Three Quotations

(Septeber 30th to October 6th)




1. ‘Get some kind o’ line to go by.’ Jabez ranged up and down till he found a thinner place, and with clean snicks of the handbill revealed the original face of the fence. Jesse took over the dripping stuff as it fell forward, and, with a grasp and a kick, made it to lie orderly on the bank till it should be faggoted.

By noon a length of unclean jungle had turned itself into a cattle-proof barrier, tufted here and there with little plumes of the sacred holly which no woodman touches without orders.

This is from "Friendly Brook" in A Diversity of Creatures

In a Sussex field above a rising brook, on a dripping wet November day, Jabez and Jesse are trimming a negected hedge As they work, they recall a dark old tale of blackmail and death, in which the brook had done a service to the farmer whose hayrick stood above it.



2. In the little deep water left by the drought, an overhead crane travelled to and fro along its spile-pier, jerking sections of iron into place, snorting and backing and grunting as an elephant grunts in the timberyard. Riveters by the hundred swarmed about the lattice side-work and the iron roof of the railway line hung from invisible staging under the bellies of the girders, clustered round the throats of the piers, and rode on the overhang of the footpath-stanchions; their fire-pots and the spurts of flame that answered each hammer-stroke showing no more than pale yellow in the sun’s glare.

This is from the opening passage of "The Bridge-builders" in The Day's Work.

A massive new bridge across the Ganges is nearing completion when it is threatened by a great flood. The holy river, like the ancient spirit of India herself, is fighting against the constraints of modern technology. After an anxious night the bridge still stands. But in the broad sweep of history, perhaps this is not such a deep loss to the old gods of India, who will always be there to claim the allegiance of men and women. While people dream, the gods will still be tnere.



3. ... the whole ship was one consuming furnace, and the hammers were never still...voices gave orders which they obeyed with their bodies, but their minds were abroad on all the seas. It seems to them that they stood through days and nights slowly sliding a bar backwards and forwards through a white glow that was part of the ship. They remember an intolerable noise in their burning heads from the walls of the stoke-hole, and they remember being savagely beaten by men whose eyes seemed asleep. When their shift was over they would draw straight lines in the air, anxiously and repeatedly, and would question one another in their sleep, crying, “Is she straight?”

This is from "The Devil and the Deep Sea", in The Day's Work.

A British steamer in East Inidian waters - in what is now Indonesia - has been illicitly gathering pearls, until a local gun-boat fires a shell into her engine-room, comprehensively wrecking the engines. Here the crew, bent on escape and revenge, are struggling to repair her.