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A village is like a stage that retains the same scenery throughout all the acts of the play. The actors come and go, and walk to and fro, with gestures that their passions fair or foul use them to . . . A country village has a way now and again of clearing out all its inhabitants in one rush, as though it were grown tired of that particular combination of human destinies, and shakes itself free of them as a tree might do of unwelcome leaves..' The action of T.F. Powys' blackly absorbing, deeply characteristic Innocent Birds unfolds in the English croft of Madder, an ostensibly sleepy and settled milieu where the local people, nonetheless, are prone to acting on impulses and urges that have the power to bring themselves (and others) to ruin. 'There is Mr. Bugby, who buys "The Silent Woman" because of the sinister coincidence that successive keepers of that tavern were speedily widowed. There is Maud Chick, an imbecile girl longing to have a baby, whom Mr. Bugby avoids after one experience; and Polly Wimple, prim Miss Pettifer's maid whom he does not avoid, to her great cost. A cormorant, far from the sea, that flaps and roosts arbitrarily at dusk whenever anything especially morbid or malicious is about to take place, is an apt metaphor for a shadowy flight of the author's imagination . . . ' Time, June 1926
moment have crept sneakingly home, and be behind the door. ‘’Tis a fine thing,’ Mrs. Chick had remarked during the drive, ‘for they horses and cows to see we go by, and there be a wold man that do wave ’is hat in lane; I do believe ’tis Mr. Matterface. Maybe ’e do think ’tis a pity ’e bain’t died of fright to be so carried. Poor Annie’—Mrs. Chick had lowered her tone into a whisper—‘poor Annie, to be so frightened.’ ‘’Tis said in town’—the rattle of the carriage made Mrs. Chick
down in the fall. Mr. Tucker had come to Madder that afternoon to carry a new broom to Susy, because Mrs. Billy had complained that May, her niece, had got her frock dirty when she knelt in the back pew. There was no need for Susy to have a new broom, the hairs in the old one being still quite respectable; but Mr. Tucker hoped that the sight and possession of a new broom would inspire her with a new desire to sweep. And so he gave the broom to Susy to admire, which, he learned later, was all she
mist that had followed Solly down the hill. When Solly opened the gate, Mr. Tucker put the book into his pocket, and inquired of Solly whether he had seen old Susy anywhere. ‘I want to give her this,’ he said. Mr. Tucker held up a large white new duster as big as a hand towel. ‘Mrs. Billy says the church is dirtier than a dog’s kennel, where the fleas hop about. I’ve looked everywhere in the village, but I can’t find Susy.’ ‘Perhaps she’s in the church,’ suggested Solly. ‘No,’ said Mr.
always did, Mr. Tucker chuckled, dipped his body into a cold bath, and dried himself with a rough towel. Without his clothes Mr. Tucker looked like the figure of a fat little god in an Indian temple, but as he never saw himself in any other version except as merely ‘Old Tucker,’ he never cared what he looked like. After tingling his sheep’s-bell merrily, as if all the bell wethers in the world had shaken their necks in Dodderdown vicarage, Mr. Tucker ate his breakfast happily while his
‘look up there at Madder hill.’ And Maud, of course, did what Solly wished her to do, and watched the hill. And while she looked Solly would still be speaking. ‘He will come again,’ Solly said, with conviction, ‘and even if His gift is for Polly and Fred this time, His mercy is infinite and His promises are sure; and one day He will remember us too.’ There was something in the tone of Mr. Solly’s voice that would make Maud forget herself, and indeed all Madder, yea, and all the world, for a