Reuben could speak convincingly, and his extraordinary agricultural success gave weight to his words. If not liked, he was admired and envied. He was "a fellow who knew what he was doing," and could be trusted in important matters of welfare. In a word, he achieved his object and made himself head of an Agricultural Party, large enough to be of importance to either candidate.
They walked on down the lane. Rose's chatter had ceased, and a complete silence dropped between the hedges. The moon had risen higher, and the western hazels were bloomed with light. The moon was no longer crimson in the dark sky, but had burnt down to copper, casting a copper glow into the mists, staining all the blues that melted into one another along the hills. Only the middle of the lane was black鈥攍ike a well. Reuben[Pg 248] and Rose could see each other's faces in a kind of rusty glimmer, but their feet stumbled in the darkness, and her hand lay clutching and heavy on his arm."Rose, marry me."Rate, skate, and crabs.
Their meetings were secret, from her family as well as his. But they were dignified鈥攖here was no scurrying like rabbits. Richard's work kept him mostly on the Flightshot borders of Odiam, and often the grave Anne would walk down to the hedge, and help him construe Tacitus or parse from Ovid. There was an old tree by the boundary fence, in the hollow of which she put new books for him to find, and into which he would return those he had finished. She was very careful to maintain[Pg 140] the right attitude towards him; he was always her humble servant, he never forgot to call her "ma'am."
Awake, oh, for shame, ye electors of Rye!Shouts and gunshots brought those men who slept out in the cottages, and a half-dressed gang, old Reuben at the head, pounded through the misty hay-sweet night to where the flames were spreading in the sky. From the shoulder of Boarzell they could see what was burning鈥擱ealf's new-made stacks, two already aflame, the others doomed by the sparks which scattered on the wind.
He stooped and kissed her."Yes, if he'd stayed he'd never have married Miss Bardon and had his name in all the papers."
"I d?an't think so. F?ather was much harder on Caro than he is on us."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."You know that it's Boarzell and your farm which have lost you your boys."
Of course there was a reconciliation. Such things had begun to loom rather large in Reuben's married life. He had never had reconciliations with Naomi鈥攖he storms had not been fierce enough to warrant a special celebration of the calms. But he and Rose were always being[Pg 277] reconciled. At first he had looked upon these episodes as sweets of matrimony, more blessed than any amount of honeymoon, but now he had gone a stage further and saw them merely as part of the domestic ritual鈥攖hat very evening when he held Rose and the baby together in his big embrace he knew that in a day or two he would be staling the ceremony by another repetition.She became inexpressibly dear to him during those meetings. Her timidity and innocence charmed him so completely that he preserved them longer than he had at first felt inclined to do. His vanity was tickled to think that though she was past thirty he was the first man who had kissed her. She was not bad-looking, either, with her straight black brows and huge eyes鈥攊n spite of toil she did not look her years, and during the weeks of his courtship she seemed to grow younger and prettier, she grew daintier. Yet she largely retained the qualities that had first attracted him, her admiration for him was unbounded and guilelessly expressed鈥攕he would listen in tender reverence to his yarns, and received his caresses with a humble gratitude that went straight to his heart.
Besides, what was the use?鈥攊t was only for a few months, and then Harry would be in a little house of his own, living very like his father, though more dreamily, more delicately. Then Mrs. Backfield would once more wear muslin aprons instead of sacking ones,[Pg 35] would sit with her hands folded, kid shoes on the fender.... Sometimes, in the rare moments they had together, Harry would paint this wonderland for her.
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They came safely through Magersfontein, the only big encounter in which they were both engaged. David was made a sergeant soon afterwards. Reuben sent them out tobacco and chocolate, and contributed to funds for supplying the troops with woollen comforts. He felt himself something of a patriot, and would talk eagerly about "My son the Sergeant," or "My boys out at the Front.""Yes you do."Emilee!
Reuben did not speak. His hands were clenched on the arms of his chair, and for the first time Rose noticed that he looked old. A faint feeling of disgust came over her. She shivered, and took a step backwards as if she would leave him. Then her warm good nature and her gratitude to the man who had made her so happy, drove away the unnatural mood. She came close, and slipped her soft arms round his neck, pressing her lips to his.BOOK II THE WOMAN'S PART Chapter 1详情
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