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      She asked him a few questions about the lambing, then:She looked at him a moment with eyes behind which there smouldered a real though a veiled hostility, and he found himself wishing that she would put it into words, and repeat definitely and seriously the accusation at which her dismal little jest about the work of the catalogue keeping him here in Bracebridge, had hinted. Then he could have denied it more explicitly, and with a violence that might have impressed her. But his roughness, his fierce challenging of her stupid chaff had effectively frightened her off any such repetition, and she gave him no opportunity of denial or defence. Only, as she left him, with the intention of seeing Alice before lunch, he noted this intensified situation. It had become more explosive, more dangerous, and now instead of taking it boldly out into the open, and encouraging{184} it to explode, with, probably, no very destructive results, he had caused his wife to lock it up in the confined space of her own mind, hiding it away from his anger or his ridicule. But it was doubtful whether she had detached the smouldering fuse of her own suspicions. They were at present of no very swiftly inflammable stuff: there was but a vague sense that her husband was more interested in Norah than he should be, and had he answered her chaff with something equally light, she might easily have put out that smouldering fuse. But he had not done that: he had flared and scolded, and his attempt to respond in the same spirit was hopelessly belated. She began to wonder whether Mrs Fyson was not right.... True, Mrs Fyson had said very little, but that little appeared now to be singularly suggestive.


      Reuben liked her voice, with its town modulation, the only vestige of Sussex taint being a slight drawl. It struck him that Alice Jury was a "lady," and that he was not condescending very much in speaking to her."D?an't talk nonsense. How can I sit here and see my land messed about by a fool, jest because he happens to have married my darter?and ag?unst my wish, too. I'm sorry fur you, Tilly, but you're still young enough to work. I'm eighty-five, and I ?un't stopped working yet, so d?an't go saying you're too old. Your gals can go out to service ... and this liddle chap here ..."


      "I dare say you won't have toI'm not staying out all night."Handshut still leaned on the sill, and she realised that if his words were decorous, his attitude was not. Surely he had something better to do than hang in at her window. Half his face was in shadow, half was reddened by the smouldering skyit was the face of a young gipsy, brown, sullen, and mocking. She suddenly pulled herself into a sitting posture.

      "Well, I can't help it. I expect that as uncle knew I was well provided for, married and settled and all that, he thought he'd rather leave his stuff to someone who wasn't."

      In the spring of '99 old Jury died over at Cheat Land. His wife had died a year or two earlierReuben had meant to go over and see Alice, but the untimely calving of a new Alderney had put the idea entirely out of his head. On this occasion, however, he attended the funeral, with the other farmers of the district, and at[Pg 408] the churchyard gate had a few words with Alice before she went home.


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      "He means to be complimentary," said Richard.Mrs Keeling made a great effort with herself to behave as befitted a mayoress and the daughter of a P. and O. captain. She thought it outrageous of her husband to have brought the girl in{138} here without consulting her, not being clever enough to see the obvious wisdom, both from his standpoint and that of the girl, of his doing so. But she had the fairness to admit in her own mind that it was not the girls fault: Mr Keeling had told her to come into the drawing-room, and naturally she came. Therefore she behaved to her as befitted the Mayoress talking to a typewriter, and was very grand and condescending.

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      "By the green wax!" cried Oakley, as he lifted the perforated hat from the grass, "we shall need more graves, if we stand here for marks. Come round, and stoop close to the wall, and the trees and grave-stones may ward off the shafts. If they will, let them come to close quarters."

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      Chapter 15


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