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      Robert loved these choir practices and church singings. Though he never complained of his hard work, he was unconsciously glad of a change from the materialism of Odiam. The psalms with their outbreathings of a clearer life did much to purge even his uncultured soul of its muddlings, the hymns with their sentimental farawayness opened views into which he would gaze enchanted as into a promised land. He would come in tired and throbbing from the fields, scrape as much mud as possible off his boots, put on his Sunday coat, and tramp through the dusk to the clerk's house ... the little golden window gleaming to him across Peasmarsh street and pond was the foretaste of the evening's sweetness.


      Then two days before the end he came. As she was[Pg 304] standing by the barn door he appeared at the horse-pond, and crossed over to her at once. He had seen that she was waiting for himperhaps he had seen it on half a dozen other occasions when she had not seen him.


      He hoped five days was not too long.Dodd, his job completed, dropped the beam. For one instant four words lit up in his mind, and then everything went out into blankness and peace. The body remained, the body moved, the body lived, for a time. But after those four words, blinding and bright and then swallowed up, Johnny Dodd was gone.

      There was a convention of silence between Caro and Rose. From that day forward neither made any allusion to the escapade which had ended so unexpectedly. At the same time it was from the other's silence that each learned most; for Caro knew that if her eyes had deceived her and that last kiss been like the first, for fun, Rose would have spoken of itwhile Rose knew that Caro had seen the transmutation of her joke into earnest, because if she had not she would have been full of comments, questions, and scoldings.


      Chapter 19

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      "Ever heard of your sister Caro?"But he was very good to Naomi. He tried to forget her indifference to his beloved boys, and to soothe and strengthen her into something like her old self. She did not repulse him. All the violence and the desperation in her had burnt themselves out during that night of frenzy. She lay in bed hour after hour without moving, her long hairwhich was now beginning to come out in handfuls when she brushed itspread over the pillow. Her muscles were slack, she lay without any suppleness, heavy against the mattress. After some weeks she was able to get up, and go about her duties with the children. She never spoke of her misery, she ate, she sewed, she even gossiped with the neighbours, as before. But something was gone from herher eye sometimes had a vacant, roving look, her shoulders stooped, and her skin grew sallow.

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      And the fasting Pharisee.""Over at Grandturzelcan't see wot's burning from here. Git buckets and come!"

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      "O yes," returned Black Jack; "we won't go from our promise. But where do you mean to take her?"The reader will, perhaps, feel some surprise that an esquire of the rich and powerful Lord de Boteler should be thus competing with the yeoman for the hand of a portionless humble nief; but it is necessary to observe, in the first place, that in the fifteenth century esquires were by no means of the consideration they had enjoyed a century before. Some nobles, indeed, who were upholders of the ancient system, still regarded an esquire as but a degree removed from a knight, but these were merely exceptions;the general rule, at the period we are speaking of, was to consider an esquire simply as a principal attendant, without the least claim to any distinction beyond. Such a state of things accorded well with the temper of De Boteler;he could scarcely have endured the equality, which, in some measure, formerly subsisted between the esquire and his lord. With him the equal might be familiar, but the inferior must be submissive; and it was, perhaps, the humility of Calverley's deportment that alone had raised him to the situation he now held. Calverley, besides, had none of the requisites of respectability which would have entitled him to take a stand among a class such as esquires had formerly been.


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