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      "Aye, aye, my good 'squire," said the baron, still in a laughing tone, "your illness, I am told, gave you a most outrageous appetitedoubtless your feeble constitution needed strengthening! Come, come, man, it is but a jokenever look so blank; yet, if we laugh, there is no reason why those knaves should stand grinning there from ear to ear. Bid the senior vassal advance."

      "But think of me, Backfield! Think of his mother! Think of us all! It would be a ghastly thing for us. I promise to pay you the full value of the cowand of your damaged self-respect into the bargain. Won't that content you?"

      "You've no call to be ashamed of me," said Caro rather irritably.

      "Yesback to her parents at Tonbridge"and Reuben grinned.

      Hitherto he had not gone much afield. If affairs had called him to Battle, Robertsbridge, or Cranbrook, he had driven or ridden there as a matter of businesshe had seldom walked in the more distant bye-lanes, or followed the field-paths beyond the marshes. Now he tramped over nearly the whole country within a radius of ten mileshe was a tireless walker, and when he came home knew only the healthy fatigue which is more delight than pain and had rewarded his dripping exertions as a young man.


      "Baron of Sudley," said John Ball, "do ye acknowledge that child as your son?"


      "But your face ..."


      Mrs. Backfield was the one to bear the brunt of these economies. She had been a trifle pampered during the latter days of her marriage, and set far more store than her sons on dainty food; also the work which she performed so well was a tax on her unaccustomedness. But she never grumbled, and this was not only because escape was near at hand. Strange to say, in these new days of his lordship, Reuben began to fill a place in her heart which he had never filled before. While her husband was alive, he had never really come inside her life, he had been an aloof, inarticulate being whom she did not understand. But now that he had asserted himself, she found herself turning towards him. She would have worked without prospect of releaseindeed, as the days went by, Harry and his home and her promised idleness dwindled in her thoughts.Thus, in a very small way, and with continual hard work and anxiety, the farm was beginning to revive. Reuben felt that he was recapturing his prestige in the neighbourhood, and, when his labours allowed him, assisted the good work by drinking slow glasses of sherry in the bar of the Cocks, and making patronising remarks about his neighbours' concerns.