The Last Galley Impressions and Tales HTML version
Out Of The Running
It was on the North Side of Butser on the long swell of the Hampshire Downs. Beneath,
some two miles away, the grey roofs and red houses of Petersfield peeped out from amid
the trees which surrounded it. From the crest of the low hills downwards the country ran
in low, sweeping curves, as though some green primeval sea had congealed in the midst
of a ground swell and set for ever into long verdant rollers. At the bottom, just where the
slope borders upon the plain, there stood a comfortable square brick farmhouse, with a
grey plume of smoke floating up from the chimney. Two cowhouses, a cluster of
hayricks, and a broad stretch of fields, yellow with the ripening wheat, formed a fitting
setting to the dwelling of a prosperous farmer.
The green slopes were dotted every here and there with dark clumps of gorse bushes, all
alight with the flaming yellow blossoms. To the left lay the broad Portsmouth Road
curving over the hill, with a line of gaunt telegraph posts marking its course. Beyond a
huge white chasm opened in the grass, where the great Butser chalk quarry had been
sunk. From its depths rose the distant murmur of voices, and the clinking of hammers.
Just above it, between two curves of green hill, might be seen a little triangle of leaden-
coloured sea, flecked with a single white sail.
Down the Portsmouth Road two women were walking, one elderly, florid and stout, with
a yellow-brown Paisley shawl and a coarse serge dress, the other young and fair, with
large grey eyes, and a face which was freckled like a plover's egg. Her neat white blouse
with its trim black belt, and plain, close-cut skirt, gave her an air of refinement which was
wanting in her companion, but there was sufficient resemblance between them to show
that they were mother and daughter. The one was gnarled and hardened and wrinkled by
rough country work, .the other fresh and pliant from the benign influence of the Board
School; but their step, their slope of the shoulders, and the movement of their hips as they
walked, all marked them as of one blood.
"Mother, I can see father in the five-acre field," cried the younger, pointing down in the
direction of the farm.
The older woman screwed up her eyes, and shaded them with her hand.
"Who's that with him?" she asked.
"Oh, he's nobody. He's a-talkin' to some one."
"I don't know, mother. It's some one in a straw hat. Adam Wilson of the Quarry wears a