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      The weak and the poor...."

      She walked quickly, almost running, and he had to stride to keep up with her.

      The year '71 was on the whole a bad one. The summer was parched, the autumn sodden, and the winter frozen. Reuben's oats after some excellent promises failed him abruptly, as was the way with crops on Boarzell. His wheat was better in quality but poor in quantity, his mangolds had the rot, and his hops, except for the old field by the lane, were brown and ragged with blight.

      "Reuben!" shrieked Naomi.

      He would wake during the night after cruel dreams of Boarzell stripped of its tilth, relapsed into wildness; for a few agonised moments he would wonder if the dream were true, and if he had not indeed failed. Sometimes he had to get out of bed and steal to the window, to reassure himself with the sight of his diggings and fencings. Then a horrible thought would attack him, that though he had not yet actually failed, he was bound to fail soon, that his task was too much for him, and only one end possible. He would creep back into bed, and lie awake till dawn and the restarting of the wheel.


      The man did not reply, and Black Jack, congratulating himself that he had prudently kept his own counsel, endeavoured to turn the attention of the leaders from the consequences to the cause. Holgrave positively refused to sanction the contemplated firing: "No man," said he, "has a right to burn what does not belong to him." But he was only one man, and the sense of abstract justice was not sufficiently strong in those about him, to overbalance the advantages that might result from the deed. Certainly, to speak the truth, Turner hesitated some time before he assented, but the pithy language of Thomas Sack, and the covert insinuations of the lettered Oakley, overpowered his better judgment, and the thing was decided upon.


      The family was forbidden to speak of the absent sons. No one ever wrote to Robert in Lewes gaol or to Albert living on London's cruel tender-mercies. The shame of them was to be starved by silence. Soon most of the children had forgotten them, and they lived solely in Tilly's unhappy thoughts or Richard's angry ones, or in certain bitter memories of their father's, sternly fought.Chapter 8


      Heads were shaken in triumphant commiseration, and the stones which according to all decent tradition should have been flung at Rose, hurtled round her husband instead.