When I raised my forehead from the wheel, I saw that traffic through the village had been resumed, after, as my watch showed, one and one-half hour's suspension. There were two limousines, one landau, one doctor's car, three touring-cars, one patent steam-laundry van, three tricars, one traction-engine, some motor-cycles, one with a side-car, and one brewery lorry.
This last was, after all, the point; he really worked, poor young man, for acceptance, since he worked so constantly for comprehension. And how, when you came to that, COULD you know that a horse wouldn't shy at a brass-band, in a country road, because it didn't shy at a traction-engine? It might have been brought up to traction-engines without having been brought up to brass-bands.
If you came suddenly out here, you would think they were all mortally afraid. But it is only giving orders for hours together under a heavy fire. Battle noises are terrific. At the present moment a howitzer is going strong behind this, and the concussion is tremendous. The noise is like dropping a traction-engine on a huge tin tray.
It is nearly a perfect square in shape, and each side of the square is a little over six miles long. There are no roads through this solid stretch of grain. Two hundred men, a thousand horses, and many big machines are needed to work this wheat-field. Some of the big harvesters that cut and thresh the wheat are drawn by a traction-engine instead of horses.
"Not in the least," was the answer. "Steam gadgets always take him that way. We had a bit of a riot at Parsley Green through his tryin' to show a traction-engine haulin' gipsy-wagons how to turn corners." "Tell him everything he wants to know," I said to the engineer, as I dragged out a rug and spread it on the roadside. "He don't want much showing," said the engineer.
But Godber's man wasn't going to have his story snatched from under his very nose. "Know those little cottages just below here, miss?" Know them? Of course, she knew them. "Well, there's a young chap living there, name of Scott, a carter. His horse shied at a traction-engine, corner of Hawke Street this morning, and he was thrown out on the back of his head. Killed." "Dead!"
In line with the thresher stood the engine, looped to it by trembling curves of driving-belt, that wavered like a great black ribbon from the driving-wheel of the traction-engine to that of the thresher, and that showed a line of quivering light along its edge. A trail of dark smoke blew ceaselessly from the traction-engine, staining the blue of the sky, against which it faded and died away.
'See that gap? said Mr. Lightowler, pointing to a paling of which the lower half was torn away; 'that's where 'Umpage's blathering old gander gets through. I 'ate the sight of the beast, and I'd sooner 'ave a traction-engine running about my beds than him! I've spoke about it to 'Umpage till I'm tired, and I shall 'ave to take the law into my own hands soon, I know I shall.
This fair broad land of the lovely villages signifies little save to the antiquary, the poet, the painter. Vainly, indeed, should I show its beauty and its peace to the observant foreigner; he would but smile, and, with a glance at the traction-engine just coming along the road, indicate the direction of his thoughts. Nothing in all Homer pleases me more than the bedstead of Odysseus.
In the theory of evolution Condorcet's principles appear to find scientific expression and warrant, but it is pathetic to observe the speculative science of a modern systematizer advancing through volume after volume with the cumbrous but massive force of a traction-engine, only to find rest at last in a vision of Utopia some centuries hence, tedious as the Paradise of mediaeval poets or the fabulous Edens of earlier times.