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THE WRITINGS OF THOMAS HARDY
IN PROSE AND VERSE

WITH PREFACES AND NOTES
IN TWENTY-ONE VOLUMES



PROSE
VOL. IX



THE WESSEX NOVELS

I. NOVELS OF CHARACTER AND ENVIRONMENT



WESSEX TALES



171



ESSEX TALES



STRANt,
. HUNDRED
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HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON





THE HANGMAN'S COTTAGE, CASTER-
BRIDGE

(The Hangman's Cottage, Dorchester)

The Hangman's Cottage is a small thatched
cottage standing by the river Froom, Dorchester.
The cottage is still extant, and was formerly
the official residence of the Dorchester hangman.



WESSEX TALES



THAT IS TO SAY

THE THREE STRANGERS . A TRADITION OF
EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND FOUR . THE MELAN-
CHOLY HUSSAR . THE WITHERED ARM
FELLOW-TOWNSMEN . INTERLOPERS
AT THE KNAP . THE DISTRACTED PREACHER



BY

THOMAS HARDY




HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON



PREFACE

AN apology Is perhaps needed for the neglect of
contrast which is shown by presenting two stories of
hangmen and one of a military execution in such a
small collection as the following. But as to the
former, in the neighbourhood of county-towns hang-
ing matters used to form a large proportion of the
local tradition ; and though never personally acquainted
with any chief operator at such scenes, the writer of
these pages had as a boy the privilege of being
on speaking terms with a man who applied for the
office, and who sank into an incurable melancholy
because he failed to get it, some slight mitigation of
his grief being to dwell upon striking episodes in the
lives of those happier ones who had held it with
success and renown. His tale of disappointment used
to cause his listener some wonder why his ambition
should have taken such an unfortunate form, by limit-
ing itself to a profession of which there could be only
one practitioner in England at one time, when it might
have aimed at something that would have afforded
him more chances such as the office of a judge, a
bishop, or even a member of Parliament but its

vii



WESSEX TALES

nobleness was never questioned. In those days, too,
there was still living an old woman who, for the
cure of some eating disease, had been taken in her
youth to have her 'blood turned' by a convict's
corpse, in the manner described in 'The Withered
Arm.'

Since writing this story some years ago I have
been reminded by an aged friend who knew ' Rhoda
Brook' that, in relating her dream, my forgetfulness
has weakened the facts out of which the tale grew.
In reality it was while lying down on a hot afternoon
that the incubus oppressed her and she flung it off,
with the results upon the body of the original as
described. To my mind the occurrence of such a
vision in the daytime is more impressive than if it had
happened in a midnight dream. Readers are therefore
asked to correct the misrelation, which affords an
instance of how our imperfect memories insensibly
formalize the fresh originality of living fact from
whose shape they slowly depart, as machine-made
castings depart by degrees from the sharp hand-work
of the mould.

Among the many devices for concealing smuggled
goods in caves and pits of the earth, that of planting
an apple-tree in a tray or box which was placed over
the mouth of the pit is, I believe, unique, and it is
detailed in 'The Distracted Preacher' precisely as
described by an old carrier of ' tubs ' a man who was
afterwards in my father's employ for over thirty years.
I never gathered from his reminiscences what means
were adopted for lifting the tree, which, with its roots,

viii



PREFACE

earth, and receptacle, must have been of considerable
weight. There is no doubt, however, that the thing
was done through many years. My informant often
spoke, too, of the horribly suffocating sensation pro-
duced by the pair of spirit-tubs slung upon the chest
and back, after stumbling with the burden of them for
several miles inland over a rough country and in
darkness. He said that though years of his youth
and young manhood were spent in this irregular
business, his profits from the same, taken all together,
did not average the wages he might have earned in a
steady employment, whilst the fatigues and risks were
excessive.

I may add that the action of this story is founded
on certain smuggling exploits that occurred between
1825 and 1830, and were brought to a close in the
latter year by the trial of the chief actors at the Assizes
before Baron Bolland for their desperate armed re-
sistance to the Custom-house officers during the land-
ing of a cargo of spirits. This happened only a little
time after the doings recorded in the narrative, in
which some incidents that came out at the trial are
also embodied.

In the culminating affray the character called
Owlett was badly wounded, and several of the Pre-
ventive-men would have lost their lives through being
overpowered by the far more numerous body of
smugglers, but for the forbearance and manly conduct
of the latter. This served them in good stead at their
trial, in which the younger Erskine prosecuted, their
defence being entrusted to Erie. Baron Bolland's

ix



WESSEX TALES

summing up was strongly in their favour ; they were
merely ordered to enter into their own recognizances
for good behaviour and discharged. (See also as to
facts the note at the end of the tale.)

However, the stories are but dreams, and not
records. They were first collected and published
under their present title, in two volumes, in 1888.

T. H.

April 1896 May



CONTENTS

PACE

THE THREE STRANGERS 3

A TRADITION OF EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND FOUR 33
THE MELANCHOLY HUSSAR . . '' i . . . 45

THE WITHERED ARM . . . . . . . . 67

A LORN MILKMAID . ... . . .69

THE YOUNG WIFE . . . . . 72

A VISION . . ... . . . -77

A SUGGESTION .'.... ... 82

CONJUROR TRENDLE , . . . , . . . 87

A SECOND ATTEMPT . 91

A RIDE. ;-' . i " . . . . . . 95

A WATER-SIDE HERMIT 101

A RENCOUNTER 105

FELLOW-TOWNSMEN in

INTERLOPERS AT THE KNAP. , . . . . .177

THE DISTRACTED PREACHER 215

How HIS COLD WAS CURED 217

HOW HE SAW TWO OTHER MEN 23!

THE MYSTERIOUS GREATCOAT . . . . .235
AT THE TIME OF THE NEW MOON .... 244
HOW THEY WENT TO LULWIND COVE . . . .253
THE GREAT SEARCH AT NETHER-MOYNTON . . . 263
THE WALK TO WARM'ELL CROSS, AND AFTERWARDS . 273



ILLUSTRATIONS

THE HANGMAN'S COTTAGE, CASTERBRIDGE .... Frontispiece

The Hangman's Collage is a small thatched cot-
tage standing by the river Froom, Dorchester.
The cottage is still extant, and was formerly the
official residence of the Dorchester hangman.
BINCOMBE VILLAGE Facing p. 48

Bincombe Village, near Weymouth, is where
Phyllis Grove is supposed to have lived.

Bincombe Down, upon which the York Hus-
sars with other regiments had come to encamp,
was visible from Phyllis' window, and over-
looked one of the most extensive panoramas in
the whole of the Wessex Country 'command-
ing the Isle of Portland in front, and reaching to
St. Aldhelm's Head eastward, and almost to the
Start on the west.'
KING'S HINTOCK Facing p. 184

King's Hintock is approximately Melbury Os-
mund, a village near Evershot. The 'old house
with mullioned windows of Hamhill stone, and
chimneys of lavish solidity,' is still remembered,
but has been demolished.
NETHER-MOYNTON VILLAGE Facing p. 220

Nether-Moynton, the name used for the little
village of Owermoigne, lying just off the road from
Weymouth or Dorchester to Wareham, is the
background for the story, 'The Distracted
Preacher.' The village is only a few miles from
the coast, and was formerly the home of many
a smuggler. The house which stands almost op-
posite to the rectory was used as the model for
the house in which Lizzie Newbury was sup-
posed to have lived.



WESSEX TALES



THE THREE STRANGERS



THE THREE STRANGERS

AMONG the few features of agricultural England which
retain an appearance but little modified by the lapse
of centuries, may be reckoned the long, grassy and
furzy downs, coombs, or ewe-leases, as they are called
according to their kind, that fill a large area of certain
counties in the south and south-west. If any mark
of human occupation is met with hereon, it usually
takes the form of the solitary cottage of some
shepherd.

Fifty years ago such a lonely cottage stood on
such a down, and may possibly be standing there now.
In spite of its loneliness, however, the spot, by actual
measurement, was not three miles from a county-town.
Yet that affected it little. Three miles of irregular
upland, during the long inimical seasons, with their
sleets, snows, rains, and mists, afford withdrawing
space enough to isolate a Timon or a Nebuchadnezzar ;
much less, in fair weather, to please that less repellent
tribe, the poets, philosophers, artists, and others who
' conceive and meditate of pleasant things.'

Some old earthen camp or barrow, some clump of
trees, at least some starved fragment of ancient hedge
is usually taken advantage of in the erection of these
forlorn dwellings. But, in the present case, such a
kind of shelter had been disregarded. Higher Crow-
stairs, as the house was called, stood quite detached
and undefended. The only reason for its precise
situation seemed to be the crossing of two footpaths
at right angles hard by, which may have crossed there

3



WESSEX TALES

and thus for a good five hundred years. Hence the
house was exposed to the elements on all sides. But,
though the wind up here blew unmistakably when it
did blow, and the rain hit hard whenever it fell, the
various weathers of the winter season were not quite
so formidable on the down as they were imagined to
be by dwellers on low ground. The raw rimes were
not so pernicious as in the hollows, and the frosts were
scarcely so severe. When the shepherd and his
family who tenanted the house were pitied for their
sufferings from the exposure, they said that upon the
whole they were less inconvenienced by ' wuzzes and
flames ' (hoarses and phlegms) than when they had
lived by the stream of a snug neighbouring valley.

The night of March 28, 182-, was precisely one of
the nights that were wont to call forth these expres-
sions of commiseration. The level rainstorm smote
walls, slopes, and hedges like the clothyard shafts of
Senlac and Crecy. Such sheep and outdoor animals
as had no shelter stood with their buttocks to the
winds ; while the tails of little birds trying to roost
on some scraggy thorn were blown inside-out like
umbrellas. The gable-end of the cottage was stained
with wet, and the eavesdroppings flapped against the
wall. Yet never was commiseration for the shepherd
more misplaced. For that cheerful rustic was enter-
taining a large party in glorification of the christening
of his second girl.

The guests had arrived before the rain began to
fall, and they were all now assembled in the chief or
living room of the dwelling. A glance into the apart-
ment at eight o'clock on this eventful evening would
have resulted in the opinion that it was as cosy and
comfortable a nook as could be wished for in boisterous
weather. The calling of its inhabitant was proclaimed
by a number of highly-polished sheep-crooks without
stems that were hung ornamentally over the fireplace,
the curl of each shining crook varying from the anti-
quated type engraved in the patriarchal pictures of

4



THE THREE STRANGERS

old family Bibles to the most approved fashion of the
last local sheep-fair. The room was lighted by half-
a-dozen candles, having wicks only a trifle smaller
than the grease which enveloped them, in candlesticks
that were never used but at high-days, holy-days, and
family feasts. The lights were scattered about the
room, two of them standing on the chimney-piece.
This position of candles was in itself significant.
Candles on the chimney-piece always meant a party.
On the hearth, in front of a back-brand to give

P substance, blazed a fire of thorns, that crackled ' like
the laughter of the fool.'

Nineteen persons were gathered here. Of these,
five women, wearing gowns of various bright hues,
sat in chairs along the wall ; girls shy and not shy
filled the window-bench ; four men, including Charley
Jake the hedge-carpenter, Elijah New the parish-
clerk, and John Pitcher, a neighbouring dairyman,
the shepherd's father-in-law, lolled in the settle ; a
young man and maid, who were blushing over tenta-
tive pourparlers on a life-companionship, sat beneath
the corner-cupboard ; and an elderly engaged ma)r-of
fifty or upward moved restlessly about from~ > spots
where his betrothed was not to the spot where she
was. Enjoyment was pretty general, and so much
the more prevailed in being unhampered by con-
ventional restrictions. Absolute confidence in each
other's good opinion begat perfect ease, while the
finishing stroke of manner, amounting to a truly
princely serenity, was lent to the majority by the
absence of any expression or trait denoting that they
wished to get on in the world, enlarge their minds, or
do any eclipsing thing whatever which nowadays so
generally nips the bloom and bonhomie of all except
the two extremes of the social scale.

Shepherd Fennel had married well, his wife being
a dairyman's daughter from a vale at a distance, who
brought fifty guineas in her pocket and kept them
there, till they should be required for ministering to

5



WESSEX TALES

the needs of a coming family. This frugal woman
had been somewhat exercised as to the character that
should be given to the gathering. A sit-still party
had its advantages ; but an undisturbed position of
ease in chairs and settles was apt to lead on the men
to such an unconscionable deal of toping that they
would sometimes fairly drink the house dry. A
dancing- party was the alternative; but this, while
avoiding the foregoing objection on the score of good
drink, had a counterbalancing disadvantage in the
matter of good victuals, the ravenous appetites en-
gendered by the exercise causing immense havoc in
the buttery. Shepherdess Fennel fell back upon the
intermediate plan of mingling short dances with short
periods of talk and singing, so as to hinder any un-
governable rage in either. But this scheme was
entirely confined to her own gentle mind : the
shepherd himself was in the mood to exhibit the
most reckless phases of hospitality.

The fiddler was a boy of those parts, about twelve
years of age, who had a wonderful dexterity in jigs
and reels, though his fingers were so small and short as
to necessitate a constant shifting for the high notes,
from which he scrambled back to the first position
with sounds not of unmixed purity of tone. At seven
the shrill tweedle-dee of this youngster had begun,
accompanied by a booming ground-bass from Elijah
New, the parish-clerk, who had thoughtfully brought
with him his favourite musical instrument, the serpent.
Dancing was instantaneous, Mrs. Fennel privately
enjoining the players on no account to let the dance
exceed the length of a quarter of an hour.

But Elijah and the boy in the excitement of their
position quite forgot the injunction. Moreover, Oliver
Giles, a man of seventeen, one of the dancers, who
was enamoured of his partner, a fair girl of thirty-three
rolling years, had recklessly handed a new crown-
piece to the musicians, as a bribe to keep going as
long as they had muscle and wind. Mrs. Fennel,

6



THE THREE STRANGERS

seeing the steam begin to generate on the counten-
ances of her guests, crossed over and touched the
fiddler's elbow and put her hand on the serpent's
mouth. But they took no notice, and fearing she
might lose her character of genial hostess if she were
to interfere too markedly, she retired and sat down
helpless. And so the dance whizzed on with cumula-
tive fury, the performers moving in their planet-like
courses, direct and retrograde, from apogee to peri-
gee, till the hand of the well -kicked clock at the
bottom of the room had travelled over the circumfer-
ence of an hour.

While these cheerful events were in course of
enactment within Fennel's pastoral dwelling an in-
cident having considerable bearing on the party had
occurred in the gloomy night without. Mrs. Fennel's
concern about the growing fierceness of the dance
corresponded in point of time with the ascent of a
human figure to the solitary hill of Higher Crowstairs
from the direction of the distant town. This person-
age strode on through the rain without a pause,
following the little-worn path which, further on in its
course, skirted the shepherd's cottage.

It was nearly the time of full moon, and on this
account, though the sky was lined with a uniform
sheet of dripping cloud, ordinary objects out of doors
were readily visible. The sad wan light revealed the
lonely pedestrian to be a man of supple frame ; his
gait suggested that he had somewhat passed the
period of perfect and instinctive agility, though not so
far as to be otherwise than rapid of motion when
occasion required. At a rough guess, he might have
been about forty years of age. He appeared tall, but
a recruiting sergeant, or other person accustomed to
the judging of men's heights by the eye, would have
discerned that this was chiefly owing to his gauntness,
and that he was not more than five-feet-eight or nine.

Notwithstanding the regularity of his tread there
was caution in it, as in that of one who mentally feels

7



WESSEX TALES

his way ; and despite the fact that it was not a black
coat nor a dark garment of any sort that he wore,
there was something about him which suggested that
he naturally belonged to the black-coated tribes of
men. His clothes were of fustian, and his boots
hobnailed, yet in his progress he showed not the
mud-accustomed bearing of hobnailed and fustianed
peasantry.

By the time that he had arrived abreast of the
shepherd's premises the rain came down, or rather
came along, with yet more determined violence. The
outskirts of the little settlement partially broke the
force of wind and rain, and this induced him to stand
still. The most salient of the shepherd's domestic
erections was an empty sty at the forward corner of
his hedgeless garden, for in these latitudes the principle
of masking the homelier features of your establish-
ment by a conventional frontage was unknown. The
traveller's eye was attracted to this small building by
the pallid shine of the wet slates that covered it. He
turned aside, and, finding it empty, stood under the
pent-roof for shelter.

While he stood the boom of the serpent within
the adjacent house, and the lesser strains of the
fiddler, reached the spot as an accompaniment to the
surging hiss of the flying rain on the sod, its louder
beating on the cabbage-leaves of the garden, on the
straw hackles of eight or ten beehives just discernible
by the path, and its dripping from the eaves into a
row of buckets and pans that had been placed under
the walls of the cottage. For at Higher Crowstairs,
as at all such elevated domiciles, the grand difficulty
of housekeeping was an insufficiency of water ; and a
casual rainfall was utilized by turning out, as catchers,
every utensil that the house contained. Some queer
stories might be told of the contrivances for economy
in suds and dish-waters that are absolutely necessi-
tated in upland habitations during the droughts of
summer. But at this season there were no such

8



THE THREE STRANGERS

exigencies ; a mere acceptance of what the skies
bestowed was sufficient for an abundant store.

At last the notes of the serpent ceased and the
house was silent. This cessation of activity aroused
the solitary pedestrian from the reverie into which he
had lapsed, and, emerging from the shed, with an
apparently new intention, he walked up the path to
the house-door. Arrived here, his first act was to
kneel down on a large stone beside the row of vessels,
and to drink a copious draught from one of them.
Having quenched his thirst he rose and lifted his
hand to knock, but paused with his eye upon the
panel. Since the dark surface of the wood revealed
absolutely nothing, it was evident that he must be
mentally looking through the door, as if he wished to
measure thereby all the possibilities that a house of
this sort might include, and how they might bear
upon the question of his entry.

In his indecision he turned and surveyed the
scene around. Not a soul was anywhere visible.
The garden-path stretched downward from his feet,
gleaming like the track of a snail ; the roof of the
little well (mostly dry), the well-cover, the top rail of
the garden-gate, were varnished with the same dull
liquid glaze ; while, far away in the vale, a faint white-
ness of more than usual extent showed that the
rivers were high in the meads. Beyond all this
winked a few bleared lamplights through the beating
drops lights that denoted the situation of the county-
town from which he had appeared to come. The
absence of all notes of life in that direction seemed to
clinch his intentions, and he knocked at the door.

Within, a desultory chat had taken the place of
movement and musical sound. The hedge-carpenter
was suggesting a song to the company, which nobody
just then was inclined to undertake, so that the knock
afforded a not unwelcome diversion.

' Walk in ! ' said the shepherd promptly.

The latch clicked upward, and out of the night our

9



WESSEX TALES

pedestrian appeared upon the door-mat. The shepherd
arose, snuffed two of the nearest candles, and turned
to look at him.

Their light disclosed that the stranger was dark in
complexion and not unprepossessing as to feature.
His hat, which for a moment he did not remove, hung
low over his eyes, without concealing that they were
large, open, and determined, moving with a flash rather
than a glance round the room. He seemed pleased
with his survey, and, baring his shaggy head, said, in
a rich deep voice, ' The rain is so heavy, friends, that
I ask leave to come in and rest awhile.'

' To be sure, stranger/ said the shepherd. ' And
faith, you've been lucky in choosing your time, for we
are having a bit of a fling for a glad cause though,
to be sure, a man could hardly wish that glad cause
to happen more than once a year.'

' Nor less,' spoke up a woman. ' For 'tis best
to get your family over and done with, as soon
as you can, so as to be all the earlier out of the
fag o't.'

' And what may be this glad cause ? ' asked the
stranger.

4 A birth and christening,' said the shepherd.

The stranger hoped his host might not be made
unhappy either by too many or too few of such
episodes, and being invited by a gesture to a pull at
the mug, he readily acquiesced. His manner, which,
before entering, had been so dubious, was now alto-
gether that of a careless and candid man.

' Late to be traipsing athwart this coomb hey ? '
said the engaged man of fifty.

1 Late it is, master, as you say. I'll take a seat in
the chimney-corner, if you have nothing to urge
against it, ma'am ; for I am a little moist on the side
that was next the rain.'

Mrs. Shepherd Fennel assented, and made room
for the self-invited comer, who, having got completely
inside the chimney-corner, stretched out his legs and

10



THE THREE STRANGERS

his arms with the expansiveness of a person quite at
home.

' Yes, I am rather cracked in the vamp,' he said
freely, seeing that the eyes of the shepherd's wife fell
upon his boots, ' and I am not well fitted either. I
have had some rough times lately, and have been
forced to pick up what I can get in the way of wear-
ing, but I must find a suit better fit for working-days
when I reach home.'

' One of hereabouts ? ' she inquired.

1 Not quite that further up the country.'

4 1 thought so. And so be I ; and by your tongue
you come from my neighbourhood.'

' But you would hardly have heard of me,' he said
quickly. ' My time would be long before yours,
ma'am, you see.'

This testimony to the youthfulness of his hostess
had the effect of stopping her cross-examination.

1 There is only one thing more wanted to make me
happy,' continued the new-comer. * And that is a
little baccy, which I am sorry to say I am out of.'

4 I'll fill your pipe,' said the shepherd.

4 1 must ask you to lend me a pipe likewise/

* A smoker, and no pipe about 'ee ? '

4 1 have dropped it somewhere on the road.'

The shepherd filled and handed him a new clay


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