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Desperate Remedies

by Thomas Hardy


Chapter 5. SIX TO SEVEN P.M.

The wet shining road threw the western glare into her eyes with an invidious lustre which rendered the restlessness of her mood more wearying. Her thoughts flew from idea to idea without asking for the slightest link of connection between one and another. One moment she was full of the wild music and stirring scene with Manston---the next, Edward's image rose before her like a shadowy ghost. Then Manston's black eyes seemed piercing her again, and the reckless voluptuous mouth appeared bending to the curves of his special words. What could be those troubles to which he had alluded? Perhaps Miss Aldclyffe was at the bottom of them. Sad at heart she paced on: her life was bewildering her.

On coming into Miss Aldclyffe's presence Cytherea told her of the incident, not without a fear that she would burst into one of her ungovernable fits of temper at learning Cytherea's slight departure from the programme. But, strangely to Cytherea, Miss Aldclyffe looked delighted. The usual cross-examination followed.

'And so you were with him all that time?' said the lady, with assumed severity.

'Yes, I was.'

'I did not tell you to call at the Old House twice.'

'I didn't call, as I have said. He made me come into the porch.'

'What remarks did he make, do you say?'

'That the lightning was not so bad as I thought.'

'A very important remark, that. Did he--' she turned her glance full upon the girl, and eyeing her searchingly, said--

'Did he say anything about ME?'

'Nothing,' said Cytherea, returning her gaze calmly, 'except that I was to give you the subscription.'

'You are quite sure?'


'I believe you. Did he say anything striking or strange about himself?'

'Only one thing--that he was troubled,'


After saying the word, Miss Aldclyffe relapsed into silence. Such behaviour as this had ended, on most previous occasions, by her making a confession, and Cytherea expected one now. But for once she was mistaken, nothing more was said.

When she had returned to her room she sat down and penned a farewell letter to Edward Springrove, as little able as any other excitable and brimming young woman of nineteen to feel that the wisest and only dignified course at that juncture was to do nothing at all. She told him that, to her painful surprise, she had learnt that his engagement to another woman was a matter of notoriety. She insisted that all honour bade him marry his early love--a woman far better than her unworthy self, who only deserved to be forgotten, and begged him to remember that he was not to see her face again. She upbraided him for levity and cruelty in meeting her so frequently at Budmouth, and above all in stealing the kiss from her lips on the last evening of the water excursions. 'I never, never can forget it!' she said, and then felt a sensation of having done her duty, ostensibly persuading herself that her reproaches and commands were of such a force that no man to whom they were uttered could ever approach her more.

Yet it was all unconsciously said in words which betrayed a lingering tenderness of love at every unguarded turn. Like Beatrice accusing Dante from the chariot, try as she might to play the superior being who contemned such mere eye-sensuousness, she betrayed at every point a pretty woman's jealousy of a rival, and covertly gave her old lover hints for excusing himself at each fresh indictment.

This done, Cytherea, still in a practical mood, upbraided herself with weakness in allowing a stranger like Mr. Manston to influence her as he had done that evening. What right on earth had he to suggest so suddenly that she might meet him at the waterfall to receive his music? She would have given much to be able to annihilate the ascendency he had obtained over her during that extraordinary interval of melodious sound. Not being able to endure the notion of his living a minute longer in the belief he was then holding, she took her pen and wrote to him also:--

'KNAPWATER HOUSE September 20th.

'I find I cannot meet you at seven o'clock by the waterfall as I promised. The emotion I felt made me forgetful of realities.


A great statesman thinks several times, and acts; a young lady acts, and thinks several times. When, a few minutes later, she saw the postman carry off the bag containing one of the letters, and a messenger with the other, she, for the first time, asked herself the question whether she had acted very wisely in writing to either of the two men who had so influenced her.


The Classical Library, This HTML edition copyright 2000.

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