53.The Harvest Supper
As Adam was going homeward, on Wednesday evening, in the six o'clock
sunlight, he saw in the distance the last load of barley winding its way towards
the yard-gate of the Hall Farm, and heard the chant of "Harvest Home!" rising
and sinking like a wave. Fainter and fainter, and more musical through the
growing distance, the falling dying sound still reached him, as he neared the
Willow Brook. The low westering sun shone right on the shoulders of the old
Binton Hills, turning the unconscious sheep into bright spots of light; shone on
the windows of the cottage too, and made them a-flame with a glory beyond that
of amber or amethyst. It was enough to make Adam feel that he was in a great
temple, and that the distant chant was a sacred song.
"It's wonderful," he thought, "how that sound goes to one's heart almost like a
funeral bell, for all it tells one o' the joyfullest time o' the year, and the time when
men are mostly the thankfullest. I suppose it's a bit hard to us to think anything's
over and gone in our lives; and there's a parting at the root of all our joys. It's like
what I feel about Dinah. I should never ha' come to know that her love 'ud be the
greatest o' blessings to me, if what I counted a blessing hadn't been wrenched
and torn away from me, and left me with a greater need, so as I could crave and
hunger for a greater and a better comfort."
He expected to see Dinah again this evening, and get leave to accompany her as
far as Oakbourne; and then he would ask her to fix some time when he might go
to Snowfield, and learn whether the last best hope that had been born to him
must be resigned like the rest. The work he had to do at home, besides putting
on his best clothes, made it seven before he was on his way again to the Hall
Farm, and it was questionable whether, with his longest and quickest strides, he
should be there in time even for the roast beef, which came after the plum
pudding, for Mrs. Poyser's supper would be punctual.
Great was the clatter of knives and pewter plates and tin cans when Adam
entered the house, but there was no hum of voices to this accompaniment: the
eating of excellent roast beef, provided free of expense, was too serious a
business to those good farm- labourers to be performed with a divided attention,
even if they had had anything to say to each other--which they had not. And Mr.
Poyser, at the head of the table, was too busy with his carving to listen to Bartle
Massey's or Mr. Craig's ready talk.
"Here, Adam," said Mrs. Poyser, who was standing and looking on to see that
Molly and Nancy did their duty as waiters, "here's a place kept for you between
Mr. Massey and the boys. It's a poor tale you couldn't come to see the pudding
when it was whole."