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      He started licking his forty acres into shape, with many inward vows that he would have the rest of them soon, he was hemmed if he didn't. He was on the high ground now, he could throw a stone into the clump of firs which still mocked his endeavours. The soil was all hard and flinty, matted with heather roots and the fibres of gorse. Reuben's men grumbled and cursed as the earth crumbled and rattled against their spades, which sometimes broke on the big flints and bits of limestone. They scoffed incredulously when old Beatup told them that the lower pastures and the Totease oatfields had once been like this.

      Four years later Reuben bought the farmstead of Totease. Brazier died, and the Manor, anxious as usual for ready money, put up his farm for sale. It was a good place of about sixty acres, with some beautiful hop gardens and plenty of water. Reuben felt that it would be unwise to neglect such an opportunity for enlarging the boundaries of Odiam. He outbid one or two small farmers, put the place under repair, engaged more hands, and set to work to develop a large business in hops.

      She gently rattled the door-handle. There was no denying itthe house was locked up. It must be later than she thoughtthat walk on the Rother levels must have been longer than it had seemed to her thirsty love. A thrill of fear went through her. She hoped Reuben would not be angry. She was his dutiful wife.But Ralph only sighedit was all very well for Anne to talk!

      "Yes.""I'm not going by myselfHandshut's taking me."

      It was this undoubtedly which had occurred in the domestic history of Keelings house. He had been infatuated with Emmelines prettiness at a time when as a young man of sternly moral principles and strong physical needs, the only possible course was to take a wife, while Emmeline, to tell the truth, had no voice in the matter at all. Certainly she had liked him, but of love in any ardent, compelling sense, she had never, in the forty-seven years of her existence, shown the smallest symptom in any direction whatever, and it was not likely that she was going to develop the malady now. She had supposed (and her mother quite certainly had supposed too) that she was going to marry somebody sometime, and when this strong and splendidly handsome young man insisted that she was going to marry him, she had really done little more than conclude that he must be right, especially when her mother agreed with him. Events had proved that as far as her part of the matter was concerned, she had{36} acted extremely wisely, for, since anything which might ever so indulgently be classed under the broad heading of romance, was foreign to her nature, she had secured the highest prize that life conceivably held for her in enjoying years of complete and bovine content. When she wanted a thing very much indeed, such as driving home after church on Sunday morning instead of walking, she generally got it, and probably the acutest of her trials were when John had the measles, or her husband and mother worried each other. But being almost devoid of imagination she had never thought that John was going to die of the measles or that her husband was going to cut off his annual Christmas present to her mother. Things as uncomfortable as that never really came near her; she seemed to be as little liable to either sorrow or joy as if when a baby she had been inoculated with some spiritual serum that rendered her permanently immune. She was fond of her children, her card-bearing crocodile in the hall, her husband, her comfort, and she quite looked forward to being Lady Mayoress next year. There would always be sufficient strawberries and iced coffee at her garden parties; her husband need not be under any apprehension that she would not have proper provision made. Dreadful scenes had occurred this year, when Mrs Alington gave her last garden-party, and two of her guests had been seen almost pulling the last strawberry in half.{37}"Well, of course if it's only fun.... But f?ather wudn't think it that."



      "No!how can I?"


      "I may depend upon you, Master Oakley?" said the suspicious steward, pausing at the door.