Part 8 out of 10
forestalment, eclipse in maternity by another, was violent
and entire. All that was forgotten in the simple and still
strong attachment of wife to husband. She had sighed for
her self-completeness then, and now she cried aloud against
the severance of the union she had deplored. She flung her
arms round Troy's neck, exclaiming wildly from the deepest
deep of her heart --
"Don't -- don't kiss them! O, Frank, I can't bear it -- I
can't! I love you better than she did: kiss me too, Frank --
kiss me! YOU WILL, FRANK, KISS ME TOO!"
There was something so abnormal and startling in the
childlike pain and simplicity of this appeal from a woman of
Bathsheba's calibre and independence, that Troy, loosening
her tightly clasped arms from his neck, looked at her in
bewilderment. It was such an unexpected revelation of all
women being alike at heart, even those so different in their
accessories as Fanny and this one beside him, that Troy
could hardly seem to believe her to be his proud wife
Bathsheba. Fanny's own spirit seemed to be animating her
frame. But this was the mood of a few instants only. When
the momentary surprise had passed, his expression changed to
a silencing imperious gaze.
"I will not kiss you!" he said pushing her away.
Had the wife now but gone no further. Yet, perhaps, under
the harrowing circumstances, to speak out was the one wrong
act which can be better understood, if not forgiven in her,
than the right and politic one, her rival being now but a
corpse. All the feeling she had been betrayed into showing
she drew back to herself again by a strenuous effort of
"What have you to say as your reason?" she asked her bitter
voice being strangely low -- quite that of another woman
"I have to say that I have been a bad, black-hearted man,"
"And that this woman is your victim; and I not less than
"Ah! don't taunt me, madam. This woman is more to me, dead
as she is, than ever you were, or are, or can be. If Satan
had not tempted me with that face of yours, and those cursed
coquetries, I should have married her. I never had another
thought till you came in my way. Would to God that I had;
but it is all too late! He turned to Fanny then. "But
never mind, darling," he said; "in the sight of Heaven you
are my very, very wife!"
At these words there arose from Bathsheba's lips a long, low
cry of measureless despair and indignation, such a wail of
anguish as had never before been heard within those old-
inhabited walls. It was the [GREEK word meaning "it is
finished"] of her union with Troy.
"If she's -- that, -- what -- am I?" she added, as a
continuation of the same cry, and sobbing pitifully: and the
rarity with her of such abandonment only made the condition
"You are nothing to me -- nothing," said Troy, heartlessly.
"A ceremony before a priest doesn't make a marriage. I am
not morally yours."
A vehement impulse to flee from him, to run from this place,
hide, and escape his words at any price, not stopping short
of death itself, mastered Bathsheba now. She waited not an
instant, but turned to the door and ran out.
UNDER A TREE -- REACTION
BATHSHEBA went along the dark road, neither knowing nor
caring about the direction or issue of her flight. The
first time that she definitely noticed her position was when
she reached a gate leading into a thicket over-hung by some
large oak and beech trees. On looking into the place, it
occurred to her that she had seen it by daylight on some
previous occasion, and that what appeared like an impassable
thicket was in reality a brake of fern now withering fast.
She could think of nothing better to do with her palpitating
self than to go in here and hide; and entering, she lighted
on a spot sheltered from the damp fog by a reclining trunk,
where she sank down upon a tangled couch of fronds and
stems. She mechanically pulled some armfuls round her to
keep off the breezes, and closed her eyes.
Whether she slept or not that night Bathsheba was not
clearly aware. But it was with a freshened existence and a
cooler brain that, a long time afterwards, she became
conscious of some interesting proceedings which were going
on in the trees above her head and around.
A coarse-throated chatter was the first sound.
It was a sparrow just waking.
Next: "Chee-weeze-weeze-weeze!" from another retreat.
It was a finch.
Third: "Tink-tink-tink-tink-a-chink!" from the hedge.
It was a robin.
Then, from the road, "With my ra-ta-ta, and my rum-tum-tum!"
It was a ploughboy. Presently he came opposite, and she
believed from his voice that he was one of the boys on her
own farm. He was followed by a shambling tramp of heavy
feet, and looking through the ferns Bathsheba could just
discern in the wan light of daybreak a team of her own
horses. They stopped to drink at a pond on the other side
of the way. She watched them flouncing into the pool,
drinking, tossing up their heads, drinking again, the water
dribbling from their lips in silver threads. There was
another flounce, and they came out of the pond, and turned
back again towards the farm.
She looked further around. Day was just dawning, and beside
its cool air and colours her heated actions and resolves of
the night stood out in lurid contrast. She perceived that
in her lap, and clinging to her hair, were red and yellow
leaves which had come down from the tree and settled
silently upon her during her partial sleep. Bathsheba shook
her dress to get rid of them, when multitudes of the same
family lying round about her rose and fluttered away in the
breeze thus created, "like ghosts from an enchanter
There was an opening towards the east, and the glow from the
as yet unrisen sun attracted her eyes thither. From her
feet, and between the beautiful yellowing ferns with their
feathery arms, the ground sloped downwards to a hollow, in
which was a species of swamp, dotted with fungi. A morning
mist hung over it now -- a fulsome yet magnificent silvery
veil, full of light from the sun, yet semi-opaque -- the
hedge behind it being in some measure hidden by its hazy
luminousness. Up the sides of this depression grew sheaves
of the common rush, and here and there a peculiar species of
flag, the blades of which glistened in the emerging sun,
like scythes. But the general aspect of the swamp was
malignant. From its moist and poisonous coat seemed to be
exhaled the essences of evil things in the earth, and in the
waters under the earth. The fungi grew in all manner of
positions from rotting leaves and tree stumps, some
exhibiting to her listless gaze their clammy tops, others
their oozing gills. Some were marked with great splotches,
red as arterial blood, others were saffron yellow, and
others tall and attenuated, with stems like macaroni. Some
were leathery and of richest browns. The hollow seemed a
nursery of pestilences small and great, in the immediate
neighbourhood of comfort and health, and Bathsheba arose
with a tremor at the thought of having passed the night on
the brink of so dismal a place.
"There were now other footsteps to be heard along the road.
Bathsheba's nerves were still unstrung: she crouched down
out of sight again, and the pedestrian came into view. He
was a schoolboy, with a bag slung over his shoulder
containing his dinner, and a hook in his hand. He paused by
the gate, and, without looking up, continued murmuring words
in tones quite loud enough to reach her ears.
"'O Lord, O Lord, O Lord, O Lord, O Lord': -- that I know
out o' book. 'Give us, give us, give us, give us, give us':
-- that I know. 'Grace that, grace that, grace that, grace
that': -- that I know." Other words followed to the same
effect. The boy was of the dunce class apparently; the book
was a psalter, and this was his way of learning the collect.
In the worst attacks of trouble there appears to be always a
superficial film of consciousness which is left disengaged
and open to the notice of trifles, and Bathsheba was faintly
amused at the boy's method, till he too passed on.
By this time stupor had given place to anxiety, and anxiety
began to make room for hunger and thirst. A form now
appeared upon the rise on the other side of the swamp, half-
hidden by the mist, and came towards Bathsheba. The woman --
for it was a woman -- approached with her face askance, as
if looking earnestly on all sides of her. When she got a
little further round to the left, and drew nearer, Bathsheba
could see the newcomer's profile against the sunny sky, and
knew the wavy sweep from forehead to chin, with neither
angle nor decisive line anywhere about it, to be the
familiar contour of Liddy Smallbury.
Bathsheba's heart bounded with gratitude in the thought that
she was not altogether deserted, and she jumped up. "Oh,
Liddy!" she said, or attempted to say; but the words had
only been framed by her lips; there came no sound. She had
lost her voice by exposure to the clogged atmosphere all
these hours of night.
"Oh, ma'am! I am so glad I have found you," said the girl,
as soon as she saw Bathsheba.
"You can't come across," Bathsheba said in a whisper, which
she vainly endeavoured to make loud enough to reach Liddy's
ears. Liddy, not knowing this, stepped down upon the swamp,
saying, as she did so, "It will bear me up, I think."
Bathsheba never forgot that transient little picture of
Liddy crossing the swamp to her there in the morning light.
Iridescent bubbles of dank subterranean breath rose from the
sweating sod beside the waiting maid's feet as she trod,
hissing as they burst and expanded away to join the vapoury
firmament above. Liddy did not sink, as Bathsheba had
She landed safely on the other side, and looked up at the
beautiful though pale and weary face of her young mistress.
"Poor thing!" said Liddy, with tears in her eyes, "Do
hearten yourself up a little, ma'am. However did ----"
"I can't speak above a whisper -- my voice is gone for the
present," said Bathsheba, hurriedly. "I suppose the damp
air from that hollow has taken it away Liddy, don't question
me, mind. Who sent you -- anybody?"
"Nobody. I thought, when I found you were not at home, that
something cruel had happened. I fancy I heard his voice
late last night; and so, knowing something was wrong ----"
"Is he at home?"
"No; he left just before I came out."
"Is Fanny taken away?"
"Not yet. She will soon be -- at nine o'clock."
"We won't go home at present, then. Suppose we walk about
in this wood?"
Liddy, without exactly understanding everything, or
anything, in this episode, assented, and they walked
together further among the trees.
"But you had better come in, ma'am, and have something to
eat. You will die of a chill!"
"I shall not come indoors yet -- perhaps never."
"Shall I get you something to eat, and something else to put
over your head besides that little shawl?"
"If you will, Liddy."
Liddy vanished, and at the end of twenty minutes returned
with a cloak, hat, some slices of bread and butter, a tea-
cup, and some hot tea in a little china jug
"Is Fanny gone?" said Bathsheba.
"No," said her companion, pouring out the tea.
Bathsheba wrapped herself up and ate and drank sparingly.
Her voice was then a little clearer, and trifling colour
returned to her face. "Now we'll walk about again," she
They wandered about the wood for nearly two hours, Bathsheba
replying in monosyllables to Liddy's prattle, for her mind
ran on one subject, and one only. She interrupted with --"
I wonder if Fanny is gone by this time?"
"I will go and see."
She came back with the information that the men were just
taking away the corpse; that Bathsheba had been inquired
for; that she had replied to the effect that her mistress
was unwell and could not be seen.
"Then they think I am in my bedroom?"
"Yes." Liddy then ventured to add: "You said when I first
found you that you might never go home again -- you didn't
mean it, ma'am?"
"No; I've altered my mind. It is only women with no pride
in them who run away from their husbands. There is one
position worse than that of being found dead in your
husband's house from his ill usage, and that is, to be found
alive through having gone away to the house of somebody
else. I've thought of it all this morning, and I've chosen
my course. A runaway wife is an encumbrance to everybody, a
burden to herself and a byword -- all of which make up a
heap of misery greater than any that comes by staying at
home -- though this may include the trifling items of
insult, beating, and starvation. Liddy, if ever you marry --
God forbid that you ever should! -- you'll find yourself
in a fearful situation; but mind this, don't you flinch.
Stand your ground, and be cut to pieces. That's what I'm
going to do."
"Oh, mistress, don't talk so!" said Liddy, taking her hand;
"but I knew you had too much sense to bide away. May I ask
what dreadful thing it is that has happened between you and
"You may ask; but I may not tell."
In about ten minutes they returned to the house by a
circuitous route, entering at the rear. Bathsheba glided up
the back stairs to a disused attic, and her companion
"Liddy," she said, with a lighter heart, for youth and hope
had begun to reassert themselves;" you are to be my
confidante for the present -- somebody must be -- and I
choose you. Well, I shall take up my abode here for a
while. Will you get a fire lighted, put down a piece of
carpet, and help me to make the place comfortable.
Afterwards, I want you and Maryann to bring up that little
stump bedstead in the small room, and the bed belonging to
it, and a table, and some other things.... What shall I do
to pass the heavy time away?"
"Hemming handkerchiefs is a very good thing," said Liddy.
"Oh no, no! I hate needlework -- I always did."
"And that, too."
"You might finish your sampler. Only the carnations and
peacocks want filling in; and then it could be framed and
glazed, and hung beside your aunt's ma'am."
"Samplers are out of date -- horribly countrified. No
Liddy, I'll read. Bring up some books -- not new ones. I
haven't heart to read anything new."
"Some of your uncle's old ones, ma'am?"
"Yes. Some of those we stowed away in boxes." A faint
gleam of humour passed over her face as she said: "Bring
Beaumont and Fletcher's MAID'S TRAGEDY, and the MOURNING
BRIDE, and let me see -- NIGHT THOUGHTS, and the VANITY OF
"And that story of the black man, who murdered his wife
Desdemona? It is a nice dismal one that would suit you
excellent just now."
"Now, Liddy, you've been looking into my books without
telling me; and I said you were not to! How do you know it
would suit me? It wouldn't suit me a all."
"But if the others do ----"
"No, they don't; and I won't read dismal books. Why should
I read dismal books, indeed? Bring me LOVE IN A VILLAGE,
and MAID OF THE MILL, and DOCTOR SYNTAX, and some volumes of
All that day Bathsheba and Liddy lived in the attic in a
state of barricade; a precaution which proved to be needless
as against Troy, for he did not appear in the neighbourhood
or trouble them at all. Bathsheba sat at the window till
sunset, sometimes attempting to read, at other times
watching every movement outside without much purpose, and
listening without much interest to every sound.
The sun went down almost blood-red that night, and a livid
cloud received its rays in the east. Up against this dark
background the west front of the church tower -- the only
part of the edifice visible from the farm-house windows --
rose distinct and lustrous, the vane upon the summit
bristling with rays. Hereabouts, at six o'clock, the young
men of the village gathered, as was their custom, for a game
of Prisoners' base. The spot had been consecrated to this
ancient diversion from time immemorial, the old stocks
conveniently forming a base facing the boundary of the
churchyard, in front of which the ground was trodden hard
and bare as a pavement by the players. She could see the
brown and black heads of the young lads darting about right
and left, their white shirt-sleeves gleaming in the sun;
whilst occasionally a shout and a peal of hearty laughter
varied the stillness of the evening air. They continued
playing for a quarter of an hour or so, when the game
concluded abruptly, and the players leapt over the wall and
vanished round to the other side behind a yew-tree, which
was also half behind a beech, now spreading in one mass of
golden foliage, on which the branches traced black lines.
"Why did the base-players finish their game so suddenly?"
Bathsheba inquired, the next time that Liddy entered the
"I think 'twas because two men came just then from
Casterbridge and began putting up a grand carved tombstone,"
said Liddy. "The lads went to see whose it was."
"Do you know?" Bathsheba asked.
"I don't," said Liddy.
WHEN Troy's wife had left the house at the previous midnight
his first act was to cover the dead from sight. This done
he ascended the stairs, and throwing himself down upon the
bed dressed as he was, he waited miserably for the morning.
Fate had dealt grimly with him through the last four-and-
twenty hours. His day had been spent in a way which varied
very materially from his intentions regarding it. There is
always an inertia to be overcome in striking out a new line
of conduct -- not more in ourselves, it seems, than in
circumscribing events, which appear as if leagued together
to allow no novelties in the way of amelioration.
Twenty pounds having been secured from Bathsheba, he had
managed to add to the sum every farthing he could muster on
his own account, which had been seven pounds ten. With this
money, twenty-seven pounds ten in all, he had hastily driven
from the gate that morning to keep his appointment with
On reaching Casterbridge he left the horse and trap at an
inn, and at five minutes before ten came back to the bridge
at the lower end of the town, and sat himself upon the
parapet. The clocks struck the hour, and no Fanny appeared.
In fact, at that moment she was being robed in her grave-
clothes by two attendants at the Union poorhouse -- the
first and last tiring-women the gentle creature had ever
been honoured with. The quarter went, the half hour. A
rush of recollection came upon Troy as he waited: this was
the second time she had broken a serious engagement with
him. In anger he vowed it should be the last, and at eleven
o'clock, when he had lingered and watched the stone of the
bridge till he knew every lichen upon their face and heard
the chink of the ripples underneath till they oppressed him,
he jumped from his seat, went to the inn for his gig, and in
a bitter mood of indifference concerning the past, and
recklessness about the future, drove on to Budmouth races.
He reached the race-course at two o'clock, and remained
either there or in the town till nine. But Fanny's image,
as it had appeared to him in the sombre shadows of that
Saturday evening, returned to his mind, backed up by
Bathsheba's reproaches. He vowed he would not bet, and he
kept his vow, for on leaving the town at nine o'clock in the
evening he had diminished his cash only to the extent of a
He trotted slowly homeward, and it was now that he was
struck for the first time with a thought that Fanny had been
really prevented by illness from keeping her promise. This
time she could have made no mistake. He regretted that he
had not remained in Casterbridge and made inquiries.
Reaching home he quietly unharnessed the horse and came
indoors, as we have seen, to the fearful shock that awaited
As soon as it grew light enough to distinguish objects, Troy
arose from the coverlet of the bed, and in a mood of
absolute indifference to Bathsheba's whereabouts, and almost
oblivious of her existence, he stalked downstairs and left
the house by the back door. His walk was towards the
churchyard, entering which he searched around till he found
a newly dug unoccupied grave -- the grave dug the day before
for Fanny. The position of this having been marked, he
hastened on to Casterbridge, only pausing and musing for a
while at the hill whereon he had last seen Fanny alive.
Reaching the town, Troy descended into a side street and
entered a pair of gates surmounted by a board bearing the
words, "Lester, stone and marble mason." Within were lying
about stones of all sizes and designs, inscribed as being
sacred to the memory of unnamed persons who had not yet
Troy was so unlike himself now in look, word, and deed, that
the want of likeness was perceptible even to his own
consciousness. His method of engaging himself in this
business of purchasing a tomb was that of an absolutely
unpractised man. He could not bring himself to consider,
calculate, or economize. He waywardly wished for something,
and he set about obtaining it like a child in a nursery. "I
want a good tomb," he said to the man who stood in a little
office within the yard. "I want as good a one as you can
give me for twenty-seven pounds."
It was all the money he possessed.
"That sum to include everything?"
"Everything. Cutting the name, carriage to Weatherbury, and
erection. And I want it now at once ."
"We could not get anything special worked this week.
"I must have it now."
"If you would like one of these in stock it could be got
"Very well," said Troy, impatiently. "Let's see what you
"The best I have in stock is this one," said the stone-
cutter, going into a shed. "Here's a marble headstone
beautifully crocketed, with medallions beneath of typical
subjects; here's the footstone after the same pattern, and
here's the coping to enclose the grave. The polishing alone
of the set cost me eleven pounds -- the slabs are the best
of their kind, and I can warrant them to resist rain and
frost for a hundred years without flying."
"And how much?"
"Well, I could add the name, and put it up at Weatherbury
for the sum you mention."
"Get it done to-day, and I'll pay the money now."
The man agreed, and wondered at such a mood in a visitor who
wore not a shred of mourning. Troy then wrote the words
which were to form the inscription, settled the account and
went away. In the afternoon he came back again, and found
that the lettering was almost done. He waited in the yard
till the tomb was packed, and saw it placed in the cart and
starting on its way to Weatherbury, giving directions to the
two men who were to accompany it to inquire of the sexton
for the grave of the person named in the inscription.
It was quite dark when Troy came out of Casterbridge. He
carried rather a heavy basket upon his arm, with which he
strode moodily along the road, resting occasionally at
bridges and gates, whereon he deposited his burden for a
time. Midway on his journey he met, returning in the
darkness, the men and the waggon which had conveyed the
tomb. He merely inquired if the work was done, and, on
being assured that it was, passed on again.
Troy entered Weatherbury churchyard about ten o'clock and
went immediately to the corner where he had marked the
vacant grave early in the morning. It was on the obscure
side of the tower, screened to a great extent from the view
of passers along the road -- a spot which until lately had
been abandoned to heaps of stones and bushes of alder, but
now it was cleared and made orderly for interments, by
reason of the rapid filling of the ground elsewhere.
Here now stood the tomb as the men had stated, snow-white
and shapely in the gloom, consisting of head and foot-stone,
and enclosing border of marble-work uniting them. In the
midst was mould, suitable for plants.
Troy deposited his basket beside the tomb, and vanished for
a few minutes. When he returned he carried a spade and a
lantern, the light of which he directed for a few moments
upon the marble, whilst he read the inscription. He hung
his lantern on the lowest bough of the yew-tree, and took
from his basket flower-roots of several varieties. There
were bundles of snow-drop, hyacinth and crocus bulbs,
violets and double daisies, which were to bloom in early
spring, and of carnations, pinks, picotees, lilies of the
valley, forget-me-not, summer's farewell, meadow-saffron and
others, for the later seasons of the year.
Troy laid these out upon the grass, and with an impassive
face set to work to plant them. The snowdrops were arranged
in a line on the outside of the coping, the remainder within
the enclosure of the grave. The crocuses and hyacinths were
to grow in rows; some of the summer flowers he placed over
her head and feet, the lilies and forget-me-nots over her
heart. The remainder were dispersed in the spaces between
Troy, in his prostration at this time, had no perception
that in the futility of these romantic doings, dictated by a
remorseful reaction from previous indifference, there was
any element of absurdity. Deriving his idiosyncrasies from
both sides of the Channel, he showed at such junctures as
the present the inelasticity of the Englishman, together
with that blindness to the line where sentiment verges on
mawkishness, characteristic of the French.
It was a cloudy, muggy, and very dark night, and the rays
from Troy's lantern spread into the two old yews with a
strange illuminating power, flickering, as it seemed, up to
the black ceiling of cloud above. He felt a large drop of
rain upon the back of his hand, and presently one came and
entered one of the holes of the lantern, whereupon the
candle sputtered and went out. Troy was weary and it being
now not far from midnight, and the rain threatening to
increase, he resolved to leave the finishing touches of his
labour until the day should break. He groped along the wall
and over the graves in the dark till he found himself round
at the north side. Here he entered the porch, and,
reclining upon the bench within, fell asleep.
THE GURGOYLE: ITS DOINGS
THE tower of Weatherbury Church was a square erection of
fourteenth-century date, having two stone gurgoyles on each
of the four faces of its parapet. Of these eight carved
protuberances only two at this time continued to serve the
purpose of their erection -- that of spouting the water from
the lead roof within. One mouth in each front had been
closed by bygone church-wardens as superfluous, and two
others were broken away and choked -- a matter not of much
consequence to the wellbeing of the tower, for the two
mouths which still remained open and active were gaping
enough to do all the work.
It has been sometimes argued that there is no truer
criterion of the vitality of any given art-period than the
power of the master-spirits of that time in grotesque; and
certainly in the instance of Gothic art there is no
disputing the proposition. Weatherbury tower was a somewhat
early instance of the use of an ornamental parapet in parish
as distinct from cathedral churches, and the gurgoyles,
which are the necessary correlatives of a parapet, were
exceptionally prominent -- of the boldest cut that the hand
could shape, and of the most original design that a human
brain could conceive. There was, so to speak, that symmetry
in their distortion which is less the characteristic of
British than of Continental grotesques of the period. All
the eight were different from each other. A beholder was
convinced that nothing on earth could be more hideous than
those he saw on the north side until he went round to the
south. Of the two on this latter face, only that at the
south-eastern corner concerns the story. It was too human
to be called like a dragon, too impish to be like a man, too
animal to be like a fiend, and not enough like a bird to be
called a griffin. This horrible stone entity was fashioned
as if covered with a wrinkled hide; it had short, erect
ears, eyes starting from their sockets, and its fingers and
hands were seizing the corners of its mouth, which they thus
seemed to pull open to give free passage to the water it
vomited. The lower row of teeth was quite washed away,
though the upper still remained. Here and thus, jutting a
couple of feet from the wall against which its feet rested
as a support, the creature had for four hundred years
laughed at the surrounding landscape, voicelessly in dry
weather, and in wet with a gurgling and snorting sound.
Troy slept on in the porch, and the rain increased outside.
Presently the gurgoyle spat. In due time a small stream
began to trickle through the seventy feet of aerial space
between its mouth and the ground, which the water-drops
smote like duckshot in their accelerated velocity. The
stream thickened in substance, and increased in power,
gradually spouting further and yet further from the side of
the tower. When the rain fell in a steady and ceaseless
torrent the stream dashed downward in volumes.
We follow its course to the ground at this point of time.
The end of the liquid parabola has come forward from the
wall, has advanced over the plinth mouldings, over a heap of
stones, over the marble border, into the midst of Fanny
The force of the stream had, until very lately, been
received upon some loose stones spread thereabout, which had
acted as a shield to the soil under the onset. These during
the summer had been cleared from the ground, and there was
now nothing to resist the down-fall but the bare earth. For
several years the stream had not spouted so far from the
tower as it was doing on this night, and such a contingency
had been over-looked. Sometimes this obscure corner
received no inhabitant for the space of two or three years,
and then it was usually but a pauper, a poacher, or other
sinner of undignified sins.
The persistent torrent from the gurgoyle's jaws directed all
its vengeance into the grave. The rich tawny mould was
stirred into motion, and boiled like chocolate. The water
accumulated and washed deeper down, and the roar of the pool
thus formed spread into the night as the head and chief
among other noises of the kind created by the deluging rain.
The flowers so carefully planted by Fanny's repentant lover
began to move and writhe in their bed. The winter-violets
turned slowly upside down, and became a mere mat of mud.
Soon the snowdrop and other bulbs danced in the boiling mass
like ingredients in a cauldron. Plants of the tufted
species were loosened, rose to the surface, and floated off.
Troy did not awake from his comfortless sleep till it was
broad day. Not having been in bed for two nights his
shoulders felt stiff his feet tender, and his head heavy.
He remembered his position, arose, shivered, took the spade,
and again went out.
The rain had quite ceased, and the sun was shining through
the green, brown, and yellow leaves, now sparkling and
varnished by the raindrops to the brightness of similar
effects in the landscapes of Ruysdael and Hobbema, and full
of all those infinite beauties that arise from the union of
water and colour with high lights. The air was rendered so
transparent by the heavy fall of rain that the autumn hues
of the middle distance were as rich as those near at hand,
and the remote fields intercepted by the angle of the tower
appeared in the same plane as the tower itself.
He entered the gravel path which would take him behind the
tower. The path, instead of being stony as it had been the
night before, was browned over with a thin coating of mud.
At one place in the path he saw a tuft of stringy roots
washed white and clean as a bundle of tendons. He picked it
up -- surely it could not be one of the primroses he had
planted? He saw a bulb, another, and another as he
advanced. Beyond doubt they were the crocuses. With a face
of perplexed dismay Troy turned the corner and then beheld
the wreck the stream had made.
The pool upon the grave had soaked away into the ground, and
in its place was a hollow. The disturbed earth was washed
over the grass and pathway in the guise of the brown mud he
had already seen, and it spotted the marble tombstone with
the same stains. Nearly all the flowers were washed clean
out of the ground, and they lay, roots upwards, on the spots
whither they had been splashed by the stream.
Troy's brow became heavily contracted. He set his teeth
closely, and his compressed lips moved as those of one in
great pain. This singular accident, by a strange confluence
of emotions in him, was felt as the sharpest sting of all.
Troy's face was very expressive, and any observer who had
seen him now would hardly have believed him to be a man who
had laughed, and sung, and poured love-trifles into a
woman's ear. To curse his miserable lot was at first his
impulse, but even that lowest stage of rebellion needed an
activity whose absence was necessarily antecedent to the
existence of the morbid misery which wrung him. The sight,
coming as it did, superimposed upon the other dark scenery
of the previous days, formed a sort of climax to the whole
panorama, and it was more than he could endure. Sanguine by
nature, Troy had a power of eluding grief by simply
adjourning it. He could put off the consideration of any
particular spectre till the matter had become old and
softened by time. The planting of flowers on Fanny's grave
had been perhaps but a species of elusion of the primary
grief, and now it was as if his intention had been known and
Almost for the first time in his life, Troy, as he stood by
this dismantled grave, wished himself another man. It is
seldom that a person with much animal spirit does not feel
that the fact of his life being his own is the one
qualification which singles it out as a more hopeful life
than that of others who may actually resemble him in every
particular. Troy had felt, in his transient way, hundreds
of times, that he could not envy other people their
condition, because the possession of that condition would
have necessitated a different personality, when he desired
no other than his own. He had not minded the peculiarities
of his birth, the vicissitudes of his life, the meteor-like
uncertainty of all that related to him, because these
appertained to the hero of his story, without whom there
would have been no story at all for him; and it seemed to be
only in the nature of things that matters would right
themselves at some proper date and wind up well. This very
morning the illusion completed its disappearance, and, as it
were, all of a sudden, Troy hated himself. The suddenness
was probably more apparent than real. A coral reef which
just comes short of the ocean surface is no more to the
horizon than if it had never been begun, and the mere
finishing stroke is what often appears to create an event
which has long been potentially an accomplished thing.
He stood and mediated -- a miserable man. Whither should he
go? "He that is accursed, let him be accursed still," was
the pitiless anathema written in this spoliated effort of
his new-born solicitousness. A man who has spent his primal
strength in journeying in one direction has not much spirit
left for reversing his course. Troy had, since yesterday,
faintly reversed his; but the merest opposition had
disheartened him. To turn about would have been hard enough
under the greatest providential encouragement; but to find
that Providence, far from helping him into a new course, or
showing any wish that he might adopt one, actually jeered
his first trembling and critical attempt in that kind, was
more than nature could bear.
He slowly withdrew from the grave. He did not attempt to
fill up the hole, replace the flowers, or do anything at
all. He simply threw up his cards and forswore his game for
that time and always. Going out of the churchyard silently
and unobserved -- none of the villagers having yet risen --
he passed down some fields at the back, and emerged just as
secretly upon the high road. Shortly afterwards he had gone
from the village.
Meanwhile, Bathsheba remained a voluntary prisoner in the
attic. The door was kept locked, except during the entries
and exits of Liddy, for whom a bed had been arranged in a
small adjoining room. The light of Troy's lantern in the
churchyard was noticed about ten o'clock by the maid-
servant, who casually glanced from the window in that
direction whilst taking her supper, and she called
Bathsheba's attention to it. They looked curiously at the
phenomenon for a time, until Liddy was sent to bed.
Bathsheba did not sleep very heavily that night. When her
attendant was unconscious and softly breathing in the next
room, the mistress of the house was still looking out of the
window at the faint gleam spreading from among the trees --
not in a steady shine, but blinking like a revolving
coastlight, though this appearance failed to suggest to her
that a person was passing and repassing in front of it.
Bathsheba sat here till it began to rain, and the light
vanished, when she withdrew to lie restlessly in her bed and
re-enact in a worn mind the lurid scene of yesternight.
Almost before the first faint sign of dawn appeared she
arose again, and opened the window to obtain a full
breathing of the new morning air, the panes being now wet
with trembling tears left by the night rain, each one
rounded with a pale lustre caught from primrose-hued slashes
through a cloud low down in the awakening sky. From the
trees came the sound of steady dripping upon the drifted
leaves under them, and from the direction of the church she
could hear another noise -- peculiar, and not intermittent
like the rest, the purl of water falling into a pool.
Liddy knocked at eight o'clock, and Bathsheba un-locked the
"What a heavy rain we've had in the night, ma'am!" said
Liddy, when her inquiries about breakfast had been made.
"Yes, very heavy."
"Did you hear the strange noise from the church yard?"
"I heard one strange noise. I've been thinking it must have
been the water from the tower spouts."
"Well, that's what the shepherd was saying, ma'am. He's now
gone on to see."
"Oh! Gabriel has been here this morning!"
"Only just looked in in passing -- quite in his old way,
which I thought he had left off lately. But the tower
spouts used to spatter on the stones, and we are puzzled,
for this was like the boiling of a pot."
Not being able to read, think, or work, Bathsheba asked
Liddy to stay and breakfast with her. The tongue of the
more childish woman still ran upon recent events. "Are you
going across to the church, ma'am?" she asked.
"Not that I know of," said Bathsheba.
"I thought you might like to go and see where they have put
Fanny. The trees hide the place from your window."
Bathsheba had all sorts of dreads about meeting her husband.
"Has Mr. Troy been in to-night?" she said
"No, ma'am; I think he's gone to Budmouth.
Budmouth! The sound of the word carried with it a much
diminished perspective of him and his deeds; there were
thirteen miles interval betwixt them now. She hated
questioning Liddy about her husband's movements, and indeed
had hitherto sedulously avoided doing so; but now all the
house knew that there had been some dreadful disagreement
between them, and it was futile to attempt disguise.
Bathsheba had reached a stage at which people cease to have
any appreciative regard for public opinion.
"What makes you think he has gone there?" she said.
"Laban Tall saw him on the Budmouth road this morning before
Bathsheba was momentarily relieved of that wayward heaviness
of the past twenty-four hours which had quenched the
vitality of youth in her without substituting the philosophy
of maturer years, and she resolved to go out and walk a
little way. So when breakfast was over, she put on her
bonnet, and took a direction towards the church. It was
nine o'clock, and the men having returned to work again from
their first meal, she was not likely to meet many of them in
the road. Knowing that Fanny had been laid in the
reprobates' quarter of the graveyard, called in the parish
"behind church," which was invisible from the road, it was
impossible to resist the impulse to enter and look upon a
spot which, from nameless feelings, she at the same time
dreaded to see. She had been unable to overcome an
impression that some connection existed between her rival
and the light through the trees.
Bathsheba skirted the buttress, and beheld the hole and the
tomb, its delicately veined surface splashed and stained
just as Troy had seen it and left it two hours earlier. On
the other side of the scene stood Gabriel. His eyes, too,
were fixed on the tomb, and her arrival having been
noiseless, she had not as yet attracted his attention.
Bathsheba did not at once perceive that the grand tomb and
the disturbed grave were Fanny's, and she looked on both
sides and around for some humbler mound, earthed up and
clodded in the usual way. Then her eye followed Oak's, and
she read the words with which the inscription opened: --
"Erected by Francis Troy in Beloved Memory of
Oak saw her, and his first act was to gaze inquiringly and
learn how she received this knowledge of the authorship of
the work, which to himself had caused considerable
astonishment. But such discoveries did not much affect her
now. Emotional convulsions seemed to have become the
commonplaces of her history, and she bade him good morning,
and asked him to fill in the hole with the spade which was
standing by. Whilst Oak was doing as she desired, Bathsheba
collected the flowers, and began planting them with that
sympathetic manipulation of roots and leaves which is so
conspicuous in a woman's gardening, and which flowers seem
to understand and thrive upon. She requested Oak to get the
churchwardens to turn the leadwork at the mouth of the
gurgoyle that hung gaping down upon them, that by this means
the stream might be directed sideways, and a repetition of
the accident prevented. Finally, with the superfluous
magnanimity of a woman whose narrower instincts have brought
down bitterness upon her instead of love, she wiped the mud
spots from the tomb as if she rather liked its words than
otherwise, and went again home. 
 The local tower and churchyard do not answer precisely
to the foregoing description.
ADVENTURES BY THE SHORE
TROY wandered along towards the south. A composite feeling,
made up of disgust with the, to him, humdrum tediousness of
a farmer's life, gloomily images of her who lay in the
churchyard, remorse, and a general averseness to his wife's
society, impelled him to seek a home in any place on earth
save Weatherbury. The sad accessories of Fanny's end
confronted him as vivid pictures which threatened to be
indelible, and made life in Bathsheba's house intolerable.
At three in the afternoon he found himself at the foot of a
slope more than a mile in length, which ran to the ridge of
a range of hills lying parallel with the shore, and forming
a monotonous barrier between the basin of cultivated country
inland and the wilder scenery of the coast. Up the hill
stretched a road nearly straight and perfectly white, the
two sides approaching each other in a gradual taper till
they met the sky at the top about two miles off. Throughout
the length of this narrow and irksome inclined plane not a
sign of life was visible on this garish afternoon. Troy
toiled up the road with a languor and depression greater
than any he had experienced for many a day and year before.
The air was warm and muggy, and the top seemed to recede as
At last he reached the summit, and a wide and novel prospect
burst upon him with an effect almost like that of the
Pacific upon Balboa's gaze. The broad steely sea, marked
only by faint lines, which had a semblance of being etched
thereon to a degree not deep enough to disturb its general
evenness, stretched the whole width of his front and round
to the right, where, near the town and port of Budmouth, the
sun bristled down upon it, and banished all colour, to
substitute in its place a clear oily polish. Nothing moved
in sky, land, or sea, except a frill of milkwhite foam along
the nearer angles of the shore, shreds of which licked the
contiguous stones like tongues.
He descended and came to a small basin of sea enclosed by
the cliffs. Troy's nature freshened within him; he thought
he would rest and bathe here before going farther. He
undressed and plunged in. Inside the cove the water was
uninteresting to a swimmer, being smooth as a pond, and to
get a little of the ocean swell, Troy presently swam between
the two projecting spurs of rock which formed the pillars of
Hercules to this miniature Mediterranean. Unfortunately for
Troy a current unknown to him existed outside, which,
unimportant to craft of any burden, was awkward for a
swimmer who might be taken in it unawares. Troy found
himself carried to the left and then round in a swoop out to
He now recollected the place and its sinister character.
Many bathers had there prayed for a dry death from time to
time, and, like Gonzalo also, had been unanswered; and Troy
began to deem it possible that he might be added to their
number. Not a boat of any kind was at present within sight,
but far in the distance Budmouth lay upon the sea, as it
were quietly regarding his efforts, and beside the town the
harbour showed its position by a dim meshwork of ropes and
spars. After well-nigh exhausting himself in attempts to
get back to the mouth of the cove, in his weakness swimming
several inches deeper than was his wont, keeping up his
breathing entirely by his nostrils, turning upon his back a
dozen times over, swimming EN PAPILLON and so on, Troy
resolved as a last resource to tread water at a slight
incline, and so endeavour to reach the shore at any point,
merely giving himself a gentle impetus inwards whilst
carried on in the general direction of the tide. This,
necessarily a slow process, he found to be not altogether so
difficult, and though there was no choice of a landing-place
-- the objects on shore passing by him in a sad and slow
procession -- he perceptibly approached the extremity of a
spit of land yet further to the right, now well defined
against the sunny portion of the horizon. While the
swimmer's eye's were fixed upon the spit as his only means
of salvation on this side of the Unknown, a moving object
broke the outline of the extremity, and immediately a ship's
boat appeared manned with several sailor lads, her bows
towards the sea.
All Troy's vigour spasmodically revived to prolong the
struggle yet a little further. Swimming with his right arm,
he held up his left to hail them, splashing upon the waves,
and shouting with all his might. From the position of the
setting sun his white form was distinctly visible upon the
now deep-hued bosom of the sea to the east of the boat, and
the men saw him at once. Backing their oars and putting the
boat about, they pulled towards him with a will, and in five
or six minutes from the time of his first halloo, two of the
sailors hauled him in over the stern.
They formed part of a brig's crew, and had come ashore for
sand. Lending him what little clothing they could spare
among them as a slight protection against the rapidly
cooling air, they agreed to land him in the morning; and
without further delay, for it was growing late, they made
again towards the roadstead where their vessel lay.
And now night drooped slowly upon the wide watery levels in
front; and at no great distance from them, where the
shoreline curved round, and formed a long riband of shade
upon the horizon, a series of points of yellow light began
to start into existence, denoting the spot to be the site of
Budmouth, where the lamps were being lighted along the
parade. The cluck of their oars was the only sound of any
distinctness upon the sea, and as they laboured amid the
thickening shades the lamplights grew larger, each appearing
to send a flaming sword deep down into the waves before it,
until there arose, among other dim shapes of the kind, the
form of the vessel for which they were bound.
DOUBTS ARISE -- DOUBTS LINGER
BATHSHEBA underwent the enlargement of her husband's absence
from hours to days with a slight feeling of surprise, and a
slight feeling of relief; yet neither sensation rose at any
time far above the level commonly designated as
indifference. She belonged to him: the certainties of that
position were so well defined, and the reasonable
probabilities of its issue so bounded that she could not
speculate on contingencies. Taking no further interest in
herself as a splendid woman, she acquired the indifferent
feelings of an outsider in contemplating her probable fate
as a singular wretch; for Bathsheba drew herself and her
future in colours that no reality could exceed for darkness.
Her original vigorous pride of youth had sickened, and with
it had declined all her anxieties about coming years, since
anxiety recognizes a better and a worse alternative, and
Bathsheba had made up her mind that alternatives on any
noteworthy scale had ceased for her. Soon, or later -- and
that not very late -- her husband would be home again. And
then the days of their tenancy of the Upper Farm would be
numbered. There had originally been shown by the agent to
the estate some distrust of Bathsheba's tenure as James
Everdene's successor, on the score of her sex, and her
youth, and her beauty; but the peculiar nature of her
uncle's will, his own frequent testimony before his death to
her cleverness in such a pursuit, and her vigorous
marshalling of the numerous flocks and herds which came
suddenly into her hands before negotiations were concluded,
had won confidence in her powers, and no further objections
had been raised. She had latterly been in great doubt as to
what the legal effects of her marriage would be upon her
position; but no notice had been taken as yet of her change
of name, and only one point was clear -- that in the event
of her own or her husband's inability to meet the agent at
the forthcoming January rent-day, very little consideration
would be shown, and, for that matter, very little would be
deserved. Once out of the farm, the approach of poverty
would be sure.
Hence Bathsheba lived in a perception that her purposes were
broken off. She was not a woman who could hope on without
good materials for the process, differing thus from the less
far-sighted and energetic, though more petted ones of the
sex, with whom hope goes on as a sort of clockwork which the
merest food and shelter are sufficient to wind up; and
perceiving clearly that her mistake had been a fatal one,
she accepted her position, and waited coldly for the end.
The first Saturday after Troy's departure she went to
Casterbridge alone, a journey she had not before taken since
her marriage. On this Saturday Bathsheba was passing slowly
on foot through the crowd of rural business-men gathered as
usual in front of the market-house, who were as usual gazed
upon by the burghers with feelings that those healthy lives
were dearly paid for by exclusion from possible
aldermanship, when a man, who had apparently been following
her, said some words to another on her left hand.
Bathsheba's ears were keen as those of any wild animal, and
she distinctly heard what the speaker said, though her back
was towards him.
"I am looking for Mrs. Troy. Is that she there?"
"Yes; that's the young lady, I believe," said the the person
"I have some awkward news to break to her. Her husband is
As if endowed with the spirit of prophecy, Bathsheba gasped
out, "No, it is not true; it cannot be true!" Then she said
and heard no more. The ice of self-command which had
latterly gathered over her was broken, and the currents
burst forth again, and over whelmed her. A darkness came
into her eyes, and she fell.
But not to the ground. A gloomy man, who had been observing
her from under the portico of the old corn-exchange when she
passed through the group without, stepped quickly to her
side at the moment of her exclamation, and caught her in his
arms as she sank down.
"What is it?" said Boldwood, looking up at the bringer of
the big news, as he supported her.
"Her husband was drowned this week while bathing in Lulwind
Cove. A coastguardsman found his clothes, and brought them
into Budmouth yesterday."
Thereupon a strange fire lighted up Boldwood's eye, and his
face flushed with the suppressed excitement of an
unutterable thought. Everybody's glance was now centred
upon him and the unconscious Bathsheba. He lifted her
bodily off the ground, and smoothed down the folds of her
dress as a child might have taken a storm-beaten bird and
arranged its ruffled plumes, and bore her along the pavement
to the King's Arms Inn. Here he passed with her under the
archway into a private room; and by the time he had
deposited -- so lothly -- the precious burden upon a sofa,
Bathsheba had opened her eyes. Remembering all that had
occurred, she murmured, "I want to go home!"
Boldwood left the room. He stood for a moment in the
passage to recover his senses. The experience had been too
much for his consciousness to keep up with, and now that he
had grasped it it had gone again. For those few heavenly,
golden moments she had been in his arms. What did it matter
about her not knowing it? She had been close to his breast;
he had been close to hers.
He started onward again, and sending a woman to her, went
out to ascertain all the facts of the case. These appeared
to be limited to what he had already heard. He then ordered
her horse to be put into the gig, and when all was ready
returned to inform her. He found that, though still pale
and unwell, she had in the meantime sent for the Budmouth
man who brought the tidings, and learnt from him all there
was to know.
Being hardly in a condition to drive home as she had driven
to town, Boldwood, with every delicacy of manner and
feeling, offered to get her a driver, or to give her a seat
in his phaeton, which was more comfortable than her own
conveyance. These proposals Bathsheba gently declined, and
the farmer at once departed.
About half-an-hour later she invigorated herself by an
effort, and took her seat and the reins as usual -- in
external appearance much as if nothing had happened. She
went out of the town by a tortuous back street, and drove
slowly along, unconscious of the road and the scene. The
first shades of evening were showing themselves when
Bathsheba reached home, where, silently alighting and
leaving the horse in the hands of the boy, she proceeded at
once upstairs. Liddy met her on the landing. The news had
preceded Bathsheba to Weatherbury by half-an-hour, and Liddy
looked inquiringly into her mistress's face. Bathsheba had
nothing to say.
She entered her bedroom and sat by the window, and thought
and thought till night enveloped her, and the extreme lines
only of her shape were visible. Somebody came to the door,
knocked, and opened it.
"Well, what is it, Liddy?" she said.
"I was thinking there must be something got for you to
wear," said Liddy, with hesitation.
"What do you mean?"
"No, no, no," said Bathsheba, hurriedly.
"But I suppose there must be something done for poor ----"
"Not at present, I think. It is not necessary."
"Why not, ma'am?"
"Because he's still alive."
"How do you know that?" said Liddy, amazed.
"I don't know it. But wouldn't it have been different, or
shouldn't I have heard more, or wouldn't they have found
him, Liddy? -- or -- I don't know how it is, but death would
have been different from how this is. I am perfectly
convinced that he is still alive!"
Bathsheba remained firm in this opinion till Monday, when
two circumstances conjoined to shake it. The first was a
short paragraph in the local newspaper, which, beyond making
by a methodizing pen formidable presumptive evidence of
Troy's death by drowning, contained the important testimony
of a young Mr. Barker, M.D., of Budmouth, who spoke to being
an eyewitness of the accident, in a letter to the editor.
In this he stated that he was passing over the cliff on the
remoter side of the cove just as the sun was setting. At
that time he saw a bather carried along in the current
outside the mouth of the cove, and guessed in an instant
that there was but a poor chance for him unless he should be
possessed of unusual muscular powers. He drifted behind a
projection of the coast, and Mr. Barker followed along the
shore in the same direction. But by the time that he could
reach an elevation sufficiently great to command a view of
the sea beyond, dusk had set in, and nothing further was to
The other circumstance was the arrival of his clothes, when
it became necessary for her to examine and identify them --
though this had virtually been done long before by those who
inspected the letters in his pockets. It was so evident to
her in the midst of her agitation that Troy had undressed in
the full conviction of dressing again almost immediately,
that the notion that anything but death could have prevented
him was a perverse one to entertain.
Then Bathsheba said to herself that others were assured in
their opinion; strange that she should not be. A strange
reflection occurred to her, causing her face to flush.
Suppose that Troy had followed Fanny into another world.
Had he done this intentionally, yet contrived to make his
death appear like an accident? Nevertheless, this thought
of how the apparent might differ from the real -- made vivid
by her bygone jealousy of Fanny, and the remorse he had
shown that night -- did not blind her to the perception of a
likelier difference, less tragic, but to herself far more
When alone late that evening beside a small fire, and much
calmed down, Bathsheba took Troy's watch into her hand,
which had been restored to her with the rest of the articles
belonging to him. She opened the case as he had opened it
before her a week ago. There was the little coil of pale
hair which had been as the fuze to this great explosion.
"He was hers and she was his; they should be gone together,"
she said. "I am nothing to either of them, and why should I
keep her hair?" She took it in her hand, and held it over
the fire." No -- I'll not burn it -- I'll keep it in memory
of her, poor thing!" she added, snatching back her hand.
OAK'S ADVANCEMENT -- A GREAT HOPE
THE later autumn and the winter drew on apace, and the
leaves lay thick upon the turf of the glades and the mosses
of the woods. Bathsheba, having previously been living in a
state of suspended feeling which was not suspense, now lived
in a mood of quietude which was not precisely peacefulness.
While she had known him to be alive she could have thought
of his death with equanimity; but now that it might be she
had lost him, she regretted that he was not hers still. She
kept the farm going, raked in her profits without caring
keenly about them, and expended money on ventures because
she had done so in bygone days, which, though not long gone
by, seemed infinitely removed from her present. She looked
back upon that past over a great gulf, as if she were now a
dead person, having the faculty of meditation still left in
her, by means of which, like the mouldering gentlefolk of
the poet's story, she could sit and ponder what a gift life
used to be.
However, one excellent result of her general apathy was the
long-delayed installation of Oak as bailiff; but he having
virtually exercised that function for a long time already,
the change, beyond the substantial increase of wages it
brought, was little more than a nominal one addressed to the
Boldwood lived secluded and inactive. Much of his wheat and
all his barley of that season had been spoilt by the rain.
It sprouted, grew into intricate mats, and was ultimately
thrown to the pigs in armfuls. The strange neglect which
had produced this ruin and waste became the subject of
whispered talk among all the people round; and it was
elicited from one of Boldwood's men that forgetfulness had
nothing to do with it, for he had been reminded of the
danger to his corn as many times and as persistently as
inferiors dared to do. The sight of the pigs turning in
disgust from the rotten ears seemed to arouse Boldwood, and
he one evening sent for Oak. Whether it was suggested by
Bathsheba's recent act of promotion or not, the farmer
proposed at the interview that Gabriel should undertake the
superintendence of the Lower Farm as well as of Bathsheba's,
because of the necessity Boldwood felt for such aid, and the
impossibility of discovering a more trustworthy man.
Gabriel's malignant star was assuredly setting fast.
Bathsheba, when she learnt of this proposal -- for Oak was
obliged to consult her -- at first languidly objected. She
considered that the two farms together were too extensive
for the observation of one man. Boldwood, who was
apparently determined by personal rather than commercial
reasons, suggested that Oak should be furnished with a horse
for his sole use, when the plan would present no difficulty,
the two farms lying side by side. Boldwood did not directly
communicate with her during these negotiations, only
speaking to Oak, who was the go-between throughout. All was
harmoniously arranged at last, and we now see Oak mounted on
a strong cob, and daily trotting the length breadth of about
two thousand acres in a cheerful spirit of surveillance, as
if the crops all belonged to him -- the actual mistress of
the one-half and the master of the other, sitting in their
respective homes in gloomy and sad seclusion.
Out of this there arose, during the spring succeeding, a
talk in the parish that Gabriel Oak was feathering his nest
"Whatever d'ye think," said Susan Tall, "Gable Oak is coming
it quite the dand. He now wears shining boots with hardly a
hob in 'em, two or three times a-week, and a tall hat a-
Sundays, and 'a hardly knows the name of smockfrock. When I
see people strut enough to he cut up into bantam cocks, I
stand dormant with wonder, and says no more!"
It was eventually known that Gabriel, though paid a fixed
wage by Bathsheba independent of the fluctuations of
agricultural profits, had made an engagement with Boldwood
by which Oak was to receive a share of the receipts -- a
small share certainly, yet it was money of a higher quality
than mere wages, and capable of expansion in a way that
wages were not. Some were beginning to consider Oak a
"near" man, for though his condition had thus far improved,
he lived in no better style than before, occupying the same
cottage, paring his own potatoes, mending his stockings, and
sometimes even making his bed with his own hands. But as
Oak was not only provokingly indifferent to public opinion,
but a man who clung persistently to old habits and usages,
simply because they were old, there was room for doubt as to
A great hope had latterly germinated in Boldwood, whose
unreasoning devotion to Bathsheba could only be
characterized as a fond madness which neither time nor
circumstance, evil nor good report, could weaken or destroy.
This fevered hope had grown up again like a grain of
mustard-seed during the quiet which followed the hasty
conjecture that Troy was drowned. He nourished it
fearfully, and almost shunned the contemplation of it in
earnest, lest facts should reveal the wildness of the dream.
Bathsheba having at last been persuaded to wear mourning,
her appearance as she entered the church in that guise was
in itself a weekly addition to his faith that a time was
coming -- very far off perhaps, yet surely nearing -- when
his waiting on events should have its reward. How long he
might have to wait he had not yet closely considered. What
he would try to recognize was that the severe schooling she
had been subjected to had made Bathsheba much more
considerate than she had formerly been of the feelings of
others, and he trusted that, should she be willing at any
time in the future to marry any man at all, that man would
be himself. There was a substratum of good feeling in her:
her self-reproach for the injury she had thoughtlessly done
him might be depended upon now to a much greater extent than
before her infatuation and disappointment. It would be
possible to approach her by the channel of her good nature,
and to suggest a friendly businesslike compact between them
for fulfilment at some future day, keeping the passionate
side of his desire entirely out of her sight. Such was
To the eyes of the middle-aged, Bathsheba was perhaps
additionally charming just now. Her exuberance of spirit
was pruned down; the original phantom of delight had shown
herself to be not too bright for human nature's daily food,
and she had been able to enter this second poetical phase
without losing much of the first in the process.
Bathsheba's return from a two months' visit to her old aunt
at Norcombe afforded the impassioned and yearning farmer a
pretext for inquiring directly after her -- now possibly in
the ninth month of her widowhood -- and endeavouring to get
a notion of her state of mind regarding him. This occurred
in the middle of the haymaking, and Boldwood contrived to be
near Liddy who was assisting in the fields.
"I am glad to see you out of doors, Lydia," he said
She simpered, and wondered in her heart why he should speak
so frankly to her.
"I hope Mrs. Troy is quite well after her long absence," he
continued, in a manner expressing that the coldest-hearted
neighbour could scarcely say less about her.
"She is quite well, sir.
"And cheerful, I suppose."
"Fearful, did you say?"
"Oh no. I merely said she was cheerful."
"Tells you all her affairs?"
"Some of them?"
"Mrs. Troy puts much confidence in you, Lydia, and very
"She do, sir. I've been with her all through her troubles,
and was with her at the time of Mr. Troy's going and all.
And if she were to marry again I expect I should bide with
"She promises that you shall -- quite natural," said the
strategic lover, throbbing throughout him at the presumption
which Liddy's words appeared to warrant -- that his darling
had thought of re-marriage.
"No -- she doesn't promise it exactly. I merely judge on my
"Yes, yes, I understand. When she alludes to the
possibility of marrying again, you conclude ----"
"She never do allude to it, sir," said Liddy, thinking how
very stupid Mr. Boldwood was getting.
"Of course not," he returned hastily, his hope falling
again. "You needn't take quite such long reaches with your
rake, Lydia -- short and quick ones are best. Well,
perhaps, as she is absolute mistress again now, it is wise
of her to resolve never to give up her freedom."
"My mistress did certainly once say, though not seriously,
that she supposed she might marry again at the end of seven
years from last year, if she cared to risk Mr. Troy's coming
back and claiming her."
"Ah, six years from the present time. Said that she might.
She might marry at once in every reasonable person's
opinion, whatever the lawyers may say to the contrary."
"Have you been to ask them?" said Liddy, innocently.
"Not I," said Boldwood, growing red. "Liddy, you needn't
stay here a minute later than you wish, so Mr. Oak says. I
am now going on a little farther. Good-afternoon."
He went away vexed with himself, and ashamed of having for
this one time in his life done anything which could be
called underhand. Poor Boldwood had no more skill in
finesse than a battering-ram, and he was uneasy with a sense
of having made himself to appear stupid and, what was worse,
mean. But he had, after all, lighted upon one fact by way
of repayment. It was a singularly fresh and fascinating
fact, and though not without its sadness it was pertinent
and real. In little more than six years from this time
Bathsheba might certainly marry him. There was something
definite in that hope, for admitting that there might have
been no deep thought in her words to Liddy about marriage,
they showed at least her creed on the matter.
This pleasant notion was now continually in his mind. Six
years were a long time, but how much shorter than never, the
idea he had for so long been obliged to endure! Jacob had
served twice seven years for Rachel: what were six for such
a woman as this? He tried to like the notion of waiting for
her better than that of winning her at once. Boldwood felt
his love to be so deep and strong and eternal, that it was
possible she had never yet known its full volume, and this
patience in delay would afford him an opportunity of giving
sweet proof on the point. He would annihilate the six years
of his life as if they were minutes -- so little did he
value his time on earth beside her love. He would let her
see, all those six years of intangible ethereal courtship,
how little care he had for anything but as it bore upon the
Meanwhile the early and the late summer brought round the
week in which Greenhill Fair was held. This fair was
frequently attended by the folk of Weatherbury.
THE SHEEP FAIR -- TROY TOUCHES HIS WIFE'S HAND
GREENHILL was the Nijni Novgorod of South Wessex; and the
busiest, merriest, noisiest day of the whole statute number
was the day of the sheep fair. This yearly gathering was
upon the summit of a hill which retained in good
preservation the remains of an ancient earthwork, consisting
of a huge rampart and entrenchment of an oval form
encircling the top of the hill, though somewhat broken down
here and there. To each of the two chief openings on
opposite sides a winding road ascended, and the level green
space of ten or fifteen acres enclosed by the bank was the
site of the fair. A few permanent erections dotted the
spot, but the majority of visitors patronized canvas alone
for resting and feeding under during the time of their
Shepherds who attended with their flocks from long distances
started from home two or three days, or even a week, before
the fair, driving their charges a few miles each day -- not
more than ten or twelve -- and resting them at night in
hired fields by the wayside at previously chosen points,
where they fed, having fasted since morning. The shepherd
of each flock marched behind, a bundle containing his kit
for the week strapped upon his shoulders, and in his hand
his crook, which he used as the staff of his pilgrimage.
Several of the sheep would get worn and lame, and
occasionally a lambing occurred on the road. To meet these
contingencies, there was frequently provided, to accompany
the flocks from the remoter points, a pony and waggon into
which the weakly ones were taken for the remainder of the
The Weatherbury Farms, however, were no such long distance
from the hill, and those arrangements were not necessary in
their case. But the large united flocks of Bathsheba and
Farmer Boldwood formed a valuable and imposing multitude
which demanded much attention, and on this account Gabriel,
in addition to Boldwood's shepherd and Cain Ball,
accompanied them along the way, through the decayed old town
of Kingsbere, and upward to the plateau, -- old George the
dog of course behind them.
When the autumn sun slanted over Greenhill this morning and
lighted the dewy flat upon its crest, nebulous clouds of
dust were to be seen floating between the pairs of hedges
which streaked the wide prospect around in all directions.
These gradually converged upon the base of the hill, and the
flocks became individually visible, climbing the serpentine
ways which led to the top. Thus, in a slow procession, they
entered the opening to which the roads tended, multitude
after multitude, horned and hornless -- blue flocks and red
flocks, buff flocks and brown flocks, even green and salmon-
tinted flocks, according to the fancy of the colourist and
custom of the farm. Men were shouting, dogs were barking,
with greatest animation, but the thronging travellers in so
long a journey had grown nearly indifferent to such terrors,
though they still bleated piteously at the unwontedness of
their experiences, a tall shepherd rising here and there in
the midst of them, like a gigantic idol amid a crowd of
The great mass of sheep in the fair consisted of South Downs
and the old Wessex horned breeds, to the latter class
Bathsheba's and Farmer Boldwood's mainly belonged. These
filed in about nine o'clock, their vermiculated horns
lopping gracefully on each side of their cheeks in
geometrically perfect spirals, a small pink and white ear
nestling under each horn. Before and behind came other
varieties, perfect leopards as to the full rich substance of
their coats, and only lacking the spots. There were also a
few of the Oxfordshire breed, whose wool was beginning to
curl like a child's flaxen hair, though surpassed in this
respect by the effeminate Leicesters, which were in turn
less curly than the Cotswolds. But the most picturesque by
far was a small flock of Exmoors, which chanced to be there
this year. Their pied faces and legs, dark and heavy horns,
tresses of wool hanging round their swarthy foreheads, quite
relieved the monotony of the flocks in that quarter.
All these bleating, panting, and weary thousands had entered
and were penned before the morning had far advanced, the dog
belonging to each flock being tied to the corner of the pen
containing it. Alleys for pedestrians intersected the pens,
which soon became crowded with buyers and sellers from far
In another part of the hill an altogether different scene
began to force itself upon the eye towards midday. A
circular tent, of exceptional newness and size, was in
course of erection here. As the day drew on, the flocks
began to change hands, lightening the shepherd's
responsibilities; and they turned their attention to this
tent and inquired of a man at work there, whose soul seemed
concentrated on tying a bothering knot in no time, what was
"The Royal Hippodrome Performance of Turpin's Ride to York
and the Death of Black Bess," replied the man promptly,
without turning his eyes or leaving off trying.
As soon as the tent was completed the band struck up highly
stimulating harmonies, and the announcement was publicly
made, Black Bess standing in a conspicuous position on the
outside, as a living proof, if proof were wanted, of the
truth of the oracular utterances from the stage over which
the people were to enter. These were so convinced by such
genuine appeals to heart and understanding both that they
soon began to crowd in abundantly, among the foremost being
visible Jan Coggan and Joseph Poorgrass, who were holiday
keeping here to-day.
"That's the great ruffen pushing me!" screamed a woman in
front of Jan over her shoulder at him when the rush was at
"How can I help pushing ye when the folk behind push me?"
said Coggan, in a deprecating tone, turning without turning
his body, which was jammed as in a vice.
There was a silence; then the drums and trumpets again sent
forth their echoing notes. The crowd was again ecstasied,
and gave another lurch in which Coggan and Poorgrass were
again thrust by those behind upon the women in front.
"Oh that helpless feymels should be at the mercy of such
ruffens!" exclaimed one of these ladies again, as she swayed
like a reed shaken by the wind.
Now," said Coggan, appealing in an earnest voice to the
public at large as it stood clustered about his shoulder-
blades. "Did ye ever hear such onreasonable woman as that?
Upon my carcase, neighbours, if I could only get out of this
cheesewring, the damn women might eat the show for me!"
"Don't ye lose yer temper, Jan!" implored Joseph Poorgrass,
in a whisper. "They might get their men to murder us, for I
think by the shine of their eyes that they be a sinful form
Jan held his tongue, as if he had no objection to be
pacified to please a friend, and they gradually reached the
foot of the ladder, Poorgrass being flattened like a
jumping-jack, and the sixpence, for admission, which he had
got ready half-an-hour earlier, having become so reeking hot
in the tight squeeze of his excited hand that the woman in
spangles, brazen rings set with glass diamonds, and with
chalked face and shoulders, who took the money of him,
hastily dropped it again from a fear that some trick had
been played to burn her fingers. So they all entered, and
the cloth of the tent, to the eyes of an observer on the
outside, became bulged into innumerable pimples such as we
observe on a sack of potatoes, caused by the various human
heads, backs, and elbows at high pressure within.
At the rear of the large tent there were two small dressing-
tents. One of these, alloted to the male performers, was
partitioned into halves by a cloth; and in one of the
divisions there was sitting on the grass, pulling on a pair
of jack-boots, a young man whom we instantly recognise as
Troy's appearance in this position may be briefly accounted
for. The brig aboard which he was taken in Budmouth Roads
was about to start on a voyage, though somewhat short of
hands. Troy read the articles and joined, but before they
sailed a boat was despatched across the bay to Lulwind cove;
as he had half expected, his clothes were gone. He
ultimately worked his passage to the United States, where he
made a precarious living in various towns as Professor of
Gymnastics, Sword Exercise, Fencing, and Pugilism. A few
months were sufficient to give him a distaste for this kind
of life. There was a certain animal form of refinement in
his nature; and however pleasant a strange condition might
be whilst privations were easily warded off, it was
disadvantageously coarse when money was short. There was
ever present, too, the idea that he could claim a home and
its comforts did he but chose to return to England and
Weatherbury Farm. Whether Bathsheba thought him dead was a
frequent subject of curious conjecture. To England he did
return at last; but the fact of drawing nearer to
Weatherbury abstracted its fascinations, and his intention
to enter his old groove at the place became modified. It
was with gloom he considered on landing at Liverpool that if
he were to go home his reception would be of a kind very
unpleasant to contemplate; for what Troy had in the way of
emotion was an occasional fitful sentiment which sometimes
caused him as much inconvenience as emotion of a strong and
healthy kind. Bathsheba was not a women to be made a fool
of, or a woman to suffer in silence; and how could he endure
existence with a spirited wife to whom at first entering he
would be beholden for food and lodging? Moreover, it was
not at all unlikely that his wife would fail at her farming,
if she had not already done so; and he would then become
liable for her maintenance: and what a life such a future
of poverty with her would be, the spectre of Fanny
constantly between them, harrowing his temper and
embittering her words! Thus, for reasons touching on
distaste, regret, and shame commingled, he put off his
return from day to day, and would have decided to put it off
altogether if he could have found anywhere else the ready-
made establishment which existed for him there.
At this time -- the July preceding the September in which we
find at Greenhill Fair -- he fell in with a travelling
circus which was performing in the outskirts of a northern
town. Troy introduced himself to the manager by taming a
restive horse of the troupe, hitting a suspended apple with
a pistol -- bullet fired from the animal's back when in full
gallop, and other feats. For his merits in these -- all
more or less based upon his experiences as a dragoon-
guardsman -- Troy was taken into the company, and the play
of Turpin was prepared with a view to his personation of the
chief character. Troy was not greatly elated by the
appreciative spirit in which he was undoubtedly treated, but
he thought the engagement might afford him a few weeks for
consideration. It was thus carelessly, and without having
formed any definite plan for the future, that Troy
found himself at Greenhill Fair with the rest of the company
on this day.
And now the mild autumn sun got lower, and in front of the
pavilion the following incident had taken place. Bathsheba
-- who was driven to the fair that day by her odd man
Poorgrass -- had, like every one else, read or heard the
announcement that Mr. Francis, the Great Cosmopolitan
Equestrian and Roughrider, would enact the part of Turpin,
and she was not yet too old and careworn to be without a
little curiosity to see him. This particular show was by
far the largest and grandest in the fair, a horde of little
shows grouping themselves under its shade like chickens
around a hen. The crowd had passed in, and Boldwood, who
had been watching all the day for an opportunity of speaking
to her, seeing her comparatively isolated, came up to her
"I hope the sheep have done well to-day, Mrs. Troy?" he
"Oh yes, thank you," said Bathsheba, colour springing up in
the centre of her cheeks. "I was fortunate enough to sell
them all just as we got upon the hill, so we hadn't to pen
"And now you are entirely at leisure?"
"Yes, except that I have to see one more dealer in two
hours' time: otherwise I should be going home. He was
looking at this large tent and the announcement. Have you
ever seen the play of "Turpin's Ride to York?" Turpin was a
real man, was he not?"
"Oh yes, perfectly true -- all of it. Indeed, I think I've
heard Jan Coggan say that a relation of his knew Tom King,
Turpin's friend, quite well."
"Coggan is rather given to strange stories connected with
his relations, we must remember. I hope they can all be
"Yes, yes; we know Coggan. But Turpin is true enough. You
have never seen it played, I suppose?"
"Never. I was not allowed to go into these places when I
was young. Hark! What's that prancing? How they shout!"
"Black Bess just started off, I suppose. Am I right in
supposing you would like to see the performance, Mrs. Troy?
Please excuse my mistake, if it is one; but if you would
like to, I'll get a seat for you with pleasure." Perceiving
that she hesitated, he added, "I myself shall not stay to
see it: I've seen it before."
Now Bathsheba did care a little to see the show, and had
only withheld her feet from the ladder because she feared to
go in alone. She had been hoping that Oak might appear,
whose assistance in such cases was always accepted as an
inalienable right, but Oak was nowhere to be seen; and hence
it was that she said, "Then if you will just look in first,
to see if there's room, I think I will go in for a minute or
And so a short time after this Bathsheba appeared in the
tent with Boldwood at her elbow, who, taking her to a
"reserved" seat, again withdrew.
This feature consisted of one raised bench in very
conspicuous part of the circle, covered with red cloth, and
floored with a piece of carpet, and Bathsheba immediately
found, to her confusion, that she was the single reserved
individual in the tent, the rest of the crowded spectators,
one and all, standing on their legs on the borders of the
arena, where they got twice as good a view of the
performance for half the money. Hence as many eyes were
turned upon her, enthroned alone in this place of honour,
against a scarlet back-ground, as upon the ponies and clown
who were engaged in preliminary exploits in the centre,
Turpin not having yet appeared. Once there, Bathsheba was
forced to make the best of it and remain: she sat down,
spreading her skirts with some dignity over the unoccupied
space on each side of her, and giving a new and feminine
aspect to the pavilion. In a few minutes she noticed the
fat red nape of Coggan's neck among those standing just
below her, and Joseph Poorgrass's saintly profile a little
The interior was shadowy with a peculiar shade. The strange
luminous semi-opacities of fine autumn afternoons and eves
intensified into Rembrandt effects the few yellow sunbeams
which came through holes and divisions in the canvas, and
spirted like jets of gold-dust across the dusky blue
atmosphere of haze pervading the tent, until they alighted
on inner surfaces of cloth opposite, and shone like little
lamps suspended there.
Troy, on peeping from his dressing-tent through a slit for a
reconnoitre before entering, saw his unconscious wife on
high before him as described, sitting as queen of the
tournament. He started back in utter confusion, for
although his disguise effectually concealed his personality,
he instantly felt that she would be sure to recognize his
voice. He had several times during the day thought of the
possibility of some Weatherbury person or other appearing
and recognizing him; but he had taken the risk carelessly.
If they see me, let them, he had said. But here was
Bathsheba in her own person; and the reality of the scene
was so much intenser than any of his prefigurings that he
felt he had not half enough considered the point.
She looked so charming and fair that his cool mood about
Weatherbury people was changed. He had not expected her to
exercise this power over him in the twinkling of an eye.
Should he go on, and care nothing? He could not bring
himself to do that. Beyond a politic wish to remain
unknown, there suddenly arose in him now a sense of shame at
the possibility that his attractive young wife, who already
despised him, should despise him more by discovering him in
so mean a condition after so long a time. He actually
blushed at the thought, and was vexed beyond measure that
his sentiments of dislike towards Weatherbury should have
led him to dally about the country in this way.
But Troy was never more clever than when absolutely at his
wit's end. He hastily thrust aside the curtain dividing his
own little dressing space from that of the manager and
proprietor, who now appeared as the individual called Tom
King as far down as his waist, and as the aforesaid
respectable manager thence to his toes.
"Here's the devil to pay!" said Troy.
"Why, there's a blackguard creditor in the tent I don't want
to see, who'll discover me and nab me as sure as Satan if I
open my mouth. What's to be done?"
You must appear now, I think."
But the play must proceed."
"Do you give out that Turpin has got a bad cold, and can't
speak his part, but that he'll perform it just the same
The proprietor shook his head.
"Anyhow, play or no play, I won't open my mouth, said Troy,
"Very well, then let me see. I tell you how we'll manage,"
said the other, who perhaps felt it would be extremely
awkward to offend his leading man just at this time. "I
won't tell 'em anything about your keeping silence; go on
with the piece and say nothing, doing what you can by a
judicious wink now and then, and a few indomitable nods in
the heroic places, you know. They'll never find out that
the speeches are omitted."
This seemed feasible enough, for Turpin's speeches were not
many or long, the fascination of the piece lying entirely in
the action; and accordingly the play began, and at the
appointed time Black Bess leapt into the grassy circle amid
the plaudits of the spectators. At the turnpike scene,
where Bess and Turpin are hotly pursued at midnight by the
officers, and half-awake gatekeeper in his tasselled
nightcap denies that any horseman has passed, Coggan uttered
a broad-chested "Well done!" which could be heard all over
the fair above the bleating, and Poorgrass smiled
delightedly with a nice sense of dramatic contrast between
our hero, who coolly leaps the gate, and halting justice in
the form of his enemies, who must needs pull up cumbersomely
and wait to be let through. At the death of Tom King, he
could not refrain from seizing Coggan by the hand, and
whispering, with tears in his eyes, "Of course he's not
really shot, Jan -- only seemingly!" And when the last sad
scene came on, and the body of the gallant and faithful Bess
had to be carried out on a shutter by twelve volunteers from
among the spectators, nothing could restrain Poorgrass from
lending a hand, exclaiming, as he asked Jan to join him,
"Twill be something to tell of at Warren's in future years,
Jan, and hand down to our children." For many a year in
Weatherbury, Joseph told, with the air of a man who had had
experiences in his time, that he touched with his own hand
the hoof of Bess as she lay upon the board upon his
shoulder. If, as some thinkers hold, immortality consists
in being enshrined in others' memories, then did Black Bess
become immortal that day if she never had done so before.
Meanwhile Troy had added a few touches to his ordinary make-
up for the character, the more effectually to disguise
himself, and though he had felt faint qualms on first
entering, the metamorphosis effected by judiciously "lining"
his face with a wire rendered him safe from the eyes of
Bathsheba and her men. Nevertheless, he was relieved when
it was got through.
There a second performance in the evening, and the tent was
lighted up. Troy had taken his part very quietly this time,
venturing to introduce a few speeches on occasion; and was
just concluding it when, whilst standing at the edge of the
circle contiguous to the first row of spectators, he
observed within a yard of him the eye of a man darted keenly
into his side features. Troy hastily shifted his position,
after having recognized in the scrutineer the knavish baliff
Pennyways, his wife's sworn enemy, who still hung about the
outskirts of Weatherbury.
At first Troy resolved to take no notice and abide by
circumstances. That he had been recognized by this man was
highly probable; yet there was room for a doubt. Then the
great objection he had felt to allowing news of his
proximity to precede him to Weatherbury in the event of his
return, based on a feeling that knowledge of his present
occupation would discredit him still further in his wife's
eyes, returned in full force. Moreover, should he resolve
not to return at all, a tale of his being alive and being in
the neighbourhood would be awkward; and he was anxious to
acquire a knowledge of his wife's temporal affairs before
deciding which to do.