John Hyde

From The Library at Hurtfew
Jump to: navigation, search
John Hyde is a country neighbour of Jonathan Strange in Shropshire. He is a gentleman-farmer with a property somewhere between Aston and Clunbury. He is a sturdy man of middle years, of steady character and of much good sense.

All the more odd therefore that early in December 1815 Mr Hyde twice arrives at Ashfair, Strange's house, with a tale of having seen Arabella Strange walking alone in the midst of a snow-storm on the Welsh border! The first time he comes he is turned away by Jeremy Johns, who - being perfectly aware Mrs Strange is safe within the house - therefore sees no need to trouble his master with such fanciful nonsense. The second time however the still-anxious Mr Hyde insists on seeing Strange personally, and describes his vision to him in some detail. He claims to have seen it while riding back from Wales in bad weather, in a lonely place on Offa's Dyke. First, he heard the tolling of a bell where no bell could be: second, he saw the unmistakeable figure of Mrs Strange, thinly-clad, and exposed to all the harshness of a winter snowstorm, wandering the wild hillside unprotected.

And Mr Hyde is quite certain of its being her: he has known Mrs Strange from a child.

Well, at the time Strange is simply perplexed. He cannot explain the odd mistake, because while it is quite clear Mrs Strange is very safe and well and within the house (and has certainly not been rambling abroad in the snow) yet Hyde is plainly honest in his concern for her safety. On this occasion therefore Strange thanks him, and the two part on good terms. Nevertheless, when Hyde returns yet a third time to warn he has just seen Arabella walking alone in wild weather towards the Welsh border, Strange is very inclined to return him a hasty answer - until, that is, he learns from Jeremy Johns that now his wife truly is missing from the house[43].

Only later, when he has seen his 'dead' wife alive in Lost-hope and realized how grossly he has been fooled, does Strange understand and do justice to Mr Hyde. He had been entirely right in trying to warn him of imminent danger to Arabella[57] . What Hyde first saw upon Offa's Dyke was evidently the false Arabella - the piece of enchanted moss-oak which the gentleman with the thistle-down hair was using to represent the lady he intended to steal. Hyde glimpses it as it makes its eerie way towards Ashfair to replace her, and so strong is the aura of magic about it that he even hears, accompanying it, the tolling of a distant bell. (Strange, to his later rage, misses this clue entirely). The second time however, upon Castle Idris, Hyde sees the real Arabella in the grip of some strong enchantment hurrying her to leave England for Faerie. (The two Arabellas may be readily distinguished, as the false one wears a black gown, while the real woman wears white.)