The Wish Booklet

Everyday Life in the 1800s

A Picture and a Protest

By Margaret C. Whiting

The Churches and Engine House
The Churches and Engine House.

Winter on North Main Street
Winter on North Main Street.
        The air quivered with the heat across the ploughed fields; a light wind which blew so softly that it scarcely stirred the leaves of the near trees, carried with it the subtle odors of lush meadow grass from the "mowing-lot" beyond, and of the freshly-turned earth from where the cultivator was being dragged over the ground by a pair of horses driven by a young farmer. His red shirt made a brilliant flick of color in the broad June sunlight that lay hot upon all things. He moved easily, and the horses obeyed his voice and rein, as though their intelligence, as well as his, was bent upon keeping the line straight between the rows of young plants; he did not need a whip, though probably from force of habit, he carried one. Presently the even creak of the harness the regular halt and start at the end of the field ceased, and these three working members of society, out there in the hot sun, were still. It was not yet noon, but the farmer had forgotten both task and time, for there in the shadow of a big maple sat a young girl; her broad hat lay in her lap; her fingers twisted the ribbons and she hung her curly head as the young man flung himself beside her. A bunch of daisies gave an excuse for the maid’s presence, though now they drooped their neglected heads, and a little white-aproned sister, who discreetly came and went, added an appearance of chance to the encounter. The group was as charming to the eye as one could wish, and who would think of the cultivator standing idle, of the unstirred clods of sun-baked earth, or of the approaching dinner hour, — where youth and love are, are not time and space as nothing.
        To man or maiden came no thought of these, or of the patient fellow workers, who all the time were left to stand in the open fields where the sun’s hottest rays fell full upon their unprotected heads—heads that held brains as sensitive to the effect of heat, as liable to sunstroke, as their masters’; there they stood, unoccupied within a few yards of shade and grass, left checked up with leathern straps so they had not even the freedom to lower their heads. The flies bit them: one horse had too short a tail to brush them away. They stood there in dumb submission, quiet in their tracks, never moving the machine from the spot where their driver had bade them halt; while he, cool, and stretched at his ease on the pleasant turf, forgot them entirely. If they had kicked over one of the traces with vexation, called aloud for relief, or dared to drag aside the cultivator so the injury of the plants, their master would have remembered to chastise such unreasonable impatience. Were not they beasts, and his property?

The Glasgow Block
The Glasgow Block.

A View on Brickbat Avenue
A View on "Brickbat Avenue."

© Laurel O’Donnell 1996 - 2006, all rights reserved
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