Monday, 1 November 2010

Though the Frost Was Cruel

The beginning of a short story written by Joan Thompson in 1920. This appeared in John O'London's Weekly. I have been unable to find very much information about Miss Thompson. All I do know is she was born in Gloucestershire, and was living in Herefordshire at the time she wrote this story. She also wrote a novel entitled "Mary England" which was published by Methuen.

Though the Frost Was Cruel

The Dark Orchard lay in the hollow of two hills, one perhaps as high again as the other. In the length of fifty years it had not changed very much. It was darker because the trees were thicker and more heavily boughed, but it had always looked old, and even the young trees grew gnarled quickly. To see it in spring from the top of either hill was to look down on an impenetrable mass of blossom. In autumn the dark red apples hung from the trees in wonderful contrast to the yellow, stricken leaves. It was easy, even in winter, to hide in the orchard from the eye of the inquisitive, whether in the fork of a bough or by merely sitting on the stile in the upper corner, farthest away from the house.
In the sixties the Dark Orchard belonged to Keturah Ash. She had been a widow for many years, and in age kept pace with the century, for she had been born in the early spring of 1800.
Keturah Ash had lived a hard life, and at sixty-five any softness there might have been in her nature had died an easy death. She was not a poor woman, for those were days when to be poor was to know the deep meaning of poverty. And Keturah had never starved, never physically starved. Her husband had left her house and land, a handful of acres known as Grey Hill Farm. For twenty years she had worked it herself, even laying her hedges, planting and harvesting her corn, rearing and tending her small herd of stock. In the autumn of the year she employed two women to do the digging, for no horse or plough ever passed over her land. The digging done, she sowed her corn, marking the furrows with a line, covering the last as she worked the next. ......