The nearest station was at Alderley Edge, a mile and a half away, for which reason our nearest neighbour, the howly Mr. Palmer, allowed us to have a stable close by him, and to keep a horse on the farm. Two of the hired men belonged to him, and lived in his house with a sort of familygovernance under him. The third, the cause of all our troubles, was a young fellow of twenty-five or so, who wasallowed to come and go as he liked. His name was Tom Fletcher.
There was a man of no occupation, a farmer, who brought us eggs and fresh milk, and a woman who sold us eggs and veal. One day they brought a large curlew. It was shot and its head, with a large dewlap attached, was brought to us. It was excellently cooked, but we had no drink whatever, and could not afford to buy any. We kept the head as a curiosity, and left it in the kitchen. By the next day there was nothing in the kitchen. I went into the house, and found the curlew lying in a strange posture, with an egg in its mouth.
The people were very kind to us, though they were very poor. We fed them, put them up for the night, and sentthem home with a cup of tea apiece in the morning. We explained that, as we could not keep our own servants,we were all the more pleased to have them. We had been very happy in the year of our marriage, and we lived to havealready more than a thousand years of it, but we began to have health and strength troubles, and the strainof the years wore upon us. I had chest trouble, and my wife bad the habitual rheumatics; and I remember howneat, when the wind was against her, she stood at the door of her house with her hand to her chest, andhalf-shut her eyes, and said, “Oh, dear, this is getting so bad.”
I remember the first time that I ever made a bed in the garden. I was nine years old, and we were planting marigolds. I reached down into the sandy soil by the side of the path and found my hand full of weedsthat I had never seen before. Had they sprung up while we were waiting for the gardener? No, it was too soon; they were the oreads of the weeds that grew in the fields round the house.
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