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      Reuben was surprised at Lardner's attitude. The old man refused to look upon this spending of his niece's dowry as an excellent investment, which would soon bring in returns a hundredfoldhe would have preferred to see her money lying safe and useless in Lewes Old Bank, and accused Backfield of greed and recklessness. Reuben in his turn was disgusted with Lardner's parsimony, and would have quarrelled with him had he not been afraid of an estrangement. The farmer of Starvecrow could not speak without all sorts of dreadful roars and clearings in his throat, and Reuben hopefully observed the progress of the cancer."He's done better nor he desarved," said Coalbran of Doozes.

      He decided that the sheep should be Richard's special chargethey, at all events, could not make him sick; and if he was kept hard at work at something definite and important it would clear his mind of gentility nonsense. Reuben also had rather a pathetic hope that it might stir up his ambition.Sometimes, roaming through murky dusks, he realised in the dim occasional flashes which illuminate the non-thinking man, that he was up against the turning-point of his fight with Boarzell. If he married Alice it would be the token of what had always seemed more unimaginable than his defeathis voluntary surrender. Sometimes he told himself fiercely that he could fight Boarzell with Alice hanging, so to speak, over his arm; but in his heart he knew that he could not. He could not have both Alice and Boarzell.

      You know I did not. But I am quite certain that Miss Propert was not rude. And now about Alices being here, when I brought her in. What of that? I wish you to tell me if you meant anything. If you did not, I wish you to say so.

      "I see you have a misgiving that it is Thomas Calverleyit is he! But be seated, Margaret, and listen to the last words I shall ever more breathe in mortal ear."

      Once or twice Reuben caught him in the same mood, and questioned him. But David still answered:"II?un't you pleased to see me?"

      "Then you must have bin a valiant basher in your day. It's a pity you let yourself go slack."

      "To London.""It was not to parley you came here, Sir Constable," said Calverley, "but to fulfil the king's command. This bondman, you must have been aware before-hand, would attempt to deny his bondage, like any other of his class who break their bonds."




      If he lost Alice now he might be losing her for a dream,[Pg 329] a bubble, a will-o'-the-wisp. Surely he would be wise to pull what he could out of the wreck, take her, and forget all else. Only a fool would turn away from her now, and press forward. In the old days it had been different, he had been successful thennow he was a failure, and saw his chance to fail honourably. Better take it before it was too late.