & Hitch were building at Udiam, the miserable price Mr. Vidler had got for his tegs at Vinehall lamb fair, the mess Mr. Parish and George Bates had made of their cart-lodge roof, for all that they thought it so fine, the hundreds of fruit trees that Mr. Cook was planting at Stonelink, the untoward and unwelcome zeal of Mr. Brady's parochial visitations, the new people who had come to Ellenwhorne and the betrothal of one of them to Mrs. George Alard's eldest girl, the Government's new dodge of having tithe sales by tender, so that they couldn't be bust up—all the gossip of the farms and the cottages and the bungalows, chatted and chewed and flavoured with rumours and alarms, till it became a rich soup, cooking all the week at the Queen's Head—a pot au feu to which everyone had his morsel or pinch to add, and which kept them all warm and comfortable through the cold spring days.

The company at the Queen's Head was a little scantier than it had been. Brotheridge and Young had left the district. Masters was always there, and sometimes a little drunk—which his wife came to hear of, and thenceforward sent their eldest boy to fetch him home every evening, causing a certain amount of trouble. Pannell was always there too, and Smith and the Frenches came most days. Ashdown seldom came, for he was out of a job, and though his new trade of bricklayer had got him on to the dole, he found that fifteen shillings a week, out of which he paid five shillings for his room, did not leave him much money over for beer at sevenpence a pint.


Mr. Parish had seemed hurt when Fred did not go to see him last time he was in the neighbourhood, so this time he went once or twice. The Squire showed him the work he was doing at Cock Marling, the new roofs to the cow lodge and the cart lodge that he and George Bates had built with their own hands. They were not so bad as the gossip at the Queen's Head had given him to expect.

"In time we'll get the whole place done," said Parish. "Before I'm buried I expect to see a decent set of farm-buildings here; but not long before I'm buried."

"Pity you can't take on some chap to help you go quicker."

"Meaning you, Fred?"

"No—I'm no hand at building. Wish I was. But there's a chap called Ashdown that used to be with me at Float, and he's stood off now, and has to go into Rye every week to get his unemployment."

"Yes, the building trade's feeling the draught like everything else, though it doesn't look much like it round here. Glaseneye's for sale now, as you know, and Elphick's been trying to blackmail me into buying the four fields next this place. I can't do it; but he thinks I can, and that I will if he frightens me enough."

"No one 'ud build in any of them fields, I reckon. There's no water, for one thing, and the road must be a quarter-mile off."

"I know; but he's got a builder's board up, all the same; and yesterday he brought round half a load of old bricks just to show me that he means business. Why can't I make someone think I'm going to build on my land and pay me not to? . . . A brilliant idea, Fred! I shall tell those artists at Barline that I'm going to build a hotel in my Warnham field, close to the bottom of their garden—and if they don't believe me I can bring up some pieces of corrugated iron and a lavatory pan to convince them. But joking apart, it's a shame to make a mess of the country like this. It isn't merely the atrocious sights I object to—I'm not a house-agent to go cackling about 'amenities' and 'extensive views over unspoiled country.' What breaks my heart is all these farms being cut up and spoiled, all this land going out of cultivation. Think of what this place used to be—think of Ethnam and Winterland and Glaseneye and Ellenwhorne and Doucegrove and Starvecrow and Float and all those other Alard farms—and think of them now, stripped and torn to bits and rotting and neglected. . . Fred, don't you feel your heart burn sometimes when you look out on all those fields at sunset and see the light show up the ghosts of the furrows that used to be there—under the grass and thistles? From the end of the garden here I sometimes look out on what used to be Dinglesden and gnash my teeth."

"Surelie—it's tur'ble."

"Tur'ble indeed—and all for nothing. If someone very rich came along and built a palace and gave lots of employment all round I shouldn't mind so much, or if for a change they were to build some workmen's cottages at a low rent. But all this division of the land seems only for the benefit of retired colonels or retired policemen, who are none of them rich enough or even nice enough to console us for what they've done. I know that in a sense we're better off than parts of East Anglia where the land is no use even for building purposes and a whole parish goes pauper and derelict. . . . I suppose I ought to be glad that we've someone to give a little employment to builders and gardeners and garage-keepers and to spend a little money in the village shops. I suppose I ought to be glad—but I'm not. I'd rather see a noble desolation than this shoddy mess . . . and it's been no help to you, the people who belong here—you've been driven out of your homes just the same. In fact you'd probably still be in your homes if the farms had simply been abandoned—you could have stayed on and cultivated your own little patch and become a sort of squatter—perhaps at last a farmer in your own right . . . that's the way the original yeomen were made—not Gervase Alard's way, with forced sales and loans and mortgages. Oh God! I could murder that man for the harm he's done."

"I reckon most of this would have happened without him."

"Not if he'd hung on. . . . We shall get right in time—it's only a question of waiting. I'm going to hang on, and if he'd done the same we'd have the whole place right again in twenty years or so. I believe this new Wheat Act will do something for us—not quickly, but eventually—and we've got a duty on foreign stuff which is what we squires and farmers have been groaning for ever since Gladstone's day. But what good will it do us all now? The neighbourhood's destroyed agriculturally. Barring my own farms, there's scarcely any real farming being done here at all. We're fast becoming a down at heel residential district. And who are the residents? People from the towns, who've saved enough money to buy a bungalow or turn a workman out of his house. The real people are going—gone. You're a real person, Fred, and you've gone. Yes, you've gone. I know you'll say you're still here, but you're not—not belonging here as you used to do. You're a ghost—you're haunting the fields like a ghost—the ghost of a dead ploughman, haunting the ghosts of the furrows. . . ."

His face was white and working, and he twisted his hands between his knees. Fred was shocked and sorry to see him take on so.

"Lor' bless you, Sir," he said—"I don't mind all that much."


When Fred had gone, Jim Parish sat down to write to Gervase Alard. As he wrote, his hand shook a little, and his queer, ornate handwriting lost some of its stiffness.


It is some time since I have written to you; but I thought you might like to hear some news of the district. Of course Jenny writes to you, but I doubt if she tells you more than what is happening at Fourhouses. She is hardly ever outside the farm, and anyhow she sees things from your point of view. Also I am quite sure that she would never write anything to distress you. Perhaps what I am writing will not distress you. You took the land away from the squires to give it to the yeomen, but I don't suppose you will be broken-hearted to hear that the yeomen have found your gift too expensive and have in their turn handed it over to the speculative builder (on the edges) and to desolation (in the midst). Of the dozen or so Alard farms you left there is, I think, exactly one in the hands of its original tenant—Eyelid Farm. Two or three of the rest have been bought by "gentlemen farmers" who still hang on precariously, living on capital. The others are mostly split up into smallholdings, miniature estates for miniature landed gentry, and building plots. The chief part of their unoccupied land is let for winter grazing, but a great deal of it is not let or grazed at all and has practically gone out of cultivation. Let me give you the histories of one or two of your yeomen. Blazier of Ellenwhorne went out of action first, and his house was bought by gentle lovers of Ye Olde, who know nothing about farming, but in order to preserve their view, bought all the Ellenwhorne land and a good part of Winterland when that in due course came up for sale. Winterland farmhouse is also in gentle occupation, and the oast has been astonishingly changed into a gentleman's residence and called The Towers. The part of Winterland which does not come into the View has been sold for building plots, and now supports a row of waterless bungalows. Ethnam did not fetch much as building land, owing to lack of roads. The greater part of it is now a jungle, and a bird sanctuary for such friends of agriculture as jays, magpies, pigeons and hawfinches. Ye Quaint Olde house is of course suitably occupied by a retired Indian Civil Servant and his wife. Barline (house and buildings) is in the hands of artists, and the land in a better case than most, being now let to me. Float was sold up two years ago, and divided according to the usual formula. Glaseneye has just gone. That isn't the lot, of course; but I won't go through the list; it's too painful, to me at least. All I want is for you to know what a mess you've made, and how much better it would have been for the farmers you used to talk so big about if you'd stayed at Conster and pulled things round. Don't think I'm cursing you because the landscape isn't what it was with all this new building. I'm angry because the farms are ruined, and the land, in Biblical language, is left desolate. Also because the people of the land, not only the farmers but the farm hands—the Sindens, Ashdowns, Brotheridges, Beatups, the aristocracy of this neighbourhood—are turned out of their homes and of their jobs to make room for townspeople. Some have had to go into the towns (I can picture you in some pulpit shouting—Back to the land! Back to the land!), some have taken to tramping the roads, some are hanging on, living from hand to mouth. I know that agriculture generally is in a bad way, but I don't think you can blame the slump entirely for all this.

After all, we are near several big seaside towns and have a better market than many. Also the farms which were never Alard's are in a better way—extremely shaky, of course, but not overthrown. No, you must take the blame—for jerry-building Utopia and then going off and leaving it to fall down. I wish I could do something, but I'm helpless. I haven't a penny of capital, and it's all I can do to keep my own place out of the mess. If you had stayed you could have sold a couple of farms to pay death duties, and carried on with the rest. Between us we could have saved this neighbourhood from its present desolation. Forgive my writing like a minor prophet, but I feel like one at the moment—at least I have an idea that they were a sort of doleful gentry who cried Woe! Woe! to an indifferent audience. Which is no doubt what I'm doing now.

Yours sincerely,

When he had written his letter and addressed it with malicious care to the Reverend Sir Gervase Alard, Bart., Thunders Abbey, near Brighton, he wondered if he had not perhaps been only childishly rude where he had meant to be impressively candid. Alard would despise his indignation—think it hysterical. Better perhaps be content with having let off steam, and put the letter in the fire. But no—some one word of it might sting or prick or even stab, and on that chance he posted it.

The answer came in a few days.

St. Swithun's Clergy House,


Thank you for your letter. I am sorry things are so bad down at Leasan, but you really must not blame me. Everywhere it is the same. I did what I could to put the neighbourhood on its feet by setting it free, but I was too late. The squires had kept their grip on the land too long and it was impossible to revive it. Possibly if it had not been for the slump, things might have gone better.

You will see by this address that I am no longer at Thunders Abbey. My order has just taken charge of this poor slum parish, and I am working on the staff of a big East-end church. If you could see the conditions here, you would not be so upset by those at Leasan. I shall certainly shout "Back to the land!" as loud as I can, and am already (in conjunction with others) forming a scheme for bringing East-Londoners into the country, to work co-operative farms and land settlements. It ought to help solve some of your problems as well as mine.

Best greetings to Betsy. How does she like being a Parson's wife?

Yours sincerely,

Jim Parish crushed the letter into a ball and tossed it in the waste-paper basket.

"So there we are," he said—"that's what we're after now. Utopia number two—and as fine as the first. 'Till we have built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land' . . . and how much of the green and pleasant land will that leave, I wonder."


In May, Fred Sinden set out for Haffenden Quarter. He was not sorry to be on the move again, though he had enjoyed his two months at Eyelid. He would be glad to see Stubberfield, and hear the gossip of the roads. Also he was beginning to feel hard-up. He had spent all his last summer's earnings and had not been able to earn much more—it would be a relief to find himself making two or three pounds every week.

There was a hopeful outlook in the fruit-growing industry; even at Vinehall and Leasan they had been talking of planting fruit trees next autumn. Everyone said it was the thing to do—as once long ago they had said the thing to do was to grow corn, and then to keep stock, and then to supply milk, and then to keep poultry. Now, with tariffs on foreign fruit, the thing to do was to grow English fruit for the English fruit-canning firms. And not only fruit, but vegetables-beans, peas, tomatoes, asparagus—most of which could be grown on land already planted with fruit trees. Everybody in England was now eating food out of tins, even the inhabitants of Vinehall and Leasan, whose tins came from America, Czecho-Slovakia, France, Switzerland and other foreign parts. Even Ivy, when she wanted a change from gipsy food and could afford it, would buy a tin of prawns from the sea coast of Bohemia. Everywhere the barriers of nationalism were being broken down by the world's food-canners, and now it was proposed to set them up again and make a great deal of money.

When Fred arrived at Haffenden he found that another fifty acres had been added to its territory, and planted with strawberries. At the other farms of the Cameron circuit he found similar development and expansion. In his heart he did not altogether approve of this new kind of farming, but there was an atmosphere of hope about these fruit farms which was encouraging in its novelty. Not that it extended to smaller farms outside the ring; here he found conditions very much like those on the mixed farms of his experience—lack of capital and insufficiency of markets. In time no doubt farmers of all sorts would realize that, like other tradesmen, they must combine—that the multiple farms would crush the single farms as surely as the multiple shops were crushing the one-man shops. But farmers were still a long way from co-operation, and something fundamental in Fred would have been disgusted at the idea of co-operative farming, much as he appreciated the advantages of the system, as worked by Messrs. Cameron.

The summer passed very much like the one before. The Sindens went mostly with the Stubberfields, though occasionally they would separate for some good reason. For Fred now knew his way about the roads and that strange road life which at first had seemed so baffling. He no longer camped on forbidden or waterless pitches or wasted time going to farms which did not employ cart-people. He was remembered, too, at the farms where he had worked last year, which were glad to have him back, knowing that he was a good worker and a respectable man. He organized his itinerary as much as possible with a view to the children's schooling—he would not have them growing up illiterate gipsy brats, and as far as possible he would keep within reach of a school. Luckily both Norman and Doris had by this time a stout pair of legs and their father's pocket was equal to an occasional bus fare.

That summer, however, was in one sense exceptional in that it brought Fred the offer of a job—a miserable job, it is true, but nevertheless something more than a fortnight's picking or a week's haymaking. While he was working at Flightshot Farm near Horsmonden as an extra hand for the harvest, he came to know a poultry farmer who owned some twelve acres or so outside the village. He was in a small way of business, and could not afford a man to help him, but he had more to do than he could well manage himself, as his wife was delicate and the mother of two young children. He had to work a certain amount indoors as well as out, and he suggested to Fred that he should come on as part-time man at fourteen shillings a week, with rooms in his own house, which was far too big for him.

"I know it ain't much of a job, but fourteen shillings is all I can afford to pay, with the Missus so poorly and the trade not doing too well with all them Australian eggs on the market. And as for a house, there ain't one to be had around here for love or money, and you could have a sitting-room as well as a bedroom and be as cosy as if you was in your own place. . . . Anyway, you'd be better off than you are now."

The poultry farmer was one of those who thought it a sad and disgraceful thing for a working man to be wandering round the country like a gipsy.

But Fred and Ivy, after they had talked it over, decided that they would be worse rather than better off.

"It would take you a month to earn what now we can get between us in a week."

"I should get it every week."

His first impulse had been to accept the offer, miserable as it was.

"Still I reckon it wouldn't come to so much in the end. And even if we're not picking we've got our baskets—and the other things."

"We could go on with the baskets and—and—the other things if we were with Ades."

"No, we couldn't because we shouldn't be moving about. If you're to make anything out of baskets you've got to move about. The trouble with baskets is that they last too long, even if you're careful to put the weak osiers in the middle; once people have bought a basket they don't want another. You've got to go around looking for fresh people to buy."

"We should be able to send the children regular to school."

"They go pretty regular now. And anyway, what's the use of sending them to school, poor little dears, if when they come home they've got to keep as quiet as mice because they're living in another person's house? I can tell that Mrs. Ades would be fussy about noise, having headaches as she does, and I know in the end she'd want me to be doing things about the place—and her husband too, seeing as he has to do them now. They'd think that as I was using their kitchen to cook my own stuff I might as well cook theirs. I know that's what it 'ud come to in the end."

Fred thought it highly probable; and he did not like the idea of living in another man's house. Neither did he care much for poultry farming. He knew very little about it, his own hens being in Ivy's care and mostly left to themselves. He didn't believe in all this fuss about fowls—feeding them as good as humans and housing them better than some humans . . . and there wasn't much money in it, as there were already too many people on the job; Ades would soon go bust for certain sure.

"You wait till we get back to Leasan for the hopping," continued Ivy—"we may hear of something there. I shouldn't mind a part-time job for you there so much. Everyone's saying that things are going to get better, and if you were in your own place you'd be one of the first to be taken on again. It would be a pity if you'd fixed yourself up out here."

She had used a powerful argument with Fred, who would, however, have been persuaded against so miserable a job by one of only moderate power. He told Mr. Ades that he was very much obliged to him, but did not want to fix himself up so far from home. That seemed the kindest and politest way out of the matter.

When he told Stubberfield what had happened he received his unqualified approval.

"You'd have been a fool to take on anything like that. You make more money doing as you do, even if it ain't so regular. I tell you things are going to get better. Everyone says they've got to the bottom now. You wait, and you'll be back in your own job. And if you ain't, what's the matter with you and me going into the osier trade together?"


In September, Fred and Ivy were back to Leasan, in the Wagmary field. Fred had been inclined to wonder if Mr. Gain would continue to welcome these returns—he had been prepared to find himself driven to ask the shelter of some other farm. But the farmer of Eyelid evidently took a right view of his tenants. He realized that they would do no damage, also that it would be an advantage to have an able-bodied man like Fred at hand when wanted for any occasional labour.

"Stay as long as you like," he said—"I've no objections at all to folk like you. Stay the whole winter if it suits you."

His words dispelled the last of the shadow of Tiffenden. For a long time the shadow had been growing fainter in Fred's memory, but he was very glad not to have to go back there, all the same. The Wagmary field would do very well for winter quarters; it was dry and it was sheltered, and it was in the country that he still called his own. He would miss Stubberfield, of course, and for a moment the idea crossed his mind of asking Mr. Gain if he would let his friend come and camp beside him. . . . But he remembered the Dalrymples, and realized that there was a chance of Wagmary becoming another Wagstaffe. Mr. Gain would never stand for it—he would send the Stubberfields away and the Sindens too. No, he and Ivy must spend the winter alone, and no doubt they could make themselves very comfortable.

"After all," he said, "we've got our friends around us."

"And I've got Dad and Mother," said Ivy, in a rare gush of filial remembrance—"It's scarce more than a mile to them if you go by the fields."

"It'll be almost as good as being at Float Cottage."

"Just as good, if you ask me. The weather doesn't come in half as bad."

So they settled down for the hop-picking. Afterwards they would go back into Kent for a month or six weeks, Ivy to sell baskets, and oranges and bananas (her autumn trade), Fred to lift roots and build clamps on the big farms. Then they would come back to Eyelid and stay there till the spring.

They found the neighbourhood of Vinehall and Leasan in a more depressed condition than the region of the big farms. Political changes had not brought it the same hopes. It did not grow enough fruit to feel encouraged by tariffs—even if the great hop smash of '29 had not taught it that political remedies are often likely to be worse than agricultural diseases. As for the wheat quota so much arable had lately been put back to grass that at present it scarcely meant anything to anybody. The main hope, or rather anxiety, of the neighbourhood was stock, and the price of that was still rushing downwards, with apparently nothing to stop it. Season after season farmers had said: things can't be worse than they are now; and things had inevitably shown them how much worse they could be.

One evening Fred was sitting at the Queen's Head in a sadly reduced company—no more than Masters and Mr. Pannell and two men working at Sempsted who could still pay the price of half a pint—when Mr. Penfold, the farmer of Jordans, walked in.

He did not often come to the Queen's Head, Jordans being at the far end of Mr. Parish's estate, and within convenient distance of Rye and its wider opportunities. But to-day he had been to Vinehall lamb fair and favoured the Leasan inn rather than the George at Vinehall.

"Good evening all," he said, sitting down with rather a wild look in his eye.

"Evenun," grunted one or two.

"I've just sold a hundred Kent ewes at Vinehall fair and I'm going to ask you chaps to help me go a bust on the profits. What'll you have all round?"

For a moment everyone was too startled to reply. An opinion formed itself, and grew, that he had already gone a bust at Vinehall.

"What'll you have?" he repeated—"What's yours, Mr. Pannell?"

Mr. Pannell chose a whisky.

"Come on, Sinden, what's yours?"

Fred thought it safer to stick to ale.

"Now, yours, Fuggle—yours, Masters . . ." so it went on till they all had their full glasses before them, including Mrs. Allwork.

"Your very good health, Mus' Penfold."

"Many thanks. It isn't often I sell stock as I've sold it to-day—a hundred Kent ewes. . . . Drink up your glasses and we'll have another round."

The company drank up and another round was set on the tables. It was years since any one had had so much good liquor inside him and a general warmth and cheerfulness spread through the bar. At the same time one or two felt uneasy to see a small tenant farmer spending such a lot of money.

"How much did you get for them?" asked Mr. Pannell.

"Ah. . . . You'd be surprised if I told you. But it'll pay for the drinks."

The company sniggered politely.

"I hope there'll be something left over for Mrs. Penfold," rallied Mrs. Allwork.

"I'm afraid there won't, mum—not when I've paid for the drinks. One round more and I'll have blewed the lot."

"Eh. . . ."

"I got a shilling each for them, see—a bob each, that's what it came to—and it cost me ninepence each to get 'em to market. So another round 'ull just about blow all my profit."

The bar was completely silent.

"You'll never tell me," said Masters slowly after a while, "as you only got a shilling each for Kent ewes."

"I'm telling you that and nothing else. They were store beasts, of course, and not young, but they weren't so bad. Fatted sheep were going for eight or nine shillings."

"And nothing more than that?"

"Oh, there was a pen of prime South Downs fetched about forty shillings each, but they were sent in by Lord Meryvale over by Eastbourne. There's nothing us poor common farmers sent in fetched more than a few bob."

A sudden astonishing cry broke from Fuggle, the stockman from Sempsted.

"Then in the Lord's name what are we to do?"

"This'll just about finish English farming, I reckon," said Pannell.

"It was finished years ago," said Saunders, the other Sempsted man.

"Every season they said things couldn't get any worse," said Fuggle.

"Seemingly it's better in Kent," said Fred—"leastways on the fruit farms. Messrs. Cameron made more out of fruit this year than they did last."

"Fruit—fruit—who wants fruit? We're farmers around here; not market-gardeners."

"When I began farming," said Mr. Penfold, "I grew corn. It was during the war and I got ninety shillings a quarter for it. Then after the war prices dropped to nothing and I gave it up. I kept stock instead and got good prices for that till 1928 or thereabouts; I'd get forty pounds for a steer, and forty shillings for a Kent ewe—same as I've sold for a shilling to-day."

"If you ask me," said Fuggle, "it all comes of paying members of Parliament."

"It comes of paying parsons," said Mr. Pannell. "If only the farmers could have back all the tithe they've shelled out in the last ten years they could manage now."

"Stands to reason," said Saunders.

"What's the parson to live on?" asked Masters. "Private means, of course, like the chap at Vinehall. Every parson should have enough money to keep himself and not come down on the farmers to keep him."

"Well, I'm a tenant farmer," said Penfold, "and it's up to my landlord to keep the parson, which I reckon he won't mind doing, seeing as he's his brother-in-law. But I've got to pay my rent, and I can't do that if things get any worse."

"Come now, Mr. Penfold," interposed Mrs. Allwork. "Don't be so downhearted. I reckon the time's truly come when we can say things can't get any worse. You can't sell a sheep for less than a shilling."

"Can't you, ma'am?—you can let 'em go for nothing. That'll be the next thing."

"Or pay the other chap to take 'em."

"I don't believe it. I believe things really are at the bottom now. This has proved it. Mark my words, we'll be better off from this time onward."

"Well, I trust you're right and I'm wrong. Let's drink to better times, anyway. I promised you chaps another round. What's yours, everybody? . . . the same again? . . . The same again, Mrs. Allwork, and we'll drink to better times."

"That's it," said Masters—"better times—eighteen pence each for our sheep."

"Eighteen pence, eighteen pence. . . . When I was young and had no sense I sold my sheep for eighteen pence," sang Mr. Pannell whom three whiskys had made merry.

They were all feeling rather merry now; they had forgotten the gloomy words they had just spoken. Someone put a record on the gramophone "Happy days are here again," and they all drank to their host's good health and to better times.

"Nothing but tenant farmers!"

"Big landlords back again!"

"Wheat at ninety shillings a quarter!"

"Fat sheep at five pounds each!"

"No tithe for parsons!"

"No pay for members of parliament!"

"Beer back to twopence a pint!"

So they capped each other, feeling comfortable and rather muzzy; while the gramophone played "Happy days are here again," till they almost believed it.



The winter came and passed over Vinehall and Leasan without, apparently, bringing those happy days much nearer. A slightly larger acreage went under the plough, as certain farmers responded slowly to the stimulation of the Wheat Act. A still larger acreage felt the warmth of good tidings from Kent, and was planted with fruit. The prices of stock rose slightly but decidedly. Yet to balance these improvements an adverse wind blew from the financial world, a squall unexpectedly stirred up by the Government's thrifty measures of the spring.

While impoverished spinsters with five hundred pounds in five-per-cent. War Loan sank willingly to three-and-a-half per cent. for their country's good, certain bigger investors of the profits of local trade did not see why they should lose so much money. Have the money out and invest it in land. That was the thing to do now; no investment was really safe except land. Land could still be bought cheap and sold dear. Agricultural land could be bought at from five to ten pounds an acre and re-sold at an average price of three times that amount. A great land gamble started. Farmers who hitherto had kept out of auction found themselves approached from Hastings and Bulverhythe with offers for their farms. Dazzled by such an extraordinary turn of affairs, they quickly succumbed.

Sempsted, hitherto regarded as the most solid farm of the district, was sold to a Hastings syndicate for two thousand pounds. The house, with six acres, was resold for twelve hundred. The two labourers' cottages were made into one and sold with fifteen acres for a thousand. The rest of the land was divided into strips running back from roadside building sites and sold at from a hundred and fifty to four hundred the strip, according to the quality of the land.

Towards the end of the winter rumour said that Fourhouses had gone the way of Sempsted and other farms. It proved to be not strictly true, as Godfrey had parted only with the Snailham half of his land, but everyone knew that the sale of half Fourhouses was a more revolutionary and subversive thing than the sale of the whole of Sempsted. The rot had now spread beyond the Alard farms. It was not only Gervase Alard's twopenny-halfpenny yeomen that were falling down like ninepins, it was the genuine long-established prototype of these. It is true that he was consenting to his own fall, but even the temptation of ready money would not have moved him if his foundations had not been already shaken. He could have scoffed at such an offer for his yeoman pride; but now throughout the land that pride was being emptied, and he was only too glad to take what he could get for it.

There was, in fact, only one man in the district who scoffed at such a temptation. Jim Parish could not afford to do so any better than others, but he had the pleasure of refusing an offer for Stonelink in as insulting language as was compatible with the laws of libel and slander. He was a little surprised at the turn affairs had taken. At the beginning of the winter he had been, like many others, prepared to hope if given enough encouragement; but this was a new attack from an unexpected quarter.

"This knocks us flat," he said to Jenny Godfrey, "and what is more, it keeps us down."

She was paying one of her rare visits to Cock Marling. He had met her in the road, on her way back from the village with her shopping, and he had persuaded her to come and have tea with him, promising to run her home in his car in time for the usual farmhouse meal.

"I hardly see anything of you now, Jenny, and I particularly want to see you to-day and hear what you think about this dreadful thing."

"What dreadful thing?"

"This new form of agricultural calamity—this bourgeois gamble, with our fields for counters. I hear they've got Godfrey into it."

"They offered him seventeen hundred for the Snailham land—it was far too good to refuse."

"I've just refused fifteen hundred for Stonelink."

"Good, virtuous squire! But you haven't got a wife and children to support."

"No; and if I had I'd have jumped at it-you're telling me that. I don't believe you."

"You needn't, for I'm not telling you anything of the kind. I'm quite convinced that if you had a wife and a dozen children you'd have done just the same. You'd have seen them starve rather than part with a two-acre field. Fortunately Ben isn't like that."

"But he's being penny wise, my dear. The Snailham land is some of the best land in this country, and he'd only got to hang on to it. He's not sunk and broke like those other poor devils."

"He's pretty hard hit, and the children are growing up, you know, and costing us a lot in education. Do you mind if I take off my hat?"

She lifted her arm and took it off with a kind of weary flourish, handing it to him to put on a chair. He did not know much about women's clothes, but he knew enough to tell him that this was not a happy or fortunate hat. It was faded, a depressed purplish colour, and old fashioned, with a high, awkward crown. Of course Jenny had not known that she was going to meet a friend and be asked out to tea, but the Jenny Alard of years ago would never have worn such a thing, even to scramble about the fields. In its shapeless lines he seemed to read the elegy of that fine, high-stepping creature.

He put it on a chair almost tenderly, his pity stirred. Looking back he saw that it had dug a line across her forehead, the fillet of a purple bruise, on either side of which her hair flopped greying.

"My dear," he said gently, "I'm sorry you're having such a hard time."

"You needn't be sorry for me. It's been rather a struggle, but thank heaven it's over now. That seventeen hundred pounds will make things pretty comfortable for us."

"You really think so?"

"I do. I know you regard it as the wages of sin, but to me it would have been much more sinful to make the children suffer for the land, as we all were made to suffer when we were children. It's my own people, the landed gentry, who've taught me to hate the land."

"It's as bad as that, is it?"

"Yes—I don't want to have a big place that we can't manage. I'm glad half of it's gone."

"And you don't care what becomes of it. You won't mind seeing the arable fields your husband spent so much time and money on going back to grass, becoming a mass of thistles?"

"No; I'd rather see shabby fields than shabby children."

"But think of other people's children, my child. Think of what'll happen to the men you'll turn away—will they get another job? or will they go into the town? or will they live like gipsies in a caravan, like Fred Sinden?"

"You talk as if we had an army of men. As a matter of fact we've only got Beeney and Apps. Fred will keep on Beeney, as now he's sold Snailham he'll probably be able to put some more of our Icklesham land under the plough. Apps is a single man, so his children don't come into it."

"I'm sorry for Apps all the same."

"So am I, but I can't put him before my own people."

"No, but what I'm trying to explain to you is that you're taking rather a short-sighted view of your own people's welfare. There's bound to be an agricultural revival some day."

"When we're all broke, or dead."

"No, before that. I now really believe it's coming. Prices are going up, tariffs are helping home production, the Wheat Quota Act allows us to grow wheat without an actual loss. . . . I prophesy that things are going to improve. But what use'll that be to us if we've sold all our land to the townsmen?—if all our best, road-served fields are strewn with bungalows and villas and petrol-stations? You can't farm land in rags and bits, and soon there'll only be rags and bits left—here a little and there a little, as the Scripture says. No agricultural revival will be any use to us when we get into that state. Even your brother Gervase won't be able to establish his Back to the Land colony of Eastenders—there won't be any land to go back to. My only satisfaction will be in telling him it's his own fault."

"Which, if I know you, Jim, will comfort you quite a lot. Anyway, you'll be all right. You'll be able to take advantage of anything that's going in the way of revivals."

"But I'll have to look at other people's messes."

"You won't mind that—you'll be able to feel superior."

"Don't be so unkind to me, Jenny. You loved me once."

"Yes, Jim, and in a way I love you still. But every year I grow gladder that I didn't marry you."

"And every year I grow gladder too. We're an ideal unmarried couple."

"Well, I mustn't stay any longer now. I must get back in time for everyone's tea. Will you give me my hat, please Jim."

He fetched it for her, then as he watched her set its ruin on her greying hair, he took his last opportunity and kissed her.

"Don't do that. You mustn't do that."

She rammed the hat down on her head to stop the sudden trembling of her hands; for his kiss was alive, though he himself was only a dream.

"I've done it, my dear, and it can't be undone. But I'm sorry—I won't do it again."

"We shan't be the ideal unmarried couple if you kiss me."

"I'm not so sure of that. But I promise I won't."

As he drove her home he wondered what had made him kiss her. He had not kissed her for twelve or thirteen years, nor had he ever particularly wanted to. What had made him suddenly do so now? He thought it must have been her hat.


Spring came, April and May, bringing gifts to the just and the unjust—to the delicate green tips of the wheat that showed above the furrows, to the young snow bloom of the orchards, to the green fire of the refreshed pastures; and also to the sour springings of dock and thistle, to the harsh prickliness of brambles and the bane of nettles, to the toughness of the swart couch grass.

Fred Sinden had left the Wagmary field in March, and May saw him in the flat, green shaggy country beyond Ashford, farther than he had ever wandered before. He found growing in himself a reluctance to stay in one spot—he had cut short his winter and wandered away before the air was warm or the days were long. Now he was exploring the marshes of the Medway, in a country that looked strange, and enticed by its very strangeness.

"Reckon we can go where we like," he said to Ivy. "Ginger's a different horse these days and ull take us anywhere we want to go."

"Till he falls down dead."

"He won't do that—he'll be with us for years yet; he's a good old horse," and he caressed the mangy yellow head that for two years now had almost been to him what Flossie and Soldier and Sorrel used to be.

He was a dog-owner too, these days, having bought a puppy for half a crown at a farm near Bethersden. It would be a good thing to have a watch-dog for the caravan when they were all away—he and Ivy at the fruit-picking and the children at school, or he and Stubberfield down at the osier beds, and Ivy going round with Sue, selling baskets and clothes-pegs and tape and ribbon and lace and reels of cotton. She often did this now, and he had grown used to it, though at first it had made him uneasy. Sometimes she would bring home quite a lot of money, and she and Sue would laugh a great deal about it—he never asked them why.

The summer passed as usual, fruit-picking, haymaking, harvesting, osier gathering and basket-making, peddling round the farms. Perhaps there was more trade and less work than there had been in other summers. The children also did not go to school so much as the summer before, for their parents wandered more and it was difficult to arrange for their attendance. After all, they would go to school at Leasan all the winter. Little Clarence was old enough to go now, and Fred was only waiting for their return to the Wagmary field to send him for the first time.

They were back early in September for the hop-picking, and the first piece of news they heard was the death of Mrs. Parish of Cock Marling Place. Mrs. Crouch brought it, calling to see her daughter on the evening of her arrival. They were all sitting in the warm twilight round a flavourous supper of stewed moorhen, a novelty for Mrs. Crouch, who was surprised to find it so tasty.

"Which reminds me," she said suddenly, "that they've buried Mrs. Parish."

"Buried her?"

"Yes; Tuesday morning. She died up in London, but she was buried down here, which I call a tur'ble waste of money."

"Reckon she wants to lay beside her husband," said Ivy.

"I can't see that's much use to her now; anyway it ain't worth all the cost of bringing her down from London. When I dies, Ivy, you can lay me where I fall; I don't want to have my body-corpse bumping around in motor-cars. Oh, you should have seen 'em . . . there was one full of nothing but flowers, and another with young Ronald in it, looking as black as death, which is only right and natural."

"Mr. Jim Parish ull be upset," said Fred.

"I don't see why he should be," said Ivy, "seeing how she was scarcely ever at home."

"But you feel it when they're dead, even if you didn't take any particular count of them when they were alive."

Their eyes met, as they both remembered how they had once sat making love in a dead man's chair.


Making love in a dead man's chair. . . . Crying and singing and praying for joy because your mother is dead and has left you ten thousand pounds. There was not much difference between Fred and Ivy on the day of old Sinden's funeral and Jim Parish on the day of his mother's. Ten thousand pounds. . . . Capital—ready money. . . . He could put Cock Marling and all its farms on their feet again, now, just when hope was dawning for agriculture. He could take advantage of all those tariffs, Wheat Acts, Agricultural Acts, Marketing Boards, which for months had mocked his poverty with their promises. All he had needed was capital—to launch out with, to build with, to repair with, to drain with, to plant with, to sow with, to stock with. Thank God! thank God!—and he had not sold an acre. Thank God! He had kept his land inviolate, whole and complete . . . two thousand acres . . . ten thousand pounds. . . . Poor little mother whose life was fretted out in a series of little runs and dartings here and there . . . so sweet and so unkind, so dense and so intelligent . . . he would cry for her some day, but at present he could not help knowing that he had loved her only a little and that her death had set him free. It had surprised him, and shocked him, but only for a moment, for in a moment he had remembered that some of her money must come to him—only some, and he had not expected so much; he had expected only a fourth share, and here she was giving him half of it—dear little mother! He had never loved her so much as he loved her now, even though his heart was dancing for joy on the day of her funeral.

The others were not so happy. None of them had ever loved her in any real sense—they had known too well that she had been glad to escape from them all, that their father's death had released her into a life of her own, and that she had joyfully run away into it and shut them out of it. But they had not expected her to leave more than half her money to Jim—it did not seem fair. Jim had Cock Marling. Now he had ten thousand pounds as well, and the others only three thousand each—Ronald out of a job again, and Vernon with all his future to make, and Betsy expecting her first child. It did not seem fair.

Only Ronald and Betsy were at the funeral. Vernon was still away on his Arctic adventure, beyond the reach of tidings. He did not even know his mother was dead; perhaps he would not mind very much when he heard he had been left so little. Ronald minded—bitterly. If Mother had divided her money equally, he would have had nearly five thousand pounds—two hundred and fifty a year, enough to keep him in any strait of unemployment. Now he would still have to come down and stay with Jim when he was out of work, and struggle and search and not be too particular. Or perhaps he could live on his capital till he had found something that really suited him . . . that seemed a more comfortable plan, if a more dangerous one, and it cheered him up a little.

"Would you like to stay here and help me manage the place?" suggested Jim. "There ought to be a lot of work soon, and I'd be glad of someone to help me. In time, when you'd learned the way of things, you might be my Agent if you wanted."

"Thanks. I'd rather be dead," said Ronald briefly.

Jim felt hurt, for he had had an idea that he was being generous.

Betsy was not so black and bitter. After all, she was comfortably off as John Brady's wife and ought really to be satisfied with three thousand pounds, as she already had money of her own. But she thought her mother should have considered the baby; she had known it was coming and she should have considered it, instead of leaving such a lot of money to Jim, who would blow it all on his lousy land, so that there would be nothing left for any inheriting niece or nephew. It was unaccountable, too, as Mother had never appeared to care more for Jim than for the others. Probably when it came to a solemn business like making her will, she had gone all county about it, and thought of the Family Estate and the Rights of the Eldest Son.

But it did not really matter to Betsy. Not only had she enough money, but she was now at last independent of money—she had a life apart from it. She no longer needed it to take her up and down and to and fro and round and round, for her life was no longer a search. She had not found what she was seeking—she did not even know what she had been seeking—but she had found something worth having, so that she could sit down and be satisfied with it.

Besides, John Brady had taught her a new simplicity of life, a pleasure in little things, in slight interests and small spendings. He was well-to-do, and enjoyed—or rather had not imagined life without—certain stereotyped comforts. But he had no extravagances, no dissipations; and mysteriously she found herself liking what he liked, content with what contented him.

Sometimes she was amazed at herself, and amused. She did not seem to be the same woman who had been so inexpressibly bored by the piddling activities of country life. Here she was like Jane Austen's clergywoman, busy with her household, her parish and her poultry—with only an occasional nip of the old spice, when she crushed Rose Alard on some committee meeting. Here she was doing her weekly shopping in Hastings, joined the crowd in Woolworth's, making little purchases, feeling a kind of comradeship with all those other women spending in sixpences. . . . Then across the road to Plummers and more serious buying, fingering stuffs (she hardly ever went to London now)—sitting at last among the other women, with all her parcels round her, over tea and a scone in the restaurant. . . . Hurrying out on the lamplit pavement, looking eagerly round her . . . the joy and relief of seeing him, standing beside his car—come to fetch her home. He would be full of something that had stirred his indignation, boiling with it, pouring it out to her almost without a greeting . . . "Elisabeth, do you know? . . . can you imagine? . . . can you beat it? . . ." She would smile and listen and sympathize, only half-hearing him, but loving him for his very fanaticism, because it was himself. But it was her eyes and her hands that loved him rather than her ears.

Driving home beside him through the dusk, she would detach herself from his hurrying voice and take a curious, sharp savour from memory, seeing herself as she was once and as she was now. The past seemed far away, but very clear. There was nothing dreamlike about it; on the contrary, it was the present that was the dream, and the real, waking Betsy who had roved and searched and suffered years ago. Now she was a girl in a dream; but it was a happy dream and she prayed that she might never awake. A sleep from which you never awake is death, and many who had known her in the past would now call her dead. It is only the dead who know how happily they dream.


Jim Parish walked down to the end of his garden, looking out between the fir trees over the Tillingham valley—"The valleys stand so thick with corn that they shall laugh and sing." He would grow corn down to the river now—he would reclaim those profitless snapes; as for the pastures—yes, he would dare his fate and break up grass. He would get the land into condition, clean it and manure it—some of it might require salting. . . . He would grow fruit too—he really thought there was a future for English fruit—canning and English fruit-growing; and he would grow hops—those vanished bowers should return.

The signs of change and corruption that for years had disquieted him, seemed to have lost their evil meaning. The scattered geranium tints of new roofs amidst the green, the black, tarry streaks of the roads, the orange flowering of petrol pumps beside them, the scarred, bewildered faces of oasts made newly quaint by human habitation, now appeared to him dredged of all significance. They were a mere palimpsest upon the unchanging manuscript of the earth—under their fading, transient scrawl were all the mysteries of summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, unchanged and unchangeable. The rainbow of his new hope now stood over the Tillingham valley, where he had so often seen the actual portent stand, striping the woods into unearthly colours.

He saw himself the Squire of a model estate—farming scientifically by modern methods, keeping his farms and buildings in repair, employing an army of Sussex labouring men. In the end he would make money and the vanished glory of the Squires would return. In the midst of all the Alard wreckage there would be two thousand uncorrupted acres and a Manor where the Squire dwelt in Hanoverian liberality and prosperity. He saw himself sitting at his table, over his wine, talking to his guests about enclosures, plantations, ploughs and pedigree cattle, or alternatively exchanging learning and wit with some modern Warburton or Burke or Chesterfield. . . . He saw Betsy's son, his heir, come in for the dessert, when the cloth had been removed from the polished walnut table, and fruit from his greenhouses stood heaped between the decanters. . . . The dream was so powerful that he actually saw John Brady drinking port.

With an effort he dragged himself out of this sweet brew of past and future, into the present and its immediate cares. He walked slowly away from his view over the valley, towards the barns where George Bates was busy tarring the wooden walls of a new shed.

"Hullo George! still at it?"

"Reckon it wants two coats—I'll be at it another three days yet."

"Never mind. I'll soon have got someone to help you—then we'll get along like lightning. There's a chap called Ashdown who used to work for Snashall, but who's stood off now. I'll take him on as estate carpenter and builder. We want somebody experienced in that line."

"Reckon we'll manage better by ourselves."

"Oh, come now, we could do with a bit of help. Then we can tackle all the repairs and rebuildings. There's a lot to be done."

"That chap Ashdown will be too grand for us."

"Not he! He's just a farm-labourer—he used to work at Float."

"He's a bricklayer now and getting the dole. He'll be too grand for us."

"Well, he needn't come to us if he doesn't want to—but I'd like to ask him. I want to get hold of all the out-of-work farm-hands around here and put them on the land again. I shall build cottages for them. . . ."

"It'll cost us a lot."

"Well, we can afford it. Don't be so captious, George. We're rich now—we needn't worry over what we spend."

"At that rate we'll soon have spent it."

"Stop croaking, George, and I'll tell you some more things that I'm going to do. I'm going to grow fruit for the English market."

"And where will you grow it?"

"In the twelve acre field down by Nightingale Shaw—it's nice and sheltered there; and in those two fields along the bottom."

"Surelie you'd never break up grass!"

"Yes-acres and acres of it. Now do you want to leave me?"

George was silent.

"I don't want to leave you," he said at last, "but maybe I shall have to if we're broke and sold up."

"We shan't be broke and sold up. There's an agricultural revival coming, as I've told you a hundred times, and we're lucky in being able to take advantage of it. I shall grow fruit and hops, and at least another fifty acres more corn. And another thing I'm going to do—I'll take Fred Sinden on as ploughman. Hodd won't be able to manage it all himself. That's another man I shall be glad to get back on the land."

"Fred Sinden! He's no better than a gipsy."

"George, you're really too provoking. I'm sick of having cold water poured on all my best ideas. I shall engage Sinden. He's a very decent chap—I like him, and it's not his fault he's living in a caravan. He's had a rotten time, and I'm glad to be of use to him."

"You won't be any use to him, Sir, nor he to you."

"What do you mean? He's a fine ploughman."

"He was."

"You don't forget that sort of thing. His heart was in it and it nearly broke him to have to give it up. I'll be proud and glad to get him on the land again."

"Reckon he won't come."

"Of course he'll come. He's mad anxious to be back."

"Maybe he was once, but it's got him now."

"What's got him?"

"The lazy, bad sort of life he's leading. He don't care for work—he's all for picking osiers and selling baskets with that pikey chap Stubberfield, and if he does a fortnight's picking at the farms he feels it's enough. Maybe he was all right once, but I tell you it's too late now to do anything for him. He's just a diddicoy."

It was obvious that for George Bates no rainbow stood across the Tillingham.


Evening had come to the Wagmary field. The picking was over for the day, and Fred and Ivy rested in their caravan—she stretched upon the rosy counterpane of the great bed that filled almost half of it, he sitting in the swamp of sunset that poured through the little window and made the brasses of stove and bed and locker shine like so many more suns. The children were playing outside with the dog, and their voices seemed to come from a great way off to Ivy as she lay and listened to Fred reading. He sometimes read the newspaper to her in the evenings while she rested like this. His voice was a part of her rest, flowing against the background of the children's small cries hesitating at the snags of unaccustomed words, then drawling on again, peaceful and expressionless as a brook.

"The Carania has now finished refitting for the luxury world cruise that is to take her away till the spring. Passengers will have all the advantages of a first-class hotel combined with the ay-menities of a smart sports club. The dining-room is in Louis Quince style, with walnut panelling and fres-fres-coos after Bowcher. There are three hundred cabins, each complete with a bathroom which is the last word in luxury on land or sea. Everywhere is marble and shining taps; there are taps for fresh and salt water as well as for the accustomed hot and cold. The first cabin I visited was eighteen feet by sixteen and panelled in pear-wood. The built-in furniture is also of pear-wood, up-uphol-stered in deldelph-in-ium blue. There was a sump-tu-osely fitted lav-a-tory basin, and the twin beds were covered with gold and blue quilts, and each provided with a pillow—a billow—billowy ee-ey-der-down in delphinium blue. Another cabin——"

He stopped and licked his finger to turn the page.

"I shouldn't like us to sleep in twin beds," murmured Ivy. "I like a double bed. I'm glad we don't have to sleep in twin beds, you and I."

"Had buttercups hanging—buttercup hangings—against walls of pink pine, and the twin beds——"


A tousled, sun-bleached head appeared in the doorway.

"What is it, dear?"

"The postman's coming."


Ivy sat up. The postman's visits were rare to the Wagmary field. What was he bringing? a letter from Stubberfield, changing their place of meeting? Or had the ticket of which Fred had bought a twentieth share drawn a horse in the Irish Sweep? Or was mother ill and asking Ivy to come and see her? To Fred and Ivy a letter had all the portentousness of a telegram in more exalted circles. Ivy felt sure that something tremendous had happened, either for weal or woe.

"What is it, Fred? Ask him what it is?"

"He doesn't know. How can he? Good evening, George. So you've brought us a letter."

"Well, you've got a letter-box, so I thought you might as well have a letter in it now and then," said the postman.

"Give it to me," said Fred. "I'll take it."

"It's meant for you; it's from Mr. Parish."

"You don't say so! I wonder what he's writing about."

"I can't tell you that. But I know his writing uncommon well by this time. It's queer writing, if you ask me; more like printing than writing—the sort of printing you get in old books."

"Well, it's easy to read, anyway:

'Mr. F. Sinden,
     Caravan at Eyelid Farm,

"Lucky I knew where you were, or I'd have wasted my time going up to the farm with it. I've walked far enough as it is. Hope you don't get another to-morrow."

"Not likely," said Fred. "Good evening, and thank you, George."

"Good evening."

The postman trudged away, and Fred opened the letter. It was only a few lines, asking him to call on the writer as soon as possible.

"What can he want you for?" asked Ivy, who had been reading over his shoulder.

"I'm sure I don't know."

"It's queer of him writing you a letter when he could have come himself or sent word."

"Maybe he's busy, and can't spare the time. They were saying at the Queen's Head as Mrs. Parish has left him a great lot of money."

"Then of course he can afford the stamp. I wonder what he wants to see you for."

"Maybe he's got a job for me."

"I shouldn't think that was likely."

"Well, he's certain sure to spend his money on the farm, and he always said he'd think of me if there was anything going."

"Oh, Fred. . . ."

"I'd better go up at once. He's pretty sure to be at home now."

"Come and make yourself tidy, then. You can't go like that."

"You're right, Missus. You fetch me a pail of water, and I'll have a wash."


Fred found Mr. Parish in his estate office, surrounded by maps and bills and dust. There was no outward change in the room since he had last seen it, except perhaps a greater disorder. But even his not very perceptive soul must be aware of a changed atmosphere, of hope and purpose radiating from the shabby desk, where, almost engulfed in litter, the master of the estate sat writing away as if for his very living.

"Hullo, Fred? Did you get my letter?"

There was an eager look in his prominent blue eyes.

"Yes, Mr. Parish. I came up straight along."

"Good man. I didn't expect you so soon, but the sooner the better. Sit down and have a cigarette. There they are—under the Farmer and Stockbreeder. I'm just finishing this letter to Selmes—I'll be ready in a minute."

Fred smoked and watched him. He was like a boy, smiling and scribbling away—though his hair was thinner than ever on top. The day was darkening, dimming round a single star that hung in the high window, above a clump of fir trees. Parish put out a hand as he wrote, and switched on the light.

"There, that's done. A Fordson tractor, Fred. I'm buying a tractor."

"I reckon it'll be useful."

"I reckon it will. I suppose you've heard that my mother left me ten thousand pounds?"

Ten thousand pounds was a miserable sum compared to what Fred had heard of Mrs. Parish's legacy; but the Queen's Head was given to over-statement.

"And I'm going to spend it on putting this place to rights. I'm going to make a model farm of it. I shall need a lot more men"—his eyes played happily over Sinden's inexpressive face—"I shall need a new ploughman."

"What about Hodd, Sir?"

"There'll be far too much for him to do—with all the horses and the machinery. I'm going to buy a lot of machinery, Fred. Do you think you could manage it?"

"Well, I äun't never had much to do with machines."

"But you'd soon learn—you're a young man, you know, and brought up in a mechanical age. You'd soon get the hang of things. After all, the principle's the same—the basic idea of ploughing. And I shall keep one horse plough and team."

"Then I reckon you mean to break up grass."

"Yes; George Bates is terribly shocked. But I shall do it. After all, a lot of the grass was arable not so very long ago. I shall simply be putting things back to what they used to be, with some additional land, of course. I shall drain all the marsh land properly, and I believe it would bear fine crops."

"What do you think of growing?"

"Wheat mostly; also oats and a little barley. I shall plant some more hops, and I shall put in fruit trees."

Fred was silent. He felt a little bewildered—he, Fred, a ploughman again . . . tractors, machinery . . . breaking up grass.

"And I don't think I'll lose my money, either," continued Parish—"I really do believe that things are looking up again, and with ten thousand pounds capital I shall get a good start. Of course I may lose the money, but I'm determined to have a damn good run for it first. I simply must do something to stop the rot—this dreadful suburbanization of our country. The Alard estate is smashed up too small to recover; but Cock Marling isn't smashed at all—it's only starved, and wants feeding. I shall be giving employment, too—stopping another rot. I've just written to that pal of yours, Ashdown, and asked him how he'd like to come on as Estate builder."

"Ashdown—I reckon he'll be pleased."

"And so will you, won't you?"

"Surelie, Mr. Parish. It's a fine thing for me. And Ivy too. . . . But what about a house?"

"I'm going to build a house for you, Fred—two houses to be exact. I shall put up two semi-detached five-roomed cottages at the end of Dixey Lane. Breeds is sending the plans to-morrow."

Fred was silent, trying to imagine two cottages at the end of Dixey Lane.

"And your wages," said Parish—"I should have told you about your wages—but my head's so full of so many things at once. Two pounds a week and three bob for the cottage. How does that suit you?"

"Reckon that suits me fine."

He felt as if he was in a dream. Somehow he could not feel as if things were really happening. A ploughman again . . . how long was it since his hand had been on a plough? It must be seven or eight years, and four or five since he'd had a regular job—and nearly three since he'd lived in a house. A house with five rooms, semi-detached, at the bottom of Dixey Lane. . . . The dream-feeling seemed to grow. . . . He looked quickly round him, at the untidy room and the high window and the single star, impressing on himself that he was awake.

Mr. Parish was talking.

"Then, Fred, you can start as soon as you like. It'll soon be time for the autumn ploughing and I'm all for winter-sown crops. Of course your house won't be ready, but you've lived so long in a caravan that you probably won't mind living there a bit longer. I'll have your place ready for you by the winter, I promise you."

"Thank you very much, Sir. I'll talk to Ivy about it."

He scarcely knew why he had said that. Mr. Parish seemed surprised.

"You're going to ask her first, before you decide?"

"Well, I may as well have a word with her, like. She wouldn't be pleased if I fixed it all without telling her."

"Er—um—perhaps you're right. I'm not a married man, so I don't understand these things as well as you."

"I reckon Ivy will be wunnerful glad about it all," said Fred hastily, feeling that perhaps he had seemed ungracious.

"I reckon she will too. She'll be glad to have a house of her own again. Five rooms, Fred—five good rooms. And I expect I'll be able to let you have electric light. Dixey Lane's only two hundred yards from the posts—it wouldn't cost much to bring it to you. I shall have electricity wherever I can manage it, put it in the barns, and use it for sawing and pumping as much as possible. We may as well get some good out of this beastly grid-system, besides a few shillings for way-leave, which is all I've had out of them yet."


It was quite dark when Fred came back to the Wagmary field. A reddish light guided him down the steep slope of knotty grass, wet with dew, and soon the little dog was barking loudly at his approach, and Ivy was dishing up his supper in the caravan, where the children were already asleep in their hammocks—even Clarence slept in a hammock now, having grown too big and restless for his parents' bed. The inside of the caravan was hot and stifling with the fumes of the stove, and so crowded that it was difficult to move about. But the children slept peacefully through everything, as the last three years had taught them to do.

"Well, Missus," said Fred, kissing her—"how would you like a house with five rooms in it?"

"I shouldn't like it at all. What should we do with five rooms?"

"Live in 'em, of course. Have one bedroom for ourselves and two for the children, and a kitchen and a parlour—and all with electric light. Mr. Parish said he'd give it to us."

"You've got a job, then?"

"Yes. He's offered me two pounds a week to come to him as ploughman."

"Two pounds! . . . and a house?"

"At three shillun a week. He's building one for us, with five rooms and electric light. He's going to build two semi-detached cottages at the end of Dixey Lane."

"Semi-detached! Oh, Fred, I shan't like that!—it'll be nearly as bad as living in the same house as other people."

"I own I'd have liked 'em better separate, but I reckon it's cheaper to build together. Maybe we'll have a nice sort of people next door to us."

"And maybe we won't. Finish your supper, Fred, and come to bed quick. We can talk better there. I want you to tell me some more."

It was nine o'clock, and generally they were in bed before that. When you live in a caravan there's no comfort or sense in sitting up after dark. Soon they were lying together under the rosy coverlet, now patterned in black and white with shadows and moonshine. The lamp was out, and a gibbous half-moon filled the little window. They could see each other's faces quite clearly.

"Tell me some more, dear. Is he really asking you to be ploughman? What's to become of Hodd?"

"Hodd's to stay on and be carter. There'll be more ploughing, Mus' Parish says, than what one man can manage with the horses."

"And will you be under Hodd?"

"I shouldn't think so. But I don't rightly know—I never thought of asking."

"I reckon you'll be under Hodd. He's an older man than you and he's been there sixteen years."

"I thought we'd manage separate—but I should ought to have asked . . . there's going to be a lot of machinery. He asked me if I could do with machinery."

"And what did you say?"

"I said I'd never had näun to do with machinery, and then he said he reckoned I'd soon learn."

"Reckon you would. Most men understand machinery nowadays."

"Maybe; but I don't like it. I can't think how it would be to plough by machinery . . . I used to think as much of the horses as of the ploughing. Howsumever, he said he'd keep one horse plough and team going."

"But Hodd is to be carter."

"So he is. I'd forgotten that."

He found something rather disconcerting in the way Ivy was spreading out the lump of Mr. Parish's offer, showing him all the things that he hadn't seen and that he didn't much like the look of now that he saw them.

"It's a good job," he said, stiffening.

"A very good job, dear—two pounds a week. We shall be rich."

"But I shall miss Ginger."

"And I shall miss the caravan. Do you know, Fred, I've grown quite fond of it? I didn't like it when I first came to live in it, but now I like it better than living in a house. It's so easy to keep clean and we all fit in so cosy."

"Reckon it'll be a bit too close in a few years' time when the children are older."

"We could buy a tent for them, then. You can buy a tent quite cheap."

"I shan't buy no tent. I shall be living in a five-roomed house. I think better of that house than you do, even though it's semi-detached. The only thing I'd like a caravan better for is that you can move it about."

"Yes; it's nice moving about. . . . Shall you go to Witsunden and meet Stubberfield before you go to Mr. Parish?"

"Surelie. Mr. Parish wants me to start at once—he says we can live as we are till the house is ready—but I must take a week off and go and see Stubberfield first."

"He'll be sorry at your leaving him."

"Reckon he will."

"And Sue will be sorry not to have me to go about with."

"I shan't, then! I never held with you going about so much with Sue."

"You held with the money we brought home."

"Maybe, but Sue's a gipsy—she äun't like Stubberfield."

"Sue's no gipsy—they've nothing of that sort in the family nearer than her grandmother. And talking of that, the old Dalryrmples are going into Maidstone workhouse this winter; they're old enough to be in the married quarters now. Poor Stubberfield 'ull be losing them at the same time as he loses us."

"Well, I'm not going to turn down a good job to please Stubberfield."

"Of course not. I'm only telling you. . . ."

"You needn't tell me all that now. It's time we went to sleep."

Ivy murmured something and sank her head against his shoulder. For some time they lay motionless, but in spite of what he had said about sleep, Fred did not close his eyes. He lay staring at the gibbous moon . . . smeary, it looked—there would be rain to-morrow. It had moved to the side of the window, and was looking at him round the corner of it—sinking behind some ash trees. . . . He glanced suddenly downwards and saw it shining in Ivy's eyes.

"I thought you was asleep."

"I thought you was."

"I dunno why I äun't—reckon all this has roused me up a bit."

"Yes—I can't stop thinking about it."

"But you're pleased, äun't you, Ivy? You're pleased with it all?"

"Of course I'm pleased. Aren't you?"

"Of course I am."

They said no more, and after a time they both fell asleep.


It was unlike Fred to wake up early, especially when he had gone to sleep rather late; but he woke up at the first pale fingering of dawn upon his pillow. He had a feeling of vague disquiet, and comforted himself by watching familiar shapes and outlines pass out of darkness into light. Through the window he could see the meadow sloped against a sad, whitish sky. There was a great whispering of wind among the trees, and suddenly a moorcock gave his harsh, warning note from some pool away in the woods. Ivy stirred and woke.

"Oh, Fred, I had a dream—a tur'ble dream. I dreamed we was on the sea in twin beds."

"Well, we äun't, old lady—that's plain enough," and he hugged her close to him in the warmth of the big brass-bounder.

"But I shan't like it when the children are in a separate room from us."

"What's that got to do with going to sea in twin beds?"

"Nothing—but my dream made me think of it. I shan't like it, Fred."

"It's a thing that'll have to be some day."

"But not yet—they're so very little yet."

"Well, we can have them in along of us to start with. There's no need to furnish all the rooms at once."

"Where are we to get the furniture from when we do? We haven't half enough here to furnish five rooms."

"I've told you we needn't furnish them all at once."

"But we haven't got enough to furnish even one room. Most of the things in here are fixed. We shan't even have a bed."

"I thought your mother was keeping some things for us."

"Some—but not much; not enough for five rooms."

"How you do go on about those five rooms."

"Well, they're the part of it that means most to me. I haven't kept house properly for three years, and it'll be bad starting without enough furniture."

"I thought you said you were pleased—you don't sound pleased, to my notion."

"There's some things I ain't pleased with, and that's one of them."

"The house? That's what pleases me most of all. It'll be comfortable to spread ourselves a bit. But I know it's awkward about the furniture. . . . I could ask Mus' Parish to let me have some of my wages in advance, and then with what we get for the sale of the caravan—and of Ginger—-poor old Ginger. . . ."

"You don't sound pleased now, Fred."

"Well, I'm like you. There's some things about it I äun't pleased with. I don't like the idea of being stuck down without horses. And being under Hodd, too. . . ."

"Maybe you won't be under Hodd."

"Well, it's you who first said as I would be, and it seems likely as I will. We can't both be bosses, and he's twenty years older than I am and he's been with Mus' Parish sixteen years. . . . I don't fancy working under a boss."

"You worked under Mr. Vincent."

"But he was different. He was like Mus' Parish—the place belonged to him. Hodd 'ull just be a sort of foreman boss, same as they have in towns. I don't know as I fancy working on a big place with a lot of men and all sorts of notions. There was only three of us at Float. Besides, I've got out of the way of regular working now—it'll come hard on me."

"Same as it'll come hard on me to keep house."

They were both broad awake now, though it was not time to get up.

"Fred," said Ivy, "I think I should like a cup of tea."

It was only four o'clock; but he rose good-naturedly and set about it. Neither he nor Ivy could sleep any more. He lit the stove and put the kettle on to boil, and all the while he said nothing. He still felt vaguely uneasy and dissatisfied. The elation that had filled him yesterday was gone. He felt flat—perhaps it was being up so early after a poor night. . . . He did not like the idea of selling Ginger and the caravan, of being stuck down in one place and having to work under another man . . . the inevitable accompaniments of two pounds a week and a cottage. Yesterday these had been shadowy doubts, only just strong enough to prevent him pledging himself to Mr. Parish; to-day they were substantial difficulties. . . . Perhaps he would feel better when he had had a cup of tea.

"Well, it's been a bit of a surprise, and there's a lot of things to think about."

"Reckon there are."

"Perhaps it was a pity you didn't think about them before you settled with Mr. Parish."

"I haven't settled näun with Mr. Parish."

"But, Fred—why, you told me it was all fixed up."

"I never told you näun of the kind."

"I'm sure you did."

"I tell you I didn't. I said particular to Mr. Parish that I must talk to you about it first."

Ivy said nothing. She stared at him through the steam of her tea-cup. He sat on the edge of the bed, a trifle hunched, a trifle dejected in the morning light.

"Well, then . . ." she said at last.

"Well, what?"

"You've promised nothing yet. When are you going to let him know for certain?"

"I thought I'd go around this evening after work."

"Fred, I don't believe you really want this job."

"Want it! Of course I want it! I'd be a fool not to want it. There's some things I don't like about it, that's all."

"What sort of things?"

"I've told you—being under Hodd, and having machinery instead of horses. I never thought of all that when Mus' Parish was talking so fine."

"But you didn't really want the job even then—not want it very badly—or you wouldn't have said you must talk to me about it first."

Fred shuffled uneasily.

"I told Mus' Parish I didn't care much about machinery."

"But everything's machinery nowadays. You'll have to learn about machinery if you mean to get on."

"Ivy, do you want me to take this job?"

"Of course I do. I should like to have you in regular work, bringing in two pound a week. It's the house I don't care about."

"Sometimes we make as much as three pound a week as we are now."

"I know, but it ain't regular."

"It'll be more regular when Stubberfield and I have worked up our osier trade."

"Yes, and Sue and I could do better if we carried lino. We often gets asked for lino, and bigger mats. . . . All we want is a little cart to go round in. . . ."

There was another silence. They sat side by side on the edge of the bed, sipping their tea, while the dawn glowed slowly into living colours, gold and purple kindling on the white and grey. The children still lay asleep in their little hammocks of rabbit-netting. The light on their faces did not wake them.

"Ivy," said Fred, "what about the children? It would be better for them living properly in a house."

"They've been much healthier since they've lived in a caravan."

"Yes, they look in good heart. But it would be nice for them to go regular to school."

"They can go regular. We can see to that. Maybe we've been a bit careless these last six months; but if we see to it we can manage things so as they go regular. You must say, Fred, I've always kept the children clean and respectable, with proper hats and shoes, and made them behave nicely at meals. They aren't like the gipsies."

"Oh, dear, no."

That was one thing nobody could ever say of him—that he'd gone like the gipsies. He wasn't even like those half-and-halfs, those Dalrymples and such. Farms employed him which did not as a rule employ cart people. He was a respectable working man, moving round from place to place instead of working for one master. He did not know whether he would care to be working for one master—getting up at the same time every day, going the same way to work, never having a day off except Sundays. . . .

"Ivy," he said slowly, "should you mind tur'ble if I didn't take this job?"

"No, Fred. There's some things about it that I like, but others that I don't."

"I like some things about it too, but on the whole, I think we're better as we are."

"Yes, dear. I don't feel I could abide living semi-detached."

"And I couldn't abide working regular. I've got used to other ways now, Ivy—used to freedom. When we go about like this in our caravan I feel the whole world belongs to me. I'm my own master now and can go where I like. I don't know as that äun't better than having a regular job and living in a house."

Ivy said nothing. She had had a vision of herself driving round in a travelling shop, like Mrs. Chittenden.


Jim Parish and Fred Sinden faced each other once more across the littered office table. Parish's eyes were shining as brightly as they had shone the night before, but the light in them was not the same.

"Then am I to understand, Fred, that you're turning down the job?"

"I reckon that's what it comes to."

"Merely because you don't like working under another man?"

"That, and working with machinery."

"But I've told you that you won't, strictly speaking, be under Hodd—that he'll merely be sort of senior to you, as is only right. And as for the machinery, if you were an old man I could understand your prejudice, but you're not—you're young—scarcely thirty yet. . . .

"I äun't used to it," said Fred stubbornly.

"No, of course you're not. But you'd get used to it—even George Bates has said he thinks he may do that. Any young man with normal faculties could get used to a tractor. . . . The fact is, Fred, I'm driven to the conclusion that you don't want to work."

"I don't want to work regular."

"How do you want to work?"

"As I'm working now—going from place to place."

"You call that working?"

"Reckon I do. Sometimes I've picked for ten hours."

"And sometimes you've loafed for ten hours. What a way to live!"

"It äun't a bad way, Mus' Parish. I'm my own master and I see the world."

"The world as bounded by Paddock Wood. . . . Oh, Fred, I'm disappointed in you. I knew you were living the sort of life that sooner or later sends a man to pieces, but I never thought you'd go to pieces so soon. I wouldn't believe George Bates when he said you were no better than a diddicoy."

"Diddicoy! He dared say that!—it's a lie—I'm no diddicoy"—his rare, slow anger choked him. He had sprung up, and stood glaring at Parish with suffused eyes.

"Keep cool, Fred, and sit down again. You must realize it's a thing people will say if you go on living as you do when you've a chance of something better."

"But I don't live like a diddicoy. My place is decent and my children clean, and we're respectable people, as I'd have you know."

"I do know it—that's why I'm so upset about you. I simply can't understand why you and Ivy should choose—deliberately choose—to live from hand to mouth in a caravan when you might have regular work and a comfortable home."

"Ivy won't live in a semi-detached house."

"So you've told me, and if that had been the only objection I might have built detached. But of course it isn't. It's only an excuse, just as your dislike of machinery is an excuse. Ivy doesn't want you to take this job any more than you want to take it. She's got caught by your way of life the same as you have, and all I can say is that I'm sorry for your children."

"They're right enough. We've always looked after them properly. No one can say as we haven't thought of the children."

"But what's to become of them when they grow up? You're giving them no chances. If you were ploughman here your boys could come on the land as soon as they'd left school. Your eldest boy could slip into your shoes and be ploughman after you."

A little boy with a whip? . . . the vision rose, but it was doubtful and dim.

"If Norman and Clarence want to go on the land when they're older, they can go just the same. If this agricultural revival you're telling me of really comes, there'll be jobs for them right enough."

"I wouldn't be too sure of that. Norman and Clarence will scarcely have been brought up in a way to suit them for decent jobs."

"You've no call to say that, Sir. I tell you I'm bringing them up as respectable as I could bring 'em up in a house. They do a bit of work even now—picking; they're both picking now at Eyelid, and soon they'll be old enough to come on the fruit."

"Picking! You call that work?"

"Aye, and hard work, too. Somebody must do it."

"But not our old landed families—not our skilled ploughmen. Leave the picking to the gipsies and cartpeople and the townees who want a holiday . . . or at best to the village wives and children who need an extra bit of money. It's no job for you."

"I can't help it, Sir. I tell you I've thought it over, and the Missus and I have talked it over, and we both think that we're better off as we are. Often we make more money than three pound a week, and there's a chap I'm in with who's in the osier trade, and between us we ought to be doing well at the end of another year. I'm my own master, and Ivy äun't terrified with the housekeeping the same as she used to be."

"But does she really prefer a leaky caravan to a five-roomed cottage?"

"It äun't leaky, Mus' Parish. It lets in the weather less than the house we used to have at Float. I must say, as speaking for myself, I would sooner be in a decent house in winter time. But we're cosy enough as we are, and when the children are older I shall get an old army tent and pitch it along side."

"And Ivy really prefers it."

"Reckon she does. She's got out of the way of housekeeping, and anyway it's a better life for her having other things to do besides cleaning and cooking all day."

"Depends on the things. But do you always have to do as she wants?"

"'At that I don't!" cried Fred, touched up by the flick. "But I happen to want the same myself this time."

"That's what I thought. . . . Well, Fred, I won't say any more. I'm disappointed in you, that's all."

"I'm sorry for that, Mus' Parish, but I don't see you've any cause to be. If anyone says I'm a gipsy he shall pay for it."

Parish said nothing for a moment. He was fighting with his anger and disgust for a man whom he had hitherto respected. After all, it wasn't Sinden's fault—he had been caught up in the machine and broken. He was a victim of his times—it was unfair to blame him. The European War, the slump in land values, the financial World Crisis, War Loan conversion, political neglect, Queen Anne's Bounty, Free Trade and Building Societies were the vast causes of this small effect—of this lost man before him. He must forgive.

He held out his hand.

"Very well, Fred. I won't argue any more. You must go your own way, and I hope we're still friends."

"I hope so, Sir. It's been kind of you to take such an interest in me."

"I shall always take an interest in you, Fred. Goodbye." But I don't want to see what becomes of you, he said in his heart.

The two men shook hands, and Fred went out of the room. In the doorway he looked back, for a moment uncertain. But Mr. Parish was not looking at him; he was lighting his pipe.


Sinden had paid his visit early, and the sun was still above the horizon when he came out. The air was full of the smells of earth and evening; the smoke of burning weeds blew down between the hedges, carrying in its bitter cloud a stray fume of sweetness from Cock Marling's oast. Once outside the gate, Fred paused and lit a cigarette. The acrid smoke curled into his nostrils and ate up the sweet smells, but he had scarcely noticed them. He wanted something to soothe him down—he felt all on edge, somehow—all upset. . . .

It was tryng to have had words with Mr. Parish, and though in the end they had shaken hands he still felt that the Squire did not think well of him. Perhaps it was only natural, full of plans as he was for his place. And it certainly had been kind of him to think of Fred and offer him the job. But he was wrong in having all these big notions—he'd lose his money for certain sure. Even if Fred had gone to him most likely he'd have been out of work again in a few years. Not that he wouldn't have liked working with old Ashdown again, and having a good house even if he didn't fancy being so near his neighbours. . . . But he was only acting sensible in staying where he was. He was his own master, he was free and he was safe—he didn't have to worry about things that were scaring other people. It was just as well not to have to depend on any one job for home and wages. He'd already had some experience of that at Float, and what had happened once might happen again. He was well out of it all.

But he knew that it was not only caution that persuaded him. During those last three years he had found something new, something which he did not want to give up to comfort and safety. He had learned the new pleasures of change and independence; he had learned new secrets, new ways, new friendships. Yet the things he had loved in the old life were with him still—the earth and its changes, the fields and their fruit, comfortable talk at the inn, his own fireside, the kind, familiar body of his wife and the health of his growing children. He had found much and he had kept all he wanted, and he did not know yet what he had lost.

He was feeling better now; his smoke and his walk had eased him, while the image of Mr. Parish's indignation grew fainter in his mind. He had come down the Furnace lane as far as the stile, and across the stile was a little shaw, and beyond it the Wagmary field. As he went through the shaw he could hear his children's voices and the barking of the dog. A step farther, and he saw the caravan resting against the wood, with a curl of blue smoke at its chimney and its little window shining like a golden heart in the last light of the sun. Praise the Lord that he was not leaving it, that he had not pledged himself to labour and civilization, to wages and neighbours and regular hours. He had had a lucky escape. It would have been terrible if he had sold his horse and caravan and bought new furniture and mortgaged himself to one place and one master and then found that he hated it all and wanted his freedom back. . . .

He swung up his arm and signalled to the children, who came running to meet him. The sunlight that poured after him down the field lit up the pattern of ridges under the knotty, weed-choked grass, and sent his shadow heeling down to the wood's edge. The ghost of a ploughman walked ahead of him over the ghosts of the furrows. Then the sun dipped behind the hedge and the shadows were lost in twilight.

The End

[End of Gipsy Waggon. The Story of a Ploughman's Progress. by Sheila Kaye-Smith]