时间：<2020-07-11 16:01:43 作者：f2民间鬼故事4DS 浏览量：9777
When the struggle on the lower slopes of Boarzell between the damp earth and the determined man had ended in the earth's sludgy victory and a pile of rotten straw which should have been the glory of the man—then Reuben had time to think of what was going on in the house. He sent for the doctor—not Dr. Espinette, but a Cockney successor who boiled his instruments and washed his hands in carbolic—and heard from him that Mrs. Backfield's existence was no longer justified. She could not expect to work again.Chapter 16
"I don't want you.""And Boarzell's wicked tedious stuff," put in Harry; "naun'll grow there but gorse."He never let anyone see him in these moments—somehow they were almost sacred to him, the religion of his godless old age. But soon the more distant cottagers came to know him by sight, and watch for the tall old man who so often tramped past their doors. He always walked quickly, his head erect, a stout ash stick in his hand. He was always alone—not even a dog accompanied him. He wore dark corduroys, and either a wide-brimmed felt hat, or no hat at all, proud of the luxuriance of his iron-grey hair. They soon came to know who he was.
"He's more likely to amuse us," said Richard; "he's a character, and I shall enjoy studying him for the first time from an unbiassed view-point."That summer the country was shaken by rumours of war, Reuben; having more leisure on his hands, spent it in the study of his daily paper. He could now read simple sentences, and considered himself quite an educated man. When war at last broke out in South Africa he was delighted. It was the best of all possible wars, organised by the best of all possible Governments, under the best of all possible ministers. Chamberlain became his hero—not that he understood or sympathised with his Imperialism, but he admired him for his attitude towards the small nations. He hated all talk about preserving the weak—such was not nature's way, the way of farms; there the weakest always went to the wall, and he could not see why different methods should obtain in the world at large. If Reuben had been a politician he would have kept alive no sick man of Europe, protected no down-trodden Balkan States. One of the chief reasons why he wanted to see the Boers wiped out was because they had muddled their colonisation, failed to establish themselves, or to make of the arid veldt what he had made of Boarzell.
"Well, Alice," he said huskily.
"No—you're justabout right there. I ought to be able to wed Naomi next April year, and then, mother—think of the dear liddle house we shall live in, you and she and I, all wud our own fields and garn, and no trouble, and Ben carrying through his own silly consarns here by himself."
He was now leaning heavily on Caro as he walked, and too shy, and perhaps reluctant, to ask him to lift his arm, she naively suggested that they should sit down and rest. Dansay was delighted—she was not the timid little bird he had thought, and directly they had sunk into the heather he seized her in his arms, and began kissing her violently on neck and lips.
Reuben swore at him.One thing he had made up his mind to—he would not struggle or cry. Up till now he had not cared much what he did in that way; if yelling had relieved his feelings he had yelled, and never felt ashamed of it; but to-day he realised that if he yelled he would be ashamed. So he drove his teeth into his lower lip and fought through the next few minutes in silence.
"Oh, I'm a bit off colour to-night, but I can tell you I was a fine girl when I went away with Joe—and all the time I lived with him, too, first at the Camber and then at New Romney; there was many as 'ud have been proud to git me from him. But I stuck to him faithful, I did, till one morning I woke up and found him gone, off on a voyage to Australia—wonder if he met Robert—having given me over to a pal of his for five pounds and a set of oilskins. Oh, I can tell you I took on something awful—I wasn't used to men in those days. But Joe's pal he was a decent chap—there was nothing the matter with him save that he wasn't Joe. He was unaccountable good to me, and I stayed with him three years—and then I hooked it, scarcely knew why. I got a post as barmaid in Seaford, but the landlord took up with me and his missus chucked me out. And now I'm here."She made a quick recovery, and Robert and Peter were christened at Easter-time. Naomi looked every inch the proud mother. Her slight figure had acquired more matronly lines, and she even affected a more elderly style of dress. For some time afterwards, proud and beloved, she really felt that motherhood was her vocation, and when in the course of the summer she[Pg 90] realised that her experiences were to be repeated, she was not so sorry as she had been before. She hoped desperately it would be a girl—but this time said nothing to Reuben.
Nearly as bad as her indifference to the children she had already borne, was her indifference to the child she was about to bear. She was expecting her confinement in the spring, but she did not seem to take the slightest interest in it or the slightest care of herself. Again and again she would start up from the sofa where she had[Pg 93] lain down by his orders, because she heard Fanny crying upstairs. She risked injuring herself by continually carrying her about or by stooping over her as she rolled on the floor.Chapter 15