Towards the middle of April she came back to the farm to help Mrs. Backfield with her house-cleaning. She clung to the older woman all day, but she knew that Reuben would at last find her alone.After a night of cursings and trampings in his room, he took the fermenting dregs of his wrath to Cheat Land. It was queer that he should go for sympathy to Alice Jury, who was chief in the enemy's camp. But[Pg 231] though he knew she would not take his part, she would not be like the others, leering and cackling. She would give him something vital, even if it was only a vital opposition. That was all the difference between her and everyone else—she opposed him not because she was flabby or uninterested or enterpriseless, but because she really hated what he strove for. She was his one strong candid enemy, so he went to her as his only friend."They w?an't have him to fiddle, I reckon," said Realf. 北京pk分分彩 He was pleased to see their evident love of the farm. They begged him not to keep them too long at school, for they wanted to come home and work on Odiam. So he took David away when he was sixteen, and William when he was fifteen the next year.Rate, skate, and crabs.Those who brothers' love have crossed.""You'll never go sending our Harry to fiddle at fairs," said Mrs. Backfield. For a moment nobody seemed to realise what was boding. Then they heard a shout that sounded like "Wait for me!" Naomi felt something rise in her throat and sear the roof of her mouth like a hot cinder.[Pg 45] She tried to scream, but her parched tongue would not move. She staggered forward, but Reuben flung her back."Once again," she said slowly, "I ask you—is it worth while?""Ugh!" said Rose—"no fire!" The fields were very dark in their low corners, only their high sweeps shimmered in the ghostly lemon glow. Out of the rabbit-warrens along the hedges, from the rims of the woods, ran the rabbits to scuttle and play. Bessie and Robert saw the bob of their white tails through the dusk, and now and then a little long-eared shape."It's all very well for you to talk, Anne," said her brother Ralph, "you have your godmamma's fortune, and don't need to think of money. But papa and I have to think of it, and after all we're making a little, a very little, out of Boarzell—just enough to keep up the Village Institute. As time goes on, and Backfield gets richer and more ambitious, we shall sell larger pieces at higher rates, and then we'll be able to repair those wretched cottages at Socknersh, and do a lot more besides.""I must say as how you've kept it dark."Pete's attitude was Reuben's chief perplexity. It is true that in early years Albert seemed to have exercised a kind of fascination over his younger brothers and[Pg 365] sisters; still that was long ago, and Pete did not appear to have given him a thought in the interval. But now he suddenly developed an almost maternal devotion for the sick and broken Albert. He would sit up whole nights with him in spite of the toils of the day, he trod lumberingly about on tiptoe in his presence, he read to him by the sweat of his brow. Something in his brother's weakness and misery seemed to have appealed to his clumsy strength. The root of sentimentality which is always more or less encouraged by a brutal career was quickened in his heart, and sprouted to an extent that would have mystified the many he had bashed. It perplexed and irritated his father. To see Pete hulking about on tiptoe, carrying jugs of water and cups of milk, shutting doors with grotesque precaution, and perpetually telling someone upstairs in a voice hoarse with sympathy that he "wurn't to vrother, as he'd be better soon"—was a foolish and maddening spectacle. Also Reuben dreaded that Pete would scamp his farm work, so he fussed round after everything he did, and called him from Albert's bedside times without number to hoe turnips or guide the plough. "Give her to me, child—let me look."Then suddenly she began to plead:"She ?un't my sort," he mumbled as he walked home, "she ?un't at all my sort. Dudn't know where Odiam wur—never heard of Boarzell—oh, yes, seems as she remembered hearing something when I t?ald her"—and Reuben's lip curled ironically.That gave the crowd its freedom—hitherto the conflict had been squeezed into two representatives, leaving some hundred men merely limp spectators; but with the collapse of his proxy, each man felt the rage in him boil up.Reuben could not understand how his sons could care so little about that which was all things to him. He had brought them up to his ambitions—they were not like Naomi, thrust into them in later, less-impressionable years. He had not been weak with them, and not been cruel—yet only Pete was at all satisfactory. However, he was not the man to sit down and despair before his obstacles. He made the best of things as they were—ground[Pg 138] work out of his lads, since he could not grind enthusiasm, and trusted to the future to stir up a greater hope. He somehow could not believe that his boys could go through all their lives not caring for Odiam. 北京pk分分彩 An hour later the whole of the boy's plans, and worse still his sinews of war, were in the enemy's possession. Reuben ransacked his son's mind as easily as he ransacked his pockets and the careful obvious little hiding-place under his mattress where lay the twenty-two shillings of which he had defrauded Odiam. His love for Bessie, his degraded and treacherous hopes, filled the father with shame. Had he then lived so meanly that such mean ambitions should inspire his son?Afterwards he felt better, but he was still fuming[Pg 275] when he came to Odiam, and dashed up straight to Rose's bedroom, where she lay with the ten-days-old David and a female friend from Rye, who had come in to hear details about her confinement. Both, not to say all three, were startled by Reuben's sudden entrance, crimson and hatless, his collar flying, the dust all over him."I—I dunno," she faltered, her voice sounding squeaky and unlike her own: "it might be nine.""You can't keep me out here. It isn't my fault I'm late—and I'm not so very late, either.""Doing valiant. Will you come out wud me to-morrow evenun to see the toll-burning?" In time, as these battles became more usual, the family were forced to take sides. Peter supported Reuben, Caro supported Rose. There had been an odd kind of friendship between the downtrodden daughter and the gay wife ever since they had unpacked the latter's trunks together on her wedding night and Caro had cried because Rose had what she might never have.Reuben was grieved, but not so much grieved as if she had been cut down in her strength—for a long time she had been pretty useless on the farm. He handed her over to the nursing of the girls, though they were too busy to do more for her than the barest necessities. Now and then he went up himself and sat by her bed, restlessly cracking his fingers, and fretting to be out again at his work.All this was a propitiatory offering to the god of the hearth, who, however, did not take the slightest notice,[Pg 306] or stay as he so easily might (so the scripture saith) that hunger for her beloved which was gnawing at the young wife's heart. Instead, it seemed to grow in its devouring pain—her domesticity stimulated rather than deadened it, and by the time her day's tasks were over it had eaten up her poor heart like a dainty, and she was its unresisting prey.Then the baby began to howl because it was hungry. Rose had nursed it herself, and its wants had not occurred to the unhappy Caro or her father. There was delay and confusion while a bottle was fetched and milk prepared, and then—to crown all—cow's milk upset it, and it was sick. But Reuben escaped this final tragedy—he had left the room after a few mouthfuls, and gone to Handshut's cottage.The crowd was like a boa-constrictor, it seemed to fold itself round him, smashing his ribs. He screamed, half suffocated. His forehead was blistered with heat. Again the crowd constricted. A dizziness came this time with the suffocation, and strange to say, as consciousness was squeezed out of him like wind out of a bellows, he had one last visit of that furious hate which had made him join the battle—hate of those who had robbed his father of Boarzell, and hate of Boarzell itself, because he would never be able to tame it as one tames a bull with a ring in its nose. Mrs. Backfield arrived in a washed-out bed-gown. A fire was lit and water put on to boil. Fanny's, however, did not seem just an ordinary case of "fits"; she lay limp in her mother's arms, strangely blue round the mouth, her eyes half open. Caro was not like her sister; she was of larger build, yet thinner, and much darker, inheriting her father's swarthy skin and thick black hair. She did not give Reuben the same anxiety as Tilly—she was heavy and coltish, and, he felt, would not appeal to men. But[Pg 195] Tilly, especially when the summer heats had melted together the little freckles over her nose, struck his masculine eye in a way that made him half proud, half fearful."If you've come to ask me to kip you and your husband on at Grandturzel," said Reuben, "you might have s?aved yourself the trouble, fur I'm shut of you both after last night."The result of all this was that George Fleet, being young and humorous, indulged in some glorious rags at old Backfield's expense. He had not been to Cambridge for nothing, and one morning Reuben found both his house doors boarded up so that he had to get out by the window, and on another occasion his pigs were discovered in a squalling mass with their tails tied together. There was no good demanding retribution, for the youth's scandalised innocence when confronted with his crimes utterly convinced his fools of parents, and gave them an opinion of his accuser that promised ill for his ultimate possession of the Fair-place.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. 北京pk分分彩 "Yes—and Greek, when I've adone wud the Latin." "Hullo," said Pete. Something in his brother's pitiable condition seemed to have touched him."What are you staying for?—I reckon the master wants you."