A Pair of Blue Eyes. A Novel - Thomas Hardy - ebook

A Pair of Blue Eyes. A Novel ebook

Thomas Hardy

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The heroine of the novel is a young Elfrid. She can easily charm anyone with the look of her blue eyes. In her life, two appear, a young architect and an experienced writer. Former friends become rivals, and Elfrida is faced with a painful choice.

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Contents

PREFACE

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XIX

Chapter XX

Chapter XXI

Chapter XXII

Chapter XXIII

Chapter XXIV

Chapter XXV

Chapter XXVI

Chapter XXVII

Chapter XXVIII

Chapter XXIX

Chapter XXX

Chapter XXXI

Chapter XXXII

Chapter XXXIII

Chapter XXXIV

Chapter XXXV

Chapter XXXVI

Chapter XXXVII

Chapter XXXVIII

Chapter XXXIX

Chapter XL

PREFACE

The following chapters were written at a time when the craze for indiscriminate church-restoration had just reached the remotest nooks of western England, where the wild and tragic features of the coast had long combined in perfect harmony with the crude Gothic Art of the ecclesiastical buildings scattered along it, throwing into extraordinary discord all architectural attempts at newness there. To restore the grey carcases of a mediaevalism whose spirit had fled, seemed a not less incongruous act than to set about renovating the adjoining crags themselves.

Hence it happened that an imaginary history of three human hearts, whose emotions were not without correspondence with these material circumstances, found in the ordinary incidents of such church-renovations a fitting frame for its presentation.

The shore and country about “Castle Boterel’ is now getting well known, and will be readily recognized. The spot is, I may add, the furthest westward of all those convenient corners wherein I have ventured to erect my theatre for these imperfect little dramas of country life and passions; and it lies near to, or no great way beyond, the vague border of the Wessex kingdom on that side, which, like the westering verge of modern American settlements, was progressive and uncertain.

This, however, is of little importance. The place is pre-eminently (for one person at least) the region of dream and mystery. The ghostly birds, the pall-like sea, the frothy wind, the eternal soliloquy of the waters, the bloom of dark purple cast, that seems to exhale from the shoreward precipices, in themselves lend to the scene an atmosphere like the twilight of a night vision.

One enormous sea-bord cliff in particular figures in the narrative; and for some forgotten reason or other this cliff was described in the story as being without a name. Accuracy would require the statement to be that a remarkable cliff which resembles in many points the cliff of the description bears a name that no event has made famous. T. H. March 1899

THE PERSONS ELFRIDE SWANCOURT a young Lady CHRISTOPHER SWANCOURT a Clergyman STEPHEN SMITH an Architect HENRY KNIGHT a Reviewer and Essayist CHARLOTTE TROYTON a rich Widow GERTRUDE JETHWAY a poor Widow SPENSER HUGO LUXELLIAN a Peer LADY LUXELLIAN his Wife MARY AND KATE two little Girls WILLIAM WORM a dazed Factotum JOHN SMITH a Master-mason JANE SMITH his Wife MARTIN CANNISTER a Sexton UNITY a Maid-servant Other servants, masons, labourers, grooms, nondescripts, etc., etc.

THE SCENE Mostly on the outskirts of Lower Wessex.

Chapter I

“A fair vestal, throned in the west’

Elfride Swancourt was a girl whose emotions lay very near the surface. Their nature more precisely, and as modified by the creeping hours of time, was known only to those who watched the circumstances of her history.

Personally, she was the combination of very interesting particulars, whose rarity, however, lay in the combination itself rather than in the individual elements combined. As a matter of fact, you did not see the form and substance of her features when conversing with her; and this charming power of preventing a material study of her lineaments by an interlocutor, originated not in the cloaking effect of a well-formed manner (for her manner was childish and scarcely formed), but in the attractive crudeness of the remarks themselves. She had lived all her life in retirement–the monstrari gigito of idle men had not flattered her, and at the age of nineteen or twenty she was no further on in social consciousness than an urban young lady of fifteen.

One point in her, however, you did notice: that was her eyes. In them was seen a sublimation of all of her; it was not necessary to look further: there she lived.

These eyes were blue; blue as autumn distance–blue as the blue we see between the retreating mouldings of hills and woody slopes on a sunny September morning. A misty and shady blue, that had no beginning or surface, and was looked INTO rather than AT.

As to her presence, it was not powerful; it was weak. Some women can make their personality pervade the atmosphere of a whole banqueting hall; Elfride’s was no more pervasive than that of a kitten.

Elfride had as her own the thoughtfulness which appears in the face of the Madonna della Sedia, without its rapture: the warmth and spirit of the type of woman’s feature most common to the beauties–mortal and immortal–of Rubens, without their insistent fleshiness. The characteristic expression of the female faces of Correggio–that of the yearning human thoughts that lie too deep for tears–was hers sometimes, but seldom under ordinary conditions.

The point in Elfride Swancourt’s life at which a deeper current may be said to have permanently set in, was one winter afternoon when she found herself standing, in the character of hostess, face to face with a man she had never seen before–moreover, looking at him with a Miranda-like curiosity and interest that she had never yet bestowed on a mortal.

On this particular day her father, the vicar of a parish on the sea-swept outskirts of Lower Wessex, and a widower, was suffering from an attack of gout. After finishing her household supervisions Elfride became restless, and several times left the room, ascended the staircase, and knocked at her father’s chamber-door.

“Come in!’ was always answered in a hearty out-of-door voice from the inside.

“Papa,’ she said on one occasion to the fine, red-faced, handsome man of forty, who, puffing and fizzing like a bursting bottle, lay on the bed wrapped in a dressing-gown, and every now and then enunciating, in spite of himself, about one letter of some word or words that were almost oaths; “papa, will you not come downstairs this evening?’ She spoke distinctly: he was rather deaf.

“Afraid not–eh-hh!–very much afraid I shall not, Elfride. Piph-ph-ph! I can’t bear even a handkerchief upon this deuced toe of mine, much less a stocking or slipper–piph-ph-ph! There “tis again! No, I shan’t get up till to-morrow.’

“Then I hope this London man won’t come; for I don’t know what I should do, papa.’

“Well, it would be awkward, certainly.’

“I should hardly think he would come to-day.’

“Why?’

“Because the wind blows so.’

“Wind! What ideas you have, Elfride! Who ever heard of wind stopping a man from doing his business? The idea of this toe of mine coming on so suddenly!...If he should come, you must send him up to me, I suppose, and then give him some food and put him to bed in some way. Dear me, what a nuisance all this is!’

“Must he have dinner?’

“Too heavy for a tired man at the end of a tedious journey.’

“Tea, then?’

“Not substantial enough.’

“High tea, then? There is cold fowl, rabbit-pie, some pasties, and things of that kind.’

“Yes, high tea.’

“Must I pour out his tea, papa?’

“Of course; you are the mistress of the house.’

“What! sit there all the time with a stranger, just as if I knew him, and not anybody to introduce us?’

“Nonsense, child, about introducing; you know better than that. A practical professional man, tired and hungry, who has been travelling ever since daylight this morning, will hardly be inclined to talk and air courtesies to-night. He wants food and shelter, and you must see that he has it, simply because I am suddenly laid up and cannot. There is nothing so dreadful in that, I hope? You get all kinds of stuff into your head from reading so many of those novels.’

“Oh no; there is nothing dreadful in it when it becomes plainly a case of necessity like this. But, you see, you are always there when people come to dinner, even if we know them; and this is some strange London man of the world, who will think it odd, perhaps.’

“Very well; let him.’

“Is he Mr. Hewby’s partner?’

“I should scarcely think so: he may be.’

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