Part 5 out of 8
after all, or another's--he exerted himself to the utmost to
see her again; and at length succeeded.
At the interview, when she offered him tea, he made it a
point to launch a cautious inquiry if she knew Mr. Farfrae.
O yes, she knew him, she declared; she could not help
knowing almost everybody in Casterbridge, living in such a
gazebo over the centre and arena of the town.
"Pleasant young fellow," said Henchard.
"Yes," said Lucetta.
"We both know him," said kind Elizabeth-Jane, to relieve her
companion's divined embarrassment.
There was a knock at the door; literally, three full knocks
and a little one at the end.
"That kind of knock means half-and-half--somebody between
gentle and simple," said the corn-merchant to himself. "I
shouldn't wonder therefore if it is he." In a few seconds
surely enough Donald walked in.
Lucetta was full of little fidgets and flutters, which
increased Henchard's suspicions without affording any
special proof of their correctness. He was well-nigh
ferocious at the sense of the queer situation in which he
stood towards this woman. One who had reproached him for
deserting her when calumniated, who had urged claims upon
his consideration on that account, who had lived waiting for
him, who at the first decent opportunity had come to ask him
to rectify, by making her his, the false position into which
she had placed herself for his sake; such she had been. And
now he sat at her tea-table eager to gain her attention, and
in his amatory rage feeling the other man present to be a
villain, just as any young fool of a lover might feel.
They sat stiffly side by side at the darkening table, like
some Tuscan painting of the two disciples supping at Emmaus.
Lucetta, forming the third and haloed figure, was opposite
them; Elizabeth-Jane, being out of the game, and out of the
group, could observe all from afar, like the evangelist who
had to write it down: that there were long spaces of
taciturnity, when all exterior circumstances were subdued to
the touch of spoons and china, the click of a heel on the
pavement under the window, the passing of a wheelbarrow or
cart, the whistling of the carter, the gush of water into
householders' buckets at the town-pump opposite, the
exchange of greetings among their neighbours, and the rattle
of the yokes by which they carried off their evening supply.
"More bread-and-butter?" said Lucetta to Henchard and
Farfrae equally, holding out between them a plateful of long
slices. Henchard took a slice by one end and Donald by the
other; each feeling certain he was the man meant; neither
let go, and the slice came in two.
"Oh--I am so sorry!" cried Lucetta, with a nervous titter.
Farfrae tried to laugh; but he was too much in love to see
the incident in any but a tragic light.
"How ridiculous of all three of them!" said Elizabeth to
Henchard left the house with a ton of conjecture, though
without a grain of proof, that the counterattraction was
Farfrae; and therefore he would not make up his mind. Yet
to Elizabeth-Jane it was plain as the town-pump that Donald
and Lucetta were incipient lovers. More than once, in spite
of her care, Lucetta had been unable to restrain her glance
from flitting across into Farfrae's eyes like a bird to its
nest. But Henchard was constructed upon too large a scale
to discern such minutiae as these by an evening light, which
to him were as the notes of an insect that lie above the
compass of the human ear.
But he was disturbed. And the sense of occult rivalry in
suitorship was so much superadded to the palpable rivalry of
their business lives. To the coarse materiality of that
rivalry it added an inflaming soul.
The thus vitalized antagonism took the form of action by
Henchard sending for Jopp, the manager originally displaced
by Farfrae's arrival. Henchard had frequently met this man
about the streets, observed that his clothing spoke of
neediness, heard that he lived in Mixen Lane--a back slum of
the town, the pis aller of Casterbridge domiciliation--
itself almost a proof that a man had reached a stage when he
would not stick at trifles.
Jopp came after dark, by the gates of the storeyard, and
felt his way through the hay and straw to the office where
Henchard sat in solitude awaiting him.
"I am again out of a foreman," said the corn-factor. "Are
you in a place?"
"Not so much as a beggar's, sir."
"How much do you ask?"
Jopp named his price, which was very moderate.
"When can you come?"
"At this hour and moment, sir," said Jopp, who, standing
hands-pocketed at the street corner till the sun had faded
the shoulders of his coat to scarecrow green, had regularly
watched Henchard in the market-place, measured him, and
learnt him, by virtue of the power which the still man has
in his stillness of knowing the busy one better than he
knows himself. Jopp too, had had a convenient experience;
he was the only one in Casterbridge besides Henchard and the
close-lipped Elizabeth who knew that Lucetta came truly from
Jersey, and but proximately from Bath. "I know Jersey too,
sir," he said. "Was living there when you used to do
business that way. O yes--have often seen ye there."
"Indeed! Very good. Then the thing is settled. The
testimonials you showed me when you first tried for't are
That characters deteriorated in time of need possibly did
not occur to, Henchard. Jopp said, "Thank you," and stood
more firmly, in the consciousness that at last he officially
belonged to that spot.
"Now," said Henchard, digging his strong eyes into Jopp's
face, "one thing is necessary to me, as the biggest corn-
and-hay dealer in these parts. The Scotchman, who's taking
the town trade so bold into his hands, must be cut out.
D'ye hear? We two can't live side by side--that's clear and
"I've seen it all," said Jopp.
"By fair competition I mean, of course," Henchard continued.
"But as hard, keen, and unflinching as fair--rather more so.
By such a desperate bid against him for the farmers' custom
as will grind him into the ground--starve him out. I've
capital, mind ye, and I can do it."
"I'm all that way of thinking," said the new foreman.
Jopp's dislike of Farfrae as the man who had once ursurped
his place, while it made him a willing tool, made him, at
the same time, commercially as unsafe a colleague as
Henchard could have chosen.
"I sometimes think," he added, "that he must have some glass
that he sees next year in. He has such a knack of making
everything bring him fortune."
"He's deep beyond all honest men's discerning, but we must
make him shallower. We'll undersell him, and over-buy him,
and so snuff him out."
They then entered into specific details of the process by
which this would be accomplished, and parted at a late hour.
Elizabeth-Jane heard by accident that Jopp had been engaged
by her stepfather. She was so fully convinced that he was
not the right man for the place that, at the risk of making
Henchard angry, she expressed her apprehension to him when
they met. But it was done to no purpose. Henchard shut up
her argument with a sharp rebuff.
The season's weather seemed to favour their scheme. The
time was in the years immediately before foreign competition
had revolutionized the trade in grain; when still, as from
the earliest ages, the wheat quotations from month to month
depended entirely upon the home harvest. A bad harvest, or
the prospect of one, would double the price of corn in a few
weeks; and the promise of a good yield would lower it as
rapidly. Prices were like the roads of the period, steep in
gradient, reflecting in their phases the local conditions,
without engineering, levellings, or averages.
The farmer's income was ruled by the wheat-crop within his
own horizon, and the wheat-crop by the weather. Thus in
person, he became a sort of flesh-barometer, with feelers
always directed to the sky and wind around him. The local
atmosphere was everything to him; the atmospheres of other
countries a matter of indifference. The people, too, who
were not farmers, the rural multitude, saw in the god of the
weather a more important personage than they do now.
Indeed, the feeling of the peasantry in this matter was so
intense as to be almost unrealizable in these equable days.
Their impulse was well-nigh to prostrate themselves in
lamentation before untimely rains and tempests, which came
as the Alastor of those households whose crime it was to be
After midsummer they watched the weather-cocks as men
waiting in antechambers watch the lackey. Sun elated them;
quiet rain sobered them; weeks of watery tempest stupefied
them. That aspect of the sky which they now regard as
disagreeable they then beheld as maleficent.
It was June, and the weather was very unfavourable.
Casterbridge, being as it were the bell-board on which all
the adjacent hamlets and villages sounded their notes, was
decidedly dull. Instead of new articles in the shop-windows
those that had been rejected in the foregoing summer were
brought out again; superseded reap-hooks, badly-shaped
rakes, shop-worn leggings, and time-stiffened water-tights
reappeared, furbished up as near to new as possible.
Henchard, backed by Jopp, read a disastrous garnering, and
resolved to base his strategy against Farfrae upon that
reading. But before acting he wished--what so many have
wished--that he could know for certain what was at present
only strong probability. He was superstitious--as such
head-strong natures often are--and he nourished in his mind
an idea bearing on the matter; an idea he shrank from
disclosing even to Jopp.
In a lonely hamlet a few miles from the town--so lonely that
what are called lonely villages were teeming by comparison--
there lived a man of curious repute as a forecaster or
weather-prophet. The way to his house was crooked and miry--
even difficult in the present unpropitious season. One
evening when it was raining so heavily that ivy and laurel
resounded like distant musketry, and an out-door man could
be excused for shrouding himself to his ears and eyes, such
a shrouded figure on foot might have been perceived
travelling in the direction of the hazel-copse which dripped
over the prophet's cot. The turnpike-road became a lane,
the lane a cart-track, the cart-track a bridle-path, the
bridle-path a foot-way, the foot-way overgrown. The
solitary walker slipped here and there, and stumbled over
the natural springes formed by the brambles, till at length
he reached the house, which, with its garden, was surrounded
with a high, dense hedge. The cottage, comparatively a
large one, had been built of mud by the occupier's own
hands, and thatched also by himself. Here he had always
lived, and here it was assumed he would die.
He existed on unseen supplies; for it was an anomalous thing
that while there was hardly a soul in the neighbourhood but
affected to laugh at this man's assertions, uttering the
formula, "There's nothing in 'em," with full assurance on
the surface of their faces, very few of them were
unbelievers in their secret hearts. Whenever they consulted
him they did it "for a fancy." When they paid him they said,
"Just a trifle for Christmas," or "Candlemas," as the case
He would have preferred more honesty in his clients, and
less sham ridicule; but fundamental belief consoled him for
superficial irony. As stated, he was enabled to live;
people supported him with their backs turned. He was
sometimes astonished that men could profess so little and
believe so much at his house, when at church they professed
so much and believed so little.
Behind his back he was called "Wide-oh," on account of his
reputation; to his face "Mr." Fall.
The hedge of his garden formed an arch over the entrance,
and a door was inserted as in a wall. Outside the door the
tall traveller stopped, bandaged his face with a
handkerchief as if he were suffering from toothache, and
went up the path. The window shutters were not closed, and
he could see the prophet within, preparing his supper.
In answer to the knock Fall came to the door, candle in
hand. The visitor stepped back a little from the light, and
said, "Can I speak to 'ee?" in significant tones. The
other's invitation to come in was responded to by the
country formula, "This will do, thank 'ee," after which the
householder had no alternative but to come out. He placed
the candle on the corner of the dresser, took his hat from a
nail, and joined the stranger in the porch, shutting the
door behind him.
"I've long heard that you can--do things of a sort?" began
the other, repressing his individuality as much as he could.
"Maybe so, Mr. Henchard," said the weather-caster.
"Ah--why do you call me that?" asked the visitor with a
"Because it's your name. Feeling you'd come I've waited for
'ee; and thinking you might be leery from your walk I laid
two supper plates--look ye here." He threw open the door and
disclosed the supper-table, at which appeared a second
chair, knife and fork, plate and mug, as he had declared.
Henchard felt like Saul at his reception by Samuel; he
remained in silence for a few moments, then throwing off the
disguise of frigidity which he had hitherto preserved he
said, "Then I have not come in vain....Now, for instance,
can ye charm away warts?"
"Cure the evil?"
"That I've done--with consideration--if they will wear the
toad-bag by night as well as by day."
"Forecast the weather?"
"With labour and time."
"Then take this," said Henchard. "'Tis a crownpiece. Now,
what is the harvest fortnight to be? When can I know?'
"I've worked it out already, and you can know at once." (The
fact was that five farmers had already been there on the
same errand from different parts of the country.) "By the
sun, moon, and stars, by the clouds, the winds, the trees,
and grass, the candle-flame and swallows, the smell of the
herbs; likewise by the cats' eyes, the ravens, the leeches,
the spiders, and the dungmixen, the last fortnight in August
will be--rain and tempest."
"You are not certain, of course?"
"As one can be in a world where all's unsure. 'Twill be
more like living in Revelations this autumn than in England.
Shall I sketch it out for 'ee in a scheme?"
"O no, no," said Henchard. "I don't altogether believe in
forecasts, come to second thoughts on such. But I--"
"You don't--you don't--'tis quite understood," said Wide-oh,
without a sound of scorn. "You have given me a crown
because you've one too many. But won't you join me at
supper, now 'tis waiting and all?"
Henchard would gladly have joined; for the savour of the
stew had floated from the cottage into the porch with such
appetizing distinctness that the meat, the onions, the
pepper, and the herbs could be severally recognized by his
nose. But as sitting down to hob-and-nob there would have
seemed to mark him too implicitly as the weather-caster's
apostle, he declined, and went his way.
The next Saturday Henchard bought grain to such an enormous
extent that there was quite a talk about his purchases among
his neighbours the lawyer, the wine merchant, and the
doctor; also on the next, and on all available days. When
his granaries were full to choking all the weather-cocks of
Casterbridge creaked and set their faces in another
direction, as if tired of the south-west. The weather
changed; the sunlight, which had been like tin for weeks,
assumed the hues of topaz. The temperament of the welkin
passed from the phlegmatic to the sanguine; an excellent
harvest was almost a certainty; and as a consequence prices
All these transformations, lovely to the outsider, to the
wrong-headed corn-dealer were terrible. He was reminded of
what he had well known before, that a man might gamble upon
the square green areas of fields as readily as upon those of
Henchard had backed bad weather, and apparently lost. He
had mistaken the turn of the flood for the turn of the ebb.
His dealings had been so extensive that settlement could not
long be postponed, and to settle he was obliged to sell off
corn that he had bought only a few weeks before at figures
higher by many shillings a quarter. Much of the corn he had
never seen; it had not even been moved from the ricks in
which it lay stacked miles away. Thus he lost heavily.
In the blaze of an early August day he met Farfrae in the
market-place. Farfrae knew of his dealings (though he did
not guess their intended bearing on himself) and
commiserated him; for since their exchange of words in the
South Walk they had been on stiffly speaking terms.
Henchard for the moment appeared to resent the sympathy; but
he suddenly took a careless turn.
"Ho, no, no!--nothing serious, man!" he cried with fierce
gaiety. "These things always happen, don't they? I know it
has been said that figures have touched me tight lately; but
is that anything rare? The case is not so bad as folk make
out perhaps. And dammy, a man must be a fool to mind the
common hazards of trade!"
But he had to enter the Casterbridge Bank that day for
reasons which had never before sent him there--and to sit a
long time in the partners' room with a constrained bearing.
It was rumoured soon after that much real property as well
as vast stores of produce, which had stood in Henchard's
name in the town and neighbourhood, was actually the
possession of his bankers.
Coming down the steps of the bank he encountered Jopp. The
gloomy transactions just completed within had added fever to
the original sting of Farfrae's sympathy that morning, which
Henchard fancied might be a satire disguised so that Jopp
met with anything but a bland reception. The latter was in
the act of taking off his hat to wipe his forehead, and
saying, "A fine hot day," to an acquaintance.
"You can wipe and wipe, and say, 'A fine hot day,' can ye!"
cried Henchard in a savage undertone, imprisoning Jopp
between himself and the bank wall. "If it hadn't been for
your blasted advice it might have been a fine day enough!
Why did ye let me go on, hey?--when a word of doubt from you
or anybody would have made me think twice! For you can never
be sure of weather till 'tis past."
"My advice, sir, was to do what you thought best."
"A useful fellow! And the sooner you help somebody else in
that way the better!" Henchard continued his address to Jopp
in similar terms till it ended in Jopp s dismissal there and
then, Henchard turning upon his heel and leaving him.
"You shall be sorry for this, sir; sorry as a man can be!"
said Jopp, standing pale, and looking after the corn-
merchant as he disappeared in the crowd of market-men hard
It was the eve of harvest. Prices being low Farfrae was
buying. As was usual, after reckoning too surely on famine
weather the local farmers had flown to the other extreme,
and (in Farfrae's opinion) were selling off too recklessly--
calculating with just a trifle too much certainty upon an
abundant yield. So he went on buying old corn at its
comparatively ridiculous price: for the produce of the
previous year, though not large, had been of excellent
When Henchard had squared his affairs in a disastrous way,
and got rid of his burdensome purchases at a monstrous loss,
the harvest began. There were three days of excellent
weather, and then--"What if that curst conjuror should be
right after all!" said Henchard.
The fact was, that no sooner had the sickles begun to play
than the atmosphere suddenly felt as if cress would grow in
it without other nourishment. It rubbed people's cheeks
like damp flannel when they walked abroad. There was a
gusty, high, warm wind; isolated raindrops starred the
window-panes at remote distances: the sunlight would flap
out like a quickly opened fan, throw the pattern of the
window upon the floor of the room in a milky, colourless
shine, and withdraw as suddenly as it had appeared.
From that day and hour it was clear that there was not to be
so successful an ingathering after all. If Henchard had
only waited long enough he might at least have avoided loss
though he had not made a profit. But the momentum of his
character knew no patience. At this turn of the scales he
remained silent. The movements of his mind seemed to tend
to the thought that some power was working against him.
"I wonder," he asked himself with eerie misgiving; "I wonder
if it can be that somebody has been roasting a waxen image
of me, or stirring an unholy brew to confound me! I don't
believe in such power; and yet--what if they should ha' been
doing it!" Even he could not admit that the perpetrator, if
any, might be Farfrae. These isolated hours of superstition
came to Henchard in time of moody depression, when all his
practical largeness of view had oozed out of him.
Meanwhile Donald Farfrae prospered. He had purchased in so
depressed a market that the present moderate stiffness of
prices was sufficient to pile for him a large heap of gold
where a little one had been.
"Why, he'll soon be Mayor!" said Henchard. It was indeed
hard that the speaker should, of all others, have to follow
the triumphal chariot of this man to the Capitol.
The rivalry of the masters was taken up by the men.
September-night shades had fallen upon Casterbridge; the
clocks had struck half-past eight, and the moon had risen.
The streets of the town were curiously silent for such a
comparatively early hour. A sound of jangling horse-bells
and heavy wheels passed up the street. These were followed
by angry voices outside Lucetta's house, which led her and
Elizabeth-Jane to run to the windows, and pull up the
The neighbouring Market House and Town Hall abutted against
its next neighbour the Church except in the lower storey,
where an arched thoroughfare gave admittance to a large
square called Bull Stake. A stone post rose in the midst,
to which the oxen had formerly been tied for baiting with
dogs to make them tender before they were killed in the
adjoining shambles. In a corner stood the stocks.
The thoroughfare leading to this spot was now blocked by two
four-horse waggons and horses, one laden with hay-trusses,
the leaders having already passed each other, and become
entangled head to tail. The passage of the vehicles might
have been practicable if empty; but built up with hay to the
bedroom windows as one was, it was impossible.
"You must have done it a' purpose!" said Farfrae's waggoner.
"You can hear my horses' bells half-a-mile such a night as
"If ye'd been minding your business instead of zwailing
along in such a gawk-hammer way, you would have zeed me!"
retorted the wroth representative of Henchard.
However, according to the strict rule of the road it
appeared that Henchard's man was most in the wrong, he
therefore attempted to back into the High Street. In doing
this the near hind-wheel rose against the churchyard wall
and the whole mountainous load went over, two of the four
wheels rising in the air, and the legs of the thill horse.
Instead of considering how to gather up the load the two men
closed in a fight with their fists. Before the first round
was quite over Henchard came upon the spot, somebody having
run for him.
Henchard sent the two men staggering in contrary directions
by collaring one with each hand, turned to the horse that
was down, and extricated him after some trouble. He then
inquired into the circumstances; and seeing the state of his
waggon and its load began hotly rating Farfrae's man.
Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane had by this time run down to the
street corner, whence they watched the bright heap of new
hay lying in the moon's rays, and passed and repassed by the
forms of Henchard and the waggoners. The women had
witnessed what nobody else had seen--the origin of the
mishap; and Lucetta spoke.
"I saw it all, Mr. Henchard," she cried; "and your man was
most in the wrong!"
Henchard paused in his harangue and turned. "Oh, I didn't
notice you, Miss Templeman," said he. "My man in the wrong?
Ah, to be sure; to be sure! But I beg your pardon
notwithstanding. The other's is the empty waggon, and he
must have been most to blame for coming on."
"No; I saw it, too," said Elizabeth-Jane. "And I can assure
you he couldn't help it."
"You can't trust THEIR senses!" murmured Henchard's man.
"Why not?" asked Henchard sharply.
"Why, you see, sir, all the women side with Farfrae--being a
damn young dand--of the sort that he is--one that creeps
into a maid's heart like the giddying worm into a sheep's
brain--making crooked seem straight to their eyes!"
"But do you know who that lady is you talk about in such a
fashion? Do you know that I pay my attentions to her, and
have for some time? Just be careful!"
"Not I. I know nothing, sir, outside eight shillings a
"And that Mr. Farfrae is well aware of it? He's sharp in
trade, but he wouldn't do anything so underhand as what you
Whether because Lucetta heard this low dialogue, or not her
white figure disappeared from her doorway inward, and the
door was shut before Henchard could reach it to converse
with her further. This disappointed him, for he had been
sufficiently disturbed by what the man had said to wish to
speak to her more closely. While pausing the old constable
"Just see that nobody drives against that hay and waggon to-
night, Stubberd," said the corn-merchant. "It must bide
till the morning, for all hands are in the field still. And
if any coach or road-waggon wants to come along, tell 'em
they must go round by the back street, and be hanged to
'em....Any case tomorrow up in Hall?"
"Yes, sir. One in number, sir."
"Oh, what's that?"
"An old flagrant female, sir, swearing and committing a
nuisance in a horrible profane manner against the church
wall, sir, as if 'twere no more than a pot-house! That's
"Oh. The Mayor's out o' town, isn't he?"
"He is, sir."
"Very well, then I'll be there. Don't forget to keep an eye
on that hay. Good night t' 'ee."
During those moments Henchard had determined to follow up
Lucetta notwithstanding her elusiveness, and he knocked for
The answer he received was an expression of Miss Templeman's
sorrow at being unable to see him again that evening because
she had an engagement to go out.
Henchard walked away from the door to the opposite side of
the street, and stood by his hay in a lonely reverie, the
constable having strolled elsewhere, and the horses being
removed. Though the moon was not bright as yet there were
no lamps lighted, and he entered the shadow of one of the
projecting jambs which formed the thoroughfare to Bull
Stake; here he watched Lucetta's door.
Candle-lights were flitting in and out of her bedroom, and
it was obvious that she was dressing for the appointment,
whatever the nature of that might be at such an hour. The
lights disappeared, the clock struck nine, and almost at the
moment Farfrae came round the opposite corner and knocked.
That she had been waiting just inside for him was certain,
for she instantly opened the door herself. They went
together by the way of a back lane westward, avoiding the
front street; guessing where they were going he determined
The harvest had been so delayed by the capricious weather
that whenever a fine day occurred all sinews were strained
to save what could be saved of the damaged crops. On
account of the rapid shortening of the days the harvesters
worked by moonlight. Hence to-night the wheat-fields
abutting on the two sides of the square formed by
Casterbridge town were animated by the gathering hands.
Their shouts and laughter had reached Henchard at the Market
House, while he stood there waiting, and he had little doubt
from the turn which Farfrae and Lucetta had taken that they
were bound for the spot.
Nearly the whole town had gone into the fields. The
Casterbridge populace still retained the primitive habit of
helping one another in time of need; and thus, though the
corn belonged to the farming section of the little
community--that inhabiting the Durnover quarter--the
remainder was no less interested in the labour of getting it
Reaching the top of the lane Henchard crossed the shaded
avenue on the walls, slid down the green rampart, and stood
amongst the stubble. The "stitches" or shocks rose like
tents about the yellow expanse, those in the distance
becoming lost in the moonlit hazes.
He had entered at a point removed from the scene of
immediate operations; but two others had entered at that
place, and he could see them winding among the shocks. They
were paying no regard to the direction of their walk, whose
vague serpentining soon began to bear down towards Henchard.
A meeting promised to be awkward, and he therefore stepped
into the hollow of the nearest shock, and sat down.
"You have my leave," Lucetta was saying gaily. "Speak what
"Well, then," replied Farfrae, with the unmistakable
inflection of the lover pure, which Henchard had never heard
in full resonance of his lips before, "you are sure to be
much sought after for your position, wealth, talents, and
beauty. But will ye resist the temptation to be one of
those ladies with lots of admirers--ay--and be content to
have only a homely one?"
"And he the speaker?" said she, laughing. "Very well, sir,
"Ah! I'm afraid that what I feel will make me forget my
"Then I hope you'll never have any, if you lack them only
for that cause." After some broken words which Henchard lost
she added, "Are you sure you won't be jealous?"
Farfrae seemed to assure her that he would not, by taking
"You are convinced, Donald, that I love nobody else," she
presently said. "But I should wish to have my own way in
"In everything! What special thing did you mean?"
"If I wished not to live always in Casterbridge, for
instance, upon finding that I should not be happy here?"
Henchard did not hear the reply; he might have done so and
much more, but he did not care to play the eavesdropper.
They went on towards the scene of activity, where the
sheaves were being handed, a dozen a minute, upon the carts
and waggons which carried them away.
Lucetta insisted on parting from Farfrae when they drew near
the workpeople. He had some business with them and, thought
he entreated her to wait a few minutes, she was inexorable,
and tripped off homeward alone.
Henchard thereupon left the field and followed her. His
state of mind was such that on reaching Lucetta's door he
did not knock but opened it, and walked straight up to her
sitting-room, expecting to find her there. But the room was
empty, and he perceived that in his haste he had somehow
passed her on the way hither. He had not to wait many
minutes, however, for he soon heard her dress rustling in
the hall, followed by a soft closing of the door. In a
moment she appeared.
The light was so low that she did not notice Henchard at
first. As soon as she saw him she uttered a little cry,
almost of terror.
"How can you frighten me so?" she exclaimed, with a flushed
face. "It is past ten o'clock, and you have no right to
surprise me here at such a time."
"I don't know that I've not the right. At any rate I have
the excuse. Is it so necessary that I should stop to think
of manners and customs?"
"It is too late for propriety, and might injure me."
"I called an hour ago, and you would not see me, and I
thought you were in when I called now. It is you, Lucetta,
who are doing wrong. It is not proper in 'ee to throw me
over like this. I have a little matter to remind you of,
which you seem to forget."
She sank into a chair, and turned pale.
"I don't want to hear it--I don't want to hear it!" she said
through her hands, as he, standing close to the edge of her
gown, began to allude to the Jersey days.
"But you ought to hear it," said he.
"It came to nothing; and through you. Then why not leave me
the freedom that I gained with such sorrow! Had I found that
you proposed to marry me for pure love I might have felt
bound now. But I soon learnt that you had planned it out of
mere charity--almost as an unpleasant duty--because I had
nursed you, and compromised myself, and you thought you must
repay me. After that I did not care for you so deeply as
"Why did you come here to find me, then?"
"I thought I ought to marry you for conscience' sake, since
you were free, even though I--did not like you so well."
"And why then don't you think so now?"
She was silent. It was only too obvious that conscience had
ruled well enough till new love had intervened and usurped
that rule. In feeling this she herself forgot for the
moment her partially justifying argument--that having
discovered Henchard's infirmities of temper, she had some
excuse for not risking her happiness in his hands after once
escaping them. The only thing she could say was, "I was a
poor girl then; and now my circumstances have altered, so I
am hardly the same person."
"That's true. And it makes the case awkward for me. But I
don't want to touch your money. I am quite willing that
every penny of your property shall remain to your personal
use. Besides, that argument has nothing in it. The man you
are thinking of is no better than I."
"If you were as good as he you would leave me!" she cried
This unluckily aroused Henchard. "You cannot in honour
refuse me," he said. "And unless you give me your promise
this very night to be my wife, before a witness, I'll reveal
our intimacy--in common fairness to other men!"
A look of resignation settled upon her. Henchard saw its
bitterness; and had Lucetta's heart been given to any other
man in the world than Farfrae he would probably have had
pity upon her at that moment. But the supplanter was the
upstart (as Henchard called him) who had mounted into
prominence upon his shoulders, and he could bring himself to
show no mercy.
Without another word she rang the bell, and directed that
Elizabeth-Jane should be fetched from her room. The latter
appeared, surprised in the midst of her lucubrations. As
soon as she saw Henchard she went across to him dutifully.
"Elizabeth-Jane," he said, taking her hand, "I want you to
hear this." And turning to Lucetta: "Will you, or will you
not, marry me?
"If you--wish it, I must agree!"
"You say yes?"
No sooner had she given the promise than she fell back in a
"What dreadful thing drives her to say this, father, when it
is such a pain to her?" asked Elizabeth, kneeling down by
Lucetta. "Don't compel her to do anything against her will!
I have lived with her, and know that she cannot bear much."
"Don't be a no'thern simpleton!" said Henchard drily. "This
promise will leave him free for you, if you want him, won't
At this Lucetta seemed to wake from her swoon with a start.
"Him? Who are you talking about?" she said wildly.
"Nobody, as far as I am concerned," said Elizabeth firmly.
"Oh--well. Then it is my mistake," said Henchard. "But the
business is between me and Miss Templeman. She agrees to be
"But don't dwell on it just now," entreated Elizabeth,
holding Lucetta's hand.
"I don't wish to, if she promises," said Henchard.
"I have, I have," groaned Lucetta, her limbs hanging like
fluid, from very misery and faintness. "Michael, please
don't argue it any more!"
"I will not," he said. And taking up his hat he went away.
Elizabeth-Jane continued to kneel by Lucetta. "What is
this?" she said. "You called my father 'Michael' as if you
knew him well? And how is it he has got this power over you,
that you promise to marry him against your will? Ah--you
have many many secrets from me!"
"Perhaps you have some from me," Lucetta murmured with
closed eyes, little thinking, however, so unsuspicious was
she, that the secret of Elizabeth's heart concerned the
young man who had caused this damage to her own.
"I would not--do anything against you at all!" stammered
Elizabeth, keeping in all signs of emotion till she was
ready to burst. "I cannot understand how my father can
command you so; I don't sympathize with him in it at all.
I'll go to him and ask him to release you."
"No, no," said Lucetta. "Let it all be."
The next morning Henchard went to the Town Hall below
Lucetta's house, to attend Petty Sessions, being still a
magistrate for the year by virtue of his late position as
Mayor. In passing he looked up at her windows, but nothing
of her was to be seen.
Henchard as a Justice of the Peace may at first seem to be
an even greater incongruity than Shallow and Silence
themselves. But his rough and ready perceptions, his
sledge-hammer directness, had often served him better than
nice legal knowledge in despatching such simple business as
fell to his hands in this Court. To-day Dr. Chalkfield, the
Mayor for the year, being absent, the corn-merchant took the
big chair, his eyes still abstractedly stretching out of the
window to the ashlar front of High-Place Hall.
There was one case only, and the offender stood before him.
She was an old woman of mottled countenance, attired in a
shawl of that nameless tertiary hue which comes, but cannot
be made--a hue neither tawny, russet, hazel, nor ash; a
sticky black bonnet that seemed to have been worn in the
country of the Psalmist where the clouds drop fatness; and
an apron that had been white in time so comparatively recent
as still to contrast visibly with the rest of her clothes.
The steeped aspect of the woman as a whole showed her to be
no native of the country-side or even of a country-town.
She looked cursorily at Henchard and the second magistrate,
and Henchard looked at her, with a momentary pause, as if
she had reminded him indistinctly of somebody or something
which passed from his mind as quickly as it had come.
"Well, and what has she been doing?" he said, looking down
at the charge sheet.
"She is charged, sir, with the offence of disorderly female
and nuisance," whispered Stubberd.
"Where did she do that?" said the other magistrate.
"By the church, sir, of all the horrible places in the
world!--I caught her in the act, your worship."
"Stand back then," said Henchard, "and let's hear what
you've got to say."
Stubberd was sworn in, the magistrate's clerk dipped his
pen, Henchard being no note-taker himself, and the constable
"Hearing a' illegal noise I went down the street at twenty-
five minutes past eleven P.M. on the night of the fifth
instinct, Hannah Dominy. When I had--
"Don't go so fast, Stubberd," said the clerk.
The constable waited, with his eyes on the clerk's pen, till
the latter stopped scratching and said, "yes." Stubberd
continued: "When I had proceeded to the spot I saw defendant
at another spot, namely, the gutter." He paused, watching
the point of the clerk's pen again.
"Gutter, yes, Stubberd."
"Spot measuring twelve feet nine inches or thereabouts from
where I--" Still careful not to outrun the clerk's
penmanship Stubberd pulled up again; for having got his
evidence by heart it was immaterial to him whereabouts he
"I object to that," spoke up the old woman, "'spot measuring
twelve feet nine or thereabouts from where I,' is not sound
The magistrates consulted, and the second one said that the
bench was of opinion that twelve feet nine inches from a man
on his oath was admissible.
Stubberd, with a suppressed gaze of victorious rectitude at
the old woman, continued: "Was standing myself. She was
wambling about quite dangerous to the thoroughfare and when
I approached to draw near she committed the nuisance, and
"'Insulted me.'...Yes, what did she say?"
"She said, 'Put away that dee lantern,' she says."
"Says she, 'Dost hear, old turmit-head? Put away that dee
lantern. I have floored fellows a dee sight finer-looking
than a dee fool like thee, you son of a bee, dee me if I
haint,' she says.
"I object to that conversation!" interposed the old woman.
"I was not capable enough to hear what I said, and what is
said out of my hearing is not evidence."
There was another stoppage for consultation, a book was
referred to, and finally Stubberd was allowed to go on
again. The truth was that the old woman had appeared in
court so many more times than the magistrates themselves,
that they were obliged to keep a sharp look-out upon their
procedure. However, when Stubberd had rambled on a little
further Henchard broke out impatiently, "Come--we don't want
to hear any more of them cust dees and bees! Say the words
out like a man, and don't be so modest, Stubberd; or else
leave it alone!" Turning to the woman, "Now then, have you
any questions to ask him, or anything to say?"
"Yes," she replied with a twinkle in her eye; and the clerk
dipped his pen.
"Twenty years ago or thereabout I was selling of furmity in
a tent at Weydon Fair----"
"'Twenty years ago'--well, that's beginning at the
beginning; suppose you go back to the Creation!" said the
clerk, not without satire.
But Henchard stared, and quite forgot what was evidence and
what was not.
"A man and a woman with a little child came into my tent,"
the woman continued. "They sat down and had a basin apiece.
Ah, Lord's my life! I was of a more respectable station in
the world then than I am now, being a land smuggler in a
large way of business; and I used to season my furmity with
rum for them who asked for't. I did it for the man; and
then he had more and more; till at last he quarrelled with
his wife, and offered to sell her to the highest bidder. A
sailor came in and bid five guineas, and paid the money, and
led her away. And the man who sold his wife in that fashion
is the man sitting there in the great big chair." The
speaker concluded by nodding her head at Henchard and
folding her arms.
Everybody looked at Henchard. His face seemed strange, and
in tint as if it had been powdered over with ashes. "We
don't want to hear your life and adventures," said the
second magistrate sharply, filling the pause which followed.
"You've been asked if you've anything to say bearing on the
"That bears on the case. It proves that he's no better than
I, and has no right to sit there in judgment upon me."
"'Tis a concocted story," said the clerk. "So hold your
"No--'tis true." The words came from Henchard. "'Tis as
true as the light," he said slowly. "And upon my soul it
does prove that I'm no better than she! And to keep out of
any temptation to treat her hard for her revenge, I'll leave
her to you."
The sensation in the court was indescribably great.
Henchard left the chair, and came out, passing through a
group of people on the steps and outside that was much
larger than usual; for it seemed that the old furmity dealer
had mysteriously hinted to the denizens of the lane in which
she had been lodging since her arrival, that she knew a
queer thing or two about their great local man Mr. Henchard,
if she chose to tell it. This had brought them hither.
"Why are there so many idlers round the Town Hall to-day?"
said Lucetta to her servant when the case was over. She had
risen late, and had just looked out of the window.
"Oh, please, ma'am, 'tis this larry about Mr. Henchard. A
woman has proved that before he became a gentleman he sold
his wife for five guineas in a booth at a fair."
In all the accounts which Henchard had given her of the
separation from his wife Susan for so many years, of his
belief in her death, and so on, he had never clearly
explained the actual and immediate cause of that separation.
The story she now heard for the first time.
A gradual misery overspread Lucetta's face as she dwelt upon
the promise wrung from her the night before. At bottom,
then, Henchard was this. How terrible a contingency for a
woman who should commit herself to his care.
During the day she went out to the Ring and to other places,
not coming in till nearly dusk. As soon as she saw
Elizabeth-Jane after her return indoors she told her that
she had resolved to go away from home to the seaside for a
few days--to Port-Bredy; Casterbridge was so gloomy.
Elizabeth, seeing that she looked wan and disturbed,
encouraged her in the idea, thinking a change would afford
her relief. She could not help suspecting that the gloom
which seemed to have come over Casterbridge in Lucetta's
eyes might be partially owing to the fact that Farfrae was
away from home.
Elizabeth saw her friend depart for Port-Bredy, and took
charge of High-Place Hall till her return. After two or
three days of solitude and incessant rain Henchard called at
the house. He seemed disappointed to hear of Lucetta's
absence and though he nodded with outward indifference he
went away handling his beard with a nettled mien.
The next day he called again. "Is she come now?" he asked.
"Yes. She returned this morning," replied his step-
daughter. "But she is not indoors. She has gone for a walk
along the turnpike-road to Port-Bredy. She will be home by
After a few words, which only served to reveal his restless
impatience, he left the house again.
At this hour Lucetta was bounding along the road to Port-
Bredy just as Elizabeth had announced. That she had chosen
for her afternoon walk the road along which she had returned
to Casterbridge three hours earlier in a carriage was
curious--if anything should be called curious in
concatenations of phenomena wherein each is known to have
its accounting cause. It was the day of the chief market--
Saturday--and Farfrae for once had been missed from his
corn-stand in the dealers' room. Nevertheless, it was known
that he would be home that night--"for Sunday," as
Casterbridge expressed it.
Lucetta, in continuing her walk, had at length reached the
end of the ranked trees which bordered the highway in this
and other directions out of the town. This end marked a
mile; and here she stopped.
The spot was a vale between two gentle acclivities, and the
road, still adhering to its Roman foundation, stretched
onward straight as a surveyor's line till lost to sight on
the most distant ridge. There was neither hedge nor tree in
the prospect now, the road clinging to the stubby expanse of
corn-land like a strip to an undulating garment. Near her
was a barn--the single building of any kind within her
She strained her eyes up the lessening road, but nothing
appeared thereon--not so much as a speck. She sighed one
word--"Donald!" and turned her face to the town for retreat.
Here the case was different. A single figure was
Lucetta, in spite of her loneliness, seemed a little vexed.
Elizabeth's face, as soon as she recognized her friend,
shaped itself into affectionate lines while yet beyond
speaking distance. "I suddenly thought I would come and
meet you," she said, smiling.
Lucetta's reply was taken from her lips by an unexpected
diversion. A by-road on her right hand descended from the
fields into the highway at the point where she stood, and
down the track a bull was rambling uncertainly towards her
and Elizabeth, who, facing the other way, did not observe
In the latter quarter of each year cattle were at once the
mainstay and the terror of families about Casterbridge and
its neighbourhood, where breeding was carried on with
Abrahamic success. The head of stock driven into and out of
the town at this season to be sold by the local auctioneer
was very large; and all these horned beasts, in travelling
to and fro, sent women and children to shelter as nothing
else could do. In the main the animals would have walked
along quietly enough; but the Casterbridge tradition was
that to drive stock it was indispensable that hideous cries,
coupled with Yahoo antics and gestures, should be used,
large sticks flourished, stray dogs called in, and in
general everything done that was likely to infuriate the
viciously disposed and terrify the mild. Nothing was
commoner than for a house-holder on going out of his parlour
to find his hall or passage full of little children,
nursemaids, aged women, or a ladies' school, who apologized
for their presence by saying, "A bull passing down street
from the sale."
Lucetta and Elizabeth regarded the animal in doubt, he
meanwhile drawing vaguely towards them. It was a large
specimen of the breed, in colour rich dun, though disfigured
at present by splotches of mud about his seamy sides. His
horns were thick and tipped with brass; his two nostrils
like the Thames Tunnel as seen in the perspective toys of
yore. Between them, through the gristle of his nose, was a
stout copper ring, welded on, and irremovable as Gurth's
collar of brass. To the ring was attached an ash staff
about a yard long, which the bull with the motions of his
head flung about like a flail.
It was not till they observed this dangling stick that the
young women were really alarmed; for it revealed to them
that the bull was an old one, too savage to be driven, which
had in some way escaped, the staff being the means by which
the drover controlled him and kept his horns at arms'
They looked round for some shelter or hiding-place, and
thought of the barn hard by. As long as they had kept their
eyes on the bull he had shown some deference in his manner
of approach; but no sooner did they turn their backs to seek
the barn than he tossed his head and decided to thoroughly
terrify them. This caused the two helpless girls to run
wildly, whereupon the bull advanced in a deliberate charge.
The barn stood behind a green slimy pond, and it was closed
save as to one of the usual pair of doors facing them, which
had been propped open by a hurdle-stick, and for this
opening they made. The interior had been cleared by a
recent bout of threshing except at one end, where there was
a stack of dry clover. Elizabeth-Jane took in the
situation. "We must climb up there," she said.
But before they had even approached it they heard the bull
scampering through the pond without, and in a second he
dashed into the barn, knocking down the hurdle-stake in
passing; the heavy door slammed behind him; and all three
were imprisoned in the barn together. The mistaken creature
saw them, and stalked towards the end of the barn into which
they had fled. The girls doubled so adroitly that their
pursuer was against the wall when the fugitives were already
half way to the other end. By the time that his length
would allow him to turn and follow them thither they had
crossed over; thus the pursuit went on, the hot air from his
nostrils blowing over them like a sirocco, and not a moment
being attainable by Elizabeth or Lucetta in which to open
the door. What might have happened had their situation
continued cannot be said; but in a few moments a rattling of
the door distracted their adversary's attention, and a man
appeared. He ran forward towards the leading-staff, seized
it, and wrenched the animal's head as if he would snap it
off. The wrench was in reality so violent that the thick
neck seemed to have lost its stiffness and to become half-
paralyzed, whilst the nose dropped blood. The premeditated
human contrivance of the nose-ring was too cunning for
impulsive brute force, and the creature flinched.
The man was seen in the partial gloom to be large-framed and
unhesitating. He led the bull to the door, and the light
revealed Henchard. He made the bull fast without, and re-
entered to the succour of Lucetta; for he had not perceived
Elizabeth, who had climbed on to the clover-heap. Lucetta
was hysterical, and Henchard took her in his arms and
carried her to the door.
"You--have saved me!" she cried, as soon as she could speak.
"I have returned your kindness," he responded tenderly.
"You once saved me."
"How--comes it to be you--you?" she asked, not heeding his
"I came out here to look for you. I have been wanting to
tell you something these two or three days; but you have
been away, and I could not. Perhaps you cannot talk now?"
"Oh--no! Where is Elizabeth?"
"Here am I!" cried the missing one cheerfully; and without
waiting for the ladder to be placed she slid down the face
of the clover-stack to the floor.
Henchard supporting Lucetta on one side, and Elizabeth-Jane
on the other, they went slowly along the rising road. They
had reached the top and were descending again when Lucetta,
now much recovered, recollected that she had dropped her
muff in the barn.
"I'll run back," said Elizabeth-Jane. "I don't mind it at
all, as I am not tired as you are." She thereupon hastened
down again to the barn, the others pursuing their way.
Elizabeth soon found the muff, such an article being by no
means small at that time. Coming out she paused to look for
a moment at the bull, now rather to be pitied with his
bleeding nose, having perhaps rather intended a practical
joke than a murder. Henchard had secured him by jamming the
staff into the hinge of the barn-door, and wedging it there
with a stake. At length she turned to hasten onward after
her contemplation, when she saw a green-and-black gig
approaching from the contrary direction, the vehicle being
driven by Farfrae.
His presence here seemed to explain Lucetta's walk that way.
Donald saw her, drew up, and was hastily made acquainted
with what had occurred. At Elizabeth-Jane mentioning how
greatly Lucetta had been jeopardized, he exhibited an
agitation different in kind no less than in intensity from
any she had seen in him before. He became so absorbed in
the circumstance that he scarcely had sufficient knowledge
of what he was doing to think of helping her up beside him.
"She has gone on with Mr. Henchard, you say?" he inquired at
"Yes. He is taking her home. They are almost there by this
"And you are sure she can get home?"
Elizabeth-Jane was quite sure.
"Your stepfather saved her?"
Farfrae checked his horse's pace; she guessed why. He was
thinking that it would be best not to intrude on the other
two just now. Henchard had saved Lucetta, and to provoke a
possible exhibition of her deeper affection for himself was
as ungenerous as it was unwise.
The immediate subject of their talk being exhausted she felt
more embarrassed at sitting thus beside her past lover; but
soon the two figures of the others were visible at the
entrance to the town. The face of the woman was frequently
turned back, but Farfrae did not whip on the horse. When
these reached the town walls Henchard and his companion had
disappeared down the street; Farfrae set down Elizabeth-Jane
on her expressing a particular wish to alight there, and
drove round to the stables at the back of his lodgings.
On this account he entered the house through his garden, and
going up to his apartments found them in a particularly
disturbed state, his boxes being hauled out upon the
landing, and his bookcase standing in three pieces. These
phenomena, however, seemed to cause him not the least
surprise. "When will everything be sent up?" he said to the
mistress of the house, who was superintending.
"I am afraid not before eight, sir," said she. "You see we
wasn't aware till this morning that you were going to move,
or we could have been forwarder."
"A--well, never mind, never mind!" said Farfrae cheerily.
"Eight o'clock will do well enough if it be not later. Now,
don't ye be standing here talking, or it will be twelve, I
doubt." Thus speaking he went out by the front door and up
During this interval Henchard and Lucetta had had
experiences of a different kind. After Elizabeth's
departure for the muff the corn-merchant opened himself
frankly, holding her hand within his arm, though she would
fain have withdrawn it. "Dear Lucetta, I have been very,
very anxious to see you these two or three days," he said,
"ever since I saw you last! I have thought over the way I
got your promise that night. You said to me, 'If I were a
man I should not insist.' That cut me deep. I felt that
there was some truth in it. I don't want to make you
wretched; and to marry me just now would do that as nothing
else could--it is but too plain. Therefore I agree to an
indefinite engagement--to put off all thought of marriage
for a year or two."
"But--but--can I do nothing of a different kind?" said
Lucetta. "I am full of gratitude to you--you have saved my
life. And your care of me is like coals of fire on my head!
I am a monied person now. Surely I can do something in
return for your goodness--something practical?"
Henchard remained in thought. He had evidently not expected
this. "There is one thing you might do, Lucetta," he said.
"But not exactly of that kind."
"Then of what kind is it?" she asked with renewed misgiving.
"I must tell you a secret to ask it.--You may have heard
that I have been unlucky this year? I did what I have never
done before--speculated rashly; and I lost. That's just put
me in a strait.
"And you would wish me to advance some money?"
"No, no!" said Henchard, almost in anger. "I'm not the man
to sponge on a woman, even though she may be so nearly my
own as you. No, Lucetta; what you can do is this and it
would save me. My great creditor is Grower, and it is at
his hands I shall suffer if at anybody's; while a
fortnight's forbearance on his part would be enough to allow
me to pull through. This may be got out of him in one way--
that you would let it be known to him that you are my
intended--that we are to be quietly married in the next
fortnight.--Now stop, you haven't heard all! Let him have
this story, without, of course, any prejudice to the fact
that the actual engagement between us is to be a long one.
Nobody else need know: you could go with me to Mr. Grower
and just let me speak to 'ee before him as if we were on
such terms. We'll ask him to keep it secret. He will
willingly wait then. At the fortnight's end I shall be able
to face him; and I can coolly tell him all is postponed
between us for a year or two. Not a soul in the town need
know how you've helped me. Since you wish to be of use,
there's your way."
It being now what the people called the "pinking in" of the
day, that is, the quarter-hour just before dusk, he did not
at first observe the result of his own words upon her.
"If it were anything else," she began, and the dryness of
her lips was represented in her voice.
"But it is such a little thing!" he said, with a deep
reproach. "Less than you have offered--just the beginning
of what you have so lately promised! I could have told him
as much myself, but he would not have believed me."
"It is not because I won't--it is because I absolutely
can't," she said, with rising distress.
"You are provoking!" he burst out. "It is enough to make me
force you to carry out at once what you have promised."
"I cannot!" she insisted desperately.
"Why? When I have only within these few minutes released you
from your promise to do the thing offhand."
"Because--he was a witness!"
"Witness? Of what?
"If I must tell you----. Don't, don't upbraid me!"
"Well! Let's hear what you mean?"
"Witness of my marriage--Mr. Grower was!"
"Yes. With Mr. Farfrae. O Michael! I am already his wife.
We were married this week at Port-Bredy. There were reasons
against our doing it here. Mr. Grower was a witness because
he happened to be at Port-Bredy at the time."
Henchard stood as if idiotized. She was so alarmed at his
silence that she murmured something about lending him
sufficient money to tide over the perilous fortnight.
"Married him?" said Henchard at length. "My good--what,
married him whilst--bound to marry me?"
"It was like this," she explained, with tears in her eyes
and quavers in her voice; "don't--don't be cruel! I loved
him so much, and I thought you might tell him of the past--
and that grieved me! And then, when I had promised you, I
learnt of the rumour that you had--sold your first wife at a
fair like a horse or cow! How could I keep my promise after
hearing that? I could not risk myself in your hands; it
would have been letting myself down to take your name after
such a scandal. But I knew I should lose Donald if I did
not secure him at once--for you would carry out your threat
of telling him of our former acquaintance, as long as there
was a chance of keeping me for yourself by doing so. But
you will not do so now, will you, Michael? for it is too
late to separate us."
The notes of St. Peter's bells in full peal had been wafted
to them while he spoke, and now the genial thumping of the
town band, renowned for its unstinted use of the drum-stick,
throbbed down the street.
"Then this racket they are making is on account of it, I
suppose?" said he.
"Yes--I think he has told them, or else Mr. Grower
has....May I leave you now? My--he was detained at Port-
Bredy to-day, and sent me on a few hours before him."
"Then it is HIS WIFE'S life I have saved this
"Yes--and he will be for ever grateful to you."
"I am much obliged to him....O you false woman!" burst from
Henchard. "You promised me!"
"Yes, yes! But it was under compulsion, and I did not know
all your past----"
"And now I've a mind to punish you as you deserve! One word
to this bran-new husband of how you courted me, and your
precious happiness is blown to atoms!"
"Michael--pity me, and be generous!"
"You don't deserve pity! You did; but you don't now."
"I'll help you to pay off your debt."
"A pensioner of Farfrae's wife--not I! Don't stay with me
longer--I shall say something worse. Go home!"
She disappeared under the trees of the south walk as the
band came round the corner, awaking the echoes of every
stock and stone in celebration of her happiness. Lucetta
took no heed, but ran up the back street and reached her own
Farfrae's words to his landlady had referred to the removal
of his boxes and other effects from his late lodgings to
Lucetta's house. The work was not heavy, but it had been
much hindered on account of the frequent pauses necessitated
by exclamations of surprise at the event, of which the good
woman had been briefly informed by letter a few hours
At the last moment of leaving Port-Bredy, Farfrae, like John
Gilpin, had been detained by important customers, whom, even
in the exceptional circumstances, he was not the man to
neglect. Moreover, there was a convenience in Lucetta
arriving first at her house. Nobody there as yet knew what
had happened; and she was best in a position to break the
news to the inmates, and give directions for her husband's
accommodation. He had, therefore, sent on his two-days'
bride in a hired brougham, whilst he went across the country
to a certain group of wheat and barley ricks a few miles
off, telling her the hour at which he might be expected the
same evening. This accounted for her trotting out to meet
him after their separation of four hours.
By a strenuous effort, after leaving Henchard she calmed
herself in readiness to receive Donald at High-Place Hall
when he came on from his lodgings. One supreme fact
empowered her to this, the sense that, come what would, she
had secured him. Half-an-hour after her arrival he walked
in, and she met him with a relieved gladness, which a
month's perilous absence could not have intensified.
"There is one thing I have not done; and yet it is
important," she said earnestly, when she had finished
talking about the adventure with the bull. "That is, broken
the news of our marriage to my dear Elizabeth-Jane."
"Ah, and you have not?" he said thoughtfully. "I gave her a
lift from the barn homewards; but I did not tell her either;
for I thought she might have heard of it in the town, and
was keeping back her congratulations from shyness, and all
"She can hardly have heard of it. But I'll find out; I'll
go to her now. And, Donald, you don't mind her living on
with me just the same as before? She is so quiet and
"O no, indeed I don't," Farfrae answered with, perhaps, a
faint awkwardness. "But I wonder if she would care to?"
"O yes!" said Lucetta eagerly. "I am sure she would like
to. Besides, poor thing, she has no other home."
Farfrae looked at her and saw that she did not suspect the
secret of her more reserved friend. He liked her all the
better for the blindness. "Arrange as you like with her by
all means," he said. "It is I who have come to your house,
not you to mine."
"I'll run and speak to her," said Lucetta.
When she got upstairs to Elizabeth-Jane's room the latter
had taken off her out-door things, and was resting over a
book. Lucetta found in a moment that she had not yet learnt
"I did not come down to you, Miss Templeman," she said
simply. "I was coming to ask if you had quite recovered
from your fright, but I found you had a visitor. What are
the bells ringing for, I wonder? And the band, too, is
playing. Somebody must be married; or else they are
practising for Christmas."
Lucetta uttered a vague "Yes," and seating herself by the
other young woman looked musingly at her. "What a lonely
creature you are," she presently said; "never knowing what's
going on, or what people are talking about everywhere with
keen interest. You should get out, and gossip about as
other women do, and then you wouldn't be obliged to ask me a
question of that kind. Well, now, I have something to tell
Elizabeth-Jane said she was so glad, and made herself
"I must go rather a long way back," said Lucetta, the
difficulty of explaining herself satisfactorily to the
pondering one beside her growing more apparent at each
syllable. "You remember that trying case of conscience I
told you of some time ago--about the first lover and the
second lover?" She let out in jerky phrases a leading word
or two of the story she had told.
"O yes--I remember the story of YOUR FRIEND," said
Elizabeth drily, regarding the irises of Lucetta's eyes as
though to catch their exact shade. "The two lovers--the old
one and the new: how she wanted to marry the second, but
felt she ought to marry the first; so that she neglected the
better course to follow the evil, like the poet Ovid I've
just been construing: 'Video meliora proboque, deteriora
"O no; she didn't follow evil exactly!" said Lucetta
"But you said that she--or as I may say you"--answered
Elizabeth, dropping the mask, "were in honour and conscience
bound to marry the first?"
Lucetta's blush at being seen through came and went again
before she replied anxiously, "You will never breathe this,
will you, Elizabeth-Jane?"
"Certainly not, if you say not.
"Then I will tell you that the case is more complicated--
worse, in fact--than it seemed in my story. I and the first
man were thrown together in a strange way, and felt that we
ought to be united, as the world had talked of us. He was a
widower, as he supposed. He had not heard of his first wife
for many years. But the wife returned, and we parted. She
is now dead, and the husband comes paying me addresses
again, saying, 'Now we'll complete our purposes.' But,
Elizabeth-Jane, all this amounts to a new courtship of me by
him; I was absolved from all vows by the return of the other
"Have you not lately renewed your promise?" said the younger
with quiet surmise. She had divined Man Number One.
"That was wrung from me by a threat."
"Yes, it was. But I think when any one gets coupled up with
a man in the past so unfortunately as you have done she
ought to become his wife if she can, even if she were not
the sinning party."
Lucetta's countenance lost its sparkle. "He turned out to
be a man I should be afraid to marry," she pleaded. "Really
afraid! And it was not till after my renewed promise that I
"Then there is only one course left to honesty. You must
remain a single woman."
"But think again! Do consider----"
"I am certain," interrupted her companion hardily. "I have
guessed very well who the man is. My father; and I say it
is him or nobody for you."
Any suspicion of impropriety was to Elizabeth-Jane like a
red rag to a bull. Her craving for correctness of procedure
was, indeed, almost vicious. Owing to her early troubles
with regard to her mother a semblance of irregularity had
terrors for her which those whose names are safeguarded from
suspicion know nothing of. "You ought to marry Mr. Henchard
or nobody--certainly not another man!" she went on with a
quivering lip in whose movement two passions shared.
"I don't admit that!" said Lucetta passionately.
"Admit it or not, it is true!"
Lucetta covered her eyes with her right hand, as if she
could plead no more, holding out her left to Elizabeth-Jane.
"Why, you HAVE married him!" cried the latter, jumping
up with pleasure after a glance at Lucetta's fingers. "When
did you do it? Why did you not tell me, instead of teasing
me like this? How very honourable of you! He did treat my
mother badly once, it seems, in a moment of intoxication.
And it is true that he is stern sometimes. But you will
rule him entirely, I am sure, with your beauty and wealth
and accomplishments. You are the woman he will adore, and
we shall all three be happy together now!"
"O, my Elizabeth-Jane!" cried Lucetta distressfully. "'Tis
somebody else that I have married! I was so desperate--so
afraid of being forced to anything else--so afraid of
revelations that would quench his love for me, that I
resolved to do it offhand, come what might, and purchase a
week of happiness at any cost!"
"You--have--married Mr. Farfrae!" cried Elizabeth-Jane, in
Lucetta bowed. She had recovered herself.
"The bells are ringing on that account," she said. "My
husband is downstairs. He will live here till a more
suitable house is ready for us; and I have told him that I
want you to stay with me just as before."
"Let me think of it alone," the girl quickly replied,
corking up the turmoil of her feeling with grand control.
"You shall. I am sure we shall be happy together."
Lucetta departed to join Donald below, a vague uneasiness
floating over her joy at seeing him quite at home there.
Not on account of her friend Elizabeth did she feel it: for
of the bearings of Elizabeth-Jane's emotions she had not the
least suspicion; but on Henchard's alone.
Now the instant decision of Susan Henchard's daughter was to
dwell in that house no more. Apart from her estimate of the
propriety of Lucetta's conduct, Farfrae had been so nearly
her avowed lover that she felt she could not abide there.
It was still early in the evening when she hastily put on
her things and went out. In a few minutes, knowing the
ground, she had found a suitable lodging, and arranged to
enter it that night. Returning and entering noiselessly she
took off her pretty dress and arrayed herself in a plain
one, packing up the other to keep as her best; for she would
have to be very economical now. She wrote a note to leave
for Lucetta, who was closely shut up in the drawing-room
with Farfrae; and then Elizabeth-Jane called a man with a
wheel-barrow; and seeing her boxes put into it she trotted
off down the street to her rooms. They were in the street
in which Henchard lived, and almost opposite his door.
Here she sat down and considered the means of subsistence.
The little annual sum settled on her by her stepfather would
keep body and soul together. A wonderful skill in netting
of all sorts--acquired in childhood by making seines in
Newson's home--might serve her in good stead; and her
studies, which were pursued unremittingly, might serve her
in still better.
By this time the marriage that had taken place was known
throughout Casterbridge; had been discussed noisily on
kerbstones, confidentially behind counters, and jovially at
the Three Mariners. Whether Farfrae would sell his business
and set up for a gentleman on his wife's money, or whether
he would show independence enough to stick to his trade in
spite of his brilliant alliance, was a great point of
The retort of the furmity-woman before the magistrates had
spread; and in four-and-twenty hours there was not a person
in Casterbridge who remained unacquainted with the story of
Henchard's mad freak at Weydon-Priors Fair, long years
before. The amends he had made in after life were lost
sight of in the dramatic glare of the original act. Had the
incident been well known of old and always, it might by this
time have grown to be lightly regarded as the rather tall
wild oat, but well-nigh the single one, of a young man with
whom the steady and mature (if somewhat headstrong) burgher
of to-day had scarcely a point in common. But the act
having lain as dead and buried ever since, the interspace of
years was unperceived; and the black spot of his youth wore
the aspect of a recent crime.
Small as the police-court incident had been in itself, it
formed the edge or turn in the incline of Henchard's
fortunes. On that day--almost at that minute--he passed the
ridge of prosperity and honour, and began to descend rapidly
on the other side. It was strange how soon he sank in
esteem. Socially he had received a startling fillip
downwards; and, having already lost commercial buoyancy from
rash transactions, the velocity of his descent in both
aspects became accelerated every hour.
He now gazed more at the pavements and less at the house-
fronts when he walked about; more at the feet and leggings
of men, and less into the pupils of their eyes with the
blazing regard which formerly had made them blink.
New events combined to undo him. It had been a bad year for
others besides himself, and the heavy failure of a debtor
whom he had trusted generously completed the overthrow of
his tottering credit. And now, in his desperation, he
failed to preserve that strict correspondence between bulk
and sample which is the soul of commerce in grain. For
this, one of his men was mainly to blame; that worthy, in
his great unwisdom, having picked over the sample of an
enormous quantity of second-rate corn which Henchard had in
hand, and removed the pinched, blasted, and smutted grains
in great numbers. The produce if honestly offered would
have created no scandal; but the blunder of
misrepresentation, coming at such a moment, dragged
Henchard's name into the ditch.
The details of his failure were of the ordinary kind. One
day Elizabeth-Jane was passing the King's Arms, when she saw
people bustling in and out more than usual where there was
no market. A bystander informed her, with some surprise at
her ignorance, that it was a meeting of the Commissioners
under Mr. Henchard's bankruptcy. She felt quite tearful,
and when she heard that he was present in the hotel she
wished to go in and see him, but was advised not to intrude
The room in which debtor and creditors had assembled was a
front one, and Henchard, looking out of the window, had
caught sight of Elizabeth-Jane through the wire blind. His
examination had closed, and the creditors were leaving. The
appearance of Elizabeth threw him into a reverie, till,
turning his face from the window, and towering above all the
rest, he called their attention for a moment more. His
countenance had somewhat changed from its flush of
prosperity; the black hair and whiskers were the same as
ever, but a film of ash was over the rest.
"Gentlemen," he said, "over and above the assets that we've
been talking about, and that appear on the balance-sheet,
there be these. It all belongs to ye, as much as everything
else I've got, and I don't wish to keep it from you, not I."
Saying this, he took his gold watch from his pocket and laid
it on the table; then his purse--the yellow canvas money-
bag, such as was carried by all farmers and dealers--untying
it, and shaking the money out upon the table beside the
watch. The latter he drew back quickly for an instant, to
remove the hair-guard made and given him by Lucetta.
"There, now you have all I've got in the world," he said.
"And I wish for your sakes 'twas more."
The creditors, farmers almost to a man, looked at the watch,
and at the money, and into the street; when Farmer James
Everdene of Weatherbury spoke.
"No, no, Henchard," he said warmly. "We don't want that.
'Tis honourable in ye; but keep it. What do you say,
neighbours--do ye agree?"
"Ay, sure: we don't wish it at all," said Grower, another
"Let him keep it, of course," murmured another in the
background--a silent, reserved young man named Boldwood; and
the rest responded unanimously.
"Well," said the senior Commissioner, addressing Henchard,
"though the case is a desperate one, I am bound to admit
that I have never met a debtor who behaved more fairly.
I've proved the balance-sheet to be as honestly made out as
it could possibly be; we have had no trouble; there have
been no evasions and no concealments. The rashness of
dealing which led to this unhappy situation is obvious
enough; but as far as I can see every attempt has been made
to avoid wronging anybody."
Henchard was more affected by this than he cared to let them
perceive, and he turned aside to the window again. A
general murmur of agreement followed the Commissioner's
words, and the meeting dispersed. When they were gone
Henchard regarded the watch they had returned to him.
"'Tisn't mine by rights," he said to himself. "Why the
devil didn't they take it?--I don't want what don't belong
to me!" Moved by a recollection he took the watch to the
maker's just opposite, sold it there and then for what the
tradesman offered, and went with the proceeds to one among
the smaller of his creditors, a cottager of Durnover in
straitened circumstances, to whom he handed the money.
When everything was ticketed that Henchard had owned, and
the auctions were in progress, there was quite a sympathetic
reaction in the town, which till then for some time past had
done nothing but condemn him. Now that Henchard's whole
career was pictured distinctly to his neighbours, and they
could see how admirably he had used his one talent of energy
to create a position of affluence out of absolutely nothing--
which was really all he could show when he came to the town
as a journeyman hay-trusser, with his wimble and knife in
his basket--they wondered and regretted his fall.
Try as she might, Elizabeth could never meet with him. She
believed in him still, though nobody else did; and she
wanted to be allowed to forgive him for his roughness to
her, and to help him in his trouble.
She wrote to him; he did not reply. She then went to his
house--the great house she had lived in so happily for a
time--with its front of dun brick, vitrified here and there
and its heavy sash-bars--but Henchard was to be found there
no more. The ex-Mayor had left the home of his prosperity,
and gone into Jopp's cottage by the Priory Mill--the sad
purlieu to which he had wandered on the night of his
discovery that she was not his daughter. Thither she went.
Elizabeth thought it odd that he had fixed on this spot to
retire to, but assumed that necessity had no choice. Trees
which seemed old enough to have been planted by the friars
still stood around, and the back hatch of the original mill
yet formed a cascade which had raised its terrific roar for
centuries. The cottage itself was built of old stones from
the long dismantled Priory, scraps of tracery, moulded
window-jambs, and arch-labels, being mixed in with the
rubble of the walls.
In this cottage he occupied a couple of rooms, Jopp, whom
Henchard had employed, abused, cajoled, and dismissed by
turns, being the householder. But even here her stepfather
could not be seen.
"Not by his daughter?" pleaded Elizabeth.
"By nobody--at present: that's his order," she was informed.
Afterwards she was passing by the corn-stores and hay-barns
which had been the headquarters of his business. She knew
that he ruled there no longer; but it was with amazement
that she regarded the familiar gateway. A smear of decisive
lead-coloured paint had been laid on to obliterate
Henchard's name, though its letters dimly loomed through
like ships in a fog. Over these, in fresh white, spread the
name of Farfrae.
Abel Whittle was edging his skeleton in at the wicket, and
she said, "Mr. Farfrae is master here?"
"Yaas, Miss Henchet," he said, "Mr. Farfrae have bought the
concern and all of we work-folk with it; and 'tis better for
us than 'twas--though I shouldn't say that to you as a
daughter-law. We work harder, but we bain't made afeard
now. It was fear made my few poor hairs so thin! No busting
out, no slamming of doors, no meddling with yer eternal soul
and all that; and though 'tis a shilling a week less I'm the
richer man; for what's all the world if yer mind is always
in a larry, Miss Henchet?"
The intelligence was in a general sense true; and Henchard's
stores, which had remained in a paralyzed condition during
the settlement of his bankruptcy, were stirred into activity
again when the new tenant had possession. Thenceforward the
full sacks, looped with the shining chain, went scurrying up
and down under the cat-head, hairy arms were thrust out from
the different door-ways, and the grain was hauled in;
trusses of hay were tossed anew in and out of the barns, and
the wimbles creaked; while the scales and steel-yards began
to be busy where guess-work had formerly been the rule.
Two bridges stood near the lower part of Casterbridge town.
The first, of weather-stained brick, was immediately at the
end of High Street, where a diverging branch from that
thoroughfare ran round to the low-lying Durnover lanes; so
that the precincts of the bridge formed the merging point of
respectability and indigence. The second bridge, of stone,
was further out on the highway--in fact, fairly in the
meadows, though still within the town boundary.
These bridges had speaking countenances. Every projection
in each was worn down to obtuseness, partly by weather, more
by friction from generations of loungers, whose toes and
heels had from year to year made restless movements against
these parapets, as they had stood there meditating on the
aspect of affairs. In the case of the more friable bricks
and stones even the flat faces were worn into hollows by the
same mixed mechanism. The masonry of the top was clamped
with iron at each joint; since it had been no uncommon thing
for desperate men to wrench the coping off and throw it down
the river, in reckless defiance of the magistrates.
For to this pair of bridges gravitated all the failures of
the town; those who had failed in business, in love, in
sobriety, in crime. Why the unhappy hereabout usually chose
the bridges for their meditations in preference to a
railing, a gate, or a stile, was not so clear.
There was a marked difference of quality between the
personages who haunted the near bridge of brick and the
personages who haunted the far one of stone. Those of
lowest character preferred the former, adjoining the town;
they did not mind the glare of the public eye. They had
been of comparatively no account during their successes; and
though they might feel dispirited, they had no particular
sense of shame in their ruin. Their hands were mostly kept
in their pockets; they wore a leather strap round their hips
or knees, and boots that required a great deal of lacing,
but seemed never to get any. Instead of sighing at their
adversities they spat, and instead of saying the iron had
entered into their souls they said they were down on their
luck. Jopp in his time of distress had often stood here; so
had Mother Cuxsom, Christopher Coney, and poor Abel Whittle.
The miserables who would pause on the remoter bridge
were of a politer stamp. They included bankrupts,
hypochondriacs, persons who were what is called "out of a
situation" from fault or lucklessness, the inefficient of
the professional class--shabby-genteel men, who did not know
how to get rid of the weary time between breakfast and
dinner, and the yet more weary time between dinner and dark.
The eye of this species were mostly directed over the
parapet upon the running water below. A man seen there
looking thus fixedly into the river was pretty sure to be
one whom the world did not treat kindly for some reason or
other. While one in straits on the townward bridge did not
mind who saw him so, and kept his back to the parapet to
survey the passers-by, one in straits on this never faced
the road, never turned his head at coming footsteps, but,
sensitive to his own condition, watched the current whenever
a stranger approached, as if some strange fish interested
him, though every finned thing had been poached out of the
river years before.
There and thus they would muse; if their grief were the
grief of oppression they would wish themselves kings; if
their grief were poverty, wish themselves millionaires; if
sin, they would wish they were saints or angels; if despised
love, that they were some much-courted Adonis of county
fame. Some had been known to stand and think so long with
this fixed gaze downward that eventually they had allowed
their poor carcases to follow that gaze; and they were
discovered the next morning out of reach of their troubles,
either here or in the deep pool called Blackwater, a little
higher up the river.
To this bridge came Henchard, as other unfortunates had come
before him, his way thither being by the riverside path on
the chilly edge of the town. Here he was standing one windy
afternoon when Durnover church clock struck five. While the
gusts were bringing the notes to his ears across the damp
intervening flat a man passed behind him and greeted