By midday, Walter is waiting with the horses for Jordan’s departure. They’re unsettled because, with the groom out of commission, they’ve been free for the past several days eating apples. The servants carry the groom on a makeshift bed; he’s clearly in great pain, and Walter believes he’ll be dead or insane after days of travel.
The groom’s miserable fate, and the inattention with which his comrades treat him, shows that Jordan’s power-oriented community can’t replace the care and protection with which the villagers treat everyone within their insular world.
Next the servants lead the Kitty, Anne, and Lizzie into the courtyard. Kitty sees Walter and he knows he should approach and comfort them, and he wants them to know that he’s staying here so that they’ll be freed. However, he’s shocked by their somber, defeated behavior. Lizzie’s terrified face is a contrast to her previous triumph as the Gleaning Queen holding the barley in her hand.
Not wanting to be seen, Walter sneaks into the lane, where he finds Master Kent leaning against an elm. He tells Walter that the land, which used to be “so much older than ourselves,” will “soon be new.” It will no longer contain an ancient history or connect its inhabitants to “eternity,” but rather will be reshaped to represent modern innovation. In farewell, Master Kent puts one finger on Walter’s arm and gives him a meaningful look.
Once the party has left, Walter runs up the common fields to a hill where he can watch the lane below. He’s crying a little and tired from the unusual haste. While he waits for the men and horses to appear, he considers Master Kent’s final expression, wondering if it was a plea or a warning. It reminds him of Cecily’s expression when she was exhorting him to carry out some duty.
By conflating Master Kent with his wife, Walter is expressing the almost familial closeness he feels with the aristocrat. He also suggests that, although separated from them by birth, Master Kent has more in common with the villagers than with his cousin Master Jordan.
Soon, Walter sees Master Kent and Master Jordan riding next to each other. Their large hats identify them as rich men, since they aren’t practical for men who have to move around and work. Walter is unhappy to see how similar they look. He hopes that Master Kent has some secret strategy to subvert his cousin, but he believes he sees the two men laughing together, and he knows it’s in Master Kent’s personal interest to cooperate with Jordan. Perhaps his final gesture was just an acknowledgment that he’s defeated.
At the same time, the kinship Walter feels with Master Kent is visible only to him, and can’t survive in the new landscape that Master Jordan has created. The men’s impractical hats recall Walter’s earlier description of his master’s white, useless hands. However, instead of stressing his dependence on the villagers, the hats signify their power and dominion over their tenants.
Next, Walter sees Kitty, Anne, and Lizzie pass by, looking down and guarded by the men. Master Kent is too far ahead to watch them, and Walter hopes the servants won’t abuse the women before they reach the town. To Walter, the procession looks like a pageant, with Jordan representing “Privilege,” followed by “the Guilty and the Innocent,” and with “Despair,” invisible, bringing up the rear.
In Walter’s era, pageants were festive occasions, often focusing around religious stories with strong moral conclusions. However, the pageant Walter imagines has no satisfying conclusion or moral lesson to impart. His language here subtly mocks organized religion and its inability to address the moral quandaries the village faces.
When the lane is empty, Walter feels cold and alone. He can’t imagine spending months in the village with no one for company. He wishes Kitty was still here, or that he could comfort young Lizzie and take care of her. Instead, Walter walks down into the fields, where he’s comforted by the pleasant breeze. He thinks of his wife Cecily, and although this makes him sad it’s also comforting to know that he’ll “never finish missing her,” just as he’ll never stop longing for the village.
Instead of spending his time to stewarding and sustaining the village, Walter now knows that, to some extent, he’ll always be mourning its loss. At this point, his life is devoted to witnessing the village’s decay rather than participating in its constant renewal.
Walter passes a copse of large oak trees, stocked with birds, berries, nuts, and mushrooms. Even though the barley is harvested, the land still produces plenty of food. Still, it’s clear that winter is coming, since the birds are already starting to migrate and the leaves are looking a little bit rusty. Walter imagines the entire land readying itself for the cold months, stocking upon food before the snow arrives. To him, the earth seems like a “rich barn.”
Although human society has largely failed Walter, he’s still highly conscious of the manifest abundance of nature. By comparing the earth itself to a familiar “barn,” he stresses how closely his accustomed life mirrors natural patterns of survival.