The noises that ascended through the pallid coverlid were perturbed lowings, mingled with human voices in sharps and flats, and the bark of a dog. These, followed by the slamming of a gate, explained as well as eyesight could have done, to any inhabitant of the district, that Dairyman Tucker’s under-milker was driving the cows from the meads into the stalls. When a rougher accent joined in the vociferations of man and beast HKUE DSE
, it would have been realized that the dairy-farmer himself had come out to meet the cows, pail in hand, and white pinafore on; and when, moreover, some women’s voices joined in the chorus, that the cows were stalled and proceedings about to commence.
A hush followed, the atmosphere being so stagnant that the milk could be heard buzzing into the pails, together with occasional words of the milkmaids and men.
‘Don’t ye bide about long upon the road, Margery. You can be back again by skimming-time.’
The rough voice of Dairyman Tucker was the vehicle of this remark. The barton-gate slammed again, and in two or three minutes a something became visible, rising out of the fog in that quarter.
The shape revealed itself as that of a woman having a young and agile gait. The colours and other details of her dress were then disclosed — a bright pink cotton frock (because winter was over); (because summer was not come); a white handkerchief tied over her head-gear, because it was so foggy HKUE DSE
, so damp, and so early; and a straw bonnet and ribbons peeping from under the handkerchief, because it was likely to be a sunny May day.
Her face was of the hereditary type among families down in these parts: sweet in expression, perfect in hue, and somewhat irregular in feature. Her eyes were of a liquid brown. On her arm she carried a withy basket, in which lay several butter-rolls in a nest of wet cabbage-leaves. She was the ‘Margery’ who had been told not to ‘bide about long upon the road.’
She went on her way across the fields, sometimes above the fog, sometimes below it, not much perplexed by its presence except when the track was so indefinite that it ceased to be a guide to the next stile. The dampness was such that innumerable earthworms lay in couples across the path till, startled even by her light tread HKUE DSE
, they withdrew suddenly into their holes. She kept clear of all trees. Why was that? There was no danger of lightning on such a morning as this. But though the roads were dry the fog had gathered in the boughs, causing them to set up such a dripping as would go clean through the protecting handkerchief like bullets, and spoil the ribbons beneath. The beech and ash were particularly shunned, for they dripped more maliciously than any. It was an instance of woman’s keen appreciativeness of nature’s moods and peculiarities: a man crossing those fields might hardly have perceived that the trees dripped at all.