[Note: monkey nuts is another name for peanuts, often used colloquially to indicate a thing or a person of little value. ]
At first Joe thought the job O. K. He was loading hay on the trucks, along with Albert, the corporal. The two men were pleasantly billeted in a cottage [Note: Soldiers on leave from the front during the First World War, and for some time afterwards, were sent to rural areas as farm-labourers, especially to assist with the harvest and with haymaking. ]not far from the station; they were their own masters; for Joe never thought of Albert as a master. And the little sidings of the tiny village station was as pleasant a place as you could wish for. On one side, beyond the line, stretched the woods: on the other, the near side, across a green smooth field red houses were dotted among flowering apple trees. The weather being sunny, work easy, Albert a real good pal, what life could be better! After Flanders it was heaven itself.
Albert, the corporal, was a clean-shaven, shrewd-looking fellow of about forty. He seemed to think his one aim in life was to be full of fun and nonsense. In repose, his face looked a little withered, old. He was a very good pal to Joe, steady, decent, and grave under all his “mischief”; for his mischief was only his laborious way of skirting his own ennui.
Joe was much younger than Albert—only twenty-three. He was a tallish, quiet youth, pleasant-looking. He was of slightly better class than his corporal, more personable. Careful about his appearance, he shaved every day.”I haven’t got much of a face,” said Albert.”If I was to shave every day like you, Joe, I should have none.
There was plenty of life in the little goods-yard; three porter youths, a continual come and go of farm wagons bringing hay, wagons with timber from the woods, coal carts loading at the trucks. The black coal seemed to make the place sleepier, hotter. Round the big white gate the station-master’s children played and his white chickens walked, whilst the station-master himself, a young man getting too fat, helped his wife to peg out the washing on the clothes line in the meadow.
The great boat-shaped wagons came up from Playcross with the hay. At first the farm-men waggoned it. On the third day one of the land-girls [land-girls: During the War women worked as farm-hands to replace men serving in the forces. ]appeared with the first load, drawing to a standstill easily at the head of her two great horses. She was a buxom girl, young, in linen overalls and gaiters. Her face was ruddy, she had large blue eyes.
“Now, that’s the waggoner for us boys,” said the corporal loudly.
“Whoa!” she said to her horses; and then to the corporal, “Which boys do you mean?”
“We are the pick of the bunch. That’s Joe, my pal. —”Don’t you let on that my name is Albert,” said the corporal to his private.”I’m the corporal.”
“And I’m Miss Stokes,” said the land-girl coolly, “if that’s all the boys you are.”
“You know you couldn’t want more, Miss Stokes,” said Albert politely. Joe, who was bare-headed, whose grey flannel sleeves were rolled up to the elbow, and whose shirt was open at the breast, looked modestly aside as if he had no part in the affair.
“Are you on this job regular, then?” said the corporal to Miss Stokes.
“I don’t know for sure,” she said, pushing a piece of hair under her hat, and attending to her splendid horses.