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      Richard began to take a new interest in his flockhitherto they had merely struck him as grotesque. Their pale silly eyes, their rough, tic-ridden fleeces, their scared repulsiveness after the dipping, their bewildered nakedness after the shearing, had filled him either with amusement or disgust; but now, when he saw them weakly lick the backs of their new-born lambs, while the lambs' little tails quivered, and tiny, entreating sounds came from their mouths, he found in them a new beauty, which he had found nowhere else in his short, hard lifethe beauty of an utterly loving, tender, and helpless thing."Nay, nay, squire, I don't refuse: your offer is too tempting for a man in my situation to refuse; but you know"


      They ran down towards the thickset hedge which divided the Fair-place from Odiam's land, and to his horror began to try to force their way through it, screaming piercingly the while. Reuben shouted to them:


      The Moor was on the eastern edge of the parish, five miles from Rye. Heaving suddenly swart out of the green water-meadows by Socknersh, it piled itself towards the sunrise, dipping to Leasan House. It was hummocked and tussocked with coarse grasshere and there a spread of heather, growing, like all southern heather, almost arboreally. In places the naked soil gaped in sores made by coney-warrens or uprooted bushes. Stones and roots, sharn, shards, and lumps of marl, mixed themselves into the wealden clay, which oozed in red streaks of potential fruitfulness through their sterility."Don't come any further."

      There were still about two hundred acres to acquire, including the Grandturzel inclosure, on which, however, he looked more hopefully than of old. He had so far subdued not more than about a hundred and forty acresmost of the northern slope of Boarzell adjoining Odiam and Totease, and also a small tract on the Flightshot side. This was not very encouraging, for it represented the labours of two-thirds of a lifetime, and at the same time left him with more than half his task still unaccomplished. If it had not been for his setback ten years ago he would now probably have over two hundred and fifty acres to his credit. But he told himself that he would progress more quickly now. Also, though he had not enlarged his boundaries during the last ten years, he had considerably improved the quality of the land within them. The first acquired parts of Boarzell were nearly as fruitful and richly cultivated as the original lands of the farm, and even the '68 ground was showing signs of coming into subjection.She flushed at his audacity.


      Precisely at ten o'clock, Richard, without pomp or circumstance, issued from the Tower, attended only by De Boteler, Warwick, and a few others, Sir John Newton bearing the sword of state. He was apparelled in the same manner as when he appeared at Mile-end, when he went forth to meet the Essex men, and with that unsuspecting confidence that marked his early years, entered Smithfield with as much gaiety as if he were going to a banquet. Sir Robert Knowles and his men at arms had orders to follow at some distance, but on no account to show themselves until there might be occasion. After surveying the formidable array, which stretched far away into the fields, and listening to De Boteler's remarks on their clever arrangement, either for attack or defence,

      "Yus, M?aster," said Beatup.

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      The cry rose from the mass up at the stalls, as the big dark figure with flapping hat-brim suddenly sprang out of the dusk and ran to meet Mexico Bill. Reuben was an old man, and his arm had lost its cunning, but he carried a stout ash stick and the maniac saw no one but the women at the hedge. The next moment Reuben's stick had come against his forehead with a terrific crack, and he had tumbled head over heels into a gorse-bush.

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      They could not help wondering at his strenuousness, his unlimited capacity for work, though they failed to understand or sympathise with the object that inspired them. Blackman, grumbling and perplexed, had gone off early in March to the milder energies of Raisins Farm; Becky, for want of a place, had married the drover at Kitchenhourand it was no empty boast of[Pg 34] Reuben's that he would take the greater part of their work on his own shoulders. From half-past four in the morning till nine at night he laboured almost without rest. He drove the cows to pasture, milked them, and stalled themhe followed the plough over the spring-sown crops, he groomed and watered the horses, he fed the fowls, watched the clutches, fattened capons for markethe cleaned the pigsty, and even built a new one in a couple of strenuous dayshe bent his back over his spade among the roots, over his barrow, wheeling loads of manurehe was like a man who has been starved and at last finds a square meal before him. He had all the true workman's rewardsthe heart-easing ache of tired muscles, the good bath of sweat in the sun's heat, the delicious sprawl, every sinew limp and throbbing, in his bed at nightsand then sleep, dreamless, healing, making new.


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