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The Hurly-Burly
by [?]

After six or seven years of this Alice went back to marry an old sweetheart in Canada, where the Weetmans had originally come from, but Phemy’s burden was in no way lessened thereby. There were as many things to wash and sew and darn; there was always a cart of churns about to dash for a train it could not possibly catch, or a horse to shoe that could not possibly be spared. Weetman hated to see his people merely walking: "Run over to the barn for that hay-fork," or "Slip across to the ricks, quick now," he would cry, and if ever an unwary hen hampered his own path it did so only once — and no more. His labourers were mere things of flesh and blood, but they occasionally resented his ceaseless flagellations. Glas Weetman did not like to be impeded or controverted; one day in a rage he had smashed that lumbering loon of a carter called Gathercole. For this he was sent to jail for a month.

The day after he had been sentenced Phemy Madigan, alone in the house with Mrs Weetman, had waked at the usual early hour. It was a foggy September morning; Sampson and his boy Daniel were clattering pails in the dairy shed. The girl felt sick and gloomy as she dressed; it was a wretched house to work in, crickets in the kitchen, cockroaches in the garret, spiders and mice everywhere. It was an old long low house; she knew that when she descended the stairs the walls would be stained with autumnal dampness, the banisters and rails oozing with moisture. She wished she was a lady and married and living in a palace fifteen stories high.

It was fortunate that she was big and strong, though she had been only a charity girl taken from the workhouse by the Weetmans when she was fourteen years old. That was seven years ago. It was fortunate that she was fed well at the farm, very well indeed; it was the one virtue of the place. But her meals did not counterbalance things; that farm ate up the body and blood of people. And at times the pressure was charged with a special excitation, as if a taut elastic thong had been plucked and released with a reverberating ping.

It was so on this morning Mrs Weetman was dead in her bed.

At that crisis a new sense descended upon the girl, a sense of responsibility. She was not in fear, she felt no grief or surprise. It concerned her in some way, but she herself was unconcerned, and she slid without effort into the position of mistress of the farm. She opened a window and looked out of doors. A little way off a boy with a red scarf stood by an open gate.

"Oi … oi, kup, kup, kup!" he cried to the cows in that field. Some of the cows having got up stared amiably at him, others sat on ignoring his hail, while one or two plodded deliberately towards him. "Oi … oi, kup, kup, kup!"

"Lazy rascal, that boy," remarked Phemy, "we shall have to get rid of him. Dan’l! Come here, Dan’l!" she screamed, waving her arm wildly. "Quick!"

She sent him away for police and doctor. At the inquest there were no relatives in England who could be called upon, no witnesses other than Phemy. After the funeral she wrote a letter to Glastonbury Weetman in jail informing him of his bereavement, but to this he made no reply. Meanwhile the work of the farm was pressed forward under her control, for though she was revelling in her personal release from the torment she would not permit others to share her intermission. She had got Mrs Weetman’s keys and her box of money. She paid the two men and the boy their wages week by week. The last of the barley was reaped, the oats stacked, the roots hoed, the churns sent daily under her supervision. And always she was bustling the men.