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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPomona's Travels - Letter Number Eight
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Pomona's Travels - Letter Number Eight Post by :vbhnl Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :662

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Pomona's Travels - Letter Number Eight

CHEDCOMBE

I will now finish telling you about the great hay-making day. Toward the end of the afternoon a lot of boys and girls began playing a game which seemed to belong to the hayfield. Each one of the bigger boys would twist up a rope of hay and run after a girl, and when he had thrown it over her neck he could kiss her. Girls are girls the whole world over, and it was funny to see how some of them would run like mad to get away from the boys, and how dreadfully troubled they would be when they was caught, and yet, after they had been kissed and the boys had left them, they would walk innocently back to the players as if they never dreamed that anybody would think of disturbing them.

At five o'clock everybody--farm hands, ladies, gentlemen, school-children, and all--took tea together. Some were seated at long tables made of planks, with benches at the sides, and others scattered all over the grass. Miss Pondar and our maid Hannah helped to serve the tea and sandwiches, and I was glad to see that Hannah wore her pointed white cap and her black dress, for I had on my woollen travelling suit, and I didn't want too much cart-before-the-horseness in my domestic establishment.

After tea the work and the games began again, and as I think it is always better for people to do what they can do best, I turned in and helped clear away the tea-things, and after that I sat down by a female person in black silk--and I am sure I didn't know whether she was the lady of the manor or somebody else until I heard some h-words come out in her talk, and then I knew she was the latter--and she told me ever so much about the people in the village, and why the rector wasn't there, on account of a dispute about the altar-cloths, and she was just beginning to tell me about the doctor's wife sending her daughters to a school that was much too high-priced for his practice, when I happened to look across the field, and there, with the bar lady at the inn, with her hat trimmed with pink, and the Marie Antoinette chambermaid, with her hat trimmed with blue, was Jone, and they was all three raking together, as comfortable and confiding as if they had been singing hymns out of the same book.

Now, I thought I had been sitting still long enough, and so I snipped off the rest of the doctor story and got myself across that field with pretty long steps. When I reached the happy three I didn't say anything, but went round in front of them and stood there, throwing a sarcastic and disdainful glance upon their farming. Jone stopped working, and wiped his face with his handkerchief, as if he was hot and tired, but hadn't thought of it until just then, and the two girls they stopped too.

"He's teaching us to rake, ma'am," said Miss Dick, revolving her green-gage eyes in my direction, "and really, ma'am, it's wonderful to see how good he does it. You Americans are so awful clever!"

As for the one with the blue trimmings, she said nothing, but stood with her hands folded on her rake, and her chiselled features steeped in a meek resignedness, though much too high colored, as though it had just been borne in upon her that this world is all a fleeting show, for man's illusion given, and such felicity as culling fragrant hay by the side of that manly form must e'en be foregone by her, that I could have taken a handle of a rake and given her such a punch among her blue ribbons that her classic features would have frantically twined themselves around one resounding howl--but I didn't. I simply remarked to Jone, with a statuesque rigidity, that it was six o'clock and I was going home; to which he said he was going too, and we went.

(Illustration: "THERE, WITH THE BAR LADY AND THE MARIE ANTOINETTE CHAMBERMAID, WAS JONE")

"I thought," said I, as we proceeded with rapid steps across the field, "that you didn't come to England for the purpose of teaching the inhabitants."

Jone laughed a little. "That young lady put it rather strong," he said. "She and her friend was merely trying to rake as I did. I think they got on very well."

"Indeed!" said I--I expect with flashing eye--"but the next time you go into the disciple business I recommend that you take boys who really need to know something about farming, and not fine-as-fiddle young women that you might as well be ballet-dancing with as raking with, for all the hankering after knowledge they have."

"Oh!" said Jone, and that was all he did say, which was very wise in him, for, considering my state of feelings, his case was like a fish-hook in your finger--the more you pull and worry at it the harder it is to get out.

That evening, when I was quite cooled down, and we was talking to Mr. Poplington about the hay-making and the free-and-easy way in which everybody came together, he was a good deal surprised that we should think that there was anything uncommon in that, coming from a country where everybody was free and equal. Jone was smoking his pipe, and when it draws well and he's had a good dinner and I haven't anything particular to say, he often likes to talk slow and preach little sermons.

"Yes, sir," said he, after considering the matter a little while, "according to the Constitution of the United States we are all free and equal, but there's a good many things the Constitution doesn't touch on, and one of them is the sorting out and sizing up of the population. Now, you people over here are like the metal types that the printers use. You've all got your letters on one end of you, and you know just where you belong, and if you happen to be knocked into 'pi' and mixed all up in a pile it is easy enough to pick you out and put you all in your proper cases; but it's different with us. According to the Constitution we're like a lot of carpet-tacks, one just the same as another, though in fact we're not alike, and it would not be easy if we got mixed up, say in a hayfield, to get ourselves all sorted out again according to the breadth of our heads and the sharpness of our points, so we don't like to do too much mixing, don't you see?" To which Mr. Poplington said he didn't see, and then I explained to him that what Jone meant was that though in our country we was all equally free, it didn't do for us to be as freely equal as the people are sometimes over here, to which Mr. Poplington said, "Really!" but he didn't seem to be standing in the glaring sunlight of convincement. But the shade is often pleasant to be in, and he wound up by saying, as he bid us good-night, that he thought it would be a great deal better for us, if we had classes at all, to have them marked out plain, and stamped so that there could be no mistake; to which I said that if we did that the most of the mistakes would come in the sorting, which, according to my reading of books and newspapers, had happened to most countries that keep up aristocracies.

I don't know that he heard all that I said, for he was going up-stairs with his candle at the time, but when Jone and me got up-stairs in our own room I said to him, and he always hears everything I say, that in some ways the girls that we have for servants at home have some advantages over those we find here; to which Jone said, "Yes," and seemed to be sleepy.

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CHEDCOMBEThere was still another day of hay-making, but we couldn't wait for that, because our cycles had come from London and we was all anxious to be off, and you would have laughed, madam, if you could have seen us start. Mr. Poplington went off well enough, but Jone's bicycle seemed a little gay and hard to manage, and he frisked about a good deal at starting; but Jone had bought a bicycle long ago, when the things first came out, and on days when the roads was good he used to go to the post-office on it, and he said
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CHEDCOMBE, SOMERSETSHIRELast Sunday afternoon Mr. Poplington asked us if we would not like to walk over to a ruined abbey about four miles away, which he said was very interesting. It seemed to me that four miles there and four miles back was a pretty long walk, but I wanted to see the abbey, and I wasn't going to let him think that a young American woman couldn't walk as far as an elderly English gentleman; so I agreed and so did Jone. The abbey is a wonderful place, and I never thought of being tired while wandering in the rooms
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