Copyright: This work is in the public domain in the USA only.
Two old labourers came out of the lane leading to Great End Farm. Both carried bags slung on sticks over their shoulders. One, the eldest and tallest, was a handsome fellow, with regular features and a delicately humorous mouth. His stoop and his slouching gait, the gray locks also, which straggled from under his broad hat, showed him an old man—probably very near his old-age pension. But he carried still with him a look of youth, and he had been a splendid creature in his time. The other was short of stature and of neck, bent besides by field work. A broadly-built, clumsy man, with something gnome-like about him, and the cheerful look of one whose country nerves had never known the touch of worry or long sickness. The name of the taller man was Peter Halsey, and Joseph Batts was his companion. It was a fine July evening, with a cold north wind blowing from the plain which lay stretched to their right. Under the unclouded sun, which by its own "sun-time" had only reached half-past four in the afternoon, though the clock in the village church had already struck half-past five, the air was dry and parching, and the fields all round, the road itself, and the dusty hedges showed signs of long drought. "It du want rain," said Peter Halsey, looking at a crop of oats through an open gate, "it du want rain—bad."