SHE, a peasant woman, stands besides two buckets of potatoes, looking up at the crows. She looks down, staring blankly, inert, useless. She is peeling a potato with a sharp knife.

 

At length, she puts it down, reaches for another. She sneezes. She resumes peels; an eternal loop.

 

HE, her husband, opens the front door and enters with a basket of potatoes and a mattock. He puts his bucket with the others and sits down on a chair, beyond wearied from hard toil.

 

Silence.

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I was thinking, my love…

 

Yes, my pet?

 

Daisies do bloom in spring, but ne’ere in winter.

 

Silence. He looks at her, unsure.

 

That is thusly true, my love.

 

Dost thou think it is because they are inherently lazy creatures, what with yellow being the color of mirth and ignobility?

 

I am sure that is so, after a fashion. It is a virile weed indeed that weathers the winter snow.

 

Oh, like the gilly-snatcher, that strangles my turnips something rotten at the roots.

 

A silence between them. She peels potatoes. She reaches for one from the new bucket.

 

What d’you call these, my lovely?

 

They’re potatoes, of course…

 

Well I know that, but look at ’em! They are of a most unbecoming girth… nary more than badger-berries, and I’ve seen a few of them in my time…

 

They’re of a perfectly serviceable girth, and you should be lucky to have them, this late in the season. We all should. This year’s harvest has been particularly grim.

 

Oh pooh pooh. How’d you expect to upturn the prime potatoes with that gruesome countenance and grubby face…?

 

Our toil is well earned! Why, Philip – you know Philip – he was digging in such a frenzied passion, he slipped on a bit o’ peat and sliced his toe off with the mattock…

 

Well that’s Philip for you. He’s got eight more. If I had a penny for every time I heard a tale of Philip woe…

 

I am merely enforcing the enthusiasm for which we turn our toil.

 

Good for you, duckado.

 

A silence between them.

 

I trust your day saw less bloodshed?

 

Oh, better you’d not ask. That fox that hangs about – you know the fox that hangs about? – I was out collecting the morning eggs, and I must have neglected to latch the door, for the next thing I knew, there was a great yowling in the henhouse, and when I emerged, there they were – five already perished, and one clasped tight in his jaws. I chased him to the edge of the forest, but couldn’t bring myself to enter. The wind was blowing from the south… and the smell of the rot was… strong.

 

… It was indeed, today.

 

Beat.

 

Oh that fox! Trust a wretched creature to make such a wretched home.

 

Five hens, you said? And not a rooster among them, more’s the pity… They were needed come collection time.

 

Perhaps the taxman will not come this year? What with… the sickness?

 

The plow horse doth not stop should the farmer spare his whip.

 

Silence.

 

We were down six men in the field this morning. The Foreman was livid.

 

Six? That’s four less than last week! Those crops won’t bring in themselves – especially the barley in the top paddock. Even with six able men you’d be lucky to bring that in by All Saints Day…

 

Nonsense. Winter creeps slowly – the unseasonable warm will hold a while longer.

 

Well I shall wish for good omens, and hope you all make good harvest with no more stricken.

 

Silence. He looks uneasy. There is something on his mind.

 

You know, now that I turn my mind to it, my pet… Peter did not come to field today.

 

She stops peeling. Silence.

 

Perhaps he is merely feeling poorly? I noted little Samantha had taken on a sniffle when last I saw her, and yet she was spry as a spatchcock…

 

Of course, he might have been. Only you recall how Stuart up the grange – you know Stuart up the grange? – had taken unwell last fortnight? It was not a day after the physician attended him that his wife was not seen in town, and then some days later, the priest did pay a call, and by week’s end, the white cross appeared above their door, and not a word has been heard of them since.

 

Silence.

Well Peter’s always been a hardy fellow…

 

That he is…

 

When we were kids, he’d hold me aloft like a log, and he’d shout, “This is my offering to the wood-sprites! Take her for I do not want her!”, and our dear mum would scream at him, “Peter, you put her down! You’ll break her cherubic features!”, and he never did, not once.

 

I believe it. (Beat) Only… Stuart’s farm does share a boundary with Peter’s…

 

It does…

 

And he had complained of an ache these last two days past…

 

He had…

 

I was quick to suggest it were merely an ache apt of his age, a sign of his impending dotage…

 

They titter. Silence.

 

Well, either way he’s with God now, so…

 

Yes.

 

Silence.

 

Yellow canaries! Of course, my lovely – that solves that quandary then, too. They are the yellowest of birds, and like daisies, are never present for the winter. No wonder they keep them caged at market, never for sale, lest they fly away at the first hint of a dreary breeze. Like his lordship, actually, migrating with the seasons down Brighton-Way…

 

… Brighton-Way, you say? I had a cousin up stumps and have a mind to traverse that way to Brighton… Never knew what became of him. Probably dead in a ditch by the time he got to Bristol…

 

Margery Dawkins was saying just yesterday how she’d like to make a trip down there, but I said to her, “Brighton-Way? The seaside realm of pomp and ceremony? Margery, you have lost your beans – such a place is not for the likes of us, and never mind the expense!” And she did agree and we did not speak any more of that.

 

Wise council indeed. (He stands up) Well, my petal, I feel I shall retire. The Foreman has called all hands to field at first light, whatever they may number…

 

I shall be a while yet. (He goes to leave) Lovely?

 

Yes my dearest?

 

Long pause. She goes to say something, but chickens out.

 

… Perhaps Peter will make an appearance? Tomorrow?

 

… Perhaps.

 

Beat.

 

Never fear, me lovely – I see bright things for us, on the horizon.

 

And I too, my dearest.

 

They smile at one another. The smile is fleeting. He leaves to bed. She stands peeling potatoes.