The White Peacock

The White Peacock

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I stood watching the shadowy fish slide through the gloom of the mill-pond. They weregrey, descendants of the silvery things that had darted away from the monks, in the youngdays when the valley was lusty. The whole place was gathered in the musing of old age. Thethick-piled trees on the far shore were too dark and sober to dally with the sun; the weedsstood crowded and motionless. Not even a little wind flickered the willows of the islets. Thewater lay softly, intensely still. Only the thin stream falling through the mill-race murmuredto itself of the tumult of life which had once quickened the valley.I was almost startled into the water from my perch on the alder roots by a voice saying: “Well, what is there to look at?” My friend was a young farmer, stoutly built, brown eyed, with a naturally fair skin burned dark and freckled in patches. He laughed, seeing me start, and looked down at me with lazy curiosity.”I was thinking the place seemed old, brooding over its past.”He looked at me with a lazy indulgent smile, and lay down on his back on the bank, saying: “It’s all right for a doss-here.””Your life is nothing else but a doss. I shall laugh when somebody jerks you awake,” Ireplied.He smiled comfortably and put his hands over his eyes because of the light.”Why shall you laugh?” he drawled.”Because you’ll be amusing,” said I.We were silent for a long time, when he rolled over and began to poke with his finger inthe bank.”I thought,” he said in his leisurely fashion, “there was some cause for all this buzzing.”I looked, and saw that he had poked out an old, papery nest of those pretty field beeswhich seem to have dipped their tails into bright amber dust. Some agitated insects ranround the cluster of eggs, most of which were empty now, the crowns gone; a few youngbees staggered about in uncertain flight before they could gather power to wing away in astrong course. He watched the little ones that ran in and out among the shadows of thegrass, hither and thither in consternation.”Come here-come here!” he said, imprisoning one poor little bee under a grass stalk, while with another stalk he loosened the folded blue w

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