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Chapter 22They hardly ever clinchedon the other hand, there was much plunging and rushing. Reuben brought down Realf three times and Realf brought down Reuben once. It was noticeable that if the younger man fell more easily he also picked himself up more quickly. Between the rounds they leaned exhausted against the wall, Pete prowling about between them, longing to take his father on his knee, but still resolved to see fair play.
About an hour later Reuben was down again at[Pg 320] Handshut's cottage, but this time a change had worked itself. The door hung wide openand the place was empty. He went through the two miserable little rooms, but there was no one, and nowhere for anybody to hide. The remains of a meal of bread and tea were on the table, and a fire of sticks was dying on the hearth. The lovers had flownto laugh at him from a safe distance.
Reuben's hopes of the Fair-place now revived, and he at once approached the new Squire with a view to purchase; but Sir Eustace turned out to be quite as wrong-headed as Sir Ralph on the matter of popular rights.That afternoon De Boteler, throwing a plain dark cloak over his rich dress, left the castle, took the path that led to Holgrave's abode, and raising the latch, entered the cottage.
Father John bowed.
There were several of his friends at Starcliffe that afternoonmen and women rising in the worlds of literature, law, and politics. It was possible that Richard would contend the Rye divisionin the Liberal interest, be it said with shameand he was anxious to surround himself with those who might be useful to him. Besides, he was one of those men who breathe more freely in an atmosphere of Culture. Apart from mere utilitarian questions, he liked to talk over the latest books, the latest cause clbre or diplomatic coup d'tat. Anne, very upright, very desiccated, poured out tea, and Reuben noted with satisfaction that Nature had beaten her at the battle of the [Pg 458]dressing-table. Richard, on the other hand, in spite of an accentuation of the legal profile, looked young for his age and rather buckish, and rumour credited him with an intrigue with a lady novelist.