Of course, he had been rash鈥攈e saw now that he had been a fool to speculate with the future. But who could have foretold that heir of Lardner's?鈥攏o one had ever heard of him in Peasmarsh, and most people were as astonished as Reuben though not so disgusted. Sometimes he had an uneasy feeling that Lardner himself had not thought much about his distant son till a year or two ago. He remembered how the old man had disapproved of the way Rose's settlements were spent, and horrible conjectures would assail him that some earlier will had been revoked, and Rose disinherited because her[Pg 278] uncle did not wish to put more money into her husband's pocket.
His temper had grown a little difficult of late years鈥攊t had never been a particularly pleasant one, but it had been fierce rather than quick. His sons felt uneasily that they were partly responsible for this鈥攖hey irritated him by asserting their independence. Also he suspected them of a lack of enthusiasm. He had tried to arrange a marriage for David with the daughter of the new farmer at Kitchenhour. She was ten years older than he, and not strikingly beautiful, but she satisfied Reuben's requirements by being as strong as a horse and having a hundred a year of her own. His indignation was immense when David refused this prize.
One evening when Reuben was out inspecting a sick cow, Rose lay on the sofa languidly shelling peas. Once more it was June, and a rusty heat was outside blurring the orchard. Her fingers often lay idle in the bowl of peas, for though her task relieved the sweltering boredom which had weighed on her all day, every now and then a great lassitude would sweep over her, slacking her muscles, slacking her thoughts, till she drooped into a vague stagnation of sorrow.
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He himself had helped plan the obsequies, which were carried out with all possible pomp by a Rye undertaker. After the ceremony there was a funeral meal at Starvecrow, where sedate joints and solemn whiskies were partaken of in the right spirit by the dozen or so men and women who were privileged to hear old Lardner's will. This was read by the deceased's lawyer, and one or two pleased malicious glances were darted at Reuben from under decorously lowered lids. He sat with his fists doubled upon his knees, hearing as if in a nightmare:.
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