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Authors: Yelena Kopylova

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BOOK: A man who cried
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I’d be glad of your help; although mind it isn’t everyone I take on. Come. Come, I’ll show you.

You can sleep in the barn. Are you hungry?”

She had walked on in front of him and now she paused and looked over her shoulder, and again

that strange ethereal quality forced an impression on him, causing him to blink twice wondering

whether or not he were dreaming. Then he answered her, saying hesitantly, ”Well, yes; you could

say we are a bit hungry, ma’am.”

”I thought you would be, they’re all hungry; and that makes them weak, you know, and so they

can’t work. The old men just want to be fed, while the young ones just want money. This is the

barn, you may sleep in there. There aren’t any rats, the cats see to them. I have fourteen cats. I

don’t like dogs; fawning creatures, dogs; cats run their own lives, I run my own life.” She turned

on him suddenly now, saying, ”You’re not to come to the house for anything, I’ll bring your food

here. You understand ?”

”Yes, yes, I understand.”

She walked to the front of the barn now where she stopped and looked towards the gate, then

asked slowly, ”Is that your boy ?”


”I don’t like children but I’ll put up with him if you work well. You’d better get bedded down

because I expect you up at five in


•.’V «MOW


the morning, mind, not later.” She was wagging hef finger at him now, and when she turned

away and walked towards the back
’!. the house he stared after her for a moment before

going’slowly to

!i the gate and saying quietly to Dick, ”Come on.”

i They had scarcely got the rucksack unpacked and their bedding

•ii out when the high voice came to them from the open doorway.

I ”There it is! Five o’clock mind, not later.”

He had no time to answer before she disappeared and he was about to go forward when Dick

spoke for the first time in hours, saying in an awe-filled voice, ”Who’s that, Dad ?”

”She’s the worn . . . the lady who owns this place.” ;j ”She looks funny.”

j ”Funny or not, she’s given us the chance of a good night’s rest.”

’•j*** When he reached the barn door he looked at the tray. It had on

it a mug of steaming cocoa, a small loaf of apparently home-made bread, a hunk of cheese, a

piece of belly pork, and a slab of butter. Well - he nodded to himself - however odd she may

appear she kept her larder well stocked. Apparently she knew how to bake, ! too, unless she had

someone in the house doing it for her. ” •

i As he laid the tray on the straw he glanced up at his son as he

|| said, ”What about that?”

S| ”Oh! Dad, it looks good.”

”It’ll taste better. Come on, let’s tuck in. Here, take a drink of this hot cocoa for a start.”

; For the first time in days Abel saw the boy smile as he wiped the

I ’ thick cocoa from his mouth, and he wished it was in himself to

! smile too, but he felt uneasy : she was queer that woman, odd. It

wasn’t only the way she dressed and the state of the place, it wasn’t i only the things she said, it was how she said them. There was

! something uncanny about her.

He slept well, and he aroused himself quietly at first light so as not to disturb the boy, and was in the yard at five minutes to five. But she was there before him, and immediately she gave him his

orders. He had to clean out the pigsties, then take the slops to the pigs; afterwards, he had to set about clearing up the yard.


She didn’t allot any jobs to the boy, Abel noticed. She seemed bent on ignoring him completely;

he couldn’t be there for all the notice she took of him. The one mug of cocoa last night had been

a pointer.

It was well past eight o’clock before Dick made his appearance. He came on Abel at a run and

leant against the wall of the pigsties gasping, ”I couldn’t find you, Dad, an’ there’s nobody

about.” Then after another gasp he added, ”Do we get any breakfast, Dad?”

”There’s no sign of it yet, but I’ll be finished here in a minute and then we’ll go looking.”

”This place stinks.”

”Yes, it stinks.”

”It looks as if it’s been a long time since they were cleaned out. Have you dug all that mound out

this mornin’, Dad ?”

Dick pointed to a large heap of manure some distance from the sties.

”Yes, I have,” Abel said ; ”an’ me back’s letting me know it.” He gave a slight smile. ”That’s

what comes of being lazy for days.”

”Your boots are all messed up.”

”They’ll clean.”

”It’s a good job you turned your trousers up. . . .” -

”You there!” The voice came from the direction of the yard and they both turned quickly and

looked towards the woman, and she pointed back to the barn, saying, ”Your breakfast’s there.”

”Thank you.” Abel nodded; then throwing the shovel aside he walked towards her, saying,

”Where can we clean up ?”

”There’s a pump round the corner of the yard. What’s your name ?”

”Abel Mason.”

She nodded three times, then said, ”Abel. Abel. Hah! I thought you were sent by God, and your

name proves it. Now after you’ve eaten you’ll start on the yard. Get all the grass up between the

slabs. I should think that will take you up till this evening; then tomorrow you can continue down

the drive. I have five acres of land here, that’s all, just five acres.” She shook her head. ”Can you believe that, just five acres ? It used to be five hundred, and before that a thousand. But we’ll

clear those five acres, you and me. Yes, we will.”

As she took two steps nearer
him her features spread into a


» .’tT^rf’/«sn»-?

smile and at the sight he felt himself once again recoiling from her.

His jaw tightened for a moment; then he asked a question. ”What

wages are you offering, ma’am?”

She seemed surprised and she repeated, ”Wages? Oh, wages.

Well, you’ll get your food and your bed and . . . and a pound a

week. A pound” - she was nodding again - ”that should be | enough for your requirements.

Money isn’t everything. Money is

a curse, do you know that ? If you have money everybody wants

it; you have no friends if you have money. The only true friend

one has is God and” - she was smiling again - ”He has answered

my prayers. At last He has answered my prayer.” After three more nods of her head towards him,

she turned

about and stalked, which was the only word that could describe

her walk . . . towards the house.
In the barn, Abel looked down on the large tray which held a

teapot, a jug of milk, one mug, one plate, a knife and fork, another j small loaf of bread, and a

covered dish. When he lifted the lid of

the dish and saw two fried eggs flanked by two thick slices of ham I he heaved a deep sigh, then

turning to Dick, he said, ”Fetch your

plate and mug.”

When the boy returned with the plate he said quietly, ”She

didn’t mean me to have any, did she, Dad? She never looks at me

or speaks to me.”

Abel didn’t answer him, but set about dividing the food; then I they both sat down on a wooden

plank that ran alongside the

stalls and they ate in silence.

I Abel was just about to say, ”We’re leaving here, son,” when a

! sudden shower of rain hitting the roof of the barn brought his

eyes upwards. Since dawn the sky had promised rain and now it

had come, and it was heavy, and he couldn’t, he decided, take the

boy out in it.

They had hardly finished their meal when the woman appeared

at the door of the barn again, saying and without any preamble

now, ”The rain needn’t stop you working, there’re sacks in the

corner there to put over you.” He made no reply, he just sat and stared at her, and she, too,

stared back at him for a moment before turning away and disappearing from his view. He had

seen some weird creatures in his time but this one, he

told himself, took the cake.


”Will I come out and help you, Dad ?”

”No, no, you won’t!” His voice was harsh. ”You stay where you are in the dry.”

”All day?”

”Yes, all day if it comes to that. ...”

And it was all day. For most of the time Dick stood within the door of the barn and watched his

father, who looked like a giant hunchback under the pointed sack covering his head and

shoulders and part of his back, scrape out the long grass from between the stones of the yard. At

intervals he would come into the barn and change the sack for a dry one, but he didn’t speak to

him; and something about his father’s face warned the boy to be quiet.

The dinnertime meal was again pork, and when around four o’clock Abel walked slowly into the

barn and, having divested himself of the sack and his wet coat, slumped down on to the plank of

wood and after wiping his face on the towel that Dick had taken out of the rucksack he looked at

his son and said, ”Rain, snow, or hail, we go in the morning.” The words and the tone in which

they were said were as if the boy had been protesting at the prospect of leaving.

”Will she pay you for the day, Dad ?”

”That I’ll have to find out ”

And he found out an hour later when she came scurrying into the barn carrying another tray.

Under other circumstances he would have said, ”I’ll come and fetch the tray, ma’am;” but not

with this one.

What she said to him right away was, ”You finished early.”

”I don’t suppose it escaped your notice, ma’am, that it’s pouring with rain and it has been all day

and I’m wet through.”

”Rain won’t do you any harm, and you don’t look a weakling. No, no, you certainly don’t look a

weakling. It’s God’s rain, pure water. . . . You didn’t finish the yard. Well, there’s another day

tomorrow ; you can do it first thing and . . .”

”I’ll be leaving in the morning, ma’am.”

He watched her body droop slightly to the side, her ear cocked towards the ground as if she were

straining to hear what he had said, and her words actually were, ”What did you say?”

”I’m leaving in the morning. My son and I” - he stressed the word son - ”we’ll be on our way.”

”You said you would stay for a pound a week.” ;





”I did nothing of the sort, ma’am. I asked what yt>u were offering in the way of wages. It was

you who said a pound %week, but I think the amount of work I’ve done today is worth five


She screwed up her face now until her eyes were iilmost lost in their deep sockets and she peered

at him for a full minute, an embarrassing minute, before she said, ”You can’t go, nut you. I told

you you were the answer to my prayer.”

”I’m sorry, ma’am.”

”I’ll give you an extra meal, supper, and two poimds a week; yes, yes, I’ll give you two pounds a

week.” Her head was bobbing again.

”It’s kind of you, ma’am, but... but I’ve . . . I’te been promised a position in the North.”

Again she was staring at him; and then quietly sle said, ”Eat your tea,” and turning about, walked

slowly away.

For a moment he felt sorry for her; she was a pitiful creature. But she was weird, slightly mad,

and he wouldn’t tnow a moment’s ease of mind until he had left her and this place well behind


As if he had agreed to her new proposal she brought him a jug of cocoa around seven o’clock,

but she had nothing tc say to him. She didn’t bring a tray this time, just a jug and a chira mug;

and she didn’t even look at him as she placed them on tie plank of wood before turning and going


”This cocoa’s bitter, Dad.”

”Yes” - Abel nodded at the boy - ”it’s too strong lut drink it, it’ll keep you warm inside.”

Dick tried to drink the remainder of the cocoa, but alter another mouthful he said, ”It would make

me sick, Dad.”

”All right, all right; leave it alone and get yoursef down to sleep.”

They were both lying in the straw when Dick asfced, ”What time are we leaving in the mornin’,

Dad ?”

”First light; if not afore.”

”But will she be up to pay you?”

He paused a moment before answering, ”Well, if sheisn’t we’ll have to go without.”

The boy realized that his father must want to get iway very badly if he was thinking of going

without his pay be’-ause they


hadn’t any money. He felt very sleepy, heavy. ”Good-night, Dad,” he said; but there was no

answer, Abel was already asleep.

When the dream began he didn’t know, he only knew when it ended. It started with Alice; she

had come again to him not as she did most nights running down the glen and into his outstretched

arms, but had appeared from nowhere. He couldn’t see her face, but he knew she was behind him

and she was carrying him. His mind told him it wasn’t right that a woman should be carrying him

and he struggled, but she held him tight; her arms were like thin cables, different from usual, and

her voice was different. She kept talking at him. He tried in vain to turn round and look at her.

Then a wave of nausea attacked him; he felt he was about to retch but told himself he mustn’t

because if he dirtied his blanket he wouldn’t be able to get it washed again.

When he heard himself yell, almost scream, he knew that he was awake yet he couldn’t believe

it, and he wanted to close his eyes again and tell himself that he was in a nightmare, but his eyes

were riveted on his left hand and left ankle around each of which was an inch-wide iron-band

BOOK: A man who cried
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