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      "Please your grace," replied Wells, encouraged by the king's manner, "I am a vintner in the city of London, and I came down to Sudley with Stephen Holgrave's wife, to see what could be done for her husband.""Certainly," returned Calverley, coolly, "unless you prefer a gallows for your wife. But I dare say you would rather see Mary hanged than that old witch! I will leave you to manage the matter between yourselves."

      "Stephen Holgrave, my lord, has not yet finished his fealty."

      Byles looked at his interrogator as if he had been the evil one himself; but he had committed himself, so he thought it the wiser way to say nothing.In another minute half the young men of the Fair were sitting on him, and everyone else was crowding round Backfield, thanking him, praising him, and shaking him by the hand. The women could hardly speak for gratitudehe became a hero in their eyes, a knight at arms.... "To think as how when all them young tellers up at the Fair wur no use, he[Pg 431] shud risk his life to save ushe's a pr?aper valiant man."

      Take your tea, Emmeline, he said, and youll feel better. You havent had your nap this afternoon, but have been listening to your mother talking all sorts of rabid stuff against me. Dont you deny it now, but just remember I dont care two straws what she says about me behind my back. But I wont stand her impertinence to my face. And as for coal in the winter I can tell you that she still owes me for what she bought{52} at the Stores last January. Perhaps Ill county-court her for the bill. Im glad you talked about coal, I had almost forgotten about that bill.

      It was wonderful how soon he adapted himself to his new conditions. At first he missed Rose, but by the time he had got rid of her clothes and swept the perfume of her out of his room, he had ceased to hunger. He never heard of her againhe never knew what life she led in the new land, whether the reality of love brought her as much happiness as the game, or whether her old[Pg 332] taste for luxury and pleasure reasserted itself and ruined both love and lover.

      Sometimes she would be overwhelmed by self-pity, and would weep bitterly over whatever task she was doing at the time, so that her tears were quite a usual sauce to pies and puddings if only Reuben had known it.




      At Flightshot the Squire viewed Odiam's recovery with some uneasiness. It would be a good thing for him if he could sell more land to old Backfield, but at the same time his conscience was restless about it. Backfield was a rapacious old hound, who forced the last ounce of work out of his labourers, and the last ounce of money out of his tenants. He was a hard master and a hard landlord, and ought not to be encouraged. All the same, Bardon did not see how he was to avoid encouraging him. If Backfield applied for the land it would be suicidal folly to refuse to sell it. He was in desperate straits for money. He had appealed to Anne, who had money of her own, but Anne's reply had been frigid. She wrote: