Thomas Hardy.

Wessex tales : strange, lively, and commonplace (Volume 1) online

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Here the modest widow long pondered his speeches,
with eyes dropped to an unusually low level.
Barnet's urbanity under the blow of her refusal
greatly impressed her. After having his long-
period of probation rendered useless by her de-
cision, he had shown no anger, and philosophically
taken her words, as if he deserved no better ones.
It was very gentlemanly of him, certainly ; it was
more than gentlemanly ; it was heroic and grand.
The more she meditated, the more she questioned
the virtue of her conduct in checking him so
peremptorily ; and went to her bedroom in a mood
of dissatisfaction. On looking in the glass she
was reminded that there was not so much remain-
ing of her former beauty as to make his frank



244 FELLOW-TOWNSMEN III

declaration an impulsive natural homage to her
cheeks and eyes ; it must undoubtedly have arisen
from an old staunch feeling of his, deserving
tenderest consideration. She recalled to her mind
with much pleasure that he had told her he was
staying at the Black-Bull Hotel ; so that if, after
waiting a day or two, he should not, in his modesty,
call again, she might then send him a nice little
note. To alter her views for the present was far
from her intention ; but she would allow herself
to be induced to reconsider the case, as any
generous woman ought to do.

The morrow came and passed, and Mr. Barnet
did not drop in. At every knock, light youthful
hues flew across her cheek ; and she was abstracted
in the presence of her other visitors. In the even-
ing she walked about the house, not knowing
what to do with herself; the conditions of
existence seemed totally different from those which
ruled only four-and-twenty short hours ago. What
had been at first a tantalizing elusive sentiment



Ill



FELLOW-TOWXSMEN 245



was f!:ettiii<]j acclimatized within lier as a definite
hope, and her person was so informed by that
emotion that she might almost have stood as
its emblematical representative by the time
the clock struck ten. In short, an interest in
Barnet precisely resembling that of her early
youth led her present heart to belie her yester-
day's words to him, and she longed to see him
again.

The next day she walked out early, thinking
she might meet him in the street. Tlie growing
beauty of her romance absorbed her, and she went
from the street to the fields, and from the fields to
the shore, without any consciousness of distance,
till reminded by her weariness that she could go
no farther. He had nowhere appeared. In the
evening she took a step which under the circum-
stances seemed justifiable; she wrote a note
to him at the hotel, inviting him to tea with
lier at seven precisely, and signing her note
* Lucy.'



246 FELLOW-TOWNSMEN III

In a quarter of an hour the messenger came
back. Mr. Barnet had left the hotel early in the
morning of the day before, but he had stated that
he would probably return in the course of the
week.

The note was sent back, to be given to him
immediately on his arrival.

There was no sign from the inn that this
desired event had occurred, either on the next
day or the day following. On both nights she
had been restless, and had scarcely slept half-
an-hour.

On the Saturday, putting off all diffidence, Lucy
went herself to the Black- Bull, and questioned
the staff closely.

Mr. Barnet had cursorily remarked when
leaving that he might return on the Thurs-
day or Friday, but they were directed not
to reserve a room for him unless he should
write.

He had left no address.



Ill FELLOW-TOWXSMEX 247

Lucy sorrowfully took back her note, went
home, and resolved to wait.

She did w\ait — years and years — but Barnet
never reappeared.



April 1880.



END OF VOL. I



Printed by R. & R. Clark, Edinburgh



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Online LibraryThomas HardyWessex tales : strange, lively, and commonplace (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 10)