Naomi walked to church on her father's arm. She held her head down, and her bridesmaids saw her neck grow pink below the golden fluff on the nape. She hid her face from Reuben and would not look at him as they stood side by side before Rye altar. No one could hear her responses, they were spoken so faintly, she was the typical Victorian bride, all shy, trembling, and blushing.No young men ever visited Odiam. The young Ditches, the young Vennals, or Coalbrans, or Ginners, who had business to transact with Backfield, did so only at a safe distance. Reuben could not as yet afford to lose his housemaids. Some day, he told himself, he would see that the girls married to the honour of his farm, but at present he could not do without them."I can't—oh!""Then you come along; I'll take you, and we'll have some fun." 幸运飞艇预测app "Yes—now and ag?un—didn't know it wurn't right. Seems it 'ud have been better if he'd sent 'em oftener; there's no understanding that lawyer rubbidge. Now he mayn't t?ake so much as a blade of grass.""Why Tilly—goes off wud that lousy pig-keeper up at Grandturzel. She's no better than Caro." "There was an old Farmer in Sussex did dwell,Old Mrs. Backfield was getting very decrepit. She could not walk without a stick, and her knotted hands were of little use either in the kitchen or the dairy. Reuben was anxious to avoid engaging anyone to help her, yet the developments of her sphere made such help most necessary. Odiam now supplied most of the neighbouring gentry with milk, butter, and eggs; the poultry-yard had grown enormously since it had been a mere by-way of Mrs. Backfield's labours, and she and the girls also had charge of the young calves and pigs, which needed constant attention, and meant a great deal of hard work. Besides this, there was all the housework to do, sweeping, dusting, cooking, baking, and mending and washing for the males. Reuben's domestic catastrophes might be summed up in the statement that he had lost two farm hands. It is true that Albert had never been much good—if he had his father would probably not have turned him away—but he had been better than nothing, and now Reuben would have to hire a substitute. One would be enough, for Jemmy and George were now able to do a man's full work each. So another hand was engaged for Odiam—Piper, a melancholy, lean-jowled cowman from Moor's Cottage."Read me some of it."He stopped speaking, and stared at the lad, chin in hand. Handshut turned on his heel.Chapter 4 幸运飞艇预测app He knew now that Alice was lost. The whole of Boarzell lay between them. He had thought that she would be always there, but now he saw that between him and her lay the dividing wilderness of his success. She was the offering and the reward of failure—and he had triumphed over failure as over everything else.But somehow found the subject more difficult to grapple than the fascinations of Amelia."I can't say as I'm pleased at his marrying Miss Bardon," Reuben would say. "She's ten year older than he if she's a day. 'Twas she who asked him, I reckon. He could have done better fur himself if he'd stayed at h?ame."'Tis that he may gain some more hundreds this way in, "This is most interesting," said Anne icily, raising her lorgnette and looking at Reuben as if he were a bad smell.He sat down, and immediately his mother put a plate of hot bacon before him. She was vexed because it was the only meat he allowed himself on week-days. The children ate bread and milk, and thrived on it, to judge by their round healthy faces. Reuben was proud of them. They were fine children, and he hoped that the one that was coming would be as sturdy."Wot if I tell f?ather?""I tell you, you're no wife of mine. I'm shut of you—you false, fair, lying, scarlet woman. You needn't cry and weep, nuther—none 'ull say as Ben Backfield wur a soft man fur woman's tears." He sometimes asked himself why he was still jealous. Rose no longer gave him provocation, she was much quieter than she had used to be, and seemed busy with her children and straitened house-keeping. It was once more a case of instinct, of a certain vague sensing of her[Pg 301] aloofness. Often he did not trouble about it, but sometimes it seared through him like a hot bar.As for Caro, life was a rainbow dream. The hardships of the day were gladly lived through in expectation of the joys of the evening. She felt very few qualms of conscience, even when the barrier was past which she had thought impassable. Somehow love seemed to alter her whole point of view, or rather stripped her of one altogether—after all, her point of view had never been more than the acceptance of other people's. Besides, there were things in love that she had never guessed; nobody had ever done anything to make her realise that there was beauty in it—Rose's flirtations, her father's jealous passion had never suggested such a thing. But now her life was brimmed with beauty, unimaginable beauty that welled up into the commonest things and suffused them with light. Also, about it all was that surprising sense of naturalness; which almost always comes to women when they love for the first time, the feeling of "For this I was born." It was not likely that the fight would be a long one, for both combatants were already winded. Realf, moreover, was bleeding from the nose, and Reuben's left eye was swollen. Once he caught a hit flush on the mouth which cut his nether lip in two, and, owing to his bad footwork, brought him down. But he was winning all the same.Chapter 8He mumbled curses as he dressed, and bathed his head in cold water. He did not deserve this visitation—usually he regarded an after-debauch headache as one of the marvellous acts of Providence, in which he, like most sailormen, believed with a faith which though conveniently removed from works was deeply tinged with admiration. But yesterday he had not been really drunk—why, he could remember nearly everything that had happened, the dancing, the songs, the girls, how he had walked home singing "Rio Bay," and how he had met that queer girl at the farmhouse gate, and thought he was going to have some fun with her and been disappointed.Then suddenly a great, a magnificent, a triumphant idea struck him. He nearly staggered under the force of it. He was like a general who sees what he had looked upon hitherto as a mere trivial skirmish develop into a battle which may win him the whole campaign. He spoke almost faintly.BOOK V ALMOST UNDER Chapter 1She had slid back to his knee, and the weight and warmth of her comforted him a little. He lifted his head quickly at her words. 幸运飞艇预测app Besides, David and William had come to a dangerous age, they were beginning to form opinions and ideas of[Pg 398] their own, they were beginning to choose their own friends and pastimes. But what Reuben distrusted most was their affection for each other, it was more fundamental to his anxieties than any outside independence. From childhood they had been inseparable, but in past years he had put this down to the common interests of their play, for there were few boys of their own age on the neighbouring farms. But now they were grown up the devotion persisted—they still did everything together, work or play. Reuben knew that they had secrets from him, their union gave him a sense of isolation. They were fond of him, but he was not to them what they were to each other, and his remoteness seemed to grow with the years."I mean that, thanks to you, we wasted about three weeks talking to those damned fools about a matter they don't care twopence about. You worked up a false interest, and the result is, that when anything that really touches them is brought forward, the whole campaign drops to pieces."They could not help wondering at his strenuousness, his unlimited capacity for work, though they failed to understand or sympathise with the object that inspired them. Blackman, grumbling and perplexed, had gone off early in March to the milder energies of Raisins Farm; Becky, for want of a place, had married the drover at Kitchenhour—and it was no empty boast of[Pg 34] Reuben's that he would take the greater part of their work on his own shoulders. From half-past four in the morning till nine at night he laboured almost without rest. He drove the cows to pasture, milked them, and stalled them—he followed the plough over the spring-sown crops, he groomed and watered the horses, he fed the fowls, watched the clutches, fattened capons for market—he cleaned the pigsty, and even built a new one in a couple of strenuous days—he bent his back over his spade among the roots, over his barrow, wheeling loads of manure—he was like a man who has been starved and at last finds a square meal before him. He had all the true workman's rewards—the heart-easing ache of tired muscles, the good bath of sweat in the sun's heat, the delicious sprawl, every sinew limp and throbbing, in his bed at nights—and then sleep, dreamless, healing, making new. Pete angrily defended the minister, which caused Reuben fresh alarm; for in the old days when his father abused Ades he had tried to conciliate him by laying stress on the latter's prowess as a bruiser, but now he never once mentioned his fists, enlarging instead on his qualities of soul and on the fact that he had found Christ. The two theologians carried on their argument till well past bedtime, and at last separated in a great state of dogma and indignation."Well, you'll justabout have to stop loving her, that's all. I'm not going to have my place upset by love. Love's all very well when there's something wud it or when there's nothing in it. But marrying cowmen's girls wudout a penny in their pockets, we can't afford to kip that sort o' love at Odiam."Should you turn from me now that they winter in fold?"Alice, as he expected, had caustic for him rather than balm.