The Hand of Ethelberta. A Comedy in Chapters - Thomas Hardy - ebook

The Hand of Ethelberta. A Comedy in Chapters ebook

Thomas Hardy

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Hardy’s fifth novel, entitled "Comedy in Chapters." In a typical Hardy manner, the story is based on a love triangle. Ethelberta and her involuntary sister Picoti are in love with the same man, Christopher, who reciprocates Ethelberta’s feelings. However, a happy result for them is out of the question, because it is poor.

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Liczba stron: 705

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Contents

1. A STREET IN ANGLEBURY—A HEATH NEAR IT—INSIDE THE ‘RED LION’ INN

2. CHRISTOPHER’S HOUSE—SANDBOURNE TOWN—SANDBOURNE MOOR

3. SANDBOURNE MOOR (continued)

4. SANDBOURNE PIER—ROAD TO WYNDWAY—BALL-ROOM IN WYNDWAY HOUSE

5. AT THE WINDOW—THE ROAD HOME

6. THE SHORE BY WYNDWAY

7. THE DINING-ROOM OF A TOWN HOUSE—THE BUTLER’S PANTRY

8. CHRISTOPHER’S LODGINGS—THE GROUNDS ABOUT ROOKINGTON

9. A LADY’S DRAWING-ROOMS—ETHELBERTA’S DRESSING-ROOM

10. LADY PETHERWIN’S HOUSE

11. SANDBOURNE AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD—SOME LONDON STREETS

12. ARROWTHORNE PARK AND LODGE

13. THE LODGE (continued)—THE COPSE BEHIND

14. A TURNPIKE ROAD

15. AN INNER ROOM AT THE LODGE

16. A LARGE PUBLIC HALL

17. ETHELBERTA’S HOUSE

18. NEAR SANDBOURNE—LONDON STREETS—ETHELBERTA’S

19. ETHELBERTA’S DRAWING-ROOM

20. THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF THE HALL—THE ROAD HOME

21. A STREET—NEIGH’S ROOMS—CHRISTOPHER’S ROOMS

22. ETHELBERTA’S HOUSE

23. ETHELBERTA’S HOUSE (continued)

24. ETHELBERTA’S HOUSE (continued)—THE BRITISH MUSEUM

25. THE ROYAL ACADEMY—THE FARNFIELD ESTATE

26. ETHELBERTA’S DRAWING-ROOM

27. MRS. BELMAINE’S—CRIPPLEGATE CHURCH

28. ETHELBERTA’S—MR. CHICKEREL’S ROOM

29. ETHELBERTA’S DRESSING-ROOM—MR. DONCASTLE’S HOUSE

30. ON THE HOUSETOP

31. KNOLLSEA—A LOFTY DOWN—A RUINED CASTLE

32. A ROOM IN ENCKWORTH COURT

33. THE ENGLISH CHANNEL—NORMANDY

34. THE HÔTEL BEAU SÉJOUR AND SPOTS NEAR IT

35. THE HOTEL (continued), AND THE QUAY IN FRONT

36. THE HOUSE IN TOWN

37. KNOLLSEA—AN ORNAMENTAL VILLA

38. ENCKWORTH COURT

39. KNOLLSEA—MELCHESTER

40. MELCHESTER (continued)

41. WORKSHOPS—AN INN—THE STREET

42. THE DONCASTLES’ RESIDENCE, AND OUTSIDE THE SAME

43. THE RAILWAY—THE SEA—THE SHORE BEYOND

44. SANDBOURNE—A LONELY HEATH—THE ‘RED LION’—THE HIGHWAY

45. KNOLLSEA—THE ROAD THENCE—ENCKWORTH

46. ENCKWORTH (continued)—THE ANGLEBURY HIGHWAY

47. ENCKWORTH AND ITS PRECINCTS—MELCHESTER

SEQUEL. ANGLEBURY—ENCKWORTH—SANDBOURNE

1. A STREET IN ANGLEBURY–A HEATH NEAR IT–INSIDE THE “RED LION’ INN

Young Mrs. Petherwin stepped from the door of an old and well-appointed inn in a Wessex town to take a country walk. By her look and carriage she appeared to belong to that gentle order of society which has no worldly sorrow except when its jewellery gets stolen; but, as a fact not generally known, her claim to distinction was rather one of brains than of blood. She was the daughter of a gentleman who lived in a large house not his own, and began life as a baby christened Ethelberta after an infant of title who does not come into the story at all, having merely furnished Ethelberta’s mother with a subject of contemplation. She became teacher in a school, was praised by examiners, admired by gentlemen, not admired by gentlewomen, was touched up with accomplishments by masters who were coaxed into painstaking by her many graces, and, entering a mansion as governess to the daughter thereof, was stealthily married by the son. He, a minor like herself, died from a chill caught during the wedding tour, and a few weeks later was followed into the grave by Sir Ralph Petherwin, his unforgiving father, who had bequeathed his wealth to his wife absolutely.

These calamities were a sufficient reason to Lady Petherwin for pardoning all concerned. She took by the hand the forlorn Ethelberta–who seemed rather a detached bride than a widow–and finished her education by placing her for two or three years in a boarding-school at Bonn. Latterly she had brought the girl to England to live under her roof as daughter and companion, the condition attached being that Ethelberta was never openly to recognize her relations, for reasons which will hereafter appear.

The elegant young lady, as she had a full right to be called if she cared for the definition, arrested all the local attention when she emerged into the summer-evening light with that diadem-and-sceptre bearing–many people for reasons of heredity discovering such graces only in those whose vestibules are lined with ancestral mail, forgetting that a bear may be taught to dance. While this air of hers lasted, even the inanimate objects in the street appeared to know that she was there; but from a way she had of carelessly overthrowing her dignity by versatile moods, one could not calculate upon its presence to a certainty when she was round corners or in little lanes which demanded no repression of animal spirits.

“Well to be sure!’ exclaimed a milkman, regarding her. “We should freeze in our beds if ‘twere not for the sun, and, dang me! if she isn’t a pretty piece. A man could make a meal between them eyes and chin–eh, hostler? Odd nation dang my old sides if he couldn’t!’

The speaker, who had been carrying a pair of pails on a yoke, deposited them upon the edge of the pavement in front of the inn, and straightened his back to an excruciating perpendicular. His remarks had been addressed to a rickety person, wearing a waistcoat of that preternatural length from the top to the bottom button which prevails among men who have to do with horses. He was sweeping straws from the carriage-way beneath the stone arch that formed a passage to the stables behind.

“Never mind the cursing and swearing, or somebody who’s never out of hearing may clap yer name down in his black book,’ said the hostler, also pausing, and lifting his eyes to the mullioned and transomed windows and moulded parapet above him–not to study them as features of ancient architecture, but just to give as healthful a stretch to the eyes as his acquaintance had done to his back. “Michael, a old man like you ought to think about other things, and not be looking two ways at your time of life. Pouncing upon young flesh like a carrion crow–‘tis a vile thing in a old man.’

“‘Tis; and yet ’tis not, for ’tis a naterel taste,’ said the milkman, again surveying Ethelberta, who had now paused upon a bridge in full view, to look down the river. “Now, if a poor needy feller like myself could only catch her alone when she’s dressed up to the nines for some grand party, and carry her off to some lonely place–sakes, what a pot of jewels and goold things I warrant he’d find about her! ‘Twould pay en for his trouble.’

“I don’t dispute the picter; but ’tis sly and untimely to think such roguery. Though I’ve had thoughts like it, ’tis true, about high women–Lord forgive me for’t.’

“And that figure of fashion standing there is a widow woman, so I hear?’

“Lady–not a penny less than lady. Ay, a thing of twenty-one or thereabouts.’

“A widow lady and twenty-one. ’Tis a backward age for a body who’s so forward in her state of life.’

“Well, be that as ‘twill, here’s my showings for her age. She was about the figure of two or three-and-twenty when a’ got off the carriage last night, tired out wi’ boaming about the country; and nineteen this morning when she came downstairs after a sleep round the clock and a clane-washed face: so I thought to myself, twenty-one, I thought.’

“And what’s the young woman’s name, make so bold, hostler?’

“Ay, and the house were all in a stoor with her and the old woman, and their boxes and camp-kettles, that they carry to wash in because hand-basons bain’t big enough, and I don’t know what all; and t’other folk stopping here were no more than dirt thencefor’ard.’

“I suppose they’ve come out of some noble city a long way herefrom?’

“And there was her hair up in buckle as if she’d never seen a clay-cold man at all. However, to cut a long story short, all I know besides about ’em is that the name upon their luggage is Lady Petherwin, and she’s the widow of a city gentleman, who was a man of valour in the Lord Mayor’s Show.’

“Who’s that chap in the gaiters and pack at his back, come out of the door but now?’ said the milkman, nodding towards a figure of that description who had just emerged from the inn and trudged off in the direction taken by the lady–now out of sight.

“Chap in the gaiters? Chok’ it all–why, the father of that nobleman that you call chap in the gaiters used to be hand in glove with half the Queen’s court.’

“What d’ye tell o’?’

“That man’s father was one of the mayor and corporation of Sandbourne, and was that familiar with men of money, that he’d slap ’em upon the shoulder as you or I or any other poor fool would the clerk of the parish.’

“O, what’s my lordlin’s name, make so bold, then?’

“Ay, the toppermost class nowadays have left off the use of wheels for the good of their constitutions, so they traipse and walk for many years up foreign hills, where you can see nothing but snow and fog, till there’s no more left to walk up; and if they reach home alive, and ha’n’t got too old and weared out, they walk and see a little of their own parishes. So they tower about with a pack and a stick and a clane white pocket-handkerchief over their hats just as you see he’s got on his. He’s been staying here a night, and is off now again. “Young man, young man,” I think to myself, “if your shoulders were bent like a bandy and your knees bowed out as mine be, till there is not an inch of straight bone or gristle in ‘ee, th’ wouldstn’t go doing hard work for play ‘a b’lieve.”’

“True, true, upon my song. Such a pain as I have had in my lynes all this day to be sure; words don’t know what shipwreck I suffer in these lynes o’ mine–that they do not! And what was this young widow lady’s maiden name, then, hostler? Folk have been peeping after her, that’s true; but they don’t seem to know much about her family.’

“And while I’ve tended horses fifty year that other folk might straddle ‘em, here I be now not a penny the better! Often-times, when I see so many good things about, I feel inclined to help myself in common justice to my pocket.

“Work hard and be poor, Do nothing and get more.”

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