News From Nowhere : or An Epoch of Rest Being Some Chapters From a Utopian Romance

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(1834 - 1896)
William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was a British textile designer, poet, novelist, translator and socialist activist associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement. He was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production. His literary contributions helped to establish the modern fantasy genre, while he helped win acceptance of socialism in fin de siècle Great Britain. (From : Wikipedia.org.)

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News From Nowhere

From : Marxists.org

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This document contains 33 sections, with 78,549 words or 485,114 characters.

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News from Nowhere was first published as a serial in the Socialist magazine Commonweal in 1890. It was republished in book form in a revised edition in 1892 and went though many reprintings after that. This text is taken from the 1908 reprinting by Longmans of London. It is a book that is often ignored by Marxists and others who denounce it as backward looking and it is indeed true that Morris' utopian vision is that of a society which has in some sense reverted to an agricultural and handicraft one and seems static. But activists among our readers will be astonished as the insight of this middle aged and middle class English poet and artist in chapter 17 or How The Change Came. Morris here foresees the process of a working class revolution which includes a period of Dual Power, the creation of a fascist movement when the ruling cl... (From : Marxists.org.)

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I. Discussion and Bed Up at the League, says a friend, there had been one night a brisk conversational discussion, as to what would happen on the Morrow of the Revolution, finally shading off into a vigorous statement by various friends of their views on the future of the fully-developed new society. Says our friend: Considering the subject, the discussion was good-tempered; for those present being used to public meetings and after-lecture debates, if they did not listen to each others’ opinions (which could hardly be expected of them), at all events did not always attempt to speak all together, as is the custom of people in ordinary polite society when conversing on a subject which interests them. For the rest, there were six persons present, and consequently six sections of the party were represented, four of which had strong but diverge... (From : Marxists.org.)

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II. A Morning Bath Well, I awoke, and found that I had kicked my bed-clothes; and no wonder, for it was hot and the sun shining brightly. I jumped up and washed and hurried on my clothes, but in a hazy and half-awake condition, as if I had slept for a long, long while, and could not shake off the weight of slumber. In fact, I rather took it for granted that I was at home in my own room than saw that it was so. When I was dressed, I felt the place so hot that I made haste to get out of the room and out of the house; and my first feeling was a delicious relief caused by the fresh air and pleasant breeze; my second, as I began to gather my wits together, mere measureless wonder; for it was winter when I went to bed last night, and now, by witness of the river-side trees, it was summer, a beautiful bright morning seemingly of early June. However, th... (From : Marxists.org.)

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III. The Guest House and Breakfast Therein I lingered a little behind the others to have a stare at this house, which, as I have told you, stood on the site of my old dwelling. It was a longish building with its gable ends turned away from the road, and long traceried windows coming rather low down set in the wall that faced us. It was very handsomely built of red brick with a lead roof; and high up above the windows there ran a frieze of figure subjects in baked clay, very well executed, and designed with a force and directness which I had never noticed in modern work before. The subjects I recognized at once, and indeed was very particularly familiar with them. However, all this I took in in a minute; for we were presently within doors, and standing in a hall with a floor of marble mosaic and an open timber roof. There were... (From : Marxists.org.)

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IV. A Market by the Way We turned away from the river at once, and were soon in the main road that runs through Hammersmith. But I should have had no guess as to where I was, if I had not started from the waterside; for King Street was gone, and the highway ran through wide sunny meadows and garden-like tillage. The Creek, which we crossed at once, had been rescued from its culvert, and as we went over its pretty bridge we saw its waters, yet swollen by the tide, covered with gay boats of different sizes. There were houses about, some on the road, some among the fields with pleasant lanes leading down to them, and each surrounded by a teeming garden. They were all pretty in design, and as solid as might be, but countrified in appearance, like yeomen's dwellings; some of them of red brick like those by the river, but more of timber and plaster, which were by the ne... (From : Marxists.org.)

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V. Children on the Road Past the Broadway there were fewer houses on either side. We presently crossed a pretty little brook that ran across a piece of land dotted over with trees, and awhile after came to another market and town-hall, as we should call it. Although there was nothing familiar to me in its surroundings, I knew pretty well where we were and was not surprised when my guide said briefly, "Kensington Market." Just after this we came into a short street of houses; or rather, one long house on either side of the way, built of timber and plaster, and with a pretty arcade over the footway before it. Quoth Dick: "This is Kensington proper. People are apt to gather here rather thick, for they like the romance of the wood; and naturalists haunt it, too; for it is a wild spot even here, what there is of it; for it does not... (From : Marxists.org.)

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VI. A Little Shopping As he spoke, we came suddenly out of the woodland into a short street of handsomely built houses, which my companion named to me at once as Piccadilly: the lower part of these houses I should have called shops, if it had not been that, as far as I could see, the people were ignorant of the arts of buying and selling. Wares were displayed in their finely designed fronts, as if to tempt people in, and people stood and looked at them, or went in and came out with parcels under their arms, just like the real thing. On each side of the street ran an elegant arcade to protect foot-passengers, as in some of the old Italian cities. About half-way down, a huge building of the kind I was now prepared to expect told me that this was a center of some kind, and had its special public buildings. Said Dick: "Here, you see, is another mark... (From : Marxists.org.)

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VII. Trafalgar Square And now again I was busy looking about me, for we were quite clear of Piccadilly Market, and were in a region of elegantly-built much ornamented houses, which I should have called villas if they had been ugly and pretentious, which was very far from being the case. Each house stood in a garden carefully cultivated and running over with flowers. The blackbirds were singing their best amid the garden-trees, which, except for a bay here and there, and occasional groups of limes, seemed to be all fruit-trees: there were a great many cherry-trees, now all laden with fruit; and several times as we passed by a garden we were offered baskets of fine fruit by children and young girls. Amid all these gardens and houses it was of course impossible to trace the sites of the old streets: but it seemed to me that the main roadways were the same as of old. (From : Marxists.org.)

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VIII. An Old Friend We now turned into a pleasant lane where the branches of great plane trees nearly met overhead, but behind them lay low houses standing rather close together. "This is Long Acer," quoth Dick; "so there must once have been a cornfield here. How curious it is that places change so, and yet keep their old names! Just look how thick the houses stand! and they are still going on building, look you!" "Yes," said the old man, "but I think the cornfields must have been built over before the middle of the nineteenth century. I have heard that above here was the thickest parts of the town. But I must get down here, neighbors; I have got to call on a friend who lives in the gardens behind the Long Acer. Good-bye and good luck, Guest!" And he jumped down and strode away vigorously like a young man. (From : Marxists.org.)

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IX. Concerning Love "Your kinsman doesn't much care for beautiful buildings, then," said I, as we entered the rather dreary classical house; which indeed was as bare as need be, except for some big pots of the June flowers which stood about here and there; though it was very clean and nicely whitewashed. "O, I don't know," said Dick, rather absently, "He is getting old, certainly, for he is over a hundred and five, and no doubt he doesn't care about moving. But of course he could live in a prettier house if he liked: he is not obliged to live in any one place any more than any one else. This way, Guest." And he led the way upstairs, and opening a door we went into a fair-sized room of the old type, as plain as the rest of the house, with a few necessary pieces of furniture, and those very simple and even rude, but solid and wi... (From : Marxists.org.)

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X. Questions and Answers "Well," said the old man, shifting in his chair, "you must get on with your questions, Guest; I have been some time answering this first one." Said I: "I want an extra word or two about your ideas of education; although I gathered from Dick that you let your children run wild and didn't teach them anything; and in short, that you have so refined your education, that now you have none." "Then you gathered left-handed," quoth he." But of course I understand your point of view about education, which is that of times past, when ‘the struggle for life,' as men used to phrase it (i.e., the struggle for a slave's rations on one side, and for a bouncing share of the slave-holders’ privilege on the other), pinched ‘education’ for most people into a niggardly dole of not very acc... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XI. Concerning Government "Now," said I, "I have come to the point of asking questions which I suppose will be dry for you to answer and difficult for you to explain; but I have foreseen for some time past that I must ask them, will I 'nill I. What kind of a government have you? Has republicanism finally triumphed? or have you come to a mere dictatorship, which some persons in the nineteenth century used to prophesy as the ultimate outcome of democracy? Indeed, this last question does not seem so very unreasonable, since you have turned your Parliament House into a dung-market. Or where do you house your present Parliament?" The old man answered my smile with a hearty laugh, and said: "Well, well, dung is not the worst kind of corruption; fertility may come of that, whereas mere dearth came from the other kind, of which those walls once held the... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XII. Concerning the Arrangement of Life "Well," I said, "about those ‘arrangements’ which you spoke of as taking the place of government, could you give me any account of them?" "Neighbor, " he said, "although we have simplified our lives a great deal from what they were, and have got rid of many conventionalities and many sham wants, which used to give our forefathers much trouble, yet our life is too complex for me to tell you in detail by means of words how it is arranged; you must find that out by living among us. It is true that I can better tell you what we don't do than what we do do. "Well?" said I. "This is the way to put it," said he: "We have been living for a hundred and fifty years, at least, more or less in our present manner, and a tradition or habit of life has been growing... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XIII. Concerning Politics Said I: "How do you manage with politics?" Said Hammond, smiling: "I am glad that it is of me that you ask that question; I do believe that anybody else would make you explain yourself, or try to do so, till you were sick of asking questions. Indeed, I believe I am the only man in England who would know what you mean; and since I know, I will answer your question briefly by saying that we are very well off as to politics, - because we have none. If ever you make a book out of this conversation, put this in a chapter by itself, after the model of old Horrebow's Snakes in Iceland." "I will," said I. (From : Marxists.org.)

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XIV.How Matters are Managed Said I: "How about your relations with foreign nations?" "I will not affect not to know what you mean," said he, "but I will tell you at once that the whole system of rival and contending nations which played so great a part in the ‘government’ of the world of civilization has disappeared along with the inequality betwixt man and man in society." "Does not that make the world duller?" said I. "Why?" said the old man. "The obliteration of national variety," said I. "Nonsense," he said, somewhat snappishly. "Cross the water and see. You will find plenty of variety: the landscape the building, the diet, the amusements, all various. The men and women varying in looks as well as in habits of thought; the costume more various than... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XV. On the Lack of Incentive to Labor in a Communist Society "Yes," said I. "I was expecting Dick and Clara to make their appearance any moment: but is there time to ask just one or two questions before they come?" "Try it, dear neighbor - try it," said old Hammond. "For the more you ask me the better I am pleased; and at any rate if they do come and find me in the middle of an answer, they must sit quiet and pretend to listen till I come to an end. It won't hurt them; they will find it quite amusing enough to sit side by side, conscious of their proximity to each other." I smiled, as I was bound to, and said: "Good; I will go on talking without noticing them when they come in. Now, this is what I want to ask you about - to wit, how you get people to work when there is no reward of labor, and especially how you get the... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XVI. Dinner in the Hall of the Bloomsbury Market As I spoke, I heard footsteps near the door; the latch yielded, and in came our two lovers looking so handsome that one had no feeling of shame in looking on at their little-concealed love-making; for indeed it seemed as if all the world must be in love with them. As for old Hammond, he looked on them like an artist who has just painted a picture nearly as well as he thought he could when he began it, and was perfectly happy. He said: "Sit down, sit down, young folk, and don't make a noise. Our guest here has still some questions to ask me." "Well, I should suppose so," said Dick; "you have only been three hours and a half together; and it isn't to be hoped that the history of two centuries could be told in three hours and a half: let alone that for all I know, you may h... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XVII. How the Change Came Dick broke the silence at last, saying: "Guest, forgive us for a little after-dinner dullness. What would you like to do? Shall we have out Greylocks and trot back to Hammersmith? or will you come with us and hear some Welsh folk sing in a hall close by here? or would you like presently to come with me into the City and see some really fine building? or - what shall it be?" "Well," said I "as I am a stranger, I must let you choose for me." In point of fact, I did not by any means want to be "amused" just then; and also I rather felt as if the old man, with his knowledge of past times, and even a kind of inverted sympathy for them caused by his active hatred of them, was as it were a blanket for me against the cold of this very new world, where I was, so to say, stripped bare of every habitual thought... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XVIII. The Beginning of the New Life "Well," said I, "so you got clear out of all your trouble. Were people satisfied with the new order of things when it came?" "People?" he said. "Well, surely all must have been glad of peace when it came; especially when they found, as they must have found, that after all, they - even the once rich - were not living very badly. As to those who had been poor, all through the war, which lasted about two years, their condition had been bettering, in spite of the struggle; and when peace came at last, in a very short time they made great strides towards a decent life. The great difficulty was that the once-poor had such a feeble conception of the real pleasure of life: so to say, they did not know how to ask enough, from the new state of things. It was perhaps rather a good than evil thing that the necessity for... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XIX. The Drive Back to Hammersmith I said nothing, for I was not inclined for mere politeness to him after such very serious talk; but in fact I should like to have gone on talking with the older man, who could understand something at least of my wonted ways of looking at life, whereas, with the younger people, in spite of their kindness, I really was a being from another planet. However, I made the best of it, and smiled as amiably as I could on the young couple; and Dick returned the smile by saying, "well, guest, I am glad to have you again, and to find that you and my kinsman have not quite talked yourselves into another world; I was half suspecting as I was listening to the Welshmen yonder that you would presently be vanishing away from us, and began to picture my kinsman sitting in the hall staring at nothing and finding that he had been talking a while past... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XX. The Hammersmith Guest-House Again Amid such talk, driving quietly through the balmy evening, we came to Hammersmith, and were well received by our friends there. Boffin, in a fresh suit of clothes, welcomed me back with stately courtesy; the weaver wanted to button-hole me and get out of me what old Hammond had said, but was very friendly and cheerful when Dick warned him off; Annie shook hands with me, and hoped I had had a pleasant day - so kindly, that I felt a slight pang as our hands parted; for to say the truth, I liked her better than Clara, who seemed to be always a little on the defensive, whereas Annie was as frank as could be, and seemed to get honest pleasure from everything and everybody about her without the least effort. We had quite a little feast that evening, partly in my honor, and partly, I suspect, though nothing was sai... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XXI. Going up The River When I did wake, to a beautiful sunny morning, I leaped out of bed with my over-night apprehension still clinging to me, which vanished delightfully however in a moment as I looked around my little sleeping chamber and saw the pale but pure-colored figures painted on the plaster of the wall, with verses written underneath them which I knew somewhat over-well. I dressed speedily, in a suit of blue laid ready for me, so handsome that I quite blushed when I had got into it, feeling as I did so that excited pleasure of anticipation of a holiday, which, well-remembered as it was, I had not felt since I was a boy, new come home for the summer holidays. It seemed quite early in the morning, and I expected to have the hall to myself when I came into it our of the corridor wherein was my sleeping chamber; but I met Annie at... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XXII. Hampton court and a Praiser of Past Times So on we went, Dick rowing in an easy tireless way, and Clara sitting by my side admiring his manly beauty and heartily good-natured face, and thinking, I fancy, of nothing else. As we went higher up the river, there was less difference between the Thames of that day and Thames as I remembered it; for setting aside the hideous vulgarity of the cockney villas of the well-to-do, stockbrokers and other such, which in older time marred the beauty of the bough-hung banks, even this beginning of the country Thames was always beautiful; and as we slipped between the lovely summer greenery, I almost felt my youth come back to me, and as if I were on one of those water excursions which used to enjoy so much in the days when I was too happy to think that there could be much amiss anywhere. At last we... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XXIII. An Early Morning by Runnymede Though there were no rough noises to wake me, I could not lie long abed the next morning, where the world seemed so well awake, and, despite the old grumbler, so happy; so I got up, and found that, early as it was, some one had been stirring, since all was trim and in its place in the little parlor, and the table laid for the morning meal. Nobody was afoot in the house as then, however, so I went out a-doors, and after a turn or two round the super-abundant garden, I wandered down over the meadow to the river-side, where lay our boat, looking quite familiar and friendly to me. I walked up-stream a little, watching the light mist curling up from the river till the sun gained power to draw it all away; saw the bleak speckling the water under the willow boughs, whence the tiny flies they fed on were falling in myriads; heard the g... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XXIV. Up The Thames: The Second Day They were not slow to take my hint; and indeed, as to the mere time of day, it was best for us to be off, as it was past seven o'clock, and the day promised to be very hot. So we got up and went down to our boat - Ellen thoughtful and abstracted; the old man very kind and courteous, as if to make up for his crabbedness of opinion. Clara was cheerful and natural, but a little more subdued, I thought; and she at least was not sorry to be gone, and often looked shyly and timidly at Ellen and her strange wild beauty. So we got into the boat, Dick saying as he took his place, "Well, it is a fine day!" and the old man answering, "What! you like that, do you?" once more; and presently Dick was sending the bows swiftly through the slow weed-checked stream. I turned round as we got into mid-stream, and waving my hand to our host... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XXV. The Third Day on The Thames As we went down to the boat next morning, Walter could not keep off the subject of last night, though he was more hopeful than he had been then, and seemed to think that if the unlucky homicide could not be got to go over-sea, he might at any rate go and live somewhere in the neighborhood pretty much by himself; at any rate, that was what he himself had proposed. To Dick and I must say to me also, this seemed a strange remedy; and Dick said as much. Quoth he: "Friend Walter, don't set the man brooding on the tragedy by letting him live alone. That will only strengthen his idea that he had committed a crime, and you will have him killing himself in good earnest." Said Clara: "I don't know. If I may say what I think of it, it is that he had better have his fill of gloom now, and, so to say, wake... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XXVI. The Obstinate Refusers Before we parted from these girls we saw two sturdy young men and a woman putting off from the Berkshire shore, and then Dick bethought him of a little banter of the girls, and asked them how it was that there was nobody of the male kind to go with them across the water, and where their boats were gone to. Said one, the youngest of the party: "O, they have got the big punt to lead stone from up the water." "Who do you mean by ‘they,’ dear child?" said Dick. Said an older girl, laughing: "You had better go and see them. Look there," and she pointed north-west, "don't you see the building going on there?" "Yes," said Dick, "and I am rather surprised at this time of the year; why are they not haymaking with you?" The girls all laughed at this, and befo... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XXVII. The Upper Waters We set Walter ashore on the Berkshire side, amid all the beauties of Streatley, and so went our ways into what once would have been the deeper country under the foot-hills of the White Horse; and though the contrast between half-cockneyfied and wholly unsophisticated country existed no longer, a feeling of exultation rose within me (as it used to do) at sight of the familiar and still unchanged hills of the Berkshire range. We stopped at Wallingford for our midday meal; of course, all signs of squalor and poverty had disappeared from the streets of the ancient town, and many ugly houses had been taken down and many pretty new ones built, but I thought it curious, that the town still looked like the old place I remembered so well; for indeed it looked like that ought to have looked. At dinner we f... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XXVIII. The Little River We started before six o'clock the next morning, as we were still twenty-five miles from our resting-place, and Dick wanted to be there before dusk. The journey was pleasant, though to those who do not know the upper Thames, there is little to say about it. Ellen and I were once more together in her boat, though Dick, for fairness’ sake, was for having me in his, and letting the two women scull the green toy. Ellen, however, would not allow this, but claimed me as the interesting person of the company. "After having come so far," said she, "I will not be put off with a companion who will always be thinking of somebody else than me: the guest is the only person who can amuse me properly. I mean that really," said she, turning to me, "and have not said it merely as a pretty saying." Clara blushed and looked very happy... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XXIX. A Resting-Place on the Upper Thames Presently at a place where the river flowed round a headland of the meadows, we stopped a while for rest and victuals, and settled ourselves on a beautiful bank which almost reached the dignity of a hill-side: the wide meadows spread before us, and already the scythe was busy amid the hay. One change I noticed amid the quiet beauty of the fields - to wit, that they were planted with trees here and there, often fruit-trees, and that there was none of the niggardly begrudging of space to a handsome tree which I remembered too well; and though the willows were often polled (or shrowded, as they call it in the countryside), this was done with some regard to beauty: I mean that there was no polling of rows on rows so as to destroy the pleasantness of half a mile of country, but a thoughtful sequence in the cutting, that... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XXX. The Journey's End On we went. In spite of my new-born excitement about Ellen, and my gathering fear of where it would land me I could not help taking abundant interest in the condition of the river and its banks; all the more as she never seemed weary of the changing picture, but looked at every yard of flowery bank and gurgling eddy with the same affectionate interest which I myself once had so fully, as I used to think, and perhaps had not altogether lost even in this strangely changed society with all its wonders. Ellen seemed delighted with my pleasure at this, that, or the other piece of carefulness in dealing with the river: the nursing of pretty corners; the ingenuity in dealing with difficulties of water-engineering so that the most obviously useful works looked beautiful and natural also. All this, I say, pleased me hugely, and she was pleased at my... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XXXI. An Old House Among New Folk As I stood there Ellen detached herself from our happy friends who still stood on the little strand and came up to me. She took me by the hand, and said softly, "Take me on to the house at once; we need not wait for the others: I had rather not." I had a mind to say that I did not know the way thither, and that the river-side dwellers should lead; but almost without my will my feet moved on along the road they knew. The raised way led us into a little field bounded by a backwater of the river on one side; on the right hand we could see a cluster of small houses and barns, new and old, and before us a gray stone barn and a wall partly overgrown with ivy, over which a few gray gables showed. The village road ended in the shallow of the aforesaid backwater. We crossed the road, and again almost without... (From : Marxists.org.)

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XXXII. The Feast's Beginning - The End Dick brought me at once into the little field which, as I had seen from the garden, was covered with gaily-colored tents arranged in orderly lanes, about which were sitting and lying in the grass some fifty or sixty men, women, and children, all of them in the height of good temper and enjoyment - with their holiday mood on, so to say. "You are thinking that we don't make a great show as to numbers," said Dick; "but you must remember that we shall have more to-morrow; because in this haymaking work there is room for a great many people who are not over-skilled in country matters: and there are many who lead sedentary lives, whom it would be unkind to deprive of their pleasure in the hay-field - scientific men and close students generally: so that the skilled workmen, outside those who are wanted as... (From : Marxists.org.)

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