Tom had a tremendous reach, and got through a big day’s work in the harvest-field, but nearly always knocked himself up after two or three days in the broiling sun, developing what he called, “Tantiddy’s fire " in one forearm; this is the local equivalent of St. Anthony’s fire, an ailment termed professionally erysipelas, but I have never heard how it is connected with the saint.
Harvesters often work in pairs, and they are then “butties” (partners), but not infrequently a harvester will be accompanied by his wife or daughter to tie up the sheaves; and their active figures among the golden corn, backed by a horizon of blue sky, make a charming picture. The mind goes back to the old Scripture references to the time of harvest, and the idea impresses itself that one is looking at almost exactly the same scene as it appeared to the old writers, and which they described in all the dignity of their stately language.
Tom was not much given to the epigrammatic expression of his thoughts, like some of the other men, but he had a vein of humour. A relative of his used to come over from Evesham to sing in our church choir, and I remember a special occasion when the choir was somewhat piano until this singer’s part came in; he had a strong and not very melodious voice, and the effort and the effect alike were startling. Tom was in church at the time, and had evidently been watching expectantly for the fortissimo climax; he told me afterwards that “when S. opened his mouth I knew it was sure to come.” It did!
I have mentioned Tom’s cautiousness; he had a way of assenting to a statement without committing himself to definite agreement. I once asked him who the leaders had been in a disorderly incident, being aware that he knew; I suggested the names, but the nearest approach to assent which I could extract was, “If you spakes again you’ll be wrong.”
THE HEAD CARTER—THE CARPENTER.
“There’s a right way
and a wrong way to do everything, and folks
most in general chooses the wrong un.”
Jim was my first head carter, and he dearly loved a horse. He had, as the saying is, forgotten more about horses than most men ever knew, and what he didn’t know wasn’t worth knowing.
He was a cheery man, and when I went to Aldington was about to be married. Not being much of a “scholard,” his first request was that I would write out his name and that of his intended, for the publication of the banns. A group of men was standing round at the time, and I asked him how his somewhat unusual name was spelt. Seeing that he was puzzled, I hazarded a guess myself, repeating the six letters in order slowly. He was greatly surprised and pleased to recognize that my attempt was correct, and, turning to the bystanders, remarked with the utmost sincerity, “There ain’t many as could have done that, mind you!” I felt that my reputation for scholarship was established.