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-it has been here ever so long, it came here first just after the oak the lightning split died. And it has been rolled about by the ploughs ever since, and no one has ever seen it; I thought it must go into the ditch at last, but when the men came to hoe one of them knocked it back, and then another kicked it along-it was covered with earth--and then, one day, a rook came and split the clod open with his bill, and pushed the pieces first one side and then the other, and the coin went one way, but I did not see; I must ask a humble-bee, or a mouse, or a mole, or some one who knows more about it. It is very thin, so that if the rook's bill had struck it, his strong bill would have made a dint in it, and there is, I think, a ship marked on it."
“Oh, I must have it ! A ship! Ask a humble-bee directly; be quick ! "
Bang! There was a loud report, a gun had gone off in the copse.
“That's my papa,” shouted Guido. “I'm sure that was my papa's gun!” Up he jumped, and getting down the ditch, stepped across the water, and, seizing a hazel-bough to help himself, climbed up the bank. At the top he slipped through the fence by the oak and so into the copse. He was in such a hurry he did not mind the thistles or the boughs that whipped him as they sprang back, he scrambled through, meeting the vapour of the gunpowder and the smell of sulphur. In a minute he found a green path, and in the path was his papa, who had just shot a cruel crow. The crow had been eating the birds eggs, and picking the little birds to pieces.
THREE íruit-pickers-women-were the first people I met near the village in Kent). They were clad in “rags and jags," and the face of the eldest was in "jags" also. It was torn and scarred by time and weather; wrinkled, and in a manner twisted like the fantastic turns of a gnarled tree-trunk, hollow and decayed. Through these jags and tearings of weather, wind, and work, the nakedness of the countenancethe barren framework-was visible; the cheekbones like knuckles, the chin of brown stoneware, the upper-lip smooth, and without the short groove which should appear between lip and nostrils. Black shadows dwelt in the hollows of the cheeks and temples, and there was a blackness about the eyes. This blackness gathers in the faces of the old who have been much exposed to the sun, the fibres of the skin are scorched and half-charred, like a stick thrust in the fire and withdrawn before the flames seize it. Beside her were two young women, both in the freshness of youth and health. Their faces glowed with a golden-brown, and so great is the effect of colour that their plain features were transfigured. The sunlight under their faces made them beautiful. The summer light had been absorbed by the skin, and now shone forth from it again; as certain substances exposed to the day absorb light and emit a phosphorescent gleam in the darkness of night, so the sunlight had been drunk up by the surface of the skin, and emanated from it.
Hour after hour in the gardens and orchards they worked in the full beams of the sun, gathering fruit for the London market, resting at midday in the shade of the elms in the corner. Even then they were in the sunshine-even in the shade, for the air carries it, or its influence, as it carries the perfumes of flowers. The heated air undulates over the field in waves which are visible at a distance; near at hand they are not seen, but roll in endless ripples through the shadows of the trees, bringing with them the actinic power of the sun. Not actinic-alchemic—some intangible, mysterious power which cannot be supplied in any other form but the sun's rays. It reddens the cherry, it gilds the apple, it colours the rose, it ripens the wheat, it touches a woman's face with the goldenbrown of ripe life-ripe as a plum. There is no other hue so beautiful as this human sunshine tint.
The great painters knew it-Rubens, for instance; perhaps he saw it on the faces of the women who gathered fruit or laboured at the harvest in the Low Countries centuries since. He could never have seen it in a city of these northern climes, that is certain. Nothing in nature that I know, except the human face, ever attains this colour. Nothing like it is ever seen in the sky, either at dawn or sunset; the dawn is often golden, often scarlet, or purple and gold; the sunset crimson, flaming bright, or delicately gray and scarlet; lovely colours all of them, but not like this. Nor is there any flower comparable to it, nor any gem. It is purely human, and it is only found on the human face which has felt the sunshine continually. There must, too, I suppose, be a disposition towards it, a peculiar and exceptional condition of the fibres which build up the skin; for of the numbers who work out of doors, very, very few possess it; they become brown, red, or tanned, sometimes of a parchment hue—they do not get this colour.
These two women from the fruit gardens had the golden-brown in their faces, and their plain features were transfigured. They were walking in the dusty road; there was as background a high, dusty hawthorn hedge which had lost the freshness of spring and was browned by the work of caterpillars ; they were in rags and jags, their shoes had split, and their feet looked twice as wide in consequence. Their hands were black; not grimy, but absolutely black, and neither hands nor necks ever knew water, sure. There was not the least shape to their garments; their dresses simply hung down in straight ungraceful lines; there was no colour of ribbon or flower, to light up the dinginess. But they had the golden-brown in their faces, and they were beautiful.
The feet, as they walked, were set firm on the ground, and the body advanced with measured, deliberate, yet lazy and confident grace; shoulders thrown back -square, but not over-square (as those who have been drilled); hips swelling at the side in lines like the full bust, though longer drawn; busts well filled
and shapely, despite the rags and jags and the washed-out gaudiness of the shawl. There was that in their cheeks that all the wealth of London could not purchase-a superb health in their carriage princesses could not obtain. It came, then, from the air and sunlight, and still more, from some alchemy unknown to the physician or the physiologist, some faculty exercised by the body, happily endowed with a special power of extracting the utmost richness and benefit from the rudest elements. Thrice blessed and fortunate, beautiful golden-brown in their cheeks, superb health in their gait, they walked as the immortals on earth.
As they passed they regarded me with bitter envy, jealousy, and hatred written in their eyes; they cursed me in their hearts. I verily believe—so unmistakably hostile were their glances—that had opportunity been given, in the dead of night and far from help, they would gladly have taken me unawares with some blow of stone or club, and, having rendered me senseless, would have robbed me, and considered it a righteous act. Not that there was any bloodthirstiness or exceptional evil in their nature more than in that of the thousand-and-one toilers that are met on the highway, but simply because they worked-such hard work of hands and stooping backs, and I was idle, for all they knew. Because they were going from one field of labour to another field of labour, and I walked slowly and did no visible work. My dress showed no stain, the weather had not battered it; there was no rent, no rags and jags. At an hour when they were merely changing one place of work