This time, I was merely carrying a tea-lunch to the hay field, or helping to carry it, for there were two small assistants, “playin’ wi’ yin anither” which was to hold the basket of scone, the jugs of hot tea being withheld from them. “Wull Ah no’ get carryin’t back? “ tearfully enquired Peg. “Ye’ll get a toom jug,” said Andy. However, we got a wee egg basket into which I put two or three cups from Andy’s basket, he protesting all the time; but the little sister went off happy.
In the field there were two men building ricks with some helpers to bring the hay close to their hand. I had thought it a cool morning, with a strong wind from the south-west, but the first rick-builder had a very heated face: “The win’s awa’ doon in the jaw-box,” he says, “an’ see that big thun’er clood. We maun hae this h’y in ruck the day.” The ricks before they’re “straikit doon” and roped are more than ever like dancing field nymphs having a race with each other, their long hair streaming before the high wind in tossing strands of palest grey green.
One evening when I was helping to build the foundation of the ricks, the horse-rake brought the queyles to our side, but this day two lasses were dragging them along with their forks stuck firmly on each side.
“That’s an easy way,” I remarked as they came swiftly along and brought the coil abruptly to a pause beside the rick. “Is it?” said one of them, as she took a deep breath; “try’t an’ see.” “It’s easier for me,” said the ricker, “fur ye get it mair in swauthe an’ it lies smoother.”
Then they all sat down for their “piece,” and the lasses kept up a banter with the silent sodger and the more responsive halflin’, nearly choking themselves laughing at jokes I couldn’t follow.
“Ach!” says one of them, “there’s a cleg in ma tea!” “It’ll be meat an’ drink fur ye,” said one of the men. “It’s got its legs sca’dditd, ony w’y.”
At this moment, big drops began to fall from the massive purple cloud that was moving majestically across the heavens. But refreshed by the tea and scone, and soothed by a pipe, the chief ricker was not to be alarmed: “Teuch! A skite o’ a shoo’er ill no’ dae tha queyles ony herm.” The drops were merely a spiteful threat; the cloud slowly moved away without further damage and the pipe was finished in perfect peace.
Meanwhile Andy was trying his hand at raking together the hay tossed aside by the wind and making a very good shape at it. Next hay time he may be useful! Peg in a very scant scarlet frock, with bare legs and feet, her tousy yellow head uncovered, had climbed on to a half-finished rick and was capering to her heart’s delight.
“Come on, Jock!” cried the lasses to the halflin; “Andy can dae your wark, an’ you pit yer fork in an’ help iz.” So Jock had to stick his fork in the front of a queyle, while the lasses, one on each side, attempted to run him off his feet.
“Man, Jock, come on! Ye’re that heavy o’ the fit. See if ye can rin, Jock.”
And there would be treble peals of laughter as the queyle spun along the ground and was dumped with such force against the sodger’s legs as nearly to capsize him. I could hear their youthful laughter all the way back to the house.
These “women on the land” had no thought of war or patriotism or service to their country. But on a sunny day, with a lad or two, the hayfield is almost as enjoyable as a picnic to them. And they have the strength and skill as well as youthful spirits.