The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Untilled Field, by George Moore This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions. WORKS BY GEORGE MOORE. A MODERN LOVER. them—and I wrote The Untilled Field, a book written . The Untilled Field was a landmark in Anglo-Irish. : The Untilled Field (): George Moore: Books.

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George Moore, The Untilled Field You will come back a new man. The doctor was right. He thanked him, and three weeks afterwards he landed in Cork. As he sat in the railway carriage he recalled his native village — he could see it and its lake, and then the fields one by one, and the roads. He could see a large piece of rocky land — some three or four hundred acres of headland stretching out into the winding lake. Upon this headland the peasantry had been given permission to build their cabins by former owners of the Georgian house standing on the pleasant green hill.

The present owners considered the village a disgrace, but the villagers paid high rents for their plots of ground, and all the manual labour that the Big House required came from the village: He had been thirteen years in America, and when the train stopped at his station, he looked round to sec if there were any changes in it. It was just the same blue limestone station-house as it was thirteen years ago.

The platform and the sheds were the same, and there were five miles of road from the station to Duncannon. The sea voyage had done him good, but five miles were too far for him to-day; the last time he had walked the road, he had walked it in an hour and a half, carrying a heavy bundle on a stick.

He was sorry he did not feel strong enough for the walk; the evening was fine, and he would meet many people coming home from the fair, some of whom he had known in his youth, and they would tell him where he could get a clean lodging. But the carman would be able to tell him that; he called the car that was waiting at the station, and soon he was answering questions about America.

Bryden remembered that Mike had been in a situation at the Big House; he had intended to be a jockey, but had suddenly shot up into a fine tall man, and had had to become a coachman instead. Bryden tried to recall the face, but he could only remember a straight nose, and a somewhat dusky complexion.

Mike was one of the heroes of his childhood, thr his youth floated before him, and he caught glimpses of himself, something that was fueld than a phantom and less than a reality. Suddenly his reverie was broken: He remembered the woods thick and well-forested; now they were windworn, the drains were choked, and the bridge leading across the lake inlet was falling away.

Their way led between long fields where herds of cattle were grazing; the road was broken — Bryden wondered how the villagers drove their carts over it, and Mike told him that the landlord could not keep it in repair, and he would not allow it to be kept in repair out of the rates, for then it would be a public road, and he did not think there should be a public road through his property.

At the end of many fields they came to the village, moor it looked a desolate place, even on this fine evening, and Bryden remarked that the county did not seem to be as much lived in as it used to be.

It was at mmoore strange and familiar to see the chickens in the kitchen; and, wishing to re-knit himself to the old habits, he begged of Mrs. Scully not to drive them out, saying he did not mind them.

Here you work when you like and you sit down when you like; but when tbe have had a touch of blood-poisoning as I had, and when you have seen young people walking with a stick, you think that there is something to be said for old Ireland.

And when he had drunk the milk Mike asked him if he would like to go inside or if he would like to go for a moore. And after Bryden had told Mike everything about America that he thought would interest him, he asked Mike about Ireland.

But Mike did not seem to be able to tell him much that was of interest. They were all very poor — poorer, perhaps, than when he left them. He had come back in search of health; and he felt better already; the milk had done him good, and the bacon and cabbage in the pot sent forth a savoury odour. The Scullys were very kind, they pressed him to make moote good meal; a few weeks of country air and food, they said, would give him back the health he had lost in the Bowery; and when Bryden said he was longing for a smoke, Mike said there was no better sign than that.

The Overleaf: “The Untilled Field” by George Moore

During his long illness he had never wanted to smoke, and he was a confirmed smoker. Bryden remembered one or two of them — he used to know them very well when he was a boy; their talk was as depressing as their appearance, and he could feel no interest whatever in them. He was not moved when he heard that Higgins the stone-mason was dead; he was not affected when he heard that Mary Kelly, who used to go to do the laundry at the Big House, had married; he was only interested when he heard untlled had gone to America.


No, he had not met her there, America is a big place.

The Untilled Field by George Moore

Then one of the peasants asked him if he remembered Patsy Carabine, who used to do the gardening at the Big House. Yes, he remembered Patsy well.

Patsy was in the poor-house. He had not been able to do any work on account of his arm; his house had fallen in; he had given up his holding and gone into the poor-house. All this was very sad, and to avoid hearing any further unpleasantness, Bryden began to tell them about America. And they sat round listening to him; but all the talking was on his side; he wearied of it; and looking round the group he recognised a ragged hunchback with grey hair; twenty years ago he was a young hunchback, and, turning to him, Bryden asked him if he were doing well with his five acres.

This has been a bad season. The potatoes failed; they were watery — there is no diet in them. And when they left the house he wondered if every evening would be like the present one.

Mike piled fresh sods on the fire, and he hoped it would show enough light in the loft for Bryden to undress himself by. The cackling of some geese in the road kept him awake, and the loneliness of the country seemed to penetrate to his bones, and to freeze the marrow in them.

There was a bat in unrilled loft — a dog howled in the distance — and then he drew the clothes over his head. Then he dozed a little; and lying on his back he dreamed he was awake, and the men he had seen sitting round the fireside that evening seemed to him like spectres come out of some unknown region of morass and reedy tarn.

He stretched out his hands for his clothes, determined to fly from this house, but remembering the lonely road that led to the station he fell back on his pillow. The geese still cackled, but he was too tired to be kept awake any longer.

: The Untilled Field (): George Moore: Books

He seemed to have been asleep only a few minutes when he heard Mike calling him. Mike had come half way up the ladder and was telling him that breakfast was ready. There were tea and hot griddle cakes for breakfast, and there were fresh eggs; ths was sunlight in the kitchen and he liked to hear Mike tell of the work he was going to do in the fields.

Mike rented a farm of about fifteen acres, at least ten of it was grass; he grew an acre of potatoes and some corn, and some unitlled for his sheep. He had a nice bit of meadow, and he took down his scythe, and as he put the whetstone in his belt Bryden noticed a second scythe, and he asked Mike if he should go down with him tye help him to finish the field.

The weather was still and sunny. He could hear the ducks in unyilled reeds. The hours dreamed themselves away, and it became his habit to go to the lake every morning. One morning he met the landlord, and they walked together, talking of the country, of what it had been, and the ruin it was slipping into. James Bryden told him that ill health had brought him back to Ireland; and the landlord lent him his boat, and Bryden rowed about the islands, and resting upon his oars he looked at the old castles, and remembered the pre-historic raiders that the landlord had told him about.

He came across the stones to which the lake dwellers had tied their boats, and these signs of ancient Ireland were pleasing to Bryden in his present mood. As well as the great lake there was a smaller lake in the bog where the villagers cut their turf. This lake was famous for koore pike, and the landlord allowed Bryden to fish there, and one evening when he was looking for a frog with which to bait his line he met Margaret Dirken driving home the cows for the milking.

But until this evening he had had little opportunity of speaking to her, and he was glad to speak to someone, for the evening was lonely, and they stood talking together.

He was troubled and turned aside, and catching sight of a frog looking at him out of a tuft of grass he said: His fishing-rod was a long hazel stick, and he threw the frog as far as he could into the lake. In doing this he roused some wild ducks; a mallard and two ducks got up, and they flew towards the larger lake.


Margaret watched them; they flew in a line with an old castle; and they had not omore from view when Bryden came towards her, and he and she drove the cows home together that evening. His desire to excel untillrd boys in dancing had aroused much gaiety in the parish, and for some time past there had been dancing in every house where there was a floor fit to dance upon; and if the cottager had no money to pay for a barrel of beer, James Bryden, who had money, sent him a barrel, so that Margaret might get her dance.

She told him that they sometimes crossed over into another parish where the priest was not so averse to dancing, and James wondered. And next morning at Mass he wondered at their simple fervour. Some of them held their hands above their heads as they prayed, and all this was very new and very old to James Bryden. But the obedience of these people to their priest surprised him.

When he was a lad they had not been so obedient, or he had forgotten their obedience; and he listened in mixed anger and wonderment to the priest who was scolding his parishioners, speaking omore them by name, saying that he untillrd heard there was dancing going on in their homes. Worse than that, he said he had seen boys and girls loitering about the roads, and the talk that went on was of one kind — love.

And their submission was pathetic. It was the submission of a primitive people clinging to religious authority, and Bryden contrasted the weakness and incompetence of the people about him with the modern restlessness and cold energy of the people he had left behind him. One evening, as they were dancing, a knock came to the door, and the piper stopped playing, and the dancers whispered: But the priest said that if they did not open the door he would put his shoulder to it and force it open.

Bryden went towards the door, saying he would allow no one to threaten him, priest or no priest, but Margaret caught his arm and told him that if he said anything to the priest, the priest would speak against them from the altar, and they would be shunned by the neighbours. It was Mike Scully who went to the door and let the priest in, and he came in saying they were dancing their souls into hell. I will not have it in my parish.

If you want that sort of thing you had better go to America. He was going with his father-in-law to a fair.

His father-in-law was learning him how to buy and sell cattle. And his father-in-law was saying that the country was mending, and that a man might become rich in Ireland if he only had a little capital. Mooer had the capital, and Margaret had an uncle on the other side of the lake who would leave her all he had, that would be fifty pounds, and never in fiield village of Duncannon had a young couple begun life with so much prospect of success as would James Bryden and Margaret Dirken.

Some time after Christmas was spoken of as the best time for the marriage; James Bryden said that he would not be able to get his money out of America before the spring. The delay seemed to vex him, and he seemed anxious to be married, until one day he received a letter from America, from a man who had served in the bar with him.

This friend wrote to ask Bryden if he were coming back.

The Untilled Field

Untiled letter was no more than a passing wish to see Bryden again. Yet Bryden stood looking at it, and everyone wondered what could be in the letter. It seemed momentous, and they hardly believed him when he said it was from a friend who wanted to know if untklled health were better. He tried to forget the letter, and he looked at the worn fields, divided by walls of loose stones, and a tbe longing came upon him. The smell of the Bowery slum had come across the Atlantic, and had found him out fied this western headland; and one night he awoke from a dream in which he was hurling some drunken customer through the open doors into hntilled darkness.

He had seen his friend in his white duck jacket throwing drink from glass into glass amid the din of voices and strange accents; he had heard the clang of money as it was swept into the till, and his sense sickened for the bar-room. But how should he tell Margaret Dirken that he could not marry her? She had built her life upon this marriage. He could not tell her that he would not marry her… yet he must go. He felt as if he were being hunted; the thought that he must tell Margaret that he could not marry her hunted him day after day as a weasel hunts a rabbit.