Then the conversation wandered from Reuben's successes to the price he had paid for them, which proved more interesting and more comforting to those assembled.The boy shrugged and frowned. 飞艇差计划 Chapter 14But Reuben did not want her to work. She was rather surprised at this at first, for she had expected that she would go on helping Mrs. Backfield as she had done before her marriage. Reuben, however, was quite firm—his wife was not to redden her skin by stooping over fires, or coarsen her hands by dabbling them in soapsuds. An occasional visit to the dairy or some half-playful help on bread-baking days was all he would allow."I d?an't know what I'm to do, my dear," he mumbled; "I think the best thing 'ud be fur me to git work on a farm somewheres away from here, and then maybe in time I cud put a liddle bit of money by, and you cud join me." "No, no—get away," and Naomi once more caught up Fanny to her breast."Nonsense—you're coming wud me.""Rose," he said again, and his voice quivered as he said it, "you do want me a liddle bit now.""Well, of course, if she has a thorough rest from all work and worry, and recovers her health in the meantime, I don't say that in three or four years.... But she's not a strong subject, Mr. Backfield, and you'd do well to remember it." Naomi was disgusted. Reuben had once or twice offended her by his coarseness, but she could never get used to it."Reuben!" shrieked Naomi."You couldn't spik to me lik this if it wur a dream, Harry—could you, dear?" It was about nine o'clock when they came to Thornsdale, down on the Rother levels; the moon had risen and the marsh was smeethed in white. The air was thick with a strong-scented miasma, and beside the dykes long lines of willows faded into the mist. Here another orgy was started, in grotesque contrast with the pallid sleep of water. The gate that barred the Kent road was torn down, the bonfire prepared, the dance begun.Bill gasped, and David forgot that he was a man of the world, and sidled against his brother.Naomi always took advantage of these returns to docility, but later that evening in the dairy, she suddenly swung round on Mrs. Backfield and exclaimed petulently:"Have adone do wud your preaching. I'm ashamed[Pg 380] of you, led astray by lunies as if you wur no better nor poor Harry. You're a hemmed lousy traitor, you are, the worst of 'em all." 飞艇差计划 Chapter 7"I agree with you there," said Reuben, "it's not wot life gives that's good, it's wot you t?ake out of it."Richard grumbled of course, but discreetly. His brothers were inclined to envy him—Albert saw more romance and freedom in keeping sheep than in digging roots or cleaning stables, Pete was jealous of an honour the recipient did not appreciate, Robert and Jemmy would have liked a new interest in their humdrum lives. Richard was initiated into the mysteries of his art by a[Pg 130] superannuated shepherd from Doozes, only too glad of a little ill-paid casual labour.He led her back into the crowd, and once more she felt his arms round her, so light, so strong, while her feet spun with his, tricked by magic. She became acutely conscious of his presence—the roughness of his coat-sleeve, the faint scent of the sprigged waistcoat, which had been folded away in lavender. And all the[Pg 64] while she had another picture of him in her heart, not in his Sunday best, but in corduroys and the blue shirt which had stood out of the January dusk, the last piece of colour in the day. She remembered the swing of his arm, the crash of the axe on the trunk, the bending of his back as he pulled it out, the muscles swelled under the skin ... and then the tingling creep in her own heart, that sudden suffocating thrill which had come to her there beside Harry in the gloam.... "Of course, being a prostitute, she'd be closer to Nature than a respectable person.""Stop—you're spoiling my h?adge!"Should you do me to death with your dark treacherie? He sprang to his feet, the mood had passed—the beast of Boarzell had ceased to worry him.They sat down on the log, and she immediately crept close to him like a child. He put his arm round her, and once again she thrilled him with her own delight—she stole her arms round his neck, holding his head in the crook of her elbows, and laughed with her mouth against his. Then her hands crept into his hair, and rumpled it, while she whispered like a child finding some new virtue in its toy—"How thick! how thick!" At last she drew his head down to her breast, holding it there with both hands while she dipped her kisses on his eyes...."He slanders my sons and he slanders my daughters," he muttered to himself as he went home, "and I reckon as this time it ?un't true." "Well, is it? I reckon it ?un't the last word on your wife.""That black stuff in front of my eyes. Take it away! Take it away!"Another pause—then Alice said: 飞艇差计划 "I shud say even young Ben wudn't do that."There was indeed a mild excitement in the farms round Boarzell when Reuben's new plan became known. In those times gunpowder was seldom used for such purposes, and the undertaking was looked upon as a treat and a display...."Till we're absolutely desperate."She did not speak.Reuben came away from Cheat Land with odd feelings of annoyance, perplexity, and exhilaration. Alice Jury was queer, and she had insulted him, nevertheless those ten minutes spent with her had left him tingling all over with a strange excitement. "It's larment?able to see an old feller lik that all al?an, wudout friend nor kin.""Bring the water!—Bring the water!" screamed Naomi, hardly knowing what she said."That's wot I mean, surelye. Could you come and talk to a sick man about all that sort of thing?"Reuben treated these irreverences with scorn. Nothing would make him abate a jot of his dignity. On the contrary, his manner and his presence became more and more commanding. He drove a splendid blood mare in his gig, smoked cigars instead of pipes, and wore stand-up collars about four inches high—when he was not working, for it had not struck him that it was undignified to work, and he still worked harder on his farm than the worst-paid pig-boy.