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      For an hour or two the men had studied with intense eagerness the bristling fortifications of the gap and the swarming foemen at the foot of and on the summit of the high walls of rock. They had listened anxiously to the firing to the right and left, and tried to make out what success their comrades on other parts of the long crescent were having. They had watched the faces of the officers to read there how the battle was going.



      When it came within ten yards of the fences, it doubted itself suddenly after the manner of crowds. It stopped, surged back, and mumbled. "Down with the fences!" shouted someone"Long live the Squire!" shouted someone else. Then there was a pause, almost a silence.Chapter 15

      As the summer wore on she grew steadily worse. She lay stiff and helpless, through the long August days, watching the sunlight creep up the wall, slip along the ceiling, and then vanish into the pale, heat-washed sky that gleamed with it even after the stars had come. She did not fret much, or think muchshe watched things. She watched the sunshine from its red kindling to its red scattering, she watched the moon slide across the window, and haunt the mirror after it had passedor the sign of the Scales dangling in the black sky. Sometimes the things she looked at seemed to fade, and she would see a room in which she and her husband were sitting or a lane along which they were walking ...[Pg 201] but just as she had begun to wonder whether she were not really still young and happy and married and this vision the fact and the sickness and loneliness the dream, then suddenly everything would pass away like smoke, and she would be back in her bed, watching the travelling sun, or the haunting moon, or the hanging stars.It might be Rio de Janeiro."

      She had forgotten the Arabellas and Mariannas of the Keepsake, and the baby was called Fanny after Naomi's own mother, whom she dimly remembered. Fanny became the centre of Naomi's life; she was not as healthy as the other children, and her little pains and illnesses were all so many cords drawing her closer to her mother's heart. Though she required twice as much attention as the boys, Naomi never fretted or grew weary, as she had sometimes done in the service of the other little oneson the contrary, she bloomed into a new beauty, and recovered the youthfulness she had begun to lose.


      Something almost like a sob shook Reuben. Then, ashamed of his weakness, he raised his head, and saw that behind Boarzell the night had lifted, and a cowslip paleness was creeping into the sky. The great dark hump of the Moor showed clearly against it with its tuft of firs. A faint thrill stole through Reuben's tired limbs. Boarzell was always there to be loved and fought for, even if he had no heart or arm but his own. Gradually hope stirred as the dawn crept among the clouds. The wind came rustling and whiffling to him over the heather, bringing him the rich damp smell of the earth he loved.The tents and stalls were blocked as usual round the central crest of pines. It was all much as it had been five years ago on the day of the Riot. There was the outer fringe of strange dwellingstents full of smoke and sprawling squalling children, tilt carts with soup-pots hanging from their axles over little fires, and[Pg 60] gorgeously painted caravans which stood out aristocratically amidst the prevalent sacking. There was a jangle of voicesthe soft Romany of the gipsies, the shriller cant of the pikers and half-breeds, the broad drawling Sussex of the natives. Head of all the Fair, and superintending the working of the crazy merry-go-round, was Gideon Teazel, a rock-like man, son, he said, of a lord and a woman of the Rosamescros or Hearnes. He stood six foot eight in his boots and could carry a heifer across his shoulders. His wife Aurora, a pure-bred gipsy, told fortunes, and was mixed up in more activities than would appear from her sleepy manner or her invariable position, pipe in mouth, on the steps of her husband's caravan. Gideon loved to display his devotion for her by grotesque endearments and elephantine caressesdue no doubt to the gaujo strain in him, for the true gipsies always treated their women in public as chattels or beasts of burden, though privately they were entirely under their thumbs.

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      His sons were now growing upAlbert was nearly eighteen, and Peter, though a year younger, looked a full-grown man, with his immense build and dark hairy skin. Pete was still the most satisfactory of Reuben's children, he had a huge and glad capacity for work, and took a real interest in Odiam's progress, though it was not his life, as it was his father's. It was strange, Reuben thought, that none of the other boys seemed to have a glimmer of enthusiasm. Though they had grown up under the shadow of Boarzell, and from their earliest childhood taken part in the struggle, they seemed still to think more about the ordinary things of young men's lives than the great victory before them. It was disappointing. Of course one expected it of girls, but Reuben's heart ached a little because the men children on whom he had set such hope and store cared[Pg 127] so little about what was life itself to him. It is true that Robert worked well, nearly as well as Pete, but that was only because he was of a docile, tractable nature. He did not share his father's dreamsBoarzell to him was only a piece of waste ground with some trees on it.

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      This time the boys seemed to be firing effectively. There was a commotion in the woods beyond, and the sound of groans on the damp air.

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      She had been a fool, and now she was paying the price of folly, which is always so much heavier than the price of sin. Here she was at twenty-five, prematurely old, exhausted, sick of life, and utterly alone. There[Pg 104] was no one to turn to in her wretchedness. Her neighbours were incapable of giving her real help or sympathy, Mrs. Backfield invariably took Reuben's part and resented the slightest criticism of him, old Gasson was hard and selfish, and not particularly interested in his daughter.


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