Part 2 out of 9
"Only a shepherd -- and you seem almost a farmer by
"Only a shepherd." Gabriel repeated, in a dull cadence
of finality. "His thoughts were directed to the past, his
eyes to the feet of the girl; and for the first time he
saw lying there a bundle of some sort. She may have
perceived the direction of his face, for she said
"You won't say anything in the parish about having
seen me here, will you -- at least, not for a day or two?"
"I won't if you wish me not to." said Oak.
"Thank you, indeed." the other replied."I am
rather poor, and I don't want people to know anything
about me." Then she was silent and shivered.
"You ought to have a cloak on such a cold night,"
Gabriel observed. "I would advise 'ee to get indoors."
"O no! Would you mind going on and leaving me?
I thank you much for what you have told me."
"I will go on." he said; adding hesitatingly, -- "Since
you are not very well off, perhaps you would accept this
trifle from me. It is only a shilling, but it is all I have
"Yes, I will take it." said the stranger, gratefully.
She extended her hand; Gabriel his. In feeling for
each other's palm in the gloom before the money could
be passed, a minute incident occurred which told much.
Gabriel's fingers alighted on the young woman's wrist.
It was beating with a throb of tragic intensity. He had
frequently felt the same quick, hard beat in the femoral
artery of -- his lambs when overdriven. It suggested a
consumption too great of a vitality which, to judge from
her figure and stature, was already too little.
"What is the matter?"
"But there is?"
"No, no, no! Let your having seen me be a secret!"
"Very well; I will. Good-night, again."
The young girl remained motionless by the tree, and
Gabriel descended into the village of Weatherbury, or
Lower Longpuddle as it was sometimes called. He
fancied that he had felt himself in the penumbra of a
very deep sadness when touching that slight and fragile
creature. But wisdom lies in moderating mere impres-
sions, and Gabriel endeavoured to think little of this.
THE MALTHOUSE -- THE CHAT -- NEWS
WARREN'S Malthouse was enclosed by an old wall
inwrapped with ivy, and though not much of the exterior
was visible at this hour, the character and purposes of
the building were clearly enough shown by its outline
upon the sky. From the walls an overhanging thatched
roof sloped up to a point in the centre, upon which rose
a small wooden lantern, fitted with louvre-boards on all
the four sides, and from these openings a mist was dimly
perceived to be escaping into the night air. There was
no window in front; but a square hole in the door was
glazed with a single pane, through which red, comfortable
rays now stretched out upon the ivied wall in front.
Voices were to be heard inside.
Oak's hand skimmed the surface of the door with
fingers extended to an Elymas-the-Somerer pattern, till
he found a leathern strap, which he pulled. This lifted
a wooden latch, and the door swung open.
The room inside was lighted only by the, ruddy glow
from the kiln mouth, which shone over ,the floor with
the streaming, horizontality of the setting sun, and threw
upwards the shadows of all facial irregularities in those
assembled around. The stone-flag floor was worn into
a path from the doorway to the kiln, and into undula-
tions everywhere. A curved settle of unplaned oak
stretched along one side, and in a remote corner was a
small bed and bedstead, the owner and frequent occupier
of which was the maltster.
This aged man was now sitting opposite the fire, his
frosty white hair and beard overgrowing his gnarled
figure like the grey moss and lichen upon a leafless
apple-tree. He wore breeches and the laced-up shoes
called ankle-jacks; he kept his eyes fixed upon the
Gabriel's nose was greeted by an atmosphere laden
with the sweet smell of new malt. The conversation
(which seemed to have been concerning the origin of the
fire) immediately ceased, and every one ocularly criticised
him to the degree expressed by contracting the flesh of
their foreheads and looking at him with narrowed eye-
lids, as if he had been a light too strong for their sight.
Several exclaimed meditatively, after this operation had
been completed: --
"Oh, 'tis the new shepherd, 'a b'lieve."
"We thought we heard a hand pawing about the
door for the bobbin, but weren't sure 'twere not a dead
leaf blowed across." said another. "Come in, shepherd;
sure ye be welcome, though we don't know yer name."
"Gabriel Oak, that's my name, neighbours."
The ancient maltster sitting in the midst turned up
this -- his turning being as the turning of a rusty
"That's never Gable Oak's grandson over at Nor-
combe -- never!" he said, as a formula expressive of
surprise, which nobody was supposed to take literally'.
"My father and my grandfather were old men of the
name of Gabriel." said the shepherd, placidly.
"Thought I knowed the man's face as I seed him
on the rick! -- thought I did! And where be ye trading
o't to now, shepherd?"
"I'm thinking of biding here." said Mr. Oak.
"Knowed yer grandfather for years and years!"
continued the maltster, the words coming forth of their
own accord as if the momentum previously imparted
had been sufficient.
"Ah -- and did you!"
"Knowed yer grandmother."
"And her too!"
"Likewise knowed yer father when he was a child.
Why, my boy Jacob there and your father were sworn
brothers -- that they were sure -- weren't ye, Jacob?"
"Ay, sure." said his son, a young man about sixty-
five, with a semi-bald head and one tooth in the left
centre of his upper jaw, which made much of itself by
standing prominent, like a milestone in a bank. "But
"twas Joe had most to do with him. However, my son
William must have knowed the very man afore us --
didn't ye, Billy, afore ye left Norcombe?"
"No, 'twas Andrew." said Jacob's son Billy, a child
of forty, or thereabouts, who manifested the peculiarity
of possessing a cheerful soul in a gloomy body, and
whose whiskers were assuming a chinchilla shade here
"I can mind Andrew." said Oak, "as being a man in
the place when I was quite a child."
"Ay -- the other day I and my youngest daughter,
Liddy, were over at my grandson's christening." continued
Billy. "We were talking about this very family, and
"twas only last Purification Day in this very world, when
the use-money is gied away to the second-best poor
folk, you know, shepherd, and I can mind the day
because they all had to traypse up to the vestry -- yes,
this very man's family."
"Come, shepherd, and drink. 'Tis gape and
swaller with us -- a drap of sommit, but not of much
account." said the maltster, removing from the fire his
eyes, which were vermilion-red and bleared by gazing
into it for so many years. "Take up the God-forgive-
me, Jacob. See if 'tis warm, Jacob."
Jacob stooped to the God-forgive-me, which was a
two-handled tall mug standing in the ashes, cracked
and charred with heat: it was rather furred with ex-
traneous matter about the outside, especially in the
crevices of the handles, the innermost curves of which
may not have seen daylight for several years by reason
of this encrustation thereon -- formed of ashes accident-
ally wetted with cider and baked hard; but to the mind
of any sensible drinker the cup was no worse for that,
being incontestably clean on the inside and about the
rim. It may be observed that such a class of mug is
called a God-forgive-me in Weatherbury and its vicinity
for uncertain reasons; probably because its size makes
any given toper feel ashamed of himself when he sees
its bottom in drinking it empty.
Jacob, on receiving the order to see if the liquor was
warm enough, placidly dipped his forefinger into it by
way of thermometer, and having pronounced it nearly
of the proper degree, raised the cup and very civilly
attempted to dust some of the ashes from the bottom
with the skirt of his smock-frock, because Shepherd Oak
was a stranger.
"A clane cup for the shepherd." said the maltster
"No -- not at all," said Gabriel, in a reproving tone
of considerateness. "I never fuss about dirt in its pure
state, and when I know what sort it is." Taking the
mug he drank an inch or more from the depth of its
contents, and duly passed it to the next man.
wouldn't think of giving such trouble to neighbours in
washing up when there's so much work to be done in
the world already." continued Oak in a moister tone,
after recovering from the stoppage of breath which is
occasioned by pulls at large mugs.
"A right sensible man." said Jacob.
"True, true; it can't be gainsaid!" observed a brisk
young man -- Mark Clark by name, a genial and pleasant
gentleman, whom to meet anywhere in your travels was
to know, to know was to drink with, and to drink with
was, unfortunately, to pay for.
"And here's a mouthful of bread and bacon that
mis'ess have sent, shepherd. The cider will go down
better with a bit of victuals. Don't ye chaw quite close,
shepherd, for I let the bacon fall in the road outside as
I was bringing it along, and may be 'tis rather gritty.
There, 'tis clane dirt; and we all know what that is,
as you say, and you bain't a particular man we see,
"True, true -- not at all." said the friendly Oak.
"Don't let your teeth quite meet, and you won't feel
the sandiness at all. Ah! 'tis wonderful what can be
done by contrivance!"
"My own mind exactly, neighbour."
"Ah, he's his grandfer's own grandson! -- his grandfer
were just such a nice unparticular man!" said the maltster.
"Drink, Henry Fray -- drink." magnanimously said
Jan Coggan, a person who held Saint-Simonian notions
of share and share alike where liquor was concerned, as
the vessel showed signs of approaching him in its gradual
revolution among them.
Having at this moment reached the end of a wistful
gaze into mid-air, Henry did not refuse. He was a man
of more than middle age, with eyebrows high up in his
forehead, who laid it down that the law of the world
was bad, with a long-suffering look through his listeners
at the world alluded to, as it presented itself to his
imagination. He always signed his name "Henery" --
strenuously insisting upon that spelling, and if any
passing schoolmaster ventured to remark that the second
"e" was superfluous and old-fashioned, he received the
reply that "H-e-n-e-r-y" was the name he was christened
and the name he would stick to -- in the tone of one
to whom orthographical differences were matters which
had a great deal to do with personal character.
Mr. Jan Coggan, who had passed the cup to Henery,
was a crimson man with a spacious countenance, and
private glimmer in his eye, whose name had appeared
on the marriage register of Weatherbury and neighbour-
ing parishes as best man and chief witness in countless
unions of the previous twenty years; he also very
frequently filled the post of head godfather in baptisms
of the subtly-jovial kind.
"Come, Mark Clark -- come. Ther's plenty more
in the barrel." said Jan.
"Ay -- that I will, 'tis my only doctor." replied Mr.
Clark, who, twenty years younger than Jan Coggan,
revolved in the same orbit. He secreted mirth on all
occasions for special discharge at popular parties.
"Why, Joseph Poorgrass, ye han't had a drop!" said
Mr. Coggan to a self-conscious man in the background,
thrusting the cup towards him.
"Such a modest man as he is!" said Jacob Smallbury.
"Why, ye've hardly had strength of eye enough to look
in our young mis'ess's face, so I hear, Joseph?"
All looked at Joseph Poorgrass with pitying reproach.
"No -- I've hardly looked at her at all." simpered
Joseph, reducing his body smaller whilst talking,
apparently from a meek sense of undue prominence.
"And when I seed her, 'twas nothing but blushes with
"Poor feller." said Mr. Clark.
"'Tis a curious nature for a man." said Jan Coggan.
"Yes." continued Joseph Poorgrass -- his shyness,
which was so painful as a defect, filling him with a
mild complacency now that it was regarded as an
interesting study. "'Twere blush, blush, blush with
me every minute of the time, when she was speaking
"I believe ye, Joseph Poorgrass, for we all know ye
to be a very bashful man."
"'Tis a' awkward gift for a man, poor soul." said the
maltster. "And ye have suffered from it a long time,
"Ay ever since I was a boy. Yes -- mother was
concerned to her heart about it -- yes. But twas all
"Did ye ever go into the world to try and stop it,
"Oh ay, tried all sorts o' company. They took me
to Greenhill Fair, and into a great gay jerry-go-nimble
show, where there were women-folk riding round --
standing upon horses, with hardly anything on but their
smocks; but it didn't cure me a morsel. And then I
was put errand-man at the Women's Skittle Alley at the
back of the Tailor's Arms in Casterbridge. 'Twas a
horrible sinful situation, and a very curious place for a
good man. I had to stand and look ba'dy people in
the face from morning till night; but 'twas no use -- I
was just as-bad as ever after all. Blushes hev been
in the family for generations. There, 'tis a happy pro-
vidence that I be no worse."
"True." said Jacob Smallbury, deepening his thoughts
to a profounder view of the subject. "'Tis a thought
to look at, that ye might have been worse; but even
as you be, 'tis a very bad affliction for 'ee, Joseph. For
ye see, shepherd, though 'tis very well for a woman,
dang it all, 'tis awkward for a man like him, poor
"'Tis -- 'tis." said Gabriel, recovering from a medita-
tion. "Yes, very awkward for the man."
"Ay, and he's very timid, too." observed Jan Coggan.
"Once he had been working late at Yalbury Bottom,
and had had a drap of drink, and lost his way as he was
coming home-along through Yalbury Wood, didn't ye,
"No, no, no; not that story!" expostulated the
modest man, forcing a laugh to bury his concern.
"-- -- And so 'a lost himself quite." continued Mr
Coggan, with an impassive face, implying that a true
narrative, like time and tide, must run its course and
would respect no man. "And as he was coming along
in the middle of the night, much afeared, and not able
to find his way out of the trees nohow, 'a cried out,
"Man-a-lost! man-a-lost!" A owl in a tree happened
to be crying "Whoo-whoo-whoo!" as owls do, you
know, shepherd" (Gabriel nodded), " and Joseph, all
in a tremble, said, " Joseph Poorgrass, of Weatherbury,
"No, no, now -- that's too much!" said the timid
man, becoming a man of brazen courage all of a sudden.
"I didn't say sir. I'll tike my oath I didn't say " Joseph
Poorgrass o' Weatherbury, sir." No, no; what's right
is right, and I never said sir to the bird, knowing very
well that no man of a gentleman's rank would be
hollering there at that time o' night." Joseph Poor-
grass of Weatherbury," -- that's every word I said, and
I shouldn't ha' said that if 't hadn't been for Keeper
Day's metheglin.... There, 'twas a merciful thing it
ended where it did."
The question of which was right being tacitly waived
by the company, Jan went on meditatively: --
"And he's the fearfullest man, bain't ye, Joseph?
Ay, another time ye were lost by Lambing-Down Gate,
weren't ye, Joseph?"
"I was." replied Poorgrass, as if there were some
conditions too serious even for modesty to remember
itself under, this being one.
"Yes; that were the middle of the night, too. The
gate would not open, try how he would, and knowing
there was the Devil's hand in it, he kneeled down."
"Ay." said Joseph, acquiring confidence from the
warmth of the fire, the cider, and a perception of the
narrative capabilities of the experience alluded to.
"My heart died within me, that time; but I kneeled
down and said the Lord's Prayer, and then the Belie
right through, and then the Ten Commandments, in
earnest prayer. But no, the gate wouldn't open; and
then I went on with Dearly Beloved Brethren, and,
thinks I, this makes four, and 'tis all I know out of
book, and if this don't do it nothing will, and I'm a
lost man. Well, when I got to Saying After Me, I
rose from my knees and found the gate would open
-- yes, neighbours, the gate opened the same as ever."
A meditation on the obvious inference was indulged
in by all, and during its continuance each directed his
vision into the ashpit, which glowed like a desert in
the tropics under a vertical sun, shaping their eyes long
and liny, partly because of the light, partly from the
depth of the subject discussed.
Gabriel broke the silence. "What sort of a place
is this to live at, and what sort of a mis'ess is she to
work under?" Gabriel's bosom thrilled gently as he
thus slipped under the notice of the assembly the inner-
most subject of his heart.
"We d' know little of her -- nothing. She only
showed herself a few days ago. Her uncle was took
bad, and the doctor was called with his world-wide
skill; but he couldn't save the man. As I take it,
she's going to keep on the farm.
"That's about the shape o't, 'a b'lieve." said Jan
uncle was a very fair sort of man. Did ye know en,
be under 'em as under one here and there. Her
uncle was a very fair sort of man. Did ye know 'en,
shepherd -- a bachelor-man?"
"Not at all."
"I used to go to his house a-courting my first wife,
Charlotte, who was his dairymaid. Well, a very good-
hearted man were Farmer Everdene, and I being a
respectable young fellow was allowed to call and see
her and drink as much ale as I liked, but not to carry
away any -- outside my skin I mane of course."
"Ay, ay, Jan Coggan; we know yer meaning."
"And so you see 'twas beautiful ale, and I wished
to value his kindness as much as I could, and not to
be so ill-mannered as to drink only a thimbleful, which
would have been insulting the man's generosity -- -- "
"True, Master Coggan, 'twould so." corroborated
" -- -- And so I used to eat a lot of salt fish afore
going, and then by the time I got there I were as dry
as a lime-basket -- so thorough dry that that ale would
slip down -- ah, 'twould slip down sweet! Happy
times! heavenly times! Such lovely drunks as I
used to have at that house! You can mind, Jacob?
You used to go wi' me sometimes."
"I can -- I can." said Jacob. "That one, too, that
we had at Buck's Head on a White Monday was a
"'Twas. But for a wet of the better class, that
brought you no nearer to the horned man than you were
afore you begun, there was none like those in Farmer
Everdene's kitchen. Not a single damn allowed; no,
not a bare poor one, even at the most cheerful moment
when all were blindest, though the good old word of
sin thrown in here and there at such times is a great
relief to a merry soul."
"True." said the maltster. "Nater requires her
swearing at the regular times, or she's not herself; and
unholy exclamations is a necessity of life."
"But Charlotte." continued Coggan -- "not a word of
the sort would Charlotte allow, nor the smallest item of
taking in vain.... Ay, poor Charlotte, I wonder if she
had the good fortune to get into Heaven when 'a died!
But 'a was never much in luck's way, and perhaps 'a
went downwards after all, poor soul."
"And did any of you know Miss Everdene's-father
and mother?" inquired the shepherd, who found some
difficulty in keeping the conversation in the desired
"I knew them a little." said Jacob Smallbury; "but
they were townsfolk, and didn't live here. They've
been dead for years. Father, what sort of people were
mis'ess' father and mother?"
"Well." said the maltster, "he wasn't much to look
at; but she was a lovely woman. He was fond enough
of her as his sweetheart."
"Used to kiss her scores and long-hundreds o times,
so 'twas said." observed Coggan.
"He was very proud of her, too, when they were
married, as I've been told." said the maltster.
"Ay." said Coggan. "He admired her so much that
he used to light the candle three time a night to look
"Boundless love; I shouldn't have supposed it in the
universe!" murmered Joseph Poorgrass, who habitually
spoke on a large scale in his moral reflections.
"Well, to be sure." said Gabriel.
"Oh, 'tis true enough. I knowed the man and
woman both well. Levi Everdene -- that was the man's
name, sure. "Man." saith I in my hurry, but he were
of a higher circle of life than that -- 'a was a gentleman-
tailor really, worth scores of pounds. And he became
a very celebrated bankrupt two or three times."
"Oh, I thought he was quite a common man!" said
"O no, no! That man failed for heaps of money;
hundreds in gold and silver."
The maltster being rather short of breath, Mr. Coggan,
after absently scrutinising a coal which had fallen among
the ashes, took up the narrative, with a private twirl of
his eye: --
"Well, now, you'd hardly believe it, but that man --
husbands alive, after a while. Understand? 'a didn't
want to be fickle, but he couldn't help it. The poor
feller were faithful and true enough to her in his wish,
but his heart would rove, do what he would. He spoke
to me in real tribulation about it once. "Coggan,"
he said, "I could never wish for a handsomer woman
than I've got, but feeling she's ticketed as my lawful
wife, I can't help my wicked heart wandering, do what
I will." But at last I believe he cured it by making her
take off her wedding-ring and calling her by her maiden
name as they sat together after the shop was shut, and
so 'a would get to fancy she was only his sweetheart, and
not married to him at all. And as soon as he could
thoroughly fancy he was doing wrong and committing
the seventh, 'a got to like her as well as ever, and they
lived on a perfect picture of mutel love."
"Well, 'twas a most ungodly remedy." murmured
Joseph Poorgrass; "but we ought to feel deep cheerful-
ness that a happy Providence kept it from being any
worse. You see, he might have gone the bad road and
given his eyes to unlawfulness entirely -- yes, gross un-
lawfulness, so to say it."
"You see." said Billy Smallbury, "The man's will was
to do right, sure enough, but his heart didn't chime in."
"He got so much better, that he was quite godly
in his later years, wasn't he, Jan?" said Joseph Poor-
grass. "He got himself confirmed over again in a more
serious way, and took to saying "Amen" almost as loud
as the clerk, and he liked to copy comforting verses
from the tombstones. He used, too, to hold the money-
plate at Let Your Light so Shine, and stand godfather
to poor little come-by-chance children; and he kept a
missionary box upon his table to nab folks unawares
when they called; yes, and he would-box the charity-
boys' ears, if they laughed in church, till they could
hardly stand upright, and do other deeds of piety
natural to the saintly inclined."
"Ay, at that time he thought of nothing but high
things." added Billy Smallbury. "One day Parson Thirdly
met him and said, "Good-Morning, Mister Everdene; 'tis
a fine day!" "Amen" said Everdene, quite absent-
like, thinking only of religion when he seed a parson-
"Their daughter was not at all a pretty chile at that
time." said Henery Fray. "Never should have. thought
she'd have growed up such a handsome body as she is."
"'Tis to be hoped her temper is as good as her face."
"Well, yes; but the baily will have most to do with
the business and ourselves. Ah!" Henery gazed into
the ashpit, and smiled volumes of ironical knowledge.
"A queer Christian, like the Devil's head in a cowl,
"He is." said Henery, implying that irony must cease
at a certain point. "Between we two, man and man, I
believe that man would as soon tell a lie Sundays as
working-days -- that I do so."
"Good faith, you do talk!" said Gabriel.
"True enough." said the man of bitter moods, looking
round upon the company with the antithetic laughter
that comes from a keener appreciation of the miseries
of life than ordinary men are capable of. 'Ah, there's
people of one sort, and people of another, but that man
-- bless your souls!"
Gabriel thought fit to change the subject. "You
must be a very aged man, malter, to have sons growed
mild and ancient" he remarked.
"Father's so old that 'a can't mind his age, can ye,
father?" interposed Jacob. "And he growled terrible
crooked too, lately" Jacob continued, surveying his
father's figure, which was rather more bowed than his own.
"Really one may say that father there is three-double."
"Crooked folk will last a long while." said the maltster,
grimly, and not in the best humour.
"Shepherd would like to hear the pedigree of yer
life, father -- wouldn't ye, shepherd?
"Ay that I should." said Gabriel with the heartiness
of a man who had longed to hear it for several months.
"What may your age be, malter?"
The maltster cleared his throat in an exaggerated
form for emphasis, and elongating his gaze to the
remotest point of the ashpit! said, in the slow speech
justifiable when the importance of a subject is so
generally felt that any mannerism must be tolerated
in getting at it, "Well, I don't mind the year I were
born in, but perhaps I can reckon up the places I've
lived at, and so get it that way. I bode at Upper Long-
puddle across there" (nodding to the north) "till I were
eleven. I bode seven at Kingsbere" (nodding to the
east) "where I took to malting. I went therefrom to
Norcombe, and malted there two-and-twenty years, and-
two-and-twenty years I was there turnip-hoeing and
harvesting. Ah, I knowed that old place, Norcombe,
years afore you were thought of, Master Oak" (Oak smiled
sincere belief in the fact). "Then I malted at Dur-
nover four year, and four year turnip-hoeing; and
I was fourteen times eleven months at Millpond St.
Jude's" (nodding north-west-by-north). "Old Twills
wouldn't hire me for more than eleven months at a
time, to keep me from being chargeable to the parish
if so be I was disabled. Then I was three year at
Mellstock, and I've been here one-and-thirty year come
Candlemas. How much is that?"
"Hundred and seventeen." chuckled another old
gentleman, given to mental arithmetic and little con-
versation, who had hitherto sat unobserved in a corner.
"Well, then, that's my age." said the maltster, em-
"O no, father!" said Jacob. "Your turnip-hoeing
were in the summer and your malting in the winter of
the same years, and ye don't ought to count-both halves
"Chok' it all! I lived through the summers, didn't
I? That's my question. I suppose ye'll say next I be
no age at all to speak of?"
"Sure we shan't." said Gabriel, soothingly.
"Ye be a very old aged person, malter." attested Jan
must have a wonderful talented constitution to be able
to live so long, mustn't he, neighbours?"
"True, true; ye must, malter, wonderful," said the
The maltster, being know pacified, was even generous
enough to voluntarily disparage in a slight degree the
virtue of having lived a great many years, by mentioning
that the cup they were drinking out of was three years
older than he.
While the cup was being examined, the end of
Gabriel Oak's flute became visible over his smock-frock
I seed you blowing into a great flute by now at Caster-
"You did." said Gabriel, blushing faintly. "I've been
in great trouble, neighbours, and was driven to it.
take it careless-like, shepherd and your time will come
"Neither drum nor trumpet have I heard since
Christmas." said Jan Coggan. "Come, raise a tune,
"That I will." said Gabriel, pulling out his flute and
putting it together. "A poor tool, neighbours; but
such as I can do ye shall have and welcome."
Oak then struck up "Jockey to the Fair." and played
that sparkling melody three times through accenting the
notes in the third round in a most artistic and lively
manner by bending his body in small jerks and tapping
with his foot to beat time.
"He can blow the flute very well -- that 'a can." said
a young married man, who having no individuality worth
mentioning was known as "Susan Tall's husband." He
continued, "I'd as lief as not be able to blow into a
flute as well-as that."
"He's a clever man, and 'tis a true comfort for us to
have such a shepherd." murmured Joseph Poorgrass, in
a soft cadence. "We ought to feel full o' thanksgiving
that he's not a player of ba'dy songs 'instead of these
merry tunes; for 'twould have been just as easy for God
to have made the shepherd a loose low man -- a man of
iniquity, so to speak it -- as what he is. Yes, for our wives"
and daughters' sakes we should feel real thanks giving."
"True, true, -- real thanksgiving!" dashed in Mark
Clark conclusively, not feeling it to be of any conse-
quence to his opinion that he had only heard about a
word and three-quarters of what Joseph had said.
"Yes." added Joseph, beginning to feel like a man in
the Bible; "for evil do thrive so in these times that ye
may be as much deceived in the cleanest shaved and
whitest shirted man as in the raggedest tramp upon the
turnpike, if I may term it so."
"Ay, I can mind yer face now, shepherd." said
Henery Fray, criticising Gabriel with misty eyes as he
entered upon his second tune. "Yes -- now I see 'ee
blowing into the flute I know 'ee to be the same man
I see play at Casterbridge, for yer mouth were scrimped
up and yer eyes a-staring out like a strangled man's --
just as they be now."
"'Tis a pity that playing the flute should make a man
look such a scarecrow." observed Mr. Mark Clark, with
additional criticism of Gabriel's countenance, the latter
person jerking out, with the ghastly grimace required by
the instrument, the chorus of "Dame Durden!
"I hope you don't mind that young man's bad
manners in naming your features?" whispered Joseph to
"Not at all." said Mr. Oak.
"For by nature ye be a very handsome man,
shepherd." continued Joseph Poorgrass, with winning
"Ay, that ye be, shepard." said the company.
"Thank you very much." said Oak, in the modest
tone good manners demanded, thinking, however, that
he would never let Bathsheba see him playing the
flute; in this severe showing a discretion equal to that
related to its sagacious inventress, the divine Minerva
"Ah, when I and my wife were married at Norcombe
Church." said the old maltster, not pleased at finding
himself left out of the subject "we were called the
handsomest couple in the neighbourhood -- everybody
"Danged if ye bain't altered now, malter." said a voice
with the vigour natural to the enunciation of a remark-
ably evident truism. It came from the old man in the
background, whose offensiveness and spiteful ways were
barely atoned for by the occasional chuckle he con-
tributed to general laughs.
"O no, no." said Gabriel.
"Don't ye play no more shepherd" said Susan Tall's
husband, the young married man who had spoken once
before. "I must be moving and when there's tunes
going on I seem as if hung in wires. If I thought after
I'd left that music was still playing, and I not there, I
should be quite melancholy-like."
"What's yer hurry then, Laban?" inquired Coggan.
"You used to bide as late as the latest."
"Well, ye see, neighbours, I was lately married to a
woman, and she's my vocation now, and so ye see -- -- "
The young man hated lamely.
"New Lords new laws, as the saying is, I suppose,"
"Ay, 'a b'lieve -- ha, ha!" said Susan Tall's husband,
in a tone intended to imply his habitual reception of
jokes without minding them at all. The young man
then wished them good-night and withdrew.
Henery Fray was the first to follow. Then Gabriel
arose and went off with Jan Coggan, who had offered
him a lodging. A few minutes later, when the remaining
ones were on their legs and about to depart, Fray came
back again in a hurry. Flourishing his finger ominously
he threw a gaze teeming with tidings just -- where his eye
alighted by accident, which happened to be in Joseph
"O -- what's the matter, what's the matter, Henery?"
said Joseph, starting back.
"What's a-brewing, Henrey?" asked Jacob and Mark
"Baily Pennyways -- Baily Pennyways -- I said so; yes,
I said so!"
"What, found out stealing anything?"
"Stealing it is. The news is, that after Miss
Everdene got home she went out again to see all was
safe, as she usually do, and coming in found Baily
Pennyways creeping down the granary steps with half a
a bushel of barley. She fleed at him like a cat -- never
such a tomboy as she is -- of course I speak with closed
"You do -- you do, Henery."
"She fleed at him, and, to cut a long story short,
he owned to having carried off five sack altogether, upon
her promising not to persecute him. Well, he's turned
out neck and crop, and my question is, who's going to
be baily now?"
The question was such a profound one that Henery
was obliged to drink there and then from the large
cup till the bottom was distinctly visible inside. Before
he had replaced it on the table, in came the young man,
Susan Tall's husband, in a still greater hurry.
"Have ye heard the news that's all over parish?"
"About Baily Pennyways?"
"But besides that?"
"No -- not a morsel of it!" they replied, looking into
the very midst of Laban Tall as if to meet his words
half-way down his throat.
"What a night of horrors!" murmured Joseph Poor-
grass, waving his hands spasmodically. "I've had the
news-bell ringing in my left ear quite bad enough for a
murder, and I've seen a magpie all alone!"
"Fanny Robin -- Miss everdene's youngest servant --
can't be found. They've been wanting to lock up the
door these two hours, but she isn't come in. And they
don't know what to do about going to hed for fear of
locking her out. They wouldn't be so concerned if she
hadn't been noticed in such low spirits these last few
days, and Maryann d'think the beginning of a crowner's
inquest has happened to the poor girl."
"O -- 'tis burned -- 'tis burned!" came from Joseph
Poorgrass's dry lips.
"No -- 'tis drowned!" said Tall.
"Or 'tis her father's razor!" suggested Billy Smallbury,
with a vivid sense of detail.
"Well -- Miss Everdene wants to speak to one or two
of us before we go to bed. What with this trouble about
the baily, and now about the girl, mis'ess is almost wild."
They all hastened up the lane to the farmhouse,
excepting the old maltster, whom neither news, fire,
rain, nor thunder could draw from his hole. There, as
the others' footsteps died away he sat down again and
continued gazing as usual into the furnace with his red,
From the bedroom window above their heads Bath-
sheba's head and shoulders, robed in mystic white, were
dimly seen extended into the air.
"Are any of my men among you?" she said anxiously.
"Yes, ma'am, several." said Susan Tall's husband.
"Tomorrow morning I wish two or three of you to
make inquiries in the villages round if they have seen
such a person as Fanny Robin. Do it quietly; there is
no reason for alarm as yet. She must have left whilst
we were all at the fire."
"I beg yer pardon, but had she any young man court-
ing her in the parish, ma'am?" asked Jacob Smallbury.
"I don't know." said Bathsheba.
"I've never heard of any such thing, ma'am." said
two or three.
"It is hardly likely, either." continued Bathsheba.
"For any lover of hers might have come to the house if
he had been a respectable lad. The most mysterious
matter connected with her absence -- indeed, the only
thing which gives me serious alarm -- is that she was
seen to go out of the house by Maryann with only her
indoor working gown on -- not even a bonnet."
"And you mean, ma'am, excusing my words, that a
young woman would hardly go to see her young man
without dressing up." said Jacob, turning his mental
vision upon past experiences. "That's true -- she would
"She had, I think, a bundle, though I couldn't see
very well." said a female voice from another window,
which seemed that of Maryann. "But she had no
young man about here. Hers lives in Casterbridge, and
I believe he's a soldier."
"Do you know his name?" Bathsheba said.
"No, mistress; she was very close about it."
"Perhaps I might be able to find out if I went to
Casterbridge barracks." said William Smallbury.
"Very well; if she doesn't return tomorrow, mind
you go there and try to discover which man it is, and
see him. I feel more responsible than I should if she
had had any friends or relations alive. I do hope she
has come to no harm through a man of that kind....
And then there's this disgraceful affair of the bailiff --
but I can't speak of him now."
Bathsheba had so many reasons for uneasiness that
it seemed she did not think it worth while to dwell
upon any particular one. "Do as I told you, then"
she said in conclusion, closing the casement.
"Ay, ay, mistress; we will." they replied, and moved
That night at Coggan's, Gabriel Oak, beneath the
screen of closed eyelids, was busy with fancies, and full
of movement, like a river flowing rapidly under its ice.
Night had always been the time at which he saw Bath-
sheba most vividly, and through the slow hours of
shadow he tenderly regarded her image now. It is
rarely that the pleasures of the imagination will compen-
sate for the pain of sleeplessness, but they possibly did
with Oak to-night, for the delight of merely seeing her
effaced for the time his perception of the great differ-
ence between seeing and possessing.
He also thought of Plans for fetching his few utensils
and books from Norcombe. The Young Man's Best
Companion, The Farrier's Sure Guide, The Veterinary
Surgeon, Paradise Lost, The Pilgrim's Progress, Robinson
Crusoe, Ash's Dictionary, the Walkingame's Arithmetic,
constituted his library; and though a limited series, it was
one from which he had acquired more sound informa-
tion by diligent perusal than many a man of opportunities
has done from a furlong of laden shelves.
THE HOMESTEAD -- A VISITOR -- HALF-CONFIDENCES
By daylight, the Bower of Oak's new-found mistress,
Bathsheba Everdene, presented itself as a hoary build-
ing, of the early stage of Classic Renaissance as regards
its architecture, and of 'a proportion which told at a
glance that, as is so frequently the case, it had once
been the memorial hall upon a small estate around it,
now altogether effaced as a distinct property, and merged
in the vast tract of a non-resident landlord, which com-
prised several such modest demesnes.
Fluted pilasters, worked from the solid stone,
decorated its front, and above the roof the chimneys
were panelled or columnar, some coped gables with
finials and like features still retaining traces of their
Gothic extraction. Soft Brown mosses, like faded
velveteen, formed cushions upon the stone tiling, and
tufts of the houseleek or sengreen sprouted from the
eaves of the low surrounding buildings. A gravel walk
leading from the door to the road in front was encrusted
at the sides with more moss -- here it was a silver-green
variety, the nut-brown of the gravel being visible to the
width of only a foot or two in the centre. This circum-
stance, and the generally sleepy air of the whole prospect
here, together with the animated and contrasting state
of the reverse facade, suggested to the imagination that
on the adaptation of the building for farming purposes
the vital principle' of the house had turned round inside
its body to face the other way. Reversals of this kind,
strange deformities, tremendous paralyses, are often seen
to be inflicted by trade upon edifices -- either individual
or in the aggregate as streets and towns -- which were
originally planned for pleasure alone.
Lively voices were heard this morning in the upper
rooms, the main staircase to which was of hard oak, the
balusters, heavy as bed-posts, being turned and moulded
in the quaint fashion of their century, the handrail as
stout as a parapet-top, and the stairs themselves con-
tinually twisting round like a person trying to look over
his shoulder. Going up, the floors above were found
to have a very irregular surface, rising to ridges, sinking
into valley; and being just then uncarpeted, the face
of the boards was seen to be eaten into innumerable
the opening and shutting of every door a tremble
followed every bustling movement, and a creak accom-
panied a walker about the house like a spirit, wherever-
In the room from which the conversation proceeded,
Bathsheba and her servant-companion, Liddy Small-
bury were to be discovered sitting upon the floor, and
sorting a complication of papers, books, bottles, and
rubbish spread out thereon -- remnants from the house-
hold stores of the late occupier. Liddy, the maltster's
great-granddaughter, was about Bathsheba's equal in
age, and her face was a prominent advertisement of the
features' might have lacked in form was amply made up
for by perfection of hue, which at this winter-time was
the softened ruddiness on a surface of high rotundity
and, like the presentations of those great colourists, it
was a face which kept well back from the boundary
between comeliness and the ideal. Though elastic in
nature she was less daring than Bathsheba, and occa-
sionally showed some earnestness, which consisted half
of genuine feeling, and half of mannerliness superadded
by way of duty.
Through a partly-opened door the noise of a scrubbing-
brush led up to the charwoman, Maryann Money, a person
who for a face had a circular disc, furrowed less by age
than by long gazes of perplexity at distant objects. To
think of her was to get good-humoured; to speak of
her was to raise the image of a dried Normandy
"Stop your scrubbing a moment." said Bathsheba
through the door to her. "I hear something."
Maryann suspended the brush.
The tramp of a horse was apparent, approaching the
front of the building. The paces slackened, turned in
at the wicket, and, what was most unusual, came up
the mossy path close to the door. The door was
tapped with the end of a crop or stick.
"What impertinence!" said Liddy, in a low voice.
"To ride up the footpath like that! Why didn't he
stop at the gate? Lord! 'Tis a gentleman! I see the
top of his hat."
"Be quiet!" said Bathsheba.
The further expression of Liddy's concern was con-
tinued by aspect instead of narrative.
"Why doesn't Mrs. Coggan go to the door?" Bath-
Rat-tat-tat-tat, resounded more decisively from Bath-
"Maryann, you go!" said she, fluttering under the
onset of a crowd of romantic possibilities.
"O ma'am -- see, here's a mess!"
The argument was unanswerable after a glance at
"Liddy -- you must." said Bathsheba.
Liddy held up her hands and arms, coated with dust
from the rubbish they were sorting, and looked implor-
ingly at her mistress.
"There -- Mrs. Coggan is going!" said Bathsheba,
exhaling her relief in the form of a long breath which
had lain in her bosom a minute or more.
The door opened, and a deep voice said --
"Is Miss Everdene at home?"
"I'll see, sir." said Mrs. Coggan, and in a minute
appeared in the room.
"Dear, what a thirtover place this world is!" con-
tinued Mrs. Coggan (a wholesome-looking lady who
had a voice for each class of remark according to the
emotion involved; who could toss a pancake or twirl
a mop with the accuracy of pure mathematics, and
who at this moment showed hands shaggy with frag-
ments of dough and arms encrusted with flour). "I
am never up to my elbows, Miss, in making a pudding
but one of two things do happen -- either my nose must
needs begin tickling, and I can't live without scratching
A woman's dress being a part of her countenance,
and any disorder in the one being of the same nature
with a malformation or wound in the other, Bathsheba
said at once --
"I can't see him in this state. Whatever shall I do?"
Not-at-homes were hardly naturalized in Weatherbury
farmhouses, so Liddy suggested -- "Say you're a fright
with dust, and can't come down."
"Yes -- that sounds very well." said Mrs. Coggan,
"Say I can't see him -- that will do."
Mrs. Coggan went downstairs, and returned the
answer as requested, adding, however, on her own
responsibility, "Miss is dusting bottles, sir, and is quite
a object -- that's why 'tis."
"Oh, very well." said the deep voice." indifferently.
"All I wanted to ask was, if anything had been heard
of Fanny Robin?"
"Nothing, sir -- but we may know to-night. William
Smallbury is gone to Casterbridge, where her young
man lives, as is supposed, and the other men be inquir-
ing about everywhere."
The horse's tramp then recommenced and -retreated,
and the door closed.
"Who is Mr. Boldwood?" said Bathsheba.
"A gentleman-farmer at Little Weatherbury."
"How old is he?"
"Forty, I should say -- very handsome -- rather stern-
looking -- and rich."
"What a bother this dusting is! I am always in
some unfortunate plight or other," Bathsheba said,
complainingly. "Why should he inquire about Fanny?"
"Oh, because, as she had no friends in her childhood,
he took her and put her to school, and got her her
place here under your uncle. He's a very kind man
that way, but Lord -- there!"
"Never was such a hopeless man for a woman!
He's been courted by sixes and sevens -- all the girls,
gentle and simple, for miles round, have tried him. Jane
Perkins worked at him for two months like a slave,
and the two Miss Taylors spent a year upon him,
and he cost Farmer Ives's daughter nights of tears
and twenty pounds' worth of new clothes; but Lord --
the money might as well have been thrown out of the
A little boy came up at this moment and looked in
upon them. This child was one of the Coggans who,
with the Smallburys, were as common among the
families of this district as the Avons and Derwents
among our rivers. He always had a loosened tooth or
a cut finger to show to particular friends, which he did
with an air of being thereby elevated above the common
herd of afflictionless humanity -- to which exhibition
of congratulation as well as pity.
"I've got a pen-nee!" said Master Coggan in a
"Well -- who gave it you, Teddy?" said Liddy.
"Mis-terr Bold-wood! He gave it to me for opening
"What did he say?"
"He said "Where are you going, my little man?'"
and I said, "To Miss Everdene's please," and he said,
"She is a staid woman, isn't she, my little man?" and
I said, "Yes."
"You naughty child! What did you say that for?"
"Cause he gave me the penny!"
"What a pucker everything is in!" said Bathsheba,
discontentedly when the child had gone. 'Get away,
thing! You ought to be married by this time, and not
here troubling me!"
"Ay, mistress -- so I did. But what between the poor
men I won't have, and the rich men who won't have me,
I stand as a pelicon in the wilderness!"
"Did anybody ever want to marry you miss?" Liddy
ventured to ask when they were again alone. "Lots of
"em, i daresay.?"
Bathsheba paused, as if about to refuse a reply, but
the temptation to say yes, since it was really in her
power was irresistible by aspiring virginity, in spite of
her spleen at having been published as old.
"A man wanted to once." she said, in a highly experi-
enced tone and the image of Gabriel Oak, as the farmer,
rose before her.
"How nice it must seem!" said Liddy, with the fixed
features of mental realization. "And you wouldn't have
"He wasn't quite good enough for me."
"How sweet to be able to disdain, when most of us
are glad to say, "Thank you!" I seem I hear it.
"No, sir -- I'm your better." or "Kiss my foot, sir; my
face is for mouths of consequence." And did you love
"Oh, no. But I rather liked him."
"Do you now?"
"Of course not -- what footsteps are those I hear?"
Liddy looked from a back window into the courtyard
behind, which was now getting low-toned and dim with
the earliest films of night. A crooked file of men was
approaching the back door. The whole string of trailing
individuals advanced in the completest balance of inten-
tion, like the remarkable creatures known as Chain
Salpae, which, distinctly organized in other respects, have
one will common to a whole family. Some were, as
usual, in snow-white smock-frocks of Russia duck, and
some in whitey-brown ones of drabbet -- marked on the
wrists, breasts, backs, and sleeves with honeycomb-work.
Two or three women in pattens brought up the rear.
"The Philistines be upon us." said Liddy, making her
nose white against the glass.
"Oh, very well. Maryann, go down and keep them
in the kitchen till I am dressed, and then show them in
to me in the hall."
HALF-AN-HOUR later Bathsheba, in finished dress,
and followed by Liddy, entered the upper end of the old
hall to find that her men had all deposited themselves on
a long form and a settle at the lower extremity. She sat
down at a table and opened the time-book, pen in her
hand, with a canvas money-bag beside her. From this
she poured a small heap of coin. Liddy chose a
position at her elbow and began to sew, sometimes
pausing and looking round, or with the air of a privileged
person, taking up one of the half-sovereigns lying before
her and surveying it merely as a work of art, while
strictly preventing her countenance from expressing any
wish to possess it as money.
"Now before I begin, men." said Bathsheba, "I have
two matters to speak of. The first is that the bailiff is
dismissed for thieving, and that I have formed a resolu-
tion to have no bailiff at all, but to manage everything
with my own head and hands."
The men breathed an audible breath of amazement.
"The next matter is, have you heard anything of
"Have you done anything?"
"I met Farmer Boldwood." said Jacob Smallbury, 'and
I went with him and two of his men, and dragged New-
mill Pond, but we found nothing."
"And the new shepherd have been to Buck's Head,
by Yalbury, thinking she had gone there, but nobody
had seed her." said Laban Tall.
"Hasn't William Smallbury been to Casterbridge?"
"Yes, ma'am, but he's not yet come home. He
promised to be back by six."
"It wants a quarter to six at present." said Bathsheba,
looking at her watch. "I daresay he'll be in directly.
Well, now then" -- she looked into the book -- "Joseph
Poorgrass, are you there?"
"Yes, sir -- ma'am I mane." said the person addressed.
"I be the personal name of Poorgrass."
"And what are you?"
"Nothing in my own eye. In the eye of other people
-- well, I don't say it; though public thought will out."
"What do you do on the farm?"
"I do do carting things all the year, and in seed time I
shoots the rooks and sparrows, and helps at pig-killing, sir."
"How much to you?"
"Please nine and ninepence and a good halfpenny
where 'twas a bad one, sir -- ma'am I mane."
"Quite correct. Now here are ten shillings in addi-
tion as a small present, as I am a new comer."
Bathsheba blushed slightly at the sense of being
generous in public, and Henery Fray, who had drawn
up towards her chair, lifted his eyebrows and fingers to
express amazement on a small scale.
"How much do I owe you -- that man in the corner --
what's your name?" continued Bathsheba.
"Matthew Moon, ma'am." said a singular framework of
clothes with nothing of any consequence inside them,
which advanced with the toes in no definite direction
forwards, but turned in or out as they chanced to swing.
"Matthew Mark, did you say? -- speak out -- I shall
not hurt you." inquired the young farmer, kindly.
"Matthew Moon mem" said Henery Fray, correct-
ingly, from behind her chair, to which point he had
"Matthew Moon." murmured Bathsheba, turning her
bright eyes to the book. "Ten and twopence halfpenny
is the sum put down to you, I see?"
"Yes, mis'ess." said Matthew, as the rustle of wind
among dead leaves.
"Here it is and ten shillings. Now -the next -- Andrew
Randle, you are a new man, I hear. How come you to
leave your last farm?"
"P-p-p-p-p-pl-pl-pl-pl-l-l-l-l-ease, ma'am, p-p-p-p-pl-pl-
pl-pl-please, ma'am-please'm-please'm -- -- "
"'A's a stammering man, mem." said Henery Fray in
an undertone, "and they turned him away because the
only time he ever did speak plain he said his soul was
his own, and other iniquities, to the squire. "A can cuss,
mem, as well as you or I, but 'a can't speak a common
speech to save his life."
"Andrew Randle, here's yours -- finish thanking me
in a day or two. Temperance Miller -- oh, here's another,
Soberness -- both women I suppose?"
"Yes'm. Here we be, 'a b'lieve." was echoed in shrill
"What have you been doing?"
"Tending thrashing-machine and wimbling haybonds,
and saying "Hoosh!" to the cocks and hens when they
go upon your seeds and planting Early Flourballs and
Thompson's Wonderfuls with a dibble."
"Yes -- I see. Are they satisfactory women?" she
inquired softly of Henery Fray.
"O mem -- don't ask me! Yielding women?" as
scarlet a pair as ever was!" groaned Henery under his
Joseph Poorgrass, in the background twitched, and
his lips became dry with fear of some terrible conse-
quences, as he saw Bathsheba summarily speaking, and
Henery slinking off to a corner.
"Now the next. Laban Tall, you'll stay on working
"For you or anybody that pays me well, ma'am,"
replied the young married man.
"True -- the man must live!" said a woman in the
back quarter, who had just entered with clicking pattens.
"What woman is that?" Bathsheba asked.
"I be his lawful wife!" continued the voice with
greater prominence of manner and tone. This lady
called herself five-and-twenty, looked thirty, passed as
thirty-five, and was forty. She was a woman who never,
like some newly married, showed conjugal tenderness in
public, perhaps because she had none to show.
"Oh, you are." said Bathsheba. "Well, Laban, will
you stay on?"
"Yes, he'll stay, ma'am!" said again the shrill tongue
of Laban's lawful wife.
"Well, he can speak for himself, I suppose."
"O Lord, not he, ma'am! A simple tool. Well
enough, but a poor gawkhammer mortal." the wife replied
"Heh-heh-heh!" laughed the married man with a
hideous effort of appreciation, for he was as irrepressibly
good-humoured under ghastly snubs as a parliamentary
candidate on the hustings.
The names remaining were called in the same
"Now I think I have done with you." said Bathsheba,
closing the book and shaking back a stray twine of hair.
"Has William Smallbury returned?"
"The new shepherd will want a man under him,"
suggested Henery Fray, trying to make himself official
again by a sideway approach towards her chair.
"Oh -- he will. Who can he have?"
"Young Cain Ball is a very good lad." Henery said,
"and Shepherd Oak don't mind his youth?" he added,
turning with an apologetic smile to the shepherd, who
had just appeared on the scene, and was now leaning
against the doorpost with his arms folded.
"No, I don't mind that." said Gabriel.
"How did Cain come by such a name?" asked
"Oh you see, mem, his pore mother, not being a
Scripture-read woman made a mistake at his christening,
thinking 'twas Abel killed Cain, and called en Cain,
but 'twas too late, for the name could never be got rid
of in the parish. 'Tis very unfortunate for the boy."
"It is rather unfortunate."
"Yes. However, we soften it down as much as we
can, and call him Cainey. Ah, pore widow-woman!
she cried her heart out about it almost. She was
brought up by a very heathen father and mother, who
never sent her to church or school, and it shows how
the sins of the parents are visited upon the children,
Mr. Fray here drew up his features to the mild degree
of melancholy required when the persons involved in
the given misfortune do not belong to your own family.
"Very well then, Cainey Ball to be under-shepherd
And you quite understand your duties? -- you I mean,
"Quite well, I thank you Miss Everdene." said
Shepard Oak from the doorpost. "If I don't, I'll
inquire." Gabriel was rather staggered by the remark-
able coolness of her manner. Certainly nobody without
previous information would have dreamt that Oak and
the handsome woman before whom he stood had ever
been other than strangers. But perhaps her air was
the inevitable result of the social rise which had advanced
her from a cottage to a large house and fields. The
case is not unexampled in high places. When, in the
writings of the later poets, Jove and his family are found
to have moved from their cramped quarters on the peak
of Olympus into the wide sky above it, their words show
a proportionate increase of arrogance and reserve.
Footsteps were heard in the passage, combining in
their character the qualities both of weight and measure,
rather at the expense of velocity.
(All.) "Here's Billy Smallbury come from Caster-
"And what's the news?" said Bathsheba, as William,
after marching to the middle of the hall, took a hand-
kerchief from his hat and wiped his forehead from its
centre to its remoter boundaries.
"I should have been sooner, miss." he said, "if it
hadn't been for the weather." He then stamped with
each foot severely, and on looking down his boots were
perceived to be clogged with snow.
"Come at last, is it?" said Henery.
"Well, what about Fanny?" said Bathsheba.
"Well, ma'am, in round numbers, she's run away with
the soldiers." said William.
"No; not a steady girl like Fanny!"
"I'll tell ye all particulars. When I got to Caster,
bridge Barracks, they said, " The Eleventh Dragoon-
Guards be gone away, and new troops have come."
The Eleventh left last week for Melchester and onwards.
The Route came from Government like a thief in the
night, as is his nature to, and afore the Eleventh knew
it almost, they were on the march. They passed near
Gabriel had listened with interest. "I saw them go,"
"Yes." continued William," they pranced down the
street playing "The Girl I Left Behind Me." so 'tis
said, in glorious notes of triumph. Every looker-on's
inside shook with the blows of the great drum to his
deepest vitals, and there was not a dry eye throughout
the town among the public-house people and the name-
"But they're not gone to any war?"
"No, ma'am; but they be gone to take the places
of them who may, which is very close connected. And
so I said to myself, Fanny's young man was one of the
regiment, and she's gone after him. There, ma'am,
that's it in black and white."
Gabriel remained musing and said nothing, for he
was in doubt.
"Well, we are not likely to know more to-night, at
any rate." said Bathsheba. "But one of you had better
run across to Farmer Boldwood's and tell him that
She then rose; but before retiring, addressed a few
words to them with a pretty dignity, to which her
mourning dress added a soberness that was hardly to
be found in the words themselves.
"Now mind, you have a mistress instead of a master
I don't yet know my powers or my talents in farming;
but I shall do my best, and if you serve me well, so
shall I serve you. Don't any unfair ones among you
(if there are any such, but I hope not) suppose that
because I'm a woman I don't understand the difference
between bad goings-on and good."
(Liddy.) "Excellent well said."
"I shall be up before you are awake; I shall be
afield before you are up; and I shall have breakfasted
before you are afield. In short, I shall astonish you all.
"And so good-night."
(All.) "Good-night, ma'am."
Then this small-thesmothete stepped from the table,
and surged out of the hall, her black silk dress licking
up a few straws and dragging them along with a scratch-
ing noise upon the floor. biddy, elevating her feelings
to the occasion from a sense of grandeur, floated off
behind Bathsheba with a milder dignity not entirely
free from travesty, and the door was closed.
OUTSIDE THE BARRACKS -- SNOW -- A MEETING
FOR dreariness nothing could surpass a prospect in the
outskirts of a certain town and military station, many
miles north of Weatherbury, at a later hour on this
same snowy evening -- if that may be called a prospect
of which the chief constituent was darkness.
It was a night when sorrow may come to the
brightest without causing any great sense of incongruity:
when, with impressible persons, love becomes solicitous-
ness, hope sinks to misgiving, and faith to hope: when
the exercise of memory does not stir feelings of regret
at opportunities for ambition that have been passed by,
and anticipation does not prompt to enterprise.
The scene was a public path, bordered on the left
hand by a river, behind which rose a high wall. On
the right was a tract of land, partly meadow'and partly
moor, reaching, at its remote verge, to a wide undulating
The changes of the seasons are less obtrusive on
spots of this kind than amid woodland scenery. Still,
to a close observer, they are just as perceptible; the
difference is that their media of manifestation are less
trite and familiar than such well-known ones as the
bursting of the buds or the fall of the leaf. Many are
not so stealthy and gradual as we may be apt to
imagine in considering the general torpidity of a moor
or waste. Winter, in coming to the country hereabout,
advanced in well-marked stages, wherein might have
been successively observed the retreat of the snakes,
the transformation of the ferns, the filling of the pools,
a rising of fogs, the embrowning by frost, the collapse
of the fungi, and an obliteration by snow.
This climax of the series had been reached to-night on
the aforesaid moor, and for the first time in the season
its irregularities were forms without features; suggestive
of anything, proclaiming nothing, and without more
character than that of being the limit of something
else -- the lowest layer of a firmament of snow. From
this chaotic skyful of crowding flakes the mead and
moor momentarily received additional clothing, only
to appear momentarily more naked thereby. The vast
arch of cloud above was strangely low, and formed as
it were the roof of a large dark cavern, gradually sinking
in upon its floor; for the instinctive thought was that
the snow lining the heavens and that encrusting the
earth would soon unite into one mass without any
intervening stratum of air at all.
We turn our attention to the left-hand characteristics;
which were flatness in respect of the river, verticality
in respect of the wall behind it, and darkness as to
both. These features made up the mass. If anything
could be darker than the sky, it was the wall, and if any
thing could be gloomier than the wall it was the river
beneath. The indistinct summit of the facade was
notched and pronged by chimneys here and there, and
upon its face were faintly signified the oblong shapes
of windows, though only in the upper part. Below,
down to the water's edge, the flat was unbroken by
hole or projection.
An indescribable succession of dull blows, perplexing
in their regularity, sent their sound- with difficulty
through the fluffy atmosphere. It was a neighbouring
clock striking ten The bell was in the open air, and
being overlaid with several inches of muffling snow, had
lost its voice for the time.
About this hour the snow abated: ten flakes fell
where twenty had fallen, then one had the room of
ten. Not long after a form moved by the brink of
By its outline upon the colourless background, a close
observer might have seen that it was small. This was
all that was positively discoverable, though it seemed
The shape went slowly along, but without much
exertion, for the snow, though sudden, was not as yet
more than two inches deep. At this time some words
were spoken aloud: --
"One. Two. Three. Four. Five."
Between each utterance the little shape advanced
about half a dozen yards. It was evident now that
the windows high in the wall were being counted.
The word "Five" represented the fifth window from
the end of the wall.
Here the spot stopped, and dwindled smaller. The
figure was stooping. Then a morsel of snow flew
across the river towards the fifth window. It smacked
against the wall at a point several yards from its mark.
The throw was the idea of a man conjoined with the
execution of a woman. No man who had ever seen bird,
rabbit, or squirrel in his childhood, could possibly have
thrown with such utter imbecility as was shown here.
Another attempt, and another; till by degrees the
wall must have become pimpled with the adhering
lumps of snow At last one fragment struck the fifth
The river would have been; seen by day to be of
that deep smooth sort which races middle and sides
with the same gliding precision, any irregularities of
speed being immediately corrected by a small whirl-
pool. Nothing was heard in reply to the signal but
the gurgle and cluck of one of these invisible wheels --
together with a few small sounds which a sad man
would have called moans, and a happy man laughter --
caused by the flapping of the waters against trifling
objects in other parts of the stream.
The window was struck again in the same manner.
Then a noise was heard, apparently produced by
the opening of the window. This was followed by a
voice from the same quarter.
The tones were masculine, and not those of surprise.
The high wall being that of a barrack, and marriage
being looked upon with disfavour in the army, assigna-
tions and communications had probably been made
across the river before tonight.
"Is it Sergeant Troy?" said the blurred spot in the
This person was so much like a mere shade upon
the earth, and the other speaker so much a part of
the building, that one would have said the wall was
holding a conversation with the snow.
"Yes." came suspiciously from the shadow." What
girl are you?"
"O, Frank -- don't you know me?" said the spot.
"Your wife, Fanny Robin."
"Fanny!" said the wall, in utter astonishment.
"Yes." said the girl, with a half-suppressed gasp of
There was something in the woman's tone which is
not that of the wife, and there was a mannerin the man
which is rarely a husband's. The dialogue went on:
"How did you come here?"
"I asked which was your window. Forgive me!"
"I did not expect you to-night. Indeed, I did not
think you would come at all. It was a wonder you
found me here. I am orderly to-morrow."
"You said I was to come."
"Well -- I said that you might."
"Yes, I mean that I might. You are glad to see me,
"O yes -- of course."
"Can you -- come to me!"
My dear Fan, no! The bugle has sounded, the
barrack gates are closed, and I have no leave. We are
all of us as good as in the county gaol till to-morrow
"Then I shan't see you till then!" The words- were
in a faltering tone of disappointment.
"How did you get here from Weatherbury?"
"I walked -- some part of the way -- the rest by the
"I am surprised."
"Yes -- so am I. And Frank, when will it be?"
"That you promised."
"I don't quite recollect."
"O You do! Don't speak like that. It weighs me
to the earth. It makes me say what ought to be said
first by you."
"Never mind -- say it."
"O, must I? -- it is, when shall we be married,
"Oh, I " see. Well -- you have to get proper
"I have money. Will it be by banns or license?"
"Banns, I should think."
"And we live in two parishes."
"Do we? What then?"
"My lodgings are in St. Mary's, and this is not. So
they will have to be published in both."
"Is that the law?"
"Yes. O Frank -- you think me forward, I am
afraid! Don't, dear Frank -- will you -- for I love you so.
And you said lots of times you would marry me, and
and -- I -- I -- I -- -- "
"Don't cry, now! It is foolish. If i said so, of
course I will."
"And shall I put up the banns in my parish, and will
you in yours?"
"Not tomorrow. We'll settle in a few days."
"You have the permission of the officers?"
"No, not yet."
"O -- how is it? You said you almost had before
you left Casterbridge."
"The fact is, I forgot to ask. Your coming like this
I'll go away now. Will you **qoDe,and seq be to-morroy
is so sudden and unexpected."
"Yes -- yes -- it is. It was wrong of me to worry you.
I'll go away now. Will you come and see me to-morrow,
at Mrs. Twills's, in North Street? I don't like to come
to the Barracks. There are bad women about, and they
think me one."
"Quite,so. I'll come to you, my dean Good-night."
"Good-night, Frank -- good-night!"
And the noise was again heard of a window closing
The little spot moved away. When she passed the
corner a subdued exclamation was heard inside the
"Ho -- ho -- Sergeant -- ho -- ho!" An expostulation
followed, but it was indistinct; and it became lost amid
a low peal of laughter, which was hardly distinguishable
from the gurgle of the tiny whirlpools outside.
FARMERS -- A RULE -- IN EXCEPTION
THE first public evidence of Bathsheba's decision to
be a farmer in her own person and by proxy no more
was her appearance the following market-day in. the
cornmarket at Casterbridge.
The low though extensive hall, supported by beams
and pillars, and latterly dignified by-the name of Corn Ex-
change, was thronged with hot men who talked among
each other in twos and threes, the speaker of the minute
looking sideways into his auditor's face and concentrating
his argument by a contraction of one eyelid during de-
livery. The greater number carried in their hands
ground-ash saplings, using them partly as walking-sticks
and partly for poking up pigs, sheep, neighbours with
their backs turned, and restful things in general, which
seemed to require such treatment in the course of their
peregrinations. During conversations each subjected
his sapling to great varieties of usage -- bending it round
his back, forming an"arch of it between his two hands,
overweighting it on the ground till it reached nearly a
semicircle; or perhaps it was hastily tucked under the
arm whilst the sample-bag was pulled forth and a hand-
ful of corn poured into the palm, which, after criticism,
was flung upon the floor, an issue of events perfectly
well known to half-a-dozen acute town-bred fowls which
had as usual crept into the building unobserved, and
waited the fulfilment of their anticipations with a high-
stretched neck and oblique eye.
Among these heavy yeomen a feminine figure glided,
the single one of her sex that the room contained. She
was prettily and even daintily dressed. She moved
between them as a chaise between carts, was heard after
them as a romance after sermons, was felt among them
like a breeze among furnaces. It had required a little
determination -- far more than she had at first imagined
-- to take up a position here, for at her first entry the
lumbering dialogues had ceased, nearly every face had
been turned towards her, and those that were already
turned rigidly fixed there.
Two or three only of the farmers were personally
known to Bathsheba, and to these she had made her
way. But if she was to be the practical woman she had
intended to show herself, business must be carried on,
introductions or none, and she ultimately acquired con-
fidence enough to speak and reply boldly to men merely
known to her by hearsay. Bathsheba too had her
sample-bags, and by degrees adopted the professional
pour into the hand -- holding up the grains in her narrow
palm for inspection, in perfect Casterbridge manner.
Something in the exact arch of her upper unbroken
row of teeth, and in the keenly pointed corners of her
red mouth when, with parted lips, she somewhat
defiantly turned up her face to argue a point with a
tall man, suggested that there was potentiality enough
in that lithe slip of humanity for alarming exploits of
sex, and daring enough to carry them out. But her eyes
had a softness -- invariably a softness -- which, had they
not been dark, would have seemed mistiness; as they
were, it lowered an expression that might have been
piercing to simple clearness,
Strange to say of a woman in full bloom and vigor,
she always allowed her interlocutors to finish their state-
ments before rejoining with hers. In arguing on prices,
he held to her own firmly, as was natural in a dealer,
and reduced theirs persistently, as was inevitable in a
oman. But there was an elasticity in her firmness
which removed it from obstinacy, as there was a naivete
in her cheapening which saved it from meanness.
Those of the farmers with whom she had no dealings
by far the greater part) were continually asking each
other, "Who is she?" The reply would be --
"Farmer Everdene's niece; took on Weatherbury
Upper Farm; turned away the baily, and swears she'll do
The other man would then shake his head.
"Yes, 'tis a pity she's so headstrong." the first would
say. "But we ought to be proud of her here -- she
lightens up the old place. 'Tis such a shapely maid,
however, that she'll soon get picked up."
It would be ungallant to suggest that the novelty of
her engagement in such an occupation had almost as
much to do with the magnetism as had the beauty of
her face and movements. However, the interest was
general, and this Saturday's debut in the forum, whatever
it may have been to Bathsheba as the buying and selling
farmer, was unquestionably a triumph to her as the
maiden. Indeed, the sensation was so pronounced that
her instinct on two or three occasions was merely to
walk as a queen among these gods of the fallow, like a
little sister of a little Jove, and to neglect closing prices
The numerous evidences of-her power to attract were
only thrown into greater relief by a marked exception.
Women seem to have eyes in their ribbons for such
matters as these. Bathsheba, without looking within
a right angle of him, was conscious of a black sheep
among the flock.
It perplexed her first. If there had been a respect-
able minority on either side, the case would have been
most natural. If nobody had regarded her, she would
have -- taken the matter indifferently -- such cases had
occurred. If everybody, this man included, she would
have taken it as a matter of course -- people had done
so before. But the smallness of the exception made the
She soon knew thus much of the recusant's appear-
ance. He was a gentlemanly man, with full and
distinctly outlined Roman features, the prominences
of which glowed in the sun with a bronze-like richness
of tone. He was erect in attitude, and quiet in
demeanour. One characteristic pre-eminently marked
him -- dignity.
Apparently he had some time ago reached that
entrance to middle age at which a man's aspect naturally
ceases to alter for the term of a dozen years or so; and,
artificially, a woman't does likewise. Thirty-five and
fifty were his limits of variation -- he might have been
either, or anywhere between the two.
It may be said that married men of forty are usually
ready and generous enough to fling passing glances at
any specimen of moderate beauty they may discern by
the way. Probably, as with persons playing whist for
love, the consciousness of a certain immunity under
any circumstances from that worst possible ultimate,
the having to pay, makes them unduly speculative.
Bathsheba was convinced that this unmoved person
was not a married man.
When marketing was over, she rushed off to Liddy,
who was waiting for her -- beside the yellowing in which
they had driven to town. The horse was put in, and
on they trotted Bathsheba's sugar, tea, and drapery
parcels being packed behind, and expressing in some
indescribable manner, by their colour, shape, and
general lineaments, that they were that young lady-
farmer's property, and the grocer's and drapers no
"I've been through it, Liddy, and it is over. I shan't
mind it again, for they will all have grown accustomed
to seeing me there; but this morning it was as bad as
being married -- eyes everywhere!"
"I knowed it would. be." Liddy said "Men be such
a terrible class of society to look at a body."
"But there was one man who had more sense than
to waste his time upon me." The information was put
in this form that Liddy might not for a moment suppose
her mistress was at all piqued. "A very good-looking
man." she continued, "upright; about forty, I should
think. Do you know at all who he could be?"
Liddy couldn't think.
"Can't you guess at all?" said Bathsheba with some
"I haven't a notion; besides, 'tis no difference, since
he took less notice of you than any of the rest. Now,
if he'd taken more, it would have mattered a great deal."
Bathsheba was suffering from the reverse feeling just
then, and they bowled along in silence. A low carriage,
bowling along still more rapidly behind a horse of un-
impeachable breed, overtook and passed them.
"Why, there he is!" she said.
Liddy looked. "That! That's Farmer Boldwood --
of course 'tis -- the man you couldn't see the other day
when he called."
"Oh, Farmer Boldwood." murmured Bathsheba, and
looked at him as he outstripped them. The farmer had
never turned his head once, but with eyes fixed on the
most advanced point along the road, passed as uncon-
sciously and abstractedly as if Bathsheba and her charms
were thin air.
"He's an interesting man -- don't you think so?" she
"O yes, very. Everybody owns it." replied Liddy.
"I wonder why he is so wrapt up and indifferent, and
seemingly so far away from all he sees around him,"
"It is said -- but not known for certain -- that he met
with some bitter disappointment when he was a young
man and merry. A woman jilted him, they say."
"People always say that -- and we know very well
women scarcely ever jilt men; 'tis the men who jilt us.
I expect it is simply his nature to be so reserved."
"Simply his nature -- I expect so, miss -- nothing else
in the world."
"Still, 'tis more romantic to think he has been served
cruelly, poor thing'! Perhaps, after all, he has! I
"Depend upon it he has. O yes, miss, he has!
feel he must have."
"However, we are very apt to think extremes of
people. I -- shouldn't wonder after all if it wasn't a
little of both -- just between the two -- rather cruelly
used and rather reserved."
"O dear no, miss -- I can't think it between the
"That's most likely."
"Well, yes, so it is. I am convinced it is most likely.
You may -- take my word, miss, that that's what's the
matter with him."
SORTES SANCTORUM -- THE VALENTINE
IT was Sunday afternoon in the farmhouse, on the
thirteenth of February. Dinner being over, Bathsheba,
for want of a better companion, had asked Liddy to
come and sit with her. The mouldy pile was dreary
in winter-time before the candles were lighted and the
shutters closed; the atmosphere of the place seemed
as old as the walls; every nook behind the furniture
had a temperature of its own, for the fire was not
kindled in this part of the house early in the day;
and Bathsheba's new piano, which was an old one
in other annals, looked particularly sloping and out
of level on the warped floor before night threw a
shade over its less prominent angles and hid the
unpleasantness. Liddy, like a little brook, though
shallow, was always rippling; her presence had not so
much weight as to task thought, and yet enough to
On the table lay an old quarto Bible, bound in
leather. Liddy looking at it said, --
"Did you ever find out, miss, who you are going to
marry by means of the Bible and key?,
"Don't be so foolish, Liddy. As if such things
"Well, there's a good deal in it, all the same."
"And it makes your heart beat fearful. Some believe
in it; some don't; I do."
"Very well, let's try it." said Bathsheba, bounding
from her seat with that total disregard of consistency
which can be indulged in towards a dependent, and
entering into the spirit of divination at once. "Go and
get the front door key."
Liddy fetched it. "I wish it wasn't Sunday." she
said, on returning." Perhaps 'tis wrong."
"What's right week days is right Sundays." replied her
mistress in a tone which was a proof in itself.
The book was opened -- the leaves, drab with age,
being quite worn away at much-read verses by the fore"
fingers "of unpractised readers in former days, where they
were moved along under the line as an aid to the vision.
The special verse in the Book of Ruth was sought out
by Bathsheba, and the sublime words met her eye. They
slightly thrilled and abashed her. It was Wisdom in
the abstract facing Folly in the concrete. Folly in the
concrete blushed, persisted in her intention, and placed
the key on -the book. A rusty patch immediately upon
the verse, caused by previous pressure of an iron
substance thereon, told that this was not the first time
the old volume had been used for the purpose.
"Now keep steady, and be silent." said Bathsheba.
The 'verse was repeated; the book turned round;
Bathsheba blushed guiltily.
"Who did you try?" said Liddy curiously.
"I shall not tell you."
"Did you notice Mr. Boldwood's doings in church
this morning, miss?"Liddy continued, adumbrating by
the remark the track her thoughts had taken.
"No, indeed." said Bathsheba, with serene indifference
"His pew is exactly opposite yours, miss."
"I know it."
"And you did not see his goings on!,"
Certainly I did not, I tell you."
Liddy assumed a smaller physiognomy, and shut
her lips decisively.
This move was unexpected, and proportionately dis
concerting. "What did he do?" Bathsheba said perforce.
"Didn't turn his head to look at you once all the
"Why should he?" again demanded her mistress,
wearing a nettled look. "I didn't ask him to.
"Oh no. But everybody else was noticing you; and
it was odd he didn't. There, 'tis like him. Rich and
gentlemanly, what does he care?"
Bathsheba dropped into a silence intended to ex-
press that she had opinions on the matter too abstruse
for Liddy's comprehension, rather than that she had
nothing to say.
"Dear me -- I had nearly forgotten the valentine
I bought yesterday." she exclaimed at length.
"Valentine! who for, miss?" said Liddy. "Farmer
It was the single name among all possible wrong
ones that just at this moment seemed to Bathsheba
more pertinent than the right.
"Well, no. It is only for little Teddy Coggan.
have promised him something, and this will be a pretty
surprise for him. Liddy, you may as well bring me
my desk and I'll direct it at once."
Bathsheba took from her desk a gorgeously illumin-
ated and embossed design in post-octavo, which had
been "bought on the previous market-day at the chief
stationer's in Casterbridge. In the centre was a small
oval enclosure; this was left blank, that the sender
might insert tender words more appropriate to the
special occasion than any generalities by a printer
could possibly be.
"Here's a place for writing." said Bathsheba. "What
shall I put?"
"Something of this sort, I should think', returned
Liddy promptly: --
"The rose is red,
The violet blue,
And so are you."
"Yes, that shall be it. It just suits itself to a chubby-
faced child like him." said Bathsheba. She inserted the
words in a small though legible handwriting; enclosed
the sheet in an envelope, and dipped her pen for the
"What fun it would be to send it to the stupid old
Boldwood, and how he would wonder!" said the
irrepressible Liddy, lifting her eyebrows, and indulging
in an awful mirth on the verge of fear as she thought
of the moral and social magnitude of the man contem-
Bathsheba paused to regard the idea at full length.
Boldwood's had begun to be a troublesome image -- a
species of Daniel in her kingdom who persisted in
kneeling eastward when reason and common sense
said that he might just as well follow suit with the
rest, and afford her the official glance of admiration
which cost nothing at all. She was far from being
seriously concerned about his nonconformity. Still,
it was faintly depressing that the most dignified and
valuable man in the parish should withhold his eyes,
and that a girl like Liddy should talk about it. So
Liddy's idea was at first rather harassing than piquant.
"No, I won't do that. He wouldn't see any humour
"He'd worry to death." said the persistent Liddy.
"Really, I don't care particularly to send it to
Teddy." remarked her mistress. "He's rather a naughty
"Yes -- that he is."
"Let's toss as men do." said Bathsheba, idly. "Now
then, head, Boldwood; tail, Teddy. No, we won't toss
money on a Sunday that would be tempting the devil
"Toss this hymn-book; there can't be no sinfulness
in that, miss."
"Very well. Open, Boldwood -- shut, Teddy. No;
it's more likely to fall open. Open, Teddy -- shut,
The book went fluttering in the air and came down shut.
Bathsheba, a small yawn upon her mouth, took the
pen, and with off-hand serenity directed the missive to
"Now light a candle, Liddy. Which seal shall we
use? Here's a unicorn's head -- there's nothing in
that. What's this? -- two doves -- no. It ought to be
something extraordinary, ought it not, Liddy? Here's
one with a motto -- I remember it is some funny one,
but I can't read it. We'll try this, and if it doesn't
do we'll have another."
A large red seal was duly affixed. Bathsheba looked
closely at the hot wax to discover the words.
"Capital!" she exclaimed, throwing down the letter
frolicsomely. "'Twould upset the solemnity of a parson
The same evening the letter was sent, and was duly
returned to Weatherbury again in the morning.
Of love as a spectacle Bathsheba had a fair knowledge;
but of love subjectively she knew nothing.
EFFECT OF THE LETTER -- SUNRISE
AT dusk, on the evening of St. Valentine's Day, Bold-
wood sat down to supper as usual, by a beaming fire
of aged logs. Upon the mantel-shelf before him was
a time-piece, surmounted by a spread eagle, and upon
the eagle's wings was the letter Bathsheba had sent.
Here the bachelor's gaze was continually fastening
itself, till the large red seal became as a blot of blood
on the retina of his eye; and as he ate and drank he
still read in fancy the words thereon, although they
were too remote for his sight --
The pert injunction was like those crystal substances
which, colourless themselves, assume the tone of objects
about them. Here, in the quiet of Boldwood's parlour,
where everything that ,was not grave was extraneous,
and where the atmosphere was that of a Puritan Sunday
lasting all the week, the letter and its dictum changed"
their tenor from the thoughtlessness of their origin to
a deep solemnity, imbibed from their accessories
Since the receipt of the missive in the morning,
Boldwood had felt the symmetry of his existence to
be slowly getting distorted in the direction of an ideal
passion. The disturbance was as the first floating
weed to Columbus -- the eontemptibly little suggesting
possibilities of the infinitely great.
The letter must have had an origin and a motive.
That the latter was of the smallest magnitude com-
patible with its existence at all, Boldwood, of course,
did not know. And such an explanation did not
strike him as a possibility even. It is foreign to a
mystified condition of mind to realize of the mystifier
that the processes of approving a course suggested by
circumstance, and of striking out a course from inner
impulse, would look the same in the result. The vast
difference between starting a train of events, and direct-
ing into a particular groove a series already started, is
rarely apparent to the person confounded by the
When Boldwood went to bed he placed the valen-
tine in the corner of the looking-glass. He was
conscious of its presence, even when his back was
turned upon it. It was the first time in Boldwood's
life that such an event had occurred. The same
fascination that caused him to think it an act which had
a deliberate motive prevented him from regarding it as
an impertinence. He looked again at the direction.
The mysterious influences of night invested the writing
with the presence of the unknown writer. Somebody's
some woman's -- hand had travelled softly over the
paper bearing his name; her unrevealed eyes had
watched every curve as she formed it; her brain had
seen him in imagination the while. Why should
she have imagined him? Her mouth -- were the lips
red or pale, plump or creased? -- had curved itself to a
certain expression as the pen went on -- the corners had
moved with all their natural tremulousness: what had
been the expression?
The vision of the woman writing, as a supplement to
the words written, had no individuality. She was a
misty shape, and well she might be, considering that
her original was at that moment sound asleep and
oblivious of all love and letter-writing under the sky.
Whenever Boldwood dozed she took a form, and com-
paratively ceased to be a vision: when he awoke there
was the letter justifying the dream.
The moon shone to-night, and its light was not of
a customary kind. His window admitted only a
reflection of its rays, and the pale sheen had that
reversed direction which snow gives, coming upward
and lighting up his ceiling in an unnatural way, casting
shadows in strange places, and putting lights where
shadows had used to be.
The substance of the epistle had occupied him but
little in comparison with the fact of its arrival. He
suddenly wondered if anything more might be found in
the envelope than what he had withdrawn. He jumped
out of bed in the weird light, took the letter, pulled out
the flimsy sheet, shook the envelope -- searched it.
Nothing more was there. Boldwood looked, as he
had a hundred times the preceding day, at the insistent red
seal: "Marry me." he said aloud.
The solemn and reserved yeoman again closed the
letter, and stuck it in the frame of the glass. In doing
so he caught sight of his reflected features, wan in
expression, and insubstantial in form. He saw how
closely compressed was his mouth, and that his eyes
were wide-spread and vacant. Feeling uneasy and dis-
satisfied with himself for this nervous excitability, he
returned to bed.
Then the dawn drew on. The full power of the
clear heaven was not equal to that of a cloudy sky at
noon, when Boldwood arose and dressed himself. He
descended the stairs and went out towards the gate of
a field to the east, leaning over which he paused and
It was one of the usual slow sunrises of this time of