Part 2 out of 8
in the young fellow's voice; and after a pause, during which
some operation seemed to be intently watched by them both,
he exclaimed, "There, now, do you taste that."
"It's complete!--quite restored, or--well--nearly."
"Quite enough restored to make good seconds out of it," said
the Scotchman. "To fetch it back entirely is impossible;
Nature won't stand so much as that, but heere you go a great
way towards it. Well, sir, that's the process, I don't
value it, for it can be but of little use in countries where
the weather is more settled than in ours; and I'll be only
too glad if it's of service to you."
"But hearken to me," pleaded Henchard. "My business you
know, is in corn and in hay, but I was brought up as a hay-
trusser simply, and hay is what I understand best though I
now do more in corn than in the other. If you'll accept the
place, you shall manage the corn branch entirely, and
receive a commission in addition to salary."
"You're liberal--very liberal, but no, no--I cannet!" the
young man still replied, with some distress in his accents.
"So be it!" said Henchard conclusively. "Now--to change the
subject--one good turn deserves another; don't stay to
finish that miserable supper. Come to my house, I can find
something better for 'ee than cold ham and ale."
Donald Farfrae was grateful--said he feared he must decline--
that he wished to leave early next day.
"Very well," said Henchard quickly, "please yourself. But I
tell you, young man, if this holds good for the bulk, as it
has done for the sample, you have saved my credit, stranger
though you be. What shall I pay you for this knowledge?"
"Nothing at all, nothing at all. It may not prove necessary
to ye to use it often, and I don't value it at all. I
thought I might just as well let ye know, as you were in a
difficulty, and they were harrd upon ye."
Henchard paused. "I shan't soon forget this," he said.
"And from a stranger!...I couldn't believe you were not the
man I had engaged! Says I to myself, 'He knows who I am, and
recommends himself by this stroke.' And yet it turns out,
after all, that you are not the man who answered my
advertisement, but a stranger!"
"Ay, ay; that's so," said the young man.
Henchard again suspended his words, and then his voice came
thoughtfully: "Your forehead, Farfrae, is something like my
poor brother's--now dead and gone; and the nose, too, isn't
unlike his. You must be, what--five foot nine, I reckon? I
am six foot one and a half out of my shoes. But what of
that? In my business, 'tis true that strength and bustle
build up a firm. But judgment and knowledge are what keep
it established. Unluckily, I am bad at science, Farfrae;
bad at figures--a rule o' thumb sort of man. You are just
the reverse--I can see that. I have been looking for such
as you these two year, and yet you are not for me. Well,
before I go, let me ask this: Though you are not the young
man I thought you were, what's the difference? Can't ye stay
just the same? Have you really made up your mind about this
American notion? I won't mince matters. I feel you would be
invaluable to me--that needn't be said--and if you will bide
and be my manager, I will make it worth your while."
"My plans are fixed," said the young man, in negative tones.
"I have formed a scheme, and so we need na say any more
about it. But will you not drink with me, sir? I find this
Casterbridge ale warreming to the stomach."
"No, no; I fain would, but I can't," said Henchard gravely,
the scraping of his chair informing the listeners that he
was rising to leave. "When I was a young man I went in for
that sort of thing too strong--far too strong--and was well-
nigh ruined by it! I did a deed on account of it which I
shall be ashamed of to my dying day. It made such an
impression on me that I swore, there and then, that I'd
drink nothing stronger than tea for as many years as I was
old that day. I have kept my oath; and though, Farfrae, I
am sometimes that dry in the dog days that I could drink a
quarter-barrel to the pitching, I think o' my oath, and
touch no strong drink at all."
"I'll no' press ye, sir--I'll no' press ye. I respect your
"Well, I shall get a manager somewhere, no doubt," said
Henchard, with strong feeling in his tones. "But it will be
long before I see one that would suit me so well!"
The young man appeared much moved by Henchard's warm
convictions of his value. He was silent till they reached
the door. "I wish I could stay--sincerely I would like to,"
he replied. "But no--it cannet be! it cannet! I want to see
Thus they parted; and Elizabeth-Jane and her mother remained
each in her thoughts over their meal, the mother's face
being strangely bright since Henchard's avowal of shame for
a past action. The quivering of the partition to its core
presented denoted that Donald Farfrae had again rung his
bell, no doubt to have his supper removed; for humming a
tune, and walking up and down, he seemed to be attracted by
the lively bursts of conversation and melody from the
general company below. He sauntered out upon the landing,
and descended the staircase.
When Elizabeth-Jane had carried down his supper tray, and
also that used by her mother and herself, she found the
bustle of serving to be at its height below, as it always
was at this hour. The young woman shrank from having
anything to do with the ground-floor serving, and crept
silently about observing the scene--so new to her, fresh
from the seclusion of a seaside cottage. In the general
sitting-room, which was large, she remarked the two or three
dozen strong-backed chairs that stood round against the
wall, each fitted with its genial occupant; the sanded
floor; the black settle which, projecting endwise from the
wall within the door, permitted Elizabeth to be a spectator
of all that went on without herself being particularly seen.
The young Scotchman had just joined the guests. These, in
addition to the respectable master-tradesmen occupying the
seats of privileges in the bow-window and its neighbourhood,
included an inferior set at the unlighted end, whose seats
were mere benches against the wall, and who drank from cups
instead of from glasses. Among the latter she noticed some
of those personages who had stood outside the windows of the
Behind their backs was a small window, with a wheel
ventilator in one of the panes, which would suddenly start
off spinning with a jingling sound, as suddenly stop, and as
suddenly start again.
While thus furtively making her survey the opening words of
a song greeted her ears from the front of the settle, in a
melody and accent of peculiar charm. There had been some
singing before she came down; and now the Scotchman had made
himself so soon at home that, at the request of some of the
master-tradesmen, he, too, was favouring the room with a
Elizabeth-Jane was fond of music; she could not help pausing
to listen; and the longer she listened the more she was
enraptured. She had never heard any singing like this and
it was evident that the majority of the audience had not
heard such frequently, for they were attentive to a much
greater degree than usual. They neither whispered, nor
drank, nor dipped their pipe-stems in their ale to moisten
them, nor pushed the mug to their neighbours. The singer
himself grew emotional, till she could imagine a tear in his
eye as the words went on:--
"It's hame, and it's hame, hame fain would I be,
O hame, hame, hame to my ain countree!
There's an eye that ever weeps, and a fair face will be fain,
As I pass through Annan Water with my bonnie bands again;
When the flower is in the bud, and the leaf upon the tree,
The lark shall sing me hame to my ain countree!"
There was a burst of applause, and a deep silence which was
even more eloquent than the applause. It was of such a kind
that the snapping of a pipe-stem too long for him by old
Solomon Longways, who was one of those gathered at the shady
end of the room, seemed a harsh and irreverent act. Then
the ventilator in the window-pane spasmodically started off
for a new spin, and the pathos of Donald's song was
"'Twas not amiss--not at all amiss!" muttered Christopher
Coney, who was also present. And removing his pipe a
finger's breadth from his lips, he said aloud, "Draw on with
the next verse, young gentleman, please."
"Yes. Let's have it again, stranger," said the glazier, a
stout, bucket-headed man, with a white apron rolled up round
his waist. "Folks don't lift up their hearts like that in
this part of the world." And turning aside, he said in
undertones, "Who is the young man?--Scotch, d'ye say?"
"Yes, straight from the mountains of Scotland, I believe,"
Young Farfrae repeated the last verse. It was plain that
nothing so pathetic had been heard at the Three Mariners for
a considerable time. The difference of accent, the
excitability of the singer, the intense local feeling, and
the seriousness with which he worked himself up to a climax,
surprised this set of worthies, who were only too prone to
shut up their emotions with caustic words.
"Danged if our country down here is worth singing about like
that!" continued the glazier, as the Scotchman again
melodized with a dying fall, "My ain countree!" "When you
take away from among us the fools and the rogues, and the
lammigers, and the wanton hussies, and the slatterns, and
such like, there's cust few left to ornament a song with in
Casterbridge, or the country round."
"True," said Buzzford, the dealer, looking at the grain of
the table. "Casterbridge is a old, hoary place o'
wickedness, by all account. 'Tis recorded in history that
we rebelled against the King one or two hundred years ago,
in the time of the Romans, and that lots of us was hanged on
Gallows Hill, and quartered, and our different jints sent
about the country like butcher's meat; and for my part I can
well believe it."
"What did ye come away from yer own country for, young
maister, if ye be so wownded about it?" inquired Christopher
Coney, from the background, with the tone of a man who
preferred the original subject. "Faith, it wasn't worth
your while on our account, for as Maister Billy Wills says,
we be bruckle folk here--the best o' us hardly honest
sometimes, what with hard winters, and so many mouths to
fill, and Goda'mighty sending his little taties so terrible
small to fill 'em with. We don't think about flowers and
fair faces, not we--except in the shape o' cauliflowers and
"But, no!" said Donald Farfrae, gazing round into their
faces with earnest concern; "the best of ye hardly honest--
not that surely? None of ye has been stealing what didn't
belong to him?"
"Lord! no, no!" said Solomon Longways, smiling grimly.
"That's only his random way o' speaking. 'A was always such
a man of underthoughts." (And reprovingly towards
Christopher): "Don't ye be so over-familiar with a gentleman
that ye know nothing of--and that's travelled a'most from
the North Pole."
Christopher Coney was silenced, and as he could get no
public sympathy, he mumbled his feelings to himself: "Be
dazed, if I loved my country half as well as the young
feller do, I'd live by claning my neighbour's pigsties afore
I'd go away! For my part I've no more love for my country
than I have for Botany Bay!"
"Come," said Longways; "let the young man draw onward with
his ballet, or we shall be here all night."
"That's all of it," said the singer apologetically.
"Soul of my body, then we'll have another!" said the general
"Can you turn a strain to the ladies, sir?" inquired a fat
woman with a figured purple apron, the waiststring of which
was overhung so far by her sides as to be invisible.
"Let him breathe--let him breathe, Mother Cuxsom. He hain't
got his second wind yet," said the master glazier.
"Oh yes, but I have!" exclaimed the young man; and he at
once rendered "O Nannie" with faultless modulations, and
another or two of the like sentiment, winding up at their
earnest request with "Auld Lang Syne."
By this time he had completely taken possession of the
hearts of the Three Mariners' inmates, including even old
Coney. Notwithstanding an occasional odd gravity which
awoke their sense of the ludicrous for the moment, they
began to view him through a golden haze which the tone of
his mind seemed to raise around him. Casterbridge had
sentiment--Casterbridge had romance; but this stranger's
sentiment was of differing quality. Or rather, perhaps, the
difference was mainly superficial; he was to them like the
poet of a new school who takes his contemporaries by storm;
who is not really new, but is the first to articulate what
all his listeners have felt, though but dumbly till then.
The silent landlord came and leant over the settle while the
young man sang; and even Mrs. Stannidge managed to unstick
herself from the framework of her chair in the bar and get
as far as the door-post, which movement she accomplished by
rolling herself round, as a cask is trundled on the chine by
a drayman without losing much of its perpendicular.
"And are you going to bide in Casterbridge, sir?" she asked.
"Ah--no!" said the Scotchman, with melancholy fatality in
his voice, "I'm only passing thirrough! I am on my way to
Bristol, and on frae there to foreign parts."
"We be truly sorry to hear it," said Solomon Longways. "We
can ill afford to lose tuneful wynd-pipes like yours when
they fall among us. And verily, to mak' acquaintance with a
man a-come from so far, from the land o' perpetual snow, as
we may say, where wolves and wild boars and other dangerous
animalcules be as common as blackbirds here-about--why, 'tis
a thing we can't do every day; and there's good sound
information for bide-at-homes like we when such a man opens
"Nay, but ye mistake my country," said the young man,
looking round upon them with tragic fixity, till his eye
lighted up and his cheek kindled with a sudden enthusiasm to
right their errors. "There are not perpetual snow and
wolves at all in it!--except snow in winter, and--well--a
little in summer just sometimes, and a 'gaberlunzie' or two
stalking about here and there, if ye may call them
dangerous. Eh, but you should take a summer jarreny to
Edinboro', and Arthur's Seat, and all round there, and then
go on to the lochs, and all the Highland scenery--in May and
June--and you would never say 'tis the land of wolves and
"Of course not--it stands to reason," said Buzzford. "'Tis
barren ignorance that leads to such words. He's a simple
home-spun man, that never was fit for good company--think
nothing of him, sir."
"And do ye carry your flock bed, and your quilt, and your
crock, and your bit of chiney? or do ye go in bare bones, as
I may say?" inquired Christopher Coney.
"I've sent on my luggage--though it isn't much; for the
voyage is long." Donald's eyes dropped into a remote gaze as
he added: "But I said to myself, 'Never a one of the prizes
of life will I come by unless I undertake it!' and I decided
A general sense of regret, in which Elizabeth-Jane shared
not least, made itself apparent in the company. As she
looked at Farfrae from the back of the settle she decided
that his statements showed him to be no less thoughtful than
his fascinating melodies revealed him to be cordial and
impassioned. She admired the serious light in which he
looked at serious things. He had seen no jest in
ambiguities and roguery, as the Casterbridge toss-pots had
done; and rightly not--there was none. She disliked those
wretched humours of Christopher Coney and his tribe; and he
did not appreciate them. He seemed to feel exactly as she
felt about life and its surroundings--that they were a
tragical rather than a comical thing; that though one could
be gay on occasion, moments of gaiety were interludes, and
no part of the actual drama. It was extraordinary how
similar their views were.
Though it was still early the young Scotchman expressed his
wish to retire, whereupon the landlady whispered to
Elizabeth to run upstairs and turn down his bed. She took a
candlestick and proceeded on her mission, which was the act
of a few moments only. When, candle in hand, she reached
the top of the stairs on her way down again, Mr. Farfrae was
at the foot coming up. She could not very well retreat;
they met and passed in the turn of the staircase.
She must have appeared interesting in some way--not-
withstanding her plain dress--or rather, possibly, in
consequence of it, for she was a girl characterized by
earnestness and soberness of mien, with which simple drapery
accorded well. Her face flushed, too, at the slight
awkwardness of the meeting, and she passed him with her eyes
bent on the candle-flame that she carried just below her
nose. Thus it happened that when confronting her he smiled;
and then, with the manner of a temporarily light-hearted
man, who has started himself on a flight of song whose
momentum he cannot readily check, he softly tuned an old
ditty that she seemed to suggest--
"As I came in by my bower door,
As day was waxin' wearie,
Oh wha came tripping down the stair
But bonnie Peg my dearie."
Elizabeth-Jane, rather disconcerted, hastened on; and the
Scotchman's voice died away, humming more of the same within
the closed door of his room.
Here the scene and sentiment ended for the present. When
soon after, the girl rejoined her mother, the latter was
still in thought--on quite another matter than a young man's
"We've made a mistake," she whispered (that the Scotch-man
might not overhear). "On no account ought ye to have helped
serve here to-night. Not because of ourselves, but for the
sake of him. If he should befriend us, and take us up, and
then find out what you did when staying here, 'twould grieve
and wound his natural pride as Mayor of the town."
Elizabeth, who would perhaps have been more alarmed at this
than her mother had she known the real relationship, was not
much disturbed about it as things stood. Her "he" was
another man than her poor mother's. "For myself," she said,
"I didn't at all mind waiting a little upon him. He's so
respectable, and educated--far above the rest of 'em in the
inn. They thought him very simple not to know their grim
broad way of talking about themselves here. But of course
he didn't know--he was too refined in his mind to know such
things!" Thus she earnestly pleaded.
Meanwhile, the "he" of her mother was not so far away as
even they thought. After leaving the Three Mariners he had
sauntered up and down the empty High Street, passing and
repassing the inn in his promenade. When the Scotchman sang
his voice had reached Henchard's ears through the heart-
shaped holes in the window-shutters, and had led him to
pause outside them a long while.
"To be sure, to be sure, how that fellow does draw me!" he
had said to himself. "I suppose 'tis because I'm so lonely.
I'd have given him a third share in the business to have
When Elizabeth-Jane opened the hinged casement next morning
the mellow air brought in the feel of imminent autumn almost
as distinctly as if she had been in the remotest hamlet.
Casterbridge was the complement of the rural life around,
not its urban opposite. Bees and butterflies in the
cornfields at the top of the town, who desired to get to the
meads at the bottom, took no circuitous course, but flew
straight down High Street without any apparent consciousness
that they were traversing strange latitudes. And in autumn
airy spheres of thistledown floated into the same street,
lodged upon the shop fronts, blew into drains, and
innumerable tawny and yellow leaves skimmed along the
pavement, and stole through people's doorways into their
passages with a hesitating scratch on the floor, like the
skirts of timid visitors.
Hearing voices, one of which was close at hand, she withdrew
her head and glanced from behind the window-curtains. Mr.
Henchard--now habited no longer as a great personage, but as
a thriving man of business--was pausing on his way up the
middle of the street, and the Scotchman was looking from the
window adjoining her own. Henchard it appeared, had gone a
little way past the inn before he had noticed his
acquaintance of the previous evening. He came back a few
steps, Donald Farfrae opening the window further.
"And you are off soon, I suppose?" said Henchard upwards.
"Yes--almost this moment, sir," said the other. "Maybe I'll
walk on till the coach makes up on me."
"The way ye are going."
"Then shall we walk together to the top o' town?"
"If ye'll wait a minute," said the Scotchman.
In a few minutes the latter emerged, bag in hand. Henchard
looked at the bag as at an enemy. It showed there was no
mistake about the young man's departure. "Ah, my lad," he
said, "you should have been a wise man, and have stayed with
"Yes, yes--it might have been wiser," said Donald, looking
microscopically at the houses that were furthest off. "It
is only telling ye the truth when I say my plans are vague."
They had by this time passed on from the precincts of the
inn, and Elizabeth-Jane heard no more. She saw that they
continued in conversation, Henchard turning to the other
occasionally, and emphasizing some remark with a gesture.
Thus they passed the King's Arms Hotel, the Market House,
St. Peter's churchyard wall, ascending to the upper end of
the long street till they were small as two grains of corn;
when they bent suddenly to the right into the Bristol Road,
and were out of view.
"He was a good man--and he's gone," she said to herself. "I
was nothing to him, and there was no reason why he should
have wished me good-bye."
The simple thought, with its latent sense of slight, had
moulded itself out of the following little fact: when the
Scotchman came out at the door he had by accident glanced up
at her; and then he had looked away again without nodding,
or smiling, or saying a word.
"You are still thinking, mother," she said, when she turned
"Yes; I am thinking of Mr. Henchard's sudden liking for that
young man. He was always so. Now, surely, if he takes so
warmly to people who are not related to him at all, may he
not take as warmly to his own kin?"
While they debated this question a procession of five large
waggons went past, laden with hay up to the bedroom windows.
They came in from the country, and the steaming horses had
probably been travelling a great part of the night. To the
shaft of each hung a little board, on which was painted in
white letters, "Henchard, corn-factor and hay-merchant." The
spectacle renewed his wife's conviction that, for her
daughter's sake, she should strain a point to rejoin him.
The discussion was continued during breakfast, and the end
of it was that Mrs. Henchard decided, for good or for ill,
to send Elizabeth-Jane with a message to Henchard, to the
effect that his relative Susan, a sailor's widow, was in the
town; leaving it to him to say whether or not he would
recognize her. What had brought her to this determination
were chiefly two things. He had been described as a lonely
widower; and he had expressed shame for a past transaction
of his life. There was promise in both.
"If he says no," she enjoined, as Elizabeth-Jane stood,
bonnet on, ready to depart; "if he thinks it does not become
the good position he has reached to in the town, to own--to
let us call on him as--his distant kinfolk, say, 'Then, sir,
we would rather not intrude; we will leave Casterbridge as
quietly as we have come, and go back to our own
country.'...I almost feel that I would rather he did say so,
as I have not seen him for so many years, and we are so--
little allied to him!"
"And if he say yes?" inquired the more sanguine one.
"In that case," answered Mrs. Henchard cautiously, "ask him
to write me a note, saying when and how he will see us--or ME."
Elizabeth-Jane went a few steps towards the landing. "And
tell him," continued her mother, "that I fully know I have
no claim upon him--that I am glad to find he is thriving;
that I hope his life may be long and happy--there, go." Thus
with a half-hearted willingness, a smothered reluctance, did
the poor forgiving woman start her unconscious daughter on
It was about ten o'clock, and market-day, when Elizabeth
paced up the High Street, in no great hurry; for to herself
her position was only that of a poor relation deputed to
hunt up a rich one. The front doors of the private houses
were mostly left open at this warm autumn time, no thought
of umbrella stealers disturbing the minds of the placid
burgesses. Hence, through the long, straight, entrance
passages thus unclosed could be seen, as through tunnels,
the mossy gardens at the back, glowing with nasturtiums,
fuchsias, scarlet geraniums, "bloody warriors," snapdragons,
and dahlias, this floral blaze being backed by crusted grey
stone-work remaining from a yet remoter Casterbridge than
the venerable one visible in the street. The old-fashioned
fronts of these houses, which had older than old-fashioned
backs, rose sheer from the pavement, into which the bow
windows protruded like bastions, necessitating a pleasing
chassez-dechassez movement to the time-pressed pedestrian
at every few yards. He was bound also to evolve other
Terpsichorean figures in respect of door-steps, scrapers,
cellar-hatches, church buttresses, and the overhanging
angles of walls which, originally unobtrusive, had become
bow-legged and knock-kneed.
In addition to these fixed obstacles which spoke so
cheerfully of individual unrestraint as to boundaries,
movables occupied the path and roadway to a perplexing
extent. First the vans of the carriers in and out of
Casterbridge, who hailed from Mellstock, Weatherbury, The
Hintocks, Sherton-Abbas, Kingsbere, Overcombe, and many
other towns and villages round. Their owners were numerous
enough to be regarded as a tribe, and had almost
distinctiveness enough to be regarded as a race. Their vans
had just arrived, and were drawn up on each side of the
street in close file, so as to form at places a wall between
the pavement and the roadway. Moreover every shop pitched
out half its contents upon trestles and boxes on the kerb,
extending the display each week a little further and further
into the roadway, despite the expostulations of the two
feeble old constables, until there remained but a tortuous
defile for carriages down the centre of the street, which
afforded fine opportunities for skill with the reins. Over
the pavement on the sunny side of the way hung shopblinds so
constructed as to give the passenger's hat a smart buffet
off his head, as from the unseen hands of Cranstoun's Goblin
Page, celebrated in romantic lore.
Horses for sale were tied in rows, their forelegs on the
pavement, their hind legs in the street, in which position
they occasionally nipped little boys by the shoulder who
were passing to school. And any inviting recess in front of
a house that had been modestly kept back from the general
line was utilized by pig-dealers as a pen for their stock.
The yeomen, farmers, dairymen, and townsfolk, who came to
transact business in these ancient streets, spoke in other
ways than by articulation. Not to hear the words of your
interlocutor in metropolitan centres is to know nothing of
his meaning. Here the face, the arms, the hat, the stick,
the body throughout spoke equally with the tongue. To
express satisfaction the Casterbridge market-man added to
his utterance a broadening of the cheeks, a crevicing of the
eyes, a throwing back of the shoulders, which was
intelligible from the other end of the street. If he
wondered, though all Henchard's carts and waggons were
rattling past him, you knew it from perceiving the inside of
his crimson mouth, and a target-like circling of his eyes.
Deliberation caused sundry attacks on the moss of adjoining
walls with the end of his stick, a change of his hat from
the horizontal to the less so; a sense of tediousness
announced itself in a lowering of the person by spreading
the knees to a lozenge-shaped aperture and contorting the
arms. Chicanery, subterfuge, had hardly a place in the
streets of this honest borough to all appearance; and it was
said that the lawyers in the Court House hard by
occasionally threw in strong arguments for the other side
out of pure generosity (though apparently by mischance) when
advancing their own.
Thus Casterbridge was in most respects but the pole, focus,
or nerve-knot of the surrounding country life; differing
from the many manufacturing towns which are as foreign
bodies set down, like boulders on a plain, in a green world
with which they have nothing in common. Casterbridge lived
by agriculture at one remove further from the fountainhead
than the adjoining villages--no more. The townsfolk
understood every fluctuation in the rustic's condition, for
it affected their receipts as much as the labourer's; they
entered into the troubles and joys which moved the
aristocratic families ten miles round--for the same reason.
And even at the dinner-parties of the professional families
the subjects of discussion were corn, cattle-disease, sowing
and reaping, fencing and planting; while politics were
viewed by them less from their own standpoint of burgesses
with rights and privileges than from the standpoint of their
All the venerable contrivances and confusions which
delighted the eye by their quaintness, and in a measure
reasonableness, in this rare old market-town, were
metropolitan novelties to the unpractised eyes of Elizabeth-
Jane, fresh from netting fish-seines in a seaside cottage.
Very little inquiry was necessary to guide her footsteps.
Henchard's house was one of the best, faced with dull red-
and-grey old brick. The front door was open, and, as in
other houses, she could see through the passage to the end
of the garden--nearly a quarter of a mile off.
Mr. Henchard was not in the house, but in the store-yard.
She was conducted into the mossy garden, and through a door
in the wall, which was studded with rusty nails speaking of
generations of fruit-trees that had been trained there. The
door opened upon the yard, and here she was left to find him
as she could. It was a place flanked by hay-barns, into
which tons of fodder, all in trusses, were being packed from
the waggons she had seen pass the inn that morning. On
other sides of the yard were wooden granaries on stone
staddles, to which access was given by Flemish ladders, and
a store-house several floors high. Wherever the doors of
these places were open, a closely packed throng of bursting
wheat-sacks could be seen standing inside, with the air of
awaiting a famine that would not come.
She wandered about this place, uncomfortably conscious of
the impending interview, till she was quite weary of
searching; she ventured to inquire of a boy in what quarter
Mr. Henchard could be found. He directed her to an office
which she had not seen before, and knocking at the door she
was answered by a cry of "Come in."
Elizabeth turned the handle; and there stood before her,
bending over some sample-bags on a table, not the corn-
merchant, but the young Scotchman Mr. Farfrae--in the act of
pouring some grains of wheat from one hand to the other.
His hat hung on a peg behind him, and the roses of his
carpet-bag glowed from the corner of the room.
Having toned her feelings and arranged words on her lips for
Mr. Henchard, and for him alone, she was for the moment
"Yes, what it is?" said the Scotchman, like a man who
permanently ruled there.
She said she wanted to see Mr. Henchard.
"Ah, yes; will you wait a minute? He's engaged just now,"
said the young man, apparently not recognizing her as the
girl at the inn. He handed her a chair, bade her sit down
and turned to his sample-bags again. While Elizabeth-Jane
sits waiting in great amaze at the young man's presence we
may briefly explain how he came there.
When the two new acquaintances had passed out of sight that
morning towards the Bath and Bristol road they went on
silently, except for a few commonplaces, till they had gone
down an avenue on the town walls called the Chalk Walk,
leading to an angle where the North and West escarpments
met. From this high corner of the square earthworks a vast
extent of country could be seen. A footpath ran steeply
down the green slope, conducting from the shady promenade on
the walls to a road at the bottom of the scarp. It was by
this path the Scotchman had to descend.
"Well, here's success to 'ee," said Henchard, holding out
his right hand and leaning with his left upon the wicket
which protected the descent. In the act there was the
inelegance of one whose feelings are nipped and wishes
defeated. "I shall often think of this time, and of how you
came at the very moment to throw a light upon my
Still holding the young man's hand he paused, and then added
deliberately: "Now I am not the man to let a cause be lost
for want of a word. And before ye are gone for ever I'll
speak. Once more, will ye stay? There it is, flat and
plain. You can see that it isn't all selfishness that makes
me press 'ee; for my business is not quite so scientific as
to require an intellect entirely out of the common. Others
would do for the place without doubt. Some selfishness
perhaps there is, but there is more; it isn't for me to
repeat what. Come bide with me--and name your own terms.
I'll agree to 'em willingly and 'ithout a word of
gainsaying; for, hang it, Farfrae, I like thee well!"
The young man's hand remained steady in Henchard's for a
moment or two. He looked over the fertile country that
stretched beneath them, then backward along the shaded walk
reaching to the top of the town. His face flushed.
"I never expected this--I did not!" he said. "It's
Providence! Should any one go against it? No; I'll not go to
America; I'll stay and be your man!"
His hand, which had lain lifeless in Henchard's, returned
the latter's grasp.
"Done," said Henchard.
"Done," said Donald Farfrae.
The face of Mr. Henchard beamed forth a satisfaction that
was almost fierce in its strength. "Now you are my friend!"
he exclaimed. "Come back to my house; let's clinch it at
once by clear terms, so as to be comfortable in our minds."
Farfrae caught up his bag and retraced the North-West Avenue
in Henchard's company as he had come. Henchard was all
"I am the most distant fellow in the world when I don't care
for a man," he said. "But when a man takes my fancy he
takes it strong. Now I am sure you can eat another
breakfast? You couldn't have eaten much so early, even if
they had anything at that place to gi'e thee, which they
hadn't; so come to my house and we will have a solid,
staunch tuck-in, and settle terms in black-and-white if you
like; though my word's my bond. I can always make a good
meal in the morning. I've got a splendid cold pigeon-pie
going just now. You can have some home-brewed if you want
to, you know."
"It is too airly in the morning for that," said Farfrae with
"Well, of course, I didn't know. I don't drink it because
of my oath, but I am obliged to brew for my work-people."
Thus talking they returned, and entered Henchard's premises
by the back way or traffic entrance. Here the matter was
settled over the breakfast, at which Henchard heaped the
young Scotchman's plate to a prodigal fulness. He would not
rest satisfied till Farfrae had written for his luggage from
Bristol, and dispatched the letter to the post-office. When
it was done this man of strong impulses declared that his
new friend should take up his abode in his house--at least
till some suitable lodgings could be found.
He then took Farfrae round and showed him the place, and the
stores of grain, and other stock; and finally entered the
offices where the younger of them has already been
discovered by Elizabeth.
While she still sat under the Scotchman's eyes a man came up
to the door, reaching it as Henchard opened the door of the
inner office to admit Elizabeth. The newcomer stepped
forward like the quicker cripple at Bethesda, and entered in
her stead. She could hear his words to Henchard: "Joshua
Jopp, sir--by appointment--the new manager."
"The new manager!--he's in his office," said Henchard
"In his office!" said the man, with a stultified air.
"I mentioned Thursday," said Henchard; "and as you did not
keep your appointment, I have engaged another manager. At
first I thought he must be you. Do you think I can wait
when business is in question?"
"You said Thursday or Saturday, sir," said the newcomer,
pulling out a letter.
"Well, you are too late," said the corn-factor. "I can say
"You as good as engaged me," murmured the man.
"Subject to an interview," said Henchard. "I am sorry for
you--very sorry indeed. But it can't be helped."
There was no more to be said, and the man came out,
encountering Elizabeth-Jane in his passage. She could see
that his mouth twitched with anger, and that bitter
disappointment was written in his face everywhere.
Elizabeth-Jane now entered, and stood before the master of
the premises. His dark pupils--which always seemed to have
a red spark of light in them, though this could hardly be a
physical fact--turned indifferently round under his dark
brows until they rested on her figure. "Now then, what is
it, my young woman?" he said blandly.
"Can I speak to you--not on business, sir?" said she.
"Yes--I suppose." He looked at her more thoughtfully.
"I am sent to tell you, sir," she innocently went on, "that
a distant relative of yours by marriage, Susan Newson, a
sailor's widow, is in the town, and to ask whether you would
wish to see her."
The rich rouge-et-noir of his countenance underwent a
slight change. "Oh--Susan is--still alive?" he asked with
"Are you her daughter?"
"Yes, sir--her only daughter."
"What--do you call yourself--your Christian name?"
This at once suggested to Henchard that the transaction of
his early married life at Weydon Fair was unrecorded in the
family history. It was more than he could have expected.
His wife had behaved kindly to him in return for his
unkindness, and had never proclaimed her wrong to her child
or to the world.
"I am--a good deal interested in your news," he said. "And
as this is not a matter of business, but pleasure, suppose
we go indoors."
It was with a gentle delicacy of manner, surprising to
Elizabeth, that he showed her out of the office and through
the outer room, where Donald Farfrae was overhauling bins
and samples with the inquiring inspection of a beginner in
charge. Henchard preceded her through the door in the wall
to the suddenly changed scene of the garden and flowers, and
onward into the house. The dining-room to which he
introduced her still exhibited the remnants of the lavish
breakfast laid for Farfrae. It was furnished to profusion
with heavy mahogany furniture of the deepest red-Spanish
hues. Pembroke tables, with leaves hanging so low that they
well-nigh touched the floor, stood against the walls on legs
and feet shaped like those of an elephant, and on one lay
three huge folio volumes--a Family Bible, a "Josephus," and
a "Whole Duty of Man." In the chimney comer was a fire-grate
with a fluted semicircular back, having urns and festoons
cast in relief thereon, and the chairs were of the kind
which, since that day, has cast lustre upon the names of
Chippendale and Sheraton, though, in point of fact, their
patterns may have been such as those illustrious carpenters
never saw or heard of.
"Sit down--Elizabeth-Jane--sit down," he said, with a shake
in his voice as he uttered her name, and sitting down
himself he allowed his hands to hang between his knees while
he looked upon the carpet. "Your mother, then, is quite
"She is rather worn out, sir, with travelling."
"A sailor's widow--when did he die?"
"Father was lost last spring."
Henchard winced at the word "father," thus applied. "Do you
and she come from abroad--America or Australia?" he asked.
"No. We have been in England some years. I was twelve when
we came here from Canada."
"Ah; exactly." By such conversation he discovered the
circumstances which had enveloped his wife and her child in
such total obscurity that he had long ago believed them to
be in their graves. These things being clear, he returned
to the present. "And where is your mother staying?"
"At the Three Mariners."
"And you are her daughter Elizabeth-Jane?" repeated
Henchard. He arose, came close to her, and glanced in her
face. "I think," he said, suddenly turning away with a wet
eye, "you shall take a note from me to your mother. I
should like to see her....She is not left very well off by
her late husband?" His eye fell on Elizabeth's clothes,
which, though a respectable suit of black, and her very
best, were decidedly old-fashioned even to Casterbridge
"Not very well," she said, glad that he had divined this
without her being obliged to express it.
He sat down at the table and wrote a few lines, next taking
from his pocket-book a five-pound note, which he put in the
envelope with the letter, adding to it, as by an
afterthought, five shillings. Sealing the whole up
carefully, he directed it to "Mrs. Newson, Three Mariners
Inn," and handed the packet to Elizabeth.
"Deliver it to her personally, please," said Henchard.
"Well, I am glad to see you here, Elizabeth-Jane--very glad.
We must have a long talk together--but not just now."
He took her hand at parting, and held it so warmly that she,
who had known so little friendship, was much affected, and
tears rose to her aerial-grey eyes. The instant that she
was gone Henchard's state showed itself more distinctly;
having shut the door he sat in his dining-room stiffly
erect, gazing at the opposite wall as if he read his history
"Begad!" he suddenly exclaimed, jumping up. "I didn't think
of that. Perhaps these are impostors--and Susan and the
child dead after all!"
However, a something in Elizabeth-Jane soon assured him
that, as regarded her, at least, there could be little
doubt. And a few hours would settle the question of her
mother's identity; for he had arranged in his note to see
her that evening.
"It never rains but it pours!" said Henchard. His keenly
excited interest in his new friend the Scotchman was now
eclipsed by this event, and Donald Farfrae saw so little of
him during the rest of the day that he wondered at the
suddenness of his employer's moods.
In the meantime Elizabeth had reached the inn. Her mother,
instead of taking the note with the curiosity of a poor
woman expecting assistance, was much moved at sight of it.
She did not read it at once, asking Elizabeth to describe
her reception, and the very words Mr. Henchard used.
Elizabeth's back was turned when her mother opened the
letter. It ran thus:--
"Meet me at eight o'clock this evening, if you can, at the
Ring on the Budmouth road. The place is easy to find. I
can say no more now. The news upsets me almost. The girl
seems to be in ignorance. Keep her so till I have seen you.
He said nothing about the enclosure of five guineas. The
amount was significant; it may tacitly have said to her that
he bought her back again. She waited restlessly for the
close of the day, telling Elizabeth-Jane that she was
invited to see Mr. Henchard; that she would go alone. But
she said nothing to show that the place of meeting was not
at his house, nor did she hand the note to Elizabeth.
The Ring at Casterbridge was merely the local name of one of
the finest Roman Amphitheatres, if not the very finest,
remaining in Britain.
Casterbridge announced old Rome in every street, alley, and
precinct. It looked Roman, bespoke the art of Rome,
concealed dead men of Rome. It was impossible to dig more
than a foot or two deep about the town fields and gardens
without coming upon some tall soldier or other of the
Empire, who had lain there in his silent unobtrusive rest
for a space of fifteen hundred years. He was mostly found
lying on his side, in an oval scoop in the chalk, like a
chicken in its shell; his knees drawn up to his chest;
sometimes with the remains of his spear against his arm, a
fibula or brooch of bronze on his breast or forehead, an urn
at his knees, a jar at his throat, a bottle at his mouth;
and mystified conjecture pouring down upon him from the eyes
of Casterbridge street boys and men, who had turned a moment
to gaze at the familiar spectacle as they passed by.
Imaginative inhabitants, who would have felt an
unpleasantness at the discovery of a comparatively modern
skeleton in their gardens, were quite unmoved by these hoary
shapes. They had lived so long ago, their time was so
unlike the present, their hopes and motives were so widely
removed from ours, that between them and the living there
seemed to stretch a gulf too wide for even a spirit to pass.
The Amphitheatre was a huge circular enclosure, with a notch
at opposite extremities of its diameter north and south.
From its sloping internal form it might have been called the
spittoon of the Jotuns. It was to Casterbridge what the
ruined Coliseum is to modern Rome, and was nearly of the
same magnitude. The dusk of evening was the proper hour at
which a true impression of this suggestive place could be
received. Standing in the middle of the arena at that time
there by degrees became apparent its real vastness, which a
cursory view from the summit at noon-day was apt to obscure.
Melancholy, impressive, lonely, yet accessible from every
part of the town, the historic circle was the frequent spot
for appointments of a furtive kind. Intrigues were arranged
there; tentative meetings were there experimented after
divisions and feuds. But one kind of appointment--in itself
the most common of any--seldom had place in the
Amphitheatre: that of happy lovers.
Why, seeing that it was pre-eminently an airy, accessible,
and sequestered spot for interviews, the cheerfullest form
of those occurrences never took kindly to the soil of the
ruin, would be a curious inquiry. Perhaps it was because
its associations had about them something sinister. Its
history proved that. Apart from the sanguinary nature of
the games originally played therein, such incidents attached
to its past as these: that for scores of years the town-
gallows had stood at one corner; that in 1705 a woman who
had murdered her husband was half-strangled and then burnt
there in the presence of ten thousand spectators. Tradition
reports that at a certain stage of the burning her heart
burst and leapt out of her body, to the terror of them all,
and that not one of those ten thousand people ever cared
particularly for hot roast after that. In addition to these
old tragedies, pugilistic encounters almost to the death had
come off down to recent dates in that secluded arena,
entirely invisible to the outside world save by climbing to
the top of the enclosure, which few towns-people in the
daily round of their lives ever took the trouble to do. So
that, though close to the turnpike-road, crimes might be
perpetrated there unseen at mid-day.
Some boys had latterly tried to impart gaiety to the ruin by
using the central arena as a cricket-ground. But the game
usually languished for the aforesaid reason--the dismal
privacy which the earthen circle enforced, shutting out
every appreciative passer's vision, every commendatory
remark from outsiders--everything, except the sky; and to
play at games in such circumstances was like acting to an
empty house. Possibly, too, the boys were timid, for some
old people said that at certain moments in the summer time,
in broad daylight, persons sitting with a book or dozing in
the arena had, on lifting their eyes, beheld the slopes
lined with a gazing legion of Hadrian's soldiery as if
watching the gladiatorial combat; and had heard the roar of
their excited voices, that the scene would remain but a
moment, like a lightning flash, and then disappear.
It was related that there still remained under the south
entrance excavated cells for the reception of the wild
animals and athletes who took part in the games. The arena
was still smooth and circular, as if used for its original
purpose not so very long ago. The sloping pathways by which
spectators had ascended to their seats were pathways yet.
But the whole was grown over with grass, which now, at the
end of summer, was bearded with withered bents that formed
waves under the brush of the wind, returning to the
attentive ear aeolian modulations, and detaining for moments
the flying globes of thistledown.
Henchard had chosen this spot as being the safest from
observation which he could think of for meeting his long-
lost wife, and at the same time as one easily to be found by
a stranger after nightfall. As Mayor of the town, with a
reputation to keep up, he could not invite her to come to
his house till some definite course had been decided on.
Just before eight he approached the deserted earth-work and
entered by the south path which descended over the
debris of the former dens. In a few moments he could
discern a female figure creeping in by the great north gap,
or public gateway. They met in the middle of the arena.
Neither spoke just at first--there was no necessity for
speech--and the poor woman leant against Henchard, who
supported her in his arms.
"I don't drink," he said in a low, halting, apologetic
voice. "You hear, Susan?--I don't drink now--I haven't
since that night." Those were his first words.
He felt her bow her head in acknowledgment that she
understood. After a minute or two he again began:
"If I had known you were living, Susan! But there was every
reason to suppose you and the child were dead and gone. I
took every possible step to find you--travelled--advertised.
My opinion at last was that you had started for some colony
with that man, and had been drowned on your voyage. Why did
you keep silent like this?"
"O Michael! because of him--what other reason could there
be? I thought I owed him faithfulness to the end of one of
our lives--foolishly I believed there was something solemn
and binding in the bargain; I thought that even in honour I
dared not desert him when he had paid so much for me in good
faith. I meet you now only as his widow--I consider myself
that, and that I have no claim upon you. Had he not died I
should never have come--never! Of that you may be sure."
"Ts-s-s! How could you be so simple?"
"I don't know. Yet it would have been very wicked--if I had
not thought like that!" said Susan, almost crying.
"Yes--yes--so it would. It is only that which makes me feel
'ee an innocent woman. But--to lead me into this!"
"What, Michael?" she asked, alarmed.
"Why, this difficulty about our living together again, and
Elizabeth-Jane. She cannot be told all--she would so
despise us both that--I could not bear it!"
"That was why she was brought up in ignorance of you. I
could not bear it either."
"Well--we must talk of a plan for keeping her in her present
belief, and getting matters straight in spite of it. You
have heard I am in a large way of business here--that I am
Mayor of the town, and churchwarden, and I don't know what
"Yes," she murmured.
"These things, as well as the dread of the girl discovering
our disgrace, makes it necessary to act with extreme
caution. So that I don't see how you two can return openly
to my house as the wife and daughter I once treated badly,
and banished from me; and there's the rub o't."
"We'll go away at once. I only came to see--"
"No, no, Susan; you are not to go--you mistake me!" he said
with kindly severity. "I have thought of this plan: that
you and Elizabeth take a cottage in the town as the widow
Mrs. Newson and her daughter; that I meet you, court you,
and marry you. Elizabeth-Jane coming to my house as my
step-daughter. The thing is so natural and easy that it is
half done in thinking o't. This would leave my shady, head-
strong, disgraceful life as a young man absolutely unopened;
the secret would be yours and mine only; and I should have
the pleasure of seeing my own only child under my roof, as
well as my wife."
"I am quite in your hands, Michael," she said meekly. "I
came here for the sake of Elizabeth; for myself, if you tell
me to leave again to-morrow morning, and never come near you
more, I am content to go."
"Now, now; we don't want to hear that," said Henchard
gently. "Of course you won't leave again. Think over the
plan I have proposed for a few hours; and if you can't hit
upon a better one we'll adopt it. I have to be away for a
day or two on business, unfortunately; but during that time
you can get lodgings--the only ones in the town fit for you
are those over the china-shop in High Street--and you can
also look for a cottage."
"If the lodgings are in High Street they are dear, I
"Never mind--you MUST start genteel if our plan is to be
carried out. Look to me for money. Have you enough till I
"Quite," said she.
"And are you comfortable at the inn?"
"And the girl is quite safe from learning the shame of her
case and ours?--that's what makes me most anxious of all."
"You would be surprised to find how unlikely she is to dream
of the truth. How could she ever suppose such a thing?"
"I like the idea of repeating our marriage," said Mrs.
Henchard, after a pause. "It seems the only right course,
after all this. Now I think I must go back to Elizabeth-
Jane, and tell her that our kinsman, Mr. Henchard, kindly
wishes us to stay in the town."
"Very well--arrange that yourself. I'll go some way with
"No, no. Don't run any risk!" said his wife anxiously. "I
can find my way back--it is not late. Please let me go
"Right," said Henchard. "But just one word. Do you forgive
She murmured something; but seemed to find it difficult to
frame her answer.
"Never mind--all in good time," said he. "Judge me by my
He retreated, and stood at the upper side of the
Amphitheatre while his wife passed out through the lower
way, and descended under the trees to the town. Then
Henchard himself went homeward, going so fast that by the
time he reached his door he was almost upon the heels of the
unconscious woman from whom he had just parted. He watched
her up the street, and turned into his house.
On entering his own door after watching his wife out of
sight, the Mayor walked on through the tunnel-shaped passage
into the garden, and thence by the back door towards the
stores and granaries. A light shone from the office-window,
and there being no blind to screen the interior Henchard
could see Donald Farfrae still seated where he had left him,
initiating himself into the managerial work of the house by
overhauling the books. Henchard entered, merely observing,
"Don't let me interrupt you, if ye will stay so late."
He stood behind Farfrae's chair, watching his dexterity in
clearing up the numerical fogs which had been allowed to
grow so thick in Henchard's books as almost to baffle even
the Scotchman's perspicacity. The corn-factor's mien was
half admiring, and yet it was not without a dash of pity for
the tastes of any one who could care to give his mind to
such finnikin details. Henchard himself was mentally and
physically unfit for grubbing subtleties from soiled paper;
he had in a modern sense received the education of Achilles,
and found penmanship a tantalizing art.
"You shall do no more to-night," he said at length,
spreading his great hand over the paper. "There's time
enough to-morrow. Come indoors with me and have some
supper. Now you shall! I am determined on't." He shut the
account-books with friendly force.
Donald had wished to get to his lodgings; but he already saw
that his friend and employer was a man who knew no
moderation in his requests and impulses, and he yielded
gracefully. He liked Henchard's warmth, even if it
inconvenienced him; the great difference in their characters
adding to the liking.
They locked up the office, and the young man followed his
companion through the private little door which, admitting
directly into Henchard's garden, permitted a passage from
the utilitarian to the beautiful at one step. The garden
was silent, dewy, and full of perfume. It extended a long
way back from the house, first as lawn and flower-beds, then
as fruit-garden, where the long-tied espaliers, as old as
the old house itself, had grown so stout, and cramped, and
gnarled that they had pulled their stakes out of the ground
and stood distorted and writhing in vegetable agony, like
leafy Laocoons. The flowers which smelt so sweetly were not
discernible; and they passed through them into the house.
The hospitalities of the morning were repeated, and when
they were over Henchard said, "Pull your chair round to the
fireplace, my dear fellow, and let's make a blaze--there's
nothing I hate like a black grate, even in September." He
applied a light to the laid-in fuel, and a cheerful radiance
"It is odd," said Henchard, "that two men should meet as we
have done on a purely business ground, and that at the end
of the first day I should wish to speak to 'ee on a family
matter. But, damn it all, I am a lonely man, Farfrae: I
have nobody else to speak to; and why shouldn't I tell it to
"I'll be glad to hear it, if I can be of any service," said
Donald, allowing his eyes to travel over the intricate wood-
carvings of the chimney-piece, representing garlanded lyres,
shields, and quivers, on either side of a draped ox-skull,
and flanked by heads of Apollo and Diana in low relief.
"I've not been always what I am now," continued Henchard,
his firm deep voice being ever so little shaken. He was
plainly under that strange influence which sometimes prompts
men to confide to the new-found friend what they will not
tell to the old. "I began life as a working hay-trusser,
and when I was eighteen I married on the strength o' my
calling. Would you think me a married man?"
"I heard in the town that you were a widower."
"Ah, yes--you would naturally have heard that. Well, I lost
my wife nineteen years ago or so--by my own fault....This is
how it came about. One summer evening I was travelling for
employment, and she was walking at my side, carying the
baby, our only child. We came to a booth in a country fair.
I was a drinking man at that time."
Henchard paused a moment, threw himself back so that his
elbow rested on the table, his forehead being shaded by his
hand, which, however, did not hide the marks of
introspective inflexibility on his features as he narrated
in fullest detail the incidents of the transaction with the
sailor. The tinge of indifference which had at first been
visible in the Scotchman now disappeared.
Henchard went on to describe his attempts to find his wife;
the oath he swore; the solitary life he led during the years
which followed. "I have kept my oath for nineteen years,"
he went on; "I have risen to what you see me now."
"Well--no wife could I hear of in all that time; and being
by nature something of a woman-hater, I have found it no
hardship to keep mostly at a distance from the sex. No wife
could I hear of, I say, till this very day. And now--she
has come back."
"Come back, has she!"
"This morning--this very morning. And what's to be done?"
"Can ye no' take her and live with her, and make some
"That's what I've planned and proposed. But, Farfrae," said
Henchard gloomily, "by doing right with Susan I wrong
another innocent woman."
"Ye don't say that?"
"In the nature of things, Farfrae, it is almost impossible
that a man of my sort should have the good fortune to tide
through twenty years o' life without making more blunders
than one. It has been my custom for many years to run
across to Jersey in the the way of business, particularly in
the potato and root season. I do a large trade wi' them in
that line. Well, one autumn when stopping there I fell
quite ill, and in my illness I sank into one of those gloomy
fits I sometimes suffer from, on account o' the loneliness
of my domestic life, when the world seems to have the
blackness of hell, and, like Job, I could curse the day that
gave me birth."
"Ah, now, I never feel like it," said Farfrae.
"Then pray to God that you never may, young man. While in
this state I was taken pity on by a woman--a young lady I
should call her, for she was of good family, well bred, and
well educated--the daughter of some harum-scarum military
officer who had got into difficulties, and had his pay
sequestrated. He was dead now, and her mother too, and she
was as lonely as I. This young creature was staying at the
boarding-house where I happened to have my lodging; and when
I was pulled down she took upon herself to nurse me. From
that she got to have a foolish liking for me. Heaven knows
why, for I wasn't worth it. But being together in the same
house, and her feeling warm, we got naturally intimate. I
won't go into particulars of what our relations were. It is
enough to say that we honestly meant to marry. There arose
a scandal, which did me no harm, but was of course ruin to
her. Though, Farfrae, between you and me, as man and man, I
solemnly declare that philandering with womankind has
neither been my vice nor my virtue. She was terribly
careless of appearances, and I was perhaps more, because o'
my dreary state; and it was through this that the scandal
arose. At last I was well, and came away. When I was gone
she suffered much on my account, and didn't forget to tell
me so in letters one after another; till latterly, I felt I
owed her something, and thought that, as I had not heard of
Susan for so long, I would make this other one the only
return I could make, and ask her if she would run the risk
of Susan being alive (very slight as I believed) and marry
me, such as I was. She jumped for joy, and we should no
doubt soon have been married--but, behold, Susan appears!"
Donald showed his deep concern at a complication so far
beyond the degree of his simple experiences.
"Now see what injury a man may cause around him! Even after
that wrong-doing at the fair when I was young, if I had
never been so selfish as to let this giddy girl devote
herself to me over at Jersey, to the injury of her name, all
might now be well. Yet, as it stands, I must bitterly
disappoint one of these women; and it is the second. My
first duty is to Susan--there's no doubt about that."
"They are both in a very melancholy position, and that's
true!" murmured Donald.
"They are! For myself I don't care--'twill all end one way.
But these two." Henchard paused in reverie. "I feel I
should like to treat the second, no less than the first, as
kindly as a man can in such a case."
"Ah, well, it cannet be helped!" said the other, with
philosophic woefulness. "You mun write to the young lady,
and in your letter you must put it plain and honest that it
turns out she cannet be your wife, the first having come
back; that ye cannet see her more; and that--ye wish her
"That won't do. 'Od seize it, I must do a little more than
that! I must--though she did always brag about her rich
uncle or rich aunt, and her expectations from 'em--I must
send a useful sum of money to her, I suppose--just as a
little recompense, poor girl....Now, will you help me in
this, and draw up an explanation to her of all I've told ye,
breaking it as gently as you can? I'm so bad at letters."
"And I will."
"Now, I haven't told you quite all yet. My wife Susan has
my daughter with her--the baby that was in her arms at the
fair; and this girl knows nothing of me beyond that I am
some sort of relation by marriage. She has grown up in the
belief that the sailor to whom I made over her mother, and
who is now dead, was her father, and her mother's husband.
What her mother has always felt, she and I together feel
now--that we can't proclaim our disgrace to the girl by
letting her know the truth. Now what would you do?--I want
"I think I'd run the risk, and tell her the truth. She'll
forgive ye both."
"Never!" said Henchard. "I am not going to let her know the
truth. Her mother and I be going to marry again; and it
will not only help us to keep our child's respect, but it
will be more proper. Susan looks upon herself as the
sailor's widow, and won't think o' living with me as
formerly without another religious ceremony--and she's
Farfrae thereupon said no more. The letter to the young
Jersey woman was carefully framed by him, and the interview
ended, Henchard saying, as the Scotchman left, "I feel it a
great relief, Farfrae, to tell some friend o' this! You see
now that the Mayor of Casterbridge is not so thriving in his
mind as it seems he might be from the state of his pocket."
"I do. And I'm sorry for ye!" said Farfrae.
When he was gone Henchard copied the letter, and, enclosing
a cheque, took it to the post-office, from which he walked
"Can it be that it will go off so easily!" he said. "Poor
thing--God knows! Now then, to make amends to Susan!"
The cottage which Michael Henchard hired for his wife Susan
under her name of Newson--in pursuance of their plan--was in
the upper or western part of the town, near the Roman wall,
and the avenue which overshadowed it. The evening sun seemed
to shine more yellowly there than anywhere else this autumn--
stretching its rays, as the hours grew later, under the
lowest sycamore boughs, and steeping the ground-floor of the
dwelling, with its green shutters, in a substratum of
radiance which the foliage screened from the upper parts.
Beneath these sycamores on the town walls could be seen from
the sitting-room the tumuli and earth forts of the distant
uplands; making it altogether a pleasant spot, with the
usual touch of melancholy that a past-marked prospect lends.
As soon as the mother and daughter were comfortably
installed, with a white-aproned servant and all complete,
Henchard paid them a visit, and remained to tea. During the
entertainment Elizabeth was carefully hoodwinked by the very
general tone of the conversation that prevailed--a
proceeding which seemed to afford some humour to Henchard,
though his wife was not particularly happy in it. The visit
was repeated again and again with business-like
determination by the Mayor, who seemed to have schooled
himself into a course of strict mechanical rightness towards
this woman of prior claim, at any expense to the later one
and to his own sentiments.
One afternoon the daughter was not indoors when Henchard
came, and he said drily, "This is a very good opportunity
for me to ask you to name the happy day, Susan."
The poor woman smiled faintly; she did not enjoy
pleasantries on a situation into which she had entered
solely for the sake of her girl's reputation. She liked
them so little, indeed, that there was room for wonder why
she had countenanced deception at all, and had not bravely
let the girl know her history. But the flesh is weak; and
the true explanation came in due course.
"O Michael!" she said, "I am afraid all this is taking up
your time and giving trouble--when I did not expect any such
thing!" And she looked at him and at his dress as a man of
affluence, and at the furniture he had provided for the
room--ornate and lavish to her eyes.
"Not at all," said Henchard, in rough benignity. "This is
only a cottage--it costs me next to nothing. And as to
taking up my time"--here his red and black visage kindled
with satisfaction--"I've a splendid fellow to superintend my
business now--a man whose like I've never been able to lay
hands on before. I shall soon be able to leave everything
to him, and have more time to call my own than I've had for
these last twenty years."
Henchard's visits here grew so frequent and so regular that
it soon became whispered, and then openly discussed in
Casterbridge that the masterful, coercive Mayor of the town
was raptured and enervated by the genteel widow Mrs. Newson.
His well-known haughty indifference to the society of
womankind, his silent avoidance of converse with the sex,
contributed a piquancy to what would otherwise have been an
unromantic matter enough. That such a poor fragile woman
should be his choice was inexplicable, except on the ground
that the engagement was a family affair in which sentimental
passion had no place; for it was known that they were
related in some way. Mrs. Henchard was so pale that the
boys called her "The Ghost." Sometimes Henchard overheard
this epithet when they passed together along the Walks--as
the avenues on the walls were named--at which his face would
darken with an expression of destructiveness towards the
speakers ominous to see; but he said nothing.
He pressed on the preparations for his union, or rather
reunion, with this pale creature in a dogged, unflinching
spirit which did credit to his conscientiousness. Nobody
would have conceived from his outward demeanour that there
was no amatory fire or pulse of romance acting as stimulant
to the bustle going on in his gaunt, great house; nothing
but three large resolves--one, to make amends to his
neglected Susan, another, to provide a comfortable home for
Elizabeth-Jane under his paternal eye; and a third, to
castigate himself with the thorns which these restitutory
acts brought in their train; among them the lowering of his
dignity in public opinion by marrying so comparatively
humble a woman.
Susan Henchard entered a carriage for the first time in her
life when she stepped into the plain brougham which drew up
at the door on the wedding-day to take her and Elizabeth-
Jane to church. It was a windless morning of warm November
rain, which floated down like meal, and lay in a powdery
form on the nap of hats and coats. Few people had gathered
round the church door though they were well packed within.
The Scotchman, who assisted as groomsman, was of course the
only one present, beyond the chief actors, who knew the true
situation of the contracting parties. He, however, was too
inexperienced, too thoughtful, too judicial, too strongly
conscious of the serious side of the business, to enter into
the scene in its dramatic aspect. That required the special
genius of Christopher Coney, Solomon Longways, Buzzford, and
their fellows. But they knew nothing of the secret; though,
as the time for coming out of church drew on, they gathered
on the pavement adjoining, and expounded the subject
according to their lights.
"'Tis five-and-forty years since I had my settlement in this
here town," said Coney; "but daze me if I ever see a man
wait so long before to take so little! There's a chance even
for thee after this, Nance Mockridge." The remark was
addressed to a woman who stood behind his shoulder--the same
who had exhibited Henchard's bad bread in public when
Elizabeth and her mother entered Casterbridge.
"Be cust if I'd marry any such as he, or thee either,"
replied that lady. "As for thee, Christopher, we know what
ye be, and the less said the better. And as for he--well,
there--(lowering her voice) 'tis said 'a was a poor parish
'prentice--I wouldn't say it for all the world--but 'a was a
poor parish 'prentice, that began life wi' no more belonging
to 'en than a carrion crow."
"And now he's worth ever so much a minute," murmured
Longways. "When a man is said to be worth so much a minute,
he's a man to be considered!"
Turning, he saw a circular disc reticulated with creases,
and recognized the smiling countenance of the fat woman who
had asked for another song at the Three Mariners. "Well,
Mother Cuxsom," he said, "how's this? Here's Mrs. Newson, a
mere skellinton, has got another husband to keep her, while
a woman of your tonnage have not."
"I have not. Nor another to beat me....Ah, yes, Cuxsom's
gone, and so shall leather breeches!"
"Yes; with the blessing of God leather breeches shall go."
"'Tisn't worth my old while to think of another husband,"
continued Mrs. Cuxsom. "And yet I'll lay my life I'm as
respectable born as she."
"True; your mother was a very good woman--I can mind her.
She were rewarded by the Agricultural Society for having
begot the greatest number of healthy children without parish
assistance, and other virtuous marvels."
"'Twas that that kept us so low upon ground--that great
"Ay. Where the pigs be many the wash runs thin."
"And dostn't mind how mother would sing, Christopher?"
continued Mrs. Cuxsom, kindling at the retrospection; "and
how we went with her to the party at Mellstock, do ye mind?--
at old Dame Ledlow's, farmer Shinar's aunt, do ye mind?--
she we used to call Toad-skin, because her face were so
yaller and freckled, do ye mind?"
"I do, hee-hee, I do!" said Christopher Coney.
"And well do I--for I was getting up husband-high at that
time--one-half girl, and t'other half woman, as one may say.
And canst mind"--she prodded Solomon's shoulder with her
finger-tip, while her eyes twinkled between the crevices of
their lids--"canst mind the sherry-wine, and the zilver-
snuffers, and how Joan Dummett was took bad when we were
coming home, and Jack Griggs was forced to carry her through
the mud; and how 'a let her fall in Dairyman Sweet-apple's
cow-barton, and we had to clane her gown wi' grass--never
such a mess as a' were in?"
"Ay--that I do--hee-hee, such doggery as there was in them
ancient days, to be sure! Ah, the miles I used to walk then;
and now I can hardly step over a furrow!"
Their reminiscences were cut short by the appearance of the
reunited pair--Henchard looking round upon the idlers with
that ambiguous gaze of his, which at one moment seemed to
mean satisfaction, and at another fiery disdain.
"Well--there's a difference between 'em, though he do call
himself a teetotaller," said Nance Mockridge. "She'll wish
her cake dough afore she's done of him. There's a blue-
beardy look about 'en; and 'twill out in time."
"Stuff--he's well enough! Some folk want their luck
buttered. If I had a choice as wide as the ocean sea I
wouldn't wish for a better man. A poor twanking woman like
her--'tis a godsend for her, and hardly a pair of jumps or
night-rail to her name."
The plain little brougham drove off in the mist, and the
idlers dispersed. "Well, we hardly know how to look at
things in these times!" said Solomon. "There was a man
dropped down dead yesterday, not so very many miles from
here; and what wi' that, and this moist weather, 'tis scarce
worth one's while to begin any work o' consequence to-day.
I'm in such a low key with drinking nothing but small table
ninepenny this last week or two that I shall call and warm
up at the Mar'ners as I pass along."
"I don't know but that I may as well go with 'ee, Solomon,"
said Christopher; "I'm as clammy as a cockle-snail."
A Martinmas summer of Mrs. Henchard's life set in with her
entry into her husband's large house and respectable social
orbit; and it was as bright as such summers well can be.
Lest she should pine for deeper affection than he could give
he made a point of showing some semblance of it in external
action. Among other things he had the iron railings, that
had smiled sadly in dull rust for the last eighty years,
painted a bright green, and the heavy-barred, small-paned
Georgian sash windows enlivened with three coats of white.
He was as kind to her as a man, mayor, and churchwarden
could possibly be. The house was large, the rooms lofty,
and the landings wide; and the two unassuming women scarcely
made a perceptible addition to its contents.
To Elizabeth-Jane the time was a most triumphant one. The
freedom she experienced, the indulgence with which she was
treated, went beyond her expectations. The reposeful, easy,
affluent life to which her mother's marriage had introduced
her was, in truth, the beginning of a great change in
Elizabeth. She found she could have nice personal
possessions and ornaments for the asking, and, as the
mediaeval saying puts it, "Take, have, and keep, are
pleasant words." With peace of mind came development, and
with development beauty. Knowledge--the result of great
natural insight--she did not lack; learning, accomplishment--
those, alas, she had not; but as the winter and spring
passed by her thin face and figure filled out in rounder and
softer curves; the lines and contractions upon her young
brow went away; the muddiness of skin which she had looked
upon as her lot by nature departed with a change to
abundance of good things, and a bloom came upon her cheek.
Perhaps, too, her grey, thoughtful eyes revealed an arch
gaiety sometimes; but this was infrequent; the sort of
wisdom which looked from their pupils did not readily keep
company with these lighter moods. Like all people who have
known rough times, light-heartedness seemed to her too
irrational and inconsequent to be indulged in except as a
reckless dram now and then; for she had been too early
habituated to anxious reasoning to drop the habit suddenly.
She felt none of those ups and downs of spirit which beset
so many people without cause; never--to paraphrase a recent
poet--never a gloom in Elizabeth-Jane's soul but she well
knew how it came there; and her present cheerfulness was
fairly proportionate to her solid guarantees for the same.
It might have been supposed that, given a girl rapidly
becoming good-looking, comfortably circumstanced, and for
the first time in her life commanding ready money, she would
go and make a fool of herself by dress. But no. The
reasonableness of almost everything that Elizabeth did was
nowhere more conspicuous than in this question of clothes.
To keep in the rear of opportunity in matters of indulgence
is as valuable a habit as to keep abreast of opportunity in
matters of enterprise. This unsophisticated girl did it by
an innate perceptiveness that was almost genius. Thus she
refrained from bursting out like a water-flower that spring,
and clothing herself in puffings and knick-knacks, as most
of the Casterbridge girls would have done in her
circumstances. Her triumph was tempered by circumspection,
she had still that field-mouse fear of the coulter of
destiny despite fair promise, which is common among the
thoughtful who have suffered early from poverty and
"I won't be too gay on any account," she would say to
herself. "It would be tempting Providence to hurl mother
and me down, and afflict us again as He used to do."
We now see her in a black silk bonnet, velvet mantle or silk
spencer, dark dress, and carrying a sunshade. In this
latter article she drew the line at fringe, and had it plain
edged, with a little ivory ring for keeping it closed. It
was odd about the necessity for that sunshade. She
discovered that with the clarification of her complexion and
the birth of pink cheeks her skin had grown more sensitive
to the sun's rays. She protected those cheeks forthwith,
deeming spotlessness part of womanliness.
Henchard had become very fond of her, and she went out with
him more frequently than with her mother now. Her
appearance one day was so attractive that he looked at her
"I happened to have the ribbon by me, so I made it up," she
faltered, thinking him perhaps dissatisfied with some rather
bright trimming she had donned for the first time.
"Ay--of course--to be sure," he replied in his leonine way.
"Do as you like--or rather as your mother advises ye. 'Od
send--I've nothing to say to't!"
Indoors she appeared with her hair divided by a parting that
arched like a white rainbow from ear to ear. All in front
of this line was covered with a thick encampment of curls;
all behind was dressed smoothly, and drawn to a knob.
The three members of the family were sitting at breakfast
one day, and Henchard was looking silently, as he often did,
at this head of hair, which in colour was brown--rather
light than dark. "I thought Elizabeth-Jane's hair--didn't
you tell me that Elizabeth-Jane's hair promised to be black
when she was a baby?" he said to his wife.
She looked startled, jerked his foot warningly, and
murmured, "Did I?"
As soon as Elizabeth was gone to her own room Henchard
resumed. "Begad, I nearly forgot myself just now! What I
meant was that the girl's hair certainly looked as if it
would be darker, when she was a baby."
"It did; but they alter so," replied Susan.
"Their hair gets darker, I know--but I wasn't aware it
"O yes." And the same uneasy expression came out on her
face, to which the future held the key. It passed as
Henchard went on:
"Well, so much the better. Now Susan, I want to have her
called Miss Henchard--not Miss Newson. Lots o' people do it
already in carelessness--it is her legal name--so it may as
well be made her usual name--I don't like t'other name at
all for my own flesh and blood. I'll advertise it in the
Casterbridge paper--that's the way they do it. She won't
"No. O no. But--"
"Well, then, I shall do it," he said, peremptorily.
"Surely, if she's willing, you must wish it as much as I?"
"O yes--if she agrees let us do it by all means," she
Then Mrs. Henchard acted somewhat inconsistently; it might
have been called falsely, but that her manner was emotional
and full of the earnestness of one who wishes to do right at
great hazard. She went to Elizabeth-Jane, whom she found
sewing in her own sitting-room upstairs, and told her what
had been proposed about her surname. "Can you agree--is it
not a slight upon Newson--now he's dead and gone?"
Elizabeth reflected. "I'll think of it, mother," she
When, later in the day, she saw Henchard, she adverted to
the matter at once, in a way which showed that the line of
feeling started by her mother had been persevered in. "Do
you wish this change so very much, sir?" she asked.
"Wish it? Why, my blessed fathers, what an ado you women
make about a trifle! I proposed it--that's all. Now,
'Lizabeth-Jane, just please yourself. Curse me if I care
what you do. Now, you understand, don't 'ee go agreeing to
it to please me."
Here the subject dropped, and nothing more was said, and
nothing was done, and Elizabeth still passed as Miss Newson,
and not by her legal name.
Meanwhile the great corn and hay traffic conducted by
Henchard throve under the management of Donald Farfrae as it
had never thriven before. It had formerly moved in jolts;
now it went on oiled casters. The old crude viva voce
system of Henchard, in which everything depended upon his
memory, and bargains were made by the tongue alone, was
swept away. Letters and ledgers took the place of "I'll
do't," and "you shall hae't"; and, as in all such cases of
advance, the rugged picturesqueness of the old method
disappeared with its inconveniences.
The position of Elizabeth-Jane's room--rather high in the
house, so that it commanded a view of the hay-stores and
granaries across the garden--afforded her opportunity for
accurate observation of what went on there. She saw that
Donald and Mr. Henchard were inseparables. When walking
together Henchard would lay his arm familiarly on his
manager's shoulder, as if Farfrae were a younger brother,
bearing so heavily that his slight frame bent under the
weight. Occasionally she would hear a perfect cannonade of
laughter from Henchard, arising from something Donald had
said, the latter looking quite innocent and not laughing at
all. In Henchard's somewhat lonely life he evidently found
the young man as desirable for comradeship as he was useful
for consultations. Donald's brightness of intellect
maintained in the corn-factor the admiration it had won at
the first hour of their meeting. The poor opinion, and but
ill-concealed, that he entertained of the slim Farfrae's
physical girth, strength, and dash was more than
counterbalanced by the immense respect he had for his
Her quiet eye discerned that Henchard's tigerish affection
for the younger man, his constant liking to have Farfrae
near him, now and then resulted in a tendency to domineer,
which, however, was checked in a moment when Donald
exhibited marks of real offence. One day, looking down on
their figures from on high, she heard the latter remark, as
they stood in the doorway between the garden and yard, that
their habit of walking and driving about together rather
neutralized Farfrae's value as a second pair of eyes, which
should be used in places where the principal was not. "'Od
damn it," cried Henchard, "what's all the world! I like a
fellow to talk to. Now come along and hae some supper, and
don't take too much thought about things, or ye'll drive me
When she walked with her mother, on the other hand, she
often beheld the Scotchman looking at them with a curious
interest. The fact that he had met her at the Three
Mariners was insufficient to account for it, since on the
occasions on which she had entered his room he had never
raised his eyes. Besides, it was at her mother more
particularly than at herself that he looked, to Elizabeth-
Jane's half-conscious, simple-minded, perhaps pardonable,
disappointment. Thus she could not account for this
interest by her own attractiveness, and she decided that it
might be apparent only--a way of turning his eyes that Mr.
She did not divine the ample explanation of his manner,
without personal vanity, that was afforded by the fact of
Donald being the depositary of Henchard's confidence in
respect of his past treatment of the pale, chastened mother
who walked by her side. Her conjectures on that past never
went further than faint ones based on things casually heard
and seen--mere guesses that Henchard and her mother might
have been lovers in their younger days, who had quarrelled
Casterbridge, as has been hinted, was a place deposited in
the block upon a corn-field. There was no suburb in the
modern sense, or transitional intermixture of town and down.
It stood, with regard to the wide fertile land adjoining,
clean-cut and distinct, like a chess-board on a green
tablecloth. The farmer's boy could sit under his barley-mow
and pitch a stone into the office-window of the town-clerk;
reapers at work among the sheaves nodded to acquaintances
standing on the pavement-corner; the red-robed judge, when
he condemned a sheep-stealer, pronounced sentence to the
tune of Baa, that floated in at the window from the
remainder of the flock browsing hard by; and at executions
the waiting crowd stood in a meadow immediately before the
drop, out of which the cows had been temporarily driven to
give the spectators room.
The corn grown on the upland side of the borough was
garnered by farmers who lived in an eastern purlieu called
Durnover. Here wheat-ricks overhung the old Roman street,
and thrust their eaves against the church tower; green-
thatched barns, with doorways as high as the gates of
Solomon's temple, opened directly upon the main
thoroughfare. Barns indeed were so numerous as to alternate
with every half-dozen houses along the way. Here lived
burgesses who daily walked the fallow; shepherds in an
intra-mural squeeze. A street of farmers' homesteads--a
street ruled by a mayor and corporation, yet echoing with
the thump of the flail, the flutter of the winnowing-fan,
and the purr of the milk into the pails--a street which had
nothing urban in it whatever--this was the Durnover end of
Henchard, as was natural, dealt largely with this nursery or
bed of small farmers close at hand--and his waggons were
often down that way. One day, when arrangements were in
progress for getting home corn from one of the aforesaid
farms, Elizabeth-Jane received a note by hand, asking her to
oblige the writer by coming at once to a granary on Durnover
Hill. As this was the granary whose contents Henchard was
removing, she thought the request had something to do with
his business, and proceeded thither as soon as she had put
on her bonnet. The granary was just within the farm-yard,
and stood on stone staddles, high enough for persons to walk
under. The gates were open, but nobody was within.
However, she entered and waited. Presently she saw a figure
approaching the gate--that of Donald Farfrae. He looked up
at the church clock, and came in. By some unaccountable
shyness, some wish not to meet him there alone, she quickly
ascended the step-ladder leading to the granary door, and
entered it before he had seen her. Farfrae advanced,
imagining himself in solitude, and a few drops of rain
beginning to fall he moved and stood under the shelter where
she had just been standing. Here he leant against one of
the staddles, and gave himself up to patience. He, too, was
plainly expecting some one; could it be herself? If so, why?
In a few minutes he looked at his watch, and then pulled out
a note, a duplicate of the one she had herself received.
This situation began to be very awkward, and the longer she
waited the more awkward it became. To emerge from a door
just above his head and descend the ladder, and show she had
been in hiding there, would look so very foolish that she
still waited on. A winnowing machine stood close beside
her, and to relieve her suspense she gently moved the
handle; whereupon a cloud of wheat husks flew out into her
face, and covered her clothes and bonnet, and stuck into the
fur of her victorine. He must have heard the slight
movement for he looked up, and then ascended the steps.
"Ah--it's Miss Newson," he said as soon as he could see into
the granary. "I didn't know you were there. I have kept