Part 2 out of 5
to dazzle their eyes and warn the fugitive than to assist them in
the exploration, were extinguished, due silence was observed; and in
this more rational order they plunged into the vale. It was a
grassy, briery, moist defile, affording some shelter to any person
who had sought it; but the party perambulated it in vain, and
ascended on the other side. Here they wandered apart, and after an
interval closed together again to report progress.
At the second time of closing in they found themselves near a lonely
ash, the single tree on this part of the coomb, probably sown there
by a passing bird some fifty years before. And here, standing a
little to one side of the trunk, as motionless as the trunk itself;
appeared the man they were in quest of; his outline being well
defined against the sky beyond. The band noiselessly drew up and
'Your money or your life!' said the constable sternly to the still
'No, no,' whispered John Pitcher. ''Tisn't our side ought to say
that. That's the doctrine of vagabonds like him, and we be on the
side of the law.'
'Well, well,' replied the constable impatiently; 'I must say
something, mustn't I? and if you had all the weight o' this
undertaking upon your mind, perhaps you'd say the wrong thing too!--
Prisoner at the bar, surrender, in the name of the Father--the
Crown, I mane!'
The man under the tree seemed now to notice them for the first time,
and, giving them no opportunity whatever for exhibiting their
courage, he strolled slowly towards them. He was, indeed, the
little man, the third stranger; but his trepidation had in a great
'Well, travellers,' he said, 'did I hear ye speak to me?'
'You did: you've got to come and be our prisoner at once!' said the
constable. 'We arrest 'ee on the charge of not biding in
Casterbridge jail in a decent proper manner to be hung to-morrow
morning. Neighbours, do your duty, and seize the culpet!'
On hearing the charge, the man seemed enlightened, and, saying not
another word, resigned himself with preternatural civility to the
search-party, who, with their staves in their hands, surrounded him
on all sides, and marched him back towards the shepherd's cottage.
It was eleven o'clock by the time they arrived. The light shining
from the open door, a sound of men's voices within, proclaimed to
them as they approached the house that some new events had arisen in
their absence. On entering they discovered the shepherd's living
room to be invaded by two officers from Casterbridge jail, and a
well-known magistrate who lived at the nearest country-seat,
intelligence of the escape having become generally circulated.
'Gentlemen,' said the constable, 'I have brought back your man--not
without risk and danger; but every one must do his duty! He is
inside this circle of able-bodied persons, who have lent me useful
aid, considering their ignorance of Crown work. Men, bring forward
your prisoner!' And the third stranger was led to the light.
'Who is this?' said one of the officials.
'The man,' said the constable.
'Certainly not,' said the turnkey; and the first corroborated his
'But how can it be otherwise?' asked the constable. 'Or why was he
so terrified at sight o' the singing instrument of the law who sat
there?' Here he related the strange behaviour of the third stranger
on entering the house during the hangman's song.
'Can't understand it,' said the officer coolly. 'All I know is that
it is not the condemned man. He's quite a different character from
this one; a gauntish fellow, with dark hair and eyes, rather good-
looking, and with a musical bass voice that if you heard it once
you'd never mistake as long as you lived.'
'Why, souls--'twas the man in the chimney-corner!'
'Hey--what?' said the magistrate, coming forward after inquiring
particulars from the shepherd in the background. 'Haven't you got
the man after all?'
'Well, sir,' said the constable, 'he's the man we were in search of,
that's true; and yet he's not the man we were in search of. For the
man we were in search of was not the man we wanted, sir, if you
understand my every-day way; for 'twas the man in the chimney-
'A pretty kettle of fish altogether!' said the magistrate. 'You had
better start for the other man at once.'
The prisoner now spoke for the first time. The mention of the man
in the chimney-corner seemed to have moved him as nothing else could
do. 'Sir,' he said, stepping forward to the magistrate, 'take no
more trouble about me. The time is come when I may as well speak.
I have done nothing; my crime is that the condemned man is my
brother. Early this afternoon I left home at Shottsford to tramp it
all the way to Casterbridge jail to bid him farewell. I was
benighted, and called here to rest and ask the way. When I opened
the door I saw before me the very man, my brother, that I thought to
see in the condemned cell at Casterbridge. He was in this chimney-
corner; and jammed close to him, so that he could not have got out
if he had tried, was the executioner who'd come to take his life,
singing a song about it and not knowing that it was his victim who
was close by, joining in to save appearances. My brother looked a
glance of agony at me, and I knew he meant, "Don't reveal what you
see; my life depends on it." I was so terror-struck that I could
hardly stand, and, not knowing what I did, I turned and hurried
The narrator's manner and tone had the stamp of truth, and his story
made a great impression on all around. 'And do you know where your
brother is at the present time?' asked the magistrate.
'I do not. I have never seen him since I closed this door.'
'I can testify to that, for we've been between ye ever since,' said
'Where does he think to fly to?--what is his occupation?'
'He's a watch-and-clock-maker, sir.'
''A said 'a was a wheelwright--a wicked rogue,' said the constable.
'The wheels of clocks and watches he meant, no doubt,' said Shepherd
Fennel. 'I thought his hands were palish for's trade.'
'Well, it appears to me that nothing can be gained by retaining this
poor man in custody,' said the magistrate; 'your business lies with
the other, unquestionably.'
And so the little man was released off-hand; but he looked nothing
the less sad on that account, it being beyond the power of
magistrate or constable to raze out the written troubles in his
brain, for they concerned another whom he regarded with more
solicitude than himself. When this was done, and the man had gone
his way, the night was found to be so far advanced that it was
deemed useless to renew the search before the next morning.
Next day, accordingly, the quest for the clever sheep-stealer became
general and keen, to all appearance at least. But the intended
punishment was cruelly disproportioned to the transgression, and the
sympathy of a great many country-folk in that district was strongly
on the side of the fugitive. Moreover, his marvellous coolness and
daring in hob-and-nobbing with the hangman, under the unprecedented
circumstances of the shepherd's party, won their admiration. So
that it may be questioned if all those who ostensibly made
themselves so busy in exploring woods and fields and lanes were
quite so thorough when it came to the private examination of their
own lofts and outhouses. Stories were afloat of a mysterious figure
being occasionally seen in some old overgrown trackway or other,
remote from turnpike roads; but when a search was instituted in any
of these suspected quarters nobody was found. Thus the days and
weeks passed without tidings.
In brief; the bass-voiced man of the chimney-corner was never
recaptured. Some said that he went across the sea, others that he
did not, but buried himself in the depths of a populous city. At
any rate, the gentleman in cinder-gray never did his morning's work
at Casterbridge, nor met anywhere at all, for business purposes, the
genial comrade with whom he had passed an hour of relaxation in the
lonely house on the coomb.
The grass has long been green on the graves of Shepherd Fennel and
his frugal wife; the guests who made up the christening party have
mainly followed their entertainers to the tomb; the baby in whose
honour they all had met is a matron in the sere and yellow leaf.
But the arrival of the three strangers at the shepherd's that night,
and the details connected therewith, is a story as well known as
ever in the country about Higher Crowstairs.
THE WITHERED ARM
CHAPTER I--A LORN MILKMAID
It was an eighty-cow dairy, and the troop of milkers, regular and
supernumerary, were all at work; for, though the time of year was as
yet but early April, the feed lay entirely in water-meadows, and the
cows were 'in full pail.' The hour was about six in the evening,
and three-fourths of the large, red, rectangular animals having been
finished off, there was opportunity for a little conversation.
'He do bring home his bride to-morrow, I hear. They've come as far
as Anglebury to-day.'
The voice seemed to proceed from the belly of the cow called Cherry,
but the speaker was a milking-woman, whose face was buried in the
flank of that motionless beast.
'Hav' anybody seen her?' said another.
There was a negative response from the first. 'Though they say
she's a rosy-cheeked, tisty-tosty little body enough,' she added;
and as the milkmaid spoke she turned her face so that she could
glance past her cow's tail to the other side of the barton, where a
thin, fading woman of thirty milked somewhat apart from the rest.
'Years younger than he, they say,' continued the second, with also a
glance of reflectiveness in the same direction.
'How old do you call him, then?'
'Thirty or so.'
'More like forty,' broke in an old milkman near, in a long white
pinafore or 'wropper,' and with the brim of his hat tied down, so
that he looked like a woman. ''A was born before our Great Weir was
builded, and I hadn't man's wages when I laved water there.'
The discussion waxed so warm that the purr of the milk-streams
became jerky, till a voice from another cow's belly cried with
authority, 'Now then, what the Turk do it matter to us about Farmer
Lodge's age, or Farmer Lodge's new mis'ess? I shall have to pay him
nine pound a year for the rent of every one of these milchers,
whatever his age or hers. Get on with your work, or 'twill be dark
afore we have done. The evening is pinking in a'ready.' This
speaker was the dairyman himself; by whom the milkmaids and men were
Nothing more was said publicly about Farmer Lodge's wedding, but the
first woman murmured under her cow to her next neighbour, ''Tis hard
for SHE,' signifying the thin worn milkmaid aforesaid.
'O no,' said the second. 'He ha'n't spoke to Rhoda Brook for
When the milking was done they washed their pails and hung them on a
many-forked stand made of the peeled limb of an oak-tree, set
upright in the earth, and resembling a colossal antlered horn. The
majority then dispersed in various directions homeward. The thin
woman who had not spoken was joined by a boy of twelve or
thereabout, and the twain went away up the field also.
Their course lay apart from that of the others, to a lonely spot
high above the water-meads, and not far from the border of Egdon
Heath, whose dark countenance was visible in the distance as they
drew nigh to their home.
'They've just been saying down in barton that your father brings his
young wife home from Anglebury to-morrow,' the woman observed. 'I
shall want to send you for a few things to market, and you'll be
pretty sure to meet 'em.'
'Yes, mother,' said the boy. 'Is father married then?'
'Yes . . . You can give her a look, and tell me what's she's like,
if you do see her.'
'If she's dark or fair, and if she's tall--as tall as I. And if she
seems like a woman who has ever worked for a living, or one that has
been always well off, and has never done anything, and shows marks
of the lady on her, as I expect she do.'
They crept up the hill in the twilight, and entered the cottage. It
was built of mud-walls, the surface of which had been washed by many
rains into channels and depressions that left none of the original
flat face visible; while here and there in the thatch above a rafter
showed like a bone protruding through the skin.
She was kneeling down in the chimney-corner, before two pieces of
turf laid together with the heather inwards, blowing at the red-hot
ashes with her breath till the turves flamed. The radiance lit her
pale cheek, and made her dark eyes, that had once been handsome,
seem handsome anew. 'Yes,' she resumed, 'see if she is dark or
fair, and if you can, notice if her hands be white; if not, see if
they look as though she had ever done housework, or are milker's
hands like mine.'
The boy again promised, inattentively this time, his mother not
observing that he was cutting a notch with his pocket-knife in the
CHAPTER II--THE YOUNG WIFE
The road from Anglebury to Holmstoke is in general level; but there
is one place where a sharp ascent breaks its monotony. Farmers
homeward-bound from the former market-town, who trot all the rest of
the way, walk their horses up this short incline.
The next evening, while the sun was yet bright, a handsome new gig,
with a lemon-coloured body and red wheels, was spinning westward
along the level highway at the heels of a powerful mare. The driver
was a yeoman in the prime of life, cleanly shaven like an actor, his
face being toned to that bluish-vermilion hue which so often graces
a thriving farmer's features when returning home after successful
dealings in the town. Beside him sat a woman, many years his
junior--almost, indeed, a girl. Her face too was fresh in colour,
but it was of a totally different quality--soft and evanescent, like
the light under a heap of rose-petals.
Few people travelled this way, for it was not a main road; and the
long white riband of gravel that stretched before them was empty,
save of one small scarce-moving speck, which presently resolved
itself into the figure of boy, who was creeping on at a snail's
pace, and continually looking behind him--the heavy bundle he
carried being some excuse for, if not the reason of, his
dilatoriness. When the bouncing gig-party slowed at the bottom of
the incline above mentioned, the pedestrian was only a few yards in
front. Supporting the large bundle by putting one hand on his hip,
he turned and looked straight at the farmer's wife as though he
would read her through and through, pacing along abreast of the
The low sun was full in her face, rendering every feature, shade,
and contour distinct, from the curve of her little nostril to the
colour of her eyes. The farmer, though he seemed annoyed at the
boy's persistent presence, did not order him to get out of the way;
and thus the lad preceded them, his hard gaze never leaving her,
till they reached the top of the ascent, when the farmer trotted on
with relief in his lineaments--having taken no outward notice of the
'How that poor lad stared at me!' said the young wife.
'Yes, dear; I saw that he did.'
'He is one of the village, I suppose?'
'One of the neighbourhood. I think he lives with his mother a mile
or two off.'
'He knows who we are, no doubt?'
'O yes. You must expect to be stared at just at first, my pretty
'I do,--though I think the poor boy may have looked at us in the
hope we might relieve him of his heavy load, rather than from
'O no,' said her husband off-handedly. 'These country lads will
carry a hundredweight once they get it on their backs; besides his
pack had more size than weight in it. Now, then, another mile and I
shall be able to show you our house in the distance--if it is not
too dark before we get there.' The wheels spun round, and particles
flew from their periphery as before, till a white house of ample
dimensions revealed itself, with farm-buildings and ricks at the
Meanwhile the boy had quickened his pace, and turning up a by-lane
some mile and half short of the white farmstead, ascended towards
the leaner pastures, and so on to the cottage of his mother.
She had reached home after her day's milking at the outlying dairy,
and was washing cabbage at the doorway in the declining light.
'Hold up the net a moment,' she said, without preface, as the boy
He flung down his bundle, held the edge of the cabbage-net, and as
she filled its meshes with the dripping leaves she went on, 'Well,
did you see her?'
'Yes; quite plain.'
'Is she ladylike?'
'Yes; and more. A lady complete.'
'Is she young?'
'Well, she's growed up, and her ways be quite a woman's.'
'Of course. What colour is her hair and face?'
'Her hair is lightish, and her face as comely as a live doll's.'
'Her eyes, then, are not dark like mine?'
'No--of a bluish turn, and her mouth is very nice and red; and when
she smiles, her teeth show white.'
'Is she tall?' said the woman sharply.
'I couldn't see. She was sitting down.'
'Then do you go to Holmstoke church to-morrow morning: she's sure
to be there. Go early and notice her walking in, and come home and
tell me if she's taller than I.'
'Very well, mother. But why don't you go and see for yourself?'
'_I_ go to see her! I wouldn't look up at her if she were to pass
my window this instant. She was with Mr. Lodge, of course. What
did he say or do?'
'Just the same as usual.'
'Took no notice of you?'
Next day the mother put a clean shirt on the boy, and started him
off for Holmstoke church. He reached the ancient little pile when
the door was just being opened, and he was the first to enter.
Taking his seat by the font, he watched all the parishioners file
in. The well-to-do Farmer Lodge came nearly last; and his young
wife, who accompanied him, walked up the aisle with the shyness
natural to a modest woman who had appeared thus for the first time.
As all other eyes were fixed upon her, the youth's stare was not
When he reached home his mother said, 'Well?' before he had entered
'She is not tall. She is rather short,' he replied.
'Ah!' said his mother, with satisfaction.
'But she's very pretty--very. In fact, she's lovely.'
The youthful freshness of the yeoman's wife had evidently made an
impression even on the somewhat hard nature of the boy.
'That's all I want to hear,' said his mother quickly. 'Now, spread
the table-cloth. The hare you caught is very tender; but mind that
nobody catches you.--You've never told me what sort of hands she
'I have never seen 'em. She never took off her gloves.'
'What did she wear this morning?'
'A white bonnet and a silver-coloured gownd. It whewed and whistled
so loud when it rubbed against the pews that the lady coloured up
more than ever for very shame at the noise, and pulled it in to keep
it from touching; but when she pushed into her seat, it whewed more
than ever. Mr. Lodge, he seemed pleased, and his waistcoat stuck
out, and his great golden seals hung like a lord's; but she seemed
to wish her noisy gownd anywhere but on her.'
'Not she! However, that will do now.'
These descriptions of the newly-married couple were continued from
time to time by the boy at his mother's request, after any chance
encounter he had had with them. But Rhoda Brook, though she might
easily have seen young Mrs. Lodge for herself by walking a couple of
miles, would never attempt an excursion towards the quarter where
the farmhouse lay. Neither did she, at the daily milking in the
dairyman's yard on Lodge's outlying second farm, ever speak on the
subject of the recent marriage. The dairyman, who rented the cows
of Lodge, and knew perfectly the tall milkmaid's history, with manly
kindliness always kept the gossip in the cow-barton from annoying
Rhoda. But the atmosphere thereabout was full of the subject during
the first days of Mrs. Lodge's arrival; and from her boy's
description and the casual words of the other milkers, Rhoda Brook
could raise a mental image of the unconscious Mrs Lodge that was
realistic as a photograph.
CHAPTER III--A VISION
One night, two or three weeks after the bridal return, when the boy
was gone to bed, Rhoda sat a long time over the turf ashes that she
had raked out in front of her to extinguish them. She contemplated
so intently the new wife, as presented to her in her mind's eye over
the embers, that she forgot the lapse of time. At last, wearied
with her day's work, she too retired.
But the figure which had occupied her so much during this and the
previous days was not to be banished at night. For the first time
Gertrude Lodge visited the supplanted woman in her dreams. Rhoda
Brook dreamed--since her assertion that she really saw, before
falling asleep, was not to be believed--that the young wife, in the
pale silk dress and white bonnet, but with features shockingly
distorted, and wrinkled as by age, was sitting upon her chest as she
lay. The pressure of Mrs. Lodge's person grew heavier; the blue
eyes peered cruelly into her face; and then the figure thrust
forward its left hand mockingly, so as to make the wedding-ring it
wore glitter in Rhoda's eyes. Maddened mentally, and nearly
suffocated by pressure, the sleeper struggled; the incubus, still
regarding her, withdrew to the foot of the bed, only, however, to
come forward by degrees, resume her seat, and flash her left hand as
Gasping for breath, Rhoda, in a last desperate effort, swung out her
right hand, seized the confronting spectre by its obtrusive left
arm, and whirled it backward to the floor, starting up herself as
she did so with a low cry.
'O, merciful heaven!' she cried, sitting on the edge of the bed in a
cold sweat; 'that was not a dream--she was here!'
She could feel her antagonist's arm within her grasp even now--the
very flesh and bone of it, as it seemed. She looked on the floor
whither she had whirled the spectre, but there was nothing to be
Rhoda Brook slept no more that night, and when she went milking at
the next dawn they noticed how pale and haggard she looked. The
milk that she drew quivered into the pail; her hand had not calmed
even yet, and still retained the feel of the arm. She came home to
breakfast as wearily as if it had been suppertime.
'What was that noise in your chimmer, mother, last night?' said her
son. 'You fell off the bed, surely?'
'Did you hear anything fall? At what time?'
'Just when the clock struck two.'
She could not explain, and when the meal was done went silently
about her household work, the boy assisting her, for he hated going
afield on the farms, and she indulged his reluctance. Between
eleven and twelve the garden-gate clicked, and she lifted her eyes
to the window. At the bottom of the garden, within the gate, stood
the woman of her vision. Rhoda seemed transfixed.
'Ah, she said she would come!' exclaimed the boy, also observing
'Said so--when? How does she know us?'
'I have seen and spoken to her. I talked to her yesterday.'
'I told you,' said the mother, flushing indignantly, 'never to speak
to anybody in that house, or go near the place.'
'I did not speak to her till she spoke to me. And I did not go near
the place. I met her in the road.'
'What did you tell her?'
'Nothing. She said, "Are you the poor boy who had to bring the
heavy load from market?" And she looked at my boots, and said they
would not keep my feet dry if it came on wet, because they were so
cracked. I told her I lived with my mother, and we had enough to do
to keep ourselves, and that's how it was; and she said then, "I'll
come and bring you some better boots, and see your mother." She
gives away things to other folks in the meads besides us.'
Mrs. Lodge was by this time close to the door--not in her silk, as
Rhoda had seen her in the bed-chamber, but in a morning hat, and
gown of common light material, which became her better than silk.
On her arm she carried a basket.
The impression remaining from the night's experience was still
strong. Brook had almost expected to see the wrinkles, the scorn,
and the cruelty on her visitor's face.
She would have escaped an interview, had escape been possible.
There was, however, no backdoor to the cottage, and in an instant
the boy had lifted the latch to Mrs. Lodge's gentle knock.
'I see I have come to the right house,' said she, glancing at the
lad, and smiling. 'But I was not sure till you opened the door.'
The figure and action were those of the phantom; but her voice was
so indescribably sweet, her glance so winning, her smile so tender,
so unlike that of Rhoda's midnight visitant, that the latter could
hardly believe the evidence of her senses. She was truly glad that
she had not hidden away in sheer aversion, as she had been inclined
to do. In her basket Mrs. Lodge brought the pair of boots that she
had promised to the boy, and other useful articles.
At these proofs of a kindly feeling towards her and hers Rhoda's
heart reproached her bitterly. This innocent young thing should
have her blessing and not her curse. When she left them a light
seemed gone from the dwelling. Two days later she came again to
know if the boots fitted; and less than a fortnight after that paid
Rhoda another call. On this occasion the boy was absent.
'I walk a good deal,' said Mrs. Lodge, 'and your house is the
nearest outside our own parish. I hope you are well. You don't
look quite well.'
Rhoda said she was well enough; and, indeed, though the paler of the
two, there was more of the strength that endures in her well-defined
features and large frame, than in the soft-cheeked young woman
before her. The conversation became quite confidential as regarded
their powers and weaknesses; and when Mrs. Lodge was leaving, Rhoda
said, 'I hope you will find this air agree with you, ma'am, and not
suffer from the damp of the water-meads.'
The younger one replied that there was not much doubt of it, her
general health being usually good. 'Though, now you remind me,' she
added, 'I have one little ailment which puzzles me. It is nothing
serious, but I cannot make it out.'
She uncovered her left hand and arm; and their outline confronted
Rhoda's gaze as the exact original of the limb she had beheld and
seized in her dream. Upon the pink round surface of the arm were
faint marks of an unhealthy colour, as if produced by a rough grasp.
Rhoda's eyes became riveted on the discolorations; she fancied that
she discerned in them the shape of her own four fingers.
'How did it happen?' she said mechanically.
'I cannot tell,' replied Mrs. Lodge, shaking her head. 'One night
when I was sound asleep, dreaming I was away in some strange place,
a pain suddenly shot into my arm there, and was so keen as to awaken
me. I must have struck it in the daytime, I suppose, though I don't
remember doing so.' She added, laughing, 'I tell my dear husband
that it looks just as if he had flown into a rage and struck me
there. O, I daresay it will soon disappear.'
'Ha, ha! Yes . . . On what night did it come?'
Mrs. Lodge considered, and said it would be a fortnight ago on the
morrow. 'When I awoke I could not remember where I was,' she added,
'till the clock striking two reminded me.'
She had named the night and the hour of Rhoda's spectral encounter,
and Brook felt like a guilty thing. The artless disclosure startled
her; she did not reason on the freaks of coincidence; and all the
scenery of that ghastly night returned with double vividness to her
'O, can it be,' she said to herself, when her visitor had departed,
'that I exercise a malignant power over people against my own will?'
She knew that she had been slily called a witch since her fall; but
never having understood why that particular stigma had been attached
to her, it had passed disregarded. Could this be the explanation,
and had such things as this ever happened before?
CHAPTER IV--A SUGGESTION
The summer drew on, and Rhoda Brook almost dreaded to meet Mrs.
Lodge again, notwithstanding that her feeling for the young wife
amounted well-nigh to affection. Something in her own individuality
seemed to convict Rhoda of crime. Yet a fatality sometimes would
direct the steps of the latter to the outskirts of Holmstoke
whenever she left her house for any other purpose than her daily
work; and hence it happened that their next encounter was out of
doors. Rhoda could not avoid the subject which had so mystified
her, and after the first few words she stammered, 'I hope your--arm
is well again, ma'am?' She had perceived with consternation that
Gertrude Lodge carried her left arm stiffly.
'No; it is not quite well. Indeed it is no better at all; it is
rather worse. It pains me dreadfully sometimes.'
'Perhaps you had better go to a doctor, ma'am.'
She replied that she had already seen a doctor. Her husband had
insisted upon her going to one. But the surgeon had not seemed to
understand the afflicted limb at all; he had told her to bathe it in
hot water, and she had bathed it, but the treatment had done no
'Will you let me see it?' said the milkwoman.
Mrs. Lodge pushed up her sleeve and disclosed the place, which was a
few inches above the wrist. As soon as Rhoda Brook saw it, she
could hardly preserve her composure. There was nothing of the
nature of a wound, but the arm at that point had a shrivelled look,
and the outline of the four fingers appeared more distinct than at
the former time. Moreover, she fancied that they were imprinted in
precisely the relative position of her clutch upon the arm in the
trance; the first finger towards Gertrude's wrist, and the fourth
towards her elbow.
What the impress resembled seemed to have struck Gertrude herself
since their last meeting. 'It looks almost like finger-marks,' she
said; adding with a faint laugh, 'my husband says it is as if some
witch, or the devil himself, had taken hold of me there, and blasted
Rhoda shivered. 'That's fancy,' she said hurriedly. 'I wouldn't
mind it, if I were you.'
'I shouldn't so much mind it,' said the younger, with hesitation,
'if--if I hadn't a notion that it makes my husband--dislike me--no,
love me less. Men think so much of personal appearance.'
'Some do--he for one.'
'Yes; and he was very proud of mine, at first.'
'Keep your arm covered from his sight.'
'Ah--he knows the disfigurement is there!' She tried to hide the
tears that filled her eyes.
'Well, ma'am, I earnestly hope it will go away soon.'
And so the milkwoman's mind was chained anew to the subject by a
horrid sort of spell as she returned home. The sense of having been
guilty of an act of malignity increased, affect as she might to
ridicule her superstition. In her secret heart Rhoda did not
altogether object to a slight diminution of her successor's beauty,
by whatever means it had come about; but she did not wish to inflict
upon her physical pain. For though this pretty young woman had
rendered impossible any reparation which Lodge might have made Rhoda
for his past conduct, everything like resentment at the unconscious
usurpation had quite passed away from the elder's mind.
If the sweet and kindly Gertrude Lodge only knew of the scene in the
bed-chamber, what would she think? Not to inform her of it seemed
treachery in the presence of her friendliness; but tell she could
not of her own accord--neither could she devise a remedy.
She mused upon the matter the greater part of the night; and the
next day, after the morning milking, set out to obtain another
glimpse of Gertrude Lodge if she could, being held to her by a
gruesome fascination. By watching the house from a distance the
milkmaid was presently able to discern the farmer's wife in a ride
she was taking alone--probably to join her husband in some distant
field. Mrs. Lodge perceived her, and cantered in her direction.
'Good morning, Rhoda!' Gertrude said, when she had come up. 'I was
going to call.'
Rhoda noticed that Mrs. Lodge held the reins with some difficulty.
'I hope--the bad arm,' said Rhoda.
'They tell me there is possibly one way by which I might be able to
find out the cause, and so perhaps the cure, of it,' replied the
other anxiously. 'It is by going to some clever man over in Egdon
Heath. They did not know if he was still alive--and I cannot
remember his name at this moment; but they said that you knew more
of his movements than anybody else hereabout, and could tell me if
he were still to be consulted. Dear me--what was his name? But you
'Not Conjuror Trendle?' said her thin companion, turning pale.
'Trendle--yes. Is he alive?'
'I believe so,' said Rhoda, with reluctance.
'Why do you call him conjuror?'
'Well--they say--they used to say he was a--he had powers other
folks have not.'
'O, how could my people be so superstitious as to recommend a man of
that sort! I thought they meant some medical man. I shall think no
more of him.'
Rhoda looked relieved, and Mrs. Lodge rode on. The milkwoman had
inwardly seen, from the moment she heard of her having been
mentioned as a reference for this man, that there must exist a
sarcastic feeling among the work-folk that a sorceress would know
the whereabouts of the exorcist. They suspected her, then. A short
time ago this would have given no concern to a woman of her common-
sense. But she had a haunting reason to be superstitious now; and
she had been seized with sudden dread that this Conjuror Trendle
might name her as the malignant influence which was blasting the
fair person of Gertrude, and so lead her friend to hate her for
ever, and to treat her as some fiend in human shape.
But all was not over. Two days after, a shadow intruded into the
window-pattern thrown on Rhoda Brook's floor by the afternoon sun.
The woman opened the door at once, almost breathlessly.
'Are you alone?' said Gertrude. She seemed to be no less harassed
and anxious than Brook herself.
'Yes,' said Rhoda.
'The place on my arm seems worse, and troubles me!' the young
farmer's wife went on. 'It is so mysterious! I do hope it will not
be an incurable wound. I have again been thinking of what they said
about Conjuror Trendle. I don't really believe in such men, but I
should not mind just visiting him, from curiosity--though on no
account must my husband know. Is it far to where he lives?'
'Yes--five miles,' said Rhoda backwardly. 'In the heart of Egdon.'
'Well, I should have to walk. Could not you go with me to show me
the way--say to-morrow afternoon?'
'O, not I--that is,' the milkwoman murmured, with a start of dismay.
Again the dread seized her that something to do with her fierce act
in the dream might be revealed, and her character in the eyes of the
most useful friend she had ever had be ruined irretrievably.
Mrs. Lodge urged, and Rhoda finally assented, though with much
misgiving. Sad as the journey would be to her, she could not
conscientiously stand in the way of a possible remedy for her
patron's strange affliction. It was agreed that, to escape
suspicion of their mystic intent, they should meet at the edge of
the heath at the corner of a plantation which was visible from the
spot where they now stood.
CHAPTER V--CONJUROR TRENDLE
By the next afternoon Rhoda would have done anything to escape this
inquiry. But she had promised to go. Moreover, there was a horrid
fascination at times in becoming instrumental in throwing such
possible light on her own character as would reveal her to be
something greater in the occult world than she had ever herself
She started just before the time of day mentioned between them, and
half-an-hour's brisk walking brought her to the south-eastern
extension of the Egdon tract of country, where the fir plantation
was. A slight figure, cloaked and veiled, was already there. Rhoda
recognized, almost with a shudder, that Mrs. Lodge bore her left arm
in a sling.
They hardly spoke to each other, and immediately set out on their
climb into the interior of this solemn country, which stood high
above the rich alluvial soil they had left half-an-hour before. It
was a long walk; thick clouds made the atmosphere dark, though it
was as yet only early afternoon; and the wind howled dismally over
the hills of the heath--not improbably the same heath which had
witnessed the agony of the Wessex King Ina, presented to after-ages
as Lear. Gertrude Lodge talked most, Rhoda replying with
monosyllabic preoccupation. She had a strange dislike to walking on
the side of her companion where hung the afflicted arm, moving round
to the other when inadvertently near it. Much heather had been
brushed by their feet when they descended upon a cart-track, beside
which stood the house of the man they sought.
He did not profess his remedial practices openly, or care anything
about their continuance, his direct interests being those of a
dealer in furze, turf, 'sharp sand,' and other local products.
Indeed, he affected not to believe largely in his own powers, and
when warts that had been shown him for cure miraculously
disappeared--which it must be owned they infallibly did--he would
say lightly, 'O, I only drink a glass of grog upon 'em--perhaps it's
all chance,' and immediately turn the subject.
He was at home when they arrived, having in fact seen them
descending into his valley. He was a gray-bearded man, with a
reddish face, and he looked singularly at Rhoda the first moment he
beheld her. Mrs. Lodge told him her errand; and then with words of
self-disparagement he examined her arm.
'Medicine can't cure it,' he said promptly. ''Tis the work of an
Rhoda shrank into herself, and drew back.
'An enemy? What enemy?' asked Mrs. Lodge.
He shook his head. 'That's best known to yourself,' he said. 'If
you like, I can show the person to you, though I shall not myself
know who it is. I can do no more; and don't wish to do that.'
She pressed him; on which he told Rhoda to wait outside where she
stood, and took Mrs. Lodge into the room. It opened immediately
from the door; and, as the latter remained ajar, Rhoda Brook could
see the proceedings without taking part in them. He brought a
tumbler from the dresser, nearly filled it with water, and fetching
an egg, prepared it in some private way; after which he broke it on
the edge of the glass, so that the white went in and the yolk
remained. As it was getting gloomy, he took the glass and its
contents to the window, and told Gertrude to watch them closely.
They leant over the table together, and the milkwoman could see the
opaline hue of the egg-fluid changing form as it sank in the water,
but she was not near enough to define the shape that it assumed.
'Do you catch the likeness of any face or figure as you look?'
demanded the conjuror of the young woman.
She murmured a reply, in tones so low as to be inaudible to Rhoda,
and continued to gaze intently into the glass. Rhoda turned, and
walked a few steps away.
When Mrs. Lodge came out, and her face was met by the light, it
appeared exceedingly pale--as pale as Rhoda's--against the sad dun
shades of the upland's garniture. Trendle shut the door behind her,
and they at once started homeward together. But Rhoda perceived
that her companion had quite changed.
'Did he charge much?' she asked tentatively.
'O no--nothing. He would not take a farthing,' said Gertrude.
'And what did you see?' inquired Rhoda.
'Nothing I--care to speak of.' The constraint in her manner was
remarkable; her face was so rigid as to wear an oldened aspect,
faintly suggestive of the face in Rhoda's bed-chamber.
'Was it you who first proposed coming here?' Mrs. Lodge suddenly
inquired, after a long pause. 'How very odd, if you did!'
'No. But I am not sorry we have come, all things considered,' she
replied. For the first time a sense of triumph possessed her, and
she did not altogether deplore that the young thing at her side
should learn that their lives had been antagonized by other
influences than their own.
The subject was no more alluded to during the long and dreary walk
home. But in some way or other a story was whispered about the
many-dairied lowland that winter that Mrs. Lodge's gradual loss of
the use of her left arm was owing to her being 'overlooked' by Rhoda
Brook. The latter kept her own counsel about the incubus, but her
face grew sadder and thinner; and in the spring she and her boy
disappeared from the neighbourhood of Holmstoke.
CHAPTER VI--A SECOND ATTEMPT
Half-a-dozen years passed away, and Mr. and Mrs. Lodge's married
experience sank into prosiness, and worse. The farmer was usually
gloomy and silent: the woman whom he had wooed for her grace and
beauty was contorted and disfigured in the left limb; moreover, she
had brought him no child, which rendered it likely that he would be
the last of a family who had occupied that valley for some two
hundred years. He thought of Rhoda Brook and her son; and feared
this might be a judgment from heaven upon him.
The once blithe-hearted and enlightened Gertrude was changing into
an irritable, superstitious woman, whose whole time was given to
experimenting upon her ailment with every quack remedy she came
across. She was honestly attached to her husband, and was ever
secretly hoping against hope to win back his heart again by
regaining some at least of her personal beauty. Hence it arose that
her closet was lined with bottles, packets, and ointment-pots of
every description--nay, bunches of mystic herbs, charms, and books
of necromancy, which in her schoolgirl time she would have ridiculed
'Damned if you won't poison yourself with these apothecary messes
and witch mixtures some time or other,' said her husband, when his
eye chanced to fall upon the multitudinous array.
She did not reply, but turned her sad, soft glance upon him in such
heart-swollen reproach that he looked sorry for his words, and
added, 'I only meant it for your good, you know, Gertrude.'
'I'll clear out the whole lot, and destroy them,' said she huskily,
'and try such remedies no more!'
'You want somebody to cheer you,' he observed. 'I once thought of
adopting a boy; but he is too old now. And he is gone away I don't
She guessed to whom he alluded; for Rhoda Brook's story had in the
course of years become known to her; though not a word had ever
passed between her husband and herself on the subject. Neither had
she ever spoken to him of her visit to Conjuror Trendle, and of what
was revealed to her, or she thought was revealed to her, by that
She was now five-and-twenty; but she seemed older.
'Six years of marriage, and only a few months of love,' she
sometimes whispered to herself. And then she thought of the
apparent cause, and said, with a tragic glance at her withering
limb, 'If I could only again be as I was when he first saw me!'
She obediently destroyed her nostrums and charms; but there remained
a hankering wish to try something else--some other sort of cure
altogether. She had never revisited Trendle since she had been
conducted to the house of the solitary by Rhoda against her will;
but it now suddenly occurred to Gertrude that she would, in a last
desperate effort at deliverance from this seeming curse, again seek
out the man, if he yet lived. He was entitled to a certain
credence, for the indistinct form he had raised in the glass had
undoubtedly resembled the only woman in the world who--as she now
knew, though not then--could have a reason for bearing her ill-will.
The visit should be paid.
This time she went alone, though she nearly got lost on the heath,
and roamed a considerable distance out of her way. Trendle's house
was reached at last, however: he was not indoors, and instead of
waiting at the cottage, she went to where his bent figure was
pointed out to her at work a long way off. Trendle remembered her,
and laying down the handful of furze-roots which he was gathering
and throwing into a heap, he offered to accompany her in her
homeward direction, as the distance was considerable and the days
were short. So they walked together, his head bowed nearly to the
earth, and his form of a colour with it.
'You can send away warts and other excrescences I know,' she said;
'why can't you send away this?' And the arm was uncovered.
'You think too much of my powers!' said Trendle; 'and I am old and
weak now, too. No, no; it is too much for me to attempt in my own
person. What have ye tried?'
She named to him some of the hundred medicaments and counterspells
which she had adopted from time to time. He shook his head.
'Some were good enough,' he said approvingly; 'but not many of them
for such as this. This is of the nature of a blight, not of the
nature of a wound; and if you ever do throw it off; it will be all
'If I only could!'
'There is only one chance of doing it known to me. It has never
failed in kindred afflictions,--that I can declare. But it is hard
to carry out, and especially for a woman.'
'Tell me!' said she.
'You must touch with the limb the neck of a man who's been hanged.'
She started a little at the image he had raised.
'Before he's cold--just after he's cut down,' continued the conjuror
'How can that do good?'
'It will turn the blood and change the constitution. But, as I say,
to do it is hard. You must get into jail, and wait for him when
he's brought off the gallows. Lots have done it, though perhaps not
such pretty women as you. I used to send dozens for skin
complaints. But that was in former times. The last I sent was in
'13--near twenty years ago.'
He had no more to tell her; and, when he had put her into a straight
track homeward, turned and left her, refusing all money as at first.
CHAPTER VII--A RIDE
The communication sank deep into Gertrude's mind. Her nature was
rather a timid one; and probably of all remedies that the white
wizard could have suggested there was not one which would have
filled her with so much aversion as this, not to speak of the
immense obstacles in the way of its adoption.
Casterbridge, the county-town, was a dozen or fifteen miles off; and
though in those days, when men were executed for horse-stealing,
arson, and burglary, an assize seldom passed without a hanging, it
was not likely that she could get access to the body of the criminal
unaided. And the fear of her husband's anger made her reluctant to
breathe a word of Trendle's suggestion to him or to anybody about
She did nothing for months, and patiently bore her disfigurement as
before. But her woman's nature, craving for renewed love, through
the medium of renewed beauty (she was but twenty-five), was ever
stimulating her to try what, at any rate, could hardly do her any
harm. 'What came by a spell will go by a spell surely,' she would
say. Whenever her imagination pictured the act she shrank in terror
from the possibility of it: then the words of the conjuror, 'It
will turn your blood,' were seen to be capable of a scientific no
less than a ghastly interpretation; the mastering desire returned,
and urged her on again.
There was at this time but one county paper, and that her husband
only occasionally borrowed. But old-fashioned days had old-
fashioned means, and news was extensively conveyed by word of mouth
from market to market, or from fair to fair, so that, whenever such
an event as an execution was about to take place, few within a
radius of twenty miles were ignorant of the coming sight; and, so
far as Holmstoke was concerned, some enthusiasts had been known to
walk all the way to Casterbridge and back in one day, solely to
witness the spectacle. The next assizes were in March; and when
Gertrude Lodge heard that they had been held, she inquired
stealthily at the inn as to the result, as soon as she could find
She was, however, too late. The time at which the sentences were to
be carried out had arrived, and to make the journey and obtain
admission at such short notice required at least her husband's
assistance. She dared not tell him, for she had found by delicate
experiment that these smouldering village beliefs made him furious
if mentioned, partly because he half entertained them himself. It
was therefore necessary to wait for another opportunity.
Her determination received a fillip from learning that two epileptic
children had attended from this very village of Holmstoke many years
before with beneficial results, though the experiment had been
strongly condemned by the neighbouring clergy. April, May, June,
passed; and it is no overstatement to say that by the end of the
last-named month Gertrude well-nigh longed for the death of a
fellow-creature. Instead of her formal prayers each night, her
unconscious prayer was, 'O Lord, hang some guilty or innocent person
This time she made earlier inquiries, and was altogether more
systematic in her proceedings. Moreover, the season was summer,
between the haymaking and the harvest, and in the leisure thus
afforded him her husband had been holiday-taking away from home.
The assizes were in July, and she went to the inn as before. There
was to be one execution--only one--for arson.
Her greatest problem was not how to get to Casterbridge, but what
means she should adopt for obtaining admission to the jail. Though
access for such purposes had formerly never been denied, the custom
had fallen into desuetude; and in contemplating her possible
difficulties, she was again almost driven to fall back upon her
husband. But, on sounding him about the assizes, he was so
uncommunicative, so more than usually cold, that she did not
proceed, and decided that whatever she did she would do alone.
Fortune, obdurate hitherto, showed her unexpected favour. On the
Thursday before the Saturday fixed for the execution, Lodge remarked
to her that he was going away from home for another day or two on
business at a fair, and that he was sorry he could not take her with
She exhibited on this occasion so much readiness to stay at home
that he looked at her in surprise. Time had been when she would
have shown deep disappointment at the loss of such a jaunt.
However, he lapsed into his usual taciturnity, and on the day named
It was now her turn. She at first had thought of driving, but on
reflection held that driving would not do, since it would
necessitate her keeping to the turnpike-road, and so increase by
tenfold the risk of her ghastly errand being found out. She decided
to ride, and avoid the beaten track, notwithstanding that in her
husband's stables there was no animal just at present which by any
stretch of imagination could be considered a lady's mount, in spite
of his promise before marriage to always keep a mare for her. He
had, however, many cart-horses, fine ones of their kind; and among
the rest was a serviceable creature, an equine Amazon, with a back
as broad as a sofa, on which Gertrude had occasionally taken an
airing when unwell. This horse she chose.
On Friday afternoon one of the men brought it round. She was
dressed, and before going down looked at her shrivelled arm. 'Ah!'
she said to it, 'if it had not been for you this terrible ordeal
would have been saved me!'
When strapping up the bundle in which she carried a few articles of
clothing, she took occasion to say to the servant, 'I take these in
case I should not get back to-night from the person I am going to
visit. Don't be alarmed if I am not in by ten, and close up the
house as usual. I shall be at home to-morrow for certain.' She
meant then to privately tell her husband: the deed accomplished was
not like the deed projected. He would almost certainly forgive her.
And then the pretty palpitating Gertrude Lodge went from her
husband's homestead; but though her goal was Casterbridge she did
not take the direct route thither through Stickleford. Her cunning
course at first was in precisely the opposite direction. As soon as
she was out of sight, however, she turned to the left, by a road
which led into Egdon, and on entering the heath wheeled round, and
set out in the true course, due westerly. A more private way down
the county could not be imagined; and as to direction, she had
merely to keep her horse's head to a point a little to the right of
the sun. She knew that she would light upon a furze-cutter or
cottager of some sort from time to time, from whom she might correct
Though the date was comparatively recent, Egdon was much less
fragmentary in character than now. The attempts--successful and
otherwise--at cultivation on the lower slopes, which intrude and
break up the original heath into small detached heaths, had not been
carried far; Enclosure Acts had not taken effect, and the banks and
fences which now exclude the cattle of those villagers who formerly
enjoyed rights of commonage thereon, and the carts of those who had
turbary privileges which kept them in firing all the year round,
were not erected. Gertrude, therefore, rode along with no other
obstacles than the prickly furze bushes, the mats of heather, the
white water-courses, and the natural steeps and declivities of the
Her horse was sure, if heavy-footed and slow, and though a draught
animal, was easy-paced; had it been otherwise, she was not a woman
who could have ventured to ride over such a bit of country with a
half-dead arm. It was therefore nearly eight o'clock when she drew
rein to breathe the mare on the last outlying high point of heath-
land towards Casterbridge, previous to leaving Egdon for the
She halted before a pool called Rushy-pond, flanked by the ends of
two hedges; a railing ran through the centre of the pond, dividing
it in half. Over the railing she saw the low green country; over
the green trees the roofs of the town; over the roofs a white flat
facade, denoting the entrance to the county jail. On the roof of
this front specks were moving about; they seemed to be workmen
erecting something. Her flesh crept. She descended slowly, and was
soon amid corn-fields and pastures. In another half-hour, when it
was almost dusk, Gertrude reached the White Hart, the first inn of
the town on that side.
Little surprise was excited by her arrival; farmers' wives rode on
horseback then more than they do now; though, for that matter, Mrs.
Lodge was not imagined to be a wife at all; the innkeeper supposed
her some harum-skarum young woman who had come to attend 'hang-fair'
next day. Neither her husband nor herself ever dealt in
Casterbridge market, so that she was unknown. While dismounting she
beheld a crowd of boys standing at the door of a harness-maker's
shop just above the inn, looking inside it with deep interest.
'What is going on there?' she asked of the ostler.
'Making the rope for to-morrow.'
She throbbed responsively, and contracted her arm.
''Tis sold by the inch afterwards,' the man continued. 'I could get
you a bit, miss, for nothing, if you'd like?'
She hastily repudiated any such wish, all the more from a curious
creeping feeling that the condemned wretch's destiny was becoming
interwoven with her own; and having engaged a room for the night,
sat down to think.
Up to this time she had formed but the vaguest notions about her
means of obtaining access to the prison. The words of the cunning-
man returned to her mind. He had implied that she should use her
beauty, impaired though it was, as a pass-key. In her inexperience
she knew little about jail functionaries; she had heard of a high-
sheriff and an under-sheriff; but dimly only. She knew, however,
that there must be a hangman, and to the hangman she determined to
CHAPTER VIII--A WATER-SIDE HERMIT
At this date, and for several years after, there was a hangman to
almost every jail. Gertrude found, on inquiry, that the
Casterbridge official dwelt in a lonely cottage by a deep slow river
flowing under the cliff on which the prison buildings were situate--
the stream being the self-same one, though she did not know it,
which watered the Stickleford and Holmstoke meads lower down in its
Having changed her dress, and before she had eaten or drunk--for she
could not take her ease till she had ascertained some particulars--
Gertrude pursued her way by a path along the water-side to the
cottage indicated. Passing thus the outskirts of the jail, she
discerned on the level roof over the gateway three rectangular lines
against the sky, where the specks had been moving in her distant
view; she recognized what the erection was, and passed quickly on.
Another hundred yards brought her to the executioner's house, which
a boy pointed out It stood close to the same stream, and was hard by
a weir, the waters of which emitted a steady roar.
While she stood hesitating the door opened, and an old man came
forth shading a candle with one hand. Locking the door on the
outside, he turned to a flight of wooden steps fixed against the end
of the cottage, and began to ascend them, this being evidently the
staircase to his bedroom. Gertrude hastened forward, but by the
time she reached the foot of the ladder he was at the top. She
called to him loudly enough to be heard above the roar of the weir;
he looked down and said, 'What d'ye want here?'
'To speak to you a minute.'
The candle-light, such as it was, fell upon her imploring, pale,
upturned face, and Davies (as the hangman was called) backed down
the ladder. 'I was just going to bed,' he said; '"Early to bed and
early to rise," but I don't mind stopping a minute for such a one as
you. Come into house.' He reopened the door, and preceded her to
the room within.
The implements of his daily work, which was that of a jobbing
gardener, stood in a corner, and seeing probably that she looked
rural, he said, 'If you want me to undertake country work I can't
come, for I never leave Casterbridge for gentle nor simple--not I.
My real calling is officer of justice,' he added formally.
'Yes, yes! That's it. To-morrow!'
'Ah! I thought so. Well, what's the matter about that? 'Tis no
use to come here about the knot--folks do come continually, but I
tell 'em one knot is as merciful as another if ye keep it under the
ear. Is the unfortunate man a relation; or, I should say, perhaps'
(looking at her dress) 'a person who's been in your employ?'
'No. What time is the execution?'
'The same as usual--twelve o'clock, or as soon after as the London
mail-coach gets in. We always wait for that, in case of a
'O--a reprieve--I hope not!' she said involuntarily,
'Well,--hee, hee!--as a matter of business, so do I! But still, if
ever a young fellow deserved to be let off, this one does; only just
turned eighteen, and only present by chance when the rick was fired.
Howsomever, there's not much risk of it, as they are obliged to make
an example of him, there having been so much destruction of property
that way lately.'
'I mean,' she explained, 'that I want to touch him for a charm, a
cure of an affliction, by the advice of a man who has proved the
virtue of the remedy.'
'O yes, miss! Now I understand. I've had such people come in past
years. But it didn't strike me that you looked of a sort to require
blood-turning. What's the complaint? The wrong kind for this, I'll
'My arm.' She reluctantly showed the withered skin.
'Ah--'tis all a-scram!' said the hangman, examining it.
'Yes,' said she.
'Well,' he continued, with interest, 'that IS the class o' subject,
I'm bound to admit! I like the look of the place; it is truly as
suitable for the cure as any I ever saw. 'Twas a knowing-man that
sent 'ee, whoever he was.'
'You can contrive for me all that's necessary?' she said
'You should really have gone to the governor of the jail, and your
doctor with 'ee, and given your name and address--that's how it used
to be done, if I recollect. Still, perhaps, I can manage it for a
'O, thank you! I would rather do it this way, as I should like it
'Lover not to know, eh?'
'Aha! Very well. I'll get ee' a touch of the corpse.'
'Where is it now?' she said, shuddering.
'It?--HE, you mean; he's living yet. Just inside that little small
winder up there in the glum.' He signified the jail on the cliff
She thought of her husband and her friends. 'Yes, of course,' she
said; 'and how am I to proceed?'
He took her to the door. 'Now, do you be waiting at the little
wicket in the wall, that you'll find up there in the lane, not later
than one o'clock. I will open it from the inside, as I shan't come
home to dinner till he's cut down. Good-night. Be punctual; and if
you don't want anybody to know 'ee, wear a veil. Ah--once I had
such a daughter as you!'
She went away, and climbed the path above, to assure herself that
she would be able to find the wicket next day. Its outline was soon
visible to her--a narrow opening in the outer wall of the prison
precincts. The steep was so great that, having reached the wicket,
she stopped a moment to breathe; and, looking back upon the water-
side cot, saw the hangman again ascending his outdoor staircase. He
entered the loft or chamber to which it led, and in a few minutes
extinguished his light.
The town clock struck ten, and she returned to the White Hart as she
CHAPTER IX--A RENCOUNTER
It was one o'clock on Saturday. Gertrude Lodge, having been
admitted to the jail as above described, was sitting in a waiting-
room within the second gate, which stood under a classic archway of
ashlar, then comparatively modern, and bearing the inscription,
'COVNTY JAIL: 1793.' This had been the facade she saw from the
heath the day before. Near at hand was a passage to the roof on
which the gallows stood.
The town was thronged, and the market suspended; but Gertrude had
seen scarcely a soul. Having kept her room till the hour of the
appointment, she had proceeded to the spot by a way which avoided
the open space below the cliff where the spectators had gathered;
but she could, even now, hear the multitudinous babble of their
voices, out of which rose at intervals the hoarse croak of a single
voice uttering the words, 'Last dying speech and confession!' There
had been no reprieve, and the execution was over; but the crowd
still waited to see the body taken down.
Soon the persistent girl heard a trampling overhead, then a hand
beckoned to her, and, following directions, she went out and crossed
the inner paved court beyond the gatehouse, her knees trembling so
that she could scarcely walk. One of her arms was out of its
sleeve, and only covered by her shawl.
On the spot at which she had now arrived were two trestles, and
before she could think of their purpose she heard heavy feet
descending stairs somewhere at her back. Turn her head she would
not, or could not, and, rigid in this position, she was conscious of
a rough coffin passing her shoulder, borne by four men. It was
open, and in it lay the body of a young man, wearing the smockfrock
of a rustic, and fustian breeches. The corpse had been thrown into
the coffin so hastily that the skirt of the smockfrock was hanging
over. The burden was temporarily deposited on the trestles.
By this time the young woman's state was such that a gray mist
seemed to float before her eyes, on account of which, and the veil
she wore, she could scarcely discern anything: it was as though she
had nearly died, but was held up by a sort of galvanism.
'Now!' said a voice close at hand, and she was just conscious that
the word had been addressed to her.
By a last strenuous effort she advanced, at the same time hearing
persons approaching behind her. She bared her poor curst arm; and
Davies, uncovering the face of the corpse, took Gertrude's hand, and
held it so that her arm lay across the dead man's neck, upon a line
the colour of an unripe blackberry, which surrounded it.
Gertrude shrieked: 'the turn o' the blood,' predicted by the
conjuror, had taken place. But at that moment a second shriek rent
the air of the enclosure: it was not Gertrude's, and its effect
upon her was to make her start round.
Immediately behind her stood Rhoda Brook, her face drawn, and her
eyes red with weeping. Behind Rhoda stood Gertrude's own husband;
his countenance lined, his eyes dim, but without a tear.
'D-n you! what are you doing here?' he said hoarsely.
'Hussy--to come between us and our child now!' cried Rhoda. 'This
is the meaning of what Satan showed me in the vision! You are like
her at last!' And clutching the bare arm of the younger woman, she
pulled her unresistingly back against the wall. Immediately Brook
had loosened her hold the fragile young Gertrude slid down against
the feet of her husband. When he lifted her up she was unconscious.
The mere sight of the twain had been enough to suggest to her that
the dead young man was Rhoda's son. At that time the relatives of
an executed convict had the privilege of claiming the body for
burial, if they chose to do so; and it was for this purpose that
Lodge was awaiting the inquest with Rhoda. He had been summoned by
her as soon as the young man was taken in the crime, and at
different times since; and he had attended in court during the
trial. This was the 'holiday' he had been indulging in of late.
The two wretched parents had wished to avoid exposure; and hence had
come themselves for the body, a waggon and sheet for its conveyance
and covering being in waiting outside.
Gertrude's case was so serious that it was deemed advisable to call
to her the surgeon who was at hand. She was taken out of the jail
into the town; but she never reached home alive. Her delicate
vitality, sapped perhaps by the paralyzed arm, collapsed under the
double shock that followed the severe strain, physical and mental,
to which she had subjected herself during the previous twenty-four
hours. Her blood had been 'turned' indeed--too far. Her death took
place in the town three days after.
Her husband was never seen in Casterbridge again; once only in the
old market-place at Anglebury, which he had so much frequented, and
very seldom in public anywhere. Burdened at first with moodiness
and remorse, he eventually changed for the better, and appeared as a
chastened and thoughtful man. Soon after attending the funeral of
his poor young wife he took steps towards giving up the farms in
Holmstoke and the adjoining parish, and, having sold every head of
his stock, he went away to Port-Bredy, at the other end of the
county, living there in solitary lodgings till his death two years
later of a painless decline. It was then found that he had
bequeathed the whole of his not inconsiderable property to a
reformatory for boys, subject to the payment of a small annuity to
Rhoda Brook, if she could be found to claim it.
For some time she could not be found; but eventually she reappeared
in her old parish,--absolutely refusing, however, to have anything
to do with the provision made for her. Her monotonous milking at
the dairy was resumed, and followed for many long years, till her
form became bent, and her once abundant dark hair white and worn
away at the forehead--perhaps by long pressure against the cows.
Here, sometimes, those who knew her experiences would stand and
observe her, and wonder what sombre thoughts were beating inside
that impassive, wrinkled brow, to the rhythm of the alternating
('Blackwood's Magazine,' January 1888.)
The shepherd on the east hill could shout out lambing intelligence
to the shepherd on the west hill, over the intervening town
chimneys, without great inconvenience to his voice, so nearly did
the steep pastures encroach upon the burghers' backyards. And at
night it was possible to stand in the very midst of the town and
hear from their native paddocks on the lower levels of greensward
the mild lowing of the farmer's heifers, and the profound, warm
blowings of breath in which those creatures indulge. But the
community which had jammed itself in the valley thus flanked formed
a veritable town, with a real mayor and corporation, and a staple
During a certain damp evening five-and-thirty years ago, before the
twilight was far advanced, a pedestrian of professional appearance,
carrying a small bag in his hand and an elevated umbrella, was
descending one of these hills by the turnpike road when he was
overtaken by a phaeton.
'Hullo, Downe--is that you?' said the driver of the vehicle, a young
man of pale and refined appearance. 'Jump up here with me, and ride
down to your door.'
The other turned a plump, cheery, rather self-indulgent face over
his shoulder towards the hailer.
'O, good evening, Mr. Barnet--thanks,' he said, and mounted beside
They were fellow-burgesses of the town which lay beneath them, but
though old and very good friends, they were differently
circumstanced. Barnet was a richer man than the struggling young
lawyer Downe, a fact which was to some extent perceptible in Downe's
manner towards his companion, though nothing of it ever showed in
Barnet's manner towards the solicitor. Barnet's position in the
town was none of his own making; his father had been a very
successful flax-merchant in the same place, where the trade was
still carried on as briskly as the small capacities of its quarters
would allow. Having acquired a fair fortune, old Mr. Barnet had
retired from business, bringing up his son as a gentleman-burgher,
and, it must be added, as a well-educated, liberal-minded young man.
'How is Mrs. Barnet?' asked Downe.
'Mrs. Barnet was very well when I left home,' the other answered
constrainedly, exchanging his meditative regard of the horse for one
Mr. Downe seemed to regret his inquiry, and immediately took up
another thread of conversation. He congratulated his friend on his
election as a council-man; he thought he had not seen him since that
event took place; Mrs. Downe had meant to call and congratulate Mrs.
Barnet, but he feared that she had failed to do so as yet.
Barnet seemed hampered in his replies. 'WE should have been glad to
see you. I--my wife would welcome Mrs. Downe at any time, as you
know . . . Yes, I am a member of the corporation--rather an
inexperienced member, some of them say. It is quite true; and I
should have declined the honour as premature--having other things on
my hands just now, too--if it had not been pressed upon me so very
'There is one thing you have on your hands which I can never quite
see the necessity for,' said Downe, with good-humoured freedom.
'What the deuce do you want to build that new mansion for, when you
have already got such an excellent house as the one you live in?'
Barnet's face acquired a warmer shade of colour; but as the question
had been idly asked by the solicitor while regarding the surrounding
flocks and fields, he answered after a moment with no apparent
'Well, we wanted to get out of the town, you know: the house I am
living in is rather old and inconvenient.' Mr. Downe declared that
he had chosen a pretty site for the new building. They would be
able to see for miles and miles from the windows. Was he going to
give it a name? He supposed so.
Barnet thought not. There was no other house near that was likely
to be mistaken for it. And he did not care for a name.
'But I think it has a name!' Downe observed: 'I went past--when
was it?--this morning; and I saw something,--"Chateau Ringdale," I
think it was, stuck up on a board!'
'It was an idea she--we had for a short time,' said Barnet hastily.
'But we have decided finally to do without a name--at any rate such
a name as that. It must have been a week ago that you saw it. It
was taken down last Saturday . . . Upon that matter I am firm!' he
Downe murmured in an unconvinced tone that he thought he had seen it
Talking thus they drove into the town. The street was unusually
still for the hour of seven in the evening; an increasing drizzle
had prevailed since the afternoon, and now formed a gauze across the
yellow lamps, and trickled with a gentle rattle down the heavy roofs
of stone tile, that bent the house-ridges hollow-backed with its
weight, and in some instances caused the walls to bulge outwards in
the upper story. Their route took them past the little town-hall,
the Black-Bull Hotel, and onward to the junction of a small street
on the right, consisting of a row of those two-and-two windowed
brick residences of no particular age, which are exactly alike
wherever found, except in the people they contain.
'Wait--I'll drive you up to your door,' said Barnet, when Downe
prepared to alight at the corner. He thereupon turned into the
narrow street, when the faces of three little girls could be
discerned close to the panes of a lighted window a few yards ahead,
surmounted by that of a young matron, the gaze of all four being
directed eagerly up the empty street. 'You are a fortunate fellow,
Downe,' Barnet continued, as mother and children disappeared from
the window to run to the door. 'You must be happy if any man is. I
would give a hundred such houses as my new one to have a home like
'Well--yes, we get along pretty comfortably,' replied Downe
'That house, Downe, is none of my ordering,' Barnet broke out,
revealing a bitterness hitherto suppressed, and checking the horse a
moment to finish his speech before delivering up his passenger.
'The house I have already is good enough for me, as you supposed.
It is my own freehold; it was built by my grandfather, and is stout
enough for a castle. My father was born there, lived there, and
died there. I was born there, and have always lived there; yet I
must needs build a new one.'
'Why do you?' said Downe.
'Why do I? To preserve peace in the household. I do anything for
that; but I don't succeed. I was firm in resisting "Chateau
Ringdale," however; not that I would not have put up with the
absurdity of the name, but it was too much to have your house
christened after Lord Ringdale, because your wife once had a fancy
for him. If you only knew everything, you would think all attempt
at reconciliation hopeless. In your happy home you have had no such
experiences; and God forbid that you ever should. See, here they
are all ready to receive you!'
'Of course! And so will your wife be waiting to receive you,' said
Downe. 'Take my word for it she will! And with a dinner prepared
for you far better than mine.'
'I hope so,' Barnet replied dubiously.
He moved on to Downe's door, which the solicitor's family had
already opened. Downe descended, but being encumbered with his bag
and umbrella, his foot slipped, and he fell upon his knees in the
'O, my dear Charles!' said his wife, running down the steps; and,
quite ignoring the presence of Barnet, she seized hold of her
husband, pulled him to his feet, and kissed him, exclaiming, 'I hope
you are not hurt, darling!' The children crowded round, chiming in
piteously, 'Poor papa!'
'He's all right,' said Barnet, perceiving that Downe was only a
little muddy, and looking more at the wife than at the husband.
Almost at any other time--certainly during his fastidious bachelor
years--he would have thought her a too demonstrative woman; but
those recent circumstances of his own life to which he had just
alluded made Mrs. Downe's solicitude so affecting that his eye grew
damp as he witnessed it. Bidding the lawyer and his family good-
night he left them, and drove slowly into the main street towards
his own house.
The heart of Barnet was sufficiently impressionable to be influenced
by Downe's parting prophecy that he might not be so unwelcome home
as he imagined: the dreary night might, at least on this one
occasion, make Downe's forecast true. Hence it was in a suspense
that he could hardly have believed possible that he halted at his
door. On entering his wife was nowhere to be seen, and he inquired
for her. The servant informed him that her mistress had the
dressmaker with her, and would be engaged for some time.
'Dressmaker at this time of day!'
'She dined early, sir, and hopes you will excuse her joining you
'But she knew I was coming to-night?'
'O yes, sir.'
'Go up and tell her I am come.'
The servant did so; but the mistress of the house merely transmitted
her former words.
Barnet said nothing more, and presently sat down to his lonely meal,
which was eaten abstractedly, the domestic scene he had lately
witnessed still impressing him by its contrast with the situation
here. His mind fell back into past years upon a certain pleasing
and gentle being whose face would loom out of their shades at such
times as these. Barnet turned in his chair, and looked with
unfocused eyes in a direction southward from where he sat, as if he
saw not the room but a long way beyond. 'I wonder if she lives
there still!' he said.
He rose with a sudden rebelliousness, put on his hat and coat, and
went out of the house, pursuing his way along the glistening
pavement while eight o'clock was striking from St. Mary's tower, and
the apprentices and shopmen were slamming up the shutters from end
to end of the town. In two minutes only those shops which could
boast of no attendant save the master or the mistress remained with
open eyes. These were ever somewhat less prompt to exclude
customers than the others: for their owners' ears the closing hour
had scarcely the cheerfulness that it possessed for the hired
servants of the rest. Yet the night being dreary the delay was not
for long, and their windows, too, blinked together one by one.
During this time Barnet had proceeded with decided step in a
direction at right angles to the broad main thoroughfare of the
town, by a long street leading due southward. Here, though his
family had no more to do with the flax manufacture, his own name
occasionally greeted him on gates and warehouses, being used
allusively by small rising tradesmen as a recommendation, in such
words as 'Smith, from Barnet & Co.'--'Robinson, late manager at
Barnet's.' The sight led him to reflect upon his father's busy
life, and he questioned if it had not been far happier than his own.
The houses along the road became fewer, and presently open ground
appeared between them on either side, the track on the right hand
rising to a higher level till it merged in a knoll. On the summit a
row of builders' scaffold-poles probed the indistinct sky like
spears, and at their bases could be discerned the lower courses of a
building lately begun. Barnet slackened his pace and stood for a
few moments without leaving the centre of the road, apparently not
much interested in the sight, till suddenly his eye was caught by a
post in the fore part of the ground bearing a white board at the
top. He went to the rails, vaulted over, and walked in far enough
to discern painted upon the board 'Chateau Ringdale.'
A dismal irony seemed to lie in the words, and its effect was to
irritate him. Downe, then, had spoken truly. He stuck his umbrella
into the sod, and seized the post with both hands, as if intending
to loosen and throw it down. Then, like one bewildered by an
opposition which would exist none the less though its manifestations
were removed, he allowed his arms to sink to his side.
'Let it be,' he said to himself. 'I have declared there shall be
Taking up his umbrella he quietly left the enclosure, and went on
his way, still keeping his back to the town. He had advanced with
more decision since passing the new building, and soon a hoarse
murmur rose upon the gloom; it was the sound of the sea. The road
led to the harbour, at a distance of a mile from the town, from
which the trade of the district was fed. After seeing the obnoxious
name-board Barnet had forgotten to open his umbrella, and the rain
tapped smartly on his hat, and occasionally stroked his face as he
Though the lamps were still continued at the roadside, they stood at
wider intervals than before, and the pavement had given place to
common road. Every time he came to a lamp an increasing shine made
itself visible upon his shoulders, till at last they quite glistened
with wet. The murmur from the shore grew stronger, but it was still
some distance off when he paused before one of the smallest of the
detached houses by the wayside, standing in its own garden, the
latter being divided from the road by a row of wooden palings.
Scrutinizing the spot to ensure that he was not mistaken, he opened
the gate and gently knocked at the cottage door.
When he had patiently waited minutes enough to lead any man in
ordinary cases to knock again, the door was heard to open, though it
was impossible to see by whose hand, there being no light in the
passage. Barnet said at random, 'Does Miss Savile live here?'
A youthful voice assured him that she did live there, and by a
sudden afterthought asked him to come in. It would soon get a
light, it said: but the night being wet, mother had not thought it
worth while to trim the passage lamp.
'Don't trouble yourself to get a light for me,' said Barnet hastily;
'it is not necessary at all. Which is Miss Savile's sitting-room?'
The young person, whose white pinafore could just be discerned,
signified a door in the side of the passage, and Barnet went forward
at the same moment, so that no light should fall upon his face. On
entering the room he closed the door behind him, pausing till he
heard the retreating footsteps of the child.
He found himself in an apartment which was simply and neatly, though
not poorly furnished; everything, from the miniature chiffonnier to
the shining little daguerreotype which formed the central ornament
of the mantelpiece, being in scrupulous order. The picture was
enclosed by a frame of embroidered card-board--evidently the work of
feminine hands--and it was the portrait of a thin faced, elderly
lieutenant in the navy. From behind the lamp on the table a female
form now rose into view, that of a young girl, and a resemblance
between her and the portrait was early discoverable. She had been
so absorbed in some occupation on the other side of the lamp as to
have barely found time to realize her visitor's presence.
They both remained standing for a few seconds without speaking. The
face that confronted Barnet had a beautiful outline; the
Raffaelesque oval of its contour was remarkable for an English
countenance, and that countenance housed in a remote country-road to
an unheard-of harbour. But her features did not do justice to this
splendid beginning: Nature had recollected that she was not in
Italy; and the young lady's lineaments, though not so inconsistent
as to make her plain, would have been accepted rather as pleasing
than as correct. The preoccupied expression which, like images on
the retina, remained with her for a moment after the state that
caused it had ceased, now changed into a reserved, half-proud, and
slightly indignant look, in which the blood diffused itself quickly
across her cheek, and additional brightness broke the shade of her
rather heavy eyes.
'I know I have no business here,' he said, answering the look. 'But
I had a great wish to see you, and inquire how you were. You can
give your hand to me, seeing how often I have held it in past days?'
'I would rather forget than remember all that, Mr. Barnet,' she
answered, as she coldly complied with the request. 'When I think of
the circumstances of our last meeting, I can hardly consider it kind
of you to allude to such a thing as our past--or, indeed, to come
here at all.'
'There was no harm in it surely? I don't trouble you often, Lucy.'
'I have not had the honour of a visit from you for a very long time,
certainly, and I did not expect it now,' she said, with the same
stiffness in her air. 'I hope Mrs. Barnet is very well?'
'Yes, yes!' he impatiently returned. 'At least I suppose so--though
I only speak from inference!'
'But she is your wife, sir,' said the young girl tremulously.
The unwonted tones of a man's voice in that feminine chamber had
startled a canary that was roosting in its cage by the window; the
bird awoke hastily, and fluttered against the bars. She went and
stilled it by laying her face against the cage and murmuring a
coaxing sound. It might partly have been done to still herself.
'I didn't come to talk of Mrs. Barnet,' he pursued; 'I came to talk
of you, of yourself alone; to inquire how you are getting on since
your great loss.' And he turned towards the portrait of her father.
'I am getting on fairly well, thank you.'
The force of her utterance was scarcely borne out by her look; but
Barnet courteously reproached himself for not having guessed a thing
so natural; and to dissipate all embarrassment, added, as he bent
over the table, 'What were you doing when I came?--painting flowers,
and by candlelight?'
'O no,' she said, 'not painting them--only sketching the outlines.
I do that at night to save time--I have to get three dozen done by
the end of the month.'
Barnet looked as if he regretted it deeply. 'You will wear your
poor eyes out,' he said, with more sentiment than he had hitherto
shown. 'You ought not to do it. There was a time when I should
have said you must not. Well--I almost wish I had never seen light
with my own eyes when I think of that!'
'Is this a time or place for recalling such matters?' she asked,
with dignity. 'You used to have a gentlemanly respect for me, and
for yourself. Don't speak any more as you have spoken, and don't
come again. I cannot think that this visit is serious, or was
closely considered by you.'
'Considered: well, I came to see you as an old and good friend--not
to mince matters, to visit a woman I loved. Don't be angry! I
could not help doing it, so many things brought you into my mind . .
. This evening I fell in with an acquaintance, and when I saw how
happy he was with his wife and family welcoming him home, though
with only one-tenth of my income and chances, and thought what might
have been in my case, it fairly broke down my discretion, and off I
came here. Now I am here I feel that I am wrong to some extent.
But the feeling that I should like to see you, and talk of those we
used to know in common, was very strong.'
'Before that can be the case a little more time must pass,' said
Miss Savile quietly; 'a time long enough for me to regard with some
calmness what at present I remember far too impatiently--though it
may be you almost forget it. Indeed you must have forgotten it long
before you acted as you did.' Her voice grew stronger and more
vivacious as she added: 'But I am doing my best to forget it too,
and I know I shall succeed from the progress I have made already!'
She had remained standing till now, when she turned and sat down,
facing half away from him.
Barnet watched her moodily. 'Yes, it is only what I deserve,' he
said. 'Ambition pricked me on--no, it was not ambition, it was
wrongheadedness! Had I but reflected . . . ' He broke out
vehemently: 'But always remember this, Lucy: if you had written to
me only one little line after that misunderstanding, I declare I
should have come back to you. That ruined me!' he slowly walked as
far as the little room would allow him to go, and remained with his
eyes on the skirting.
'But, Mr. Barnet, how could I write to you? There was no opening
for my doing so.'
'Then there ought to have been,' said Barnet, turning. 'That was my
'Well, I don't know anything about that; but as there had been
nothing said by me which required any explanation by letter, I did
not send one. Everything was so indefinite, and feeling your
position to be so much wealthier than mine, I fancied I might have
mistaken your meaning. And when I heard of the other lady--a woman
of whose family even you might be proud--I thought how foolish I had
been, and said nothing.'
'Then I suppose it was destiny--accident--I don't know what, that
separated us, dear Lucy. Anyhow you were the woman I ought to have
made my wife--and I let you slip, like the foolish man that I was!'
'O, Mr. Barnet,' she said, almost in tears, 'don't revive the
subject to me; I am the wrong one to console you--think, sir,--you
should not be here--it would be so bad for me if it were known!'
'It would--it would, indeed,' he said hastily. 'I am not right in
doing this, and I won't do it again.'
'It is a very common folly of human nature, you know, to think the
course you did NOT adopt must have been the best,' she continued,
with gentle solicitude, as she followed him to the door of the room.
'And you don't know that I should have accepted you, even if you had
asked me to be your wife.' At this his eye met hers, and she
dropped her gaze. She knew that her voice belied her. There was a
silence till she looked up to add, in a voice of soothing
playfulness, 'My family was so much poorer than yours, even before I
lost my dear father, that--perhaps your companions would have made
it unpleasant for us on account of my deficiencies.'
'Your disposition would soon have won them round,' said Barnet.
She archly expostulated: 'Now, never mind my disposition; try to
make it up with your wife! Those are my commands to you. And now
you are to leave me at once.'
'I will. I must make the best of it all, I suppose,' he replied,
more cheerfully than he had as yet spoken. 'But I shall never again
meet with such a dear girl as you!' And he suddenly opened the
door, and left her alone. When his glance again fell on the lamps
that were sparsely ranged along the dreary level road, his eyes were
in a state which showed straw-like motes of light radiating from
each flame into the surrounding air.
On the other side of the way Barnet observed a man under an
umbrella, walking parallel with himself. Presently this man left
the footway, and gradually converged on Barnet's course. The latter
then saw that it was Charlson, a surgeon of the town, who owed him
money. Charlson was a man not without ability; yet he did not
prosper. Sundry circumstances stood in his way as a medical
practitioner: he was needy; he was not a coddle; he gossiped with
men instead of with women; he had married a stranger instead of one
of the town young ladies; and he was given to conversational
buffoonery. Moreover, his look was quite erroneous. Those only
proper features in the family doctor, the quiet eye, and the thin
straight passionless lips which never curl in public either for
laughter or for scorn, were not his; he had a full-curved mouth, and
a bold black eye that made timid people nervous. His companions
were what in old times would have been called boon companions--an
expression which, though of irreproachable root, suggests
fraternization carried to the point of unscrupulousness. All this
was against him in the little town of his adoption.
Charlson had been in difficulties, and to oblige him Barnet had put
his name to a bill; and, as he had expected, was called upon to meet
it when it fell due. It had been only a matter of fifty pounds,
which Barnet could well afford to lose, and he bore no ill-will to
the thriftless surgeon on account of it. But Charlson had a little
too much brazen indifferentism in his composition to be altogether a
'I hope to be able to make that little bill-business right with you
in the course of three weeks, Mr. Barnet,' said Charlson with hail-
Barnet replied good-naturedly that there was no hurry.
This particular three weeks had moved on in advance of Charlson's
present with the precision of a shadow for some considerable time.
'I've had a dream,' Charlson continued. Barnet knew from his tone
that the surgeon was going to begin his characteristic nonsense, and
did not encourage him. 'I've had a dream,' repeated Charlson, who
required no encouragement. 'I dreamed that a gentleman, who has
been very kind to me, married a haughty lady in haste, before he had
quite forgotten a nice little girl he knew before, and that one wet
evening, like the present, as I was walking up the harbour-road, I
saw him come out of that dear little girl's present abode.'
Barnet glanced towards the speaker. The rays from a neighbouring