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CHAPTER LIV



AFTER THE SHOCK


BOLDWOOD passed into the high road and turned
in the direction of Casterbridge. Here he walked at
an even, steady pace over Yalbury Hill, along the dead
level beyond, mounted Mellstock Hill, and between
eleven and twelve o'clock crossed the Moor into the town.
The streets were nearly deserted now, and the waving
lamp-flames only lighted up rows of grey shop-shutters,
and strips of white paving upon which his step echoed
as his passed along. He turned to the right, and halted
before an archway of heavy stonework, which was closed
by an iron studded pair of doors. This was the entrance
to the gaol, and over it a lamp was fixed, the light en-
abling the wretched traveller to find a bellpull.
The small wicket at last opened, and a porter
appeared. Boldwood stepped forward, and said some-
thing in a low tone, when, after a delay, another man
came. Boldwood entered, and the door was closed
behind him, and he walked the world no more.
Long before this time Weatherbury had been
thoroughly aroused, and the wild deed which had ter-
minated Boldwood's merrymaking became known to
all. Of those out of the house Oak was one of the
first to hear of the catastrophe, and when he entered
the room, which was about five minutes after Boldwood's
exit, the scene was terrible. All the female guests were
huddled aghast against the walls like sheep in a storm,
and the men were bewildered as to what to do. As for
Bathsheba, she had changed. She was sitting on the
floor beside the body of Troy, his head pillowed in her
lap, where she had herself lifted it. With one hand she
held her handkerchief to his breast and covered the
wound, though scarcely a single drop of blood had
flowed, and with the other she tightly clasped one of
his. The household convulsion had made her herself
again. The temporary coma had ceased, and activity
had come with the necessity for it. Deeds of endur-
ance, which seem ordinary in philosophy, are rare in
conduct, and Bathsheba was astonishing all around her
now, for her philosophy was her conduct, and she
seldom thought practicable what she did not practise.
She was of the stuff of which great men's mothers
are made. She was indispensable to high generation,
hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises.
Troy recumbent in his wife's lap formed now the sole
spectacle in the middle of the spacious room.
"Gabriel." she said, automatically, when he entered,
turning up a face of which only the wellknown lines
remained to tell him it was hers, all else in the picture
having faded quite. "Ride to Casterbridge instantly
for a surgeon. It is, I believe, useless, but go. Mr.
Boldwood has shot my husband."
Her statement of the fact in such quiet and simple
words came with more force than a tragic declamation,
and had somewhat the effect of setting the distorted
images in each mind present into proper focus. Oak,
almost before he had comprehended anything beyond
the briefest abstract of the event, hurried out of the
room, saddled a horse and rode away. Not till he had
ridden more than a mile did it occur to him that he
would have done better by sending some other man
on this errand, remaining himself in the house. What
had become of Boldwood? He should have been
looked after. Was he mad -- had there been a quarrel?
Then how had Troy got there? Where had he come
from? How did this remarkable reappearance effect
itself when he was supposed by many to be at the
bottom of the sea? Oak had in some slight measure
been prepared for the presence of Troy by hearing a
rumour of his return just before entering Boldwood's
house; but before he had weighed that information, this
fatal event had been superimposed. However, it was too
late now to think of sending another messenger, and
he rode on, in the excitement of these self-inquiries
not discerning, when about three miles from Caster-
bridge, a square-figured pedestrian passing along
under the dark hedge in the same direction as his
own.
The miles necessary to be traversed, and other
hindrances incidental to the lateness of the hour and
the darkness of the night, delayed the arrival of Mr,
Aldritch, the surgeon; and more than three hours
passed between the time at which the shot was fired
and that of his entering the house. Oak was addition-
ally detained in Casterbridge through having to give
notice to the authorities of what had happened; and
he then found that Boldwood had also entered the
town, and delivered himself up.
In the meantime the surgeon, having hastened into
the hall at Boldwood's, found it in darkness and quite
deserted. He went on to the back of the house,
where he discovered in the kitchen an old man, of
whom he made inquiries.
"She's had him took away to her own house, sir,"
said his informant.
"Who has?" said the doctor.
"Mrs. Troy. 'A was quite dead, sir."
This was astonishing information. "She had no
right to do that." said the doctor. "There will have
to be an inquest, and she should have waited to know
what to do."
"Yes, sir; it was hinted to her that she had better
wait till the law was known. But she said law was
nothing to her, and she wouldn't let her dear husband's
corpse bide neglected for folks to stare at for all the
crowners in England."
Mr. Aldritch drove at once back again up the
hill to Bathsheba's. The first person he met was
poor Liddy, who seemed literally to have dwindled
smaller in these few latter hours. "What has been
done?" he said.
"I don't know, sir." said Liddy, with suspended
breath. "My mistress has done it all."
"Where is she?"
"Upstairs with him, sir. When he was brought
home and taken upstairs, she said she wanted no
further help from the men. And then she called me,
and made me fill the bath, and after that told me I
had better go and lie down because I looked so ill.
Then she locked herself into the room alone with him,
and would not let a nurse come in, or anybody at all.
But I thought I'd wait in the next room in case she
should want me. I heard her moving about inside
for more than an hour, but she only came out once,
and that was for more candles, because hers had burnt
down into the socket. She said we were to let her
know when you or Mr. Thirdly came, sir."
Oak entered with the parson at this moment, and
they all went upstairs together, preceded by Liddy
Smallbury. Everything was silent as the grave when
they paused on the landing. Liddy knocked, and
Bathsheba's dress was heard rustling across the room:
the key turned in the lock, and she opened the door.
Her looks were calm and nearly rigid, like a slightly
animated bust of Melpomene.
"Oh, Mr. Aldritch, you have come at last." she
murmured from her lips merely, and threw back the
door. "Ah, and Mr. Thirdly. Well, all is done, and
anybody in the world may see him now." She then
passed by him, crossed the landing, and entered
another room.
Looking into the chamber of death she had vacated
they saw by the light of the candles which were on the
drawers a tall straight shape lying at the further end
of the bedroom, wrapped in white. Everything around
was quite orderly. The doctor went in, and after a
few minutes returned to the landing again, where
Oak and the parson still waited.
"It is all done, indeed, as she says." remarked Mr.
Aldritch, in a subdued voice. "The body has been
undressed and properly laid out in grave clothes.
Gracious Heaven -- this mere girl! She must have the
nerve of a stoic!"
"The heart of a wife merely." floated in a whisper
about the ears of the three, and turning they saw
Bathsheba in the midst of them. Then, as if at that
instant to prove that her fortitude had been more of
will than of spontaneity, she silently sank down between
them and was a shapeless heap of drapery on the floor.
The simple consciousness that superhuman strain was
no longer required had at once put a period to her
power to continue it.
They took her away into a further room, and the
medical attendance which had been useless in Troy's
case was invaluable in Bathsheba's, who fell into a
series of fainting-fits that had a serious aspect for a
time. The sufferer was got to bed, and Oak, finding
from the bulletins that nothing really dreadful was to
be apprehended on her score, left the house. Liddy
kept watch in Bathsheba's chamber, where she heard
her mistress, moaning in whispers through the dull
slow hours of that wretched night: "O it is my fault
-- how can I live! O Heaven, how can I live!"





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