时间：<2020-06-07 17:26:37 作者：FE我酷网oJK 浏览量：9777
Chapter 12Robert was first of all part of a cluster which included young Coalbran from Doozes, Tom Sheane from Dinglesden, the two Morfees from Edzell, Emily Ditch, and Bessie Lamb from Eggs Hole. Then in time the company reduced itself to Robert, Emily, and Bessie—and one wonderful night he found himself with Bessie alone. How they had chosen each other he could not say. All he knew was that for sometime she had become woven with the music into his thoughts. She[Pg 142] was a poor labourer's daughter, living in a crumbled, rickety cottage on Eggs Hole Farm, helping her mother look after eight young children. She was only seventeen herself, sturdy yet soft, with a mass of hay-coloured hair, and rather a broad face with wistful eyes. Robert thought she was beautiful—but Robert thought that old Spodgram's playing and the choir's singing were beautiful."He's bin reading some poetry of yours, Bertie," continued his sister, "and he's justabout dreadful, all his cl?athes tore about, and a nasty mess of blood and yaller stuff on his face."
The morning flushed. A soft pink crept into ponds and dawn-swung windows. The light perfumes of April softened the cold, clear air—the scent of sprouting leaves in the woods, and of primroses in the grass, while the anemones frothed scentless against the hedges. Pete was about half a mile from the village when he heard the sound of angry voices round a bend in the lane, pricked by little screams from a woman. Expecting a fight he hurried up eagerly, and was just in time to see one of the grandest upper cuts in his life. A short, well-built man in black had just knocked down a huge, hulking tramp who had evidently been improving the hour with a woman now blotted against the hedge. He lay flat in the road, unconscious, while his adversary stood over him, his fist still clenched and all the skin off his knuckles."Well, my dear, he pays me good money for it, and I'm in precious need of that just now."A sudden terrible lucidity came to Mrs. Backfield.
Though it breaks my heart to go—
The crowd was like a boa-constrictor, it seemed to fold itself round him, smashing his ribs. He screamed, half suffocated. His forehead was blistered with heat. Again the crowd constricted. A dizziness came this time with the suffocation, and strange to say, as consciousness was squeezed out of him like wind out of a bellows, he had one last visit of that furious hate which had made him join the battle—hate of those who had robbed his father of Boarzell, and hate of Boarzell itself, because he would never be able to tame it as one tames a bull with a ring in its nose."We'll never do anything fur ourselves if we stay at Odiam."
He reached the clerk's house a little while after the practice had started, and stood for a moment gazing in at the window. A terrible homesickness rose in his heart. Must he really be cut off from all these delights? There they stood, the boys and girls, his friends, singing "Disposer Supreme" till the rafters rang. Perhaps after to-night he would never sing with them again. Then his eyes fell on Bessie, and the hunger drove him in."Taste it——"As soon as the supper was over, Reuben still munching bread and bacon went up to his wife's room. The sunlight was gone, but the sky was blood-red behind Boarzell's hulk, and a flushed afterglow hung on the ceiling and moved slowly like a fire over the bed. The corners of the room, the shadows cast by the furniture, were black and smoky. On Naomi's face, on her body[Pg 114] outlined under the sheet, the lights crimsoned and smouldered. There was a strange fiery reflection in her eyes as she turned them to the door.
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.Caro shrank from the jibe as if from a blow, and Reuben laughed brutally. He had made one woman suffer anyway.The practices were held in the clerk's kitchen, into which the choristers would crush and huddle. On full attendance nights all elbows touched, and occasionally old Spodgram's bow would be jolted out of his hand, or someone would complain that Leacher was blowing his trumpet down his neck. Afterwards the choristers would wander home in clusters through the fields; the clusters generally split into small groups, and then the groups into couples. The couples would scatter widely, and vex their homes with late returnings.
"We're no worser off than we wur before," Joseph Backfield had said a day or two ago to his complaining boy—"we've our own meadows for the cows—'t?un't as if we were poor people.""I dare say you won't have to—I'm not staying out all night."She went down into the kitchen, where Caro was baking suet.
Her young face bowed to his neck, and suddenly his lips crept round and lay against the coolness of her cheek. She did not move, and he still walked on, the grass splashing under his feet, the rabbits scampering round him, showing their little cotton-tails in the dark.Chapter 8