Concurritur - Horæ Momento

Outside the front of Boldwood's house a group of men stood in the dark, with their faces towards the door, which occasionally opened and closed for the passage of some guest or servant, when a golden rod of light would stripe the ground for the moment and vanish again, leaving nothing outside but the glowworm shine of the pale lamp amid the evergreens over the door.

`He was seen in Casterbridge this afternoon - so the boy said,' one of them remarked in a whisper. `And I for one believe it. His body was never found, you know.'

`'Tis a strange story,' said the next. `You may depend upon't that she knows nothing about it.'

`Not a word.'

`Perhaps he don't mean that she shall,' said another man.

`If he's alive and here in the neighbourhood, he means mischief,' said the first. `Poor young thing: I do pity her, if 'tis true. He'll drag her to the dogs.'

`O no; he'll settle down quiet enough,' said one disposed to take a more hopeful view of the case.

`What a fool she must have been ever to have had anything to do with this man! She is so self-willed and independent too, that one is more minded to say it serves her right than pity her.'

`No, no! I don't hold with 'ee there. She was no otherwise than a girl mind, and how could she tell what the man was made of? If 'tis really true, 'tis too hard a punishment, and more than she ought to hae. - Hullo, who's that?' This was to some footsteps that were heard approaching.

`William Smallbury,' said a dim figure in the shades, coming up and joining them. `Dark as a hedge, to- night, isn't it? I all but missed the plank over the river ath'art there in the bottom - never did such a thing before in my life. Be ye any of Boldwood's workfolk?' He peered into their faces.

`Yes - all o' us. We met here a few minutes ago.'

`Oh, I hear now - that's Sam Samway: thought I knowed the voice, too. Going in?'

`Presently. But I say, William,' Samway whispered, `have ye heard this strange tale?'

`What - that about Sergeant Troy being seen, d'ye mean, souls?' said Smallbury, also lowering his voice.

`Ay: in Casterbridge.'

`Yes, I have. Laban Tall named a hint of it to me but now - but I don't think it. Hark, here Laban comes himself, 'a b'lieve.' A footstep drew near.


`Yes, 'tis I,' said Tall.

`Have ye heard any more about that?'

`No,' said Tall, joining the group. `And I'm inclined to think we'd better keep quiet. If so be 'tis not true, 'twill flurry her, and do her much harm to repeat it; and if so be 'tis true, 'twill do no good to forestall her time o' trouble. God send that it mid be a lie, for though Henery Fray and some of 'em do speak against her, she's never been anything but fair to me. She's hot and hasty, but she's a brave girl who'll never tell a lie however much the truth may harm her, and I've no cause to wish her evil.'

`She never do tell women's little lies, that's true; and 'tis a thing that can be said of very few. Ay, all the harm she thinks she says to yer face: there's nothing underhand wi' her.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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