Part 3 out of 8
the appointment, and am at your service."
"O Mr. Farfrae," she faltered, "so have I. But I didn't
know it was you who wished to see me, otherwise I--"
"I wished to see you? O no--at least, that is, I am afraid
there may be a mistake."
"Didn't you ask me to come here? Didn't you write this?"
Elizabeth held out her note.
"No. Indeed, at no hand would I have thought of it! And for
you--didn't you ask me? This is not your writing?" And he
held up his.
"By no means."
"And is that really so! Then it's somebody wanting to see us
both. Perhaps we would do well to wait a little longer."
Acting on this consideration they lingered, Elizabeth-Jane's
face being arranged to an expression of preternatural
composure, and the young Scot, at every footstep in the
street without, looking from under the granary to see if the
passer were about to enter and declare himself their
summoner. They watched individual drops of rain creeping
down the thatch of the opposite rick--straw after straw--
till they reached the bottom; but nobody came, and the
granary roof began to drip.
"The person is not likely to be coming," said Farfrae.
"It's a trick perhaps, and if so, it's a great pity to waste
our time like this, and so much to be done."
"'Tis a great liberty," said Elizabeth.
"It's true, Miss Newson. We'll hear news of this some day
depend on't, and who it was that did it. I wouldn't stand
for it hindering myself; but you, Miss Newson----"
"I don't mind--much,' she replied.
"Neither do I."
They lapsed again into silence. "You are anxious to get
back to Scotland, I suppose, Mr. Farfrae?" she inquired.
"O no, Miss Newson. Why would I be?"
"I only supposed you might be from the song you sang at the
Three Mariners--about Scotland and home, I mean--which you
seemed to feel so deep down in your heart; so that we all
felt for you."
"Ay--and I did sing there--I did----But, Miss Newson"--and
Donald's voice musically undulated between two semi-tones as
it always did when he became earnest--"it's well you feel a
song for a few minutes, and your eyes they get quite
tearful; but you finish it, and for all you felt you don't
mind it or think of it again for a long while. O no, I
don't want to go back! Yet I'll sing the song to you wi'
pleasure whenever you like. I could sing it now, and not
mind at all?"
"Thank you, indeed. But I fear I must go--rain or no."
"Ay! Then, Miss Newson, ye had better say nothing about this
hoax, and take no heed of it. And if the person should say
anything to you, be civil to him or her, as if you did not
mind it--so you'll take the clever person's laugh away." In
speaking his eyes became fixed upon her dress, still sown
with wheat husks. "There's husks and dust on you. Perhaps
you don't know it?" he said, in tones of extreme delicacy.
"And it's very bad to let rain come upon clothes when
there's chaff on them. It washes in and spoils them. Let
me help you--blowing is the best."
As Elizabeth neither assented nor dissented Donald Farfrae
began blowing her back hair, and her side hair, and her
neck, and the crown of her bonnet, and the fur of her
victorine, Elizabeth saying, "O, thank you," at every puff.
At last she was fairly clean, though Farfrae, having got
over his first concern at the situation, seemed in no manner
of hurry to be gone.
"Ah--now I'll go and get ye an umbrella," he said.
She declined the offer, stepped out and was gone. Farfrae
walked slowly after, looking thoughtfully at her diminishing
figure, and whistling in undertones, "As I came down through
At first Miss Newson's budding beauty was not regarded with
much interest by anybody in Casterbridge. Donald Farfrae's
gaze, it is true, was now attracted by the Mayor's so-called
step-daughter, but he was only one. The truth is that she
was but a poor illustrative instance of the prophet Baruch's
sly definition: "The virgin that loveth to go gay."
When she walked abroad she seemed to be occupied with an
inner chamber of ideas, and to have slight need for visible
objects. She formed curious resolves on checking gay
fancies in the matter of clothes, because it was
inconsistent with her past life to blossom gaudily the
moment she had become possessed of money. But nothing is
more insidious than the evolution of wishes from mere
fancies, and of wants from mere wishes. Henchard gave
Elizabeth-Jane a box of delicately-tinted gloves one spring
day. She wanted to wear them to show her appreciation of
his kindness, but she had no bonnet that would harmonize.
As an artistic indulgence she thought she would have such a
bonnet. When she had a bonnet that would go with the gloves
she had no dress that would go with the bonnet. It was now
absolutely necessary to finish; she ordered the requisite
article, and found that she had no sunshade to go with the
dress. In for a penny in for a pound; she bought the
sunshade, and the whole structure was at last complete.
Everybody was attracted, and some said that her bygone
simplicity was the art that conceals art, the "delicate
imposition" of Rochefoucauld; she had produced an effect, a
contrast, and it had been done on purpose. As a matter of
fact this was not true, but it had its result; for as soon
as Casterbridge thought her artful it thought her worth
notice. "It is the first time in my life that I have been
so much admired," she said to herself; "though perhaps it is
by those whose admiration is not worth having."
But Donald Farfrae admired her, too; and altogether the time
was an exciting one; sex had never before asserted itself in
her so strongly, for in former days she had perhaps been too
impersonally human to be distinctively feminine. After an
unprecedented success one day she came indoors, went
upstairs, and leant upon her bed face downwards quite
forgetting the possible creasing and damage. "Good Heaven,"
she whispered, "can it be? Here am I setting up as the town
When she had thought it over, her usual fear of exaggerating
appearances engendered a deep sadness. "There is something
wrong in all this," she mused. "If they only knew what an
unfinished girl I am--that I can't talk Italian, or use
globes, or show any of the accomplishments they learn at
boarding schools, how they would despise me! Better sell all
this finery and buy myself grammar-books and dictionaries
and a history of all the philosophies!"
She looked from the window and saw Henchard and Farfrae in
the hay-yard talking, with that impetuous cordiality on the
Mayor's part, and genial modesty on the younger man's, that
was now so generally observable in their intercourse.
Friendship between man and man; what a rugged strength there
was in it, as evinced by these two. And yet the seed that
was to lift the foundation of this friendship was at that
moment taking root in a chink of its structure.
It was about six o'clock; the men were dropping off homeward
one by one. The last to leave was a round-shouldered,
blinking young man of nineteen or twenty, whose mouth fell
ajar on the slightest provocation, seemingly because there
was no chin to support it. Henchard called aloud to him as
he went out of the gate, "Here--Abel Whittle!"
Whittle turned, and ran back a few steps. "Yes, sir," he
said, in breathless deprecation, as if he knew what was
"Once more--be in time to-morrow morning. You see what's to
be done, and you hear what I say, and you know I'm not going
to be trifled with any longer."
"Yes, sir." Then Abel Whittle left, and Henchard and
Farfrae; and Elizabeth saw no more of them.
Now there was good reason for this command on Henchard's
part. Poor Abel, as he was called, had an inveterate habit
of over-sleeping himself and coming late to his work. His
anxious will was to be among the earliest; but if his
comrades omitted to pull the string that he always tied
round his great toe and left hanging out the window for that
purpose, his will was as wind. He did not arrive in time.
As he was often second hand at the hay-weighing, or at the
crane which lifted the sacks, or was one of those who had to
accompany the waggons into the country to fetch away stacks
that had been purchased, this affliction of Abel's was
productive of much inconvenience. For two mornings in the
present week he had kept the others waiting nearly an hour;
hence Henchard's threat. It now remained to be seen what
would happen to-morrow.
Six o'clock struck, and there was no Whittle. At half-past
six Henchard entered the yard; the waggon was horsed that
Abel was to accompany; and the other man had been waiting
twenty minutes. Then Henchard swore, and Whittle coming up
breathless at that instant, the corn-factor turned on him,
and declared with an oath that this was the last time; that
if he were behind once more, by God, he would come and drag
him out o' bed.
"There is sommit wrong in my make, your worshipful!" said
Abel, "especially in the inside, whereas my poor dumb brain
gets as dead as a clot afore I've said my few scrags of
prayers. Yes--it came on as a stripling, just afore I'd got
man's wages, whereas I never enjoy my bed at all, for no
sooner do I lie down than I be asleep, and afore I be awake
I be up. I've fretted my gizzard green about it, maister,
but what can I do? Now last night, afore I went to bed, I
only had a scantling o' cheese and--"
"I don't want to hear it!" roared Henchard. "To-morrow the
waggons must start at four, and if you're not here, stand
clear. I'll mortify thy flesh for thee!"
"But let me clear up my points, your worshipful----"
Henchard turned away.
"He asked me and he questioned me, and then 'a wouldn't hear
my points!" said Abel, to the yard in general. "Now, I
shall twitch like a moment-hand all night to-night for fear
The journey to be taken by the waggons next day was a long
one into Blackmoor Vale, and at four o'clock lanterns were
moving about the yard. But Abel was missing. Before either
of the other men could run to Abel's and warn him Henchard
appeared in the garden doorway. "Where's Abel Whittle? Not
come after all I've said? Now I'll carry out my word, by my
blessed fathers--nothing else will do him any good! I'm
going up that way."
Henchard went off, entered Abel's house, a little cottage in
Back Street, the door of which was never locked because the
inmates had nothing to lose. Reaching Whittle's bedside the
corn-factor shouted a bass note so vigorously that Abel
started up instantly, and beholding Henchard standing over
him, was galvanized into spasmodic movements which had not
much relation to getting on his clothes.
"Out of bed, sir, and off to the granary, or you leave my
employ to-day! 'Tis to teach ye a lesson. March on; never
mind your breeches!"
The unhappy Whittle threw on his sleeve waistcoat, and
managed to get into his boots at the bottom of the stairs,
while Henchard thrust his hat over his head. Whittle then
trotted on down Back Street, Henchard walking sternly
Just at this time Farfrae, who had been to Henchard's house
to look for him, came out of the back gate, and saw
something white fluttering in the morning gloom, which he
soon perceived to be part of Abel's shirt that showed below
"For maircy's sake, what object's this?" said Farfrae,
following Abel into the yard, Henchard being some way in the
rear by this time.
"Ye see, Mr. Farfrae," gibbered Abel with a resigned smile
of terror, "he said he'd mortify my flesh if so be I didn't
get up sooner, and now he's a-doing on't! Ye see it can't be
helped, Mr. Farfrae; things do happen queer sometimes! Yes--
I'll go to Blackmoor Vale half naked as I be, since he do
command; but I shall kill myself afterwards; I can't outlive
the disgrace, for the women-folk will be looking out of
their winders at my mortification all the way along, and
laughing me to scorn as a man 'ithout breeches! You know how
I feel such things, Maister Farfrae, and how forlorn
thoughts get hold upon me. Yes--I shall do myself harm--I
feel it coming on!"
"Get back home, and slip on your breeches, and come to wark
like a man! If ye go not, you'll ha'e your death standing
"I'm afeard I mustn't! Mr. Henchard said----"
"I don't care what Mr. Henchard said, nor anybody else! 'Tis
simple foolishness to do this. Go and dress yourself
"Hullo, hullo!" said Henchard, coming up behind. "Who's
sending him back?"
All the men looked towards Farfrae.
"I am," said Donald. "I say this joke has been carried far
"And I say it hasn't! Get up in the waggon, Whittle."
"Not if I am manager," said Farfrae. "He either goes home,
or I march out of this yard for good."
Henchard looked at him with a face stern and red. But he
paused for a moment, and their eyes met. Donald went up to
him, for he saw in Henchard's look that he began to regret
"Come," said Donald quietly, "a man o' your position should
ken better, sir! It is tyrannical and no worthy of you."
"'Tis not tyrannical!" murmured Henchard, like a sullen boy.
"It is to make him remember!" He presently added, in a tone
of one bitterly hurt: "Why did you speak to me before them
like that, Farfrae? You might have stopped till we were
alone. Ah--I know why! I've told ye the secret o' my life--
fool that I was to do't--and you take advantage of me!"
"I had forgot it," said Farfrae simply.
Henchard looked on the ground, said nothing more, and turned
away. During the day Farfrae learnt from the men that
Henchard had kept Abel's old mother in coals and snuff all
the previous winter, which made him less antagonistic to the
corn-factor. But Henchard continued moody and silent, and
when one of the men inquired of him if some oats should be
hoisted to an upper floor or not, he said shortly, "Ask Mr.
Farfrae. He's master here!"
Morally he was; there could be no doubt of it. Henchard,
who had hitherto been the most admired man in his circle,
was the most admired no longer. One day the daughters of a
deceased farmer in Durnover wanted an opinion of the value
of their haystack, and sent a messenger to ask Mr. Farfrae
to oblige them with one. The messenger, who was a child,
met in the yard not Farfrae, but Henchard.
"Very well," he said. "I'll come."
"But please will Mr. Farfrae come?" said the child.
"I am going that way....Why Mr. Farfrae?" said Henchard,
with the fixed look of thought. "Why do people always want
"I suppose because they like him so--that's what they say."
"Oh--I see--that's what they say--hey? They like him because
he's cleverer than Mr. Henchard, and because he knows more;
and, in short, Mr. Henchard can't hold a candle to him--
"Yes--that's just it, sir--some of it."
"Oh, there's more? Of course there's more! What besides?
Come, here's a sixpence for a fairing."
"'And he's better tempered, and Henchard's a fool to him,'
they say. And when some of the women were a-walking home
they said, 'He's a diment--he's a chap o' wax--he's the
best--he's the horse for my money,' says they. And they
said, 'He's the most understanding man o' them two by long
chalks. I wish he was the master instead of Henchard,' they
"They'll talk any nonsense," Henchard replied with covered
gloom. "Well, you can go now. And I am coming to value the
hay, d'ye hear?--I." The boy departed, and Henchard
murmured, "Wish he were master here, do they?"
He went towards Durnover. On his way he overtook Farfrae.
They walked on together, Henchard looking mostly on the
"You're no yoursel' the day?" Donald inquired.
"Yes, I am very well," said Henchard.
"But ye are a bit down--surely ye are down? Why, there's
nothing to be angry about! 'Tis splendid stuff that we've
got from Blackmoor Vale. By the by, the people in Durnover
want their hay valued."
"Yes. I am going there."
"I'll go with ye."
As Henchard did not reply Donald practised a piece of music
sotto voce, till, getting near the bereaved people's
door, he stopped himself with--
"Ah, as their father is dead I won't go on with such as
that. How could I forget?"
"Do you care so very much about hurting folks' feelings?"
observed Henchard with a half sneer. "You do, I know--
"I am sorry if I have hurt yours, sir," replied Donald,
standing still, with a second expression of the same
sentiment in the regretfulness of his face. "Why should you
say it--think it?"
The cloud lifted from Henchard's brow, and as Donald
finished the corn-merchant turned to him, regarding his
breast rather than his face.
"I have been hearing things that vexed me," he said. "'Twas
that made me short in my manner--made me overlook what you
really are. Now, I don't want to go in here about this hay--
Farfrae, you can do it better than I. They sent for 'ee,
too. I have to attend a meeting of the Town Council at
eleven, and 'tis drawing on for't."
They parted thus in renewed friendship, Donald forbearing to
ask Henchard for meanings that were not very plain to him.
On Henchard's part there was now again repose; and yet,
whenever he thought of Farfrae, it was with a dim dread; and
he often regretted that he had told the young man his whole
heart, and confided to him the secrets of his life.
On this account Henchard's manner towards Farfrae insensibly
became more reserved. He was courteous--too courteous--and
Farfrae was quite surprised at the good breeding which now
for the first time showed itself among the qualities of a
man he had hitherto thought undisciplined, if warm and
sincere. The corn-factor seldom or never again put his arm
upon the young man's shoulder so as to nearly weigh him down
with the pressure of mechanized friendship. He left off
coming to Donald's lodgings and shouting into the passage.
"Hoy, Farfrae, boy, come and have some dinner with us! Don't
sit here in solitary confinement!" But in the daily routine
of their business there was little change.
Thus their lives rolled on till a day of public rejoicing
was suggested to the country at large in celebration of a
national event that had recently taken place.
For some time Casterbridge, by nature slow, made no
response. Then one day Donald Farfrae broached the subject
to Henchard by asking if he would have any objection to lend
some rick-cloths to himself and a few others, who
contemplated getting up an entertainment of some sort on the
day named, and required a shelter for the same, to which
they might charge admission at the rate of so much a head.
"Have as many cloths as you like," Henchard replied.
When his manager had gone about the business Henchard was
fired with emulation. It certainly had been very remiss of
him, as Mayor, he thought, to call no meeting ere this, to
discuss what should be done on this holiday. But Farfrae
had been so cursed quick in his movements as to give old-
fashioned people in authority no chance of the initiative.
However, it was not too late; and on second thoughts he
determined to take upon his own shoulders the responsibility
of organizing some amusements, if the other Councilmen would
leave the matter in his hands. To this they quite readily
agreed, the majority being fine old crusted characters who
had a decided taste for living without worry.
So Henchard set about his preparations for a really
brilliant thing--such as should be worthy of the venerable
town. As for Farfrae's little affair, Henchard nearly
forgot it; except once now and then when, on it coming into
his mind, he said to himself, "Charge admission at so much a
head--just like a Scotchman!--who is going to pay anything a
head?" The diversions which the Mayor intended to provide
were to be entirely free.
He had grown so dependent upon Donald that he could scarcely
resist calling him in to consult. But by sheer self-
coercion he refrained. No, he thought, Farfrae would be
suggesting such improvements in his damned luminous way that
in spite of himself he, Henchard, would sink to the position
of second fiddle, and only scrape harmonies to his manager's
Everybody applauded the Mayor's proposed entertainment,
especially when it became known that he meant to pay for it
Close to the town was an elevated green spot surrounded by
an ancient square earthwork--earthworks square and not
square, were as common as blackberries hereabout--a spot
whereon the Casterbridge people usually held any kind of
merry-making, meeting, or sheep-fair that required more
space than the streets would afford. On one side it sloped
to the river Froom, and from any point a view was obtained
of the country round for many miles. This pleasant upland
was to be the scene of Henchard's exploit.
He advertised about the town, in long posters of a pink
colour, that games of all sorts would take place here; and
set to work a little battalion of men under his own eye.
They erected greasy-poles for climbing, with smoked hams and
local cheeses at the top. They placed hurdles in rows for
jumping over; across the river they laid a slippery pole,
with a live pig of the neighbourhood tied at the other end,
to become the property of the man who could walk over and
get it. There were also provided wheelbarrows for racing,
donkeys for the same, a stage for boxing, wrestling, and
drawing blood generally; sacks for jumping in. Moreover,
not forgetting his principles, Henchard provided a mammoth
tea, of which everybody who lived in the borough was invited
to partake without payment. The tables were laid parallel
with the inner slope of the rampart, and awnings were
Passing to and fro the Mayor beheld the unattractive
exterior of Farfrae's erection in the West Walk, rick-cloths
of different sizes and colours being hung up to the arching
trees without any regard to appearance. He was easy in his
mind now, for his own preparations far transcended these.
The morning came. The sky, which had been remarkably clear
down to within a day or two, was overcast, and the weather
threatening, the wind having an unmistakable hint of water
in it. Henchard wished he had not been quite so sure about
the continuance of a fair season. But it was too late to
modify or postpone, and the proceedings went on. At twelve
o'clock the rain began to fall, small and steady, commencing
and increasing so insensibly that it was difficult to state
exactly when dry weather ended or wet established itself.
In an hour the slight moisture resolved itself into a
monotonous smiting of earth by heaven, in torrents to which
no end could be prognosticated.
A number of people had heroically gathered in the field but
by three o'clock Henchard discerned that his project was
doomed to end in failure. The hams at the top of the poles
dripped watered smoke in the form of a brown liquor, the pig
shivered in the wind, the grain of the deal tables showed
through the sticking tablecloths, for the awning allowed the
rain to drift under at its will, and to enclose the sides at
this hour seemed a useless undertaking. The landscape over
the river disappeared; the wind played on the tent-cords in
aeolian improvisations, and at length rose to such a pitch
that the whole erection slanted to the ground those who had
taken shelter within it having to crawl out on their hands
But towards six the storm abated, and a drier breeze shook
the moisture from the grass bents. It seemed possible to
carry out the programme after all. The awning was set up
again; the band was called out from its shelter, and ordered
to begin, and where the tables had stood a place was cleared
"But where are the folk?" said Henchard, after the lapse of
half-an-hour, during which time only two men and a woman had
stood up to dance. "The shops are all shut. Why don't they
"They are at Farfrae's affair in the West Walk," answered a
Councilman who stood in the field with the Mayor.
"A few, I suppose. But where are the body o 'em?"
"All out of doors are there."
"Then the more fools they!"
Henchard walked away moodily. One or two young fellows
gallantly came to climb the poles, to save the hams from
being wasted; but as there were no spectators, and the whole
scene presented the most melancholy appearance Henchard gave
orders that the proceedings were to be suspended, and the
entertainment closed, the food to be distributed among the
poor people of the town. In a short time nothing was left
in the field but a few hurdles, the tents, and the poles.
Henchard returned to his house, had tea with his wife and
daughter, and then walked out. It was now dusk. He soon
saw that the tendency of all promenaders was towards a
particular spot in the Walks, and eventually proceeded
thither himself. The notes of a stringed band came from the
enclosure that Farfrae had erected--the pavilion as he
called it--and when the Mayor reached it he perceived that a
gigantic tent had been ingeniously constructed without poles
or ropes. The densest point of the avenue of sycamores had
been selected, where the boughs made a closely interlaced
vault overhead; to these boughs the canvas had been hung,
and a barrel roof was the result. The end towards the wind
was enclosed, the other end was open. Henchard went round
and saw the interior.
In form it was like the nave of a cathedral with one gable
removed, but the scene within was anything but devotional.
A reel or fling of some sort was in progress; and the
usually sedate Farfrae was in the midst of the other dancers
in the costume of a wild Highlander, flinging himself about
and spinning to the tune. For a moment Henchard could not
help laughing. Then he perceived the immense admiration for
the Scotchman that revealed itself in the women's faces; and
when this exhibition was over, and a new dance proposed, and
Donald had disappeared for a time to return in his natural
garments, he had an unlimited choice of partners, every girl
being in a coming-on disposition towards one who so
thoroughly understood the poetry of motion as he.
All the town crowded to the Walk, such a delightful idea of
a ballroom never having occurred to the inhabitants before.
Among the rest of the onlookers were Elizabeth and her
mother--the former thoughtful yet much interested, her eyes
beaming with a longing lingering light, as if Nature had
been advised by Correggio in their creation. The dancing
progressed with unabated spirit, and Henchard walked and
waited till his wife should be disposed to go home. He did
not care to keep in the light, and when he went into the
dark it was worse, for there he heard remarks of a kind
which were becoming too frequent:
"Mr. Henchard's rejoicings couldn't say good morning to
this," said one. "A man must be a headstrong stunpoll to
think folk would go up to that bleak place to-day."
The other answered that people said it was not only in such
things as those that the Mayor was wanting. "Where would
his business be if it were not for this young fellow? 'Twas
verily Fortune sent him to Henchard. His accounts were like
a bramblewood when Mr. Farfrae came. He used to reckon his
sacks by chalk strokes all in a row like garden-palings,
measure his ricks by stretching with his arms, weigh his
trusses by a lift, judge his hay by a chaw, and settle the
price with a curse. But now this accomplished young man
does it all by ciphering and mensuration. Then the wheat--
that sometimes used to taste so strong o' mice when made
into bread that people could fairly tell the breed--Farfrae
has a plan for purifying, so that nobody would dream the
smallest four-legged beast had walked over it once. O yes,
everybody is full of him, and the care Mr. Henchard has to
keep him, to be sure!" concluded this gentleman.
"But he won't do it for long, good-now," said the other.
"No!" said Henchard to himself behind the tree. "Or if he
do, he'll be honeycombed clean out of all the character and
standing that he's built up in these eighteen year!"
He went back to the dancing pavilion. Farfrae was footing a
quaint little dance with Elizabeth-Jane--an old country
thing, the only one she knew, and though he considerately
toned down his movements to suit her demurer gait, the
pattern of the shining little nails in the soles of his
boots became familiar to the eyes of every bystander. The
tune had enticed her into it; being a tune of a busy,
vaulting, leaping sort--some low notes on the silver string
of each fiddle, then a skipping on the small, like running
up and down ladders--"Miss M'Leod of Ayr" was its name, so
Mr. Farfrae had said, and that it was very popular in his
It was soon over, and the girl looked at Henchard for
approval; but he did not give it. He seemed not to see her.
"Look here, Farfrae," he said, like one whose mind was
elsewhere, "I'll go to Port-Bredy Great Market to-morrow
myself. You can stay and put things right in your clothes-
box, and recover strength to your knees after your
vagaries." He planted on Donald an antagonistic glare that
had begun as a smile.
Some other townsmen came up, and Donald drew aside. "What's
this, Henchard," said Alderman Tubber, applying his thumb to
the corn-factor like a cheese-taster. "An opposition randy
to yours, eh? Jack's as good as his master, eh? Cut ye out
quite, hasn't he?"
"You see, Mr. Henchard," said the lawyer, another good-
natured friend, "where you made the mistake was in going so
far afield. You should have taken a leaf out of his book,
and have had your sports in a sheltered place like this.
But you didn't think of it, you see; and he did, and that's
where he's beat you."
"He'll be top-sawyer soon of you two, and carry all afore
him," added jocular Mr. Tubber.
"No," said Henchard gloomily. "He won't be that, because
he's shortly going to leave me." He looked towards Donald,
who had come near. "Mr. Farfrae's time as my manager is
drawing to a close--isn't it, Farfrae?"
The young man, who could now read the lines and folds of
Henchard's strongly-traced face as if they were clear verbal
inscriptions, quietly assented; and when people deplored the
fact, and asked why it was, he simply replied that Mr.
Henchard no longer required his help.
Henchard went home, apparently satisfied. But in the
morning, when his jealous temper had passed away, his heart
sank within him at what he had said and done. He was the
more disturbed when he found that this time Farfrae was
determined to take him at his word.
Elizabeth-Jane had perceived from Henchard's manner that in
assenting to dance she had made a mistake of some kind. In
her simplicity she did not know what it was till a hint from
a nodding acquaintance enlightened her. As the Mayor's
step-daughter, she learnt, she had not been quite in her
place in treading a measure amid such a mixed throng as
filled the dancing pavilion.
Thereupon her ears, cheeks, and chin glowed like live coals
at the dawning of the idea that her tastes were not good
enough for her position, and would bring her into disgrace.
This made her very miserable, and she looked about for her
mother; but Mrs. Henchard, who had less idea of
conventionality than Elizabeth herself, had gone away,
leaving her daughter to return at her own pleasure. The
latter moved on into the dark dense old avenues, or rather
vaults of living woodwork, which ran along the town
boundary, and stood reflecting.
A man followed in a few minutes, and her face being to-wards
the shine from the tent he recognized her. It was Farfrae--
just come from the dialogue with Henchard which had
signified his dismissal.
"And it's you, Miss Newson?--and I've been looking for ye
everywhere!" he said, overcoming a sadness imparted by the
estrangement with the corn-merchant. "May I walk on with
you as far as your street-corner?"
She thought there might be something wrong in this, but did
not utter any objection. So together they went on, first
down the West Walk, and then into the Bowling Walk, till
Farfrae said, "It's like that I'm going to leave you soon."
She faltered, "Why?"
"Oh--as a mere matter of business--nothing more. But we'll
not concern ourselves about it--it is for the best. I hoped
to have another dance with you."
She said she could not dance--in any proper way.
"Nay, but you do! It's the feeling for it rather than the
learning of steps that makes pleasant dancers....I fear I
offended your father by getting up this! And now, perhaps,
I'll have to go to another part o' the warrld altogether!"
This seemed such a melancholy prospect that Elizabeth-Jane
breathed a sigh--letting it off in fragments that he might
not hear her. But darkness makes people truthful, and the
Scotchman went on impulsively--perhaps he had heard her
"I wish I was richer, Miss Newson; and your stepfather had
not been offended, I would ask you something in a short
time--yes, I would ask you to-night. But that's not for
What he would have asked her he did not say, and instead of
encouraging him she remained incompetently silent. Thus
afraid one of another they continued their promenade along
the walls till they got near the bottom of the Bowling Walk;
twenty steps further and the trees would end, and the
street-corner and lamps appear. In consciousness of this
"I never found out who it was that sent us to Durnover
granary on a fool's errand that day," said Donald, in his
undulating tones. "Did ye ever know yourself, Miss Newson?"
"Never," said she.
"I wonder why they did it!"
"For fun, perhaps."
"Perhaps it was not for fun. It might have been that they
thought they would like us to stay waiting there, talking to
one another? Ay, well! I hope you Casterbridge folk will not
forget me if I go."
"That I'm sure we won't!" she said earnestly. "I--wish you
wouldn't go at all."
They had got into the lamplight. "Now, I'll think over
that," said Donald Farfrae. "And I'll not come up to your
door; but part from you here; lest it make your father more
They parted, Farfrae returning into the dark Bowling Walk,
and Elizabeth-Jane going up the street. Without any
consciousness of what she was doing she started running with
all her might till she reached her father's door. "O dear
me--what am I at?" she thought, as she pulled up breathless.
Indoors she fell to conjecturing the meaning of Farfrae's
enigmatic words about not daring to ask her what he fain
would. Elizabeth, that silent observing woman, had long
noted how he was rising in favour among the townspeople; and
knowing Henchard's nature now she had feared that Farfrae's
days as manager were numbered, so that the announcement gave
her little surprise. Would Mr. Farfrae stay in Casterbridge
despite his words and her father's dismissal? His occult
breathings to her might be solvable by his course in that
The next day was windy--so windy that walking in the garden
she picked up a portion of the draft of a letter on business
in Donald Farfrae's writing, which had flown over the wall
from the office. The useless scrap she took indoors, and
began to copy the calligraphy, which she much admired. The
letter began "Dear Sir," and presently writing on a loose
slip "Elizabeth-Jane," she laid the latter over "Sir,"
making the phrase "Dear Elizabeth-Jane." When she saw the
effect a quick red ran up her face and warmed her through,
though nobody was there to see what she had done. She
quickly tore up the slip, and threw it away. After this she
grew cool and laughed at herself, walked about the room, and
laughed again; not joyfully, but distressfully rather.
It was quickly known in Casterbridge that Farfrae and
Henchard had decided to dispense with each other.
Elizabeth-Jane's anxiety to know if Farfrae were going away
from the town reached a pitch that disturbed her, for she
could no longer conceal from herself the cause. At length
the news reached her that he was not going to leave the
place. A man following the same trade as Henchard, but on a
very small scale, had sold his business to Farfrae, who was
forthwith about to start as corn and hay merchant on his own
Her heart fluttered when she heard of this step of Donald's,
proving that he meant to remain; and yet, would a man who
cared one little bit for her have endangered his suit by
setting up a business in opposition to Mr. Henchard's?
Surely not; and it must have been a passing impulse only
which had led him to address her so softly.
To solve the problem whether her appearance on the evening
of the dance were such as to inspire a fleeting love at
first sight, she dressed herself up exactly as she had
dressed then--the muslin, the spencer, the sandals, the
para-sol--and looked in the mirror The picture glassed back
was in her opinion, precisely of such a kind as to inspire
that fleeting regard, and no more--"just enough to make him
silly, and not enough to keep him so," she said luminously;
and Elizabeth thought, in a much lower key, that by this
time he had discovered how plain and homely was the
informing spirit of that pretty outside.
Hence, when she felt her heart going out to him, she would
say to herself with a mock pleasantry that carried an ache
with it, "No, no, Elizabeth-Jane--such dreams are not for
you!" She tried to prevent herself from seeing him, and
thinking of him; succeeding fairly well in the former
attempt, in the latter not so completely.
Henchard, who had been hurt at finding that Farfrae did not
mean to put up with his temper any longer, was incensed
beyond measure when he learnt what the young man had done as
an alternative. It was in the town-hall, after a council
meeting, that he first became aware of Farfrae's coup
for establishing himself independently in the town; and his
voice might have been heard as far as the town-pump
expressing his feelings to his fellow councilmen. These
tones showed that, though under a long reign of self-control
he had become Mayor and churchwarden and what not, there was
still the same unruly volcanic stuff beneath the rind of
Michael Henchard as when he had sold his wife at Weydon
"Well, he's a friend of mine, and I'm a friend of his--or if
we are not, what are we? 'Od send, if I've not been his
friend, who has, I should like to know? Didn't he come here
without a sound shoe to his voot? Didn't I keep him here--
help him to a living? Didn't I help him to money, or
whatever he wanted? I stuck out for no terms--I said 'Name
your own price.' I'd have shared my last crust with that
young fellow at one time, I liked him so well. And now he's
defied me! But damn him, I'll have a tussle with him now--at
fair buying and selling, mind--at fair buying and selling!
And if I can't overbid such a stripling as he, then I'm not
wo'th a varden! We'll show that we know our business as well
as one here and there!"
His friends of the Corporation did not specially respond.
Henchard was less popular now than he had been when nearly
two years before, they had voted him to the chief magistracy
on account of his amazing energy. While they had
collectively profited by this quality of the corn-factor's
they had been made to wince individually on more than one
occasion. So he went out of the hall and down the street
Reaching home he seemed to recollect something with a sour
satisfaction. He called Elizabeth-Jane. Seeing how he
looked when she entered she appeared alarmed.
"Nothing to find fault with," he said, observing her
concern. "Only I want to caution you, my dear. That man,
Farfrae--it is about him. I've seen him talking to you two
or three times--he danced with 'ee at the rejoicings, and
came home with 'ee. Now, now, no blame to you. But just
harken: Have you made him any foolish promise? Gone the
least bit beyond sniff and snaff at all?"
"No. I have promised him nothing."
"Good. All's well that ends well. I particularly wish you
not to see him again."
"Very well, sir."
She hesitated for a moment, and then said--
"Yes, if you much wish it."
"I do. He's an enemy to our house!"
When she had gone he sat down, and wrote in a heavy hand to
SIR,--I make request that henceforth you and my step-
daughter be as strangers to each other. She on her part has
promised to welcome no more addresses from you; and I trust,
therefore, you will not attempt to force them upon her.
One would almost have supposed Henchard to have had policy
to see that no better modus vivendi could be arrived at
with Farfrae than by encouraging him to become his son-in-
law. But such a scheme for buying over a rival had nothing
to recommend it to the Mayor's headstrong faculties. With
all domestic finesse of that kind he was hopelessly at
variance. Loving a man or hating him, his diplomacy was as
wrongheaded as a buffalo's; and his wife had not ventured to
suggest the course which she, for many reasons, would have
Meanwhile Donald Farfrae had opened the gates of commerce on
his own account at a spot on Durnover Hill--as far as
possible from Henchard's stores, and with every intention of
keeping clear of his former friend and employer's customers.
There was, it seemed to the younger man, room for both of
them and to spare. The town was small, but the corn and
hay-trade was proportionately large, and with his native
sagacity he saw opportunity for a share of it.
So determined was he to do nothing which should seem like
trade-antagonism to the Mayor that he refused his first
customer--a large farmer of good repute--because Henchard
and this man had dealt together within the preceding three
"He was once my friend," said Farfrae, "and it's not for me
to take business from him. I am sorry to disappoint you,
but I cannot hurt the trade of a man who's been so kind to
In spite of this praiseworthy course the Scotchman's trade
increased. Whether it were that his northern energy was an
overmastering force among the easy-going Wessex worthies, or
whether it was sheer luck, the fact remained that whatever
he touched he prospered in. Like Jacob in Padan-Aram, he
would no sooner humbly limit himself to the ringstraked-and-
spotted exceptions of trade than the ringstraked-and-spotted
would multiply and prevail.
But most probably luck had little to do with it. Character
is Fate, said Novalis, and Farfrae's character was just the
reverse of Henchard's, who might not inaptly be described as
Faust has been described--as a vehement gloomy being who had
quitted the ways of vulgar men without light to guide him on
a better way.
Farfrae duly received the request to discontinue attentions
to Elizabeth-Jane. His acts of that kind had been so slight
that the request was almost superfluous. Yet he had felt a
considerable interest in her, and after some cogitation he
decided that it would be as well to enact no Romeo part just
then--for the young girl's sake no less than his own. Thus
the incipient attachment was stifled down.
A time came when, avoid collision with his former friend as
he might, Farfrae was compelled, in sheer self-defence, to
close with Henchard in mortal commercial combat. He could
no longer parry the fierce attacks of the latter by simple
avoidance. As soon as their war of prices began everybody
was interested, and some few guessed the end. It was, in
some degree, Northern insight matched against Southern
doggedness--the dirk against the cudgel--and Henchard's
weapon was one which, if it did not deal ruin at the first
or second stroke, left him afterwards well-nigh at his
Almost every Saturday they encountered each other amid the
crowd of farmers which thronged about the market-place in
the weekly course of their business. Donald was always
ready, and even anxious, to say a few friendly words, but
the Mayor invariably gazed stormfully past him, like one who
had endured and lost on his account, and could in no sense
forgive the wrong; nor did Farfrae's snubbed manner of
perplexity at all appease him. The large farmers, corn-
merchants, millers, auctioneers, and others had each an
official stall in the corn-market room, with their names
painted thereon; and when to the familiar series of
"Henchard," "Everdene," "Shiner," "Darton," and so on, was
added one inscribed "Farfrae," in staring new letters,
Henchard was stung into bitterness; like Bellerophon, he
wandered away from the crowd, cankered in soul.
From that day Donald Farfrae's name was seldom mentioned in
Henchard's house. If at breakfast or dinner Elizabeth-
Jane's mother inadvertently alluded to her favourite's
movements, the girl would implore her by a look to be
silent; and her husband would say, "What--are you, too, my
There came a shock which had been foreseen for some time by
Elizabeth, as the box passenger foresees the approaching
jerk from some channel across the highway.
Her mother was ill--too unwell to leave her room. Henchard,
who treated her kindly, except in moments of irritation,
sent at once for the richest, busiest doctor, whom he
supposed to be the best. Bedtime came, and they burnt a
light all night. In a day or two she rallied.
Elizabeth, who had been staying up, did not appear at
breakfast on the second morning, and Henchard sat down
alone. He was startled to see a letter for him from Jersey
in a writing he knew too well, and had expected least to
behold again. He took it up in his hands and looked at it
as at a picture, a vision, a vista of past enactments; and
then he read it as an unimportant finale to conjecture.
The writer said that she at length perceived how impossible
it would be for any further communications to proceed
between them now that his re-marriage had taken place. That
such reunion had been the only straightforward course open
to him she was bound to admit.
"On calm reflection, therefore," she went on, "I quite
forgive you for landing me in such a dilemma, remembering
that you concealed nothing before our ill-advised
acquaintance; and that you really did set before me in your
grim way the fact of there being a certain risk in intimacy
with you, slight as it seemed to be after fifteen or sixteen
years of silence on your wife's part. I thus look upon the
whole as a misfortune of mine, and not a fault of yours.
"So that, Michael, I must ask you to overlook those letters
with which I pestered you day after day in the heat of my
feelings. They were written whilst I thought your conduct
to me cruel; but now I know more particulars of the position
you were in I see how inconsiderate my reproaches were.
"Now you will, I am sure, perceive that the one condition
which will make any future happiness possible for me is that
the past connection between our lives be kept secret outside
this isle. Speak of it I know you will not; and I can trust
you not to write of it. One safe-guard more remains to be
mentioned--that no writings of mine, or trifling articles
belonging to me, should be left in your possession through
neglect or forgetfulness. To this end may I request you to
return to me any such you may have, particularly the letters
written in the first abandonment of feeling.
"For the handsome sum you forwarded to me as a plaster to
the wound I heartily thank you.
"I am now on my way to Bristol, to see my only relative.
She is rich, and I hope will do something for me. I shall
return through Casterbridge and Budmouth, where I shall take
the packet-boat. Can you meet me with the letters and other
trifles? I shall be in the coach which changes horses at the
Antelope Hotel at half-past five Wednesday evening; I shall
be wearing a Paisley shawl with a red centre, and thus may
easily be found. I should prefer this plan of receiving
them to having them sent.--I remain still, yours; ever,
Henchard breathed heavily. "Poor thing--better you had not
known me! Upon my heart and soul, if ever I should be left
in a position to carry out that marriage with thee, I
OUGHT to do it--I ought to do it, indeed!"
The contingency that he had in his mind was, of course, the
death of Mrs. Henchard.
As requested, he sealed up Lucetta's letters, and put the
parcel aside till the day she had appointed; this plan of
returning them by hand being apparently a little ruse of
the young lady for exchanging a word or two with him on past
times. He would have preferred not to see her; but deeming
that there could be no great harm in acquiescing thus far,
he went at dusk and stood opposite the coach-office.
The evening was chilly, and the coach was late. Henchard
crossed over to it while the horses were being changed; but
there was no Lucetta inside or out. Concluding that
something had happened to modify her arrangements he gave
the matter up and went home, not without a sense of relief.
Meanwhile Mrs. Henchard was weakening visibly. She could
not go out of doors any more. One day, after much thinking
which seemed to distress her, she said she wanted to write
something. A desk was put upon her bed with pen and paper,
and at her request she was left alone. She remained writing
for a short time, folded her paper carefully, called
Elizabeth-Jane to bring a taper and wax, and then, still
refusing assistance, sealed up the sheet, directed it, and
locked it in her desk. She had directed it in these words:--
"MR. MICHAEL HENCHARD. NOT TO BE OPENED TILL ELIZABETH-
The latter sat up with her mother to the utmost of her
strength night after night. To learn to take the universe
seriously there is no quicker way than to watch--to be a
"waker," as the country-people call it. Between the hours
at which the last toss-pot went by and the first sparrow
shook himself, the silence in Casterbridge--barring the rare
sound of the watchman--was broken in Elizabeth's ear only by
the time-piece in the bedroom ticking frantically against
the clock on the stairs; ticking harder and harder till it
seemed to clang like a gong; and all this while the subtle-
souled girl asking herself why she was born, why sitting in
a room, and blinking at the candle; why things around her
had taken the shape they wore in preference to every other
possible shape. Why they stared at her so helplessly, as if
waiting for the touch of some wand that should release them
from terrestrial constraint; what that chaos called
consciousness, which spun in her at this moment like a top,
tended to, and began in. Her eyes fell together; she was
awake, yet she was asleep.
A word from her mother roused her. Without preface, and as
the continuation of a scene already progressing in her mind,
Mrs. Henchard said: "You remember the note sent to you and
Mr. Farfrae--asking you to meet some one in Durnover Barton--
and that you thought it was a trick to make fools of you?"
"It was not to make fools of you--it was done to bring you
together. 'Twas I did it."
"Why?" said Elizabeth, with a start.
"I--wanted you to marry Mr. Farfrae."
"O mother!" Elizabeth-Jane bent down her head so much that
she looked quite into her own lap. But as her mother did
not go on, she said, "What reason?"
"Well, I had a reason. 'Twill out one day. I wish it could
have been in my time! But there--nothing is as you wish it!
Henchard hates him."
"Perhaps they'll be friends again," murmured the girl.
"I don't know--I don't know." After this her mother was
silent, and dozed; and she spoke on the subject no more.
Some little time later on Farfrae was passing Henchard's
house on a Sunday morning, when he observed that the blinds
were all down. He rang the bell so softly that it only
sounded a single full note and a small one; and then he was
informed that Mrs. Henchard was dead--just dead--that very
At the town-pump there were gathered when he passed a few
old inhabitants, who came there for water whenever they had,
as at present, spare time to fetch it, because it was purer
from that original fount than from their own wells. Mrs.
Cuxsom, who had been standing there for an indefinite time
with her pitcher, was describing the incidents of Mrs.
Henchard's death, as she had learnt them from the nurse.
"And she was white as marble-stone," said Mrs. Cuxsom. "And
likewise such a thoughtful woman, too--ah, poor soul--that
a' minded every little thing that wanted tending. 'Yes,'
says she, 'when I'm gone, and my last breath's blowed, look
in the top drawer o' the chest in the back room by the
window, and you'll find all my coffin clothes, a piece of
flannel--that's to put under me, and the little piece is to
put under my head; and my new stockings for my feet--they
are folded alongside, and all my other things. And there's
four ounce pennies, the heaviest I could find, a-tied up in
bits of linen, for weights--two for my right eye and two for
my left,' she said. 'And when you've used 'em, and my eyes
don't open no more, bury the pennies, good souls and don't
ye go spending 'em, for I shouldn't like it. And open the
windows as soon as I am carried out, and make it as cheerful
as you can for Elizabeth-Jane.'"
"Ah, poor heart!"
"Well, and Martha did it, and buried the ounce pennies in
the garden. But if ye'll believe words, that man,
Christopher Coney, went and dug 'em up, and spent 'em at the
Three Mariners. 'Faith,' he said, 'why should death rob
life o' fourpence? Death's not of such good report that we
should respect 'en to that extent,' says he."
"'Twas a cannibal deed!" deprecated her listeners.
"Gad, then I won't quite ha'e it," said Solomon Longways.
"I say it to-day, and 'tis a Sunday morning, and I wouldn't
speak wrongfully for a zilver zixpence at such a time. I
don't see noo harm in it. To respect the dead is sound
doxology; and I wouldn't sell skellintons--leastwise
respectable skellintons--to be varnished for 'natomies,
except I were out o' work. But money is scarce, and throats
get dry. Why SHOULD death rob life o' fourpence? I say
there was no treason in it."
"Well, poor soul; she's helpless to hinder that or anything
now," answered Mother Cuxsom. "And all her shining keys
will be took from her, and her cupboards opened; and little
things a' didn't wish seen, anybody will see; and her wishes
and ways will all be as nothing!"
Henchard and Elizabeth sat conversing by the fire. It was
three weeks after Mrs. Henchard's funeral, the candles were
not lighted, and a restless, acrobatic flame, poised on a
coal, called from the shady walls the smiles of all shapes
that could respond--the old pier-glass, with gilt columns
and huge entablature, the picture-frames, sundry knobs and
handles, and the brass rosette at the bottom of each riband
bell-pull on either side of the chimney-piece.
"Elizabeth, do you think much of old times?" said Henchard.
"Yes, sir; often," she said.
"Who do you put in your pictures of 'em?"
"Mother and father--nobody else hardly."
Henchard always looked like one bent on resisting pain when
Elizabeth-Jane spoke of Richard Newson as "father." "Ah! I
am out of all that, am I not?" he said...."Was Newson a kind
"Yes, sir; very."
Henchard's face settled into an expression of stolid
loneliness which gradually modulated into something softer.
"Suppose I had been your real father?" he said. "Would you
have cared for me as much as you cared for Richard Newson?"
"I can't think it," she said quickly. "I can think of no
other as my father, except my father."
Henchard's wife was dissevered from him by death; his friend
and helper Farfrae by estrangement; Elizabeth-Jane by
ignorance. It seemed to him that only one of them could
possibly be recalled, and that was the girl. His mind began
vibrating between the wish to reveal himself to her and the
policy of leaving well alone, till he could no longer sit
still. He walked up and down, and then he came and stood
behind her chair, looking down upon the top of her head. He
could no longer restrain his impulse. "What did your mother
tell you about me--my history?" he asked.
"That you were related by marriage."
"She should have told more--before you knew me! Then my task
would not have been such a hard one....Elizabeth, it is I
who am your father, and not Richard Newson. Shame alone
prevented your wretched parents from owning this to you
while both of 'em were alive."
The back of Elizabeth's head remained still, and her
shoulders did not denote even the movements of breathing.
Henchard went on: "I'd rather have your scorn, your fear,
anything than your ignorance; 'tis that I hate! Your mother
and I were man and wife when we were young. What you saw
was our second marriage. Your mother was too honest. We
had thought each other dead--and--Newson became her
This was the nearest approach Henchard could make to the
full truth. As far as he personally was concerned he would
have screened nothing; but he showed a respect for the young
girl's sex and years worthy of a better man.
When he had gone on to give details which a whole series of
slight and unregarded incidents in her past life strangely
corroborated; when, in short, she believed his story to be
true, she became greatly agitated, and turning round to the
table flung her face upon it weeping.
"Don't cry--don't cry!" said Henchard, with vehement pathos,
"I can't bear it, I won't bear it. I am your father; why
should you cry? Am I so dreadful, so hateful to 'ee? Don't
take against me, Elizabeth-Jane!" he cried, grasping her wet
hand. "Don't take against me--though I was a drinking man
once, and used your mother roughly--I'll be kinder to you
than HE was! I'll do anything, if you will only look
upon me as your father!"
She tried to stand up and comfort him trustfully; but she
could not; she was troubled at his presence, like the
brethren at the avowal of Joseph.
"I don't want you to come to me all of a sudden," said
Henchard in jerks, and moving like a great tree in a wind.
"No, Elizabeth, I don't. I'll go away and not see you till
to-morrow, or when you like, and then I'll show 'ee papers
to prove my words. There, I am gone, and won't disturb you
any more....'Twas I that chose your name, my daughter; your
mother wanted it Susan. There, don't forget 'twas I gave
you your name!" He went out at the door and shut her softly
in, and she heard him go away into the garden. But he had
not done. Before she had moved, or in any way recovered
from the effect of his disclosure, he reappeared.
"One word more, Elizabeth," he said. "You'll take my
surname now--hey? Your mother was against it, but it will be
much more pleasant to me. 'Tis legally yours, you know.
But nobody need know that. You shall take it as if by
choice. I'll talk to my lawyer--I don't know the law of it
exactly; but will you do this--let me put a few lines into
the newspaper that such is to be your name?"
"If it is my name I must have it, mustn't I?" she asked.
"Well, well; usage is everything in these matters."
"I wonder why mother didn't wish it?"
"Oh, some whim of the poor soul's. Now get a bit of paper
and draw up a paragraph as I shall tell you. But let's have
"I can see by the firelight," she answered. "Yes--I'd
She got a piece of paper, and bending over the fender wrote
at his dictation words which he had evidently got by heart
from some advertisement or other--words to the effect that
she, the writer, hitherto known as Elizabeth-Jane Newson,
was going to call herself Elizabeth-Jane Henchard forthwith.
It was done, and fastened up, and directed to the office of
the Casterbridge Chronicle.
"Now," said Henchard, with the blaze of satisfaction that he
always emitted when he had carried his point--though
tenderness softened it this time--"I'll go upstairs and hunt
for some documents that will prove it all to you. But I
won't trouble you with them till to-morrow. Good-night, my
He was gone before the bewildered girl could realize what it
all meant, or adjust her filial sense to the new center of
gravity. She was thankful that he had left her to herself
for the evening, and sat down over the fire. Here she
remained in silence, and wept--not for her mother now, but
for the genial sailor Richard Newson, to whom she seemed
doing a wrong.
Henchard in the meantime had gone upstairs. Papers of a
domestic nature he kept in a drawer in his bedroom, and this
he unlocked. Before turning them over he leant back and
indulged in reposeful thought. Elizabeth was his at last
and she was a girl of such good sense and kind heart that
she would be sure to like him. He was the kind of man to
whom some human object for pouring out his heart upon--were
it emotive or were it choleric--was almost a necessity. The
craving for his heart for the re-establishment of this
tenderest human tie had been great during his wife's
lifetime, and now he had submitted to its mastery without
reluctance and without fear. He bent over the drawer again,
and proceeded in his search.
Among the other papers had been placed the contents of his
wife's little desk, the keys of which had been handed to him
at her request. Here was the letter addressed to him with
the restriction, "NOT TO BE OPENED TILL ELIZABETH-JANE'S
Mrs. Henchard, though more patient than her husband, had
been no practical hand at anything. In sealing up the
sheet, which was folded and tucked in without an envelope,
in the old-fashioned way, she had overlaid the junction with
a large mass of wax without the requisite under-touch of the
same. The seal had cracked, and the letter was open.
Henchard had no reason to suppose the restriction one of
serious weight, and his feeling for his late wife had not
been of the nature of deep respect. "Some trifling fancy or
other of poor Susan's, I suppose," he said; and without
curiosity he allowed his eyes to scan the letter:--
MY DEAR MICHAEL,--For the good of all three of us I have
kept one thing a secret from you till now. I hope you will
understand why; I think you will; though perhaps you may not
forgive me. But, dear Michael, I have done it for the best.
I shall be in my grave when you read this, and Elizabeth-
Jane will have a home. Don't curse me Mike--think of how I
was situated. I can hardly write it, but here it is.
Elizabeth-Jane is not your Elizabeth-Jane--the child who was
in my arms when you sold me. No; she died three months
after that, and this living one is my other husband's. I
christened her by the same name we had given to the first,
and she filled up the ache I felt at the other's loss.
Michael, I am dying, and I might have held my tongue; but I
could not. Tell her husband of this or not, as you may
judge; and forgive, if you can, a woman you once deeply
wronged, as she forgives you.
Her husband regarded the paper as if it were a window-pane
through which he saw for miles. His lips twitched, and he
seemed to compress his frame, as if to bear better. His
usual habit was not to consider whether destiny were hard
upon him or not--the shape of his ideals in cases of
affliction being simply a moody "I am to suffer, I
perceive." "This much scourging, then, it is for me." But
now through his passionate head there stormed this thought--
that the blasting disclosure was what he had deserved.
His wife's extreme reluctance to have the girl's name
altered from Newson to Henchard was now accounted for fully.
It furnished another illustration of that honesty in
dishonesty which had characterized her in other things.
He remained unnerved and purposeless for near a couple of
hours; till he suddenly said, "Ah--I wonder if it is true!"
He jumped up in an impulse, kicked off his slippers, and
went with a candle to the door of Elizabeth-Jane's room,
where he put his ear to the keyhole and listened. She was
breathing profoundly. Henchard softly turned the handle,
entered, and shading the light, approached the bedside.
Gradually bringing the light from behind a screening curtain
he held it in such a manner that it fell slantwise on her
face without shining on her eyes. He steadfastly regarded
They were fair: his were dark. But this was an unimportant
preliminary. In sleep there come to the surface buried
genealogical facts, ancestral curves, dead men's traits,
which the mobility of daytime animation screens and
overwhelms. In the present statuesque repose of the young
girl's countenance Richard Newson's was unmistakably
reflected. He could not endure the sight of her, and
Misery taught him nothing more than defiant endurance of it.
His wife was dead, and the first impulse for revenge died
with the thought that she was beyond him. He looked out at
the night as at a fiend. Henchard, like all his kind, was
superstitious, and he could not help thinking that the
concatenation of events this evening had produced was the
scheme of some sinister intelligence bent on punishing him.
Yet they had developed naturally. If he had not revealed
his past history to Elizabeth he would not have searched the
drawer for papers, and so on. The mockery was, that he
should have no sooner taught a girl to claim the shelter of
his paternity than he discovered her to have no kinship with
This ironical sequence of things angered him like an impish
trick from a fellow-creature. Like Prester John's, his
table had been spread, and infernal harpies had snatched up
the food. He went out of the house, and moved sullenly
onward down the pavement till he came to the bridge at the
bottom of the High Street. Here he turned in upon a bypath
on the river bank, skirting the north-eastern limits of the
These precincts embodied the mournful phases of Casterbridge
life, as the south avenues embodied its cheerful moods. The
whole way along here was sunless, even in summer time; in
spring, white frosts lingered here when other places were
steaming with warmth; while in winter it was the seed-field
of all the aches, rheumatisms, and torturing cramps of the
year. The Casterbridge doctors must have pined away for
want of sufficient nourishment but for the configuration of
the landscape on the north-eastern side.
The river--slow, noiseless, and dark--the Schwarzwasser of
Casterbridge--ran beneath a low cliff, the two together
forming a defence which had rendered walls and artificial
earthworks on this side unnecessary. Here were ruins of a
Franciscan priory, and a mill attached to the same, the
water of which roared down a back-hatch like the voice of
desolation. Above the cliff, and behind the river, rose a
pile of buildings, and in the front of the pile a square
mass cut into the sky. It was like a pedestal lacking its
statue. This missing feature, without which the design
remained incomplete, was, in truth, the corpse of a man, for
the square mass formed the base of the gallows, the
extensive buildings at the back being the county gaol. In
the meadow where Henchard now walked the mob were wont to
gather whenever an execution took place, and there to the
tune of the roaring weir they stood and watched the
The exaggeration which darkness imparted to the glooms of
this region impressed Henchard more than he had expected.
The lugubrious harmony of the spot with his domestic
situation was too perfect for him, impatient of effects
scenes, and adumbrations. It reduced his heartburning to
melancholy, and he exclaimed, "Why the deuce did I come
here!" He went on past the cottage in which the old local
hangman had lived and died, in times before that calling was
monopolized over all England by a single gentleman; and
climbed up by a steep back lane into the town.
For the sufferings of that night, engendered by his bitter
disappointment, he might well have been pitied. He was like
one who had half fainted, and could neither recover nor
complete the swoon. In words he could blame his wife, but
not in his heart; and had he obeyed the wise directions
outside her letter this pain would have been spared him for
long--possibly for ever, Elizabeth-Jane seeming to show no
ambition to quit her safe and secluded maiden courses for
the speculative path of matrimony.
The morning came after this night of unrest, and with it the
necessity for a plan. He was far too self-willed to recede
from a position, especially as it would involve humiliation.
His daughter he had asserted her to be, and his daughter she
should always think herself, no matter what hyprocrisy it
But he was ill-prepared for the first step in this new
situation. The moment he came into the breakfast-room
Elizabeth advanced with open confidence to him and took him
by the arm.
"I have thought and thought all night of it," she said
frankly. "And I see that everything must be as you say.
And I am going to look upon you as the father that you are,
and not to call you Mr. Henchard any more. It is so plain
to me now. Indeed, father, it is. For, of course, you
would not have done half the things you have done for me,
and let me have my own way so entirely, and bought me
presents, if I had only been your step-daughter! He--Mr.
Newson--whom my poor mother married by such a strange
mistake" (Henchard was glad that he had disguised matters
here), "was very kind--O so kind!" (she spoke with tears in
her eyes); "but that is not the same thing as being one's
real father after all. Now, father, breakfast is ready!"
she said cheerfully.
Henchard bent and kissed her cheek. The moment and the act
he had prefigured for weeks with a thrill of pleasure; yet
it was no less than a miserable insipidity to him now that
it had come. His reinstation of her mother had been chiefly
for the girl's sake, and the fruition of the whole scheme
was such dust and ashes as this.
Of all the enigmas which ever confronted a girl there can
have been seldom one like that which followed Henchard's
announcement of himself to Elizabeth as her father. He had
done it in an ardour and an agitation which had half carried
the point of affection with her; yet, behold, from the next
morning onwards his manner was constrained as she had never
seen it before.
The coldness soon broke out into open chiding. One grievous
failing of Elizabeth's was her occasional pretty and
picturesque use of dialect words--those terrible marks of
the beast to the truly genteel.
It was dinner-time--they never met except at meals--and she
happened to say when he was rising from table, wishing to
show him something, "If you'll bide where you be a minute,
father, I'll get it."
"'Bide where you be,'" he echoed sharply, "Good God, are you
only fit to carry wash to a pig-trough, that ye use such
words as those?"
She reddened with shame and sadness.
"I meant 'Stay where you are,' father," she said, in a low,
humble voice. "I ought to have been more careful."
He made no reply, and went out of the room.
The sharp reprimand was not lost upon her, and in time it
came to pass that for "fay" she said "succeed"; that she no
longer spoke of "dumbledores" but of "humble bees"; no
longer said of young men and women that they "walked
together," but that they were "engaged"; that she grew to
talk of "greggles" as "wild hyacinths"; that when she had
not slept she did not quaintly tell the servants next
morning that she had been "hag-rid," but that she had
"suffered from indigestion."
These improvements, however, are somewhat in advance of the
story. Henchard, being uncultivated himself, was the
bitterest critic the fair girl could possibly have had of
her own lapses--really slight now, for she read
omnivorously. A gratuitous ordeal was in store for her in
the matter of her handwriting. She was passing the dining-
room door one evening, and had occasion to go in for
something. It was not till she had opened the door that she
knew the Mayor was there in the company of a man with whom
he transacted business.
"Here, Elizabeth-Jane," he said, looking round at her, "just
write down what I tell you--a few words of an agreement for
me and this gentleman to sign. I am a poor tool with a
"Be jowned, and so be I," said the gentleman.
She brought forward blotting-book, paper, and ink, and sat
"Now then--'An agreement entered into this sixteenth day of
October'--write that first."
She started the pen in an elephantine march across the
sheet. It was a splendid round, bold hand of her own
conception, a style that would have stamped a woman as
Minerva's own in more recent days. But other ideas reigned
then: Henchard's creed was that proper young girls wrote
ladies'-hand--nay, he believed that bristling characters
were as innate and inseparable a part of refined womanhood
as sex itself. Hence when, instead of scribbling, like the
"In such a hand as when a field of corn
Bows all its ears before the roaring East,"
Elizabeth-Jane produced a line of chain-shot and sand-bags,
he reddened in angry shame for her, and, peremptorily
saying, "Never mind--I'll finish it," dismissed her there
Her considerate disposition became a pitfall to her now.
She was, it must be admitted, sometimes provokingly and
unnecessarily willing to saddle herself with manual labours.
She would go to the kitchen instead of ringing, "Not to make
Phoebe come up twice." She went down on her knees, shovel in
hand, when the cat overturned the coal-scuttle; moreover,
she would persistently thank the parlour-maid for
everything, till one day, as soon as the girl was gone from
the room, Henchard broke out with, "Good God, why dostn't
leave off thanking that girl as if she were a goddess-born!
Don't I pay her a dozen pound a year to do things for 'ee?"
Elizabeth shrank so visibly at the exclamation that he
became sorry a few minutes after, and said that he did not
mean to be rough.
These domestic exhibitions were the small protruding
needlerocks which suggested rather than revealed what was
underneath. But his passion had less terror for her than
his coldness. The increasing frequency of the latter mood
told her the sad news that he disliked her with a growing
dislike. The more interesting that her appearance and
manners became under the softening influences which she
could now command, and in her wisdom did command, the more
she seemed to estrange him. Sometimes she caught him
looking at her with a louring invidiousness that she could
hardly bear. Not knowing his secret it was cruel mockery
that she should for the first time excite his animosity when
she had taken his surname.
But the most terrible ordeal was to come. Elizabeth had
latterly been accustomed of an afternoon to present a cup of
cider or ale and bread-and-cheese to Nance Mockridge, who
worked in the yard wimbling hay-bonds. Nance accepted this
offering thankfully at first; afterwards as a matter of
course. On a day when Henchard was on the premises he saw
his step-daughter enter the hay-barn on this errand; and, as
there was no clear spot on which to deposit the provisions,
she at once set to work arranging two trusses of hay as a
table, Mockridge meanwhile standing with her hands on her
hips, easefully looking at the preparations on her behalf.
"Elizabeth, come here!" said Henchard; and she obeyed.
"Why do you lower yourself so confoundedly?" he said with
suppressed passion. "Haven't I told you o't fifty times?
Hey? Making yourself a drudge for a common workwoman of such
a character as hers! Why, ye'll disgrace me to the dust!"
Now these words were uttered loud enough to reach Nance
inside the barn door, who fired up immediately at the slur
upon her personal character. Coming to the door she cried
regardless of consequences, "Come to that, Mr. Henchard, I
can let 'ee know she've waited on worse!"
"Then she must have had more charity than sense," said
"O no, she hadn't. 'Twere not for charity but for hire; and
at a public-house in this town!"
"It is not true!" cried Henchard indignantly.
"Just ask her," said Nance, folding her naked arms in such a
manner that she could comfortably scratch her elbows.
Henchard glanced at Elizabeth-Jane, whose complexion, now
pink and white from confinement, lost nearly all of the
former colour. "What does this mean?" he said to her.
"Anything or nothing?"
"It is true," said Elizabeth-Jane. "But it was only--"
"Did you do it, or didn't you? Where was it?"
"At the Three Mariners; one evening for a little while, when
we were staying there."
Nance glanced triumphantly at Henchard, and sailed into the
barn; for assuming that she was to be discharged on the
instant she had resolved to make the most of her victory.
Henchard, however, said nothing about discharging her.
Unduly sensitive on such points by reason of his own past,
he had the look of one completely ground down to the last
indignity. Elizabeth followed him to the house like a
culprit; but when she got inside she could not see him. Nor
did she see him again that day.
Convinced of the scathing damage to his local repute and
position that must have been caused by such a fact, though
it had never before reached his own ears, Henchard showed a
positive distaste for the presence of this girl not his own,
whenever he encountered her. He mostly dined with the
farmers at the market-room of one of the two chief hotels,
leaving her in utter solitude. Could he have seen how she
made use of those silent hours he might have found reason to
reserve his judgment on her quality. She read and took
notes incessantly, mastering facts with painful
laboriousness, but never flinching from her self-imposed
task. She began the study of Latin, incited by the Roman
characteristics of the town she lived in. "If I am not
well-informed it shall be by no fault of my own," she would
say to herself through the tears that would occasionally
glide down her peachy cheeks when she was fairly baffled by
the portentous obscurity of many of these educational works.
Thus she lived on, a dumb, deep-feeling, great-eyed
creature, construed by not a single contiguous being;
quenching with patient fortitude her incipient interest in
Farfrae, because it seemed to be one-sided, unmaidenly, and
unwise. True, that for reasons best known to herself, she
had, since Farfrae's dismissal, shifted her quarters from
the back room affording a view of the yard (which she had
occupied with such zest) to a front chamber overlooking the
street; but as for the young man, whenever he passed the
house he seldom or never turned his head.
Winter had almost come, and unsettled weather made her still
more dependent upon indoor resources. But there were
certain early winter days in Casterbridge--days of
firmamental exhaustion which followed angry south-westerly
tempests--when, if the sun shone, the air was like velvet.
She seized on these days for her periodical visits to the
spot where her mother lay buried--the still-used burial-
ground of the old Roman-British city, whose curious feature
was this, its continuity as a place of sepulture. Mrs.
Henchard's dust mingled with the dust of women who lay
ornamented with glass hair-pins and amber necklaces, and men
who held in their mouths coins of Hadrian, Posthumus, and
Half-past ten in the morning was about her hour for seeking
this spot--a time when the town avenues were deserted as the
avenues of Karnac. Business had long since passed down them
into its daily cells, and Leisure had not arrived there. So
Elizabeth-Jane walked and read, or looked over the edge of
the book to think, and thus reached the churchyard.
There, approaching her mother's grave she saw a solitary
dark figure in the middle of the gravel-walk. This figure,
too, was reading; but not from a book: the words which
engrossed it being the inscription on Mrs. Henchard's
tombstone. The personage was in mourning like herself, was
about her age and size, and might have been her wraith or
double, but for the fact that it was a lady much more
beautifully dressed than she. Indeed, comparatively
indifferent as Elizabeth-Jane was to dress, unless for some
temporary whim or purpose, her eyes were arrested by the
artistic perfection of the lady's appearance. Her gait,
too, had a flexuousness about it, which seemed to avoid
angularity. It was a revelation to Elizabeth that human
beings could reach this stage of external development--she
had never suspected it. She felt all the freshness and
grace to be stolen from herself on the instant by the
neighbourhood of such a stranger. And this was in face of
the fact that Elizabeth could now have been writ handsome,
while the young lady was simply pretty.
Had she been envious she might have hated the woman; but she
did not do that--she allowed herself the pleasure of feeling
fascinated. She wondered where the lady had come from. The
stumpy and practical walk of honest homeliness which mostly
prevailed there, the two styles of dress thereabout, the
simple and the mistaken, equally avouched that this figure
was no Casterbridge woman's, even if a book in her hand
resembling a guide-book had not also suggested it.
The stranger presently moved from the tombstone of Mrs.
Henchard, and vanished behind the corner of the wall.
Elizabeth went to the tomb herself; beside it were two foot-
prints distinct in the soil, signifying that the lady had
stood there a long time. She returned homeward, musing on
what she had seen, as she might have mused on a rainbow or
the Northern Lights, a rare butterfly or a cameo.
Interesting as things had been out of doors, at home it
turned out to be one of her bad days. Henchard, whose two
years' mayoralty was ending, had been made aware that he was
not to be chosen to fill a vacancy in the list of aldermen;
and that Farfrae was likely to become one of the Council.
This caused the unfortunate discovery that she had played
the waiting-maid in the town of which he was Mayor to rankle
in his mind yet more poisonously. He had learnt by personal
inquiry at the time that it was to Donald Farfrae--that
treacherous upstart--that she had thus humiliated herself.
And though Mrs. Stannidge seemed to attach no great
importance to the incident--the cheerful souls at the Three
Mariners having exhausted its aspects long ago--such was
Henchard's haughty spirit that the simple thrifty deed was
regarded as little less than a social catastrophe by him.
Ever since the evening of his wife's arrival with her
daughter there had been something in the air which had
changed his luck. That dinner at the King's Arms with his
friends had been Henchard's Austerlitz: he had had his
successes since, but his course had not been upward. He was
not to be numbered among the aldermen--that Peerage of
burghers--as he had expected to be, and the consciousness of
this soured him to-day.
"Well, where have you been?" he said to her with offhand
"I've been strolling in the Walks and churchyard, father,
till I feel quite leery." She clapped her hand to her mouth,
but too late.
This was just enough to incense Henchard after the other
crosses of the day. "I WON'T have you talk like that!"
he thundered. "'Leery,' indeed. One would think you worked
upon a farm! One day I learn that you lend a hand in public-
houses. Then I hear you talk like a clodhopper. I'm
burned, if it goes on, this house can't hold us two."
The only way of getting a single pleasant thought to go to
sleep upon after this was by recalling the lady she had seen
that day, and hoping she might see her again.
Meanwhile Henchard was sitting up, thinking over his jealous
folly in forbidding Farfrae to pay his addresses to this
girl who did not belong to him, when if he had allowed them
to go on he might not have been encumbered with her. At
last he said to himself with satisfaction as he jumped up
and went to the writing-table: "Ah! he'll think it means
peace, and a marriage portion--not that I don't want my
house to be troubled with her, and no portion at all!" He
wrote as follows:--
Sir,--On consideration, I don't wish to interfere with your
courtship of Elizabeth-Jane, if you care for her. I
therefore withdraw my objection; excepting in this--that the
business be not carried on in my house.--
The morrow, being fairly fine, found Elizabeth-Jane again in
the churchyard, but while looking for the lady she was
startled by the apparition of Farfrae, who passed outside
the gate. He glanced up for a moment from a pocket-book in
which he appeared to be making figures as he went; whether
or not he saw her he took no notice, and disappeared.
Unduly depressed by a sense of her own superfluity she
thought he probably scorned her; and quite broken in spirit
sat down on a bench. She fell into painful thought on her
position, which ended with her saying quite loud, "O, I wish
I was dead with dear mother!"
Behind the bench was a little promenade under the wall where
people sometimes walked instead of on the gravel. The bench
seemed to be touched by something, she looked round, and a
face was bending over her, veiled, but still distinct, the
face of the young woman she had seen yesterday.
Elizabeth-Jane looked confounded for a moment, knowing she
had been overheard, though there was pleasure in her
confusion. "Yes, I heard you," said the lady, in a
vivacious voice, answering her look. "What can have
"I don't--I can't tell you," said Elizabeth, putting her
hand to her face to hide a quick flush that had come.
There was no movement or word for a few seconds; then the
girl felt that the young lady was sitting down beside her.
"I guess how it is with you," said the latter. "That was
your mother." She waved her hand towards the tombstone.
Elizabeth looked up at her as if inquiring of herself
whether there should be confidence. The lady's manner was
so desirous, so anxious, that the girl decided there should
be confidence. "It was my mother," she said, "my only
"But your father, Mr. Henchard. He is living?"
"Yes, he is living," said Elizabeth-Jane.
"Is he not kind to you?"
"I've no wish to complain of him."
"There has been a disagreement?"
"Perhaps you were to blame," suggested the stranger.
"I was--in many ways," sighed the meek Elizabeth. "I swept
up the coals when the servants ought to have done it; and I
said I was leery;--and he was angry with me."
The lady seemed to warm towards her for that reply. "Do you
know the impression your words give me?" she said
ingenuously. "That he is a hot-tempered man--a little
proud--perhaps ambitious; but not a bad man." Her anxiety
not to condemn Henchard while siding with Elizabeth was
"O no; certainly not BAD," agreed the honest girl. "And
he has not even been unkind to me till lately--since mother
died. But it has been very much to bear while it has
lasted. All is owing to my defects, I daresay; and my
defects are owing to my history."
"What is your history?"
Elizabeth-Jane looked wistfully at her questioner. She
found that her questioner was looking at her, turned her
eyes down; and then seemed compelled to look back again.
"My history is not gay or attractive," she said. "And yet I
can tell it, if you really want to know."
The lady assured her that she did want to know; whereupon
Elizabeth-Jane told the tale of her life as she understood
it, which was in general the true one, except that the sale
at the fair had no part therein.
Contrary to the girl's expectation her new friend was not
shocked. This cheered her; and it was not till she thought
of returning to that home in which she had been treated so
roughly of late that her spirits fell.
"I don't know how to return," she murmured. "I think of
going away. But what can I do? Where can I go?"
"Perhaps it will be better soon," said her friend gently.