"ptETTER rake them beans," the fainter
le' had said. So I put Nobby. the least reluctant of our horses between the shafts of the horse rake, while the farmer warned me against letting him stand on the shafts and break them ; against catching a wheel Ott a gatepost, and, this with elaborate references to hedges, winds, paths and other marks of direction, against raking in horizontal lines instead of vertical.
The beans, had grown among the thistles. A few beans and many thistles. I knew this bitterly for I had helped to stook the sheaves: It had been a poor crop so it was important that every possible black pod of beans that remained lying amongst the still vigorous thistles and coltsfoot should be gathered in. To rake them leisurely into long straight lines all the afternoon seemed an easy occupation. The horse patiently pulling the rake to and fro across the field did all the work. I sat behind him on the little iron scat above the rake, shouting " Gee up!" when he slacked and at occasional intervals pulling the lever that raised the curved prongs of the rake from the ground and so released _what had been scraped together. So I thought until I climbed into the little iron seat and said, " Gee up!"
THE horse, in defiance of all the warnings
of the farmer, turned and hurried down the field vertically insacad of across it horizontally. I tugged at the reins, gave a weak imitation of the farmer at his angriest and the horse went on his proper course. But I had not yet let the rake down. Wc stopped. The lever was stiff, more difficult to control than I had imagined. We started again. The horse went to the left and the right but never straight ahead, however emphatically I jerked the reins or shouted instructions. After ten serpentine yards I stopped him to pull up the lever to release the heap of rubbish and the two or three beans we had gathered.
In the excitement of getting the horse to stop, for he was an enthusiastic worker once he started, and pulling the lever, I dropped the reins. I got down from my seat and picked them up. But while climbing back, the horse bent down his head to feed, jerking the reins out of my fingers. I descended again, this time saying something to the
horse. When we were ready to move there was an anxious bit of calculating to be done so that 1 should let down the prongs immediately after leaving my first heap of rubbish without dragging any of it along to my second. Painstakingly I flicked the horse twice (horses never move at the first flick), let hint move half a yard, stopped him, lowered the rake, said " Gee up " twice and moved on uncertainly to make my second heap. Twice I went across the field and back in this careful but erratic fashion. It took time and some strain on the nerves. Turning round at the end of the field was particularly nerve-wearing for the horse, feeling no doubt the insipidity of my control, began turning when 15 or 20 yards from the hedge. To dissuade hint from this it was necessary to humble myself, get down from my chariot and lead him.
inADUALLY as I became more confident NJ' (and less interested) my speed grew better. I was able to release the rakings without stopping. except when the stuff clung lovingly to the prongs ; and to guide the horse along tolerably straight lines. Even so progress was slow, and heaps lengthened almost imperceptibly, and boredom increased in inverse ratio. I was not after all very disappointed when rain stopped play.