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      If the walls obeyed, he might be able to tell them to go. They would move and he could leave and find Dara. Since it would not be for himself but for Dara, such a command might not count as an escape: the chain of obedience might work for him."Life is worth while," said Alice, "in itself, not because of what it gives you."

      "Good idea," said the General, in his quick, peremptory way. "You three (indicating Si, Shorty and Billings) march off there 25 paces, while I talk to the boys."First of all he had to see Bessie. He could not send her a letter, for she could not read. He must somehow manage to go over to Eggs Hole. He would not tell her how he had come by the ten pounds. A pang went into his heart like a thorn as he realised this, but he felt that if she knew she might refuse to go away with him. He would marry her first, and confess to her afterwards. Perhaps some day they might be able to return the moneymeantime he would say that a friend had lent it to him. The thought of this, his first lie to her, hurt him more than the actual theft.

      The whole command advanced, the moment the rebels began to break under the fire, across the fields and through the woods to the crest where the 200th Ind. had first tried to stop the swarming rebel horsemen. From there they could see the broad plain rapidly vacated by their enemies, hurrying away from the pursuing shells.

      "But f?ather's a clever manAlbert always used to say so."

      Dear Mr. Elliot

      You'll find yourself quickly brought up by a GateHis times were still anxious. Even if the milk-round turned out a success, it was bound to be a loss to him during the first year. A multiplication of servants also meant for a man like Reuben a multiplication of trials. He would have liked to do all the work himself, and could trust no one to do it properly for him. His underlings, with their detached attitude towards the farm, were a perpetual source of anxiety and contempt. His heart sickened for those stalwart sons he had dreamed of in the days of his first marriagea dream which mocked him daily with its pitiful materialisation in the shred of family that still worked for Odiam. Reuben longed for Rose to have a child, but the months passed, and she had no favourable answer to his repeated questionings, which struck her at first as amusing, later as irritating, and at lastat the suggestion of one or two female friendsas indelicate.


      This would have been bad enough in any year, but in times when he bore the burden of his yet profitless milk-round it was only a little short of catastrophe. Making every allowance for a first year, that milk-round had[Pg 265] disappointed him. He found private custom hard to win, and even the ceasing of French dairy supplies, owing to the Franco-Prussian war, did not bring him the relief he had hoped. One or two small farms on the borders of Rye catered in dairy stuff for its inhabitants, and he found them hard to outbid or outwit. Also, owing to the scarcity of grass feed, it was a bad milk year, and poor supplies were put down by consumers to the new milkman, and in more than one case custom was withdrawn.


      It was some time since the abstract idea of marriage had begun to please him, but lately the abstract of marriage had always led to the concrete of Alice Jury, so he had driven it from his thoughts. Now, more and more clearly, he saw that he must marry. He wanted a woman and he wanted children, so he must marry. But he must not marry Alice.


      Her first words startled him.