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Farm Boy

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      Farm Boy
Michael Morpurgo

Литагент HarperCollins

Copyright

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

HarperCollins Children’s Books An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd. 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF

www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk)

First published by HarperCollinsPublishers 1999

FARM BOY. Text copyright © Michael Morpurgo 1997. Illustrations copyright © Michael Foreman 1997.

The author and illustrator assert the moral right to be identified as author and illustrator of this work

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this ebook on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins ebooks

HarperCollinsPublishers has made every reasonable effort to ensure that any picture content and written content in this ebook has been included or removed in accordance with the contractual and technological constraints in operation at the time of publication

Source ISBN: 9780007450657

Ebook Edition © JANUARY 2012 ISBN: 9780007479627 Version: 2016-11-25

Dedication

Contents

Cover (#litres_trial_promo)

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Farm Boy

Keep Reading (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Author

Other Books by Michael Morpurgo

About the Publisher

There’s an old green Fordson tractor in the back of Grandpa’s barn, always covered in cornsacks. When I was very little, I used to go in there, pull off the cornsacks, climb up and drive it all over the farm. I’d be gone all morning sometimes, but they always knew where to find me. I’d be ploughing or tilling or mowing, anything I wanted. It didn’t matter to me that the engine didn’t work, that one of the iron wheels was missing, that I couldn’t even move the steering wheel.

Up there on my tractor, I was a farmer, like my Grandpa, and I could go all over the farm, wherever I wanted. When I’d finished, I always had to put the cornsacks back and cover it up. Grandpa said I had to, so that it didn’t get dusty. That old tractor, he said, was very important, very special. I knew that already of course, but it wasn’t until many years later that I discovered just how important, just how special it was.

I come from a family of farmers going back generations and generations, but I wouldn’t have known much about it if Grandpa hadn’t told me. My own mother and father never seemed that interested in family roots, or maybe they just preferred not to talk about them. My mother grew up on the farm. She was the youngest of four sisters, and none of them had stayed on the farm any longer than they’d had to. School took her away to college.

College took her off to London, to teaching first, then to meeting my father, a townie through and through, and one who made no secret of his dislike for the countryside and everything to do with it.

‘All right in pictures, I suppose,’ he’d say, ‘just as long as you don’t have to smell it or walk in it.’ And he’d say that in front of Grandpa, too.

I have always felt they were a little ashamed of Grandpa and his old-fashioned ways, and I never really understood why – until recently, that is. When I found out, it wasn’t Grandpa I was ashamed of.

I always loved going down to Devon, to Burrow, his old thatched house at the bottom of a rutty lane. He was born there. He’d never lived anywhere else, nor had any desire to do so. He’s the only person I’ve ever met who seems utterly contented with his own place on earth, with the life he’s lived. That’s not to say that he never grumbles. He does – about the weather, about his television reception – he loves detective series, whodunnits, police dramas. He’ll curse the foxes when they tip over his dustbins, and shout abuse at the jets when they come screaming low over the chimney pots. But he never ever complains about his lot in life. Best of all, he never pretends to be someone he isn’t, and what’s more he doesn’t want me to be anyone I’m not. I like that in him, I always have. That’s maybe why I’ve spent so many of my school holidays with him down on the farm in Devon.

Sometimes he’ll tell me how things were when he was young. He doesn’t say things were better then, or worse. He just talks about how they were. I think it’s because he loves to remember.

Grandpa loves his swallows. We’d often watch them together as they skimmed low over the fields and he’d shake his head in wonder. He once told me why it was that he loved swallows so much. That was when he first told me about his father, my great-grandfather, or ‘the Corporal’, as everyone in the village called him. And that’s when I first heard about Joey, too.

‘Swallows,’ Grandpa began, settling back in his chair. I knew I was in for a story. ‘Now they must’ve been the very first bird I ever set eyes on. And that’s funny, that is. My father, when he was a lad, used to go round the farms seeking out all the sparrows’ nests and crows’ nests and rooks’ nests. He’d pinch the eggs, see; and he’d get money for that, for every egg in his hat. It wasn’t a lot, but every penny helped. Sparrows and crows and rooks, they was a terrible nuisance for the farmers. They’d soon get at the corn if you let them. Anyway, Father got himself into some trouble, and it was all on account of the swallows. He had a friend – I can’t remember names, never could – but a school friend anyhow; and this lad, he went and robbed a swallow’s nest, silly monkey, instead of a sparrow’s nest like he should have. Well, Father saw what he’d done, and he saw red. He gave him an awful licking, so the lad went home with a bleeding nose. Father went and put the swallow’s eggs back. Next thing Father knows, the boy’s mother comes round and boxes his ears for him, and he gets sent to bed without any tea. Not hardly fair when you think about it, is it? Anyway, putting the eggs back didn’t do no good. Mother bird never came back.

‘Father was always getting into scrapes when he was a lad. But the worst scrape he ever got hisself into was the war, First World War. And just like with the swallow’s eggs, he didn’t want to fight anyone. It just happened. This time it was all on account of the horse. See, he didn’t go off to the war because he wanted to fight for King and Country like lots of others did. It wasn’t like that. He went because his horse went, because Joey went.

‘Father was just a farm boy when the war broke out; fourteen, that’s all. Like me, he didn’t get a lot of schooling. He never reckoned much to schooling and that. He said you could learn most of what was worth knowing from keeping your eyes and ears peeled. Best way of learning, he always said, was doing. He was right enough there, I reckon. Anyway, that’s by the by. He had this young colt, broke him to halter, broke him to ride, broke him to plough. Joey, he called him. He had four white socks on him, a white cross on his forehead, and he was bay. Turned out to be his best friend in all the world. They had an old mare, too. Zoey, she was called; and the two of them ploughed like they’d been born to it, which they was, I suppose. Weren’t a team of working horses in the parish to touch them. Joey was strong as an ox, and gentle as a lamb. Zoey had the brains, kept the furrow straight as an arrow.

But it was Joey Father loved best. If ever he got sick, Father would bed down with him in his stable and never leave his side. He loved that horse like a brother, more maybe.

‘Anyway, one day, a few months after the war started, Father goes off to market to sell some fat sheep. In them days of course, you had to drive them down the road to market. No lorries, nothing like that. So he was gone most of the day. Meanwhile the army’s come to the village looking for good sturdy horses, and they’re paying good money too. They needed all the horses they could get for the cavalry, for pulling the guns maybe, or the ammunition wagons, ambulances too. Most things was horse-drawn in them days. Father comes back from market, and sees Joey being taken away. It’s too late to stop it. It was his own father that did it. He’d gone and sold Joey to the army for forty pounds. More like forty pieces of silver, I’d say.

‘Father always said he was drunk and he didn’t mean no harm by it, but I don’t reckon that’s any sort of excuse, do you?

And do you know, I never heard Father say a harsh word about it after. He was like that. Kindest man that ever lived, my father. Big and gentle, just like Joey. But he had spirit all right.

Couple of weeks later he’s upped and gone, gone to join up, gone to find Joey. He had to tell the recruiting sergeant he was sixteen, but he wasn’t of course. He was tall enough though, and his voice was broke. So off he goes to France. Gone for a soldier at fourteen.

‘Now there’s millions of men over there, millions of horses, too. Needle in a haystack you might think, and you’d be right. It took him three years of looking, but he never gave up. Just staying alive was the difficult bit. Hell on earth, he called it. Always waiting, waiting to go up to the front line, waiting in the trenches with the whizzbangs and shells bursting all around you, waiting for the whistle to send you out over the top and across No-Man’s-Land, waiting for the bullet that had your name on it.

‘He was wounded a couple of times in the leg, lucky wounds, he said.

You were always a lot safer in hospital than in the trenches. But his ears started ringing with all the thunder of the shells, and he had that trouble all his life afterwards. He saw things out there in France, terrible things that don’t bear thinking about, his friends blowed up, horses drowned dead in the mud before his very eyes. And all the while he never forgot Joey, never forgot what he’d come for.

‘Then, at first light one morning, he’s on “stand-to” in the trenches waiting for the Germans to attack, and he looks through the mist and there’s this horse wandering around, lost in No-Man’s-Land. Course, Father never thinks twice. He loves horses, all horses, so he’s got to fetch him in, hasn’t he? Quick as a twick he’s up over the top and running.

‘Trouble is, there’s a German chap doing just the very same thing. So the two of them met, right out there in the middle, both armies looking on. They tossed for it, honest they did. They tossed for the horse, and Father won. And…you guessed it, when they got that horse back and cleaned him down, he had the four white socks, he had the white cross on his forehead, and he was bay. He was Joey. Takes some believing, I know. But it’s true enough, I’m telling you.

‘And that weren’t the end of it, not by a long chalk. When the war was over, the army decided to sell off all the old warhorses for meat. That’s right, they were going to kill them. Kill the lot of them. They were going to kill Joey. After all he’d been through, all he’d done, they were going to have him slaughtered for meat. So Father did the only thing he could. He bought Joey back off the army with his own money, all the pay he’d saved up, and brought him home safe and sound at the end of the war. ‘They had banners and bunting and flags up all over the village. Hatherleigh Silver Band too, just for him. I seen the photograph. Everyone was there, whole parish, shouting and cheering: “Welcome home Corporal! Welcome home Joey!” Always called him Corporal. Everyone did.

‘But once the celebrations were over, Father went straight back to work just like before the war – ploughing, reaping, milking, shepherding – and of course he had his Joey with him. Everyone said he was so fond of that horse he’d never marry. Not room enough in his heart, they said. They were wrong, weren’t they? Else I wouldn’t hardly be here, would I?
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