“I want it finished,” he said doggedly, as he crossed the barn and went out at the other door.
“Don’t ’ee mind him, there’s a dear,” said Marian. “I’ve worked here before. Now you go and lie down there, and Izz and I will make up your number.”
“I don’t like to let you do that. I’m taller than you, too.”
However, she was so overcome that she consented to lie down awhile, and reclined on a heap of pull-tails—the refuse after the straight straw had been drawn—thrown up at the further side of the barn. Her succumbing had been as largely owning to agitation at the re-opening the subject of her separation from her husband as to the hard work. She lay in a state of percipience without volition, and the rustle of the straw and the cutting of the ears by the others had the weight of bodily touches.
She could hear from her corner, in addition to these noises, the murmur of their voices. She felt certain that they were continuing the subject already broached, but their voices were so low that she could not catch the words. At last Tess grew more and more anxious to know what they were saying, and, persuading herself that she felt better, she got up and resumed work.
Then Izz Huett broke down. She had walked more than a dozen miles the previous evening, had gone to bed at midnight, and had risen again at five o’clock. Marian alone, thanks to her bottle of liquor and her stoutness of build, stood the strain upon back and arms without suffering. Tess urged Izz to leave off, agreeing, as she felt better, to finish the day without her, and make equal division of the number of sheaves.
Izz accepted the offer gratefully, and disappeared through the great door into the snowy track to her lodging. Marian, as was the case every afternoon at this time on account of the bottle, began to feel in a romantic vein.
“I should not have thought it of him—never!” she said in a dreamy tone. “And I loved him so! I didn’t mind his having YOU. But this about Izz is too bad!”
Tess, in her start at the words, narrowly missed cutting off a finger with the bill-hook.
“Is it about my husband?” she stammered.
“Well, yes. Izz said, ’Don’t ‘ee tell her’; but I am sure I can’t help it! It was what he wanted Izz to do. He wanted her to go off to Brazil with him.”
Tess’s face faded as white as the scene without, and its curves straightened. “And did Izz refuse to go?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Anyhow he changed his mind.”
“Pooh—then he didn’t mean it! ’Twas just a man’s jest!”
“Yes he did; for he drove her a good-ways towards the station.”
“He didn’t take her!”
They pulled on in silence till Tess, without any premonitory symptoms, burst out crying.
“There!” said Marian. “Now I wish I hadn’t told ’ee!”
“No. It is a very good thing that you have done! I have been living on in a thirtover, lackaday way, and have not seen what it may lead to! I ought to have sent him a letter oftener. He said I could not go to him, but he didn’t say I was not to write as often as I liked. I won’t dally like this any longer! I have been very wrong and neglectful in leaving everything to be done by him!”