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hear? "
"Yes, miss, yes."
"And you don't believe he is?"
"I don't know what to say, miss." said Liddy, be-
ginning to cry. "If I say No, you don"t believe me;
and if I say Yes, you rage at me!"
"Say you don't believe it -- say you don't!"
"I don't believe him to be so had as they make out."
"He is not had at all.... My poor life and heart,
how weak I am!" she moaned, in a relaxed, desultory
way, heedless of Liddy's presence. "O, how I wish I
had never seen him! Loving is misery for women
always. I shall never forgive God for making me a
woman, and dearly am I beginning to pay for the honour
of owning a pretty face." She freshened and turned to
Liddy suddenly. "Mind this, Lydia Smallbury, if you
repeat anywhere a single word of what l have said to
you inside this closed door, I'll never trust you, or love
you, or have you with me a moment longer -- not a
moment!"
"I don't want to repeat anything." said Liddy, with
womanly dignity of a diminutive order; "but I don't
wish to stay with you. And, if you please, I'll go at the
end of the harvest, or this week, or to-day.... I don't
see that I deserve to be put upon and stormed at for
nothing!" concluded the small woman, bigly.
"No, no, Liddy; you must stay!" said Bathsheba,
dropping from haughtiness to entreaty with capricious
inconsequence. "You must not notice my being in a
taking just now. You are not as a servant -- you are a
companion to me. Dear, dear -- I don't know what I
am doing since this miserable ache o'! my heart has
weighted and worn upon me so! What shall I come
to! I suppose I shall get further and further into
troubles. I wonder sometimes if I am doomed to die
in the Union. I am friendless enough, God knows!"
"I won't notice anything, nor will I leave you!" sobbed
Liddy, impulsively putting up her lips to Bathsheba's,
and kissing her.
Then Bathsheba kissed Liddy, and all was smooth
again.
"I don't often cry, do I, Lidd? but you have made
tears come into my eyes." she said, a smile shining
through the moisture. "Try to think him a good man,
won't you, dear Liddy?"
"I will, miss, indeed."
"He is a sort of steady man in a wild way, you know.
way. I am afraid that's how I am. And promise me
to keep my secret -- do, Liddy! And do not let them
know that I have been crying about him, because it will
be dreadful for me, and no good to him, poor thing!"Death's head himself
shan't wring it from me, mistress,
if I've a mind to keep anything; and I'll always be your
friend." replied Liddy, emphatically, at the same time
bringing a few more tears into her own eyes, not from
any particular necessity, but from an artistic sense of
making herself in keeping with the remainder of the
picture, which seems to influence women at such times.
"I think God likes us to be good friends, don't you?"
"Indeed I do."
"And, dear miss, you won"t harry me and storm at
me, will you? because you seem to swell so tall as a
lion then, and it frightens me! Do you know, I fancy
you would be a match for any man when you are in one
O' your takings."
"Never! do you?" said Bathsheba, slightly laughing,
though somewhat seriously alarmed by this Amazonian
picture of herself. "I hope I am not a bold sort of
maid -- mannish?" she continued with some anxiety.
"O no, not mannish; but so almighty womanish
that 'tis getting on that way sometimes. Ah! miss." she
said, after having drawn her breath very sadly in and
sent it very sadly out, "I wish I had half your failing
that way. 'Tis a great protection to a poor maid in
these illegit'mate days!"

CHAPTER XXXI

BLAME -- FURY

THE next evening Bathsheba, with the idea of getting
out of the way of Mr. Boldwood in the event of his
returning to answer her note in person, proceeded to
fulfil an engagement made with Liddy some few hours
earlier. Bathsheba's companion, as a gage of their
reconciliation, had been granted a week's holiday to
visit her sister, who was married to a thriving hurdler
and cattle-crib-maker living in a delightful labyrinth of
hazel copse not far beyond Yalbury. The arrangement
was that Miss Everdene should honour them by coming
there for a day or two to inspect some ingenious con-
trivances which this man of the woods had introduced
into his wares.
Leaving her instructions with Gabriel and Maryann,
that they were to see everything carefully locked up for
the night, she went out of the house just at the close of
a timely thunder-shower, which had refined the air, and
daintily bathed the coat of the land, though all beneath
was dry as ever. Freshness was exhaled in an essence
from the varied contours of bank and hollow, as if the
earth breathed maiden breath; and the pleased birds
were hymning to the scene. Before her, among the
clouds, there was a contrast in the shape of lairs of
fierce light which showed themselves in the neighbour-
hood of a hidden sun, lingering on to the farthest north-
west corner of the heavens that this midsummer season
allowed.
She had walked nearly two miles of her journey,
watching how the day was retreating, and thinking how
the time of deeds was quietly melting into the time of
thought, to give place in its turn to the time of prayer
and sleep, when she beheld advancing over Yalbury hill
the very man she sought so anxiously to elude. Boldwood
was stepping on, not with that quiet tread of reserved
strength which was his customary gait, in which he
always seemed to be balancing two thoughts. His
manner was stunned and sluggish now.
Boldwood had for the first time been awakened to
woman's privileges in tergiversation even when it involves
another person's possible blight. That Bathsheba was
a firm and positive girl, far less inconsequent than her
fellows, had been the very lung of his hope; for he had
held that these qualities would lead her to adhere to a
straight course for consistency's sake, and accept him,
though her fancy might not flood him with the iridescent
hues of uncritical love. But the argument now came
back as sorry gleams from a broken mirror. The dis-
covery was no less a scourge than a surprise.
He came on looking upon the ground, and did not
see Bathsheba till they were less than a stone's throw
apart. He looked up at the sound of her pit-pat, and
his changed appearance sufficiently denoted to her the
depth and strength of the feelings paralyzed by her
letter.
"Oh; is it you, Mr. Boldwood?" she faltered, a guilty
warmth pulsing in her face.
Those who have the power of reproaching in silence
may find it a means more effective than words. There
are accents in the eye which are not on the tongue, and
more tales come from pale lips than can enter an ear.
It is both the grandeur and the pain of the remoter
moods that they avoid the pathway of sound. Bold-
wood's look was unanswerable.
Seeing she turned a little aside, he said, "What, are
you afraid of me?"
Why should you say that?" said Bathsheba.
"I fancied you looked so." said he. "And it is most
strange, because of its contrast with my feeling for you.
She regained self-possession, fixed her eyes calmly,
and waited.
"You know what that feeling is." continued Boldwood,
deliberately. "A thing strong as death. No dismissal
by a hasty letter affects that."
"I wish you did not feel so strongly about me." she
murmured. "It is generous of you, and more than I
deserve, but I must not hear it now."
"Hear it? What do you think I have to say, then?
I am not to marry you, and that's enough. Your letter
was excellently plain. I want you to hear nothing --
not I."
Bathsheba was unable to direct her will into any
definite groove for freeing herself from this fearfully
and was moving on. Boldwood walked up to her heavily
and dully.
"Bathsheba -- darling -- is it final indeed?"
"Indeed it is."
"O, Bathsheba -- have pity upon me!" Boldwood
burst out. "God's sake, yes -- I am come to that low,
lowest stage -- to ask a woman for pity! Still, she is
you -- she is you."
Bathsheba commanded herself well. But she could
hardly get a clear voice for what came instinctively to
her lips: "There is little honour to the woman in that
speech." It was only whispered, for something unutter-
ably mournful no less than distressing in this spectacle
of a man showing himself to be so entirely the vane of a
passion enervated the feminine instinct for punctilios.
"I am beyond myself about this, and am mad." he
said. "I am no stoic at all to he supplicating here; but
I do supplicate to you. I wish you knew what is in
me of devotion to you; but it is impossible, that. In
bare human mercy to a lonely man, don't throw me off
now!"
"I don't throw you off -- indeed, how can I? I never
had you." In her noon-clear sense that she had never
loved him she forgot for a moment her thoughtless angle
on that day in February.
"But there was a time when you turned to me,
before I thought of you! I don't reproach you, for
even now I feel that the ignorant and cold darkness
that I should have lived in if you had not attracted me
by that letter -- valentine you call it -- would have been
worse than my knowledge of you, though it has brought
this misery. But, I say, there was a time when I knew
nothing of you, and cared nothing for you, and yet you
drew me on. And if you say you gave me no en-
couragement, I cannot but contradict you."
"What you call encouragement was the childish
game of an idle minute. I have bitterly repented of it
-- ay, bitterly, and in tears. Can you still go on re-
minding me?"
"I don't accuse you of it -- I deplore it. I took for
earnest what you insist was jest, and now this that I
pray to be jest you say is awful, wretched earnest. Our
moods meet at wrong places. I wish your feeling was
more like mine, or my feeling more like yours! O,
could I but have foreseen the torture that trifling trick
was going to lead me into, how I should have cursed
you; but only having been able to see it since, I cannot
do that, for I love you too well! But it is weak, idle
drivelling to go on like this.... Bathsheba, you are
the first woman of any shade or nature that I have ever
looked at to love, and it is the having been so near
claiming you for my own that makes this denial so hard
to bear. How nearly you promised me! But I don't
speak now to move your heart, and make you grieve
because of my pain; it is no use, that. I must bear it;
my pain would get no less by paining you."
"But I do pity you -- deeply -- O so deeply!" she
earnestly said.
"Do no such thing -- do no such thing. Your dear
love, Bathsheba, is such a vast thing beside your pity,
that the loss of your pity as well as your love is no great
addition to my sorrow, nor does the gain of your pity
make it sensibly less. O sweet -- how dearly you
spoke to me behind the spear-bed at the washing-pool,
and in the barn at the shearing, and that dearest last
time in the evening at your home! Where are your
pleasant words all gone -- your earnest hope to be able
to love me? Where is your firm conviction that you
would get to care for me very much? Really forgotten?
-- really?"
She checked emotion, looked him quietly and clearly
in the face, and said in her low, firm voice, " Mr. Bold-
wood, I promised you nothing. Would you have had
me a woman of clay when you paid me that furthest,
highest compliment a man can pay a woman -- telling
her he loves her? I was bound to show some feeling,
if l would not be a graceless shrew. Yet each of those
pleasures was just for the day -- the day just for the
pleasure. How was I to know that what is a pastime
to all other men was death to you? Have reason, do,
and think more kindly of me!"
"Well, never mind arguing -- never mind. One
thing is sure: you were all but mine, and now you are
not nearly mine. Everything is changed, and that by
you alone, remember. You were nothing to me once,
and I was contented; you are now nothing to me again,
and how different the second nothing is from the first!
Would to God you had never taken me up, since it was
only to throw me down!"
Bathsheba, in spite of her mettle, began to feel un-
mistakable signs that she was inherently the weaker
vessel. She strove miserably against this feminity
which would insist upon supplying unbidden emotions
in stronger and stronger current. She had tried to
elude agitation by fixing her mind on the trees, sky, any
trivial object before her eyes, whilst his reproaches fell,
but ingenuity could not save her now.
"I did not take you up -- surely I did not!" she
answered as heroically as she could. "But don't be in
this mood with me. I can endure being told I am in
the wrong, if you will only tell it me gently! O sir,
will you not kindly forgive me, and look at it
cheerfully?"
"Cheerfully! Can a man fooled to utter heart-
burning find a reason for being merry> If I have lost,
how can I be as if I had won? Heavens you must be
heartless quite! Had I known what a fearfully bitter
sweet this was to be, how would I have avoided you,
and never seen you, and been deaf of you. I tell you
all this, but what do you care! You don't care."
She returned silent and weak denials to his charges,
and swayed her head desperately, as if to thrust away
the words as they came showering about her ears from
the lips of the trembling man in the climax of life, with
his bronzed Roman face and fine frame.
"Dearest, dearest, I am wavering even now between
the two opposites of recklessly renouncing you, and
labouring humbly for you again. Forget that you have
said No, and let it be as it was! Say, Bathsheba, that
you only wrote that refusal to me in fun -- come, say it
to me!"
"It would be untrue, and painful to both of us. You
overrate my capacity for love. I don't possess half
the warmth of nature you believe me to have. An un-
protected childhood in a cold world has beaten gentle-
ness out of me."
He immediately said with more resentment: "That
may be true, somewhat; but ah, Miss Everdene, it won't
do as a reason! You are not the cold woman you
would have me believe. No, no! It isn't because you
have no feeling in you that you don't love me. You
naturally would have me think so -- you would hide from
that you have a burning heart like mine. You have
love enough, but it is turned into a new channel. I
know where."
The swift music of her heart became hubbub now,
and she throbbed to extremity. He was coming to
Troy. He did then know what had occurred! And
the name fell from his lips the next moment.
"Why did Troy not leave my treasure alone?" he
asked, fiercely. "When I had no thought of injuring
him, why did he force himself upon your notice!
Before he worried you your inclination was to have me;
when next I should have come to you your answer
would have been Yes. Can you deny it -- I ask, can
you deny it?"
She delayed the reply, but was to honest to with
hold it." I cannot." she whispered.
"I know you cannot. But he stole in in my absence
and robbed me. Why did't he win you away before,
when nobody would have been grieved? -- when nobody
would have been set tale-bearing. Now the people
sneer at me -- the very hills and sky seem to laugh at
me till I blush shamefuly for my folly. I have lost my
respect, my good name, my standing -- lost it, never to
get it again. Go and marry your man -- go on!"
"O sir -- Mr. Boldwood!"
"You may as well. I have no further claim upon you.
As for me, I had better go somewhere alone, and hide --
and pray. I loved a woman once. I am now ashamed.
When I am dead they'll say, Miserable love-sick man
that he was. Heaven -- heaven -- if I had got jilted
secretly, and the dishonour not known, and my position
kept! But no matter, it is gone, and the woman not
gained. Shame upon him -- shame!"
His unreasonable anger terrified her, and she glided
from him, without obviously moving, as she said, "I am
only a girl -- do not speak to me so!"
"All the time you knew -- how very well you knew --
that your new freak was my misery. Dazzled by brass
and scarlet -- O, Bathsheba -- this is woman's folly
indeed!"
She fired up at once. "You are taking too much
upon yourself!" she said, vehemently. "Everybody is
upon me -- everybody. It is unmanly to attack a
woman so! I have nobody in the world to fight my
battles for me; but no mercy is shown. Yet if a
thousand of you sneer and say things against me, I WILL
NOT be put down!"
"You'll chatter with him doubtless about me. Say to
him, "Boldwood would have died for me." Yes, and
you have given way to him, knowing him to be not the
man for you. He has kissed you -- claimed you as his.
Do you hear -- he has kissed you. Deny it!"
The most tragic woman is cowed by a tragic man,
and although Boldwood was, in vehemence and glow,
nearly her own self rendered into another sex,
Bathsheba's cheek quivered. She gasped," Leave me,
sir -- leave me! I am nothing to you. Let me go on!"
"Deny that he has kissed you."
"I shall not."
"Ha -- then he has!" came hoarsely from the farmer.
"He has," she said, slowly, and, in spite of her fear,
defiantly. "I am not ashamed to speak the truth."
"Then curse him; and curse him!" said Boldwood,
breaking into a whispered fury." Whilst I would have
given worlds to touch your hand, you have let a rake come
in without right or ceremony and -- kiss you! Heaven's
mercy -- kiss you! ... Ah, a time of his life shall come
when he will have to repent, and think wretchedly of
the pain he has caused another man; and then may he
ache, and wish, and curse, and yearn -- as I do now!"
"Don't, don't, O, don't pray down evil upon him!"
she implored in a miserable cry. "Anything but that --
anything. O, be kind to him, sir, for I love him true ."
Boldwood's ideas had reached that point of fusion at
which outline and consistency entirely disappear. The
impending night appeared to concentrate in his eye.
He did not hear her at all now.
"I'll punish him -- by my soul, that will I! I'll meet
him, soldier or no, and I'll horsewhip the untimely
stripling for this reckless theft of my one delight. If he
were a hundred men I'd horsewhip him -- --" He
dropped his voice suddenly and unnaturally. "Bath-
sheba, sweet, lost coquette, pardon me! I've been
blaming you, threatening you, behaving like a churl to
you, when he's the greatest sinner. He stole your dear
heart away with his unfathomable lies! ... lt is a
fortunate thing for him that he's gone back to his
regiment -- that he's away up the country, and not here!
I hope he may not return here just yet. I pray God
he may not come into my sight, for I may be tempted
beyond myself. O, Bathsheba, keep him away -- yes,
keep him away from me!"
For a moment Boldwood stood so inertly after this
that his soul seemed to have been entirely exhaled with
the breath of his passionate words. He turned his face
away, and withdrew, and his form was soon covered over
by the twilight as his footsteps mixed in with the low
hiss of the leafy trees.
Bathsheba, who had been standing motionless as a
model all this latter time, flung her hands to her face,
and wildly attempted to ponder on the exhibition which
had just passed away. Such astounding wells of fevered
feeling in a still man like Mr. Boldwood were incompre-
hensible, dreadful. Instead of being a man trained to
repression he was -- what she had seen him.
The force of the farmer's threats lay in their relation to a
circumstance known at present only to herself: her lover was
coming back to Weatherby in the course of the very next
day or two. Troy had not returned to his distant barracks as
Boldwood and others supposed, but had merely gone to visit
some acquaintance in Bath, and had yet a week or more
remaining to his furlough.
She felt wretchedly certain that if he revisited her just at
this nick of time, and came into contact with Boldwood,a
fierce quarrel would be the consequence. She panted with
solicitude when she thought of possible injury to Troy. The
least spark would kindle the farmer's swift feelings of rage
and jealousy; he would lose his self-mastery as he had this
evening; Troy's blitheness might become aggressive; it might
take the direction of derision, and Boldwood's anger might
then take the direction of revenge.
With almost a morbid dread of being thought a gushing
girl, this guileless woman too well concealed from the world
under a manner of carelessness the warm depths of her strong
emotions. But now there was no reserve. In fer
her distraction, instead of advancing further she
walked up and down, beating
the air with her fingers, pressing on her brow, and sobbing
brokenly to herself. Then she sat down on a heap of stones by
the wayside to think. There she remained long. Above the
dark margin of the earth appeared foreshores and promontor-
ies of coppery cloud,bounding a green and pellucid expanse
in the western sky. Amaranthine glosses came over them then,
and the unresting world wheeled her round to a contrasting
prospect eastward, in the shape of indecisive and palpitating
stars. She gazed upon their silent throes amid the shades of
space, but realised none at all. Her troubled spirit was far
away with Troy.

CHAPTER XXXII

NIGHT -- HORSES TRAMPING

THE village of Weatherbury was quiet as the graveyard
in its midst, and the living were lying well nigh as still
as the dead. The church clock struck eleven. The
air was so empty of other sounds that the whirr of the
clock-work immediately before the strokes was distinct,
and so was also the click of the same at their close.
The notes flew forth with the usual blind obtuseness
of inanimate things -- flapping and rebounding among
walls, undulating against the scattered clouds, spreading
through their interstices into unexplored miles of space.
Bathsheba's crannied and mouldy halls were to-night
occupied only by Maryann, Liddy being, as was stated,
with her sister, whom Bathsheba had set out to visit.
A few minutes after eleven had struck, Maryann turned
in her bed with a sense of being disturbed. She was
totally unconscious of the nature of the interruption to
her sleep. It led to a dream, and the dream to an
awakening, with an uneasy sensation that something
had happened. She left her bed and looked out of
the window. The paddock abutted on this end of the
building, and in the paddock she could just discern by
the uncertain gray a moving figure approaching the
horse that was feeding there. The figure seized the
horse by the forelock, and led it to the corner of the
field. Here she could see some object which circum-
stances proved to be a vehicle for after a few minutes
the horse down the road, mingled with the sound of
light wheels.
Two varieties only of humanity could have entered
the paddock with the ghostlike glide of that mysterious
figure. They were a woman and a gipsy man. A woman
was out of the question in such an occupation at this
hour, and the comer could be no less than a thief, who
might probably have known the weakness of the house-
hold on this particular night, and have chosen it on
that account for his daring attempt. Moreover, to
raise suspicion to conviction itself, there were gipsies in!
Weatherbury Bottom.
Maryann, who had been afraid to shout in the robber's
presence, having seen him depart had no fear. She
hastily slipped on her clothes, stumped down the dis-
jointed staircase with its hundred creaks, ran to Coggan's,
the nearest house, and raised an alarm. Coggan called
Gabriel, who now again lodged in his house as at first,
and together they went to the paddock. Beyond all
doubt the horse was gone.
"Hark!" said Gabriel.
They listened. Distinct upon the stagnant air came
the sounds of a trotting horse passing up Longpuddle
Lane -- just beyond the gipsies' encampment in Weather-
bury Bottom.
"That's our Dainty-i'll swear to her step." said Jan.
"Mighty me! Won't mis'ess storm and call us stupids
wen she comes back!" moaned Maryann. "How I
wish it had happened when she was at home, and none
of us had been answerable!"
"We must ride after." said Gabriel, decisively.
be responsible to Miss Everdene for what we do. Yes,
we'll follow. "
"Faith, I don't see how." said Coggan. "All our
horses are too heavy for that trick except little Poppet,
and what's she between two of us?-if we only had that
pair over the hedge we might do something."
"Which pair?"
"Mr Boldwood's Tidy and Moll."
"Then wait here till I come hither again." said Gabriel.
He ran down the hill towards Farmer Boldwood's.
"Farmer Boldwood is not at home." said Maryann.
"All the better." said Coggan. "I know what he's
gone for."
Less than five minutes brought up Oak again, running
at the same pace, with two halters dangling from his hand.
"Where did you find 'em?" said Coggan, turning
round and leaping upon the hedge without waiting for
an answer.
"Under the eaves. I knew where they were kept,"
said Gabriel, following him. "Coggan, you can ride
bare-backed? there's no time to look for saddles."
"Like a hero!" said Jan.
"Maryann, you go to hed." Gabriel shouted to her
from the top of the hedge.
Springing down into Boldwood's pastures, each
pocketed his halter to hide it from the horses, who,
seeing the men empty-handed, docilely allowed them-
selves to he seized by the mane, when the halters
were dexterously slipped on. Having neither bit nor
bridle, Oak and Coggan extemporized the former by
passing the rope in each case through the animal's
mouth and looping it on the other side. Oak vaulted
astride, and Coggan clambered up by aid of the hank,
when they ascended to the gate and galloped off in the
direction taken by Bathsheha's horse and the robber.
Whose vehicle the horse had been harnessed to was a
matter of some uncertainty.
Weatherbury Bottom was reached in three or four
minutes. They scanned the shady green patch by the
roadside. The gipsies were gone.
"The villains!" said Gabriel. "Which way have they
gone, I wonder?"
"Straight on, as sure as God made little apples,"
said Jan.
"Very well; we are better mounted, and must over-
discovered. The road-metal grew softer and more
rain had wetted its surface to a somewhat plastic, but
not muddy state. They came to cross-roads. Coggan
suddenly pulled up Moll and slipped off.
"What's the matter?" said Gabriel.
"We must try to track 'em, since we can't hear 'em,"
said Jan, fumbling in his pockets. He struck a light,
and held the match to the ground. The rain had been
heavier here, and all foot and horse tracks made previous
to the storm had been abraded and blurred by the drops,
and they were now so many little scoops of water, which
reflected the flame of the match like eyes. One set of
tracks was fresh and had no water in them; one pair of
ruts was also empty, and not small canals, like the others.
The footprints forming this recent impression were full
of information as to pace; they were in equidistant pairs,
three or four feet apart, the right and left foot of each
pair being exactly opposite one another.
"Straight on!" Jan exclaimed. "Tracks like that
mean a stiff gallop. No wonder we don't hear him.
And the horse is harnessed -- look at the ruts. Ay,
"How do you know?"
"Old Jimmy Harris only shoed her last week, and
I'd swear to his make among ten thousand."
"The rest of the gipsies must ha" gone on earlier,
or some other way." said Oak. "You saw there were
no other tracks?"
"True." They rode along silently for a long weary
time. Coggan carried an old pinchbeck repeater which
he had inherited from some genius in his family; and
it now struck one. He lighted another match, and ex-
amined the ground again.
"'Tis a canter now." he said, throwing away the light.
"A twisty, rickety pace for a gig. The fact is, they over-
drove her at starting, we shall catch 'em yet."
Again they hastened on, and entered Blackmore
Vale. Coggan's watch struck one. When they looked
again the hoof-marks were so spaced as to form a sort
of zigzag if united, like the lamps along a street.
"That's a trot, I know." said Gabriel.
"Only a trot now." said Coggan, cheerfully. "We
shall overtake him in time."
They pushed rapidly on for yet two or three miles.
"Ah! a moment." said Jan. "Let's see how she was
driven up this hill. "Twill help us." A light was
promptly struck upon his gaiters as before, and the ex-
amination made,
"Hurrah!" said Coggan. "She walked up here --
and well she might. We shall get them in two miles,
for a crown."
They rode three, and listened. No sound was to be
heard save a millpond trickling hoarsely through a
hatch, and suggesting gloomy possibilities of drowning
by jumping in. Gabriel dismounted when they came
to a turning. The tracks were absolutely the only guide
as to the direction that they now had, and great caution
was necessary to avoid confusing them with some others
which had made their appearance lately.
"What does this mean? -- though I guess." said
Gabriel, looking up at Coggan as he moved the match
over the ground about the turning. Coggan, who, no
less than the panting horses, had latterly shown signs
of weariness, again scrutinized the mystic characters.
This time only three were of the regular horseshoe
shape. Every fourth was a dot.
He screwed up his face and emitted a long
"Whew-w-w!"
"Lame." said Oak.
"Yes Dainty is lamed; the near-foot-afore." said
Coggan slowly staring still at the footprints.
"We'll push on." said Gabriel, remounting his humid
steed.
Although the road along its greater part had been as
good as any turnpike-road in the country, it was nomin-
ally only a byway. The last turning had brought them
into the high road leading to Bath. Coggan recollected
himself.
"We shall have him now!" he exclaimed.
"Where?"
"Sherton Turnpike. The keeper of that gate is the
sleepiest man between here and London -- Dan Randall.
that's his name -- knowed en for years, when he was at
Casterbridge gate. Between the lameness and the gate
'tis a done job."
'Twas said until, against a shady background of foliage,
five white bars were visible, crossing their route a little
way ahead.
"Hush -- we are almost close!" said Gabriel.
"Amble on upon the grass." said Coggan.
The white bars were blotted out in the midst by a
dark shape in front of them. The silence of this lonely
time was pierced by an exclamation from that quarter.
"Hoy-a-hoy! Gate!"
It appeared that there had been a previous call which
they had not noticed, for on their close approach the
door of the turnpike-house opened, and the keeper
came out half-dressed, with a candle in his hand. The
rays illumined the whole group.
"Keep the gate close!" shouted Gabriel. "He has
stolen the horse!"
Who?" said the turnpike-man.
Gabriel looked at the driver of the gig, and saw a
woman -- Bathsheba, his mistress.
On hearing his voice she had turned her face away
from the light. Coggan had, however, caught sight of
her in the meanwhile.
"Why, 'tis mistress-i'll take my oath!" he said,
amazed.
Bathsheba it certainly was, and she had by this time
done the trick she could do so well in crises not of love,
namely, mask a surprise by coolness of manner.
"Well, Gabriel." she inquired quietly," where are you
going?"
"We thought -- --" began Gabriel.
"Bath." she said, taking for her own
use the assurance that Gabriel lacked. "An important
matter made it necessary for me to give up my visit to
liddy, and go off at once. What, then, were you
following me?"
"We thought the horse was stole."
"Well-what a thing! How very foolish of you not
to know that I had taken the trap and horse. I could
neither wake Maryann nor get into the house, though
I hammered for ten minutes against her window-sill.
Fortunately, I could get the key of the coach-house, so
I troubled no one further. Didn't you think it might
be me?"
"Why should we, miss?"
"Perhaps not Why, those are never Farmer Bold-
wood's horses! Goodness mercy! what have you been
doing bringing trouble upon me in this way? What!
mustn't a lady move an inch from her door without being
dogged like a thief?"
"But how was we to know, if you left no account of
your doings?" expostulated Coggan, "and ladies don't
drive at these hours, miss, as a jineral rule of society."
"I did leave an account -- and you would have seen
it in the morning. I wrote in chalk on the coach-house
doors that I had come back for the horse and gig, and
driven off; that I could arouse nobody, and should
return soon."
"But you'll consider, ma'am, that we couldn't see
that till it got daylight."
"True." she said, and though vexed at first she had
too much sense to blame them long or seriously for a
devotion to her that was as valuable as it was rare.
She added with a very pretty grace," Well, I really thank
you heartily for taking all this trouble; but I wish you
had borrowed anybody's horses but Mr. Boldwood's."
"Dainty is lame, miss." said Coggan. "Can ye go
on?"
"lt was only a stone in her shoe. I got down and
pulled it out a hundred yards back. I can manage
very well, thank you. I shall be in Bath by daylight.
Will you now return, please?"
She turned her head -- the gateman's candle
shimmering upon her quick, clear eyes as she did so --
passed through the gate, and was soon wrapped in the
embowering shades of mysterious summer boughs.
Coggan and Gabriel put about their horses, and, fanned
by the velvety air of this July night, retraced the road
by which they had come.
"A strange vagary, this of hers, isn't it, Oak?" said
Coggan, curiously.
"Yes." said Gabriel, shortly.
"She won't be in Bath by no daylight!"
"Coggan, suppose we keep this night's work as quiet
as we can?"
"I am of one and the same mind."
"Very well. We shall be home by three o'clock or
so, and can creep into the parish like lambs."
Bathsheba's perturbed meditations by the roadside
had ultimately evolved a conclusion that there were only
two remedies for the present desperate state of affairs.
The first was merely to keep Troy away from Weather-
bury till Boldwood's indignation had cooled; the second
to listen to Oak's entreaties, and Boldwood's denuncia-
tions, and give up Troy altogether.
Alas! Could she give up this new love -- induce
him to renounce her by saying she did not like him --
could no more speak to him, and beg him, for her good,
to end his furlough in Bath, and see her and Weather-
bury no more?
It was a picture full of misery, but for a while she
contemplated it firmly, allowing herself, nevertheless,
as girls will, to dwell upon the happy life she would
have enjoyed had Troy been Boldwood, and the path
of love the path of duty -- inflicting upon herself gratuit-
ous tortures by imagining him the lover of another
woman after forgetting her; for she had penetrated
Troy's nature so far as to estimate his tendencies pretty
accurately, hut unfortunately loved him no less in
thinking that he might soon cease to love her -- indeed,
considerably more.
She jumped to her feet. She would see him at once.
Yes, she would implore him by word of mouth to assist
her in this dilemma. A letter to keep him away could
not reach him in time, even if he should be disposed to
listen to it.
Was Bathsheba altogether blind to the obvious fact
that the support of a lover's arms is not of a kind best
calculated to assist a resolve to renounce him? Or was
she sophistically sensible, with a thrill of pleasure, that
by adopting this course for getting rid of him she was
ensuring a meeting with him, at any rate, once more?
It was now dark, and the hour must have been nearly
ten. The only way to accomplish her purpose was to
give up her idea of visiting Liddy at Yalbury, return to
Weatherbury Farm, put the horse into the gig, and drive
at once to Bath. The scheme seemed at first impossible:
the journey was a fearfully heavy one, even for a strong
horse, at her own estimate; and she much underrated
the distance. It was most venturesome for a woman,
at night, and alone.
But could she go on to Liddy's and leave things to
take their course? No, no; anything but that. Bath-
sheba was full of a stimulating turbulence, beside which
caution vainly prayed for a hearing. she turned back
towards the village.
Her walk was slow, for she wished not to enter
Weatherbury till the cottagers were in bed, and, par-
ticularly, till Boldwood was secure. Her plan was now
to drive to Bath during the night, see Sergeant Troy in
the morning before he set out to come to her, bid him
farewell, and dismiss him: then to rest the horse
thoroughly (herself to weep the while, she thought),
starting early the next morning on her return journey.
By this arrangement she could trot Dainty gently all
the day, reach Liddy at Yalbury in the evening, and
come home to Weatherbury with her whenever they
chose -- so nobody would know she had been to Bath
at all.
Such was Bathsheba's scheme. But in her topo-
graphical ignorance as a late comer to the place, she
misreckoned the distance of her journey as not much
more than half what it really was. Her idea, however,
she proceeded to carry out, with what initial success we
have already seen.

CHAPTER XXXIII

IN THE SUN -- A HARBINGER

A WEEK passed, and there were no tidings of Bath-
sheba; nor was there any explanation of her Gilpin's
rig.
Then a note came for Maryann, stating that the
business which had called her mistress to Bath still
detained her there; but that she hoped to return
in the course of another week.
Another week passed. The oat-harvest began, and
all the men were a-field under a monochromatic Lammas
sky, amid the trembling air and short shadows of noon.
Indoors nothing was to be heard save the droning of
blue-bottle flies; out-of-doors the whetting of scythes
and the hiss of tressy oat-ears rubbing together as their
perpendicular stalks of amber-yellow fell heavily to each
swath. Every drop of moisture not in the men's bottles
and flagons in the form of cider was raining as perspira-
tion from their foreheads and cheeks. Drought was
everywhere else.
They were about to withdraw for a while into the
charitable shade of a tree in the fence, when Coggan
saw a figure in a blue coat and brass buttons running
to them across the field.
"I wonder who that is?" he said.
"I hope nothing is wrong about mistress." said
Maryann, who with some other women was tying the
bundles (oats being always sheafed on this farm), "but
an unlucky token came to me indoors this morning.
l went to unlock the door and dropped the key, and it
fell upon the stone floor and broke into two pieces.
Breaking a key is a dreadful bodement. I wish mis'ess
was home."
"'Tis Cain Ball." said Gabriel, pausing from whetting
his reaphook.
Oak was not bound by his agreement to assist in the
corn-field; but the harvest month is an anxious time for
a farmer, and the corn was Bathsheba's, so he lent a
hand.
"He's dressed up in his best clothes." said Matthew
Moon. "He hev been away from home for a few days,
since he's had that felon upon his finger; for 'a said,
since I can't work I'll have a hollerday."
"A good time for one -- a excellent time." said Joseph
Poorgrass, straightening his back; for he, like some of
the others, had a way of resting a while from his labour
on such hot days for reasons preternaturally small; of
which Cain Pall's advent on a week-day in his Sunday-
clothes was one of the first magnitude. "Twas a bad leg
allowed me to read the Pilgrim's Progress, and Mark
Clark learnt AliFours in a whitlow."
"Ay, and my father put his arm out of joint to have
time to go courting." said Jan Coggan, in an eclipsing
tone, wiping his face with his shirt-sleeve and thrusting
back his hat upon the nape of his neck.
By this time Cainy was nearing the group of harvesters,
and was perceived to be carrying a large slice of bread
and ham in one hand, from which he took mouthfuls
as he ran, the other being wrapped in a bandage.
When he came close, his mouth assumed the bell shape,
and he began to cough violently.
"Now, Cainy!" said Gabriel, sternly. "How many
more times must I tell you to keep from running so fast
when you be eating? You'll choke yourself some day,
that's what you'll do, Cain Ball."
"Hok-hok-hok!" replied Cain. "A crumb of my
victuals went the wrong way -- hok-hok!, That's what
'tis, Mister Oak! And I've been visiting to Bath
because I had a felon on my thumb; yes, and l've
seen -- ahok-hok!"
Directly Cain mentioned Bath, they all threw down
their hooks and forks and drew round him. Un-
fortunately the erratic crumb did not improve his
narrative powers, and a supplementary hindrance was
that of a sneeze, jerking from his pocket his rather large
watch, which dangled in front of the young man
pendulum-wise.
"Yes." he continued, directing his thoughts to Bath
and letting his eyes follow, "l've seed the world at last
-- yes -- and I've seed our mis'ess -- ahok-hok-hok!"
"Bother the boy!" said Gabriel." Something is
always going the wrong way down your throat, so that
you can't tell what's necessary to be told."
"Ahok! there! Please, Mister Oak, a gnat have
just fleed into my stomach and brought the cough on
again!"
"Yes, that's just it. Your mouth is always open, you
young rascal!"
"'Tis terrible bad to have a gnat fly down yer throat,
pore boy!" said Matthew Moon.
"Well, at Bath you saw -- --" prompted Gabriel.
"I saw our mistress." continued the junior shepherd,
"and a sojer, walking along. And bymeby they got
closer and closer, and then they went arm-in-crook, like
courting complete -- hok-hok! like courting complete --
hok! -- courting complete -- -- " Losing the thread of his
narrative at this point simultaneously with his loss of
breath, their informant looked up and down the field
apparently for some clue to it. "Well, I see our mis'ess
and a soldier -- a-ha-a-wk!"
"Damn the boy!" said Gabriel.
"'Tis only my manner, Mister Oak, if ye'll excuse it,"
said Cain Ball, looking reproachfully at Oak, with eyes
drenched in their own dew.
!Here's some cider for him -- that'll cure his throat,"
said Jan Coggan, lifting a flagon of cider, pulling out
the cork, and applying the hole to Cainy's mouth;
Joseph Poorgrass in the meantime beginning to think
apprehensively of the serious consequences that would
follow Cainy Ball's strangulation in his cough, and the
history of his Bath adventures dying with him.
"For my poor self, I always say "please God" afore
I do anything." said Joseph, in an unboastful voice; "and
so should you, Cain Ball. "'Tis a great safeguard, and
might perhaps save you from being choked to death
some day."
Mr. Coggan poured the liquor with unstinted liber-
ality at the suffering Cain's circular mouth; half of it
running down the side of the flagon, and half of what
reached his mouth running down outside his throat,
and half of what ran in going the wrong way, and being
coughed and sneezed around the persons of the gathered
reapers in the form of a cider fog, which for a moment
hung in the sunny air like a small exhalation.
"There's a great clumsy sneeze! Why can't ye have
better manners, you young dog!" said Coggan, with-
drawing the flagon.
"The cider went up my nose!" cried Cainy, as soon
as he could speak; "and now 'tis gone down my neck,
and into my poor dumb felon, and over my shiny
buttons and all my best cloze!"
"The poor lad's cough is terrible unfortunate." said
Matthew Moon. "And a great history on hand, too.
Bump his back, shepherd."
"'Tis my nater." mourned Cain. "Mother says I
always was so excitable when my feelings were worked
up to a point!"
"True, true." said Joseph Poorgrass. "The Balls
were always a very excitable family. I knowed the
boy's grandfather -- a truly nervous and modest man,
even to genteel refinery. 'Twas blush, blush with him,
almost as much as 'tis with me -- not but that 'tis a
fault in me!"
"Not at all, Master Poorgrass." said Coggan. "'Tis
a very noble quality in ye."
"Heh-heh! well, I wish to noise nothing abroad --
nothing at all." murmured Poorgrass, diffidently. "But
we be born to things -- that's true. Yet I would rather
my trifle were hid; though, perhaps, a high nater is a
little high, and at my birth all things were possible to
my Maker, and he may have begrudged no gifts....
But under your bushel, Joseph! under your bushel with
"ee! A strange desire, neighbours, this desire to hide,
and no praise due. Yet there is a Sermon on the
Mount with a calendar of the blessed at the head, and
certain meek men may be named therein."
"Cainy's grandfather was a very clever man." said
Matthew Moon. "Invented a' apple-tree out of his own
head, which is called by his name to this day -- the Early
Ball. You know 'em, Jan? A Quarrenden grafted on
a Tom Putt, and a Rathe-ripe upon top o' that again.
"'Tis trew 'a used to bide about in a public-house wi' a
woman in a way he had no business to by rights, but
there -- 'a were a clever man in the sense of the term."
"Now then." said Gabriel, impatiently, " what did you
see, Cain?"
"I seed our mis'ess go into a sort of a park place,
where there's seats, and shrubs and flowers, arm-in-crook
with a sojer." continued Cainy, firmly, and with a dim
sense that his words were very effective as regarded
Gabriel's emotions. "And I think the sojer was
Sergeant Troy. And they sat there together for more
than half-an-hour, talking moving things, and she once
was crying a'most to death. And when they came out
her eyes were shining and she was as white as a lily;
and they looked into one another's faces, as far-gone
friendly as a man and woman can be."
Gabriel's features seemed to get thinner. "Well,
what did you see besides?"
"Oh, all sorts."
"White as a lily? You are sure 'twas she?
"Yes."
"Well, what besides?"
"Great glass windows to the shops, and great clouds
in the sky, full of rain, and old wooden trees in the
country round."
"You stun-poll! What will ye say next?" said
Coggan.
"Let en alone." interposed Joseph Poorgrass. "The
boy's meaning is that the sky and the earth in the
kingdom of Bath is not altogether different from ours
here. 'Tis for our good to gain knowledge of strange
cities, and as such the boy's words should be suffered,
so to speak it."
"And the people of Bath." continued Cain, "never
need to light their fires except as a luxury, for the
water springs up out of the earth ready boiled for
use."
"'Tis true as the light." testified Matthew Moon." I've
heard other navigators say the same thing."
"They drink nothing else there." said Cain," and seem
to enjoy it, to see how they swaller it down."
"Well, it seems a barbarian practice enough to us,
but I daresay the natives think nothing o' it." said
Matthew.
"And don't victuals spring up as well as drink?"
asked Coggan, twirling his eye.
"No-i own to a blot there in Bath -- a true blot.
God didn't provide 'em with victuals as well as (-
and 'twas a drawback I couldn't get over at all."
"Well, 'tis a curious place, to say the least." observed
Moon; "and it must be a curious people that live
therein. "
"Miss Everdene and the soldier were walking about
together, you say?" said Gabriel, returning to the
group.
"Ay, and she wore a beautiful gold-colour silk
gown, trimmed with black lace, that would have stood
alone 'ithout legs inside if required. 'Twas a very
winsome sight; and her hair was brushed splendid.
And when the sun shone upon the bright gown and his
red coat -- my! how handsome they looked. You
could see 'em all the length of the street."
"And what then?" murmured Gabriel.
"And then I went into Griffin's to hae my boots
hobbed, and then I went to Riggs's batty-cake shop,
and asked 'em for a penneth of the cheapest and nicest
stales, that were all but blue-mouldy, but not quite.
And whilst I was chawing 'em down I walked on and
seed a clock with a face as big as a baking trendle -- -- "
"But that's nothing to do with mistress!"
"I'm coming to that, if you'll leave me alone, Mister
Oak!" remonstrated Cainy. "If you excites me,
perhaps you'll bring on my cough, and then I shan't be
able to tell ye nothing."
"Yes-let him tell it his own way." said Coggan.
Gabriel settled into a despairing attitude of patience,
and Cainy went on: --
"And there were great large houses, and more
people all the week long than at Weatherbury club-
walking on White Tuesdays. And I went to grand
churches and chapels. And how the parson would pray!
Yes; he would kneel down and put up his hands
together, and make the holy gold rings on his fingers
gleam and twinkle in yer eyes, that he'd earned
by praying so excellent well! -- Ah yes, I wish I lived
there."
"Our poor Parson Thirdly can't get no money to
buy such rings." said Matthew Moon, thoughtfully.
"And as good a man as ever walked. I don't believe
poor Thirdly have a single one, even of humblest tin or
copper. Such a great ornament as they'd be to him on
a dull afternoon, when he's up in the pulpit lighted by
the wax candles! But 'tis impossible, poor man. Ah,
to think how unequal things be."
"Perhaps he's made of different stuff than to wear
"em." said Gabriel, grimly." Well, that's enough of this.
Go on, Cainy -- quick."
"Oh -- and the new style of parsons wear moustaches
and long beards." continued the illustrious traveller,
"and look like Moses and Aaron complete, and make
we fokes in the congregation feel all over like the
children of Israel."
"A very right feeling -- very." said Joseph Poorgrass.
"And there's two religions going on in the nation
now -- High Church and High Chapel. And, thinks I,
I'll play fair; so I went to High Church in the morning,
and High Chapel in the afternoon."
"A right and proper boy." said Joseph Poorgrass.
"Well, at High Church they pray singing, and worship
all the colours of the rainbow; and at High Chapel they
pray preaching, and worship drab and whitewash only.
And then-i didn't see no more of Miss Everdene at
all."
"Why didn't you say so afore, then?" exclaimed Oak,
with much disappointment.
"Ah." said Matthew Moon, 'she'll wish her cake
dough if so be she's over intimate with that man."
"She's not over intimate with him." said Gabriel,
indignantly.
"She would know better." said Coggan. "Our
mis'ess has too much sense under they knots of black
hair to do such a mad thing."
"You see, he's not a coarse, ignorant man, for he
was well brought up." said Matthew, dubiously. "'Twas
only wildness that made him a soldier, and maids rather
like your man of sin."
"Now, Cain Ball." said Gabriel restlessly, "can you
swear in the most awful form that the woman you saw
was Miss Everdene?"
"Cain Ball, you be no longer a babe and suckling,"
said Joseph in the sepulchral tone the circumstances
demanded, "and you know what taking an oath is.
'Tis a horrible testament mind ye, which you say and
seal with your blood-stone, and the prophet Matthew
tells us that on whomsoever it shall fall it will grind
him to powder. Now, before all the work-folk here
assembled, can you swear to your words as the shep-
herd asks ye?"
"Please no, Mister Oak!" said Cainy, looking from
one to the other with great uneasiness at the spiritual
magnitude of the position. "I don't mind saying 'tis
true, but I don't like to say 'tis damn true, if that's
what you mane."
"Cain, Cain, how can you!" asked Joseph sternly.
"You be asked to swear in a holy manner, and you
swear like wicked Shimei, the son of Gera, who cursed
as he came. Young man, fie!"
"No, I don't! 'Tis you want to squander a pore
boy's soul, Joseph Poorgrass -- that's what 'tis!" said
Cain, beginning to cry. "All I mane is that in common
truth 'twas Miss Everdene and Sergeant Troy, but in
the horrible so-help-me truth that ye want to make of
it perhaps 'twas somebody else!"
"There's no getting at the rights of it." said Gabriel,
turning to his work.
"Cain Ball, you'll come to a bit of bread!" groaned
Joseph Poorgrass.
Then the reapers' hooks were flourished again, and
the old sounds went on. Gabriel, without making any
pretence of being lively, did nothing to show that he
was particularly dull. However, Coggan knew pretty
nearly how the land lay, and when they were in a nook
together he said --
"Don't take on about her, Gabriel. What difference
does it make whose sweetheart she is, since she can't be
yours?"
"That's the very thing I say to myself." said Gabriel.

CHAPTER XXXIV

HOME AGAIN -- A TRICKSTER

THAT same evening at dusk Gabriel was leaning over
Coggan's garden-gate, taking an up-and-down survey
before retiring to rest.
A vehicle of some kind was softly creeping along
the grassy margin of the lane. From it spread the
tones of two women talking. The tones were natural
and not at all suppressed. Oak instantly knew the
voices to he those of Bathsheba and Liddy.
The carriage came opposite and passed by. It was
Miss Everdene's gig, and Liddy and her mistress were
the only occupants of the seat. Liddy was asking
questions about the city of Bath, and her companion
was answering them listlessly and unconcernedly. Both
Bathsheba and the horse seemed weary.
The exquisite relief of finding that she was here
again, safe and sound, overpowered all reflection, and
Oak could only luxuriate in the sense of it. All grave
reports were forgotten.
He lingered and lingered on, till there was no
difference between the eastern and western expanses
of sky, and the timid hares began to limp courageously
round the dim hillocks. Gabriel might have been
there an additional half-hour when a dark form walked
slowly by. "Good-night, Gabriel." the passer said.
It was Boldwood. "Good-night, sir." said Gabriel.
Boldwood likewise vanished up the road, and Oak
shortly afterwards turned indoors to bed.
Farmer Boldwood went on towards Miss Everdene's
house. He reached the front, and approaching the
entrance, saw a light in the parlour. The blind was
not drawn down, and inside the room was Bathsheba,
looking over some papers or letters. Her back was
towards Boldwood. He went to the door, knocked,
and waited with tense muscles and an aching brow.
Boldwood had not been outside his garden since
his meeting with Bathsheba in the road to Yalbury.
Silent and alone, he had remained in moody medita-
tion on woman's ways, deeming as essentials of the
whole sex the accidents of the single one of their
number he had ever closely beheld. By degrees a
more charitable temper had pervaded him, and this
was the reason of his sally to-night. He had come to
apologize and beg forgiveness of Bathsheba with some-
thing like a sense of shame at his violence, having but
just now learnt that she had returned -- only from a
visit to Liddy, as he supposed, the Bath escapade
being quite unknown to him.
He inquired for Miss Everdene. Liddy's manner
was odd, but he did not notice it. She went in, leaving
him standing there, and in her absence the blind of the
room containing Bathsheba was pulled down. Bold-
wood augured ill from that sign. Liddy came out.
"My mistress cannot see you, sir." she said.
The farmer instantly went out by the gate. He
as unforgiven -- that was the issue of it all. He had
seen her who was to him simultaneously a delight and
a torture, sitting in the room he had shared with her
as a peculiarly privileged guest only a little earlier in
he summer, and she had denied him an entrance
there now.
Boldwood did not hurry homeward. It was ten
o'clock at least, when, walking deliberately through the
lower part of Weatherbury, he heard the carrier's spring
van entering the village. The van ran to and from a
town in a northern direction, and it was owned and
driven by a Weatherbury man, at the door of whose
house it now pulled up. The lamp fixed to the head
of the hood illuminated a scarlet and gilded form, who
was the first to alight.
"Ah!" said Boldwood to himself, "come to see her
again."
Troy entered the carrier's house, which had been
the place of his lodging on his last visit to his native
place. Boldwood was moved by a sudden determina-
tion. He hastened home. In ten minutes he was
back again, and made as if he were going to call upon
Troy at the carrier's. But as he approached, some
one opened the door and came out. He heard this
person say " Good-night" to the inmates, and the voice
was Troy's. "This was strange, coming so immediately
after his arrival. Boldwood, however, hastened up
to him. Troy had what appeared to be a carpet-bag
in his hand -- the same that he had brought with him.
It seemed as if he were going to leave again this very
night.
Troy turned up the hill and quickened his pace.
Boldwood stepped forward.
"Sergeant Troy?"
"Yes-i'm Sergeant Troy."
"Just arrived from up the country, I think?"Just arrived from Bath."
"I am William Boldwood."
"Indeed."
The tone in which this word was uttered was all
that had been wanted to bring Boldwood to the
point.
"I wish to speak a word with you." he said.
"What about?"
"About her who lives just ahead there -- and about
a woman you have wronged."
"I wonder at your impertinence." said Troy, moving
on.
"Now look here." said Boldwood, standing in front
of him, " wonder or not, you are going to hold a conver-
sation with me."
Troy heard the dull determination in Boldwood's
voice, looked at his stalwart frame, then at the thick
cudgel he carried in his hand. He remembered it was
past ten o'clock. It seemed worth while to be civil to
Boldwood.
"Very well, I'll listen with pleasure." said Troy,
placing his bag on the ground, "only speak low, for
somebody or other may overhear us in the farmhouse
there."
"Well then -- I know a good deal concerning your
Fanny Robin's attachment to you. I may say, too, that
I believe I am the only person in the village, excepting
Gabriel Oak, who does know it. You ought to marry
her."
"I suppose I ought. Indeed, l wish to, but I
cannot."
"Why?"
Troy was about to utter something hastily; he then
checked himself and said, "I am too poor." His voice
was changed. Previously it had had a devil-may-care
tone. It was the voice of a trickster now.
Boldwood's present mood was not critical enough to
notice tones. He continued, "I may as well speak
plainly; and understand, I don't wish to enter into the
questions of right or wrong, woman's honour and shame,
or to express any opinion on your conduct. I intend a
business transaction with you."
"I see." said Troy. "Suppose we sit down here."
An old tree trunk lay under the hedge immediately
opposite, and they sat down.
The tone in which this word was uttered was all
Troy heard the dull determination in Boldwood's
voice, looked at his stalwart frame, then at the thick
plainly; and understand, I don't wish to enter into the
"I was engaged to be married to Miss Everdene,"
said Boldwood, "but you came and -- -- "
"Not engaged." said Troy.
"As good as engaged."
"If I had not turned up she might have become en-
gaged to you."
"Hang might!"Would, then."
"If you had not come I should certainly -- yes,
certainly -- have been accepted by this time. If you had
not seen her you might have been married to Fanny.
Well, there's too much difference between Miss Ever-
dene's station and your own for this flirtation with her
ever to benefit you by ending in marriage. So all I ask
is, don't molest her any more. Marry Fanny.
make it worth your while."
"How will you?"
"I'll pay you well now, I'll settle a sum of money
upon her, and I'll see that you don't suffer from poverty
in the future. I'll put it clearly. Bathsheba is only
playing with you: you are too poor for her as I said;
so give up wasting your time about a great match you'll
never make for a moderate and rightful match you may
make to-morrow; take up your carpet-bag, turn about,
leave Weatherbury now, this night, and you shall take
fifty pounds with you. Fanny shall have fifty to enable
her to prepare for the wedding, when you have told me
where she is living, and she shall have five hundred
paid down on her wedding-day."
In making this statement Boldwood's voice revealed
only too clearly a consciousness of the weakness of his
position, his aims, and his method. His manner had
lapsed quite from that of the firm and dignified Bold-
wood of former times; and such a scheme as he had
now engaged in he would have condemned as childishly
imbecile only a few months ago. We discern a grand
force in the lover which he lacks whilst a free man; but
there is a breadth of vision in the free man which in
the lover we vainly seek. Where there is much bias
there must be some narrowness, and love, though added
emotion, is subtracted capacity. Boldwood exemplified
this to an abnormal degree: he knew nothing of Fanny
Robin's circumstances or whereabouts, he knew nothing
of Troy's possibilities, yet that was what he said.
"I like Fanny best." said Troy; "and if, as you say,
Miss Everdene is out of my reach, why I have all to
gain by accepting your money, and marrying Fan. But
she's only a servant."
"Never mind -- do you agree to my arrangement?"
"I do."
"Ah!" said Boldwood, in a more elastic voice. "O,
Troy, if you like her best, why then did you step in here
and injure my happiness?"
"I love Fanny best now." said Troy. "But
Bathsh -- -- Miss Everdene inflamed me, and displaced
Fanny for a time. It is over now."
"Why should it be over so soon? And why then
did you come here again?"
"There are weighty reasons. Fifty pounds at once,
you said!"
"I did." said Boldwood, " and here they are -- fifty
sovereigns." He handed Troy a small packet.
"You have everything ready -- it seems that you
calculated on my accepting them." said the sergeant,
taking the packet.
"I thought you might accept them." said Boldwood.
"You've only my word that the programme shall be
adhered to, whilst I at any rate have fifty pounds."
"l had thought of that, and l have considered that
if I can't appeal to your honour I can trust to your --
well, shrewdness we'll call it -- not to lose five hundred
pounds in prospect, and also make a bitter enemy of a
man who is willing to be an extremely useful friend."
"Stop, listen!" said Troy in a whisper.
A light pit-pat was audible upon the road just above
them.
"By George -- 'tis she." he continued. "I must go
on and meet her."
"She -- who?"
"Bathsheba."
"Bathsheba -- out alone at this time o' night!" said
Boldwood in amazement, and starting up." Why must
you meet her?"
"She was expecting me to-night -- and I must now
speak to her, and wish her good-bye, according to your
wish. "
"I don't see the necessity of speaking."
"It can do no harm -- and she'll be wandering about
looking for me if I don't. You shall hear all I say to her.
It will help you in your love-making when I am gone."
"Your tone is mocking."
"O no. And remember this, if she does not know
what has become of me, she will think more about me
than if I tell her flatly I have come to give her up."
"Will you confine your words to that one point? --
Shall I hear every word you say?"
"Every word. Now sit still there, and hold my"
carpet bag for me, and mark what you hear."
The light footstep came closer, halting occasionally,
as if the walker listened for a sound. Troy whistled a
double note in a soft, fluty tone.
"Come to that, is it!" murmured Boldwood, uneasily.
"You promised silence." said Troy.
"I promise again."
Troy stepped forward.
"Frank, dearest, is that you?" The tones were
Bathsheba's.
"O God!" said Boldwood.
"Yes." said Troy to her.
"How late you are." she continued, tenderly. "Did
you come by the carrier? I listened and heard his
wheels entering the village, but it was some time ago,
and I had almost given you up, Frank."
"I was sure to come." said Frank. "You knew I
should, did you not?"
"Well, I thought you would." she said, playfully;
"and, Frank, it is so lucky! There's not a soul in my
house but me to-night. I've packed them all off so
nobody on earth will know of your visit to your lady's
bower. Liddy wanted to go to her grandfather's to
tell him about her holiday, and I said she might stay
with them till to-morrow -- when you'll be gone again."
"Capital." said Troy." But, dear me, I. had better
go back for my bag, because my slippers and brush and
comb are in it; you run home whilst I fetch it, and I'll
promise to be in your parlour in ten minutes."
"Yes." She turned and tripped up the hill again.
During the progress of this dialogue there was a
nervous twitching of Boldwood's tightly closed lips, and
his face became bathed in a clammy dew. He now
started forward towards Troy. Troy turned to him and
took up the bag.
"Shall I tell her I have come to give her up and
cannot marry her?" said the soldier, mockingly.
"No, no; wait a minute. I want to say more to
you -- more to you!" said Boldwood, in a hoarse whisper.
"Now." said Troy," you see my dilemma. Perhaps
I am a bad man -- the victim of my impulses -- led away
to do what I ought to leave undone. I can't, however,
marry them both. And I have two reasons for- choosing
Fanny. First, I like her best upon the whole, and
second, you make it worth my while."
At the same instant Boldwood sprang upon him, and
held him by the neck. Troy felt Boldwood's grasp slowly
tightening. The move was absolutely unexpected.
"A moment." he gasped. "You are injuring her you
love!"
"Well, what do you mean?" said the farmer.
Give me breath." said Troy.
Boldwood loosened his hand, saying, "By Heaven,
I've a mind to kill you!"
"And ruin her."
"Save her."
"Oh, how can she be saved now, unless I marry her?"
Boldwood groaned. He reluctantly released the
soldier, and flung him back against the hedge. "Devil,
you torture me!" said he.
Troy rebounded like a ball, and was about to make
a dash at the farmer; but he checked himself, saying
lightly --
"It is not worth while to measure my strength with
you. Indeed it is a barbarous way of settling a quarrel.
I shall shortly leave the army because of the same
conviction. Now after that revelation of how the land
lies with Bathsheba, 'twould be a mistake to kill me,
would it not?"
"'Twould be a mistake to kill you." repeated Boldwood,
mechanically, with a bowed head.
"Better kill yourself."
"Far better."
"I'm glad you see it."
"Troy, make her your wife, and don't act upon what
I arranged just now. The alternative is dreadful, but
take Bathsheba; I give her up! She must love you
indeed to sell soul and body to you so utterly as she
has done. Wretched woman -- deluded woman -- you
are, Bathsheba!"
"But about Fanny?"
"Bathsheba is a woman well to do." continued Bold-
wood, in nervous anxiety, and, Troy, she will make a
good wife; and, indeed, she is worth your hastening
on your marriage with her! "
"But she has a will-not to say a temper, and I shall
be a mere slave to her. I could do anything with poor
Fanny Robin."
"Troy." said Boldwood, imploringly," I'll do anything
for you, only don't desert her; pray don't desert her,
Troy."
"Which, poor Fanny?"
"No; Bathsheba Everdene. Love her best! Love
her tenderly! How shall I get you to see how advan-
tageous it will be to you to secure her at once?"
"I don't wish to secure her in any new way."
Boldwood's arm moved spasmodically towards Troy's
person again. He repressed the instinct, and his form
drooped as with pain.
Troy went on --
"I shall soon purchase my discharge, and then -- -- "
"But I wish you to hasten on this marriage! It will
be better for you both. You love each other, and you
must let me help you to do it."
"How?"
"Why, by settling the five hundred on Bathsheba
instead of Fanny, to enable you to marry at once.
No; she wouldn't have it of me. I'll pay it down to
you on the wedding-day."
Troy paused in secret amazement at Boldwood's
wild infatuation. He carelessly said, "And am I to
have anything now?"
"Yes, if you wish to. But I have not much additional
money with me. I did not expect this; but all I have
is yours."
Boldwood, more like a somnambulist than a wakeful
man, pulled out the large canvas bag he carried by way
of a purse, and searched it.
"I have twenty-one pounds more with me." he said.
"Two notes and a sovereign. But before I leave you
I must have a paper signed -- -- "
"Pay me the money, and we'll go straight to her
parlour, and make any arrangement you please to secure
my compliance with your wishes. But she must know
nothing of this cash business."
"Nothing, nothing." said Boldwood, hastily. "Here
is the sum, and if you'll come to my house we'll write
out the agreement for the remainder, and the terms
also."
"First we'll call upon her."
"But why? Come with me to-night, and go with
me to-morrow to the surrogate's."
"But she must be consulted; at any rate informed."
"Very well; go on."
They went up the hill to Bathsheba's house. When
they stood at the entrance, Troy said, "Wait here a
moment." Opening the door, he glided inside, leaving
the door ajar.
Boldwood waited. In two minutes a light appeared
in the passage. Boldwood then saw that the chain
had been fastened across the door. Troy appeared
inside, carrying a bedroom candlestick.
"What, did you think I should break in?" said
Boldwood, contemptuously.
"Oh, no, it is merely my humour to secure things.
Will you read this a moment? I'll hold the light."
Troy handed a folded newspaper through the slit
between door and doorpost, and put the candle close.
"That's the paragraph." he said, placing his finger on
a line.
Boldwood looked and read --
"MARRIAGES.
"On the 17th inst., at St. Ambrose's Church, Bath,
by the Rev. G. Mincing, B.A., Francis Troy, only son
of the late Edward Troy, Esq., H.D., of Weatherbury,
and sergeant with Dragoon Guards, to Bathsheba, only
surviving daughter of the late Mr, John Everdene, of
Casterbridge."
"This may be called Fort meeting Feeble, hey,
Boldwood?" said Troy. A low gurgle of derisive
laughter followed the words.
The paper fell from Boldwood's hands. Troy
continued --
"Fifty pounds to marry Fanny, Good. Twenty--
one pounds not to marry Fanny, but Bathsheba. Good.
Finale: already Bathsheba's husband. Now, Boldwood,
yours is the ridiculous fate which always attends inter-
ference between a man and his wife. And another
word. Bad as I am, I am not such a villain as to
make the marriage or misery of any woman a matter
of huckster and sale. Fanny has long ago left me.
don't know where she is. I have searched everywhere.
Another word yet. You say you love Bathsheba; yet
on the merest apparent evidence you instantly believe
in her dishonour. A fig for such love! Now that I've
taught you a lesson, take your money back again."
"I will not; I will not!" said Boldwood, in a hiss.
"Anyhow I won't have it." said Troy, contemptuously.
He wrapped the packet of gold in the notes, and threw
the whole into the road.
Boldwood shook his clenched fist at him. "You
juggler of Satan! You black hound! But I'll punish
you yet; mark me, I'll punish you yet!"
Another peal of laughter. Troy then closed the
door, and locked himself in.
Throughout the whole of that night Boldwood's dark
downs of Weatherbury like an unhappy Shade in the
Mournful Fields by Acheron.

CHAPTER XXXV

AT AN UPPER WINDOW

IT was very early the next morning -- a time of sun and
dew. The confused beginnings of many birds' songs
spread into the healthy air, and the wan blue of the
heaven was here and there coated with thin webs of
incorporeal cloud which were of no effect in obscuring
day. All the lights in the scene were yellow as to
colour, and all the shadows were attenuated as to form.
The creeping plants about the old manor-house were
bowed with rows of heavy water drops, which had upon
objects behind them the effect of minute lenses of high
magnifying power.
Just before the clock struck five Gabriel Oak and
Coggan passed the village cross, and went on together
to the fields. They were yet barely in view of their
mistress's house, when Oak fancied he saw the opening
of a casement in one of the upper windows. The two
men were at this moment partially screened by an elder
bush, now beginning to be enriched with black bunches
of fruit, and they paused before emerging from its
shade.
A handsome man leaned idly from the lattice. He
looked east and then west, in the manner of one who
makes a first morning survey. The man was Sergeant
Troy. His red jacket was loosely thrown on, but not
buttoned, and he had altogether the relaxed bearing of
a soldier taking his ease.
Coggan spoke first, looking quietly at the window.
"She has married him!" he said.
Gabriel had previously beheld the sight, and he now
stood with his back turned, making no reply.
"I fancied we should know something to-day." con-
tinued Coggan. "I heard wheels pass my door just
after dark -- you were out somewhere."He glanced
round upon Gabriel. "Good heavens above us, Oak,
how white your face is; you look like a corpse!"
"Do I?" said Oak, with a faint smile.
"Lean on the gate: I'll wait a bit."
"All right, all right."
They stood by the gate awhile, Gabriel listlessly
staring at the ground. His mind sped into the future,
and saw there enacted in years of leisure the scenes o
repentance that would ensue from this work of haste
That they were married he had instantly decided. Why
had it been so mysteriously managed? It had become
known that she had had a fearful journey to Bath, owing
to her miscalculating the distance: that the horse had
broken down, and that she had been more than two
days getting there. It was not Bathsheba's way to do
things furtively. With all her faults, she was candour
itself. Could she have been entrapped? The union
was not only an unutterable grief to him: it amazed
him, notwithstanding that he had passed the preceding
week in a suspicion that such might be the issue of
Troy's meeting her away from home. Her quiet return
with liddy had to some extent dispersed the dread.
Just as that imperceptible motion which appears like
stillness is infinitely divided in its properties from stili
ness itself, so had his hope undistinguishable from
despair differed from despair indeed.
In a few minutes they moved on again towards the
house. The sergeant still looked from the window.
"Morning, comrades!" he shouted, in a cheery voice,
when they came up.
Coggan replied to the greeting. "Bain't ye going to
answer the man?" he then said to Gabriel. "I'd say
good morning -- you needn't spend a hapenny of meaning
upon it, and yet keep the man civil."
Gabriel soon decided too that, since the deed was
done, to put the best face upon the matter would be the
greatest kindness to her he loved.
"Good morning, Sergeant Troy." he returned, in a
ghastly voice.
"A rambling, gloomy house this." said Troy, smiling.
"Why -- they may not be married!" suggested Coggan.
"Perhaps she's not there."
Gabriel shook his head. The soldier turned a little
towards the east, and the sun kindled his scarlet coat
to an orange glow.
"But it is a nice old house." responded Gabriel.
"Yes -- I suppose so; but I feel like new wine in an
old bottle here. My notion is that sash-windows should
be put throughout, and these old wainscoted walls
brightened up a bit; or the oak cleared quite away, and
the walls papered."
"It would be a pity, I think."
Well, no. A philosopher once said in my hearing
that the old builders, who worked when art was a living
thing, had no respect for the work of builders who went
before them, but pulled down and altered as they
thought fit; and why shouldn't we?"'Creation and
preservation don't do well together." says he, "and a
million of antiquarians can't invent a style." My mind
exactly. I am for making this place more modern, that
we may be cheerful whilst we can."
The military man turned and surveyed the interior
of the room, to assist his ideas of improvement in this
direction. Gabriel and Coggan began to move on.
"Oh, Coggan." said Troy, as if inspired by a recollec-
tion" do you know if insanity has ever appeared in Mr.
Boldwood's family?"
Jan reflected for a moment.
"I once heard that an uncle of his was queer in his
head, but I don't know the rights o't." he said.
"It is of no importance." said Troy, lightly. "Well,
I shall be down in the fields with you some time this
week; but I have a few matters to attend to first. So
good-day to you. We shall, of course, keep on just as
friendly terms as usual. I'm not a proud man: nobody
is ever able to say that of Sergeant Troy. However,
what is must be, and here's half-a-crown to drink my
health, men."
Troy threw the coin dexterously across the front plot
and over the fence towards Gabriel, who shunned it in
its fall, his face turning to an angry red. Coggan
twirled his eye, edged forward, and caught the money
in its ricochet upon the road.
"very well-you keep it, Coggan." said Gabriel with
disdain and almost fiercely. "As for me, I'll do with-
out gifts from him!"
"Don't show it too much." said Coggan, musingly.
"For if he's married to her, mark my words, he'll buy
his discharge and be our master here. Therefore 'tis
well to say `Friend' outwardly, though you say
`Troublehouse' within."
"Well-perhaps it is best to be silent; but I can't
go further than that. I can't flatter, and if my place
here is only to be kept by smoothing him down, my
place must be lost."
A horseman, whom they had for some time seen in
the distance, now appeared close beside them.
"There's Mr. Boldwood." said Oak." I wonder what
Troy meant by his question."
Coggan and Oak nodded respectfully to the farmer,
just checked their paces to discover if they were wanted,
and finding they were not stood back to let him pass on.
The only signs of the terrible sorrow Boldwood had
been combating through the night, and was combating
now, were the want of colour in his well-defined face,
the enlarged appearance of the veins in his forehead
and temples, and the sharper lines about his mouth.
The horse bore him away, and the very step of the
animal seemed significant of dogged despair. Gabriel, for
a minute, rose above his own grief in noticing Boldwood's.
He saw the square figure sitting erect upon the horse,
the head turned to neither side, the elbows steady by
the hips, the brim of the hat level and undisturbed in
its onward glide, until the keen edges of Boldwood's
shape sank by degrees over the hill. To one who knew
the man and his story there was something more striking
in this immobility than in a collapse. The clash of
discord between mood and matter here was forced
painfully home to the heart; and, as in laughter there are
more dreadful phases than in tears, so was there in the
steadiness of this agonized man an expression deeper
than a cry.

CHAPTER XXXVI

WEALTH IN JEOPARDY -- THE REVEL

ONE night, at the end of August, when Bathsheba's
experiences as a married woman were still new, and
when the weather was yet dry and sultry, a man stood
motionless in the stockyard of Weatherbury Upper
Farm, looking at the moon and sky.
The night had a sinister aspect. A heated breeze
from the south slowly fanned the summits of lofty
objects, and in the sky dashes of buoyant cloud were
sailing in a course at right angles to that of another
stratum, neither of them in the direction of the breeze
below. The moon, as seen through these films, had
a lurid metallic look. The fields were sallow with the
impure light, and all were tinged in monochrome, as
if beheld through stained glass. The same evening
the sheep had trailed homeward head to tail, the
behaviour of the rooks had been confused, and the
horses had moved with timidity and caution.
Thunder was imminent, and, taking some secondary
appearances into consideration, it was likely to be
followed by one of the lengthened rains which mark
the close of dry weather for the season. Before twelve
hours had passed a harvest atmosphere would be a
bygone thing.
Oak gazed with misgiving at eight naked and un-
protected ricks, massive and heavy with the rich
produce of one-half the farm for that year. He went
on to the barn.
This was the night which had been selected by
Sergeant Troy -- ruling now in the room of his wife --
for giving the harvest supper and dance. As Oak
approached the building the sound of violins and a
tambourine, and the regular jigging of many feet, grew
more distinct. He came close to the large doors, one
of which stood slightly ajar, and looked in.
The central space, together with the recess at one
end, was emptied of all incumbrances, and this area,
covering about two-thirds of the whole, was appropriated
for the gathering, the remaining end, which was piled
to the ceiling with oats, being screened off with sail-
cloth. Tufts and garlands of green foliage decorated
the walls, beams, and extemporized chandeliers, and
immediately opposite to Oak a rostrum had been
erected, bearing a table and chairs. Here sat three
fiddlers, and beside them stood a frantic man with his
hair on end, perspiration streaming down his cheeks,
and a tambourine quivering in his hand.
The dance ended, and on the black oak floor in the
midst a new row of couples formed for another.
"Now, ma'am, and no offence I hope, I ask what
dance you would like next?" said the first violin.
"Really, it makes no difference." said the clear voice
of Bathsheba, who stood at the inner end of the build-
ing, observing the scene from behind a table covered
with cups and viands. Troy was lolling beside her.
"Then." said the fiddler, "I'll venture to name that
the right and proper thing is "The Soldier's Joy" --
there being a gallant soldier married into the farm --
hey, my sonnies, and gentlemen all?"
"It shall be "The Soldier's Joy," exclaimed a
chorus.
"Thanks for the compliment." said the sergeant
gaily, taking Bathsheba by the hand and leading her
to the top of the dance. "For though I have pur-
chased my discharge from Her Most Gracious Majesty's
regiment of cavalry the 11th Dragoon Guards, to attend
to the new duties awaiting me here, I shall continue a
soldier in spirit and feeling as long as I live."
So the dance began. As to the merits of "The
Soldier's Joy." there cannot be, and never were, two
opinions. It has been observed in the musical circles
of Weatherbury and its vicinity that this melody, at
the end of three-quarters of an hour of thunderous
footing, still possesses more stimulative properties for
the heel and toe than the majority of other dances at
their first opening. "The Soldier's Joy" has, too, an
additional charm, in being so admirably adapted to
the tambourine aforesaid -- no mean instrument in the
hands of a performer who understands the proper
convulsions, spasms, St. vitus's dances, and fearful
frenzies necessary when exhibiting its tones in their
highest perfection.
The immortal tune ended, a fine DD rolling forth
from the bass-viol with the sonorousness of a cannonade,
and Gabriel delayed his entry no longer. He avoided
Bathsheba, and got as near as possible to the platform,
where Sergeant Troy was now seated, drinking brandy-
and-water, though the others drank without exception
cider and ale. Gabriel could not easily thrust himself
within speaking distance of the sergeant, and he sent
a message, asking him to come down for a moment.
"The sergeant said he could not attend.
"Will you tell him, then." said Gabriel, "that I only
stepped ath'art to say that a heavy rain is sure to fall
soon, and that something should be done to protect
the ricks?"
"M. Troy says it will not rain." returned the
messenger, "and he cannot stop to talk to you about
such fidgets."
In Juxtaposition with Troy, Oak had a melancholy
tendency to look like a candle beside gas, and ill at
ease, he went out again, thinking he would go home;
for, under the circumstances, he had no heart for the
scene in the barn. At the door he paused for a
moment: Troy was speaking.
"Friends, it is not only the harvest home that we
are celebrating to-night; but this is also a Wedding
Feast. A short time ago I had the happiness to lead
to the altar this lady, your mistress, and not until now
have we been able to give any public flourish to the
event in Weatherbury. That it may be thoroughly
well done, and that every man may go happy to bed,
I have ordered to be brought here some bottles of
brandy and kettles of hot water. A treble-strong
goblet will he handed round to each guest."
Bathsheba put her hand upon his arm, and, with
upturned pale face, said imploringly," No -- don't give
it to them -- pray don't, Frank! It will only do them
harm: they have had enough of everything."
"True -- we don't wish for no more, thank ye." said
one or two.
"Pooh!" said the sergeant contemptuously, and
raised his voice as if lighted up by a new idea.
"Friends." he said," we'll send the women-folk home!
'Tis time they were in bed. Then we cockbirds will
have a jolly carouse to ourselves! If any of the men
show the white feather, let them look elsewhere for a
winter's work."
Bathsheba indignantly left the barn, followed by
all the women and children. The musicians, not
looking upon themselves as "company." slipped quietly
away to their spring waggon and put in the horse.
Thus Troy and the men on the farm were left sole
occupants of the place. Oak, not to appear unneces-
sarily disagreeable, stayed a little while; then he, too,
arose and quietly took his departure, followed by a
friendly oath from the sergeant for not staying to a
second round of grog.
Gabriel proceeded towards his home. In approach-
ing the door, his toe kicked something which felt and
sounded soft, leathery, and distended, like a boxing-
glove. It was a large toad humbly travelling across
the path. Oak took it up, thinking it might be better
to kill the creature to save it from pain; but finding
it uninjured, he placed it again among the grass. He
knew what this direct message from the Great Mother
meant. And soon came another.
When he struck a light indoors there appeared upon
the table a thin glistening streak, as if a brush of varnish
had been lightly dragged across it. Oak's eyes followed
the serpentine sheen to the other side, where it led up
to a huge brown garden-slug, which had come indoors
to-night for reasons of its own. It was Nature's second
way of hinting to him that he was to prepare for foul
weather.
Oak sat down meditating for nearly an hour.
During this time two black spiders, of the kind common
in thatched houses, promenaded the ceiling, ultimately
dropping to the floor. This reminded him that if there
was one class of manifestation on this matter that he
thoroughly understood, it was the instincts of sheep.
He left the room, ran across two or three fields towards
the flock, got upon a hedge, and looked over among
them.
They were crowded close together on the other side
around some furze bushes, and the first peculiarity ob-
servable was that, on the sudden appearance of Oak's
head over the fence, they did not stir or run away.
They had now a terror of something greater than their
terror of man. But this was not the most noteworthy
feature: they were all grouped in such a way that their
tails, without a single exception, were towards that half
of the horizon from which the storm threatened. There
was an inner circle closely huddled, and outside these
they radiated wider apart, the pattern formed by the
flock as a whole not being unlike a vandyked lace
collar, to which the clump of furze-bushes stood in the
position of a wearer's neck.
opinion. He knew now that he was right, and that
Troy was wrong. Every voice in nature was unanimous
in bespeaking change. But two distinct translations
attached to these dumb expressions. Apparently there
was to be a thunder-storm, and afterwards a cold con-
tinuous rain. The creeping things seemed to know all
about the later rain, hut little of the interpolated
thunder-storm; whilst the sheep knew all about the
thunder-storm and nothing of the later rain.
This complication of weathers being uncommon,
was all the more to be feared. Oak returned to the
stack-yard. All was silent here, and the conical tips of
the ricks jutted darkly into the sky. There were five
wheat-ricks in this yard, and three stacks of barley.
The wheat when threshed would average about thirty
quarters to each stack; the barley, at least forty. Their
value to Bathsheba, and indeed to anybody, Oak
mentally estimated by the following simple calcula-
tion: --
5 x 30 = 150 quarters= 500 L.
3 x 40=120 quarters= 250 L.
Total . . 750 L.
Seven hundred and fifty pounds in the divinest form
that money can wear -- that of necessary food for man
and beast: should the risk be run of deteriorating this
bulk of corn to less than half its value, because of the
instability of a woman?"Never, if I can prevent it!"
said Gabriel.
Such was the argument that Oak set outwardly before
him. But man, even to himself, is a palimpsest, having
an ostensible writing, and another beneath the lines.
It is possible that there was this golden legend under
the utilitarian one: "I will help to my last effort the
woman I have loved so dearly."
He went back to the barn to endeavour to obtain
assistance for covering the ricks that very night. All
was silent within, and he would have passed on in the
belief that the party had broken up, had not a dim
light, yellow as saffron by contrast with the greenish
whiteness outside, streamed through a knot-hole in the
folding doors.
Gabriel looked in. An unusual picture met his eye.
The candles suspended among the evergreens had
burnt down to their sockets, and in some cases the
leaves tied about them were scorched. Many of the
lights had quite gone out, others smoked and stank,
grease dropping from them upon the floor. Here,
under the table, and leaning against forms and chairs
in every conceivable attitude except the perpendicular,!"
were the wretched persons of all the work-folk, the hair
of their heads at such low levels being suggestive of
mops and brooms. In the midst of these shone red
and distinct the figure of Sergeant Troy, leaning back
in a chair. Coggan was on his back, with his mouth
open, huzzing forth snores, as were several others; the
united breathings of the horizonal assemblage forming
a subdued roar like London from a distance. Joseph
Poorgrass was curled round in the fashion of a hedge-
hog, apparently in attempts to present the least possible
portion of his surface to the air; and behind him was
dimly visible an unimportant remnant of William Small-
bury. The glasses and cups still stood upon the table,
a water-jug being overturned, from which a small rill,
after tracing its course with marvellous precision down
the centre of the long table, fell into the neck of the
unconscious Mark Clark, in a steady, monotonous drip,
like the dripping of a stalactite in a cave.
Gabriel glanced hopelessly at the group, which, with
one or two exceptions, composed all the able-bodied
men upon the farm. He saw at once that if the ricks
were to be saved that night, or even the next morning,
he must save them with his own hands.
A faint "ting-ting" resounded from under Coggan's
waistcoat. It was Coggan's watch striking the hour of
two.
Oak went to the recumbent form of Matthew Moon,
who usually undertook the rough thatching of the home-
stead, and shook him. The shaking was without effect.
Gabriel shouted in his ear, "where's your thatching-
beetle and rick-stick and spars?"
"Under the staddles." said Moon, mechanically, with
the unconscious promptness of a medium.
Gabriel let go his head, and it dropped upon the
floor like a bowl. He then went to Susan Tall's
husband.
"where's the key of the granary?"
No answer. The question was repeated, with the

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