Part 7 out of 8
To him, at least, it was not a joke, but a retaliation.
The proceedings had been brief--too brief--to Lucetta whom
an intoxicating Weltlust had fairly mastered; but they
had brought her a great triumph nevertheless. The shake of
the Royal hand still lingered in her fingers; and the chit-
chat she had overheard, that her husband might possibly
receive the honour of knighthood, though idle to a degree,
seemed not the wildest vision; stranger things had occurred
to men so good and captivating as her Scotchman was.
After the collision with the Mayor, Henchard had withdrawn
behind the ladies' stand; and there he stood, regarding with
a stare of abstraction the spot on the lapel of his coat
where Farfrae's hand had seized it. He put his own hand
there, as if he could hardly realize such an outrage from
one whom it had once been his wont to treat with ardent
generosity. While pausing in this half-stupefied state
the conversation of Lucetta with the other ladies
reached his ears; and he distinctly heard her deny him--deny
that he had assisted Donald, that he was anything more than
a common journeyman.
He moved on homeward, and met Jopp in the archway to the
Bull Stake. "So you've had a snub," said Jopp.
"And what if I have?" answered Henchard sternly.
"Why, I've had one too, so we are both under the same cold
shade." He briefly related his attempt to win Lucetta's
Henchard merely heard his story, without taking it deeply
in. His own relation to Farfrae and Lucetta overshadowed
all kindred ones. He went on saying brokenly to himself,
"She has supplicated to me in her time; and now her tongue
won't own me nor her eyes see me!...And he--how angry he
looked. He drove me back as if I were a bull breaking
fence....I took it like a lamb, for I saw it could not be
settled there. He can rub brine on a green wound!...But he
shall pay for it, and she shall be sorry. It must come to a
tussle--face to face; and then we'll see how a coxcomb can
front a man!"
Without further reflection the fallen merchant, bent on some
wild purpose, ate a hasty dinner and went forth to find
Farfrae. After being injured by him as a rival, and snubbed
by him as a journeyman, the crowning degradation had been
reserved for this day--that he should be shaken at the
collar by him as a vagabond in the face of the whole town.
The crowds had dispersed. But for the green arches which
still stood as they were erected Casterbridge life had
resumed its ordinary shape. Henchard went down corn Street
till he came to Farfrae's house, where he knocked, and left
a message that he would be glad to see his employer at the
granaries as soon as he conveniently could come there.
Having done this he proceeded round to the back and entered
Nobody was present, for, as he had been aware, the labourers
and carters were enjoying a half-holiday on account of the
events of the morning--though the carters would have to
return for a short time later on, to feed and litter down
the horses. He had reached the granary steps and was
about to ascend, when he said to himself aloud, "I'm
stronger than he."
Henchard returned to a shed, where he selected a short piece
of rope from several pieces that were lying about; hitching
one end of this to a nail, he took the other in his right
hand and turned himself bodily round, while keeping his arm
against his side; by this contrivance he pinioned the arm
effectively. He now went up the ladders to the top floor of
It was empty except of a few sacks, and at the further end
was the door often mentioned, opening under the cathead and
chain that hoisted the sacks. He fixed the door open and
looked over the sill. There was a depth of thirty or forty
feet to the ground; here was the spot on which he had been
standing with Farfrae when Elizabeth-Jane had seen him lift
his arm, with many misgivings as to what the movement
He retired a few steps into the loft and waited. From this
elevated perch his eyes could sweep the roofs round about,
the upper parts of the luxurious chestnut trees, now
delicate in leaves of a week's age, and the drooping boughs
of the lines; Farfrae's garden and the green door leading
therefrom. In course of time--he could not say how long--
that green door opened and Farfrae came through. He was
dressed as if for a journey. The low light of the nearing
evening caught his head and face when he emerged from the
shadow of the wall, warming them to a complexion of flame-
colour. Henchard watched him with his mouth firmly set the
squareness of his jaw and the verticality of his profile
being unduly marked.
Farfrae came on with one hand in his pocket, and humming a
tune in a way which told that the words were most in his
mind. They were those of the song he had sung when he
arrived years before at the Three Mariners, a poor young
man, adventuring for life and fortune, and scarcely knowing
"And here's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine."
Nothing moved Henchard like an old melody. He sank
back. "No; I can't do it!" he gasped. "Why does the
infernal fool begin that now!"
At length Farfrae was silent, and Henchard looked out of the
loft door. "Will ye come up here?" he said.
"Ay, man," said Farfrae. "I couldn't see ye. What's
A minute later Henchard heard his feet on the lowest ladder.
He heard him land on the first floor, ascend and land on the
second, begin the ascent to the third. And then his head
rose through the trap behind.
"What are you doing up here at this time?" he asked, coming
forward. "Why didn't ye take your holiday like the rest of
the men?" He spoke in a tone which had just severity enough
in it to show that he remembered the untoward event of the
forenoon, and his conviction that Henchard had been
Henchard said nothing; but going back he closed the stair
hatchway, and stamped upon it so that it went tight into its
frame; he next turned to the wondering young man, who by
this time observed that one of Henchard's arms was bound to
"Now," said Henchard quietly, "we stand face to face--man
and man. Your money and your fine wife no longer lift 'ee
above me as they did but now, and my poverty does not press
"What does it all mean?" asked Farfrae simply.
"Wait a bit, my lad. You should ha' thought twice before
you affronted to extremes a man who had nothing to lose.
I've stood your rivalry, which ruined me, and your snubbing,
which humbled me; but your hustling, that disgraced me, I
Farfrae warmed a little at this. "Ye'd no business there,"
"As much as any one among ye! What, you forward stripling,
tell a man of my age he'd no business there!" The anger-vein
swelled in his forehead as he spoke.
"You insulted Royalty, Henchard; and 'twas my duty, as the
chief magistrate, to stop you."
"Royalty be damned," said Henchard. "I am as loyal as
you, come to that!"
"I am not here to argue. Wait till you cool doon, wait till
you cool; and you will see things the same way as I do."
"You may be the one to cool first," said Henchard grimly.
"Now this is the case. Here be we, in this four-square
loft, to finish out that little wrestle you began this
morning. There's the door, forty foot above ground. One of
us two puts the other out by that door--the master stays
inside. If he likes he may go down afterwards and give the
alarm that the other has fallen out by accident--or he may
tell the truth--that's his business. As the strongest man
I've tied one arm to take no advantage of 'ee. D'ye
understand? Then here's at 'ee!"
There was no time for Farfrae to do aught but one thing, to
close with Henchard, for the latter had come on at once. It
was a wrestling match, the object of each being to give his
antagonist a back fall; and on Henchard's part,
unquestionably, that it should be through the door.
At the outset Henchard's hold by his only free hand, the
right, was on the left side of Farfrae's collar, which he
firmly grappled, the latter holding Henchard by his collar
with the contrary hand. With his right he endeavoured to
get hold of his antagonist's left arm, which, however, he
could not do, so adroitly did Henchard keep it in the rear
as he gazed upon the lowered eyes of his fair and slim
Henchard planted the first toe forward, Farfrae crossing him
with his; and thus far the struggle had very much the
appearance of the ordinary wrestling of those parts.
Several minutes were passed by them in this attitude, the
pair rocking and writhing like trees in a gale, both
preserving an absolute silence. By this time their
breathing could be heard. Then Farfrae tried to get hold of
the other side of Henchard's collar, which was resisted by
the larger man exerting all his force in a wrenching
movement, and this part of the struggle ended by his forcing
Farfrae down on his knees by sheer pressure of one of his
muscular arms. Hampered as he was, however, he could not
keep him there, and Farfrae finding his feet again the
struggle proceeded as before.
By a whirl Henchard brought Donald dangerously near the
precipice; seeing his position the Scotchman for the first
time locked himself to his adversary, and all the efforts of
that infuriated Prince of Darkness--as he might have been
called from his appearance just now--were inadequate to lift
or loosen Farfrae for a time. By an extraordinary effort he
succeeded at last, though not until they had got far back
again from the fatal door. In doing so Henchard contrived
to turn Farfrae a complete somersault. Had Henchard's other
arm been free it would have been all over with Farfrae then.
But again he regained his feet, wrenching Henchard's arm
considerably, and causing him sharp pain, as could be seen
from the twitching of his face. He instantly delivered the
younger man an annihilating turn by the left fore-hip, as it
used to be expressed, and following up his advantage thrust
him towards the door, never loosening his hold till
Farfrae's fair head was hanging over the window-sill, and
his arm dangling down outside the wall.
"Now," said Henchard between his gasps, "this is the end of
what you began this morning. Your life is in my hands."
"Then take it, take it!" said Farfrae. "Ye've wished to
Henchard looked down upon him in silence, and their eyes
met. "O Farfrae!--that's not true!" he said bitterly. "God
is my witness that no man ever loved another as I did thee
at one time....And now--though I came here to kill 'ee, I
cannot hurt thee! Go and give me in charge--do what you
will--I care nothing for what comes of me!"
He withdrew to the back part of the loft, loosened his arm,
and flung himself in a corner upon some sacks, in the
abandonment of remorse. Farfrae regarded him in silence;
then went to the hatch and descended through it. Henchard
would fain have recalled him, but his tongue failed in its
task, and the young man's steps died on his ear.
Henchard took his full measure of shame and self-reproach.
The scenes of his first acquaintance with Farfrae rushed
back upon him--that time when the curious mixture of romance
and thrift in the young man's composition so commanded his
heart that Farfrae could play upon him as on an instrument.
So thoroughly subdued was he that he remained on the sacks
in a crouching attitude, unusual for a man, and for
such a man. Its womanliness sat tragically on the figure of
so stern a piece of virility. He heard a conversation
below, the opening of the coach-house door, and the putting
in of a horse, but took no notice.
Here he stayed till the thin shades thickened to opaque
obscurity, and the loft-door became an oblong of gray light--
the only visible shape around. At length he arose, shook
the dust from his clothes wearily, felt his way to the
hatch, and gropingly descended the steps till he stood in
"He thought highly of me once," he murmured. "Now he'll
hate me and despise me for ever!"
He became possessed by an overpowering wish to see Farfrae
again that night, and by some desperate pleading to attempt
the well-nigh impossible task of winning pardon for his late
mad attack. But as he walked towards Farfrae's door he
recalled the unheeded doings in the yard while he had lain
above in a sort of stupor. Farfrae he remembered had gone
to the stable and put the horse into the gig; while doing so
Whittle had brought him a letter; Farfrae had then said that
he would not go towards Budmouth as he had intended--that he
was unexpectedly summoned to Weatherbury, and meant to call
at Mellstock on his way thither, that place lying but one or
two miles out of his course.
He must have come prepared for a journey when he first
arrived in the yard, unsuspecting enmity; and he must have
driven off (though in a changed direction) without saying a
word to any one on what had occurred between themselves.
It would therefore be useless to call at Farfrae's house
till very late.
There was no help for it but to wait till his return, though
waiting was almost torture to his restless and self-accusing
soul. He walked about the streets and outskirts of the
town, lingering here and there till he reached the stone
bridge of which mention has been made, an accustomed
halting-place with him now. Here he spent a long time, the
purl of waters through the weirs meeting his ear, and the
Casterbridge lights glimmering at no great distance off.
While leaning thus upon the parapet his listless attention
was awakened by sounds of an unaccustomed kind from the town
quarter. They were a confusion of rhythmical noises,
to which the streets added yet more confusion by
encumbering them with echoes. His first incurious thought
that the clangour arose from the town band, engaged in an
attempt to round off a memorable day in a burst of evening
harmony, was contradicted by certain peculiarities of
reverberation. But inexplicability did not rouse him to
more than a cursory heed; his sense of degradation was too
strong for the admission of foreign ideas; and he leant
against the parapet as before.
When Farfrae descended out of the loft breathless from his
encounter with Henchard, he paused at the bottom to recover
himself. He arrived at the yard with the intention of
putting the horse into the gig himself (all the men having a
holiday), and driving to a village on the Budmouth Road.
Despite the fearful struggle he decided still to persevere
in his journey, so as to recover himself before going
indoors and meeting the eyes of Lucetta. He wished to
consider his course in a case so serious.
When he was just on the point of driving off Whittle arrived
with a note badly addressed, and bearing the word
"immediate" upon the outside. On opening it he was
surprised to see that it was unsigned. It contained a brief
request that he would go to Weatherbury that evening about
some business which he was conducting there. Farfrae knew
nothing that could make it pressing; but as he was bent upon
going out he yielded to the anonymous request, particularly
as he had a call to make at Mellstock which could be
included in the same tour. Thereupon he told Whittle of his
change of direction, in words which Henchard had overheard,
and set out on his way. Farfrae had not directed his man to
take the message indoors, and Whittle had not been supposed
to do so on his own responsibility.
Now the anonymous letter was a well-intentioned but clumsy
contrivance of Longways and other of Farfrae's men to
get him out of the way for the evening, in order that the
satirical mummery should fall flat, if it were attempted.
By giving open information they would have brought down upon
their heads the vengeance of those among their comrades who
enjoyed these boisterous old games; and therefore the plan
of sending a letter recommended itself by its indirectness.
For poor Lucetta they took no protective measure, believing
with the majority there was some truth in the scandal, which
she would have to bear as she best might.
It was about eight o'clock, and Lucetta was sitting in the
drawing-room alone. Night had set in for more than half an
hour, but she had not had the candles lighted, for when
Farfrae was away she preferred waiting for him by the
firelight, and, if it were not too cold, keeping one of the
window-sashes a little way open that the sound of his wheels
might reach her ears early. She was leaning back in the
chair, in a more hopeful mood than she had enjoyed since her
marriage. The day had been such a success, and the
temporary uneasiness which Henchard's show of effrontery had
wrought in her disappeared with the quiet disappearance of
Henchard himself under her husband's reproof. The floating
evidences of her absurd passion for him, and its
consequences, had been destroyed, and she really seemed to
have no cause for fear.
The reverie in which these and other subjects mingled was
disturbed by a hubbub in the distance, that increased moment
by moment. It did not greatly surprise her, the afternoon
having been given up to recreation by a majority of the
populace since the passage of the Royal equipages. But her
attention was at once riveted to the matter by the voice of
a maid-servant next door, who spoke from an upper window
across the street to some other maid even more elevated than
"Which way be they going now?" inquired the first with
"I can't be sure for a moment," said the second, "because of
the malter's chimbley. O yes--I can see 'em. Well, I
declare, I declare!
"What, what?" from the first, more enthusiastically.
"They are coming up Corn Street after all! They sit
back to back!"
"What--two of 'em--are there two figures?"
"Yes. Two images on a donkey, back to back, their elbows
tied to one another's! She's facing the head, and he's
facing the tail."
"Is it meant for anybody in particular?"
"Well--it mid be. The man has got on a blue coat and
kerseymere leggings; he has black whiskers, and a reddish
face. 'Tis a stuffed figure, with a falseface."
The din was increasing now--then it lessened a little.
"There--I shan't see, after all!" cried the disappointed
"They have gone into a back street--that's all," said the
one who occupied the enviable position in the attic.
"There--now I have got 'em all endways nicely!"
"What's the woman like? Just say, and I can tell in a moment
if 'tis meant for one I've in mind."
"My--why--'tis dressed just as SHE dressed when she sat
in the front seat at the time the play-actors came to the
Lucetta started to her feet, and almost at the instant the
door of the room was quickly and softly opened. Elizabeth-
Jane advanced into the firelight.
"I have come to see you," she said breathlessly. "I did not
stop to knock--forgive me! I see you have not shut your
shutters, and the window is open."
Without waiting for Lucetta's reply she crossed quickly to
the window and pulled out one of the shutters. Lucetta
glided to her side. "Let it be--hush!" she said
perempority, in a dry voice, while she seized Elizabeth-Jane
by the hand, and held up her finger. Their intercourse had
been so low and hurried that not a word had been lost of the
conversation without, which had thus proceeded:--
"Her neck is uncovered, and her hair in bands, and her back-
comb in place; she's got on a puce silk, and white
stockings, and coloured shoes."
Again Elizabeth-Jane attempted to close the window, but
Lucetta held her by main force.
"'Tis me!" she said, with a face pale as death. "A
procession--a scandal--an effigy of me, and him!"
The look of Elizabeth betrayed that the latter knew it
"Let us shut it out," coaxed Elizabeth-Jane, noting that the
rigid wildness of Lucetta's features was growing yet more
rigid and wild with the meaning of the noise and laughter.
"Let us shut it out!"
"It is of no use!" she shrieked. "He will see it, won't he?
Donald will see it! He is just coming home--and it will
break his heart--he will never love me any more--and O, it
will kill me--kill me!"
Elizabeth-Jane was frantic now. "O, can't something be done
to stop it?" she cried. "Is there nobody to do it--not
She relinquished Lucetta's hands, and ran to the door.
Lucetta herself, saying recklessly "I will see it!" turned
to the window, threw up the sash, and went out upon the
balcony. Elizabeth immediately followed, and put her arm
round her to pull her in. Lucetta's eyes were straight upon
the spectacle of the uncanny revel, now dancing rapidly.
The numerous lights round the two effigies threw them up
into lurid distinctness; it was impossible to mistake the
pair for other than the intended victims.
"Come in, come in," implored Elizabeth; "and let me shut the
"She's me--she's me--even to the parasol--my green parasol!"
cried Lucetta with a wild laugh as she stepped in. She
stood motionless for one second--then fell heavily to the
Almost at the instant of her fall the rude music of the
skimmington ceased. The roars of sarcastic laughter went
off in ripples, and the trampling died out like the rustle
of a spent wind. Elizabeth was only indirectly conscious of
this; she had rung the bell, and was bending over Lucetta,
who remained convulsed on the carpet in the paroxysms of an
epileptic seizure. She rang again and again, in vain; the
probability being that the servants had all run out of the
house to see more of the Daemonic Sabbath than they could
At last Farfrae's man, who had been agape on the door-
step, came up; then the cook. The shutters, hastily
pushed to by Elizabeth, were quite closed, a light was
obtained, Lucetta carried to her room, and the man sent off
for a doctor. While Elizabeth was undressing her she
recovered consciousness; but as soon as she remembered what
had passed the fit returned.
The doctor arrived with unhoped-for promptitude; he had been
standing at his door, like others, wondering what the uproar
meant. As soon as he saw the unhappy sufferer he said, in
answer to Elizabeth's mute appeal, "This is serious."
"It is a fit," Elizabeth said.
"Yes. But a fit in the present state of her health means
mischief. You must send at once for Mr. Farfrae. Where is
"He has driven into the country, sir," said the parlour-
maid; "to some place on the Budmouth Road. He's likely to
be back soon."
"Never mind, he must be sent for, in case he should not
hurry." The doctor returned to the bedside again. The man
was despatched, and they soon heard him clattering out of
the yard at the back.
Meanwhile Mr. Benjamin Grower, that prominent burgess of
whom mention has been already made, hearing the din of
cleavers, tongs, tambourines, kits, crouds, humstrums,
serpents, rams'-horns, and other historical kinds of music
as he sat indoors in the High Street, had put on his hat and
gone out to learn the cause. He came to the corner above
Farfrae's, and soon guessed the nature of the proceedings;
for being a native of the town he had witnessed such rough
jests before. His first move was to search hither and
thither for the constables, there were two in the town,
shrivelled men whom he ultimately found in hiding up an
alley yet more shrivelled than usual, having some not
ungrounded fears that they might be roughly handled if seen.
"What can we two poor lammigers do against such a
multitude!" expostulated Stubberd, in answer to Mr. Grower's
chiding. "'Tis tempting 'em to commit felo-de-se upon
us, and that would be the death of the perpetrator; and we
wouldn't be the cause of a fellow-creature's death on no
account, not we!"
"Get some help, then! Here, I'll come with you. We'll see
what a few words of authority can do. Quick now; have
you got your staves?"
"We didn't want the folk to notice us as law officers, being
so short-handed, sir; so we pushed our Gover'ment staves up
"Out with 'em, and come along, for Heaven's sake! Ah, here's
Mr. Blowbody; that's lucky." (Blowbody was the third of the
three borough magistrates.)
"Well, what's the row?" said Blowbody. "Got their names--
"No. Now," said Grower to one of the constables, "you go
with Mr. Blowbody round by the Old Walk and come up the
street; and I'll go with Stubberd straight forward. By this
plan we shall have 'em between us. Get their names only: no
attack or interruption."
Thus they started. But as Stubberd with Mr. Grower advanced
into Corn Street, whence the sounds had proceeded, they were
surprised that no procession could be seen. They passed
Farfrae's, and looked to the end of the street. The lamp
flames waved, the Walk trees soughed, a few loungers stood
about with their hands in their pockets. Everything was as
"Have you seen a motley crowd making a disturbance?" Grower
said magisterially to one of these in a fustian jacket, who
smoked a short pipe and wore straps round his knees.
"Beg yer pardon, sir?" blandly said the person addressed,
who was no other than Charl, of Peter's finger. Mr. Grower
repeated the words.
Charl shook his head to the zero of childlike ignorance.
"No; we haven't seen anything; have we, Joe? And you was
here afore I."
Joseph was quite as blank as the other in his reply.
"H'm--that's odd," said Mr. Grower. "Ah--here's a
respectable man coming that I know by sight. Have you," he
inquired, addressing the nearing shape of Jopp, "have you
seen any gang of fellows making a devil of a noise--
skimmington riding, or something of the sort?"
"O no--nothing, sir," Jopp replied, as if receiving the most
singular news. "But I've not been far tonight, so perhaps--
"Oh, 'twas here--just here," said the magistrate.
"Now I've noticed, come to think o't that the wind in the
Walk trees makes a peculiar poetical-like murmur to-night,
sir; more than common; so perhaps 'twas that?" Jopp
suggested, as he rearranged his hand in his greatcoat pocket
(where it ingeniously supported a pair of kitchen tongs and
a cow's horn, thrust up under his waistcoat).
"No, no, no--d'ye think I'm a fool? Constable, come this
way. They must have gone into the back street."
Neither in back street nor in front street, however, could
the disturbers be perceived, and Blowbody and the second
constable, who came up at this time, brought similar
intelligence. Effigies, donkey, lanterns, band, all had
disappeared like the crew of Comus.
"Now," said Mr. Grower, "there's only one thing more we can
do. Get ye half-a-dozen helpers, and go in a body to Mixen
Lane, and into Peter's finger. I'm much mistaken if you
don't find a clue to the perpetrators there."
The rusty-jointed executors of the law mustered assistance
as soon as they could, and the whole party marched off to
the lane of notoriety. It was no rapid matter to get there
at night, not a lamp or glimmer of any sort offering itself
to light the way, except an occasional pale radiance through
some window-curtain, or through the chink of some door which
could not be closed because of the smoky chimney within. At
last they entered the inn boldly, by the till then bolted
front-door, after a prolonged knocking of loudness
commensurate with the importance of their standing.
In the settles of the large room, guyed to the ceiling by
cords as usual for stability, an ordinary group sat drinking
and smoking with statuesque quiet of demeanour. The
landlady looked mildly at the invaders, saying in honest
accents, "Good evening, gentlemen; there's plenty of room.
I hope there's nothing amiss?"
They looked round the room. "Surely," said Stubberd to one
of the men, "I saw you by now in Corn Street--Mr. Grower
spoke to 'ee?"
The man, who was Charl, shook his head absently. "I've been
here this last hour, hain't I, Nance?" he said to the woman
who meditatively sipped her ale near him.
"Faith, that you have. I came in for my quiet supper-
time half-pint, and you were here then, as well as all the
The other constable was facing the clock-case, where he saw
reflected in the glass a quick motion by the landlady.
Turning sharply, he caught her closing the oven-door.
"Something curious about that oven, ma'am!" he observed
advancing, opening it, and drawing out a tambourine.
"Ah," she said apologetically, "that's what we keep here to
use when there's a little quiet dancing. You see damp
weather spoils it, so I put it there to keep it dry."
The constable nodded knowingly, but what he knew was
nothing. Nohow could anything be elicited from this mute
and inoffensive assembly. In a few minutes the
investigators went out, and joining those of their
auxiliaries who had been left at the door they pursued their
Long before this time Henchard, weary of his ruminations on
the bridge, had repaired towards the town. When he stood at
the bottom of the street a procession burst upon his view,
in the act of turning out of an alley just above him. The
lanterns, horns, and multitude startled him; he saw the
mounted images, and knew what it all meant.
They crossed the way, entered another street, and
disappeared. He turned back a few steps and was lost in
grave reflection, finally wending his way homeward by the
obscure river-side path. Unable to rest there he went to
his step-daughter's lodging, and was told that Elizabeth-
Jane had gone to Mr. Farfrae's. Like one acting in
obedience to a charm, and with a nameless apprehension, he
followed in the same direction in the hope of meeting her,
the roysterers having vanished. Disappointed in this he
gave the gentlest of pulls to the door-bell, and then learnt
particulars of what had occurred, together with the doctor's
imperative orders that Farfrae should be brought home, and
how they had set out to meet him on the Budmouth Road.
"But he has gone to Mellstock and Weatherbury!" exclaimed
Henchard, now unspeakably grieved. "Not Budmouth way at
But, alas! for Henchard; he had lost his good name. They
would not believe him, taking his words but as the frothy
utterances of recklessness. Though Lucetta's life seemed at
that moment to depend upon her husband's return (she being
in great mental agony lest he should never know the
unexaggerated truth of her past relations with Henchard), no
messenger was despatched towards Weatherbury. Henchard, in
a state of bitter anxiety and contrition, determined to seek
To this end he hastened down the town, ran along the eastern
road over Durnover Moor, up the hill beyond, and thus onward
in the moderate darkness of this spring night till he had
reached a second and almost a third hill about three miles
distant. In Yalbury Bottom, or Plain, at the foot of the
hill, he listened. At first nothing, beyond his own heart-
throbs, was to be heard but the slow wind making its moan
among the masses of spruce and larch of Yalbury Wood which
clothed the heights on either hand; but presently there came
the sound of light wheels whetting their felloes against the
newly stoned patches of road, accompanied by the distant
glimmer of lights.
He knew it was Farfrae's gig descending the hill from an
indescribable personality in its noise, the vehicle having
been his own till bought by the Scotchman at the sale of his
effects. Henchard thereupon retraced his steps along
Yalbury Plain, the gig coming up with him as its driver
slackened speed between two plantations.
It was a point in the highway near which the road to
Mellstock branched off from the homeward direction. By
diverging to that village, as he had intended to do, Farfrae
might probably delay his return by a couple of hours. It
soon appeared that his intention was to do so still, the
light swerving towards Cuckoo Lane, the by-road aforesaid.
Farfrae's off gig-lamp flashed in Henchard's face. At the
same time Farfrae discerned his late antagonist.
"Farfrae--Mr. Farfrae!" cried the breathless Henchard,
holding up his hand.
Farfrae allowed the horse to turn several steps into the
branch lane before he pulled up. He then drew rein, and
said "Yes?" over his shoulder, as one would towards a
"Come back to Casterbridge at once!" Henchard said.
"There's something wrong at your house--requiring your
return. I've run all the way here on purpose to tell ye."
Farfrae was silent, and at his silence Henchard's soul sank
within him. Why had he not, before this, thought of what
was only too obvious? He who, four hours earlier, had
enticed Farfrae into a deadly wrestle stood now in the
darkness of late night-time on a lonely road, inviting him
to come a particular way, where an assailant might have
confederates, instead of going his purposed way, where there
might be a better opportunity of guarding himself from
attack. Henchard could almost feel this view of things in
course of passage through Farfrae's mind.
"I have to go to Mellstock," said Farfrae coldly, as he
loosened his reins to move on.
"But," implored Henchard, "the matter is more serious than
your business at Mellstock. It is--your wife! She is ill.
I can tell you particulars as we go along."
The very agitation and abruptness of Henchard increased
Farfrae's suspicion that this was a ruse to decoy him on
to the next wood, where might be effectually compassed what,
from policy or want of nerve, Henchard had failed to do
earlier in the day. He started the horse.
"I know what you think," deprecated Henchard running after,
almost bowed down with despair as he perceived the image of
unscrupulous villainy that he assumed in his former friend's
eyes. "But I am not what you think!" he cried hoarsely.
"Believe me, Farfrae; I have come entirely on your own and
your wife's account. She is in danger. I know no more; and
they want you to come. Your man has gone the other way in a
mistake. O Farfrae! don't mistrust me--I am a wretched man;
but my heart is true to you still!"
Farfrae, however, did distrust him utterly. He knew his
wife was with child, but he had left her not long ago in
perfect health; and Henchard's treachery was more credible
than his story. He had in his time heard bitter
ironies from Henchard's lips, and there might be ironies
now. He quickened the horse's pace, and had soon risen into
the high country lying between there and Mellstock,
Henchard's spasmodic run after him lending yet more
substance to his thought of evil purposes.
The gig and its driver lessened against the sky in
Henchard's eyes; his exertions for Farfrae's good had been
in vain. Over this repentant sinner, at least, there was to
be no joy in heaven. He cursed himself like a less
scrupulous Job, as a vehement man will do when he loses
self-respect, the last mental prop under poverty. To this
he had come after a time of emotional darkness of which the
adjoining woodland shade afforded inadequate illustration.
Presently he began to walk back again along the way by which
he had arrived. Farfrae should at all events have no reason
for delay upon the road by seeing him there when he took his
journey homeward later on.
Arriving at Casterbridge Henchard went again to Farfrae's
house to make inquiries. As soon as the door opened anxious
faces confronted his from the staircase, hall, and landing;
and they all said in grievous disappointment, "O--it is not
he!" The manservant, finding his mistake, had long since
returned, and all hopes had centred upon Henchard.
"But haven't you found him?" said the doctor.
"Yes....I cannot tell 'ee!" Henchard replied as he sank down
on a chair within the entrance. "He can't be home for two
"H'm," said the surgeon, returning upstairs.
"How is she?" asked Henchard of Elizabeth, who formed one of
"In great danger, father. Her anxiety to see her husband
makes her fearfully restless. Poor woman--I fear they have
Henchard regarded the sympathetic speaker for a few instants
as if she struck him in a new light, then, without further
remark, went out of the door and onward to his lonely
cottage. So much for man's rivalry, he thought. Death was
to have the oyster, and Farfrae and himself the shells. But
about Elizabeth-lane; in the midst of his gloom she
seemed to him as a pin-point of light. He had liked
the look on her face as she answered him from the stairs.
There had been affection in it, and above all things what he
desired now was affection from anything that was good and
pure. She was not his own, yet, for the first time, he had
a faint dream that he might get to like her as his own,--if
she would only continue to love him.
Jopp was just going to bed when Henchard got home. As the
latter entered the door Jopp said, "This is rather bad about
Mrs. Farfrae's illness."
"Yes," said Henchard shortly, though little dreaming of Jopp
s complicity in the night's harlequinade, and raising his
eyes just sufficiently to observe that Jopp's face was lined
"Somebody has called for you," continued Jopp, when Henchard
was shutting himself into his own apartment. "A kind of
traveller, or sea-captain of some sort."
"Oh?--who could he be?"
"He seemed a well-be-doing man--had grey hair and a broadish
face; but he gave no name, and no message."
"Nor do I gi'e him any attention." And, saying this,
Henchard closed his door.
The divergence to Mellstock delayed Farfrae's return very
nearly the two hours of Henchard's estimate. Among the
other urgent reasons for his presence had been the need of
his authority to send to Budmouth for a second physician;
and when at length Farfrae did come back he was in a state
bordering on distraction at his misconception of Henchard's
A messenger was despatched to Budmouth, late as it had
grown; the night wore on, and the other doctor came in the
small hours. Lucetta had been much soothed by Donald's
arrival; he seldom or never left her side; and when,
immediately after his entry, she had tried to lisp out to
him the secret which so oppressed her, he checked her feeble
words, lest talking should be dangerous, assuring her there
was plenty of time to tell him everything.
Up to this time he knew nothing of the skimmington-ride.
The dangerous illness and miscarriage of Mrs. Farfrae was
soon rumoured through the town, and an apprehensive
guess having been given as to its cause by the leaders in
the exploit, compunction and fear threw a dead silence over
all particulars of their orgie; while those immediately
around Lucetta would not venture to add to her husband's
distress by alluding to the subject.
What, and how much, Farfrae's wife ultimately explained to
him of her past entanglement with Henchard, when they were
alone in the solitude of that sad night, cannot be told.
That she informed him of the bare facts of her peculiar
intimacy with the corn-merchant became plain from Farfrae's
own statements. But in respect of her subsequent conduct--
her motive in coming to Casterbridge to unite herself with
Henchard--her assumed justification in abandoning him when
she discovered reasons for fearing him (though in truth her
inconsequent passion for another man at first sight had most
to do with that abandonment)--her method of reconciling to
her conscience a marriage with the second when she was in a
measure committed to the first: to what extent she spoke of
these things remained Farfrae's secret alone.
Besides the watchman who called the hours and weather in
Casterbridge that night there walked a figure up and down
corn Street hardly less frequently. It was Henchard's,
whose retiring to rest had proved itself a futility as soon
as attempted; and he gave it up to go hither and thither,
and make inquiries about the patient every now and then. He
called as much on Farfrae's account as on Lucetta's, and on
Elizabeth-Jane's even more than on either's. Shorn one by
one of all other interests, his life seemed centring on the
personality of the stepdaughter whose presence but recently
he could not endure. To see her on each occasion of his
inquiry at Lucetta's was a comfort to him.
The last of his calls was made about four o'clock in the
morning, in the steely light of dawn. Lucifer was fading
into day across Durnover Moor, the sparrows were just
alighting into the street, and the hens had begun to cackle
from the outhouses. When within a few yards of Farfrae's he
saw the door gently opened, and a servant raise her hand to
the knocker, to untie the piece of cloth which had muffled
it. He went across, the sparrows in his way scarcely
flying up from the road-litter, so little did they believe
in human aggression at so early a time.
"Why do you take off that?" said Henchard.
She turned in some surprise at his presence, and did not
answer for an instant or two. Recognizing him, she said,
"Because they may knock as loud as they will; she will never
hear it any more."
Henchard went home. The morning having now fully broke he
lit his fire, and sat abstractedly beside it. He had not
sat there long when a gentle footstep approached the house
and entered the passage, a finger tapping lightly at the
door. Henchard's face brightened, for he knew the motions
to be Elizabeth's. She came into his room, looking wan and
"Have you heard?" she asked. "Mrs. Farfrae! She is--dead!
Yes, indeed--about an hour ago!"
"I know it," said Henchard. "I have but lately come in from
there. It is so very good of 'ee, Elizabeth, to come and
tell me. You must be so tired out, too, with sitting up.
Now do you bide here with me this morning. You can go and
rest in the other room; and I will call 'ee when breakfast
To please him, and herself--for his recent kindliness was
winning a surprised gratitude from the lonely girl--she did
as he bade her, and lay down on a sort of couch which
Henchard had rigged up out of a settle in the adjoining
room. She could hear him moving about in his preparations;
but her mind ran most strongly on Lucetta, whose death in
such fulness of life and amid such cheerful hopes of
maternity was appallingly unexpected. Presently she fell
Meanwhile her stepfather in the outer room had set the
breakfast in readiness; but finding that she dozed he would
not call her; he waited on, looking into the fire and
keeping the kettle boiling with house-wifely care, as if it
were an honour to have her in his house. In truth, a
great change had come over him with regard to her, and he
was developing the dream of a future lit by her filial
presence, as though that way alone could happiness lie.
He was disturbed by another knock at the door, and rose to
open it, rather deprecating a call from anybody just then.
A stoutly built man stood on the doorstep, with an alien,
unfamiliar air about his figure and bearing--an air which
might have been called colonial by people of cosmopolitan
experience. It was the man who had asked the way at Peter's
finger. Henchard nodded, and looked inquiry.
"Good morning, good morning," said the stranger with profuse
heartiness. "Is it Mr. Henchard I am talking to?"
"My name is Henchard."
"Then I've caught 'ee at home--that's right. Morning's the
time for business, says I. Can I have a few words with
"By all means," Henchard answered, showing the way in.
"You may remember me?" said his visitor, seating himself.
Henchard observed him indifferently, and shook his head.
"Well--perhaps you may not. My name is Newson."
Henchard's face and eyes seemed to die. The other did not
notice it. "I know the name well," Henchard said at last,
looking on the floor.
"I make no doubt of that. Well, the fact is, I've been
looking for 'ee this fortnight past. I landed at Havenpool
and went through Casterbridge on my way to Falmouth, and
when I got there, they told me you had some years before
been living at Casterbridge. Back came I again, and by long
and by late I got here by coach, ten minutes ago. 'He lives
down by the mill,' says they. So here I am. Now--that
transaction between us some twenty years agone--'tis that
I've called about. 'Twas a curious business. I was younger
then than I am now, and perhaps the less said about it, in
one sense, the better."
"Curious business! 'Twas worse than curious. I cannot even
allow that I'm the man you met then. I was not in my
senses, and a man's senses are himself."
"We were young and thoughtless," said Newson. "However,
I've come to mend matters rather than open arguments. Poor
Susan--hers was a strange experience."
"She was a warm-hearted, home-spun woman. She was not
what they call shrewd or sharp at all--better she had been."
"She was not."
"As you in all likelihood know, she was simple-minded enough
to think that the sale was in a way binding. She was as
guiltless o' wrong-doing in that particular as a saint in
"I know it, I know it. I found it out directly," said
Henchard, still with averted eyes. "There lay the sting o't
to me. If she had seen it as what it was she would never
have left me. Never! But how should she be expected to
know? What advantages had she? None. She could write her
own name, and no more.
"Well, it was not in my heart to undeceive her when the deed
was done," said the sailor of former days. "I thought, and
there was not much vanity in thinking it, that she would be
happier with me. She was fairly happy, and I never would
have undeceived her till the day of her death. Your child
died; she had another, and all went well. But a time came--
mind me, a time always does come. A time came--it was some
while after she and I and the child returned from America--
when somebody she had confided her history to, told her my
claim to her was a mockery, and made a jest of her belief in
my right. After that she was never happy with me. She
pined and pined, and socked and sighed. She said she must
leave me, and then came the question of our child. Then a
man advised me how to act, and I did it, for I thought it
was best. I left her at Falmouth, and went off to sea.
When I got to the other side of the Atlantic there was a
storm, and it was supposed that a lot of us, including
myself, had been washed overboard. I got ashore at
Newfoundland, and then I asked myself what I should do.
"'Since I'm here, here I'll bide,' I thought to myself;
''twill be most kindness to her, now she's taken against me,
to let her believe me lost, for,' I thought, 'while she
supposes us both alive she'll be miserable; but if she
thinks me dead she'll go back to him, and the child will
have a home.' I've never returned to this country till a
month ago, and I found that, as I supposed, she went to you,
and my daughter with her. They told me in Falmouth
that Susan was dead. But my Elizabeth-Jane--where is she?"
"Dead likewise," said Henchard doggedly. "Surely you learnt
The sailor started up, and took an enervated pace or two
down the room. "Dead!" he said, in a low voice. "Then
what's the use of my money to me?"
Henchard, without answering, shook his head as if that were
rather a question for Newson himself than for him.
"Where is she buried?" the traveller inquired.
"Beside her mother," said Henchard, in the same stolid
"When did she die?"
"A year ago and more," replied the other without hesitation.
The sailor continued standing. Henchard never looked up
from the floor. At last Newson said: "My journey hither has
been for nothing! I may as well go as I came! It has served
me right. I'll trouble you no longer."
Henchard heard the retreating footsteps of Newson upon the
sanded floor, the mechanical lifting of the latch, the slow
opening and closing of the door that was natural to a
baulked or dejected man; but he did not turn his head.
Newson's shadow passed the window. He was gone.
Then Henchard, scarcely believing the evidence of his
senses, rose from his seat amazed at what he had done. It
had been the impulse of a moment. The regard he had lately
acquired for Elizabeth, the new-sprung hope of his
loneliness that she would be to him a daughter of whom he
could feel as proud as of the actual daughter she still
believed herself to be, had been stimulated by the
unexpected coming of Newson to a greedy exclusiveness in
relation to her; so that the sudden prospect of her loss had
caused him to speak mad lies like a child, in pure mockery
of consequences. He had expected questions to close in
round him, and unmask his fabrication in five minutes; yet
such questioning had not come. But surely they would come;
Newson's departure could be but momentary; he would learn
all by inquiries in the town; and return to curse him, and
carry his last treasure away!
He hastily put on his hat, and went out in the
direction that Newson had taken. Newson's back was soon
visible up the road, crossing Bull-stake. Henchard
followed, and saw his visitor stop at the King's Arms, where
the morning coach which had brought him waited half-an-hour
for another coach which crossed there. The coach Newson had
come by was now about to move again. Newson mounted, his
luggage was put in, and in a few minutes the vehicle
disappeared with him.
He had not so much as turned his head. It was an act of
simple faith in Henchard's words--faith so simple as to be
almost sublime. The young sailor who had taken Susan
Henchard on the spur of the moment and on the faith of a
glance at her face, more than twenty years before, was still
living and acting under the form of the grizzled traveller
who had taken Henchard's words on trust so absolute as to
shame him as he stood.
Was Elizabeth-Jane to remain his by virtue of this hardy
invention of a moment? "Perhaps not for long," said he.
Newson might converse with his fellow-travellers, some of
whom might be Casterbridge people; and the trick would be
This probability threw Henchard into a defensive attitude,
and instead of considering how best to right the wrong, and
acquaint Elizabeth's father with the truth at once, he
bethought himself of ways to keep the position he had
accidentally won. Towards the young woman herself his
affection grew more jealously strong with each new hazard to
which his claim to her was exposed.
He watched the distant highway expecting to see Newson
return on foot, enlightened and indignant, to claim his
child. But no figure appeared. Possibly he had spoken to
nobody on the coach, but buried his grief in his own heart.
His grief!--what was it, after all, to that which he,
Henchard, would feel at the loss of her? Newson's affection
cooled by years, could not equal his who had been constantly
in her presence. And thus his jealous soul speciously
argued to excuse the separation of father and child.
He returned to the house half expecting that she would have
vanished. No; there she was--just coming out from the
inner room, the marks of sleep upon her eyelids, and
exhibiting a generally refreshed air.
"O father!" she said smiling. "I had no sooner lain down
than I napped, though I did not mean to. I wonder I did not
dream about poor Mrs. Farfrae, after thinking of her so; but
I did not. How strange it is that we do not often dream of
latest events, absorbing as they may be."
"I am glad you have been able to sleep," he said, taking her
hand with anxious proprietorship--an act which gave her a
They sat down to breakfast, and Elizabeth-Jane's thoughts
reverted to Lucetta. Their sadness added charm to a
countenance whose beauty had ever lain in its meditative
"Father," she said, as soon as she recalled herself to the
outspread meal, "it is so kind of you to get this nice
breakfast with your own hands, and I idly asleep the while."
"I do it every day," he replied. "You have left me;
everybody has left me; how should I live but by my own
"You are very lonely, are you not?"
"Ay, child--to a degree that you know nothing of! It is my
own fault. You are the only one who has been near me for
weeks. And you will come no more."
"Why do you say that? Indeed I will, if you would like to
Henchard signified dubiousness. Though he had so lately
hoped that Elizabeth-Jane might again live in his house as
daughter, he would not ask her to do so now. Newson might
return at any moment, and what Elizabeth would think of him
for his deception it were best to bear apart from her.
When they had breakfasted his stepdaughter still lingered,
till the moment arrived at which Henchard was accustomed to
go to his daily work. Then she arose, and with assurance of
coming again soon went up the hill in the morning sunlight.
"At this moment her heart is as warm towards me as mine is
towards her, she would live with me here in this humble
cottage for the asking! Yet before the evening probably he
will have come, and then she will scorn me!"
This reflection, constantly repeated by Henchard to
himself, accompanied him everywhere through the day.
His mood was no longer that of the rebellious, ironical,
reckless misadventurer; but the leaden gloom of one who has
lost all that can make life interesting, or even tolerable.
There would remain nobody for him to be proud of, nobody to
fortify him; for Elizabeth-Jane would soon be but as a
stranger, and worse. Susan, Farfrae, Lucetta, Elizabeth--
all had gone from him, one after one, either by his fault or
by his misfortune.
In place of them he had no interest, hobby, or desire. If
he could have summoned music to his aid his existence might
even now have been borne; for with Henchard music was of
regal power. The merest trumpet or organ tone was enough to
move him, and high harmonies transubstantiated him. But
hard fate had ordained that he should be unable to call up
this Divine spirit in his need.
The whole land ahead of him was as darkness itself; there
was nothing to come, nothing to wait for. Yet in the
natural course of life he might possibly have to linger on
earth another thirty or forty years--scoffed at; at best
The thought of it was unendurable.
To the east of Casterbridge lay moors and meadows through
which much water flowed. The wanderer in this direction who
should stand still for a few moments on a quiet night, might
hear singular symphonies from these waters, as from a
lampless orchestra, all playing in their sundry tones from
near and far parts of the moor. At a hole in a rotten weir
they executed a recitative; where a tributary brook fell
over a stone breastwork they trilled cheerily; under an arch
they performed a metallic cymballing, and at Durnover Hole
they hissed. The spot at which their instrumentation rose
loudest was a place called Ten Hatches, whence during high
springs there proceeded a very fugue of sounds.
The river here was deep and strong at all times, and the
hatches on this account were raised and lowered by cogs and
a winch. A patch led from the second bridge over the
highway (so often mentioned) to these Hatches, crossing the
stream at their head by a narrow plank-bridge. But after
night-fall human beings were seldom found going that way,
the path leading only to a deep reach of the stream
called Blackwater, and the passage being dangerous.
Henchard, however, leaving the town by the east road,
proceeded to the second, or stone bridge, and thence struck
into this path of solitude, following its course beside the
stream till the dark shapes of the Ten Hatches cut the sheen
thrown upon the river by the weak lustre that still lingered
in the west. In a second or two he stood beside the weir-
hole where the water was at its deepest. He looked
backwards and forwards, and no creature appeared in view.
He then took off his coat and hat, and stood on the brink of
the stream with his hands clasped in front of him.
While his eyes were bent on the water beneath there slowly
became visible a something floating in the circular pool
formed by the wash of centuries; the pool he was intending
to make his death-bed. At first it was indistinct by reason
of the shadow from the bank; but it emerged thence and took
shape, which was that of a human body, lying stiff and stark
upon the surface of the stream.
In the circular current imparted by the central flow the
form was brought forward, till it passed under his eyes; and
then he perceived with a sense of horror that it was
HIMSELF. Not a man somewhat resembling him, but one in all
respects his counterpart, his actual double, was floating as
if dead in Ten Hatches Hole.
The sense of the supernatural was strong in this unhappy
man, and he turned away as one might have done in the actual
presence of an appalling miracle. He covered his eyes and
bowed his head. Without looking again into the stream he
took his coat and hat, and went slowly away.
Presently he found himself by the door of his own dwelling.
To his surprise Elizabeth-Jane was standing there. She came
forward, spoke, called him "father" just as before. Newson,
then, had not even yet returned.
"I thought you seemed very sad this morning," she said, "so
I have come again to see you. Not that I am anything but
sad myself. But everybody and everything seem against you
so, and I know you must be suffering.
How this woman divined things! Yet she had not divined their
He said to her, "Are miracles still worked, do ye
think, Elizabeth? I am not a read man. I don't know so much
as I could wish. I have tried to peruse and learn all my
life; but the more I try to know the more ignorant I seem."
"I don't quite think there are any miracles nowadays," she
"No interference in the case of desperate intentions, for
instance? Well, perhaps not, in a direct way. Perhaps not.
But will you come and walk with me, and I will show 'ee what
She agreed willingly, and he took her over the highway, and
by the lonely path to Ten Hatches. He walked restlessly, as
if some haunting shade, unseen of her, hovered round him and
troubled his glance. She would gladly have talked of
Lucetta, but feared to disturb him. When they got near the
weir he stood still, and asked her to go forward and look
into the pool, and tell him what she saw.
She went, and soon returned to him. "Nothing," she said.
"Go again," said Henchard, "and look narrowly."
She proceeded to the river brink a second time. On her
return, after some delay, she told him that she saw
something floating round and round there; but what it was
she could not discern. It seemed to be a bundle of old
"Are they like mine?" asked Henchard.
"Well--they are. Dear me--I wonder if--Father, let us go
"Go and look once more; and then we will get home."
She went back, and he could see her stoop till her head was
close to the margin of the pool. She started up, and
hastened back to his side.
"Well," said Henchard; "what do you say now?"
"Let us go home."
"But tell me--do--what is it floating there?"
"The effigy," she answered hastily. "They must have thrown
it into the river higher up amongst the willows at
Blackwater, to get rid of it in their alarm at discovery by
the magistrates, and it must have floated down here."
"Ah--to be sure--the image o' me! But where is the other?
Why that one only?...That performance of theirs killed her,
but kept me alive!"
Elizabeth-Jane thought and thought of these words "kept
me alive," as they slowly retraced their way to the town,
and at length guessed their meaning. "Father!--I will not
leave you alone like this!" she cried. "May I live with
you, and tend upon you as I used to do? I do not mind your
being poor. I would have agreed to come this morning, but
you did not ask me."
"May you come to me?" he cried bitterly. "Elizabeth, don't
mock me! If you only would come!"
"I will," said she.
"How will you forgive all my roughness in former days? You
"I have forgotten it. Talk of that no more."
Thus she assured him, and arranged their plans for reunion;
and at length each went home. Then Henchard shaved for the
first time during many days, and put on clean linen, and
combed his hair; and was as a man resuscitated thence-
The next morning the fact turned out to be as Elizabeth-Jane
had stated; the effigy was discovered by a cowherd, and that
of Lucetta a little higher up in the same stream. But as
little as possible was said of the matter, and the figures
were privately destroyed.
Despite this natural solution of the mystery Henchard no
less regarded it as an intervention that the figure should
have been floating there. Elizabeth-Jane heard him say,
"Who is such a reprobate as I! And yet it seems that even I
be in Somebody's hand!"
But the emotional conviction that he was in Somebody's hand
began to die out of Henchard's breast as time slowly removed
into distance the event which had given that feeling birth.
The apparition of Newson haunted him. He would surely
Yet Newson did not arrive. Lucetta had been borne along
the churchyard path; Casterbridge had for the last time
turned its regard upon her, before proceeding to its work as
if she had never lived. But Elizabeth remained undisturbed
in the belief of her relationship to Henchard, and now
shared his home. Perhaps, after all, Newson was gone for
In due time the bereaved Farfrae had learnt the, at least,
proximate cause of Lucetta's illness and death, and his
first impulse was naturally enough to wreak vengeance in the
name of the law upon the perpetrators of the mischief. He
resolved to wait till the funeral was over ere he moved in
the matter. The time having come he reflected. Disastrous
as the result had been, it was obviously in no way foreseen
or intended by the thoughtless crew who arranged the motley
procession. The tempting prospect of putting to the blush
people who stand at the head of affairs--that supreme and
piquant enjoyment of those who writhe under the heel of the
same--had alone animated them, so far as he could see; for
he knew nothing of Jopp's incitements. Other considerations
were also involved. Lucetta had confessed everything to him
before her death, and it was not altogether desirable to
make much ado about her history, alike for her sake, for
Henchard's, and for his own. To regard the event as an
untoward accident seemed, to Farfrae, truest consideration
for the dead one's memory, as well as best philosophy.
Henchard and himself mutually forbore to meet. For
Elizabeth's sake the former had fettered his pride
sufficiently to accept the small seed and root business
which some of the Town Council, headed by Farfrae, had
purchased to afford him a new opening. Had he been only
personally concerned Henchard, without doubt, would have
declined assistance even remotely brought about by the man
whom he had so fiercely assailed. But the sympathy of the
girl seemed necessary to his very existence; and on her
account pride itself wore the garments of humility.
Here they settled themselves; and on each day of their lives
Henchard anticipated her every wish with a watchfulness in
which paternal regard was heightened by a burning jealous
dread of rivalry. Yet that Newson would ever now return to
Casterbridge to claim her as a daughter there was
little reason to suppose. He was a wanderer and a
stranger, almost an alien; he had not seen his daughter for
several years; his affection for her could not in the nature
of things be keen; other interests would probably soon
obscure his recollections of her, and prevent any such
renewal of inquiry into the past as would lead to a
discovery that she was still a creature of the present. To
satisfy his conscience somewhat Henchard repeated to himself
that the lie which had retained for him the coveted treasure
had not been deliberately told to that end, but had come
from him as the last defiant word of a despair which took no
thought of consequences. Furthermore he pleaded within
himself that no Newson could love her as he loved her, or
would tend her to his life's extremity as he was prepared to
Thus they lived on in the shop overlooking the churchyard,
and nothing occurred to mark their days during the remainder
of the year. Going out but seldom, and never on a market-
day, they saw Donald Farfrae only at rarest intervals, and
then mostly as a transitory object in the distance of the
street. Yet he was pursuing his ordinary avocations,
smiling mechanically to fellow-tradesmen, and arguing with
bargainers--as bereaved men do after a while.
Time, "in his own grey style," taught Farfrae how to
estimate his experience of Lucetta--all that it was, and all
that it was not. There are men whose hearts insist upon a
dogged fidelity to some image or cause thrown by chance into
their keeping, long after their judgment has pronounced it
no rarity--even the reverse, indeed, and without them the
band of the worthy is incomplete. But Farfrae was not of
those. It was inevitable that the insight, briskness, and
rapidity of his nature should take him out of the dead blank
which his loss threw about him. He could not but perceive
that by the death of Lucetta he had exchanged a looming
misery for a simple sorrow. After that revelation of her
history, which must have come sooner or later in any
circumstances, it was hard to believe that life with her
would have been productive of further happiness.
But as a memory, nothwithstanding such conditions, Lucetta's
image still lived on with him, her weaknesses provoking only
the gentlest criticism, and her sufferings attenuating
wrath at her concealments to a momentary spark now and
By the end of a year Henchard's little retail seed and grain
shop, not much larger than a cupboard, had developed its
trade considerably, and the stepfather and daughter enjoyed
much serenity in the pleasant, sunny corner in which it
stood. The quiet bearing of one who brimmed with an inner
activity characterized Elizabeth-Jane at this period. She
took long walks into the country two or three times a week,
mostly in the direction of Budmouth. Sometimes it occurred
to him that when she sat with him in the evening after those
invigorating walks she was civil rather than affectionate;
and he was troubled; one more bitter regret being added to
those he had already experienced at having, by his severe
censorship, frozen up her precious affection when originally
She had her own way in everything now. In going and coming,
in buying and selling, her word was law.
"You have got a new muff, Elizabeth," he said to her one day
"Yes; I bought it," she said.
He looked at it again as it lay on an adjoining table. The
fur was of a glossy brown, and, though he was no judge of
such articles, he thought it seemed an unusually good one
for her to possess.
"Rather costly, I suppose, my dear, was it not?" he
"It was rather above my figure," she said quietly. "But it
is not showy."
"O no," said the netted lion, anxious not to pique her in
Some little time after, when the year had advanced into
another spring, he paused opposite her empty bedroom in
passing it. He thought of the time when she had cleared out
of his then large and handsome house in corn Street, in
consequence of his dislike and harshness, and he had looked
into her chamber in just the same way. The present room was
much humbler, but what struck him about it was the abundance
of books lying everywhere. Their number and quality made
the meagre furniture that supported them seem absurdly
disproportionate. Some, indeed many, must have been
recently purchased; and though he encouraged her to buy in
reason, he had no notion that she indulged her innate
passion so extensively in proportion to the narrowness of
their income. For the first time he felt a little hurt by
what he thought her extravagance, and resolved to say a word
to her about it. But, before he had found the courage to
speak an event happened which set his thoughts flying in
quite another direction.
The busy time of the seed trade was over, and the quiet
weeks that preceded the hay-season had come--setting their
special stamp upon Casterbridge by thronging the market with
wood rakes, new waggons in yellow, green, and red,
formidable scythes, and pitchforks of prong sufficient to
skewer up a small family. Henchard, contrary to his wont,
went out one Saturday afternoon towards the market-place
from a curious feeling that he would like to pass a few
minutes on the spot of his former triumphs. Farfrae, to
whom he was still a comparative stranger, stood a few steps
below the Corn Exchange door--a usual position with him at
this hour--and he appeared lost in thought about something
he was looking at a little way off.
Henchard's eyes followed Farfrae's, and he saw that the
object of his gaze was no sample-showing farmer, but his own
stepdaughter, who had just come out of a shop over the way.
She, on her part, was quite unconscious of his attention,
and in this was less fortunate than those young women whose
very plumes, like those of Juno's bird, are set with Argus
eyes whenever possible admirers are within ken.
Henchard went away, thinking that perhaps there was nothing
significant after all in Farfrae's look at Elizabeth-Jane at
that juncture. Yet he could not forget that the Scotchman
had once shown a tender interest in her, of a fleeting kind.
Thereupon promptly came to the surface that idiosyncrasy of
Henchard's which had ruled his courses from the beginning
and had mainly made him what he was. Instead of thinking
that a union between his cherished step-daughter and the
energetic thriving Donald was a thing to be desired for her
good and his own, he hated the very possibility.
Time had been when such instinctive opposition would
have taken shape in action. But he was not now the
Henchard of former days. He schooled himself to accept her
will, in this as in other matters, as absolute and
unquestionable. He dreaded lest an antagonistic word should
lose for him such regard as he had regained from her by his
devotion, feeling that to retain this under separation was
better than to incur her dislike by keeping her near.
But the mere thought of such separation fevered his spirit
much, and in the evening he said, with the stillness of
suspense: "Have you seen Mr. Farfrae to-day, Elizabeth?"
Elizabeth-Jane started at the question; and it was with some
confusion that she replied "No."
"Oh--that's right--that's right....It was only that I saw
him in the street when we both were there." He was wondering
if her embarrassment justified him in a new suspicion--that
the long walks which she had latterly been taking, that the
new books which had so surprised him, had anything to do
with the young man. She did not enlighten him, and lest
silence should allow her to shape thoughts unfavourable to
their present friendly relations, he diverted the discourse
into another channel.
Henchard was, by original make, the last man to act
stealthily, for good or for evil. But the solicitus
timor of his love--the dependence upon Elizabeth's regard
into which he had declined (or, in another sense, to which
he had advanced)--denaturalized him. He would often weigh
and consider for hours together the meaning of such and such
a deed or phrase of hers, when a blunt settling question
would formerly have been his first instinct. And now,
uneasy at the thought of a passion for Farfrae which should
entirely displace her mild filial sympathy with himself, he
observed her going and coming more narrowly.
There was nothing secret in Elizabeth-Jane's movements
beyond what habitual reserve induced, and it may at once be
owned on her account that she was guilty of occasional
conversations with Donald when they chanced to meet.
Whatever the origin of her walks on the Budmouth Road, her
return from those walks was often coincident with Farfrae's
emergence from corn Street for a twenty minutes' blow on
that rather windy highway--just to winnow the seeds and
chaff out of him before sitting down to tea, as he said.
Henchard became aware of this by going to the Ring, and,
screened by its enclosure, keeping his eye upon the road
till he saw them meet. His face assumed an expression of
"Of her, too, he means to rob me!" he whispered. "But he
has the right. I do not wish to interfere."
The meeting, in truth, was of a very innocent kind, and
matters were by no means so far advanced between the young
people as Henchard's jealous grief inferred. Could he have
heard such conversation as passed he would have been
enlightened thus much:--
HE.--"You like walking this way, Miss Henchard--and is
it not so?" (uttered in his undulatory accents, and with an
appraising, pondering gaze at her).
SHE.--"O yes. I have chosen this road latterly. I have
no great reason for it."
HE.--"But that may make a reason for others."
SHE (reddening).--"I don't know that. My reason,
however, such as it is, is that I wish to get a glimpse of
the sea every day.
HE.--"Is it a secret why?"
SHE ( reluctantly ).--"Yes."
HE (with the pathos of one of his native ballads).--"Ah,
I doubt there will be any good in secrets! A secret cast a
deep shadow over my life. And well you know what it was."
Elizabeth admitted that she did, but she refrained from
confessing why the sea attracted her. She could not herself
account for it fully, not knowing the secret possibly to be
that, in addition to early marine associations, her blood
was a sailor's.
"Thank you for those new books, Mr. Farfrae," she added
shyly. "I wonder if I ought to accept so many!"
"Ay! why not? It gives me more pleasure to get them for you,
than you to have them!"
They proceeded along the road together till they reached the
town, and their paths diverged.
Henchard vowed that he would leave them to their own
devices, put nothing in the way of their courses, whatever
they might mean. If he were doomed to be bereft of
her, so it must be. In the situation which their marriage
would create he could see no locus standi for himself at
all. Farfrae would never recognize him more than
superciliously; his poverty ensured that, no less than his
past conduct. And so Elizabeth would grow to be a stranger
to him, and the end of his life would be friendless
With such a possibility impending he could not help
watchfulness. Indeed, within certain lines, he had the
right to keep an eye upon her as his charge. The meetings
seemed to become matters of course with them on special days
of the week.
At last full proof was given him. He was standing behind a
wall close to the place at which Farfrae encountered her.
He heard the young man address her as "Dearest Elizabeth-
Jane," and then kiss her, the girl looking quickly round to
assure herself that nobody was near.
When they were gone their way Henchard came out from the
wall, and mournfully followed them to Casterbridge. The
chief looming trouble in this engagement had not decreased.
Both Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane, unlike the rest of the
people, must suppose Elizabeth to be his actual daughter,
from his own assertion while he himself had the same belief;
and though Farfrae must have so far forgiven him as to have
no objection to own him as a father-in-law, intimate they
could never be. Thus would the girl, who was his only
friend, be withdrawn from him by degrees through her
husband's influence, and learn to despise him.
Had she lost her heart to any other man in the world than
the one he had rivalled, cursed, wrestled with for life in
days before his spirit was broken, Henchard would have said,
"I am content." But content with the prospect as now
depicted was hard to acquire.
There is an outer chamber of the brain in which thoughts
unowned, unsolicited, and of noxious kind, are sometimes
allowed to wander for a moment prior to being sent off
whence they came. One of these thoughts sailed into
Henchard's ken now.
Suppose he were to communicate to Farfrae the fact that his
betrothed was not the child of Michael Henchard at all--
legally, nobody's child; how would that correct and leading
townsman receive the information? He might possibly forsake
Elizabeth-Jane, and then she would be her step-sire's own
Henchard shuddered, and exclaimed, "God forbid such a thing!
Why should I still be subject to these visitations of the
devil, when I try so hard to keep him away?"
What Henchard saw thus early was, naturally enough, seen at
a little later date by other people. That Mr. Farfrae
"walked with that bankrupt Henchard's step-daughter, of all
women," became a common topic in the town, the simple
perambulating term being used hereabout to signify a wooing;
and the nineteen superior young ladies of Casterbridge, who
had each looked upon herself as the only woman capable of
making the merchant Councilman happy, indignantly left off
going to the church Farfrae attended, left off conscious
mannerisms, left off putting him in their prayers at night
amongst their blood relations; in short, reverted to their
Perhaps the only inhabitants of the town to whom this
looming choice of the Scotchman's gave unmixed satisfaction
were the members of the philosophic party, which included
Longways, Christopher Coney, Billy Wills, Mr. Buzzford, and
the like. The Three Mariners having been, years before, the
house in which they had witnessed the young man and woman's
first and humble appearance on the Casterbridge stage, they
took a kindly interest in their career, not unconnected,
perhaps, with visions of festive treatment at their hands
hereafter. Mrs. Stannidge, having rolled into the large
parlour one evening and said that it was a wonder such a man
as Mr. Farfrae, "a pillow of the town," who might have
chosen one of the daughters of the professional men or
private residents, should stoop so low, Coney ventured to
disagree with her.
"No, ma'am, no wonder at all. 'Tis she that's a
stooping to he--that's my opinion. A widow man--whose first
wife was no credit to him--what is it for a young perusing
woman that's her own mistress and well liked? But as a neat
patching up of things I see much good in it. When a man
have put up a tomb of best marble-stone to the other one, as
he've done, and weeped his fill, and thought it all over,
and said to hisself, 'T'other took me in, I knowed this one
first; she's a sensible piece for a partner, and there's no
faithful woman in high life now';--well, he may do worse
than not to take her, if she's tender-inclined."
Thus they talked at the Mariners. But we must guard against
a too liberal use of the conventional declaration that a
great sensation was caused by the prospective event, that
all the gossips' tongues were set wagging thereby, and so-
on, even though such a declaration might lend some eclat to
the career of our poor only heroine. When all has been said
about busy rumourers, a superficial and temporary thing is
the interest of anybody in affairs which do not directly
touch them. It would be a truer representation to say that
Casterbridge (ever excepting the nineteen young ladies)
looked up for a moment at the news, and withdrawing its
attention, went on labouring and victualling, bringing up
its children, and burying its dead, without caring a tittle
for Farfrae's domestic plans.
Not a hint of the matter was thrown out to her stepfather by
Elizabeth herself or by Farfrae either. Reasoning on the
cause of their reticence he concluded that, estimating him
by his past, the throbbing pair were afraid to broach the
subject, and looked upon him as an irksome obstacle whom
they would be heartily glad to get out of the way.
Embittered as he was against society, this moody view of
himself took deeper and deeper hold of Henchard, till the
daily necessity of facing mankind, and of them particularly
Elizabeth-Jane, became well-nigh more than he could endure.
His health declined; he became morbidly sensitive. He
wished he could escape those who did not want him, and hide
his head for ever.
But what if he were mistaken in his views, and there were no
necessity that his own absolute separation from her
should be involved in the incident of her marriage?
He proceeded to draw a picture of the alternative--himself
living like a fangless lion about the back rooms of a house
in which his stepdaughter was mistress, an inoffensive old
man, tenderly smiled on by Elizabeth, and good-naturedly
tolerated by her husband. It was terrible to his pride to
think of descending so low; and yet, for the girl's sake he
might put up with anything; even from Farfrae; even
snubbings and masterful tongue-scourgings. The privilege of
being in the house she occupied would almost outweigh the
Whether this were a dim possibility or the reverse, the
courtship--which it evidently now was--had an absorbing
interest for him.
Elizabeth, as has been said, often took her walks on the
Budmouth Road, and Farfrae as often made it convenient to
create an accidental meeting with her there. Two miles out,
a quarter of a mile from the highway, was the prehistoric
fort called Mai Dun, of huge dimensions and many ramparts,
within or upon whose enclosures a human being as seen from
the road, was but an insignificant speck. Hitherward
Henchard often resorted, glass in hand, and scanned the
hedgeless Via--for it was the original track laid out by
the legions of the Empire--to a distance of two or three
miles, his object being to read the progress of affairs
between Farfrae and his charmer.
One day Henchard was at this spot when a masculine figure
came along the road from Budmouth, and lingered. Applying
his telescope to his eye Henchard expected that Farfrae's
features would be disclosed as usual. But the lenses
revealed that today the man was not Elizabeth-Jane's lover.
It was one clothed as a merchant captain, and as he turned
in the scrutiny of the road he revealed his face. Henchard
lived a lifetime the moment he saw it. The face was
Henchard dropped the glass, and for some seconds made no
other movement. Newson waited, and Henchard waited--if that
could be called a waiting which was a transfixture. But
Elizabeth-Jane did not come. Something or other had caused
her to neglect her customary walk that day. Perhaps
Farfrae and she had chosen another road for variety's
sake. But what did that amount to? She might be here to-
morrow, and in any case Newson, if bent on a private meeting
and a revelation of the truth to her, would soon make his
Then he would tell her not only of his paternity, but of the
ruse by which he had been once sent away. Elizabeth's
strict nature would cause her for the first time to despise
her stepfather, would root out his image as that of an arch-
deceiver, and Newson would reign in her heart in his stead.
But Newson did not see anything of her that morning. Having
stood still awhile he at last retraced his steps, and
Henchard felt like a condemned man who has a few hours'
respite. When he reached his own house he found her there.
"O father!" she said innocently. "I have had a letter--a
strange one--not signed. Somebody has asked me to meet him,
either on the Budmouth Road at noon today, or in the evening
at Mr. Farfrae's. He says he came to see me some time ago,
but a trick was played him, so that he did not see me. I
don't understand it; but between you and me I think Donald
is at the bottom of the mystery, and that it is a relation
of his who wants to pass an opinion on his choice. But I
did not like to go till I had seen you. Shall I go?"
Henchard replied heavily, "Yes; go."
The question of his remaining in Casterbridge was for ever
disposed of by this closing in of Newson on the scene.
Henchard was not the man to stand the certainty of
condemnation on a matter so near his heart. And being an
old hand at bearing anguish in silence, and haughty withal,
he resolved to make as light as he could of his intentions,
while immediately taking his measures.
He surprised the young woman whom he had looked upon as his
all in this world by saying to her, as if he did not care
about her more: "I am going to leave Casterbridge,
"Leave Casterbridge!" she cried, "and leave--me?"
"Yes, this little shop can be managed by you alone as well
as by us both; I don't care about shops and streets and
folk--I would rather get into the country by myself, out of
sight, and follow my own ways, and leave you to yours."
She looked down and her tears fell silently. It seemed
to her that this resolve of his had come on account of her
attachment and its probable result. She showed her devotion
to Farfrae, however, by mastering her emotion and speaking
"I am sorry you have decided on this," she said with
difficult firmness. "For I thought it probable--possible--
that I might marry Mr. Farfrae some little time hence, and I
did not know that you disapproved of the step!"
"I approve of anything you desire to do, Izzy," said
Henchard huskily. "If I did not approve it would be no
matter! I wish to go away. My presence might make things
awkward in the future, and, in short, it is best that I go."
Nothing that her affection could urge would induce him to
reconsider his determination; for she could not urge what
she did not know--that when she should learn he was not
related to her other than as a step-parent she would refrain
from despising him, and that when she knew what he had done
to keep her in ignorance she would refrain from hating him.
It was his conviction that she would not so refrain; and
there existed as yet neither word nor event which could
argue it away.
"Then," she said at last, "you will not be able to come to
my wedding; and that is not as it ought to be."
"I don't want to see it--I don't want to see it!" he
exclaimed; adding more softly, "but think of me sometimes in
your future life--you'll do that, Izzy?--think of me when
you are living as the wife of the richest, the foremost man
in the town, and don't let my sins, WHEN YOU KNOW THEM
ALL, cause 'ee to quite forget that though I loved 'ee late
I loved 'ee well."
"It is because of Donald!" she sobbed.
"I don't forbid you to marry him," said Henchard. "Promise
not to quite forget me when----" He meant when Newson should
She promised mechanically, in her agitation; and the same
evening at dusk Henchard left the town, to whose development
he had been one of the chief stimulants for many years.
During the day he had bought a new tool-basket, cleaned up
his old hay-knife and wimble, set himself up in fresh
leggings, kneenaps and corduroys, and in other ways
gone back to the working clothes of his young manhood,
discarding for ever the shabby-genteel suit of cloth and
rusty silk hat that since his decline had characterized him
in the Casterbridge street as a man who had seen better
He went secretly and alone, not a soul of the many who had
known him being aware of his departure. Elizabeth-Jane
accompanied him as far as the second bridge on the highway--
for the hour of her appointment with the unguessed visitor
at Farfrae's had not yet arrived--and parted from him with
unfeigned wonder and sorrow, keeping him back a minute or
two before finally letting him go. She watched his form
diminish across the moor, the yellow rush-basket at his back
moving up and down with each tread, and the creases behind
his knees coming and going alternately till she could no
longer see them. Though she did not know it Henchard formed
at this moment much the same picture as he had presented
when entering Casterbridge for the first time nearly a
quarter of a century before; except, to be sure, that the
serious addition to his years had considerably lessened the