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at the thought, and was vexed beyond measure that
his sentiments of dislike towards Weatherbury should
have led him to dally about the country in this way.
But Troy was never more clever than when absolutely
at his wit's end. He hastily thrust aside the curtain
dividing his own little dressing space from that of the
manager and proprietor, who now appeared as the
individual called Tom King as far down as his waist, and
as the aforesaid respectable manager thence to his toes.
"Here's the devil to pay!" said Troy.
"How's that?"
"Why, there's a blackguard creditor in the tent I don't
want to see, who'll discover me and nab me as sure as
Satan if I open my mouth. What's to be done?"
You must appear now, I think."
"I can't."
But the play must proceed."
"Do you give out that Turpin has got a bad cold,
and can't speak his part, but that he'll perform it just
the same without speaking."
The proprietor shook his head.
"Anyhow, play or no play, I won't open my mouth,
said Troy, firmly.
"Very well, then let me see. I tell you how we'll
manage." said the other, who perhaps felt it would be
extremely awkward to offend his leading man just at
this time. "I won't tell 'em anything about your
keeping silence; go on with the piece and say nothing,
doing what you can by a judicious wink now and then,
and a few indomitable nods in the heroic places, you
know. They'll never find out that the speeches are
omitted."
This seemed feasible enough, for Turpin's speeches
were not many or long, the fascination of the piece
lying entirely in the action; and accordingly the play
began, and at the appointed time Black Bess leapt
into the grassy circle amid the plaudits of the spectators.
At the turnpike scene, where Bess and Turpin are hotly
pursued at midnight by the officers, and half-awake
gatekeeper in his tasselled nightcap denies that any
horseman has passed, Coggan uttered a broad-chested
"Well done!" which could be heard all over the fair
above the bleating, and Poorgrass smiled delightedly
with a nice sense of dramatic contrast between our
hero, who coolly leaps the gate, and halting justice in
the form of his enemies, who must needs pull up
cumbersomely and wait to be let through. At the
death of Tom King, he could not refrain from seizing
Coggan by the hand, and whispering, with tears in his
eyes, "Of course he's not really shot, Jan -- only
seemingly!" And when the last sad scene came on,
and the body of the gallant and faithful Bess had to
be carried out on a shutter by twelve volunteers from
among the spectators, nothing could restrain Poorgrass
from lending a hand, exclaiming, as he asked Jan to
join him, "Twill be something to tell of at Warren's in
future years, Jan, and hand down to our children." For
many a year in Weatherbury, Joseph told, with the air
of a man who had had experiences in his time, that he
touched with his own hand the hoof of Bess as she lay
upon the board upon his shoulder. If, as some thinkers
hold, immortality consists in being enshrined in others"
memories, then did Black Bess become immortal that
day if she never had done so before.
Meanwhile Troy had added a few touches to his
ordinary make-up for the character, the more effectually
to disguise himself, and though he had felt faint qualms
on first entering, the metamorphosis effected by judici-
ously "lining" his face with a wire rendered him safe from
the eyes of Bathsheba and her men. Nevertheless, he
was relieved when it was got through.
There a second performance in the evening, and
the tent was lighted up. Troy had taken his part very
quietly this time, venturing to introduce a few speeches
on occasion; and was just concluding it when, whilst
standing at the edge of the circle contiguous to the first
row of spectators, he observed within a yard of him the
eye of a man darted keenly into his side features. Troy
hastily shifted his position, after having recognized in
sworn enemy, who still hung about the outskirts of
At first Troy resolved to take no notice and abide
by circumstances. That he had been recognized by
this man was highly probable; yet there was room for
a doubt. Then the great objection he had felt to
allowing news of his proximity to precede him to
Weatherbury in the event of his return, based on a
feeling that knowledge of his present occupation would
discredit him still further in his wife's eyes, returned
in full force. Moreover, should he resolve not to
return at all, a tale of his being alive and being in
the neighbourhood would be awkward; and he was
anxious to acquire a knowledge of his wife's temporal
affairs before deciding which to do.
In this dilemma Troy at once went out to recon-
noitre. It occurred to him that to find Pennyways, and
make a friend of him if possible, would be a very wise
act. He had put on a thick beard borrowed from the
establishment, and this he wandered about the fair-
field. It was now almost dark, and respectable people
were getting their carts and gigs ready to go home
The largest refreshment booth in the fair was provided
by an innkeeper from a neighbouring town. This was
considered an unexceptionable place for obtaining the
necessary food and rest: Host Trencher (as he was
jauntily called by the local newspaper) being a sub-
stantial man of high repute for catering through all the
county round. The tent was divided into first and
second-class compartments, and at the end of the first-
class division was a yet further enclosure for the most
exclusive, fenced of from the body of the tent by a
luncheon-bar, behind which the host himself stood
bustling about in white apron and shirt-sleeves, and look-
ing as if he had never lived anywhere but under canvas
all his life. In these penetralia were chairs and a table,
which, on candles being lighted, made quite a cozy and
luxurious show, with an urn, plated tea and coffee pots,
china teacups, and plum cakes.
Troy stood at the entrance to the booth, where a
gipsy-woman was frying pancakes over a little fire of
sticks and selling them at a penny a-piece, and looked
over the heads of the people within. He could see
nothing of Pennyways, but he soon discerned Bathsheba
through an opening into the reserved space at the
further end. Troy thereupon retreated, went round the
tent into the darkness, and listened. He could hear
Bathsheba's voice immediately inside the canvas; she
was conversing with a man. A warmth overspread his
face: surely she was not so unprincipled as to flirt in
a fair! He wondered if, then, she reckoned upon his
death as an absolute certainty. To get at the root of
the matter, Troy took a penknife from his pocket and
softly made two little cuts crosswise in the cloth, which,
by folding back the corners left a hole the size of a
wafer. Close to this he placed his face, withdrawing
it again in a movement of surprise; for his eye had
been within twelve inches of the top of Bathsheba's
head. lt was too near to be convenient. He made
another hole a little to one side and lower down, in a
shaded place beside her chair, from which it was easy
and safe to survey her by looking horizontally'.
Troy took in the scene completely now. She was
leaning back, sipping a cup of tea that she held in her
hand, and the owner of the male voice was Boldwood,
who had apparently just brought the cup to her,
Bathsheba, being in a negligent mood, leant so idly
against the canvas that it was pressed to the shape of
her shoulder, and she was, in fact, as good as in Troy's
arms; and he was obliged to keep his breast carefully
backward that she might not feel its warmth through the
cloth as he gazed in.
Troy found unexpected chords of feeling to be stirred
again within him as they had been stirred earlier in the
day. She was handsome as ever, and she was his. It
was some minutes before he could counteract his sudden
wish to go in, and claim her. Then he thought how
the proud girl who had always looked down upon him
even whilst it was to love him, would hate him on dis-
covering him to be a strolling player. Were he to make
himself known, that chapter of his life must at all risks
be kept for ever from her and from the Weatherbury
people, or his name would be a byword throughout the
parish. He would be nicknamed "Turpin" as long as
he lived. Assuredly before he could claim her these few
past months of his existence must be entirely blotted out.
"Shall I get you another cup before you start,
ma'am?" said Farmer Boldwood.
I thank you," said Bathsheba. "But I must be going
at once. It was great neglect in that man to keep me
waiting here till so late. I should have gone two hours
ago, if it had not been for him. I had no idea of
coming in here; but there's nothing so refreshing as a
cup of tea, though I should never have got one if you
hadn't helped me."
Troy scrutinized her cheek as lit by the candles,
and watched each varying shade thereon, and the
white shell-like sinuosities of her little ear. She took
out her purse and was insisting to Boldwood on paying
for her tea for herself, when at this moment Pennyways
entered the tent. Troy trembled: here was his scheme
for respectability endangered at once. He was about
to leave his hole of espial, attempt to follow Pennyways,
and find out if the ex-bailiff had recognized him, when
he was arrested by the conversation, and found he was
too late.
"Excuse me, ma'am." said Pennyways; "I've some
private information for your ear alone."
I cannot hear it now." she said, coldly. That
Bathsheba could not endure this man was evident; in
fact, he was continually coming to her with some tale
or other, by which he might creep into favour at the
expense of persons maligned.
"I'll write it down." said Pennyways, confidently. He
stooped over the table, pulled a leaf from a warped
pocket-book, and wrote upon the paper, in a round
hand --
"YOUR husband is here. I've seen him. Who's the fool
now?"
This he folded small, and handed towards her.
Bathsheba would not read it; she would not even put
out her hand to take it. Pennyways, then, with a laugh
of derision, tossed it into her lap, and, turning away,
left her.
From the words and action of Pennyways, Troy,
though he had not been able to see what the ex-bailiff
wrote, had not a moment's doubt that the note referred
to him. Nothing that he could think of could be done
to check the exposure. "Curse my luck!" he whispered,
and added imprecations which rustled in the gloom like
a pestilent wind. Meanwhile Boldwood said, taking up
the note from her lap --
"Don't you wish to read it, Mrs. Troy? If not,
I'll destroy it."
"Oh, well." said Bathsheba, carelessly, "perhaps it is
unjust not to read it; but I can guess what it is about.
He wants me to recommend him, or it is to tell me of
some little scandal or another connected with my work-
people. He's always doing that."
Bathsheba held the note in her right hand. Bold-
wood handed towards her a plate of cut bread-and-
butter; when, in order to take a slice, she put the note
into her left hand, where she was still holding the purse,
and then allowed her hand to drop beside her close to
the canvas. The moment had come for saving his game,
and Troy impulsively felt that he would play the card,
For yet another time he looked at the fair hand, and
saw the pink finger-tips, and the blue veins of the
wrist, encircled by a bracelet of coral chippings which
she wore: how familiar it all was to him! Then, with
the lightning action in which he was such an adept, he
noiselessly slipped his hand under the bottom of the
tent-cloth, which was far from being pinned tightly down,
lifted it a little way, keeping his eye to the hole,
snatched the note from her fingers, dropped the canvas,
and ran away in the gloom towards the bank and ditch,
smiling at the scream of astonishment which burst from
her. Troy then slid down on the outside of the rampart,
hastened round in the bottom of the entrenchment to
a distance of a hundred yards, ascended again, and
crossed boldly in a slow walk towards the front entrance
of the tent. His object was now to get to Pennyways,
and prevent a repetition of the announcement until
such time as he should choose.
Troy reached the tent door, and standing among the
groups there gathered, looked anxiously for Pennyways,
evidently not wishing to make himself prominent by
inquiring for him. One or two men were speaking of
a daring attempt that had just been made to rob a
young lady by lifting the canvas of the tent beside her.
It was supposed that the rogue had imagined a slip of
paper which she held in her hand to he a bank note,
for he had seized it, and made off with it, leaving her
purse behind. His chagrin and disappointment at dis-
covering its worthlessness would be a good joke, it was
said. However, the occurrence seemed to have become
known to few, for it had not interrupted a fiddler, who
had lately begun playing by the door of the tent, nor
the four bowed old men with grim countenances and
walking-sticks in hand, who were dancing "Major
Malley's Reel" to the tune. Behind these stood
Pennyways. Troy glided up to him, beckoned, and
whispered a few words; and with a mutual glance of
concurrence the two men went into the night together.

CHAPTER LI

BATHSHEBA TALKS WITH HER OUTRIDER

THE arrangement for getting back again to Weather-
bury had been that Oak should take the place of Poor-
grass in Bathsheba's conveyance and drive her home,
it being discovered late in the afternoon that Joseph
was suffering from his old complaint, a multiplying eye,
and was, therefore, hardly trustworthy as coachman and
protector to a woman. But Oak had found himself so
occupied, and was full of so many cares relative to
those portions of Boldwood's flocks that were not
disposed of, that Bathsheba, without telling Oak or
anybody, resolved to drive home herself, as she had
many times done from Casterbridge Market, and trust
to her good angel for performing the journey un-
molested. But having fallen in with Farmer Boldwood
accidentally (on her part at least) at the refreshment-
tent, she found it impossible to refuse his offer to ride
on horseback beside her as escort. It had grown
twilight before she was aware, but Boldwood assured
her that there was no cause for uneasiness, as the
moon would be up in half-an-hour.
Immediately after the incident in the tent, she had
risen to go -- now absolutely alarmed and really grateful
for her old lover's protection -- though regretting Gabriel's
absence, whose company she would have much preferred,
as being more proper as well as more pleasant, since he
was her own managing-man and servant. This, how-
ever, could not be helped; she would not, on any
consideration, treat Boldwood harshly, having once
already illused him, and the moon having risen, and
the gig being ready, she drove across the hilltop in
the wending way's which led downwards -- to oblivious
obscurity, as it seemed, for the moon and the hill it
flooded with light were in appearance on a level, the
rest of the world lying as a vast shady concave between
them. Boldwood mounted his horse, and followed in
close attendance behind. Thus they descended into
the lowlands, and the sounds of those left on the
hill came like voices from the sky, and the lights were
as those of a camp in heaven. They soon passed the
merry stragglers in the immediate vicinity of the hill,
traversed Kingsbere, and got upon the high road.
The keen instincts of Bathsheba had perceived that
the farmer's staunch devotion to herself was still un-
diminished, and she sympathized deeply. The sight
had quite depressed her this evening; had reminded
her of her folly; she wished anew, as she had wished
many months ago, for some means of making repara-
tion for her fault. Hence her pity for the man who
so persistently loved on to his own injury and per-
manent gloom had betrayed Bathsheba into an injudi-
cious considerateness of manner, which appeared
almost like tenderness, and gave new vigour to the
exquisite dream of a Jacob's seven years service in
poor Boldwood's mind.
He soon found an excuse for advancing from his
position in the rear, and rode close by her side. They
had gone two or three miles in the moonlight, speaking
desultorily across the wheel of her gig concerning the
fair, farming, Oak's usefulness to them both, and other
indifferent subjects, when Boldwood said suddenly
and simply --
"Mrs. Troy, you will marry again some day?"
This point-blank query unmistakably confused her,
it was not till a minute or more had elapsed that
she said, "I have not seriously thought of any such
subject."
"I quite understand that. Yet your late husband
has been dead nearly one year, and -- "
"You forget that his death was never absolutely
proved, and may not have taken place; so that I may
not be really a widow." she said, catching at the straw of
escape that the fact afforded
"Not absolutely proved, perhaps, but it was proved
circumstantially. A man saw him drowning, too. No
reasonable person has any doubt of his death; nor
have you, ma'am, I should imagine.
"O yes I have, or I should have acted differently,"
she said, gently. "From the first, I have had a strange
uaccountable feeling that he could not have perished,
but I have been able to explain that in several ways
since. Even were I half persuaded that I shall see
him no more, I am far from thinking of marriage with
another. I should be very contemptible to indulge in
such a thought."
They were silent now awhile, and having struck into
an unfrequented track across a common, the creaks of
Boldwood's saddle and gig springs were all the
sounds to be heard. Boldwood ended the pause.
"Do you remember when I carried you fainting in
my arms into the King's Arms, in Casterbridge? Every
dog has his day: that was mine."
"I know-I know it all." she said, hurriedly.
"I, for one, shall never cease regretting that events
so fell out as to deny you to me."
"I, too, am very sorry." she said, and then checked
herself. "I mean, you know, I am sorry you thought
I -- "
"I have always this dreary pleasure in thinking over
those past times with you -- that I was something to
you before HE was anything, and that you belonged
ALMOST to me. But, of course, that's nothing. You
never liked me."
"I did; and respected you, too."Do you now?"
"Yes."
"Which?"
"How do you mean which?"
"Do you like me, or do you respect me?"
"I don't know -- at least, I cannot tell you. It is
difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language
which is chiefly made by men to express theirs. My
treatment of you was thoughtless, inexcusable, wicked!
I shall eternally regret it. If there had been anything
I could have done to make amends I would most
gladly have done it -- there was nothing on earth I so
longed to do as to repair the error. But that was not
possible."
"Don't blame yourself -- you were not so far in the
wrong as you suppose. Bathsheba, suppose you had
real complete proof that you are what, in fact, you are
-- a widow -- would you repair the old wrong to me by
marrying me?"
"I cannot say. I shouldn't yet, at any rate."
"But you might at some future time of your life?"
"O yes, I might at some time."
"Well, then, do you know that without further proof
of any kind you may marry again in about six years
from the present -- subject to nobody's objection or
blame?"
"O yes." she said, quickly. "I know all that. But
don't talk of it -- seven or six years -- where may we all
be by that time?"
"They will soon glide by, and it will seem an
astonishingly short time to look back upon when they
are past -- much less than to look forward to now."
"Yes, yes; I have found that in my own experience."
"Now listen once more." Boldwood pleaded. "If I
wait that time, will you marry me? You own that you
owe me amends -- let that be your way of making them."
"But, Mr. Boldwood -- six years -- "
"Do you want to be the wife of any other man?"
"No indeed! I mean, that I don't like to talk
about this matter now. Perhaps it is not proper, and
I ought not to allow it. Let us drop it. My husband
may be living, as I said."
"Of course, I'll drop the subject if you wish. But
propriety has nothing to do with reasons. I am a
middle-aged man, willing to protect you for the
remainder of our lives. On your side, at least, there
is no passion or blamable haste -- on mine, perhaps,
there is. But I can't help seeing that if you choose
from a feeling of pity, and, as you say, a wish to make
amends, to make a bargain with me for a far-ahead
time -- an agreement which will set all things right
and make me happy, late though it may be -- there is
no fault to be found with you as a woman. Hadn't
I the first place beside you? Haven't you been
almost mine once already? Surely you can say to
me as much as this, you will have me back again
should circumstances permit? Now, pray speak! O
Bathsheba, promise -- it is only a little promise -- that
if you marry again, you will marry me!"
His tone was so excited that she almost feared him
at this moment, even whilst she sympathized. It was
a simple physical fear -- the weak of the strong; there
no emotional aversion or inner repugnance. She
said, with some distress in her voice, for she remembered
vividly his outburst on the Yalbury Road, and shrank
from a repetition of his anger: --
"I will never marry another man whilst you wish me
to be your wife, whatever comes -- but to say more -- you
have taken me so by surprise -- "
"But let it stand in these simple words -- that in six
years' time you will be my wife? Unexpected accidents
we'll not mention, because those, of course, must be
given way to. Now, this time I know you will keep
your word."
"That's why I hesitate to give it."
"But do give it! Remember the past, and be kind."
She breathed; and then said mournfully: "O what
shall I do? I don't love you, and I much fear that I
never shall love you as much as a woman ought to love
a husband. If you, sir, know that, and I can yet give
you happiness by a mere promise to marry at the end of
six years, if my husband should not come back, it is a
great honour to me. And if you value such an act of
friendship from a woman who doesn't esteem her-
self as she did, and has little love left, why it
will -- "
"Promise!"
" -- Consider, if I cannot promise soon."
"But soon is perhaps never?"
"O no, it is not! I mean soon. Christmas, we'll
say."
"Christmas!" He said nothing further till he
added: "Well, I'll say no more to you about it till that
time."
Bathsheba was in a very peculiar state of mind,
which showed how entirely the soul is the slave of the
body, the ethereal spirit dependent for its quality upon
the tangible flesh and blood. It is hardly too much to
say that she felt coerced by a force stronger than her
own will, not only into the act of promising upon this
singularly remote and vague matter, but into the emo-
tion of fancying that she ought to promise. When the
weeks intervening between the night of this conversa-
tion and Christmas day began perceptibly to diminish,
her anxiety and perplexity increased.
One day she was led by an accident into an oddly
confidential dialogue with Gabriel about her difficulty
It afforded her a little relief -- of a dull and cheerless
kind. They were auditing accounts, and something
occurred in the course of their labours which led Oak
to say, speaking of Boldwood, " He'll never forget you,
ma'am, never."
Then out came her trouble before she was aware;
and she told him how she had again got into the toils;
what Boldwood had asked her, and how he was ex-
pecting her assent. "The most mournful reason of all
for my agreeing to it." she said sadly, "and the true
reason why I think to do so for good or for evil, is this
-- it is a thing I have not breathed to a living soul as
yet-i believe that if I don't give my word, he'll go out
of his mind."
"Really, do ye?" said Gabriel, gravely.
"I believe this." she continued, with reckless frank-
ness; "and Heaven knows I say it in a spirit the very
reverse of vain, for I am grieved and troubled to my
soul about it-i believe I hold that man's future in my
hand. His career depends entirely upon my treatment
of him. O Gabriel, I tremble at my responsibility, for
it is terrible!"
"Well, I think this much, ma'am, as I told you years
ago." said Oak, "that his life is a total blank whenever
he isn't hoping for 'ee; but I can't suppose-i hope
that nothing so dreadful hangs on to it as you fancy.
His natural manner has always been dark and strange,
you know. But since the case is so sad and oddlike,
why don't ye give the conditional promise? I think I
would."
"But is it right? Some rash acts of my past life
have taught me that a watched woman must have very
much circumspection to retain only a very little credit,
and I do want and long to be discreet in this! And
six years -- why we may all be in our graves by that
BATHSHEBA TALKS WITH OAK
time, even if Mr. Troy does not come back again, which
he may not impossibly do! Such thoughts give a sort
of absurdity to the scheme. Now, isn't it preposterous,
Gabriel? However he came to dream of it, I cannot think.
But is it wrong? You know -- you are older than I."
"Eight years older, ma'am."
"Yes, eight years -- and is it wrong?"
"Perhaps it would be an uncommon agreement for a
man and woman to make: I don't see anything really
wrong about it." said Oak, slowly. "In fact the very
thing that makes it doubtful if you ought to marry en
under any condition, that is, your not caring about him
-- for I may suppose -- -- "
"Yes, you may suppose that love is wanting." she
said shortly. "Love is an utterly bygone, sorry, worn-
out, miserable thing with me -- for him or any one else."
"Well, your want of love seems to me the one thing
that takes away harm from such an agreement with him.
If wild heat had to do wi' it, making ye long to over-
come the awkwardness about your husband's vanishing,
it mid be wrong; but a cold-hearted agreement to oblige
a man seems different, somehow. The real sin, ma'am
in my mind, lies in thinking of ever wedding wi' a man
you don't love honest and true."
"That I'm willing to pay the penalty of." said Bath-
sheba, firmly. "You know, Gabriel, this is what I can-
not get off my conscience -- that I once seriously injured
him in sheer idleness. If I had never played a trick
upon him, he would never have wanted to marry me.
O if I could only pay some heavy damages in money
to him for the harm I did, and so get the sin off my
soul that way!.. Well, there's the debt, which can
only be discharged in one way, and I believe I am
bound to do it if it honestly lies in my power, without
any consideration of my own future at all. When a
rake gambles away his expectations, the fact that it is
an inconvenient debt doesn't make him the less liable.
I've been a rake, and the single point I ask you is, con-
sidering that my own scruples, and the fact that in the
eye of the law my husband is only missing, will keep
any man from marrying me until seven years have
passed -- am I free to entertain such an idea, even
though 'tis a sort of penance -- for it will be that? I
hate the act of marriage under such circumstances, and
the class of women I should seem to belong to by doing
it!"
"It seems to me that all depends upon whe'r you
think, as everybody else do, that your husband is
dead."
"I shall get to, I suppose, because I cannot help
feeling what would have brought him back long before
this time if he had lived."
"Well, then, in religious sense you will be as free
to THINK o' marrying again as any real widow of one
year's standing. But why don't ye ask Mr. Thirdly's
advice on how to treat Mr. Boldwood?"
"No. When I want a broad-minded opinion for
general enlightenment, distinct from special advice, I
never go to a man who deals in the subject pro-
fessionally. So I like the parson's opinion on law, the
lawyer's on doctoring, the doctor's on business, and my
business-man's -- that is, yours -- on morals."
"And on love -- -- "
"My own."
"I'm afraid there's a hitch in that argument." said
Oak, with a grave smile.
She did not reply at once, and then saying, "Good
evening Mr. Oak." went away.
She had spoken frankly, and neither asked nor ex-
pected any reply from Gabriel more satisfactory than
that she had obtained. Yet in the centremost parts of
her complicated heart there existed at this minute a
little pang of disappointment, for a reason she would
not allow herself to recognize. Oak had not once
wished her free that he might marry her himself -- had
not once said, "I could wait for you as well as he."
That was the insect sting. Not that she would have
listened to any such hypothesis. O no -- for wasn't
she saying all the time that such thoughts of the future
were improper, and wasn't Gabriel far too poor a man
to speak sentiment to her? Yet he might have just
hinted about that old love of his, and asked, in a playful
off-hand way, if he might speak of it. It would have
seemed pretty and sweet, if no more; and then she
would have shown how kind and inoffensive a woman's
"No" can sometimes be. But to give such cool advice
-- the very advice she had asked for -- it ruffled our
heroine all the afternoon.

CHAPTER LII

CONVERGING COURSES

I
CHRISTMAS-EVE came, and a party that Boldwood
was to give in the evening was the great subject of talk
in Weatherbury. It was not that the rarity of Christmas
parties in the parish made this one a wonder, but that
Boldwood should be the giver. The announcement
had had an abnormal and incongruous sound, as if one
should hear of croquet-playing in a cathedral aisle, or
that some much-respected judge was going upon the
stage. That the party was intended to be a truly jovial
one there was no room for doubt. A large bough of
mistletoe had been brought from the woods that day, and
suspended in the hall of the bachelor's home. Holly
and ivy had followed in armfuls. From six that morning
till past noon the huge wood fire in the kitchen roared
and sparkled at its highest, the kettle, the saucepan, and
the threelegged pot appearing in the midst of the flames
like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; moreover,
roasting and basting operations were continually
carried on in front of the genial blaze.
As it grew later the fire was made up in the large
long hall into which the staircase descended, and all
encumbrances were cleared out for dancing. The log
which was to form the back-brand of the evening fire
was the uncleft trunk of a tree, so unwieldy that it could
be neither brought nor rolled to its place; and accord-
ingly two men were to be observed dragging and heaving
it in by chains and levers as the hour of assembly drew
near.
II
In spite of all this, the spirit of revelry was wanting
In the atmosphere of the house. Such a thing had
never been attempted before by its owner, and it was
now done as by a wrench. Intended gaieties would
insist upon appearing like solemn grandeurs, the organ-
ization of the whole effort was carried out coldly, by
hirelings, and a shadow seemed to move about the
rooms, saying that the proceedings were unnatural to
the place and the lone man who lived therein, and hence
not good.
Bathsheba was at this time in her room, dressing for
the event. She had called for candles, and Liddy
entered and placed one on each side of her mistress's
glass.
"Don't go away, Liddy." said Bathsheba, almost
timidly." I am foolishly agitated-i cannot tell why.
I wish I had not been obliged to go to this dance; but
there's no escaping now. I have not spoken to Mr.
Boldwood since the autumn, when I promised to see
him at Christmas on business, but I had no idea there
was to be anything of this kind."
"But I would go now." said Liddy, who was going
with her; for Boldwood had been indiscriminate in his
invitations.
"Yes, I shall make my appearance, of course." said
Bathsheba." But I am THE CAUSE of the party, and that
upsets me! -- Don't tell, Liddy."
"O no, ma'am, You the cause of it, ma'am?"
"Yes. I am the reason of the party-i. If it had
not been for me, there would never have been one. I
can't explain any more -- there's no more to be explained.
I wish I had never seen Weatherbury."
"That's wicked of you -- to wish to be worse off than
you are."
"No, Liddy. I have never been free from trouble
since I have lived here, and this party is likely to bring
me more. Now, fetch my black silk dress, and see how
it sits upon me."
"But you will leave off that, surely, ma'am? You
have been a widowlady fourteen months, and ought to
brighten up a little on such a night as this."
"Is it necessary? No; I will appear as usual, for if
I were to wear any light dress people would say things
about me, and I should seem to he rejoicing when I am
solemn all the time. The party doesn't suit me a bit;
but never mind, stay and help to finish me off."
III
Boldwood was dressing also at this hour. A tailor
from Casterbridge was with him, assisting him in the
operation of trying on a new coat that had just been
brought home.
Never had Boldwood been so fastidious, unreasonable
about the fit, and generally difficult to please. The
tailor walked round and round him, tugged at the waist,
pulled the sleeve, pressed out the collar, and for the
first time in his experience Boldwood was not bored-
Times had been when the farmer had exclaimed against
all such niceties as childish, but now no philosophic or
hasty rebuke whatever was provoked by this man for
attaching as much importance to a crease in the coat
as to an earthquake in South America. Boldwood at
last expressed himself nearly satisfied, and paid the bill,
the tailor passing out of the door just as Oak came in
to report progress for the day.
"Oh, Oak." said Boldwood. "I shall of course see
you here to-night. Make yourself merry. I am deter-
mined that neither expense nor trouble shall be spared."
"I'll try to be here, sir, though perhaps it may not
be very early." said Gabriel, quietly. "I am glad indeed
to see such a change in 'ee from what it used to be."
"Yes-i must own it-i am bright to-night: cheerful
and more than cheerful-so much so that I am almost
sad again with the sense that all of it is passing away.
And sometimes, when I am excessively hopeful and
blithe, a trouble is looming in the distance: so that I
often get to look upon gloom in me with content, and
to fear a happy mood. Still this may be absurd-i feel
that it is absurd. Perhaps my day is dawning at last."
"I hope it 'ill be a long and a fair one."
"Thank you -- thank you. Yet perhaps my cheerful
mess rests on a slender hope. And yet I trust my hope.
It is faith, not hope. I think this time I reckon with
my host. -- Oak, my hands are a little shaky, or some-
thing; I can't tie this neckerchief properly. Perhaps
you will tie it for me. The fact is, I have not been well
lately, you know."
"I am sorry to hear that, sir."
"Oh, it's nothing. I want it done as well as you can,
please. Is there any late knot in fashion, Oak?"
"I don't know, sir." said Oak. His tone had sunk to
sadness.
Boldwood approached Gabriel, and as Oak tied the
neckerchief the farmer went on feverishly --
"Does a woman keep her promise, Gabriel?"
"If it is not inconvenient to her she may."
"-- Or rather an implied promise."
"I won't answer for her implying." said Oak, with
faint bitterness. "That's a word as full o' holes as a
sieve with them."
Oak, don't talk like that. You have got quite
cynical lately -- how is it? We seem to have shifted our
positions: I have become the young and hopeful man,
and you the old and unbelieving one. However, does
a woman keep a promise, not to marry, but to enter on
an engagement to marry at some time? Now you
know women better than I -- tell me."
"I am afeard you honour my understanding too much.
However, she may keep such a promise, if it is made
with an honest meaning to repair a wrong."
"It has not gone far yet, but I think it will soon --
yes, I know it will." he said, in an impulsive whisper.
"I have pressed her upon the subject, and she inclines
to be kind to me, and to think of me as a husband at
a long future time, and that's enough for me. How
can I expect more? She has a notion that a woman
should not marry within seven years of her husband's
disappearance -- that her own self shouldn't, I mean --
because his body was not found. It may be merely
this legal reason which influences her, or it may be a
religious one, but she is reluctant to talk on the point-
Yet she has promised -- implied -- that she will ratify an
engagement to-night."
"Seven years." murmured Oak.
"No, no -- it's no such thing!" he said, with im-
patience. Five years, nine months, and a few days.
Fifteen months nearly have passed since he vanished,
and is there anything so wonderful in an engagement of
little more than five years?"
"It seems long in a forward view. Don't build too
much upon such promises, sir. Remember, you have
once be'n deceived. Her meaning may be good; but
there -- she's young yet."
"Deceived? Never!" said Boldwood, vehemently.
"She never promised me at that first time, and hence
she did not break her promise! If she promises me,
she'll marry me, Bathsheba is a woman to her word."
IV
Troy was sitting in a corner of The White Hart
tavern at Casterbridge, smoking and drinking a steaming
mixture from a glass. A knock was given at the door,
and Pennyways entered.
"Well, have you seen him?" Troy inquired, pointing
to a chair.
"Boldwood?"
"No -- Lawyer Long."
"He wadn' at home. I went there first, too."
"That's a nuisance."
"'Tis rather, I suppose."
"Yet I don't see that, because a man appears to be
drowned and was not, he should be liable for anything.
I shan't ask any lawyer -- not I."
"But that's not it, exactly. If a man changes his
name and so forth, and takes steps to deceive the world
and his own wife, he's a cheat, and that in the eye of
the law is ayless a rogue, and that is ayless a lammocken
vagabond; and that's a punishable situation."
"Ha-ha! Well done, Pennyways." Troy had laughed,
but it was with some anxiety that he said, "Now, what
I want to know is this, do you think there's really
anything going on between her and Boldwood? Upon
my soul, I should never have believed it! How she.
must detest me! Have you found out whether she
has encouraged him?"
"I haen't been able to learn. There's a deal of
feeling on his side seemingly, but I don't answer for
her. I didn't know a word about any such thing till
yesterday, and all I heard then was that she was gwine
to the party at his house to-night. This is the first
time she has ever gone there, they say. And they say
that she've not so much as spoke to him since they were
at Greenhill Fair: but what can folk believe o't? How-
ever, she's not fond of him -- quite offish and quite care
less, I know."
"I'm not so sure of that.... She's a handsome
woman, Pennyways, is she not? Own that you never
saw a finer or more splendid creature in your life.
Upon my honour, when I set eyes upon her that day
I wondered what I could have been made of to be able
to leave her by herself so long. And then I was
hampered with that bothering show, which I'm free of
at last, thank the stars." He smoked on awhile, and
then added, "How did she look when you passed by
yesterday?"
"Oh, she took no great heed of me, ye may well
fancy; but she looked well enough, far's I know. Just
flashed her haughty eyes upon my poor scram body, and
then let them go past me to what was yond, much as if
I'd been no more than a leafless tree. She had just got
off her mare to look at the last wring-down of cider for
the year; she had been riding, and so her colours were
up and her breath rather quick, so that her bosom
plimmed and feli-plimmed and feli-every time plain
to my eye. Ay, and there were the fellers round her
wringing down the cheese and bustling about and
saying, Ware o' the pommy, ma'am: 'twill spoil yer
gown. "Never mind me," says she. Then Gabe
brought her some of the new cider, and she must
needs go drinking it through a strawmote, and not in
a nateral way at all. "Liddy," says she, "bring indoors
a few gallons, and I'll make some cider-wine." Sergeant,
I was no more to her than a morsel of scroffin the fuel
house!"
"I must go and find her out at once -- O yes, I see
that-i must go. Oak is head man still, isn't he?"
"Yes, 'a b'lieve. And at Little Weatherbury Farm
too. He manages everything."
"Twill puzzle him to manage her, or any other man
of his compass!"
"I don't know about that. She can't do without
him, and knowing it well he's pretty independent.
And she've a few soft corners to her mind, though
I've never been able to get into one, the devil's in't!"
"Ah baily she's a notch above you, and you must
own it: a higher class of animal-a finer tissue. How-
ever, stick to me, and neither this haughty goddess,
dashing piece of womanhood, Juno-wife of mine (Juno
was a goddess, you know), nor anybody else shall hurt
you. But all this wants looking into, I perceive.
What with one thing and another, I see that my work
is well cut out for me."
V
"How do I look to-night, Liddy?" said Bathsheba,
giving a final adjustment to her dress before leaving the
glass.
"I never saw you look so well before. Yes-i'll tell
you when you looked like it -- that night, a year and a
half ago, when you came in so wildlike, and scolded us
for making remarks about you and Mr. Troy."
"Everybody will think that I am setting myself to
captivate Mr. Boldwood, I suppose." she murmured.
"At least they'll say so. Can't my hair be brushed
down a little flatter? I dread going -- yet I dread the
risk of wounding him by staying away."Anyhow, ma'am, you can't well be
dressed plainer
than you are, unless you go in sackcloth at once. 'Tis
your excitement is what makes you look so noticeable
to-night."
"I don't know what's the matter, I feel wretched at
one time, and buoyant at another. I wish I could have
continued quite alone as I have been for the last year
or so, with no hopes and no fears, and no pleasure and
no grief.
"Now just suppose Mr. Boldwood should ask you
-- only just suppose it -- to run away with him, what
would you do, ma'am?"
"Liddy -- none of that." said Bathsheba, gravely.
"Mind, I won't hear joking on any such matter. Do
you hear?"
"I beg pardon, ma'am. But knowing what rum
things we women be, I just said -- however, I won't
speak of it again."
"No marrying for me yet for many a year; if ever,
"twill be for reasons very, very different from those you
think, or others will believe! Now get my cloak, for it
is time to go."
VI
"Oak, said Boldwood, "before you go I want to
mention what has been passing in my mind lately --
that little arrangement we made about your share in the
farm I mean. That share is small, too small, consider-
ing how little I attend to business now, and how much
time and thought you give to it. Well, since the world
is brightening for me, I want to show my sense of it
by increasing your proportion in the partnership. I'll
make a memorandum of the arrangement which struck
me as likely to be convenient, for I haven't time to talk
about it now; and then we'll discuss it at our leisure.
My intention is ultimately to retire from the manage-
ment altogether, and until you can take all the expendi-
ture upon your shoulders, I'll be a sleeping partner in
the stock. Then, if I marry her -- and I hope-i feel I
shall, why -- -- "
"Pray don't speak of it, sir." said Oak, hastily. "We
don't know what may happen. So many upsets may
befall 'ee. There's many a slip, as they say -- and I
would advise you-i know you'll pardon me this once --
not to be TOO SURE."
"I know, I know. But the feeling I have about in-
creasing your share is on account of what I know of you
Oak, I have learnt a little about your secret: your
interest in her is more than that of bailiff for an em-
ployer. But you have behaved like a man, and I, as a
sort of successful rival-successful partly through your
goodness of heart -- should like definitely to show my
sense of your friendship under what must have been a
great pain to you."
"O that's not necessary, thank 'ee." said Oak,
hurriedly. "I must get used to such as that; other
men have, and so shall I."
Oak then left him. He was uneasy on Boldwood's
account, for he saw anew that this constant passion
of the farmer made him not the man he once had
been.
As Boldwood continued awhile in his room alone --
ready and dressed to receive his company -- the mood of
anxiety about his appearance seemed to pass away, and
to be succeeded by a deep solemnity. He looked out
of the window, and regarded the dim outline of the trees
upon the sky, and the twilight deepening to darkness.
Then he went to a locked closet, and took from
a locked drawer therein a small circular case the size of
a pillbox, and was about to put it into his pocket. But
he lingered to open the cover and take a momentary
glance inside. It contained a woman's finger-ring, set
all the way round with small diamonds, and from its
appearance had evidently been recently purchased.
Boldwood's eyes dwelt upon its many sparkles a long
time, though that its material aspect concerned him
little was plain from his manner and mien, which were
those of a mind following out the presumed thread of
that jewel's future history.
The noise of wheels at the front of the house became
audible. Boldwood closed the box, stowed it away
carefully in his pocket, and went out upon the landing.
The old man who was his indoor factotum came at the
same moment to the foot of the stairs.
"They be coming, sir -- lots of 'em -- a-foot and a-
driving!"
"I was coming down this moment. Those wheels I
heard -- is it Mrs. Troy?"
"No, sir -- 'tis not she yet."
A reserved and sombre expression had returned to
Boldwood's face again, but it poorly cloaked his feel-
ings when he pronounced Bathsheba's name; and his
feverish anxiety continued to show its existence by a
galloping motion of his fingers upon the side of his thigh
as he went down the stairs.
VII
"How does this cover me?" said Troy to Pennyways,
"Nobody would recognize me now, I'm sure."
He was buttoning on a heavy grey overcoat of
Noachian cut, with cape and high collar, the latter being
erect and rigid, like a girdling wall, and nearly reaching
to the verge of travelling cap which was pulled down
over his ears.
Pennyways snuffed the candle, and then looked up
and deliberately inspected Troy
"You've made up your mind to go then?" he
said.
"Made up my mind? Yes; of course I have."
"Why not write to her? 'Tis a very queer corner
that you have got into, sergeant. You see all these things
will come to light if you go back, and they won't sound
well at all. Faith, if I was you I'd even bide as you be
-- a single man of the name of Francis. A good wife is
good, but the best wife is not so good as no wife at all.
Now that's my outspoke mind, and I've been called a
long-headed feller here and there."
"All nonsense!" said Troy, angrily. "There she is
with plenty of money, and a house and farm, and
horses, and comfort, and here am I living from hand to
mouth -- a needy adventurer. Besides, it is no use
talking now; it is too late, and I am glad of it; I've been
seen and recognized here this very afternoon. I should
have gone back to her the day after the fair, if it hadn't
been for you talking about the law, and rubbish about
getting a separation; and I don't put it off any longer.
What the deuce put it into my head to run away at all,
I can't think! Humbugging sentiment -- that's what it
was. But what man on earth was to know that his wife
would be in such a hurry to get rid of his name!"
"I should have known it. She's bad enough for
anything."
"Pennyways, mind who you are talking to."
"Well, sergeant, all I say is this, that if I were you I'd
go abroad again where I came from -- 'tisn't too late to do
it now. I wouldn't stir up the business and get a bad
name for the sake of living with her -- for all that about
your play-acting is sure to come out, you know, although
you think otherwise. My eyes and limbs, there'll be a
racket if you go back just now -- in the middle of Bold-
wood's Christmasing!"
"H'm, yes. I expect I shall not be a very welcome
guest if he has her there." said the sergeant, with a slight
laugh. "A sort of Alonzo the Brave; and when I go in
the guests will sit in silence and fear, and all laughter
and pleasure will be hushed, and the lights in the
chamber burn blue, and the worms -- Ugh, horrible! --
Ring for some more brandy, Pennyways, I felt an
awful shudder just then! Well, what is there besides?
A stick-i must have a walking-stick."
Pennyways now felt himself to be in something of a
difficulty, for should Bathsheba and Troy become recon-
ciled it would be necessary to regain her good opinion
if he would secure the patronage of her husband. I
sometimes think she likes you yet, and is a good woman
at bottom." he said, as a saving sentence. "But there's
no telling to a certainty from a body's outside. Well,
you'll do as you like about going, of course, sergeant,
and as for me, I'll do as you tell me."
"Now, let me see what the time is." said Troy, after
emptying his glass in one draught as he stood. 'Half-
past six o'clock. I shall not hurry along the road, and
shall be there then before nine."

CHAPTER LIII

CONCURRITUR -- HORAE MOMENTO

OUTSIDE the front of Boldwood's house a group of
men stood in the dark, with their faces towards the door,
which occasionally opened and closed for the passage of
some guest or servant, when a golden rod of light would
stripe the ground for the moment and vanish again,
leaving nothing outside but the glowworm shine of the
pale lamp amid the evergreens over the door.
"He was seen in Casterbridge this afternoon -- so the
boy said." one of them remarked in a whisper. "And l
for one believe it. His body was never found, you know."
"'Tis a strange story." said the next. "You may
depend upon't that she knows nothing about it."
"Not a word."
"Perhaps he don't mean that she shall." said another
man.
"If he's alive and here in the neighbourhood, he
means mischief." said the first. "Poor young thing:
I do pity her, if 'tis true. He'll drag her to the dogs."
"O no; he'll settle down quiet enough." said one
disposed to take a more hopeful view of the case.
"What a fool she must have been ever to have had
anything to do with the man! She is so self-willed and
independent too, that one is more minded to say it
serves her right than pity her."
"No, no. I don't hold with 'ee there. She was no
otherwise than a girl mind, and how could she tell what
the man was made of? If 'tis really true, 'tis too hard
a punishment, and more than she ought to hae. -- Hullo,
who's that?" This was to some footsteps that were
heard approaching.
"William Smallbury." said a dim figure in the shades,
coming up and joining them. "Dark as a hedge, to-
night, isn't it? I all but missed the plank over the river
ath'art there in the bottom -- never did such a thing
before in my life. Be ye any of Boldwood's workfolk?"
He peered into their faces.
"Yes -- all o' us. We met here a few minutes ago."
"Oh, I hear now -- that's Sam Samway: thought I
knowed the voice, too. Going in?"
"Presently. But I say, William." Samway whispered,
"have ye heard this strange tale?"
"What -- that about Sergeant Troy being seen, d'ye
mean, souls?" said Smallbury, also lowering his voice.
"Ay: in Casterbridge."
"Yes, I have. Laban Tall named a hint of it to me
but now -- but I don't think it. Hark, here Laban
comes himself, 'a b'lieve." A footstep drew near.
"Laban?"
"Yes, 'tis I." said Tall.
"Have ye heard any more about that?"
"No." said Tall, joining the group. "And I'm in-
clined to think we'd better keep quiet. If so be 'tis not
true, 'twill flurry her, and do her much harm to repeat
it; and if so be 'tis true, 'twill do no good to forestall
her time o' trouble. God send that it mid be a lie, for
though Henery Fray and some of 'em do speak against
her, she's never been anything but fair to me. She's
hot and hasty, but she's a brave girl who'll never tell a
lie however much the truth may harm her, and I've no
cause to wish her evil."
"She never do tell women's little lies, that's true; and
'tis a thing that can be said of very few. Ay, all the
harm she thinks she says to yer face: there's nothing
underhand wi' her."
They stood silent then, every man busied with his
own thoughts, during which interval sounds of merri-
ment could be heard within. Then the front door again
opened, the rays streamed out, the wellknown form of
Boldwood was seen in the rectangular area of light, the
door closed, and Boldwood walked slowly down the path.
"'Tis master." one of the men whispered, as he neared
them. "We'd better stand quiet -- he'll go in again
directly. He would think it unseemly o' us to be
loitering here.
Boldwood came on, and passed by the men without
seeing them, they being under the bushes on the grass.
He paused, leant over the gate, and breathed a long
breath. They heard low words come from him.
"I hope to God she'll come, or this night will be
nothing but misery to me! O my darling, my darling,
why do you keep me in suspense like this?"
He said this to himself, and they all distinctly heard
it. Boldwood remained silent after that, and the noise
from indoors was again just audible, until, a few minutes
later, light wheels could be distinguished coming down
the hill. They drew nearer, and ceased at the gate.
Boldwood hastened back to the door, and opened it;
and the light shone upon Bathsheba coming up the
path.
Boldwood compressed his emotion to mere welcome:
the men marked her light laugh and apology as she met
him: he took her into the house; and the door closed
again.
"Gracious heaven, I didn't know it was like that with
him!" said one of the men. "I thought that fancy of
his was over long ago.
"You don't know much of master, if you thought
that." said Samway.
"I wouldn't he should know we heard what 'a said
for the world." remarked a third.
"I wish we had told of the report at once." the first
uneasily continued. "More harm may come of this than
we know of. Poor Mr. Boldwood, it will, be hard upon
en. I wish Troy was in -- -- Well, God forgive me
for such a wish! A scoundrel to play a poor wife such
tricks. Nothing has prospered in Weatherbury since he
came here. And now I've no heart to go in. Let's
look into Warren's for a few minutes first, shall us,
neighbours?"
Samway, Tall, and Smallbury agreed to go to Warren's,
and went out at the gate, the remaining ones entering
the house. The three soon drew near the malt-house,
approaching it from the adjoining orchard, and not by
way of the street. The pane of glass was illuminated
as usual. Smallbury was a little in advance of the rest
when, pausing, he turned suddenly to his companions
and said, "Hist! See there."
The light from the pane was now perceived to be
shining not upon the ivied wall as usual, but upon some
object close to the glass. It was a human face.
"Let's come closer." whispered Samway; and they
approached on tiptoe. There was no disbelieving the
report any longer. Troy's face was almost close to the
pane, and he was looking in. Not only was he looking in,
but he appeared to have been arrested by a conversation
which was in progress in the malt-house, the voices of
the interlocutors being those of Oak and the maltster.
"The spree is all in her honour, isn't it -- hey?" said
the old man. "Although he made believe 'tis only
keeping up o' Christmas?"
"I cannot say." replied Oak.
"O 'tis true enough, faith. I cannot understand
Farmer Boldwood being such a fool at his time of life
as to ho and hanker after thik woman in the way 'a do,
and she not care a bit about en."
The men, after recognizing Troy's features, withdrew
across the orchard as quietly as they had come. The
air was big with Bathsheba's fortunes to-night: every
word everywhere concerned her. When they were quite
out of earshot all by one instinct paused.
"It gave me quite a turn -- his face." said Tall,
breathing.
"And so it did me." said Samway. "What's to be
done?"
"I don't see that 'tis any business of ours." Smallbury
murmured dubiously.
"But it is! 'Tis a thing which is everybody's business,
said Samway. "We know very well that master's on a
wrong tack, and that she's quite in the dark, and we
should let 'em know at once. Laban, you know her
best -- you'd better go and ask to speak to her."
"I bain't fit for any such thing." said Laban, nervously.
"I should think William ought to do it if anybody. He's
oldest."
"I shall have nothing to do with it." said Smallbury.
"'Tis a ticklish business altogether. Why, he'll go on
to her himself in a few minutes, ye'll see."
"We don't know that he will. Come, Laban."
"Very well, if I must I must, I suppose." Tall reluct-
antly answered. "What must I say?"
"Just ask to see master."
"O no; I shan't speak to Mr. Boldwood. If I tell
anybody, 'twill be mistress."
"Very well." said Samway.
Laban then went to the door. When he opened it
the hum of bustle rolled out as a wave upon a still
strand -- the assemblage being immediately inside the
hall-and was deadened to a murmur as he closed it
again. Each man waited intently, and looked around at
the dark tree tops gently rocking against the sky and
occasionally shivering in a slight wind, as if he took
interest in the scene, which neither did. One of them
began walking up and down, and then came to where
he started from and stopped again, with a sense that
walking was thing not worth doing now.
"I should think Laban must have seen mistress by
this time." said Smallbury, breaking the silence. "Per-
haps she won't come and speak to him."
The door opened. Tall appeared, and joined them
"Well?" said both.
"I didn't like to ask for her after all." Laban faltered
out. "They were all in such a stir, trying to put a little
spirit into the party. Somehow the fun seems to hang
fire, though everything's there that a heart can desire,
and I couldn't for my soul interfere and throw damp
upon it -- if 'twas to save my life, I couldn't!"
"I suppose we had better all go in together." said
Samway, gloomily. "Perhaps I may have a chance of
saying a word to master."
So the men entered the hall, which was the room
selected and arranged for the gathering because of its
size. The younger men and maids were at last just
beginning to dance. Bathsheba had been perplexed
how to act, for she was not much more than a slim
young maid herself, and the weight of stateliness sat
heavy upon her. Sometimes she thought she ought
not to have come under any circumstances; then she
considered what cold unkindness that would have been,
and finally resolved upon the middle course of staying
for about an hour only, and gliding off unobserved,
having from the first made up her mind that she could
on no account dance, sing, or take any active part in
the proceedings.
Her allotted hour having been passed in chatting
and looking on, Bathsheba told Liddy not to hurry her-
self, and went to the small parlour to prepare for
departure, which, like the hall, was decorated with holly
and ivy, and well lighted up.
Nobody was in the room, but she had hardly
been there a moment when the master of the house
entered.
"Mrs. Troy -- you are not going?" he said. "We've
hardly begun!"
"If you'll excuse me, I should like to go now." Her
manner was restive, for she remembered her promise,
and imagined what he was about to say. "But as it is
not late." she added, "I can walk home, and leave my
man and Liddy to come when they choose."
"I've been trying to get an opportunity of speaking
to you." said Boldwood. "You know perhaps what I
long to say?"
Bathsheba silently looked on the floor.
"You do give it?" he said, eagerly.
"What?" she whispered.
"Now, that's evasion! Why, the promise. I don't
want to intrude upon you at all, or to let it become
known to anybody. But do give your word! A
mere business compact, you know, between two people
who are beyond the influence of passion." Boldwood
knew how false this picture was as regarded himself;
but he had proved that it was the only tone in which
she would allow him to approach her. "A promise to
marry me at the end of five years and three-quarters.
You owe it to me!"
"I feel that I do." said Bathsheba; "that is, if you
demand it. But I am a changed woman -- an unhappy
woman -- and not -- not -- -- "
"You are still a very beautiful woman, said Boldwood.
Honesty and pure conviction suggested the remark,
unaccompanied by any perception that it might have
been adopted by blunt flattery to soothe and win her.
However, it had not much effect now, for for she said,
in a passionless murmur which was in itself a proof of
her words: "I have no feeling in the matter at all.
And I don't at all know what is right to do in my
diddicult position, and I have nobody to advise me. But
I give my promise, if I must. I give it as the rendering of
a debt, conditionally, of course, on my being a widow."
"You'll marry me between five and six years hence?"
"Don't press me too hard. I'll marry nobody
else."
"But surely you will name the time, or there's nothing
in the promise at all?"
O, I don't know, pray let me go!" she said, her
bosom beginning to rise. "I am afraid what to do!
want to be just to you, and to be that seems to be wrong-
ing myself, and perhaps it is breaking the commandments.
There is considerable doubt of his death, and then it
is dreadful; let me ask a solicitor, Mr. Boldwood, if I
ought or no!"
"Say the words, dear one, and the subject shall be
dismissed; a blissful loving intimacy of six years, and
then marriage -- O Bathsheba, say them!" he begged in
a husky voice, unable to sustain the forms of mere
friendship any longer. "Promise yourself to me; I
deserve it, indeed I do, for I have loved you more than
anybody in the world! And if I said hasty words and
showed uncalled-for heat of manner towards you, believe
me, dear, I did not mean to distress you; I was in
agony, Bathsheba, and I did not know what I said.
You wouldn't let a dog suffer what I have suffered,
could you but know it! Sometimes I shrink from your
knowing what I have felt for you, and sometimes I am
distressed that all of it you never will know. Be
gracious, and give up a little to me, when I would give
up my life for you!"
The trimmings of her dress, as they quivered against
the light, showed how agitated she was, and at last she
burst out crying. 'And you'll not -- press me -- about
anything more -- if I say in five or six years?" she
sobbed, when she had power to frame the words.
"Yes, then I'll leave it to time."
"Very well. If he does not return, I'll marry you
in six years from this day, if we both live." she said
solemnly.
"And you'll take this as a token from me."
Boldwood had come close to her side, and now he
clasped one of her hands in both his own, and lifted it
to his breast.
"What is it? Oh I cannot wear a ring!" she ex-
claimed, on seeing what he held; "besides, I wouldn't
have a soul know that it's an engagement! Perhaps it
is improper? Besides, we are not engaged in the usual
sense, are we? Don't insist, Mr. Boldwood -- don't!"
In her trouble at not being able to get her hand away
from him at once, she stamped passionately on the floor
with one foot, and tears crowded to her eyes again.
"It means simply a pledge -- no sentiment -- the seal
of a practical compact." he said more quietly, but still
retaining her hand in his firm grasp. "Come, now!"
And Boldwood slipped the ring on her finger.
"I cannot wear it." she said, weeping as if her heart
would break. "You frighten me, almost. So wild a
scheme! Please let me go home!"
"Only to-night: wear it just to-night, to please me!"
Bathsheba sat down in a chair, and buried her face
in her handkerchief, though Boldwood kept her hand
yet. At length she said, in a sort of hopeless whisper --
"Very well, then, I will to-night, if you wish it so
earnestly. Now loosen my hand; I will, indeed I will
wear it to-night."
"And it shall be the beginning of a pleasant secret
courtship of six years, with a wedding at the end?"
"It must be, I suppose, since you will have it so!"
she said, fairly beaten into non-resistance.
Boldwood pressed her hand, and allowed it to drop
in her lap. "I am happy now." he said. "God bless
you!"
He left the room, and when he thought she might
be sufficiently composed sent one of the maids to her
Bathsheba cloaked the effects of the late scene as she
best could, followed the girl, and in a few moments
came downstairs with her hat and cloak on, ready to go.
To get to the door it was necessary to pass through the
hall, and before doing so she paused on the bottom of
the staircase which descended into one corner, to take
a last look at the gathering.
There was no music or dancing in progress just now.
At the lower end, which had been arranged for the work-
folk specially, a group conversed in whispers, and with
clouded looks. Boldwood was standing by the fireplace,
and he, too, though so absorbed in visions arising from
her promise that he scarcely saw anything, seemed at
that moment to have observed their peculiar manner,
and their looks askance.
"What is it you are in doubt about, men?" he said.
One of them turned and replied uneasily: "It was
something Laban heard of, that's all, sir."
"News? Anybody married or engaged, born or
dead?" inquired the farmer, gaily. "Tell it to us, Tall.
One would think from your looks and mysterious ways
that it was something very dreadful indeed."
"O no, sir, nobody is dead." said Tall.
"I wish somebody was." said Samway, in a whisper.
"What do you say, Samway?" asked Boldwood, some-
what sharply. "If you have anything to say, speak out;
if not, get up another dance."
"Mrs. Troy has come downstairs." said Samway to
Tall. "If you want to tell her, you had better do it now."
"Do you know what they mean?" the farmer asked
Bathsheba, across the room.
"I don't in the least," said Bathsheba.
There was a smart rapping at the door. One of
the men opened it instantly, and went outside.
"Mrs. Troy is wanted." he said, on returning.
"Quite ready." said Bathsheba. "Though I didn't
tell them to send."
"It is a stranger, ma'am." said the man by the door.
"A stranger?" she said.
"Ask him to come in." said Boldwood.
The message was given, and Troy, wrapped up to
his eyes as we have seen him, stood in the doorway.
There was an unearthly silence, all looking towards
the newcomer. Those who had just learnt that he
was in the neighbourhood recognized him instantly;
those who did not were perplexed. Nobody noted
Bathsheba. She was leaning on the stairs. Her brow
had heavily contracted; her whole face was pallid, her
lips apart, her eyes rigidly staring at their visitor.
Boldwood was among those who did not notice that
he was Troy. "Come in, come in!" he repeated,
cheerfully, "and drain a Christmas beaker with us,
stranger!"
Troy next advanced into the middle of the room,
took off his cap, turned down his coat-collar, and looked
Boldwood in the face. Even then Boldwood did not
recognize that the impersonator of Heaven's persistent
irony towards him, who had once before broken in
upon his bliss, scourged him, and snatched his delight
away, had come to do these things a second time.
Troy began to laugh a mechanical laugh: Boldwood
recognized him now.
Troy turned to Bathsheba. The poor girl's wretched-
ness at this time was beyond all fancy or narration.
She had sunk down on the lowest stair; and there
she sat, her mouth blue and dry, and her dark eyes
fixed vacantly upon him, as if she wondered whether it
were not all a terrible illusion.
Then Troy spoke. "Bathsheba, I come here for
you!"
She made no reply.
"Come home with me: come!
Bathsheba moved her feet a little, but did not rise.
Troy went across to her.
"Come, madam, do you hear what I say?" he said,
peremptorily.
A strange voice came from the fireplace -- a voice
sounding far off and confined, as if from a dungeon.
Hardly a soul in the assembly recognized the thin tones
to be those of Boldwood. Sudden dispaire had trans-
formed him.
"Bathsheba, go with your husband!"
Nevertheless, she did not move. The truth was
that Bathsheba was beyond the pale of activity -- and
yet not in a swoon. She was in a state of mental GUTTA
SERENA; her mind was for the minute totally deprived of
light at the same time no obscuration was apparent
from without.
Troy stretched out his hand to pull her her towards him,
when she quickly shrank back. This visible dread of
him seemed to irritate Troy, and he seized her arm and
pulled it sharply. Whether his grasp pinched her, or
whether his mere touch was the 'cause, was never known,
but at the moment of his seizure she writhed, and gave
a quick, low scream.
The scream had been heard but a few seconds When
it was followed by sudden deafening report that
echoed through the room and stupefied them all. The
oak partition shook with the concussion, and the place
was filled with grey smoke.
In bewilderment they turned their eyes to Boldwood.
at his back, as stood before the fireplace, was a gun-
rack, as is usual in farmhouses, constructed to hold two
guns. When Bathsheba had cried out in her husband's
grasp, Boldwood's face of gnashing despair had changed.
The veins had swollen, and a frenzied look had gleamed
in his eye. He had turned quickly, taken one of the
guns, cocked it, and at once discharged it at Troy.
Troy fell. The distance apart of the two men was
so small that the charge of shot did not spread in the
least, but passed like a bullet into his body. He uttered
a long guttural sigh -- there was a contraction -- an exten-
sion -- then his muscles relaxed, and he lay still.
Boldwood was seen through the smoke to be now
again engaged with the gun. It was double-barrelled,
and he had, meanwhile, in some way fastened his hand-
kerchief to the trigger, and with his foot on the other
end was in the act of turning the second barrel upon
himself. Samway his man was the first to see this, and
in the midst of the general horror darted up to him.
Boldwood had already twitched the handkerchief, and
the gun exploded a second time, sending its contents,
by a timely blow from Samway, into the beam which
crossed the ceiling.
"Well, it makes no difference!" Boldwood gasped.
"There is another way for me to die."
Then he broke from Samway, crossed the room to
Bathsheba, and kissed her hand. He put on his hat,
opened the door, and went into the darkness, nobody
thinking of preventing him.

CHAPTER LIV

AFTER THE SHOCK

BOLDWOOD passed into the high road and turned
in the direction of Casterbridge. Here he walked at
an even, steady pace over Yalbury Hill, along the dead
level beyond, mounted Mellstock Hill, and between
eleven and twelve o'clock crossed the Moor into the town.
The streets were nearly deserted now, and the waving
lamp-flames only lighted up rows of grey shop-shutters,
and strips of white paving upon which his step echoed
as his passed along. He turned to the right, and halted
before an archway of heavy stonework, which was closed
by an iron studded pair of doors. This was the entrance
to the gaol, and over it a lamp was fixed, the light en-
abling the wretched traveller to find a bellpull.
The small wicket at last opened, and a porter
appeared. Boldwood stepped forward, and said some-
thing in a low tone, when, after a delay, another man
came. Boldwood entered, and the door was closed
behind him, and he walked the world no more.
Long before this time Weatherbury had been
thoroughly aroused, and the wild deed which had ter-
minated Boldwood's merrymaking became known to
all. Of those out of the house Oak was one of the
first to hear of the catastrophe, and when he entered
the room, which was about five minutes after Boldwood's
exit, the scene was terrible. All the female guests were
huddled aghast against the walls like sheep in a storm,
and the men were bewildered as to what to do. As for
Bathsheba, she had changed. She was sitting on the
floor beside the body of Troy, his head pillowed in her
lap, where she had herself lifted it. With one hand she
held her handkerchief to his breast and covered the
wound, though scarcely a single drop of blood had
flowed, and with the other she tightly clasped one of
his. The household convulsion had made her herself
again. The temporary coma had ceased, and activity
had come with the necessity for it. Deeds of endur-
ance, which seem ordinary in philosophy, are rare in
conduct, and Bathsheba was astonishing all around her
now, for her philosophy was her conduct, and she
seldom thought practicable what she did not practise.
She was of the stuff of which great men's mothers
are made. She was indispensable to high generation,
hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises.
Troy recumbent in his wife's lap formed now the sole
spectacle in the middle of the spacious room.
"Gabriel." she said, automatically, when he entered,
turning up a face of which only the wellknown lines
remained to tell him it was hers, all else in the picture
having faded quite. "Ride to Casterbridge instantly
for a surgeon. It is, I believe, useless, but go. Mr.
Boldwood has shot my husband."
Her statement of the fact in such quiet and simple
words came with more force than a tragic declamation,
and had somewhat the effect of setting the distorted
images in each mind present into proper focus. Oak,
almost before he had comprehended anything beyond
the briefest abstract of the event, hurried out of the
room, saddled a horse and rode away. Not till he had
ridden more than a mile did it occur to him that he
would have done better by sending some other man
on this errand, remaining himself in the house. What
had become of Boldwood? He should have been
looked after. Was he mad -- had there been a quarrel?
Then how had Troy got there? Where had he come
from? How did this remarkable reappearance effect
itself when he was supposed by many to be at the
bottom of the sea? Oak had in some slight measure
been prepared for the presence of Troy by hearing a
rumour of his return just before entering Boldwood's
house; but before he had weighed that information, this
fatal event had been superimposed. However, it was too
late now to think of sending another messenger, and
he rode on, in the excitement of these self-inquiries
not discerning, when about three miles from Caster-
bridge, a square-figured pedestrian passing along
under the dark hedge in the same direction as his
own.
The miles necessary to be traversed, and other
hindrances incidental to the lateness of the hour and
the darkness of the night, delayed the arrival of Mr,
Aldritch, the surgeon; and more than three hours
passed between the time at which the shot was fired
and that of his entering the house. Oak was addition-
ally detained in Casterbridge through having to give
notice to the authorities of what had happened; and
he then found that Boldwood had also entered the
town, and delivered himself up.
In the meantime the surgeon, having hastened into
the hall at Boldwood's, found it in darkness and quite
deserted. He went on to the back of the house,
where he discovered in the kitchen an old man, of
whom he made inquiries.
"She's had him took away to her own house, sir,"
said his informant.
"Who has?" said the doctor.
"Mrs. Troy. 'A was quite dead, sir."
This was astonishing information. "She had no
right to do that." said the doctor. "There will have
to be an inquest, and she should have waited to know
what to do."
"Yes, sir; it was hinted to her that she had better
wait till the law was known. But she said law was
nothing to her, and she wouldn't let her dear husband's
corpse bide neglected for folks to stare at for all the
crowners in England."
Mr. Aldritch drove at once back again up the
hill to Bathsheba's. The first person he met was
poor Liddy, who seemed literally to have dwindled
smaller in these few latter hours. "What has been
done?" he said.
"I don't know, sir." said Liddy, with suspended
breath. "My mistress has done it all."
"Where is she?"
"Upstairs with him, sir. When he was brought
home and taken upstairs, she said she wanted no
further help from the men. And then she called me,
and made me fill the bath, and after that told me I
had better go and lie down because I looked so ill.
Then she locked herself into the room alone with him,
and would not let a nurse come in, or anybody at all.
But I thought I'd wait in the next room in case she
should want me. I heard her moving about inside
for more than an hour, but she only came out once,
and that was for more candles, because hers had burnt
down into the socket. She said we were to let her
know when you or Mr. Thirdly came, sir."
Oak entered with the parson at this moment, and
they all went upstairs together, preceded by Liddy
Smallbury. Everything was silent as the grave when
they paused on the landing. Liddy knocked, and
Bathsheba's dress was heard rustling across the room:
the key turned in the lock, and she opened the door.
Her looks were calm and nearly rigid, like a slightly
animated bust of Melpomene.
"Oh, Mr. Aldritch, you have come at last." she
murmured from her lips merely, and threw back the
door. "Ah, and Mr. Thirdly. Well, all is done, and
anybody in the world may see him now." She then
passed by him, crossed the landing, and entered
another room.
Looking into the chamber of death she had vacated
they saw by the light of the candles which were on the
drawers a tall straight shape lying at the further end
of the bedroom, wrapped in white. Everything around
was quite orderly. The doctor went in, and after a
few minutes returned to the landing again, where
Oak and the parson still waited.
"It is all done, indeed, as she says." remarked Mr.
Aldritch, in a subdued voice. "The body has been
undressed and properly laid out in grave clothes.
Gracious Heaven -- this mere girl! She must have the
nerve of a stoic!"
"The heart of a wife merely." floated in a whisper
about the ears of the three, and turning they saw
Bathsheba in the midst of them. Then, as if at that
instant to prove that her fortitude had been more of
will than of spontaneity, she silently sank down between
them and was a shapeless heap of drapery on the floor.
The simple consciousness that superhuman strain was
no longer required had at once put a period to her
power to continue it.
They took her away into a further room, and the
medical attendance which had been useless in Troy's
case was invaluable in Bathsheba's, who fell into a
series of fainting-fits that had a serious aspect for a
time. The sufferer was got to bed, and Oak, finding
from the bulletins that nothing really dreadful was to
be apprehended on her score, left the house. Liddy
kept watch in Bathsheba's chamber, where she heard
her mistress, moaning in whispers through the dull
slow hours of that wretched night: "O it is my fault
-- how can I live! O Heaven, how can I live!"

CHAPTER LV

THE MARCH FOLLOWING -- "BATHSHEBA BOLDWOOD"

WE pass rapidly on into the month of March, to a
breezy day without sunshine, frost, or dew. On Yai*-
bury Hill, about midway between Weatherbury and
Casterbridge, where the turnpike road passes over
the crest, a numerous concourse of people had
gathered, the eyes of the greater number being fre-
quently stretched afar in a northerly direction. The
groups consisted of a throng of idlers, a party of
javelin-men, and two trumpeters, and in the midst
were carriages, one of which contained the high
sheriff. With the idlers, many of whom had mounted
to the top of a cutting formed for the road, were several
Weatherbury men and boys -- among others Poorgrass,
Coggan, and Cain Ball.
At the end of half-an-hour a faint dust was seen in
the expected quarter, and shortly after a travelling-
carriage, bringing one of the two judges on the Western
Circuit, came up the hill and halted on the top. The
judge changed carriages whilst a flourish was blown
by the big-cheeked trumpeters, and a procession being
formed of the vehicles and javelin-men, they all pro-
ceeded towards the town, excepting the Weatherbury
men, who as soon as they had seen the judge move
off returned home again to their work.
"Joseph, I seed you squeezing close to the carriage,"
said Coggan, as they walked. "Did ye notice my lord
judge's face?"
"I did." said Poorgrass. "I looked hard at en, as
if I would read his very soul; and there was mercy
in his eyes -- or to speak with the exact truth required
of us at this solemn time, in the eye that was towards
me."
"Well, I hope for the best." said Coggan, though
bad that must be. However, I shan't go to the trial,
and I'd advise the rest of ye that bain't wanted to bide
away. 'Twill disturb his mind more than anything to
see us there staring at him as if he were a show."
"The very thing I said this morning." observed Joseph,
"Justice is come to weigh him in the balances," I said
in my reflectious way, "and if he's found wanting, so
be it unto him," and a bystander said "Hear, hear,
A man who can talk like that ought to be heard."
But I don't like dwelling upon it, for my few words
are my few words, and not much; though the speech
of some men is rumoured abroad as though by nature
formed for such."
"So 'tis, Joseph. And now, neighbours, as I said,
every man bide at home."
The resolution was adhered to; and all waited
anxiously for the news next day. Their suspense
was diverted, however, by a discovery which was made
in the afternoon, throwing more light on Boldwood's
conduct and condition than any details which had
preceded it.
That he had been from the time of Greenhill Fair
until the fatal Christmas Eve in excited and unusual
moods was known to those who had been intimate
with him; but nobody imagined that there had shown
in him unequivocal symptoms of the mental derange-
ment which Bathsheba and Oak, alone of all others
and at different times, had momentarily suspected.
In a locked closet was now discovered an extraordinary
collection of articles. There were several sets of ladies"
dresses in the piece, of sundry expensive materials;
silks and satins, poplins and velvets, all of colours
which from Bathsheba's style of dress might have been
judged to be her favourites. There were two muffs,
sable and ermine. Above all there was a case of
jewellery, containing four heavy gold bracelets and
several lockets and rings, all of fine quality and manu-
facture. These things had been bought in Bath and
other towns from time to time, and brought home by
stealth. They were all carefully packed in paper, and
each package was labelled " Bathsheba Boldwood." a
date being subjoined six years in advance in every
instance.
These somewhat pathetic evidences of a mind crazed
with care and love were the subject of discourse in
Warren's malt-house when Oak entered from Caster-
bridge with tidings of the kiln glow shone upon
it, told the tale sufficiently well. Boldwood, as every
one supposed he would do, had pleaded guilty, and
had been sentenced to death.
The conviction that Boldwood had not been morally
responsible for his later acts now became general. Facts
elicited previous to the trial had pointed strongly in the
same direction, but they had not been of sufficient weight
to lead to an order for an examination into the state
of Boldwood's mind. It was astonishing, now that a
presumption of insanity was raised, how many collateral
circumstances were remembered to which a condition
of mental disease seemed to afford the only explanation
-- among others, the unprecedented neglect of his corn
stacks in the previous summer.
A petition was addressed to the Home Secretary,
advancing the circumstances which appeared to justify
a request for a reconsideration of the sentence. It was
not "numerously signed" by the inhabitants of Caster-
bridge, as is usual in such cases, for Boldwood had
never made many friends over the counter. The shops
thought it very natural that a man who, by importing
direct from the producer, had daringly set aside the
first great principle of provincial existence, namely
that God made country villages to supply customers
to county towns, should have confused ideas about
the Decalogue. The prompters were a few merciful
men who had perhaps too feelingly considered the
facts latterly unearthed, and the result was that evidence
was taken which it was hoped might remove the crime
in a moral point of view, out of the category of wilful
murder, and lead it to be regarded as a sheer outcome
of madness.
The upshot of the petition was waited for in Weather-
bury with solicitous interest. The execution had been
fixed for eight o'clock on a Saturday morning about a
fortnight after the sentence was passed, and up to
Friday afternoon no answer had been received. At
that time Gabriel came from Casterbridge Gaol, whither
he had been to wish Boldwood good-bye, and turned
down a by-street to avoid the town. When past the last
house he heard a hammering, and lifting his bowed
head he looked back for a moment. Over the chimneys
he could see the upper part of the gaol entrance, rich
and glowing in the afternoon sun, and some moving
figures were there. They were carpenters lifting a post
into a vertical position within the parapet. He with-
drew his eyes quickly, and hastened on.
It was dark when he reached home, and half the
village was out to meet him.
"No tidings." Gabriel said, wearily. "And I'm afraid
there's no hope. I've been with him more than two
hours."
"Do ye think he REALLY was out of his mind when he
did it?" said Smallbury.
"I can't honestly say that I do." Oak replied. "How-
ever, that we can talk of another time. Has there been
any change in mistress this afternoon?"
"None at all."
"Is she downstairs?"
"No. And getting on so nicely as she was too.
She's but very little better now again than she was at
Christmas. She keeps on asking if you be come, and
if there's news, till one's wearied out wi' answering her.
Shall I go and say you've come?"
"No." said Oak. "There's a chance yet; but I
couldn't stay in town any longer -- after seeing him too,
So Laban -- Laban is here, isn't he?"
"Yes." said Tall.
"What I've arranged is, that you shall ride to town
the last thing to-night; leave here about nine, and wait
a while there, getting home about twelve. If nothing
has been received by eleven to-night, they say there's
no chance at all."
"I do so hope his life will be spared." said Liddy.
"If it is not, she'll go out of her mind too. Poor thing;
her sufferings have been dreadful; she deserves any-
body's pity."
"Is she altered much?" said Coggan.
"If you haven't seen poor mistress since Christmas,
you wouldn't know her." said Liddy. "Her eyes are so
miserable that she's not the same woman. Only two
years ago she was a romping girl, and now she's this!"
Laban departed as directed, and at eleven o'clock
that night several of the villagers strolled along the
road to Casterbridge and awaited his arrival-among
them Oak, and nearly all the rest of Bathsheba's men.
Gabriel's anxiety was great that Boldwood might be
saved, even though in his conscience he felt that he
ought to die; for there had been qualities in the farmer
which Oak loved. At last, when they all were weary
the tramp of a horse was heard in the distance --
First dead, as if on turf it trode,
Then, clattering on the village road
In other pace than forth he yode.
"We shall soon know now, one way or other." said
Coggan, and they all stepped down from the bank on
which they had been standing into the road, and the
rider pranced into the midst of them.
"Is that you, Laban?" said Gabriel.
"Yes -- 'tis come. He's not to die. 'Tis confine-
ment during her Majesty's pleasure."
"Hurrah!" said Coggan, with a swelling heart. "God's
above the devil yet!"

CHAPTER LVI

BEAUTY IN LONELINESS -- AFTER ALL

BATHSHEBA revived with the spring. The utter
prostration that had followed the low fever from which
she had suffered diminished perceptibly when all un-
certainty upon every subject had come to an end.
But she remained alone now for the greater part of
her time, and stayed in the house, or at furthest went
into the garden. She shunned every one, even Liddy,
and could be brought to make no confidences, and to
ask for no sympathy.
As the summer drew on she passed more of her time
in the open air, and began to examine into farming
matters from sheer necessity, though she never rode
out or personally superintended as at former times.
One Friday evening in August she walked a little way
along the road and entered the village for the first time
since the sombre event of the preceding Christmas.
None of the old colour had as yet come to her cheek,
and its absolute paleness was heightened by the jet black
of her gown, till it appeared preternatural. When she
reached a little shop at the other end of the place,
which stood nearly opposite to the churchyard, Bath-
sheba heard singing inside the church, and she knew
that the singers were practising. She crossed the road,
opened the gate, and entered the graveyard, the high
sills of the church windows effectually screening her
from the eyes of those gathered within. Her stealthy
walk was to the nook wherein Troy had worked at
planting flowers upon Fanny Robin's grave, and she
came to the marble tombstone.
A motion of satisfaction enlivened her face as she
read the complete inscription. First came the words of
Troy himself: --
ERECTED BY FRANCIS TROY
IN BELOVED MEMORY OF
FANNY ROBIN,
WHO DIED OCTOBER 9, 18 -- ,
AGED 20 YEARS.
Underneath this was now inscribed in new letters: --
IN THE SAME GRAVE LIE
THE REMAINS OF THE AFORESAID
FRANCIS TROY,
WHO DIED DECEMBER 24TH, 18 -- ,
Whilst she stood and read and meditated the tones of
the organ began again in the church, and she went
with the same light step round to the porch and listened.
The door was closed, and the choir was learning a new
hymn. Bathsheba was stirred by emotions which
latterly she had assumed to be altogether dead within
her. The little attenuated voices of the children
brought to her ear in destinct utterance the words they
sang without thought or comprehension --
Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on.
Bathsheba's feeling was always to some extent de-
pendent upon her whim, as is the case with many other
women. Something big came into her throat and an
uprising to her eyes -- and she thought that she would
allow the imminent tears to flow if they wished. They
did flow and plenteously, and one fell upon the stone
bench beside her. Once that she had begun to cry for
she hardly knew what, she could not leave off for crowd-
ing thoughts she knew too well. She would have given
anything in the world to be, as those children were, un-
concerned at the meaning of their words, because too
innocent to feel the necessity for any such expression.
All the impassioned scenes of her brief expenence
seemed to revive with added emotion at that moment,
and those scenes which had been without emotion
during enactment had emotion then. Yet grief came
to her rather as a luxury than as the scourge of former
times.
Owing to Bathsheba's face being buried in her hands
she did not notice a form which came quietly into the
porch, and on seeing her, first moved as if to retreat,
then paused and regarded her. Bathsheba did not raise
her head for some time, and when she looked round
her face was wet, and her eyes drowned and dim. "Mr.
Oak." exclaimed she, disconcerted, " how long have you
been here?"
"A few minutes, ma'am." said Oak, respectfully.
"Are you going in?" said Bathsheba; and there came
from within the church as from a prompter --
l loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
pride ruled my will: remember not past years.
"I was." said Gabriel. "I am one of the bass singers,
you know. I have sung bass for several months.
"Indeed: I wasn't aware of that. I'll leave you, then."
which I have loved long since, and lost awhile,
sang the children.
"Don't let me drive you away, mistress. I think I
won't go in to-night."
"O no -- you don't drive me away.
Then they stood in a state of some embarrassment
Bathsheba trying to wipe her dreadfully drenched and
inflamed face without his noticing her. At length Oak
said, I've not seen you-i mean spoken to you -- since
ever so long, have I?" But he feared to bring distress-
ing memories back, and interrupted himself with: "Were
you going into church?"
"No." she said. I came to see the tombstone
privately -- to see if they had cut the inscription as I
wished Mr. Oak, you needn't mind speaking to me, if
you wish to, on the matter which is in both our minds
at this moment."
"And have they done it as you wished?" said Oak.
"Yes. Come and see it, if you have not already."
So together they went and read the tomb. "Eight
months ago!" Gabriel murmured when he saw the date.
"It seems like yesterday to me."
And to me as if it were years ago-long years, and

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