Dancing at weddings was dying out as a local fashion, so when the breakfast was over the guests melted away, having eaten and drunk themselves into a desire for sleep. Reuben's family went home. He and Rose lingered a little with her uncle, then as the January night came crisping into the sky and fields, he drove her to Odiam in his gig, as long ago he had driven Naomi. She leaned against his shoulder, for he wanted both hands for his horse, and her hair tickled his neck. She was silent for about the first time that day, and as eager for the kisses he could give her while he drove as Naomi had been shy of them. Above in the cold black sky a hundred pricks of fire shuddered like sparks鈥攖he lump of Boarzell was blocked against a powder of stars."Tedious argumentatious liddle varmint he wur鈥擨'm not surprised as he's turned a lawyer. And he had good training fur it, too. There's naun to sharpen the wits lik a farmer's life, and I kept him at it, tough and rough, though he'd have got away if he cud. Many's the time I've wopped him near a jelly fur being a lazy-bones, and particular, which you can't be and a lawyer too. But I reckon he thinks it's all that Bardon woman's doing."
The last piece of land had been exceptionally tough even for Boarzell. It was a high strip, running right across the Moor from the edge of the twenty-acre piece acquired in '67, over the high-road, to the borders of Doozes. The soil was amazingly various鈥攊t started in[Pg 267] the low grounds almost as clay, with runnels of red water in the irrigation ditches, then passing through a stratum of marl it became limish, grey and brittle, powdering under the spade. Reuben's ploughs tore over it, turning up earth of almost every consistency and colour, till the new ground looked like a smeared palette. Towards Doozes it became clay again, and here oats would grow, sedge-leaved and tulip-rooted, with puffy awns. On the crest was rubble, poor stuff where even the heather seemed to fight for existence.
"Of course he ?un't sure as it wur stolen鈥攈e may have dropped it. But policeman d?an't think that's likely.""The hound!" he cried, striking his fists together, "the miserable, cowardy hound!鈥攇one and left me鈥攇one to be a gentleman, the lousy pig. Oh, Lard, I wish as I had him in these hands o' mine!鈥擨'd m?ake a gentleman of him!"
He must escape, for if he surrendered now the battle was over, and he would have betrayed Boarzell the loved to something he loved less鈥攍oved less, he knew it, though he wavered.
One day she was in the dairy at Odiam, skimming the cream-pans. The sunshine, filtered to a watery yellow by the March afternoon, streamed in on her, putting a yellow tinge into her white skin and white apron. Her hair was the colour of fresh butter, great pats and cakes of which stood on the slabs beside her. There was a smell of butter and standing milk in the cold, rather damp air. Naomi skimmed the cream off the pans and put it into a brown bowl.We're off to Rio Bay!"
"Oh, Reuben, I'm sure she's ill. Can't we send Beatup over for the doctor?"O why when we kissed 'mid the ewes on the hanger,
Realf had never been a practical man鈥攑erhaps it was to that he owed his downfall. Good luck and ambition had made him soar for a while, but he lacked the dogged qualities which had enabled Reuben to play[Pg 435] for years a losing game. Besides, he had to a certain extent lost interest in land which was no longer his own. He worked for a wage, for his daily bread, and the labour of his hands and head which had once been an adventure and a glory, was now nothing but the lost labour of those who rise up early and late take rest.With Richard things were different. He despised Reuben as bestial, and sometimes jeopardised his skin by nearly showing his contempt. He now had a peculiar friendship with Anne Bardon. They had met accidentally a second time, and deliberately half a dozen more. In Richard Anne had made a discovery鈥攈e appealed to her imagination, which ran on severe lines. She sympathised with his ambition to break free from the grind and grossness of Odiam, and resolved to help him as much as she could. She lent him books, and guided him with her superior knowledge and education.
"Have you many books?"Suddenly a great hullish lad sprang forward, rushed up to one of the fence-stakes, and flung it with a tangle of wire into the air."Now d?an't you put me off wud Georgina."
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That summer the country was shaken by rumours of war, Reuben; having more leisure on his hands, spent it in the study of his daily paper. He could now read simple sentences, and considered himself quite an educated man. When war at last broke out in South Africa he was delighted. It was the best of all possible wars, organised by the best of all possible Governments, under the best of all possible ministers. Chamberlain became his hero鈥攏ot that he understood or sympathised with his Imperialism, but he admired him for his attitude towards the small nations. He hated all talk about preserving the weak鈥攕uch was not nature's way, the way of farms; there the weakest always went to the wall, and he could not see why different methods should obtain in the world at large. If Reuben had been a politician he would have kept alive no sick man of Europe, protected no down-trodden Balkan States. One of the chief reasons why he wanted to see the Boers wiped out was because they had muddled their colonisation, failed to establish themselves, or to make of the arid veldt what he had made of Boarzell."Thinks only of his farm and nothing of his flesh and blood," said old Realf."Hir me duval!" said Meridiana to herself, "but they've forgotten the poor person's child."
Suddenly he heard a knock at the door, and before he could answer, it flew open, and the icy blast, laden with snow, rushed in, and whirled round the hut, fluttering the pages of Lilly's grammar and the fleece of the lamb.When Pete went back into the room he found him struggling under the bedclothes, the sweat trickling down his face.详情
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