The Three Strangers
|"The Three Strangers"|
|Published in||Longman's Magazine
|Followed by||"The Withered Arm"|
A party of 19 people is assembled in Higher Crowstairs, a shepherd's cottage near Casterbridge. A stranger joins them to seek shelter for the rough weather. A second stranger comes in, and sings a song that reveals he's a hangman. A third strangers enters briefly, but then flees.
They are interrupted by a gunshot, a signal that means a prisoner has escaped. The people leave the cottage to seek the third stranger and arrest him. They bring him back to the shepherd's house, but he turns out to be the wrong man. The first stranger was the actual convict, Timothy Summers, a man who stole sheep out of poverty. The third stranger was his brother. The conclusion is that there won't be a hanging in the morning.
The story is a pastoral history told by an omniscient narrator more than fifty years after the event. The sheep-stealer is a kind of folk hero who stole to survive and escaped by outsmarting his hangman.
- Kristin Brody, The Short Stories of Thomas Hardy, New York, 1982.
- F. B. Pinion, A Hardy Companion, London, 1978.