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Enter A Dragoon
by [?]

‘And he never came,’ murmured one in the shade.

‘The war ended but her man never turned up again. She was not sure he was killed, but was too proud, or too timid, to go and hunt for him.’

‘One reason why her father forgave her when he found out how matters stood was, as he said plain at the time, that he liked the man, and could see that he meant to act straight. So the old folks made the best of what they couldn’t mend, and kept her there with ’em, when some wouldn’t. Time has proved seemingly that he did mean to act straight, now that he has writ to her that he’s coming. She’d have stuck to him all through the time, ’tis my belief; if t’other hadn’t come along.’

‘At the time of the courtship,’ resumed the woodman, ‘the regiment was quartered in Casterbridge Barracks, and he and she got acquainted by his calling to buy a penn’orth of rathe-ripes off that tree yonder in her father’s orchard–though ’twas said he seed her over hedge as well as the apples. He declared ’twas a kind of apple he much fancied; and he called for a penn’orth every day till the tree was cleared. It ended in his calling for her.’

”Twas a thousand pities they didn’t jine up at once and ha’ done wi’ it.

‘Well; better late than never, if so be he’ll have her now. But, Lord, she’d that faith in ‘en that she’d no more belief that he was alive, when a’ didn’t come, than that the undermost man in our churchyard was alive. She’d never have thought of another but for that–O no!’

”Tis awkward, altogether, for her now.’

‘Still she hadn’t married wi’ the new man. Though to be sure she would have committed it next week, even the licence being got, they say, for she’d have no banns this time, the first being so unfortunate.’

‘Perhaps the sergeant-major will think he’s released, and go as he came.’

‘O, not as I reckon. Soldiers bain’t particular, and she’s a tidy piece o’ furniture still. What will happen is that she’ll have her soldier, and break off with the master-wheelwright, licence or no–daze me if she won’t.’

In the progress of these desultory conjectures the form of another neighbour arose in the gloom. She nodded to the people at the well, who replied ‘G’d night, Mrs. Stone,’ as she passed through Mr. Paddock’s gate towards his door. She was an intimate friend of the latter’s household, and the group followed her with their eyes up the path and past the windows, which were now lighted up by candles inside.


Mrs. Stone paused at the door, knocked, and was admitted by Selina’s mother, who took her visitor at once into the parlour on the left hand, where a table was partly spread for supper. On the ‘beaufet’ against the wall stood probably the only object which would have attracted the eye of a local stranger in an otherwise ordinarily furnished room, a great plum- cake guarded as if it were a curiosity by a glass shade of the kind seen in museums–square, with a wooden back like those enclosing stuffed specimens of rare feather or fur. This was the mummy of the cake intended in earlier days for the wedding-feast of Selina and the soldier, which had been religiously and lovingly preserved by the former as a testimony to her intentional respectability in spite of an untoward subsequent circumstance, which will be mentioned. This relic was now as dry as a brick, and seemed to belong to a pre-existent civilization. Till quite recently, Selina had been in the habit of pausing before it daily, and recalling the accident whose consequences had thrown a shadow over her life ever since–that of which the water-drawers had spoken–the sudden news one morning that the Route had come for the —th Dragoons, two days only being the interval before departure; the hurried consultation as to what should be done, the second time of asking being past but not the third; and the decision that it would be unwise to solemnize matrimony in such haphazard circumstances, even if it were possible, which was doubtful.