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      So they went and broke their news to Reuben. They were careful and consideratebut he was knocked out by the blow.There was a big outcry in Peasmarsh against Backfield's treatment of the Realfs. Not a farmer in the district would have kept on a hand who had burnt nearly the whole farm to ashes through bad stacking, but this fact did little to modify the general criticism. A dozen excuses were found for Realf's "accident," as it came to be called"and old Ben cud have afforded to lose a stack or two, surelye."

      "He's done better nor he desarved," said Coalbran of Doozes.

      He drank in the heat and stuffiness of the little room as a man might drink water in a desert, not knowing when the next well should be. He loved it, even to the smoke-stains on the sagging rafters, to the faint smell of onions that pervaded it all.

      "Yes,but Holgrave entered and"

      "Because it wur meant so. If we'd bin meant fur masters d'you think we'd have bin made so liddle and dentical like?"The tenantry were arranged in the following order:


      "It's always the farm wud you, Reuben. You might sometimes think of your own kin."That spring the news flew round from inn to inn and farm to farm that Realf of Grandturzel had bought a shire stallion, and meant to start horse-breeding. This was a terrible shock to Reuben, for not only was horse-breeding extremely profitable to those who could afford it, but it conferred immeasurable honour. It seemed now as if Odiam were seriously threatened. If Realf[Pg 196] prospered at his business he could afford to fight Reuben for Boarzell.


      But Reuben had found his voice.


      Then suddenly, without warning, all this love and happiness and possession became too much for Caroshe dropped the brush and the scented hair, and burst into passionate tears."Never mind that. As for me, I am not quite foundered, although I have left a cargo behind at Winchcombe that would have bought a dozen bondmen's freedom. Come with me to London: I have part of a galley of my own there, and you may either stow away in some hole of the city, or slip your cable, and be off for Genoa, where I'll promise you as snug a birth as a man could wish for. Besides, there is your childis it a boy?"