These troubling thoughts were forgotten when he came to his own frontiers. He drove up to the farmhouse door, and handing over the trap to a boy, went out for his evening inspection of Boarzell."Good about the poll, m?aster, wurn't it?" he said—the older men were always more cordial towards Reuben than the youngsters. They had seen how he could work.The Squire's party was much the weakest in numbers,[Pg 9] but luck had given it the best weapons of that chance armament. Alce of Ellenwhorne had a fine knobbed stick, worth a dozen of the enemy's, while Lewnes of Coldblow had an excellent broken bottle. Young Elphee had been through the bruiser-mill, and routed his assailants with successive upper-cuts. The anti-Bardonites, on the other hand, were inclined to waste their strength; they fought in a congested, rabblesome way; also they threw their bottles, not realising that a bottle is much better as a club than a missile. The result was that quite early in the conflict their ammunition gave out, and they were reduced to sticks and fists.He himself went over to Moor's Cottage about a load of trifolium, and returning in the darkness by Cheat Land was persuaded to stay to supper. That was one of the nights when he did not like Alice Jury—he sometimes went through the experience of disliking her, which was an adventure in itself, so wild and surprising was it, so bewildering to remember afterwards. She seemed a little colourless—she was generally so vivid that he noticed and resented all the more those times when her shoulders drooped against her chair, and her little face looked strangely wistful instead of eager. It seemed as if on these occasions Alice were actually pleading with him. She lost that antagonism which was the salt of their relations, instead of fighting she pleaded. Pleaded for what? He dared not ask that question, in case the answer should show him some strange new Canaan which was not his promised land. So he came away muttering—"only a liddle stick of a woman. I like gurt women—I like 'em rosy, I like 'em full-breasted.... She'd never do fur me."The young Backfields were beginning to grow into individualities. Albert, the eldest, was eight, and showed certain tokens of a wilful nature, which had not much chance where his father was concerned. Strange fits of dreaminess alternated with vigorous fits of passion. He was a difficult child to manage, for in addition to his own moods he had a certain corrupting influence over his more docile brothers. Reuben already kept him at work most of the day—either at the village school, or scaring birds from the orchard or the grain fields. 幸运飞艇五码七码 He had spoken it—her terror. "Don't!" she cried.It was Rose who had to tell Reuben. "The g?ates up at Leasan and Mockbeggar, and then over the marsh to Thornsdale. It 'ud be a shame fur you to miss it, and m?aster can't t?ake you, since he's going to Cranbrook.""Oh, Joe, he's seen us.""I d?an't feel old—at least not often. I still feel young enough to have a whack at the Fair-pl?ace.""Still, I'm sorry for him," said Realf of Grandturzel—"he's the only man hereabouts wot's really made a serious business of farming, and it's a shame he should get busted." His father opened his mouth to forbid him angrily, but changed his mind and said nothing. Pete walked off whistling—"When the cleansing Blood is poured.""Well, I'll leave you to Pete," said Reuben, and walked out of the room. He considered this the more dignified course, and went upstairs to bed."But won't it be too hard for mother?" Naomi had objected. "I'm going home," he mumbled through his bruised lips."Disposer Supreme,Anne was not so disposed to forgive—she had her brother's score as well as her husband's to settle, and concealed from no one that she thought her father-in-law a brutal and conscienceless old slave-driver whose success was a slur on the methods of Providence. She refused to accompany Richard on his first visit to Odiam, but spent the afternoon at Flightshot, while he tramped with Reuben over the land that had once been so hateful to him. 幸运飞艇五码七码 "Mmm.""So you haven't changed your idea of happiness?"Sometimes he would talk to her of the strange voyages he had made—how he had lived on ships ever since he was a boy of twelve, and had seen nearly the whole world, from the fiery steaming forests of Equador to the Northern Lights that make a mock day in Spitzbergen. He told her strange tales of wooded atolls in the South Seas, painting a fairyland she had scarcely dreamed, of palms motionless in the aromatic air, of pink and white shores, and lagoons full of fish all winged and frilled and iridescent—of the sudden swift sunrises and sunsets between Cancer and Capricorn, of the great ice-wall in the south, below Tasmania, which he had longed to penetrate, for who knew what lay beyond it in the Unknown? "And there's another like it what I've seen from Franz Josef Land—maybe there's countries beyond it, with gold." Then he told her of the terrible storms south of the Horn, of the uncharted Nelson Strait—of northern Baffin Land, where he had once gone on a whaler, of Rio Grande and the buried city of Tenoctitlan—"where there's gold." Gold seemed to be hidden in large quantities all over the world according to Dansay, and Caro once asked him why he had never brought any back. "Because I love what's better than[Pg 349] gold," he answered, and drew her, happy and quivering, into his arms. "That's all."She gulped at pleasure, and she gave him so much that he could not deny her what she craved for, though the mere decorativeness of her tastes amazed and sometimes appalled him. She coaxed him to buy her new curtains and chair-covers for the parlour, and to turn it into a room which could be used, where she could lounge in her pretty frocks, and entertain her women-friends—of whom she had a startling number—to afternoon tea, with cream, and little cakes that cost an amount of money altogether disproportionate to the space that they filled in one's inside. She demanded other entertainments too—visits to Rye, and even to Hastings, and jaunts to fairs other than the sanctioned one on Boarzell.However, Reuben did not disgrace them. On the contrary, more than one admiring glance drifted to the Backfields' table, and remarks were overheard about "that picturesque old man." Reuben had dressed himself with care in a suit of dark grey cloth and the flowered waistcoat he had bought when he married Rose. His collar was so high and stiff that he could hardly get his chin over it, his hair was brushed and oiled till its grey thickness shone like the sides of a man-o'-war, and his hands looked quite clean by artificial light."How did the Election go?"Chapter 5 "I'm thinking.""He's bin reading some poetry of yours, Bertie," continued his sister, "and he's justabout dreadful, all his cl?athes tore about, and a nasty mess of blood and yaller stuff on his face.""D?an't you go vrothering him, lad. It'll only set him ag?unst you, and I d?an't care, not really; there'll be unaccountable liddle work to do in the house now your poor f?ather's gone, and Blackman w?an't be eating wud us. Besides, as he said, I'll find the days a bit slow wud naun to occupy me." He had more trouble when a day or so later he asked Naomi to inspect Harry's musical equipment."Yes, ma'am."The boys still didn't seem to have much to say, so she continued:Reuben thought that he had efficiently broken his son's rebellion. All the next day Robert seemed utterly cowed. He was worn out by the misery of the last few hours, and by the blows which in the end had dulled all the sore activities of mind and soul into one huge physical ache. Reuben left him alone most of the day, smiling grimly to himself when he saw him. Robert spent several hours lying on the hay in the Oast barn, his mind as inert and bruised as his body. He had ceased to contrive or conjecture, even to dread. 幸运飞艇五码七码 "No—only this one."Naomi had not acquired the art of flouting him openly. She tearfully put Fanny into her cradle, and lay and sulked on the sofa for the rest of the evening.Reuben was lying on his face a few yards in front of the others. For some seconds nobody moved. Then Backfield slowly raised himself on his arms.But Albert's weak mind clung to its first idea with scared tenacity. He was still raving about it when Pete came in from his work that evening. "Then he ?un't fit to work on my land. I ?un't a charity house. I can't afford to kip a man wud no backbone and no wits. I've bin too kind as it is—I shud have got shut of him afore he burnt my pl?ace to cinders."