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Desperate Remedies

by Thomas Hardy



She led Cytherea to a summer-house called the Fane, built in the private grounds about the mansion in the form of a Grecian temple; it overlooked the lake, the island on it, the trees, and their undisturbed reflection in the smooth still water. Here the old and young maid halted; here they stood, side by side, mentally imbibing the scene.

The month was May--the time, morning. Cuckoos, thrushes, blackbirds, and sparrows gave forth a perfect confusion of song and twitter. The road was spotted white with the fallen leaves of apple-blossoms, and the sparkling grey dew still lingered on the grass and flowers. Two swans floated into view in front of the women, and then crossed the water towards them.

'They seem to come to us without any will of their own--quite involuntarily--don't they?' said Cytherea, looking at the birds' graceful advance.

'Yes, but if you look narrowly you can see their hips just beneath the water, working with the greatest energy.'

'I'd rather not see that, it spoils the idea of proud indifference to direction which we associate with a swan.'

'It does; we'll have "involuntarily." Ah, now this reminds me of something.'

'Of what?'

'Of a human being who involuntarily comes towards yourself.'

Cytherea looked into Miss Aldclyffe's face; her eyes grew round as circles, and lines of wonderment came visibly upon her countenance. She had not once regarded Manston as a lover since his wife's sudden appearance and subsequent death. The death of a wife, and such a death, was an overwhelming matter in her ideas of things.

'Is it a man or woman?' she said, quite innocently.

'Mr. Manston,' said Miss Aldclyffe quietly.

'Mr. Manston attracted by me NOW?' said Cytherea, standing at gaze.

'Didn't you know it?'

'Certainly I did not. Why, his poor wife has only been dead six months.'

'Of course he knows that. But loving is not done by months, or method, or rule, or nobody would ever have invented such a phrase as "falling in love." He does not want his love to be observed just yet, on the very account you mention; but conceal it as he may from himself and us, it exists definitely--and very intensely, I assure you.'

'I suppose then, that if he can't help it, it is no harm of him,' said Cytherea naively, and beginning to ponder.

'Of course it isn't--you know that well enough. She was a great burden and trouble to him. This may become a great good to you both.'

A rush of feeling at remembering that the same woman, before Manston's arrival, had just as frankly advocated Edward's claims, checked Cytherea's utterance for awhile.

'There, don't look at me like that, for Heaven's sake!' said Miss Aldclyffe. 'You could almost kill a person by the force of reproach you can put into those eyes of yours, I verily believe.'

Edward once in the young lady's thoughts, there was no getting rid of him. She wanted to be alone.

'Do you want me here?' she said.

'Now there, there; you want to be off, and have a good cry,' said Miss Aldclyffe, taking her hand. 'But you mustn't, my dear. There's nothing in the past for you to regret. Compare Mr. Manston's honourable conduct towards his wife and yourself, with Springrove towards his betrothed and yourself, and then see which appears the more worthy of your thoughts.'


The Classical Library, This HTML edition copyright 2000.

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