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Desperate Remedies

by Thomas Hardy



Edward passed the night he scarcely knew how, tossing feverishly from side to side, the blood throbbing in his temples, and singing in his ears.

Before the day began to break he dressed himself. On going out upon the landing he found his father's bedroom door already open. Edward concluded that the old man had risen softly, as was his wont, and gone out into the fields to start the labourers. But neither of the outer doors was unfastened. He entered the front room, and found it empty. Then animated by a new idea, he went round to the little back parlour, in which the few wrecks saved from the fire were deposited, and looked in at the door. Here, near the window, the shutters of which had been opened half way, he saw his father leaning on the bureau, his elbows resting on the flap, his body nearly doubled, his hands clasping his forehead. Beside him were ghostly-looking square folds of parchment--the leases of the houses destroyed.

His father looked up when Edward entered, and wearily spoke to the young man as his face came into the faint light.

'Edward, why did you get up so early?'

'I was uneasy, and could not sleep.'

The farmer turned again to the leases on the bureau, and seemed to become lost in reflection. In a minute or two, without lifting his eyes, he said--

'This is more than we can bear, Ted--more than we can bear! Ted, this will kill me. Not the loss only--the sense of my neglect about the insurance and everything. Borrow I never will. 'Tis all misery now. God help us--all misery now!'

Edward did not answer, continuing to look fixedly at the dreary daylight outside.

'Ted,' the farmer went on, 'this upset of be-en burnt out o' home makes me very nervous and doubtful about everything. There's this troubles me besides--our liven here with your cousin, and fillen up her house. It must be very awkward for her. But she says she doesn't mind. Have you said anything to her lately about when you are going to marry her?'

'Nothing at all lately.'

'Well, perhaps you may as well, now we are so mixed in together. You know, no time has ever been mentioned to her at all, first or last, and I think it right that now, since she has waited so patiently and so long--you are almost called upon to say you are ready. It would simplify matters very much, if you were to walk up to church wi' her one of these mornings, get the thing done, and go on liven here as we are. If you don't I must get a house all the sooner. It would lighten my mind, too, about the two little freeholds over the hill--not a morsel a-piece, divided as they were between her mother and me, but a tidy bit tied together again. Just think about it, will ye, Ted?'

He stopped from exhaustion produced by the intense concentration of his mind upon the weary subject, and looked anxiously at his son.

'Yes, I will,' said Edward.

'But I am going to see her of the Great House this morning,' the farmer went on, his thoughts reverting to the old subject. 'I must know the rights of the matter, the when and the where. I don't like seeing her, but I'd rather talk to her than the steward. I wonder what she'll say to me.'

The younger man knew exactly what she would say. If his father asked her what he was to do, and when, she would simply refer him to Manston: her character was not that of a woman who shrank from a proposition she had once laid down. If his father were to say to her that his son had at last resolved to marry his cousin within the year, and had given her a promise to that effect, she would say, 'Mr. Springrove, the houses are burnt: we'll let them go: trouble no more about them.'

His mind was already made up. He said calmly, 'Father, when you are talking to Miss Aldclyffe, mention to her that I have asked Adelaide if she is willing to marry me next Christmas. She is interested in my union with Adelaide, and the news will be welcome to her.'

'And yet she can be iron with reference to me and her property,' the farmer murmured. 'Very well, Ted, I'll tell her.'


The Classical Library, This HTML edition copyright 2000.

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