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44. CHAPTER XLIV
Tom's father was cutting the big meadow. He passed again and again amid whirring blades and sweet odours of grass, encompassing with narrowing circles the sacred centre of the field. Tom was negotiating with Helen. "I haven't any idea," she replied. "Do you suppose baby may, Meg?"
Margaret put down her work and regarded them absently. "What was that?" she asked.
"Tom wants to know whether baby is old enough to play with hay?"
"I haven't the least notion," answered Margaret, and took up her work again.
"Now, Tom, baby is not to stand; he is not to lie on his face; he is not to lie so that his head wags; he is not to be teased or tickled; and he is not to be cut into two or more pieces by the cutter. Will you be as careful as all that?"
Tom held out his arms.
"That child is a wonderful nursemaid," remarked Margaret.
"He is fond of baby. That's why he does it!" was Helen's answer. "They're going to be lifelong friends."
"Starting at the ages of six and one?"
"Of course. It will be a great thing for Tom."
"It may be a greater thing for baby."
Fourteen months had passed, but Margaret still stopped at Howards End. No better plan had occurred to her. The meadow was being recut, the great red poppies were reopening in the garden. July would follow with the little red poppies among the wheat, August with the cutting of the wheat. These little events would become part of her year after year. Every summer she would fear lest the well should give out, every winter lest the pipes should freeze; every westerly gale might blow the wych-elm down and bring the end of all things, and so she could not read or talk during a westerly gale. The air was tranquil now. She and her sister were sitting on the remains of Evie's rockery, where the lawn merged into the field.
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