FLORINS AND PRAISE'
HE trees on the hills seem to have turned red within a week. There is ground frost in the mornings and a cold fog over the flat lands. The sky above the hills where the sun rises is reckless with cloud and colour; you might expect to see the Valkyrie streaming out of it — which doesn't mean that it is like a Covent Garden backcloth It is like—but how in retrospect reach for similes when I know that at the time, bicycling out to a farm, the only things I was properly aware of were the aching of my hands and the soreness of my chin—a prickly, pimply, cold soreness such as a hen might feel if unlucky enough to be plucked alive.
When looking round bad temperedly at the car which hooted with unnecessary and callous violence I noticed the hills and the sky and thought for an instant of the savage romanticist. Wagner, But then. setting my nose into the wind again, I thought how unbearably cold it was. yet the water in' the ditches was not frozen, so that evidently it could become far colder; and what would this farm worker on his high black bicycle do then, poor thing? I noticed also that the fog, lying close to the ground, obscured only the trunks of trees: their branches flouted on the milk-coloured mist like—but before any precise simile could arise from the vague images in my mind of Chinese paintings and umbrellas and mimes, the coldness again captuted all my attention and MI the rest of the ride held my sluggish imagination numb It remained numb all day.
WE were threshing. and the job of pitching wheatsheaves into the thresher occupied my mind completely. I pitched from a dutch barn. It was hard suing. The sheaves were heavy and from twelve till five, when we finished, I was pitching up. A white-haired old man with bad breath, who regarded each sheaf with sullen vexation, wal helping me. He picked out sheaves at the farther end of the barn and threw them to me. I &Ego in the long, single motion of catching the sheaves on my fork and swinging them over my head to the machine. But the old man would not co-operate—he may have had some puritanical objection to anyone extracting enjoyment from threshing. or, more probably, he was tired and uninterested—he threw too quickly, threw short or too far, hitting me at the back of the knees, never, save by aceident, did he throw conveniently.
Even so I did get some enjoyment from the job. I got it front the sight of so much diverse, simultaneous activity, and of the immediate. tangible results of one's . own work: the diminution of the wheat stack, the increasing of the straw stack, the milk float going by loaded with sacks of grain, the clouds of dust and the mounting cone of chaff.
pOR a fortnight now I have been threshing, 1following the same machine from farm to farm. The farms vary a lot, the farmers little. Some farms are full of mud, the carts are broken, the gates broken, the roads a mire; other farms are of a clinical neatness, prosperity oozes from them.
The farmers are all, so far, tolerant, for we are a decently efficient team. Some show their appreciation by not swearing at us, some by praise, some by praise and tea, some by praise and tips, a florin or half-acrown each (" to buy yourselves drinks "), These last we have noticed are cheerful men in themselves and have cheerful men about them in their employ.