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      There was a moon somewhere above the snow-clouds that already were beginning to grow thin from the burden they had discharged, and the smug villas on each side of the road were clearly visible. She had to go up the length of Alfred Road, then turn down the street that led by St Thomass Vicarage, and emerge into West Street, where she lived with her brother. Already, a fortnight ago he had ascertained the number of their house, not asking for it directly, but causing her to volunteer the information, and since then he had half a dozen times gone through the street, on his way to and from the Stores in order to take a glance at it as he passed. He had wanted to know what the house looked like; he had wanted to construct the circumstances of her life, to know the aspect of her environment, to see the front-door out of which she came to her duties as his secretary. That all concerned her, and for that reason it concerned him. He knew the house well by now: he knew from chance remarks that he had angled for that her bedroom looked into the street, that Charless looked on to an old{154} disused graveyard behind. There was the dining-room and the sitting-room in front, and a paling behind which Michaelmas daisies flourished in a thin row. She cared for flowers, but not for flowers in a six-inch bed. They rather provoked her: they were playing at being flowers. She liked them when they grew in wild woodland spaces, and were not confined between a house-wall and a row of tiled path.He had no difficulty in making her look at him now. She looked up with a half smile.

      "I'll write wot I please, surelye," growled Albert, trying rather unsuccessfully to resume his swagger.

      He did not smile back at her: he looked at the table and drummed it with his fingers, as she had often seen him do when he was discussing some business point on which he did not intend to yield.Now this is doctors orders, he said. You are to sit cosily by the fire, and talk to any poor parson who comes to see you. The dose is to be taken at exactly half-past four!

      The fourth day from his committal, happened to be a Court day of the manor, and it was selected for the trial, for the purpose of showing the tenantry what they might expect from the commission of an offence of such rare occurrence. The hall was thronged to suffocation; for many more were attracted by the expected trial, than by the familiar business of a manorial court, and the people beguiled the time till the entrance of De Boteler in commenting on the transaction.

      You must allow it was very odd that your secretary should appear in the middle of my dinner-party, she said, and simply stroll across to your room. I had been talking of your room half dinner-time with Mr Fyson, saying that none of us was allowed there. And then, in came this girlAlice Jury and her father were in church. Reuben saw them as he marched up the aisle with an enormous flower in his buttonhole, accompanied by Ginner of Socknersh as his best man. It struck him that she looked more pretty and animated than usual, in a woolly red dress and a little fur cap under which her eyes were bright as a robin's. Even then he felt a little offended and perplexed by her behaviourshe should have droopedit would have been more becoming if she had drooped.

      A crash of thunder and a spit of lightning tore open the sky, and for a moment Reuben saw the slope of the Moor livid in the flash, and the crest of firs standing[Pg 225] against the split and tumbling clouds. The air rang, screamed, hissed, rushed, and rumbled. Reuben, hardly knowing what he did, had sprung to his feet.

      He was dismayed by the lack of local enthusiasm. He dug up one or two of his own pastures and planted wheat; he even sacrificed ten acres of his precious hops,[Pg 410] but nobody seemed inclined to follow his example. The neighbourhood was ornately patriotic, flags flew from the oast-houses at Socknersh, union Jacks washed to delicate pastel shades by the chastening rainwhile the Standard misleadingly proclaimed that the Royal Family was in residence at Burntbarns. On Odiam the boys sang:


      De Boteler looked at Edith an instant with a frown, as if about to answer fiercely; but after a moment he inquired calmly,


      "Git out of this!" he shouted. "I w?an't stand here and listen to you miscalling the farm wot's bred you and fed you over thirty year. Git out, and never think you'll come back again. I'm shut of you. I d?an't want no more of youI'm out of the wood now, I've got all the work out of you I've needed, so you can go, and spread your hemmed Word, and be hemmed. I'm shut of you."


      "I don't knowI don't remember any thing about it!"In the villages, the distinctions of dress created by law were pretty generally observed, but in the towns that law was as generally evaded: furs, and colours, and embroidery were worn by those who had no right to them, except the single one of purchase. In some instances, the law would take cognizance of the violation of its prohibitions; a fine would be imposed, but even this could not check the vain assumption;there was no law to prevent people buying, and those who could purchase forbidden finery, would, in despite of penalties, contrive some means of wearing it. But to return to our foreign merchant.