Reuben's head dropped on his arm, and he slept out of weariness. An hour later the cramp of his shoulders woke him; the fiddle was silent, the moon was gone, and the window framed a level blackness. With a little moan he flung himself dressed on the bed."No—but we'll have to stay. F?ather will make us.""Alice—how did you know?"He could not tell exactly what it was that had invigorated him, and jerked him out of his despair. It would seem as if Alice's presence alone had tonic qualities. Perhaps the secret lay in her unchangeableness. He had gone back to her after an absence of five years, and found her just the same, still loving him, still fighting him, the old Alice. Everything else had changed—his farm which in the former days had been the thriving envy of the countryside was now little better than a ruin, his home life had been turned inside out, but in the woman over at Cheat Land nothing had altered, love and strength and faithfulness still flourished in her. It was as if a man stumbling in darkness should suddenly hear a loved, familiar voice say "Here I am." The situation summed itself up in three words—She was there; and his heart added—"for me to take if I choose." 北京pk是最稳计划 "Unaccountable good.""Help me, Naomi," he pleaded, "fur I can't manage wudout you.""Hurray for MacKinnon!—Down with the Tollkeepers!""So it be—I shudn't have brought you through all this damp grass. We shud have gone by the lane, I reckon." Robert, after some considering, decided to go with Bessie to Wadhurst, and ask the clergyman there exactly what they ought to do. He could easily find a room for her where she could stay till the law had been complied with. They would travel by the new railway. It would be rather alarming, but Jenny Vennal had once been to Brighton by train and said that the only thing against it was the dirt."Yes, ma'am."Reuben was silent. He sat leaning forward in his chair, holding Alice's hand. Then he abruptly rose to his feet.Strange to say, Harry, who had paid little attention to the earlier babies, seemed drawn to this one. He would hang round Naomi when she had her in her lap, and sometimes gingerly put out a hand and stroke the child's limbs. Naomi could not bear that he should touch her; but he amused Fanny, so she tolerated him. He had fallen into the habit of many half-witted[Pg 92] people and occasionally made strange faces, which though repulsive to everyone else, filled Fanny with hilarious delight. Indeed they were the first thing she "noticed." "It's all over now—I've touched bottom.""Now, you silly liddle thing, wot are you crying for? Mayn't I have a joke?"Harry and his mother had not realised till then how hard Reuben could be. Hitherto they had never truly known him, for he had hidden in himself his dominant passion. But now it was nakedly displayed, and they began to glimpse his iron and steel through the elusive nebulousness that had veiled them—as one might see the body of a steam-engine emerge through the clouds of draping smoke its activity has flung round it.We're off to Rio Bay." For the first time she began definitely to reproach herself for her treatment of Harry. Though she could never have married him, she could at least have been faithful to him.Her memories of those days were full of the smell of daffodils blown in at her window from the garden and of primroses set by Reuben in a bowl beside the bed—of Reuben stooping over her, smoothing back her hair, and stroking her face with hands that quivered strangely, or holding the baby as if it were made of fire and glass."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." 北京pk是最稳计划 "Ben the Gorilla! Ben the Gorilla! Give him tar and feathers!""Odiam's doing splendid—you don't want no more."As the conversation wore on, and became more general, Lardner said something about going over to Snailham and taking Rose home on the way.Reuben began to fidget about Grandturzel. He told his son-in-law that if things did not improve he would have to go. In vain Realf pleaded bad weather and bad luck—neither of them was ever admitted as an excuse at Odiam. "Oh, Ben!...""Oh Lord!" wailed Ditch—"Oh Lord!"Reuben's hopes of the Fair-place now revived, and he at once approached the new Squire with a view to purchase; but Sir Eustace turned out to be quite as wrong-headed as Sir Ralph on the matter of popular rights.A loud wail from Fanny in her cradle drove the retort from Naomi's lips. She sprang from the arm-chair where she had been resting, and ran heavily across the room to the baby's side. "Naomi, my darling, my love, git well—you mustn't die and leave me.""I'm going to m?ake a farmer of un, your reverence." Besides, while she laughed and babbled like a child, her eyes continually rose towards his with a woman's calculated boldness. They spoke something quite different from her lips—the combination was maddening; and those lips, too, in their rare silences, were so unlike the words they uttered that he scarcely knew whether he wanted most to silence them completely or never let them be silent."Oh, I've found a way of gitting shut of them rootses—thought of it while I wur working at the trees. I'm going to blast 'em out."Sometimes she would have anxious moments, a strange sense of fear. "I'm a bad woman," she would[Pg 350] repeat to herself, and she would dread the thought of her sister Tilly. But the terrors did not last, they were driven away by the remembrance of what her life had been before she met Joe—its drabness, its aimless toil, its lassitude, its humiliations. She would have been a fool to spurn her golden chance when it came. It had been her only chance; after all it was not as if she ever could have married. She had had to choose between the life she had led up to that August evening and the life she was leading now, and she could not regret her choice.He came shuffling up to her, and for a moment stood straining his blind eyes into her face."He wurn't on the new land," continued Boorman, "he'd fallen into the ditch by Socknersh palings—that's why we cudn't find un. Reckon as he'd felt the fitses coming on un, and tried to git h?ame, pore souly." 北京pk是最稳计划 "We can go back by Corkwood across the marshes. It'll be quicker, and we shan't have no crowd spanneling round.""Goodbye, Dolly, I must leave youHe went up to Albert's room. He had furiously given Ditch the lie in the Courthouse, but he had never trusted his son, and the accusation had poured over him a flood of shame which could be quelled only by its proof or its refutation. If Albert's guilt were proved—which Reuben, now bathing in this luminous shame, saw was quite probable—then he knew what to do to clean the smirch off Odiam; if, on the other hand, his innocence were established, then he would punish those swine who threw mud at him and his farm. "It's all over now—I've touched bottom.""No—— Oh, no!""Robby ... I love you ... I love you so!"