She closed the door of the cottage. She was alone and walked to the garden. It was nine o’clock in the end of August. She didn’t want to think of winter. Her donkey Balaam was happy now. Ben’s brother Jo told her about animals in Africa. Ben had bought the donkey. Ruth was married to Ben. After Ben’s death thought Ruth of letting the donkey go or selling it. She would keep the donkey, because she liked him and Ben had bought him. There were apple trees near the house with a few apples a year. She went to the hens. The hens gave her good eggs. She looked for potatoes for dinner. Ruth talked to herself. She wouldn’t talk to anyone except Jo. She sold the eggs after Ben’s death, because she needed money. She had tried to cook just once. She tried to cook a rabbit. Ruth thought of selling the cottage. She would sit hours without moving. If she hadn’t been so afraid, she would have killed herself. A lot of people talked about Ruth. Jo thought of Ruth with love and fear. It was six months after Ben’s death. The next day would Ruth go to Potter who knows how Ben died after that she slept again.
Ruth bought a present for Ben. Not a useful gift, just an object to touch, keep and wonder at. She bought a stone. The weather had changed. Ruth wanted to sing, because she had all she could ever want. Ben hadn’t been scornful with the stone. Ruth had looked a lot at the stone as she cooked their meal. Ben read a book, which Tomkin had lent him. The next morning there was frost. Ruth feed the tits, blackbirds and hens. It was the last day of February. The branches of the apple trees were crowded with singing birds. Carter came earlier than usual. He told Ruth about the birth of another daughter to the curate’s wife. David Colt came. He must tell about Ben’s death. He wasn’t at the place of Ben’s death when he died. Potter was there. There fell a tree on Ben. He was taken to hospital. Potter came with another man. Ruth screamed when Potter started to talk. She didn’t want to hear how Ben died. Ben had worked for five years with Potter. The men left accept Potter. He stayed with Ruth in front of the fire in silence. Potter heard over and over again, the creak and crash of the falling elm in his head. There came a lot of people to the cottage that night. Mrs Rydal, Carter’s wife and Alice Bryce came. They wanted that Ruth came with them, but Ruth said that she stayed at the cottage. Potter had long since gone. Ruth said that Alice must go home so she left. Ruth fell asleep in a chair. When she woke up, she saw Jo in the room. Jo would feed the hens, but Ruth would do it herself. She picked the eggs up. Ruth prepared breakfast for Jo. Jo cooked two eggs.
Ruth had met Jo a few days after the first time she saw Ben. Ruth and Jo had a lot of secrets together. Three years ago they had the first secret together, when Ruth met Jo the first time. Jo touched Ben’s stone. It was a Rose quartz. Ruth took a bath. Jo called Ruth when she was taking a bath. Jo said he would give the donkey some water. He said they could play a game. It was raining. Jo had eaten cold meat and Ruth had drunk milk and tea. Ruth asked if Jo would stay. They played draughts. Ruth made a bed for Jo, so that he could stay. Ruth spoke to Ben. Ruth scarcely slept at all. Ruth’s grandmother died when she was three years old. Ruth wanted to touch Ben’s body. She wanted him at home instead of in Foss Lane. The funeral was on Friday. Jo hold his hands over his face. He had dreamt something. Ruth talked with Jo about his dream. Ruth made a drink for them. Ruth dreamed Jo’s dream father. Ruth thought it was right for Ben to die in the wood. Ruth found mushrooms.
She turned into Foss Lane and she saw people round the house. She went in and nobody came to her. Arthur Bryce took her arm. Dora Bryce sat in a chair beside the fire. Ruth felt alone without Jo. She didn’t want to see Ben. She wants to remember him when he went away that day, when they were happy. Dora Bryce said they had made up a bed for Ruth, but she wanted
to sleep home that night. Ruth thought of the day they had been married. There had been no party. They went to the church. The church was full. Ruth sat beside Jo. Jo sat like a stone. The priest was speaking. At the end heard Ruth words that she understood. Ruth didn’t cry. Jo had been crying. Jo and Ruth walked together away of the open grave. They were all crowded into the front room. Jo sat beside Ruth. She couldn’t move. Her eyelids felt swollen and sore. The room was empty. Everybody was gone. Ruth let Alice take her upstairs to the bedroom they made ready for her. Nobody came to her. Ruth listened to the keening of Dora Bryce. Alice was with her mother on the stairs. Ruth thought Jo didn’t belong here. Ben’s family didn’t liked Ruth. Any girl who might take Ben away couldn’t be approved of or accepted. Ruth thought she would never come to the house again. There’s no love, kindness and friendship. Ruth counted her own heartbeats. She went downstairs. She took up the parcel and ran down the street. She went to her cottage. She went upstairs and opened the parcel. Ben’s clothes in which he had died where in the parcel. She wanted to smell the clothes, but they were washed.
The death of Ben Bryce had been like a stone cast into still water. Potter was in his own cottage. He had a dog called Teal. Potter had seen his own brother cough and choke himself dead. His parents were dead too. He couldn’t believe that Ben was dead. Potter couldn’t forget the circumstances of the accident and the creak and crash of the falling tree. He discovered that Ben was dead. He lived alone, had done so for dirty years. Potter went outside with his dog through the beech woods and Low Field. He saw a light in Ruth Bryce’s window. In the house at Foss Lane there was the sound of Dora Bryce’s weeping. Alice said to Dora that she must stop crying. Dora thought of Ben. Alice went out. Thomas Ratheman leaned over the bed of his sleeping daughter. He couldn’t forget Ruth. He thought of going to her. The child, Isobel, stirred, turned over and murmured in sleep. Ben had left no child for his wife’s comfort. Thomas had prayed for Ruth to have courage. When he was a boy, a friend of his father’s had hanged himself a year after his wife’s death. Thomas’ father had dreamt that he had hanged himself. It was a cry for help. The child woke and began to cry. If the child hadn’t woken, he would have gone to the cottage. Rydal was sick with guilt, because the woods where Ben died were his. Rydal liked to talk to Ben. He wanted to give Ruth money. The guilt would never leave him. Years ago his place had been a hut for shepherds.
Ruth thought how she could go on crying. Ben should say: ‘Don’t cry for me. I’m allright.’ Ruth should say that she cried for herself. Days and nights passed and sometimes was Jo at her house. She slept by day or night and sometimes she dreamt of Jo’s leering. Ruth thought that dying is like being born. Two days separated themselves. The first time she slept a long time and she dreamt of Ben. Ben said he would always help her. She was coming awake to the sound of her own name. Jo knocked on the door. He opened it when Ruth answered. She got up and went to put away the hens. She stroke the nose and neck of the donkey. The next day went Jo home. Ruth leaned over the wooden table and wept and cried out like an animal in trap. She beat her head and fists against the wall. She lay on the floor in front of the fire. Ruth wished that her Godmother Fry were still alive. Everything Ruth believed had come from Godmother Fry and Ben. Godmother Fry had taught Ruth a lot. Jo came and he did the jobs he always did. Ruth got up and washed herself and her hair. Jo touched the rose quartz. He made tea. Jo put a note on the kitchen table and left. He prayed that Ruth wouldn’t kill herself. Ruth called Jo. Jo was happy that Ruth hadn’t killed herself. Ruth was also happy. Jo said he had picked up twelve eggs and two of the hens were broody. Ruth wanted to go somewhere with Jo. Ruth asked Jo if he missed Ben. Jo told Ruth something he had never told anyone before except Ben. They went to the sea. There was no wind. They lay on the sand. Jo thanked Ruth for the beautiful day. Ruth said to Jo that he mustn’t forget that day. Ruth ran
home. She told Ben that she had been to Hadwell Bay to the sea with Jo. Ruth thought of Ben. She no longer blamed anyone for the falling tree. It was ment to be.
Jo’s parents were angry, because Jo had been to the sea with Ruth. His mother said that Ruth may be half crazed, but she doesn’t have to drag Jo down in it. Alice sat stiffly. Jo’s mother said that he wasn’t allowed anymore to go to Ruth. Alice said that her mother must Jo leave alone. Jo wanted his mother and sister to stop arguing, but he couldn’t. He went away. Alice went also away to Harmer’s Barn, where Rob Foley lived. Arthur had to face the bitter complaints and renewed crying of Dora. He wished he could do something to make her happier, because he loved his mother. There were five girls. They came from the village. They wore long clothes that belonged to their mothers or sisters. The first girl carried a white box. Her name is Jenny Colt. They stopped not far from the fallen elm tree. A second girl dug a hole. The girl put the box in the hole. Then she covered it with soil and leaf mould. After that they started chanting again. Then they left. Ruth went to the elm tree. She came often to Helm Bottom and sat on the tree. She had only seen it in flashes, until now.
For two hours each afternoon, Godmother Fry used to sleep on the low couch in her sitting room. Then Ruth had gone out alone. It was June, but the trees were still a fresh, sappy green and the hay was full of clover. Every day picked Ruth flowers for her Godmother. She had never been so happy. If the sun was too hot, she walked in the woods. Ruth was grateful that she had met Ben, because she was very happy with him. She had told hi always everything. Ben had taken her on their first date to Cantlow Hill for a picnic.
Jo hadn’t come yet today. There was a man at the door. He would know if Ruth had something to sell. Ruth asked him to come back later, because then she would have things to sell. She would sell a lot of things of Ben. The man came back that afternoon. And he took everything with him. He gave Ruth some money. Ruth ran into the wood and she dropped the money, because it remembered her to Ben.
Lent wouldn’t come to an end. It was the end of April. Ruth found a small loaf of bread in the larder. Jo must have left it for her. She ate it before going down to let out the hens and bring up the eggs. By eight o’clock came Jo. He looked changed. The next day Easter Sunday, went Ruth and Jo to Ben’s grave. Ruth saw in Jo for the first time some resemblance to Ben. The people who were at other graves didn’t trust Ruth. Jo and Ruth went first to Godmother Fry’s grave. Then came Miss Clara. She didn’t expected Ruth this year at Godmother Fry’s grave. Jo planted the flowers that Miss Clara had taken with her. Ruth planted flowers on Ben’s grave. When Miss Clara went home went Jo to Ben’s grave. Miss Clara had said that she thought of Godmother Fry every day. Jo and Ruth saw Arthur Bryce beyond the gate. Ruth asked Arthur if he wanted to go and look at Ben’s grave. Arthur walked with Ruth and Jo to the village. Ruth said that Jo must go home with his father. She thought of Ben and about dieing. The next day went Ruth to the church with Jo. Ruth wanted to have a picnic with Jo, but he had promised that he would go and see Grandmother Holmes at Dutton Reach. Ruth said he should go and that she would visit Miss Clara. Jo said that he would come the next day. Miss Clara wasn’t home, so she had friends or relatives. Ruth wept with exhaustion lying on the grass. She said to God that she was mad. She thought of Ben. At the beginning of July the hot days had begun.
Ruth didn’t go to see Potter the next day, because she hadn’t the courage. Summer slipped into the beginning of autumn. Ruth sat outside. Yesterday she was on the Rydal’s farm. She thought of Ben. Ruth also thought of the sea. Her birthday had come and gone. She was twenty, but she felt a hundred or a thousand years older. For her birthday, Jo had brought her one of his shells, a bunch of tansies, a slab of chocolate and a piece of soapstone carried in the shape of a boat. For in another year Jo would finish school and he might follow his great
grandfather Holmes. Then she would be alone. There were a lot of questions in her brain. Ruth remembered two or three poems. It had been sad poems. Ruth went to Potter’s cottage. Ruth thought of her father and Ellen. Potter was working in the garden. Ruth said nothing.
The dog Teal came out of the house and began to bark. Potter saw Ruth and they said both nothing. He had a curious face. Ruth asked Potter to tell about Ben’s death. Potter had worked with Ben since he was fourteen. Ben had said the last day of his life that he had got a good life. That day was Ben down in Helm Bottom. Rydal wanted a couple of trees down. At once heard Potter the first sound of strain. Potter had felt ben die. Young Colt and Potter had got the tree of Ben. Ben started to bleed. Colt went off for a doctor. Potter stayed with Ben. Doctor Lewis from Thefton had touched Ben. Potter had lifted Ben up with Carter. Potter prepared a meal for them both. Ruth was glad that Potter had told her everything about Ben’s death. Ruth went down the garden to put away the hens.
Ruth thought that Ben had taught her all she knew. After the evening with Potter, Ruth slept, worked and ate alone. She no longer wept for part of every single day and night. She wasn’t happy, but neither unhappy. Jo came not every day anymore. She sat in the garden or walked across the fields and into the wood. It was warm and dry.
Ruth looked older. She couldn’t tell if twenty was old or young. In the night went Ruth outside. She walked down through the lanes. She went to Helm Bottom. She heard the voice of a man. Ruth waited by the stream. There was no sun. The footsteps stopped, but the crying went on. Ruth began to search. It was Ratheman, the curate. His clothes were crumpled. A fine rain had begun to drift down. She didn’t want to leave him alone. His eyes stared and they were swollen and red. He looked old, but he wasn’t old. Ruth went to him and knelt down. Ruth asked if she must go home with him. Ratheman asked her what she was doing here. He said that his daughter was dead. Carter had told her about his daughter. Ratheman began to weep again. Ruth brought him home.
There was no light on in the house. Ruth stood behind Thomas Ratheman. He walked away from her. Ruth heard a baby crying and she went upstairs, calling out Mrs Ratheman’s name. She went inside the room where the crying came from. Mrs Ratheman asked what there was. Ruth took a step further into the room. Mrs Ratheman said that the baby cried all the time and that Isobel never cried. Ruth said that she had met Mr Ratheman in the woods. Ruth wanted to help Mrs Ratheman with the baby or making a meal. Mrs Ratheman told that Thomas knew that Isobel was sick. The doctor said that she had a brain fever and that she would die. It was nobody’s fault that Isobel died. Ruth picked the crying baby up. It was quiet at once. Mrs Ratheman fell asleep. Ruth stayed with the Ratheman’s for the whole of the following week. She did the washing, ironing, cooked and cleaned the house. Miriam Ratheman talked the whole day about Isobel and the baby. Miriam asked a lot of things and then waited like a small child to be given instructions. Ruth became used to it. There was a little contact between Miriam and Thomas. Ruth went to the room where the dead Isobel lay. Thomas was also in the room and he asked Ruth why Isobel had died. Ruth went back to the kitchen and washed the baby clothes. Ruth wanted to go home to her own house, because the week with the Ratheman’s had tired her out. Carter’s wife had come two mornings to help with the cleaning. Ruth hadn’t been to Isobel’s funeral, but she had stayed with Miriam. Thomas thanked Ruth for being with them. Thomas wanted to leave this place. Thomas told of his father and how he had died. Ruth said that she should go home the next day. Ruth left the house early the following morning.
Ruth stood at the window. She saw someone passing the hedge. Alice Bryce was coming down the front path. She knocked at the door. Alice was allowed to come in. Jo read one of
the diaries he had found in his great-grandfather’s trunk. Jo wanted to live with Ruth. Jo lay down again and in the end slept.
Alice didn’t speak in defiance and pride. It was a cry for help. She was afraid. Ruth asked Alice why she shouldn’t marry with Rob Foley, because it was his child. Ruth made a fire. Alice said that Ben was the only man she ever loved. Now was Alice expecting a child by a
man she cared nothing for. Alice was complaining about her mother. Dora Bryce didn’t care about Alice anymore. She said that she must go out of the house. Alice began to cry. Ruth made a bed in the small room for Alice. Ruth went outside when Alice was sleeping. At the corner of Foss Lane she stopped. She walked into the room behind Arthur Bryce. Dora Bryce didn’t speak. Ruth said that Alice was at her house. Dora meant everything she had said to Alice. Arthur wanted to see Alice sometimes. Dora didn’t want to see Alice. Ruth went home. Jo lay on top of the ridge. He would go and work for Rydal if he leaves school. Ratheman’s wife was taken to hospital and her baby had to be cared for by her sister. Thomas stayed alone in the house. Rob Foley had another girl, Annie Peters. Dora thought of Alice’s unborn child. December came. Ruth thought of Ben. Alice slept in her bed. Jo came to see Ruth and Alice. Arthur had come once. Ruth saw a fox. The donkey Balaam stood under the riding moon. Ruth closed the door.
The theme of the book is death, because Ben, Ruth’s husband, died when they were just married. Ruth doesn’t like that Ben died. Everybody is very sad, because Ben died by a falling tree. When Ben is dead for a few months Ruth thinks that his death was ment to be. Ratheman’s child Isobel died too. Nobody liked that, because Isobel was only three years old. Almost the entire book is about death.
Ruth Bryce: She’s 19 years old, anxious, proud, careful, sensitive and courage. Ruth is married with Ben.
Ben Bryce: He’s 28 years old, tall and light-boned. Ben had worked in Rydal’s woods since he was 15. He’s an independent man and he loves the nature. He’s married with Ruth.
Jo Bryce: He’s 14 years old, honest, fierce, the youngest, the cleverest, broad-shouldered and with widespread hands and feet. He helps Ruth a lot when Ben is dead.
Alice Bryce: She’s almost as tall as Ben, light-boned and untidy. She doesn’t like Ruth and she loves Ben. She’s pregnant of Rob Foley who she doesn’t love.
Dora Bryce: She’s 50 years old. She’s married to Arthur Bryce and she’s the mother of Ben, Jo and Alice. She doesn’t accept Ruth and Alice anymore when she’s pregnant.
Arthur Bryce: He looks old. He’s married with Dora and he’s the father of Ben, Jo and Alice.
The story plays at Ruth's house and the garden, in the woods, at Ben's grave, at Dora’s house, at Potter’s house and at the Ratheman’s house. I don’t know when the story plays, but I think in the twentieth century.
The author gave the book the title ‘In the springtime of the year’, because Ben died on the first day of March. The first day of March is the beginning of spring.
Andere boeken van deze auteur:
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