The horses' feet were wrapped up in hay-bands, so that no sound should be heard in the court-yard; the servants went about the house in list shoes, and all the approaches to it were knee-deep in straw.
Many of the other regiments followed the example of the grenadiers, and, in spite of the ever-increasing cold and the constantly augmenting hardships, Ney's corps retained their discipline and efficiency. Their appearance, indeed, was no longer soldierly. Their garments were in rags. Many wore three or four coats. Their legs were encased in hay-bands, strips of blanket, or sheep-skins.
Farmer Chirgwin and his men were girt as to the legs in old-fashioned hay-bands; some held torches while others toiled with ropes to anchor the giant rick against the gathering waters. There was no immediate fear, for the pile still stood a clear foot above the stream on a gentle undulation distant nearly two yards from the present boundary of the swollen river.
Oak appeared in the entry with a steaming face, hay-bands wound about his ankles to keep out the snow, a leather strap round his waist outside the smock-frock, and looking altogether an epitome of the world's health and vigour. Four lambs hung in various embarrassing attitudes over his shoulders, and the dog George, whom Gabriel had contrived to fetch from Norcombe, stalked solemnly behind.
Nan threw herself upon the grass beside him as he twisted hay-bands for the stacks, and said no more than "Good afternoon" for a little. He gloomed at her, and hissed between his teeth a Skye pibroch. For a time he would have her believe he was paying no attention, but ever and anon he would let slip a glance of inquiry from the corner of his eyes.
They sometimes had lettuce-pudding for dinner, and thought nothing of eating raw bacon. In the snow the men wound hay-bands round their legs to serve as gaiters, and found it answered admirably. One poor girl had been subject to fits ever since a stupid fellow, during the haymaking, jokingly picked up a snake and threw it round her neck.
The pavement is already strewed with decayed cabbage-leaves, broken hay-bands, and all the indescribable litter of a vegetable market; men are shouting, carts backing, horses neighing, boys fighting, basket-women talking, piemen expatiating on the excellence of their pastry, and donkeys braying.