of a Young Man
THE villain of the scene is a twist of smoke. From across the wide valley you can see it against the green and brown ;muerte of the hill—a supple black stem breaking 'into flower as it touches the sky. But from twenty yards you can seethat it is the lifebreath of an engine of Hell. It is the smoke from a threshing set.
At half-past seven three men and three land girls arrive reluctantly. It is a Saturday .mornine and anxiously they balance up the size of the rick against thetr combined stamina plus the reliability of the thresher—but it doesn't equal five hours. " Two o'clock job at the earliest," says the man who drives the steam engine.
The long belt that connects the thresher with the steam engine begins its journey. The multitudinous wheels on the thresher revolve a sinister hum gathers strength. and out of the long red box is vomited the preliminary fog of dust. The foreman sends his gang to their stations: two girls on the straw rick, one on the cavings, a man on the baler' another on the chaff, and
with himself on the wheat rick. He, takes his place level with the top of the' thresher, ready to spear the first sheaf as soon as the man who is to cut the twine and feed the sheaf into the drum gives a sign.
He is a foreman worthy of his employer, the Chalkshire War Agricultural Executive Committee which, like most W.A.E.C.s has a reputation for Possessing the county's largest cars,
shitiiest boots and tOggest bluff Not that there is much bluff about the fore
man now. But as he stands there rather noble against the increasing sun, in his unsullied riding boots. dove-grey breeches, green line shirt: with his hair carefully smoothed you feel he would be more kindly placed in the W.A.E.0 office in the county town, protected from the rough undocketed habits of the soil by tortoise stove and
typist. Pity for him gains upon you and with the intonation of a prophet you would inform him of your presentiment : " Dust thou art..." But why stress the obvious?
IT is half-past nine and unto dust he 1 has returned His pomaded hair is coveree with a pelt of grime, his green shirt is nearly grey, and there are dark patches of sweat under the arms and streaks of sweat across the back The sweat makes channels through the dust on his face. The sun is beginning to make its presence felt. " It's going to he warm to-day," says the man on the thresher. The foreman looks at him questioningly. He repeats his prediction, shouting hard against the blatter and snarl of his insatiable machine. The Foreman stops work. " I'm sorry I didn't quite catch • . ."
" I said it was gong to be warm to-day."
" Oh yes, rather." Smiles all round,
those of the foreman, though, lack
T" o'clock: everyone sits in the hedge eating sandwiches and grit. Conversation is limited to guesses about finishing time arid the guesses are
optimistic. But ten minutes after starting work the machine gets choked. The foreman swears restrainedly. His companion lies down preferring not to be identified too fervently with the time race when things go awry and contemplates through half-closed eyes the sun. For twenty minutes there is an amperecirited rest, then work goes on faster than before.
An errant super-foreman comes to see that everything is going smoothly. Everything is going quickly and filthily and that is satisfactory. He is kinder than one would think errant superforemenare ever allowed to be, for he hands round bottles of lemonade. bought out of his own pocket.
A great many mice have spent their winter in the rick Every so often a crowd of them are discovered in a cosy .panic beneath a sheaf If they arc small enough they can escape through the wire netting that surrounds the rick: otherwise they are stamped on. Some, hist born. pink. blind translucent, cling to the sheaf and thrust with it into the machine to be ground down and ejected with the c.avings. As the rick gets low, the rats are found. They are killed by blows from the pitchforks and their deaths are noisy.
At twelve the chaff gets blocked. All hope is over for finishing on time: but. by an almost angel;e• strength of determination-the job is completed by one. Then it is unsteadily home by bissele and untidy, uncomfortable bathings by various kitchen sinks.