She went back, and he could see her stoop till her head was close to the margin of the pool. She started up, and hastened back to his side.
"Well," said Henchard; "what do you say now?"
"Let us go home."
"But tell me — do — what is it floating there?"
"The effigy," she answered hastily. "They must have thrown it into the river higher up amongst the willows at Blackwater, to get rid of it in their alarm at discovery by the magistrates, and it must have floated down here."
"Ah — to be sure — the image o' me! But where is the other? Why that one only?... That performance of theirs killed her, but kept me alive!"
Elizabeth-Jane thought and thought of these words "kept me alive," as they slowly retraced their way to the town, and at length guessed their meaning. "Father! — I will not leave you alone like this!" she cried. "May I live with you, and tend upon you as I used to do? I do not mind your being poor. I would have agreed to come this morning, but you did not ask me."
"May you come to me?" he cried bitterly. "Elizabeth, don't mock me! If you only would come!"
"I will," said she.
"How will you forgive all my roughness in former days? You cannot!"
"I have forgotten it. Talk of that no more."
Thus she assured him, and arranged their plans for reunion; and at length each went home. Then Henchard shaved for the first time during many days, and put on clean linen, and combed his hair; and was as a man resuscitated thenceforward.
The next morning the fact turned out to be as Elizabeth-Jane had stated; the effigy was discovered by a cowherd, and that of Lucetta a little higher up in the same stream. But as little as possible was said of the matter, and the figures were privately destroyed.
Despite this natural solution of the mystery Henchard no less regarded it as an intervention that the figure should have been floating there. Elizabeth-Jane heard him say, "Who is such a reprobate as I! And yet it seems that even I be in Somebody's hand!"