Open main menu

Page:Tono-Bungay.djvu/350

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
342
TONO-BUNGAY

as I stood in jersey and shorts beside my machine, fresh from alighting, and his cadaverous face failed to conceal a peculiar desolation that possessed him.

"Almost you convince me," he said coming up to me, "against my will. . . . A marvellous invention! But it will take you a long time, sir, before you can emulate that perfect mechanism—the wing of a bird."

He looked at my sheds.

"You've changed the look of this valley, too," he said.

"Temporary defilements," I remarked, guessing what was in his mind.

"Of course. Things come and go. Things come and go. But—— H'm. I've just been up over the hill to look at Mr. Edward Ponderevo's new house. That—that is something more permanent. A magnificent place!—in many ways. Imposing. I've never somehow brought myself to go that way before. . . . Things are greatly advanced. . . . We find—the great number of strangers introduced into the villages about here by these operations, working-men chiefly, a little embarrassing——. It puts us out. They bring a new spirit into the place; betting—ideas—all sorts of queer notions. Our publicans like it, of course. And they come and sleep in one's outhouses—and make the place a little unsafe at nights. The other morning I couldn't sleep—a slight dyspepsia—and I looked out of the window. I was amazed to see people going by on bicycles. A silent procession. I counted ninety-seven—in the dawn. All going up to the new road for Crest Hill. Remarkable I thought it. And so I've been up to see what they were doing."

"They would have been more than remarkable thirty years ago," I said.