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Desperate Remedies

by Thomas Hardy



'There. It will be on a Friday!'

She sat upon a little footstool gazing intently into the fire. It was the afternoon of the day following that of the steward's successful solicitation of her hand.

'I wonder if it would be proper in me to run across the park and tell him it is a Friday?' she said to herself, rising to her feet, looking at her hat lying near, and then out of the window towards the Old House. Proper or not, she felt that she must at all hazards remove the disagreeable, though, as she herself owned, unfounded impression the coincidence had occasioned. She left the house directly, and went to search for him.

Manston was in the timber-yard, looking at the sawyers as they worked. Cytherea came up to him hesitatingly. Till within a distance of a few yards she had hurried forward with alacrity--now that the practical expression of his face became visible she wished almost she had never sought him on such an errand; in his business- mood he was perhaps very stern.

'It will be on a Friday,' she said confusedly, and without any preface.

'Come this way!' said Manston, in the tone he used for workmen, not being able to alter at an instant's notice. He gave her his arm and led her back into the avenue, by which time he was lover again. 'On a Friday, will it, dearest? You do not mind Fridays, surely? That's nonsense.'

'Not seriously mind them, exactly--but if it could be any other day?'

'Well, let us say Old Christmas Eve, then. Shall it be Old Christmas Eve?'

'Yes, Old Christmas Eve.'

'Your word is solemn, and irrevocable now?'

'Certainly, I have solemnly pledged my word; I should not have promised to marry you if I had not meant it. Don't think I should.' She spoke the words with a dignified impressiveness.

'You must not be vexed at my remark, dearest. Can you think the worse of an ardent man, Cytherea, for showing some anxiety in love?'

'No, no.' She could not say more. She was always ill at ease when he spoke of himself as a piece of human nature in that analytical way, and wanted to be out of his presence. The time of day, and the proximity of the house, afforded her a means of escape. 'I must be with Miss Aldclyffe now--will you excuse my hasty coming and going?' she said prettily. Before he had replied she had parted from him.

'Cytherea, was it Mr. Manston I saw you scudding away from in the avenue just now?' said Miss Aldclyffe, when Cytherea joined her.


'"Yes." Come, why don't you say more than that? I hate those taciturn "Yesses" of yours. I tell you everything, and yet you are as close as wax with me.'

'I parted from him because I wanted to come in.'

'What a novel and important announcement! Well, is the day fixed?'


Miss Aldclyffe's face kindled into intense interest at once. 'Is it indeed? When is it to be?'

'On Old Christmas Eve.'

'Old Christmas Eve.' Miss Aldclyffe drew Cytherea round to her front, and took a hand in each of her own. 'And then you will be a bride!' she said slowly, looking with critical thoughtfulness upon the maiden's delicately rounded cheeks.

The normal area of the colour upon each of them decreased perceptibly after that slow and emphatic utterance by the elder lady.

Miss Aldclyffe continued impressively, 'You did not say "Old Christmas Eve" as a fiancee should have said the words: and you don't receive my remark with the warm excitement that foreshadows a bright future. . . How many weeks are there to the time?'

'I have not reckoned them.'

'Not? Fancy a girl not counting the weeks! I find I must take the lead in this matter--you are so childish, or frightened, or stupid, or something, about it, Bring me my diary, and we will count them at once.'

Cytherea silently fetched the book.

Miss Aldclyffe opened the diary at the page containing the almanac, and counted sixteen weeks, which brought her to the thirty-first of December--a Sunday. Cytherea stood by, looking on as if she had no appetite for the scene.

'Sixteen to the thirty-first. Then let me see, Monday will be the first of January, Tuesday the second, Wednesday third, Thursday fourth, Friday fifth--you have chosen a Friday, as I declare!'

'A Thursday, surely?' said Cytherea.

'No: Old Christmas Day comes on a Saturday.'

The perturbed little brain had reckoned wrong. 'Well, it must be a Friday,' she murmured in a reverie.

'No: have it altered, of course,' said Miss Aldclyffe cheerfully. 'There's nothing bad in Friday, but such a creature as you will be thinking about its being unlucky--in fact, I wouldn't choose a Friday myself to be married on, since all the other days are equally available.'

'I shall not have it altered,' said Cytherea firmly; 'it has been altered once already: I shall let it be.'


The Classical Library, This HTML edition copyright 2000.

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