Thomas Hardy.

Desperate remedies : a novel. In three volumes (Volume 2) online

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first they conversed as if the death of the poor
woman was an event which the husband must
of necessity deeply lament ; and when all under


this head that social form seemed to require
had been uttered, they spoke of the material
damage done, and of the steps ^vhich had better
be taken to remedy it.

It "was not till both were shut inside her
private room that she spoke to him in her
blunt and cynical manner. A certain newness
of bearing in him, peculiar to the present morn-
ing, had hitherto forbidden her this tone : the
demeanour of the subject of her favouritism had
altered, she could not tell in what way. He
was entirely a changed man.

"Are you really sorry for your poor wife, ]\Ir.
Manston '? " she said.

" Well, I am/' he answered, shortly.

" But only as for any human being who has
met with a violent death ? "

He confessed it — " For she was not a good
woman," he added.

" I should be sorry to say such a thing now
the poor creature is dead," Miss Aldclyffe I'e-
turned, reproachfully.

"Why?" he asked; "Why should I praise


her if she doesn't deserve it 1 I say exactly
what I have often admired Sterne for saying
in one of his letters, — that neither reason nor
scripture asks us to speak nothing but good of
the dead. And now, madam," he continued,
after a short interval of thought, " I may,
perhaps, hope that you will assist me, or rather
not thwart me, in endeavouring to win the love
of a young lady living about you, one in whom
I am much interested already."

" Cytherea ! "

"Yes, Cytherea."

"You have been loving Cytherea all the
while 1 ''


Surprise was a preface to much agitation in
her, which caused her to rise from her seat, and
pace to the side of the room. The steward
quietly looked on and added, " I have been
loving and still love her.''

She came close up to him, wistfully contem-
plating his face, one hand moving indecisively
at her side.


" And your secret marriage was, then, the
true and only reason for that backwardness
regarding the courtship of Cytherea, which,
they tell me, has been the talk of the village ;
not your indilSerence to her attractions." Her
voice had a tone of conviction in it, as well as
of inquiry ; but none of jealousy.

" Yes," he said ; " and not a dishonourable
one. What held me back was just that one
thing — a sense of morality that perhaps,
madam, you did not give me credit for." The
latter words were spoken with a mien and tone
of pride.

Miss Aldclyffe preserved silence.

" And now,'' he went on, " I may as well
say a word in vindication of my conduct lately,
at the risk, too, of offending you. My actual
motive in submitting to your order that I
should send for my late wife, and live with her,
was not the mercenary policy of wishing to
retain an office which brings me a higher in-
come than any I have enjoyed before, but this
unquenchable passion for Cytherea. Though I


saw the weakness, folly, and even wickedness
of it continually, it still forced me to try to
continue near her, even as the husband of
another woman."

He waited for her to speak : she did not.

" There's a great obstacle to my making
any way in winning Miss Graye's love/* he
went on.

" Yes, Edward Springrove," she said, quietly.
" I know it, I did once want to see them
married ; they have had a slight quarrel, and
it wdll soon be made up again, unless — " she
spoke as if she had only half attended to
Mansion's last statement.

" He is already engaged to be married to
somebody else," said the steward.

" Pooh ! " said she, *' you mean to his cousin
at Peakhill ; that's nothing to help us ; he's
now come home to break it off."

" He must not break it off," said Manston,
firmly and calmly.

His tone attracted her, startled her. Ee-
covering herself, she said, haughtily, " Well,


that's your affair, not mine. Though my wish
has been to see her your wife, I can't do any-
thing dishonourable to bring about such a

" But it must be made your affair,^' he said
in a hard, steady voice, looking into her eyes,
as if he saw there the whole panorama of her

One of the most difficult things to portray
by written words is that peculiar mixture of
moods expressed in a woman's countenance
when, after having been sedulously engaged
in establishing another's position, she suddenly
suspects him of undermining her own.

It was thus that Miss Aldclyffe looked at
the steward.

"You — know — something — of me*?" she

" I know all," he said.

" Then curse that wife of yours ! She wrote
and said she wouldn't tell you ! " she burst out.
" Couldn't she keep her word for a day ? '^ She
reflected and then said, but no more as to a


stranger, ''I ^vill not yield. I have committed
no crime. I yielded to her threats in a moment
of weakness, though I felt inclined to defy her
at the time : it was chiefly I was
mystified as to how she got to know of it.
Pooh ! I will put up wiih threats no more.
Oh, can you threaten me ? '"' she added, softly,
as if she had for the moment forgotten to whom
she had been speaking.

'•'My love must be made your affair,'' he
repeated, without taking his eyes from her.

An agony, which was not the agony of being
discovered in a secret, obstructed her utterance
for a time. " How can you turn upon me so
when I schemed to get you here — schemed
that vou mi^ht win her till I found vou were
married. 0, how can you ! ! . . . '/'' She
wept ; and the weeping of such a nature was
as harrowing as the weeping of a man.

"Your getting me here, was bad policy as to
your secret — the most absurd thing in the
world," he said, not lieeding her distress, "I
knew all, except the identity of the individual


long ago. Directly I found that my coming
here was a contrived thing and not a matter of
chance, it fixed my attention upon you at once.
All that was required was the mere spark of
hfe, to make of a bundle of perceptions an
organic whole."

" Policy, how can you talk of policy. Think,
do think ! And how can you threaten me
when you know — you know — that I would
befriend you readily without a threat ! '^

" Yes, yes, I think you would," he said more
kindly, " but ^^our indifference for so many
many years has made me doubt it."

"No, not indifference — 'twas enforced silence :
my father lived."

He took her hand, and held it gently.

* TlJ i-e * * tU *

"Now listen," he said, more quietly and
humanly, when she had become calmer, '^Sprin-
grove must marry the woman he's engaged
to. You may make him, but only in one

" Well : but don't speak sternly, ^Eneas 1 "


" Do you know that his father has not been
particularly thriving for the last two or three
years 1 "

" I have heard something of it, once or twice,
though his rents have been promptly paid,
haven't they '? "

" yes ; and do you know the terms of the
leases of the houses which are burnt 1 " he said,
explaining to her that by those terms, she
might compel him even to rebuild every house.
'•' The case is the clearest case of fire by
negligence that I have ever known, in addition
to that," he continued.

" I don't want them rebuilt ; you know it was
intended by my father, directly they fell in,
to clear the site for a new entrance to the

"Yes, but that doesn't affect the position,
which is that Farmer Springrove is in your
power to an extent which is very serious for

" I won't do it — 'Tis a conspiracy."

" Won't you for meV he said eagerly.


Miss Aldclyffe changed colour.

" I don't threaten now, I implore/' he said.

" Because you might threaten if you chose,"
she mournfully answered. " But why be so —
when your marriage with her was my own pet
idea long before it was yours ! What must
I do I "

'•' Scarcely anything : simply this. When I
have seen old Mr. Springrove, which I shall do
in a day or two, and told him that he will be
expected to rebuild the houses, do you see the
3^oung man. See him yourself, in order that the
proposal made may not .appear to be anything
more than an impulse of your own. You or he
will bring up the subject of the houses. To re-
build them would be a matter of at least six
hundred pounds, and he will almost surely say
that we are hard in insisting upon the extreme
letter of the leases. Then tell him, that neither
can you yourself think of compeUing an old tenant
like his father to any such painful extreme
— there shall be no compulsion to build, simply
a surrender of the leases. Then speak feel-


inglj of his cousin, as a woman whom jou re-
spect and love, and whose secret you have learnt
to be that she is heart-sick with hope deferred.
Beg him to marry her, his betrothed and your
friend, as some return for your consideration
towards his father. Don't suggest too early a
day for their marriage, or he will suspect you of
some motive beyond womanly sympathy. Coax
him to make a promise to her that she shall be
his wife at the end of a twelvemonth, and get
him on assenting to this, to write to Cytherea,
entirely renouncing her."'

" She has already asked him to do that.''
" So much the better — and telling her too,
that he is about to fulfil his long-standing
promise to marry his cousin. If you think it
worth while, you may say Cytherea was not
indisposed to think of me before she knew I
was married. I have at home a note she wrote
me the first evening I saw her, which looks
rather warm, and which I could show you.
Trust me, he will give her up. When he is
married to Adelaide Hinton, Cytherea will be


induced to marry me — perhaps before ; a
woman's pride is soon wounded."

" And hadn't I better write to Mr. Nyttleton,
and inquire more particularly what's the law
upon the houses?"

" no, there 's no hurry for that. We know
well enough how the case stands — quite
well enough to talk in general terms about it.
And I want the pressure to be put upon
young Springrove before he goes away from
home again.'"'

She looked at him furtively, long, and sadly,
as after speaking he became lost in thought, his
eyes listlessly tracing the pattern of the carpet.
"Yes, yes, she will be mine," he whispered,
careless of Cytherea Aldclyffe's presence. At
last he raised his eyes inquiringl3^

" I will do my best, ^Eneas," she answered.

Talihus incusaf. Manston then left the
house, and again went towards the blackened
ruins, where men were still raking and probing.


§ 2. From November the twenty 'nintli to
December the second.

The smouldering remnants of the Three
Tranters Inn seemed to promise that, even
when the searchers should Hght upon the re-
mains of the unfortunate Mrs. i\Ianston, very
little would be discoverable.

Consisting so largely of the charcoal and ashes
of hard dry oak and chestnut, intermingled with
thatch, the interior of the heap was one glowing
mass of embers, wdiich on being stirred about
emitted sparks and flame long after it was dead
and black on the outside. It was persistently
hoped, however, that some traces of the body
would survive the effect of the hot coals, and
after a search pursued uninterruptedly for thirty
hours, under the direction of Manston himself,
enough was found to set at rest any doubts of
her fate.

The melancholy gleanings consisted of her
watch, bunch of keys, a few coins, and two
charred and blackened bones.


T^YO days later the official inquiry into the
cause of her death was held at the Traveller's
Rest Inn, before Mr. Floy, the coroner, and a
jury of the chief inhabitants of the district.
The little tavern — the only remaining one in
the village — was crow^ded to excess by the
neighbouring peasantry as well as their richer
employers: all who could by any possibility
obtain an hour's release from their duties being-
present as listeners.

The jury viewed the sad and infinitesimal
remains, which were folded in a white cambric
cloth, and laid in the middle of a well-finished
coffin lined wdth white silk, (by Manston's
order), which stood in an adjoining room, the
bulk of the coffin being completely filled in with
carefully arranged flow^ers and evergreens — also
the steward's own doing.

Abraham Brown, of Hoxton, London — an old
white-headed man, without the ruddiness which
makes white hairs so pleasing — w^as sworn, and
deposed that he kept a lodging-house at an
address he named. On a Saturday evening less


than a month before the fire, a lady came to
him, with very httle luggage, and took the front
room on the second floor. He did not inquire
where she came from, as she paid a week in
advance, but she gave her name as ]\Irs. Man-
ston, referring him, if he wished for any guaran-
tee of her respectabihty, to !Mr. Manston, Knap-
water Park, near Froominster. Here she hved
for three weeks, rarely going out. She slept
away from her lodgings one night during the
time. At the end of that time, on the twenty-
eighth of iSTovember, she left his house in a
four-wheeled cab, about twelve o'clock in the
day, tehing the driver to take her to the
Waterloo Station. She paid all her lodging
expenses, and not having given notice the fuU
week previous to her going away, offered to
pay for the next, but he only took half. She
wore a thick black veil, and grey waterproof
cloak, when she left him, and her luggage was
two boxes, one of plain deal, with black japanned
clamps, the other sewn up in canvas.

Joseph Chinney, porter at the Carriford-

I 2


Road Station, deposed that he saw Mrs. Man-
ston, dressed as the last witness had described,
get out of a second-class carriage on the night
of the twenty-eighth. She stood beside him
whilst her luggage was taken from the van.
The luggage, consisting of the clamped deal box
and another covered with canvas, was placed in
the cloak-room. She seemed at a loss at finding
nobody there to meet her. She asked him for
some person to accompany her, and carry her
bag to Mr. Manston's house, Knapwater Park.
He was just off duty at that time, and offered
to go himself The witness here repeated the
conversation he had had with Mrs. Manston
during their w^alk, and testified to having left
her at the door of the Three Tranters Inn, Mr.
Manston's house being closed.

Next Farmer Sprin grove was called. A
murmur of surprise and commiseration passed
round the crowded room wdien he stepped for-

The events of the few preceding days had so
worked upon his nervously thoughtful nature,


that the blue orbits of his eyes, and the mere
spot of scarlet to which the ruddiness of his
cheeks had contracted seemed the result of a
heavy sickness. A perfect silence pervaded the
assembly when he spoke.

His statement was that he received Mrs.
Manston at the threshold, and asked her to
enter the parlour. She would not do so, and
stood in the passage w^hilst the maid went up-
stairs to see that the room was in order. The
maid came down to the middle landing of the
staircase, when Mrs. Manston followed her up
to the room. He did not speak ten w^ords with
her altogether.

Afterwards, whilst he was standing at the
door listening for his son Edward's return,
he saw her light extinguished, having first
cauo'ht sidit of her shadow movini^ about the

The Coroner. " Did her shadow appear to be
that of a woman undressing 1 "

Springrove. "I cannot say, as I didn't take
particular notice. It moved backwards and


forwards : she might have been undressing or
merely pacing up and down the room."

Mrs. Fitler the ostler's wife, and chamber-
maid, said that she preceded Mrs. Manston into
the room, put down the candle and went out.
Mrs. Manston scarcely spoke to her, except to
ask her to bring a little brandy. Witness went
and fetched it from the bar, brought it up, and
put it on the dressing-table.

The Coroner. " Had Mrs. Manston begun to
undress when you came back 1 "

" No, sir : she was sitting on the bed, with
eyerj^thing on, as when she came in.''

"Did she begin to undress before you left \ "

" Not exactly before I had left : but when I
had closed the door, and was on the landing, I
heard her boot drop on the floor, as it does
sometimes when pulled off."

" Had her ffice appeared worn and sleep}^ % "

" I cannot say, as her bonnet and veil were
still on when I left, for she seemed rather shy
and ashamed to be seen at the Three Tranters
at all."


'•' And did you hear or see any more of
her ? ''

" No more, sir."

Mrs. Crickett, provisional servant to Mr.
Manston, said that in accordance with Mr.
Mansion's orders, everything had been made
comfortable in the house for Mrs. Mansion's
expected return on Monday night. Mr. Manston
told her that himself and Mrs. Manston would
be home late, not till between eleven and twelve
o'clock, and that supper was to be ready. Xot
expecting Mrs. Manston so early, she had gone
out on a very important errand to Mrs. Leat's
the post-mistress.

Mr. Manston deposed that in looking down
the columns of Bradshaw he had mistaken the
time of the train's arrival, and hence was not at
the station when she came. The broken watch
produced was his wife's — he knew it by a scratch
on the inner plate, and by other signs. The
bunch of keys belonged to her : two of them
fitted the locks of her two boxes.

Mr. Flooks, agent to Lord Claydonfield at


Chettlewood, said that Mr. Manston liad jDleaded
as his excuse for leaving him rather early in
the evening after their day's business had been
settled, that he was going to meet his wife at
Carriford-Road Station, where she was coming
by the last train that night.

The surgeon said that the remains were those
of a human being. The small fragment seemed
a portion of one of the lumbar vertebrae — the
other the extreme end of the os femoris — but
they were both so far gone that it was impos-
sible to say definitely whether they belonged to
the body of a male or female. There was no
moral doubt that they were a woman's. He
did not believe that death resulted from burn-
ing by fire. He thought she was crushed by
the fall of the west gable, which being of wood,
as well as the floor, burnt after it had fallen,
and consumed the body with it.

Two or three additional witnesses gave unim-
portant testimony.

The coroner summed up, and the jury with-
out hesitation found that the deceased Mrs.


Manston came Ly her death accidentally,



through the burning of the Three Tranters

§ 3. December the second. Afternoon.

When Mr. Springrove came from the door of
the Traveller's Eest at the end of the inquiry,
Manston walked by his side as far as the stile
to the park, a distance of about a stone's throw.

'' Ah, Mr. Springrove, this is a sad affair for
everybody concerned."

" Everybody,'' said the old farmer, with deep
sadness, "'tis quite a misery to me. I hardly
know how I shall live through each day as it
breaks. I think of the words, ' In the mornino;
thou shalt say, Would God it w^ere even ! and
at even thou shalt say, Would God it were
morning ! for the fear of thine heart wherewith
thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes
which thou shalt see.' " His voice became broken.

" Ah — true. I read Deuteronomy myself,"
said Manston.


"But mj loss is as nothing to yours," the
farmer continued.

" Nothing ; but I can commiserate 3^ou. I
should be averse than unfeeling if I didn't,
although inj own affliction is of so sad and
solemn a kind. Indeed my own loss makes me
more keenly alive to yours, different in nature
as it is."

" What sum do you think would be re-
quired of me to put the houses in place again ? "

*' I have roughly thought six or seven hun-
dred pounds."

" If the letter of the law is to be acted up
to," said the old man with more agitation in
his voice.

" Yes, exactly."

"Do you know enough of Miss Aldclyffe's
mind to give me an idea of how she means to
treat me ? "

'' Well, I am afraid I must tell you that
though I know very little of her mind as a rule,
in this matter I believe she will be rather
peremptory ; she might share to the extent


of a sixth or an eighth perhaps, in consideration
of her getting new lamps for old, but I should
hardly think more."

The steward stepped upon the stile, and Mr.
Springrove went along the road with a bowed
head and heavy footsteps towards his niece's
cottage, in which, rather against the wish of
Edward, they had temporarily taken refuge.

The additional weight of this knowledge
soon made itself perceptible. Though indoors
with Edward or Adelaide nearly the whole of
the afternoon, nothing more than monosyllabic
rephes could be drawn from him. Edward
continually discovered him looking fixedly at
the wall or floor, quite unconscious of another's
presence. At supper he ate just as usual,
but quite mechanically, and with the same

§ 4. December the third.

The next morning he was in no better spirits.
Afternoon came : his son was alarmed, and


managed to draw from him an account of the
conversation with the steward.

" Konsense ! he knows nothing about it,"
said Edward, vehemently. " Til see Miss Ald-
clyffe myself. Now promise me, father, that
you'll not believe till I come back, and tell you
to believe it, that Miss AldclyfFe will do any
such unjust thing."

Edward started at once for Knapwater
House. He strode rapidly along the high
road, till he reached a wicket a few yards
below the brow of Buckshead Hill, where a
foot-path allowed of a short cut to the mansion.
Here he leant down upon the bars for a few
minutes, meditating as to the best manner of
opening his speech, and surveying the scene
before him in that absent mood which takes
cognisance of little things without being
conscious of them at the time, though they ap-
pear in the eye afterwards as vivid impressions.
It w^as a yellow, lustrous, late-autumn day,
one of those days of the quarter when morning
and evening seem to meet together without the


intervention of a noon. The clear yellow sun-
light had tempted forth Miss AldclyfFe herself,
who w^as at this same time taking a walk in
the direction of the village. As Springrove
lingered he heard behind the plantation a
woman's dress brushing along amid the prickly
husks and leaves wdiich had fallen into the
path from the boughs of the chestnut trees.
In another minute she stood in front of liim.

He answered her casual greeting respectfully,
and was about to request a few minutes' con-
versation with her, when she directly addressed
him on the subject of the fire. " It is a sad
misfortune for your father," she said, " and I
hear that he has lately let his insurances
expire 1 "

" He has madam, and you are probably
aware that either by the general terms of his
holding, or the same coupled with the origin
of the fire, the disaster may involve tlie neces-
sity of his rebuilding the whole row of houses,
or else of becoming a creditor to the estate,
to the extent of some hundreds of pounds ^ "


She assented ; " I have been thinking of it,"
she went on, and then repeated in substance
the words put into her mouth by the steward.
Some disturbance of thought might have been
fancied as taking place in Springrove's mind
during her statement, but before she had
reached the end, his eyes were clear, and
directed upon her.

*' I don't accept your conditions of release,"
he said.

" They are not conditions exactly."

" Well, whatever they are not, they are very
uncalled-for remarks.^'

" Not at all — the houses have been burnt by
your family's negligence."

"I don't refer to the houses — you have of
course the best of all rights to speak of that
matter ; but you, a stranger to me com-
parativel}', have no right at all to volunteer
opinions and wishes upon a very delicate sub-
ject, which concerns no living beings but Miss
Graye, Miss Hinton, and myself"

Miss Aldclyffe, like a good many others in


her position, had plainly not realised that a

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