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Desperate Remedies

by Thomas Hardy


Chapter 3. AFTERNOON

The letter was brought to Owen Graye, the same afternoon, by one of the vicar's servants who had been to the box with a duplicate key, as usual, to leave letters for the evening post. The man found that the index had told falsely that morning for the first time within his recollection; but no particular attention was paid to the mistake, as it was considered. The contents of the envelope were scrutinized by Owen and flung aside as useless.

The next morning brought Springrove's second letter, the existence of which was unknown to Manston. The sight of Edward's handwriting again raised the expectations of brother and sister, till Owen had opened the envelope and pulled out the twig and verse.

'Nothing that's of the slightest use, after all,' he said to her; 'we are as far as ever from the merest shadow of legal proof that would convict him of what I am morally certain he did, marry you, suspecting, if not knowing, her to be alive all the time.'

'What has Edward sent?' said Cytherea.

'An old amatory verse in Manston's writing. Fancy,' he said bitterly, 'this is the strain he addressed her in when they were courting--as he did you, I suppose.'

He handed her the verse and she read--


'Whoso for hours or lengthy days Shall catch her aspect's changeful rays, Then turn away, can none recall Beyond a galaxy of all In hazy portraiture; Lit by the light of azure eyes Like summer days by summer skies: Her sweet transitions seem to be A kind of pictured melody, And not a set contour. 'AE. M.'

A strange expression had overspread Cytherea's countenance. It rapidly increased to the most death-like anguish. She flung down the paper, seized Owen's hand tremblingly, and covered her face.

'Cytherea! What is it, for Heaven's sake?'

'Owen--suppose--O, you don't know what I think.'


'"THE LIGHT OF AZURE EYES,"' she repeated with ashy lips.

'Well, "the light of azure eyes"?' he said, astounded at her manner.

'Mrs. Morris said in her letter to me that her eyes are BLACK!'

'H'm. Mrs. Morris must have made a mistake--nothing likelier.'

'She didn't.'

'They might be either in this photograph,' said Owen, looking at the card bearing Mrs. Manston's name.

'Blue eyes would scarcely photograph so deep in tone as that,' said Cytherea. 'No, they seem black here, certainly.'

'Well, then, Manston must have blundered in writing his verses.'

'But could he? Say a man in love may forget his own name, but not that he forgets the colour of his mistress's eyes. Besides she would have seen the mistake when she read them, and have had it corrected.'

'That's true, she would,' mused Owen. 'Then, Cytherea, it comes to this--you must have been misinformed by Mrs. Morris, since there is no other alternative.'

'I suppose I must.'

Her looks belied her words.

'What makes you so strange--ill?' said Owen again.

'I can't believe Mrs. Morris wrong.'

'But look at this, Cytherea. If it is clear to us that the woman had blue eyes two years ago, she MUST have blue eyes now, whatever Mrs. Morris or anybody else may fancy. Any one would think that Manston could change the colour of a woman's eyes to hear you.'

'Yes,' she said, and paused.

'You say yes, as if he could,' said Owen impatiently.

'By changing the woman herself,' she exclaimed. 'Owen, don't you see the horrid--what I dread?--that the woman he lives with is not Mrs. Manston--that she was burnt after all--and that I am HIS WIFE!'

She tried to support a stoicism under the weight of this new trouble, but no! The unexpected revulsion of ideas was so overwhelming that she crept to him and leant against his breast.

Before reflecting any further upon the subject Graye led her upstairs and got her to lie down. Then he went to the window and stared out of it up the lane, vainly endeavouring to come to some conclusion upon the fantastic enigma that confronted him. Cytherea's new view seemed incredible, yet it had such a hold upon her that it would be necessary to clear it away by positive proof before contemplation of her fear should have preyed too deeply upon her.

'Cytherea,' he said, 'this will not do. You must stay here alone all the afternoon whilst I go to Carriford. I shall know all when I return.'

'No, no, don't go!' she implored.

'Soon, then, not directly.' He saw her subtle reasoning--that it was folly to be wise.

Reflection still convinced him that good would come of persevering in his intention and dispelling his sister's idle fears. Anything was better than this absurd doubt in her mind. But he resolved to wait till Sunday, the first day on which he might reckon upon seeing Mrs. Manston without suspicion. In the meantime he wrote to Edward Springrove, requesting him to go again to Mrs. Manston's former lodgings.


The Classical Library, This HTML edition copyright 2000.

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