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      "Why, my lord," said Luke, in reply to De Boteler's interrogatory, "there is hardly a free maiden in the parish that would not have been glad of Stephen; but, though I have never seen her, I am told this wife of his is the comeliest damsel between this and Winchcombe: and, besides, she is not like a common niefand then, my lord, she is the sister of the good monk John."


      "We're all very unlucky," said Tilly, "to have been born his children. But one by one we're gitting free. There'll soon be only Pete and Jemmy and Caro left."


      "Aye, that he does, squire: to be sure he doesn't say any thing; but then he thinks the more; and, besides, he never comes into the ale-house when his work is done, to take a cheering draught like other men. No, no, he is too proud for that; but home he goes, and whatever he drinks he drinks at his own fireside."

      "The gloves are very beautiful," replied the lady.In eight days he was again brought before Sudbury; but solitude had effected no change in his sentiments. Three days more were granted, and on the fourth, all the members of the community were assembled, and the monk was led from his cell to the chapel. There, in the presence of the brethren, he was once more asked whether he would publicly confess his fault in administering a sacrament to an excommunicated man, and profess his desire to perform public penance for the scandal he had given; and when he made no reply, he was asked if he would disclose the place of concealment of the bondman, Holgrave. To this, also, no reply was given; and finally he was promised, that if he knew aught of the stolen child of the Lord de Boteler, and would unreservedly declare all he knewif he had not actually assisted in the abductionall his past errors should be forgiven, in consideration of this act of justice. But Father John knew, that although by a disclosure he might avert his own fate, yet he would assuredly draw down inevitable ruin on Holgrave, and that the hopes he had himself cherishedfor the reader cannot be ignorant that it was he who was the author of the mysterious documentwould utterly fall to the ground; and with that noble-mindedness, that would rather sacrifice self than betray the confidence of another, he still refused to answer.

      He peered out into the blackness. Was that something he saw moving against the sky on the shoulder of Boarzell? It was too dark for him to make sure. Where had Albert gone? To his Radical friends, of course. They had offered to make his fortunewell, let them make it, and durn them!He had trouble, too, with his new grass. One of his Jersey cows suddenly died, and it turned out that it[Pg 94] had eaten some poisonous plant which had insinuated itself into the pasture. It was as if Boarzell fought treacherouslywith stabbings in the dark as well as blastings in the open. The night the Jersey died, Reuben sat with his head buried in his arms on the kitchen table, while Naomi carried her Miss Fanny about the room, and told her about the beautiful silk gowns she would wear when she grew up.


      He finished his supper and went out of the kitchen. Harry and his mother sat for a moment or two in silence.

      Fair day was to be a special holiday that year because of the Coronation. Reuben at first thought that he would not goit was always maddening to see the booths and shows crowding over his Canaan, and circumstances would make his feelings on this occasion ten times more bitter. But he had never missed the Fair except for some special reason, such as a funeral or an auction, and he felt that if he stayed away it might be put down to low spirits at his son's desertion, or, worse still, to his old age.In the parlour, Sir Eustace greeted him with mingled nervousness and irritation.

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      It was a hemmed shamelife was crooked and unfair, in spite of the Disposer Supreme and Judge of the Earth. For the first time he doubted the general providence of things. Why should young Bardon with his easy manners and roving lustful eye have a pocket full of money to spend as he pleased, whereas he, Robert, who loved truly and wanted to marry his love, should not have a penny towards his desires? This was the first question he had ever asked of life, and its effect was to upset not only the little store of maxims and truisms which made his philosophy, but those rules of conduct which depended on them. One did not take what did not belong to one because in church the Curate said, "Thou shalt not steal," whereat the choristers would sing, "Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law." Nevertheless, that bank-note spent the last mile of the way in Robert's pocket.

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      But the next moment he cast the coward feeling from him. His experience had given him immeasurable advantage over this babe. Realf who had never felt the sweat pouring like water down his tired body, who had never swooned asleep from sheer exhaustion, or lain awake all night from sheer anxiety, who had not sacrificed wife and children and friends and self to one dear, loved, darling ambition ... bah! what could he do against the man who had done all these things, and was prepared to go on doing them to the end?Reuben thought long and anxiously about his brother. He did not speak much of him to his mother or Naomi, for he knew that they would not understand the problem that confronted him. He felt worn by the extra load of work, and his brain fretted, spoiling his good sleep. He[Pg 53] was back in his own room now, but he slept worse than in Harry's; he would lie awake fighting mentally, just as all day he had fought physicallylife was a continuous fight.

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