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Far From The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy

Part 2 out of 10

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inwards, the portion in flames completely disappears like
melting sugar, and the outline is lost to the eye. However,
a hay or a wheat-rick, well put together, will resist
combustion for a length of time, if it begins on the

This before Gabriel's eyes was a rick of straw, loosely put
together, and the flames darted into it with lightning
swiftness. It glowed on the windward side, rising and
falling in intensity, like the coal of a cigar. Then a
superincumbent bundle rolled down, with a whisking noise;
flames elongated, and bent themselves about with a quiet
roar, but no crackle. Banks of smoke went off horizontally
at the back like passing clouds, and behind these burned
hidden pyres, illuminating the semi-transparent sheet of
smoke to a lustrous yellow uniformity. Individual straws in
the foreground were consumed in a creeping movement of ruddy
heat, as if they were knots of red worms, and above shone
imaginary fiery faces, tongues hanging from lips, glaring
eyes, and other impish forms, from which at intervals sparks
flew in clusters like birds from a nest.

Oak suddenly ceased from being a mere spectator by
discovering the case to be more serious than he had at first
imagined. A scroll of smoke blew aside and revealed to him
a wheat-rick in startling juxtaposition with the decaying
one, and behind this a series of others, composing the main
corn produce of the farm; so that instead of the straw-stack
standing, as he had imagined comparatively isolated, there
was a regular connection between it and the remaining stacks
of the group.

Gabriel leapt over the hedge, and saw that he was not alone.
The first man he came to was running about in a great hurry,
as if his thoughts were several yards in advance of his
body, which they could never drag on fast enough.

"O, man -- fire, fire! A good master and a bad servant is
fire, fire! -- I mane a bad servant and a good master. Oh,
Mark Clark -- come! And you, Billy Smallbury -- and you,
Maryann Money -- and you, Jan Coggan, and Matthew there!"
Other figures now appeared behind this shouting man and
among the smoke, and Gabriel found that, far from being
alone he was in a great company -- whose shadows danced
merrily up and down, timed by the jigging of the flames, and
not at all by their owners' movements. The assemblage --
belonging to that class of society which casts its thoughts
into the form of feeling, and its feelings into the form of
commotion -- set to work with a remarkable confusion of

"Stop the draught under the wheat-rick!" cried Gabriel to
those nearest to him. The corn stood on stone staddles, and
between these, tongues of yellow hue from the burning straw
licked and darted playfully. If the fire once got UNDER
this stack, all would be lost.

"Get a tarpaulin -- quick!" said Gabriel.

A rick-cloth was brought, and they hung it like a curtain
across the channel. The flames immediately ceased to go
under the bottom of the corn-stack, and stood up vertical.

"Stand here with a bucket of water and keep the cloth wet."
said Gabriel again.

The flames, now driven upwards, began to attack the angles
of the huge roof covering the wheat-stack.

"A ladder," cried Gabriel.

"The ladder was against the straw-rick and is burnt to a
cinder," said a spectre-like form in the smoke.

Oak seized the cut ends of the sheaves, as if he were going
to engage in the operation of "reed-drawing," and digging in
his feet, and occasionally sticking in the stem of his
sheep-crook, he clambered up the beetling face. He at once
sat astride the very apex, and began with his crook to beat
off the fiery fragments which had lodged thereon, shouting
to the others to get him a bough and a ladder, and some

Billy Smallbury -- one of the men who had been on the waggon
-- by this time had found a ladder, which Mark Clark
ascended, holding on beside Oak upon the thatch. The smoke
at this corner was stifling, and Clark, a nimble fellow,
having been handed a bucket of water, bathed Oak's face and
sprinkled him generally, whilst Gabriel, now with a long
beech-bough in one hand, in addition to his crook in the
other, kept sweeping the stack and dislodging all fiery

On the ground the groups of villagers were still occupied in
doing all they could to keep down the conflagration, which
was not much. They were all tinged orange, and backed up by
shadows of varying pattern. Round the corner of the largest
stack, out of the direct rays of the fire, stood a pony,
bearing a young woman on its back. By her side was another
woman, on foot. These two seemed to keep at a distance from
the fire, that the horse might not become restive.

"He's a shepherd," said the woman on foot. "Yes -- he is.
See how his crook shines as he beats the rick with it. And
his smock-frock is burnt in two holes, I declare! A fine
young shepherd he is too, ma'am."

"Whose shepherd is he?" said the equestrian in a clear

"Don't know, ma'am."

"Don't any of the others know?"

"Nobody at all -- I've asked 'em. Quite a stranger, they

The young woman on the pony rode out from the shade and
looked anxiously around.

"Do you think the barn is safe?" she said.

"D'ye think the barn is safe, Jan Coggan?" said the second
woman, passing on the question to the nearest man in that

"Safe-now -- leastwise I think so. If this rick had gone
the barn would have followed. 'Tis that bold shepherd up
there that have done the most good -- he sitting on the top
o' rick, whizzing his great long-arms about like a

"He does work hard," said the young woman on horseback,
looking up at Gabriel through her thick woollen veil. "I
wish he was shepherd here. Don't any of you know his name."

"Never heard the man's name in my life, or seed his form

The fire began to get worsted, and Gabriel's elevated
position being no longer required of him, he made as if to

"Maryann," said the girl on horseback, "go to him as he
comes down, and say that the farmer wishes to thank him for
the great service he has done."

Maryann stalked off towards the rick and met Oak at the foot
of the ladder. She delivered her message.

"Where is your master the farmer?" asked Gabriel, kindling
with the idea of getting employment that seemed to strike
him now.

"'Tisn't a master; 'tis a mistress, shepherd."

"A woman farmer?"

"Ay, 'a b'lieve, and a rich one too!" said a bystander.
"Lately 'a came here from a distance. Took on her uncle's
farm, who died suddenly. Used to measure his money in half-
pint cups. They say now that she've business in every bank
in Casterbridge, and thinks no more of playing pitch-and-
toss sovereign than you and I, do pitch-halfpenny -- not a
bit in the world, shepherd."

"That's she, back there upon the pony," said Maryann. "wi'
her face a-covered up in that black cloth with holes in it."

Oak, his features smudged, grimy, and undiscoverable from
the smoke and heat, his smock-frock burnt into holes and
dripping with water, the ash stem of his sheep-crook charred
six inches shorter, advansed with the humility stern
adversity had thrust upon him up to the slight female form
in the saddle. He lifted his hat with respect, and not
without gallantry: stepping close to her hanging feet he
said in a hesitating voice, --

"Do you happen to want a shepherd, ma'am?"

She lifted the wool veil tied round her face, and looked all
astonishment. Gabriel and his cold-hearted darling,
Bathsheba Everdene, were face to face.

Bathsheba did not speak, and he mechanically repeated in an
abashed and sad voice, --

"Do you want a shepherd, ma'am?"



BATHSHEBA withdrew into the shade. She scarcely knew
whether most to be amused at the singularity of the meeting,
or to be concerned at its awkwardness. There was room for a
little pity, also for a very little exultation: the former
at his position, the latter at her own. Embarrassed she was
not, and she remembered Gabriel's declaration of love to her
at Norcombe only to think she had nearly forgotten it.

"Yes," she murmured, putting on an air of dignity, and
turning again to him with a little warmth of cheek; "I do
want a shepherd. But ----"

"He's the very man, ma'am," said one of the villagers,

Conviction breeds conviction. "Ay, that 'a is," said a
second, decisively.

"The man, truly!" said a third, with heartiness."

"He's all there!" said number four, fervidly.

"Then will you tell him to speak to the bailiff, said

All was practical again now. A summer eve and loneliness
would have been necessary to give the meeting its proper
fulness of romance.

The bailiff was pointed out to Gabriel, who, checking the
palpitation within his breast at discovering that this
Ashtoreth of strange report was only a modification of Venus
the well-known and admired, retired with him to talk over
the necessary preliminaries of hiring.

The fire before them wasted away. "Men," said Bathsheba,
"you shall take a little refreshment after this extra work.
Will you come to the house?"

"We could knock in a bit and a drop a good deal freer, Miss,
if so be ye'd send it to Warren's Malthouse," replied the

Bathsheba then rode off into the darkness, and the men
straggled on to the village in twos and threes -- Oak and
the bailiff being left by the rick alone.

"And now," said the bailiff, finally, "all is settled, I
think, about your coming, and I am going home-along. Good-
night to ye, shepherd."

"Can you get me a lodging?" inquired Gabriel.

"That I can't, indeed," he said, moving past Oak as a
Christian edges past an offertory-plate when he does not
mean to contribute. "If you follow on the road till you
come to Warren's Malthouse, where they are all gone to have
their snap of victuals, I daresay some of 'em will tell you
of a place. Good-night to ye, shepherd."

The bailiff who showed this nervous dread of loving his
neighbour as himself, went up the hill, and Oak walked on to
the village, still astonished at the rencounter with
Bathsheba, glad of his nearness to her, and perplexed at the
rapidity with which the unpractised girl of Norcombe had
developed into the supervising and cool woman here. But
some women only require an emergency to make them fit for

Obliged, to some extent, to forgo dreaming in order to find
the way, he reached the churchyard, and passed round it
under the wall where several ancient trees grew. There was
a wide margin of grass along here, and Gabriel's footsteps
were deadened by its softness, even at this indurating
period of the year. When abreast of a trunk which appeared
to be the oldest of the old, he became aware that a figure
was standing behind it. Gabriel did not pause in his walk,
and in another moment he accidentally kicked a loose stone.
The noise was enough to disturb the motionless stranger, who
started and assumed a careless position.

It was a slim girl, rather thinly clad.

"Good-night to you," said Gabriel, heartily.

"Good-night," said the girl to Gabriel.

The voice was unexpectedly attractive; it was the low and
dulcet note suggestive of romance; common in descriptions,
rare in experience.

"I'll thank you to tell me if I'm in the way for Warren's
Malthouse?" Gabriel resumed, primarily to gain the
information, indirectly to get more of the music.

"Quite right. It's at the bottom of the hill. And do you
know ----" The girl hesitated and then went on again. "Do
you know how late they keep open the Buck's Head Inn?" She
seemed to be won by Gabriel's heartiness, as Gabriel had
been won by her modulations.

"I don't know where the Buck's Head is, or anything about
it. Do you think of going there to-night?"

"Yes ----" The woman again paused. There was no necessity
for any continuance of speech, and the fact that she did add
more seemed to proceed from an unconscious desire to show
unconcern by making a remark, which is noticeable in the
ingenuous when they are acting by stealth. "You are not a
Weatherbury man?" she said, timorously.

"I am not. I am the new shepherd -- just arrived."

"Only a shepherd -- and you seem almost a farmer by your

"Only a shepherd," Gabriel repeated, in a dull cadence of
finality. "His thoughts were directed to the past, his eyes
to the feet of the girl; and for the first time he saw lying
there a bundle of some sort. She may have perceived the
direction of his face, for she said coaxingly, --

"You won't say anything in the parish about having seen me
here, will you -- at least, not for a day or two?"

"I won't if you wish me not to," said Oak.

"Thank you, indeed," the other replied. "I am rather poor,
and I don't want people to know anything about me." Then
she was silent and shivered.

"You ought to have a cloak on such a cold night," Gabriel
observed. "I would advise 'ee to get indoors."

"O no! Would you mind going on and leaving me? I thank you
much for what you have told me."

"I will go on," he said; adding hesitatingly, -- "Since you
are not very well off, perhaps you would accept this trifle
from me. It is only a shilling, but it is all I have to

"Yes, I will take it," said the stranger gratefully.

She extended her hand; Gabriel his. In feeling for each
other's palm in the gloom before the money could be passed,
a minute incident occurred which told much. Gabriel's
fingers alighted on the young woman's wrist. It was beating
with a throb of tragic intensity. He had frequently felt
the same quick, hard beat in the femoral artery of -- his
lambs when overdriven. It suggested a consumption too great
of a vitality which, to judge from her figure and stature,
was already too little.

"What is the matter?"


"But there is?"

"No, no, no! Let your having seen me be a secret!"

"Very well; I will. Good-night, again."


The young girl remained motionless by the tree, and Gabriel
descended into the village of Weatherbury, or Lower
Longpuddle as it was sometimes called. He fancied that he
had felt himself in the penumbra of a very deep sadness when
touching that slight and fragile creature. But wisdom lies
in moderating mere impressions, and Gabriel endeavoured to
think little of this.



WARREN'S Malthouse was enclosed by an old wall inwrapped
with ivy, and though not much of the exterior was visible at
this hour, the character and purposes of the building were
clearly enough shown by its outline upon the sky. From the
walls an overhanging thatched roof sloped up to a point in
the centre, upon which rose a small wooden lantern, fitted
with louvre-boards on all the four sides, and from these
openings a mist was dimly perceived to be escaping into the
night air. There was no window in front; but a square hole
in the door was glazed with a single pane, through which
red, comfortable rays now stretched out upon the ivied wall
in front. Voices were to be heard inside.

Oak's hand skimmed the surface of the door with fingers
extended to an Elymas-the-Sorcerer pattern, till he found a
leathern strap, which he pulled. This lifted a wooden
latch, and the door swung open.

The room inside was lighted only by the, ruddy glow from the
kiln mouth, which shone over the floor with the streaming,
horizontality of the setting sun, and threw upwards the
shadows of all facial irregularities in those assembled
around. The stone-flag floor was worn into a path from the
doorway to the kiln, and into undulations everywhere. A
curved settle of unplaned oak stretched along one side, and
in a remote corner was a small bed and bedstead, the owner
and frequent occupier of which was the maltster.

This aged man was now sitting opposite the fire, his frosty
white hair and beard overgrowing his gnarled figure like the
grey moss and lichen upon a leafless apple-tree. He wore
breeches and the laced-up shoes called ankle-jacks; he kept
his eyes fixed upon the fire.

Gabriel's nose was greeted by an atmosphere laden with the
sweet smell of new malt. The conversation (which seemed to
have been concerning the origin of the fire) immediately
ceased, and every one ocularly criticised him to the degree
expressed by contracting the flesh of their foreheads and
looking at him with narrowed eyelids, as if he had been a
light too strong for their sight. Several exclaimed
meditatively, after this operation had been completed: --

"Oh, 'tis the new shepherd, 'a b'lieve."

"We thought we heard a hand pawing about the door for the
bobbin, but weren't sure 'twere not a dead leaf blowed
across," said another. "Come in, shepherd; sure ye be
welcome, though we don't know yer name."

"Gabriel Oak, that's my name, neighbours."

The ancient maltster sitting in the midst turned up this --
his turning being as the turning of a rusty crane.

"That's never Gable Oak's grandson over at Norcombe --
never!" he said, as a formula expressive of surprise, which
nobody was supposed for a moment to take literally.

"My father and my grandfather were old men of the name of
Gabriel," said the shepherd, placidly.

"Thought I knowed the man's face as I seed him on the rick!
-- thought I did! And where be ye trading o't to now,

"I'm thinking of biding here," said Mr. Oak.

"Knowed yer grandfather for years and years!" continued the
maltster, the words coming forth of their own accord as if
the momentum previously imparted had been sufficient.

"Ah -- and did you!"

"Knowed yer grandmother."

"And her too!"

"Likewise knowed yer father when he was a child. Why, my
boy Jacob there and your father were sworn brothers -- that
they were sure -- weren't ye, Jacob?"

"Ay, sure," said his son, a young man about sixty-five, with
a semi-bald head and one tooth in the left centre of his
upper jaw, which made much of itself by standing prominent,
like a milestone in a bank. "But 'twas Joe had most to do
with him. However, my son William must have knowed the very
man afore us -- didn't ye, Billy, afore ye left Norcombe?"

"No, 'twas Andrew," said Jacob's son Billy, a child of
forty, or thereabouts, who manifested the peculiarity of
possessing a cheerful soul in a gloomy body, and whose
whiskers were assuming a chinchilla shade here and there.

"I can mind Andrew," said Oak, "as being a man in the place
when I was quite a child."

"Ay -- the other day I and my youngest daughter, Liddy, were
over at my grandson's christening," continued Billy. "We
were talking about this very family, and 'twas only last
Purification Day in this very world, when the use-money is
gied away to the second-best poor folk, you know, shepherd,
and I can mind the day because they all had to traypse up to
the vestry -- yes, this very man's family."

"Come, shepherd, and drink. 'Tis gape and swaller with us --
a drap of sommit, but not of much account," said the
maltster, removing from the fire his eyes, which were
vermilion-red and bleared by gazing into it for so many
years. "Take up the God-forgive-me, Jacob. See if 'tis
warm, Jacob."

Jacob stooped to the God-forgive-me, which was a two-handled
tall mug standing in the ashes, cracked and charred with
heat: it was rather furred with extraneous matter about the
outside, especially in the crevices of the handles, the
innermost curves of which may not have seen daylight for
several years by reason of this encrustation thereon --
formed of ashes accidentally wetted with cider and baked
hard; but to the mind of any sensible drinker the cup was no
worse for that, being incontestably clean on the inside and
about the rim. It may be observed that such a class of mug
is called a God-forgive-me in Weatherbury and its vicinity
for uncertain reasons; probably because its size makes any
given toper feel ashamed of himself when he sees its bottom
in drinking it empty.

Jacob, on receiving the order to see if the liquor was warm
enough, placidly dipped his forefinger into it by way of
thermometer, and having pronounced it nearly of the proper
degree, raised the cup and very civilly attempted to dust
some of the ashes from the bottom with the skirt of his
smock-frock, because Shepherd Oak was a stranger.

"A clane cup for the shepherd," said the maltster

"No -- not at all," said Gabriel, in a reproving tone of
considerateness. "I never fuss about dirt in its pure
state, and when I know what sort it is." Taking the mug he
drank an inch or more from the depth of its contents, and
duly passed it to the next man. "I wouldn't think of giving
such trouble to neighbours in washing up when there's so
much work to be done in the world already." continued Oak in
a moister tone, after recovering from the stoppage of breath
which is occasioned by pulls at large mugs.

"A right sensible man," said Jacob.

"True, true; it can't be gainsaid!" observed a brisk young
man -- Mark Clark by name, a genial and pleasant gentleman,
whom to meet anywhere in your travels was to know, to know
was to drink with, and to drink with was, unfortunately, to
pay for.

"And here's a mouthful of bread and bacon that mis'ess have
sent, shepherd. The cider will go down better with a bit of
victuals. Don't ye chaw quite close, shepherd, for I let
the bacon fall in the road outside as I was bringing it
along, and may be 'tis rather gritty. There, 'tis clane
dirt; and we all know what that is, as you say, and you
bain't a particular man we see, shepherd."

"True, true -- not at all," said the friendly Oak.

"Don't let your teeth quite meet, and you won't feel the
sandiness at all. Ah! 'tis wonderful what can be done by

"My own mind exactly, neighbour."

"Ah, he's his grandfer's own grandsonn! -- his grandfer were
just such a nice unparticular man!" said the maltster.

"Drink, Henry Fray -- drink," magnanimously said Jan Coggan,
a person who held Saint-Simonian notions of share and share
alike where liquor was concerned, as the vessel showed signs
of approaching him in its gradual revolution among them.

Having at this moment reached the end of a wistful gaze into
mid-air, Henry did not refuse. He was a man of more than
middle age, with eyebrows high up in his forehead, who laid
it down that the law of the world was bad, with a long-
suffering look through his listeners at the world alluded
to, as it presented itself to his imagination. He always
signed his name "Henery" -- strenuously insisting upon that
spelling, and if any passing schoolmaster ventured to remark
that the second "e" was superfluous and old-fashioned, he
received the reply that "H-e-n-e-r-y" was the name he was
christened and the name he would stick to -- in the tone of
one to whom orthographical differences were matters which
had a great deal to do with personal character.

Mr. Jan Coggan, who had passed the cup to Henery, was a
crimson man with a spacious countenance, and private glimmer
in his eye, whose name had appeared on the marriage register
of Weatherbury and neighbouring parishes as best man and
chief witness in countless unions of the previous twenty
years; he also very frequently filled the post of head
godfather in baptisms of the subtly-jovial kind.

"Come, Mark Clark -- come. Ther's plenty more in the
barrel," said Jan.

"Ay -- that I will, 'tis my only doctor," replied Mr. Clark,
who, twenty years younger than Jan Coggan, revolved in the
same orbit. He secreted mirth on all occasions for special
discharge at popular parties.

"Why, Joseph Poorgrass, ye han't had a drop!" said Mr.
Coggan to a self-conscious man in the background, thrusting
the cup towards him.

"Such a modest man as he is!" said Jacob Smallbury. "Why,
ye've hardly had strength of eye enough to look in our young
mis'ess's face, so I hear, Joseph?"

All looked at Joseph Poorgrass with pitying reproach.

"No -- I've hardly looked at her at all," simpered Joseph,
reducing his body smaller whilst talking, apparently from a
meek sense of undue prominence. "And when I seed her, 'twas
nothing but blushes with me!"

"Poor feller," said Mr. Clark.

"'Tis a curious nature for a man," said Jan Coggan.

"Yes," continued Joseph Poorgrass -- his shyness, which was
so painful as a defect, filling him with a mild complacency
now that it was regarded as an interesting study. "'Twere
blush, blush, blush with me every minute of the time, when
she was speaking to me."

"I believe ye, Joseph Poorgrass, for we all know ye to be a
very bashful man."

"'Tis a' awkward gift for a man, poor soul," said the
maltster. "And how long have ye have suffered from it,

[Alternate text: appears in all three additions on hand:
"'Tis a' awkward gift for a man, poor soul," said the
maltster. "And ye have suffered from it a long time, we

"Ay, ever since..."]

"Oh, ever since I was a boy. Yes -- mother was concerned to
her heart about it -- yes. But 'twas all nought."

"Did ye ever go into the world to try and stop it, Joseph

"Oh ay, tried all sorts o' company. They took me to
Greenhill Fair, and into a great gay jerry-go-nimble show,
where there were women-folk riding round -- standing upon
horses, with hardly anything on but their smocks; but it
didn't cure me a morsel. And then I was put errand-man at
the Women's Skittle Alley at the back of the Tailor's Arms
in Casterbridge. 'Twas a horrible sinful situation, and a
very curious place for a good man. I had to stand and look
ba'dy people in the face from morning till night; but 'twas
no use -- I was just as-bad as ever after all. Blushes hev
been in the family for generations. There, 'tis a happy
providence that I be no worse."

"True," said Jacob Smallbury, deepening his thoughts to a
profounder view of the subject. "'Tis a thought to look at,
that ye might have been worse; but even as you be, 'tis a
very bad affliction for 'ee, Joseph. For ye see, shepherd,
though 'tis very well for a woman, dang it all, 'tis awkward
for a man like him, poor feller?"

"'Tis -- 'tis," said Gabriel, recovering from a meditation.
"Yes, very awkward for the man."

"Ay, and he's very timid, too," observed Jan Coggan. "Once
he had been working late at Yalbury Bottom, and had had a
drap of drink, and lost his way as he was coming home-along
through Yalbury Wood, didn't ye, Master Poorgrass?"

"No, no, no; not that story!" expostulated the modest man,
forcing a laugh to bury his concern.

"---- And so 'a lost himself quite," continued Mr. Coggan,
with an impassive face, implying that a true narrative, like
time and tide, must run its course and would respect no man.
"And as he was coming along in the middle of the night, much
afeared, and not able to find his way out of the trees
nohow, 'a cried out, 'Man-a-lost! man-a-lost!' A owl in a
tree happened to be crying "Whoo-whoo-whoo!" as owls do, you
know, shepherd" (Gabriel nodded), "and Joseph, all in a
tremble, said, 'Joseph Poorgrass, of Weatherbury, sir!'"

"No, no, now -- that's too much!" said the timid man,
becoming a man of brazen courage all of a sudden. "I didn't
say sir. I'll tike my oath I didn't say 'Joseph Poorgrass
o' Weatherbury, sir.' No, no; what's right is right, and I
never said sir to the bird, knowing very well that no man of
a gentleman's rank would be hollering there at that time o'
night. 'Joseph Poorgrass of Weatherbury,' -- that's every
word I said, and I shouldn't ha' said that if 't hadn't been
for Keeper Day's metheglin.... There, 'twas a merciful
thing it ended where it did."

The question of which was right being tacitly waived by the
company, Jan went on meditatively: --

"And he's the fearfullest man, bain't ye, Joseph? Ay,
another time ye were lost by Lambing-Down Gate, weren't ye,

"I was," replied Poorgrass, as if there were some conditions
too serious even for modesty to remember itself under, this
being one.

"Yes; that were the middle of the night, too. The gate
would not open, try how he would, and knowing there was the
Devil's hand in it, he kneeled down."

"Ay," said Joseph, acquiring confidence from the warmth of
the fire, the cider, and a perception of the narrative
capabilities of the experience alluded to. "My heart died
within me, that time; but I kneeled down and said the Lord's
Prayer, and then the Belief right through, and then the Ten
Commandments, in earnest prayer. But no, the gate wouldn't
open; and then I went on with Dearly Beloved Brethren, and,
thinks I, this makes four, and 'tis all I know out of book,
and if this don't do it nothing will, and I'm a lost man.
Well, when I got to Saying After Me, I rose from my knees
and found the gate would open -- yes, neighbours, the gate
opened the same as ever."

A meditation on the obvious inference was indulged in by
all, and during its continuance each directed his vision
into the ashpit, which glowed like a desert in the tropics
under a vertical sun, shaping their eyes long and liny,
partly because of the light, partly from the depth of the
subject discussed.

Gabriel broke the silence. "What sort of a place is this to
live at, and what sort of a mis'ess is she to work under?"
Gabriel's bosom thrilled gently as he thus slipped under the
notice of the assembly the inner-most subject of his heart.

"We d' know little of her -- nothing. She only showed
herself a few days ago. Her uncle was took bad, and the
doctor was called with his world-wide skill; but he couldn't
save the man. As I take it, she's going to keep on the

"That's about the shape o't, 'a b'lieve," said Jan Coggan.
"Ay, 'tis a very good family. I'd as soon be under 'em as
under one here and there. Her uncle was a very fair sort of
man. Did ye know en, shepherd -- a bachelor-man?"

"Not at all."

"I used to go to his house a-courting my first wife,
Charlotte, who was his dairymaid. Well, a very good-hearted
man were Farmer Everdene, and I being a respectable young
fellow was allowed to call and see her and drink as much ale
as I liked, but not to carry away any -- outside my skin I
mane of course."

"Ay, ay, Jan Coggan; we know yer maning."

"And so you see 'twas beautiful ale, and I wished to value
his kindness as much as I could, and not to be so ill-
mannered as to drink only a thimbleful, which would have
been insulting the man's generosity ----"

"True, Master Coggan, 'twould so," corroborated Mark Clark.

"---- And so I used to eat a lot of salt fish afore going,
and then by the time I got there I were as dry as a lime-
basket -- so thorough dry that that ale would slip down --
ah, 'twould slip down sweet! Happy times! heavenly times!
Such lovely drunks as I used to have at that house! You can
mind, Jacob? You used to go wi' me sometimes."

"I can -- I can," said Jacob. "That one, too, that we had
at Buck's Head on a White Monday was a pretty tipple."

"'Twas. But for a wet of the better class, that brought you
no nearer to the horned man than you were afore you begun,
there was none like those in Farmer Everdene's kitchen. Not
a single damn allowed; no, not a bare poor one, even at the
most cheerful moment when all were blindest, though the good
old word of sin thrown in here and there at such times is a
great relief to a merry soul."

"True," said the maltster. "Nater requires her swearing at
the regular times, or she's not herself; and unholy
exclamations is a necessity of life."

"But Charlotte," continued Coggan -- "not a word of the sort
would Charlotte allow, nor the smallest item of taking in
vain.... Ay, poor Charlotte, I wonder if she had the good
fortune to get into Heaven when 'a died! But 'a was never
much in luck's way, and perhaps 'a went downwards after all,
poor soul."

"And did any of you know Miss Everdene's father and mother?"
inquired the shepherd, who found some difficulty in keeping
the conversation in the desired channel.

"I knew them a little," said Jacob Smallbury; "but they were
townsfolk, and didn't live here. They've been dead for
years. Father, what sort of people were mis'ess' father and

"Well," said the maltster, "he wasn't much to look at; but
she was a lovely woman. He was fond enough of her as his

"Used to kiss her scores and long-hundreds o' times, so
'twas said," observed Coggan.

"He was very proud of her, too, when they were married, as
I've been told," said the maltster.

"Ay," said Coggan. "He admired her so much that he used to
light the candle three time a night to look at her."

"Boundless love; I shouldn't have supposed it in the
universe!" murmered Joseph Poorgrass, who habitually spoke
on a large scale in his moral reflections.

"Well, to be sure," said Gabriel.

"Oh, 'tis true enough. I knowed the man and woman both
well. Levi Everdene -- that was the man's name, sure.
"Man," saith I in my hurry, but he were of a higher circle
of life than that -- 'a was a gentleman-tailor really, worth
scores of pounds. And he became a very celebrated bankrupt
two or three times."

"Oh, I thought he was quite a common man!" said Joseph.

"Oh no, no! That man failed for heaps of money; hundreds in
gold and silver."

The maltster being rather short of breath, Mr. Coggan, after
absently scrutinising a coal which had fallen among the
ashes, took up the narrative, with a private twirl of his
eye: --

"Well, now, you'd hardly believe it, but that man -- our
Miss Everdene's father -- was one of the ficklest husbands
alive, after a while. Understand? 'a didn't want to be
fickle, but he couldn't help it. The pore feller were
faithful and true enough to her in his wish, but his heart
would rove, do what he would. He spoke to me in real
tribulation about it once. "Coggan," he said, "I could
never wish for a handsomer woman than I've got, but feeling
she's ticketed as my lawful wife, I can't help my wicked
heart wandering, do what I will." But at last I believe he
cured it by making her take off her wedding-ring and calling
her by her maiden name as they sat together after the shop
was shut, and so 'a would get to fancy she was only his
sweetheart, and not married to him at all. And as soon as
he could thoroughly fancy he was doing wrong and committing
the seventh, 'a got to like her as well as ever, and they
lived on a perfect picture of mutel love."

"Well, 'twas a most ungodly remedy," murmured Joseph
Poorgrass; "but we ought to feel deep cheerfulness that a
happy Providence kept it from being any worse. You see, he
might have gone the bad road and given his eyes to
unlawfulness entirely -- yes, gross unlawfulness, so to say

"You see," said Billy Smallbury, "The man's will was to do
right, sure enough, but his heart didn't chime in."

"He got so much better, that he was quite godly in his later
years, wasn't he, Jan?" said Joseph Poorgrass. "He got
himself confirmed over again in a more serious way, and took
to saying 'Amen' almost as loud as the clerk, and he liked
to copy comforting verses from the tombstones. He used,
too, to hold the money-plate at Let Your Light so Shine, and
stand godfather to poor little come-by-chance children; and
he kept a missionary box upon his table to nab folks
unawares when they called; yes, and he would box the
charity-boys' ears, if they laughed in church, till they
could hardly stand upright, and do other deeds of piety
natural to the saintly inclined."

"Ay, at that time he thought of nothing but high things,"
added Billy Smallbury. "One day Parson Thirdly met him and
said, 'Good-Morning, Mister Everdene; 'tis a fine day!'
'Amen' said Everdene, quite absent-like, thinking only of
religion when he seed a parson. Yes, he was a very
Christian man."

"Their daughter was not at all a pretty chiel at that time,"
said Henery Fray. "Never should have thought she'd have
growed up such a handsome body as she is."

"'Tis to be hoped her temper is as good as her face."

"Well, yes; but the baily will have most to do with the
business and ourselves. Ah!" Henery gazed into the ashpit,
and smiled volumes of ironical knowledge.

"A queer Christian, like the Devil's head in a cowl,[1] as
the saying is," volunteered Mark Clark.

[1] This phrase is a conjectural emendation of the
unintelligible expression, "as the Devil said to the Owl,"
used by the natives.

"He is," said Henery, implying that irony must cease at a
certain point. "Between we two, man and man, I believe that
man would as soon tell a lie Sundays as working-days -- that
I do so."

"Good faith, you do talk!" said Gabriel.

"True enough," said the man of bitter moods, looking round
upon the company with the antithetic laughter that comes
from a keener appreciation of the miseries of life than
ordinary men are capable of. 'Ah, there's people of one
sort, and people of another, but that man -- bless your

Gabriel thought fit to change the subject. "You must be a
very aged man, malter, to have sons growed mild and ancient"
he remarked.

"Father's so old that 'a can't mind his age, can ye,
father?" interposed Jacob. "And he's growed terrible
crooked too, lately," Jacob continued, surveying his
father's figure, which was rather more bowed than his own.
"Really one may say that father there is three-double."

"Crooked folk will last a long while," said the maltster,
grimly, and not in the best humour.

"Shepherd would like to hear the pedigree of yer life,
father -- wouldn't ye, shepherd?"

"Ay that I should," said Gabriel with the heartiness of a
man who had longed to hear it for several months. "What may
your age be, malter?"

The maltster cleared his throat in an exaggerated form for
emphasis, and elongating his gaze to the remotest point of
the ashpit, said, in the slow speech justifiable when the
importance of a subject is so generally felt that any
mannerism must be tolerated in getting at it, "Well, I don't
mind the year I were born in, but perhaps I can reckon up
the places I've lived at, and so get it that way. I bode at
Upper Longpuddle across there" (nodding to the north) "till
I were eleven. I bode seven at Kingsbere" (nodding to the
east) "where I took to malting. I went therefrom to
Norcombe, and malted there two-and-twenty years, and-two-
and-twenty years I was there turnip-hoeing and harvesting.
Ah, I knowed that old place, Norcombe, years afore you were
thought of, Master Oak" (Oak smiled sincere belief in the
fact). "Then I malted at Durnover four year, and four year
turnip-hoeing; and I was fourteen times eleven months at
Millpond St. Jude's" (nodding north-west-by-north). "Old
Twills wouldn't hire me for more than eleven months at a
time, to keep me from being chargeable to the parish if so
be I was disabled. Then I was three year at Mellstock,
and I've been here one-and-thirty year come Candlemas. How
much is that?"

"Hundred and seventeen," chuckled another old gentleman,
given to mental arithmetic and little conversation, who had
hitherto sat unobserved in a corner.

"Well, then, that's my age," said the maltster,

"O no, father!" said Jacob. "Your turnip-hoeing were in the
summer and your malting in the winter of the same years, and
ye don't ought to count-both halves father."

"Chok' it all! I lived through the summers, didn't I? That's
my question. I suppose ye'll say next I be no age at all to
speak of?"

"Sure we shan't," said Gabriel, soothingly.

"Ye be a very old aged person, malter," attested Jan Coggan,
also soothingly. "We all know that, and ye must have a
wonderful talented constitution to be able to live so long,
mustn't he, neighbours?"

"True, true; ye must, malter, wonderful," said the meeting

The maltster, being know pacified, was even generous enough
to voluntarily disparage in a slight degree the virtue of
having lived a great many years, by mentioning that the cup
they were drinking out of was three years older than he.

While the cup was being examined, the end of Gabriel Oak's
flute became visible over his smock-frock pocket, and Henery
Fray exclaimed, "Surely, shepherd, I seed you blowing into a
great flute by now at Casterbridge?"

"You did," said Gabriel, blushing faintly. "I've been in
great trouble, neighbours, and was driven to it. I used not
to be so poor as I be now."

"Never mind, heart!" said Mark Clark. You should take it
careless-like, shepherd, and your time will come. But we
could thank ye for a tune, if ye bain't too tired?"

"Neither drum nor trumpet have I heard since Christmas,"
said Jan Coggan. "Come, raise a tune, Master Oak!"

"Ay, that I will," said Gabriel, pulling out his flute and
putting it together. "A poor tool, neighbours; but such as
I can do ye shall have and welcome."

Oak then struck up "Jockey to the Fair," and played that
sparkling melody three times through accenting the notes in
the third round in a most artistic and lively manner by
bending his body in small jerks and tapping with his foot to
beat time.

"He can blow the flute very well -- that 'a can," said a
young married man, who having no individuality worth
mentioning was known as "Susan Tall's husband." He
continued, "I'd as lief as not be able to blow into a flute
as well as that."

"He's a clever man, and 'tis a true comfort for us to have
such a shepherd," murmured Joseph Poorgrass, in a soft
cadence. "We ought to feel full o' thanksgiving that he's
not a player of ba'dy songs 'instead of these merry tunes;
for 'twould have been just as easy for God to have made the
shepherd a loose low man -- a man of iniquity, so to speak
it -- as what he is. Yes, for our wives' and daughters'
sakes we should feel real thanks giving."

"True, true, -- real thanksgiving!" dashed in Mark Clark
conclusively, not feeling it to be of any consequence to his
opinion that he had only heard about a word and three-
quarters of what Joseph had said.

"Yes," added Joseph, beginning to feel like a man in the
Bible; "for evil do thrive so in these times that ye may be
as much deceived in the cleanest shaved and whitest shirted
man as in the raggedest tramp upon the turnpike, if I may
term it so."

"Ay, I can mind yer face now, shepherd," said Henery Fray,
criticising Gabriel with misty eyes as he entered upon his
second tune. "Yes -- now I see 'ee blowing into the flute I
know 'ee to be the same man I see play at Casterbridge, for
yer mouth were scrimped up and yer eyes a-staring out like a
strangled man's -- just as they be now."

"'Tis a pity that playing the flute should make a man look
such a scarecrow," observed Mr. Mark Clark, with additional
criticism of Gabriel's countenance, the latter person
jerking out, with the ghastly grimace required by the
instrument, the chorus of "Dame Durden:" --

'Twas Moll' and Bet', and Doll' and Kate',
And Dor'-othy Drag'-gle Tail'.

"I hope you don't mind that young man's bad manners in
naming your features?" whispered Joseph to Gabriel.

"Not at all," said Mr. Oak.

"For by nature ye be a very handsome man, shepherd,"
continued Joseph Poorgrass, with winning sauvity.

"Ay, that ye be, shepard," said the company.

"Thank you very much," said Oak, in the modest tone good
manners demanded, thinking, however, that he would never let
Bathsheba see him playing the flute; in this resolve showing
a discretion equal to that related to its sagacious
inventress, the divine Minerva herself.

"Ah, when I and my wife were married at Norcombe Church,"
said the old maltster, not pleased at finding himself left
out of the subject "we were called the handsomest couple in
the neighbourhood -- everybody said so."

"Danged if ye bain't altered now, malter," said a voice with
the vigour natural to the enunciation of a remarkably
evident truism. It came from the old man in the background,
whose offensiveness and spiteful ways were barely atoned for
by the occasional chuckle he contributed to general laughs.

"O no, no," said Gabriel.

"Don't ye play no more shepherd" said Susan Tall's husband,
the young married man who had spoken once before. "I must
be moving and when there's tunes going on I seem as if hung
in wires. If I thought after I'd left that music was still
playing, and I not there, I should be quite melancholy-

"What's yer hurry then, Laban?" inquired Coggan. "You used
to bide as late as the latest."

"Well, ye see, neighbours, I was lately married to a woman,
and she's my vocation now, and so ye see ----" The young
man halted lamely.

"New Lords new laws, as the saying is, I suppose," remarked

"Ay, 'a b'lieve -- ha, ha!" said Susan Tall's husband, in a
tone intended to imply his habitual reception of jokes
without minding them at all. The young man then wished them
good-night and withdrew.

Henery Fray was the first to follow. Then Gabriel arose and
went off with Jan Coggan, who had offered him a lodging. A
few minutes later, when the remaining ones were on their
legs and about to depart, Fray came back again in a hurry.
Flourishing his finger ominously he threw a gaze teeming
with tidings just where his eye alighted by accident, which
happened to be in Joseph Poorgrass's face.

"O -- what's the matter, what's the matter, Henery?" said
Joseph, starting back.

"What's a-brewing, Henrey?" asked Jacob and Mark Clark.

"Baily Pennyways -- Baily Pennyways -- I said so; yes, I
said so!"

"What, found out stealing anything?"

"Stealing it is. The news is, that after Miss Everdene got
home she went out again to see all was safe, as she usually
do, and coming in found Baily Pennyways creeping down the
granary steps with half a a bushel of barley. She fleed at
him like a cat -- never such a tomboy as she is -- of course
I speak with closed doors?"

"You do -- you do, Henery."

"She fleed at him, and, to cut a long story short, he owned
to having carried off five sack altogether, upon her
promising not to persecute him. Well, he's turned out neck
and crop, and my question is, who's going to be baily now?"

The question was such a profound one that Henery was obliged
to drink there and then from the large cup till the bottom
was distinctly visible inside. Before he had replaced it on
the table, in came the young man, Susan Tall's husband, in a
still greater hurry.

"Have ye heard the news that's all over parish?"

"About Baily Pennyways?"

"But besides that?"

"No -- not a morsel of it!" they replied, looking into the
very midst of Laban Tall as if to meet his words half-way
down his throat.

"What a night of horrors!" murmured Joseph Poorgrass, waving
his hands spasmodically. "I've had the news-bell ringing in
my left ear quite bad enough for a murder, and I've seen a
magpie all alone!"

"Fanny Robin -- Miss everdene's youngest servant -- can't be
found. They've been wanting to lock up the door these two
hours, but she isn't come in. And they don't know what to
do about going to hed for fear of locking her out. They
wouldn't be so concerned if she hadn't been noticed in such
low spirits these last few days, and Maryann d' think the
beginning of a crowner's inquest has happened to the poor

"Oh -- 'tis burned -- 'tis burned!" came from Joseph
Poorgrass's dry lips.

"No -- 'tis drowned!" said Tall.

"Or 'tis her father's razor!" suggested Billy Smallbury,
with a vivid sense of detail.

"Well -- Miss Everdene wants to speak to one or two of us
before we go to bed. What with this trouble about the
baily, and now about the girl, mis'ess is almost wild."

They all hastened up the lane to the farmhouse, excepting
the old maltster, whom neither news, fire, rain, nor thunder
could draw from his hole. There, as the others' footsteps
died away he sat down again and continued gazing as usual
into the furnace with his red, bleared eyes.

From the bedroom window above their heads Bathsheba's head
and shoulders, robed in mystic white, were dimly seen
extended into the air.

"Are any of my men among you?" she said anxiously.

"Yes, ma'am, several," said Susan Tall's husband.

"To-morrow morning I wish two or three of you to make
inquiries in the villages round if they have seen such a
person as Fanny Robin. Do it quietly; there is no reason
for alarm as yet. She must have left whilst we were all at
the fire."

"I beg yer pardon, but had she any young man courting her in
the parish, ma'am?" asked Jacob Smallbury.

"I don't know," said Bathsheba.

"I've never heard of any such thing, ma'am," said two or

"It is hardly likely, either," continued Bathsheba. "For
any lover of hers might have come to the house if he had
been a respectable lad. The most mysterious matter
connected with her absence -- indeed, the only thing which
gives me serious alarm -- is that she was seen to go out of
the house by Maryann with only her indoor working gown on --
not even a bonnet."

"And you mean, ma'am, excusing my words, that a young woman
would hardly go to see her young man without dressing up,"
said Jacob, turning his mental vision upon past experiences.
"That's true -- she would not, ma'am."

"She had, I think, a bundle, though I couldn't see very
well," said a female voice from another window, which seemed
that of Maryann. "But she had no young man about here.
Hers lives in Casterbridge, and I believe he's a soldier."

"Do you know his name?" Bathsheba said.

"No, mistress; she was very close about it."

"Perhaps I might be able to find out if I went to
Casterbridge barracks," said William Smallbury.

"Very well; if she doesn't return tomorrow, mind you go
there and try to discover which man it is, and see him. I
feel more responsible than I should if she had had any
friends or relations alive. I do hope she has come to no
harm through a man of that kind.... And then there's this
disgraceful affair of the bailiff -- but I can't speak of
him now."

Bathsheba had so many reasons for uneasiness that it seemed
she did not think it worth while to dwell upon any
particular one. "Do as I told you, then," she said in
conclusion, closing the casement.

"Ay, ay, mistress; we will," they replied, and moved away.

That night at Coggan's, Gabriel Oak, beneath the screen of
closed eyelids, was busy with fancies, and full of movement,
like a river flowing rapidly under its ice. Night had
always been the time at which he saw Bathsheba most vividly,
and through the slow hours of shadow he tenderly regarded
her image now. It is rarely that the pleasures of the
imagination will compensate for the pain of sleeplessness,
but they possibly did with Oak to-night, for the delight of
merely seeing her effaced for the time his perception of the
great difference between seeing and possessing.

He also thought of plans for fetching his few utensils and
the Walkingame's ARITHMETIC, constituted his library; and
though a limited series, it was one from which he had
acquired more sound information by diligent perusal than
many a man of opportunities has done from a furlong of laden



BY daylight, the Bower of Oak's new-found mistress,
Bathsheba Everdene, presented itself as a hoary building, of
the early stage of Classic Renaissance as regards its
architecture, and of a proportion which told at a glance
that, as is so frequently the case, it had once been the
memorial hall upon a small estate around it, now altogether
effaced as a distinct property, and merged in the vast tract
of a non-resident landlord, which comprised several such
modest demesnes.

Fluted pilasters, worked from the solid stone, decorated its
front, and above the roof the chimneys were panelled or
columnar, some coped gables with finials and like features
still retaining traces of their Gothic extraction. Soft
brown mosses, like faded velveteen, formed cushions upon the
stone tiling, and tufts of the houseleek or sengreen
sprouted from the eaves of the low surrounding buildings. A
gravel walk leading from the door to the road in front was
encrusted at the sides with more moss -- here it was a
silver-green variety, the nut-brown of the gravel being
visible to the width of only a foot or two in the centre.
This circumstance, and the generally sleepy air of the whole
prospect here, together with the animated and contrasting
state of the reverse facade, suggested to the imagination
that on the adaptation of the building for farming purposes
the vital principle of the house had turned round inside its
body to face the other way. Reversals of this kind, strange
deformities, tremendous paralyses, are often seen to be
inflicted by trade upon edifices -- either individual or in
the aggregate as streets and towns -- which were originally
planned for pleasure alone.

Lively voices were heard this morning in the upper rooms,
the main staircase to which was of hard oak, the balusters,
heavy as bed-posts, being turned and moulded in the quaint
fashion of their century, the handrail as stout as a
parapet-top, and the stairs themselves continually twisting
round like a person trying to look over his shoulder. Going
up, the floors above were found to have a very irregular
surface, rising to ridges, sinking into valleys; and being
just then uncarpeted, the face of the boards was seen to be
eaten into innumerable vermiculations. Every window replied
by a clang to the opening and shutting of every door, a
tremble followed every bustling movement, and a creak
accompanied a walker about the house, like a spirit,
wherever he went.

In the room from which the conversation proceeded Bathsheba
and her servant-companion, Liddy Smallbury were to be
discovered sitting upon the floor, and sorting a
complication of papers, books, bottles, and rubbish spread
out thereon -- remnants from the household stores of the
late occupier. Liddy, the maltster's great-granddaughter,
was about Bathsheba's equal in age, and her face was a
prominent advertisement of the light-hearted English country
girl. The beauty her features might have lacked in form was
amply made up for by perfection of hue, which at this
winter-time was the softened ruddiness on a surface of high
rotundity that we meet with in a Terburg or a Gerard Douw;
and, like the presentations of those great colourists, it
was a face which kept well back from the boundary between
comeliness and the ideal. Though elastic in nature she was
less daring than Bathsheba, and occasionally showed some
earnestness, which consisted half of genuine feeling, and
half of mannerliness superadded by way of duty.

Through a partly-opened door the noise of a scrubbing-brush
led up to the charwoman, Maryann Money, a person who for a
face had a circular disc, furrowed less by age than by long
gazes of perplexity at distant objects. To think of her was
to get good-humoured; to speak of her was to raise the image
of a dried Normandy pippin.

"Stop your scrubbing a moment," said Bathsheba through the
door to her. "I hear something."

Maryann suspended the brush.

The tramp of a horse was apparent, approaching the front of
the building. The paces slackened, turned in at the wicket,
and, what was most unusual, came up the mossy path close to
the door. The door was tapped with the end of a crop or

"What impertinence!" said Liddy, in a low voice. "To ride
up the footpath like that! Why didn't he stop at the gate?
Lord! 'Tis a gentleman! I see the top of his hat."

"Be quiet!" said Bathsheba.

The further expression of Liddy's concern was continued by
aspect instead of narrative.

"Why doesn't Mrs. Coggan go to the door?" Bath-sheba

Rat-tat-tat-tat resounded more decisively from Bath-sheba's

"Maryann, you go!" said she, fluttering under the onset of
a crowd of romantic possibilities.

"Oh ma'am -- see, here's a mess!"

The argument was unanswerable after a glance at Maryann.

"Liddy -- you must," said Bathsheba.

Liddy held up her hands and arms, coated with dust from the
rubbish they were sorting, and looked imploringly at her

"There -- Mrs. Coggan is going!" said Bathsheba, exhaling
her relief in the form of a long breath which had lain in
her bosom a minute or more.

The door opened, and a deep voice said --

"Is Miss Everdene at home?"

"I'll see, sir," said Mrs. Coggan, and in a minute appeared
in the room.

"Dear, what a thirtover place this world is!" continued Mrs.
Coggan (a wholesome-looking lady who had a voice for each
class of remark according to the emotion involved; who could
toss a pancake or twirl a mop with the accuracy of pure
mathematics, and who at this moment showed hands shaggy with
fragments of dough and arms encrusted with flour). "I am
never up to my elbows, Miss, in making a pudding but one of
two things do happen -- either my nose must needs begin
tickling, and I can't live without scratching it, or
somebody knocks at the door. Here's Mr. Boldwood wanting to
see you, Miss Everdne."

A woman's dress being a part of her countenance, and any
disorder in the one being of the same nature with a
malformation or wound in the other, Bathsheba said at once -

"I can't see him in this state. Whatever shall I do?"

Not-at-homes were hardly naturalized in Weatherbury
farmhouses, so Liddy suggested -- "Say you're a fright with
dust, and can't come down."

"Yes -- that sounds very well," said Mrs. Coggan,

"Say I can't see him -- that will do."

Mrs. Coggan went downstairs, and returned the answer as
requested, adding, however, on her own responsibility, "Miss
is dusting bottles, sir, and is quite a object -- that's why

"Oh, very well," said the deep voice indifferently. "All I
wanted to ask was, if anything had been heard of Fanny

"Nothing, sir -- but we may know to-night. William
Smallbury is gone to Casterbridge, where her young man
lives, as is supposed, and the other men be inquiring about

The horse's tramp then recommenced and retreated, and the
door closed.

"Who is Mr. Boldwood?" said Bathsheba.

"A gentleman-farmer at Little Weatherbury."


"No, miss."

"How old is he?"

"Forty, I should say -- very handsome -- rather stern-
looking -- and rich."

"What a bother this dusting is! I am always in some
unfortunate plight or other," Bathsheba said, complainingly.
"Why should he inquire about Fanny?"

"Oh, because, as she had no friends in her childhood, he
took her and put her to school, and got her her place here
under your uncle. He's a very kind man that way, but Lord --


"Never was such a hopeless man for a woman! He's been
courted by sixes and sevens -- all the girls, gentle and
simple, for miles round, have tried him. Jane Perkins
worked at him for two months like a slave, and the two Miss
Taylors spent a year upon him, and he cost Farmer Ives's
daughter nights of tears and twenty pounds' worth of new
clothes; but Lord -- the money might as well have been
thrown out of the window."

A little boy came up at this moment and looked in upon them.
This child was one of the Coggans, who, with the Smallburys,
were as common among the families of this district as the
Avons and Derwents among our rivers. He always had a
loosened tooth or a cut finger to show to particular
friends, which he did with an air of being thereby elevated
above the common herd of afflictionless humanity -- to which
exhibition people were expected to say "Poor child!" with a
dash of congratulation as well as pity.

"I've got a pen-nee!" said Master Coggan in a scanning

"Well -- who gave it you, Teddy?" said Liddy.

"Mis-terr Bold-wood! He gave it to me for opening the gate."

"What did he say?"

"He said, 'Where are you going, my little man?' and I said,
'To Miss Everdene's please,' and he said, 'She is a staid
woman, isn't she, my little man?' and I said, 'Yes.'"

"You naughty child! What did you say that for?"

"'Cause he gave me the penny!"

"What a pucker everything is in!" said Bathsheba,
discontentedly when the child had gone. "Get away, Maryann,
or go on with your scrubbing, or do something! You ought to
be married by this time, and not here troubling me!"

"Ay, mistress -- so I did. But what between the poor men I
won't have, and the rich men who won't have me, I stand as a
pelicon in the wilderness!"

"Did anybody ever want to marry you miss?" Liddy ventured to
ask when they were again alone. "Lots of 'em, I daresay?"

Bathsheba paused, as if about to refuse a reply, but the
temptation to say yes, since it was really in her power was
irresistible by aspiring virginity, in spite of her spleen
at having been published as old.

"A man wanted to once," she said, in a highly experienced
tone and the image of Gabriel Oak, as the farmer, rose
before her.

"How nice it must seem!" said Liddy, with the fixed features
of mental realization. "And you wouldn't have him?"

"He wasn't quite good enough for me."

"How sweet to be able to disdain, when most of us are glad
to say, 'Thank you!' I seem I hear it. 'No, sir -- I'm your
better.' or 'Kiss my foot, sir; my face is for mouths of
consequence.' And did you love him, miss?"

"Oh, no. But I rather liked him."

"Do you now?"

"Of course not -- what footsteps are those I hear?"

Liddy looked from a back window into the courtyard behind,
which was now getting low-toned and dim with the earliest
films of night. A crooked file of men was approaching the
back door. The whole string of trailing individuals
advanced in the completest balance of intention, like the
remarkable creatures known as Chain Salpae, which,
distinctly organized in other respects, have one will common
to a whole family. Some were, as usual, in snow-white
smock-frocks of Russia duck, and some in whitey-brown ones
of drabbet -- marked on the wrists, breasts, backs, and
sleeves with honeycomb-work. Two or three women in pattens
brought up the rear.

"The Philistines be upon us," said Liddy, making her nose
white against the glass.

"Oh, very well. Maryann, go down and keep them in the
kitchen till I am dressed, and then show them in to me in
the hall."



HALF-AN-HOUR later Bathsheba, in finished dress, and
followed by Liddy, entered the upper end of the old hall to
find that her men had all deposited themselves on a long
form and a settle at the lower extremity. She sat down at a
table and opened the time-book, pen in her hand, with a
canvas money-bag beside her. From this she poured a small
heap of coin. Liddy chose a position at her elbow and began
to sew, sometimes pausing and looking round, or with the air
of a privileged person, taking up one of the half-sovereigns
lying before her and surveying it merely as a work of art,
while strictly preventing her countenance from expressing
any wish to possess it as money.

"Now before I begin, men," said Bathsheba, "I have two
matters to speak of. The first is that the bailiff is
dismissed for thieving, and that I have formed a resolution
to have no bailiff at all, but to manage everything with my
own head and hands."

The men breathed an audible breath of amazement.

"The next matter is, have you heard anything of Fanny?"

"Nothing, ma'am."

"Have you done anything?"

"I met Farmer Boldwood," said Jacob Smallbury, "and I went
with him and two of his men, and dragged Newmill Pond, but
we found nothing."

"And the new shepherd have been to Buck's Head, by Yalbury,
thinking she had gone there, but nobody had seed her," said
Laban Tall.

"Hasn't William Smallbury been to Casterbridge?"

"Yes, ma'am, but he's not yet come home. He promised to be
back by six."

"It wants a quarter to six at present," said Bathsheba,
looking at her watch. "I daresay he'll be in directly.
Well, now then" -- she looked into the book -- "Joseph
Poorgrass, are you there?"

"Yes, sir -- ma'am I mane," said the person addressed. "I
be the personal name of Poorgrass."

"And what are you?"

"Nothing in my own eye. In the eye of other people -- well,
I don't say it; though public thought will out."

"What do you do on the farm?"

"I do do carting things all the year, and in seed time I
shoots the rooks and sparrows, and helps at pig-killing,

"How much to you?"

"Please nine and ninepence and a good halfpenny where 'twas
a bad one, sir -- ma'am I mane."

"Quite correct. Now here are ten shillings in addition as a
small present, as I am a new comer."

Bathsheba blushed slightly at the sense of being generous in
public, and Henery Fray, who had drawn up towards her chair,
lifted his eyebrows and fingers to express amazement on a
small scale.

"How much do I owe you -- that man in the corner -- what's
your name?" continued Bathsheba.

"Matthew Moon, ma'am," said a singular framework of clothes
with nothing of any consequence inside them, which advanced
with the toes in no definite direction forwards, but turned
in or out as they chanced to swing.

"Matthew Mark, did you say? -- speak out -- I shall not hurt
you," inquired the young farmer, kindly.

"Matthew Moon, mem," said Henery Fray, correctingly, from
behind her chair, to which point he had edged himself.

"Matthew Moon," murmured Bathsheba, turning her bright eyes
to the book. "Ten and twopence halfpenny is the sum put
down to you, I see?"

"Yes, mis'ess," said Matthew, as the rustle of wind among
dead leaves.

"Here it is, and ten shillings. Now the next -- Andrew
Randle, you are a new man, I hear. How come you to leave
your last farm?"

"P-p-p-p-p-pl-pl-pl-pl-l-l-l-l-ease, ma'am, p-p-p-p-pl-pl-
pl-pl-please, ma'am-please'm-please'm ----"

"'A's a stammering man, mem," said Henery Fray in an
undertone, "and they turned him away because the only time
he ever did speak plain he said his soul was his own, and
other iniquities, to the squire. 'A can cuss, mem, as well
as you or I, but 'a can't speak a common speech to save his

"Andrew Randle, here's yours -- finish thanking me in a day
or two. Temperance Miller -- oh, here's another, Soberness
-- both women I suppose?"

"Yes'm. Here we be, 'a b'lieve," was echoed in shrill

"What have you been doing?"

"Tending thrashing-machine and wimbling haybonds, and saying
'Hoosh!' to the cocks and hens when they go upon your seeds
and planting Early Flourballs and Thompson's Wonderfuls with
a dibble."

"Yes -- I see. Are they satisfactory women?" she inquired
softly of Henery Fray.

"Oh mem -- don't ask me! Yielding women -- as scarlet a pair
as ever was!" groaned Henery under his breath.

"Sit down.

"Who, mem?"

"Sit down,"

Joseph Poorgrass, in the background twitched, and his lips
became dry with fear of some terrible consequences, as he
saw Bathsheba summarily speaking, and Henery slinking off to
a corner.

"Now the next. Laban Tall, you'll stay on working for me?"

"For you or anybody that pays me well, ma'am," replied the
young married man.

"True -- the man must live!" said a woman in the back
quarter, who had just entered with clicking pattens.

"What woman is that?" Bathsheba asked.

"I be his lawful wife!" continued the voice with greater
prominence of manner and tone. This lady called herself
five-and-twenty, looked thirty, passed as thirty-five, and
was forty. She was a woman who never, like some newly
married, showed conjugal tenderness in public, perhaps
because she had none to show.

"Oh, you are," said Bathsheba. "Well, Laban, will you stay

"Yes, he'll stay, ma'am!" said again the shrill tongue of
Laban's lawful wife.

"Well, he can speak for himself, I suppose."

"Oh Lord, not he, ma'am! A simple tool. Well enough, but a
poor gawkhammer mortal," the wife replied

"Heh-heh-heh!" laughed the married man with a hideous effort
of appreciation, for he was as irrepressibly good-humoured
under ghastly snubs as a parliamentary candidate on the

The names remaining were called in the same manner.

"Now I think I have done with you," said Bathsheba, closing
the book and shaking back a stray twine of hair. "Has
William Smallbury returned?"

"No, ma'am."

"The new shepherd will want a man under him," suggested
Henery Fray, trying to make himself official again by a
sideway approach towards her chair.

"Oh -- he will. Who can he have?"

"Young Cain Ball is a very good lad," Henery said, "and
Shepherd Oak don't mind his youth?" he added, turning with
an apologetic smile to the shepherd, who had just appeared
on the scene, and was now leaning against the doorpost with
his arms folded.

"No, I don't mind that," said Gabriel.

"How did Cain come by such a name?" asked Bathsheba.

"Oh you see, mem, his pore mother, not being a Scripture-
read woman, made a mistake at his christening, thinking
'twas Abel killed Cain, and called en Cain, but 'twas too
late, for the name could never be got rid of in the parish.
'Tis very unfortunate for the boy."

"It is rather unfortunate."

"Yes. However, we soften it down as much as we can, and
call him Cainy. Ah, pore widow-woman! she cried her heart
out about it almost. She was brought up by a very heathen
father and mother, who never sent her to church or school,
and it shows how the sins of the parents are visited upon
the children, mem."

Mr. Fray here drew up his features to the mild degree of
melancholy required when the persons involved in the given
misfortune do not belong to your own family.

"Very well then, Cainey Ball to be under-shepherd. And you
quite understand your duties? -- you I mean, Gabriel Oak?"

"Quite well, I thank you, Miss Everdene," said Shepard Oak
from the doorpost. "If I don't, I'll inquire." Gabriel was
rather staggered by the remarkable coolness of her manner.
Certainly nobody without previous information would have
dreamt that Oak and the handsome woman before whom he stood
had ever been other than strangers. But perhaps her air was
the inevitable result of the social rise which had advanced
her from a cottage to a large house and fields. The case is
not unexampled in high places. When, in the writings of the
later poets, Jove and his family are found to have moved
from their cramped quarters on the peak of Olympus into the
wide sky above it, their words show a proportionate increase
of arrogance and reserve.

Footsteps were heard in the passage, combining in their
character the qualities both of weight and measure, rather
at the expense of velocity.

(All.) "Here's Billy Smallbury come from Casterbridge."

"And what's the news?" said Bathsheba, as William, after
marching to the middle of the hall, took a handkerchief from
his hat and wiped his forehead from its centre to its
remoter boundaries.

"I should have been sooner, miss," he said, "if it hadn't
been for the weather." He then stamped with each foot
severely, and on looking down his boots were perceived to be
clogged with snow.

"Come at last, is it?" said Henery.

"Well, what about Fanny?" said Bathsheba.

"Well, ma'am, in round numbers, she's run away with the
soldiers," said William.

"No; not a steady girl like Fanny!"

"I'll tell ye all particulars. When I got to Casterbridge
Barracks, they said, 'The Eleventh Dragoon-Guards be gone
away, and new troops have come.' The Eleventh left last week
for Melchester and onwards. The Route came from Government
like a thief in the night, as is his nature to, and afore
the Eleventh knew it almost, they were on the march. They
passed near here."

Gabriel had listened with interest. "I saw them go," he

"Yes," continued William, "they pranced down the street
playing 'The Girl I Left Behind Me,' so 'tis said, in
glorious notes of triumph. Every looker-on's inside shook
with the blows of the great drum to his deepest vitals, and
there was not a dry eye throughout the town among the
public-house people and the nameless women!"

"But they're not gone to any war?"

"No, ma'am; but they be gone to take the places of them who
may, which is very close connected. And so I said to
myself, Fanny's young man was one of the regiment, and she's
gone after him. There, ma'am, that's it in black and

"Did you find out his name?"

"No; nobody knew it. I believe he was higher in rank than a

Gabriel remained musing and said nothing, for he was in

"Well, we are not likely to know more to-night, at any
rate," said Bathsheba. "But one of you had better run
across to Farmer Boldwood's and tell him that much."

She then rose; but before retiring, addressed a few words to
them with a pretty dignity, to which her mourning dress
added a soberness that was hardly to be found in the words

"Now mind, you have a mistress instead of a master. I don't
yet know my powers or my talents in farming; but I shall do
my best, and if you serve me well, so shall I serve you.
Don't any unfair ones among you (if there are any such, but
I hope not) suppose that because I'm a woman I don't
understand the difference between bad goings-on and good."

(All.) "No'm!"

(Liddy.) "Excellent well said."

"I shall be up before you are awake; I shall be afield
before you are up; and I shall have breakfasted before you
are afield. In short, I shall astonish you all.

(All.) "Yes'm!"

"And so good-night."

(All.) "Good-night, ma'am."

Then this small thesmothete stepped from the table, and
surged out of the hall, her black silk dress licking up a
few straws and dragging them along with a scratching noise
upon the floor. Liddy, elevating her feelings to the
occasion from a sense of grandeur, floated off behind
Bathsheba with a milder dignity not entirely free from
travesty, and the door was closed.



FOR dreariness nothing could surpass a prospect in the
outskirts of a certain town and military station, many miles
north of Weatherbury, at a later hour on this same snowy
evening -- if that may be called a prospect of which the
chief constituent was darkness.

It was a night when sorrow may come to the brightest without
causing any great sense of incongruity: when, with
impressible persons, love becomes solicitousness, hope sinks
to misgiving, and faith to hope: when the exercise of
memory does not stir feelings of regret at opportunities for
ambition that have been passed by, and anticipation does not
prompt to enterprise.

The scene was a public path, bordered on the left hand by a
river, behind which rose a high wall. On the right was a
tract of land, partly meadow and partly moor, reaching, at
its remote verge, to a wide undulating uplan.

The changes of the seasons are less obtrusive on spots of
this kind than amid woodland scenery. Still, to a close
observer, they are just as perceptible; the difference is
that their media of manifestation are less trite and
familiar than such well-known ones as the bursting of the
buds or the fall of the leaf. Many are not so stealthy and
gradual as we may be apt to imagine in considering the
general torpidity of a moor or waste. Winter, in coming to
the country hereabout, advanced in well-marked stages,
wherein might have been successively observed the retreat of
the snakes, the transformation of the ferns, the filling of
the pools, a rising of fogs, the embrowning by frost, the
collapse of the fungi, and an obliteration by snow.

This climax of the series had been reached to-night on the
aforesaid moor, and for the first time in the season its
irregularities were forms without features; suggestive of
anything, proclaiming nothing, and without more character
than that of being the limit of something else -- the lowest
layer of a firmament of snow. From this chaotic skyful of
crowding flakes the mead and moor momentarily received
additional clothing, only to appear momentarily more naked
thereby. The vast arch of cloud above was strangely low,
and formed as it were the roof of a large dark cavern,
gradually sinking in upon its floor; for the instinctive
thought was that the snow lining the heavens and that
encrusting the earth would soon unite into one mass without
any intervening stratum of air at all.

We turn our attention to the left-hand characteristics;
which were flatness in respect of the river, verticality in
respect of the wall behind it, and darkness as to both.
These features made up the mass. If anything could be
darker than the sky, it was the wall, and if any thing could
be gloomier than the wall it was the river beneath. The
indistinct summit of the facade was notched and pronged by
chimneys here and there, and upon its face were faintly
signified the oblong shapes of windows, though only in the
upper part. Below, down to the water's edge, the flat was
unbroken by hole or projection.

An indescribable succession of dull blows, perplexing in
their regularity, sent their sound with difficulty through
the fluffy atmosphere. It was a neighbouring clock striking
ten. The bell was in the open air, and being overlaid with
several inches of muffling snow, had lost its voice for the

About this hour the snow abated: ten flakes fell where
twenty had fallen, then one had the room of ten. Not long
after a form moved by the brink of the river.

By its outline upon the colourless background, a close
observer might have seen that it was small. This was all
that was positively discoverable, though it seemed human.

The shape went slowly along, but without much exertion, for
the snow, though sudden, was not as yet more than two inches
deep. At this time some words were spoken aloud: --

"One. Two. Three. Four. Five."

Between each utterance the little shape advanced about half
a dozen yards. It was evident now that the windows high in
the wall were being counted. The word "Five" represented
the fifth window from the end of the wall.

Here the spot stopped, and dwindled smaller. The figure was
stooping. Then a morsel of snow flew across the river
towards the fifth window. It smacked against the wall at a
point several yards from its mark. The throw was the idea
of a man conjoined with the execution of a woman. No man
who had ever seen bird, rabbit, or squirrel in his
childhood, could possibly have thrown with such utter
imbecility as was shown here.

Another attempt, and another; till by degrees the wall must
have become pimpled with the adhering lumps of snow At last
one fragment struck the fifth window.

The river would have been seen by day to be of that deep
smooth sort which races middle and sides with the same
gliding precision, any irregularities of speed being
immediately corrected by a small whirlpool. Nothing was
heard in reply to the signal but the gurgle and cluck of one
of these invisible wheels -- together with a few small
sounds which a sad man would have called moans, and a happy

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