Part 6 out of 10
"Coggan, suppose we keep this night's work as quiet as we
"I am of one and the same mind."
"Very well. We shall be home by three o'clock or so, and
can creep into the parish like lambs."
Bathsheba's perturbed meditations by the roadside had
ultimately evolved a conclusion that there were only two
remedies for the present desperate state of affairs. The
first was merely to keep Troy away from Weatherbury till
Boldwood's indignation had cooled; the second to listen to
Oak's entreaties, and Boldwood's denunciations, and give up
Alas! Could she give up this new love -- induce him to
renounce her by saying she did not like him -- could no more
speak to him, and beg him, for her good, to end his furlough
in Bath, and see her and Weatherbury no more?
It was a picture full of misery, but for a while she
contemplated it firmly, allowing herself, nevertheless, as
girls will, to dwell upon the happy life she would have
enjoyed had Troy been Boldwood, and the path of love the
path of duty -- inflicting upon herself gratuitous tortures
by imagining him the lover of another woman after forgetting
her; for she had penetrated Troy's nature so far as to
estimate his tendencies pretty accurately, hut unfortunately
loved him no less in thinking that he might soon cease to
love her -- indeed, considerably more.
She jumped to her feet. She would see him at once. Yes,
she would implore him by word of mouth to assist her in this
dilemma. A letter to keep him away could not reach him in
time, even if he should be disposed to listen to it.
Was Bathsheba altogether blind to the obvious fact that the
support of a lover's arms is not of a kind best calculated
to assist a resolve to renounce him? Or was she
sophistically sensible, with a thrill of pleasure, that by
adopting this course for getting rid of him she was ensuring
a meeting with him, at any rate, once more?
It was now dark, and the hour must have been nearly ten.
The only way to accomplish her purpose was to give up her
idea of visiting Liddy at Yalbury, return to Weatherbury
Farm, put the horse into the gig, and drive at once to Bath.
The scheme seemed at first impossible: the journey was a
fearfully heavy one, even for a strong horse, at her own
estimate; and she much underrated the distance. It was most
venturesome for a woman, at night, and alone.
But could she go on to Liddy's and leave things to take
their course? No, no; anything but that. Bathsheba was
full of a stimulating turbulence, beside which caution
vainly prayed for a hearing. She turned back towards the
Her walk was slow, for she wished not to enter Weatherbury
till the cottagers were in bed, and, particularly, till
Boldwood was secure. Her plan was now to drive to Bath
during the night, see Sergeant Troy in the morning before he
set out to come to her, bid him farewell, and dismiss him:
then to rest the horse thoroughly (herself to weep the
while, she thought), starting early the next morning on her
return journey. By this arrangement she could trot Dainty
gently all the day, reach Liddy at Yalbury in the evening,
and come home to Weatherbury with her whenever they chose --
so nobody would know she had been to Bath at all. Such was
Bathsheba's scheme. But in her topographical ignorance as a
late comer to the place, she misreckoned the distance of her
journey as not much more than half what it really was.
This idea she proceeded to carry out, with what initial
success we have already seen.
IN THE SUN -- A HARBINGER
A WEEK passed, and there were no tidings of Bathsheba; nor
was there any explanation of her Gilpin's rig.
Then a note came for Maryann, stating that the business
which had called her mistress to Bath still detained her
there; but that she hoped to return in the course of another
Another week passed. The oat-harvest began, and all the men
were a-field under a monochromatic Lammas sky, amid the
trembling air and short shadows of noon. Indoors nothing
was to be heard save the droning of blue-bottle flies; out-
of-doors the whetting of scythes and the hiss of tressy oat-
ears rubbing together as their perpendicular stalks of
amber-yellow fell heavily to each swath. Every drop of
moisture not in the men's bottles and flagons in the form of
cider was raining as perspiration from their foreheads and
cheeks. Drought was everywhere else.
They were about to withdraw for a while into the charitable
shade of a tree in the fence, when Coggan saw a figure in a
blue coat and brass buttons running to them across the
"I wonder who that is?" he said.
"I hope nothing is wrong about mistress," said Maryann, who
with some other women was tying the bundles (oats being
always sheafed on this farm), "but an unlucky token came to
me indoors this morning. I went to unlock the door and
dropped the key, and it fell upon the stone floor and broke
into two pieces. Breaking a key is a dreadful bodement. I
wish mis'ess was home."
"'Tis Cain Ball," said Gabriel, pausing from whetting his
Oak was not bound by his agreement to assist in the corn-
field; but the harvest month is an anxious time for a
farmer, and the corn was Bathsheba's, so he lent a hand.
"He's dressed up in his best clothes," said Matthew Moon.
"He hev been away from home for a few days, since he's had
that felon upon his finger; for 'a said, since I can't work
I'll have a hollerday."
"A good time for one -- a' excellent time," said Joseph
Poorgrass, straightening his back; for he, like some of the
others, had a way of resting a while from his labour on such
hot days for reasons preternaturally small; of which Cain
Ball's advent on a week-day in his Sunday-clothes was one of
the first magnitude. "Twas a bad leg allowed me to read the
PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, and Mark Clark learnt All-Fours in a
"Ay, and my father put his arm out of joint to have time to
go courting," said Jan Coggan, in an eclipsing tone, wiping
his face with his shirt-sleeve and thrusting back his hat
upon the nape of his neck.
By this time Cainy was nearing the group of harvesters, and
was perceived to be carrying a large slice of bread and ham
in one hand, from which he took mouthfuls as he ran, the
other being wrapped in a bandage. When he came close, his
mouth assumed the bell shape, and he began to cough
"Now, Cainy!" said Gabriel, sternly. "How many more times
must I tell you to keep from running so fast when you be
eating? You'll choke yourself some day, that's what you'll
do, Cain Ball."
"Hok-hok-hok!" replied Cain. "A crumb of my victuals went
the wrong way -- hok-hok!, That's what 'tis, Mister Oak! And
I've been visiting to Bath because I had a felon on my
thumb; yes, and l've seen -- ahok-hok!"
Directly Cain mentioned Bath, they all threw down their
hooks and forks and drew round him. Unfortunately the
erratic crumb did not improve his narrative powers, and a
supplementary hindrance was that of a sneeze, jerking from
his pocket his rather large watch, which dangled in front of
the young man pendulum-wise.
"Yes," he continued, directing his thoughts to Bath and
letting his eyes follow, "l've seed the world at last -- yes
-- and I've seed our mis'ess -- ahok-hok-hok!"
"Bother the boy!" said Gabriel." Something is always going
the wrong way down your throat, so that you can't tell
what's necessary to be told."
"Ahok! there! Please, Mister Oak, a gnat have just fleed
into my stomach and brought the cough on again!"
"Yes, that's just it. Your mouth is always open, you young
"'Tis terrible bad to have a gnat fly down yer throat, pore
boy!" said Matthew Moon.
"Well, at Bath you saw ----" prompted Gabriel.
"I saw our mistress," continued the junior shepherd, "and a
sojer, walking along. And bymeby they got closer and
closer, and then they went arm-in-crook, like courting
complete -- hok-hok! like courting complete -- hok! --
courting complete ----" Losing the thread of his narrative
at this point simultaneously with his loss of breath, their
informant looked up and down the field apparently for some
clue to it. "Well, I see our mis'ess and a soldier -- a-ha-
"Damn the boy!" said Gabriel.
"'Tis only my manner, Mister Oak, if ye'll excuse it," said
Cain Ball, looking reproachfully at Oak, with eyes drenched
in their own dew.
"Here's some cider for him -- that'll cure his throat," said
Jan Coggan, lifting a flagon of cider, pulling out the cork,
and applying the hole to Cainy's mouth; Joseph Poorgrass in
the meantime beginning to think apprehensively of the
serious consequences that would follow Cainy Ball's
strangulation in his cough, and the history of his Bath
adventures dying with him.
"For my poor self, I always say 'please God' afore I do
anything," said Joseph, in an unboastful voice; "and so
should you, Cain Ball. 'Tis a great safeguard, and might
perhaps save you from being choked to death some day."
Mr. Coggan poured the liquor with unstinted liberality at
the suffering Cain's circular mouth; half of it running down
the side of the flagon, and half of what reached his mouth
running down outside his throat, and half of what ran in
going the wrong way, and being coughed and sneezed around
the persons of the gathered reapers in the form of a cider
fog, which for a moment hung in the sunny air like a small
"There's a great clumsy sneeze! Why can't ye have better
manners, you young dog!" said Coggan, withdrawing the
"The cider went up my nose!" cried Cainy, as soon as he
could speak; "and now 'tis gone down my neck, and into my
poor dumb felon, and over my shiny buttons and all my best
"The poor lad's cough is terrible unfortunate," said Matthew
Moon. "And a great history on hand, too. Bump his back,
"'Tis my nater," mourned Cain. "Mother says I always was so
excitable when my feelings were worked up to a point!"
"True, true," said Joseph Poorgrass. "The Balls were always
a very excitable family. I knowed the boy's grandfather --
a truly nervous and modest man, even to genteel refinery.
'Twas blush, blush with him, almost as much as 'tis with me
-- not but that 'tis a fault in me!"
"Not at all, Master Poorgrass," said Coggan. "'Tis a very
noble quality in ye."
"Heh-heh! well, I wish to noise nothing abroad -- nothing at
all," murmured Poorgrass, diffidently. "But we be born to
things -- that's true. Yet I would rather my trifle were
hid; though, perhaps, a high nater is a little high, and at
my birth all things were possible to my Maker, and he may
have begrudged no gifts.... But under your bushel, Joseph!
under your bushel with 'ee! A strange desire, neighbours,
this desire to hide, and no praise due. Yet there is a
Sermon on the Mount with a calendar of the blessed at the
head, and certain meek men may be named therein."
"Cainy's grandfather was a very clever man," said Matthew
Moon. "Invented a' apple-tree out of his own head, which is
called by his name to this day -- the Early Ball. You know
'em, Jan? A Quarrenden grafted on a Tom Putt, and a Rathe-
ripe upon top o' that again. "'Tis trew 'a used to bide
about in a public-house wi' a 'ooman in a way he had no
business to by rights, but there -- 'a were a clever man in
the sense of the term."
"Now then," said Gabriel, impatiently, "what did you see,
"I seed our mis'ess go into a sort of a park place, where
there's seats, and shrubs and flowers, arm-in-crook with a
sojer," continued Cainy, firmly, and with a dim sense that
his words were very effective as regarded Gabriel's
emotions. "And I think the sojer was Sergeant Troy. And
they sat there together for more than half-an-hour, talking
moving things, and she once was crying a'most to death. And
when they came out her eyes were shining and she was as
white as a lily; and they looked into one another's faces,
as far-gone friendly as a man and woman can be."
Gabriel's features seemed to get thinner. "Well, what did
you see besides?"
"Oh, all sorts."
"White as a lily? You are sure 'twas she?
"Well, what besides?"
"Great glass windows to the shops, and great clouds in the
sky, full of rain, and old wooden trees in the country
"You stun-poll! What will ye say next?" said Coggan.
"Let en alone," interposed Joseph Poorgrass. "The boy's
meaning is that the sky and the earth in the kingdom of Bath
is not altogether different from ours here. 'Tis for our
good to gain knowledge of strange cities, and as such the
boy's words should be suffered, so to speak it."
"And the people of Bath," continued Cain, "never need to
light their fires except as a luxury, for the water springs
up out of the earth ready boiled for use."
"'Tis true as the light," testified Matthew Moon. "I've
heard other navigators say the same thing."
"They drink nothing else there," said Cain, "and seem to
enjoy it, to see how they swaller it down."
"Well, it seems a barbarian practice enough to us, but I
daresay the natives think nothing o' it," said Matthew.
"And don't victuals spring up as well as drink?" asked
Coggan, twirling his eye.
"No -- I own to a blot there in Bath -- a true blot. God
didn't provide 'em with victuals as well as drink, and 'twas
a drawback I couldn't get over at all."
"Well, 'tis a curious place, to say the least," observed
Moon; "and it must be a curious people that live therein."
"Miss Everdene and the soldier were walking about together,
you say?" said Gabriel, returning to the group.
"Ay, and she wore a beautiful gold-colour silk gown, trimmed
with black lace, that would have stood alone 'ithout legs
inside if required. 'Twas a very winsome sight; and her
hair was brushed splendid. And when the sun shone upon the
bright gown and his red coat -- my! how handsome they
looked. You could see 'em all the length of the street."
"And what then?" murmured Gabriel.
"And then I went into Griffin's to hae my boots hobbed, and
then I went to Riggs's batty-cake shop, and asked 'em for a
penneth of the cheapest and nicest stales, that were all but
blue-mouldy, but not quite. And whilst I was chawing 'em
down I walked on and seed a clock with a face as big as a
baking trendle ----"
"But that's nothing to do with mistress!"
"I'm coming to that, if you'll leave me alone, Mister Oak!"
remonstrated Cainy. "If you excites me, perhaps you'll
bring on my cough, and then I shan't be able to tell ye
"Yes -- let him tell it his own way," said Coggan.
Gabriel settled into a despairing attitude of patience, and
Cainy went on: --
"And there were great large houses, and more people all the
week long than at Weatherbury club-walking on White
Tuesdays. And I went to grand churches and chapels. And
how the parson would pray! Yes; he would kneel down and put
up his hands together, and make the holy gold rings on his
fingers gleam and twinkle in yer eyes, that he'd earned by
praying so excellent well! -- Ah yes, I wish I lived there."
"Our poor Parson Thirdly can't get no money to buy such
rings," said Matthew Moon, thoughtfully. "And as good a man
as ever walked. I don't believe poor Thirdly have a single
one, even of humblest tin or copper. Such a great ornament
as they'd be to him on a dull afternoon, when he's up in the
pulpit lighted by the wax candles! But 'tis impossible,
poor man. Ah, to think how unequal things be."
"Perhaps he's made of different stuff than to wear 'em,"
said Gabriel, grimly. "Well, that's enough of this. Go on,
Cainy -- quick."
"Oh -- and the new style of parsons wear moustaches and long
beards," continued the illustrious traveller, "and look like
Moses and Aaron complete, and make we fokes in the
congregation feel all over like the children of Israel."
"A very right feeling -- very," said Joseph Poorgrass.
"And there's two religions going on in the nation now --
High Church and High Chapel. And, thinks I, I'll play fair;
so I went to High Church in the morning, and High Chapel in
"A right and proper boy," said Joseph Poorgrass.
"Well, at High Church they pray singing, and worship all the
colours of the rainbow; and at High Chapel they pray
preaching, and worship drab and whitewash only. And then --
I didn't see no more of Miss Everdene at all."
"Why didn't you say so afore, then?" exclaimed Oak, with
"Ah," said Matthew Moon, "she'll wish her cake dough if so
be she's over intimate with that man."
"She's not over intimate with him," said Gabriel,
"She would know better," said Coggan. "Our mis'ess has too
much sense under they knots of black hair to do such a mad
"You see, he's not a coarse, ignorant man, for he was well
brought up," said Matthew, dubiously. "'Twas only wildness
that made him a soldier, and maids rather like your man of
"Now, Cain Ball," said Gabriel restlessly, "can you swear in
the most awful form that the woman you saw was Miss
"Cain Ball, you be no longer a babe and suckling," said
Joseph in the sepulchral tone the circumstances demanded,
"and you know what taking an oath is. 'Tis a horrible
testament mind ye, which you say and seal with your blood-
stone, and the prophet Matthew tells us that on whomsoever
it shall fall it will grind him to powder. Now, before all
the work-folk here assembled, can you swear to your words as
the shepherd asks ye?"
"Please no, Mister Oak!" said Cainy, looking from one to the
other with great uneasiness at the spiritual magnitude of
the position. "I don't mind saying 'tis true, but I don't
like to say 'tis damn true, if that's what you mane."
"Cain, Cain, how can you!" asked Joseph sternly. "You be
asked to swear in a holy manner, and you swear like wicked
Shimei, the son of Gera, who cursed as he came. Young man,
"No, I don't! 'Tis you want to squander a pore boy's soul,
Joseph Poorgrass -- that's what 'tis!" said Cain, beginning
to cry. "All I mane is that in common truth 'twas Miss
Everdene and Sergeant Troy, but in the horrible so-help-me
truth that ye want to make of it perhaps 'twas somebody
"There's no getting at the rights of it," said Gabriel,
turning to his work.
"Cain Ball, you'll come to a bit of bread!" groaned Joseph
Then the reapers' hooks were flourished again, and the old
sounds went on. Gabriel, without making any pretence of
being lively, did nothing to show that he was particularly
dull. However, Coggan knew pretty nearly how the land lay,
and when they were in a nook together he said --
"Don't take on about her, Gabriel. What difference does it
make whose sweetheart she is, since she can't be yours?"
"That's the very thing I say to myself," said Gabriel.
HOME AGAIN -- A TRICKSTER
THAT same evening at dusk Gabriel was leaning over Coggan's
garden-gate, taking an up-and-down survey before retiring to
A vehicle of some kind was softly creeping along the grassy
margin of the lane. From it spread the tones of two women
talking. The tones were natural and not at all suppressed.
Oak instantly knew the voices to he those of Bathsheba and
The carriage came opposite and passed by. It was Miss
Everdene's gig, and Liddy and her mistress were the only
occupants of the seat. Liddy was asking questions about the
city of Bath, and her companion was answering them
listlessly and unconcernedly. Both Bathsheba and the horse
The exquisite relief of finding that she was here again,
safe and sound, overpowered all reflection, and Oak could
only luxuriate in the sense of it. All grave reports were
He lingered and lingered on, till there was no difference
between the eastern and western expanses of sky, and the
timid hares began to limp courageously round the dim
hillocks. Gabriel might have been there an additional half-
hour when a dark form walked slowly by. "Good-night,
Gabriel," the passer said.
It was Boldwood. "Good-night, sir," said Gabriel.
Boldwood likewise vanished up the road, and Oak shortly
afterwards turned indoors to bed.
Farmer Boldwood went on towards Miss Everdene's house. He
reached the front, and approaching the entrance, saw a light
in the parlour. The blind was not drawn down, and inside
the room was Bathsheba, looking over some papers or letters.
Her back was towards Boldwood. He went to the door,
knocked, and waited with tense muscles and an aching brow.
Boldwood had not been outside his garden since his meeting
with Bathsheba in the road to Yalbury. Silent and alone, he
had remained in moody meditation on woman's ways, deeming as
essentials of the whole sex the accidents of the single one
of their number he had ever closely beheld. By degrees a
more charitable temper had pervaded him, and this was the
reason of his sally to-night. He had come to apologize and
beg forgiveness of Bathsheba with something like a sense of
shame at his violence, having but just now learnt that she
had returned -- only from a visit to Liddy, as he supposed,
the Bath escapade being quite unknown to him.
He inquired for Miss Everdene. Liddy's manner was odd, but
he did not notice it. She went in, leaving him standing
there, and in her absence the blind of the room containing
Bathsheba was pulled down. Boldwood augured ill from that
sign. Liddy came out.
"My mistress cannot see you, sir," she said.
The farmer instantly went out by the gate. He as unforgiven
-- that was the issue of it all. He had seen her who was to
him simultaneously a delight and a torture, sitting in the
room he had shared with her as a peculiarly privileged guest
only a little earlier in the summer, and she had denied him
an entrance there now.
Boldwood did not hurry homeward. It was ten o'clock at
least, when, walking deliberately through the lower part of
Weatherbury, he heard the carrier's spring van entering the
village. The van ran to and from a town in a northern
direction, and it was owned and driven by a Weatherbury man,
at the door of whose house it now pulled up. The lamp fixed
to the head of the hood illuminated a scarlet and gilded
form, who was the first to alight.
"Ah!" said Boldwood to himself, "come to see her again."
Troy entered the carrier's house, which had been the place
of his lodging on his last visit to his native place.
Boldwood was moved by a sudden determination. He hastened
home. In ten minutes he was back again, and made as if he
were going to call upon Troy at the carrier's. But as he
approached, some one opened the door and came out. He heard
this person say " Good-night" to the inmates, and the voice
was Troy's. "This was strange, coming so immediately after
his arrival. Boldwood, however, hastened up to him. Troy
had what appeared to be a carpet-bag in his hand -- the same
that he had brought with him. It seemed as if he were going
to leave again this very night.
Troy turned up the hill and quickened his pace. Boldwood
"Yes -- I'm Sergeant Troy."
"Just arrived from up the country, I think?"
"Just arrived from Bath."
"I am William Boldwood."
The tone in which this word was uttered was all that had
been wanted to bring Boldwood to the point.
"I wish to speak a word with you," he said.
"About her who lives just ahead there -- and about a woman
you have wronged."
"I wonder at your impertinence," said Troy, moving on.
"Now look here," said Boldwood, standing in front of him,
"wonder or not, you are going to hold a conversation with
Troy heard the dull determination in Boldwood's voice,
looked at his stalwart frame, then at the thick cudgel he
carried in his hand. He remembered it was past ten o'clock.
It seemed worth while to be civil to Boldwood.
"Very well, I'll listen with pleasure," said Troy, placing
his bag on the ground, "only speak low, for somebody or
other may overhear us in the farmhouse there."
"Well then -- I know a good deal concerning your Fanny
Robin's attachment to you. I may say, too, that I believe I
am the only person in the village, excepting Gabriel Oak,
who does know it. You ought to marry her."
"I suppose I ought. Indeed, l wish to, but I cannot."
Troy was about to utter something hastily; he then checked
himself and said, "I am too poor." His voice was changed.
Previously it had had a devil-may-care tone. It was the
voice of a trickster now.
Boldwood's present mood was not critical enough to notice
tones. He continued, "I may as well speak plainly; and
understand, I don't wish to enter into the questions of
right or wrong, woman's honour and shame, or to express any
opinion on your conduct. I intend a business transaction
"I see," said Troy. "Suppose we sit down here."
An old tree trunk lay under the hedge immediately opposite,
and they sat down.
"I was engaged to be married to Miss Everdene," said
Boldwood, "but you came and ----"
"Not engaged," said Troy.
"As good as engaged."
"If I had not turned up she might have become engaged to
"If you had not come I should certainly -- yes, CERTAINLY --
have been accepted by this time. If you had not seen her
you might have been married to Fanny. Well, there's too
much difference between Miss Everdene's station and your own
for this flirtation with her ever to benefit you by ending
in marriage. So all I ask is, don't molest her any more.
Marry Fanny. I'll make it worth your while."
"How will you?"
"I'll pay you well now, I'll settle a sum of money upon her,
and I'll see that you don't suffer from poverty in the
future. I'll put it clearly. Bathsheba is only playing
with you: you are too poor for her as I said; so give up
wasting your time about a great match you'll never make for
a moderate and rightful match you may make to-morrow; take
up your carpet-bag, turn about, leave Weatherbury now, this
night, and you shall take fifty pounds with you. Fanny
shall have fifty to enable her to prepare for the wedding,
when you have told me where she is living, and she shall
have five hundred paid down on her wedding-day."
In making this statement Boldwood's voice revealed only too
clearly a consciousness of the weakness of his position, his
aims, and his method. His manner had lapsed quite from that
of the firm and dignified Boldwood of former times; and such
a scheme as he had now engaged in he would have condemned as
childishly imbecile only a few months ago. We discern a
grand force in the lover which he lacks whilst a free man;
but there is a breadth of vision in the free man which in
the lover we vainly seek. Where there is much bias there
must be some narrowness, and love, though added emotion, is
subtracted capacity. Boldwood exemplified this to an
abnormal degree: he knew nothing of Fanny Robin's
circumstances or whereabouts, he knew nothing of Troy's
possibilities, yet that was what he said.
"I like Fanny best," said Troy; "and if, as you say, Miss
Everdene is out of my reach, why I have all to gain by
accepting your money, and marrying Fan. But she's only a
"Never mind -- do you agree to my arrangement?"
"Ah!" said Boldwood, in a more elastic voice. "Oh, Troy, if
you like her best, why then did you step in here and injure
"I love Fanny best now," said Troy. "But Bathsh ---- Miss
Everdene inflamed me, and displaced Fanny for a time. It is
"Why should it be over so soon? And why then did you come
"There are weighty reasons. Fifty pounds at once, you
"I did," said Boldwood, "and here they are -- fifty
sovereigns." He handed Troy a small packet.
"You have everything ready -- it seems that you calculated
on my accepting them," said the sergeant, taking the packet.
"I thought you might accept them," said Boldwood.
"You've only my word that the programme shall be adhered to,
whilst I at any rate have fifty pounds."
"I had thought of that, and I have considered that if I
can't appeal to your honour I can trust to your -- well,
shrewdness we'll call it -- not to lose five hundred pounds
in prospect, and also make a bitter enemy of a man who is
willing to be an extremely useful friend."
"Stop, listen!" said Troy in a whisper.
A light pit-pat was audible upon the road just above them.
"By George -- 'tis she," he continued. "I must go on and
"She -- who?"
"Bathsheba -- out alone at this time o' night!" said
Boldwood in amazement, and starting up. "Why must you meet
"She was expecting me to-night -- and I must now speak to
her, and wish her good-bye, according to your wish."
"I don't see the necessity of speaking."
"It can do no harm -- and she'll be wandering about looking
for me if I don't. You shall hear all I say to her. It
will help you in your love-making when I am gone."
"Your tone is mocking."
"Oh no. And remember this, if she does not know what has
become of me, she will think more about me than if I tell
her flatly I have come to give her up."
"Will you confine your words to that one point? -- Shall I
hear every word you say?"
"Every word. Now sit still there, and hold my "carpet bag
for me, and mark what you hear."
The light footstep came closer, halting occasionally, as if
the walker listened for a sound. Troy whistled a double
note in a soft, fluty tone.
"Come to that, is it!" murmured Boldwood, uneasily.
"You promised silence," said Troy.
"I promise again."
Troy stepped forward.
"Frank, dearest, is that you?" The tones were Bathsheba's.
"O God!" said Boldwood.
"Yes," said Troy to her.
"How late you are," she continued, tenderly. "Did you come
by the carrier? I listened and heard his wheels entering
the village, but it was some time ago, and I had almost
given you up, Frank."
"I was sure to come," said Frank. "You knew I should, did
"Well, I thought you would," she said, playfully; "and,
Frank, it is so lucky! There's not a soul in my house but
me to-night. I've packed them all off so nobody on earth
will know of your visit to your lady's bower. Liddy wanted
to go to her grandfather's to tell him about her holiday,
and I said she might stay with them till to-morrow -- when
you'll be gone again."
"Capital," said Troy. "But, dear me, I had better go back
for my bag, because my slippers and brush and comb are in
it; you run home whilst I fetch it, and I'll promise to be
in your parlour in ten minutes."
"Yes." She turned and tripped up the hill again.
During the progress of this dialogue there was a nervous
twitching of Boldwood's tightly closed lips, and his face
became bathed in a clammy dew. He now started forward
towards Troy. Troy turned to him and took up the bag.
"Shall I tell her I have come to give her up and cannot
marry her?" said the soldier, mockingly.
"No, no; wait a minute. I want to say more to you -- more
to you!" said Boldwood, in a hoarse whisper.
"Now," said Troy, "you see my dilemma. Perhaps I am a bad
man -- the victim of my impulses -- led away to do what I
ought to leave undone. I can't, however, marry them both.
And I have two reasons for choosing Fanny. First, I like
her best upon the whole, and second, you make it worth my
At the same instant Boldwood sprang upon him, and held him
by the neck. Troy felt Boldwood's grasp slowly tightening.
The move was absolutely unexpected.
"A moment," he gasped. "You are injuring her you love!"
"Well, what do you mean?" said the farmer.
"Give me breath," said Troy.
Boldwood loosened his hand, saying, "By Heaven, I've a mind
to kill you!"
"And ruin her."
"Oh, how can she be saved now, unless I marry her?"
Boldwood groaned. He reluctantly released the soldier, and
flung him back against the hedge. "Devil, you torture me!"
Troy rebounded like a ball, and was about to make a dash at
the farmer; but he checked himself, saying lightly --
"It is not worth while to measure my strength with you.
Indeed it is a barbarous way of settling a quarrel. I shall
shortly leave the army because of the same conviction. Now
after that revelation of how the land lies with Bathsheba,
'twould be a mistake to kill me, would it not?"
"'Twould be a mistake to kill you," repeated Boldwood,
mechanically, with a bowed head.
"Better kill yourself."
"I'm glad you see it."
"Troy, make her your wife, and don't act upon what I
arranged just now. The alternative is dreadful, but take
Bathsheba; I give her up! She must love you indeed to sell
soul and body to you so utterly as she has done. Wretched
woman -- deluded woman -- you are, Bathsheba!"
"But about Fanny?"
"Bathsheba is a woman well to do," continued Boldwood, in
nervous anxiety, and, Troy, she will make a good wife; and,
indeed, she is worth your hastening on your marriage with
"But she has a will -- not to say a temper, and I shall be a
mere slave to her. I could do anything with poor Fanny
"Troy," said Boldwood, imploringly, "I'll do anything for
you, only don't desert her; pray don't desert her, Troy."
"Which, poor Fanny?"
"No; Bathsheba Everdene. Love her best! Love her tenderly!
How shall I get you to see how advantageous it will be to
you to secure her at once?"
"I don't wish to secure her in any new way."
Boldwood's arm moved spasmodically towards Troy's person
again. He repressed the instinct, and his form drooped as
Troy went on --
"I shall soon purchase my discharge, and then ----"
"But I wish you to hasten on this marriage! It will be
better for you both. You love each other, and you must let
me help you to do it."
"Why, by settling the five hundred on Bathsheba instead of
Fanny, to enable you to marry at once. No; she wouldn't
have it of me. I'll pay it down to you on the wedding-day."
Troy paused in secret amazement at Boldwood's wild
infatuation. He carelessly said, "And am I to have anything
"Yes, if you wish to. But I have not much additional money
with me. I did not expect this; but all I have is yours."
Boldwood, more like a somnambulist than a wakeful man,
pulled out the large canvas bag he carried by way of a
purse, and searched it.
"I have twenty-one pounds more with me," he said. "Two
notes and a sovereign. But before I leave you I must have a
paper signed ----"
"Pay me the money, and we'll go straight to her parlour, and
make any arrangement you please to secure my compliance with
your wishes. But she must know nothing of this cash
"Nothing, nothing," said Boldwood, hastily. "Here is the
sum, and if you'll come to my house we'll write out the
agreement for the remainder, and the terms also."
"First we'll call upon her."
"But why? Come with me to-night, and go with me to-morrow
to the surrogate's."
"But she must be consulted; at any rate informed."
"Very well; go on."
They went up the hill to Bathsheba's house. When they stood
at the entrance, Troy said, "Wait here a moment." Opening
the door, he glided inside, leaving the door ajar.
Boldwood waited. In two minutes a light appeared in the
passage. Boldwood then saw that the chain had been fastened
across the door. Troy appeared inside, carrying a bedroom
"What, did you think I should break in?" said Boldwood,
"Oh, no, it is merely my humour to secure things. Will you
read this a moment? I'll hold the light."
Troy handed a folded newspaper through the slit between door
and doorpost, and put the candle close. "That's the
paragraph," he said, placing his finger on a line.
Boldwood looked and read --
"On the 17th inst., at St. Ambrose's Church, Bath, by the
Rev. G. Mincing, B.A., Francis Troy, only son of the late
Edward Troy, Esq., M.D., of Weatherbury, and sergeant with
Dragoon Guards, to Bathsheba, only surviving daughter of the
late Mr. John Everdene, of Casterbridge."
"This may be called Fort meeting Feeble, hey, Boldwood?"
said Troy. A low gurgle of derisive laughter followed the
The paper fell from Boldwood's hands. Troy continued --
"Fifty pounds to marry Fanny. Good. Twenty-one pounds not
to marry Fanny, but Bathsheba. Good. Finale: already
Bathsheba's husband. Now, Boldwood, yours is the ridiculous
fate which always attends interference between a man and his
wife. And another word. Bad as I am, I am not such a
villain as to make the marriage or misery of any woman a
matter of huckster and sale. Fanny has long ago left me. I
don't know where she is. I have searched everywhere.
Another word yet. You say you love Bathsheba; yet on the
merest apparent evidence you instantly believe in her
dishonour. A fig for such love! Now that I've taught you a
lesson, take your money back again."
"I will not; I will not!" said Boldwood, in a hiss.
"Anyhow I won't have it," said Troy, contemptuously. He
wrapped the packet of gold in the notes, and threw the whole
into the road.
Boldwood shook his clenched fist at him. "You juggler of
Satan! You black hound! But I'll punish you yet; mark me,
I'll punish you yet!"
Another peal of laughter. Troy then closed the door, and
locked himself in.
Throughout the whole of that night Boldwood's dark form
maight have been seen walking about hills and downs of
Weatherbury like an unhappy Shade in the Mournful Fields by
AT AN UPPER WINDOW
IT was very early the next morning -- a time of sun and dew.
The confused beginnings of many birds' songs spread into the
healthy air, and the wan blue of the heaven was here and
there coated with thin webs of incorporeal cloud which were
of no effect in obscuring day. All the lights in the scene
were yellow as to colour, and all the shadows were
attenuated as to form. The creeping plants about the old
manor-house were bowed with rows of heavy water drops, which
had upon objects behind them the effect of minute lenses of
high magnifying power.
Just before the clock struck five Gabriel Oak and Coggan
passed the village cross, and went on together to the
fields. They were yet barely in view of their mistress's
house, when Oak fancied he saw the opening of a casement in
one of the upper windows. The two men were at this moment
partially screened by an elder bush, now beginning to be
enriched with black bunches of fruit, and they paused before
emerging from its shade.
A handsome man leaned idly from the lattice. He looked east
and then west, in the manner of one who makes a first
morning survey. The man was Sergeant Troy. His red jacket
was loosely thrown on, but not buttoned, and he had
altogether the relaxed bearing of a soldier taking his ease.
Coggan spoke first, looking quietly at the window.
"She has married him!" he said.
Gabriel had previously beheld the sight, and he now stood
with his back turned, making no reply.
"I fancied we should know something to-day," continued
Coggan. "I heard wheels pass my door just after dark -- you
were out somewhere." He glanced round upon Gabriel. "Good
heavens above us, Oak, how white your face is; you look like
"Do I?" said Oak, with a faint smile.
"Lean on the gate: I'll wait a bit."
"All right, all right."
They stood by the gate awhile, Gabriel listlessly staring at
the ground. His mind sped into the future, and saw there
enacted in years of leisure the scenes of repentance that
would ensue from this work of haste. That they were married
he had instantly decided. Why had it been so mysteriously
managed? It had become known that she had had a fearful
journey to Bath, owing to her miscalculating the distance:
that the horse had broken down, and that she had been more
than two days getting there. It was not Bathsheba's way to
do things furtively. With all her faults, she was candour
itself. Could she have been entrapped? The union was not
only an unutterable grief to him: it amazed him,
notwithstanding that he had passed the preceding week in a
suspicion that such might be the issue of Troy's meeting her
away from home. Her quiet return with Liddy had to some
extent dispersed the dread. Just as that imperceptible
motion which appears like stillness is infinitely divided in
its properties from stillness itself, so had his hope
undistinguishable from despair differed from despair indeed.
In a few minutes they moved on again towards the house. The
sergeant still looked from the window.
"Morning, comrades!" he shouted, in a cheery voice, when
they came up.
Coggan replied to the greeting. "Bain't ye going to answer
the man?" he then said to Gabriel. "I'd say good morning --
you needn't spend a hapenny of meaning upon it, and yet keep
the man civil."
Gabriel soon decided too that, since the deed was done, to
put the best face upon the matter would be the greatest
kindness to her he loved.
"Good morning, Sergeant Troy," he returned, in a ghastly
"A rambling, gloomy house this," said Troy, smiling.
"Why -- they may not be married!" suggested Coggan.
"Perhaps she's not there."
Gabriel shook his head. The soldier turned a little towards
the east, and the sun kindled his scarlet coat to an orange
"But it is a nice old house," responded Gabriel.
"Yes -- I suppose so; but I feel like new wine in an old
bottle here. My notion is that sash-windows should be put
throughout, and these old wainscoted walls brightened up a
bit; or the oak cleared quite away, and the walls papered."
"It would be a pity, I think."
"Well, no. A philosopher once said in my hearing that the
old builders, who worked when art was a living thing, had no
respect for the work of builders who went before them, but
pulled down and altered as they thought fit; and why
shouldn't we? 'Creation and preservation don't do well
together,' says he, 'and a million of antiquarians can't
invent a style.' My mind exactly. I am for making this
place more modern, that we may be cheerful whilst we can."
The military man turned and surveyed the interior of the
room, to assist his ideas of improvement in this direction.
Gabriel and Coggan began to move on.
"Oh, Coggan," said Troy, as if inspired by a recollection
"do you know if insanity has ever appeared in Mr. Boldwood's
Jan reflected for a moment.
"I once heard that an uncle of his was queer in his head,
but I don't know the rights o't," he said.
"It is of no importance," said Troy, lightly. "Well, I
shall be down in the fields with you some time this week;
but I have a few matters to attend to first. So good-day to
you. We shall, of course, keep on just as friendly terms as
usual. I'm not a proud man: nobody is ever able to say
that of Sergeant Troy. However, what is must be, and here's
half-a-crown to drink my health, men."
Troy threw the coin dexterously across the front plot and
over the fence towards Gabriel, who shunned it in its fall,
his face turning to an angry red. Coggan twirled his eye,
edged forward, and caught the money in its ricochet upon the
"Very well -- you keep it, Coggan," said Gabriel with
disdain and almost fiercely. "As for me, I'll do with-out
gifts from him!"
"Don't show it too much," said Coggan, musingly. "For if
he's married to her, mark my words, he'll buy his discharge
and be our master here. Therefore 'tis well to say 'Friend'
outwardly, though you say 'Troublehouse' within."
"Well -- perhaps it is best to be silent; but I can't go
further than that. I can't flatter, and if my place here is
only to be kept by smoothing him down, my place must be
A horseman, whom they had for some time seen in the
distance, now appeared close beside them.
"There's Mr. Boldwood," said Oak. "I wonder what Troy meant
by his question."
Coggan and Oak nodded respectfully to the farmer, just
checked their paces to discover if they were wanted, and
finding they were not stood back to let him pass on.
The only signs of the terrible sorrow Boldwood had been
combating through the night, and was combating now, were the
want of colour in his well-defined face, the enlarged
appearance of the veins in his forehead and temples, and the
sharper lines about his mouth. The horse bore him away, and
the very step of the animal seemed significant of dogged
despair. Gabriel, for a minute, rose above his own grief in
noticing Boldwood's. He saw the square figure sitting erect
upon the horse, the head turned to neither side, the elbows
steady by the hips, the brim of the hat level and
undisturbed in its onward glide, until the keen edges of
Boldwood's shape sank by degrees over the hill. To one who
knew the man and his story there was something more striking
in this immobility than in a collapse. The clash of discord
between mood and matter here was forced painfully home to
the heart; and, as in laughter there are more dreadful
phases than in tears, so was there in the steadiness of this
agonized man an expression deeper than a cry.
WEALTH IN JEOPARDY -- THE REVEL
ONE night, at the end of August, when Bathsheba's
experiences as a married woman were still new, and when the
weather was yet dry and sultry, a man stood motionless in
the stockyard of Weatherbury Upper Farm, looking at the moon
The night had a sinister aspect. A heated breeze from the
south slowly fanned the summits of lofty objects, and in the
sky dashes of buoyant cloud were sailing in a course at
right angles to that of another stratum, neither of them in
the direction of the breeze below. The moon, as seen
through these films, had a lurid metallic look. The fields
were sallow with the impure light, and all were tinged in
monochrome, as if beheld through stained glass. The same
evening the sheep had trailed homeward head to tail, the
behaviour of the rooks had been confused, and the horses had
moved with timidity and caution.
Thunder was imminent, and, taking some secondary appearances
into consideration, it was likely to be followed by one of
the lengthened rains which mark the close of dry weather for
the season. Before twelve hours had passed a harvest
atmosphere would be a bygone thing.
Oak gazed with misgiving at eight naked and unprotected
ricks, massive and heavy with the rich produce of one-half
the farm for that year. He went on to the barn.
This was the night which had been selected by Sergeant Troy
-- ruling now in the room of his wife -- for giving the
harvest supper and dance. As Oak approached the building
the sound of violins and a tambourine, and the regular
jigging of many feet, grew more distinct. He came close to
the large doors, one of which stood slightly ajar, and
The central space, together with the recess at one end, was
emptied of all incumbrances, and this area, covering about
two-thirds of the whole, was appropriated for the gathering,
the remaining end, which was piled to the ceiling with oats,
being screened off with sail-cloth. Tufts and garlands of
green foliage decorated the walls, beams, and extemporized
chandeliers, and immediately opposite to Oak a rostrum had
been erected, bearing a table and chairs. Here sat three
fiddlers, and beside them stood a frantic man with his hair
on end, perspiration streaming down his cheeks, and a
tambourine quivering in his hand.
The dance ended, and on the black oak floor in the midst a
new row of couples formed for another.
"Now, ma'am, and no offence I hope, I ask what dance you
would like next?" said the first violin.
"Really, it makes no difference," said the clear voice of
Bathsheba, who stood at the inner end of the building,
observing the scene from behind a table covered with cups
and viands. Troy was lolling beside her.
"Then," said the fiddler, "I'll venture to name that the
right and proper thing is "The Soldier's Joy" -- there being
a gallant soldier married into the farm -- hey, my sonnies,
and gentlemen all?"
"It shall be "The Soldier's Joy," exclaimed a chorus.
"Thanks for the compliment," said the sergeant gaily, taking
Bathsheba by the hand and leading her to the top of the
dance. "For though I have purchased my discharge from Her
Most Gracious Majesty's regiment of cavalry the 11th Dragoon
Guards, to attend to the new duties awaiting me here, I
shall continue a soldier in spirit and feeling as long as I
So the dance began. As to the merits of "The Soldier's
Joy," there cannot be, and never were, two opinions. It has
been observed in the musical circles of Weatherbury and its
vicinity that this melody, at the end of three-quarters of
an hour of thunderous footing, still possesses more
stimulative properties for the heel and toe than the
majority of other dances at their first opening. "The
Soldier's Joy" has, too, an additional charm, in being so
admirably adapted to the tambourine aforesaid -- no mean
instrument in the hands of a performer who understands the
proper convulsions, spasms, St. Vitus's dances, and fearful
frenzies necessary when exhibiting its tones in their
The immortal tune ended, a fine DD rolling forth from the
bass-viol with the sonorousness of a cannonade, and Gabriel
delayed his entry no longer. He avoided Bathsheba, and got
as near as possible to the platform, where Sergeant Troy was
now seated, drinking brandy-and-water, though the others
drank without exception cider and ale. Gabriel could not
easily thrust himself within speaking distance of the
sergeant, and he sent a message, asking him to come down for
a moment. The sergeant said he could not attend.
"Will you tell him, then," said Gabriel, "that I only
stepped ath'art to say that a heavy rain is sure to fall
soon, and that something should be done to protect the
"Mr. Troy says it will not rain," returned the messenger,
"and he cannot stop to talk to you about such fidgets."
In juxtaposition with Troy, Oak had a melancholy tendency to
look like a candle beside gas, and ill at ease, he went out
again, thinking he would go home; for, under the
circumstances, he had no heart for the scene in the barn.
At the door he paused for a moment: Troy was speaking.
"Friends, it is not only the harvest home that we are
celebrating to-night; but this is also a Wedding Feast. A
short time ago I had the happiness to lead to the altar this
lady, your mistress, and not until now have we been able to
give any public flourish to the event in Weatherbury. That
it may be thoroughly well done, and that every man may go
happy to bed, I have ordered to be brought here some bottles
of brandy and kettles of hot water. A treble-strong goblet
will he handed round to each guest."
Bathsheba put her hand upon his arm, and, with upturned pale
face, said imploringly, "No -- don't give it to them -- pray
don't, Frank! It will only do them harm: they have had
enough of everything."
"True -- we don't wish for no more, thank ye," said one or
"Pooh!" said the sergeant contemptuously, and raised his
voice as if lighted up by a new idea. "Friends," he said,
"we'll send the women-folk home! 'Tis time they were in bed.
Then we cockbirds will have a jolly carouse to ourselves! If
any of the men show the white feather, let them look
elsewhere for a winter's work."
Bathsheba indignantly left the barn, followed by all the
women and children. The musicians, not looking upon
themselves as "company," slipped quietly away to their
spring waggon and put in the horse. Thus Troy and the men
on the farm were left sole occupants of the place. Oak, not
to appear unnecessarily disagreeable, stayed a little while;
then he, too, arose and quietly took his departure, followed
by a friendly oath from the sergeant for not staying to a
second round of grog.
Gabriel proceeded towards his home. In approaching the
door, his toe kicked something which felt and sounded soft,
leathery, and distended, like a boxing-glove. It was a
large toad humbly travelling across the path. Oak took it
up, thinking it might be better to kill the creature to save
it from pain; but finding it uninjured, he placed it again
among the grass. He knew what this direct message from the
Great Mother meant. And soon came another.
When he struck a light indoors there appeared upon the table
a thin glistening streak, as if a brush of varnish had been
lightly dragged across it. Oak's eyes followed the
serpentine sheen to the other side, where it led up to a
huge brown garden-slug, which had come indoors to-night for
reasons of its own. It was Nature's second way of hinting
to him that he was to prepare for foul weather.
Oak sat down meditating for nearly an hour. During this
time two black spiders, of the kind common in thatched
houses, promenaded the ceiling, ultimately dropping to the
floor. This reminded him that if there was one class of
manifestation on this matter that he thoroughly understood,
it was the instincts of sheep. He left the room, ran across
two or three fields towards the flock, got upon a hedge, and
looked over among them.
They were crowded close together on the other side around
some furze bushes, and the first peculiarity observable was
that, on the sudden appearance of Oak's head over the fence,
they did not stir or run away. They had now a terror of
something greater than their terror of man. But this was
not the most noteworthy feature: they were all grouped in
such a way that their tails, without a single exception,
were towards that half of the horizon from which the storm
threatened. There was an inner circle closely huddled, and
outside these they radiated wider apart, the pattern formed
by the flock as a whole not being unlike a vandyked lace
collar, to which the clump of furze-bushes stood in the
position of a wearer's neck.
This was enough to re-establish him in his original opinion.
He knew now that he was right, and that Troy was wrong.
Every voice in nature was unanimous in bespeaking change.
But two distinct translations attached to these dumb
expressions. Apparently there was to be a thunder-storm,
and afterwards a cold continuous rain. The creeping things
seemed to know all about the later rain, hut little of the
interpolated thunder-storm; whilst the sheep knew all about
the thunder-storm and nothing of the later rain.
This complication of weathers being uncommon, was all the
more to be feared. Oak returned to the stack-yard. All was
silent here, and the conical tips of the ricks jutted darkly
into the sky. There were five wheat-ricks in this yard, and
three stacks of barley. The wheat when threshed would
average about thirty quarters to each stack; the barley, at
least forty. Their value to Bathsheba, and indeed to
anybody, Oak mentally estimated by the following simple
5 x 30 = 150 quarters = 500 L.
3 x 40 = 120 quarters = 250 L.
Total . . 750 L.
Seven hundred and fifty pounds in the divinest form that
money can wear -- that of necessary food for man and beast:
should the risk be run of deteriorating this bulk of corn to
less than half its value, because of the instability of a
woman? "Never, if I can prevent it!" said Gabriel.
Such was the argument that Oak set outwardly before him.
But man, even to himself, is a palimpsest, having an
ostensible writing, and another beneath the lines. It is
possible that there was this golden legend under the
utilitarian one: "I will help to my last effort the woman I
have loved so dearly."
He went back to the barn to endeavour to obtain assistance
for covering the ricks that very night. All was silent
within, and he would have passed on in the belief that the
party had broken up, had not a dim light, yellow as saffron
by contrast with the greenish whiteness outside, streamed
through a knot-hole in the folding doors.
Gabriel looked in. An unusual picture met his eye.
The candles suspended among the evergreens had burnt down to
their sockets, and in some cases the leaves tied about them
were scorched. Many of the lights had quite gone out,
others smoked and stank, grease dropping from them upon the
floor. Here, under the table, and leaning against forms and
chairs in every conceivable attitude except the
perpendicular, were the wretched persons of all the work-
folk, the hair of their heads at such low levels being
suggestive of mops and brooms. In the midst of these shone
red and distinct the figure of Sergeant Troy, leaning back
in a chair. Coggan was on his back, with his mouth open,
huzzing forth snores, as were several others; the united
breathings of the horizonal assemblage forming a subdued
roar like London from a distance. Joseph Poorgrass was
curled round in the fashion of a hedge-hog, apparently in
attempts to present the least possible portion of his
surface to the air; and behind him was dimly visible an
unimportant remnant of William Smallbury. The glasses and
cups still stood upon the table, a water-jug being
overturned, from which a small rill, after tracing its
course with marvellous precision down the centre of the long
table, fell into the neck of the unconscious Mark Clark, in
a steady, monotonous drip, like the dripping of a stalactite
in a cave.
Gabriel glanced hopelessly at the group, which, with one or
two exceptions, composed all the able-bodied men upon the
farm. He saw at once that if the ricks were to be saved
that night, or even the next morning, he must save them with
his own hands.
A faint "ting-ting" resounded from under Coggan's waistcoat.
It was Coggan's watch striking the hour of two.
Oak went to the recumbent form of Matthew Moon, who usually
undertook the rough thatching of the home-stead, and shook
him. The shaking was without effect.
Gabriel shouted in his ear, "where's your thatching-beetle
and rick-stick and spars?"
"Under the staddles," said Moon, mechanically, with the
unconscious promptness of a medium.
Gabriel let go his head, and it dropped upon the floor like
a bowl. He then went to Susan Tall's husband.
"Where's the key of the granary?"
No answer. The question was repeated, with the same result.
To be shouted to at night was evidently less of a novelty to
Susan Tall's husband than to Matthew Moon. Oak flung down
Tall's head into the corner again and turned away.
To be just, the men were not greatly to blame for this
painful and demoralizing termination to the evening's
entertainment. Sergeant Troy had so strenuously insisted,
glass in hand, that drinking should be the bond of their
union, that those who wished to refuse hardly liked to be so
unmannerly under the circumstances. Having from their youth
up been entirely unaccustomed to any liquor stronger than
cider or mild ale, it was no wonder that they had succumbed,
one and all, with extraordinary uniformity, after the lapse
of about an hour.
Gabriel was greatly depressed. This debauch boded ill for
that wilful and fascinating mistress whom the faithful man
even now felt within him as the embodiment of all that was
sweet and bright and hopeless.
He put out the expiring lights, that the barn might not be
endangered, closed the door upon the men in their deep and
oblivious sleep, and went again into the lone night. A hot
breeze, as if breathed from the parted lips of some dragon
about to swallow the globe, fanned him from the south, while
directly opposite in the north rose a grim misshapen body of
cloud, in the very teeth of the wind. So unnaturally did it
rise that one could fancy it to be lifted by machinery from
below. Meanwhile the faint cloudlets had flown back into
the south-east corner of the sky, as if in terror of the
large cloud, like a young brood gazed in upon by some
Going on to the village, Oak flung a small stone against the
window of Laban Tall's bedroom, expecting Susan to open it;
but nobody stirred. He went round to the back door, which
had been left unfastened for Laban's entry, and passed in to
the foot of the stair-case.
"Mrs. Tall, I've come for the key of the granary, to get at
the rick-cloths," said Oak, in a stentorian voice.
"Is that you?" said Mrs. Susan Tall, half awake.
"Yes," said Gabriel.
"Come along to bed, do, you drawlatching rogue -- keeping a
body awake like this!"
"It isn't Laban -- 'tis Gabriel Oak. I want the key of the
"Gabriel! What in the name of fortune did you pretend to be
"I didn't. I thought you meant ----"
"Yes you did! what do you want here?"
"The key of the granary."
"Take it then. 'Tis on the nail. People coming disturbing
women at this time of night ought ----"
Gabriel took the key, without waiting to hear the conclusion
of the tirade. Ten minutes later his lonely figure might
have been seen dragging four large water-proof coverings
across the yard, and soon two of these heaps of treasure in
grain were covered snug -- two cloths to each. Two hundred
pounds were secured. Three wheat-stacks remained open, and
there were no more cloths. Oak looked under the staddles
and found a fork. He mounted the third pile of wealth and
began operating, adopting the plan of sloping the upper
sheaves one over the other; and, in addition, filling the
interstices with the material of some untied sheaves.
So far all was well. By this hurried contrivance
Bathsheba's property in wheat was safe for at any rate a
week or two, provided always that there was not much wind.
Next came the barley. This it was only possible to protect
by systematic thatching. Time went on, and the moon
vanished not to reappear. It was the farewell of the
ambassador previous to war. The night had a haggard look,
like a sick thing; and there came finally an utter
expiration of air from the whole heaven in the form of a
slow breeze, which might have been likened to a death. And
now nothing was heard in the yard but the dull thuds of the
beetle which drove in the spars, and the rustle of thatch in
THE STORM -- THE TWO TOGETHER
A LIGHT flapped over the scene, as if reflected from
phosphorescent wings crossing the sky, and a rumble filled
the air. It was the first move of the approaching storm.
The second peal was noisy, with comparatively little visible
lightning. Gabriel saw a candle shining in Bathsheba's
bedroom, and soon a shadow swept to and fro upon the blind.
Then there came a third flash. Manoeuvres of a most
extraordinary kind were going on in the vast firmamental
hollows overhead. The lightning now was the colour of
silver, and gleamed in the heavens like a mailed army.
Rumbles became rattles. Gabriel from his elevated position
could see over the landscape at least half-a-dozen miles in
front. Every hedge, bush, and tree was distinct as in a
line engraving. In a paddock in the same direction was a
herd of heifers, and the forms of these were visible at this
moment in the act of galloping about in the wildest and
maddest confusion, flinging their heels and tails high into
the air, their heads to earth. A poplar in the immediate
fore-ground was like an ink stroke on burnished tin. Then
the picture vanished, leaving the darkness so intense that
Gabriel worked entirely by feeling with his hands.
He had stuck his ricking-rod, or poniard, as it was
indifferently called -- a long iron lance, polished by
handling -- into the stack, used to support the sheaves
instead of the support called a groom used on houses. A blue
light appeared in the zenith, and in some indescribable
manner flickered down near the top of the rod. It was the
fourth of the larger flashes. A moment later and there was
a smack -- smart, clear, and short, Gabriel felt his
position to be anything but a safe one, and he resolved to
Not a drop of rain had fallen as yet. He wiped his weary
brow, and looked again at the black forms of the unprotected
stacks. Was his life so valuable to him after all? What
were his prospects that he should be so chary of running
risk, when important and urgent labour could not be carried
on without such risk? He resolved to stick to the stack.
However, he took a precaution. Under the staddles was a
long tethering chain, used to prevent the escape of errant
horses. This he carried up the ladder, and sticking his rod
through the clog at one end, allowed the other end of the
chain to trail upon the ground The spike attached to it he
drove in. Under the shadow of this extemporized lightning
conductor he felt himself comparatively safe.
Before Oak had laid his hands upon his tools again out leapt
the fifth flash, with the spring of a serpent and the shout
of a fiend. It was green as an emerald, and the
reverberation was stunning. What was this the light
revealed to him? In the open ground before him, as he looked
over the ridge of the rick, was a dark and apparently female
form. Could it be that of the only venturesome woman in the
parish -- Bathsheba? The form moved on a step: then he
could see no more.
"Is that you, ma'am?" said Gabriel to the darkness.
"Who is there?" said the voice of Bathsheba.
"Gabriel. I am on the rick, thatching."
"Oh, Gabriel! -- and are you? I have come about them. The
weather awoke me, and I thought of the corn. I am so
distressed about it -- can we save it anyhow? I cannot find
my husband. Is he with you?"
He is not here."
"Do you know where he is?"
"Asleep in the barn."
"He promised that the stacks should be seen to, and now they
are all neglected! Can I do anything to help? Liddy is
afraid to come out. Fancy finding you here at such an hour!
Surely I can do something?"
"You can bring up some reed-sheaves to me, one by one,
ma'am; if you are not afraid to come up the ladder in the
dark," said Gabriel. "Every moment is precious now, and
that would save a good deal of time. It is not very dark
when the lightning has been gone a bit."
"I'll do anything!" she said, resolutely. She instantly
took a sheaf upon her shoulder, clambered up close to his
heels, placed it behind the rod, and descended for another.
At her third ascent the rick suddenly brightened with the
brazen glare of shining majolica -- every knot in every
straw was visible. On the slope in front of him appeared
two human shapes, black as jet. The rick lost its sheen --
the shapes vanished. Gabriel turned his head. It had been
the sixth flash which had come from the east behind him, and
the two dark forms on the slope had been the shadows of
himself and Bathsheba.
Then came the peal. It hardly was credible that such a
heavenly light could be the parent of such a diabolical
"How terrible!" she exclaimed, and clutched him by the
sleeve. Gabriel turned, and steadied her on her aerial
perch by holding her arm. At the same moment, while he was
still reversed in his attitude, there was more light, and he
saw, as it were, a copy of the tall poplar tree on the hill
drawn in black on the wall of the barn. It was the shadow
of that tree, thrown across by a secondary flash in the
The next flare came. Bathsheba was on the ground now,
shouldering another sheaf, and she bore its dazzle without
flinching -- thunder and all -- and again ascended with the
load. There was then a silence everywhere for four or five
minutes, and the crunch of the spars, as Gabriel hastily
drove them in, could again be distinctly heard. He thought
the crisis of the storm had passed. But there came a burst
"Hold on!" said Gabriel, taking the sheaf from her shoulder,
and grasping her arm again.
Heaven opened then, indeed. The flash was almost too novel
for its inexpressibly dangerous nature to be at once
realized, and they could only comprehend the magnificence of
its beauty. It sprang from east, west, north, south, and
was a perfect dance of death. The forms of skeletons
appeared in the air, shaped with blue fire for bones --
dancing, leaping, striding, racing around, and mingling
altogether in unparalleled confusion. With these were
intertwined undulating snakes of green, and behind these was
a broad mass of lesser light. Simultaneously came from
every part of the tumbling sky what may be called a shout;
since, though no shout ever came near it, it was more of the
nature of a shout than of anything else earthly. In the
meantime one of the grisly forms had alighted upon the point
of Gabriel's rod, to run invisibly down it, down the chain,
and into the earth. Gabriel was almost blinded, and he
could feel Bathsheba's warm arm tremble in his hand -- a
sensation novel and thrilling enough; but love, life,
everything human, seemed small and trifling in such close
juxtaposition with an infuriated universe.
Oak had hardly time to gather up these impressions into a
thought, and to see how strangely the red feather of her hat
shone in this light, when the tall tree on the hill before
mentioned seemed on fire to a white heat, and a new one
among these terrible voices mingled with the last crash of
those preceding. It was a stupefying blast, harsh and
pitiless, and it fell upon their ears in a dead, flat blow,
without that reverberation which lends the tones of a drum
to more distant thunder. By the lustre reflected from every
part of the earth and from the wide domical scoop above it,
he saw that the tree was sliced down the whole length of its
tall, straight stem, a huge riband of bark being apparently
flung off. The other portion remained erect, and revealed
the bared surface as a strip of white down the front. The
lightning had struck the tree. A sulphurous smell filled
the air; then all was silent, and black as a cave in Hinnom.
"We had a narrow escape!" said Gabriel, hurriedly. "You had
better go down."
Bathsheba said nothing; but he could distinctly hear her
rhythmical pants, and the recurrent rustle of the sheaf
beside her in response to her frightened pulsations. She
descended the ladder, and, on second thoughts, he followed
her. The darkness was now impenetrable by the sharpest
vision. They both stood still at the bottom, side by side.
Bathsheba appeared to think only of the weather -- Oak
thought only of her just then. At last he said --
"The storm seems to have passed now, at any rate."
"I think so too," said Bathsheba. "Though there are
multitudes of gleams, look!"
The sky was now filled with an incessant light, frequent
repetition melting into complete continuity, as an unbroken
sound results from the successive strokes on a gong.
"Nothing serious," said he. "I cannot understand no rain
falling. But Heaven be praised, it is all the better for
us. I am now going up again."
"Gabriel, you are kinder than I deserve! I will stay and
help you yet. Oh, why are not some of the others here!"
"They would have been here if they could," said Oak, in a
"O, I know it all -- all," she said, adding slowly: "They
are all asleep in the barn, in a drunken sleep, and my
husband among them. That's it, is it not? Don't think I am
a timid woman and can't endure things."
"I am not certain," said Gabriel. "I will go and see,"
He crossed to the barn, leaving her there alone. He looked
through the chinks of the door. All was in total darkness,
as he had left it, and there still arose, as at the former
time, the steady buzz of many snores.
He felt a zephyr curling about his cheek, and turned. It
was Bathsheba's breath -- she had followed him, and was
looking into the same chink.
He endeavoured to put off the immediate and painful subject
of their thoughts by remarking gently, "If you'll come back
again, miss -- ma'am, and hand up a few more; it would save
Then Oak went back again, ascended to the top, stepped off
the ladder for greater expedition, and went on thatching.
She followed, but without a sheaf.
"Gabriel," she said, in a strange and impressive voice.
Oak looked up at her. She had not spoken since he left the
barn. The soft and continual shimmer of the dying lightning
showed a marble face high against the black sky of the
opposite quarter. Bathsheba was sitting almost on the apex
of the stack, her feet gathered up beneath her, and resting
on the top round of the ladder.
"Yes, mistress," he said.
"I suppose you thought that when I galloped away to Bath
that night it was on purpose to be married?"
"I did at last -- not at first," he answered, somewhat
surprised at the abruptness with which this new subject was
"And others thought so, too?"
"And you blamed me for it?"
"Well -- a little."
"I thought so. Now, I care a little for your good opinion,
and I want to explain something -- I have longed to do it
ever since I returned, and you looked so gravely at me. For
if I were to die -- and I may die soon -- it would be
dreadful that you should always think mistakenly of me.
Gabriel ceased his rustling.
"I went to Bath that night in the full intention of breaking
off my engagement to Mr. Troy. It was owing to
circumstances which occurred after I got there that -- that
we were married. Now, do you see the matter in a new
"I do -- somewhat."
"I must, I suppose, say more, now that I have begun. And
perhaps it's no harm, for you are certainly under no
delusion that I ever loved you, or that I can have any
object in speaking, more than that object I have mentioned.
Well, I was alone in a strange city, and the horse was lame.
And at last I didn't know what to do. I saw, when it was
too late, that scandal might seize hold of me for meeting
him alone in that way. But I was coming away, when he
suddenly said he had that day seen a woman more beautiful
than I, and that his constancy could not be counted on
unless I at once became his.... And I was grieved and
troubled ----" She cleared her voice, and waited a moment,
as if to gather breath. "And then, between jealousy and
distraction, I married him!" she whispered with desperate
Gabriel made no reply.
"He was not to blame, for it was perfectly true about --
about his seeing somebody else," she quickly added. "And
now I don't wish for a single remark from you upon the
subject -- indeed, I forbid it. I only wanted you to know
that misunderstood bit of my history before a time comes
when you could never know it. -- You want some more
She went down the ladder, and the work proceeded. Gabriel
soon perceived a languor in the movements of his mistress up
and down, and he said to her, gently as a mother --
"I think you had better go indoors now, you are tired. I
can finish the rest alone. If the wind does not change the
rain is likely to keep off."
"If I am useless I will go," said Bathsheba, in a flagging
cadence. "But O, if your life should be lost!"
"You are not useless; but I would rather not tire you
longer. You have done well."
"And you better!" she said, gratefully. Thank you for your
devotion, a thousand times, Gabriel! Goodnight -- I know you
are doing your very best for me."
She diminished in the gloom, and vanished, and he heard the
latch of the gate fall as she passed through. He worked in
a reverie now, musing upon her story, and upon the
contradictoriness of that feminine heart which had caused
her to speak more warmly to him to-night than she ever had
done whilst unmarried and free to speak as warmly as she
He was disturbed in his meditation by a grating noise from
the coach-house. It was the vane on the roof turning round,
and this change in the wind was the signal for a disastrous
RAIN -- ONE SOLITARY MEETS ANOTHER
IT was now five o'clock, and the dawn was promising to break
in hues of drab and ash.
The air changed its temperature and stirred itself more
vigorously. Cool breezes coursed in transparent eddies
round Oak's face. The wind shifted yet a point or two and
blew stronger. In ten minutes every wind of heaven seemed
to be roaming at large. Some of the thatching on the wheat-
stacks was now whirled fantastically aloft, and had to be
replaced and weighted with some rails that lay near at hand.
This done, Oak slaved away again at the barley. A huge drop
of rain smote his face, the wind snarled round every corner,
the trees rocked to the bases of their trunks, and the twigs
clashed in strife. Driving in spars at any point and on any
system, inch by inch he covered more and more safely from
ruin this distracting impersonation of seven hundred pounds.
The rain came on in earnest, and Oak soon felt the water to
be tracking cold and clammy routes down his back.
Ultimately he was reduced well-nigh to a homogeneous sop,
and the dyes of his clothes trickled down and stood in a
pool at the foot of the ladder. The rain stretched
obliquely through the dull atmosphere in liquid spines,
unbroken in continuity between their beginnings in the
clouds and their points in him.
Oak suddenly remembered that eight months before this time
he had been fighting against fire in the same spot as
desperately as he was fighting against water now -- and for
a futile love of the same woman. As for her ---- But Oak
was generous and true, and dismissed his reflections.
It was about seven o'clock in the dark leaden morning when
Gabriel came down from the last stack, and thankfully
exclaimed, "It is done!" He was drenched, weary, and sad,
and yet not so sad as drenched and weary, for he was cheered
by a sense of success in a good cause.
Faint sounds came from the barn, and he looked that way.
Figures stepped singly and in pairs through the doors -- all
walking awkwardly, and abashed, save the foremost, who wore
a red jacket, and advanced with his hands in his pockets,
whistling. The others shambled after with a conscience-
stricken air: the whole procession was not unlike Flaxman's
group of the suitors tottering on towards the infernal
regions under the conduct of Mercury. The gnarled shapes
passed into the village, Troy, their leader, entering the
farmhouse. Not a single one of them had turned his face to
the ricks, or apparently bestowed one thought upon their
Soon Oak too went homeward, by a different route from
theirs. In front of him against the wet glazed surface of
the lane he saw a person walking yet more slowly than
himself under an umbrella. The man turned and plainly
started; he was Boldwood.
"How are you this morning, sir?" said Oak.
"Yes, it is a wet day. -- Oh, I am well, very well, I thank
you; quite well."
"I am glad to hear it, sir."
Boldwood seemed to awake to the present by degrees. "You
look tired and ill, Oak," he said then, desultorily
regarding his companion.
"I am tired. You look strangely altered, sir."
"I? Not a bit of it: I am well enough. What put that into
"I thought you didn't look quite so topping as you used to,
that was all."
"Indeed, then you are mistaken," said Boldwood, shortly.
"Nothing hurts me. My constitution is an iron one."
"I've been working hard to get our ricks covered, and was
barely in time. Never had such a struggle in my life....
Yours of course are safe, sir."
"Oh yes," Boldwood added, after an interval of silence:
"What did you ask, Oak?"
"Your ricks are all covered before this time?"
"At any rate, the large ones upon the stone staddles?"