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      He shook hands with her and Alice, just whispering to the latter, Thank you once more, and went out with his host. Through the open window of the drawing-room they could hear him whistling Oh, happy band of pilgrims, as he ran lightly along Alfred Road to be scolded by his housekeeper.

      "Wot," said Reuben, "you eat flowers?"

      So in his latter days Reuben came back into the field of politics which he had abandoned in middle age. Once more his voice was heard in school-houses and mission-halls, pointing out their duty and profit to the men of Rye. He was offered, and accepted, a Vice-Presidentship of the Conservative Club. Politics had changed in many ways since he had last been mixed up in them. The old, old subjects that had come up at election after electionvote by ballot, the education of the poor, the extension of the franchise, Gladstone's free breakfast tablehad all been settled, or deformed out of knowledge. The only old friend was the question of a tax on wheat, revived after years of quiescenceto rekindle in Reuben's old age dreams of an England where the corn should grow as the grass, a golden harvest from east to west, bringing wealth and independence to her sons.

      May I speak to you a moment? she asked.

      "If I haven't got a right to ask you that, wot have I, I'd lik to know?"

      You must allow it was very odd that your secretary should appear in the middle of my dinner-party, she said, and simply stroll across to your room. I had been talking of your room half dinner-time with Mr Fyson, saying that none of us was allowed there. And then, in came this girl


      "Edith Holgrave!" interrupted Calverley, with a quickness of voice and eagerness of look that told how greatly the name interested him.This would have been bad enough in any year, but in times when he bore the burden of his yet profitless milk-round it was only a little short of catastrophe. Making every allowance for a first year, that milk-round had[Pg 265] disappointed him. He found private custom hard to win, and even the ceasing of French dairy supplies, owing to the Franco-Prussian war, did not bring him the relief he had hoped. One or two small farms on the borders of Rye catered in dairy stuff for its inhabitants, and he found them hard to outbid or outwit. Also, owing to the scarcity of grass feed, it was a bad milk year, and poor supplies were put down by consumers to the new milkman, and in more than one case custom was withdrawn.


      I always come and go this way, sir, said Propert.