Another Surprise ending, Oh my!

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"Sir," he said, stepping forward to the magistrate, "take no more trouble about me. The time has come when I may as well speak. I have done nothing; my crime is that the comdemned man is my brother."

Roberts, 339

Maybe I'm tired, or maybe I just need to brush up on my detective tv-shows, but this part of the story totally took me by surprise. Hardy did an excellent job of tricking his readers (although I'm sure a few of my peers figured it out...) by describing the third stranger's body language when he entered the house. By describing the stranger's "white lips" parting, Hardy shows the man's fear, and furthermore, he tricks readers by not even mentioning that the stranger looked at his brother.
Looking back, there were subtle clues to the first stranger's identity. For one, the point of view switched when he arrived outside the Shepards house, but when the other two strangers arrived at the door, we didn't get to see their side of the door, if you get my drift. Maybe I'm just overanalyzing, but that really seems like a good clue. It's almost like Hardy really hoped we'd figure it out. The executioner's riddle-song was another great hint, but again, Hardy threw the readers off by allowing the first stranger to remain calm and actually converse with the executioner like it was no big deal. 
On another note, I have to say that at the beginning of this story, I had very low hopes for it. The descriptions at the beginning really didn't do anything for me other than start to put me to sleep (but it probably doesn't help that it's past midnight as I write this either, huh?) But seriously, I actually surprised myself reading this. I thought it was really going to drag, but I actually enjoyed it once the conflict arrived in the story. I started reading Chapter 5 before I read this, but stopped when I got to the essay portion to read the story, and I've gotta say that I spent the beginning pages of this story looking for the conflict--so when the actual conflict arrived, it caught me off guard, because at one point, I was pretty sure the main conflict was going to be a feud between the shepard and his wife over how much mead the second stranger could consume...

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