Unluckily, the object of sparring, as practised locally, was to draw as much blood from the adversary as possible. The combatants went straight for each others' noses, in spite of the conjurations of Buck, and Naomi soon exercised her privilege as a town girl, and said she felt faint. Reuben took her out, and they walked round the stalls, at one of which he bought her a cherry ribbon for her fairing. At another they bought gingerbread. Gradually her spirits began to revive鈥攕he applauded his power at the shooting gallery, and when they came to the cocoanut shie, she was laughing out loud."How's the peas gitting on, M?aster?" Ditch of Totease would facetiously enquire. "I rode by that new land of yours yesterday, and, says I, there's as fine a crop of creeping plants as ever I did see."
He now realised the full extent of his peril, because for the first time he saw her position unmasked. She would never beguile him with the thought that she could help him in his life's desire; she would not alter the essential flavour of their relationship to suit his taste鈥攔ather she would force him to swallow it, she would subdue by strength and not by stealth, and fight him to the end.
After a time they began to notice a convergence in these independent ways. It seemed as if only by running apart had they learned at last to run together. A certain friendliness and comradery began to establish itself between them. Reuben began to talk to Naomi[Pg 110] about politics and agricultural doings, and gradually her character underwent a strange blossoming. She became far more adult in her opinions; she took interest in matters outside her household and immediate surroundings. He never spoke to her of his plans for Boarzell, for that would have brought them back into the old antagonism and unrest; but when she read the papers to him he would discuss them with her, occasionally interrupt her with comments, and otherwise show that he had to do with an intelligent being. She in her turn would enquire into the progress of the hops or the oats, ask him if his new insect-killer was successful, or whether Ditch had done well with his harvest, or how much Realf's had fetched at the corn-market.
"D?an't t?ake on lik that," said Reuben, "tell me wot you've come fur."
And the moral of it all was鈥攏ot to trust anyone but yourself to carry on with you or after you the work of your life. Your ambition is another's afterthought, your afterthought his ambition. He would not give a halfpenny for that for which you would give your life. If you have many little loves, you have always a comrade; if you have one great love, you are always alone. This is the Law.
Reuben felt that Tilly was at the bottom of his rival's success. She was practical and saving, the very virtues which Realf lacked and the want of which might have wrecked him. She doubtless was responsible for the good condition of his orchards and the immunity of his hops; she had probably told her husband of that insect-spray of her father's鈥攚hich had failed him that summer, being too much diluted by the fool who mixed it, but had proved a miracle of devastation in other years.And winking in the sea,
Needless to say there was not much playtime at Odiam."I'm out of practice, or I shouldn't have skinned myself like this鈥攁h, here's Coalbran's trap. Perhaps he'll give you a lift, ma'am, into Peasmarsh."
He suddenly thrust her from him, and the lines which had begun to soften on his face as he held her, reappeared in their old harshness and weariness.That autumn Naomi entered on a time of black depression鈥攁n utter gloom and weariness of body and mind. It was no mere dull staggering under blows, merciful in its blindness and lack of acute feeling鈥攊t was a clear-eyed misery, in which every object was as distinct as it was dark, like one of those sudden clearings of a stormy landscape, when trees, hedges, meadows, loom under the frowning sky, outstanding and black in detail, more vivid than in sunshine.
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Let the banner of freedom float gaily on high,
"Oh, I'm a bit off colour to-night, but I can tell you I was a fine girl when I went away with Joe鈥攁nd all the time I lived with him, too, first at the Camber and then at New Romney; there was many as 'ud have been proud to git me from him. But I stuck to him faithful, I did, till one morning I woke up and found him gone, off on a voyage to Australia鈥攚onder if he met Robert鈥攈aving given me over to a pal of his for five pounds and a set of oilskins. Oh, I can tell you I took on something awful鈥擨 wasn't used to men in those days. But Joe's pal he was a decent chap鈥攖here was nothing the matter with him save that he wasn't Joe. He was unaccountable good to me, and I stayed with him three years鈥攁nd then I hooked it, scarcely knew why. I got a post as barmaid in Seaford, but the landlord took up with me and his missus chucked me out. And now I'm here."详情
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