Follow the Call
Chapter V — My Hopes Revive
My Hopes Revive
The morning after I met my Waterloo broke stern and relentless. I had half expected the world to stop going around, for a month or two, but not a bit of it. At 4 a.m., my alarm clock went off and dragged me unwillingly from sweet oblivion.
I had slept like a top, in spite of the fact that my heart was broken, and coming back to the realities of life next morning was quite an experience.page 50
As soon as the alarm rang, I sat up and reached for my pants and shirt, which were hanging on a kerosene case alongside the bed; and for a start it seemed just like any other morning. Then gradually it began to dawn on me that something was wrong, I couldn't quite make out what. I lit the candle, under the impression that perhaps some of my clothes were missing, but no, they were all at hand.
The feeling was very like the emotion a man feels when he wakes up cold on a very frosty night, but doesn't liven up sufficiently to realise that all the blankets are on the floor, and that what he is snuggling under his chin so desperately is only one small corner of them that he has managed to retain.
I looked about aimlessly, and surmised that my restless feeling was due to hearing wind howling outside, because wind always made me feel irritable.
Then, suddenly, recollection came upon me with a dismal rush, and I knew I was one of these fellows with a blighted life.
“Henceforth,” thought I, “I shall have to go drearily through this vale of tears without ambition or happiness.” I was quite in earnest about it, too. It flashed across my mind at the same time that, as I was so certain that my future life was to be nothing but a colourless existence, perhaps I needn't bother to milk the cows that morning. “Why work?” I thought, “when work is no use to me.”
Then it occurred to me that it would be a pity to miss milking the cows—it would ruin them; perhaps after all the best way would be to carry on until the end of the milking season, and then sell out, and become a wanderer over the surface of the globe.
So I hied me to the milking shed, and the work went on just as if it were an ordinary, everyday sort of morning.
Alice went away that Monday morning, and I had time to get my proper amount of sleep and catch up with my work again. It was a relief to more farms page 51 than mine, when she went. Old Clif Wilcox gloated openly over her departure. He said it was the best thing that had happened to the road for a long time, and if she hadn't gone when she did, he'd have bought two pair of shackles and chained Jack and Arty up at home.
Stan Collins worked in Stratford, and used to bike in every morning, but the morning that Alice went off, Stan got a nasty surprise. Stan and I were good pals again, as soon as the rivalry was a wash-out, and he told me all about it.
On arrival at the office that Monday morning Stan received a polite invitation to step into the manager's office.
“Aha!” thought Stan. “Going to raise my screw! About time, too!”
He knocked meekly on the door and composed his face. “You know,” explained Stan, “I've always found it pay to take that sort of person quietly. Go in humbly, and look pleased and grateful for the honour, even if you expect a wigging. Nothing ever gained by stalking in as if you owned the place.”
The manager looked up on hearing Stan enter, and cleared his throat. “A-a-hem!” said he.
“Old chap's nervy,” thought Stan. “Hope he doesn't get mushy, when he mentions the rise.” Stan is something like me, in that way, even if he did blow off poetry to Alice. A touching and sentimental scene always makes him feel like undoing his collar stud so as to get more air.
He needn't have nerved himself for the manager's complimentary and feeling effort, however, because as it happened the old boy didn't make one. He just said: “Collins, I've had my eye on you for some time, and I've arrived at the conclusion that you are only wasting your talents, in a little business like this. I suggest you try some other company, your mind is too immense, for mere figures and facts such as we deal in here.”page 52
Stan's mouth flew open, and his eyes popped out with the surprise, but he had no chance to say anything. The manager continued:
“I've left it as long as possible, Collins, in the hope that you might pull your wits together, but you get worse every day, instead of improving. I've been taking particular notice of your, for the last fortnight, and to be candid, young man, we can't afford to keep you here; not if you paid in your salary for the priviledge of stopping. Dammit! You don't work in this office at all, man. You just send your body along to fill the seat during working hours.”
“So of course,” said Stan. “After that I wouldn't stop with the firm any longer.”
As I went to the factory that morning I passed Bob Treadwell in the Treadwell milk cart. I nodded and shouted “Hullo, Bob!” but all I got was a glassy stare. For a while I wondered what was wrong; it struck me as silly of Bob. I supposed he was jealous, because I had taken Alice driving on Sunday.
“When he hears what a nasty thud I came, he'll come round,” thought I dejectedly, and dismissed the incident from my mind.
As it happened, it wasn't anything like that at all. What was wrong with Bob, was wrong with the whole Tready family, down to the kiddies going to school. After leaving me at the ploughing, that afternoon, Mr. Treadwell had brooded over my cruel words, and had then decided that I was not a nice person to know. In my haste, that day, I had referred to his sons as well, so the whole family was ordered to “cut” me. I didn't know that at the time, of course. As a matter of fact, I was pained and hurt when I found myself getting the cold shoulder from the whole family, girls and all, and it was only by a very roundabout course that I arrived at the real reason.
For a while, after Alice went, I was too unsettled and miserable to care who spoke to me or who didn't. I just plodded along in dumb despair, and hoped life page 53 would soon be over. Then gradually I began to buck up again and take an interest in things. Perhaps life could be enjoyed, in a quiet way, after all.
A month went by. The flush of the season was over, most of the cropping was done, and I decided to do some stumping. All the back of my farm was a wilderness of dead timber, and until it was burnt off, and the stumps of the trees extracted, there was no hope of it being profitable. It had to be cleared for the plough, cropped with turnips once or twice, and then put down into good English grasses and clovers, before I was going to reap much benefit from it.
I logged up about ten acres, before the winter set in, and then had three blistering, heart-rending days, burning it all off at once. There were hundreds of heaps, and I was in and out amongst them with a long pole, pushing them together as the heart burnt out of them. By knock-off time each evening I was as black as a sweep, and half dead with the smoke and heat. But I got the land cleared. A good burn, before the winter rains set in and waterlogged all the timber, is half the battle in clearing land.
All through the winter I worked away, logging and stumping and draining. People who say work is the cure for a broken heart are not far wrong—it cured mine, at any rate. I started taking a pride in the quantity of work I could do in a given time, and took to working out in all sorts of weathers, so as not to lower my average. Then I learnt a lesson that did me a lot of good..
In June it commenced to rain as if it never intended to stop. My cows were dry, and after feeding them out hay every morning, all I could do was stoke up the fire and sit by it all day long. After a week of it, I began to get restless; it seemed to me that the work was getting so far behind that I would never be able to catch up with it again. It was still teeming down, as if it had set in for the whole winter, so I sallied forth determinedly and commenced splitting page 54 posts in a swamp. Oilskins were of no use to me, at that sort of work, so I stripped to the waist, and worked like a maniac. It was pretty cold weather, and I had to keep going to stop from freezing, but I rather enjoyed it.
The second day of the experiment I began to feel conceited about it. I began to look upon myself as a kind of superman, much tougher and hardier than ordinary persons. Sam Dunn helped this illusion a good bit. He came over, wrapped up in oilskins, sack capes, and knee-boots, to borrow a shovel, and spotted me standing up to my knees in water, stripped to the waist, swinging a ten pound sledge-hammer. Old Sam couldn't believe his eyes, at first, but I was quite modest about it. I told Sam that I didn't intend to let a little thing like a few drops of rain put me behind with my work. In a year or so, perhaps, when I had the place knocked into shape, I might rest during wet weather, but at present I had too much to do to allow the weather to influence whether I worked or not.
Sam went floundering and splashing away, shaking his head and hugging the old sack cape tighter about his neck. He said afterwards the very sight of me gave him the creeps. Everybody he met, for days afterwards, he told about it.
Mr. Treadwell heard about me, and said it was just what he had been expecting. He said he'd been picking it to come for a long time and what a good job it was that it was affecting me in that way.
“You know,” said he, “me and the boys said that would be the end of him, long ago. Someone ought to go in and inform the police. It might take him in a different way, some of these mornings; we don't want to wake up and find our throats all cut.”
However, it didn't require the intervention of the police to stop me. I stopped pretty soon without their help. About the fifth day of the experiment I went home early. I had an idea that I didn't quite feel up to the mark.page 55
“No use working against nature,” thought I, as 1 packed my tools away under a log. On reaching home I deliberated as to whether I would light the fire and cook something for tea, or not, and finally decided not to bother.
I undressed, and rolled straight into bed. I thought all I wanted was a good sleep, but there was no sleep for me, that night. I developed sharp pains in the back and chest, almost as soon as I lay down, and by the next morning I was quite helpless.
I had discovered one position I could lie in, and breathe; if I moved an inch out of it I got sharp, jabbing pains that nearly scared me stiff.
I hoped some neighbour would turn up; it was impossible for me to get out of bed and make any signal. Perhaps, I thought, someone might notice that my cows were hanging about the sheds, waiting to be fed, and might come over to investigate. It was still raining, and I suppose everyone was too busy feeding their own herds and hurrying to get inside again, to look over in my direction. By night time I was light headed.
I dozed off, once or twice, and woke up to find myself singing snatches of songs I hadn't remembered for years. Then I got the jim-jams. On my last visit over to the Watsons, Elsie had shown me a little blue china elephant, with a movable head that kept nodding when you vibrated the table it was standing on. I had been rather interested in the affair, but after seeing the wall paper of my domicile covered with several million little elephants, all nodding, I kind of went off that toy.
It was Sam Dunn found me, the next day. He rushed right away and sent Mrs. Dunn along, while he tore down to the post office and wired to town for a doctor. Mrs. Dunn called in at Andrews, on her way along, and collected Mrs. Andrews and an old lady that was visiting there at the time. They seemed to have the idea that the proper thing to do, in a sick room, was to keep the conversation going and not page 56 let the patient feel he was lonely. While we were waiting for the doctor I got all the very latest scandal of the district—things they wouldn't have dreamed of telling me about, if they hadn't considered it necessary to keep my mind occupied.
Just to show them that I appreciated the efforts they were making to entertain me I put in a few words myself. I told them about a big grey rat that had been annoying me all the morning before their arrival. It kept climbing on to my table, where there was half a loaf of bread and a pound of butter, and I had spent the morning in hissing and shouting at it every time it made a fresh attempt. Each time it had grown bolder, and when Sam had arrived it had got to the stage where it hardly bothered to take any notice of me whatever.
As soon as I mentioned “rat” to those three ladies their attitude towards me changed, and I could see them giving each other significant looks. Then they all hurried out into the other partition, and I heard Mrs. Sam say: “Poor boy! Quite off his head! And he looked so sensible! Do you know, I never dreamt it, until he started to ramble.”
“Goodness me, Ella!” exclaimed the old lady. “Couldn't you see? Why, the look in his eyes was enough for me.”
“Gracious, yes!” chimed in Mrs. Andrews. “I didn't need to hear that, to know he was off his head.”
I felt a bit hurt with those ladies, because if they'd only taken the trouble to examine the bread on the table, they would have seen the marks of the rat's teeth in it, but I felt too tired to argue the question and pretty soon the doctor arrived, and said I had double pneumonia, and must go straight to hospital.
They rolled me up in blankets and propped me on the back seat of the doctor's car, with Sam Dunn on one side of me, and young Ted Andrews steadying my feet, and away I went.page 57
Thus ended the first year of farming. I came out of hospital six weeks later, an emaciated shadow. The neighbours had formed themselves into a committee during my absence from the farm, and had taken turns at feeding my stock, and looking after things generally. It was not to be expected that they would cart out turnips, as they all had their own work to do, but they had turned my herd on to the crop to graze for an hour every day.
In consequence of this I found that I was going to commence the next season short of feed. Cows turned on to root crops waste far more than they eat, especially on wet ground.
I went into the financial position, on returning home, and found that what with my hospital bill, doctor's bill, and incidental expenses, I was about £30 in debt on the year's work. It wasn't a very cheering conclusion to arrive at, but hope again sustained me.
Instead of looking back, and worrying over the rotten year I'd had, I started to plan and look ahead, and felt just as optimistic, and sure of ultimate success, as I had done on commencing the first year. I fed off what was left of the swedes, eked out my remaining hay by almost counting the straws, and prayed for an early spring.
August commenced the spring by giving us twenty-two successive white frosts. The ground was frozen so hard that it required a crowbar to dig a post hole a foot deep. It was the worst frosty snap old Treadwell had ever experienced in all his twenty years living in the locality. As we were so close to Egmont's snow, we suffered more from frost than the rest of Taranaki, but we seldom had more than two or three running. Twenty-two was something to remember for years.
On my return from the hospital, Mr. Treadwell had magnanimously buried the hatchet, and was again calling on me twice or thrice a week. He had a habit of coming over while I was feeding out my scanty page 58 supply of hay. He would eye the eager, lowing herd with a melancholy expression, and say:
“H'm'm! You'll be lucky if you don't lose half of them before the grass starts growing, Mark. Why don't you go into town and buy some feed to see you through?”
I didn't like to tell the old chap that the reason I didn't do that, was because I was already some thirty pounds in debt, over the last season, and that I simply couldn't afford to. I pretended that I thought the cows were getting quite enough.
As luck happened, I didn't lose any of the herd, but before the feed got away, that spring, they were such a rough, hollow, mournful looking lot of beasts that I was ashamed to look them in the face.
They utilised the first three months of growth by putting it on their ribs, and I had the pleasure of jogging that three miles to the factory every morning, with even less milk than I had taken the first year. It was a hard, thankless scratch, paying my way, and once I seriously thought of giving up tobacco, but by midsummer things began to brighten up, and I was saved that supreme sacrifice.
I had sowed summer and autumn crops to supplement the pasture, and as soon as I was able to feed these off, the food crisis was over. Instead of not getting enough, my cows could not manage to eat all I had supplied for them, and I felt the difference very decidedly in my milk cheques. It taught me a necessary lesson; if you can't manage to feed the dairy herd properly, sell out, and turn your hand to something else. From then on, I took care that I was never again short of feed. Sooner than allow it to happen now, I would sell half the herd, in order to feed the remainder properly.
After my experience with Alice Arnold, I was resolved to keep right away from girls—they only unsettled a man. I used to hear about Alice every now page 59 and then from Mrs. Watson. Alice was Mrs. Watson's niece, and as her mother was dead, the Watsons always asked her along to spend her holidays with them. I learned that she was due to spend another fortnight with them about the end of December.
That evening I went into my feelings with a probe, and finally decided that I didn't care a rap for her, and that it would be quite safe for me to go along and pay my respects when she arrived. Yes, I was quite over my foolish infatuation. I couldn't understand what I had ever seen in the girl, to go so dippy over her. I compared her with other girls I knew, and decided in my mind that she couldn't hold a candle to some of them.
“What a good thing it was that she didn't take me at my word, and accept me,” I thought as I sat staring into my fire that night. “I would be in a fix after all the fine talk I gave her about carving out a home in the backblocks fit to offer her, and all that sort of thing.” I mused on; here was a year gone west, and in spite of all my fine talk, and noble ambitions, here I was, without a penny saved, and if anything even worse off than I had been when I had proposed to the girl. What a lucky escape!
Of course I blamed the hospital and my illness for my non-success. I don't suppose my bout of pneumonia made all that difference, really—on looking back, I have an idea a lot of my misfortune was due to my lack of sound farming knowledge, but I liked to blame the pneumonia, it was comforting to have a good solid reason for my continued poverty.
“Anyhow,” thought I, “no more acting the giddy goat running after Alice.”
I felt that if there was going to be any danger of a recurrence of that mad disease, it was up to me to put my foot down firmly, and keep out of her way. But of course it was all right; I knew what I was doing. I didn't care two straws for the girl; in fact there were other girls about I liked better.page 60
The same arguments I had used the year before came back to my mind. It was no use me falling in love with any girl until I was in a position to marry; and when I was in a position, it wouldn't be Alice I'd try for. Once bitten, twice shy. Because I'd been foolish once, was no reason why I should keep on being foolish.
In spite of all these wise resolves, I was not quite so sure of myself as I tried to make out. One thing I was sure of, and that was that as soon as Alice did arrive, I was going to call—not because I wanted to see her, certainly not—but I wanted to gaze on her with cold blood, and try and find out what there was about her that could have made me act so foolishly the previous year.
And if—of course it wouldn't—but if the spark rekindled, I was going to go away, and stop away, until she had left the district again. I had work to do, and I was not going to waste time as I did before, running after a girl that didn't want me. A man had to call on his pride some time or other in such a case.
Stan Collins dropped in to see me about two evenings after this.
“Here's a go, Mark!” said he. “The fair Alice arrives in the district next Monday. Got a good supply of clean collars on hand?”
I didn't quite know how to answer, so I remained silent, and sucked hard at my pipe, as if I was having trouble with it. I find that's a very good way, when you don't quite know what to say. If Stan thought I was only slightly interested, he would ramble on, and tell me all his thoughts on the subject, but if he fancied I still retained a sneaking liking for the object of our conversation, he was going to tread lightly, so as to avoid hurting my feelings.
My casual reception of his news completely deceived him; he evidently thought that I didn't feel enough interest in the girl to bother to reply, so he set to work to liven up my interest in her again.page 61
Nobody but an absolute fool ever dreams of discussing a girl with a man that is soft over her. Stan was no fool, by any means, but he had got over any fondness he had ever had for Alice, and he naturally assumed that I had done the same. As for myself, I thought I had got over the experience, too, only strange to say I didn't wish to hear anything detrimental said about the girl. I felt that if that happened, I would have to contradict it. I wasn't in love any more, oh, no! but I still looked upon Alice as a very fine girl.
“Yes,” continued Stan, “and I can give you some news about her, too, Mark. She hasn't been idle this last year. My brother Ned works in Hawera, and he knows her fairly well. She has a fresh swain on a string about every three months, he says, and then either they get fed up with chasing about after her, or else she gives them the sack for someone else.” I grunted non-committedly, on hearing this. I couldn't believe it; Alice was not that sort, I felt sure, but I held my peace, and Stan resumed:
“She doesn't seem to be able to stick to one fellow, but must be flirting about. No staying power in her. Funny, too! Most girls are so different. Most girls get their boy and stick to him through thick and thin, once they have chosen. That's the one thing I've always admired in women,” commented Stan, pensively. “The way they remain faithful to a man, even when he proves himself to be a waster. Taking them as a bunch, they're stickers, there's no doubt of that. Of course, now and then you run across a flighty one that flirts here and everywhere, but a man soon takes a tumble to that kind. Look at you and me, now,” he went on, “look at the blooming fools we made of ourselves over that girl only last year, didn't we? But would we do it again? Not much we wouldn't! She could smile and ogle at us from now till doomsday, but she'd never get us to fall into line again, now, would she? We learnt our lesson, and page 62 it will be a long time before we ever chase after Miss Alice in that batty way again.”
I hoped Stan was right. I felt like taking up the cudgels on behalf of the girl, but felt that would be rather foolish. He meant well enough, why should I hurt his feelings. “Besides,” I reasoned, “he might get it into his head that I was still soft over the girl, if I began to argue about her, and of course I wasn't, it was just sentimental interest I felt in her, that was all. A man is bound to feel interested in a girl that has at some previous time turned him down.”
After Stan stopped speaking we both sat staring at the fire in thoughtful silence for a time, and then I said:
“Well, Stan, I suppose the reason the girl doesn't stick to one man, is because she hasn't yet met the man she could love.”
“That's all very fine,” replied Stan. “But why does she lead all these other poor devils on? If she doesn't love them, why encourage them? You know yourself, Mark, this being encouraged and then handed the lemon, hurts like sin. At least, if you don't, not being much of a ladies' man, I can personally vouch for the truth of that. I've had some!”
Stan's reply stumped me, and I could only answer weakly: “Girls nowadays seem as if they can't be happy unless they have some fool or other dancing attendance on them. 'Tisn't only Alice. Every blessed girl in the district would get you on a string if they only could.”
“By jove, Mark!” exclaimed Stan, as if I had said something very profound, “You've just about said it!”
Alice arrived on the Monday, and that evening I made a careful toilet and strolled along to see her. I wanted to see if she had altered, but I was not greatly interested in her, one way or the other. She would find Mark Woodford to be much more of a man of the world, much harder to impress, than she page 63 had done the year before. I was going to show her that she couldn't always expect a man to be paying her homage.
Peter had just finished up his out-door work, on my arrival, and was busy at the tank stand, having a wash. I've got a lot of time for old Peter Watson—always jolly, always lively—but that evening I was inclined to regard his sense of humour as a little bit on the crude side. No sooner had I hove into view, round the corner of the house, than he let out a most tremendous roar:
“Alice! Alice! Here he is!” I felt like doing a bolt for home again on hearing that awful roar, but before I had time to turn about, Mrs. Watson, Elsie and Alice rushed outside to see what was wrong, and Alice said: “Here's who, uncle?”
“Why, old Mark, of course!” said Peter, and burst into a roar of laughter. I felt the back of my ears burning, and wished myself anywhere but there. It struck me that if I had postponed my visit to the second, or even the third day, after Alice's arrival, it would have been quite early enough. Especially as I had only called to show her that her sway over me was gone for ever.
“Don't take any notice of that great booby of a man,” said Mrs. Watson, marshalling me inside. “Good gracious! He has about as much sense, sometimes, as a baby.” Mrs. Watson knew me fairly well, by this time; she could see that Peter's words had embarrassed me very much, and lost no time in getting me inside and out of range of his next volley. Of course it was silly of me to feel so embarrassed; most fellows would have laughed with Peter and enjoyed the joke, but I was always inclined to be thin-skinned, or perhaps I should say self-conscious, when ladies were about.
I've heard that self-consciousness is a form of conceit; if so, all that I can say is, it brings it's own punishment with it. If you don't know the torture of page 64 being acutely self-conscious, in a room full of strange and critically hostile ladies, then you haven't sampled the full depths of human miserableness. Even if the ladies are not critically hostile—they never are, really—your self-consciousness makes you think they are, and you suffer just the same.
On getting inside the house, I hung my hat and coat in the hall, took a deep breath, mopped my brow with a handkerchief, then braced myself to meet Alice in the light of the drawing room.
For months I had been telling myself that I didn't care two pins for her—that the year without seeing her had cured me—but when it came to meeting her face to face again, I found myself all in a tremble before ever I'd got a proper look at her.
She came forward smiling and shook hands warmly, while I made queer guttural noises in reply.
She was the same Alice I had fallen for the year before—only more so. In our previous encounters I had remained sane enough to be able to discriminate which cheek it was that dimpled when she smiled, but this time I couldn't even do that.
I caught a sparkle from her eyes, a flash from her white teeth, had a confused impression of pink and white complexion, and dimples by the dozen—and I was caught. Not only was I caught, but I was glad of it. I didn't put up the faintest fight. In a flash, all my resolves fell bang to the ground. The year of meditation over her former treatment of me, was just as if it had never been. On every occasion I had been carefully telling myself that I would never make a fool of myself over her again, because we had absolutely nothing in common; we viewed life from totally different angles—the trip to Inglewood had proved that—and yet, here I was, the moment I met her again, more in love, more mad about her than ever.
Well, this love business takes a lot of understanding, after that! Why should I become so smitten with the girl? I couldn't even talk sensibly or comfortably page 65 to her. I couldn't even feel happy or at my ease in her company. As soon as ever I got within ten yards of her I felt unhappy; as if I wasn't doing myself justice, or coming up to her expectations. It wasn't as if I was one of these susceptible men, either; no girl had ever attracted me before.
With Alice I always seemed to feel hampered and restrained. I was afraid to let myself go in conversation, and she always appeared to me to hold herself slightly aloof. Usually, in desperation, I would endeavour to break through this armour of aloofness by cracking some ridiculous pun, and the fact that my humorous efforts generally fell dead flat in no way helped me or improved the social atmosphere.
If I'd had a glimmering of ordinary common sense, at this time, I should have cut out the attempts at wit, and confined myself to straight-out sentiment; all girls can understand that; but no! The flatter my joke fell, the more desperately I struggled to retrieve the situation. I've seen Alice staring wide-eyed at me, after an especially unsuccessful joke, as if she had her own private doubts as to my sanity. Usually, to relieve the strain, she would kindly change the subject for me, and speak for a while in simple, unaffected language, so as to give me a chance of following her, evidently under the impression that my capacity in that direction was limited. If she did condescend to take notice of any of my sallies, it was mostly to snap them up literally and take offence. Nothing can be so disconcerting. It is a bad habit to “pun,” so they say, but it's a much worse one to insist on taking all puns literally.
I've always said that a person devoid of humour ought to be shut up somewhere. Alice seemed to have no kink that way; or at least her sense of humour differed very greatly from mine. Every time I was snubbed for trying to shine, and make myself entertaining and pleasant, I blamed myself. I called myself names and hated myself for a stupid idiot, but page 66 it didn't cure me from trying. I simply assumed that Alice was too fine and sensitive a girl to be amused by my crude attempts, and steeled myself to do better. Some of the wit I wasted on that girl would have caught me a dozen wives in other quarters, if I had only wanted them.
Alice gave me a pleasant, gracious hearing that first evening of her return, and before I was aware of it, I found myself contracting to drive her in to Stratford to the pictures on Saturday night, and to a dance about ten miles away on the Wednesday following.
I was busy at the time and had ploughing to do, as well as haymaking and a host of other work that seemed to crop up about that time, but my work didn't prevent me from getting over to Watsons every other evening and stopping until after midnight, or from rattling that girl about the district whenever she wanted to go anywhere during the daytime.
After the first day, her old admirers began to roll up again, as they had been wont to do the year before, and although I held first place, by virtue of my gig being at her constant disposal, I was by no means over-encouraged. Of course, that's the game. All girls know enough to keep an admirer hovering between jealousy and despair, it keeps him up to scratch, and it's a remarkable thing, in all the love affairs I've ever seen, I've never yet come across a man with enough discernment to see that he was being so treated. Everyone else knows it except the poor devil that's being put to the torture. He not only doesn't know it, but it's no use trying to tell him.