Complete Works of Thomas Hardy (Illustrated)

Free Complete Works of Thomas Hardy (Illustrated) by Thomas Hardy

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Authors: Thomas Hardy
it. I never forget that original disheartening blow, and how that from it sprang all the ills of his life — everything connected with his gloom, and the lassitude in business we used so often to see about him.’
    ‘I remember what he said once,’ returned the brother, ‘when I sat up late with him. He said, “Owen, don’t love too blindly: blindly you will love if you love at all, but a little care is still possible to a well-disciplined heart. May that heart be yours as it was not mine,” father said. “Cultivate the art of renunciation.” And I am going to, Cytherea.’
    ‘And once mamma said that an excellent woman was papa’s ruin, because he did not know the way to give her up when he had lost her. I wonder where she is now, Owen? We were told not to try to find out anything about her. Papa never told us her name, did he?’
    ‘That was by her own request, I believe. But never mind her; she was not our mother.’
    The love affair which had been Ambrose Graye’s disheartening blow was precisely of that nature which lads take little account of, but girls ponder in their hearts.
    Thus Ambrose Graye’s good intentions with regard to the reintegration of his property had scarcely taken tangible form when his sudden death put them for ever out of his power.
    Heavy bills, showing the extent of his obligations, tumbled in immediately upon the heels of the funeral from quarters previously unheard and unthought of. Thus pressed, a bill was filed in Chancery to have the assets, such as they were, administered by the Court.
    ‘What will become of us now?’ thought Owen continually.
    There is in us an unquenchable expectation, which at the gloomiest time persists in inferring that because we are ourselves , there must be a special future in store for us, though our nature and antecedents to the remotest particular have been common to thousands. Thus to Cytherea and Owen Graye the question how their lives would end seemed the deepest of possible enigmas. To others who knew their position equally well with themselves the question was the easiest that could be asked — ’Like those of other people similarly circumstanced.’
    Then Owen held a consultation with his sister to come to some decision on their future course, and a month was passed in waiting for answers to letters, and in the examination of schemes more or less futile. Sudden hopes that were rainbows to the sight proved but mists to the touch. In the meantime, unpleasant remarks, disguise them as some well-meaning people might, were floating around them every day. The undoubted truth, that they were the children of a dreamer who let slip away every farthing of his money and ran into debt with his neighbours — that the daughter had been brought up to no profession — that the son who had, had made no progress in it, and might come to the dogs — could not from the nature of things be wrapped up in silence in order that it might not hurt their feelings; and as a matter of fact, it greeted their ears in some form or other wherever they went. Their few acquaintances passed them hurriedly. Ancient pot-wallopers, and thriving shopkeepers, in their intervals of leisure, stood at their shop-doors — their toes hanging over the edge of the step, and their obese waists hanging over their toes — and in discourses with friends on the pavement, formulated the course of the improvident, and reduced the children’s prospects to a shadow-like attenuation. The sons of these men (who wore breastpins of a sarcastic kind, and smoked humorous pipes) stared at Cytherea with a stare unmitigated by any of the respect that had formerly softened it.
    Now it is a noticeable fact that we do not much mind what men think of us, or what humiliating secret they discover of our means, parentage, or object, provided that each thinks and acts thereupon in isolation. It is the exchange of ideas about us that we dread most; and the

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