ALL the winter the north wind roamed on the hills; many trees fell in the park, and at the end of February Woodview seemed barer and more desolate than ever; broken branches littered the roadway, and the tall trunks showed their wounds. The women sat over their fire in the evening listening to the blast, cogitating on the work that awaited--them as soon as the weather showed signs of breaking.
Mrs. Barfield had laid by a few pounds during the winter; and the day that Jim cleared out the first piece of espalier trees she spent entirely in the garden, hardly able to take her eyes off him. But the pleasure of the day was in a measure spoilt for her by the knowledge that on that day her son was riding in the great steeplechase. She was full of fear for his safety; she did not sleep that night, and hurried down at an early hour to the garden to ask Jim for the newspaper which she had told him to bring her.
'Oh, Jim, do be quick.'
'My pocket is torn, ma'am. Here it is.'
'He isn't in the first three,' said Mrs. Barfield. 'I always know that he's safe if he's in the first three. We must turn to the account of the race to see if there were any accidents.'
She turned over the paper.
'Thank God, he's safe,' she said; 'his horse ran fourth.'
'You worry yourself without cause, ma'am. A good rider like him don't meet with accidents.'
'The best riders are often killed, Esther. I never have an easy moment when I hear he's going to ride in these races. Supposing one day I were to read that he was carried back on a shutter.'
'We mustn't let our thoughts run on such things, ma'am. If a war was to break out to-morrow, what should I do? His