“The Fiddler of the Reels” by Thomas Hardy

In the hands of Wat Ollamoor, violin is like a magical weapon. Because of his skills in playing violin, Wat or is often nicknamed as Mop, becomes so popular among women in Mellstock village where he lodges for awhile.

Mop often plays with no notes, invariably closes his eyes. He is so crafty in producing emotion effects that move the hearts of fragile people, including Car’line Aspent who lives in Stickleford, some miles off from the Melstock parish where Mop temporarily stays.

The story has it that Car’line, despite her engagement to Ned Hipcroft, becomes so attached with the fiddler. Ned, a young mechanic who doesn’t know much about music, gives Car’line a final question on their planned wedding. But she finally chooses the fiddler despite the objections from her father and sister.

After the heartbreaking answer from Car’line, Ned decides to depart for London where he later works as a mechanic. In the fourth year of his staying in London, he works daily in the Hyde-Park Exhibition. One evening, he receives a letter from Car’line after a four-year of silence.

In the letter, Car’line regrets her foolishness for opting the fiddler instead of Ned. She would be so glad to be his wife should Ned propose her again. She says Mop abandons her for years. Although Ned initially is indecisive but he invites Car’line to come over to his lodging.

The date is set for them to reunite. Ned hastens from his workplace to the Waterloo station. How shocked is he to have found out that Car’line is not alone; she brings along her daughter, about two or three years old.

Ned accepts her and her daughter somehow. They get married and live in London for quite some time until jobs become so hard to find hence force the small family to give up the life in the big city and return home.

The trio goes to Casterbridge where Ned wants to seek for jobs in the place. Car’line and her daughter then decides to go to Stickleford while Ned is left behind. They plan to meet in a certain inn.

Car’line passes Heedless-William’s Pond, the familiar landmark by Bloom’s End and are drawing near the Quiet Woman, a lone roadside hotel on the lower verge of Egdon Heath. In approaching the spot, Car’line hears many voices then finds out they witness an auction of fat stock. She enters the place as she wants to take some rest for her daughter.

The crowd welcomes her and even offers a drink which she can’t resist. She joins the gathering which later turns out to be a dance night party. She doesn’t know that Mop is standing in the corner of the room. Before she quite empties her glass, the dancers are called, the music is on, the festivity gets started.

Once Car’line hears the sound, her hands start trembling for she knows quite well who plays this. One by one other dancers leave the circle meant for dancers until Car’line becomes the sole performer. She gradually suspects Mop does this on purpose and when she opens her veil she looks at his eyes and smiles which says she has no options other than following the notes he is playing. Car’line keeps dancing because she doesn’t want to be left embarrassed should she withdraw from the party. The strange situation causes her daughter to cry until eventually Car’line sinks staggering on the floor . What happens next is that her little girl and Mop are gone!

Ned finds her wife weep violently and there’s no clue to the whereabouts of her daughter. Weeks pass and the little girl remains unknown. Some rumours say that similar faces like those of Mop and the girl are seen in London while others mention they have migrated to America. Whatever the truth is Mop undoubtedly finds the girl as lucrative one who accompanies him as a dancer during his tour.

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