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CHAPTER XLVII



ADVENTURES BY THE SHORE


TROY wandered along towards the south. A composite
feeling, made up of disgust with the, to him, humdrum
tediousness of a farmer's life, gloomily images of her who
lay in the churchyard, remorse, and a general averseness
to his wife's society, impelled him to seek a home in any
place on earth save Weatherbury. The sad accessories
of Fanny's end confronted him as vivid pictures which
threatened to be indelible, and made life in Bathsheba's
house intolerable. At three in the afternoon he found
himself at the foot of a slope more than a mile in length,
which ran to the ridge of a range of hills lying parallel
with the shore, and forming a monotonous barrier between
the basin of cultivated country inland and the wilder
scenery of the coast. Up the hill stretched a road
nearly straight and perfectly white, the two sides
approaching each other in a gradual taper till they
met the sky at the top about two miles off. Through-
out the length of this narrow and irksome inclined plane
not a sign of life was visible on this garish afternoon
Troy toiled up the road with a languor and depression
greater than any he had experienced for many a day
and year before. The air was warm and muggy, and
the top seemed to recede as he approached.
At last he reached the summit, and a wide and
novel prospect burst upon him with an effect almost like
that of the Pacific upon Balboa's gaze. The broad
steely sea, marked only by faint lines, which had a
semblance of being etched thereon to a degree not deep
enough to disturb its general evenness, stretched the
whole width of his front and round to the right, where,
near the town and port of Budmouth, the sun bristled
down upon it, and banished all colour, to substitute in
its place a clear oily polish. Nothing moved in sky,
land, or sea, except a frill of milkwhite foam along the
nearer angles of the shore, shreds of which licked the
contiguous stones like tongues.
He descended and came to a small basin of sea
enclosed by the cliffs. Troy's nature freshened within
him; he thought he would rest and bathe here before
going farther. He undressed and plunged in. Inside
the cove the water was uninteresting to a swimmer,
being smooth as a pond, and to get a little of the ocean
swell, Troy presently swam between the two projecting
spurs of rock which formed the pillars of Hercules to
this miniature Mediterranean. Unfortunately for Troy
a current unknown to him existed outside, which, un-
important to craft of any burden, was awkward for a
swimmer who might be taken in it unawares. Troy
found himself carried to the left and then round in a
swoop out to sea.
He now recollected the place and its sinister
character. Many bathers had there prayed for a dry
death from time to time, and, like Gonzalo also, had
been unanswered; and Troy began to deem it possible
that he might be added to their number. Not a boat
of any kind was at present within sight, but far in the
distance Budmouth lay upon the sea, as it were quietly
regarding his efforts, and beside the town the harbour
showed its position by a dim meshwork of ropes and
spars. After wellnigh exhausting himself in attempts
to get back to the mouth of the cove, in his weakness
swimming several inches deeper than was his wont,
keeping up his breathing entirely by his nostrils, turning
upon his back a dozen times over, swimming EN PAPILLON
and so on, Troy resolved as a last resource to tread
water at a slight incline, and so endeavour to reach the
shore at any point, merely giving himself a gentle
impetus inwards whilst carried on in the general direc-
tion of the tide. This, necessarily a slow process, he
found to be not altogether so difficult, and though there
was no choice of a landing-place -- the objects on shore
passing by him in a sad and slow procession -- he per-
ceptibly approached the extremity of a spit of land yet
further to the right, now well defined against the sunny
portion of the horizon. While the swimmer's eye's were
fixed upon the spit as his only means of salvation on
this side of the Unknown, a moving object broke the
outline of the extremity, and immediately a ship's boat
appeared manned with several sailor lads, her bows
towards the sea.
All Troy's vigour spasmodically revived to prolong
the struggle yet a little further. Swimming with his
right arm, he held up his left to hail them, splashing
upon the waves, and shouting with all his might. From
the position of the setting sun his white form was
distinctly visible upon the now deep-hued bosom of the
sea to the east of the boat, and the men saw him at
once. Backing their oars and putting the boat about,
they pulled towards him with a will, and in five or six
minutes from the time of his first halloo, two of the
sailors hauled him in over the stern.
They formed part of a brig's crew, and had come
ashore for sand. Lending him what little clothing they
could spare among them as a slight protection against
late they made again towards the roadstead where their
And now night drooped slowly upon the wide watery
levels in front; and at no great distance from them,
where the shoreline curved round, and formed a long
riband of shade upon the horizon, a series of points of
yellow light began to start into existence, denoting the
spot to be the site of Budmouth, where the lamps were
being lighted along the parade. The cluck of their
oars was the only sound of any distinctness upon the
sea, and as they laboured amid the thickening shades
the lamplights grew larger, each appearing to send a
flaming sword deep down into the waves before it, until
there arose, among other dim shapes of the kind, the
form of the vessel for which they were bound.





Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Category:
English Literature
 
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