For the first two days of this new ‘kick-up,’ that ‘fellow Freeland’s’ family undoubtedly tasted the sweets of successful mutiny. The fellow himself alone shook his head. He, like Nedda, had known nothing, and there was to him something unnatural and rather awful in this conduct toward dumb crops.
From the moment he heard of it he hardly spoke, and a perpetual little frown creased a brow usually so serene. In the early morning of the day after Malloring went back to town, he crossed the road to a field where the farmer, aided by his family and one of Malloring’s gardeners, was already carrying the hay; and, taking up a pitchfork, without a word to anybody, he joined in the work. The action was deeper revelation of his feeling than any expostulation, and the young people watched it rather aghast.
“It’s nothing,” Derek said at last; “Father never has understood, and never will, that you can’t get things without fighting. He cares more for trees and bees and birds than he does for human beings.”
“That doesn’t explain why he goes over to the enemy, when it’s only a lot of grass.”
“He hasn’t gone over to the enemy, Sheila. You don’t understand your father; to neglect the land is sacrilege to him. It feeds us—he would say—we live on it; we’ve no business to forget that but for the land we should all be dead.”
“That’s beautiful,” said Nedda quickly; “and true.”
Sheila answered angrily:
“It may be true in France with their bread and wine. People don’t live off the land here; they hardly eat anything they grow themselves. How can we feel like that when we’re all brought up on mongrel food? Besides, it’s simply sentimental, when there are real wrongs to fight about.”
“Your father is not sentimental, Sheila. It’s too deep with him for that, and too unconscious. He simply feels so unhappy about the waste of that hay that he can’t keep his hands off it.”
Derek broke in: “Mother’s right. And it doesn’t matter, except that we’ve got to see that the men don’t follow his example. They’ve a funny feeling about him.”
Kirsteen shook her head.
“You needn’t be afraid. He’s always been too strange to them!”
“Well, I’m going to stiffen their backs. Coming Sheila?” And they went.
Left, as she seemed always to be in these days of open mutiny, Nedda said sadly:
“What is coming, Aunt Kirsteen?”
Her aunt was standing in the porch, looking straight before her; a trail of clematis had drooped over her fine black hair down on to the blue of her linen dress. She answered, without turning:
“Have you ever seen, on jubilee nights, bonfire to bonfire, from hill to hill, to the end of the land? This is the first lighted.”