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Chapter XXXVII

1 November 2023

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“After many days.”

Knight roamed south, under colour of studying Continental antiquities.

He paced the lofty aisles of Amiens, loitered by Ardennes Abbey, climbed into the strange towers of Laon, analyzed Noyon and Rheims. Then he went to Chartres, and examined its scaly spires and quaint carving then he idled about Coutances. He rowed beneath the base of Mont St. Michel, and caught the varied skyline of the crumbling edifices encrusting it. St. Ouen’s, Rouen, knew him for days; so did Vezelay, Sens, and many a hallowed monument besides. Abandoning the inspection of early French art with the same purposeless haste as he had shown in undertaking it, he went further, and lingered about Ferrara, Padua, and Pisa. Satiated with mediævalism, he tried the Roman Forum. Next he observed moonlight and starlight effects by the bay of Naples. He turned to Austria, became enervated and depressed on Hungarian and Bohemian plains, and was refreshed again by breezes on the declivities of the Carpathians.

Then he found himself in Greece. He visited the plain of Marathon, and strove to imagine the Persian defeat; to Mars Hill, to picture St. Paul addressing the ancient Athenians; to Thermopylae and Salamis, to run through the facts and traditions of the Second Invasion—the result of his endeavours being more or less chaotic. Knight grew as weary of these places as of all others. Then he felt the shock of an earthquake in the Ionian Islands, and went to Venice. Here he shot in gondolas up and down the winding thoroughfare of the Grand Canal, and loitered on calle and piazza at night, when the lagunes were undisturbed by a ripple, and no sound was to be heard but the stroke of the midnight clock. Afterwards he remained for weeks in the museums, galleries, and libraries of Vienna, Berlin, and Paris; and thence came home.

Time thus rolls us on to a February afternoon, divided by fifteen months from the parting of Elfride and her lover in the brown stubble field towards the sea.

Two men obviously not Londoners, and with a touch of foreignness in their look, met by accident on one of the gravel walks leading across Hyde Park. The younger, more given to looking about him than his fellow, saw and noticed the approach of his senior some time before the latter had raised his eyes from the ground, upon which they were bent in an abstracted gaze that seemed habitual with him.

“Mr. Knight—indeed it is!” exclaimed the younger man.

“Ah, Stephen Smith!” said Knight.

Simultaneous operations might now have been observed progressing in both, the result being that an expression less frank and impulsive than the first took possession of their features. It was manifest that the next words uttered were a superficial covering to constraint on both sides.

“Have you been in England long?” said Knight.

“Only two days,” said Smith.

“India ever since?”

“Nearly ever since.”

“They were making a fuss about you at St. Launce’s last year. I fancy I saw something of the sort in the papers.”

“Yes; I believe something was said about me.”

“I must congratulate you on your achievements.”

“Thanks, but they are nothing very extraordinary. A natural professional progress where there was no opposition.”

There followed that want of words which will always assert itself between nominal friends who find they have ceased to be real ones, and have not yet sunk to the level of mere acquaintance. Each looked up and down the Park. Knight may possibly have borne in mind during the intervening months Stephen’s manner towards him the last time they had met, and may have encouraged his former interest in Stephen’s welfare to die out of him as misplaced. Stephen certainly was full of the feelings begotten by the belief that Knight had taken away the woman he loved so well.

Stephen Smith then asked a question, adopting a certain recklessness of manner and tone to hide, if possible, the fact that the subject was a much greater one to him than his friend had ever supposed.

“Are you married?”

“I am not.”

Knight spoke in an indescribable tone of bitterness that was almost moroseness.

“And I never shall be,” he added decisively. “Are you?”

“No,” said Stephen, sadly and quietly, like a man in a sick-room. Totally ignorant whether or not Knight knew of his own previous claims upon Elfride, he yet resolved to hazard a few more words upon the topic which had an aching fascination for him even now.

“Then your engagement to Miss Swancourt came to nothing,” he said. “You remember I met you with her once?”

Stephen’s voice gave way a little here, in defiance of his firmest will to the contrary. Indian affairs had not yet lowered those emotions down to the point of control.

“It was broken off,” came quickly from Knight. “Engagements to marry often end like that—for better or for worse.”

“Yes; so they do. And what have you been doing lately?”

“Doing? Nothing.”

“Where have you been?”

“I can hardly tell you. In the main, going about Europe; and it may perhaps interest you to know that I have been attempting the serious study of Continental art of the Middle Ages. My notes on each example I visited are at your service. They are of no use to me.”

“I shall be glad with them....Oh, travelling far and near!”

“Not far,” said Knight, with moody carelessness. “You know, I daresay, that sheep occasionally become giddy—hydatids in the head, ’tis called, in which their brains become eaten up, and the animal exhibits the strange peculiarity of walking round and round in a circle continually. I have travelled just in the same way—round and round like a giddy ram.”

The reckless, bitter, and rambling style in which Knight talked, as if rather to vent his images than to convey any ideas to Stephen, struck the young man painfully. His former friend’s days had become cankered in some way: Knight was a changed man. He himself had changed much, but not as Knight had changed.

“Yesterday I came home,” continued Knight, “without having, to the best of my belief, imbibed half-a-dozen ideas worth retaining.”

“You out-Hamlet Hamlet in morbidness of mood,” said Stephen, with regretful frankness.

Knight made no reply.

“Do you know,” Stephen continued, “I could almost have sworn that you would be married before this time, from what I saw?”

Knight’s face grew harder. “Could you?” he said.

Stephen was powerless to forsake the depressing, luring subject.

“Yes; and I simply wonder at it.”

“Whom did you expect me to marry?”

“Her I saw you with.”

“Thank you for that wonder.”

“Did she jilt you?”

“Smith, now one word to you,” Knight returned steadily. “Don’t you ever question me on that subject. I have a reason for making this request, mind. And if you do question me, you will not get an answer.”

“Oh, I don’t for a moment wish to ask what is unpleasant to you—not I. I had a momentary feeling that I should like to explain something on my side, and hear a similar explanation on yours. But let it go, let it go, by all means.”

“What would you explain?”

“I lost the woman I was going to marry: you have not married as you intended. We might have compared notes.”

“I have never asked you a word about your case.”

“I know that.”

“And the inference is obvious.”

“Quite so.”

“The truth is, Stephen, I have doggedly resolved never to allude to the matter—for which I have a very good reason.”

“Doubtless. As good a reason as you had for not marrying her.”

“You talk insidiously. I had a good one—a miserably good one!”

Smith’s anxiety urged him to venture one more question.

“Did she not love you enough?” He drew his breath in a slow and attenuated stream, as he waited in timorous hope for the answer.

“Stephen, you rather strain ordinary courtesy in pressing questions of that kind after what I have said. I cannot understand you at all. I must go on now.”

“Why, good God!” exclaimed Stephen passionately, “you talk as if you hadn’t at all taken her away from anybody who had better claims to her than you!”

“What do you mean by that?” said Knight, with a puzzled air. “What have you heard?”

“Nothing. I too must go on. Good-day.”

“If you will go,” said Knight, reluctantly now, “you must, I suppose. I am sure I cannot understand why you behave so.”

“Nor I why you do. I have always been grateful to you, and as far as I am concerned we need never have become so estranged as we have.”

“And have I ever been anything but well-disposed towards you, Stephen? Surely you know that I have not! The system of reserve began with you: you know that.”

“No, no! You altogether mistake our position. You were always from the first reserved to me, though I was confidential to you. That was, I suppose, the natural issue of our differing positions in life. And when I, the pupil, became reserved like you, the master, you did not like it. However, I was going to ask you to come round and see me.”

“Where are you staying?”

“At the Grosvenor Hotel, Pimlico.”

“So am I.”

“That’s convenient, not to say odd. Well, I am detained in London for a day or two; then I am going down to see my father and mother, who live at St. Launce’s now. Will you see me this evening?”

“I may; but I will not promise. I was wishing to be alone for an hour or two; but I shall know where to find you, at any rate. Good-bye.”

41
Articles
A PAIR OF BLUE EYES
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"A Pair of Blue Eyes" by Thomas Hardy is a captivating tale of love, desire, and the complexities of human relationships. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Cornish cliffs, the story follows the life of Elfride Swancourt, a young and vivacious woman with a pair of entrancing blue eyes. Her heart is torn between two suitors, the humble and reliable Stephen Smith and the sophisticated and enigmatic Henry Knight. As Elfride navigates the challenges of social class, personal ambition, and the unpredictable nature of her own heart, readers are drawn into a web of emotions and choices. Hardy's masterful storytelling and vivid descriptions of the rugged landscape create a vivid and immersive reading experience that explores the depths of passion and the consequences of choices made in the name of love.
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PREFACE

30 October 2023
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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 coa

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Chapter I

30 October 2023
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“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

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Chapter II

30 October 2023
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“’Twas on the evening of a winter’s day.” When two or three additional hours had merged the same afternoon in evening, some moving outlines might have been observed against the sky on the summit of a

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Chapter III

30 October 2023
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“Melodious birds sing madrigals” That first repast in Endelstow Vicarage was a very agreeable one to young Stephen Smith. The table was spread, as Elfride had suggested to her father, with the materi

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Chapter IV

30 October 2023
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“Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap.” For reasons of his own, Stephen Smith was stirring a short time after dawn the next morning. From the window of his room he could see, first, two bo

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Chapter V

30 October 2023
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“Bosom’d high in tufted trees.” It was breakfast time. As seen from the vicarage dining-room, which took a warm tone of light from the fire, the weather and scene outside seemed to have stereotyped

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Chapter VI

30 October 2023
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“Fare thee weel awhile!” Simultaneously with the conclusion of Stephen’s remark, the sound of the closing of an external door in their immediate neighbourhood reached Elfride’s ears. It came from the

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Chapter VII

30 October 2023
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“No more of me you knew, my love!” Stephen Smith revisited Endelstow Vicarage, agreeably to his promise. He had a genuine artistic reason for coming, though no such reason seemed to be required. Six-

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Chapter VIII

30 October 2023
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“Allen-a-Dale is no baron or lord.” The mists were creeping out of pools and swamps for their pilgrimages of the night when Stephen came up to the front door of the vicarage. Elfride was standing on

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Chapter IX

30 October 2023
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“Her father did fume” Oppressed, in spite of themselves, by a foresight of impending complications, Elfride and Stephen returned down the hill hand in hand. At the door they paused wistfully, like ch

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Chapter X

30 October 2023
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“Beneath the shelter of an aged tree.” Stephen retraced his steps towards the cottage he had visited only two or three hours previously. He drew near and under the rich foliage growing about the outs

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Chapter XI

30 October 2023
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“Journeys end in lovers meeting.” Stephen lay watching the Great Bear; Elfride was regarding a monotonous parallelogram of window blind. Neither slept that night. Early the next morning—that is to s

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Chapter XII

30 October 2023
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“Adieu! she cries, and waved her lily hand.” The few tattered clouds of the morning enlarged and united, the sun withdrew behind them to emerge no more that day, and the evening drew to a close in dr

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Chapter XIII

30 October 2023
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“He set in order many proverbs.” It is London in October—two months further on in the story. Bede’s Inn has this peculiarity, that it faces, receives from, and discharges into a bustling thoroughfar

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Chapter XIV

30 October 2023
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“We frolic while ’tis May.” It has now to be realized that nearly three-quarters of a year have passed away. In place of the autumnal scenery which formed a setting to the previous enactments, we hav

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Chapter XV

30 October 2023
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“A wandering voice.” Though sheer and intelligible griefs are not charmed away by being confided to mere acquaintances, the process is a palliative to certain ill-humours. Among these, perplexed vexa

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Chapter XVI

30 October 2023
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“Then fancy shapes—as fancy can.” On a day about three weeks later, the Swancourt trio were sitting quietly in the drawing-room of The Crags, Mrs. Swancourt’s house at Endelstow, chatting, and taking

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Chapter XVII

30 October 2023
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“Her welcome, spoke in faltering phrase.” “There is Henry Knight, I declare!” said Mrs. Swancourt one day. They were gazing from the jutting angle of a wild enclosure not far from The Crags, which a

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Chapter XVIII

30 October 2023
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“He heard her musical pants.” The old tower of West Endelstow Church had reached the last weeks of its existence. It was to be replaced by a new one from the designs of Mr. Hewby, the architect who h

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Chapter XIX

30 October 2023
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“Love was in the next degree.” Knight had none of those light familiarities of speech which, by judicious touches of epigrammatic flattery, obliterate a woman’s recollection of the speaker’s abstract

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Chapter XX

30 October 2023
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“A distant dearness in the hill.” Knight turned his back upon the parish of Endelstow, and crossed over to Cork. One day of absence superimposed itself on another, and proportionately weighted his h

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Chapter XXI

1 November 2023
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“On thy cold grey stones, O sea!” Stephen had said that he should come by way of Bristol, and thence by a steamer to Castle Boterel, in order to avoid the long journey over the hills from St. Launce’

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Chapter XXII

1 November 2023
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“A woman’s way.” Haggard cliffs, of every ugly altitude, are as common as sea-fowl along the line of coast between Exmoor and Land’s End; but this outflanked and encompassed specimen was the ugliest

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Chapter XXIII

1 November 2023
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“Should auld acquaintance be forgot?” By this time Stephen Smith had stepped out upon the quay at Castle Boterel, and breathed his native air. A darker skin, a more pronounced moustache, and an inci

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Chapter XXIV

1 November 2023
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“Breeze, bird, and flower confess the hour.” The rain had ceased since the sunset, but it was a cloudy night; and the light of the moon, softened and dispersed by its misty veil, was distributed over

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Chapter XXV

1 November 2023
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“Mine own familiar friend.” During these days of absence Stephen lived under alternate conditions. Whenever his emotions were active, he was in agony. Whenever he was not in agony, the business in ha

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Chapter XXVI

1 November 2023
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“To that last nothing under earth.” All eyes were turned to the entrance as Stephen spoke, and the ancient-mannered conclave scrutinized him inquiringly. “Why, ’tis our Stephen!” said his father, ri

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Chapter XXVII

1 November 2023
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“How should I greet thee?” Love frequently dies of time alone—much more frequently of displacement. With Elfride Swancourt, a powerful reason why the displacement should be successful was that the ne

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Chapter XXVIII

1 November 2023
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“I lull a fancy, trouble-tost.” Miss Swancourt, it is eleven o’clock.” She was looking out of her dressing-room window on the first floor, and Knight was regarding her from the terrace balustrade, u

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Chapter XXIX

1 November 2023
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“Care, thou canker.” It is an evening at the beginning of October, and the mellowest of autumn sunsets irradiates London, even to its uttermost eastern end. Between the eye and the flaming West, colu

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Chapter XXX

1 November 2023
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“Vassal unto Love.” Elfride clung closer to Knight as day succeeded day. Whatever else might admit of question, there could be no dispute that the allegiance she bore him absorbed her whole soul and

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Chapter XXXI

1 November 2023
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“A worm i’ the bud.” One day the reviewer said, “Let us go to the cliffs again, Elfride;” and, without consulting her wishes, he moved as if to start at once. “The cliff of our dreadful adventure?”

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Chapter XXXII

1 November 2023
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“Had I wist before I kist” It was now October, and the night air was chill. After looking to see that she was well wrapped up, Knight took her along the hillside path they had ascended so many times

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Chapter XXXIII

1 November 2023
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“O daughter of Babylon, wasted with misery.” A habit of Knight’s, when not immediately occupied with Elfride—to walk by himself for half an hour or so between dinner and bedtime—had become familiar t

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Chapter XXXIV

1 November 2023
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“Yea, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.” Sixteen hours had passed. Knight was entering the ladies’ boudoir at The Crags, upon his return from attending the inquest touchin

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Chapter XXXV

1 November 2023
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“And wilt thou leave me thus?—say nay—say nay!” The scene shifts to Knight’s chambers in Bede’s Inn. It was late in the evening of the day following his departure from Endelstow. A drizzling rain des

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Chapter XXXVI

1 November 2023
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“The pennie’s the jewel that beautifies a’.” “I can’t think what’s coming to these St. Launce’s people at all at all.” “With their ‘How-d’ye-do’s,’ do you mean?” “Ay, with their ‘How-d’ye-do’s,’ an

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Chapter XXXVII

1 November 2023
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“After many days.” Knight roamed south, under colour of studying Continental antiquities. He paced the lofty aisles of Amiens, loitered by Ardennes Abbey, climbed into the strange towers of Laon, an

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Chapter XXXVIII

1 November 2023
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“Jealousy is cruel as the grave.” Stephen pondered not a little on this meeting with his old friend and once-beloved exemplar. He was grieved, for amid all the distractions of his latter years a stil

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Chapter XXXIX

1 November 2023
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“Each to the loved one’s side.” The friends and rivals breakfasted together the next morning. Not a word was said on either side upon the matter discussed the previous evening so glibly and so hollow

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Chapter XL

1 November 2023
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“Welcome, proud lady.” Half an hour has passed. Two miserable men are wandering in the darkness up the miles of road from Camelton to Endelstow. “Has she broken her heart?” said Henry Knight. “Can i

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