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    Chapter 8

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    Chapter 9
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    Fortunately I woke early next morning, for I was now a member of an
    early-rising family, and anxious to conform to rules. On going to the
    door I found, to my inexpressible disgust, that I might easily have
    closed it in the way I had seen the other door closed, by simply pulling
    a sliding panel. There was ventilation enough without having the place
    open to prowling beasts of prey. I also found that if I had turned up
    the little stray bed I should have had warm woolen sheets to sleep in.

    I resolved to say nothing about my nocturnal visitor, not wishing to
    begin the day by furnishing fresh instances of what might seem like
    crass stupidity on my part. While occupied with these matters I began to
    hear people moving about and talking on the terrace, and peeping out, I
    beheld a curious and interesting spectacle. Down the broad steps leading
    to the water the people of the house were hurrying, and flinging
    themselves like agile, startled frogs on the bosom of the stream. There,
    in the midst of his family, my venerable host was already disporting
    himself, his long, silvery beard and hair floating like a foam on the
    waves of his own creating. And presently from other sleeping-rooms on a
    line with mine shot forth new bewitching forms, each sparsely clothed in
    a slender clinging garment, which concealed no beauteous curve beneath;
    and nimbly running and leaping down the slope, they quickly joined the
    masculine bathers.

    Looking about I soon found a pretty thing in which to array myself, and
    quickly started after the others, risking my neck in my desire to
    imitate the new mode of motion I had just witnessed. The water was
    delightfully cool and refreshing, and the company very agreeable, ladies
    and gentlemen all swimming and diving about together with the
    unconventional freedom and grace of a company of grebes.

    After dressing, we assembled in the eating-room or portico where we had
    supped, just when the red disk of the sun was showing itself above the
    horizon, kindling the clouds with yellow flame, and filling the green
    world with new light. I felt happy and strong that morning, very able
    and willing to work in the fields, and, better than all, very hopeful
    about that affair of the heart. Happiness, however, is seldom perfect,
    and in the clear, tender morning light I could not help contrasting my
    own repulsively ugly garments with the bright and beautiful costumes
    worn by the others, which seemed to harmonize so well with their fresh,
    happy morning mood. I also missed the fragrant cup of coffee, the
    streaky rasher from the dear familiar pig, and, after breakfast, the
    well-flavored cigar; but these lesser drawbacks were soon forgotten.

    After the meal a small closed basket was handed to me, and one of the
    young men led me out to a little distance from the house, then, pointing
    to a belt of wood about a mile away, told me to walk towards it until I
    came to a plowed field on the slope of a valley, where I could do some
    plowing. Before leaving me he took from his own person a metal
    dog-whistle, with a string attached, and hung it round my neck, but
    without explaining its use.

    Basket in hand I went away, over the dewy grass, whistling
    light-heartedly, and after half an hour's walk found the spot indicated,
    where about an acre and a half of land had been recently turned; there
    also, lying in the furrow, I found the plow, an implement I knew very
    little about. This particular plow, however, appeared to be a simple,
    primitive thing, consisting of a long beam of wood, with an upright pole
    to guide it; a metal share in the center, going off to one side,
    balanced on the other by a couple of small wheels; and there were also
    some long ropes attached to a cross-stick at the end of the beam. There
    being no horses or bullocks to do the work, and being unable to draw the
    plow myself as well as guide it, I sat down leisurely to examine the
    contents of my basket, which, I found, consisted of brown bread, dried
    fruit, and a stone bottle of milk. Then, not knowing what else to do, I
    began to amuse myself by blowing on the whistle, and emitted a most
    shrill and piercing sound, which very soon produced an unexpected
    effect. Two noble-looking horses, resembling those I had seen the day
    before, came galloping towards me as if in response to the sound I had
    made. Approaching swiftly to within fifty yards they stood still,
    staring and snorting as if alarmed or astonished, after which they swept
    round me three or four times, neighing in a sharp, ringing manner, and
    finally, after having exhausted their superfluous energy, they walked to
    the plow and placed themselves deliberately before it. It looked as if
    these animals had come at my call to do the work; I therefore approached
    them, with more than needful caution, using many soothing, conciliatory
    sounds and words the while, and after a little further study I
    discovered how to adjust the ropes to them. There were no blinkers or
    reins, nor did these superb animals seem to think any were wanted; but
    after I had taken the pole in my hand, and said "Gee up, Dobbin," in a
    tone of command, followed by some inarticulate clicks with the tongue,
    they rewarded me with a disconcerting stare, and then began dragging the
    plow. As long as I held the pole straight the share cut its way evenly
    through the mold, but occasionally, owing to my inadvertence, it would
    go off at a tangent or curve quite out of the ground; and whenever this
    happened the horses would stop, turn round and stare at me, then,
    touching their noses together seem to exchange ideas on the subject.
    When the first furrow was finished, they did not double back, as I
    expected, but went straight away to a distance of thirty yards, and
    then, turning, marched back, cutting a fresh furrow parallel with the
    first, and as straight as a line. Then they returned to the original
    starting-point and cut another, then again to the new furrow, and so on
    progressively. All this seemed very wonderful to me, giving the
    impression that I had been a skillful plowman all my life without
    knowing it. It was interesting work; and I was also amused to see the
    little birds that came in numbers from the wood to devour the worms in
    the fresh-turned mold; for between their fear of me and their desire to
    get the worms, they were in a highly perplexed state, and generally
    confined their operations to one end of the furrow while I was away at
    the other. The space the horses had marked out for themselves was plowed
    up in due time, whereupon they marched off and made a fresh furrow as
    before, where there was nothing to guide them; and so the work went on
    agreeably for some hours, until I felt myself growing desperately
    hungry. Sitting down on the beam of the plow, I opened my basket and
    discussed the homely fare with a keen appetite.

    After finishing the food I resumed work again, but not as cheerfully as
    at first: I began to feel a little stiff and tired, and the immense
    quantity of mold adhering to my boots made it heavy walking; moreover,
    the novelty had now worn off. The horses also did not work as smoothly
    as at the commencement: they seemed to have something on their minds,
    for at the end of every furrow they would turn and stare at me in the
    most exasperating manner.

    "Phew!" I ejaculated, as I stood wiping the honest sweat from my face
    with my moldy, ancient, and extremely dirty pocket-handkerchief. "Three
    hundred and sixty-four days of this sort of thing is a rather long price
    to pay for a suit of clothes."

    While standing there, I saw an animal coming swiftly towards me from the
    direction of the forest, bounding along over the earth with a speed like
    that of a greyhound--a huge, fierce-looking brute; and when close to me,
    I felt convinced that it was an animal of the same kind as the one I had
    seen during the night. Before I had made up my mind what to do, he was
    within a few yards of me, and then, coming to a sudden halt, he sat down
    on his haunches, and gravely watched me. Calling to mind some things I
    had heard about the terrifying effect of the human eye on royal tigers
    and other savage beasts, I gazed steadily at him, and then almost lost
    my fear in admiration of his beauty. He was taller than a boarhound, but
    slender in figure, with keen, fox-like features, and very large, erect
    ears; his coat was silvery-gray, and long; there were two black spots
    above his eyes; and the feet, muzzle, ear-tips, and end of the bushy
    tail were also velvet-black. After watching me quietly for two or three
    minutes, he started up, and, much to my relief, trotted away towards the
    wood; but after going about fifty yards he looked back, and seeing me
    still gazing after him, wheeled round and rushed at me, and when quite
    close uttered a sound like a ringing, metallic yelp, after which he once
    more bounded away, and disappeared from sight.

    The horses now turned round, and, deliberately walking up to me, stood
    still, in spite of all I could do to make them continue the work. After
    waiting a while they proceeded to wriggle themselves out of the ropes,
    and galloped off, loudly neighing to each other, and flinging up their
    disdainful heels so as to send a shower of dirt over me. Left alone in
    this unceremonious fashion, I presently began to think that they knew
    more about the work than I did, and that, finding me indisposed to
    release them at the proper moment, they had taken the matter into their
    own hands, or hoofs rather. A little more pondering, and I also came to
    the conclusion that the singular wolf-like animal was only one of the
    house-dogs; that he had visited me in the night to remind me that I was
    sleeping with the door open, and had come now to insist on a suspension
    of work.

    Glad at having discovered all these things without displaying my
    ignorance by asking questions, I took up my basket and started home.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 9
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