“Well, old man?” said Felix anxiously.
Tod looked at him, but did not answer.
“Come,” said Felix; “tell us!”
“Locked up,” said Tod in a voice unlike his own. “I didn’t knock them down.”
“Heavens! I should hope not.”
“I ought to have.”
Felix put his hand within his brother’s arm.
“They twisted her arms; one of them pushed her from behind. I can’t understand it. How was it I didn’t? I can’t understand.”
“I can,” said Felix. “They were the Law. If they had been mere men you’d have done it, fast enough.”
“I can’t understand,” Tod repeated. “I’ve been walking ever since.”
Felix stroked his shoulder.
“Go up-stairs, old man. Kirsteen’s anxious.”
Tod sat down and took his boots off.
“I can’t understand,” he said once more. Then, without another word, or even a look at Felix, he went out and up the stairs.
And Felix thought: ’Poor Kirsteen! Ah, well—they’re all about as queer, one as the other! How to get Nedda out of it?’
And, with that question gnawing at him, he went out into the orchard. The grass was drenching wet, so he descended to the road. Two wood-pigeons were crooning to each other, truest of all sounds of summer; there was no wind, and the flies had begun humming. In the air, cleared of dust, the scent of hay was everywhere. What about those poor devils of laborers, now? They would get the sack for this! and he was suddenly beset with a feeling of disgust. This world where men, and women too, held what they had, took what they could; this world of seeing only one thing at a time; this world of force, and cunning, of struggle, and primitive appetites; of such good things, too, such patience, endurance, heroism—and yet at heart so unutterably savage!
He was very tired; but it was too wet to sit down, so he walked on. Now and again he passed a laborer going to work; but very few in all those miles, and they quite silent. ’Did they ever really whistle?’ Felix thought. ’Were they ever jolly ploughmen? Or was that always a fiction? Surely, if they can’t give tongue this morning, they never can!’ He crossed a stile and took a slanting path through a little wood. The scent of leaves and sap, the dapple of sunlight—all the bright early glow and beauty struck him with such force that he could have cried out in the sharpness of sensation. At that hour when man was still abed and the land lived its own life, how full and sweet and wild that life seemed, how in love with itself! Truly all the trouble in the world came from the manifold disharmonies of the self-conscious animal called Man!
Then, coming out on the road again, he saw that he must be within a mile or two of Becket; and finding himself suddenly very hungry, determined to go there and get some breakfast.