Thomas Hardy.

The writings of Thomas Hardy in prose and verse, with prefaces and notes (Volume 9) online

. (page 19 of 20)
Online LibraryThomas HardyThe writings of Thomas Hardy in prose and verse, with prefaces and notes (Volume 9) → online text (page 19 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

every apple-tree in the enclosure. The young tree in
the middle again led them to pause, and at length the
whole company gathered there in a way which signified
that a second chain of reasoning had led to the same
results as the first.

When they had examined the sod hereabouts for
some minutes, one of the men rose, ran to a disused
part of the church where tools were kept, and
returned with the sexton's pickaxe and shovel, with
which they set to work.

' Are they really buried there ? ' said the minister,
for the grass was so green and uninjured that it
was difficult to believe it had been disturbed. The
smugglers were too interested to reply, and presently
they saw, to their chagrin, the officers stand several
on each side of the tree ; and, stooping and applying
their hands to the soil, they bodily lifted the tree and
the turf around it. The apple-tree now showed itself
to be growing in a shallow box, with handles for lifting
at each of the four sides. Under the site of the tree
a square hole was revealed, and an officer went and
looked down.

' It is all up now,' said Owlett quietly. ' And now
all of ye get down before they notice we are here ; and
be ready for our next move. I had better bide here



till dark, or they may take me on suspicion, as 'tis on
my ground. I'll be with ye as soon as daylight begins
to pink in.'

' And I ? ' said Lizzy.

' You please look to the linch-pins and screws ; then
go indoors and know nothing at all. The chaps will
do the rest.'

The ladder was replaced, and all but Owlett de-
scended, the men passing off one by one at the back of
the church, and vanishing on their respective errands.
Lizzy walked boldly along the street, followed closely
by the minister.

' You are going indoors, Mrs. Newberry ? ' he said.

She knew from the words ' Mrs. Newberry ' that
the division between them had widened yet another

' I am not going home,' she said. ' I have a little
thing to do before I go in. Martha Sarah will get
your tea.'

' O, I don't mean on that account,' said Stockdale.
4 What can you have to do further in this unhallowed

' Only a little,' she said.

'What is that? I'll go with you.

' No, I shall go by myself. Will you please go in-
doors? I shall be there in less than an hour.'

' You are not going to run any danger, Lizzy ? ' said
the young man, his tenderness reasserting itself.

' None whatever worth mentioning,' answered she,
and went down towards the Cross.

Stockdale entered the garden gate, and stood behind
it looking on. The Preventive-men were still busy in
the orchard, and at last he was tempted to enter and
watch their proceedings. When he came closer he
found that the secret cellar, of whose existence he had
been totally unaware, was formed by timbers placed
across from side to side about a foot under the ground,
and grassed over.

The officers looked up at Stockdale's fair and



downy countenance, and evidently thinking him above
suspicion, went on with their work again. As soon as
all the tubs were taken out they began tearing up the
turf, pulling out the timbers, and breaking in the sides,
till the cellar was wholly dismantled and shapeless, the
apple-tree lying with its roots high to the air. But the
hole which had in its time held so much contraband
merchandize was never completely filled up, either then
or afterwards, a depression in the greensward marking
the spot to this day.




As the goods had all to be carried to Budmouth that
night, the next object of the Custom-house officers
was to find horses and carts for the journey, and they
went about the village for that purpose. Latimer
strode hither and thither with a lump of chalk in his
hand, marking broad-arrows so vigorously on every
vehicle and set of harness that he came across, that it
seemed as if he would chalk broad-arrows on the very
hedges and roads. The owner of every conveyance
so marked was bound to give it up for Government
purposes. Stockdale, who had had enough of the
scene, turned indoors thoughtful and depressed. Lizzy
was already there, having come in at the back, though
she had not yet taken off her bonnet. She looked
tired, and her mood was not much brighter than his
own. They had but little to say to each other ; and
the minister went away and attempted to read ; but at
this he could not succeed, and he shook the little bell
for tea.

Lizzy herself brought in the tray, the girl having
run off into the village during the afternoon, too full
of excitement at the proceedings to remember her
state of life. However, almost before the sad lovers
had said anything to each other, Martha came in in a
steaming state.


' O, there's such a stoor, Mrs. Newberry and Mr.
Stockdale ! The king's officers can't get the carts
ready nohow at all ! They pulled Thomas Artnell's,
and William Rogers's, and Stephen Sprake's carts into
the road, and off came the wheels, and down fell the
carts ; and they found there was no linch-pins in the
arms ; and then they tried Samuel Shane's waggon,
and found that the screws were gone from he, and at
last they looked at the dairyman's cart, and he's got
none neither! They have gone now to the black-
smith's to get some made, but he's nowhere to be

Stockdale looked at "Lizzy, who blushed very
slightly, and went out of the room, followed by
Martha Sarah. But before they had got through
the passage there was a rap at the front door, and
Stockdale recognized Latimer's voice addressing Mrs.
Newberry, who had turned back.

'For God's sake, Mrs. Newberry, have you seen
Hardman the blacksmith up this way ? If we could
get hold of him, we'd e'en a'most drag him by the hair
of his head to his anvil, where he ought to be.'

' He's an idle man, Mr. Latimer,' said Lizzy archly.
' What do you want him for ? '

' Why, there isn't a horse in the place that has got
more than three shoes on, and some have only two.
The waggon- wheels be without strakes, and there's no
linch-pins to the carts. What with that, and the
bother about every set of harness being out of order,
we shan't be off before nightfall upon my soul we
shan't. 'Tis a rough lot, Mrs. Newberry, that you've
got about you here ; but they'll play at this game once
too often, mark my words they will ! There's not a
man in the parish that don't deserve to be whipped.'

It happened that Hardman was at that moment a
little further up the lane, smoking his pipe behind a
holly-bush. When Latimer had done speaking he
went on in this direction, and Hardman, hearing the
riding-officer's steps, found curiosity too strong for



prudence. He peeped out from the bush at the very
moment that Latimer's glance was on it. There was
nothing left for him to do but to come forward with

' I've been looking for you for the last hour ! ' said
Latimer with a glare in his eye.

' Sorry to hear that,' said Hardman. ' I've been
out for a stroll, to look for more hid tubs, to deliver
'em up to Gover'ment.'

' O yes, Hardman, we know it,' said Latimer, with
withering sarcasm. ' We know that you'll deliver 'em
up to Gover'ment. We know that all the parish is
helping us, and have been all day ! Now you please
walk along with me down to your shop, and kindly let
me hire ye in the king's name.'

They went down the lane together ; and presently
there resounded from the smithy the ring of a hammer
not very briskly swung. However, the carts and
horses were got into some sort of travelling condition,
but it was not until after the clock had struck six,
when the muddy roads were glistening under the
horizontal light of the fading day. The smuggled
tubs were soon packed into the vehicles, and Latimer,
with three of his assistants, drove slowly out of the
village in the direction of the port of Budmouth, some
considerable number of miles distant, the other men of
the Preventive-guard being left to watch for the re-
mainder of the cargo, which they knew to have been
sunk somewhere between Ringsworth and Lulwind
Cove, and to unearth Owlett, the only person clearly
implicated by the discovery of the cave.

Women and children stood at the doors as the
carts, each chalked with the Government pitchfork,
passed in the increasing twilight ; and as they stood
they looked at the confiscated property with a melan-
choly expression that told only too plainly the relation
which they bore to the trade.

' Well, Lizzy,' said Stockdale, when the crackle of
the wheels had nearly died away. ' This is a fit finish



to your adventure. I am truly thankful that you have
got off without suspicion, and the loss only of the
liquor. Will you sit down and let me talk to you ? '

1 By and by,' she said. ' But I must go out

4 Not to that horrid shore again ? ' he said blankly.

' No, not there. I am only going to see the end of
this day's business.'

He did not answer to this, and she moved towards
the door slowly, as if waiting for him to say something

' You don't offer to come with me,' she added at
last. ' I suppose that's because you hate me after all

' Can you say it, Lizzy, when you know I only want
to save you from such practices ? Come with you !
of course I will, if it is only to take care of you. But
why will you go out again ? '

' Because I cannot rest indoors. Something is
happening, and I must know what. Now, come ! '
And they went into the dusk together.

When they reached the turnpike-road she turned
to the right, and he soon perceived that they were
following the direction of the Preventive-men and their
load. He had given her his arm, and every now and
then she suddenly pulled it back, to signify that he
was to halt a moment and listen. They had walked
rather quickly along the first quarter of a mile, and on
the second or third time of standing still she said, ' I
hear them ahead don't you ? '

' Yes,' he said ; ' I hear the wheels. But what of

' I only want to know if they get clear away from
the neighbourhood.'

' Ah,' said he, a light breaking upon him. ' Some-
thing desperate is to be attempted ! and now I re-
member there was not a man about the village when
we left.'

' Hark ! ' she murmured. The noise of the cart-



wheels had stopped, and given place to another sort of

' 'Tis a scuffle ! ' said Stockdale. ' There'll be
murder ! Lizzy, let go my arm ; I am going on. On
my conscience, I must not stay here and do nothing ! '

' There'll be no murder, and not even a broken
head,' she said. ' Our men are thirty to four of them :
no harm will be done at all.'

' Then there is an attack ! ' exclaimed Stockdale ;
'and you knew it was to be. Why should you side
with men who break the laws like this ? '

'Why should you side with men who take from
country traders what they have honestly bought wi'
their own money in France ? ' said she firmly.

' They are not honestly bought,' said he.

' They are,' she contradicted. ' I and Mr. Owlett
and the others paid thirty shillings for every one of
the tubs before they were put on board at Cherbourg,
and if a king who is nothing to us sends his people to
steal our property, we have a right to steal it back

Stockdale did not stop to argue the matter but
went quickly in the direction of the noise, Lizzy keep-
ing at his side. ' Don't you interfere, will you, dear
Richard ? ' she said anxiously, as they drew near.
' Don't let us go any closer : 'tis at Warm'ell Cross
where they are seizing 'em. You can do no good,
and you may meet with a hard blow ! '

' Let us see first what is going on,' he said. But
before they had got much further the noise of the cart-
wheels began again ; and Stockdale soon found that
they were coming towards him. In another minute
the three carts came up, and Stockdale and Lizzy stood
in the ditch to let them pass.

Instead of being conducted by four men, as had
happened when they went out of the village, the horses
and carts were now accompanied by a body of from
twenty to thirty, all of whom, as Stockdale perceived
to his astonishment, had blackened faces. Among



them walked six or eight huge female figures, whom,
from their wide strides, Stockdale guessed to be men
in disguise. As soon as the party discerned Lizzy and
her companion four or five fell back, and when the
carts had passed, came close to the pair.

' There is no walking up this way for the present,'
said one of the gaunt women, who wore curls a foot
long, dangling down the sides of her face, in the
fashion of the time. Stockdale recognized this lady's
voice as Owlett's.

' Why not ? ' said Stockdale. ' This is the public

' Now look here, youngster,' said Owlett. ' O, 'tis
the Methodist parson ! what, and Mrs. Newberry !
Well, you'd better not go up that way, Lizzy.
They've all run off, and folks have got their own

The miller then hastened on and joined his com-
rades. Stockdale and Lizzy also turned back. ' I
wish all this hadn't been forced upon us,' she said
regretfully. ' But if those Coast-men had got off with
the tubs, half the people in the parish would have been
in want for the next month or two.'

Stockdale was not paying much attention to her
words, and he said, ' I don't think I can go back like
this. Those four poor Preventives may be murdered
for all I know.'

' Murdered ! ' said Lizzy impatiently. ' We don't
do murder here.'

'Well, I shall go as far as Warm'ell Cross to see,'
said Stockdale decisively ; and, without wishing her
safe home or anything else, the minister turned back.
Lizzy stood looking at him till his form was absorbed
in the shades ; and then, with sadness, she went in the
direction of N ether- Moynton.

The road was lonely, and after nightfall at this
time of the year there was often not a passer for hours.
Stockdale pursued his way without hearing a sound
beyond that of his own footsteps ; and in due time



he passed beneath the trees of the plantation which
surrounded the Warm'ell Cross-road. Before he had
reached the point of intersection he heard voices from
the thicket.

' Hoi-hoi-hoi ! Help, help ! '

The voices were not at all feeble or despairing, but
they were unmistakably anxious. Stockdale had no
weapon, and before plunging into the pitchy darkness
of the plantation he pulled a stake from the hedge, to
use in case of need. When he got among the trees
he shouted ' What's the matter where are you ? '

' Here,' answered the voices ; and, pushing through
the brambles in that direction, he came near the objects
of his search.

1 Why don't you come forward ? ' said Stockdale.

4 We be tied to the trees ! '

4 Who are you ? '

1 Poor Will Latimer the Customs -officer ! ' said one
plaintively. 'Just come and cut these cords, there's
a good man. We were afraid nobody would pass by

Stockdale soon loosened them, upon which they
stretched their limbs and stood at their ease.

' The rascals ! ' said Latimer, getting now into a
rage, though he had seemed quite meek when Stock-
dale first came up. ' 'Tis the same set of fellows. I
know they were Moynton chaps to a man.'

' But we can't swear to 'em,' said another. ' Not
one of 'em spoke.'

' What are you going to do ? ' said Stockdale.

' I'd fain go back to Moynton, and have at 'em
again ! ' said Latimer.

1 So would we ! ' said his comrades.

' Fight till we die ! ' said Latimer.

' We will, we will ! ' said his men.

' But,' said Latimer, more frigidly, as they came
out of the plantation, ' we don't know that these chaps
with black faces were Moynton men ? And proof is a.
hard thing.'



' So it is,' said the rest.

' And therefore we won't do nothing at all,' said
Latimer, with complete dispassionateness. ' For my
part, I'd sooner be them than we. The ditches of my
arms are burning like fire from the cords those two
strapping women tied round 'em. My opinion is, now
I have had time to think o't, that you may serve your
Gover'ment at too high a price. For these two nights
and days I have not had an hour's rest ; and, please
God, here's for home-along.'

The other officers agreed heartily to this course ;
and, thanking Stockdale for his timely assistance, they
parted from him at the Cross, taking themselves the
western road, and Stockdale going back to Nether-

During that walk the minister was lost in reverie
of the most painful kind. As soon as he got into the
house, and before entering his own rooms, he advanced
to the door of the little back parlour in which Lizzy
usually sat with her mother. He found her there
alone. Stockdale went forward, and, like a man in
a dream, looked down upon the table that stood
between him and the young woman, who had her
bonnet and cloak still on. As he did not speak,
she looked up from her chair at him, with misgiving
in her eye.

' Where are they gone ? ' he then said listlessly.

' Who ? I don't know. I have seen nothing of
them since. I came straight in here.'

' If your men can manage to get off with those
tubs, it will be a great profit to you, I suppose ? '

' A share will be mine, a share my cousin Owlett's,
a share to each of the two farmers, and a share divided
amongst the men who helped us.'

' And you still think,' he went on slowly, ' that you
will not give this business up ? '

Lizzy rose, and put her hand upon his shoulder.
' Don't ask that,' she whispered. ' You don't know
what you are asking. I must tell you, though I meant



not to do it. What I make by that trade is all I have
to keep my mother and myself with.'

He was astonished. ' I did not dream of such a
thing,' he said. ' I would rather have scraped the
roads, had I been you. What is money compared
with a clear conscience ? '

' My conscience is clear. I know my mother, but
the king I have never seen. His dues are nothing to
me. But it is a great deal to me that my mother and
I should live.'

1 Marry me, and promise to give it up. I will keep
your mother.'

' It is good of you,' she said, moved a little. ' Let
me think of it by myself. I would rather not answer

She reserved her answer till the next day, and
came into his room with a solemn face. ' I cannot do
what you wished ! ' she said passionately. ' It is too
much to ask. My whole life ha' been passed in this
way.' Her words and manner showed that before
entering she had been struggling with herself in
private, and that the contention had been strong.

Stockdale turned pale, but he spoke quietly.
' Then, Lizzy, we must part. I cannot go against my
principles in this matter, and I cannot make my
profession a mockery. You know how I love you,
and what I would do for you ; but this one thing I
cannot do.'

4 But why should you belong to that profession ? '
she burst out. ' I have got this large house ; why
can't you marry me, and live here with us, and not
be a Methodist preacher any more? I assure you,
Richard, it is no harm, and I wish you could only see
it as I do ! We only carry it on in winter : in summer
it is never done at all. It stirs up one's dull life at
this time o' the year, and gives excitement, which I
have got so used to now that I should hardly know
how to do 'ithout it. At nights, when the wind blows,
instead of being dull and stupid, and not noticing



whether it do blow or not, your mind is afield, even if
you are not afield yourself; and you are wondering
how the chaps are getting on ; and you walk up and
down the room, and look out o' window, and then you
go out yourself, and know your way about as well by
night as by day, and have hairbreadth escapes from
old Latimer and his fellows, who are too stupid ever
to really frighten us, and only make us a bit nimble.'

' He frightened you a little last night, anyhow :
and I would advise you to drop it before it is worse.'

She shook her head. 'No, I must go on as I
have begun. I was born to it. It is in my blood,
and I can't be cured. O, Richard, you cannot think
what a hard thing you have asked, and how sharp you
try me when you put me between this and my love
for 'eel'

Stockdale was leaning with his elbow on the
mantelpiece, his hands over his eyes. 'We ought
never to have met, Lizzy,' he said. ' It was an ill day
for us ! I little thought there was anything so hopeless
and impossible in our engagement as this. Well, it is
too late now to regret consequences in this way. I
have had the happiness of seeing you and knowing
you at least.'

'You dissent from Church, and I dissent from
State,' she said. ' And I don't see why we are not
well matched.'

He smiled sadly, while Lizzy remained looking
down, her eyes beginning to overflow.

That was an unhappy evening for both of them,
and the days that followed were unhappy days. Both
she and he went mechanically about their employments,
and his depression was marked in the village by more
than one of his denomination with whom he came in
contact. But Lizzy, who passed her days indoors, was
unsuspected of being the cause : for it was generally
understood that a quiet engagement to marry existed
between her and her cousin Owlett, and had existed
for some time.



Thus uncertainly the week passed on ; till one
morning Stockdale said to her : ' I have had a letter,
Lizzy. I must call you that till I am gone.'

1 Gone ? ' said she blankly.

'Yes,' he said. 'I am going from this place. I
felt it would be better for us both that I should not
stay after what has happened. In fact, I couldn't stay
here, and look on you from day to day, without
becoming weak and faltering in my course. I have
just heard of an arrangement by which the other
minister can arrive here in about a week ; and let me
go elsewhere.'

That he had all this time continued so firmly fixed
in his resolution came upon her as a grievous surprise.
' You never loved me ! ' she said bitterly.

'I might say the same,' he returned; 'but I will
not. Grant me one favour. Come and hear my last
sermon on the day before I go.'

Lizzy, who was a church-goer on Sunday morn-
ings, frequently attended Stockdale's chapel in the
evening with the rest of the double-minded ; and she

It became known that Stockdale was going to
leave, and a good many people outside his own sect
were sorry to hear it. The intervening days flew
rapidly away, and on the evening of the Sunday which
preceded the morning of his departure Lizzy sat in the
chapel to hear him for the last time. The little
building was full to overflowing, and he took up the
subject which all had expected, that of the contraband
trade so extensively practised among them. His
hearers, in laying his words to their own hearts, did
not perceive that they were most particularly directed
against Lizzy, till the sermon waxed warm, and Stock-
dale nearly broke down with emotion. In truth his
own earnestness, and her sad eyes looking up at him,
were too much for the young man's equanimity. He
hardly knew how he ended. He saw Lizzy, as
through a mist, turn and go away with the rest of the



congregation ; and shortly afterwards followed her

She invited him to supper, and they sat down
alone, her mother having, as was usual with her on
Sunday nights, gone to bed early.

' We will part friends, won't we ? ' said Lizzy, with
forced gaiety, and never alluding to the sermon : a
reticence which rather disappointed him.

' We will,' he said, with a forced smile on his part ;
and they sat down.

It was the first meal that they had ever shared
together in their lives, and probably the last that they
would so share. When it was over, and the indifferent
conversation could no longer be continued, he arose
and took her hand. ' Lizzy,' he said, 'do you say we
must part do you ? '

' You do,' she said solemnly. ' I can say no

' Nor I,' said he. ' If that is your answer, good-
bye !'

Stockdale bent over her and kissed her, and she
involuntarily returned his kiss. ' I shall go early,' he
said hurriedly. ' I shall not see you again.'

And he did leave early. He fancied, when
stepping forth into the grey morning light, to mount
the van which was to carry him away, that he saw a
face between the parted curtains of Lizzy's window, but
the light was faint, and the panes glistened with wet ;
so he could not be sure. Stockdale mounted the
vehicle, and was gone ; and on the following Sunday

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19

Online LibraryThomas HardyThe writings of Thomas Hardy in prose and verse, with prefaces and notes (Volume 9) → online text (page 19 of 20)