Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Sunflowers (A Village Drama)

Ebenezer Matthews smelled of the soil. His furrowed skin, of a warm tanned colour, gave one a strong suggestion of it. His hands, broad and knotted, never seemed altogether at their ease unless they were gripping a spade, or pressing down the soft earth about tender, newly planted roots.
It was the expression of his eyes which contributed so largely to the atmosphere of something untamed and primal that clung about him. Deep-set eyes he had, bright and penetrating, with an undying sense of space and breadth in their depths. Such a look does one see often in the eyes of captive wild animals. On Saturdays he worked with never failing regularity in the small patch of garden at the back of the house. On these occasions his heart was away, roving on the sinister barren plains of Dartmoor. In the midst of that wild tract of land he had been born and bred. He knew and loved every foot of it. In him had been always a strange, quixotic strain; something of the dreamer and idealist. That was why, when he had been an inarticulate lad of twenty-four, he had married Maisie Gifford.

Maisie was a stupid girl, but the rich red blood of her forefathers flowed vigorously through her veins, giving to her skin a vivid, almost rioutously brilliant colouring. She had "got into trouble" a few months back, and though she refused stubbornly to reveal her lover's name, local suspicion centred largely round a certain "furrin" artist whom her mother had lodged during the previous summer.

Slowly Ebenezer realised, although but dimly, that a living human creature was being deliberately tortured. Much in the same manner as he would have stayed up a whole night in the stable poulticing a horse which had an abscess (and this he had not infrequently done), he asked Maisie to marry him, and she, not fully comprehending his motives, but passionately grateful to anyone who treated her like a human being, married him.

To be continued