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      Reuben was paralysed with horror. In another minute they would break down his hedgea good young hedge that had cost him a pretty pennyand be all over his roots. For a moment he stood as if fixed to the spot, then suddenly he pulled himself together. At all costs he must save his roots. He could not tackle the women single-handed, so he must go for the madman.He showed her the way to the drawing-room, where his wife and Alice were standing by the fire.

      In the villages, the distinctions of dress created by law were pretty generally observed, but in the towns that law was as generally evaded: furs, and colours, and embroidery were worn by those who had no right to them, except the single one of purchase. In some instances, the law would take cognizance of the violation of its prohibitions; a fine would be imposed, but even this could not check the vain assumption;there was no law to prevent people buying, and those who could purchase forbidden finery, would, in despite of penalties, contrive some means of wearing it. But to return to our foreign merchant.

      Reuben's eyes swept the dim outlines of his farmthe yard, the barns, the oasts, the fields beyond, up to where his boundaries scarred the waste. It was all blurred and blanketed in the darkness, but his mind could see it in every detail. He saw the cow-stable empty except for the six cheap Suffolks which just supplied his household and one or two gentry with milk; he saw doors split and unhinged that he could not afford to mend, gaping roofs that he could not afford to retile, while the martins stole his thatch for their autumn broods; he saw his oat-harvest mostly straw, his hop-harvest gathered at a loss, his hay spoiled with sorrel; he saw himself short of labour, one man turned off, another run away; and he saw all the flints and shards and lime of Boarzell breaking his plough, choking his winter wheat, while on the lower ground runnels of clay made his corn sedgy, and everywhere the tough, wiry fibres of the gorse drank all the little there was of goodness out of the ground and scattered it from its blossoms in useless fragrance."One's in prison, and t'other I turned away."

      "I never asked."

      "Please your noble grace, that man lies. I found that parchment in an hostelry-yard at Gloucester, six years agoI know it by the seals; and that John Oakley told me it was an old lease of no use, and so I gave it to him."He was roused from this quarter of an hours reverie, most unusual to him in the middle of the morning, by the entrance of one of the porters with a card on a tray.


      "May I?then John Oakley will be no niggard," his countenance losing much of the gloomy ferocity it had been marked with. "But, steward," he added, as they walked through the building, "the smoke and the flame are even now in my throat;you must give me wine, or I shall not be able to speak a word."



      "Unto the ends of the earthHastings. There's a friend of Ades there wot'll guide me into the Spirit's ways."