Part 6 out of 9
same result. To be shouted to at night was evidently
less of a novelty to Susan Tall's husband than to
Matthew Moon. Oak flung down Tall's head into the
corner again and turned away.
To be just, the men were not greatly to blame for
this painful and demoralizing termination to the
evening's entertainment. Sergeant Troy had so strenu-
ously insisted, glass in hand, that drinking should be
the bond of their union, that those who wished to refuse
hardly liked to be so unmannerly under the circum-
stances. Having from their youth up been entirely un-
accustomed to any liquor stronger than cider or mild
ale, it was no wonder that they had succumbed, one
and all, with extraordinary uniformity, after the lapse of
about an hour.
Gabriel was greatly depressed. This debauch boded
ill for that wilful and fascinating mistress whom the
faithful man even now felt within him as the embodi-
ment of all that was sweet and bright and hopeless.
He put out the expiring lights, that the barn might
not be endangered, closed the door upon the men in
their deep and oblivious sleep, and went again into the
lone night. A hot breeze, as if breathed from the
parted lips of some dragon about to swallow the globe,
fanned him from the south, while directly opposite in
the north rose a grim misshapen body of cloud, in the
very teeth of the wind. So unnaturally did it rise that
one could fancy it to be lifted by machinery from below.
Meanwhile the faint cloudlets had flown back into the
south-east corner of the sky, as if in terror of the large
cloud, like a young brood gazed in upon by some
Going on to the village, Oak flung a small stone
against the window of Laban Tall's bedroom, expecting
Susan to open it; but nobody stirred. He went round
to the back door, which had been left unfastened for
Laban's entry, and passed in to the foot of the stair-
"Mrs. Tall, I've come for the key of the granary,
to get at the rick-cloths." said Oak, in a stentorian
"Is that you?" said Mrs. Susan Tall, half awake.
"Yes." said Gabriel.
"Come along to bed, do, you drawlatching rogue --
keeping a body awake like this ."
"It isn't Laban -- 'tis Gabriel Oak. I want the key
of the granary."
"Gabriel. what in the name of fortune did you
pretend to be Laban for?"
"I didn't. I thought you meant -- -- "
"Yes you did! what do you want here?"
"The key of the granary."
"Take it then. 'Tis on the nail. People coming
disturbing women at this time of night ought -- -- "
Gabriel took the key, without waiting to hear the
conclusion of the tirade. Ten minutes later his lonely
figure might have been seen dragging four large water-
proof coverings across the yard, and soon two of these
heaps of treasure in grain were covered snug -- two cloths
to each. Two hundred pounds were secured. Three
wheat-stacks remained open, and there were no more
cloths. Oak looked under the staddles and found a
fork. He mounted the third pile of wealth and began
operating, adopting the plan of sloping the upper
sheaves one over the other; and, in addition, filling
the interstices with the material of some untied sheaves.
So far all was well. By this hurried contrivance
Bathsheba's property in wheat was safe for at any rate
a week or two, provided always that there was not
Next came the barley. This it was only possible to
protect by systematic thatching. Time went on, and
the moon vanished not to reappear. It was the
farewell of the ambassador previous to war. The
night had a haggard look, like a sick thing; and there
came finally an utter expiration of air from the whole
heaven in the form of a slow breeze, which might have
been likened to a death. And now nothing was heard
in the yard but the dull thuds of the beetle which drove
in the spars, and the rustle of thatch in the intervals.
THE STORM -- THE TWO TOGETHER
A LIGHT flapped over the scene, as if reflected from
phosphorescent wings crossing the sky, and a rumble
filled the air. It was the first move of the approaching
The second peal was noisy, with comparatively little
visible lightning. Gabriel saw a candle shining in Bath-
sheba's bedroom, and soon a shadow swept to and fro
upon the blind.
Then there came a third flash. Manoeuvres of a
most extraordinary kind were going on in the vast
firmamental hollows overhead. The lightning now was
the colour of silver, and gleamed in the heavens like a
mailed army. Rumbles became rattles. Gabriel from
his elevated position could see over the landscape at
least half-a-dozen miles in front. Every hedge, bush,
and tree was distinct as in a line engraving. In a
paddock in the same direction was a herd of heifers,
and the forms of these were visible at this moment in
the act of galloping about in the wildest and maddest
confusion, flinging their heels and tails high into the air,
their heads to earth. A poplar in the immediate fore-
ground was like an ink stroke on burnished tin. Then
the picture vanished, leaving the darkness so intense
that Gabriel worked entirely by feeling with his hands.
He had stuck his ricking-rod, or poniard, as it was
indifferently called -- a long iron lance, polished by
handling -- into the stack, used to support the sheaves
instead of the support called a groom used on houses,
A blue light appeared in the zenith, and in some in-
describable manner flickered down near the top of the
rod. It was the fourth of the larger flashes. A moment
later and there was a smack -- smart, clear, and short,
Gabriel felt his position to be anything but a safe one,
and he resolved to descend.
Not a drop of rain had fallen as yet. He wiped his
weary brow, and looked again at the black forms of
the unprotected stacks. Was his life so valuable to
him after all? What were his prospects that he
should be so chary of running risk, when important
and urgent labour could not be carried on without
such risk? He resolved to stick to the stack. How-
ever, he took a precaution. Under the staddles was
a long tethering chain, used to prevent the escape of
errant horses. This he carried up the ladder, and
sticking his rod through the clog at one end, allowed
the other end of the chain to trail upon the ground
The spike attached to it he drove in. Under the
shadow of this extemporized lightning-conductor he
felt himself comparatively safe.
Before Oak had laid his hands upon his tools again
out leapt the fifth flash, with the spring of a serpent
and the shout of a fiend. It was green as an
emerald, and the reverberation was stunning. What
was this the light revealed to him? In the open
ground before him, as he looked over the ridge of
the rick, was a dark and apparently female form.
Could it be that of the only venturesome woman in
the parish -- Bathsheba? The form moved on a step:
then he could see no more.
"Is that you, ma'am?" said Gabriel to the darkness.
"Who is there?" said the voice of Bathsheba,
"Gabriel. I am on the rick, thatching."
"O, Gabriel! -- and are you? I have come about
them. The weather awoke me, and I thought of the
corn. I am so distressed about it -- can we save it any-
how? I cannot find my husband. Is he with you?"
He is not here."
"Do you know where he is?"
"Asleep in the barn."
"He promised that the stacks should be seen to,
and now they are all neglected! Can I do anything
to help? Liddy is afraid to come out. Fancy finding
you here at such an hour! Surely I can do something?"
"You can bring up some reed-sheaves to me, one by
one, ma'am; if you are not afraid to come up the ladder
in the dark." said Gabriel. "Every moment is precious
now, and that would save a good deal of time. It is
not very dark when the lightning has been gone a bit."
"I'll do anything!" she said, resolutely. She instantly
took a sheaf upon her shoulder, clambered up close to
his heels, placed it behind the rod, and descended for
another. At her third ascent the rick suddenly brightened
with the brazen glare of shining majolica -- every knot
in every straw was visible. On the slope in front of him
appeared two human shapes, black as jet. The rick
lost its sheen -- the shapes vanished. Gabriel turned his
head. It had been the sixth flash which had come from
the east behind him, and the two dark forms on the
slope had been the shadows of himself and Bathsheba.
Then came the peal. It hardly was credible that
such a heavenly light could be the parent of such a
"How terrible!" she exclaimed, and clutched him by
the sleeve. Gabriel turned, and steadied her on her
aerial perch by holding her arm. At the same moment,
while he was still reversed in his attitude, there was
more light, and he saw, as it were, a copy of the tall
poplar tree on the hill drawn in black on the wall of
the barn. It was the shadow of that tree, thrown across
by a secondary flash in the west.
The next flare came. Bathsheba was on the ground
now, shouldering another sheaf, and she bore its dazzle
without flinching -- thunder and ali-and again ascended
with the load. There was then a silence everywhere
for four or five minutes, and the crunch of the spars,
as Gabriel hastily drove them in, could again be distinctly
heard. He thought the crisis of the storm had passed.
But there came a burst of light.
"Hold on!" said Gabriel, taking the sheaf from her
shoulder, and grasping her arm again.
Heaven opened then, indeed. The flash was almost
too novel for its inexpressibly dangerous nature to be
at once realized, and they could only comprehend the
magnificence of its beauty. It sprang from east, west,
north, south, and was a perfect dance of death. The
forms of skeletons appeared in the air, shaped with
blue fire for bones -- dancing, leaping, striding, racing
around, and mingling altogether in unparalleled con-
fusion. With these were intertwined undulating snakes of
green, and behind these was a broad mass of lesser light.
Simultaneously came from every part of the tumbling
sky what may be called a shout; since, though no shout
ever came near it, it was more of the nature of a shout
than of anything else earthly. In the meantime one of
the grisly forms had alighted upon the point of Gabriel's
rod, to run invisibly down it, down the chain, and into
the earth. Gabriel was almost blinded, and he could
feel Bathsheba's warm arm tremble in his hand -- a
sensation novel and thrilling enough; but love, life,
everything human, seemed small and trifling in such
close juxtaposition with an infuriated universe.
Oak had hardly time to gather up these impressions
into a thought, and to see how strangely the red feather
of her hat shone in this light, when the tall tree on the
hill before mentioned seemed on fire to a white heat,
and a new one among these terrible voices mingled with
the last crash of those preceding. It was a stupefying
blast, harsh and pitiless, and it fell upon their ears in a
dead, flat blow, without that reverberation which lends
the tones of a drum to more distant thunder. By the
lustre reflected from every part of the earth and from the
wide domical scoop above it, he saw that the tree was
sliced down the whole length of its tall, straight stem, a
huge riband of bark being apparently flung off. The
other portion remained erect, and revealed the bared
surface as a strip of white down the front. The
lightning had struck the tree. A sulphurous smell
filled the air; then all was silent, and black as a cave
"We had a narrow escape!" said Gabriel, hurriedly.
"You had better go down."
Bathsheba said nothing; but he could distinctly hear
her rhythmical pants, and the recurrent rustle of the
sheaf beside her in response to her frightened pulsations.
She descended the ladder, and, on second thoughts, he
followed her. The darkness was now impenetrable by
the sharpest vision. They both stood still at the
bottom, side by side. Bathsheba appeared to think
only of the weather -- Oak thought only of her just then.
At last he said --
"The storm seems to have passed now, at any
"I think so too." said Bathsheba. "Though there
are multitudes of gleams, look!"
The sky was now filled with an incessant light,
frequent repetition melting into complete continuity, as
an unbroken sound results from the successive strokes
on a gong.
"Nothing serious." said he. "I cannot understand
no rain falling. But Heaven be praised, it is all the
better for us. I am now going up again."
"Gabriel, you are kinder than I deserve! I will stay
and help you yet. O, why are not some of the others
"They would have been here if they could." said Oak,
in a hesitating way.
"O, I know it all -- all." she said, adding slowly:
"They are all asleep in the barn, in a drunken sleep, and
my husband among them. That's it, is it not? Don't
think I am a timid woman and can't endure things."
"I am not certain." said Gabriel. "I will go and see,"
He crossed to the barn, leaving her there alone. He
looked through the chinks of the door. All was in
total darkness, as he had left it, and there still arose, as
at the former time, the steady buzz of many snores.
He felt a zephyr curling about his cheek, and turned.
It was Bathsheba's breath -- she had followed him, and
was looking into the same chink.
He endeavoured to put off the immediate and pain-
ful subject of their thoughts by remarking gently, "If
you'll come back again, miss -- ma'am, and hand up a
few more; it would save much time."
Then Oak went back again, ascended to the top,
stepped off the ladder for greater expedition, and went
on thatching. She followed, but without a sheaf
"Gabriel." she said, in a strange and impressive voice.
Oak looked up at her. She had not spoken since
he left the barn. The soft and continual shimmer of
the dying lightning showed a marble face high against
the black sky of the opposite quarter. Bathsheba was
sitting almost on the apex of the stack, her feet gathered
up beneath her, and resting on the top round of the
"Yes, mistress." he said.
"I suppose you thought that when I galloped away
to Bath that night it was on purpose to be married?"
"I did at last -- not at first." he answered, somewhat
surprised at the abruptness with which this new subject
"And others thought so, too?"
"And you blamed me for it?"
"I thought so. Now, I care a little for your good
opinion, and I want to explain something-i have
longed to do it ever since I returned, and you looked so
gravely at me. For if I were to die -- and I may die
soon -- it would be dreadful that you should always think
mistakenly of me. Now, listen."
Gabriel ceased his rustling.
"I went to Bath that night in the full intention of
breaking off my engagement to Mr. Troy. It was owing
to circumstances which occurred after I got there that
-- that we were married. Now, do you see the matter
in a new light?"
"I do -- somewhat."
"I must, I suppose, say more, now that I have
begun. And perhaps it's no harm, for you are certainly
under no delusion that I ever loved you, or that I can
have any object in speaking, more than that object I
have mentioned. Well, I was alone in a strange city,
and the horse was lame. And at last I didn't know
what to do. I saw, when it was too late, that scandal
might seize hold of me for meeting him alone in that
way. But I was coming away, when he suddenly said
he had that day seen a woman more beautiful than I,
and that his constancy could not be counted on unless
I at once became his.... And I was grieved and
troubled -- --" She cleared her voice, and waited a
moment, as if to gather breath. "And then, between
jealousy and distraction, I married him!" she whispered
with desperate impetuosity.
Gabriel made no reply.
"He was not to blame, for it was perfectly true about
-- about his seeing somebody else." she quickly added.
"And now I don't wish for a single remark from you
upon the subject -- indeed, I forbid it. I only wanted
you to know that misunderstood bit of my history before
a time comes when you could never know it. -- You want
some more sheaves?"
She went down the ladder, and the work proceeded.
Gabriel soon perceived a languor in the movements of
his mistress up and down, and he said to her, gently as
a mother --
"I think you had better go indoors now, you are
tired. I can finish the rest alone. If the wind does
not change the rain is likely to keep off."
"If I am useless I will go." said Bathsheba, in a
flagging cadence. "But O, if your life should be lost!"
"You are not useless; but I would rather not tire
you longer. You have done well."
"And you better!" she said, gratefully.! Thank you
for your devotion, a thousand times, Gabriel! Good-
night-i know you are doing your very best for me."
She diminished in the gloom, and vanished, and he
heard the latch of the gate fall as she passed through.
He worked in a reverie now, musing upon her story, and
upon the contradictoriness of that feminine heart which
had caused her to speak more warmly to him to-night
than she ever had done whilst unmarried and free to
speak as warmly as she chose.
He was disturbed in his meditation by a grating
noise from the coach-house. It was the vane on the
roof turning round, and this change in the wind was the
signal for a disastrous rain.
RAIN -- ONE SOLITARY MEETS ANOTHER
IT was now five o'clock, and the dawn was promising
to break in hues of drab and ash.
The air changed its temperature and stirred itself
more vigorously. Cool breezes coursed in transparent
eddies round Oak's face. The wind shifted yet a point
or two and blew stronger. In ten minutes every wind
of heaven seemed to be roaming at large. Some of the
thatching on the wheat-stacks was now whirled fantas-
tically aloft, and had to be replaced and weighted with
some rails that lay near at hand. This done, Oak slaved
away again at the barley. A huge drop of rain smote
his face, the wind snarled round every corner, the trees
rocked to the bases of their trunks, and the twigs clashed
in strife. Driving in spars at any point and on any
system, inch by inch he covered more and more safely
from ruin this distracting impersonation of seven hundred
pounds. "The rain came on in earnest, and Oak soon felt
the water to be tracking cold and clammy routes down
his back. Ultimately he was reduced well-nigh to a
homogeneous sop, and the dyes of his clothes trickled
down and stood in a pool at the foot of the ladder.
The rain stretched obliquely through the dull atmo-
sphere in liquid spines, unbroken in continuity between
their beginnings in the clouds and their points in him.
Oak suddenly remembered that eight months before
this time he had been fighting against fire in the same
spot as desperately as he was fighting against water
now -- and for a futile love of the same woman. As for
her -- -- But Oak was generous and true, and dis-
missed his reflections.
It was about seven o'clock in the dark leaden
morning when Gabriel came down from the last stack,
and thankfully exclaimed, "It is done!" He was
drenched, weary, and sad, and yet not so sad as drenched
and weary, for he was cheered by a sense of success in
a good cause.
Faint sounds came from the barn, and he looked
that way. Figures stepped singly and in pairs through
the doors -- all walking awkwardly, and abashed, save
the foremost, who wore a red jacket, and advanced
with his hands in his pockets, whistling. The others
shambled after with a conscience-stricken air: the whole
procession was not unlike Flaxman's group of the suitors
tottering on towards the infernal regions under the
conduct of Mercury. The gnarled shapes passed into
the village, Troy, their leader, entering the farmhouse.
Not a single one of them had turned his face to the
ricks, or apparently bestowed one thought upon their
Soon Oak too went homeward, by a different route
from theirs. In front of him against the wet glazed
surface of the lane he saw a person walking yet more
slowly than himself under an umbrella. The man
turned and plainly started; he was Boldwood.
"How are you this morning, sir?" said Oak.
"Yes, it is a wet day. -- Oh, I am well, very well, I
thank you; quite well."
"I am glad to hear it, sir."
Boldwood seemed to awake to the present by degrees.
"You look tired and ill, Oak." he said then, desultorily
regarding his companion.
"I am tired. You look strangely altered, sir."
"I? Not a bit of it: I am well enough. What put
that into your head?"
"I thought you didn't look quite so topping as you
used to, that was all."
"Indeed, then you are mistaken." said Boldwood,
shortly. "Nothing hurts me. My constitution is an
"I've been working hard to get our ricks covered,
and was barely in time. Never had such a struggle in
my life.... Yours of course are safe, sir."
"O yes." Boldwood added, after an interval of
silence: " What did you ask, Oak?"
"Your ricks are all covered before this time?"
"At any rate, the large ones upon the stone staddles?"
"They are not."
"Them under the hedge?"
"No. I forgot to tell the thatcher to set about it."
"Nor the little one by the stile?"Nor the little one by the stile. I
ricks this year."
"Then not a tenth of your corn will come to measure,
"Overlooked them." repeated Gabriel slowly to him-
self. It is difficult to describe the intensely dramatic
effect that announcement had upon Oak at such a
moment. All the night he had been feeling that the
neglect he was labouring to repair was abnormal and
isolated -- the only instance of the kind within the circuit
of the county. Yet at this very time, within the same
parish, a greater waste had been going on, uncomplained
of and disregarded. A few months earlier Boldwood's
forgetting his husbandry would have been as preposter-
ous an idea as a sailor forgetting he was in a ship. Oak
was just thinking that whatever he himself might have
suffered from Bathsheba's marriage, here was a man
who had suffered more, when Boldwood spoke in a
changed voice -- that of one who yearned to make a
confidence and relieve his heart by an outpouring.
"Oak, you know as well as I that things have gone
wrong with me lately. I may as well own it. I was
going to get a little settled in life; but in some way my
plan has come to nothing."
"I thought my mistress would have married you,"
said Gabriel, not knowing enough of the full depths of
Boldwood's love to keep silence on the farmer's account,
and determined not to evade discipline by doing so on
his own. "However, it is so sometimes, and nothing
happens that we expect." he added, with the repose of
a man whom misfortune had inured rather than sub-
"I daresay I am a joke about the parish." said Bold-
wood, as if the subject came irresistibly to his tongue,
and with a miserable lightness meant to express his
"O no -- I don't think that."
-- But the real truth of the matter is that there was
not, as some fancy, any jilting on -- her part. No
engagement ever existed between me and Miss Ever-
dene. People say so, but it is untrue: she never
promised me!" Boldwood stood still now and turned
his wild face to Oak. "O, Gabriel." he continued, "I
am weak and foolish, and I don't know what, and I
can't fend off my miserable grief! ... I had some faint
belief in the mercy of God till I lost that woman. Yes,
He prepared a gourd to shade me, and like the prophet
I thanked Him and was glad. But the next day He
prepared a worm to smite the gourd and wither it; and
I feel it is better to die than to live!"
A silence followed. Boldwood aroused himself from
the momentary mood of confidence into which he had
drifted, and walked on again, resuming his usual reserve,
"No, Gabriel." he resumed, with a carelessness which
was like the smile on the countenance of a skull: "it
was made more of by other people than ever it was by
us. I do feel a little regret occasionally, but no woman
ever had power over me for any length of time. Well,
good morning; I can trust you not to mention to others
what has passed between us two here."
COMING HOME -- A CRY
ON the turnpike road, between Casterbridge and
Weatherbury, and about three miles from the former
which pervade the highways of this undulating part of
South Wessex. I returning from market it is usual
for the farmers and other gig-gentry to alight at the
bottom and walk up.
One Saturday evening in the month of October
Bathsheba's vehicle was duly creeping up this incline.
She was sitting listlessly in the second seat of the gig,
whilst walking beside her in farmer's marketing suit
of unusually fashionable cut was an erect, well-made
young man. Though on foot, he held the reins and
whip, and occasionally aimed light cuts at the horse's
ear with the end of the lash, as a recreation. This
man was her husband, formerly Sergeant Troy, who,
having bought his discharge with Bathsheba's money,
was gradually transforming himself into a farmer of a
spirited and very modern school. People of unalter-
able ideas still insisted upon calling him "Sergeant"
hen they met him, which was in some degree owing
to his having still retained the well-shaped moustache
of his military days, and the soldierly bearing insepar-
able from his form and training.
"Yes, if it hadn't been for that wretched rain I
should have cleared two hundred as easy as looking,
my love." he was saying. "Don't you see, it altered
all the chances? To speak like a book I once read,
wet weather is the narrative, and fine days are the
episodes, of our country's history; now, isn't that
"But the time of year is come for changeable weather."
"Well, yes. The fact is, these autumn races are the
ruin of everybody. Never did I see such a day as 'twas!
'Tis a wild open place, just out of Budmouth, and a
drab sea rolled in towards us like liquid misery. Wind
and rain -- good Lord! Dark? Why, 'twas as black
as my hat before the last race was run. 'Twas five
o'clock, and you couldn't see the horses till they were
almost in, leave alone colours. The ground was as
heavy as lead, and all judgment from a fellow's experi-
ence went for nothing. Horses, riders, people, were
all blown about like ships at sea. Three booths were
blown over, and the wretched folk inside crawled out
upon their hands and knees; and in the next field
were as many as a dozen hats at one time. Aye,
Pimpernel regularly stuck fast, when about sixty yards
off, and when I saw Policy stepping on, it did knock
my heart against the lining of my ribs, I assure you,
"And you mean, Frank." said Bathsheba, sadly --
her voice was painfully lowered from the fulness and
vivacity of the previous summer -- "that you have lost
more than a hundred pounds in a month by this
dreadful horse-racing? O, Frank, it is cruel; it is
foolish of you to take away my money so. We shall
have to leave the farm; that will be the end of it!"
"Humbug about cruel. Now, there 'tis again --
turn on the waterworks; that's just like you."
"But you'll promise me not to go to Budmouth
second meeting, won't you?" she implored. Bathsheba
was at the full depth for tears, but she maintained a
"I don't see why I should; in fact, if it turns out to
be a fine day, I was thinking of taking you."
"Never, never! I'll go a hundred miles the other
way first. I hate the sound of the very word!"
"But the question of going to see the race or staying
at home has very little to do with the matter. Bets are
all booked safely enough before the race begins, you
may depend. Whether it is a bad race for me or a
good one, will have very little to do with our going
there next Monday."
"But you don't mean to say that you have risked
anything on this one too!" she exclaimed, with an
"There now, don't you be a little fool. Wait till you
are told. Why, Bathsheba, you have lost all the pluck
and sauciness you formerly had, and upon my life if I
had known what a chicken-hearted creature you were
under all your boldness, I'd never have-i know what."
A flash of indignation might have been seen in
Bathsheba's dark eyes as she looked resolutely ahead
after this reply. They moved on without further
speech, some early-withered leaves from the trees which
hooded the road at this spot occasionally spinning
downward across their path to the earth.
A woman appeared on the brow of the hill. The
ridge was in a cutting, so that she was very near the
husband and wife before she became visible. Troy had
turned towards the gig to remount, and whilst putting
his foot on the step-the woman passed behind him.
Though the overshadowing trees and the approach
of eventide enveloped them in gloom, Bathsheba could
see plainly enough to discern the extreme poverty of
the woman's garb, and the sadness of her face.
"Please, sir, do you know at what time Casterbridge
Union-house closes at night?"
The woman said these words to Troy over his
Troy started visibly at the sound of the voice; yet
he seemed to recover presence of mind sufficient to
prevent himself from giving way to his impulse to
suddenly turn and face her. He said, slowly --
"I don't know."
The woman, on hearing him speak, quickly looked
up, examined the side of his face, and recognized the
soldier under the yeoman's garb. Her face was drawn
into an expression which had gladness and agony both
among its elements. She uttered an hysterical cry,
and fell down.
"O, poor thing!" exclaimed Bathsheba, instantly
preparing to alight.
"Stay where you are, and attend to the horse!"
said Troy, peremptorily throwing her the reins and
the whip. "Walk the horse to the top: I'll see to
"But I -- "
"Do you hear? Clk -- Poppet!"
The horse, gig, and Bathsheba moved on.
"How on earth did you come here? I thought
you were miles away, or dead! Why didn't you
write to me?" said Troy to the woman, in a strangely
gentle, yet hurried voice, as he lifted her up.
"I feared to."
"Have you any money?"
"Good Heaven -- I wish I had more to give you!
Here's -- wretched -- the merest trifle. It is every
farthing I have left. I have none but what my wife
gives me, you know, and I can't ask her now."
he woman made no answer.
"I have only another moment." continued Troy;
"and now listen. Where are you going to-night?
"Yes; I thought to go there."
"You shan't go there; yet, wait. Yes, perhaps for
to-night; I can do nothing better -- worse luck! Sleep
there to-night, and stay there to-morrow. Monday is
the first free day I have; and on Monday morning,
at ten exactly, meet me on Grey's Bridge just out of the
town. I'll bring all the money I can muster. You
shan't want-i'll see that, Fanny; then I'll get you a
lodging somewhere. Good-bye till then. I am a brute
-- but good-bye!"
After advancing the distance which completed the
ascent of the hill, Bathsheba turned her head. The
woman was upon her feet, and Bathsheba saw her
withdrawing from Troy, and going feebly down the
hill by the third milestone from Casterbridge. Troy
then came on towards his wife, stepped into the gig,
took the reins from her hand, and without making any
observation whipped the horse into a trot. He was
"Do you know who that woman was?" said Bath-
sheba, looking searchingly into his face.
"I do." he said, looking boldly back into hers.
"I thought you did." said she, with angry hauteur,
and still regarding him. "Who is she?"
He suddenly seemed to think that frankness would
benefit neither of the women.
"Nothing to either of us." he said. "I know her
"What is her name?"
"How should I know her name?"
"I think you do."
"Think if you will, and be -- -- " The sentence was
completed by a smart cut of the whip round Poppet's
flank, which caused the animal to start forward at a
wild pace. No more was said.
ON CASTERBRIDGE HIGHWAY
FOR a considerable time the woman walked on. Her
steps became feebler, and she strained her eyes to look
afar upon the naked road, now indistinct amid the
penumbrae of night. At length her onward walk
dwindled to the merest totter, and she opened a gate
within which was a haystack. Underneath this she sat
down and presently slept.
When the woman awoke it was to find herself in the
depths of a moonless and starless night. A heavy un-
broken crust of cloud stretched across the sky, shutting
out every speck of heaven; and a distant halo which
hung over the town of Casterbridge was visible against
the black concave, the luminosity appearing the
brighter by its great contrast with the circumscribing
darkness. Towards this weak, soft glow the woman
turned her eyes.
"If I could only get there!" she said. "Meet him
the day after to-morrow: God help me! Perhaps I
shall be in my grave before then."
A manor-house clock from the far depths of shadow
struck the hour, one, in a small, attenuated tone. After
midnight the voice of a clock seems to lose in breadth
as much as in length, and to diminish its sonorousness
to a thin falsetto.
Afterwards a light -- two lights -- arose from the re-
mote shade, and grew larger. A carriage rolled along
the toad, and passed the gate. It probably contained
some late diners-out. The beams from one lamp shone
for a moment upon the crouching woman, and threw
her face into vivid relieff. The face was young in the
groundwork, old in the finish; the general contours
were flexuous and childlike, but the finer lineaments
had begun to be sharp and thin.
The pedestrian stood up, apparently with revived
determination, and looked around. The road appeared
to be familiar to her, and she carefully scanned the fence
as she slowly walked along. Presently there became
visible a dim white shape; it was another milestone.
She drew her fingers across its face to feel the marks.
"Two more!" she said.
She leant against the stone as a means of rest for a
short interval, then bestirred herself, and again pursued
her way. For a slight distance she bore up bravely,
afterwards flagging as before. This was beside a lone
copsewood, wherein heaps of white chips strewn upon
the leafy ground showed that woodmen had been
faggoting and making hurdles during the day. Now
there was not a rustle, not a breeze, not the faintest
clash of twigs to keep her company. The woman
looked over the gate, opened it, and went in. Close
to the entrance stood a row of faggots, bound and un-
bound, together with stakes of all sizes.
For a few seconds the wayfarer stood with that tense
stillness which signifies itself to be not the end but
merely the suspension, of a previous motion. Her
attitude was that of a person who listens, either to the
external world of sound, or to the imagined discourse of
thought. A close criticism might have detected signs
proving that she was intent on the latter alternative.
Moreover, as was shown by what followed, she was
oddly exercising the faculty of invention upon the spe-
ciality of the clever Jacquet Droz, the designer of auto-
matic substitutes for human limbs.
By the aid of the Casterbridge aurora, and by feeling
with her hands, the woman selected two sticks from the
heaps. These sticks were nearly straight to the height
of three or four feet, where each branched into a fork
like the letter Y. She sat down, snapped off the small
upper twigs, and carried the remainder with her into
the road. She placed one of these forks under each
arm as a crutch, tested them, timidly threw her whole
weight upon them -- so little that it was -- and swung
herself forward. The girl had made for herself a
The crutches answered well. The pat of her feet,
and the tap of her sticks upon the highway, were all the
sounds that came from the traveller now. She had
passed the last milestone by a good long distance, and
began to look wistfully towards the bank as if calculating
upon another milestone soon. The crutches, though
so very useful, had their limits of power. Mechanism
only transfers labour, being powerless to supersede it,
and the original amount of exertion was not cleared
away; it was thrown into the body and arms. She was
exhausted, and each swing forward became fainter. At
last she swayed sideways, and fell.
Here she lay, a shapeless heap, for ten minutes and
more. The morning wind began to boom dully over
the flats, and to move afresh dead leaves which had
lain still since yesterday. The woman desperately
turned round upon her knees, and next rose to her
feet. Steadying herself by the help of one crutch, she
essayed a step, then another, then a third, using the
crutches now as walking-sticks only. Thus she pro-
gressed till descending Mellstock Hill another milestone
appeared, and soon the beginning of an iron-railed fence
came into view. She staggered across to the first post,
clung to it, and looked around.
The Casterbridge lights were now individually visible,
It was getting towards morning, and vehicles might be
hoped for, if not expected soon. She listened. There
was not a sound of life save that acme and sublimation
of all dismal sounds, the hark of a fox, its three hollow
notes being rendered at intervals of a minute with the
precision of a funeral bell.
"Less than a mile!" the woman murmured. "No;
more." she added, after a pause. "The mile is to the
county hall, and my resting-place is on the other side
Casterbridge. A little over a mile, and there I am!"
After an interval she again spoke. "Five or six steps to
a yard -- six perhaps. I have to go seventeen hundred
yards. A hundred times six, six hundred. Seventeen
times that. O pity me, Lord!"
Holding to the rails, she advanced, thrusting one
hand forward upon the rail, then the other, then leaning
over it whilst she dragged her feet on beneath.
This woman was not given to soliloquy; but ex-
tremity of feeling lessens the individuality of the weak,
as it increases that of the strong. She said again in the
same tone, "I'll believe that the end lies five posts for-
ward, and no further, and so get strength to pass them."
This was a practical application of the principle that
a half-feigned and fictitious faith is better than no faith
She passed five posts and held on to the fifth.
"I'll pass five more by believing my longed-for spot
is at the next fifth. I can do it."
she passed five more.
"It lies only five further."
She passed five more.
"But it is five further."
She passed them.
"That stone bridge is the end of my journey." she
said, when the bridge over the Froom was in view.
She crawled to the bridge. During the effort each
breath of the woman went into the air as if never to
"Now for the truth of the matter." she said, sitting
down. "The truth is, that I have less than half a mile."
Self-beguilement with what she had known all the time
to be false had given her strength to come over half
a mile that she would have been powerless to face in
the lump. The artifice showed that the woman, by
some mysterious intuition, had grasped the paradoxical
truth that blindness may operate more vigorously than
prescience, and the short-sighted effect more than the
far-seeing; that limitation, and not comprehensiveness,
is needed for striking a blow.
The half-mile stood now before the sick and weary
woman like a stolid Juggernaut. It was an impassive
King of her world. The road here ran across Durnover
Moor, open to the road on either side. She surveyed
the wide space, the lights, herself, sighed, and lay down
against a guard-stone of the bridge.
Never was ingenuity exercised so sorely as the
traveller here exercised hers. Every conceivable aid,
method, stratagem, mechanism, by which these last
desperate eight hundred yards could be overpassed by a
human being unperceived, was revolved in her busy
brain, and dismissed as impracticable. She thought of
sticks, wheels, crawling -- she even thought of rolling.
But the exertion demanded by either of these latter two
was greater than to walk erect. The faculty of con-
trivance was worn out, Hopelessness had come at
"No further!" she whispered, and closed her eyes.
From the stripe of shadow on the opposite side of
the bridge a portion of shade seemed to detach itself
and move into isolation upon the pale white of the road.
It glided noiselessly towards the recumbent woman.
She became conscious of something touching her
hand; it was softness and it was warmth. She
opened her eye's, and the substance touched her face.
A dog was licking her cheek.
He was huge, heavy, and quiet creature, standing
darkly against the low horizon, and at least two feet
higher than the present position of her eyes. Whether
Newfoundland, mastiff, bloodhound, or what not, it was
impossible to say. He seemed to be of too strange and
mysterious a nature to belong to any variety among those
of popular nomenclature. Being thus assignable to no
breed, he was the ideal embodiment of canine greatness
-- a generalization from what was common to all. Night,
in its sad, solemn, and benevolent aspect, apart from its
stealthy and cruel side, was personified in this form
Darkness endows the small and ordinary ones among
mankind with poetical power, and even the suffering
woman threw her idea into figure.
In her reclining position she looked up to him just
as in earlier times she had, when standing, looked up
to a man. The animal, who was as homeless as she,
respectfully withdrew a step or two when the woman
moved, and, seeing that she did not repulse him, he
licked her hand again.
A thought moved within her like lightning. "Perhaps
I can make use of him -- I might do it then!"
She pointed in the direction of Casterbridge, and
the dog seemed to misunderstand: he trotted on. Then,
finding she could not follow, he came back and whined.
The ultimate and saddest singularity of woman's effort
and invention was reached when, with a quickened breath-
ing, she rose to a stooping posture, and, resting her two
little arms upon the shoulders of the dog, leant firmly
thereon, and murmured stimulating words. Whilst she
sorrowed in her heart she cheered with her voice, and
what was stranger than that the strong should need
encouragement from the weak was that cheerfulness
should be so well stimulated by such utter dejection.
Her friend moved forward slowly, and she with small
mincing steps moved forward beside him, half her
weight being thrown upon the animal. Sometimes
she sank as she had sunk from walking erect, from
the crutches, from the rails. The dog, who now
thoroughly understood her desire and her incapacity,
was frantic in his distress on these occasions; he would
tug at her dress and run forward. She always called
him back, and it was now to be observed that the
woman listened for human sounds only to avoid them.
It was evident that she had an object in keeping her
presence on the road and her forlorn state unknown.
Their progress was necessarily very slow. They
reached the bottom of the town, and the Casterbridge
lamps lay before them like fallen Pleiads as they turned
to the left into the dense shade of a deserted avenue of
chestnuts, and so skirted the borough. Thus the town
was passed, and the goal was reached.
On this much-desired spot outside the town rose a
picturesque building. Originally it had been a mere
case to hold people. The shell had been so thin, so
devoid of excrescence, and so closely drawn over the
accommodation granted, that the grim character of
what was beneath showed through it, as the shape of
a body is visible under a winding-sheet.
Then Nature, as if offended, lent a hand. Masses
of ivy grew up, completely covering the walls, till the
place looked like an abbey; and it was discovered that
the view from the front, over the Casterbridge chimneys,
was one of the most magnificent in the county. A
neighbouring earl once said that he would give up a
year's rental to have at his own door the view enjoyed
by the inmates from theirs -- and very probably the
inmates would have given up the view for his year's
This stone edifice consisted of a central mass and
two wings, whereon stood as sentinels a few slim
chimneys, now gurgling sorrowfully to the slow wind.
In the wall was a gate, and by the gate a bellpull
formed of a hanging wire. The woman raised herself
as high as possible upon her knees, and could just
reach the handle. She moved it and fell forwards in
a bowed attitude, her face upon her bosom.
It was getting on towards six o'clock, and sounds of
movement were to be heard inside the building which
was the haven of rest to this wearied soul. A little door
by the large one was opened, and a man appeared inside.
He discerned the panting heap of clothes, went back
for a light, and came again. He entered a second
time, and returned with two women.
These lifted the prostrate figure and assisted her in
through the doorway. The man then closed the door.
How did she get here?" said one of the women.
"The Lord knows." said the other.
There is a dog outside," murmured the overcome
traveller. "Where is he gone? He helped me."
I stoned him away." said the man.
The little procession then moved forward -- the man
in front bearing the light, the two bony women next,
supporting between them the small and supple one.
Thus they entered the house and disappeared.
SUSPICION -- FANNY IS SENT FOR
BATHSHEBA said very little to her husband all that
evening of their return from market, and he was not
disposed to say much to her. He exhibited the un-
pleasant combination of a restless condition with a
silent tongue. The next day, which was Sunday, passed
nearly in the same manner as regarded their taciturnity,
Bathsheba going to church both morning and afternoon.
This was the day before the Budmouth races. In the
evening Troy said, suddenly --
"Bathsheba, could you let me have twenty pounds?"
Her countenance instantly sank." Twenty pounds?
"The fact is, I want it badly." The anxiety upon
Troy's face was unusual and very marked. lt was a
culmination of the mood he had been in all the day.
"Ah! for those races to-morrow."
Troy for the moment made no reply. Her mistake
had its advantages to a man who shrank from having
his mind inspected as he did now. "Well, suppose I
do want it for races?" he said, at last.
"O, Frank!" Bathsheba replied, and there was such
a volume of entreaty in the words. "Only such a few
weeks ago you said that I was far sweeter than all your
other pleasures put together, and that you would give
them all up for me; and now, won't you give up this
one, which is more a worry than a pleasure? Do,
Frank. Come, let me fascinate you by all I can do
-- by pretty words and pretty looks, and everything I
can think of -- to stay at home. Say yes to your wife --
The tenderest and softest phases of Bathsheba's
nature were prominent now -- advanced impulsively for
his acceptance, without any of the disguises and defences
which the wariness of her character when she was cool
too frequently threw over them. Few men could have
resisted the arch yet dignified entreaty of the beautiful
face, thrown a little back and sideways in the well
known attitude that expresses more than the words it
accompanies, and which seems to have been designed
for these special occasions. Had the woman not been
his wife, Troy would have succumbed instantly; as it
was, he thought he would not deceive her longer.
"The money is not wanted for racing debts at all,"
"What is it for?" she asked. "You worry me a great
deal by these mysterious responsibilities, Frank."
Troy hesitated. He did not now love her enough
to allow himself to be carried too far by her ways. Yet
it was necessary to be civil. "You wrong me by such
a suspicious manner, he said. "Such strait-waistcoating
as you treat me to is not becoming in you at so early a
"I think that I have a right to grumble a little if I
pay." she said, with features between a smile and a
Exactly; and, the former being done, suppose we
proceed to the latter. Bathsheba, fun is all very well,
but don't go too far, or you may have cause to regret
She reddened. "I do that already." she said, quickly
"What do you regret?"
"That my romance has come to an end."
"All romances end at marriage."
"I wish you wouldn't talk like that. You grieve me
to my soul by being smart at my expense."
"You are dull enough at mine. I believe you hate
"Not you -- only your faults. I do hate them."
"'Twould be much more becoming if you set your-
self to cure them. Come, let's strike a balance with
the twenty pounds, and be friends."
She gave a sigh of resignation. "I have about that
sum here for household expenses. If you must have it,
"Very good. Thank you. I expect I shall have
gone away before you are in to breakfast to-morrow."
"And must you go? Ah! there was a time, Frank,
when it would have taken a good many promises to
other people to drag you away from me. You used to
call me darling, then. But it doesn't matter to you how
my days are passed now."
"I must go, in spite of sentiment." Troy, as he
spoke, looked at his watch, and, apparently actuated by
NON LUCENDO principles, opened the case at the back,
revealing, snugly stowed within it, a small coil of hair.
Bathsheba's eyes had been accidentally lifted at that
moment, and she saw the action and saw the hair. She
flushed in pain and surprise, and some words escaped
her before she had thought whether or not it was wise
to utter them. "A woman's curl of hair!" she said.
"O, Frank, whose is that?"
Troy had instantly closed his watch. He carelessly
replied, as one who cloaked some feelings that the sight
had stirred." Why, yours, of course. Whose should it
be? I had quite forgotten that I had it."
"What a dreadful fib, Frank!"
"I tell you I had forgotten it!" he said, loudly.
"I don't mean that -- it was yellow hair."
"That's insulting me. I know it was yellow. Now
whose was it? I want to know."
"Very well I'll tell you, so make no more ado. It
is the hair of a young woman I was going to marry
before I knew you."
"You ought to tell me her name, then."
"I cannot do that."
"Is she married yet?"
"Is she alive?"
"Is she pretty?"
"It is wonderful how she can be, poor thing, under
such an awful affliction!"
"Affliction -- what affliction?" he inquired, quickly.
"Having hair of that dreadful colour."
"Oh -- ho-i like that!" said Troy, recovering him-
self. "Why, her hair has been admired by everybody
who has seen her since she has worn it loose, which has
not been long. It is beautiful hair. People used to
turn their heads to look at it, poor girl!"
"Pooh! that's nothing -- that's nothing!" she ex-
claimed, in incipient accents of pique. "If I cared for
your love as much as I used to I could say people had
turned to look at mine."
"Bathsheba, don't be so fitful and jealous. You
knew what married life would be like, and shouldn't
have entered it if you feared these contingencies."
Troy had by this time driven her to bitterness: her
heart was big in her throat, and the ducts to her eyes
were painfully full. Ashamed as she was to show
emotion, at last she burst out: --
"This is all I get for loving you so well! Ah! when
I married you your life was dearer to me than my own.
I would have died for you -- how truly I can say that I
would have died for you! And now you sneer at my
foolishness in marrying you. O! is it kind to me to
throw my mistake in my face? Whatever opinion you
may have of my wisdom, you should not tell me of it so
mercilessly, now that I am in your power."
"I can't help how things fall out." said Troy; "upon
my heart, women will be the death of me!"
"Well you shouldn't keep people's hair. You'll
burn it, won't you, Frank?"
Frank went on as if he had not heard her. "There
are considerations even before my consideration for you;
reparations to be made -- ties you know nothing of If
you repent of marrying, so do I."
Trembling now, she put her hand upon his arm,
saying, in mingled tones of wretchedness and coaxing,
"I only repent it if you don't love me better than any
woman in the world! I don't otherwise, Frank. You
don't repent because you already love somebody better
than you love me, do you?"
"I don't know. Why do you say that?"
"You won't burn that curl. You like the woman
who owns that pretty hair -- yes; it is pretty -- more
beautiful than my miserable black mane! Well, it is
no use; I can't help being ugly. You must like her
best, if you will!"
"Until to-day, when I took it from a drawer, I have
never looked upon that bit of hair for several months --
that I am ready to swear."
"But just now you said "ties;" and then -- that
woman we met?"
"'Twas the meeting with her that reminded me of
"Is it hers, then?"
"Yes. There, now that you have wormed it out of
me, I hope you are content."
"And what are the ties?"
"Oh! that meant nothing -- a mere jest."
"A mere jest!" she said, in mournful astonishment.
"Can you jest when I am so wretchedly in earnest?
Tell me the truth, Frank. I am not a fool, you know,
although I am a woman, and have my woman's moments.
Come! treat me fairly." she said, looking honestly and
fearlessly into his face. "I don't want much; bare
justice -- that's all! Ah! once I felt I could be content
with nothing less than the highest homage from the
husband I should choose. Now, anything short of
cruelty will content me. Yes! the independent and
spirited Bathsheba is come to this!"
"For Heaven's sake don't be so desperate!"Troy
said, snappishly, rising as he did so, and leaving the
Directly he had gone, Bathsheba burst into great
sobs -- dry-eyed sobs, which cut as they came, without
any softening by tears. But she determined to repress
all evidences of feeling. She was conquered; but she
would never own it as long as she lived. Her pride
was indeed brought low by despairing discoveries of her
spoliation by marriage with a less pure nature than her
own. She chafed to and fro in rebelliousness, like a
caged leopard; her whole soul was in arms, and the
blood fired her face. Until she had met Troy, Bath-
sheba had been proud of her position as a woman; it
had been a glory to her to know that her lips had been
touched by no man's on earth -- that her waist had
never been encircled by a lover's arm. She hated
herself now. In those earlier days she had always
nourished a secret contempt for girls who were the
slaves of the first goodlooking young fellow who should
choose to salute them. She had never taken kindly to
the idea of marriage in the abstract as did the majority
of women she saw about her. In the turmoil of her
anxiety for her lover she had agreed to marry him; but
the perception that had accompanied her happiest hours
on this account was rather that of self-sacrifice than of
promotion and honour. Although she scarcely knew
the divinity's name, Diana was the goddess whom
Bathsheba instinctively adored. That she had never,
by look, word, or sign, encouraged a man to approach
her -- that she had felt herself sufficient to herself, and
had in the independence of her girlish heart fancied
there was a certain degradation in renouncing the
simplicity of a maiden existence to become the humbler
half of an indifferent matrimonial whole -- were facts
now bitterly remembered. O, if she had never
stooped to folly of this kind, respectable as it was, and
could only stand again, as she had stood on the hill at
Norcombe, and dare Troy or any other man to pollute
a hair of her head by his interference!
The next morning she rose earlier than usual, and
had the horse saddled for her ride round the farm in
the customary way. When she came in at half-past
eight -- their usual hour for breakfasting -- she was in-
formed that her husband had risen, taken his breakfast,
and driven off to Casterbridge with the gig and Poppet.
After breakfast she was cool and collected -- quite
herself in fact -- and she rambled to the gate, intending
to walk to another quarter of the farm, which she still
personally superintended as well as her duties in the
house would permit, continually, however, finding her-
self preceded in forethought by Gabriel Oak, for whom
she began to entertain the genuine friendship of a sister.
Of course, she sometimes thought of him in the light of
an old lover, and had momentary imaginings of what
life with him as a husband would have been like; also
of life with Boldwood under the same conditions. But
Bathsheba, though she could feel, was not much given
to futile dreaming, and her musings under this head
were short and entirely confined to the times when
Troy's neglect was more than ordinarily evident.
She saw coming up the road a man like Mr. Boldwood.
It was Mr. Boldwood. Bathsheba blushed painfully,
and watched. The farmer stopped when still a long
way off, and held up his hand to Gabriel Oak, who was
in a footpath across the field. The two men then
approached each other and seemed to engage in
Thus they continued for a long time. Joseph Poor-
grass now passed near them, wheeling a barrow of apples
up the hill to Bathsheba's residence. Boldwood and
Gabriel called to him, spoke to him for a few minutes,
and then all three parted, Joseph immediately coming
up the hill with his barrow.
Bathsheba, who had seen this pantomime with some
surprise, experienced great relief when Boldwood turned
back again. "Well, what's the message, Joseph?" she
He set down his barrow, and, putting upon himself
the refined aspect that a conversation with a lady re-
quired, spoke to Bathsheba over the gate.
"You'll never see Fanny Robin no more -- use nor
principal -- ma'am."
"Because she's dead in the Union."
"Fanny dead -- never!"
"What did she die from?"
"I don't know for certain; but I should be inclined
to think it was from general weakness of constitution.
She was such a limber maid that 'a could stand no
hardship, even when I knowed her, and 'a went like a
candle-snoff, so 'tis said. She was took bad in the
morning, and, being quite feeble and worn out, she
died in the evening. She belongs by law to our parish;
and Mr. Boldwood is going to send a waggon at three
this afternoon to fetch her home here and bury her."
"Indeed I shall not let Mr. Boldwood do any such
thing-i shall do it! Fanny was my uncle's servant,
and, although I only knew her for a couple of days,
FANNY IS SENT FOR
she belongs to me. How very, very sad this is! --
the idea of Fanny being in a workhouse." Bathsheba
had begun to know what suffering was, and she spoke
with real feeling.... "Send across to Mr. Boldwood's,
and say that Mrs. Troy will take upon herself the duty
of fetching an old servant of the family.... We
ought not to put her in a waggon; we'll get a hearse."
"There will hardly be time, ma'am, will there?"
"Perhaps not." she said, musingly. "When did you
say we must be at the door -- three o'clock?"
"Three o'clock this afternoon, ma'am, so to speak it."
"Very well-you go with it. A pretty waggon is
better than an ugly hearse, after all. Joseph, have the
new spring waggon with the blue body and red wheels,
and wash it very clean. And, Joseph -- -- "
"Carry with you some evergreens and flowers to put
upon her coffin -- indeed, gather a great many, and
completely bury her in them. Get some boughs of
laurustinus, and variegated box, and yew, and boy'siove;
ay, and some hunches of chrysanthemum. And let old
Pleasant draw her, because she knew him so well."I will, ma'am. I ought
to have said that the
Union, in the form of four labouring men, will meet me
when I gets to our churchyard gate, and take her and
bury her according to the rites of the Board of Guardians,
as by law ordained."
"Dear me -- Casterbridge Union -- and is Fanny come
to this?" said Bathsheba, musing. "I wish I had known
of it sooner. I thought she was far away. How long
has she lived there?"
"On'y been there a day or two."
"Oh! -- then she has not been staying there as a
"No. She first went to live in a garrison-town t'other
side o' Wessex, and since then she's been picking up a
living at seampstering in Melchester for several months,
at the house of a very respectable widow-woman who
takes in work of that sort. She only got handy the
Union-house on Sunday morning 'a b'lieve, and 'tis sup-
posed here and there that she had traipsed every step
of the way from Melchester. Why she left her place,
I can't say, for I don't know; and as to a lie, why, I
wouldn't tell it. That's the short of the story, ma'am."
No gem ever flashed from a rosy ray to a white one
more rapidly than changed the young wife's counten-
ance whilst this word came from her in a long-drawn
breath. "Did she walk along our turnpike-road?" she
said, in a suddenly restless and eager voice.
"I believe she did.... Ma'am, shall I call Liddy?
You bain't well, ma'am, surely? You look like a lily --
so pale and fainty!"
"No; don't call her; it is nothing. When did she
"Last Saturday night."
"That will do, Joseph; now you may go."
"Joseph, come hither a moment. What was the
colour of Fanny Robin's hair?"
"Really, mistress, now that 'tis put to me so judge-
and-jury like, I can't call to mind, if ye'll believe me!"
"Never mind; go on and do what I told you. Stop
-- well no, go on."
She turned herself away from him, that he might no
longer notice the mood which had set its sign so visibly
upon her, and went indoors with a distressing sense of
faintness and a beating brow. About an hour after, she
heard the noise of the waggon and went out, still with a
painful consciousness of her bewildered and troubled
look. Joseph, dressed in his best suit of clothes, was
putting in the horse to start. The shrubs and flowers
were all piled in the waggon, as she had directed
Bathsheba hardly saw them now.
"Whose sweetheart did you say, Joseph?"
"I don't know, ma'am."
"Are you quite sure?"
"Yes, ma'am, quite sure."Sure of what?"
"I'm sure that all I know is that she arrived in the
morning and died in the evening without further parley.
What Oak and Mr. Boldwood told me was only these
few words. `Little Fanny Robin is dead, Joseph,'
Gabriel said, looking in my face in his steady old way.
I was very sorry, and I said, `Ah! -- and how did she
come to die?' `Well, she's dead in Casterhridge
Union,' he said, `and perhaps 'tisn't much matter
about how she came to die. She reached the Union
early Sunday morning, and died in the afternoon -- that's
clear enough.' Then I asked what she'd been doing
lately, and Mr. Boldwood turned round to me then, and
left off spitting a thistle with the end of his stick. He
told me about her having lived by seampstering in
Melchester, as I mentioned to you, and that she walked
therefrom at the end of last week, passing near here
Saturday night in the dusk. They then said I had
better just name a hint of her death to you, and away
they went. Her death might have been brought on by
biding in the night wind, you know, ma'am; for people
used to say she'd go off in a decline: she used to cough
a good deal in winter time. However, 'tisn't much
odds to us about that now, for 'tis all over."
"Have you heard a different story at all?' She
looked at him so intently that Joseph's eyes quailed.
"Not a word, mistress, I assure 'ee!" he said.
"Hardly anybody in the parish knows the news yet."
"I wonder why Gabriel didn't bring the message to
me himself. He mostly makes a point of seeing me
upon the most trifling errand." These words were
merely murmured, and she was looking upon the ground.
"Perhaps he was busy, ma'am." Joseph suggested.
"And sometimes he seems to suffer from things upon
his mind, connected with the time when he was better
off than 'a is now. 'A's rather a curious item, but a
very understanding shepherd, and learned in books."
"Did anything seem upon his mind whilst he was
speaking to you about this?"
"I cannot but say that there did, ma'am. He was
terrible down, and so was Farmer Boldwood."
"Thank you, Joseph. That will do. Go on now,
or you'll be late."
Bathsheba, still unhappy, went indoors again. In
the course of the afternoon she said to Liddy, Who had
been informed of the occurrence, " What was the colour
of poor Fanny Robin's hair? Do you know? I cannot
recollect-i only saw her for a day or two."
"It was light, ma'am; but she wore it rather short,
and packed away under her cap, so that you would
hardly notice it. But I have seen her let it down when
she was going to bed, and it looked beautiful then.
Real golden hair."
"Her young man was a soldier, was he not?"
"Yes. In the same regiment as Mr. Troy. He says
he knew him very well."What, Mr. Troy says so? How came he to say
"One day I just named it to him, and asked him if
he knew Fanny's young man. He said, "O yes, he
knew the young man as well as he knew himself, and
that there wasn't a man in the regiment he liked
"Ah! Said that, did he?"
"Yes; and he said there was a strong likeness be-
tween himself and the other young man, so that some-
times people mistook them -- -- "
"Liddy, for Heaven's sake stop your talking!" said
Bathsheba, with the nervous petulance that comes from
JOSEPH AND HIS BURDEN
A WALL bounded the site of Casterbridge Union-
house, except along a portion of the end. Here a high
gable stood prominent, and it was covered like the front
with a mat of ivy. In this gable was no window,
chimney, ornament, or protuberance of any kind. The
single feature appertaining to it, beyond the expanse of
dark green leaves, was a small door.
The situation of the door was peculiar. The sill
was three or four feet above the ground, and for a
moment one was at a loss for an explanation of this
exceptional altitude, till ruts immediately beneath sug-
gested that the door was used solely for the passage of
articles and persons to and from the level of a vehicle
standing on the outside. Upon the whole, the door
seemed to advertise itself as a species of Traitor's Gate
translated to another sphere. That entry and exit
hereby was only at rare intervals became apparent on
noting that tufts of grass were allowed to flourish undis-
turbed in the chinks of the sill.
As the clock over the South-street Alms-house pointed
to five minutes to three, a blue spring waggon, picked
out with red, and containing boughs and flowers, passed
the end of the street, and up towards this side of the
building. Whilst the chimes were yet stammering out
a shattered form of "Malbrook." Joseph Poorgrass rang
the bell, and received directions to back his waggon
against the high door under the gable. The door then
opened, and a plain elm coffin was slowly thrust forth,
and laid by two men in fustian along the middle of the
One of the men then stepped up beside it, took from
his pocket a lump of chalk, and wrote upon the cover
the name and a few other words in a large scrawling
hand. (We believe that they do these things more
tenderly now, and provide a plate.) He covered the
whole with a black cloth, threadbare, but decent, the
tailboard of the waggon was returned to its place, one
of the men handed a certificate of registry to Poorgrass,
and both entered the door, closing it behind them.
Their connection with her, short as it had been, was
over for ever.
Joseph then placed the flowers as enjoined, and the
evergreens around the flowers, till it was difficult to
divine what the waggon contained; he smacked his
whip, and the rather pleasing funeral car crept down
the hill, and along the road to Weatherbury.
The afternoon drew on apace, and, looking to the
right towards the sea as he walked beside the horse, Poor-
grass saw strange clouds and scrolls of mist rolling over
the long ridges which girt the landscape in that quarter.
They came in yet greater volumes, and indolently crept
across the intervening valleys, and around the withered
papery flags of the moor and river brinks. Then their
dank spongy forms closed in upon the sky. It was
a sudden overgrowth of atmospheric fungi which had
their roots in the neighbouring sea, and by the time
that horse, man, and corpse entered Yalbury Great
Wood, these silent workings of an invisible hand had
reached them, and they were completely enveloped,
this being the first arrival of the autumn fogs, and the
first fog of the series.
The air was as an eye suddenly struck blind. The
waggon and its load rolled no longer on the horizontal
division between clearness and opacity, but were
imbedded in an elastic body of a monotonous pallor
throughout. There was no perceptible motion in the
air, not a visible drop of water fell upon a leaf of the
beeches, birches, and firs composing the wood on either
side. The trees stood in an attitude of intentness, as if
they waited longingly for a wind to come and rock
them. A startling quiet overhung all surrounding things
-- so completely, that the crunching of the waggon-
wheels was as a great noise, and small rustles, which
had never obtained a hearing except by night, were dis-
Joseph Poorgrass looked round upon his sad burden
as it loomed faintly through the flowering laurustinus,
then at the unfathomable gloom amid the high trees on
each hand, indistinct, shadowless, and spectrelike in
their monochrome of grey. He felt anything but cheer-
ful, and wished he had the company even of a child or
dog. Stopping the home, he listened. Not a footstep
or wheel was audible anywhere around, and the dead
silence was broken only by a heavy particle falling from
a tree through the evergreens and alighting with a smart
rap upon the coffin of poor Fanny. The fog had by
this time saturated the trees, and this was the first
dropping of water from the overbrimming leaves. The
hollow echo of its fall reminded the waggoner painfully
of the grim Leveller. Then hard by came down another
drop, then two or three. Presently there was a continual
tapping of these heavy drops upon the dead leaves, the
road, and the travellers. The nearer boughs were beaded
with the mist to the greyness of aged men, and the rusty-
red leaves of the beeches were hung with similar drops,
like diamonds on auburn hair.
At the roadside hamlet called Roy-Town, just beyond
this wood, was the old inn Buck's Head. It was about
a mile and a half from Weatherbury, and in the meridian
times of stage-coach travelling had been the place
where many coaches changed and kept their relays
of horses. All the old stabling was now pulled down,
and little remained besides the habitable inn itself,
which, standing a little way back from the road, sig-
nified its existence to people far up and down the
highway by a sign hanging from the horizontal bough
of an elm on the opposite side of the way.
Travellers -- for the variety TOURIST had hardly
developed into a distinct species at this date -- some-
times said in passing, when they cast their eyes up to
the sign-bearing tree, that artists were fond of repre-
senting the signboard hanging thus, but that they
themselves had never before noticed so perfect an
instance in actual working order. It was near this tree
that the waggon was standing into which Gabriel Oak
crept on his first journey to Weatherbury; but, owing
to the darkness, the sign and the inn had been un-
The manners of the inn were of the old-established
type. Indeed, in the minds of its frequenters they
existed as unalterable formulae: E.G. --
Rap with the bottom of your pint for more liquor.
For tobacco, shout.
In calling for the girl in waiting, say, "Maid!"
Ditto for the landlady, "Old Soul!" etc., etc.
It was a relief to Joseph's heart when the friendly
signboard came in view, and, stopping his horse
immediately beneath it, he proceeded to fulfil an
intention made a long time before. His spirits were
oozing out of him quite. He turned the horse's head
to the green bank, and entered the hostel for a mug
Going down into the kitchen of the inn, the floor
of which was a step below the passage, which in its
turn was a step below the road outside, what should
Joseph see to gladden his eyes but two copper-coloured
discs, in the form of the countenances of Mr. Jan
Coggan and Mr. Mark Clark. These owners of the
two most appreciative throats in the neighbourhood,
within the pale of respectability, were now sitting face
to face over a threelegged circular table, having an
iron rim to keep cups and pots from being accidentally
elbowed off; they might have been said to resemble
the setting sun and the full moon shining VIS-A-VIS
across the globe.
"Why, 'tis neighbour Poorgrass!" said Mark Clark.
"I'm sure your face don't praise your mistress's table,
"I've had a very pale companion for the last four
miles." said Joseph, indulging in a shudder toned
down by resignation. "And to speak the truth, 'twas
beginning to tell upon me. I assure ye, I ha'n't seed
the colour of victuals or drink since breakfast time
this morning, and that was no more than a dew-bit
"Then drink, Joseph, and don't restrain yourself!"
said Coggan, handing him a hooped mug three-
Joseph drank for a moderately long time, then for
a longer time, saying, as he lowered the jug, "'Tis
pretty drinking -- very pretty drinking, and is more
than cheerful on my melancholy errand, so to speak it."
"True, drink is a pleasant delight." said Jan, as one
who repeated a truism so familiar to his brain that he
hardly noticed its passage over his tongue; and,
lifting the cup, Coggan tilted his head gradually
backwards, with closed eyes, that his expectant soul
might not be diverted for one instant from its bliss
by irrelevant surroundings.
"Well, I must be on again." said Poorgrass. "Not
but that I should like another nip with ye; but the
parish might lose confidence in me if I was seed
"Where be ye trading o't to to-day, then, Joseph?"
"Back to Weatherbury. I've got poor little Fanny
Robin in my waggon outside, and I must be at the
churchyard gates at a quarter to five with her."
"Ay-i've heard of it. And so she's nailed up in
parish boards after all, and nobody to pay the bell
shilling and the grave half-crown."
"The parish pays the grave half-crown, but not the
bell shilling, because the bell's a luxery: but 'a can
hardly do without the grave, poor body. However, I
expect our mistress will pay all."
"A pretty maid as ever I see! But what's yer hurry,
Joseph? The pore woman's dead, and you can't bring
her to life, and you may as well sit down comfortable,
and finish another with us."
"I don't mind taking just the least thimbleful ye
can dream of more with ye, sonnies. But only a few
minutes, because 'tis as 'tis."
"Of course, you'll have another drop. A man's
twice the man afterwards. You feel so warm and
glorious, and you whop and slap at your work without
any trouble, and everything goes on like sticks a-
breaking. Too much liquor is bad, and leads us to
that horned man in the smoky house; but after all,
many people haven't the gift of enjoying a wet, and
since we be highly favoured with a power that way,
we should make the most o't."True." said Mark Clark. "'Tis a talent the
has mercifully bestowed upon us, and we ought not
to neglect it. But, what with the parsons and clerks
and schoolpeople and serious tea-parties, the merry
old ways of good life have gone to the dogs -- upon
my carcase, they have!"
"Well, really, I must be onward again now." said
"Now, now, Joseph; nonsense! The poor woman
is dead, isn't she, and what's your hurry?"
"Well, I hope Providence won't be in a way with
me for my doings." said Joseph, again sitting down.
"I've been troubled with weak moments lately, 'tis
true. I've been drinky once this month already, and
I did not go to church a-Sunday, and I dropped a
curse or two yesterday; so I don't want to go too far
for my safety. Your next world is your next world,
and not to be squandered offhand."
"I believe ye to be a chapelmember, Joseph. That
"Oh, no, no! I don't go so far as that."
"For my part." said Coggan, "I'm staunch Church
"Ay, and faith, so be I." said Mark Clark.
"I won't say much for myself; I don't wish to,"
Coggan continued, with that tendency to talk on
principles which is characteristic of the barley-corn.
"But I've never changed a single doctrine: I've stuck
like a plaster to the old faith I was born in. Yes;
there's this to be said for the Church, a man can
belong to the Church and bide in his cheerful old
inn, and never trouble or worry his mind about
doctrines at all. But to be a meetinger, you must
go to chapel in all winds and weathers, and make
yerself as frantic as a skit. Not but that chapel
members be clever chaps enough in their way. They
can lift up beautiful prayers out of their own heads, all
about their families and shipwrecks in the newspaper."
"They can -- they can." said Mark Clark, with cor-
roborative feeling; "but we Churchmen, you see, must
have it all printed aforehand, or, dang it all, we should
no more know what to say to a great gaffer like the
Lord than babes unborn,"
"Chapelfolk be more hand-in-glove with them above
than we." said Joseph, thoughtfully.
"Yes." said Coggan. "We know very well that if
anybody do go to heaven, they will. They've worked
hard for it, and they deserve to have it, such as 'tis.
I bain't such a fool as to pretend that we who stick
to the Church have the same chance as they, because
we know we have not. But I hate a feller who'll
change his old ancient doctrines for the sake of getting
to heaven. I'd as soon turn king's-evidence for the
few pounds you get. Why, neighbours, when every
one of my taties were frosted, our Parson Thirdly
were the man who gave me a sack for seed, though
he hardly had one for his own use, and no money to
buy 'em. If it hadn't been for him, I shouldn't hae
had a tatie to put in my garden. D'ye think I'd
turn after that? No, I'll stick to my side; and if we
be in the wrong, so be it: I'll fall with the fallen!"
"Well said -- very well said." observed Joseph. --
"However, folks, I must be moving now: upon my life
I must. Pa'son Thirdly will be waiting at the church
gates, and there's the woman a-biding outside in the
"Joseph Poorgrass, don't be so miserable! Pa'son
Thirdly won't mind. He's a generous man; he's found
me in tracts for years, and I've consumed a good many
in the course of a long and shady life; but he's never
been the man to cry out at the expense. Sit down."
The longer Joseph Poorgrass remained, the less his
spirit was troubled by the duties which devolved upon
him this afternoon. The minutes glided by uncounted,
until the evening shades began perceptibly to deepen,
and the eyes of the three were but sparkling points
on the surface of darkness. Coggan's repeater struck
six from his pocket in the usual still small tones.
At that moment hasty steps were heard in the entry,
and the door opened to admit the figure of Gabriel Oak,
followed by the maid of the inn bearing a candle. He
stared sternly at the one lengthy and two round faces
of the sitters, which confronted him with the expressions
of a fiddle and a couple of warming-pans. Joseph Poor-
grass blinked, and shrank several inches into the back-
"Upon my soul, I'm ashamed of you; 'tis disgraceful,
Joseph, disgraceful!" said Gabriel, indignantly. "Coggan,
you call yourself a man, and don't know better than this."
Coggan looked up indefinitely at Oak, one or other
of his eyes occasionally opening and closing of its own
accord, as if it were not a member, but a dozy individual
with a distinct personality.
"Don't take on so, shepherd!" said Mark Clark,
looking reproachfully at the candle, which appeared
to possess special features of interest for his eyes.
"Nobody can hurt a dead woman." at length said
Coggan, with the precision of a machine. "All that
could be done for her is done -- she's beyond us: and
why should a man put himself in a tearing hurry for
lifeless clay that can neither feel nor see, and don't
know what you do with her at all? If she'd been
alive, I would have been the first to help her. If she
now wanted victuals and drink, I'd pay for it, money
down. But she's dead, and no speed of ours will
bring her to life. The woman's past us -- time spent
upon her is throwed away: why should we hurry to
do what's not required? Drink, shepherd, and be
friends, for to-morrow we may be like her."
"We may." added Mark Clark, emphatically, at once
drinking himself, to run no further risk of losing his
chance by the event alluded to, Jan meanwhile merging
his additional thoughts of to-morrow in a song: --
And while peace and plen-ty I find at my board,
With a heart free from sick-ness and sor-row,
With my friends will I share what to-day may af-ford,
And let them spread the ta-ble to-mor-row.
To-mor -- row', to-mor --
"Do hold thy horning, Jan!" said Oak; and turning
upon Poorgrass, " as for you, Joseph, who do your wicked
deeds in such confoundedly holy ways, you are as drunk
as you can stand."
"No, Shepherd Oak, no! Listen to reason, shepherd.
All that's the matter with me is the affliction called a
multiplying eye, and that's how it is I look double to
you-i mean, you look double to me."
A multiplying eye is a very bad thing." said Mark
"It always comes on when I have been in a public --
house a little time." said Joseph Poorgrass, meekly.
"Yes; I see two of every sort, as if I were some holy
man living in the times of King Noah and entering
into the ark.... Y-y-y-yes." he added, becoming much
affected by the picture of himself as a person thrown
away, and shedding tears; "I feel too good for England:
I ought to have lived in Genesis by rights, like the other
men of sacrifice, and then I shouldn't have b-b-been
called a d-d-drunkard in such a way!"
"I wish you'd show yourself a man of spirit, and not
sit whining there!"
"Show myself a man of spirit? ... Ah, well! let
me take the name of drunkard humbly-iet me be a
man of contrite knees-iet it be! l know that I always
do say "Please God" afore I do anything, from my
getting up to my going down of the same, and I be
willing to take as much disgrace as there is in that
holy act. Hah, yes! ... But not a man of spirit?
Have I ever allowed the toe of pride to be lifted
against my hinder parts without groaning manfully that
I question the right to do so? I inquire that query
"We can't say that you have, Hero Poorgrass,"
"Never have I allowed such treatment to pass un-
questioned! Yet the shepherd says in the face of that
rich testimony that I be not a man of spirit! Well,
let it pass by, and death is a kind friend!"
Gabriel, seeing that neither of the three was in a fit
state to Cake charge of the waggon for the remainder of
the journey, made no reply, but, closing the door again
upon them, went across to where the vehicle stood, now
getting indistinct in the fog and gloom of this mildewy
time. He pulled the horse's head from the large patch
of turf it had eaten bare, readjusted the boughs over
the coffin, and drove along through the unwholesome
It had gradually become rumoured in the village
that the body to be brought and buried that day was
all that was left of the unfortunate Fanny Robin who
had followed the Eleventh from Casterbridge through
Melchester and onwards. But, thanks to Boldwood's
reticence and Oak's generosity, the lover she had followed
had never been individualized as Troy. Gabriel hoped
that the whole truth of the matter might not be published
till at any rate the girl had been in her grave for a few
days, when the interposing barriers of earth and time,
and a sense that the events had been somewhat shut
into oblivion, would deaden the sting that revelation and
invidious remark would have for Bathsheba just now.
By the time that Gabriel reached the old manor-
house, her residence, which lay in his way to the church,
it was quite dark. A man came from the gate and said
through the fog, which hung between them like blown
"Is that Poorgrass with the corpse?"
Gabriel recognized the voice as that of the parson.
"The corpse is here, sir." said Gabriel.
"I have just been to inquire of Mrs. Troy if she could
tell me the reason of the delay. I am afraid it is too
late now for the funeral to be performed with proper
decency. Have you the registrar's certificate?"
"No." said Gabriel. "I expect Poorgrass has that;
and he's at the Buck's Head. I forgot to ask him
"Then that settles the matter. We'll put off the
funeral till to-morrow morning. The body may be
brought on to the church, or it may be left here at
the farm and fetched by the bearers in the morning.
They waited more than an hour, and have now gone
Gabriel had his reasons for thinking the latter a
most objectionable plan, notwithstanding that Fanny
had been an inmate of the farm-house for several years
in the lifetime of Bathsheba's uncle. Visions of several
unhappy contingencies which might arise from this delay
flitted before him. But his will was not law, and he
went indoors to inquire of his mistress what were her
wishes on the subject. He found her in an unusual
mood: her eyes as she looked up to him were suspicious
and perplexed as with some antecedent thought. Troy
had not yet returned. At first Bathsheba assented with
a mien of indifference to his proposition that they should
go on to the church at once with their burden; but
immediately afterwards, following Gabriel to the gate,
she swerved to the extreme of solicitousness on Fanny's
account, and desired that the girl might be brought into
the house. Oak argued upon the convenience of leaving
her in the waggon, just as she lay now, with her flowers
and green leaves about her, merely wheeling the vehicle
into the coach-house till the morning, but to no purpose,
"It is unkind and unchristian." she said, "to leave the
poor thing in a coach-house all night."
Very well, then." said the parson. "And I will
arrange that the funeral shall take place early to-
morrow. Perhaps Mrs. Troy is right in feeling that we
cannot treat a dead fellow-creature too thoughtfully
We must remember that though she may have erred
grievously in leaving her home, she is still our sister:
and it is to be believed that God's uncovenanted
mercies are extended towards her, and that she is a
member of the flock of Christ."
The parson's words spread into the heavy air with a
sad yet unperturbed cadence, and Gabriel shed an
honest tear. Bathsheba seemed unmoved. Mr.
Thirdly then left them, and Gabriel lighted a lantern.
Fetching three other men to assist him, they bore the
unconscious truant indoors, placing the coffin on two
benches in the middle of a little sitting-room next the
hall, as Bathsheba directed.
Every one except Gabriel Oak then left the room.
He still indecisively lingered beside the body. He was
deeply troubled at the wretchedly ironical aspect that
circumstances were putting on with regard to Troy's
wife, and at his own powerlessness to counteract them,
(n spite of his careful manoeuvring all this day, the very
worst event that could in any way have happened in
connection with the burial had happened now. Oak
imagined a terrible discovery resulting from this after-
noon's work that might cast over Bathsheba's life a shade
which the interposition of many lapsing years might but
indifferently lighten, and which nothing at all might
Suddenly, as in a last attempt to save Bathsheba
from, at any rate, immediate anguish, he looked again,
as he had looked before, at the chalk writing upon the
coffinlid. The scrawl was this simple one, " Fanny
Robin and child." Gabriel took his handkerchief and
carefully rubbed out the two latter words, leaving visible
the inscription "Fanny Robin" only. He then left the
room, and went out quietly by the front door.
"DO you want me any longer ma'am? " inquired Liddy,
at a later hour the same evening, standing by the door
with a chamber candlestick in her hand and addressing
Bathsheba, who sat cheerless and alone in the large
parlour beside the first fire of the season.
"No more to-night, Liddy."
"I'll sit up for master if you like, ma'am. I am not
at all afraid of Fanny, if I may sit in my own room and
have a candle. She was such a childlike, nesh young
thing that her spirit couldn't appear to anybody if it
tried, I'm quite sure."
"O no, no! You go to bed. I'll sit up for him
myself till twelve o'clock, and if he has not arrived by
that time, I shall give him up and go to bed too."
It is half-past ten now."
"Oh! is it?"
Why don't you sit upstairs, ma'am?"
"Why don't I?" said Bathsheba, desultorily. "It
isn't worth while -- there's a fire here, Liddy." She
suddenly exclaimed in an impulsive and excited whisper,
Have you heard anything strange said of Fanny?"
The words had no sooner escaped her than an expres-
sion of unutterable regret crossed her face, and she
burst into tears.
"No -- not a word!" said Liddy, looking at the
weeping woman with astonishment. "What is it makes
you cry so, ma'am; has anything hurt you?" She came
to Bathsheba's side with a face full of sympathy.
"No, Liddy-i don't want you any more. I can
hardly say why I have taken to crying lately: I never
used to cry. Good-night."
Liddy then left the parlour and closed the door.
Bathsheba was lonely and miserable now; not lone-
lier actually than she had been before her marriage;
but her loneliness then was to that of the present time
as the solitude of a mountain is to the solitude of a
cave. And within the last day or two had come these
disquieting thoughts about her husband's past. Her
wayward sentiment that evening concerning Fanny's
temporary resting-place had been the result of a strange
complication of impulses in Bathsheba's bosom. Per-
haps it would be more accurately described as a
determined rebellion against her prejudices, a revulsion
from a lower instinct of uncharitableness, which would
have withheld all sympathy from the dead woman, be-
cause in life she had preceded Bathsheba in the atten-
tions of a man whom Bathsheba had by no means
ceased from loving, though her love was sick to death
just now with the gravity of a further misgiving.
In five or ten minutes there was another tap at the
door. Liddy reappeared, and coming in a little way
stood hesitating, until at length she said,!Maryann has
just heard something very strange, but I know it isn't
true. And we shall be sure to know the rights of it in
a day or two."
"What is it?"
"Oh, nothing connected with you or us, ma'am. It
is about Fanny. That same thing you have heard."
"I have heard nothing."
"I mean that a wicked story is got to Weatherbury
within this last hour -- that -- --" Liddy came close to
her mistress and whispered the remainder of the sentence
slowly into her ear, inclining her head as she spoke in
the direction of the room where Fanny lay.
Bathsheba trembled from head to foot.
"I don't believe it!" she said, excitedly. "And
there's only one name written on the coffin-cover."
"Nor I, ma'am. And a good many others don't;
for we should surely have been told more about it if it
had been true -- don't you think so, ma'am?"
"We might or we might not."
Bathsheba turned and looked into the fire, that
Liddy might not see her face. Finding that her mistress
was going to say no more, Liddy glided out, closed the
door softly, and went to bed.
Bathsheba's face, as she continued looking into the
fire that evening, might have excited solicitousness on
her account even among those who loved her least.
The sadness of Fanny Robin's fate did not make Bath-
sheba's glorious, although she was the Esther to this
poor Vashti, and their fates might be supposed to stand
in some respects as contrasts to each other. When
Liddy came into the room a second time the beautiful
eyes which met hers had worn a listless, weary look-
When she went out after telling the story they had ex-
pressed wretchedness in full activity. Her simple
country nature, fed on old-fashioned principles, was
troubled by that which would have troubled a woman
of the world very little, both Fanny and her child, if she
had one, being dead.
Bathsheba had grounds for conjecturing a connection
between her own history and the dimly suspected
tragedy of Fanny's end which Oak and Boldwood never
for a moment credited her with possessing. The
meeting with the lonely woman on the previous Saturday
night had been unwitnessed and unspoken of. Oak