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      "What! the wife's brother! He who has attended the chapel since the death of the late good father?"Calverley could scarcely repress a smile of exultation as the baron delivered this command, but composing his countenance to its general calm expression, he bowed to De Boteler, and immediately withdrew.

      Gradually the sun slanted and glowed, and a faint ripple of air stole into the room, lifting the hair on her forehead, tangled and damp. It struck her that she must be looking very uglyshe who had used to be such a pretty girl.They ran down towards the thickset hedge which divided the Fair-place from Odiam's land, and to his horror began to try to force their way through it, screaming piercingly the while. Reuben shouted to them:

      Tilly flung one wide-eyed glance over her shoulder into the room where young Realf lay, and dashed off for water and towels, while Pete fetched a piece of raw meat out of the larder.

      "F?ather's after our land," said Tilly, and shuddered."And yit he's as proud as the Old Un himself. I met him on Thursday, and I told him how unaccountable sorry we all wur fur him, and he jest spat."

      Naomi spent a peaceful and happy convalescence. Everything combined for her blessedness. The soft April days scattered their scent and sunshine on her bed, where she lay with her baby, full of drowsy hopes. Even Boarzell's firs had a mellowness about them, as if her motherhood had sweetened not only herself and those about her, but the grim face of nature militant.Dancing at weddings was dying out as a local fashion, so when the breakfast was over the guests melted away, having eaten and drunk themselves into a desire for sleep. Reuben's family went home. He and Rose lingered a little with her uncle, then as the January night came crisping into the sky and fields, he drove her to Odiam in his gig, as long ago he had driven Naomi. She leaned against his shoulder, for he wanted both hands for his horse, and her hair tickled his neck. She was silent for about the first time that day, and as eager for the kisses he could give her while he drove as Naomi had been shy of them. Above in the cold black sky a hundred pricks of fire shuddered like sparksthe lump of Boarzell was blocked against a powder of stars.


      Naomi obediently dried her eyes, but it was rather hard to keep them from getting wet again. For in her heart she knew that it was not the vulgarity of Reuben's joke which had upset her, but a certain horrible convincingness about it. It was not so merely a joke as he would have her think.


      For some obscure reason Caro did not like to see [Pg 284]herself credited with the harshness of inexperience. She did her best to assume an air of worldly toleration."Do you know, blacksmith," interrupted the baron, still endeavouring to appear unruffled, "that you are not talking to one of your own class, but to one who has the willaye, and the powerto compel a satisfactory reply? And I insist," he added, raising his voice, "that you tell me where the bondman abides!"