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

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the new minister preached in the chapel of the
Moynton Wesleyans.

One day, two years after the parting, Stockdale,
now settled in a midland town, came into Nether-
Moynton by carrier in the original way. Jogging
along in the van that afternoon he had put questions to
the driver, and the answers that he received interested
the minister deeply. The result of them was that he

284



THE DISTRACTED PREACHER

went without the least hesitation to the door of his
former lodging. It was about six o'clock in the
evening, and the same time of year as when he had
left ; now, too, the ground was damp and glistening,
the west was bright, and Lizzy's snowdrops were
raising their heads in the border under the wall.

Lizzy must have caught sight of him from the
window, for by the time that he reached the door she
was there holding it open : and then, as if she had
not sufficiently considered her act of coming out, she
drew herself back, saying with some constraint, ' Mr.
Stockdale ! '

'You knew it was,' said Stockdale, taking her
hand. ' I wrote to say I should call.'

' Yes, but you did not say when,' she answered.

' I did not. I was not quite sure when my business
would lead me to these parts.'

' You only came because business brought you
near ? '

' Well, that is the fact ; but I have often thought I
should like to come on purpose to see you. . . . But
what's all this that has happened ? I told you how it
would be, Lizzy, and you would not listen to me.'

' I would not,' she said sadly. ' But I had been
brought up to that life ; and it was second nature to
me. However, it is all over now. The officers have
blood-money for taking a man dead or alive, and the
trade is going to nothing. We were hunted down like
rats.'

' Owlett is quite gone, I hear.'

'Yes. He is in America. We had a dreadful
struggle that last time, when they tried to take him.
It is a perfect miracle that he lived through it ; and it
is a wonder that I was not killed. I was shot in the
hand. It was not by aim ; the shot was really meant
for my cousin ; but I was behind, looking on as usual,
and the bullet came to me. It bled terribly, but I got
home without fainting ; and it healed after a time.
You know how he suffered ? '

285



WESSEX TALES

' No,' said Stockdale. ' I only heard that he just
escaped with his life.'

' He was shot in the back ; but a rib turned the
ball. He was badly hurt. We would not let him be
took. The men carried him all night across the meads
to Kingsbere, and hid him in a barn, dressing his
wound as well as they could, till he was so far recovered
as to be able to get about. Then he was caught, and
tried with the others at the assizes ; but they all got
off. 1 He had given up his mill for some time ; and at
last he went to Bristol, and took a passage to America,
where he's settled.'

I What do you think of smuggling now ? ' said the
minister gravely.

I 1 own that we were wrong,' said she. ' But I
have suffered for it. I am very poor now, and my
mother has been dead these twelve months. ... But
won't you come in, Mr. Stockdale ? '

Stockdale went in ; and it is to be supposed that
they came to an understanding ; for a fortnight later
there was a sale of Lizzy's furniture, and after that a
wedding at a chapel in a neighbouring town.

He took her away from her old haunts to the
home that he had made for himself in his native county,
where she studied her duties as a minister's wife with
praiseworthy assiduity. It is said that in after years
she wrote an excellent tract called Render unto Casar ;
or, Tke Repentant Villagers, in which her own ex-
perience was anonymously used as the introductory
story. Stockdale got it printed, after making some
corrections, and putting in a few powerful sentences of
his own ; and many hundreds of copies were distributed
by the couple in the course of their married life.

April 1879.

NOTE. The ending of this story with the marriage of Lizzy and the minister
was almost de rigueur in an English magazine at the time of writing. But at this
late date, thirty years aiter, it may not be amiss to give the ending that would

1 See the Preface to this volume.
286



THE DISTRACTED PREACHER

have been preferred by the writer to the convention used above. Moreover it
corresponds more closely with the true incidents of which the tale is a vague and
flickering shadow. Lizzy did not, in fact, marry the minister, but much to her
credit in the author's opinion stuck to Jim the smuggler, and emigrated with
him after their marriage, an expatrial step rather forced upon him by his adven-
turous antecedents. They both died in Wisconsin between 1850 and i6a
(May 1912.)



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