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A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy

Parson Swancourt wasted a good deal of his wife's money


Overhead

the groins and concavities of the arches curved in all directions, dropping low towards the walls, where the height was no more than sufficient to enable a person to stand upright.

The body of George the fourteenth baron, together with two or three others, all of more recent date than the great bulk of coffins piled there, had, for want of room, been placed at the end of the vault on tressels, and not in niches like the others. These it was necessary to remove, to form behind them the chamber in which they were ultimately to be deposited. Stephen, finding the place and proceedings in keeping with the sombre colours of his mind, waited there still.

'Simeon, I suppose you can mind poor Lady Elfride, and how she ran away with the actor?' said John Smith, after awhile. 'I think it fell upon the time my father was sexton here. Let us see--where is she?'

'Here somewhere,' returned Simeon, looking round him.

'Why, I've got my arms round the very gentlewoman at this moment.' He lowered the end of the coffin he was holding, wiped his face, and throwing a morsel of rotten wood upon another as an indicator, continued: 'That's her husband there. They was as fair a couple as you should see anywhere round about; and a good-hearted pair likewise. Ay, I can mind it, though I was but a chiel at the time. She fell in love with this young man of hers, and their

banns were asked in some church in London; and the old lord her father actually heard 'em asked the three times, and didn't notice her name, being gabbled on wi' a host of others. When she had married she told her father, and 'a fleed into a monstrous rage, and said she shouldn' hae a farthing. Lady Elfride said she didn't think of wishing it; if he'd forgie her 'twas all she asked, and as for a living, she was content to play plays with her husband. This frightened the old lord, and 'a gie'd 'em a house to live in, and a great garden, and a little field or two, and a carriage, and a good few guineas. Well, the poor thing died at her first gossiping, and her husband--who was as tender-hearted a man as ever eat meat, and would have died for her--went wild in his mind, and broke his heart (so 'twas said). Anyhow, they were buried the same day--father and mother--but the baby lived. Ay, my lord's family made much of that man then, and put him here with his wife, and there in the corner the man is now. The Sunday after there was a funeral sermon: the text was, "Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken;" and when 'twas preaching the men drew their hands across their eyes several times, and every woman cried out loud.'

'And what became of the baby?' said Stephen, who had frequently heard portions of the story.

'She was brought up by her grandmother, and a pretty maid she were. And she must needs run away with the curate--Parson Swancourt that is now. Then her grandmother died, and the title and everything went away to another branch of the family altogether. Parson Swancourt wasted a good deal of his wife's money, and she left him Miss Elfride. That trick of running away seems to be handed down in families, like craziness or gout. And they two women be alike as peas.'

'Which two?'


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